Heart of the matter
Things changed drastically after Hermione's sudden realization. One night of crying was all it took to free her from the prison she created over the years. The weight she carried on her shoulders seemed to vanish like a puff of smoke, making her more bright-eyed than her usual morose self. Weeks passed by and she knew that she's slowly getting there. She caught up with her friends and made more effort into getting to know Blaise. Being with the man who pursued her relentlessly helped boost her self-confidence and whether she admits it or not she started to fancy the bloke a little bit. It's not the same feeling she used to have for Draco, but there's something there - she's just not sure if it's enough to reciprocate Blaise's.
Hermione dashed out her room and ran towards the telephone, "Hello?"
"Good morning Beautiful," a sexy voice drawled.
"Good morning Blaise," she snorted.
Blaise chuckled, "What time should I pick you up?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes, "You don't have to pick me up, I have feet. Merlin, you guys are driving me bonkers! I'll just meet you there at 3 o'clock," she said with finality.
He laughed, "Okay, you're still bloody stubborn. I'm just trying to be a gentleman here, well, I guess I'll just see you later then, be safe."
"Be safe too, I'll see you in a few hours, bye!" she chirped. She then carefully placed the phone back to the receiver and grabbed her purse. "It's going to be a long day, but it might be worth it" she assured herself as she made her way to the hearth.
It's been a month since Draco came back and he still hasn't seen any of his childhood friends. It's not that he's avoiding them; it's simply because he doesn't have the time. Ever since he came back, he's been busy planning and working on the shop that his Mother convinced him to set up. Yes, Narcissa Malfoy was able to convince her son to branch out his Specialized Potions Shop in London. She even had the audacity to scout for potential locations in both in Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley. She was adamant that he settle for the grandest out of the spots they visited, but he politely declined. He knew the odds. If he chose Diagon Alley, the tendency of running into Hermione and Blaise was really big and he couldn't afford that yet. Yes, he already accepted the truth and finally let it penetrate through his thick skull that they were never getting back together, that she's happy with his friend. Yes, he's still not thrilled about it and it still hurts him like hell, but what choice does he really have? He might as well make do with keeping his distance and watch her from afar.
Setting up his business took most of his time; work always had a way of making him forget. Days started bleeding together and before he knew it, it's already time to open his doors to London's Wizarding World. In a few hours, he'd be the talk of the town again and as much as he despise being under the lime light, he just have to suck it up and paste a smile on his face. He slipped the parchment into the letter holster on Eros leg, "Take this to Ginny Potter," he said.
Eros hooted loudly before gracefully flying into the frigid morning light.
Draco braced his hands on the window, "A couple of hours left," he mumbled.
Ginny was making breakfast when she heard loud tapping sounds coming from the window. She immediately recognized the bird and quickly retrieved the letter. She patted the fowls head and fetched him a piece of bacon; the owl nipped her hand affectionately before it flew away. She hurriedly opened the parchment and read through its contents; "He's finally home!" she shrieked with excitement.
"Morning love," Harry muttered before planting a sleepy kiss on her lips.
She smiled brightly, "Morning," she replied happily. She then flicked her wrist and food laden plates started flying towards the table, "Go take your seat," she told him.
"Who sent you the owl?" he asked as he made his way towards a chair.
"It's from Draco - he's home," she replied.
His eyes widen in shock as he watched his wife, "Malfoy, the bouncing ferret is home?"
"Now now Mr. Potter, play nice," she chuckled.
He grabbed a toast, "Is he staying for good?"
She braced her hands on her hips, making her look like Molly Weasley. "I'd like to think so. He's opening a potion store in Knockturn Alley. I think it's an extension of his store in Paris," she replied absentmindedly. "I wonder why he chose that place instead of Diagon Alley."
"I don't know, but if you're looking for a man's perspective, I think he went with it because Mione doesn't normally go there."
"You think so?"
"Come on love, we all know that she hates that place. The ferret knows that too," he paused and threw his wife an amused look. "You know sometimes Malfoy still surprises me, who would've thought that he had the brain to fill that thick skull of his?"
"You surprise me too, love," she teased. She then pulled away from her perch and started tinkering with the kettle, "Males, you all think alike, should've known you'd always take the easier route," she mumbled.
She rolled her eyes, "Should we drop by?"
He snorted, "I don't think he'd appreciate me being there, but I can drop you off."
"That's probably a good idea,"
Hermione was walking towards the Three Broomsticks to meet Blaise when she accidentally heard two witches talking excitedly. She was about to walk ahead of them, but suddenly changed her mind when she heard what they're gossiping about.
"Have you heard about the newest potion shop that would open today?" the blonde witch asked.
"New potion shop? Where? I didn't know any shop opening today..." Hermione thought.
"Yes I did! I saw the advertisement on the Daily Prophet yesterday. Did you know that it's a branch of a famous specialty shop from France?"
