"Why? Why am I...
Concerned?" Draco thought in horror.
He could not start developing any sort of care for Granger. Caring always led to pain, and he had enough trauma for a lifetime and a half. Shut down your emotions, don't let them use it against you. A soft spot for her will only leave you weak.
Draco walked into the dining room with his head swimming in thoughts of Granger.
Harry had a frown on his face. Hermione could feel his disappointment from her bed two meters away. It was obvious that he never understood the extent to which her and Ron fought. Hermione preferred to think that her and Ron fought because they were opposites, and opposites attract. There was no question that they didn't love each other. Just sometimes they didn't think the same way. That's the only issue right? And no two people think the same, so we're just normal. Right?
"Hermione, he's never hurt you, has he?" Harry's brow furrowed deeper, not believing this has been in front of him for years. These two people were his best friends. How could he know them so little?
Hermione sighed, "Do I look like the kind of woman that would let him get away with that?" When he only stared at her, she continued, "No, Harry, he doesn't nor does he abuse me. Now, I'm tired. Please release Ron. I swear he didn't hurt me. The banging just scared me." She laid back indicating she was done talking.
"This conversation isn't over," he warned as Harry walked out. He really needed to have a good talk with Ron. He knew Ron had always had the emotional range of a teaspoon, and Hermione and him fought, but he never imagined it to this extent. Ron needed to mature, and it was about to be expedited by Harry.
Hermione groaned. She needed a sabbatical from drama. She had enough drama fighting in a war, she didn't need more to resurface. But when does life ever follow one's wishes?
Draco finished his disappointing reheated, dinner of roasted quail and steamed vegetables, only to continue his rather dreary evening by laying in bed, staring a his ceiling, unable to sleep. Despite his usual aura of self assurance and superiority, Draco had acquired good amount of loathing for himself since the war. That night, he lay in between his imported silk sheets and relived some of his worst memories. When he had his eyes closed, visions of torture and death plagued his mind, and when they were open, his conscience reminded him that he didn't deserve his freedom, he was a bad person.
On nights like this, Draco usually took a large dose of dreamless sleep potion, and woke up back to his normal, pompous self. But on this particular night he felt like he deserved a night without sleep. After seeing Granger in the hospital, it reminded him of the last time he saw her bleeding and in pain. Knowing that (even though she was a know-it-all snob) he didn't do anything about her pain twice now cracked his wall he kept around his heart. Now Draco was not a masochist, he didn't like the crippling fear and regret that ran through him when these episodes happened, but occasionally he would tell himself he should have to remember everything he did. If anything, it was so he would learn from it. But, it was mostly guilt that had him wide awake all night reliving the Second Wizarding War.
A long ways away, Hermione was going through pages of paperwork for her release.
"Last one. Just sign here," the nurse pointed to a line in the middle of the page, and continued "to agree that any charges will be paid by either you or your insurance within 30 days time."
Hermione scribbled her signature before Julie was done explaining. She wanted out. It was now night time and she wanted to sleep in her warm bed at home and not on a hard hospital bed.
"I'll be back in 5 minutes with someone to take you home, dear," Julie said in a saccharine voice as she toddled away, swaying her pear-like body and strawberry blonde pony-tail.
Exhausted was the only word that described Hermione at the moment. She was mentally, physically, and emotionally tired. Her thoughts were slow and keeping her head up was a trying task. Just as she was about to give into her drooping eyelids, Harry was in front of her, taking her arm in his and helping her down from the bed.
"Ready to go home?" He asked, guiding her toward the entrance.
Hermione mumbled, "yup," and yawned, hardly keeping pace with his turtle-slow pace. "Thank you Harry," she said, and put her head on his shoulder, completely asleep.
"Well it looks like I'll be carrying you," Harry huffed, and picked her up bridal style. She was no feather, but he could keep his hold easily long enough to apparate to her apartment and get her into bed. After tucking her in, and watching her tiny snores for a minute, he walked out and softly shut the door behind him. Ron was in the living room, sitting on the couch, running his fingers through his hair repeatedly.
"We need to have a talk, Ron," he began. "Why would Hermione be frightened enough of her fiancé to lock herself in her bedroom and jump back in fear when you banged on the door?" Harry questioned with stern eyes train on Ron. His best friend crossed a line today, and he isn't going to stand for Hermione ever being afraid of a man she's suppose to love and trust.
Ron finally looked at Harry, remorse in his eyes, and whispered, "I never knew she was scared of me. I just thought we were bickering like usual. I didn't notice how bad it's gotten." He groaned and covered his face, shame written in his features, "I never wanted to hurt my Mione. Never."
"So accusing her of cheating wasn't intentional? Drinking yourself blind wasn't intentional? You may not mean to hurt her physically, but you break her down emotionally. What has she done to deserve that?" Harry grew increasingly angrier, his last sentence near shouting.
