Chapter 2: Decisions, Decisions.
Luckily, we got our wands back and straight from the lobby, they allowed us to apparate outside of the Order's Headquarters. Right after the password was activated, I looked upon the grungy house that was Number 12 Grimwauld Place. It was in fact much cleaner than the first few visits I'd had here, but nothing could really charm this place up, especially after Sirius died. When we stepped through the doors, I immediately dropped my voice to a whisper. "Harry, where is everyone?" I asked expecting people to be bustling about or at least Mrs. Weasley tending to some meal for our return home. My bag slipped from my hand and I cursed my clumsiness waiting for Sirius's mother's portrait to begin her ranting and raving.
"We got rid of her finally!" Ron beamed staring at the blank wall.
"How on earth did you manage it?" Draco asked, obviously having known about the ghastly item. "I thought we'd have to deal with her for the rest of our miserable lives."
"Well, we didn't actually remove the photograph itself. If you have a close look..." Harry said knocking on the wall. "it's a brand new wall. We just couldn't stand it, so we tore down the whole thing and buried it, far, far away."
"That was brilliant," I laughed looking around for any signs of life.
"Oh, well Mum's probably finishing up the upstairs bedrooms for you two. Ginny's most likely helping...or avoiding Harry. And basically everyone else is on assignment. Even Fred and George," Ron explained taking both Draco's things and mine over to the bottom of the staircase.
"Avoiding you? Oh, Harry. What did you do now?" I asked putting my hands on my hips.
"That's not something I'd like to discuss...ever," He said shortly walking into the kitchen. "Hey, if we're lucky Molly made us something to eat for supper!"
Draco looked at me curiously and I just shrugged at him, figuring I could get the big secret out of Ginny later. As soon as I entered the large cooking room, several different enjoyable scents tickled my nose. I smelt freshly baked breads, chips, some sort of roasted meat and a tray full of homemade tarts. "Oh Ron. I am officially in debt to your mother for the rest of my life," I said flicking my wand and sending a plate over in front of the dishes to be filled.
I began eating in silence, just happy to be home...or as close to home as I could get. "This food, is much better than that rubbish they serve at Mungo's," Draco finally said, in between bites.
"This food is better than any food I've ever tasted," I giggled swallowing a mouth full of roast beef.
After I spoke, I noticed that Draco and I locked eyes multiple times, throughout the rest of the meal, like we were anticipating the other to speak, without ever actually saying a word. The small tarts we ate, were like heaven in an edible substance. I could feel my taste buds exploding with flavor every time I took a bite. The other three watched me with amusement, but I ignored their smirking faces and enjoyed my dessert. Finally, just as I finished my pumpkin juice, Molly Weasley came running in through the door. "Oh, Hermione and Draco my dears! How have you been? I'm sorry I wasn't here to greet you immediately myself, but I had to finish your rooms up or you'd be sleeping on the floor of Percy's room and I didn't think you'd like that at all. A few Order members will be popping in every once and a while to check in on things. Actually, Remus would like to speak with you two, when he comes by next." She said pointing at Ron and Harry. Well, Ginny's practicing their jinxes upstairs if you'd like to join her for now, but be careful. She's still a little upset."
My hands, tingling to do some magic, were what drove me up the flight of steps to the second floor's sitting room. When we reached the door, Harry stopped dead. "I'm going to go catch some sleep. It was a long day and all, so I'm not much in the mood for-er-practicing," He didn't look into any of our faces. "Goodnight Draco. Hermione. Good to have you both back."
"You know what? I'm kind of tired too. Honestly, I'd rather not deal with the wrath of Ginny either. You two have fun though!" Ron snickered heading up to the third floor behind Harry.
"To have them both running scared like that, Harry must've done something really horrible," I observed following Draco through the door. "Oh my!" I gasped looking around the once very neat and tidy space.
The room was in complete shambles. Desks were in pieces and stuffing from pillows and chairs, were covering the walls. Not one piece of furniture was recognizable in their current forms. The fiery, redheaded girl didn't notice our presence and continued shredding the room. With a swipe of her wand, a lamp, that was already broken in half shattered into little bits and rained down on us.
