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Chapter 18 : Pretenses
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“Hermione, this would look stunning on you!” Ginny Weasley was gushing, perhaps with too much enthusiasm for the gown. “The color is perfect for you…”
She held up a long formal evening gown of silver material….
“A bit much don’t you think? It’s not the Yule Ball for pity’s sake!”
“Yeah, I suppose…”Ginny grumbled back.
The two friends had been shopping all day. Ginny had her own dress, shoes, and bag picked out, wrapped, and set to be delivered to her at Hogwarts. Hermione, however, was disagreeable with everything she saw.
“Wait!” cried Ginny. “This, this is brilliant.”
Hermione huffed round the racks and stopped dead. It was brilliant. The dress was iridescent in color; not gold or silver, but both, and with tints of pink, blue—every color actually, depending on which way the light touched the fabric.
“Oh, Ginny… that fabric is lovely; it looks like the wings of a dragonfly.” Hermione reached out to touch the cloth. It was soft, satiny; draping around her fingers like liquid silk. “I like the length as well,” Hermione held the dress to her body spinning to the mirror behind them. The hem length was short, just above the knee and longer on each side, giving the dress a sexy lingerie feel. It was beaded along the deep neckline and the plunging back. When she tried it on, it hugged her curves beautifully presenting a slinky fit that would make any man drool. Ginny had found matching satin heels, the straps across the toe and ankle adorned with glittering moonstones. She helped Hermione step into the slippers.
“What do you think for my hair, up or down?” Hermione pirouetted in front of a large tri-mirror holding her mass of curls atop her head.
“You know, I think down; just big sexy hair. I think this pretty dress calls for vamped up hair.”
The girls laughed. “So do you think Harry and Draco will be spending this much time getting ready for our date?” Ginny asked, comically.
“Well,” replied Hermione, “Harry? No. Draco? Probably more time.” She sniggered.
They paid the store mistress and arranged for Hermione’s packages to be magicked to Hogwarts gates for post pick up.
As the two friends stepped out into the cobbled path, a blonde blur brushed past them in a flurry of bright amethyst robes and heavy, flowery scents.
“Oh!” clucked a tight, high-pitched voice. “Hermione Granger! Well, fancy seeing you here. I though you’d left England to go to Australia, or something?” The tall flaxen haired witch cracked a phony smile and issued forth a simpering snigger.
Lavender Brown was smirking down at a stunned Hermione. “I guess I thought there was nothing left for you here,” she continued in a sickly sweet tone.
Hermione was momentarily knocked for six, never expecting to run into the woman who had stolen her childhood sweetheart, the ‘supposed’ love of her life. She turned ghostly pale, save for two crimson patches on her cheeks, denoting the strong revulsion pounding in her chest.
Ginny glanced quickly to Hermione and back to Lavender, reading her friend’s face in an instant. The fiery redhead’s eyes narrowed, “Why Lavender Brown, where have you been hiding yourself? You aren’t still pining after my brother are you?”
The pretentious blonde turned and looked down her nose at Ginny. “Ron and I are very much a couple, but you wouldn’t know, being all wrapped up in starting your illustrious career. Hoping Poppy Pomfrey soon breathes her last, are you?”
“If I were you, Lav, I’d stick to things I knew what I was talking about,” Ginny seethed through a fake smile.
“Yes,” Hermione piped up, mastering her emotions, “things like sneaking round behind people’s backs, bending over for other people’s boyfriends, taking it in the rear like a dirty whore…”
Lavender’s big blue eyes very nearly popped from her head, her mouth falling open and hanging slack. The huge Hairless Sphinx she carried hissed and spit, as Lavender tightened her grasp on the hideous creature.
Hermione went on, “Oh, yes, I know all about your little tryst. Did you two think I didn’t know? I saw you both, you know. That day, in my bed.”
A strange sound came from Lavender’s mouth, much like the croak of a dying frog.
Hermione was on a roll now, her venomous tone slicing like a hot knife through butter. “And after confronting the cheating bastard, I promptly kicked his sodding arse to the curb. He begged me not to, of course, but after he had his dick in your community hole…well, there was no fucking way I’d take him back. So that’s the reason, Lavender, that the two of you are very much a couple.”
Ginny threw her head back and hooted with laughter, as Hermione linked arms with the redhead. They turned in unison leaving the disgruntled Ms. Brown staring after them in exasperated disbelief.
