A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.
In the end of Chapter Nine:
“I want you to be happy, you know I do,” Harry assured sincerely. “It's just so hard to believe... Of all the people in the world, he's the one who makes you happy.”
“I know,” Hermione sighed with a half-smile. “I didn't exactly see that coming, either. But nothing's happened between us yet and I don't know if anything will, so...let's keep it quiet, alright?”
“Yeah, of course. Just know that I'll be there for you, whatever you decide.”
“Thank you, Harry,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around him to hug him tightly. “You don't know how much that means to me.”
“I probably don't,” Harry admitted, patting her on the back. “I probably don't.”
Hermione spent the next day avoiding Draco. Ginny proved to be very helpful in the task. Even though she wanted her friend to face the boy and deal with the situation, she kept her thoughts to herself and came up with excuses to drag Hermione away from him.
The way she was acting was childish and cowardly, Hermione knew that, but she just wasn't ready to go through with ‘The Talk’. How much did Draco know? Surely he must have noticed that she was acting strangely, but had he made the connection between her behavior and the incident at the dinner table the day before? Had he realised how correct he had been about her inability to resist him?
Her head was swimming with thoughts, each one crazier and more desperate than the previous. She could feel Ginny's eyes on her as she packed her things – they were leaving for the next safe house that evening. The redhead didn't say much, but her presence was comforting. It was nice to know that whatever happened, she wouldn't have to go through it alone.
A few hours later, it finally was time for everyone to gather in the foyer and wait for the Port Key to activate. The five young adults and two Order members took hold of a hula hoop just as a blue light began to emanate from the Muggle toy. They felt the familiar tug behind their navel, and before they knew it, they had reached their destination.
The new house was enormous, the first glance told everyone that much. The foyer was vast – there were a couple of doors on each wall and the staircase was remarkably wide. However, it was the biggest and greatest surprise that brought a delighted smile to Hermione's lips.
“How're yeh doin', Hermione?” the gigantic man asked, beaming.
“I'm fine, thanks,” Hermione grinned. “It's so great to see you! How have you been?”
“Been worryin' 'bout yeh, young lady, tha's what I bin doin',” Hagrid told her. “Lemme take yer bags, we'll talk upstairs.”
Without waiting for an answer, Hagrid grabbed Hermione's luggage – Ginny had brought additional bags and there were more than a few – and headed towards the stairs. The brunette followed suit. She couldn't help the awed expression on her face as the house was so impressive. There had to be over half a dozen rooms on the second floor, but the Hogwarts gamekeeper led her to the third and opened one of the doors. She stepped in, curious about what was inside.
The room was a bit of a disappointment. After what little she'd seen of the house, she'd been waiting for something grand, but the bed chamber was actually quite small. There was a bed, a closet, a full length mirror, a table and chair...and that was it. There wasn't even a window, but she had gotten used to not seeing the daylight in the past month and a half. She sighed. At least she had her own room where she didn't have to worry about seeing Draco every time she turned around.
“So... Yer alright 'n' everythin'?”
“I'm fine, Hagrid, really. I had a hard time but I've dealt with it... Nothing to worry about anymore.”
“That Malfoy kid bin buggin' yeh? Yeh know I'll set 'im straight if he's bin causin' trouble,” Hagrid grunted, his hold on his old pink umbrella tightening. The gesture would have been more menacing if he'd been able to stand straight, but the room wasn't high enough to allow that.
“That won't be necessary,” Hermione assured, fighting back a smile. “He's been pretty nice to me, actually.”
“Nice? Didn' know them Malfoys could do that,” he frowned.
“Well, Draco does,” she shrugged. “But tell me, what are you doing in here? I haven't seen you in ages!”
“I'm not really s'posed ter tell yeh,” Hagrid lowered his voice, “but they're puttin' more protection on the house... The Order, tha’ is. ‘S Harry's birthday soon an' lots o' wizards are gon' be here then. I'm helpin' out today an' I'll come back when I can.”
