Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. The Harry Potter series is owned by J.K. Rowling and I'm not her. Everything else recognizable is owned by their respective companies.
A/N: I'm an admittedly terrible fanfiction writer and for that I apologize to anyone who's been waiting for me to update this story. The only defense I can offer is that I hated the initial ending to this chapter so much that I refused to post it since I worried that it would throw off the entire rest of the story. Additionally, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with the next few chapters. I finally just opted to delete the end of this chapter. I also have an idea of what I want to do over the next chapters, so hopefully I'll be able to update a few times in the near future. Once again, I'm American; I'm trying my best with the Britisms, but I'm not British so I'll probably miss some. Please read and review! Thanks!
Draco stared in fascination at the large black box in the living room cabinet. Although it had been in the main room from the moment he moved in, he had never given the box much thought. He had suspected that it was simply a strange Muggle decoration. After all, Muggles don't think normally like wizards, so who knew what they thought was acceptable decor? He assumed that Mudblood brains fuctioned similarly, so the Mudblood who had set up this house (he was sure no one else would be charged with the task) had probably added the box.
When he had noticed buttons on the box, he had pushed them out of curiosity. When he'd pushed the largest button, the box had blared to life. Given that he cursed and jumped backward, slamming his calves into the coffee table, he was glad that Granger hadn't been around. She probably never would have let him forget his utter lack of dignity in that moment.
The sound of voices had drawn his attention back to the box. He had been shocked to see people on the screen. They seemed to be in a restaurant, but he could clearly hear what they were talking about. Curious at this new development, he had focused on the box and listened in on their conversation. What he had heard made him blush. He had always wondered if women talked about sex, but he had never expected the detailed description the woman on the screen was giving to her friends.
At that point, Draco had realized that he needed to tell Granger about the box. It was clearly enchanted to spy on other people, and if he didn't tell Granger, he was sure that she'd blame him for it. There was no way in hell he was going back to Azkaban for something that he hadn't done.
While he waited for Granger to show up, he tried his best to avoid watching the women on the box. He couldn't drown their voices out, though. Honestly, did all women really talk about sex in such graphic terms? Or was it just Muggle women who were so uncouth? Sure, wizards talked about it, but they were men - men were expected to talk about sex. Women weren't, or at least not the women he knew.
All of the whispering and laughing that the Slytherin girls did in the common room suddenly took on a whole new, slightly disturbing meaning.
A soft pop heralded Granger's arrival and dragged him out of his unsettling thoughts.
He glanced over at Granger. From the way she was checking out the room, he knew that he didn't need to point out the box to her. He just needed to wait for her to fix it.
"It's not my fault," he pointed out yet again for good measure.
He certainly didn't expect her to start laughing hysterically in return.
Infuriated with her highly immature response, he turned a stony gaze on her and waited for her to shut up. Apparently Granger noticed his less than amused reaction (although how she could see through her tears was beyond his knowledge) because she covered her mouth and slowly calmed down. After letting out one last snort, which caused her cheeks to redden, she dropped her hand and spoke.
"Welcome to television, Malfoy."
"Tell-a-vision?" the blond wizard asked slowly, drawing out the syllables. "What is that?"
Hermione grinned. She was always most comfortable when she was instructing Malfoy in something new. She had gone to school to teach, after all. Of course, the fact that she knew something that he didn't was also wonderful, the very best perk of the job. She was actually surprised at how many extras the job was turning out to have.
"Television is a Muggle invention. There's nothing in the wizarding world like it," she began, moving to stand next to him so that she could also see the telly. "There are a lot of different types of programs; this one happens to be a fictional series. The best way that I can describe it is like a play that is filmed and then broadcast to the public. You're not actually watching someone's real life - merely Muggles acting out scripted events."
When the room abruptly filled with moans and heavy breathing, Hermione went silent. Oh, no, no, no, she thought desperately.
"Uh, Granger," Malfoy addressed her, gesturing at the telly.
A couple was having very vocal sex on screen, and although she knew it wasn't real because she recognized the show, she was embarrassed to share the experience with Malfoy. Blushing, Hermione glanced quickly at him and then headed for the cabinet to search for the remote control. The instant she found it, she flipped the channel up, relieved to replace the sex scene with a car chase.
"It appears you have a full selection of channels," she stated, red-cheeked, after clearing her throat awkwardly. "That should give you plenty of options until you get a feel for what you enjoy."
The quiet that fell between them was heavy with the memory of the sex scene. Hermione wondered idly if Malfoy felt as uncomfortable as she did.