"Taking out some frustrations?" Draco called over the racket. Ginny spun around suddenly and her eyes pierced mine.
"You little whore!" She screeched levitating a heavy piece of wood towards my head. Draco pulled out his own wand and deflected it easily before I had a chance.
"Thanks," I muttered before pulling out my own wand discreetly, as protection. "Ginny what happened?"
"You ruined everything!" She screamed again this time sending a flashing red orb of light straight at me. I managed send it out a window instead, but before it was refracted away from me, I felt it singe my arm slightly.
"Wow, you've been practicing a lot I see," I groaned touching the burn. "How can I have ruined anything? I haven't seen you in two weeks! I only just got home!"
"Why don't you ask your dear boyfriend?" She began balling, letting tears stream down her face in thick waves.
I blushed at this mention. "Ron and I have discussed that-"
"Not Ron you floozy!" She interrupted. Draco, who was now standing to the side listening to our fight as entertainment. At this point I was just plain confused. I thought back to who she could be talking about, but before I could form a complete thought she began her rage again. "And they say you're the smartest witch at Hogwarts? Honestly, I don't know what Harry sees in you!"
"Harry?!?" Both Draco and I shouted at the same time. While Draco began into fits of laughter, I just stood, rooted to the spot, wondering if I heard right.
"Harry as in Harry Potter? Harry as in the man you're dating?" I asked daring to take a few steps forward.
"You mean the man I was dating. After I heard what he was dreaming about, I made sure to end our relationship!" She cried harder and wiped her face with a piece of ripped curtain that had been lying on the floor.
"Dreaming? Look, Ginny, I honestly swear that I have no idea where this is all coming from! I am not, and never will be with Harry Potter! He is like my brother!" I argued.
"I sure hope he doesn't see you as a sister then, because then he's sicker than I thought! I can't do this right now! Get the hell out of here before I jinx you into oblivion!" She raised her wand, and not wanting to mess with this new pissed off Ginny, I began walking backwards, never letting my eyes leave her wand arm. As soon as I was safe outside in the hallway, I breathed a sigh of relief and waited for Draco, who came steadily after me, finally gaining control of his laughter.
"I'm glad you thought that was so funny! You've obviously never seen her when she's pmsing! She makes Voldemort seem like a energetic little bunny," I sighed leaning against the wall.
"You should get some rest. You've had quite the day," He said calmly. I nodded and went to the door that Mrs. Weasley had told me was my room. Draco's was right next-door and thankfully Ginny's was two floors above us. "Good night Hermione." With that he entered his room and I entered mine.
The room was enormous compared to the small hospital room that I had been in the past week. There were two beds in every room, and I almost wished that anyone, even Ginny, was in the other bed so that I wouldn't feel so lonely. I listened to the tick of the clock in the corner for over an hour before my nerves couldn't take it anymore. I stood up debating what to do next. I was too tired to find something to do or read. That was my problem. I needed sleep, but I couldn't sleep alone.
My first thought was that I could stay in the extra bed in Harry on Ron's room, but then Ginny might begin assuming that I was trying to get closer to Harry (which would just create more problems). Ginny was obviously out of the question, without any questions about it. That left the one person I had hated since my first year at Hogwarts. Quietly I tapped on the door next to mine, half hoping that no one would respond. Just as I began to turn around to find another solution to my problem, I heard the squeaky door open.
"Hermione?" Draco said rubbing his eyes. He was in dark green, flannel pants, not wearing a shirt so that his pale skin was glowing in the moonlight emitted from his window.
"This may be a little-Er-inappropriate to ask, but I really can't sleep alone. I was wondering if I could sleep in your extra bed?" I asked shyly, trying not to stare at his lean body.
"'Course. Come on in," He said widening the entrance to his room. I was suddenly very aware of my skimpy attire. I was in a thin, white nightgown, which fell right above my knees. The tiny straps revealed a lot more skin than I might of liked, but my mother had bought it for me when her and my father had taken a vacation to the United States, so I felt obligated to wear it.
Before Draco climbed into his bed once again to fall asleep, I placed a small kiss on his cheek, like I had in St. Mungo's, and went to the opposite side of the room. After a little while, I heard Draco get into his own bed. "Thank you Draco."
