Hello, again! Just to say, I don't own anything - all J.K Rowling's. Oh yeah, I also changed my username - I was MCR70 but now I'm abro5 (as you can see, haha). Err, this chapter is shorter than what the rest will be and the updates may be a little slow as I have exams starting this week and going on to the 16th of June. :( So I'll be revising but writing at the same time (hopefully!). So, yeah, and thanks to my wonderful beta GiantInflatableWalrus!
Returning to Hogwarts
Hermione gazed at the man beside her, a small smile playing on her lips as she watched him snore peacefully in the wicker chair. She glanced down at their entwined, wrinkled hands and sighed contentedly. Looking out across the garden from her chair on the veranda, three young children were playing with a hose in the July sun and she wistfully remembered the long-gone years when she used to do the same. A tall, brunette woman carrying a tray laden with glasses of fresh lemonade stepped out onto the veranda, and smiled gently at her before continuing down onto the grass towards the children.
Hermione closed her eyes and listened to the children's squeals of joy as her mind wandered back to when she first bought this house.
Hermione's hand wiped the sweat off her brow as she placed the second-to-last box down in the hallway of her new cottage. She could feel a dull ache beginning in her lower back and cursed the job of unpacking which awaited her after she had all the boxes inside. She traipsed back outside for the last box from her car and screamed angrily when her clammy hands let the box slip from her grasp and crash onto the concrete below.
"Stupid piece of junk!" She yelled at the box, kicking her car tyre. She was tired, her back ached, it was hot and all she wanted was to lie down and go to sleep. She'd been up since five in the morning, making sure everything was packed away and ready, before driving to her new house on the outskirts of Oxford with the removal van following. Once they had completed their job, they disappeared and Hermione was left alone in the sticky June air to carry fifteen boxes into the house. Why she didn't use magic she didn't know, but the muggle part of her wanted to do this the proper way, and for her, the proper way was without magic.
She blew her hair out of her face and bent down to pick the box up, wincing as her back throbbed. She straightened up and was about to struggle up the narrow stone path when a voice called out, offering some help.
"You okay there? Want me to help with anything?"
It was a man's voice and there was something unsettling about its familiarity. She turned around and almost dropped the box again in surprise. She grimaced as pain shot down her back. "Ah, Malfoy … er, no thanks. This is the last box – I can cope." She twisted round again and took one step before tripping on an uneven slab and falling straight onto her knees, the box flying out in front of her. She cried out in pain and heard Malfoy rush towards her, bending down to help her up.
"You can cope?" He asked, trying to hide the smirk which was working its way to the surface.
She only growled in response as he took her arm to help her hobble into the house and onto a sofa. He brought out his wand and transfigured one of the cushions into an ice pack, which he pressed against Hermione's knees gently. "There you go. I'll get the box for you." He left Hermione's side and went back out through the front door, Hermione staring at his back with a mixture of emotions.
What on earth was that? She thought, switching hands with the ice pack before it went numb. He's being so kind, so nice. Where's the name-calling, arrogant ferret from school gone? Before she could carry on musing, he came back in with the box and set it on top of another one. He glanced at her and smiled. A genuine smile – not a hint of a sneer.
"Can I sit?" He pointed next to her to which she shrugged as she shuffled along the seat. "Thanks."
"Do you live near here?" Hermione asked abruptly, staring at him with her eyes narrowing.
"Yep, just down the road. You must have driven past it – it's not hard to miss." Malfoy added with a chuckle.
"Oh," She replied quietly. Yes, she had seen his house. There was a drive lined with trees leading down to a beautiful stone cottage, except it couldn't really be called a cottage as it was probably four times the size of Hermione's. "I only caught a glimpse but it looked lovely."
"Thanks. You've got a nice little place here too." He glanced around her small living room; they were facing the window which looked out onto the front garden – little rose bushes and poppies lined the pathway and around behind the front garden wall. The grass was neatly mown and daisies were beginning to grow. Next to them, beside the doorway, was a rustic fireplace with an armchair sat in the corner with a space that, Draco assumed, Hermione would fill with a bookcase of some sort.
Hermione mumbled her thanks and tried to stand up. A spasm of pain soon had her sitting back down on the sofa again. She scowled and brought out her wand and pointed it at her knees. "Episkey," she murmured. Immediately, the throbbing went and she beamed at her wand before standing up. "Thanks for your help, Malfoy."
"No problem. You sure you don't want any help?" He stood up, looking impressed at her skills. Why didn't he think of that? She shook her head. "Okay, I'll see you around, Granger."
Hermione watched him stroll down the garden path and close the green, wooden gate behind him. She was completely confused. Since Voldemort's defeat three years ago, Hermione had barely seen any of her school friends other than Harry, Ron, Ginny and Neville. It was odd seeing a twenty year old Draco Malfoy behaving so pleasantly when the last time she saw him he was fighting for the Dark Lord. However, a part of her did think that perhaps he had never wanted to be a part of it anyway, and she never forgot the day when Harry told her that Narcissa had saved his life. She shook her head and dismissed all thoughts concerning Malfoy - she had unpacking to do.
