Summary: Hermione has turned her back on the wizarding world but one person has not turned his back on her.
Chapter Summary: Sometimes all that's needed are a few good moments.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Author's Notes: And I bet you all thought I'd abandoned it! Sort of a filler chapter to progress Draco and Hermione's friendship. Not big on the action or the mystery. Just a few moments between the two. Dreadfully sorry about the wait! is bad
Chapter Four: The Silver Answer
"And a voice said in mastery while I strove,..
'Guess now who holds thee?'
-'Death!' I said. But, there,
The silver answer rang..'Not Death, but Love.'"
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet I
Nothing but a blond young man whom she disliked asleep on a couch and a few scattered cries that would never be owned up to but Hermione Granger's curiosity was peaked. In fact, as far as her mood went, Hermione Granger felt the best she had in years… which she supposed was a horribly selfish thing as the result of it was Draco Malfoy's misery. That, in and of itself, was nothing new as she had once spent years trying to bring about that very end only…
Only it wasn't quite so satisfying when she wasn't the direct cause of it. A few burns from the stove aside, Malfoy had adjusted to life in her flat relatively well but she was more than certain that he wasn't adjusting well to something… something he obviously had no intention of sharing with her. Which was fine. All the better even. Hermione had always loved a good mystery.
It was late afternoon on her second full day off and Malfoy had yet to Apparate home from the Ministry. Crookshanks, being a lazy bugger, had curled up happily on her pillow hours ago and showed no signs of rousing. Her room looked like perfectly controlled chaos (and it was). A raincoat lay abandoned over the back of her mirror, brought out in preparation of an afternoon trip to the park that had never happened. Hermione herself was positioned cross legged on her bedroom floor, one hand on the lid of the trunk underneath her window and the other pushing fingers against her temple. Underneath her breast, her heart felt ready to hammer its way straight out of her ribcage as it always did before she opened the lid. Today, however, she hardly noticed it. She felt curiously alive; curiously invigorated. She felt like a dog with a bone.
Draco Malfoy was keeping secrets from her and, by God, she was going to figure them all out even if she had to research his past until she was eighty (which wouldn't happen, of course. Full time Muggle now or not, Hermione Granger still prided herself on being rather quick).
Chewing at her lip, she popped open the trunk and moved to lean forward on her knees. Inside, the contents smelled musty and old and, for one tiny moment, Hermione thought of backing out. Didn't like the trunk; didn't like what the trunk represented. Sternly, she told herself she had done lots of things she hadn't cared for over the years in pursuit of greater knowledge. This was no different. Bracing herself, she moved aside unread letters and tried her hardest not to glance at her photographs. Underneath it all, she found what she was looking for: a neatly arranged stack of old Daily Prophets. Her pile was arranged by date and so she had no problem at all finding the one heralding the story of the Malfoy Manor Massacre. Shifting positions so that she could lean her back against the bed, Hermione opened the paper and began to read.
The article was full of things she already knew. Skimming it, she picked out the paragraph stating the death of the prominent Death Eater Lucius Malfoy, who had fallen at the start of the battle. It had been a raid gone wrong- violence hadn't been her side's key objective so much as taking prisoners had been- but the Death Eaters gathered there had fought back. There had been fifteen high ranking deaths in total- a number that had severely weakened Voldemort's cause. An "unnamed source" had supposedly provided the information regarding the gathering; it didn't take a genius to figure out that that had been Draco.
Sighing, Hermione decided that question was definitely why he had done it. Even now she could remember easily all of the Death Eater cant he had spouted at Hogwarts; could call to mind the sneer he had worn when he had first called her Mudblood. She supposed to herself that his side likely hadn't seen it coming- her side either for that matter- but something must have happened between the time she had left the school and the infamous Massacre. Unfortunately, she couldn't even begin to guess what that might have been. If only Malfoy would tell her!
