"I can't believe you're going on a date with Malfoy," Ron's voice muttered from the floo.
Hermione jerked in surprise, her hand slipping. Her lipstick – not her idea, but on persistent demand of Ginny – smudged, smearing across her lips. She looked a little bit like a clown, she observed. Hermione couldn't help but wonder if this was a sign of things to come.
"It's not a date," Hermione retorted, scowling at her reflection and muttering a spell to clear the lipstick up. "And don't do that," she added, referring to his unwelcome appearance in her floo.
"I can't believe you're going on a date with Malfoy," Ron said again.
"Oh, Merlin," Hermione muttered. "Ron, it's at Hogwarts! It's not a date. It's just...a meeting. As friends."
"He left you," Ron pointed out.
"He broke your heart," Ron pushed.
"He did not break my heart!" Hermione growled in the general direction of the floo. She gave up on the lipstick, throwing it onto her dressing table, where it seemed to settle and glare at her balefully for its misuse. "It was a joint decision," she muttered to Ron.
"But Hermione –"
"I was accepting of Pansy, wasn't I? Now give me a break," she grumbled. Then realised what she'd said. "Not that Draco and I are –"
Ron let out a smug "hah!"
"Oh, go away," Hermione said without malice. There was a tentative knock on the door. And then, as if the knocker had been horrified at the thought of being thought 'tentative', a harder knock came that made Hermione roll her eyes.
"I'll see you tonight, Ron," she called over her shoulder, grabbing her phone on the way out.
"Damn right you will!" she heard Ron call. "And so will –"
She opened the door.
"Draco," she said, casually.
Well, she liked to think that was how she said it. In reality, it came out more like "Draco!", like she was genuinely not expecting him, and had also been embodied by a chipmunk.
Draco looked amused. "I'm not too early, am I?" He raised an eyebrow.
"No," Hermione assured him, because, no, he wasn't, he was exactly on time, the bastard. "Just give me a sec. I need to grab a jumper." She shot him a quick smile, before disappearing back into the house.
And if she had a minor freak out as she grabbed her jumper, gripping it to tightly to her chest and fighting back panic, well, she certainly wasn't going to tell anybody about it. Perhaps ever.
When she returned, Draco was shuffling from foot to foot. If she hadn't known better, she would have said that he was nervous. The thought made her swallow a hysterical laugh. "Ready?" he asked, and smiled.
Not a smirk. A smile. A real smile, like he was actually pleased to see her. Like he –
Stop it, Hermione berated herself.
"Ready," she affirmed, and smiled back.
After that, Hermione's 'just friends' plan all kind of went completely, and utterly, downhill. The party at Hogwarts was hilarious and wonderful and, yeah, a little weird. It was weird, yes, because this was Draco Malfoy, the boy who betrayed them, who browbeat them, who they conspired against. This was Draco Malfoy, who had grown up more than anybody could have expected, with his smiles and laughs and actually sensibleness.
Draco had grown up after the war, yes, but in the year when Hermione was away, he had grown more than she could have ever foreseen. He had shaken off the shadow of his father, become his own person. And yes, Hermione realised how cheesy that sounded, but it was true. Draco had stopped being Lucius Malfoy's son, and become Draco Malfoy.
And Draco wasn't the only one who'd changed.
When Hermione and Draco met Ron and Pansy (Merlin, she definitely never could have foreseen this), Ron looked sullen as he nodded a greeting to them, but he didn't actually make any snarky comments.
The most startling (or, yeah, terrifying, whatever) moment of the night was when Harry came up to them, smiled at Hermione and hugged her with a soft, and very pointed, "Hey, Hermione." But when she pulled back, his eyes were twinkling with mirth as he cocked his head at Draco.
She was sure, absolutely sure, that it was going to be horrifyingly awkward from then on. But then Harry grinned at Draco and said, "Mate! How are you?"
Hermione looked at Ginny, who'd followed Harry over, in horror. She just looked amused, mouthing 'Lipstick?'
