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Chapter 19

 

The next Saturday, the first one in May, was sunny and warm, a perfect day to go to London. The train had just left Hogsmeade Station, and the two students entered an empty compartment. Hermione took a seat next to the window and Malfoy sat down opposite her.

 

She tried hard to fight off the feeling, but she liked what she saw. Malfoy was wearing faded jeans and a plain white T-shirt, he sat with legs wide open, his hands clasped behind his head, exposing his torso.

 

The girl snapped her gaze from his body and her eyes met his.

 

’So… Have you asked your penpal? Does he have a girlfriend?’ Malfoy asked curiously.

 

Hermione blushed and shifted uneasily in the seat.

 

’I asked him. And he got upset. He’s cleverer than you’d think, he knew at once that somebody got me to ask him this stupid question.’ She crossed her legs.

 

’But he didn’t answer the question, right?’ Malfoy sneered smugly, taking a quick glance at her short skirt and long thighs.

 

’Well, not directly…’

 

’So he didn’t.’

 

’He did.’

 

’He didn’t.’ Malfoy shook his head and grinned.

 

Hermione gave up. After all, Malfoy was right.

 

’Your secret penpal might be… Nearly Headless Nick,’ the blond Slytherin wondered.

 

The girl rolled her eyes.

 

’Or Crabbe. Or… Goyle. Which one would you prefer?’ Malfoy raised his eyebrows.

 

Hermione shook her head, her brown curls bouncing happily. She couldn’t help smiling. Malfoy smiled back at her, a blond lock of hair brushed his shoulder.

 

Hermione forced her gaze to shift to the window and the scenery flying by. Some seconds later she bit her lower lip and looked back into the blue-grey eyes bravely.

 

’Malfoy…’

 

’Yes?’

 

’Why are you being so nice to me?’

 

Malfoy gulped. What should he say? That he was the secret penpal more and more in love with the girl he had snogged passionately at Halloween and New Year’s Eve? That he had been craving for that gorgeous girl behind the mask of an insufferable bookworm, since September?

 

He cleared his throat and ran a hand through his hair. Hermione wondered what it might feel like to rake a hand through those silken locks…

 

’I… I’ve told you. I’m trying to be civil. That’s all.’ He said finally.

 

’But why? Why is this sudden change… This transformation into good-boy-Malfoy? There must be something, I know.’ Hermone demanded explanation. ’You always hated me, despised me. Why do you pretend not to hate me anymore? Why do you pretend to be… my friend? Is it a game? Or a trap?’

 

Malfoy took a deep breath and leaned closer to the girl.

 

’I don’t pretend anything. It’s neither a game nor a trap. I don’t say this change is easy for me… Not at all. But I’m trying really hard. Why? Firstly, you saved my owl. And, I know it’s hard to believe, but I have feelings, too, and I grew fond of that bird. So I’ll always be grateful to you for what you did. Secondly, we’re going to Paris together… We have to work together. We’d better do it in a civilised way, without those idiotic, childish fights.’

 

The marble blue orbs were watching her hypnotically.

 

Hermione nodded slowly.

 

’That’s all?’ She asked quietly.

 

’And… I want to seduce you a bit,’ Malfoy thought to himself when the train suddenly came to a halt and his leg accidentally knocked into hers.

 

The train sped up again and Hermione started to read The Daily Prophet. She would have been reading it if her mind had not been on the handsome Slytherin sitting so close to her and on the swirling sensation inside every time his jeans accidentally brushed against her leg…

OOOOO

Hermione and Malfoy had left Madam Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions in Diagon Alley where they had ordered an elegant black-and-gold, temperature-adjusting robe for Malfoy to participate in the Olympiad.

They decided to have lunch at a pavement café where there were brightly coloured umbrellas over the tables.

’And what will you call me in Paris?’ Hermione asked over a bowl of salad.

Malfoy was about to bite into his sandwich.

’What shall I call you? ’Honey’?’ He grinned.

’My first name is Hermione,’ the girl sneered.

’Mine is Draco,’ Malfoy sneered back. ’I’ll call you Hermione as soon as you call me Draco.’

’I won’t.’ Hermione declared confidently.

’Then I’ll introduce you to the people as my… assistant. ’This is my assistant, Miss Granger.’ Amusement flashed in his eyes.

’I’m not your assistant, Malfoy,’ Hermione spat.

’Then… my secretary?’ His eyes were smiling.

’I’m not your secretary and I’m not your girl-friday, either’ Hermione was getting upset.

Though Malfoy was enjoying himself immensely finding Hermione cute when she was angry, he decided to stop teasing her. He ate the sandwich and drank the icy fruit juice.