It wasn't that Hermione was a prude. She enjoyed sex; she really did, and she had ever since she had made love with Ron for the first time shortly after her nineteenth birthday. She didn't mind when her friends talked about it, and she normally handled those scenes in movies gracefully. But being blindsided by a sex scene when her only company was Malfoy definitely threw her for a loop and made her feel like an untouched teenager once again.
If the rumors that she'd heard in school were true, she doubted that Malfoy was at all affected by the scene. To hear the girls talk, he had slept with Pansy fifth year and then just about every available Pureblood and Halfblood after that. Of course, she knew that the Pansy story was false; her friend had cleared that up a couple of months ago when she had admitted that she hadn't slept with anyone ever. Still, some of the talk had to be true; even back then, Hermione could admit that he was entirely too good-looking not to have at least a couple of notches on his bedpost. And, now...he was even better now. The intervening years had refined his boyish good looks until they were mature and manly.
Disturbed with the direction of her thoughts, Hermione shook her head.
"You can use this remote control to change the channels and the volume of the telly. The buttons are clearly labeled. And, umm, I'll see you tomorrow," she finished clumsily, handing the remote to him.
Before Malfoy could respond, Hermione Apparated home. When she arrived, she braced one hand on the kitchen table and took a deep breath. Merlin, that was awkward, she thought before joining Ron in the living room.
She didn't like Quidditch, but maybe it would cleanse her mind of the experience.
The crack of Apparation woke Draco the next morning. Cursing under his breath, he sat up and rubbed at his bleary eyes. That hadn't sounded like Granger's Apparation, so he dragged himself out of bed so that he could get dressed before greeting whoever had seen fit to break into his house at...he checked the clock.
Seven in the morning, he read with a groan.
Once he had on a pair of black sweats, he exited the room. The sight that greeted him in the living room was one of the last things he ever wanted to see so soon after waking up.
Harry Potter was standing next to his couch, looking around the room curiously.
"Go away, Potter," he muttered, drawing the other wizard's attention to him.
"Morning, Malfoy," Potter greeted him in an irritatingly sunny voice. "You look like hell."
Scrubbing a hand over his head, Malfoy frowned at the other man.
"I just woke up. What's your excuse?"
Potter let out a hearty laugh.
"I see you haven't changed."
Disconcerted by Potter's reaction, Malfoy scowled.
"So, to what do I owe the irritation of your presence, Saint Potter?" he asked.
He hoped that if his childhood nemesis spit out whatever he had come for, he'd leave quickly. Malfoy really didn't want to deal with him today. He was already in a foul mood because of his night's dreams.
His subconscious had clearly lost what sanity remained. After Granger had escaped, Malfoy had explored the available programs on the television. He had eventually settled on one that had a lot of action in it. There was blood and the Muggles were using some sort of strange weapon that made a loud bang. He had been quite enjoying it, even if he didn't understand everything. Then the lead man had sex with the lead woman.
Draco was definitely surprised by all the sex that the Muggles included on their television.
When Draco had gone to bed that night, he had dreamed. His dreams were often sexual; he was barely out of his teens, so he figured that was pretty normal. They usually centered on strange women with great bodies and unidentifiable faces. When he woke up, he rarely remembered the details although he still felt the sexual frustration that came from a lack of satisfaction.
Last night was different. His dreams had focused on one woman, a curly-haired brunette with generous curves. She was different from all the others, though, because she had a clear face. She had soft pink lips, fine cheekbones, freckles scattered across her petite nose and cheeks, and familiar wide, brown eyes. She had done things to him that had destroyed his composure. Draco rarely let himself go completely, even in his dreams, but in this one he had. The woman had been a sex goddess who had worshiped him, and he had returned the favor. The dream sex had been so real that he had woken in the middle of the night to find his boxers uncomfortably sticky, something that hadn't happened since he was fifteen.
When he had woken that morning to the sound of Potter's Apparation, he was disturbed to discover that he still remembered every single detail, including the identity of his dream lover - Hermione Granger.
Needless to say, that wasn't supposed to happen. Yes, he was trying to get her into bed, but that was just to kill time and teach her her place. He wasn't supposed to be attracted to her, and he sure as hell wasn't supposed to have wet dreams about her. The only thing that made him feel any better was that he hadn't had sex since the beginning of sixth year. That had to be the reason he was dreaming about Granger - he was just hard up for some action.
But knowing that didn't improve his mood, and Potter's presence didn't help.
"I know that you've had difficulties adjusting, so I thought I'd check on you myself," Potter finally responded after considering the question carefully.
"What? You don't have faith in Granger?" Draco asked with a sneer.
