stunning chapter image by the talented AtomicPanda @ tda :)
Chapter 16. That Sign You've Been Looking For
«Enjoying the view, are we?»
I didn't need to turn around to know whose voice it was.
The sound of Draco's footsteps made the window in front of me blurry. Basically the whole wall, from floor to ceiling, was replaced by this giant window, and I had been spending the past hour just admiring the view - well, until he came in, that is.
«Gorgeous,» Draco muttered, and I nodded.
«Yes, this city is beautiful.»
«Yeah, it is, but I wasn't talking about that. I was actually referring to your arse.»
My head snapped around to catch a glimpse of him, and even though what I really wanted was glower at him, I just had to smile at his mischievous expression.
Now that he'd successfully caught my attention, he fully took advantage of it by focusing his smoldering eyes on my own. His hand gently grazed my collarbone and sparked the fire that was always right under the surface of our friendship. But those eyes... those eyes of his were the true fire-hazard; they could make me do anything – whatever he wanted.
Like now, when he hypnotized me to lean in, but instead of kissing my lips he kissed the corner of my mouth. While backing away, he smiled so charmingly that it actually gave me a start.
«How do you do that?» I breathed, forcing my body to function again.
«How do I do what?» he asked absentmindedly, tucking a stranded curl back behind my ear.
«That, that thing you do.»
«What thing?» He furrowed his brows, and moved his hand so it rested on my shoulder.
«Melt my heart as if it were butter with just one single look.»
«I melt your heart?» Draco's genuinely happy smile reached his eyes and made them sparkle again, thus igniting that fire in my belly.
«Sort of? But you just said tha-»
«Yes, you melt my heart, Draco, are you satisfied now?» I shrugged his hand off my shoulder, and then moved to turn on my brand new coffee machine.
«Not really, no...» he muttered, his fingers twitching as if missing my prescence. Which was stupid.
«And what exactly do you mean by that?»
«Well, I can't act on it, can I?» Frustrated, he threw his hands in the air.
«Act on it?»
«Never mind.» He turned back around to admire the view, acting like he was perfectly at ease, but I noticed how his hands were clenched into fists.
«Come on, I really want to know.»
«You're not going to like it.» He didn't turn around.
«Consider me warned,» I said with a sigh. «Now tell me.»
«Nah, I'd rather not.»
While grinding my teeth, I glowered at his back. «Fine, then. Don't tell me,» I spat out. «See if I care.»
«Oh, you care, all right,» he snickered but still not looking at me, causing me to glower more than ever, and I actually stuck my tongue out at him like some childish brat.
Draco turned around and looked at me suspiciously, then he let out a demeaning chuckle. «You don't fool me, Brownie.»
«You don't even know me!» I retorted, getting angry now.
«I know you better than certain people!» Obviously, he was too.
«If you just said what I think you just said, then you are-»
«Telling the truth?»
My eyes burned holes through him, and I felt the need to snarl. So I did.
«You don't have even the slightest idea, do you?»
«Oh, I think I do.» Draco stepped toward me, gesturing with his hands, proving how frustrated he was. «I think you're the one who needs to wake up and smell the dragon dung, Brownie.»
I gasped. «How dare you!»
«I dare because I have the guts to tell the truth.»
«And I don't, is that what you're saying?»
«That's exactly what I'm saying.»
«For your information, I have guts.» I lifted my chin in the air, not backing down. «A lot of it.»
«I-I would if I thought it was worth it. But you know what?» I stepped toward him, crossing my arms over my chest. «I do not have to prove myself to you.»
«That's like the gutless people's motto,» he said with a laugh.
«Are you making fun of me?» My brows were furrowed so deep that I doubted that they'd ever return to normal.
«I'm sure trying.» He avoided my gaze, muttering to himself.
«Well then, get out.» I pointed to the door, hand shaking slightly with the blistering anger I was currently consumed with. «And when you're ready to have a rational conversation like a responsible adult, come knock on my door!»
«Hah!» he quickly snorted. «I don't see that happening anytime soon, so don't hold your breath!»
There was a moment of silence; one that stretched out until all anger had completely and utterly vanished from my body. I let my hand fall to my side, a teasing look in my eye.
«You do realise that you just burned yourself, right?»
«Fully aware of it, yes.» He nodded, staring at the floor in shame.
«Wow.» I giggled. «You just walked right into that one, didn't you?»
«Plunged headfirst,» he agreed, a smile beginning to form.
«That's gotta hurt.»
«A massive blow to the cojones, I'll tell you that.»
We were now grinning at each other, and giggled like a couple of brainless teenagers.
«Hey,» I then said and took a step toward him, «weren't we arguing?»
«Oh, yeah.» Draco nodded.
