Chapter 13 : Of winding roads and awkward moments
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“Draco Malfoy!” Hermione yelled at the top of her lungs for what seemed to be the hundredth time. “Malfoy, we should’ve left an hour ago, what the bloody hell are you doing?”
The car was almost packed and Hermione was ready to go. She had been up since four o’clock in the morning preparing everything for the trip. She was quite excited about it, but at the same time she was terrified of spending two whole days locked in a car with Draco. Funny, she thought, how she could be so petrified at the idea of voyaging with him but so relaxed at the thought of trespassing a top secret laboratory hidden in Edinburgh.
“Malfoy! If you don’t come down in this instant, I’m going to drag you down here myself!”
“I’m here!” he yelled right behind her startling Hermione. He was rubbing his ears; he had been standing behind her when she last yelled.
“What took you so long?” Hermione asked taking Draco’s suitcase from his hand rather violently. The motion ripped open the bag spilling its contents on the ground. “Great, as if we could be any later…”
“It was your fault, if you would’ve let me place the bag inside myself this wouldn’t have happened,” Draco bit back.
“Anyway, what took you so long? I’ve been ready for a while now,” Hermione responded dismissing Draco’s last comment.
“I was talking to Weasley, actually,” Draco explained looking for his scattered belongings, “he needed another chunk of my hair just in case. I reckon he is taking the potion as we speak. He was going to Hogwarts to carry out the plan, so we should leave now.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying all this-” but Hermione broke off at the sight of a peculiar box that had landed beside one of the wheels. “What’s this?” she asked, curiosity taking over her.
“Nothing, give it back,” Draco’s face seemed to blush momentarily but Hermione was so engrossed examining the box that she missed it. Draco tried to grab the precious box but missed by a split second; Hermione began to run away from him as he started to chase her trying to retrieve the box. “Granger, those are personal things, give them back!”
“I’ll just take a peak, really.”
“Give me back that box this instant, or I’ll-"
But Draco was interrupted by Hermione’s loud gasp and surprised look as she opened the mysterious box. “What’s this?” she said raising a bottle and showing it to Draco, “and this?” taking a second bottle from the box.
“Give me back those Granger,”
But it was too late, Hermione had already started laughing. “Malfoy, you have here more hair products than a-”
“That is not funny, I just happen to take care of my hair.”
“But this is not simply taking care of one’s hair… this is… let’s see shall we?” she said in a mocking tone examining the box. “Shampoo, shampoo again, conditioner number one, conditioner number two and conditioner number three, silky hair potion, straightening potion, shiny hair potion, nutri-hair potion, humid-day hair potion, dry-day hair potion and… hair control potion!”
“Give me back my box!” Draco interjected chasing Hermione once more.
“You have to admit this is rather funny,” said Hermione, laughing her heart out. “I always knew you were a little vain, but this… you remind me of Lockhart. Now I understand why you take so much time in the shower, but then again if you have three conditioners…”
“Granger, I just happen be a hygienic person, and I tend to my hair,” the last words came out in a mixture of whisper and babble, making them completely undecipherable for the human ear.
“What’s that?” asked Hermione raising an eyebrow, “didn’t catch that?”
“What? Draco, dear, I can’t understand a word you’re uttering…”
“I appreciate my hair. Happy now?”
“You are aware that vanity is a cardinal sin…”
“A cardinal- argh! Never mind!”
“Just give me back those!” yelled a flustered Draco who didn’t quite enjoy being at the receiving end of Hermione’s mockery.
On cue, Hermione started running and laughing again with the box raised above her head. Draco was shortly after her, wondering when the little bookworm had the time to exercise and develop such an admirable physique. Laughing, however, is not a recommended state for sprinting, and indeed the point was proved as Hermione fell down on the ground carrying the box with her. The unfortunate Draco, who in the last minute had managed to grab the back of the brunette’s shirt, came down with her.
“Arghhh!” was all Hermione could muster when Draco fell on top of her crushing her petite frame.
