“I did something bad.”
She doesn’t offer any explanation beyond that, hands wringing and teeth digging into her bottom lip. It’s distracting in a way that always seems to escape her attention. She doesn’t seem to notice the state of his undress either, the shirttails untucked and buttons half-undone. In fact, she’s looking anywhere but at him. Until she isn’t. And then her eyes seem to bore into his with such intensity there’s a physical weight behind it.
“Please don’t be very cross,” she says, as if he’s able to deny her anything she asks. It’s easily the most implausible part of her showing up at his doorstep at midnight, frantic strands of hair blowing in the night breeze. He briefly considers pinching himself, but he’d have to move from his spot leaning against the door frame, and there’s the chance that anything more she says might knock him over.
When they’d made their goodbyes earlier in the evening—pious, restrained affair that it was—and before that, when she’d gamely agreed to their standing weekly dinner including his parents (so rarely in town, so desperate to see their darling boy) he hadn’t imagined there’d be an encore. That she’d be standing on the steps of his town house, eyes bright and wild.
And yet here she is. But it’s not the fever-dreamed heartfelt confessional he’d fantasised about embarrassingly often. No, she looks more likely to make him an accessory-after-the-fact than jump into his bed. Just his luck, he supposes. After all, bad things always happen to people with great hair.
She ducks under the arm he’s using to brace himself on the threshold.
“Sure, do come in,” he says to the space where she’d stood a moment ago.
“So, you know how we had dinner with your parents?”
“I know of it,” he nods, warily. Of all the possible sources of her unease, that was probably the least agreeable. Maybe they hadn’t done something hideous; maybe she only had food poisoning and she was here to warn him of his impending intestinal demise. One could hope.
“Well, something—I talked to your dad, between dinner and dessert, that is, and—” She’s wringing her hands again, and his hope flies out the window.
Well, fuck. Merlin. Fuck. Of course, Lucius fucking Malfoy would manage to ruin a good thing before it even lifted off the ground. He ran a hand over his face. He only hoped Father hadn’t said anything too damning.
“The thing is—and please don’t be too angry but—something happened.”
Gods, had his father hurt her?
“Hermione, did he, that is… are you—”
“Your father made some assumptions and… well it seemed like the right thing to do at the time!”
“Hermione,” he begins slowly, confused again, “what exactly did you do?” She doesn’t answer the question, just keeps talking excitedly.
“And honestly, I mean, I told you that we wouldn’t get along, I did warn you of that—”
“His whole UKIP-for-wizards thing just gets on my nerves—”
“You know this! So really, it’s not my fault, not completely at least,” she concludes, as if she’s somehow shed some sort of light on the situation, and not utterly perplexed him.
“Hermione,” he says, and she finally looks up from her pacing.
“Start from the beginning,” he tries, attempting to keep his voice calm and soothing lest she get agitated again. “Would you please tell me what happened?” She stares at him wide eyed and a little flushed and Merlin help him but he’s close to losing himself in her when she looks at him like that.
“I—do you have a pensieve?” she says, suddenly changing directions.
“I—yes, in the library. Why?”
“I think it might be easier to show you,” she says, tucking a curl behind her ear.
“Alright, then,” he says, leading her toward the library before he stops short. It doesn’t hurt to ask, he reasons, to be prepared for what he might see.
“Hermione, you didn’t do anything illegal?”
“Because if you did, if you’re in some sort of trouble—”
“No, it’s not like that—”
“I can help, really I am—”
“I checked and it’s all technically legal, so—”
“More than willing to—wait, you what?”
“—might be, I suppose, unethical and frankly a bit of a dick move, but I rang Theo and he said it wasn’t a crime—”
“You rang Theo?”
“Well, yes! I mean, he was on the line and Susan was busy and he’s very good at legal advice—”
“Probably the law degree—”
“And I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to get in trouble for it, so—”
“Right,” he says, even more unbalanced now, but he manages to get them to the library anyway; he slides open the pocket doors and gestures for her to enter. She fidgets as he pulls out the pensieve.
“Here,” she says, drawing whisps of memory out of her mind and into the stone basin. He leans forward into the mist and hopes for the best.
