Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter series. That right belongs to J.K. Rowling. I also do not own the song "That's Just What You Are" by Aimee Mann.
That's Just What You Are
Footsteps echoed throughout the cold London streets, slapping angrily against the wet pavement. The rain eased from the morning's storm, clouds coating the darkening skies. The only light source was a faint light shining through the streetlamps. She let out a guttural sigh, stuffing her hands into her coat's pockets. It was one of those nights. One of those days.
The fight was still fresh in her mind despite it occurring a mere hour ago. It was a never ending cycle of secrets and lies. It was expected, almost omnipresent. The same thing would happen every few weeks. She would ask about his day, he would respond, but she knew his responses weren't the truth.
She wasn't spying on him. There were secrets between the two of them since the beginning of their relationship. He didn't have an easy past. There was no sense in propriety when it came to respect to others. The superiority complex had only lessened two years prior to their first encounter since the war. It was rarely spoken of.
She remembered how he refused to sleep at her flat after one of their exhausting nights together. It wasn't until a few months into their relationship she discovered his night terrors whilst he was napping. It was a trying thing indeed, having commitment for another person with murky shadows beneath the surface. He opened up to her, but not quite. There was still a bit of distance between them. That is what bothered her the most. He was never completely honest when it came to certain areas of his life.
And that was how this vicious cycle continued.
She could not comprehend why after some days he would be perfectly cheerful and others a nervous wreck. It was unfathomable. At first, she thought it may have been side-effects from his dark upbringing. Other times she thought he may have been bipolar. Still waters ran deep within his family. They had only just become a family after being relinquished from the Dark Lord.
He was secretive, too damn secretive, but in all fairness, she had been warned. Not only did her friends make failed attempts to sway her otherwise, but his mother had done so as well. The two had a mutual understanding regardless of their quarrels from the previous years. His mother knew that her son was in love. Nothing could change that.
It was in his nature, her friends had said. They pointed out his upbringing, his relatives, and his persona, anything to stop her forming bond with him. Nothing worked. Even though they fought endlessly and did not see eye to eye on most things, she had one thing in common with him. She loved him unconditionally, and she did not care that he had that power over her. Their roles changed every so often. One would play offense, the other defense. The arguments would be about nothing, but beneath it all, they were always something.
She hated his excuses. She abhorred his reasoning's why he was the way he was. It was irrelevant, yet almost childish. Some part of her almost expected for him to stick out his tongue and pull down his eye.
Well, two could play at that game.
Her head turned at the sound of her name. "Harry. Thank you—"
"You are acting as if this is the first time," he chuckled, guiding her into the café. "Honestly, Hermione. This is a routine for us."
She smiled, "I suppose you are right. Where is Ron?"
Harry sat back against the booth, removed his gloves, and ordered two coffees. "He's stuck in Belgium."
"Yes. Apparently business is just booming over there." Harry smiled briefly, his green eyes lifting to meet hers. "Enough small talk. What happened?"
"Well, it began this morning…"
"Have you seen my jacket?"
She turned her head to the right, hollering back a response. "It should be in the closet."
"Well, I already looked in the closet, and I didn't find—never mind."
Hermione couldn't help the smirk forming on her lips as she took a sip of her tea. The I told you so was just itching to roll off her tongue. She watched as he walked into the kitchen, buttoning his jack, rolling up the sleeves to his forearms. "Hungry?"
His eyebrows rose in suspicion. "Did you make breakfast?"
"You know how much I detest keeping a house elf."
"I'll pass. I would rather not develop a case of food poisoning," he teased.
"I am a better cook than you, Malfoy." She retorted, feigning anger.
"Ah, so we resort to our surnames now." Draco walked around the table, bending down to whisper into her ear. "Where was this fervor last night, Granger?"
A shiver ran down her spine as his lips touched the base of her throat. "I hate it when you do that."
"Really? Your response says otherwise."
