Touch and Go
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any related characters or ideas.
A/N: Written in response to an idea from drcjsnider at the LJ community dramione, this is a series of ten drabbles where Draco and Hermione break up or almost break up, from different points in their relationship.
Sometimes a woman has to choose between a man and something else that she holds very dear; for example, a beloved cat that she's had for over a decade, and who was her first real friend in the whole wizarding world. Other times, that choice has been taken away from that woman, because the cat is no longer an option. For example, if the cat were killed by the man.
It doesn't matter how it happened. It's not a ridiculous story that could be funny in a few years or anything: Draco left the door open, and Crookshanks got out, and Hermione found him a week later in Muggle London, looking flatter and bloodier than when she'd last seen him. There's absolutely nothing humorous about that situation. In fact, it's just about the saddest thing ever - or at least it seemed like it at the time - but did Draco Malfoy shed one single tear?
No. He didn't, and he had the gall to have thoughts right in front of her about how it was just a stupid cat. He didn't say that out loud, but he'd always hated Crookshanks and she could hear those thoughts falling out of his brain through his nose. Hermione shed enough tears for the both of them, and then she told him there was no way she could have a future with someone so completely irresponsible. They'd only been living together for three months after dating for nine, and she was already kicking him out, and it was a week before she even told Ginny - she was too embarrassed about how she'd given this whole thing a chance to begin with, only to have it end so soon, just like everyone said it would.
But the weird thing was that Ginny wasn't on Hermione's side. She still didn't think it would last, but she seemed to think that leaving a door open wasn't a good enough reason to kick someone out one week before your first anniversary. That's when Hermione remembered that this, the day that she and Ginny were having this conversation, was the very day of that first anniversary. It was 11:55 P.M., Hermione was drunk on red wine, and in five minutes it would be over. She'd forgotten all about it, and that was worse than leaving a door open, even if a cat got out.
She took the Floo back to her flat, and Draco was hanging around outside her door because she'd changed the locks, and she let him in and he didn't leave.
They'd been on ten dates, and those dates were going surprisingly well, and Hermione had made a pros and cons list for awarding him the prestigious title of "boyfriend." It looked like this:
- No longer exhibits blood prejudice or makes fun of my hair
- He's funny and smart and attractive
- Made fun of my blood and hair for over a decade before this
- My friends hate him
- His friends hate me
- His parents hate me
- My parents might not like him
- We might break up
- He doesn't know how to cook or clean or do anything a normal person should.
When she was finished, the choice was obvious: there were more than twice as many cons as pros, so clearly the relationship was going nowhere, and Hermione decided she might as well nip it in the bud. He kept calling, and she kept not answering, until one day he showed up at her flat uninvited. She promptly added this to the cons list, because it was a very rude thing to do, but she let him come into the entryway and talk to her against her better judgment.
She told him about the list, and he asked to see it, and he had a few quibbles with her method of organization. When he was done making revisions, it looked like this:
- Made fun of me occasionally when we were children
- Friends/parents could be a possible issue
- Does not exhibit blood prejudice
- Does not make fun of my hair
- Exceptionally attractive
- Our friends and parents will get over it eventually
- I'll learn how to cook and clean if it's that bloody important. I don't see the point, but it doesn't look that hard.
He'd removed the breaking up entry completely, reasoning that all relationships run that risk, and she'd have to be more specific. Once the new list was complete, she couldn't argue with black-and-white logic. There were more pros than cons, and he'd earned the title.
On Hermione's twenty-fifth birthday, she'd been dating Draco for nineteen consecutive months (not counting the four months before the big break-up and the two months after that, before the little break-up), and he didn't know her at all. She'd thought he did, but then he went and got her jewelry. Hermione never wears jewelry, and she has numerous problems with the diamond industry as a whole. The diamond on the necklace he gave her was so large and gaudy that she couldn't even imagine how many third-world children had died to produce it, and furthermore where was she supposed to wear it? And with what?
