“They’re up to something.” Pansy said and sipped onto her tea. The smooth melody lightened his mood but the tension seemed ever stubborn to take its toll on him. The resulting effect was a confused mass of booming voices in his head that made him over react to everything around him.
“We shouldn’t have come to this place.” Draco muttered irritably. His agitation came out on the paper napkin lying on the table which he was slowly ripping. Pansy’s eyes narrowed on him.
“‘The Alley’s pride’ is the best restaurant in the whole of Diagon Alley.” She replied coolly yet the hint of bitterness was unmistakable. Draco’s averted to her face that held a look which one usually gives to some ungrateful bastard. Alright, maybe he wasn’t the nicest person on earth but right now the situation was to be blamed.
He was already confused about his sudden feelings towards Granger and now this whole new drama of some secret preparation going on behind the Ministry’s back was mentally exhausting him even more.
“Never mind…what else did you get to know?” He said trying to calm himself.
“Father had much to say yet I still think he was aware of how much to let out.”
“You mean the Veritaserum failed?”
Pansy gave him a look of annoyance.
“I wasn’t the best potion maker in school you know!” Her voice held an air as that of wounded pride.
“I think it must not have been strong enough.” Draco said crushing the paper napkin in his frustration.
“Well there must be atleast something he told you.” He said trying to keep the impatience out of his voice. He couldn’t afford to annoy Pansy right now as she was the only source he had to find out something for him.
“He was very unclear but I remember him mentioning a man named Danish not doing his job well…and that some Horn had to get Madam Jenks fast.”
“Wait! Let me recall atleast… (Ignoring Draco’s rolling eyes she began) Yes he also told me that murdering Madam Jenks would be an appropriate distraction….and then he fainted from drinking too much.”
“Who fainted?” Draco confirmed.
“My father, of course. I couldn’t just run over to him and make him drink a Veritaserum giving him vows that he had to do it for his daughter. Don’t be an idiot. I had to mix the truth potion in his wine so he wouldn’t notice.”
Draco ignored her sarcasm.
“Some one is going to kill the Minister of Magic.” He said feeling shocked at the volume of knowledge this woman had inflicted upon him and yet seemed to be more interested in the hideous nail paint on her nails. She looked at him in a sudden shock.
“Really?” She asked Stupidly.
Draco stared at her, feeling embarrassed to be sitting with such a dim witted snob.
“Celine Jenks, Pansy, is the Minister of Magic.” He said slowly in a tone as if explaining something to a three year old.
“I knew that.” She snapped at him.
“Never mind.” He said shaking his head and made a mental note to ponder upon this new piece of information sometime alone, “I think I’ll leave now.”
“So soon? I’m not going to have it. We’ve met after so long. We have a lot to catch up upon.” She said grasping his wrist. Draco looked down at her and met her gaze. Against his will he sat down bracing himself for being bored to death.
“I know…Let’s go to your place.” She said. At her suggestion Draco snapped his attention to her. No way…
“Uh no…uh…don’t you have your husband to attend to?”
“Oh he’s out on business and won’t be back until Christmas.” She smiled.
“Uh…I have some business to attend to. I can’t take you along…”
“You have a nice home.” She said trying to sound pleasant but her eyes told him otherwise. Of course a person like her who had been bred in a house next to a castle, a cosy home seemed parallel to a shack. It had once been the same with him so he couldn’t entirely blame her. Yet now when he looked back he could realize how foolish and materialistic he had been. The real satisfaction lay in what really made him happy.
Alright, now that Draco had made an excellent emotional progress today he was snapped back to reality when Pansy jumped at the sight of the house elf appearing and began swearing.
The quiet of the house was unceremoniously broken by her colourful and rather ‘not so royal anymore’ language and the house elf’s desperate, squeaky voice to calm the grouchy lady. Draco who had been watching all of it suddenly began to laugh which he hadn’t done in a long time. Atleast Pansy’s coming home had some benefit.
Pansy gave him a dirty look and announced she would like some fresh air. With her nose funnily in the air she stepped out of the house. Draco watched her go and rolled his eyes. The house elf was still whimpering.
“Weedy, I think I’ve had had enough for today. You can go now.”
“So sire is not angry with me?” The ugly creature asked hopefully. His watery eyes bulged with delight.
“You mean for driving her away from me for a while? Not at all. You can go.”