This angered Ron. How dare someone accuse him of trying to hurt Mione's feelings? Especially his best friend. "I didn't think! Okay? I was hurt. She was working with Malfoy! He has everything I wanted when I was younger. Mind me if I had a bit of resentment for the git and took it out wrong."
Despite being able to see where Ron was coming for, he knew not to let that excuse his behavior. He got up and made his way toward their fireplace. "That's still no reason to hurt her like that. You need to shape up. Hermione deserves better," Harry said flatly before flooing back to his beautiful wife who was probably waiting for gossip.
"I hope she can forgive me," Ron breathed and fell back onto the couch.
Hermione woke up content. She could tell by the perfect softness that this was her bed. She was warm and felt exponentially better than yesterday, physically that is. Worry ate away at her thoughts, but that could never outshine the beauty of waking up in one's bed after a horrible few days. She could see that someone, probably Harry, restored the room from its former state of chaos.
Hermione quietly got up and crept into the bathroom for her morning routine. She knew Ron would be listening for her to get up on the other side of the door to apologize profusely, and she needed her thoughts in order before the onslaught began. She locked the door, then proceeded to take a long, relaxing shower. The hot water washed away not only her dried blood from the previous day, but the doubt she held in her mind. She would give Ron another chance, but just one.
Draco's morning was quite the opposite of Granger's. With no sleep and depressing thoughts plaguing his head, he was a bit grumpy. Yes, it was all of his own doing, but he reserved the right to mope.
"Dinky!" He called out.
The little elf popped into his room. "What can Dinky do for Master Draco?" he squeaked and bowed.
"Make me some milk tarts, and bring them up here with some tea, please," Draco declared while scanning through his closest for something comfy, yet classy to wear.
"Yes, sir," Dinky replied before apparating presumably to the kitchen.
"Screw it," Draco muttered as he shut the closest, picked up a book next to his bed and plopped back into bed. Mother and Father don't come to my wing of the Manor, so they can't yell at me for staying in my night clothes today. So, he lay in bed reading a book about pure blood law in nothing but his silk pajama bottoms.
Breakfast was glorious compared to his reheated dinner. With that bit of happiness, he decided it was about time to leave his room for the day and head for the library. He finished Blood Laws volume 1 and needed the second volume to understand exactly how the blood was donated to secure the law they're trying to break. Upon entering the library, he got a surprise he was not expecting for his lazy day.
"Malfoy, can you please put a shirt on?"
After Hermione's shower, she ventured out of her room knowing quite well what was going to happen.
"I'm so sorry, Mione. It was stupid of me to over-react. I never wanted you to get hurt. You can't imagine how scared I was when I finally got that door open," Ron pleaded, all in one breath, as soon as the door cracked open.
Hermione put on her stern face, she needed him to understand that she was done putting up with his temper. "Ronald, your temper tantrum landed me in the hospital. You spread rumors that I was cheating on me, and you destroyed our room. Do you honestly think I'm going to sweep all of that under the rug because you're sorry. You have a history of being distrustful and hot headed. This is your last shot Ron. I'm not going to keep putting myself through all of this for a man that wouldn't change," she kept direct eye contact making sure he knew she was serious.
Tears began to pour from his eyes, and he dropped to his knees. "You want to leave me?" he mumbled through tears.
Hermione was torn. She wanted to be angry that he just broke down which makes her want to give in and say she'd never leave. But she couldn't lie. Not with a marriage soon.
"Ron," she said a bit softer, "I don't want to leave you. But I need to do what is best for myself. I love you. But if you keep up this behavior, I cannot stay with you."
He looked up at her with puffy, red eyes that were requesting an embrace. Reluctantly, she gave in, and allowed him to wrap his arms around her. "I will give you every thing I can. I don't want to lose you," Ron whispered into her neck, burying himself closer to her.
If she said she didn't think this was one of the sweetest things he's ever said, she would be lying. It melted her hard heart a bit, and she whispered back, "please don't make me." They stood like that for a few minutes until Hermione took charge again. "You need to go to work. You're late. And I need to go to the Manor to get more research done," she commanded, leaving Ron's arms.
A frown appeared on Ron's face. He just got her back. He didn't want her anywhere near that git Malfoy. "Do we have to?" he whined, using his best puppy dog face.
Little did Ron know, this didn't help his cause. "Yes, we have to," Hermione gritted through her teeth. This is what she was afraid of- she shows forgiveness and he thinks everything is peachy. No make-up sex for Ronald Weasely. "We have bills to pay! If you don't work, how do you think you're suppose to pay for an apartment, food, and that damn firewhisky you like so much!" She was tired of his immaturity. Just because you say you're sorry doesn't mean that everything is rainbows and butterflies.
"I am going to work, and you better too. We will talk when we get home. You need to know where your priorities lie. Good day, Ron," Hermione said shortly, and grabbed her purse on the way out the door. She needed to go to Diagon Alley to find a book that Malfoy didn't have, so she used that time to clear her mind of Ron.
