The ticking of the clock was loud in the silence of the room, Hermione glanced at it briefly, before looking away, sighing heavily when she realised that he was late. Her eyes longingly strayed to the window, bright sunshine glimmering through the tree that stood outside her house, leaves gold with it. Hermione smiled slightly at the sight, but it soon fell from her face as she remembered.
Cedric Diggory was dead.
It was a fact she found repeating over and over, just in case she forgot. It could have been Harry, was usually the thought that followed close behind; along with the fear, the relief and the ever-present guilt.
Harry himself had been distant, his eyes haunted by the ghosts of all that had happened. He'd told them somewhat brokenly about he-who-must-not-be-named, that he was back, about the death eaters and the graveyard. There was more to the story, Hermione could sense it, could see it in the distance he strived to put between them. She wanted to ask so many questions, her throat burned with them, as they piled up and nearly burst out of her. She always stopped herself though, all anyone seemed to do was take from Harry, and she wanted to be different, at least for his sanity.
There was another more selfish reason that drove her silence; it was tall, blonde and took up most of her thoughts pretty much all of the time, and his father had been in the graveyard where Cedric had died, and he-who-must-not-be-named had returned.
Hermione stood from the sofa, moving to stand beside the window, sitting on the ledge slightly, crossing her chest. She watched as people walked past, their mouths open wide with silent laughter. Summer for them was a little world of paradise, but for her, it felt like a reminder that everything wasn't okay, no matter how badly the world wanted it to look that way.
She'd wanted to ask Malfoy about his father's involvement, to corner him and demand the truth. But when he'd took her to the side on the train home, he'd looked so uncertain, so awkward. If she was honest, she'd expected some anger. In the weeks that followed Cedric's death, Hermione had remained close to Harry's side, fending off malicious accusations, and obviously the Skeeter woman. Hermione allowed herself a small smirk as he thought of the colourful reporter, confined to a bug jar.
But Draco hadn't been angry, hadn't been cruel. He'd simply pressed a small rolled up scroll into her palm, his hand shaking with the nerves, and hesitantly told her to keep in touch over the holidays. Hermione recognised the use of a Protean Charm, she'd read about it herself several times, but never actually seen it used before. Draco had babbled on about it being a new spell he'd worked on using his ancestor's wand, all the while scratching the back of his neck, his cheeks flaming. Hermione was certain she'd been seeing things, because no more than a few seconds later, he'd found his composure, making dry comments about it all being too much for her to comprehend, when she'd simply blinked up at him dumbly.
Hermione pulled the small scroll from the pocket of her shorts, and inspected it, passing it between her fingers. There'd been some uncertainty when he'd handed it to her, it came loud and clear as Ron's voice in her head, 'Fraternising with the enemy.' Hermione shook her head as she heard it again. She tried desperately to believe that it was some nefarious plot to get to Harry, but she always found herself smiling slightly at the thought that Draco Malfoy would want to stay in touch with her. Not that she'd ever expected him to use it, not at all, at least not for anything but berating her. Now though, only days into the holiday, she was sat in her front room, waiting for his arrival.
They'd talked, or wrote, for hours, batting ideas back and forth; about Edward, about Mina, and where all the history of the wizarding world had just miraculously vanished to. Hermione was actually grateful that he'd mentioned it, with all that had happened, the Sensieve and its mysteries had just faded into the background.
Hermione heard the telltale whoosh of Floo powder, and turned quickly, wringing her hands nervously in front of her. Draco stumbled out of the fireplace, his hair mussed, and his rather expensive looking jacket covered with soot. Hermione smirked slightly, as he waved his hand in front of the air, coughing and spluttering.
"You're late," she said, biting back the laughter as he noticed the state of his jacket, and tried to wipe it off, only succeeding in spreading the dirt around.
Draco looked up at her and scowled, a great black streak across his cheek. "Do you know how hard it is to get fireplaces hooked up to the Floo Network, luckily my family has clout?" He stated, growling as he scrubbed harder at his jacket, concentrating on trying to remove the dirt, so he didn't have to think about how good Hermione looked in shorts. 'Do you ever clean that?' He pointed at Hermione's fireplace incredulously. Hermione shrugged, smirking slightly. Butterflies pummeled the inside of her stomach, as she realised that Draco had been there only a few seconds, and she was already feeling better. She knew that wasn't supposed to happen, not with Draco Malfoy.
"We don't usually expect guests." Draco huffed, pulling off his jacket, and assessing the damage.