«Am I the only one who's forgotten why?» Another step.
«No recollection whatsoever.» He grinned, but tried to hide it by looking down as he took a step toward me as well.
I sighed. «That's too bad.»
«Why?» Draco met my eyes, making me temporarily lose my focus.
«Because then there wouldn't be any need for us to kiss and make up.» I shrugged my shoulders and rearranged my expression to show disappointment. The performance was complete when I added a long, heavy sigh.
«Wait, hold on.» Draco joined my little piece of role playing by pretending to think hard. «I think I remember something.»
«Oh?» Dramatically hopeful - this pleased Draco.
«Yes. Definitely.» He smiled and walked over to me until he was only a step away. «I called you a stuck-up, goodie-two-shoes with fuzzy hair.»
«And you're an egotiscical, narcissistic, self-centered ferret!»
«That's me,» he admitted gladly, and then changed his face to one of exaggerated regret. «I'm so sorry!»
«Oh, me too!» With that I threw myself at him and pressed my lips to his with extreme force. I even surprised myself a little bit, to be honest.
Not letting go of me, or breaking our feverish kissing, Draco whipped out his wand to lock the door, after which he pulled me toward the desk and sat me on top of it. It thrilled me to feel his muscles tense and flex as he lifted me off my feet and put me on the piece of furniture, so I squealed happily against his mouth. My skirt was swiftly pulled up so it was now curled around my waist, and I gasped when the skin of my thigh got in contact with the fabric of his trousers.
Safe to say, we did more than kiss in that office. And when I now went from clinging to his firm body, to laying with my back on the desk I was on, I concentrated on getting oxygen back into my lungs. A few seconds later, Draco pulled away, jerked his pants up from his ankles, and smiled at me.
«Coffee?» he asked, but didn't wait for me to summon the strenght so answer. The shirt he'd been wearing now lay in a heap on the floor, but he didn't mind waltzing around bare chested, and I sure as hell didn't either. As a matter of fact, I raised myself up to my elbows just to get a better look at his marvellous goods.
After preparing the coffee, he walked over to me. I pulled my skirt down and rearranged my blouse before accepting the hot beverage.
That's when I realised it.
«Oh,» I exclaimed, averting my eyes as the redness crept into my cheeks. «Ehm, Draco, uhm...»
Why did I suddenly feel so shy? I mean, I'd just been beyond intimate with this man, so why did the sight of his open fly put me in such an embarrassed state?
«What is it?»
«Uhm...» I swallowed a huge gulp of the scolding coffee. «The-the cucumber has left the salad,» I muttered against my will.
«What?» Draco laughed.
«Quasimodo needs to go back to the tower and tend to his bells.» While still refusing to offer him a single look, I heard Draco chuckle.
«Are you drunk?»
«Ehm, you-you've got a security breach at los pantalones,» I specified, my face getting hotter as this conversation evolved.
«I really have no idea what you -»
«Your fly in unzipped!» I hissed and jumped off the desk. Draco laughed behind my back and I turned to look at him.
«I know.» With a chuckle he zipped up his pants. «I just wanted to see how long it would take you to say it.»
«You're a devious, little thing, arent you?» I squinted my eyes at him, but couldn't help the smile that was now plastered on my face.
«Yes,» he admitted, then winked at me as he smirked. «Except for the 'little' part.»
I rolled my eyes.
«Mhm,» was my mumbled response as I found my knickers and pulled them on. I then made my way back to the desk that stood centered in my office, and began re-organizing it.
«What are you doing tonight?»
Draco's hand gently touched the small of my back, and leaned in to kiss my neck. The feeling almost made me moan, and I automatically closed my eyes.
«All right,» I muttered, «you've got my attention. Now what do you want?»
«What?» I giggled and turned around to face him.
«I want you, to, ehm, go out with me tonight.» He coughed.
«Like on a date?»
«Oh, ehm. Okay.» Suddenly suspicious, I squinted my eyes at him. «What do you have planned now?»
This made Draco grin. «I have no idea what you're talking about.»
«Right.» I rolled my eyes and snuck out of his arms to continue tidying my desk.
«Just wear something nice.»
«Fine,» I said with a sigh and cast a smile in his direction. Draco returned the smile before walking toward the door and unlocking with his wand (that he'd obviously picked up from the floor where it had been recklessly thrown when we...you know).
«One thing, Draco...» I giggled, smirking at his well-shaped back. He turned around, thinking that I was going to beg for more of him. «I think you're forgetting something.»
«Am I, really?» Smugly, he raised one eyebrow. «And what's that, Brownie?»
I pointed at the crumpled shirt on the floor and grinned inwardly, on the outside my face was calm and collected.