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It didn't work out," she muttered to the girl. Ginny looked even more amused at this.
"You alright?" Ginny murmured when Hermione looked over to where Harry and Draco were talking about – football? Football? Really?
Hermione's eyes settled on Draco. He seemed to sense her gaze, glancing over at her. He smirked and winked, the old Draco-ness she knew shining through. She was sure she almost broke a rib letting out a sigh of relief.
"Yes," Hermione answered Ginny finally, feeling a small smile tugging at her lips. "Yes, I'm great."
"You are," Hermione began, "ridiculous –" She clumsily grabbed around in her pockets for her wand, undoing the wards on the door and trying not to fall over in the process. God, she should never listen to Seamus when he says 'Of course it's not alcohol'.
Draco smirked. "You love it, Granger."
She would have been impressed by his lucidness, if not for the fact that he was gripping onto the drainpipe like he was holding on for dear life. She smirked.
"I most certainly," she muttered as she pushed the door open, "do not."
Draco followed her in.
Hermione turned to look at him with raised eyebrows. "Well, that's awfully presumptuous of you."
"It's in my nature," Draco said, unruffled, as he followed her in to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water, paused, and then poured Draco one, too. Well, if they were in this, they might as well be in it together.
If by 'this', of course, one meant being absolutely plastered.
There were a few moments of silence. And then, "Hermione –"
"No," Hermione said.
Draco looked taken aback. "What?"
He frowned at her. "Hermione, we have to talk about this sometime." He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it ruffled and – adorable, a tiny voice in the darkest corner of her mind murmured. Hermione ignored it.
Hermione looked at him and then sighed. "Not tonight," she said tiredly. "Just...not tonight."
Much to her surprise, he nodded understandingly, reaching across the table and intertwining her fingers through his. They sat like that for a long time.
It didn't happen instantly. It was more slowly, gradually, like a kitten sneaking its way closer and closer to you until it was sitting right in your lap, and you suddenly didn't even mind. So, Draco Malfoy wasn't exactly a kitten.
But it was the thought that counted.
They became friends. Not teenagers forced together because of a stupid potions mishap, not scared children desperately clinging to each other, not even scared adults. They became friends.
And it was a little weird. Except that it wasn't.
"That doesn't make any sense, Hermione," Ginny complained, flopping back onto her bed and making vague motions with her wand at the coffee machine. It beeped, and then began to churn, tea pouring into a mug neatly placed beneath the jet of water. "Accio coffee," Ginny murmured, and it slowly floated over to sit in the girl's outstretched hand.
Hermione whistled, impressed. "Been practicing that, have you?"
Ginny beamed shamelessly. "You like it?"
Hermione nodded, laughing. She opened the fridge, peering at the contents. "Do you have anything but coffee?" she demanded.
"Well," Ginny said, reasonably, "I spend most of my time at Harry's. So I don't really need anything but coffee. Coffee and good stamina, anyway –"
Hermione shuddered. "Ew. No, Gin. No."
Ginny smirked, pleased with herself. "So, you and Draco. It's a little weird, but it's not." She mulled this over for a few moments. "Sounds like you guys are a –"
"Don't," Hermione interrupted.
" – couple."
Hermione dropped her head into her hands. "I told you not to say it."
"You two have never been just friends, not since the potions incident," Ginny pointed out plaintively. "Now, if you can just come to terms with that, everything will be okay."
"He left –"
"He left," Ginny agreed. "And you let him, Mione. I love you, but you let him go. And now he's back. Redeeming himself, and all that." Her voice softened, and she raised her coffee in Hermione's vague direction. "Why can't you let yourself be happy, Mione?"
Hermione opened her mouth to argue, but her phone beeped, interrupting her. She hastily fished it out of her pocket, her heart jumping to her throat as she saw who it was.
Let me take you out tonight.
She looked a little helplessly over at Ginny, who was smirking knowingly. "Go get 'im, tiger," she laughed.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
Draco took her to see fireworks at a local park. He kept his distance the whole way through, only daring to reach out and slip his fingers through Hermione's when the fireworks had finished.
