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The Marriage Decree

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The Marriage Decree

Chapter 1

During her first few months of Hogwarts, Hermione would constantly dream of home. Taking long Sunday walks around the park with her parents and Bobby, their next door neighbour’s dog. Or lounging in the armchair watching Disney films on VHS. Or being at one of their family’s barbeques playing with her cousins. It helped her get through the loneliness that encapsulated her at school before she became friend with Harry and Ron. Although even then she would find herself dreaming about what her life would have been like had she not been a witch. If she had attended the local secondary school with her best friend, Verity, from primary school. It wasn’t until her third year when she finally began to feel as though she was fitting in with the wizarding world that the dreams stopped.

Instead, whenever she was home for the holidays, her dreams would take her back to Hogwarts. Sitting in Hagrid’s shack with Harry and Ron. Or reading books upon books in the library, eagerly trying to expand her knowledge of the wizarding world. Or eating dinner in the Great Hall with all her friends. It helped her through the blandness of being home in the muggle world.


There are only a few days left before the Hogwarts Express is due to transport everyone back home and as per usual, the Gryffindor common room is an absolute mess with people throwing things around trying to find lost socks or school books so they can finish packing their trunks. Hermione’s thankful that she is a tidy, organised person and finished packing days ago.

She decides to take this opportunity to get some quiet reading done outside under an old oak tree. The skies are a clear blue, the grass are a luscious green and the sun is beating down strongly. Hermione finds her favourite spot overlooking the Great Lake, sits herself down and begins to read feeling content in herself.

She is so engrossed in her book that she doesn’t hear it at first. But then something in her subconscious tells her that there’s a noise that doesn’t belong nearby. She pauses in her reading, listening out for whatever it is when it happens again.

The sound of tapping. Of course being outside, sat under a tree, you might expect to hear some tapping from maybe a bird, high in the branches of said tree. But this tapping is different. It’s as if the bird is tapping on a glass surface. Confused, Hermione stands up, glancing around her surroundings, not exactly sure what she’s expecting to find. There’s no evidence to suggest that there’s a pane of glass being tapped on nearby. Especially since she’s sitting too far away from the school building to hear anything.

Then the tapping noise happens again. This time, it comes from behind her, followed by a hoot. ‘An owl.’ Hermione thinks, rolling over in her bed. ‘I should probably get that.’ She adds in her head but shuffles further under her quilt.

She decides to head back up to her common room to see if the boys are any closer finished to being packed when she hears a new sound.

The sound of knocking that one would expect to hear on a door. It’s at that moment that Hermione blinks sending herself into darkness. At first, she thinks she hasn’t reopened her eyes from the blink so she blinks again and realises that the darkness is surrounding her.

“Hermione?” Her Dad’s voice questions from somewhere near.

“Umm.” She hums realising she’s in bed, at home. Her dreams have always been very convincing.

“Hermione?” Her Dad repeats louder.

“Yeah, Dad,” She said dryly with a cough to clear her throat. She needs a drink of water.

“Will you open the window for that bloody bird?” He calls back slightly annoyed. “Your mum and I are trying to have a lie in,” He adds as an explanation.

As if on cue the tapping noise from her dream comes from her window. Hermione jumps, or rather crawls, out of bed then shuffles her way over to her window. Opening it let not only the owl in but also a large gust of icy, winter wind sending a shiver down her spine.

The barn own flies gracefully around her room before swooping down and landing on her lamp. The owl lifts its left leg for Hermione to unclip her letter, which she does, before flying straight back out her window. She can’t help thinking that it hadn’t been a very friendly owl. She shuts her window before actually jumping back into her warm, cosy bed to read her letter.

A heavy sigh escapes her lips when her eyes catch sight of the Ministry of Magic seal on the back. Hermione’s been receiving letters from them, at least once a week, since the end of the war asking her to give a speech about her bravery in the war. As far as she’s concerned, she wasn’t brave. She’d been terrified the entire time, she just knew how to hide her fear better than others. The brave ones were the ones who gave up their lives for the war.

Before she thinks too far into it and upsets herself, she rips open the envelope to get it over and done with.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Ministry of Magic

London

England

Saturday 2nd January 1999

Dear Mr/Miss,

As you may well know, it has been eight months since the end of the war where we lost so many loved ones at the hand of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. We are saddened to inform you that we have a total body count. 231.

Unfortunately, this number of deaths in such a small period of time has drastically decreased our population and therefore, the Ministry of Magic has created a new decree in the hope that it will help boost not only our population but also our morale.

The Marriage Decree

  1. All those who graduate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in May 1999 to those aged 23 on 1st June 1999 will be required to marry in The Partner Ceremony.
  2. In order to effectively match you with somebody compatible, the attached questionnaire must be honestly filled in and returned to the Ministry of Magic by 1st March 1999.
  3. Once married, you and your partner will be given access to your new home in our Ministry Starter House Estate where you will reside for two years or until the conception of your first child.
    1. If at two years you have not conceived a child, both you and your partner will be tested for fertility. If one is found to be infertile, you may divorce and the fertile partner must remarry within one year.
    2. With proof of conception from St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maldives and Injuries, you may move into your own residence if you wish.
  4. The Law
    1. All marriages within this age range will be made illegal up until The Partner Ceremony on 1st June 1999
    2. Any person who does not return their questionnaire will be sentenced to a minimum of two months imprisonment in Azkaban.
    3. Any person who refuses to marry their chosen partner will be sentenced to a minimum of four months imprisonment in Azkaban.
    4. Any person found guilty of using an infertility potion or charm will be sentenced to a minimum of six months imprisonment in Azkaban.

 

Thank you for your time.

 

Approved and Signed by

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic.

 

Hermione has to re-read the letter multiple times before it even begins to sink in and even then she isn’t one hundred percent sure she has read it correctly. Kingsley wants to force us to marry someone we probably won’t know and then force us to have children with these people within two years.

‘What about those of us already in a relationship?’ She thinks, her mind flashing to images of Ron.

They’d kind of been an item since the end of the war when, in the heat of the moment, they had kissed in the Chamber of Secrets. Hermione was in a constant argument with herself as to whether they were together or not. Since that one time, they hadn’t kissed again or been out on a date together. The closest they had come to being romantic in any way was Christmas Eve when he had pecked her cheek under some mistletoe.

It was mistletoe. So he had the option to kiss her passionately on the lips but he hadn’t. That’s when she started doubting their relationship. She saw how Harry and Ginny were together and she was envious. Not of them but of what they have and the love they share.

‘Hopefully, the ministry will take current relationships into consideration.’ Hermione thinks climbing out of bed.

She quickly gets changed into a pair of jeans, a shirt and a cardigan before quietly making her way downstairs. Her aim is to sneak out of her house and disapparate to The Burrow to get their opinion on the matter. Maybe Arthur will have some insider information. She manages to pull on one boot before she hears footsteps upstairs. With no time to spare, she grabs her coat, bag and other boot then makes a run for it out of the front door, down their path, away from the protection spell, and onto the street where she concentrates on the burrow, turns around and disapparates away. 

The skies are grey and gloomy over The Burrow today, forecasting the emotions that are to come once they read their letters. Hermione doesn’t expect any of the Weasley children to be up this early but through the kitchen window, she sees Percy looking down at their kitchen worktop.

She glances down at her hands wondering whether or not to put her other boot on seeing as she’d just have to take it off again once she enters the burrow. She decides against it, deeming it a waste of time, before hobbling down The Burrow’s garden path to their kitchen door. She doesn’t bother knocking and just walks straight in causing Percy to glance up from a letter he’s reading but upon seeing it’s just Hermione he goes back to it.

“The Marriage Decree.” She wonders aloud.

“Mmhmm.” He hums not looking up from his letter.

“What do you think about it?” She asks.

Percy stays quiet for a few seconds as he finishes the letter for what she’s sure is not the first time. He shakes his head angrily before looking up at her.

“This is just another way for the Ministry to force us to do what they want. Is nothing sacred anymore? I want to fall in love, Hermione. I don’t want to be given a wife at some fucking Partner Ceremony then expected to make a future with them. It’s disgusting.” Percy shouts waving his letter around. This is the new Percy we had come to know since he quit his job at the Ministry at the end of the war. Full of hatred towards the government that did nothing to protect his family thereby causing one of his brothers to die. “They shall expect a strongly worded howler from me,” He adds throwing his letter onto the kitchen table and taking a seat on one of the seats. And there’s the old Percy still shining through.

“What’s all this shouting about?” George yawns grumpily as he descends the stairs wearing a multi-coloured dressing gown.

Everything that George does, he goes grumpily now. Or angrily, depressingly, glumly and every other negative adverb. Ever since he lost not only his twin brother but also the other half of himself.

Percy, with a flick of his wand, send Georges letter flying over towards him. With a glare towards his older brother, with whom Hermione was sure he blamed for Fred’s death, he opens his letter. Hermione watches him as he reads The Marriage Decree. As if instinctively, George's hand reaches within his dressing gown where it seems to hold on to something, Hermione not sure what it is but she’s seen him do that many times before. Once he’s finished reading, he places his letter back in the envelope and heads over to the fridge to grab the milk glass.

“So?” Hermione voices.

“So what?” George asks, drinking the milk straight from the bottle.

“What do you think about it?” She repeats the questions she had previously asked Percy.

“I think we haven’t really got much of a choice so what’s the point of having any thought or opinions on it. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not.” He says to his milk bottle before heading back up to his bedroom with it.

Percy releases a long sigh letting his head fall into his hands. Hermione, unsure with how to comfort him, takes a seat next to him and slowly rubs small circles onto his back. His long hair has fallen in front of his face so she tucks it behind his ear letting hear hand linger on the side of his cheek. Without really thinking she brings his head down to her shoulder, hugging him tightly. Maybe he just needs some comfort from someone who isn’t his mother. It must have been the correct thing to do because he embraces her back just as tightly.

“I wish it had been me, Hermione,” He whispers. At first, she isn’t sure if he had even said anything but she had felt his breath on her neck.

“Don’t say things like that?” She tells him instinctively holding him tighter.

“It’s true. Everyone would be happier if it had been me. They all hated me before he died and now they all despise me.” His voice breaks slightly as if he’s holding back his tears.

“They don’t despise you.” She tells him but even she know that’s a lie. Percy does too from the dry laughter he replies with. “Okay. Maybe George does but that’s to be expected. Ron has always disliked you so that hasn’t changed. Ginny’s opinions on you have changed back and forth over the years but at the moment, she’s proud of how far you’ve come since the end of the war. You’ve really changed your life around for the better.”

“What about you?” He mutters.

“What about me?” She questions confused.

“Do you despise me?” He asks and she can feel the nerves coursing through his body. Hermione and Percy are similar in so many ways that she knows her opinion of him is one that actually matters to him.

She pauses to think for a moment. She doesn’t despise him but what does she think of him. Of course, she admires his intellect but his common sense is a bit off and his loyalty could always be improved upon. Although that was the old Percy. She doesn’t really know the new Percy.

“I don’t despise you, Percy. I never have. In fact in my first year especially, I really looked up to you. You were so intellectual and the responsible. To be honest, I think I had a little crush on you. Although I will deny it if you ever mention that to anyone. Ever.” Percy chuckles. “You need to remember that it’s only been eight months. You just need to give everyone a bit more time to heal.” She finishes.

Suddenly from upstairs, something resembling a herd of elephants comes charging down the stairs causing Percy to jerk away from Hermione’s embrace blushing slightly. Ron pauses to frown in confusion at Hermione.

“What are you doing here, Hermione?” He asks heading over to the fridge.

“You’ve got a letter from the Ministry,” She answers getting straight to the point.

Ron groans which Hermione thinks she understands. Both Ron and Harry had been receiving the same letters as her at least once a week about giving a speech. However, Ron slams the fridge door.

“We’re out of milk again, Mum,” He shouts up the stairs.

“George has it,” Percy explains.

“Again!” He groans, filling a glass with water.

“Would you rather it be milk or firewhisky?” Percy raises a questioning eyebrow.

Hermione thinks he has a point but Ron just rolls his eyes as he opens his letter. She watches as his eyes slowly take in everything written on the piece of parchment. To her surprise, though, he simply shrugs placing it on the counter and starts making some toast.

“Is that it? You shrug then move on.” Hermione raises her voice. “That’s your future there Ronald and all you can do is shrug at it.” She says ignoring Percy’s snigger when she’d called him Ronald.

“Well, it takes a lot of stress off my plate wondering whether or not I’ll get married and give Mum all those grandkids she wants,” He explains.

“Do you not want something of your own for your life besides what your Mum wants or what the Ministry is making you have?” She argues.

“All I want is to become an Auror, anything else life gives me I’ll take and just make the most of it.” Ron shrugs again infuriating Hermione but she knows she’ll never win this argument.

Unlike Ron, she has hopes and dreams for her future. She wants to travel and visit wizarding communities in other countries. Then research further into her favourite topics to deepen her knowledge and understanding of it until she knew as much as she can find out about it. Once she has done all that she wants to become a professor at Hogwarts, hopefully in Transfiguration.

In the short time, she has paused to think, Ron has gone back to making his breakfast. Hermione turns around to talk to Percy but he gives her a quickly forced smile before leaving out the kitchen door. She doesn’t know where he’s off to, but she gets the feeling that he wants to be alone. She takes a seat at the kitchen table again and starts to re-read her letter, trying to find some sort of loophole that will get her out of this decree but as far as she can see, there are none.

At that moment, she hears giggling coming down the stairs from further up the house, then a few seconds later, Ginny and Harry are emerging from the stairs, laughing together with their hands entwined.

“Hermione!” Ginny excitedly runs over to give her a hug. “I didn’t think we’ll see you again until tomorrow on the train back,” She mentions.

“Neither did I but then we all got this letter from the Ministry and I just needed to speak to someone about it who would understand,” She explains vaguely. “And who doesn’t have a strong hatred for them,” She adds because even though Percy understood her feelings on the matter, she couldn’t help but feel like his anger for the decree came more from his anger of the Ministry itself.

Ginny and Harry's exchange confused glances before picking up their own letters. Hermione watches them carefully. She knows it’s going to be hard for them. Halfway through, Ginny starts tearing up. When she finishes she looks at Harry terrified.

“What’s going to happen to us?” She asks him, her voice breaking with emotion.

“It’s fine. We’ll be fine. I’ll send Kingsley an owl straight away. He owes me a favour. He owes us all a favour. We can get out of this.” Harry tries to calm her down but Hermione’s not entirely convinced that Kingsley will let them out of the Marriage Decree.

“What in Godric’s name is happening down here?” Mrs Weasley complains as she comes down the stairs fastening her dressing gown. “All this shouting and balling at eight o’clock in the morning.”

Harry hands over his letter to Mrs Weasley who frowns as she reads it. To everyone's surprise, she relaxes as she reads further on.

“My babies are getting married!” She exclaims far too excitedly for someone who just read that their children are going to be forced into this marriage.

“Not by choice.” Ginny huffs running back upstairs with Harry following not far behind her.

“I don’t know why they’re so upset. They’re obviously going to be matched together.” Mrs Weasley points out.

“There’s no guarantee that they will. Harry said he’s going to send an owl to Kingsley to try and get them out of it but I don’t think he’s going to show favouritism.” Hermione explains.

“They’ll find a way. They could get married before the Partner Ceremony. Have a lovely muggle ceremony maybe. Have you ever been to a muggle ceremony dear?” Mrs Weasley asks her.

Hermione shakes her head sympathetically at her. “Mrs Weasley-”

“I’ve told you to call me Molly. You’re part of our family, Hermione.” Molly tells her again for what must have been the hundredth time. It just feels strange to call her Molly after calling her Mrs Weasley for so long. It feels like what she’d expect it to feel like if she called Professor McGonagall, Minerva.

“Okay. Molly, the Ministry obviously don’t want us getting married, that’s why they’ve made it illegal. And after reading the punishments they have set up, I don’t think Harry and Ginny want to risk upsetting them.” She points out.

Molly sighs deeply, her shoulders slumping forward. “Let’s hope Harry can convince Kingsley to let them out of it or at the least match them together at this Partner Ceremony.”

Molly busies herself in the kitchen making breakfast for her entire family which she knows she’s more than welcome to join in with but she has an overwhelming need to be alone with her thoughts. She gives a quick goodbye hug to Mrs Weasley, says “bye” to Ron, getting a grunt in reply, then leaves out the kitchen door. She is walking down The Burrows garden when she feels eyes on her. Turning back around, she finds Percy sitting on a tree stump underneath the kitchen window with his legs stretched out in front of him. He gives her a small, sad smile which she returns with a wave before carrying on down the garden path. Once out of The Burrow’s protection spell, she disapparates to Diagon Alley.

When she arrives in Diagon Alley, she doesn’t actually know where to go. She looks around her surroundings for a moment before deciding that she’s going to need some money in case she decides to buy something, so she set off in the direction of Gringotts where she took five galleons out of her account. Then she was back to her earlier predicament. Where does she actually want to be? Flourish and Blotts. She needs a new quill ready for the school on Monday. She also wants to buy a book Professor McGonagall suggested before Christmas called ‘Lost Spells from the Tenth Century’.

She has spent many hours in Flourish and Blotts so she knows she’ll find the book upstairs which is where she heads upon entering. She finds the book in no time so she has a browse at the other book. She finds about ten others she wants to buy but she limits herself to the one for now and heads back down to pay for it. She starts reading her new book as she leaves the shop when suddenly she crashed into something hard or rather someone. After regaining her balance, she looks up to find Draco Malfoy straightening his cloak.

“Granger!” He says with surprise raised eyebrows which quickly turns into a sneer.

“Malfoy.” She smiles politely before stepping around him and walking off.

She places her new book into her bag with the undetectable extension charm when Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour catches her eye. It is the middle of winter, far too cold for ice cream, but after The Marriage Decree news, she needs something to take her mind off it. It’s either an ice cream or firewhisky and she’d rather take George’s approach of drowning her sorrows in dairy than alcohol.

She buys herself a simple vanilla cone with a chocolate spoon that no matter how many times you lick it, it never gets any smaller until you actually bite it. She stays standing near the counter talking to Hannah Abbott about The Marriage Decree until the bell above the door signalling a new customer rings so she bids her goodbye and heads out the door. That is until she crashes into someone spilling her ice cream all over them. Instinctively she apologises and starts rubbing their shirt with her napkin.

The person coughs loudly to interrupt her so she looks up to find none other than Draco Malfoy stood staring shockingly down at her. “Malfoy, are you following me?” She questions with a head quirk.

“Of course not. I simply wanted a delicious ice cream.” Malfoy glares down his nose at her. “And you can take your hand off me now.”

Hermione glances down at her hand to find it still resting on his chest where she had been rubbing her ice cream off his shirt. She pulls her hand away as if it were burnt off his chest.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Malfoy.” She rolls her eyes sidestepping around him to leave but he grabs hold of her arm.

Hermione freezes in intimidation. “Try not to make this a habit,” He says sharply before stepping past her and disapparating away leaving a slightly shocked Hermione behind.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

It's lying in bed, especially in the dark, when one is truly alone with their thoughts. When your thoughts replay terrorising scenes from your past that make you question everything about yourself, you try to spend as little time as possible alone with them. That's why, after four hours sleep, Draco is in the Manor's library reading any book that can captivate him for long enough to stop thinking.

There's a small knock on the large library doors bringing Draco out of his book. It's one of the best ones he's read since he realised books take his mind of his thoughts.

"Enter," He calls out hoping it isn't his mother but a quick glance at his watch tells him it's only just past six o'clock. Since the sentence, she's been spending her time between her bedroom and parlour and the dining room.

Thankfully, his house elf, Mitty, enters carry a letter and the daily prophet on a silver platter. "Master's paper and a letter from the Ministry, Master." Mitty holds the platter out for him to retrieve the post.

"The Ministry, again?" He sighs taking the post.

Ever since the end of the war, he has been receiving a letter from the Ministry at least once a week asking him if he'll testify against a number of alleged Death Eaters. He's already refused too many times to remember but they still ask. He can't blame them for being persistent but he's told them the only reason he even testified against his father was to keep his mother safe.

He dismisses Mitty, asking her to make him breakfast, before opening the letter.

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Ministry of Magic

London

England

Saturday 2nd January 1999

Dear Mr/Miss,

As you may well know, it has been eight months since the end of the war where we lost so many loved ones at the hand of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. We are saddened to inform you that we have a total body count. 231.

Unfortunately, this number of deaths in such a small period of time has drastically decreased our population and therefore, the Ministry of Magic has created a new decree in the hope that it will help boost not only our population but also our morale.

The Marriage Decree

1. All those who graduate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in May 1999 to those aged 23 on 1st June 1999 will be required to marry in The Partner Ceremony.

2. In order to effectively match you with somebody compatible, the attached questionnaire must be honestly filled in and returned to the Ministry of Magic by 1st March 1999.

3. Once married, you and your partner will be given access to your new home in our Ministry Starter House Estate where you will reside for two years or until the conception of your first child.

a. If at two years you have not conceived a child, both you and your partner will be tested for fertility. If one is found to be infertile, you may divorce and the fertile partner must remarry within one year.

b. With proof of conception from St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maldives and Injuries, you may move into your own residence if you wish.

4. The Law

a. All marriages within this age range will be made illegal up until The Partner Ceremony on 1st June 1999

b. Any person who does not return their questionnaire will be sentenced to a minimum of two months imprisonment in Azkaban.

c. Any person who refuses to marry their chosen partner will be sentenced to a minimum of four months imprisonment in Azkaban.

d. Any person found guilty of using an infertility potion or charm will be sentenced to a minimum of six months imprisonment in Azkaban.

Thank you for your time.

Approved and Signed by

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic.

 

The letter sends him straight back into his thoughts and the first thing he can think of is his wife to be and how unfortunate she will be to be paired with an ex-Death Eater who's hated by most of the wizarding world. She'll have to be pretty thick-skinned to survive being his wife.

He rose from his chair intending on going upstairs to his mother's parlour to ask for her thoughts on the matter. However, as he leaves the library he hears his mother coming down the stairs.

"Good morning dear. Did you sleep well?" She says out of habit. She doesn't really care about an answer.

"I received a letter from the Ministry that you might be interested in." He walks into the dining room with her where some a pot of tea has already been placed. He hands her the letter.

His mother sits in her seat before reading the letter to which she shows no emotion. She simply hands it back to him then takes a sip of her tea that Mitty has just poured out for the both of them.

She winces slightly. "Hmm. This needs some sugar, Mitty." She places the cup back on the saucer watching as Mitty places two teaspoons of sugar in then stirs before backing away in a bow.

His mother takes another sip, a small smile escaping from her lips at the sweetness.

"I assume you are awaiting my thoughts on the matter, dear," She mentions looking at him for the first time since she read the letter.

"Yes, mother," He answers.

"Due to our… the past, I was unsure whether you would ever marry. I'm pleased to know that I'll be blessed with a grandchild within the next two year although it is unfortunate that it must come to this." His mother expresses her thoughts then sips at her tea again.

Draco's shouldn't be so surprised that all his mother cares about is him giving their family an heir. She can hide it beneath the façade of wanting a grandchild but they both know it's really an heir she wants.

"Is that all you're concerned about? Getting an heir? Does it not bother you that I'm being forced into marriage?" He asks angrily.

He knows the past couple of months have been hard on his mother but she's supposed to care about him. That's all he's ever wanted. His parents approval and with his father gone, his mother is the only one who can give it to him.

"Draco dear, you worry too much about something as insignificant as who you're going to be married too. It does not matter who she is, as long as she can give you a son to carry on our family name." She smiles at him as if he's an idiot and he hates it.

Without excusing himself, he leaves the dining room without breakfast or tea. 'How dare she care so little about my future?' He thinks angrily as he traipses upstairs to his wing of the Manor to get changed. He needs to get out of here. He'd go visit Blaise but he's in the South of France with his mother and her new husband. There's only one place he can go really and he's not too happy about it. He's being try to visit Diagon Alley as little as possible since the war. The array of looks he receives is enough to make someone want to leave and never return.

In order to disapparate to Diagon Alley, Draco needs to be out of the Manor's protection charms which means outside the gate. It's a long ten-minute walk through their gardens until he reaches the gate. He'd taken the opportunity to read the questionnaire that came attached to the Ministry letter. Most of the questions were rather irrelevant or so he thought.

 

Dear Sir/Miss,

This questionnaire will be used to pair you with your partner so, in order for you to be accurately paired with someone compatible, we have charmed any ink applied to glow red if an incorrect answer is written and then disappear ready for the correct answer to be written. All twenty questions must be answered before being sent back to the Ministry of Magic.

1. Name:

2. Date of Birth:

3. Gender:

4. Sexuality:

5. Blood Status:

6. Hogwarts House:

7. Career:

8. Average/Predicted NEWT Grade:

9. Current Relationship Status:

10. Hair Colour:

11. Eye Colour:

12. How many children do you wish to have?:

13. Your Favourite Colour:

14. Your Favourite Number:

15. Your Favourite Food:

16. Your Favourite Drink:

17. Partner's Hair Colour:

18. Partner's Eye Colour:

19. Your Boggart:

20. Any other notes:

Thank you for your time.

Approved and Signed by

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic.

 

Once out of the protection charm, he disapparates into a dark, shady alleyway in Diagon Alley. From there he walks towards Flourish and Blotts with his cloak hood up, carefully hiding in the shadows. He doesn't want any confrontation today. He's removing his hood as he crosses over the threshold when he's suddenly knocked off balance by someone crashing straight into him. He quickly regains his balance and straightens his cloak before looking down to see who they were.

"Granger!" He exclaims with a raised eyebrow which quickly turns into a sneer once he realises how surprised he sounded.

He would have assumed that she would spend her Christmas holiday in the Muggle world with her family instead of the wizarding world.

"Malfoy." She smiles politely before stepping around him and walking off into Diagon Alley.

He watches her until he can no longer see her for the throng of people buying back to school supplies or having one last family outing before their children have to head back to school.

Draco heads upstairs to where there are several study tables set out. He picks an empty one in the far corner and sets about answering his questionnaire. It doesn't take him very long. Only fifteen minutes once he got over the confusion of having his ink flash a bright red when he apparently answered 'how many children do you wish to have' incorrectly.

He's walking down Diagon Alley, absentmindedly window shopping, when his stomach growls, reminding him he missed breakfast. He looks around his surroundings to find somewhere to eat but only finds Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour to be open. 'Who wants to eat ice cream this early in the morning?' He thinks as he walks over to the parlour anyway.

He trying to decide between Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Bean and Chocolate Frog as a topping as he walks through the door sending the bell ringing. He's just decided to get a large ice cream with both toppings when someone walks into him again spilling their ice cream over his shirt.

The coldness from their ice cream is seeping through his linen shirt. They apologise instantly and start rubbing the spilt ice cream on his chest. He looks down only to find Granger stood, cleaning up the mess.

He coughs loudly to interrupt her. She doesn't stop wiping until she's looked up and noticed who he is.

"Malfoy, are you following me?" She questions with a slight head tilt.

He scoffs. "Of course not. I simply wanted a delicious ice cream." He glares down his nose at her. "And you can take your hand off me now," He adds upon realising she hadn't.

She looks down at her hand as if unsure where it was, though once she sees that it's still clutching at his damp shirt, she releases her grip quickly.

"Don't be so dramatic, Malfoy." She rolls her eyes sidestepping around him to leave but he gently grabs hold of her arm.

'I'm not letting her get away with this that easily.' He thinks annoyed.

He smirks at the look on her face. "Try not to make this a habit," He says sharply before stepping past her and disapparating back home.

The wind from disapparating whips at his shirt making the damp patch seem colder than it actually is. He glances down at his watch as he walks back through the garden. It's only nine o'clock and already today hasn't been a good day. As soon as he enters his house, he stomps up the stairs to his wing of the manor to get changed out of his shirt.

He opens his bedroom door only slightly surprised to find Blaise lounging on his bed reading a muggle newspaper. Since his mother remarried during the summer, Blaise had taken nearly a permanent residence at Malfoy Manor over the holidays. Although he is supposed to be in the South of France right now. They were due back tomorrow.

"I thought you we're in the South of France," He comments, throwing his cloak onto an armchair in the corner of his room.

"Yeah, decided to end the trip early after receiving a certain letter from the Ministry," He mentions nonchalantly with a shrug not even looking up from the newspaper.

It's constantly confusing Draco how carefree his best friend is. He's always been that way, though. Ever since he introduced himself on the Hogwarts Express in their first year.

"What do you think about the letter?" Draco asks hoping for a better answer than the one his mother gave him.

"Well," He starts, folding his newspaper over and placing it beside him. "I never really thought myself as the marriage type. Always thought I'd drift from one lady to the next and I'm more than fine with that. But this decree kind of messes all that up doesn't it. I suppose we're just going to have to get on with it, though. Nothing much we can do." He shrugs again before focusing properly on Draco as he takes his shirt off. "What happened to your shirt?" He questions.

With a groan, he says, "Granger."

Blaise's eyes widen almost comically. "What were you doing with Granger?" He asks rather too excitedly in Draco's opinion.

"Nothing. She crashed into me with her ice cream. Got it everywhere." He answers buttoning up a new shirt.

Blaise frowns at this. "Who eats ice cream in January?" He ponders.

"Well nowhere else was open this early in the morning." He defends her for some unknown reason to him.

"Did she apologise?" He raises an eyebrow.

Draco flops down on his bed ignoring his friends face as he closes his eyes. "No, she started dabbing at my shirt."

"Oooh, I think she likes you." Blaise elbows him in the ribs.

Draco laughs out a breath at his comment. Granger. Liking him. He highly doubts it. "She didn't know it was me. She stopped as soon as she realised." He explains.

"Shame." He sighs. "So what do you think about this whole 'Marriage Decree' thing?"

Draco shrugs. "Some girl is out there, unaware that's she about to become my wife and I feel sorry for her. The only upside, according to my mother, is the opportunity for an heir." He admits.

He suddenly remembers the filled out questionnaire in his cloak pocket but he can't be bothered to get off the bed so instead, he shouts for Mitty. She pops into existence at the bottom of his bed.

"Yes, Master Draco." Mitty bows.

"There's a role of parchment in my cloak pocket over there. Can you owl it to the Ministry for me?" He asks her to which she nods.

"Of course, master Draco." She bows once more before scurrying off towards the cloak. "Would master like Mitty to clean master's cloak."

"Yeah," He calls over in the general direction of Mitty. "Thanks," He adds as an afterthought.

"What about you?" Blaise turns on his side propping his head up with his arm. "Is there any upside for you?"

"Well, at least, I'm not going to die alone," He admits.

"You were never going to die alone." Blaise snorts. "Look at you. You're an attractive man. And that's coming from a fellow man." He adds falling back on his back.

"There's more to a relationship than being attracted to each other. Who in their right mind would want to marry me if they weren't being forced to?" He questions his friend.

"I'm sure a Slytherin would have married you," He suggests.

"Really," Draco says doubtfully. "After my family turned our back on the Dark Lord and ran away during the battle."

"Hmmm. I suppose you're right." Blaise is quiet for a moment. "If you could choose anyone to marry, who would you choose?" He asks rolling onto his side again.

Draco sighs. "I don't know. I want someone who realises that I'm trying to change and someone who I can be friends with and actually fall in love with." He sighs again. "I doubt that's going to happen, though," He adds.

"Well, I've got my eyes in a certain Ravenclaw." Blaise winks at him.

"That girl you went out with just before Christmas who you won't tell me about," Draco asks.

"Yeah," He says dreamily. "She's amazing. You wouldn't think it but we have quite a lot in common."

"I don't think much about her since you won't tell me anything about her besides she a Ravenclaw and amazing," He complains.

"I can't tell you about her now. What if we're not paired? That'll just be awkward." Blaise points out.

They lie in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Blaise climbs off his bed, stretching his arms and back. "Well, I need to get back to Toulouse. Al will be wondering where I am." He says in annoyance as he collects his shoes and newspaper.

"Al?" He questions.

"Yeah. Mother's new husband, Alberic. He's strangely interested in me. It's weird. None of her other husbands has ever paid attention to me before." He shrugs hopping over to the fireplace as he pulls on one shoe after the other.

"See you on the train." He bids me goodbye before flooing away.

Just like that, Draco is left alone with his thoughts, which were solely focused on the Marriage Decree. He went through all the eligible girls at Hogwarts, trying to imagine being married to them, living with them, raising children with them. He couldn't imagine doing that with any of them.

Tired of thinking, he makes his way downstairs into the kitchen's where he finds Mitty cooking their dinner.

"Does master need Mitty?" She questions with a bow as he enters.

"No. What are you making for dinner?" He asks sitting down on one of the stools.

"Master's mother requested a roast beef feast for masters last night," Mitty tells him.

"You want some help?" He questions.

Draco watches as Mitty argues with herself. House elves are very proud creatures who live to serve their family. They aren't supposed to accept help from anyone. Especially not from the family they serve. But before he started Hogwarts, Draco used to help Mitty, Gharther and Dobby in the kitchens all the time. He hasn't had the opportunity to do much cooking since attending Hogwarts. He doesn't dare even risk sneaking into the kitchens to cook. His classmates would find out somehow and before he knew it, it would have spread throughout the school and Potter and friends would use it as ammunition in one of their altercations.

"Mitty is happy for master's help." She tries to sound sincere but he can tell she's forcing it. "Master can cut the vegetables if master wishes to help."

Draco simply nods grabbing an apron from the hook and a knife from the rack then sets about cutting up the carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes. Mitty puts the radio on. He doesn't know which station it is, but the music so quite good so he doesn't complain. He even finds himself humming along to some of the catchiest ones.

Once dinner is ready, he helps the Mitty and Gharther carry the plates into the dining room, much to his mother's disapproval stare. They don't talk during the meal only to exchange pleasantries. When they've finished, though, his mother clears her throat.

"Draco dear, have you completed your questionnaire."

"Yes, I had Mitty owl it back this afternoon," He announces between sips of wine.

She frowns at him. "Without letting me check your answers. We need to be careful about who you're paired with dear." She raises her eyebrow. "Although I'm sure you answered them in favour of that," She adds getting up to leave.

He glares at her back as she walks out of the dining room, up the stairs to her parlour. Even though he worries terribly about her when he's at school, he can't wait to go back.

Chapter Text

Having nowhere else to go, and knowing she'll have to tell them sooner or later, she apparates into the alleyway behind her back garden. Her Dad had recently built a gate into the fence so she could walk straight into their garden rather than walk all the way onto the main street and enter via the front door.

She dawdles as she walks down the back garden path to the back door, which leads directly into the kitchen. It's around lunchtime so her Dad is most likely sat at the kitchen table reading his newspaper whilst her Mum makes them something for dinner. She peers slyly through the kitchen window to see that exact scene playing out before her.

Sometimes it's nice to have something consent in her life. Her parents have stuck to this Saturday routine since she could remember. After lunch, they'll take Bobby for a walk around their local park then come home for a game of scrabble or monopoly then watch a film as they eat their dinner. Saturdays have always been her favourite day.

She takes a deep, steady breath to calm her nerves before opening the back door, making her Mum jump on the process.

"Goodness sake Hermione," She shouts, hand resting on her chest. "You scared me half to death." She sighs before pointing her spatula at her. "And just where do you think you've been? You better have a good reason for leaving the house that early. You Dad and I have been worried sick."

Hermione looks over her Mum's shoulder at her Dad who had shrugged at the mention of him being worried sick at her disappearance.

"Mum, I'm nineteen years old." She tries to calm her mother down so she doesn't dare mention how, technically speaking, she's twenty years old after using the Time Turner for nearly the entirety of her third year. "And I'm a witch. I can defend myself pretty well."

"She's right Sarah," Her Dad interjects. "She fought in a war against some homicidal maniac and his followers without a scratch."

Hermione instinctively covers her forearm where the word 'Mudblood' is carved into it. She chose to never tell her parents about her permanent scare instead choosing to cover it with long sleeves and makeup. Over the past months, it had healed slightly but the word is still visible as sore red marks. A healer at St Mungo's told her that with time it should fade to barely visible white lines.

"She's more than capable of taking care of herself." He carries on.

"I know that Chris." She flaps at him with the tea towel. "But I'm allowed to worry. I'm her Mother."

"Speaking of worrying," Hermione interrupts. "I've got some bad news."

Her Mum's eyes widen, instantly worried, whilst her Dad's gives her a vaguely concerned look. She takes out the Ministry letter she received this morning and hands it to her Dad. Her Mum stands behind him to read it.

"They can't do this. They can't force you into marriage." Her Mum says weakly once she's finished reading.

"What's Azkaban?" Her Dad questions.

"Wizard prison," She explains.

He laughs. "You're a war hero Hermione. They aren't going to send you there for refusing." He tells her confidently.

"They will just to make an example out of me."

Kingsley wouldn't like it but he would sentence her there just so he doesn't appear weak.

"And even if that was true, I don't want any special treatment because of who I am." She shakes her head.

"So that's that. There's nothing you can do. You're going to be married in five months." Her Mum says sadly.

Hermione just nods.

"What about this questionnaire?" Her Dad mentions. "Can't you just say you're currently in a relationship with Harry or Ron or another one of your friends?"

Hermione's nose scrunches up in disgust at the thought of marrying Harry. He was not just one of her best friends but he was also like a brother to her. She didn't want to think about marrying him. She is also shocked to realise she feels similar about Ron.

"No, they'll know if I'm lying and I don't want to be married to them anyway. They're like brothers to me." She admits taking the questionnaire back from her Dad. She hasn't even looked at it yet.

Dear Sir/Miss,

This questionnaire will be used to pair you with your partner so, in order for you to be accurately paired with someone compatible, we have charmed any ink applied to glow red if an incorrect answer is written and then disappear ready for the correct answer to be written. All twenty questions must be answered before being sent back to the Ministry of Magic.

1. Name:

2. Date of Birth:

3. Gender:

4. Sexuality:

5. Blood Status:

6. Hogwarts House:

7. Career:

8. Average/Predicted NEWT Grade:

9. Current Relationship Status:

10. Hair Colour:

11. Eye Colour:

12. How many children do you wish to have?:

13. Your Favourite Colour:

14. Your Favourite Number:

15. Your Favourite Food:

16. Your Favourite Drink:

17. Partner's Hair Colour:

18. Partner's Eye Colour:

19. Your Boggart:

20. Any other notes:

Thank you for your time.

Approved and Signed by

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic.

"They've put a charm on it so you can't lie," She announces.

With a sigh, her Mum goes back to the oven where she's making lunch. "Lunch will be ready in ten minutes so you might as well get it over and done with now," She tells her.

She finishes the questionnaire, which seems rather pointless, just as her Mum is plating up lunch. She had unknowing answered one of the questions incorrectly resulting in a bright red light exploding from the parchment scaring her Mum who had muttered, "Bloody magic." Under her breath in response. She doesn't have access to an owl so she packs it safely into her trunk so she can owl it to the Ministry using one of the Hogwarts owls.

Her Mum had made her favourite for lunch, fish and chips with mush peas. It's not something she has very often since, for some reason, they don't make it at Hogwarts. Like Hermione had predicted, after dinner, they collected Bobby from Mrs Johnson next door and took her for a long walk around the local park. Then they listened to the radio as they played a game of Cluedo. For dinner, they ordered a pizza for delivery then sat in the front room watching Jurassic Park.

Hermione finds herself very tired when the film ends so she wishes her parents a good night and heads to bed. Once there, though, she busies herself with ensuring her trunk is packed and that she hasn't left anything out. When she finally climbs into bed an hour later she falls instantly asleep where she dreams of catching the train back to Hogwarts with her friends in the morning.

Her Mum wakes her up at half seven and nearly has to drag her out of bed and downstairs for breakfast. She sips a cup of coffee and eats a slice of jam on toast as her Dad reads his newspaper.

"You need to be at Kings Cross for nine so we're leaving in half an hour. Make sure you have everything you need before we leave because we're already on a tight schedule." She says between sips of tea.

Hermione just nods at her instructions. It's not until she's sat on the edge of her bed rechecking her trunk that she realises that this might be the last time she sleeps in her bed. This is her last holiday at home. She won't be coming home for the Easter Holidays since she wants to dedicate the holidays to studying for her NEWTS. She'll maybe get to spend two or three days at home for The Partner Ceremony, then she'll have to live in the Ministry Starter House. With her husband.

She shakes the thought from her head before she upsets herself. She slams her trunk lid down then carries it easily downstairs thanks to a feather-light charm.

Her Mum and Dad are standing at the front door waiting. They're smiling but it doesn't quite reach their eyes. She can see the sadness behind them. She gives them a similar smile as her Dad attempts to take her trunk from her but it's obviously too heavy without the charm so she carries it to her Dad's car by herself.

The drive to King's Cross Station is quiet besides the radio which is playing a Spice Girls marathon. She doesn't mind, though. Its last bit of the Muggle world she'll have for months and she savours every moment of it. Her Dad unknowingly parks the car next to a light blue Ford Anglia which makes her smile. Knowing that her friends were already here. She carries her trunk into King's Cross slowly, stalling, as usual, trying to spend as much time as possible with her parents.

"I'm going to miss you both so much." She hugs them both tightly as they stop at the wall for Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. "I can't believe this is going to be my last train ride to Hogwarts. I can't believe I'm getting married." She cries into her parent's shoulders.

"Hey, hey, Hermione. You've got five months of school left. Try not to ruin the memories by thinking too much about The Partner Ceremony. Que Sera Sera, my dear." Her Mum whispers tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. Her Dad squeezes her shoulder to show his agreement.

With a deep breath, she gives her parents one last hug and kiss on the cheek before turning to face the wall. This will be the last time she walks onto Platform Nine and Three-Quarters as a student of Hogwarts. The next time she'll stand her, she'll be with her own children and her husband. A shudder runs through her so she shakes her head of her thought again. She quickly peers over her shoulder to wave back to her parents before walking straight through the wall and emerging on the other side.

She looks around for a familiar face and spots the red hair of the Weasley's within seconds. On the way over to them, Luna comes skipping over to her with a bright smile on her face. They walk together the rest of the way.

"Hermione dear," Molly excitedly pulls her into a hug to rival Hagrid's. "How are you?"

"I'm well, thank you, Molly." She replies politely. "How are you?"

"Oh, there's no need to worry about me." She playfully hits her with her handkerchief.

"Mum!" A whine came from behind them. "You gave me corned beef. You know I don't like corned beef." Ron shows his sandwich to his Mum.

"Then swap with someone." She walks over to him to make a fuss.

"You're a big boy now Ronny." Ginny teases. "Sort out your own problems."

Harry smiles at her antics but goes over to his friend to offer him his ham sandwiches anyway. Once the sandwich fiasco is over and done with, they set about getting their luggage on the train. With one more farewell hug to Molly, they all climbed aboard the Hogwarts Express to Hogwarts for the last time.

The end up walking nearly the entire length of the train trying to find an empty compartment. Ginny and Luna were called into a compartment by some of their friends so Hermione, Harry and Ron carry on by themselves until the boys are called into a compartment by Jimmy Peakes and Richie Coote, the Gryffindor beaters. Hermione tells them she'll carry on ahead to find an empty compartment.

She finds one near the end of the train where she takes her seat next to the window. She enjoys watching the city fade into town into the countryside. Once they're far out of the city, she takes out her new book, tucks her legs under her and starts reading.

Although she's interrupted ten minutes later when Harry and Ron enter the compartment in the middle of an argument. Ron flops down next to her whilst Harry does the same opposite her. With a roll of her eyes, she closes her book, setting it on the small table.

"What are you arguing about this time?" She questions in annoyance.

"Malfoy," Ron answers vaguely.

"What about him?" She asks suspiciously.

"Ron here thinks our favourite Slytherin has gone crazy from watching his Dark Lord die making him lose the war." Harry huffs out a sarcastic laugh.

She turns to look at Ron who just nods.

"Okay, then what's your stand in the argument," She asks.

"He's always been crazy but recently he's been acting crazier, as in more like a normal person," Harry explains his viewpoint. "Just two minutes ago he pushed past us then apologised. So very unlike Malfoy but very like a normal, polite, kind person." She finishes.

Hermione thinks back to the few interactions she's has with him since the war ended, mainly the two that occurred yesterday. Had she even attempted to touch him before the war, he would have childishly backed away shouting something about contagious Mudblood germs or something. But he not only didn't swat her hand away when she was rubbing the ice cream off his shirt but afterwards, he willingly placed his hand on her arm.

"What do you think Hermione?" Ron asks as though her answer was absolute.

"I think that he's been forced to grow up a lot since the war ended and he's trying to change his ways. Of course, he's not going to completely do an 180. That's not who he is, but he's making an effort not to be such a judgemental idiot like you two obviously still are." She answers.

"But what if he's…" Ron starts to argue.

"Ron," She looks him dead in the eye. "I think he's realised that he's going to marry in five months. He's grown up. Maybe you should do the same."

Ron scoffs. "What are you talking about? We're practically men." He puffs his chest proudly.

She rolls her eyes. "This coming from the 'man' who was whining to his Mother about corned beef sandwiches." She quirks her eyebrow questionably which shuts them up.

They quietly grumble to each other whilst she goes back to her book. At some point Ginny and Luna found our compartment then sat down beside Harry to continue their conversation. It wasn't until an excited Neville entered that the noise level became too much for her to read so she put her book back in her bag. Neville's excited news was, confusingly, to do with The Marriage Decree. Apparently he was excited to move out of his Grandmother's house and finally be able to live independently.

Hermione, no longer wanting to listen to conversations on The Marriage Decree, excuses herself. However, she doesn't get very far before she's headbutting someone's chest. She glances up, rubbing her forehead, to see none other than Draco Malfoy stood glaring down at her.

His last words to her flash through her mind. 'Try not to make this a habit.' She waits for him to start shouting at her but she's completely unprepared for what he actually does. He takes a few step forwards until their chest are almost touching then leans down so his lips are next to her ear. She takes a sharp intake of breath as his nose tickles her hair and he whispers, "I thought I told you not to make it a habit."

She huffs out a small laugh. "This time was your fault," She whispers back before taking a step back. "What are you doing outside our compartment anyway? Eavesdropping on our conversations?" She raises a questioning eyebrow.

Draco doesn't say anything but he does narrow his eyes and that action alone tell her she's right. She gives him a sweet smile that hopefully tells him that she knows she's right. She takes a step around him and carries on her way down the train leaving him behind.

It takes her a full minute of strolling down the corridor before she realises she's going the wrong way. She's walking towards the front of the train which is only about twenty compartments away. She glances over her shoulder to see if Draco's still there but thankfully he's walked off so she turns back around and heads down to the other end of the train.

"Nice tights, Granger." A cheery voice came from behind her.

She turns around to find Blaise stood leaning against the train window. She looks down at her tights not remembering what she's wearing. She had packed all her school tights in her trunk and couldn't remember where about they were hidden so she had just put a pair of green fashion tights on.

"What do you want, Zabini?" She asks with a sigh.

"Oh, nothing really," He answers looking down at his nails. "I was just wondering what Draco was seductively whispering into your ear a few minutes ago." He suddenly looks up directly into her eyes.

She glares at him. "He wasn't… seductively… doing anything." She shudders.

"Of course, he wasn't Granger." He winks at her before walking forward, grabbing hold of her wrist. She tries to pull her arm back but he holds on tight so instead, she glares up at him. He pulls her hand up to his face making her freeze with the confusion that he might kiss her hand. Instead, he twist her wrist around to look at her watch then drops her arm. "Nice talking to you Granger. See you around." He says then walks off.

She's a bit shaken by the confusing interaction with both Zabini and Malfoy so she heads back to her compartment to find Ginny and Luna chatting outside.

"What's happening?" She questions them.

"The boys are getting changed into their robes. We should be there in half an hour." Ginny tells them.

"Why are you embarrassed, Hermione?" Luna asks concernedly.

"W-what do you mean?" She asks blushing.

"Ah yes. The cussites." Ginny rolls her eyes at her.

"It's pronounced Cousites," Luna explains. "Like couscous."

"Oh." She says simply.

"There are Cousites all over your face." She sighs as the compartment door slides open revealing Harry, Ron and Neville dressed in their robes and cloaks.

"You took your time," Ginny complains as she pushes past them into the compartment with Hermione and Luna following her in.

Once they were all dressed, they sat around chatting to each other for the ten minutes left of the train ride.

"So what did you do yesterday afternoon?" Ginny asks her.

"I went to Diagon Alley after I left your house then went home. Spent the rest of the day hanging out with my parents since it's probably the last time I'll be living in the same house with them." She tells her.

"Well you're just a barrel of laughs aren't you?" Ginny teases her.

"I would be if I knew who I was going to be getting married to." She whispers to Ginny, poking her in the ribs.

"What do you mean?" Ginny frown glancing to her brother then back to Hermione.

She shakes her head sadly. "I'll tell you tonight in the dormitory," She mutters.

"We don't definitely know that we're going to be paired together. Harry sent an owl to Kingsley but he said everyone is going to be paired with someone they are compatible to depending on their questionnaire." Ginny whispers closely, careful no one else can hear.

Hermione's stomach drops. "But the questionnaire had nothing to do with compatibility. It didn't ask anything about our personality or our hobbies and interests. I don't care if what their favourite number or colour is." She growls angrily.

"Shhh." Ginny shushes her casting a quick look around their compartment but thankfully no one is looking at them. "Look, we'll talk more about this tonight in the dormitory," She whispers before turning around to talk to Harry and Neville.

Hermione stares at the back of Ginny's head suspiciously. What does she know about the questionnaires? Did Kingsley tell them something that he's not telling everyone else?

The Hogwarts Express pulls into Hogsmeade Station as Hermione is sat thinking about Kingsley, The Ministry and The Marriage Decree making her one of the last ones off the train. Thankfully she wasn't alone as Ron has waited for her and is getting her trunk down from the overhead compartment. She thanks him as she takes it off him and drags it off the train. There's only one carriage waiting when they get to the Thestral stables.

They leave their trunks in the baggage area then climb aboard the last carriage to find a first year Ravenclaw sat in the corner. Her eyes widen in surprise to see two of the Golden Trio enter. She stares back and forth between Ron and Hermione as they sit down opposite her then quickly looks down at her hands when Hermione looks at her.

"Hello," Hermione politely greets her trying to make the whole situation less awkward. "I'm Hermione."

"I- I know." The girl squeaks excitedly looking up at her. "I'm Lauren," She adds as an afterthought.

"What a lovely name. I have a cousin called Lauren. She's four." She smiles at Lauren.

After a few more awkward moments of smiling at each other, she looks at Ron hoping he would help her but he is just slouching next to her staring at his feet. Suddenly the carriage lowers from the weight of someone climbing up the steps. All three of them glance over at the door to find Pansy Parkinson trying to gracefully aboard the carriage. Once she notices who is already seated, she rolls her eyes with a groan.

"Did you plan this Draco?" She asks Malfoy who peers in the carriage as he climbs up himself.

"It's merely a coincidence," He grumbles taking a seat at the end of Lauren's bench.

Zabini climbs up next with a bright smile. He gives Hermione as wink taking a seat next to Ron, opposite Draco.

"What happened to your scarf Granger?" Zabini asks turning to face her, crossing his legs, accidently kicking Ron in the knee.

"Watch it Zabini." Ron growls but Zabini just ignores him.

"It's not part of the school uniform so I took it off," She explains.

Zabini frowns at her. "I was unaware that those tights were part of the Gryffindor uniform.

Hermione glances down at her legs then, remembering she hasn't taken the green tights off, cover her legs with her cloak. She looks up to find Malfoy smirking at her and Parkinson glaring at her in disgust.

"I'm not sitting next to that Mudblood." Parkinson hisses.

Hermione freezes instinctively grabbing hold of her forearm. She hears a whimper from Lauren and looks over to find her shaking in fear. She must be a Muggleborn. She reaches forward, gently touching Lauren's knee. She looks up with tears in her eye.

"Do you want to come sit next to me?" She asks. Lauren nods standing up.

Hermione turns to Ron expecting him to move over but instead he just stares back at her. Hermione frowns at him. "Are you going to move over, Ron?" She asks him.

"Oh, right, yeah," He says in a bored tone turning towards Zabini expecting him to move but instead Zabini just flutters his eyelashes.

"Yes, Ronald." He smiles sweetly at Ron.

"Move." Ron rudely orders him.

He puts on an insulted facial expression. "Not until you ask me nicely, Ronald."

Ron turns around to face Hermione who just nods her head. With a deep sigh, he turns back to Zabini and mumbles, "Please."

"I don't think you mean it." He huffs.

"Just move Blaise," Draco complains.

"No Draco, I won't," Blaise shouts sounding angry. "I am a human being. I deserve to be treated like one." He stands up pointing at Ron who ignores him shuffling over to make room for Lauren.

"I don't want to be sat opposite them either." Parkinson spits at Hermione and Lauren.

Zabini pushes past Parkinson to sit opposite Lauren, then Malfoy shuffles down next to him so she can sit at the end of the bench.

"We're human beings." Hermione glares at Parkinson. "We deserve to be treated like one," She adds.

Zabini bursts out laughing holding his hand up for a high-five from Hermione but she just stares at it making him awkwardly drop it. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Malfoy smirking at her again. She ignores the Slytherin's sat opposite her instead sparking conversation with Lauren about how she's adjusting to her new wizarding life.

When they pull up to the castle Ron climbs out of the carriage first then Zabini pushes past Hermione to open the carriage door and give Hermione, Lauren and Parkinson a hand down from the carriage. He offers Draco one as well but he bats it away climbing down from the carriage himself.

Hermione looks around expecting to find Ron but he's gone.

"Where's your boyfriend gone?" Zabini asks as they set off towards the castle.

"He's not my boyfriend," Hermione tells him.

"Oooh. What happened? Trouble in paradise." Zabini comes skipping over to her and hooks his arm through hers.

Hermione looks up at Zabini confused as to why he's pretending to care but his expression looks genuine. With a sigh, Hermione gives in. "We were never a proper couple and now there's no point since we're all going to be married off in five months."

He nods at her. "I suppose you're right." He pauses to think for a moment. "Although I still like to have hope that I'll be paired with someone I will love." He glances up to the castle.

"You have a certain someone in mind." Hermione teasingly asks.

"Wouldn't you like to know Hermione?" He winks at her.

As they come up to the steps to the castle, Zabini unhooks his arms from hers but they continue to walk together towards the Great Hall.

"I hope everything works out for you Blaise," She tells him with a smile. He really is quite nice once she's gotten to know him.

"You too Hermione." He smiles back at her and she hopes that won't be the last time they talk to each other.

Hermione enters The Great Hall, Blaise waits for Malfoy and Parkinson to catch up to him, then walks down the aisle trying to find her friends. She finds them sat near the front of the hall close to the Professors table. She takes a seat next to Ginny who is in the middle of a conversation with Neville so she doesn't interrupt.

A few minutes later, Professor McGonagall, who is acting as Headmistress until The Ministry finds a replacement, calls everyone's attention to her.

"Welcome back everyone." She announces opening up her arms as if she were going to embrace all the students. "As many of you know, there are going to be a few changes to the wizarding world in the next couple of months. It might seem quite daunting but remember-" She glances around the hall. "Not all changes are bad and so I ask you to try and find the good in these changes for you never know. You might be thankful for them one day." She takes one final look around the hall. "Enjoy." She claps her hands together and a great feast appears on their table.

Everyone instantly digs in. Hermione places a square of lasagne on her plate alone with a slice of garlic bread. She listens in on her friends' conversations, not really commenting much, for the rest of the night until they are dismissed. They all walk back to their common room together but once inside, Ginny yawns then announces she going to bed giving Hermione a sharp look which she takes to mean 'follow me' so she does, making her own excuses about being too tired to stay up any longer.

Once they are in their pyjamas and have had a wash, they congregate on Ginny bed. They pull the curtains around her bed and Hermione casts a privacy spell so no one can hear them.

"So," Ginny starts. "What the hell happened to you and Ron?" She asks.

"Nothing," Hermione sighs. "That's kind of the point. We kissed once at the end of the war then he never made any move to take things further and I hinted at things. I invited him out to Diagon Alley, just the two of us, but then he invited Harry who invited you then you invited Luna and Neville and it turned into a group outing instead of a date."

"Really! You should have told me, I would have made an excuse not to go." Ginny rolls her eyes at her.

"I thought maybe Ron invited you all because he didn't want to go on a date with me. It would have been awkward. Anyway, I did write his name down on the questionnaire but it lit up red." She admits.

Ginny's eyes soften.

"What?" Hermione asks nervously. "What are those eyes for?"

She looks awkwardly away from her. "He wrote your name down and it didn't glow red."

"He's going to be so upset when we're not paired together." Hermione shakes her head letting it fall into her hands.

"Speaking of the questionnaire," Ginny leans forward. "There was something strange about the reply Harry got from Kingsley. He mentioned how the Ministry Officials will be pairing us on our answers to the questionnaire and nothing else. It just seems a bit suspicious that the Ministry Officials will have anything to do with it. We had assumed it would be like the Triwizard Tournament where all the entries are placed in a goblet and then the names of two compatible people would fly out. Anyway Harry and Dad are working together to figure out what's actually happening in the Ministry." She explains leaving Hermione with a lot of information to think about.

"So we might not be paired by compatibility at all. Just by some Ministry Official who doesn't even know us." Hermione ponders aloud.

"Maybe, we're not too sure. You can't speak to anyone about this okay. Not even Harry." Ginny begs her. "He's working so hard to try to make sure that we're partnered together."

Hermione doesn't want to upset Ginny but she has to make sure her friend understands and be prepared in case they're not paired together. "If the questionnaire means nothing, then… what if you're not paired with Harry?"

"We've got a foolproof plan that will ensure we're paired together, whether the Ministry Officials want us together or not," Ginny smirks proudly.

"Are you going to elaborate?" Hermione encourages her.

"No, we don't want to tell anyone in case The Ministry finds out," She explains.

Hermione's eyes widen. "Is it illegal? It's not going to get you sent to Azkaban is it?" She asks concerned.

"It's not illegal but we get the feeling that The Ministry wouldn't want us to do it. We're kind of cheating the system a bit." She shrugs innocently.

"Okay, I don't want to know anything. I'm not going to be an accessory to whatever it is you have planned." She jokes.

"I still can't believe that we're going to be married in five months." Hermione sighs sadly.

"I know, I can't wait." Ginny sighs a lot happier than Hermione.

She shakes her head confused by her friend's excitement.

"I'm gonna go to bed. I don't want to be too tired for the start of lessons tomorrow." Hermione announces opening the curtains of Ginny's bed. "I'll see you in the morning."

"G'night."

Hermione ends up spending most of the night tossing and turning trying to get to sleep but her minds stuck thinking about what Ginny said about the questionnaire and the Ministry Officials. She decides to look in the library tomorrow to see if there are any books on marriage decrees. If not, she'll send an owl to Percy, who works at Flourish and Blotts, and ask if he can owl her a few books.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

At first, Draco is unsure as to why he is awake. Usually, Mitty wakes him up by throwing his curtains back, blinding him in the process but there's no light coming from anywhere. It must be the early hours of the morning which begs the questions, why is he awake at this time. He's beginning to drift back off when he feels a weight on the other side of his bed. In one swift movement, he turns over brandishing his wand, pointing it towards the dip in his bed. He mumbles, "Lumos." He's not sure what he expected to see but Blaise's face a mere foot away from his own was not it. He pushes himself away with a gasp causing him to get the hiccoughs sending Blaise into a fit of giggles on his bed.

"You idiot." Draco manages to hit his friend with a pillow between hiccoughs and gasps of breath. "You could *hic* have told me *hic* you were coming *hic* over." He continues to hit him.

"Sorry, sorry. Ow, Draco, stop." Blaise apologises.

Draco throws the pillow at Blaise before lying back down, trying to calm himself. When his hiccoughs are gone he turns to face his friend. "What are you doing here?"

"Mum and Alberic decided to stay in Toulouse for a while. Al's got some family there so I told them I'd stay at yours the night before going back to school." Blaise explains shimmying under the quilt. "You don't mind do you?" He asks as he unbuttons his shirt then throws it on the floor.

Draco rolls his eyes. "No, just make yourself comfortable why don't you," He replies half sarcastically.

"Thanks." He starts to unbutton his jeans.

"Hey, you better be wearing underwear this time," Draco warns him.

"Don't worry. I put a special pair on just for you." Blaise teased and Draco's sure that he just winked as well. "Sorry for scaring you. Thought I'd be able to sneak in unnoticed."

"Better try next time." Draco yawns turning away. "I'm going back to sleep," He mumbles. "And no cuddling." He adds.

"Fine." Blaise sighs shuffling around to get comfortable.

The next time Draco is awoken, it is by the usual method of blindness. He throws his arm over his eyes to block out the sunlight. He feels Blaise shuffles down near the end of his bed to get away from the light.

"Why?" His friend groans from under his quilt. "Why?"

"Master, it is seven o'clock. Master's Mother asked Mitty to wake Master up for breakfast." Mitty announces from the foot of his bed.

"Yeah. We'll be down in a few minutes." He mumbles. "Make sure there's a place set for Blaise," He adds.

"Yes, Master." She bows then disappears.

With a long stretch and a yawn, Draco throws the quilt off himself and Blaise letting the crisp, icy air hit them. Draco is thankful he's actually wearing pyjamas, unlike Blaise who's only wearing a pair of boxers. He grabs his dressing gown then throws a spare one at Blaise before they make their way downstairs to the dining room where his mother is already reading the morning newspapers.

"Morning Draco." His mother greets him without looking up from the paper. "Blaise dear, I didn't know you were joining us this morning. How lovely." She glances over the top of the paper to offer Blaise a small smile before going back to whatever article she had been reading.

Draco and Blaise helped themselves to as much food as they could manage. They wouldn't be getting anything else to eat until later that night in the Great Hall. Draco didn't like to snack on the sweets the trolley lady brought down the train. Too much sugar makes his mouth feel dirty. Once finished they excuse themselves and head back upstairs to get dressed.

Blaise pulled on the clothes he had been wearing when he arrived earlier in the morning. The shirt was quite crinkled from spending the night on the floor so Draco offers him a jumper to wear over the top which he gladly takes.

Draco decides to wear a pair of black trousers and a white linen shirt he recently bought. It looked just enough like his uniform that all he would have to do is throw on his tie and cloak for the welcome back feast instead of changing his entire outfit.

Once they're both ready and they've checked that everything's in their trunks, they carry them downstairs and bid farewell to his mother and Mitty. They decide to make their own way to Kings Cross, not that his mother offered to take them, so they drag their trunks across the gardens until they reach the gate, where the protective charms end, and they can disapparate into the alleyway at the back of Kings Cross.

They take a slow stroll around to the front of Kings Cross. Draco always finds it interesting to watch what the Muggles do with their mornings. They all seem to be walking quickly in the same direction, towards Kings Cross Station or St Pancras. A few of them are holding something to their ears although Draco can't get a good enough look at what they actually are. Some of them are drinking or eating as they push their way through the crowds. 'Do they not have time to eat breakfast at home?' He wonders as they enter the station.

They're early by over an hour. When Draco was younger, his father told him how he used to sit in the first compartment on the train with his friends and how no one dared to even try to claim it as their own. Draco then begged his father to get to Platform 9 ¾ early so he could claim the compartment as his own as well. Now everyone knows that the first compartment on the train is Malfoy's. He used to be proud to occupy the same compartment as his father, now he can't wait for the last time he'll have to ride the Hogwarts Express.

Since the end of the war, The Ministry have been extra tight with security. They don't take the wards down until exactly an hour before the train leaves meaning they can't get through until eight o'clock. The end up sitting on a bench opposite the wall for ten minutes, until the nearby clock strikes eight o'clock. Draco picks up his trunk and walks straight through the wall into Platform 9 ¾, shortly followed by Blaise. They waste no time in boarding the train and finding their compartment where they store their trunks in the overhead compartments.

Draco takes his usual seat next to the window where he gazes out at a few other people who have decided to get there early. Most of them carry their trunks onto the train only to return to the platform a few minutes later to chat with their friends and family. He ends up getting lost in the sea of his thought. Wave after wave of 'marriage', 'wife' and 'children' splash at his mind. Before he knows it, the platform is full and Blaise is lying on the opposite bench snoring beneath today's copy of The Daily Prophet.

Suddenly their compartment door slams open. Draco jumps up pointing his wand at the intruder. He hears a crash beside him which he assumes is Blaise falling off the bench. Standing in front of him, looking very annoyed to have a wand in her face, is Pansy with her arms crossed. With a sigh, he puts his wand away and gives Blaise a hand up from the floor.

"You wouldn't have been much help lying down there on the floor if it had been a real threat," Draco complains.

"What do you mean 'real threat'?" He mumbles in Draco's ear who sniggers.

Draco sits back down in his usual seat and Blaise sits next to him with his newspaper. Pansy sits in front of them and starts babbling on about her holiday, neither Draco nor Blaise are listening to her. Draco chooses to gaze out the window, staring at all the families saying 'Goodbye' to their children. He can hear Blaise mumbling something behind him but he doesn't pay attention until he gets whacked on the head by the newspaper.

"What was that for?" He frowns rubbing the back of his head.

"I was trying to talk to you," He says. "What you looking at anyway? Trying to find your wife." Blaise teased.

Draco rolls her eyes. "No, I was just thinking."

"About your future wife." Blaise laughs.

Pansy wasn't laughing though at the change of conversation. "They shouldn't have applied this to us purebloods. It's going to dirty our bloodlines. I mean we could get paired with anyone. Even a Mudblood. Urgh, I don't even want to think about it…" Pansy rambles on.

She doesn't notice the way Draco flinches at the word but Blaise does.

"Are you alright?" He whispers concernedly.

"I'm fine," Draco replies before going back to staring out the window.

Blaise points out the window to a Ravenclaw girl in the year below them. "I wouldn't mind getting married to her."

"Why her?" Draco asks. He was unaware that Blaise knew her. Maybe she was the Ravenclaw he went out with before Christmas.

"My mother would like her. She was living in France until she was nine so she speaks French and she's very pretty. We'd make my mother some beautiful grandchildren." He explains.

Draco laughs. "Is she the one you went out with before Christmas?" He asks.

"No, my Ravenclaw is beautiful, amazing and a little bit crazy. I get the feeling mother wouldn't like her at all." Blaise sighs sadly looking out the window.

"Is she out there?" Draco asks skimming his eyes over the crowd.

"Yeah." He sighs again. "I can see your future wife too." He laughs.

Draco quickly cast a gaze around the platform, trying to find whoever Blaise was talking about. "Who are you on about?" He asks.

"That girl you met in Diagon Alley yesterday." Blaise continues to tease him which gains Pansy's attention.

"Who did you meet in Diagon Alley?" She tries to ask calmly but her left eyes are twitching nervously.

"No one." Draco sends Blaise a warning look. He can't remember seeing her on the platform yet but a second look finds her almost instantaneously. She's stood with the Weasley and Potter.

Pansy narrows her eyes at them. "Who are you talking about?" She almost growls at them.

"Just some girl Draco here kept bumping into." Blaise shrugs.

"She kept crashing into me," He replies defensively. "Twice. Covering me in ice-cream."

"Why aren't you telling me?" Pansy actually growls, this time, making Draco and Blaise stare at her for a moment.

Blaise turns to face Draco. "You came home yesterday complaining about her. I just got the feeling that you like her."

"Well, I don't so shut up about it." He threatens, knowing that if Pansy finds out she'll turn into a jealous girlfriend which just gets on his nerves since they have never been a couple.

"Draco, please tell me." Pansy pleads whiningly, fluttering her eyelashes flirtatiously.

"Shut up, Pansy." Draco moans at the same time Blaise says, "Granger."

Draco groans. "Why Blaise?" as Pansy explodes in rage.

"Granger. You met that Mudblood in Diagon Alley?" She hisses.

"Stop using that word," He grumbles through gritted teeth.

"Oh Merlin, you're getting protective of her now. You like her, don't you?" She asks turning a sickly green colour.

"No, I don't." He sighs not seeing this conversation ending anytime soon.

"Why don't I believe you?" She continues to shout.

"Well, I'm telling you the truth. If you choose not to believe it then that's your problem." He gazes back out the window. Everyone is making their way on the train now. He looks down at his watch. Five more minutes before they leave.

"Come on Pansy. I was just teasing him." Blaise chuckles calmly. "You can't actually believe that Draco would like Granger," He says defending him.

Pansy huffs crossing her arms. "Of course, I do."

"You're being jealous." He sighs obviously tired of this conversation as well. "There's nothing to be jealous of. You've seen how they interact with each other. They hate each other." He points out.

"That was before the war before Draco turned his back on The Dark Lord. Maybe he's changed his mind on that Mudblood too." Pansy spits jealously at Draco.

He can't take it anymore. "I've told you to stop calling her that," He growls angrily as he stands up.

"Oh Merlin, you do like her." Pansy gasps covering her mouth.

"Erm, Draco. You told her to stop using the word." Blaise explain.

Draco freezes realising his mistake. The train starts to move knocking him back down into his seat.

"What difference does it make?" He shouts standing back up. "Just stop using that word." He turns abruptly on his heel, walking straight out of the compartment nearly crashing into Goyle who called after him confused.

He storms off angrily down the train not bothering to stop for anyone. People ate still trying to find empty compartments though most manage to step out the way as he made his way down the corridor. However, he does have to push two people out the way to get past them but he mumbles an apology as he carries on.

That is until he hear them say "Did Malfoy just apologise to us?" He recognises the voice as Potter so he carries on his not wanting to cause a commotion on the train. Though when he hears their voices walking away from him, he turns around and follows them discretely to their compartment. They're obviously still talking about him so he leans against their compartment window which, thankfully has its curtains pulled closed, to listen.

"What are you arguing about this time?" An annoyed voice he knows is Grangers asks.

"Malfoy," Weasley answers making him smile.

It's nice to know they have nothing better to do than argue about him. He tries not to think about how he, Blaise and Pansy had just been doing the same thing about Granger.

"What about him?" Granger asks.

"Ron here thinks our favourite Slytherin has gone crazy from watching his Dark Lord die making him lose the war." Potter laughs sarcastically.

Draco's flattered to be given the title of The Golden Trio's favourite Slytherin even if they think he's gone crazy. He silently chuckles to himself.

"Okay, then what's your stand in the argument," Granger asks.

"He's always been crazy but recently he's been acting crazier, as in more like a normal person," Potter told her.

So he's being branded as crazy because he's finally acting like a half decent person.

"Just two minutes ago he pushed past us then apologised. So very unlike Malfoy but very like a normal, polite, kind person." Potter carries on.

Draco shakes his head. It's not as if he can change who he is or anything.

"What do you think Hermione?" Weasley asks and Draco finds himself standing up straighter, curious as to what her thoughts of him are.

"I think that he's been forced to grow up a lot since the war ended and he's trying to change his ways. Of course, he's not going to completely do an 180. That's not who he is, but he's making an effort not to be such a judgemental idiot like you two obviously still are." Granger answers.

His stomach drops at her words. He's shocked but glad that at least she can realise that he's trying to change. Most people don't take the time even notice him anymore.

"But what if he's…" Weasley starts to complain.

"Ron," Granger interrupts him. "I think he's realised that he's going to be marked in five months. He's grown up. Maybe you should do the same."

He finds himself smiling at her and has to stop himself. He doesn't smile and definitely not at Granger.

"What are you talking about? We're practically men." Weasley announces and Draco has to cover his mouth to quieten his scoff.

"This coming from the 'man' who was whining to his Mother about corned beef sandwiches." Granger points out.

They fall quiet so Draco assumes that their conversation is over he's about to set off on his previously planned walk to the end of the train when Potter's girlfriend and that weird Lovegood girl shows up blocking his path.

"Hello, Draco." Lovegood greets him.

"Hello," He replies awkwardly.

"Don't worry, I'm sure the moment will pass," She comments nodding her head.

"What moment?" Draco frowns confused.

"Whatever embarrassing moment is making the Cousites spread all over your face," She answers obviously.

Draco stares at her for a long moment still confused. "Okay," He says then pushes past them.

He only makes it halfway down the train when he gets bored and decides to head back to his compartment. Though on the way back, someone comes rushing out of their own compartment headbutting his chest. He rubs his chest glaring down at whoever it is. He should have known. Granger is stood staring up at him confused for a moment then glares at him. What's she glaring at him for? It's her fault.

He wants to shout at her to stop crashing into him but he remembers that they're stood directly outside her compartment where her friends are who wouldn't think twice about cursing him to protect her. So instead of shouting at her, he takes a few steps forward until they're stood mere inches away from each other. He leans down to her ear, smirking as she takes a sharp intake of breath. "I thought I told you not to make it a habit."

She huffs out a laugh that tickles the side of his face. "This time was your fault," She whispers back before stepping away from him. "What are you doing outside our compartment anyway? Eavesdropping on our conversations?" She asks raising her eyebrow.

He narrows his eyes not wanting to answer since he had been eavesdropping earlier. She gives him a sweet, innocent smile that tells him that she knows he was. She then takes a step around him then walks off down the corridor. When he makes it to his compartment, he pauses for a moment. He doesn't really want to go in and face Pansy or even Blaise right now, but he's got nowhere else to go. He sighs deeply, stands tall, then throws the compartment door open letting it slam.

Everyone looks up at him then quickly avoids his glare by looking down at magazines, food or even their hands. Draco smirks as he takes his usual seat then turns his glare onto the countryside that's quickly passing by. It takes him a few more minutes before he realises that Blaise isn't even in the compartment.

"Where's Blaise?" He grumbles to no one in particular.

"Went to see his girlfriend?" Goyle sniggers elbowing him in the ribs but shuffles away slightly upon receiving another one of his glares.

"I didn't know he has a girlfriend." Pansy frowns crossing her arms angrily.

"He doesn't," He announces. "They went on one date before Christmas and I doubt he's going to pursue her now." He points out.

"Mother wants me to move to America and marry some pureblood girl over there." Goyle mentions and everyone turns to face him. He doesn't usually say much unless it's an insult or a joke.

"Are you going to?" Theo asks.

They were never really that close, Theo and Draco, but at the Welcome Back Feast in September, he sat next to him and started to talk to Draco. He's never really stopped since. He's very talkative which is probably why he and Blaise get on so well.

"Nah, I ain't going to Azkaban. I'd never hear the end of it from my grandmother." He shrugs.

Draco's still pretty gobsmacked that Goyle is actually conversing with them. He supposes that anyone can change.

Blaise comes back a few minutes later and squeezes on the bench between Goyle and Draco. His friend doesn't like to admit it but he's a very jealous person. When Theo started talking to Draco, Blaise would just glare at them until he left. He thinks Theo realised and started including Blaise in on their conversations. Now they're like the Three Musketeers or whoever. Blaise keeps calling them it. Something to do with Muggles apparently. Draco lifts his feet up, resting them between Pansy and Theo on the opposite bench then grabs his tie from his trouser pocket and ties it around his neck. He doesn't have to look to know that's it's crooked but He can't find it within himself to care right now.

When the train stops at Hogsmeade, he simply moves his feet off the opposite bench to allow everyone to get their trunks down before he even bothers to stand up. Glancing out the window, he sees everyone rushing to get a carriage with their friends or to get into the warmth of one. Either way, there's a sea of people pushing each other to get there first. Goyle and Theo have rushed off but Blaise and Pansy are waiting for him.

"Why do you always take so long?" Pansy tries to hurry him along but if anything, it makes him dawdle even more. "We're always the last one to the castle," She grumbles.

He rolls his eyes and Blaise chuckled shaking his head as Pansy makes her way towards the last remaining carriage. She starts to climb aboard but then she groans exasperatedly. Draco peers past Pansy into the carriage to see what is getting on Pansy's nerves.

Of course, it's Granger and Weasel.

"Did you plan this Draco?" She asks him entering the carriage.

Draco climbs up behind her. "It's merely a coincidence," He grumbles, taking a seat as close to the door as possible.

Blaise climbs up last, smiling happily as if this is his first day. If he's not mistaken, Blaise sends Granger a wink then voluntarily take a seat next to the Weasel.

"What happened to your scarf Granger?" Blaise asks crossing his legs, kicking Weasel in the process.

"Watch it Zabini," He growls but Blaise is still talking to Granger.

"It's not part of the uniform so I took it off," Granger explains.

Draco huffs. Did Blaise even need to ask? She'd never break the rules.

"I was unaware that those tight were part of the Gryffindor uniform," Blaise asks feigning confusion.

Draco unintentionally glances down at Granger's legs and just before she covers them with her cloak, he gets a glimpse of her green tights. Green tights. Not just green tights but Slytherin Green tights. He finds himself smirking as he stares at her cloak covered legs.

"I'm not sitting next to that Mudblood." Pansy hissed crossing her arms with finality.

She's not looking at Draco so she doesn't see him flinch at the word. She's smirking down her nose at the little Ravenclaw who's cowering away from her.

"Do you want to come sit next to me?" Granger asks reaching over to comfort the other girl who nods with tears in her eyes.

Draco's heart clenches slightly. He's going to have to talk to Pansy about her choice of words again.

"Are you going to move over, Ron?" Granger asks her boyfriend who stares at her in confusion for a few seconds.

"Oh, right, yeah." He grumbles then turns towards Blaise who Draco knows is going to make a scene.

"Yes, Ronald." Blaise smiles fluttering his eyelashes.

"Move." Weasel tries to sound threatening but it just sounds rude.

Blaise uses all those months of Drama classes, his Mother married a Muggle once who taught a drama club, to act insulted. "Not until you ask me nicely, Ronald."

Weasley turns around to ask his girlfriend what to do which makes Draco sneer at him amusingly. Granger nods at him so, with probably the biggest sigh Draco's ever heard, he turns to face Blaise and mumbles, "Please."

"I don't think you mean it." Blaise huffs crossing his arms across his chest.

"Just move Blaise," Draco complains. The Thestrals don't move until all their passengers are sat down. At this rate, they won't make it to the Welcome Back Feast.

"No Draco, I won't," Blaise shouts feigning anger. "I am a human being. I deserve to be treated like one." He stands up pointing menacingly at Weasley who rolls his eyes then shuffles over to let the little girl sit next to Granger.

"I don't want to be sat opposite them either." Pansy spits at Granger and the girl in disgust.

Blaise seems to have had enough because he pushes past her to sit opposite the girl. He is tempted to make Pansy sit opposite Granger but no matter how much she annoys him, he doesn't want to be counteracting Granger's curses or whatever Granger would do to her so Draco reluctantly shuffles over next to Blaise.

Things are quiet for an awkward moment as the Thestrals start trotting. Then Granger glares at Pansy and it's a pretty impressive glare in Draco's opinion.

"We're human beings." Hermione says which confuses him to begin with but he realises what she doing when she starts to speak again. "We deserve to be treated like one," She adds.

Blaise bursts into hysterical laughter holding his hands up for Granger to high five him but she just turns her glare on him so he awkwardly drops his hand to his lap.

For the rest of the journey, Draco listens to Granger and the little Ravenclaw, called Lauren apparently, talk about their muggle life and their wizarding life. He listens until the carriage judders to a halt. He goes to stand up but Weasel beats him to it, opening the door and jumping down from the carriage. Granger's already stood up ready to exit when Blaise pushes past her but then he hold out a hand to her which she takes, using it to help her down the steps. Lauren and Pansy take his hand too. Of course, Lauren is a lot more thankful in that she actually says 'thank you' when he lets go of her hand.

Draco is climbing down from the carriage when a hand gets thrust in his face. He leans back slightly to see that it's Blaise's. He pushes his friends hand away and climbs down himself. Once he's stood on the grass, he looks up to find that Granger has been left alone with them.

"Where's your boyfriend gone?" Blaise voices Draco's own question as they all set of towards the castle. They've probably missed the Welcome Back Speech and the starters.

"He's not my boyfriend," Granger announces.

Draco's eyebrow raises. When did they break up?

"Oooh. What happened? Trouble in paradise." Blaise teases as he hooks their arms together.

He expects her to push his arm away but she doesn't.

"We were never a proper couple and now there's no point since we're all going to be married off in five months," She explains

Pansy's talking to him but he doesn't hear her. He thinking about what Granger just said. 'There's no point.' There really isn't any point of dating anyone. Not that he has any plans of asking someone out on a date. Not that anyone would ever say yes to him if he did ask anyone. Not anymore. There's plenty of couples at Hogwarts who, chances are, aren't going to be paired together.

"I suppose you're right," Blaise says thoughtfully. "Although I still like to have hope that I'll be paired with someone I will love." He looks up at the castle dramatically.

"You have a certain someone in mind." She jokes. It sounds strange to hear her joking. She usually so serious. It's not a bad strange. Just an unfamiliar strange.

Draco has never admitted it before but many times he has found himself thinking about Granger. It's not creepy. He thinks 'Would anything be different if she were a pure blood or even a half-blood?', 'Maybe they could have been friends if it weren't for Potter,' and 'Would she be a Gryffindor still or would she be a Slytherin?' Draco often thinks that she'd make a good Slytherin or maybe a Ravenclaw.

"Wouldn't you like to know Hermione?" Blaise answers her.

Draco's frowns at them in front of him. It doesn't sound right to call her, Hermione. Even in his head, it sounds weird. As they all get closer to the castle, Blaise unlinks his arms from Granger's but they're still talking. They're talking as though they're friends. As though they've been friends for years. When they reach the great hall they stop.

"I hope everything works out for you Blaise," Granger says his name with a smile.

"You too Hermione." He smiles back at her as she walks into the Great Hall.

Blaise stands at the door waiting for Draco and Pansy. He tunes back into Pansy just as they enter the Great Hall.

"So then my Mother told me not to even bother worrying about it because Father's going to sort it out for us." She finishes looking up expectantly at him so Draco nods and says "Good." because it sounds like the right thing to say.

She smiles excitedly, pulling him towards the Slytherin table. He's not sure what he's gotten himself into but he'll just have to deal with it later.

The Welcome Back Feast is just the same as any other Welcome Back Feast they've had at Hogwarts. The choir sings, the headmaster, or headmistress, in this case, makes a speech, they eat the feast and then they leave for their common rooms to rest up before their lessons start back up the following day.

Usually, Draco will fall straight to sleep, excited to learn, eager to be the top of his class. The competition for the top of the class is always close between him and Granger but this time, he's just not bothered. As long as he gets O's in his NEWTS he'll be happy or, at least, content. He doesn't have the motivation to fight Granger for the top of the class this time. When he finally falls asleep it only feels like he's been asleep for a few minutes when Blaise is shaking him awake the following morning because they're late for breakfast.

Chapter Text

The first few months of Hogwarts fly by and before Hermione knows it, it is the Easter Holidays. She had spent the last six weeks between her lessons, the great hall, the library and her dormitory. She barely had time to think about The Marriage Decree with all the studying she was doing for her NEWTs. She had to do her best if she wanted to become a Hogwarts professor at some point in her future. She had spent so much time studying that she barely had time to hang out with her friends, which was why she had promised them that she spend a whole day with them during the Easter Holidays. They had chosen the Hogsmeade trip day which she was thankful for since she was in desperate need of a few books and school supplies that she just hadn't had time to go and buy.

Hermione ended up staying in the library until well after the closing time the night before just to make up for the many study hours she would be missing today. By the time she makes it to bed, she only gets a few hours' sleep before Ginny is dragging her out of bed and down to breakfast. Ginny pours herself and Hermione a large goblet of strong coffee to help wake themselves up which only helps a little.

Harry and Ron were apparently on the Quidditch pitch getting a few hours of practice in before they set off for Hogsmeade at ten. Hermione's annoyed that they get to practise Quidditch for a few hours but she doesn't get to spend any time in the library.

On the walk down to Hogsmeade, Ginny, and Harry dawdle behind whispering to each other leaving Hermione and Ron walking ahead awkwardly making small talk about exams, the weather, and Quidditch. She can tell that Ron is trying to make conversation so she tries as well but it doesn't make it any less awkward. When they actually make it into Hogsmeade, Harry and Ginny tell them they have a table booked at Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop so they leave, leaving Ron and Hermione stood awkwardly staring at each other.

"So, er… Where'd'yer wanna go?" Ron asks her shrugging.

"I need to go to Tomes and Scrolls then to Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop," She tells him which results in a deep, bored sigh.

Hermione rolls her eyes. "If you want, I'll go to my shops, you can go to Spintwitches or Honeydukes or where ever you want to go and then I'll meet you at The Three Broomsticks in an hour?" She offers.

Ron smiles thankfully at her. "Yer know me t' well." He laughs. "See yer in an hour." He waves her goodbye before running off towards Honeydukes.

Hermione stares after him shaking her head. He's right. She knows him too well. So well that she can read him like a book. That she has nothing else to learn about him. She finds herself thinking about The Marriage Decree properly for the first time in weeks and she finds herself hoping behind hope that she isn't paired to Ron because honestly, she can't imagine a life more boring than being married to and spending the rest of her life with someone she knows as well as herself.

When she enters Tomes and Scrolls, she greets the owner politely then goes straight to the back of the shop where she hopes to find a book on The Marriage Decree. Her search of the library at the start of the term had turned up nothing. She asked Madam Pince but all she would tell her is 'The Ministry has ordered all books that mention the decree to be sent to the Department of Marriage.' When she asks what for Madam Pince had simply turned her back on her and refused to answer which she found rude.

She spent ages looking up and down every aisle of the bookshop looking for any book that even references the marriage law but there was nothing. She went up to the front desk to ask the owner and suspiciously, he gave the same answer as Madam Pince. Exactly the same answer.

"What is The Ministry up to?" She mumbles to herself as she goes back to the back of the shop to look for the transfiguration book she needs to study how to transfer a strand of animal hair into a perfect clone copy of the animal. She remembers Professor McGonagall telling them it was one of the hardest spells a wizard or witch could learn when they were in their first year. She is hoping to impress the examiners during their 'self-taught presentation' but she may have left it too late.

It takes her a few minutes to find it but she does on the top shelf. She ends up having to stand on her tip toes to try and reach it. As she tries to grab it, she accidentally pushes it causing a book on the other side of the shelf to fall off. She waits for the tell-tale sound of a book hitting the floor but instead she hears a painful scream then someone swear, "For Merlin's sake."

She rushes around the corner, an apology already leaving her lips. "I'm so sorry. I was trying to… Malfoy?" She questions when she realises it's him bent over picking up the book that she had pushed off the shelf.

"WHAT?" He growls angrily turning to face her. He must realise it's her because the anger slips from his face for a moment before reappearing but not as fiercely as it had been. "What?" He asks not nearly as angrily.

"I'm… sorry." She apologises nervously. Ever since the incident on the train back to Hogwarts she has been avoiding Malfoy as much as possible which isn't always easy since they share most of the same lessons and both like to study at the back of the library until late. Thankfully he never talks to her and she doesn't feel the need to talk to him. "I was trying to reach a book on the top shelf. I must have pushed it by accident." She explains pointing over her shoulder towards the shelves.

Malfoy looks over her shoulder towards the shelves. "So instead of crashing into me, you've moved on to hitting me with objects." He motions the book towards her.

She's not sure if he's joking or not. She's never heard him joke before so she can't be sure. He smirks at her which doesn't help her decipher whether it is a joke.

Suddenly, he takes a step towards her like he did that time on the train and also like that time on the train, she takes a sharp intake of breath unsure of what he may be about to do. Unlike the time on the train though he doesn't bend down to whisper in her ear, instead he reaches up to place the book back on the shelf where she had caused it to fall from. He's stood so close to her that his arm brushes past her hair as he reaches up. She looks down embarrassed when she finds herself gazing up at him only to find herself gazing down at a small slither of pale skin showing on his stomach where his shirt had risen up. When the book's back in its original place, he steps away from her, looking down at her curiously.

Hermione can tell she's blushing at being caught staring at his stomach so she apologises once more then makes her leave, paying for the book then making her way to Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop where she buys herself a few new quills for her exams since she doesn't plan on coming back to Hogsmeade until after the NEWTS are over. She needs to spend as much time as she can studying.

Once she's done she takes a slow stroll to the other end of Hogsmeade where she had agreed to meet Ron in the Three Broomsticks. She's early, so she order two Butterbeers then grabs a table to wait. She starts reading the author's notes of her new transfiguration and that's how Ron finds her when he enters carrying a can of broom polish.

"Hey, yer get everything you need?" He asks politely taking a sip from his Butterbeer.

"Yeah, I bought a few new quills ready for the NEWTS. Just imagine if your quill snapped during a written exam." Hermione says putting her new book away.

"Yer could just charm it so it's impossible to break." Ron rolls his eyes.

"Then I'd run out of ink or the nib would become blunt. I just want to be prepared for anything." She explains.

"'m sure yer already plenty prepared. Yer could probably take the NEWTS now and get O's in all of 'em." He says.

She not sure if he means it to be a compliment but it warms her heart that she has so much faith in her.

"Thanks." She says taking a sip from her own Butterbeer glass. "What about you? How prepare are you for the NEWTS?" She raises a questioning eyebrow.

"I ain't even started yet." He laughs.

"Oh, Ron." She sighs disappointedly.

"No, don't give me that look." He shakes his head. "And don't give me a lecture. I only need five Acceptables to go int' Auror trainin'. Anyway, 'Arry said they might let us in cos of what we did in the war. Yer know, cos it shows what we're capable of." Ron explains. "So I ain't too fussed." He shrugs again.

Hermione sighs again, tired of lecturing him over and over about the importance of their NEWTs.

"Fine, let's talk about something else," She suggests downing the rest of her Butterbeer.

"I'll go buy us some more." He downs his own glass then stands up taking their two empty glasses with him to the bar where Hannah Abbott is working.

She chose not to return to Hogwarts after the war deciding instead to settle for a simpler life behind her Aunt's bar where she still got to see her friends most weekends. Hermione watches as Ron stands to chat with her for a few minutes after paying for their drinks. Maybe he'll get paired with her. They seem to be getting on well.

Hermione and Ron end up staying at The Three Broomsticks for a few more hours before heading back to the castle. Ron leaves her at the Great Door to go polish his broomstick. Hermione goes up to her dormitory to check if Harry and Ginny are back yet but they don't appear to be so she takes the opportunity to lie on her bed reading her new transfiguration book. It's technically not studying because she's not making any notes or that's what she plans on telling Ginny when she returns.

When she doesn't see either of them at dinnertime she decides to break her promise and heads to the library where she rereads what's she had read so far, making notes in the margins. She decides not to spend too long studying, though, she does want to hang out with her friends so at ten o'clock she heads back up to the Gryffindor common room. For some reason, their common room is overcrowded. She has to push people out of the way to make it to the staircase leading up to the dormitories. She casts a quick eye around the common room seeing many of her friends, a few Ravenclaw's and Hufflepuff and even two second year Slytherin's but no Harry and Ginny.

She decides that she'll see them in the morning and heads to bed. She's got a lot of sleep to catch up with. Since she's been studying so much, she's only been getting about three hours sleep a night so as soon as her head hits the pillow, she's fast asleep.

She's awoken early in the morning by the sound of someone falling over. She sits straight up, pointing her wand at the floor mumbling, "Lumos." She has to wait for her eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness. To her surprise, she finds Ginny lying on the floor smiling like an idiot.

"Ginny?" She questions.

"Hmmm!" She hums.

"What are you doing on the floor? Where have you been?" She asks climbing out of bed to give her a hand up.

"I fell over. I couldn't see." She starts giggling uncontrollably as Hermione tries to walk her to her bed.

"Where have you been?" She repeats.

"Out with Harry." She sighs happily.

"All this time!" She stares at her confused.

"Yeah. We had to sneak back in with the cloak." She continues to giggle.

Hermione's not entirely sure if Ginny's intoxicated or just extremely happy for some reason but she decides not to question it. She helps her friend to bed, slipping her boots off then pulls her quilt over her body.

"Thanks, Hermione. You're such a good friend." She sighs contently once her giggles have subsided.

"Thanks, Ginny. Now you get some sleep." She smiles down at her friend pushing strands of her fiery hair out of her face.

Hermione then goes back to her own bed to try to get back to sleep but she just ends up lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling for an hour before she sits straight up again, annoyed with herself for not being able to fall back to sleep. In her self-annoyance, she throws on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt followed by a jumper, grabs her new transfiguration book and school supplies then sneaks out of the common room to the library. She doesn't come across anyone else in the corridors and makes it to the library without being noticed. She manages to get a good four hours of studying done by candlelight before she heads down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

Harry and Ginny are actually there for this meal but they both look simultaneously exhausted and ecstatic. She takes a seat on the bench opposite them and next to Ron who tries to greet her "G'mornin'" but instead sprays her with an array of breakfast foods.

"Morning," She says with a glare, wiping his food off her face before turning to glare at Ginny and Harry. "Thanks for leaving us yesterday." She sarcastically reprimands them.

Harry blushes looking down at his plate. "Sorry," He mumbles sheepishly. "We were… er… busy."

"Yeah, yeah." She rolls her eyes. "Just don't expect me to have any more free time to hang out. I'm focusing all my time on studying." She says before eating her breakfast quickly and heading back to the library.

She studies her transfiguration book for the next six hours before going out into the school's gardens to practise turning the rat hairs she had cut from the rats in the potions classroom into cloned copies. She practices until the sun sets behind the Forbidden Forest and she still hasn't gotten anywhere. Annoyed with herself, she heads back to the library to go back over her notes. She loses track of the time and before she knows it a clock somewhere is striking midnight. She sighs tiredly resting her head in her arms for a few minutes rest.

The next thing she knows she's waking up with a creak in her neck and the sun in her eyes. She lifts her head up to find a few students sat at the surrounding desks and for some reason there is an apple in front of her. She glances around her wondering who left her an apple. She sees a few fifth years most likely studying for their OWLs, there's a first year sat on the window seat reading a book and then on the table next to her is Malfoy, with at least seven books laid out on his table, making notes.

She narrows her eyes at him, then looks back at the apple. He's the only one she knows in the library. 'Did he bring me the apple?' The thought alone makes her snort. Malfoy doesn't care about people other than himself and his Slytherin friend. Why would he bring her an apple? It was probably Ginny who came looking for her after she missed breakfast.

She packs up her things into her backpack, grabs the apple taking a bite. She hums gently at how fresh and juicy it is. Then she makes her way back to the common room wanting to take a sleep in an actual bed.

She bumps into Ginny on one of the many staircases and they walk back to the common room together. She's on her way back after walking Harry and Ron to the Quidditch pitch for training.

"Thanks for the apple." She motions to the object in her hands but Ginny frown at her.

"I didn't give you that apple." She looks Hermione in the eye confused.

"Who did then?" She mutter staring down at the half eaten fruit in her hands. 'Could it have been Malfoy?' She thinks but she's too tired to think too far into it.

Once in their common room, she heads straight to bed.

As the weeks went on, leading up to her NEWTs, it was a common occurrence to find an apple on her desk in the library. Sometimes it was there when she woke up from a nap, sometimes it was there after she had spent the night sleeping at one of the window seats with her blanket and sometimes it was there before she even arrived at the library. She had a few ideas of who it could be. At the top of the list was a younger student who had a crush on her. Then at the bottom of the list was Malfoy, who was coincidentally nearly always sat at his desk when she discovered it.

