It's my first fanfiction – be gentle. I also do not have a beta, but if anyone is willing to volunteer that would be a-mazing. Thanks!
"Honestly, Harry, I can just apparate."
"And risk getting splinched? Hermione, you've been on a plane for nearly 12 hours. Besides, I already have someone there waiting to pick you up. If I could shove this case off on someone else I would - you know I would."
Hermione held her muggle cell phone to her ear with her shoulder as she collected her passport from the customs officer and threw her travel tote over her other shoulder. "Who did you send?" An awkward silence fell on the line between them. She'd spent the last four years in New York, working in Wizard Manhattan on the restoration and recreation of the largest American wizard library after it was devastated in a horrific, albeit accidental fire. As much as Hermione fell in love with both Wizard and Muggle Manhattan, London was her home, and she was ready to be back. She was not, however, in the mood for games as the silence over the line continued. She was tired, she was hungry, and she wanted an answer.
"Harry…" she said in her warning tone.
"'Mione…" Harry mimicked her tone. "It's not like I sent anyone dangerous."
"Do I know him?" She asked as she stepped on the step taking her down the escalator.
"It better not be Ronald."
"Blimey, Hermione," Harry scoffed. "I'm not completely daft."
Stepping off the escalator, she walked towards her luggage claim. She stopped as soon as she started walking. It didn't matter what the man was wearing. Muggle attire, his regular dreary black wardrobe - the platinum blond hair would have been recognizable from the moon. Already around him were her pink and black checkered print luggage pieces on a rolling cart. "Harry James Potter, please tell me I don't see Draco Malfoy standing fifteen feet in front of me."
"You do - and before you go completely mental - well, don't. He's become a good friend of mine while you've been away, and he really has changed. When I asked him to help me out, he was more than willing. He's making amends, if you will."
She rolled her eyes. "As much as I'd like to participate in the Draco Malfoy apology tour - "
"Hermione. He's really trying to change. It couldn't have been easy, growing up in that house. I'm not saying what he did is forgettable, but it is forgivable. He's not the same git he used to be. He offered to help, and I took him up on it. Besides – do you honestly think I would have sent him to fetch you if I thought you would have wound up dead in the Forbidden Forest?"
She ground her teeth together. "No."
"Right then. Off you go. And be nice - I'll see you tonight at dinner. The kids are over the moon excited to see you. Ginny too."
"Fine," she grumbled. Not bothering to say good-bye, she hung up the phone before shoving it in the back pocket of her jeans. With a deep breath in, she exhaled slowly as she made her way towards her former childhood nemesis. Tapping him on the shoulder, he spun around, and she was taken aback at what she saw. He wasn't the stone faced teen who habitually clenched his jaw. His face was softer, his hair no longer greased back like a helmet. "I believe you're looking for me."
Draco Malfoy would have been lying if he said he wasn't nervous. After all, he was picking up Hermione Granger. He had a fifty-fifty chance of being hexed, punched, or both when she realized what Harry had done. Now that he thought about it - there was a fifty-fifty chance of him receiving bodily harm because of Harry Potter. He should have thought this through a bit more.
He did want to apologize to her. He'd wanted to apologize to her for awhile now. After the war, Draco decided to do something out of character for his family – he became a lawyer, and did a lot of pro-bono work for wizards who needed help. Draco could have decided not work a day in his life and his money would have lasted him seven life times. It was his way of atoning for his misgivings. It would never make up for the horrific actions of his family, but doing good for others did help him sleep better at night. Most nights, anyway.
"She won't hex you," Harry promised before Draco left his office. "She'll call me, I'll tell her I had to make other arrangements - she'll be fine."
"You realize you're talking about Granger, right?"
"Yes. She might be…hostile…"
"Exactly. Hostile Granger broke my nose during third year."
Harry laughed. "Yes well, you quite deserved it."
"I don't want a broken nose today, Potter."
"Do you or do you not want a chance to talk to her?"
"Well…yes, I guess."
"Then what better way to trap her?" Harry suggested. "She's stubborn as they come, so you may as well do yourself a favor and make it impossible for her to avoid you."
Draco stifled a laugh. "Tell me, Potter. How is it that you avoided a broken nose from Granger all these years? Surely you and Weasley put a bee in her bonnet a time or two."
Harry shot Draco a cheeky grin. "I'm the chosen one."
Chosen one indeed, Draco thought to himself as he rocked back and forth on his feet. He glanced at his watch. She should be here any minute. Dragging a hand over his face, he regretted the extra cup of coffee he had on the way over to the airport. The caffeine had made him extra jittery - a state he was currently able to get himself into all on his own. Granger and he had never been on the best of terms. With his upbringing, it was hard. To be taught that Muggles were beneath wizards such as him, with lesser skills and abilities, only to meet her and have her beat him at everything except flying on a broom. He would hardly call flying a broom better than the great Hermione Granger a triumph. Longbottom's toad could fly a broom better than the Gryffindor Princess if given the proper chance.