After the loud crack of the house elf disappearing Draco suddenly felt something. Had he just made a conversation with a house elf? Never in his life had he been so… well…nice to a house elf. For the first time he had seen an elf smile at him as if he was nice. It was so unusual for him that Draco pondered on this little experience which would otherwise seem quite silly to a normal wizard.
The shouts coming from the garden grabbed his attention and he went to look into the matter.
Hermione and Pansy, each in their own garden were throwing taunts at each other. As he went over to Pansy she turned to glare at him.
“I’m so disgusted with you. How could you find a house next to her dirty hovel!” She spat at him.
He was interrupted by Hermione.
“If you’re so disgusted to stand here why don’t you leave?”
Pansy glared at her.
“Well that’s just what I’m about to do.” She replied and went inside the house. “I’ll be taking some floo powder Draco!” She called from inside.
“Hope you have a smoky ride.” Hermione muttered and pushed her hair behind her ears. Draco and she stared at each other.
“A very ill mannered girlfriend I must say.” She said trying to provoke him.
“She’s married.” He replied coolly.
“Oh you’re so sick—
“We’re just friends.” He said flat out.
“Oh…yes! How could I ever make the mistake of thinking you’ll have a good choice.” She said and mockingly hit the back of her head with her hand.
“And how could I ever think that you could make conversation without being a cynical bitch.” He replied. Actually he was getting rather tired of her cold exterior. Hermione just stared at him.
“You don’t try very hard either.”
“If only you could spare me a chance.”
“Stop calling me a bitch.”
“On the deal if you stop being one.”
“Deal.” She said.
“Good. I think I’ll leave now.” Draco replied.
“Me too.” She said and almost smiled at him.
“Good bye….Bitch.” He said and bit his lips to stop from grinning.
Hermione glared at him annoyingly. “The truce was a joke wasn’t it?”
“What did you think?” Draco asked looking at her mockingly, “You want to be friends?”
Hermione laughed sharply and angrily spoke, ignoring the sinking feeling, “Not even on my dead body.”
Draco’s eyebrows went up, shrugging and smiling evilly he went inside the house. The door shut and the act he had just put up dropped. He put his face in his hands and cursed heavily. Why couldn’t he just make a normal conversation with her?? What was so tough about that! Everything had been going so right and he had to just make it take a ‘U’ turn so that they were back to where they were before.
Damn. He was such a jerk.
I hope I have everything. Hermione thought trying to ignore she didn’t have anything arranged for a Christmas tree. Actually she hadn’t felt the need. After all she was only going to decorate her house for Christmas and head back to mum and dad. The real celebration would be at her parents place so if there was no Christmas tree at her house it wouldn’t really matter.
It was only a two hour drive back home so Hermione had planned on leaving for her home early morning, decorate it and then reach back by the afternoon.
She pulled the car near the garden of her house and began unloading boxes containing decorations.
It was only half an hour later when she was vacuum cleaning the carpet that the door bell rung. She opened the door and wondered what she had done so bad as to get this sort of cruelty.
“What are you doing here?” She asked Draco.
“And a Merry Christmas to you too, Granger.” He said and pushing her aside, entered the house.
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Alright…calm down I’m not here to burgle you,” He said hotly, “I just came to deliver the Christmas tree your mother sent for you.”
“And how did you come?”
“Your mother gave me her car. Is that a problem?”
Hermione looked at him curiously.
“You can drive?”
“Of course Granger. I may be a wizard but I can drive.” He said and rolled his eyes. Hermione ignored his behaviour. “Well, if you could help me get that tree into your home I could go back.”
Hermione nodded and a few minutes later the tree was in.
“Thank you.” She said in a business like tone and began opening the boxes. Then she said: “Would you like to have something?”
“No.” He said but awkwardly stood there. He watched her unpack the decorations.
“You sure you don’t need help?” He asked after a long awkward silence. Hermione glanced at him.
“No thanks I can do this.” She said. Draco nodded but still didn’t leave. He watched her apply all her strength to open the seal of the boxes. He shook his head.
“Here, let me help you.”
“I said I can do this.”
“Don’t start with me Granger.”
Making a face Hermione backed off. He ripped the seal open with a strong tug.
“How many more?” He asked. She pointed behind him at another box. After a while it too was open.
“I think you could use some help.” He said smirking a bit.
Hermione’s face twitched but she restrained from smiling and nodded.
A huge part of the morning was spent in cleaning and decorating. Draco helped unusually and Hermione thought it was very nice of him even if he didn’t talk to her much. He helped with all the hard part like putting up the lights and Hermione was sometimes forced to think he looked very sexy when he folded his sleeves up his arms. His arm muscles bulged as he hammered a nail in the wall so they could hang a wreath. Hermione watched him rather lustily despite her efforts not too.