Hermione bit her bottom lip, "Hmmmnnn - Specialty Potion Shop from France? Why does that sound familiar? Maybe I should check it out, but where to-"
"We should go there Sandy! Maybe we can find a good love potion there, wait, is it here in Diagon Alley?"
"Nope, it's in Knockturn Alley, but we can go there now if you like."
Hermione grimaced as she watched the two witches disappear around the corner. "Knockturn Alley? Now that changes things. I wonder who owns that shop?" she asked herself. She was in deep thought when she reached her destination. She took off her coat and began looking for Blaise. She spotted him right away, only that he wasn't alone. He was talking with a tall blonde witch, curious - she doesn't feel even a tad jealous. "Sorry I was late," she announced with a small smile.
Blaise turned around, "Hey Mione, it's okay I just got here," he replied.
Hermione sat down, "Aren't you going to introduce us?" she asked with a friendly smile.
Blaise smiled back, "Hermione, this is Elizabeth, one of my best friends. Lizzy, meet Hermione Granger."
Hermione offered her hand, "Hi Elizabeth, I'm Hermione, it's nice meeting you."
Elizabeth shook her hand gingerly, "It's nice meeting you, Hermione, please do call me Lizzy. Blaise had told me so much about you."
"Oh," Hermione said, her eyes straying towards Blaise.
Lizzy grabbed her bag and stood up from her seat, "Well I won't keep you two from talking, I should go."
"Why don't you join us for a late lunch Lizzy?" Hermione asked.
Lizzy glanced at Blaise and chuckled, "As much as I want to stay Hermione, I can't. Blaise is glaring at me, it seems like he can't wait to get rid of me," she joked.
Lizzy lifted her hand in mock surrender, "Just kidding, anyway, I really can't. I have a meeting to go to, it's a pleasure meeting you though," she said with a kind smile.
Hermione nodded, "It's nice meeting you too."
Blaise stood up from his seat and pulled Lizzy into a quick hug, "I'll see you soon, take care," he said.
Lizzy patted his back, "I will, enjoy your date," she whispered back.
Blaise pulled away, "I will too, bye Liz."
Lizzy waved at Hermione before walking away.
"Where have you been hiding her? I never knew you had a girl best friend," Hermione mused.
"I wasn't hiding her, she's always been around. Liz has been my best friend for as long as I could remember," Blaise replied as he took his seat again.
Hermione smirked, "She's pretty and nice, you know," she said suggestively.
Blaise rolled his eyes, "I know what you're thinking, she's just my best friend."
Hermione leaned back on her seat, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "Why don't you take her to the Ball? You'd make a beautiful pair."
"Is that your way of backing out?" Blaise asked.
"What if I decided not to go?"
"Oh, you would," Blaise said smugly.
Hermione quirked a brow, "You sound so sure, why do you think that way?"
"Simple, you're HeadGirl and you wouldn't want to disappoint Dumbledore."
Hermione wrinkled her nose, "You got me there," she admitted.
"I wonder if Draco would also go, last time I've checked, the prick is still in Paris..." Blaise mused.
Hermione felt her whole body stiffen, but she still managed to keep her face impassive. "Oh, really?" she said nonchalantly.
Blaise grabbed the menu on the table and started perusing it, "Yep, but you don't have to worry about him, I'm quite sure he did a lot of growing up - he'll be civil," he replied.
"Y – yes, I'm sure he will," she replied. Hermione then gathered her hands on her lap and swallowed the lump in her throat; "I've heard that he's doing well in France..." she trailed off.
Blaise lifted his gaze from the menu and met her gaze, "Yes and he deserve every bit of it," he replied. He then leaned back on his seat and shook his head ruefully, "Contrary to popular belief, Draco didn't have the easiest childhood. A lot of people judged his actions for the choice he made during the war, but come on, the bloke didn't really have a choice."
Hermione averted her gaze, "I know that," she softly said.
Blaise leaned forward and gently placed his hand on top of hers, "I'm not saying you're one of those people Mione," he said.
Hermione nodded absentmindedly, "Yeah, I know that."
"I know you two had something going during the final year, it's some kind of a truce. Draco didn't really tell me anything, but he made it clear that you're no longer at odds," Blaise confessed.
"Yep," Blaise gave Hermione's hand a comforting squeeze before pulling away. He wiggled the menu with his other hand, "Ready to order?" he asked with a smile.
The opening of Draco's shop was a huge success, thanks to his Mother's infinite connections. Family and friends showed up on intervals and so as the press, much to his chagrin. He was talking to one of the reporters from the Quibbler when he saw a familiar face. He politely excused himself and hurriedly made his way towards the tall blonde woman standing by the shelves, "Pansy," he said.