«Aha.» With long steps he went over and picked it up before pulling it over his head. «See you tonight, I'll meet you outside your apartment at ten.»
«Ten,» I agreed and stared at his backside with a vulgar appreciation.
My feet were already aching. Why the hell had I put on those damn shoes? Well, that was my price for being vain, I guess.
I'd just stepped out of the door of the building when I heard a wolf-whistle. I directed my eyes at the blonde man that was leaning against the brick wall, and pushed himself away from it as he began slowly applauding.
«Bravo.» As he wet his lips, he slowly walked over to me and put his hands around my waist before planting a deep kiss on my willing lips. «You look amazing,» he muttered against my mouth as he pulled away.
«Really?» I asked, not sure about my revealing attire.
«Mhm. You're caliente.»
«Is that good?»
«It's Spanish,» he explained with a grin, and fiddled with a loose curl. «It means 'hot'.»
«I feel so exposed. Are you sure it's not too...slutty?» I looked down at the deep cleavage with furrowed brows. Draco didn't exactly do the same, instead he lazily trailed his fingers from my neck and down to the top of my swelling breasts.
«I'll let you in on a secret, Brownie.» A sort of musky scent was emitting from him, and I leaned in a little closer to get a better whiff – Draco didn't notice, which was good, because if he did he'd surely tease me about it. «A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to rip it off of you.»
«I don't know,» I muttered and pulled the end of the dress down in an attempt to cover up more of my legs, but it only exposed more of my breasts, something that made Draco's eyes pop out like a cartoon character. «Martin sure didn't like that I went to a benefit in this.»
«You told him that you're going to a benefit? You lied?»
«No, I told him that I'm going on a date with a smoking hot wizard,» I deadpanned and rolled my eyes. «And I didn't lie. I just altered the truth a little bit.»
Draco pulled away from me, grabbed my hand and started walking.
«He must be something special, I mean you're going to great lenghts to spare his feelings.»
«Who?» I let Draco pull me after him, grimacing when my feet began throbbing again.
«Your man. Martin»
«Oh, yes, he is,» I said proudly. «He's a lawyer, did I ever tell you that?»
«Obviously not,» he muttered. «But, gee, how very interesting.»
I didn't catch the sarcastic tone, and kept on smiling, completely oblivious of how he was tensing up.
«Yeah,» I agreed. «He's actually working on a huge case tight now, very hush-hush. And as far as lawyers go, he's very important and -»
«And oh-so-dreamy, yada, yada, yada,» Draco interrupted my ranting, and sighed. He then tightened his hold on my hand. «Are you ready?»
I nodded, and felt my body spin tight against Draco's as we Apparated. I was getting used to the feeling now, and didn't feel any dizziness or nausea, and when my eyes got used to the dark, I realised that we were standing in an alley. Noises erupted from somewhere not far from where we were, and Draco dragged me toward it. Suddenly, a drunk woman crossed our path, but stopped in her tracks when she noticed Draco towering over her. Her eyes were instantly drawn to where his shirt emphasized the muscles of his chest. Let me just say, even a blind woman would notice the dreamy good looks of this lad, so it was no shock that the drunk girl stared wide eyed at him.
The young woman grinned up at him and batted her eyelashed as she pulled her cleavage further down, making certain things pop out. Draco smiled as he saw a tiny brown-ish hint of something she should have kept very private, and I quickly pulled him out of the alley.
«What was that for?» He followed me as I harshly dragged him after me. When we'd rounded a corner, I suddnly stopped and turned to glower at him. I was slightly out of breath, and my feet were killing me, but I ignored the pain and clenched my jaw.
«Do you really find those types of girls attractive?» I removed my hand from the warmth of his. «Do you think that any of those girls would be a good match for you in the long run? Is that what you're looking for in a life partner?» I pointed at the alley behind us where we'd left the drunk female. «A bimbo?!»
«I-I..» Draco's eyes had shot open when he noticed that I was actually serious. «That type of woman isn't exactly what I want to spend the rest of my life with, if you must know.» He went from beind skeptic, to smiling mischievously – which irked me. «But they're great for having a few laughs with.»
«Then what exactly is your type, Draco?» I insisted, putting my arms across my chest and pursed my lips. «Why don't you set the record straight.»
«I dunno -»
«No.» I held up a hand, mad at him for still smiling. «Just think for a fraction of a second that you're actually after a serious relationship, Merlin forbid. What sort of woman are you looking for?»
Draco's eyes fell to the ground between out feet, then he sighed. «You want the truth?»
«Someone like you.» He looked up, and then shrugged his shoulders. «Not you, obviously, but one like you.»
«No, someone like you.» Draco cleared his throat. «You need to learn to listen.»
