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Hermione paced around her room stepping over a few dresses she had thrown onto the floor earlier. She was supposed to be getting ready for dinner. It was only dinner. She needed to calm down. Narcissa Malfoy would be there. Dinner with Narcissa Malfoy. She tipped over in her strappy black heels and fell face down into her bed groaning loudly. Draco had told her about this dinner a week and a half ago and she still felt unprepared. She hadn’t even met the woman yet and she was already on the verge of fucking everything up. Technically she’d met Narcissa Malfoy at Madam Malkin’s, at the time Narcissa had essentially called Ron, Harry and Hermione scum. According to Draco it didn’t count as a ‘proper’ introduction and his mother probably didn’t remember the incident anyway. Hermione remembered that day clearly and she could still remember what Narcissa Malfoy looked like up close. She was undeniably beautiful. Her skin was similar to Draco’s, almost translucent and essentially flawless; she didn’t have a pore or blemish in sight. Narcissa had high cheek bones and long lashes that framed her cerulean eyes.  Her hair was long and although it was blonde it was very light, almost as white as pixie dust. In that moment Hermione had envied her for having pin straight hair that fell smoothly down her back. Hermione didn’t know how she should act, what she would talk about and even more importantly what the hell she would wear. Narcissa obviously cared about image considering the way she held herself. Maybe Narcissa would hate her anyway. Or maybe not because Draco had told her that his mother acknowledged that Hermione was the reason for his sudden happiness. This was completely different from the way Hermione had been introduced to the Weasley family – she’d grown up with them and they were practically her second family. There were no nerves when Ron had finally told his mother they were in a relationship, Mrs. Weasley approved because she already knew who Hermione was as a person. Hermione wasn’t familiar with this new scenario of meeting parents, especially not with ex-Death Eaters thrown into the mix.

‘It doesn’t have to be this complicated.’

Hermione groaned once more before rolling over. ‘That’s easy for you to say, you don’t have to meet my parents.’

‘She’s looking forward to meeting you,’ Draco stated, his hands pulling at some clothes hanging in her closet. ‘And theoretically, if I was meeting your parents I wouldn’t be this caught up in my clothing choices.’

‘See, when you make comments like that it doesn’t help soothe my nerves.’

‘Do you need a Calming Draught?’ Draco asked with a raised eyebrow.

Hermione shook her head in annoyance and sorted through some dresses on the floor. ‘Why can’t I wear robes? Your mother prefers robes, doesn’t she?’

Draco scoffed. ‘The robes you have wouldn’t be decent enough, but be my guest.’

‘And a Muggle dress is?’

‘In this case, yes.’

Hermione held out a red lace dress that was sheer along the arms and around the chest, but with enough coverage to ensure that her neckline remained modest. It was safe. She tilted her head as she pressed the dress against her body.

‘You need to lengthen it,’ Draco said smirking as he pointed at the amount of thigh showing.

‘True,’ she muttered, heading toward the nightstand to fetch her wand. Hermione lengthened the dress enough so that it covered her knees. ‘Now?’

‘Decent enough.’

Hermione pulled the dress on, being careful not to mess up her hair which had been gathered up into a bun. She was about to ask Draco to help her, but he seemed to know because he was behind her pulling the zipper up. The scent of sandalwood reached her nose as his fingers lingered on her nape before sliding down her arms. She turned to face him, a small smile teased his lips before he spoke.

‘Red suits you,’ he said softly. ‘I was going to suggest that green dress, but my mother would have found that too crass.’

She caught sight of the beaded emerald green dress that was poking out of her closet. It was floor length with capped sleeves, a high neck and a slit on the side. It wasn’t hers, it was another one of Ginny’s dresses that she hadn’t returned because Ginny had insisted she keep it ‘just in case’. There really was no point to having a dress ‘just in case’ when you stopped appearing at events.

‘What do you mean by ‘too crass’?’ Hermione asked with a confused frown on her face. The dress was appropriate. She could’ve fixed the slit easily.

Draco chuckled at this. ‘You’ve really not made the connection yet?’

‘The dress is – oh,’ Hermione started before realising the implication of the colours. ‘Slytherin green.’

‘Slytherin green, indeed,’ Draco confirmed. ‘Mother would’ve thought I was making a statement.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘It’s not that serious. It’s just a dress.’

‘Paired with these it would come across as quite serious.’

