Draco glared down at his Muggle clothes, already cursing himself for agreeing to this. No, not agreeing. Suggesting. He had done this to himself. And now, Draco Malfoy was standing in the village square of Godric’s Hollow, staring at a statue of Harry fucking Potter while his heart fritzed.
The wait was worth it when he spotted her in the distance.
His body blazed. Pale skin was not designed for the end-of-June sun.
“Was there no other place we could have met?” Draco asked as she approached. “Standing in Potter’s shadow isn’t my ideal.”
“Good morning to you, too.” Granger snorted a laugh. “I could have chosen St Jerome's Church, but I concluded this was preferable to the place we defeated Delphi.”
Merlin, no. St Jerome’s would have been worse. But not for the reason Granger believed. One would think he was a bloody teenager with the way his stomach churned like it was filled with pixies on an Energy Potion, not a forty-four year old man meeting a witch he’d known nearly all his life.
“This could have been avoided if you had selected a different farmers market,” Draco stated while they walked down the narrow road lined with thatch-roofed cottages. “Out of all locations in England, must you have chosen this one?”
“I don’t make a habit of frequenting Godric’s Hollow,” Granger answered. “But I felt it fitting that the food for tomorrow come from here. Don’t you?”
Draco could hardly think past this morning, let alone consider tomorrow. Tomorrow brought July, and with it, the return of the students from Hogwarts—including the recently graduated Scorpius, Rose, and Albus. In less than a day’s time, they would ride the boats across the Black Lake for one final journey, symbolically concluding their schooling like most of their parents never had the opportunity to do. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Draco had dropped off Scorpius at the Hogwarts Express for the first time?
So much had changed since that day, yet Draco never could have imagined that he’d end up in Godric’s Hollow— voluntarily —with Hermione Granger. To go to a farmers market. Sweet fucking Salazar, why couldn’t he have kept his mouth shut and let her do this alone?
Because you’re a fool, that’s why, Draco thought. A bloody fool who enjoyed spending time with Hermione Granger and had never before had an excuse for it to be just the two of them. No Potters, no children, and certainly no Weasley.
He snuck a glance at her left hand. The sight of her bare finger filled him with more joy than was appropriate, even two years after she had taken off that ring.
But today wasn’t about that. Nor any other day. Ever since the time turner disaster, Granger had become a recurring, not-unwelcomed element in his life, especially once Scorpius and Albus had started dating. Now, he and Granger were simply two parents buying ingredients for their children’s graduation dinner.
In the anonymity of the Muggle-packed farmers market, no one looked twice at the former Death Eater and Minister of Magic. Pop-up canopies stretched down the street, each one covered with different patterned fabrics so none of them matched. While he was familiar with the concept, Draco had never been to a farmers market. He tried not to look out of place as he took in the baskets filled with freshly picked produce and chalkboard placards denoting their prices.
“We have to be strategic,” Granger said as they passed a table covered with different types of cheese. “Best to do an initial walk-through before determining which vendors to buy from based on a perceived ratio of price to quality.”
Draco withheld a snort. Granger planned everything with meticulous precision. Why would this be any different?
Draco, however, was not Granger. When a display of perfect green apples caught his eye, Draco didn’t need to examine every apple at the market to know one of these would sufficiently sate his grumbling stomach.
He selected a particularly shiny one from the top then removed his money clip and handed the vendor one of the colourful Muggle banknotes.
“Keep the change.”
Based on how many times the man said thank you, it must have been a considerable amount.
“Perhaps I should be the one in charge of transactions,” Granger said once they had moved to the next stall. “Unless you purposefully gave that man the equivalent of five Galleons for a single apple?”
Draco took a bite from the delectably crisp fruit. “Not the worst five Galleons I’ve ever spent.” A taunting grin pulled the edges of his lips. “Though I somehow get the sense that you would prefer to be the one in charge?”
“I wouldn’t call it a preference,” she dismissed. “Just an observational conclusion based on the fact that I am substantially more knowledgeable on the topic and would therefore be the best person to handle such matters.”
“Ah, so you consider me to be Muggle illiterate and in need of your command?”
Her cheeks turned rosy, but she didn’t argue otherwise. They were far past the point of knowing that Granger had a penchant for control. Not that Draco had ever complained. Or at least, not in recent memory. Three and a half years had passed since they’d first visited this village together, and he still mildly enjoyed being bossed around by Hermione Granger. There was something undeniably attractive about a witch who wielded confidence with every directive.
No, not attractive.
Not that admiring something about Hermione Granger was much better. She was Rose’s mother. Albus’ aunt. And yet, thoughts like these continued to creep up every time he and Granger had crossed paths the past several months .