It's the day before her potions exam when something changes. She's sat at her desk, furiously scribbling down notes on the Draught of Peace trying to remember the subtle difference between it and the Draught of War when she decided she needs to stretch her legs. She left the library heading for the girls toilets a few corridors away.

When she returned, there's an apple sat atop her potions book. She glances around her, instantly spotting Malfoy, almost hiding behind a book. His strange behaviour bumps him up to number two on her list of 'Who's Giving Me Apples?' Number one is the third year boy sat blatantly staring at her from the opposite side of the library.

To show her gratitude to the boy, because she is beginning to feel a bit peckish, she picks up the apple taking a bite then nods her thanks to him. His eyes widen and he scurries off somewhere. She shakes her head in amusement as she picks up her book and begins to read. It isn't until she's read nearly an entire page that she realises she isn't reading about the Draught of Peace or the Draught of War but she's reading about the Patronus Charm, which she hadn't even bothered to study since she perfected it in her fifth year along with the rest of Dumbledore's Army.

Glancing at the front cover, she sees what she has already guessed. She's reading Defence Against the Dark Arts 7. She casts a quick eye suspiciously around the room trying to find whoever had stolen her potions book. She knows who it is the second her eyes fall on Malfoy hunched over a book.

With a defeated sigh, she makes her way over to his desk sitting down on the chair opposite him.

"Go away, Pansy. I'm trying to study for our potions exam tomorrow." He whines which she finds amusing for a few seconds before remembering that she needs to get back to studying for the potions exam too.

"So was I until somebody stole the book I was reading," She says pointedly.

Malfoy whips his head up as he slams the book shut. "What are you doing?" He snaps at her.

"You stole my book. I want it back. Now!" She demands, holding her hand out for him to hand her book back.

"I don't have your book so why don't you go back to your own desk and learn about the Patronus charm," He smirks before looking back down at the book he has taken to covering with his arms.

"For you information, I learned how to produce a corporeal Patronus charm in 5th year and that just proves it was you who stole it. Now give it back." She smirks back knowing she's won this argument.

At the mention of her corporal Patronus, Malfoy had looked slightly impressed which he quickly turned to a glare. "I'm finished with it anyway," He mentions handing it out for her to take which she does.

Hermione then turns on her heel, with her head held high, and returns to her table to continue studying the two Draughts she really didn't want to get mixed up in her exam.

She decides that she needs a decent night's sleep ready for her potions exam in the morning, so she packs up then sets off to the Great Hall for dinner planning on stuffing her face then going to bed for an early night.

Although, when she gets to dinner, she can barely manage to eat her bread roll with all her nerves about tomorrow. She watches sickeningly as Ginny, who has piled her plate high with some of everything behind served, was shovelling forkful after forkful into her mouth.

"How can you eat? I'm so nervous. I feel sick just looking at your plate." She mentions looking away from her friend's plate.

Ginny shrugs. "I dunno. I guess I already know I'm going to get an Acceptable in the exam tomorrow if they're generous, so there's no need for me to worry about it." She adds as she rips into another bread roll. "Hey, you're still staying at the Burrow on Tuesday night though aren't you?" She asks once she's swallowed.

"Of course, I am Ginny, although I have to meet my parents outside the ministry Wednesday morning so they can actually get into the ministry for the ceremony." She explains to which Ginny nods.

Everyone being partnered was sent two invitations last week for guests. It had been accompanied by a letter detailing the Partner Ceremony. Apparently there were two seating areas, one for those of us being partnered and one for our guests. After the ceremony, there will be a reception party where the couples will dine with their new partner and family before having their first dance. Afterwards, a bus will take them to their new residence in the Ministry Starter Estate.

Hermione has already sent her invitation to her parents, so has Ginny, Ron has sent his invitation to Bill and Fleur and Harry gave his to Dean so his two older brothers could attend as well as his parents.

Tomorrow is the potions exam, the last exam on Hermione's timetable. As she hoped, the exam required her to make the Draught of Peace. She smiles to herself as she memorises everything she had read yesterday in her book. She remembers to stir twice clockwise then twice anti-clockwise before letting it simmer for two minutes unlike the Draught of War which was twice anti-clockwise then twice clockwise before also letting it simmer for two minutes. Once she's finished, she collects a sample or the pure white liquid to submit to the examiner. She does so at the same time as Malfoy which is reassuring although she's annoyed to notice that his is a paler shade of white then hers.

"Five minutes left students." The examiner calls out.

Hermione feels herself physically relax as she walks back to her table knowing that she's done her best and her exams are all over and done with now. She scorigifies her cauldron then watches from her stool as the other students rush to finish.

Harry ends up turning in a light grey sample whereas Ron's is a shade lighter than black meaning he's made quite a good Draught of War but he'll end up with a T most likely since it's not what they asked for.

When they are finally dismissed, most the students head out into the gardens to celebrate with their friends, but Hermione heads back up to the common rooms to finish packing her trunk. She's been so preoccupied with studying for her NEWTs that she hadn't gotten very far. Once she finished, she ended up taking a nap that turned into a full fifteen-hour sleep. She woke up at six in the morning feeling better than she had in weeks.

The Hogwarts Express was due to leave Hogsmeade station at ten o'clock an hour after their end of year breakfast feast. For the first the first time in weeks or maybe months, Hermione sat with her friends for the full duration of the feast, chatting with everyone and eating more food than she had in the past week. Afterwards, she went back up to her dormitory with Ginny to take a final look at what had been her bedroom for nearly seven years. She is shocked to find how emotional she is. Ginny gives her a small hug before they leave. They meet the boys in the common room and they all walk down to Hogsmeade together joking, laughing and reminiscing about all the good times they had shared at Hogwarts in their eight years.

Once in Hogsmeade station, most of the younger students board the train but the older students, especially the last years, congregate on the platform hugging everyone goodbye. Hermione had already hugged her friends from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff as well as a few Gryffindor's she might not see on the train.

They boarded the train just as the Clock is beginning to strike ten o'clock and manage to find an empty compartment straight away. A lot of the younger students, who just want to get one last look at them, come to say bye. In the end, they leave their compartment door open so anyone can just pop in. They've probably said farewell to every student in the school, including a few of the younger Slytherin's, when there's a knock at their compartment door.

Everyone looks up to find Blaise stood leaning against the compartment door, arms folded and ankles crossed, looking very relaxed.

"Well, if it isn't the Gryffindor Gang." He quirks his eyebrow teasingly as he glances around the compartment. "And Luna." He winks at her in the corner.

"Hello, Blaise." She greets him cheerfully.

"Wot ya want, Zabini?" Ron spits hatefully with his mouth full of a chocolate frog.

Blaise looks him up and down in disgust. "Nothing from you, Ronald." He spits back just as hatefully before leaning out of the compartment to check his surroundings are clear. He then enters, sliding the door shut behind him.

When he turns back around, he's smiling forcefully which worries Hermione. There must be something wrong if he's not natural smiling. He's always smiling.

"Can we help you with anything Blaise?" Luna asks politely.

"No dear, I'm not here for help but merely to ask something of you all," Blaise replies to Luna.

Hermione has never heard Blaise use any term of endearment before which slightly confuses her, but not for long as she is curious as to what he wants of them.

"Why should we give you anything?" Neville asks glaring at the Slytherin stood in front of us.

"I think we should hear him out." Luna voices her opinion from next to Hermione.

Harry nods. "Go on." He orders.

Blaise takes another look at everyone sat in the compartment, ensuring to make eye contact with everyone. "I'm here to apologise," He announces.

The compartment falls silent. Hermione thinks he's joking at first. Blaise has nothing really to apologise to them for. As far as she knows, he's done nothing to them other than being Malfoy's best friend. She never remembers seeing him at one of their conflict with Malfoy.

"I'm sorry, what?" Harry asks to ensure he heard correctly.

"No Harry, I'm the one who is apologising," He says slightly overdramatically before smiling nervously. "I want to apologise for everything I have ever done that has hurt anyone of you. I know it's too little too late but I need to say it so I don't go on to the next chapter of my lives with all these regrets and grudges." He explains.

Hermione's sure he's expecting someone to say something but nobody does. Everyone just continues to stare at him in shocked silence. After a full, awkward minute of Blaise just standing there waiting, he slides the compartment door open then slips out.

The defeated look on his face weighs Hermione's heart down. She jumps up from her seat, surprising everyone, then runs into the corridor.

"BLAISE!" She calls. He's only a few compartments away so he hears her stops dead in his tracks for a few seconds before turning around.

Hermione rushes towards him then throws her arms around his neck bring him into a tight hug. "Thank you, Blaise," She whispers in his ear before letting go. "But as I see it, you have nothing to apologise for. I can't recall you doing anything to any of us."

Blaise shakes his head. "I may not have been there when it happened but I was there when it was being planned. I even put a few ideas forward though nothing too traumatising." He admits.

Hermione just nods with a small smile playing on her lips. "Well, in that case, I forgive you."

Blaise returns her smile properly this time until it falls at the sight of something behind her. She turns around to find Harry, Ginny, Neville and Luna stood there. Harry steps forward first, hand held out. Blaise takes hold of his hand, shaking it once. Harry nods once, then turns around, walking back towards Ginny without saying a word. Then again, sometimes action speak louder than words. Ginny steps forward next giving Blaise a quick hug and whispering something in his ear which leaves him staring after he slightly scared and nervous. Neville shakes his hand muttering a 'thank you' before retreating back into the compartment along with Harry and Ginny. Luna skips past Hermione to Blaise who has his arms open wide waiting for a hug. She wraps her arms tightly around his neck only for Blaise to snake his own arms around her waist. Hermione simply stares at them confused. Luna quickly presses her lips to Blaise's in a chaste kiss before spinning around and skipping back to their compartment.

"So, you and Luna." Hermione raises her eyebrows surprised.

Blaise shrugs and she would have taken that to mean he doesn't care, accept that he's blushing brightly.

"No Ronald I see," He comments, changing the topic of conversation.

Hermione rolls her eyes. "He might forgive you if you stop calling him Ronald."

"I somehow highly doubt that."

She sighs. "Yeah, Ron doesn't forgive easily."

They're just stood staring at each other for a few awkward moments before Blaise clears his throat.

"Well, I better be getting back to Draco, he can't function without me." Blaise winks before turning around then walking away.

A few hours later, they arrive at Kings Cross Station where everyone starts bidding their friends goodbye again. Hermione makes her way over to Molly and Arthur, who were stood in the centre of the platform. Molly pulls her into a tight hug when she finally managed to push her way through the crowd. She's going to miss everything Hogwarts and all her friends who she doesn't usually see outside of school. She can't stop the tears that fall down her cheeks. She tries to discreetly wipe the tears with the sleeve of her jumper but it wasn't discreetly enough as Percy pulls her straight into another hug.

"Shush, don't cry Hermione," He whispers into her hair, hugging her tightly.

"I don't want things to change Perce." She cries onto his shoulder.

"Don't worry." He gives her a small squeeze. "You'll be back at Hogwarts in no time, teaching students how to levitate a feather or transfigure a rat into a goblet." He chuckles making her laugh. "Or how to brew polyjuice potion in your second year." He pulls her back to look her in the eye.

"You know about that?" She asks shocked.

"I've always known. I came to check on you when you were in the Hospital Wing. It was kind of obvious that one of your experimentations had gone wrong. It only to an hour in the library to find out what you had done." Percy admits.

Hermione sighs. "It won't be the same without my friends."

"Well, for at least the next two years you're going to be living In the Ministry Starter Estate." He tries to help her feel better.

"That's not making me feel any better." She glares at him jokingly.

"You've got four days before the Partner Ceremony. Try not to think about it too much and spend some time with your family." He tells her to which she just nods giving him another quick hug before pulling completely away.

She turns around to say goodbye to the Weasley's then she exits the platform to find her parents. They're sat waiting on the bench opposite the wall for Platform 9 ¾. When they see her they both stand up. Her mother rushes forward to pull her into an almost bone-crushing hug.

"Oh, Hermione. I've missed you so much. I'm glad you're finally finished with school." She mumbles. When her Mum backs away her Dad pulls her into an equally tight hug.

"How are you love?" He asks her.

"Fine Dad. I'm quite tired and emotional." She shrugs. "I think I need a nap." She yawns.

"Let's get you home dear." Her Mum takes hold of her hand pulling her out of Kings Cross Station and toward their car.

She ends up falling asleep in the car ride home but her Mum wakes her up by gently shaking her shoulder.

"I think you should head straight to bed dear." Her Mum suggests to which she nods.

She shuffles her way tiredly into her house then up the stairs to her room. She only bothers to take her shoes and cloak off before climbing under her quilt and falling into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

The first few months of Hogwarts seemed to go far too quickly for Draco. He spent most of his time in lessons, studying for his NEWTs, hanging out with his friends and worrying about The Marriage Decree. His head was constantly cloudy with thoughts he couldn't clear. Every time his eyes fell upon a girl in their seventh or eighth year, he would ponder what it would be like to be married to them. It was doing no good for his studies. He was still fighting side by side with Granger to be the top of their classes. They were about tied with five classes each but he would no doubt end up with an O in every exam either way.

It's now Easter half-term, his mother had sent him am owl telling him not to come home for the holidays and to instead spend the holidays studying for his exams. So like any good son, he spent all his spare time studying in the library, following his mother's advice.

There's a Hogsmeade trip today and Draco wants to get there and back as quickly as possible so he can continue to study. He's awake much earlier than the rest of the Slytherin house since there's no one in the common room. He assumes everyone is catching up on their sleep. He had tried to wake Blaise up, hoping to drag him along with him, but after spending five minutes trying to coerce him out of bed, he gave up and made his way to the Great Hall alone.

He didn't expect to see anyone else in the hall, so when he turns to walk through the door and finds Granger sat at the Gryffindor table, he freezes a little surprised. He waits for her to look up at the appearance of another person in the hall but she seems too invested in her book so he ignores her to the best of his ability and takes a seat at the Slytherin table.

At his presence, breakfast appears on the table around him. He grabs himself a goblet of orange juice along with two slices of toast and a handful of strawberries. With nothing to distract him, he finds himself staring at Granger wondering what it would be like to be married to her.

Probably a nightmare. Although she does have some positive qualities. She enjoys reading so they could spend their nights ignoring each other and reading their books. If they wanted to converse, there would never be a lack of topics. They are both the brightest wizard and witch to walk Hogwarts Halls in generations. They could probably spend the rest of their lives talking together and never repeat themselves. Draco shakes his head. What is he thinking? His eyes focus, thankfully Granger doesn't seem to notice that he's staring at her. She's still reading her book. He narrows his eyes trying to read the cover of her book. 'Lost Spells from the Tenth Century'. He makes a mental note to have a look for it in Tomes and Scrolls later today.

When he finishes breakfast, he returns to his common room to grab a few things, namely his cloak and coins. He tries once more to rise Blaise out of bed but to no avail. It's still early, but the Hogsmeade shops open in ten minutes, so he sets off down the long path leading from the Grand Doors of Hogwarts to the Grand Gates. When he arrives in Hogsmeade, he decides that whilst he's here, and he might not be back for a while, he might as well browse in any shop that interests him, rather than just the ones he knows he needs to go in.

This might have been a mistake as he ends up spending a lot of coins in the Spintwitches, J. Pippin's Potions, and Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop before he even made it to Tomes and Scrolls.

In Tomes and Scroll, he heads straight to the back where the books on charms are kept, hoping to find the book Granger had been reading for a quick flick through. He's curious to know what was so interesting that it made her less vigilant of her surroundings. 'Mad Eye Moody would surely be disappointed' he thinks with a smirk as he browsed the shelves.

He's only been searching for a few minutes when something very heavy and very hard hits him on the head.

"For Merlin's sake." He curses loudly rubbing the top of his head where the pain is pulsating furiously.

He bends down to pick up the offending item, a book when he hears someone apologising.

"I'm so sorry. I was trying to… Malfoy?"

"WHAT?" He shouts angrily as he straightens up only to find Granger stood in front of the bookshelf. The slight twitch of fear in her eyes makes all the anger drain from his face before he realises he doesn't care and reapplies it. "What?" He repeats trying to sound angry.

"I'm… sorry." She apologises ignoring the waver in her voice. "I was trying to reach a book on the top shelf. I must have pushed it by accident." She explains pointing at the book in Draco's hand.

He looks down at his hands then up at the space where it had fallen from on the top shelf and raises an eyebrow. "So instead of crashing into me, you've moved on to hitting me with objects." He motions to the book.

She stares at him rather blankly for a few moments, so he smirks to let her know that he was attempting to joke. Then, without much warning, he steps forward to place the book back on the top shelf. He's a good few inches taller than her so normally he would be able to reach, but she's stood in his way, still staring at him, so he has to stand on his toes to reach over the top of her. Once he steps back, he looks back down at Granger who's blushing and avoiding his eyes.

"Sorry." She mumbles then turns on her heel and rushing towards the front desk to pay for her items.

It's definitely not the strangest behaviour he's seen from Granger but it is near the top. He gave up on searching for the book, his head is still thumping, and instead heads to the Three Broomsticks for a drink.

He takes a seat at the bar, waiting to be served. It's not long before Madame Rosmerta saunters up to him with a playful gleam in her eye. "Draco." She smiles and his heart drops.

He still hasn't forgiven himself for what he did to Rosmerta. He probably never will. He should be in Azkaban with his father but the Wizengamot decided that, since he had still been a child at the time and Madame Rosmerta made a formal forgiveness speech at his court trail, all his charges would be dropped. It had been all over the Daily Prophet. 'Malfoy forgiven for unforgivable'.

"Rosmerta." He replied guiltily avoiding her eyes, instead choosing to look at her nose.

"Oh no!" She wags her finger in his face. "No one who Imperio's me gets to call me Rosmerta." She announces seriously.

His eyes widen. "I'm still very sorry for what I did Madam Rosmerta." He apologises again.

Her eyes soften. "What can I get you darl?" She asks, unnecessarily wiping the bar down.

"Just a Butterbeer please." He orders.

When she returns, he takes a sip then smiles at her. "You must frequently be Imperioed to have a rule for it." He mentions.

"No darl. You're the one and only." She winks at him before heading down to the other end of the bar to serve another customer.

Draco lets a small smile grace his face as he stares down at his glass of Butterbeer.

"Draco, I've been looking all over for you," Blaise announces his arrival by patting him on the shoulder then taking a seat next to him.

"I told you I was coming to Hogsmeade last night. I tried to wake you this morning but you were dead to the world. If it weren't for the snoring, I would have worried you were dead." He jokes.

"Aww, thanks, Draco." Blaise places a dramatic hand over his heart. "It's nice to know you'd care if I died." She sniffs.

"If you die?" Draco asks raising an eyebrow. "Are you trying to tell me you're the new Nicholas Flamel?"

"I'll make sure you die first so you'll never know." He laughs.

Draco shakes his head at his friend's antics before downing the rest of his Butterbeer.

"I need something stronger than this." He mutters placing his glass on the bar. "Madame Rosmerta." He calls her attention. "Two firewhiskey's please." He holds up to fingers.

"Why are we drinking firewhisky?" Blaise asks as Madame Rosmerta places their glasses in front of them.

Draco shrugs taking a sip from his glass then wincing as the fiery liquid burns his throat. "Why not?" He sighs rubbing his head as pain shoots down his spine from where Granger injured him.

"What's wrong with you?" Blaise asks downing his firewhisky in one.

"Nothing." He shrugs then follows Blaise in downing his own drink. He motions to Madame Rosmerta for two more glasses.

"I can tell when you're lying to me Draco." He points out sadly.

Draco rolls his eyes, which is a mistake since another sharp pain is sent down his spine.

"She dropped a book on my head?" He mutters choosing to sip his second shot.

"Who did?" Blaise asks confused.

"Who do you think?" Draco faces him with a glare.

Blaise stares into his eyes, seemingly searching for the answer. "Granger?" He asks.

He turns away thereby confirming Blaise's suspicions.

"'ow'd she do that? Ya're taller than 'er." He points out before downing his drink again.

Draco watches as Blaise motions Madame Rosmerta for another four shots.

"You might want to slow down there, Blaise." He eyes his friend down worriedly as he downs his third shot then passes another one to Draco who's still nursing his second.

"Nah, we ain't got long left 'ave we mate. We gonna be marrid in… in…" Draco watches as Blaise tries to count something on his fingers. "Soon."

"Six weeks." Draco helps trying not to laugh at Blaise. His accent always reverts back to his London upbringing when he's drunk.

"Dunut matta. I don't wanna fink bout it." He downs another shot then glares at Draco until he follows.

Draco downs the rest of his second shot then goes for his third before Blaise drinks them all. His friend can barely walk straight sober but it's nearly impossible when drunk. Draco downs his third trying not to cough at the burning sensation. He goes to grab his fourth but Blaise has already beaten him to it.

Dejectedly, Draco pulls Blaise's shoulder to get him off his stool.

"Come on, we're going?" He urges Blaise towards the door.

"Where we goin?" He questions frowning confusingly at Draco.

"We're going home so you can sleep. You're drunk." He points out.

Blaise huffs a laugh. "I ain't drunk. I been more drunker many times before." His friend boasts.

Draco laughs. "I'm sure you have but not when you need to sneak back into Hogwarts." He explains.

"Hmm, you right. Why not we go home for tonight? Come back tomorrow. Or we never come back." Blaise suggests excitedly jumping up and down. "Draco, Draco, Draco, we can run away." Draco knows he's trying to whisper but he's speaking louder than he would soberly speak. "Move to France and marry pretty French ladies."

"Then get caught by The Ministry and sent to Azkaban for Merlin knows how long with my Father." Draco glares pointedly at him. "Yes Blaise, great plan." He rolls his eyes.

He ends up dragging Blaise by the wrist up the hill towards the castle. In his drunken state, Blaise is dawdling behind moaning that they were moving too quickly.

"Will you shut up, Blaise. People are starting to stare at us." He complains.

"Fine." He grumps then stays quiet for the rest of the walk to the castle.

Draco pauses at Great Door and turns to intimidate Blaise.

"If you mutter one word as I try to sneak you down to our common room, I will personally ensure you don't make it to your wedding day?" He glares down the steps to his friend who audible swallows, nodding his head nervously.

He turns back around before he laughs at how easily lead his friend is when drunk. Draco tries to open the door silently but, at nearly two thousand years old, it squeaks open loudly. He closes his eyes, wincing at the noise, hoping that no professors were around to hear them. Luckily, he can't see anyone as he pulls his drunken friend through the door and rushes down the staircase leading to the dungeons. They're half-way down the corridor when one of the classroom doors swings open. Draco pulls Blaise quickly into an alcove, placing a finger over his lips to shush him. They wait until whoever it was is long gone before almost running the rest of the way to the portrait guarding their common room.

Draco gives the password then waits for the portrait to swing open before pulling Blaise to safety. He sighs in relief as the portrait slams shut behind them. Professor McGonagall had given a Hufflepuff two months of detentions when she came back after a Hogsmeade trip drunk. He doesn't want Blaise's last six weeks of Hogwarts to be spent in detention.

He puts Blaise into his bed, tucks him in, then grabs his books and heads down the library again to study. He only studies until dinnertime, deciding that he should probably spend some time with his other friends.

He finds Theo at the Slytherin table and takes a seat next to him. He's already tucked into his food when Draco starts piling food onto his own plate.

"Where is everyone else?" Draco asks glancing up and down the table, not finding any of their friends.

"Pansy said she had a large lunch and she's watching her weight. She wants to lose seven more pounds before the Partner Ceremony." Theo rolls his eyes. "I have no idea where Goyle is and I think you already know where Blaise is." He raises an amused eyebrow.

Draco nods taking a bite from his lamb chop. They sit in comfortable silence until they finish their dinner and they're left sipping tea from beautiful china cups.

"What happened to your head?" Theo frowns looking at the top of his head.

Draco lifts a hand, forgetting about his previous accident, to find a rather large bump. Pain pulsates from it at his gentle touch causing him to wince. "A book fell on my head in Tomes and Scrolls." He explains without going into too much detail.

"It looks really painful Draco. You might want to go see Madam Pomfrey about it." He advises.

"I'll be fine" He shrugs drink the rest of his tea. "I've got a potion in my trunk for the pain." He adds standing up from the bench and bidding Theo a goodnight.

He doesn't head back to the Slytherin common room, though. He goes back up to the library to finish his studying. He's not there long, however, as the pain becomes too much as he gives in, heading back to his room for the potion. He must have made it a bit too strong because as soon as he drank it, he began to feel drowsy. He barely had enough time to climb under his quilt before he fell unconscious.

When he wakes up, he doesn't recognise his surroundings but it's very dark. It must be early in the morning. He stretches his arms and back out before sitting up. Glancing around, he instantly realises where he is. He's in the hospital wing. He spots Madam Pomfrey through the window of her office. 'Why am I here?' He thinks, rubbing his eyes ridding them of sleep. Looking down at his body, he notices he's wearing a hospital gown. He confusingly glides a hand through his hair, before remembering he was swollen yesterday. The swelling has gone down considerably.

"Draco! You've finally awoken." Madam Pomfrey exclaims rushing over to him. She checks his eyes, ears, mouth, nose, fingernails and then the bruise on his head. "You had us all worried there for a moment Draco." She mutters as she checks him over.

"Why am I here?" He asks with a yawn.

"What do you last remember Draco?" She asks him perching on the edge of his bed.

He thinks back. "I drank a pain relief potion last night then went to bed." He explains.

"Well, that explains it then. Was the potion one of your own concoctions?" She asks curiously.

Draco frowns. 'Why isn't she telling me why I'm here?' He wonders as he nods. "Yeah, I might have made it too strong but it did its job. My head's not swollen and there's no pain." He shrugs but Madam Pomfrey shakes her head.

"Draco, you've been unconscious for thirty hours." She tells him softly.

He frowns at her. "What?" He asks confused.

"Blaise tried to wake you in the morning but you wouldn't move, he sent Theo to fetch me. You've been here for twenty hours now." She explains.

"Thirty hours!" He exclaims. He's missed an entire day. He's only got five weeks until the NEWTs. "When can I leave?" He asks trying to get out of bed but Madam Pomfrey pushes him back down.

"I need to run some tests to ensure your potion is out of your system." She says as she takes her wand out of her robes. "Then you can leave."

Draco huffs then reluctantly lies back down, as she starts waving her wand over his body and muttering medical spells. Once she's done and she's happy with the results from her medical checks, she pulls the curtain along giving him the privacy to get changed. When he's dressed, he bids Madam Pomfrey goodbye then goes back to his common room to grab his books. He doesn't feel tired so he might as well catch up on the entire days studying he missed yesterday.

He decides to stop by the kitchens to grab some food since he hasn't eaten in over thirty hours. The house-elves happily send him away with a bacon sandwich, some grapes and an apple. He's eaten the bacon sandwich before he's even made it up the stairs from the dungeons. He then munches on his vine of grapes as he walks up the staircases to the library. He shoves his apple in his bag planning on eating it around lunchtime.

As he makes his way to his usual table he spots Granger sat at her own usual table, fast asleep. He wonders how long she has been there but doesn't wonder on it for long. He can't afford to let his thoughts get away from him right now. He settles down at his table and starts his studying.

He glances up from his book and notes to check on granger. She's still not awake. He checks the time to find that breakfast is over now so she'd have to wait until lunchtime to eat now. He looks around the library. There're a few other people studying at their own tables. He takes his apple out of his bag and quietly as possible walks over to Granger's table, placing the apple in front of her before nonchalantly checking out the bookshelf behind her in case anyone looks over. He heads back to his own table to continue his studies.

About an hour later he senses movement from Granger's table. He glances out the corner of his eye, she's glancing around the library looking slightly confused. He goes back to making his notes trying to ignore the eyes he felt boring into the side of his head. He waits until she's left the library, eating his apple, until he relaxes and actually goes back to studying properly.

As the weeks leading up to the NEWTs went on, Draco found himself spending more and more time in the library. In fact, he spent more time there than he did in the Slytherin common room. Over the weeks, it became sort of like a routine. Draco would head down to the kitchen for breakfast at around five in the morning, then head up to the library where he would find Granger asleep either at her desk or at one of the window benches, he would leave her an apple before going back to his own studying. Granger would awake about ten, grab her thing and leave eating his apple.

That is until the day before their final exam. Their potion exam. This is the one exam that Draco cares about more than any other exam. When he arrives at the library this morning, he finds Granger's seat empty. All her books and notes are spread out but he can't see her anywhere. Draco goes over the potions section of the library to try and find the book he needs to check his notes but when he gets there he can't find the book he needs. Annoyed, he walks back to his desk. That is until he spots the potion book he needs on Granger's desk. He takes another glance around but she still doesn't appear to be in the library so he takes her potion book and replaces with a charms books off the shelf. He opens it to a random page on the Patronus Charm and takes the opportunity to leave her the apple atop of the book.

She returns a few minutes later. He watches as she stares suspiciously at the apple then glances around the library for whoever left it there. Draco tries to concentrate on his notes but can't stop the small smile that graces his face when she takes a bite of his apple. He goes back to the potion back and instantly gets entranced by his notes.

A shadow suddenly appears in front of him. Pansy has taken it upon herself the past couple of weeks to spend as much time as she can with him. He's told her not to bother him in the library since he needs to focus on his studying but every now and then she shows up. He doesn't get too annoyed though since she usually brings food but he's already eaten breakfast and it's not even eight o'clock yet.

"Go away, Pansy. I'm trying to study for out potions exam tomorrow." He's embarrassed to admit that he whines.

"So was I until somebody stole the book I was reading." A voice that is definitely not Pansy's says pointedly.

He lifts his head up, slamming the potions book shut. "What are you doing?" He snaps at her quickly trying to hide the cover of the book with his arms.

"You stole my book. I want it back. Now!" She demands, holding her hand out for the book.

"I don't have your book so why don't you go back to your own and learn about the Patronus Charm." He smirks, purposely giving himself up. He's finished with her potions book anyway.

"For your information, I learned how to produce a corporeal Patronus Charm in 5th year and that just proves it was you who stole it. Now give it back." She throws a smirk back at him.

Draco can't help but admit that he's impressed by the fact she can produce a corporeal Patronus. He's only been able to produce one once and he doesn't think he'll ever be able to produce one again. He doesn't have any powerfully happy memories left.

He glares at her. "I'm finished with it anyway." He hands it out for her to take which she does then walks away from him.

Draco stays in the library studying until dinnertime. He hasn't eaten since his early breakfast with the house-elves and his stomach is starting to audible rumble. He packs his books and notes away then heads straight to the great Hall where his friends are already sat eating. He squeezes onto the bench between Blaise and Pansy.

"How nice of you to join us." Blaise teases, passing him the bowl of carrots.

Draco rolls his eyes, taking the bowl and scooping a few spoonsful of carrots onto his plate. "The potions exam tomorrow is the most important exam I will probably ever take. I need to be prepared for anything they give us." He explains piling his plate with meat and more vegetables.

Pansy huffs bring his attention to her.

"What's wrong?" He asks as he starts eating his food. He wants to be back in the library in half an hour.

"I never get to spend any time with you anymore." She pouts.

"I don't know why you're complaining. I'm his best friend and I haven't spent time with him since Easter." Blaise pouts as well.

"Yeah well I'm…" She stops midsentence, eyes wide

"You're not his anything Pansy." Blaise points out with a laugh.

"We'll see." She mumbles glaring at who glares back.

Draco looks back and forth between his two friends. It's no secret that Blaise and Pansy don't like each other but arguing over him is definitely a new low.

"My father's done all he can so we'll just have to wait until Wednesday," Pansy whispers in his ears.

He nods slightly confused. He feels like he should know what she's talking about but she rambles on and on whenever he's with her that he can't help but tune out most of the time.

When he finishes his dinner he bids them goodnight then goes back to the library to study. He doesn't plan on staying there all night so when he hear a nearby clock strike midnight he packs his things away then heads back to his common room. There's still a few people milling around in front of the fireplace or playing wizards chess by the window but no one he personally knows so he makes his way up to the bedroom he shares with Blaise, Theo, and Goyle. They're all in bed, sleeping when he enters so he washes, gets changed into his pyjamas then climbs into bed hoping for a good night's sleep ready for the Potions exam in the morning.

The potion exam asks him to make the Draught of Peace. He sighs happily in relief. He could make this with his eyes closed and one hand tied behind his back. He chuckled slightly as he gets started. Once he's done, he proudly collects a sample of his white liquid. There's no doubt in his mind that his potion is perfect. His only competition is Grangers but as he hands his in, he notices that hers is half a shade dark then his.

"Five minutes left students." The examiner calls out.

Draco goes back to his desk taking a seat on his stool where he feels himself deflate. He yawns tiredly. He's spent the last five weeks studying in the library and now that his last exam is over he feels like he could sleep for days. Unfortunately, the Hogwarts Express is leaving tomorrow morning so the most he can sleep is ten hours once he's packed all his things belongings in his trunk.

He wakes up the next morning to Blaise jumping on his bed excitedly.

"Draco, Draco, Draco, Draco!" He repeats over and over again until he opens his eyes.

"What?" He questions rolling onto his back and stretching his arms and back until they pop.

Blaise jumps on top of him, straddling stomach. "It's eight o'clock. You need to get up. We need breakfast" He shakes his shoulders. "The train is leaving in two hours. We're going home. We're getting married in four days. I can't wait." He squeals excitedly jumping up and down again.

"Do you mind not jumping up and down on my bladder?" Draco yawns pushing his best friend off of him.

Blaise fidgets excitedly as Draco goes to the bathroom then gets dressed. His friend doesn't shut up all the way down to the hall. Draco doesn't pay much attention though until Blaise punches him in the shoulder.

"What Blaise?" He complains, annoyingly rubbing his painful shoulder.

"This Tuesday night we're going out," Blaise announces excitedly hopping around.

"Why?" He grabs hold of his friend's shoulders keeping him still.

"For our stag do." He rolls his eyes. "It's what I was just talking about."

"What's a stag do?" He questions curiously.

"It's a muggle tradition we go out to celebrate out last night of freedom before becoming married men." He explains.

"Really." He raises and eyebrow. "We're going to celebrate the fact that we're being forced to having children with someone we probably don't know and who we're being forced to marry." He frowns at his friend.

"Okay, I'll celebrate and you can mourn. Either way, we're going out on Tuesday night." He says forcefully.

"Fine." Draco gives in. "We won't be out long anyway, you get drunk off two shots of Firewhisky," Draco smirks.

"I do not," Blaise argues defensively.

"Really, I must be remembering our last Hogsmeade trip differently." He laughs as Blaise avoids eye contact. "Don't you remember?" He teases. "I had to drag you back to the castle then you were unconscious for nearly eighteen hours."

"Since it's your last day at Hogwarts." An authorities voice behind them makes them stop mid-step. "I'll pretend I didn't hear that Mr Malfoy." Professor McGonagall steps in front of them giving them both a stern look before walking ahead of them towards the Grand Hall.

At half nine, Draco and Blaise set off with their trunks to Hogsmeade Station. Most of the younger students board the Hogwarts Express straight away leaving the last years on the station to say goodbye to everyone. Most of the Professors have made the journey to say goodbye as well. Draco shook Professor McGonagall, Professor Slughorn, and Madame Pomfrey hand before boarding the train with Blaise, Theo, and Pansy. They make their way to their compartment at the front of the train, put their trunk in the overhead storage, then sit in their usual seats awaiting the trains departure.

It's strange to think that this is the last time they will ever board the Hogwarts Express. Draco looks up towards the castle. It's probably the last time he'll ever see Hogwarts Castle. He'll probably have no need to visit Hogsmeade since the shops are only local branches. They stock a lot more in the Diagon Alley shops. He might come visit Madame Rosmerta every once in a while but over the years, his visits will most likely become less and less frequent until it's been so long that to visit would just be too awkward.

Draco shakes his head, closing his eye and leans his head back against the wall behind him. He tries to clear his thoughts but he can't. Everything is swimming around in his head. Thoughts of the marriage decree, his future wife, his future children, his NEWT results and other things that don't exactly make sense in his mind right now.

He's jostled awake by someone kicking his foot. He sits up straight looking confusingly out of the window at the crowds of people.

"We're at Kings Cross, Draco," Blaise announces offering his friend a hand up.

He's a little disappointed that he missed the entire train ride but he's still too tired to let it get to him. He pulls his trunk down from the overhead storage then exits the train with Blaise and Pansy.

Pansy throws herself at him once they're on the platform.

"I'll see you on Wednesday." She whispers in his ear then winks as she backs away and runs off towards her parents.

Blaise and Draco, having no one waiting for them, walk through the platform wall onto muggle Kings Cross. Blaise's Mum and stepdad, Alberic, were still in Toulouse. They had ended up buying a house over there and were in the process of making it their permanent residence. They were arriving at Malfoy Manor on Monday afternoon where they would be staying in the guest rooms until Thursday when they would return to Toulouse.

Once in the alleyway behind Kings Cross, they both disapparate to Malfoy Manor, where Blaise would be staying until the Partner Ceremony on Wednesday. They drag their trunks up the winding path up to the front door where Mitty is stood waiting for their arrival.

"Master Draco." She squeaks happily. "Master is home. Mitty made Master's favourite for dinner." She announces proudly.

"Ahh, spaghetti Bolognese with apple pie for desert." Blaise hums appreciatively.

"I can't wait, Mitty." He praises her. "Where's mother?"

"Master's mother is in the library, Master." She answers taking his and Blaise's cloaks.

"I'll take these up to your room." Blaise takes hold of their trunks then heads towards the stairs.

Draco heads towards the library. He knocks before entering to find his mother curled up on a chaise lounge with a book and a large glass of red wine. She looks up as he enters.

"Draco dear, I didn't hear you arrive." She beacons him over. "Mitty's making your favourite for dinner." She mentions giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"So I've heard." He says stepping out of her embrace.

His mother sits back down leaving him awkwardly standing before announcing, "I'll be in my room if you need me."

He enters his room to find Blaise already in his pyjama trousers sprawled out on his bed reading The Daily Prophet. His trunk is open at the side of his bed and half of his belongings are flung on the floor.

"Make yourself at home why don't you." He mutters as he starts to unpack his own clothes.

He grabs his own pair of pyjama trousers to change into then joins his friend on his bed. He doesn't plan on napping but the next thing he knows, Blaise is shaking him awake for the third time today.

"Come on Draco, dinner's ready. You can sleep all you want afterwards." He chuckles grabbing the spare dressing gown that he always wears when he stays over.

Draco has offered Blaise one of the spare bedrooms many times but his friend always refuses, preferring to share. Draco doesn't mind all that much. They're both only child's and it's nice to have someone to share with sometimes.

Dinner is delicious and he sends many compliments to the chef, much to his mother's annoyance. Afterwards, both he and Blaise head back up to his room after bidding his mother and Mitty goodnight. Draco is asleep within minutes after climbing into bed.

The next morning, he doesn't awake to Blaise shaking him or to Mitty blinding him. Instead, he wakes up completely naturally. He yawns and stretches his body out in odd angles. It's the first time in what must be years that he's felt like he's awoken fully rested. It's then that he realises that he's alone in bed. Blaise is probably in the kitchens with Mitty and Gharther. He checks the grandfather clock that stands next to his bedroom door. It's twenty past two. At first, he wonders why he's awake this early but one look at his curtained window tell him it's the afternoon. He can't find it within himself to care.

He dresses, washes, then makes his way downstairs into the kitchens but Blaise isn't there. Neither are Mitty and Gharther. He checks the lounge, the dining room before finding his mother in the library.

"Mother, have you seen Blaise today," He asks entering the room.

"Yes, dear." She places her book on the side table. "He mentioned going to Toulouse for the day to visit his mother and stepfather. He said he'll return either later tonight or in the morning." She explains before standing up.

She walks towards him then takes his hands in hers. "I've made an appointment at Madam Malkin's for you at four o'clock to have your wedding robes fitted. I designed them myself so I do hope you like them." She lovingly caresses his cheek.

"If you designed them I'm sure I'll love them, mother." He tells her.

"You're such a good boy." She slaps his cheek lightly. "Don't be late. You know how she hates to be kept waiting."

"I know, mother." He nods. "I think I'll have some lunch before I go." He gives her a small smile before leaving her to her book.

He goes back down to the kitchens where Gharther is stood over a chopping board.

"Gharther, could you make me a sandwich please?" He asks taking a seat on one of the stools.

"Gharther is already making Master one." He announces. "Gharther heard Master talking to Master's mother. Gharther is sorry." The house-elf bows his head awaiting his punishment.

Gharther was promoted to his father's house-elf after Dobby left so he can understand why he's stood shaking in anticipation of pain.

"Thank you Gharther." He says, watching as Gharther looks through his lashes at Draco before deciding that he isn't about to have something thrown at him so he goes back to the sandwich.

Draco stays in the kitchen to eat it, talking to Gharther. Although it is mainly one-sided as the house-elf keeps looking down at his oddly socked feet. As soon as he's finished his sandwich, Gharther takes his plate away to wash it up. Draco leaves him to it, going back upstairs to grab his shoes and summer cloak. He then takes a slow stroll through the Manor's garden. When he reaches the gates, he checks his watch. It's only ten past three. He decides to walk down the country lane a bit to clear his mind and just be surrounded by nature. He's only been walking for five minutes when a muggle car pulls up next to him.

"Hey, do you live locally?" A man in his mid-twenties leans out of the window to ask.

Draco stares back for a few seconds before answering. "Yes."

"Good, you're the first person I've seen hours." The man chuckles looking him up and down.

"I'm not surprised. I don't think many people live around here." Draco replies.

"What's with the cloak? You living in the nineteenth century." The man laughs.

Draco checks the man out. He's wearing a rather bright orange jacket that matches the bandana in his obviously dyed blonde hair. Is this what muggles think is fashionable?

"I look good, at least." He looks down his nose at the man.

"I can't deny that at all." The man winks at him making Draco slightly uncomfortable. "You need a lift somewhere? As far as I've seen there's nothing much out here." He shrugs looking around the countryside.

"No thank you." He declines setting off walking again.

"Come on man." He calls after Draco creeping his car closer and closer. "Okay, can you, at least, tell me how to get to the nearest town?" He asks.

"No, I don't know this area well." Draco keeps on walking.

"I thought you said you lived locally." The man points out.

"I do live locally but that doesn't mean I know the area well." Draco snaps at the man who is starting to get on his nerves.

"Calm down man. Where do you live anyway?" The man asks curiously. "You don't live in that mansion back there so you?"

Draco ignores him. He checks his watch. It's only twenty past three so he's still got plenty of time but he still wants to get rid of this muggle.

"You do, don't you? Damn man, you must be loaded." The man says making Draco stop.

"Mind your own business and leave me alone." Draco glares at him before walking off again.

"I've hit a sore spot haven't I?" The man teases making him angry. "Is the poor little rich boy tired of Daddy's money?" He laughs.

Draco pauses again dead in his track, whips his wand out and jabs it into the man's neck.

"You don't have any idea who I am or what I'm capable of doing muggle." He spits at the man who has the decency to look sacredly confused as he fumbles around with something inside his car.

Suddenly, he's driving very quickly away from him. Draco watches with a smirk as the man speeds off down the country road before disapparating into a dark alleyway down Diagon Alley. He makes his way towards Madam Malkin's shop. It's just gone half past three when he enters the shop and coincidentally, one of her clients has cancelled their appointment so she can see Draco now.

He doesn't get the chance to have a proper look at his robes before Madam Malkin makes him try them on but as soon as she places him in front of the wall-length mirror he can instantly see why his mother was so excited for him to see it.

She has chosen plain black trousers with a black shirt, a forest green velvet tie and waistcoat. Both have intricate gold designs stitched into the velvet which shines under the light. His cloak is made from the same forest green velvet material and flows gracefully down to the floor. A lesser man would cry at the beauty of the outfit. Draco, however, simply smiled at his reflection. He might be getting forced into marriage on Wednesday but at least, he will look good doing so.

He thanks, Madam Malkin, pays the bill, and then exits the shop back into Diagon Alley. Knowing what he'll be wearing for The Partner Ceremony makes him almost look forward to it.

He disapparates back to the gates of Malfoy Manor. Once inside he goes straight to his bedroom to hang his new outfit up before going off to find his mother. She's exactly where he expects to find her. In the library lounging on her chaise lounge. He rushes towards her happily.

"Mother, you have outdone yourself with my wedding robes. They are simply magnificent." He praises her.

"I'm glad you like them Draco." She smiles proudly. "I cannot wait to see you in them on Wednesday. You'll no doubt make it into the Daily Prophet as best dressed. Although I did hear…" She rambles on not noticing Draco's smile fall.

'Best Dressed.' He hadn't thought about how the magazines would publish a story on The Partner Ceremony but it made sense for them to take photographs of the best dressed and worst dressed couples. They'll probably dedicate the entire Daily Prophet to the ceremony. No doubt they'll be a write up about some of the most famous couples. Even before his involvement in the war was made publically known his family was frequently in The Daily Prophet so there's no doubt in his mind that he'd be in Thursday's copy alongside his new wife. The Golden trio will have their own write up too. Thankfully people care more about them then they do Draco so hopefully, no one will pay attention to him.

Blaise doesn't return that night so Draco expects to see him in the morning but he sent an owl to explain how he's staying in Toulouse with his mother and Alberic and will just come back with them tomorrow ready for their stag do.

Draco's busies himself with organising his wardrobe into clothes he wants to take to his new residence at The Ministry Starter House and clothes he doesn't mind leaving behind. It takes him a few hours to do this since he has a largely impressive wardrobe but also because he spends, at least, half an hour trying to decide whether seven pairs of shoes are too many. He decides that seven pairs are too many but then he can't decide which pairs to leave behind. After another half hour, he finally settles on five pairs of shoes but then he doesn't know how many ties to take since he has forty-three and all of them are different colours.

By eleven o'clock he's satisfied that he has his entire wardrobe planned out for the next two years and he's confident he's prepared for anything. He has clothes appropriate for all seasons, for all occasions and he even has some muggles clothes in case he's partnered to a Muggleborn or a half-blood. He doesn't want to have to visit his muggle in-laws wearing his cloaks. He ends up going to bed feeling proud of himself.

He wakes up the next morning at a reasonable time. Or at least, a more reasonable time than he had the previous day. He missed breakfast but is dressed and sat at the dining table ready for lunch. It's just tea, a few sandwiches, and cakes, since Mitty is preparing the guest room for Mr and Mrs Stonage and Gharther, is busy preparing something much more extravagant for dinner since they have guests.

They arrive by floo just after four o'clock. Draco greets them politely but Mrs Zabini, or rather Mrs Stonage, pulls him into a tight hug and kisses both his cheeks. He holds out his hand firmly for Mr Stonage to shake which he does then pulls him into another bone crushing hug. He's definitely not used to this sort of affection but he supposes he might have to get used to it if his future in-laws are similar to the Stonages.

"It's lovely to finally meet you, Mr Stonage," Draco says as he guides them up the stairs towards the guest bedroom.

"Draco, call me Alberic, please." He pats Draco's shoulder. "Are you not my son's best friend?" He asks rhetorically.

Draco turns around to raise a questioning eyebrow at Blaise who just shrugs.

Once he's shown them to their room and told them that dinner will be at seven o'clock, he leaves them to settle in. Blaise follows him back to his bedroom where he flops down onto his bed.

"Son?" Draco questions as he follows in Blaise's footsteps and flops down onto his own bed.

"He actually takes an interest in me and mother seems to genuinely be in love with him." He explains.

"Are you sure it's him she's in love with?" Draco asks cautiously.

"Yes." He answers forcefully. "Al comes from a wealthy family but he's the youngest of twelve children so he didn't get much inheritance when his father died. All he got was a house in the Scottish countryside which he just sold so he could buy the house in Toulouse with Mother." He explains further.

"Well, my first impressions of him are very positive." Draco offers to which Blaise just nods.

They end up laying there, chatting about nothing in particular until dinner time. Gharther really has outdone himself tonight. There is a variety of different meat dishes and fish dishes with many different vegetables and potatoes. Then there are five different types of dessert for afterwards which both Draco and Blaise feel oblige to try.

Blaise excuses himself and Draco then leads the way back to Draco's bedroom where he'd be more than happy to simply lie in his bed, dreading the following morning but Blaise throws his cloak at him.

"Are you excited?" Blaise asks almost running back down the staircase.

"For what? Where are we going?" He asks chasing after his friend who runs out into the gardens.

The sun is just about visible behind the trees of the surrounding forests turning the sky a calming pink shade.

"For our Stag do. Don't tell me you forgot." He shook his head. "Come on, we're going to the Leaky Cauldron." He runs off down the Manor's garden path then disapparates once he is outside the gate.

Draco follows his friend to the Leaky Cauldron where they start off slowly with a couple of Butterbeers each then Blaise insists that they move on to the harder stuff. He orders three shots of firewhisky each and then begs Draco to do them all in a row with him. He gives into peer pressure and does the shots. It leaves Blaise slurring and Draco desperate for the toilet. He leaves his friend whispering to a small tree next to the bar as he staggers to the toilet. He wouldn't say he's drunk yet. Just a little tipsy. He'd need at least another six shots to himself to be drunk. When he returns, Blaise has ordered another shot each which he raises in the air at Draco return.

"Here's to us getting partnered with intelligent, attractive ladies who will fall in love with us and make many babies with us and grow old with us." Blaise slurs happily.

Draco rolls his eyes but drinks anyway. There's no harm in hoping for that outcome. After another two shots, he's definitely starting to feel the effect of the alcohol. He nearly falls over on his next trip to the toilet and upon his return, he finds Blaise talking to Granger.

'What's she doing here?' He thinks walking over to them.

"Nice to meet you, Fern," Granger says then proceeds to shake the branch of the tree Blaise has his arm around.

"Are you having a stag do too?" Blaise asks her leaning back against the bar.

"We're having a small party to celebrate. I'm just here to collect the alcohol. Are you here alone Blaise?" She questions him.

"No, I'm here with Drakey." Blaise mentions and Draco takes that as his cue to step in before he's embarrassed any further.

"Here you go, ma'am." The bartender hands over five bottles of firewhisky to Granger.

"Thank you." She says to the bartender before turning back to face Blaise and now Draco.

Her eyes widen slightly at his appearance so he smirks at her.

"I need to get going but I'll see you tomorrow Blaise." She announces staring straight at Draco. "Malfoy." She nods before walking away from them.

"She didn't say goodbye to Fern." Blaise pouts stroking the leaves of the small tree.

"You do know that's a not a fern tree." Draco points out.

"Don't be so judgemental Drakey." He reprimands him then turns to whisper to Fern. "Don't listen to him Ferny. You can be whatever you want to be."

"Right, I think it's time we got home. You don't want a hangover on your wedding day, do you?" He points out, dragging Blaise off his stool bench and towards the door.

He knows he probably shouldn't disapparate in his inebriated state but it's the quickest way of getting home without paying the bartender for the use of his fireplace. Thankfully they made it back to the manor without getting splinched.

Draco looks at his watch as they try to quietly climb the staircase to his bedroom. It's not long after eleven o'clock. In twelve hours he'll be sat in The Ministry alongside about five hundred other people waiting to be partnered. His stomach flips and he uses all his self-control not to throw up all over the carpet. He lets Blaise flop down onto his bed as he goes brush his teeth and change into his pyjama bottoms. When he returns, Blaise is fast asleep on top of his quilt. Draco climbs under them and tried to get comfortable but he's unable to. His thoughts are stuck on The Partner Ceremony, wondering what it's going to be like, who he's going to be paired to and who his friends are going to be paired with. He manages to think about calming waves crashing peacefully into cliffs and rocks long enough for him to fall asleep at about five o'clock in the morning but even then it's a restless sleep.

Chapter Text

Her Mum wakes her up the following morning with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. She gives her Mum a tight hug then follows her downstairs into the kitchen where her Dad is sat at the table eating his own bacon sandwich whilst reading the newspaper.

"Look who decides to join the land of the living." He teases as she kisses her Dad's cheek.

"What time is it?" She asks biting into her sandwich.

"Just gone half past twelve." Her Mum answers as she washes up some plates and mugs.

Hermione groans annoyed. "Why'd you leave me in bed this late? Half the day's gone now." She complains sipping at her tea.

"We've got a long day ahead of ourselves today. We need to go dress shopping in London then your Grandma Betty's having a barbeque tonight so we won't be getting home until late." She explained their day.

"Great, will everyone be at the barbeque?" She questions excitedly.

"I should think so." She says drying her hands on the tea towel. "You should go get dressed. We're leaving in half an hour." She mentions taking Hermione's plate away to wash up.

Hermione takes her cup of tea with her back upstairs to her bedroom. She spends ten minutes just filing through her wardrobe trying to decide what to wear. She wants to wear something pretty and summery since it's a lovely warm day and she's going to a barbeque but she needs something warm in case it gets chilly later on.

She decides on a black flowery dress with a pair of thick tights and her heeled ankle boots. She brushes her teeth then takes the remaining of her tea, which has gone cold, down to the kitchen. He parents are already ready, chatting in the kitchen. She pulls on her leather jacket then grabs her handbag with her purse and book in it.

It takes them half an hour to drive into central London. Her Dad drops them off outside a wedding dress shop then drives off to park the car. They arrange to meet at the local pub in two hours.

Her mum opens the door to the shop for her causing a bell to jingle. A lady in a smart dress comes over with two glasses of champagne on a tray.

"Good afternoon. Are you Mrs and Miss Granger?" The lady smiles at them.

"Yes, we are. We have an appointment at half one." Her Mum announces.

"Of course. Congratulations Miss Granger. Here's a complimentary glass of champagne." She holds her tray out for them to take the glasses.

"Thank you." Hermione tries to smile at the lady but one look in the mirror shows her it's more of a grimace.

How is she supposed to smile when she doesn't even know who her husband is going to be?

"My name is Annabel and I'll be your assistant." She motions for them to sit on the deep purple loveseat whilst she sits on an armchair of the same colour. "What style of dress are you searching for?" Annabel asks with a pen poised over her notepad.

"Erm… I don't know." She shrugs. "I haven't really thought about it." She looks up at her Mum.

Annabel looks back and forth between them confused. "When's the big day?"

"Wednesday," Hermione answers trying to smile politely.

Annabel's eyes widen. "This Wednesday?" She places her pen and paper down on the side table.

"Er… Yes, we want a short engagement." Hermione tries to explain.

"Oh, are you..?" Annabel looks down at her stomach.

"No, no. We just don't see any point in waiting to get married." She says.

"Oh, sorry. Why don't you look at our racks and see if anything catches your eyes?" She offers. "I'm afraid if anything needs adjusting you'll have to pay a little extra since it's short notice," Annabel explains.

"That's fine." Her Mum strokes Hermione's curly hair. "We only get to do this once. Well, we hope we only get to do this once." She chuckles.

Hermione starts at one end of the rack and her Mum starts at the other end then they make their way towards the middle looking at the different dresses. Her Mum pulls out a large puffy cream dress.

She shakes her head vigorously. "I hate too many ruffles and it has to be white." She explains.

Annabel writes this down on her notepad as they carry on searching. Hermione pulls out an A-line, white dress with a lace bodice to show her Mum but she shakes her head so she puts it back. They're just reaching the middle of the rack when Hermione spots the one.

The dress is pure white with an intricate lace design on the bodice and sleeves. The fabric is pulled in at the waist by a dark green sash tied in a bow at her back. The skirt falls gently down to her feet. She shows her Mum who nods excitedly.

"Go try it on, Hermione." She urges her towards the changing rooms.

Thankfully the dress is only a size too big so the seamstress won't have to take it in much. It fastens up at the back with twenty buttons. She counts as Annabel helps her. She looks at herself in the changing room mirror. The dress is beautiful. It's perfect. She spins around letting the soft material of the skirt spin out around her. She loves it.

Annabel throws the curtains to her changing room open then steps aside to let Hermione walk into the room.

"Oh my, Hermione, you're beautiful." Her Mum wipes her tearing eyes. "Is it the one?" She asks.

"Yes, Mum. This is definitely the one." She smiles at her own reflection.

Her Mum pays for the dress and shoes then arranges to pick it up the following afternoon after the dress has been altered. They make their way towards the pub they had agreed to meet her Dad at. He's already sat at a table with a pint of beer and two small glasses of red wine for his wife and daughter.

"How did it go?" He asks standing up to hug them both.

"Very well Chris. Wait until you see her in her dress. She's beautiful." Her Mum tears up again.

"I can't wait." He smiles.

They finish their drinks then make their way back to where her Dad parked the car. Her Mum drives back to their house where they have a cup of tea before the barbeque. Grandma Betty calls them at half four to ask if they have any ketchup they can bring with them. Her Mum goes for a rummage in their cupboard and finds a large bottle.

They let themselves into Grandma Betty's house placing the bottle of ketchup next to the other condiments on the table and placing a six pack of beers in the colour next to the barbeque that Hermione's Grandad Tom and Uncles David were stood chatting. Her Dad goes straight over with a beer can leaving Hermione and her Mum to sit at the picnic table with Grandma Betty, Aunt Louise and her Godmother Sharon. Her cousins Sophie, Mark, Mia, Lauren and Craig were taking it in turns to jump on the trampoline.

"Hermione!" Her Aunt squeals giving her a massive hug. Hermione can smell the alcohol on her breath already.

"Hi, Aunt Louise. How have you been?" She asks politely stepping away.

"I'm doing a lot better now. I'm completely over Darren." She nods proudly before sipping at her large glass of wine.

Hermione smiles back worriedly.

"How have you been Hermine?" Sharon asks pulling her towards the picnic table. "It's been so long. I don't know how your parents could send you away to that school. I couldn't do it. I'd miss Mark and Mia too much." She glances over to her twins.

"Hermione calls home on the phone every couple of days." Her Mum lies easily. She must be used to saying it after eight years.

"You've graduated now though haven't you?" Her Grandma asks hopefully.

"Yes, I have." She smiles.

"Good. Now you have no excuse not to come visit me." She winks.

Hermione laughs along with her family. She leaves them to go say hello to her Grandad and Uncle.

"Hermione darling! I can't believe how tall you've gotten." Her Grandad Tom brings her into a hug.

"I haven't grown for the past three years Grandad." She chuckles.

"You still look taller every time I see you." He says flipping the burgers.

"Sarah tells me that you've just graduated school. What are your plans for the future?" Her Uncle David asks sipping at his beer.

David, at fifty-five, is five years older than her Mum. He's always asking about her future plans or whether she has a boyfriend or girlfriend yet. He's had to raise his daughter, Sophie, by himself since his girlfriend left them eight years ago, a month after her birth, since then he's been a lot more parental.

"I've been accepted into the University of Edinburgh to study physics." She lies. Physics is the closest thing to transfiguration she can think of in the muggle world. "I hope to become a science teacher eventually, though." She adds on truthfully.

"A teacher." Her uncle raises his eyebrow. He's a history teacher at the local secondary school. The one she probably would have attended had she not been a witch. "We don't make much money, you know?" He points out.

"I don't want to do it for the money." She tells him earning an approving grin.

"Correct answer." He tells her.

Suddenly there's a scream from over near the trampoline. Everyone turns around to find Sophie crying on the pavement with blood trickling down her knees. David runs over to his daughter to comfort her leaving Hermione with her Dad and Grandad.

"Do you want children, Hermione?" Her Grandad asks.

Hermione glances at her Dad from the corner of her eye who just winks at her.

"Yeah, I do want children." She answers because according to The Marriage Decree, she'll be having a child within the next two years.

"David never did until he got that woman pregnant. Now look at him. It's good that you know what you want at this age. Just don't leave it too late." Her Grandad murmurs going back into the house for another beer.

Her dad shrugs his shoulders at her then goes back to attending the barbeque so Hermione leaves him to it, instead going over to her cousins. Mark and Mia are fighting over whose turn it is to go on the trampoline. Lauren rolls her eyes and comes over to Hermione pulling her over towards the bench.

"Hello Lauren, how are you liking school?" She asks sitting down next to her cousin.

Lauren rolls her eyes again. It's obvious she takes after her Mum with her attitude.

"I don't like it." She pouts crossing her arms over her chest in a huff.

"Why not?" She frowns concerned. Lauren is very similar to her in the way she loves learning new things. She was sure her cousin would love school.

"I want to stay home with Craig." She says eyes watering.

That makes sense. There's only one year between them and they're more like best friends than siblings.

"Well does Craig not go to nursery whilst you're at school?" She questions.

"Yeah but only in the morning. Then Mummy picks him up." She frowns over at her Mum.

"Craig will be starting school in September won't he? Then you'll see him all day." She tries to explain to her.

Lauren pauses to think about it then she nods in agreement.

"Will you be playing with us in the summer like last year?" She asks hopefully.

"Of course. In fact, I finished school last Friday so we can play together more often." She tells her.

Lauren jumps up excitedly then runs over to tell Craig then Mark and Mia who are both in attending St Stephens Primary School. Marka nd Mia are in Year One, though. They all look excited by the news which pleases her since she barely gets to see her cousins and she thought they might not remember her. Especially at five years old.

"The foods ready." Her Grandad calls and everyone flocks over to the barbeque.

Hermione and her parents make it home just before eleven o'clock. She goes straight to bed wanting to get up early to start packing her trunk with the clothes she wants to take with her to The Ministry Starter Estate.

When she wakes up in the morning, she checks her alarm clock. It's twenty past eight. She stays in bed for an extra ten minutes before getting up and dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She opens her trunk, takes out her wand and casts the undetectable extension charm. She starts with her shoes. She only has five pairs so she just places them all in her trunk. She opens her draws and wardrobe to have a look at the clothes she owns. She doesn't have much. She throws many pairs of jeans, tops, dresses, skirts and cardigans.

Once she's done, she checks her alarm clock again. Only an hour has passed since she started packing. It's such a tedious task that she'd rather spend as little time as possible doing. She heads downstairs to find Ginny sat at the kitchen table with her Mum and Dad.

"What are you doing here, Ginny?" She asks giving her best friend a hug.

"The boys have decided to spend the day playing Quidditch but I don't really feel like it. Mum's gone robes shopping for the boys so I thought you might like to go out for lunch then maybe do a bit of shopping. I still need to buy my shoes for Wednesday." Ginny explains sitting back down and sips her tea.

"That sounds great." Hermione agrees. "Let me go get changed." She glances down at her shorts and t-shirt.

"I'll wait here," Ginny smiles.

Hermione races back upstairs and throws on the dress she wore yesterday along with her tights, ankle boots and leather jacket. She has a quick wash then goes back downstairs where Ginny is just finishing off her tea.

"I know this lovely little café near The Leaky Cauldron we can go to for lunch." She mentions as they leave through the back door. "One of my muggle friends Grandma owns it." She adds, ignoring the flare of jealousy in Ginny's eyes at the mention of a muggle friend.

They disapparate into Diagon alley then leave through the Leaky Cauldron. Hermione leads the way down the street and then left down a side street until she stops in front of 'Mrs Morris' Café'.

Mrs Morris greets them as soon as they enter wearing a flowery pink apron.

"Hello, welcome to Mrs Norris' Café. I'm… Hermione Granger. Is that you dear?" She asks pushing her hair out of her eyes.

"Yes, it's lovely to see you again Mrs Norris." She replies.

"Oh, my." She gasps pulling her over to the table next to the window. "How long has it been? I don't think I've seen you since Derek's eleventh birthday party."

"That's right. The summer before I went off to school." Hermione clarifies.

"Yes! You went up to Scotland and broke my Derek's heart. He still talks about you, you know?" Mrs Morris winks knowingly.

The last time Hermione saw Derek was summer holiday's three years ago. They'd come to his Nana's café for a cup of tea. He'd been her best friend since nursery school and it was nice to catch up but it was quite awkward. She'd changed considerably over the past five years whilst Derek hadn't changed much at all.

"Who's your friend, Hermione?" She asks handing them both a menu.

"This is Ginny, one of my best friends from school." She introduces her.

"It's lovely to meet you dear." Mrs Norris smiles.

"You too, Mrs Norris," Ginny replies politely.

Mrs Norris leaves them to go collect a teapot and a tray of sandwiches and cakes. She places them on the table then pulls a chair up to their table.

"How have you been Mrs Morris?" Hermione asks stirring a teaspoon of sugar into her tea.

"I've been grand dear. You know this place nearly got shut down a few years back. Business was slow and I was in debt. Derek wanted me to borrow from the bank but they only steal your money. I had three days left to play when I won the full house at the bingo with your Granny Betty. I won £10,000. More than enough to pay off the bill and do some renovations. I gave the rest to Derek. He's such a good boy. He put it in his savings account ready for university. Are you single dear?" She asks but doesn't pause for a reply. "Because Derek is. You two would make such a lovely couple."

"I actually have a boyfriend, Mrs Morris. I met him at school." She interrupts.

Mrs Morris's face falls disappointedly. "Oh, well that's nice. Is it serious?" She asks hopefully.

Hermione laughs awkwardly. "Yes, I love him." She lies.

"Go on then dear, tell me a bit about him. What's his name?" She asks.

Hermione looks quickly to Ginny begging her to help but her friend just shrugs uselessly.

"Erm… his name's… Ronald. Er… Ron." She announces, watching as Ginny smirks at her from behind her tuna sandwich.

"Ronald? That's a good name. Well, congratulations. I'll leave you two girls to your lunch." Mrs Morris leaves them.

"Ronald." Ginny raises her eyebrow.

"Shut up, he's the closest thing I have to a boyfriend until Wednesday." She retaliates making Ginny laugh.

"Can you believe that we're getting married in two days?" Her best friend sighs and Hermione wants nothing more than to slap her out of this fairy-tale of a daydream she appears to be in.

"No, I can't," Hermione mumbles, nibbling at her own sandwich, her appetite having disappeared.

"Don't worry Hermione. I just know that you're going to end up happy." Ginny tells her cheerfully which just annoys her even further.

"How can you possibly know that? Are you a seer now?" She questions.

Ginny frowns. "No, but we've all been through enough shit these last few years that we deserve a happy ending." She explains.

"It's just wishful thinking Ginny. As far as we know, we might not even be getting paired by compatibility. It could be completely random or some sick game The Ministry are playing with us. We're nothing more than puppets to them." Hermione complains.

"Okay, stop. You're starting to sound like Percy with all these conspiracy theories about The Ministry. Harry's been in contact with Kingsley and from what information he's gathered, Harry seems to think the questionnaires aren't pointless after all." Ginny explains.

"But who care about their partner's favourite number, colour, food or drink?" Hermione points out.

"Harry did mention that in one of his letters actually, apparently it helps to show what type of person you are. I'm not entirely sure how but it has something to do with muggle Sicolgy." Ginny tells her.

"Psychology." She corrects.

She still doesn't understand how the questionnaire comprised of twenty questions can determine what sort of a person you are and then match you with someone who you are compatible with. It doesn't make sense in her head. Also, if The Ministry aren't doing anything suspicious, why have they collected all book relating to The Marriage Decree? What are they hiding?

"Let's not talk about The Ministry anymore, it's giving me a headache." She rubs her forehead. "What time are you coming over tomorrow?" She asks instead.

"I should be over about five o'clock. My Mum wants to cook me a last supper." She laughs but stops when Ginny just stares confusingly at her. "I'm meeting my parents outside the ministry at ten o'clock on Wednesday so can you save me a seat in The Ministry Hall?" She asks her friend.

"Of course, Mum said she'll save a seat for your parents. She'll look after them." Ginny reassured her.

Hermione's always terrified something will happen to her parents when she brings them into the wizard world. Her fears have subsided some since the death of Voldemort and the imprisonment of his Death Eaters but she's still nervous about their being at The Ministry.

After lunch, Hermione and Ginny walk around muggle London for a few hours and collect her wedding dress before heading into Diagon Alley and towards Madam Malkin's. According to Ginny, it's wizarding tradition for the bride to wear a white cloak when walking down the aisle. The groom will remove their brides hood before joining hands for the marriage vow.

Apparently Madam Malkin has taken full advantage of The Marriage Decree and has stocked her shop full of wedding robes, dresses and cloaks. Hermione finds a white cloak with dark green stitching along the seams which she knows will accompany her wedding dress beautifully. Ginny buys a similar cloak but with red stitching. She refuses to tell Hermione what her dress looks like but she's sure they will go well together.

Hermione doesn't make it home until seven o'clock, much to the annoyance of her Mum who complains that she wanted to spend the last couple of days with her as a family not separated. To make up for it Hermione helps her Mum make dinner then suggests they all watch a video for her last night. Hermione chooses Grease: The Musical since it used to be her favourite film when she was a child. However, it's been years since she last watched it and no longer lives up to her expectations.

When the video ends, her Mum orders her to bed so she's fully rested for the following day. She doesn't know what her parents have planned but she's just excited to spend the day with her parents before she's married.

The next morning her Mum wakes her up bright and early at eight o'clock. Hermione groans as she gets up then continues to complain as she dresses and washes. Her Mum makes them all scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast with a pot of tea. Whilst her Mum washes up, Hermione and her Dad go next door to collect Bobby before meeting her Mum then setting off for a walk around their local park. Her Dad buys them each a ninety-nine ice-cream with sauce and sprinkles. It's a beautiful warm day so the park is full of people. Hermione loses count of how many children come running up to Bobby, cooing at how cute he is. Bobby, being the attention seeker he is, sits happily wagging his tail and panting excitedly.

Once they've returned home and given Bobby back to their next door neighbour, Hermione helps her Mum make some ham and coleslaw sandwiches with a bag of crisps and a slice of cake for her last supper and they watch another video. At about twelve o'clock, they drive over to her Grandma Emily's house. Hermione is her only grandchild so she always makes a point of visiting her when she's home from Hogwarts. Her Grandma Betty has Sophie, Craig and Lauren and also Mark and Mia since her Godmother Sharon is her Mum's best friend.

As always, her Grandma Emily tries to send her away with money which she refuses to take three times before her Grandma says, "If I can't spoil you, who can I spoil Hermione?" She reluctantly takes the money making a mental note to put it in her savings account.

Many times throughout the day, Hermione finds herself thinking that she's going to miss this. Just being surrounded by family.

At a quarter to five, she collects her overnight bag from her bedroom with her wedding dress and cloak in along with some pyjamas and her toiletries. She hugs her parents tightly reminding them to meet her outside The Ministry's doors at ten o'clock so they can get a seat next to the Weasley's. She then heads out the back door into the alleyway behind her house where she disapparates to just outside the wards of The Burrow.

Ginny is sat on the gate, swinging her legs and eating some fudge.

"Hermione!" She squeals jumping off the gate giving her a large hug.

"Hey Ginny, what are you doing?" Hermione asks as they walk towards the kitchen door.

"I was waiting for you. Mum's taken the boys to Madam Malkin's to get their robes fitted and Dad's at work." Ginny shrugs. "Mum should be back in another hour to get dinner ready for when Bill, Fleur and Charlie arrive. He's staying at their house until Thursday. He could only get three days off work, then he's going back to Romania." She sighs sadly.

"Well, at least, he's making it to the ceremony." She tries to comfort her.

"Yeah, I suppose so." She sighs again. "Do you want a drink?" She asks grabbing a couple of glasses from the cupboard.

"Just some water please," Hermione answers her. "Am I sleeping in your room tonight then?"

"Yeah, Harry sharing with Ron. We're disapparating to the Ministry tomorrow with Mum and the boys are going in the car with Dad."

"Why can't we all just go together?" She questions.

"I don't want Harry to see me before the ceremony," Ginny says obviously and Hermione just nods.

Hermione goes to hang her dress and cloak in Ginny's wardrobe so it doesn't crease in her bag then they end up just lying on her bed, talking. Before they know it Molly is calling them down for dinner. They go down to find everyone rushing around in the kitchen placing bowls, plates and cutlery on the table.

"Hey, Hermione." Harry waves at her from the fridge. Hermione waves back to him then helps Ginny fill eleven glasses with water and place them on the table as everyone takes their seat.

Everyone is chatting to each other until Fleur calls across the tables to Hermione and Ginny.

"'ermione and Geenny. Are you ladiez aving a cheeken partee?" She asks with a smile.

"A what?" Ginny looks at Hermione, wondering if she has a clue what Fleur's on about.

"A cheeken partee. Do you not ave em in Eengland?" She frowns at them both.

"Oh, a hen party. I hadn't really thought about it." Hermione thinks aloud.

"What's a hen party?" Ginny asks excitedly.

"Usually before their wedding, the bride and groom have separate parties with their friend to celebrate their last few days of being single," Hermione explains to the table.

"Mum, can we have one, please?" Ginny begs her Mum.

"Don't you think it's a bit late Ginny? You're getting married tomorrow." Molly points out.

"Come on Mum, let them have one last night of fun." Bill tries to convince her. "You and Dad can come over to ours for a few hours and let the kids enjoy themselves. I'm sure one of them can pop out to The Leaky Cauldron and pick up a few bottles of firewhisky." He looks over at Harry and Ron.

"I can go for them." Hermione volunteers when nobody else does.

"Can we play games?" Ginny asks fidgeting in her seat.

"Of course!" Harry laughs. "This is gonna be fun." He jumps out of his seat.

"Okay, okay but I'm leaving you all in charge of clearing up any mess." Molly agrees as she starts clearing the dinner plates from the table.

"Harry, Ron, George and Percy can move the furniture in the living room against the wall. We need as much floor space as we can get." Ginny orders the boys into the living room. "Shall we invite Neville and Luna?" She turns to face Hermione.

"I'll go over to their houses and ask on the way back from The Leaky Cauldron," Hermione announces grabbing her leather jacket.

She walks down The Burrows garden path to outside the protective wards then disapparates straight to The Leaky Cauldron. On her way over to the bar, she spots Blaise sat by himself so she goes over to him.

"Hello, Blaise." She greets him then waves the bartender, Tom, over and asks for five bottles of firewhisky.

"Hello, Hermione." He blinks rather dramatically at her. She assumes it was a failed wink. "Let me introduce you to my girlfriend, Fern?"

Hermione raises a confused and questioning eyebrow until Blaise turns around, placing his arm around a small Eucalyptus tree. She looks back at Blaise, who she realises now is drunk.

"Nice to meet you, Fern." She shakes one of the branches of the tree feeling like an idiot.

"Are you having a stag do too?" He asks her.

"We're having a small party to celebrate. I'm just here to collect the alcohol. Are you here alone Blaise?" She questions him. If he is, maybe he would like to join them. Ron wouldn't like it but everyone else has forgiven him.

"No, I'm here with Drakey." He says.

She smiles at Blaise's nickname for Malfoy and is about to make a comment when Tom returns with her firewhisky.

"Here you go, ma'am." He hands over the five bottles.

"Thank you." She politely nods to Tom then turns back to face Blaise.

She's slightly shocked to see Malfoy stood next to his friend, smirking at her.

"I need to get going but I'll see you tomorrow Blaise." She tells him. "Malfoy." She adds before walking the wrong way out of The Leaky Cauldron,

She ends up in muggle London instead of Diagon Alley but she doesn't want to go back inside and admit to Malfoy and Blaise that she went the wrong way so she walks until she reaches an alleyway where she disapparates to Luna's house in the countryside.

She knocks on the door but there's no answer so she knocks again, louder and longer. Finally, after knocking for a fifth time, Mr Lovegood answers. He takes one look at her and slams the door in her face before she can even ask if Luna is there. She's just about to turn around and leave when the door opens again revealing Luna.

"Hello, Hermine." She tilts her head dreamily. "Daddy's still feeling guilty about how he behaved last year." She explains.

"Oh, can you tell him that we forgive him. He was only trying to protect you. We can understand that." She explains to her friend.

"Thank you, thank you, Miss Granger." Mr Lovegood jumps out from behind the door vigorously shaking her hand before disappearing back into the house a lot more cheerfully.

Hermione stares after him for a moment before remembering why she is there in the first place.

"We're having a small party at The Burrow tonight. Would you like to join us?" She asks.

"Daddy, may I got to the party at The Burrow?" She asks her Father.

"Of course, my child." He calls down from somewhere upstairs.

"Goodbye, Daddy," Luna calls back closing the door behind her.

"We just need to visit Neville to invite him before we go back to The Burrow," Hermione explains to her friend so she knows where to disapparate to.

Neville answers the door a few seconds after they've knocked looking back and forth between them both.

"Hermione, Luna, what are you doing here?" He asks.

"Who's calling at this time of night, Neville?" His Grandmother calls from what Hermione remembers to be the living room. She's only been inside Neville's Grandmother's house once and she got the feeling that she wasn't welcome back.

"It's my friends." He calls back.

"Ask them what they're doing calling at this time of night." She shouts.

Neville sighs deeply pinching the bridge of his nose. "What are you doing here?" He questions.

"We're having a small party at The Burrow tonight. Do you want to come?" Hermione explains and chuckles as Neville stands a little taller, happy for an excuse to leave the house.

"They've invited me to a party tonight," Neville shouts back to his Grandmother.

"Well, you tell these friends of yours that you're getting married tomorrow and can't be gallivanting off to parties." She shouts back.

He sighs deeply again shaking his head before shrugging, grabbing his jacket and calling back into the house, "I'm going, see you later Grandmother." He then slams the door behind him and runs down the steps leading up to the house.

"Hurry up before she comes after me." He urges them to walk quicker.

They all disapparate back to The Burrow where they find that Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur and Charlie have already left.

"It's about time Hermione?" Ron complains when she walks into the living room with Neville and Luna.

Everyone's sat in a circle on the carpet of the living room chatting to each other. Hermione rolls her eyes as she places the bottles of firewhisky on the coffee table next to some glasses that someone had gotten out. She pours everyone a drink then takes a place between Percy and George on the carpet since there's a large enough gap between them. Luna sits down next to Ginny and they instantly start whispering to each other. Harry, Ron and Neville sit down on George's other side. Hermione glances around the circle feeling quite awkward. Harry, Ron and Neville were talking together next to Ginny and Luna then there's just her, Percy and George sat in silence. She glances at Percy who is sipping his firewhisky as he stares into thin air then at George who seems to be glaring at his glass of firewhisky.

"Do you want some milk instead?" She whispers to George who jumps. He must have been lost in his thoughts.

"Sorry Hermione?" He asks placing his glass down.

"I asked if you want some milk instead." She repeats.

George nods giving her a sad smile so she jumps up from the circle, heads into the kitchen and grabs George an almost full carton of milk.

"Really George, you're going to drink milk?" Ron teases his brother who just glares at him then takes a swig from the carton.

"Hey George, can I have some?" Ginny asks. "I don't want to be hungover on my wedding day." She explains placing her untouched glass of firewhisky back on the coffee table.

George passes her the carton which she pours into two glasses, one of which she hands back to her brother.

"It's unhygienic to drink it straight from the bottle." She tells him off.

"I thought we were going to play games," Harry interjects before an argument starts. "The only game I know is truth or dare." He adds with a shrug.

"Truth or dare it is then." Ginny agrees to grab an unopened bottle of firewhisky and placing it in the middle of the circle.

She spins it quickly and everyone watches as it spins around and around before finally stopping on Neville who groans.

"Neville, truth or dare?" She asks him.

Neville shrugs downing the rest of his firewhisky. "Truth."

"Have you ever had a girlfriend?" She asks him, eyes twinkling in anticipation.

Neville blushes deeply shaking his head. "No, I haven't." He admits sheepishly before spinning the bottle himself not giving anyone the opportunity to tease him about it.

The bottle lands on Harry who chooses dare.

"I dare you to… erm… go outside and run around the whole house naked." Neville finally decides, making everyone stare at him.

"I'm not nearly drunk enough for that," Harry mumbles before downing the rest of his drink then downing Ginny's forgotten firewhisky. "Let's get this over with." He sighs dejectedly before standing up and taking everything bar his underwear off.

"Hey, Neville said naked," Ginny calls as he walks over towards the kitchen door.

Harry exits the kitchen letting the bottom half of the stable style door shut behind him. He then wriggles out of his underwear, throwing them at his girlfriend, who catches them, then sets off running around the house. When he gets back he asks Ginny for them back but she refuses, making him use a tea towel to cover himself as he walks back inside, grabs his discarded clothes and retreats back to the kitchen to put them on.

"The gnomes were laughing at me." He pouts making everyone burst out laughing.

Hermione notices that George even cracks a smile before frowning again. Harry spins the bottle and it lands on Ron. Harry chuckles almost evilly as he asks his friend "truth or dare?"

Ron chooses dare. Harry dares him to mix his firewhisky with milk and down the whole glass. Ron, not being a coward as he puts it, does the dare then quickly rushes off to the kitchen to throw up in the sink. Upon his return, he spins the bottle and it lands on Percy.

Percy sits up a little straighter and picks truth.

"If you could kiss anyone here who would you kiss?" He asks making everyone frown at him.

"Well since I'm not gay or into incest and I don't really know Luna that well, I'll have to pick Hermione." He admits making most of the circle laugh but Ron glares at him.

Percy ignores his brother though and spins the bottle which lands on Luna who chooses truth as well.

"Do you have any concrete proof that the Nargles actually exist?" He asks.

Luna smiles wetly at Percy. "Nargles can easily be seen with the correct pair of glasses Percy." She points out as she spins the bottle. It lands on George who picks truth.

"How do you feel George?" She asks him making Hermione's stomach drop.

The room goes silent as everyone turns to looks at George. Hermione can't begin to understand how George must be feeling since the war. Especially with the one year anniversary having just passed.

"How do I feel?" George asks rhetorically, eyes already glossy with tears as his hand clutches his chest. "My life, my soul, my heart. They have all been ripped in two and I don't think I'll ever truly be happy again. He was my everything and… and now he's just gone. I've tried so hard this last year to hold everything together, to keep our business going, to keep myself going, like he would have wanted, when more than anything else, I want to give up. I want to end everything and just be with him again."

Nobody speaks for what feels like hours but can only be seconds. Suddenly, George stands up, grabs his milk carton and walks off upstairs to his bedroom. Still, nobody speaks, but it's far from silent. Ginny is crying into Harry's shoulder. Percy is subconsciously tapping his fingernails against his glass. Ron is scratching his fingers through the carpet. Neville is sniffling, obviously trying his hardest not to cry.

Hermione hugs her knees to her chest trying to ignore the emotional pain her heart is going through. She knows it's nothing compared to George's but it's still enough for her to get another glass of firewhisky to try and drown it.

The party pretty much ends there. Nobody talks much after George's departure and the game is definitely over. Neville and Luna bid their goodbyes together an hour later leaving everyone else to tidy up but there isn't much to do so by half ten everyone is in bed.

Molly had made Hermione a small bed on Ginny's floor made from about ten blankets and quilts and a few spare pillows. She hears Molly and Arthur return home around midnight and she can tell from her breathing pattern that Ginny is still awake but they don't talk.

Chapter Text

They both must have fallen asleep at some point, though as they are awoken by Molly the next morning when she throws Ginny's bedroom door wide open.

"Rise and shine my dears. Breakfast is downstairs if you're hungry. You're probably feeling too nervous to eat…" Molly starts but stops when Ginny jumps out of bed, pulls on her dressing gown and races downstairs for food.

"I'm sorry Molly but I don't think I can stomach food right now." Hermione apologises holding her stomach. She feels like she might through up at any time.

"Don't worry Hermione," Molly reassures her then closes the door leaving her lying in her makeshift bed.

Blaise wakes him up far too early at nine o'clock. He's shaking his shoulders excitedly and Draco feels sorry for whoever's getting paired with his friend.

"Come on Draco. Today's the big day. Gharther's made us a feast for breakfast and we need a shower." Blaise rambles on until Draco climbs out of bed and heads into his bathroom to get away from him.

He stares at his reflection in his mirror above the sink. He looks shattered. He only got about four hours sleep last night. Or rather this morning. He has heavy bags under his eyes and his skin look grey. He splashes his face with cold water to wake himself up but it doesn't work very well. He grabs his dressing gown and makes his way down to the dining room where Blaise, Mr and Mrs Stonage and his Mother are already sat eating.

Draco sits down in his usual seat. Gharther really has outdone himself this morning. He takes a slice of toast, nibbling on it for a few minutes before giving up on food altogether. His stomach is flipping around inside him so much so that he feels like he might throw up at any moment.

"Excuse me." Draco excuses himself getting up from the table and going back upstairs to his bedroom.

He turns the shower on cold hoping that an ice cold shower will wake him up but he just ends up cold and shivering so he turns it up hot which help sooth his nerves a little. He stares at his reflections again once he's out the shower, with a fluffy blue towel wrapped around his hips. His face looks a little less grey but he still looks like crap. He picks his wand up and waves it over his face muttering a spell he perfected in his seventh year at Hogwarts when he lived off two hours' sleep every night. He watches as his face brightens considerably and the bags under his eyes completely disappear. He exits his bathroom to find Blaise lying on his bed reading today's Daily Prophet which must have just been delivered.

"Nearly the entire paper is dedicated to The Partner's Ceremony. There's a list of everybody who's getting paired with a picture of them. I'm not going to lie Draco but you look kind of intimidating." Blaise hands the paper over to him.

They've reused the picture that was taken at his trial last summer. It was taken as he stood tall in front of his Father, glaring him down. He was trying to give his Father the impression that he wasn't terrified of him anymore which was a complete lie at the time. Now his Father's in Azkaban he sees no point in being scared of him for the foreseeable future. When he gets out in fourteen years, Draco's sure everything will just go back to how it was beforehand with his Father scaring him into doing his dirty work. Maybe he can take his wife and child and just run away. They could go live in America. He's heard they have a great wizarding school over there. Draco shakes his head handing the paper back to Blaise. He isn't going to run away from his Father. It'll just prove him right.

Blaise throws the paper down on the Draco's desk then goes into the bathroom to take a shower. Draco takes advantage of having his bedroom to himself to get dressed in his wedding robes. His Mother really does know him well. He's always loved wearing velvet. He runs his fingers gently down his velvet torso. He loves the way the fabric feels beneath his fingertips. He checks his grandfather clock. It's twenty to ten. He knocks on his bathroom door.

"Blaise, you've got fifteen minutes." He calls through the door.

They're leaving in twenty minutes but Blaise has a tendency to be late and Draco doubts today will be any different. As Draco planned, seventeen minutes later Blaise exits the bathroom fully dressed in his robes. Draco looks him up and down with wide eyes.

"Well, you're definitely going to stand out." He mumbles which Blaise laughs at clapping Draco on his should as he walks past to grab his cloak.

Draco pulls on his own cloak, then together they descend the staircase to find Mr and Mrs Stonage and his Mother and Mitty waiting in the foyer.

"Blaise, you look magnificent my son." Alberic compliments him holding his arms out in appreciation.

Blaise takes the praise and spins around giving them a good look. "Thanks, Al." He gives his Step-father a quick hug before being fully encased by his Mother.

Draco's Mother is wearing an elegant black dress with her black cloak and a black, netted fascinator covering the top half of her face. She takes hold of Draco's arm and links it with hers as they leave, walking down their garden path. Mitty follows at his side wearing a dress she must have made out of an old, flowery pillowcase.

"You look beautiful dear." His Mother compliments him quietly.

Draco scoffs. "Couldn't you say handsome?" He asks.

"What's wrong with beautiful?" She asks in return.

"It makes me sound delicate." He complains.

"You are delicate my dear." She gives him a playful eye.

He rolls his eyes, not taking it too seriously. This is the most he's seen of his Mother true personality since his Father's sentence.

Once outside the wards, they disapparate straight into The Ministry. It had been mentioned in The Daily Prophet a few weeks ago that disapparation wards would be taken down between ten and half-past ten for people to disapparate into The Ministry. They apparate into the main foyer of The Ministry to find hundreds of people already waiting. A glance at the clock tells him it's only five past ten meaning most people probably arrived via the floo network or through the muggle entrance.

She's still lying there, thinking, when Ginny returns half an hour later after eating what she can safely assume was, at least, two platefuls. She'll never understand how her best friend is so slim when she eats what she eats. Ginny told her once that it was the Quidditch. Now she thinks about it, Ginny hasn't played any Quidditch for a few months now due to their NEWTs and she does look like she's gained a bit of weight. Maybe Quidditch really is her secret.

"You can't lie there all day Hermione," Ginny mentions as she picks up her wash bag. "I'm going for a shower and when I come back I want you up and ready for your own shower." She orders leaving the room.

Hermione continues to lie in her bed until she hears the bathroom door unlock so she quickly jumps off the floor and rushes over to her bag wear she tries to find her towel. She receives an approving smile of Ginny when she enters her bedroom in her dressing gown with a towel wrapped around her head.

Hermione ends up using 'accio' to summon her towel and wash bag then heads into the bathroom, which is thankfully still empty. She still doesn't know how nine people lived in The Burrow with only one bathroom.

Back in Ginny's bedroom after her quick show, she finds he friend drying her hair with her wand. Once she's done she sits Hermione down on a chair, that's always sat in the corner of her room, to dry her hair. Hermione has never bothered to learn many beauty spells. She'd never really seen the point but she's thankful that her friend did as Ginny to wave her wand muttering spells to bring her hair into a low bun with soft curls framing her face. She then walks around to face her then mutters some more spells to complete her makeup.

"It's perfect." She mumbles looking at her reflection in the mirror.

She feels pretty and she's happy to look pretty for herself but she can't help but feel like part of her is trying to impress her new husband and she hates herself for it. She shouldn't need to make a good impression. She shouldn't be in this situation at all. She can't help cursing The Ministry for what must be the millionth time since she received The Ministry's letter in January.

Hermione moves out of the way of the mirror so Ginny can do her own hair and makeup. She takes her dress out of Ginny's wardrobe hanging it off the doorframe. It's a little creased so she waves her wand, smoothing the fabric our nicely. Ginny squeals excitedly from the floor.

"It's gorgeous, Hermione." She tells her before going back to her makeup.

Hermione smiles appreciatively, she really loves her dress. It's a shame she'll only get to wear it once. She can't bring herself to put it on yet so she helps Ginny into hers first.

In the wizarding world, white dresses aren't very traditional, especially not in England. Most witches prefer to wear bold, bright colours. Ginny's dress is a deep, romantic shade of red. The dress is strapless with a sweetheart neckline. The skirt is made entirely of net but's it's not too puffy. Hermine helps her tie the corset then watches as her friend spins around showing herself off. The colour of her dress compliments her hair so well.

"You're going to be the most beautiful person at The Ceremony." Hermione compliments her best friend.

"Stop!" She laughs. "Wait until you see yourself in that dress." She points at Hermione's dress hanging off the doorframe.

"Fine, I suppose it's time." She sighs as Ginny grabs her dress.

Hermione stands still as Ginny buttons up the twenty buttons. She hasn't tried it on since it was adjusted but thankfully it fit perfectly.

"Oh my goodness, Hermione." Ginny tears up. "Don't make me cry, my makeup will run." She flaps her hand in front of her face.

Hermione rolls her eyes, turning to look in the mirror. "Shut up Gin-" She starts. Then she sees her reflections. She can't quite believe how different she looks. She barely recognises herself.

"Girls, are you ready, we're leaving soon," Molly shouts up the stairs.

"You go tell the boys to leave." Ginny passes her cloak over before pulling her own on. "I don't want Harry to see me yet."

Hermione walks down the stairs first. Her shoes echo around the living room drawing everyone's attention to her.

"Wow!" Ron gasps as Harry's eyes widen. "My God." He curses.

George and Percy just stare, mouths agape, as she enters the room.

"Hermione, my darling. You look so beautiful." Molly dabs her eyes with her handkerchief.

"Ginny wants the boys to leave. She doesn't want Harry to see her in her dress before the ceremony." Hermione announces looking towards Arthur.

"It's bad luck," Ginny shouts down from upstairs.

Arthur looks down at his muggle wristwatch. "Merlin's beard boys, its quarter to ten. We need to leave now." He quickly ushers them out of the door.

As soon as the kitchen door slams, Ginny descends the stairs excitedly and Molly tears up again.

"My beautiful girls." She coos pulling them into a joint hug. "We better get going. Ginny said you're meeting your parents outside The Ministry at ten o'clock?" She asks.

"Yes, will you save them both a seat next to you and Arthur? I want them to sit next to someone I know and trust." Hermione asks.

"Of course, dear. Ginny and I will meet your parents with you and we'll all go in together." Molly smiles as she locks the kitchen door behind her.

Once outside the wards, they disapparate to the alley just to the left of The Ministry of Magic, which is disguised on the outside as a rundown, one-star hotel. Some of the windows have iron bars across them whilst the rest are boarded up. There's scaffolding permanently erected at the front of the building and most of the roof tiles are missing. Hermione's not sure how many muggles enter the building annually but she doubts it makes it into the treble figures.

They're stood on the cracked steps leading up to the front doors waiting when Hermine seems to come to her senses. They're stood outside a dodgy looking building, in the middle of London, at ten o'clock on a Wednesday morning, wearing wedding dresses. No wonder people are staring at them funny as they walk past.

At a few minutes past ten, her parents show up complaining about nightmare parking but they stop when they see their daughter for the first time in her full wedding outfit. Her Mum gasps raising her hand to her mouth whilst her dad just stares at her, looking rather proud.

"Well don't you two ladies look lovely?" Her Dad compliments them.

Ginny thanks him as Hermione takes their hands and pull them up the stairs.

"Is this your Ministry?" Her Mum asks disapprovingly looking up at the scaffolding.

"It's just a disguise so muggles don't get curious." She explains as they enter the building.

An incredibly bored-looking old man glances up from his copy of The Daily Prophet. He chuckles, looking them up and down. "Let me guess, you're here for a court case with the Wizengamot?" He asks looking between them all before bursting out laughing. "And of course, I'm joking love." He continues to laugh. "Good luck ladies." He motions towards the door on his right which opens on cue.

"Thank you, sir." Hermione nods as they rush through the door and come out of one of the large fireplaces in the foyer of The Ministry.

The foyer was entirely filled with girls in brightly coloured dresses and cloaks, boys in smart suits and darkly colour cloaks, Mothers in dresses and over the top fascinators and Fathers in similar suits to the boys and looking glumly at their watches. There's no way they'll be able to find anyone in this crowd so they just stand together waiting to be told where to go.

At quarter past ten, a loud voice echoes around the foyer. "Attention, please. Attention." It calls. "Can all the grooms please make their way into the hall and take a seat on the right? Thank you." The voice announces.

Draco's stomach flips at the announcement. He looks worriedly at Blaise who's trying to find the closest door to them.

"Over there Draco." Blaise grabs hold of his hand and pulls him towards the door.

They end up finding two seats next to each other in the middle of the seating arrangements. It's not until the brides are making their way into the hall ten minutes later that Draco realises that they're sat directly behind Potter and his friends but they don't seem to have noticed their presence behind them yet. That is until Blaise leans forward between Potter and Weasel.

"Hey guys, are you all excited?" He asks making them jump.

"Zabini." The Weasel hisses but Blaise ignore him.

"Jesus, Blaise. I didn't know you were behind us." Potter chuckles. "I'm feeling pretty confident. What about you?" He twists around in his seat which is when he spots Draco.

Draco offers Potter a smirk which he returns with a glare.

