Granger Residence

The Old Vicarage

Thompsons Lane

Cambridge, England

"What do you say we take the punt out this morning?"

Draco glanced up from his current attack on a heavily laden breakfast plate to find Ed Granger grinning at him in a conspiratorial way. He swallowed an enormous mouthful of bangers and mushrooms, glad his mother wasn't there to see it. "I have-"

Ed waved a dismissive hand, his blue eyes gleaming. "Chores can wait, Draco! It's Saturday!"

"Erm . . . " If there was one thing Draco had learned in the past two weeks, it was that nothing could derail Ed Granger once he'd set his mind to something - that, and his enthusiasm was virulently contagious. Though he'd spent most of each day at work, Ed still managed to find some small adventure for them to share each early morning and evening. Badger often joined them. They'd shopped at the outdoor market, visited a car dealership, cooked dinner several nights, picked up takeaway, met a few neighbors, and fed countless ducks. Best of all were the short treks they took in 'the truck', as Ed called his magnificent green vehicle. And everywhere they went, people knew Ed - and even more people knew Badger.

As if he'd read Draco's mind, the woolly beast at his feet gave a hopeful whine and thumped his tail against the floor. Draco couldn't help but smirk and drop another tidbit of sausage. He'd never have thought it possible, but he liked Badger, and Badger liked him very much indeed. Their relationship had progressed to behind-the-ear scratching and all-over-the-face licking, and Badger was sending out constant signals that he was eager for them to take the next step - free access to Draco's bedroom. "I've never been punting," he confessed, "but a friend and I once built a raft and used it on the river near my-" he faltered for an agonizing second, "-my family's residence."

For another long moment he was transported in time. He and Teddy Nott had spent an entire summer out in the wild just before their first year at Hogwarts, with nothing more than a shelter of felled tree limbs and blankets between them and the sky. Well. That and his mother's daily deliveries of the kinds of food never before allowed to him - spare ribs, kebabs, sticky toffee pudding with lashings of custard. . . all of which was possible because his- he drew a breath and came at the memory from a different direction. Lucius had been away those two months. Finally he broke free of the bittersweet memory. "I'd like that, Ed."

Ed's glee was palpable. "Excellent!" And then, when Draco turned his attention back to his heaping plate, exhorted, "Come on!"

It was one of those impossible June days; the sun shone down unimpeded by clouds, leaves susurrated in the soft breeze, and the river whispered a thousand cryptic secrets as it ran past.

The Grangers had their own punt, moored alongside some others at a small private jetty. It was obviously ancient and in need of a coat of paint, but Draco fell in love at first sight. He clambered aboard immediately, juggling lunch bags and quant in trembling hands. A hundred images from that glorious summer with Teddy bore down upon his unprepared mind, rendering him far more vulnerable than he liked.

"Hold onto this, will you, and I'll push us off." Ed traded Badger's leash for the quant and expertly maneuvered their punt from the quay. Draco obeyed, settling back to focus on the dog's antics. Badger gave a WOOF of apparent glee, his entire body vibrating like a tight-wound spring, and leaned as close to the water as his short leash would allow. Ed chuckled. "I'm not sure which job you'll find more difficult: keeping him out of the water, or keeping him away from our lunch."

"I brought something for him as well." Draco opened the lunch bag just enough to reveal the carton of blueberries he'd remembered just before they'd left the house.

"How on earth did you-" An odd expression crossed Ed's face. "She's been home," he whispered.

It hadn't occurred to Draco until that moment that of the three visits Granger had made that week, none had been while her parents were home. A wave of nausea swept over him as he realized his unconscious complicity. Would Ed consider it a betrayal? A quick glance up through the curtain of his shaggy hair said otherwise; the man was now smiling even though his eyes were exceedingly damp. No; Ed would never make such a negative assumption. He knew that at a fundamental level - that Ed was good and kind and safe. He tried to swallow. It took several attempts before he managed to reply, "It never occurred to me you didn't know." And now Ed was regarding him with such compassion that it physically hurt Draco. What had he done to deserve such a look? "I'm sorry," he choked.

