"That bas-" Ginny cut herself off. Yes, Lily was only three, but the girl was a sponge and she didn't want her to repeat her foul language. Again. "That was an awful thing to say."
"Yeah, well, it's Malfoy," Hermione huffed as she picked at a croissant. "Would you expect anything different?"
"Yes? I mean it's been how many years? At the very least I would've thought he'd gain some common decency."
"Obviously he didn't. I worked so hard not to lash out at him or cry or do both. Especially the last one. I've cried enough as it is."
"Hey," Ginny said as she reached over to place a hand over hers. "Ron was your husband. Not to mention he was your friend for years before then. You're allowed to cry as much as you want. We all are."
Hermione smiled and nodded in agreement. She knew that neither Ginny nor Harry were doing very well either. Better than her though...
"Thanks, Gin. I just hope that I never have to see Malfoy and his git face ever again. The arse..." Hermione grumbled before gasping and turning to Lily. Luckily the girl was too busy coloring to be paying attention. Ginny smiled.
"You know, I think this the first time I've heard you say something bad about him."
Hermione cocked a brow in the air. "I've said plenty of bad things about him. Especially in the last fifteen minutes."
"Let me rephrase. This is the first time that I've heard you say something bad about him since early to mid Hogwarts. You pitied him during the war. You didn't hate him."
"How could I?" Hermione countered. "He was raised in a horrible environment. Sure, he had free will and could make his own choices and all that, but you try going against your family and an evil overlord that lives in your house. It wasn't fair. The fact that he didn't turn Harry over when we were in his Manor showed a ridiculous amount of courage."
Ginny was smiling broader now. "Your heart is too big, Ms. Weasley."
Hermione chuckled. "I think you're right."
August 18th, 2012
It had been three days since his incident with Granger and it had been grating on Draco's conscience ever since. However, it hadn't been so heavy before. A nagging thought here or there. But ever since Astoria dropped off Scorpius yesterday, that "nagging" turned into an outright yell. He kept putting himself in Granger's shoes and wondering how he'd feel. Granted, the situation was a bit different. He was hardly in love with his wife as the brunette obviously was with her other half. Instead, he thought about what it would be like if someone had made a joke about him to Scorpius.
It made Draco shiver.
"Are you cold?"
Draco looked over at his son who had been concentrating his little heart out on playing with these little muggle block things. Legos, if he remembered correctly.
"No, I'm not cold. Just thinking."
"What are you thinking about?"
Draco sighed and leaned back on the couch. Scorpius' innocent face was showing so much concern for his father that it was melting him on the inside.
"Dad accidentally hurt someone's feelings this week."
"Oh. Did you tell them you're sorry?"
Draco smiled. "She's not going to want to see me, kiddo."
"Send an owl."
"She'll tear up the letter."
"But you have to do something," Scorpius pouted. "If you're sad then she's sad too."
Now that made him feel worse. Not that he thought his son was right, however. Draco didn't doubt that Granger was sad, but not about his comment. She had probably tossed both it and him far from her memory that very day. It would be his reappearance in her life that would upset and anger her. But whether that was the case or not Draco had to do something for his own conscience. It would eat him alive otherwise.
August 23rd, 2012
Draco felt like a stalker. A complete and utter stalker. It had only taken one day and the right questions to figure out where Granger worked. The Ministry, of course. The Department of Magical Welfare, another non-surprise. And yet it was Thursday and he'd yet to face her. Why? Because the thought of walking into a place that had ran his name through hell and back was absolutely daunting. Scorpius had the right idea when he had mentioned the letter, but how would he know for sure if Granger would read it and not toss it? A spell could do that, but how much would that ease his mind, waiting for the tip of his wand to light up to let him know that it was opened and read?
No, this was the best way. And in the past few days that Draco kept a close, yet inconspicuous distance from the Ministry, he noticed some things about the widow.
She was tired. Not the average, "I really don't want to be at work today" kind of tired. It was an exhausted kind. A tired of the world kind. And if he wasn't mistaken she also looked thin. Of course, he hasn't seen her in over a decade, but it still didn't look natural.
And so, here on the fourth day of his espionage, Draco grew sick of himself and promptly reminded his ego that he wasn't some pushover. Yes, he had kicked himself out of the country because he couldn't take the constant condescension, but he was a man now. He refused to be treated like a child or a common criminal.
After making a quick pitstop, Draco entered the Ministry. Despite being back for a month and a half now and, yes, going out in public, it was more or less to secluded places. This was a bold move on his part and clearly people weren't ready for it as he heard poorly contained gasps and whispers. It made Draco smile and, if possible, boosted his ego just a bit more.
He took the lift to the eighth floor. His questioning had given him a verbal schematic of the Department of Magical Welfare, and so he knew where to turn and how far to walk to make it to Granger's office. He ignored the stares. He passed over the glares. He tuned out everything, including a woman at a desk not far from Granger's workaholic sanctuary.
