Chapter Twelve: Dinner at Hermione’s
It was the strangest sight one might ever hope to encounter. It was surreal for all the people sitting at the table, but still they went on with it because, honestly, they didn’t know what else to do. It was evident that everyone was uncomfortable though they tried to hide it behind rigid smiles and small talk. The one doing the best job of pretending was Draco Malfoy who, beyond being nice to people he didn’t particularly like, was succeeding in ignoring Harry Potter’s death stares.
“More wine?” offered the blonde man to Ginny.
“No, thank you, one is enough for me.”
“Potter?” he asked offering the raven haired man the bottle.
“Sure,” he responded taking the red wine bottle from Draco and pouring a generous amount in his glass. Harry Potter was not a drinking person; in fact, he had only gotten drunk once: the day the beautiful woman sitting by his side had agreed to marry him.
It was because of this unusual gesture from her best friend that Hermione shot Harry a questioning look and asked him if he was feeling alright.
“I’m feeling perfectly fine, thank you. By the way, this wine is quite nice.”
“Of course it is, I chose it myself,” Draco responded pleasantly, though a sneer still managed to form on his soft lips.
Harry opened his mouth, probably to start bickering with the Slytherin, but his wife placed her hand gently on his hand and gave him a knowing glance before cutting him off. “And such a great choice it is. Tell me, where did you learn all about wines?”
“It comes with the family name. Besides we have a small vineyard at Château Malfoy, I grew up among vines.”
“Always so modest, Malfoy.”
“Did you expect anything different from me, Potter?”
“Never, you will always be the same.”
“Actually, people do change. You should know that by now.”
“You are right, people change. Death Eaters don’t.”
Malfoy tensed immediately. His soft features transformed into a deadly glare and the hand holding his glass began to tremble slightly.
“That was out of line, Harry,” hissed his wife. “I’m sorry, Malfoy, Harry didn’t mean that, he-”
“It’s quite alright, Mrs. Potter. Our dear Harry probably has the necessary life experience to make him believe that. We will just have to endure his biased views of the world, won’t we?” His features rearranged themselves into a cold smile. “Dessert, anyone?”
“Yes please,” responded Ginny. “But please, you two have been serving us the whole night. Let me help.”
“Of course not, Ginny,” answered Hermione standing up, “dessert is ready anyway, there isn’t much you can do.”
As Hermione retired for the kitchen, she shot a glance at her best friend who was having a staring contest with Draco. Ginny looked completely miserable sitting there between them both but Hermione knew that her presence was the only barrier stopping both from killing each other. What on Earth had made her believe that asking Harry and Ginny for dinner was a good idea?
Dessert went along quietly. Hermione tried to ease the tension by making small comments on the weather or the new decoration plans she had for her parent’s house. She merely received ‘yes’ or ‘no’ replies from Harry and Draco. She finally gave up on trying to make decent conversation and finished her apple pie quietly.
When dinner was finally over, they moved to the sitting room in order to discuss Hermione and Draco’s plan for the Edinburgh mission. Draco fetched a series of maps which he and Hermione had closely studied in order to determine the best route to take to Edinburgh. He spread them on the coffee table and showed Harry the two most viable alternatives.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what is going on here,” interrupted Ginny, “why don’t you just Apparate to Edinburgh instead of going through all the trouble of traveling by Muggle means?”
“Two reasons, Ginny,” answered Hermione. “First, because by using non-magical means we can avoid detection. Draco’s father knows his magical signature very well and he could be able to trace him if he found out about the decoy. Second, because we need to buy time. We have to leave here as soon as possible, in two days if we can manage it. But the only chance of sneaking into the facility is next week on the 15th.”
“What happens on the 15th?” asked Ginny.
“There is a shift change. You see, wizards of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad protect the laboratory. They practically live there but they change shifts every month on the 15th. It will be easier for us to sneak in during that time than at any other moment of the month.”
“And how do you plan to sneak back out?” asked Harry with a bit of concern in his voice.
“We don’t know yet,” responded Hermione mildly blushing. “We’ll figure that out along the way. Besides, we don’t know how long it could take us to retrieve the information concealed in Draco’s head, so I guess we’ll have to improvise on that one.”
