I was going for a bit of a casual, sort of awkward but kind of cute vibe... Kind of not very obvious, but just so. Also I was trying to make a bit of a comparison between Hermione's "relationship" with Draco and all of her other seemingly perfect relationships with the other males.
Anyway, here it is! Lemme know what you think :)
Two months later…
She stumbles upon the grimy, dive-of-a-pub quite by accident. She'd been having a bad day – a bad few weeks, really – and had decided to take a walk one Friday evening to clear her head. Ever since breaking up with Kyle, it's like she's been wandering around in a fog-like state. There, but not really there. Hearing, but not really listening.
For the first three weeks, she'd barely been able to get herself out of bed – and the only reason she did was because she was staying with Ginny and Harry and thought it rude to spend all day hiding in the guest room. Ginny tried to get her out, to find her a "rebound guy" – but that was the last thing she wanted to do.
Two weeks ago she started to look into buying a flat of her own, despite Harry telling her that there's no rush to get her out of his.
So far, she's coming up empty.
This morning she'd heard, from Kyle's sister, that his ex-girlfriend – who he had claimed he was taking it slow with – is now his fiancé. Hence the fact that she'd been having a bad day. So when she stumbles upon the pub she thinks, well, why the hell not?
The second she steps foot inside the pub she wants to leave. And she almost does – but then she remembers why she walked in in the first place and decides that the state of the establishment really doesn't matter at this point. Nor does the fact that the only other people in the bar are dirty, grungy-looking older men – probably in their 50s. She ignores their stares and whistles as she walks in a straight line towards the bar.
"Well well well," drawls an annoyingly familiar voice from her past. "I have to say, I'm a little surprised to see a girl like you in here, Granger. And alone – at that."
Hermione groans, rolling her eyes as she turns to face the blond-haired man leaning against one of two pool tables, stick in hand. "And what exactly do you mean a girl like me?"
He smirks, making himself comfortable. "You know…prim, proper. Prude."
She glares at him. "You're an ass," she snaps, spinning on her heel to leave the way she came.
His voice stops her again. "Granger!"
Her first mistake is not leaving when she has the chance. "Don't leave on my account. Sit down, have a drink or two – you look like you can use one."
She hesitates, biting her lip. She looks him over, then – the bigoted, pureblooded prat from her past. He's wearing a black and white plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, dark blue jeans and converse shoes. His hair looks like he hadn't even bothered to brush it this morning.
"It's on me," he presses, urging her.
Maybe it's because she has some sort of guilty voice in the back of her head – why it insists on existing right now she hasn't got a clue.
Maybe it's because there's something in the way that he's looking at her – all tempting and daring.
Maybe it's because she has nothing better to do than bask in the sudden attention of the prat.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's just because she's lonely.
She doesn't know why she does it, but for some reason she stays.
And nobody is more surprised than her when he slips in behind the counter and asks her what she wants to drink.
The only good thing about knowing the bartender is that it keeps the creepy old men at bay. Well, that and the fact that she hasn't actually had to pay for a single drink – of which she's had plenty.
"I can't believe you work here," she mutters for the third time, tilting her head back to finish her drink. "I mean, I never would've thought you would leave your magic behind and basically wait tables."
He shrugs as he takes her glass and prepares her another. "The money's not the greatest, especially in a place like this, but it's money."
She considers him for a moment, watching the ease at which he makes her drink. "Do you like it?"
He looks thoughtful as he hands her the now-full glass and leans forward with his elbows on the counter. "I don't hate it."
"Why do you do it?"
She nods, curious. Why would someone like Draco Malfoy settle for a minimum wage job in the muggle world.
He sighs, pouring himself a shot of whiskey before knocking it back and placing the glass in front of him. "Our world didn't want me."
She scrunches her eyebrows, looking at him in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"After the role I played in the war, I didn't belong there anymore – despite the fact that my views had changed drastically," he explains, staring down into his empty glass. "I spent a large sum of the galleons I was allowed to keep from the Ministry to help rebuild – I donated it to a couple of charities, I used it to help reconstruct Hogwarts. And then when I applied for jobs, they turned me away. The Auror Department didn't want me, the Department of Mysteries didn't trust me and St. Mungos would've hired me if the clients hadn't been outright hateful towards me. It's all founded, of course – you would know that more than anyone."
She frowns. "How did you stumble upon this place?"