"That was beautiful," Hermione breathed, an embarrassing lump of emotion in her throat. "Thank you."
Draco cocked an eyebrow. "They're just fireworks, Hermione," he teased, but he was smiling.
Later that night, when Draco insisted on Apparating home with her and walking her to her door, Hermione hesitated in the doorway, turning to face him. He raised his eyebrows at her, looking confused.
This time, she kissed him.
Of course, they became lovers again. It happened almost when they weren't paying attention – one minute they were friends; the next, they were waking up in the morning to gentle kisses and warm beds. It was nice, Hermione thought. The only thing that kept her constantly confused was whether Draco wanted an actual relationship. He always confused her; one minute, he'd kiss her like the world was ending; the next, he'd pull away when somebody looked their way, like he was ashamed.
"Do you – " Hermione found herself asking him one day over breakfast. "Do you actually want a relationship?" she blurted out.
Draco looked at her, startled. "What?"
"I mean," Hermione rushed to say, "before – before, you know, you only wanted, I don't know, some fun, and you always seem almost tentative to become a couple, you know, in front of others, well, so I thought, maybe –"
Oh, Merlin. She was rambling. This was Harry's job, not hers.
Draco stared at her. "Of course I want a relationship," he said, like it was obvious. "I thought – I thought you knew that. I thought you wanted to take it slow. I, well, I didn't know if you were ready for people to know yet – so –"
Hermione let out a sharp laugh, running a hand over her face. She couldn't help smiling widely. "Well," she said, "we're idiots."
"Hey, speak for yourself," Draco muttered in mock offense, taking a swig of coffee.
She remembered that time in St Mungo's what seemed like a million years ago, him smiling at her in relief, a million promises that would soon be broken between them. She remembered him cupping her face, laughing, whispering, "You're an idiot, Granger. An absolute idiot."
She shook the memory off. "Well, I'm glad we've sorted that out, then," Hermione said decisively, flicking through the newspaper, like it had never even bothered her in the first place.
She knew that Draco knew differently, though, because when she looked up, Draco was smirking into his coffee.
The first time Draco introduced her as, "This is my girlfriend, Hermione," her heart swelled so much she wondered that it didn't burst out of her ribcage.
She'd never admit that to anyone, however. Merlin, how embarrassing.
She still had bad nights. Nights hidden between days at work and long stretches without Draco, when he had to tend to the Manor and work and his mother and she had work and her friends and just life. She'd meet him after work, they'd go home together, and she'd fall asleep in his arms, absolutely exhausted.
One particularly bad night, she woke up in the middle of the night, screaming, images of crucio and white hot horrible pain haunting her dreams. Draco awoke instantly, turning on his side so that he was facing her and pulling her close to him.
"Shh, shh, it's okay," he whispered into her hair, his breath warm against her skin. They lie like that for a long while, him holding her and Hermione leaning into him, waiting for her heartbeat to slow.
"You okay?" he asked finally, running a hand through her hair, fingertips cool against her forehead.
"Yes," Hermione croaked, and cleared her throat. "Yes. Yes, I'm good," she said, realising with some surprise that she wasn't even lying.
She leaned back against his chest, sighing contentedly. Draco ran his finger through her hair, gentle and warm.
"I love you," Draco whispered to her, sure that she had fallen asleep.
Hermione's drowsy voice broke through the quiet. "You, too," she yawned sleepily, moving closer to him.
Draco would never admit it to anyone – not even Blaise or Pansy, God forbid – but he fell asleep with a smile on his face.
*deep breaths* I can't actually believe this is over.
I don't write much for the dramione fandom anymore, but I feel like I've lost a leg (or something). Also, exams are over! So I finally got around to writing this.
If you've stuck with this story to the end, you're amazing. Thank you all so much! As always, I love feedback; it keeps me writing.
But thank you all so much for sticking with this story, with me. I couldn't have done without you guys.