"Anytime." Soon I heard him breathing in sleep and just as comfortable as I'd been at St. Mungo's I drifted off myself.
The next morning I was woken by the Slytherin himself, gently shaking my shoulder. His hand touching my bare shoulder made me blush and I couldn't help but wonder why he had this new effect on me.
"Morning," I yawned stretching out under the covers.
"We need to go downstairs. Lupin's here and he thinks we should be down there while he talks to Harry and Ron," Draco said leaving his hand where it was. His thumb was stroking my skin in a comforting way, but I tried not to think about it as I pulled myself up.
Dressed and ready for the day, the four of us teenagers sat quietly, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation Mrs. Weasley and Professor Lupin were having in the ground floor sitting room. We heard blurbs, but nothing enough to put together one full coherent sentence. When they finally came in, Molly had tears streaking her cheeks and we all shot her a very sympathetic glance even though we had no clue what was going on.
"Harry and Ron. The Order has debated about this time and time again, and finally we have come to a decision. The both of you are more than proficiently trained as wizards and even though you are not yet of age Harry, we would like you two to begin an assignment as soon as possible," Remus explained.
Our mouths dropped to the floor. Harry looked like he'd seen this coming, but Ron looked more than awestruck. "Me?" Ron asked over and over again.
"Your job will not be disclosed to anyone but other members of the Order so, Hermione, Draco, I'm sorry but you will not be told the details of the assignment, but I thought that before Harry and Ron are told to accept or decline, you'd want to have your say," He continued. "We'll leave you four to discuss."
The two adults left the room, much to Mrs. Weasley's protest. After they were gone, it stayed silent for a short while. "I'm going no matter what you guys have to say," Ron said. "I know that seems like I'm rushing and not looking at all the facts, but I want to be involved in this war. I was surprised that they'd picked me, but if they want me, then whom I to argue?"
"I'm going too. There's no question that whether I like it or not I'm involved, so I might as well start now right?" Harry said with a sarcastic laugh.
"Oh you boys…" I whispered dropping my head and gazing at my hands, which rested in my lap.
"Another famous lecture of Hermione Granger?" Harry laughed with a small glint in his eye. Before I could say what was on my mind, memories flashed of the night before. Ginny yelling something about Harry and me being in a relationship. I pushed the thoughts out of my mind, so that I could focus on the much more important matter at hand and continued.
"No. No lecture. I just wanted to say that I love the both of you and that no matter what you guys do, you guys will be fine," I said quietly. Maybe I was saying this to convince myself that no harm would come to them. Maybe I truly believed it. Honestly, I didn't know anything anymore. Harry and Ron were now going off to fight a war that they were hardly prepared for in the long run and Draco was practically my new best friend.
"I love you too Hermione. Don't worry about us. Mum will probably keep you plenty busy enough around the house, so you won't even have enough time to think about us. I know you'll join the Order as well, so you will be in our position in some time," Ron said politely making it impossible to detect a hint of romantic notion. If anything happened to this man, who was my dearest friend, I don't know what I would do. He gave me a tight hug, patting my back gently.
"I love you Hermione and we'll be thinking about you while we're gone. We'll send owls as often as they'll let us. And Ron's right, you'll be out there with us eventually," Harry said. When Harry hugged me, I felt different intentions. His embrace was tighter and much more comforting, but at the same time it discomforted me. The way he said "I love you" didn't sound the same as Ron's and almost had a hint of pain in it.
Draco sat to the side observing every moment and had a curious look in his eye. I threw him a questioning glance and didn't return the hug with the enthusiasm I'd shown Ron.
"You guys better go talk to Lupin," Draco said bluntly. After they'd left, I looked at Draco, hoping he'd have an answer for all of the awkwardness.
"What happened just now? Did you pick up on the strange vibes I was getting from Harry?" I asked.
"Yeah. I think we better go talk to Ginny and find out exactly what that dream of Harry's was about."
Ginny didn't answer the first time we knocked, but after Draco pounded on the door and yelled at her to open up, she didn't object. "What do you want? Can't you see I'm not in the mood to talk?"