“How about a compromise?” Granger proposed, pulling his attention back to her—not that it had ever travelled far off of her. “You can be responsible for finding something else for the side dishes. That way, we both have something we’re in charge of.”
Just like that, Draco grinned again. “Sure you’re capable of giving up that much control?”
“I’m a rubbish cook, even thinking up meals, so you’d be doing me a favour,” she stated in a rare admission of imperfection. “There’s a reason I’m tasked with buying the food. Ever since the hot cross bun fiasco of Easter 2012, Molly won’t let me anywhere near her kitchen. So she’s the one you’ll have to answer to if you choose poorly.”
“Hot cross bun fiasco?” His interest piqued. “Care to elaborate?”
Granger groaned. “Let’s just say that, by the time I was ushered out of there, it looked like a Weasley Winter Wonderland in a Bottle had exploded in the kitchen.”
Now that sounded like a Burrow holiday Draco wouldn’t have minded attending.
It took them just under half an hour to complete their initial perusal and an additional ten minutes for Granger to decide which vendors worthy of their business. They returned to a stall halfway down the market, and Granger began smelling the tomatoes for the lasagnes Mrs Weasley planned to make. Meanwhile, Draco still wasn’t sure what to select for a side dish. Lasagne wasn’t exactly a frequent entrée in the Malfoy household. How was he supposed to know what paired well with it?
He got an idea when he spotted the long, green vegetables standing inside a wicker basket.
“Hermione, what do you think of these zucchini?”
Granger stalled her tomato sniffing, attention jerked towards him.
He hadn’t meant to call her Hermione, though this wasn’t the first time. He occasionally liked testing it out. Seeing how it felt on his tongue. How she reacted to him calling her that. She had never reacted adversely before.
And yet, she gaped at him.
“What did you just call them?”
Fuck. He preferred when he thought her reaction was about the use of her given name.
“They have two names, Granger,” he defended before she had the chance to debate him. “My first governess was American. Some words stuck.”
Granger snickered. “Do you also prefer your scones cut in triangles and with something like blueberries thrown in?”
Draco snatched a plastic container of blueberries just to spite her. He could enjoy whatever he bloody well pleased.
As the vendor calculated the total of their purchases, she blinked at Draco when he said they had six kilograms of tomatoes, a container of blueberries, and nine zucchini.
“Do you mean courgettes?”
Granger didn’t even try to stifle her laugh as she handed the vendor the Muggle currency.
“For the record, they were called zucchinis first,” Draco argued once Granger had placed their groceries into a canvas tote bag enhanced with an Undetectable Extension Charm. She made to sling it over her shoulder, but Draco took hold and carried it instead.
Granger smiled, and his resolve promptly melted.
“If we’re going to be technical about this, then from now on, I will exclusively refer to them by their scientific name, Cucurbita pepo.”
Blast him with a Stinging Hex. Why did he find that retort so outright adorable? Merlin, he couldn’t remember the last time he had considered anything about a witch ‘ adorable.’ It had been years. Years.
A foreign feeling twisted inside his gut.
Draco peered down at his left hand where a wedding band still rested. Nearly five years after Astoria’s passing, he still wore it daily. He had never thought to take it off. The ring was a part of him, just as her memory was. Yet with each rising sun, Draco found himself longing for someone new to share those days with.
Or perhaps, someone not so new.
When he glanced at the witch next to him, Draco’s heart swelled. Granger mumbled beneath her breath as she reviewed their shopping list. In her jeans and sleeveless blouse, she looked like any other ordinary woman, not the most powerful witch in all of Wizarding Britain. Yet she addressed that list with the same intensity Draco suspected she approached her daily duties as Minister, from the fierce focus of her warm brown gaze to the subtle wrinkle of her nose.
Gods damn it. That was adorable, too.
“We still need bell peppers, garlic, and string beans,” she said after folding the list back into her pocket. “Anything else you need for your Cucurbita pepo?”
A weaker man would have faltered at the sound of her tease and the light in her eyes, but Draco held strong.
“How about some Parmigiano Reggiano? Think we can find that here?”
The sound of her snicker flooded him with joy. “I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for knock-off, regular parmesan like the rest of us plebeians.”
Draco feigned disgust. “Only if I must.”
The sun rose higher, and the crowd thinned now that the morning rush had ended. It didn’t take long to purchase the remainder of their ingredients, though the time still passed faster than Draco expected. Start to finish, their shopping trip hardly took longer than an hour. Granger checked off the final item, but when she asked for the tote bag, Draco clasped it tighter.
“Would you like to grab lunch?”
Lunch? Had he honestly suggested lunch? It was barely past eleven. Not to mention that Granger was a busy witch. Surely she had other obligations for the remainder of her Sunday.
An easy smile curled her lips. “Actually, that sounds nice.”
Suddenly, the day felt even brighter.