It was precisely at that moment that a sharp pop from the hallway signaled the arrival of her never-quite-a-Death-Eater flat mate (and what were her neighbours thinking each time they heard that? Surely the stupid git had to be worried!). Even if she hadn't been aware of it, she clearly heard the door open and then a giant crash followed by, "Bloody hell, Granger! Keep your fucking shoes out of the doorway!" She would have laughed at that, even rushed out of her bedroom to see the aftermath of a tripped Malfoy, but she was too busy trying to shove her collection of Daily Prophets back in her trunk. She heard Malfoy mumble something about a "filthy disgrace of a flat" just as she slammed the lid and then he was standing in her door.
Hermione had to stifle a gasp at the sight of him. Obviously, he had not gone back to sleep after the episode on the couch. The bags under his eyes looked almost painful and his eyes themselves looked rather pink and dry. It said a lot for how naturally good looking Malfoy was that his countenance still appeared powerful; that his smirk was still its normal flashy self. She thought she would have passed out from exhaustion long ago.
"Can I help you?" she asked when it appeared he wasn't going to do anything other than hover by her door.
Malfoy put a toe over the threshold almost tentatively, an exaggerated look of horror flitting across his face. "Not sure if I'm ready for the responsibility of being the first man in your bedroom, Granger."
"Then don't come in," she snorted. And, because some sort of misplaced pride demanded it, "And you wouldn't be the first anyway."
One blond eyebrow rose in apparent shock. "Really! Well, good for you, Granger! I always thought a decent shag would go a long way in removing that stick up your arse."
"Bugger off, Malfoy," she growled.
He smirked at her, hands flying up in mock defense. "Hey, don't take your sexual frustration out on me! Just because I discovered my sexual prowess back at Hogwarts doesn't mean-"
"You're a manwhore, Malfoy. Nothing but a slag!" A very tiny part of her felt like smiling.
Before it could happen, she rolled her eyes and turned her back on him, intent on shoving Crookshanks off her bed so that she could properly make it up. Traitorous cat that he was, he opened his eyes lazily, saw Malfoy, and bounded off the bed with an excitement that contradicted his almost ten years. For his part, Malfoy looked rather embarrassed by the cat's attention. Tried to move out of his way and everything. Crookshanks, however, was not one to be deterred. Purring loudly enough for Hermione to take offense, he tangled himself in between Malfoy's ankles.
"Granger! Control your beast," he ordered. Then, after a moment of scowling disdainfully at her cat, Malfoy snuck a glance at her and quickly bent to pat him between the ears.
"And I repeat," Hermione said, fed up with her cat's disloyalty as much as with the general sight of Draco, "can I help you?"
He looked up at her, one white eyebrow cocked, and scooped up Crookshanks. "Yes, you can. Buffy is on in fifteen minutes and I do not wish to be disturbed. You haven't been following it and I refuse to waste the best hour of television explaining the intricacies of the plot to you."
"It's my TV set, Malfoy. What would you do if I hid the remote?"
"Find it and beat you with it," replied he, smiling at her rather dryly, "I hear it's an excellent Muggle weapon."
"Get out of my room." Amazing comeback line. Ugh. "I don't bloody well care about the intricacies of Buffy. I have better things to do. In fact, I think I'm going to read."
"History of the Malfoy Line is on my dresser. Shall I get it for you?" And up went that eyebrow, even higher than before. She thought rather vengefully of shaving them off when he was sleeping.
Smiling innocently, Hermione said, "Finished it this morning, actually. Would you like The Stone Carver for later?"
Malfoy actually looked flustered for a minute. Cuddling her cat closer, he snapped, "I didn't read your bloody Muggle book. The beast and I will be in the living room. Don't bother us."
That said, Malfoy stuck his nose in the air and, with Crookshanks looking over his shoulder, stomped out. Hermione huffed and turned to her bookshelf, telling herself that reading would help the stress headache she could already feel forming. She glanced at it quickly in dismay. Was that Carlisles's The Idealists in the space left for Brooks's Year of Wonders? Surely, she couldn't have…?
"Bloody pureblooded ingrate," she muttered to herself, dropping before the shelf to fix the mess Malfoy had made of her system.