Then he took my hand again and began leading me down the alley. I was too dumbfounded to argue, and let him pull me into a street full of people. Draco walked for a few minutes before coming to a halt.
«Close your eyes.»
«Not again!» I exclaimed, letting out a series of complaining moans. «Didn't you listen the last time when I told you how much I hate surprises? I think you're the one that needs to learn to listen, Draco.»
I growled when I realised that I'd obey his command sooner or later, and I could just as well save myself the embarrassment of losing another big fight. So I closed them and let him lead me through the passing mass of people.
«Why am I letting you do this again?» I muttered. «Did you suddenly forget my dislike of being surprised?»
«How could I not remember? You've been complaining about it like a million times.» He pushed me to fasten my pace, before he suddenly held me back after crossing some sort of road. «Okay. We're here.»
I was probably going to be crowned Queen of procrastination for still keeping my eyes tightly shut, but did I care? Negative.
«I said, open them,» Draco strictly told me and then shook my shoulders.
«Fine,» I snapped and slowly opened one eye, then when I saw what I was standing in front of, my other one flew open. What in the world..?
«Ehm,» I couldn't keep the disappointment out of my voice, «it's a bar.»
«Don't sound too happy now, Brownie.» Draco rolled his eyes. «Come on, let's go inside.»
Skeptic to my very core, I allowed Draco to drag me into the bar, but I immediately regretted it. There were so many people in there, everyone chatting and laughing, and I suddenly felt very small and extremely exposed. I tried to cover my deep cleavage with the hand that wasn't clinging to Draco's, but I knew that it was in complete vain.
It felt like people were looking at me, judging me. I experienced the sudden need to explain to them all that I didn't normally dress like a prostitute. But when I checked to see if anyone really was staring, I was beyond relieved to find that nobody had even noticed that we'd entered the stuffed room.
«Where have you taken me? How could you possibly think that I'd enjoy this?!» I hissed before I was pushed down on a chair by a small table. Surprisingly enough, Draco had located the one table that wasn't occupied, and I was so distracted by this that I didn't notice how he quickly grabbed a note that had been propped up on the table and put it in his pocket. If I'd looked closely before he hid it, I would have seen the writing on the improvised card saying 'Reserved: Draco M.', but I didn't.
Draco caught the waiter's attention and ordered us some drinks, then he gently took my hand and smiled at me. A man in his mid-tewnties got up on the stage that was directly in front of us, and coughed into the microphone placed in the center. There were several instruments behind him, and amongst them were a keyboard that was facing the audience.
«All right, people, may I have your attention?» His voice cut through the orchestra of chatter, and everyone looked up at him, obviously expecting something. As if that's what they all came here for. «Great, ehm, first off I want to thank you all for coming, and I hope you enjoy these unofficial talents. I see that I've got a lot of new faces, so I'll just quickly remind you that if you want to perform of something, anything, then just come see me. I'll be sitting over there -» the microphone-man pointed to the corner on the side of the stage. Another man, much younger and with purple hair, ran up to the mic-man and gave him a note. «All right, our first talent is Suzanne, singing 'Killing Me Softly'. Well, Suzanne, we look forward to hearing your version of this very, very...popular song.»
Mic-man rolled his eyes, and I guessed that he was tired of hearing the same song being sung by different people, and sought some kind of originality. Something I seriously doubted he'd find in here.
Suzanne, a short girl with long, black hair got up on the stage and smiled as we politely applauded her. Mic-man helped her lower the microphone so it fit her height(or lack of it), and after the house band had settled in behind her, she began singing. I cringed at the falsetto that cut through to my brain - my poor, poor brain. I bet that after this girl had finished, I wouldn't have an eardrum anymore.
«I'm just going to the loo for a sec.»
The squealing sound Draco's chair made when it was pushed away got drowned out by the girl's high-pitched screaming, actually it sounded as though it was part of the performance. I just nodded as he walked away, I was focusing wildly on trying to keep my head from exploding as she hit a particularly high note.
«Yes, thank you, Suzanne for that... wonderful interpretation of the song 'Killing Me Softly'.» Mic-man applauded the girl with a fake smile on his face, and the audience obediently did the same.
I looked around me and took a sip of my drink, but quickly put it down as the taste of alcohol made me feel sick. While grimacing, I dulled the aftertaste by eating a couple of peanuts while staring at my surroundings.
«Now let's give a round of applause to...» Mic-man took a glance at the piece of paper in his hand. «Anonymous. How original.»
I continued to study the crowd around me as they applauded, and mentally prepared myself for another singer that couldn't carry a tune even if their life depended on it. With a sigh, I wondered why the hell Draco brought me here in the first place.