He smirks. "After being turned away from the damn broom shop in Diagon Ally, I decided to launch myself into depression and binge drinking and one night I ended up here. I got so drunk I passed out and the next morning when I came-to I was in the room upstairs. The old man that owns the place said he needed help and that if I gave him my services I could keep the upstairs room for myself and since I had nothing better to do I took it."
"So you live upstairs?"
"What about the manor?"
"Living at the manor would require me to speak to my parents, which I'm not – but that's a story for another night."
She cocks an eyebrow. "What makes you think I'll give you another night?"
He smirks, cocking his head to the side in a way that almost makes him look adorable. "What makes you think you won't?"
"You never did tell me what you were doing here."
She pauses mid-sip to consider his comment and think about her response. She watches him through glazed eyes as he takes yet another shot. He isn't nearly as drunk as her but he's well on his way. "That's because I'm not certain I want to tell you."
He scoffs. "Of course it's personal, otherwise you wouldn't be wallowing in it right now."
She looks offended. "I'm not wallowing-" cutting herself short at his look – one that says she isn't fooling anyone, she sighs. "Fine, I am. Kind of like you, huh?"
"Except I told you why," he points out. He grins, like an idea has just come to him as he pushes himself up straight. "I'll make you a deal, Granger. How are you at pool?"
"Good," she replies, sounding skeptical.
"Good. If I win you have to tell me why you're in a place like this and if you win I'll stop asking."
She stares at him for a moment, watching him as he walks out from behind the counter and back towards the pool table he was occupying when she walked in. He beckons her over with a tilt of his head and a goofy, drunken smile – she didn't even know he could possess such a lovely feature. If for no other reason than to just catch a glimpse of that smile again, she walks over to join him. "I'll tell you why I'm in a place like this. You didn't let me leave," she teases.
He snorts, rolling his eyes. "You think you're so brilliant," he teases back.
The second he sets himself up for his final shot on the 8-ball, she knows he's going to get it in. And as far as she can tell, he never even used magic – which she finds sort of impressive, considering. She groans as she watches the 8-ball glide across the table and directly into the pocket in front of her. He grins triumphantly, looking up at her through his eyelashes.
"You know what that means."
"How are you so good? Did you cheat?"
He smirks. "No I didn't cheat."
"Then how are you so good?"
"I work in a pub, Granger. It wouldn't look good if I wasn't any good."
She rolls her eyes, smiling nonetheless as he walks across the room to the drunk men giggling like school girls in the corner. Within minutes he's escorting the men through the front door, locking it behind them and then walking back towards her. She never noticed before how well he wears muggle clothing… She watches him climb on top of the table and hold out his hand to help her up.
A couple minutes later, after she almost falls off the table twice – but didn't, thanks to his reflexes and strong arms – they're sitting across from one another, legs crossed.
"So?" he asks softly.
"I date frogs." The sentence is out of her mouth before she can stop it.
He cocks a perfectly arched eyebrow at her. "Frogs?"
She sighs. "My mother once told me that sometimes a girl has kiss a few frogs before she finds her prince – it's based off of a muggle fairytale, The Princess and the Frog. The princess ends up kissing a frog and the frog turns into a handsome prince and – anyway. All I've been able to find are frogs. Slimy, disgusting frogs," she slurs.
He stares at her but doesn't say anything.
"I've never been a princess though, so I shouldn't really expect that kind of thing. But it would be nice, wouldn't it?"
He shrugs. "I've never thought about it."
"My last boyfriend, he was a doctor," she admits. It's like now that she's started speaking, she can't stop. "He was perfect – we literally had the perfect relationship. And then his ex-girlfriend came back two months ago – she had left him a couple of years before we started dating to travel the world – and all of a sudden it's like he wasn't in love with me anymore. I mean, he kept saying it was hard for him too and that he wasn't sure what he wanted and who he wanted to choose – but it wasn't even about the fact that he might've wanted to choose her, it was about the fact that he already had me and he felt like he had to choose. You know?"
He nods slightly, leaning forward. His eyes never leave her face, even as she looks away.
"I found out this morning that they're engaged now," she whispers, staring at the dartboard on the wall opposite her. "It's barely been two months since we broke up and he's already proposed to her. That's why I'm here – because I've had a rubbish day and I just wanted…I don't know what I wanted."
"An escape," he murmurs. Only then does she realize how close he is – so close she can feel his warm breath fanning across her cheek.
She looks at him and they're nose to nose now.