"I wouldn't have asked her to take you on if that was the case," Potter stated seriously. "Hermione's doing an excellent job, especially since she has to babysit you every day. Ultimately, though, your rehabilitation is on me."
Draco barely refrained from rolling his eyes. So Potter was just here to protect his precious image.
"Don't worry your pretty little head, Potter. I'm being a good boy and following Granger's directions. I have no intention of returning to that pit of a prison."
Potter stared intently at him for several seconds before nodding.
When Potter didn't leave, Draco scowled in annoyance.
"You're spending a lot of time with Hermione, so I just want to warn you..."
"Yeah, yeah," Malfoy interrupted. "Don't harm her, or I'll end up back in Azkaban."
"That's not what I was going to say, although it does apply," Potter responded, shooting what he probably thought was a threatening glare at Draco. "I was actually going to say don't take advantage of her."
Draco frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Potter sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair.
"Hermione shows kindness to everyone, whether they deserve it or not. It's one of the things I love about her, but it means that she's easy to hurt," Potter paused, a conflicted expression on his face. He must have settled his inner debate because he eventually continued on, "She's spending a lot of time with you, so just try not to hurt her."
With that, Potter Disapparated with a loud crack, leaving Draco completely confused.
If he wasn't mistaken, he'd swear that Harry Potter, Granger's best friend and his old enemy, was worried that Granger was starting to both trust and like him.
Deciding that those suspicions were best left unexplored, Draco headed for the bathroom. Maybe a cold shower would clear his head of the unsettling thoughts.
When he arrived in the Ministry's lobby, Harry hurried up to his office, nodding greetings to some and exchanging pleasantries with others, but never stopping. Once he reached his office, he pulled the door closed behind him and dropped wearily into the chair behind his desk.
He worried that he had done the wrong thing just now by warning Malfoy not to hurt Hermione. After all, he wasn't even sure there was anything to be worried about, and if there wasn't, he may have just given Malfoy ideas.
The other wizard certainly seemed just as angry and bratty as ever, and Hermione was with Ron. Harry knew that she would never cheat, but he also knew that she was soft-hearted. She accused him of having a 'saving people thing', but she had the same quality. She was especially vulnerable to underdogs, and in the Muggle world, that was definitely Malfoy's role.
Reaching out, he picked up the picture from his wedding. He watched his picture self pick her up and start toward the castle twice, all of his concerns running through his mind.
Narcissa swore that Hermione and Malfoy were perfect for each other.
Luna swore they were soul mates.
He didn't know what he thought, but the damage was already done. He just had to pray that he hadn't set them all on the road to ruin when he had asked Hermione for help.
Hermione was at wit's end. She was so frustrated with Malfoy that she could literally spit. The last time she had been this angry with him, she had hit him. She refused to vent in that manner this time; it would be highly unprofessional.
But oh was it tempting.
Hermione waited for the front gates to Malfoy manor to open at lunchtime on Saturday. Once they had, she stomped up the pathway to the front doors, where a house-elf greeted her. As she followed the tiny creature into the mansion, a wave of fear swept over her, temporarily dousing her anger. She took several deep breaths and fought the urge to run. Continuing forward, she started a mantra.
Bellatrix is not here. She's dead, and she can't hurt you anymore.
She repeated the words over and over until she got her breathing under control. It wouldn't do to meet Narcissa in a state of panic, not when they were both trying to move beyond the past.
When they reached the same room where she had picked up Malfoy on Monday, the little elf announced her before heading back the way they'd come.
"Hermione, it is nice to see you again," Narcissa greeted, stepping forward and shaking Hermione's hand.
Hermione gave the older woman a tremulous smile.
"It's nice to see you, too."
Narcissa must have noticed Hermione's discomfort because her own smile faded slightly and she said, "Let's move on. I'm quite looking forward to seeing my son."
Embarrassed that Narcissa had picked up on her fear but grateful to be leaving nonetheless, Hermione nodded and started back down the hallway to the doors. Once they were outside of the grounds' wards, Hermione instructed Narcissa to take her arm and then Apparated them both to Malfoy's house.
When they landed, Narcissa immediately rushed to her son, who had been waiting for them. While they greeted each other, Hermione turned away to give them a bit of privacy. She could only imagine how Malfoy would act if he caught her watching him while his mother hugged him.
Hermione turned her gaze back to the pair when Narcissa let out a chuckle.
"My, this room is very...Gryffindor, isn't it?" she commented, taking in the decor.
"Unfortunately," Malfoy responded. "Let's go into the kitchen. I made lunch."
He was already in the other room when Narcissa turned to Hermione.
