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Reluctant Promises by penny1200
Chapter 6 : Chapter 6
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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Disclaimer:  I own nothing but the plot.  The Harry Potter series is owned by J.K. Rowling and I'm not her.  Everything else recognizable is owned by their respective companies.

A/N: I know, I know, I'm a bad fanfiction writer because of the long waits between chapters.  I simply can't write when I'm not inspired and I have definitely not been inspired lately, not with my Gleefic or this fic.  However, I just watched Deathly Hallows Part 2, and I'm feeling inspired to continue this Dramione because I am once again reminded of how very wrong I find the Ron/Hermione dynamic.  Once again, I'm American; I'm trying my best with the Britisms, but I'm not British so I'll probably miss some.  Please read and review!  Thanks!


When Hermione arrived in Malfoy's kitchen, she was shocked to find that it was filled with smoke.  Squinting to see through the billowing clouds, she headed toward the stove immediately.  Coughing, she ducked down to get a better look at the appliance's surface.  When she saw a pan sitting on one of the burners filled with a charred mass of what she thought was eggs, she immediately flipped off the burner under it.  From the distance the knob had to move, she knew that the flame had been set too high.

After stowing her wand in her jeans pocket, she was preparing to move to the kitchen window to let in some fresh air when she heard running footsteps and then a loud curse.  Malfoy, clearly focused on the smoke and previously burning pan, didn't notice Hermione.  When he slid to a stop, he hit her hard where she still stood in front of the stove.  The force sent her sprawling across the floor into the nearby cabinets.

As she climbed to her feet, rubbing what would surely be a bruised shoulder, Hermione watched Malfoy check the burner.  Once he was satisfied that the heat was off, he turned to her.

"You alright?"

Surprised that he would even ask, she nodded and scooped up her wand.  When she straightened back up, she said the first thing that came to mind.

"I see you're actually dressed this time."

As soon as the words were out, she wished she could take them back.  The last thing she needed was for him to believe that she had been thinking about his body (because she definitely hadn't, and she certainly hadn't dreamed about running her fingers along his well-defined abs after she'd gotten home).  She knew hope was lost when he smirked at her.

"You sound disappointed," he observed, his silver eyes shining with amusement.

Hermione huffed and fought back a blush.  "Don't be ridiculous, Malfoy."

In the awkward silence that fell, Hermione surveyed the room.  The smoke didn't appear to have dissipated in the least; they definitely needed to do something about that.

"Let's open up the windows and let in some air," she instructed the still-smirking man, "and then we'll head outside until the house clears out a bit."

The house was so small that it only took a couple of minutes to open all of the windows.  When a chilled breeze had filled the rooms, Hermione met Malfoy in the front garden.  Hands clasped behind her back, she wrinkled her nose at the sight of the smoke escaping the windows.

"I probably should have mentioned that you should always keep an eye on food you're cooking on the stove," she finally broke the silence.  "Also, low heat is best for eggs."

Malfoy didn't respond immediately, so she glanced to where he stood at her side.  Eyes focused on the house, he ran a hand over his hair in a manner so reminiscent of Harry that she couldn't help smiling.

"Sorry," he muttered.

"It's alright," she reassured him.

He met her eyes, a slight smile on his face.

"Sorry about knocking you down, too."

Hermione grimaced at him, uncomfortable with the unusual kindness.

"You know, I really didn't expect this job to be so hazardous," she muttered before adding under her breath, "although I probably should have."

Malfoy opened his mouth to retort, but before he could get the words out, a voice sounded to their immediate right.

"Oh my goodness!  Are you two alright?"

ooooo

So far, Draco's decision to make Granger crave him wasn't going to plan at all.  Shoving her down definitely wasn't the best first step to winning her over; in fact, it was something that Weasley would have done.  The very thought disgusted him.

Draco frowned into his cup of tea and attempted to focus on the best way to get his plan back on track, but the voices in the room weren't easy to ignore.  When his Muggle neighbor had come over to check on them after she had seen the smoke, Granger had of course invited the woman inside in spite of his obvious displeasure at the notion.  Olivia Cooper was more talkative than a lecturing Granger and louder than Weasley on an average day.  By far the worst part was that she was a Muggle and she was currently sitting at his kitchen table, contaminating the location where he ate everyday.