Pansy's eyes widen in shock, "It's really you - oh my," she cut herself off and stalked towards him. She flung her arms around him and buried her face into his chest, "Y - you're really back! I can't believe this!" she mumbled.
Draco wrapped his arms around her tiny waist, "Yes, it's me and I'm back," he replied with a chuckle. "How have you been Pans? I've missed you."
She pushed him away and landed a hard slap on his chest, "How dare you! How dare you leave without saying goodbye? Who do you think you are to do that?" she hissed, her eyes wet with unshed tears.
He can't help but smile at her reaction, "Let's talk somewhere else, we have an audience. I hate these bloody nitwits!" he whispered. He then pulled Pansy towards his office and placed a quick silencing charm on the room, "Have a seat," he said.
She stomped towards the large leather couch and sat down, her temper flaring. "Four years, Draco? No owls, no floos, no nothing? I was so scared, I thought you died you bloody wanker!" she shrieked.
He crouched down right in front of her and made a move to wipe her tears, but Pansy swatted his hand away. "I'm so sorry Pans, I didn't mean to make you worry. Everything just happened so fast so I didn't have the chance to say goodbye. But don't worry, I won't do it anymore."
Pansy sniffed, "Make do with your promise Malfoy or I'll castrate you, do you hear me?" she threatened.
"Loud and clear," he replied.
Her hand snapped forward and pinched his cheek hard, "I've missed your pointy face too Draco, so I forgive you," she said with a smirk.
"Ouch!" he yelped. He shot up from his perch and plopped down beside her, "You didn't have to pinch my cheek to prove a point, bloody hell," he mumbled as he nursed his cheek.
She rolled her eyes, "Stop being a cry baby, I didn't even put much effort into it."
"Whatever!" he replied. He shifted towards the armrest and angled himself to face her fully, "What's new with you?" he asked.
Pansy copied his pose and crossed her legs, "Life is good, I'm now a proud owner of a shop in Diagon Alley - it's actually an extension of what Mum has in Paris, but this one is mine."
Draco grinned, "Really? I'm really proud of you, finally!"
"And oh, I'm already married and have two adorable girls."
Draco's eyes almost bulged out of its sockets, "You are? Wow Pans - congratulations!"
Pansy smiled, "Thank you."
"So - who's the lucky bloke? Do I know him?"
She suddenly looked unsure, "Err – yes, you do."
"Who is it?"
"Seamus - Seamus Finnegan," she blurted out.
He furrowed his brows, "Wait, I think I misheard you. Can you repeat that for me, just one more time," he asked.
"You heard me correctly, it's Seamus Finnegan," she said with a nervous chuckle.
He opened his mouth to speak, but words seemed to evade him.
"I know it sounds weird, but things have changed," she paused and reached for Draco's hand. "He saved me during the Final battle Dray, without him there; I would've been killed by Rosier. Right there and then, I've realized that blood doesn't dictate who we are, it's the choices we make. When he decided to fight for me, he didn't just save me from imminent death - he also saved me from myself. After the war, we randomly ran into each other and before I knew it, we started dating and then got married and had these two wonderful kids."
He lifted Pansy's hand and kissed it, "I'm really happy for you, it's good to hear that you lived a beautiful life," he said sincerely.
She let out a relieved sigh, "That meant a lot to me Draco, hearing you say that," she admitted.
He gently let her hand go and moved his eyes towards the window, "Those things that they taught us, it's all dragon dung. We've been manipulated and constantly fed with lies about Muggles," he paused and shook his head ruefully. "We've wasted half our lives being bigots, only to find out in the end that we bleed the same color. We were robbed of a happy childhood - if only we knew better. If only we used our own mind to think, rather than blindly believe what were told, we could've been happier."
She threw him an emphatic look, "I know," she replied.
He then sighed, "No sense dwelling in past though."
"I have a question..."
She cleared her throat, "Are you still together?"
He moved his eyes back to his friend, "With who?" he asked, confusion evident on his face.
"You and Granger, are you still together?"
He felt his whole bloody stiffen, "What on Merlin's name - she bloody knew?" he thought. "What are talking about?" he lied.
She rolled her eyes, "Contrary to what you believe, you're never a good liar, well - not to me, at least. I've known you since we're in nappies, so don't insult my intelligence with lies."
"Shit! There's no sense lying, she's caught on," he thought. He averted his gaze and swallowed thickly, "I - it didn't work out," he replied curtly.
"Why do you want to know? And how come you know? I never told anyone, even Blaise!"
"It's not my fault that Blaise doesn't know; he can be daft when he wants to. To answer your other question, I've known for a long time. You're not as sly as you think you were," Pansy huffed. She then leaned back on a pillow and folded her arms on top of her chest, "You couldn't take your eyes off of her; in class, the Great Hall - hell, even in the library! And don't get me started with the Lake and the Green House! I saw you two snogging there multiple times, your wards aren't that impervious, sweetie," she said smugly.
