Hermione pulled her beaded bag a bit higher over her shoulder and bent to pick up Crookshanks. The old half-kneazle scowled in Hermione’s arms, his bright eyes fixated on the figure still lingering by the sofa.
Hermione’s gaze joined Crookshanks’, and she sighed.
Three wonderful, maddening—even infuriating at times—years, and it had led them here.
Ron shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at his shoes, chewing the inside of his cheek. Hermione had to remind herself of why they were doing this. It would be so easy to stay, to return to the comfortable normality that they’d shared for so long.
No, the niggling voice in the back of her brain told her, this is the right thing. She had to be strong.
“Well, I think I got most of it, but I’ll come by later this week to get the rest of my things,” Hermione said softly, casting her eyes around the flat.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay? I could sleep on the couch.” Ron shrugged, his eyes glancing up.
“No.” Hermione shook her head, her jaw tensing slightly. “No. I think it’s best if I go. You know—it’s just too hard.”
Ron nodded, shuffling his feet. They stood awkwardly across from each other for a moment, neither of them making eye contact. Hermione stroked Crookshanks behind the ear, her throat growing tight. She felt… paralysed. She couldn’t stay, but leaving felt so final. Leaving meant it really was over between them.
“I don’t know what to do now,” Ron admitted with a dry laugh.
Hermione wiped away a wayward tear. “I know. It’s going to be so weird without you.”
“Well, maybe in a few weeks, once it’s not so raw, we can get together and grab a cup of coffee,” Ron suggested, rubbing the back of his neck.
The corners of Hermione’s lips lifted. “Sure,” she spoke with a sigh, her eyes traveling to the familiar trappings and furniture. Certainly this place would always feel a bit like home for her. And Ron… Certainly she would always feel something for him, though she couldn’t say exactly what that was right now. But she couldn’t imagine ever looking at the man she had loved for so long and feeling nothing.
Despite the awkwardness that had already seeped into their once beautiful relationship, Hermione had no regrets. She’d do it all over again if she had the chance, even knowing that it would end.
“Well, I should get going. Take care of yourself, Ron.”
She stood on tiptoe to kiss his freckled cheek before moving to the door. Though her heart sank further toward her toes with every step, she didn’t dare look back at him as she left the flat. She could just imagine him staring after her, his face drawn in grief and uncertainty.
Her eyes burned.
“Bye,” Ron mumbled just before she closed the door with a click.
“Here,” Ginny chirped, pushing a glass of firewhisky into Hermione’s hands and sitting down next to her on the couch.
Harry and Ginny’s flat was small but cozy. Decorated in warm colours and plush furniture, it was a comforting place for Hermione to retreat to after leaving Ron’s flat. They had welcomed her with open arms for as long as she needed a place to stay.
“I said just tea would be fine.” Hermione eyed the amber liquid with a sigh.
“You’re going through a break-up. You need something a lot stronger than tea.”
Hermione rolled her eyes but took a sip of the alcohol anyway. It burned going down. “I’m fine, Ginny. It’s hard right now, but it really is for the best.”
Harry trudged into the living room with a groan and flopped onto the soft, red armchair adjacent to the couch. “I hate this already.” He crossed his arms and pouted like a child. “Ron just owled to ask me to get a drink with him. I‘m already having to divide my time between you.”
Hermione’s stomach twisted, but she forced a smile that she hoped was reassuring. “It’s okay. You should go. I don’t want my relationship with Ron ending to make things weird for everyone else.”
Ginny grinned, her eyes alight with glee that Hermione couldn’t understand. “Yeah, we’ll have a girl’s night.”
“That actually sounds perfect.” Hermione took another sip of firewhisky. “Go on, Harry. You two have fun. Ron shouldn’t be alone tonight.”
“Alright,” Harry sighed, pushing himself to his feet. He pulled on his cloak and pocketed his wand. “Just remember that alcohol is a depressant; don’t get all weepy. It would also be better if I didn’t come home to two sick witches later. And if you invite any blokes over, at least have the decency to hide them in the closets when I come home.”