Ed smiled and shook his head, dismissing every word Draco had said. "You have no reason to apologize, son. We're trying our best to give her the space she needs. But can you tell me how she is?"

He hesitated only a second - after all, he owed Granger no loyalty - and then related the Hoovering Incident, the Microwave Fiasco, and the Mystery of the Phantom Beeping, all of which she'd resolved in her usual irritating glory of superiority. When he saw how much Ed was enjoying it, he relaxed enough to editorialize a bit, even showing him some of Granger's more irritable text responses to him. By the time he was finished, Ed was laughing so hard he was wheezing. "You- you- she-" he shook his head and clutched his sides. "I can't-"

Meanwhile, Badger had discovered the lunch bag; it wasn't until they heard the crackle of plastic that they both turned to see what he was doing. "Damnitall," Draco swore softly as he dropped the leash to wrestle a half-eaten bacon butty from the beast - and that was all it took for Badger to give an exultant WOOOOF and leap over the low side of the punt and into the River Cam.

Draco responded instinctively, shucking off his shoes, shirt, and hoodie and diving in headfirst. As he hit the water, though, he realized he had no knowledge of this particular river, and tried to adjust his trajectory accordingly. Even so, his fingers ploughed into the muddy river bottom. He surfaced and looked around for the dog. "Where did he go?!"

"Draco," Ed wheezed, still laughing, "he's-"

But Draco had already submerged again, trying to see something - anything - in the murky water. He knew how swiftly a river could flow. Could dogs swim? Forward and to the sides he swept his arms, reaching out with his fingers in the hopes of finding fur. Finally he had to come up for air. The current wasn't overwhelming; then again, he was a strong swimmer. "Can you see him?!"

"He's fine, son! He's here." Ed beckoned him back to the punt and, when Draco reached its side, helped him back onto it. Sure enough, there was Badger at the back of the small vessel, water streaming from his shaggy coat and tongue lolling from his mouth as though he were laughing. Ed grinned in an apologetic way.

"He can swim." Draco pushed his sodden hair from his face and stared down the shameless bastard. Badger had the grace to lower his eyes almost immediately.

"Oh, yes - very well indeed. I, erm, probably should have explained why we wanted to keep him out of the water."

He closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of the breeze on his wet skin. "And why is that, si- Ed?"

"Because now, Draco, we'll have to give the damned dog a bath. And he enjoys those twice as much as swimming in the river."

It was Draco's turn to laugh. He leaned over the side of the punt and trailed his hand through the water, absently watching it flow through his fingers. For as long as he could remember, water had been an ally; it had bathed his wounds, relaxed his mind, and soothed the deepest aches of his heart. Even now it called to him, and for a few seconds he considered jumping into its embrace again.

Ed broke through his reverie, his deep voice gentle. "You're quite the swimmer. Don't think I'd have thrown myself into a river I didn't know."

Badger crept the length of the punt and laid his wet head on Draco's knee, gazing up at him with adoration. Whether it was the river, the dog, or the man piloting them through the water, Draco felt a strange sense of liberty overtake him. It made him want to share . . . something - anything. "I, erm, I grew up along the Bliss. More like in it."

"Not in Wiltshire." At Draco's nod, Ed made a delighted noise. "A fellow moonraker? What are the chances!"

Draco looked up, raising a hand to block the sun from his eyes, to find Ed staring curiously at his right forearm. For the second time that morning, a wave of nausea passed over him as he realized he'd forgotten to cover up after his unplanned swim. He sat up and reached for his hoodie.

"That's quite the tattoo."

Draco paused. "That's not- It's not a-" He clamped his left hand over it.

"Am I to understand it's not a permanent mark chosen as a way to prove yourself to something or someone?" Ed pulled a comic, rueful face. "Because I, too, have one of those."

"It's- it's- Wait. You what?"