“I’m not very comfortable with that,” Harry began but was cut off by Draco.
“Do you have any other suggestions, Potter? Because if you do, please enlighten us. Hermione and I have been pondering over the problem for the past twenty four hours and we have arrived at the conclusion that we would only know once we get there and face what lies before us.”
“Actually no, I don’t have any suggestions,” admitted Harry, “and if it wasn’t imperative that you set out on this mission immediately, I would never allow this. But Hogwarts began classes this week and we can’t afford to have Death Eaters wandering all around near the place looking for Malfoy. You have to leave as soon as possible.”
“We’ll figure something out, Harry,” whispered Hermione trying to sound calm. “After all, we only have to escape a Ministry’s facility, which is quite easy compared with escaping Voldemort, which we did on several occasions.”
Harry looked into her eyes and held her hand, giving her a reassuring smile. Upon catching the private exchange between the best friends, Draco cut in asking Harry which of the two routes was more appropriate. Though he tried to be subtle, the gesture was not missed by Ginny who couldn’t help but to smile to herself.
After a two hour debate concerning the details of the mission they chose the best route and decided that Hermione would drive them in her parent’s automobile. The trip would take two days and they would spend the night in Stretford, but otherwise they would only make the necessary stops to eat and refresh themselves. After that, they were to remain hidden in Edinburg until the 15th when they would be able to sneak into the Laboratry. The meeting was drawing to its close when Ginny interrupted.
“Well, there’s just one more thing we need to settle then.”
“And what’s that, love?”
“What are you two going to travel as?” she said pointing at Draco and Hermione who were sitting across her.
“Beg your pardon?”
“Didn’t catch that?” asked both Draco and Hermione at unison.
“You heard me, as what are you going to travel?”
“We still don’t understand what you mean love.”
“Well you have to travel as something in order to prevent people being suspicious. Draco is after all being looked for by at least twenty Death Eaters, and you can’t expect all of them to follow the decoy to France.”
“Yes, Ginny, we are quite aware of that,” responded Hermione who still didn’t get the point behind Ginny’s interruption, “that’s why we are traveling by non-magical means, passing as Muggles on vacation and staying off from the main roads. That’s why it is going to take us rather long to get there.”
“What other precautions do you suggest we take besides the ones we have already considered?” asked Draco cutting in, “would you have us make the car invisible? Or wear invisibility cloaks during the trip? Because that would really spook to their graves so many Muggles… coming to think about it, it’s not such a bad idea…”
“Malfoy, that’s completely illegal!” Hermione interjected, “both putting an invisibility charm on the car as wearing invisibility cloaks while in it! That’s out of the question, that’s completely-”
“That’s not what I meant,” Ginny explained, “what I meant is that you both need a cover up. You have to pass yourselves as something!”
“And what would that something be?” asked Harry in a suspicious tone. He had a feeling were this was going to and didn’t like it one bit.
“Well you have to pretend to be something, something that would fool both Death Eaters and Ministry’s officials,”
“We are already pretending to be Muggles on vacation, I think that’s enough. Anyway, who would ask? The idea is to speak to no one, unless we have to.”
“Yeah, but the enemy has spies everywhere, Hermione. People don’t have to talk to you, just seeing you could be enough. But if you acted as say, just as an example, husband and wife, they would be less suspicious. As I said, the enemy has many spies.”
“I think you are exaggerating a little, love, I don’t think-”
“I should’ve never lent you that Muggle book! I agree with Harry, you are exaggerating!”
“Actually,” Draco began, “Mrs. Potter here may have a point.”
“What?” asked Harry. “I don’t usually doubt Ginny’s ideas, because most of the time they are bloody brilliant, but this…”
“I agree with Harry. This is going way too far. We don’t need to pretend to be married Malfoy.”
“But Ginevra may have a point. Our paths could cross with virtually anyone’s. But if we act as husband and wife people would just think they have mistaken us for someone else. Tell me Hermione, who would in their right mind think that besides being alive, Draco Malfoy married Hermione Granger, a Muggle-born? I’m sorry Potter, but your wife’s ideas are always bloody brilliant.”
“You would have to be very, very unlucky to stumble upon someone that may know you. Upon deciding the best route, in case you already forgot, we did take into account to travel through the Muggle-est areas in Britain. It is very unlikely that you encounter any wizard or witch along the way. They don’t usually linger around such Muggle areas.”
