It was the loud banging that woke her.
Hermione grimaced as a demon hammered out a brutal rhythm inside her skull. Her mouth tasted fuzzy and somewhat like the color green, though she hadn’t a clue what that actually was. It made an odd sort of sense in the muddled recesses of her mind. Her eyes cracked open before she slammed them violently shut again. Too bright! Way too fucking bright!
Her smothered groan caused the arms around her to tighten fractionally and she paused a moment, trying to remember exactly what had happened. She never brought her…bed partners, yes that was the appropriate term, back to her flat. And with the amount of sunlight assaulting her senses there was no doubt in her mind to where she was. A deep rumbling purr vibrated through her as the person holding her began stroking her hair, as if she were a cat.
Oh. She squinted as she raised her eyes to the man whose lap she resided in. Draco. Draco Malfoy. That’s right.
“Not to interrupt your sleep, which I think you desperately need, but there’s someone about to break down your door.”
“Hmm.” She uncurled herself slowly, wincing at the painful tugging of her various injuries. “I thought that was in my head.” Draco cracked a small smile and stood beside her as she glared at the wreckage around her.
“Well fuck. Only four people can even get up to my door-well, five now including you.” He grinned at the thought of her allowing him that privilege. “Could you possibly clean this up? Whoever’s at the door will flip their shit even more if they find this and I need to…” She motioned lazily down her disheveled body.
He nodded silently and pulled his wand from the pocket of his pajama pants as she turned toward the kitchen. A few flicks and muttered spells saw the room virtually cleaning itself and Draco turned to see where she’d gone. His raised eyebrow caught her attention as she chugged down a large glass of water and set it loudly down on the countertop.
“Shouldn’t you be getting the door?” He smirked as the banging continued, the shouts muffled behind the thick door.
Hermione shrugged, a mischievous glint in her previously dead eyes. Draco’s heart lightened as he saw that spark of life, his previous terror ebbing away slightly. “They’ll be ready to yell at me whether I answer now or after I’ve pulled myself together. They can wait.”
“And who, pray tell, is they?”
She smirked evilly and pursed her lips. “You’ll see.”
Draco turned back to his task as the last of the glass littering the floor pulled itself back together. He heard Hermione’s light footsteps as she padded up the stairs, presumably to ‘pull herself together’.
How did he get here exactly? Yesterday he’d been charming university students to use the internet for him and now he was in Hermione Granger’s flat. And not only was he in her flat, but the rollercoaster of shite that had happened in the eight or so hours since he’d stepped through the door had completely turned him upside down. He didn’t care about people, other than his mother, of course. So this newfound…concern for his former schoolmate confused him.
Would it always be like this? The calm after the storm, as it were. He’d never met a more perplexing, backwards, infuriating woman in his life. And yet, he couldn’t quite bring himself to pull away from her. Not yet.
“Are you ready?”
Her voice startled him out of his musings and he spun quickly. It was as if nothing had happened last night. She wore new clothes, her hair was down and bushy as ever, and her glamours were fully intact. She looked, for all intents and purposes, like a wide eyed artist ready to take on the world.
Wordlessly he nodded, his bare feet slapping lightly on the hardwood as he followed her down the hallway. His chest nearly brushed her back as he took his place behind her. The tension was palpable as she took a few deep breaths, the only hint that she wasn’t quite ready for whoever lay on the other side of the door. She pulled her wand from the waistband of her sweatpants and casually flicked her wrist. The door drifted slightly inward as the latch opened and the noise came to an abrupt halt.
Draco stumbled back as a blur of red shot through the doorway and latched onto Hermione. Of course, the Weasel. Which would mean…
Just as he knew would happen, Harry Potter stepped carefully into her flat and pushed the door shut gently behind him. Green eyes met grey over the shoulders of the two hugging figures in the middle of the hallway, but much to Draco’s surprise all he received was a respectful nod of greeting.
Wracking sobs cut through the silence that followed the men’s entrance and Draco turned his attention back to the duo in front of him, watching in utter fascination. The Weasel seemed to be nearly inhaling Hermione’s hair as he buried his face there, his arms banded tightly around her small body. Her arms circled his shoulders, her small hands stroking that red mop of hair as she murmured lowly in his ear and Draco pushed down that irritating twinge in his gut. If he had to put a name on the emotion, he would’ve called it jealousy. But that idea was preposterous. Right?
A warm touch on his bare arm dragged him from the depths of his musings and he turned to see Harry, who’d skirted around the hallways other occupants.
“Come on. Give them a few.”