Hermione's wardrobe consisted of 50% smart, professional clothing for work and 50% very old clothing that she'd gotten second-hand, either from thrift stores or from friends and relatives, so it all had a history. She did have a few nice dresses, and she was wearing a Chanel one that day, but it had been her mother's in the seventies. Her mother had worn it on the day that her father proposed, and it was very special, and there was absolutely nothing special about an ice-cold rock dug out of the ground by the bloody hands of children and washed in their tears.
Hermione told him this and rejected the gift flat-out, telling him that she didn't need a present anyway, which wasn't true. But she'd rather have no gift than this gift. He said it would go with her dress, and she told him about the story of the dress and how that was why they wouldn't go together.
Then he smiled, and she wanted to slap him in the face for being so disrespectful of her feelings, but then he told her that the dress and the necklace were actually a perfect match. The diamond he was trying to give her was over a hundred years old, and his mother had been wearing it when his father proposed, and it only looked new because he'd had it magically cleaned. Then Draco proposed to her, with a second-hand ring that had a diamond so little you could barely even see it from a metre away.
So maybe he did know her a little bit. She said maybe.
This one time, when they'd only been dating for four months, Hermione was in a really bad mood. She'd just gotten another huge, last-minute assignment at work, in addition to the one she was already trying to finish for the next day, and Draco had the nerve to tell her he knew how she felt.
The thing was, though, he totally didn't. At all. You see, Draco didn't even have a job, which was not normal in any way for a twenty-four year old man, and she told him so. When she started talking, the words kept coming, and she realized that this was actually a really big issue. She said she couldn't go out with a man who had no work ethic, no matter how much family money he had sitting in a vault somewhere, and they were taking a break.
Days turned into weeks, which turned into two months, and they hardly talked at all. Hermione missed him a lot, and she wished things could be different, but she wasn't about to change her mind. Then, on the fifty-third day of being broken up, Hermione showed up to work and ran into Draco at the Ministry. Like, she literally ran into him in the hallway, and all her stuff went flying everywhere, and he only made a half-hearted attempt at helping her pick it up, which just made her remember how much she hated everything about him.
She asked him what he was doing there, and he told her he worked there, like it was an obvious thing and not a completely shocking 180-degree turn in his lifestyle. She asked what he did, and he said he worked in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, testing new broom designs and giving them the Ministry seal for safety, and it was his third day. She glared really hard and told him that she didn't appreciate the way he'd conveniently bought himself the perfect job, and he just shrugged and said he'd see her around, now that they were coworkers. She sat in her office seething for the rest of the day, and when it was time to go home he was waiting for her in the Atrium. He asked her for another chance, all cocky like he knew he was in.
She said she'd think about it, tossed her hair, and stepped into the Floo. They had dinner the next weekend, and it was nice.
Once Draco had been Hermione's boyfriend for six months (and that does include the parts before the breakups, but not the breaks in between), he was long overdue for meeting her parents. They decided to have Sunday brunch together, and it was a nice, warm day outside, and Hermione had high hopes in between the total freak-out anxiety attacks. Draco had only been to Muggle London a few times before this, and she knew he'd never actually spoken with a real live Muggle, but he said he'd do his best. Hermione told him they were just like magical people and to treat them just the same.
Brunch went surprisingly well until the very end, when Draco's sleeve got pushed up high enough where his Dark Mark was showing, and the sight of it sent Hermione's mother into a full-blown panic attack. Mrs. Granger had seen the Mark before in the wizarding newspapers, in photos on men's arms, but she'd also seen it first-hand. She'd come home one day to find it hanging above the house (right before Hermione put them in hiding), and she hadn't known where Hermione's father was at the time, and the house was all torn apart when she walked in. She thought her husband was dead, when really he'd been out to the pub with some friends from work.
It was a really traumatic experience for her, obviously, and the panic attack really put things into perspective. Hermione was dating a Death Eater. Once Mrs. Granger was feeling okay again, she actually apologized to Draco, like she was the one who let one of the most evil human beings in history brand her on the arm. Hermione took Draco back to her flat, where she told him she needed another break, but he knew it was serious this time. He said he wasn't a Death Eater anymore and he'd wear long sleeves for the rest of his life if she'd let him stay. She said that might not be good enough, and he offered to cut off his arm.
