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Chapter Eleven: A Friendly Breakfast

 

Two days had gone by since their last real conversation. Hermione felt uneasy around Malfoy, she regretted what she had told him; she had been too sincere and evidently he wasn’t prepared for that. What if he didn’t want a friendship? She had spilled her heart out and now she felt ridiculous. Draco didn’t feel for her the same way as she felt for him; he didn’t need her as she needed him. She shuddered at the thought of their mission to Edinburgh; it was going to be so awkward between them. She definitely needed to talk to someone and Ginny was the first one to pop into her head.

Two hours later, after arranging to meet Ginny at The Three Broomsticks, Hermione walked into the kitchen where she found Draco babysitting the Polyjuice Potion.

“How’s it coming?” she asked.

“What?

“The potion, how’s it coming?” she repeated.

“Fine, it’ll be done in two days. Though the tricky part has yet to come,” he responded not even taking his eyes from the boiling cauldron. 

It had been like that for the past couple of days. When they spoke to each other it was only when strictly necessary, and it was either about the potion or meals, nothing else. Do you think the potion is brewing at the correct temperature? Is it supposed to be looking like this? Do you have the bicorn horn ready? Have you ever eaten a hamburger? Nothing that mattered, nothing interesting, not even small talk. At least Draco had stopped bickering with Hermione.

“I’m going out,” Hermione announced.

“Fine.”

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours, maybe more.”

“Ok.”

“Do you need anything? I’m going to Hogsmeade.”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Behave while I’m out,” she warned him.

“I always do.”

“Ok, so… bye I guess.”

“Bye.”

Draco watched Hermione as she went out the backdoor and with a loud pop vanished into thin air.

“Hermione!” Ginny greeted her from the back of the room and waved her over.

They ordered a butterbeer for Hermione and a flagon of pumpkin juice for Ginny who seemed to be as thirsty as ever. After sharing a bit of gossip on mutual acquaintances, Hermione told Ginny why she had asked to meet her. She told her the whole story without leaving any details out, she told her about the dream, about the fight with Draco… everything.

“And now he doesn’t even speak to me, unless it’s necessary. I feel like a fool for revealing my true feelings… I- I’m at loss here. I don’t know what to do, how to act around him…” Hermione concluded.

“I think this whole situation is quite obvious,” Ginny began.

“What? How? Please, enlighten me.”

“I thought this day would never come. Me, giving advice to you. When you have been the girl who has always pulled answers out of thin air when everyone else is oblivious…”

“Ginny, please, I came here for your help. I don’t need this right now.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Ginny apologized. “As I was saying, I think it’s quite obvious what’s happening to Malfoy.”

“Yeah I understood that part the first time.”

“The thing is,” Ginny interrupted, “this is probably the first time Draco Malfoy has felt these kinds of things for someone, and yes, I’m sure he fancies you,” she said in response to Hermione’s unbelieving face. “You see, Malfoy wanted to be mad at you after you jumped on him that morning, it was easier to deal with things that way.”

“I still don’t understand anything."

“Ok, I’ll put it this way: Malfoy starts to fall for you but everything’s so confusing to him for so many reasons. Then, you wake up yelling in the middle of the night and he can’t help but stay by your side the whole night and calm you down. But you wake up and start to yell at him that you didn’t need his help or whatever you said… So, obviously he gets angry because you were an ungrateful bitch, which incidentally, is the normal reaction you should get from any normal human being…

"Anyway, you, being the bright witch you are, realized almost instantly how mean you had been and asked for forgiveness, and you even thought he would understand you right away and fall back into your arms. Well, first of all, he didn’t really understand what you told him, but what’s more interesting is that he didn’t understand it because he didn’t want to.”

“That’s ridiculous Ginny,” Hermione said with a loud snort.

“Of course it isn’t. ”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but nodded.

