Chapter 13 : The truth is out
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It was bearing that kind of attitude that Hermione went back to her life in London. She was glad to meet her co-workers and to be able to take care of her patients again. She carried a new smile on her face, which brought a new light to St. Mungo’s.
Every once in a while, though, she caught herself staring at nowhere, wondering what could have been. She was very aware of how much she missed Draco and couldn’t help but fear bumping into him and his mrs. eventually.
It was clear that Mr. and Mrs. Draco Malfoy wouldn’t hold their new residence in muggle London. They sure would have settled somewhere near the Malfoy Manor, a thousand year old pureblood neighborhood. Nevertheless, every time Hermione crossed the park, she would pay attention to every face to try to find Draco wandering around. She never did.
Also she walked several times past Draco’s old apartment. She could see it was empty, the curtains had been removed and there was no sign of the fancy paintings on the walls. Hermione’s only comfort was that she wasn’t around when the wedding took place, meaning she didn’t get to see the couple’s happy faces on the covers of the weekly magazines.
Hermione, of course, felt disappointment when she thought about that, but also felt sorry for Draco. At least she didn’t have to be married to someone she didn’t like, she still had her freedom to hold on to.
The other good part of her return to her old life was going out with the girls. Under the condition of not bringing up the Draco subject, Hermione joined the regular happy hours and dinners with Imelda, Kirsten and everyone else.
Soon she would go back to the parties and meet new guys, eventually start dating. And then, I refuse to make any of the old mistakes again! She planned.
Her confidence grew bit by bit, but she was still aware of the void Draco’s absence caused in her life. She assumed the void would be there always as a reminder of what he represented to her. Even if she managed to fall in love again, she knew a part of her would always miss the world of possibilities of her interrupted relationship with Draco Malfoy.
Resilience, a word she never knew the real meaning up until then, was now the very best word to describe her.
It seemed it would all work like that from then on, when Imelda broke in her office like she hadn’t done in a long time.
“Hermione, I hope I’m doing the right thing here” she paused to catch her breath. “Mrs. Malfoy is back for routine exams.”
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat. “And Draco is accompanying her?”
“No, I wouldn’t come if that was the case, as promised. She asked if Healer Granger was around.”
“What did you answer?”
“That I would check. And here I am.” Imelda held still, waiting for Hermione to ponder and still trying to breathe normally.
“I don’t know what to think…” Hermione sounded helpless.
Imelda kept silent.
“What could she possibly want from me?”
“I don’t know – maybe thank you for your help telling Draco about the details of her disease?” Imelda tried.
That made a little sense to Hermione, which was a lot more than she was able to come up by herself. Add to it the devastating curiosity that took her over and you’ll understand why she hurried down to the Muggle Diseases Center.
“Mrs. Malfoy?” Hermione called the woman’s attention before entering the waiting room she was in.
“Yes?” Narcissa looked up at her.
Hermione approached her and offered her hand. “Healer Granger. How can I help you?”
Narcissa shook Hermione’s hand tenderly and smiled politely. “My son has made you justice. You’re just as beautiful as he describes you.”
Hermione blushed deeply, she would never expect such an opening statement by Mrs. Malfoy.
“I’m sorry to disturb you at work, but I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while now and couldn’t miss this opportunity.”
Hermione nodded and took a seat next to Narcissa, as giving her an acceptance to go on.
“First of all, thank you so much for finding out the details of my condition for Draco. That was very kind of you.”
There I have it, Imelda was right. “You’re welcome, Mrs. Malfoy. It was nothing.”
“Second” Narcissa paused, as measuring her words carefully and provoking Hermione’s curiosity. “I’d like to say a word on behalf of my son.”
Hermione shook her head and interrupted Narcissa. “No, Mrs. Malfoy, you don’t have to. I know how those family affairs can be complicated. I don’t have hard feelings towards Draco.”
“Good, then you won’t mind if I do say it” Narcissa’s firm tone made Hermione shut up and listen.
“Since the tragic day, I haven’t seen much of my son, but I know him better than anyone else in the world.”
Hermione frowned, but was careful enough not to interrupt this time.
After sighing, Narcissa continued. “I know he’s suffering and I know why. You. Or else, the lack of you. I have never seen my son’s eyes shine as bright as the day he told me about you, about the girl he used to fight with in school, about how beautiful, intelligent and lovely you were.
“Draco was never an ordinary child. He was always challenged by his father, and even pushed around by him. Even during the most critic times, he never deserted Lucius. But this situation, driving you away from him, was just too much to take, so he left. Although I miss him, I’m very proud of his attitude. However, I am his mother and will always have his best interest in mind.”
Another sigh and the final phrase. “Please, if you still have any kind of good feeling towards Draco, I ask you, go talk to him.”
“Mrs. Malfoy… I’m sorry, I don’t understand… he left? You don’t see him anymore? What in the world has happened after the wedding?”
Narcissa giggled and narrowed her eyes.
“Wedding? There was no wedding, Hermione. A few days before the date, Draco confronted Lucius with documents from Mr. Ashby’s businesses and called off the wedding – it was all over the news, how come you didn’t know? He looked for you, but you were nowhere to be found, so he just figured you didn’t care for him any longer!” Narcissa opened a bright smile, once she realized the silly misunderstanding.
Hermione was speechless, almost petrified.
“Mrs. Malfoy, I don’t know what to say! I mean, this whole time I thought Draco was married. I never dreamed he would be looking for me...”
Narcissa figured it was her turn to keep silent while the girl in front of her processed the new lot of information.
“What do I do now? How do I find him? Where is he right now, Mrs. Malfoy?” Hermione stood up, as if getting ready to go for Draco right that moment, Healer robe on and everything.