It worked exceptionally well. She was so calm, she almost missed the same little blonde haired girl at the back of Flourish and Blotts. Trying to not startle the girl, Hermione crept quietly toward her. Rosalinda noticed Hermione all too soon, and took off, book in hand, toward the entrance. Hermione scrambled after her, determined to know why such a young child was alone.
Rosie was very clever for a girl of only 6 years, and rerouted Hermione to believe she was going into Knockturn Alley, when she actually took a sharp left turn and hid in a very narrow alley. However, the child did not understand that she was trying to out wit not only the smartest witch of her age, but a war hero. Hermione saw the move, and pretended to fall into the girl's trap. She used this time to tell a stranger to floo the auror's while she has the girl trapped.
Rosalinda was listening very intently to make sure she was not followed, and after 10 minutes of hearing no sounds like that of the stranger who followed her, she scooted out of her hiding place. She did not expect to have two furor's in front of her, that boxed her in. There was no escape.
"What is your name?" said the stout, balding man in aurora robes. He looked fairly kind, and she figured she could use this to her advantage.
"Rosalinda," she whimpered, looking through her eyelashes. She gave him her best pout and could tell it was beginning to work.
"Where are your parents?" he asked in a softer tone, but not wavering his towering stance.
"Mum isn't that far. I just wanted to read my book, but that woman chased me," Rosie squeaked in a frightened tone. Everyone always believes the kid.
"Who is your mother?" the taller, bright blue-eyed aurora butted in. This aggravated Rosalinda. Mummy always said to never tell anyone where they lived or their family name. It was too dangerous.
While this was going on Hermione was studying the child. Bright blonde hair. Shining grey-blue eyes. Small, pale frame. Delicate heart shaped face. An air of superiority. She couldn't help but imagine this kid could be Malfoy's spawn. They looked so similar, right down to the perfect posture. This thought began to turn the cogs in Hermione's brain. She needed to see Malfoy. She had the book, now it was time to see where this girl came from, and Hermione was willing to bet her entire Gringotts vault that it had something to do with him.
Rosalinda was not happy that the men were not leaving her be. They were not falling for her perfect pout or puppy-dog eyes. The woman was giving Rosie a knowing look. She must have figured something out, and that did not bode well for Rosalinda. Knowing that if the truth could come out her mummy could be hurt, she did the only thing she knew to do. She ran. Unfortunately for her, she had never learned to outrun a trained aurora, and was quickly caught.
Upon the light bulb going off in Hermione's head, the kid ran. Luckily, a 6 to 7 year old had nothing on an auror, and they picked the girl up quickly. Turning to Hermione, they said, "we are going to take her to the Ministry's Child Service Department. Thank you for reporting this. We will contact you if we need any more information." With those kind, departing words, they pulled out a business card, and portkeyed away. So much for finding out who she is. Directly. Looks like Malfoy Manor is next stop.
Hermione already planned on going to the Manor to research, but now she had even more incentive. Malfoy must know of this little girl. She was sure.
A new elf greeted Hermione upon her arrival at the out wards of the Manor. Instead of Dinky, there was an equally small, but more robust and demanding elf waiting for her.
"Miss Hermione? Spotter heard Miss be in hospital. No come today," the elf said suspiciously.
"Nice to meet you Spotter. I was released last night. I feel much better now. I have a book that Malfoy wants, and I need to use the library," Hermione informed the little guy who was still eyeing her as if she was going to destroy his home.
"Come Miss Hermione. Spotter take to library. Would Miss like tea?" Spotter asked as he held his hand out for her to take.
"Yes, please," she said as she grabbed his rough hand. "His had is very knobbldey. Is that a word?" she thought, but was interrupted by the crack of apparation that took them into the Manor.
Spotter quickly released her hand upon entering the library. "I gets tea, Miss," he said, popping away to the kitchens.
Hermione groaned and fell back into a plush chair. She opened up the tome she bought an hour prior and began to scan for anything useful while waiting for Malfoy's arse to get up.
After a half hour of reading, the door creaked open, Hermione had a witty comment at the tip of her tongue about how Malfoy was like a princess, but it got stuck upon seeing him. He was obviously distracted by thoughts as he meandered into the room. But the biggest shock was his lack of clothing. He was bumbling about with no shirt on and a light pair of silk sleep pants.
Hermione always expected that Malfoy was slim, but not muscular. How much muscle do you build sitting on your hind end all day, or playing a sport sitting the entire time? Apparently more than she realized. He was not super muscular, but he certainly had enough tone for her thoughts to slow for a bit. It seems Malfoy isn't so adverse to getting off his spoiled behind as once thought.
Hermione quickly remembered that she was still engaged and this was Malfoy, so she requested, "Malfoy, can you please put a shirt on?"