Draco held his palm out, two pyramid drop earrings were resting in the centre. Hermione knew they were made out of white gold when she took a closer look – her mother was partial to white gold when it came to jewellery. No one would mistake the glittering of the earrings to be anything but diamonds. The entire front surface of the earrings had diamond pave while the other three sides were matte finished. They had to cost a fortune. Normal people wouldn’t just give away such earrings, but then again Draco Malfoy wasn’t considered a normal person. She just stared for what felt like more than a few minutes before her eyes connected with his face.

‘Draco, I couldn’t possibly –’

‘You can.’

‘No, I really can’t –’

‘You can continue being difficult,’ he stated in frustration. ‘I’ll just charm them onto your ears.’

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. ‘You will not. I have a say in what I will or will not accept.’

‘You will accept these earrings as a gift.’

A staring contest ensued. She felt as though she’d reverted back to being thirteen years old, glaring at Draco Malfoy from across the classroom during Defence Against the Dark Arts after he’d made stupid comments about Remus Lupin’s clothing. His face was blank, eyes unblinking and she wondered what exactly he was thinking because she wanted to jinx him to make boils erupt all over his face. She bit the side of her cheek as her eyes watered and then she was forced to blink.

‘I won’t accept them,’ she said, breaking the silence and crossing her arms. ‘So I suppose you’ll just have to charm them on.’

‘Of course, I wouldn’t have expected any different,’ he retorted, his wand hand swishing as he said the spell under his breath. The earrings floated out of his hand and pierced through the holes in her ears gently. ‘They’re just earrings.’

‘No, they’re just very expensive earrings.’

‘You’re the first woman I’ve ever met who has had a problem with accepting a gift.’

‘We’ve already established that I’m quite different from the women you used to surround yourself with,’ she declared. ‘And I don’t think either of them have made it far enough to meet Narcissa Malfoy.’

‘Are you getting cocky now, Hermione?’

‘It’s the truth,’ she said, raising her chin.

She believed what she was saying, but she wasn’t exactly sure if any of his previous lovers had met Narcissa Malfoy. From what he’d told her previously she didn’t expect him to tell her otherwise and when he kept silent she knew that she was right. Draco sighed, running his hand through his hair before responding.

‘Will you always act this way when I try to gift you with something nice?’

‘Nice is subjective.’

Draco groaned. ‘Let me rephrase then. Will you always act so difficult when I try to gift you with something you deem very expensive?’

‘Yes, I suppose.’

‘So you’d rather I gift you with absolutely nothing?’

‘I didn’t say that,’ she defended.

‘What are you saying exactly?’

‘It’s not often that I’m gifted with…luxurious items. I usually receive things that are inconspicuous.’

‘Sometimes you use far too many words,’ he began. ‘You could’ve just said that ginger git is cheap.’

Her mouth dropped open. ‘Draco! I wasn’t referring to him. I meant in general.’

He scoffed. ‘In general, those you surround yourself with are cheap? That’s not much better.’

‘You know that’s not what I meant,’ she snapped, walking away from him to view herself in the mirror above her dresser. ‘You can be such a bloody wanker.’

Draco appeared in the mirror behind her and she avoided eye contact with him as she brushed a few stray strands behind her ears. She had to admit that the earrings were beautiful, they complemented her dress well and she supposed if she had worn that emerald dress it would’ve been too obvious. Too bad Draco knew how to muck things up royally. Where did he get off on judging people because of how much money they had? This was the Draco Malfoy she’d known at Hogwarts.

‘Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.’

From what Hermione could see he meant the apology as he held her gaze. It wouldn’t do well to continue this row when she was supposed to meet his mother soon.

‘I don’t think less of people because of their financial status.’

Hermione’s nose scrunched up. ‘I swear that if you’d taken a Time-Turner and gone back a couple of years you would’ve heard those exact same snotty remarks in the halls at Hogwarts.’

‘I don’t doubt it,’ he replied, Hermione could sense his hesitation as he tugged at her hand lightly. ‘I apologise for being thoughtless.’

‘Good,’ Hermione said, pursing her lips before facing him again. ‘Apology accepted.’

