Author's Note:I love all of you for reading and following and all of your wonderful reviews. They really do help motivate me!
Chapter 37: Missing You
Two weeks. Two weeks was what it had taken for her life to topple over. Her parents were home—finally home—and had been safe, their memories easily restored. She was in trouble for doing it before they said, but they'd all agreed that it would be safest for them. Her parents were terribly practical people and very supportive, after all.
Life had gone back into rhythm in the Granger household in a short span of time. Photos were restored to their spots on the wall, the practice was reopened, the wards on the house modified and the Fidelius released so neighbours could drop by.
Still, Hermione sat at the breakfast table, watching her much-missed parents going through their usual comfortable morning routine with a growing ache in her gut. She'd seen Draco and Ron and Harry and even stopped by the Burrow once or twice, but... she missed him. Two weeks and not even a letter from him. She'd drafted several, but hadn't been able to mail any. They all sounded so banal.
She hadn't been able to voice it yet to Mum or Dad. Sure, she'd told them that she had had her professor here after, that he'd been a house guest. She had always told them everything. But she hadn't been able to say that she'd missed him.
Hermione couldn't pinpoint what it was, exactly, that she had missed. It wasn't just the company. It wasn't just the tingle of his magic in the house. It wasn't his snoring—not that it had been loud—or discussing books and magic and potions. It wasn't their burgeoning friendship, was it? She even missed when he'd let her hug him. She'd gone into the guest room, but Mum had tidied up and it didn't even smell like herbs and potions anymore. All of the books had been reshelved neatly, the sheets washed and changed. She didn't know what it was she missed. Maybe it was everything. She sighed into her tea.
"Alright, that's enough of that," Dad said, dropping his paper down. He looked at her over the rim of his glasses, expression stern. "You've been mopey every morning, Hermione, and your mum and I have been waiting for you to explain yourself."
She gaped, then floundered. "I...I don't know how to voice it, Dad. I really don't."
Her mum placed a hand on her shoulder. "Give it a try, darling."
"I...It will sound strange..." she mumbled.
Both of them looked at her encouragingly. Just like when they took her to Diagon to pick up new books they couldn't possibly understand.
"I...I miss Severus," she blurted. "I don't know why. I just do."
They exchanged a look and smiled at her. "Of course you do, dear."
"The question is," her dad said, "what are you going to do about it?"
She slumped in her chair. "I honestly don't know."
Her mum patted her shoulder. "What would be the most likely place to start?"
Severus tossed another book at the open box. He wasn't certain what, exactly, had prompted his cleaning spree. He had never felt the need before, uncaring if his shelves were cluttered or books outdated or dusty or rather more Dark than was wise to keep around. He'd never gone through his belongings with such attention, or cleaned his cupboards out. That was what magic was for. Instead, he had spent the past week cleaning by hand.
Everything was gone over. He had seven boxes of books packed away. Some for donation, as they were outdated or duplicates, some to be turned over anonymously to the Ministry, and some to go to Hogwarts' Restricted Section. Well, some of those actually belonged there, as he'd borrowed them and hadn't returned them. Irma was probably missing them.
His hands faltered, holding a battered book. Thinking of Irma missing her books made him think of Hermione. It had been two weeks since his return to the Wizarding World, and he hadn't heard a thing from her. The sudden onset of silence in his life had been deafening.
At first, he had tried to fill his time by catching up with Lucius and Narcissa. He had gone in to the Aurors to volunteer any information that would help them in tying up their investigations. He had written to Minerva—no reply, of course, but at least he had tried—and he had drafted nearly a dozen letters to Hermione Granger. Every single attempt had found its way into the hearth, and he had thrown himself into tidying his home for absolutely no reason. He'd even painted.
It was difficult to realise that he missed her, and he worried vaguely that he was heading in an unhealthily familiar direction. Those thoughts, like the letters, were quickly discarded. He had simply grown accustomed to her presence. Their talks, her friendship. He even found himself waking in the middle of the night, listening for her. But she wasn't there.
He was lonely, Severus decided. That was it. He was lonely and he'd taken comfort in her familiarity. That was all it was.
Something niggled at the back of his brain and he quashed that, too, before it could form.
The clear solution was to reach out to her, since getting over the lack of her contact and communication was not an option.
But how, and where to start?
He threw another vial—crusted inside with something reddish and hidden behind a book—in a bin for cleaning just as someone tripped his wards.
Ginny and George sat side by side on the couch. They both held knitting needles, but Ginny was struggling to grasp the concept.
"Here, now," said George. "Like this, I think." He demonstrated, feeling rather pleased that he'd caught on fairly quickly. Ginny glowered at him, but tried to mimic what he was doing.