“I wish I knew, dear. I’m afraid you’re going to have to figure that out by yourself.”
“What? I’m sorry, Mrs. Malfoy, how did you expect me to talk to him if you don’t know where he is?”
Narcissa smiled. “Well, Draco told me you were the brightest witch of your age. It should be a walk in the park for you.”
The blond lady stood up and before apparating home, said ‘thank you’ to Hermione.
Back in her office, Hermione saw that not only Imelda, but also Kirsten were anxiously waiting for her. She stormed in and asked.
“How come no one told me about it before?”
The two friends looked at each other trying to understand what Hermione was talking about.
“About Draco not getting married, I mean!”
“What do you mean ‘tell you’? You’re the one who forbade us to talk about it in the first place!” Imelda shot.
“Exactly – because I thought he was married! And I didn’t want to talk about it! I was in muggle England for Merlin’s sake! How was I supposed to know that dear Miss Ashby was practically left by the altar?”
“Internet?” was Imelda’s guess. “I hear the whole wizarding world is well registered on the internet, but disguised as fiction.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and gave up.
“It doesn’t matter, anyway. I have to find out where he is. Mrs. Malfoy says he left and she doesn’t know his whereabouts.”
“Or” Kirsten, who was quiet up until then, said. “You could simply let him know you were looking for him.”
“Could I? How?”
“Imelda, dear, how fast can you spread the news that Hermione Granger is back and looking for Draco Malfoy?”
Imelda narrowed her eyes for a second before answering. “Two days throughout England, four to reach the rest of Europe. In less than a week we should be getting to America, I guess.”
“What did I miss?” Hermione felt as if she was in some sort of parallel universe.
“Hermione, Imelda is Rita Skeeter’s niece, remember? She should have followed family tradition and become a journalist, but Healing captured her heart first. It doesn’t mean she lost her natural born skills.
“Now, finish your work, go home and look pretty. Draco Malfoy should be knocking on your door anytime soon.”
It was the easy way out to wait for Draco instead of looking for him. Except for the fact that this was Hermione Granger we are talking about. She knew quite well how to behave while hunting. She had absolutely no idea how to sit around and wait.
She loved to read and to run, that’s for sure. But she couldn’t do it as a substitute for chasing Draco. A few days had passed since Imelda’s breaking news and nothing. How far can he possibly be?
Even Harry stopped by St. Mungo’s to check if the rumor was true, and Harry was working in Egypt for the past three weeks!
“How’s Ron doing?” Hermione asked, feeling a little guilty about their last encounter.
“He’ll live. I’m motivating him to come visit you. You two shouldn’t give up on your friendship, you know?”
“You’re right. I kind of miss him. It’s about time we got over our differences” Hermione pondered.
It was thinking about Ron and how they would ever manage to be friends again that Hermione walked home that day. Harry is really efficient, she thought when she saw some guy standing in front of her building from a distance. It was probably Ron already.
As she got closer, she realized she was fairly wrong. The man waiting was indeed waiting for her, but this one was answering her call, not Harry’s.
Hermione’s heart was pumping hard on her chest and she started walking faster. It wasn’t too long when he realized her presence and opened a huge smile.
Hermione stopped and feeling all kinds of emotions from relief to love, was the first to talk.
“You didn’t get married.”
“No” he answered promptly, shaking his head for emphasis.
“And your father left you off the hook.”
Draco wasn’t expecting that line of approach after a long time craving to be around Hermione, but he couldn’t deny it – he loved her style.
“He had to, after I proved to him Mr. Ashby was broke, just like he was. Turns out his pocket was the sensitive spot when it came to my marrying Alissa.”
“It didn’t prevent him from disinheriting me, though.”
“You don’t get to inherit his debts, then.”
“Exactly” he answered giggling a little, amused by her always so practical point of view. Her friendly tone made him feel confident enough to change the subject.
“I hear you’ve just taken muggle vacations.”
“So, how was it?”
“Replenishing, I’d say.”
“Any… I don’t know, muggle boyfriends along the way?”
She didn’t answer quite so fast. Instead, she stared at him choosing her words.
“Jealous, aren’t we Mr. Malfoy?”
“Not as much as confused, Miss Granger.”
“Confused about what?”
“About the reason why you didn’t look for me when you got back from your trip.”
“Your mistake – I did look for you in the park, but you were nowhere to be found around here. Besides, I thought you were married. No muggle paper has reported you leaving the Ashby girl by the altar.”
“So, no muggle boyfriends, you say?” he got back to his line of interest.
“Muggle men are just as much trouble as wizards.”
“Meaning that I’d rather be alone…” she paused to take a step closer to him “than to be with anyone other than you.”
“I promise to behave.”
“And not to hide anything from me.”
“And not to hide anything from you ever.”
“And to bring me breakfast in bed every Sunday.”
“This is getting expensive, Granger.”
She took a step back and crossed her arms. He reached for her and pulled her back towards him, putting his arms around her waist.
“I’ll make you a deal” he suggested.
“I’ll make you breakfast everyday and bring it to you in bed whenever you like if…”
“If you teach me how to use a muggle espresso machine.”
“I knew it! And what?”
“And if you marry me.”
He released her waist and showed her a wedding ring.
He’s not kidding! She thought.
He pushed the ring into her finger and before she kissed him senselessly, she said:
“You got yourself a deal.”
N/A: This story has been all kinds of fun for me. I loved your reviews just as much as I loved observing the ‘reads’ count go up over the weeks. HPFF is an addiction I’m not about to quit anytime soon and a new story is in my ‘oven’ already. Hope to see you guys come by to check on it! Thank you so much for your support! Love, Diva.