“It was easier for Malfoy to handle things if he hated you, plus, he spent 7 years at school hating you, so he knows how to act when he feels that way.  He doesn't really know how to act around you when the two of you are being friendly. Things were going too fast between you, he was losing control. Being angry at you is the easiest way to escape the situation between you two; to him, it’s a whole lot better than facing it and doing something about it. By being angry at you he could go back to simply being the same old Malfoy instead of brand new Draco. It’s more familiar to him.”

Hermione just sat there for a couple of minutes digesting Ginny’s words. At first she couldn’t find any sense to them but gradually she began to understand Ginny’s point. It was possible, heck, it was probably true… at least it explained a lot.

Ginny watched as Hermione’s brain started to process the information. She could almost see the wheels in her head turning and turning, it was so amusing. Finally she continued her explanation. “So, a couple of days ago you talked to Malfoy again; and this time, you made sure he understood you. And I guess he did because he finally has to face that which he has avoided since he started developing feelings from you. You have taken him out of the comfort zone in which he just stays angry at you, that’s all. But Malfoy is a bright guy, he’ll figure it out sooner or later, he’ll realize he just can’t live without you, he’ll come around. Just be patient, give him the space he needs and the time to think. His life has just made a 360º turn, it’s not easy…”

“I guess you are right. I hope you are right… I hate living with a guy that barely acknowledges my presence.”

“Of course I am, even Harry would be able to spot this one.”

“By the way, speaking of Harry, you haven’t told him anything, have you?”

“You think I’m stupid, Hermione?” asked the red-haired girl. “If Harry knew about this Malfoy would already be dead…”

“Oh, c’mon Ginny, surely you are exaggerating a little-”

“You are like Harry’s sister. After Ron’s death, Harry feels he has to watch over you like a brother. Do you think he has not created means to check up on you since you moved to your parent’s house?”

“Harry has been spying on me?” asked a bewildered Hermione.

“Of course not, he just arranged for some Aurors to check up on you every once in a while.”

“And that’s different from spying because…”

“He’s just concerned. He would never dare to invade your privacy; he just checks that you are still alive and well. He loves you Hermione, we both do.”

“I love you too guys, I’m just so-”

“Don’t worry about it Hermione, it’s the normal thing to do. Anyway, I’m not telling Harry anything, anything at all. I hope you will tell him when time comes.”

“If time comes, you mean,” Hermione corrected.

“The time will come, trust me.”

***

It was a beautiful morning and Draco didn’t feel as sulky as he had been the past few days. He was in a pretty good mood until he passed before Hermione’s bedroom, that is. He walked by heading downstairs to check on the potion when he heard muffled voices coming from Hermione’s room. He leaned over the door and listened to Hermione as she talked animatedly with someone, or so he thought. But a couple of minutes went by and she was still speaking, which lead him to the assumption that Hermione was in there all by herself and that she was talking alone. The sudden urge to go in and make fun of her took over, and when he was about to open the door, he heard a second voice, a man’s voice. He stood rooted in his spot when he recognized that voice, he could’ve placed it anywhere, anytime; Potter.

What the bloody hell were Hermione and Potter doing locked up in her room? Hermione had a beautiful and comfortable sitting room downstairs in which she would be certainly able to talk with Scar-head, there was definitely no need to lock themselves up. He stiffened even more when he heard Hermione giggling and panic took over him; what the hell were they doing in there? They couldn’t possibly… nah… never. Potter seemed to be in love with the she-weasel and Hermione had told Draco a few days ago that she didn’t fancy the Savior-Of-The-World.

And there they were again: Hermione’s giggles followed by a ‘please, stop it Harry, can’t take it anymore’. This couldn’t be possibly right, there was something quite wrong going on in that room and he was going to stop it. But just before Draco stormed into the room after Potter’s head, he realized that maybe he was the one who was wrong. Maybe Potter was telling Hermione a series of jokes and she was rolling on the floor out of breath for laughing. Then, he would surely make a fool of himself by bursting into the room trying to save Hermione from one of Potter’s hilarious tales. But he couldn’t just stay there and do nothing about it… he had to come up with something; he couldn’t just stand there and listen to Granger and Potter’s impertinent blissfulness.