Hermione grinned at Harry’s jesting. “See you, Harry.”
He gave Ginny a quick kiss and disappeared into the fireplace in a puff of Floo powder and emerald flames.
“He’s so weird.” Hermione smiled fondly as the fire returned to its normal glow.
“Yeah, he is, but I love the guy.” The redhead turned back to her friend. “Are you really okay?”
Hermione shrugged. “I’m going to be fine. It’s just bizarre. We were together for three years, and before that we were best friends for seven. I don’t really know what my life looks like without Ron, you know?”
Ginny nodded and reached out to rub her back. Hermione knew that Ginny didn’t like thinking of her brother as a romantic being, but she listened without cringing.
“And then, of course, there’s the fact that I’m now homeless.” Hermione grimaced and took a large drink of her firewhisky at the thought.
“You didn’t want to fight him for the flat?”
Hermione shook her head. “I’d be too sad there. All those memories of us and the life we had. I think I would feel a little… stuck.”
“Well, feel free to stay here as long as you like. We don’t have much room, but this is a very comfortable couch.”
Hermione patted the cushion and grinned just a little. “Thanks. It is comfortable. But I don’t want to be in your hair for longer than a day or two. You don’t happen to know of anyone looking for a flatmate, do you?”
Ginny thought for a moment before her eyes lit up. “You know, I actually think I do. I got lunch with Luna last week, and she mentioned that there’s an extra room in her place. I’m sure she would rent it to you.”
“That would be great! Do you think it’s still available?” Hermione asked.
“Probably. They said they weren’t in a big hurry to lease it out.”
Ginny’s mouth fell open for a moment and her cheeks went a little red. “Er, yeah. It’s a three bedroom flat. They were looking to bring in a third.”
“Oh, who’s her flatmate?”
Ginny bit her lip for a moment. “It’s Pansy Parkinson,” she confessed, words spilling from her mouth more rapidly with every second. “But Luna says she’s not nearly as mean as she was at Hogwarts. You should at least go over there and look at it. It’s a great place. Right in the heart of London within walking distance of Hyde Park and the Ministry, and the rent for the room is only eighty-five galleons a month!”
“Eighty-five a month?” Hermione balked. “How is it so inexpensive?”
“I’m not sure. Rent control, probably.”
Hermione furrowed her brow. As much as she didn’t relish the idea of living with Pansy Parkinson, the price was too good to pass up without at least looking at it. “Alright, I’ll look at it. Can I borrow your owl to write Luna?”
After scrawling a brief note asking if she would be available to meet for lunch the next day to talk about the spare room, Hermione returned to the couch to drink with Ginny.
“Are you really okay with me and Ron breaking up?” Hermione worried her lip as Crookshanks jumped up on her lap. The cat didn’t seem to notice her anxiety at all, purring happily as she scratched him absently behind the ears.
“Of course!” Ginny leaned forward and placed a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “I could never be mad about someone getting out of a relationship that they weren’t totally happy in. I mean, I had hoped that you two would get married and you would be my sister-in-law, but we’re still friends. We’re always going to be friends no matter what happens between you and my brother.”
Hermione’s lips lifted and she took a bracing swig of her drink. She was beginning to feel warm and light from the effects of the amber liquid. “And if I start dating someone new, will things be weird?”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “Is there someone new?”
“No!” Hermione shook her head vehemently. “Of course there isn’t. I’m not ready for anything like that. But one day I will be, and I don’t want it to be weird when I start bringing some bloke around to dinners.”
“Well, it won’t be weird for me. I’m sure Ron won’t be thrilled, but then again, eventually he’ll be dating other witches too.”
Hermione’s heart sank at the mention of Ron moving on. She logically knew that breaking up with him meant that he would one day be with someone else, but hearing the words was a completely different story. She buried her face in her hands, feeling tears threaten to fall for what must have been the tenth time that day.
“Oh, no,” Ginny gasped, moving to put her arm around her friend. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, it’s okay.” Hermione sniffed, wiping her eyes miserably. “I know that breaking up with Ron was the right thing to do. We’d run our course. We weren’t happy like we were in the beginning. But it’s still just so hard to let him go, you know?”