By eleven only the tree was left to be decorated. They both sat back on the couch to catch some breath.
“You could take a shower if you want, you’re all sweaty.” She said.
Draco looked at her as if she was a dim wit.
“And where do you think will I get fresh clothes to wear. You certainly don’t plan on making me wear a blouse and a skirt.”
Hermione made a face.
“Fine do what you want. By the way I had some of your clothes left behind from the last time you came. As if I care.”
Draco could say nothing. He knew he shouldn’t have been sarcastic but just for the sake of bugging her he said, “You care that’s why you asked.”
Hermione cocked up an eyebrow and looked at him.
“You think I like you?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you meant that!”
‘Yes you did! I can’t believe you—
“Don’t make up things—
“Now I’m making things up!” She shouted at him, red faced.
“I was right. You do like me! But if you could just stop being so rude—
“I’m rude! You have some nerve!!! How could you possibly think I like you!”
“It’s visible Hermione! Come on don’t lie.” Draco shouted.
“I’m not lying.” She warned him.
Draco felt his anger rise.
“Why do you keep doing this? You can’t just say you never liked me. What was that night about on your birthday!”
Hermione remained silent but kept glaring at him.
“It was a mistake.”
“You disgust me.” Draco spat.
“Don’t talk to me like that!”
“I will because you’re a coward!” Draco shouted.
“How dare you!” Hermione spat back ready to lung on him. She got up and spoke:
“You’re trying to avert your feelings on me. I know you like me. You are so dumb, Draco Malfoy.”
“Watch your mouth. I can’t believe you’re saying this.” He said and got up too.
“I want you to get out of here.” She said.
Draco glared at her.
He opened his mouth to say something but she interrupted him, “I don’t want to talk about this. Get out.”
“I’ve had enough—
“No I won’t. I want you to listen to me—
Draco held her by the shoulders and shook her.
“JUST SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” He shouted. Hermione stared at him, shocked but still. They stared at each other for a moment and gradually his grip loosened on her.
His eyes were looking everywhere but at her and in that awkward minute he felt an acute need to let out what he had been keeping all along. He pushed aside his pride and ego and for once glanced inside him to know what he wanted. This time the decision would be non-manipulated by his pride, like a virgin; unspoilt and true, a decision straight from the heart…
In a small almost inaudible voice he admitted finally, “I love you.”
Hermione’s eyes were fixed intently upon him. For a second he thought he saw a whim of happiness pass across her face and then suddenly it turned into an expression that of confusion. To his horror he watched her take a step back. She seemed to be fighting some internal feud which she was, as could be seen, losing.
Draco immediately found him relating to her. She was like a naked mirror to him at that moment…reflecting his own self when he would time and again lose to his pride. The one thing that had been his weakness all along, he realized, he had made it his strength. Yet it hadn’t really done him good, it had only made him so hollow inside that he was scared to peep into that dark hole, that was his heart, for answers. The only thing that governed him was not his heart but his mind. To make it worse, he was so in use of depending on his pride that now this sudden freedom was making him unsure of what he wanted to do.
For the beginning, what he felt was the best thing to do was to tell Hermione that he actually cared.
Hermione’s internal struggle some how related to him. Yet instead of trying to help her out he began feeling angry. He wasn’t really angry at her…he was angry at himself for being so foolish. Now Hermione was doing the same thing.
“I’ve been so busy trying to protect my ego that somehow without realizing it I pushed away the very thing that was important to me…” Draco said quietly. Hermione looked up at him as if woken from her reverie.
He continued, “A few months ago I couldn’t even have dreamt that I would put aside my inhibitions and manage to acquaint myself with a ‘mudblood’. Then after being the most selfish and arrogant person I could actually think about or care about someone else other than myself for once.”
Hermione opened her mouth to speak but he held out his hand. “No, let me finish. Today after running away from myself and of course failing miserably, for a change, I’m willing to accept defeat without the slightest hesitation. You know the amazing point about all that I have spoken right now? This all revolves around one thing. This silly, incongruous feeling…that I love you.”
Hermione’s eyes began to twinkle with tears again.