Thirty minutes later a scent of toast, eggs, bacon and tea invaded the house as Hermione and Harry walked into the kitchen surprised to see Malfoy setting up the table. Draco turned and upon seeing Hermione walked up to her and planted a soft kiss on her hand.

“Good morning Granger,” he greeted her, inviting her to sit down. He looked over Hermione’s shoulder, ignoring her shocked face, and looked at Harry, whose mouth hung open in the greatest surprise. “Potter, care to join us for breakfast?” And without waiting for an answer, Draco handed him a cup of tea. He looked down at Hermione and with his index finger pushed Hermione’s mouth shut for she was gaping at him like a fish out of water. He turned around to finish with the eggs, hiding a very Mafloy-ish grin that graced his features.

“Er, Malfoy?” asked the confused girl.

“Yes Granger?”

“Are you alright?”

“But of course I’m alright, what kinda question is that? Is the tea ok? No sugar, just the way you like it.”

When did Malfoy learn how she liked her tea? Hermione wondered. This was very odd behaviour, Malfoy hadn’t spoken to her in the past few days, let alone cooked for her, and now he was serving her breakfast… he was serving Harry breakfast! Oh, Malfoy was up to something, she knew it; he probably wanted her to make a fool of herself when he kissed her forehead and sent shivers down her spine. Yes, that was it, he wanted Harry to figure out that Hermione fancied Draco and… no, if he did that, Harry would kill Draco, not Hermione. What if, a small voice in her head uttered, Draco thought about what I said to him and as Ginny foretold he has figured it all out and he’s finally willing to begin a friendship with me?

“Are you ok, Hermione?” asked Harry bestowing upon her a suspicious look.

“What? Oh, yeah I’m ok. Everything’s fine.”

Harry glanced towards Malfoy sensing there was something very wrong with this scene. He still kept this thoughts to himself and waited for the appropriate moment to question Hermione about it.

“The potion is almost ready, Potter,” Draco began. “You can take it tomorrow to the Weasley twins. They’ll have enough for one month’s journey.”

“Ok, thanks Malfoy,” responded Harry, still quite confused. “That would be right on time since I finally have a copy of the blue prints,”

“About time,” mumbled Draco under his breath but loud enough for Harry to hear.

“Let’s see how you do the next time there’s classified information to steal from the Ministry!” snapped Harry.

“Please, guys, it is too early in the morning to start bickering, just, please…” Hermione pleaded before they started fighting, as always.

“Sorry,” To everyone’s astonishment it was Draco who had spoken, not Harry.

“Yes, sorry Hermione,” Harry hastened to add. “As I was saying, I dropped by this morning because I finally have the copies of the blue-prints. The idea is that you come up with a plan as soon as possible, if you could leave for Edinburgh within the next week-”

“The next week?” interrupted Hermione. “I can’t come with a plan just like that, I have to examine all the angles, all the possible outcomes. We can’t improvise on this one.”

“I’m not asking you to improvise, just to plan things quickly. The Death Eaters are on the move, we think they are starting to suspect Malfoy is not hiding at Hogwarts and we might lose the chance to lure them out of the school and as far away from Edinburgh as possible. And there’s also a fact that’s been bugging me for the past few days…”

“What is it, Harry?” asked Hermione.

“The Death Eaters trashed Malfoy’s flat…” responded Harry staring into space.

“Yeah, so?” asked Draco.

Harry, who hadn’t heard Malfoy’s remark spoke, “The thing is, what bothers me… how did they locate the apartment? I think that someone must have told them where the flat is located, I’m afraid we might have a traitor within the Order. So, McGonagall, Lupin and I have decided that anything concerning this mission will be classified information. Only the Headmistress, Lupin, the Weasley twins, Seamus, Tonks, you two and I are to know about it.”