Ed wrinkled his nose. "In my youthful desire to prove myself a man, I chose a symbol that was to me, at least, representational of my deepest convictions." And then he actually blushed. "I'm forever branded by a rather phallic pistol with a flower tucked into its muzzle. It's, erm, a very limp pistol, might I add. Fortunately, no matter how permanent the mark," he continued as he poled them along, "far more lasting is the sentiment behind it." Ed turned with a grin and locked eyes with him. "You tell me yours, and I'll tell you mine."

Draco could do nothing more than try to swallow back the surging bile in his throat. Then Badger gave a soft whine at his knee and licked his hand, as if he could sense his distress. He leaned down to tuck his face into the dog's wet neck, inhaling the scents of river and fur as he thought quickly. Ed had already seen the dark mark; could sharing a brief explanation make Draco any more vulnerable than he already was? But could he find it within himself to say things he'd never spoken aloud? Badger nudged his ear and gave him another doggy kiss.

Again that feeling of reckless independence overcame him, and before he could censor them, words tumbled from his mouth. In short, terse sentences he told Ed about his mother, the man he'd once adored and called Father, and the murder of Martha Goyle. He spoke of the choices he'd made, and their consequences - both for him and others - and when he was finally done, he felt exhausted.

The moments immediately following his vocal purge were broken only by the sounds of the quant breaking through the water and Badger's panting. Finally Ed gave a low, thoughtful hum. "You took the mark to save the person you loved most in the world."

Once again Ed had reduced the convoluted to one simple fact. Draco shook his head, suddenly filled with an anger that had no target. "It's not that simple! You don't know anything about it! I was a coward, a bully, and the awful things I chose to do caused suffering - death, even!"

"You were a child. You're still a child."

"Your daughter was a child, too, but she chose to do the right thing every time, no matter how difficult. She's a hero. Did you know that?"

Ed sighed, and his voice became impossibly gentler. "I know that Hermione was raised in a home full of love and strength, where it was safe to stand up for what she believed. It sounds like your upbringing was far different, despite your mother's influence. And as for the unspeakable things that happened to all of you . . . "

Draco's brain physically ached as that old familiar fatigue began creeping through his limbs, but he managed to nod to Ed as his eyes drooped. The trip back up the river was made in relative silence while he and Badger curled up in a sun-warmed heap, When they'd moored the punt to the quay, Ed laid a hand on Draco's shoulder. "I don't presume to understand your world, son, but we Muggles don't send our children into war. We protect them from it however we can."

Back at the Old Vicarage, the telltale green dust of Floo travel still hung in the air as they passed through the lounge. Badger gave an excited whine, and Ed perked up even as he said quietly, "I'll just take him down for his bath. I don't want to scare her away."

Submersed as he'd been in that household for the past few weeks, Draco felt a twinge of irritation at the way Granger shunned her parents while they tiptoed around her sensitivities. He'd overheard them talking with Professor McGonagall by Floo several times, had seen the growing pile of Owl posts on the kitchen counter addressed in Professor Hipthripple's unmistakable handwriting. How was it that one stroppish witch could command so much care and attention? "Surely you . . . "

Ed shook his head, and though his mouth was turned up in a smile, it was more pained than happy. "Do you remember rule number one, Draco?"

"Never eat your wife's cooking," he responded without hesitation.

"And rule number two?"

"Call you Ed, sir."

"Rule number three is this: never try to force a Granger woman to do anything against her will. Pushing her won't work. Hermione knows we're here and waiting; she'll come to us when she's ready." Ed turned to the dog at his feet. "Come on, boy - bubble time. "

Draco stood there in the lounge until he heard the sound of the tap running in the mudroom, Ed's words echoing in his head. They were almost exactly those of his own mother the night she'd realized he wasn't yet ready to go home; appalled by how quick he'd been to cast judgement only moments before, he found escape in heading up to his room to change out of his river-damp clothes.

