Twiddling the never-ending ink quill in her hand, Hermione Granger couldn't help but wonder if today would be a success. Sure, Harry and Ginny had promised to bring James, Albus, Lilly and Teddy; but was that enough of a reason to give her the triumphant pride she so wanted from this little project? As she began staring out through the shop's windows, she couldn't help but acknowledge that it was particularly cold, for an Autumn Wednesday. Hermione smiled to herself as she watched the orange and yellow leaves blowing wistfully in the wind.
'Ding'- chimed the clock as the wooden cuckoo bird burst from its house above of her head, informing everyone in the store of the time. She gave a slight nod of her head to Trevor, the Security officer standing by the electronic safety system; a signal allowing him to open the doors. Hermione's eyes widened slightly as children ran to the back of the store, all clutching her books in their little arms.
"Look Mum, its Hermione Granger!" One little girl squealed as she pointed, not letting go of her book. The child's chocolate brown wavy hair and small frame reminded Hermione very much of herself at a younger age.
"Hello, would you like me to sign that for you?" Hermione asked kindly as she took the lid off of her quill and reached out as the little girl pushed the book in her direction. "What is your name sweetie?"
The girl bit her lip nervously before answering, "Amelia... Amelia Rose Remington."
Hermione forced a grateful smile on her lips even though Mrs. Remington started to huff and puff indignantly. Hermione's smile only grew as she proudly wrote a little note to Amelia- the feeling of achievement was finally sinking in as she signed her first book of the night. Although this was not the first to be published, seeing just how many children loved her stories never lost its novelty and simply fuelled her desire to create more books for them to fall in love with.
After waving goodbye to Amelia and the woman she assumed as the girl's mother, she turned her attention to the countless still waiting in line. As she signed each book, she attempted to write something a little different; words of encouragement, or a thank-you and occasionally a small reflection on herself as a book lover. Little hands clutching books approached the table with as much energy, life and excitement as the child before them and she couldn't help but soak up all the attention. Who wouldn't revel in self-accomplishments once in a while?
The hours ticked by too much like seconds for the Gryffindor, and she couldn't fight the small feeling of resentment towards the clock as it chimed three o'clock. The sound of the cuckoo bird retreating into its house once again was followed by the sounds of shuffling feet as content children left the store along their guardians. Hermione held back a frown, however, as she was greeted by none other than a grinning Lilly Potter and her three bouncing brothers.
"Aunt Hermione!" Lilly placed her book on the table and walked around the desk to sit on her Aunt's knee.
"Do you want me to sign this Lilly Flower?" Hermione opened the front of 'A Princess's adventure', and chuckled lightly as her niece nodded furiously in excitement.
"You have to write something special," Lilly stated matter-of-factly. "I don't want what the other children got; they're not related to you like I am."
"Lilly," Ginny reprimanded and took the girl from Hermione's lap.
"Gin, it's ok, honestly." Hermione placed her quill down and walked around the desk to kiss the remainder of her god children.
"Will you be coming to Mums for Sunday tea this week?" Ginny asked her best friend with a touch of hopefulness. "Please say you will!"
Hermione groaned and rested her bum on the desk, "I don't know Gin- I don't want to impose or cause any problems."
"I don't like Uncle Ron's girlfriend," Little Albus Potter whined as he clung to Hermione's leg like a vice grip. "I prefer you, Aunt Hermione"
"I know sweetie, but if I go over to your place on Sunday do you guys promise to come to mine on Saturday? We can have jelly and ice cream."
All four kids jumped up and down showing their excitement, it had already been planned between the three adults that Hermione would watch the kids; Harry and Ginny needed a break and she just needed the company. Since her break-up with Ron it had been rather lonely- although better than it was with him there.
"Right- we have to go kiddies, thank your Aunt Hermione please, Lilly." Ginny was on a tight schedule, but had just enough time to pop in and get Hermione to agree to tea and sign her daughter's favourite book.
"Thank you Aunt Hermione!" Hermione gave the book back to her niece with a quick kiss on her cheek.
Once the Potter's had apparated out of the store, she remembered that, thankfully, she was allowed to go home and sit in front of her telly with a tub of Ben and Jerry's. Hermione absolutely loved her job; the writing, the drawing and the children's bright eyed faces as she signed their books- but ignoring the sighs of impatience from the parents would tiring after a full day.