"I'm pretty excited at the moment but I'm near the end of the list being Zabini so the nerves will probably show up later." He admits. "Hey Neville, I'm loving your robes." Blaise compliments Longbottom on Potter's other side.

Draco glances at him to find him blushing. He's wearing plum red robes with a black bowtie and black cloak. 'They are quite nice.' Draco admits to himself.

"Erm… thanks, Blaise. You look great." He returns the compliment.

"I try." Blaise laughs.

Potter and his friend turn back around to face the podium at the front of the hall.

"Since when have you been on a first name bases with the Gryffindor's?" Draco hisses down his friend's ear.

"Come on Draco, we've graduated. They're not Gryffindors anymore and we're not Slytherins. We're just a group of people stuck in the same situation." Blaise tells him which makes him think.

They really aren't Slytherins anymore. There's no more house rivalry between them and the Gryffindors or the Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs. There's no need for them be constantly at each other's necks anymore. They are all stuck in the same situation. They're all being forced into marriage. Without the Hogwarts house rivalry, it could make the situation a whole lot easier to get through.

He taps Potter on the shoulder before he can think about what he's doing. Potter turns around probably expecting Blaise but instead finding him.

"What do you want Malfoy?" Potter spits at him.

"Good luck Potter." He says as sincerely as he can when speaking to him, which still sounds like he's sneering but by the confused look on Potter's face, he knows he's being serious.

"Er… you too?" He says unsurely and Draco nods.

Potter turns back around and instantly starts muttering to the Weasel most likely about him but he doesn't mind. He's taken the first step in become civil with the Gryffindors.

"Can all the brides please make their way into the hall and take a seat on the left? Thank you." The voice echoes around the hall once more.

Hermione's stomach drops. She turns to face her parents. She feels like she might cry or throw up at any time. Her Mum has tears in her eyes as her Dad pulls her into a tight hug.

"Be brave." He whispers into her hair. "Be strong." He adds before Ginny pulls her away from them towards the doors to the hall.

Hermione feels her eyes welling up but she wills herself to be brave and strong like her Dad told her to be. She's a Gryffindor. She fought many battles in the war. She knows how to be brave. She knows how to be strong. She knows she can make it through this. She takes deep breaths and Ginny squeezes her hand gently to comfort her as she drags her to the seats on the left side of the hall. Somehow, they find Luna sat on the last row at the back of the hall so they join her. Ginny and Luna chat, fidgeting excitedly in their seats whereas Hermione's fidgeting nervously. She continues to take deep breaths as all the guest enter and take their seat at the back of the hall. She spots her parent and the Weasley's sat a few rows from the front. Her Mum waves to her and she waves back before turning back around to face the front. Her stomach feels as though it's competing in the British Olympic Gymnastics Team.

Suddenly, a bell rings out around the hall, quieting everyone as they sit straighter to get a glance at the podium at the front of the hall. Everyone watches as The Minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt, stands in front of the podium. He takes a moment to glance around the silent hall before raising his wand to his throat.

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I hope you're all excited to be getting married today." He asks them all with a sincere smile but nobody answers him. Nobody makes a sound. "I understand that many of you do not wish to marry today but this for-"

"If he says 'the greater good' then I've lost all respect for him," Hermione whispers to Ginny whose eyes widen at the thought that Kingsley might use those words infamously used by Albus Dumbledore to explain why his overall plan ended with the death of Harry.

"the greater good of the wizarding world."

A few gasps are audible around the hall, Hermione, Ginny and Luna included. Hermione guesses that the rest of the gasps were from members of Dumbledore's Army and The Order of The Phoenix.

"Over the past five years, we have seen a decrease in magical births and an increase in magical death due to Voldemort's return." Much of the hall flinches. It's rather impressive that even in death, Voldemort can still install fear in most people. "Now is the time for looking forward, for looking into our future and the future of the wizarding world. Our future is in your children. So let's make our future happen." Kingsley finishes his speech leaving the hall in an awkward silence until the Ministry Officials surrounding the walls of the halls start clapping and everybody else joins in.

"I will call alphabetically call the grooms name. He will exit his row, make his way down the aisle towards me where I will prick your finger. A drop of his blood will be dropped into this goblet," He gestures towards the goblet atop his podium. "A parchment piece, where their brides name is written on it, will erupt from the goblet itself. The bride will then join her groom where you both take the marriage vow then retreat to the back of the hall. Let the ceremony begin." Kingsley claps his hands together causing all the lights to go out and thousands of floating candles above them to alight in the style of Hogwarts Great Hall.

"Gregory Aarden," Kingsley calls first.

Hermione watches as Gregory walks confidently down the aisle finger already held out ready to prick. She crosses her fingers, hoping that her name doesn't erupt from the goblet. Thankfully she's not. He's paired with a girl named Gemma Clark.

Her heart skips a beat as each parchment flutters down from the sky, as Kingsley catches it in his palm, as he reads the name in his head. Then her heart drops in relief when another girls name is called. She doesn't recognise many of the names called unless they were in her year or the one below. That is until Kingsley calls out, "Aster Edging."

He was the Slytherin fourth year prefect during her first year at Hogwarts. He'd taken fifteen points off Gryffindor reading a book whilst walking back to her common room. According to him, she was 'walking dangerously' through the corridors which annoyed her for months on end.

Luckily, for her at least, he's paired with Katie Bell who storms down the aisle angrily, thrusting her hand into Aster's so the marriage vow can be cast. Once it's complete, Katie rips her hand out of Aster's then almost runs to the back of the hall where all the newly married couples are sitting next to each other.

It's not long before Kingsley is calling the name of one of her friends. Hermione, Ginny and Luna sit up a little straighter to watch.

"Seamus Finnegan."

She scans her eyes over the grooms seating area trying to find Seamus but he hasn't stood up yet.

Draco glances over to Finnegan, who he noticed sitting next to Longbottom earlier, but he isn't standing up. He's whispering urgently into Thomas' ear who shakes his head and whispers something back. He's not close enough to hear but Thomas is probably giving his friend a pep talk.

"Seamus Finnegan." Kingsley repeats.

"What is he doing?" Ginny whispers looking over to near the middle of the grooms.

Hermione follows her gaze to find Seamus and Dean whispering to each other before finally Seamus stands but he still doesn't make his way to the end of his row. He just stands there staring down at Dean. He looks terrified.

"Mr Finnegan, please make your way to the podium or we will take your actions as a refusal to marry and you will be sentenced to Azkaban for four months imprisonment." Kingsley threatens which is enough to get Seamus moving along the row.

That is until Dean grabs hold of his hand pulling him into a quick hug before pushing him out into the aisle. Seamus does what must be the slowest walk down and aisle ever. She didn't know Seamus was so against The Marriage Decree. Although he doesn't look angry like Percy did. He looks terrified. Maybe he has a girlfriend that he's scared he won't get paired with. Hermione shakes her head. She sure she would have known if Seamus had a girlfriend. He stops just before the podium to turn back around. Hermione notices the tears streaming down his face. She doesn't know or understand his situation but she can sympathise with him. He takes a deep breath before stepping forward towards the podium.

Kingsley has to grab tightly hold of his wrist in order prick his finger then has to force it over the goblet to make sure a drop of his blood ends up in the liquid. Seamus watches intently as the parchment floats gently down into Kingsley's outstretched palm.

Kingsley reads it and smiles the biggest grin she's seen him smile since the war ended. Hermione doesn't understand until he reads out,

"Dean Thomas."

The hall falls silent in a matter of seconds as everyone stares at either Seamus or Dean. A memory from a few months ago flashes to the forefront of her mind. It was about three in the morning. She'd just awoken in the library with a stiff neck and decided that she'd actually sleep in her bed that night. There was nobody in the common room when entered through the portrait, or so she thought. She went over to the fireplace to close the fireguard when she saw them on the couch. Dean and Seamus were almost lying on top of each other, asleep on the couch. She hadn't thought much of it at the time. Many times in the past she had found herself falling asleep on Harry or Ron's shoulder either on the Hogwarts Express or in the common room after having one too many late nights.

Draco whips his head to Blaise to make sure he heard correctly but Blaise is staring, mouth agape at Thomas. He turns to face Thomas as well who looks just as shocked as everyone else.

"Mr Thomas, please make your way to the podi-" Kingsley starts his threat but he doesn't have time to finish it as Thomas quickly scrambles past everyone else on his row to get to the aisle. He pauses for a moment to look down the aisle at Finnegan, who's staring back at Thomas in disbelief.

Hermione watches as Dean looks at Seamus before literally running down the aisle and pulling his friend into one of the most loving hugs she has ever seen. She watches in awe as Seamus stands on his toes to kiss Dean's cheek.

The hall suddenly erupts into mumbling and whispers.

"Did you have any idea?" Ginny turns to ask her. "I had none and I dated Dean for almost a year." She adds shocked.

"Quieten down." Kingsley orders.

The noise slowly dies out and Kingsley carries on with the ceremony, casting the marriage vow around Dean and Seamus' hands before letting them retreat to the back of the hall. It reminds Hermione of why she's there and her nervous jitters return. Her happiness for Dean and Seamus distracted her for a few minutes but now it's gone leaving a steadily increasing heartbeat in its wake.

Ten minutes later, Gregory Goyle is called. He stands tall, shoulders back as he walks to the end of his row. Draco might believe his friend's calm and confident exterior if it hadn't been for the fact he's speed walking down the aisle. He's paired with Megan Jones, a small Hufflepuff from their year.

"Is she the Hufflepuff seeker in our year?" Blaise whispers in his ear.

Draco nods as Megan rushes down the aisle towards Goyle.

"She's eager." Blaise chuckles.

"Or just wants to get it over with." Draco mumbles but she does look quite pleased with her groom. Who knows, maybe they'll be happy together. He finds himself smiling at his friend as he walks back down the aisle with his new wife.

The whole ceremony is turning Hermione into a nervous wreck. Her hands shake as each parchment falls into Kingsley's had ready to be read out. After a while, the nerves subside a little, she looks down at her hands, which are fiddling with the seams of her cloak. She trusts Ginny to tell her if her name is called since she's stopped listening.

Sooner than she would have liked, Ginny elbows her in the ribs and she freezes. Her heart stops. Her eyes widen. She turns to face Ginny.

"It's Neville's turn." She whispers to her looking over to where he's sat next to Harry and Ron.

They watch as Neville runs his hand through his hair nervously as he stumbles out of his row. He trips over his own feet as he walks down the aisle towards Kingsley. Once at the podium, he turns around which is a mistake as his eyes widen at the amount of people staring at him.

"He deserves a nice girl." Luna dreamily announces from beside Ginny.

Hermione and Ginny nod in agreement. Her eyes follow the parchment that flutters down. She holds her breath hopeful for her friend.

"Hannah Abbott."

She sees Neville's shoulders relax in relief. He turns around to watch his bride-to-be walk down the aisle. Hannah looks happy with the announcement also and chuckles when Neville holds out his hand for her to shake. She instead grabs it so they're holding hands. Hermione's heart flutters happily for both Neville and Hannah.

She checks her watch for the time then inwardly groans. It's only half one. She thought it would be a lot later.

"It's the M's next." Blaise mentions earning himself a glare from Draco that roughly translated to 'Shut up or I'll make you.' "You don't look too good. Are you alright?" He asks concernedly.

Draco nods. Then shakes his head. "I can't do this Blaise. I need to get out of here." He panics trying to stand up but Blaise places a firm, steady hand on his thigh keeping him seated.

"Drink this." His friend hands him a small phial of amber liquid.

He recognises straight away as a calming draught and downs it in one gulp handing the phial back to Blaise, thanking him. He feels the effects take hold of him instantly. His hands stop shaking and the urge to throw up leaves him.

"I'm fine. I'm going to be okay." He mumbles mainly to himself but Blaise squeezes his thigh before removing his hand.

Far too soon "Draco Malfoy" is called and his stomach drops. He hopes Blaise wasn't the one who made the calming draught since Potions was never his strong suit. He might end up throwing up down the aisle in that case.

Blaise gives him a reassuring pat on the back as he stands up. He rolls his shoulders back standing tall trying to give the impression of confidence. He walks down the aisle at what he thinks is the perfect pace. Not too fast or too slow. 'Let people guess what I'm thinking.' He thinks to himself with a smirk which helps him look more confident. At the podium, he takes a deep breath holding his finger out to be pricked.

"Good luck, Mr Malfoy." The Minister whispers as he pricks his finger.

The sting doesn't bother him. Merlin knows he's been through a lot more painful situations. His heart stops as he sees a piece of parchment float to the top of the liquid in the goblet then erupt into the air. He watches it flutter down trying to catch a glimpse of a name before The Minister read it aloud but he has no luck.

The Minister catches the parchment in his palm then turns it over to read the name. Draco watches as he frowns at the name. He then turns the parchment over again to look at the back. Not feeling satisfied, he beacons to one of the officials stood against the back wall to come over.

"McAllister, tell me I'm reading this incorrectly." The minister sounds as though he's begging the official to correct him which scares Draco.

'Who is it? Why won't they tell me?' He thinks as he starts to shuffle from foot to foot nervously.

The official glances down at the parchment then up at Draco then back down at the parchment. "I'm sorry sir but the name is correct." He announces wide-eyed before retreating to the back wall.

The Minister shakes his head to himself before looking straight into Draco's eyes sadly.

"Hermione Granger."

"Is it stupid of me to say I'm tired of waiting?" Hermione whispers to Ginny who shakes her head.

"Of course not. I'm bored out of my mind. I just wish they could hurry up." She whispers back.

"Draco Malfoy," Kingsley calls out.

Hermione's heart drops suddenly into her stomach. "I take it back, I can wait a little longer." She mutters making Ginny chuckle.

She sees Malfoy stand up from over near where Harry and Ron are sat. She doesn't know how he looks so calm and collected as he walks confidently down the aisle towards Kingsley. The Minister says something to him. He hasn't said anything to anyone else that she's seen. She curiously wants to know what he said. That is until she's distracted by the parchment floating down into Kingsley's hand. He reads it and even from the back of the hall she can see the frown form on his face. He beacons one of the officials over where they proceed to whisper.

"What's going on?" Ginny mutters sitting taller trying to see above everybody else who were doing the same thing.

The official retreats back to his place as Kingsley shakes his head sadly looking at Malfoy.

"Hermione Granger." He reads out and Hermione falls back down into her seat.

She looks to Ginny begging her to tell her that she heard wrong but the look of absolute terror on her best friends face tells her otherwise.

"Oh!" She utters pointlessly.

"Hermione?" Ginny's voice wavers as she grabs hold of her hand tightly. "What are you going to do?" She asks, her eyes wide in horror.

"What I have to do." She replies taking a deep breath. "I can do this." She mutters to herself as she stands up as gracefully as she can manage with weak knees.

Slowly, she makes her way to the end of the row. Luna pats her arm reassuringly as she passes her along with a few other people she doesn't know. She feels like crying but she won't let Malfoy see her tears. Not today, not ever. She looks back to where she saw her parents sat earlier and they smile encouragingly at her but her Mum has tears streaming down her face and her Dad looks angry. She takes another deep breath, sets her shoulders back and walks as confidently as she can muster up towards the podium.

"Hermione-" Kingsley sounds as though he wants to say something more but thinks better of it. "If you would please take hold of each other's left hand."

She notices the break in his voice. As if he suddenly realising that he's about to marry the brightest witch and wizard for generations together. A witch and wizard who were opposite sides of the war and have hated each other since their first year at Hogwarts. A witch and wizard who can easily curse him into oblivion if they wished to.

Hermione holds her left hand out for Malfoy to take but he's still glaring at Kingsley so she takes matters into her own hands. Rather literally. She reaches down and snatches hold of Malfoy's left hand. As soon as her warm, sweaty hand touches his cold one, his head snaps around to her and she realises that he's just as scared as she is. She half expects him to withdraw his hand but he doesn't, he grips on tighter not breaking eye contact with her.

He hears the hall behind him gasps at the reveal of his wife-to-be. He continues to stare at The Minister. He shakes his head slightly, asking if he heard correctly, The Minister nods back. He can't do this. He can't marry Granger. What is his Mother going to say? He's marrying a Muggleborn. That fact doesn't bother him anymore. What bothers him is the fact it's, Granger, he's marrying. He can't do it. But he can't go to Azkaban. He doesn't want to be anywhere near his Father.

"Hermione-" The Minister announces her arrival. "If you would please take hold of each other's left hand."

Oh Merlin, this really is happening. He's going to marry Granger. He's going to live with her. He's going to have children with her. He's going to grow old with her. Suddenly there's a warm hand in his. He whips his head to face Granger who's staring at him nervously. He watches her eyes soften as she looks him in the eye. He doesn't understand why but it reassures him that she doesn't look angry. He can remember clearly what happened the first time he was around an angry Granger.

"Draco Lucius Malfoy, do you agree to marry Hermione Jean Granger?" The Minister asks him, bring his attention back to him.

He can do this. "I agree." He nods.

"Do you agree to follow the terms and conditions of your marriage?" He asks next.

"I agree." Draco nods again.

Kingsley then turns to face Hermione.

"Hermione Jean Granger, do you agree to marry Draco Lucius Malfoy?" He asks her.

If Malfoy can do this then she's definitely not going to disagree. "I agree." She's surprised at how confident she sounds.

"Do you agree to follow the terms and conditions of your marriage?" He asks next.

"I agree." She repeats.

Kingsley taps their joined hands thrice. She watches as white light wraps around their hands, magically joining them together. She watches in surprise as a white gold wedding band appear on both her and Malfoy's ring finger. She wasn't aware that would happen.

"You may now kiss the bride," Kingsley announces making them both freeze.

"W-what?" Malfoy stutters but Hermione just glares at him reclaiming her hand back.

"Really Kingsley?" She asks raising a questioning eyebrow.

"Too soon, Mrs Malfoy."

She flinches at her new name. "Yes Kingsley, I'm sure two seconds is too soon." She snaps before turning on her heel and storming back down the aisle towards the seating area for the newly wedded couples.

Draco stands, staring back and forth between The Minister and Granger as she snaps at him then storms off leaving him at the podium.

"You can go sit down now Mr Malfoy." The Minister tells him and he embarrassingly scrambles down the aisle to where Granger is sat.

He sits as far away from her as his chair will allow him. He doesn't think she'll want him very close. He tries to think of something to say to her but he has no idea. He toys with the idea of giving her his condolences but he doesn't think that will go down well. He could just apologise but it's not his fault that they're compatible.

Hermione can see Malfoy fidgeting next to her in his seat. She tries her best to ignore him and she does a good job of it until Kingsley calls out "Harry Potter."

Without thinking she reaches next to her for Ginny's hand, forgetting that she's no longer sat next to her best friend, and instead is holding Malfoy's hand again. When she realises, she turns to face Malfoy who's staring down at their hands. She quickly snatches her hand back, turning to see Harry already stood at the podium, seemingly having a nice chat with Kingsley as if they were meeting for tea, not marriage. Her eyes are on Ginny as Harry gets his finger pricked and then the parchment erupts for the goblet.

She's a picture of confidence. A few other people are watcher her too, obviously not expecting her to be paired with her boyfriend since many other couples have been split up by The Partner Ceremony. Ginny must feel her watching because she turns around giving her a calming smile. She doesn't understand how her best friend doesn't have even an ounce of doubt in her mind.

"Ginevra Weasley." Kingsley calls and Ginny jumps up from her seat as most of the hall applauds and cheers in congratulations.

Hermione's hands are raw with how hard she's clapping as her best friend walks down the aisle towards Harry. Her eyes start welling up with how happy she is with her two best friends. She watches as they smile lovingly at each other as they agree to their vows then kiss passionately once their wedding bands appear on their ring fingers. Once they're sat down, Hermione relaxes back down into her seat, accidentally brushing her shoulder against Malfoy's. She flinches away from him. She doubts he wants her touching him.

She checks her watch again. It's twenty to three. Time seems to be going far too slowly today. All she wants to do is go home and sleep. She doesn't want to go to the reception party afterwards and she definitely doesn't want to go to her new house on The Ministry Starter Estate with Malfoy.

She has to wait another hour before the Weasley's are called.

"George Weasley."

Hermione was wondering how they were going to call them. Apparently they have chosen to stick to alphabetically instead of by age.

A chill runs through her body at the look of pure sadness in George's eyes. He's wearing patchwork robes of ever colour known to man. It certainly doesn't match his recent emotions but they're perfect for who he once was. His right hand is tucked inside his robes clutching onto something. She wishes she knew what he is doing when he does that since she's seen him do it many times since the war.

George stands slouched over at the podium await his wife's name to be announced.

"Angeline Johnson."

She sees Georges' shoulders stiffen. He spins around looking around the brides seating area for Angelina. She stands up with a small smile playing on her lips. She only makes it half way down the aisle before George rushes over to her and just hugs her, burying his head in the crook of her neck. She hugs him back just as tightly, running her hands through his hair as she mumbles something to him. He pulls back from her with a tear stricken face, takes hold of her hand then walks her down the rest of the aisle towards Kingsley.

Hermione's happy for George. She happy he got paired with someone who knows what he's been through, who doesn't need to have anything explained to them. She hopes more than anything else that they'll make each other happy.

"Percy Weasley," Kingsley calls next.

She watches as he angrily storms down the aisle towards Kingsley who looks slightly taken aback. He thrusts his hand towards Kingsley for him to prick then snatches it back once he's done.

"Audrey Rankin," Kingsley calls once he's caught the flying piece of parchment.

A short girl with a blonde pixie hair cut walks down the aisle. She's the only bride Hermione's seen wearing a knee length dress. It's orange and very nineteen-fifties. She assertively grabs hold of Percy's hand for Kingsley to cast the marriage vow. As soon as he's done she pushes his hand away then stomps back down the aisle with Percy following quickly behind.

"Ronald Weasley."

Ron trudges down the aisle towards Kingsley obviously annoyed about something. She hopes it's not because they weren't paired together. She watches in disgust as he sucks on his pricked finger. She looks down at her own finger but gets distracted by her wedding ring. It really is a beautiful ring. She twists it absentmindedly around her finger as she waits for Kingsley to read out Ron's wife's name.

"Pansy Parkinson."

Hermione freezes in her seat, still holding onto her own wedding ring.

Draco nearly jumps out of his seat when Pansy's name is called out. He hadn't realised until now that she hadn't been paired off and now she has it's with The Weasel. He can't help but chuckle at this unexpected turn of events which earns him a glare from Granger.

"This isn't going to end well." He mutters mainly to himself but also for her sake.

"There must be a mistake," Weasel says to The Minister.

"I'm afraid not Ron." He shakes his head. "Pansy Parkinson, please make your way to the podium or we will take your actions as a refusal to marry and you will be sentenced to Azkaban for four months imprisonment." His voice echoes around the hall.

Pansy finally stands up and makes her way to the podium.

"If you would please take hold of each other's left hand." The Minister asks them wand at the ready.

He watches as Pansy looks down her nose at the Weasel.

"You can't do this to me." She shakes her head angrily.

"To you. What about me? I'm stuck with you for the rest of my life." Weasel looks her up and down in disgust.

"You can't expect me to marry this… this… this BLOOD TRAITOR." She shouts at The Minister.

From the back of the hall are the sounds of chairs screeching. Draco turns around to see the eldest Weasley being held back by the other Weasley who works with dragons. He watches as Fleur pulls her husband back down into his seat.

"Are you refusing to marry him?" The Minister goes back to the situation in front of them.

"YES." She shouts in his face.

"Don't be inconsiderate, child?" Mr Parkinson shouts from his seat.

Pansy turns to face her Father who must give her a knowing glare because she turns back around sighing defeat.

"Get it over with." She hisses grabbing hold of Weasels hand much to his annoyance.

Draco spends the next fifteen minutes staring down at his fingers as he wonders which pairing is more shocking his and Granger's or Pansy's and Weasley's when he hears The Minister call, "Blaise Zabini."

He looks up to find that Blaise is the only groom left in the hall. His friend seems to already be aware of this as he exits the end of the row. He glances over to the bride's side and Draco follows to find five brides still sat there. He only recognises three of them. Loony Lovegood, Pavarti Patil and Penelope Clearwater.

Blaise seems confident though so he tries not to feel too nervous for his friend as his hand is pricked.

"Luna Lovegood." The Minister announces.

Draco watches as Blaise laughs aloud in relief. He turns to face Luna in amazement as she happily skips down the aisle. When she reaches Blaise, she jumps up to wrap her arms around his neck and he lifts her up into a hug. He then proceeds to carry her back down the aisle to the podium where they take their vows then retreat to the seating area.

The Minister then looks down at the podium, where he assumes there are pieces of parchment.

"Penelope Clearwater." He calls out.

She walks nervously down to the podium where her finger is pricked. Draco follows the parchment curious as to who she's going to get paired with.

"Abigail Cummings." He announces.

Penelope's sigh of relief is audible from the back of the hall. When Abigail reaches the podium she smiles nervously at the other girl who smiles back taking her left hand in hers. On the way back up the aisle after taking their vows, they continue to hold hands. Draco's glad that at least a few of the couples being paired together today are happy.

"Pavarti Patil." The Minister calls out.

Pavarti's wearing a beautiful pale yellow sari. She walks like a queen down the aisle towards The Minister who shakes his head when she offers him her finger to prick.

"Charlotte Rossi." He calls next.

The name rings a bell for Draco but he doesn't recognise her face. Maybe she was a few years above him. She's the last bride in the hall. She confusingly walks towards Pavarti who smiles at er when she stops next to her. The Minister raises his wand to his throat and mutters "Quietus" countering his previous sonorus spell. He continues to talk to Pavarti and Charlotte but it's impossible to hear. Especially with everyone around him whispering to each other about what they could be discussing. Finally, after five minutes, the girls both retreat to the seating area without having taken any vow.

The Minister casts the sonorus charm once again. "Congratulations to you all. The Ministry and I wish you the best for your future. Now, if everyone can please retreat to the foyer where our officials will guide you to the reception hall where you will continue to celebrate." The Minister announces.

People start to slowly shuffle out of the hall. Draco stands up then just stands there wondering what he's supposed to do next. He's spent so many hours worrying about who he's going to get paired to but he hadn't thought much about how he'd go about his life once he is married. He glances down to Granger who's still sat down. She staring straight ahead of her, twisting her wedding ring. He looks down at his own ring. It's not something he would have chosen but it's nice none the less.

Hermione doesn't stand up until most people have left the hall. When she does stand up she comes face to face with Malfoy, who's been standing in front of her for the past five minutes looking down at his wedding ring. It's hard to tell what he's thinking.

"Sorry." He mumbles taking a step away from her.

She doesn't know what she should do next.

"Hermione!" She hears her Mum's voice from behind her.

She turns around to find her Mum running towards her, arm outstretched. Hermione runs straight into them crying onto her Mum's shoulder.

"Don't cry my dear. Please don't cry." She begs her as her Dad wraps his arms around the both of them.

Hermione pulls herself together remembering her promise to herself. She isn't going to let Malfoy see her cry. Not today. Not ever. When her parents release her, she pulls her wand out of cloak and waves it over her face muttering a spell to clean her face up. She doesn't want Malfoy to see her tear stricken face. She takes a deep breath then turns around to find Malfoy stood a few feet away staring awkwardly at them.

"Mum, Dad, this is Ma- Draco Malfoy." She introduces him.

Draco stares at her for a second until his Mother's etiquette training come back to him. He puts a smile on his face as he steps forward, hand outstretched.

"It's lovely to meet you, Mrs Granger." He shakes her Mother's hand. "You as well, Mr Granger." He shakes her Father's hand.

Unexpectedly, Mr Granger pulls him into a hug. Draco freezes in his embrace unsure of how to proceed. Thankfully he lets him go after a few seconds. "Call me Chris." He adds patting him on the back. "And my wife is Sarah."

Draco nods in reply.

"Where are your parents, Draco?" Sarah asks looking around the nearly empty hall.

"My Mother's most likely left the hall already. She'll be waiting for me in the reception hall." He explains vaguely not wanting to bring up to his parent-in-laws that his father is in Azkaban. Not yet anyway.

"Shall we leave then?" Sarah leads the way out of the hall hand in hand with Chris as he follows behind with Granger.

He glances over to her but she's fiddling with her wedding ring again, staring absentmindedly down at her hands so he leaves her to her thoughts.

Chapter Text

She didn't know how he felt about being paired with her, a Muggleborn. He was a Death Eater, with the dark mark to prove it, and it's common knowledge that Death Eaters hate Muggles and Muggleborns above all others so she feels fully justified in worrying about introducing Malfoy to her parents. However, much to her surprise, he's polite. He shook their hands and didn't immediately jump out of her Father's embrace although he did look very uncomfortable.

Her parents lead the way out of the hall into the foyer and then into the reception hall. Hermione's taken by how beautiful the reception hall is. The hall itself is bigger than Hogwarts' Great Hall. There's a stage at one end of the hall with a drum set, a keyboard, three guitars and some microphones arranged. In front of the stage is a large dance floor with spotlights pointing down at it from many different angles. Across the entire opposite wall is a large bar with about twenty bartenders stood waiting to serve or already serving customers. In a horseshoe formation around the stage and dancefloor where around forty large circular tables seating twenty-five people each.

People have already started finding their table and were sitting down with their new partner and families. On an easel near the doors is a seating plan, Hermione points it out to her parents then goes over to see where they have been placed.

"I'll join you at the table momentarily, I need to find my Mother," Malfoy announces before he nods at her parents the walks off towards the stage.

Whoever did the seating arrangement must have already known who was being paired with who and also who's friends with who as she had been placed on the same table with the Weasley's and all their partners and their parents as well. Their table is between the bar and the dancefloor which Hermione doesn't mind since she needs a drink or two and she feels like dancing her worries away. She'll worry about everything tomorrow, for tonight she's going to celebrate her friends' marriage. She is going to enjoy herself.

The three of them head over to their table to find the Weasley's glaring at the Parkinson's. Ginny jumps up from her seat upon seeing Hermione and everyone looks at her for a second before going back to glaring at each other.

Hermione hugs her best friend tightly.

"Congratulations, Mrs Potter." She says making Ginny laugh.

"How are you doing?" Ginny asks her but she shakes her head.

"I'm not even going to think about it. I'm going to celebrate your and Harry's marriage and anyone else's who's happy with this." She explains.

"Well you're not going to be celebrating Ron's, are you?" She laughs, sitting back down.

Hermione takes a seat next to her. Her parents have gone over to congratulate Harry. She glances around the table. Molly and Arthur are glaring at Mr and Mrs Parkinson whilst Pansy cries into her Father's handkerchief and Ron nurses a rather large glass of firewhisky between them. Bill, Fleur and Charlie are sat next to their parents muttering to each other. What she assumes are George, Angelina and her parent's seats are empty. There's a man and a woman looking worriedly at Percy and Audrey who seem to be in a heated debate. She guesses that they're her parents. Harry's stood up talking to her Mum and Dad. Ginny's admiring her wedding band, which Hermione notices is different to hers. Between Hermione and Mr Parkinson are five seats for her parents, Malfoy and his Mum.


He spots his Mother stood over by the stage talking to Mr and Mrs Stonage. Mitty's stood behind her looking around nervously. He walks over to them to drag his Mother over to their table. He needs to introduce her to Granger and her parents before he can get a drink.

"Draco, did you know my son was courting that girl?" Blaise's Mother asks him.

"I was aware he was courting someone before Christmas but I was unaware they carried on after finding out about The Marriage Decree and I was unaware of whom he was courting." Draco answered truthfully. "But I can assure you that Loo- Luna is a very kind natured, clever girl worthy of Blaise's affections." He adds.

He barely knows Lovegood but he's heard a lot about her. How she frequent snuck into the Forbidden Forest to talk with the centaurs or feed the other creatures and if her reaction to being paired to his best friend is anything to go by, then he's more than happy for them.

"She's seems rather airy." She says.

"She definitely is but that isn't bad. Now if you please excuse us." Draco excuses himself, his Mother and Mitty.

"Are you going to introduce me to Hermione?" She asks him as they walk over to the seating arrangement board.

"Since when are you on a first name basis with her?" He questions her.

"She is my daughter-in-law, I'm not going to call her Mrs Malfoy, am I?" His Mother says making him cringe.

He highly doubts Granger would like his Mother if she called her that. The look at the board trying to find their names.

"Of course they've put us with the Weasel's." He mutters earning a slap on the arm from his Mother.

"There will be none of that. I raised you better." She starts to walk over to their table.

"Mother, wait!" He calls jogging after her. "You can't just go over there."

"I'm not going to hide from them, Draco." She carries on walking.

"Master Draco knows master cannot stop master's mother." Mitty speaks up from behind him.

"I know Mitty." He sighs then follows after his Mother who's stopped a few metres from the table.

"I'm not going to introduce myself, Draco." She points out.

Draco nods walking over to where Granger is sat with her parents. He places his hand on the back of her chair.

"Good afternoon." He says cringing at how formal he sounds but it does its job in gaining their attention as Granger and her parents stand up.

"We were beginning to wonder where you'd gotten to," Chris says.

"I'd like to formally introduce you to my Mother, Narcissa Malfoy." He motions to his Mother.

"Lovely to meet you Narcissa," Sarah says then proceeds to hug her a kiss both her cheeks.

Draco holds in his smirk. His Mother has never been one for hugging.

"This is Sarah, Chris and Gra- Hermione." He quickly corrects himself motioning to each person in turn.

Chris shakes his Mother's hand then sits down next to his wife leaving a chair between them and Granger for Draco to sit in.

"It's delightful to see you again Hermione." His Mother holds her hands out for Granger to shake.

"I somehow doubt that, Narcissa." She spits his Mother's names, refusing to shake her hand, then sits back down.

"Mitty likes mistress, master." Mitty mutters from behind his cloak.


Hermione hear a small voice coming from behind Malfoy so turns around to see a house-elf peering nervously from behind his cloak.

"Hello." She bends down to talk to the house-elf at her level. "What's your name?" She asks.

The house-elf looks up at Malfoy to ask permission to talk. Malfoy nods back to his house-elf.

"Mitty, mistress." She replies taking a deep bow.

"I'm happy to meet you." She holds her hand out for Mitty to shake but the house-elf looks back up to Malfoy who nods again.

Mitty grabs her hand with both of her small ones shaking it excitedly.

"Please call me, Hermione. I'm not your mistress." She tells Mitty who smiles looking up at Malfoy.

"Master asks Mitty to say Draco but it habits for Mitty to say, master," Mitty explains.

"Would you like to sit down?" Hermione motions to the seat next to Ginny that she was previously sat on.

She helps Mitty onto the chair where she stands looking nervously around the table. Hermione sits down between her and her Mum.

Draco watches Mitty and Granger's conversation fondly. Mitty has been his house-elf since he started walking and needed someone to look after him and ensure he didn't fall down any stairs. She'd been through everything with him. She one of the most important people in his life.

When they sit down, he continues to stand behind them unsure of what to do. Chris had moved to allow him to sit down next to Granger but now Mitty is sat there he'd have to sit with his Mother and Chris. His Father-in-law seems nice enough but he's not ready to have a proper conversation with him yet. No doubt he'll ask more questions about his Father and he doesn't think he'll be impressed to find out he's in Azkaban.

"I'm heading to the bar." He announces. He really needs a drink if he's going to make it through this whole night. "Can I get anyone anything?" He offers politely.

"I'd love a glass of white wine," Sarah asks.

"I'll have a beer son if you're offering," Chris says.

Draco's a little taken aback by being called son by Chris but he doesn't mention it. He looks at Granger awaiting her drink order.

"Draco dear, order a dozen bottles of firewhisky and butterbeer." His Mother tells him.

"Does anyone want anything different?" He asks but nobody answers him so he sets off for the bar.

"Can I help you, sir?" A bartender asks him.

"Yeah, I'll have a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a dozen butterbeers and five bottles of firewhisky." He orders ignoring the annoyed look he receives from the bartender who slams two trays down on the bar in front of him.

The bartender places the butterbeer on one tray along with twelve glasses then places the five bottles of firewhisky on the other tray with the glass of wine and beer.

"How many glasses for the firewhisky, sir?" He asks sharply.

Draco shrugs.

"Twenty glasses please sir." Granger's voice comes from behind him.


"Hermione dear, why don't you go help Draco. It will give you the chance to talk." Narcissa suggests.

She feels her Mum reach over to place an encouraging hand on her elbow so she stands up, removes her cloak which would only restrict her arm movements. She folds it neatly then hangs it over the back of the chair.

"Hermione." Ginny grabs her wrist before she can leave. "Can you order me a pumpkin juice? I want to remember tonight." She winks at her making Hermione shudder.

She walks over to the bar where Malfoy's being served but a very annoyed looking bartender.

"How many glasses for the firewhisky, sir?" She hears the bartender ask.

Malfoy just shrugs so she steps forward.

"Twenty glasses please sir." She answers.

Malfoy turns to face her frowning.

"My parents have vowed never to touch firewhisky again, George doesn't drink anymore, Ginny wants a pumpkin juice and Audrey's Mum is pregnant so no alcohol for her." She explains but Malfoy continues to frown at her.

"Is that everything, sir?" The bartender asks looking hopeful.

"No, we'll be needing two pumpkin juices and a glass of milk," Hermione orders earning herself a confused look from both the bartender and Malfoy.

"Milk, ma'am?" He asks,

"Yes, milk."

The bartender rolls his eyes going off to get the order.

"I wouldn't give him a tip with that attitude." She says picking up the firewhisky tray and retreating back to their table.

She places it in the centre of the table, hands her parents their drinks, then grabs a glass, filling it with firewhisky before sitting back down in her seat.

"Would you like a drink, Mitty?" She asks the house-elf whose eyes sparkle.

"Mitty likes butterbeer, mistress Hermione." She tells her.

"I've got the butterbeer here," Malfoy announces placing the tray next to hers in the centre of the table.

He pours a drink out and hands it to Mitty.

"Mitty thanks you Master Draco." She says then takes a seat with her glass.

Hermione watches in amusement as Ginny glares at Malfoy when he places her pumpkin juice in front of her. He pulls his hand away from her quickly as though she might bite him. George, who returned to the table with Angelina and her parents whilst they were at the bar, unsurely thanks Malfoy when he places the glass of milk in front of him. It's not until Malfoy's taking a seat next to her that she realises that her parents have moved up a seat.

"I didn't tip him." He mumbles quietly with his firewhisky halfway to his mouth.

Hermione nods as an indication that she heard but doesn't answer him. She just continues to sip at her firewhisky. She watches as Ron grabs an entire bottle of firewhisky and a single glass then proceeds to drink five glasses one after the other. She looks to Ginny concerned but she's near enough sat on Harry's lap whispering into his ear.

Suddenly a bell rings out throughout the hall and everyone quietens down. All the spotlights from the dancefloor point at the stage to reveal Kingsley Shacklebolt standing in front of a microphone.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please?" He asks pointlessly since everyone is already is already looking at The Minister. "You've had half an hour to settle down and bond with your partner but now it's time for your meal." He claps his hands and a banquet appears in front of them.

There are a few gasps around the hall, including from her parents. They seem a little dubious of the food but once they saw Hermione and the rest of the table eating, they help themselves. She grabs herself some lasagne and salad then a slice of banoffee pie for dessert. She notices that Malfoy places some lasagne on his plate too. He doesn't take any dessert. Not long after she finishes, the bell rings out again bringing everyone's attention back to Kingsley on the stage.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention once more please?" The Minister calls for everyone's attention so he turns towards the stage. "I hope you enjoyed your meal, now for the fun to begin. For your first dance, I pres-"


"Dance." Draco gasps eyes wide.

Nothing was ever mentioned about dancing in the letters they'd received. He has nothing against dancing, in fact, he rather enjoys it. His Mother taught him to dance as a child and it came in handy during their fourth year but he doubts Granger wants him to dance with her. Dancing involves touching each other and standing very close.

"-so can all our couples make their way to the dancefloor."

A few couples make their way to the dancefloor. The happy couples, Draco notices. The ones like Potter and his wife, Blaise and Lovegood and Finnegan and Thomas. Most couples slowly, reluctantly make their way over too. He can't just sit here next to Granger whilst everyone else dances, letting her parents judge him for it. He knows he doesn't need to make a good impression on her parents since he doubts their marriage will last longer than the birth of their child but he finds himself wanting to make a good impression. They seem like nice enough people.

He abruptly stands up making Granger jump slightly. He offers her his hand but she just glares at it.

"Shall we dance, Granger?" He asks her not wanting to make a fool of himself now that everyone on the table is staring at him.

She's about to answer him when her Mother interrupts. "Go on Hermione, you love dancing."

Granger sighs deeply before standing up. She doesn't take his hand but she does make her way to the dancefloor. Draco follows closely behind her until they reach the dance floor where she abruptly stops in her tracks causing him to crash into her back.

"Ah, sorry." He mutters when she turns to face him.

Draco glances around the dance floor at the other couples. Most of them are doing the same as he is, avoiding looking at their partner, although a couple were talking to each other and a small few were already holding each other ready to dance. The band starts playing something he's never heard of. The couples around them start dancing. He glances down at Granger who's staring back up at him probably waiting for him to take lead. He reaches out to take her hand but she snatches it away, hiding them behind her back.

"What are you doing?" She snaps at him.

"I'm under the impression Granger, that in order to dance one must touch their partner." He sarcastically replies stepping towards her leaving a few inches between them as he reaches behind her back to grab hold of her hands.

She keeps them stiff for a second before letting him place one on his shoulder and keep one in his. He pauses before gently placing his other hand on her waist. He looks up from her waist into her eyes trying to decipher what she's thinking but her face isn't giving anything away.

"I'm under the impression Malfoy,-" She smirks at him. "That in order to dance one must move." She smiles obviously proud of herself.

Draco shakes his head trying not to smile. He doesn't want to give her the satisfaction of making him smile but he does start swaying them on the spot.

Suddenly the tempo picks up before there's a crash of symbols. He wasn't aware of the band having any symbols. Draco watches as many of the males lift their partners up into the air. He hears the music start to pick up the tempo again, so he moves her other hand to his shoulder then his to her waist all the while not breaking eye contact.


Hermione frowns confusingly at Malfoy as he moves her hand to her shoulder. She doesn't understand what he's doing, the music isn't slow enough to slow dance to. However, a few seconds later she understands as he lifts her up in time with the music and the other couples. She squeals in surprise having not been expecting it. Once she's back down on two feet she glares up at Malfoy who's smirking at her probably trying not to laugh.

"If you ever tell-" She hisses through gritted teeth before being interrupted.

"My lips are sealed." He mutters then squeeze his lips together to prove his point but a small smile breaks through.

She's never seen him smile before. She didn't think he was capable of doing so. The music goes back to its original tempo so they back to swaying on the spot.

Hermione glances around them at the other couples. She spots Harry and Ginny dancing in the centre of the dance floor, holding each other close, whispering to each other then she sees Ron and Pansy not far away from them. Stood about two feet away from each other, barely holding each other's hands. She feels sorry for Ron. He doesn't deserve to be married to Pansy and she doesn't deserve to be married to Malfoy. She chuckles to herself. It's just another thing she and Ron have in common.

The tempo picks up again. This time, she's prepared for the lift but what she's not prepared for is Malfoy spinning her around on the spot, her skirt spin around them at the motion. The rest of the dance goes well but when the music ends, it leaves them stood, still holding each other, awkwardly.

"Malfoy… you can let go of me now." She points out.

His hands fall limply to his side. "Since we're married now," He raises his left hand, showing off his ring. "I think you can stop calling me Malfoy." He says.

"Okay, then you can stop calling me Granger." She tells him.

"Okay." He says leaving an awkward pause. "I'm… going back to the table."

Hermione just nods her reply then follows him back. They find her Mum, Dad, Narcissa, Molly, Arthur and the Parkinson all sat together talking. There's not raised voices or upturned faces so at least it's a civil conversation. She sits down in her usual seat grabbing another glass of firewhisky as Malfoy, or rather Draco, sits down next to her with his own drink. They don't talk. They just drink. Until Percy comes over, sitting to her other side, reading a book.

"Who brings a book to their own wedding?" Draco comments.

"Someone who doesn't want to spend it sat around, drink his problems away," Percy answers monotonously without taking his eyes off his book.

Hermione watches Draco raise his glass to Percy then down the rest of his firewhisky. Then without excusing himself he gets up and leaves.

"I can't believe The Ministry paired you with him. I'll be surprised if one of you doesn't end up dead before the year ends." Percy announces closing his book.

"Have a little faith in me Percy. I doubt if I'll be seeing much of him in the house anyway. He'll probably spend most of his time in his Manor." She points out and Percy shrugs. "I wished I thought to bring a book. The ceremony droned on for hours." She adds nodding to his book.

"Would you care to dance, Hermione?" He suddenly asks, standing up.

Hermione glances over at the band, who were now playing a song she had heard recently off the radio at the Burrow. She could easily sway and bop to it so she nods and walks with him to the dancefloor.

Most the couples have retreated to their tables, leaving a much more open space to dance.

"How are you doing?" Percy asks does a terrible side stepping move. "I didn't ask before."

"I'm fine for now but that'll probably change in the morning when we're alone and not intoxicated." She answers truthfully.

"Intoxicated!" He chuckles. "You've had, what, two glasses of firewhisky?" He asks.

"Three actually but I plan on having more." She admits. "They calm my nerves."

The song ends before Percy can comment on her drinking habits. He claims not to be one for dancing and returns to the table. She's only alone for a few seconds before Harry takes hold of her hand, pulling her further onto the dancefloor.

"Are you okay, Hermione?" He asks her as he spins her under his arm.

"Yes, I'll be fine. There's no need to worry." She rolls her eye because that's exactly what he's doing.

"I can't help worrying. You're like my sister and now you're married to… to… that ferret." He hisses looking over at their table where Draco has returned and is talking to Mitty.

"Harry." She says warningly. "If you go about insulting him like that, you're just going to make things worse for me so please try to be civil with him?" She asks him.

He reluctantly nods his reply.

"Great. Now let's talk about you and your beautiful wife." She changes the topic.

At the mention of Ginny, Harry smiles widely. "We've been thinking about having another, smaller ceremony in August just for family and friends." He tells her. "Today just didn't feel personal and there's a few people we'd like to invite that weren't invited here." He mentions.

"That's sounds amazing. I can't wait."

"We've been planning it for a while, Ginny and I. Nobody knows this but I actually proposed to her on New Year's Eve." Harry leans closer to her ear to whisper. "We were devastated when we found out about The Marriage Decree."

Hermione suddenly remembers their first night back at Hogwarts after the Christmas holiday. Ginny had mentioned something about a fool proof plan. She smiles to herself. It obviously worked then.

"May I cut in, Harry?" Her Dad asks tapping him on the shoulder.

"Of course, I'll talk to you later." Harry promises.

As soon as Harry's walked off somewhere, her Dad opens his arms wide for her and she leaps into them, hugging him tightly.

"Before you ask, I'm fine." She mumbles into his chest.

Her Dad chuckles, stroking her hair. "So this Draco boy…" He starts hinting for her to finish the sentence.

She sighs looking up at her Dad. "He used to make our life a living Hell, Dad. He was constantly bullying us to the point that I actually punched him once."

He raises a disapproving eyebrow but she can see the proud smile behind them.

"But he has changed since the end of the war. Especially since his Father was sent to Azkaban."

"That explains why he changes the topic when I mention his Father." He nods. "As long as he doesn't do anything to hurt you, Hermione, then he's good in my books. He seems nice enough and he's very polite." He adds.

Hermione hugs her Dad again. "Thank you, Dad."

"I'm going to go ask your Mum to dance." He leaves her as the song ends.

She turns towards their table when Ron stumbles over to her, holding his hands out. She takes hold of them and they sway together with him spinning her around a few times.

"'m sorry, 'mione." He slurs.

She can smell firewhisky coming off his breath.

"How much have you had to drink?" She asks concerned.

He pulls her sharply into a hug, holding her tightly.

"'m sorry, 'mione." He repeats. "I fought we be t'getha. Probly ma fault. I didn't do questionnaire proply." He mumbles into her ear. "Now yer wiv 'im."

"Don't worry about me, Ron." She hugs him back just as tightly. "I'm more worried about you. How much have you drunk?" She asks again.

He shrugs in their embrace. "Lost count afta six or seven." He grumbles.

"Ron…" She starts but he doesn't let her finish.

"Don't 'mione. 'm tired ov yer judgin' me. 'm drinkin' til I can't rember nonthin'. I need a drink." He pushes her away walking off to the bar leaving her stood on the dancefloor, watching after him concernedly.

She's about to go to the bar herself when she spots George stood at the edge of the dancefloor watching his wife and her friends dancing. She stands next to him, nudging him slightly so he knows she's there.

"Is it awkward being married to Angelina?" She asks watching Angelina, Alicia and Katie dance.

"Because she dated him?" He asks meaning Fred.

"No, because she's one of your closest friends." She explains.

"Oh, not at all really. She seems happy." He shrugs looking over at her fondly.

"What about you?" She doesn't want to push him too much. "Do you think you can be happy?"

"I hope so. " He mumbles then look down at her. "I know it's been over a year but it still feels so… new." His eyes start watering but he whips them before any tears fall.

"I don't know what to say George. I don't know if that feeling's ever going to go away and you might not want to hear this but you need to try and be happy. For Angelina and your future child." She tells him.

"You're right." He nods. "As usual." He tries to smile but it comes out as a grimace. She returns it anyway. "I'm going to go ask her to dance." He says, grimace still present on his face as he walks over to Angelina.

She watches them for a while. He continues to smile in that way and Angelina returns with a real smile as she holds his hands, dancing and spinning around. After a few minutes she feels a bit creepy so she goes back over to their table.


He spots Blaise over near the bar with Lovegood so he makes his way over to them.

"Draco, how's married life treating you so far?" Blaise asks with his arm around his wife's waist.

Draco just glares at him, making him uncomfortable, until he laughs nervously.

"That bad, eh? I'm sure things will get better." His friend claps him on the back as he drags his wife to the dance floor.

"I doubt it." He mumbles to himself as he waves a bartender over. "A large glass of red wine please." He orders.

The bartender nods, "Yes, sir."

This bartender seems a lot politer. He gives the man a tip once he's handed the glass over.

"Th-thank you, sir." The bartender stutters nodding vigorously.

Draco takes a seat next to Mitty back at the table. She's on what he thinks is her second glass of butterbeer.

"Don't drink too much Mitty. I don't think Mother will appreciate supporting a drunk house-elf home." He teases her.

"Mitty don't drink much, Master. Mitty leave soon. Mitty needs to help Gharther cook breakfast for Master's Mother and Master's guests." She tells him.

"What do you think of Gr-Hermione?" He asks curiously.

"Mitty think Mistress Hermione is kind and beautiful." She admits happily.

"I'm glad you think that Mitty."

"Master Draco thinks what of Mistress Hermione?" She asks.

He pauses with his glass to his mouth then carries on to take a sip. "I think she's very kind and I suppose in certain lights she's pretty."

"Master Draco is blushing." Mitty tells him.

"No I'm not." He quickly denies.

He ignores Mitty's knowing stare instead looking over to the dancefloor where Hermione is dancing with Potter. He narrows his eyes, trying to look closer at them. They seem to be in the middle of a conversation until he leans in to whisper into her ear. He wonders curiously what they're whispering about.

He's thankful when Chris interrupts them for the next dance. He can tell she's very close to her Father. His heart beats quicker as he watches them talk. He looks quickly away a few minutes later when he walks over towards him.

"Don't worry son, I don't care about your past but just makes sure you don't hurt her in any way, otherwise we'll have a problem." Chris threatens.

Draco doubts Chris will be able to lay a hand on him before he has his wand out and a curse out of his mouth but he understands why he makes the threat.

"I will never do anything to purposely hurt her and will be nothing but apologetic if I unintentionally hurt her." He says without breaking Chris' eye contact.

Chris nods once then turns to face Sarah to ask her to dance. Draco looks back over at Hermione to find her hugging Weasel a little too comfortably. He can only see his face but he looks heartbroken. He was under the impression that they weren't a couple. Hermione had said so herself. He watches as Weasel pushes her away then storms off to the bar. He looks completely drunk. Worse than he's ever seen Blaise and he's seen Blaise in some very intoxicated states.

He drinks the last of his wine, which he found rather nice considering it was apparently a muggle variety. He places the glass back down on the table then excuses himself before heading back over to the bar.

The same bartender serves him as he orders another glass of the same red wine. As he awaits his return he turns to glance around the hall. It concerns him that in a crowded room full of around a thousand people, his eyes instantly find Hermione walking back to their table. They've barely been married four hours and she's already got a hold on him.

When the bartender comes back with his glass of wine he orders another. He leaves another tip then carries both glasses back to the table.


Hermione just sits down at their table when a glass of wine is placed in front of her. She looks up just as Draco sits down opposite her. She eyes the wine suspiciously.

"I didn't poison it." He snaps, offended.

"I know." She tells him picking the glass of wine up. "I was wondering why you got me it."

"Can't I buy my wife a drink?" He raises a questioning eyebrow which she returns with a pointed stare before taking a sip from her glass.

She gazes around the hall just watching as people interact with their partner, parents, families, friends and everyone else.

"Having fun?" Draco asks.

"I suppose I am." She answers staring disturbingly at a couple who were heavily making out at a table near the stage. "Considering." She adds as an afterthought.

"Considering you're married to me." He mutters glumly and she can't help feeling sorry for him. It's not his fault they got paired together.

"Considering I'm married in the first place." She explains. "I don't know about you Draco, but I didn't want to get married today."

Draco nods in agreement.

"I wanted to meet someone, get to know them, fall in love with them before I…" She realises she rambling. "Sorry, you don't care." She takes another sip of the red wine Draco got her.

"I planned on living out the rest of my life focussing solely on my career. Who'd want to marry me anyway? People either see me as a Death Eater or a blood traitor, depending on which side of the war they were on." He stands up, quickly walking off.

"Draco?" She calls after him, also standing up.

He stops but doesn't turn around so she walks a little closer to him.

"I see you as neither, Draco." She tells him but he walks off again.

This time, she lets him leave, returning to her table. Not long later the bell rings out again before Kingsley takes to the stage again.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present you to one of the best up and coming bands this year. MB." Kingsley announces as the band enters the stage waving to the crowd.

"Hi guys, we're MB and we want as many of you on the dance floor as possible." The lead singer shouts into the microphone.

A few people make their way onto the dance floor but apparently not enough.

"Come on, if you've got muggle blood in your veins, make your way to the dancefloor now." She shouts.

Hermione frowns. What is she shouting about?

"Come on, Hermione." Ginny grabs hold of her hand pulling her up off her seat.

"Really, Ginny. I don't know this band." She complains but allows herself to be pulled onto the dance floor.

"Our first song is for one of our own. The inspirational Hermione Granger." The lead singer shouts pointing towards her.

"One of their own?" She repeats confused. "Who are they?" She asks Ginny.

"They're this new band. They got together about two weeks after the end of the war. They call themselves MB but that's short for Muggleborn or… erm… you know." She explains.

"Mudblood." Hermione mutters.

"Yeah." Ginny avoids her eyes. "They're starting to play, come on." She pulls her closer to the stage as the band starts playing a song Hermione instantly recognises from the muggle world. A song she hasn't heard for years.

"Sun is shining in the sky,

There ain't a cloud in sight,

It's stopped raining…"

"They play exclusively muggle songs," Ginny explains as they dance.

They end up dancing to a few other songs before Ginny complains her feet are tired and she needs a drink. Hermione accompanies to the bar.

"Can I have a glass of wine and what do you want Ginny?" She asks her friend.

"I'll have another pumpkin juice." She replies.

"Come on Ginny, you're not that much of a lightweight. One drink isn't going to cloud your memories." She tells her as the bartender glances back and forth between them.

"No, I'm fine with a pumpkin juice." She nods at the bartender who goes off to get their drinks.

"Here you go ma'am, is that everything?" He asks with a sincere smile.

"For now, yes." She reaches out her hand with a few coins. "Here you go, sir."

"No ma'am, your husband has already tipped me more than I earn in a week. I couldn't possibly take any more from you." He pushes her hand away.

"Oh… thank you." She thanks the bartender who keeps smiling them.

Back at their table, Ginny and Hermione sit down with Audrey, who's sipping her drink.

"Hi, Audrey." Ginny greets her new sister-in-law. "How are you finding my brother?" She asks.

"He's alright. We have a few things in common." Audrey answers. "Although, does he always read this much." She nods over to where Percy is sat next to Arthur, nose deep in his book.

Hermione and Ginny glance at each other before bursting out laughing. "Oh Audrey, this is nothing. Sometimes, when he finds a particularly interesting book, he reads it in one sitting. Even if that means going without sleep. Just make sure he eats something. He gets so caught up in the book and he just forgets." Ginny explains.

"Great." Audrey rolls her eyes sarcastically. "Well, he can do what he wants. I'm a little preoccupied with work at the moment anyway." She adds.

"What is it you do?" Hermine asks, making polite conversation.

"I'm afraid that's classified." She states breaking eye contact then leaving the table.

"Well, that was weird," Ginny mentions to which she nods in agreement.

"Hermione, there you are dear." Her Mum comes over to give her a hug. "I'm back at work tomorrow so we're going to leave now." She tells her.

"Oh, okay. I'll come walk you out." She makes a grab for her cloak.

"No, you stay. Narcissa said she'll walk us out. She's heading home too." Her Mum mentions turning to wave in Narcissa's direction.

"I'd prefer it if I walked out," Hermione tells her feeling uncomfortable.

"I know you worry about us dear, but we'll be fine." Her Mum tries to convince her.

"I don't trust her, Mum." She admits.

"Do you trust the elf?" She asks and Hermine nods understanding.

She trusts Mitty will do anything to serve both Draco and herself so she doubts the house-elf will let any harm come to her parents. Especially not from Narcissa.

"Okay, I'll come visit you tomorrow. I need to collect my things." She explains.

"We'll see you tomorrow then." Her Mum gives her another hug. "Come on Chris." She calls over to her Dad who's talking to Arthur about something.

"I'm coming over to see you tomorrow, Dad." She tells him as they hug goodbye.

She walks them over to the door, where Narcissa and Mitty are waiting.

"It's was lovely to meet you Mitty." She bends down to shake the house elf's hand. "Can you ensure my parents have a safe exit into the muggle world?" She whispers.

Mitty's eyes widen in delight at being given an order from her new mistress. "Mitty happy to help mistress Hermione." She squeaks.


"Draco dear, we're leaving. Mr and Mrs Stonage have already gone and I don't wish to leave them alone too long in our home." His Mother pats him lightly on the shoulder.

"Goodnight then Mother." He kisses her cheek.

"Don't forget to visit, Draco." She smiles gently.

"Of course not, Mother." He lets a small smile play on his face.

He walks her and Mitty over to the door where she stops.

"Chris and Sarah have asked me to walk them out. Apparently muggles can't leave The Ministry without one of us guiding them." She says quirking an eyebrow.

"Mother, be kind. This is important to me." He warns her.

"I'm always kind, dear." She says seriously which worries him. "Now, if I'm not mistaken, one of your friends is beckoning you over." She points behind him.

He turns to find Theo waving him over. He nods to let him know he's on his way.

"Please excuse me Mother and goodbye Mitty." He walks away towards Theo.

"Draco, Lisa and I are having a party Friday night. Are you coming?" He glances over to his table where Lisa is sat with her friends.

"Who else are you inviting?" He asks curiously.

"Blaise and Luna, Goyle and Megan, Pansy and Ron-"

Draco interrupts with an annoyed groan. "You're inviting the Weasel." He complains.

"Yeah but he isn't gonna come, is he?" Theo huffs out a laugh. "I'm just trying to be polite. For Pansy's sake."

"I don't think Pansy will care if you don't invite him." He points out.

Theo shrugs. "Then Lisa's inviting some of her friends. Mandy and Oliver, Sue and Richard, and Isobel and William. So are you coming?" He asks hopefully.

"Yeah, I'll come." He gives in.

"Bring Hermione too," Theo calls behind him as he makes his way back over to his wife.

He doubts she'll want to come but he'll ask her anyway. He wonders what their life is going to be like. How will they act around each other? Will they talk, get to know each other or will she just want to get the whole ordeal over and done with? The thought makes him shudder. He never wanted his first time to be loveless but he doesn't have a chance of having it any different now. Especially not with Hermione. He can't see himself falling in love with her and he definitely can't see Hermione falling in love with him. No matter how long they stay married.


She's starting to feel the effects of the alcohol on her so she makes it her last drink. She waiting for the same bartender as earlier to return with her drink when someone pokes her hard in the back. She turns around coming face to face with a very drunk and very angry Pansy Parkinson.

"Stay away from him, he's mine." She slurs, rocking as she stood in front of her.

Hermione raised a questioning eyebrow. This is definitely something she didn't see coming, Pansy threatening her over Ron.

"Don't worry Pansy, I don't feel that way anymore. The kiss was in the heat of the moment and didn't mean anything so he's all yours." She informs her but that doesn't seem to help.

"You kissed him." She glares at her, tears welling up. "When?" She prods her in the shoulder.

"It was near the end of the war. Over a year ago. I'm over it and I'm pretty sure he is too." She tries to calm the girl down but she starts pulling at her own hair.

"We'll see how you like it." She storms off leaving Hermione wondering what she was on about.

"Here's your drink, ma'am." The bartender pulls her attention away from Pansy.

"Thank you again. What's your name sir?" She asks him making him blush.

"My name's Stephen, ma'am." He bows slightly.

"Thank you, Stephen, you've been a great help to me tonight." She praises him causing him to blush deeper and walk off mumbling something about having to serve someone.

She chuckles to herself as she heads back to the table, sipping on her drink. She finds herself alone for the first time in hours so she takes the time to just sit and watch. She finds it fascinating how differently people are reacting to their partnership. Some are genuinely happy, laughing and dancing together on the dancefloor. Some are sat at their table nervously getting to know each other. Some are sat at their table ignoring their partner completely. Then a small few are drunkenly making out with their partner like the couple she saw earlier and the couple over near the bar who were properly going at it. The move slightly and Hermione nearly chokes on her drink as she realises the couple is Ron and Pansy. They must far drunker than she first thought.

Chapter Text

 

At about eleven o'clock, a bell rings out once more as Kingsley again takes to the stage.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm afraid your reception party is coming to an end. I thoroughly hope you enjoyed yourself. Now please listen carefully as I explain what is about to happen. Firstly, can all our guests please leave the hall?" Kingsley orders.

Hermione sits ups a little straighter, waiting for all the guests to leave so Kingsley can carry on. Draco comes back over to their table, sitting down next to her. Once all the guest have left, Kingsley clears his throat to regain their attention.

"Now, there are five buses wait to take you to The Ministry Starter House Estate. You will all board the buses alphabetically by surname where a Ministry Official will be your guide. Please ask them if you have any further questions." Kingsley glances around the hall to ensure everyone understands. "Can A through E please make their way to the door where your Ministry Official will guide you to your bus?"

The scrapping of chairs echoes around the hall as people shuffle slowly towards the hall door. Hermione sits quietly with Draco on one side and Ginny and Harry on the other.

"Now, can F through J please make their way to the door?" Kingsley announces next.

Hermione realises that she and Draco are in the next group without Harry and Ginny. She gives them both a quick hug.

"I'll come see you both on Friday, alright?" She promises them both.

"Now, can K through O please make their way to the door?" Kingsley announces next.

Ginny squeezes her hand encouragingly which she squeezes back as a thank you. Turning around, she finds Draco stood waiting for her. They walk together, silently, to the door where a few couples are already lining up waiting. At the front of the queue is a short, large woman with bright blonde hair. She's looking down at the many pieces of paper clipped to her clipboard.

"Hello." Her thick Devonshire accent is a surprise to not only Hermione but a few other people in her queue. "I hope all you young lovers are happy." Hermione cringes, looking awkwardly at Draco, who's looking at the woman is disgust. "If you'd like to follow me, I'll guide you to our bus then we'll be swiftly on our way." She leads them out of the muggle entrance which apparently a lot of people, especially purebloods and some half-bloods, have never seen before from the sounds of disapproval as they walk through the one-star hotel.

"Here we go, you can all sit where you'd like as long as it's with your partner." She announces before waving to the driver to open the door.

Hermione climbs aboard the bus before Draco so chooses the seat at the back of the bus. Once everyone is sat down ready, the woman signals the driver to go. The bus reminds her of the Knight bus in the way it swerves quickly between muggle traffic. Not before long, they're pulling up to a very large, walled-off estate in the middle of the countryside.

"This is The Ministry Starter House Estate. Each house is identical in layout and décor but you can redecorate as you please. We have five street in the shape of a pentagon. You will all be on the third street named Gamma. In the middle of the estate are a few food shops, cafes, a restaurant, sweet shop, book shop and robes shop along with a large playing green and a small playground. I will call out your name as we come to each house." She explains. "Let's go!" She signals the driver to move along.

The bus comes to a stop at the first front door of Gamma Street, which read '1G'.

The woman looks down at her clipboard before looking around the bus.

"Mr and Mrs Kay." She calls out.


Draco sits at the back of the bus for about twenty before the woman calls out, "Mr and Mrs Malfoy."

He feels her flinch from next to him at being called 'Mrs Malfoy.'

"Don't even think for one second that I'm changing my name to Malfoy." She glares at him as she squeezes past him then storms off the bus, snatching the keys from the woman.

Draco reluctantly follows her off the bus. The bus moves a few metres down the road before stopping at the house next to theirs. Hermione is stood staring up at their house. He wishes he knew what she's thinking because her face is void of all emotion. He follows her gaze to take in the outside of their new home for the next two year. His first thought is that it's small but after growing up in either his manor or Hogwarts he supposes most houses will look small to him. His second thought is why is their door is green. All the other doors he's seen were either black or white. Thoughts about their house and their new life keep popping into his mind until Hermione moves towards their door.

He follows her quickly as she unlocks the door. He's about to step inside when her hand comes to a rest on his chest, stopping him from entering their house.

"Take your shoes off." She orders him.

"What? Why?" He questions glancing down at his shoes.

"You're not going to dirty our cream carpets." She stares pointedly at him until he takes his shoes off.

She enters first, placing her shoes at the side of the door, then walks further into the hallway, stopping at a door on the right until he follows suit, leaving his shoes next to hers and making his way to the first door.

Hermione opens the door revealing a small but homely living room. There's a brown, two seater fabric couch facing the fireplace. There's a coffee table between them both. In front of the window, there's an armchair under the window next to a small bookshelf.

Draco walks over to the bookshelf, running his fingers gently across the spines. He recognised some books like 'The Tales of Beedle the Bard' but some he had never heard of whilst a couple promise to teach him the best home improvement spells.

They enter through the archway at the back of the living room into a kitchen. Once again, Draco finds it small. He's going to have to get used to it. There's the usual kitchen application spread around the black kitchen, each one a different colour to brighten up the room. Then in front of the back door, which leads to a small garden, is a table and four chairs.

Hermione walks up the stairs in front of him. She pauses at the door directly in front of the stairs for a few seconds before turning on her heel and walking towards the next door.

"What's wrong with this room?" He asks from the top of the stairs.

"I think we both know what's in that room Draco." She tells him as she opens the next door to reveal a bathroom.

He doesn't know what's in that room so he plans to have a look later once Hermione's not watching him. The bathroom has a separate shower and bath which Draco approves of. The mirrors quite large, probably the only thing that's large in their house.

Hermione pauses once more before entering the next room. Draco actually knows what this next room is. It's the master room. The room he and Hermione are expected to share a bed. She slowly opens the door and he lets out a sigh of relief. The bed as big as his own one at the manor. It's probably big enough for four, fully grown adults to share, comfortably. It looks beautiful as well with a thick quilt and a heavy green comforter, folded at the end of the bed. Draco doesn't even look at the rest of the room. He just wants to climb into bed but he doesn't know how this is going to work. So he asks.

"How is this going to work?" He asks motioning to the bed.

"We're not children Draco, I'm sure we can share a bed big enough for four people." She says and he's convinced she's teasing him. "As long as you stay on your side and I stay on my side, there won't be a problem." She adds, walking over to a wardrobe he hadn't noticed before.

There's nothing inside, besides a few coat hangers. She takes her cloak off and hangs it in the wardrobe. Draco goes over and takes a few coat hangers out for himself. He then proceeds to take his cloak, waistcoat and shirt off before he remembers he didn't have any pyjamas to wear. This is going to be awkward. He keeps his trousers on as he hangs his clothes on his side of the wardrobe. He turns to Hermione to ask if she's okay with him sleeping in his underwear only to find her already looking at him, blushing slightly. He suddenly feels very self-conscious to have her eyes on his half naked body.

"Erm… Draco. I really don't want to ask you this but…" She pauses avoiding his eye contact.

He raises a questioning eyebrow, curious as to what she's about to ask him.

"I… need help with the buttons on my dress." She finally says, blushing a little deeper.

"Oh." Draco glances down at her dress. He hadn't really looked at it but now that he is, he notices how beautiful it is. Pure white with a green ribbon around her waist and the netted sleeves were a lovely addition.

"Are you going to help me or stare at me?" She asks hands on her hips.

He takes a step closer nodding. "Yeah, I'll help."

"Thank you." She says, moving her hair out of the way and turning around. She must have taken it out of her bun at some point during the night.

He rubs his hands together to warm them up. Blaise always complains of his cold hands whenever they brush hands. He starts at the top button and discovers that these buttons are especially fiddly for someone with long, bony fingers. It takes him longer than it should, to undo the first one, however, by the time he's on the sixth one, he's gotten the hang of it. Everything's going well until his fingers accidently graze her back.

"Oh my God! Draco, why are your hands so cold?" She flinches at his touch.

"I don't know." He says annoyed. "Why are you so warm?" He retaliated pathetically.

"Because I'm a warm-blooded mammal." She answers.

"Are you suggesting that I'm not?" He raises a questioning eyebrow that she can't see as he carries on with her buttons.

"Not at all." She says with her teasing tone. "All I'm saying is that snakes are cold-blooded too."

Draco huffs in what could be considered a small laugh. "Yes. My animagus is a snake. You know my secret." He tells her sarcastically.

He's almost certain that she's rolling her eyes at him which makes him smile, slightly. Being in her company is a lot easier than he thought it would be.

"Actually, my Patronus is a python so my animagus might very well be a snake." He admits.

"Well with that logic, my animagus form is an otter." Hermione chuckles.

"An otter?" He questions.

"Yeah, I suppose there's worse animagus forms. You could be a giraffe or an elephant. How do you explain that?" She continues to laugh which makes it difficult to undo her buttons.

"Or a shark. You'd only be able to change in the ocean." Draco points out.

"Good point but then again if you need to disappear from someone then there's no better or bigger place than the ocean." She counters his argument.

Draco nods in agreement as he undoes her last button. "That's the last one." He tells her, stepping away.

"Thank you." She turns around, smiling at him as she grabs her bag and heads off to the bathroom, most likely to change into her pyjamas.

Draco decides to climb into bed before she returns. Then he can sleep in his underwear and she won't know any different. Especially with how big the bed is. He hangs his trousers up in the wardrobe then climbs into the left side of the bed, which is closer to the door. He likes to sleep as close to the door as possible, he always has. He's lying on his bag, quilt pulled up to his chin when she returns from the bathroom wearing a pair of short and vest top as her pyjamas. She glances over at him and smiles before hanging her dress in the wardrobe.

"What are you smiling at?" He questions her.

"I'm just glad I don't have to fight you over the right side of the bed." She explains as she pads over to the right side and climbs under the covers.

"I sleep on whichever side is closer to the door." He explains to her, staring up at the ceiling.

"Is that an escaping mechanism?" She says teasingly.

He shrugs in reply. He doesn't know why he does it, he just always has. Silence blankets around them and at first it's awkward but it soon turns calming, lulling him to sleep. He turns over onto his side, facing the door, ready to go to sleep.

"Goodnight, Draco," Hermione whispers so quietly that he's not sure if she actually said it or if he's just imagining it.

"Goodnight." He whispers back before falling into a light sleep.

Hermione's not sure what time she falls asleep but she knows it was after Draco since she remembers listening to his soft snores and light breathing. She's used to sleeping in the same room as a snorer since Lavender Brown was notorious for it in their dormitory, so his snoring isn't going to be a problem in the future.


When she wakes up, it's to find the bed empty of his presence. She takes a few minutes just to lie in bed, thinking about the previous day. It hadn't been as bad as she thought it would be. She had been a bundle of nerves leading up to her name being called, then afterwards she'd been solely focussed on not crying in front of him. At the reception party, once she'd gotten a few drinks in her, she'd actually enjoyed herself. She managed to dance with most of her friends and she had a few civilised conversation with Draco, which proves they can get along. It very much doubts that this is going to be easy but at least she knows it's going to be doable.

She climbs out of bed, stretches then checks the time on the clock on top of their chest of draws. It's twenty past nine. A perfectly acceptable time to be getting up at after a party. Despite it being June, there's a slight chill in the air, so she finds her bag and rummages around for her summer dressing gown. She curses herself when she can't find it. She must have put it in her other bag, along with her other clothes apparently as she can't find them either. She has no idea what she's going to wear today, she'll most likely have to put her wedding dress back on until she gets to her parents' house. She decides not to think about it until later as her stomach grumbles. The food at the reception party had been lovely but she'd been too nervous to eat much and since she had skipped breakfast yesterday morning as well, she's starving.

She pulls on her wedding cloak, wrapping it tightly around her, then heads downstairs to the kitchen, hoping that The Ministry have provided them with some food. She finds Draco sitting on their couch, eating a slice of toast, without a plate.

"I hope you're planning on cleaning that couch when you're done." She warns him, making him jump slightly. "I don't want crumbs all over the place." She adds walking into the kitchen to make her own toast.

She hears him follow her into the kitchen but she carries on with making her breakfast and a cup of tea. When she turns around, he's leaning against the counter, dressed only in his trousers from yesterday, finishing his toast, with The Daily Prophet in his hands.

"I think you should look at this." He says thrusting the newspaper towards him. "They've dedicated the entire paper to The Partner Ceremony." He mentions as she glances at the front page.

The largest picture on the front page shows Harry and Ginny smiling lovingly at each other as the marriage vow was cast. She smiles at it until she notices in the corner under the title 'Most Surprising Couple' is a picture of both her and Draco as they held hands to take their own marriage vow. They're both looking nervously at each other.

"When did they even take this picture?" She questions.

"I don't know but it gets worse on the inside." He nods for her to open the paper.

One the first page, there's an explanation as to why The Marriage Decree was brought into place, along with a table of contents promising pages on the best and worst dressed brides and grooms, surprising and unsurprising couples, a list of all couples, who will be the first couple to get pregnant and couples pictures of every couple.

She turns the page to find another picture of Harry and Ginny during their first dance with a long article about them both and why they are their most unsurprising couple of The Partner Ceremony. On the next page, there's a similar picture of Draco and Hermione. The picture was a loop of the first time Draco lifted her up during their first dance. She avoided reading the article since she knew it would just anger her. The next page showed a picture of Dean and Seamus as another surprising couple.

She flicks through the rest of the paper and is proud of herself when she's listed as second best-dressed bride next to Ginny who did look gorgeous in the picture they showed. She notices that Draco's listed as the best dress groom. She takes a quick glance at the worst dressed bride and groom, chuckling slightly when she finds Ron is named the worst dressed. He had been wearing robes similar to those he had worn for the Yule Ball and they had been terrible.

Harry and Ginny were also listed as the couple most likely to get pregnant first due to the fact that they were the most in love couple.

Hermione ends up throwing the newspaper on the countertop annoyingly. She then continues to glare at it as she eats her toast and sips her tea.

"Did you read the part about our rings?" Draco asks as she takes a large bit of toast so she shakes her head as an answer. "They won't come off unless one of us breaks the conditions of our marriage vow or we file for divorce."

Her eyes widen at the news. She drops her toast onto her plate then proceeds to try and pull her ring off.

"Well, this is just perfect." She sighs in defeat picking her toast up again. "How am I supposed to visit my grandparents wearing a wedding ring?" She asks rhetorically.

"You could cast an invisibility charm on it." Draco offers.

"Of course." She brightens up.

"Here, let me." Draco points his wand at her ring, muttering the spell but nothing happens.

They both sigh dejectedly.

"I'll just have to wear a few more rings and pretend it's a fashion statement." She says.

They stand in silence as Hermione finishes her toast and tea then washes them up, leaving them to dry on a tea towel.

"Why don't you just charm them to wash?" He asks watching her.

"Just because I can use magic whenever I want, doesn't mean I have to, Draco." She tells him, drying her wet hands on another tea towel then turning to face him. "I'm going to collect my belongings from my parents' house today." She mentions for something to say.

Draco nods at her. "Do you mind if I accompany you? I'd like to see your parents again." He tells her.

She stares at him suspiciously wondering why he wants to see her parents again. He doesn't have to make an effort to like them for her. She honestly doesn't mind. She about to tell him so when he speaks up again.

"I also need to collect a few things from the manor. I'm sure Mitty would love to see you again if you wish to accompany me there after we've been to your house." He adds.

Hermione smiles at the thought of seeing Mitty again so she nods. "Okay, do you mind going to your house first? My parents won't be home until six o'clock tonight. They're at work." She explains.

"That's fine, although I don't wish to spend too long at the manor," Draco admits. "It's better if we set off soon. Any closer to lunchtime and Mother will ask us to stay."

Hermione smiles thankfully. "I'll go get changed then." She heads up the stairs.

Once again, she hears him following her but he goes into the bathroom rather than their bedroom. She remembers as she's stood in their bedroom that she hasn't brought any spare clothes with her and curses herself once again. She has no idea what she's going to do. She really doesn't want to wear her wedding dress again or wear her pyjamas if she's going to be seeing Narcissa again.

There's a short knock at the door from Draco asking for permission to enter which she grants him. He enters then stares at her confusingly.

"I thought you were getting changed." He asks her as walks over to a small bag she hadn't realised he'd brought with him.

"I forgot to bring some spare clothes so I'm trying to decide which is less embarrassing to wear when visiting your mother. My wedding dress or my pyjamas." She explains looking at herself in their mirror.

Draco's quiet for a second. "I brought a spare shirt which you could borrow."

"Really?" She asks hopefully.

"It'll be a lot less embarrassing than your options." He explains to which she nods.

"Thank you, Draco." She says as he hands her the black shirt he'd worn yesterday.

She retreats to the bathroom to get dressed, not comfortable in doing so in front of Draco. The shirt comes down to her mid-thigh which is a lot shorter than anything she usually wears but it's her best option so she keeps it on. She rolls the sleeves up to her elbows since they're too long for her. It's very baggy too, leaving her looking like a sack of potatoes.

After she's brushed her teeth she goes back into their bedroom, where Draco's pulled on a white shirt. She takes the dark green sash off her wedding dress then ties it around her waist. She glances at herself in the mirror. At least she doesn't look like a sack of potatoes anymore. She grabs her cloak, pulling it on, then heads downstairs with Draco following closely behind her.


Draco pulls on his shoes which he left next to the front door last night. He keeps looking at Hermione out of the corner of his eyes. He can't deny that he likes the way she looks wearing his shirt. Unfortunately, she's put her cloak on. Or maybe that's fortunate as he doesn't want her to catch him staring. He pulls his own wedding cloak on then leaves the house with her. She locks the door behind them then they set off down the street to the only gate out of the estate, down Alpha Street.

"What are your parents' professions?" He asks out of curiosity and to make polite conversation.

Hermione glances up at him with a confused, questioning look on her face for a few seconds before looking straight ahead.

"They're both dentists." She answers him.

"What's a dentist?" He asks having no idea what that word means.

"It's like a doctor for your teeth." She explains. "They own their own practice." She adds to which Draco just nods, unsure of what to say to that.

"Have you wondered why we were paired together?" He asks next.

She glances up at him again, this time suspiciously. "Of course, why?"

"I wouldn't have thought we have much in common." He tells her. "Besides our love of knowledge." He adds.

Hermione stares at him for a long moment then glances around their surroundings so he does the same. Whatever she's about to tell him, she obviously doesn't want anyone else to hear. However, not far behind them, is another couple holding hands as they walk towards the gate.

"We must have answered our questionnaires similarly." She glares at him pointedly.

There's more to that than she's saying. He'll ask her about it again later. As soon as they're out the gate, Draco holds his hand out for Hermione to hold but she just stares at it.

"It'll be easier if we disapparate together." He announces.

She reluctantly takes hold of his hand and he disapparates them to the manor. He watches Hermione's face for her first impressions. She looks terrified, which a look he's only ever seen once on her face and he suddenly remembers that this isn't the first time she's been to the manor. She'd been brought here with Potter and Weasel after they were caught by the snatchers. He'd completely forgotten. His Aunt had tortured Hermione in their dining room.

"We'll go through the back door. It's closer to the kitchens where Mitty will most likely be." He explains walking through the gate but she doesn't follow. She's still staring up at the manor.

He walks over to her, taking her hand in his again bringing her attention back to him. The fear disappears slightly, being masked by a look of confusion as she glances down at their hands then back up to his face.

"Hermione… I'm-" he doesn't know what to say to make her feel better. "I'm so sorry. For what happened last time you were here." He finally manages to say." We won't be here long." He adds he rubs his thump in what he hopes is a calming manner across the back fo her hand.

She snatches her hand out of his then uses it to cover her arm. He takes a step backwards through the gate again and this time, she follows him nervously. He guides her around the side of the manor, through the gardens, until they reach the back door. She pauses again for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and entering. He takes her to the kitchen where he was right about Mitty. She's helping Gharther with the preparations for lunch.

"Good morning, Mitty, Gharther." He greets them making them both jump, turning around.

The both bow deeply, then Gharther goes back to his duties whilst Mitty runs over to them.

"Good morning Master. Good morning Mistress." She greets them excitedly.

"Good morning Mitty. It's lovely to see you again." Hermione bends down to shake her hand again.

"Mitty happy Mistress comes here," Mitty tells her.

"Do you want to stay here whilst I collect my belongings? " He asks her.

"Yeah, Mitty and I will have a little chat." She answers taking a seat on one of the stools at the kitchen counters.

Draco exits the kitchens head straight for the stairs. He's hoping to avoid his Mother completely otherwise he'll probably be guilt tripped into staying for lunch, which he knows Hermione won't want to do. Thankfully, he makes his way up to his bedroom without bumping into anyone. He collects his bag then has a quick look through his wardrobe to ensure he's got everything he wants. He then goes into his bathroom to make sure he's got everything out of there. The whole trip to his bedroom takes five minutes. He takes a sneaky glance out of his bedroom door to see if there's anyone walking down the hall. There's no one there so he rushes down the stairs and nearly crashes into his Mother as she exits the library.

"Draco!" She gasps, hand over her heart. "I wasn't expecting you to visit so soon." She tells him.

"I'm just here to collect my belongings. I'll come visit you for lunch on Saturday but we need to get going." He tells her as he walks towards the kitchens.

"Is Hermione also here?" She asks with a smile.

"Yes, she's talking to Mitty in the kitchens. We really need to be leaving, though." Draco reminds her.

"Are you hiding her from me?" His Mother stops just in front of the kitchen doors.

"Do you remember what happened last time she was here?" He questions her but he doesn't need her answer. Her expression is enough. "Your sister tortured her in our dining room. Do you really think she's going to want to spend much time here after that?" He whispers rhetorically.

His Mother sighs. "Do ask her whether she'd like to join us for lunch on Saturday." She tells him before turning on her heel and walking off.

Draco enters the kitchen again to find Hermione and Mitty in the same place he left them. Both of them glance up at him, smiling, as he approaches.

"Did you get everything you need?" Hermione asks happily.

He doesn't know what they've been talking about but he thankful to Mitty for making Hermione feel happier.

"Yes, I bumped into my Mother. She's asked us over for lunch on Saturday." He tells her. "You don't have to come if you don't want to." He tells her as an afterthought.

"No, I'll come. It means I get to see Mitty again." She looks down fondly at the house-elf who blushes.

"We should get going." He announces.

"Goodbye, Master. Goodbye, Mistress." Mitty stands up to bow deeply again.

"Goodbye Mitty, I'll see you on Saturday." She shakes the house-elf's hand again.

They leave via the back door again, taking a slow stroll through the gardens.

"Theo and Lisa have invited us to a small party tomorrow night if you'd like to go?" He mentions. "A few of your friend have been invited too." He adds.

"Really? Who?" She asks.

"Just those who are now married to Theo's friends like Lovegood and your Weasel." He answers.

"My Weasel?" She chuckles. "You mean Ron?"

"Yeah, he's always been known as Weasel to the Slytherin's." He explains unapologetically.

He may be married to Hermine and he may have acted civilly to Potter during The Partner Ceremony but he still dislikes the Weasel, more so now he's married to Pansy.

"Well to the Gryffindor's you were known as the ferret." She continues to chuckle.

Memories of the fake Mad-Eye Moody turning him into a ferret flash to the forefront of his mind.

"Thank you for that." He sighs sarcastically. "I'm trying to suppress that memory." He adds making Hermione laugh again.

A small smile graces his face. It's surprisingly easy to make her laugh and he finds that he rather enjoys listening to her laugh. It's quite a calming noise.

"Shall we return home?" He asks. "Unless you need to go anywhere else before you visit your parents." He adds as they approach the gate.

Hermione's smile falters as she glances around them.

"I don't feel like returning to the estate yet. Can we just walk down the road for a bit?" She asks.

It doesn't escape him that she said 'the estate' rather than 'home'.

"Of course, I think the nearest town is a few miles down this road." He mentions as they set off walking.

They walk in silence, for the most part, just taking in their surroundings. He's never really taken the time to just look at the countryside that surrounds the manor which he regrets now that he is. He can just about see the town behind a wall of trees when he hears a car approach them. He instantly remembers the muggle he'd scared off a few days ago and turns to see if it's the same man. It is. The man parks his car up, gets out then walks over to them, standing a few feet away from them.

"Well if it isn't the poor little rich boy again." The man quips. "And who's this. Did you get yourself a girlfriend? You gave me the impression that girls weren't your area of expertise if you get my drift." He teases.

He watches as Hermine glances back and forth between him and the man. This muggle must have a death wish to rile him up like this again.

"I didn't think I'd ever see you again after last time," Draco smirks at the man stepping forward intimidatingly.

"What?" The man chuckles. "After you poked me in the neck with that stick."

"Draco, you didn't?" Hermione gasps from behind him. "You could get arrested for that." She tells him.

The man burst out laughing. "Draco? What kind of a freak name is that? Anyway, I looked it up. You committed battery. I could get the police involved." He smirks at him.

Draco looks back at Hermione to question her about what a police is.

"Muggle Aurors." She answers without him asking.

He nods and turns back to the man whipping his wand out again. This muggle just keeps getting in his way. He smirks when the man flinches.

"Draco, what are you doing?" Hermione grabs hold of his wrist holding the wand, trying to pull it away from the man.

"He keeps getting in my way." He shrugs. "I'm going to obliviate him." He says nonchalantly.

"Then get arrested and sentences to a year in Azkaban." She says, looking him straight in the eyes.

He starts to lower his wand when the man laughs again. "Yeah, listen to your bitch."

With a quick flick of his wand he wordlessly casts 'Aguamenti' soaking the muggle head to foot. The man starts screaming staring at his wand in pure terror. He stumbles backwards tripping over his feet, falling flat on his back.

"Really Draco, Aguamenti?" She asks raising an eyebrow.

"It was either that or stupefy. I thought you'd be more likely to forgive me if I didn't knock him unconscious." He admits.

Hermione simply shakes her head disappointedly but he sees the hint of a smile on her lips.

"I suppose you have to obliviate him now." She points out.

He nods once raising his wand up once more, pointing it at the man who was shuffling backwards on his bottom, away from them.

"Don't! Please don't!" He begs.

"Obliviate." He mutters.

The man flinches awaiting something a lot worse than what he's getting. Draco watches as the man's features relax as he forgets. He hides his wand in his cloak as the man opens his eyes, looking around his surroundings.

"Are you okay, sir?" Hermione rushes forward. "You just tripped over. I think you hit your head." She says panicky, kneeling down next to the man.

He brings his hands up to his head, checking for any pain. "It doesn't hurt." He mumbles obviously confused.

Draco smirks to himself. He enjoys using the obliviate charm just for the confusion his victims have once they've forgotten.

"Why am I wet?" The man asks glancing down at his clothes.

"I don't know. You were like that when we got to you." Hermione lies looking up at Draco who nods not daring himself to speak in case he laughs.

"Oh, well thanks for helping me but I think I need to go home." He stands up shakily.

"Do you feel well enough to drive?" Hermione asks with genuine concern.

"I'll be fine, thanks." He mutters glancing at their cloaks. "Bye." He turns around heading back to his care.

Once the cars out of sight Hermione elbows him in the ribs. "You're a horrible man, Draco." She says as they set off walking again.

"Are you just figuring that out now?" He raises a sarcastic eyebrow making Hermione roll her eyes. "He deserved it, though." He mutters and Hermione stares up at him with an unfamiliar look.

"Thank you." She says looking back down at her feet. "We should apparate back to the estate. I think we need to go shopping." She mentions reaching her hand out for him to take, which he does, then she disapparates them back to the estate.

 

Chapter Text

Back at their house, Draco heads upstairs to their room to hang his clothes on the right side of their wardrobe which is apparently his side now. He doesn't know where Hermione's gone so he takes as much time as possible to hang his clothes up. He's not used to spending all this time with one person. Besides Blaise but when he's with him they both keep to themselves with the odd conversation here and there.

After about an hour of putting his clothes away, casting a few ironing spells for the clothes that need them, he makes his way downstairs to place the few books he brought with him on their bookshelf. He finds Hermione lying on the couch reading one of the books they had been provided with.

"I think we're going to have to enlarge the bookshelf." She mentions as he starts stacking his books alphabetically.

"How many books are you planning on bringing?" He asks. The bookshelf seems big enough already. He's only brought thirty-five books with him. It had taken him hours it narrows it down to those thirty-five.

"Not many, about sixty or so. I'm only bringing the ones I haven't read yet and one or two I'd like to reread." She tells him.

He turns around to check if she's joking or not. Her eyes are still on her book so he assumes she's being serious. He taps the bookshelf with his wand muttering the enlargement spell, doubling the bookshelf's size. Similar to their bed and wardrobe, Draco takes the right side of the bookshelf since there's a dividing section down the middle of the shelves. Once he's done, he turns to face Hermione to find her already looking at him.

"When do you want to go shopping?" He asks her standing up off the floor.

"I suppose we can go now and get it over with." She announces getting off the couch leaving her book open on their coffee table.

Draco pulls his cloak back on then grabs his shoes, taking them to the back door to put on since Hermione doesn't want their carpets to get dirty. Hermione's already waiting there with her cloak and shoes on ready to leave. She locks the door behind them then they set off down their garden path towards the large green in the centre of the estate. There's a few people already walking around the shops or sat in the café or restaurants. He notices that most of the people are alone or with their friends rather than with their partner.

The first shop they enter is the market. Hermione hands the basket to Draco as she fills it with bread, milk, eggs, butter and some fruit and vegetables. She finds out that he has 'a completely healthy addiction to apples' as he puts a bag of five in the basket.

They walk around the rest of the shops not really needing to buy anything else. She finds it funny that the restaurant is called 'The Pentagon'. There's a local branch of Tomes and Scrolls that they have a look inside. It's very small with only a few hundred books. Hermione and Draco probably have more books together than this bookshop. After circling the shops, they head back their house to put their shopping away.

Hermione ends up doing it by herself as Draco disappears upstairs somewhere. When she's done and she's tidied up a bit, she goes back to the book she left on the coffee table. She doesn't know how long she lies on the couch reading but it must have been a while and she hasn't heard anything for Draco since they returned from shopping. She places her book back on the coffee table with a sigh then heads upstairs.

She looks in their room but there's no sign of him in there so she knocks on the bathroom door. Nobody answers. She turns to face the third door upstairs. She really hopes he isn't in there. She's not ready to see that particular room yet. Just as she's about to knock on the door, she hears a creak from above. She nervously looks up to find the hatch to the attic, which she hadn't noticed before, is open.

"Draco!" She calls. "Are you in the attic?"

Suddenly, his head pops into view making her jump. "Yeah, we have a Christmas tree up here." He tells her.

"How did you get up there?" She asks walking closer to the opening to peer further inside.

"I used the bannister as leverage." He admits moving away from the opening.

She watches as he dangles his legs through the hatch then jumps down, landing impressively softly in front of her. He then produces his wand and uses it to move the hatch back into place.

"Is there anything else up there?" She asks curiously.

"No, just a Christmas tree and a box of decorations." He shrugs then glances down at his watch. "It's half past four. I'm going to make a sandwich." He announces stepping around her, careful not to touch her. "Would you like one?" He adds walking down the stairs.

"Yeah, thanks." She follows him downstairs. "What do you plan on putting in this sandwich since all we have is butter?" She asks curiously as she watches him turn a hob.

"Do you like fried eggs?" He asks as he pulls the carton out of the fridge.

"Yes." She answers jumping up to sit on the countertop next to the sink. "I'm surprised you know how to cook." She admits.

He turns to face her with an eyebrow raised. "You think eggs is cooking?" He asks chuckling slightly. "I'll cook you a proper meal on Sunday." He tells her going back to frying eggs on the hob.

She stays sat on the counter just watching him make their egg sandwiches. Nothing else is said until he hands her a plate and she thanks him. Draco leans against the counter next to her so she doesn't move to the table.

"I was thinking we could leave a little early for my parents and I can introduce you to Bobby," Hermione says hopping down from the counter, once she's finished.

"Who's Bobby?" Draco asks rather sharply with a frown

"My next door neighbour's dog." She answers taking his plate to the sink to wash up. "We could take him for a walk." She says before adding, "If you want to."

She keeps forgetting who she's talking to. This is Draco Malfoy. She's talking to him as if they were actually friends as if they could tolerate each other. A few weeks ago they were arguing over a potions book and now they're expected to live together. She's actually surprised they haven't had an argument yet. They have been acting very civilly towards each other. Maybe they can make it through this marriage without cursing each other.

"That sound great." He answers.

"Good." She answers nodding awkwardly.

She dries her hands on the tea towel and remembers she's still wearing one of Draco's shirts as a dress. She couldn't hide this under a cloak in the park.

"You don't happen to have a jacket I could borrow or anything less conspicuous than a cloak?" She asks hopefully.

Draco seems to think about it for a few seconds before nodding. "Blaise bought me a leather jacket for Christmas." He tells her.

She follows him up to their room where he rummages around in his side of the wardrobe. It takes him a while but he finally pulls the jacket out and hands it over to her. She pulls it on and it's only slightly big. She can thank Draco for being so twig thin for that.

"Thanks." She tells him as she checks herself out in the mirror.

"It suits you." He tells her.

She wasn't expecting him to compliment her and from the way he's starting to blush, he didn't mean to compliment her either so she lets it drop. She goes back downstairs as Draco looks another jacket that he can wear. Once he's ready, in a casual blazer that Hermione can't help but think looks really good on him. She looks away from him before he notices the blush that she's sure is spreading across her face.

