disclaimer: All characters are property of JK Rowling (all hail!)
Ginny left over the weekend and Hermione returned to long, exhausting days at work. Before heading off again, Ginny had been at The Burrow for the family dinner on Sunday, but Hermione had politely declined. She felt that the Weasleys needed time to themselves and she also hoped Ginny would find more time to speak to Ron to make him see reason. That would undoubtedly be easier without her around.
Now, Ginny was back to travelling the world, but had revealed that she felt like she had accomplished what she wanted. She was only travelling to a few more destinations on her plan and then she was heading back home to start her life again. Things seemed to be coming together for Ginny, and oddly enough Hermione felt some of the pieces of her own life beginning to fit together again.
She was working late on Monday, picking up some of the things she had left lying around the past week. It was important work in relation to the upcoming law on elfish welfare, an accomplishment she could hardly believe she was so close to achieving. She was signing a stack of parchment when the door to her office burst open with a crash.
Looking up in shock to find out who were practically forcing themselves into her office, her jaw dropped in disbelief. Right in front of her desk stood Ron holding Harry by the robe.
"This is an intervention!" Ron announced loudly, his voice sounding panicked.
Hermione's mouth opened and closed, her mind struggling to catch up with the turn of events.
"Oh...okay?" she said in a questioning tone, putting her quill down.
She sat back in her chair and looked at her two best friends in confusion. Harry looked equally confused, so she had a feeling he had no idea what this was about either.
"I... I know I haven't been there for you as much as I should lately," Ron said, his hand gripping tighter around the sleeve of Harry's robe. "But Malfoy is not the answer."
Hermione's eyebrows inched upwards into a disbelieving expression.
"Harry, tell her," he commanded.
"Uhm, well..." Harry stuttered. "Malfoy's not that bad."
Ron stared at him for a second and then heaved an enormous sigh.
"I forgot I was talking to the King of all Slytherin lovers," he muttered, turning back to Hermione. "I'm serious, Hermione. He's not good for you."
"What on earth are you on about?" she asked, severely confused.
There was no way Ron could possibly know about the incident on the balcony, but what else could he be talking about?
"Ginny told me that you're practically together already," he said, grimacing.
Hermione had to hide a smile very quickly. Oh, the girl was a genius. Of course Ron would run straight to Harry if anything of the sort was to happen.
"Well. Are you?"
"No, we're not," Hermione answered with a roll of her eyes. "But even if we were, it's not your place to decide for me."
"Ginny told me you two headed off alone at the Quidditch match and were gone for ages," he accused.
Hermione turned to Harry to exchange exasperated looks, but found Harry trying to disguise a smirk and failing horribly. She stared at him, his mischievous smirk adding another piece to the puzzle. Narrowing her eyes at him, she stared until he noticed and his cheeks flamed red.
"You've been setting us up, haven't you?" she asked loudly.
She knew he had kept something from her. Of course Harry and Astoria had tried to set them up, what other reasons would they have to drag the both of them to a number of Muggle locations where they needed no help to keep their relationship a secret. She didn't know if she was angry or just exasperated, but it still hurt that he had kept these things from her.
Ron looked at the two of them in turn, a blank expression on his face.
"Well, not as such," Harry answered slowly. "We've tried to push you in the right direction, as long as we still had you both there anyway. You needed to get over Ron and he needed to get over Astoria."
She looked at him and shook her head. The worst part was that he had been right. She did need to get over Ron, and in the process she had gotten over him—whether it was due to Malfoy or not.
"Wait, you've set her up with Malfoy?" Ron cried before Hermione could retort. "Are you insane?"
"When are you going to give it a rest, Ron?" Harry asked, shaking his hand free from Ron's grip. "The war is over; many people are trying to turn their lives around and why is it so hard to give them a chance?"
Ron gritted his teeth and stared at Harry, his cheeks flaming red.
"You chose someone else over my sister and my family," he accused, his jaw clenching.
"You know what your family means to me and I don't know why you pretend you don't," Harry said, the volume of his voice rising a bit, "but I couldn't stay with Ginny when she's not the right girl for me. Much like you can't stay with Hermione when she's not right for you."