It was exactly one hour and five minutes later when Malfoy spoke again. Hermione, still in her bedroom, had worked herself into quite a rage. At least she attempted to keep his bookshelf organized when she snooped through it! Didn't Malfoy realize she had spent weeks working on an organizational system? Of course he didn't, bleeding prat… Therefore, she wasn't at all in the mood for what he had to say.
"Granger!" he shouted from the living room, voice pitched and whiny, "I'm bloody hungry. What are you making me for supper?"
Hermione dropped her copy of The Harbrace Anthology of Literature, which narrowly missed her toe, and swore. Mess up her books and order her around like his personal supper cooking maid? Bloody unlikely! In fact, who did he think he was to begin with? Barging into her flat- into her life- like some great big… thing that barged and commanding her about like he was some sort of… some sort of-
"Neanderthal!" she all but screeched, hopping around her poor dropped book and storming into her living room. Malfoy was draped over her couch, all comfortable grace, and still had her damned cat cozy in his lap. He smirked at the sight of her. "That's all you are! All of your ideals are outdated. You're as bigoted as you were six years ago and… and…" And, because it was so very shiny and out there, "Your hair still looks ridiculous!"
That one was a lie, obviously. Hermione, in fact, would have killed for hair as naturally fine and manageable as his. However, that one seemed to hit home. Gasping in horror, he threw his hands to his head and patted at it.
"Take that one back, you bushy haired wench! Like you would know anything about hair, anyway!" A few more pats to ensure that his hair was as perfect as he remembered it, then, "And at least when I talk to you, I don't make up words!"
Hermione barely resisted the urge to smack her head against the wall in confused frustration. Teeth gritted, she asked, "And what word would that be?"
"Neanderthal," he replied, casually examining a fingernail, "I agree it is fun to say but Merlin only knows where you pulled that one from."
She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath. "I didn't make it up, you inbred wretch. Neanderthal comes from the technical term Homo neandertalensis and refers to an early species of mankind. There is some debate as to whether or not they were direct relatives of modern man, but that is neither here nor there. The reason I used it in this instance is because they were thought to have been overly brutish and primitive, or not as culturally advanced as Cro-Magnons which you would probably recognize as early modern man if you knew anything. However, I am not sure that that is entirely true as it is worthwhile to note that they were the only ones who had any sort of funeral rituals at that time. For Heaven's sake, Malfoy, don't you read?"
Malfoy looked rather flabbergasted by her speech. Actually paused his critical analysis of his nail. After a moment of deliberation, he replied, "Malfoys aren't descendants of anything overly brutish or primitive. In fact, I'm not sure that any of the wizarding families are. Sounds like rubbish to me. Entirely Muggle, I assure you."
"We all come from the same place, Malfoy!" she exclaimed, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration, "And, back to the point. I'm not cooking you supper. As a matter of fact, I'm leaving. I've wanted to go to the park all day and now seems to be as good of time as any. Try not to burn down the building while I'm gone."
That said, she spun on her heels and returned to her bedroom, leaving Malfoy sputtering about bloody ovens and house elves. Unfortunately, he seemed to be hell bent on bothering her as he was up off the couch and after her in a split second.
"I'm coming too," he announced, "You can't expect me to stay here. You know I can't work the oven."
"There isn't anything at the park to eat," she pointed out, "And for the last time, stay out of my bedroom!"
He smiled at her, almost genuinely, and leaned against the wall. "No. And I think I will come. Sounds almost… pleasant. Your flat smells odd; I'll be happy to escape the stench."
"Do you live to torture me?"
He shrugged and waited for a better response.
Sighing, she glanced around her room and shrugged herself. "Oh fine. Just give me a second to get ready. And I don't want you complaining about a single thing the whole time."
"Complain?" Malfoy echoed, apparently horrified, "Why, I'd never!"
Fifteen minutes later and Draco was by the door, shoes on and appropriately clad in Muggle clothes. Chin held high, he made sure to pose himself by the door with a sort of cavalier indifference that Granger surely wouldn't be able to miss. Hoped his look said how much he hated Muggle pants and the itchy material of his sweater without him actually having to. Placing his hand on the doorknob, he counted to fifteen. Then twenty. Then his neck began to ache and, really! Malfoys didn't wait for anybody!