Seconds later his lips are on hers – hard and heavy and demanding – and she's fighting him for dominance as he pushes her back onto the pool table.
She wakes up the following morning to a splitting headache and the distinct smell of cigarettes and sex. Groaning, she pushes herself onto her elbows and glances around the room; a bedroom – with one bed and bedside table, living room – with an old, dirty mattress and kitchen – with a small refrigerator, little counter space and an old, rusty stove, with what looks like a bathroom door in the far corner. It sort of reminds her of the studio flat she's had her eye on for the last couple of weeks – except it's significantly smaller, messier.
The longer she stays there, tangled in his sheets, the more she feels like a whore. She feels used and pathetic. Dirty.
She pushes herself out of the bed, stumbling on weak legs as she gathers her clothes from around the tiny flat – obviously she hadn't taken much care to where they'd landed the night before. Once she's dressed in her day-old clothes, she slips her bare feet into silver flats – which, interestingly enough, she found perfectly (oddly) side-by-side – and grabs her purse off of the couch. She very desperately wishes she were sober enough to disapparate but a part of her thinks she might still be drunk, so she decides to leave the same way she came in. Grudgingly.
She's vaguely aware of the heavy smell of fried eggs as she tip-toes her way down the stairs and into the pub. Choosing to ignore the fact that she can hear him in the kitchen on the other side of the wall, she makes her way quickly and quietly toward the front door. The last thing she wants is to face the embarrassment of coming face to face with her one-night stand on her walk-of-shame.
Her hand is on the doorknob when she hears his voice calling to her from across the bar.
"Leaving so soon?"
She freezes, squeezing her eyes shut as she berates herself inwardly. She should've just risked getting splinched by disapparating when she had the chance.
"I have to say, Granger. I'm a little surprised by how quickly you're trying to escape – I thought a girl like you would have more class than that-"
Offended, she whirls around to face him. "More class – a girl like me?! I don't even know what that means! And I think you're completely out of line after what you did to me last night!"
He smirks, carrying two plates of eggs, sausages and toast around and places them on the bar counter. "And what exactly did I do to you?"
Her eyes widen and her jaw drops open. "You got me drunk!"
"You came here to get drunk."
"And then you took advantage of me-"
"I kissed you, Granger. And you kissed me back-"
"Because I was drunk!"
"Well maybe I kissed you because I was drunk."
She glares at him. "You're an ass, Malfoy."
"So it's okay for you to say it but Merlin forbid I say it? And here I thought you were the logical one."
She huffs, spinning on her heel to leave – and only then does she realize that there are two plates on the counter. She turns back around to face him, crossing her arms over her chest. "Expecting company already?"
He rolls his eyes. "Actually I was under the impression that I already had company – but then she tried to sneak away."
She blinks. "Oh…" she whispers awkwardly, hovering in the doorway.
"Well don't stay on my account, then. If you have somewhere to be then by all means," he replies, sitting himself down in front of one plate.
Her growling stomach makes her decision and she finds herself crossing the room to sit in the stool next to him. "Do you make breakfast for all the girls the morning after?"
He snorts. "No. I was just hungry. Figured you might be too."
She smiles softly, shyly, as she picks up her fork and joins him.
She finds herself there the following weekend as well, drinking with him and joking around with him and – eventually – ending up in bed with him.
The same thing happens the week after. And the week after that. And the week after that.
She isn't sure how she feels about it at first – their…arrangement. It isn't a relationship, of that she's certain. It isn't a friendship with benefits. They get along well enough, you know, when they aren't bickering over small things like which café is better – hers or his – or arguing over who had the better grades in school.
She isn't sure she likes being the girl who hooks up with a man – in a seedy old apartment, at that – and then leaves without a word.
"What are we doing?" she asks him one day, watching him from her place on his bed.
He's standing in front of the window, blowing smoke from his cigarette through the screen. "Well I dunno what you're doing, but I'm having a nice relaxing smoke," he smirks.
She glares at him, taking his pillow and throwing it across the room from him. "You know what I mean, prat."
He rolls his eyes, putting the butt of his cigarette out on the edge of the window sill before dropping it into the ashtray next to him. "We're having amazing sex, Granger. You're helping me, I'm helping you."
"Helping each other what, though?"
"We're keeping each other from being lonely," he shrugs, crossing the room. He crawls onto the bed and over her so that she's laying back against the mattress. "That's why you came here, right? That's why you continue to come here – because you're lonely."