Draco regretted his decision near-immediately.
Lunch started fine: just a witch and a wizard sitting together on a pub patio. The menu was nothing extraordinary, not that it bothered Draco. With the way his stomach knotted, he doubted he’d be able to eat much anyway. It was his own damn mistake for taking the seat facing St Jerome’s Church.
How bloody fantastic. Draco was actively trying not to think about that night. This was a platonic meal between two friends. He didn’t need any more reminders about certain thoughts that insisted on straying elsewhere.
Even after their meals arrived, his brain couldn’t help but fixate on the fact that he was at a table with just him and Hermione Granger.
“Hard to believe our children are already graduating, isn’t it?”
Their children. That was a safe conversation topic.
“And how does it feel knowing that the Malfoy beat the Granger this time?”
“Yes, yes,” Draco conceded, though he would have preferred no allusions to her ex-husband. “Twenty years ago, who could have predicted that our children would have ended up Head Boy and Head Girl the same year?”
“Certainly not Trelawney,” Granger said through a snorted laugh. “Though I think it became quite obvious as soon as those two set foot into Hogwarts. Rose was intent on being Head Girl since the moment her magical abilities showed.”
Draco chuckled. “Not too different from her mother, I suspect.”
“Except I never became Head Girl.”
“Only because you turned it down.”
“It wasn’t my year anymore.”
“You deserved it more than me.”
His inadvertent admission hung in the air, and with it, the unspoken history. Draco had been Head Boy his final year at Hogwarts—the year she wasn’t permitted to return, compelling her to complete her schooling only after her side had won.
Dread dripped through Draco’s veins when she didn’t say anything. The war ended over twenty-five years ago, but what if it was still too soon to bring up?
Several moments passed before Granger set down her silverware, a curious glint in her gaze. “Do you ever wonder what it would have been like if we had been Heads together?”
That was not the question he imagined her asking.
“If the Second War never happened,” she continued. “If we could have been two normal students.”
“This better not be how you tell me the Ministry found another illegal time turner,” Draco quipped, though the joke sounded flat even to his own ears.
“It’s just a hypothetical,” Granger returned with a shrug. “I find it hard to believe you haven’t wondered the same thing.”
Curse her for being correct. His whole seventh year, Draco had fantasised about what his life would have been like in another timeline: one in which he hadn’t taken the Dark Mark or the Dark Lord had never resurrected. But as Draco had learned, timelines were better left unaltered.
He cleared his throat, lunch laid forgotten on his plate. “I’m the man I am now because of my past—errors and all. I don’t see how our relationship in an alternate seventh-year could have been any different if the war never happened. I only realised my mistakes when it was too late. And only became a better man because Astoria—”
His words slipped away. To even think about a life without Astoria was impossible. She had been his light in the darkness. The lighthouse that had guided his route ashore when the fog of regret threatened to keep him lost at sea forever. As Scorpius told him an alternate timeline Draco once said, Astoria made his world less murky.
His eyes drifted to the Goblin-made platinum band. He could feel Granger looking at it, too.
“I may not like everything in my past, but I accept it.” The words came out slow. Steady. “The only thing I can do is continue to move forward.”
He brushed his thumb over the cool metal as a swell of silence filled the space between them.
“It must be hard.”
Draco peered up, only to find Granger’s gaze locked on the ring.
“It’s gotten easier,” he said, drawing his hands into his lap. “The first year… I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was a grieving mess, as was Scorpius. As much as I tried, I couldn’t reach him. If he hadn’t had Albus, I’m not sure what would have happened.”
Another silent beat.
“But what about you? Who do you have?”
“I have Scorpius.” The only family he had left.
“But Scorpius has been gone most of the year,” she countered. Not maliciously. A statement of fact. One Draco was well aware of. “And he still won’t be around all the time even now that they’re graduating.”
Another fact he was well aware of.
His insides clenched.
“I long ago learned how to deal with being alone.”
Granger looked surprised. Startled, even.
“But you’re not alone,” she protested. “At the very least, you have me.”
If Draco had been mid-bite, he would have choked.
His own surprise must have been evident, for a pink flush Draco swore hadn’t been there a few seconds earlier now adorned her cheeks.
“Or rather, I hope you know that you have me.” Her blush turned more prominent. “I wouldn’t have accepted your offer to come if I didn’t want to spend more time with you, Draco.”
A tightness seized his chest and claimed his heart captive. It wasn’t new that she called him Draco. She’d been doing that for years. But something about the way she said it then—so soft, so earnest—made it sound different from all those other times. Yet it was the affirmation that she wanted to spend time with Draco that caused the walls he had felt himself rebuilding start to crumble and crash.
Newfound confidence bolstered his words. “Is that an admission that Hermione Granger likes Draco Malfoy?”