She finally noticed that Draco wouldn’t be changing into robes either when her eyes drifted along his form. He was wearing a navy suit with a vest underneath hiding a portion of his shiny grey tie. She smoothed down a small ruffle that was starting to form beside one of the black buttons. It was a nice suit, the material was soft against her fingers. He looked a little uneasy, the side of his mouth was twitching slightly. She knew it that he couldn’t be nervous, he didn’t seem to get nervous. Ever. His Adam’s apple bobbed a few times and then she realised something. He was uncomfortable with apologising to her over what he’d said. Yes, he had uttered a sorry here and there for a minor things, but this was the first time he’d ever seriously apologised to her. She’d gone to school with him for seven years and not once had she heard the word sorry come out of his mouth.

‘I’ve accepted your apology,’ she spoke, wrapping her arms around him. ‘I know it’s…hard for you.’

‘So I’ve become an open book now?’

Hermione smiled. ‘Just a good guess.’

‘I would’ve been more of a wanker if I didn’t apologise.’

‘True.’

At least he was capable of sharing his thoughts even though he didn’t exactly expand on them. One of the main issues she’d had with Ron always came down to his unwillingness to share his emotions. It was like pulling out teeth whenever she’d try to facilitate discussions about their feelings in regards to each other. Thinking about it now made it sound clinical, but having lengthy dinners or trying to get along while they were on a date wasn’t exactly clinical. Maybe if it had been more clinical it would’ve been a lot less painful. For Christ’s sake they hadn’t even had a proper conversation about why their relationship turned into such a pile of shite. Instead of actually talking to her he obviously preferred going to the media to slander her – not that it mattered anyway because she wouldn’t be making any public appearances in the Wizarding world any time soon. She didn’t want to ruin her mood with negative thoughts, but she did miss having Ron as a friend regardless of their disagreements. Thinking back on all those memories they shared with Harry made her sad, there wasn’t anything she could do about it now. At least she still had Harry. It would’ve been such a pain in the arse to break the news that she was dating Draco Malfoy to Ron and she was sure that once he found out he’d still have a conniption about it. Not that he had the right anymore. She wondered whether or not she should tell her parents about Draco before she told her friends. They knew about the Malfoy family after Lucius had harassed Arthur Weasley in Flourish and Blotts. After the school year had ended Hermione had had to explain pureblood supremacy to her parents which wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Of course they were concerned and her mother almost suggested pulling Hermione out of Hogwarts, but Hermione had managed to reassure them that she’d be safe. Needless to say they formed a relationship with the Weasley family to ensure that they were kept up to date on all the news happening in the Wizarding world. Along with all the ‘dangerous predicaments’, as her father liked to call them, that the Trio had gotten caught up in at Hogwarts.

‘I’m surprised that you still haven’t asked me where we’re headed to.’

Hermione blinked. ‘My grave, obviously.’

‘It’s not that foreboding,’ he said, holding back a laugh as he searched her face.

‘It really is,’ she assured him. ‘I haven’t thought of where it is because I’ve been too busy trying to hold myself together before I fall apart in front of your mother.’

He seemed to find this hilarious, his stupid laugh easily falling from his mouth. She really didn’t want to smile, but seeing him close to losing it made the corners of her lips turn up.

‘This is supposed to be serious, Draco.’

‘I know, but you’ve started to do that thing that you do when you’re nervous,’ he chortled. ‘You’re in dire need of a Calming Draught.’

‘The only thing I’m in dire need of is you shutting up,’ she mused.

‘I’m confident that you’ll change your mind when we reach our final destination.’

He was quick to hook his arm around hers with a grin on his face. Before she could respond her head felt like it was being squeezed through a straw. Various blurred shapes came into view and she shut her eyes quickly. She should’ve expected him to apparate without warning once again. If she got sick all over herself she was going to kill him. No, she would torture him before she killed him. The scent of roses filled her nose as her feet finally made contact with a hard surface, his hands were on her shoulders to steady her.

‘If you ever do that again I’m cutting your bollocks off and I’m going to serve them to you in a casserole,’ she hissed, opening her eyes. ‘I swear on all that is sacred that you’ll regret that you ever lived.’

Draco swallowed and squeezed her shoulders, his eyes darting to something behind her. Before she turned she knew what to expect. This would happen to her. A situation like this always managed to find her. She could feel the blood draining from her face and she steeled herself as she turned to face the woman standing behind her. Narcissa willowy figure was revealed in aubergine robes with her light blonde hair cascading down over her shoulders. There was a ruby pendant dangling in the middle of her chest that was hard to ignore because of the paleness of her skin – the blood red gem seemed to glow. The woman before her hadn’t seemed to age at all from the last time Hermione had laid eyes on her. Her skin was still smooth and unwrinkled. Narcissa’s cheekbones were still as high as ever and her nose was perfectly straight. Hermione could feel her heart beating erratically in her chest.

