They had already been in France for almost three weeks and they had been to so many lectures but still had many more to come. Hermione, who was coping better now due to Draco’s continual tutelage in French, found that she managed to enjoy the lectures far more than she had before. Although she did have to put up with Draco’s constant muttering -about Jasper- under his breath, however he too seemed to be enjoying them much more.
It was on a particular cold Sunday afternoon, in which they had no lectures to attend that Draco went down to the kitchen to find Hermione dressed in cropped jeans, a tank top and an apron. And cooking no less.
“What are you doing?” he laughed as he watched her taste the soup on the stove.
“Cooking,” she replied and reached for some salt.
“Why? The elf can cook,”
“Cici is gone. I’ve sent her to work at Hogwarts for the next three weeks,” she replied casually but inside she feared his reaction. Draco simply stood there, dumbfounded, looking like he had just been hit over the head with a pan. He was silent for a few more moments until he managed to choke out, “You what?” in a strained voice.
“I. Sent. Her. To. Work. At. Hogwarts.” Hermione replied slowly and loudly. A few more moments of silence until Draco asked in a deadpan voice that suggested he thought her mentally deranged, “Why? Who’s going to clean the house and cook and all else?”
“I am.” Hermione replied. He was silent and shocked once more, giving her time to check up on her soup and the fish she had in the oven. Draco simply took a seat at the kitchen island and stared at her as she did all this. Was there anything she couldn’t do?
“You like chicken noodle soup?” Hermione asked, breaking through his train of not so innocent thoughts and he nodded his answer. She smiled and turned back to the soup, leaving him to ponder how she could make him breathless with the simplest of things.
During Dinner, the topic strayed from Hermione’s cooking to Jasper and Gabriella.
“He’s such an idiot. Everyone thinks he’s so perfect but he isn’t. There’s something off about him,” he said bitterly.
“Is that jealousy I detect?” Hermione smirked as she raised a glass of red wine to her lips and her smile hid behind the glass. Draco didn’t reply, but was adamantly staring down at the tablecloth, trying hard not to let his mind wander to the many fantasies he had been having lately. Finally he looked up, coughed a little, threw his shoulders back proudly and said arrogantly, “No. We Malfoys are never jealous, for we know that we are the best in everything,”
“You keep telling yourself that,” she smiled in amusement, “I just don’t get why you hate him. He’s pretty terrific, he’s smart and funny and if you’d stop being so stubborn and get to know him you’ll realize how much you and Jasper have in common.
Draco mocked looking highly scandalized and she laughed as he said, “I very much doubt it, Miss Granger. I, a noble and well-bred pureblooded Malfoy would have absolutely nothing in common with that smooth talking excuse for a wizard. He’s too squeaky clean for my liking. At least Potter had a rule-breaking streak to him, if he wasn’t trying to save the wizarding world every few days or so, he wouldn’t be so bad,” Hermione stared on in amazement; Draco had just paid Harry a compliment. “It’s just the way everyone talks about Lesair, you’d think he was a walking miracle. He seems too perfect to be true. Nobody is that good.”
“Of course he isn’t perfect! But he is pretty brilliant and it’s not fair that you always belittle him when you don’t know the first thing about him. You’re both excellent healers, you both love Quidditch, you’re both from old wizarding families and you both think that Gabriella Laverne is a charming witch,” not bothering to hide her derision she added, “Although that last point is beyond any logical reasoning to me.”
With a smug smirk, Draco crossed his arms over his chest and teased, “Now who’s doing the belittling? For someone so quick to jump to Lesair’s defence, you are awfully judgemental of a girl you haven’t taken the liberty to know. You keep going about how I never say anything nice about Lesair while you’re making snide comments about Gabriella behind her back. At least I have the decency to say it to his face. Who knew you could be so catty, Hermione,”
“I am not catty!” she said vehemently, “Besides she started it all with her rude comments about my accent and hair. And anyway you always pick on Jasper first. He wouldn’t start anything like that, he’s too nice.”
Draco secretly wanted to tell her that she was far too blind to see past Lesair’s façade of ‘sweet, innocent, handsome young healer’ but refrained himself, knowing it would only result in him being hexed. So, he changed the subject.
