Hermione's eyes are as big as saucers as I make my way up the front walk towards her. Her mouth is hanging open and I think it's the first time I've ever seen her utterly speechless.
I chew my lip nervously, wondering what to say. "Perhaps we should go inside?" I finally suggest, not quite meeting her eyes.
Without waiting for an answer, I brush past her into the house and walk straight to the kitchen to grab a soft drink, not looking to see if she's following me.
"Hiya Harry!" Ron grins at me in greeting as he walks in from the hallway.
I give him a weak smile and take a rather large gulp of Coke.
"Alright Harry Potter - explain," Hermione demands, coming into the room and placing her hands on her hips.
"What's going on?" Ron frowns in confusion, glancing between the two of us.
"I er... am sort of seeing someone," I hedge, staring at my shoes.
"Well that's great!" Ron replies enthusiastically.
I smile at him and suddenly feel a small spark of resentment towards Hermione's disapproving attitude. "Yeah, it is," I say firmly, turning towards my bushy-haired friend.
She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest. "Please tell me your new boyfriend only looks like Draco Malfoy. Because I know you would never date someone who has called me a mudblood on more than one occasion."
"You're dating someone who looks like Malfoy?" Ron laughs in amusement.
"No," I reply defensively. "He is Draco Malfoy."
My admission is met by a stunned silence.
"You can't be serious mate," Ron finally says unbelievably.
I take another gulp of Coke, not quite meeting his eyes.
"Harry, what if he's trying to..."
"To what?" I demand, finally looking up. "As far as I know he never joined the Death Eaters, never stood at Voldemort's side with his father."
"He didn't exactly help us though either," Hermione interjects.
"So what?" I snap. "I don't hold it against him. Our side wouldn't have trusted him to help, and there was a good chance Voldemort would've killed him for his refusal to fight with them. What was he supposed to do?"
"Harry, why are you suddenly defending him?" Hermione asks, imploring me to make some sense again.
"Because I've been seeing him for the last few weeks and I know what he's like," I reply shortly. "The war was eight years ago for fucks sake!"
"It's not that we don't trust your judgement," Hermione starts, suddenly uncertain.
"Oh of course not, or else we wouldn't be having this conversation," I point out bitingly.
Ron shuffles his feet awkwardly and I suddenly feel drained.
"Look, why don't you at least give him a chance? I'll invite him round for dinner one night this week."
Ron snorts and I have to smile at him when I see the amusement in his eyes.
"'Mione?" he says, looking to his new wife.
Hermione sighs and uncrosses her arms in defeat. "Alright, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But if he calls me a mudblood or causes Ron to vomit slugs for an hour then that's it."
I laugh and Ron instantly joins in. Hermione reluctantly smiles at the two of us.
"To be fair, that was my spell that backfired," Ron grins.
"Thanks," I say to the two of them. "I'll invite him over for tomorrow night then?"
My two best friends glance at each other.
"Sure Harry," Ron replies easily. "It'll make for an entertaining night anyway."
I walk over and toss my empty can into the recycling bin.
"Now," I say, turning towards them. "Let's hear all about this honeymoon of yours, er... but not in too much detail."
Ron blushes while Hermione ignores the comment and pulls out a wad of photos, already printed out and separated into categories.
I take a seat, ready to hear all about their trip.
I'm only half listening though as I try to picture Draco Malfoy having dinner with the Gryffindor trio tomorrow night.
"Maybe this is a bad idea," I say to Draco as we walk up the front walk towards my house.
Draco smiles, grey eyes sparkling in amusement. "No it's a great idea, may as well make up with them if you and I are going to be together."
I give him a look. "Yeah right, I know you're just dying to be best friends with them."
"What?" he replies innocently, eyes wide.
I snort. "You just like the fact that they can't stand you and now they have to pretend they do."
Draco laughs. "Yeah, that is pretty priceless."
I can't help but laugh as I reach for the door knob and push inside.
I carry the large stack of hot pizza boxes inside and dump them unceremoniously onto the bench top.
Draco places the expensive bottle of red wine down beside them and looks around.
"Nice place," he surveys honestly.
I smile in response. "Yeah, it's not bad. Bit lonely now that I've lost my roommate to wedded bliss."
Draco turns to me with a smirk. "I never knew those two were hot for each other in school."
I lean back against the bench, arms crossed over my chest. "Yeah, they've always had a thing for each other, just took them a long time to figure it out."
Draco's smile fades as he watches me. "It must've been hard for you when they paired off..."
I smile awkwardly, running a hand through my tangled hair. "Yeah, a bit. I'm happy for them though. They're really good together."
Draco smiles and nods, turning to look around again.
I hear a knock at the front door and my stomach twists in apprehension.
"Show time," Draco grins at me.
I roll my eyes and walk down the hall to let them in.
