Draco and his mother watched the both of them leave…
“That didn’t go so bad, now, did it?” Hermione said to Harry, significantly happier as to when they’d arrived at the manor, as Draco made a similar remark to his mother.
“Considering everything that has happened here, she kept quite calm,” Narcissa said both admiringly and begrudgingly.
“To think that they don’t even like us yet they’re the only ones showing up…” Draco said in return.
“Precisely,” his mother replied. “It’s too horrifying…” and she brusquely walked indoors.
Draco privately disagreed. It was chastening perhaps but also provided a glimmer of hope. He could understand his mother not seeing that, but he did perceive it himself.
“Not dressed appropriately…” Harry snickered. Hermione glared at him. They were eating an early lunch in a quiet café. The efforts of the morning had worn them out.
“I caught him looking at you a few times,” he said teasingly.
“Harry, please stop it! There’s no way…” She sighed.
“I’m only teasing…” Harry said. “Come on, Hermione… Have some fun..”
“I can’t! I simply can’t…” she said. “He keeps popping up in my mind… even though I don’t want him to. And a part of me wishes that…”
“Hermione…?” Harry said a little threatening. “You said yourself that he would never…”
“He could never replace Ron, no… of course not! I just wish I’d never written to him, seen him in a different light…”
“So he did get under your skin…” Harry felt eerie at her admission.
“I wish I’d given the advert to Ginny to destroy…” Hermione lamented. “But now I find myself hoping he can…. redeem himself somehow.. So that I don’t have to feel guilty about maybe, just maybe, liking him…”
She put her hands over her face, sighing deeply.
Harry wished she would have kept her mouth shut. The idea of him and Hermione… He couldn’t stand it. Being civil and cooperative was one thing… but actually accepting him…. Harry was sure he never could.
“I don’t understand…” Ginny said, already fully dressed for a Quidditch match. “What do you mean you’re not talking to Hermione anymore? Wasn’t she going to help you with those Malfoy books?”
“You wouldn’t be talking to her anymore if you knew…” Harry said angrily.
He had stormed out of the café unable to help or understand Hermione, disapperating straight into Ginny’s changing room at the Hollyhead Harpies. Ginny was the last one in the room as the others had already left for the pitch.
“She is defiling Ron’s memory! That’s what she is doing…” He balled his fists in frustration.
“How? Tell me, Harry!”
“That healer that never showed up? That was Malfoy! And she is…. She has gone mad thinking she actually likes him…”
Ginny went pale. “Likes him likes him?” she asked to be sure.
“Unbelievable right? It makes me so angry!”
That someone like that could potentially ruin their friendship! They should have never have visited Malfoy Manor…
“Harry, Harry,” Ginny tried to calm him. “I’ve got a game in a few minutes… We’ll talk about this later, yeah? I’m sure we can talk her out of it… Maybe he put a spell on her or something…”
That must be it! Hermione under the Imperius… He should have known…
“You’re right,” he answered. “That would be a reasonable explanation. It doesn’t sound like Hermione at all…”
“Exactly…” Ginny gave him a quick kiss before she left, broomstick in hand.
Hermione sighed as she saw George on her doorstep. Was he going to give her an earful as well?
“Harry went straight to you, didn’t he?” She had had a long afternoon at work since she wasn’t helping Harry with the books anymore. A large amount of paper work had greeted her and she felt a headache coming up as well.
“No… Is something the matter?” he asked concerned.
“No. Nothing.” She snapped. “Sorry, I… I’ve got a bit of a headache…”
They had a cup of tea and Hermione made small talk… However, she couldn’t take her mind of her row with Harry.
“George..” she asked tentatively. “Say you would…. Begin to fancy someone you never thought you would? Like a Slytherin, or someone who seems to have grown on you for no good reason…”
George swallowed hard. “I don’t want to be blunt… but please tell me you haven’t….”
“What?” She asked.