“Of course. It’s going to take time.”
“It’s just…” Hermione’s voice warbled before trailing off. She shook her head, wiping away fresh tears as they fell.
“What?” Ginny prodded gently.
Hermione took a shuddering breath, the fear that always lingered in the back of her mind like a parasite finally threatening to rear its ugly head.
“What if…” She hiccoughed and felt the urge to retreat but pushed forward anyway. “What if no one ever loves me the way that he did?”
As she finally vocalized her fear, a sob erupted from her throat like a cork put under too much pressure.
“What?” Ginny patted her on the back, disbelief etched in her voice. “Hermione, that’s ridiculous.”
Hermione let out a watery laugh. “I know it is. Logically, anyway. I just can’t help but be afraid.” Here, emboldened by the firewhisky, she spoke the words that she had been too afraid to say aloud. “When Ron and I started dating it felt like... destiny. We’d been friends for so long and falling in love with him was so easy. What if I never feel that way again?”
Ginny frowned and hesitated, as though she was choosing her words very carefully. “You won’t feel exactly the way you felt with Ron again. What you had was unique to the two of you. And you might never feel like another relationship is destiny.”
A fresh wave of tears welled in her eyes.
Ginny pressed on, reaching out to stroke Hermione’s hair away from her face with care. “But you will love again. And it will be new and exciting and scary in its own way. But it will be beautiful, and you will be happy.”
Hermione smiled and wiped her tears away. Ginny’s words were comforting to hear, but at this moment she couldn’t imagine a scenario where she could have such strong feelings toward another man. Perhaps it would just come with time. “Thanks, Ginny. And thanks for letting me stay here. I’m pretty tired. It’s been a very long day.”
“I’ll let you sleep. Let me know if you need anything.” Ginny stood and retreated to the bedroom, leaving Hermione alone.
The following morning, Hermione awoke to the sound of tapping on the window. Harry’s owl, Gizmo, had returned, and he had a reply from Luna clutched in his beak. The blonde’s loopy, uneven scrawl invited her to come over after lunch to see the flat. Ginny had been invited as well, but because Quidditch season was rapidly approaching, she spent her Saturdays in rigorous practices with the Holyhead Harpies.
When Hermione flooed to Luna’s flat, she was greeted with a dreamy smile and a cup of freshly-brewed tea.
As soon as Hermione emerged from the fireplace and into the living room, she fell in love with the place. The living room was spacious and impeccably decorated, clearly designed by someone with excellent taste. Despite the finery, it was still very welcoming and comfortable. The fireplace was so large that she hardly had to duck her head to step out of it. Bookshelves lined the wall on either side of the hearth. Two plush, modern couches sat symmetrically around the coffee table, and Hermione couldn’t wait to sink into one of them and devour the hundreds of books. A small corridor led away from the living room to the left, and Hermione guessed it led to the bedrooms and loo. To the right, an arched entryway led to the kitchen.
Hermione found herself staring, mouth agape at the room before her. She had known that this was Pansy’s home as well as Luna’s, but she had expected to see a bit more of Luna’s eccentric style represented. Perhaps a stuffed head hanging on the wall or bits and baubles hanging from the ceiling.
On her second sweep of the room, Hermione noted small touches here and there: a bright, patchwork quilt over the back of one of the couches, and an odd, sculptural wall hanging that looked like hammered metal curling away from a large geode in the center. It was certainly eccentric, but notably, it complemented the rest of the decor quite well.
“Hello, Hermione!” Luna chirped, rising from the couch and wrapping her arms around Hermione who still stood rooted to the spot as she took it all in.
“Hi, Luna.” Hermione shook herself out of it and grinned. “It’s so great to see you. This place is amazing.”
Luna smiled and looked around the room vacantly. “It’s very clean isn’t it? Would you like the tour?”
Hermione nodded eagerly. Luna led her to the kitchen. It was a large room with white cabinets, black granite countertops, and a spacious island with bar seating. There was also a sunny nook with a six-person kitchen table.