‘Mrs. Malfoy,’ she blurted. ‘I am so sorry…I –’

Narcissa’s face visibly softened, her mouth almost turning into a pout. ‘Dear, it’s quite alright. I love my son, but he can be so uncouth.’

Hermione let out a nervous giggle, a smile frozen onto her face. ‘N-no, Draco’s quite –’

‘It’s very kind of you to…defend Draco, but I’m aware that his manners have simply vanished through the years. It’s a shame. He used to be such a gentleman.’

Draco groaned audibly beside Hermione. ‘Mother –’

‘This is precisely what I mean,’ she interrupted, her eyes narrowing. ‘You can’t even be bothered to greet your own mother appropriately.’

Hermione bit down on her lip to stop herself from releasing a more authentic giggle. She was watching Draco Malfoy get scolded by his mother, this was priceless. She could tell her wasn’t pleased as he tugged at the collar of his shirt even though it was perfectly in place around his neck.

‘Hello, mother,’ he bit out. ‘Pleasure to see you.’

Narcissa’s eyebrow rose at the change of his tone, but she made no comment and her eyes focused on Hermione again. ‘Miss Granger, delighted to make your acquaintance.’

‘I’m pleased to finally meet you, Mrs. Malfoy,’ she said nervously. ‘I’ve only ever heard great things about you. Oh, and thank you for those wonderful chocolate cakes you’ve sent over.’

She seriously wanted to bite her tongue just about now. She was fucking rambling, which is exactly what she didn’t want to do. Thank you for those wonderful chocolate cakes you’ve sent over? Really? She could see Draco from the corner of her eye with a smirk plastered onto his face. She groaned internally.

‘Ah, so you have a sweet tooth as well,’ Narcissa stated, her eyes scrutinising Hermione’s body. ‘Fortunately for you it doesn’t show.’

‘Erm. Thank you?’

Narcissa nodded before walking through the door way into the other room. Only then did Hermione realise that they hadn’t landed in a swanky restaurant, this had to be a house. They were standing in a hallway with moving portraits lined on each side of the wall. From the similar features within the frames the subjects had to be part of the Malfoy line. There was a window down the hall where she could see green fields and leafy trees. Draco’s arm wrapped around her waist and he guided her into the other room silently. A Venetian style chandelier came into view, the crystal trim refracting the light around the dining room. The walls were dark green with dark walnut trim along the baseboard and ceiling. A long dining table covered with a simple white table cloth came into view, there were a few candles hovering close to the middle. Narcissa was eyeing Draco intensely and Hermione heard him sigh as he left her side to pull out one of the brown leather seats at the end of the table for his mother. Hermione could still feel the smile on her face and it was starting to hurt her cheeks. Draco was gesturing for her to take a seat in one of the chairs he’d pulled out and she obliged quickly, a small blush appearing on her cheeks. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence to have a chair pulled out for her to sit in. It was an archaic gesture, but she had to admit that it was still nice.

‘I can see that Draco doesn’t do this for you.’

Hermione cleared her throat. ‘I’m sorry Mrs. Malfoy, but we aren’t exposed to formal environments very often.’

‘Please, call me Narcissa,’ she said, placing a napkin onto her lap. ‘I’m of the opinion that we should drop the formalities.’

‘Well, then I insist that you call me Hermione.’