Shit. He hadn’t meant for the question to come out like that. Too obvious. Too presumptive. Too much.
Somehow, miraculously, she didn’t call him out on it. She merely laughed, her petal-pink lips spreading into a smile.
“If I’m willing to put up with you calling courgettes by the wrong name, then I must actually like you.”
His heart soared while his mind tried not to make any premature conclusions. What type of “like?” Just a platonic “we’re friends” tolerance or was there the potential of something more? In his current state, Draco would happily accept either, but he knew which one he would prefer.
A loud series of dings and chimes from her side of the table promptly prevented any answer to his questions. Her laughter quickly faded as Hermione reached into her pocket and pulled out what Draco recognised to be a Muggle mobile phone. She excused herself from the table to answer the call, leaving Draco with a clear, unobstructed view of St Jerome’s Church.
Seriously, was that building going to taunt him all day?
When Hermione returned several minutes later, she seemed distracted.
“I have to go,” she rushed to say while rapidly tapping her fingers against the mobile screen.
Draco stood with her. “Everything okay?”
“Urgent Ministry business.”
She slid the mobile into her pocket then swooped down to collect the tote bag of groceries, but Draco grabbed it first.
“Don’t worry about these,” he said. “I’ll drop them off.”
Relief flooded her face. “You’re a lifesaver.” She took one last sip of water then placed a hurried kiss on his cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Errant heartbeats echoed in his ears for several frozen seconds after Hermione left. She had never done that before.
Draco brushed his palm over the skin where her lips had just been. He was still unaccustomed to the feel of his bare face after he had shaved off his goatee a couple months prior. It had been worth it for the way Hermione’s eyes had illuminated with a blend of shock and appreciation the first time she’d seen him without it. Not that overhearing her say she wasn’t a fan of facial hair had been his impetus for shaving it off.
Oh, for Merlin’s sake, who was he trying to fool? Of course that’s why he had done it.
Not bothering to finish his meal or wait for the check, Draco laid down what was most certainly far too much Muggle currency before stalking away from the pub. As he walked towards the Apparition point, his eyes never fell off of St Jerome’s.
Memory of that night played out clearly: three and a half years ago in his own life, but forty-three years ago in the timeline of reality. It was within those walls that Draco had first felt a spark of something when interacting with Hermione. His defences had been down, so worried about Scorpius and whether their plan to stop Delphi would work, that Draco hadn’t realised the sincerity behind his words until afterwards. He did enjoy being bossed around by Hermione Granger. But he also enjoyed just being around Hermione Granger.
Back then, those thoughts had been irrelevant. Futile. She was married.
Now, she wasn’t.
When he Flooed home from the Burrow and landed back at Malfoy Manor, Draco twisted two fingers and a thumb around his wedding ring. After five years, it was time to move another step forward.
An excited buzz loomed over Platform Nine and Three Quarters. Younger siblings chased each other through the crowd while parents craned their necks for the first indication of an approaching scarlet engine. Draco, meanwhile, leaned against one of the brick columns, away from the commotion.
He pulled out his Grandfather Abraxas’ watch then scanned the crowd for at least the tenth time. Three minutes before the train’s scheduled arrival and still no sign of Granger.
Hermione? Granger? Damn witch who kissed him on the cheek yesterday and hadn’t escaped his thoughts since? Blast it, Draco didn’t even know what to call her in his own bloody head anymore.
“Heard you went to the farmers market with Hermione yesterday.”
Draco groaned. Precisely what he needed right now.
He shifted to face Potter, arms firmly folded against his chest.
“Is this the part where you thank me for doing the shopping for the dinner you will also be eating tonight?”
“Well, yes, thank you for that, I suppose,” Potter said. “But I’m more interested in the fact that you went with her.”
A defensive fire flared inside Draco’s chest. “Can a man not appreciate fresh produce? I quite enjoyed the apple I bought. Though, I will say the blueberries were a tad on the early side.”
“And that’s all you went there for? Some fruit?” Potter’s eyebrow disappeared behind the fringe of his forever unkempt hair. “Nothing to do with the company?”
Ice extinguished the flames. “I do not know what you’re referring to.”
But they both knew that was a lie. For as notoriously thick as Potter had been during school, his Auror training served as an irritating disadvantage towards Draco nowadays.
Potter let out a heavy sigh. “Look, Draco.” He took off his glasses and cleaned them with his sleeve. “We’ve come a long way the past several years. And with the way our sons feel about each other, I don’t anticipate you’ll be out of my life any time soon. Your son makes my son very happy, and that’s all I care about.” His glasses slipped back into place. “So if there’s anyone else in my life you could also make happy… I’m just saying I wouldn’t be against it.”
