A Change of Heart

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Chapter 12: The Book Sale:

Draco walked into his office the next morning with his head down. He just felt off today. Hermione was in denial. He told her to take some more time off work, but she told him that she needed to get back to normal. Things would never be normal for her again, didn’t she see that?

He was terribly behind in his work. He had three important meetings he had to cancel because he needed to be with Hermione after her dad died. Now he would desperately have to try to catch up on his work. It was okay, though, he would add that to his list of things he did for her out of love. It would be number 24.

He shifted some papers on his desk. He needed to find the itinerary for the spring gala. One of the meetings he was forced to reschedule was with Hermione and her staff. The gala was just two weeks away. He was to meet with them later that day. He yelled out to his assistant. Did he know where the gala itinerary had gone? His assistant came in his office with a very large manila envelope, perhaps the largest one Draco had ever seen, and said that it had just been brought over by courier.

Draco opened the envelope and spilled out the contents. Inside were the guest list, the proposed entertainment, and the list of items to be raffled. Everything. He'd look them over more thoroughly later. He started to stuff everything back in the envelope, when he saw there was still one thing remaining in the envelope. Reaching inside, he pulled out the copy of Hogwarts, a History.

Wrapped with string, there was a small tag attached to it, which read: “I’m running out of ideals, and in my current state, this was the only thing I could think to do. I hope you won’t hold my lack of originality against me. Love, Hermione”.

He took the book and laid it gently on his desk. He had forgotten about their “book war”. He had other things on his mind. Maybe this meant she was getting back to her old self. He couldn’t fault her for not thinking up a better way to get the book back to him, and he'd think up a great way to give it to her next, something that would bring a real smile to her face.

As Hermione made her way through the bustling crowds in the hallways of Gringotts bank the next morning, she was irritable and angry. She wished everyone would stop offering her their sympathy. Why were they sorry? They didn’t even know her dad. Some of them didn’t even know her. She'd be just fine. She was a strong woman.

She finally found the safety and solitude of her office, but her seclusion was short lived. Mr. Moss stuck his head in her office and said, “Hermione, may I see you for a moment.” She nodded her head in the affirmative, and he sat down in a chair by her desk. “How are you?” he asked. She shrugged. “You’re probably getting tired of hearing this, but I’m truly sorry. You know, you can take more time off if you need.

“No, I need to come back to work. I need to take my mind off things. The gala's only two weeks away, and we have so much more to do,” she complained, shuffling through papers on her desk. She looked up, having just remembered that he wanted to talk, and added, “You needed to talk to me about something?”

“I really hate to bother you with this, but it does regard the spring gala, and as you stated, we’re down to the wire,” Moss began.

He had Hermione’s full attention.

“As you know, Draco Malfoy’s company is putting up half of the cost of the gala, and Gringotts is putting up the other half. But, in reality, Gringotts half comprises of donations from some of our biggest shareholders. That’s where the problem comes in.” Moss stood up, and sat on Hermione’s desk, looked down at her, and he continued, “The Parkinson family had given Gringotts a blanket donation of 25,000 galleons, to be used in anyway, and for any charity, that we saw fit. We were using it to help offset the cost of the gala. Well, they withdrew their donation last week. We don’t even know why. Now we need to cut out 25,000 galleons from the budget, because at this late date, we can’t possible come up with that much money.”

Hermione knew why they withdrew that donation! She stood and said, “We can’t cut that much money from the budget at this late of date. Everything is almost all paid for, and we couldn’t recoup our losses anyway.” She went to walk around the side of the desk. “Listen, I’m sure Draco will just put up the rest of the money. That’s like pocket change to him, and it’s for a good cause.”

“That’s the thing,” Mr. Moss explained, “The Board strictly forbad us to ask Malfoy for more money. They think it would be in bad taste, and they don’t want to offend their largest shareholder.”

“Can’t the Board just come up with the money, and then reimburse themselves after we make our profit?” she asked.

“Things don’t work like that, Hermione,” Mr. Moss lectured. “All the monies taken in by the Spring Fling are earmarked for St. Mungo's. We can’t go allocating funds around like that. That would be illegal.”

“Well, this is great, just great,” Hermione said in a small voice, as she sat down. “You know Draco and I are seeing each other don’t you? I could ask him as a personal favour. He wouldn’t even care why I needed the money. He'd just give it to me, and I’ll give it to the bank.” She was grasping at straws.

“We can’t let you do that either. The bank can’t accept money from their employees for things like that, and I think they'd still frown over the fact that the money came from Malfoy.” Mr. Moss put his hand on her shoulder and said, “I suggest you call your staff in here and get to work on some ideas, before your meeting with Malfoy this afternoon.” He left her office, and smiled a small sad smile at her as he left.