"Ron, don't you see how well Ginny's doing?" Hermione interrupted, leaning forwards to rest her elbows on her desk. "She's living her own life and she too says that she's over the relationship. If she can put it behind her, you must be able to as well."
Ron just looked between the two of them and then all of a sudden his shoulders fell and his gaze fell to the floor.
"Yeah, I see that Ginny's doing well," he muttered so quietly that they barely heard him.
But they both did and they exchanged a quick look.
"I just... I don't know how you two can forgive so easily," he admitted in a quiet voice. "I don't know how."
"We'll help," Harry said, meeting Hermione's gaze.
It was almost surreal spending time with Harry and Ron at the same time again. She had become so used to seeing them separately that she almost didn't know what to say when they were gathered together. However, things were getting back to normal again among the three of them.
The only thing that bothered her was that Astoria had told her parents, which meant that Malfoy had stopped meeting them. She knew it worried Astoria that he had cut off almost all contact immediately, but she felt herself worrying about it as well. Now that he was no longer needed to keep up the pretence, he had vanished off the face of the earth.
She found her thoughts straying to him much too often, wondering what he was doing, if he was indeed starting over or if he was keeping to the same life he seemed to be stuck in. But most of all she couldn't stop thinking about them together. His kiss, her heart beating, his smile, her pulse racing and his voice whispered into her ear. Every time she thought about him, her reactions followed quickly. It was getting horribly distracting as she was trying to follow a conversation, focus on work or sleep. She was thinking of him yet again as she headed up Diagon Alley, running some errands that she had been putting off for what seemed like forever. Once again, the reactions were overwhelming.
She tried desperately to focus on her trivial errands and she had finally restored her stock of headache potions and other remedies, as well as bought a new work robe as her old one had gotten some kind of ink over it that just wouldn't go away. The last thing she had to do was go stock up on the special quills she used for office work.
Perusing Flourish and Blott's, she found a number of quills, but not the ones she was looking for. She stepped up to the counter, looking at the quills on display. The clerk informed her that they were sadly out of them at the moment and Hermione sighed, but thanked for the help and left the store.
Standing in the middle of Diagon Alley, a sudden thought gripped her. She needed the quills first thing tomorrow morning and she needed to see him. Everything in her screamed that she needed to talk to him right now. She hastened into the nearest shop that she knew had a Floo and paid a few Sickles to borrow it, giving the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade as her location.
She nearly ran out of the Three Broomsticks to not be held up by anyone she might know and headed down the familiar street to find the store she had spent plenty of time in during her years at school. Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop looked exactly like she remembered and she stopped outside to let nostalgia wash over her for a moment.
A bell on the door tinkled merrily when she opened the door and slipped inside, looking around in anticipation. No one was around and she wondered briefly if he might not be working today. She didn't know what his schedule looked like and he might as well not be there at all. Her fears were calmed as he came out of a room out back with a stack of self-correcting quills in his hands. Her heart leapt.
He didn't notice her as he dumped the quills on the counter and bent down to find one of the appropriate boxes.
"Hi," she said, sounding a bit breathless.
He looked up in surprise and immediately straightened up when he saw her.
"How can I help you?" he asked, his voice laced with professionalism.
"I'm looking for a special brand of self-inking quills."
He got out from behind the counter and walked past her before heading in between two aisles.
"Follow me," he urged and she followed mechanically.
It was strange seeing him again. She hadn't seen him at all since the Quidditch match, and now he was pretending she was nothing but a regular customer.
"How have you been?" she asked, breaking the act of pretending to be strangers.
"Oh, I've been perfectly okay," he answered, not giving away a thing with the expression on his face.
She gritted her teeth and glared at him as she followed him towards the end of the aisle. This was not what she had envisioned when she desperately needed to see him again.
"These are all our self-inking quills. If we have the brand you're looking for, it should be here."
She didn't look at the self-inking quills at all. Instead she stared at him, trying to find any signs of how he was holding up.
"Would you stop pretending you don't know me?" she asked a bit indignantly. "I'm just wondering how you're doing, that's all. None of us have seen you for ages."
