Disclaimer: I had nothing to do with the creation of these characters or the HP world.
Note: CJ, I hope you like this! It wasn't quite what I expected it would be when I thought of "Draco in the Muggle world," but who am I to argue with the muses? Heartfelt thanks to Eilonwy for the excellent beta job, and also to Bambu, for helping me work through a tough spot!
Request: Draco is trapped some place Muggle and needs to be rescued. Hermione and Draco are NOT together at the beginning of the fic, but they ARE by the end. No mention of Ginny, Luna, Pansy, Lavender, or Molly. Post-DH, but EWE?
Or, Why A Wizard Should Keep a Pensieve Handy
"Language, Mr. … Mason, did you say?"
Draco scowled at the woman as she looked at him, her nose at a thirty-degree angle to the ground and a smug expression on her face.
"Yes. Derrick Mason."
"You get one phone call, Mr. Mason. Do you have a name?"
Draco racked his brain. He was in a Muggle prison, wearing Muggle prison garb—he would never look at the color orange the same way again—and speaking to a Muggle policewoman. Muggle, Muggle, Muggle. He had only a vague idea of what a phone was in the first place, much less someone to 'ring up.' Muggles…
"Granger," he said quickly, mentally kicking himself. However, he knew of nowhere else to turn.
Now it was time to panic. He had no Muggle money and no way of getting any, and if he messed this up, no way of communicating with anyone.
The woman raised an eyebrow, clearly suspicious that he was grasping at straws and merely guessing. She picked up a phone and spoke to the operator.
"I need a Granger, in London, please." After a few seconds, she looked back at Draco. "First name?"
He gulped. "Hermione."
She nodded and repeated the name into the mouthpiece. A surprised expression appeared on her face and she held the receiver out to Draco. "Turns out there is such a person. Thought you were guessing. She'll be on soon. If she's at home."
Draco nodded and hesitantly took the strange device, holding it to his head the way he had seen the woman do it. He heard a strange, sort of ringing noise that went in and out in a regular pattern. Finally there was a click and then a woman's voice.
He hesitated, and glanced at the policewoman. She was watching him with a half-amused expression.
"Er … Granger. Don't go away!" he said hurriedly, having heard her exasperated sigh when she recognized his voice.
"Why shouldn't I, Malfoy? It's three A.M."
"Because. You … you're my only hope." He wanted to gouge out an eye as soon as the words left his mouth.
She chuckled. "Oh really? You have ten seconds to dazzle me."
He took a deep breath and tried to get it all out in one breath. "I was in a bar and there was this bloke who was really, really big and he didn't seem to like me much and then I insulted his mother, or parentage, or hair color and he grabbed me by the collar and took me outside and then he went to hit me but he was quite sauced but so was I and we ended up stumbling around in the middle of a street and then arrested by—" He barely stopped himself from using the word Muggle. "Arrested by the police. On account of being intoxicated and causing a public disturbance."
Hermione was quiet for a few seconds and Draco nearly panicked that somehow the phone had stopped working. When she finally spoke, he breathed a sigh of relief.
"You're in jail," she said as a matter of fact.
"Well … yes. Just got here. Being … booked, I think the woman said …."
"And you're drunk," she continued.
"Well, I was in a bar … and as I was stupid enough to insult a very large man nearly three times my size, yes, I'm quite drunk."
"And why did you feel the need to call me in the middle of the night?"
"You know why," he said through clenched teeth, turning his back to the policewoman. "I didn't know any other Muggles to call," he whispered.
"You've got two minutes," said the woman.
"Are you going to help me?" he asked, feeling desperation settle into his gut.
"What do you need me to do?" she asked tiredly.
"Er … I was hoping you would know what the point of my one phone call was," he replied.
Again she chuckled. "You need me to bail you out. Merlin, Malfoy. I was asleep, and now I'm quite cozy in my nice, warm bed with a cup of hot cocoa a mere flick of my wand away and you want me to get up, get dressed, and go out into the freezing cold just to get your sorry butt out of jail?"
"Yes!" he hissed, now thoroughly terrified. "I will do anything you want, just … get me out!"
"Say the magic word," she answered in a sing-song voice.
Draco looked at the policewoman and held a brief debate in his head. His options were stay in jail for who knew how long, or say the one word he absolutely despised more than any in the English language. It was a near thing, in the end, but he went with the latter, being careful not to let the policewoman hear him.
"Fine," she said with a sigh. "Where are you?"
"No idea …." He turned back to the woman who snatched the phone away from him. "Oi!"
"She's going to come and get me, but I don't know where 'here' is. Would you tell her?"
She nodded and spoke to Hermione for a few minutes, laughing uncontrollably at one point. When she finally ended the conversation, she looked at Draco and laughed again. "I'm not sure that you wouldn't be better off in here tonight, Mr. Mason. She seemed quite upset."
Draco scowled. "Yes, well, that would be because I haven't actually spoken to or seen her in about … five years."
"Not interested. Come on, follow me." She stood and a large ring of keys hit the arm of the chair in which she had been sitting.
"Where are we going?" he asked, the relief he had felt only moments before melting away.
"I've got to lock you up until she gets here. Plus, I've got a bit of paperwork to do."
He had no choice but to follow the woman down a long, dreary hallway with off-white walls made of concrete blocks. At the end, the woman stopped and inserted one of the many keys into a lock and pulled open a metal-barred door.
"In. There's a blanket on the bed," she said and then walked away. "Pleasant dreams, sweet cheeks," she said with a laugh once halfway back down the hall.
He nodded and stepped into the cell but stopped as close to the door as he could that would still allow the door to close behind him. With disdain on his face, Draco looked toward what he guessed the woman had meant to be the bed. It was a slab of metal with a two-inch mattress on it. He had never seen anything so uncivilized in his life, and that included afternoon tea with his aunt Bellatrix.
Surely Hermione would be there at any moment. He was in the Windsor area, not far from London proper, but even that shouldn't matter at all, as she could simply Apparate to him…. Draco tried to picture all the steps she would go through before arriving. As she had been in bed, she would have to get up. Next she'd have to put on something warm, as it was the middle of a most frigid winter. Only she would have been wearing long pajama pants and a long-sleeved shirt, so she'd had to remove the sleeping pants in order to put on … what?
His mental image of Hermione, with her hair at its peak bushiness, paused in her efforts and looked directly into his mind's eye, waiting for instructions. This allowed him a brief view of Hermione Granger in nothing but a long-sleeved shirt and knickers. He wasn't sure if he should be disgusted or turned on, but decided not to dwell on it. She would put on jeans, those stiff, unyielding Muggle trousers that he had seen. Next her shirt … no, Draco decided it would be best for her to leave her sleeping shirt on. She'd simply throw on a heavy jumper and a coat, plus a scarf, gloves and hat. A thick pair of socks and trainers completed the image.
