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Chapter 2 : Transgression in the French style...
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Hermione hummed to herself as she picked out an outfit for the day. She had been rather reluctant to accept when Pansy had invited her to lunch; the whole friendship still left Hermione rather startled. The slightly stuffy brunette had been a wonderful shoulder to cry on when she had ended her relationship with Ron. Hermione and Pansy had met up by accident, at a charity Ball for St Mungo's. Hermione had gone along at Ginny's request, her friend insisting that she come and meet people. Hermione and Ron, at that stage, had not officially broken up, but their marriage was only just hanging on and Ron had moved out of their house and into a motel close to the Ministry. Things had been so tense between them that Hermione had eventually broken under the stress after weeks of keeping up a brave appearance. She had ended up blubbering her eyes out on Draco Malfoy's chest. The caustic blonde had snapped at her over a report she had left for him, and while normally his rudeness did not bother her, Hermione, much to Draco's discomfort, had dropped to the floor in his office and wept. The annoying and aloof Hitwizard had got down on one knee beside her and wrapped her in his arms, letting her cry without saying a scathing word about it.
After grudgingly accepting Ginny's invitation, once her friend assured her that her "git of a brother" would be nowhere near the event, Hermione had allowed Ginny to take her shopping for a new outfit. It was there the girls first encountered Pansy. Hermione knew she had married Draco straight after school, and had been rather shocked to find the wife of Draco Malfoy working in a dress shop, until Pansy explained that she managed Madam Malkins now, the older witch having retired to the coast. Pansy had been nothing but professional, leaving both Ginny and Hermione perplexed at her out of character behaviour. Not one nasty word passed between them, Pansy smiling and cooing over every outfit Hermione tried on. Later, she told herself Pansy was simply doing her job, finding it hard to believe someone as inherently nasty as Pansy Parkinson had an ounce of pleasantness about her.
At the Ball, Pansy, with her dashing husband in tow, had marched up to Hermione and told her again how stunning the deep red gown looked on her. Hermione smiled a little at the memory of Pansy demanding Draco back her up in her opinions. The tall blonde had raised an eyebrow disdainfully at his wife, before letting his smoky eyes trail over Hermione's body. He had intoned a husky-voiced agreement that left Hermione blushing and feeling strangely heated, and Pansy beaming. She had shooed her husband away, Draco leaving with a gratified expression, and taken Hermione's arm, drawing the surprised witch into animated conversation. Halfway through the evening, Hermione felt herself begin to relax in Pansy's company, realising quickly that the other woman was incredibly lonely and starved for attention. Hermione remembered thinking at the time that being married to Draco Malfoy would have more than one drawback.
Since that evening, much to the surprise of Harry and Ginny, Hermione and Pansy had maintained their newfound connection, meeting regularly for coffee and gossip. In Pansy, Hermione had found someone who could draw her away from her problems, filling her head with unimportant things that she once would have found annoying and distracting, like which style of robes were the most popular at the moment. Hermione had also discovered Pansy gave a great deal of money to various charities and organisations. She assumed the majority of the money was from Draco's inheritance, but Pansy confided that, since she did not have to work, the money she earned as a shop manager went straight to St Mungo's. Hermione had told Ginny, who had refused to believe her but had gone digging anyway before admitting in a small voice that there were regular and rather large donations of money from a Pansy Malfoy.
Hermione scrutinised herself in the mirror, piling her long chestnut hair onto her head, turning her face to the left and the right, before letting her hair drop again. The restaurant Pansy had chosen was expensive and Hermione wanted to at least look the part, even if this lunch would cost her half a weeks pay. Leaning forwards, Hermione gasped sharply, noticing a light bruise colouring the side of her neck. Scowling, she grabbed her compact, attempting to cover the mark with make-up. She decided in the end to leave her hair loose around her shoulders. Hermione stared at herself in the mirror, watching as her eyes slowly filled with angry tears. Biting her lip, she flung her compact down on the dresser, turning and storming across the room to fall face-down on her bed.