Draco locks the door behind them before they set off for the gate where they can safely disapparate to her house.

"You mentioned your family this morning." He brings up so Hermione nods. "The only family I have left is my Mother. It never occurred to me that you probably have grandparents, aunts and uncles." He mentions.

Hermione's heart grows heavy as she realises that Draco really doesn't have much family and he probably never has since his Aunt and Uncle were in Azkaban most of his life.

"Yeah, you'll get to see everyone soon enough. We're always having barbeques, especially in the summer. You'll be tired of seeing them before long." She jokes remembering that if he doesn't want to meet them if he doesn't want to. She can feel herself falling further into this act of husband and wife.

"I doubt it." He shakes his head.

"I think my Uncle David is hosting the next barbeque. He has a daughter called Sophie. She's nearly nine. I also have an Auntie Louise who has two children, Lauren who's five now and Craig who's four. My Auntie and Uncle are both my Mum's siblings as my Dad's an only child." She looks out of the corner of her eye to see if he's even listening to find him already looking at her.

"Your cousins are quite a lot younger than you." He points out.

"Yeah, my uncle never wanted children but he got this twenty-something-year-old pregnant. She ran off as soon as she'd given birth, leaving him with Sophie. He's a great Dad, though. Loves her more than anything else in this world." She smiles to herself.

"What about your Auntie?" He asks as they come to the gate.

He then reaches down, grabbing hold of her hand. Her breath hitches, confused by the sudden touch until she remembers they need to disapparate to her house. They reappear in the alley at the back of her house, hidden behind the fences of the back garden. She drops his hand, then sets of down the alleyway towards the road.

"My Auntie Louise is still very young. She's only twenty-one and still likes to live the life of a childless twenty-one-year-old so be careful when you meet her because she will flirt with you." She laughs as Draco's eyes widen. "Don't worry. She prefers older men." She adds.

"My Grandma Betty and Grandad Tom have been together since they were nineteen and they're both seventy-three now and claim to be just as in love as they were fifty-four years ago. They're my Mam's parents. My Dad's Mam, Emily, is eighty and always tries to give me money since I'm her only grandchild. My Grandad Ellis died when my Dad was thirteen, so I never met him." She explains as they come up to Mrs Johnson's house. "That's my house there." She points at the house next door. "And this is Mrs Johnson's house." She says knocking on the door.

Mrs Johnson peers through the crack in the door, the latch still on.

"Hello, Mrs Johnson, it's Hermione Granger from next door." She greets her politely.

"Oh, hello dear." She closes the door to take the chain off then reopens it.

"We've come to take Bobby for a walk." She explains.

"Who's we? I thought your parents were at work." She asks suspiciously.

"My friend and I." She answers.

"Okay dear. Let me go put Bobby on his leash." She closes the door again, locking it.

"Ever since she went blind a few years back, she's been very careful with security," Hermione explains to Draco who just nods.

Once they have Bobby, who barks very excitedly at Draco until he reaches down to stroke him behind his ears. Draco takes hold of the leash then follows her down the street towards the park.

"Is that your whole family?" He asks.

"I have a Godmother called Sharon who's been my Mam's best friend since primary school. She's got twin six-year-olds, Mark and Mia, who are going through a fighting phase. They're constantly arguing with each other." She shakes her head fondly. "Then that's all of them." She shrugs as they enter the park. "I use to play here all the time with my best friend when I was in primary school." She mentions as they walk past the play park.

"What's primary school?" Draco asks.

She turns to face him a little confusedly. "It's where children go when they're four until they're eleven before they go to secondary school then college which is what Hogwarts is." She explains.

She watches as Draco takes it in.

"I should warn you that when you meet my Grandad Tom and Uncle David, they will question what your future plans are so say something about going to University to study chemistry. It's the closest thing to potions we have in the muggle world." She tells him.

"Which university should I say?" He asks curiously.

"I've told them I'm going to University of Edinburgh so you should probably say the same." She answers.

"Okay, so I'm studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh." He repeats for confirmation to which she nods.

When they return, her parent's car is in the driveway. They quickly hand Bobby back to Mrs Johnson then head into her house. She's halfway down the hall when she realised Draco's no longer behind her. She turns around to find him awkwardly stood on her doorstep, glancing around her hallway, as if waiting to be invited in.

"You can come in, you know?" She tells him.

His eyes quickly flicker to hers questioningly so she gives a small, encouraging nod. He then clambers through the door closing it behind him as he continues to glance around her hallway.

"Come on!" She urged him when he doesn't move from the doormat. "They'll be in the kitchen." She explains.

She pushes the door open to reveal her Dad eating a sausage roll straight from the fridge and her Mum making two cups of tea.

"Hi, Mum. Have you been home long?" She asks giving her a quick hug before fetching two more cups from the cupboard.

"No, just five minutes." She places the kettle back on its stand then set the two cups of tea on the table. "You okay making your own, I'm shattered." Her Mum sits down, toeing her shoes off.

"Yeah, Draco, sit at the table." She orders him since he's just standing in the doorway staring at everyone.

"Do you need any help?" He asks stepping towards her.

"With making two cups of tea?" She places her hand on her hips. "No, I think I can manage." She turns to make the cups of tea.

"What are you wearing, Hermione?" Her Dad laughs taking his own seat at the table.

"I forgot to pack spare clothes." She turns around to find everyone sat at the table already. Draco is sitting next to her Dad so she takes the spare seat next to her Mum. "You been busy at work then?" She asks her parents trying to change the topic of conversation.

"You could say that?" Her Dad grumbles before taking a sip of tea.

"That stupid assistant, Lindsey, booked all our clients we missed yesterday in for today. We didn't get a minutes break until half three and even then it was a ten-minute sandwich break before being swept off our feet again." He Mum complains.

"Well, at least it's over with. It won't be as busy tomorrow." Hermione tries to be optimistic.

"Oh, and you won't guess who came in." Her Mum smiles knowingly.

"Who?" She takes the bait.

"Derek." Her Mum announces.

"As in Derek Merton." She asks for confirmation.

"Yeah, I haven't seen him since his eleventh birthday party. He's very handsome, isn't he?" She winks at her.

"I don't know, Last I saw him was three years ago." Hermione shrugs drinking her tea, trying to ignore Draco's stare.

"So Draco…" Her Mum starts until Draco starts choking on his cup of tea.

"Sorry… Sorry, Sarah." He apologises between coughs.

"Did you have a girlfriend before this stupid decree?" She curiously asks.

"Mum." Hermione groans. "It's none of your business. You can't just ask him that." She complains but curiously awaits Draco's answer. He does hang around Pansy a lot but they could just be really good friends, like her and Harry and Ron. There had also been a few rumours throughout the years of Draco dating various girls, mainly from Slytherin and Ravenclaw but there was the odd girl from Hufflepuff.

"No, it's fine Hermione." He says turning to face her Mum. "I didn't have a girlfriend. Although I have heard of many couples who broke up once they found out about the decree in fear of not being paired together. I'm thankful I didn't have to go through that."

"Well, a handsome man like you. I'm sure there were lines of girls wanting to be your girlfriend." She can tell her Mum is trying to comfort Draco.

"Not since the war." He mutters sipping his tea.

Her Mum glances towards her frowning.

"Why is that?" Her Dad asks suspiciously.

"My family was on the wrong side of the war." He admits looking between her parents, trying to determine their thoughts from their facial expression. "Everyone seems to be under the impression that I can't change or I'm unwilling to try." He adds.

"That's not true Draco," Hermione announces seriously, not wanting him to think she's under that impression. She sees the hurt expression flash across his expression before a stern, emotionless one replaces it. She realises how he's interpreted what she just said. This isn't a conversation she wants to have in front of her parents so she excuses them both.

"I'm going to go bring my boxes down. Draco, I would appreciate your help." She mentions.

He shrugs but follows her either way up the stairs to her bedroom, eyes trained on the floor until they enter her bedroom and he glances up. She watches as he takes the whole room in.

Draco stops at the doorframe of her bedroom glancing around. It's… not what he was expecting. He doesn't really know what he was expecting but it certainly wasn't what he's staring at right now. A pale pink room with bright yellow, orange and blue flowers scattered around the walls. Her quilt cover is just as flowery. The rest of her furniture is brilliant white. He looks down at her, quirking an eyebrow.

Hermione rolls her eyes then shrugs. "It's been like this since I was seven. My parents didn't see any point in redecorating since I rarely use it. I suppose they'll turn it into a gym or something now I've left." She chuckles.

He frowns. "Why would they turn it into a gym?" He asks.

"That's what happens in the movies. Once the child's moved out they turn their room into an office or a gym. My parents already have an office in the spare bedroom." She explains but he still doesn't understand. Maybe it's something that commonly happens in the muggle world that he's not aware of.

He looks around the room to find two boxes at the bottom of her bed atop her trunk. He heads over to pick one up. That is until Hermione places a hand on his wrist stopping him in his tracks. He glances down at her hand then up to her eyes questioningly.

"Have a seat, Draco. We need to talk." She tells him.

His heart skips a beat as his stomach drops. He doesn't know what they need to talk about but it can't be good. No one ever says 'we need to talk' when they have good news. He glances around for a place to sit.

"My bed's fine." She pulls him by the wrist to sit next to her on her flowery bed.

He perches on the edge waiting for Hermione to start talking.

"It's about what you said downstairs." She says sounding quite nervous herself.

Draco thinks back to what he said. He can't think of anything he said that was wrong. Maybe he accidently offended her parents. Maybe she didn't want her parents to know about his family's involvement in the war. That would make sense.

"I'm sorry if I said too much." He apologises looking down at her hand which is still holding on to his wrist.

"What?" She sounds confused. "I'm talking about what you said about you changing. What are you talking about?" She questions.

Draco snatches his hand away from hers, standing up from her bed. He really doesn't want to hear her thoughts on the matter. She made it pretty clear earlier that she doesn't believe him.

"I don't care Hermione. You can think what you want." He heads over to the door but she jumps up putting herself between him and the door. "Move." He almost growls. He won't hurt her. He promised Chris he wouldn't.

"No. You don't know what I think. I want you to sit down so I can tell you that you're wrong." She glares up at him.

He continues to glare down at her. "Why would I want to listen to you tell me how I can't change. You don't even know me. Not really." He shouts.

"Please don't shout. I don't want my parents to hear." She asks him.

He sighs. "Just move so I can leave." He asks quietly.

"No. You've got it wrong, Draco. I -" She starts.

"What did I do to make you change your mind? I've done nothing but be kind and polite to you since The Partner Ceremony." He asks trying to avoid looking at her.

"What do you mean?" She frowns at him. "I haven't changed my mind."

"Really?" He glares her straight in the eye. "I overheard you on the Hogwarts Express back to school after Christmas telling Potter and Weasel that you think I'm trying to change and now you don't think I'm not capable of such a thing." His voice starts to raise again.

Hermione seems to be taking it all in. "Wait, so you were eavesdropping on us?" She asks rhetorically.

He scoffs throwing his arms in the air. "Yeah, just turn this back on me. I knew your little friends would go back to their compartment to talk about me. I think I have a right to know what's being said."

"Not when it's a private conversation, Draco." She shouts at him.

"Why were you talking about me anyway? Does nothing better happen in your lives that 'your favourite Slytherin' is the best topic of conversation." He raises a questioning eyebrow, smirking.

Hermione shakes her head looking disappointed. "Maybe I was wrong." She shouts at him. "Maybe you haven't changed. Maybe you can't change."

He feels everything fall. His smirk, his shoulders, his heart, his stomach. He already knew she felt that way but hearing her actually say it hurt more than he cares to admit. He grabs hold of her shoulders, a little harder than is necessary, to move her out of the way of the door then walks out of it leaving her behind. He heads downstairs to find Chris and Sarah stood at the kitchen door. They had obviously been listening to them. He stares at them for a moment before walking out of the house and disapparating back to the estate.

He doesn't want to go back to his and Hermione's house yet so he just stands in front of the gate unsure of where to go. He glances around spotting a suspiciously colourful door with a brass E12 on it. It looks like someone took just threw different coloured paint at the door. Since it's the last house number on the last street, he assumes that it's Blaise's house, so he heads over and knocks on the door then waits for someone to answer. Nobody does. He knocks again, a little louder. Finally, the door opens to reveal Luna in a very floaty, pale dress.

"Draco, come in. We're sat in the garden drinking tea. Would you care for a cup?" She asks leading the way into the kitchen, although he could have found his own way since the layout is identical to his own house.

"I would, thank you, Luna." He answers, leaving her in the kitchen and heading outside to wear Blaise is lying on a blanket.

He gently kicks his foot to gain his attention.

"Draco!" He cheers jumping up and pulling him into a tight hug. "Did you bring Hermione?" He looks behind him.

"No, we… had an argument." He admits taking a seat at their garden table.

"It was bound to happen Draco. Couples who are deeply in love with each other have arguments every now and then. To be honest, I'm surprised you weren't at each other's necks at the reception party." Blaise chuckles. "So tell me, what did you do?" He asks.

Draco faces his friend. "I didn't do anything." He shouts at him. "She said that I couldn't change." He tells him.

"That's where you're wrong Draco. It's very rarely the wife's fault. You must have done something to make her say that." Blaise explains.

"I told her I'd eavesdropped on a conversation she had with Potter and the Weasel." He admits.

"Okay, now we're getting somewhere. First of all, you insulted one of her best friends. Who do you think she's going to stick up for, her best friend of eight years or her husband who she's been married to for a day and has hated for the past eight years?" He points out.

Draco shakes his head. "She didn't mention that?"

"Of course not, but I'm just letting you know that she's going to choose her friends over you so stop insulting them." He explains.

Luna exits the house carrying a cup of tea, placing it on the table. She then takes a seat next to Blaise.

"Next, you eavesdropped on her conversation. That's an invasion of her privacy. She has every right to get angry at you." He tells him.

Draco scowls at his friend. "The conversation was about me. Do I not have a right to know what they're saying about me?" He asks rhetorically.

"You wouldn't have known they were talking about you if you weren't eavesdropping on them."

Draco groans. He thought Blaise would take his side on this but apparently not.

"Now, I highly doubt she meant what she said. She was angry and wanted to hurt you so she said what she knew would hurt you the most. This isn't going to get any better until you apologise for eavesdropping on her then if all goes to plan she'll apologise for saying what she said and then you can go back to playing happy families." Blaise claps his hands to signify the end of the conversation.

"If you want to apologise properly, buy her some fish and chips and mushy peas for tea. It's her favourite." Luna adds.

Draco thinks for a moment. He knows he shouldn't have eavesdrop but he stands by his actions. He wanted to know what they were going to say about and he's glad he did. Hermione had shown faith in him and she wasn't saying it for his benefit since she didn't know he was listening. Maybe Blaise is right. Maybe she didn't mean it. He sighs deeply. He's going to have to apologise to her.

"Where do I buy fish and chips and mushy peas?" He turns to Luna.

"I'm not sure, you could always ask her parents." She tells him.

"Okay, thank you, Luna. I guess I'll be seeing you both at Theo's party tomorrow?" He asks standing up.

"Yeah, we'll be there and hopefully, you'll be there with Hermione." Blaise pats him on the shoulder as he heads back into their house.

Just as he's leaving the house, he spots Hermione walking through the gate looking rather angry, so he quickly jumps back into the house and waits for a minute. He opens the door slowly, peering around the corner. He can't see her anywhere so he quickly exits his friend's house, shutting the door behind him and quickly walks over to the gate where he disapparates back to his parent-in-laws back alley. He knocks on their front door and hopes they actually invite him in or at least listen to what he has to say.

Sarah opens the door. "Oh, Draco. What are you doing here?" She asks staring at him confusingly.

"I'm hoping I can talk to both you and Chris. May I come in?" He asks politely.

Sarah stares at him a little longer before nodding and letting him in. He stands awkwardly in their hallways waiting for her to lead the way. She takes him into the front room where Chris is sat in an armchair reading his newspaper.

"Ah, Draco, I didn't think we'll be seeing you anytime soon," Chris mentions.

Sarah takes her seat on the couch leaving Draco stood on their rug awkwardly holding his hands. They're both staring at him, waiting for him to say something.

"I'd firstly like to apologise for how I acted earlier. I knew there would come a point where Hermione and I would argue but I didn't expect to do so under your roof and loud enough for you to here." He tells them looking back and forth between them.

"I shouldn't get involved but you've both done wrong. You just need to apologise to each other and all will be fine." Chris explains

Draco nods. "That's why I'm here. One of her friends informed me that her favourite meal is fish and chips and mushy peas?" He asks for confirmation.

Sarah chuckles. "Yeah, when she was eight, she refused to eat anything else for a fortnight."

"I was wondering where I can acquire some fish and chips and mushy peas," Draco asks them glancing back and forth between them.

Chris sighs, standing up. "Come with me." He tells him.

Draco follows him to the front door where Chris pulls on his shoes and a jacket then exits his house. He follows behind his father-in-law for a few minutes before he speaks.

"Where are we going?" He asks curiously glancing around. It's starting to get dark.

"Our local chippie." He says which doesn't really clear much up.

"I'm not entirely sure what a 'chippie' is but would I be safe in assuming it has something to do with chips?" He asks.

"Do you always talk like that?" He asks looking him up and down.

"Like what?" Draco asks confused.

"All posh and proper?"

"My father taught me to speak formally to my elders. It shows respect." Draco explains.

"And calling me old is showing respect." Chris rolls his eyes.

"I'm not calling you old, I'm just saying you're older than me which is simply stating a fact." He counters as Chris points at a shop they're coming up to.

"Well, you don't have to speak like that to Sarah and I. We're family now." He says opening the door to the shop called 'Major's Fish and Chips'. "This is a fish and chip shop or a chippie. I'll order for you so you know how to next time you need to apologise to Hermione." Chris mentions stepping forward.

"Hey Howard, how's you doing?" Chris asks leaning against the counter.

Draco steps closer but doesn't feel comfortable leaning on the greasy counter.

"Ah, I'm doing fine. Did I tell ya Rebecca got herself pregnant?" The man, Howard, asks.

"No, how'd that happen. She's always grounded isn't she?" Chris says and they both laugh.

"I know. Some twenty-year-old she met on the bus. I'm gonna have to drop her off meself now." Howard says then looks directly at Draco as though he just noticed he's been standing there. "Who's this posh twat, Chris?" He asks, looking him up and down.

"Hermione's fella," Chris announces.

"How'd your girl get a fella? You shipped her off to Scotland, didn't ya?" Howards asks.

"Yeah, she met him at school."

"You never mentioned him before." Howard points out.

"Neither did Hermione. We went to pick her up from Kings Cross five days ago and she gets off the train with this guy." Chris says shoving his shoulder slightly at his mention.

"Ooh, the cheek of her. Pray to God that you have sons, lad. Daughters are a nightmare." Howard chuckles.

Draco tries to smile even though he's just unintentionally insulted him.

"Anyway, what can I do ya for?" He asks.

"Two fish and chips, large mushy peas and two baps mate," Chris orders for him.

"Is that all? You ain't ordering for your lasses then?" Howards asks grabbing two bread buns from a container.

"Nah, I'm ordering for him. Didn't even know what a chippie was?" Chris laughs.

"You posh twat." Howard joins in laughing at his expense as he places two battered fish and rather a lot of chips atop a newspaper then wraps it up. He places the wrapped up food in a bag with the bread buns, which Draco assumes are the baps and the large tub of mushy peas. "That'll be £5.40." He says looking at Draco who looks at Chris. He didn't have any muggle money.

"I don't have any of your money," Draco explains.

Chris stares at him confused for a moment for realising. "Oh right, yeah. Here Howard, keep the change."

Howard stares at the money for a moment before taking it. "Why ain't the posh twat buy his own?" He asks handing the bag over.

"He's foreign. From Canada or America or somewhere. He doesn't have any pounds." Chris explains heading towards the door. "See ya Friday Howard," Chris calls behind him as they leave.

"I'm not entirely sure what just happened. Will I have to talk to him like that next time I go in?" Draco asks.

"No, we went to school together. You just go in, ask for what you want, pay and then leave." Chris explains. "Here, you might as well teleport from here. Visit anytime." He hands over the bag then carries on walking leaving Draco behind.

Hermione stands in her room, staring at her open bedroom door. She flinches when the front door slams shut. This isn't her fault. Although, if it isn't her fault then why does she feel guilty. She sits back down on her bed, head in her hands. Being married to Draco is going to be a lot harder than first thought. They hadn't even made it twenty-four hours. She hears a small rap at her door and looks up to find her Mum stood there staring awkwardly at her.

"I suppose you heard all that then." She sighs shuffling over so her Mum can sit next to her.

"Yeah." Her Mum smiles softly stroking her hair.

"Sorry." Hermione mutters.

"I know you're not going to want to hear this but have you ever thought about how Draco feels?" She asks.

Hermione glares at her confused. Why would she care how he feels right now?

"His father's in prison and from what Narcissa was saying last night, she still has her beliefs. He doesn't have many friends since your war ended and those he does have, have been his friends for so long that they don't realise or notice that he's trying to change. It was wrong for him to eavesdrop on your conversation but he must have had reason to believe you were all going to talk about him and he's insecure enough that he just wanted to know what you were going to say. Then he hears you, a girl he's hate for years, defending him and believing in him. That obviously had a positive effect on him. Then you, the only person to have faith in him, has told him that maybe he can't change. I know you didn't mean it but he doesn't know that. He doesn't know you so you need to go and apologise to him even if it is partly his fault. If he's a half decent person he'll apologise to you for what he did." Her Mum tells her.

"When did you become a psychologist?" Hermione huffs, knowing she's right.

Her Mum laughs, standing up. "Come on, you can finish your cuppa before you go." She says pulling Hermione by the hand, down the stairs.

Hermione finishes her cup of tea quickly, wanting to get her apology over and done. She just hopes that Draco went back to their house and not the Manor or one of his friend's house. She gives her parents a quick hug before running out the back door towards the alleyway where she disapparates back to the Estate's gate.

She quickly walks down Alpha, Beta and Gamma until she reaches their house. She tries the door handle but it's looked. She reaches into the pocket of her borrowed leather jacket for the keys before remembering that Draco locked the door when they left. She sighs deeply staring up at their house. Maybe he's in the house but just locked it behind him? She knocks on the door multiple times before giving up and sitting on their doorstep.

It's starting to get dark. She checks her watch. Quarter past seven. Where could he be at quarter past seven? Maybe at a friend's house. The only one of his friends she would even consider visiting is Blaise but she doesn't know where his house. She would go visit one of her friends but she doesn't know where any of them live. Well, she could probably hazard a guess at where Neville lives since he was on their bus but she doesn't want to intrude on his and Hannah's evening. It's about dinner time so she decides that it's best to just wait on her doorstep. If he doesn't show up by eight o'clock then she'll head back to her parents' house for the night.

After about half an hour, Draco finally shows up carrying a carrier bag. He stops right in front of her and just stares at her for a moment. She doesn't give him the satisfaction of standing up, instead waiting for him to sit down on their doorstep next to her. He doesn't say anything as he sits down. In fact, neither of them say anything for about five minutes. Then Draco breaks the silence.

"Why are we sat on the doorstep?" He asks turning to face her.

She doesn't look at him when she answers, "You have the keys."

"Oh," Draco rummages around in his pocket before producing them. "Sorry." He mutters placing them back in his pocket.

He obviously has no intention of unlocking their front door then. Hermione decides that now is a good a time as any to apologise.

"Draco," She says to gain his attention. She sees him turn to face her out the corner of her eye so she turns to face him too. "I'm sorry for what I said. What you did was wrong but it didn't give me the right to say what I said. I know you've changed and you're still trying to change. One day everyone will see what I see." She looks him straight in the eye so he knows she's being sincere.

"What is it that you see?" He asks with a small smirk. Evidence that he's forgiven her.

"I see you, Draco." She smiles softly.

He scoffs rolling his eyes. "What kind of an answer is that? Everyone sees me as Draco."

"No, most people see you as your father or your father's puppet but that's in the past now. They'll soon see you as a unique individual not a copy of your father." She explains.

Draco turns away from her staring straight ahead of him. She leaves him to his thoughts.

"I'm sorry for eavesdropping on your conversation but I'm glad I did it." He says, still staring ahead.

"Okay, it's not the best apology I've ever heard but-"She starts.

"Wait, I'm glad I did because I got to hear what you really thought about me and it helped me for the rest of the year. There were so many times where I could have fallen into old habits and messed around with Potter and Weasel but the thought of my actions changing your thought of me stopped me." He admits.

Her heart fills with joy at the impact she had on his life. "Draco,-" She starts but doesn't know what she's going to say.

"It also helped that your friends still tried to get me to retaliate and the more I didn't the more they tried. It was rather fun to imagine them telling you their conspiracy theories of me and having you defend me." He chuckles before coughing and clearing his throat.

"You have a nice laugh." She comments then chuckles when Draco clears his throat again awkwardly.

'Who would have thought that their first fight wouldn't end up in curse flying back and forth?' She thinks with a laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" He scowls at her.

"This was our first fight." She smiles at him.

"Most likely our first of many." He adds giving the smallest of smiles. "I've brought you some apology dinner." He adds holding the white carrier bag she had forgotten about up.

"Apology dinner?" She questions.

"Luna suggested it." He explains.

"You visited Luna?" She asks confused.

"Well I went to visit Blaise but Luna was just as helpful." He adds.

"Oh, okay. So what did you get me?" She asks sitting up a little straighter. She hadn't realised how hungry she was.

"Fish and chips and mushy peas." He hands the bag over to her.

"Really?" She grabs the bag excitedly. "Where'd you get them from?" She asks.

"Well, I didn't know where to go so I asked your father for help. He took me to Major's Fish and Chips." Draco explains.

"Ah, so you met Howard," Hermione says putting a chip in her mouth.

"Yeah, he called me a posh twat." He mentions making her choke on her chip. "And told me to pray for sons because daughters are a nightmare." He shrugs.

"What has Becky done now?" She asks popping more chips in her mouth.

"A twenty-year-old she met on a bus got her pregnant." He explains.

Hermione stares at him for a moment to see if he's serious.

"Wow, didn't expect that." She says actually taking the bag of fish and chips out of the bag and resting them on her lap. She then pours the mushy peas on top of them. "Help yourself." She tells him.

"I'm fine, thank you." He says with a disgusted facial expression. "It doesn't look that appealing." He admits making Hermione pause with a chip halfway to her mouth.

"It's not about what it looks like. It's about what it tastes like and Howard's are the best fish and chips I've ever had." She takes out one of the bread buns, placing half a fish in it, some chips and some mushy peas. "Here." She hands it to Draco. "Just try some."

"Fine." He takes hold of the bread bun. He sniffs it suspiciously before taking a small bite and chewing carefully. "I suppose it's alright." He admits.

"Alright?" Hermione gasps offended. "You just don't want to admit that you're wrong." She says making her own fish, chip and mushy peas butty.

"I'm never wrong," Draco announces.

"Yeah, okay." Hermione scoffs taking a bite from her own bread bun.

Draco laughs softly again. They sit in silence whilst they eat their dinner. Draco finishes his bread buns and steals a few of Hermione's chips. When they're finished, Hermione puts all the wrappers in the carrier bag. They're sat in a comfortable silence that she doesn't want to break. By now it's nearly nine o'clock and its pitch black.

Hermione looks up at the sky. It's nothing compared to the sky above Hogwarts but it's still very beautiful.

"Do you see Ursa Major there?" Draco suddenly asks pointing up at the stars.

She nods. Her Dad pointed the big dipper out to her when she was five.

"Well starting at the end there's Alkaid, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, down to Phecda, Merak and Dubhe. Those are the main stars that make up the Ursa Major constellation. If you look directly up from Dubhe, you'll see Gianfar then in a backwards 'S' shape you have, Shaowei, Thuban, Edasich, Theta, Aldibain, Alsafi, Batentaban Australis, Batentaban Borealis, Arrakis, Tyl, Altais then into a trapezium shape with Grumium, Kuma, Rastaban and Etamin. They are the main stars that make up the Draconis Constellation." He explains pointing at each star as he names them. Hermione follows his finger almost hypnotised by his gentle voice as he explains each name.

"Draconis as in Draco?" She asks sleepily, leaning her head against Draco's shoulder. He flinches but doesn't push her away so she doesn't move.

"Yes, my Mother loves star and constellation names. She had a few picked out for when I was born. She really wanted another child after me but it was hard enough for her to fall pregnant with me. After five years, they gave up. It's highly unlikely that a pureblood will have more than one child." He mutters.

"It's a good thing I'm a Muggleborn then, isn't it?" Hermione chuckles.

"How many children would you like?" Draco asks, sounding nervous.

"Hmm, I think three is a nice number." She answers.

Neither of them says anything else. Hermione continues to stare up at the stars. Particularly Draconis. She thinks she might agree with Narcissa. Star names are beautiful. She feels her eyes drooping shut and tries to keep them open but ultimately fails.

Chapter Text

Draco's still staring at his constellation when he hears soft snores coming from his side. He glances down at Hermione, whose head is still resting on his shoulder, to find her eyes shut and her mouth slightly agape as she sleeps. He isn't sure what he's supposed to do in this situation. Blaise fell asleep on his shoulder once on the way back to Hogwarts a few years back. A simple elbow to the ribs had soon sorted that out and ensured he's never done it again. He doubts Hermione will appreciate an elbow to her ribs.

Suddenly she shivers and he remembers that all she's wearing is his shirt so he wraps her cloak around her. With a sigh, he realises that his best option is going to be carrying her inside their house. He reaches back into his pocket for the house keys, then from his position on the floor, he reaches up and unlocks the door, shoving the keys back in his pocket. He wraps his left arm around Hermione's back to stop her falling backwards into the house when he opens the door. He throws the carrier bag in first then uses his right arm to scoop her into a bridal carry. She unconsciously wraps her arms around his neck which makes him smile slightly to know that she's feels comfortable in his arms, even if it is only when she's asleep.

With a struggle, he stands up, holding onto her tightly. He really doesn't want to drop her. He enters their house, careful not to bump her head off the doorframe or the walls. He pushes the door shut with his back, toes off his shoes since he doesn't want Hermione to shout at him in the morning if he's dragged dirt or mud up the stairs, then he proceeds to carry her upstairs, one step at a time.

Since her head is resting against his left shoulder, he can only put her on the left side of their bed which he had claimed and his own. He didn't want to wake her though after he's gone through the trouble of carrying her all the way up to their bedroom. He places his knee on the side of the bed and gently sets her down in the middle of the bed, then he carefully rolls her over so she's closer to her side than his.

He gives a sigh of relief when she doesn't wake. Covering her with their quilt, he leaves the bedroom to fetch a glass of water from the kitchen. The fish and chips had left his mouth feeling greasy. He decides that he won't be eating them very often. He remembers to pick up the carrier bag with the rubbish in it in the bin then wash up his glass. Without thinking, he washes it up without using a charm but by hand. He's not really paying attention, instead staring out the kitchen window over their back garden. Well, that's what he tells himself rather than admitting Hermione is having an effect on him.

Once he's finished in the kitchen, he heads back upstairs to brush his teeth and get changed into a pair of pyjama trousers he unpacked earlier in the day. He glances over to Hermione, who's still facing her side of the bed, so he strips out of his clothes in the bedroom, quickly pulling his pyjama trousers on in case she wakes. When he's dressed he carefully peels the quilt back and climbs under trying not to wake her up. Thankfully, he's successful and within minutes, he's asleep.

Hermione is awoken early the next morning by the sun shining through the bedroom window. She turns her back on the window, swiftly drifting back off to sleep. She awoken a second time, mid-morning by shuffling in the bed next to her. She can see from behind her eyelids that it's bright in their bedroom. Too bright. She ponders for a moment why she didn't close the curtains last night before she got into bed but she can't even remember getting into bed. Last thing she remembers from last night was sitting on the doorstep with Draco, eating fish and chips and looking at the stars. She must have fallen asleep outside. Did Draco carry her to bed? He must have.

She squints her right eye open to check if Draco's awake only to find his a few inches away from hers. She freezes, eyes wide, not wanting to make any sudden movements that might wake him. Unfortunately, the lack of her movement must have woken him up as he opens his eyes with a yawn, only to gasp at how close she is. He jerks away from her but he's a lot closer to the edge of the bed then either of them realises since he falls straight off the bed. Instinctively, Hermione tries to grab his arm but it's too late. She hears him land on the floor.

Shuffling over to the edge of the bed, she peers over to see Draco lying on his back. She tries not to smile but she can't help it.

Draco glares up at her. "Stop smiling *hic*." He says then groans.

Hermione burst out laughing burying her head in the matrass trying to quieten her giggles.

"Shut *hic* up." He attempts to growl, sending Hermione further into hysterics.

She hears him stand up and leave the room, slamming the door behind him with a hiccough. After a few minutes, she calms down and manages to drag herself out of bed. She pulls on her wedding cloak since she'd forgotten to collect her boxes in all the arguing yesterday. She'll have to go over to her parents' house again today to collect them. She isn't bothered about waiting for her parents to come home again so she decides to go after breakfast.

She heads down stairs to find Draco in the kitchen, stood in front of the cooker, frying eggs whilst eating an apple. Upon hearing her approaching, he glances over his shoulder to glare at her before going back to the eggs in the pan.

She finds herself smiling again. "I'm sorry Draco but it was pretty funny." She jumps up onto the counter.

"Apology not accepted." He mumbles.

She chuckles. "Aw, come on Draco. How about if I take you out for lunch?" She offers, smiling.

Draco turns around looking confused. "What?" He asks.

Hermione starts to panic. Of course, he doesn't want to go out to lunch. He doesn't want to spend time with her outside their house and visiting their families. It's stupid of her to even think he would. Neither of them wanted to be in this situation, why should they try to make it more enjoyable.

"Doesn't matter?" She mumbles looking awkwardly down at her knees. She has goose bumps running up her legs and arms so she wraps her cloak around her.

She hears Draco sigh and then he switches the stove off. Without warning, he's stood directly in front of her, making her jump slightly when he places a hand on her arm to gain her attention.

She glances up. "Has anyone ever told you that you're too quite?" She asks him.

"Yes, my mother. What did you have in mind for lunch?" He asks removing his hand from her arm.

Hermione shrugs glancing back down. "My Grandma Betty's friend owns a café." She mentions. "I thought it would be a quiet place to talk about things." She hints at as an excuse but it doesn't look like he gets it. "Things that certain people might not want us to talk about." She hints again nodding at him.

He nods in return before shaking his head. She rolls her eyes taking hold of his shoulders and pulling him closer, until his chest his pressed against her knees, before whispering in his ear.

"You asked earlier about why we were paired together." She reminds him.

He turns his head to look her in the eyes. He's close to her again. Close enough to kiss if she wants. She leans away from him at that thought, unsure of where it came from. He smirks at her turning back to the fried eggs still in the frying pan. They'll probably be cold now but he doesn't seem bothered.

Draco places them both in a sandwich, cuts it in half and offers her half which she gladly takes, not bothered by how cold it is either.

"We're going to have to go back to my parents' house. With everything that happened last night, I forgot to get my boxes." She mentions before remembering that he doesn't have to come with her. "Or I can just go by myself if you've got something to do."

"I don't mind coming." He tells her. "And I doubt you'll be able to carry all three of those boxes by yourself." He points out with a soft smirk which she thinks might be the closest thing she's ever going to get to a smile.

"Thank you, Draco." She smiles back at him.

Once she's finished, she leaves Draco to charm the dishes clean and heads back upstairs to get changed back into the shirt Draco lent her yesterday along with his leather jacket. She brushes her teeth then reads the Daily Prophet as she waits for Draco to get changed himself. It's still mostly about The Partner Ceremony. Hermione tries her best to avoid any article about herself and Draco but it's difficult since they're listed as the most surprising couple and the best dressed couple, apparently due to their accidental colour matching outfits.

When Draco's ready, they leave their house. Hermione locks the door, this time, placing the keys in her handbag.

"We're going to have to get a second key cut?" She points out but Draco rolls his eyes. "What?" She asks.

"Or…" He pauses to take his wand out. "We could duplicate it." He suggests.

"Of course." She laughs at how easily she forgets about magic now she longer needs it to survive or to pass any exams. "You're a genius, Draco." She laughs as she takes the key out of her handbag.

"I never thought I'd ever hear you call him a genius." A voice comes from behind.

They both quickly spin around to find Ginny stood on, what Hermione assumes is their doorstep, whilst Harry exits the house.

"Ginny!" She cries pulling her best friend into a tight hug. "Is this your house?" She asks looking up at the house they're stood in front of.

"Yeah, this is our home sweet home." Ginny waves her arm over their house.

"Here Gin, you look after the key." Harry passes her the key before looking at Hermione. "What are you wearing?" He asks looking her up and down.

Hermione blushes furiously. "I haven't had chance to get my clothes yet from my parents' house and I wasn't exactly going to wear my wedding dress again or my pyjamas." She laughs forcefully. "We're off to their house now to get all my things. Where are you off to?" She asks trying to change the subject.

"We're off to Diagon Alley for ice-cream." Ginny answers.

"We'll walk to the gate with you," Harry suggests.

"Okay." Hermione nods placing the key back into her bag as they set off.

She notices that Draco is slumped quite close to her as though he's trying to hide behind her. Harry seems to notice as well since he leans forward to look at Hermione at Draco.

"What you got your wand out for, Malfoy?" Harry spits and Hermione rolls her eyes.

She had hoped they would be a lot more civil now she's married to him. She watches as Draco stands up taller as he glares down his nose at Harry.

"Hermione and I were in the middle of something." He smirks suggestively.

Harry stares open mouth between Hermione and Draco. "W-what where you doing?" He narrows his eyes suspiciously.

"Don't listen to him Harry. He's trying to wind you up." She chuckles awkwardly elbowing Draco in the arm who looks down at her with a smirk hinting in his eyes.

She smiles back at him as they get closer to the gate before turning back to Harry and Ginny.

"I'm not sure we're going to have time to visit you today but we can pop over on Saturday or Sunday?" She offers to which they both look at each other, then nods. "Great, see you then." She says.

Without really thinking, she grabs hold of Draco's hands as they reach the gate. Once they've exited the estate, Hermione disapparates them to the back alley behind her parents' house.

"I think they're concerned," Draco says as she opens the gate leading into the garden.

"Don't worry." She rolls her eyes. "When I see them tomorrow or Sunday, I'll make sure that they know you aren't going to kill me in my sleep." She laughs as they reach the backdoor.

Hermione rummages around in her bag for the keys to the house.

"I don't think that's what they're concerned about." He mumbles.

"What?" She asks confused but Draco shakes his head.

"Let's get these boxes back home then you can take me out for brunch." He smirks playfully heading for the stairs.

She follows him up to her bedroom where he's already holding two boxes.

"Can you manage the last one?" He asks nodding towards the only box left on her floor.

She glances through her eyelashes at him before easily picking up the box and following him back down the stairs and out the back door. They disapparate separately back to the gate. There's a few people leaving the estate when they arrive and they all stare at them as they make their way through the gate and towards their house. Hermione balances her box on her knee as she finds the key and opens the door. She kicks her shoes off and reminds Draco to do the same before heading up the stairs and placing her box on the floor next to the wardrobe.

"I'll empty these later." She mentions as Draco places his two boxes atop of hers. "Come on, I'm hungry." She announces, walking back down the stairs with Draco following her.

She's about to pull her boots on when she notices her ring. She can't let Mrs Morris see her wedding ring. "One second." She calls as she runs back upstairs to her boxes trying to find her jewellery box.

She finds it at the bottom of the box with all her dresses and shoes in. She rummages around trying to find as many rings as she can. She finds five, one of which was he Great Grandma Sarah's ring which she got in the will when she died ten years ago. She places three on her right hand and two on her left hand along with her wedding ring. Two of them she bought when she was nine and only just squeeze over her first knuckle but she leaves them on.

Draco's stood at the door waiting her when she runs back down the stairs. She wiggles her fingers in front of his face as an explanation to which he nods. They step outside and Hermione locks the door again but Draco's takes the key off her before she can put it away and mumbles, "Gemino." She watches as the key splits itself in two. He hands the original back to her and places the copy in his jacket pocket as they walk towards the gate.

"So where's this café you're taking me to?" Draco asks as hey near the gate.

"It's not far from The Leaky Cauldron actually. Just around the corner and down a side street." She explains grabbing hold of his hand once more as they're about to exit the gate.

Hermione's just about to disapparate when there's a flash in front of them. Instinctively, Hermione wordlessly and wandlessly casts 'Protego' over them both before their attacker can hit them but nothing hits them. Instead, Hermione finds a small man stood in front of them holding a camera. He reminds her of Colin Creevey. He keeps staring at them with a massive smile on his face.

"Did you just take a picture of us?" Draco asks as Hermione waves her arm to let the shield charm fall.

"Yes." The man admits still stood staring at them.

Hermione's not entirely sure if he's even blinked at them yet. She looks up at Draco who's glaring at the man.

"Why?" She asks.

"I work for The Daily Prophet." He answers then blinks.

"Okay." She says slowly. "So… you thought you'd come to the estate and take pictures of everyone in the privacy of their own home." She asks.

"No, you're not allowed through the gate unless you live there or have special permission from The Minister or one of the residence." The man explains.

"Right, well we'd appreciate it if you didn't publish the picture you just took of us," Hermione asks.

"Why?" He asks.

Hermione scoffs. "Because it's an invasion of our privacy." She raises her voice.

"No, it isn't. You're on public land and I'm a member of the public who just happens to be taking pictures of nature when you two walked in front of my camera." He shrugs.

"You just told us that you worked for The Daily Prophet," Draco mentions.

"Yeah, The Daily Prophet's nature column." The man shrugs.

"Why don't I believe you?" Hermione asks the man who just shrugs again before disapparating away. "Great." Hermione throws her arms in the air in annoyance. "We'll be in the paper tomorrow again." She complains grabbing Draco's hand again and disapparating them away to Diagon Alley.

"Why are we in Diagon Alley?" Draco asks as the apparate into one of the side alleys.

"There's nowhere in the Muggle world for us to appear near the café so I brought us here," Hermione explains.

Draco nods dropping Hermione's hand. He's still think about that photographer. All he'd gotten was a picture of them holding hands as they exited the estate. It isn't anything too incriminating but all their friends will see it, his mother will see it and every other person in the wizarding world will see it. He tries his best to forget about it as Hermione pulls him by his wrist out of the alley and towards The Leaky Cauldron where they walk through and exit into the Muggle world.

Draco hasn't spent much time in the Muggle world so he's rather surprised to find the streets very busy. People are walking in every direction, pushing and shoving past each other. There's cars and buses on the road driving in and out of London with bikes swerving in and out of the traffic.

"Come on. It's this way." Hermione mentions pulling him in the direction most people were going in.

At one point he loses Hermione in the crowd but then finds her just in front of a tall person. He jogs to catch up to her then grabs hold of her hand, holding on tight. She looks up at him looking both shocked and confused.

"I don't want to get lost. I don't have a clue where we're going." He tells her to which she nods and hold on just as tightly to his hand.

Suddenly, Hermione pulls him towards the edge of the steadily moving crowd and without warning drags him down a side street. There's a few shops either side of the side street but the one that stands out the most is a bright yellow shop with outdoor seating. As they get closer, he notices the sign painted in mauve says, 'Mrs Morris' Café'. It looks very grandmotherly. Or what Draco thinks is Grandmotherly since he never met either of his Grandmothers.

Hermione pushes the door open making a bell above the door jingle and announce their arrival. An old lady comes fluttering out of a swinging door. She's wearing a flowery dress and a yellow apron with flour smudge on it.

"Hello, welcome to Mrs Morris' Café. I'm... Hermione!" The old lady exclaims placing bother her hands on Hermione's cheeks. "It's so lovely to see you again." The old lady removes her hand.

Draco notices a smudge of flower on Hermione's right cheek and chuckles slightly. The old lady then looks at him. He stands up straighter wanting to make a good impression. He watches as she looks him up and down confused until her eyes land on his left hand and she smiles understandingly. He glances down at his left hand to find it still grasping Hermione's. As abruptly drops it as though it had just burnt him.

"You must be this boyfriend of hers." The old lady smiles at him and Draco nods unsure.

"Oh, no, Mrs Mo-" Hermione's starts to say before the lady who Draco now assumes is Mrs Morris, interrupts.

"Ronald, is it?" She asks.

Draco stops nodding as his face falls into a glare. Ronald. He thought Hermione hadn't been dating Ronald. She told Blaise that they had never been a proper couple. He looks down at Hermione to find her blushing. He folds his arms across his chest in annoyance.

"No, Mrs Morris. This is Draco." She introduces them.

He tries to smile at Mrs Morris for her sake but he just doesn't care enough to make it look like it's not forced.

"Oh, what happened to Ronald? He had such a good name." Mrs Morris asks.

"Yes Hermione, what happened to Ronald?" He spits the name as though it were poison on his tongue. She flashes a glare at him.

"There never was a Ronald. I didn't want my friend to know about Draco because she doesn't like him so I made the name up." She lies effortlessly.

"Why doesn't she like this boy? Is he a bad boy?" She asks elbowing Hermione suggestively in the arm.

"It's just a childish," He sees her glance at him quickly. "School house rivalry. Nothing serious." She fake laughs.

"Hmmm." Mrs Morris hums looking at him out the corner of her eye. "Take a seat dears, I'll be over in a moment."

Hermione leaves him stood at the door and heads over to a table near the window. He reluctantly follows behind, knowing this is going to be an awkward lunch. He remembers what Blaise told him yesterday. 'It's very rarely the wife's fault.'

Once he sits down, Hermione leans over the table and beacons him forward. He narrows his eyes at her but in the end leans closer.

"I'm sorry about that." She whispers and now he's confused.

"About what?" He questions.

"I brought Ginny here on Monday. Mrs Morris tried to set me up with her Grandson that I went to primary school with. I couldn't agree when I was getting married two days later so I told her I was in a serious relationship. Of course she asked for his name, Ron is the closest thing I've had to a boyfriend recently so I use his name. Anyway there was a chance I would be paired with him since we had kind of been-" She rambles on until Draco places a comforting hand on top of hers.

"I was being childish." He admits to which Hermione nods with a smile. "You don't need to apologise." He tells her.

Hermione tilts her head to the side curiously which makes him a little nervous.

"Are you jealous, Draco?" She questions him.

His eyes widen. Is he jealous? "No." He scoffs. "What do I have to be jealous of?" He asks running a hand through his hair. "Ginger hair and a bad complexion."

Hermione's blushing again. "Well, I know we're not a real married couple or even a real couple," She motions between the two of them. "But, I guess I'd be jealous if someone thought… I don't know, Pansy, was your girlfriend."

Draco huffs a laugh. "Pansy. Why are you jealous of her?"

"I'm not. I'm just saying that due to the Decree, we are married and I guess I don't like the thought of you being with someone else." She blushes. "Especially since we're going to… you know… have a child together. What would we tell them? Mummy and Daddy are married but Daddy also has a girlfriend who's married to Uncle Ron." She chuckles.

"Our children are not calling him 'Uncle Ron.'" Draco snarls.

"Why not? We're both only children. They're not going to have any blood Auntie's or Uncle's." Hermione counters. "They can call Blaise, Uncle Blaise." She suggests.

"Fine." He rolls his eyes. "But I don't want to be called 'Daddy' either." He mentions.

"You're not making them call you 'Father'." She warns him.

"No, I'd prefer Dad." He admits.

Someone clears their throat from next to them. They both look up to find a man about their age stood in an apron holding a notebook and pen.

"Hi, Hermione." He smiles down at Hermione.

Draco turns to look at her only to find her staring up at him in awe.

"My God Derek." She gasps standing up. "You've grown like a foot." She says pulling this Derek into a tight hug.

Draco leans back into his chair, a strange twinge in his stomach. Is this what it feels like to be jealous?

"Only seven inches actually but it has been three years." He laughs hugging Hermione just as tight. He flashes Draco a quick, disgusted look before smiling again when they pull apart.

"And who's this?" Derek asks looking down his nose at him.

He stands up to his full height which only comes up Derek's shoulders but Draco knows how to look intimidating. His father taught him well. He tilts his head back slightly and glares up at the other man.

"I'm Draco Malfoy, Hermione's boyfriend." He announces . The look of defeat on the other man's face gives him a sense of accomplishment. He flashes him a smirk for good measures as he holds out his hand.

"Pleasure." Derek takes his hand and shakes it once. "I'm Derek Merton, Hermione's Best Friend." He tries to smirk back but it's not very effective.

"Oh really." Draco raises a questioning eyebrow. "She's never mentioned you before."

"We went to primary school together," Derek explains.

"Well, we went to…" He can't remember what Hermione called the school after primary school.

"We went to secondary school and college together, Derek. We got together in year ten and have been together ever since." She looks up Draco, smiling happily. "It was our fourth anniversary two days ago actually."

"How… nice." Derek forces a smile. "Can I take your order?" He asks.

"Yeah, we'll have a pot of tea and an assortment of sandwiches and cakes. Thanks, Derek." Hermione gives him a polite smile before he walks away.

"Are you jealous, Draco?" Hermione asks for the second time in the space of ten minutes.

"What? No. Of course not." He answers, turning to look out the window.

"Sure, okay." She chuckles.

Derek comes back over a few minutes later with their pot of tea and two tea cups.

"I'll be back over shortly with your food." He smiles at Hermione before leaving their table.

Draco watches him leave. He really doesn't like him. Hermione pours out their tea, adds milk and a sugar to her own cup. He adds his own milk before leaning towards her, resting his elbows on the table.

"So, you brought me here for a reason." He narrows his eyes as he glances around the café to ensure no one is listening.

Hermione stares at him seemingly confused for a moment before a look of understanding appears on her face and she leans forward on the elbows as well.

"Yes, I did. You asked if I wondered about why we were paired together." She whispers.

Draco nods urging her on but another clearing of the throat interrupts them. Derek is stood holding a tier of small sandwiches and cakes. Draco sighs in the annoyance of being interrupted again. Derek places them in the middle of the table, blocking his view of Hermione.

"Thank you, Derek," Hermione tells him before he walks off looking annoyed.

He watches as Hermione shuffles her chair around to the adjacent side of the table then pushes the tier of food over to where she had previously been sitting. She takes a tuna sandwich off the tier, placing it on her plate then nods for Draco to do the same. He chooses a ham sandwich and places it on his plate.

"Well," She leans a little closer until their heads are almost touching. "When we first received the letters, Harry sent Kingsley an owl to see if he could us out of it. He owes us all a favour." She shrugs before taking a small bite from her tuna sandwich.

Draco follows suit, taking a bite from his own sandwich.

"Kingsley owled back basically telling Harry that everyone will be paired with someone they are compatible with according to their questionnaire answers." She mentions.

Draco rolls his eyes. "I'm sure we're very compatible because we both want three children." He huffs sarcastically but Hermione's eyes widen rather dramatically. "What?" He asks.

"Wait! You want three children? She asks to which he nods. "We both want three children." She states. "Of course." She throws her head down into her hands.

"Of course what?" He asks curiously, trying to understand what she's on about.

"We're going to have to do some research but it make sense. The aim of this decree is to increase the population of the wizarding war. Why not pair people who want the same amount of children?" She looks him excitedly in the eye.

Draco's eyes widen with understanding. "It does make sense but we can't have just been paired with each other, by the number of children we want."

"No, there'll be more behind it. There must be at least a hundred of us who answered the question with three children." She mentions as she rummages through her bag before pulling out a notebook and pen.

Draco watches as she scribbles notes down.

"Also, in his reply to Harry, Kingsley mentioned that the Ministry Officials will be pairing us. It sounds rather suspicious, doesn't it? I thought the process would have been done with magic rather than a group of officials rummaging through piles of questionnaires trying to find two people who are compatible. That must have taken hours." She stares at him pointedly.

"They probably sorted all the questionnaire by the number of children, then sieved through them and just paired random people together," Draco suggests.

"I don't think we were randomly paired together, Draco. If it has nothing to do with the questionnaires, then it was because some Ministry Official thought it would be funny or wanted to make out life miserable." She explains to which he nods.

It's highly unlikely that they were randomly paired together.

"If this is all some joke for them, then why did they pair Potter and Weasley together?" He asks.

"Ginny told me they had a 'fool proof plan' to ensure they got paired," Hermione mentioned as she wrote something else down.

"Anything else?" He asks, eating more of his sandwich.

"Yeah, I went to the library to try and find any books on marriage decree. I wanted to know if they'd been any in the past but I couldn't find any. I asks Madam Pince and she said 'The Ministry has ordered all books that mention the decree to be sent to the Department of Registration.' So I went to Tomes and Scrolls but couldn't find anything there either. I asked the man behind the desk and he gave me the exact same answers. They're obviously trying to hide something." She explains before writing it all down.

"But what?" Draco asks grabbing a tuna sandwich.

"I don't know, I tried to ignore the decree so I could concentrate on my exams. I haven't really thought mush into it since then." Hermione admits.

"We should check the manor's library tomorrow," Draco suggests.

Hermione looks up from her notes confused.

"My father has a rather large decree section. I'm pretty confident that we'll find something there." He explains.

She smiles excitedly and goes back to her notes. Draco can't find it within himself to look away from her face. Her smile in particular. She rarely hides her emotions which he finds endearing. His father trained him to hide all emotions from his face unless it was disgust.

"Also, Ginny told me the other day that Harry's been keeping in contact with Kingsley for the past couple of months. He mentioned how irrelevant some of the questionnaire questions were but Kingsley just told him it was to determine a person's personality and it was all to do with psychology." She mumbles as she continues to write.

"What's psychology?" He asks curiously.

"Oh, it's a muggle subject." She looks up. "It's the study of people's behaviour, mind and thoughts." She explains before going back to her notes.

"How does Kingsley know about muggle subjects?" He asks suspiciously. "He's a pureblood." He adds.

Hermione stares at him for a moment, trying to come up with an answer but obviously can't so she writes it down in her notebook.

"There's nothing more we can do until we've checked your father's library." She mentions putting her notebook back into her bag and finishing her sandwich.

"What exactly are we doing?" Draco asks not really sure on why she was making notes in the first place.

"We're trying to find answers as to why we were paired together." She answers before grabbing another sandwich.

Hermione moves her notebook to between herself and Draco so they can both go over them whilst they finished their lunch.

"I think we should use tonight to subtly question everyone at Theo's party on how many children they want. The more evidence we have the closer we'll be to an actual answer." She mutters to Draco.

"Okay, but we need to very subtle. Not everyone will be as open to their spouse as we are." He mentions.

She frowns at him. "I didn't realise we were that open." She mentions looking up at him as she takes a sip from her tea cup.

"Well, I don't know about you but I've been honest with you about myself." Draco points out.

"As I have about myself." She smiles at him. "I suppose we have been quite open to each other." She looks back down at her notebook.

He's right. They have been open to each other and if anything, it's helped them become more civil to each other. More like friends which she would never have thought would be possible.

"If I take Lisa's friends since I doubt your friends are going to want to talk to me. Except Blaise." She adds.

"That's fine. Most of them still find me intimidating. It'll be easy to get answers out of them." Draco smirks.

"You're not going to force it out of them, I hope?" She raises a questioning eyebrow.

"Of course not, but with just a look Goyle will tell me exactly what I want." He continues to smirk at her.

"Well, I'm going for the divide and conquer technique. I'll get the partners split up then ask them individually." She announces her plan.

She's just finishing her tea when Draco checks his watch.

"We've only got two hours to the party, shall we go. You still need to hang your clothes up." He suggests.

"Oh, yeah. "I'll just go pay, can you grab our notes?" She asks as she leaves the table and heads to the counter where Derek is stood.

"You leaving so soon," Derek asks.

"Yeah, we've got a party to get ready for. I'm sure we'll be back, though." She explains.

"Hermione… I was wondering… If you'd like to go out for a few drinks… you know… so we can catch up. It's been three years." He winks at her.

She glances behind her to the table where Draco was still sat.

"I'm not asking you on a date." He scoffs. "I'll invite Verity as well. You haven't seen her in what… nine years?" He mentions.

"Verity?" She spits. "You're friends with Verity?" She asks as he presses buttons on the till.

Verity had bullied bother her and Derek throughout primary school. She was always pulling her hair or sticking chewing gum in it or telling the teacher o her for petty things or things she didn't even do. Once, Verity places the teacher's stapler in her tray the told the teacher that she saw Hermione take it. Her Mum was furious and wouldn't believe sweet, innocent Verity would try to frame her.

"Well, yeah." He shrugs. "I didn't have the choice of many people once you left. Verity was the only one from our school that went to St Gordon's. We stuck together. She's nothing like who she was at St Stephen's." He says defending her. "So, how about it? Just a few drinks at the local pub." He smiles widely.

"Fine." She rolls her eyes. "It'll be nice to catch up." She adds as she hands over a twenty-pound note.

"Great." He seems to stand taller. "Meet me tomorrow at eight o'clock at The Buffalo. It's near Howard's." He adds when she pulls an unsure face.

"See you then." She says before walking towards the door where Draco's stood waiting.

"See him when?" He asks looking straight ahead as they walk down the side street towards the main street of London.

"Tomorrow night at eight o'clock. We're meeting at a pub just to catch up with another girl we went to primary school with. I doubt I'll be out long, I hated Verity when I was at school." She tells him.

She can tell he's jealous of Derek, no matter what he says so she tried to sound uninterested.

"Great." He says sounding forcefully pleased. "I'll go see Blaise then." He adds.

When they return home, Hermione reminds Draco to take his shoes off then watches as he heads straight into the living room and flops down on the couch. Hermione goes upstairs to their bedroom where she proceeds to unpack all her boxes. She finds a nice summery dress that she decides to where for Theo and Lisa's party that night, so drapes it over the side of the bed along with her sandals and thin shawl.

An hour later, she's hung all her clothes on the right side of their wardrobe and placed all her books on the right side of their bookshelf. All while Draco lounges on the couch, reading a book. She heads back upstairs to get changed and brush her teeth again. She likes to have a fresh mouth if she's going out somewhere. Draco comes upstairs twenty before they're due to leave, grabs a mauve shirt and black jeans then goes into the bathroom to change.

Hermione fastens her sandals next to the door as she waits for Draco to descend the stairs which he does five minutes after they were supposed to be at the party.

"We're late, Draco." She jitters about in front of the door whilst Draco pulls his own shoes on and the leather jacket she had been wearing the past two days.

"We're fashionably late, Hermione." He retaliates opening the door for her.

"Is that you're way of telling me I look nice?" She flutters her eyelashes at him standing a lot more ladylike.

"Not at all. It's my way of bringing up that I look handsome." He shamelessly admits, opening his arms wide and spinning around.

"You're so narcissistic." She insults him as she laughs locking the door behind them.

"I get it from my Mother's side." He tells her sarcastically.

"Wow. That was terrible." She rolls her eyes, giving him a little shove.

She looks back up at him only to find him already looking down at her.

"What? Do I have something on my face?" She asks as she starts rummaging around in her bag for her compact mirror.

"No." He answers simply before looking away from her. "You do look nice." He mumbles so quietly, Hermione's not sure if he actually said it or if she just imagined it. "You do know they live two doors away?" Draco asks as he stops dead in front of a house with a black door then knocks.

Chapter Text

Theo answers in a pair of shorts and t-shirts with his arm around Lisa's waist. She's wearing a very pretty skirt and shirt combination.

"Draco, Hermione, come in." Theo invites them in. "You know, I didn't think you'd come, Hermione." He mentions as he leads them through to their back garden.

"Why wouldn't I? You're Draco's friends, I'd like to get to know you better than Slytherin's." She tells him and he nods.

"Well, when Pansy showed up alone, we kind of just assumed." He shrugs handing them both a bottle of butterbeer.

"That's probably for the best." Draco mumbles.

"Ron's one of my best friends but I have to agree. He wouldn't fit in here. He'd just sulk in the corner." She admits.

"Hermione, come with me." Lisa grabs hold of her hand, pulling her over to the far end of the garden, away from where she now realises most the men were sat and towards where all the women are sat.

"Hermione, you came." Luna pulls her into a large hug, then pulls her into the seat next to her.

"We're just discussing our better halves." Isobel chuckles.

"Unless you're being sarcastic, shut up." Megan sighs. "Look what I got paired with. You know, he's only said four words to me since we got to the estate. 'I'm going to bed'. All he does is eat, drink or sleep." She huffs.

"Gregory's a natural follower. All his life he's followed his father or Draco. You're going to have to be the dominant one in your relationship." Luna explains to which Megan pulls a face.

"Why do you think you got paired with him?" Hermione asks getting started straight away. "I wouldn't have thought you'd have much in common with him." She adds.

"I've been thinking that about Oliver and I," Mandy mentions. "It's all down to that stupid questionnaire, though." She shrugs, making Hermione sit a little taller and listen closely.

"Richard and I sat down and talked about our future yesterday morning and we both like the colour orange and want one child. That's the only thing we have in common. Although we did have fun painting our entire living room orange yesterday." Sue admits with a shy smile.

"Well, William and I want at least four children. We both come from large families and it's what we're used to." Isobel adds to the conversations.

This is better than she expected. They're all just giving her the information she wants.

"I haven't talked to Gregory but I've always wanted three children." Megan blushes.

"What about you Hermione? How's your marriage going so far?" Lisa asks turning the conversation back to her.

"Oh yes. How did we forget about our most surprising couple? I mean, did you hear the gasp that echoed around the room when your name was called?" Isobel says, eyes wide.

"No, I didn't. I was preoccupied with not throwing up." Hermione whispers to the group. A few of them laugh. "I suppose my 'marriage' has been okay so far. We did get into an argument at my parents' house yesterday but he apologised and bought me dinner." She shrugs expecting everybody else's past few days to have been similar.

"Wait, wait, wait. I don't know Draco but… he doesn't exactly hit me as the 'visit the in-laws' kind of man." Isobel interrupts her.

"Or the 'apologising by buying you dinner' kind of man," Mandy adds.

"Or the 'apologising' kind of man." Megan laughs.

"Well, he's changed a lot and we've been able to get on rather civilly. We're going to lunch at the manor tomorrow, then to my family's barbeque on Tuesday. I can actually see myself becoming his friend at some point." Hermione defends him.

"What about his lover?" Isobel winks.

Hermione shudders at the word. "We're already married. I don't think I can be called his… lover." She points out to which Isobel shrugs.

"You still haven't told us, Hermione, how many children do you want to have?" Luna asks and she sends her friend a glare.

"We'd both like three but I think Draco's worrying that we'll only have one since Purebloods rarely have more." She explains.

"So you plan on staying married to him then." Mandy frowns at her.

"What do you mean?" She asks confused.

"Don't you read The Daily Prophet?" She rolls her eyes. "A lot of couples are already planning on getting divorced as soon as they've had a child since nothing in the decree states they have to stay married afterwards," Mandy explains. "Oliver and I are getting divorced as soon as possible.

"I hadn't thought about that." Hermione mutters.

Is that why Draco told her about Purebloods only having one child? Because he plans on leaving her as soon as she's given birth. It makes sense. They may have gotten closer these past couples of days but they're still not friends. She might enjoy his company a lot more than she expected to but she has no idea how he feels about her.

"Richard's already told me he wants a divorce as soon as our child's born," Sue admits.

"I'm sure Pansy and Ron are the same. I mean, you and Draco were the most surprising couple but you took it all with dignity. Did you see how they acted at the ceremony? Then they were making out like savaged animals at the reception party." Isobel told the group.

"They were drunk." Hermione tried to defend her friend but it's not really an excuse.

"Yeah and so were half the room." Mandy retaliates.

"That's true." Megan agrees. "I was in that half the room." She laughs. "I'm going to get another drink, does anyone want one?" She asks standing up.

"I'll have one." Isobel raises her hand.

"Yeah me too." Mandy stands up. "I'll come with you. I might grab a snack."

"If we're snacking then I'm coming too," Isobel announces following Mandy and Megan.

"I'm just going to pop to the bathroom." Sue excuses herself before walking back into the house.

"How have you and Blaise been?" Hermione asks her friend, who's the only person left int heir group.

"Wonderfully, Hermione." Luna sighs glancing over to where most of the men were sat.

Hermione notices that Pansy is sat with them too. Right next to Draco actually. She looks away when she starts to feel the beginning pangs of jealousy form in her stomach.

"So how many children do you both plan on having?" Hermione asks the question. "I'm sure you've both talked about it already along with the names of each one." She teases her friend slightly.

"We'd both like two children. Hopefully one of each." She explains. "And we have discussed a few names." Luna blushes slightly.

"I'm so glad that you're happy and are actually planning a future with your partner," Hermione tell her friend.

"You'll be happy too, Hermione. One day soon you'll realise." Luna nods at her but she doesn't understand.

"I'll realise what?" She asks frowning at her friend.

"You'll know when that day comes." She says vaguely before standing up and leaving.

Hermione watches her friend walk over to the snack table, grab two slices of pizza then walk over to Blaise to hand him one. She then proceeds to sit on his lap as they both eat and listen to the conversation.

When left alone her thoughts return back to Draco leaving her. It makes sense for him to ask for a divorce. They hate each other. Well, they did hate each other. Hermione certainly doesn't hate him anymore but she doesn't know how he feels. She angrily stands up, looking over at Draco's who's laughing along to something that had just been said. If he's going to leave her then she wants legal custody of their child. She storms back into the house, ignoring Draco and a few others who are calling out behind her.

"Hermione!" Draco calls after her as she sweeps past him looking angry.

Has he done something? They were fine before they arrived at the party and since then they haven't talked to each other. Maybe it's something one of the other girls said.

"What were you all talking about, Luna?" He asks curiously.

"We were discussing our futures with our partners." She says between bites of pizza.

"What did Hermione say?" He asks curiously.

"All good things. I can promise you that." Luna smiles.

"Then why did she just angrily storm out of here?" He asks, raising his voice.

"She wasn't aware of most people's plans to divorce after the birth of their first child," Luna explains.

"What? Are you getting divorced?" He frowns at his friends.

"NO!" Blaise almost shouts.

"We're not planning to but who know what might happen in the future," Luna tells him then kisses Blaise's temple.

"Is anyone here getting divorced?" He asks the group.

"As soon as possible." Pansy spits disgusted.

"Nah, Lisa and I are going to try and make it work. We've got a lot in common and I enjoy her company." Theo shrugs draining his bottle.

"Isobel and I have been dating for three years and we'd already talked about getting married so I find it highly unlikely that we're going to get divorced." William chuckles.

"Well, I've already told Sue that I want a divorce as soon as the child's born and she can have sole custody," Richard admits.

"That's a little harsh." Blaise points out.

"I never asked to be married. I didn't want to get married or have a child. I want to focus on my career. Sue knows that and she's happy to raise the child. I'll obviously pay towards it but I don't want anything to do with it." Richard shrugs

"Mandy and I are getting a divorce but we plan on having joint custody of our child," Oliver explains. "There's no reason to blame the child for this whole situation." He adds

"I need to go speak to Hermione. I'm sure I'll see most of you later." He says before leaving.

He walks the short distance home trying to figure out what to say to her but he has no idea. He's assuming she thinks he's going to want to divorce her once they've a child. Is that what she wants? His parents had an arranged marriage and they've always stood by each other. He's always assumed that's what people do. He assumed that's what he and his partner would be like. Together forever even if they never grew to love each other. But now he's married to Hermione and he's slowly starting to like her for who she is. He doesn't know if he'll ever love her but he doesn't want their child come from a broken home. He doesn't want to divorce her, however, if she asked him to, he would. He's not going to force her to stay married to him when she could be happy with someone else.

He goes to open the door, deciding to just ask Hermione what her future plans are for their marriage but the door's looked. He fishes his key out of his pocket and enters the house, remembering to take his shoes off and leave them alone next to the door. Hermione mustn't have come home.

"Hermione!" He calls into the house just to make sure and there's no answer as he expected.

He assumes she's gone to Potter's house or to her parents so he enters the living room where he lies down to wait for her return.

He must have fallen asleep though as he woken up by the front door slamming shut. He assumes it's Hermione returning from wherever she's been. He checks his watch for the time. It's half past twelve. Where has she been this late? He wanders over to the hall where he finds her sitting on the bottom step of their stairs taking her shoes off.

"Where have you been?" He asks curiously maki9ng her jump.

"Oh," She places a hand over her heart, takes a deep breathe then shakes her head. "Just out. I didn't think I'd be out this long. I assumed you'd still be at the party." She mentions.

"No, I left not long after you. It was very boring but I did get the information I needed." He smirks at her.

"Great, I'm going to bed. We'll exchange notes in the morning." She tells him as she heads up the stairs.

He gets the feeling that she needs her own space right now so he makes himself a sandwich, since he didn't get the chance to eat anything at the party, and read a book for an hour or so before going to bed himself.

He finds Hermione curled up on the bed very close to her edge. There's obviously something bothering her and he's got a pretty good idea what it's about. He'll have to talk to her about it tomorrow but for now, he climbs into his own side of the bed and drifts off to sleep pretty quickly.

Hermione wakes up very early in the morning. So early the sun is just starting to rise itself. She wraps herself in her dressing gown, heads downstairs where she makes herself a cup of tea, then sits in the garden on one of their chairs to watch the sunrise. She can't remember the last time she just sat and watched a sunrise. It was definitely before Hogwarts.

Suddenly she feels a hand on her shoulder which makes her jump slightly but she turns around to find Draco looking worriedly down at her. She turns back to watch the sun. She knows he's going to want to talk about last night but she's not ready to hear how he's leaving her as soon as their child's been born. She doesn't know why she's so upset by it. She doesn't even like Draco. She should be excited by the thought of him divorcing her. She should be the one planning to divorce him after everything he's done. She knows that's harsh, though. She knows he's changed and she can't judge him for what he once was.

Draco takes the seat next to her with his own cup of tea then proceeds to watch the sunrise with her. They don't exchange any words until the whole sun is visible above the horizon.

"Would you like some breakfast?" He asks, standing up.

"No thank you, I'm not hungry." She tells him, not looking away from the fiery colour of the sky.

Draco disappears for a few minutes before returning with a plate of toast. They continue to sit in silence. Hermione's unsure whether she should just come out and ask him about their future or lack of one but she doesn't want to hear his answer. Not yet anyway. Without warning she jumps out of her chair, leaving him alone outside as she heads upstairs to get dressed.

Whether or not their marriage will last or not, Hermione feels the need to impress Narcissa, so she takes out of the wardrobe the dress she wore to Lauren and Craig's christening two years ago. She hasn't had the chance to wear it since. It's a pretty flowery summer dress that flows down to her knees. She pairs them with a pair of tights and her yellow flat shoes.

Once she's brushed her teeth, she heads back downstairs, where she finds Draco in the kitchen washing up his plate. By hand. She watches him for a moment before entering the kitchen and gaining his attention.

"I'm going to visit Harry and Ginny. I'll be back for eleven." She announces as she pulls on a light summer jacket.

"Didn't you see them last night?" He asks as he turns around to face her, drying his hands on a tea towel.

She freezes for a moment. So that's where he thinks she went. She rolls her shoulders, relaxing before answering.

"Yes, but I'd like to see them again. Is that a problem?" She asks tilting her head slightly, daring him to argue with her.

"Not at all. I'll see you at eleven." He tells her, brushing past her as he leaves the kitchen.

Hermione smirks to herself as she leaves by the back door in the hopes of finding Harry and Ginny in their back garden. She thinks there were only seven people between herself being paired to Draco and her two best friends being paired. She starts to count along seven house but just as she's reaching the fourth house, she spots them a few back gardens away, eating breakfast at their garden table.

"Hello." She greets them as she stands at their back garden gate.

Ginny, upon seeing her, jumps up from her seat and runs over to her.

"Hermione!" She opens the gate letting her in and pulls her into a tight hug. "What are you doing here so early? We've just gotten up." She pulls her towards the table. "Do you want something to eat?" She offers but Hermione shakes her head.

"No thank you. I'm having lunch at Malfoy Manor this afternoon." She mentions as she takes a seat at the table between her two best friends.

She watches them share a glance before Harry clears his throat.

"Are you in love with Draco?" Harry blurts out.

"Harry!" Ginny whines. "We were supposed to be subtle."

"I am not in love with Draco." Hermione glares at them both. "And I have no idea why you'd think I am." She adds.

"Have you seen The Daily Prophet this morning?" Ginny asks softly.

"No, I left out of the back door." She answers not sure she wants to look at the paper.

"Here." Harry passes it to her.

The picture that the 'nature photographer' had taken was on the front page. It shows them both holding hands as they exit the gates of the estate. She has a small smile on her face but it's Draco she can't stop looking at. He's looking down at her with surprise and wonder in his eyes. The headline reads 'Is our most surprising couple really that surprising?' then below it says 'We spoke to the people who know them best to find out.'

Hermione looks up at her friends. They wouldn't, would they? Before she even has the chance to ask Ginny shakes her head.

"It wasn't us but we don't know who the quotes are from. They're all anonymous." She explains.

"Well, it's pretty easy to work out who wrote a few of them." Harry chuckles.

Hermione opens the newspaper and flicks through until she finds another picture of herself with Draco. It's the one from The Partner Ceremony where they're wearing their wedding robes. Surrounding the picture are few paragraphs with quotes from 'the people who know them best'.

She looks at the first one.

'I'm not at all surprised that they were paired together. Not many people know that they went on a date during the Christmas break. I don't think it went very well though since, as far as I know, they never went out again but he was always defending her in the Slytherin Common room whenever anyone called her a M******d.'

Hermione looks up after reading it to find both Harry and Ron reading the same quote from over her shoulder.

"Did you really go on a date with him?" Harry asks a look of betrayal in his eyes.

"Of course not Harry. I just bumped into him in a few shops. I actually spilt my ice-cream on him in Florean Fortescue's." She chuckles at the memory before looking back down at the article.

'I've known Hermione for years and we all knew her brief fling with Ron (Ronald Weasley) wouldn't last. They have nothing in common unlike her and Draco. They both into books and learning and… stuff. They're perfect for each other. Also, Hermione's such an independent and determined woman, she needs a man who's going to walk side by side with her through life not follow behind her like a lost puppy. No offence to Ron though.'

Hermione laughs at that one. "Do you know who wrote this one? Books and learning and… stuff. And they think they've known me for years."

"I think it's just some Gryffindor who's just jumped on the bandwagon. They've obviously seen you around the common room and translated that to mean they've known you for years." Ginny shrugs.

"My favourite's the next one." Harry chuckles pointing at the next quote.

Hermione reads it aloud. "Whoever said I was a lost puppy can shove it. They don't know anything about me and Hermione. We were in love and Kingsley tore us apart. Now get away from me."

She looks at Ginny. "Your brother, I assume."

She nods stifling a laugh. "He's not really in the right frame of mind at the moment. I don't think he's stopped drinking since Wednesday night. He hasn't actually been to their house since Thursday morning. He's been staying at the Burrow. Oh, and by the way, Mum's invited you and Draco over for dinner next Wednesday night. It's to celebrate our week anniversary." She rolls her eyes.

"Maybe I should go visit Ron before that. It doesn't sound like he's coping very well." Hermione suggests.

"That's an understatement," Harry mutters under his breath.

Hermione ignores him and goes back to the article.

'I don't know either of them but I did use to see them nearly every day in the library during the months leading up to the NEWTs. They always sat at the two desks at the back of the library. A few times I saw them talking to each other rather civilly. It really shows how much he's changed since the end of the war.'

"I only ever talked to him once when he stole my book when I went to the bathroom," Hermione admits throwing the paper back on the table.

"There's two more you haven't read." Ginny picks the paper again.

"I don't want to read it. I've avoided reading The Daily Prophet since The Partner Ceremony. I don't want to know what they have to say about Draco and I. They don't know either of us and they certainly don't know what happens in the privacy of our own home." She complains.

"What exactly do you both do?" Harry asks. "Read books all day." He laughs.

Hermione sends him a dirty look. "No. We haven't really spent much time in our house. We went to my parents' house and the Manor on Thursday then we went out to a café and to Theo and Lisa's party yesterday. We're off to the Manor again today for lunch with Narcissa."

"You went to a café. Like on a date?" Harry asks frowning.

"No, not like a date." Hermione glares at him. "You know this isn't exactly easy for me and it doesn't make it any easier, with you two judging everything we do." She stands up. "I'll see you both at The Burrow on Monday night." She tells them before leaving out of their back gate and making her way back to her own house.

As soon as Draco hears the back door close he races upstairs. With Hermione being gone for a few hours, it gives him plenty of time to check out the first room at the top of their stairs. He's finally figured out that it's probably a nursery for their child but he's still eager to look inside the room. He pauses with his hand on the door handle for a second before pushing the door open wide.

Without crossing the threshold, for fear of Hermione finding out, he looks around the room. It's very simple. He'll have to redecorate before they put this room to use. The walls and ceiling are white along with all the furniture and the carpets are cream. The bedding inside the cot is pear green which matches the curtains. He's not entirely sure why mostly everything in their house is green. It would make sense if Hermione had been a Slytherin. He has to ask her when she returns.

He takes another look around the bedroom and decides that no baby of his is going to sleep in such a simplistic, boring nursery. Taking his wand out, he cast a charm across the room and watches as the same pear green colour as the bedding drips down the walls until not a single bit of white paint remains. He doesn't think Hermione will notice since she hasn't even been in this room yet. Not that he knows about anyway. He closes the door behind him then goes into his own bedroom to get dressed for lunch at the manor.

He pulls on a light blue shirt with a navy jacket than a pair of dark pair of jeans. He heads back downstairs into the living room where he lounges on the couch and reads a book. Although not long later the back door swings open, slamming off the counter. Draco hears Hermione curse as she locks the door behind her. He carries on reading, or at least pretending to as he waits for Hermione to enter the front room.

When she does, he continues to look at his book. She'd been upset about something when she left this morning. He assumes it was what Luna had told him at the party last night but he didn't know how to bring it up and he certainly didn't want to say the wrong thing which would most likely lead to another argument.

"Did we get The Daily Prophet this morning?" She asks stopping behind the back of the couch.

"Yeah, I think it's still in front of the door," Draco mutters not looking up from the same page he's been looking at for the past three minutes.

He hears her sigh as she goes into the hall to collect the paper then sits down in the armchair next to him to read it.

"I think you should see this. Harry and Ginny showed me it." She tells him holding the paper out.

Sitting up and placing his book on the coffee table, he takes the newspaper from her and glances down at the page she had opened it to. Right in the middle of the page was a picture of Hermione and him at The Partner Ceremony in their wedding robes. At the top of the page is a title reading, 'The least surprising, most surprising couple?'

"What's this about?" He asks looking up at Hermione.

"Look at the cover." She tells him looking quite angry.

He turns the paper over to look at the front cover to find a picture of them both walking hand in hand out of the estate. It's obviously the picture that photographer took yesterday. He reads headline and frowns.

"Who did they speak to?" He asks opening the paper to the article.

"They're all anonymous but a few of them are quite obvious." She answers, watching as he starts to read the first one.

"We never went on a date and don't count yourself lucky, I cursed anyone who used that word in the Slytherin common room." He growls at the paper. "It's obviously Pansy who wrote this." He comments.

"I wasn't sure who wrote that one," Hermione mumbled.

"Books and learning and stuff." Draco looks up at her, quirking an eyebrow. "You need better friends."

"I don't have a clue who wrote that one. Ginny thinks it's a younger Gryffindor who's just seen me around the common room." Hermione shrugs.

"Well they're right about one thing, Weasel did follow you around like a lost puppy." He chuckles.

"Wait until you read the next one." Hermione bites her lip trying to hide a smile.

Curiously Draco goes back to the paper then laughs.

"Firstly, it's Hermione and I and secondly, I thought you told Blaise that he wasn't your boyfriend?" He asks looking back at her.

"Did Blaise tell you that?" She looks slightly hurt.

"No, I overheard you telling him. You weren't exactly being secretive talking about it a few feet away from Pansy and me." He explains, hoping she won't accuse him of eavesdropping again.

She nods. "In my head, we weren't a couple. We never actually made it official after that first time we kissed but we would hold hands and we'd go to The Three Broomsticks for drinks but that was it. To be honest, we're more of a couple than Ron and I ever was." She admits, blushing slightly.

Draco glances at the clock on the wall and jumps up. "It's ten to eleven. We better get going." He announces throwing the paper on the coffee table alongside his book.

They both walk to the front door where Draco pulls on a pair of brown, leather shoes. As he ties them he notices that Hermione hadn't taken his off after coming in through the backdoor.

"I thought we had to take our shoes off before we came into the house. 'You're not going to dirty our cream carpets'." He mimics smirking up at her.

She rolls her eyes, opening the door and ignoring him. He quickly finishes tying his shoes and follows her, locking the door behind him.

"Do you want to exchange notes?" He whispers glancing around them to make sure that no one is near enough to eavesdrop.

Hermione looks up at him confused for a moment before realising what he's on about.

"Oh, yeah. Well with the girls, I asked Megan why she thought she was paired with Goyle and before I knew it everyone was talking about how many children they want. Richard and Sue both want one, William and Isobel want at least four, Megan wants three but Goyle doesn't talk to her so I don't know if they share that in common. Then Blaise and Luna both want two. What did you find out from the boys?" She asks looking forward.

"Nothing much." He admits. He decides now is probably the right time to mention divorce. "Except that the divorce rates are going to be steadily increasing over the next couple of years." He says watching Hermione gage her reaction.

She turns to face him narrowing her eyes but she doesn't say anything since they've just reached the gate. He takes her hand and disapparates them to the gates of the manor. They set off down the path towards the front doors.

"Pansy wants a divorce as soon as possible. Richard and Sue are getting divorced and he's giving her sole custody of their child." He huffs a laugh in disbelief.

He doesn't understand how anyone can leave their own flesh and blood. Richard said he'll help support her but it's not the same as actually being there for the child.

"Mandy and Oliver are getting divorced but want joint custody of their child. Blaise and Luna, Lisa and Theo, and Isobel and William want to stay together but who knows what the future holds for them." He shrugs.

"Que sera, sera," Hermione mumbles as they come up to the front door.

"What?" He asks confused, knocking on the door.

"Whatever will be, will be." She clarifies.

"I like to know with some certainty what's going to happen in the future. I don't want to leave my life to chance." He tells her.

"What does your future hold, Draco?" She turns to face him but the door opens to reveal his Mother.

"Draco dear, you're late." She pulls him into a hug.

He not sure why she opened the door instead of letting Mitty answer or why she's hugging him. It's not something she usually does unless it's a special occasion.

"Mother." He greets her. "We're a few minutes late." He rolls his eyes as she leads them into the foyer then into the dining room.

"Well, lunch won't be for another half an hour so maybe you'd like to show Hermione around the manor." His Mother suggests.

"Wonderful idea, Mother." He turns around but Hermione's not where he expected to see her. Instead, she's stood at the door staring at a spot on the wooden floor. He curses himself for forgetting about what happened last time she set foot in the manor's dining room. "I'll start with the library. Excuse us." He excuses themselves quickly before walking out of the room, grabbing hold of Hermione's hand and pulling her towards the library.

"I'm sorry, Hermione. I completely forgot." He mutters shutting the library door behind them.

"I'm fine." She mumbles avoiding his eyes.

Draco bends his head down slightly so he can look into her eyes but she moves her head away so their eyes never meet.

"I know you're not, Hermione." He tells her.

"No, really, I'm great." She tells him, finally turning to look at him with a forced smile.

All Draco has to do is quirk a disbelieving eyebrow and Hermione sighs, head falling down.

"It's just that room." She mumbles. "I've tried blocking the memory but seeing that room again has brought them all back." She looks down at her wrist.

"Can I see it?" He asks nervously.

Her head whips up to look at him. She glares at him for a moment before her frown disappears and she holds her arm out. He takes her wrist gently in his hands and carefully rolls up the sleeve of her white cardigan revealing the scar. Draco gasps quietly. It had healed well, just a faint pink scar but the word was still legible. He doubts it would ever fade to an extent where it wasn't legible. Without thinking, he gently caresses the scar with his thumb. He feels Hermione's wrist twitch.

"Did I hurt you?" He asks, loosening his grip on her wrist.

"No." She says staring down at her scar. "It's just sensitive." She admits.

Draco nods, looking back down at her scar. "I'm so sorry." He whispers.

She shakes her head. "Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault."

"I could have stopped her but I didn't. I was too afraid of what my father would do to me." He admits.

"She got what she deserves. There's nothing more that can be done." Hermione tried to smile but it doesn't quite reach her eyes.

Draco nods. His Aunt really did get what she deserves. He lifts her wrist up, placing a gentle kiss on her scarred skin, without think about what he was doing or about the consequences. Her arm goes ridged at his touch and he quickly drops her wrist.

"Sorry." He quickly apologises. "Since we're in the library we should look for a book on the marriage decrees. The law section is over here." Draco changes the topic then briskly walks over to the far corner of his father's large library.

There are five bookshelves full of law books. All order alphabetically by author.

"I'll start at the beginning." He tells her and starts scanning the spines of the books for a title that might suggest the book has something to do with marriage decrees.

He can feel Hermione's eyes watching him but he tries his best to ignore them. A few minutes later there's a knock at the library door.

"Enter." He calls out.

The door open and a pair of small feet patter across the carpeted floor.

"Master Draco, Master's Mother requires Master in the kitchens, master," Mitty announces bowing deeply.

Draco frowns confused as to why his Mother is in the kitchens, to begin with and why she wants his presences is needed. With a sigh, he nods.

"I'll be back shortly." He tells Hermione before following Mitty to the kitchens.

Hermione watches Draco follow Mitty out of the library and takes a deep breath. What is happening to her? Draco kissed her, that's what happened. Okay, it was just a peck on her wrist but either why it was a kiss. The gentlest kiss she had ever received. Should her heart still be fluttering this much? Should her hands still be shaking this much? Should her wrist still tingle this much?

She tries to distract herself by looking for a book but her search so far has found nothing. Perhaps the Ministry beat them to it. She'll have to ask Draco to ask his mother about it. The door to the library opens again and she turns to face Draco with a nervous smile, only to find Narcissa gliding towards her elegantly.

Chapter Text

"Narcissa, you have a wonderful library." She compliments her Mother-in-law but her smile soon falls at the expression of pure anger on her face.

Narcissa keeps walking towards her until she stood a few inches away.

"You little bitch. You think just because The Minister forced my son to marry you that you can come into our home like you own the place." She huffs out a laugh in disbelief. "My sister should never have tortured you." Narcissa yanks her wrist up with her scar still on the show.

Hermione's eyes widen as she tries to pull her arm out of Narcissa's grip.

"She should have killed you and saved us all this grief." She spits on her scared wrist before dropping it like she'll catch an incurable disease if she held on to it much longer.

Hermione wipes the dripping saliva on her dress as she takes a few steps away. She slowly reaches into her bag for her wand.

"Draco will be back soon." She warns her but Narcissa just laughs.

"What do you expect my son to do? Protect you, defend you. He's my son. He'll never love you. How could he? You're a filthy little Mudblood who doesn't deserve him. You're going to taint our bloodline and I'll personally make sure that my son has nothing more to do with you or your half-blooded spawn." She growls at her.

Suddenly, Hermione's back hits the bookshelf behind her. She spots Narcissa's wand in her hand, hidden up the sleeve of her robes. She doesn't know what she's capable of doing but she's not going to wait around to find out.

Without a second thought, Hermione whips her wand out of her bag, wordlessly casting the expelliarmus charm as she points it at Narcissa, who doesn't have the chance to retaliate as her wand flies across the room. Hermione takes the opportunity to run. She throws the door open just as Draco reaches for the door handle. They both jump in surprise but Hermione doesn't stay still for long enough to find out if what Narcissa said was true. She runs towards the back door, which is closer than the front door, past the kitchens where Mitty calls after her.

She hears Draco call after her as well but she just keeps on running, unsure of where she's actually running to. As soon as she's out of the gate she disapparates to the one place she knows Draco won't be able to enter if he tried to follow her. The Burrow.

She runs down the Weasley's garden path, wand still grasped in her hand. Throwing the kitchen door open, she runs straight into a surprised Molly Weasley's arms before bursting into tears.

"Hermione dear, what's wrong?" Molly asks, gently stroking the hair.

"I'm sorry Molly. I didn't know where else to go." She cries into her shoulder.

"You're always welcome here." She mutters, hugging her tighter. "Did that boy do something to you?" She asks nervously.

Hermione shakes her head, trying to calm down. Once she's managed to stop the tears, she pulls away, drying her eyes with her cardigan sleeve. Molly produces a tissue from her apron then leads her to the dining table.

"You sit down and I'll make us some tea." She orders her down onto the bench as she goes about making them a pot of tea.

Once she's done, she sits down opposite Hermione, pours them both a cup of tea waits for her to start talking.

Hermione stares down at her cup of tea. "We were supposed to have lunch at the manor today." She mentions before taking a sip from her tea. "Narcissa had been polite and civil at The Partner Ceremony. I thought maybe she would accept me as her daughter-in-law but… but…" Hermione shakes her head not wanting to finish.

"What did she do Hermione?" Molly asks seriously but Hermione continues to shake her head. "Did she threaten you?" She asks placing her cup down on the table. "Because if she did…" Molly starts.

"No, she didn't. Not really." Hermione interrupts. "She told me Bellatrix should have killed me in their library." She rubs her hand over her scar remembering how she had felt after Draco had kissed it.

Was that all just a lie? A cruel joke? She could honestly see herself growing to love Draco one day in the future, but was his Mother right? Would Draco never love her? Would he leave her and their child after the birth? Would he leave her to raise the child on her own?

"She said WHAT?" Molly shouts angrily. "How dare she say such a thing? I wish I could do to her what I did to that sister of hers." Molly takes another sip from her tea. "What else did he say?"

"She said that Draco will never love me because I'm a filthy little Mudblood who doesn't deserve him and that she'll personally make sure that he has nothing to do with me and our 'half-blooded spawn' when it's born. Then she spat on my arm." She sniffs then wipes her nose.

"Oh, Hermione. I'm so sorry you've been forced to marry into that family. I'm just thankful that his father isn't there as well." Molly points out and Hermione nods.

Suddenly the back door creaks open. Both Molly and Hermione glances over to it to find Draco stood there with anger in his eyes. Molly jumps out of her seat putting herself between Hermione and Draco.

"What are you doing here?" Molly asks, angrily brandishing her wand from her apron and pointing it straight at Draco.

Hermione peers around Molly to see Draco stood with his empty hands raised above his hands.

"Did my Mother really say that?" He asks moving his angry eyes to look at her.

"Hermione doesn't lie." Molly spits at him but he ignores her.

"I'll kill her." Draco growls and in a quick flash he's lying unconscious on the floor.

"Molly, what did you do?" Hermione asks, urgently running towards Draco.

"I stupefied him. He threatened to kill you." Molly explains.

"He was threatening to kill his mother, not me." Hermione clarifies.

"Oh, well he should have been clearer," Molly mutters shoving her wand back into her apron.

"How did he even get past the wards?" Hermione wonders aloud, brushing his hair out of his face.

"I changed them so he could enter. He was invited to dinner on Monday." Molly explains.

"Can you fetch me a cold flannel, please? I can't take him back to the estate like this." She points out.

"Of course, although I don't know why you're bothering after what his Mother did to you." She tells her.

"He's not his Mother and he's not his Father either. I've gotten to know a different side of him these last couple of days. A side of him that I never knew existed. Whatever Narcissa said to me, she said to hurt me. I'm certain." Hermione explains, watching Draco's eyes wander beneath his eyelids.

Molly brings over a small bowl filled with water and a flannel. Hermione gently dabs the flannel over Draco's forehead and eyes, trying to wake him from his unconscious state. After a few minutes, his eyes open and he smiles up at Hermione before glancing around his surroundings.

"What happened?" He asks, groaning as he tries to sit up.

"Molly thought you were threatening to kill me so she stupefied you." She explains. Draco's eyes dance around the room as he thinks before they return to their previously angry self.

"I was threatening to kill my mother." He growls standing up wand at the ready in his hand.

"For God's sake Draco, put your wand away. You're not killing anyone." She orders him and he reluctantly does as he's told.

"Please believe me when I say that nothing she said was true." Draco pleads.

Hermione gives him a small smile. "I know. She told me you'd never protect or defend me and here you are proving her wrong." She chuckles a little. "How'd you find me anyway?" She asks.

"I followed your tracks. It's quite easy when you know how." He shrugs.

"Would you like some tea, Draco?" Molly interrupts them.

Draco stares at Molly for a moment as if remembering he's in The Burrow, before nodding. "Yeah. Thanks."

"Both of you take a seat. I'll make you some snacks since you didn't get to eat your lunch." She says busying herself in the kitchen.

"You don't have to, Mrs Weasley. I'm sure we can find something to eat at our house." Draco tells her.

"Nonsense dear, you're here now and to be honest, I miss having people to make food for. I went from having four children in this house to none in the space of a day. Well, Ronald sleeps here but he doesn't spend his days here." Molly explains.

"Oh yes, Pansy told me she hasn't seen him since Thursday morning." Draco comments.

"I don't know how he expects to fulfil this idiotic marriage decree if he never spends any time getting to know her." Molly shakes her head as she butters some slices of bread. "Oh, I saw The Daily Prophet this morning." Molly turns to wink at them.

"Ergh, don't Molly." Hermione groans. "We were disapparating to a café for lunch and Draco didn't know where it was." She explains.

Molly stares at them both for a moment before going back to making their snacks.

"Well, I'm glad you're both giving this whole marriage thing a go. Ronald's already told me he's getting a divorce as soon as they have a child." She shakes her head disappointed.

"How's George and Percy getting along with their wives?" Hermione asks curiously.

"Magnificently. George and Angelina came around for dinner last night. They're so cute together, even though… you know… she dated… at school." Molly tries to explain.

"Yeah, I know. He took her to the Yule Ball." Hermione tries to make it easier for her.

She notices Draco's confused facial expression so mouths 'Fred Weasley' at him to which he nods in understanding.

"What about Percy and… Audrey, was it?" She asks.

"Hmm, that girl is a walking conspiracy theory, spouting all these lies about The Ministry. I hate this decree as much as the next person but her theories are just outrageous." Molly continues to ramble on but Hermione ignores her turning to face Draco who's already looking at her.

Draco leans towards her. "Conspiracy theories." He whispers.

"I think we should pay them a visit," Hermione whispers back.

"Aww, what are you two whispering about?" Molly asks placing two plates in front of them.

"Nothing," Hermione answers far too quickly to which Molly just chuckles.

"If you need anything I'll be upstairs doing a bit of tidying." She tells them before heading upstairs.

"What was Audrey's maiden name?" Draco asks as looks at the contents of his sandwich.

"She didn't poison it." Hermione quips at him.

"How do you know, she did just stupefy me?" He reminds her which makes her chuckle. "And we're not going to mention that fact to anyone else. Ever. Understand?" He glares jokingly at her.

"Of course not." She smiles at him sweetly knowing full well she's going to tell Ginny next time she sees her. "I think Audrey was called Rankin. Yeah, Audrey Rankin. Why, do you know her?" Hermione asks curiously.