She told him it was a very inappropriate time for jokes of that nature, but he wouldn't drop the issue. He told her that if she kicked him out of her life that day all because of the Dark Mark, he would show up tomorrow with one arm, and she better not think he was bluffing. She didn't believe him, of course, but she was feeling calmer by the time they'd spent two hours arguing about whether or not he should go to St. Mungo's for a cosmetic amputation.
She gave it another chance, and he made sure to cover up really well every time they saw her parents after that, and five months later Mrs. Granger told him to call her mum.
Not too long after they got engaged, Hermione had this one dream where she and Draco were married, and their child got sorted into Slytherin and became the next Voldemort - with Hermione's brains and Draco's cunning and their combined good looks, the thing was unstoppable. It was an omen, obviously, and she told Harry about it because she thought he'd understand. Harry said she was being ridiculous, but she really believed that it was a legitimate concern.
Harry threw up his hands and said she'd better not break up with Draco again, because they were perfect for each other. She demanded to know why he would think such a thing, and he told her they were the two most egotistical people he'd ever met in his life, no offense. Most people worried about if their children would be successful and happy, he said. No one but Hermione and Draco worried about their children being so superhumanly amazing that they might one day take over the world, and no one but Hermione would play the martyr and try to break up with the love of her life to preemptively save the human race. When he put it like that, it did sound a bit silly, so she conceded the point.
Hermione had forgotten how pretty Pansy Parkinson was, or maybe she'd gotten a whole lot prettier since Hogwarts, but either way she was intimidatingly beautiful. Hermione had been dating Draco for three months when he brought her around to meet his friends, and Pansy was an ice queen as always. She asked Hermione where she'd gotten her shoes, and Hermione told her, and she'd sniffed like it wasn't good enough.
When she and Draco were walking home later that night, Hermione told him that she just didn't fit in with those Pureblooded women with their perfect hair and nails, and their social circles were just never going to mesh correctly. Draco got angry that time, because he'd thought Pansy had been way nicer than usual and that the whole thing had gone shockingly well. He stopped under a streetlight in the middle of Muggle London, two blocks away from her flat, and yelled at her for a solid ten minutes. He was talking about how he was getting incredibly sick of Hermione trying to break up with him every other minute, and his friends were doing their best, and he'd never had an interest in Pansy, and he wanted to be with Hermione. Didn't she understand, he'd asked again and again, just how hard it was to be with her?
Asking her out had been enough of an ordeal on its own. In a borderline un-Slytherin display of brazen tenacity, he'd asked her out a total of five times before she caved. He did admit that a big part of what he liked about her was the whole challenge factor, but dating her was really goddamn difficult, all the time. She couldn't let him think a wrong thing for a second, no matter what (like that time he'd gotten the year of the Goblin Rebellion wrong, and she corrected him out loud in front of four Weasleys and a Potter), and she always had to argue with him, and she was a workaholic, and she over-thought everything so hard that her brain was going to explode one day. Just explode all over him and catch him in a tidal wave of icky brain juice or something!
When he was finished, he was breathing heavily and looking at her really intensely, and she thought it was the sweetest display of feelings she'd ever seen. She wasn't much for the sappy stuff, but if he was willing to go through all that (and she did know it was hard), then she supposed she could manage to tell Pansy her dress was cute and maybe even mean it.
There was also that time when Draco tried to break up with her. It was before the Crookshanks thing, and they'd only been living together for a month, and the tension was getting so high in their flat that neither of them could breathe. Draco had lived at Malfoy Manor up until then, and Hermione had lived alone since Ginny married Harry four years ago, and neither of them was used to this sort of cohabitation situation.
Suddenly, everything was a really big deal. Draco would forget to make the bed when he left in the morning, an hour after Hermione had to leave, and she'd come home an hour before him and find their room all messy, like he just didn't even care about their stuff, you know? Like someday he'd cast her aside like the nice throw pillows she'd picked out, if that was how much he cared about things.