So that maybe we could laugh and make fun of these tone-deaf idiots? Well, he needed to be present for us to do that, so where the hell was-
My head snapped around so fast that I heard my neck crack. I blinked several times, not believing my eyes in the slightest - maybe the stage lighs were blinding me, playing with my vision?
Draco, my Draco, was sitting behind the keyboard on top of the stage, leaning into the microphone that was placed in front of him. I gasped at the sight.
«I've tried to tell you many times, but I've had some difficulty finding the right way of doing it, and I also lacked the courage to say it.» He smiled down at me, and with the stage lights shining in his eyes they sparkled more than ever before. «So I'm borrowing some words from a very wise man, and I hope this'll be...the sign you've been looking for.»
I held my breath as I remembered what I told Draco that night after I lost my job. Bewildered, I feast my bulging eyes on him as he looked down at the notes that were placed on the side of the keyboard. He hesitated for a moment and drew a breath before letting his fingers press down on the black and white keys. The rest of the band immediately accompanied him, smiling at each other, as if this was all planned.
«It had to be you. It had to be you.»
His dark, slightly hoarse, voice floated across the room, rendering everyone speechless, and I knew that I certainly wasn't the only one gaping.
«I wandered around,
finally found somebody who,
could make me be true.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, could make me feel blue.
And even be glad just to be sad thinkin' of you...»
He smiled softly at me. His voice sounded like honey in my ears.
«Some others I've seen – might never be mean.
Might never be cross. Or, try to be boss.
But they wouldn't do.»
I blushed as he winked teasingly at me while singing. That seductive smile of his only added more sensuality to his performance, and made the skillful, heart-warming tones cut its way even further into my body.
«For nobody else gave me a thrill.
With all your faults I love you still.»
Love. Love? He sent me a smoldering look, not taking his eyes away from me as he continued singing.
«It had to be you. Wonderful you.
It had to be you...»
His fingers suddenly stopped flying over the keyboard after he'd nodded to a man that was standing just a few feet away. The man quickly replaced Draco's place in the band and immediately continued playing where Draco'd let off. While all this was happening, Draco jumped off the stage, microphone still in hand, and ran toward me.
Even though I was personally experiencing this in slow motion, it was all happening very fast. Shockingly enough, I realised that it hadn't been more than a few seconds into the musical interlude before Draco was right in front of me. With strong arms Draco dragged me up from my chair, pressed me tight against his body and began to sway me back and forth. I felt his pounding heartbeat vibrate into my own chest, but he didn't seem nervous. His eyes looked almost serene when they locked themselves with my own.
Several seconds passed, but then Draco pulled away a bit before placing the microphone closer to his mouth.
«'Cause nobody else gave me a thrill.
With all your faults – I love you still, now.»
I'd stopped breathing. Draco was still swaying me to the rythm of the music, and continued to let out his deep, mellow tones. Oblivious to how it was suffocating me.
«And it had to be you. It just had to be you...»
He paused and so did the band. We must've been standing still for hours, and nobody were making a sound the entire time. A smile from him now made my heart start beating again, and while I drew a much needed breath, I pondered about when it had stopped.
«It had to be you.»
He dragged out the last note, which left goosebumps all over my body, and our eyes melted into each other yet again. Through the haze I could hear the faint sound of music in the background coming to an end.
If I would have had any braincells left and just now swept the room with my eyes instead of being lost in the man before me, I would have realised that there weren't a single pair of dry eyes in the entire bar.
But of course I didn't posess any functioning braincells at the moment, and I seriously doubted that they'd ever return to their not-so-dead state.
Applause and whooping noises exploded, and it followed us as we exited the bar and walked into the damp autumn air.
Draco's arm was curled around my waist while he lead me out of the crowded street. The stars above us were shining, but I didn't notice.
What had just happened was just starting to make its way into my fuzzy head, and I was slowly panicking as I fully realised it.
Our steps came to a halt when we rounded the corner into the nearest alley, and Draco turned to face me.
«So...» he began and let go of me only to stroke my cheek with gentle fingers. «What do you think?»
«I didn't know you could sing.»
It was all I could say, and even this came out in a ragged whisper.
«That wasn't what I meant -»
«Well,» I was beginning to hyperventilate, «I'm a little confused, to be honest. More than a little in fact.»
«About any part in particular?»
I pretended to think for a moment. «oh, I don't know. What about the part where you said that you loved me? I mean, you mean just as friends right?»
«Actually, I -»
«I mean,» my strained squeaks interupted him, «love can come in all shapes and sizes, right? Like in the form of chocolate milk, for example. And friendship. That's what you meant, wasn't it? You love me like-like one loves chocolate milk?»
Draco simply looked at me. He didn't move for a painful amount of time, but then he shrugged his shoulders. This, unfortunately, was enough for me to dissolve in a fit of panic.