After stretching her arms and rolling her shoulders, Hermione went about her business collecting her quills and what-not's off the desk. She yawned briefly and tried her best to ignore the sound of the front door chiming from its opening and closing, thinking that perhaps it was Trevor locking up. However, after hearing the shuffling of small feet and the clearing of a man's throat she sighed, can't people see that she's just getting ready to leave?
As she continued to pack things into her bag she answered the shadow of a person looming over her, "I'm sorry, but I have finished for today- I will be back tomorrow."
"Oh, but Daddy, we waited ever so long as well…" The tiny voice of a young boy broke the Gryffindor's reserve.
Guilt pressed deep down on Hermione's stomach at the sound of such disappointment from a child. As she lifted her head to see shiny gray eyes and platinum blonde hair she froze, her breathe suddenly catching in her throat. The last time she had seen the man in front of her they had been incapable of civilized conversation. "Draco…?"
"Miss Granger, if you could just spare a few minutes for my son; he has been waiting in the queue all morning." The Slytherin was sure to be as polite as possible.
Hermione didn't fail to notice the emphasis on 'son' as she allowed her eyes to travel to the little boy placing the book on the table- 'The truth on Dragons' was printed on the cover. Hermione ignored the older blonde with a smiled, unable to deny the young Malfoy heir and sat back down in her chair.
"Hello there, would you like to come around here?" Hermione asked and the little boy made his way to Hermione's side. She helped him into the blue chair next to her own.
"Are you okay, Miss?" Trevor approached them and asked while sizing up Draco- noticing whom he was.
"Of course Trevor, thank you."
Trevor gave Hermione a stiff nod and moved back to his watch point at the front of the small store.
"Now, what is your name young man?" Hermione asked the Draco Malfoy miniature.
Hermione's heart swelled at the little boy's manners, "Well Scorpius, my name is Hermione. Do you like reading my books?"
The little boy nodded with a shy smile, "My Daddy reads them to me at night before my bed time!"
Hermione could practically feel Draco scrutinizing her interaction with his son but she continued to ignore him and flipped the book open to write Scorpius his own little note. "So do you like dragons then, Scorpius?"
Scorpius nodded once again accepting his newly signed book from Hermione, "Daddy says he is going to buy me your next book for my birthday- that's about dragons too isn't it Miss Hermione?"
Hermione smiled and nodded, "It sure is Scorpius, when is your Birthday?"
Scorpius looked to his Father for the answers.
"His birthday is next Friday." The Slytherin answered briefly.
Hermione grimaced slightly, "I'm not sure if the book will be out by then, but maybe your Daddy can buy it as a Christmas gift instead, would that still be acceptable?"
Scorpius lowered his head and whispered a simple 'I suppose so'.
The door's chime rang out a second time, alerting Hermione that she had yet another guest after hours. She lifted her head to see Draco's parents in a heated discussion with Trevor. Shaking her head at how literal the man took his security job she quickly excused herself to have a word with her employee, "Trevor, is there a problem?"
Both Malfoy's twisted there head's around at her familiar voice.
"You told me you had finished for the day, Miss Granger." Trevor stood tall without looking away from the 'intruders', easily towering over Lucius Malfoy.
"Thank you Trevor, but I will make an exception as they won't be in the store long." She gave a gentle smile to Trevor and returned to her spot next to the boy and his Father. Hermione reached deep into her bag and pulled out a stuffed replica of the dragon that featured in her books, "I have something for you Scorpius- this is yours, if you promise to look after him."
Scorpius' eyes lit up and eagerly took the bear off of her.
"I hope that is okay?" Hermione asked Draco as she slightly bit her lip once she realized perhaps she should have asked him first.
"It will have to be- you have already given him the toy."
"Sorry," Hermione replied meekly, the last thing she wanted to do was upset him.
"We must be going Scorpius." Draco Malfoy spoke quietly to his son.
Scorpius stood on the chair which his bum first occupied and reached over to kiss Hermione on the cheek, "Your very pretty Miss Hermione, thank you for my book and dragon."