But as he reached the top of the topmost staircase, Granger bolted out of her room, a hunted look on her face. "Who else knows I'm here?" she hissed.

Startled, he side-stepped the truth. "Erm, your father's bathing the dog." A few weeks ago, his nerves would have gone into overdrive, sending him into one of his fits of panic; here in this house, although adrenaline had already begun humming through his veins, he felt no other effects beyond his racing heart and the tremble of his hands. When her shoulders sagged, he tried again. "You could easily sneak-"

"I am not a coward!" Even as she growled the words, her chin quivered.

He had no wish to fight. Draco threw his hands up in the universal signal of surrender. "I wasn't-"

"I'm not ready, okay?!"

Normally he'd have replied with a caustic quip, but his recent epiphany had stripped him of cleverness. The memory of that Floo-call with his mother still resonated, and a nameless emotion - the one he felt when Greg wouldn't ask for help - caused him to say, "Relax, Granger; I get it."

She started back toward her room. "I just came back to get a few things."

He went to his own doorway, but that same feeling drew him the extra few steps beyond to hers. He peered around her half-open door. "Do you, erm, need anything from downstairs?"

Granger sank down onto the carpeted floor and laid her head on her knees. "Honestly, I have no idea what I came for. I guess I just needed to get away from . . . " She was looking his way, but staring right through him. "You know."

It felt like an invitation, and something about her slight resemblance to Ed made it feel welcome; he stretched one long arm to push the door open further. "What's so awful at Hogwarts that you'd rather risk seeing me?"

She gave him a piercing look. "What's with you being . . . nice?"

"I can be nice." He tried to say it with a straight face and failed miserably.

She snorted. "That's almost as funny as Daphne telling me Pansy's too nice to be a Parkinson."

"Well, that's true. There's something seriously wrong with that family." He tugged at the neckline of his damp hoodie, which was starting to make his skin itch. "I came up here to change, actually; Badger and I had a little swim in the Cam this morning, hence his bath. I need a wash, too. Erm, good luck with things."

He was almost to his room when she called out quietly, "How are you set for blueberries? I mean, I'm here; we could go pick some up."

Draco paused. There was another whole carton in the refrigerator, but the idea of spending time with a peer - even Granger - wasn't exactly awful. He pointed at her school uniform. "Ready in ten, but only if you at least try to blend in."

The walk to Pret took less than ten minutes, and when they got there, there were no blueberries. But neither was in a hurry to be done, and so they bought lunches instead and headed toward the river along with all the others out enjoying the glorious weather. Finally they found a quiet spot under a willow; they sat down with their backs to it and ate their sandwiches.

"What do you do all day, anyway?" Granger asked as she daintily picked the crust from her last bit of bread.

Draco thought for a moment. "Depends on what your mother puts on the list. Yesterday I did some laundry and helped make dinner- "

"You cooked?" she interjected, one cynical eyebrow raised.

"Yes. It's quite similar to Potions, really - only, without the magic."

She gave him a stern look. "I dare you to say my father's cooking isn't magic."

"This morning we went punting," he continued with a smirk.

"And Badger jumped in at the first opportunity," she snickered.

"Right after he ate our lunch."

Granger laughed outright - a happy girlish laugh that felt for some reason like a reward to Draco. "Isn't he lovely!"

"He certainly makes good company. What about you - what do you do all day?" finishing off his sandwich, he offered the rest of his crisps to her.

She took one from the packet with the very tips of her fingers and stared at it. "I don't know, really . . . it's not how I thought it would be." She bit off a small bite, licked the salt from her lips, and then blushed, gazing up at him from beneath her dark lashes. "Thank you."

Draco became aware for the first time how comparatively small and fragile she seemed as she sat there beside him. "Which part?"

She gave him a sideways glance. "Everything. Nothing." She sighed again. "I'd like to blame it on everyone else, but I know it's mostly me."

"Sounds like you've been spending time with Hipthripple."