Draco must not have heard right. Or perhaps this was an imposter Potter using Polyjuice. Because there was no way Harry Potter had just implied that he would be okay with Draco Malfoy acting on any potential feelings he may or may not have towards Hermione Granger.
Unless Potter knew something Draco didn’t…
“What has she told you?”
Potter opened his mouth to answer, right as a piercing whistle cut through the platform. The Hogwarts Express chugged into sight and people pushed between Potter and Draco to get closer, jostling them from spot. Draco made to repeat his question, desperate to hear the answer, only for a certain curly-haired, pink-lipped, and damn fucking adorable witch to come into view.
“Oh, thank Merlin. I made it.” Hermione greeted Potter with a kiss on the cheek. “Just finished my Floo Call with the German Minister.”
She didn’t kiss Draco.
He swallowed his unjustified disappointment, silently thanking whatever greater power had prompted Potter to dismiss himself and grant Draco a handful of seconds alone with Hermione. He refused to give Potter any actual credit.
His hands hid inside his pockets as some inconsiderate wizard bumped into Draco.
“Everything resolved from yesterday?”
“Almost,” she answered, “but I told Ethel to postpone the rest of my meetings until tomorrow.”
“Ah. And you’re positive Wizarding Britain won’t collapse in the meantime?”
Her laugh danced inside his eardrums. “A necessary risk, I’m afraid. I couldn’t miss the children returning.” A smile pushed up her lips. “Among other things.”
Had Draco blinked, he would have missed the fleeting sparkle in her gaze.
Or was that just a reflection of the light?
A blaze reignited inside of him.
Sweet Circe, surely he hadn’t imagined it.
But before Draco could respond, the screeching halt of iron wheels broke the moment. Their attentions ripped from one another, the whole platform now transfixed on the Hogwarts Express. On the other side of the compartment windows, students collected their belongings, and thoughts about Hermione faded from Draco’s forefront for the first time in a day and a half.
He was about to see his son again. His grown-up, graduated son.
Hermione and Draco pressed through the crowd to where Potter had joined Ginny and Weasley near the front of the platform. Students poured out of the train and into awaiting arms, all eager to share their adventures from the school year.
Pride shot through Draco the moment Scorpius stepped into sight. In so many ways, he was a spitting image of a younger Draco: tall, slender build, aquiline nose, and, of course, white blond hair. How anyone ever questioned his parentage was an embarrassment to the intelligence of Wizarding Britain. But Scorpius’ facial features were softer, reminiscent of Astoria. His smile when he spotted Draco was also the same.
Scorpius ran straight towards Draco, colliding into each other with a massive hug. Draco had never hugged his father growing up. “It wasn’t the Malfoy way,” he had been taught. But after almost losing his son, Draco didn’t care what was or was not the Malfoy way. He was just a father who wanted to show his son he loved him.
“Congratulations,” Draco said once they pulled away.
Scorpius beamed. “Thanks, Dad.” An accomplished grin spread across his face as he removed his Head Boy badge. “I guess I won’t be needing this anymore.”
Family reunions surrounded them, including the Potters and Granger-Weasleys, while Scorpius wasted no time detailing aspects of his school year.
“And I know I never made it onto the Quidditch team, but that was always a longshot. Turns out, Malfoy the Unanxious does not apply in sporting tryout scenarios. But give me a quill and an examination and I will score all the points! I don’t want to sound too confident, but I’m fairly certain I aced all my N.E.W.T.s, making me the first Malfoy ever to get a N.E.W.T. in Muggle Studies. Put that one in the family record books. I can just imagine—”
Scorpius’ words cut short.
“When did you stop wearing your wedding ring?”
Merlin’s fucking beard, it hadn’t taken Scorpius more than five minutes to notice.
Draco brushed his thumb over the newly exposed skin. Three rings still adorned his fingers, yet one in particular was missing.
His spine stiffened. “It’s recent.”
Uncertainty bubbled in his stomach when Scorpius continued to stare at the bare finger. Perhaps Draco should have thought this through more. Not chosen today. Or spoken to Scorpius about it first.
Those apprehensions dimmed when Scorpius peered up at him, no malice on his features. A smile appeared instead. “As long as you’re ready.”
The tension escaped Draco’s shoulders. He was ready. In fact, he’d been ready for a while. Taking off the ring was just the final step.
Without thinking, Draco stole a glance to his left, catching the briefest glimpse of Hermione. A stir pulsed straight through his system.
“So, does this mean you’re dating someone?”
The stir promptly ceased. “Excuse me?”
“Are you dating someone?” Scorpius repeated.
“No, I am not dating anyone,” he assured him. Of all the ways Draco imagined one day having this conversation, he had never pictured it would be in the middle of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. “I just took off the ring. That’s it.”