When the two Gryffindor cohorts were well out of earshot, Ginny spoke. “Flamel’s flaming hemorrhoids, Hermione! I never knew you could dish it out like that! Remind me never to get on your bad side,” she squeaked out through stifled gasps of laughter.
“Bugger,” muttered Hermione, murderously. “If I don’t see her for a millennium it will be too soon—stupid cow.”
“I’m with you there. It’s too bad; we probably will, if Ron continues to be the arse that he always was… Let’s have tea, and then get back. Our reservations are at eight o’clock. Harry won’t be happy if he has to wait for the two of us, and Draco.
They laughed again, intending to pop by the magical tearoom, Tabitha’s Teas, before heading back to the castle to get ready for their Valentine dates.
Jazzy piano music wafted towards the foursome as the hostess led them to a semi-secluded table in the best section of the restaurant. Ginny, Harry, Hermione and Draco slid into the crescent shaped, high-backed booth.
“This is a nice place, yeah?” said Harry. None but Ginny answered.
“Yes, I think so. Amba. That’s an odd name don’t you think?”
Hermione shrugged. “Well, I hear they’ve some of the best Cosmopolitans in London.”
“Well, let’s not just take them at their word,” scoffed Draco. “We need to test that theory. Four Cosmo’s then? Come on Potter, you’re good for it—Ministry official and distinguished Professor.”
“Right.” Harry gave Draco an insincere grin.
As if on cue, the waitress appeared to take their drink order and returned in a flash with four famous Cosmos. After she scurried away, Draco slid his arm round Hermione.
“You look lovely,” he whispered, briefly nuzzling his nose behind her ear. “And you smell like apple blossoms. Is that some sort of pheromone love potion, you devious witch?”
“No,’ laughed Hermione. “It’s Muggle, actually. Do you like it?” She was feeling playful, and already a bit tipsy, as the sweetly tart pink alcohol concoction absorbed into her empty stomach.
“Mmm,” moaned Ginny. “These are scrumptious.”
Harry looked bad-tempered. “Hrump, I didn’t know the blasted thing was pink! This drink is for birds!”
“Grow up Potter,” scoffed Malfoy. “Aren’t you comfortable enough in your masculinity by now to move beyond the color of your drink?”
“And I could ask you if you’re comfortable with looking like a poof ordering a pink cocktail?”
“Better to be a poof then a priss—!“
“All right, all right,” interrupted Hermione. “No bickering and arguing tonight. Let’s just let bygones be bygones and have a nice evening. Please?”
“I’m game,” sneered Draco as he stared at Harry and mockingly took a gulp of his drink.
“Fine. But I will not drink this fru fru rubbish.” Harry waved for the waitress and arranged for a whiskey and water, hold the water.
“Well,” Hermione cut in, “no sense in letting a perfectly good Cosmopolitan go to waste. Harry? Do you mind?” She was already lifting Harry’s discarded drink to her lips.
“Please. Be my guest.”
“Okay kiddies. I need to find the loo.” Draco was prodding Hermione to let him out of the booth.
Harry rolled his eyes. “We just sat down five minutes ago. What? You need to check your make-up? Powder your nose?”
“Who are you, my keeper? Really, Potter, you always have had an unhealthy obsession with my comings and goings.” Draco nudged Hermione out of the crescent shaped booth and strode through the dinning room like he owned the place.
Harry just shook his head. This jabbing and jibing was getting to be ‘their’ thing. It was very nearly entertaining.
Suddenly, Ginny gasped. “I need to contact Mum, and let her know that I got her owl this morning with the Valentine chocolates… she’ll be itching to know. Oh, shite, you know how she is… I’ll just duck out to send my patronus… Hermione, dear, do take it easy. Those drinks are perfume going in, sewage coming out.”
Hermione crinkled her nose. “Ewww, Ginny. You’re always so graphic,” she called after her friend, a bit too loudly, nearly slipping out of her seat.
“Okay, no more for you. Didn’t you eat anything today, Hermione?”
“No, I’ve hardly had time for personal hygiene with the new term underway. I mean, seriously. Draco and I hardly have time together to--”
“Yeah, right then,” interjected Harry, not wanting details about his friend-like-a-sister’s relationship with his old school rival. Especially when said friend was getting smashed off her arse.
Ten minutes later, Ginny and Draco had still not returned and Harry had already put off ordering the entrees twice. “Where the bloody hell are they? Maybe Malfoy’s in the boys’ lav, crying…” he added, sniggering to himself. He’d already downed three whiskeys and was on the fourth.
Hermione was taking the first sip of her third drink. “Mmm, these are so easy to suck right down!”
