Disclaimer: If I had some polyjuice potion I'd definitely be JK Rowling... no wait... if I had some polyjuice potion I'd be whoever Draco's girlfriend was at the time. No wait... if I had polyjuice potion I'd be magical, so I'd just BE Draco's girlfriend ... period. Okey, my point is: I'm a pathetic muggle. And I'm not JK Rowling either. Wow, life is grand.
It was almost an out of body experience, this insane worrying. To walk around with your mind constantly on someone else left you empty and distant, even a bit cold. Yes, she definitely felt frozen. It had taken her from the inside out, numbing every part of her - inch by inch. Somehow it was as if she didn't bother at all anymore, but at the same time she cared all too much.
Pushing her hair stubbornly back behind her ear, she leaned over the not-so-new Daily Prophet. Not even news were new in this god forsaken house. Newspapers were at least 3 days old, if not an entire week, and Order news rarely reached their ears while their fellow members were on missions. She would actually prefer being in the heat of the fire herself than to be stuck at Grimmauld Place living in uncertainty. But to her immense dissatisfaction, the current mission did not involve her at all. She leaned back in her chair and threw the useless piece of newspaper across the table. It said nothing she was interested in, no hints as to how the mission was going.
They had been gone a week, but in several ways it felt more like a month. She felt emptied and tired, constantly haunted by unwelcome thoughts and distressing 'what-if's. Nobody knew, of course. If they knew they would have locked her in the basement, thinking she had retreated to the land of the wondrous, magical candyfloss. No, the thought of telling anyone about her torture was completely laughable. It was not only laughable, it was entirely insane, and she, for one, was more than clever enough to realise that she was better off this way.
Still, she knew she looked pale and drawn. She knew she was barely eating and that her company was as entertaining as that of a Dementor, and she was certainly aware of the concerned glances Ginny threw her way from time to time. But it could easily be explained by general worry during these difficult times. It was not that she enjoyed lying to those she considered her family, it was merely that she certainly would not enjoy being shunned and brushed off. Besides, they did not need to know. They hadn't known until now, so there was no reason to enlighten them now.
The chair she was occupying screeched uncomfortably against the stone floor as she pushed it backwards. She got up in one clumsy movement and began pacing the kitchen floor, feeling that same need to keep herself occupied by something, anything. She began counting the steps and made sure she turned on the same number of steps every time. Magnificent bliss embraced her as she visualised each number in her head, almost in a form of demented, mathematical meditation. The peace broke as she heard a loud sigh, but she tried her best to block it out.
"You need to stop that incessant pacing," Ginny commented as she dropped a heavy folder to the very end of the large kitchen table.
Hermione stopped her count long enough to scowl menacingly. Damnit, now she didn't know how many steps she had taken to the right. She stopped in the middle of the floor feeling stumped on how to handle that particular predicament.
"I know you're worried, but we all are," the redhead continued, either unaware or apathetic to her well-aimed stares. "This is a dangerous mission and we're all affected by it, but you can't drive yourself off a cliff over it. Even if it is your best friend out there."
She remained standing limply on the same spot of the kitchen floor feeling completely helpless, and indeed almost like she was driving herself off a cliff.
"How can you stay so calm when he's out there?" she asked, her voice coated in so much torment it nearly quivered.
Ginny looked up from the folder she was flipping through, her fiery red hair falling across her eyes as she did so. She wiped it out of her sight with a slight huff before proceeding to look at Hermione with a somewhat bewildered expression.
"I'm not calm," she confessed. "To be honest, I'm scared out of my mind. But if I let myself drown in the fear, I won't be able to function, and the Order and Harry need me to stay on top of my game. I need myself to stay on top of my game."
The distressed witch was not the least bit calmed by this motivational speech. Quite frankly, the Order didn't need her for much, unless there was a mission at hand. She could not calm herself on the pretence that her cool wit was needed, however much she wanted to. Forcing herself to take several deep breaths, she watched Ginny bow her head over the papers bound together in the folder.
