A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 7: Spots, Granger:


She came out of the bathroom in the same nightclothes she had worn the last four nights. His long sleeve t-shirt, his plaid pajama bottoms, his white socks. He bought her perfectly fine, non-revealing, pajamas, but she must prefer these. They gave her a sense that everything would be okay. She had washed them last night before wearing them, so at least they were clean.


He was making them some dinner. He cooked for them each night. He didn’t mind. He liked cooking. When he cooked, he felt like he had control. He also could take all the credit when something tasted good and all the blame when it was bland, or too salty, or undercooked, or burnt. It was almost a religious feeling. It was real. No one else could take the blame or credit.


She never helped. She never got in his way. He would cook, he would set the table, and he would walk in the living room, where she sat and stared and did nothing. He would tell her dinner was ready. She would join him at the table. They would eat in silent companionship. Then he would wash the dishes. Sometimes he felt rather like her little house elf. He wouldn’t mind if she picked up a dishcloth now and again. Of course, she once told him a long time ago that she would never wash dishes with him again, so perhaps she was just a woman of her word.


In many ways, even though she had been there for four days, it was if she wasn’t even there. She wasn’t an imposition. She wasn’t a nuisance. She didn’t make a mess. She had gone back to sleeping on the couch, so she didn’t put him out. She never turned the channel on the telly. She only spoke when he spoke to her. She hardly ate anything, so he really couldn’t complain about having to cook for her, because he would have to cook for himself anyway.


She was never in his way. He wondered if she was purposely going out of her way not to be in the way, or if perhaps this was just the way she was now. Maybe her three-year absence from all their lives had caused her to be like this. On the other hand, it also might have been a Godsend, because he wasn’t sure he could have stood by seeing her like this for all those years.


He wasn’t sure he could put up with it much longer now, either.


She was a total non-entity, just the way she had wanted to be. He could tell she had worked hard these past three years to make sure no one ever thought about her. It seemed she didn’t even think about herself. It was as if she forgot how to be Hermione, while he couldn’t help but remember her the way she was.


He wished he could tell her that although she worked hard to make herself invisible, he for one could never forget about her. He never had, and he never would. He remembered a time when her life was bright and vibrant. When her smile could light up a room. When she would say something funny, without knowing that it was funny, and how he would make fun of her and she would wrinkle her nose, and hit him on the arm, and then smile.


She smiled all the time back then. A real smile. Never forced or contrived. One other time she cooked dinner for him and Theo at her flat while they were in school, and it was a royal mess. She burnt the pie, she burnt the roast, and she even managed somehow to burn the salad. No, that last part was a lie. Draco made a joke that evening that she even burned the salad, and then they all laughed, and she jumped on the couch, hit him as hard as she could on his arm, which felt like nothing more than a gentle swat, and then she laughed that adorable laugh of hers.



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Later that night, after Theo left to study for an exam, Draco helped her to clean up her dishes. He said, “Wash or dry?”


I’ll wash.” She handed him a clean dishtowel, and she washed a glass. She handed it to him, he held it up to the light, and said, “Um, spots, Granger.”


He placed the glass back in the soapy water. She washed it again, sloshing the cloth back and forth on the outside, rinsed it, and handed it to him. He held it up again, just to make her angry, bumped his shoulder into hers, and said, “Spot, Granger.”


She gave him a look that could kill. He almost laughed at her. He placed the glass back in the water, put his dishtowel on the counter, and then he placed his hands on her hips. He felt a rush of joy just touching her in such an intimate manner. He pushed her to the other side of the sink and said, “I’ll wash. You see, you have to wash the inside of a glass, too, Granger.”


She gave him another look, which this time he had to laugh at, and he proceeded to wash all of the dishes, and dry them as well, because she sat at the table, legs crossed, foot bobbing up and down, arms crossed tightly over her chest, her face puckered, with her eyes set and her mouth closed.


When he finished he threw the wet cloth at her head, and then he ran. She got up faster than he thought possible, and then he slowed down when they reached the couch, so that she COULD catch him. She tackled him and they landed on the sofa.


He was on his side, arms covering his face, in case she decided to mare his good looks, and she slapped his arms all the while saying, “I will never wash dishes with you again! From now on you’ll have to do them yourself!” She stopped hitting him and he moved his arms to his sides. He turned to his back, and noticed, almost painfully, that she was still sitting across his body.


He wanted to kiss her so badly that he knew if he didn’t move her off him in a second, she would also know how much he wanted to kiss her. He lifted her up, away from him and then he said, “What do you have around this place for dessert?”


