They arrived in Diagon Alley moments later. The light outside was already becoming dim and the streets were sparse of other witches and wizards. The air was so cold they could see their breath in clouds before them as if they were puffing out smoke.
"One moment." Hermione told Malfoy before they walked to their destination. Where that would be.. Hermione didn't know.
Malfoy stopped and waited for her as Hermione cast a spell which emanated bright lavender sparks. Hermione used her wand as though it were an ink pen and the freezing air before her, parchment. She skillfully guided her wand as if she were writing a letter, and in fact she was.
Molly and Arthur,
I'll be at the ministry later than expected tonight, catching up on last minute work. If you wouldn't mind
keeping Hugo a bit later than usual I would very much appreciate it. Let me know if you need anything, tell Hugo
I love him and to finish his studies.
Only moments later blazing red letters appeared before her, a reply from Mrs. Weasley.
Of course we don't mind a bit, he can stay as long as you need. I will make sure his studies
are in order, just after he gets in from playing quidditch with his uncles. Don't work too hard dear, you do more than enough.
Hermione sighed. She felt guilty lying to her family, but she really didn't know what else she could have said. Hermione had never been much of a drinker, and she certainly wasn't about to confess her new "drinking buddy" as she was still in disbelief herself.
Malfoy stood quietly, patiently waiting for Hermione to finish. She was sure he saw her lie to the Weasley's, that way of communication was not particularly private, but he showed no sign of it either way.
"Alright." Hermione said feeling as if she were in some sort of strange dream as Malfoy nodded at her and led her through the streets of Diagon Alley.
Hermione had only been to one place for drinks in Diagon Alley, Dinkley's Pub, and she had only been there a few times. But they passed Dinkley's and continued walking through the winding streets which were becoming more and more dark as they drew on. Hermione didn't know of any other bars in Diagon Alley but she started to become uneasy when Malfoy took her through a turn that led straight to Knockturn Alley. After a few more minutes of silence Hermione finally opened her mouth to ask Malfoy just where it was they were going when he halted.
"Here we are." Malfoy said simply.
They were standing in front of the most run down and shady bar Hermione had ever seen. The windows were boarded letting out no light from within, and the dust covered door looked like it hadn't been open in years. Hermione glanced up at an ancient looking worn sign that faintly read, "The Queen Beast". There were a few questionable characters lurking in the shadows, and Hermione suddenly felt very vulnerable.
"Are…you sure this is it?" Hermione asked Malfoy questioningly.
Malfoy raised his eye brows at her and smirked. "Not afraid of being in good old Nocky Turn Alley now are we Granger?"
"This place looks looks like it's been abandoned for years." Hermione involuntarily shivered in the cold, ignoring Malfoy's cheeky remark.
"Well let's get inside shall we?" "I assure you it's much more lively indoors." Malfoy said ushering Hermione in front of him as he creaked open the dusty door.
Hermione stood frozen momentarily before she was shepherded inside the rowdy bar. Malfoy was definitely right about it being more lively indoors. The dimly lit place was packed with a noisome crowd. It was small room and Hermione became doubtful that they would be able to find a seat anywhere when Malfoy led her around a corner revealing a few black booths and tables.
One of the booths was empty and Malfoy and Hermione were able to seat themselves. Hermione took a seat across from Malfoy and immediately felt terrifyingly uncomfortable. How on Earth did she manage to get herself into this situation? She could barely stand a three minute elevator ride with the man without going mad, what was she thinking agreeing to spend the evening with him?
Although the boisterous bar was definitely not Hermione's scene, she was grateful for the noise. It served her somewhat of a distraction to the awkwardness between she and her new "drinking mate." Malfoy had seemed cool and undisturbed up until they had actually sat down and faced each other. It was obvious that they were both uncomfortable.
A bleach blonde and busty waitress suddenly appeared flashing Malfoy a nice big grin.
"Hello there, what can I get you folks to drink?" The waitress winked at Malfoy while awaiting their order.
" A vodka water." Malfoy returned a grin though it was not in an encouraging sort of way Hermione thought but she didn't think the waitress caught on.
