Chapter Three: The Morning After
Hermione awoke to the sound of coffee being poured, she opened her eyes blearily and immediately looked around for her wand. She was wrapped up in emerald green sheets and she realised with relief, still wearing her undergarments. Her clothes were neatly folded on the dresser next to the ridiculously large four poster bed and on top of the pile was her wand.
There was also a house elf she didn't recognise pouring her coffee and a very guilty looking Draco Malfoy trying to sneak out of the room.
"Hold it Malfoy!" she grumbled, bolting upright and immediately regretting it. The rush of blood to her head was extremely painful and she sank back down on the pillows involuntarily.
"There's hangover potion in the coffee" Draco informed her stoically.
"And why would I drink anything you gave me?" she shot back suspiciously.
To her surprise he laughed "Granger if I was going to poison you don't you think I would have done it last night?"
"Last night?! Merlin, we didn't?" she yelped springing from the bed as though the mattress contained something contagious. Draco immediately raised his eyes to the ceiling to avert his gaze. He didn't quite fancy being punched by her again.
"As nice as it is to know you find the idea so repulsive Granger" he drawled, "I am not one to take advantage of a woman when she's drunk. Also would you mind, ya know, covering yourself if you're going to jump out at me like that. I know I'm irresistible but we're not really on a first name basis here" He threw an all too familiar smirk her way as Hermione's gaze slowly travelled down and realisation dawned on her that she was currently standing in front of Malfoy in the black lacy bra and panties that she had bought for her and Ron's first anniversary, it had been a poor attempt to get him to notice her more, not that she would ever use them now she thought bitterly.
Draco continued to smirk as he imagined the embarrassed rant he knew was going through her head. He waved his wand and the silk sheets wrapped themselves around her in a kind of toga that would protect her modesty until she regained her senses enough to dress herself. Ya know she doesn't half look good in Slytherin colours he thought to himself. As soon as the idea passed through his mind, he shook his head. He could not and would not get on that train of thought.
"Like I said, there's hangover potion in the coffee, if you want any breakfast then come downstairs" he hesitated and his voice became cold and guarded, "if you want to sneak out and forget you were ever here, then I wouldn't blame you".
Hermione hadn't planned on accepting the breakfast offer, in fact she was planning on doing exactly what Malfoy had suggested and sneaking out. It wasn't till she drank the hangover potion that she remembered the reason shed ended up here: she had nowhere to go and she had missed dinner because of the situation the night before. Shit she thought and tentatively headed downstairs.
"So are you ever going to tell me what happened last night? You were about to explain how you ended up here and then you fell asleep" Malfoy demanded when he had finished his cereal. Hermione mentally noted that he had impeccable table manners as he dabbed the last droplets of milk from his chin with a serviette. He appraised her nervously, he wasn't normally this forward, but he couldn't exactly make small talk. It was Granger! He also realised that now she was in his home he felt somehow protective of the state she had been in and he knew it had something to do with Weasley, the prat, maybe he had ended things? No, a simple break up wouldn't have had that effect on Granger, she was far too resilient and independent for that, it had to be something else.
Hermione gave him a tired look, her head still hurt and to be sitting at Malfoys breakfast table after they had just had a, well, a sleepover of sorts was beyond confusing. "Honestly Malfoy, why do you care?" she asked.
Malfoy gritted his teeth, he had been waiting for this, the part where she remembered he was an evil death eater and she was the golden girl, still her question did deserve an answer. He couldn't blame all of his previous animosity towards her on the war. He sighed.
"That's a pretty long story Granger".
"I think I can keep up Malfoy" she challenged, taking a bite of toast to demonstrate that she wasn't going anywhere.
He smirked, he had missed sniping with her, she was the only person he knew of at Hogwarts who had been intelligent enough to entertain him with their wars of words.
"Guests first Granger" he quirked an eyebrow at her, causing her to huff in frustration. She was used to her friends backing down, nobody argued with her like Malfoy did. His eyes bored into hers and she knew she had lost this one, he had let her stay the night after all, he deserved to know why.
"HE DID WHAT?" Draco roared, standing abruptly and gripping the edges of the dining table so hard his knuckles turned white. His eyes flashed dangerously. "If I SEE HIM I SWEAR TO SALAZAR HE WONT BE MOVING WHEN IM DONE WITH HIM" Malfoy seethed at her.
Hermione was very taken aback by the intensity of his response and for some reason she still felt a perverse need to defend Ron out of sheer habit, but she knew she couldn't defend the indefensible, so she went for the attack instead. "You're not exactly innocent yourself Malfoy, how many years did you bully me for?"