"Will you be joining us, Hermione?" the older witch asked.
Hermione shook her head. "I'll give you two some privacy. I'll be right out here if you need anything."
Narcissa smiled at her and then moved out of sight.
Alone, Hermione pulled the collection of Grimm fairy tales that she had noticed earlier off the bookshelf and made herself comfortable. She flipped it open to the first story but found that she couldn't focus on the words. Her thoughts were far too consumed with the events of the last two days.
The tentative truce that she had shared with Malfoy had clearly ended. He had been testy and uncooperative in a way that she had only seen in small bouts since their shopping trip. Any time she gave him instructions, he would snipe at her, often insulting some random aspect of her appearance. He'd had a go at her hair, teeth, and clothing. He didn't listen to the information that she passed on, so she constantly had to repeat herself. The entire atmosphere in the house was so unpleasant that she had grown to dread waking up in the morning.
The worst part was that she didn't understand what had happened. When she had left Wednesday night, things had been awkward, yes, but they hadn't been bad. Sure, blond hair and silver eyes had shown up in her dreams that night, but she hadn't let that stop her arriving the next day in a positive mood. She had been determined that the discomfort of what they had seen on the telly wouldn't ruin their working relationship. They were finally getting along, and that made her job much easier.
Apparently Malfoy disagreed because he had started in on her immediately.
Home should have been a refuge from work, but Malfoy's cruelty messed with her disposition. She was in a bad mood when she got home, so all of Ron's bad habits, which she usually brushed off, seemed magnified. She had started picking fights with him, and he was never able to just walk away. As a result, their relationship was more strained than usual. In her darkest moments, she would wish that they'd never moved in together. When she felt like that, she'd remind herself that if they ever got married, they'd have to be able to weather the rough patches.
She wished the thought made the arguments easier, but it didn't.
Hermione blinked and became aware of the tears running down her cheeks. Furious at the uncharacteristic show of weakness, she swiped them away and set the book aside.
After straightening herself up in the bathroom, she resumed her spot on the couch. Picking up the fairytale book, she stared determinedly at the pages.
She would not think about how miserable she was right now, and with any luck Malfoy's visit with Narcissa would fix whatever was wrong.
"Your house is cute," Narcissa stated once she and Draco were seated with bowls of canned chicken noodle soup, tea, and crackers in front of them. "It could be quite homey if you decided to decorate."
Staring down at his soup, Draco nodded. Deciding that he'd better eat before his mother noticed that something was wrong, he picked up his spoon and dipped it in the broth. He wasn't hungry, though, so he set it aside.
"What's wrong, Draco?" his mother asked, her tone concerned.
He shook his head, avoiding her eyes, and picked his spoon back up.
How was he supposed to tell her that he had been acting like a brat, just as she had told him not to? That he had been the very worst version of himself the last couple of days?
In the past, Draco wouldn't have cared that he was being mean to Granger for something that she hadn't done, but for some reason now he did. Maybe it was because she couldn't help that she had featured in several X-rated dreams over the last couple of nights. The logical part of his mind knew that; he wasn't an idiot. Every time he looked at her, though, he would instantly relive his dreams. This inevitably left him hard, aching, and in a towering temper because she was a Mudblood and he shouldn't feel like this!
Even if he told his mother that he was treating Granger terribly, he could certainly never tell her why he was. He thought he was fairly close to Narcissa, but he wasn't about to tell her that he was fighting an unwanted attraction to Granger. Besides, she seemed to like the Mudblood, so she'd probably make things even worse by encouraging him to pursue her. No, it was best to keep the problem to himself.
"Just a difficult couple of days," he admitted, getting as close to the truth as he dared.
Narcissa nodded knowingly.
"The first month or two are hard. Muggle life is very different from everything we know, but it does get better. Before you know it, you'll be extremely adept at all things Muggle," she reassured him. "And their life does have advantages that our world doesn't. Have you learned about the television or been to a movie, yet?"
They passed several moments discussing the programs that she had enjoyed, and she explained the movie theater to him. Silence fell while she finished her tea and he picked at his soup.
"Did you know that Blaise has recently taken up with the Weasley girl?" his mother asked shortly after.
Surprised, Draco raised a questioning eyebrow.
"I know - quite unusual. I wasn't even aware they knew each other, but they've been spotted in the Muggle neighborhoods near his house recently. It was in the society pages of the Prophet."
Draco frowned. "Why would the Prophet be interested in them?"
She smiled and answered, "Miss Weasley is now quite famous in her own right. She's a starting Chaser for the Harpies. Her on and off relationship with Oliver Wood has been quite the fodder for the gossip mill."