“Isn’t it a bit late for that, Potter?” demanded Draco. “I think you broadcasted this information to the whole Order in your last meeting!”

“Yes, I know, and there’s nothing we can do about that now. But any further information concerning this mission will be classified. I also wanted to ask you, Malfoy, is there anyone outside the Order that knows where your apartment is located, or that knows that you are alive?”

“The only person outside the Order that knew that I was alive was my mother. But I lost all contact with her the night I escaped. Nobody outside the Order knows where I live; in fact, very few in the Order know where my flat is located. Or so, I think...” Draco immediately thought of a couple of witches he had picked up in a pub in Diagon Alley.

“Are you sure, Malfoy?”

“Of course I’m bloody sure! If the Ministry knew I’m still alive I would be chucked in Azkaban, and if the Death Cronies… anyway, they would’ve killed me! But as you said, someone must’ve told them of my whereabouts recently, if they had known before, they would’ve surely gone by to collect my soul a long time ago.”

“Yes, that’s true,” added Hermione before taking a sip of her tea. “There’s something funny about all this. Either the person that told the Death Eaters where Draco’s flat is really has no clue, or they did it on purpose. But everyone in the Order knew Malfoy was here. If he or she really wanted the Death Eaters to find Draco, he or she did a very poor job at it – or intentionally mis-directed them.”

“Yeah, but I’m still not comfortable with this. Something’s not right and I can’t place a finger on what it might be. The sooner you move on this mission, the better.”

“Ok, Harry, we’ll leave as soon as possible. I’ll be informing you on the precise date so that George flees to France at the same time.”

“France?” asked Draco.

“Yeah, France. We decided this on our last meeting, didn’t Hermione fill you in?”

“I thought I did,” mumbled a blushing Hermione.

“No, dear, you forgot,” responded Draco, smiling at Hermione, “but it’s ok. I think France is perfect. The Malfoy family has a summer house in south France near Saint Tropez in the Côte d’Azur. Lucius obviously knows this; he might think I would want to hide there.”

“Do you think your father will fall for that?” asked Hermione

“My father never gave me much credit, he never believed me to be particularly bright. Also, the château is unplottable and has powerful magic guarding the place. Given that George Weasley is pure-blood, he should not have any trouble entering the place.”

“What do you mean about George being pure-blood, what does that have to do with anything?”

“C’mon Potter, it’s not that difficult, only pure bloods can visit the house. It has repelling charms not only for Muggles but for Muggle-born wizards as well. You should know my beautiful family’s traditions well enough to understand it.”

“Yeah, endearing, really,” Harry retorted.

“If the place is unplottable how can George get to it?” asked Hermione.

“With a Portkey! The only thing is that Weasley has to make Lucius take the bait. And that’s easy because the only place where a Portkey for Le Château Malfoy can activate is in Malfoy mansion. The place might be burned down, but the magic surrounding the property is still there.”

“But a Portkey might take anyone anywhere, what makes you think that you father will think the said Portkey will take George to the château in France?” inquired Hermione.

“Because Lucius will know that I would only risk going back to the manor to travel by Portkey if I was going to France, and nowhere else. Weasley just has to be a good actor, and he’ll fool him.”

“It’s a good plan, but risky,” Hermione began, “but I think George will be up to it. Tell us all we should know about the château.”

“Wait, I think George must listen to this first hand. Hermione, may I?” asked Harry pointing to her fireplace.

“Sure,” she said handing him a small box that contained Floo Powder.

Minutes later, George Weasley sat on Hermione’s table complaining about the earliness of the hour and asking for coffee. Harry filled him in with the latest information before asking Draco to carry on his explanation of the Château Malfoy.