“Changed your mind about me..” His eyes were a bit sad. “As I’ve just begun to … well, there’s this woman and she comes into the shop a lot more than she has to…. Buying something small every day rather than a lot once a week, and it has made me wonder…. So I finally went and asked her out…” He grinned.
“That’s great! I’m so happy for you,” Hermione replied. “No, no, it’s actually that healer I was writing with…”
“The one that stood you up…”
“Now I know why…”she said.
Just when she was about to spill her secret: better coming from her than from Harry… Rose came downstairs saying she had had a nightmare.
And right when she took her back to her sea themed bedroom, Harry and Ginny came in through the mantelpiece… Rose ran back downstairs to hug them and figured as a buffer until George offered to take her upstairs.
“I know what you’re going to say…” Hermione said. “I was just about to tell George myself before someone else could…”
Harry waved his wand checking if she was under the Imperious.
“What are you doing?!” she hissed at him.
Harry looked baffled. “No, it’s not that…” he said to Ginny, “It is actually for real…”
Hermione raised her eyebrows… “You honestly think I would let Malfoy do that to me? You really think he would even want to…?”
“I don’t know anymore,” Harry said as he fell into a chair. “I really don’t understand…”
“Me neither,” said Ginny, “I just can’t get my head around it.”
“Around what?” George asked.
Hermione wondered if desperate times asked for desperate measures. “Just wait a sec,” she said as she went to find the letters again.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this…” she said, trembling slightly. “But perhaps it may convince you…. Here, read them if you want.”
“We can’t do that!” Ginny said. “That’s too personal!”
But Harry had already snatched them out of her hands.
George’s eyes grew big as he was filled in on the circumstances. Hermione feared he would have an even bigger outburst than Harry had had. But he remained silent, stunned.
“George…” she nudged him. “Say something please…”
“That woman… that comes in my shop, right… Her parents are in Azkaban… Her mother has had the kiss and her father will get it soon…”
“What?!” Ginny shrieked. “What is it with the both of you? Have you forgotten….”
“Like I would ever, ever forget Fred! Are you mad?” George pulled his wand on his baby sister…
Harry came between them, pushing them back into their seats and taking both of their wands.
“We did say we wanted to create unity and peace again, after the war,” he said with a quivering voice, “looks like we’re truly tested on that matter now…”
“So many people have been wiped out… She will be an orphan soon…” George mumbled. “We have both lost people… and we both want a better brighter future for ourselves, rather than staying stuck in old ways…”
Ginny was still shaking her head. “What about mum and dad…? How are they going to feel if both of you…?”
“Sorry,” Hermione said a bit sharply, “but it is not up to them…”
“I thought you were dating Angelina?” Ginny wondered, ignoring Hermione’s remark.
“I did too for a while…” George joked… “but she wants to stay friends for now….”
“Still…” Ginny didn’t want to give up hope too soon. “You were a pretty good match…”
“Ginny…” he brother said irritated. “Stop it. Perhaps we’ll get back together someday, who knows? For now, I intend to have my first date with Medusa Milford soon.”
“If the name is anything to go by…” Ginny muttered darkly.
“Isn’t Medea her sister?”Hermione asked. “She works across the hall from me, I believe…”
“Yep, their twins, just like me…” he replied.
“I’m sorry,” Ginny said a bit awkwardly, “I know you’d never forget Fred… It’s just really hard hearing all this…” She gave her brother a hug.
Harry looked at Hermione. “Yeah, me too…” he said quietly. “It’s the shock you know..”
She grabbed his hand. “I’m shocked myself… Constantly between hope and fear. Thinking it is absolutely ridiculous or that it might actually work somehow… It’s driving me up the wall, frankly…”
“You should talk to him, I guess….” Harry suggested. “He does seem changed, I’ll grant you that. These letters… they’re a lot more mature… I suppose we did all grow up…”
“Maybe… I’m not sure,” she replied. “He hasn’t changed entirely … and that manor… It’s giving me goose bumps and not the nice kind either…”
“Just… be careful,” he warned her. “Take it slow… If you’re really going to...” he swallowed, “date him.”