"Our new Ministry recruit has given us quite a bit of handy paperwork," she smiled, not looking up. "Harry will want to see this when he gets back."
When he gets back. There was no doubt, none at all. How could she do that? Hermione wanted to grab a hold of her frizzy curls and rip them ceremoniously out of her own head with frustration at the entire situation. She shouldn't be in this state. It wasn't as if it was even that serious. The mission was serious, oh yes, perhaps more so than most could comprehend, but they weren't. They liked each other's company, the way their conversations carried effortlessly, the way their lips fit perfectly together, the way they could make each other tune out everything but that exact moment. But that was it. There were no long term plans, no powerful declarations of love. She wasn't even sure he knew how to love. Quite frankly, she hadn't quite come to terms with the turn of events and hadn't even admitted to herself that they had any kind of relationship, no matter how trivial it might seem to be.
She was still pondering their relationship in addition to her own obvious concern and what it all meant when the kitchen door slid open. Through unfocused eyes she saw the face of Ron screwed up in a concentrated grimace as he approached his sister. Hermione saw him mouth something, but the sound coming from his lips was such a low hiss she couldn't hear a single syllable. Anger emerged as she realised he didn't want her to know whatever it was. They had been walking on eggshells around her for days and the fact that her own behaviour was perhaps the reason was quickly tucked away in the back of her mind.
"I am as much a part of the Order as you two are," she proclaimed confidently as she straightened up to her full height. Her voice had adopted an icy air, cutting through the tense atmosphere in the room.
"There's a message from Tonks," he drawled in defeat, sending Ginny an apologetic look.
Evidently, they had not wanted her to know about the message. It infuriated her beyond belief.
Ginny could obviously sense her growing rage and sent her a look of warning before she nudged her head towards Ron.
"Read it then," she urged, resting the palm of her hands on the wooden surface of the table.
Hermione tucked her arms protectively over her chest, almost clutching on to herself for dear life.
"The Mission is coming to an end, the worst is by far over, and the only thing left is for Harry to do the final search," Ron read in a hushed voice. "However, there will be a slight delay. I'm afraid Malfoy was badly injured during the last raid. Moving him to St. Mungo's is far too big a risk, and we have decided that attempting a move back to the Quarters will only cause further damage at this point. We will need to stay here until he recovers, if he will at all. Harry, Remus and I have only suffered minor injuries and are doing fine. Do not worry, we will return as soon as we possibly can."
The kitchen fell to a complete silence as there were no more words for Ron to read out loud. Hermione could tell from Ginny's slight grimace in her direction that she had hoped the message would bear more optimistic news, for the sake of Hermione's own sanity. The woman who had already been so concerned she had resorted to mindgames to calm herself, stood rooted to the floor. Realisation had not yet hit, but as it did her usually pretty features twisted in a look of plain horror. She fought with all her might to control her reaction, and bit the inside of her lip just in time to keep back a piercing scream.
"Hermione, don't worry," Ginny soothed. "You heard her; they'll be back in no time. Harry will be walking through these doors before you know it."
That was all well and good. Yes, Harry would be walking through the doors with a victorious grin and hug them all as yet another mission succeeded. But would he? She shuddered at the words she still heard Ron's voice read. ...If he will at all. If they had known, they would never have written it in the message, but they didn't know and it had been written, and now her legs were living a life all on their own. She felt them weaken underneath her and backed hastily up against the wall, clutching the nearby kitchen counter.
"Go get Mum and the rest," Ginny urged Ron as she snapped her folder shut. "And call for whomever else might want to know about the new updates."
"I'll Apparate to The Burrow," he muttered, giving the pale Hermione an apprehensive glance. "I think you need to keep an eye on that one."
Hermione's hand was clutching the counter desperately as her entire body tensed to keep herself standing. This was completely mental. Why couldn't she be strong and composed? Why was she folding like a house of cards? He would be going on a number of other missions and she couldn't turn into this paranoid mess every time. If he survived, she reminded herself and panic surfaced again.