"Why are you lonely?" she whispers.
"Because I choose to be."
"So how am I helping you?"
He smirks, rolling his eyes. "Has anyone ever told you you ask too many questions?"
She smiles softly. "Yes, actually."
He laughs, then. And when he kisses her gently on the lips seconds later, she forgets about the rest of her questions.
Their first actual fight is five months into their non-relationship. Her birthday is coming up in just two weeks and Harry, Ginny and Ron are planning a party for her. She's been trying to convince him to go for days now, but he just keeps refusing – and not even giving her an explanation as to why.
"I don't understand why can't just come," she tells him, crossing her arms over her chest stubbornly.
"I don't understand why it means so much to you that I won't," he drawls, sounding bored. Which he is. "Can we please just fight about something else?"
"No," she snaps, glaring at him. "Tell me why you won't come."
He groans loudly, rolling his eyes. "Why does it matter, Granger? The answer is no."
"Because I don't want to."
He pulls at his hair in frustration, whirling around to face from his position at the window. "Because I don't want to have to spend quality time with Potter and Weasley and all your other oh-so-brave Gryffindor friends!"
She pauses for a moment. "Luna's a Ravenclaw."
"That isn't the point. Merlin, woman, just give it a rest."
She rolls her eyes. "Look, if you're worried about Harry and Ron and how they'll react to us-"
"I'm not worried about anything," he denies. "I just don't want to deal with them – and I don't want to listen to them complain about me all night."
She sighs, stepping towards him. "Draco-"
"I'm not going, Granger. End of discussion."
She frowns, blinking back her emotions as she steps away from him. "Fine," she mutters, turning away from him to grab her belongings.
He sighs, walking across the room to sit on the bed. "Anything else you want to fight about?" he teases in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"C'mon, you always have something to fight about."
"Yeah and it's getting old," she snaps. "And I have to go."
He frowns. "You didn't have to go 10 minutes ago. Where are you going?"
"Nowhere, I just have to go," she mutters. She doesn't know why it matters so much to her that he doesn't want to go.
He groans, reaching out to wrap his hand around her wrist. "Why do you care so much?"
"It doesn't matter now because you aren't coming anyway," she snaps.
Once she leaves, despite his playful and somewhat disappointed protests, she spends a good two hours wondering the same thing he is. Why does she care so much? Why does it matter so much that he just flat-out refused to go? It shouldn't. Unless it should…
In the end she narrows it down to the fact that regardless of whatever kind of relationship they have – or don't have – he is now a part of her life. And somehow she knows it won't be the same without him.
She's drunk when he arrives, surprising not only her but her friends and colleagues as well. Everyone stares at him as he emerges from the fireplace – his blond head can be seen from anywhere. Most people look confused – including Ginny and Luna, who whisper to another something about how he must be lost. Harry and Ron just look plain baffled.
She watches from the corner as he stands awkwardly among the Gryffindors he's always despised – particularly her two best friends. She takes in his messy hair, his black dress shirt with the collar undone, the sleeves rolled up and the bottom untucked, his blue jeans and black Converse shoes – very laid back and decidedly muggle, she thinks.
She observes, then, as Ron approaches him, demanding to know why he's there.
Draco, the cool and collected Slytherin that he is, remains calm and looks incredibly unfazed by the redhead's reaction. "I was invited."
"By who?" Ron scoffs.
Draco looks directly at her, as if daring her to make it – them – known to everyone.
She smiles softly and the room falls silent as she makes her way through the crowd toward him. She stops in front of him, so close that she has to tilt her head all the way back to look at him. "You came."
"Obviously," he drawls.
She reaches up on the tips of her toes to plant a quick, chaste kiss on his warm, thin lips. "Thank you," she whispers.
He smirks down at her. "I believe you owe me a drink for this, birthday girl."
She giggles softly, taking his hand and leading him throw the stunned crowd towards the drinks table.
Ten minutes later, when Harry and Ron pull her aside to berate her – not only for "dating" him, but also for keeping it from them – she can't even bring herself to care.
"Remind me again why I've agreed to come with you."
She smiles softly, rolling her eyes as she continues to apply her lip gloss in the bathroom mirror. "Because I want you there," she replies. And it's true. "And because there'll be food."
"Nobody else is going want me there, especially considering the last time the Weasel and I were in the same room he punched me," Draco points out, leaning against the door frame.