He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. A discovery during his Muggle university years, he couldn't understand why more wizards didn't wear them. He would wear them every day if he could. Nervously, he removed his hands to smooth out the nonexistent wrinkles in his emerald green polo. As he ran his hands over his torso a final time, he felt a tap on his shoulder and froze as a voice he would recognize anywhere rang through his ears.
"I believe you're looking for me."
Turning around, he did his best to keep his face neutral. He was expecting a bushy haired Granger with a look of contempt standing in front of him. Instead, he found Granger with a short, sophisticated haircut, sporting a slender red headband standing in front of him in black yoga pants and a white tank top hidden somewhat under her red jacket…with a look of contempt. She didn't look like a school girl anymore. Then again, he didn't look like a school boy, either. They were adults.
"Granger," Draco finally said, his voice finding his mouth.
"Malfoy," Hermione replied, her tone as even as his.
"Uh, yes, well, I believe this is your luggage," he said, motioning to the bags surrounding him. "Are there any pieces missing?"
Hermione counted the bags quickly. "No. They're all here."
Draco nodded. "Right. Well uh, shall we?"
Shall we. Like she had a choice in the matter. Nodding, Hermione let Draco lead the way out of the airport towards a black Audi. She was shocked when she saw Draco pulling keys from his pocket and with the press of a button, opening the trunk.
"This is yours?" she couldn't help but ask incredulously.
"Yes - for about a year now. Isn't she a beauty?"
Hermione couldn't believe what she was watching. Draco Malfoy was putting her luggage into a Muggle car. This meant he knew how to drive a Muggle car. "What, how, I mean," she stammered.
"I went to a Muggle university," Draco replied. "My friends had cars…I wanted a car…it's pretty great really. Learning how to drive wasn't all that difficult, you know. Do you have a car? Do you drive?"
He was rambling. Hermione wasn't used to a rambling Malfoy. "My father taught me to drive. I got my license at 16."
"Of course," Draco said. "I'd offer to let you drive, but you don't know where we're going."
"I'm tired anyway," she said. "But, um, thanks?"
"Thanks?" Draco said with a smirk. "Who says thank you with a question?"
She stood and stared at him as he shut the trunk. The staring continued as he walked over to open her door. "I'm sorry," Hermione said quickly. "But this is, quite honestly, freaking me out a bit. Who are you and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?"
Draco shifted his weight from one foot to the other, looking everywhere but at her. "Is it honestly that hard to see me as someone who isn't an insufferable git?"
"I don't know - is it hard to forget years of taunting, embarrassment, and torture?" Hermione countered.
She held up a hand. "I'm sorry. Harry told me to give you a chance. I'm just…exhausted. Where are we going anyway?"
Draco's shoulders dropped a bit as he looked at her. "Really, Granger. If you give me a chance, I'd like to explain."
"Malfoy, I honestly don't know what there is to explain."
"A lot, actually."
Hermione sighed. Exhausted, she threw her tote into the foot well of the car and climbed in. "You didn't tell me."
Draco steadied a hand on the top of the door. "Tell you what?"
Hermione sighed, complete with an eye roll that was beyond her control. "Where we are going, of course."
"Right. Potter didn't mention it."
"Obviously he didn't if I'm asking you." She watched as Draco nervously scratched the back of his neck. "Spit it out, Malfoy!" she finally exclaimed.
He opted to avoid answering and instead shut the door. As he climbed into the driver seat, he quickly started the car and pulled away from the airport. Hermione buckled her seat belt, staring at him the entire time. She knew it would be only a matter of time before her icy stare cracked him.
"We're going to my house," Draco finally admitted.
"What!" Hermione screeched. "Is this seriously happening right now? Harry Potter is a dead man when I see him. Why would we be going to the Manor? If you think for one second I am going to step foot into that Manor you have another thing coming and what in the hell – "
Draco felt his hands clench tightly around the steering wheel as Hermione continued to collectively unspool. She might not look like the same girl from Hogwarts but she certainly sounded like it as she rambled. The more she talked the faster she went. It was rather humorous, Draco thought as they meandered off the main highway towards his brownstone in Hyde Park. Irritating, but humorous.
Twenty minutes of listening to Hermione barely take a breath later, he pulled up to the front of his brownstone and shut off the car. He stared at her intently until she slowed her speech to a stop. "Wait – where are we."
"My house," Draco said.
"This isn't your house."
"It is, in fact my house. Name's on the paperwork and everything."
"A Malfoy living in Muggle London," Hermione scoffed. "Your father must be rolling in his grave."
"I'm sure a somersault or two happened, yes," Draco agreed.
"What about the Manor?"
Draco shrugged. After his father died and his mother moved out to the countryside, Draco had no idea what to do with the horrendous estate for the longest time. A few years later passed before he finally decided to have it condemned. It was filled with too much dark magic to do much else with. "It no longer exists," he simply said.
"Why are we here?"
"Potter, Gin, and the kids are coming for dinner later. It's what we do on Wednesdays, and Potter said you might as well come here and rest before dinner. You're staying with them until you find a place, right?"
Hermione smiled awkwardly. She was more than grateful for Harry's hospitality, but James was three, and very good at it. With Ginny pregnant again, the house was less calm and more chaotic, and Hermione wanted a mellow week.