"Some things never change, I suppose," he said, shooting her a wink as he bit into a piece of toast.
"You always say that."
"Because you know it's true." He stared down at the watch Hermione had gifted him last Christmas and cursed. "Dammit, I am running late!" Draco finished off his toast, gulping down a glass of juice, and grabbed his belongings. "Lunch?"
"Can't. I have a meeting with the Ministry. Dinner?"
"Dinner it is. See you then, Granger."
She laughed once more, waving for him to leave. Things had gotten much better since the beginning of their relationship. It was easier once he confided in her. This thing between the two of them was imperfect, so fallible, yet utterly right. Some thought it to be inconceivable, how rivals could become friends, enemies become lovers.
But against all odds they withstood the hardships that came with their union.
There was criticism on both sides, from her friends, from his parents. Neither was good enough for the other. Blood came into question, loyalties were tested, but love indeed did conquer all. With that in mind, her smile broadened as she got up to prepare for the day.
"I already told you that the subject is closed," Hermione growled at the nuisance of a man. "Hunting unicorns for remedial purposes or any other recreation is strictly forbidden."
"But, Miss Granger—"
She turned around and glared, causing the man to cower in place. He scurried off into the building, frightened at what might've happened. Hermione sighed, rubbed her temples, and walked along the bustling streets of Muggle London. Perhaps she had been spending too much time around Draco; she seemed to have adopted his bad habits.
Free for the rest of the day, Hermione decided to shop for the dinner she would prepare for that night. She did not feel like going out to a restaurant again. A nice quiet night was what she wanted, and that was what she was going to get. She walked in to Fortnum's delicatessen, picked up a basket, and roamed through the various areas. Thoughtlessly, she packed her basket with pasta, truffles, and various meats. Her mind was elsewhere. After sorting through various cheeses, she ordered a fresh baguette and headed out to her flat.
A mass of grey clouds darkened the skies of England, threatening showers for the past few days. Alas, they gave away causing a downpour upon the city. Hermione opened her umbrella and hurried down the bustling streets, making an attempt to avoid a soaking. She strode down an empty alley and made her way to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Hannah, how are you?"
She walked from behind the counter, wiping her hands clean with a dishrag. "I'm just fine. What about you? How have you been?"
"About the same. Working relentlessly. How is Neville?"
"He is fantastic!" she exclaimed, placing her hands behind her back. "He is enjoying his position at Hogwarts just fine. He sends his salutations."
"Tell him I said hello." Hermione grinned. "Not long now, I presume."
Hannah rubbed her swollen stomach. "A Christmas baby is what I was told. A little baby boy."
"Congratulations once more."
"Thank you! We are very excited. I would ask about Draco, but I just saw him an hour ago. He is doing well from what he said."
Hermione cocked an eyebrow. "Really? Are you sure?"
"Quite positive. We spoke briefly."
"How strange," she said, confused. "He was supposed to be in meetings all day."
"Perhaps he was meeting a client elsewhere, or maybe be was hungry. He did seem in quite a hurry while heading out."
"Yes. I thought it to be odd for him to roam Muggle London."
Alarmed, Hermione decided to end the conversation. "I think he did mention something about that. Well, I must be off. Nice speaking to you, Hannah. Goodbye." She quickly flooed back to her flat, her breathing a big ragged from shock.
The rain pattered softly against the windowpane, mimicking her heart beat. She was moving, yet it felt as though she was in slow motion. Her mind was processing the information that had been gathered. Absentmindedly, she began wiping down the already clean counters, distracting herself with inane activities.
Why? The question resounded in her thoughts. Why would he be in Muggle London? Draco detests that place.
She was frantic and confused. The confusion scared her. She did not like not knowing what was going on. That caused her to panic, and when she panicked, she turned into a nervous wreck.
Like now, for example.
"You know that really isn't healthy, Hermione." Harry said, taking a sip of his coffee. "All that panicking will do no good."
