Chapter 4: Round Two
"Harry, your tea will go stone cold" Hermione begged. They were still sat at the dining table in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place and Hermione had been talking for over an hour explaining the events from when she left St Mungos to her and Malfoy's arrival at the Ministry, carefully omitting the parts where she had fallen asleep in Malfoys lap and he had seen her in her underwear.
After several snorts of disbelief and frantically casting the Specialis Revelio at her to make sure she hadn't been confounded or worse, Harry was now staring blankly at her with his mouth open. Every now and then he would look back at her and his lips would briefly form the word "Malfoy", each time she nodded, and he went back to staring blankly.
She had finally decided It was best to just let him process, so she sat, tentatively sipping her tea and glancing at Harry every few seconds to check that he hadn't spontaneously combusted yet.
"Blimey" he said eventually, blinking rapidly for a few seconds.
Hermione laughed, "I didn't think you would believe it for a second there, I know I'm having trouble myself and I was actually there".
"If it was anyone but you I wouldn't accept anything less than a confession under Veritas Serum" Harry agreed quietly "but why do you think Malfoy was being so nice to you?"
"Nice is a stretch" Hermione said thoughtfully, "It was…decent…of him to help me but he was hardly acting as though he would choose to have me there, or like we were friends. He was probably looking out for himself Harry, I mean he's been on probation since the end of the war, how would it look if something happened to a member of the Golden Trio right outside his house?" She had to admit she felt a twinge of guilt saying this, it wasn't a farfetched explanation given their history or current circumstances, but Hermione couldn't honestly bring herself to believe that Malfoy's motivations had been self-interested. For Once! She snorted mentally, trust her to be the only witness to Draco Malfoy doing something that didn't directly benefit himself.
"So how are you feeling about going back to Hogwarts?" Harry asked breaking her out of her musings.
Crap! Tomorrow is September 1st! Hermione panicked, she was nowhere near ready. She didn't have access to any of her belongings and she hadn't even done any of her usual summer pre-study thanks to all the Horcrux gallivanting.
"It will be strange" she replied honestly, "I know Ginny will be with me but it will be different, still I guess it will be an escape from all of…this" she waved her hand in the air to signify the mess they were currently in.
"Oh shit, all of your things are in the flat aren't they, well…" Harry pondered "you can take a set of Ginny's robes with you at least, thank Merlin you're in the same house. Let's owl McGonagall about your book list, you know she won't mind letting you borrow stuff temporarily. It's a fairly minor investigation so I'm sure your stuff will be returned really soon, I'll send it straight to Hogwarts when it gets released" Harry promised, squeezing her shoulder.
"Thanks Harry" she said numbly. She knew what he was doing, Harry always felt the need to solve the situations he didn't like, it was what he did when he felt helpless himself, especially when said situations involved his friends.
An indignant screech alerted them to the presence of a large Tawny owl that had been trying to get their attention and, in its effort, had got its talons tangled in the window latch. Hermione rushed to help it immediately, stalling when she noticed the seal on the letter. It was a coat of arms with a large M at the centre and it was stamped in emerald green ink. She opened it hesitantly.
I looked for you at Mungo's after my meeting but I guess you left with Potter and Weaslette. I need you to know that I am returning to Hogwarts tomorrow. I hear you are doing the same. I have no intention of returning the items you left here in the presence of other students so kindly collect them tonight.
The letter was carefully toned Hermione considered, he had avoided being rude, just. However, he hadn't been friendly either, he had been polite but blunt and had allowed just a hint of his trademark sneer to come through on the paper. She sighed, she agreed that it would be terribly awkward and out of character for her to approach him once they were at Hogwarts. She hadn't thought he would be returning, not after everything that had happened to him last year, and what would happen to his job at St Mungo's? she wondered.
She scribbled a hasty reply.
I didn't exactly keep a note of your address, I hardly got there on purpose last time. I also recall you saying that I would not be able to floo to your house without you. Kindly propose a solution and I will collect my belongings as soon as possible.
She read over her words more times than she would care to admit before sending the Tawny bird on his way. Only then did it occur to her that he had forgotten to ask for his mother's attire to be returned, she was grateful for this as it was currently all she had to wear!
Draco paced up and down waiting for Agnek to return. He cursed when he read her reply, she was right as usual and it irked him. He had forgotten she had arrived by accident, as if she would ever have come on purpose you idiot. He sighed. Now he would have to meet her somewhere public. He didn't go out in public If he could help it since the war had ended. He may have been awarded diminished responsibility and put on probation by the Wizengamot but that didn't mean the rest of the wizarding population wanted him around. The Leaky Cauldron was only a block away. It would have to do, he only hoped that with Granger there he wouldn't get into too much trouble. Trying not to think about it, he scribbled a response telling Granger to meet him there in an hour and went to change out of his Mungo's uniform.
Hermione groaned when she read that she would have to meet him at the leaky, there was no route in Wizarding London that would have her more recognised than strolling towards Diagon Alley the day before the new school year.
Draco did his very best to remain unnoticed as he weaved through muggle London and paused outside the door to The Leaky Cauldron. He thought nervously about waiting outside for her but then realised he had no way of establishing whether she was already inside. Taking a deep breath and keeping his head down he edged open the door and slipped into the crowded tavern. He scoped around for a table that would keep them as concealed as possible and had almost made it when a bag full of books hit him in the stomach, he stumbled, throwing his hood down and revealing his trademark blonde hair in the process. The woman who had knocked into him squeaked in fright and backed away from him, shielding her children from view. The room stilled.
"Keep on walking Malfoy" spat Tom the innkeeper, who had suddenly become aware of the silence in his pub. "I can't stop you from going to Diagon Alley, but you know better than to linger in my pub". Malfoy kept his eyes downcast not wanting to see the disgusted looks on the patrons faces.