"Sweetie, you're as pale as death," Ginny exclaimed as she put a calming hand around her shoulder, but she froze even more at her friend's unfortunate choice of words.
"Death..." Hermione mimicked involuntarily as Ginny lead her to the chair she had left earlier.
"Merlin, I'm sorry," her friend said with a small shake of her head. "Don't even go there, Hermione. You heard Tonks, everything is fine."
Hermione's head snapped up as she reacted to the careless sentence. Everything was fine?! Everything was certainly not fine. Not even close to fine. If everything had been fine he would have been sitting across from her right now, flipping through the Daily Prophet with the serious frown between his eyebrows. But then he would look up and smile genuinely at her, before smirking and ultimately laughing at something she did. She couldn't remove the image of him. His features were etched into her memory so vividly she had an urge to reach out and touch him, even if anything of the sort was impossible.
Before she got any chance to voice any concern, the kitchen began filling with curious and perhaps somewhat concerned Order members. Ron had gathered all the Weasleys, as well as alerted Kingsley, McGonagall and other Order members, and they were all entering at the same time. The kitchen was left in a slightly chaotic state and Hermione managed to slip of her chair. She retreated to the shadows in the background, pressing her back against the cool wallpaper of a secluded corner of the kitchen.
"There are updates?" McGonagall eventually voiced, vocalising the curiosity of the newly arrived.
"Ron received a note from Tonks," Ginny explained and turned towards her brother. He dug deep in the left pocket of his robe, and found the note somewhat crumpled from the ride.
Raising the volume of his voice he re-read the message out loud, sending chills down Hermione's spine. Hearing it for the second time was, if possible, even worse.
Chatter erupted amongst the crowd, but she couldn't distinguish what was said. Only single sounds and words stood out from the tangled web of voices. Ginny raised her hand after moments of muttering and silence spread within seconds.
"A delay isn't that bad," Fred commented carefully. "At least the mission is nearly finished, and Merlin knows it wasn't an easy one."
"Yeah, considering the dangers of the mission, it is quite relieving that the only thing we have to worry about is a delay," Ron replied, nodding as if confirming his own statement.
Hermione's eyes widened as he spoke and she almost darted out of her corner to scream in his ear. The only thing to worry about? Had her friends always been this ruthless? Her heart beat heavy in her chest, reminding her painfully of what the matter at hand was. Life or death.
"With all due respect," McGonagall began in a much more diplomatic voice than Hermione had ever heard her use before. "I know some of you have a very strained relationship with Mr. Malfoy, but a delay is not all we have to worry about."
Pressuring silence followed her comment, and she almost thought she saw Ron blushing for a short moment.
"From the sound of the message, the survival of a dedicated Order member is at stake," her former professor continued. "No matter the past, he is a fellow fighter for our cause. It is not a matter to take lightly."
"Professor McGonagall is right," Ginny said in a dignified voice, perhaps realising that things were a bit worse than she had allowed them to be. "Nevertheless, there is not much we can do. When moving him back here is too much of a risk, all we can hope is that the other three has the situation under control."
Hermione knew very well that Ginny's words were logical. After all, what could she do when she was here and he was somewhere completely different? At a location she didn't even know of. All for their own safety, or so it was said. She couldn't deal with the discussions in the kitchen anymore and slid silently against the wall before slipping out the kitchen door. She leaned against it, and lolled her head back in frustration. Knowing she was about freak out yet again, she forced herself to take several deep breaths before climbing the old wooden steps of the staircase.
Order members came and went over the next few days, all of them searching for more news of the members on mission. There was, however, no new information to deliver and conversations usually ended down the path of eternal optimism and predictions of their victorious return. The endless conversations wore her out, even if she rarely participated. Nevertheless, she had pulled herself together and managed to keep her torment hidden behind a more pleasant facade.