“Ha!” was his answer as he retrieved his precious box from her grip. He stood up quickly, concerned by his box’s safety, and opened it hastily with the sole objective of making sure its contents were still intact. His vain fear made him completely forget Hermione’s presence who remained motionless on the ground. After the couple of seconds it took him to count the valuable bottles in the box and make sure none was broken, he turned around with the thought of scolding the nosey little brat in mind. However, his retaliating impulse was cut short by the sight of her sprawled on the ground. “Oh, Merlin! Granger!”
She only grunted in response, which seemed to worry Draco even more. He rushed to her and helped her up. She was still catching her breath back and began to cough. The front of her shirt was covered in dirt and Draco didn’t think twice of seizing the opportunity of touching her with the excuse of dusting her off. “Merlin, Granger, I’m so sorry, are you alright?”
“I’m just-” cough, “just-” cough, “catching my breath… didn’t think you were so heavy… ouch, my back-”
“Granger, I’m so sorry. Here, turn around and let me see your back, make sure you are not hurt,” He spun her around still dusting her and raised her shirt up to the middle of her back. He traced her back bone with his palm, sending shivers down her spine.
“Malfoy, I’m Ok-”
“Stay still Granger, I have to make sure you are ok. Let me see if you have any bruises.”
“I’m fine Malfoy, just a bit sore,” she insisted and then she started to giggle madly. “Malfoy, stop it this instant, you’re tickling me!”
“I’m checking for broken ribs, not tickling you… well at least not on purpose.”
“Draco Malfoy! Stop please,” more giggles, “I’m fine, I’ll just- Oh, Harry!” she finished in a high voice.
Her last words made Draco stop immediately, he was not thrilled to hear Potter’s name while he touched her. As Hermione pulled down her shirt and jumped away from him, he realized they were not alone. There, in between the post box and the car was standing Harry Potter with an unreadable look on his face.
“Harry, what are you doing here?” asked a blushing Hermione.
“I wanted to talk to you before you left, but I see you are busy,” he responded turning around.
“No, Harry wait!” she yelled running after him. “Draco was just helping me up, just wait!"
“I don’t want to intrude,” he responded softly as she approached him. “I just wanted to wish you luck and- well and- apologise.”
“Oh,” she replied. “Thank you Harry.” She didn’t know what to say. Now that she was in front of him, she remembered their last encounter which reignited the awkwardness between them. She finally reached his standing spot and took his hand in hers, making him raise his look from his shoes.
“I’m glad you came Harry,” said Hermione.
“Look, I’ve been feeling a bit awful these past couple of days and Ginny hasn’t helped with that either,” he began looking apologetically in her chocolate eyes. “I think I was out of line the other night. I just hope that you can understand how much I care about you and why I don’t trust him,” he finished giving Draco a murderous glance over Hermione’s shoulder.
“I do understand Harry, but what pains me is that fact that you don’t trust me,” she stated. “I know that you don’t like Malfoy at all, and I know that you have very valid reasons for feeling that way. I used to feel the same way towards him not so long ago, remember? But I hoped you at least trusted my judgment, Harry, and that’s what hurts me…”
“It’s just that you are so vulnerable Hermione. You are not as strong as you want the world to believe. I’m your best friend, for Merlin’s sake! I know you better than anyone and I know that sometimes you tend to see only the good side of people-”
“As did Dumbledore,” she interrupted.
“And look where it got him!”
“He was the greatest wizard of our time Harry, and in the end he wasn’t so wrong about Snape, was he?”
“That doesn’t stop Snape from being a greasy git, does it?”
“Don’t compare Malfoy to Snape, they are completely different people,” she warned him. “Please Harry, I need you to understand this,” she pleaded, “I’m a big girl now and you can’t go around protecting me forever. I know you feel you’ve inherited that obligation after Ron’s death but it isn’t so. It isn’t anyone’s obligation but my own.”
“It is not an obligation, Hermione. I don’t feel it like that. I care for you-”
“I understand Harry, and I care for you too. But you have to be aware that there are boundaries. There are lines you are not to cross, regardless of our friendship. And, as I said before, I want you to trust my judgement. I know Malfoy has changed a lot. He will be always a bit arrogant and cocky, but he is a good person. He’s seen the eyes of evil and what it can do, and he has decided to turn away from that path. And I feel very comfortable around him, I trust him. He is my friend.”