"Harry, do me a favor and shut up."
She sighed softly. "You are always good to me. I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted." He bit into his scone, leaning back against the booth once more. "But I stay true to my word. Why were you so nervous?"
"Draco has been very secretive as of lately… it… well, it worries me."
"Ah, so the plot thickens."
"Harry James Potter!"
"Sorry. Do continue."
Hermione was too wrapped up in her thoughts to even notice that dinner had been prepared. She was aggravated, analyzing every possible reason for Draco to be in Muggle London. She clearly remembered him stating once that it would be more likely to see Voldemort playing cricket with a bunch of Muggles at the World Tournament than to see him in Muggle London.
She was ready to book her tickets for that match.
Unable to endure the anticipation any longer, Hermione shut off the stove and marched to the fireplace, shouting the name of Draco's office as she threw down the powder. She stepped out of the flames and past the receptionist's desk. "Miss, do you have an appointment—"
But she ignored the pesky woman, going through the doors despite the complaints. She never did like Draco's receptionist. She was quite a tart. Without knocking, Hermione barged into his office to find it empty. Her stomach churned, hands gripping the handles of the door for support.
The voice did not alleviate her tension, for it did not belong to him. "Blaise. Where is Draco?"
"What do you mean—"
"Do not lie to me, Zabini. I swear upon your inheritance, if you do not answer me, something very unpleasant will happen."
"He is not here." He stated firmly, his hands shoved inside his pockets.
"I am not daft, Zabini. I can see that he is not here."
"Well you asked the question, and I in return gave a response."
"I learned a new hex from some angry feminist witches if that is an incentive. They do some pretty nasty work. One was telling me how they sliced off a man's—"
Blaise coughed, slowly backing away. "He hasn't been in the office since two, but you did not hear it from me."
"Do you know where he went?"
"You are his best friend and business partner, but you don't know where he went?"
"What about that tart of a receptionist?"
"She is there for show."
"Do you know that you are utterly and completely useless?"
"Yes, that I do know, thank you."
After a small argument and a few rude gestures later, Hermione returned to her flat unsatisfied with her answers. So, Draco left the office at two. She thought, curious. And Hannah saw him leave to Muggle London. He made sure not to tell anyone where he was going— She ceased thinking, knowing very well where it would lead to.
She did not have time to compose herself as she heard the door open. Her eyes lifted to meet his silver gaze. He seemed animated, happier than when he first left. Draco walked towards her, enveloping her into a hug. "Sorry for being late. I picked up a bottle of wine on my way home from that place you love so much."
Hermione stiffened in his embrace. He smelt different. That perfume definitely wasn't hers. "You went to Muggle London?"
"Of course. How else would I have gotten your favorite wine? It was quite difficult. I think I deserve some sort of reward," he smirked, pulling to see her face. His haughty look vanished when he noticed the grim expression. "What's wrong?"
She pulled out of his arms, crossing her own across her chest. "Where were you today?"
"Did you start your monthly? Why so hostile?"
"Just answer the question. Where. ?"
"What do you mean? You know where I was."
"Don't give me that rubbish, Draco. You haven't been in your office since two, and you were in Muggle London. It does not take nearly five hours to find a bottle of wine no matter how daft you may be."
His expression hardened, his liquid silver eyes turning to stone. "Are you spying on me? Having me followed?"
"Don't be stupid—"
"Answer me." Draco stared at her like he did so many years ago. The very stare that made her feel small and insignificant.
"No, I am not spying on you, nor am I having you followed," she spat angrily. "But seeing you like this makes me question your honesty."
"And what in the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means, Draco, that you have been secretive and dishonest with me since day One!"
"Look, you knew since the beginning how things were. I did not spring this upon you, for pity's sake, I warned you. Everyone warned you! So don't you dare come to me with these complaints now." He stared at her, incredulous. "Gods, Hermione, why are you so... so touchy?!"
