A Stranger Life

Damage Control

Draco watched as Hermione walked away, sighing and running his fingers through his hair. "I swear she's going to be the death of somebody," he muttered under his breath.

At that moment, a touch on his shoulder made him start. He turned around and saw that it was Elina with her boyfriend. She was smiling, but her eyes held curiosity as she watched him.

"Hello, Draco," she greeted him. "I trust you had a pleasant evening after we parted?"

Draco nodded. "It was good enough I suppose. Do you want to introduce me to your friend?" he asked her in a tone that he hoped didn't make him sound like a hostile, overprotective father.

Elina looked up at the guy she'd brought with her. "Draco, this is Galen Crewe. He's from back home."

"Ahh, so this is the boyfriend that Hermione worked so hard to get here." Despite the fact that he hadn't wanted to, Draco found himself circling Galen like an over-enthusiastic vulture.

"Yes, it is. Are you all right, Draco?" Elina was now watching him as if there was something askew with his sanity, and he didn't entirely blame her. "I think you've seen him from every angle, so you can stand still now and talk, can't you?"

"Yes, of course." Draco forced himself to stop and plant his feet firmly on the floor. Galen was watching him with apprehension.

"Elina," he asked hesitantly, "does he always act like this?"

Elina shook her head. "No, not normally." She looked around as Hermione had done and then motioned for Galen to come closer. "But remember, he is my father after all. Can you blame him for being a bit nervous? He's never met you here." She whispered this practically into Galen's neck since he was so much taller then she was.

"Right, I keep forgetting that part." He nodded, then strode over to Draco. "Trust me; we get along well back home."

"You really do," Elina agreed. "Galen's father is a friend of yours from work."

At that, Draco looked over Galen again, this time with a more positive frame of mind.

"Just for my own purposes of clarification, you do mean I know Galen's father in the future for sure."

Elina rolled her eyes. "Duh, Draco. You wouldn't just let me date some guy I met out of nowhere."

Draco smirked a little. "That's good to know. Sorry if I seem a bit uptight, but that is because Hermione has already done something to practically mess up everything and has absolutely nothing to do with the two of you." He then stopped and looked at Elina. "I'm sorry I told you that. I know how much Hermione and I not getting along upsets you."

Elina locked eyes with him. "I've come to terms with that. What happened?"

"Well, apparently when Hermione got to the dormitory last night, Potter and Weasel seized upon her and made her tell them why she was out of bed so late last night before she could get to sleep."

Both Elina's and Galen's eyes widened. "Does that mean they know?" Elina asked.

"Does that mean we have to leave?" Galen was looking just as panicked.

Draco shook his head. "She told them, but they don't believe her. Now they're at the hospital wing recovering from a spell I put on them, but I have a feeling that as soon as they get out, they'll want the 'truth.'

There was a collective sigh of relief from the other two.

Finally, Elina asked "should we be helping her figure out what the truth is, or are the two of you not speaking?"

"Oh, no. We're still speaking. I'm afraid the issue lies with me this time."

Elina gave him a satisfied smile. "Maybe you can find her and help her figure out a good story."

Draco nodded. "I'll go do that. Have the two of you eaten already?"

Elina nodded. "Yes, just finished. We were on our way to the library to do some studying."

Draco bade the pair goodbye and headed to the Hall, where he found Hermione sitting in a chair at a nearly vacant part of the Gryffindor table.

"Would you care to talk?" he asked her.

"Not unless you apologize first," she replied. "I can't believe you had the nerve to accuse me of putting Elina's life in jeopardy. You know I would never do that!"

"Fine," Draco sighed. "I apologize for jumping to conclusions."

"Thank you." Hermione locked eyes with him. "But I can't say I blame you entirely for being angry at me for what I told Ron and Harry. I'm sorry I wasn't more careful about shouting things out this morning. Now, what did you want to talk about?"

"Well," Draco said once the two of them had pulled two chairs into an isolated, completely neutral corner, "I met Elina's boyfriend, and he seems very nice. According to the two of them, Galen's father is a friend of mine from work. Apparently the two of them met and things things progressed from there. Also, Elina wondered if you wanted help thinking of a story to tell Potter and Weasley."

Hermione shook her head. "I think I have that under control." Then she stopped. "I suppose you want to hear a bit of what I plan to tell them?"

Draco nodded. "That would be nice."

"All right. I was planning on saying that she was actually the daughter of some friends, you know. Like the people who lived in the house next door to Alstere, and we spent so much time with our keepers, we were able to establish a bond."

"It's not all that original, but it works." Draco stood up. "Good luck. They should be out of the hospital wing pretty soon."

Hermione nodded. "Thank you. I find it interesting though that you wanted to meet like this. I distinctly remember you telling Elina that you couldn't go around bailing her out all the time, and that from yesterday on, you would no longer act like her father."

"Well for starters, I wasn't bailing her out, I was seeing if I needed to bail you out. And second, I was just a bit put off last night because it was so late."

Hermione smiled. "Is someone a bit uncomfortable with admitting they enjoy being fatherly? I told Ron and Harry that it makes you look adorable."

Draco's eyes widened. "No, for the love of all that is pure and good please tell me you didn't use the word adorable to describe me to Potter and Weasel."

Hermione smiled. "I just told you I did. Have a good day, Draco."

Draco turned away, grumbling under his breath. "Could this day get any more awkward?"

At that moment, Elina came running up to him looking rapturous. "Draco! You'll never guess what just happened! I was in Professor Dumbledore's office and he had a visitor. It was Grandfather Lucius! You and Hermione never let me meet him, but when I saw him a few minutes ago, it seemed like he was going to be here for a very long time. I'm going to go and say hello!" and she ran away excitedly.

Draco ran after her. "You know Elina, there is a reason why Hermione and I never allow you to meet my father, and I have a feeling that if you strode up to him and told him who your mother was you'd soon find out that reason."

Elina waved that aside. "Oh, he can't be that bad." And she started walking again, leaving Draco trailing in her wake and wishing desperately for Hermione so he wouldn't have to do this particular bit of damage control on his own.

"…So Elina isn't really your daughter with Malfoy from the future?" Ron asked, looking somewhat deflated.

"No," Hermione shook her head. "I just told you that because everything else was so odd and exciting that the real story about Elina was a bit dull. I was trying to spice it up a little. And speaking of Malfoy, the two of you are taking my forced association with him very well. It's almost like you don't hate him anymore."

Ron began to choke on a bit of sausage and Harry whacked him hard on the back. "We still hate him," he said. "It's just that this is such a weird circumstance that we don't really know quite what to think of it."

Hermione nodded. "Thanks for clearing that up." And with that, she turned back to her breakfast plate and dug her fork into her eggs.

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