Draco considered this information and then shrugged.
"I doubt they're dating or anything - Blaise doesn't like the Weasleys any more than I do. She's Granger's friend, so I bet she's just giving him the Muggle lessons he agreed to."
Narcissa appeared intrigued by that information.
"Why is Blaise taking Muggle lessons?" she asked curiously.
Groaning internally at his stupidity in bringing it up (it was the one thing he had kept to himself when he called her Wednesday night because he wanted to avoid a lecture), Draco explained about his rule-breaking with Blaise's help, Granger catching them, and the deal that she had cut with Blaise to keep him out of Azkaban. When he finished his story, she was quiet for a moment and then she smiled.
"My respect for Hermione grows every time I learn more about her," she stated approvingly before moving onto her memories of her own time in the Muggle world.
Ten minutes later, Narcissa announced that it was time for her to leave, so they both went into the living room where Granger waited. When Granger looked up, Draco scowled when he saw how red and puffy her eyes were. It almost looked like she had been crying, but that couldn't be right. That didn't seem like the sort of thing she would do.
"Perhaps we can have lunch together every Saturday," Narcissa proposed.
Tearing his eyes away from Granger, Draco nodded.
"That would be fine," he agreed.
"Are you leaving?" Granger asked.
"Yes. I volunteer at St. Mungo's on Saturday afternoons. I don't want to be late," she explained.
"The wards aren't set to recognize your magical Apparation signature, so I'll have to take you through."
"Okay," Narcissa consented.
When his mother pulled him into a hug, Draco fought back his embarrassment at being caught yet again in this position in front of Granger.
Before Narcissa pulled away, she whispered, "Just remember: things will get easier. I am so proud of you for trying."
Draco fought a feeling of...was it shame? He wasn't sure, having rarely ever felt it before, but in that moment, he felt like he had let his mother down. He hadn't been trying the past two days; in fact, he had been actively battling Granger every time she tried to teach him something new.
That was going to change, he decided as he watched Granger Disapparate with his mother. He needed to set aside his anger over his dreams and act like an adult.
He planned to set things right with Granger when she got back, but he didn't get the chance.
She Apparated in, stayed just long enough to tell him that he had the rest of the day off, and then disappeared again. Staring at the spot where she had just stood, Draco realized that he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to fix things. He couldn't help but remember her red eyes and he wondered if he had been responsible for her tears. The thought was somewhat disquieting.
Since when did he care if he made Granger cry?
When Hermione arrived home, she slumped down in a kitchen chair, all energy drained. She briefly wondered if Harry would take her off Malfoy's case, but dismissed the thought as quickly as it appeared. She could never let Harry down that way, and besides, she wasn't a quitter. She just needed to take the day and gather her composure so that she would be prepared to face Malfoy when their lessons resumed tomorrow.
Deciding to clean the flat because that would at least distract her from her problems, Hermione pushed her chair back from the table. While she gathered the cleaning supplies, she couldn't shake the parting words that Narcissa had given when she had dropped the other witch off at St. Mungo's.
"Don't give up hope, my dear. I know that my son can be difficult, but if you stick with him, I can promise that the rewards will be great."
The words were so odd, yet comforting in their own way. Narcissa knew Draco better than anyone, so perhaps she was right.
Hermione was lost in her thoughts and nearly done with the flat when Ron got home from Harry's. They had gone to see Ginny's match, and she knew that Ron's mood would be almost wholly dependent on the results. When he crossed directly to her and lifted her up, she let out a surprised laugh.
"The Harpies did well?" she guessed.
He grinned from ear to ear. "It was a shut-out. Kenmare didn't get a single goal past them and Ginny made five."
He set her back on the floor and leaned down to kiss her, but Hermione pulled back.
"I'm sorry for how awful I've been lately," she apologized, taking advantage of his good mood.
"It's okay," he accepted. "If I had to see the ferret every day, I'd probably be pissy too."
He bent to kiss her again, and again Hermione moved her head away.
"But I shouldn't take it out on you."
She couldn't just leave it alone. She had treated him horribly and wanted to make sure he knew how very sorry she was for it.
He let out a frustrated groan. "It's fine. Now will you be quiet and let me kiss you?"
She nodded, and he finally took her lips. When Hermione circled her arms around his neck, she felt a little better. At least this part of her life was back to normal for today.
She'd deal with Malfoy tomorrow.
A/N 2: Okay, I know there's not much humor in this chapter, but they are still new to the whole not being enemies thing. Sorry about the Ron/Hermione, but they are still together, so there will be happy times amongst all of the strain in their relationship. Thanks for reading!