They moved out of the kitchen and down the little corridor.
“This is my bedroom,” Luna announced, opening the door to an enormous bedroom. It was curiously designed in a mixture of styles; it seemed that Luna hadn’t been able to make up her mind between a bohemian style and a minimalist aesthetic. The furniture was simple with clean lines and neutral tones. Surrounding it, Luna had placed a brightly coloured bedspread and a unique tapestry hung on the wall. Curious flowers that Hermione couldn’t identify grew in a small pot by the window, but it was shockingly tidy, everything in its place. It was an odd juxtaposition, but it worked somehow.
“Lovely.” Hermione offered an approving smile.
“Thank you.” Luna closed the door and led Hermione down the corridor. The bathroom was spacious and updated with plenty of room for three girls’ items. “This is Pansy’s room. She’s quite private.” Luna gestured to the door, but did not open it.
“Of course,” Hermione nodded. There really was no need to see Pansy’s room. Especially if seeing it would anger her potential future flatmate before she even moved in.
“If you choose to live here, this will be your bedroom,” said Luna, opening the door at the end of the corridor.
It was most likely the smallest bedroom, but it was still larger than the one she had shared with Ron. There was already a bed, two nightstands, a dresser, and a bookshelf. She walked around the room, examining the spacious closet before turning to Luna. “It looks great,” she said, gesturing to the lovely room. “Would you mind if I rented it? I really need to get off of Harry and Ginny’s couch, and I can’t imagine a situation much better than this.”
“I’m sorry about you and Ron. I’m sure it feels a bit like mourning a death,” Luna said bluntly, her pale eyes observing Hermione kindly.
Hermione cleared her throat, her eyes dropping to her shoes. She willed herself not to cry. In truth, Luna was right. It did feel like a death. But now was not the time to think about it. “Yes,” she clipped. “Thank you.”
Luna smiled, either ignoring or not noticing Hermione’s distress. “Are you sure you could live with Pansy? I know you two never got on in school.”
Hermione frowned, thinking of the girl who had bullied her for seven years. Pansy had been foul, yes, but after everything Hermione had been through in the war, the unkind words of her former classmates seemed very trivial.
“Maybe the three of us could get tea and see? I’m sure that if you two have been getting along, I'll be able to move past things too.”
Luna just smiled dreamily. “I’m sure you two will be very close friends if you try.”
Hermione glanced around the bedroom, trying to imagine it filled with her belongings. It seemed very foreign to her now, the idea of this being her home, but she was sure that a few books and personal touches would help.
Yes, this would do very nicely.
The Leaky Cauldron was nearly packed when Hermione arrived at noon the next day. She managed to snag a table for three and sat down to wait for Pansy and Luna. She couldn’t help the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach at the prospect of having lunch with one of her old school bullies.
It’s fine, Hermione. You’re an adult now. You’ve grown up. She probably has too.
“Granger,” a cool voice greeted her.
Hermione stood up as Pansy and Luna wove through the crowded tables and approached the table. She did her best to smile like she was reuniting with an old friend. “Hi, Pansy. Luna. Good to see you again.”
Pansy quirked a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “It is really?”
Hermione blushed. “Yes. Well, in the interest of getting you to let me rent your spare room, yes, it’s good to see you.” Pansy smirked as the three settled at the table.
The waiter came over to take their orders. As the server walked away, Hermione observed the two witches before her; she could not think of two more different girls. Luna’s hair was piled on top of her head in a messy bun, her wand stabbing through it to hold it all in place. She was wearing a brightly coloured, floor-length sundress and an oversized sweater with too many holes in the sleeves. Her large radish earrings hung next to her pale neck.
Pansy, on the other hand, was the very definition of prim and proper. She wore neatly pressed robes of dark blue over a crisp white blouse. Her shiny, black hair fell just below her chin, perfectly styled. Her light makeup accentuated her blue eyes, and her fingernails were perfectly manicured.
She briefly wondered how two polar opposites had come to be flatmates.
“So, Pansy,” Hermione began, “what are you doing these days?”