Scorpius lifted a brow, lips quirking. “But you want to, yeah?”
Fucking hell. They were supposed to be talking about Scorpius, not Draco and his non-existent love life!
“Why don’t you tell me more about your N.E.W.T.s?” Draco proffered in a blatant attempt to change topics. “How about your Potions exam? Do you expect you’ll get an O in that?”
“What did they make your brew? Some of the N.E.W.T. level Potions are tricky.”
“Back in my day, I had to—”
Of course his son couldn’t be so easily diverted. Scorpius had a certain tenacity that had blossomed over the past several years. And apparently, Scorpius refused to let go of this topic until Draco actually answered.
He studied every muscle, every twitch of Scorpius’ reaction.
“Would it be okay if I— If I did start dating?”
Draco hadn’t planned on asking, yet he would be lying if that thought hadn’t crossed his mind at least half a dozen times in the last twenty-four hours.
He waited for the worst, but it never came.
“Dad,” Scorpius started softly. “You accepted me when I came out. Didn’t hesitate. Not even when I told you I was dating a Potter. Just said you wanted me to be happy.” A comforting smile traced his lips. “Mum would have wanted the same.”
“But what about you?” Draco asked. “Are you okay with it?”
He lifted his shoulders in a brief shrug. “I had a feeling this would happen, so if you’re worried about me, don’t.” There was a moment’s pause before something glinted in his gaze. “Besides, I quite like Hermione.”
Draco could have keeled over right then and there. “What does Hermione have to do with this?”
Scorpius laughed. “You’re not as subtle as you think you are, Dad.”
Shit. If Scorpius had noticed and he wasn’t home most of the year, how obvious had Draco been to everyone else? Oh fuck him, even Potter had alluded to it.
Did that mean Hermione knew, too?
“It’s not a bad thing,” Scorpius told him. “I wasn’t subtle with my feelings towards Albus either—even if I didn’t originally recognise it for what it was. Maybe it’s a Malfoy thing?” He dismissed the thought with another shrug. “All I’m trying to say is that if you actually like her, you should go for it.”
Draco wasn’t certain how to respond, but the clench in his chest confirmed what he wanted.
“Are you sure?”
“Positive as a proton,” Scorpius beamed, quite proud of himself for whatever presumably-Muggle reference he had just made. “I think she’d be good for you. And just in case you haven’t noticed”—his grin widened—“Hermione’s been looking at you half the time we’ve been here.”
Draco should have been paying more attention to Scorpius, but the warmth of Hermione’s proximity kept his mind diverted elsewhere. Sometimes, he used to wonder how Scorpius had been sorted into Slytherin. When the smirk pulled on Scorpius’ lips at his insistence that Draco take that seat—across from Scorpius and oh-so-conveniently next to Hermione—he didn’t question it.
Five lasagnes, four bowls of salad, three trays of string beans, and two platters of The-Vegetable-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named lined the magically expanded table situated in the Burrow’s back garden. As they ate, Draco strained to maintain an air of neutrality: listening to the tales of the three recent graduates, discussing the latest Quidditch stats with Ginny, ignoring Potter’s insistent, not-so-subtle stare. None of it lasted long. Like a well-timed spell, every two minutes, his vision slipped back to her.
To Draco’s utmost annoyance, he and Hermione had hardly had more than ten seconds in private since arriving at the miraculously still-standing home. A sea of more redheads than he ever cared to count had flitted in and out of the kitchen as they finished the dinner preparations, preventing Draco from salvaging any time of value. He didn’t even know what he wanted to say—just that he wanted to say it alone and far from any member of her ex-husband’s family. And if he had to endure five more minutes of small talk, Draco was going to implode.
When the lightning bugs started to light up the summer sky, finally, at long-awaited last, the children left dinner to test out the latest Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes product. Draco wasted no time.
“Granger, can I have a moment?”
He blocked Potter’s lifted eyebrow from his periphery—a task made infinitely easier when the return of the light behind her umber gaze consumed Draco’s focus and reeled him in.
They walked past the pond and towards the outhouse, letting the moonlight serve as their guide. The pad of his thumb grazed over his naked ring finger, tucked safely from sight in the confines of his pocket. Now alone with Hermione, the words Draco had formed and mentally rehearsed throughout dinner erased themselves from conscious thought. How did one casually bring up that they had taken off their wedding ring without sounding too presumptive?
Ribbiting frogs filled the nighttime air, mingled with their footsteps meeting the pebbles stepping stones that led through the main garden. Each step further meant another step closer to privacy. But it also meant another step in which Draco had yet to say anything.
“The lasagne was good, wasn’t it?”