Hermione helped Scorpius off of the chair and he instantly ran into his Grandfather's arms, leaving Draco behind and instead joining the elder Malfoy's as they exited the store. The Silence after Scorpius had left was slightly nauseating, so Hermione was grateful when Draco spoke.
"Granger," The Slytherin started, albeit hesitantly. "I hope you don't think me terribly forward, but would you like to go for a coffee?"
"Oh- I mean, sure," Hermione held back the surprise that her stomach felt, completely caught off guard by his offer. Since when does Malfoy want to sit and have coffee with a muggleborn? "Just let me collect my coat and bag- I'll be right with you."
Draco nodded as Hermione turned on her heel. He let out the breath he had been holding while waiting for Granger's answer; he wasn't too sure how open minded she had grown up to be. The blonde grinned at his success and turned to wait for her outside the store along with his parents. As he exited he noticed his Mother sitting next to Scorpius on a bench while his Father tried his best to get the boy to sit still. Draco chuckled lightly- his son may have excellent manners, but his energy was endless.
"She is very beautiful Draco, much more so than when she was in school." His ever-interfering Mother had risen from the bench to come whisper into his ear.
"Yes Mother," Draco chose to humor her with a roll of his eyes. "I have asked her to accompany me to get coffee."
"Do you wish us to come along, or would you like to meet us back at the Manor, son?" Lucius had turned his attention from his wiggling grandson to join in on the conversation.
"The Manor, please Father." He gave his parents a rare smile in thanks. "Could you watch Scorpius for a couple of hours?"
"Of course, dear," His mother rested a reassuring hand on his arm. "You just be sure to enjoy yourself."
Draco watched his parents leave with Scorpius skipping behind happily. He frowned slightly; remembering just how independent his son was becoming. He no longer clung to him and was more than happy to wonder off to do childish things without him. The door chimed behind him- an annoying sound really- and he turned his head to catch Granger closing the door behind her.
"Ready?" Hermione asked with a sigh; she was tired, he noticed. "Trevor will lock up."
"I was the one waiting for you, Granger." Malfoy teased. "So, where are all the good places to get coffee in muggle London?"
It only just dawned on Hermione that Draco Malfoy had just been- not only in her bookstore- but also in muggle London. This day was surprising her around every corner, she thought before clearing her throat, "I have somewhere in mind."
They walked in comfortable silence, side by side. Hermione led him down the cobbled back streets before coming back out into the busy streets of London. She turned her attention to the blonde just in time to catch him raising his eyebrows and she smiled.
"Costa…?" Draco questioned, but didn't receive an answer; instead she just pulled him across the street and into the quaint little café. He looked around and was surprised by the muggles once again; it was a homey little place- he could see why she liked it. The Slytherin began to shrug off his petti coat and spoke to the curly-haired witch beside him, "You can go ahead and grab us a table- what do you take in your coffee?"
Hermione unwound a hand-knitted rainbow scarf that Mrs. Weasley had made for her last Christmas and smiled her thanks, "Hazelnut cappuccino please."
She quietly took a table in the dark alcove of the coffee shop to wait for Draco to bring their coffees. In truth, she had no idea why she was doing this. They were both acting mature and pleasant towards each other and it seemed so out land-ish that she couldn't help but feel skeptical about his intentions. However, he was rather attractive. What- Hermione shook her head at the ridiculous thought. Maybe Ginny was right; she did need to get laid- and who cares who it is? No, Hermione scolded herself; that's not her and they both knew it.
Draco was on his way to the back table to join Hermione when he noticed her hard look of concentration. Trying not to get too concerned he pulled out a chair across from her and sat down, laying his coat across the chair beside him.
"Why?" Hermione blurted out the question before she changed her mind, causing Draco's eyebrows to shoot up behind his hair.
"Why?" He repeated confused, as he placed her coffee calmly in front of her.
"Why did you invite me for coffee?"
"Oh," The platinum blonde shrugged indifferently. "Truthfully, I acted on impulse and was simply hoping you're the one person that won't judge me for who I once was- was I wrong?"