Pansy peered at the Gryffindor witch over her teacup. “I’m a fashion designer. I’m working under Madame Bijoux now, but I’m hoping to launch my own line soon.”
“That’s wonderful.” Hermione offered a light smile, even though she didn’t have the foggiest idea who Madame Bijoux was.
“And what do you do?”
“I work at the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. I’m the first assistant to the Head of the Department.”
“And do you like it?” Pansy tilted her head slightly, as if she were genuinely curious.
Hermione blinked. It seemed so unlike the Pansy Parkinson she knew to inquire about her job satisfaction. “It’s… not where I want to be in the long run. But I think it’s a good step towards that place.”
“And where is that?” Pansy inquired, bringing her cup to her lips. Before Hermione had the chance to answer, the waiter delivered their meals.
“I would like to be in a position where I can change and propose legislation,” Hermione explained between bites of shepherd’s pie. “There are many laws in place which are discriminatory towards magical creatures. Werewolves, goblins, centaurs, house-elves; they are all horribly marginalised. I would like to be able to do something to help.”
Pansy smiled, scratching her nose with one red fingernail before taking a sip of water. “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Hermione Granger, champion of the downtrodden. Didn’t you have some kind of house-elf liberation club while we were in school?”
Hermione laughed. “Well, can you really call it a club if I was the only real member? I’m surprised you remember that.”
“Well, you were pretty obnoxious about it. Putting signs up everywhere and jabbering on about it to anyone who could hear you.” Pansy chuckled, and Hermione felt her reassurance settle in her chest.
“Yes, well, I didn’t go about it in the best way I suppose. But I still stand by those beliefs.”
Pansy just smiled and took a bite of her salad.
“Hermione stopped by the flat yesterday.” Luna’s dreamy voice wafted over the table.
“Yes.” Hermione nodded. “It’s a beautiful place you’ve put together. You clearly have impeccable taste.”
Pansy hummed in assent. “The lease was transferred to me by my aunt. She used to love the city, but after she turned sixty she decided to move to the country for a quieter life.” She smirked and then leaned in conspiratorially. “Which, of course, really means that she had a contentious divorce and then found a lover twenty years her junior in Sussex.”
Hermione choked on her tea. “Oh,” she spluttered as she attempted to not snort in public. Was Pansy actually gossiping with her like they were old friends? Clearing her throat, Hermione tried to keep a straight face. “Well, aren’t you lucky to have benefitted from her flight of fancy?”
Pansy grinned. “Indeed.” She wiped the corner of her mouth with her napkin. “So, when did you want to move in?”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “You mean…?”
“The room is yours if you want it.”
“Really?” Hermione’s heart swelled, and words began to pour out of her. “Thank you! Er, I have a cat, you know. He’s very well behaved, and I would of course clean up after him, but I understand if—”
Pansy waved one of her hands dismissively. “Cats have never bothered me. Luna?” She turned to seek the approval of her flatmate.
Luna nodded, her eyes bright. “Cats can be very good luck. They were worshiped in ancient Egypt, you know.”
“Yes, that’s true,” Hermione said cautiously. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, of course! Luna told me you’re going through a break up. We’ve all been there. It’s the worst. The room is yours.”
Hermione grinned and sighed, slumping into her chair slightly. “Thank you so much, Pansy. Should we talk about any flat rules or expectations?”
Pansy set down her tea cup. “The rent is eighty-five galleons a month. You’ll give it to me, and I’ll get it to the landlady. As far as expectations, I guess just the usual. Clean up after yourself in the common areas and knock before coming into any closed doors. Just common courtesy.”
Hermione nodded. “Of course. I really appreciate this, Pansy. Sleeping on Harry and Ginny’s couch—it’s not exactly a long term solution.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m sure you’ll be an exemplary flatmate.”
The tight coil of anxiety that had been in Hermione’s stomach since she and Ron had split loosened slightly. “Is tomorrow too soon to move in? I can come over straight after work.”
“That’s fine. We’ll have a key made for you and alter the wards for you to Floo in any time you want.”