“I hope you are right Hermione, I don’t want to see you hurt,”
“I can take care of myself. Do you trust me Harry?”
“Then trust me, ok?”
He remained silent for what seemed a couple of minutes. Hermione could see doubt and concern in her best friend’s green eyes, and she also saw fear. She didn’t understand why, but at that precise moment she realized how much she cared for Harry and how lucky she was to have such a friend. In spite of his outbursts and occasional fits, he was one of the best things that had happened to her. And just like that, she forgave him for his rudeness and jealousy. However, her reconciliation thoughts were interrupted by a bone crashing hug from her best friend and a feeble whisper in her ear.
“I trust you. Please take care of yourself. Don’t do anything foolish or rushed.”
Hermione didn’t know if he was referring to the mission or Draco, but decided to leave it like that. She just hugged him back.
“Don’t worry,” she assured him.
They remained like so for a couple of minutes, making peace with each other in a silent embrace. Draco, who stood about thirty feet away from them, looked at them with serious envy. It was the first time in his life he saw what true friendship was; he had never experienced one before. He didn’t need to listen to what they were saying to guess the topic of their discussion. After the thunderous glances Potter had shot his way, and their final embrace, he didn’t need to be a seer to understand that Potter was beginning to accept their friendship and that Hermione had accepted his apologies. It was difficult for him to understand how after such a row between them, they could easily forgive one another. There had to be a great amount of love between them… and the thought didn’t make him so happy.
“Granger,” a cold voice interrupted, “we are already late, and we have to leave now.”
Harry and Hermione slowly broke apart. Harry’s eyes switched from Hermione’s deep chocolate ones to Draco’s deep silvery ones. He looked at him for a couple of seconds, making up his mind, and finally extended his right hand towards him.
Draco was completely startled by the sudden peaceful advance, but nonetheless took his hand and shook it. Harry gave him a courteous nod and greeted him with a simple “Malfoy.”
“Potter,” was his austere answer.
“Hermione, Malfoy here is right, you have to leave now and I’m late for work. I just wanted to say one last thing before you departed: if at any time you are in grave peril or the mission goes wrong, abort immediately. We can figure out another way of retrieving that information from Malfoy’s head if necessary, but we can’t afford to lose any of you.”
“But Harry, this is too important to just-”
“He’s right, Granger, and I agree.” Draco added in an ominous tone.
Admitting defeat, Hermione said nothing more and gave them both a sharp nod.
“I have to go now,” Harry spoke, “take care of her Malfoy, and… take care of yourself.” And, without waiting for a response, apparated away.
Draco and Hermione walked silently towards the car. Both were absorbed in their thoughts. Hermione sat behind the wheel waiting for Draco to finish packing his bag and taking his place behind him. She inserted the key in the ignition starting the car, this startled Draco who looked completely surprised by the car’s reaction.
“What did you do to it? Why is it roaring? Is it angry?”
“Is this the first time you ride a car?” she asked bewildered.
“A completely Muggle one? Well, yes…”
“What do you mean by ‘a completely Muggle one’?” she asked raising an eyebrow.
“Well my father owned an enchanted Rolls Royce the ministry had provided for our errands in London and for taking me to Kings Cross at the start of term every year, since I couldn’t Apparate. But it didn’t roar…”
“Oh,” she simply said. And then she began laughing like mad.
“What’s so funny, Granger?” he asked slightly annoyed. He thought they had already passed the ‘let’s laugh at Draco’ stage.
“It isn’t roaring,” she managed to say between laughs. “The engine is on, that’s all… the car is not alive…”
“What do you mean ‘not alive’? It moves on its own accord!”
“Of course not!” she answered as she kept hopelessly laughing, “you have to drive it!”
And as Hermione drove out of her parent’s lane, she began explaining to Draco how a Muggle car worked. She explained to him how petrol made engines work and showed him how to change gears and accelerate. When she finished her complete explanation of an automobile’s functioning, they had already travelled a couple of hours.