Hermione would go to bed really early on the weeknights, and she'd push Draco's hands off her when he tried to get something started because she was too tired, but he thought it was because she didn't want him anymore. He felt rejected, and she felt disrespected, and neither of them was getting enough of the right kind of attention. One Tuesday night, he told her he'd had enough, and he was going back home. Clearly, she didn't love him anymore, and he was sick of her nagging and her mood swings.
They had a big fight that lasted most of the night, and at 3 A.M. Draco took the Floo back to the Manor, and Hermione couldn't sleep. She called in sick to work the next day, because she wasn't used to being on this side of the break-up, and it felt a lot more permanent this way. After two days of ice cream therapy, she remembered the reason why they always got back together: even though she was the one who threw him out, he was the one who came back, and now it was her turn.
She cleaned herself up and went to Malfoy Manor that evening, even though she knew his parents were going to answer the door. When Narcissa greeted her in that cold and distrustful way she always did back then, Hermione stuck out her chin and said she needed to speak to Draco. He was trying to act like he was still mad at her, but really he was in a pretty big hurry to get back to their flat. He'd forgotten how much it sucked to live with his mother, and maybe sometimes it was better to get not quite enough attention than too much of it.
They stumbled through the next few months, arguing almost every day and trying to learn how to do this, but neither of them gave up. They're both smart people, and they figured it out.
This isn't really a break-up, but they were this close to never going on a date at all. The way that Draco and Hermione met was like this: the Malfoy family had donated a bunch of money to St. Mungo's in a calculated move to make people hate them a little bit less, and St. Mungo's was going to use it to make a new wing for injured magical creatures, such as house elves. They were doing this on a suggestion from Hermione, who was campaigning for their better treatment and everything, so she was overseeing the plans for the new ward.
Draco kept showing up, too, probably to make sure that enough things in the ward would say "Malfoy" on them and so that everybody knew who the benefactors were, because the Malfoys are humble and classy like that. Anyway, they kept running into each other like this, and Draco was sort of half acting like he cared one little bit about house elves, but he wasn't trying that hard. He was trying pretty hard not to piss her off, though, because she was a person who could really mess up his slowly-improving reputation if she went around telling everyone he was still a racist prick.
Anyway, they did all this arguing, and then it was like it slowly turned into a joke that they both thought was funny. Draco thought it was so much fun that he asked her out for coffee, and she turned him down, of course. But he kept asking her out again and again like he thought it was some kind of stupid game, and she thought he was just making fun of her, so she kept saying no.
When the new ward was finished, there was this big gala to celebrate, and Draco asked Hermione to go with him. She was right about to say no for the fifth time, but some of the mediwitches were listening, and they started saying how sweet it was that Draco Malfoy could put all his prejudice behind him and that he and Hermione would make such a cute couple, and it was so romantic. She said yes just so their Romeo and Juliet dreams wouldn't be crushed, not because she wanted to go with him. She didn't have a bad time, though.
Remember that thing about Narcissa wearing that one diamond when Lucius proposed to her? Lie. Absolute fabrication, without one single grain of truth. Hermione wore the necklace to their wedding rehearsal, and Narcissa complimented her on it (obviously knowing that her son had been the one to purchase it). Hermione was confused, because you'd think somebody would recognize a special diamond like that, and she repeated back that fake story her idiot fiancé told her. Narcissa didn't have any idea what she was talking about, and it was really embarrassing because she'd believed it all this time.
She made sure to keep her cool and act calm all night, so nobody would know anything was up, but she really let him have it after the dinner was over. He apologized and said he came up with the story on the spot, when she was talking about her mum's dress, and he had to say something to get her back on his side because he was planning to propose. But that just meant that their entire engagement (and therefore their whole life together) was built on a foundation of lies.
She left him alone that night and told him to sleep at the Manor so she could have some time to think, and it was like all her misgivings and fears had coalesced into this one massive ball of doubt. She stayed up all night guessing and second-guessing and making charts and lists and graphs, and when she looked up at the clock over her empty coffee cup, her hair appointment was in twenty minutes.
She organized all the papers on her coffee table and looked at everything she'd come up with, and there was a lot of it, and there were plenty of reasons why this was going to be the worst mistake of her life. But after she counted and re-counted, she couldn't deny that there were more pros than cons.