Maybe Harry could donate the money. Of course, the board would probably not accept that either. She had a thought. If she still had ‘the book’, perhaps she could sell it, and she could give the money from the sale as an anonymous donation. It was the only thing of real value she had. The problem was, she didn’t really ‘have’ it at the moment. She sent it over to Draco this morning. She wondered how long it would take for him to think of a way to get it back to her.

Draco moved through his day like a zombie. He was anxiously waiting until his afternoon meeting with Hermione. Hermione was anxiously waiting for that meeting as well. She decided not to tell her staff about the sudden glitch in their plans. There was no need. She would come up with the money somehow.

When 3:00 pm finally arrived, Hermione and three of her staff members Apparated to Malfoy’s building. They took the lifts up to the seventh floor, then the receptionist showed them to a large conference room. It was the same conference room in which Hermione barged into that Monday after the auction. She smiled at that memory. She acted like a right terror that day. The memory caused a slight pink blush to appear on her cheeks, from embarrassment.

Draco and his assistant came in the room at that moment. Hermione stood up. She knew Draco wasn’t one for public displays of affection, so she was somewhat shocked when he came up and hugged her tight. He whispered in her ear, “How are you, sweetheart?”

She pulled back from him, and thought to herself, ‘he's never called me anything but Granger, Hermione, or mudblood my entire life.’ So, instead of saying ‘fine’, she said, in a whisper so only he could hear, “Sweetheart?”

He actually laughed, and pinched her upper arm so hard she wanted to hit him, but they were in a meeting after all; so she had to remain professional.

They went over everything, and Malfoy signed off on all the final plans. Getting ready to leave, he pulled Hermione to the side, and she told her staff to go back without her, and she'd either see them later, or if she didn’t return today, she'd see them tomorrow.

“Why did you tell them you might not return to work today? Now they’ll think that I held you back so we could have crazy, mad, office sex; scandalous, Granger, simply scandalous,” Draco mocked. He leaned down to kiss her.

Hermione pushed him away, but kept her hands on his arms, and said, “Pray tell kind sir, why have you held me back?”

“I want to have crazy, mad, office sex with you. Right here on the conference table,” Draco pretended. Then he looked around and said, “Now, where did I put my whip and chains?”

She hit him hard and he pinched her again. “Please stop pinching me. I bruise very easily, you brute,” Hermione retorted. She sat down. “Don’t call me sweetheart again, either. It threw me for a loop. I thought you were channeling someone else for a moment.”

“You mean to say that I can’t call my woman any kind of terms of endearment?” he asked, actually coming up to her and sitting on her lap.

She put her arms around him and said, “What you can’t do is never, and I mean this, never, ever call me ‘your woman’ again,” and then she pushed him off her lap and onto the ground.

He reached up and pulled her off the chair and she landed on his legs. He winced in pain. She tried to get up, and her knee went right in his groin. He cried out again. She was still struggling to stand, but now she was laughing so hard, she couldn’t stand up if her life depended on it. She was sitting on the floor beside him, her legs tangled with his, and he pushed her so that she fell over. Just then, his assistant walked in. At first, he didn’t even see them, since they were on the floor, behind the table. He soon heard her laughing and walked around and reminded Draco he had another meeting in ten minutes, and he promptly left.

“There goes your reputation, Granger,” Draco joked, hitting her behind as he stood. She put her hand up, to garner his assistance to help her stand as well, but all he did was hit her hand away. “He probably thought we were in the throes of passion,” Draco concluded.

Hermione got up on her own and said, “If he did, then I think it’s your reputation that's ruined, because when he entered I was laughing hysterically. Now, did you really have a reason to talk to me, or did you just want to roll around on the ground with me for a while?” She straightened her skirt while she asked that question.

He walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Ah, yes, the question. One might even call it, the million-galleon question. Here is how I see it, Granger.” He kissed her neck. “You still owe me a date.” He kissed the other side of her neck. “One in which I originally paid a million galleons to obtain.” He put one hand on her blouse covered bosom, and he kissed her softly on the mouth. “So here is my proposal.” He kissed her temple, by her hair. “Come to the Spring Fling with me...” he kissed her earlobe...“and we can finally say we had our bloody date.” Kissing her chest, near the opening of her shirt, he concluded “and my million galleons won’t have been wasted in vain.” Then he came back to her lips, kissed her hungrily, and with passion. When they finally parted, he said, “Well?”