“Here, eat some bread… or we’ll be carrying you out of here.”
Hermione made a highly unladylike noise from tying to unsuccessfully hold in a laugh. “Harry,” she whispered, as if what she was about to say was top secret, “You’re half in the bag yourself! I think they’ll be carrying us both out of here.” They sputtered and chuckled as the thoroughly annoyed waitress returned to insist they order.
Beyond the hostess station, Draco peeked into the dinning room, Ginny crouching behind him.
“Did you see where they were seated?” she hissed, pulling on Draco’s sleeve. ‘They’ just happened to be Ron and Lavender. Draco had seen them come in the front doors just as Ginny was exiting the ladies’ loo.
“Hey, watch it Red. That’s cashmere, not some mountain goat homespun,” Draco snarled, pulling his arm from her clutches.
“Piss off!" Ginny spat. "And focus! We’ve got to get Hermione out of here now! Not only is Ron here with Lavender, but Mum’s patronus just relayed that he’s planning on asking her to marry him—publicly! Oh shite, shite, shite!”
“Quiet! Listen, you walk out and collapse; I’ll rush in and revive you, then we’ll have to leave.”
“And you’re within the inner circle of the Order of the Phoenix? That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. Besides, the commotion would alert Ron and Lavender—they’re three tables from our booth! Shite, shite SHITE!”
“Shut it! Honestly, no wonder Potter left you home on his field trip to capture the Dark Lord… I never knew you were such a drama queen.”
“Who are you calling ‘drama queen’? I’m not the one who had to be carried like a little girl to Madame Pomfrey after that big bad hippogriff scratched your arm, you soddy little prick!”
“I’ll have you know my arm was broken.”
“ ‘Oh, help me! I’m dying. It killed me… it killed me.’” Ginny snorted with laughter.
“Hey,” interrupted Harry, “Get your arses over to the table so we can order.”
“Potter? Are you pissed? You smell like a distillery. Oh, fuck.”
“The waitress is pissed off, major… and Hermione is arse-over-tit.”
Draco and Ginny exchanged knowing glances. “Right,” replied Draco, “Well, then, we’d better leave if Hermione is too brassed to enjoy her meal. Right, Red?”
“Right, we’d better be getting on Harry,” agreed Ginny, emphatically.
“Bollocks. The evening’s just begun.” Harry yanked on Ginny’s hand, practically dragging her back to their table. Draco had no choice but to follow.
“Dracoooo!” crooned Hermione, “There you are. I was wondering where you got to…”
Draco took in the sight of an extremely pissed Hermione. “Darling, we really should go. I’ve decided I just cannot spend one more moment in this despicable Muggle hovel.”
Hermione shrieked with laughter. “Oh, Draco! You are a riot!” She made a face and lowered her voice to mock him. “ ‘Muggle hovel.’”
Draco hissed at Ginny. “Help, here?”
“Hermione, dear. You’re a tad indisposed…. We really should be getting on—“
A nearby disturbance stopped her mid-sentence. They were too late. Two tables away, Ron was on bended knee in front of Lavender, and all the people in the restaurant were alternately shushing each other, and oo-ing and ah-ing.
The maître d’ hurriedly shoved a microphone in Ron’s face, giving him no choice but to take it.
Hermione had gathered wits enough to join the rest of the patrons in silent anticipation.
“Uh, is this thing working?” Ron’s voice boomed out, followed by an earsplitting whine of feedback. Nervous titters rippled through the crowed.
“Bloody hell!” whispered Harry, with eyes wide and staring, gliding quickly from Ron to Hermione.
“Yeah, you can say that again. I told you we should have left! ” said Ginny, rancorously.
“Bloody hell!” Harry unconsciously complied, right before Ginny smacked him on the arm. Hard.
Passive confusion masked Hermione’s jolly appearance as she slowly recognized what was about to happen. Her world stopped moving. The room was suddenly too close, too quiet, and too real. She felt cold, but little beads of perspiration sprang up on the back of her neck, and her chest. She wished with all her might she was anywhere but here, now, in this moment.
“Lavender,” continued Ron, “You’ve made me a happy man. I’d like to try to make you happy too, forever. Be my wife?”
“OOOHH!” Lavender yelped. “Yes, yes. YES!” She leapt from her chair, crashing into Ron and sending him back so they were both sprawled on the floor. The other diners erupted in applause and laughter as the newly engaged couple climbed back into their seats.