"I can't do this," she muttered, rubbing at her teary face. It was also around the time she was getting to know Pansy, three months ago, that Hermione did the one thing she never thought she would do in her life – she spent the night with her new friend's husband. In an extremely depressed state one evening after work and after another screaming argument with Ron, Hermione had dragged herself to the nearest bar, downing drink after drink in an attempt to wash her failed relationship away. It was not until she was on her fifth whiskey when another body slid into the chair beside her, ordering a drink for himself and another one for her. After her initial confusion at Draco's company, Hermione let herself relax, pouring out her intoxicated misery over Ron straight into his ears. The rest of the evening was still a blur, but waking up the next morning with a pounding headache, naked in a motel bed with an equally naked Draco next to her, the signs were clear. She had slept with him. Shocked and angry with herself beyond belief, Hermione had dressed and slipped away before he woke, sick to the stomach, vowing to never think about what she had done again. Seeing Draco at work each day was harder than she thought it would be, and eventually the sly little looks he threw in her direction, along with her mounting guilt, wore her down and she confronted him in his office, screaming accusations and insults until he grabbed her and kissed her rage away. That was the beginning of their affair, and no matter how hard Hermione tried to end it, something kept pulling her towards him, even though she knew how wrong it was.
Wiping her eyes dry, Hermione sat up, straightening out her hair. She took a deep breath, steadying her nerves. She had not seen Pansy in weeks, her guilt at her affair with Draco weighing so heavily on her conscience she found the other woman's company unbearable. She had accepted this lunch invitation with one purpose in mind – to tell Pansy the truth, even though she knew it was going to cost her her friendship and perhaps Pansy her marriage. But, Hermione thought as she struggled into a pair of tight black pants and a crimson fitted shirt, Pansy had the right to know. Hermione slipped her feet into a pair of black-heeled shoes, ran a brush through her hair and retouched her make-up before apparating to the restaurant.
The Chaudron, a ritzy French-inspired restaurant, was set by the river and surrounded by weeping willows and lush green lawns. Hermione gazed up at the building in awe. Ron had always wanted to take her there, but they could never seem to find the time. Taking a deep breath, Hermione walked slowly up the grand sweeping stairs. A waiter in traditional service blacks met her at the door, asking in a stuffy voice which party she was with. Hermione told him, feeling annoyed at the way the man eyed her clothing and hair, before ushering her inside. She was immediately enfolded in a pair of arms, her head swimming with Pansy's expensive and rather strong florally scent.
"It's so good to see you, Hermione," the other woman gushed, squeezing her before planting a kiss on Hermione's cheek.
"You too, Pansy," Hermione replied warmly, feeling guilt and nausea spread through her body at the happy smile on Pansy's face. Her friend looked immaculate and elegant in a peacock blue dress and black heels, with her hair swept from her face. Hermione's eyes drifted over Pansy's shoulder and she felt her blood immediately freeze in her veins.
"Granger," Draco intoned politely, dipping his head, his stormy eyes flashing. He was standing behind his wife, dressed in his customary head to toe black, his hair falling soft around his face. Hermione gulped, trying not to think about the previous night when that hair was wound around her fingers. Pansy tossed her husband an exasperated look and he rolled his eyes, striding forward to plant a lingering kiss on Hermione's cheek. Her face burnt as he pulled away and she forced her gaze to the floor, collecting her thoughts before Pansy took her hand, leading her through the restaurant to their table by the window. Hermione drank in the view, appreciating the wonderful and relaxing sight of the river outside. Pansy smiled and seated herself, indicating Hermione should do the same.
"We're just waiting on one more person," the brunette explained, pouring herself a glass of wine and passing the bottle to Hermione. Draco slid into a seat beside his wife, a small frown on his face. Hermione raised her brows questioningly, but Pansy shook her head. "It's a surprise, my dear."
"This place is amazing, Pansy," Hermione said to her friend, who smiled happily at her compliment.
"Ce restaurant sert de la bonne nourriture," Draco stated, Hermione frowning at him slightly. He smirked, his eyes twinkling. "This place serves good food."
"I didn't know you spoke French," she said, busying herself with the menu so she did not have to look at him. Draco laughed, but said nothing.
Half an hour and a bottle of wine later, the mystery guest had still not arrived, and Hermione was beginning to feel light-headed. She knew there would be no telling Pansy anything about her relationship with Draco today. Pansy sat chattering non-stop and Hermione listened with half an ear, her eyes sliding from her friend's face to her husbands. Draco sat beside his wife, an outwardly bored expression on his face, and Hermione wondered not for the first time why he had married her in the first place. Draco's eyes connected with hers and Hermione felt her heart jump a beat. When he threw her a sly wink she looked away, forcing a smile onto her face and turning her attention back to Pansy. Hermione jumped as a foot touched hers under the table, her eyes flying back to Draco's face. A tiny smirk played on the corners of his mouth and she resisted the urge to lean across the table and slap him as his foot, now devoid of his shoe, ran slowly up the inside of her leg. She shifted in her seat, hating the fact her body was responding to his sneaky caress. Pansy ceased her talk, glancing at her watch, before standing up quickly and saying she was going to go and have a look out front. She had still not said who was joining them. With a smile to Hermione, Pansy placed a quick kiss on her husband's forehead, dashing away towards the front doors. The minute she was gone, Hermione reached down under the table and grasped the foot now resting in her lap, digging her nails in.