Now she was leaving her flat after grabbing her wand … No wait, she grabbed her wand and then Apparated to an alley a few streets from the jail. He watched as she walked, in his mind, through the snow for those few streets and finally entered the jail. Any minute now ….
Ten minutes passed and Draco began to wonder if perhaps she had lied, in order to pay him back for all the horrible things he had done to her in school. Could she really still be cross about all that? Honestly, they were kids at the time! He didn't know what he was saying half the time. Granted, he had never apologized, or attempted to make amends, but he would first thing when he saw her tonight. After she bailed him out, whatever that meant. And after he, too, was snugly wrapped up in warm clothes with a cup of hot cocoa.
Then he would apologize. Why not? He had already said the P-word, why not do it up right and use the S-word, too?
Briefly, the thought crossed his mind that perhaps she hadn't been alone in that warm cozy bed, that perhaps she had settled down, even had a kid by now. He knew it couldn't have been Weasley; he would never be able to make her happy for very long. Granger could run intellectual circles around the gangly red-head within weeks of beginning at Hogwarts, and the speed and radius had only increased since.
He hadn't heard that she had married, or seen anything in the media rags suggesting she was seeing someone. And … why was he still thinking about her? Where in Merlin's middle name was she, anyway? He'd been standing just inside the cell for nearly twenty minutes now, and his legs and body were beginning to feel both the alcohol and the late hour. The uncivilized metal slab was beginning to look more appealing.
"Hey, pretty boy," came a hushed whisper.
Draco froze, straining his ears and brain to try and discern the direction from which the voice came.
"Your left," it said again, and Draco slowly looked to his left.
"Sorry … left of your cell."
Now he turned to find a man in the cell next to him, wide awake and sitting on his slab. He looked at Draco so intently that he became uncomfortable very quickly.
"Y-Yes?" Draco stuttered, cursing his Malfoy genes for screaming in his brain that Malfoys don't stutter!
"What are you in for?" the other man asked.
Draco took a moment to look at him. He seemed to be about the size of the man whom Draco had foolishly insulted in all manner of ways, with a shaved head, a goatee, and multiple tattoos, one that said, "Melinda."
"Who's Melinda?" he asked, knowing it had to be the alcohol—hard liquor, actually—doing the talking.
The man's face turned from a slightly curious leer to a hard sneer in less time than it took Goyle to eat a stack of biscuits. "That's none of your bloody business," he snarled.
"You're right. Don't pay attention to me; I'm wasted."
"QUIET!" came the policewoman's voice.
"Why are you here?" whispered the other prisoner too loudly to really qualify as a whisper.
"We, um, aren't supposed to talk," Draco returned, finally moving toward the slab. His legs protested slightly.
"We're in jail. We don't exactly follow all of the rules."
"Yes, well, I'm a bit knackered. Think I'll have a lie-down." Much to his own chagrin, Draco sat down on the slab and gave the mattress a little test. It was essentially like a thick pad of springs.
He was saved the unpleasant experience of having to decide whether or not he would allow his delicate skin to touch the filth that surely must be part of the British Muggle Prison System by Hermione's arrival. The sound of opening doors garnered all of his attention, and as two sets of footsteps approached his cell, Draco stood, nearly bursting with relief.
There were small, two foot square windows all down the hall, spaced roughly ten feet apart. One of these windows was directly across from Draco's cell and so he got a very good view, thanks to the full moon, of Hermione's face when she saw him.
She smirked, looking nearly on the verge of laughing. "Hello, Derrick," she said, amusement rife in her tone.
"Granger," he said, never in his life more thankful to see the witch before him. "Thank you."
Hermione turned to the policewoman. "Thank you, Darlene. I can handle him from here."
Darlene then opened Draco's cell and led him down the hall, with Hermione following. When they reached the desk, she pulled out a clipboard. "Sign here, here and … here," she instructed Hermione, who complied. "Excellent. That'll be three hundred pounds."
Hermione didn't even blink at the amount and handed over the required amount.
Darlene gave Hermione a receipt for the transaction and then handed Draco a bag. "Change your clothes. We need our jumpsuit back."
"Oh, must he?" said Hermione, delightedly. "Isn't there some way he could keep it? Say, for another hundred pounds?"
Draco's jaw dropped, as did Darlene's. Then she eyed Draco and shrugged. "Sure. Let me just rip off the numbers …. All set."
Hermione forked over the extra money. "Well, Derrick, let's be off, shall we?"
"Can't I change?" he asked.
"I don't know, can you?"
Darlene sniggered and Draco merely scowled.
"Fine, let's just go," he said, pushing past Hermione toward the door.
"One more thing," chimed Darlene as his hand was on the door. Draco turned around. "You've got to fill out a bit of paperwork too, Derrick. Things like your address, phone number …"
As Draco watched, Darlene's eyes unfocused and then refocused.
"You're all set, Mr. Mason. Have a good night."
"Thank you, Darlene," said Hermione with a bright smile.
The two of them left the jail as quickly as possible and didn't speak a word to each other until they were outside, a few streets away.
"Are you still drunk?" Hermione asked.
Draco turned to look at her as they walked and nearly fell over.
"I'll take that as a yes," she said with a sigh. She stopped and grabbed his arm.
He soon felt the familiar pull around his navel that meant she was Apparating them somewhere. When his feet hit the ground, however, the spinning continued and he felt quite sick. A quick glance around him told him that he had no idea where he was.
"You're in my flat," Hermione said, pulling off her scarf and gloves. "You can crash on the sofa tonight." She paused at his lack of response and looked at him. "Oh, Malfoy, you don't look so good … Are you …?"
Draco nodded, feeling green around the edges and she pointed down the hall. He went as quickly as he could and still maintain the contents of his stomach, at least until he was safely leaning over the toilet.
When he emerged after a few minutes, having thrown up twice and then splashed his face with cold water, he found Hermione in the kitchen pouring hot water into two cups. When he entered, she handed him a small vial.
"Drink up. You'll feel better in no time, and there won't be a hangover to bother with."
He accepted the potion and downed it in one gulp.
"What would you like?" she asked, pulling from her cabinet a tin full of tea bags.
"Anything is fine," he said, grateful for the small kindness he knew he didn't deserve.
She selected a flavor and opened the wrapper, setting the bag in the water to steep.
Draco shivered and wrapped his arms around himself in an attempt to get warm. He was still wearing the thin prison suit in an orange so bright he was surprised Hermione didn't squint when she looked at him.