Her question floated over the surrounding nature and distant conversations of everyone else now far from concern. The tension that had built in Draco’s shoulders instantly relaxed. He didn’t need to overthink this. He could just have a conversation with Granger. Hermione. Like any two ordinary adults. And if the topic of his ring came up, it came up. He could be a patient man.
His smile came naturally. “Can’t say I have many other lasagne experiences to compare it to, but my compliments to whoever picked out the tomatoes for that sauce. Definitely the highlight.”
A matching smile spread across her lips. “I’ll make sure she knows her efforts were appreciated.”
Hermione took a seat on the bench along the edge of the garden, and Draco settled onto the spot next to her, leaving more space than he would have preferred. His fingertips itched to reach out: see how she would react if he just-so-happened to place his hand in the few inches between them, “accidentally” landing partially on top of hers. But that would require taking his left hand out of his pocket. And he wasn’t sure that was how he wanted her to find out.
“I had a good time yesterday,” Draco said, filling the moment with words instead of gestures. “I must admit, shopping at a farmers market has its perks.”
Hermione snickered. “Like?”
“First, the freshness,” Draco answered, having always been an appreciator of fine things and quality. “And I suppose the reasonable prices—as long as you’re mindful of the Galleon to Pounds conversion rates.” The pounding in his chest reached his eardrums as the next words formed on his lips. “Though I must say, the greatest perk of all was the company.”
Not for all the Galleons in his vault would Draco have admitted that to Potter—even if Potter’s assessment earlier that evening had been entirely correct. Draco had to maintain some dignity. But there was no use hiding it from Hermione. He wanted her to know. And damn was the honesty worth it when her vision flitted to the ground and a striking pink tinted her cheeks.
“I was disappointed when I had to cut our lunch short,” she said only after her eyes returned to him. “I quite enjoy your company, too, Draco.”
He could get lost in a symphony of her calling him by his given name. Nothing else would ever sound as sweet. He wanted to hear it every day. No. More often than that. Every damn chance he could get.
When he said some stupid joke and she cried his name in feigned annoyance while smacking his arm with the back of her hand. When she finished a long day at the Ministry and came through his Floo, seeking him to rant about someone’s latest idiocracy. When she inevitably got irritated at something Draco had done and reverted to his last name, only for him to coax those five little letters back onto her tongue.
And Merlin save him, he wanted— needed— to hear her say it when the lights were out and it was just the two of them in his bedroom. His name escaping her lips between lustful moans and impassioned gasps. With his length buried deep inside her as she cried out for more and he gave her anything and everything she asked for.
Screw being patient. He had waited long enough.
“I took my ring off.”
The look of her stunned surprise would forever be seared into Draco’s memory. She stared at him with wide-eyed, open-mouthed disbelief, yet behind those eyes laid something else.
Nerves mixed with anticipation raced through his veins as Draco withdrew his left hand, placing it into his lap where the moonlight illuminated the proof of his remark.
“It was time,” he said, fingers moving nervously over his trousers. “After our conversation yesterday… I knew I was ready to love again.”
Silence stretched between them as Draco let the words sink in, including the unspoken ones he trusted her smart enough to infer.
“I can’t pretend to know what it’s been like for you,” Hermione said after several agonising seconds. “Losing a spouse is nowhere near the same as deciding you’re better off as friends with the person who you tried to make it work with for twenty years. But in those first few months after Albus and Scorpius told us what happened in those alternate timelines, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. To think that in every single timeline, it was as if Ron and I were always supposed to end up together… it felt wrong. Like I had never let myself explore other possibilities or refused to consider that there could be a better match for me.”
His pulse skipped. “A better match?”
“Someone I’m better suited with. Who will challenge me in ways Ron never did. Who is open to a challenge in return.” The blush reappeared on her cheeks, right as her teeth grazed the edge of her bottom lip. “Perhaps he wasn’t a better match when we were younger, nor I for him, but we’ve all changed over the past couple decades. And I’ve come to realise that at different phases of our lives, it’s okay if we start to need different things.”
Someone could hit him with a Levitation Charm and Draco would have felt no effect. He was already floating.
He looked at Granger in all her curly-haired, pink-lipped glory and wanted nothing more than to lose his fingers in that hair and finally learn what those lips tasted like. Whatever challenges she had in mind, Draco would embrace them all. They had already conquered so many challenges in their lives, what were a few more if it meant a second chance at love? With Hermione by his side, the possibilities felt endless.
Desire spread through him in an ardent rush—eyes locked, gap gone, heart racing—so close to the actualisation of those longings, when something out of the corner of his eye froze Draco’s advances.
He pulled away to do a double-take, but the sight was unmistakable.
“Is that a tomato patch?” he asked, staring straight at the vines with copious amounts of plump red tomatoes right in the middle of Molly Weasley’s vegetable-filled garden. His vision tracked to the plants sprouting out of the soil with yellow flowers blossoming on top. “And zucchini?”