Reluctantly, Draco left Hermione and the redhead behind as he followed the Boy Who Lived into the kitchen. A reflexive resentment welled in him as he watched Harry bustle around the room as if he’d been there a thousand times before.
Harry’s eyes swept around the living room, lingering on the almost too perfect order Draco had created. “What exactly did this place look like ten minutes ago?”
“What do you mean?” Draco refused to give anything away, though the knowing look he received unnerved him somewhat.
“Hermione used to be orderly and neat and allergic to chaos. Now she thrives on disorder. Helps calm her down, if that makes sense.” He set a mug of tea down in front of the blonde man and leaned against the opposite counter.
A few minutes passed in silence as they listened to the sounds of grief float down the hallway, both men lost in their own thoughts.
“Why are you here, Potter?”
Behind his glasses, the other man’s eyebrows rose. “Right to the point, I see. How long have you and Hermione been…?” He waved his hand around vaguely, unwilling or unable to articulate his meaning.
“I met her last night at her exhibition. First time I’d seen her since the end of the War.”
A slow nod was his answer as Harry seemed to mull that fact over. After a few agonizing moments that made Draco quite sure he’d like to pluck every single hair from his own head just for something to do, Harry spoke. “I’m at quite a loss, actually. I’m not entirely sure what you know and I’m wary of trusting you. Understandably, wouldn’t you say?”
Draco conceded with a nod and a roll of his eyes. “Believe it or not, Potter, I have changed since our Hogwarts days. Now, why are you and Weasley here first thing on a Saturday morning? Come to think of it, why aren’t you more bothered by my presence?”
“Well, I woke up three hours ago to him bursting into my bedroom, frantic and babbling about something. Quite awkward since Pansy and I were still bare arsed from last night. And-”
“Whoah! Wait! Pansy?” Harry nodded slowly. Draco’s face slackened with his shock. “Pansy Parkinson?” Another nod. “Slytherin?” Lowered eyebrows and again, the nod. “You-are in a relationship-with…Pansy Parkinson?”
“Yes. Anyway, I’m not bothered by you being here because she never brings her…men…back to her flat. So it’s not that way with you.” Draco’s frown and the slight flush on his cheeks elicited a small smirk from Harry. “At least not yet.”
The men sipped their tea in silence for a few more minutes, the uneasy companionship only broken when Harry glanced at his watch.
“Excuse me for a moment. I need to make a call.” Draco nodded absently as the other man excused himself.
He didn’t like how comfortable Harry seemed in Hermione’s flat. He knew where she kept the mugs. He knew where she kept the sugar. He even pointed out where she hid her favorite tea bags above the refrigerator as he rolled his eyes. Draco couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever be close enough to know those little things that came from years of familiarity. Then again, did he want to be?
Yes. The very simple answer was a resounding yes, though he had no idea why. If he delved too deeply into his thoughts, he was slightly afraid of what he may find. Therefore, he resolved to put that particular inner debate off for another day.
His tea was tepid by the time Harry returned and Draco glanced toward the hallway, anxious for some unknown reason. The dark haired man cocked his head to the side as he studied Draco. He’d changed physically, of course. Four years and a war would do that to someone. Yet the air around him had changed as well. It didn’t crackle with palpable disdain any longer and the ever present sneer he’d been accustomed to was absent.
“How long will they be?”
Harry rounded the counter and glanced toward the front door as if trying to discern a particularly difficult arithmancy problem. “Hard to say. Last time she did this they stayed glued together for days.” The horror must’ve shown on Draco’s face and Harry sighed. “Let’s leave them be. Come and sit with me on the patio. It’s a lovely morning.”
Lost in thought, Draco mechanically followed Harry’s steps, only emerging from his stupor when the sun nearly blinded him. He glanced around the small outdoor space he hadn’t known was there. It was cosy and he could see what Harry meant about Hermione’s penchant for disorder.
Plants littered every surface, choking the life out of the comfortable armchairs nestled in their center. Flowers burst in colorful blooms as vines climbed the walls, snaking in and around each other to create what seemed like a snarling mass. In fact…
“Potter, why the bloody hell does she have Devil’s Snare out here?!”
Harry glared sardonically at his former classmate. “It’s Flitterbloom. Devil’s Snare hates sunlight.”
“Oh. Right.” He scowled as he watched Harry stroke one of the tendrils softly, as if it were some sort of deranged pet.
“Come on, sit. I don’t have to be anywhere for awhile. Pansy’s gonna open the shop for us.” He kicked his feet up onto what Draco saw was a vine covered table, ignoring the small tendrils of Flitterbloom that stretched around his ankles.