But even if she sat calmly by the kitchen table listening with a serene expression, her thoughts were elsewhere. He had taken a permanent stay in her mind and seemed to be settling in well. She was drowning in memories from the past months, everything from the simplest of gestures to the most breath taking moments.
She loved how he played with her mind. It was just one of those things. She had always been controlled and gathered. Not much could throw her off balance, except if she was thoroughly infuriated. But he knew how to push her buttons. She could be so annoyed with him, so riled up over a careless comment, and then minutes later she would be ecstatic. There were no one else who could challenge her so much mentally and drive her so crazy physically. How could she lose someone who made her feel so alive?
She needed him more than ever. Her nerves were almost pulsating on the surface of her skin. Any abnormal sound in the large house made her jump, almost ready to bolt to the door. Whenever anyone entered, her head snapped up, just to find that it was just someone looking for any news. Wait... she needed him more than ever? She hadn't even admitted she had ever needed him. Hermione shook her head violently, scared of her overwhelming concern and admissions that came as a consequence.
Ginny eyed her carefully from across the table just as she threw her head carelessly from side to side. She became aware that her friend was watching her, and put her face in as neutral expressions as she possibly could.
"Are you ever going to tell me what bothers you so much?" Ginny asked, holding both her hands around the coffee mug.
"The mission," she replied warily, not really meeting her friend's dark brown eyes.
"Harry has been on at least ten missions the past few months, and I've never seen you like this," Ginny protested.
"Well, they've never been quite as long and dangerous as this one."
Ginny seemed to contemplate her answer, falling into a distant expression. Hermione didn't really mind. Questions were something she wanted to avoid all together. Sooner or later she would be painted into a corner and the truth would come out. Another thing she wanted to avoid at all costs. They said truth was always the answer, but she firmly believed it was not the answer in this case.
"Hermione," she suddenly began again, and Hermione rose her head to meet her eyes as she spoke. "Is there something going on between you and Harry that I don't know about?"
Hermione's chin nearly dropped to the floor as she saw the doubt and pain in her best friend's eyes. The thought alone was absurd, no, ridiculous. If she and Harry had ever had any intention of being together, which they hadn't, it would definitely be when both of them were out of a relationship. She couldn't even fathom how Ginny could even think that they would ever do that.
"You are completely nuts," she proclaimed. "Harry and I would never do that to you."
"Well, you're pining after something so badly you've hardly eaten since they left," the suddenly insecure girl explained. "I just can't find a reasonable explanation as to why you're almost bouncing off the walls with impatience."
"Because I care all too much," she admitted and almost clapped her hand to her mouth at the involuntary admission.
"No," Hermione said with force. "I don't have romantic feelings for Harry and I never will. I mean... in general. I worry too much about the missions, the war. I can't seem to let the concerns go. I keep picturing the worst case scenarios."
It wasn't a blatant lie. She was too worried about the missions and what it would do to them all. There was no way she could get the people on mission out of her head. It was just a little avoidance of the biggest issue, an issue Ginny didn't need to know about.
"Even so. You have to eat and keep your sanity, or what will you do when it's your turn to go out on a mission?"
Hermione hadn't given that much thought. She knew her strength was faltering as she ate the bare minimum and slept only a few hours each night. If a new mission came a long where she was needed, she would not be up for it. She would be letting her peers down. She would be letting him down. With a heavy sigh, she rested her arms on her table and lay her head down on them. She stared right into the surface of the table as she realised just how lost she was.
"I'm falling apart," she muttered in horror and rose to meet Ginny's eyes. The strong redhead reached over and rested her warm hand on Hermione's now slightly quivering arm.
"It's okay," her friend said intently. "This is hard for all of us. You just have to get yourself out of the place you're in now."
"You're not pathetic," Ginny said with a roll of her eyes. "Look, I don't know exactly why you're reacting the way you are, but it's a point we've all been at."