His attention whipped back to her. “Don’t you start, witch!”
Hermione’s smile was large and vibrant as Draco recalled how he had ended up at the Godric’s Hollow farmers market. How he had “run into” Hermione at her usual cafe on Diagon during her lunch break, how she had mentioned her plan to get the necessary dinner ingredients, and how she hadn’t looked one bit surprised when Draco offered to join.
And then it clicked.
“You didn’t need to go to that farmers market. You planned this whole thing, knowing I’d invite myself if you mentioned it!”
“I told you: I thought it was fitting that the food for tonight came from a place so significant to all of us,” Hermione said, smile growing even bigger. “But as you said, the farmers market does come with additional perks.”
Draco laughed. “And here I was, thinking I was being the clever one.”
“There’s enough room here for both of us to be clever,” she said with a tinkling snigger. “But I will say, when someone mysteriously shaved off his goatee after I mentioned I prefer wizards without facial hair, I started to wonder what else I could make you do. Only if you actually wanted to join me, of course.”
He lifted an eyebrow, smile refusing to fade. “Sure it wasn’t you trying to boss me around?”
“If I recall correctly, you did admit to enjoying it.”
“Consider it just one of the many things I enjoy about you.”
She pressed together those delectably pink lips, and it was all Draco needed to take the plunge.
He reached out and tucked a curl behind her ear, tiny jolts of cautious exhilaration coursing through his system when his fingertips swept over her skin. Their bodies had closed the space between them, and her knee now brushed against his. He traced his fingers behind her ear and down the length of her jaw, only pausing once his thumb could run along her cheek. Years of history hung between them—the good, the bad, and everything in between—all leading to this very moment where Hermione Granger stared at Draco Malfoy with her lips parted and his blood thrumming, ending when their mouths met in a warm and breathless kiss.
His hand slipped to the curve of her waist, drawing Hermione closer as they deepened the kiss, her impossibly soft lips capturing his again and again. It was the most intoxicating feeling, like the magic inside him sparked brighter with every second longer that they held their connection. The certainty that this would be far from the only time he got to kiss her only made it that much sweeter. He’d be that better match for her—do whatever it took to keep this witch in his embrace. For the first time in five years, the prospect of new love felt entirely within reach.
“Dad! Hermione! Mrs Weasley is about to cut the—”
Draco and Hermione pulled away from one another, but not before Scorpius came into view. Neither one had to say a word before Scorpius started backing up, grinning wildly at his accidental discovery.
“Well, don’t mind me!”
He gave his dad a quick double thumbs up before slinking back three more steps then running to the Burrow.
One day, that child was going to be the death of him.
As soon as he was out of sight, Hermione dropped her head into Draco’s chest, muffling an embarrassed laugh. “That is not how I expected one of our children to find out.”
“Wasn’t exactly my plan either.” He snorted then pressed a short kiss into the top of her curls. “I’d say we could trust Scorpius not to tell anyone else, but based on what Scorpius said to me earlier, I suspect he and Rose have already discussed the possibility of us together, so that may complicate things.”
“In which case, I give it forty-five minutes before everyone else knows,” Hermione said, lifting her head up so it now rested against Draco’s shoulder. “Word travels fast when it comes to a room full of Weasleys.”
His hand reached down, easily finding the space between her fingers. “And would that be a problem?”
“Not at all.” She looked up at him through her lashes, warm brown gaze peering deep into his. “Though it may lead to some awkward conversations tonight. Harry’s been speculating for weeks now, but Ron is a different story.”
Draco released a half-hearted scoff. “Ah, yes. Every wizard’s dream. Having to confront the ex-husband the same night he gets to kiss the witch.” He gave his head a brief shake. “If I must confront him, though, may I propose a deal?”
Hermione gave him a semi-disapproving glare, but Draco merely laughed it off.
“What else did you expect when getting involved with a Slytherin?” He clasped her hand tighter. “But I promise you this: I’ll be cordial with Weasley, but only if you agree to spend all of Saturday with me.”
“Oh?” Her lips pressed together, doing a terrible job at concealing the beginning traces of yet another smile. “And what exactly do you have in mind?”
“There’s a farmers market in Wiltshire that recently opened, and I find I’m in need of someone to make sure I don’t spend five Galleons on one apple.”
Hermione snickered then pushed herself up to kiss him once more. “You, Draco Malfoy, have an absolute deal.”
As they made their way back to the Burrow, Draco relished how natural her hand felt in his—a proper match, indeed. They dropped the connection before anyone else could see them, taking advantage of however long they had until their secret was out. But come Saturday, Draco had every intention of having her fingers laced with his all day long: his favourite perk of going to a farmers market.