«But, but, but that isn't you, Draco! It's not normal!»
«Welcome to the new normal.»
«This is not normal!» I repeated before pausing, then I squinted my eyes at him. «Have you been drinking?» Please, oh please, let him be drunk out of his mind – that'd explain it all and make things so much easier to handle.
«No,» he answered, and then sighed. «But considering the turn of events, I'll most likely be doing that later on.»
«This isn't normal,» I said for the hundredth time, this line obviously becoming a sort of mantra. «It's just wrong.»
He didn't reply, and it gave me some time to think. I was suddenly overwhelmed with doubt. As I chewed nervously on my lip and looked up at at the man facing me, I began stuttering.
«I don't think it is.» Draco shook his head calmly. «And I don't believe you think it's wrong either.»
«B-But, but that's completely bonkers!» The rational side of my brain was kicking in again now, and removed the doubt from my mind. «I can't be, you know.. I just can't- I mean, you're Draco Malfoy!»
I said that like it would explain anything, but even I knew that it truly didn't. It was just an instinctive response, and I should have taken it back immediately, but I was too emotionally frustrated to feel guilty right now.
«And you're Hermione Granger, what's that got to do with anything?» His eyes shot flaming arrows into me as he proceeded, «Wouldn't a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?»
«See?!» I insisted, and pointed accusingly at him with a trembling finger. «See what you did right there?! The real Draco Malfoy wouldn't quote Shakespeare. He wouldn't even know who he was!» I gasped dramatically and put my hand over my mouth. «Has an alien invaded your body?»
I waved my other hand in front of him, as if that would somehow answer my question.
«I'm not an alien. And obviously Draco Malfoy would quote Shakespeare, because I just did.» As he shifted his gaze to the brick wall to my left, a pained expression tinging his features and making him look several years older than he actually was. «Why can't you understand that I've changed?»
His tortured whisper made me choke, and I let my arms fall limp to my sides.
«It's just very hard to believe sometimes...» I admitted. This was the truth; the ugly, painful truth. There was definitely still a small part of me that expected him to suddenly change back to the person he was before.
«I can see that this is...difficult for you, so if you, if you tell me to leave – I will.»
Some kind of cramp grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go, even when I choked out another truthful answer.
«You know I can't.»
«Then why won't you admit it?» He was still focusing on the wall, and I thanked a higher power for him not looking at me with that anguished expression.
«That you're in love with me too.»
If I thought that the previous cramps were painful, it was nothing compared to this. I don't think there was ever invented a word to describe the torn, desperate feeling I was experiencing. And I didn't have the strenght (or courage) to search my brain for it either.
«I can't do that either.» If I ever survived this conversation, I'd donate all my clothes to charity. «It would be madness. It's insane enough to admit that I'm attracted to you! Anything more would be -»
«Why would it be madness to confess that you love me?»
«Obvious reasons.» My voice came out all ragged and shaky. «And I don't love y-»
«Aside from the fact that I am me and you are you, what are these reasons you speak of?»
«What about the fact that I'm getting married in a month?»
«Not good enough. One could always cancel a wedding.»
«No, I couldn't, I made a promise to -»
«Please, you're just repeating yourself."
«I know.» Only this small declaration was enough to bring distressed tears to my eyes. It took a great amount of determination and long moments of deep breathing to speak again. «And the reason to why I'm repeating myself is because it's the only way of reminding myself of the unyielding truth.»
Oh no. He'd turned to fix his tormented eyes at me.
«That in a little more than a month, September 27th, I will become Mrs Martin Anderson, and nothing's going to change that. Not even a blue eyed man who sweeps me off my feet with passionate love-making and a charming demeanour.»
«There's another truth that you've forgotten to mention, Brownie.»
«Oh?» I swallowed hard, feeling as though those eyes of his could look straight through me.
«I'm not giving you up that easy.»
I don't really have any recollection of how I ended up in his arms after this, but we didn't do anything but hold each other. We clung to one another so tightly that I had throuble breathing – but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Then, without any sort of preparation, Draco spun us around and it squeezed our bodies as if trying to melt us into one single being.
Leaving Draco out in street as I went into my building was like experiencing the loss of a limb. I turned several times to assure myself that he was still there – which he was. Actually, he was still standing there when I was all the way up in my apartment and looked out my window. Martin was there, but I didn't really notice his prescence – too much had happened tonight, and my mind was a complete and utter mess.
«Hey, you,» he whispered against my neck, and I smiled, but immediately felt a rush of guilt. «You okay?»
«Mhm.» I didn't turn around to face him, keeping my eyes fixed on the dark figure on the street. All of a sudden, so quickly that if I'd blinked I would have missed it, Draco disappeared into thin air.