"I'm so glad that someone my age is finally in the neighborhood," the woman stated.  "Everyone else nearby is over the age of fifty.  With all of the overtime that Darryl has to put in, it's just been myself and Abby."

Olivia laughed and Draco glared at Granger for her part in this dullness.  She gave him a small apologetic smile, but he knew better than to believe it.  The humor in her brown eyes belied the expression.

"Who's Abby?" Granger asked curiously.

Draco tried to stare back down into his tea and tune them out again, but the feel of Granger's hand on his thigh startled him.  That was new; was she playing into his hands already?

No, no, she wasn't, he decided as she dug her nails painfully into the muscle.  He held back a flinch and turned his head to scowl at her.  However, the effect was lost because her attention was completely focused on the Muggle.  Draco didn't need her to speak though; he knew that she was warning him to pay attention to his new neighbor.  With a sigh, he turned his gaze on the Muggle woman.  Once he did, Granger let go of his thigh, and he tried not to notice how cold he suddenly felt.

Oblivious to the tension between her two companions, Olivia aimed a bright smile at the two of them.

"She's my baby girl, just three months old."

When Granger opened her mouth to speak, Olivia cut her off.

"Oh, don't worry.  Darryl's off today, so he's having a bit of a lie-in with Abby," Olivia stated and then sighed.  "He works so often that he doesn't get to see her as much as he'd like."

Draco frowned.  This Darryl sounded like he worked as much as his own father had while he was growing up.  What could a Muggle do that was as important and time-consuming as Lucius's work with the Malfoy holdings?

"What does he do?" Draco asked, contributing to the conversation for the first time.

"He works in law enforcement," Granger answered, shooting a sharp look at him.

"Right," Draco mumbled.

Since participating in the conversation hadn't gone well, he instead decided to observe the Muggle.  She was tall and dark-skinned with black hair and dark brown eyes.  He bit back a scowl as he realized that she was fairly pretty for a Muggle; hell, she'd be pretty for a witch.  She was also surprisingly open and kind in spite of the fact that they were strangers.  There was nothing about her that screamed Muggle.  In fact, her personality kind of reminded him of Daphne Greengrass, a fellow Slytherin from his year at Hogwarts.  Never a staunch supporter of You-Know-Who, Daphne had been far too nice for a Slytherin and often wound up excluded because of it.  His conscience gave a slight squirm and he pushed back the guilty thought that her difficulties were mostly his fault.  He couldn't think about that now; it wasn't like he could change it.

"So how long have the two of you been married?" Olivia asked.

He would have laughed at the way Granger choked on her tea if it weren't for the fact that he would have done the exact same thing if he'd just taken a drink.

"Married?!" Granger gasped out after she had finished coughing.

Draco felt the odd sensation of being on the exact same wavelength as Granger.  For probably the first time ever, he knew that they were thinking the same thing.

There was no way in hell they would ever be married.

"You're not married?" Olivia questioned, face falling.

"No!" Granger stated, so emphatically that Draco felt like he should be offended.

"I'm sorry.  I just thought...I saw you two together yesterday and you never left last night, Hermione," Olivia stumbled over her reasoning.

Although wondering why Olivia had been watching his house, Draco smirked at Granger.  The Muggle couldn't know that she had Apparated home, so she clearly believed that Granger had spent the night.  That was certainly interesting.  Although the thought was absurd given the animosity still between them, he was pretty sure that he could work this to his advantage for his plan to seduce her.  When the idea hit him, he couldn't help the grin that spread across his face.

"You probably missed it; it was well after midnight by the time she left.  Hermione," he paused because it felt really strange to use her first name, "has her own place, but she only sleeps there.  She'll be here most of the time.  Right, gorgeous?"

When Draco looked at Granger, he could tell from her expression that she was trying to cast a Cruciatus with neither wand nor words.  He just gave her an innocent smile and watched as she tried to figure out a way out of the lie he'd set up.  When she didn't find one, she sighed.

"Right," she agreed, sending yet another scorching glare in his direction.

ooooo

The instant she shut the front door behind Olivia, Hermione turned on Malfoy.