"Ginny, before you start jinxing Hermione's head off, can't you just listen to what we have to say?" Draco said with a certain level of sentimentality that made me want to hug him.
After a moment of hesitation, she nodded and stepped out into the hallway, leaning against the door to listen to what I had to say. "Look, I honestly don't know what is going on here Ginny. Harry was acting weird just now and then with what you said last evening, I don't know how to take all of this. Nothing is going on between Harry and I," I explained the best I could.
"That's obviously not what Harry thinks," She said shrilly, not looking directly at either of us. I motioned for her to continue. "A few nights ago, when you and Draco were still in St. Mungo's, I was going downstairs for a glass of water and I heard Harry making some noises. I went to check in on him and make sure he was all right. When I opened the door Ron was sleeping like a dog, as usual, and Harry was…well. Harry was making some rather disturbing noises, like there was someone in there with him and they were…" Ginny began blushing and crying at the same time.
"I understand Ginny. Go on," I said touching her arm slightly.
"I almost liked it. He was so attractive like that, but then he started talking more and he said a name…" She trailed off looking at the floor.
"Who's name?" Draco said, but I didn't need to know the answer. It was very obvious.
"Hermione Granger," She said rather short almost as if my name disgusted her.
"Look Ginny, I never made any motion towards Harry at all whatsoever that I wanted to be more than friends. No matter what way he sees me, I will only ever see him as a friend!" I said in a very truthful tone.
"I know that. I always did. I just reacted improperly," She said, her voice low. The situation was obviously upsetting her, so with a quick hug, we walked away leaving Ginny to her own problems.
"Well, Potter fell for you?" He asked with a smirk on his face.
"It was just a dream. It doesn't necessarily mean that he has any romantic inclinations towards myself. This could all just be a gargantuan misunderstanding!" I said smacking Draco on the arm. "Stop laughing at me! The thought of actually being with Harry, is…" I cringed.
"So, you're not into the 'Weasley' type and you're not into the 'Potter' type. Might I ask Ms. Granger, what is your type?" He said, keeping the same look on his face.
"Honestly Draco! You think you'd give me a little more support, rather than ridicule me!" I yelled stopping halfway down the stairs.
He turned his head downward, staring at his feet, a true look of shame crossing his face. "I wasn't- I'm sorry," He said going back up the stairs slightly.
"Draco…don't. I wasn't trying to yell. You didn't do anything wrong. I just feel like I'm in a little predicament right now and I lost my temper," I said a wave of sympathy hanging over my head.
"No, I was acting like I did before, at school. I'm sorry to be have been so ignorant of your feelings. I should go. I'll be up in my room if anyone needs me," He said backing away quickly.
"Draco!" I cried hoping he'd stop and explain why he was acting so strangely himself. "What on earth is going on with everyone?!" Suddenly, life seemed so much more difficult. No one was the same as they used to be and it seemed like I couldn't have a decent conversation without something mucking it up.
Mrs. Weasley was sitting at the table, drinking a cup of tea when I came downstairs into the kitchen. She looked glum, but when she saw me, she perked up immediately, eager to solve all of my problems. "Oh dear, you look terrible! What happened sweetheart? Is it because of Harry and Ronald leaving?"
"I suppose partly, but it's a lot of things. Everyone is acting so strangely Mrs. Weasley. I don't understand why. Ron is acting so much better to my news that I didn't want to be romantic with him than I thought he would. Ginny is saying that Harry is in love with me, and now Draco is apologizing if he thinks I'm upset! I just don't know how to react to all of them!"
"Boys…" She grunted, looking like she was remembering her own days back at Hogwarts. "Honey. I hate to tell you this and you may not want to believe me, but it looks like all three of them, well, enjoy your presence in more than a friendly way."
"Excuse me?" I questioned, not quite catching the drift of her comment.
"I think they've all fallen for you deary," She smiled a sweet motherly smile and suddenly everything got fuzzy.
"No. I understand Ron, but not Harry and definitely not Draco! Harry has always been like a brother to me and Draco hated for years. We just began being civil with each other!"