Hermione nodded slowly. July 31st was less than a week away, it made sense to start preparing already. The other side would surely keep an eye on anything the Order might do that was out of the ordinary.
“Yeh wanna head downstairs, Hermione?”
“No, I think I'll unpack first,” she replied. Anything to avoid Draco for a few more minutes. “You go ahead, I'll be down when I'm done here.”
“Sure thing,” Hagrid nodded and left the room, crouching to get through the door.
Hermione smiled to herself as she lifted her bags onto the bed and started to empty them. It was good to see Hagrid again, she hadn't realised how much she had missed him. Who else had she forgotten about? She would probably find out soon enough – there would be lots of people at Harry's birthday party. Turning twenty wasn't as important as coming of age, but it was still a big deal. What was she going to wear? She rummaged through her bag and found a pair of...lacy bra?
“No,” she gasped in horror.
She dug deeper to see how bad the situation was, only to find out it was simply awful. Her modest pairs of black, white and nude bra were all gone. All she could see was – she whimpered in terrified disbelief – piece after piece of sexy lingerie that she was supposed to wear! There were tiny bows, cute little prints and lace everywhere. And matching panties, too.
Ginny was behind this, she knew it. What else had she done? Hermione quickly went through the rest of her things to see if there was more damage done, and there was. She huffed angrily. What kind of flaws could the redhead have found in her night clothes? They had matched, after all! There was no point in turning her t-shirts into tank tops and shorts into hot pants, they wouldn't even cover anything!
Ah, but yes... They wouldn't even cover anything.
She heaved a deep sigh. So that's what the girl had in mind – she was supposed to prance around in front of Draco in these skimpy little things to get his attention. Like she would ever do that! If she wanted to get his attention, she could think of something a lot less degrading. Besides, at the moment she wasn't exactly planning on charming him. If anything, she would try her best to stay out of his sight.
She shoved the rest of her things in the closet and headed downstairs, intent on finding out if there was any brain activity left in her friend's head. Ginny was clearly quite out of it. Even Hermione had to admit, though, that she had done a wonderful job in what little time she'd had. The girl had only been alone with the clothes for a couple of minutes after they’d finished packing and Hermione had gone to the bathroom.
The brunette followed her friends' voices and found them in the large but cozy kitchen, chatting with Hagrid. She promptly sat down next to the redheaded girl.
“The house is great, isn't it? Dumbledore charmed it himself,” Ginny told her with an air of respect in her voice.
“Yes, it's lovely,” Hermione replied curtly, closing the subject. “Speaking of charming... Have you been to my bags?”
Ginny flashed a guilty grin at her. “They're all the same size, I just modified them a bit,” she admitted. “Aren't they cute?”
”Oh, they're just peachy,” she retorted sarcastically. “I was just wondering why exactly you thought I would need them.”
“Everything alright there, Hermione?” Harry interjected. “What happened?”
“Trust me, Harry, you don't want to know,” the brunette shook her head.
“Come on, Hermione, you never know when they might come in handy! There could be a,” Ginny cleared her throat, aware of the people listening to the conversation, “a situation where...it would be nice to have them, even though you probably wouldn't need them for long. If you know what I mean.”
Ginny's voice was completely neutral, but Hermione blushed nevertheless.
“I am not discussing this anymore,” she announced indignantly and grabbed a piece of toast.
They had a light evening snack of bread and tea. Once she was done with her meal, Hermione got on her feet and told everyone she was going back to her room. They wished her a good night as she left the kitchen.
Climbing the stairs, she decided to give her new underwear a chance. They were still the same size, did it even matter what they looked like when she was wearing clothes to hide them anyway? Ginny had gone through so much trouble to surprise her, it would be rude not to make use of what she had done, Hermione reasoned.