As she stood over the tea, slowly stirring her own cup, he took the time to really look at her. She hadn't changed a lot since he had seen her last, five years earlier at the two-year anniversary mark of the Dark Lord's fall. Her hair was still unruly, now held up in a loose bun, strands flying in every direction. She looked … good. Well rested, well fed, and generally in a good place. At least, as far as he could tell, at nearly four in the morning, through alcohol-tainted eyes.
She moved and Draco's attention turned to her hand, the one she used to stir her tea. Her fingers were long and thin, wrapped daintily around the spoon which she moved in slow, clockwise circles. She had taken off the hat and coat, leaving only her pajamas, a pair of plaid flannel pants and long-sleeved shirt.
"Here," she said finally, handing him the cup. "Want anything in it?"
"No," he said.
She went to her kitchen table and sat down and he followed her lead. They drank their tea in silence and just as Draco finished his, he felt a wave of calm wash over him.
"That was … good," he said, yawning.
"You're welcome," she said quietly, setting down her own empty cup. "Do I need wards on my room, or are you going to behave?"
He gave her a lopsided grin. "Normally, yes, but as you rescued me tonight, I'll give you a pass. Just for tonight, of course."
She rolled her eyes and stood up. "Goodnight, Malfoy."
Hermione turned and went toward her room without another glance at him. He suspected she still locked her door.
"Where's all the real food?"
He saw Hermione grit her teeth and grinned.
"What do you mean, Malfoy?"
"All these … boxes. Where do you keep your breakfast food?"
She huffed and went to see what he was looking at, muttering under her breath. "It's cereal. That's a breakfast food. If you don't want it, you don't have to eat it." She pulled down a box and went to the fridge to retrieve the milk.
As he watched her sit down to eat and read the paper, his smile faded and it hit him, not for the first time, how lonely his life was. He wanted someone who would discuss the morning's headlines with him, go on walks with him through the park or the grounds of his family's estate … someone with whom he could share moments that were only between them. They could look at each other across a room and with the slightest motion, remind the other of a particularly rainy day or a stray dog. He groaned; Merlin, he was pathetic.
"Apparently, someone has decided that Muggle Studies should be a required course at Hogwarts," Hermione said out of the blue, not taking her eyes off the paper.
Draco peered at her, speechless. Surely she hadn't been privy to his thoughts the moment before …. Perhaps she made a habit of announcing the headlines to the room at large.
"What did you think of that class?" she asked him, setting the paper down and taking a bite of her cereal. "I've always been curious, since you, you know, hate Muggles."
Draco quickly grabbed the most interesting looking box and went to the table. "I don't hate Muggles," he said quickly, pouring the cereal into a bowl. Eight years later he still could not get the image of his teacher floating above him in slow circles and her subsequent death out of his mind. "It wasn't my favorite class, but I learned a few things."
Hermione, who had no knowledge of the details of their teacher's death, smirked. "You? I don't know if I believe it."
He stared into the bowl where pieces of cereal were floating in milk and suddenly wished he were somewhere else. He started eating; the sooner he finished, the sooner he could leave.
After a few minutes of silence, Hermione spoke again. "What were you doing last night, Malfoy?"
He glanced up at her. "I told you."
"Were you at a wizarding bar, or Muggle?"
"And yet you managed to get arrested by the police."
"I told you. We … took things outside. It's really quite fortunate that we were arrested, because I would have been beaten to within an inch of my life."
She had stopped eating now and was watching him as he hurriedly took bites. "When do you have to go back?"
He paused mid-chew and looked at her questioningly. "Back? Where?"
"I just bailed you out. You were arrested, so you'll have to go back for some kind of … punishment."
"Yes. You'll have to tell the Ministry about this as well," she said, getting up from the table.
He chuckled. "They don't exactly like me too much over there. Why do you say I need to tell them?"
"They'll want to make sure you don't give us away or get excessive punishment. Whenever a witch or wizard gets in trouble with Muggle law, the Ministry always sends its own lawyers to defend him or her."
"Oh," he said, deciding that he was finished eating. He stood, then remembered what he had said he would do the night before, and returned to his seat.
Hermione took his bowl and ran water through it. "What were your plans for today?" she asked.
"There are a few things I'd like to say to you first," he said, his voice oddly hollow.
She looked at him. "All right."
"First, thank you for getting me last night. We haven't seen each other in five years, and you had every right to leave me there."
Hermione set her kettle on the stove and lit the gas before looking at him again warily. "You were … nice, surprisingly, the last time I saw you. I knew that if you were calling me, you had to have been desperate. The thought did cross my mind to leave you there, but not seriously." She paused. "I know what it's like to be kind of … stuck. Not in jail, mind you."
He wanted her to elaborate, but she turned her attention to the now boiling water.
"Tea? Coffee?" she offered.
"Coffee, please," he said.
She made herself a cup of tea and Draco a cup of coffee. "Do you take it black, like your tea?"
When she was sitting across from him again, slowly stirring her lump of sugar into her tea, he swallowed hard and took a breath to ready himself for the apology he was about to make. Briefly he tried to remember ever feeling sorry for anything he had done and a whole host of images and memories flooded his mind. He was sorry for most of the things he had done in his life.
"So … er, Granger. About the rest …"
She looked at him expectantly and he lost his resolve and then regained it.
"About everything, in school. I thought you might not come last night for a grudge about all of that. And, well, I'm sorry, for what it's worth. I was … young and stupid and ignorant." He chuckled, looking at his coffee. "Not sure I'm much better now, but at least I know."
He met her gaze and they held it until finally a small smile formed on Hermione's lips. "You were certainly all of those things and a few others too. But it was so long ago, before the war really. Thank you for saying it though, and I forgive you."
Not quite sure what to do next, he took a drink from his mug.
"You owe me eighty Galleons."
His head jerked up, eyes wide. "What?"
"You didn't honestly think I would bail you out all on my own … did you?"
"No, I just … eighty?" He frowned. "No, it's sixty. You bought the orange jumpsuit."
Hermione smiled. "I'm afraid it won't fit me at all. And besides, orange looks really good on you."
He started to protest but then realized that it was her way of getting him back for waking her in the middle of the night and asking her to go out in the freezing cold just to get him—a man with whom she had a bad past—out of jail.
"It does not, and you know it," he said firmly. "Fine. Eighty Galleons. Only, I haven't got anything on me."
"Well, I work at the Ministry, and now you know where I live," she said.
Then he did something spontaneous, something he would never understand for the rest of his life, no matter how hard to tried to figure it out.
"Why don't I give it to you tonight over dinner?"