“The shop? You and..Pansy-” The idea still boggled his mind and he choked slightly on his words. “-have a shop?”
“No, we own part of Weasley’s.”
“So, why can’t the twin do it? It’s his shop, isn’t it? As I recall, Pansy was always partial to shopping, not helping others do so.”
Harry’s head cocked to the side again and his eyebrows furrowed. “How would George do it?” The two men stared at each other for a moment before a light dawned in Harry’s eyes. “Oh. OH! You think-oh bloody fantastic! You think it’s Ron in there, don’t you?”
A pregnant pause followed as Draco digested his words. He blinked once and then again as he struggled to find something to say.
“I’m sorry.” Harry’s soft chuckle had grown into a full blown, if not slightly manic, laugh as he waved apologetically at Draco. “I forget how much you don’t know.” His laughter slowed until it morphed into barely repressed sobs. “There’s so fucking much you don’t know.”
x . x . x . x . x
“Have you seen Hermione? The Minister needs an answer today. She’s put it off long enough.”
Percy glared at Harry over the rim of his spectacles.
The dark haired man sighed and leaned back in his chair. “I haven’t seen her in about a week. But I know her answer will be the same, no matter how many times you try to coerce her. It’s still no.”
“I don’t understand. This is a perfect opportunity for her. She’ll have money, power, connections-Mr. Snufflebottom is the third ranking member of the Wizengamot.”
Percy’s insistence grated on Harry’s nerves, so he could only imagine how Hermione felt. After all, she’d been hearing it from most of the Weasley’s for over a month. Well, at least until last week.
“The answer is no. No, I haven’t seen her and no, she won’t marry him. End of discussion.”
Harry ignored the way his door slammed, knocking the potted plant on the shelf beside it to the floor. A quick ‘reparo’ and his small office was back to normal, though he felt oddly disquieted for some reason.
After their massive row with Ron and Ginny, the siblings firmly opposed to Harry and Hermione’s post-war ideas, he hadn’t seen anyone except George until Percy had barged into his office. At this point, he really had no interest in seeing his ex-friend or ex-girlfriend. He’d fought the war, defeated Voldemort, based his whole life around the idea of unity in the Wizarding world. So he didn’t understand why Ron and Ginny were determined to undermine everything they’d all fought for.
Testifying for Draco and Narcissa had apparently been the last straw. The evening following Draco’s trial, he’d found Hermione cowering-actually cowering in fear-as Ron screamed at her.
“Wait! She testified at my trial?”
Harry rolled his eyes and huffed impatiently. “Yes, but that’s hardly the point of this story! Just shut it and pay attention!”
Ginny’s haughty sneer had melted like butter at the sight of Harry framed in the doorway, his face twisted in near murderous rage. “Oh, Harry! We didn’t hear you.”
“Obviously. How dare you speak to her like that!” He crossed the room quickly and pulled Hermione up and into a hug. “She’s your best friend! What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”
“She testified for that bloody ferret! And his whore of a mother!”
He hadn’t thought through the repercussions of his next movement. His fist throbbed before he was even aware something had happened. Ron glared up at him from his place on the floor, his hands cupping what appeared to be a rapidly swelling nose.
“You’re out of line, mate. Narcissa Malfoy is the only reason we won the war!” Ginny’s mouth opened, her raw hatred ready to spew out, but Harry shot a menacing glare at her. “I may have been the one to actually do Voldemort in-” He rolled his eyes as the Weasley siblings cringed. “-but I wouldn’t have made it there if not for everyone helping me. Narcissa lied to Voldemort! Oh come off it! Grow the fuck up!”
Harry’s anger surged as the duo cringed again at Voldemort’s name. Ron staggered to his feet and Ginny moved to let him lean against her much smaller frame.
“We wouldn’t have made it a fortnight without Hermione. I’d say she’s due much more credit than I am for Voldemort’s defeat.”
Hermione’s soft laugh made the corner of Harry’s mouth quirk up. Ron narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, his bloody nose all but forgotten. “So that’s how it is, is it? Now that the danger’s over, Harry bloody Potter gets the girl. And his stupid ginger sidekick gets nothing!”
“What the bloody fuck are you talking about, Ronald?! I’m not a war prize! I already have the Ministry breathing down my neck about marrying some old pureblood bastard to show that ‘unity is finally prevailing’ or some such nonsense. I can’t-I can’t lose you. We’re best friends-the Golden Trio. Don’t throw that away in the name of pointless prejudice!”