Hermione holds back a giggle as she remembers that evening two weeks ago. She had dragged him out to a small fair in the city with her friends – and even though he had moaned and complained the whole way there, she knows he ended up enjoying himself. Even when Ron punched him for making a rather reckless comment about the fact that Hermione was a grown woman and didn't need her "thick-headed ginger friend choosing who she fucks on a daily basis." She wonders if maybe she should've been offended by the way he had described their relationship, but she was more focused on the territorial glint in his bright grey eyes.
"Perhaps you shouldn't have asked for it then," she teases.
He snorts. "It's not my fault he can't control his temper."
She rolls her eyes again turning to face him as she leans her hip against the counter. "Look, Molly invited you-"
"Not in so many words."
"She told me I could bring a guest knowing I would bring you. If she was completely against you coming, she wouldn't have said anything. Now get dressed, we're gonna be late," she tells him, patting his bare chest with her right hand as she slips past him into the bedroom.
He groans, following her. "You realize that if I go-"
"When you go-"
"When I go, she'll expect me to come every week?"
She smirks. "Naturally!"
He groans louder, as though to prove a point.
"It's just Sunday Brunch, Draco, not a death sentence."
"Not if Weasley has anything to say about it," he mutters, snatching his shirt dramatically off the edge of the bed.
She doesn't think she's ever liked him as much as she does when she watches him helping Molly Weasley in the kitchen.
The butterflies in the pit of her stomach are so persistent they're almost painful as she leads him up the walkway toward her parent's front door. It's been months since she's been back to her childhood home and weeks since she's seen her parents. The second her parents heard – through the proverbial grapevine of course, because she certainly hadn't mentioned it – that she was "seeing" a boy, her mother had become ecstatic, insisting that she bring him over for dinner. Her father, meanwhile, had grumbled something about frogs and she had bit her tongue to keep from telling him that while he most certainly no prince, neither was he a frog.
When she had approached Draco with this potential scenario – dinner at her parent's house – she had been hesitant at best. A part of her had expected him to just flat out refuse, perhaps say something along the lines of: "I'm not going to let you drag me to yet another family function, Granger. Especially not one where your father would have every opportunity to kill me." She had even half expected him to run.
She hadn't, however, expected him to agree – and especially not willingly.
And now here they are, standing on her parent's front porch, hand-in-hand, in the dead middle of winter. She hadn't expected to be this nervous. Nor had she expected him to seem so calm.
"Are you nervous?" she finds herself wondering aloud, watching her breath blow out in front of her.
"No," he replies simply, glancing sideways at her. "But you are."
"That obvious?" she mutters.
He smirks. "Only 'cause I can read you like one of your books."
"I don't understand how you aren't nervous."
He shrugs, grinning foolishly. "I've already met Molly Weasley – and I don't think it gets any scarier than that."
She giggles softly. "I guess if you've conquered Molly Weasley you can conquer anything," she teases.
He scrunches his nose. "Please don't ever use the words 'conquer' and 'Molly Weasley' in the same sentence."
She laughs even harder – so much so that it must capture her mother's attention because just Draco's swooping in for the kiss she throws open the door.
Three hours later, after they've eaten and discussed – in which her parents had thrown around the words 'girlfriend' and 'boyfriend' quite a bit without any protest from him – she finds him watching rugby in the TV room with her father, a beer in one hand and a rule book in the other.
Maybe he isn't a handsome prince, but the charming peasant in the town that sometimes wins the princesses heart.
Some days she looks at him and wonders why. Sometimes she looks at him from across his one-room flat and wonders how in the world she ended up here – and with him.
A few years ago she never would have settled for anything less than tidy. She isn't a neat freak by any means – she has a habit of leaving clothes on the floor too – but she likes things to be tidy and neat. Organized. The state of his apartment is, more or less, the furthest thing from tidy – and he doesn't even own that many belongings. A few years ago, upon first glance of such a room, she would've left and never returned.
Not to mention their relationship. It's always been so…casual and sometimes mediocre. For the longest time it was about nothing more than sex. Granted, the sex was always amazing – far better than any of her other sexual relations. It was always more physical than it was emotional. And if she's being honest, highly reckless.
She had never had a purely physical relationship before and she had never planned on it. In fact, according to her childhood dreams and aspirations, she should be married with kids right about now and living a successful life. And, well, she isn't married, she doesn't have kids and she isn't very successful – unless, of course, you count the fact that her book store just had the highest amount of sales per week just last week.
