All characters belong to JKR
Part five dedicated to Hiddenstarrz. She picked out who Hermione would end up with in this story, so all the Dramione fans out there should thank her!
Part V: Draco and Hermione:
The rain seemed appropriate. It should be raining. It was as if the sky was crying for her, because it knew she didn't have any tears left. The only thing that would make it more appropriate, was if it would thunder, right…about…now. Hermione waited for the crack of thunder. When it came, she couldn't help the smile that formed on her lips.
It was official. Her store just closed for the last time. She failed. She tried hard, but in the end, she failed. She fought hard, but again, in the end she failed. She had a going out of business sale, and almost everything was gone. She even sold most of the fixtures and furniture. Malfoy gave her until the end of the month to move on, and the end of the month was in three days.
In three days, her life as she knew it would cease.
In three days, she would start a new adventure.
In three days, she would start on a fresh page.
She was wistful, thinking about what life had in store for her. She sat down on the bare floor, because there was nowhere else to sit, and she pulled her legs up to her chin, placed her back against the counter, put her head on her knees, and did the unthinkable. She cried. There were some tears left after all.
She heard the bell over the door chime. She didn't look up, she merely said, "I'm sorry, but we're closed for good. There's nothing left."
She didn't look up as she heard footsteps approach. She let her eyes rest on a pair of black, polished shoes, and then let her eyes ran up the length of grey wool trousers, up to a black shirt, to the face of Draco Malfoy. He offered her his hand.
She remembered another time he offered her a hand, and a shoulder, on which to cry. All those years ago after the final battle. The only difference then was that she had forgiven him for all his past deeds. This time, she wondered if she could be as forgiving.
She let his hand hang there helplessly in the air, and she tucked her face back in her knees and cried harder.
She heard his footsteps retreat. She heard the door again. She assumed he left. She looked up, but all he had done was close the blind on the door and lock it. She wondered if he did that because he didn't want there to be any witnesses as he nailed the final nail in her coffin. She turned her face toward the empty store, her cheek on her knee, and she said, "Why lock the door?"
He didn't say a word. He knelt beside her, and then sat on the floor next to her. He placed his back against the counter just as she had. He reached for her wrist, his fingertips skimming the skin of her arm, finally to rest her hand in his. He said, "It'll be okay."
No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't be okay. However, she no longer cared. She leaned her face against his shoulder and cried harder. He moved her hand from his right hand to his left, and then placed his right arm around her shoulders.
"Thing didn't have to go like this, you know," he said.
"Yes they did," she answered.
"No, they really didn't." He had no one to blame but himself. He messed it all up, and now, here she was, suffering, once again at his hand, just as she had so many times before. An act of goodwill turned to an act of hurt, and he felt powerless to stop it. He turned his face toward her head and kissed the top of her hair. He let go of her hand and brought his hand up to her face. He let his fingertips slide effortlessly down her downy soft cheek. He touched her lips. She looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. The air was heavy and their mutual confusion hung between them, suspended in time. Finally, he blinked.
He leaned closer, and felt compelled to kiss her, so he did. A simple, plain kiss. A kiss goodbye, a kiss hello, a kiss of forgiveness, or a kiss of redemption…he would never know. He just needed to do it as much as he felt she needed to be kissed.
She started to move away from him. He understood, he had taken it too far. Nevertheless, the next thing she did surprised him. Hermione went to lie on the floor next to his reclining body. She placed her head on his thigh and continued to cry. He stroked her hair, said things like, "Hush" and "Shh" and "It will be alright." If he could give her nothing else, he could give her his sympathy and words of comfort, no matter how empty. He could comfort her, as she comforted him all those years ago. Maybe this act alone was repayment for her kindness.
He hoped so, because it was the only thing left that he could do.
That day in the bank, when he told her he was the one that had bought the building where she lived and worked, he could almost see the wind knocked out of her. She looked up at Oliver for confirmation, and then back to Draco. Both men were nodding their heads yes.
She ran from the bank and didn't look back.