With a pained expression, Harry turned to Draco, motioning towards the door. Draco nodded, taking Hermione’s arm, but she would have none of it. She pulled violently from his grip.
“Not until I’ve had my say!” The restaurant patrons were silenced by her raging tone. All looked uncomfortable, yet eager, for what was to come next.
She swaggered to the happy couple’s table, eyes narrowed to slits that rivaled the evil glare of Voldemort himself. Ron looked up, and his mouth fell open. His now pallid face twitched.
“So Ronald,” she seethed through clenched teeth, “you’ve finally decided to get married? Finally found the right woman, eh?”
“Quiet!” she roared. “There are a few things I need to get off my chest.” Her voice was softer, but full of foreboding. She seemed to collect herself, but in an ominous way. Much like the point of equilibrium before momentum takes hold, sways the balance and whatever titters precariously on the edge crashes down, creating chaos and havoc.
“You and I were supposed to get married. I was waiting and waiting, and WAITING for you to ask me, wondering when you would do it; how you would do it. I certainly didn’t think it would be very romantic, say, in a fancy restaurant such as this one!” She swung her arms round haphazardly. “But alas, it wasn’t meant to be was it?”
“Shut-- your-- sodding-- MOUTH!” Ron winced at her every word, whilst Lavender turned consecutively darkening shades of violet.
“It wasn’t meant to be, because you were CHEATING on me with THIS slag.” She pointed dramatically at Lavender who sank down in her chair. The dinner guests made a loud collective gasp. Hermione turned to address the whole dinning room.
“I get home early from a Transfiguration conference at Beauxbatons…,” she paused to sniffle, catching her breath.
Ginny was frozen in shock. Harry grimaced and swayed slightly. Draco stood stock still, taking in the scene with the rest of the present company.
“…and I walk in to find him having it off with this filthy little trollop!”
Another gasping cry rose up from the patrons. Even the wait staff was held in rapt attention.
She rounded back on Ron. “You smarmy little bastard! You completely shafted me, Ronald Weasley! You’re a cowardly wanker. So be my guest and marry your toe rag of a girlfriend.”
“Ron!” screamed Lavender, indignantly. “Are you just going to sit there and let her talk about me like that?!”
“Lav, she’s totally ramped off her face! Blimey, what can I say?”
“And you!” Hermione turned her venom on the befuddled blonde. “Congratulations. You’ve got yourself a barmy loser, who’s still his mummy’s little nipper. I hope you and Molly get on well because your ‘Won Won’ still needs his nappies changed from time to time!”
With that, she spun on her heel, nearly falling. Draco caught her arm, steadying her gait as they fled the restaurant.
Ron, completely humiliated, stood and shouted after her. “Well at least you’re not as uptight as you used to be!”
“Nice Ron, really nice,” scolded Ginny. “You always had impeccable timing!” She was shaking her head in disgust.
“What?! How was I to know your little entourage would be here tonight? And why in bloody hell is Hermione with Malfoy?”
“Oh, Ronald!” Ginny spat disdainfully, as she passed him. “You are a blind fool!”
“Hermione! That was fantastic!” Harry commented animatedly, nodding his head and grinning like an idiot.
Ginny, having caught up to the trio, poked him hard in the ribs, her scowl communicating without words that he should just keep his mouth shut. Draco on the other hand, was dourly silent; a strange expression on his face; a grim mix of concentration and contemplation.
His mouth barely moved as he sneered ominously through clenched teeth, “You lot take care of Hermione and get her back to the school. I’ve some business to take care of.”
“Hold up, Malfoy,” warned Harry, “I think I know what sort of business you’re blustering on about.”
But Draco had already turned his back and was striding back toward the establishment, determination in every step.
“Draco, mate, no need to kick it off right here,” called Harry tightly.
“Just get Hermione out of here,” was Draco’s only reply.
Draco apparated just outside Hogwarts’ gates to find the sullen Harry, Ginny and Hermione. Ginny was hugging Hermione as she quietly cried.
Harry was leaning back against the iron rods of the gate looking terribly uncomfortable. “Well, I see you took care of business…” He gave a quick toss of his head, as he glanced at Draco’s left hand, taking in the bloodied knuckles.
Draco snorted sardonically, “No one insults Hermione in my presence and gets away with it.”
Without another word, he walked calmly to Ginny, scooped up Hermione in his arms and carried her inside the castle.
* End Chap
A/N: My apologies for the seriously long time it took for this update. Just so you all know, I WILL be finishing this fic. I hope you enjoyed this chapter. It was great fun to write :D
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