“I did just as much as you did to help Harry! The Ministry doesn’t even acknowledge my part in anything-”
“YOU LEFT US!” For a moment, the only sound in the small room was Hermione’s harsh breathing. She ripped herself out of Harry’s arms to stalk toward the boy she once thought she could love. “You left us alone for months! And yeah, you came back, but you still left!”
Ginny cleared her throat after a moment, her harsh blue eyes narrowed. “So that’s it then? You’re taking some fucking Death Eater’s side? After all we’ve done for you both?”
The lines were drawn that night and without a thought, Harry and Hermione left the comfort of the Burrow. His heart hurt and his stomach roiled as he remembered the harsh glares that followed them out of the house. Molly, the closest person to a mother he’d ever had, was the worst, though most of her disdain was reserved for the woman beside him.
Hermione trembled as he apparated them both to Grimmauld Place, the dark empty house mocking them as they stepped through the front door.
“Weasley really said all that? Remind me to break his fucking nose again if I see him. Nobody calls my mum a whore!” Draco paused, the words he knew needed to be spoken sticking in his throat. “I thought he fancied Granger.”
Harry sighed again and pulled a face as he sipped his tea. He picked a small bloom out of the liquid and flicked it away from him. “Her god damn plants are a menace, I swear. He did fancy her and I think that’s why Hermione saw it as such a betrayal. She fancied him for years, but when he left us that year something broke in her. I think-” He paused again and Draco glanced over to see him squeezing his eyes shut. The shine of unspilled tears surprised him. “-that’s what started all this. This fucking downward spiral of hers. During the war, she had a focus, a goal. But after…”
“Harry, it’s been months! We have to…do…something!”
Harry raised his tired eyes and sighed. “What exactly should we do, George? Everyone at the Ministry is looking for her, we check St. Mungo’s every other day. Hell, we even have the Muggle police looking for her! She doesn’t want to be found!”
“But…why?! I can’t…I need her! She…she promised…” He trailed off brokenly as he collapsed backward to sit heavily on the sofa in Harry’s office.
The dark haired man fidgeted uncomfortably as he watched his friend fall apart. After losing his twin in the final battle and being nearly disowned over his continued association with Harry, George was at the very end of what he could handle. He barely ate, barely slept, and worked himself to the bone at the shop, all while pining for the girl they’d both lost.
“Come on, mate. Let’s get out and do some Christmas shopping.” The redhead lifted his head and glared balefully at his friend.
“What, are you gonna buy me something and then hand it over? It’s not like we have many people to buy for!”
Regardless of the many protests from George and repeated threats from Harry, they eventually ended up on Carnaby Street, wandering through the crowds of Christmas shoppers. Every so often one would stop to point something out or duck into a shop, but by and large the two men just reveled in each other’s company as they tried to forget the girl they both missed.
They rounded a corner to get to a small cafe they’d heard was excellent, only to be stopped in their tracks as a small person barrelled straight into them. A sharp squeak sounded from her mouth as she fell backwards to sprawl across the sidewalk.
“Oh! I’m sorry, Miss!” George bent and extended his hand to pull her up, but Harry’s arm on his shoulder made him pause.
The girl had frozen there where she’d fallen, her eyes trained resolutely on the concrete beneath her. She made no move to stand, no move to grab the green beanie from which her bleach blonde hair had escaped, and no move to look up at them.
Yet Harry knew her. He’d spent months holed up in a filthy tent with her, laid cuddled with her for warmth, studied together for six years and she’d been his best friend for as long as he could remember.
George’s head whipped around to stare at his obviously mental partner, but Harry’s eyes were firmly fixed on the women. Time slowed to a crawl as her eyes lifted, the deep cinnamon color shining with tears ready to fall at the slightest provocation. She was different, obviously the changed hair being the biggest difference, and yet she wasn’t.
She squeaked again as Harry bent forward and yanked her up, pulling her into his arms in the next breath. Harsh sobs broke the air around them as George draped himself around her back, his arms banding around both his younger friends.
“How-how did you find me?”
“You actually found her by accident in the middle of Carnaby Street at Christmastime?”
Harry chucked and raised his nearly empty mug to his lips. “Yes. George was beside himself. So excited.”
Draco nodded absently and let his mind mull over everything Harry had told him. “But she was okay then, right? I’m just trying to, I dunno, piece this all together in my head. She is not the Granger I knew from Hogwarts.”
“Well, that is not untrue. And, yeah she was alright. Not great. I mean, she’d given up her entire life and all her friends and she’d never gone back to find her parents. But she was getting on. And then…well…”
“I still can’t believe you found me.”