“But still it could happen,” this time it wasn’t Draco who spoke, but Hermione. “I still think we would be very unlucky, as you said, if we stumble across any witch or wizard,” explained Hermione upon Harry’s shocked look, “but, and I want to say this in a modest manner, I am quite famous within the wizard community and easily recognized.”
“That’s exactly my point!” said Ginny triumphantly, “and Malfoy’s face was on most of the Ministry’s leaflets after Dumbledore’s death. Even now, although most believe him to be dead, we still see his name under ‘The Most Wanted’ list.”
“Well you may be right,” said Harry giving in, “you could travel as brother and sister,”
“That’s not good enough. Nobody recognizes siblings upon looking at them unless they look alike, and Hermione and Draco look quite different the one from the other.”
“You are right again,” Draco intervened with his silky voice, “I think that your first proposal was the most appropriate one. If we act as husband and wife people would just take us as husband and wife.”
“You could travel as… as… friends!” Harry proposed, trying not to sound desperate.
“They are already friends you silly,” laughed Ginny, “and it’s not a very good cover up either.”
“They are?” asked Harry rather skeptically and even mockingly. “Since when?”
Hermione and Draco looked into each other’s eyes ignoring completely Harry’s triumphant look and Ginny’s worried features. Draco examined Hermione’s face looking for the answer as she looked at him wondering what to respond. She wanted to say yes, but what if Draco made fun of her saying that he would never be friends with her? Still, there was that sudden change in his behavior these past couple of days and maybe he regarded her as a friend too. Finally, Draco decided to look away and place his attention upon Harry who seemed thrilled to create such tension between Malfoy and Hermione.
“Yes, we are,” was his plain answer, but it only took those three words to erase the smile on Harry’s face and for Hermione to let out a breath she didn’t realize to be holding.
Ginny tried to hide her smug look from her fuming husband who didn’t seem to take the news in as well as she’d hope to.
“Hermione, is this true?” Harry demanded.
“I gave you my answer yesterday Harry. We already discussed this subject.”
Ginny who knew her husband quite well sensed that hell was about to unleash itself right there in Hermione’s sitting room, changed the subject and made it clear that it was time to leave. “I think Hermione and Malfoy get my point, they can figure out by themselves a suitable cover up. I think we are done here Harry, we have discussed everything and you need rest; you had an awful day at the office,” she concluded rising from her seat.
It all happened quite quickly for Harry who, before he knew it, was being dressed into his traveling cloak by his wife and getting prepared to travel by the Floo Network. He hadn’t spoken a single word, he couldn’t believe Hermione’s words! All he could think about was if Malfoy had Imperioused her or something.
“Oh Harry, before you go,” said Hermione rushing to the kitchen and coming back with a big jar that contained a murky substance. “Here’s the potion. We saved a bit for ourselves in case of need, but I think this amount is good enough for at least two weeks which is more than what Fred needs. Don’t forget to keep it in a closed environment, it goes bad if exposed to direct sunlight… oh, and try to keep it as cool as you can, but there’s no need to put it in the fridge… and keep it away from children as well, and-”
“What children?” asked Ginny amused. “Give that to me Hermione, I’ll keep it safe and give it to my brother tomorrow.”
Harry who still looked both shocked and deep in thought didn’t say anything when the potion was taken unceremoniously from his hands and entrusted to Ginny who seemed more reliable at the moment. Both Hermione and Ginny gave him concerned looks, but Draco, who was leaning on the doorframe in the back of the room looked at him amusedly and even triumphantly. Upon seeing Malfoy’s attitude, Harry made up his mind and spoke to him.
“Mind a word, Malfoy?”
“Not at all, Potter.”
Draco pointed towards the kitchen and went in followed by Harry. As soon as they both entered the room, Harry grabbed Draco by the arm making the latter face him.
“I’m not quite sure what you’re playing at, but you have to cut it out,” Harry warned.
“I’m not quite sure what you mean Potter,” Draco answered freeing his arm from Harry’s tight grasp.
“You know exactly what I mean, you can cut the crap with me Malfoy; I know you rather well.”