Draco watched her for a while before continuing. “You know what? I hate it. I hate it like hell! Because of it I can’t keep myself away from you— I like a pathetic loser get all jumbled up the minute I cast my eyes on you! I can’t tell you how angry it makes me feel!! I hate it. Yet somehow I just can’t bring my self to say these same words to you—
“I think that will be enough.” She said. Draco didn’t realize she had come so close, “I get the idea…”
She watched him closely. He looked confused and restless. Maybe he hadn’t realized but it was the first time she had seen him this way; His emotions right on his face. He was transparent today. If this tremendous change was because of the feelings he had for her then he surely must love her very much. After a lot many days she felt truly happy. Without a moment’s hesitation she let go off her stubbornness and shed off her pride just like he had for her…
It was an amazing relief she felt at that moment. The first time in so many months she felt her heart beat for him.
She had always been the planned and organized kind; trying to make everything perfect. She had dreamt of the perfect husband and a perfect life where everything fitted into place just like a jigsaw puzzle. Yet things hadn’t turned out very much like she had thought. She had fallen in love with a totally unexpected man. He wasn’t the perfect guy…nor would he be the perfect boyfriend. However, something inside his electric persona brought her close to him. Somewhere inside him he was real.
He had done his share of mistakes and good, an ordinary man who like others had his good and bad points. In his own way, Hermione suddenly realized, he was the perfect guy…
“I’ve been desperate for life to be perfect all along…but when I look back I realize it never had been.” Hermione said out loud. Draco looked at her and she met his gaze.
“I’m tired of running away.” She continued and a small smile crept up her face.
“So what are you going to do?” Draco asked but a smirk was already plastered on his face.
“I think…I’m going to love you.”
“About time.” Draco replied and grinned.
She smiled and Draco saw a rosiness come across her cheeks. Amazed he watched the red blush get bigger in size, he had never seen her feeling shy.
Hermione suddenly transformed before his eyes. The tough girl persona was lost somewhere. Instead in front of him stood a girl on whose face was written vulnerability bold and clear. Her eyes were red from crying but they held the twinkle of a little girl’s fancy; that small yet ardent desire to be one day swept of her feet…
At that exact minute Hermione seemed like the same person who had as if found her prince charming. She looked delicate but immensely beautiful. Slowly he took her in his embrace. She put her lips on his and tenderly they kissed.
She did not know for how long she had wanted to feel the familiar softness of his lips. Since the time she had kissed him a few months ago…she hadn’t felt the memorable pleasure surge down her body. Her hands ran across his hair and she pressed her lips harder at him. His tongue searched her mouth and she responded fervently. The passion made her weak in the knees and she felt herself soften under his hold.
His hand slid around her waist and ran over her stomach. She felt her skin burn like it had once before. Moaning she kissed his lower lip and caressed his cheekbones. He kissed her chin and traveled down her neck. An intense fire erupted inside them as they felt each others body touch.
Hermione’s smooth tresses engulfed him and traced his face as she hugged him again. They didn’t for how long they held each other.
“I love you.” She whispered still in his arms. Draco squeezed her harder in his reply.
“May I say something?” He asked. Hermione parted but kept close.
“What?” She asked.
“I need a bath.” He said smirking. Hermione laughed and gave him a knowing look.
“Yeah…Yeah, now don’t give me the clichéd ‘I told you so’.”
Hermione just smiled and said, “Use the bathroom in my room.”
Draco nodded and went down the hall.
“I’ll hand you the clothes in the bathroom.” She called out.
A while later Hermione was in her room looking for something else to decorate the Christmas tree.
“What are you doing here?” Draco asked as he came out from his bath and hung the towel on the chair.
“I needed something more to put on the tree. It looks incomplete.”
Draco went inside the bathroom and from the pockets of the jeans he had been wearing initially pulled out two small doves.
“What about these?” He said coming in to the room.
Hermione smiled. “They’re beautiful.”
“I bought them at the gift shop we met at.”
“Thank you.” She said.
She smiled again and wrapped her arms across his waist. He was grinning too. Then they indulged into another kiss. They broke off in between.
“You smell nice.” She said.
“I don’t exactly jump into sewage for a bath.”
Hermione scrunched her face but was still smirking. “You’re a creep.”
Draco laughed. They gazed into each other’s eyes.
“You’re beautiful.” He said and brought his lips closer to hers.
This time the kiss grew passionate. His hands were already under her blouse and were running up her back. She shivered under his touch and crushed his lips with a fervent kiss. Her hands began to unbutton his shirt while he took off hers. He lay her down on the bed and kissed her neck.