«What are you looking at?» Martin kissed my neck and curled his arms around me. I didn't even think about it, but felt my hand act on its own by resting itself on his protective arm.
«Nothing in particular,» I muttered, and hoped against hope that he didn't hear the strain in my voice. «Nothing at all.»
Martin let out a sigh.
«I've missed you lately. You're always out.» With a complaining huff he kissed my neck again. «I may just be paranoid, but I feel like you're avoiding me. I mean, I understand that you want to spend time with your friends, but...» He sighed. «I dunno. I've just missed having you around.»
«I'm sorry.» I felt my lips move, but I didn't really think too much about the words that came out of them. «We'll make up for it on the honeymoon.»
«Good point.» The soft chuckle he let out tickled my skin, and it automatically made me smile. «You're completely right. I'm sorry for complaining.»
«Ready for bed?»
«Ah, yes.» While closing my eyes, I leaned in against Martin's chest and inhaled the smell of him. Martin had always had a specific kind of smell, and after a while that smell became a sort of synonym for comfort and safety. Even now, when I should be feeling beyond guilty and basically hate my horrible self, I was comforted by the scent of him. «I'm exhausted.»
Martin let go of me only to gently take my hand. As he lead me to the bedroom, he caressed my palm with his thumb, and it slowed down my unhealthy heart rate.
How could I physically be two such completely different versions of myself when I was in the prescence of either one of these men? Maybe I was sick? Very seriously mentally ill. Because having two separate personalities is a disease, isn't it? Something I could take pills for?
Well, at least I knew one thing: I didn't particularly care for either one of them.
«Would you shut up, Blondie!» I hissed under my breath. «This is supposed to be a bloody funeral.»
«I'm sorry,» Draco chuckled in whispers, and hid his broad grin behind his hand. «But my mother's hat is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my entire -» he burst into a fit of vigorous shaking, now trying his best to stifle the laughter with his fist.
I glanced over at Mrs Malfo-oh, ehm, Mrs Rodriguez, and had to press my lips together, trying not to smile as well.
The creation on top of Narcissa Rodriguez' hat was basically a giant, stuffed and spray-painted possum. Apparently it was some sort of grieving-symbol from Carlos' Mexican village. Nonetheless, it still looked (and I had to quote Draco here) fantastically ridiculous.
We'd been sitting on the uncomfortable benches under some sort of tent that was placed on the outskirts of a very depressed-looking cemetary. Mr Malfoy's casket was now finally being magically lowered into a hole in the ground that was placed at the front.
I gave myself permisson to let out a groan when people were beginning to get up and chat. A surprising amount of people were attending the ex-Death Eater's funeral, but nobody really seemed to be grieving too much. This wasn't as shocking, however, and I was actually feeling some version of relief when the crowd already began leaving.
After Draco assured me that we were going to leave as soon as possible, he walked over to his mother and her husband. A small, black-haired, brown-eyed girl now popped up from the bench and burst out in an excited squeal as she leapt toward Draco. My heart jumped at the sight of him catching his little sister, and spun her around before hugging her closely, nuzzling his face in her mess of a hair.
The fierce love and adoration was gleaming in his eyes, and the look of complete and utter happiness on his face made me realise that he hadn't looked like that in a long time.
And I knew why. It was because of me.
«I seem to be in a slight problematic state.»
«And why's that?» I had just dragged myself from Draco's bed and was now walking unsteadily about the room on a sort of scavenger hunt after my clothes.
«Your lad. Your... whatever you call him.
«Martin? My fiance?» I furrowed my brows as I turned to look at Draco. He was laying, perfectly at ease, on the huge bed. «Why?»
«Because he'll have an eternity of this,» he pointed between the two of us, wiggling his eyebrows as he smiled. «That's why.»
The smile didn't reach his eyes though. He'd been in a strange mood ever since we left the funeral yesterday, and even though he'd claimed that he would be fine if I just went home with him, it was apparently not enough. Luckily, Martin had went over to his parents to discuss something about the wedding, something I wasn't privvy to – so I'd said yes.
«Why do you have to go to work?» he moaned when I'd gone back to looking for my belongings, acting as if what he said didn't affect me. «I want you to stay. We could spend the whole day in bed.»
If he continued to tempt me like that I'd most likely either go mad or become a sexoholic. Oh, who was I trying to fool, I was alreay both...
«Call in sick.»
«I can't lie.»
«Call in horny!»
I struggled to keep my face from cracking into an approving grin, but succesfully managed to refrain from doing just that.
«You wouldn't be lying,» was his argument, and he had no idea how close this was to the truth.
«You know,» I walked over to the bed and leaned over him, placing my arms on either side of his head, «I do have a life besides frolicking with you.»