"He is right, you know. You are a bit touchy."
"Do you make it your day to just defy me, Harry?"
"It fulfills my quota, yes." He sighed. "Honestly, Hermione. It seems as though you jumped to conclusions—"
"That hex the feminists taught me is looking quite tempting now."
Harry squeaked. "Don't mind me. Pretend as though I didn't say a word."
"Don't you put this on me!" Hermione yelled, glaring at him viciously. "I—I cannot believe you would stoop so low, Draco. I never believed what the others said. I always said that you were different, that you could change. I guess I was wrong."
He stared at her in disbelief. "You are absolutely mad, woman! I have no bloody idea what you are talking about."
"How long have you been seeing her, Draco?"
"HER, Draco, how long have you been seeing HER. The woman who you obviously turn to instead of me. The woman you trust more. The woman whose scent is on your collar!"
"I knew it!" He snarled furiously. "I did not know you have developed a good sense of lying. I suppose it is another bad trait you adopted from me, seeing as how I am incapable of changing."
"Oh, come off it! You are only angry because you are horrible at keeping your stories straight."
"No, I am angry at the fact that you have a neurotic tendency of having to know what is going on at all times. You just can't accept the fact that there are secrets in this world that you do not know, despite them not regarding YOU!"
"Pardon? I think this regards me perfectly well!"
"In the slightest bit, yes, but not entirely." He shook his head. "You are so goddamn difficult."
"I am being difficult for wanting to know the reason why my boyfriend is cheating on me? Oh, I apologize for being REASONABLE!" She huffed, pursing her lips together.
"You—wait—what?!" Draco's eyes widened as he registered Hermione's words. "You think I'm cheating on you?"
"You admitted it!"
"No, no I did not! Not once in this conversation did I say that I was cheating on you!"
"Your words insinuated as much." She paced around, looking anywhere but him. "You did not need to say it. Things make perfect sense. Her perfume is all over you. You are so bleeding mysterious. Telling no one of your whereabouts. Going to the last place where I would find you."
"You are insane."
"I should have listened to everyone," she muttered to herself, ignoring his remark. "I should have listened to all of them. This would have never happened. I should have known better. He can never change." The sound of glass breaking brought her out of her thoughts. She stared at Draco's face. It became a shade paler than normal.
"And this is your thought of me?" he choked out.
Hermione's eyes dulled. "Something things never change, I suppose," she replied scathingly, using his words against him.
"Then why even agree to this relationship in the first place?"
"I guess I was foolish to think that you were able to grow away from your uncouth tendencies."
"So I was just one of fucking charity cases? Martyr Granger. The mistress of good. The innkeeper of all the rejects and screwed up lot of people." Draco gritted his teeth, his eyes narrowing maliciously. "Don't do me any favors. I don't need your pity," he said tersely. With that he walked out of the flat, the sound of the broken wine bottle crunching beneath his feet, and slammed the door shut.
Hermione stood there, unable to do or say a word. Speechless, she did the only thing she could do. She called one person she could always rely on and stormed out of the flat. There was no way in hell she would stay given the slightest chance that Draco might've returned. If he did, she wanted him to worry.
Not like I care if he comes back. She thought bitterly.
Perhaps the night called for something much stronger than what coffee could offer her.
"And that was how you ended up here?" Harry asked, finishing off his third cup of coffee.
She bit her lip. "Yes."
"And you think Draco is cheating on you?"
"Even though he said he wasn't cheating on you?"
"You are an idiot, Hermione."
"What?!" she shrieked in response. "Harry! How could you say that?!"
"I'm sorry, Hermione, but you're nutters to think that Draco would cheat on you." He stared at her in amazement. "You are one of the most brilliant witches of our time. You know curses that even our professors at Hogwarts never knew! The power you hold greatly surpasses that of the scar upon my forehead!"
"You just had to bring up your scar, didn't you?"