Draco had to take a very steadying breath and remind himself that she could have thrown much worse than his school bullying at him. She hadn't mentioned his other activities. Still, did she really think he was that bad that he would abuse a woman, his own partner? He gave a bitter internal laugh. Of course she believes that Draco, they all think you're just like your fucking father. No one's ever going to give you the chance to prove otherwise.
His voice became deadly quiet as he stared her down "I guess I deserve that" he said slowly "but answer me this Granger, in all those years, did I EVER turn my wand on you? I know I said awful things but did I ever send a curse your way? When you punched me in the face, I had my wand, but did I retaliate?"
Hermione racked her brains and realised he was right. His words had cut her deeply, and he had obviously duelled with Harry and Ron, but he had never pointed his wand at her.
"Of course not! Because I would never raise my wand to a woman, unless you count my soulless viper of an aunt which frankly, I don't. I may not have had fantastic parents Granger, but my mother taught me that much" he said through clenched teeth.
So, Malfoy had a moral compass Hermione realised, a more than slightly askew compass she acknowledged but it was nice to see that it was there on some level. It took her a moment to digest that he had admitted to duelling with Bellatrix. Hermione didn't know what to say to that.
He lowered himself back into his chair, feeling exhausted. In less than 12 hours he had found a screaming Hermione Granger, offered her a drink to calm her down, she had ended up staying the night and now they were having breakfast together and discussing her ex-boyfriend. It was altogether too bizarre.
A sharp tapping broke him out of his internal rant. There was the tiniest owl desperately fighting with a letter three times the size of him, tapping furiously on the window.
"I don't know that owl?" he quirked an eyebrow at Hermione.
"It's Pigwidgeon, Ron's owl" she answered quietly.
"Don't tell me you're going to read whatever the asshole sent you?" he looked at her disbelievingly.
"The Weasley's use him as a family owl, it could be news from St Mungos" Hermione explained frantically running to let Pig in, forgetting that she had left that part of the story out.
"HE PUT YOU IN ST MUNGOs" Draco started yelling again.
"No, he put Ginny in St Mungo's" Hermione said impatiently not caring at that moment whether he understood or not.
That stopped him in his tracks, he couldn't have heard that right. Wesley put Weaslette in the hospital, his own sister? The thought of it made Draco's blood run cold.
"She's awake" Hermione gasped. "I have to get to Mungo's"
"Fine, well we'd better get dressed then, do you have any other clothes? No of course you don't, wait here"
"We, what? Malfoy what are you talking about?"
"Well no offense Granger but If I have to take you with me I'd rather you were a little more presentable than you are right now". "Trixie" he called and the elf appeared sinking into a low bow.
"Trixie, please bring down a selection of Mother's Day dresses, the more casual the better and help Hermione get ready. We are in a hurry" he added at Hermione's indignant look.
"Malfoy, I don't know what game you're playing but I am not going to sit around letting your house elf pamper me whilst my best friend is in hospital".
"well unless you would like to walk Granger you don't have a choice, my floo only works when I travel in it, a necessary safety precaution I'm afraid. Now I know how much you like to debate everything but I suggest if you want to see Weaslette quickly then you go get dressed".
Hermione seethed, Malfoy was speaking to her like a child, who the hell did he think he was? No, she didn't exactly want to stay in her muddy, tear stained clothes from yesterday but how could he care about appearances when someone was in the hospital? Because he was raised to only care about appearances Hermione she reminded herself bitterly.
Trixie the elf didn't seem to notice Hermione's reluctance, she was overjoyed to have a guest to dress and it was only the wide smile on her face and happy tears that kept Hermione in place. A little over 30 minutes later she was wearing a knee length white sundress of Narcissa Malfoys and Trixie had insisted in doing her hair in an intricate side plait. This is Casual?! Hermione thought to herself. She hadn't been this dressed up in months!
Draco had to concentrate in order to keep a straight face when she walked down the stairs of his home, wearing his mother's dress. He took a deep breath and extended his arm, knowing that the sooner he got her to the hospital to see Weaslette the sooner he could distract himself. Hermione reluctantly accepted the gesture and placed her arm on his, shooting him a very confused look.
They arrived in the main Ministry Atrium and Hermione froze, momentarily remembering her last encounter here when they had fled for their lives after Harry stole Riddle's locket from Umbridge. The disgusting Magic is Might statue had been torn down she noted and the whole place in general seemed a lot brighter.
Draco tugged on her elbow and stiffened when they heard gossiping voices.