Hermione looked at her in doubt.
"The first time Harry went on an Order mission I sat in my room crying for two hours straight, and I bit my lip until it was nearly shredded to pieces," she confessed with a sad smile. "It's something you go through and eventually learn to deal with."
Hermione nodded absently, and felt a small shimmer of hope. Maybe she would eventually learn to deal, learn to block out the scenarios running through her head. But then it hit her that there might not even be a next time. This could be his last mission. She paled and leaned back in her chair, drawing her hands over her face in a frustrated manner. He had to come back. There was no other option. He had to.
She pulled herself together over the next few days. While her insides were still in turmoil, she joined Ginny and Ron for meals like any decent house mate should, and despite the distracting emptiness of her bed, she slept better than before. She still woke up in the middle of the night and reached for him, just to find out he wasn't there, but it had become routine. The disappointment of finding nothing but cold air had grown into something she was used to. It was still daunting, but it no longer put her out of balance.
In fact, she had learnt to appreciate that the fact that they hadn't returned meant he was still alive. That realisation had hit her one night as she was getting ready for bed and it had helped her to calm down. That night she had slept better than any other and came down to breakfast looking healthier than she had in a while.
Since then she had been dealing well enough with the unknown. The fact that she didn't know anything made her uneasy, but she managed to focus on Order work, even if her thoughts strayed to him and how he was holding up quite often. She was sitting by the kitchen table with Ginny and Ron, flipping through the newly acquired papers from the Ministry, looking for anything that might help their cause. Deep in thought, she was tapping her chin with the feather quill, reading a complicated sentence for the third time.
"Did you hear that?" Ron suddenly asked with a quizzical expression.
Hermione hadn't, but she leaned back in her chair and peered out into the living room. She saw someone move near the entrance hall and when she caught a glimpse of pink hair, she got up so fast her chair tumbled backwards and fell to the cold stone floor.
"Tonks," she exclaimed and the other two darted up from their seats just as Hermione sprinted out towards the entrance hall.
Tonks had lowered her hood and was smiling crookedly at them as they came running.
"Mission accomplished," she smiled, and reached over to hug Ginny.
Hermione's heart was beating heavily in her chest, so loudly she was surprised no one else seemed to notice. Her mind could hardly recognise any thought at all, it just felt blank. The only emotion she could find was hope: immense hope.
Another cloaked figure stepped out of the shadow and put his arm around the first one. As his hood fell off, it revealed their good-natured Professor, or at least he had been for a year. While she was obviously pleased to see him, it was not who she wanted the most. She was beginning to panic now. It got stuck in her throat, making it unbearable to breathe. Her eyes grew wider as the third cloaked figure came up, revealing a smiling Harry. Hermione looked at him with a frightened expression as he embraced Ginny and gave her a soft kiss on the lips. His cloak almost reached the floor and it billowed around the two as he held her with a smile.
"So good to see you again," he muttered, and kissed her forehead lovingly.
Hermione's stomach was beginning to protest. It seemed to be in turmoil, constantly making nervous flips. As Harry shared a quick hug and pat on the back with Ron, she looked around in distress, searching desperately for the last cloaked man. The shadows revealed nothing and she felt herself begin to quiver in dread. Suddenly she found herself wrapped up in Harry's arms as he hugged her, but she was too distracted to even hug him back. She stood there limply as he embraced her and she knew people were starting to notice her odd behaviour. She didn't even care anymore.
Looking stiffly towards the shadows of the entrance, she felt every bit of hope in her rush out like a sandcastle hit by a tidal wave. She began to shiver uncontrollably, her emotions clawing at her from the inside, threatening to break free.
"Hermione, are you alright?" Harry said in concern. "You're pale... and shivering like crazy."
He grabbed her shoulders and held her at an arm's length, looking at her distressed grimace.
"She's been so nervous since you guys left." Ginny explained in a hushed voice. "Until a few days ago, she could barely even eat."