Draco's face turned into an alarming shade of red, his jaw almost hitting the floor with shock. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Because you were happy and that's all the matters to me," she replied with a shrug.
"But you hated her," he said.
She cringed, "Hate is such a strong word, let's just settle for strong dislike, okay?"
He nodded, "Okay, go on."
"I immensely disliked her, but that doesn't mean I'd sell you out. Hurting her would mean hurting you, I couldn't do that to my best friend," Pansy explained. She then moved her eyes back to him to meet his gaze, "We were so wrong about him Dray, so wrong. Hermione - she has a beautiful heart. When Seamus and I started to go public, she was the first who stood for us and told people to mind their own business. After all the wrong I did to her, she still had the heart to defend me, us. She never once treated me like an enemy, but instead welcomed me into their fold like a long lost friend. She's - she's simply awesome."
Draco's lips curled into a large smile, "Yes, that's her," he said with a hint of pride..
Pansy returned his smile, albeit sadly. "I know you two broke up four years ago, because Seamus asked Harry why she stopped hanging out with us," she stood up from her perch and padded towards the window. "I still run into her every now and then, but I've noticed something."
She turned her face towards him, "She's different, its as if she's just a shadow of her old self. Yes, she still smiles a lot, but her eyes, they look so empty. Sometimes, I can't help but think that seeing me makes her sad, because I remind her of you."
He braced his elbows on top of his knees and hung his head, "Why are you telling me this?" he half whispered.
"Because you need to hear it. Because I know you still love her and it may not be too late."
"It is, she's already with Blaise," he buried his face into his palms. "And I'm not a home wrecker."
She frowned, "Look at me, what do you mean home wrecker? And what about Blaise?"
Draco tore his face away from his hands and glared at Pansy, "They have a kid for Merlin's sake! They're obviously married! And yes, it's Blaise fucking Zabini, my best mate married the only woman I loved!"
She placed her hands on her hips, "Who told you that?" she asked calmly.
He shot up from his seat and started pacing, "Come on Pans, don't play dumb with me. You know what I'm talking about, so stop asking me these stupid things!" he hissed.
"Are you done?"
Draco's head snapped towards her direction, his eyes narrowing into tiny slits.
"When you say kid, are you referring to a raven haired boy, around ages 5 or 6?"
He nodded stiffly, but kept his mouth shut.
"Oh my gosh, you should have your eyes checked Dray!" she said through fits of giggles.
"Be clear with me, Pansy. I may have changed, but I still don't appreciate people mocking my emotions," Draco said sharply.
Pansy's hand flexed and hit him squarely at back of his head, "Don't speak to me like that, I'm a lady and I demand respect," she said sternly. She then moved her hand back to her waist and stared into his eyes, "I'm not mocking your emotions, I just laughed because you're bloody stupid. The boy you saw is Ginny and Harry's child, James. I can't believe you didn't recognize him, he's Potter's mini-me for Merlin's sake!"
"Oh," he said. "That's why he looked familiar, you bloody wanker! How can you be so stupid? Wait, does that mean that Hermione is..." he cut his thought off, his heart beating fiercely inside his chest.
"You know what they say about assuming, right? It makes an ass of u and me," she said dryly.
He took a step back and collapsed back on the couch, his mind whirring with different possibilities. "S - she's not married to Blaise? They really don't have a kid?"
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, she turned her eyes to meet his, "I'm going to let your stupid question pass because I know you're overwhelmed with so much joy that your brain decided to take 5 minute break. So yes, they're not married and they definitely don't have a kid together," she replied.
He blinked a few times, his shoulders sagging with relief.
"BUT, Blaise have been pursuing her for years," she added. "So, if you still feel the same way for her, then I suggest you start moving your slow poke arse and get to work."
She threw him an incredulous look, "I just told you that-"
"I get it, no need to lay it on me," he interjected her incoming rant. He shot up from his seat for the second time and started pacing again, "Fuck! I don't even know where to start!" he said as he raked his hands along his blonde tresses.
"Men!" Pansy rolled her eyes for the nth time. "Did you receive an invitation from the old bat?"
Draco turned his face towards hers, "Yes, why?"
A shrewd smile curled on Pansy's lips, "You're HeadBoy and she's HeadGirl, do I have to spell it out for you?"
He shook his head, "I don't think that's a good idea, I don't even know if I'm-"
"Nonsense!" she said, cutting him off midsentence. "You are going, end off."
He folded his arms on top of his chest, "What makes you think I will?"
Pansy spun on her heels and started walking towards the door, "Because I'll make sure of it, even if it means drugging and dragging you by the ear," she pushed the door open and turned her face to him. "You're my best friend and I love you. I'll do anything to make you happy, even I have to result to my old Slytherin ways," she winked before stepping out of the room.