Hermione was enjoying Draco’s company more than she thought she would have. The explanation of the car’s working had been quite fun. Draco seemed a little sceptical at the beginning but after a while, he begun to ask all sorts of question concerning cars. He even stated that he wanted to learn how to drive and get a Muggle’s driver’s licence. After discussing various means of Muggle transportation, Draco began inquiring about many aspects of the ‘Muggle way of life’, as he called it. He was amazed by Muggle’s petrol stations and many other things he saw on the road. He seemed really happy, getting out and seeing the country, it was as if he had never seen Britain before. Well, thinking about it properly, it was the first time he saw Britain from a Muggle’s point of view.
Lunch time quickly came and Hermione stopped in a little village looking for a decent restaurant where they could eat and freshen up. They sat down on a little table in the corner of a cosy restaurant and continued chatting while their food was served. Hermione obviously had done all the talking and ordered for both of them, assuring Draco he would enjoy the food.
“So I guess that you and Potter are back on being friends again?” he asked between mouthfuls.
“We never ceased being friends Malfoy,” she explained, “it was just a little fight… we always end up hugging and asking for forgiveness shortly after any row… this time took us longer though, we had never rowed like this before…”
“Well, I’m glad… I’m glad you and Potter are ok.”
“You are?” she asked disbelievingly.
“He’s your friend; it is obvious you care for him. Besides, you’ve been in an awful temper these past few days; you were starting to frighten me,” he responded trying to give no importance to the matter. He didn’t want to discuss Hermione’s and Potter’s deep friendship either.
“Well I’m sorry about that, I wasn’t aware I was being a total prat.”
“Don’t worry; I knew it was because of Potter and not me. I just tried to stay away from you. You do have quite the temper you know? I’d hate to get on your bad side.”
“But Malfoy, you’ve been on my bad side for the last I don’t know how many years… I even punched you!”
“Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that,” he lied.
“You had?” she asked sceptically.
“Ok, I’ve been trying these past seven years. It was surely a rough hit for my Slytherin pride. You nearly traumatised me!” he confessed.
Hermione started laughing again and reminded Draco that nothing could be worse than the time he was transfigured into a ferret before the whole school. Draco couldn’t feel left out though, and reminded Hermione of the time in their fourth year, when he had cursed her teeth to grow as large as a beaver’s; or the time in her sixth year when she had sported a black eye through all Diagon Alley, courtesy of Mr. and Mr. Weasley.
Shortly their reminiscence of past days led them to laugh at their old schoolmates’ misadventures, like the time when Pansy Parkinson had sprouted antlers when she used a spell someone had given her to dye her hair as red as Ginny Weasley’s.
“Who gave her that spell anyways?” asked Hermione between laughs. “I should’ve sent them a thank you note!”
“It was Julia Steele, a Ravenclaw who was quite jealous of Pansy.”
“Who could be jealous of Pansy Parkinson?” Hermione responded laughing even more.
“Half of the school, if you must know. She was dating me,” he explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“And why’s dating you a worthy cause of jealousy? It's not like if you were handsome and sexy,” she responded playfully.
“Not handsome and sexy? I was the Slytherin prince! Everybody desired me! I had to turn down offers everyday!”
“No, you were the Slytherin ponce!” and that last comment earned her a playful smack on the shoulder. “And offers made by whom? Eloise Midgeon?”
“Come on Granger, even you desired me!”
“Are you crazy Malfoy?” she laughed, “I despised you!”
“I’m not saying you were in love with me, but I wouldn’t believe it if you said you never wondered what it would be like to snog me senseless!”
“Of course not! You were my enemy, I couldn’t allow myself to think such things…”
“Come on, you know I’m right… everyone desired me, they still do. Though the majority of them think I’m dead.”
“Oh, yeah… because you are more than cute and definitely shaggable!” she answered sarcastically.
“You can deny it all you want, but I know that in the end I’m right. Besides, you still desire me, it shows!”
“Does it?” this time her voice was a bit higher and quivery.
“Oh yeah, it does,” he smirked with that delicious smirk that made Hermione’s insides melt and her knees tremble. The latter wasn’t a very good thing since she was driving.