They both looked at Hermione expectantly as she racked her brain thinking of what drinks she had last ordered at a bar.
"I'll take the same." Hermione quickly said not wanting to appear foolish.
"Alright then, be right back." The waitress gave Malfoy one last ridiculous wink before she departed.
Hermione had to keep herself from rolling her eyes.
"You drink Vodka?" Malfoy asked Hermione.
"I don't drink much of anything really." Hermione replied honestly.
"So your day was really that bad, huh?" "To make you want to take up drinking and with none other than your old arch enemy." Malfoy said coyly.
"I'm just as shocked as you are." Hermione replied.
The waitress reappeared speedily and handed them there drinks. Hermione took one sip and shuddered, while Malfoy took a big gulp and grinned.
"It takes some getting used to." Malfoy said.
"It's not all that bad really." Hermione said taking another sip holding back the shudders.
"I would bring up your meeting, but my guess is that you'd really rather not talk about it." Malfoy said
"You'd be spot on." Hermione replied smartly.
"My intuition never fails me." Malfoy replied.
"So tell me, how are you enjoying your employment at the ministry so far?" Hermione asked taking a bigger sip of her drink. She could feel the heat of the liquor traveling through her body.
"So far I don't have many complaints Miss Granger..but I'll give it a few years and then I'll probably end up drinking my ministry problems away just like you."
"So if you're not drinking because of Ministry problems, then what?" Hermione could feel the alcohol beginning to take effect, her nervous feelings were started to ebb away and she felt more comfortable.
"I have a thing or two to drink over my dear, but we won't get into that." Malfoy took another drink.
Hermione knew to change the subject. " Your daughter..how old is she?"
Malfoy's face changed, not a look she was accustomed to seeing on him and see knew it was full of love.
"Evelyn is four years old, she'll be five in March." Malfoy replied
Hermione felt a warmness in her that she knew was not just the alcohol, she was not used to this tender side of Malfoy..it made her feel…well she didn't quite know what it made her feel.
"What about your son, Hugo?" Malfoy asked seeming genuinely interested.
"Hugo just turned nine." Hermione smiled suddenly missing her son.
"He has your hair." Malfoy said
Hermione self consciously patted her head realizing her hair must look worse now than even this morning.
"I know..I unfortunately passed that along." Hermione said sheepishly.
"It's not a bad thing." Malfoy said finishing his drink.
"Oh sure…what was it that you were saying just this morning..that it looked like I had been mugged?" Hermione said defiantly.
"I was speaking more about your injured arm than anything else…sure your hair had a tousled look about it but I never said it was a bad thing." Malfoy grinned.
"Maybe you didn't say but it was definitely implied." Hermione returned the grin.
Malfoy turned to catch the waitress's attention though it was highly unnecessary seeing as she had been eyeing him since he walked in. Hermione quickly gulped down the rest of her drink as Malfoy was turned away wanting to catch up to him. It didn't taste nearly as bad to her now.
"Another hun?" The waitress simpered.
"Yes, I'll take another." Malfoy replied then looked at Hermione.
"Yes I'll take another too." Hermione smiled at the waitress who suddenly seemed annoyed as though she had just now noticed that Malfoy was in the company of another woman.
"Finished already?" Malfoy raised his eyebrows at Hermione.
"Didn't think I could keep up with you?" Hermione winked at him mimicking the waitress.
Hermione had never heard a laughter like that come from him before…it was not mean or malicious like she remembered from so long ago. It was good natured…different..he was so different.
Hermione couldn't help but smile.
"Well, you'd better take it easy there bedhead, I don't want to have to carry you out of here." Malfoy said.
"There you go again with the hair…" Hermione replied.
"Hey there's nothing wrong with behead every now and again…it can be rather sexy actually." Malfoy said coolly while turning his attention to the newly arrived waitress with fresh drinks.
Hermione's heart practically jumped out of her chest. What did he just say?
Hermione happily grabbed her new drink and took a nice big gulp.
"Your daughter…what's her name?" Malfoy asked Hermione.
"Her name is Rose." Hermione replied realizing how much she missed her daughter.