"What in the hell was that?!" she shouted.

She couldn't believe that Malfoy had let Olivia think that they were romantically involved.  There were just so many things wrong with that.  First off, he was Malfoy.  Secondly, she had a boyfriend.  Third, she wasn't even interested in Malfoy that way and never had been (no matter how nice his body was).  Oh, and had she mentioned that he was Malfoy?!

Malfoy sneered.

"I thought you were the brightest witch in our year, Granger.  She's already seen you here and since I still have lessons to get through, she's bound to see you over here in the future.  If she thinks that we're seeing each other, then you can still Apparate in and out.  She'll just think that you left after she went to bed."

The reasoning was so logical that Hermione couldn't argue against it.  She had to admit that even if they had just presented a facade of friendship to Olivia, the fact that she was at Malfoy's house all the time and late into the night would seem suspicious.  At least if Olivia thought they were dating, Hermione's reputation was protected.

"Fine.  I suppose that makes sense," she finally said, and then changed the subject.  "On to today's lesson.  We're going to clean the house."

"No," Malfoy denied firmly.  "I've already told you -- Malfoys don't clean."

"Malfoys don't do manual labor, Malfoys don't cook, Mafoys don't clean," she ticked the statements off on her fingers.  "Tell me; what exactly do Malfoys do?  Other than behave like spoiled brats, I mean."

When he smirked at her, an indiscernible heat in his eyes, Hermione felt very uncomfortable.  She was quite sure she wasn't going to like what he had to say.

"This Malfoy could do things to you you'd never imagined," he said in a husky voice.

While Malfoy's tone sent tingles down her spine, his words were utterly ludicrous.  She couldn't help the laughter that burst from her.

"Oh, Malfoy," she uttered, shaking her head in amusement.  "Let's go.  We have a lot to do today."

ooooo

Two hours later, Hermione was sitting on Malfoy's couch while he dusted the living room.  She was trying to go over the Muggle laws that he needed to follow, but she had a feeling he hadn't heard anything that she'd said.  This was mostly because he had kept up a steady stream of curses and threats since he had scrubbed the pan that he'd left on the stove.  That had been well over an hour ago (a majority of which was spent disinfecting the table of 'Muggle germs').  Resigned to the fact that he hadn't heard a word she'd said, Hermione returned to the beginning of her lecture.

"Really, the laws in the Muggle world aren't very different from those in the..."

"Bloody buggering hell!" he yelled, waving his hand and then stomping on something on the floor.

Having never seen him lose his composure so fully, Hermione began to snicker.  It wasn't nice of her, sure, but it was a sight that she never thought she'd see.

Her laughter drew Malfoy's ire.

"You're a Mudblood, and I'm a Pureblood.  You're supposed to serve me, not laugh while I do your job.  Don't make me shut you up," he threatened in a low, deadly voice.

Hermione stood up and gave him a stern look.

"I'm going to ignore that since I know you're unhappy that you have to clean," she said calmly.  "Get back to work."

She held her expression steady until she was safely in the kitchen.  Once she was sure Malfoy couldn't see her, however, she leaned on the counter and took a deep breath.  Malfoy hadn't really scared her or hurt her feelings.  She was sure that the only problem was that yesterday had been so easy, but today...

Taking another deep breath to regain her composure, she straightened and moved toward the refrigerator.  She was just reaching for the handle when her mobile rang.  Not bothering with the display because anyone who had her number would be a welcome distraction right now, she flipped it open.

"Hello."

"The next time I see you, the only thing you will see is a flash of green light because then you'll be dead."

Hermione's mouth quirked.  "Hi, Ginny."

"I'm serious, Hermione," the other girl stated.  "The next time I see you, I am going to kill you."

"I take it things aren't going well with Blaise?" Hermione questioned, even though she already knew the answer.  Before leaving the cafe that morning, she had given Ginny Blaise's contact information and convinced her to begin his lessons immediately.

"Let's just say that before I kill you, I'm going to kill him.  I'll go out in a blaze of glory for ridding the world of two annoying know-it-alls," Ginny said fiercely.  "He is a stubborn, obnoxious..." she paused to search for the right word before spitting out, "man!  Every time I try to teach him something new, he tries to tell me why I'm wrong!  I could tell him the grass is green and he'd tell me it's red just to be contrary!"