Two days later, he showed up on her doorstep. She already had a sign in her window saying that the store was closing for good. He didn't know what to think of that, but then he remembered that he told Oliver to tell her that the new owners wanted to knock the building down and build condominiums, so he guessed it made sense that she would assume she had to close.
He went through the aisles, looked along the throng of people weaving in and out of the store, and finally, he saw her head. She was heading toward a back room.
He followed. She went into what looked like a little office. He knocked on the opened door. She was leaning over, looking in a desk drawer. He took the opportunity to look at her backside and smiled. She heard someone behind her so she said, "Just a moment." She straighten up and saw it was he and frowned.
"What may I do for you?" she asked.
"Going out of business, are you?" he asked. He moved inside the small office and shut the door. She actually looked at the door, a quick fleeting look, which didn't escape him. He wondered if she was afraid to be in the same enclosed space with him.
She was literally trapped behind the desk, as the one side was against the wall, and he was leaning against the other side. She moved the chair so it was between their bodies, and she leaned as far against the wall as she could and said, "Yes, I guess I am, since I couldn't get the money to buy the building from Oliver."
"You don't even want to try to renegotiate a new lease with the new owner?" he asked.
"What would be the point?" she asked. "You plan to tear the building down, don't you?"
"Maybe, maybe not. If I get a better offer, I may not," he said. He tried to act bored, by examining his fingernails, but inside his belly was flopping around and his heart was almost beating out of his chest. He looked back up at her and she hadn't changed expressions.
Finally, she said, "If I couldn't come up with the money to buy the place from Oliver, I won't be able to buy it from you."
"I don't want your money," he said. "I might be thinking of something else."
Her gaze narrowed and she moved the chair against the wall and actually stepped closer to him. He felt slightly afraid and he wondered where her wand was. She said, "What are you saying?"
"Just that there are some things more important than money. I have lots of money, so you're right, no amount could tempt me to sell you this place. However, I might be tempted to give it to you, if the price was right," he said.
"But you just said you didn't want money," she said.
He couldn't help but laugh. "I don't want money," he confirmed.
Suddenly she looked angry and her arm flew up to strike him, but he was prepared. It only takes being slapped by Hermione Granger once in a person's life to know that you don't want it to happen again. Sometimes he swore he could still feel the sting of her hand on his cheek from that time in school when she slapped him.
He had said something cruel to her and her friends, as he was apt to do, proud that his father was involved in hurting 'their friend', the great oaf, Hagrid. After his cruel words, he smiled, and she came up to him and struck him across the face.
It wasn't a pleasant memory, but not many memories involving Hermione and Draco in school were pleasant. In fact, not a one of them was, not until that day of the final battle, and even that memories wasn't pleasant as much as it was bittersweet.
He caught her hand mid flight. He said, "I don't believe I will let you hit me today, Granger. Calm down. Your mind is as dirty as Oliver's. He assumed I meant the same thing."
She took a deep breath and said, "You may let go of my hand now. I promise not to hit you."
"I don't trust you," he said. Secretly, he just wanted to hold her hand. He didn't want her to get away before he offered her what he came to offer her.
"No, really, let go," she said, her voice wavering. Instead, he pulled her closer. Her eyes widened and the hand he didn't have a hold of came to rest on his chest. Then she had to ruin the moment by frowning. He let her go.
"Tell me what you want," she asked directly.
"I want to give you this building. Will you let me do this for you? I don't want anything in return," he stated, in his sweetest, most sincere voice.
She frowned again. Why did she keep frowning? It caused him to frown. She said, "I don't believe you."
He said, "I don't care what you believe."
Hermione pushed Draco aside and walked out of the office. He wouldn't be deterred. He followed her as she walked down a small, dark hallway, to a set of stairs, which led upstairs. He knew he was being pushy, but it was his building now, and he could go anywhere he wished.
She turned on the dark, narrow staircase and asked, "What do you really want, Malfoy? Really?"
He huffed in frustration and said, "I want to give you this whole building, no strings attached. You know, for a fairly intelligent woman, you seem to have trouble understanding me."