"Mr. Malfoy," the receptionist said. She stood when she realized that he wasn't stopping. "Mr. Malfoy!" She hurriedly walked around her desk. "You can't go in there like that!"
Draco was at the point of pretending people didn't exist. That said, nothing that the receptionist said had registered with him. He put his hand on the doorknob and walked right in. Granger was at her desk, as expected, but she was also in a meeting with the Minister of Magic so it seemed. It looked important, if the brunette's angry gaze was anything to go by.
"Ms. Weasley, I'm sorry," came the receptionist's voice as she also entered the room. "I tried," she eyed Draco viciously, "to tell him that you were in a meeting."
"We can finish speak later," Kingsley offered politely. Hermione, clearly annoyed, nodded once to the older gentleman who gave his own acknowledgement to Draco as he left. The receptionist left also and closed the door after her.
"No censor for your mouth or manners," Hermione grumbled. "I should've guessed."
Draco was on the verge of scowling, but then he remembered that he was speaking to a widow. A very recent widow. A widow whose husband he had insulted just the day before. He reined himself in and dropped what he had come to give her on her desk. Hermione looked from the brown bag that sat on her notes to the blond who had given it to her.
"You look like death run over twice." Draco nearly punched himself for his poor choice of words (again) and at how watery Hermione's eyes had gotten within seconds. "I mean… You look like you haven't eaten properly in a while. So...eat."
Hermione blinked, partly to bat away tears and partly because she was startled. With her gaze back on the bag she realized that it had a restaurant logo on it from a place nearby.
She looked up at him. "Why?"
Draco felt uncomfortable. He rocked back on his heels for a moment and had suddenly taken an interest in the knick-knacks in her office. Books, of course. There were also a lot of photographs of her family, including her husband.
"I didn't know that Weasley had passed away."
Hermione sat up straighter in her seat. "So...you're apologizing to me, not for what you said, but because you found out that Ron is dead?" Draco said nothing. Hermione felt her anger rise. "And you thought food would be enough? That it would be an apology at all?"
Draco scowled. "I didn't have to bring anything at all."
"You shouldn't have!" Hermione shouted at him as she stood abruptly. "You can't apologize with things, Malfoy. Money doesn't bring happiness or solves the problems of the world despite what aristocratic purebloods such as yourself believe."
"Watch it, Granger," he sneered as he leaned over her desk. Hermione took a step back but maintained her full height. "You don't know anything about me or what I believe. And in case you didn't notice, I bought you a three galleon lunch, not a bloody diamond necklace. So, take the food, accept the apology, and don't make this a bigger deal than it has to be."
Draco turned and began to walk away. He was almost at the door when he heard Hermione's voice, so soft and gentle that he thought she sounded wounded. Perhaps she was.
"You didn't actually say it."
He contemplated leaving. He could leave right now and never have to bother with this witch again. But his thoughts filled with Scorpius and it pecked at his conscience yet again.
"I'm sorry for what I said," Draco replied without turning to look at her. "And that your husband is gone."
He left right after that. Hermione was glad that he did. She didn't want him to see her break down completely.
Harry stared at the offending food item. Well, food items. About fifteen minutes ago he had received a tear-stained memo from Hermione that she needed to see him. He had rushed to her office, expecting the worst, not a well-laid out lunch that looked more like dinner.
Creamy mashed potatoes in an elongated bowl with a parsley garnish. Half a roasted chicken was beside it. A small container with thick, brown gravy was off to the side. Another container held a neatly prepared salad with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and mango pieces with a light drizzle of dressing.
Hermione sat with red eyes, her hands cupping her face as she started at everything.
"I'm losing my mind."
Harry looked up at her. "I think I am too if Malfoy's bringing you lunch."
"Not at that," she sighed bitterly. "I'm just… I feel like every little thing upsets me."
"What Malfoy said wasn't a little thing."
"He didn't know," Hermione replied as she stared at the elaborate meal. "And he apologized."
"With food," Harry reminded. "And not even for what he said. You told me so."
"I know. I just hate that I got so upset. That it…affects me so much." She looked up at Harry and frowned. "You and I lost the same person and I feel like I'm the only one drowning. And it's been six months."
Harry followed suit in her frowning. "Hermione, we're all-"
"I know," she interrupted him. "But it's still different."
While he didn't want to admit it, yes, she was in a deeper fit of depression than any of them. Some days she was good. And others…
"You loved Ron in a way that neither I nor anyone could. You'll just...grieve until you get to the point where you won't anymore."
Hermione grimly chuckled. "Do you really think I'll ever get to that point?" She sighed then and brought her attention back to the food. "Help me eat this? My appetite is terrible."
Author's note: Hermione is definitely one broken widow. What I like about this chapter is that you get small glimpse of Draco's own struggles too. Also, THANK YOU for the overwhelming response for the first chapter. I really appreciate it :). And to my two guest reviewers, I'm glad that you liked the first chapter!