"What the bloody hell is taking you so long?" he called, sounding appropriately irritated. He smiled at himself. Really, he was quite good.
Except Granger seemed to be ignoring him.
Sighing in exasperation, he pushed off the door and stalked to her room, wholeheartedly expecting her to be leaning in front of the mirror attempting to tame her wild hair or doing something equally frivolous and feminine. But, well, this was Granger after all and he found nothing of the like. Instead, she was crouched in front of her bookshelf, coat on, apparently trying to make a decision over which book to bring. She glanced up when he entered.
"It's only that I've read them all," she told him without a trace of apology in her tone, "Some of them more than once, even."
"Of course you have," he sighed.
Shaking his head, he exited her room and went into his own instead. It took only a moment of perusing his shelf to find one that might interest her. Book in hand, he stalked back to her room and threw it rather carelessly onto her bed. She gasped and hopped to her feet, yanking it off of her covers and glaring at him disapprovingly.
"Don't throw books," she ordered. Then, after examining the cover, "Durmstrang: A History?"
Draco shrugged. "Remembered you always going on about Hogwarts: A History. Thought you might like something to compare it too, although both schools are so similar as to make the read a rather tedious one."
"You've read Hogwarts: A History!" Surprised, despite herself. "Why do you have a book about Durmstrang?"
"Who hasn't to the former and it was Father's dream that I might attend the latter. Can we go now?"
"Oh," she said. Looking at him for a second, Hermione added, "Would you like a book?"
"I do not read Muggle books, for the millionth time," Draco protested, trying not to let his gaze stray with interest in the direction of her shelf.
Hermione actually laughed. "Oh please, Malfoy. Come off it. You're obviously at my books every single time I'm not here. I have just the one for you, actually!"
Grinning evilly, she went to her shelf and pulled one off of it. Smirking still, she skirted around him, pausing only to slap it against his chest. Draco was afraid to look and so he should have been. Glaring up at him was a copy of
Johanson's and Edey's Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind.
"Granger?" he called after her, chagrined to hear what sounded like her opening the door out of the flat, "Who in the hell is this Lucy bint? And I thought I already told you that Malfoys do not…"
The walk to the park took longer than it had ever taken Hermione before. First off, Draco had refused, absolutely refused, to lay up on what he seemed to view as life threatening hunger. She had tried to cajole him with hot dog stands- anything to keep him moving- but all of her best efforts had proved to be futile. Draco did not know what a hot dog was but he was quite certain that Malfoys did not eat them. His own whining had been cut rather humourously short by the blasting of a car horn, something that seemed almost to do Malfoy in. He'd had his wand out in no time and it had taken almost two blocks for Hermione to adequately explain the manner in which cars functioned. She had innocently asked how he could have made it to his twenty second year so unexposed- he had seemed offended and had told her that her flat and the hallway leading to it were more than he ever needed to see of the Muggle world.
He had contradicted everything by spending the next five minutes attempting to peer into the windows of every single parked car they passed without her noticing. She had noticed, of course, and had even almost enjoyed the moment when a fire truck had driven by and she had gotten to explain that too. By the time Draco yanked her into a deli they were passing, Hermione felt sure that he must be getting caught up on his automobile knowledge, at least.
Draco ordered a sandwich composed entirely of every single type of meat under the sun. Muttering about heart attacks and cholesterol, she had order a vegetarian sandwich. He had called her a hypocritical smoker and then, brain obviously overloaded with car facts, had casually paid for both of them.
"Stopped and changed my money," he told her with a shrug, "Call it payback for those doughnuts. Bloody delicious, by the way. Think we can grab some on the way home?"
By the time they reached the park, Hermione was starting to feel ever so slightly unnerved by the fact that she and Draco had actually gone on a twenty minute walk without hexing each other. Good thing, naturally, since she didn't have a wand. Sighing, she bypassed the bench Malfoy was eyeing up and moved to her favourite spot: under a tree near the manmade duck pond smack in the centre of the park. She thought for a moment that he was going to make a stink about grass stains and was surprised when he sat down beside her without so much as a comment. Pulled his knees up to his chest and draped his arms around them casually, staring off into nothing and absolutely silent. She stared at him for awhile and then, shrugging, leaned against the tree and opened her book.