Three hours later, Hermione checked her watch. It was five to six and her stomach growled noisily. So far, she had sorted out the whole of her kitchen and was halfway through her living room. She manoeuvred her way through numerous piles of books and went into her galley kitchen when she suddenly realised she didn't have any food. "Oh, good one, Hermione." She said aloud to herself. She thought for a moment before going back into the living room and flooing Ginny.
"Gin?" She called out after she came into view of Grimmauld place. Harry had married Ginny last year in a beautiful ceremony at the Weasley's and now they lived in Harry's godfather's old home.
"Hermione!" Ginny appeared in the kitchen doorway and fell to her knees in front of the fireplace, beaming. "How was it today? Sorry, again, for not being able to help – it was the semi-finals of the Quidditch today!"
Hermione shook her head and laughed, "Honestly, Ginny, it's fine – you can't skip a day of work just to help me move house. How was it anyway? Did you win?"
"Yes! We totally thrashed the Cannons … Ron wasn't too happy." Ginny giggled. "So, what's up?"
"Er, well," Hermione blushed. "I forgot to buy food today and … and-"
"-you want to eat with us?" Ginny finished for her. "Of course, you know you're always welcome! Come over now!"
Hermione pulled her head out and grabbed some more powder before travelling to the Potter's. When she stepped out of the fireplace, Ginny gave her a tight hug before beginning to start on the supper. "So, tell me about your day? How'd it go?"
"It was fine, the builders buggered off though as soon as they could. But then you wouldn't believe what happened earlier." Hermione folded her arms at Ginny's raised eyebrows.
"Malfoy. Malfoy lives not two minutes down the road, and when he … er, saw me fall, he helped and gave me an ice pack, not before offering to carry boxes! Unbelievable!" Hermione took the knife and the onions which Ginny handed her and she began to chop whilst her friend stared at her in disbelief.
"Are you serious? That's crazy! Who'd have thought Malfoy helping a member of the Golden Trio?" Ginny shook her head and stirred the pasta that was beginning to boil. "Then what happened?"
"Not much," she admitted. "I said thanks and he left. Then I unpacked, realised I had no food, and here I am."
"Eventful afternoon," Ginny wriggled her eyebrows at Hermione who scoffed.
"Please tell me you're not insinuating what I think you are."
"And what would that be, Hermione?" Ginny smirked.
Hermione stopped chopping and pointed the knife at Ginny playfully. "You cannot be serious – I've seen him once in three years for about ten minutes!"
"Well, what did he look like? I always thought he was a little good-looking, no matter how much of a prat he was." Ginny blushed and grinned sheepishly.
Hermione stared amused by her friend's question. "I have to say, he did look rather nice. His hair's much better, more … floppy. And his dress sense is still impeccable, as much as I hate to admit."
Harry suddenly appeared in the doorway, a playful but suspicious look on his face. "Who are you talking about, eh?" He snuck up behind Ginny and slipped his hands around her waist. "Good evening, beautiful. Hey, Hermione."
"Hello, hope you don't mind me intruding this evening – I have no food." Hermione gave Harry a peck on the cheek in greeting and avoided his first question hurriedly.
"No problem! What's for dinner?" He peered over Ginny's shoulder at the bubbling pasta and watched as Ginny stirred the mince with her wand.
"Spaghetti bolognaise – your favourite." She turned around in his arms and embraced him properly. "How was work? Was the call really that important that you had to work on a Sunday?"
He pecked Ginny on the nose in a silent apology. "Good; Ron and I managed to successfully uncover some dark objects in an ex-death eater's humble abode." He snorted and moved his glasses back up his nose.
"Ooh, who?" Ginny asked excitedly.
"I am afraid I am not allowed to disclose that information, even to my wife." Harry shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "Would you like any help?"
The trio cooked the rest of the pasta dish and sat down to eat. Every time Hermione sat in this kitchen, it brought back memories of when they were in fifth year, trying to eavesdrop on the conversations the order were having about Voldemort. She couldn't get over the feeling of relief that filled her when she reminded herself that he was gone – their job was done and everyone could live their lives in peace.
"So, Hermione, excited about your new job?" Harry nodded his thanks to Ginny as she cleared up the plates.
"Yes! I was so surprised when McGonagall asked me to replace her for Transfiguration!" She gushed happily. "But during the clean-up after the war, there was such an overwhelming desire in me to teach – it was so weird!"
"Yeah, no offence, I always thought you were going to be a Healer or some sort of person campaigning for elves' rights in the Ministry." Harry snickered. "But it sounds great for you."
"Do you know who's filled the post for Defence Against the Dark Arts?" Ginny asked curiously. "I expect that curse thing has broken now that Voldemort's dead."
"I have no idea, sorry, Gin." Hermione shook her head and stretched as she stood up from the table. "Thanks, both of you, for having me. Sorry that it was really unexpected." Hermione hugged Ginny and headed over to the fireplace. "Are you seeing Ron soon?"
"Yeah, I'll see him at work tomorrow. Why?" Harry joined Hermione at the floo and gave her a squeeze in farewell.
"Just to tell him 'hi'." Hermione smiled before waving and disappearing into the flames.