"Has he attempted to burn down the house yet?" she questioned the other girl.

"No."

"Then, you still don't have it as bad as I do," Hermione reassured her friend.

There was a moment of silence and then Ginny asked, "Malfoy tried to burn the house down?"

"To be completely fair, he didn't do it on purpose.  He just left some eggs on the stove for too long.  He's cleaning the house now."

"Wow.  Malfoy cleaning.  I bet that's gone over well."

Hermione snorted.  "I never realized all the creative ways one can use the word Merlin.  Not even Ron knows all of the uses, apparently."

Ginny let out a laugh at that and then groaned.

"Zabini's back, so I have to continue the lessons.  I'll see you later, Hermione."

"Later, Ginny," Hermione returned.

She caught Ginny's last words as she hung up.

"Remember, you're dead."

In much better spirits after talking to her friend, Hermione pulled open the refrigerator.

ooooo

Draco scowled as he dusted the bookshelf.  He had run off Granger.  He was a little disappointed.  He never would have expected her to give up simply because he'd been mean to her; she never had before.  If she requested a transfer off of his case, then his plan was finished.  He'd never get her into bed if he couldn't see her.

Moving to the cabinet with the weird black box in it, he acknowledged another issue with that thought.  He had actually grown somewhat accustomed to having Granger around.  Yes, she was a Mudblood, and yes, she was one of his childhood enemies.  She was also smart and, amazingly, decent company when they weren't fighting.  And, Mudblood or not, she was easy on the eyes.  If she quit, who knew what he'd end up with?

Reluctantly, Draco realized that he might have to apologize to her if he wanted to keep her around.  Malfoys didn't do apologies.  The closest they ever came was the simple sorry that he'd muttered that morning for the burnt eggs and hurting her.  Those weren't serious issues, though, so it wasn't like apologizing for hurting her feelings.  He wasn't sure that he'd be able to get through that.

After several more minutes in which he finished up the living room and moved into the bedroom, he heard Granger call his name.  Steadying himself to do what he had to in order to keep his plan on track, Draco followed the sound of her voice.  He came to a surprised stop when he entered the kitchen.

"I was thinking," Granger stated, her back to him as she pulled two glasses out of the cupboard.  "It's really no wonder that you're cranky; you never ate breakfast, after all."  She filled the glasses with water as she continued, "If there's anything I've learned from being friends with Ron and Harry all these years, it's that men become irrationally angry when they're hungry."

Once the glasses were full, Granger sat them on the table near two plates of grilled cheese sandwiches and crisps and two bowls of tomato soup.  Then, she sat down in front of one of the plates and looked up at him.

"Come on then, Malfoy.  You don't expect me to eat all of this, do you?" she asked with a small smile.

Dropping his dust cloth on a nearby segment of counter, he slid into the seat across from hers.  They spent the next few minutes in silence as they ate.  He was impressed with how good the sandwiches were, and the soup was a perfect complement to them.  Once his lunch was gone, he leaned back in his chair and studied Granger, who was swirling her spoon through her soup.

"You cooked for me."

It wasn't said as a question, but it definitely was one.  After how he'd treated her, he had expected her to quit, not make him a meal.

"Like I said, I know that men get cranky when they're hungry," she responded.

"Weasley's a bottomless pit."

Again, it wasn't a question, and yet it also was.  Luckily, Granger took it as such and met his eyes.

"We keep a lot of snacks in the flat, and I try to make it home by six.  He expects supper at seven and when it's late, he can get a bit...sharp," she admitted.

Not for the first time, Draco wondered why she was with the prat.  Surely she knew that she could do better, Mudblood or not.  However, he knew that asking that question would ruin the tentative peace that had settled between them.  He watched Granger gather up the dishes as if she had forgotten that he was supposed to do all of the cleaning, and it struck him what he needed to do to win her away from Weasley.

He'd have to treat her with the consideration that the other wizard had never shown her, and there was no time like the present to begin.

"I'll clean up," he offered, standing and taking the dishes from her.  "Why don't you go over the Muggle laws again?  I promise I'll listen this time."