"No, but I thought I might." He finally bites into his sandwich after thoroughly checking it out.

"Well, we've been invited to a dinner here on Monday afternoon so I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk to her then. In the meantime, I think we need to have another look in your library." She sighs, defeated.

"Really? You want to go back to the manor." He asks confusedly.

"Of course not but this is important. We need to find more information out about the law behind marriage decrees." She answers.

"I've been thinking about that actually. If my Mother heard that Ministry Officials were coming around looking for certain books, she would have hidden them in our secret attic." Draco explains.

"You have a secret attic?" She quirks a questioning eyebrow.

"Yeah, it's next to our actual attic." He explains. "No one expects there to be another attic next to an attic." He smirks.

She laughs in disbelief. "Okay, so when do you want to go back." She asks, hoping he doesn't suggest anytime soon.

"My Mother's been going to bed early recently so how about tonight, around eleven to make sure she's actually sleeping." He suggests.

"Tonight?" Hermione asks nervously. "Wait," She leans closer to Draco, "you want us to break into the manor and possibly steal one of your father's possessions."

"It's not really breaking in, it's my family's Manor." He whispers back. "And since my father is in Azkaban I doubt he's going to miss a few books if we actually find anything." He smirks at her.

"Wat the fuck is 'appenin 'ere?" A slurring voice comes from the backdoor.

Hermione jumps away from him in shock from being caught this close to Draco. She turns to face the door to find an obviously drunk Ron stood, glaring at Draco.

"Ron, how are you doing?" Hermione stands up.

"Wat's ferret doin' in ma 'ouse?" He asks as he staggers through the door.

"It's not exactly your house anymore weasel." Draco points out.

"Don' talk t' me in ma 'ouse." Ron fiddles with his pocket before pulling his wand out.

"For goodness sake, Ronald, put that away before you hurt yourself," Hermione tells him off.

"The only person Imma hurt is 'im." He growls.

"Don't fool yourself weasel, you can barely cast a charm when sober." Draco raises his eyebrow. "Or do I need to remind you about the slug incident." He laughs.

"Move outta way, 'Mione." Ron pushes past her.

With a simple flick of his wrist and a mutter of "Expelliarmus," Draco disarms Ron, catching his wand mid-air before he's even thought about what curse to use.

"Gimme ma wand back," Ron growls making a start for Draco.

"Just go home weasel." He tells him.

"This is ma 'ome." Ron yells.

"No, it's not. If The Ministry find out you're not living with Pansy, you'll be sent to Azkaban." Draco explains. "So just go to Pansy."

"Fuck that bitch." Ron huffs, stamping his foot.

"Ronald Weasley, I taught you better than that." Molly scolds her son. She snatches his wand from Draco, hands it back to Ron then pushes him out of the door. "You're not sleeping here anymore. Go to your wife."

Molly turns back around to face them. "Have you finished your snacks dear?" She asks picking up their empty plates.

"Yes, thank you, Mrs Weasley." Draco thanks her politely.

"You're welcome. I hope to see you both on Monday but if you don't mind I need to get Arthur's dinner ready for when he comes home." Molly explains.

"Oh, of course. We'll see you on Monday." Hermione hugs her goodbye before they both leave through the back door.

Thankfully Ron has already gone. She can't be dealing with both him and Draco right now. As they reach the edge of the wards, Hermione reaches out for Draco's hand but he moves it away from her reach.

"Wait, can we walk a little?" He asks pointing down the lane.

"Erm, sure." She answers confused.

"I want to talk to you." He mentions as they set off down the lane.

Hermione's heart drops as nerves flood her stomach. "What about?" She asks as calmly as she possibly can.

"I want you to know that no matter what my Mother or anyone else says. I'm not divorcing you once our child's born unless you want me to and if you do then I want joint custody of our child. I want to be a father." He admits looking straight ahead.

Hermione stares at Draco completely awestruck. She definitely didn't expect him to say that.

"I… I…" Hermione stutters not sure what to say.

"My parent's marriage was arranged by their parents. They didn't particularly like each other at first but they made it work for my sake and eventually they grew to love each other. It's not our… our future child's fault that we're in this situation. I can't see why we can't make it work either." He continues to talk.

"Are you comparing us to your parents because need I remind your that your father is in Azkaban and your mother threatened me today?" She asks offended.

He turns quickly to face her. "Not at all. Just, if they did it, we definitely can." He tells her.

"Well, I'm not going to divorce you unless you give me a reason to," Hermione tells him then grabs hold of his hand and disapparates them back to the gates.

Draco decides right then that he's going to try his very best to never give Hermione a reason to leave him. He's sure that one day he'll love her and she'll love him. If she leaves him, who's ever going to love him again? It's also very uncommon for people to get divorced, he remembers how much the Slytherin's bullied Blaise because his Mother had been divorced four times. He doesn't want their child to be punished by the other children at Hogwarts.

Once they get to their house, Hermione unlocks the door for them both then locks it again once he's entered.

"I need to go shopping again. We need more than just the essential in our fridge and cupboards." She tells him.

Draco nods. "I need to get a few things for tomorrow as well." He mentions.

"What's happening tomorrow?" She asks confused.

Of course, she doesn't know. Why would she, he never told her? All he said was he'd cook for her. Well, there's no point telling her now, she'll just get annoyed that he kept another thing from her.

"I'm cooking dinner for us. We haven't had a proper meal since The Partner Ceremony." He reminds her.

"Oh." She sounds excited. "What are you cooking?" She asks curiously as they exit through their backdoor.

"Nothing special." He mutters.

"Okay." She replies, sounding upset. "We should go to the market first then." She leads them over towards the market they bought their essentials in.

He gets handed the basket again as they wander up and down the aisles. He puts in the things he needs. Some spaghetti, mince, tomatoes, garlic cloves, a baguette and a bottle of red wine. Hermione also puts in some eggs, ham, sausages, fish, carrots, potatoes, beans and a tub of ice-cream.

"That'll keep us going for the next couple of days." She tells him as they walk to the till.

He can't help but notice how nervous the cashier looks as he taps the prices into his till. He keeps looking up, giving him an unsure look. The next time Draco catches him doing it, he flashes the man a smirk which makes him cower slightly. Just as he thought. The man's absolutely terrified of him.

"What was wrong with him?" Hermione mumbles as they carry their shopping across the grass back to their house.

"Me. He was scared of me." Draco admits.

"Really?" She questions. "Well, I suppose he has every right to be. You do have a certain look about you and your past doesn't exactly help your case." She adds.

"Thanks." He rolls his eyes sarcastically.

"He might warm up to you the more you shop there." She suggests as they enter their house.

They unpack their shopping quietly. Once he's finished, Draco heads into the living room where he picks up the book he had left on the coffee table and went back to reading. Hermione pauses for a second as she walks through the living room before carrying on up the stairs. A few hours later, he realises that he hasn't heard any movement upstairs for a while so he places his book back on the coffee table, stretches as he rolls off the couch and heads upstairs.

He finds Hermione lying on their bed, fast asleep. He smiles to himself as he goes over to the wardrobe. Even though they're not really breaking into the Manor, he doesn't want to be caught either so he takes out a black jumper, which he pulls on over his shirt, and replaces his brown leather shoes with a black pair. He finds his black woolly hat near the back which he pulls on so he can check all his hair is covered. It's impossible to sneak around when your hair's almost luminescence.

"You look like a burglar," Hermione comments from the bed making him flinch slightly.

"We don't want my Mother to catch us tonight so we have to wear black. Do you have anything?" He asks still trying to tuck his hair under the hat.

He desperately needs a haircut. It's starting to look like it did in the third year which is a style he never wants a repeat of.

"Probably. Let me look." She tells him, climbing off the bed.

He can hear her rummaging through her side of the wardrobe as he tucks the last few strands of hair into his hat.

"Here we go. I've got a black pair of leggings and a black oversized jumper. I can wear them with my black plimsolls." She tells him brandishing the clothes from the wardrobe. "I'll go get changed now." She adds making her way to the bathroom.

He gives himself a once over to ensure all his hair was hidden before lounging on their bed, awaiting Hermione's return. She enters a few minutes later, arms wide, showing off her outfit. She spins around dramatically before striking a pose. He lets a small smile form on his lips as he rolls his eyes.

"It's six o'clock. What are we going to do for another five hours?" She asks, climbing onto the bed next to him.

He shrugs. "I'm pretty comfortable just lying here for now." He replies with a deep sigh.

"Are you tired?" She asks, turning onto her side to face him.

"No, not really. I just prefer not to spend too much time thinking." He explains closing his eyes.

He can almost feel the frowning on her face as she asks, "Why?"

"There's some memories that I'd prefer not to relive through so I like to keep my mind preoccupied so I don't have to." He reluctantly explains.

"Memories from the war?" She asks nervously and he nods.

"We've all got memories from the war but I've found the best way to move past them is to spend a few minutes reliving them. It's how I was able to even set foot in the manor again after… after what happened there." She explains.

He turns to face her, opening his eyes. "I wouldn't know where to start, there's too many of them in here." He prods himself in the forehead.

She reaches over, taking hold of his hand. "Pick one." She tells him and there's a certain sparkle in her eye, nothing like Dumbledore's but kind of similar, that makes him trust her. He closes his eyes again, letting the memories flood his thoughts and he picks one at random.

"It was during our seventh year, the year you didn't come back. Snape put the Carrow's in charge of punishment, then volunteered my help. At first, I was proud to be chosen but after a few weeks the punishment got worse and worse until just after Christmas when Alecto used the p[rsty]q]qsry]qqqqqqqqqqp[cruciatus curse on a second year Gryffindor girl. Her screams haunted my thoughts for weeks after that. I don't even know what she did in order to be punished but I highly doubt it was bad enough for the cruciatus. I could have stopped her. It was just the three of us in the room but I was too scared of what she'd do to me if it even attempted. Too scared of what my Father would say when he found out. Her parents didn't send her back last year. I heard they moved to America and she goes to the American North West Institute for Wizards and Witches." He admits.

He doesn't want to open his eyes for fear of seeing the absolute disgust on Hermione's face. He would say he wishes he could go back in time and save that poor girl but he knows he would still have been too scared of his own punishment. He finds that having talked about it out loud to another person has helped. His heavy heart feels a little lighter now that he's confessed and if it weren't for the fact that Hermione probably hates him now, he'd tell her all his terrorising memories.

She suddenly squeezes his hand to bring his attention to her, which reminds him that they're still holding hands. Slowly, nervously, he opens his eyes to find Hermione smiling at him.

"How do you feel?" She asks, squeezing his hand again.

"A little lighter but still guilty." He admits.

"Why don't you try sending her an owl?" She suggests. "Do you know her name?"

"Sally Lagan." He answers without thought.

He doesn't think he'll ever forget her name.

"There you go. You could write her a letter and apologise. If she does attend the American North West Institute, it'll find her." She suggests.

"And if she doesn't?" He asks her.

"Then at least you tried." She smiles a small, soft smile that tells him everything is going to be okay. "Do you want to pick another or is one enough for today?"

"I think one a day is more than enough for now." Draco shakes his head.

His first memory was a bad one but there's certainly a lot worse hiding away in his head that he's not sure Hermione would want to hear him confess to.

"That's fine but I'm going to make sure you do this every day. You don't have to tell me but even reliving it all in your head will help. Now, do you want a snack before we go breaking and entering?" She asks making him roll his eyes as they both climb off their bed.

"We're not doing anything illegal." He reminds her as he straightens his hat.

"Of course, we're not. That's why we're both currently dressed in black about to go sneaking around a house in the middle of the house." She retaliates as they walk down the stairs. "Would you like an omelette? We need to use the rest of the eggs up." She asks.

"Okay." He lets a small smile play on his lips as he watches her collect the ingredients and set about making their dinner.

He leans against the counter watching as she hums along to a familiar tune and cooks. Her hips swinging slightly, in time to her humming. He takes a step closer to her before thinking straight and walking around the counter to sit at the table. He doesn't quite know what came over him but for a second, he felt the urge, the need to place his hands on her hips and bury his face in her hair. What in Merlin's name is he thinking that for?

He turns to look out of the window overlooking their garden to distract him. Since it's only just gone half six and it is June, so it's still very light outside. They'll have to leave before half nine so to not look too suspicious when leaving the estate. They don't need a nosey neighbour to catch them and tell a reporter. Another article in The Daily Prophet is the last thing the need right now.

Hermione places their plates on the table before taking a seat next to Draco. She halfway through hers when she remembers she's supposed to be meeting Derek and Verity tonight at eight o'clock.

"Oh, crap." She curses jumping out of her chair as she checks her watch. It's nearly seven o'clock. She's got plenty of time.

"What's wrong?" Draco asks, confused by her sudden outburst.

"I completely forgot that I'm supposed to be meeting Derek and Verity tonight at eight. I don't know his house phone number so I can't call and cancel." She explains as she hurries to finish the rest of her dinner.

"Can't you just not show up?" Draco suggests with a shrug.

"I know you don't like him Draco but he's my friend. I can't just stand him up." She explains as she washes her plate up with a spell this time.

She needs to go get changed. Leaving Draco to finish his dinner, she races upstairs to their bedroom to rummage through their wardrobe. She finds a casual black dress that she can easily wear for both socialising with her friends, and break and entering. She quickly pulls it on, keeping her leggings underneath, adding a pair of flat black boots instead of her plimsolls. Just as she sits in front of their mirror, Draco enters their bedroom and sits on their bed. Hermione pulls her wand out, tapping her face a few times as she mutters a couple of beauty spells. Ginny had taught her some in fourth year ready for the Yule Ball. Just basic spells like concealing, mascara and lip gloss.

"Why are you wearing makeup?" Draco asks suspiciously.

"It's been eight years since I last saw Verity, I want to look nice." She explains but really she wants to impress her. Prove to her she's not the nerdy, bushy haired, bookworm she was at primary school. Or at least pretend she isn't just for tonight. She wants to show Verity that she's changed in the last eight years.

"How long will you be out?" He asks.

"Maybe two, two and a half hours. I'll meet you in The Leaky Cauldron at half ten and we'll wait there until eleven o'clockish before disapparating to the Manor. Okay?" She asks.

He sighs before answering with a simple, "Yeah."

"Great. I better get going. I want to pop by my parents' house and pick up a black cardigan that I didn't think I'd need." She mentions, racing down the stairs with her jumper to find her bag.

She hears Draco follow her down the stairs as she shoves her jumper in her bag. She's taken to keeping two purses, a Muggle purse and a Magic purse. One for each set of currency she needs to carry around with her depending on which world she's spending time in. Tonight, she's going to be in both so she checks that they're both there.

"I'll see you at half ten in The Leaky Cauldron." She reminds him as she rushes out the front door letting it slam shut behind her.

She quickly walks to the gate where she disapparates to the alleyway behind her parents' house. The lights off in the kitchen so she hopes that they're in the living room and not already in bed. They've been working really hard recently since they took Wednesday off for The Partner Ceremony. She slowly opens the backdoor, which is unlocked, and makes her way through the dark kitchen and into the hall. She notices light coming from beneath the living room door. She enters the room making her Dad jump.

"Hermione! Jesus Christ child." Her Dad says, hand on his heart. "Are you trying to kill me?" He mutters.

"Where's Mum?" She asks, sitting down on the couch.

"At Grandma Betty's helping with the kids. Louise got back together with Darren." He raises an eyebrow at her.

"Again!" Hermione sighs shaking his head.

"Yeah, it's not easy for them at their age to be looking after under five-year-olds." Her Dad mentions.

"Well if you need any help with them, Draco and I aren't busy." She offers.

"Speaking of Draco, where is that husband of yours?" He questions.

"At home. I'm meeting Derek and Verity for a few drinks." She mentions.

"Verity? You hate her." Her Dad points out.

"I did in primary school, maybe she's changed," Hermione suggests. "Anyway, I came for a cardigan that I left here." She tells him as she heads up the stairs.

She finds it in her wardrobe with a few other clothes she didn't want to bring to the estate. She pulls it on and goes back downstairs. She's got about twenty minutes before she's due to meet them so she sits back down on the couch to watch some TV with her Dad.

"Where are you meeting them?" He asks at the end of Antiques Roadshow.

"The Buffalo at eight o'clock." She answers.

"I don't think your Mum's going to be back anytime soon so I'll walk with you and grab some dinner from Howards." He announces, turning the TV off and grabbing his jacket and wallet.

They walk in a comfortable silence for most of their walk until her Dad nudges her elbow with his.

"How have you been? I haven't seen you since you and Draco had that argument." Her Dad asks.

"We're fine. We had a talk and I think we roughly know what we're doing." She tells him.

She knows he worries about her. More so since she's their only child.

"Care to share?" He urges her to tell him.

"Erm, well we found out a lot of people are getting divorced once they've had a child. We've both come to the decision that we're going to try and make the best out of this situation for our future child." She admits.

"I'm glad you're going to try but don't stay with him if you don't want to just for the sake of your child. It won't end well if you do." He warns her.

"We have a lot in common Dad and I feel as though I could grow to love him but I'm a long way from that place right now." She tells him.

"Do you know how Draco feels about you?" He asks.

She shrugs. "We'll I know he feels something for me. He got jealous of Derek when we went to Mrs Morris' Café and he showed me his softer side this morning. The side of him I know I could fall in love with if he showed it more often."

"Jealousy's never a good thing for a relationship." He points out.

"I know but at least it proves he cares enough to get jealous. I've already told him he has nothing to worry about with Derek." She says.

Her Dad just nods in reply as they come up to Howards.

"Will we see you on Tuesday's at Uncle David's?" He asks.

"Yeah, we'll be there." She hugs her Dad before waving goodbye and crossing the road.

She's never been inside The Buffalo and she's not sure she wants to right now. There's an outdoor seating area full of people already drunk and smoking with their children running around with shoes on. She tries not to be a snob so she rolls her shoulders back and pushes the door open revealing an unpleasant, smoke hazy bar. Since she's early, she grabs herself a stool at the bar and orders herself a coke as she waits.

Chapter Text

Derek finally shows up ten minutes late, looking quite dishevelled.

"Hi, Derek." She greets him with a smile, giving him a quick hug. "Are you okay?" She asks.

"Yeah, I lost my house key so had to wait for Mum to get home from work at eight. I've literally run here. Sorry, I'm late." He apologises.

"It's fine. You're not as late as Verity." Hermione chuckles.

"Ah, yes. I asked if she wanted to come but her Boyfriend's back from university this week so she wants to spend as much time as she can with him." He explains.

"Oh, right. Did she not go to university?" She asks as Derek orders himself a beer.

"Nah, it's not really her thing. She's doing a beauty course at college." He answers her as she pays. "What about you? I'm surprised you didn't go to Uni." He chuckles.

"I'm going this September. Something came up during my seventh year so I had to drop out. I went back last September to complete my last year." She vaguely explains.

"Oh really. What happened" He asks leading her over to an empty, sticky table.

"There was… an incident… in Scotland." She starts trying to think of something believable. "A few students didn't like me because I got in on a scholarship and wasn't rich like the rest of them. One of the Governors started threatening all the scholarship students so we all dropped out along with a few of our friends as a protest. Anyway, he got fired and prosecuted along with some of the parent who follow him." She rambles on hoping it sounded believable.

"Oh my God." He stares at her wide eyes. "And you went back?" He asks.

"Well, yeah. I needed to finish my education and all my friends were there." She tells him.

"And Drake." He asks.

Hermione rolls her eyes. "He's called Draco, and yes. He was still at the school."

"He didn't drop out with you." He asks, trying to look nonchalant.

"No, his father was one of the parents who followed the Governor. If he had dropped out, his father would have found out about us and would have disowned him." She makes something up.

"So Draco cares more about what his father thinks then you?" He asks sympathetically.

"No, I wouldn't let him drop out." She tries to defend her fake past with Draco.

"Why would you do that?" Derek frowns.

"Well, firstly, I'm scared of his Father and secondly, Draco's not exactly the kindest person in the world. He's made a few enemies at school. If he'd been disowned, I'm not entirely sure where he'd have gone. He hasn't got any other family." She explains as she finishes her drink.

"Why are you with him if you're scared of his father?" He asks, sounding dejected.

"Draco isn't his father and I love him." Her throat feels tightens as she lies and wonders whether she'll ever truly love him and if he'll ever love her. "Anyway, we've only been talking about me. What about you, do you have a girlfriend?" She asks trying to turn the topic of conversation away from her.

"There was this one girl who I liked but she moved away." He shrugs taking a swig from his glass.

"Oh, did she go off to university?" She asks.

"Yeah, and she met a guy there so there's no chance for me." He grumbles looking glumly into his glass.

"Why didn't you go to university?" She asks.

He shrugs. "I can't decide what I actually want to do. What are you doing?" He asks.

"I'm off to Edinburgh to study Physics." She smiles remembering the lie she told her Grandad and Uncle.

Derek pulls a disgusted face. "I hate Physics."

"What do you like?" She asks trying to be helpful.

"I suppose History was my favourite lesson." He mutters. "You can thank your Uncle for that."

"Did you not want to study it further" She wonders.

"Yeah, I took it at college but the teacher just droned on and on that I dropped it after a year. I ended up teaching myself everything I needed for the exam." He mentions.

"Why don't you go back and finish your history A-level?" She suggests.

"Maybe I will. I've got nothing else to do this year. I might take a few others AS-levels." He says with another shrug.

"So, how is your family?" She asks.

"Aright. Sally got married two years ago but they both still live with us. Thankfully Andrew moved out. He's in Italy or Spain or somewhere teaching. Mum and Dad are great, they bought a puppy last year and are always up in the Lake District doing weekend walks." He rolls his eyes.

"Are you sure Andrew's not in Germany? He was studying German at Stirling University." She asks.

"Yeah, that's it." He laughs. "What do you want to drink?" He asks standing up.

"I'll have a small glass of red wine." She smiles as he walks away.

This is a lot more awkward than she thought it would be. He really hasn't changed much in the last three years. Except for the fact he's grown and cut his hair. Or maybe it's because she's changed so much during the war that his own change doesn't look at big in comparison.

"Here you are." Derek hands her a large glass of wine.

"I only asked for a small." She reminded him as she takes a sip.

"Yeah but it's a Saturday night." He shrugs as if that answers everything.

They both sit there in awkward silence for a few minutes before Derek speaks up.

"So, have you started planning your wedding yet then?" He asks.

"Not yet, no. We're going to wait until after university. Maybe summer 2003." She says thinking it sounds rather logical.

"Well, I'll be expecting an invitation." He gives her a smile.

"Of course, you and your family will be invited." She tells him trying to think how she can get out of it when the time comes. Maybe she can tell them that they eloped. She'll have to think of something to tell her grandparents as well.

They spend the next hour either in awkward silence or making awkward small talk. At twenty past ten, Hermione announces that she's supposed to be meeting Draco in ten minutes. Derek begs her to stay a few minutes longer but she declines, hugging him goodbye then leaves. She's glad to be out of the pub. It'll take at least five showers to wash all the smoke out of her hair.

Glancing around to make sure no one is watching her, she sneaks around the back of the pub to disapparate to The Leaky Cauldron. Or that was her plan until she spots two men pleasuring each other behind a wheelie bin.

"Oh, sorry." She mumbles before quickly walking away, trying to get the image out of her head.

She continues to walk past the outdoor seating area and around the corner, down a badly lit street. She glances around, to make sure nobody is watching before jumping behind a bush then disapparating to Diagon Alley. She quickly enters The Leaky Cauldron and instantly finds Draco at the bar talking to Tom, the barkeeper.

"Hi, can I have a shot of firewhisky, please?" Hermione orders as she leans against the bar.

"How was your catch up?" Draco asks. He can hear the jealousy in his voice.

Tom hands her the drink and she downs it before ordering another.

"That bad?" He asks, brightening up slightly.

"No, it was fine. A little awkward since Verity couldn't make it. I just saw something I'd rather forget." She shudders before downing the second shot.

"What?" He asks not sure if he wants to know.

"Doesn't matter. I'm suppressing the memory." She shakes her head and orders a butterbeer.

"Don't drink too much." He whispers. "Remember where we're going tonight." He raises an eyebrow.

"Fine, I'll make this my last one." She nods.

"So, Verity didn't show up?" He tries to casually bring it up.

"Yeah, her boyfriend's home from university so she wanted to be with him," Hermione explains.

"Are you sure Derek actually invited her?" He asks, with a hint of venom in his voice.

She glares at him for a second before taking a sip from her butterbeer.

"I've seen the way he looks at you." He mutters.

"Draco, Derek is not secretly in love with me." She shakes her head at him.

"Are you sure about that?" He asks, taking a gulp from his own drink.

She doesn't answer and he hopes she's actually thinking about it because it's obvious Derek is in love with her. He wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't invited Verity just so he could spend one to one time with Hermione.

At eleven o'clock, they leave Tom a small tip as leave The Leaky Cauldron into Diagon Alley. He reaches down for Hermione's hand to find her hand already reaching up for his. They walk down a side alley then disapparate a kilometre away from the manor. They don't want to risk his Mother hearing their apparation. It takes them ten minutes to walk to the manor. The stop to look up at the gate and the manor. There were no lights on at the front of the house which is promising. It means his Mother is already in her room, hopefully asleep.

He glances down at Hermione's, whose hand is covering her scared arm. He wonders if she knows she's doing it or if it's just a subconscious action. He reaches down, taking her hand in his and squeezing it gently. She looks up at him both shocked and thankful for the distraction.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" He asks. "You could wait here. I'd only be forty minutes." He suggests with another squeeze to her hand.

"No. I'm coming in." She says forcefully, dragging him through the gate.

"Shush." He whispers pulling her back. "We need to be quite. My Mother might have noise detecting wards around the house." He tells her.

She nods in understanding then starts tiptoeing across the grass around the back of the Manor. Draco rolls his eyes as he follows after her, although he refuses to tiptoe, instead treading lightly and carefully.

When they reach the door, they notice a light coming from the kitchen windows. That'll be Mitty and Gharther preparing breakfast for the morning. Draco holds his finger to his mouth and Hermione nods. Slowly, and as silently as possible, he unlocks the door with a wave of his hand and a mutter of "Alohomora", then carefully pushes the heavy door open. He winces when it creaks, stopping the door in its tracks, listening for any noise that would suggest they had been heard. Thankfully after a minute of listening, he feels safe enough to try the door again but it makes an even louder creaks so he stops. There's about enough room for them to both squeeze through. Draco enters first then holds the door in place for Hermione. He then quietly pushes the door shut again.

They'd only made it through the door and already he's starting to sweat with the nerves. He has to remind himself that they're not actually breaking and entering and he should be so nervous. So what if his Mother finds them. It's his home too. Although he doubts, after what happened earlier in the day, that his Mother or Hermione would be happy to see the other.

"There's a servants' staircase in the kitchens that will take us straight up to the top floor." He leans in to whisper into Hermione's ear.

She turns to face him, bringing their faces a little too close for comfort right now. "Why do you have a servants' staircase?" She asks quirking her eyebrow.

"It was a rich muggle family's house before my great-grandfather murdered them for it in 1865." He whispers as an explanation.

Hermione's eyes widen shocked by this small part of his family's history. If only she knew it all. He thinks with a smirk.

"He needed somewhere safe to hide his adopted daughter from his father." He tries to defend his ancestor but to no avail. "We can have a Malfoy family history lesson later but now we need to find a way to the staircase without Mitty or Gharther seeing us. Especially Gharther since he's my Mother's house-elf." He mutters.

"Okay," She whispers back before brandishing her wand.

"What are you doing?" He asks as she waves her wand at a chest down the end of the hallway.

Suddenly the chest starts shaking become more and more violent. He watches on confused as to what exactly her plan is. He hears the kitchen door open slowly and a squeak of a house-elf when they see the chest jumping about by itself.

"Gharther, Mitty sees master's father's chest moving." He hears Mitty call into the kitchen.

Gharther grumbles something as he walks shuffles closer to the chest. "Boggart." He announces and Mitty gasps.

"Mitty go wake master's mother," Mitty tells him heading up the stairs.

"Mitty, no. Gharther's mistress sleeping." He calls after her chasing her up the stairs.

Hermione grabs hold of his hand pulling him into the kitchens before the house-elves return.

"I can't believe that actually worked." Draco shakes his head.

"They're not the brightest creatures." Hermione mumbles glancing around the kitchen. "Where's this servants' staircase of yours then?" She questions quietly.

Draco shakes his head as he pulls her over to a door next to the oven. He opens it to reveal the pantry which confuses Hermione for a moment until he moves a curtain out of the way to show her the staircase leading up. They shut the pantry door behind them and move the curtain back into position so if the house-elves come into the pantry, they won't notice anything strange.

Its pitch black in the staircase but neither of them dare use 'Lumos' for fear of being caught. Thankfully the staircase is made from stone so they don't need to worry about the floorboards creaking but they do make sure they step quietly on each step. After a few minutes, they make it to the top of the staircase on the third floor.

Draco slowly glances around the door, not finding anything suspicious. Hermione slowly slots her hand into his which knocks him off guard but he figures she must just be scared. She found the Manor scary in the daytime and everything gets scarier at night so he squeezes her hand, reassuringly before they exit the staircase.

The third floor was where his Father worked before he was sent to Azkaban. There was a large office at the top of the main staircase, two large meeting rooms in the left wing and a large room dedicated to the practice of dark magic in the right wing. Since his Father was sentenced to Azkaban, nobody's been up here as far as he knows.

He guides Hermione from the left wing, where the servants' staircase brought them out at, to the right wing. They stop at the top of their main staircase to glance down the side of the bannister, a few candles on the second floor lighting the space.

However, when he glances down, he spots Gharther glancing up. He quickly jumps back hoping his Mother's house-elf didn't see him and if he did, he didn't recognise him.

"Mitty, Mitty, Gharther sees intruder on Master's floor." They hear Gharther whisper loudly to Mitty.

"Shit." Draco curses, holding onto Hermione's hand tighter as they run down the corridor towards the door that will open onto another staircase leading up to the attic.

He doesn't care how loud they're being. They've already been caught. They need to hide. Draco throws the door open, accidently letting it slam against the wall. He hopes it doesn't wake his Mother. He wandlessly closes it behind him with the mutter of a spell as he urges Hermione to run up the staircase before him.

"Where are we gonna hide?" She asks, urgently looking around.

"They don't know about the secret attic. They're not even allowed in this attic." He explains pointing over to the chimney breast.

"If they're not allowed in the attic, why are we even bothering to hide?" Hermione asks.

"In case they wake my Mother. She won't check the secret attic. Only her, my Father and I know about it and I don't think she'll expect me to be the intruder." He tells her as he takes his wand out and taps an 'M' into the bricks on the chimney breast.

He watches Hermione's face out of the corner of his eye as the bricks fold away, similar to that of alley way into Diagon Alley through The Leaky Cauldron. She looks amazed, excited and also terribly nervous. He motions for her to enter first once the bricks have stopped moving, which she does, walking straight into another large attic space full of banned, priceless or dangerous items. Some of them are all three.

Draco hears the bricks move back into place as they walk further into the secret attic. He takes a quick glance around and notices that not much has changed since he last came up here little over a year ago.

"What's under here?" Hermione asks, starting to lift the cover of a glass cabinet.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you." He warns her, taking the cover out of her hands and placing it back down.

"What's under there?" She asks, nervously curious.

"My Great-grandfather was not a good man." He simply states.

"He killed muggles just for their property, I kind of guessed her wasn't a good man." She stares at him pointedly.

He debates for a moment whether he should tell her more before deciding that she should know.

"He didn't see muggles as actual people so killing them was just a hunting game for him and like every other hunting game he went on, he would always come home with a trophy." Draco explains.

"So that's his trophy cabinet." She motions at the covered pieces of furniture.

"It's his muggle hunting trophy cabinet." He corrects her.

"What did he collect?" She asks, looking pale.

"I don't think you-" He starts but he's interrupted by Hermione asking again. "What did he collect?"

He awkwardly avoids her eyes as he mumbles, "Their skulls."

He hears her retch before she vomits on the floor. He looks over at her nervously as she waves her wand to clean up her mess.

"Their… their…" She mutters.

"I'm sorry Hermione." He steps forward to comfort her but she takes a step away from him, shaking her head.

"Where are the books?" She mutters, hugging her arms to herself.

"There's a bookshelf over in that corner, then a few piles of books near the chimney breast." He answers sadly.

He's annoyed with himself for having told Hermione the truth but he knows if she found out at a later date that he'd lied to her, she would be a lot angrier than she is now so he leaves her to calm down and heads over to the bookshelf, leaving Hermione to search through the piles of books.

After twenty minutes, his search hasn't turned anything up and he's only halfway through the books. He's found a few books on muggle torture, which makes him glad that he chose to search the bookshelf. He doesn't want to think about what would have happened if Hermione had found the books. He skims the rest of the books quickly finding nothing that suggest the contents would contain anything on the laws of a marriage decree.

He glances around the attic space, to see if there are any more piles of books, when he spots a wardrobe in the opposite corner, half covered with a sheet. He can't remember if he's ever looked in the wardrobe before so he lets curiosity take the better of him and he goes over to take a look.

Hermione's still feeling shaken from learning the truth about Draco's Great-grandfather and she's glad he stopped her from taking a peek from underneath the cover. She doesn't want to looks at a cabinet full of muggle skulls all lines up like trophies. She wonders if there's little plaques in front of each one, labelling the skull but she doesn't wonder long before she feels sick again.

She's searched through nearly every book in the piles and not one of them looked promising from the cover. She had had a quick flick through one book, entitled 'Lost Tenth Century Spells, Vol VI.' It had been written in 1476 which intrigued her since she rarely came across books that old. She might have to ask Draco if they can return to have a better look at some of the more interesting books.

She glances over to where Draco's searching the bookshelf to find him crouching on the floor, skimming the spines on the lower shelf. She closes the book she had been flicking through, placing it back on the pile before picking up the next book entitled 'Seventeenth Century Laws. Vol III."

Hermione's eyes widen as she re-reads the title. This might just be what they're looking for. She places the book in her bag and scans the rest of the books for Vol I and Vol II. She finds a Vol IV, which she also puts in her bag, when she hears the tell-tale sound of a cane making contact with a wooden floor then a loud crash.

She quickly turns around to see Draco scrambling on the floor, away from something. She follows his line of sight to see none other than Lucius Malfoy staring down his nose, disappointedly and disgusted at Draco.

"No, no, no." She hears Draco mutter over and over again as he shuffles away from his Father but the man carries on walking forward, cane hitting the floor with every other footstep.

Hermione doesn't quite understand what's happening. Lucius Malfoy is in Azkaban. There's no way he can be here right now. Especially since Kingsley tightened security. He got rid of most of the Dementors placing Ministry Officials as guards. Each prison had at least one guard guarding their cell at any one time. Higher level prisoners, like Lucius Malfoy, permanently had two guards on duty outside his cell. So it's impossible for Lucius to be here right now and yet here he is, glaring down his nose at his own son who looks terrified. Where did he even come from? How long has he been hiding up here? Hermione wonders looking behind Lucius to find a half hidden wardrobe's door open.

Of course. Hermione thinks, running over to Draco. He must hear her as he glances over his shoulder at her, then scrambles to his feet in an attempt to keep her away from his Father. He wraps his arms around her, holding her tightly against him. She gets the feeling that it's less for her sake and more for his own.

"It's okay Draco." She tries to wriggle out of his grasp. "It's not him. He's not really here." She tells him, finally managing to break free from his arms and face Lucius Malfoy herself.

Suddenly the terrifying man disappears before turning into her own parents, stood smiling at her. She stares back at them confused. She isn't scared of her parents. Why are they here?

A few seconds later, her parents freeze, a look of excruciating pain on their face before they drop to the floor, silently screaming as they spasm in front of her. She feels tears prickling her eyes as she watches he parents become the victim of the cruciatus curse.

She closes her eyes tightly. This isn't real. This isn't real. This isn't real. She thinks over and over again until she feels Draco's comforting hand on her shoulder. She takes a deep breath, reaches into her bag for her wand then opens her eyes.

Glaring down at the still spasming bodies of her parents, she points her wand shakily at them and utters the word, "Riddikulus."

She watches as her Dad flips over and starts doing the worm, badly and her Mum jumps up to do the Macarena. She can't help but giggle quietly as her parent dance awfully to some unheard music.

Upon hearing her laughter, her parents disappear and the Boggart flies straight back into the wardrobe, doors slamming shut behind it. She continues to stare at the wardrobe for a few second before spinning around and wrapping her arms around an unsuspecting Draco and breaks down crying.

"That… w-was… te-terrifying." She cries onto his shoulder. She feels him gently and awkwardly pat her back to comfort her.

She doubts he's ever had to comfort a crying woman before but she doesn't care if she's making him uncomfortable right now, she just saw her parents under the cruciatus curse and it's even if it wasn't really them, it's not something she's ever going to forget.

"I want to leave." She whispers to Draco once she's calmed down.

He nods. "Alright." He mutters.

She gives him a quick squeeze before letting go and stepping away from him, slightly embarrassed.

"I just hope Mitty and Gharther aren't waiting outside the attic doors," Hermione mentions and to her surprise, Draco smirks back at her.

"I hope you don't think there's only one way out of here." He quirks an eyebrow at her before guiding her over towards what appears to be a brick wall.

Similar to what he did to the chimney breast, Hermione watches as Draco taps an 'M' onto the bricks and the wall folds away revealing yet another staircase. She wonders how many staircases the Manor has as they carefully and quietly make their way down them. This staircase ends up bringing them into a room that looks like a meeting room with a long, dark wooden table and around twenty chairs surrounding it. Draco leads her over to the door and peers out into the corridor.

"They're stood guard outside the door," Draco whispers back to her. "They'll probably be there until morning." He sighs closing the door again.

Hermione takes out her wand and waves it over her head. She shudders at the feeling of cold, gooey liquid running down her body before tapping Draco's head with her wand, casting the same charm.

"What are yo-" He starts to ask before shuddering himself, obviously not expecting the effect. "Why didn't I think to use the disillusionment charm?" He rhetorically asks looking down at himself as he blends into his surroundings. "Where are you?" He asks, looking through her as he glances around the room.

"Put your hand on the door handle." She tells him.

"Why?" He asks confused.

"Just do it." She rolls her eyes.

Then, hoping he's followed her instructions, she places her own hand on the door handle, on top of Draco's.

"Okay, I'm here. Now don't let go." She tells him, hoping he can't hear the worry in her voice.

The thought of her losing him in the manor and running into the house-elves or Narcissa by herself scares her. With Draco by her side, he fears shrink until it's just a worry.

"We should get going." He mutters, opening the door again.

They both walk out into the corridor, slowly in case they alert the house-elves to their whereabouts. They make it to the door leading to the servants' staircase without as much as a creaking floorboard to give them away. They haven't got long left before the charm wears off so they run, as quietly as possible, down the stone staircase into the pantry. Draco rearranges the curtain behind them to hide their tracks, then they exit into the kitchen, the corridor and then through the door.

Once they're in the open space of the gardens, surrounded by fresh air, Hermione takes a deep breath to steady her nerves. They did it. She can't believe they actually broke into the Manor and stole some books. She'd only been married to Draco for three days and already he had been a bad influence on her.

The charms still in effect and she had lost Draco's hand whilst escaping from the kitchen's so she's not sure where he is right then.

"Draco." She whispers but there's no answer. "Draco." She calls a little louder but still no reply. Did he make it out of the Manor? She wonders but doesn't have the guts to go back into the Manor without Draco by her side. Instead, she decides to head out of the gate, where she feels immensely safer, to wait for Draco.

After five minutes, she starts to worry. She's not sure what Narcissa would do if she catches Draco wandering around the Manor at this time of night when he's not even supposed to be living there anymore. She doesn't want to think about it. She looks down at her watch to check the time before she remembers she's practically invisible. She sighs and goes back to watching the gate for any movement.

A few minutes later, she notices her feet are becoming visible again. She jumps up from a large rock she had been sitting on and runs over to the gate. She peers through the bar, looking for Draco anywhere in the gardens but there's still no sign of him. She sighs again, looking down at herself to see her legs were slowly coming back. Not before long, her entire body is visible again. She leans against the bars of the gate to look for Draco again when she spots him over near a small outhouse.

"Draco!" She calls trying not to be too loud but he doesn't hear her, instead going inside the building.

Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she pushes the gate open again walking over to the outhouse where she follows Draco inside. Its pitch black but she daren't cast 'Lumos' in case someone from the Manor happens to glance out of the window and spot her beam of light. Instead, she knocks on the door. She hears the scuff of Draco's shoes as he stops dead in his tracks.

"Draco?" She whispers into space.

"Hermione! Where have you been?" He asks as he quickly walks towards her.

"I was waiting at the gate for you." She answers, turning to cast her eyes around the gardens and then the Manor's windows. She can't see anyone so, grabbing Draco's hand, they make a run for it.

They shut the gate behind them and set of running again down the lane. Hermione checks her watch. It's twenty to one. Hermione stifled a yawn as they came to the place they had disapparated to on the way here. She takes his hand and disapparates them back to the estate. She doesn't expect to see anyone walking around the estate at this hour but she spots someone walking down Epsilon Street, away from them. Quickly, they walk back to their house where Draco unlocks the door, letting them both in.

She doesn't bother taking her shoes off as she walks through the hall into the living room, then collapsing onto the couch. Closing her eyes, she thinks back over everything that had just happened as Draco drops down next to her.

"Unless you've taken your shoes off don't even think about putting your feet up on our coffee table." She warns him and she hears him kick his shoes off before putting them back up.

"I think I'm going to have to go back. I didn't finish looking through the bookshelf." He admits and Hermione sighs.

"I'd like to go back as well, there're a few books that looked interesting. I wouldn't mind giving them a read." She announces.

"Any books you want to read we can bring back here. Hide them in our attic." He tells her then sighs. "I'm off to bed. Are you coming?" He asks her standing up and stretching.

"Yeah, I'm shattered. I'd like to visit my grandparents tomorrow." She tells him as she rolls herself up off the couch. She hopes he asks to come with her since she wants to introduce him to them before the barbeque on Tuesday night.

"Oh, okay. I only need about an hour and a half for dinner. Do you mind if I accompany you?" He asks as they walk up the stairs to their bedroom.

"Not at all. I'd like to introduce you to them before the barbeque on Tuesday night anyway." She says sitting down on the bed to pull her shoes off.

"Who are you going to introduce me as?" He asks.

She looks up at him curiously as he goes about collecting his pyjama bottoms for under his pillow then taking his own shoes off.

"Well I'm not going to introduce you as my husband." She chuckles. "We've already told Derek that you're my fiancé we should just keep our story the same. Otherwise we'll just get caught up in a web of lies." She points out. "So we started dating in year ten and you proposed on our fourth anniversary." She simples says as she grabs her own pyjamas. "Also, the reason we didn't tell them is because you father hated me and if he found out he would have pulled you from school." She tells him.

"Well, that's not exactly a lie. My Father does hate you although if we had dated at Hogwarts he would have somehow convinced the Ministry that you were illegally using magic in the muggle world and gotten you expelled." Draco admits as he leaves the bedroom to go to the bathroom.

Hermione takes the opportunity to get dressed into her own pyjamas. She doesn't usually like charming her teeth clean but she's too tired to brush them properly. Once she's charmed her face clean as well, she climbs into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin as she awaits Draco's return. When he comes back into the bedroom, he hangs his clothes back in the wardrobe then climbs into bed. Hermione wonders if he'd worn a shirt to bed the previous nights.

"Do you need my help with the cooking tomorrow?" She asks, hoping he doesn't since she needs to go visit Ron and make sure he's doing okay. She's starting to worry about him after this afternoon.

"No, I'd prefer it if you weren't in the kitchen. I like to cook alone." He tells her.

"Okay, I'll pop out for a few hours." She says, turning to face him.

"Where to?" He asks curiously.

"I need to make sure Ron's okay. I'm worried about him." She admits.

She hears Draco sigh, obviously annoyed. "He's a big boy Hermione, I'm sure he can look after himself." She can tell from the infliction of his voice that he's smirking.

"He's never drunk this much before or for this long. He just needs someone to talk some sense into him. Harry has about as much sense in him as Ron does and I don't think he'll listen to any of his family." She tries to explain to Draco.

"You can't always be there to help him. You've got your own future to think about. He'll be fine in the long run once he gets divorced." He says.

She feels Draco shuffling around as he turns to face her, although, in the dark, she can't see anything.

"I suppose you're right. Things will be easier for him once he's divorced Pansy although he'll still have a child with her. They're going to have to learn to be civil for their child's sake." She says. "Why don't you have a word with Pansy abou-" She starts.

"No, I'm not getting involved with her marriage." He tells her with a tone of finality so she drops it.

Nothing is said for a few minutes. Hermione listens to Draco's breathing as it gradually slows.

"Goodnight, Draco." She mutters assuming he's already asleep until he mumbles a "Goodnight," back. She smiles to herself as she slowly drifts off to sleep herself.

Chapter Text

Draco's awoken by his wand vibrating at exactly six minutes past five in the morning. He quickly cancels the charm he placed on his wand then sets it on his bedside table. 5:06am on the fifth day of the sixth month. He lies on his back, staring up at the ceiling. There was a time, during the last few months of the war, where he didn't think he would make it to this far but here he is. Alive and physically well. This time next year he'll most likely be expecting a child. He might not have chosen to get married to Hermione or even chosen to get married at all but the simple fact that he's getting a child out of this whole situation makes it all worthwhile. It's not as though he hates the situation as much as he first thought he would either. The more he gets to know Hermione, the more he enjoys being in her company.

He lies there wondering if his Mother will remember or if his father is lying in his cell thinking about him. He has no doubt in his mind that Mitty will make him a cake and Blaise will bring him something strange as a present. He knows Hermione doesn't know and he's not going to tell her. It's too late now.

An hour later he feels Hermione stir in the bed next to him. He rolls onto his side to face her when she opens her eyes and smiles at him. He offers her a small smile back.

"Morning." He greets her as she yawns then frowns at him.

"What time is it?" She asks glancing around their still dark bedroom.

"About quarter past six." He answers.

Hermione groans as she shuffles back down under the quilt. "Why are we awake this early?" She asks, completely disappearing underneath the covers.

"I've been awake for the last hour." He admits.

"You're crazy." She mumbles.

"I'm getting up." He tells her as he climbs out of bed.

"I'm going back to sleep." She grumbles from beneath the cover.

Draco smiles to himself as he grabs his dressing robe and heads downstairs for a slice of toast and a cup of tea. The Daily Prophet hasn't been delivered yet so he grabs the book he was reading yesterday and settles onto the couch. Once he's finished his breakfast, he washes up and heads back upstairs where he carefully opens the bedroom door so not to wake Hermione up. He successfully grabs his clothes for the day and makes his way into the bathroom where he takes a shower before getting dressed. He checks that Hermione is still asleep before he leaves the house, locking the front door behind him.

He's just about to exit the estate when he hears his name being called from behind him. He turns around to see Blaise running at him and has just enough time to steady himself before his friend throws himself into a bone crushing hug.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Blaise shouts at him.

"Blaise! Shut up!" Draco pushes him away.

"Luna and I got you some presents. Well, I got you two present, Luna hated them both so she got you her own present." Blaise chuckles.

"She didn't need to get me anything," Draco tells him.

"Of course, she didn't but she wanted to. Anyway, you'll have to come over to ours to get them." He tells him.

"Okay, I won't be over until late. I've got a few things I need to do today." He mentions.

"Where are you going now?" Blaise asks.

"Diagon Alley." He answers.

"I'll come with you. I need to buy some ice-cream." He announces.

"Why do need ice-cream?" He asks as they set off through the gate.

"We're having ice-cream for breakfast." Blaise laughs at something that Draco decides he doesn't want to know about.

The disapparate outside The Leaky Cauldron, where they always meet when they disapparate separately, then walk towards Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.

"So Draco, how does it feel to finally be nineteen?" Blaise asks.

"I feel thirty with everything that's happened the past five years." Draco jokes.

"What did Hermione get you?" He asks excitedly.

"What makes you think I told her?" He admits.

"Draco,-" Blaise starts.

"I don't want her to feel obligated to get me something." Draco interrupts.

"Okay," Blaise says awkwardly. "So what are you doing today?"

"I'm going to buy myself a new book, visit my Mother, cook Hermione and myself dinner then come to yours for my presents." He tells Blaise his plans for the day.

"Wow! What a great birthday you're going to have." Blaise sarcastically states.

Draco just rolls his eyes at his friend as they stop outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.

"I'll see you tonight then." Blaise gives him a quick hug before leaving.

Draco's never been one for hugging, preferring to keep himself to himself but for some reason, Blaise likes to hug him any chance he gets. Blaise often tells him he wasn't hugged enough as a child which is true. His family aren't really on for showing affection.

He's walking towards Flourish and Blotts when he notices a sign in Eeylops Owl Emporium's window. Curiously, he heads over to the window where a large cage is filled with around seven baby owls. The sign next to it reads 'Baby Owls – 50% off'. Draco stares at the baby owls in the cage. He does need a new owl since his father killed his after it had lost an important letter.

That reminds him, he wants to send a letter to Sally Lagan. Draco enters the shop. A bell rings above the door, announcing his arrival. A man, who was leaning over the counter reading a book, glances up but upon noticing who it slams his book close and stands tall.

"Mr Malfoy, what a pleasure to have you in our shop. Is there anything I can help you with sir?" The man asks exaggeratingly his politeness.

"I need to send a letter to America. Do you have any long distance owls?" He asks, walking up to the counter.

"Of course, sir. Do you have the letter on you?" He asks, looking Draco up and down.

Draco hadn't bothered to wear a jacket since it's a warm summer's morning.

"No, I need to write the letter. Do you have any parchment and a quill I could use?" He questions.

"Yes, sir. We do. One moment, sir." The man hurries to the back of the shop where Draco can hear him rummaging around in boxes before returning with a few pieces of parchment, a quill and a pot of ink. "We have a counter over there if you wish to stay and write your letter." The man motions over to a counter near the baby owls.

"Thank you. I'll be a few minutes." Draco heads over to the counter where he proceeds to write the letter.

Once he's finished, he rolls up the parchment, ties it with a piece of string then charms it to only be opened by Sally Lagan or himself before going back over to the counter where the man was still stood to attention. Draco hands the parchment over to him then watches as he ties it to the leg of a large barn owl. The man feeds it a few food pellets before opening the window behind the counter and letting the owl fly off to its destination.

"Will that be all Mr Malfoy?" He asks, pressing some buttons on the till.

"No, how much are the baby owls in the window?" He asks motioning behind himself to the window.

"Oh, sir. You don't want one of those owls. They're only a few days old and need a lot of care and attention. I'm sure one of our older and trained owls will be more to your liking, sir." The man tells him.

"I assure you, sir, I am more than capable of giving a baby owl care and attention." He pauses to glare at the man. "I have asked you how much the baby owls are." He states and the man jumps before running around the edge of the counter and over to the window.

"They're all a galleon and five sickles except that one which is eight sickles. She's completely blind in both eyes." He mentions pointing to a baby snowy owl with black tipped feathers. The owl is huddled by itself at the side of the cage. All the other owls were huddled together, ignoring the blind one.

"I'll take the blind one," Draco announces surprising himself as well as the man.

"Are you sure, sir?" He asks.

"Of course, I'm sure." He snaps at the man who nods as he grabs the blind baby owl, who flinches and starts shivering in the man's hand.

"I'll take her," Draco tells him taking the owl out of his hand.

The baby owl chirps uncertainly as she pecks at his hand. He carefully strokes the top of her head with his forefinger as the man adds the price into the till.

"I'll need a cage and some food as well." He calls over, not taking his eyes off the beautiful creature in his hand which is currently nudging his finger with her head, trying to get him to stroke her again. He complies, watching as the owl flutters her wings excitedly.

The man opens the cage for him to place his owl inside. She hops around nervously before settling down on her perch and huddling in on herself with a quick flutter of her wings. Draco pays for everything then leaves the shop. He heads towards Flourish and Blotts where he enters to find Percy Weasley lounging on a chair behind the counter, reading a book. Unlike the man in Eeylops, Percy glances up, stares at him for a second before going back to his book. Draco ignores him as he climbs the stairs. He places the cage on one of the desks along with the bag of owl food as he browses the shelves.

After half an hour, he's got a pile of three books on the desk. 'The Political Relationship between the Wizarding World and the Muggle World', 'A History of the Departments of the Ministry of Magic' and 'How to Train your Owl.' He struggles to carry everything back downstairs. He just about manages to make it to the counter before he drops the books on the counter in front of Percy who puts his book down and starts pressing buttons on his till. Draco places the cage on the counter as he rummages around in his pocket for his coins.

"Who's this little guy?" He asks sticking his finger in the cage to stroke her.

"She's blind so be careful you don't scare her." He warns him as he hands over a few galleons.

"Oh, what's she called?" He asks handing Draco a bag with his new books inside.

"I don't know." He shrugs placing the food pellet bag inside his book bag. "I suppose I'll see you tomorrow at The Burrow." He says with a nod before leaving.

He looks at his watch which tells him its quarter past eight and decides it's time to visit his Mother again. He needs to have a word with her so he makes his way to a dark alley behind a shop before disapparating to the gates of The Manor. He's about to open the front door when he remembers that he doesn't actually live here anymore so he knocks on the door and waits.

Gharther answers a few minutes later. His Mother's house-elf looks up at him for a second before his eyes widen in apparent understanding.

"Ma-Ma-Master Draco." He stutters.

"Shush." Draco urges Gharther to shut up. "Hermione is scared of my Mother and we needed to collect some things from the attic. Did you tell my Mother?" He asks.

Gharther shook his head. "Mitty think Gharther see Boggart." He answers.

"Good. We need to come back in a few days so we'd appreciate it if you don't tell her." Draco warns him with a glare.

"Gharther, who's at the door?" His Mother calls from the dining room.

Draco gives his Mother's house-elf glance before entering the Manor.

"It's just me, Mother." He calls back feeling the anger rise in his chest.

He places the cage and his bag down next to the door.

"Oh, Draco dear. Happy Birthday." She places her paper down on the table before standing up to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Will you join me for breakfast?" She asks him motioning to the table.

Draco doesn't answer, instead glaring at his mother who takes her seat back at the table.

"What did you say to Hermione yesterday?" He asks, watching her face intently.

The corner of her lip twitches into a smirk for a split second before turning into an innocent smile. She looks up at him with her head turned confusingly to the side.

"Has she been telling tales about me, son?" She asks, letting the smirk onto her face. She lets out a laugh as she picks the paper up again. "I wouldn't listen to the likes of her, dear. The sooner you fulfil this decree the sooner it'll all be over and you can be happy." She tells him.

"What do you mean by that?" He glares at her.

His mother sighs as she places the paper back down on the table. "Draco, dear." She stands up. "You're my only child. Your father and I reply on you to carry on not only our name but our bloodline." She says as she walks towards him. "How do you expect to do that with that Mudblood?" She spits, making him flinch. "The easiest way out of this is to impregnate her, then cut all ties with her and her half-blooded spawn." She growls angrily. "I've already had a few owls from the sacred families, proposing an engagement between you and their daughters after the decree is has been fulfilled." She announces happily. "Mr Parkinson was the first but I turned him down. Pansy will already have a child with that blood traitor. We don't want that kind of blood in our family. Our best shot is with the Greengrass'."

"Daphne?" He questions with a frown.

"Of course not, Draco." She snaps at him. "Astoria. She's going into her seventh year at Hogwarts in September. She's the only untainted offer we've had and her father has offered the most." She smiles at him, raising her hand up to caress his cheek.

"Mother." He sighs, reaching up to place her hand over hers. "I'm not leaving Hermione." He tells her, throwing her hand away. "I'm going to be there for my child and help her raise them." He tells her, smirking at the look of horror on her face.

"Dr-Draco." She gasps. "You can't… you can't do this to your father and me." She shakes her head, hand over her chest. "What will he say when he finds out?" She mutters to herself.

"I don't care about Lucius. He's not allowed visitors or owls, so how do you expect him to find out?" He asks.

"When he get out he-" His mother starts to argue.

"In fourteen years?" He laughs. "He won't be able to do anything." He spits.

His mother lets out a sob that she tries to hide behind her hand.

"For your present, you can take anything you want from the attic." She stares at him with tears in her eyes and for a few moments, he wonders if she knows but before he can question her, she glides past him on her way out of the dining room and up the stairs.

He sighs deeply as he settles down onto one of the dining room chairs, burying his face in his hands until he hears a small squeak from the door and looks up to find Mitty carrying a small silver tray with a cover. He straightens himself up and smiles.

"Good morning, Mitty." He greets her and she runs up to him, carrying the tray and smiling a large gap-toothed smile.

"Happy birthday, Master. Mitty bake Master cake for birthday." She holds out the tray, taking the cover off to reveal a small chocolate cake.

"Thank you, Mitty." He takes the plate off her. "Could you please make me some pancakes for breakfast?" He asks.

"Yes, Master. Mitty go now." She runs off to the kitchen.

He picks up his mother's paper and reads it, trying to ignore any gossip about the partner ceremony or him and Hermione. Although, that seems to be all the Daily Prophet is about these days. He throws is back down when Mitty returns with a plate of pancakes, some fruit and sugar.

"Thank you, Mitty." He thanks her before digging into his breakfast.

He pours himself some pumpkin juice to wash down his pancakes. Once he's finished, he munches on a few leftover strawberries before starting on his chocolate cake. It's barely bigger than a cupcake but it's enough for him. He doesn't like too much sweet food.

Once he's finished, Draco leaves the dining room and makes to head upstairs towards the attic but he pauses for a moment to take his baby owl out of her cage. He places her on one of the shelves of the bookshelf in the secret attic as he begins to browse the other books on the shelf that he didn't get to last night. The owl chirps happily from her place above his head.

None of the other books look like they mention anything about a marriage law, although he did find a rather thick book labelled 'The Black's Family Tree'. He assumes it's his mother's, but that doesn't explain why it's hidden in their secret attic. Intrigued, he shrinks the book and pockets it before carrying on in his search of the attic. He lifts sheets to find old, antique furniture and more trophies, which makes him glad that Hermione isn't there with him right now. He collects his owl and moves over to the piles of books Hermione had been searching just in case she missed something. She hadn't.

Not wanting to leave empty-handed, he picks up a few history books about dark magic. He's sure Hermione will be interested in studying them even if she can't practise the magic. He exits the attics with his owl comfortable in his hands and places her back in her cage then leaves. He disapparates from the manor to the estate then makes his way straight to Blaise and Luna's house. He knocks on their door and waits for a few moments before Luna answers where a floaty yellow dress with a beaded belt.

"Happy Birthday, Draco!" She greets him excitedly pulling him into an awkward hug which he can't reciprocate since his hands are full but he gives her a small smile as a compromise.

"Thanks." He mutters placing the cage and his bag next to the door whilst he takes his shoes off.

"Draco!" Blaise calls as he comes bounding down the stairs then gives him a hug. "Come on in." He motions him into their living room.

When he enters he finds streamers, balloons and banners decorating the room.

"Blaise..?" He says questioningly.

"Yeah, so since you haven't told Hermione it's your birthday and I doubt you and your Mother celebrated very well, we thought we'd decorate a bit." He tells him motioning around the room. "Here." He announces as he attaches something to his head.

"What is this?" He asks, reaching up to feel a small, pointed house.

"A party hat. Now sit on your birthday throne." He motions to a stool that was wrapped in more streamers and had balloons attached to it.

"Okay?" He takes a seat on the stool cautiously.

"First, your card." Blaise hands him an envelope with 'Draco' written on it, obviously written by Luna since Blaise's handwriting was abysmal.

Carefully opening the envelope, he removes the card. On the front of the card was a picture of a broomstick flying through the clouds. In gold lettering, the words 'Happy Birthday' appeared in beautiful calligraphy at the top of the card. Opening it revealed Blaise's handwriting, which he had to focus hard on to make it legible.

Dearest Draco,

Happy 19th Birthday!

Enjoy!

Love, Blaise and Luna

xxx

Draco lets a small smile grace his lips as he re-read the card.

"Thank you." He looked up at them. "Both of you. You didn't need to do all this for me." He gestured around their living room.

"Don't be silly, Draco. If not your best friend then who would do this for you. We want to make your birthday special." Luna told him.

"Now for the best part," Blaise announces, jumping up and running over to the coffee table where Draco had already see a few bags. "Firstly, my presents." He thrust two large bags at him.

Draco took the large green bag first, unsure about what he'd find inside the sparkly, pink one with fur trimming. Peering inside the bag, he can't see anything due to the amount of green paper that had been stuffed into the bag. He removes the green paper to reveal something large, red and pointy. Gripping hold of the object, he pulls it out of the bag. He's not sure what he was expecting to see but a face staring back at him definitely wasn't it. Shocked, he stared at the face of a statue of a little man until it stuck its tongue out at him and blew a raspberry. He shoves the statue into Blaise's chest making the little man guffaw.

"What is that?" Draco questions glaring at the little man who continued to laugh at his dispense.

"It's a garden gnome." Blaise chuckles.

"That it not a garden gnome." Draco pointed at the statue.

"It's a muggle garden gnome. I charmed it to be more lifelike. He's stationary, so wherever you put him in your garden is where he'll stay but he likes to dance and tell jokes. Tell him a joke, Geoffrey." Blaise looks down at the gnome.

"You named him 'Geoffrey'?" Draco asks raising an eyebrow.

"No, he named himself." He explains lifting the gnome up to face Draco so Geoffrey could tell him a joke.

The gnome clears his throat. "What did the butcher say to the cow?" He asks with a croaky voice

Draco turns to roll his eyes at Blaise who giggles excitedly awaiting Geoffrey's answer. He turns back to face the gnome and shrugs.

"It's nice to meat you." Geoffrey answers then starts laughing uncontrollably at his own joke along with Blaise.

Turning to face Luna, who's holding his owl carefully in her hands. He hadn't even seen her get the owl out. She chuckles slightly. "Meat as in the by-product of an animal."

"Great, thanks, Blaise." He sighs sarcastically as he snatches the gnome out of Blaise's hands before it can tell another joke, then shoves it back into the bag.

"I love that little guy." Blaise chuckles as he hands Draco the larger, sparkly, pink bag.

"I'm not sure I want to open this one." He mentions, carefully moving the pink paper out of the way.

"Don't worry Draco, she's beautiful." Luna tries to reassure him but the use of a pronoun has the opposite effect.

He reaches inside the bag, cautiously. When he feels something plastic, he lets out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.

"It's a flamingo," Blaise announces before he can pull it all out.

Draco stares at the large, pink, plastic bird in his hand. "I can see that, Blaise." He mumbles turning the hopefully inanimate creature around in his hand.

"I tried charming her but she kept squawking." He shrugged disappointedly.

"Is she still charmed?" He glares at his best friend not in the mood for any more of his antics.

"Of course not, I took the charm off her. She'd probably wake the entire estate in the middle of the night." He laughs to himself.

Draco places the flamingo back into its bag then shoves it next to the gnome.

"Thanks, Blaise." He tells his best friend. "You shouldn't have." He flashes him a glare that tells him he really shouldn't have.

"Here, Draco." Luna hands him a small, light yellow bag. "Happy Birthday!" She tells him pulling him into a loose hug which he could now reciprocate.

"You really didn't have to get me anything, Luna." He tells her but she shakes her head with a smile.

He opens the bag a little more hopeful than the previous bags from Blaise but is just as confused when he pulls out what looks like a woven web with feathers dangling down.

"Thank you, Luna. It's… er… very pretty." He tells her holding it up from a piece of string at the top of the web, still unsure what exactly it is.

Luna seems to read it on his face as she takes it out of his hand, holding it up in the air.

"It's a dreamcatcher." She explains but it doesn't clear much confusion up. "It filters out the bad dreams allowing only the good to enter your subconscious mind." She clarifies further.

Draco takes the dreamcatcher back, staring at it for a moment. Does Luna know about his nightmares? Or does she just assume that after everything he's been through these last couple of years that he can't be cursed in his subconsciousness? Since he's never told anyone about the nightmares, he assumes it's the latter. He glances back up at Luna.

"You hang it exactly five feet above your head otherwise it won't work." She explains further and he simply nods his thanks, pulling her into another brief hug.

"Do you mind if I keep these here for a few days until I tell Hermione. I doubt she's going to believe I bought these things." He motions mainly to Blaise's gifts to him.

"Of course, just come get them whenever you want," Blaise tells him, patting him on the back.

Draco glances at his watch which reads half past eleven. He hadn't realised how late it had gotten. With another round of hugs and thanks, he bids his friends goodbye before leaving for his own house. The front door is still locked when he tries to open it with his finger, so with a deep sigh, he places the cage and the bags on the ground so he can rummage in his pocket for his keys then unlock the door. He opens the door wide listening for any sound that suggests that Hermione's awake. He doesn't hear anything so carries on with carrying everything inside the house. Dumping everything on their coffee table, he heads into the kitchen for a much-needed cup of tea.

Entering the kitchen, though, he notices the back door is slightly ajar. Taking his wand out, he creeps towards the door. He listens carefully for any noise coming from their garden but all he can hear is the light breeze and the distant chatter of people sitting outside the café on the green. He shuts the door, locking it, then silently walks back through the kitchen into the living room where he glances around to ensure that he hadn't missed anything suspicious upon entering. He hadn't.

With his wand pointing out in front of him, he climbs the stairs, one at a time. He glances at the nursery for a moment before opening the door slowly and glancing around the room. Nothing. He closes the door silently not wanting to announce his presence. Slowly, he creeps down the hall towards the bathroom, carefully not to make any noise. He reaches out for of the door handle, opening it quickly, hoping to scare any intruder that may be hiding within the room. But there's no one there. He checks behind the shower curtain to make sure before exiting, closing the door behind him.

There's only one room left. Their bedroom. If there is an intruder in the house then the only place left for them to be is in their bedroom. He doesn't know where Hermione is but he finds himself hoping she had gone to see Potter or the Weasel. Taking a deep breath, he places his hand on the bedroom door, pausing for a moment before throwing the door open and pointing his wand around the room.

When Hermione wakes for the second time that day, she finds the quilt and bed sheets sticking uncomfortably to her sweat covered body. She kicks the quilt off herself, lying spread eagle on their massive bed as she tries to cool down. She wonders what time it is and tries to open her eyes to glance at the clock but Draco must have opened the curtains because a strip of sunlight was currently lying perfectly across her eyes. She stays lying in bed until the strip of light moves and she can finally lift her head to look at the clock on the wall.

With a deep sigh, she lets her head drop back down onto the pillow. It's ten o'clock. She hates to sleep this late. It feels like such a waste of the day. Savouring the last moments of absolute comfort, she rolls out of bed pulling on her summer dressing gown before heading downstairs to find Draco. However, he's nowhere to be seen. She opens the back door to check the garden but finds nothing. She assumes he's gone out somewhere. She knows he doesn't need to tell her where he's going every time he leaves the house. They're entitled to their own privacy, but she can't help feeling upset that he didn't at least tell her he was leaving the house.

Grabbing a mug, she puts the kettle on then gets the milk out of the fridge and puts a couple slices of bread in the toaster as she waits for the kettle to boil. With her cup of tea in one hand and a plate of toast in her other, she heads out into the garden where she sits at their garden table to eat her breakfast in the midmorning sun, wrapped up in her dressing gown to shield herself from the cool breeze trapped within the five walls of the estate.

She lets her thoughts wander to her friends and how they're getting on with their marriages, then to the Ministry and what they're hiding and finally to the books she found in the attic of the Manor. Leaving her breakfast where it is, she heads back into the house to grab both of the books. She wishes she'd been able to find volume I and II but she's still glad she managed to find anything at all.

Opening the cover of volume III, she finds the beautifully cursive handwriting of Lucius Malfoy, which makes her shudder as goosebumps spread across her skin. She turns the next page to find a table of contents which seems a little too helpful. She'd been expecting to have to scan read the entire book searching for any reference to marriage laws, however, it's clearly written halfway down the second page of contents as 'Marriage Law (1632) – Pg. 153'

Taking a sip of tea, she turns the book to the page mentioned. She flicks through the pages to find the end of the chapter only to find that it's a relatively short one. Only seventeen pages. The first few pages are an introduction to the chapter and a couple of pictures that Hermione's not sure what they've got to do with marriage.

After reading through the chapter, she throws the book down, angrily, on the garden table. The entire chapter had talked about how much the man's father had to pay the woman's father in order for the marriage to take place and the rules of the marriage. Seven full pages were dedicated to an almost shopping list of qualities and the price of each one. Once calculated, the two respective fathers would be left with the woman's price.

Hermione had also found faint markings of ink, that someone had obviously tried to remove, in the margins of the book. After spending a few minutes trying to read the faded marking she realised it was the list of qualities and price of Narcissa. She assumes Draco's Grandfather had written this when trying to price up Narcissa for his son, Lucius and by the looks of it Narcissa's Father had gotten a good price.

At the time, she was a pure blooded witch aged twenty with two sisters, only one recorded squib in the family and her family were second highest on the social ladder (second to the Malfoy's themselves). Draco's grandfather had paid Narcissa's father seven hundred and fifty-five Galleons and nine Knuts, which, with a quick calculation, Hermione works out equates to around £3700, which is a lot of money.

The rest of the pages listed out rules for the marriage, which she noticed mostly started with 'Your wife must' or 'Your wife must not' with only a few starting with 'You must' or 'You must not'.

Glaring at the book from above her cup of tea, she's thankful that Draco doesn't seem to be care or be aware of these rules as her 'unladylike and un-matrimonial behaviour' would have already gotten her killed by either her husband or his father, which is why she's also grateful that Lucius is in Azkaban at the moment and doesn't have the ability to enforce the punishment.

She's brought out of her thoughts by a knock at their front door. For a second she wonders if Draco's forgotten his key before realising he can't have locked the door if he didn't have his keys, so she wraps herself up in her dressing gown, brings the books and her dirty dishes into the house before going to answer the door.

She's not sure who she was expecting to see at the front door but to find a smiling Goyle and an annoyed looking Megan stood next to him with her arms folded across her chest.

"Hi Megan, Gregory... can I help you with something?" She glances confusingly between them both, wondering why they're there.

"Is Draco in?" Gregory asks gruffly.

"Not at the moment." She answers, looking down at Megan who huffed.

"Just leave them with Hermione." She says looking up at Gregory. "Will you give Draco his present?" Megan asks motioning to a bag in Gregory's hand that she hadn't noticed.

"Of course." She takes the bag out of his hands, staring down at it curiously.

"Thanks, we'll see you at Isobel and William's on Wednesday night, right?" Megan's eyes were wide as though begging for her company.

"I'll have to see if Draco's got anything planned but I'm sure we'll be able to make it." She answers smiling at the relief in Megan's eyes.

"Great, they live at 17B. See you then." She flashes her a quick smile before walking off in the direction of the estate's gate with Gregory trailing behind her.

She shuts the door behind her, then stares curiously at the bag she'd been handed, taking a peek inside reveals a pale green envelope and a thin, pale green box. She tries to think about whether Draco had told her when his birthday was but she can't recall ever knowing. Evidentially, it's today. Feeling guilty, even though he hadn't told her it's his birthday, she quickly washes the dishes, puts the books away then runs upstairs to get ready. She doesn't know how much time she has before Draco returns but she'd like to go to the market and get him something for his birthday. She places his present of Gregory on their bed then heads into the bathroom.

Turning the shower on, she brushes her teeth whilst waiting for the water to run hot. Once she's showered, she wraps herself in a towel then goes into their bedroom where she grabs her wand and silently dries her hair into light waves. Opening her side of the wardrobe, she looks for a nice summery dress to wear, remembering that Draco's cooking for her tonight. She finds a pretty, blue, flowery dress and takes it out, laying it on the bed as she grabs her underwear.

She's just fastening her bra when the bedroom door explodes open. Hermione squeals grabbing her wand off the dressing table, pointing it at the intruder, only to find Draco stood with his own wand pointing at her in shock.

"What the hell are you doing?" She growls at him, her wand unwavering.

"I saw the… um… the back door open." He stumbles over his words as he awkwardly averts his eyes up to the ceiling, finally pocketing his wand. "I thought there was an intruder." He mutters still staring at the ceiling, half turning to leave the bedroom.

His behaviour confuses her for a moment before she catches a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror and realises she's only dressed in her underwear. She gawps at herself for a second before grabbing the towel off the floor, where it had fallen, to cover herself.

Furiously blushing, she turns to face Draco, who's still staring up at the ceiling in an attempt to avert his eyes. Although she does catch his eyes flicker back to her for a split second.

"Draco, get out!" She shouts at him embarrassed.

"Yes, of course." He scrambles out the bedroom, pulling the door shut behind him.

Hermione takes a deep breath to calm herself as she perches on the edge of their bed. She can't believe Draco just saw her naked. 'Half-naked.' She reminds herself, thankful that she had been wearing her underwear. She doesn't want to think about him seeing her completely naked. Taking one more deep breath, she continues to dress, pulling on a pair of black, small heeled shoes.

Chapter Text

Draco runs down the stairs two at a time. He can't believe he just did that. She sounded rather angry when she told him to get out. 'Of course she's angry. You saw her naked.' He runs his hands through his hair exasperatedly as he paces the living room. His baby owls starts chirping nervously, obviously sensing his unnerving presence so he walking to the kitchen where he slams the back door, blaming it for the predicament he's in right now.

Gripping hold of the counter, he stares out over the garden trying to get the image of a half-naked Hermione out of his mind. She distracting him from his self-scalding. He hears the kitchen door open, announcing her arrival. He's not sure he can look at her right now without thinking about the body he had seen beneath.

"Draco?" She asks shyly.

Taking a shaky breath he turns around but he doesn't expect her to be stood so close to him or to be dressed so…

"Beautiful." He mutters under his breath. He blushes slightly, hoping she hadn't heard that but the small smile that graces her face tell him she did.

"You look very nice." He tells her, avoiding her eyes which he could feel boring into him. "I'm sorry." He adds. "I thought there was somebody in the house." He explains, finally managing to make eye contact.

"Let's just forget it ever happened." She stares pointedly into his eyes to which he nods. "Good, now maybe you could tell me why you didn't tell me it's your birthday today." She quirks her eyebrow at him.

"Who told you?" He sighs, waiting for an argument to start about him keeping secrets.

"Gregory came over with this for you." She brings a small bag out from behind her back, holding it out to him.

"Oh, right." He mumbles taking the bag, twitching slightly when their finger brushes against each other.

He looks in the bag taking out the card first which he opens. It simply says 'Happy Birthday. Gregory and Megan.' Goyle had never been a man of many words. He takes the rectangular box out next, giving it a little shake. Goyle had never been one for giving presents either so he assumes this was Megan's idea, which doesn't make much sense since he's never talked to her before.

He opens the lid to find a thin, cylindrical object. He's not entirely sure what it is but it's beautiful either way with the cylinder being mostly emerald green with the two tips and a ring in the middle being silver. Hermione leans over to take a look.

"It's beautiful." She mutters.

"What is it?" He wonders aloud, taking the object out of its box and turning it over in his hands to inspect.

"It's a fountain pen." She replies, taking it out of his hands.

He watches as she pulls at it and one-half comes away to reveal a nib like on a quill.

"It's like a muggle quill. The ink is held inside and you just refill it when it runs out." She tells him. "I'm assuming this was Megan's idea. I'd forgotten her mother's a muggle." She adds.

Draco takes the fountain pen back, clicks the lid into place and replaces it in the box.

"Why didn't you tell me?" She asks again.

"I didn't want you to feel obligated to get me a present just because we're married." He answers, avoiding her eyes as he replaces the card and presents from Gregory and Megan back into its bag.

"Draco!" She sighs, placing a hand on his shoulder, making him glance up at her. "That's not the only reason I'd have gotten you a present. I've gotten to know you over the past few days and whether you like it or not, I consider you a friend and friends get each other birthday presents." She raises her eyebrow.

Draco's lips deceive him in smiling at her when she'd declared him her friend.

"What?" She chuckles.

"I'd never have thought we'd ever be friends." He mentions heading into the living room.

Hermione laughs again. "You're right. After everything that happened at Hogwarts before the war, I'd have been surprised if we even talked to each other. Now look at us." She motioned between them both.

Draco nods. She's right. If it wasn't for the fact they had been paired together, he highly doubts he would have struck up a conversation with her unless absolutely necessary. He places the bag on the coffee table along with the other bags he had returned from Diagon alley with. It's then he remembers the little baby owl he bought. He spins around to face Hermione, blocking her view off the cage.

"I went to visit my Mother today." He mentions, watching intently as Hermione's face furrows into a frown. "Her present to me was permission to take any book from the attic. I had another look through the piles of books but couldn't find anything on marriage decrees or laws but I did find these book on dark magic I thought you might be interested in reading them." He mentions, producing the books from behind his back.

"Oh… er… thank you. Although, usually, you receive presents on your birthday, not give them." She chuckles.

"I also bought a few things for myself in Diagon Alley." He adds just as the baby owl chirps behind him.

Hermione frowns at him. "What did you buy?" She asks in a warning tone.

"Well actually, this one is more of a joint present for the both of us." He turns around to retrieve the owl from its perch in the cage.

He encases it in his hand before turning around. Hermione stares down at his hand. She looks rather nervous, leaning away slightly.

"What's in your hand, Draco?" She asks, taking a step back.

"I bought us an owl." He says opening his hand carefully to reveal the tiny baby owl.

She steps forward in awe, staring at the little creature. "He's so cute." She coos, reaching her hand out to ruffle the owl's feathers.

"She." Draco corrects. "Also, be careful, she's completely blind." He adds.

Hermione halts her hand just above the owls head.

"You bought a blind owl?" She asks giving him a confused stare.

"Yes, I thought you could name her." He tells her, taking hold of her hand and turning it palm up before placing the tin owl in her hand.

"Oh." She mutters as the baby owl shakes its feather's out then snuggles down into her palm for a nap.

He watches as Hermione gently strokes the top of the owl's head with her index finger before placing her gently back into her cage.

"Athena," Hermione announces as he rummages in his bags for the books he bought.

"What?" He asks as he pulls the books out then walks over to their bookshelf to add them to their collection.

"I think we should call her Athena." She explains.

Draco turns around to find her staring at the little owl, asleep in its cage.

"Athena." He says testing it out. "I think it suits her." He adds.

They both stand, staring at Athena for a few moments before Hermione turns to face him.

"What time will you be cooking dinner for?" She asks.

"It should be ready for around half six. Are you still going to visit Ron?" He asks a hint of venom in his voice that he hopes she didn't catch.

"Yes, I am but I'll go later. Right now I'd like to visit my grandparents. Are you still coming?" She asks.

Draco nods. "Of course. I'd need to meet them eventually." He points out to which Hermione nods.

"If we leave now, we can visit both of them and maybe visit my Uncle David. I'll go visit Ron whilst you're cooking. I don't think he'll take it well if you show up on his doorstep with me." She mentions.

Draco leaves a few food pellets in Athena's cage for her to snack on if she wakes up whilst they're gone. He ensures the back door is locked before leaving. Hermione looks the front door behind her placing the keys in her bag.

She glances around to check that they're alone before linking her arm with Draco's pulling him close enough to whisper into his ear. "I haven't had chance to tell you but I found two books on 'Seventeenth Century Laws'. It's only volume three and four but volume three does have a chapter on marriage laws but it's all about how much the groom's father has to pay the bride's father in order to marry and how we must behave whilst married. It's very outdated of course."

He feels her glare so glances down at her.

"Of course, it's outdated. It's a seventeenth-century law that probably hasn't been used for over one hundred years." He tells her, giving her a reassuring smile.

"Actually, I think you're grandfather used the book to calculate the price of your Mother." She mentions.

"You don't need to worry, I'm not going to buy you off your father." He tells her making her roll her eyes and earning him a light shove to the shoulder as she unlinks their arms.

Draco finds himself missing the warmth and closeness of her as she steps away. He tugs his jacket further around himself as they come up to the gate.

"Wait a second." She grabs hold of his arm as he's about to exit the estate.

"What's wrong?" He asks, glancing around their surroundings but not finding anything threatening.

"Do you remember what I told you to tell my Grandad?" She asks, looking nervous.

Draco rolls his eyes. "I'm studying Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. We've been together for four years since… year ten?" He pauses for confirmation. Hermione nods so he carries on. "I proposed on our fourth year anniversary and we kept it a secret because my Father hates you but now we've left school we feel as though we can tell everyone." He quirks a questioning eyebrow, asking if he'd remembered everything.

"Great." She flashes him with a smile. "Let's go." She takes his hand pulling him out of the estate then disapparating away.

They apparate into the alley behind her parents' house, which seems to confuse Draco who glances around with a frown.

"I don't know anywhere safe to disapparate to near my Grandparents house. I'll ask my Dad if we can borrow the car." She mentions pulling him through the back gate into her parents' back garden.

Her Mum's stood at the kitchen sink and waves at them as they walk down the garden path. She waits for her Mum to take her rubber gloves off before giving her a tight hug.

"Hi Mum, where's Dad?" She asks.

"He's popped down to the shop for some milk. We ran out. What are you both doing here?" Her Mum looks between them both.

"We're going to visit Grandma Betty and Grandad Tom's, Uncle David's, and Grandma Emily's house. I thought it's time to introduce Draco to them before the barbeque on Tuesday." She explains.

"That'll be nice."

"Could we take the car? I don't know anywhere safe to apparate us." She explains giving her Mum hopeful looking eyes.

"Fine, the keys are on the table." She motions over to the kitchen table where they're lying in a bowl.

"Thanks, Mum." She kisses her cheek before grabbing the keys. "We'll bring it back at about half four-ish." She tells her as they leave the house.

Hermione presses the button, opening the car doors. She's just about to climb in when Draco calls her.

"Hermione, are you sure you know how to drive this?" He asks, eyeing it up and down.

"Yes, I passed my exams last summer." She rolls her eyes. "Just get in the car, Draco." She tells him when he still looks reluctant.

She climbs into the driver's seat, pulling her seatbelt on then placing the keys in the ignition.

"Seatbelt." She reminds him when he just sits in the passenger seat, knuckles white as he grips onto the seat.

"What?" He frowns turning to face her.

"Put your seatbelt on." She motions to the belt hanging near the door.

She watches as he stares at it before pulling it out and staring at it again.

"For Merlin's sake Draco, is this the first time you've been in a car." She asks rhetorically, leaning across Draco to grab the seatbelt then click it into place.

"No." He snips at her. "The Ministry sent one for my Father's trial." He adds.

"So it's only your second time in a car?" She asks in disbelief.

The only wizarding family she had gotten to know who had their own car were the Weasleys. Although, Mr Weasley does work in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office and has a special interest in Muggles.

She starts the car and pulls out into the road. She starts to ask Draco something when he snaps at her to keep her focus on driving so they drive to her Grandma Betty and Grandad Tom's house in silence until she parks the car just outside their drive. She has to help Draco unbuckle his seatbelt after watching him struggle for a few seconds.

"Okay, remember everything I've told you to say and also my Grandma's loves hugging so be warned," Hermione tells him before nervously knocking on the front door.

They stand at the front door, waiting, for nearly a minute before it opens revealing not her Grandma or her Grandad but instead it's Lauren stood in her pyjamas still.

"Hermione!" She smiles excitedly throwing herself at her cousin.

"What are you doing answering the door, little miss?" Hermione asks picking her up, hugging her tight before carrying her into the house on her hip.

"Grandma and Grandad are in the shed." She shrugs her answer.

"Well next time, you need to go and get them." She explains. "Okay?" She asks.

"Okay." Lauren sighs deeply, wriggling in her grip, wanting to be put down. "Hermione, there's a boy at the door." She hides behind her looking at the front door.

"You can come in." She tells him and he enters the house, closing the door behind him. "This is Lauren." She motions behind her to the five-year-old hugging her leg.

She watches as Draco walks over to her then bends down onto his knees to look Lauren in the eye.

"Hello Lauren, Hermione's told me lots about you. It's nice to finally meet you." He tells her holding his hand out for her to shake.

Lauren giggles as she shakes Draco's hand then hides behind Hermione again.

"Is he your boyfriend, Hermione?" Lauren asks looking up at Hermione, a questioning sparkle in her eye.

"Yes, he is." She answers not wanting to tell her little cousin that they're engaged until they've told her grandparents. Lauren gets so excited she'll run off and tell her grandparents straight away.

"Ergh. I hate boys." She sticks her tongue out running out into the garden.

"Come on, I'll introduce you to my grandparents." She tells Draco who's stood back up.

"Do we have to?" He mumbles making Hermione laugh.

"It'll be fine." She takes hold of his hand to comfort him as she guides him down the hall, through the kitchen and out the back garden into the garden.

She spots Craig playing in the playhouse their Grandad had made her when she was six. Just then her Grandma peeks her head out of the shed, raises an eyebrow then goes back inside. A few seconds later both her Grandma and Grandad came out of the shed, her Grandad cleaning his hands on an old dishtowel.

"Hermione!" Her Grandma pulls her into a hug. "What a lovely surprise?" She winks at her when she pulls away. "And who is this handsome young man you've brought with you?" She asks, glancing up and down at Draco.

"This is Draco Malfoy." Hermione introduces them.

"It's lovely to finally meet you." Draco greets them.

"Lauren said he's your boyfriend. Is that true?" Her Grandad stares at them both intently.

"Actually…" Hermione pauses to glance back at Draco who looks a lot paler than usual. She takes his hand in her again, giving it a little reassuring squeeze. "He's my fiancé." She announces nervously looking between her Grandma and Grandad, who are both staring at her, mouths agape.

"Your… your fiancé?" Her Grandma asks.

"Yes." She answers simply.

"Maybe we should all sit down with a nice cup of tea." Her Grandma suggests, rushing back into the kitchen.

Her Grandad stares at them both a second longer before following his wife.

"This is going terribly," Draco mutters as they head inside as well.

"It'll be fine. They're just a little shocked." She tells him, hoping she's right.

In the kitchen, they sit next to each other at the kitchen table as her Grandma makes a pot of tea and her Grandad washes his hand properly. Once they're all sat down with cups of tea in front of them, her Grandad finally speaks.

"We didn't even know you had a boyfriend, Hermione." He mentions, taking a sip from his cup of tea before wincing and adding another sugar cube to the cup.

"We didn't want anyone to know." She starts to explain but her Grandad cuts in.

"Are you embarrassed by him?" He glares at Draco.

"Not at all. I love him dearly." Hermione tells them, feeling Draco freeze for a second next to her. "Nobody knew until four days. We've been together for the past four year but we couldn't tell anyone at school because we were in rival houses and my friends hated him. Also, his Dad hates me but now we've left school, we finally feel as though we can be open about our relationship." She explains.

"That's a lot of hate there, Hermione." Her Grandad points out.

"I'm sorry, sir but I don't care about how other people feel about our relationship. What matters is how Hermione and I feel about each other and as she said, she loves me and I love her. I want to spend the rest of my life with her." Draco speaks up.

"Do your parents know?" Her Grandma asks looking at her.

"Yes, we told them on Wednesday after Draco proposed." Hermione answers.

"What about your parents, Draco?" Her Grandma turns to ask Draco.

"My Mother knows. We went over for dinner yesterday." He answers.

"What about your Dad?" She asks. "What does he think about all this?"

"My Father is no longer around and to be honest I don't care what he thinks anymore." Draco answers rather sharply.

Hermione squeezes his hand under the table to calm him.

"Sorry, I don't like to talk about my Father." He mentions before taking a sip of his cup of tea.

"How to do you plan to support my Granddaughter?" Her grandad asks.

Hermione feels Draco physically relax through their entwined hands.

"I come from a very wealthy family and have my own money which I have inherited from my Grandfather but I'm also planning on going to university to study chemistry." He announces.

From her seat, she smiles proudly at him. He did perfectly.

"What do you plan to do with a chemistry degree?" He asks next.

Without pause Draco answers, "I'm not quite sure yet but I've always been passionate about chemistry."

Her Grandad nods, obviously impressed by his answers.

"Grandma, Grandma, Grandma, can I have a biscuit?" Craig comes running into the kitchen.

"Of course, darling, but only two. I'll make you some lunch soon." Her Grandma answers retrieving the biscuit tin down from the top of the fridge.

Craig grabs two biscuits then turns to run back outside until he spots Draco where he proceeds to stare at him for a few seconds before running back outside.

"Is that Craig?" Draco leans over to whisper into her ear.

"Yeah, he's quite shy around new people." She explains.

"Would you like to stay for some lunch?" Her Grandma asks as she takes out a loaf of bread and some butter.

Hermione turns to Draco who shrugs slightly.

"We'd love to, thank you, Grandma." She answers. "I'll come help you." She announces.

"I could use a hand in the shed if you don't mind Draco." Her Grandad mentions as he stands at the door.

"Of course, sir." Draco drinks the rest of his tea then follow him outside.

"He's gorgeous, isn't he, dear?" Her Grandma points out as they both butter slices of bread.

"Grandma!" Hermione blushes deeply.

"Well, he is." She shrugs as they continue to make lunch.

Draco follows Hermione's Grandfather into the shed where there's a motorbike sat with a few tools around it. He hopes the man doesn't expect him to help him fix the vehicle.

"You know anything about motorbikes, son?" He asks taking him a bit off guard.

"No, I don't sir." He answers politely watch as he picks up one of the tools.

"You can stop all that 'sir' talk. Tom will do just fine." He tells him and he feels himself breath a lot easier.

He watches as Tom starts doing something to the motorbike with the tool he had in his hand.

"Can you pass me the spanner wrench?" Tom asks.

Draco stares at all the tools lying on the floor next to Tom, not having a clue which one is a spanner wrench.

"The one at the end." Tom motions vaguely to the end of the line of tools.

Draco picks up what he assumes is a spanner wrench and hands to him.

"Thanks, son." He goes back to the motorbike, almost ignoring Draco standing there. "So, Draco, you planning on having any children with my Hermione?" He asks.

"Oh… well… yes. We haven't really talked about it but I would like to have children at some point in the future." He answers feeling very awkward.

Before Tom can say anything else, there's a knock at the shed door. They both turn to find Lauren smiling sweetly up at her Grandfather with Craig hidden behind his big sister, who's only a few inches taller than him.

"Can Hermione's boyfriend come play with us?" She asks her grandfather who chuckles looking up at Draco.

"You need to ask him yourself" He tell his younger grandchildren.

"Please come play with us. We made you a cake." Lauren begs, pulling on his hand.

He looks nervously at Tom who nods at him so he allows himself to be dragged out of the shed by the little girl. She pulls him over to the small playhouse and pushes him inside. He has to bend over so far that he might have been better crawling into the house.

"You can sit on the chair in the corner." She tells him, pointing over to a tiny, pink chair and Draco does as he's told, sitting with his knees almost up to his chin.

"Would you like the Scooby Doo cup or the Powerpuff Girls cup?" Lauren asks holding up two cups.

Draco, not having a clue what a Scooby Doo or a Powerpuff girl is, let's Lauren pick for him.

"You can have Scooby Doo because it's got a dog on it." She tells him as she sets the cup down in front of him. "Craig can have the Powerpuff Girls cup. My favourite is the Teletubbies cup. Do you like the Teletubbies?" She asks him.

"I don't know what the Teletubbies are." He tells her making her gasps.

"Does your Mummy not let you watch them?" She asks.

Not really sure what she's talking about he just shakes his head and says, "No."

"We can watch one of my Teletubbies videos after lunch." She tells him excitedly.

"Okay." He tells her, smiling a little at how excited she is.

He watches as Lauren goes over to a small kettle on top of the counter and brings it over to the table where she pours nothing into three cups. She then sits down on the chair opposite him whilst they wait for Craig to bring over the cake, which turns out to be a pile of watered soil with a weed placed on top.

"It looks delicious, Craig," Draco tells the shy little boy who smiles down at his knees at the compliment. "Although I don't think we should eat too much of it because your Grandmother and Hermione are making us all some lunch." He suggests.

"Silly man, we not going to eat the cake." Lauren laughs. "We just pretend. Like this." She cuts a piece of the 'cake' then pretends to eat it, rubbing her belly and making 'mmm' noises. "You try." She hands him a plate with a small slice of 'cake' on it.

Draco picks up the piece of mud on his plate and pretends to nibble at it. "Mmm, this is delicious. The weed really adds to the flavour." He announces.

Both Lauren and Craig burst out laughing. He can't help but smile at them until there's a knock at the playhouse door. He looks up to find Hermione stood smiling at them.

"Lunch is ready." She announces. "Make sure you wash your hands before you eat." She calls after her little cousins as they run back to the house.

Draco struggles to escape the small playhouse. When he finally makes it out, much to the amusement of Hermione, he stretches his back out with a crack.

"I think they like you," Hermione tells them as they walk back to the house.

"Who, your grandparents or your cousins?" He asks.

She pauses for a moment before answering, "Both."

As Lauren promised, they all sit in the living room to eat their lunch, in front of a massive black box showing strange pictures.

"What is that?" Draco leans over to Hermione to whisper his question.

"Oh, it's called a television. It uses moving picture with sound to tell a story." She explains.

Draco nods but he doesn't really understand. He continues to watch as the colourful things on the screen run around the hills and play tighter. He assumes that since Hermione's Grandparents are staring in boredom at the television and the way Lauren and Craig are staring in awe that this television story is for children.

When the show finishes, Lauren jumps onto his lap and continues to bounce.

"Did you love it?" She asks.

"Yes, it was very entertaining. My favourite was the green one." He tells her.

"That's Dipsy. He's Craig's favourite too." She tells him excitedly.

Craig just nods from his place on his Grandmother's lap.

"My favourite is Po. I wanted to call my hamster Po but Mummy wouldn't let me. She made me call her Daphne from Scooby Doo but I don't like Daphne. I like Velma but Mummy doesn't." She tells him crossing her arms across her chest in a huff.

Her Grandma laughs as she stands up, carrying Craig on her hip. "I think it's time you kids got dressed and washed. Then we'll see if we can go to the play park." She announces.

Lauren jumps of Draco's lap, running out of the living room and up the stairs.

"I think we should get going too Grandad. We're going to visit Grandma Emily and Uncle David as well today." Hermione explains as she stands up, collecting the empty plates.

"Well we'll see you at David's on Tuesday for the barbeque, won't we?" He asks.

"Of course, I want to introduce Draco to Sharon. Will Aunt Louise be there?" Hermione asks sounding rather nonchalant as she placed the dishes into the sink.

Tom, who had followed them both into the kitchen, sighs deeply.

"I suppose your Mum told you Louise got back together with Darren." He sighs deeply.

"My Dad did but yeah, I heard." She sighs as well.

"I don't think she'll be at the barbecue and try not to say anything to your Grandma. She's trying to hold it together for the kids but I can tells it's tearing her apart watching our little girl ruin her life like this over and over again." Tom shakes his head as Hermione washes up.

Draco gets the feeling that he's intruding on a family issue and thankfully, Hermione's finished washing up and turns around. She gives her Grandfather a quick hug then they leave calling a quick goodbye to her Grandmother and cousins upstairs.