Hermione took notes, writing a list about the expenses of the Olympiad, when suddenly she felt the boy’s warm touch. Reaching across the table he stole her right hand and pulled it closer to him, rubbing his thumb across her knuckles softly.

’Is it from your ex-boyfriend?’

Hermione was so shocked that it took her some seconds to realize he was examining her ring featuring two hands clasping a heart with a crown on it.

’No… It is a Claddagh Ring. Family heirloom.’

’A Claddagh Ring?’

’Yeah. It’s a traditional Irish ring… symbolising love, friendship and loyalty. When the ring is worn on the left hand with the heart facing outward, it means the wearer is engaged; if it’s turned inward it means the wearer is married.’

’And when it’s on the right hand?’ Malfoy was still holding her hand tenderly. He could feel her quivering slightly.

Hermione blushed crimson.

’When the heart faces outward… It shows the wearer… is looking for love,’ she confessed. ’And… yours?’ She shifted her gaze to Malfoy’s ring.

’It’s the Malfoy family crest ring… A silver snake with emerald eyes coiled around a rose.’

He took off the piece of jewelry and put it in Hermione’s palm. This physical contact made her shudder again, each touch sent a surge of electricity shooting through her body.

’Does it have any magical powers?’ She asked when she felt the ring started to burn her palm.

Malfoy narrowed his eyes when he looked at her.

’Whoever touches it, will call me Draco,’ he said in a mysterious voice.

’You wish, Malfoy!’ Hermione snapped and put the ring back in his palm. ’Your tricks won’t work with me,’ she added. 

’Are you sure?’ The blond Slytherin asked with a knowing smile.

Though the girl nodded, she was not sure at all. 

OOOOO

The two Hogwarts students took the Knight Bus back to Hogsmeade in the evening. The purple triple-decker was full of passengers, goblins with pointed ears, blue Cornish Pixies, elf-like Erklings with high-pitch laugh, a green red-haired leprechaun with a sack of gold in his hand, two white-haired witches from the Ministry and a very old man with an owl.

The driver, an elderly wizard with thick glasses and the conductor, Stan Shunpike in purple uniform were sitting in armchairs in the front of the bus.

It was getting dark outside, the lighting came from the candles of the bus. The vehicle was jumping madly from one place to another so Malfoy and Hermione had to hold on tight not to be thrown around the interior of the bus during the bumpy ride.

Suddenly Hermione had a strange feeling. Unpleasant and creepy, somehow familiar. The bus stopped and she lost her balance. Malfoy grabbed her to steady her, she turned beet red and struggled to stand. Instead, she fell into his chest. The blond Slytherin put a hand on her back, holding her to him.

Hermione raised her head and they locked eyes. She became lost in the waves of the silvery blue sea and Malfoy could see the gold flecks in her honey-brown eyes.

He felt her stiffen as her body pressed against his but he didn’t let go. The smell of her hair intoxicated him. The same smell as it had been in the Astronomy Tower at Halloween and on Diagon Alley on New Years Eve…

Hermione never thought she could be this close to Malfoy without struggle and fight… She felt his hot breath on her cheek and her knees weakened. Her hands rested on his chest and she knew she should have pushed him away. But her thoughts were messed up, feeling a tingle under his touch. Merlin, it was too good to stop.

They didn’t notice the windows freezing up with ice. Only when all the heads turned to the first door of the bus did they realize something was wrong.

Somebody got on the bus. The human shaped tall creature was covered in a dark, hooded cloak that revealed only the grey, pale hands. It floated slowly towards the passengers. A Dementor. 

Hermione knew why the feeling was so familiar, she had experienced it with Harry and Ron on the Hogwarts Express.

It was cold, very cold and dead silence. Some candles went out and dense fog was rolling in slowly. Hermione felt Malfoy’s arms slide around her waist, pulling her protectively closer to his own body. This was new. Malfoy who wanted to protect her, Hermione Granger… But Malfoy or not, it felt right.

The Dementor got closer and the shivers being sent down Hermione’s spine increased, she was shaking with fear, not knowing why: because of the Dementor or because of the realisation she liked the enveloping warmth of her arch-enemy…

The Dementor was very close now. 

’Think of love… Dementors are repelled when they perceive love’, Malfoy whispered to Hermione and tightened his strong grip.

Hermione closed her eyes. Love… The way Malfoy was holding her… But for her Malfoy and love were two totally different things. Her penpal… Yes, she would think of him, not Malfoy. She recalled his touch, his kiss… The smell of his aftershave… It was similar to Malfoy’s… She snuggled up against the blond Slytherin tighter.

When she opened her eyes the Dementor had gone. But Malfoy and Hermione clung to each other till the end of the journey.

End of Chapter 19
 

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