She shook her head slowly. "I have no idea what's going on with Rec. I show up whenever I feel like it, and yet she always seems to know when I'm coming. I don't say much of anything, but she feeds me, makes tea, and then tells me to rest. So far there are no requirements, no lessons- "

It sounded to Draco very much like his early private lessons with the professor, and he said as much to her. He regretted it almost immediately. Her demeanor underwent an instantaneous, dramatic transformation, and he found himself sitting a bit too closely to a very different but extremely familiar Granger: still small and fragile, yes - but also terrifying.

She jumped to her feet, hands clenched. "I knew it! I knew it, and I've said all along what utter rubbish this whole Reconciliation thing is! So you did no more work than I did, but somehow you charmed your way into the good graces of the right people and graduated - and not just from the program, but from Hogwarts as well!"

Now completely enraged, she shook a fist at him, and he was suddenly a third year again and watching that same fist travel through the air toward his face as her eyes burned with retribution. He flinched. "That's not what I said at all," he countered, his good mood evaporating. This Granger never ceased to irritate the living shit out of him. "I said-"

"Oh, I know exactly what you said and I'm taking it straight to the Prophet; it's time to call the Ministry out on this publicly!"

"You Gryffindors," he spat disgustedly, standing as well so at least he had the advantage of height, "and your bloody pigheadedness! You just keep ramming your heads into the wall until it finally gives way or-"

"Or what!" she snapped. "Just because we don't throw our hands up into the air and run at the first sign of trouble doesn't mean-"

He cut her off with a cynical bark of laughter. "Or you die trying to do something that didn't need doing in the first place."

"Is that how you defend your life choices?!"

"We weren't talking about me! We were talking about your incessant need for attention!"

"Look." She rounded on him. "My decision to contest the Reconciliation contract has nothing to do with attention. It's a matter of policy reform, and I'll happily bang my head against that wall on principle until I get what I want!"

"Jesus, Granger! I cannot begin to comprehend what goes on in that head of yours; you have everything going for you - everything! - and yet you manage to find tantrum fodder every single damned day!" He whirled around and began walking, but even his long, angry strides weren't fast enough to outdistance her.

"How dare you!" she ground out between clenched teeth as she jogged to keep up with him. "You know nothing about me!"

"I know plenty about you, and you're no worse off than any of the rest of us. You've lived the last eight years on the front pages; everyone knows your life story." He began ticking off on his fingers, mocking, "Brightest witch of the age. Female member of the Golden Trio. War heroine. Erstwhile girlfriend of a famous Quidditch player. Would-be political activist. Eleven O.W.L.s." Then he stopped abruptly, causing her to run into him.

She pushed away from him and scowled. "Like The Prophet ever got the details right."

"Don't forget I currently reside at your house - already I know more than I'd like about you. Two parents who'd do anything for you. A secure place in either of two worlds. For fuck's sake, you even have a dog who cries when you leave!"

She turned to the river and the punts moving past them. "Yes, well he certainly seems to have found a new best friend." They walked along in silence as the fire crackling between them slowly dissipated. Finally she asked, "What is it with you and melodrama?"


Granger rolled her eyes and quoted back, "We Gryffindors either ram our heads into a wall until it gives way or we die trying?"

"I meant it metaphorically," he grumbled. By some unspoken agreement they began walking back to the willow and the remains of lunch they'd left there.

She picked up the Pret carrier bag and held it open, pointing imperiously to the sandwich wrappers and crisp packets scattered over the grass, and her resemblance to the she-Granger was so striking that he couldn't have disobeyed had he tried. "I cannot believe you're jealous of the damned dog."

"Shut up, Granger," he retorted - and then, because his mother had raised him to be a gentleman, he took the bag of rubbish from her and tossed it in the nearest bin along the footpath.

She huffed, obviously trying not to smile. "You are such an idiot."

His skin buzzed and his heart raced, but for the first time in Draco's life there was nothing about this confrontation that triggered the panic center of his prodigious brain. In fact, he felt . . . he felt as if he'd been plugged into one of the electric outlets in The Old Vicarage and sparked to life. He looked down at Granger, noticing once more how vulnerable she looked at his side, and laughed outright. "I might start taking that as a compliment, you know."