Draco climbs back into the car reluctantly as Hermione climbs into the driver's seat. He manages to fasten his own seatbelt this time.

"Who am I meeting next?" Draco asks nervously as he grips onto the side of his seat.

"My Uncle David only lives a few streets away so we'll visit him next and my cousin Sophie." She tells him then they go back to silence as she drives them the five minutes to her Uncle's house.

"Are you ready?" Hermione asks taking hold of his hand again.

Draco's not sure whether she's doing it to calm his nerves or her own but he doesn't mind since it works. He gives her a nod and she knocks on the door. A few seconds later a tall, thin man answers the door wearing a pair of glasses in his long messy hair.

"Hermione?" He looks confused. "I wasn't expecting to see you until Tuesday." He mentions as he looks suspicious between both Hermione, him and their entwined hands. "Come on in." He invites them in.

"I hope we weren't interrupting anything." She says as they enter the house and take their shoes off.

"Nothing interesting. I was just marking some year eight essays." He rubs his eyes tiredly.

"Where's Sophie?" She asks.

"Up in her room reading I think. It's all she ever does now. Not that I'm complaining, there's worse things she could be doing." He leads them into the kitchen. "Do you want to introduce me or are we going to skirt around the topic." He asks as he pops the kettle on and grabs three cups out of the cupboard.

"Of course, Uncle David this is Draco Malfoy." She introduces them. "My fiancé." She adds sounding nervous.

"Your what?" The man spins around dropping a cup on the floor. "Ah, shit." He curses as it shatters. "Your fiancé?" He questions as he fetches a broom from the cupboard to sweep up the mess.

"Yes." She answers.

"Are you pregnant?" He asks looking down at her stomach.

"No, we're not." Hermione snaps back.

"I didn't even know you had a boyfriend." He mentions as he grabs a new cup from the cupboard.

"Nobody did sir, we wanted to keep it a secret. There were a few issues regarding our friends and my Father but since we've left school, we feel as though we can finally be open about our relationship." He explains to her Uncle.

"What are these issues?" He asks curiously.

"We come from very different families. Our friends didn't particularly like each other and my father hated Hermione but he's no longer around and won't be for a while." He explains.

"Prison?" The man asks as he makes cups of teas for them.

"Yes." He answers unsure. He thinks he remembers Hermione using that word once to describe Azkaban.

"I won't ask." He tells him placing the cups on the kitchen table where they all take a seat. "Aren't you both a little young to be making these sort of decisions?" He asks.

"We're both nineteen, David." Hermione rolls her eyes. "We've been together for four years now and we love each other. If it puts your mind at rest, we're not planning on actually getting married until after university." She tells him.

"Ah, what are you study?" He turns to face Draco.

"Chemistry," Draco answers earning a smile from the man. "At Edinburgh University." He adds remembering what Hermione had told him.

"Of course." He shakes his head. "Are you going to get a flat together?" He questions.

"We've already got a house," Draco announces, earning himself a kick under the table.

David frowns at them. "You've already got a house together?" He asks.

Draco understands his mistake. He doubts many people his age can afford to buy houses.

"Yes, I come from a very wealthy family and my Grandfather left me quite a lot in inheritance a few years ago." He explains.

"We're just renting for a few months until University starts. Then we'll rent something up in Edinburgh until we graduate." Hermione explains.

"Well, you seem like a great fella. You've got my stamp of approval." He chuckles. "And you'll be coming here on Tuesday I hope." He adds.

"Of course, I can't wait to meet the whole family together." Draco answers.

"Hmm, did you hear about Louise?" David asks, turning to face Hermione.

"Yes, Dad and Grandad have told me. Dad thinks the kids are getting too much for Grandma and Grandad." She tells him.

"He's probably right but they'll never admit it. I've offered to take them on Saturday night if they're still there, give them a night off, and I think your parents are taking them on Sunday night then drop them off at Breakfast club on Monday." David tells them. "I bet you're regretting getting involved with this family." He chuckles.

"My family's not much better." He admits thinking about his great-grandfather.

"I'm curious. I love a bit of family history. I've been working our family tree recently. I've managed to trace the Adair's all the way back to 1598 when Karina Rowle married a Johnathan Adair. They had five children before she was drowned in 1612 during the Pendle Witch trials. The strange thing though is that Karina seems to have appeared out of nowhere. I'm thinking her Mother abandoned her to be raised in a workhouse."

Draco had learned all about the muggle witch-hunts in History of Magic with Professor Binns and the Professor had explained that no actual witches or wizards were killed during this time.

"Hermione!" He whispered as David went to get something from another room.

"Yes?" She asks, taking a sip from her cup.

"You know that the Rowle family are one of the sacred twenty-eight." He asks her.

"The what?" She asks, turning to face her.

"The sacred twenty-eight are a list of twenty-eight families considered to be the only wizarding families left to be truly pure-blooded. The Rowle family date back all the way to the seventh century." He explains.

"It doesn't mean anything." Hermione shakes her head, taking her cup to the sink.

"But what if y-" He starts but Hermione interrupts.

"Draco, leave it. It doesn't mean anything." She glares at him making him stop.

David comes back into the kitchen. "You don't need to wash that up. I'll do it later. Here I've got this book that mentions the Adair's. You know, we're related to Robert Adair the sergeant-surgeon to George III. It's all rather fascinating. Have you ever traced your family tree, Draco?" David asks him.

"My Mother's family has a tapestry with every family member in it since 1811." He says.

"Oooh, a tapestry. You must be wealthy." He laughs. "What about your Father's family?" He asks as Hermione looks at the book he had given her.

"My father refused to tell me anything about his family before his grandad and I never asked. There are certain things you never ask my father and his family is one of them. All I know is that my great-grandmother inherited a fortune from her father when he died and my great-grandfather, being an only child, inherited all the Malfoy money making them one of the wealthiest families in United Kingdom." He explains.

David raises his eyebrow suspiciously. "I'm surprised I haven't heard about the Malfoy's before if you're one of the wealthiest families in the United Kingdom." He mentions.

"My Father's a very secretive man. He liked to keep his family to himself." He told him.

"Hmm." David hums before turning back to Hermione. "You'll have to come and see the tree when I've finished. I need to track down the youngest of Karina's children, a son named William Adair." He offers.

"I'd love to. It sounds very fascinating." She tells him.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to kick you both out now. I promised the kids I'll have their essays marked by tomorrow." He ran his hand through his hair as he yawned.

"It was nice meeting you, Draco," David said shaking his hand.

"You too, David." He shook his hand back as they left the house.

"I'm sorry he was so inquisitive." Hermione apologises as they walk down to the car. "He's just very interested in family history. He's been working on our family tree for the past five years and keeps promising to let me see it once he's done but he keeps finding new family members. I doubt he'll ever be finished." She sighs as they climb back into the car. "Just my Grandma Emily left now. I'll warn you, she'll probably try and send us off with some money. Refuse it at least twice before accepting it." She tells him and he nods as they speed down the road towards her Grandma Emily's house.

Hermione's Grandma Emily is a lot older than he expected after visiting her other Grandparents. It's then that he remembers that Hermione had told him that she's eighty. When Hermione introduces him as her fiancé, she starts to cry then makes them a cup of tea and offering them a slice of cake. Draco thinks he's drunk more cups of tea today than he has on any other day in his life but he accepts politely. He sits on a small footstool and listens to Emily talk about her late husband, Ellis, and how much he reminded her of him then she talked about how she hoped she lived long enough to meet any little great-grandchildren in the future. As Hermione predicted, Emily tried to hand him a few coins which he declines twice before finally accepting.

On the drive back to Hermione's parents' house, he examined the coins curiously. When they arrived, Draco handed the coins over to Hermione, who asked her Mother to put them in the bank for her. They declined another cup of tea off Sarah and Chris, as Hermione heads upstairs to her bedroom to retrieve something she had forgotten. When she returned they disapparated back to the estate.

"I don't think I've ever had this many cups of teas before in my life." He mentions as they walk through the estate back to their house, where Draco proceeds to collapse on the couch.

Chapter Text

Hermione falls onto the couch beside Draco and just sits there for a few minutes. Who would have thought visiting a few family members would be so tiring? She glances at her watch. It's only half three. She suddenly sits up, making Draco jump slightly as he watches her rummage around in her bag for a few seconds.

"Sit up, Draco." She tells him and with a sigh and a few groans he sits up. "Now, you didn't exactly give me much notice…" She flashes him a pointed look. "But I can't let your birthday go by without giving you anything."

"Hermione!" He sighs. "I told you, you didn't need-"

"I know, and I told you that you're my friend now and friends get friends present for their birthday." She interrupts him. "By the way, mine's the nineteenth of September." She adds.

"Here." She holds out the book she had retrieved from her bookshelf in her bedroom at her parent's house.

He stares at the book for a few moments before carefully taking the book out of hands and looking at the cover.

"Dracula?" He asks looking up at her.

"It's a muggle story about a vampire named Count Dracula. I thought it would be interesting for you to read about how muggles portray vampires." She explains.

"Thank you, Hermione." He tells her sincerely, making eye contact, before turning the book over in his hands to read the blurb.

Hermione watches as Draco goes back to lounging on the couch as he begins to read the book. They sit in comfortable silence for a while until four o'clock when Hermione stands up, announcing that she's going to visit Ron and will be back for dinner at half six. Draco mumbles confirmation that he heard her but doesn't glance up from the book.

Hermione's not entirely sure which house Ron's is but she knows it'll be in Epsilon Street since he's a Weasley. She hazards a guess at the fifth house from the end of the street and knocks on the door, however, George answers.

"Hermione?" He asks confused.

"Hi, George, sorry to intrude but I'm trying to find Ron." She explains.

"Oh, he's two doors that way. I'd be careful if I were you, he's not quite himself at the moment." George warns her.

"I know, it's why I'm trying to find him." She tells him before bidding him goodbye and walking two doors away.

She knocks on the door, hoping that Ron answers the door and not Pansy, thankfully Ron, who's looking very bleary-eyed, does open the door, still dressed in his pyjama bottoms and vest. He stares at her for a moment before opening the door wider and letting her in.

"Is Pansy not in?" She asks glancing around the living room, where there are multiple bottles lying around.

"No." He grunts as he flops down onto the couch, motioning for her to sit in the armchair.

"How are you doing, Ron?" She asks him as she perches on the edge of the armchair, which has a liquid stain on it.

He turns to glare at her. "How'd'ya fink am doin'?" He asks, leaning over to grab a nearly empty bottle of firewhiskey.

"I think you need to stop drinking, Ron," Hermione tells him snatching the bottle out of his hand.

"Hey, I need that." He calls after her as she walks towards the kitchen to pour it down the sink.

"No you don't, you just think you do." She shouts back to him.

"I can't even look at her without that, let alone fuck her." He spits at her when she re-enters the room.

"RONALD." She shouts at him. "You may not like her. I don't like her myself but that's no reason to treat her the way you do. She didn't ask to be married to be you. She just wants to fulfil this stupid marriage decree then divorce you." She tells him.

"Good 'cause I ain't stayin' marrid to 'er." He tells her.

"You don't have to. All you both need to do is have a child." She tells him as she takes her wand out.

"I know dat. She make it clear she want a divorce but we 'ave to wait until a baby is born cause it could be a squib cause we both pure-blood but she only child and I have six siblins." He tries to explain but he's not really making himself clear.

Hermione waves her wand, cleaning the living room, as Ron continues to mutter on about something. When she's done, she takes a seat in the, now clean, armchair before looking at Ron again.

"Right, you're going to take a shower." She tells him, standing up again.

"Wha's the point?" He tells her.

"When was the last time you showered?" She asks him not entirely sure she wants to know but he just shrugs in answer.

"Upstairs, now. You're going to shower and feel better for yourself. I'm going to cook you a bacon and egg sandwich and we're going to talk properly. Now go!" She tells him and he goes, although she's sure it due to the promise of a bacon and egg sandwich rather than a want to shower.

She waits until she hears the shower start before heading into Ron's kitchen, which is identical to hers, to start cooking. Opening the fridge, though, reveals a half empty carton of milk and some cheese. She checks the cupboards but they're all bare. With a defeated sigh, she quickly writes a note for Ron, leaving it on the counter, before she leaves through the backdoor and heads for the market.

The market is surprisingly busy so it takes her twenty minutes to buy bacon, eggs, a carton of milk, teabags, sugar, a carton of pumpkin juice and a loaf of bread. When she returns to Ron's house, he's sat at his kitchen table, fully dressed and hair brushed.

"I fought you'd left." He tells her.

"I left you a note, Ron." She motions to the counter but the note's not there.

"I know, but you said you be ten minutes." He grumbles looking down at the note in his hands.

"Ron, how long have you known me? When have I ever gone back on my word?" She rhetorically asks as she pulls out two frying pans and starts making Ron's bacon and egg sandwich.

She hears Ron grunt behind her but she ignores him until she's finished. She places the plate in front of him along with a glass of pumpkin juice. Hermione sits opposite him with her own cup of tea. Draco had been right, they've had more cups of teas today than in their life. She smiles to herself as she sips her cup.

"Fanks, 'Mione." He mumbles as he devours the sandwich and juice.

"You're welcome. Now we're going to talk." She tells him.

He groans, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. "Do we 'ave to?"

"Yes, we do. You're ruining your life with drink, Ron. It has to stop now before it gets out of hand. What's your child going to think because I can tell you now if this continues, Pansy will get sole custody and you won't be able to see them at all? Is that what you want?" She asks him.

"No." He grumbles, looking down at his hands.

"Look at me Ron. Do you think your Mum's going to be happy never seeing her grandchild?" She asks.

"No." He grumbles again.

"If you can't have sex with her without being drunk, then only drink when you plan on having sex with her."

Ron's about to interrupt her but she holds her hand up to stop him.

"The more times you have sex, the more likely you are to get her pregnant quicker. Then you never have to touch her again if you don't want to." She tells him.

"Of course I don't want to touch her. Have you seen her? She's a disgusting, Slytherin cow." He insults.

"Ron, stop it. You can't hold the fact that she's a Slytherin against her forever. None of us is in school anymore, our house no longer defines us as who we are." She tells him.

"You can't really fink that. You're married to Malfoy." He laughs.

"He's changed, Ron. I've told you before. He not the same man he used to be when his Father was around." She defends Draco.

Ron abruptly stands up, pointing his finger threatening at her. "He's brainwashed you." He tells her.

"I think I better go." Hermione stands up, walking towards the fronts door until Ron grabs her wrist.

"He's just using you for an heir. He's a pure-blooded, death eater. That's all they care about. Once his Father gets out, he'll go back to controlling him like he did before." Ron tries to tell her. "Runaway with me. We can hide in America. Raise a family of our own. We'll be happy."

"Ron, you might be happy with that life but I wouldn't and Draco was the one who helped put his Father away and he's been nothing but kind to me since the Partner Ceremony. Now let go of my arm." She yanked her arm out of Ron's hand then rushed out of his house, slamming the door behind her.

Draco continues to read the book Hermione had given him until he hears the clock upstairs strike five. Reluctantly, he places the book on the coffee table, heading into the kitchen to starts on dinner. Since it's his birthday and he's also proving his cooking abilities to Hermione, he decided to make his favourite dish, Spaghetti Bolognese.

Once it's all cooking, he grabs Dracula and sits at the kitchen table to read so he can keep an eye on the pans. He doesn't put it down again until Hermione returns home at quarter past six.

"How's Ron doing?" He asks out of politeness as he turns the heat off and waves his wand over the spaghetti pan to drain the water.

"Drunk and bad tempered." She answers, jumping up onto a counter. "It smells delicious, Draco." She compliment.

"Thanks." He smiles to himself. "Hasn't he always been bad tempered?" He asks as he splits the spaghetti between two bowls.

She huffs. "No. Well sometimes but only towards you." She admits.

"The feelings mutual." He grumbles.

"Don't you start, I've heard enough from Ron." She warns him.

"What's he done?" He asks as he pours the Bolognese sauce over the top of the spaghetti.

Hermione jumps down from the counter, grabs two glasses and fills them with water as Draco takes the bowls over to the kitchen table.

"He's just being his usual prejudice self towards Slytherin's. Their house was a mess and I don't think Ron had showered since the ceremony, I had to bribe him into the shower with a bacon and egg sandwich." She shakes her head as she brings the glasses of water over.

Draco feels the pang of jealousy in his stomach. "Did he mention Pansy?" He asks curiously as they start to eat.

"Only to insult her. I honestly don't know how they're going to make it through this. He said he can barely look at her without being drunk." She admits before taking a bite and moaning appreciatively. "This is amazing, Draco. You have to make this again." She tells him as she takes another bite.

"Thank you." He smiles to himself. "I think the best option for them is to just get pregnant as soon as possible." He says.

"That's what I told Ron. He's really not taking this well." She tells him. "He's not in the right frame of mind right now. He said a lot of things he wouldn't have said if he wasn't drunk."

"Did he insult you?" Draco placed his fork down to stare at Hermione.

"Not me." She answers vaguely, avoiding his eyes.

"He insulted me." He laughs. "What did he say?"

"I don't think-" She starts but he interrupts her.

"Tell me." He asks.

"Fine." She places her fork down, finally looking up into his eyes. "He told me that you've brainwashed me. That all you care about is getting an heir from me because you're a…" She pauses, looking down at their entwined hands.

"Because I'm a what?" He asks calmly.

"You're a pure-blooded... er… death eater." She whispers.

Draco's feels himself freeze. So that's how people still see him. Of course, it is, he hasn't exactly shown people that he has changed. A few people suspected as much when he helped send his Father to Azkaban but he hasn't been full of love and joy since then. His personality hasn't changed much just his views.

"Draco." She squeezes his hand making him look up at her. "You must know that I don't think that and I told Ron as much, he's just set in his ways."

Draco nods, picking his fork back, although he's lost his appetite, he tries to finish his dinner. Hermione must know he's not in the mood for talking because she doesn't say anything else but she keeps a tight hold of his hand until they're finished.

"I'll wash up." She tells him and he nods, grabbing Dracula and heading upstairs to lie on the bed.

He tries to get back into the book but he can't. There must be a part of Hermione that still thinks those things about him. She can't change her way of thinking that quickly. He rolls his left sleeve up to reveal his faded dark mark. It had faded almost overnight after the dark lord had died but it was still visible which is why he always wears long sleeve shirts or jackets. He avoids looking at it as much as possible but there's some times, like when he's showering or in bed, where he can't help but see it. He's managed to hide it from Hermione so far by wearing long sleeves ad covering it with a makeup charm in bed.

There's knock at the door, and before he can cover the mark completely, Hermione enters, stopping under the doorframe to stare at his arm. He quickly covers it. She walks around to her side of the bed, where she lies down facing him.

"Can I see it?" She asks making him turn to glare at her.

"Why would you want to see it?" He snaps.

"It's a part of who you are and you can't hide it from me forever." She tells him.

Reluctantly, he holds his left arm out to her. She sits up, taking his arm in her hand. He looks up at the ceiling, not wanting to see her expression when she sees it. He feels her carefully roll his sleeve up to his elbow, then there's nothing as she stares at it except the light touch of her fingers on his wrist. He's about to snatch his arm back when she lifts his wrist up, placing a gentle kiss on his dark mark. He turns to stare at her, confused as she drops his arm back down onto the bed.

"We both have parts of ourselves that we hate. You have your mark and I have my scar." She pulls back the sleeve of her cardigan to reveal her scarred skin. She then picks up his arm again to hold it next to hers. "These marks don't define who we are any more than our parents do, or our friends do, or our Hogwarts house does. What defines us, is who we are today and today you bought a blind owl, helped my grandad, played with my cousins and cooked us dinner. You've proven to me every day since we've been married that you've changed so don't doubt for a second that I agree with Ron or anyone else who can't see you for who you really are." She tells him, looking straight into his eyes.

Draco's proud to say that he's only ever cried a few times in his life and only twice in front of another person, but right now, with Hermione telling him what she really thinks, he doesn't think he can keep the tears from falling. Not wanting to embarrass himself in front of Hermione, he clambers off the bed, running into the bathroom, which he locks behind him.

He leans against the sink as a few tears break free, falling down his cheeks. 'You're pathetic, Malfoy.' He tells himself as he stares at his reflection in the mirror. Hermione knocks on the bathroom door but he ignores her in favour of splashing water on his face, trying to stop the tears. What's wrong with him? There's another knock on the door.

"Draco, we both know I can easily unlock this door if you don't let me in." She warns him.

He dabs his face dry with a towel, checking his red-eyed reflection in the mirror before unlocking and opening the bathroom. Hermione's stood staring up at him and as soon as she sees him, she grabs hold of his hand, pulling him towards her where she wraps her arms around him in a hug.

Draco's never been much of a hugging person but with Hermione warm body pressed against his, he wraps her own arms around him, encasing her in a tight hug. They stay like this for a few minutes until Hermione backs away, keeping hold of his hand, pulling him back into the bedroom where they lie back down on the bed.

Hermione picks one of the dark magic books Draco had given her and starts to read it. He watches her for a few minutes before picking up Dracula again and starts reading where he left off. They stay like this until it gets too dark to read so they get changed for bed. This time, Draco doesn't use the makeup charm on his dark mark and Hermione notices when he climbs into bed. She takes his arm, carefully stroking her thumb over it before bidding him a goodnight and turning over to face the window.

Draco listens intently to Hermione's breathing as she falls asleep before he shuffles further down under the quilt and falls asleep himself.

Hermione wakes up to a start the next morning, although she's not sure what woke her up until she tries to turn around to see if whatever it was, woke Draco up as well and a tug pulls at her stomach. Confusingly, she feels under the quilt only to find Draco's hand gripping her stomach. She freezes at the thought that they've probably been cuddling most of the night. Carefully, trying not to wake him, she removes his hand from her stomach and rolls away, placing it in the space between them. Draco mumbles something in his sleep before turning over and falling deeper into sleep.

She smiles as she climbs out of bed, grabbing her dressing gown and heading downstairs where she feeds Athena, leaving the cage open for her to have a little fly around if she wishes. Hermione makes herself a slice of toast and a glass of pumpkin juice before lounging on the couch to read volume IV of Seventeenth Century Laws. Unfortunately, there's nothing else mentioned about marriage laws so she places it on the bookshelf and takes out a book Draco had bought himself yesterday, 'A History of the Departments of the Ministry of Magic'. She flips straight to 'The Department of Registrations' which was founded in 1443 after polyamorous marriages became popular and it was difficult to keep track of who were the blood parents of the children in these families. It was made mandatory to register the births and deaths of any family members and in order to marry, the multiple parties had to apply for a marriage certificate. In 1572, polyamorous marriages were almost unheard of but The Department of Registration stayed since they kept a census of the wizarding world.

"What are you reading?" Draco's voice asks from behind her.

She turns around to see him leaning over the couch in his pyjama bottoms with Athena fluttering around his head.

"About The Department of Registrations. They're the ones who grant couples marriage certificates. I was just wondering what their view is on The Marriage Decree. According to this book, the couple wishing to marry has to apply to The Department of Registration for their marriage certificate where they are required to have an interview with the leader of the marriage sub-department before they are granted permission to marry. It's been that way since 1443, so I doubt they were too happy about having to change the rules for The Marriage Decree." She tells him as he catches Athena in his hands, placing her back in her cage.

"Add it to the notebook." He suggests as he sits down in the armchair. "We're at the Burrow tonight, aren't we? Audrey might be able to clear a few things up for us." He points out

"Although she might not, she told Ginny and I that she works in the Ministry," Hermione told him.

"But Molly did say she was a walking conspiracy theory. If we let it slip that we're also doubting the legality of the Marriage Decree she might confide in us." He says, stifling a yawn.

"It's worth a try but I don't think we should tell her everything we know. Just in case she's tells someone at the Ministry." She tells him as he stands up, heading into their kitchen.

"Fine." A tired voice calls back. "Should we tell Percy? I heard him and Audrey debating about the Ministry at the reception." He asks coming back to the doorframe.

"I'm not sure." She thinks. "He's blinded by his hatred of the Ministry and the Minister. It goes far beyond the Marriage Decree." She points out, heading into the kitchen with her dirty plate and glass.

Draco simply nods as he butters his toast. "I need to visit Blaise again today to pick up my birthday presents. Do you wish to join me?" He asks making Hermione chuckle. "What?" He asks turning to face her with a frown.

"Nothing." She smiles at him as she finishes washing her dishes. "I do wish to join you." She smiles as she leaves him in the kitchen and heads upstairs to get dressed.

Once she's ready, she goes back to reading the Dark Magic books Draco had brought her back from the Manor. Almost an hour later, Draco enters the living room after showering and dressing. Hermione glances up at him, ready to give him a talking to about taking so long when her breath catches in her throat. Draco's stood leaning, with a calm smile, against the door frame, wearing a tight pair of black trousers, a black shirt and tie with a dark green cardigan and black boots.

"Like what you see?" He asks, quirking up an eyebrow.

She lets out a breathy laugh, rolling her eyes. "You wish." She mutters, walking past him to the front door where she pulls on her knee-high, black boots.

Without meaning too, they had coordinated their outfits. Hermione was wearing a black, long-sleeved dress with a dark green floral pattern around the waist. She ignores Draco's knowing smile as they leave the house and set off for Blaise and Luna's.

Luna inches the door open a few moments after they had knocked looking rather nervous.

"Luna? Are you okay?" Hermione asks, feeling for her wand.

"Daddy awaits our arrival and yet our house has become infested with Figgons which have affected Blaise and me deeply." She sighs sadly.

"Figgons?" Draco asks confused.

"Yes, Draco. Figgons." She repeats. "Are you here to collect your presents?" She asks as she regains the sparkle in her eyes and opens the door a little wider.

"Yes, if you don't mind." He answers.

"Please wait here. I'd hate for you two to become affected too." She tells them before closing the door in their faces.

"I know I didn't necessarily pay attention in Hagrid's classes but I-" Draco starts but Hermione interrupts him with a scoff.

"That's an understatement. If you had paid attention, Buckbeak wouldn't have attacked you." She tells him.

"Ah, yes. The hippogriff. I'm sorry about… that whole ordeal." He apologises.

Hermione turns to stare at him for a moment. She had truly hated Draco back in their third year when Buckbeak had been sentenced to death but here he is, apologising and Hermione sends him a smile, having already forgiven him.

"It's fine. He didn't die so I'll forgive you." She reminds him.

"Yeah, I always thought it was rather suspicious how the hippogriff escaped just before his own execution." He thinks out loud.

Hermione hums in agreement, not wanting to give anything away but Draco must sense she's holding something because he turns to face her.

"What did you do?" He asks, narrowing his eyes at her suspiciously.

"I don't know what you're talking about Draco." She tries to smile innocently as she stares at the door, willing Luna to return.

"I know you're lying to me, Hermione." He tells her just as the door opens and Luna appears once more holding the bags out for Draco to take.

"I've cleansed them of the Figgons aroma so they'll be safe to enter your home. I must go now but Blaise and I will hopefully see you at Isobel and William's part on Wednesday night." She tells them before once again shutting the door in their face.

"What, in Merlin's name, are Figgons?" He asks as they turn to go back to their house.

"Who knows?" Hermione shrugs then proceed to explain about Luna's insistence on the existence of Nargles and Crumple-Horned Snorkacks as they head back to their own house to drop off the presents.

They end up apparating to the gate of the Burrow just after half eleven to find a very long table set outside in the garden, underneath an enormous gazeebo. They can see Molly through the kitchen window, busying herself with multiple pans and trays of food.

Draco stops nervously at the gate as Hermione pushes it open. Even though Mrs Weasley had invited him and been kind enough to him on Saturday, he didn't exactly feel welcome at The Burrow anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Potter and the Weasel are glaring at him from one of the windows near the top of the strangely mismatched house.

"Come on Draco, you'll be fine," Hermione tells him in the hopes of comforting him but it doesn't work.

Reluctantly, he follows Hermione down the garden path and towards the kitchen door, which has been thrown wide open. He pauses politely at the kitchen door until Hermione just walks straight in so he follows her in.

Mrs Weasley has her hair tied up in a messy bun as she waves her wand around the kitchen making pots stir themselves, pans take themselves out of the oven and glasses fill themselves up.

"Hi Molly, do you need any help?" Hermione offers in greeting.

"If you don't mind, you could take these plates out to the table. I don't have a clue where my children are, off gallivanting around the house I suppose. None of them has offered to help, of course, Harry did but then Ron arrived and stormed off upstairs so he went to calm him down. I think Ginny went to help. All of them are around somewhere. Except Charlie, of course, he had to get back to Romania. He'll be back for Christmas though." She rambles on until Hermione interrupts her.

"Will Arthur be joining us or has he been called into work?" Hermione asks as she waves her wand, levitating a few plates out the window and on to the table outside.

"Yes, he's in the garage with Bill and Fleur, trying to pass on some of his muggle rubbish." She frowns, shaking her head. "I been asking for years for him to get rid of it all. I didn't mean pawn it off to his son. Well as long as it's out of our house." She sighs. "Thank you, my dears, I won't bore you with any more chores." She tells them.

Hermione smiles as she pulls him into the living room, where they find Audrey and Percy in what appears to be another heated conversation. They stop as soon as they enter but Draco can see the glare Audrey is sending Percy behind his back.

"Hello, Hermione and D-raco." He glares at him. "How are you both?" He asks still glaring.

Draco glares back whilst Hermione says something until he hears his name and turns to Hermione.

"Sorry?" He asks.

"I was just saying how we've been getting along well." She gives him a pointed look that he translates to mean 'play nice' so he nods.

"Yes, very well." He answers. "Considering the circumstances." He adds glancing between Percy and Audrey who both seem to stiffen in their seats.

"And which circumstances would those be?" Audrey asks staring curiously at him.

"We've been forced into this marriage by the ministry. I know a lot of couples who are already planning their divorce." He states watching Audrey carefully for her reactions.

"Are you one of these couples?" She asks.

"No, we've gotten to know each other better over the past few days and I think we can actually make this work and raise our child together." Hermione answers, taking a seat on the opposite couch and pulling Draco down to her side.

"What I'm still not sure about is why the ministry felt the need to enforce the decree?" Draco asks aloud.

"Well, we did lose a lot of people in the war," Percy answers glaring at him.

"I know but we've never been an endangered species. I doubt a loss of 231 is going to make much of a difference when the population of the wizarding kind in the UK is just short of seven thousand people." Draco announces.

"If they really wanted to raise the population, why did they pair Ron and Pansy together? They're both purebloods. Don't purebloods have a higher rate of producing squib children? That won't help raise the population." Hermione states.

Draco catches a flicker of something in Audrey's eyes as she thinks about something but before he could ask her for her opinion on the matter, Weaslette enters the living room to tell them that lunch is ready.

Audrey and Percy leave first in silence, apparently thinking about what they had said.

"Do you think we were too obvious?" He asks her.

"No, but we've definitely given Audrey something to think about." She tells him as they head over to the table outside.

Arthur is already sat at the head of the table talking to Bill, who is sat next to him. Percy and Audrey have taken the seats on the other side of their father. Molly's hovering around the other end of the table, wanting everyone else to take a seat before she does. Weaslette is sat next to her mother with Potter and Weasel next to her leaving two seats opposite for Hermione and him. Draco decides to take the seat next to Molly so he's further away from the rest of the guests, leaving Hermione to sit next to George and his wife. He feels out of place sitting at a table full of Weasley's. He finds himself wishing Pansy had come just for a familiar face but he knew she wouldn't be caught dead with the Weasley clan.

"Now we're all sat down, let's begin," Molly announces and everyone makes a grab for some dinner.

Draco politely takes a small helping of each dish but ends up going back for seconds not long after. He catches Hermione smiling at him from the corner of his eye and turn to face her wondering what she's smiling at.

She leans towards his ear. "Are you enjoying it?" She whispers.

He sends her a quick smile. "Yes, Molly is an exceptional cook." He mutters back.

"I'd have to agree but it's nothing compared to your Spaghetti Bolognese from last night. You have to make that again soon." She tells him, making him blush slightly and go back to his dinner.

He listens to the conversations going on around him as he finishes his dinner. It isn't until he hears Potter mention his name that he focuses on a singles conversation.

"Since when do you call the ferret 'Draco'?" He hears the Weasel ask Potter.

"Since he got married to Hermione. He's part of our family now, whether you like it or not Ron. At least try and be civil with him." Potter tells him.

"I don't see why I should." He grumbles. "He's Malfoy. In case you forgot, he made our life a misery at Hogwarts."

"No he didn't, Ron and you know it. He might have bullied us but we always retaliated didn't we. We were just as bad as each other." He rolls his eyes.

It's strange for Draco to here Potter defending him against his best friend. Although, he supposes he's not doing it for his sake but for Hermione's sake but it's the thought that counts.

When everyone's finished with their dinner, Molly waves her wand and all the dishes and cutlery disappear leaving the table looking very bare. Nobody moves from their seats, instead, they carry on with their conversations. That is until Potter stands up.

"Who wants to play a little three on three Quidditch?" He asks the table.

He feels a sharp pain in his ribs and turns to find Hermione staring pointedly at him. He rolls his eyes then stands up himself.

"I'm in." He announces. "I'm not going to pass up the chance to beat you again, Potter." He adds with a smirk.

"Come on Draco, we've known each other for eight years. We're practically family now. I think you can call me Harry." He tells him.

"Fine, Harry."

"If he's playing then I am." Weasel stands up. "I'll be keeper."

"Looks like I'm a chaser then," George announces.

"Draco, I'll be your chaser." Angelina offers, smirking at her husband. "A little marital competition never hurt anyone. Ginny, are you in?" She asks.

"Nah, I think I'll sit this one out. I've eaten too much." She says, holding her stomach.

"It's been a while but I think I can still remember how to play," Bill announces, standing up and stretching his back. "What position do you play Draco?" He asks walking over to him.

"I was the Slytherin seeker for six years." He answers.

"Hmm, I dabbled as a keeper in my fourth, fifth and sixth year before deciding to concentrate on my NEWTs. Let's see if I've still got it. Although I warn you, it was thirteen years ago." Bill laughs.

"Come on then, Grandpa." Angelina jokes as they make their way to the Weasley's small Quidditch pitch.

Everyone else follows and takes a seat on the edge of the pitch as the six Quidditch plays choose their broomsticks from the Weasley broom shed. Draco chooses an old Cleansweep 7 that must be about ten years old now, the heads towards the opposite end of the pitch to Harry. Angelina and Bill follow and huddle around him await for their instructions.

"I assume you know what you're doing, Angelina. You were Gryffindor chaser for four years, weren't you?" He asks.

"Five years but yeah. I know what I'm doing. Try to score as many goals as possible and help Bill defend the goal."

"Great, I think we're ready." He turns to find Harry and his team already waiting for them in their positions.

Draco mounts his broom and sets of circling the pitch as they all wait for Arthur to release the balls. As soon as the balls are in the air, Angelina zooms straight for the Quaffle, catching it just before her husband. She flies professionally around George and Harry as then throws it at one of the hoops. Draco hears the spectators laugh as the Weasel tries to save it but it goes flying past his outstretched fingers.

The game carries on, Draco doesn't pay attention, desperately wanting to find the snitch before Harry. He hears Arthur announce the score as fifty to seventy to Harry's team. Just then Draco she's a glint of gold flashing past behind Harry's goal. Apparently, Angelina did too as she throws the Quaffle at him. He catches it clumsily not entirely sure what he's supposed to do with it until Angelina points at the goal and shouts go. He sets oFf quickly towards the goal, George tailing him. The Weasel glares at him determinedly. He lets his eyes drift to the goal to his left then swerves just as Ron makes a dive for the left hoop, throwing the Quaffle through the right hoop. He then swoops beneath the goal, hand outstretched ready to catch the snitch which is circling the goals. Just a few more inches and he'll have it. He can hear Harry catching up to him when the snitch abruptly changes course, flying off to Arthur, who stood at the edge of the pitch as referee. Draco levels his broom and flattens himself against the handle trying to pick up as much speed as possible. Harry's almost parallel with him as he reaches his hand out once more. He only needs a few more centimetres. Without really thinking, he throws himself at the snitch. He feels his fingers grasp around the golden ball then everything goes dark.

Chapter Text

 


She's up on her feet racing over to him. Harry, Bill, Angelina and George are already on the ground, crowding around him.

"Is he alright?" She asks as she tries to push her way through but Bill grabs hold of her, pulling her away.

"He's breathing but I don't think you want to see this." He tells her.

She tries to pull out of his grip but he's too strong. She assumes it's got something to do with his werewolf traits but doesn't think too much about it as she tries to catch a glimpse through the legs of everyone who's now crowding around him.

"Please Bill, I want to see him." She begs him but he picks her up, carrying her over to Ginny and Fleur who are stood in shock at the edge of the pitch.

"Take her inside. I'll go see what's happening." He orders them.

"Come on, 'ermione," Fleur says, ushering her inside with Ginny.

They sit her between then on the couch, holding onto her hands tightly in case she tries to escape.

"I should be out there with him. I know how to help him." She tries to convince Ginny and Fleur but they shake their heads.

"Bill weel return with noos soon," Fleur tells her, gently stroking her hair.

Suddenly, the living room door slams open to reveal Harry, whose shirt sleeves are covered in blood.

"Bill and Arthur are taking him to St. Mungo's." He explains.

"I need to be there with him." Hermione tries to jump up but Ginny and Fleur's grips still too strong. "Please, Harry." She begs, looking at him hopelessly.

Harry stares back at her for a moment before sighing deeply. "Fine, but I'm coming with you. He tells her.

"Thank you, Harry." She hugs him quickly when the girls let go of her arms

Harry takes hold of her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze as they exit the house.

"Harry, what are you doing?" Molly asks him worriedly.

"Hermione need to be with him, Molly. I'm not letting her go by herself, though." He tells her as they carry on down the garden path to the gate where they can apparate freely together.

At St. Mungo's, there's people rushing around in every direction. They head towards the reception area where four people are sat filling out pieces of parchment or direction other visitors to different wards.

"Excuse me?" Harry asks one of the receptionists. "We're looking for Draco Malfoy. He was brought in a few minutes ago." He states.

"Let me just have a look, Mr Potter." She says before rifling through the tens of pieces of parchment on her desk. "I'm afraid Mr Malfoy was taken to the intensive care unit due to his head injuries. You'll have to wait in the intensive care waiting room with the two people who brought him in." She tells them.

Hermione sighs in annoyance. "I'm his wife. I want to see him." She demands, leaning over the counter but Harry drags her back.

"I'm sorry Mrs Malfoy but only healers are allowed into the unit. You will be told as soon as he is moved onto another ward. Meanwhile, if you'd like to wait in the intensive care waiting room, which is down that corridor and third door on the left." She smiles forcibly at her as Harry pulls her in the direction she had been pointing in.

"Come on Hermione." He urges her into the waiting room where Arthur and Bill are sat waiting.

"Harry, what did you bring her for?" Bill asks when they come through the door.

"She deserves to be here." He tells him, sitting her down onto one of the chairs but she doesn't stay sitting for long, preferring to pace the length of the room.

"Hermione dear, will you please sit down? You're making me dizzy." Arthur asks after fifteen minutes of her pacing.

"I'm sorry Arthur. I'm just so nervous. He must have lost a lot of blood if your sleeves are soaked through." She glances back at Harry's arms where the blood had dried.

"Ah, sorry Hermione. I forgot." Harry apologises taking his wand out a scorigifying his shirt.

"You boys and your stupid Quidditch rivalry. He's as stupid as you were in first year. Remember when you threw yourself off your broom and nearly swallowed the snitch." Hermione frowns as she continues to pace the room.

"How can I forget?" Harry mumbles. "I open at the close." He adds.

Hermione ignores him and begins to ramble on about Quidditch. "Then there was that time a bludger broke your arm and you spent the night regrowing your bones."

"That was Lockhart's fault." He says defensively. "I wonder if he's still here." He thinks aloud.

"Then you actually fell off your broom and fell fifty feet to the ground."

"That was the dementors," Harry told her.

"Well, I won't be letting any of my children play. I'm not letting them risk their lives for a stupid sport." She carried on.

"Do you really think Draco's going to let you ban them from Quidditch?" Harry chuckles.

"I don't care. They're not playing the damned sport. You've seen Viktor's face. He's broken his nose twice from bludger attacks." She continues to complain.

"Hermione, nobody's died from Quidditch in at least a century." Harry tries to comfort her.

"DIED!" She shouts turning to face Harry. "My children dying wasn't my main concern. I don't want them to get hurt. I hope to Godric that they inherit my hatred of flying." She tells him.

Suddenly there's a knock at the door before a man dressed in healing robes enters. He glances around the room at the four of them before looking at Hermione.

"Are you Mrs Malfoy?" He asks.

"Y-yes, I am," Hermione answers not wanting to correct him on the matter.

The healer smiles at her. "I'm Healer Matthew, I've been treating your husband in the intensive care unit. He's just been taken up to the seventh floor which is our head trauma floor." He explains.

"Is he awake?" Hermione asks nervously.

"Not yet but it shan't be long. Now, if you'd like to follow me, I'll take you up to his room and explain his injuries." Healer Matthew announces, opening the door for her.

She makes her way to the door only for Harry, Bill and Arthur jump out of their chairs ready to follow.

"I'm sorry sirs but I think it's best if just Mrs Malfoy comes with me right now. I'm sure she'll inform you when she's ready." Healer Matthew explains.

"I won't be long. I'll be back down once I've seen him." Hermione tells them before they leave.

Healer Matthew leads her towards the lifts where one is already waiting for them. He presses the button for the seventh floor and they ride up in silence. Hermione follows him down the corridor nervously, unsure of what is awaiting for her behind Draco's door. He stops outside a door with 'Draco Malfoy' written the board next to the door.

"Now, I need to warn you. Your husband hasn't been cleaned yet so his face his still bloodstained but don't worry. We've stopped the bleeding and he should be awake soon." He tells her before opening the door.

Hermione takes a deep breath before entering the room. There's a curtain pulled around Draco's bed so no one can peer through the windows. She hesitantly pulls the curtain back and gasps. She lets sob out as she runs over to his bedside. There's dried blood all down his face and in his hair. From his left eyebrow to his hairline there's a deep cut that's been stitched up. His hair around the cut has been shaven leaving him with a small bald spot that she knows he's going to hate. She gently brushes his hair back out of his face.

Healer Matthew clears his throat from the bottom of the bed. "He has a fractured skull and was suffering from internal bleeding on the brain which we've managed to stop. When he wakes up, we'll be able to give him a potion to fix the fracture. The stitches are just temporary. We don't like to cast too many charms whilst a patient is unconscious. He might have some memory loss when he wakes up but we won't expect that to last very long."

Hermione nods as she takes everything in. "Will the cut leave a scar?" She asks, knowing Draco cares about his looks and will want to know when he wakes up.

"We're hoping that it will fade to near invisible over time but he will have a scar for a while after. If that is all, I need to go and check on a few other patients. I'll be back for a check-up in an hour. If there's any change to his condition please pull that handle next to his bed and one of the healers on this floor will be of assistance." He tells her then bows before leaving her alone.

"Oh, Draco." She sighs, shaking her head as she runs her hand threw his hair. "What am I going to do with you? We've only been married five days and you've already nearly died on me." She chuckles. "You know, Percy told me at the reception party that he'd be surprised if one of us didn't end up dead before the year was over. I told him to have a little faith in me. Back then I didn't think I'd be seeing much of you but you haven't left my side, have you? You've really surprised me Draco." She mumbles squeezing his hand.

Suddenly, she feels him squeeze back.

"Draco! Draco?" She asks.

"Is my name Draco?" He asks, eyes still shut.

Hermione panics for a moment before remembering Healer Matthew said he might suffer from some memory loss.

"Yes, your name is Draco." She tells him.

He frowns then winces.

"I have a stupid name and my head hurts." He pouts.

"Well, I happen to like your name." She tells him which makes him smile.

"Why does my head hurt?" He grumbles shifting around in his bed.

"Lie still Draco." She places a hand on his thigh to still him. "Your head hurts because you crashed into a Quidditch goal post. You've got a long cut on your forehead. You're at St Mungo's hospital."

"I don't know what that means." He tells her.

"It doesn't matter. Can you open your eyes for me Draco?" She asks him.

He huffs before slowly blinking his eyes open. He stares at her for a few moments before smiling at her. She smiles back, not use to seeing one on his face but finding herself wishing he would smile more often.

"Wow." He mutters. "Did the healer send you?" He asks.

Hermione frowns not sure what he means. "I asked him to bring me to you." She tells him.

"Wow." He mutters again still staring at her. "I want to sit up." He starts fidgeting around again.

"I'm not sure if you're allowed to yet." She tells him, trying to still him again.

"I want to sit up." He tells her again starting to get agitated.

"Okay, okay, lie still for a moment and I'll help you." She sighs, giving up.

She perches herself on the edge of his bed, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and helps pull him up into a sitting position. Draco wraps his arms around her back and sighs contently as she puffs his pillows up so he'll be more comfortable in his new position before helping him back down.

"There you go. Is that better?" She asks him.

He nods in reply, closing his eyes again as he leans his head back against the headboard. Hermione lets him rest, taking the opportunity to watch him. He looks so calm and peaceful without the weight of his memories on his shoulders. Suddenly, he starts coughing, clutching his throat.

"It hurts?" He croaks. "My throat." He complains, holding his neck as he starts coughing again.

"Here, have some water." She picks up an empty glass and augamentis water into it.

Carefully, she holds the glass to his lips. Draco clasps his hands around her own and tilts it back so he can drink.

"Thank you." He tells her letting go and leaning back again.

She feels his eyes watching her as she places the glass of water on the table at the bottom of his bed.

"You're the prettiest girl I've ever seen." He mutters making her spin around.

"What?" She blushes.

"I said you're the prettiest girl I've ever seen." He repeats making her blush deepen.

Hermione shakes her head as she sits back down next to him. He reaches over and takes one of her hands in his own then closes his eyes with a content smile on his face. She watches him rest for a while until she hears soft snores.

There's a short rap at the door. She calls them in and is glad to see Harry and Bill enter the room.

"How's he doing, Hermione?" Bill asks, looking at the large cut on Draco's forehead.

"He's in a bit of pain and has some memory loss but the healer doesn't expect it to last too long." She explains, looking down at her husband.

"Has he woken up yet?" Harry asks, coming closer and perching on the edge of his bed.

"Yeah, he's just gone back to sleep. Didn't even know his own name." She mutters.

"Really!" Bill exclaims, shocked.

"He'll be fine." She tells not only him but herself. "Where's Arthur?" She asks, realising he hadn't entered the room.

"He went to get some coffee from the café on the second floor," Bill tells her. "Actually, I should probably go find him so he knows where we are." He then leaves.

"You care about him, don't you?" Harry asks.

"Of course I do, Harry." She glares at him. "Is now the right time to talk about my feelings for him?" She asks rhetorically.

"Do you think you could love him?" He asks.

"Harry!" She warns him.

"Please, Hermione?" He asks her.

She stares at him for a moment. Would he hate her as much as he hates Draco? Although he has been trying really hard to be civil with Draco. They've been almost friendly. Maybe, he'll accept Draco even more if he knew that he she could.

"Yes, I feel as though I will fall in love with him." She admits to Harry who, to her surprise, smiles back at her.

"I never thought Malfoy would end up being one of the family." He chuckles. "I want you to know that Ginny and I will always be here for you even if nobody else is." He adds seriously.

"You mean Ron, don't you?" She sighs. "I'm worried about him Harry. He's drinking too much, not showering or eating properly. He can't rely on his family and us to take care of him forever." She admits to Harry.

"I know but we need to be there for him in case he does need our help." He tells her.

"I went to see him yesterday. I had to bribe him to take a shower and then I cleaned his house and made him a bacon sandwich. Can you imagine him being a father right now" She asks him.

Harry shakes his head. "He'll grow up when he's got a child on the way. He'll realise that he need to sort his priorities out." Harry says rather hopefully.

Hermione chuckles. "When did you become so wise?"

Harry looks as though he wants to say something but before he can there's another knock on the door before Bill returns with his Dad. Arthur's got two cups of coffee in his hands whilst Bill's holding another two. Arthur passes one of his to Hermione who takes it gratefully.

"I'm going to head back to Molly in a minute. I'll let her know how he's doing. She'll be worried sick." He announces.

"Why don't you all head back?" She tells him. "I don't want him to be too crowded when he wakes up again. Especially with his memory loss." She explains.

"Are you sure 'mione?" Harry asks.

"Yes, I'll send word if anything changes." She promises them.

They all stand up and give her a hug before leaving and sending the room into silence. She looks back down at Draco to find his eyes already on her.

"Wow, who are you?" He asks.

"I'm Hermione." She answers a little hurt that he can't remember her.

"That's a pretty name for the prettiest girl I've ever seen." He half smirks, half smiles at her.

"You need to stop calling me that." She tells him, puffing his pillows up a bit as he blushes again.

"Do you have a boyfriend, Hermione?" He asks her making her smile.

"I'm married." She tells him, chuckling when his face falls. "To you. I'm your wife." She adds.

She laughs again when Draco just stares at her in shock. "Y-you're my wife?" He asks in disbelief.

She nods her answer not trusting herself to not laugh if she tries to speak.

"How long have we been married?" He asks, still in shock. "Do we have any children?" He adds, a twinkle in his eyes.

"No Draco, we've only been married five days." She tells him.

Draco groans, throwing his head back against the headboard. "Why did we wait so long?" He asks, staring up at the ceiling.

"Well, we didn't want to get married, the Ministry made us." She tells him.

"I can't imagine me not wanting to marry you. Do you not love me?" He looks at her again, his eyes watery.

"Draco," She sighs, reaching over to push his hair out of his eyes. "I don't know you well enough yet but I'm sure given time, we will love each other." She tells him.

He stares at her for a moment before smiling. "Have we kissed yet?" He asks.

"No Draco, we haven't." She laughs.

"Why not?" He asks with a pout.

"We don't know each other well enough yet." She tells him.

"Did we meet each other five days ago?" He questions curiously.

"We've known each other about nine years." She answers making him gape.

"And I didn't ask you out." He mutters to himself.

"We hated each other back then." She explains.

There's a knock at the door before Draco can ask another question. He calls for whoever it is to enter and Hermione is more than surprised to find Ron enter the room.

"Dad said he was still unconscious." He states glaring at Draco out the corner of his eyes.

"Do I know him?" He whispers quite loudly to her.

"Yes." She answers before looking back over at Ron.

"Hello, it's nice of you to come visit me in the hospital. Did you bring me some grapes?" He asks smiling at Ron which is slightly unnerving.

Ron scowls at him for a few seconds before looking back at Hermione. "What's wrong with him?" He asks bluntly.

"He's suffering from some memory loss due to the hit to his head." She explains.

"Have you met my wife? She's the prettiest girl I've ever met." Draco announces.

"Draco, be quiet for a moment whilst I talk to Ron." She tells him before leading Ron to the other side of the room, pulling the curtain's around his bed so he can't see them.

"What are you doing here Ron? You don't care about Draco." She asks him pointedly in a quiet manner so Draco can't hear.

"I wanted to speak to you about what I said last night." He says a little too loudly.

"Have you come to apologise?" She asks quietly.

"Apologise! What do I need to apologise for?" He asks, raising his voice.

"Will you be quiet Ron, I don't want Draco to hear." She scolds him.

"Come on Hermione. You've got nothing with him." He motions in the direction of Draco. "Are you really giving up on everything we had?" He asks her.

Hermione sighs, running her hands through her hair. "Ron, we didn't have anything. We kissed once then we went back to being friends again. You treated me no different after that kiss to how you treated me before." She tries to quietly shout at him.

"But... I love you." He tells her. "Just come with me to America and we'll be happy together."

"No Ron, you'll be happy." She raises her voice to him. She takes a moment to calm down before whispering. "I'm sorry Ron but I don't love you. At least not in the way you want me to. I love you in the way I love Harry and Ginny."

"So you'll pick that Death Eater over me?" He scoffs.

Without thinking, Hermione slaps him across the cheek. Ron stares at her in shock, holding his hand to his cheek.

"Am I really a Death Eater?" A voice comes from behind her.

She turns to find Draco stood peeking through the curtains.

"Draco, you shouldn't be standing." She rushes to his side.

"Just check your arm, ferret." Ron spits from behind her but she ignores him.

Draco rolls both his sleeves up then glares at the dark mark on his left arm.

"I am Death Eater." He states disappointedly.

"Not anymore, you're not." She sits him back on his bed the perches on the edge, looking him straight in the eye. "Do you remember what I told you last night?"

He shakes his head.

"You will when you get your memory back. If you were still a Death Eater I would rather have gone to Azkaban than marry you." She tells him truthfully.

"And we're married?" He asks for confirmation.

"Yes, we are." She smiles at him which seems to calm him down. He lays back against the headboard, closing his eyes.

"You don't love him, 'Mione," Ron tells her from the end of his bed.

"Don't tell me what I do and don't feel." She tells him, not taking her eyes off Draco. "You need to leave, Ron. You need to leave now." She tells him calmly, standing up to face Ron again.

"Fine, but don't expect me to come running back to you when you finally decide you want me back. Enjoy being a Death Eater's slut." He shouts as he leaves, throwing the door open so it bangs against the wall.

"I hate you Ron. I hate you, so much." She yells after him, not able to stop the tears from pouring down her face.

She watches as Ron storms down the corridor towards the lifts. A few patients, visitors and healers are peeking their heads around their doors to see what's going on. She turns around to storm back into Draco's room, only to walk straight into Healer Matthew.

"Are you alright, Mrs Malfoy?" He asks her, a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I'll be fine. Draco's woken up but I think he's just gone back to sleep." She tells him, drying her tears on her sleeve.

"I'll wake him up to give him his potions then he'll be free to sleep as long as he wants." He tells her. "Are you sure you're alright?" He asks again.

Hermione nods as she enters the room where Draco has gone back to sleep. Healer Matthew taps his wand on his forehead to wake him up. He looks a little confused, to begin with but once he sees Hermione sat next to him, he relaxes.

"Hello, Mr Malfoy, my name is Healer Matthew. It's good to have you with us. I've got some potions here for you to take. Here, this one with help with the pain." He hands Draco a small goblet of yellow liquid which he drinks in one gulp. "Now this one is to help heal that nasty cut you've got on your forehead." He hands Draco a small goblet of Silver liquid which he drinks with a wince. "I know, that one's not very nice. I think it's the frogs liver. Now this one, I'm afraid, is the worse one. It'll heal the fracture in your skull. It will hurt but the pain relief potion should help to ease it slightly. We'll need to keep you here overnight but we should be able to discharge you in the morning as long as your memory has returned. This potion is going to make you fall asleep so you might want to say goodbye to your wife so she can go home and rest before coming to pick you up in the morning." Healer Matthew announces, stepping back behind the curtain to give them some privacy.

"I'll be back as early as possible in the morning. You just rest and take your potions." She tells him, brushing his hair out of his face once more.

"I want it down." He tells her. "It hides the cut." He mutters.

She chuckles slightly, shaking her head. "I'll see you in the morning." She tells him again before moving aside for Healer Matthew to come back in.

She watches Draco take his potion and then lie back down in his bed. She stands over him, holding his hand as his eyes flutter shut and he's in a deep sleep. She releases her hand from his grip then steps outside where she finds Healer Matthew stood waiting.

"I need you to fill a few parchment forms out, Mrs Malfoy. Could you come to my office please?" He asks.

Hermione nods then follows him to an office at the end of the corridor.

"We'll start with the easiest form. You need to sign this to claim ownership of his possessions so you can take them with you now." Healer Matthew tells her as he pushes a piece of parchment towards her.

Hermione skims the words for the list of possessions he had on him. A small sack of coins, his wand, a small package of owl pellets and the snitch.

"He had the snitch with him still?" She asks as she signs the parchment.

"Yes, we had to prise it out of his hand. Did he at least win the match?" Healer Matthew asks curiously.

"Yes, it was two hundred and ten to seventy." She shakes her head thinking something about wizards and their obsessions with Quidditch.

"You also need to fill this one out with Mr Malfoy's vault number so we can charge him for his treatment." He passes the second piece of parchment over.

Hermione hesitates for a moment. She doesn't know what number Draco's vault is so she writes her own down instead. She'd been given a large sum of compensation from the Ministry of Magic for her work with helping bring Voldemort down. She'd thrown it into her vault and tried to forget it was there. At least it would have some use now. She passes the parchment back and awaits the next parchment.

"Great, this is the last one. It's just to say that you'll be the one to collect him from us when he's ready to be discharged, which we hope will be tomorrow morning." He slides the last parchment towards her and she signs it.

"Here's his possessions." He passes her a bag with the four items he had on him. "We've kept his clothes and they've been washed so he can wear them tomorrow. I think that's everything so we'll look forward to seeing you in the morning, Mrs Malfoy." He opens the door for her to leave.

"Thank you for everything, Healer Matthew." She thanks him before she leaves and heads towards the lifts.

She finds herself stood in St Mungo's disapparation area unsure of where she wants to go. She doesn't want to go home without Draco and Athena was fed before they left so there's no need for her to go home until tomorrow morning with Draco. She doesn't want to go back to the Burrow in case Ron's there. She doesn't want to see him at all for the foreseeable future. The only place left is her parents' house.

She turns on the spot and disapparates to the alley behind her parents' house. She burst through the back door to find her parents sat staring at her with their dinner on the kitchen table. Upon seeing her parents, the tears start again.

Her mum is instantly on her feet, pulling her into a tight hug.

"Hermione, dear. What's wrong? Come sit down in the living room." She guides her through the hall and onto the couch in the next room.

"If that boy's hurt you, I'll kill him." Her Dad threatens, following them in.

She shakes her head unable to control her tears. She buries her head into her mum's chest and just hugs her. Her mum strokes her hair as she hugs her back unsure of what else to do whilst her Dad sits on the edge of his armchair waiting. After a few minutes she manages to stop crying and her Dad kneels next to her.

"Did Draco hurt you?" He asks, trying to sound calm but she can hear the anger in his voice.

"No." She mutters.

"What's wrong then?" He asks

She takes a deep breath to calm herself.

"We went for dinner at the Burrow and Harry suggested a Quidditch game. Draco flew headfirst into a goal post. Arthur and Bill took him to the hospital. He had a fractured skull, a large cut across his forehead and he's suffering from memory loss." She explains.

"Oh my G-" Her mum gasps. "Is he alright?" she asks.

"Yes, the healer thinks he can come home tomorrow but he couldn't even remember his own name. Arthur, Bill and Harry stayed with me for a while but I told them to go home." She tells them. "Th-then Ron showed up but he's so angry right now. He hates his wife and-"

"Did he say something to you? Is that why you're this upset?" Her dad asks.

She nods. "He hates Draco too. He can't get over our school rivalry. Harry's accepted the situation but Ron just can't." She pauses for a moment wondering whether to tell them. She's always told them everything. "He told me he loved me and begged me to run away with him to America. I told him no and he got angry. He shouted some nasty names at Draco and I. He's just jealous but I hate him like this. I hate him." She tells them, letting out a sob.

"He's your best friend Hermione. I'm sure he'll come around to the whole marriage thing eventually. Especially after everything you've been through together. I don't think he'll want to throw all that away over this." Her mum tries to tell.

"I don't know, he's been drinking a lot lately and he's a proud man. He won't apologise to myself of Draco." She explains.

"What that boy needs is for someone to knock some sense into him." Her dad says, cracking his knuckles.

"I actually slapped him today." She admits.

"Hermione!" Her mum tuts disapprovingly.

"He deserved it." She tells her.

"That's my girl." Her dad whispers to her as he ruffles her hair.

"Chris!" Her mum scolds him. "Would you like some dinner, Hermione?" Her mum asks.

"No thank you. I'd just like a bath and to get some sleep. I need to be up early tomorrow for when Draco's discharged.

"Okay dear, I'll check in on you before we got to bed." Her mum tells her as she heads up the stairs.

Hermione runs herself a bath before going back into her old bedroom and grabbing an old pair of pyjamas she didn't want to take with her to her new house. She spends an hour just relaxing in the bath. She listens to her parents walk around the house before settling in the living room, where she heard them turn on the television to EastEnders. She couldn't make out actual words, just mumbles vibrating though the floorboards. She eventually climbs out when she's shivering. She pulls on her pyjamas, casts a quick hair drying charm and tooth cleaning charm before climbing to her bed and falling into a dreamless sleep.


 

Chapter Text

 

Draco wakes up in the middle of the night, his head in agony and he has no idea why. He tries sitting up but the movement sends a pain shooting across his forehead, making him wince. He reaches his arm across the bed trying to feel for Hermione but his arm falls off the edge of the bed, which confuses him. He risks opening his eyes, pushing through the pain as he glances around the unfamiliar room. There's a white curtain pulled around the bed he's in and a soft light coming from somewhere near the foot of his bed. Closing his eyes, to try and block the pain out, he pushes himself up into a sitting position on the bed, swinging his legs over the side. The tiled floor is cold beneath his feet as he slowly stands, hand grasping his pulsating forehead. Slowly, he shuffles his way to the end of the bed, throwing the curtains back to reveal an empty room and a door, where the soft light's emitting. He carries on towards the door, pulling it open to reveal a familiar corridor. He turns to face the door and spots a board next to it states the patient within the room as 'Draco Malfoy'. He's in St Mungo's hospital.

"Mr Malfoy, you're not supposed to be out of bed. You're not stable on your feet yet." A man he assumes is a nurse, coming out of another patient's room, tells him.

"I can walk just fine." He snaps at the nurse, bringing his hand back up to his forehead. The pains getting worse.

"Come on Mr Malfoy, let's get you back into your bed and I'll go fetch you another pain relief potion." He tells him softly, guiding him back into his room.

"What happened to me?" He asks as he's lowered into his hospital bed.

"Didn't your wife tell you?" He questions.

"Hermione's been here?" Draco asks in return.

"Of course she was, she's very worried about you. You've had a few visitors actually. Mr Arthur Weasley and Mr Bill Weasley brought you here, then Mr Potter arrived with your wife and then Mr Ron Weasley showed up although there was a bit of a commotion with him. He left the hospital shouting about something or other. You stay there and I'll be back with your healer and a pain relief potion." The man tells him before leaving him alone in the dark room.

A few minutes later, the man returns with another man, who he assumes is his healer, and a bottle of pain relief which he gladly takes. He can feel the potion drowning the pain in his head instantly.

"Hello, Mr Malfoy. Do you remember me?" He asks, taking a piece of parchment and a self-refilling quill out of his pocket.

"No." He answers truthfully.

"Good, good." The man mutters as he writes something down.

"Why is my memory loss good?" Draco asks with a frown.

"What is the last thing you remember?" The man asks, ignoring his question.

He tries to think back. He and Hermione had been going to the Burrow for dinner. "Hermione and I went to the Burrow for dinner." He tells him.

"Excellent." He mumbles, writing something else down.

"What is 'excellent'?" He questions, becoming annoyed.

"Well, Mr Malfoy, my name is Healer Matthew and you were admitted to us yesterday afternoon with a fractured skull. We managed to stop the bleeding and stitch up your wound in the intensive care unit before moving you up here. When you woke up, you didn't even know your own name let alone who your wife was or what you had been doing earlier in the day. We gave you some potions to fix your fractured skull and the large cut on your forehead and you fell straight to sleep. Now that your memories of after your accident have returned and your injuries have healed, you'll be discharged with a few pain relief potion later in the morning." Healer Matthew explains.

It's a lot to take in but Healer Matthew sits on his bedside chair and waits patiently for him to understand everything he had just said.

"Why can't I remember what happened the last time I woke up?" He questions.

"That's completely normal. Nothing to worry about at all. It never lasts too long. You should have all memories back within the next couple of days. Now, try to get some sleep, your wife is picking you up in the morning." He tells him as he leaves his room.

Draco shuffles further down under the quilt but it takes him a few hours before he falls back to sleep. It's only been five days but he's grown accustomed to having somebody next to him whilst he sleeps. When he finally does fall asleep, it's not a very deep sleep and he's awoken a few time by people walking past his door and other patients screaming and crying in their own rooms.


Hermione's mum wakes her up at quarter past seven on the way out of the house with a reminder to lock up before she leaves. She lays in her bed for a while before she manages to drag herself downstairs to make herself a cup of tea for breakfast. She's too worried to eat. What if she gets to St Mungo's and Draco still doesn't remember her? What if his memory loss is permanent? She shakes the thoughts from her head pulling the newspaper towards her that her dad probably left on the kitchen table. She stares at it for a moment, waiting for the pictures to start moving before she remembers that she's looking at a muggle newspaper. She flicks through it with disinterest as she sips her tea.

When she finishes, she charms her teeth clean, dresses and makes her bed before checking all the windows and doors are locked before heading down the garden path to the alley where she discreetly disapparates to St Mungo's. She checks her watch when she arrives in the disapparation area. It's just gone eight o'clock.

She takes the lift up to Draco's floor and heads towards his room. However, when she enters, there's no one in the bed or sat in the chair. She goes back out onto the floor looking for a healer who might be able to help her but there's no one around. She can see light emanating from beneath one of the doors down the corridor. She knocks on the door and is told to wait a moment before a healer answers with a smile.

"Hello, can I help you?" She asks her.

"I'm looking for Draco. He's not in his room." She tells the woman.

The healer frowns looking down the hall towards his room.

"He's probably in the bathroom." She tells her, walking towards another door and knocking. "Is anybody in there?" She asks but there's not reply. "If you stand back Miss, I'll open the door." She tells her and Hermione steps to the side.

The healer opens the door but there's nobody in there.

"Let me ask Healer Matthew. He might know." She announces leading Hermione to Healer Matthew's office where see knocks politely before entering.

Hermione enters behind her to find Healer Matthew and Draco in the middle of a chess game. He's dressed in the clothes he had been wearing to the Burrow the previous day. She stared at him as he looked intently at the little figures on the chessboard.


"Ah, Healer Jennifer, am I needed?" Healer Matthew asks.

"No, this lady was looking for Mr Malfoy. We couldn't find him." The woman who had just entered explains.

At the mention of his name, Draco glances up then spots Hermione stood just behind Healer Jennifer, staring at him.

"Hermione!" He stands up looking at her. She looks relieved when he says her name.

"Draco." She sighs as she wraps her arms around his neck and pulling him into a tight hug which he gladly returns. "You remember me." She whispers into his ear.

"Of course I remember you, although I can't remember anything after sitting down to eat dinner at the Burrow and Healer Matthew won't tell me how I fractured my skull or why I have this ugly scar on my forehead." He tells her as they break apart.

He combs his finger through his hair, making sure that it's falling over the scar.

"We want you to remember by yourself. If you haven't remembered within a week then I give your wife permission to tell you." Healer Matthew explains but Draco just glares at him.

He leans over the table moving his knight to B4. "Checkmate." He announces.

"Well played. Now, I need your wife to fill out your discharge parchment then you are free to go. I want to see you back in a week for a check-up." He tells them as he hands Hermione a piece of parchment which she signs. "Take it easy for a few days, nothing to extraneous and here's a few pain relief potions for the next couple of days." He hands Hermione the potions which she puts straight into her back.

"Come on then Draco." She takes his hand, pulling him out of the office.

They wait for the lift to take them down to the main floor when Draco turns to face her.

"What happened when Weasel showed up?" He asks.

"You remember?" She asks avoiding his eyes.

"No, a healer early this morning told me Arthur and Bill brought me here, then Harry brought you and then Weasel showed up but there was a commotion. What happened?" He asks.

"I think it's best if you remember by yourself." She tells him, still avoiding him.

"Hermione?" He questions.

"No, Draco. You need to remember by yourself." She tells him harshly as they walk towards the muggle exit. "I don't want you to risk disapparating yet. We'll get the bus back to my parents' house and we'll wait there until the barbeque tonight. We'll disapparate back tonight when we've eaten and are better rested." She tells him.

"Fine." He grumbles as they walk through the muggles streets towards the centre of London.

Twenty minutes later, Hermione stops at a bus stop and studies the timetable.

"The next bus is in seven minutes." She tells him, taking a seat.

He sits down next her, still annoyed that she won't tell him what happened. He leans his heads back against the glass shelter, closing his eyes and tries to think back to yesterday at the Burrow.

"Are you tired?" Hermione interrupts his thoughts.

"A little. I'm trying to remember." He admits.

"Don't think too hard, you'll give yourself a headache." She tells him to which he nods then goes back to his thoughts.

He remembers arriving at the Burrow and helping Molly move some plates onto the table. Then they went into the living room and talked to Percy and Audrey about the marriage decree, which had been interesting. They had then gone outside for dinner. He'd tried a bit of everything and he remembers being very impressed. Then Harry had stood up and asked… something. He can't remember.

"The bus is here," Hermione announces and they both stand up.

Hermione holds her arm out and the bus stops for them. She climbs on first, digging around in her bag. Draco climbs on after her.

"Two tickets, please." She asks the driver who presses some buttons on his till.

"That'll be two pounds, love." He holds his hand out for the money.

"The gold circle ones are pounds, aren't they?" He mutters to Hermione as she hands the driver the money.

"Yes, they are." She answers taking the tickets off the bus driver and pulling him to a seat near the back of the bus.

It's still quite early so there aren't many people on the bus going out of London. Draco sits in the window seat, watching the people in their cars drive past them in the opposite direction. Most of them have large mugs or food in their hands as they drive which just makes the whole act of driving more dangerous. He spots one lady apply lipstick in a mirror as she drives past them and decides he never want to be in a car again if he can help it. He watches the tall, serious buildings of the city turn into small, homely houses of the suburban estates.

"We should be there in five minutes," Hermione tells him after they've been on the bus for half an hour. "That's where my parents work." She points out as they drive past a bungalow with 'Granger's Dentist Surgery' above the door. "I think they're finishing at four today so we can get to my Uncle David's for six o'clock." She mentions.

A few minutes later, Hermione presses a red button which says 'stop'. It makes a 'ding' noise and lights up a sign at the front of the bus which says 'stopping'. The bus driver then stops next to another bus stop.

Draco follows Hermione down the aisle, giving the driver his thanks. He looks up and down the unfamiliar street after stepping off the bus.

"Where are we?" He asks looking at Hermione.

"We're a few streets away from my house. It's only a fifteen-minute walk." She answers, then pulls him by the hand towards the end of the street. "Did you remember anything else?" She asks after a few minutes.

"Yes, Harry stood up after dinner and asked everyone something. I can't remember what." He mentions hoping Hermione will let something slip but she just hums. "You're not going to tell me anything, are you?" He asks her, already knowing the answer.

"No." She answers simply as they turn onto a street he finds familiar.

He thinks they walked down this street when they took her neighbour's dog for a walk.

"When we get to my parents' house, I'm going to make you a cup of tea and some breakfast then you're going to have a nap. I want you fully rested for tonight. If it was anything else I would cancel but everyone's expecting us to be there. I might cancel tomorrow night, Healer Matthew did say for you to get plenty of rest." She tells him.

"What's tomorrow night?" He asks, wondering if he'd forgotten about some plans they'd made last night.

"Isobel and William's hosting a party. Megan invited us on Sunday. I'll send her a message telling her we can't mak-" She explains.

"Hermione." He stops her midsentence. "If I rest today and tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be more than capable going to a small party with some friends." He tells her.

She stares at him for a moment. "We'll see how you feel tomorrow night and we won't be staying long if we do go." She tells him.

Finally, they make it onto Hermione's street. He's been feeling tired for the past ten minutes but he didn't want to tell Hermione that and give her another reason to cancel tomorrow night, so he pushes himself to walk further, knowing he can rest for as long as he needs at her house. He hears Hermione mutter an 'accio keys' into her handbag as they reach her house.


Hermione unlocks the front door then guides him into the living room where she makes him sit in her dad's armchair. She goes to take his boots but he pushes her hands away.

"I'm not an invalid, Hermione. I can take my own boots off." He tells her reaching down to take them off himself.

"Sorry." She apologises. "Here's the remote for the television." She hands it to him then turns the TV on. "Just press that button to change the channel until you find something you want to watch. I'll be in the kitchen making you some breakfast." She tells him before heading into the kitchen.

She puts the kettle on as she grabs two mugs from the cupboard and pops a teabag in each one. Opening the fridge, she finds some bacon and sausages. She's sure her parents won't miss a few rations so she turns the hob on and grabs a frying pan, adding two sausages and rations of bacon. Once the kettles boiled she makes the mugs of teas and takes one into the living room for Draco who's sat watching Bargain Hunt.

"Really Draco, you're watching Bargain Hunt?" She chuckles as she places his mug of tea on the side table.

"It seems interesting." He mumbles as he takes a sip from his mug of tea.

"Did you forget which button to press?" She asks knowingly.

"No, of course not." He frowns at her.

"Okay then, enjoy your Bargain Hunt." She smiles as she leaves to check on the frying pan.

When she returns with a plate of bacon, sausage, beans, scrambled eggs and fried tomatoes, Draco's starting to drift off as he watches the television. She can't help but smile at how similar it reminds her of her dad.

"Draco." She calls his name to get his attention. "Here, eat this then you can go upstairs for a nap." She hands him the plate of breakfast.

He eats it all, hungrily. She doesn't think he's eaten since the dinner at the burrow yesterday. He thanks her once he's done, passing the plate back to her along with his empty mug. She charms them to wash themselves in the sink as she takes Draco upstairs to her room where she helps him take his cardigan off then climb into bed.

"I might pop out for an hour just to check on Athena and grab some shopping for tonight." She tells him as she pulls the quilt over him and tucks him in. "I'll come check on you when I get back, okay?" She adds.

Draco nods in reply, closing his eyes ready to take his nap. She stays kneeling next to him for a few seconds just watching him as he falls asleep. He looks so content and calm in this moment. She brushes his hair out of his face, revealing his scar. It looks a lot better than it had last night but it's still rather obvious. She leans over, kissing his scar before standing up and leaving, shutting the door behind her.

She disapparates from the alley to the gate of the estate then hurries back to their house. She leaves Athena, who's still asleep on her perch, some pellets before running up the stairs to pack some clothes for her to wear tonight. She's back downstairs, choosing a book to take back home with her so she has something to do whilst Draco's asleep when there's a knock at the door.

Wondering who it could be, she opens the door only to slam it shut again when she sees Ron stood on the other side. She locks the door in case he tries to open it herself.

"Please go away, Ron. I'm not ready to talk to you yet." She calls through the door.

"Come on 'ermione. Am sorry kay. Didn't mean it. Ya forgive me yet?" He shouts through the door.

"Are you drunk?" She asks.

"Nah, I 'ave one or two only." He shouts back.

"Ron." She sighs disappointedly. "Go home and sober up. I'm not talking to you like this." She tells him.

"Fine." He shouts angrily. "Be like dat. Choose 'is side. Not like we ben friends fer years. We ben best friends, 'ermione." He shouts.

"I think it's time you went home, Ronald." Another voice says from behind the door.

"Don't tell me wat ta do, Bini." He shouts at who she assumes is Blaise.

"I will when you are harassing my friend in her own home. Now go home before I take you home." He threatens him.

There's silence for a few seconds before Ron mumbles something she can't hear. It's silent again until there's a short rap at the door and a hand pushing through the letter box. Hermione bends down to peer through.

"Hi, he's gone. Are you okay?" Blaise calls through the letter box with a smile.

Hermione unlocks the door, letting Blaise enter before locking it again in case Ron comes back.

"Hi Blaise, thank you for that. He's not been himself since the ceremony." She leads him into the living room where he perches on the arm of the couch.

"Why's he shouting at you, though? I thought he'd have lost his voice by now from shouting at Pansy." He chuckles. "I know both Draco and I did at Hogwarts." He adds.

"Erm… Do you remember when I told you that Ron and I weren't a couple?" She asks him to which he nods suspiciously. "Well, he seems to be under the impression that we were and he's angry that I got paired with Draco." She tells him as she rifles through the bookshelf again.

"He hasn't… done anything to you, has he?" He asks her standing up.

"No, he's shouted at me a few times and called Draco and I some names but nothing I can't handle. He just needs to get over his jealousy and until he does, I won't be ready to talk to him." She explains.

"Where is Draco anyway?" He asks looking around as though he'd see him hiding somewhere.

"He's at my parents' house." She tells him before remembering that he doesn't know about the accident. "There was an accident at the Burrow yesterday. He crashed into a goalpost and fractured his skull but he-" She explains until she's interrupted.

"He what? The idiot. What am I supposed to do if he kills himself playing Quidditch?" Blaise paces the room.

"He's fine, Blaise." She reassures him. "He's got a nasty scar on his forehead that he's trying to cover with his hair and he's suffering from some memory loss but other than that, he's fine." She tells him.

"Well, I'm still going to tell him off tomorrow. He's still coming to the party, isn't he?" He asks hopefully.

"If he's feeling okay, then yes, but we won't be staying long." She warns him taking a book off her shelf and one of Draco's shelf at random for him to read if he feels like it later. "I really should be getting back to him now. We'll see you tomorrow night, hopefully." She tells him, leading him to the front door where she leaves with him.

"I'll walk you to the gate." He offers.

"Thanks. How are the Figgons going?" She asks seriously.

"No idea. I snuck out the front door whilst Luna was 'cleansing the bathroom'." He rolls his eyes with a smile. "I was on my way to visit Draco but I might as well just go back home now." He sighs.

When they reach the gate, Blaise bids her goodbye, then walks the short walk back to his house, turning around to give her a quick wave before trying to enter the house as quietly as possible.

Hermione disapparates back to the alley behind her parents' house and heads straight upstairs to her bedroom to check on Draco. He's still asleep when she quietly opens the bedroom door. She leaves his book and a pain relief potion on her bedside table then heads back downstairs into the living room to read her own book but she can't get into it. She decides to go for a walk to clear her head.

She ends up walking around the park, watching parents with their young children, feeding the ducks, and people walking their dogs over the fields.


Draco wakes up to a door slamming somewhere in the house and a shout of "Hermione!" He throws the quilt off himself and struggles to sit up with the pain pulsating in his forehead. He spots one of the pain relief potions Healer Matthew had given Hermione before they had left St Mungo's. He downs the small potion in one and waits for it to take effect. He can feel the pain being washed from his head as every second goes by and finally, he is able to stand to make his way downstairs.

He enters the living room first, in his search of Hermione but she isn't there so he goes into the kitchen where he finds her stood at the fridge.

"Were you out long?" He grumbles mid-stretch.

There's a scream then a bang from the fridge. He rushes over to find Sarah stood clutching her head and breathing heavily as she grips onto the fridge handle.

"Draco, what the hell are you doing here?" She gasps, shutting the fridge and opening the freezer where she grabs a bag of something and applies it to the top of her head.

"Hermione said you weren't going to be back until four o'clock." He states, staring at his mother-in-law as she leans against the counter.

"Draco, honey, it's half four now." She tells him.

"Hermione said she wasn't going to be long." He frowns, moving to look out the back window towards the alleyway where she would apparate to.

"You still haven't told me what you're doing here." She reminds him.

"Hermione didn't want me to apparate in my condition so she brought me here on a bus to rest. I've just woken up." He explains still looking out the window.

"A watched pot never boils." She says.

"What?" He asks confused.

"It's a saying we have in our world." She tells him. "It means-" She starts to explain but he interrupts her.

"Yes, we have a similar one. A watchesd cauldron never boils." She turns back.

Sarah laughs. "Of course you do." She rolls her eyes. "I'm sure she'll be back soon and I don't think she'll be happy to see you wandering around the house if you're supposed to be resting. Go sit in the living room and I'll bring you a cup of tea through." She tells him placing the frozen bag back into the freezer.

Draco does as he's told, wondering if all muggles drink this much tea or if it's just Hermione's family. He spends a few minutes fiddling with the television remote, trying to turn it on but he hasn't got a clue so he places it back on the coffee table. He hears the front door open and jumps up to see if it's Hermione but it's only Chris with a bag of food. He seems just as shocked as his wife to see Draco in his house.

"Oh, Draco, you gave me a shock, son." He tells him as he slips his shoes off. "Hermione was right, that is a nasty scar." He says leaning forward to get a closer look but he ruffles his hair down to try and cover it.

"Chris, stop making him self-conscious and Draco, I told you to sit in the living room and rest," Sarah calls from the kitchen.

"We better do as we're told, lad." He smirks knowingly at him before he takes the bag into the kitchen.

Draco returns to the living room, not long after Chris joins him, turning the television on by pressing the large button on the actual machine.

"Who the hell's been watching Bargain Hunt?" He grumbles to himself as he changes the channel. "You like football, Draco?" Chris asks him.

"I've never heard of football." He tells him.

"You not have it in your world? It's the best sport in the world." He says.

"We have Quidditch." Draco states.

"That one with the brooms and the hoops? Yeah, Hermione's told us about that. Said it's very dangerous. One of her friends fell fifty feet she said. I told her I don't want her playing but she said she hates flying. Do you like all this flying malarkey?" He asks him.

"Yes, I was on the Slytherin Quidditch team at school for six years. It's not that dangerous. The only reason Harry fell off his broom was because of the dementors and they're mostly unheard of now since the ministry banished them." He explains.

"Well that's not what Hermione told me last night. Said you flew headfirst into one of those hoops. Fractured your skull, didn't you?..." Chris continues to talk but Draco's head feels like a dam has just broken as memories flood in.

Harry's stood up from the table, he's asking if anyone wants to play a game of Quidditch. He agrees so does Weasel, George, Bill and Angelina. He grabs a Cleansweep 7 and circles the pitch as Angelina scores goals and helps Bill defend their own goalposts. They're losing by twenty when he spots the snitch just behind Weasel. Angelina throws the Quaffle at him and flies at Ron and scores. He heads straight down to the ground where the snitch is circling the goalposts. It zooms off towards Arthur and he follows it but Harry's on his tail. He reaches his hand out but it's not enough. He throws himself at the snitch then… nothing. That must have been when he hit the goalposts.

"Draco, Draco son, are you alright?" Chris is poking his arm with the remote.

"Yeah, I'm fine." He mutters wiping the sweat from his forehead.

"You blanked out for a moment there. I thought you'd fainted on me." He chuckles before going back to the television.

"I'm feeling quite tired. I think I'll go rest upstairs." He mumbles as he shuffles his way back upstairs to Hermione's bedroom where he proceeds to climb inside and pull the cover up to his chin, feeling cold.

He listens out for any doors opening, announcing Hermione's return but not before long, he finds himself drifting back off to sleep.


Hermione returns to her parents' house around quarter past five a lot later than she wanted to but there had been a few complications. She found her mum sitting in the kitchen, reading a magazine with a cup of tea when she walks through the back door.

"Oh, hello Hermione dear. You could have told us Draco would be here when we got home. He gave us such a nasty shock." She scolds her.

"Sorry, I thought I'd be home long before you but there were a few issues that I had to deal with. Where's Draco now?" She asks.

"Back in your bed. He said he wasn't feeling well but Chris says he went a bit funny and blanked out for a few minutes. I went to check on him but he was fast asleep. I didn't want to wake him. He needs his rest." Her mum tells her.

"I'll go check on him now. Thanks, mum." She heads upstairs and into her bedroom where Draco is still fast asleep, wrapped in her quilt.

She perches herself on the edge of the bed before shaking his shoulders slightly in an effort to wake him up.

"Draco! Draco!" She calls his name as she shakes him a little more forcefully.

He wakes up with a start looking nervously around the room until his eyes fall on her and his muscles relax as he smiles softly up at her which she returns.

"I remembered the Quidditch match." He tells her, making her smile fall. "Well, your dad told me I crashed headfirst into a goalpost but I remembered the details. Did I catch the snitch?" He asks curiously.

Hermione laughs out a huff. "You people and your bloody Quidditch games. You almost died Draco and all you care about is whether you caught a stupid ball." She raises her voice.

"My people?" He questions with a frown.

"Yes, wizards and witches. Do you know how dangerous that game is? I'm surprised more people aren't killed. Especially with those Bludgers flying around, trying to knock people off their broomsticks." She tells him.

He starts to laugh which just annoys her even further. "You know that you're one of 'my people'." He tells her.

"Oh no, I hate Quidditch and I warn you now. Our children will not be playing that damned sport." She glares at him.

"Come on Hermione, nobody's died in over a century." He tells her, sitting up in her bed.

"Yes, and you nearly changed that didn't you." She continues to glare pointedly at him.

Draco sighs in defeat. "I can see there's no changing your mind at the moment. Can you please tell me if we won?" He asks again.

Rolling her eyes, she picks a bag up off her dressing table then throws the snitch at him, which he catches in one hand as though it's a reflex.

"They had to prise it out of your hand." She tells him. "Here's your wand, you might want to freshen yourself up. I expect we'll be leaving soon." She says before leaving him in her bedroom.

 

Chapter Text

Draco climbs out of bed, placing the snitch in his pocket. He casts a few spells to smooth his hair down, since it's sticking up in odds ways at the back, and to iron his clothes out. He finds his cardigan, pulls it on then makes his way down the stairs where he finds everybody else sat in the living room waiting for him.

"Are you ready, Draco?" Sarah asks him. "Yeah, let me just pull my boots on." He tells them as he grabs them from next to Chris's chair.

Once they're all ready, the leave through the front door and Draco realises that they're going to be driving to David's house for the barbeque.

"Do we have to go in the car?" He asks Hermione as they wait for her dad to lock the front door.

"Unless you want to walk the three miles, then yes, we do." She tells him, still sounding annoyed.

Reluctantly, he climbs into the backseat of Chris's car with Hermione and they set off. He grips onto the door handle and the edge of his seat until they pull up outside David's house, where there are already three cars parked up outside.

"Great, Louise is here," Sarah grumbles sarcastically as they climb out. "And I bet she brought Darren with her as well." She adds as they walk up the path to David's front door and knock.

David answers the door with relief on his face.

"You're late, Sarah." He stares wide-eyed at her as though trying to tell her something as they enter the house.

"Sarah!" A high pitched squeal comes from behind David who stands straight with a forced smile on his face.

A small, blonde woman pushes past David and pulls Sarah into a hug then moves onto Chris, who's pulling an equally as forced smile as David. She then turns to face Hermione.

"Ah, my favourite niece." She says before pulling her into a hug.

"Louise, you can't say that. How do you think Sophie's going to feel?" David frowns as he asks her.

"Oh yes, I forgot about Sophie. Where is she anyway?" She wonders.

"Probably in her room reading still. I'll call her down in a few minutes." He tells her.

"Oh, and who's this?" Louise turns to face Draco.

He's heard a lot about her in the past couple of days. Very little of it good, so he follows in his father-in-law's steps, pulls a fake smile and holds his hand out.

"I'm Draco, Hermione's fiancé." He tells her expecting her to shake his hand but instead she ignores it, turning to face Hermione instead.

"You got yourself a man. A gorgeous man at that." She says as she checks him out. "Shame about that scar." She shrugs making him flatten his hair down over his scar.

"You don't need to sound so shocked." Hermione scoffs, offended.

"I'm just saying, you've always been a nerdy little swot haven't you. If you'd gone to Fieldstone Secondary you'd have never gotten a boyfriend. Sophie reminds me a lot of you." She says, turning on David. "You shouldn't let her read so much. She'll just end up getting bullied at Fieldstone." She shrugs, turning back to Hermione. "It's a shame you didn't go to Fieldstones, we could have hung out together. You'd only have been two years below me." She winks at Draco who feels uncomfortable.

"Babe, where are you? These kids of yours are just staring at me." A gruff voice shouts from the living room.

"Never have kids Hermione." She sighs as she starts to leave. "And I want to hear everything about you two later." She calls behind her as she walks off.

"What's she doing here?" Sarah whispers harshly to David.

"Mum told her about it and she just showed up." He answers, leading them into the kitchen were Hermione's Grandma and another lady are sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea.

David puts the kettle on again as Sarah and Hermione sit down at the table with the two other ladies. Draco stands awkwardly behind Hermione not really knowing what to do.

"Draco dear, what's happened to your forehead?" Betty asks staring at his forehead.

Silently cursing his hair for not staying in place, he excuses himself to the bathroom where he stares at himself in the mirror trying to style his hair so it actually covers the damned scar. No matter what he does, it won't stay in place, even with the use of a charm. In the end he ends up casting a makeup charm on the scar to cover it, although it's still a slightly visible underneath. He pushes his hair back off his face and deems himself acceptable so he heads back into the kitchen.

"Hello there Draco." The lady next to Betty smiles at him. "I'm Hermione's godmother, Sharon. It's nice to meet you although I am quite shocked. I've never heard anything about a boyfriend before and now you're engaged." She laughs. "I suppose a congratulations is in order." She raises her cup of tea and everyone else follows.

"To Hermione and Draco," Chris announces and everyone else agrees, taking sips of their tea.

"Hermione told us about your football accident. I'm surprised they let you out of the hospital so soon." Betty frowns concernedly.

"Grandma, it was only a little cut and they stitched it up before we left." Hermione looks up at Draco, sending him a pointed look.

"Still, he could have a concussion. They should have kept him in for at least another day." She says.

"I'm perfectly fine, Betty. No need to worry about it." He tells her.

"I think it's time we got the barbeque started," David announces, standing up.

"Should I ask Darren if he wants to help?" Chris asks with a smirk.

"No you bloody well shouldn't." David glares at him as they head into the garden.

"Grandma, Grandma, Grandma. I want to watch telly." Craig runs into the kitchen.

"You know how to turn it on, don't you?" She asks him.

"Mummy said no." He frowns as his Grandma lifts him up onto her lap.

"Grandma, when's dinner ready. I'm starv-" Lauren begins to complain until she spots Draco stood behind Hermione and her little face lights up. "Hermione's boyfriend!" She exclaims excitedly, wrapping her little arms around his waist. "Come play with us?" She asks. "Please, please, please." She begs, pulling on his arms.

"Okay." He gives in with a sigh and lets himself be pulled up the stairs by Lauren, with Craig following behind them.

They stop at a door with 'Sophie' painted on it in red paint. Lauren pauses and knocks on the door.

"Who is it?" A voice calls from behind the door.

"It's Lauren, Craig and Hermione's boyfriend," Lauren shouts through the door.

"My Dad said Hermione has a fiancé." She shuts back.

"What's a fiancé?" Lauren asks confused.

There's a large sigh behind the door before it flies open to reveal a brown haired little girl with a book in her hands. She stares up at Draco for a second before looking back down at Lauren.

"A fiancé is someone who is engaged to be married." She explains to her little cousin.

Lauren squeals in excitement, looking up at Draco. "You're getting married to Hermione." She asks.

"Erm… yes, I am." He answers not sure if he's supposed to be telling them this.

"Can I be a bridesmaid?" She asks, eyes wide. "Please, please, please."

"We're not getting married until after university so we haven't planned anything yet." He explains.

"Oh, okay." Lauren's face falls making Draco feel guilty.

"But when we do plan it, I'm sure you can be a bridesmaid. You can too, if you'd like, Sophie." He turns to face the other girl who just shrugs but he can see the small smile on her lips.

"Do we get to throw flower petals?" Lauren asks hopefully.

Draco assumes throwing flower petals is a muggle wedding custom so nods his head.

"Can I be a bridesmaid?" Craig's small voice comes from behind him.

"No silly, you're a boy. You can be the pageboy." Sophie tells him.

"I want to throw flowers." He says sadly.

"The page boy has the most important job, though. They get to carry the wedding rings on a pillow." Sophie tells him.

Draco assumes this is another muggle wedding custom.

"Really?" Craig asks looking nervously up at Draco.

He just nods his head at him.

"Where's Mark and Mia?" Lauren suddenly asks.

"In the playroom." Sophie answers.

"Let's go ask them if they want to be a bridesmaid and pageboy too." Lauren runs off down the stairs with Craig following her.

Sophie stays stood in her room.

"What are you reading?" Draco asks, trying to make conversation.

"Alice in Wonderland." She answers, showing him the front cover.

"Is it good?" He asks.

"You've never read it?" She asks shocked.

"No, I read different books as a child." He tells her.

Sophie stares up at Draco then down at her book for a moment before passing it up to him.

"You can borrow it if you like, I've read it five times already." She offers.

He smiles down at the little girl. "Thank you, that's very kind." He takes the book off her.

"We should go find the kids before they plan your entire wedding." She tells him, shutting her bedroom door behind her and running down the stairs.

Draco follows behind. When he makes it back onto the ground floor, he spots Hermione watching him from the kitchen. He offers her a quick smile before following the noise of children's giggles into a room next to the living room. He enters the room to find lots of toys, games and children's furniture.

All the children are sat on large cushions in the corner talking and laughing.

"Hermione's fiancé, come sit next to me," Lauren calls over so he does.

The cushion is a lot squishier than he thought it would be and he finds himself sinking down.

"Don't you have a real name?" A black-haired little boy scoffs.

He assumes this is Mark, Hermione's godmother's son. "Yes, I do. My name's Draco." He tells the small group of children.

They all burst out laughing.

"That's a stupid name." Lauren giggles.

"No, it isn't." He frowns at them. "It means Dragon in Latin." He explains.

All the children stop laughing at him and stare at him in awe.

"That's cool." Sophie mutters.

"My mummy says that dragons protect princesses from bad people until their prince come for them." A black haired girl announces to the group.

Draco guesses that she's Mark twin sister, Mia. They do look very similar.

"Are you Hermione's dragon?" Lauren asks.

"Of course he isn't silly, he's her prince." Mia rolls her eyes.

"He can be a dragon and a prince." Sophie frowns at her.

"No, he can't," Mia says.

"Why can't he be?" Sophie asks.

"Because that's stupid." Mia huffs.

"No, it isn't." Sophie frowns at Mia.

"Yes, it is." Mia frowns back.

"No, it isn't," Sophie shouts.

"Alright, stop shouting." Draco raises his voice above the girls' to be heard and all the children quieten and stare at him.

The door suddenly opens to reveal Louise and, who he thinks is her boyfriend, Darren.

"There you are Draco. I was looking for you. What you doing with all these kids?" She asks.

"We're talking about dragons, mummy." Lauren answers but Louise ignore her.

"Come on Draco, you don't need to babysit these kids. I want you and Hermione to tell me everything." She tells him.

"It will have to wait, Louise. We're in the middle of something." He tells her, really not wanting to go with her.

"They're just children, Draco, come on." She walks over to him, grabs his hand and pulls him up.

Draco reluctantly allows himself to be dragged from the room and back into the kitchen where Hermione, Sarah, Sharon and Betty are sat with small glasses of wine now.

"Found him messing around with the kids. Talking about dragons or something." Louise laughs.

Hermione sends him a concerned look but he shakes his head and she nods in understanding.

"Aren't you two just the cutest?" Sharon gushes as he takes a seat next to Hermione.

"They remind me of us." Louise looks up lovingly at Darren who just nods, obviously bored. "When did you meet?" She leans excitedly across the table.

Draco glances at Hermione who seems to be trying to think back.

"I think the first time we saw each other was on the train to school back in first year. You were leaving Harry's compartment just as I wanted to enter." She explains. "Although, we didn't actually talk to each other until… I think it was after our first po… erm chemistry lesson. You called me a know-it-all after lesson because I kept raising my hand to answer."