"It makes quite an impact, does it not?" He grinned toothily, but composed himself into a more serious expression. "You know you are wrong, Hermione. You know that he would never cheat on you."
"I do not know anything any more."
"A little too melodramatic, are we? Come now. You know that I am right."
She mumbled incoherently.
"I knew I was right." Harry smiled triumphantly, getting up from the booth. "Which is exactly why I told Draco to come here for you to bitch at him some more."
Hermione's eyes rounded at his words. "You didn't…"
Harry whistled, beckoning someone to come over with his hand. He smiled once more at Hermione. "Try and work things out. Listen to him. I will speak with you tomorrow." He walked towards the exit, patting Draco on the shoulder. "Good luck, man." And he left.
"Bloody Potter," she heard from behind her. "Always trying to make things right. That arse."
"You could learn something from him."
"But don't you remember? I am incapable of changing. I am always the villain."
"Shut up and sit down, Draco."
He begrudgingly took the seat across from her. "So."
They stared at one another the very epitome of a calm right after a storm. Neither said a word, but continued to stare into the other's eyes.
"We have been sitting here for ten minutes without saying a word."
"Really? Because I didn't notice. I thought time stopped all together."
"Don't get cheeky with me, Draco."
"Why? Is that not in my nature to be a complete jerk?"
"Where were you today?"
"I thought we already established this, Hermione," he said dauntingly. "Remember? I am a pathetic cheat whom you are taking pity upon. I am your charity case."
She exhaled the breath she kept in, irritated. "Stop saying that. I never said that."
"Ah, so only you are allowed to be an irrational fool?"
"Stop it! Stop it right now, Draco!" Hermione slammed her hands on the table, glaring at him. "You misconstrued what I said."
"Just as you did with me?"
He looked down at his hands, and then caught her eyes as he lifted his head. His stare was smoldering, intense, burning with sincerity. "I was not nor will I ever cheat on you."
"Let me finish." Draco reached his hands towards hers, hesitant, taking hers within his shaky grasp. "You want to know where I was today? I will tell you." He let out a shuddered breath, whispering lowly. "I was seeing a one of those Muggle doctors, one that helps you with mental problems and whatnot."
"Don't make me repeat it," he said gravely. "I have been seeing this woman who listens of what I have to say about my past, though of course I did not reveal the full extent of my problems. I did not want to tell anyone because it is rather embarrassing. I did not see someone of our world because that information would be leaked and used against me."
"But…why?" Hermione asked, speechless.
"Well you must be daft not to know," he mumbled, his cheeks reddening. "Remember the first time I napped at your place?"
"That is part of it. I wanted to see what could be done about the, er, nightly episodes. Thus far, I have been helped."
"O—oh, Draco…you could have told me."
"It was something I had to do."
"Some things about me will not change, Hermione. I am a tenacious person. Do you know how much my pride is wounded right now by speaking with you of this? Do you know how humiliating it was for Potter to find out?"
Draco snorted. "Yeah. The prat. He saw me entering the woman's office by some simple twist of fate. Of course he would find out. He is Harry Bleeding Potter. That is why he brought me here. He can always make things right, but manages to maintain a person's secrets. Cheeky bastard."
"I always thought he had some relation with God."
"I would not be surprised if that prat did."
"You do know that God may smite you at any given moment."
"I bet Potter would just love that. For a good guy he is somewhat of an arse."
"I suppose you will be treading brimstone with me as well," Draco said, squeezing her hand as he pulled her up to leave the café.
Hermione smiled. "I suppose so."
"This still doesn't excuse you for what you said about me."
"Malfoy, has anyone told you that you sound an awful lot like a woman?"
"Granger, if you don't shut that mouth then I will find a much useful way for it."
"Such a charmer. You'll never change, will you?"
"No. That's just what I am."
"Good," Hermione said, pressing her lips against his. "Because I like what you are."