When she reached the third floor landing, she froze in place. Sitting in a comfy recliner, arms folded over his chest and clearly waiting for her, was Draco. She had forgotten to keep her eyes open for one moment and now she was in trouble. The was no means of escape in sight. Hanging her head in resignation, she took the first step towards the sitting area.
She had underestimated one thing, however.
“Hermione, I almost forgot I wanted to talk to you about something,” Harry panted. He had hurried up the stairs jumping over three at a time. “Can we go to your room?”
“Sure,” Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. “Let's go.”
They entered her room and closed the door behind them. She cast both the Silencing Charm and Muffliato to make sure they weren't overheard. Then she sat down on her bed to let her suddenly wobbly knees rest.
“Thank you, Harry,” she whispered gratefully. “Thank you so much.”
“Anytime... Are you alright?”
“I'm okay now, I just wasn't expecting to see him... How did you know to swoop in at exactly the right moment?”
“Ginny realised she hadn't seen Malfoy in a while. I was done eating so I ran after you,” Harry explained. “She told me earlier that you weren't ready to talk to him yet.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but smiled nevertheless. "I never thought I'd be happy to have her conspiring behind my back, but I am now...”
“She attacked me the moment she found out I was in on the secret,” he laughed. “Ron might not be that eager about the whole thing, though. I think he was pretty dumbfounded when I left the kitchen in such a hurry... When are you going to tell him?”
She sighed and buried her head in her hands. Ron... He wouldn't take it well. He hated Draco. He hated seeing her spend time with him and he couldn’t understand why she did. Was it really necessary for him to know yet? He'd just turn even more sour, and there was no guarantee he'd have to see her and Draco together. Nothing might even happen. Her heart fell just a bit at the thought.
“I don't know,” she admitted. “I don't like keeping him in the dark, but I don't what I'd say to him. He'll freak out.”
“Do you want me to do it?” Harry offered quietly.
Hermione gave him a surprised look. “You would do that?”
“Sure,” he shrugged. “You would just get into a fight with him if you tried to explain how you feel. It'll be easier this way.”
“Thank you so much... I don't know what I've done to deserve this.”
They talked for quite a while in order to ensure the little charade they were planning on was believable. Once it was late enough, Harry left the room, wishing Hermione a good night. Draco had still been sitting there waiting, and she heard the raven-haired boy explain to him that she was tired and had gone to sleep already. The blonde protested angrily, but didn't come knocking on her door to try and wake her up. She listened to the boys' doors closing and sighed deeply once again. What a long day it had been... And it wasn't even over yet.
* * *
Hermione felt absolutely ridiculous. She had just snuck out to go to the bathroom, wearing one of Ginny's two-piece nightie creations and a dressing gown. It was completely pathetic – she had actually waited in her room for half an hour to make sure she didn't run into Draco. How much lower could she sink? She was rapidly becoming a crazy paranoid person who thought someone didn't have better things to do than to follow her around. As if Draco would stay up to see if she was really asleep... He wasn't that desperate, she shook her head to herself.
After finishing with her evening routines, she reflexively prepared herself for tiptoeing back to her room. Then she remembered she was being silly and opened the door without hesitation.
But she wasn't crazy, she wasn't paranoid... It turned out she had been right to have suspicions.
“Fancy seeing you out at this hour, Granger.”
She jumped at the sound of his voice, her hand flying to her mouth to stifle the sharp and surprised intake of air. Her heart was suddenly beating a lot faster.
“Gee, Malfoy, you scared me!”
“Gee, Granger, I thought you were asleep,” the blond retorted.
“I... I was, I just went to the bathroom.”
“You shouldn't talk to Potter all night if you forget about things like going to the bathroom,” Draco narrowed his eyes angrily. “What the hell was that about?”
“It was nothing, really... Look, I'll talk to you tomorrow,” she responded evasively, hoping he would just let it go.
“Will you?” he raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Or will you keep running away from me, like you've been doing today?”