She supposes it comes down to the fact that she had expected bigger and better things. She had always dreamed for the best.
And yet, in those moments where she wonders how her life got to be this way – her reality so far from where her dreams had taken her – she finds that maybe it doesn't matter. Because she's happy.
And she's happy with him – Draco Malfoy. Stubborn, sometimes-negative and sometimes-rude Draco Malfoy. They argue all the time, sometimes to the point where she can't stand him and he looks like he wants nothing more than to strangle her. They're completely different – he's more cold and nonchalant than she could ever be with her "warm Gryffindor heart" and they hardly ever see eye-to-eye on anything ever. Sometimes she thinks they should've just stayed enemies.
But then there are other times, when she can't imagine life without him. Like when it's just the two of them, without her friends who always seem to find a way to clash with him, and it's like they really understand and know each other. Or when she's sitting on the floor painting her toes and she catches him staring – and when he looks away, trying to hide his suddenly rosy cheeks like an embarrassed teenager. When they're in the throes of passion and he strokes her cheek with the tips of his fingers like it's the most innocent thing in the world; or when they're both coming down, breathing heavily and rapidly, and he stays inside her, holding both of her hands tightly in his. When he calls her Hermione instead of Granger – and then quickly covers it up by calling her Granger in the very next sentence. When he gets jealous and possessive over the silliest things and claims it's only because he doesn't like to share.
These are the moments when she's happiest.
And although she's never really thought about the future with him, these are the moments when she can almost see it.
Nobody could be more surprised than her when she opens the front door to her own flat to find Narcissa Malfoy standing on the other side. Not only was she not aware of the fact that the woman, apparently, knew where she lived, but she wasn't aware that she was even a blip on her radar. She blinks, frozen, as she stares at the blond-haired woman in front of her. The first thing she notices about her is that she has Draco's eyes – or, he has hers.
"Hello Miss Granger," Narcissa greets her, smiling warmly. "May I come in?"
"U-um, sure. Yes," Hermione stutters, stepping aside. She watches awkwardly as the woman glides past her and settles in her living room. "Draco isn't here, if you're looking for him."
"I wasn't, actually, I was looking for you."
"Me?" she asks softly, closing the door behind them.
Narcissa smiles. "It is my understanding, dear, that you and my son have grown quite close in recent months."
"Y-yes, I suppose," Hermione replies.
"I just wanted to talk to you about him."
The brunette nods awkwardly, playing with the sleeve of her long-sleeved shirt – which is far too big for her because it belongs to the man in question. "Would you like something to drink? Some tea or water?"
"I'm fine, thanks. I won't stay long."
"Okay," she murmurs, swallowing the growing lump in her throat. "What did you want to talk about, exactly?"
The blond smiles sadly, sitting down in the far corner of the living room couch. "Surely you know of my current relationship with Draco – or, lack thereof."
"Draco blames his father and I, rightfully so, for forcing him down a certain…path in his life. He hasn't spoken to us in years."
She nods again.
"I miss my son, Miss Granger. And I wonder, since he seems to be in a good place now and he seems to care for you, if you could…speak to him for me – for us?"
Hermione hesitates. "I don't know if I-"
"I don't mean to cause trouble between the two of you, I just… He seems to trust you – more than anybody else in his life. And he respects you. He would listen to you," Narcissa says softly.
"What do you want from him?"
The mother-of-one smiles. "I just want my son back. I realize that it would take time, but perhaps over some tea or a few lunches…"
The brunette smiles softly. "I'll talk to him."
"You'll be invited too, of course, if you would like. I would quite like to get to know the woman who has captured a heart that is as guarded as Draco's."
Hermione blushes furiously but the sound of the door opening behind her interrupts her thoughts – and Narcissa's. She turns around to face her visitor with a smile, who begins to speak before he's even inside.
"That is the last time I go grocery shopping for you, Granger. Honestly, that place is a madhouse and-" he stops upon seeing the last person he had ever expected to see standing before him. He stares at her for a moment before glaring at Hermione, who smiles sweetly and moves in to grab the two paper bags he's carrying.
"I'll take those," she says, reaching for them.
He turns his body so she can't get them. "They're fine. What are you doing here?" The question is directed at his mother and spoken in the same, cold breath as the first part.