“I got a letter from McGonogal.”
“McGonogal. She sent a letter inviting us to visit a theatre with her, the exchange students and some kids from Beauxbatons. Apparently, we’re going to see a play.” Hermione’s looked up curiously; they were going to a magical theatre? She was going to see a magical play with Draco Malfoy, nonetheless. Well, that would certainly turn out to be a memorable day.
“When is it?” she asked keenly.
“Sunday. We’re allowed to bring a guest each and I think I’ll invite Gabriella,” he watched the impact those words had on Hermione and with smug satisfaction he saw how her back stiffened considerably and her voice became much more icier. But then she turned the tables on him.
“I think I’ll invite Jasper,” Draco’s eyes hardened at that and they talked considerably less for the remainder of Dinner.
Sunday dawned sunny but unbelievably frosty. Hermione wore some comfy black drainpipe jeans and a warm green turtleneck and she wrapped a scarf around her neck for good measure. She ran downstairs to find that the atmosphere in the drawing room was thicker than cold custard; Jasper and Gabriella had arrived. Draco was sat on one end of the couch looking very classy in black trousers, a forest green shirt and a silk blazer whereas Jasper sat on the other end looking equally smart and Gabriella was sat in the middle looking between the two with apprehension. She looked very pretty in a black skirt and a peach satin blouse that brought out the colour of her eyes.
Hermione cleared her throat to get their attention and they all turned round. Jasper smiled and rose to greet her, Draco simply stared on and Gabriella smiled slightly.
“Bonjour Hermione,” Jasper greeted and kissed her hand. Gabriella noted that Draco’s glare became even colder.
“Good morning Jasper,” Hermione said, shivering at the smoothness of his lips at her hand before she turned to look at Draco, a small, barely noticeable smile on her lips and asked, “Ready?”
“What does it look like?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. Rolling her eyes at him, Hermione turned to Gabriella and against her own will said pleasantly, “Good morning Gabriella,”
“Bonjour Hermione. How are you?” Gabriella smiled in return.
Once all the ‘Good morning’s and How are you’s?’ were done, they all took it in turn to travel to the Beauxbatons Academy via Floo powder. McGonogal and Madame Maxime greeted them in the VIP quarters of the school that were reserved for ministry officials and such. Immediately Madam Maxime rushed to hug Gabriella and Jasper whereas McGonogal kept her cool and warmly shook hands with Draco and gave Hermione a quick, affectionate hug.
“Thank you for inviting us to come along professor,” Hermione smiled and when Draco simply stood and stared at McGonogal she poked him hard in the ribs with her elbow as to get the message and he managed to force out a “Yes, thank you so much,”
McGonogal left to talk with Gabriella and Jasper and Draco turned to face Hermione, massaging his sore side. “God, what was that for?” he grumbled.
“A little courtesy won’t kill you,” she said and put on a smile as Madam Maxime came to greet them.
Finally, they get onto the Academy autobus with the students and began to make their way to the theatre. Hermione and Draco met the exchange students, Dennis Creevey (a Gryffindor) and Amy Lucien (a Slytherin who’s father Draco knew very well). Hermione let Draco sit and stare out of the bus window whilst she talked with the Beauxbatons students. She found Fleur’s sister sat at the back with her friends and smiled as they laid eyes on each other. She sat back down opposite Draco and Gabriella and next to Jasper.
“Do you know that the theatre is set in the charming village of Monrelielle?” Jasper asked her softly, “I’ve read several articles about it and I’ve heard that it has been compared to your eminent Hogsmeade,”
Draco was listening but only vaguely.
“Really?” Hermione asked curiously. “Although, I’m sure it’s not as notorious for having haunted dwellings,” a grin had found her way to her lips and she glanced casually at Draco. Jasper replied but Draco did not take his answer in as he had just felt Gabriella’s fingers lace with his. He turned to face her, a weary smile upon his lips.
“I was wondering if maybe Jasper and Hermione would like to accompany us on a tour of the village?” she suggested innocently examining their laced hands. At the mention of her name Hermione’s head snapped up and she wasn’t happy to see Gabriella’s hand intertwined with Draco’s.