“I haven't been running away from you,” Hermione argued quietly, not meeting his eyes.
“You haven't exactly been running to me, either.”
“I'm not your puppy,” she huffed, trying her hardest to keep the hurt away from her voice, to keep the tears from falling. “You can't expect me to spend every waking moment running after you like an idiot.”
“What?” he shook his head in disbelief. “I've never asked you to do that! You're just so different today, I don't understand... Tell me what's wrong,” he pleaded.
She couldn't look at him. She could barely stand to hear his voice. All the feelings she'd been trying to fight, every reason she'd had to avoid him, it was all crashing in on her. She wanted nothing more than to throw herself in his arms and have him tell her everything was alright, but she couldn't. She couldn't because it might not be alright. She couldn't let him hurt her.
She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. The tears were coming, she could feel it. Why had she let herself get so attached? Was there any way out that wouldn’t hurt? Did she even have it in her to try and get out?
Her heart skipped a beat when she suddenly felt Draco's hands on her shoulders. She shivered involuntarily. No... She didn't have it in her.
“Granger, please... Talk to me.”
Hermione knew she should talk to him, but this wasn't the time or the place. If she could just sleep over the night she might be able to pull herself together and find the strength to be with him again.
“I'm just...having a really bad day,” she finally whispered. “Can we talk tomorrow?”
“I suppose we can,” Draco agreed with a sigh and let go of her. “But don't try any tricks on me tomorrow. I'm running out of patience.”
With that, he turned around and strode to his room without a second glance at her. She had finally opened her eyes and it hurt her to watch his retreating back. Why did everything have to be so hard? She had only tried to protect herself, and somehow she had managed to upset Draco in the process. Wasn't there anything she could do right?
She cried herself to sleep that night.
* * *
Draco awoke with single-minded determination. Today he would find out exactly what was making Hermione act so strangely. He did not like being ignored, and he was intent on finding out why such a thing was happening.
Everything had seemed to be alright between him and the girl. They had been flirting and having fun, then suddenly she had shunned him out completely. When had that started? He tried to pinpoint the moment, and ended up establishing it had been the day before yesterday... After she'd had a talk with Potter.
Draco scowled. Hermione was definitely hanging out with Potter too much. They'd had at least two one-on-one chats that he knew about in the last two days. How could they suddenly have so much to talk about? It didn't make any sense, unless they were... No, they couldn't be... Could they?
Were they seeing each other?
A cold feeling was spreading through his body, making him numb. It shouldn't even affect him if she was seeing someone. She was entitled to do whatever she wanted, and he had absolutely no say in it. Yet he felt it concerned him somehow – she had been spending quite a lot of time with him, after all. She couldn't just forget about him. A Malfoy would not be disregarded without an explanation. He had to know.
A moment later Draco was out of his room, ready to confront the witch. So focused was he on his mission that he failed to notice the two boys lounging in the sitting area.
He knocked on her door, but was too impatient to wait for a response. He stormed in only to come into an abrubt halt. The brunette was standing in the middle of the room...in her underwear.
“What the hell, Malfoy? GET OUT!!” Hermione cried out angrily.
“Oh come on, Granger, it's not like I haven't seen you in your underwear before,” he protested as she pushed him out of the room and slammed the door in his face. He shook his head to himself. “Women...”
“What the hell was that supposed to mean?” Ron questioned angrily, only a moment later. Both he and Harry were now standing directly behind Draco.
“What was what supposed to mean?” the blond asked, irritated.
“Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about,” Ron growled. “When would you have seen her in her underwear?”
“What? I thought you guys knew,” Draco furrowed his brows. “She, uh... That's all they let her wear back at the Manor. Didn't she tell you?”
“Obviously I didn't,” came Hermione's cold voice from the doorway.
She'd quickly put on a t-shirt and sweatpants. She threw a murderous glare at Draco and stalked down the stairs, her male friends quickly trailing after her.