Her eyes widened and he thought she might drop the teacup she was holding. Then Draco's eyes widened too, so surprised he had been at what had escaped his mouth. It had only been a fleeting thought, something to give him a little laugh later. He wasn't supposed to actually ask her out!
Hermione recovered quickly and set down the cup. "I … I can't tonight," she said and he thought there was a hint of annoyance in her voice.
Relief washed over him but it was only to last a moment.
"How about tomorrow?"
As soon as Hermione shut the door behind Draco, she groaned and leaned against it, slowly sinking to the floor. She couldn't believe she had just agreed to go out with Malfoy. Nothing good could possibly come from it, evinced by her reactions to him since getting him out of jail. He hadn't seemed to notice, but she found it hard to believe he hadn't heard her heart pounding as they walked through the silent early morning snow or sensed her nervousness at having him in her home. She felt as though she was shouting it in behavior, but perhaps the feeling had simply come from a strong sensitivity to how he might perceive her.
Hermione slowly stood and made her way to the bathroom, thankful that it was the weekend. She needed a long, relaxing bath to help clear her mind.
It took her no time to fill the magically expanded bathtub with warm, bubbly water, and place a Warming Charm on the water to keep it a constant temperature. She Transfigured a sofa pillow into a waterproof one and brought a stack of magazines and the book she was reading into the room.
As she sat soaking in the fragrant water, her mind drifted to the last time she had really seen Draco Malfoy. The few occasional glimpses in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade in the years since didn't really count, in her mind. There was one, specific occasion that would forever be burned in her memory.
The two-year anniversary of the fall of Voldemort had been marked by a charity ball, hosted by Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy. At the time, she hadn't completely bought the story that the Malfoys were truly sorry for their part in the war. Lucius had stood trial and essentially been acquitted, for all intents and purposes. He served a brief term in Azkaban, a mere three months, before he was let out on parole. From that moment forward, he threw himself and his family into the spotlight, trying to reclaim a modicum of good standing.
Money sure went a long way toward that end. Even the Malfoys' harshest critics, outraged at first with Lucius' meager punishment, had eventually sung his praises. It was nothing like the last time, they had argued. As proof, they offered that this time, Lucius gave unendingly and spread his generosity over a far greater reach than could possibly be part of a dark, evil scheme. Voldemort was truly dead and Lucius had seen the error of his ways before his downfall, albeit at the last moment. There couldn't possibly be a chance that Lucius was scheming. He had even allowed inspectors into his home immediately following the war and showed them every nook and cranny, as reported by the Daily Prophet. No Dark Magic had been detected anywhere near the Malfoy home, much less in it, in the seven years following the war.
Hermione had attended the ball with Ron, whom she had been seeing since the end of the war, but her attention had been distracted. They were in the Malfoy's home, and she had wondered about the son, looking for him in the room. She finally spotted him at the back of the room in the shadows. Only his hair kept him from being essentially invisible. She watched as he downed the contents of whatever drink was in his hand and look around, presumably for another round. She remembered wondering how he must feel at not only having a Ministry charity ball held in his home, but also hearing his father's name once again praised in wizarding society after everything their family had been through.
For such a young man, Draco had seen his family in a number of different positions. When he was born, his father was a fully active Death Eater, though he had no memories of this time. From the age of one to fifteen, his father dabbled in Dark Arts and bribed Ministry officials, donated strategically, and taught Draco that he was better than just about everyone. Then Voldemort returned and Lucius was required to return to the fold. He served his master well for a year until his failure at the Department of Mysteries, and was sent to prison. Once Lucius was rescued from prison, he became merely a means to an end: Malfoy Manor was overrun with Death Eaters. Lucius had to tread a careful line to stay in Voldemort's good graces. Now that he was dead, the family was once again using its monetary resources to gain a positive image in the eyes of the public. It had certainly worked; now the Malfoy name was associated with charity and acceptance, though she still wondered what Lucius would say if Draco brought home a Muggle or Muggleborn witch.
At some point during the dance, Hermione's feet had been stepped on one too many times and excused herself from Ron, begging a glass of water. He had let her go and a queue of women formed to take Hermione's place.
She had hurried to the edge of the room, toward the doors leading to the only balcony extending off the ballroom. Taking care that no one should notice her flight, she waited a few seconds before cracking the ornate French door and slipping through. The cool air enveloped her and she shut the door behind her and leaned against it, eyes closed and drinking in the smell of the flowers growing along the balcony railing.
She'd taken several deep breaths before becoming aware of a presence near her. That presence shifted his weight. Hermione had opened her eyes to find Draco Malfoy watching her over the rim of a wine glass, amusement and something else in his pale, grey eyes.
Their conversation had been strange and brief, and Malfoy had been very drunk. Still, he had managed to fix her with a piercing stare that had unnerved her. She had looked away and gone to the edge of the balcony and looked over. They were only one story up, and below was a beautiful, perfectly manicured English garden. A small water channel went down the middle and opened eventually into a large lake. The stars were like a million tiny crystals in the sky. Two pure white swans were swimming peacefully in the channel.
Finally, she had asked him why he was outside. In answer, he had asked her the same question, reminding her that as she had been part of the team that defeated the 'crazy megalomaniac,' she should be inside dancing on his proverbial grave.
She pointed out that his father had funded the entire event and was hosting it as well, which in turn made him a host as well.
He had smirked and told her he was drunk. If she hadn't believed it before, what he did next left no doubt in her mind. Draco drank the rest of his wine in one swallow and then set the glass on the railing and walked slowly toward her. She had shivered slightly as a cool breeze swept across the lawn. He stopped so close to her that she could smell his expensive cologne and the alcohol on his breath. She had had a few drinks herself and his proximity was making her light-headed.
"You're beautiful," he had whispered in her ear, his warm breath tickling the fine hairs on her neck and she had shivered again, feeling a torrent of excited, rambunctious butterflies in her stomach.
Completely undone and stunned at her response to him, Hermione had taken a small step away and managed to remind him that he was drunk.
He had laughed and said that yes, he was, but he wasn't blind. Then, as though he hadn't just confessed an attraction to her, flicked his wrist to refill his glass and then drank half of it.
They talked for a few more minutes. He asked how long she thought the evening would go, and bemoaned the fact that she had said past midnight, at least. She asked him how it felt to be back in the golden spotlight of wizarding society again and his answer still surprised her as much as it had when he'd said it.
He had scoffed and said, "Except for feeling as though I might be the lowest form of life on the planet and should be relegated to scrubbing the grime off public toilets, it's wonderful."