For lack of anything else to do (he refused to read her outrageous Lucy book… at least in public), Draco decided to watch her. There was something in the sight of her, head tilted and curls falling in her face, that made him feel comfortable. Something about the way her nose twitched in excitement when she read a new fact that reassured him indefinitely. Time had not passed between Hogwarts and now and surely things were meant to take a turn for the better if Hermione could still sit under a tree and lose herself in her favourite pastime. He was glad for it. Her life, in his opinion, was a study on the pathetic but if she could still be like he remembered her being then perhaps things were not that bad. Perhaps she could help him because…
Because hadn't the girl always liked a pet project? House elves of all bloody things!
It almost made him jump when she said, "Stop staring at me, Malfoy. It's creepy and unnatural."
Blinking, Draco jerked his gaze from her face and looked around the park, desperate for something else to be watching. He found it in a young couple cuddled on a bench not five metres away.
Voice low, he told her, "See those two there? He's having an affair. That's not his wife."
Hermione seemed puzzled by his observation. Trying to be sneaky, she tilted her book and looked over the pages at the couple. They seemed very much in love from her point of view, what with her head cradled all cozy into his shoulder.
"How do you know?" And she hated to ask.
Draco loved to answer. "The powers of deduction, my silly little Muggle. Please note that he is wearing a ring while she is not. Also, married people simply do not behave like that."
"Like what? Like they're in love? For Heaven's sakes, Malfoy, of course they do!" Then, "Perhaps she took her ring off while doing the dishes and forgot to put it back on?"
"Unlikely," he shrugged, "Shall we do another? Mother and I used to play this game at functions when I was smaller. Kept me from getting in trouble."
He had not meant to say that at all and an uncomfortable silence reigned, during which they both very obviously tried to size the other up.
Uncomfortable, he said, "I bet you that man by the pond is a wizard" at the exact same moment she said in a tiny voice, "Really? My mum and I used to play 20 Questions."
The uncomfortable silence multiplied tenfold. Hermione stared at her shoes, desperate now for a cigarette. Obviously Draco felt the same. Wordlessly, he pulled out his pack and lit her one. If she was surprised- and she was- she tried her hardest not to let it show. How odd this- she and Malfoy sitting in the park like long lost chums, telling stories of their mums. Especially since she did not talk about her mum ever, if she could help it. Behind her eyes, a slight headache began to form.
"I'm sorry about your mother, Granger," Draco admitted, "I can imagine how hard that must have been for you."
There was more he wanted to say, she could see it, and so she cut him off with, "And yours? What of yours?"
He shook his head and took a deep drag off his cigarette before replying. "Living in the Manor still. She's a little mad at me at the moment. Switching sides and all… horrible on family relationships."
Hermione wanted to ask why he had done it; wanted to accuse Narcissa of all sorts of things for punishing him for his decision. Instead, she said, "I'm sorry about your mother as well." Couldn't quite bring herself to mention Lucius.
Draco nodded awkwardly and said, "Yes well. Can't undo the past. What's done is done."
"What's done is done indeed," she echoed and lifted up her book once more.
"Did you read the part in here about the footprints at the Laetoli site? They think they're 3.6 million years old. Can you imagine that, Granger? Two people set out for a stroll practically before the beginning of time and wham! Sort of thing is recorded forever."
Hermione looked up from the telephone bill she was going over and glanced at Draco, who was once again draped all over her couch although this time it was sans cat. He was holding her "dreadful Lucy book" and seemed to have become more or less absorbed by it. That was to say, of course, that she had gone through the first page with only three interruptions.
For old time's sake, she couldn't help but say, "To be correct, Malfoy, you should refer to them as Australopithecines. However, I do agree with you. There's something humbling about it, don't you think? I mean, it's bloody well impressive to think about all the people-"
"All the Australopithecines is what I'm sure you meant, you sodding hypocrite."