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That was how he remembered her. That was the way he wanted to remember her. He wanted her to remember that Hermione, too. He turned from washing the last glass and noticed that she was standing against the wall, fading almost into the woodwork, and he said, “Do you want to go somewhere for something sweet? Dessert?”


“I’m in my pajamas,” she said.


“So, either get dressed or come as you are. We’ll be in a car. No one will see you. Live a little fun. Have some ice cream with me,” he said.


“It’s the middle of winter,” she said.


“Hot chocolate then,” he said. He folded the dishtowel, took her hand, and grabbed their coats. He threw hers to her, as he put on his shoes. He said, “Get your shoes on, or your feet with get cold.”


“I don’t want to go,” she said. “Bring me back something.”


“No way,” he said while standing and crossing over to her. “I officially retire from being Hermione Granger’s house elf. You need to start to earn your keep, missy.”


He would drag her out in the snow without shoes if she didn’t put them on right now. Perhaps since she had turned off her feelings, she wouldn’t even feel the cold and snow. He almost preferred the crying Granger from the first two days, to this one. He had her hand in one of his, while he opened his back door to head toward his garage. He said, “Shoes or just socks, Granger, your choice, but we’re getting out of here this evening.”


“Am I a burden to you?” she asked.


Now why did she have to go ask a bloody question like that? He sighed and said, “Fine, come in your socks.” He was going to say, “Fine, don’t come,” but he wanted her to come, and since he didn’t want to answer that question, he had to say something. She would never be a burden; not to him or anyone, so why would she ask that question?


He grabbed her hand and pulled her outside, in her stocking feet, toward the garage. She didn’t complain, she didn’t yell and scream. Maybe she was numb. Maybe that could be her new nickname.


He opened the car door and practically pushed her inside. She hit her head on the car on the way in, and he didn’t even apologize. If she were numb, she wouldn’t feel it anyway. He jaunted over to his side, opened the door, started the engine, and then turned to look at her. She was rubbing the side of her head. He started to laugh. He had either to laugh or scream, so he chose to laugh. She gave him a look, which was reminiscent to a real Hermione Granger, “I’m peeved at you,” look, that he had to laugh even more. He backed out of the driveway, but stopped when she opened the door to the car. She stormed out of the car and headed back toward his house.


She couldn’t get back in without him, but he didn’t want to be near her right now. She was so damn infuriating. Numb his foot! She was a spoiled brat.


He just wanted some damn ice cream. Why did she have to ruin everything? She always ruined everything. She was the reason for his estrangement from his father after the war! She was the reason he never married! She was the reason he felt awkward around his own best friend when he was still alive. She was the reason Theo died!


Draco always blamed himself, but now he felt like blaming her.


The problem was that the rational Draco knew none of this was her fault. It never was and it never would be. The even smaller rational part of him also knew it wasn’t his fault, but if he couldn’t blame her, he had to blame himself. Whom else would he have to blame? Theo?


Was it so wrong of Draco to want things to be settled between them? Was it wrong to want her back in his life, no matter the circumstances, no matter in what capacity? Even if it was just as a friend. He needed her back. It was an insult to them both for her to have asked him if she was a burden. If she was a burden, he would have already kicked her to the curb, but he didn’t want her to leave, and he also didn’t want her to be sad. Why couldn’t he have a happy Hermione? She healed after what happened to her that day of the last battle. Why couldn’t she heal from this?


As he drove around the block, he was reminded of all the times he went to find her over the last three years. He thought about it constantly, and he almost did it twice. He always worked everything out perfectly in his mind. He would find her, tell her how much he missed her, tell her that it was time for her to come to her senses, he would throw his arms around her, kiss her, and make everything alright.


They would be happy and together. They could think of Theo without feeling guilty. He could love her, she could love him, and all would be fine. If only she would have just gotten in the car, and come for some effing ice cream, maybe things still could be fine. He rounded the last corner of his block and drove back up his driveway. She was sitting on the stoop of the back door, her coat tightly around her, her legs bobbing up and down, her feet all but frozen. He rolled down the window and asked, “Vanilla ice cream or Chocolate? I can’t remember which you prefer.”


She stood up, opened the passenger-side door, and said, “I like toffee flavor, don’t you remember?”


Yes, he remembered, and he was glad to see that she finally remembered something, too. He reached over with his wand, warmed and dried her feet, and then drove back down the drive.


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