He winces at the unpleasant sensation of falling as he drops into a hazy recreation of the posh restaurant Mother had insisted on. Tucked into a little corridor near the loo, Hermione was using her mobile quietly, not noticing that she was being observed.
He watches with a sense of foreboding as Lucius stalks toward her like a predator. Without preamble, he begins a humiliating tirade that he covers with a cheap veneer of superiority that hides nothing.
“I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but this must stop. My son has his whole future ahead of him, and I’ve no interest in letting someone like you ruin that. As such, I expect to resolve this now.”
Hermione simply stares at his father, utterly shocked. Not that he can blame her; watching Lucius’ perfect façade of politeness break apart is unnerving. The anger in his voice more so.
“And how far along are you, then?”
“I beg your pardon!”
Draco looks on in horror as his mad father pulls out his cheque book.
“I suppose it doesn’t really matter,” he says, not even looking at her as he scribbles on the paper.
“You understand, of course, that the terms of your accepting this gift…” he sneers the word, as he tears off the little sheet of paper, “include not coming back for more.”
She’s too stunned to speak. She looks at the cheque he hands her and then back up at Lucius, outrage overcoming her shocked silence.
“Ten thousand galleons? Is that really all your only son and heir is worth to you?” she asks, indignant.
Draco has to agree; it’s laughably little all things considered but then his father never was particularly generous with anyone he didn’t deem politically useful.
“Twenty, and you’ll give up all claim to the Malfoy name,” Lucius says and Draco is offended on behalf of his fictional potential offspring.
“I just don’t know that Draco would approve—”
“It should be painfully obvious, Miss Granger,” his father interrupts her, “that you will be leaving my son alone, after this… transaction.” Draco is livid over how Lucius is speaking to her—he’ll certainly have to have words with his father at a later time. After he assesses whether or not Hermione will ever speak to him again.
“Well in that case, I’m sure you understand, Mr Malfoy, that I’ve become rather accustomed to a certain lifestyle,” she sniffs, nose in the air.
Merlin, she’s laying it on thick, he thinks. Good for her.
“Sixty, then,” he grinds out. “I won’t go any higher.”
“Alright fine,” she says primly, and he wonders where she learned to negotiate like that, until his father finds a way to sink to a new low.
“Swear it,” his father demands, and she lifts a brow in question. Really, Lucius? he wants to scream. Hermione rolls her eyes and raises her wand for an oath.
“I, Hermione Jean Granger, swear that I will not seek any additional support for my current pregnancy—”
“And forsake paternal claims,” he cuts in and she narrows her eyes at him.
“—and forsake all paternal claims of this child to the house of Malfoy—”
“And leave Draco alone,” he interrupts again as she openly glares.
“And cease my present romantic relationship with Draco Lucius Malfoy,” she finishes, clearly out of patience with his father.
“Is that all?” she asks, lowering her wand.
“I suppose it will have to do,” he responds and rudely turns to leave.
Lucius storms off, walking back to the table and Hermione is left in stunned silence. Until she raises the mobile back to her ear.
“Did you get all that?” she asks the phone. There's a crackling on the other end but before he can make sense of it the memory begins to fade out.
He feels disoriented after he pulls out from the pensieve. They’re both silent for a moment as she fiddles with the ring on her right hand, eyes avoiding him again.
“So,” he begins, “you took the money?”
Well shite. He had hoped to be wrong. He hadn’t thought her the type. It was an awful lot of galleons, though, and people had certainly buckled under less weight than that. Especially after the indignities she’d just had thrown in her face by his own bloody father. All that’s left now is damage control.
“Hermione,” he says, shame gaining ground over hurt and confusion, “I’m so sorry. That he would speak to you that way—”
“—and you don’t need to apologise. Really, you don’t owe me anything,” she says, fiddling in discomfort now and Gods if he doesn’t want to owe her everything. Want to belong to her. He wonders if there’s any chance at all now.
“And the money?” He wonders if his ability to self-sabotage has limits.
“What about it?” she asks, but she isn’t defensive. Purely matter-of-fact.
“What are you going to do with it?” he says, hating himself for wanting so badly to know.
“Well, I already spent it.”
He looks up. He hadn’t expected that either. How…?
“You already spent it.”
“That’s what I said.”