Hermione put one hand on his cheek, and traced it down to his jaw, and his neck. With one hand resting on his heart, she placed her forehead next to his, closed her eyes, and without looking at him, said, “I see one flaw to your plan, sir.”

“Do tell, do tell.” He bent to kiss her lips once more.

“I don’t have a million galleon book in my possession at the moment. It seems to me that you've yet to pay for this date you're proposing, or have yet to pay for it again.” She leaned in to him and put her head on his chest.

He held her tightly and tenderly pushed her hair back, and said in her ear, “That’s an easy remedy to fix, Granger. Will you be my date for the gala?”

She looked up into his grey eyes and sighed at the thought that she really loved him. “I think you deserve your date, Malfoy. I would be honoured, but get me that book.” Hermione almost felt guilty about getting the book back from him this way. She would have gone to the gala with him anyway, so why should she feel guilty?

“Run along, little girl,” he said as he released her. He then patted her on the bum for the second time that day. “Unlike some people, I have to work for a living. Oh wait, no I don’t,” and he laughed at his own stupid joke, while she rolled her eyes.

“Will I see you tonight?” she asked.

“What’s tonight?” he asked.

“You have the mental capacity of a slug,” she said, in disdain, “I told you about this yesterday. Ginny and Harry are throwing Ron a belated birthday party tonight. Its two weeks late, but better late than never. So, I’ll ask you again, sweetheart,” she said sarcastically, “will I see you tonight at the party?”

“Probably,” he said back.

She frowned and walked up to him, and this time she pinched his arm hard. “You’re such a wanker. You'd better be there, or I’ll come and find you and Apparate you there, and I know how much you hate that.” She started to leave, and he was mumbling something about her being bossy and mean, and possibly a brute, but she ignored him and walked out of the conference room, feeling better than she had all day. She was in love, and she was going to get that book back, and find the money to pay for the stupid ‘Spring Fling’ if it killed her. Now, she just needed to find someone who would want to pay 25,000 galleons for a book.

Hermione showed up for Ron’s party at Harry and Ginny’s about a half an hour early. She wanted to show up before most of the guests did. She figured if she showed up late, she'd have to hear all the Weasleys offering their apologies about her dad again, and she wasn’t sure she could handle that. If she was early, she could hide out somewhere until the party started and ignore the throng of ginger-haired good intentions.

She hadn’t really asked Draco if he was going to meet her, or pick her up, or anything. She just hoped he would come. She knew he would feel uncomfortable here, but she still hoped that he would come for her.

The guests all started arriving. Hermione went upstairs and visited with the baby. She was rocking him in his rocker when someone opened the door. It was Draco. “Hey Granger, you stole my hiding place,” he feigned.

“You were going to hide in the baby’s room?” she asked incredulously.

“Well, he’s probably my only friend here, present company excluded, of course.” Draco came up and actually stroked the little baby’s dark hair. “Seriously, why are you hiding?”

“I’m not,” she lied. Then, to change the subject, she said, “I thought you weren’t going to show.”

“And miss a Weasley birthday party; I'd sooner cut off all my hair,” he joked. He watched her rocking the baby in the chair, with her index finger tight in his little grasp. “It seems the little thing is quite attached to you. I understand the attraction. I’m quite attached to you myself,” Draco said, putting his hand on her head, and stroking her hair the way he had just stroked the baby’s hair.

She smiled at him, stood from the rocker, and gently placed the baby back in his crib.

“Do you want children, Hermione?” he asked out of the blue.

She didn’t turn to look at him. She kept her full attention on the baby. He stood next to her. Her hands were on the railing of the crib, and he placed his hand there as well. Their hands were slightly touching.

“I think I do,” she said in a small voice.

“With the right bloke, of course,” he finished answering for her.

She turned to face him and said, “That’s a given. I don’t think I can do it by myself, and I do mean physically, if you catch my meaning.” She winked at him.

“You dirty little minx,” he said. He knocked his hip into hers.

“Do you want to be married, have kids, the whole thing?” she asked.

He walked away from her and sat down in the rocker. He patted his knee, and she came over at the obvious invitation and sat on his lap. “Have you gained weight?” he laughed.

“I think I’ve lost weight, actually,” she said, not realizing he had been joking.

“I want to be married and have kids, Hermione, what about you?” he asked bluntly. His head was resting on her chest. She had her arms around his neck.

She turned in his lap, and was about to tell him she wanted all of that with him, when Harry came in the room. “There you two are. Is James asleep?” He walked over to his baby. “You should get downstairs; it’s almost time for the cake.” He picked the baby up and left the room.