She looked taken aback, but she recovered quickly.  As she hurried into the living room to get the parchments she'd had earlier, Draco didn't miss the genuine smile on her face.

He did miss the answering one on his.

ooooo

Hermione checked the clock above the TV and noticed that it was already six.  Wanting to give Ron plenty of attention tonight, she shuffled her parchments back into order and stood up.

"I think that's enough for the night," she announced to Malfoy, who was sitting on the opposite end of the couch.

While Hermione tucked the parchment into her purse, Malfoy copied her earlier actions and checked the clock.

"Time to feed the Weasel.  Wouldn't want him to get sharp with you."

Hermione let out an exasperated huff and leveled a glare at him.

"Don't make me regret speaking to you, Malfoy."

"I wouldn't dream of it," he defended in a deceivingly innocent voice.

Zipping her purse, Hermione glanced at him again.  He had his hands up in a gesture of surrender and there was a sparkle in his eye that disarmed her annoyance.

"Alright.  I'll see you tomorrow, Malfoy."

She was preparing to Disapparate when he stopped her.

"I'd like to see my mother."

Lowering her wand to her side, Hermione nodded.

"Of course.  Why don't you call her and find out when she's available?  After you two talk, let me know when I should bring her through."

He was silent as Hermione raised her wand again, but as she disappeared, she heard his quiet thanks.

ooooo

Once alone, Draco tried to decide what to do with the rest of his night.  He didn't know what Muggles did for fun.  Their lives seemed to be a lot of work; he hadn't even seen a wireless in the house.

Shrugging, he decided that talking to his mother would an excellent way to break up the boredom.  Plus, it would help him master his mobile which would give him yet another advantage over Weasley.  Smirking with satisfaction, he headed for the bedroom and grabbed the strange little device.  Following the steps that Granger had taught him, he dialed his mother while he walked back into the living room.  The other end rang twice before she picked up.

"Hello?"

Her voice was so cautious that Draco guessed she didn't know that he was the one calling.

"Mother?" he tested.

"Oh, Draco!" she exclaimed.  "I certainly never expected you to phone.  It's so nice to hear your voice.  How are you handling Muggle life?"

Draco began to tell her about the previous days.  He was hesitant at first, unsure that the Muggle-made mobile would function as Granger had told him it would.  When he finished describing the awful decor of the house (which was only slightly better for the new floor in the kitchen -- Olivia had seen it before Granger could put it back), he was more confident in the mobile's abilities.  As he continued to speak, he sat down on the couch.

As Draco told his mother about their shopping trip and the lessons that Granger had given him so far, he learned that using a mobile was actually really easy and extremely comfortable.  There was definitely something to be said for receiving feedback immediately instead of waiting for a return owl or Patronus.  By the time he had finished talking about his first miserable foray into cleaning, it was as if speaking over the mobile was something that he'd done his whole life.  When he checked the clock, he was shocked to see that he'd dialed his mother a full ten minutes previously.  In that time, he'd managed to talk about everything except Granger; he'd avoided mentioning her in more than passing, so far.

"And how are you getting along with Hermione?" his mother questioned when he fell silent.

If it were anyone else asking, Draco would blow off the question.  This was his mother, however, so he knew that he'd have to put some thought into his answer.  He was considering how to describe the odd pattern of fighting followed by short truces that they seemed to have fallen into when she spoke again.

"You're not causing her any trouble, are you, Draco?  She seems like a very nice young woman, and she's put her whole life on hold in order to complete this favor for Harry."

Draco couldn't help the disgusted sound that escaped him at the mention of Potter.

"Draco Malfoy, you may not like Harry Potter, but there is no denying that our family owes him a debt.  If it weren't for his support, we'd probably all be facing life in Azkaban," she chastised.  "Now, are you treating Hermione with the respect she deserves or are you behaving like a spoiled brat?"

Draco pulled the mobile away from his ear and stared at it in surprise.  His mother had certainly never spoken to him like that before nor had she ever called him a brat.  His eyes narrowed -- that had to be Potter's influence.  He put the mobile back in place.

"You sounded like Granger just now, Mother.  She called me a spoiled brat just today," he admitted.

His mother's sigh carried over the line.

"Then the two of you aren't getting along?"