"Is that Lucius Malfoy's boy…with Hermione Granger?!" a pair of elderly witches pointed at them gleefully. Draco met his eyes and Hermione knew he wanted to get away from the gossiping staff as badly as she did, god forbid the Daily Prophet offices got hold of the two of them arriving by the same floo. They would make every effort to turn it into something salacious.
They approached the main desk.
"State your names and business at the Ministry" a bored voice said.
"Hermione Granger, visiting Ginevra Weasley in St Mungo's" Hermione began. The bored receptionist raised an eyebrow at the famous names "Present your wand please Miss Granger and follow the…Oh! Good morning Lord Malfoy, I suppose you can escort your…friend?" The young receptionist looked past Hermione and batted her eyelashes at Draco flirtatiously, no doubt waiting for him to respond, and confirm that they were nothing more than friends.
Hermione was pleased to see that Malfoy didn't spare the young woman a glance and then she caught herself. Why should she care? Because it was shameful behaviour during office hours, she told herself. Flirting whilst at work was completely unprofessional and it reflected poorly on hard working young women like herself! Yes, that was why it bothered her, besides the woman was obviously just after Draco's money. Hermione hadn't missed the way she had emphasised Lord Malfoy, she had known the Malfoy's came from old money, but she hadn't realised he had a title, no wonder he had been such an entitled prat.
They had no sooner entered St Mungo's than a stern Healer in a white coat approached them. To Hermione's surprise he made a beeline straight for Malfoy.
"Mister Malfoy, what time do you call this? You completely missed the briefing session this morning! This is unacceptable behaviour from a trainee and especially out of character for you. Explain yourself!"
Hermione's jaw dropped, Malfoy was a Trainee Healer at St Mungo's? But he hadn't been at Hogwarts last year either, they didn't even have their NEWTS? His words at breakfast replayed in her head:
Well no offense Granger but If I have to take you with me I'd rather you were a little more presentable than you are right now
Merlin, she had made him late and now he was in trouble, she had thought he was just being a pompous ass as usual.
"It's my fault, Sir!" She said hesitantly. "He was here on time but I'm visiting a friend of ours and I don't know the layout of the hospital Sir, I asked him to help me find her room"
Draco's eyes lifted from the floor sharply, what was it with this woman and saving his ass? Now he was in her debt again he thought despairingly.
"Hermione Granger" The man raised an eyebrow and Hermione shifted uncomfortably, he was considerably taller and older than her and the way he gazed down at her made her feel as if he were a professor and she was about to get detention. "I wasn't aware that the two of you associated let alone had mutual friends" his eyes contained an amused twinkle and for a moment he reminded Hermione of a younger Albus Dumbledore. She refocused her attention just in time as he extended a hand to her.
"Dylan Trundwell, although here I am Sr Healer Trundwell"
"A pleasure to meet you Healer Trundwell", Hermione took his hand politely, "I don't mean to be rude, but my friend only just regained consciousness and I really am anxious to see her. Please do excuse me for rushing off like this". She spared a last meaningful glance at Malfoy. "Thank you for everything…Draco" she gave him a wobbly smile.
As she hurried towards Ginny's rooms she missed Malfoy's bewildered look at her use of his first name. Nor did she hear Trundwell mutter to Draco that "the Malfoy's are making very different connections these days".
"Hermione!" Harry yelled, marching towards her and eyeing her change in appearance suspiciously, "you're ok, we were so worried. Where were you last night? We thought you would come to Grimmauld Place or we would never have let you leave" Harry said to her in his Auror voice.
"I'll explain later, Harry, can I see her?" Hermione begged.
"Of course, you bloody can, what do you think she's been nagging me about since she woke up?" Harry rolled his eyes affectionately.
"MIONE! You're ok!" Ginny yelled, trying to jump up and hug her before a stern nurse placed a hand on her chest and pushed her forcefully back into bed. Ginny gave the nurse her infamous Bat Bogey hex glare, it was well known that anyone who pissed off Ginny Weasley didn't usually escape unscathed.
"Of course, I'm ok" cried Hermione, rushing to wrap her arms around her. It was only after the searching look Ginny gave her that Hermione realised she didn't have any idea what had happened between herself and Ron after she blacked out. Hermione was trying to find the words when she noticed a familiar ring sitting on Ginny's left hand and let out an excited squeal.
"You said YES! I knew it but still" she laughed and then rounded on Harry, "How could you not tell me immediately!"
Harry raised his hands in defence. "Gin made me promise!" he protested ducking away from her warily.
"That I did" Ginny backed him up, "It should be the bride's right to inform the Maid of Honour" the redhead said casually, a mischievous glint in her eye.