“All of it?”
“Well yes, that’s why I had to ask Theo,” she says as if that explains something and he fears that perhaps it does. Perhaps it’s been under his nose the whole time and he’s just not realised—that he’s been pining after her like a fool all these years and meanwhile someone else had swooped in. Someone without the bother of an insane (living) father.
“Yes. I had to make sure I could have the cheque processed before your father realised he’d been had. No offense, I mean,” she adds and he almost groans at how close she comes to apologising to him for the mess. “That’s where I was—meeting with the bank. And Theo. He’s been a great help.”
I’m sure he has, Draco thinks sourly. He isn’t sure what to say, what he can do to make this right, to make things go back to the way they were last week when he was blissfully unaware of how shattered he could feel in a matter of minutes.
“I know it’s a bit underhanded,” she says looking downcast and he wants to be angry with her, but he can’t. After all, how many women could take Lucius’ onslaught of insults in stride? Could any?
“And normally I wouldn’t do anything like it,” she continues, “only the Children’s Home has been so low on resources lately and—”
His laughter interrupts her speech. She looks up at him, startled.
“I’m sorry,” he chokes out, “did you say the Children’s Home?”
“Yes, of course,” she replies, brows raised. The pieces fall into place rather quickly after that.
“So let me get this straight; my father paid you sixty thousand galleons,” he starts, trying to keep his laughter at bay.
“Yes,” she says.
“—to vow that you wouldn’t demand child support or public acknowledgement—”
“—for a pregnancy that you’re not carrying?”
“And that that we’d break up?”
“More or less,” she says, and she’s grinning now.
He laughs in earnest then. Her face lights up and suddenly the whole mess of an evening is worth it. Only Hermione, he thinks, only his Hermione could manage to turn Lucius’ boorish behaviour into a fundraising opportunity for war orphans.
“So, you see—well, magically the terms of the vow have been fulfilled. So I didn’t lie. But I didn’t exactly tell the truth.”
“The truth being?” he asks, afraid to hope for answer he wants. She looks up at him with wide eyes and tilts her head, as if she’s surprised that she’s having to explain it to him.
“That we’re not technically dating yet, so it doesn’t really—”
“Oh!” she freezes for a moment, her face going through a half-dozen emotions at once before being overwhelmed by her blushing. “I shouldn’t—I’m sorry! God, I thought—”
“I only assumed—but I shouldn’t have of course—”
“Yes?” her voice is strained, and he can’t help but thinking that he’s sunk his odds miserably tonight. It’s one thing to do a poor job of asking out a woman, but another entirely when she’s been accosted by Malfoy stupidity on all sides. Still, he has to try.
“Hermione,” he says, his voice softening with fondness, “what are you doing Friday?”
“Yes,” he nods.
“What I’m doing on Friday?”
“Yes, the day after Thursday.”
“But… why?” she asks, and she looks so embarrassed and confused that he wants to hold her and soothe away the strain he put on her face.
“Merlin,” he swears, laughing at himself, “I’m trying to ask you on a bloody date!”
“Are you free on Friday?”
“Well I was planning on seeing Neville.”
“That’s the one. See, he’s having a picnic,” she says, and now he wonders if every wizard in Britain is chasing after her. They probably are; why wouldn’t they be?
“Right,” he says, trying to keep the dejection out of his voice.
“Would you like to go?”
“On a picnic date with you and Longbottom?”
“Not a date,” she counters, “it’s an event for the Children’s Home.” She looks at him as though he’s not keeping up, and maybe he isn’t. “After the picnic, though…”
“Well, I’ll be free the rest of the day," she says, and he hopes that means what he thinks it means.
“Would you like to go out? For dinner?” He holds his breath waiting for her to reply. She grins and he exhales.
“I’d like that,” she says, teeth working away again at her bottom lip. “As long as we go to the picnic first.” He hums noncommittally as he moves closer to her.
“I think it’s best that we at least make an appearance,” she adds.
“Is that so?” he asks, absently tucking a stray curl behind her ear. She leans into his hand before taking it and placing it in hers.
“Yes, after all, your father did just make an extremely generous donation to the foundation,” she says with a smirk and he wonders at her hand in his, and how anything could feel so good.