"Hiya Harry," Ron greets me as per usual; smiling happily as he steps through the open doorway.
"Hi Harry," Hermione smiles distractedly, eyes darting to the kitchen.
Draco wanders into the hallway then, hands casually tucked into his jeans pockets. He stops next to me and looks at Ron and Hermione expectantly.
I could cut the tension with a knife.
"Good evening Malfoy," Ron says formally.
"Weasley," Draco nods in response.
I bite my lip hard as the sudden urge to laugh nearly overcomes me.
"Hello Draco," Hermione says civilly.
"Granger," Draco acknowledges her politely. "Congratulations on your wedding."
"Thank-you," Hermione accepts with a stiff smile, obviously waiting for some sort of disparaging remark to follow.
I can't hold it in any longer and I burst out laughing.
Draco smirks at me before turning back to my friends. "Won't you come in?"
The tension has eased a bit as we troop back to the kitchen and set about retrieving plates and glasses.
We finally settle around the dining table; Ron and Hermione on one side and Draco and I on the other.
The pizza is delicious and we all tuck in, eating in silence for awhile.
"So," Ron begins, swallowing and wiping his mouth with a napkin. "How did you two meet? Er... again that is."
I grin and glance at Draco. He merely raises one brow and allows me to respond. "Well, we met in London. Erm... in line at Starbucks."
We had decided awhile ago what our story would be, and that the words 'internet dating site' were not to be uttered under any circumstances.
"Are you often in muggle London?" Hermione asks Draco with interest.
"Yeah, all the time," he answers easily. "It's much more fascinating than Diagon Alley."
Hermione seems to process this. "And what is it you do?" she asks, nibbling on a piece of crust.
"Nothing," he smiles charmingly.
"Draco's a professional gentleman," I add in amusement.
Draco laughs and swirls the wine in his glass, eyes watching the deep red liquid slosh up the rounded sides.
"Don't you get bored?" Ron asks, mouth full.
"Nope." Grey eyes flick up to Ron's face. "Having more money than you know what to do with keeps a person pretty well occupied."
I cough and pick up my empty glass. "More wine?" I ask round the table.
"Please," Hermione answers, lifting her glass.
I raise the bottle and refill Hermione's glass before turning to my own.
"This wine is fantastic," Hermione breaks the silence, inhaling the aroma wafting up from her glass.
"Draco brought it," I reply, sitting back down.
"It's not poisoned."
I glance up at Draco's sharp tone and notice that the other two had stopped and were looking into their drinks apprehensively.
I sigh. "Stop acting so ridiculous."
"Hey, you've had a few weeks to adjust to Malfoy - we haven't," Ron answers defensively.
"Actually he adjusted enough to treat me like a human being on our first date," Draco points out. "Adjusted pretty quickly to my tongue in his mouth that day too," he can't help adding.
Ron puts down his slice of pizza with a grimace.
I flush and drop my head into my hand. This was not going the way I had hoped.
"So, what have you been up to the last eight years?" Hermione asks, her question sounding more suspicious than curious.
Draco sighs and leans back in his chair. "I fled to Australia directly before the war broke out. I remained there, made a new life for myself and when I got homesick, I came back. The war was over, my father was dead, Voldemort was dead, and Harry Potter had made the world a better place again."
I raise my head and meet Draco's gaze. His eyes are warm, without a hint of sarcasm.
I can't help but smile affectionately.
Hermione bites her lip, watching us.
"Aren't you worried about retaliation from any of the remaining Death Eaters?" Ron asks.
"No, not really. The ones that mattered the most are either dead or in prison," Draco replies simply. "Besides, with Harry Potter as my boyfriend, no one would dare to touch me."
I laugh and am happy to see my friends smile a little as well.
"Ron's right though Malfoy," Hermione says, suddenly sober. "You should be careful. Even Harry still receives death threats."
"Hermione!" I say sharply, shaking my head at her.
Draco turns to me. "You do?" he asks with a frown. "You never told me that."
"It's not important," I say casually. "They're not serious, just someone having a laugh."
Draco looks as though he wants to say more but remains silent.
"Are you living at Malfoy Manor then?" Ron asks, obviously trying to change the subject.
Draco tears his gaze away from me to answer. "No, the Ministry confiscated it years ago to search for any Dark objects. As far as I know they're still at it. I wouldn't want to live there anyway, it would be fairly depressing."
"Draco's staying with his cousin for now," I add.
"Then what?" Hermione asks, taking a sip of her wine.
Draco shrugs and looks away. "Don't know yet."
I frown and try to appear unfazed at Draco's casual lack of future plans.
"Are you going to go back to Australia?" Ron asks, glancing at me.
Draco pushes his plate away and finishes off his drink. "Not if I can help it," he replies vaguely.
I make a mental note to question him later about all this.
"Who's up for ice cream?" I ask brightly.