"-who have come before us. A lifetime is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. We're so small and it's so overwhelming to think-"
"Overkill? It is not! In fact, if you had read page 67 you would clearly see… Malfoy, you idiot, did you somehow ring up South Africa!"
"Do you wear this?"
This referring to one of Draco's older robes, of course. From his bed where he was folding his socks like a commoner, he sent Hermione his best scowl.
"What are you doing in my room? Get out. Don't manhandle my things."
She snorted and proceeded to try on the damned thing. "Shoe on the other foot, Malfoy. You're in my room all the time when I don't want you there."
"Bet you do want me there," he said, smirking rather lewdly, "Bet you fantasize about it all the time, don't you? C'mon now, Granger. Fess up."
She looked so disgusted by the notion that Malfoy felt obliged to lodge a pair of socks at her head. She ducked it neatly and it connected with the wall behind her.
"Want you in my room? Honestly. I don't even want you in my flat!"
He rolled his eyes at that. "Honestly, yourself. Nobody ever rings you up on that tele-ma-thing but that witch of a woman your father married and you clearly have no friends. I imagine I'm absolutely smashing to be around in comparison to your cat. At least I speak!"
She thought it said something about how pathetic her life had become that she realized he was teasing. "You speak entirely too much, now that you bring it up. Back to my original question, please. Do you or do you not still wear these robes?"
"Those old things?" he asked, complete with a haughty stare, "Those went out of style at least two years ago."
"Hmm," was her reply. Then, smiling neatly, she exited his room with a cheery, "I'll be taking them then!"
"What?" he called after her retreating figure, "You will not! Return my clothes to me this instant! You bloody thief! We do not share clothes, Granger!"
"Why not, Malfoy? I reckon you'd look smashing in a few of my skirts!"
"Smashing? I'll show you smashing, you meddling little…"
"Do you use any sort of hair products, Granger?"
"Beg your pardon?" she echoed, stopping with her spoon halfway to her mouth. The cheerios lying on top of it lurched dangerously to the left and she was forced to practically inhale the thing so as not to dribble milk all over herself. Naturally, the patented Malfoy eyebrow raise was the result.
"Hair products," he repeated slowly, "Do you use anything to try and tame the small animal that lives on top of your head?"
"Beg your pardon! Small animal! My hair isn't that bad. I don't know what all the fuss is about! Lots of people have curly hair! Look at Nicole Kidman! Hers was just like mine before she straightened it and-"
"Nicole who?" He held up a hand when it looked like she might respond. "Oh never mind. I was merely going to suggest that you might borrow mine for a bit, just to see if it makes an improvement. Just for my own peace of mind, of course. I'm not sure I can handle looking at it any longer and I'm nearly positive it'll end up not looking half bad."
Was there a compliment in all that? Hermione couldn't be sure. Self-consciously, she patted at her hair. "My mum had hair like mine. I… I'd rather not."
A large pause in which Draco examined her critically. Then, in a way that made her think that perhaps he was a little flustered, "Oh. Well, leave off then. I'm sure some blokes could get past it. Do you have anymore of that slop you're eating?"
"For the last time, Malfoy, get off your lazy arse and buy your own food!"
"Granger? How did you do that thing yesterday? When you rang up someone and then pizza arrived? I think that'll be just the thing, don't you? Beats the mush you're eating all to hell, anyway."
Nothing but a blond young man whom she disliked but Hermione Granger's curiosity was peaked. It had been the longest month of her life, of that she was sure. She did not think she had ever heard her surname said so many times in succession, or that her food had ever been consumed quite so quickly. She had been abused, insulted, and mocked more times than she could count and yet…
And yet, despite the lack of answers to her many questions, she wasn't sure that he was the worst thing that could have happened for a flat mate. She shied away from the term friends- nausea! It brought on nausea!- but, under torture, she might have admitted to the fact that she found Draco Malfoy… tolerable.
Pausing on her way to her bedroom, she rapped on his door twice. "Good night, you inbred prat."
Silence for a moment, followed up by the rustling of bedclothes. Then, "Good night, you common urchin. Try not to run the shower quite so loudly. Some of us do like to sleep in the mornings!"
She did not smile on the way to bed. She did not.