Taking a moment to process his words, Hermione wrapped her chilly hands around her cup and smiled as the coffee flew down her trachea. She carefully contemplated what to say next, "It took me a while, but I don't blame you. I don't blame your parents. I saw a different side of you when I rescued you from the fiend fire; just a scared little boy doing another man's bidding- a lot like Harry. You were Voldemort's puppet and Harry was Dumbledore's."
"Very unlikely," Draco scoffed in response and blew the steam from his cup. He took a cookie from the packet and pushed the packet over for Hermione to take. "But please, continue."
"Your parents- or more so your Mother- I could see were only trying to protect you. She wanted you safe and that is why I stood up for you in front of the Wizengamot. I saw her unshed tears when she could no longer watch as I was tortured by your Aunt."
Draco visibly shuddered at the memory, but she continued.
"Even your Father winced at my screams. This, childishly, made me scream even more knowing it had that effect on the three of you." Hermione pushed through the memory, not wanting him to see how it still affected her. "I had wanted it to end, but I am who I am today because of it. I am a much stronger person than I was."
Draco's facial features became more guarded as he placed his steaming coffee on the little round table. He hadn't expected her to reveal so much, but a small part of him was relieved that it was out of the way. He had always wondered if she still resented him for what had transpired at the Manor all those years ago.
Hermione watched him carefully, gauging his reactions. When he still seemed at ease for the most part, she spoke softly. "I had heard about your wife, Draco, and I am so sorry. Neither you or your son deserve to experience a loss in that way."
"Don't be. Scorpius was too young at the time and the last I hear she is off flaunting herself on a pole in muggle Benidorm- without any of my money I might gratefully add." Draco spoke indifferently and then tried to take the attention off of himself, "Why muggle books?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders, "Personally? I haven't got a clue. You can buy them in the wizarding world as I am sure you are aware and the muggle stores are not entirely muggle; if you don't know that the store is there then it's not easily visible."
"Ah, clever," Draco noticed the lack of ring on her left hand, "You have no husband? I thought you would be married with plenty of Weasley's running at your feet by now."
"Surely you read about our very public break up?"
A chuckle emitted from Draco's chest and he smirked lightly, "That bint stood no chance; I am all too familiar with your right hook."
"She had it coming to her; she knew I was seeing Ron." Hermione rolled her eyes.
Draco downed his coffee and frowned, "Didn't they date whilst back at Hogwarts?"
Hermione nodded stiffly and began to gather her jacket, "Fifth year I believe- and she still calls him 'Won Won.'"
Another chuckle came from Draco's mouth as he shook his head and helped Hermione from her seat. He was reluctant to leave so soon, but he didn't want to push his luck.
"Thank you. I'm glad I agreed to coffee, you have surprisingly changed since school, Draco." Hermione smiled, ignoring the pleasant feeling of Draco placing his hand on her lower back to escort her from the store. "Look, I'm babysitting the Harry's kids all day on Saturday, why not come with Scorpius? We can make a day of it."
"Gosh, a day full of Potters…" Draco smirked as they reached the safe apparition point just around the corner from the café.
"Come on," Hermione pushed him lightly. "I am sure Scorpius will love some fresh new faces."
Draco eventually nodded his head in confirmation, she was difficult to resist.
"Great! Here is my address- come early okay?" After receiving another nod of confirmation from Draco she spun on the spot and apparated home.
"Daddy!" Scorpius ran straight to Draco as soon as he opened the Manor's living room door. He had apparated home immediately after Granger.
"Did you have fun, son?" Lucius Malfoy smirked from the fireplace, tumbler in hand.
In all honesty, Draco hadn't realised how late it had become. Time apparently flew by that afternoon; just sitting in a small café with someone he once called an enemy. "It went well, Father."
Narcissa clasped her hands tightly together with an elegant smile across her lips, "When can we meet her?"
Draco rolled his eyes and sat on the cream love seat across from his Mother with a tired Scorpius cuddled up to his chest, "You have already met her, Mother."
Narcissa frowned, "You know very well what I meant; if you wish to court her, you must bring her for dinner. How does Sunday sound?"
"I'll ask, okay?" Draco sighed and rubbed his forehead. If his Mother was this adamant then there was no getting out of it. He gently stood with Scorpius clinging around his neck. After allowing his son to whisper a quiet goodnight to his Grandparents, he carried the small boy off to bed.