Hermione’s cool fingertips traced his well toned stomach and his muscular arms. Her touch induced a sensuous pleasure inside him and he sighed. She pushed her body up at him and he kissed her collarbone. His hands were all over her as he did. She moaned with pleasure and felt his hand open her bra. She began planting kisses on his chest while her hands ran up his back.
“I love you…” He whispered and then smirked mischievously, “Bitch.”
Hermione made a face as that of mock annoyance and then laughed before they indulged in another kiss.
“About time you came!” Jane said smiling as Draco and Hermione entered the hall.
“We thought…we had a bit of catching up to do.” Hermione said and gave Draco a wink who grinned.
“Merry Christmas again to both of you.” Jane said and hugged both in turn.
Draco by now was quite used to Jane’s small gestures of love and realized to day he didn’t feel awkward. Hermione on the other hand was quite stunned to see him responding so warmly to her mother. It was so bewildering to know that Draco Malfoy had a soft side. They seemed two alien subjects.
Draco immediately understood what she was thinking and as they went to get drinks whispered enough for her to hear, “I’m human too you know.”
Hermione smiled at him and nodded. She decided not to respond further and took his little piece of explanation to be satisfactory enough.
Thankfully Caroline wasn’t here tonight. She had gone back home only a few days ago to celebrate Christmas. Hermione had noticed she looked put off. Must be missing her parents.
As they made their way away from the drinks counter they met Charles who was talking to Luna Lovegood.
“Merry Christmas.” Hermione chirped to both of them. She sounded a lot like Jane at that moment, Draco thought.
“There you are! I’ve been trying to get you to meet Luna.” Charles said hugging his daughter and shaking hands with Draco.
“We’ve just arrived.” Draco replied but he didn’t really pay attention to anyone other than Luna who was right now the centre of his attention.
He would have never known she existed if it hadn’t been for the Quibbler and her carrot top earrings. The Slytherins had made up a lot of things about her during their school years because of the way she was so weird. Yet what he saw today was breathtaking.
Back in school he didn’t remember her so beautiful and the wide eyes which usually gave her the aura of the eccentric, today looked like gorgeous brown orbs that crinkled as she smiled. Her eyes rested on him and she gave him an awkward smile; She hadn’t recognized him.
“This is Draco Malfoy if you remember.” Hermione introduced. A sudden realization dawned upon Luna’s face and she shook hands with him. Yet a puzzled and awe struck expression was dominating her face now. Hermione didn’t seem to notice it because only then she was called by her mother.
“Excuse me.” She said and left.
“I haven’t seen you since…maybe ten years.” Luna spoke, an odd questioning look never leaving her face.
“You could say that.” Draco said. He could understand why she was acting this way, infact, it was predictable. He was after all once at the dark lord’s side even if he hadn’t been a deatheater. //A/N: I’m not going to be using any HBP facts in this fic.//
Yet still he couldn’t help feeling irritated. He wasn’t exactly the most patient person in the world. So instead of continuing with a normal conversation he added a bit of nastiness, not being able to help it.
“So…Looney, how’ve you been?”
Just then a small boy came up behind her and she picked him up.
“This is my son, Sean.”
Draco’s eyebrows went up and he spoke tauntingly, “You married and you got busy.” He said looking at the boy.
Luna ignored his jibes, “So what are you doing?”
“I’m in the Auror department and let me guess, you’re the editor of the Quibbler?”
Luna nodded, smirking slightly.
“And how come you’re here? She asked.
“Hermione and I are together.” Draco replied and got another very predictable reaction. She looked stunned but he had to admit she got over it admirably.
“Then who’s you’re man?” Draco asked changing the subject.
“We’re separated,” She spoke casually, “Excuse me, Sean’s hungry.”
Draco didn’t get time to react when Luna left. Hermione joined him only then.
“Lovegood’s separated?” He asked.
“Yes…she was married to some man named Duncan Horn.” Hermione replied.
Draco nodded in acknowledgement and watched Luna as she made Sean drink some juice.
“Let’s dance.” Hermione said and she took him towards the middle of the hall.
In the early hours of the morning Draco woke up suddenly and couldn’t quite believe he could be so foolish. He picked up the phone and dialed at the Granger residence ignoring that it was still four o’clock.
The phone rang for a while and then a groggy voice which sounded like Hermione’s spoke into the receiver:
“D—Draco? What’s on? Are you alright?”
“I want you to meet me in an hour at my house. I want to know some more about this Duncan Horn.”
*I think this is the longest chapter I’ve written and I must say I really enjoyed writing it. Now all I want to know if it was good enough and if you enjoyed reading it. Plz review!!*
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