"Ouch, Granger," Draco snapped, withdrawing his foot and frowning at her. Hermione leant across the table, seething.
"What the hell are you playing at?" she hissed, her anger growing when he shrugged in reply. "This isn't a game, Draco."
"I thought games were supposed to be fun, and here I was believing you were enjoying yourself. I must have been mistaken," he replied, his low, husky voice sending a shiver down Hermione's spine. She closed her eyes, pushing the feeling away and sat up straight. She took a deep breath to calm both her temper and her desire, opening her eyes and giving Draco the sternest glare she could conjure.
"Just keep your hands, and feet, to yourself. This is hard enough as it is, Draco, without you making things more difficult. Do you have any idea what it is like to sit here talking to your wife with you right beside her?" Hermione said softly. Draco's expression did not change, and Hermione sighed regretfully. "Do you even care?" she added, picking up a menu and pretending to read it.
"Of course I care, Granger," Draco replied snappishly, leaning across the table towards her. He took the menu from her hands, his fingers brushing her skin lightly, his touch causing her to feel dizzy. Her reaction did not go unnoticed. Draco smirked, his eyes lighting with mischievous fire, his fingers weaving their way through hers. His thumb massaged the palm of her hand and Hermione bit her lip. They stared at one another, desire, need and guilt burning in Draco's silver eyes. "I want to see you later tonight," he said, his voice low and insistent, and Hermione found herself nodding, unable to refuse him and not sure if she wanted to. Draco released her hand abruptly, sitting back in his seat, his eyes floating over Hermione's head.
"Well," Pansy said lightly as she joined them once more. "We can finally order."
Hermione smiled appreciatively, realising this meant their mystery guest had arrived. She turned in her seat to see who it was, her mouth dropping open in shock as her eyes took in a very familiar face, framed with messy red hair. Her estranged husband looked uncomfortable, his hands moving subconsciously to the front of his shirt, smoothing the fabric down. He was wearing a pair of neat chocolate brown suit pants and a bone coloured shirt, one Hermione recognised as a Christmas gift from his mother.
"Ron!" she spluttered, knocking her knee on the underside of the table. She repressed a groan of pain, scowling instead and dropping her eyes to the ground.
"Hello, Hermione," Ron began, sliding into a chair beside her. He gave a cautious smile, his eyes dark and filled with pain, hope and longing. "How have you been?"
Without responding, Hermione swung back to face Pansy, who was wearing an expression of smugness mixed with fear. "What the hell were you thinking? Pansy!" she moaned, not caring if Ron could hear her.
"I said this was a bad idea," Draco drawled, smirking at his wife, who instantly looked embarrassed. He glanced at Ron, his smirk widening. "Thanks for coming, Weasley, but it seems my wife made a stupid mistake. Sorry for the inconvenience. Get yourself a drink on the way out."
"No, it's alright," Hermione found herself saying, looking at Pansy. Her friends face lit up into a grateful smile as she passed Ron a menu, telling him he could order whatever he wanted and that lunch was on them.
"I'm not paying for Weasley," Draco interjected rudely, snatching up his own menu with a scowl. "I don't mind paying for Granger, but I'm not paying for him. I'm not made of money."
Pansy rolled her eyes and patted his arm. "No one is asking you to pay for anything, dear. We all know how much you loathe parting with your money," she added waspishly.
"Maudite garce," Draco muttered under his breath, earning him a scowl from Pansy. Hermione had no idea what he had said, but Pansy's reaction and the scathing tone in Draco's voice was enough for her to know it had not been nice. Hermione watched Draco throw his wife a hateful glare, wondering again why they were married. It was clear that he despised her, and Hermione was certain Pansy was not happy being married to him. She never talked about their life together in any detail, and Hermione knew nothing about their marriage at all. She studied her menu, her eyes touching briefly on Draco's face. He glanced up, catching her gaze for a moment, his eyes burning into her skull. The waiter came and took their order, Hermione finding herself ordering a salad only, her appetite non-existent despite not eating that morning. With Draco across from her and Ron beside her, she feared any food she put into her mouth would come straight back up before it even touched her stomach. Silence fell around the table as their menus were collected, Pansy jumping in and engaging Ron in conversation quickly, filling the uncomfortable quiet with chatter. Hermione could sense her ex-husbands confusion. Like she had been, Ron was more than likely flabbergasted at Pansy's overtly chipper display.