It’d been three weeks since the trio had quite literally bumped into each other and tonight was just like many others they’d spent in the intervening time. Some days they met at Grimmauld Place, some days they went to Hermione’s flat in SoHo. Rarely did they meet in the flat above Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes simply because it was smack in the middle of where she’d tried to escape from.There was hardly a day though when the three weren’t gathered together, much to their mutual delight.
It was Christmas Eve and they were waiting for George to floo in from the Burrow. Harry lay sprawled across the rug as he propped his chin on his hand and stared at Hermione as she stretched out on the sofa.
The fire flared green and George stepped into the room, his face split into a wide grin and his arms full of packages.
“Sorry that took so long. Mum wanted me to stay and I had to make excuses.” He paused as he caught sight of Hermione’s mouth opening. “Don’t even, silly bint! I’d much rather be here.”
He let the packages drop randomly on the floor and stepped over Harry on his way to the sofa. Hermione held her hand out expectantly and Harry chuckled as George shucked his sweater obediently.
“So,” she smiled up at him as she pulled on the comfortable cable knit and waited for him to sit. He dropped heavily onto the cushions and pulled her back down, her head resting in his lap as she faced Harry. “You’ve stolen his lounge pants and my sweater. Little thief is what you are!”
Hermione giggled as the Weasley twin’s fingers dug lightly into her ribs and Harry popped to his feet to join in. Her legs curled against her body as George tickled her, the laughter ringing around the small space, as Harry slipped onto the recently vacated cushion. He sat up on his knees and leaned over her body, helping George with his torture as she shrieked happily.
“You’re not helping me Potter. How did she get from that to this?” Draco snarled in frustration.
Harry tipped his head backwards and rolled it to stare at his former classmate. “If you’d just stop interrupting, you’d know a lot sooner.”
They didn’t notice the flames turning green or the shocked face that stared in at the scene. They did however notice as someone stumbled clumsily from the fireplace as more bodies arrived to shove them forward.
Hermione’s eyes shot wide and the boys froze as more Weasleys crowded into the room.
“This is why you left us?!” Molly Weasley’s voice rose over the clamour and the other two interlopers quieted. “THIS SLAG?! I never knew you could stoop so low, George Weasley! And you, Harry! Going around with a Death Eater whore?! This is why you turned your back on the family that has done everything for you since you were 11?!”
Ron stalked forward to grip his brother’s arm to try to tug him away, but George threw him off. His blue eyes were wide and frantic as they bounced from Ron to his mother and then to his sister, all three redheads livid. Hermione struggled to sit up, pushing Harry away from her frantically.
“Oh, no you dumb bitch! How dare you come and try to steal my brother away! What, like my boyfriend wasn’t enough for you?!”
Ron’s hand shot out and shoved Hermione angrily as he stepped toward her. “Don’t you fucking dare! You should’ve stayed gone, you fucking cunt! I-”
This time it was George whose fist connected with his nose and Ron fell backward, howling in pain. Molly stepped forward, but the frosty glare her son sent her way stopped her. “Get out of my house.”
The low growl that rumbled through him set everyone’s teeth on edge. Hermione stepped forward gingerly, her small hand wrapping around George’s bicep as she huddled slightly behind him. Harry stepped up as well, both men shielding her bodily from the three angry redheads.
Molly huffed and whirled away, nearly screeching her destination as she stepped back through the fireplace, clearly at the end of her patience. Ron and Ginny moved toward each other, their arms crossed over their chests nearly identically as they faced off against their former friends and brother.
“This is it then?”
Ron’s words hung heavy in the air. Harry hugged Hermione to him tighter as George turned to hug them both again. “You’re no brother of mine. Now get the fuck out of my house.”
Draco leaned back in the chair, batting absently at the vine twisting around his ear. Weasleys were a notoriously close family, so for George to turn away from them…
“He didn’t care, ya know.” Grey met green as the men locked eyes. “He would choose Hermione a hundred times over…them. I can’t-I can’t honestly believe how they treated her. And George! I mean, after Fred died…” Harry choked slightly at the thought.
“We all lost people, Potter. It’s alright to be upset.”
“Of all people, I think I’m familiar with that idea. After all, they all died fighting for something I had to ultimately do.” Harry shrugged and leaned forward again, his elbows resting on his knees. He dropped his head and ran his fingers through his already unruly black hair. “But yeah , that-that’s why she…”
Ice flowed through his veins as Draco slowly turned. He knew what he was about to hear. He’d seen the scars and knew enough to infer the horrible truth that Harry was about to expose.
“She tried to kill herself, didn’t she?”
Haunted eyes caught his own as Harry breathed deeply. “Yeah. And that was only the first time.”