She let out a strangled noise, halfway between a cry and a sigh, and she sat on the stairs. "Why? Why, Malfoy? Don't say it's because I was once nice to you. I'm nice to a lot of people, and they don't give me real estate." He placed his hand on her knee, causing her to frown again, and she moved her leg slightly so he could sit beside her on the stairs, one-step lower. She said, "Why would a sane person spend all this money to buy a building, only to give it away. If you wanted me to have the building, you shouldn't have blocked my loan attempts with Gringotts." He looked away from her. She said, "That's right, Oliver told me. There has to be a catch, Malfoy."
"Why are you so cynical?" he asked.
"Why are you so vague?" she asked back. "Why wait all these years to repay me? You could have just sent me a nice thank-you note or something." He looked up at her and she was actually smiling.
He said, "I couldn't find a card shop."
"Malfoy," she warned.
"Listen, can't I be altruistic? Why does everyone always think I have ulterior motives?"
"Maybe because your name is Malfoy," she answered, no pun intended. "Besides, this is beyond being charitable. This is insane."
"Let me do this, Granger," he said.
He stood up, pulled at his hair and said, "You are the most stubborn, frustrating woman I have ever met!" Of course, that was part of the reason why he liked her so much. He walked down two more steps and turned to face her. "I don't have to quantify my motives to you!" He leaned against the wall, his hand on the banister, and he shut his eyes. "Why can't I just do this for you, and get a thank-you back? Why?"
"I can't, Draco."
He opened his eyes. She called him Draco. That seemed important for some reason. He took off his jacket and loosened his tie, which slightly startled her. She stood up. A ghost of a smile graced his features. He placed his jacket on the steps, and rolled up both sleeves. He held out his bare arms to her and said, "Look, Granger, I have nothing up my sleeves. No jokes, no tricks, no secret motives. I don't want anything from you."
She stood up as well and said, "You're a liar. You do want something."
"Fine, I want to feel good about myself, and I want to repay a kindness, so in the end, I'm being selfish, and you're spoiling it for me," he said, quite seriously.
Hermione said, "No."
He leaned over, picked up his jacket, and started down the stairs. He said, "Goodbye, Granger."
When he reached the bottom step, he heard her say, "You know, I remember it differently."
He turned to look up the passageway at her.
"You were the one that was kind to me that day. You held me, talked to me, and comforted me. All I did was to offer you a few nice words. If anything, I owe you the debt of gratitude, not the other way around. I don't see that any payment of any sort needs to transpire between us. If you would like, I'll tell you thank you, but that's the extent of it."
He threw his jacket on the floor and tore up the stairs so fast that she was alarmed. She back up, and tripped, falling on her bum on the stairs. He leaned over her body, his right arm on the banister, his left hand on the step near her body. He leaned over so close that she had almost to lie on the stairs.
He said, "Listen, Granger, that's not the end of it, not by a long shot. You don't get to say when it's the end! If I were an honest man, which by most accounts I'm not, I would admit that you're correct. I do want something more from you! I don't just want your gratitude! I wasn't lying when I said I will give you the building without forethought, but yes, I want something more, but not in exchange for the building!"
"I knew it," she said softly.
"You should know it," he said. He lifted his right hand from the banister, reached for her, but drew his hand back. He stood back up. He closed his eyes, and while they were still closed, he said, "Can you guess what it is that I want?"
"You want me to go out with you," she said softly, plainly, and with complete and utter confidence in her words.
He opened his eyes, surprised that she guessed his secret. He did want to go out with her. He wanted to do more than go out with her, but he wanted to start with that. He figured it would take a very long time to work up to asking her out. How did she guess his secret? "Yes, that's my wish," he said. He felt defeated. If she wouldn't take a building from him, she would never go out with him, or maybe it was the other way around, but either way, he was defeated.
He stepped slowly down the stairs, until he reached the bottom, and sat down on the second from the bottom step. He leaned against the wall.
And all Hermione saw was the same isolated, sad, lost, confused, out of place man that she saw all those years ago, sitting on a bench, outside of Hogwarts, after the final battle.
From the top of the stairs she said, "One thing has nothing to do with the other, does it?"
He turned to look at her. "Pardon?"