He spots Sarah and Betty frowning at him so he quickly interrupted.

"Yeah, you told me I was just jealous and I think it was true. I'd grown up surrounded by… chemistry. I was embarrassed that you knew more than I did. Especially since my godfather was interested in the topic." He explains.

Hermione laughs. "He was our p… chemistry teacher. Of course, he was interested in the topic." She tells him which makes him smile. He misses Severus sometimes.

"When did you get together?" Sharon asks leaning closer.

"Well we didn't really talk much after that. An insult here and there until fourth year. We had some exchange students from France and Bulgaria at the school so the Headmaster decided to throw a dance. One of the Bulgarian students asked me and I said yes but I couldn't take my eyes of Draco all night. He was wearing this beautiful suit and his hair looked so soft and perfectly styled. I remember wishing I could run my fingers through it." She tells them.

"I hadn't really recognised her, she was wearing a pretty blue gown and her hair was smooth and in an intricate braid. Usually, her hair was bushy and all over the place. I was one of the last people to leave the dance and as I walked past the staircase I heard Hermione crying." Draco carries on, remembering the actual night of the yule ball.

"My friend and I had had an argument. I didn't think there was anyone around still. Anyway Draco came over to me and I though he was going to insult me but he just sat next to me until I stopped crying." Hermione says, obviously making it up as she went along. "Afterwards he started talking to me about a history exam we had just had and we found that it was actually easy talking to each other and we enjoyed each other's company. We didn't get together properly until the train ride home. We met up in an empty compartment and I told him I was going to miss him over the summer and I leaned in to kiss his cheek goodbye but he turned his head and we ended up kissing. We've been together ever since." She finishes.

"That is adorable. You should write a book or sell it to a film agency." Louise tells them. "Shouldn't she, babe?" She looks up at Darren who nods.

"The burgers are ready," Chris says as he peeps his head through the door. "Someone tell the kids." He adds.

"I'll get them," Draco announces and heads down to the playroom whilst everyone else heads outside.

He opens the door to find all the children huddled up in the corner, whispering to each other.

"It's my turn." One of them whines, trying to snatch something out of another's hand.

"No, it isn't it's my turn." Someone else shouts and manages to grab whatever they were looking at.

Draco stood quietly at the door watching them for a moment until he hears a familiar buzzing noise that made his stomach drop. His hands pat his pockets but it's gone. He looks up to see them all staring at something in the middle of their huddle in awe. Suddenly, they all leap back as, whoever was holding it lets go. He hears all the children gasp as, instead of falling to the floor, it flutters in place before quickly flying around the room. Quickly, Draco lunges forward and clasps his hands around the flying golden ball. He glances down at the snitch in his hands, watching as the wings tuck themselves away before placing it back into his pocket.

All the children are staring up at him nervously, then suddenly Craig burst into tears and Lauren pulls him into a hug whilst still staring up at Draco unsure of his reaction. Draco smiles as he squats down to their level and looks each one of them in the eye.

"Where did you find that ball?" He asks calmly.

"I-it was on the floor." Mia answers, pointing over to where he had been sat on the large cushion.

"What is it?" Sophie asks curiously at the same time as Lauren asks, "Are you angry?"

He stares at Lauren for a moment before shaking his head. "Of course not, Lauren. It's my fault. I should have put it somewhere safer where it wouldn't fall out." He tells her and she lets out a sigh of relief.

"What is it?" Sophie asks again and Draco doesn't know how to answer.

"It's obviously a robot." Mark laughs now he knows he's not going to get told off. "Like that helicopter my dad has." He adds.

"Your dad's helicopter has a remote control." Sophie points out.

"Maybe it's atomic." Mia tries to explain, looking up at Draco, who has no idea what anything they're saying means.

"Automatic." Sophie corrects her as she thinks about it for a moment then smiles. "That was pretty cool." She finally says.

"Can we play with it?" Lauren asks hopefully.

"No, if Hermione found out I brought it with me and that you were playing with it, she would be very angry so why don't we keep this… robot a secret. Okay?" He asks them.

Lauren's face lights up. "Craig and I are the best at keeping secrets. Aren't we Craig?" She looks down at her brother who's still sniffling slightly in her arms. "Mummy says were the best secret keepers ever." She adds proudly.

"I bet we can keep the robot a secret longer than you can," Mark says, throwing his arms around his sister.

"Yeah," Mia confirms his statement.

"Well I'm older than all of you so I'll be better at keeping secrets," Sophie states proudly.

"I'm glad you're all great secret keepers." He tells them. "Now, the burgers are ready." He states and they all run outside.

Draco pauses in the playroom for a moment to take a deep breath. His heart is still beating from the panic of Hermione's cousin's finding out about the snitch. He's just about to head outside when he realises something. The snitch only flies for those with magical blood. Which would mean one of Hermione's cousins has magical blood. But they can't, they're all muggles. It's highly unlikely for two members of the same muggle family to have magical blood if they're not siblings. He was hoping to avoid telling Hermione about this but it looks like he's going to have to. He'll wait until after the barbecue though. He doesn't want their conversation to be overheard.

He walks outside, looking at each of the children, wondering which of them might have some magical blood. He glances over at Hermione, who's sat at one of the tables, seemingly lost in thought. Draco grabs two plates and waits for David to place two burgers in a bun for himself and Hermione then takes the seat next to her and hands the plate to her.

"Are you alright?" He whispers, noticing her furrowed brow.

"Did you really see me crying?" She asks. "At the Yule Ball." She clarifies.

Draco feels his face drain of colour. He'd heard the crying that night and peeked his head around the corner to find Hermione but not wanting to deal with her crying, he'd walked off in the opposite direction, even though it took him an extra ten minutes to get to the dungeons.

"Yes, I did. I assumed Krum had said something to offend you." He admits.

"Why didn't you do something?" She asks, brow still furrowed.

He looks at her confused. "We hated each other throughout our school career, what did you want me to do. Come and comfort you?" He asks with a scoff.

"No." She rolls her eyes. "Why didn't you come and make fun of me or something?" She clarifies.

"Oh, well, I don't like to jinx someone when they're down." He answers rather pathetically since he's jinked people many times when they've been down.

She gives him a pointed look which makes his sigh in defeat.

"Fine, I don't exactly know how to deal with crying women." He admits, blushing slightly.

Hermione just smiles at him. "In future, if I'm crying, just stay with me and talk nonsense. A hug would be nice but not essential." She tells him and he chuckles.

"I'm sure I can manage to hug you if you're crying." He tells her before taking a bite from his burger.

After the burgers, David cooks sausages and a few chicken skewers. There's also some salad, eggs and potatoes on the table to snack on in between meat. Draco takes the opportunity to try some muggle beer, which he doesn't like at all, and cider, which he finds much more pleasant.

Hermione begs him to take a shot of a blue liquid but he doesn't like the look of it since it looks oddly similar to an ear shrinking potion he had accidentally drunk as a child. He had been deaf for a whole week whilst he waited for Severus to make an ear growing potion.

He'd only manages to rest for a few minutes after finishing his plate when he'd being dragged off into a shed by Lauren. She begged him to play hide and seek with them and after she'd explained the game to him, he agreed to count first. He counted to thirty then goes on the hunt for the five children.

He finds Mark first behind the greenhouse. His sister has squeezed herself under the rabbit hutch. Lauren has hidden under one of the tables with Craig. Sophie has hidden inside the shed behind piles of bagged soil.

Draco had no idea where he was going to hid and was only half hidden behind the shed when Mark finishes counting to thirty and is found first. In the end, he deems himself too tall to hide efficiently and tells the children that he'll seek every time, however, after the sixth game, they started reusing hiding places so he had to pretend to not see them obviously hiding behind the greenhouse or beneath tables.

Hermione watches from her seat at the table as Draco pretends not to see Craig hidden underneath the trampoline where he's giggling excitedly. He squeals in joy as Draco finds him.

"He's great with the kids," Sharon says, taking a seat next to her.

"Yeah, I'm surprised. He's never been around children outside of school." She tells her.

"He's an only child then." She states.

"Yeah."

"I might get you both to babysit Mark and Mia." She laughs jokingly.

"Well were free until September so if you ever need anyone to look after them, we'll be happy to." Hermione offers.

"Well, if you're offering, Scott and I have a wedding on Saturday. We were going to ask your Grandma but we don't want to give them too much. Especially since they have Lauren and Craig at the moment." Sharon explains hopefully.

"We'd love to look after them. We'll meet you at my parents' house. What time do you need us?" She asks.

"Is nine o'clock alright?" She asks. "And we'll pick them up at around ten at night." She adds

"Yeah, that's fine. We'll take them out for the day. Try and tire them out." She tells her.

"Good luck with that, they're never tired." She laughs, heading into the house.

A few minutes later, Draco drops into the chair next to her, rubbing his forehead.

She leans closer to him. "Do you need another potion?" She whispers into his ear.

"No, I'm fine." He shakes his head then frowns.

"Come with me." She tells him, grabbing hold of his hand and pulling him back towards the house.

She drags him into the bathroom, where she locks the door, then pushes him down to sit on the toilet lid. She perches herself on the edge of the bathtub then begins to rummage around in her bag. She doesn't like to use magic in front of her family, even though she's locked in a bathroom, she doesn't want to risk it so she continues to rummage. She finally finds the pain relief potion that she was looking for and hands it to him.

"I told you I'm fine." He tells her looking down at the potion.

"Don't lie to me about your wellbeing, Draco." She tells him. "I'm not going to think any less of you because the pains getting too much. I can't imagine how bad it must feel. I heard the crash." She tells him.

He looks up from the potion bottle into her eyes guiltily. "I'm sorry you had to go through that." He tells her.

"It was an accident, Draco. These things happen. I'm just glad you're alright now." She sends him a smile.

Draco looks back down at the bottle in his hand. "I can handle the pain. I don't need the potion." He tries to hand it back to her but she wraps her hand around his and the potion and pushes it back to him.

"Just because you can handle the pain, doesn't mean you have to." She lets go of his hands and with a defeated sigh, he takes the potion.

She watches as he throws his head back to down the potion. He keeps his eyes closed for a moment as the potion washes over him. Suddenly, there's a knock at the bathroom door, making them both jump.

"Hermione!" Her mum calls. "Are you in there? We're getting the ice-cream out." She tells her.

"Yes, mum." She calls back.

"Have you seen Draco? We can't find him." She asks.

"Yes, he's in here with me." She tells her.

There's silent on the other side of the door for a few moments.

"Don't be long." She tells them and they hear her walk away.

Hermione lets out a sigh as Draco chuckles.

"What do you think she's thinking?" He asks, standing up to wash his hands.

"I don't want to know." She smiles, taking the empty potion bottle back and placing it back in her bag. "We better get back out there before they start talking and assuming things." She tells him, unlocking the door and leaving first.

They head back outside, taking a seat with everyone else around the tables, where they get handed a bowl of ice-cream.

"So what were you both doing in there?" Her mum leans over and whispers to her.

"I was making Draco take his pain relief potion." She tells her mum to which she nods and goes back to a conversation with her Grandma and Grandad.

"Where'd you go Dragon?" Lauren asks, throwing herself onto Draco lap once he'd finished his ice-cream.

"Well he's old, he probably got tired." Sophie answers.

"I'm not old!" Draco frowns at her little cousin.

"You're older than me." She shrugs.

"That doesn't make me old. I'm only nineteen." He answers defensively.

Sophie just shrugs again before turning to Hermione.

"Hermione, can you come to my school play on Friday?" She asks, smiling sweetly. "It's the Lion King." She adds.

"Of course, I'd love to. Do I have to buy a ticket?" She asks.

"No, we get two tickets each. Dad's got them on the fridge. Grandma and Grandad were coming but they have Craig now." She explains before running off into the house and returning a few minutes later with the tickets. "Would you like to come too?" She turns to ask Draco.

"Yes, I'm sure I'll enjoy it." He tells her, making her smile. "What is the Lion King?" He whispers to Hermione once Sophie's run off to tell her dad.

"It's a musical about a young lion cub who's next in line for the throne when his father dies and he thinks he's to blame so he runs away only to return years later to take the thrown of his evil uncle." She explains.

"What's a musical?" He asks next, making her sigh.

She pauses to think about how to describe a musical. "Erm… people stand on a stage and they act out a story but with songs, music and dancing." She answers.

"Is it like the television?" He asks.

"Yes, you can watch musicals on the television. Actually, I have the Lion King videos at home. We could watch them before Sophie's play." She suggests.

"It might help me understand the story." He nods.

Her cousins finally go quiet as they eat their ice-creams with chocolate sauce and flake but as soon as they're finished, they're running around the garden again, playing hide and seek by themselves or jumping on the trampoline. Hermione's relieved when her grandma and grandad announce that they should head home and put Lauren and Craig to bed since it's a school night. Louise asks her and Draco if they want to head into town for a few drinks. They decline and her Aunt and Darren leave in a taxi not long after. At half nine, Sharon leaves with Mark and Mia. Her mum and dad help her Uncle David tidy up whilst Hermine and Draco take Sophie up to bed. They leave the house at quarter past ten with her parents.

"Are you coming home with us or are you going to… teleport?" Her dad asks, whispering the last word making her laugh.

"We'll come with you, dad." She tells him.

"I'm feeling a lot better Hermione. I'm sure I can manage disapparating home." Draco says, pulling on her arm as they're about to get into the car.

She looks up at him nervously. "Are you sure?" She asks.

"Yes, Hermione. I just want to go home and sleep in our own bed." He tells her.

"I'm not-" She starts but he interrupts her.

"We can't both fit in that bed and I'm not having you sleep on the couch when we have a perfectly good bed at home." He tells her.

She looks him in the eye for a few seconds before sighing in defeat. "Fine, but if you collapse on me when we get there, I'm leaving you there." She warns him.

"No, you won't." He smiles at her and she knows it's true. She'd run and get Blaise to help her.

"We're going home." She turns to tell her parents who were stood at the car watching them. "We'll see you on Saturday morning. We're babysitting Mark and Mia whilst Sharon and Scott go to a wedding." She tells them.

"Are we?" Draco asks confusingly from behind her but she ignores him.

"Okay, take care Draco." Her mum tells him as they climb into car.

They stand in the driveway, watching as her parents reverse and then drive off down the street.

"Come on, we'll disapparate from the side here." She tells him, pulling him over to the path down the side of her Uncle David's house that leads towards the garden.

They stop just before the garden gate and turn on the spot, disapparating away to the estate gate. When they land, Draco stumbles slightly, clutching his head.

"Draco!" She gasps, wrapping around his shoulders but he shrugs her off.

"I'm fine." He tries to reassure her by standing up straight but she can see the pain behind his eyes.

"No you're not. I knew we should have waited an extra day. Come on, you're going straight to bed with a pain relief potion." She states, dragging him through the gate and towards their house.

"Hermione, I'm fine." He tells her again.

"You keep saying that Draco and yet I can see that you're in pain." She argues back quietly since there's a couple walking towards them.

They stay silent as the other couple walk quickly past, casting a nervous glance at them on their way.

"Do think people are ever going to stop looking at us like that?" Hermione asks with a sigh.

"It's me they're looking at." He answers. "They're scared I'm going to kill them in the middle of the street." He adds.

"No they aren't." Hermione shakes her head.

Draco stops, turning to face the couple who were staring back over the shoulder. They quicken their pace once they've realised they've been spotted. "Did you not see how their hands were gripping their wands inside their pockets? Or how the woman looked terrified to be in the presence of a death eater? Or how the man looked relieved to be in the presence of a war hero? Or how they both looked nervous in case I've corrupted you?" He asks angrily.

"Like I would let you corrupt me." She laughs grabbing hold of his hand and pulling him towards their house. "If anything, I'm the one corrupting you. Bringing you closer to the good side." She laughs again trying to lighten the mood but Draco doesn't laugh so she tries to change the topic. "Would you like a cup of tea when we get in?" She asks as she rummages in her pocket for her keys.

"No, I just want to have a shower then go to bed." He tells her, rubbing his forehead.

"With a pain relief potion." She adds, staring sternly at him,

She unlocks the front door then locks it behind them once they've entered. Draco heads straight upstairs and she hears the shower turn on after a few minutes. Hermione busies herself with some tidying up and feeding Athena, who chirps excitedly to see her again. She then takes advantage of Draco's shower to get changed into her pyjamas.

A few minutes after the shower turns off, Draco exits the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. Hermione tries not to look at his slightly scared chest as she walks past him to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She wonders not for the first time how he got them but puts the thought to the back of her head as she thinks about tomorrow.

The bedroom door is wide open when she's finished in the bathroom so she enters to find Draco in his pyjama bottoms, hanging clothes in the wardrobe. Hermione climbs into her side of the bed, props herself up against the headboard and watches him.

"I left your potion on the dressing table." She mention.

"Yeah." He mumbles as he continues to rummage through the wardrobe.

She watches him a little longer before speaking up again. "Did you take it?" She asks, looking at the bottom. It doesn't look as though it's moved since she placed it there fifteen minutes ago.

"Not yet." He says, sounding rather lost in thought.

"Are you okay, Draco?" She asks curiously.

Draco pauses at the wardrobe, takes a deep sigh before shutting the door and turning to face her with a grimace on his face.

"I need to tell you something." He tells her.

Hermione's stomach drops as she nervously wonders what he's about to tell her.

"You're not going to like this." He adds, breaking eye contact with her.

She frowns confusingly at him. "Just tell me, Draco." She urges him.

"Can you wait until I've finished telling you everything before you get angry?" He asks her, looking back up into her eyes.

"Why am I going to be angry?" She asks, frowning at him.

Instead of answering, he walks forward until he's stood at the end of their bed where he proceeds to hold out his hand. Hermione looks from his hand to his face and back again in confusion until he opened his hand to reveal the snitch.

"The snitch?" She asks. "I- I don't unders-" She starts but he interrupts her.

"I took it with me." He told her. "To the barbeque." He clarifies.

Her eyes widen. "Draco, what were you thinking?" She asks him, crawling down to the end of the bed to snatch the snitch out of his hand.

"It gets worse." He tells her with a grimace. "I had it in my pocket when I was in the playroom with the children and… it… it must have fallen out."

"Draco, what happened?" She asks with a warning tone.

"Louise came and got me. When I went back they were all huddled together and fighting over it." He pauses. "I don't know who touched it but… it started hovering. I caught it before it started flying around too much."

"What did you tell them?" She asks, still frowning at him.

"I didn't have to tell them anything. They came up with an excuse themselves. Something about an atomic robot." He shrugged. "It made sense to them." He adds.

"Atomic?" She thinks for a second before realising. "Oh, automatic. An automatic robot? They're quite intelligent." She smiles for a second before looking him back in the eye. "I can't believe you would do something this stupid." She shakes her head as she turns away from him and locks the snitch in her bedside cupboard.

"Wait." He calls when she starts to lie down.

"What? Is there more?" She asks, quirking an eyebrow.

"You know what this mean? One of them touched it and it started flying." He repeats.

"Yes, but you said they don't suspect anything, so it should be fine." She tells him, then goes to lie down again.

"Hermione." He calls her name sounding nervous all of a sudden. "A snitch only reveals their wings to those with magic in their blood." He tells her.

She stares at him for a moment. "Are you suggesting one of my cousins is a Muggleborn?" She asks.

"I've been think about it and it makes sense. You are one of the most powerful witches of our time and if your ancestor, Karina Rowle, was descended from the Rowle family then it only makes sense that more than one of your family members would have magical blood. I wouldn't be surprised if more of your ancestors had magic in their blood. There was a time when the Rowle family were more powerful than the Malfoy's ever were." He admits but she shakes her head.

"You're wrong and I told you to leave the whole Rowle thing alone. It doesn't mean anything." She tells him before lying down and covering her head with the quilt.

"Hermione!" He calls but she ignore him.

She hears him sigh as he drinks his potion, then climbs into bed himself.

She feels the tension in the air from unspoken words but they both ignore it for a while until Draco calls her name again. "Hermione, I know you don't want to think about it but what if one of your cousins is a Muggleborn. Wouldn't it be better for you to be there for them to explain our world to them instead of them growing up scared of the magic they won't be able to control yet?" He leaves the question hanging in the room as he turns away from her and eventually falls asleep leaving Hermione lying awake, thinking about everything he's just told her.

Chapter Text

 

hermione spends hours lying awake in bed, think about what Draco had said, before she decides she isn't going to get any sleep tonight and gets up, grabs a pair of jeans, a shirt and a pair of boots. What she needs right now is to go for a walk and clear her head. She gets dressed in the bathroom, leaving her pyjamas folded on top of the laundry basket before heading downstairs, grabbing a jacket and leaving the house.

It's still pitch black outside, with only a few lamps lighting up the streets. She locks the door behind her and turns left, having never been that way before. She doesn't know what time it is but it must be very early in the hours since all the houses she walks past are all encased in darkness.

'Maybe Draco's right,' she thinks as she turns a corner onto Delta Street. If one of her cousins really does have magic in their blood then she would, of course, take responsibility in teaching them about the wizarding world. She'd read, though, that Muggleborns are usually the only one in the family and extended family with magical blood. Then again, Colin and Dennis Creevey were both Muggleborns, but they were brothers. She'd also read that the majority of Muggleborns could be traced back to a squib at some point in their lineage. Could that squib be Karina Rowle for her?

No. She didn't want to think about it. After hearing about what Draco's great-grandfather did to muggles, who knows what else these pureblood families did for fun. The thought of her descending from one of the most powerful pureblood families in the wizarding world that may have killed her own just for entertainment makes her sick.

She tries to shake the thought from her head but it clings on. There must be a way for her to find out whether she really was descended from the Rowle family. Does the Ministry keep birth records from that long ago? She makes a mental note to finish reading the chapter in 'A History of the Departments of the Ministry of Magic' on the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department when she gets home.

She sets off walking faster, eager to get home and find out more about the Ministry. She decides that they should pay Percy and Audrey another visit to ask them what they know about the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department. She doesn't bother to lock the door behind her when she enters, instead, going straight to the bookshelf, where she puts the book last night when she was tidying up. She then takes a seat on the couch and begins to read.

She learns that in 1588, Minister Cedarus Abbott ordered all registration certificates to be alphabetically organised by surname and categorised by type of registration and then moved to sub-level 47 of the Ministry of Magic where they remain to this day. In 1750, Minister Albert Boot ordered that all certificates be reordered into thousands of filing cabinets, one cabinet per family, chronologically organised by date, which apparently sped up finding documentation on a particular person by 14%. By the 1950's most families had at least six filing cabinets and had taken over the entire sub-level which had previously also occupied three other departments.

Hermione sat staring at the book, wondering if there was a way the head of the department would let her in for a quick look at the Rowle's family filing cabinet but she doubted it. She's sure Kingsley would give her permission if she asked him but he'd ask too many questions that she didn't want to answer at the moment. She'd have to stick to questioning Audrey about the job at the ministry and whether she knows anything about the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department.

"Hermione, what are you doing up this early?" Draco asks making her jump.

"I couldn't sleep." She tells him as he comes around and sits down on the couch with a yawn. "I went out for a walk to think things through and I think we need to go talk to Audrey again. She was so close to telling us something on Monday afternoon." She tells him.

"Hermione," He sighs. "It's half five. It's too early to be thinking about this. Come back to bed and we can talk properly about this in the morning." He tells her but she shakes her head.

"No, I need to look over our notes again before we got to see Audrey. We need to know what she knows." Hermione tells him as she pulls her hair back into a ponytail then goes off to fetch her notebook.

She returns to find Draco leaning sleepily against the kitchen counter, pointing his wand at the kettle to speed up the boiling process.

"Aren't you going back to bed?" She asks.

He turns to face her. "And leave you down here to do all the research yourself?" He asks with a scoff. "No." He adds, turning back around when the kettle finishes boiling. "Do you want a cup of tea?" He asks as he pulls two mugs out of the cupboard.

"I think I need a coffee. I didn't get any sleep last night." She tells him before going back into the living room where she spreads her notes out and opens 'A History of the Departments of the Ministry of Magic'.

Draco comes back into the living room a few minutes later carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee on it and a plate of buttered toast. She grabs a slice as he sits down and picks up one of the notes and reads it.

"Remind me what we're looking for in all this?" He asks with a yawn.

"Our first priority is to figure out why the Ministry felt the need to force us into marriage." She tells him, grabbing her mug of coffee and taking a sip.

"And our second priority?" He asks, picking up a slice of toast.

Hermione breaks eye contact, looking down at 'A History of the Departments of the Ministry of Magic' instead. "To somehow figure out whether I am descended from the Rowle family." She admits.

"I thought you wanted to forget about the Rowle family." He asks.

"Yes, that's my fault. I didn't want to admit it was a possibility." She tells him, looking back up at him. "If one of my cousins really is a Muggleborn then it's better if we find out sooner rather than later when they've already figured out something's different about themselves and they're scared to admit it. I want to be the one to teach them about our world." She tells him.

"I was under the impression that it's very rarely the wife's fault." He announces.

"What? Why would you think that?" She asks, eyeing him up.

"It's just something Blaise told me after our first argument." He admits.

"That's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. My being a wife doesn't mean nothing's ever my fault." She tells him. "Anyway, the fault can usually be divided amongst many people, in our case, us. In our first argument, I was angry that you had eavesdropped on me and said some hurtful things that I soon regretted. It was equally both our faults." She admits.

Draco seems to be thinking about something for a moment. "Well, it makes sense that Blaise would think this. He was primarily raised by his mother who must have said some awful things about his multiple stepfathers after their divorces to make her seem innocent." He explains.

"Can we get back to our priorities?" Hermione asks, shuffling around some notes.

He smiles at her. "Of course, I'm glad that you're at least thinking about the possibility of the Rowle's being your ancestors." He tells her and she smiles back at him.

"This brings us to priority three. We need to figure out which of my cousins is Muggleborn." She adds.

"That one should be the easiest." He tells her. "We could just hand each of them the snitch and see which one of them releases the wings." He explains.

"I don't want to use the snitch." She tells him warningly.

"Do you want to hand them your wand and as them to wave it around." He asks jokingly, earning him a glare.

"We'll think of something else later." She mutters. "Now, we need to get researching through our notes and this book." She tells him as she picks up the book and set off re-reading the chapter on the Department of Registration.

Once she's finished with the book, she passes it over to Draco and she sets about reading her notes. She notices a piece of paper that's fallen on the floor. It's the notes about why they were paired together. She'd forgotten about that, more concerned with why the decree was enforced in the first place.

"Priority two is now to find out how they paired people together." She announces and Draco looks up. "That might link in with priority one but I think it deserves its own priority number." She adds.

"I think the best way of figuring our whether the Rowle's are your ancestors is to go check these filing cabinets in sub-level 47." He tells her.

"And how do you suppose we get down into sub-level 47 without authorisation?" She asks him, quirking an eyebrow.

"It's just an idea I had. It's not a well thought out plan yet." He tells her.

"Well, we need to come up with one that doesn't involve asking Kingsley because he'll get suspicious and ask too many questions." She explains. "We could ask Audrey how ministry workers get around the ministry." She suggests.

"I think there are wards on the different departments that only let certain people in," Draco explains. "We'll either need to enter with someone who is already authorised or find a way to authorise ourselves."

"I don't want word getting out that I'm researching my ancestry. I'm sick of being in the papers as it is." She tells him.

"We can still ask Audrey. See if she can tell us something we don't know." He suggests.

"Okay, I think Percy's at work tomorrow morning and I'd prefer to do this without him. He's too prejudice against the ministry." Hermione tells him.

"Okay, I think we've gone over all our notes about five times so I'm going back to bed for a few hours. Are you coming?" He asks as he stands up with a yawn and a stretch.

Hermione nods. "I'll just tidy these up." She motions to the notes scattered across the coffee table.


Draco heads upstairs with another yawn. The mug of tea having done nothing to wake him up. He climbs straight into bed, pulling the quilt up to cover his shoulders. He waits for Hermione to come up and join him but he ends up falling back asleep.

When he wakes up again, it's to Hermione shaking him awake. He opens his eyes to her kneeling in front of his face.

"It's nearly twelve o'clock." She tells him, which makes him groan. He hates wasting too much time in bed. "I thought we could watch the Lion King today and just rest until Isobel and William's party tonight." She tells him.

He nods as he stretches out under the quilt then rolls out of bed, grabbing some clothes out of the wardrobe then going into the bathroom to get dressed and washed. He exits to find Hermione perched on the edge of their bed waiting for him.

"Since we don't have a TV and my parents don't finish work until six tonight, I thought we could just watch the videos at their house." She explains as they walk down the stairs and into the kitchen.

Hermione grabs a few owl pellets from the cupboard and goes to feed Athena whilst Draco puts the kettle on and a few slices of toast in the toaster.

"Alright. What time's this party tonight?" He asks as he grabs some jam and milk from the fridge.

"I'm not sure. Megan didn't say." She tells him as she strokes Athena's head. "We could just show up at seven and hope we're not too early." She suggests. "We should bring Athena with us to my parents. We haven't really spent much time with her." She adds.

"I bought a book called 'How to Train your Owl'." He calls from the kitchen.

"I think we should teach her to recognise her name first." She tells him as she enters the kitchen, leaving Athena to eat her breakfast in peace.

"I'll bring the book with me." He says as he makes two cups of teas.


Hermione grabs the slices of toast that have just popped up from the toaster. She spreads a generous layer of jam on each slice before setting them on a plate.

"Would you like to eat in the garden?" Draco asks, carrying two cups of teas towards the backdoor.

"It looks like a nice day," Hermione answers and follows him towards the door.

They sit in the garden, watching as a few neighbours walk past, sending them a nervous smile before quickening their pace. She wonders when people are going to look at her normally again although, she doesn't think she's been locked normally since the beginning of the war. Even some of her professors at Hogwarts were overly smiley when she entered their classroom and were constantly giving her house points for the smallest things. She hopes that as the years go on, she'll fall from the limelight and finally be able to walk through Diagon Alley without several eyes and whispers following her.

When they've finished their breakfast, Hermione offers to wash up. As she cleans their dirty dishes, she listens to Draco's footsteps as he walks from room to room upstairs. Once she's finished, she grabs Athena's pellet bag and heads into the living room where she notices a few bags next to the couch that she hadn't seen before.

"Draco!" She calls up the stairs as she places the pellet bag on the coffee table.

"Yeah" She hears him call back.

"What are these bags for?" She shouts back. She doesn't want to open them in case there Draco's private things.

A few seconds later, she hears him come down the stairs and then enter the living room, hair brushed forward covering his scar. "What bags?" He asks looking around the room.

"These ones." She points down at them.

He walks closer then sighs once he spots them. "My birthday presents off the Zabini's." He grumbles.

"What did they get you?" She asks picking up a large green bag and reaching inside.

"NO!" Draco shouts making her jump. "Don't take him out." He says.

She pauses with her hand in the bag then cautiously takes it out. "What's in there?" She asks trying to peek inside but there's tissue paper in the way.

"A garden gnome." He tells taking the bag off her.

"And you've kept it in here all this time?" She asks, trying to snatch it back.

"It's not real." He clarifies. "It's a muggle one." He says, then with a sigh, he reaches in a takes a very colourful, very muggle gnome out.

She stares at it for a moment before glancing up at Draco. "Why didn't you want me to take it out?" She asks reaching out to take it but Draco pulls it away.

"Blaise charmed it to talk and he doesn't shut up." He says, glaring down at the gnome.

"Why isn't he talking now?" She asks inching closer to get a better look.

Draco turns it around to look at his face. "I'm not sure." He says, then shakes him slightly.

"To prove I can shut up. Now stop shaking me, you little nincompoop." The gnome says as he swings his little fists at Draco.

"Shut up, Geoffrey," Draco tells him then shakes him a little harder.

Hermione reaches over and takes the gnome out of his hands. "You called him Geoffrey?" She asks as the gnome squirms in her hands.

"He named himself Geoffrey." Draco scoffs. "He likes telling jokes."

"What did the big chimney say to the little chimney?" Geoffrey asks as if to prove the point but when no one answers he shrugs and answers himself. "You're too young to be smoking." He says then burst out laughing.

"He's going back in the bag." Draco makes to snatch at him but Hermione moves him away.

"Does he move?" She asks.

"Blaise said he stays in one place and only talks when someone walks past." He mentions, glaring at the gnome.

"Then we'll keep him at the end of our garden path." She tells him. "Now, what are in the other bags?" She asks.

Draco picks up the sparkly, pink one with fur trimming and takes out another muggle garden ornament. A plastic, pink, flamingo.

"It's not charmed, is it?" She asks, not wanting a flamingo wandering around her garden, squawking at people.

"No, Blaise tried but she just squawked really loudly so he took the charm off." He explains.

"Well, she can keep Geoffrey company." She says before looking down at the last bag.

"Is there a plastic frog in that one?" She asks, looking down at the last yellow bag.

"That one's off Luna." He smiles reaching down to grab the bag. "It's a dreamcatcher. " He says, taking it out. "We're supposed to hang it five feet above out bed and it somehow filters the bad dreams from your subconscious." He adds.

"Why don't you go hang that up and I'll take Geoffrey and the flamingo outside." She suggests.

Draco looks at her for a moment and she sees something in his eyes. A mixture of hope and worry. Hope that it'll work and worry that it won't but he nods and heads upstairs anyway. Hermione takes Geoffrey and the flamingo outside and positions them either side of their back gate.


Draco takes the dreamcatcher upstairs. When Luna had given him it, he hadn't been sure if he actually wanted to use it. The thought of his nightmares leaving him sounded rather doubtful and he didn't want to get his hopes up only to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because of another bad dream. Although, there was no harm in trying and his nightmares hadn't been so bad recently so maybe it was worth a try.

He uses a stinking charm to hold the dreamcatcher in place, exactly five feet above their bed, then steps back to look at it. For something that supposedly had the power to filter out bad dreams, it was awfully small. He casts one last quick look at it before heading back downstairs where he finds Hermione talking to Athena.

"Are you ready?" He asks pulling his jacket on.

She turns around with a bright smile and picks up Athena in her cage.

"Yeah. Let's go." She tells him as she heads into the hall where she pulls her own jacket and shoes on then exits out the door.

Draco locks the door behind him then they make their way towards the gate. They're just about to exit the gate when he hears someone calling his names from behind him. He turns around to find Gregory running towards him. They stop and wait for him to catch up.

"Draco!" He gasps breathless, hand on his chest whilst he catches his breath.

"What's wrong?" He asks, resting a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Blaise… he said… you were in… St Mungo's." He says between breaths.

"It was nothing." Draco tries to reassure him.

"That scar doesn't look like nothing." He says standing taller.

Frowning, he flattens his hair down over his scar. "It's nothing." He repeats.

Gregory narrows his eyes for a second before shrugging. "Are you coming to the party tonight?" He asks.

"Yeah, we'll be there." He tells him.

"If Draco's feeling alright we will be." Hermione interrupts, sending him a look.

"Well…" He says looking between him and Hermione. "I might see you there then." He says then turns around and walks off.

"He must be feeling chatty today." He stares after his friend. "He never usually talks that much," Draco mentions as they walk through the gate.

Hermione grabs his hands, giving him milliseconds to prepare for disapparation. Draco stumbles as they apparate in the alley behind the Granger's house. Hermione quickly wraps her free arm around him to stop him from collapsing.

"I'm fine." He mutters. "I wasn't prepared." He tries to tell her as he tries to stand by himself but a sharp pain stabs him in the forehead making him double over.

"Stop lying, Draco." She tells him warningly. "Come on we need to get you into the house." She pulls him towards the back gate, a little harder than she usually would.

Once in the kitchen, she pushes him into one of the kitchen chairs, placing Athena in her cage on the table, whilst she prepares a cup of tea and takes out a pain relief potion from her bag, which she then roughly places on the table in front of him. He thanks her but she ignores him. Draco proceeds to take the potion then sigh in relief as the effects wash over him.

He opens Athena's cage and lets her fly out. She flutters around his head a few times before settling on his shoulders.

"Hello, Athena." He greets her and she chirps at him. "That's your name. Athena." He tells her and she chirps again. "Do you recognise your name?" He asks and she chirps once more. "Or do you just like chirping?" He asks but this time she didn't make a noise, just stares blankly past him. "I think she already knows her name." He announces to Hermione.

"Come on." She snaps at him then walks down the corridor towards the living room.

He quickly follows behind, with Athena still on his shoulder, in hopes of not making her any angrier, although, when he enters the room, Hermione's already at the television pressing some buttons. The cups of tea were sat on the coffee table. The only sign that she wasn't too angry with him was that both cups were closer to the couch than Chris's chair which Draco took to mean he should sit on the couch, so he did. He picks up the cup closest to him and takes a sip. Suddenly, Athena flutters down and dips her beak in the hot tea. He tries to stop her but when she doesn't cry in pain, he lets her have a few more sips. When she's done, she returns to his shoulder and ruffles her feathers.

When Hermione turns around to see him sat there she frowns at him for a split second before taking her own place on the couch, leaving a gap between them.

"Are you ready?" She turns to ask him.

"Ready for what?" He asks in return not sure what she's on about.

"To watch the Lion King?" She answers with a small frown and he remembers that the only reason they're currently sat in his parents-in-law's living room is so they could watch this film.

"Oh, yes, I'm ready." He answers, then turns his body towards the television and gets comfortable against the arms of the couch.

Hermione presses a button on the remote and the television springs to life playing the film.

He's confused at first since he had expected the characters to be real but they weren't. He's not sure what they are but he gets used to it after a while. He finds himself tapping his leg along with the songs until Hermione places her hand on his knee to stop him. He looks at her expecting to find her glaring at him but she was smiling in amusement.

"I'm glad you're enjoying it." She tells him, then turns back to the television but she doesn't move her hand which he finds distractive as he wonders why she'd left it there.

She mustn't be that angry with him anymore if she's willingly touching him. He concentrates back on the television with a small smile on his face that he tries to hide which reminds him that hiding his feelings and emotions is what got him into this mess.

"Hermione?" He whispers, leaning towards her, startling Athena who flies off to sip more of his tea.

She removes her hand as she presses a button on the remote, which makes the television stop, the turns to face him with her eyebrows raised questioningly.

"I'm sorry." He looks her straight in the eye so she knows he's being sincere

Her eyebrows fall as she smiles. "For what?" He urges him and he sighs a laugh.

"For lying about being in pain." He adds a quick smile. "Lucius taught me to never show any weaknesses. It's the pureblood way. Never let your feelings or emotions get in the way and you'll succeed. I'm finding it difficult to change the way I think about these things." He admits.

Hermione nods. "Thank you for explaining it." She tells him. "I hope you know that feelings and emotions and pain don't make you weaker, they male you stronger." She adds, taking his hands in hers.

"I'm not so sure about that." He mutters.

"Well, I am." She said giving his hands a squeeze. "Why did you testify against your father, Draco?" She asked him, making him still and stare at her confusingly.

"Lucius is a dangerous man." He answers vaguely.

"Then why not testify against the rest of the Death Eaters. They're all dangerous people." Hermione asks calmly.

Draco stared at her wondering where she was going with this. Was she trying to get him to confess to something? Was she trying to prove her point?

"Draco?" She asks still calm.

"I WAS SCARED." He shouts, jumping up from the couch, making Athena squawk at him angrily. He begins the pace in front of her. "I knew that no matter how many Death Eaters I testified against, I couldn't testify against them all. I didn't know them all and at least one of them wold come after me for turning my back on them. I let my fear cloud my judgement. I was only thinking about myself and my mother not the greater good." He explained, hands running desperately through his hair.

"The thing about the greater good is that it only concerns the good of the greater population and that rarely ever concerns yourself. Too many mistakes have been made for the greater good. It's time we all started acting for ourselves and those we love." She told him, leaning forward of the edge of the couch. "You testified against him to protect yourself and your mother?" She asks for clarification.

Draco nods, not sure what she's getting at. "Kingsley wanted him put under house arrest but I refused. I couldn't have him near my mother, poisoning her, brainwashing her to do whatever deeds he needed doing. I told him to send him straight to Azkaban and lose the key. He sentenced him to fifteen years. It doesn't seem enough, does it?" He scoffs. "But he never actually killed anyone, not this time anyway and only tortured seven people who all forgave him." He laughs in disgust.

"They all forgave him," Hermione asks in disbelief.

"Everyone has a price." He mutters as he lets himself fall back onto the couch, feeling dizzy from pacing around the living room.

"He paid them off?" She gasps.

His vision swims around as he nods.

"Draco!" She shakes his shoulder. "What's wrong?" She asks, moving in front of his eyes.

"Noth-" He starts but stops himself. "I'm dizzy. Can't see." He mutters for fear he'll throw up if he speaks any louder.

"Lie down and close your eyes." She orders him so he does.

Hermione perches on the edge of the couch stroking his hair back soothingly as he lays back and thinks of his father. If only he'd come to his senses earlier and seen him for who he really was. He could have gone to Dumbledore and taken him up on his offer to help keep him safe. He can feel Athena fluttering around his head before landing on his shoulder again. She pecks at his ear once which, strangely, is a comfort.

"You're a lot stronger than you know, Draco," Hermione whispers to him which he finds soothing.

"No." He shakes his head.

"Yes." She insists. "You were scared of what your father would do under house arrest to your mother. You used that fear to take matters into your own hands and asked Kingsley to send him to Azkaban. It was very brave of you." She says, then chuckles. "It's very Gryffindor of you."

Draco opens his eyes and glares at her. "If anything, I was being very Slytherin showing my self-preservation."

Hermione continues to laugh. "Either way, your fear made you stronger, not weaker. I'm glad I got paired with you. Someone who can push past his fears and protect his family." She tells him and he's not sure he can handle the wave of emotion that hits him so he closes his eyes tightly and nods his thanks to Hermione, who must sense he need to be left with his thoughts and turns the television back onto the Lion King.

Draco sits back up against the arm of the couch but keeps his eyes closed for a while thinking through what Hermione had just told him. Who would have thought a week ago at the Ceremony that they would both be glad to be married to each other? He'd never have thought he would owe Kingsley his thanks but he did. Without the decree, Draco's not sure what he would be doing right now. Probably moping around the manor or traipsing around Diagon Alley with Blaise. Although he has no doubt in his mind that Blaise and Luna would still have gotten together. Maybe the three of them would have gone to the Leaky Cauldron a few times. It wouldn't have lasted long, though. Blaise would try to still come and see him but eventually he'd spend more time with Luna until Draco was lucky to see him once a month. He'd probably snap at him and he wouldn't hear from him again until he got a wedding invitation which he wouldn't attend. Then maybe a few years later, he read an announcement in the Daily Prophet about the birth of their first child. His mother would have sent a congratulation card with his name added at the bottom but he wouldn't hear anything back. It would have been too late. There would have been too much time spent apart. He would have been alone for the rest of his life. He probably owed Kingsley a lot more than a thank you.

He must have fallen asleep because he opens his eyes to find the television black again and Hermione asleep, lying across his chest. She must have fallen asleep during the film and then slipped down the couch onto him because he doubts she would have willingly used him as a pillow. He argues with himself whether to wake her or not. He decides not to since she looks so peaceful. He moves a few strands of hair out of her face and almost laughs at how far they've come. Hermione had called him her friend the other day. In all the years he's known her, he would never have thought they'd ever be any more than arch enemies.

Athena flies over to him from Merlin knows where as she senses his consciousness. After a few circles of his head, she settles on his shoulder.

"Hello, Sarah." He greets her, testing to see if she really does recognise her name.

She tilts her head confusingly to once side.

"Athena?" He asks her. She chirps excitedly making him chuckle. "Hello, my dear." He greets her properly and she hops towards him, snuggling herself against his cheek.

His fingers are still coming through Hermione's hair when she wakes up with a yawn. Once she realises where she is and that she's lying on him, she jumps away from him, muttering apologies as she stands up.

"It's fine." He tells her, standing up himself, Athena digging her tiny claws into his shoulder to stop herself being thrown off, and stretching out his limbs.

"Oh, the films finished. I'll go make us a sandwich. We should probably go to the shop and buy my parents some shopping since we've used so much of it recently without even asking them." She continues to ramble on as she walks into the kitchen.

He leans against the counter and watches as she put the kettle on to boil, then grabs the sandwich ingredients. Athena lands atop a cupboard between them, which he assumes is so she can hear both of them.

"Hermione!" He calls her name to get her attention.

"Hmmm." She hums as she butters four slices of bread.

"I'm glad we got paired together too." He admits.

Hermione stares at him for a moment before blushing furiously and looking back down at the bread.

"You saved me from an inevitably lonely, depressing future." He adds.

She drops the knife on the chopping board and looks up at him with tears in her eyes.

"Draco!" She gasps.

"It's true. I was heading down a path I'm not sure I would have been capable of getting off without you." He says staring down at the bread, avoiding her teary eyes.

Then without warning, Hermione throws herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling him towards her body tightly. It takes a moment for Draco to respond and wrap his own arms around her waist. He's still not used to being in such close proximity with anyone which is why it really shocks him when Hermione presses her lips to his own in a chaste kiss.

It only lasts a second before Hermione is backing away, apologising profusely. He hears her run up the stairs, two at a time, then lock the bathroom door. His finger ghosts across his lips. Hermione Granger just kissed him. On his lips. A tingling sensation is still pulsating through them. He absentmindedly licks his lips as remembers his first and last kiss.

It was Christmas Eve during his fifth year, he had been trying to enter the Slytherin common room when Millicent Bulstrode had tried to exit. He'd glared at her to move out the way but when she's tried they discovered they were stood underneath one of Weasley Wizarding Wheezes Mistletoe. They'd been stuck under it for ten minutes before Draco had given up on trying to find a countercharm, and just kissed her. He'd then pointed his wand at her throat, scaring her into never telling anyone. Ever.

He shakes his head from the memory as he runs up the stairs after Hermione, Athena following behind him.

Chapter Text

Hermione locks the door both the muggle way and the wizarding way before perching on the side of the bath, head in her hands. Why did she do that? She knows why. Draco was being so honest with her and she'd let her emotions get the better of her. She was surprised enough when she'd thrown herself at him for a hug but then she had to go and kiss him.

Suddenly there's a short rap at the door. "Hermione, we both know I can easily unlock this door if you don't let me in." He repeats her words from last night, making her laugh.

"I'd like to see you try." She chuckles.

She hears him tap the door handle with his wand then try to turn the handle but of course, it didn't open.

"I'm impressed!" He mentions surprised.

"Thanks." She replies. "It's my own charm." She adds. "We couldn't have just anyone getting into our hiding places when we were on the run last year." She explains. "I'm sorry, Draco." She tells through the door.

"For what?" He asks, making her huff a laugh.

"For kissing you. I don't know why I did it." She lies. "I know we've only just become friends and we would probably have to kiss in the future but I don't think either of us thought it would happen so soon." She stands up, starting to pace the bathroom. "I mean we've only been married a week." She tries to explain.

She hears Draco laugh on the other side of the door.

"What are you laughing at?" She stops in front of the door, leaning against it.

"We've only been married a week." He repeats. "Most married couples have their first kiss long before they even get engaged."

Hermione laughs as well. "We're not exactly like most married couples." She mentions.

"To be honest, I don't actually know many married couples who did kiss before their marriage. My parents didn't, neither do most pureblood couples." He says.

"Harry and Ginny did, obviously." She points out.

"Blaise and Luna as well." He adds.

"Blaise and Luna?" She asks slightly shocked.

"Yeah, they went on a few dates before Christmas. Blaise came back with pink lipstick smudges all over his face and looking very giddy." Draco explains.

She knew that they'd gone on a few dates but she hadn't known that they'd kissed.

"I'm assuming by their reaction to being paired together that Thomas and Finnegan had also kissed before their marriage?" Draco asks.

She hears him shuffling around on the other side of the door and then the sound of his body scraping against the wall as he slid to the floor. Hermione follows suit, sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor, leaning against the wall.

"I'd assume as much too but I was just as surprised as everyone else was when they got paired. I don't think anyone knew about their relationship." She tells him.

"I'm more surprised they kept it a secret for so long. There are very few secrets that stay a secret within the walls of Hogwarts. Especially with all the paintings and ghost walking around the castle." He points out.

"I'm more surprised that Harry, Ron and Neville didn't notice something. I remember finding them almost lying on top of each other, asleep on the couches in our common room early one morning but I just assumed they'd drifted off and fallen onto each other during the night. We don't even know how long they've been together. It might have been years or just a few months." She comments.

"I would guess a year or so from the way Thomas ran down that aisle and the way Finnegan hugged him." He sighs.

Hermione's not sure what that sigh means since she can't see his face, but it sounds almost like jealousy. Not that he would ever admit it.

"A part of me is jealous of them." She mutters before she can stop herself. "It would have been nice to have been in love before the ceremony." She adds as an explanation.

"Are you taking back your earlier statement already?" Draco jokes, although she can hear the serious undertones beneath.

"Of course not." She replies quickly before he starts to doubt her. "I just wish I'd been given the opportunity to fall in love before I got married." She says with a sigh.

"You can always divorce me." He jokes again in the same tone.

"I've told you that I'm not going to divorce you unless you give me a reason to." She tells him and when he doesn't reply, she carries on talking. "I planned on starting my career before settling down and having children but it looks like we're going to have to do it the other way round."

"What is it you want to go into?" Draco questions through the door.

"Ever since I started primary school, I've wanted to be a teacher. Nothing's changed since I discovered the wizarding world." She admits, turning her head to face where she assumes Draco is sat on the other side of the door.

"Which subject?" He asks.

"Transfiguration, definitely." She answers straight away.

"Really?" Draco wonders aloud. "I always thought you'd prefer charms." He mentions.

"No, when I first got my school books, back in the summer before the first year, I was most interested in transfiguration. The first thing most muggles think of when they think of magic is turning things into frogs. When I discovered that transfiguration is so much more than that, I fell in love with the subject." She admits.

"Why a frog?" He questions, making her laugh.

"I'm not sure. Maybe it's got something to do with the witch trials back in the seventeenth century." She suggests. "What about you? What does your future hold?" She asks.

"I'd have to check the tea leaves, crystal balls and stars for I haven't an idea." He tells her.

"What did you want to do when you were a child?" She asks, looking up at the locked door handle.

"Lucius wanted to make a ministry man out of me. I wanted to be a professional Quidditch player." He chuckles. "Now, I'm not sure if there's anyone who would be willing to employ me." He sighs.

With a flick of her wand, the door unlocks then flies back, bouncing off the bath. The action makes Draco jump slightly. She reaches out to take his hand in hers as Athena excitedly flies over and lands on her shoulder.

"You need to have a little faith, Draco. Professor McGonagall would gladly have you as a professor if that's what you wished." She tells him, giving his hand a slight squeeze but he simply shrugs and continues to glance down at their clasped hands. "We both know you are probably the best potions student since Severus Snape himself." She stares at him until he looks up and meets her eyes. "And I've seen you explaining the ins and outs of potions to Blaise on more than one occasion. You're obviously passionate about the subject, Draco."

"That's what happens when Severus is your Godfather and spends two weeks of his summer in Malfoy Manor's guest room." He mutters glancing back down at their hands.

"Is this okay?" She asks squeezing his hand. "I should have asked." She adds as she tried to untangle her hand but he holds on tighter.

"You don't have to ask for permission to hold my hand." He looks back up at her face, sending her a soft smile.

She smiles back as she drops his hand then spins her body around, startling Athena, so she's sat against the wall, next to Draco. She looks him in the eye with a smirk as she grabs hold of his hand again.

"I might take advantage of that." She murmurs, getting flashbacks to Hogwarts. She often finds herself thinking back to their past whenever she touches Draco. She can't quite believe how far they've come and now he's given her open permission to hold his hand.

"You don't exactly need permission to hug me either." He adds smirking back at her.

She narrows her eyes at him for a moment, unsure of where this is going when she decides that there's no harm in resting her head against his shoulder.

She sighs contently when Draco adds, "Or kiss me," in a barely audible whisper.

She lifts her head off his shoulder, slightly shocked. She just stares at him for a few seconds before placing a hand on the side of his neck, where she can feel his pulse quicken as she leans closer to his ear. "Don't push your luck." She whispers to him before pulling away. "I think we should go shopping before my parent's get home. Maybe we can cook them dinner as a thank you for not changing the locks." She suggests and he just nods with a soft blush dusting his cheeks.

She chuckles to herself as she heads down the stairs, Athena flying after her.

Draco can't quite believe he just gave Hermione permission to kiss him again. He's surprised she hadn't slapped him for it, although, from the warmth on his cheeks, she did leave a red mark on his face. He'd actually thought she was going to kiss him for a moment and frozen again until she'd whispered in his ear. He's almost glad she didn't. He's not exactly experienced in the area and would have most likely embarrassed himself further.

He tries to push all thought of kissing Hermione out of his mind as he scrambles to his feet and heads downstairs where he finds Hermione tidying the living room and kitchen. He helps her with washing and drying the dishes, leaving her to put them away in the correct cupboard.

A few minutes later, they're pulling their shoes on and leaving through the front door. As soon as Hermione locks the door, they set off towards the market. Draco smiles to himself when she takes his hand in hers again. He takes that to mean she's not annoyed at him for asking her to kiss him.

"We should probably watch the Lion King again when we get back. Can you remember where we got up to?" She asks as she guides him down the street.

"There was a song. Simba was a lot older. It might have been about love." He suggests with a shrug. He didn't remember much after she paused it.

"Oh yeah, Elton John." She laughs. "My Grandma Emily loves Elton John." She adds, leading him left down a street.

"Who's he?" Draco asks curiously.

"He's a famous muggle singer. He wrote 'Can you feel the love tonight' for the Lion King. My Grandma took me to see it at the cinema when it first came out about five years ago. She wouldn't stop talking about Elton John." She chuckles then starts talking more about this Elton John.

Draco doesn't know what a cinema is but from she said, he assumes it's somewhere you got to watch television and musicals. He's not sure why muggles need a place to go watch television if they've got one in their house. He tunes back into Hermione as she trying to describe the tune to a song about a crocodile. He just nods as she guides him across the road.

"It's just on the other side of this bridge." She points out as she pulls him down some steps towards the bridge. "We'll just pop in for five or ten minutes. I want to take you to this record shop just down the road from Kings Cross actually." She tells him.

"Okay, what do we need from here?" He asks.

"Just some milk, bread, and something for my parents tonight. Maybe a chicken dinner. We can take some home for dinner tomorrow, I don't think I've eaten a vegetable since the ceremony." She jokes seriously.

"There were carrots in my Spaghetti Bolognese." He mentions.

"Great," She rolls her eyes. "One piece of vegetable a week. You know the recommended is five fruit and vegetables a day?" She asks rhetorically.

"We might want to go to the market when we get home then. I think the closest thing we have to a vegetable is half a block of cheese." He tells her quite seriously.

"I don't think we'll have time if we're going to this party tonight and having dinner with my parents. We might as well just get everything we need here." She says. "We won't get too much. Just some things for the next couple of days." She adds as they make their way through rows upon rows of cars.

"I don't have any muggle money, though." He comments.

"Well, I do." She shakes her head. "You don't have to pay for everything, Draco." She tells him.

"You paid last time and then you also paid for my treatment at St. Mungo's." He points out.

"How do you know I paid for it?" She asks, stopping just before they were about to cross the road.

"Healer Matthew said you'd already filled out my vault details for payment for treatment but I've never given you my vault details." He points out.

"I didn't want to worry you with paying for your treatment as soon as you'd woken up so I just gave them my vault number." She shrugs d carries on across the road.

"How much was it?" He asks, jogging to catch up with her.

"I'm not sure. It doesn't matter, though. It's been paid for." She tells him.

"I need to pay you back." He tells her.

"No, you don't. If it's any consolation, it wasn't exactly my money." She says. "It was the compensation I received from the ministry after the war. I didn't want it but Kingsley insisted. I threw it in my vault and left it there. At least it was put to some good." She clarifies as he frowns at her questionably.

"I still want to pay you back." He tells her.

Hermione sighs, stopping once more. "If it means that much to you, you can buy our shopping for the next two months. Okay?" She asks.

"Fine." He sighs.

"Great, I'll grab a small trolley."

Hermione lets go of his hand leaving it feeling cold and empty. He follows behind her as she places on of those gold pound coins into the trolley. She leads him over to what he thinks is the entrance but he's not entirely sure as there's no door, just moving panes of glass.

"What this?" He asks as Hermione continues to walk towards it.

"What's what?" She asks, pausing just before the glass to look back at him.

"The moving glass?" He clarifies.

She looks back at the glass then back to Draco, as though asking if he's serious, before smiling then chuckling to herself.

"It's a revolving door. It's supposed to filter customers through at a safer pace." He explains.

"How do you use it?" He asks, feeling stupid.

"Wait for the openings, enter, shuffle along until you're on the other side, then exit." She instructs him the sets off through the door.

He watches her as she takes small steps whilst pushing the trolley around then exits on the other side. She turns around and waves him through. He slowly waits for the door to move so he can enter into an opening when a lady pushes past him into the door he was just about to enter. He sighs then waits for the next door but then a man shows up with a little girl in his trolley pushes in front of him. He looks through the glass door at Hermione, who's laughing as an older lady with a walking stick, dawdles past, scoffing at him as she goes. He sees the lady grumble something to Hermione before carrying on into the market. He takes a few steps forward until he's only a few inches away from the glass, claiming the next opening as his own. When it comes around, he steps straight into it but for some reason, the door just stops dead in its tracks making him almost walk straight into the still glass. He looks confusingly behind him, where a few other people were waiting to enter, then over at Hermione, who's still laughing at him. Suddenly, the door starts moving again, making Draco jump. He shuffles forward until there's an opening again. He throws himself out of the door, which makes it stop again. He glances behind as he walks over to Hermione to see the people inside the door looking annoyingly at him.

"I don't know why you're laughing." He stares at her pointedly, crossing his arms.

"I'm sorry, Draco," She laughs. "But it was funny. Watching you try to use such a simple piece of muggle technology." She explains.

"That was not simple." He frowns. "It was moving too fast and then it just stopped."

"It stopped because you were in the way. They have motion detectors that stop the door if anything blocks them so people don't get their arms or trolleys trapped in them." She explains a little too cheerfully. "And if you think that was fast, I can't wait to show you an escalator." She giggles as she pushes the trolley towards the fruit.

Draco looks around the shop for the first time since entering. He hadn't expected it to be so large. What he expected to be a fruit aisle, turned out to be about the size of the entire market on the estate.

"Are all muggle markets this big?" He questions as Hermione throws some carrots and broccoli into the trolley.

"This is only a medium sized supermarket." She tells him. "Some have an upstairs as well." She explains as she carries on throwing fruit and vegetables into the trolley.

"If you want some more apples, go and get some." She tells him before going around the corner.

Draco glances around at all the fruit. He didn't recognise some of it which he thought was strange since he assumed muggles and wizards ate much of the same food. He picks up the closest fruit which has a furry, brown texture. Do muggles actually eat this? He wonders as he frowns at the fruit in his hand.

"It's a kiwi fruit." Someone tells him.

He looks up from the fruit to find a girl around his age smiling at her.

"Do you actually eat this?" He asks looking back at the fruit.

The girl laughs, pushing her long brunette hair over her shoulder. "I don't personally, but some people do."

"But it's furry." He frowns at her.

"It's like a banana, you don't eat the skin. You cut it in half then eat the insides." She says, looking curiously at him. "I can't believe you've never seen a kiwi fruit before."

Draco just stares at her, not sure what to say that won't make her suspicious of him so he just shrugs and places the kiwifruit back down on the pile.

"Not for you then." She laughs.

"No, I much prefer apples." He tells her glancing around the fruits and vegetables for a glimpse of an apple.

"I need some apples too. They're over here. Come on, I'll show you." She flashes him a smile as she pushes her trolley over to where he assumes the apples are. "Are you a green or red apple kind of man?" She asks.

"Definitely green." He answers. "They're far juicier than the red ones." He adds as they walk past another display of fruit.

Draco spots a bright pink fruit with green spikes out the corner of his eyes. "What is that?" He asks curiously going over to the strange fruit.

"I think it's a dragon fruit." The girl tells him which makes him chuckle.

He picks one up and turns it around curiously.

"What's so funny?" She asks.

"My name is Latin for dragon." He mutters as he grabs a small plastic bag and places the fruit inside.

"So what's your name, Dragonus?" She asks, laughing.

"No," He glares at her. "It's Draco."

"Sorry, I don't think schools even teacher Latin anymore." She mentions as they set off for the apples again. "My parents named me after a mythical creature too." She mentions. "I'm Vanessa." She holds her hand out for him to shake, which he does in confusion. "Or Nessie." She adds with a laugh.

He smiles politely but doesn't understand what creature a Nessie is. She stares at him for a second, probably expecting some other kind of reaction.

"Like the Loch Ness Monster." She tries to clarify. "Nessie." She repeats.

Draco had always known that muggles had thought dragons, unicorns and vampires to be mythical but he hadn't been aware that they thought the Rapha Homalopsinae was mythical too. He realises that he's been lost in thought, staring for a while.

"I wasn't named after dragons, I was named after a constellation." He explains, trying to change the topic of conversation.

"I wasn't really named after the Loch Ness Monster either." She admits. "I just tell people that to sound more interesting." She laughs again as they stop in front of the apple display.

He places three green apples into another small plastic bag, tying the handles in a knot, whilst Nessie grabs her own apples. "Thank you for showing me the apples." He tells her. She frowns at him confusedly. "You're welcome." She laughs. "What do you need next?" She asks pushing her trolley around the same corner Hermione had.

"Thank you for showing me the apples." He tells her. She frowns at him confusedly.

"You're welcome." She laughs. "What do you need next?" She asks pushing her trolley around the same corner Hermione had.

Draco follows her, hoping to find Hermione somewhere nearby but all he sees is an old man trying to decide between two loaves of bread.

Hermione manages to find everything she needs to cook her parents a nice chicken dinner this afternoon and some extras like milk, bread and eggs. As well as some fruit and vegetables for themselves. She sets back off for the fruit and vegetable sections, wondering what's taking Draco so long. He was only looking for some apples. She turns a corner, into the bread section, and nearly crashes into a girl around her age.

"Sorry." She apologises subconsciously glancing over her shoulder trying to find Draco.

"Hermione." She hears Draco call her name and glances to the right of the girl to find him stood next to her.

"Draco!" Her stomach twinges in jealousy but she tries to ignore it.

"Where have you been?" She asks, looking at the girl, who's frowning at her.

"I couldn't find the apples but Nessie offered to help." He explains as he places two small bags in their trolley. "She's not named after the Rapha Homalopsinae." He adds, which confuses her.

"The what?" She asks with a frown.

"I think he means the Loch Ness Monster. Don't you Draco?" The girl asks, placing her hand on his shoulder.

Hermione glares daggers at the smirking girl.

"So how do you know Draco?" She asks with a forced smile. "Work colleagues?" She suggests.

Hermione turns her attention to Draco, who's staring at the girl's hand on his shoulder. She watches as he steps away, looking offended.

"No, we're married." He clarifies as he steps closer to Hermione. Hermione can't help but smile at the girl's reaction.

"Really? You didn't mention it." She says, obviously trying to make Hermione jealous but she just continues to smile at her.

"He doesn't need to tell everyone he meets that he's married so they don't flirt with him." She jibes at her.

"Goodbye, Draco." She scoffs as she pushes past them

"Is Hermione Granger jealous?" He asks with a slight smirk as they set off for the checkouts.

"Of course not," She scoffs.

"I just felt sorry for her, flirting with a married man."

"I don't think she was actually flirting with me," Draco mentions.

"No, she definitely was." She huffs. "The way she touched your shoulder was very flirtatious." She snaps in annoyance.

"Are you sure you're not jealous?" He asks, but she simply glares at him to shut him up.

She places all their shopping on the conveyor belt of a free till. Draco tries to help but he doesn't know how to place them so the eggs won't get cracked and the fruit are all together so she tells him to stop. Instead, he stands at the end of the till, watching her as she packs the shopping correctly.

"There's a system." She explains. "All the fruit and vegetables go in one bag then I like to put the bread on top so it doesn't get squashed." She places that bag back in the trolley. "Then the drinks go in this one." She places the milk and lemonade bag next to the fruit and vegetable bag. "And then the cans and jars go in one bag with the eggs on top so they don't crack." She finishes putting the last bag in the trolley. She turns to face the cashier man, who's staring at them curiously.

"That'll be £24.56." He tells her with a customer service smile.

She hands him £25 then waits for her change. Once he hands 44p over, she puts it in the muggle money side of her purse, places it back in her bag then pushes the trolley towards the exit.

"Hold the trolley with me." She tells him.

He looks at her curiously but places a hand on the trolley.

"Unless you want to go through the revolving door by yourself again." She smiles at him, making him roll his eyes.

As they come up to the door, Draco tries to slow down but Hermione pushes the trolley straight towards it and into an opening. She sees him do a little jump so not to get stuck in the door, which makes her chuckle and Draco glares at her.

"Here, you can carry the drinks bag and the jars and cans bag. They're the heaviest." She tells him after they've exited the revolving door.

"Why do I have to carry the heaviest bags?" He complains as he takes them anyway.

"Well Mr Quidditch player," She brushes his hair out of his face to reveal his makeup covered scar. "You have more upper body strength than I do." She tells him, picking up the fruit and vegetable bag.

"They're not that heavy anyway." He mutters as they set off walking.

"Good, I want to take a little detour to that record shop. It's not that far away from here. Just a ten-minute walk." She tells him as she guides him down a street towards other shops. "I'm going to warn you now. We have to go up an escalator to get to the record shop." She mentions. "They're moving stairs but not in the Hogwarts sense. The steps move." She adds at Draco look of confusion.

"Why do muggles feel the need to make stationary fixtures move? Do you have moving windows too?" He asks rhetorically.

"Well, you can get remotes that open windows for you when you press a button." She admits. "But that's usually for skyscrapers." She adds when Draco glares at her pointedly.

When they come up to the three-story shopping centre, Draco stops suddenly to stare up at it in awe.

"This is a shop?" He asks doubtfully.

"It's a shopping centre. There are about sixty shops in there. It's as though the whole of Diagon Alley was in one building." She explains watching his face as he takes it all in. "The record shop is on the first floor. Come on." She pulls him by the sleeve towards the doors which, thankfully, are completely normal.

She tries to pull him straight towards the escalator but he stops at every shop on the way to gawp in the windows.

"How did they get a car in there?" He asks at one shop with a car in the window.

"I don't know, Draco." Hermione sighs out of boredom. "Maybe through a back door. Come on, we don't have time to look at every shop. We can come back another day if you want." She tells him, pulling him towards the escalator.

"Fine." He sighs allowing her to drag him over.

"Okay, you go first so I'm not left stranded at the top waiting for you." She tells him.

"I'm not scared." He scoffs.

"I didn't say you were but just be careful because this goes faster than the door." She reminds him as she places her hand on his back to guide him.

He stops just in front of it to let a young lady with a toddler on, then, before he can let anyone else on, she pushes him forward. He inches forward until he's a few inches away from the moving steps. She gives him a little reassuring nudge and he steps forward, however, with only one foot. As his right foot starts moving ahead, he panics and jumps back but misjudges the distance and ends up toppling over backwards. Hermione, with her hand still on his back, pushes him awkwardly upright but he continues to wobble until they're at the top of the escalator. She tries her hardest to hold in her laugh since she doubts he'll appreciate it.

"Are you okay?" She asks with a smile as he clambers off. Draco turns around looking very red. She not sure if it's anger or embarrassment so she bites her lip to hide her smile.

"I am NEVER using one of those again." He shouts at her, glaring at the offending escalator. "What is wrong with a set of normal stairs? Why do you people need to make everything move?" He continues to argue.

"Draco, people are beginning to stare." She whispers under her breath as she places a hand on his elbow to guide him towards the record shop. "Come on."

Draco's still frowning as the bell above the door rings, announcing their arrival. An eighty-odd-year-old man looks over the top of his glasses and his book curiously but upon seeing them he goes back to his book.

"The CD shop is on the next floor." He grumbles to them.

"Actually, I'm looking for a record." She walks towards the desk where the man sat.

The man glances back up from his book, gives her a once over then goes back to his book.

"Of course, have a look around. The new Backstreet Boys album is over there." He gestures vaguely to the front of the shop.

"And what about Elton John's Crocodile Rock?" She asks with a sly smile.

The man's eyes pause in their reading before looking up at her surprised.

"I want to show my boyfriend." She tells him, motioning behind her to where Draco was stood looking intently at a record player.

He's placed the bags down on the floor as he strokes his fingers across the arm of the record player and then the spines of some record albums nearby. The man sighs as he stands up and shuffles his way over to a box of records. He flicks through them all, one at a time.

"Aha." He mutters as he pulls out the record she'd asked for. "Here we go."

He shuffles over to the record player Draco had been staring at, and places the record down. He flicks a switch and the first chords of crocodile rock start to faintly play. The man sighs in exertion as he shuffles back to his desk. Hermione places here bag next to Draco's then turns the volume up slightly and starts the song from the beginning. She turns to face Draco, who was stood watching the record spin around and around.

"When I use to stay with my grandma Emily, she used to play this record on repeat whilst we danced in the kitchen and baked cakes." She smiles as she remembers the memory. "What do you think?" She asks, turning to face him.

"It's… very different... from our music." He comments.

"You hate it." She smiles at him.

"I don't… hate it. I just don't particularly like it. He sounds very cheerful to me." He mentions.

"Well, you're not wrong. Most of his songs are quite cheerful but… let me have a look." She mutters as she fingers through the box of records the man had looked through a few minutes ago until she found what she was looking for. "Here, listen to this one." She swaps the records over.

As the piano starts to play through the record's speakers, Draco listens, expecting it to be a similar happy, bouncy tune but instead, he hears the start of a rather sad song.

"Well, this is much more sombre than the previous one." He says.

"Sorry seems to be the hardest word." She tells him which he assumes is the title.

"I can understand that." He admits with a sigh as he turns to face her.

Even with everything he did for the Dark Lord, apologising to a few of his victims was one of the hardest things he had to do. He'd felt so vulnerable walking up to Madame Rosmerta, a week after the battle of Hogwarts. He's apologised profusely then begged her to accept it. After an hour of listening to her tell him off, she hugged him and told him she forgave him. It was a lot more than he was hoping for.

"Have you heard anything from Sally?" Hermione asks, interrupting his thoughts.

"No." He shakes his head.

"At least you tried." She tells him, stepping forwards and placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"And I'm sure there're a few other people you can apologise to." She mentions.

He breathes out a laugh. "Yeah, just a few." He mutters, looking back down at the record player.

"Who's next then?" She asks.

Faces flash through the forefront of his brain as he thinks back to the all those 'detentions' he both observed and participated in. One face that kept reappearing was the face of Colin Creevey. As a Muggleborn, he was subjected to detentions at least once a week. That was until his brother got caught trying to send an owl home. Dennis was given detention until the end of the year for trying to send secrets of the wizarding world to the muggles. To save his brother from the cruciatus curse, Colin begged the Carrows to let him take his brother's punishment. They allowed it, instead, making Dennis watch. He'd never be able to apologise to Colin for just sitting and watching as the Carrows to it in turn to crucio him but he could apologise to Dennis.

"Dennis Creevey." He mutters, looking back over to Hermione.

"Dennis?" She questions.

"I can never apologise to Colin but I can apologise to his brother." He explains. "I need to apologise to him as well anyway." He adds.

"Do you want to send him an owl?" She asks.

"No," He shakes his head.

"He won't read it. I tried at Hogwarts."

"Do you want me to find out where he lives?" She offers.

"Do you really think he's going to appreciate me showing up at his house?" He asks, quirking his eyebrow.

"Probably not, but he I'm sure he'd feel safer if I'm there with you too." She suggests.

"Would you?" He asks, hopefully.

"Of course, I would." She reassures him, giving his shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome." She flashes him a quick smile. "I think we should head back to my parents' house so I can cook this dinner for them before they get home." She tells him as she picks her bag up off the floor.

Draco picks his two bags up as she goes to thank the old man. He waits at the door for her to return. Thankfully, she guides him towards the stairs rather than the escalator. He never wants to use one of those damned things again. It doesn't take them long to walk back to her parents' house. Athena is very excited to hear them enter the house and flies around their heads as they take the bags into the kitchen. Hermione puts everything away whilst Draco feeds Athena by calling her name from different parts of the kitchen.

"Here, cut these up." She passes him the chopping board, some carrots, a broccoli and a knife.

He sits down at the kitchen table as he chops, talking to Athena whilst Hermione puts the chicken in the oven and makes some stuffing, gravy and roast potatoes. When he finishes, he scrapes the vegetables into a pan of boiling water.

They then head back into the living room to watch the rest of the Lion King. Draco finds it highly unlikely that Simba would be physically able to fight his uncle after spending years living in the jungle with a warthog and a meerkat eating insects. Although, he does find it enjoyable and is looking forward to seeing Sophie's play.

Hermione plates up the dinner, once it's cooked, then places two in the oven for her parents and charms the other two not to spill so they can carry them back to their house for dinner tomorrow.

Draco tries to bribe Athena back into her cage so they can leave but after five minutes he just grabs her out of the air and places her on her perch. She doesn't appear to appreciate it as she chirps angrily at him, turns away and huddles in on herself. He tries to apologise but she flutters her feathers and ignores him so he lets her be for the now, heading to the back door where Hermione is waiting to leave.

Chapter Text

They disapparate back to the estate separately, Draco with Athena and Hermione with their dinner for tomorrow. She casts a sideways look at Draco to check that he's alright after their disapparation. He seems fine so they set off for their house.

"Do you think you're feeling well enough for the party tonight?" She asks as she places their plates of dinner into their oven.

"I'm perfectly fine." He sighs, opening Athena's cage for her.

"I'll just take a quick shower and I'll be ready to go." He announces as he heads upstairs.

"We only have forty minutes." She shouts up the stairs behind him.

She about to head upstairs herself to get changed when she hears a tapping noise at the kitchen window. She goes to investigate and finds a large ministry owl stood majestically on their window ledge. When she opens the window for it, the owl flies straight in, landing smoothly on her shoulder and holding its leg out for her to take the post. She unties two envelopes then watches as the owl swoops back out of the window.

Glancing down at the envelopes she sees one addressed to herself and one addressed to Draco. She takes them both upstairs with her to their bedroom, placing them both on the dressing table before opening her side of the wardrobe to find a dress for the party. Settling on a yellow, knee-length dress, she pulls it on just as she hears the shower turn off.

Draco enters their bedroom dressed only in a towel, tied around his hips. He pauses for a second upon finding Hermione in the room then hangs the towel he had just been using to dry his hair over his shoulders, hiding his chest and the long scars.

Hermione looks away since he obviously doesn't want her looking at them, instead, she goes over to the dressing table.

"We both got a letter from the Ministry." She mentions as she puts some earrings in.

Draco sighs in annoyance behind her as he reaches around her for his letter then perches on the edge of their bed as he opens it. She watches him in the mirror as he unfolds the piece of parchment, reads the first couple of lines then rips it up.

"I thought these had stopped." He mumbles as he grabs his wand and incendios the pieces of parchment.

"What was it?" She asks opening her own letter.

"The Ministry have just arrested Rabastan Lestrange and want me to testify against him. I don't know how many owls I've sent back to the Minister. He just doesn't take no for an answer." He shakes his head as he throws the wardrobe door open.

Hermione unfolds her own piece of parchment.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Ministry of Magic

London

England

Wednesday 8 th June 1999

Dear Ms Granger,

The Ministry is writing to invite you to a Ministry dinner on Tuesday 2 nd November 1999 to celebrate eighteen months since the end of the wizarding war. We ask that you make a small speech after the meal about the impact of the war and the positive steps being implemented to rebuild the wizarding world.

We eagerly await your response.

Approved and Signed by

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister of Magic.

She's about to follow Draco and rip the letter into many pieces when a thought crosses her mind. The Ministry needs something of her and it just so happens that she needs something off the Ministry. The Minister to be exact. She needs access to The Ministerial Wizarding Register Department.

"Draco!" She calls his attention excitedly. "I have an idea." She turns to face him, holding her letter out to him.

She waits as he quickly scans the piece of parchment then glances up at her confused. "I don't understand."

"I've been receiving letters like this at least once a week since the end of the war. It stopped a few months ago but it looks like Kingsley has exactly given up hope that I'll give in." She explains. "We need access to The Ministerial Wizarding Register Department to look at those filing cabinets and we could also do with having a look through those banned books on marriage decrees." She smiles.

"You want to bribe the Minister." Draco quirks an eyebrow at her.

She rolls her eyes. "I wouldn't exactly call it bribing. It's just an arrangement that ensures we both get what we want. We should do it tomorrow."

"I wish you'd had this thought before I'd burnt my letter." He admits, going back to rummaging through his wardrobe.

"Would you have testified against Lestrange?" She asks curiously.

"If I got something I want in return, then yes." He answers as he pulls a blue shirt and pair of black trousers out of the wardrobe and heads back into the bathroom to change.

Hermione sits on the edge of their bed thinking. Is there anything else they need from the Ministry? Anything that can help them discover why the marriage decree was enforced in the first place. What they really needed was access to those banned books? She can't help but think that the first two volumes of 'Seventeenth Century Laws' hold something important. Maybe Narcissa hadn't had the chance to hide them and the Ministry had taken them. Draco could ask her about, although it would have to be before they go to the Ministry since it would be a waste of time searching through the books if they hadn't been taken.

Draco exits the bathroom, fully dressed, but hair still dripping wet. He sits in front of the dressing table mirror as he dries his hair with his wand and applies the make-up charm to the scar on his forehead.

"Draco, I was thinking about those books we took from your attic." She mentions, making eye contact with him through the mirror. "Do you think your mother would know more about the first two volumes of 'Seventeenth Century Laws'." She asks.

Draco pauses his wand as he frowns confusedly at her through the mirror. "I'm not sure she knows anything about them. She rarely goes into the attic. Most of the book in there were moved by order of Lucius." He answers going back to casting his make-up charms.

"Great!" She rolls her eyes sarcastically. "The only person who might know anything about the books is locked in Azkaban for the next fourteen years." She sighs.

"Fourteen years and four days." He tells her, earning him a raised eyebrow. "He was arrested on 4th May but wasn't sentenced until 12th June." He clarifies but going back to the topic of the books. "If the books were ever in the Manor, they would either be in the attic or the library. Since we found them in neither, it is safe to assume that the Ministry has taken them." He tells her.

"I suppose there's no harm in searching the books in the Ministry." She mutters as Draco finishes and they head downstairs where they both pull their shoes on.

Hermione leaves Athena a few owl pellets before they leave, locking the door behind them, and set off for 17B, hand in hand.


When they arrive at 17B, Draco knocks on the door and is slightly shocked when Richard opens the door with a forced smile.

"Come in." He tells them as he walks up the stairs, leaving the door open.

He glances at Hermione who just shrugs then steps into the house. They make their way into the living room where they find Sue, Mandy and Oliver sat talking. Sue looks up as they enter, giving them a quick smile before going back to whatever the three were talking about. Draco and Hermione continue through to the kitchen where Theo, Blaise and Gregory are leaning against the counters, sipping at glasses of wine.

"DRACO!" Blaise screams upon seeing him, running over and pulls him into a tight hug, squashing his arms against his side.

When he pulls back, he punches him in the arm, hard.

"What was that for?" Draco asks, glaring at his best friend as he rubs his arm.

"For flying head-first into a goalpost, you idiot." He goes to punch him again but Draco pushes his arm away. "I could have lost you, you idiot." He hugs him tightly again before pulling back and looking up at his forehead.

"Are you using a make-up charm?" He laughs.

"Shut up, Blaise." He punches his friend's shoulder.

"I'm fine."

"Good." Blaise smiles at him as he hands him a glass of wine off the counter. "I worry about you, you know." He tells him making him roll his eyes.

"I'm a grown man. You don't need to worry about me." He tells him, taking a sip from the wine glass.

"A grown man wouldn't have flown straight into a Quidditch goal post." He smirks at him.

"He's never gonna let you live that down," Theo calls out.

"I'm going to go find Luna," Hermione whispers in his ear before heading outside.

"Come one Draco." Blaise pulls him over to counters. "So how's it going?" He asks him.

Draco doesn't know how to answer the questions. He feels as though his life is a little chaotic at the moment. His mind is constantly thinking about his mother, Lucius, the Rowle's, the Minister, Hermione's cousins, Hermione, their marriage, the Ministry. He could go on.

He sighs deeply. "It's going… busy. We've been very busy." He admits.

Theo laughs, "Hey hey, are you going to be the first then?" He elbows him suggestively.

"Not that kind of busy." He rolls his eyes at his immature friends. "Family is very important to Hermione so we've been visiting them quite a lot." He tells them.

"Who do you think is going to be the first, though?" Theo asks quietly, leaning closer.

"First to what?" Draco questions.

"To get pregnant." Theo answers, eyes wide.

"Are we really going to gossip about our friend sex lives?" He asks, shaking his head disapprovingly.

"Well, we know it's not going to be." Theo sends him a pointed look.

"What about you Theo?" Draco smirks at him.

Theo stands a little taller. "We want to get to know each other first." He says, looking down his nose at them all.

"It might be me." Blaise suddenly announces.

"You've slept with her." Gregory snickers.

"You can say sex, Gregory. It's not a dirty word." Blaise sneers at him. "And yes, we've had sex. We had sex on the night of the ceremony. And it wasn't the first time." He smiles proudly.

"No need to boast," Theo says before downing the rest of his wine. "I need some firewhiskey." He mutters before walking off.

"What's wrong with him?" Gregory asks.

"Probably just jealous." Blaise shrugs as the three of them head outside into the garden.

They take a seat at the garden table with William, who's pouring himself a shot of firewhisky. He glances around for Hermione, finding her sat with Luna, Isobel and Megan over by the gate. She looks over at him, smiling, which he returns.

"Wow, you've got it bad, Draco." William chuckles as he takes the shot.

"Excuse me?" He questions.

"You fancy Hermione, don't you?" He asks.

Draco stares at him for a moment. "Yes. I like my wife."

"No, it's more than that. You really like her." William nods as he pours himself another shot of firewhisky.

"Well, we have a lot in common." He admits, pouring himself a shot of firewhisky then downing it.

"Oh, I get it. Are Slytherin's not use to talking about their feelings?" He asks.

"I think it's mainly pure-blood Slytherin's. I'm more than happy to discuss my love for Luna." Blaise points out.

"You're not pure-blood?" William asks, looking at him curiously.

"Three-quarters. My father's father was half-blood." He shrugs.

"I didn't know that," Gregory says.

"Not something I could really come out and admit in the Slytherin common room, is it?" He rhetorically asks.

"I'm half too. I suppose the worse kind of half, though. Muggle mum and Muggleborn dad." William scoffs as he downs another shot of firewhisky.

"Are you alright, William?" Blaise asks him, glancing at Draco nervously.

"Oh yeah, I'm fine." He laughs. "How does old Xenophilius feel about you, Blaise?" He asks.

"Erm… I think he likes me. I've only seen him twice since the ceremony." Blaise answers.

"Good for you," William says snidely then sighs. "Sorry. I'm sorry." He lets his head fall into his hands. "Isobel's father found out that we've been together for over three years and that we aren't getting divorced."

"How did he not know?" Blaise asks.

"We didn't want him to know until we left Hogwarts. He would have just excused our relationship as a school crush." He laughs. "We've been together since our fifth year, I think it's pretty serious." He grumbles.

"How'd you stay together through our fifth year with Umbridge roaming the halls?" Blaise laughs curiously.

"Isobel was part of Dumbledore's Army so we would just meet there after dinner most nights." He explained. "She tried sneaking me into the Ravenclaw common room once but we got caught by the prefect." He laughs at the memory before sighing again.

"William, do you really think Lucius would accept Hermione as my wife?" Draco asks him.

William burst out laughing. "No offence but there's more chance of you-know-who returning." He laughs again.

"Do you think that's going to stop us from making the best of this situation?" He asks, ignoring that comment.

William stops laughing. "It's different for you two. Your father is in Azkaban, Isobel's father works down the corridor from me in the Ministry." He mutters.

"It could be worse." Blaise leans across the table to whisper. "Imagine if you got paired with someone you couldn't even tolerate and then their father hated you as well." He says, nodding behind William.

They all turn around to find Pansy stood by herself, drink a bottle of butterbeer.

"I don't think Arthur actually hates her. Just strongly dislikes her father." Draco mentions.

"I'm talking about Ron." He corrects him. Draco's suddenly filled with anger although he's not entirely sure why. "He got paired with Pansy, who he despises, and whose father hates him. No wonder he drinks so much. I would if I was paired with her." He mutters.

At that moment, Pansy decides to walk over to them. They all quickly lean back into their chairs.

"So yeah, I would definitely recommend 'The Pentagon'. Luna and I went there a few days ago for lunch, it was grea- oh hi Pansy." Blaise rambles on as Pansy leans against Draco's chair.

"What are you talking about?" She asks glaring at them all.

"'The Pentagon', have you been, Pansy?" William asks her with a smile.

She sends him a glare. "What were you being so secretive about?" She asks, not believing him.

"Draco's crush on Hermione." Blaise answers.

"Blaise." He says warningly. His friend knows how Pansy can get at the mention of Hermione's name.

He looks up at Pansy to find her looking down at him with watery eyes. "I don't need to put up with this." She shakes her head. "I'll leave you to it." She tries to smirk but all she manages is a sad, forced smile.

They watch as she walks into the kitchen.

"Why can't you play nice, Blaise?" He rhetorically asks as he follows after Pansy.

He finds her sitting at the bottom of the stairs with a glass and an entire bottle of wine to herself.

"What do you want?" She asks as he settles down onto the step below her.

"How are you doing?" He asks as he awkwardly watches her wipe a tear away.

"How do you think?" She smiles at him holding her glass and bottle up before downing the rest of the wine in her glass and pouring more. She places her bottle between her legs then raises her free hand to his face.

"Pansy,-" He starts but she shushes him.

"How are you?" She asks, moving his hair out of the way, revealing his covered scar. "My dear husband told me about your accident." She spits.

"I'm fine, Pansy." She tells him, pushing her hand away. The anger returns at the mention of Weasley.

"How is your dear husband?" He asks.

"Drunk." She mutters. "He might be right, you know. This all might be more bearable if we're drunk." She laughs, before taking a large gulp of the wine.

"Have you even talked to him?" He asks.

"About what?" She huffs.

"Your future. What happens once you've had a child together?" He questions her.

"Oh Merlin," She groans as she drinks the rest of the glass. "Our child is going to be so fucked up." She grumbles. "Parents who hate each other, an alcoholic father, an overbearing grandmother, a strict grandfather and then me as a mother." She laughs for a few seconds before sighing. "They'll have every right to hate us." She mutters, drinking straight from the bottle.

"I don't even know why you were even paired with him," Draco mentions. "You're both pureblooded." He thinks aloud. It's something he's been wondering since the ceremony.

Pansy scoffs as she takes another swig from the bottle and ends up coughing and spluttering. "I'm half-blood." She admits.

Draco's eyes widen as he takes in what's she just said. All his life, Lucius and his mother had told him to find a nice, pureblood wife like Pansy. How had he not known that she was only a half-blood? How did Lucius not know?

"I was just as shocked as you when I found out." She smiles at him. "I was filling out that questionnaire in my bedroom when it glowed red when I tried to enter pureblood. I must have tried about twenty times before I went to my father." She laughs as she takes a sip from the bottle. "It turns out that his father's mother was only half-blood. Thought he could keep it a secret." She shakes his head. "Is that how they paired us?" She questions. "Based on our blood?" She frowns.

"We're trying to find out. We think it's a mixture of blood and how many children the person wanted." He explains.

"I wanted two." She admits quietly. "A boy and a girl. There's no way I'm staying with Weasel any longer than I need to so I'll have to live with one." She mutters.

"Draco!" He hears his voice being called from the living room.

Hermione looks over to where Draco had been sitting with Blaise, Gregory and William only to find him missing. Worrying that his head is hurting, she excuses herself and walks over to the table to ask the boys where he went.

"He followed Pansy inside a few minutes ago?" A slightly drunk William tells her and she feels jealousy fill her stomach.

She smiles and thanks him before walking into the house. She cast a quick eye around the kitchen but they're not there so she moves into the living room, which is now empty.

"Draco!" She calls heading towards the hall. She walks through the door and finds both Draco and Pansy sat on the stairs. The jealousy makes her stomach cramp up. "Oh, er… sorry, I'll be in here." She turns to leave but Pansy jumps up and grabs her wrist.

She spins around in shock, her free hand resting on her wand inside her bag.

"Stay, Granger. I'm going to go throw up." She tells her, then crawls up the stairs towards the bathroom.

She looks at Draco confusedly.

"She was upset so I sat and listened to her." He tries to explain but she shakes her head.

"You don't need to explain yourself. She's one of your friends." She smiles at him even though the jealousy is probably clear on her face. "I think someone should go check she's alright up there." She mentions.

"I'm not going up there." He tries to push past her into the living room but she stops him.

"She's your friend." She points out.

"I don't care. I can just about deal with crying women. I don't want to deal with throwing up women." He tells her and tries to make another exit.

"Fine, I'll go comfort your best friend." She calls after him and then instantly regrets it. She really doesn't want to be alone in the same room as Pansy but with no one else offering, she heads up the stairs after her.

She gently knocks on the door before opening it to reveal Pansy leaning over the toilet. She lifts her head up a few inches to see who's invading her privacy only to groan when she realises who it is.

"Come to gloat." She asks

"I've come to help." She tells her as she hangs her bag on the door handle as she shuts it behind her.

She takes her wand out and locks the door before using aguamenti and then incendio to fill the sink with hot water. Opening the cupboard under the sink, she finds a hairbrush and a hair bobble. Carefully, she brushes Pansy's hair back and ties it into a ponytail. She has to stop a few times as she throws up into the toilet.

"Why are you helping me, Ganger?" She grumbles.

"Draco refused and I doubt any of the other party guests would offer." She answers as she rubs her back soothingly. "Except Luna. She'd help anyone out, no matter who they are." She tells her.

"Blaise loves her." She states.

"That's good." She smiles.

"He never shuts up about her." She says as she slumps back against the door.

Hermione finds a flannel in the cupboard and soaks it in the hot water and wringing it out. She kneels on the floor in front of Pansy then uses the flannel to wipe vomit and sweat from her face.

"I wish I had a friend like you." She mumbles, making Hermione pause in her actions. "I never had any girl friends, only boy friends. It would have been nice." She sighs as she closes her eyes. "Can our children be friends?" She mutters.

Hermione stares at her in shock before deciding it's probably the drink talking so she smiles and nods. "Of course, Pansy." She tells her.

"Thank you, Granger." She says.

"I think it's time you went home." She tells her as she helps her to her feet, unlocks the door and helps her down the stairs. She sits her down on the stairs again. "I'll go get Draco to take you home." She tells her.

She finds him in the kitchen, drinking a butterbeer, talking to Luna and Megan. She goes over and grabs his hand, pulling him away from the girls, who giggle and whisper to each other.

"I think Pansy needs help getting home." She tells him.

Draco sighs as he places his bottle on the counter then follows her into the hall where Pansy was leaning against the wall.

"Just make sure she gets into the house alright." She tells him.

"Come on Pansy." He reaches out for her hands and pulls her up, wrapping an arm around her waist to hold her steady.

Hermione opens the front door for them.

"I'll be back in ten minutes." He tells her as he sets off towards Epsilon Street.

They're half way down Alpha Street when Pansy suddenly stops in her tracks.

"I want a baby. You need to have a baby." She stares at him.

Draco stares back at her for a moment before shaking his head.

"Pansy,-" He starts but she interrupts him.

"Come on, Draco." She whines. "They'd be best friends like we were when we were children."

He realises what she means.

"I think you need to talk to Weasley about that, not me." He tells her.

"I can handle the Weasel." She scoffs. "But you need to have a baby too. Granger said they'll be friends." She continues to whine.

"Okay, okay." He gives in, urging her forward.

She squeals excitedly, which is something he has never seen her do before, as she runs down the street.

"Pansy!" He calls after her but she doesn't stop so he runs after her.

She doesn't stop until she reaches her house.

"HUSBAND!" She shouts as she bangs on the door. "WHERE ARE YOU?" She calls as she continues to knock.

After a few minutes of continued knocking, the door finally opens to reveal a shirtless Weasley.

"What are ya fuckin' shoutin' at?" He slurs. "What ya want Malfoy?" He glares at him.

"I'm simply returning your wife home." He smirks at him, anger rising in him again.

"I WANT A BABY!" Pansy shouts in Weasley's face.

"What the fu-" Weasley steps back, away from her but she follows, wrapping her arms around his neck, trying to kiss him. "Geroff me." He tries to push her off but she clings on.

"Upstairs Weasel." She orders. "We're having sex." She tells him as she pushes him back towards the stairs.

"Geroff me." Weasley tries pushing her off him again and this time she lets go, placing her hands on her hips.

"Do you want this over with?" She asks.

"'Course." He spits.

"Then upstairs now Weasel." She tells him.

Draco watches as they both head upstairs, leaving him stood outside with the front door wide open. He closes the door then heads back to William and Isobel's house. He finds Hermione sat on the stairs waiting for his return when he opens the front door.

"Did she get in alright?" She asks.

Draco looks down at her. "They're having sex." He tells her.

"Who? Pansy and Ron?" She asks, to which he nods. "Oh God, in that state?" She shakes her head.

"Did you tell her our children could be friends?" He asks her doubtfully.

"Oh, yeah, I doubt she'll remember in the morning." She chuckles.

"Still, thank you for being kind to her." He tells her, taking her hand in his. "She doesn't have many friends." He adds, bringing her hand up to his lips for a peck.

Hermione's face blushes as she looks down. "As long as Pansy can accept that things have changed, then I'm sure we'll be able to get along with each other." She explains.

Draco smiles at her as she glances back up at him.

"You're amazing." He tells her, leaning down to give her a quick kiss.

They walk over through the living room into the kitchen where they grab a drink each. They're just starting a conversation with Blaise and Luna when Megan calls everyone's attention to her. William and Isobel come in from outside whilst Sue, Mandy and Richard come through from the living room.

"Gregory and I have an announcement to make." She says once she has everyone's attention.

"You're pregnant already." Isobel gasps excitedly.

"No, no we're not pregnant," Megan shouts over the eruption of mutterings. "We're moving to America." She announces and the room goes silent.

Draco looks at Gregory who doesn't seem to be showing any emotion.

"What do you mean?" Lisa asks.

"I've been asked to work in the British Wizarding Embassy in America. We're leaving next Thursday on the 16th." She explains. "We're having a small party next Tuesday to say goodbye before we leave."

"Megan!" Lisa cries, running forward to hug her friend.

"I can't believe you're leaving," Isobel says as she joins the hug.

"It won't be forever," Megan tells them tearfully. "I've been told five years. Maximum."

"Five years. You'll have to come back for holidays and we'll come and see you over there too." Lisa continues to cry as she makes plans. "And we'll send each other owls, every week." She promises.