“Excuse me Gabriella? You were saying?”
“Yes, well me and Draco thought it might be a good idea for you and Jasper to join us as we go around the village before we go to see the play,” Draco’s eyes narrowed as Gabriella included him in that sentence. In fact, there was a list of a hundred things he’d rather do than spend the day with Jasper Lesair waiting to be conducted.
Hermione turned to Jasper who shrugged and said, “Your choice,”. She turned back round and her eyes lingered on Draco for a short while and she decided she would like to spend the day with him, even if she did have to see Gabriella flirt and act coy all over him. She had wanted to see the play with him especially.
“We’d love to join you,” she beamed and turned back to her conversation with Jasper. Once in the village, they walked round taking in the sights and stopping at several shops. Draco and Jasper insisted that they spend at least fifteen minutes in the Quidditch shop and Hermione and Gabriella looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Jasper announced that he was to buy the latest version of the Firebolt and Draco had to respond with the little fact that he had already purchased an Arial360, the latest model and the English Quidditch team’s choice of brooms for the upcoming Quidditch world cup. This begun a fierce battle between the two to prove their superiority of the other. When Jasper said that he was a 4th generation pureblood wizard, Draco had to announce that he was a 6th generation wizard from one of the wealthiest and most influential pureblood families in England.
Meanwhile despite their differences, Hermione and Gabriella seemed to be getting along fine. Gabriella was of a wealthy and influential family, used to the finest things galleons could buy, expensive robes, extravagant vacations, society dinners and a steady stream of boyfriends. Hermione on the other hand, was more interested in books than fashion, stubborn, highly intelligent, uneasy in crowds and still slightly uncomfortable with her late-blooming beauty. In spite of their biases against each other, they had several nice conversations and managed to dispel some of their prejudgements they might’ve had about the other.
However, notwithstanding the superiority battle between the two, Draco managed to say a few impartial words to Jasper and not tease him once. Hermione was very impressed; it seemed to her that he was making a point that he could go a day without teasing someone, even if it was difficult for him.
As Jasper had said, Monrelielle was very similar to Hogsmeade; it had joke shops, sweet shops, cafés, post offices and even a pub very like the Three Broomsticks but without the familiar faces and butterbeer. It was set beautifully in a valley, two snow-capped mountains piercing the horizon. Finally at three o’clock they made their way to the theatre and began to troop in and take their seats. Jasper wanted to sit as far away from Draco as possible but Hermione wanted to sit next to Draco, as she had desperately wanted to see the play with him. In the end, they ended up sitting next to Madam Maxime, in seats a row above Draco and Gabriella. The play itself was magnificent, even though Hermione could not understand some parts, she got the general gist of the plot. She did not pay attention to the end of the play however, when the lead actor was delivering his gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, emotional farewell to his dying love, as a loud shriek sounded from beside her and she turned round to say that Jasper had fallen asleep -now awake- and had rested his head on Madam Maxime large arm, hugging it like a pillow. He was blushing so much, his resemblance to a tomato was award winning. Draco on the other hand was laughing so much, he had slid out of his seat. The only other time she had seen him laughing this much was during a potions lesson in seventh year when Ron’s potion had erupted into his face and he had ended up with violent boils all over his face. The play ended there and they all went back to the autobus, chatting happily about what had just happened.
Jasper remained quiet throughout most of the ride, still embarrassed from that faux pas and Draco was still laughing, teasing him mercilessly.
“That’s enough, Draco. It could’ve happened to anyone,” Hermione said sternly, but she had to force back a laugh at the look of utter horror on Madame Maxime’ face when Jasper had rested his head on her arm. Draco caught a lingering trace of her sweet smile and he couldn’t help but to smirk. He knew she found it as funny as he did, but she liked Lesair too much to hurt his pride further.