"If you ask me Harry just realized what was in front of him a little late and Draco is even easier to understand. Remember in grade school when little boys teased the girls they liked?" I nodded starting to get where she was coming from. "Maybe Draco never quite grew out of the habit and just can't find a way to tell you how he feels. He is a bit of a stubborn boy isn't he?"
"Very, but he's more than that. He's honest with me, even if it's brutally. Then the way he apologizes…" I drifted off thinking about the look on his face. "It's the most sincere form of apology that I've ever heard. He's so kind when he wants to be and I find myself enjoying his company," I revealed allowed.
A small smile came across her face. I turned red realizing what I'd just said and tried to cool the heat in my cheeks. "Then, it looks like your problem's solved dear. Oh boys! What did Remus say?"
Harry and Ron had just come back into the room, each looking a little excited. "They want us both to leave tonight, late so that we can make it to the location easily. Oh, Mum don't look like that! They don't even have us doing anything dangerous! We won't be fighting or anything like that!" Ron said rushing over to his mother, who's face had fallen after the word "tonight".
"But tonight? Isn't that a little…soon?" She asked looking from Harry to Ron very quickly.
"The sooner the better Molly," Harry said using her first name to her face, something we never did. It looked as though he'd aged ten years in ten minutes. His face was more serious and he held himself slightly more dignified, like he was starting to face his destiny.
"We can't do much until Harry is of age in a few months. Mum, they say we can send an owl every week, so you don't have to worry and Lupin will be with us the entire time," Ron reassured.
The rest of the day went by too fast. Harry and Ron stayed upstairs packing away their things, all the while debating in their own minds what was absolutely necessary to take and what would just weigh them down (even though they were using a shrinking charm to carry their trunks in their front pockets!). Surprisingly, Harry chose to leave behind his beloved broom, which he deemed "extra baggage" (his own words not mine) and a few other trinkets in his room.
Draco I didn't see until we were seeing them off and when I did see him, he continued to avoid my eyes. "You boys be careful and I want an owl every chance you get! No excuses, or I will go down there myself to pick you up!"
"Yes Mum. I'll miss you too," Ron said giving her a tight hug and a peck on the cheek. She gave them each two hand knitted sweaters, despite the fact that it was the middle of summer.
I stood, rooted to the spot, not sure of what to say to my two best friends. I didn't want to say "goodbye" to them because it seemed too final. I didn't want to say "I'll see you soon" because I didn't honestly know when I'd see them next. "If anything happens to you two, I swear I will bring you back from the dead just to kill you both again. You two are smart and damn good wizards. Don't forget that," Draco said coming forward and shaking both their hands roughly. That seemed appropriate and I didn't know how to follow up, so as usual, I let my emotions do the talking.
My eyes began getting glossy, and I could feel the water slipping down my cheeks. "I'll miss you boys. Just do as they say and I'm sure that we'll all see each other in good time," I managed to choke out. After a few short hugs, I watched them walk out the door, followed shortly by a small nod from Lupin and then they were gone. I didn't stop the sobs from escaping my throat. Ginny looked at me and circled back upstairs in silence, moping the whole way up. If I hadn't been so caught up in my emotions I'd go aid her in her time of need, but I couldn't even walk away from the spot I stood myself.
Soon, I felt a pair of strong arms wrap around me, stroking my back softly, and pushing a lock of hair behind my ears. "Let it out Hermione. It won't help if you keep it bottled up like you always do," Draco whispered into my ear. I heard Mrs. Weasley walk upstairs after her daughter, probably to do some crying of her own in her room.
Almost as if it was on queue, I did as my protector said and let my heart spill out onto his jacket, soaking it. "I just can't imagine them not with me! I'm so afraid something will happen!" I screamed, losing the feeling in my legs. Just before they gave out and I was sure I'd fall to the floor in a pathetic heap. Draco tightened his hold and supported me. He lifted me up with ease, bridal style, and began ascending the stairs. "Draco, you don't have to do this. I'm just being pathetic right now," I sniffed, keeping my arms coiled around his neck as they were.
"Nonsense. Just let someone take care of you for once. You can't be a mother to everyone, ever second of the day," He argued. I looked up into his eyes and stared at the gray, lightly spattered with blue and dreadfully wanted to touch his cheek. He set me down on the bed that I'd slept in the night before, and let me stay in a sitting position. He disappeared outside the door for a moment and came back with a small washing cloth, soaked with cold water.