Hermione's eyes remained locked on the shadows, pain erupting in every part of body. He wasn't coming back. He wasn't walking through the door. Tears sprung in her eyes and leaked rapidly down onto her pale cheeks.
"You're crying," Tonks commented calmly. "Sweetie, what's wrong?"
She hid her face in her hands and felt them get wet by the salty liquid. The tears poured down the sides of her face, quickly giving her a pounding headache. She wanted to tell them, wanted to ask what had happened, but she couldn't get the words out. Her lips wouldn't listen to what her brain told them to do.
She froze with her head in her hands and she held her breath. It wasn't Tonks speaking. Or even Ginny, Harry, Remus or Ron. She knew that voice, but it couldn't be. Her head snapped up so quickly a sharp pain shot through her neck. She quickly searched the shadows, seeing nothing but complete darkness. She had imagined it. She knew she had.
A rattling breath escaped her lips just as a tall figure suddenly emerged from the dark shadows. His cloak was nowhere to be seen. Instead he was in only in his jeans and t-shirt, his blond hair ruffled from the trip. He was limping noticeably as he emerged from the darkness, obviously still in pain. Hermione stood rooted to the floor; her hands had fallen limply to her side. She looked at him in awe as he stood there, breathing and still vibrant with life.
It was at that moment nothing else mattered anymore. It didn't matter how she didn't want them to know. It didn't matter how they would react or what they would say. It didn't matter what they thought, or even what he thought. All that mattered was that she hadn't lost him. He was there. Her body finally seemed to catch up with her mind and in a second she had ripped herself out of Harry's grip and darted towards him.
She had never felt such relief as she did the moment her hands wrapped around his waist and her cheek rested on his chest. He cringed slightly, and she realised he was still in pain. Reluctantly, she loosened her hold and looked up at him, tears of joy and relief now falling down her cheek. His face was screwed up in pain, but she had a feeling it wasn't the physical pain bothering him the most. Instead of keeping her away from his injured body, he reached around her back and pressed her close again. His firm arms wrapped around her as she clung to him, listening to his heart beat in his chest.
Ignoring the baffled crowd completely, he bent down and kissed her hair gently, and then rested his chin on the top of her head. None of them spoke for several moments. All they did was cling to each other, knowing how close the call had been. Then he reached out and ran the palm of his hands over her hair, coming to rest on her tear-stained cheeks. He held her face in his arms, taking a small step back to look her in the eyes.
"I know we haven't been that serious," he suddenly said, but then seemed to fall thoughtful. "Or at least we never thought we were. I told myself it was just your company and your warm embrace keeping me coming back. That it was all just for comfort in a difficult time."
His eyes held her in an affectionate expression as he seemed to gather his thoughts. She just looked back at him with large eyes, waiting for him to continue.
"But what did I know? I've never really cared about anyone. Not for real. I didn't know what signs to look for, how I was supposed to know it had gone way past just the company," he mused. "I never even thought much about it until the moment I almost left the world you're in. I realised I almost lost you. I was badly injured, and I couldn't talk to you, you couldn't be there to hold me and tell me we'd be alright."
He took a rattling breath as her expression softened and his thumb traced across her cheekbone with a feather light movement as he gave a weak smile.
"It was then I promised myself that the moment I saw you, I would tell you. No matter when or where, I would not postpone it. Because we never know what will happen, if we'll come back from each mission. And I need you to know."
She looked at him in surprise, feeling the intensity of his voice cut through the air between them. Her arms still rested loosely around his waist, unwilling to let go of him anytime soon. He was so blissfully warm, so alive.
"I love you."