"You have Ron back, anyway," he noted with a shrug. "Why does it matter how I am?"
She stared at him and blinked several times in shock. Was that why he hadn't made himself known for ages?
"What are you on?" she asked incredulously. "Harry and Ron are speaking again, yes, which means I can converse with both of them at the same time. Why does that automatically make it impossible for me to wonder how you're doing?"
He didn't answer. Instead he turned to the quills and picked one at random.
"Is this the one you're looking for?"
"No, it isn't," she said impatiently after giving it a quick look. "I don't know why you won't just tell me what you're up to."
He gritted his teeth and stared down at her, his cheeks colouring with anger. She bit her lip and tried to forget how close they were standing.
"I'm not doing a bloody thing," he growled, pushing the box with the quills back in place. "I work and I go home. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
She looked at him sadly, suddenly not knowing what to do with her hands.
"No," she admitted, picking at her robe. "It's not what I wanted to hear. Why did you stop coming with us whenever we meet up?"
"Oh, please." He turned towards the shelf, grabbing another box of quills. "I was there because they needed me for cover. We all know the best thing for me was to back off now."
"Do we?" she asked, shaking her head at the box he was holding out. "I don't think it was the best thing. Astoria is really worried about you and Harry always asks if anyone has heard anything from you. Why do you try to make it seem like you're so bloody unimportant?"
Not to mention that she couldn't get him out of her head.
"You guys have Ron now," he said again, picking yet another box from the shelves.
"So?" Hermione asked in bewilderment. "We have Ron, so we can't have you? The two of you are completely different, why would Ron's presence make up for you not being there?"
"I...He's...Would you just find your bloody quills?"
He refused to meet her gaze. Crossing his arms over his chest almost protectively he stood in place, waiting for her to move. Shaking her head at his ridiculous behaviour, she leaned in past him and grabbed the right brand of quills off the shelves. The movement moved her closer to him and when she straightened up with the box of quills in her hand, she was standing so close she had to look up into his face. She was surprised he couldn't hear her heart racing.
He was breathing heavily still, refusing to meet her gaze. It was beyond her how he could be so stubborn and not believe that she actually wanted to have him around, but she supposed it wasn't easy for him to give up on the future he had planned with Astoria, even if it had been more for tradition's sake than anything else.
Giving a tiny smile, she pushed herself up on her toes and pressed her lips against his. He stood completely still as she kissed him softly, both of her hands clutching the box of quills. His hands finally fell from his chest and she felt his lips respond hesitantly to her kiss. His touch was just as warm as she remembered and she had to suppress a shudder of pleasure. She had thought of this moment and envisioned it so many times that it seemed almost unreal now. Before she could let herself get carried away, she broke the kiss.
Digging into her pocket, she pushed two Galleons into his hand.
"Goodbye, Draco," she said and turned on her heel, following the long aisle back where they came from.
She felt a distinct emptiness when she closed the door to Scrivenshaft's behind her and began walking back towards the Three Broomsticks to catch the Floo back to Diagon Alley. It was hard to describe what it was about Draco Malfoy, but she was quite certain she had never felt anything quite like it before. She sniffled slightly in the cold air and pulled her robes tighter around herself. If he didn't want to believe she wanted him there, there wasn't anything she could do.
She stopped in her tracks, but didn't turn around at the sound of his voice. A few moments passed before she felt his hand at her shoulder. Allowing herself to be turned around, she came face to face with him once again. His warm hands were suddenly at her cheeks, cupping her face in his palms. He bent down and his warm lips covered hers in a soft kiss. She watched him with large eyes when he broke away.
His hair fell into his eyes and he looked suddenly awkward. The hands cupping her cheeks fell to his side and he just stood there, looking at her with such a nervous gaze that she wanted nothing more than to pull him into a hug. .
"Will you start over with me?" he asked quietly.
A beaming smile spread across her face and that feeling she would never know how to describe seemed to rush through every vein in her body.
"I'd like that."
A/N: And that's the last chapter, guys!
Thanks for the reviews, the favourites and your time.
Hopefully, I'll be back sooner rather than later this time. XD