Narcissa smiles softly, although the hurt flashes in her eyes. "I came to speak with Miss Granger-"
"Let me explain, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione offers, looking up at Draco as he continues to stare at his mother. "Your mother came to speak to me about settling the rift in your relationship with your parents, Draco. And, you know, I don't blame her."
"I miss you, Dragon," Narcissa says softly, using his childhood pet name. "Your father misses you."
"That doesn't give you the right to accost my girlfriend, mother," he says sternly.
"Draco, she didn't-"
"You should've come to me, not her. She has nothing to do with this."
"Draco, it's fine," Hermione insists. "And stop snapping at your mother."
He looks at her, opening his mouth to respond before closing it quickly. When he looks back at his mother seconds later, she's hiding a grin. "What do you want from me, mum?"
Narcissa hesitates, glancing at the young woman next to him who, by her physical presence alone, has managed to calm him down. "I was thinking maybe we could have tea someday soon. And then maybe after that, if things go well, we can have lunch. Hermione will be invited too, of course."
"I think it's a great idea. Draco?" Hermione asks, looking up at him.
He nods stiffly.
Moments later, after Narcissa has left, Hermione and Draco are in the kitchen putting her groceries away. Neither one of them have spoken since his mother left, promising to owl them to coordinate a time.
Hermione looks at him as he reaches into a cupboard above his head to put some cans away. "I think you're doing the right thing, for what it's worth," she says softly. "I know it's hard for you and I know it's going to be hard for you for some time but…I think it'll be worth it."
He sighs loudly, taking the necessary three steps towards her to close the gap between them. He pins her against the counter with his hips and takes her face in his hands, tilting her head back slightly and resting his forehead against hers. "Thank you, Hermione," he murmurs.
She smiles, curling her arms around his neck. "You're welcome."
"Have you ever thought about the future?" he asks her one night. They're lounging in her flat on the couch, limbs intertwined, while watching a silly black and white movie.
"All the time," she replies.
"What did you think?"
She snorts. "I didn't think I'd ever be with you," she teases.
He smirks. "Likewise."
She pauses, looking at him as he stares back at her. "What?"
"I'm not your prince, Granger," he murmurs.
She sucks on her breath. He remembers. "You aren't really a frog either, more of a…snake."
He rolls his eyes, "How very mature."
She giggles softly and he continues to stare at her. "What?"
"I put a down payment on that building I told you about. Remember?"
Nodding, she urges him to continue. She remembers walking with him down the street one day, just a few blocks from here, and stumbling across an old two story building for sale. He had mentioned something about it being a nice location for a new bar in passing, but she hadn't known he was serious.
"I bought it. It's gonna take some work and a little bit of magic, but I'm going to turn it into another pub," he tells her.
"You were serious," she concludes.
He nods. "The place I'm at is a dive – and it's not making us nearly enough money. This one, with the location and the foot traffic…it'll be a gold mine."
"It almost sounds like you know what you're doing," she teases.
He grins. "I've been thinking about it for years. Figure it's time to start taking it seriously."
She shifts, managing to climb – rather awkwardly at first – onto his lap. He adjusts his position as well, allowing her to straddle his hips easily with his arms around her waist. "I'm glad. And I'm proud of you."
"I really am," she insists.
They fall into a comfortable silence, doing nothing but staring at one another intently. Intimately.
"Do you want to get married?" he asks softly, casually.
She blinks, taken aback, as she snaps her head back. "W-what?"
He chuckles. "Doesn't have to be right this minute, or anything. Just…in general."
"I…I've always wanted to get married," she replies honestly.
"Would you marry me, even though I'm not a prince?"
She smiles softly. "I would marry you even if you were a frog. Today, if you wanted me to." And she would. She's always wanted a proper wedding, with the engagement and the ceremony and the bridesmaids. But everything else, with him, has been on a whim and so it would seem natural to marry him on a whim. Besides, the idea kind of excites her.
He grins, resting his head back on the back of the couch as he stares up at her. "If I had a time turner, I'd marry you yesterday. But I'm pretty sure your mother, my mother and Molly would kill us both for doing it without them, so lets not to do that."
She giggles, placing a soft, chaste kiss on his jaw. "Afraid?" she teases.
"A little bit."
"Happy?" she wonders softly.
He grins, pecking the tip of her nose. "Never been happier."
This time, the future is clear – and in colour – in front of her. And she knows that while he may not be a prince, this is where she's supposed to be. She never was a princess, after all.