A warm, indescribable feeling unfolded in her chest at the words that had been uttered. Ignoring what was unmistakable gasps from the rest of the room, she moved her hands up his chest and enclosed them around his neck. Had he told her this three weeks ago, she would probably have run into hiding, or possibly slapped him. And then begun wondering how the heck he could just downright lie to her. She would never have believed he would be capable of loving her, or that they would be capable of loving each other. They were different; they had different backgrounds, different values, and different personalities. And lastly, it had never been her plan to share anything serious with a Malfoy. If there was one thing she did, it was to plan, and she didn't appreciate things floating outside the boundaries she had put down. But even if she tried her best to keep to her plans, life hadn't wanted it that way. She could tell from the expression he wore that this wasn't a joke, he was serious and he was sure.
"I've been so scared," she admitted in a hushed voice.
He gave a sad smile at that, moving his arms down her back. She leaned in and rested her head on his shoulder, breathing in his intoxicating scent.
"Draco, I love you," she whispered, just loud enough for everyone to hear.
She heard him exhale, as if he had been holding his breath and she felt the rush of air grace her neck, making every hair on her body stand on her skin. A moment later she felt overwhelmed, easily sensing the pressuring atmosphere in the hall. The silence was unnerving, and she felt everyone's eyes on her back, her heart racing, as she realised the gravity of her words. She had said "Draco" and "love" in the same sentence, the very words so unlikely to ever string together and especially forming in her mouth, pouring over her lips, coming from her heart. But no matter how scary they were and no matter how much unease they caused in the house they resided in, she could never take them back. Simply because she knew they were true, every single syllable.
It seemed that he too had noticed the awkward silence in the room and he slowly released his tight hold on her. She had to bite back a sigh as his comforting embrace nearly disappeared and she grew instantly aware of how every bit of the hall seemed to hold its breath. Taking a cleansing breath, she released herself completely from his hold, feeling the need to stand her own ground. She turned slowly towards the others who still stood rooted to the floor, none of them having moved an inch. Lifting her chin defiantly, as if challenging them to argue with her, she stroked past them into the kitchen again. Taking several deep breaths, she picked up the chair she had sent plummeting to the floor, and began tidying up among their paperwork with shaking hands. Suddenly remembering her extraordinary magic gifts (she sure did live like a Muggle at times), she flung her wand over the papers and gathered them all in a neat stack, sending them back into Ginny's folder.
As she got enough mugs for everyone, and reheated the coffee they had made previously, the slightly rattled Order members entered the kitchen. Harry and Ron were exchanging a few words in hushed voices, but the rest of them were eerily quiet. They all seated without a word in their usual seats, leaving an empty chair right across the table from Draco. Hermione levitated the mugs onto the table, all of them grabbing for one with a vacant expression in their eyes. The only one who seemed to be his normal self was Draco, who smirked at the abnormally calm crowd. He reached for a Daily Prophet lying carelessly on the counter behind him and completely ignored his fellow members.
Hermione brought the kettle to the table, and swung herself down on the chair opposite him. Smiling serenely to herself she poured coffee into his mug, before turning to her own and sent it down the table. For a while the only thing heard was the pouring of coffee and thoughtful sips across the table. Hermione herself brought her mug to her lips as she watched Draco flip the pages of the newspaper, a slight frown forming between his eyebrows. The familiarity of the scene made her lips pull into a small smile, and she watched him with undisguised fascination over her mug. Suddenly, he looked up and flashed her a warm smile that caused her stomach to flip violently, and distractedly, she brought her mug to her lips taking a large gulp of the steaming coffee. She yelped in surprise at how hot the contents were and she stuck her tongue out, using her hands to blow cool air at it with furious motions. Draco gave a loud snort, hunching over the table in fits of laughter. After she gave him an indignant look (or as indignant as you can manage with your tongue hanging out), he pulled himself together and took pity on her with a cooling charm.
"Nice to have things back to normal," he chuckled, pocketing his wand again.
Every head snapped towards them, each and every one of them wearing incredulous expression spelling normal?! across every feature. Hermione and Draco exchanged amused glances before going back to their normal routines. Yes. It was good to have everything back to normal. Everything was fine.
A/N: Edited 16th June 2009 for some punctuation and spelling errors.