Hermione hadn't known what to say and stood awkwardly as he seemed to forget she was there, returning to sip from his glass. She had remained outside for a few more minutes, enjoying the night air and thinking that there was far more to the man beside her than she had imagined, that he was capable of thinking about more than himself.
As she turned to leave, she had wondered if he wouldremember this interaction between them the next day and if he would regret opening up to her, even just a little. Her hand had been on the door when Draco had called to her.
Despite the warm water, Hermione shivered at the memory.
She had turned around, feeling her heart thumping wildly in her chest, to find him standing only a few feet from her, his eyes still glassy but at the same time betraying more lucidity than she had expected. He took a few more steps until he was directly before her and she had to tilt her head up to look him in the eye.
He was staring at her strangely and tentatively reached a hand up to touch her cheek.
Hermione had been rooted to the spot, one hand still on the door handle, marveling at finally understanding and experiencing the concept of chemistry between two people. Her body had never reacted to any man the way it had for him and part of her had hoped desperately that he would kiss her. The very idea made her knees weak and she glanced at his mouth while his fingers gently caressed the soft skin of her face.
Finally Draco took her chin in his hand and tilted her face toward him. He wet his lips and looked as though he were thinking very intensely about what he should do. His face came closer to hers, then he pulled back slightly and looked into her eyes, which she was certain were wide open and screaming for him. He neared her once more and then stopped just before their mouths collided. His lips twitched and instead of kissing her he leaned forward to whisper in her ear.
"I meant it," was all he said before stepping back from her.
Her entire body protested the distance and she involuntarily took a half step toward him. "Malfoy …"
"Go on," he said, now returning to the balcony railing and facing away from her. "I'm sure you've been missed. Wouldn't want someone to catch us out here, would we?"
She had swallowed hard, still finding it difficult to hear and think over the rushing in her ears and the pounding of her heart. After waiting a few seconds to allow her head to clear and her blood to slow, Hermione had slipped back into the ballroom, forever altered.
A loud meowing outside the bathroom door jarred Hermione from her thoughts. She sighed and decided she'd had a long enough bath and climbed out of the tub, wrapping a large, fluffy towel around her. She dressed for the day and decided to take a walk through London, maybe stop by a bookshop or see a film by herself; something to distract her. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop thinking about Draco. After five years, his sudden reappearance in her life brought back all the feelings of confusion she thought she had long since overcome.
Draco was a fit of nerves at ten before six on the following evening. He had spent nearly an hour trying to decide what to wear, calling for advice from both his father and a couple of house-elves that he'd sworn to secrecy. He didn't want to appear too interested, but he couldn't show up looking sloppy. This was not a date, despite the way it had sounded when he asked her. Though a small voice in the back of his mind told him not to fight the idea too hard.
The last thing on Draco's mind had been asking the woman out. He blamed it on the situation: he'd been drunk the night before, arrested, then rescued by a woman in white, shining armour (or, pajamas) and given delicious tea, a comfortable place to sleep, and then breakfast the next morning. She had also attempted to engage him in conversation about something in the paper, which had completely worn away his defenses. Finally, he concluded, it had been her hair, pulled back yet not contained, strands falling attractively around her face and everywhere else that had done him in. He'd let his mind wander to his own chronically empty bed and it lashed out in a moment of weakness.
He felt inexplicably nervous and he couldn't identify why. He had considered breaking the date off and on all day. True, he had always felt a measure of attraction to Hermione, but the idea of actually seeing her had his nerves completely frayed. He reminded himself that he hadn't officially termed it a date. He would take her out to thank her for her assistance, no strings or titles attached, and let that be all. With a satisfied nod to his reflection, Draco left his room and went to the Apparation point inside the vast mansion.
At three minutes to six, he stood outside Hermione's door in a pair of black trousers, black shoes, and a fitted, pale blue button-down shirt covered by a heavy, mid-calf-length coat Transfigured from a cloak, his insides churning. Before he lost the nerve or his lunch, Draco knocked.
He heard movement behind the door and then it was opened to reveal Hermione looking much as she had when he'd seen her last: hair a mess and wearing pajamas. Her eyes widened slightly as she took in the sight of him, dressed impeccably for what was certainly not a date.
Draco thanked the stars above that he hadn't taken his mother's advice and purchased flowers.
"I didn't think you were serious," she said quickly.
"Obviously," he retorted, looking her over.
She reddened slightly. "You honestly wanted to have dinner with me?"
"May I come in, so we aren't talking about this for all the neighbors to enjoy?"
"Yes," Hermione said, opening the door. She started toward the hallway that lead to her room, talking to him as she went. "Tell me quickly. Did you really want to have dinner with me? I can be ready in just a few minutes."
He was only a few feet into the flat and he stopped in his tracks. "Yes," he finally called, cursing and swearing to all the dead witches and wizards. Did he really want to have dinner with her? True, he'd had a nice enough time with her the day before, and he had always found her somewhat attractive … but a date was a whole new Quidditch match. He wasn't even sure if he liked her.
Draco stood in the middle of her living room, feeling awkward. He'd been there just the day before, even slept on the sofa, but he hadn't really paid much attention to it. She had more books than a person could possibly read in a lifetime. Still, he was curious, and walked to the nearest shelf, running his finger absently along the spines as he read.
He heard a door open and looked up to see Hermione walking down the hall. His jaw dropped, his heart rate increased and his palms started to sweat. He knew she was a witch, but how could any woman go from looking as though she'd been asleep to straight-up gorgeous in five minutes? He also knew she was an exceptionally talented witch, but she didn't look like that from magic. He had seen her on a couple of other occasions when he had been rendered completely speechless.
She wore a halter dress in a floral print that went perfectly with what he was wearing. A pair of strappy, sexy purple heels and a pair of small, silver hoops completed the look. Her hair was still up but it was more … intentional, with most of it contained but a few strategic strands left to fall where they may. Slung over her arm was a wrap and in her other hand a small handbag.
As she neared him, she smirked, and he realized he was still gaping at her. Hastily closing his mouth, he crossed his arms, not knowing what else to do.
"I'm ready," she said. "Just need to grab a coat."
He nodded and waited while she put the wrapper around her shoulders, put on a heavy overcoat, and cast a warming charm.
When Hermione was locking her door and setting her wards, Draco finally spoke. "How did you get ready so quickly?"
She smiled shyly. "Well, I admit I was prepared, in the event you should come knocking. Where are we going?"
At that, Draco felt freed from the spell of seeing her so dramatically transformed and breath-taking. "Diagon Alley, to a little Italian place I know," he said, nearing her. "Meet you at the Leaky Cauldron."
She nodded and they both Disapparated.