Draco chuckled. “Yeah sure Potter-”
But he was cut off by Harry who had slammed him to the wall grabbing him by the hem of his shirt. “Don’t play games with me Malfoy, you might think you can fool Hermione but you can’t fool me. So whatever you have planned to hurt her or deceive her, you better stop it right now because if you don’t-”
“Are you threating me Potter?” he spat back grabbing Harry’s shirt and slamming him back making him collide with the counter.
“Yes I am,” and before Draco could do anything about it, Harry released himself from his grip and pointed his wand to his heart. “If you hurt her, if you even touch her, I won’t hesitate to kill you Malfoy. Stay away from her, just fulfill this mission and forget about her, she is not your friend and she never will be. Is that clear?”
“Hermione is a big girl Potter, she can decide whom to make friends with. If she offers me her friendship I will accept it and you have no right to interfere,”
“You see? That’s exactly my point Malfoy, she is a noble and kind person, of course she will offer you her friendship, but I didn’t hear you saying anything about offering her your friendship in return. You will end up hurting her Malfoy and I won’t allow that, Hermione doesn’t deserve more pain. So listen to me carefully, you are going to stay away from her and conclude this mission in the most professional way possible, because if you don’t I swear I’ll kill you.”
“If you think I’m afraid of you, Potter, think again. To me you are nothing but a conceited boy brandishing a wand; you think you are almighty because you defeated the Dark Lord? I can take you anytime; just say the word and I’ll be there.”
“Fine, if you want to die young, then I’ll grant you your wish and-”
But he was cut off by a soft hand that lowered his wand, “That’s enough Harry,” she whispered.
“How long have you been standing there?” Harry asked.
“Long enough,” she answered before stepping between both men, “I really appreciate your concern for me Harry but I already told you yesterday, this is my life and I have the right to decide what to do with it.”
“Hermione listen to me! He’s playing with you! He doesn’t want to be your friend. He’ll use you and discard you as he does with every poor witch that’s unlucky enough to cross his path. He’s only after a good shag and you being so vulnerable are just going to give him what he’s after!”
That was it, she wasn’t going to take this anymore, before she could think about it twice, heck, before she could even think about it at all, she slapped Harry so hard that left everybody silent and dumbfounded.
“You listen to me Harry James Potter, I’m a big girl now and I’ve been through a lot so I think I can take care of myself! I forbid you to ever make a comment like that about my private life again, is that clear?”
He threw her a murderous look as he rubbed his sore cheek, “You know I’m right, Granger, you just don’t want to face it! But when he uses you and throws you away don’t come looking for a shoulder to cry upon because you won’t find any here!”
“I’m not as innocent as you believe! If Draco is after a good shag then good for him because it has been a while for me and I would certainly enjoy it! Maybe we are both after the same thing, but that’s not your business, Potter, is it?” She was trembling from head to toe; tears of rage were coming down her face as she pointed her wand towards Harry’s chest. As she let out a loud sob the tip of her wand emitted red sparks making Harry recoil. This made Hermione come back to her senses and lower her arm. “I think you better leave, Harry.”
“Yes, Harry, we should leave,” said Ginny who had been standing beside them all the time but hadn’t been noticed by any of them. She took his hand and walked him to the fire. She threw a pinch of Floo Powder at the fire and directed Harry to step in. Once he had left she turned to Hermione and gave her an apologetic smile before disappearing herself behind her husband.
As the flames turned yellow again Hermione fell on her knees crying her heart out. Draco stood there rooted to the ground still digesting the conversation between Potter and Hermione; did she mean what she had told him? Or was it out of pure spite that she had said those things? Suddenly one of Hermione’s loud sobs made him come back to his senses and realize that she needed him.
He kneeled beside her and held her in his arms. She was furious and he felt it. She trembled and emitted waves of hatred so palpable he thought he could touch them. He didn’t know what to do, how to calm her so he just held her and waited for her anger to subdue. Minutes passed and she kept sobbing and mumbling under her breath, Draco didn’t pay attention to her rambling until he caught his name in it. He tried to listen what Hermione mumbled but only caught bits of her speech.