Hermione tried to get off his lap, but he held on tight. She faced him again, and he said, “You didn’t answer my question, not really.” She looked in his eyes, almost like it was the first time she had ever looked at him. She pushed herself off his lap and slowly went to the door, but he was quicker, and shut it tight. She stood in front of the door, looking up at him. He pushed her, not to lightly, against the door, and put a hand on each side of her face.

“We need to get downstairs,” she said, breathlessly.

“I need an answer,” he said, almost as breathless.

“Draco,” she warned.

“What?” he asked amused.

“What are you going to do, ravish me here in the baby’s nursery?” she inquired, with her head cocked to the side.

“I wasn’t even thinking along those lines, but I’m game if you are.” He pressed his body hard against hers. “On second thought,” he said, “I think you’re trying to change the subject. Please answer my question.”

“I forgot what it was. Ask again,” she urged, amused.

“I refuse to do that, on the basis of principle,” he said.

“What principle would that be?” she asked.

“The principle that you’re an intelligent, gifted witch, and acting otherwise does not do you credit. Now, answer the question, for I know you haven’t forgotten what it was,” he lectured.

She tried to slip out from under his arm, but he moved his arms lower.

“Fine, you bully,” she said, lightly, not wanting to reveal the true gravity of the situation. “Do you want me to reveal that I think about marrying you someday? Fine, I entertain those thoughts occasionally. You want me to admit to the envy I feel when I hold little James in my arms, wishing it could be our child. Of course that’s what I want. You want to say that I want us to grow old together and have a fairytale happy ending, well, I say, who wouldn’t want that. Is that what you wanted from me, Malfoy?” She finished her speech with almost no outward emotions, although on the inside, she was melting like butter.

“I really just wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, but I think I prefer your eloquent response more,” he answered, before dipping his head to hers and kissing her  lips in response.

After their kiss, Hermione said, “If I asked you to do something, would you please just do as I ask, and not ask me the reasons why?”

He was curious. “What is it?”

“I don’t want us to lie to each other. I want us to always try to be truthful to each other,” she said.

He was utterly confused. “What are you trying to say, Hermione? Are you suggesting that I've been lying to you about something?”

“No, nothing like that at all, it's only that I need you to give me back the copy of Hogwarts, a History, and I need it before the gala,” she said bluntly, “but, I can’t tell you why, and I need you not to ask me why.”

He had planned to give it to her as part of their ‘date’ for the gala. This would throw a serious wrench in his plans. “Will I possibly get it back before our date?” he asked.

Not bloody well likely, she wanted to say, but instead she said, “Draco, please just give me the book, without asking any questions.”

“If it’s that important to you, then you can have the bloody thing. I consider it yours anyway.” He gave her another kiss, and they walked down to the party.

The party was finally dwindling down, and only a few people remained, Hermione and Draco included. Draco wanted to leave though, and he was trying to find Hermione to convince her to leave with him. He walked around the house, looking for her here and there. He finally located her, in an upstairs bedroom, sitting on a bed. He saw her through a crack in the door, and he thought she was sitting by herself, looking sad and alone. He thought wrong.

He went to open the door to the room, and he heard a male voice, which turned out to be Potter’s. Harry said, “But that’s ridiculous. The fact that they won’t let you ask Malfoy for the money doesn’t make sense. I’ve never heard of such a thing. What’s the difference between getting the money from Draco and having it given as an anonymous donation?”

Draco moved closer to the door, careful not to be seen. What were they talking about and what did it have to do with him?

“I know Harry, I'm as confused as you are, and the thing is I don’t want to sell that book. It means more to me than anyone will ever know. It’s the reason Draco and I are together. I just don’t want to screw up the gala either. My reputation and my job are riding on this.”

“I’ll give you the money,” Harry stated.

“I thought of that, but they wouldn’t like that I’m sure, since you’re almost as big of a shareholder as Malfoy. Listen, I already found someone to buy the book, and they’re willing to give the money directly as a donation, specifically for the gala, to offset the money the Parkinson’s took away, so it’ll look like the money is coming from them, and not from me. This is the way it has to be. I’m obligated now.”

“Hermione, your life always seems so complicated,” Harry laughed, as he hugged her. She was still on the bed, and Draco could see her bring her arms around his waist.

“Coming from the man whose life could fill at least seven books,” she laughed.

She stood up, and Draco decided to let his presence be revealed. He opened the door, as if he had just found her, and said, “Can we leave now?” He seemed in a foul mood, so Hermione nodded to him, and told Harry goodbye.

She walked out into the hall and said, “Let me tell Ginny and Ron goodbye.”

He said, “No, we’re leaving now,” and he grabbed her arm and Disapparated them directly to his house.

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