As if Draco could read her mind, he laughed. "Right. Shall we go inside then? Have a proper conversation like two grown adults?"
"Could I have a nap first?" she sheepishly asked. "My temper is more…manageable when I'm not jet lagged."
"Right," Draco said with a small smirk.
Leaving her bags in the car, Draco felt Hermione cautiously following him up the steps and into the house as he unlocked the door. Allowing her inside, he closed the door behind them and watched as she surveyed the foyer area. She peeked around the corner into a lovely sitting room, and as she did, he watched as she pressed her lips together. When he bought the brownstone, he hired a decorator and said to her, "I don't care what you do – just make it inviting." One week later, he had a home filled with all sorts of creams and chocolate colors, the kitchen a bright pastel blue, the bedrooms decorated in various themes and styles. Ginny told him it looked like he picked rooms out of a magazine and said, "do this." He's pretty sure that's what the decorator did. Draco didn't mind though. He felt comfortable, welcomed even, in his own home. He couldn't say the same thing about the Manor. There was even a playroom on the second floor, so James was able to play when he took him off Harry and Ginny's hands for a weekend.
He saw her looking at the pictures above the mantle over the fireplace. Pictures of Draco and Harry smiling and laughing at a Chudley Cannons tournament game, Draco and James sledding at the Burrow among the photos she was looking at. He could see her putting thoughts together as she furrowed her brow.
"You really are different…" she mumbled.
"Couldn't play the villain forever, I suppose," he offered.
She turned to face him. "If someone told me four years ago I'd be standing in your house, I would have deemed them insane."
Draco laughed softly. "If someone told me four years ago I'd live in Muggle London with you standing in house, I would have deemed them equally insane."
He could see her almost relaxed face tense up again. "But how is it – this – how is this possible? I don't understand – "
"Might I suggest your original suggestion of a nap," Draco said, kindly cutting her off. "I promise I'll answer your questions. Whatever you want. It's not even noon yet – dinner isn't until six."
Draco felt a small glimmer of success as her shoulders relaxed. She dug the palms of her hands into her eyes for a moment. "Harry said…" she yawned. "Harry said you offered to pick me up. Why?"
He shoved his hands into his pants pockets. "I think that falls into a category of things to talk about once you've had a nap."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Malfoy…"
"Let's try using our first names. Maybe it'll cut down on some of the hostility." Taking a deep breath, he looked up at her and exhaled. "I thought it would be nice to talk to you, Hermione, and maybe try to put our pasts behind us considering we now share a best friend."
She sighed. "You're right. This is a conversation to have after I've had a nap. Could I get some water first though?"
He nodded. Disappearing down the hallway, he entered the kitchen and plucked a bottle of water from the fridge. His pocket began to vibrate. Harry was calling. "I'm not dead," he answered.
"Just checking," he heard Harry say on the other end. "How does she look?"
Fantastic. Wait – what? "Uh…she looks like Granger. Shorter hair though."
"Yeah, I saw she cut it all off at Christmas when Gin and I went to visit. It suits her though. How is she?"
Draco cleared his throat. "Hostile, much like you predicted. I haven't been hexed yet, though. That's a good sign, right?"
"You never know with her," Harry said. Draco could hear the smirk on his face.
"Right. How's your meeting going?"
"So you could take over the other case?" Draco questioned. "The reason you couldn't come pick up Granger – oh no. You didn't do what I think you did."
"Depends on what you think I did?"
"You lied to Hermione Granger."
"I did no such thing."
"You did. I can hear it in your voice. I can't believe you lied to Hermione Granger!"
"Blimey, what are you, a woman?"
"Funny, Potter. Real funny."
Harry sighed. "Fine. I really did have a meeting, but it wasn't something I couldn't rearrange. I just figured if you two figured your shit out now, it would make it less awkward for the rest of us later."
Draco walked back down the hall with the bottle of water in his hand. "Right. We'll discuss this later."
"Tell her I said hello!"
"Oh I'll be sure to tell her more than that."
"Wait – don't tell her I – "
"Later, Potter," Draco said with a smirk as he hung up the phone. Potter deserved to get his wand in a knot over the idea of Hermione freaking out on him later this evening. Granted, he didn't have the guts to tell Hermione what Harry did, but that didn't mean he couldn't find enjoyment out of the situation. Walking into the front room, he found Hermione curled up on the couch, sound asleep.
He wasn't all that entirely sure what to do with a sleeping Hermione Granger. If he took her upstairs to a spare room, she'd wake up disoriented. If he took her upstairs, she could wake up, and then freak out about him touching her. Would she freak out? He wasn't sure, but wasn't about to risk it. How he wasn't hexed by now was beyond him. Setting the water on the end table, he walked over to the recliner and grabbed the large blanket Molly Weasley knitted for him last Christmas and draped it over her. Taking his place in the recliner, he grabbed Les Miserables from where he left it a few days ago and began to read while simultaneously formulating a plan on how to talk to her once she regained some sort of consciousness.