“I really appreciate it. The past few days…” She trailed off as tears pricked at her eyes and cleared her throat to dispel them. “Well, it’s been rough.”
Pansy smiled kindly. “I can imagine. I wouldn’t want to live on Harry Potter’s couch either.”
Hermione moved in the following day. She spent every evening that week in her new bedroom, unpacking and organising her belongings. She stayed out of the common areas of the flat as much as she could. It didn’t feel like home to her yet, and she didn’t want to step on Pansy's and Luna’s toes. By Thursday evening, Pansy came knocking.
“Did I actually get a new flatmate? We haven’t seen you all week,” she chastised through the closed bedroom door.
Hermione greeted her with an apologetic smile. “Hi, sorry. I’ve just been unpacking.”
Pansy looked past her shoulder. Hermione knew her freshly unpacked room to be spotless. Every item had a place, tucked away neatly and out of sight. In fact, the only signs that anyone was living there were the steaming cup of tea on the nightstand and the open book on the bed.
Pansy raised an eyebrow with a smirk as she took it all in. “Looks like you’re done unpacking. Come on. Have a glass of wine with me and Luna. There’s a lovely living room out here, Granger, though it seems you’ve never seen it.”
Hermione blushed and nodded, following just behind Pansy. As she sank onto the sofa, Luna handed her a glass of red wine. Pansy sat in a plush armchair and picked up her own glass, sipping from it delicately and eyeing Hermione.
“How has your week been?” Pansy pressed her lips to the rim of her glass.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Hermione admitted. “I keep finding myself avoiding certain areas of the Ministry to keep from running into Ron.”
“Was it that bad of a break up?” Luna inquired, sipping from a glass of something other than wine. It was cloudy and pink and smelled strongly of liquor and strawberries.
“No, it was quite amicable. But we agreed that it would be best if we didn’t see each other for a while.”
“It can be so hard to go back to being friends after a break up,” commiserated Pansy. “It’s definitely possible, but it takes hard work.”
Hermione nodded and took a sip of wine. “That’s definitely my hope. We were such good friends before. I know it will never be like it was, but I do hope that we can stay friends.”
“And how’s work?” Luna asked, pulling her legs up underneath her.
Hermione sighed. “It’s… fine.”
Pansy lifted an eyebrow. “Fine?”
Hermione thought about how she’d spent the day following behind Billings as she attended several meetings. The meetings had been interesting in Hermione’s mind, but it had been maddening to be unable to contribute, and several of Billings’ decisions had made Hermione want to rip her hair out.
“Do you remember how Filch used to follow around Umbridge?” she asked, running one finger around the rim of her wine glass.
Pansy and Luna nodded.
Pansy let out a loud blast of a laugh.
Luna smiled and reached out to pat Hermione’s knee gently. “I don’t think so, Hermione. Your bone structure is much more attractive than Filch’s.” Her head cocked to the side thoughtfully. “Although you do have a cat…”
Though Hermione suspected that Luna hadn’t intended for the comment to be a joke, she found herself fighting back tears of mirth with Pansy.
Hermione woke up early on Saturday morning. The flat was still quiet as she donned her thin, cotton robe over her pajamas and made her way to the kitchen. She started the kettle and put some bread in the toaster. Flipping through The Daily Prophet, she waited for the water to boil.
After a couple of minutes, she heard one of the bedroom doors open. Looking up, she expected to see Pansy or Luna approaching the kitchen. Who she certainly was not expecting was the tall, shirtless form of Draco Malfoy making his way through the living room with a yawn.
Hermione’s heart quickened. Her throat went dry, and her tongue felt momentarily stupefied. She had not seen Draco Malfoy in person since the war had ended. He was one of the people who she would have been all-too-happy to leave in her past. Perhaps she should have expected to run into him when she moved in with Pansy, but she had just been so relieved to have a place to live that she had forgotten how close the two Slytherins had been in school.
As he walked through the archway and into the kitchen, he spotted her and stumbled to a halt abruptly, looking around the room in confusion. “Am I in the wrong bloody flat?” he grumbled, his brow furrowing.