By the time their meal had arrived, Hermione had not said more than three words to Ron and Draco had drunk his way through a bottle and a half of expensive wine, his comments growing ruder and more intrusive as time wore on. Pansy sat through her husband's behaviour, a long-suffering expression crossing her face whenever her smile and cheery demeanour faded. Throughout their meal, Ron and Pansy chatted about his job with the Department of Magical Games and Sports and her charity work, and by the end of the meal Pansy had promised to donate funds to some of the struggling quidditch teams in the league. After their plates were cleared and the dessert menus were placed on the table, Ron cleared his throat, turning towards Hermione. She met his gaze, her heart sinking at the hope and admiration burning in his eyes. She snuck a look at Pansy; the brunette was smiling, her hands clasped together and a faraway romantic look in her eyes.
"Hermione, I..." Ron began awkwardly.
"I'm going to get another bottle of wine," Draco announced suddenly, standing up. "Granger, come and help me choose," he suggested, offering Hermione his hand. She took it with a grateful smile, letting him pull her to her feet. Pansy tossed Draco a frustrated look and a sigh, shaking her head at him sadly. Hermione glanced at Ron quickly, but he would not look at her. His gaze was turned to his lap and she noticed he was fidgeting with his napkin. Suppressing a pang of guilt, Hermione followed Draco to the bar, leaving Ron with Pansy. Draco reached back and grabbed her arm, steering her past the bar and away from the dining area, leading her towards a darkened corner out of sight.
"What are you doing?" Hermione hissed at him when he slipped his arms around her waist, pressing her back against the wall.
"I've wanted to kiss you since you got here," Draco murmured in her ear, his lips brushing her lobe gently, turning her knees to water. "You left some delicious scratch marks on my back, Granger. That's against the rules," he admonished softly, kissing his way down her neck. Hermione sighed and let her head fall back, exposing her flesh to his lips. Her arms slid around his neck, her fingers massaging the base of his skull.
"This is so wrong," she whispered, shaking her head. He pulled away to look at her, his fingers trailing delicately through her long mane of hair.
"I know, but you love it," he stated, pressing his body against hers firmly. Hermione groaned and closed her eyes as he kissed her deeply and passionately, stealing the breath from her lungs and the thoughts from her head. "Je t'adore. Je ne veux pas vivre sans toi," he whispered against her skin, the unfamiliar words swirling around her head.
"Speak English, please," Hermione whispered back. Draco moved away from her suddenly, a sigh escaping his lips, and she frowned at him.
"Come on," he said simply, and Hermione hid a smile as he adjusted his pants. "Let's get that wine, get through the rest of this godforsaken lunch and get the hell out of here. Your darling estranged hubby is driving me nuts. If I hear one more word about quidditch I think I'll stick my wand through his scrawny chest."
"Why did she invite him?" Hermione asked, smoothing down her clothes and hair and following Draco back to the bar. In the distance, she could see Ron and Pansy sitting waiting for them. Pansy seemed to be doing most of the talking, with Ron nodding every now and again.
"Oh, my dear wife is playing matchmaker again. She thinks she owes it to you to try and fix your marriage," Draco replied, signalling the barman to bring him a bottle of the same wine he had before. "It would be nice if she paid that much attention to her own," he added in a low voice, but Hermione heard him. She stared at him, her mouth falling open at his words; he chuckled at her reaction, paying for the wine.
"I didn't think you cared," Hermione said softly, her eyes falling to the silver wedding band on Draco's finger. He shrugged, picking up the bottle of wine and examining the label.
"I don't care about her, not really, but I do care about my kids," he answered simply. Hermione blinked, the blood draining from her head.
"Kids?" she squeaked, holding the edge of the bar for support. Draco frowned at her, reaching out a long-fingered hand to steady her.
"Two kids, a boy and a girl. Hermione, I thought you knew that," he said, his voice a little shaky. Hermione shook her head, feeling her eyes fill with quick tears. She dropped her eyes, and Draco sighed, giving her hand a little squeeze. "We'll talk about it later, okay. Let's get back. This should be interesting. I think Weasley wants to ask you for a reconciliation," Draco added in a whisper, releasing her hand. Hermione followed him back through the tables, her head spinning. Her eyes fell to Pansy as they approached their table. Her friend had said nothing about her children. Hermione mentally slapped herself as she sat back down. If she had have known about the children, the first night with Draco would have been the last night. She was not a home wrecker. Her eyes met Draco's across the table and he smiled at her, pouring them all a glass of wine, Hermione feeling like she was floating outside her body.
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