"You do realise how expensive this is, don't you?" Draco said, holding it up in front of Hermione, widening his eyes dramatically.
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me." Hermione faked suppressing a yawn and held back a chuckle when Draco's nostrils flared.
"Expensive, very expensive. Well beyond your means expensive." Hermione rolled her eyes, gesturing to Malfoy that he should hand her the jacket.
"I'll put it in the washing machine, it will be fine." She said, slowly as if talking to an infant.
"The what?"Draco pulled the jacket closer to his chest, eyeing Hermione suspiciously.
"The wash...oh look never mind, just give it here and I'll get it clean for you. I promise." Slowly, Draco handed over the item of clothing, and Hermione strode into the kitchen, a worried blonde close on her tail. Quickly she threw it into the machine, closing the door, and twiddling the knobs to the same settings she used for her robes. She tipped some powder into the tray and shut it, stepping back with a sigh, and turning to the Slytherin, who looked horrified.
"What...what have you done? What is that thing?" He said pointing at the metal object that was growling and rattling away happily.
"That is a washing machine, seriously, have you never seen one be…" Hermione paused as she realised who she was talking to. This was Draco Malfoy, muggle hater extraordinaire, of course, he'd never seen one. Hermione groaned slightly as she realised the day was going to be slightly more stressful than she'd thought.
"Of course you wouldn't…" Hermione let her head fall into her hands, taking a deep breath before looking up. "Okay, we need a plan," Hermione stated, beginning to pace the kitchen. Draco glanced up from the swirling vortex his jacket was sloshing around in, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"A plan? We're going to a library Granger, not cracking into Gringotts." He snorted.
"A muggle library, it may as well be Gringotts, trust me." Hermione pointed out, retrieving a pad and pen from the counter, and holding it poised.
"Is that some sort of featherless quill, I haven't heard of?" Draco asked, stepping closer to peer at the biro, Hermione held in her hand.
"No this is a pen, like a quill but without the ink pot," Hermione stated, scribbling down an idea quickly, before tapping the end of it against her chin. She sighed in exasperation when Draco reached and took the pen off her, examining it in great detail.
"So where is the ink?" He asked, closing one eye and looking down the end of the nib, in a desperate attempt to locate it.
"Inside it," Hermione said pointedly, snatching it back from him, and writing another thought down.
"Inside," Draco mumbled to himself, wandering away from Hermione to inspect the rest of the room. His eyes caught sight of what looked like a black jug, tethered to the wall by a thick black lead. He looked at Hermione, contemplating on asking what in Merlin's name it was, but the Gryffindors head was buried in her work, mumbling under her breath. Slowly he approached it, noticing that a small lever protruded from the base of the handle. Hesitantly he reached out and pressed his finger against it, jumping back when the lever fell, and the whole base of the black jug glowed blue.
"I didn't do anything." He stated quickly, holding up his hands. The jug began to hiss, and growl. "I swear, I didn't do anything." He stated again, turning to Hermione, only to find that she was shaking with laughter. Draco's arms fell to his sides, as he sneered at her. "I don't see what's so amusing, Granger."
"I know," Hermione gasped, struggling for breath, "That's what's so funny." Draco shifted uncomfortably, while Hermione's laughter was by far the best sound he'd ever heard, he wasn't comfortable with it being directed at him.
"Have you worked out a plan yet?" He asked snappily, crossing his arms and refusing to meet the witch's gaze.
Hermione regained her composure but was still smirking slightly when she lifted the pad off the kitchen table top and cleared her throat. "Okay, first things first, the suit needs to go." She pointed at Draco's attire of white shirt, black trousers and black tie. Draco smirked.
"Call me old-fashioned, but I have to be taken on at least one date before I'm getting my kit off." Hermione blushed profusely, which only made him smirk more.
"You...you know that's not what I mean, Malfoy. Honestly, why on earth you wore a suit is beyond me." Hermione looked down at her pad, scribbling absolutely nonsense down, so she didn't have to acknowledge the blonde and his infuriating smirk.
"We Malfoy's like to look our best.' Draco shrugged, fiddling with his tie. Hermione peeked up at him, she had to admit he did look good in it.
'Someone your age though, wearing that, in the holidays, to a library. You'll stick out like a sore thumb.' Hermione shook her head. "I'll have to find you some clothes, maybe the charity shop.'
"I hope you're not suggesting what I think you are."
"What's that?" Hermione asked, crossing her arms, and raising her eyebrow.
"That I wear muggle clothes."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting."
"You haven't even..."
"No, no, no, no, no. By all the magical and mystical ways of Merlin, Granger, no!'