“As I already said,” Draco began, “it is located in Saint Tropez and it has the most beautiful view of the ocean. It is unplottable and only pure blood wizards can enter it. It is impossible to Apparate within its grounds. The château is the original home of the Malfoy family, in case you didn’t know, we are related to Edouard Xavier Malfoy, founder of Beauxbatons.”

“As interesting as you family history might be, we don’t have the time nor the need to listen to it right now,” said Harry cutting in.

“There is a password to enter the château,” Draco continued ignoring Harry, “and therein lies the only obstacle we might encounter. Weasley here has to pronounce it correctly for the door to open, and you only have once chance.”  Draco responded in a mysterious tone directed at George.

“And what is it?” Hermione inquired.

Je suis fier de mon heritage,” said Draco, “Here, I’ll write it to you on this piece of parchment, it’s not very difficult. Can you pronounce it?” he asked George.

“Give me that,” he grumbled.

It took nearly thirty minutes before George learned to pronounce the words correctly, but in the end, Malfoy was very pleased with the outcome of his teachings.

“I didn’t know you speak French,” inquired Hermione.

“I was raised in a pure-blood family and my ancestors are French. Most of all the pure-blood wizards speak French, even your godfather, Potter. The Black family motto Toujours pur is in French,” he responded matter-of-factly. 

“I didn’t come here to discuss pure-blood families and their origins,” growled Harry. “So that’s enough of your showing off. Anyway, it takes so much more to impress Hermione…”

Draco only snorted loudly and Hermione tried to hide her blushing face, but she didn’t manage to escape from George’s questioning look.

“What about the Portkey?” asked the red haired man, trying to divert the conversation from such dangerous waters.

“When Hermione and I define a strategy and set a date for our departure I shall give it to you. You have to leave for France at the same time Hermione and I leave for Scotland.”

“Then I’m leaving, I have things to do,” Harry said rising from his seat.

“Yeah me too,” added George. At that precise moment Hermione’s fireplace burst into green flames as Fred’s head popped out of it.

“Oi, George!” he yelled, calling his twin over. “Are you done there? We have a little situation over here that requires your attention.”

George leaned over the fireplace. As Fred whispered the news to his bother George’s face became more and more serious, gaining a green tinge that made him look as if he was about to be sick. “Bloody hell,” was all Draco, Hermione and Harry understood from George’s elaborate sentence of swear words.

“It’s everything ok?” asked Harry.

“My presence here has expired mate,” responded George, “thanks for the breakfast. Talk to you later.” And before they could answer, George disappeared behind his bother leaving the yellow burning flames as they were before Fred’s intrusion.

“I hope it wasn’t anything serious,” sighed Hermione.

“Surely not,” responded Harry. “Fred might have blown up something at the shop…”

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be the first time... So, returning to the previous subject, I’ll send you an owl as soon as possible, Malfoy and I are going to start working on this right now,” stated Hermione waving the copy of the blue prints. “Why don’t you join us for dinner tomorrow, we can discuss our advance and you can take the Polyjuice Potion as well.”

“I’m sure Potter has lots of things to do Granger, being the important Auror that he is,” Draco stated.

Harry, who was about to refuse the invitation, suddenly changed his mind. “Sure Hermione, that would be lovely. I must go now, but before I go may I have a word with you?” he asked Hermione.

“Er, sure,” she responded apprehensively.

“Bye then Malfoy.”

“Bye Potter.”

Hermione walked Harry to the backdoor that led to the garden. As they stepped outside Harry spoke, “what the hell was going on in there?”

“I don’t think I know what you mean,” she responded sheepishly.

“You and Malfoy!”

“What about it?” she mumbled looking away.

“He was nice to you, he even kissed your hand! And you, you were also nice to him, calling him ‘Malfoy’ in that weird tone and staring at him all the time. You remind me of Pansy Parkinson, you stare at him the same way she did.”