She fumbled with the needles as he watched, doing another stitch himself. His project was a little lopsided, but he figured he'd get better with practice. Ginny huffed and he showed her again, slowly. She attempted it a few more times, and he helped her move the yarn. She gave it a few more tries, turning redder by the attempt.
"This is stupid!" she exploded, chucking her needles. They didn't go far, but the one not attached to yarn rolled under their father's squashed chair.
George grinned. "Not at all. You're angry."
"Of course I'm bloody angry!" Ginny shouted, eyes flashing.
"You said you missed feeling," he said, grinning.
She blinked. "Oh."
"Accio." Her needles flew back to them. "Come on, then. We've got angry. Let's go for frustration. Maybe accomplishment."
Ginny sighed and rolled her eyes, yanking the needles out of his hand. "Fine."
George kept grinning and did a few more stitches in victory. He'd missed feeling, too.
Ron sat on the foot of Lavender's bed, frowning. He wasn't sure how, but she'd trapped him in a corner. Sacrifice the queen or the castle? She huffed.
"Just make a move!"
"I'm thinking," he muttered. He flushed when he glanced up and realised her arms were crossed, lifting up her breasts. Studiously, he returned his attention to the board. "I like winning, Lav."
She grumbled in a familiar way and his lips twitched upwards into a smile. She was trying to distract him. It was cute, now. Well, it had been cute before, too, because it had usually meant snogging. Still, he really wanted to win this game.
"I like winning, too," she said, and he looked up at her in surprise. "I'm not...I'm not stupid, Ron."
He frowned, his attention completely off the game now. "Never thought you were, actually."
Lavender flushed. "Just...just so you know... I never thought you were stupid, either."
Lucius sighed blissfully and stretched his legs. Next to him, Narcissa shifted and her pale arm slid across his smooth chest.
"I've missed this," she murmured. He hummed in agreement. Her lips pressed a kiss to one nipple, heedless of the golden hair surrounding it.
"We haven't had a day like this in years," Lucius replied. He wormed an arm of his own free to caress her spine.
It was heaven, to have no worries about their standing, whether or not Draco was alright, about Dark Lords and Hogwarts and the Ministry or finances. At this precise moment, everything was calm. Serene, even.
Draco had stepped out to visit a friend, the elves had fetched them breakfast in bed, and they had spent the morning doing absolutely nothing but lounging. Nothing to fret over or to ensure was done, and the chance to truly rest.
"I feel like you've been missing," he told her. "We'd been distancing ourselves so much..."
"I agree." She rose onto one elbow to look at him, her lips curved into a smile and her hair falling out of the loose braid she used at night. "I've missed you, too. I'm so glad to have you, to have us back."
Harry looked hesitantly around the lobby, lifting his chin to see under the brim of the ball cap as he fiddled with the hem of the too-big plaid shirt he'd thrown on. This was most certainly a terrible idea. Again. Completely and utterly stupid.
He was seriously debating pulling out his Cloak or just leaving when he heard the smart click of heels on pavement. An older man, leaving the theatre, held the door behind him as Draco marched through with nary a thanks. Harry rolled his eyes.
Draco stopped before him and looked him up and down. "Don't you ever dress nicely, Potter?"
"Hello to you, too," Harry shot back.
Draco shrugged. "Hello. You can afford to dress better, you know. And you didn't look half-bad at the Yule Ball, so it's not like you don't know how to carry it off."
Harry sighed. "You know, never mind, this was a terrible idea. I'm out of here."
"Wait." Draco seized his arm and Harry looked down at the pale hand in surprise. "Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to sound rude."
That got the blond a second look of surprise, and a third when Draco coloured. "I'm working on that, alright? Granger's a bad influence. Anyway, I've gotten a bit interested in Muggle fashion lately and was curious."
Harry slid his arm out of Draco's grip and glanced around the theater. "I don't know, to be honest. I've never really cared about what I wore, except if it fit or not. I'm not even really used to that." Draco's eyes narrowed and before he could catch that and Harry would have to explain Dudley and hand-me-downs, he hurried on. "I wanted to know if you, er, wanted to catch a movie. Ginny's with George again today, and honestly I need something to do today and I haven't seen you in a few weeks."
Draco glanced around the lobby. "Which film?"
"You know about movies?"
He gave Harry a withering look. "Long story. Again, Granger's a bad influence."
Harry's gut twisted as he followed Draco to buy tickets and concessions. It was a nasty, sharp, hollow feeling at the thought of Draco and Hermione getting close. Harry puzzled over it as they purchased drinks and popcorn and took their seats.
It wasn't until the lights were down and the previews beginning that Harry realised it was the same cold jealousy he'd felt when Ginny had been dating Dean.