He could have hit himself. That certainly wouldn't help him in his task to find out why she was avoiding him – if anything, it would only give the girl more reason to stay away from him. He had to make amends before it was too late.
He couldn't get to Hermione during breakfast – Harry and Ron were seated on either side of her like a pair of annoying bodyguards. All he could do was sit opposite her and helplessly watch as Harry offered her toast, poured her a glass of juice, and performed all sorts of chivalrous deeds. Draco clenched his teeth in annoyance.
On the other side of the table, Hermione was beyond mortified. She still couldn't believe Draco had walked in on her while she had been trying on her new undergarments. He probably hadn't noticed what had been going on, though, for she had kicked him out fairly quickly. It had been humiliating nevertheless. Of course, she reminded herself, he had seen her like that before. It felt like a lifetime ago that he had washed her in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, his hands traveling all over her body...
She felt an embarrassed blush tinge her cheeks. It hadn't been like that and she knew it, but apparently her overactive imagination was trying to turn the memory into something else. She couldn't think about that now.
Hermione turned to the boy on her left. Based on his stiff posture and sour expression, she assumed Harry had already spoken to him about her feelings for Draco. Ron wouldn't talk to or look at her, but...at least he was there. That was more than she could have hoped for. Though, she might’ve been in more trouble if it hadn't been for the underwear fiasco and Draco’s big mouth. She hadn't actually planned on telling her friends about that, but if it had to come out, she was glad it had helped take the focus off of her for the time being.
If only it could keep her from having to talk to Draco.
* * *
Draco hated to see Hermione in such low spirits, especially when he knew it was because of him. He really shouldn't have barged in like that, or told her friends how badly she had been treated at the Manor. Obviously, she didn't want to think about it and now she would likely be forced to explain herself.
He wished he could make it better somehow, but he didn't know what he could do to comfort her – it clearly wasn't his specialty. The previous night he had seen she was hurting, and he had wanted to hold her and tell her everything was alright. Yet he'd ended up clumsily grabbing her shoulders and then dashing away, annoyed at himself for not being able to do anything else. He just didn't know how to hold her. He'd never dealt with anything like this in his entire life.
More than anything he’d ever desired to learn before, Draco wanted to learn how to be with Hermione. She was good for him, and he wanted to be good for her too. He was extremely lucky to be given the chance to know her better. The way he'd gotten it wasn't exactly ideal but, considering how terribly it could have turned out if he hadn't helped her escape from the Manor, he was willing to deal with what he had been given.
He remembered the day they had escaped from the Manor and the talk he'd had with Professor Dumbledore in his study. Draco told the old man that Voldemort had been fully aware of Hermione's captivity at Malfoy Manor, but that he hadn't considered her worthy of his attention. Harry Potter had been his main target and he hadn’t had time to waste on an insignificant little Mudblood. Draco had thought it ignorant to underestimate how valuable Hermione really was, and Dumbledore agreed whole-heartedly.
He had asked the Headmaster not to tell Hermione about the Voldemort bit – he'd thought she had enough to deal with as it was. There had been a curious spark in his Headmaster’s eyes, but he hadn't said anything. Draco wondered if the old man had suspected something might happen between them even then. It shouldn't have been a surprise. Dumbledore might have seemed a bit demented, but his thoughts were still as razor-sharp as ever.
That wasn't important, though. What really mattered was that the mere thought of Hermione being hurt caused him pain. The fact that he wanted to forget all about his previous life, the way she made him feel, now those were things that mattered. And if he was ever going to have a shot with her, he needed to apologise as soon as possible.
A/N: So, what did you think? How was Hagrid? I had to do some studying to be able to write his lines, I hope they're alright.
I know some of you are probably dying to see Draco and Hermione together already, but I really don't want to rush them. We're getting closer all the time, though...
As always, I love hearing your thoughts! And if you have any further questions, please visit my Meet The Author page on the forums :)
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