“I certainly do not,” she responded outraged. “And, what weird ‘Malfoy’ tone are you referring to? Draco and I are just getting along nicely. We live together you know, we have to be civil towards each other.”

“I can understand civil, but that was not civil. Civil doesn’t involve hand kissing last time I checked.”

“We might be developing a friendship Harry, is that so bad?”

“Of course it is! Besides, I think he wants more than a friendship, the way he looks at you…”

“That’s rubbish, Harry! We are just becoming friends and I don’t have any problems with it, so neither should you. And Draco is a really nice person once you get to know him, he has changed, Harry.” Hermione blushed furiously; what kind of look was Draco giving her?

“No he hasn’t! He might be working for the Order and stand against the Death Eaters but that doesn’t mean he has changed. His still a selfish git, he only thinks about himself. Don’t be so naïve, Hermione!”

“I’m not being naïve and I have the right to offer my friendship to whomever I like.”

“Think about what Ron would say.”

“Ron’s dead Harry, he left us all, remember? Why bother thinking about Ron?”

Harry hadn’t touched the ‘Ron’ topic with Hermione since his death and by the look on her face, had crossed some line. “I’m sorry, Hermione,” he began.

“Don’t be, it was Ron who embarked on that stupid mission not you,”

“I- I,” he didn’t know what to say and he could tell Hermione was hurt by the look on her face. He reached out to her and held her in his arms. “It’s just that I don’t want to see you get hurt, Hermione, you don’t deserve anymore pain. And I don’t think Malfoy deserves your friendship either.”

“People change, Harry; you should learn to accept that fact of life. Besides, last time I checked it wasn’t up to you to decide who’s worthy of my friendship and who’s not! I’ll see you tomorrow; you can bring Ginny if you like.” She sighed disentangling herself from his hug. “Bye, Harry.”

“Bye Hermione,”

And with a pop he vanished.

It took a while for Hermione to recover from the conversation she just had with Harry. Ginny was right, Harry would kill Draco if he dared touch her. But it was Hermione’s life, she was free to do whatever she liked, she just needed Ginny’s assistance to make Harry understand it.

She walked into the house again and found Draco already looking at the blue prints. He had also spread on the table a map of Scotland and seemed to be examining it quite closely. As he leaned down his blond hair fell on his face making him look very sexy.

“We should start working on that,” sighed Hermione startling Draco.

“How was your chat with Potter?” he probed. 

“Er, fine. He wanted to know if he could bring Ginny tomorrow,” she responded looking away.

Draco recognized the lie in her tone but didn’t say anything. Instead, he motioned her to get close and look at the map. “This is interesting,” he pointed, “you said the other day we shouldn’t travel by magic and there’s a road that leads to Edinburgh that we could use, it’s a small road. Can you drive a Muggle car?”

“Yes, sure. I got my license four years ago.”

Draco didn’t know what she was talking about so he just continued to examine the map.

“Er, Malfoy?” Hermione started, “are you sure you are alright?”

“Why do you keep asking that question?”

“Because you’ve been… er- nice to me. You have barely spoken to me the past few days, and now you act as if nothing had happened.  You made breakfast and everything.”

Draco took a while to respond, though it was difficult to ignore Hermione’s piercing look. When he had thought of making Potter jealous he never considered the impact of his affectionate actions towards Hermione once Scar-head left. But, on the other hand, he couldn’t just go back to ignoring Hermione and treating her as a mere acquaintance. What to do… what to do…

“I’m ok, Granger. I’m going upstairs to take a shower and we’ll look at these later. Oh, and before I forget, I just added the last portion of fluxweed to the potion. Make sure it boils constantly for the next few hours and it’ll be ready.”

“Malfoy, wait. Aren’t you going to explain to me your behaviour?”

“You wanted us to be friends didn’t you?” he responded leaving the kitchen.

Suddenly Hermione couldn’t help smiling; it was also difficult to ignore the faeries tingling in her stomach.

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