“I think is the other way around,” Hermione responded taking control over her voice once again, “it is you who desires me, you are just trying to use reverse psychology or something to get me in bed with you.”
“Well, maybe I am,” he smirked again.
Hermione suddenly realized, as her insides liquefied once more, that they were flirting. She didn’t know what to do in the situation because it was a dangerous road they would be taking if they kept it up. She had to admit that she liked it though, and that she didn’t want it to end, but her mind kept flashing a red warning light inside her head.
After a couple of minutes of pretending she was placing all her concentration on the road, when actually she was deciding what to do next, she changed the subject but not very far from their last one, giving them both the chance to flirt once more should the opportunity arise.
“So tell me, which of the women, and maybe men, that know you’re still alive and kicking have tried to shag you?” she asked.
He began laughing and delivering a long list of alleged fans. They kept talking among those lines, and even began to share old stories of forgotten lovers. They kept flirting dangerously, though more subtly, for the next few hours. Night caught them sharing their first kiss experiences as they drove into Stretford where they were supposed to spend the night. After looking several times their map and asking for directions (in spite of Draco’s insistent complaints that they didn’t need any) they finally arrived at the hotel where they had already reservations made under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Cook, a reservation made by Ginny that gained them a couple of stiffed giggles from the staff at the hotel. She had apparently picked up the name in a Muggle place and assumed it was a commonly used Muggle name. Yeah right...
They quickly settled in and unpacked the necessary for the night. Draco claimed to be a little tired of being sitting around the whole day and laid down for a quick nap before dinner, while Hermione took a shower.
When Hermione finished her well deserved shower, she started dressing herself for dinner. She then realized she had left her shirt back in the room and went nervous at the prospect of going to get it. She opened the door slightly and peeked around. She saw Draco sprawled on the bed still sleeping and then decided it was safe to cross the room and look for a clean shirt in her suitcase which was at the other end of the room. She tiptoed around the bed and shortly reached her bag. She tried to open it without making much noise with the zipper and started rummaging inside it.
She didn’t realize, however, that the noise had woken up Draco, who had a complete view of her bending back as she searched for her clothes. He couldn’t help to squirm at the sight of her beautiful body wrapped around a tiny towel, which as tiny as it might have been, still covered too much for his liking. He just couldn’t turn his gaze from those spectacular long legs and that perfectly rounded bum. When she quietly shot “gotcha!” and began to close her bag, Draco shut his eyes again hoping that she didn’t notice that he was now full awake and how his jeans seemed tighter than before in a certain southern region.
Hermione tiptoed across the room once more and quickly entered the washroom. She finished dressing herself and applied a soft coat of makeup. When she walked out she found Draco awake and watching the telly, which he had learned to use while living with her.
When hearing the creaking sound of the opening door, Draco turned around and found a very beautiful Hermione beaming at him. She wasn’t overdressed or anything of the sort, she merely wore a pair of jeans and a shirt, but managed to look devishly sexy nonetheless.
“I think I need a shower,” he rasped, “a cold one…”
“A cold one?” she asked raising a scathing eyebrow.
“It’s hot in here,” he merely responded. As he passed by her side after picking up the necessary things for a shower (including his grooming box, as Hermione now called it), he softly whispered in her ear, “you are breathtaking tonight Miss Granger,” and entered the washroom leaving a trembling Hermione rooted to the ground.
It took Draco shorter than expected to come out of his shower, but when he did he was only wearing a pair of dark jeans. Hermione, who had been trying to calm herself by watching the news on the telly, failed all attempts to lure her attention away from the handsome man sharing the room with her. She couldn’t keep her eyes off his toned torso and muscular arms; she was shamelessly staring at him. Before she got the chance to get really dizzy, Draco’s voice shook her out of her reverie.
“I’m glad you like the view…” he said smirking.
Why does he have to smirk so much? Hermione desperately thought trying to hide her blushing face.
After Draco finished dressing himself and putting on a pair of shoes, he gave her his hand and asked, “Will you join me for dinner Mrs. Cook?”
Hermione nodded and took his welcoming hand. Well, this is going to be an interesting night, she thought as she left the room with Draco still holding his warm hand.
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