----------

Draco was watching Hermione’s body language. She was still nervous. Her shoulders were stiff, her fingers were starting to play with the napkin in her lap and when she wasn’t smiling she was sucking on her lower lip. If he didn’t feel so sorry for her he’d be laughing. His mother had obviously picked up on it as well, which was why she let Hermione ramble on about the bookshop while they were being served cream of lemon soup. It wasn’t done out of malice. No, Narcissa Malfoy respected Hermione Granger. His mother would never use those specific words, but she’d already let it slip when she had invited Hermione for dinner. Hermione was right in her previous assessment, his mother never bothered to invite any of his previous girlfriends over. Ex-girlfriends that she wouldn’t hesitate to call ‘gold digging bints’ and as it stood Hermione was the only woman Narcissa respected enough to use her given name. Hell, they were on a first name basis now. It made him a little bit uncomfortable to see his mother absorbing information about the new books that had just arrived in a Muggle bookshop and she didn’t seem the least bit bored. She was asking enough questions to sate Hermione’s threshold for sharing knowledge with another person. There were a few interruptions on Narcissa’s side when she made comparisons between Muggle literature and Wizard literature that seemed to excite Hermione enough. Now his mother was animatedly talking about a play called Antigone and Hermione obviously couldn’t help herself when she clapped her hands together in excitement. Her nervousness was gone now and the smile on her face wasn’t strained. The way she looked was comparable to the way she acted while flipping through pages in a new book. Hermione was beautiful and it was a shame that people hadn’t let her know that more often. It wasn’t about the glitter on her lids or the artificial blush smoothed onto her cheeks. It wasn’t just about the way her amber eyes lit up or how her giggle could turn into a snort if she was amused enough. Everything about this woman was striking. Hermione knew who she was and she knew what she wanted. If he really felt like it he was sure that he could debate with her all day about the incorrect translations within Magical Hieroglyphs and Logograms: A Revised Edition II. He was also sure that Hermione could persuade him into accepting that the translations were in fact correct – with evidence to back up her claims of course.

Hermione wasn’t brought up in upper class society which should’ve been an issue for his mother. It wasn’t. Hermione was well mannered enough which shouldn’t have been a surprise to him, it was nonetheless. Narcissa obviously approved of Hermione’s perfect table manners. Even though they shared meals often it was usually a casual affair and neither of them seemed to care about etiquette. Not that either of them went about licking plates or shoving food stuffs down their throats. At this point both women were basically ignoring Draco. He didn’t feel the need to add in his opinion, he didn’t exactly excel in Greek mythology, but he knew the basic gods. Whatever his mother was discussing with complete interest was news to him. At one point Hermione’s eyes drifted over to his and she gave him a crooked smile. He wanted to see that small freckle stretch out, but her lips were painted red tonight. She was comfortable sitting there adjacent to his mother which was a feat, but this didn’t surprise him in the least. If he was honest he was proud to share Hermione with his mother. Hermione could be charming, she just didn’t know it and if she was aware she most likely wouldn’t exploit it the way Draco did. Either way it didn’t matter because she had enough charm to keep his mother absorbed. It had been so long since he’d seen his mother this energetic. She’d had visitors over at the Manor and she was always planning the next event, but it never seemed to invigorate her the way it used to. Draco knew that most of these gatherings had to do with Narcissa having an aversion to spending time alone because it made it easier to ignore any problems she had.

‘The wine, Draco.’

Draco was brought back to reality. His mother’s eyebrows had risen and Hermione had her head tilted towards the black bottle beside him. That was until Narcissa’s slender fingers held onto the bottle to pour a well-aged Cabernet Sauvignon into Hermione’s glass.

‘I must say that your hosting skills are deplorable,’ Narcissa admonished.

Draco scowled. ‘It’s impolite to intrude into a conversation.’

‘Perhaps you should tell Hermione about Septimus Cottage because you haven’t told the poor girl where you’d be bringing her,’ Narcissa stated.

‘I tried to tell her,’ Draco smirked, glancing at Hermione who was trying to pace her sips of wine before cutting into a cider glazed lamb chop.

‘It was my fault,’ Hermione admitted, awkwardly shrugging her shoulders. ‘I was a bit nervous.’

Draco scoffed. A bit nervous was an understatement. She’d said it herself, she was on the verge of falling apart. At least she’d held herself together pretty well because she hadn’t twitched herself to death.

‘It happens to the best of us,’ Narcissa replied calmly.

‘But when you say Septimus that is in reference to Septimus Malfoy, I’m assuming,’ Hermione said.

Of course Hermione would know about his ancestors. She was a wellspring of knowledge after all. This seemed to surprise Narcissa.

‘It is in fact in reference to him,’ Narcissa responded. ‘Not many people from your generation know of him, if I’m being honest there aren’t many people from my generation who know him either. I suppose I’ve underestimated you.’