"Same year as your son I believe….Scorpy?" Hermione said.
"He would die if he knew you uttered his nickname." Malfoy said smiling.
"Yes I sort of got that impression.." Hermione smiled.
"Yes, Scorpius is in his fourth year." Malfoy said.
"So…is Evie at home with her mother?" Hermione asked immediately feeling that she shouldn't have.
"Evie is spending a few days with her grandparents, they've gone on holiday and wanted Evie to join them." Malfoy replied.
"As for her mother…her whereabouts are unknown." Malfoy said taking another swig of his drink.
Hermione looked away feeling as though she had been prying.
"Oh..I'm sorry I didn't mean to be so inquisitive." Hermione said bashfully.
"Don't worry…she split not long after Evie was born." Malfoy said outright.
"Turned out she wasn't really the mothering type.. she treated Scorpius as though he were a distant cousin, and after Evelyn…well let's just say she couldn't cope." Malfoy said bitterly.
"I'm very sorry to hear that.." Hermione said feeling guilty that she had brought it up.
"It seems that you've done a fine job taking it on yourself…and I know that's no easy task." Hermione said.
"I do the best I can….though I feel that I should do better." Malfoy looked thoughtfully at his glass.
"I think all parents feel that way…but I've seen you with your children…you're a great father." Hermione said. She had been thinking it for months but never thought she would actually say them to him out loud.
"Thank you." Malfoy said so genuinely that it made Hermione glad that she had said it.
"They really are the best things that have ever happened to me…and I know that I don't deserve them." Malfoy said seriously.
" I feel as though they are going to be snatched out from under me when this greater power..whatever it may be.. figures out that I never deserved them in the first place." Malfoy said looking distant.
Hermione's heart broke for Malfoy, she felt the same way about her children and despite Malfoy's past…he was a good father.
"Your a good father Malfoy, you deserve your children just as much as any one else." Hermione said hoping to console him.
"Thank you, Hermione." Malfoy said looking her in the eye.
Hermione's heart stopped….she couldn't recall Malfoy ever using her name…not without some sort of contempt anyway. The sound of it coming from him did something to her that she had no words for…she did not understand it
"That means a lot coming from you, I mean it." looking at her seriously.
"You've always been..well perfect at everything..and I know you're the perfect mother." Malfoy said looking down.
"You'll have to excuse me..but this is all very strange coming from you." Hermione said to him.
Malfoy laughed. "I'm actually surprised you even agreed to the drinks.."
"Well desperate times call for desperate measures…" Hermione replied playfully.
"It's been a long time…things have changed in many ways." Malfoy said looking distant again.
"I will never be able to change my past…I struggle with it daily."
"I…I am sorry for how I was to you Hermione….to everyone." "It's not something I'm proud of…" Malfoy finished looking defeated.
He said her name again….Hermione didn't know what to say. She could obviously see that he was different. Very different. She was having a hard time wrapping her head around it…but at the same time the man sitting in front of her was nothing like the Draco Malfoy from her past…it was like it was a different person altogether…and she was having a hard time not enjoying his company.
"You don't need to say anything…" Malfoy said quickly. "I would never expect you to accept any apologies from me…I just needed you to hear it from me."
Hermione didn't say a word and instead finished her drink. She was definitely feeling the alcohol.
The rest of the night was somewhat of a blur…filled with laughter and silly conversations. Hermione having a good time. She stopped counting her drinks after the third…how many more she had after that…she would have a hard time remembering. After sometime Hermione knew they were leaving the bar, she felt Malfoy pick her up in his powerful arms and she was kept warm close to he body. It felt so good being so close to him…Hermione found herself thinking. She inhaled his cologne and felt dizzy from the aroma…and perhaps the alcohol. His scent was so comforting..and somehow familiar. She never wanted him to put her down.
Suddenly Hermione was on her soft bed…though it was cold not being up against Malfoy's warm body. She felt him lay her down releasing her from his arms. She caught his arm before he walked away and left her, pulling him closer. She could feel his warm cheek graze hers as she inhaled more of his scent.
"I forgive you." She whispered into his ear and then fell almost instantly into a deep slumber.
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