Dinner was a delightful affair. Draco was impressed by Hermione's grace and manners, and she seemed to find his conversation witty and intelligent. He had dated a fair amount in the years since the war and had only been involved in one serious relationship. Maybe it had been the type of woman he was typically drawn to, but now, with Hermione he had never felt so at ease, so free to be himself. The few times he slipped and said something snarky, she had only smirked and dished out as well as he did.
Somewhere between the main course and dessert, he realized he truly liked Hermione and he sent a silent 'thank you' to whatever force had prompted him to ask her out. When it was over, dessert eaten and the bill paid, Draco wasn't ready to end the evening and asked if she fancied a walk. She said she did.
"Do you remember the last time we saw each other?" she asked him as they strolled down Diagon Alley, admiring the wares in the shop windows.
"Yesterday? Quite well, yes."
She smiled and shook her head. "No, years ago, I mean. At your home…."
He frowned, thinking. "Well, yes, I remember it. I was there, had to be, after all. Still hate those bloody things. Thank Merlin they are now fewer and farther between."
"I didn't think they were so bad," she remarked.
"No, naturally you wouldn't. They were essentially for you. I admit I don't recall a great portion of them, as I tended to start on the open bars rather early."
"What do you remember about that night, five years ago?"
Her voice was oddly interested and it hit him these weren't merely conversational questions. She was searching for something and he had no idea what. "Er … I think the Head of the Auror Department was the emcee, it was at my house, I had the duck … and the equivalent of two bottles of wine. Why?"
"That's all?" she asked, somewhat disappointed.
He searched his memories, trying to see what more he could tell her. Vaguely he remembered staring at her, being unable to take his eyes off her, but only for the first hour or so, until he was much too far gone to be able to pick her out of the crowd. "Potter had recently got engaged, I think …"
Hermione sighed; he had not given her what she wanted. They reached the end of the Alley, where the portal to the Leaky Cauldron was. She stopped and turned toward him.
"Well, I had a nice time, Malfoy, thank you."
He was confused; he hadn't wanted the evening to end so soon. He'd been hoping to take her somewhere else, perhaps the lake by the Manor, or back into London to see a show. It was still rather early. "I … I'm glad you enjoyed dinner, it was my pleasure. I thought perhaps we could extend our stroll through the city, maybe see a show."
She bit her lip. "I … I'm not sure that's a good idea."
"Of course it is. We both had a good time, it's still quite early, and it would follow that we would want to spend more time in each others' company."
Hermione smiled and looked away as though she didn't want him to see. "Oh! Before I forget though. Do you have the eighty Galleons?"
"I … yes," he said, reaching into his pocket for a moneybag, which he handed to her.
"Thank you," she said, taking it.
Together they walked through the Leaky Cauldron and out into London. Draco thought to take her to a park and they headed in that direction; however Hermione now seemed distant and withdrawn, not open the way she had been at dinner. His thoughts raced, trying to find an answer and when nothing materialized, panic crept into the corners of his mind. Had he done something wrong? Was she upset that he didn't remember those long, boring nights of brown-nosing and networking, expensive dinners and mundane dancing? He had avoided them as much as possible, choosing to find solitude wherever he could in the different venues.
Draco continued behaving as though nothing were wrong, and eventually she relaxed and became as animated as she had been during dinner. They had passed another hour in the snow-covered park, both thankful for the Warming Charms that allowed them to pass the time in comfort, after a stop to get hot chocolate. Then Hermione declared that she needed to get home.
"I guess I'll be seeing you around," she said with a soft sigh. "I certainly hope you don't drink as much as you used to. It can't be good for your health."
He chuckled. "No, I don't, and after what happened the other night, I think it will be a long time before I even think about drinking again."
"Good," she said. "I reckon I'll be saved from early morning phone calls then."
"At least those begging you to get me out of jail."
"Well, goodnight," she said.
He frowned. "That's it?"
"Thanks, have a nice life, don't drink too much? I thought you had a good time."
He nodded once. "Right, as did I. Now is the customary time when I would ask you if I can see you again, and you would say yes, so we can see if the experience holds."
"I don't think it's a good idea," she said.
"In my experience, a woman only says that if she did not have a good time. You did."
"Malfoy, this … it would never work anyway. If you think about it enough, you'll agree. We're so different, and your family would probably never approve, despite all of the good things that your Father has done and his acceptance of those with … lesser blood. It's still … me."
He frowned, taking a step toward her. "I am not in the least concerned about what my Father thinks, and really would rather crash and burn while trying my best, to be completely honest. I haven't had this much fun in … well, too long, and I'm highly inclined to want to do it again. See you again, I mean." he added.
Hermione bit her lip. "I … no. I'm sorry, really I am. Goodnight, Malfoy."
She turned on her heel and walked a few steps before Disapparating, leaving Draco staring at the spot where she had disappeared, feeling hurt and completely lost.
That night Draco lay in bed unable to fall asleep and replayed the events of the evening in his mind. He passed from confusion and hurt to disappointment and finally anger. It wasn't his fault that he couldn't remember some random night five years before. How could she possibly expect that of him? He'd been drunk, she'd said so herself.
One thing Draco did remember about that period in his life was that he used alcohol to drown the feelings of unworthiness that had plagued him following the war. He hadn't done anything in the war, for good or bad. He'd simply muddled through, hoping he and his family would somehow make it out alive and be free from the reign of terror. But he hadn't done anything to make help it become a reality and when he'd learned of what Potter, Weasley and Granger had done, part of him secretly wished he had joined them. He had considered it after they showed up in his home, but reasoned that they wouldn't accept him no matter what after being present when Hermione had been tortured by his aunt.
He shuddered, wishing he could forget that particular memory … and remember the one from five years ago.
Then he sat bolt upright in bed, his mind racing, scolding himself for only then thinking of using a Pensieve to view the memory of the night Hermione had asked about. Quickly Draco got out of bed, threw on a dressing gown and made his way to his father's study. The Pensieve was in a cabinet that Lucius kept locked, though not very securely. Draco had been able to break into that particular cabinet since he was thirteen; it was where Lucius kept his liquor supply.
Carefully he retrieved the basin and set it on the large, mahogany desk, settling himself in the office chair. Draco pulled the five-year-old memory from his head and sent it swirling. Then, with a deep breath, he plunged into the Pensieve and landed in the entrance hall of his home.
He looked around and saw his younger self standing beside his parents, greetings the guests. Knowing this couldn't possibly be what Hermione had asked about, as he was still quite sober, he hurried the memory along, pausing to see her arrive on the arm of Weasley. The image now caused his blood to burn with jealousy and he had to remind himself that she was not with the idiot anymore.