"You said one thing was not contingent on the other, right? The building offer has nothing to do with the dating offer?" she asked for clarification.
He understood. She was considering one, but not the other. Well, good. He was being honest when he said that there were no strings attached to him giving her the building. He said, "No strings. Believe me."
She walked down the stairs and said, "If I came up with the money, would you sell me the building?"
He wondered why she asked that. Wasn't she considering his offer to give her the building? He said, "I don't think so." He wouldn't sell it to her. He wanted to give it to her. He continued, "Anyway, you couldn't find the money before, how will you find it now?"
She sat beside him and said, "Let me worry about that."
"If I sell you the building, will you go out with me?" he asked. Grasping at straws, perhaps, but a man could ask a question and not seem desperate, couldn't he?
She didn't answer for a while and then she said, "One thing doesn't have to do with the other, isn't that what you said?"
That response intrigued him. It gave him hope, and he wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was because she hadn't said, 'no'.
He was in a dilemma. He said, "Listen, I only have one more question, and then this is over. Will you take the building or not?"
"No," she said.
"Then you have 30 days to vacate," he said. He stood up, confused, tired, and slightly weary of her all of the sudden. He walked down the last two steps and turned the corner heading toward the store, when he heard her call his name.
He stopped. He poked his head back around the corner and peered up at her.
"Are you sure that's the only question you have for me?" she asked.
No, he wasn't sure. He started to open his mouth to ask her once more if she would go out with him, but he didn't. He said, "For now, yes, that's all I have to ask."
As they sat on the floor of her empty store, the sky outside long past twilight, her tears abated, side my side, with their backs against the counter, she said, "Thanks for everything."
"Thanks? For what, squashing your dreams and your future?" he asked.
She turned to look at him. She said, "No, for holding me while I cried. We are two to one, now. It looks like I owe you one, Malfoy."
"And perhaps one day I will collect," he said.
He stood up and offered her his hand, just as he had earlier. This time, she placed her hand in his, and allowed him to help her to stand. He held it long after they were both standing. She looked at their clasped hands and said, "By the way, don't you finally have something else to ask me?"
He hadn't forgotten when she asked him that a month ago. Would she really consider going out with him now? After what he did? Wasn't he the villain in this story? Did she want to merely humiliate him, have him ask her out, to turn him down and embarrass him? He held up her hand to his face, and opened it, palm side up. He placed his other hand around it, and with her hand cradled in both of his, he brought it to his lips and kissed her open palm.
"Will you go out with me, Hermione?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered.
His eyes darted to hers, he looked into her eyes, which were still red from recent tears, and he pulled her closer. He kept her right hand in his left, and brought his right hand up to her cheek. He brushed it against her cheek, through her hair, and to the back of her neck. He pulled her the rest of the way against his body and he cocked his head slightly to the side. He placed his face next to hers, his warm breath on her cheek, the smell of her shampoo in his nose, and in her ear he said, "Thank you. I figure that's long overdue." He kissed the sensitive skin below her ear, with a soft, but lingering kiss. He breathed in the scent of her, and let his nose skim her jaw line.
He lifted his head from hers and said, "You could have saved us so much time if you had just taken the damn building."
"If I had taken the building, I wouldn't have been able to accept going out with you, so I had to decide which was the most important," she said.
He smiled a wide smile, and with her hand still in his, he pointed his finger toward his own chest and said, "And you decided I was most important of the two?"
"Well, damn Granger, you could have told me that. I have a confession. I'm the one that bought all the contents of your store, down to the last table and chair," he said, with a wink.
"I know, Malfoy. Do you think I'm stupid? I mean, seriously, the same ten or twelve people came in all month long buying up everything," she said.
He shook his head slightly and said, "This is the most I've ever spent on a date, and we've not even gone out yet."
"Well, believe me, I'm worth it," she answered.
His right hand rubbed up and down her back, and he again placed his mouth on her ear and said, "Boy, do I know it." Hermione turned her head and he captured her lips swiftly. He only tasted her sweet lips for a moment, before lifting his head to stare in her eyes.
He felt that no more words needed to pass between them. This was the best moment of his life.