Lightly, he padded my face, wiping away the tearstains. Without thinking and letting my body take control, I lifted my hand, touching his chin and working my way up his cheeks. In response, Draco wrapped his hand over mine, lacing our fingers and closing his eyes as he felt my skin touching his. I brought my face closer, wanting nothing more than to feel his lips against mine. Then, rather suddenly, he pulled away.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked confused.
"I keep screwing up. You need someone good Hermione! Not someone who's going to keep hurting you!" He yelled slamming his fist into the wall just as he had at St. Mungo's. I got up immediately seeing the blood dripping from his hand. Pulling out my wand, I grabbed his hand in mine.
At first he tried to pull away, but I tugged harder, avoiding the wound. "Stop being so damn stubborn Draco! I'm trying to help you!" He stopped fighting me and as I muttered a small incantation, the broken skin melded right back together. I wiped the stray blood away with the cloth he'd used to wipe my face and stared at him. For a while, neither of us said anything. I kept holding his hand, not wanting him to run away from me again. "The only way you can hurt me is by not being honest with me. Am I correct in my assumption that there is something more than friendship between us or am I way out of line?"
"I've always liked to think that I have all the answers, but if you want honesty Hermione, then I'll grant you your wish. I have absolutely no idea what this feeling is. It's not familiar to me," He said.
"Then don't try to analyze it. Just do what feels right," I advised closing the distance between us so that our fronts were touching. In one swift motion, he swept down and touched his lips to mine. Surprised, but pleased by the tingling that was traveling across my body, I coiled my arms around him, pulling him closer to me. Our kiss was passionate, yet soft at the same time, and as soon as we were apart, I wished that we were embracing each other once more.
"Hermione?" Draco said breathing heavily, sitting on his bed and pulling me atop his lap.
"Yes?" I asked, still woozy from the contact.
"I think I'm in love with you," He whispered kissing my neck.
"And I think I'm in love with you," I answered letting my hands play with his hair.
By the time we joined the Order of the Phoenix a few weeks later, the war was over and done. Harry had killed Voldemort, but that was along with many casualties on our side. Death Eaters and even Voldemort himself murdered half of the Order. Harry and Ron I'm happy to say were not included in these statistics. They each joined us for our last year of schooling at Hogwarts. Harry became a celebrity once again, going from "The Boy Who Lived", to "The Man To End the War". That year was one of surprises. Harry and Ron had supported the decision to be with Draco, after the shock wore off, but others at Hogwarts, never seemed to get over the fact that we were in love.
Both Draco and I became Head Girl and Head Boy, so we had our own rooms separate from our houses, making it easier for my boyfriend to escape the criticism he got for betraying the Dark Lord. We both went on to become Aurors with The Ministry of Magic, rounding up the last few weak supporters of Voldemort, and cleaning up the Magical Community. Even today, I am asked why I married someone who I'd loathed so dearly.
"Forgiveness sets the soul free and let's us move on with our lives, even discovering things about ourselves we never knew before. Better to forgive and forget then live with a black heart," I said to the three children sitting in front of me. The identical twin girls looked up at me and yawned, misty eyed with exhaustion and the little boy was already nodding off. "Now it's off to bed with the three of you."
"But Mummy, I'm not tired…" Abby said opening her eyes the best she could.
"I want to hear more about you and Daddy," Ally said, not being able to look as awake as her sister.
"Well, I'm tired. Good night Mum," Jonathan said standing up and stretching. As the oldest, at 13, he set the example for the twins and I hoped that they'd follow him. When they stood up to protest, I argued with the stubborn 6 year olds, until they finally caved and headed upstairs.
"They get that from you, you know?" Draco said walking into the living room.
"You must be speaking of their charm and perfect bone structures," I laughed, standing to hug my husband.
"And of their stubbornness as well," He added, leaning down to kiss me. Even now after over 14 years of marriage, every time he kissed me it took my breath away. "I'm sorry I'm late. I'll go tell the children good night." He smiled.
"Don't worry, I forgive you."