‘They wouldn’t unless they’ve read The Beginnings of the Ministry of Magic,’ Hermione explained. ‘It wasn’t on our book list at Hogwarts so there’s a low chance that those in my age group are even aware of a Malfoy being so closely involved at the Ministry around the 18th century. I mean, it wasn’t outright said in the book, but it was pretty obvious that Septimus Malfoy was Unctuous Osbert’s advisor. They downplayed his influence, I’m sorry to say this, he was a huge supporter of the International Code of Wizarding Secrecy Clause 73. It wasn’t a coincidence that it passed with full support from the Wizengamot.’

Narcissa was speechless. It did seem as though his mother had underestimated Hermione’s understanding of history within the Wizarding World. Both her brows had risen enough that the loose blonde strands around her face had partially hidden them.

‘Then I don’t need to tell you that this house was a gift from Unctuous Osbert,’ Draco said, breaking the silence.

That wasn’t mentioned, but it makes sense,’ she nodded, her eyes shifting back to Narcissa awaiting a response.

‘Yes,’ Narcissa finally spoke. ‘Yes, that was simply illuminating, Hermione.’

After dinner the rest of the evening went by far too smoothly. Draco was of the opinion that it wouldn’t have been possible if anyone but Hermione Granger was involved. He didn’t know if Hermione picked up on it yet, but his mother adored her. Narcissa Malfoy didn’t give house tours and she wasn’t a touchy feely person unless she was around her family. Lo and behold his mother had shown Hermione around the cottage and she didn’t hesitate to pat Hermione’s arm or pull her into a hug. Before the flames in the brick fireplace had turned green and engulfed his mother she’d tried to set up a time for tea – Draco had interrupted to tell her he would owl her later on.

‘You’re trying to get rid of me,’ she remarked in an unaffected tone.

‘Mother, it’s late.’

‘Hermione, I will be owling you and don’t you let Draco interfere!’

Hermione giggled much to his dismay. ‘He won’t. Goodnight again, Narcissa.’

‘Draco, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you should be honoured to be in her presence. Malfoy Manor!’

Narcissa was gone and Draco groaned.

‘What did she mean by that? Has she really said that about me before?’ Hermione asked in awe, as if his mother hadn’t tended to her every need that night.

‘Do I really have to answer that?’ he snorted, taking a seat on the dark chocolate couch.

‘I’m – wow. She’s amazing.’

‘Merlin…’

Hermione frowned. ‘Shouldn’t you be happy that we’ve gotten on quite well?’

‘Hermione, I would say that you’ve gotten along very well,’ he said. ‘Much better than either of us would’ve expected.’

‘I wasn’t expecting it to be a complete disaster –’

‘I wasn’t referring to you,’ he muttered, looking up at her.

‘Oh.’

 Hermione sank down beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. He sighed. He was glad that his mother liked Hermione, he really was. What he wasn’t looking forward to were the plans that she would make for them as she tended to get carried away. Draco wanted to take things slow and if it had been up to him he would’ve waited a few more months to introduce Hermione to his mother. He hadn’t quite recovered from his mother trying to push Astoria Greengrass and him together because she was close with the Greengrass family. There really wasn’t anything remarkable about Astoria. She was conventionally pretty at least, but she was also as dumb as a pile of rocks. She’d tried a few times to seduce him when they were alone and it might’ve worked if he didn’t have to hear her whiny voice coo in his ear. He could hardly talk to her, let alone stay in the same room as her. His mother had set up dates and family get-togethers that were simply painful. Somehow her sister Daphne was even thicker than Astoria, how either of them managed to graduate from Hogwarts was a mystery. They’d gotten their looks and their lack of smarts from their mother Andra, a witch who was so utterly dull he wasn’t exactly sure what his mother had seen in her. If his mother brought up marriage again he didn’t know what he would do. The last time he’d glared enough that it shut her and then he’d fucked a few socialites to make his point that he wouldn’t be marrying anyone any time soon.

‘Is this upsetting you?’

He shook his head and leaned back. ‘No, my mother can just get carried away.’

‘She’s really different, Draco.’

Considering Hermione had last seen her in person when barmy Bellatrix was slicing and dicing away at her arm, yes his mother was very different. The fact that Hermione was willing to meet his mother in the first place was testament to Hermione’s character.

‘The War changed a lot of people,’ he stated. ‘Including her, as you’ve seen.’

‘You mean it changed everyone,’ she declared, sitting up to face him.

‘Not everyone,’ he responded softly. ‘Not my father or those who still believe in the superiority of pureblood. They still exist, Hermione.’