"No thanks," Hermione declines politely, looking sick at the very idea. "I am much too full."
"I'd love some," Ron agrees enthusiastically. "I'll help."
Ron follows me to the kitchen, carrying our empty plates.
"I hope they don't kill each other while we're gone," he says with a smile.
"Don't say that," I groan. "It's a distinct possibility."
Ron laughs and opens the freezer. "Hey it's not that bad," he says, pulling out a large tub of ice cream. "It's just going to take some getting used to."
I nod and take a few bowls from the cupboard.
"Hey Harry," Ron starts, looking embarrassed. "Did you really kiss him on your first date?"
"Well technically he kissed me first, but yes."
Ron whistles and begins scooping the chocolate ice cream into bowls. "Didn't it feel... weird?"
"Er... not really," I reply honestly, thinking back on it. "I just tried to think of him as just some bloke and not Draco Malfoy."
"And that worked?"
"Remarkably well," I smile, dropping a spoon into each bowl.
"I'd better see if Draco wants some," I say, remembering that I hadn't asked the blond. "I'm scared to go in there."
"Well my money is on Hermione," Ron grins.
"Mine too," I smile at him then return to the dining room.
They seem to be having a rather serious conversation about something - which comes to an abrupt halt as soon as I walk in.
I raise a brow and look at the two with a frown.
"Did you want some ice cream?" I ask Draco.
"What flavour?" he asks, smiling winningly at my suspicious expression.
"Yes, I'd love some."
I narrow my eyes at him before turning and leaving the room.
"Something's going on," I mutter to Ron as I pull out a third bowl and dump in two scoops.
Ron smiles. "Then let's get back in there and stop the interrogation on your boyfriend."
I grab the two remaining bowls and follow him out.
There's merely silence in the room this time when we both enter.
Draco accepts his ice cream with a smile.
I sit down next to him and take a deep breath.
"Okay let's just get everything out in the open," I say, looking down at my hands. "Whatever anyone has to say about the situation just say it now or... or..."
"Forever hold your peace?" Ron supplies, smirking around his spoon.
I nod and take a bite of my dessert, looking pointedly at Hermione.
She sighs and glances at Ron. "Well... I just worry about you Harry. I don't want to see you get hurt."
"And how do you think that's going to happen?"
She glances at Draco, who seems unperturbed as he eats his ice cream. "I just want you to be with someone who... isn't..."
"Me?" Draco adds coldly. "What is it you think I have planned for him?"
"I don't know, it... just... You have to admit you don't make a very likely couple."
"What? A death eaters son and the Boy-Who-Lived?" Draco replies flippantly.
"Well yes," Hermione says. "Plus the fact that you hated Harry all through school and made his life miserable."
"You have me there Granger," Draco counters. "Lust hidden within the shell of misplaced anger and resentment tends to present itself that way. Not to mention the fact that I felt trapped into becoming something I very much did not want to become at the same time that it felt as though I didn't have a choice anymore. No one on your so-called side would have welcomed me with open arms, especially as the great Harry Potter had already decided that I was the enemy. All that mental anguish in your teenage years has a funny way of making a person throw up walls and act out."
"You know I would've listened to you if you had come to me," I said quietly.
"I know," Draco smiles at me. "I just didn't have the guts to do it. I didn't wish to be rejected for a second time."
I smile and place a hand on his knee under the table.
"Anything else?" I ask, turning back towards Hermione.
Hermione bites her lip and remains quiet.
"Ron?" I look at him questioningly.
The red-head shakes his head with a grin. "Nope, if you're happy then I'm happy."
"Good," I nod in satisfaction. "Now seeing as the war was all of eight years ago, can we finally stop bringing it up?"
"Uh Harry, your ice cream has melted," Hermione notes with an affectionate smile, looking relaxed for the first time that evening.
I grin and push the soupy mess away from me. "There's more," I shrug uncaringly.
"Great, I'll have seconds," Draco says, dropping his spoon back into the empty bowl.
I get some more ice cream and the rest of the evening seems to go without a hitch.
Ron and Hermione leave early, still battling jetlag from their big honeymoon trip overseas.
I close the door behind them and turn to lean against it, looking at Draco with raised brows.
"You had better be worth all this trouble Potter," he purrs, walking towards me predatorily.
I smirk and slip my arms around his waist as he comes near. He places his hands on the door on either side of me and leans in.
He kisses my lips softly and I nearly moan at the gentle contact that has the promise of something so much more. His body hovers just over mine without touching.
I'm about to pull him against me and deepen the kiss when he suddenly pulls back.
"Goodnight Harry," he says, reaching for the door knob.
I gape at him. ""But..."
Draco smirks and gently pulls open the door, which pushes me aside ungraciously.
"See you at my place Friday," he calls over his shoulder then disappears.
"If you're lucky!" I shout glaring after him.