Her disappointment was clear.  He wanted to reassure her, but his circumstances with Granger were complicated.

"That's not it," he finally admitted.  "We mostly fight, but sometimes things are..." he paused to search for the right word before settling on, "alright."

"What do you mean?" Narcissa asked, curiosity obvious in her voice.

"Like earlier today.  She laughed at me so I snapped at her," he confessed reluctantly.

"How did she respond?"

"She made me lunch."

His mother was completely silent for a moment and then she laughed.  The sound filled Draco until he was laughing with her.  That was one reason why his mother was so important to him -- she could make him laugh without worrying about his reputation.  He was startled to realize that the last time he'd laughed like this had actually been in the restaurant with Granger.  It was enough to shock him out of his amusement.

"She truly is as clever as Harry said," his mother stated once her chuckling had died down.

Still disconcerted at the thought that he had laughed with Granger in a way that he usually only did with his mother, he turned the conversation away from the Mudblood.

"When are you free to visit?"

Once Narcissa had agreed to come to his new house that Saturday, Draco hung up.  Staring down at the closed mobile in his hand, he frowned.

Yes, the Muggle mobile had it all over both owl and Patronus.  The fact that was even possible confused him more than anything that had happened since he had left Azkaban.

ooooo

When Luna let out a delighted laugh upon disconnecting Harry's mobile, he looked up from the new proposal he was working on for his next meeting with his higher ups.

He had answered the call from Narcissa who had thanked him for giving her number to Malfoy.  When she had asked to speak with Luna, he had handed the device to her immediately.  There was only one reason that Narcissa Malfoy would talk to his wife and that was their plot to get Malfoy together with Hermione.  Since he still wasn't sure about their plan and continued to hold out on getting any further involved, he hadn't wanted to know the specifics of what they were discussing.

When his lovely, whimsical wife began to spin around the kitchen table in circles while laughing joyously, he knew that he was going to hear the content of her conversation with the Malfoy matriarch.  She was simply too happy to keep it to herself.

After thirty seconds of twirling, Luna came to a breathless stop next to him and dropped his mobile on the table.

"Our plan is going quite well," she began, a blinding smile on her face.

"Your plan," he emphasized.  He certainly didn't want any of the blame if Ron or Hermione found out.  "I had nothing to do with it."

The swaying blonde ignored him.

"They are making progress.  Draco called Narcissa tonight.  While he and Hermione still fight, he said that they're alright sometimes.  Their anger is dying," she announced brightly.  "And love will soon blossom in its place."

Harry didn't want to burst the bubble of happiness surrounding his wife, but he felt like he needed to reel her back into reality.

"Doing alright isn't the same as falling in love or even being friends."

"Hermione made him lunch today after they argued," she stated dreamily.  "For them, it's the first step to a fairy-tale ending."

While Harry refused to believe that, he definitely didn't like the thought of Hermione cooking for Malfoy.  It seemed way too friendly, especially given that she was supposed to be teaching Malfoy to cook for himself.

He knew that Hermione would believe he'd finally gone carrot-top from the stress of his job if he voiced his suspicions to her.  However, Malfoy...

Maybe it was time for him to personally check on how Malfoy was settling in.

ooooo

When Hermione sat down for dinner with Ron that night, he dug into the pork chops and roast potatoes that she had cooked with great relish.  There was very little room for conversation as he was too focused on the food.  Plus, Hermione had learned the best way to avoid coming away from the table covered in food particles was to avoid talking.  So she allowed her thoughts to drift.

Spearing a chunk of red potato, she popped it into her mouth and savored the mingling flavors of butter, rosemary, and oregano.  There had been a time when she would have never thought she possessed the skill to cook something so tasty.  During their journey for the Horcruxes, she had been responsible for several culinary horrors.  At that time, she was sure that cooking, like flying, was a talent beyond her reach.

But then Fred had died in the final battle.  Mrs. Weasley hadn't handled his death well at all, falling into a deep depression.  The older woman had loved all of her children equally, and the presence of the other six hadn't been enough to pull her out initially.  With Fred gone, although he was of age and out of the house, it was as if Mrs. Weasley had lost her will to continue.