Hermione blinked, her lips twitching at Malfoy’s surprising discomfort. “I moved in with Pansy and Luna on Monday,” she replied as her toast popped. She turned to retrieve it as Malfoy flicked his wand toward the coffee maker to start it up.
“Weird,” he commented, moving past her to retrieve a mug. As he went, he took one of the pieces of toast off her plate.
“Excuse you,” Hermione chastised.
He just grinned over his shoulder and took a bite, wrinkling his nose. “Got any jam?”
Hermione scowled. “Get it yourself, thief.”
“Lighten up, Granger. It’s just toast.” That familiar smirk was splashed across his smug face.
Hermione just grimaced and buttered the piece of toast he hadn’t taken.
“It is still Granger, right?”
Hermione glanced at him; he was peering into the open refrigerator, bent at the waist to look for the jam. His backside was toward her, his pajama trousers very low on his hip bones. His back was pale and toned. She fought the ire bubbling up in her stomach, reminding herself that he hadn’t known that she would be there, and Luna and Pansy were probably very used to seeing his thin morning attire. She averted her eyes and returned to the toast. “It will always be Granger,” she replied evenly.
Malfoy straightened up, jam in hand and turned back to her. “Oh, come now. No need to be so negative. You may find your prince charming yet.” He raised his eyebrows in her direction, his tone like that of someone who was trying to comfort a toddler.
Hermione let out a frustrated laugh, averting her eyes away from his muscular torso. “I didn’t mean—I meant that I’ll never change my name regardless of my marital status.”
“How very modern of you,” Malfoy droned, taking another bite from his stolen toast.
The kettle began to wail, and Hermione removed it from the stove, pouring the water into her prepared teacup.
Pansy shuffled into the room and cast her dark eyes on Malfoy. “Hello, darling,” she greeted with a cheeky grin. She yawned as she made her way around the kitchen island to place a kiss on his cheekbone.
“Morning, dear,” he replied with a smirk, his silver eyes flickering to Hermione over the top of Pansy’s head.
Hermione turned away, resolutely keeping her eyes on her toast and tea. She wished that Luna had warned her that Pansy’s boyfriend would be over often. She was doing well with the break up, all things considered, but that didn’t mean that she needed to be subjected to Malfoy's and Pansy’s pet names and kisses in the mornings.
“How was the pub last night?” Pansy asked as she levitated four eggs over the pan. With a wave of her wand they cracked, their contents plopping into the pan. Another wave turned the heat on and set a spatula to stir the eggs gently.
Malfoy shrugged. “Blaise went home with Astoria.”
“Again?” Pansy sighed with an exasperated roll of her eyes. “Those two are so toxic.”
Deciding that the kitchen was getting a bit too crowded, Hermione folded the paper under her arm and picked up her plate and cup, making her way toward the table. Pansy and Malfoy chatted about their mutual friends’ love lives as Hermione flipped through the paper. After a few minutes, Luna entered the room, her blonde locks wild on her head. “Good morning,” she sighed dreamily.
“Morning, Luna,” Hermione greeted, glancing up from an article about the repatriation of hinkypunks.
“Eggs, Luna?” she heard Pansy offer.
Hermione was still getting used to the easy friendship that Luna and Pansy had developed. It was so odd to see Pansy genuinely smile. The former Slytherin grinned at the blonde as she put some scrambled eggs on a plate for her. “Granger, eggs?”
Hermione jolted at the sound of her name. “Oh, no, thank you.”
“So, Granger,” Malfoy drawled, “what do you do these days?”
Hermione looked up from the paper. “I’m the assistant to Mildred Billings, the Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”
“Assistant?” parroted Malfoy. “So you get her coffee and run her errands for her?”
Hermione blushed crimson. “I assist her in meetings and her day-to-day activities.”
Malfoy nodded and took a sip of his coffee. “But you also get her coffee and run her errands.” It wasn’t a question, and Hermione blushed deeper still.
“Well, what do you do?” Hermione snapped.