On the third Saturday morning of every month for as long as she could remember, Jeanne had taken the 6:58 train to Manchester, her chic shopping trolley brimming with groceries and the kinds of little luxuries that rounded the corners of a harsh existence.

Today had been no different; she'd slipped out of Ed's arms at the first sound of the alarm clock, careful not to wake him as she dressed in practical jeans and trainers. Then she was off like a shot to the station and on her way to see Gran: her gran, who'd raised her from infancy and loved her with a fierce, wild love that had defied poverty, rough schooling, and lack of mother, father, and siblings.

Overall, it had been a lovely visit; Gran had been her usual feisty self, arguing that she needed nothing even as she provided a running commentary on the things Jeanne put away in her cupboards, and the weather had cooperated such that they lunched at a local cafe with outdoor seating. In fact, the only blight on the day had been Hermione's absence - for Hermione had never once missed one of these visits during the summer months - and while Jeanne had explained the situation fully, it pained her to see the disappointment in Gran's eyes.

She chewed on this the entire train ride back to Cambridge, finally forcefully changing the course of her thoughts to more positive things.

That evening she came home to a very quiet house - too quiet. She kicked off her trainers and padded down to the kitchen to find Ed in his usual place at this time of day: noodling around with pots and pans and all the other strange things he used to make his delicious meals. But typically there was a delightful ruckus of noise - music playing in the background and her husband singing at the top of his lungs, Badger joining in as he circled the island for scraps. Ed looked up with a grin, and then he put a finger to his lips and beckoned her closer.

"What's- Oooh! Is that pesto?" she whispered as she reached his side. She dipped a finger into the nearest saucepan and brought it to her lips, confirming her guess. "Mmmm. It's a good thing you've worked out for me thus far, but be warned; I'm fully prepared to leave you for one of your sauces at the slightest infraction."

Ed gave a rumble of laughter, swatting her backside in a playful manner and pulling her to his side. "And who do you propose would cook the sauces? Now hush and listen!" He turned down the gas flame under the pesto and checked the contents of a covered pot, then murmured into her hair, "Our girl came home this afternoon."

Jeanne leaned back until she could see Ed's face. "Shut. Up." Suddenly she had a thousand questions. "How did she look! Has she been eating! Did she say anything about working with Hestia! What did she need! What about family dinners! When will she be back!"

"I didn't actually see her," Ed admitted as soon as he could get a word in, "but when Draco and I got back from punting, there was Floo powder hanging in the air."

"Oh," Jeanne sighed, shoulders slumping in disappointment.

"She came home, Jeannie - that's an enormous step!"

"But she's not ready to see us." It was her turn to put a finger to his lips. "I get it, Ed; I do. She's hurting, and she needs space and time. What about the boy?" she mused. "Have you pried any details out of him?"

Ed looked as though he was trying not to smile. "Draco was with her all afternoon, as far as I can tell, and I think it would be best for us not to use him as a spy."

"I think it's the very least he could do," she argued.

"If the two of them managed to spend a good part of an afternoon together, it means they're learning to reconcile their past; it means they're growing and healing. You know it's true."

"I hate it when you're right."

"But you love me." Ed gave her a boyish grin.

She jabbed her forefinger into his chest. "Fine; I love you, Hermione's made a good step, and the boy isn't the brute he used to be."

"She came home, Jeannie," he repeated, catching her hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Best news in a long time, eh?"

Jeanne Granger, beloved wife, mother, oral surgeon, and resident of Cambridge-town, was a highly educated woman. She carried herself with confidence, dressed with simple elegance, and had learned to speak with a respectable lack of accent. But occasionally, within the haven of her home, she lapsed into the dialect of her childhood. That lovely evening, so bright with hope, she could think of only one way to respond to her husband. "Mint."