Hermione froze and turned back to Ginny with a distinct wetness in her eyes. "Really?" she asked.
"As soon as I get out of this hell hole" Ginny grumbled furiously and then, realising she had someone to gossip with as a distraction, pulled Hermione in eagerly, "Luna and Hannah will be bridesmaids and Harry has made Teddy a Page boy, although someone will have to carry him of course…"
Once it was clear that Ginny's skull was only swollen, not fractured as they had originally thought and that she would make a full recovery, the three of them kept to the subject of wedding speculation, deliberately avoiding any mention of one red-headed brother-in-law to be.
It was only when the subject of who would partner Hermione down the aisle was approached that Harry rapidly excused himself. Hermione felt like kicking herself, that was the best man's role.
"He should be here Hermione" said Harry angrily after she had followed him out of Ginny's room. "I haven't mentioned it because I can't upset her but I always thought…."
Of course it would have made sense for Ron to be Harry's best man Hermione swallowed, not to mention Harry would now be his brother-in-law, an official part of the Weasley family. It should have been a moment of elation for the three of them to share. Hermione found herself lost for words for the umpteenth time in the last two days, she could only wrap her arms around Harry and tell him it would be ok. As she did so she had a flashback of a throaty voice whispering those exact same words. As if he could read her mind, Harry cleared his throat and changed the subject.
"So where did you go last night?"
Hermione was about to respond with a lame cover story when she noticed a stampede of cameras heading her way.
"Miss Granger, is it true you and Draco Malfoy were seen arriving from the same floo this morning?"
"Are you dating Mister Malfoy Miss Granger?"
"What about you and Mister Weasley Miss Granger?"
"That was an intimate embrace you and Mr Potter just shared Miss Granger?"
"Does Mr Potter know of your relationship with Mr Malfoy Miss Granger?"
"How does it feel to have three famous wizards competing for you Miss Granger?"
Hermione looked beseechingly into Harry's flummoxed gaze and grabbed his hand. "HELP" she mouthed at him.
"This way" he mouthed to her with a glint in his eye that was worthy of both Weasley Twins.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may speak" Harry called formally, stalling the crowd. A hushed silence fell immediately, and Hermione could swear she saw some of the junior reporters salivating at the fact that they were about to get a quote from the famous Harry Potter.
"You have saved me from calling you hear to make a very important announcement". As he spoke Harry took Hermione's hand and tugged her arm, shifting backwards.
"It gives me great pleasure" he stalled, while they shuffled backwards further
"to inform you all…." he tugged Hermione's hand harder,
"that Hermione and I ." Hermione realised where Harry was leading them and stepped both feet inside the red ring that defined the apparition zone in relief, none of the reporters had noticed, the crowd of cameras had shifted with them and they were too busy clinging on to Harry's every word.
"are leaving!" Harry finished, snapping his fingers on the word "leaving". Hermione watched as the camera flashes disappeared and heard the frustrated gasps of the reporters as the familiar tug in her navel had them both landing on the doorstep to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
"You shouldn't have teased them like that Harry!" Hermione laughed. "They're going to want to get you back for that! I did wonder where your sudden affection for the press had come from" Hermione nudged him playfully.
"Well they can't run anything more than gossip now and they already link us all to different partners every week in Witch Weekly. Did you see the article last week that suggested I was having an affair with Fleur? All because she had a pregnancy craving and I took her to Fortescue's for an ice cream! Besides they got what they deserved, St Mungos is a hospital for Merlin's sake!" He sighed angrily. "Don't Worry Hermione, they can't verify anything with Ginny in Mungos and Ron…well, where he is… "he finished hastily.
"Oh Harry! We'll have to borrow an owl; we didn't tell Ginny we were leaving!" Hermione suddenly realised.
"I'll send a patronus to let her know what happened" Harry said "and Mione" he called, his tone hardening "while I do that, you can explain why all those reporters want to know if you're dating Malfoy?"
Hermione shifted uncomfortably, for a second, she had hoped he had forgotten what had caused their need to escape. "erm…it's a long story?" she hinted hopefully, but she knew Harry was too smart to let her evade the subject.
"Let's start with last night" he said cuttingly, all traces of humour disappearing from his face. Hermione sighed heavily. She was no longer dealing with plain old Harry Potter, her friend. This was Auror Potter in investigation mode and she knew that he wasn't going to let the subject go.
Authors Note: So Harry and Ginny are officially engaged! Yay! You didn't really think I would hurt her did you? :P What do you think? Should Hermione tell Harry the truth about her night at Draco's? Update coming soon!