He watched the announcements between dinner and dancing and saw, to his surprise, that Hermione had sought him out that night after the adoring speech about his father. He watched as she watched the memory-Draco drink in the shadows of the room. After that, he stuck with his other self as he drank more and more. Unfortunately, the quality of the memory decreased with each drink, but Draco was still able to make out the general idea of what was happening.
Draco followed himself onto the balcony where he waited impatiently, watching himself drink glass after glass. Merlin, Hermione had been right: he certainly had consumed far too much alcohol at these functions. Draco was starting to get bored and was about to give up altogether when he saw the balcony door open and Hermione slip out. It was clear she hadn't seen his Pensieve-self, as her eyes were closed and she took a few unguarded, heaving breaths.
Draco watched, mesmerized, as the other Draco held an entirely coherent conversation with her and was stunned to hear himself tell Hermione she was beautiful.
Though it had certainly occurred to both the Pensieve Draco and the one watching, he never imagined working up the nerve to actually tell her. Naturally, he had to be completely wasted to say it. Hermione had done nothing at the revelation, only pointed out the glaringly obvious. They parted and then Hermione made for the door.
Then Draco watched in amazement as what happened next seemed to play in slow motion. The other Draco halted Hermione and she stopped, turning around to him. Her eyes were wide and nervous and as he watched, Draco felt apprehension and the sweet anticipation that comes before the fulfillment of desire. Pensieve-Draco walked slowly and deliberately toward her and Draco's nerves exploded with the intensity of what he saw in Hermione's eyes. He moved to stand directly where the Pensieve-Draco stood, so that he could imagine Hermione was looking at him instead. She looked deliciously irresistible, her lips full and her eyes now betraying the confusion she felt and something much more sensual. As he looked into her eyes, a sharp, familiar rush suddenly passed through him, an intense sensation that pulsed inside him as their eyes remained locked. As the other Draco backed away, the Draco watching saw her take a half-step toward him and realized she had wanted him to kiss her.
The realization hit him like a Bludger to the gut. The Draco in the memory had been too drunk to see how she had responded to him, but Draco felt the sensations as he watched and they were as familiar as his favorite books. He wanted to yell at himself for being so blind and bloody useless; he'd had a chance years ago and had been too wasted to see it when it was right in front of him. But nothing more happened and Draco left the memory after Hermione returned to the ballroom.
He sat on his bed for an hour in complete shock. After that night, he had seen Hermione from across the room at a few Ministry gatherings, always with Weasley and sometimes Potter. He had never approached her or even considered it, even though he had long found her attractive. She was beautiful, as he'd told her in the memory, but his attraction went beyond mere looks and had manifested in a number of different ways over the years.
In fourth year, there was the Yule Ball. Never before had he really thought of her as a girl, always just the Mudblood. No longer, after that night. She had been beautiful not just in her appearance, but in the way her brilliant smile lit her entire face, showing the world that at that moment, life was a delight.
Next in attraction was her tenacity, her willingness to go against what everyone else said, even though she truly had no hope at all of freeing house-elves. Still, she stuck with it, through all the ridicule she received even from her best friends.
More and more her courage and strength in the face of endless adversity had impressed him, in large part because he had felt too incapable of it himself. He'd felt isolated and stuck in a hopeless situation in his sixth year, and for the following one spent directly under the Dark Lord's thumb, he'd been too terrified to do much of anything. When he had seen Hermione, with Harry, Ron and others in his home, he had felt small and insignificant. They had been doing something, fighting against the creature who had Draco's entire family under his control, most not as willing as they once were.
She had even been beautiful in a way when his aunt was torturing her. He had been reminded, as he'd watched in horror, of their fifth year, when Hermione had cried and, he later learned, lied to Umbridge about some weapon. He also later learned that she had lied about the sword Bellatrix was torturing her over and he had no choice but to respect her bravery and, when pressed, her very Slytherin traits.
After the war, she had handled the spotlight with grace and maturity, and in the years since, every time he saw her, she was not only the epitome of all that was good in a human being, but she had even been kind to him.
Still, he had kept his attraction so deeply buried that he couldn't even acknowledge it under normal (sober) conditions. When she had asked him about that night, what had she wanted to hear? Some confession on his part, surely, that he even remembered what happened—or rather, almost happened—between them.
He'd been drunk; had she expected him to remember? But that couldn't have been everything, because she eventually seemed to let that go. Why hadn't she wanted to see him again?
Draco glanced at the clock over the fireplace in his room. Half past two in the morning. Would she be awake? He doubted it, but he didn't care. He'd had a good time with her that night and he wasn't going to roll over and give up without more of a fight. He'd had too much practice at settling, at not speaking his mind, at not going for what he really wanted, to accept it now.
He was more nervous than he'd been the night before as he stood outside her door. He had no idea what he was going to say; all he knew was that he was going to convince her to go out with him again.
It took Draco a few minutes to work up his nerve, and he thought briefly about her neighbors. He knocked and immediately knew it was too soft. He tried again, and then noticed a small button to the side of the door. Curious, he pressed it and heard a faint chime sound somewhere inside her flat. It sounded too soft to him, so he resumed knocking.
After a few moments, he heard a muffled, "Who is it?"
His heart was now thundering in his chest and his insides were twisted in painful anticipation. "It's me," he said and then felt stupid. He was hardly on 'it's me' terms with her; she would probably think he was Potter or Weasley. "Draco," he added quickly.
He waited. All the anticipation, the intense weekend had built a Quaffle-sized knot of nerves in his gut. For a moment, he didn't think she would answer, but then finally the door opened and Hermione looked at him, bleary-eyed.
"What is it with you, anyway?" she asked, rubbing her eyes and motioning him inside. "Is three in the morning your wizarding hour?"
Draco closed the door behind him and remained standing in front of it. Hermione had walked sleepily to the sofa and sat down, grabbing a pillow and hugging it to her.
"Well, Draco, what are you doing here?" she asked with a yawn.
"I wanted to talk to you," he mumbled, his stomach now in his shoes, his throat completely dry, and his mind almost blank.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" she said finally.
He took a deep breath and remembered the feelings the memory had stirred. "I remember what happened that night."
He looked at her. She was biting her lip and frowning deeply.
"You remembered? How?"
"I used a Pensieve."
"Why did you ask me about it earlier tonight?"
Hermione looked down at the arm of the sofa. "I have no idea what you felt that night, but I remember it as though it were yesterday. It left a very strong impression on me. I had hoped that it would have affected you the same way, strongly enough that you would remember it, even though you were very drunk."
"What does that have to do with anything, why don't you want to see me again? I'm still very confused on that point. I had a good time with you, I … like you," he said, swallowing hard when she met his eye.