Malfoy scoffed haughtily. “Haven’t heard of Malfoy Enterprises? We’re on the cutting edge of the latest magical innovations. We’re actually hoping to partner with the DMLE on how to increase security and protection for Aurors.”
Hermione seethed. Of course he had a big, important job while she was fetching coffee for the world’s most demanding woman.
“I suppose you used your daddy’s money to start that up,” Hermione sneered.
Malfoy frowned, his playful eyes darkening. “Family money, yes.”
“How easy it must have been for you then,” Hermione goaded.
“Only an idiot would deny his own privilege. At least I’m using mine to try to do something good in the world,” he spat coldly. “At least I’m not sitting at the Manor every day getting drunk on thousand galleon whisky and masturbating onto a pile of gold.”
Hermione wrinkled her nose at his crass words and turned away.
“We actually have a meeting with the Auror department this week. I might even see dear Potter and Weaselby.”
Hermione’s heart twisted painfully at the mention of Ron, and she turned the page of the paper to avoid looking at Malfoy’s smug face. “I’m sure they’ll both be so delighted to see you again.” She made sure to make her tone extra sarcastic.
She could feel Malfoy’s eyes on her for a moment after her glib remark. “You know, I might just save their lives. Our research team has been making some interesting strides when it comes to protective clothing. Luna, are you sure you still don’t want to join the research team?” Malfoy tipped his head in her direction. “We could use someone like you.”
Hermione looked up sharply. Malfoy wanted to hire Luna? How was Luna so friendly with these Slytherins? And why were they so friendly to her?
“Draco,” Pansy hissed with a pointed look.
“No, thank you. I don’t want to do that many experiments,” Luna answered politely. “Besides, I’m quite happy working as a Magizoologist. Rolf has taught me so much.”
“Well, let me know if you ever change your mind.” He and Pansy fell back into conversation, and he reached his arms high over his head, stretching with a groan. Hermione caught herself reluctantly staring at the muscular V shape at his hips which accentuated a thin line of light hair leading down from his belly button into the waistband of his trousers.
Hermione tore her eyes away from him with a grimace, choosing to face Luna instead. “Does he always walk around like that in the morning?” Hermione whispered.
Luna chuckled quietly. “Honestly, you’re lucky he put on trousers.”
Hermione’s mouth curled in distaste. She supposed she had better get used to Draco Malfoy being around.
“Well, I better get going. I’m meeting Blaise for lunch and I desperately need a shower,” Malfoy said, placing his dishes in the sink and casting a spell to start their cleaning. The scrub brush sprang to life and began to wash.
“You know you’re always welcome to shower here,” Pansy offered.
“I know, but I think Granger is uncomfortable.” He smirked at Hermione, and she scoffed in return.
“See you later,” Malfoy sang. He retreated to Pansy’s bedroom for a few moments before returning fully dressed. With a final wave at the trio of witches, he cast some Floo powder into the fireplace and disappeared.
“Sorry about that,” said Pansy as she joined Hermione and Luna at the table. “I know you two don’t get along.”
“I’m fine,” Hermione assured her. And she really meant it. “I’ve been through too much to let Draco Malfoy get under my skin anymore.” She hadn’t meant to, but she’d spat his name with a bit too much disdain. “Sorry,” she squeaked, backtracking a bit.
Pansy tossed her head back with a laugh. “Don’t apologise to me. I know exactly how much of a prat he can be. I can tell him to come over less if you’d like.”
Hermione shook her head. “No, don’t be silly! I don’t want my living here to change things for you at all. I’m fine.”
It occurred to her that by saying “I’m fine” a second time, she had made herself sound like she was anything but fine. She cursed herself internally.
As Pansy and Luna fell into easy conversation together, Hermione sipped from her coffee and flipped through the paper, not really retaining anything about the hinkypunks. She thought back on all the lazy Saturday mornings she and Ron had spent together over the years. How just a couple weeks ago, that’s exactly what she had been doing. And now… How different her life had become. From breakfast in bed with Ron and hours of talking and cuddling to enduring Draco Malfoy’s presence and feeling like an outsider in this confusing circle of friends.