----------

Draco’s eyes were shut. Of course she knew that pureblood supremacists were still out there – why else would she have received those anonymous letters? It was a fact that the War did change everyone, but she wouldn’t argue with him over it. His father’s ideology hadn’t changed, but his attitude towards life had because he was never seen in public anymore. Pureblood supremacists were hardly as loud as they used to be because they could be reprimanded for hate speech among other things. No, the world wasn’t perfect, but it had changed. Narcissa Malfoy was a perfect example of this. Hermione didn’t know what to expect and if she did expect anything she would’ve expected the cold woman she met in Diagon Alley. Hermione was wrong. Narcissa had been anything but cold.

‘I enjoyed this, you know,’ she confessed. 

‘I could tell. My mother doesn’t just hug anyone either.’

Hermione smiled at this. ‘I guess I wasn’t in dire need of that Calming Draught after all.’

‘Trust me, you needed it,’ he smirked. ‘Your stuttering leaves a lot to be desired.’

‘You’re still here, aren’t you?’

‘Are you going to make this sudden cockiness of yours a habit?’

‘I should if it annoys you this much,’ she joked, pushing his shoulder.

And then he did that stupid thing he always seemed to do at the most inappropriate times. His hand enveloped hers, a little heat reaching his eyes and he licked his lips. It was distracting. His palm was hot against her skin and she tried to pull it away. His grip tightened.

‘What are you doing?’

‘You said I could hold your hand, didn’t you? You are my girlfriend after all,’ he reasoned. ‘With my mother’s approval and all.’

Hermione hesitated. ‘You want to hold my hand?’

‘I’m doing it, aren’t I?’

Hermione nodded and he threaded his fingers through hers. His nails were perfectly manicured as always, the green veins were noticeable on the backs of his hands and along his palms. Hermione was only a few shades darker than him, but when their hands were threaded together there was a stark difference. They sat there without talking, crackling from the fireplace echoed through the living room. The cottage he’d moved into was very nice – a Malfoy always had to have the best according to Narcissa. There were far too many bedrooms that would go unused because Draco would be the only one living there. How many ensuite bathrooms did one really need? The same could be said for the two kitchens that Narcissa had shown her. The kitchens were basically a dream come true. It was such a pain in the arse to find a kitchen of a decent size in her neighbourhood, granted flats didn’t exactly come with a kitchen straight out of an IKEA catalogue. The other room that had her drooling was the library and there were no words to explain the immense size of it. The archway into the room was filled with books that she didn’t recognize and when she laid her eyes on the far wall and the surrounding area she could’ve cried. It was a two story library with impeccable cherry millwork and a miniature set of stairs that lead up to the second floor. The four corners of the room had tall windows that let in natural light along with the view into the garden. This is what she imagined heaven to be like. She had to stop herself from nestling into the suede armchair in front of the black marbled fireplace.

‘You should know that my mother doesn’t give house tours either,’ he mentioned, letting go of her hand and stretching it so that her palm was open.

‘What?’ Hermione started. ‘Are you going to read my palm now, Professor Trelawney?’

Draco chuckled before tracing the line in the middle, she gave a small shudder. ‘You don’t know everything, Hermione. You could’ve learnt a little something from ovomancy.’

Hermione snorted loudly trying to ignore the tickling sensation. ‘Right. Just like I learnt something from looking into crystal ball?’

Draco smiled and shook his head bringing her palm up to his lips. It was a dry kiss, but the centre of her hand was tingling where his pink lips had been. Right now she wished she wasn’t such a shit Legilimens so that she could have just an inkling of what he was thinking. If Harry was correct about Draco being an Occlumens then it would’ve been easy for him to shut his mind from her, so it didn’t matter did it? Either way she’d never know what he was thinking. He was so hard to read most times. It wasn’t on purpose, this was just Draco. He shared enough about himself to the point where he wouldn’t be oversharing, she was glad that he shared anything at all. She thought he’d be emotionally stunted due to his lack of any real relationships in his life. He never talked about love or even really liking a person for who they were until he’d confessed that he wasn’t opposed to being in a romantic relationship with her. Would it be extremely inappropriate to ask him if he’d ever been in love before? Maybe he’d think she was implying that she was in love with him. Was she in love with him? No, not yet. She could be. And that’s what scared her. Being in love was too unpredictable and she relied on predictability. Having Draco kissing her forehead, her hands, her shoulder blades and anywhere else was starting to pull her into that emotional pool of unpredictability. The fact that he meant these kisses to represent something other than lust was making it hard for her to ignore. Holding her hand and tracing lines across it didn’t mean that he wanted to fuck her into the couch. It meant something else. It meant something more. She knew meeting Narcissa hadn’t been his idea, but he’d gone along with it anyway and that really meant something. She had to tell her friends about him soon because she didn’t know how much longer she could avoid the subject without it coming across like this relationship should be kept a secret.