"It's … complicated. As I said, I was deeply affected by what happened, I can't even tell you how far-reaching the consequences were. I had never felt that way with a man, and I'd had a boyfriend for nearly two years!" Hermione stood, tossed the pillow away and started pacing. "I tried to deny that what had happened meant anything significant, but I couldn't for long. I was still with Ron, and trying to figure out why, in all the years I had known him, he hadn't come close to affecting me the way you had. I wasn't sure exactly what I felt for you or if it would last, or if it was worth breaking up with Ron to pursue. I had no encouragement from you at all, not even a sideways glance, and so I knew you hadn't remembered, hadn't been affected the way I had."
"I don't see why you didn't … help me remember," he said.
"You couldn't possibly have wanted anything to do with me! It was just the wine talking. Even if you did think I really was … pretty, I didn't think you actually liked me. I wasn't ready to put myself through the pain of becoming attached to you and then being dumped by you when you got bored with me. I know myself. I would have fallen for you."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "You assumed that's how it would go?"
"Honestly, yes." She stopped pacing and looked at him. "As I said, I had no way of knowing if that night meant anything to you. Over time, the feelings I had nursed for you faded, but the other day …" Her voice trailed off.
When Draco looked at her he was surprised to see tears in her eyes.
"Oh, it's so frustrating! When I picked you up from the jail, it was all there again, every bit of it. I wanted to scream." She shook her head sadly. "You don't even really remember. Watching the scene unfold is one thing, but it's another entirely to have been there, that night."
Unsure of what to do with himself, Draco fidgeted with his wand as he stood by the door. "I … wish I could say that I remember exactly what I felt that night, but you're right: watching doesn't translate to feeling. At the same time, I know exactly how I felt that night, because in the memory, I relived it."
"What do you mean?"
"When I called you back in the memory, and then approached you, I did that as well. I put myself in place of my memory self, and stood directly in front of you. I imagined you really were looking at me."
"I still don't see how that changes anything. You don't remember that night."
"Did you think that night was some aberration?" he asked, taking a step toward her. "That for some reason, I invent feelings when I'm drunk that don't exist otherwise?"
She looked at him as though the thought had crossed her mind but she had discounted it. "You never once, before or after, paid me any attention anywhere remotely close to that. What else was I supposed to think?" she said.
He had no answer.
She continued. "As I said, I nursed a crush on you for awhile, but I knew it was futile."
"Especially as you never spoke to me again," he said quietly.
"Right. That would have gone over well," she said bitingly. "Especially considering that you didn't remember me."
"Of course I did! That's what I've been trying to say! Just because I didn't remember that night doesn't mean I didn't think you were beautiful all the time. I didn't say that because I was drunk. Well, I did, but I only mean I was too scared to say it sober. When I was in the Pensieve, standing in front of you, I felt exactly what I know I felt five years ago because you are still you. Not only are you beautiful, and that's a scary thing to a bloke, but you're also quite intimidating. You're brilliant, and good, and—"
She kissed him.
One minute he was talking to her and the next she had crossed the room and taken his face firmly between her hands and kissed him.
It wasn't a typical first kiss, either. She was desperate, for what he didn't know, feverishly devouring his lips and begging for more. He'd been so stunned that he only stood there, stupidly, until something in his brain kicked in and told him to kiss her back, and now!
He did, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her tight against him. Merlin! He hadn't even truly been alive before her kiss … this kiss. It was electrifying and he felt the passion, the longing, the heat, all the way through to the tips of his hair.
Hermione was so exuberant that after just a few seconds, she pushed him, still devouring his lips, against the door behind him so hard that his head thudded painfully. She pulled her head back and gave him just enough room to move his head.
"Oops," she said, looking into his eyes. "Sorry."
He grinned and rubbed the back of his head. "It's quite all right."
Then her eyes softened. "Don't you see?" she said simply. "This is why I was scared to go out with you again." She pulled off him completely and took a few steps back.
He frowned. "No, I don't see. That was going quite well, I thought."
"I knew if I went out with you again, I would lose myself with you, as I just did. I could fall for you so fast and so hard … Without knowing that you felt the same way, I wasn't ready to risk getting my heart broken. If … if you wanted to ask me out again, I think I'd say yes."
"Yes, I want to go out with you again." He paused, his nerves sending uncomfortable shoots of trepidation and delight through his body. "I'd like to see if we can fall together. Hermione."
Her smile was brilliant. "Me too," she said softly. Then she yawned. "So, where were we?"
Draco grinned. "We were having a really nice snog but it's late we can do that anytime and in much more comfortable locations. It's been an exhausting weekend, I've woken you at three in the morning twice in three nights, and I know you have to work tomorrow. Why don't I put you to bed and take you out tomorrow … or rather, tonight? "
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Absolutely. Oh, and there's a thing this weekend at the Manor. Would you go with me?"
She smiled. "I can think of things I would rather do on a third date than become reacquainted with your parents, to be honest, but yes, I'll go with you. So long as you tell your parents beforehand that I will be attending, as your date. I'm very fond of your mother—she's done amazing things for the children orphaned by the war—but Lucius still scares me."
Draco laughed. "He shouldn't! Since the war ended, he's been nothing but absolutely agreeable and charming. It's really quite annoying. I miss the edge and the snark. I have to make him really angry to see it anymore." His eyes lit up. "Maybe telling him I'm seeing you will bring it out!"
Hermione jabbed him lightly. "So that's the real reason you want to go out with me, isn'g it?"
"You've discovered the truth," he said, pulling her to him again. "And who said this weekend would be our third date? I never did. Usually I wouldn't think to bring a woman home until at least the fifth date. It's only Monday; we've got time."
Hermione laughed. "Yes, but I've got a full week ahead. How about you bend your rule a bit and take me home on the fourth date."
"Fourth date? I reckon I could make an exception."
Hermione yawned again.
"To bed with you," he said, pointing down the hall.
She nodded and he followed her down her to the bedroom and waited while she got under the covers. Draco tucked her in and kissed her lightly on the lips, then again, this time lingering long enough to feel the first tendrils of desire.
"Goodnight, Hermione," he said.
Her eyes were already closed and her breathing even. He thought she'd fallen asleep but then she smiled. "Goodnight, Draco."
It took more willpower than he had known he possessed to leave, but he had the promise of another date, the very reason he had gone to her flat. What made him feel as though he might burst as he walked through her flat was the promise and the hope, of much, much more.FIN
"Hope" is the thing with feathers-- That perches in the soul-- And sings the tune without the words-- And never stops--at all-- Emily Dickenson
A/N: Thanks for reading!