“Bloody Harry… he had never treated me that way… I’ll kill him if he ever… Draco… he had never spoken to me like that… what right does he think he has? Just because he defeated Voldemort… if he ever… Draco… I’ll kill him…”
Oh Merlin, she was really pissed off…
“Just because he has that stupid scar he thinks he can…”
This could go on for hours…
“He can’t go threatening people left, right and center…”
Draco began to think about getting into a comfortable position because he wasn’t going to go anywhere for a while…
“Just because he’s this important Auror he thinks he has the right…”
Draco looked around the kitchen and started to wonder if Hermione was serious about painting the room green or yellow, she had said something like that during the dinner. Time passed by and Hermione didn’t seem to calm down and Draco continued to hold her and was now stroking unconsciously her hair and wondering about the British League, last time he had checked the Montrose Magpies were on top… suddenly his train of thought was cut off by one of Hermione’s comments.
“I’m a grown woman; I can shag whomever I want. I should just do it, just to prove Mr. Boy Who Lived wrong…”
Draco’s heart skipped a beat at this. Did she just considered having… and suddenly he was sad to hear it. Normally Draco Malfoy would’ve interpreted this as his cue and jumped into action, but now he felt… used. Hermione was considering sex with him but not because she wanted him but because she wanted to get back at Potter. He stopped stroking her hair and spoke in spite of himself.
“Would you really do such a thing?”
Hermione’s sobbing stopped. For a moment she didn’t even remember what she had just said and wondered about what was he referring to. As he examined her face looking for the answer she remembered her last words.
“I- I didn’t mean it, not like that,” her stomach churned at the guilt his grey sad eyes made her feel, “I’m just so angry right now, Harry had never spoken to me like that… I wasn’t thinking…”
“Oh,” was all he managed to say.
“I would never sleep with you like that, Draco,” she said softly looking at his grey eyes while cupping his left cheek.
“I mean, I would never sleep with you just for the sake of it. It would ruin our friendship, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, I guess so,” he answered in a low voice, she was hurting him in ways he could never imagined possible. He didn’t even understand why he felt so hurt, because she said she would never have sex with him? Five seconds ago, he was hurt because she said she wanted to shag him just to get back at Potter; now, she is saying she doesn’t want to shag him anymore and that hurts even more. Was he going crazy? What was this woman doing to him?
“Is not as if I didn’t want to,” she confessed.
That brought back his attention to the conversation.
“Do you want to, you know? Would you like to?”
“Is that a question or a proposal?”
Both, he thought but just kept looking into her caramel eyes looking for the answer before she had the chance to speak it out loud.
He looked at her lips and wondered what it would feel like to kiss her. He held the hand that still cupped his cheek and shivered at the softness of her skin. He trailed down her arm and finally took one of her curls into his hand. He couldn’t help exploring her soft and gorgeous features; his fingers traced her jaw line and stopped at her lips caressing them slowly. He leaned in determined to kiss her but some invisible force made him stop an inch away from her parted lips.
“You are right, it would ruin our friendship.” He instead kissed lovingly her forehead and took her in his arms lifting her from the floor. “You need rest, why don’t you go to sleep and I clean this up?”
“I- I, sure,” Hermione didn’t know what had happened. One second ago he was leaning in to kiss her and now he was rushing her to bed. She felt frustrated but didn’t know why. Did she want to be kissed? Did she want to know what he tasted like? And realization came upon her: yes she did but there was nothing she could do about it, because clearly, he didn’t want to.
As Hermione left the room with her insides squirming, Draco opened the dishwasher and started to fill it up. He felt so confused, he didn’t understand what had just happened and it was so unlike himself. Normally he would’ve kissed the lady and then he would have…
But this is Hermione, said a voice in the back of his head.
So what? She was more than shaggable! What the hell was wrong with him? He had just let pass the perfect opportunity of fulfilling a little fantasy that had invaded his dreams recently. It wasn’t as if he wouldn’t have made it enjoyable for her, he would’ve made sure she had the time of her life as well.
She was vulnerable; it would’ve been like taking advantage of her. Repeated the voice.
And it was then when it struck Draco. He hadn’t recognized it before because it was the first time he felt like this for another person, well besides his mother and that was sort of for granted anyways. He didn’t just merely fancy Hermione Granger, he actually cared for her! And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the most enjoyable and scary feeling he had ever felt in his whole damn life.
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