‘You’ll sleep over, yeah?’ Draco surmised.

‘I’ll…yes.’

‘You seemed miles away right then.’

‘I was,’ she admitted, it was useless to lie to him about anything anymore.

‘Do you care to share?’

‘Maybe. I don’t know.’

‘Come on,’ he retorted, tucking a stray strand falling out of her bun behind her ear. ‘You trust me, remember?’

‘It’s just a question,’ she rushed. ‘And I don’t want you to think that it has an underlying meaning or that I’m implying –’

‘Hermione, just ask the question.’

‘Have you ever been in love before?’

Draco took a few seconds to answer. She was really hoping that he wouldn’t mock her.

‘I thought I was,’ he smirked. ‘But it turned out she was a Veela.’                                                

‘You are such a prat,’ she grumbled, holding onto the cushion beside her and aiming it at his face.

‘Do you always have such violent tendencies?’ he questioned after deflecting the cushion with his hand.

‘Only when it comes to you,’ she muttered.

‘If puppy love counts then the answer is yes. Otherwise, the answer is no.’

‘Who?’ she blurted out, suddenly regretting it when Draco’s eyes narrowed in her direction. ‘You don’t have to answer that.’

‘Tracey Davis.’

Hermione frowned. She would have never expected the name Tracey Davis to be the response to that question. She didn’t pay much attention to Tracey, but she never saw her around Draco. She’d been expecting Pansy Parkinson at least. It wasn’t a farfetched guess because Pansy had spent her time fawning over Draco whenever she could.

‘It was very short lived, so you can stop yourself from overthinking it,’ Draco clarified.

‘I’m not overthinking it, just to be clear,’ she replied. ‘I was expecting you to say Pansy.’

‘I’m sorry I haven’t met your expectations,’ he said coolly.

‘I mean, everyone thought you were with Pansy so –’

‘We were Slytherins. Appearances can be deceiving.’

‘Not even a bit of it was real?’

‘No.’

‘Pansy should’ve thought about becoming an actress.’

Draco’s eyebrow rose. ‘I didn’t say it wasn’t real from her side.’

‘But –’

‘Have you ever been in love, Hermione?’ Draco drawled.

He was such a bastard. She should’ve known that he would end up asking her the same question.

‘I don’t have to answer that.’

‘I’ve been accommodating,’ he stated.

‘Fine,’ she accepted. ‘I wasn’t in love. I was charmed by the idea of love, but I wasn’t in love.’

‘I know.’

Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘Why would you ask?’

‘To see if you’d admit it to yourself.’

‘You think you know everything, but –’

‘I don’t know everything,’ Draco sneered. ‘But I do know most things about you. I know that a woman like you wouldn’t continue sleeping with another man if she wasn’t lacking a connection in her life. That connection being love.’

Hermione started to play with her lace sleeve. She didn't have anything to add to the conversation, he was right. She knew was love was, but she couldn't tell anyone what being in love meant or what it felt like. Maybe she could tell them what the beginning phase felt like. Draco continued.

‘Your silence says it all, doesn’t it? Sometimes you think so loudly that I can pick up on it without meaning to. I usually don't comment, but this time I will because you seem to be blind to the facts. If I didn’t push you to ask me that question you never would have asked, would you? You’re scared for the same reasons I am and I can’t promise you anything solid. I can only tell you that I’ll try my best because that’s all I can do. I never let my happiness come from other people because it's unreasonable, but I’ve done it with you. I want to do this with you despite how illogical it all seems. It shouldn't make sense, but it does. I hold your hand because I want to. I kiss your body because I want to. It makes me happy. Waking up in the morning to have you snuggled by my chest while you look as serene as you do, that makes me happy. These are the types of thoughts that run through my head, Hermione. You don’t need to be a Legilimens, you need only ask.’