Hey guys! First time writing (and publishing) a fanfic in about six or seven years - apologies if I'm a little rusty! Please r&r, I really appreciate all kinds of feedback and would love to know if you think I should continue with the story. Enjoy!
After the war was over, Hermione was really starting to appreciate the greenhouses.
The castle was still a mess, even though the war with Voldemort had finished at least three months ago. The Astronomy Tower was in ruins, there was still an enormous hole in the roof of the Great Hall and the dungeons had been completely flooded. The Death Eaters' spells had done more than just destroy the old castle she had come to love so well; they had permanently damaged it. McGonagall had told her that it looked as though some of the spell damage would be impossible to repair – or at least, take several years to fix. At that was only the building itself – half the castle's suits of armour had huddled in a corner outside the Room of Requirement and were refusing to come out until it was safe, and almost every portrait in Hogwarts would, at one time or another, end up shaking in its frame.
The greenhouses, however, were different.
They hadn't exactly escaped the damage – Greenhouses 4, 5 and 7 had all been completely destroyed – but they were a lot easier to fix. Professor Sprout had conjured up new ones and now she, Hermione and a handful of teachers and prefects were filling them up again at every spare chance they got.
Hermione sighed, breathing in the smell of wet earth and sitting back to admire her handiwork. She'd just finished planting a fresh row of Bubotubers. The small, pulsating seeds smelled awful and felt strangely slippery as she'd shoved them into the earth, leaving slimy trails all across her dragon-hide gloves. But they were planted now, and in a month or two they'd be fully grown and ready for Professor Sprout to inflict on the fourth years.
Hermione had rather more spare chances than she was used to, these days. Harry and Ron hadn't come back for their seventh year and complete their education, a fact which never failed to surprise her. They were both training as Aurors after Kingsley Shacklebolt – the newly appointed Minister for Magic – had deemed fighting Voldemort 'an acceptable start to becoming an Auror'. It was more than 'acceptable', in Hermione's opinion, but all the same she couldn't quite bring herself to accept their decision to skip their NEWTs and go straight into work.
It just seemed so…careless.
But without Harry and Ron to get her into trouble, she had a lot more free time than she was used to. Most of the other seventh years had either graduated last year or gone straight into work, and even though she wasn't exactly alone – she still had Ginny, after all – there were a lot more silences to fill.
So she made herself useful, and filled the silences with work. Professor Sprout always needed another pair of hands, and now that Neville had left to go and study the Peruvian Devil's Snare she was one of the only students who could help out.
The Greenhouse door creaked open and Hermione sighed. Her time was up. She'd asked one of the Gryffindor prefects – a curly-haired boy named Lysander – to come and get her after an hour. She was Head Girl now, and she couldn't spend all evening mucking around in the greenhouses, not when she had prefect rotas to organise…
She looked up.
There, standing in the doorway, was Draco Malfoy. He looked thinner than she had ever seen him – even in sixth year, when Voldemort's threat to murder his parents was hanging over his head – and there were large, dark circles underneath his eyes.
Hermione jumped to her feet at once. It wasn't as if he didn't have a right to be here – he was a student, after all – but just the thought of being trapped in the greenhouse with him was enough to make her skin crawl.
"What do you want, Malfoy?"
Draco rubbed the back of his neck. The sleeves of his robes fell back, revealing the Dark Mark, still gleaming black on his arm. He saw her staring at it and tugged his shirtsleeves down quickly.
"Might I have a word, Granger?"
She folded her arms, smearing dirt all across the front of her school jumper.
Draco gritted his teeth. "Thank you."
"For what you did in June," he said, avoiding her brown eyes, "I want to say thank you. If you could pass on the message to Potter and Weasley –"
"You're thanking me?"
"Yes," said Draco, mumbling through gritted teeth, "I am."
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"The three of you…well, I'm sure you can appreciate we've had our differences, but you saved my life in the final battle. I'm very grateful."
He didn't look it. A blush was creeping up his hollow cheeks and he was resolutely avoiding her eyes. He looked, thought Hermione, like a small boy whose mother was forcing him to apologise. She thought of Narcissa's cold, grey eyes and wondered just how much of that was true.
"Well, that's very…unexpected of you, Draco, but thank you. I'll pass on the message when I next see them. I…I'd better go. I need to be up at the castle soon."
She picked up her trowel and pulled off her gloves, starting towards the exit, but Draco did not move. He was standing very still and swallowing nervously, and to Hermione's sceptical eyes it looked as though he was fighting back the urge to be sick. She pushed past him regardless, and deposited her trowel in Professor Sprout's bucket by the door.
He'd never called her by her first name before.
"Hermione," he said again, "wait."
She turned around, her arms folded. "What?"
Draco clenched his fists, staring at the floor. "I…I did a lot of things I shouldn't have done. Not just in the Wizarding War, but before that. I said and did a lot of things to you that…that a gentleman should never have said."
She raised her eyebrows. Malfoy, a gentleman?
He cleared his throat, still looking at the floor. "I'd like you to accept my sincerest apologies if anything I said or did upset you."
His grey eyes finally found hers, and Hermione felt her jaw drop. There was nothing but sincerity in his face, and to her astonishment, as she stared at him in sheer disbelief a blush began to creep across his face.
"I'm really very sorry," he muttered.
Hermione felt as though she'd just been Stupefied. She'd only ever dreamed that this could happen. Draco Malfoy was standing in front of her, blushing to the roots of his white-blond hair, and apologising. Apologising!
And he meant it, too…
"Well," said Hermione, clearing her throat and desperately trying to ignore the blush that she knew was creeping into her cheeks, "thank you, Draco. That's very…nice."
She ran through the greenhouse door without another word.