'Fine!' Hermione sighed, exasperated. "You can at least get rid of the tie."
"It completes the outfit."
"We're going to a library,' Hermione said, emphasising the word library, pointedly, "a library."
"Well done, Granger, and the suit is staying." Hermione huffed, resigning herself to letting him keep the suit. It wasn't that much of a problem, but she knew Draco would stand out. Hers was a small town, and Draco, with his striking features, and expensively tailored suit, would be like a beacon. Hermione noticed, with relief, that he was at least removing his tie, stuffing it unceremoniously into his pocket, all the while muttering under his breath.
"Right, next, you can't overreact if anything weird happens.' Draco's eyebrows rose as she said this.
'What sort of weird things should I be expecting, Granger?' He asked rather amused, certain the witch was overreacting again. However, his smile died, when he saw Hermione pointing rather smugly to the back jug tied to the wall. Steam was rising softly from it, but the blue light had gone out.
"Fine." He sighed, begrudgingly, digging his hands into his pockets. Hermione nodded before turning back to her list. With a flourish, she tore the page from the pad and handed it to Draco.
"What's this?" He said, taking the page gingerly, examining it.
"Prohibited words." Draco's eyes bugged out of his head.
"You cannot be serious, I'm not allowed to speak? What kind of library is this?"
"A normal one, just don't say the words on that list." Hermione tapped the paper with her finger.
"Merlin? Why in Merlin's name, can't I say Merlin?"
"Because Merlin isn't that big of a deal…"
"Not that big of a deal? Not that big of a deal? Are you crazy?"
"No, but I think you might be.' Hermione stated, interrupting whatever tirade he'd been about to lose himself on. "Look, you're just going to have to accept that muggles do things differently, and if you want to blend in, you're going to have to listen to me.' Draco eyed her for a moment, before slightly nodding his head in consent.
"Oh and don't pay for anything, let me," Hermione called over her shoulder, walking into the lounge to grab her bag. Draco followed close behind.
"Well, unfortunately, muggles don't take galleons, so just let me pay for stuff." Hermione wondered why, out of all of the things, this seemed to offend Draco the most.
With a sigh, Draco glanced around the room. "Anything else I should know, am I allowed to breathe?" Hermione didn't dignify his question with a response, instead of gathering her things together. Though she knew they wouldn't really need them, she packed several magical books. She knew Draco had brought his ancestors old back of magic, and that was secreted away in his school bag, which sat by the fireplace, where he had dropped it.
Hermione stared at it for a second, thinking how weird it was, that his bag was sat in her front room, that Draco Malfoy was stood in front of her, that none of their interactions had felt weird or uncomfortable. Talking to him, or rather arguing with him, felt like the most natural thing in the world. All the worries and problems that had crowded her head, seemed to have taken a break. Draco snapped her out of her thoughts.
"They aren't moving." Hermione looked up and bit back a laugh. He was stood in front of a picture of her parents on their wedding day, her father in a suit, her mother in a white dress, both wearing matching smiles. Draco tapped the glass of the frame in frustration again.
"Oh, they don't move." Hermione walked towards him, hoisting her bag onto her shoulder. Draco looked at her shocked.
"Never?" Hermione shook her head, and Draco stepped back. "Creepy." Draco shivered a bit and Hermione stared up at him. She supposed it would be creepy for him, he was used to pictures having their own personality, constantly moving, a window into that moment.
"Yeah, I suppose it is." She mumbled.
Draco was shaking by the side of her, and Hermione looked up at him worried, only to find that he was laughing, his shoulders shaking, his hand covering his mouth to stop the sound. With horror, she realised what had caused such amusement. It was her first school photo; hair all bushy, teeth decidedly goofy a uniform that swamped her.
"Don't laugh." Hermione spat, blushing profusely.
"I can't help it, you're all hair and teeth." Draco spluttered. Hermione whacked him, which only served to make him laugh more.
'I was in my first year of school.' Hermione said defensively, hitting him again. Holding up his hands, the blonde struggled for breath.
"Okay, okay, I get it, Granger, no laughing at the weird unmoving pictures of you.' Hermione nodded slightly, before heaving a big sigh.
"Right, I suppose we should go." Hermione turned to leave, freezing when she noticed her parents car pulling onto the drive.
"What in Merlin's name is that?" Draco said astounded, staring at the metal beast with wheels, starting when two muggles climbed out of it.
"It's my parent's," Hermione groaned, seriously reconsidering inviting the Slytherin anywhere near her home.