Jasper was too tired to get into a verbal argument with Hermione’s partner, so he tried to ignore Draco’s jibes, but he also knew that Draco’s taunts worked to his advantage in winning Hermione over. He might not be the most perceptive person but he wasn’t blind either. It was obvious to everyone who attended the lectures that a drastic change had occurred between the two St Mungo’s representatives after the trip to the museum. At first, they barely seemed to tolerate each other, but since the museum trip they were much too ‘chummy’ for Jasper’s taste. They had even begun calling each other by their first names. Ever since the trip, Jasper had realized that Draco was more of a threat of Hermione’s affections than he had originally thought. In the past fortnight she had tried to cut some of their dates or walks around muggle Paris short with flimsy excuses, but Jasper got the distinct impression that she wanted to be around Draco more. He would point this out and she would empathically deny it and would end up staying longer with him, which is what he had wanted anyway.
Sensing Hermione’s growing agitation at Draco’s taunting, Jasper took the opportunity to reach over and twine his fingers through hers and kiss her below the ear. These simple gestures finally put an end to Draco’s laughing. Hermione nervously looked at both boys, from Draco’s well-disguised bitterness to Jasper’s triumph but she did not pull her hand away, drawn to the warmth of his hand.
Gabriella watched the scene on front of her with interest. Since their arrival, Gabriella had gotten the sense that there was much more to Draco and Hermione’s ‘relationship’ than either was willing to admit. They no longer attacked each other maliciously or needled each other. The looks that passed between them were too fiery to be rooted in disgust. She found herself jealous of Hermione, smart, bookish, outspoken Hermione Granger. How many times had she seen Draco and Hermione discussing historical events, house elves rights and the future of the wizarding society? Sure, she could turn heads whenever she wanted to but Hermione had the ability to make people listen to her. She knew, Hermione thought of her as nothing more than just a pretty face and Draco felt that she was just another flaky blonde, but Gabriella was actually quite observant, especially when it came to matters of the heart.
In those days when Draco was extremely contemptuous towards Hermione, she had managed to find out that the centre of all this was a letter after he had irritably mumbled something about it. He would barely say two words to her despite her efforts to distract him. She had never seen anyone as bitter and ire-filled as she had seen him in those few days. She had barely recognized him a day after the museum trip; he had been laughing and smiling and looked as if a terrible weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
He still mad time to see her and take walks and such but she knew it was most likely because she was Gabriella Laverne, daughter of the French minister of magic. Draco would not be the first or the last boy who kept her company just for her beauty and family connections. She liked Draco, liked him a lot and she wanted things to be different with him, to be special. But he had been acting strangely the past week or so. He would get these far-off looks on his face, like he was swimming in pleasant thoughts or a look of dread would creep into his eyes. When she would ask him about it, he would assure her that he was fine, simply a little tired. Several of the other female representatives whom she knew had remarked how much Draco’s eyes roamed to Hermione whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. Gabriella had noticed this well but kept lying to herself that she was imagining it. She had also noticed how Draco would flinch involuntarily whenever Jasper would put his arm about Hermione’s waist or take hold of her hand as he had done so just now. He had been teasing Jasper mercilessly about the incident during the play but his mirth had halted abruptly the moment Jasper’s hand had brushed up against Hermione’s. You didn’t have to be part of the ministry’s think tank to work out what was going on.
Draco stared out of the train window, watching the dark countryside whiz past but not really seeing it. He was ruminating on the day’s events and had come to a conclusion about Jasper. After spending the whole day with the Frenchman, Draco decided he no longer wanted to hex Jasper on sight. Now he wanted to smash the Frenchman’s perfectly chiselled nose with his bare hands and then break both of his arms so there would be none to wrap around Hermione’s waist. He hadn’t even realized he was thinking such thoughts until Gabriella asked, “Draco, why are you grinning so much? Are you still thinking about our walk yesterday?” Draco reached around her shoulders, happily noting Hermione’s disapproving glare and gently kissed Gabriella’s forehead. Gabriella began to talk about their recent walk and how much she had enjoyed it but Draco’s thoughts were not filled with flowers and romance. They were filled with broken noses, crushed bones and fat lips and he smiled contently to himself.
A/N: Typical Draco, isn’t it? Always so mocking, so scornful. I’m promising a vicarious next chapter that I hope y’all will like. Reviews are love, so please leave me one.