"I'm just meeting someone" he mumbled "I don't want any trouble".
"We're not interested in your death eater meetings!" a large burley man sneered down at him, slopping butterbeer everywhere as he tried to stand. The stranger was extending a hand as if to grab Draco by the neck when a sudden breeze made him jump. The door to the pub had flown open and, in the entranceway, stood a seemingly calm Hermione Granger.
"What on earth is going on? I've never seen this place so quiet" Hermione's overly bright voice carried easily across the room. She tried not to show how sickened she was by the treatment she had just witnessed towards Malfoy. Didn't any of these people understand what she had fought a war for? A war, that, much as she disliked them, the Malfoy's had helped to end. Keeping up her breezy façade she waved at the innkeeper. "How are you Tom?" she smiled genuinely.
"Alright Hermione!" he greeted proudly, evidently pleased that she had addressed him so personally in front of the crowd, many of whom were looking at her with awe. "haven't seen you in a while, you err, you might want to come back later though, once we've convinced him to leave?" Tom cocked his head and glared at Draco.
"Why would you do that?" Hermione frowned innocently at the room, letting her eyes fall delicately on Draco. "I came all the way here to meet him" she announced indifferently. "Fire whiskey or butterbeer for you Draco?" she called across the room, flashing an over-enthusiastic smile and ignoring the gasps of shock and dropping jaws. "Erm, Firewhiskey" Draco croaked timidly, "please" he added hastily.
"Two please Tom" Hermione continued and crossed the room to him before the Innkeeper could protest. The patrons were still looking between the two of them in confusion. As if to make a point, Hermione marched right up to Draco and linked her arm through his as she would have Harry. "Go with it" she hissed in his ear before pecking him on the cheek and sliding in to the seat next to him.
The two exchanged forced pleasantries for a couple of minutes whilst they waited for the stares to subside as people gradually turned back to their drinks. "Are you going to tell me what all that was about?" Hermione asked him.
"I'm not exactly the wizarding world's favourite person anymore Granger, I thought you knew that" Draco huffed. "I don't make a habit of going out in public".
"Well that's ridiculous, they can't just discriminate against you forever" Hermione started to rant but stopped as he raised a palm and gave her a shrewd look.
"Granger, I know you're used to getting your way but don't go trying to make me one of your causes. I'm not a house elf and I don't need your pity. This is how people see me, they can do it, and they will. I'm not under any delusions as to what the rest of my life will be like. I made my bed, or rather my father made it for me, and if I were you, I wouldn't go about associating yourself with me so freely. Not that you'll have any need after tonight" he finished tightly.
There was a silence at their table as the weight of Draco's confession lingered. Hermione had thought she could handle any situation, but she must have missed the "how to comfort a Malfoy" seminar she thought dryly.
"If it's so bad then why did you decide to go back to Hogwarts, I mean it's not like you need to get a job after school?" Hermione asked him.
"I didn't come prepared for a heart to heart Granger" he snapped. "I brought your clothes and I put a charm on them, so they will look like your robes, that way everyone will think you've just been school shopping". He hesitated and stood up, "You can keep the dress" he avoided her eyes.
"I can't do that Malfoy" she protested "your mother will be missing it" she reached out a hand to stop him leaving but withdrew it when she saw his eyes flash fiercely.
"What did you just say? You think that's funny?" he hissed and before she could respond he had thrown down a handful of coins and swept from the room, leaving a bewildered Hermione to wonder what exactly she had done wrong.
Harry and Ginny were waiting for her when she arrived back at Grimmauld Place. Harry seemed to let out a breath of relief when she stepped out of the floo. He clearly had issues with her meeting Malfoy, public or not. Ginny on the other hand wiggled her eyebrows suggestively "I hear someone had a date with Lord Snake" she quipped.
"It was NOT a date" Hermione and Harry said simultaneously.
"It was…. interesting" Hermione pondered, earning a suspicious look from Harry.
"That doesn't sound good Mione" he narrowed his eyes.
"Oh relax Harry we just had a drink, and he was perfectly polite, at least until I mentioned his mother, I don't know what that was all about..."
"Hermione…" Ginny looked aghast and even Harry looked slightly offended. Her heart sank, she instantly knew she had missed something important, and if there was one thing Hermione Granger hated, it was being the last to know.
"What is it?" she groaned.
"I can't believe you don't know this Hermione, Narcissa Malfoy was murdered the night of the final battle. Lucius killed her before he was carted off to Azkaban, it wasn't pretty and well…" she grimaced tightly "word has it that he made Draco watch."
Hermione covered her mouth with her hands, she had stopped reading the news for a couple of months after the war until her post-traumatic-stress-disorder had been under control. She hadn't been able to handle the constant faces of the dead staring at her in ink. She could see that Harry was also uncomfortable with this discussion. "I mean I don't like him but even I felt sorry for Malfoy when I saw the reports and well, Lady Malfoy got killed because she lied for me. She saved my life." Harry stared at the floor with a guilty expression.
"He thought I was making light of his mother's murder" Hermione whispered in realisation. "He told me I could keep this dress and I told him I couldn't because his mother would miss it. I didn't know…" she tried to explain.
"It's alright Hermione, you weren't trying to be insensitive" Ginny rubbed her shoulder comfortingly, "besides it's not like you and Malfoy were ever going to be friends" she stated.
"Right?" she asked looking at Hermione meaningfully.
"Right" Hermione agreed, but if her and Draco weren't friends then why did knowing she had offended him so badly make her feel like she had been punched in the stomach?
Authors Note: Poor Draco :( I actually quite liked Narcissa but you will see why this was necessary in later chapters. Hopefully you are enjoying the story so far, please do leave a review as I welcome the feedback.