At the time, the rest of the Weasleys had been so deeply grieving Fred or worrying about George that it was as if nobody but Hermione and Harry had noticed that Mrs. Weasley was drowning.  She no longer cooked or cleaned.  She would often sit at the kitchen table and stare at the floo as if expecting Fred to appear at any moment.  Although they never spoke of it, Hermione knew that it had broken Harry's heart that he couldn't just rush in and save the day as he'd always been able to before.  Watching Mrs. Weasley fade and Harry helpless and in pain had hurt Hermione to her very core.

When she was sure that they would lose Mrs. Weasley as completely as they had Fred, Hermione had done the only thing she could think of to help -- she had asked Mrs. Weasley to teach her to cook.  Distraction had helped Hermione make it through the times when thoughts of Lupin, Tonks, Fred, and so many others made her feel like she could happily embrace the darkness of an eternal sleep, so she hoped the same tactic would help ease Mrs. Weasley back to life.  They could help each other.

It had been rough at first, but ever so slowly, Mrs. Weasley had moved back toward the happy woman she had been before the war.  Seeing the success that Hermione was having, Harry had joined their cooking lessons, followed by Luna, who was often at the Burrow to help out.  Two months after Hermione's first lesson, Mrs. Weasley had a small group of Hogwarts-age or slightly older witches and wizards looking to her for guidance in the kitchen.

Six months after that, Mrs. Weasley had pulled Hermione aside and thanked her for saving her life and helping her realize that even without Fred, she still had family and friends to love and care for.

"I may never be whole again, but thanks to you, I will be alive to see my grandchildren," she stated, squeezing Hermione so hard that she was sure her ribs would crack.

Predictably, there had been a lot of tears between the two women that night, and they'd been closer than ever before since.

"See how much better things are when you're home at a decent time."

Ron's voice broke through Hermione's thoughts, and not in a very pleasant way.  Looking up, she realized that while she had only eaten about half of her food, he had cleared his plate.

"This is how things should be.  When you cook dinner so that it's ready when I get home, we can eat together."

Pushing his chair away from the table noisily, Ron stretched and let out a belch.  Hermione wrinkled her nose.  She would admonish him, but he had proved an utterly hopeless cause where manners were concerned.

"A little less garlic on the potatoes next time, okay?"

As Ron shuffled toward the door into the living room, Hermione glanced down at her half-full plate (she hadn't even used garlic) and then back at her boyfriend.

"Aren't you going to stay until I finish?" she asked.

She hadn't even gotten to tell him about her rather eventful day yet.

"Nah," he said with a shake of his ginger head.  "I'm going to catch the Puddlemere-Wimbourne match on the wireless.  It may not be over until late, so don't wait up," he finished before moving out of sight.

Hermione stared at the spot where he'd disappeared for a moment and then sighed.  Appetite gone, she stood and began to gather the dishes.

She was just draining the dirty water from the sink, listening to Ron curse Oliver Wood, when her mobile rang.  When she saw the identity of her caller, she very reluctantly answered.

"What is it, Malfoy?"

"The magic isn't my fault this time," he began.

Hermione's attention sharpened.

"What are you talking about?"

"I found a box that I can spy on people with.  You need to come over here and deactivate it before I get blamed for it."

Amusement flowed through Hermione as she guessed at what he was talking about.

"Malfoy..."

"Now, Granger," he cut her off before hanging up on her.

Although Hermione was 98% certain that he had simply turned on the telly, she decided to Apparate over and check it out.  She stuck her head in the living room and let Ron know where she was going, and he responded by letting out another loud curse aimed at the wireless.

Well, Hermione thought as she pulled on her boots, it wasn't like she had anything better to do tonight.


A/N 2:  Okay, some of you may feel that Draco was OOC during his call with Narcissa, but I think that she would be the one person he would feel comfortable truly being himself with, vulnerabilities and all.  The books did set him up to genuinely love her to the point where he would do just about anything to keep her safe, after all.  I tried to capture that while still keeping him in character in his thoughts and such.  Also, I hope that I kept my portrayal of grief somewhat true to life; I fully believe that once the euphoria of defeating Voldemort wore off, the Weasleys were headed for a dark time, especially George and Mrs. Weasley (remember her boggart in book five?).



 


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