"Of course we will." Megan nods.

Draco, Hermione, Blaise and Luna head outside to give them more space. They settle on the garden chairs with a bottle of wine between them all. Luna pours everyone a glass then raises it.

"To Gregory and Megan." She toasts and they all follow.

"It's funny, isn't it?" Blaise states as he sips his wine. "How this whole marriage decree can be the worst thing to happen to some people but then the best thing to happen to others. What do you think Gregory would be doing if the marriage decree wasn't enforced?" He asks.

"Probably following in his father's footsteps like most pureblood sons do." Draco answers.

"So having an arranged marriage to some pureblood witch with whom he would have a child and then live the rest of his life off his family's wealth?" Blaise chuckles rhetorically.

"Megan really is the best thing that could have happened to him." Luna agrees, leaning her head tiredly against Blaise's shoulder.

Blaise hums contently as he downs the rest of his wine. "I think it's time we got home." He announces, standing up and wrapping an arm around Luna's waist. "Do you want to join us for the walk?" He offers.

He glances at Hermione, who is in the middle of yawning and decides that it's time to go home. They quickly congratulate Gregory and Megan and thank Isobel and William for the invitation, before leaving. They all walked down Alpha Street, chatting to each other until they came to the Zabini house on Epsilon Street. They hug goodbye, then set off for their own house.

"Do you fancy a cup of tea?" Hermione asks him as she unlocks the door.

Her choice of wording reminds him of what William had asked him, 'You fancy Hermione, don't you?' He knows he likes her. They've gotten along better than he could ever have expected to have and she'd even called him her friend on more than one occasion. But did he like her as more than a friend? He supposes he does. He enjoys holding her hand and hugging her, which is something he'd never liked doing before. She's definitely changing him for the better.

"Yes," He answers as he kicks his shoes off and follows her into the kitchen. "I would fancy a cup of tea." He mutters as he leans against the counter, watching her as she puts the kettle on and adds a tea bag to two mugs.

Once made, they take their mugs of tea into the living room where they both sit on the couch. Draco stretched his legs out, resting his feet on top the coffee table, whilst Hermione curled her feet beneath her as she leant against Draco's side, sipping on her mug of tea.

"I'm not looking forward to tomorrow." She admits with another yawn. "If anyone ever finds out that I bribed the Minister of Magic for access to private records, my reputation would be ruined. I doubt Professor McGonagall would ever hire me as a professor after that." She mutters.

"You could assassinate the Minister and McGonagall would still want you." He reassures, making her chuckle, which he has to admit feels nice with her pressed against his side.

"It's not exactly a secret that she… disapproves of his governing methods." She defends the Headteacher.

"Please." Draco scoffs. "She's hated him since the end of the war." He adds. "I can't blame him. Some of his decrees are rather pointless. He doesn't want to be seen as doing nothing so he does too much." He tells her to which she just hums. "Are you falling asleep?" He asks, nudging her with his shoulder.

She hums again in confirmation. He takes her half-drunk cup of tea out of her hands, placing it on the coffee table before pulling her to her feet.

"Go up to bed, I'll be up in a minute." He tells her as he guides her towards the stairs.

He picks up the mugs, taking them into the kitchen to wash then follows Hermione upstairs to the bedroom where he gets changed into his pyjamas whilst Hermione brushes her teeth in the bathroom. He casts his own tooth cleaning charm before climbing into bed to wait for Hermione to return. When she does, though, she climbs into her side and falls straight to sleep leaving Draco lying on his back, trying to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

After checking the clock on the wall for the fifth time in an hour, Draco decides that he's not getting to sleep anytime soon and gets out of bed, making his way downstairs into the kitchen for a warm glass of milk. Mitty used to make him a glass whenever he woke with a nightmare as a child and couldn't get back to sleep.

He takes the glass into the living room where he lounges on the couch. Athena chirp at him for attention. With a flick of his wrist, the cage door burst open and Athena flutters around the room for a few minutes to stretch her wings before landing on Draco's shoulder.

"Hello, Athena." He greets her, stroking the top of her head, glad that she's forgiven him.

Athena chirps at him again as she leans against his touch.

"What are you doing awake at…" He checks the clock. "Half one in the morning?" He sighs, leaning further back into the couch. "Can't sleep either?" He yawns.

Athena chirps in reply.

Draco sips at his glass of milk as he thinks. Will the Minister take their 'bribe'? What if he doesn't? Bribery is an imprisonable offence that could end them both in Azkaban. When he testified against his father, he promised himself that he would never end up there with him. Would he risk it for Hermione though?

"She's confident it will work out in our favour." He tells Athena who cocks her head sideways at him. "I'm not so sure a simple speech at a dinner will be enough to persuade the Minister to give us both access to the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department." He admits. "We need to give him something he won't be able to turn down." He mutters as something hits him.

He needs to go to the Manor.

Draco runs as quickly and quietly as he's capable of up the stairs and sneaks into their bedroom over to their wardrobe. He grabs a black pair of robes, a black cloak and his black boots, taking them into the bathroom to get changed. He's about to creep back downstairs when he remembers that he left his wand on his bedside table. He opens the door wide enough to fit his hand through and whispers, "Accio wand."

His wand flies silently into his hand, which he pockets then heads back down the stairs. He finds Athena already in her cage, asleep on her perch when he enters the living room and downs the rest of his milk before leaving it in the sink to wash later. He finds a scrap piece of parchment and a quill which he uses to writes Hermione a note.

Hermione,

Don't go to the Ministry. I should be back before lunch.

Draco

He leaves it on the coffee table, where he hopes she'll find it when she wakes up. He rushes out of the front door, locking it behind him, then almost runs down the street towards the gate where he disapparates straight to the gates of the Manor. He doesn't waste a moment in unlocking the gate and running across the grounds towards the door.

After a minute of banging on the door, Gharther finally answers then bows when he sees it's him.

"Master's Mother is sleeping, sir." He announces, nose almost touching the floor.

"I need to use the library." Draco pushes past Gharther and rushes towards the library doors. "Mitty!" He calls out and a second later, his house-elf is stood in front of him, looking sleepy. "Sorry to wake you Mitty but I need your help."

"Mitty is grateful to help Master." She tells him with a curtsy.

"I need every issue of the Daily Prophet since Sunday 3rd May 1998." He tells her as he starts fingering through the piles of newspapers on the shelf. "In chronological order please." He adds.

Mitty finds the start of the newspapers a few shelves above him and starts using her magic to fly them all over to the desk in the centre of the room. Draco removes his cloak as he walks over to the desk, folding it over the chair. He picks up the issue from the day after the war and skims through the first couple of pages, finding nothing of importance he hands it to Mitty who send it flying back into its place on the bookshelf.

He picks the next issue up from Monday 4th May 1998. The front cover was entirely taken up by the picture of Lucius being taken from the Manor with the words 'MALFOY ARRESTED' written above. He flicks through the next couple of pages which detail a few other high profile Death Eaters that were also arrested that day.

He stands up and with a quick flick of his wand, the chair is transfigured into a large chalkboard. He swishes his wand again and a list appears on the board of the arrested Death Eaters. He duplicates the pages of the Daily Prophet he needs then hands the original copy to Mitty to send back to the shelf.

He carries on with this for the next five hours until he's gone through all four hundred and one issues and there are one hundred and thirty-two names of Death Eaters written on the board. He'd managed to cross out eighty-four names that had already been sentenced and thirteen who had died in awaiting trial. He was left with thirty-five Death Eaters still waiting to be sentenced, of which he personally knew twenty-one of them well enough to testify against them, including Rabastan Lestrange.

With a wave of his wand, the chalkboard disappeared in a white cloud of chalk, leaving the chair in its place. Draco stretches before slumping tiredly down in the chair.

"Master want coffee," Mitty asks him as he yawns deeply.

"Yeah, please." He mumbles. "I need to be as awake as possible this morning." He yawns again as he picks up the pile of articles relating to the list of twenty-three Death Eaters and his cloak, then follows Mitty into the kitchen.

He transfigures a teaspoon into a mirror and a fork into a comb then uses them to comb all his hair back then charms it to stay still. He removes the makeup charm from his scar and glares at his reflection in the mirror. He looks like a younger, shorter haired Lucius. He really needs a haircut before it gets any longer.

He fastens his cloak as Mitty pours him a mug of steaming coffee, which he proceeds to sip until it's cool enough to down. He shrinks the articles down so they fit in his cloak pocket then thanks Mitty for the coffee and the help before sneaking out the back door to avoid his mother.

Once out of the Manor's gates, he disapparates straight to the Ministry, ready to take the risk for Hermione.

Hermione awakes to Athena chirping in her face at around half seven in the morning. She rolls over to try and ignore her but Athena just flutters onto her shoulder and starts nipping her ear. She tries brushing her off but the damn owl won't stop so she sits up, scaring Athena a little, which is when she notices Draco's empty side of the bed.

"Did Draco let you out?" She asks Athena, who chirps happily. "Let's go find him and tell him off." She tells her, climbing out of bed but she doesn't find him anywhere in the house.

Wondering whether he's gone over to the market, she heads out into the garden to look for him when she remembers she'd placed Geoffrey next to the gate. She walks over to him, checking that no one's around since she's still in her pyjamas. When she's close enough, he jumps into an Irish jig.

"What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?" Geoffrey asks as he continues to dance.

"Geoffrey, have you seen Draco walk past here this morning?" She asks him urgently, glancing around and quickly dropping to the grass when she sees Dean and Seamus walking hand in hand across the green.

"What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?" He repeats.

"I don't have time for this, Geoffrey." She tells him. "Have you see-"

"WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN IRISH WEDDING AND AN IRISH FUNERAL?" Geoffrey shouts, interrupting her.

She really hopes Seamus didn't hear but when she peers over the top of the fence, she sees them both looking around confused.

"Fine," She whispers to Geoffrey. "What's the difference?" She asks.

"ONE LESS DRUNK." He laughs loudly.

"Oh, Godric." She curses as Dean and Seamus both look over in her direction. She quickly ducks behind the fence, hoping beyond hope that they're not on their way over. "Geoffrey, have you seen Draco come this way?" She asks him quickly, planning on running back into the house away from her friends.

"Nope." Geoffrey pops. "Haven't seen no one since ya left me out here with Pinky." He gestures to the flamingo across the path.

"Okay, thank you, Geoffrey. I'll make sure we come talk to you more." She promises as she peeks over the top of the fence again to see where Dean and Seamus have gone, only to find them stood right in front of her, making her scream.

"Hermione!" Dean frowns down at her. "What are you doing lying on the grass?" He asks her curiously.

"Oh, erm… I was talking to Geoffrey." She admits, avoiding eye contact.

"Who's Geoffrey?" Seamus asks, leaning over the fence then smiling when he spots the garden gnome. "Is that a muggle garden gnome?" He asks.

"Nothing muggle about me," Geoffrey tells him, puffing his chest out, making Seamus jump back slightly.

"You charmed it." He states.

"No." She sighs, folding her arms across her chest, remembering again that she'd only in her pyjamas. "Blaise charmed it and gave it to Draco as a birthday present." She explains. "He likes telling really bad jokes." She adds as an afterthought.

"My jokes are hilarious." He stamps his foot. "What's the difference between an Irish wed-"

"Shut up, Geoffrey." She interrupts, covering his mouth with her hand.

"Once less drunk?" Seamus raises a questioning eyebrow.

Hermione laughs awkwardly. "You heard that then."

"I wouldn't be surprised if the whole estate heard him." Dean laughs. "I thought it was quite funny." He adds.

"It's not the worse one I've heard." Seamus shrugs then glances her up and down. "What are you doing?" He asks her.

"I'm looking for Draco." She tells them.

"Oh, lost him already have you?" Dean chuckles.

"I haven't lost him. I've… temporarily misplaced him." She admits with a smile.

"He's not a quill, Hermione." Dean points out.

"Are you sure he hasn't… erm, left?" Seamus asks.

"No. He hasn't just left." She frowns at them, annoyed.

"Sorry," He apologises. "How have you been since the ceremony?" He asks, changing the topic.

"It's been hectic, to be honest. Trying to figure a way to introduce Draco to my family, since they know nothing of the wizarding world, a few parties and Draco had a Quidditch accident." She tells them.

"Oh yeah, Harry told us about that. Said there was blood everywhere." Dean says but then apologises under Hermione's stare.

"How are you two anyway?" She asks. "I can't say that I expected you two to be partnered together." She raises a questioning eyebrow, making Seamus blush.

"Our families already knew about us so it wasn't much of a shock to them," Dean admits.

"How long have you been together?" She asks curiously.

"Since the yule ball." Seamus smiles softly.

"The yule ball." She gasps. "Fourth year. How in Godric's name did you keep it a secret for four years?" She asks, then gasps. "Oh my-. Seventh year." She glances at them, noticing their hands clench tighter together.

"Seventh year was obviously a tough time for the both of us but we spent that entire summer together with our families," Seamus explains.

"It's when we told them about us," Dean adds.

"Then when we got the letter from the Ministry, we went straight to Kingsley and told him." Seamus scoffs. "The dickhead told us that 'I don't pair people together, the goblet will make the decision'." He imitates the Minister badly.

"Like hell, he didn't have a say in it." Dean laughs. "He ordered us into the Ministry the day after and told us that when we're ready to have children, we are to make an appointment for a meeting and he'll make some arrangements but we have the same time frame as everyone else." He laughs.

"What kind of arrangements?" Hermione asks.

"We're not sure." Dean shrugs.

"We were still kind of in shock that we'd even got partnered together at the time," Seamus admits, smiling down at his husband.

"Well, congratulations to you both." She smiles at them. "I should probably get inside though and find my husband." She adds.

"Of course." Seamus nods at her.

"We'll see you around." Dean smiles at her before they set back off across the green, chatting.

Hermione rushes back into the house, before anyone else can see her, and locks the door behind her.

"Alright, Athena, where's Draco gone?" She asks rhetorically as she stands in the kitchen thinking.

Athena chirps excitedly around her head trying to grab her attention. Hermione follows her around the room curiously.

"Do you know where Draco's gone?" She asks Athena.

She chirps once more before flying off into the living room. She follows the owl quickly through the room and up the stairs into their bedroom.

"I don't think Draco's hiding under the bed." Hermione sighs when Athena disappears under the bed but then a few seconds later, she returns with a small piece of parchment in her beak. "What have you go there?" She asks, taking the parchment.

Hermione,

Don't go to the Ministry. I should be back before lunch.

Draco

"Well done, Athena!" She says as the owl lands on her shoulder, chirping proudly. "But where's he gone?" She wonders aloud.

If he's telling her not to go to the Ministry then he must have found some new information out that changes something. Although she doesn't know when he had time to find something out. She decides to get dressed, make some breakfast and read a book whilst she waits for Draco to return.

Draco apparates in front of the main doors to the Ministry. He pauses for a moment to take a deep breath and compose his face. Then, with a perfect Malfoy smirk, he waves his hand in front of the door, making them burst open. He stalks into the Ministry's foyer, the wind making his cloak billow behind him. He glares down his nose at the few wizards and witches that don't get out of his way quick enough as he makes his way toward the lifts at the other end of the foyer. He stands behind a small group of people also waiting for the lift, impatiently tapping his foot. A few of them turn around, annoyed, but quickly face the lift again once they realise who it is. When the lift finally arrives, he waits for the occupants to exit before he enters with the small group, standing at the front of the lift.

He lets everyone else press the number for their floor first before making a show of pressing the button for the top floor where he knows the Minister's office is. He hears a few mutters behind him but ignores it. When they stop at the other floors, a few people look like they want to get on but think better of it and wait for the next one meaning that when he reaches the top floor, he's the last one in the lift.

He waves his hand again when he reaches the doors to the receptionist of the Minister, who jumps looking terrified upon his presence in her office.

"M-Mr Malfoy, how ca-" The receptionist stutters.

"I wish to see the Minister." He interrupts her.

"I'm a-afraid the Minister has meetings all morning. Would you like to make an appointment?" She gushes as she flips through the Minister's diary. "His next availability is Friday 17th June at 16:35." She looks up at him hopefully.

"Maybe you misunderstood me, Miss-" He pauses for her to tell him her name.

"Ivory, Sir." She tells him.

"Miss Ivory, I wish to see the Minister today." He reiterates. "I'm sure he can spare five minutes for such an urgent matter." He adds.

Miss Ivory stares at him for a few seconds before she flicks through the diary again to the correct date. "I'll try and squeeze you in Sir b-but, I don't think it will be anytime soon." She tells him.

"I'll wait." He spins around, making a show of taking his cloak off before sitting down on one of chairs. He watches the girl intently as she fiddle around with something on her desk before she suddenly stands up and rushes into the Minister's office.

He wouldn't be surprised if she was just going in there to get away from him. She returns nearly two hours later, giving him a quick smile.

"The Minister has a spare few minutes to speak with you now." She tells him.

Draco stands up, stretching his limbs out before fastening his cloak on again and making his way over to the Minister's door. He knocks gently on the door and awaits an answer.

"Enter." He hears the Minister call through the door.

He opens the door slowly, offering the Minister a smirk before turning around and locking the door behind him.

"A locked door!" The Minister raises his eyebrow as he makes his way over to his desk. "It must be an urgent matter." He smirks back at him.

Draco removes his cloak, laying it across the back of the chair before glaring down his nose at the Minister.

"I received an owl yesterday afternoon." He starts, smirking. "Dear Mr Malfoy, the Ministry is writing to inform you that the Death Eater Rabastan Lestrange has been arrested in Peru. We ask that you testify against him during his trial on Thursday 15th July 1999. We await your owl in confirmation. Approved and Signed, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister for Magic." He says, word for word. He had received the same letter, with a few changed details, since the end war.

"Oh, I apologise Mr Malfoy. I was unaware that you were still receiving them. I'll send a message to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement straight away to inform them." The Minister reaches across his desk for a quill and a piece of paper.

Before he can reach them, though, Draco flicks his wrist and Rabastan Lestrange's article fly out of his cloak pocket, slamming down on the desk, making the Minister jump. He picks the article up, giving it a quick read until he recognises it.

"I don't understand." He states, glancing up at him in confusion.

"Rabastan Lestrange. My Aunt, Bellatrix Lestrange's brother-in-law. He would do anything to impress his older brother, Rodolphus Lestrange. Including murdering a family of six muggles in their own home, making the mother watch as he killed her husband, then her children, eldest to youngest." Draco states.

"W-what-" He starts but he doesn't let him finish.

With another flick of his wrist, another article slams down on the desk on top of Lestrange's.

"Erik Jugson, the snatcher who murdered Edward Tonks after weeks of torture by the cruciatus curse when he wouldn't tell him where Potter, Weasley and Hermione were hiding." Another flick of his wrist and another article. "Maximus Gibbon, the snatcher who tortured Dirk Cresswell with the cruciatus curse for a week. In the end, Cresswell was so sleep deprived he suffered a heart attack and died." Another flick, another article. "Walden Macnair lost count himself of how many muggles he murdered but will always remember Halloween of 1998 when he killed seventeen muggles in one night and was rewarded by the Dark Lord himself in my library."

He goes to flick his wrist by the Minister holds his hands up, stopping him.

"What are you doing?" He asks angrily, standing up from his chair, leaning towards him across his desk.

Draco simply sneers at him, flicking his wrist once more as all the rest of the articles fly out of his cloak pocket and fan out across his desk.

"I know enough about each one of these Death Eaters for you to sentence each of them to Azkaban for at least the next twenty years." He states.

"And you're willing to testify against them all?" He questions doubtfully, standing taller.

Draco nods once. "Of course, my services don't come for free." He smiles him.

The Minister sighs as he sits back down in his desk chair.

"Of course not." He mutters to himself. "When I was elected into office, I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those ministers who would do whatever the highest bidders asks for." He stares him straight in the eye.

Draco scoffs. "I don't need your money." He almost laughs.

"What do you want then?" He asks confused.

"I want unsupervised, unlimited access to the Department of Registration's archives with my wife." He states seriously, staring the Minister straight in the eye.

"What do you want with the archives?" He asks becoming increasingly more confused.

"It's best if you don't ask too many questions," Draco smirks at him.

"If you want this deal then you'll tell me what you want with the Department of Registration." He says sternly.

"If you must know, my mother mentioned something about the legality of one of my ancestors. I simply wish to investigate." He lies easily.

"Is that all?" The Minister questions. "You want to look in the Malfoy files?"

"Not just the Malfoy's. Also, the Black's and any other family name my blood may be linked too." He explains.

The Minister stares at him for a while before standing up again and holding his hand out. "We have a deal." He announces.

"I'm glad we could come to an agreement," Draco says as he shakes the Minister's hand.

The Minister sits back down in his chair and quickly writes a letter to the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department which he signs then duplicates.

"Simply show this letter to the Head of the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department and they'll show you to the archives." He explains as Draco reads through the letter. "I'll send him a copy so he knows to expect you both and I'll let the Department of Magical Law Enforcement know that you'll be testifying in the upcoming Lestrange case." He smiles at him. "May I keep these?" He adds, pointing down at the article fanned out on his desk.

"Of course." He smiles politely at the Minister. "I assume you'll let me know when the trials for the twenty others are."

"Yes, I'll assure you receive a letter with the details of each case." The Minister nods standing up and holding his hands out once more. "Thank you, Mr Malfoy."

"No need to thank me, Minister," Draco told him as he shook his hand. "We both got what we want out of this." He smirks before grabbing his cloak, turning on his heel and walking out of his office.

"Thank you for your help, Miss Ivory." He nods at her as he leaves, fastening his cloak as he heads towards the lift.

There's no one occupying it when it finally reaches the top floor so he stands in the middle and rides it down a few floors before it stops for someone. He moves over to the side to allow them in, earning himself a shocked stare which follows him down to the ground floor. He stalks back through the foyer and out of the main doors where he disapparates to the estate's gate.

Hermione's lounging on the couch reading a book when she hears the key in the front door. She places her book on the coffee table as she jumps to her feet and runs to the door.

"Where have you been?" She asks before Draco can even enter the house. "And what are you wearing?" She asks, looking him up and down. He looks scarily like his father.

Instead of answering her, he genuinely smiles at her and hands her a piece of parchment, which she reads as he removes his shoes.

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Ministry of Magic

London

England

Thursday 9th June 1999

Alexander Vyner,

I hereby give Mr Draco Malfoy and Ms Hermione Granger unsupervised and unlimited access to the Ministerial Wizarding Register Department's archives. They will present you with a duplication of this letter. You will escort them to the archives then duly leave them.

Approved and signed by

Kingsley Shacklebolt

Minister for Magic

Hermione rereads the letter a few times before looking up at Draco confused.

"You went to the Ministry?" She asks. "By yourself?" She adds. "I don't understand." She admits, rereading the letter again.

He leads her into the kitchen where he puts the kettle on with a yawn.

"Draco, what have you done?" She demands him to tell her.

"Exactly what you were going to do." He tells her, turning around to face her.

"Okay, why did you go alone?" She asks next.

"Bribery is an imprisonable offence, Hermione. If we'd gone together and it hadn't worked, we both could have been sentenced to Azkaban for a minimum of five years." He explains.

She'd known it was an imprisonable offence but she hadn't known how long the sentence would have been. She'd thought twelve months at the most. Why would he risk being sent to Azkaban with his father?

"Why did you risk it?" She asks.

"We need access to those archives and if it's between both of us going to Azkaban or just me then I'd rather risk just myself." He admits, turning around to make himself a cup of tea. "Do you want one?" He asks her.

"No thank you." She mutters. "So you're going to testify against Rabastan Lestrange?" She asks him but he scoffs.

"Lestrange wouldn't have been enough." He shakes his head. "I'm testifying in twenty-one upcoming trials." He admits. "Including the father of one of my best friends." He sighs, turning back around. "Theo's." He adds when he notices her confusion. "He's been on the run since the end of the war. He was arrested last month."

"Twenty-one." She repeats. "Are you sure you want to do this, Draco?"

"Of course I don't but we need to get into those archives and this was our best chance." He tells her as he sips at his tea.

"Well thank you." She smiles at him. "For taking the risk for us." She adds as she steps towards him and pulls him into a hug. "I appreciate it."

"You're welcome." He tells her as he hugs her back with one arm.

"I guess we don't need to visit Audrey today then." She mentions. "I think this is the first time since the ceremony that we've got nothing planned." She adds.

"I didn't get any sleep last night so I'm going to take a nap," Draco tells her with another yawn.

"Come on then, I'll read my book in bed for a few hours." She pulls him by the hand into the living room, where she grabs her book then guides him up the stairs into their bedroom.

She climbs on their bed, sitting atop the quilt cover as she watches Draco unbutton his robes.

"You look too much like your father in that." She admits.

"That's what I was hoping for. I needed to look intimidating." He tells her.

"Well, it works." She mutters.

She politely averts her eyes as he pulls on his pyjamas then climbs into bed. Hermione props her pillows up against the headboard for her to lean against as she reads. It only takes Draco a few minutes to fall asleep. She manages to read a just over one hundred pages before he wakes up three hours later.

"How are you feeling?" She asks him, laying her book on her bedside table.

"Not much better." He yawns. "But if I sleep any longer I won't sleep again tonight." He mumbles as he sits up and stretches.

"I was thinking we could go visit Harry and Ginny this afternoon." She suggests earning her a glare. "Come on Draco, they were more than friendly on Monday." She turns to face him, pouting.

"They were but it doesn't mean we're friends and I want to visit them outside of family occasions." He tells her, looking away.

"I'm making an effort with Blaise." She tries to convince him.

"You like Blaise." He points out.

"Yes, and if you got to know Harry and Ginny, you'd like them too." She pulls on his arm for him to look at her. "They're two of my best friends." She adds.

"Fine, but I'm not staying for long." He gives in. "I need to visit Theo afterwards." He tells her.

"Perfect, then we can come home for dinner." She tells him.

Hermione heads downstairs to feed Athena, grab her bag and pull her shoes on whilst Draco gets dressed again. It's not until they've stepped out of the house and locked the door behind them that Hermione realises that she doesn't actually know where Harry and Ginny live. She suggests they ask George since she knows where he lives and they set off for Epsilon Street.

She knocks on George's front door then wait patiently for someone to answer. Angelina answers a minute or so later, wearing an apron covered in flour.

"Oh, hi." She greets them.

"Hi, Angelina." She greets her in return whereas Draco simply nods. "Is George in?" She asks.

"No, he's at work." She replies. "Anything I can help you with?"

"You don't happen to know Harry and Ginny's address, do you?" She asks her hopefully.

"Yeah, they live in 5D." She answers. "How's your head Draco?" She smiles at him.

"I've been left with a scar but I'm fine." He tells her.

"It's was nice seeing you but I've got a cake in the oven that I really need to check." She excuses herself.

"Of course, we'll probably see you at the Burrow again sometime soon," Hermione says before they set off down Epsilon Street towards Delta Street.

When they reach 5D, Hermione knocks on the door and not long after Harry answers wearing his pyjamas and a long dressing gown wrapped around him. He pushes his glasses up his nose as he takes them in.

"Oh, hi guys, what are you doing here?" He yawns.

"Are you alright, Harry?" Hermione asks concernedly as she notices his pale face and red, blotchy eyes.

"Hmm, oh, yeah. Ginny's… not feeling very well. She was up all night being sick. She's gone to visit Molly for some of her sickness potion. Apparently, it works wonders." He explains with a small smile. "Do you wanna come in?" He asks opening the door.

"Thanks, do you want me to make you a cup of tea?" She asks as they follow him through into the living room.

"Hey, this is my house, I should be offering to make you a drink. Sit down, I'll make a pot of tea." He rushes into the kitchen.

Hermione looks at Draco in confusion as he sits on the couch.

"What's wrong with him?" He asks as he glances around the room.

"I don't know, I'll be back in a minute." She mutters as she goes into the kitchen.

"Harry?" She says and he turns around with an uneven smile. "Are you sure you're alright?" She asks.

"Yeah, I'm just really tired." He proves his point with a yawn.

"What's wrong with Ginny?" She questions curiously.

Harry smiles as he turns around to pour the boiling water into the teapot. "I- I'm not sure. Probably just the flu or a fever." He shrugs. "She's sure that Molly's sickness potion will help." He adds.

"Harry," She says seriously. "Is Ginny… pregnant?" She asks trying to hide her excitement.

"What, no. Of course not Hermione." He scoffs with his back to her.

She places a hand on his shoulder and he turns around with a massive smile on his face. Hermione can't help smiling too.

"You can't tell anyone, Hermione. Promise me." He whispers. "She'll kill me if she finds out I told you." He frowns suddenly.

"You still haven't actually told me." She can't stop smiling. "Just tell me how long because I know it's more than a week." She raises an eyebrow.

Harry sighs deeply before whispering, "Nearly three months."

Hermione gasps, shocked. "Nearly three months?" She whispers back as she does the maths. "February half term." She gasps again as she hits Harry's arm. "At school." She adds.

"No, in the shrieking shack." He smirks, looking almost proud.

"What would the marauders say?" She shakes her head.

"To be honest, I think they'll be proud or at least find it funny." He admits.

Hermione sighs. "You're probably right." She shakes her head again.

"Please don't tell anyone." He begs her to which she nods in agreement.

Harry smiles as he turns back around, placing the teapot, cups and sugar bowl on a tray.

Chapter Text

 


"Wait, Harry," She places her hand on his forearm to stop him moving. "Do you know where Dennis Creevey lives?" She whispers in question.

"Dennis Creevey?" He wonders curiously.

"Yeah, didn't you go to his house last summer?" She asks hopefully.

Harry frowns at her for a moment. "Yeah, I went to Colin's funeral last May then there was a small buffet at his house." He pauses to angle his head like a confused dog. "Why do you want to know where he lives?" He questions her.

"Draco wants to visit him." She admits quietly.

"What does he want to visit Dennis for?" Harry glares towards the door where Draco was still sat in the living room.

"It's not really any of our business, it's between Dennis and Draco." She admits.

He crosses his arms. "Shouldn't we know why he wants to see Dennis? He was one of us. He was a member of the DA." He arches an eyebrow.

Hermione rolls her eyes. "Harry, I loved being a part of the DA and It's something that will always tie us together but times have moved on. We need to move on with them. You were getting on with him on Monday, don't let whatever has happened in the past change that." She explains.

"But what if he-" Harry starts but she cuts him off.

"I'll be with him when we go to Dennis' house. It's important to Draco so it's important to me." She tells him.

Harry stares at her for a while, just watching her. She stands strong, not breaking eye-contact until he sighs.

"Let me have a look for the address." He mutters as he rummages through a few draws. "And if Dennis comes to me angrily, I'm blaming you completely." He tells her, half-jokingly, as he pulls out his address book.

He writes Dennis Creevey's address on a blank page then rips it out for her. She folds it up, placing it in her purse, thanking Harry with a smile.

"Can we have our tea now?" He asks her with a half-smile.

"You only have two non-Quidditch books between you and Ginny," Draco states in disbelief as he reads the spines of the few books residing on their bookshelf.

"Sorry, we aren't nerds like you two." He mutters. "No offence, of course." He adds as an apology.

"Offence already taken." Draco half-smiles, half-smirks at him as he sits down on the couch next to Hermione.

"So what have you two been up to since I last saw you?" He asks politely. "Oh, how's your head Draco?" He asks as though he just remembered.

"It's fine." He subconsciously flattens his hair down over it.

"It looks alright. Not much of a scar." He points out, leaning closer to get a look.

"It looks worse without the make-up," Hermione states before taking a sip of her tea.

He sends her a quick glare as Harry laughs.

"You're wearing make-up?" He asks as he chuckles.

"It's very effective at hiding scars." He mentions seriously before taking a sip from his own cup of tea. He refuses to let Harry Potter make him feel embarrassed about wearing make-up to cover a scar that was partly his fault in the first place.

"Anyway, how have you been?" Harry asks again.

"We've been great actually. We went to my uncle's barbeque on Tuesday night then yesterday we did a bit of shopping then went to Isobel and William's party. We haven't actually been up to much." Hermione explains.

"Ginny and I are planning a party next Wednesday at the Burrow actually. We'll send you an owl with more information later." Harry mentions, smiling down at his cup of tea.

Draco never thought he'd ever be this busy once he left Hogwarts. He's not complaining since it's far better than the alternative but it does get tiring having such a full schedule.

"Speaking of Ginny," Hermione says, making Harry pause with his cup half-way to his mouth. "What have you both been up to recently?" She asks.

Harry chuckles nervously for a second. "Nothing really. We've just been getting settled in here and visiting the family." He mentions. "How are you getting on with Narcissa?" He asks suddenly.

Hermione frowns as she sips at her tea, leaving Draco to answer.

"We haven't seen her for a while." He tells him. "We've been busy." He adds as an explanation.

Harry seems to get the hint that they don't want to talk about it because he changes the topic of conversation.

"Luna and Blaise came over yesterday, they seem to be happy." He mentions with a shrug.

"They've been together since just before Christmas." Draco points out.

"Have they?" Harry looks slightly surprised but not too shocked. "I'm surprised they kept it a secret for so long."

"They didn't try too hard," Draco tells them. "Not like two of your friends." He reminded them.

"Of course, Dean and Seamus." Harry laughs. "Ginny and I bumped into them at the Pentagon the other day, how did we not know they'd been together for four years?" He continues to laugh.

"Four years?" Draco questions in shock. He assumed they'd only been together since the war. A lot of couples had gotten together after the war, not all had lasted but the majority of them were still together, even with the marriage decree.

"Yeah, I actually caught them cuddling on the couch once when I came back from the library early in the morning. I thought they'd just fallen asleep next to each other, then fallen against each other." Hermione mentioned.

"What about Pavarti?" Harry asks. "She and Charlotte didn't even take the vow. I'm surprised there hasn't been anything in the Prophet about it." He adds.

"I'm not sure about them," Hermione admits. "But I know Abigail Cummings, from the year above ours, is into girls. I caught her in a broom cupboard with another girl when we were in our fifth year." She mentions.

"Why didn't you tell anyone," Harry asks as though it was vital information he should have known back at Hogwarts.

"It wasn't my business to tell anyone, Harry." She says pointedly.

"What about Penelope though?" He asks her. "Didn't she go out with Percy for three years?" He asks, eyes wide.

"You don't know what her sexuality is." Draco points out.

"And it's none of your business, Harr," Hermione adds. "You know I'm glad your father's map only caters for Hogwarts. You'd never have it out from under your nose if it worked everywhere else." She tells him.

"What map?" Draco asks curiously.

"My Dad and his friends, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, created a map that shows the whereabouts of anyone who's within the walls of Hogwarts. It's called the Marauder's Map. I received it in our third year." Harry explains, looking proud.

"Then spent the next three years using it to sneak around the school after hours and stalking you." Hermione points out with a laugh.

Draco frowned at Harry for a few seconds as the other man blushed slightly.

"Should I be looking into getting a restraining order?" He asks jokingly.

"I suspected you were up to something and I was right." He explains pointedly.

"And what if the Dark Lord had been able to get hold of this map. I know how careless you are, Potter." He smirks at Harry.

"You don't know anything about me, Malfoy." Harry spits with a glare.

"You forget that I've seen you in potions." Draco laughs. "Very careless."

"Well, yo-" Harry starts.

"STOP IT!" Hermione shouts, gaining both their attention. "You sound like you're back at Hogwarts before the war. I thought we'd moved on past this." She glares at them both.

Guilt washes over Draco as he realises Hermione's angry at him. She's right. Things have changed and it's unhealthy to live in the past.

"I apologise, Harry." He tries to smile at him but he's sure it looks more like a grimace. "I seem to have forgotten myself there for a moment." He adds.

"No problem, I apologise too." Harry apologises with an actual smile. "I guess I'm just tired."

"We should get going and leave you to catch up on your sleep," Hermione suggests, placing everyone's cups back on the tray and taking it back into the kitchen.

Draco watches her as she walks away then goes to looking at the rug underneath the coffee table. It was a very Gryffindor with a woven red and gold pattern. When Hermione returns, both Draco and Harry stand up. Harry walks them to the front door where Hermione thanks them for having them before leaving. He hears Harry locking the door behind them, probably so he can head back to bed.

"Are we off to Theo's now?" Hermione asks, making his stomach drop.

He'd forgotten about visiting Theo. He's not looking forward to it but it's something he needs to do by himself.

"I think I should go by myself to visit Theo's." He tells her as they set off towards Gamma Street.

She frowns slightly but nods. "I'll get dinner started." She gives him a sincere smile then takes his hands.

When they reach Theo's house, Hermione squeezes his hand in encouragement, kisses his cheek then carries on to their house, two doors away. He waits until he hears her shut the door before taking a deep breath and knocking on Theo's door.

Lisa answers the door with a smile. "Hi Draco, are you here to see Theo?" She asks.

"Yeah, is he at home?" He peers around her but the living room door is closed so he can't see further into the house.

"Yeah, he's in the garden, just go straight through." She opens the door wider for him to enter then leaves him in the hall as she heads upstairs.

Draco walks through the living room and kitchen to the garden where he finds Theo reading a book at the garden table. He looks up when he hears someone step outside then smiles in surprise to see him stood there.

"Draco, I wasn't expecting to see you until Gregory and Megan's leaving party." He tells him as he motions for him to sit down at one of the vacant seats, which he does.

"Something's happened that I would like to tell you about in person before you read about it in the Daily Prophet," Draco tells him, not wanting to stall.

"There's no chance of that happening." Theo chuckles, placing his book down on the table. "I've stopped reading it since the Partner Ceremony. It's nothing but gossip these days about either you and Hermione or the Potters." He states with an eye roll.

"Really?" He asks. "Isn't there any real news they can report on?" He wonders rhetorically.

"Apparently not. Lisa says she reads it to keep up to date with everything that's going on but really she just wants to know all the gossip before her friends can tell her." He chuckles. "She tells me some things, like how you and Hermione were caught holding hands the other day." He smirks at him.

"How scandalous." Draco rolls his eyes making Theo laugh.

"So what's happened that you need to tell me about in person?" Theo puts them both on track.

Draco tries to smile at his friend reassuringly but he's sure it's not working so he stops.

"The Ministry has started sending me owls again." He starts.

"They never take the hint, do they?" He jokes.

"No, they don't, but this time it just so happens that I need something off the ministry as well." He explains, hoping Theo gets the idea. "I went to visit the Minister this morning to discuss a deal that would benefit the both of us." He carries on as Theo frowns at him in confusion. "We came to a quick understanding. I would testify against the Death Eaters I knew and in return Kingsley would give me what I need."

"What exactly is it you need from the Minister?" He asks focusing on the wrong point.

"It's best if you don't know in case it backfires on me." He explains.

Theo quirk a curious eyebrow. "Could this end you in Azkaban?"

"Very much so," Draco smirks.

"Draco!" Theo sighs. "Why would you risk ending up there with your father?" He leans forward to whisper, glancing around to make sure they're alone.

"If I didn't do this then Hermione would have done it. I'd much rather risk my reputation than hers. She has much more to lose than I do." He explains, leaning closer to Theo. "It's important to both of us that we get what we need from the Ministry and we've got it."

"But at what cost?" Theo asks.

"I told you, Kingsley needs me to testify against some Death Eaters." He reiterates.

"Then in twenty years when you and Hermione are happily married with two kids or whatever, they get released from Azkaban and come straight for you and your family. Did you even think this through properly?" Theo shouts at him in a whisper.

"We'll deal with that when the time comes," Draco tells him.

"Are you sure the war didn't effect that brain of yours?" He asks, knocking on his head.

Draco pushes his hand away, annoyed at his friend for blowing things out of proportion. He hasn't even told him that he's testifying against his father yet.

"Theo, what I came here to tell you is that the Ministry has asked me to testify against your father." He breaks the news to him, watching his friends face for what emotion he's feeling.

He looks taken aback for a moment before becoming confused, then annoyed.

"And I'm sorry but I need to do it or the deal with Kingsley is off." He adds as an explanation.

"I didn't even know he'd been caught," Theo tells him. "Where did they arrest him?" He asks curiously.

"He was hiding in a remote Chinese village. The Ministry was tipped off from a local wizard who recognised his dark mark. He was arrested two hours later." Draco tells him.

"I haven't heard from him since last August when he sent me a birthday present and I haven't heard anything about him since November when he was allegedly spotted in Guernsey." He admitted. "Why wouldn't the Ministry contact me to ask me to testify or at least let me know he's been arrested?" He wonders aloud.

"I don't know, Theo. Would you testify against him?" He asks curiously.

"Merlin, no. I never want to see him again. Can you make sure he's sent away for as long as possible?" Theo begs him.

Draco nods with a small reassuring smile. "I thought you'd be angry at me for testifying against him."

"No, of course not, Draco." He chuckles but the joy doesn't quite reach his eyes. "I'm glad someone is otherwise I might have had to do it."

"Theo, dinner's ready." Lisa's voice calls through from the kitchen.

"I'll take my leave then." Draco stands up with Theo who gives him a quick hug and pat on the back before they head back into the house.

"Draco, would you like to join us for dinner?" Lisa asks him with a smile.

"Thank you for the offer but Hermione's made something for our dinner so I should be heading home now." He nods his thanks then lets himself out of their house.

On the short walk back to his and Hermione's house, he thinks back to what had just happened. Theo had been more upset about him risking his reputation than he was about him testifying against his father. He tried to think if Theo ever mentioned his father during their final year at Hogwarts but the only thing that comes to mind is when he questioned him on who was sending him letters every day and he told him his mother was very lonely without anyone in the house.

Draco lets himself into their house and removes his shoes in the hall, which had become almost second nature to him now, before heading through into the kitchen to find Hermione stood stirring a large pan of something and talking to Athena.

She doesn't seem to have heard him come in so he leans against the doorframe, watching as she goes from pan to pan stirring the different contents and chatting to Athena about something or other. He moves from one foot to the other, making the floorboard creak and Hermione spin around.

"Oh, Draco. When did you get back?" She asks smiling at him as he makes his way over to her.

"A few minutes ago." He answers as he wraps his hand around hers and stirs the pan with pasta in it. "Pasta?" He questions as he peers into the other pan to find a tomato sauce and some sort of meat.

"Yeah, I felt like a tuna pasta bake. Have you ever had it before?" She asks him.

He shakes his head. "But it smells delicious," He tells her, removing his hand from hers and heading back towards the living room door. "I'm going to go change." He tells her as he leaves.

Hermione's hand still feels warm from where Draco had been touching it. She tries to ignore the warmth but can't. He keeps doing these little things that leave her mesmerised. She turns back to their dinner and continues to stir the tuna tomato sauce.

Once it's cooked, she divides it between two plates and sets them on the table alongside a bottle of wine. Draco returns a few minutes later wearing pyjama trousers and a t-shirt. He'd also washed his hair free from whatever he had used to make it slick back. It left his hair falling in front of his eyes.

"Your hair's getting long." She comments as they sit down at the table.

"I noticed that this morning." He mentions as he unscrews a bottle of wine and pours out a small glass for them both. "Mitty will have to cut it soon." He adds.

"Not too short, though." She tells him.

He stares at her through narrowed eyes for a moment. "Do you prefer men with long hair?" He asks her, trying to sound nonchalant.

"I just think most more handsome with longer hair." She shrugs as she digs into her dinner.

"Fourth year must have been a great time for you," Draco mutters as he stares at his forkful of pasta before tentatively nibbles at it.

"Why fourth year?" She asks confusedly.

"Nearly all the boys had long hair that year. I know Theo and I did as well as half the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs." He explains as he continues to eat. "This is very nice." He motions with his fork.

"Thank you." She smiles. "Both Harry and Ron had shoulder length hair but it didn't suit them very well. It definitely worked for Fred and George though. Most of the Gryffindor's were all over them." She chuckles as she remembers a second year offering them both some of her Christmas chocolate.

"Really?" He raises an eyebrow at her. "Most of the girls." He smirks at her half-joking.

Hermione huffs out a laugh. "No Draco, they're like my brothers. I used to think of the whole Weasley clan as my wizarding family. It's easier to talk to them about the wizarding world because they're a part of it whereas my parents only have limited knowledge and my extended family don't know anything about it." She explains to which he nods in understanding.

"Do you think you'll ever tell your extended family about the wizarding world?" Draco asks her, making her pause mid-bite.

She knows she'll have to tell one of her cousins if she finds out one of them does have magical blood. If it's Sophie then she'll have to tell her Uncle David but if it's Lauren or Craig then she'll most likely have to tell her grandparents as well as her Aunt Louise.

"I suppose I'm going to have to tell some of them soon enough if we find out one of my cousins has magical blood." She admits.

Draco nods again, obviously wanting to say something that he's holding back. She narrows her eyes questioningly at him, urging him to speak.

"I assume it will be difficult to admit that you've been keeping such an important part of your life a secret from them." He says.

"I never made that decision, nor my parents. The Ministry Official who came to visit me with my Hogwarts acceptance letter told us it would be best if we didn't tell anyone who didn't need to know." Hermione explains, feeling hurt that Draco would assume that she would purposefully keep this from her grandparents especially.

"The wizarding world was entirely new and probably scary to you. When a Ministry Official suggests you keep our world a secret you do as you're told." He says, making her feel better. "Your family will probably feel the same when you tell them." He adds as they finish their dinner and start clearing the table.

Hermione starts to wash up the dishes and cutlery as Draco goes into the living room to feed Athena. He's right as he usually is. If- when she tells her family, they're going to feel hurt, as though she didn't trust them not to tell anyone else. It's like she's been lying to them all these years. She places the last fork on the drying rack as she hears Draco head upstairs so she follows him into their bedroom where she finds him taking his shirt off. He doesn't even bat an eyelid when he notices her entering the bedroom.

Hermione, not entirely comfortable with getting changed in front of him yet, takes her pyjamas into the bathroom to get changed into before brushing her teeth. She returns a few minutes later to find Draco lounging on top of their quilt, against the headboard as he reads Dracula. It's been a few days since she's seen him reading it and had assumed he'd gotten bored of it. She climbs onto her side of the bed and curls up under the quilts.

She watches Draco read for a few minutes until he seems to notice and he shuts the book with a sigh, placing it on his bedside table. He shuffles down under the quilt until he's looking Hermione in the eye. He doesn't say anything, instead, waiting for her to speak.

"You're right." She tells him to which he smiles at her. She ignores it and carried on. "At first, we didn't tell my family because the Ministry Official told us not too but once I found out about Voldemort, I couldn't risk telling them and the Death Eaters somehow finding out and killing them. I was just trying to protect them." She admits with a sigh. "But they're not going to see it that way are they?" She asks rhetorically. "They'll think I've been lying to them all these years, which I technically have been."

"They'll understand." Draco tries to reassure her.

"It's not all lies. I did attend a boarding school in Scotland, it just so happens that I learnt potions and transfiguration there instead of maths and English." She points out with a sigh. "That's the only truth. I didn't get into Hogwarts on a scholarship, I didn't miss a year of school because of the governors, I'm not going to university in Edinburgh and our entire love story is fake." She complains, with tears in her eyes. "They're going to hate me. They'll never forgive me." She begins to cry, trying to hide her face in the quilt.

There's a split second of awkward atmosphere between Hermione starting crying and Draco remembering what she told him to do when she's crying. He reaches out and pulls her closer towards him where he wraps his arms around her. She nuzzles her head into his chest as she continues to cry and he can feel her tears on his naked chest.

"I've met your grandparents, Hermione and I don't think they could ever hate you. They might feel a little hurt but in the end, they'll still love you just as much if not more than they do now. Especially if you tell them about the war and everything you did. Just maybe don't mention that you're married to one of the men you were fighting against." He tells her, making her chuckle against his chest. "It won't change their opinion of you but it will change their opinion of me and despite everything I've been brought up to believe, they are some of the most caring, loving people I've had the pleasure of meeting. Beaten only just by Molly Weasley." He carries on talking until she's stopped crying.

He feels her pull away slightly so he slackens their embrace enough for her to release her arms and wrap them around his waist.

"I've found myself wishing recently that Voldemort never existed for the simple reason that I could have gotten to know this you at Hogwarts and we could have been friends as children." She admits, making a warmth spread through his chest. "But I think everything that's happened, had to happen for us to get to where we are now." She adds with a small sigh.

"Everything happens for a reason." He tells her as he leans forward to kiss her forehead then rest his chin on the top of her hair. "I'm just glad that we are where we are now." He mutters, closing his eyes and just taking in the moment.

Hermione moves her head back slightly. He assumes she's looking up at him, until suddenly, without warning, he feels the light touch of her lips against his own. His eyes flicker open to find Hermione staring back at him. Neither of them moves until Draco breaks contact by a few millimetres.

"Hermione..?" He starts to question her but he's not sure what to say.

"Sorry." She mutters, starting to pull away but he wraps his arms around her tighter, keeping her pressed against him. She narrows her eyes at him suspiciously. "I seem to remember you telling me that I didn't exactly need permission to kiss you." She smirks at him.

"And I seem to remember you telling me not to push my luck." He returns, earning him a laugh.

"Maybe… I'm pushing my luck now." She whispers, looking down at his lips for a second.

"Not in the slightest, Hermione." He whispers, afraid of breaking the moment by speaking too loudly.

She stares into his eyes for a while, seemingly gaging his thoughts before she leans forward again, capturing his lips with her own. Gently applying more pressure, he realises how soft her lips are against his. How hadn't he noticed this before? Attentively, Hermione runs one of her hands from his hip up along his scarred chest and up into his hair, sending a shiver down his spine. Using her grip on his hair, she pulls him closer, opening her mouth to deepen their kiss into something completely new. Draco uses their embrace to pull her closer still until their bodies are flush against each other. Suddenly, there's a sharp pain shooting across his bottom lip. He realises a few seconds before she pulls away that she bit him. Accidentally or purposely, he's not sure.

"Sorry." She gasps breathlessly as she sits up, away from him.

Draco, not ready for the kiss to be over yet, sits up follows her to take her lips once more, bring a hand to the nape of her neck to pull her closer for a minute or so before breaking apart again.

"Forgiven." He mutters as she rests her forehead against his.

Licking his lips, he discovers that they taste like toothpaste which makes him laugh breathlessly.

"What?" Hermione questions him, sounding nervous.

"You taste like toothpaste." He explains, eyes still closed.

He feels Hermione cup his cheek in her hand before chastely kissing him.

"And you taste like tuna pasta bake." She whispers against his lips. "Go brush your teeth." She tells him, untangling herself from his embrace and flopping down onto her pillow.

Not wanting to get out of bed or leave Hermione, he grabs his wand from next to Dracula on his bedside table and charms his teeth clean. It earns him a sigh and a roll of her eyes from Hermione but as soon as he lies back down, she scoots over towards him, pressing her body against the side of his. He lifts his arm up allowing her to cuddle closer as he wraps his arm around her back and rests his other hand atop of hers which she positioned on top of his chest.

Draco contently sighs as he kisses the top of her head once more before closing his eyes and falling into a dreamless sleep.

Hermione wakes the next morning with the memory of the previous night in her thoughts. She'd kissed him. Again. This time, though, he'd kissed her back. Quite enthusiastically at that. She smiles to herself as she realises she's still encased in Draco's arms as the small spoon. She tightens her hands around his own which rest around her stomach. She wonders if he's awake yet.

"Draco!" She whispers quietly.

She gets a warm breath of air against the back of her neck as a reply which makes her shiver. She slowly shuffles around until she's face to face with him. She hasn't really had the opportunity to look at Draco properly and she hadn't noticed certain aspects of his face. She hadn't noticed how long and thick his eyelashes are before. Or how he has a few freckles hidden in his eyebrows which she could just about make out this close to him.

Suddenly, Draco opens his eyes then widens them in obvious shock. Hermione blushes at being caught staring at him but she can't stop. She abruptly sits up, pulling Draco into a sitting position with her. With a wave of her hand, the lights in their bedroom come on brightly. She gently grabs the side of Draco's head, positioning him underneath light then stares at his eyes.

"What are you doing?" He asks frowning confusedly at her.

"Shush." She quietens her as she continues to look him in his eyes. "I thought your eyes were blue." She states, leaning closer to get a better look. "A really pale blue." She adds.

"They are pale blue." He tells her, trying to pull away from her grip.

"No, they're grey." She tells him. "They're like shiny, stainless steel." She smiles at him, finally looking at his whole face rather than just his eyes.

He's still frowning at her in confusion. "Thanks." He tells her sounding disappointed.

"They're very pretty." She mentions softly as he tries to pull away again. This time she lets him go but he doesn't move away.

He stares back at her as though silently questioning whether she's teasing him or not. "Okay." He says in disbelief as he climbs off the bed and heads into the bathroom.

Hermione sighs as she climbs off the bed as well. She dims the light with a wave of her hand as she opens their wardrobe to pick an outfit for the day. She was hoping to convince Draco to visit Dennis Creevey this morning and then they had Sophie's school play this afternoon at one o'clock. That reminds her that she needs to go get the tickets from her Uncle David's house.

Draco comes back into the bedroom as she's pulling on a pair of black jeans and a yellow floaty shirt. He gives her a small smile with a raised eyebrow as he takes her in then heads over to their wardrobe. She takes it as a compliment as she perches on the edge of the bed. She watches as he pulls on a black shirt and trousers.

"I need to take you muggle clothes shopping." She mentions as he fastens his buttons.

"What's wrong with my clothes?" He asks looking down at himself.

"Nothing, you suit them very well but most of them are very formal." She tells him. "Not exactly something muggles would wear to go food shopping or for a walk around the park." She mentions.

"Fine." He huffs. "What are we doing today?" He asks, grabbing a pair of socks and sitting next to Hermione to pull them on.

"It's Sophie's play this afternoon. We have to be at school for one o'clock but we need to go to my Uncle David's house for the tickets." She explains, waiting a few seconds before adding, "I was thinking that you might like to visit Dennis Creevey this morning."

Draco halts in his action, foot half in his sock, and turns to face her. "You said you didn't know where he lives." He says.

"I asked Harry yesterday. He went to Colin's funeral last summer." She tells him.

"You asked Harry." He repeats, looking paler than usual.

"Yes," She nods then realises what he's hinting at. "Oh, I told him it was important but none of his business." She explains.

Draco nods as he carries on pulling his socks on. "I suppose today is as good a day as any." He mutters as he stands up.

Hermione follows him down the stairs, into their kitchen. He puts the kettle on as Hermione grabs a few owl pellets for Athena.

As usual, Athena is excited by Hermione's presence as she chirps and flutters in circles around her head until she holds her hand out with the food pellets in it. She lands on her thumb and quickly nibbles the pellets before fluttering around the room again, happily stretching her wings.

She watches her for a moment before returning to the kitchen where Draco hands her a cup of tea and offers her a plate of toast. She takes a slice to eat with her tea as they lean against the counter tops.

"Maybe we could go shopping between visiting Dennis and watching Sophie's play." She suggests, sharing out the window to watch the sun make its way over the estate.

"Okay," He nods. "I'm not confident that we'll be welcome in Creevey's house." He tells her.

"If you're not then I'll talk to him, try to convince him to listen to you." She tries to reassure him but Draco shakes his head.

"You don't need to do that." He mumbles.

Hermione looks over at Draco. He's staring out of the window.

"He trusts me, he'll listen to me when I tell him that you won't hurt him and just want to talk." She walks over to him, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

He turns to face her, still not convinced.

"Both Dennis and Colin were a part of Dumbledore's Army. It's a bond we'll all share long after the war is a distant memory." She explains with a soft smile.

Draco nods, looking down at his tea. "We should get going then." He offers her a forced smile but she takes it anyway.

Hermione drinks the rest of her tea and toast, then heads upstairs to clean her teeth and brush her hair, pulling it up into a high ponytail. Draco follows her, cleaning his teeth next to her then leaning against the doorframe to watch her fix her hair.

"Ready?" She asks once she's done.

He simply nods in return, throwing on a light jacket as they head back downstairs and pull their shoes on. Hermione locks the door then takes Draco's hand in hers as they walk towards the gate. She gently rubs comforting circles on the back of his hands.

When they reach the gate, she looks him in the eye to ensure he really wants to do this. He nods his confirmation so she takes her wand out, casting a disillusionment on them both. This time, it should only last a few minutes. With a quick turn, they disapparate straight to Dennis Creevey's front door then stand and wait for the disillusionment charm to wear off.


 

Chapter Text

Draco takes the few minutes it takes for the disillusionment charm to wear off to glance around his surroundings. The Creevey's front garden has a large hedge around it, hiding both itself from the rest of the world and the rest of the world from itself. The house itself looked like any other muggle house. A front door with a large window to its left, then two more large windows upstairs. The door was painted Gryffindor red which made him think the Creevey brothers had asked their parents to paint it after they'd both been sorted into their house. He then noticed that the door knocker was a golden lion stood on its hindquarters which he took to confirm his suspicion.

Hermione squeezes his hand so he glances to his right only to find her looking back him. The disillusionment charm's worn off. With a deep breath to calm his nerves, he knocks on the door with his knuckles, refusing to use the Gryffindor style knocker. They wait a few seconds before a tall, slender man opens the door wearing an apron on top of a suit.

He smiles politely, looking between them both before he seems to recognise Hermione as his eyes widen and stay transfixed on her.

"Hermione Granger?" He questions, looking her up and down.

"Yes?" She replies uncertainly.

"Wow, I've heard so much about you from my sons. Colin sent multiple pictures of you and your friends through the years." He explains.

Hermione nods with a sad smile. "I'm deeply sorry about what happened to Colin. He didn't deserve to die the way he did. His bravery will never be forgotten, especially by the DA." She tells him.

Mr Creevey takes a deep breath as he looks up at the sky for a moment.

"Harry told me at the funeral. That he wasn't supposed to even be in the school. That he snuck back in to help his friends fight that evil man and his follows." He sniffs, blinking rapidly. "I would give almost anything to have my son back with me but knowing that he died bravely in a war, for a cause he believed in, helps with the grieving." He finally admits defeat as tears break from his eyes. He quickly wipes them away with the back of his hand.

"I'm sorry, I don't recognise you from any of Colin's pictures. Were you friends?" He asks, looking down at Draco.

He had no idea what to say. No sir, I wasn't your dead son's friend, in fact, I was one of the evil guy's followers who didn't stop the other followers from torturing your son in detention when I could easily have done so. Draco didn't think Mr Creevey would appreciate hearing that.

"This is Draco, my husband," Hermione answers for him once it's clear he doesn't know what to say.

"Okay," He sends him a quick smile before turning back to Hermione. "Are you here to see Dennis?" He asks.

"Yes, we are." Hermione smiles. "Is he home?" She asks, peering behind Mr Creevey.

"Yes, he's in his room." He sighs sadly. "He hasn't really left that bedroom since he got back two weeks ago. I know it's especially hard on him, losing not only his brother but his best friend, but I thought going back to the routine of school would help. Maybe it was too much, going back to school, after everything that happened there." Mr Creevey thinks aloud.

"He has many friends from the DA at school who know what he's going through and some who understand what he's going through. He was never alone and always had someone to talk to if he needed to. I think coming back to Hogwarts was probably the best decision you could have made." She quickly explains, obviously not wanting Dennis to miss out on his education. "Do you talk about Colin together?" She adds curiously.

"I don't like to bring him up too much. I don't think Dennis is ready yet." He says carefully, making sure his son doesn't hear him.

"Maybe you should start. Dennis could tell you more about what Colin was like at school. It might help both of you to talk about him." She suggests.

Mr Creevey nods as he thinks.

"Dennis' room is the first on the right." He tells them as he steps to the side to let them in.

Mr Creevey closes the door then leaves them in the hallway as he heads back into the kitchen.

"Are you ready?" Hermione asks him, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.

"Maybe you should go up first." He suggests. "I don't want to scare him." He adds when Hermione narrows her eyes suspiciously at him.

"Fine, you wait here." She tells him as she walks up the stairs.


Hermione pauses outside the door Mr Creevey told them was Dennis', although he needn't have bothered since the door had Dennis' name painted on it. Before she loses her nerve, she knocks on the door, awaiting an answer.

"Go away, Dad!" Dennis' voice grumbles through the door.

"It's not your Dad," Hermione calls back through.

There's silence on the other side for a few seconds before she hears the movement of fabric, the creak of a floorboard and the door swinging open to reveal a tired looking Dennis stood in front of her.

"Hermione!" He exclaims, frowning at her. "What are you doing in my house?" He asks her.

"Nice to see you too." She smiles at him kindly. "Do you want to maybe throw some trousers on?" She asks.

Dennis looks down at himself and seems to notice he's only wearing a pair of boxers and a t-shirt.

"Oh, sorry, wait a minute." He blushes as he slams his bedroom door in his face. He appears dressed in a pair of jeans less than a minute later. "So what are you doing here?" He asks, frowning at her again.

"I need to ask you to do something that you won't want to do." She tells him, giving him a warning that he's isn't going to like what she's about to say.

He narrows his eyes at her for a moment as he thinks then suddenly glares at her.

"Has this got anything to do with Malfoy?" He asks, which surprises her.

"How did you know?" She asks curiously.

Dennis shrugs. "You're married to him, right? I shouldn't be so surprised he roped you into this 'apology' thing he's trying to do." He finger quotes apology with an eye roll.

"Do you really think Draco Malfoy could ever rope me into anything I don't want to do?" She raises her eyebrow.

He looks down at the floor, nervously. "No, I suppose not." He mutters then looks back up into her eyes. "I don't want to see him." He tells her, eyes wide.

"You don't have to do anything you don't want to." She reassures him. "But Draco would like you to give him the opportunity to apologise and explain his actions." She tells him.

"Has he told you what he did?" Dennis whispers, eyes still wide as he looks down the hall nervously.

"No, it's between you and him." Hermione tried to explain.

"He stood there and did nothing." He whispers quickly, leaning closer to her. "He did nothing as the Carrows took it, in turn, to crucio my brother or imperio me so I had to watch. I'm not like you or Harry. I couldn't break free from the curse. I had to watch. I had to listen to his screams whilst Malfoy just stood there and did nothing." Dennis's voice has steadily increased into a shout.

"I'm not going to make excuses for him, Dennis. I only know some of what happened during the year Harry, Ron and I were searching for the Horcruxes but I do know that Draco has changed since the end of the war. I may only have been married to him for nine days but I've seen a lot of changes in those nine days." She tries to reassure him.

"Really?" He raises an eyebrow in disbelief.

Hermione gives him a smile. "This afternoon we're going shopping for some muggle clothes for him, then we're going to my muggle cousin's play." She continues to smile. "Does that sound like the Draco Malfoy you knew during the war?" She asks.

Dennis shakes his head as he thinks. "Fine." He huffs. "I'll listen to him for five minutes." He tells her. "But I want you there with me." He adds as he steps out of his bedroom. "And we wait for my dad to leave. I haven't told him anything about Colin's last year at Hogwarts. I don't want him to know what we went through. He wouldn't have let me back last year and there's no way he'd let me back this year." He mentions.

"Draco's stood in the hall." She tells him as they're about to walk down the stairs.

"Wait a moment." He mumbles as he quickly runs back into his bedroom.

He returns a few seconds later with his wand gripped tightly in his hand.

"Dennis! You can't use magic." She reprimands him but he shrugs.

"I won't feel safe with him around if I don't have it." He glares down the stairs at where Draco's waiting for them.

Hermione shakes her head. "He won't do anything." She tells him confidently as she makes her way downstairs.

"Just in case." He mutters as he follows her.


Draco could hear the odd word being said up the stairs between Hermione and Creevey. He tried not to listen but he couldn't help it when he started shouting.

"I'm not like you or Harry. I couldn't break free from the curse. I had to watch. I had to listen to his screams whilst Malfoy just stood there and did nothing." Creevey shouts as the memory returns to Draco.

The Carrows couldn't let Dennis off, punishment free, after his brother begged to take the cruciatus curse for him. Instead, they held Dennis under the imperius curse, making him watch every convulsion his brother's body made and every scream his brother made. The Carrows took turns on each brother, laughing at the cries from each one, whilst Draco just stood there. Dennis was right. He didn't do anything to stop it. He couldn't. Blame it on his Slytherin self-preservation or the beliefs Lucius instilled in him at a young age, but no matter how painful it was watching the Creevey brothers' punishments, it would be nothing compared to how painful his own punishment would be if he intervened.

Footsteps at the top of the stairs pull him out of his memories. He quickly pushes himself back against the front door. He didn't want to scare Creevey. He held his hands in front of his stomach so the boy would know he wasn't armed, although he doubts it would have made much of a difference since they were both aware that Draco was well versed in both wandless and nonverbal magic.

Hermione steps towards him, creating a barrier between himself and Creevey who looks crossed between shocked and angry at his presence.

"Dennis, are you finally up?" Mr Creevey calls from the kitchen, appearing in the door. "I'll just finish making my lunch then I'll be out of you and your guests' way." He announces, a little too happily.

"Yeah, I'll see you tonight." Dennis mutters, heading into the living room.

Hermione follows him into the room, so Draco follows behind her, not sure how this is going to work out.

"You can sit on the couch if you want." He offers, gesturing to the furniture with his wand.

"Thank you, Dennis." Hermione smiles at him, then pulls Draco by the hand over to the couch. "Sit down, Draco." She mutters as she takes her own seat.

Draco follows her order, perching on the edge of the couch next to her, ready to defend himself if he needs to. Creevey sits on the arm of the opposite armchair, glaring at him.

"We'll wait for my dad to leave if you don't mind." He says, not breaking eye contact.

"That's fine." Hermione answers.

There's a rather awkward silence for a few minutes where Creevey continues to glare at him, Draco stares back and Hermione taps her fingers against her knee.

"I thought your dad was a milkman." She mentions out of nowhere, breaking Creevey's glare on him as he turns to face Hermione.

"He was but he got a new job about three years ago." He explains before turning his gaze back on Draco.

A few minutes later, Mr Creevey sticks his head through the door to announce his departure. Creevey waits for the front door to slam shut before standing up. He paces back and forth in front of him a few times before going back to glaring at him.

"Go on then." He snaps angrily, stopping his paces in front of him.

Draco's eyes widen slightly. He didn't think he'd be let into the house let alone given the opportunity to apologise, so he hadn't prepared what to say.

Creevey rolls his eyes in annoyance at him. "Why did you just stand there and watch?" He questions angrily.

"What would you have wanted me to do?" He asks rhetorically but Creevey answers him anyway.

"You could have stopped them. I saw the way it affected you. You didn't like watching it any more than I did. Why didn't you stop them?" Creevey shouts at him.

"It wouldn't have worked. If I'd tried to stop them, I would have gotten my own punishment from them both. Be thankful your brother only had to suffer through one of them at a time, not both. I would have then gotten punished off Lucius. He would have tried to hide my failure from the Dark Lord but he would have found out somehow and either have his own way with me or grant one of the death eater's permissions to do his dirty work. The honest answer is that I was simply looking out for myself."

Dennis scoffs with a roll of his eyes.

"I know, how Slytherin of me but I wanted to survive the war. I didn't care which side won as long as I made it through." Draco explains. "And I'm very sorry about your brother. I wish I could apologise to him as well but I can't." He sighs. "I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I'm asking that you'll accept my apology."

Creevey stares at him for at least a minute, leaving Draco to prepare for any attack he might throw at him.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive you." He says, looking at the wall behind him.

Draco turns to find a portrait of Colin smiling down at everyone.

"If he was alive, it might have been easier but I don't even want to think about forgiving you. I accept that you're a selfish, cowardly sheep who cares about no one else but himself. That's the only acceptance you're going to get from me." He says softly as though looking at his brother's picture calmed him down. "Now I'd like it if you both leave, please." He adds walking towards the living room door.

Both he and Hermione stands up, following him into the hallway.


Hermione pauses in the hallway to give Creevey a quick hug.

"Thank you, Dennis." She tells him. "Make sure you keep in touch when you go back to Hogwarts." She adds.

"It won't be the same without most of the DA there." He says sadly.

"I might organise a little party for all of us to just get together again." She suggests, already making the plans in her head. "Do you still have your galleon?" She asks.

Dennis gives her a sly smile as he taps his chest. Hermione can just about make out the circular shape of a galleon.

"Luna made them into necklaces for those of us who stayed at school. It made it harder to lose and we could always feel the heat." He continues to smile at her.

"I never knew that." She frowns. "Does anyone else still wear there's?" She asks.

Dennis shrugs. "I think most people who do wear it as a keepsake. Something that still unites us all together." He explains.

"I'll send an owl as well then, just in case anyone's lost theirs or thrown it in a box somewhere." She laughs.

"I made sure Colin was wearing his when we buried him. It's why I still wear mine. It helps me feel connected to him still." Dennis admits.

"Dennis, you are connected to Colin in so many better ways than the DA. You have all your memories, feelings, pictures and so much more." She tells him.

"I know, but this helps." He admits, playing with the coin through his shirt.

"Okay, well, I'll see you soon." She tells him, giving him one more hug,

"I'll be waiting for the heat." He winks at her with a sad smile.

"I'll send an owl as well." She tells him as both she and Draco exit his house.

Once Dennis has shut the door on them, Hermione takes Draco's hand and disapparates them straight to the side path to her Uncle David's garden.

She unlocks her uncle's front door with the wave of a hand. "I think the tickets are under a magnet on the fridge." She mentions as she heads straight into the kitchen.

She grabs the two tickets off the fridge then turns to show Draco. "We've got the tickets now we have three hours to waste." She smiles at him. "I'm taking you shopping." She laughs when he rolls his eyes.

Hermione makes sure to lock the front door once they've left before taking Draco by the hand again and pulling him towards the side path where she disapparates them away.

They reappear in an unfamiliar alleyway. There's a very large, tall building to their left and a few smaller buildings to their left.

"Where are we?" Draco asks curiously as they walk towards the main street.

"The shopping centre we went to the other day. They've got quite a few clothes shops that we can look in." She explains.

He looks down at her with a frown. "I'm not using those moving stairs." He warns her.

"I know." She chuckles lightly, taking his hand in hers once again. "We'll take the lift or the normal stairs." She tells him.


Draco nods his thanks as they enter the shopping centre. He glances around in awe as he takes in every shop. He still doesn't understand how they managed to get that car into the shop. He shakes his head as they make their way to the lift, walking past two bakeries, a children's clothes shop, a shoe shop, a few domestic shops and a pet shop.

Hermione presses the up button on the side of the lift and the doors open instantly. They enter along with a woman, pushing a pram. She presses the button for the next floor. The young girl in the pram stares up at them both, eye wide. Draco stares back at her until they arrive on their floor. The woman exits first with her pram, the little girl giving them both a large smile as she waves her chubby hand at them. Hermione waves back whilst Draco sends her a smile.

"We'll start over in this shop." She announces, pulling him by the hand over towards the nearest shop.

The models in the window were either wearing loose blue jeans with large jumpers or loose blue jeans with large, plaid shirts.

"Is this what muggles think is fashionable?" He asks as they enter the shop.

"Yeah, I suppose so." She tells him as she glances around the shop. "I haven't exactly spent much time in the muggle world the past eight years." She explains, walking over to a rack of shirts.

She pulls out a few shirts, a green one and a plaid grey one, which he's thankful for until he notices a red plaid shirt in the middle. He might have been conditioned into hating the colour through house rivalry at Hogwarts but there's no way he'd ever let anyone catch him dead in a red shirt. Or red anything for that matter.

Draco follows Hermione over to the trouser racks where she makes her way through the different sizes and styles.

"What do you think about these?" She asks holding up a pair of light blue, baggy jeans.

He stares at the jeans in horror, then at Hermione, then back again before shaking his head with a forceful, "No." What would his friends say if they saw him wearing them? They'd probably think he finally lost his mind.

Hermione laughs to herself, putting them back on the rack.

"I think the darker jeans are quite nice." She mentions as she continues to look along the railings.

Draco follows next to her, checking his watch every few minutes whilst he waits Hermione to choose the right pair of trousers. He stifles a yawn as she finally pulls out a pair of black jeans that looked fitted.

"Great, are we done?" He asks, checking his watch once again.

"Yeah, I'm done." She chuckles. "The changing rooms are over there." She gestures over to the other side of the shop.

"The what?" He asks, looking over to where she pointed.

"The changing room." She reiterates. "We need to see what they look like when you're wearing them." She states obviously, guiding him over to the changing rooms.

Sighing deeply, Draco enters the changing room with the multiple items of clothing Hermione has chosen for him. He hangs them on the pegs in the room before unbuttoning his own black shirt, revealing his long, faint scars across his chest. He quickly pulls on one of the green shirts to hide them. He hates looking at them. They're a constant reminder of who he was back then. He doesn't blame Harry, at least not anymore. He deserved so much more from him, although when he looks at them for too long he does get angry. Who throws a curse at someone when they don't even know what it does. He could have died. Would much have changed if he had died? He stops that line of thought before it takes him someplace dark.

He changes his trousers for the pair of black jeans then pulls the curtain back to reveal his outfit to Hermione, who's sat on a stool next to a full-length mirror. He eyes widen as she smiles brightly at him.

"That looks great." She comments as she walks up to him. "Maybe do the top button up." She suggests as she fiddles with the button.

Her warm fingers tickle him as they graze across his neck. She takes him by the hand, dragging him over towards the mirror. He looks himself up and down carefully. She's right. The outfit does look better with the top button fastened.

At that moment, a member of staff enters the changing rooms, an arm full of clothes. She hangs them on a rail before walking over to him, giving him the once over.

"The shirts a bit tight, don't you think?" She announces looking him in the eye and tilting her head to the side.

"Really?" He asks, looking down at the shirt before looking at Hermione questioningly.

"Yeah, men are wearing their shirts baggy these days. It's the latest fashion. Justin Timberlake, Paul Rudd, that guy from the backstreet boys, and half the cast of friends." She chuckles, looking him up and down again. "Those jeans are quite tight too, but I don't think anyone's going to mind that." She winks at him, making him feel uncomfortable.

"Well I think my husband looks better in fitted shirts, but thanks for your opinion," Hermione mentions, brushing something off his shoulder then flattening the shirt down his chest.

Draco smirks at her knowingly with a raised eyebrow, earning himself a glare in return. He likes jealous Hermione. She tends to be a lot more touchy than usual.

The woman's smile falters as she nods at them. "Okay, if you need any more help I'll be over here sorting some clothes out." She tells them before walking off.

"You need to look less attractive." Hermione mumbles, flattening the collar of the shirt. "Everywhere we go, women just throw themselves at you. First, it was Nessie, now it's her." She continues to complain as she looks him up and down. "Do you like them?" She asks him.

Draco smiles down at her. "The clothes or the women throwing themselves at me," He asks with a smirk.

She narrows her eyes at him.

"I do like the clothes and the only attention I like, is from you." He explains before walking back over to his changing room.


Hermione can't stop the blush that graces her cheeks after what Draco said. She turns to look at her full-length mirror, hoping it isn't too obvious but her entire face has a pink tinge to it. She sits back down on the stool, waiting for him to try on the next shirt. The woman who was staring at the tightness of his jeans is humming along to a song as she sorts through the clothes rail. Hermione sends the back of her head a glare.

When Draco comes out again, he's wearing the red shirt she'd picked out for him. She didn't think he'd bother trying it on but he had and he'd even fastened the top button. He looked really good in red which makes her blush deepen. He walks over to the mirror to check himself out. Hermione takes the opportunity to check him out as well.

"I don't hate it as much as I thought I would." He comments as he unbuttons the sleeves and rolls them up his arm.

Godric! That's probably the hottest thing Draco's ever done. She stares at him for a moment, mouth hanging open before she remembers where she is and jumps to her feet. She can't stop her hands from running down his chest.

"I think this is my favourite shirt." She whispers, not trusting herself to speak any louder.

She smooths out the sleeves, still not making eye contact with him.

"Really!" He says and she just know he's smirking knowingly at her.

"Yeah. You look… er…" She doesn't know how to finish the sentence. There are too many adjectives she could use but none of them seemed fitting enough.

"Attractive?" Draco offers one jokingly and she nods.

"Insanely attractive." She smiles, finally glancing up at his face but instead of a smirk across his lips, she finds a sincere smile.

She reaches up on her tip toes to kiss a chaste peck to his lips before pushing him away.

"Now go try on the other shirt before we get kicked out of here." She jokes, pushing him towards his changing room.


He turns to smile at her once more before pulling the curtain shut. Hermione goes back to her stool where she flops down on it with a deep sigh. Her heart is beating faster than she thinks it ever has before. She's gone and she knows it.

Draco smiles at himself in the mirror as he takes off the red shirt. He might be prejudice against the colour red, but he would buy the shirt if it meant Hermione would react the same way again. He'd never wear it in public, though. That's one risk he's not willing to take. He hangs it back on the hanger before pulling on the last plaid grey shirt. It looks similar to the red one except for its grey.

He buttons it up to the top then takes a quick glance in the mirror at his reflection before throwing the curtain open and making his way to the mirror for the last time, hopefully. Hermione takes her time to look him up and down as she circles him.

"I'm not sure about the grey." She tells him, stopping next to him to check him out in the mirror. "It makes you look grey." She adds. "Maybe it needs some colour. Wait here." She tells him as she runs back out into the shop.

He takes a seat on the stool next to the mirror as he waits for her to return.

"I think the shirt makes you look paler than grey." The woman still sorting the clothes in the corner mentions.

"I think I'm pale enough." He says, glancing over at her.

"Being pale is really hot right now. Most people would kill for your complexion." She states, smiling over at him.

"Thanks?" He says unsure about whether she meant that as a compliment.

"You're welcome." She flashes him another smile just as Hermione runs back into the changing rooms with a gold tie.

He raises a questioning eyebrow at her as she throws it around his neck and ties it.

"Are you trying to turn me into a Gryffindor?" He asks.

"Of course not." She rolls her eyes at him. "Although, this tie would go very well with that red shirt. Maybe for Christmas." She tells him as though hinting at something.

"I'll wear the red shirt and I'll wear this tie but there's no way I'll ever wear them together." He tells her.

"We'll see." She mutters as she tightens the gold tie around his neck then flattens it down his chest. She gives him a final once over before stepping away from him. "Take a look."

Stepping down from the stool, he stands in front of the mirror. He isn't sure how he feels about the tie. It does make his face look less grey, or pale but it blends in with the shirt rather than standing out.

"It'll go really nice with that black shirt you're wearing. A splash of colour." Hermione tells him.

"I'll go try it on." He sighs, making his way back to his changing room.

They've been here far too long. He checks his watch to find that they've only been here twenty minutes. He changes back into his own trousers and shirt, buttoning it up to the top, then ties the tie around his neck. He throws his jacket on to get a better look. Hermione was right. It does go really well with all black. He pulls it off before grabbing the hangers of new clothes and exiting the changing room.

"What do you think?" Hermione asks, taking the clothes off them.

"Yeah, they all looked good. Can we go now?" He asks as they leave the changing rooms.

She sighs, rolling her eyes. "After I've paid for these." She tells him, leading him over to the till.

"Next time we're in Diagon Alley, I'll exchange some galleons for pounds." He tells her as they wait in the queue.

"I don't mind buying you things." She smiles at him.

"I want to be able to buy my own things in the muggle world." He whispers as a man joins the queue behind them. "From experience, people tend to frown upon others buying things for me."

"From what experience?" Hermione questions as they move forward.

"Howard from the… chippie?" He says unsure. "Is that right?" He asks.

"Yes, it's the chippie and you shouldn't listen to anything he says. He likes to gossip and cause trouble." She tells him.

Draco nods. "I just hate not being able to buy my own things when I can afford to." He explains.

"Okay, how about we go to Gringotts on Monday after your check-up at St. Mungo's?" She suggests.

"I'd forgotten about my check-up." He admits, subconsciously flattening his hair down.

"Stop playing with your hair." She snaps at him, pulling his hand away. "You can barely see the scar when you use makeup." She reassures him.

"It still feels like everyone stares at it as they walk past." He says, flattening his hair down again.

"Well there not, so stop ruining your hair." She pulls his hand away again, this time reaching up to brush his hair back, away from his face.

"Next, please." A man at the nearest till calls so Hermione drops her arm to make her way over.

Draco follows her, waiting patiently as the man scans the items and Hermione pays.

Chapter Text

Once outside the shop, Draco takes the bag off of her then takes her hand in his. Hermione guides him towards a little café a few shops away.

"Where are we going next?" He asks, sounding hopeful.

"Well, we've got you some new clothes, I thought we'd go get some lunch." She points towards the café.

Draco smiles happily. "Are we done with shopping?" He asks.

"Yes." She laughs. "For today at least." She adds, making him groan in annoyance. "How do you shop for clothes in the wizarding world?" She asks curiously.

He light embarrassed blush spreads across his cheeks. "I don't, usually." He admits. "I have enough clothes as it is and if I need anything special, like my wedding robes, Madam Malkin knows my measurement so Mitty or my mother would order it for me." He says, avoiding looking at her.

"Well, I won't be ordering your clothes for you so you better learn to do it yourself." She tells him sternly.

"I know how to order clothes." He rolls his eyes. "I just prefer to not waste my time doing so." He adds as they enter the café.

Hermione heads over to an empty table near the window where she tells Draco to sit down.

"What do you want to drink?" She asks him, placing her bag on the table top.

"I'll just have a cup of tea please." He answers.

She turns on her heel, heading over to the counter where a young man is stood in an apron, waiting to serve her.

"Can I have two pots of teas, please?" She orders, glancing up at the chalkboard menu on the wall behind the man.

"Would you like to upgrade it to a cream tea, it's free for today?" He explains.

"Yeah, okay then." She says, handing over the money.

"I'll bring it over for you when it's ready." He tells her after handing her the change.

"Thank you."

She sits down at their table to find Draco staring blankly at the wall behind. She glances around but finds nothing of interest there. She watches him for a moment before reaching across the table to take his hands in hers.

"Are you alright?" She asks, worriedly.

"Yeah." He mumbles, still staring at the wall.

"Are you thinking about Dennis?" She calmly rubs her thumb across the back of his hand.

His eyes shift quickly from the wall to her own, then back again.

"Draco," She squeezes his hand gently to gain his attention. "He's still hurting from the war. I don't think either of us can understand what he's going through but it must be tough to lose the one person who you can share both your wizarding self and muggle self with. They were not just brothers, but best friends and it's going to take him a long time to start to feel better. You saw George at the Burrow on Monday. He tries to smile for the sake of Angelina but when he thinks she's not looking, his smile falters. He doesn't involve himself in conversations anymore unless somebody else initiates it. Of course, he lost his twin brother but I'm assuming Dennis is feeling something similar. You need to give him some more time but I'm confident that one day he'll accept your apology and maybe even forgive you." She tells him.

Draco cups his hands around her as they begin to shake slightly. She tries not to think too much about George and his feelings, especially after the hen and stag night, because it upsets her more than she cares to admit. She knows she's being selfish but sometimes, she just doesn't want to cry.

"I still can't remember much from Monday night. Just little bits and pieces. I read a book once that said time heals all wounds, so maybe you're right but Dennis was right too. I am a selfish, cowardly sheep who only cares about himself." He says, avoiding her eyes by staring down at her hands.

"Maybe you were back during the war, and even before then, but you've changed since then and you know it. The Draco that Dennis described would not be sat here holding hands with me and he certainly would not have agreed to that deal with the Minister in order to protect Hermione Granger's reputation." She states, making him smile.

"I know I've changed but I can't help feeling that it's not enough. That no matter how much I change, it will never be enough because people will always see me as 'Draco Malfoy': blood traitor, Death Eat..." He stops mid-sentence.


Death Eater. He glances down at his makeup covered dark mark. Death Eater. A fury rises up from his stomach to his heart as memories come flooding back. That fucking Weasel. How dare he? If Hermione wasn't holding his hand right now, keeping him grounded, he'd have disapparated straight from this café to the estate and hunted him down.

"Draco! Draco, what's wrong?" Hermione whispers, pulling on his hand to gain his attention.

"That… Weasel." He spits angrily. "I'll kill him." He grits his teeth.

"Ron?" She questions in confusion.

"What he called you that night. At St. Mungo's." He clarifies. "I'll make him regret the day he insulted me and my wife." He narrows his eyes seriously.

"You remember." She sighs, sounding ashamed, looking down at their still locked hands.

"Why you were ever friends with him, I'll never understand." He scoffs.

"He's just angry at the moment. He'll calm down soon." She says, defending him.

Draco narrows his eyes slightly. "Why are you defending him?"

Hermione sighs. "I don't know. I guess its habit." She mutters, leaving them in silence for a few moments.

"He tried to convince you to move to America with him." He whispers, remembering how his heart had sunk back in St. Mungo's. All he had known about this woman was that she was very pretty and his wife. Why was this man trying to take her away from him? She's already said that she doesn't love him. Maybe she loves this other man instead.

Of course, Draco remembers clearly Hermione telling him about her non-relationship with Ron but that doesn't stop him from worry that one day she'll decide to divorce him, take their child and run away with Ron or some other man. No doubt the beautiful, heroine of the wizarding world would have a line of suitors around the entire estate if she became single.

"Draco!" She says, pulling his attention to her once more. "I've told you before but I'll tell you again. I'm not going to divorce you unless you give me a reason to, or you want to. I'm not going to run away to America with our child or children and I'm especially not going to do so with Ron who can barely look after himself." She squeezes his hand to emphasise the point to which he nods at.

He turns to stare out the window, feeling as though this topic of conversation has come to a natural end. It's only then that he realises a man is stood in front of the window, smoking and holding something up to his ear.

"What's he doing?" He asks, gesturing to the man


"It's a mobile phone. You use it to make phone calls or send text messages." She explains but Draco gives her a confused look. "You type out a message on one phone then send it instantly to another person's phone. It's the new form of communication."

"Do you have one?" He asks her.

"No, I never felt the need to own one since technology doesn't work within the walls of Hogwarts and the reception in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley is supposedly terrible. " She tells him. "Although I might get one now. It'll be easier to keep in contact with my family. I wonder what the reception is like on the estate." She thinks aloud.

At that moment, the young man comes over to their table carrying a tray with their cream teas. He balances the tray on the edge of the table as he places a cup of tea in front of them.

"Your scones will be out in a minute or so. We're just warming them up for you." He smiles before leaving them.

"A cream tea?" Draco asks and Hermione's surprised he knows what one is to name it.

"Yeah, there was a free upgrade." She shrugs, sipping her tea.

A few minutes later, the young man returns with his tray. He balances it on the table once again as he places two plates of scones in front of them along with a small dish of jam and a small dish of cream. He gives them another smile before leaving.

Hermione sets about cutting her two scones in half and evenly distributing her cream onto the four halves then topping it with the jam. She takes a bite, almost moaning with how deliciously fluffy the scone is and she's sure the jam's homemade.

She glances at Draco to find him spreading his jam onto half a scone. She watches in confused shock as he then spreads the cream onto another half sconce before sandwiching them together and taking a bite.

"What in Godric's name are you doing?" She asks, staring horrified at him.

He frowns at her as he chews, confused by her sudden outburst.

"What's wrong?" He asks once he's swallowed.

"You don't- sandwich them together. My God. Where did you learn to eat a scone like that?" She asks rhetorically, snatching his plate off him, with his other scone on it.

"My mother taught me when I was a child." He admits.

Hermione shakes her head. "Well, it's insanely wrong. There are two ways to eat a scone. The Cornish way or the Devonshire way. I prefer the Cornish way simply because it's easier to spread." She explains as she cuts his second scone in half. "The Cornish way is to spread the jam first then the cream." She spreads some of his jam across the top of his scone. "The Devonshire way is to spread the cream then jam. Technically, it's the only way since Devon began the tradition in the eleventh century and back when the jam was expensive, putting a small bit on top of the cream meant you could taste both toppings." She continues to explain as she begins to spread the cream on top of the jam.

Once she's done, she hands one-half of the Cornish scone to him to try. She watches as he takes a bite then smiles at her.

"The scone is definitely less over empowering this way." He comment, taking another bite.

"Now fix that abomination." She hands him his plate back with the sandwich scone.

Hermione picks up her own scones to eat as she watches Draco fix his scone.

"Does it really matter how one eats their scone?" He asks before taking a bite of one.

"Not really, as long as you eat it one of the two ways. Although if you ever find yourself having a cream tea in Cornwall or Devon, just remember which way round it goes." She says, half-jokingly, not sure if the Cornish or Devonshire people feel strongly against the others way.

"I'll bare that in mind." He mutters as they both continue to eat their scones and drink their cups of tea.


Once they've finished, they head back to the alleyway they apparated to earlier. Unfortunately, the binmen were halfway down the alley, driving towards them slowly as they collected the bins.

"We'll have to find a different alleyway," Hermione mentions, turning around only to be greeted by the disgusted look of an old lady walking past with her shopping trolley.

Unable to explain the situation, she blushes, grabbing Draco's hand and dragging him away from the judgmental look, towards the main street.

"Did you see that lady's face? I don't want to know what she thinks we need an alleyway for." She shakes her head as they continue walking.

Draco squeezes her hand as he chuckles. "What does it matter what she thinks? We'll most likely never see her again."

"It's still embarrassing." She frowns as she feels the heat rising up her neck. "We'll head home first to drop off the bag and feed Athena then we're straight back out again for Sophie's play." She explains what they're going to do. "We just need to find somewhere private to disapparate." She adds quieter as not to draw the attention of any muggles walking past.

They carry on walking for a few minutes before they come across a small side street with no one down it. Hermione pulls Draco down it and into the doorway of a closed shop, out of the way from any muggles that might peer down the street. With a quick turn, they've disappeared to the estate. They see a few couples walking up and down the streets as they walk towards their house. No one that they know so Hermione offers them a polite smile as they pass by each other.

Hermione unlocks the door, calling a hello to Athena as they enter. Draco heads straight upstairs to put his new clothes away so Hermione goes into the kitchen to grab a few pellets for Athena, then places them in her food bowl. She chirps her thanks to her before nibbling at them. She watches her for a minute whilst she waits for Draco to return. When she hears him coming down the stairs, she heads towards the front door, checking her watch.

"It's half twelve." She states, glancing up at Draco, who's now wearing the gold tie with his black shirt and new black jeans.

"What do you think?" He smirks, raising his arms up for her to get a proper look.

"Very nice but we're going to be late, so come one." She rushes him out the door, locking it behind her as she leaves.

They walk quickly to the gate, smiling politely at anyone they pass. She takes his hand in hers as they exit both the gate and the wards. They disapparate to her uncle David's house since Sophie's school is only a five-minute walk and Hermione doesn't know if there's anywhere hidden to apparate to nearby the school.

The school's doors have just open as they arrive, letting in a long line of the children's family members in. Hermione and Draco join the end of the line, tickets ready to show the two ladies at the door. Five minutes later they're being shown to the hall where a stage has been set up for the play. She drags Draco down to the second row where there are three spare seats. Ten minutes before the play is due to start, a woman comes up to them.

"Is this seat taken?" She asks pointing to the aisle seat next to Hermione.

"No, it isn't." She answers.

"Oh great, I could not find a parking space. I thought I was going to have to stand at the back of the room." She laughs. "How old are you? You're both far too young to have a nine-year-old child." She looks between them both.

"We're nineteen. My uncle's a teacher so couldn't make it so my cousin asked us to come instead." Hermione explains.

"And you dragged your boyfriend with you." The woman chuckles.

"Her husband and Sophie asked me to come as well," Draco tells her.

"Oh, you're married?" She asks, eyes wide. "You're both so young. I didn't get married until I was twenty-eight." She admits.

"We've been together four years." Hermione lies, remembering the story they told her family.

"Wow, so are young going to have any children of your own." She asks with a polite smile.

Hermione glances at Draco who's glaring at the women.

"Who are you?" He questions her.

"I'm Adam's mum. Adam Rochester." She tells them. "Which Sophie is your cousin? Sophie Parson or Sophie Lark?" She asks.

"Sophie Adair." Hermione answers, wondering why this woman wants to know everything about them.

"Oh, Sophie Adair. Didn't her mum kill herself straight after giving birth to her? How upsetting for her? Did her dad remarry?" The woman rests a comforting hand on Hermione's forearm.

"She didn't kill herself, she just didn't want to be a mother so she left and she and Sophie's dad weren't married." Hermione answers. "Also, it's not any of your business what happens in other people's families." She tells her before turning around to face Draco.

Just then, the lights in the hall turn off, then a spotlight appears on the stage. The circle of life starts playing through the speakers along the walls as children enter from the left side of the stage dressed in different animal outfits. From the right side of the stage, there's a raised platform where Rafiki, baby Simba, Mufasa and Sarabi enter. Baby Simba being a stuffed lion cub toy. Draco reaches over, taking her hand in his. She gives it a small squeeze before resting their clasped hands on her lap.

It turns out they had gotten two children from year two to play Young Simba and Nala. When Simba, Timon, and Pumba are walking across the 'log', a balance beam, they disappear behind a curtain at the back of the stage and reappear on the other side with adult Simba. When they've walked across the log once more, the hall lights go back on indicating an intermission. A woman, who Hermione thinks is the head teacher, appears on the stage, calling for everyone's attention.

"We will be having a fifteen-minute intermission whilst the children go to the bathroom and have a snack. There will be cups of teas and coffee in the lunch hall next door and the toilets are just down the corridor." She explains cheerfully before climbing down from the stage.

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Hermione asks Draco, who nods, standing up.

They walk into the lunch hall to find a long queue of other people waiting to be served a hot beverage. They join the end, hoping to get served before the second act of the play begins.

"Do you know who Sophie is in the play?" Draco asks as they slowly shuffle forwards.

It's only now that Hermione realises that Sophie hasn't been on stage yet.

"No, she didn't mention it." She answers as she thinks. "All the main characters were in the first act." She adds trying to think if she's forgetting a character. "Maybe she's a hyena." She suggests as the queue moves forward.

"She was rather excited when she asked us to come. Would she have been that excited if she was just a hyena?" Draco wonder questioningly.

"We'll just have to wait and see. Maybe there's a dance at the end that she's a part of. Although, I'm unaware of her being able to dance very well. Especially if she takes after her father. My grandma will probably tell you the story of how my uncle David broke her foot at my parents wedding whilst attempting to do the hustle." She chuckles.

"And I'll pretend to know what the hustle is." Draco smiles at her.

"The Hustle's a song that came out in 1975, two and a half years before my parents got married. Thanks to the film Saturday Night Fever, the song became popular at weddings where people would try to recreate the dance from the film. If you ask my uncle very nicely, he might show you but he usually has to be very drunk." She explains as the person in front of them is given their cup of coffee and walks over to the sugar and milk table.

"I'll look forward to plying him with alcohol until he dances for me." He jokes as they take a step forward.

"Can I have two cups of tea please?" Hermione asks the woman behind the counter.

"Certainly." The woman says, turning around to pour them their drinks.

"If you film it, I'm sure he'll love you forever." She tells him. "Or at least I will." She laughs until she realises what she just said.

She's just told Draco that she loves him. He obviously heard her as well because he's staring wide-eyed and unsure at her. She doesn't love him. She's only known him properly for nine days. She can't love him yet.

Thankfully, before Draco can say anything, the woman comes back with their cups of tea. Hermione thanks her, handing one over to Draco, then walking over to the milk and sugar table.