«Yes, but you don't enjoy it.» Sparkling eyes distracted me from my original mission; finding my clothes were now so far back in my mind that I allowed myself to bend down and kiss him.
After I pulled away and pushed myself away from the bed, I found my underwear in the far corner. How it got there, I had no idea. Because of this, I didn't notice the change in Draco's expression.
«Why can't you just tell him?»
«Tell who what?»
«Why haven't you told Martin that you're a witch?»
Wow. This had certainly come out of thin air.
«Ehm, I dunno...»
Draco sat upright and followed me with his eyes as I put on the pair of knickers and a newly found bra.
«Tell me why,» he demanded before adding, «please.»
«How could I after such a long time of-»
«I haven't lied.»
«Then what are you afraid of?»
I put more effort than necessary into kneeling to the floor to retrieve the black dress that was hidden under it. I then took my time pulling it over my head.
«That he'll hate me,» I muttered as I continued the search, now after my shoes. «Or be repulsed by it maybe, or... That he just won't believe me and think I'm crazy. I can't just suddenly spring this on him now. Too much time has passed.»
«It's better to be hated for who you are, than loved for someone you are not.»
The shoes were by the door and I quickly stepped into them, my purse was still on the bedside table and after grabbing it I bid Draco goodbye.
All the way out of his apartment and out of the building, my heart kept beating and my head spun after the last thing Draco had said to me. The impact of those words had given me the uncomfortable sensation of being kicked hard in the stomach.
LA LA LA, I forced myself to drown out the disturbing thoughts by humming loudly. Granted, I got some strange looks from those I passed on the street, but it was worth it. I didn't exactly posess the desire to dwell on the distressing thoughts, and gladly welcomed a few raised eyebrows from complete strangers as a replacement for those unwanted musings.
Shocking. I was in denial once again. This was becoming a bad habit.
I ran over to my purse, lifting up the dress so that I wouldn't trip on the silky fabric.
The next time I see you, I'm going to rip your clothes off.
I giggled and felt the redness creep into my cheeks. Flustered, I hid my phone back into the purse. Ginny was eyeing me suspiciously, caressing her large belly while chewing on a very red apple.
«Who was that?»
I knew that Ginny would look right through me if I made up a completely different story, so I told her the truth. Ehm, or at least a version of it...
«It-It's just Draco being silly, that's all.»
Ginny took another bite of her apple, squinting at me as she slowly chewed. My eyes fluttered about the room, and I sought refuge in the mirror where I stared at the white dress I was wearing. The silky, smooth fabric hugged my curves and spread slightly around my feet, but I didn't really feel it.
My eyes caught a dress that was almost hidden behind a cloud of white fluff, and at the moment I pulled it from its hiding place, I gasped.
That was the dress.
I was just about to walk into the changing room when Ginny coughed to get my attention.
«You do realise that you have a massively inappropriate crush on him, don't you?»
«On who?» I didn't meet her eyes.
«That's mental. Of course I don't! We're just friends.» My steps were quick and purposeful as I entered the changing room, closed the curtain behind me and pulled off the dress. Ginny's heavy steps followed me.
«All right. Keep living in denial, if that's what you prefer.»
After stepping into the elegant dress I opened the curtain and walked out to Ginny, showing her the back; she immediately understood that I needed her to button it up. After turning around and walking to the full-length mirror, I drew a quick breath as the sight of the dress made me speechless.
«You look beautiful, 'Mione,» Ginny said in a hushed voice, smiling beside me. Our eyes met in the mirror, and I quickly looked away, knowing how she had the annoying ability to read my mind.
«Wait a second,» she narrowed her eyes so they were just tiny slits of brown, «you have a look in your eyes...» After long moments of intense staring, she gasped. «Oh, Merlin, I think it's guilt! You've had sex with him haven't you?!»
«Shh!» While sweeping the room, I turned to glower at Ginny. «A little louder, please. I think there's a man on the other side of town – in a coma – who didn't hear you.»
«So you admit it?»
«I just thought it was a small crush, but...» Ginny was talking to herself now, and sat down on a chair while huffing and puffing. «You've got the look. You really do.» She wasn't even looking at me, but I still felt suffocated. «I thought you just needed to get it out of your system before you got married and setted down. But this... Oh, Hermione, what are you doing?»
«Nothing,» I snapped, and went back to looking at my reflection, easily noticing how my eyes were shining with unshed tears and my hands were shaking. «And for the record,» I choked out and caught Ginny's glance. «I have no idea what you're talking about.»
«Of course you don't.»
Of course I did...
Tell me what you think, please. I'm so torn in this chapter. I kinda hate both myself and Hermione.
BTW: The song Draco sang is It Had To Be You by Ray Charles.
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