A/N: dracosgem beta read this chapter, thank you so much for being so fast! You're the best :)
Warning: There are lots of s e x u a l i n n u e n d o e s in this chapter, too.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.
In Chapter Seven:
“If I've interpreted the variables correctly – especially the rather significant one that...presented itself this morning – there might be an inkling towards some sort of physical interest.”
“That sounds about right,” Draco gave her a crooked smirk. “And if your conclusion happened to be correct... What would you say?”
“Granger, I've been meaning to ask you... What in the name of Merlin is that?”
Draco was pointing at the old-fashioned television that sat in the corner of the living room on a small cabinet. There was a befuddled expression on his face.
“That's a television. Muggles use it for entertainment and spreading news around the world,” Hermione told him. “There are all kinds of shows and movies on TV.”
“Shows and moo-vees? What are those?”
“Well... I guess it's a bit like reading a book, but instead of reading you see what happens. Like in plays. I wish I could show you, but the TV doesn't work,” she sighed. “There's too much protective magic in the house. The wireless is fine, but that shouldn't be a surprise since wizards use them all the time.”
Draco shook his head a bit. “Crazy Muggles and their inventions.”
“It's not crazy! It's a lot of fun,” Hermione contradicted with clear enthusiasm in her voice. She hopped off the sofa, sat down on the floor in front of the TV and threw open the cabinet doors. “I really wish it functioned, there are so many great videos in here: Titanic, Sleepless in Seattle, Sense and Sensibility, Shakespeare in Love, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast...”
“What was that last one?” he chuckled.
“Beauty and the Beast... Why?”
“What kind of a beast are we talking about?” he asked in return, the corners of his mouth curving into a grin. “If it's what I think it is, I bet you'd just love to read a book with that title.”
She gave him a stern look, but the corners of her mouth were twitching, too. “It's not that kind of a beast.”
“What a shame,” Draco grinned. “It would've made an interesting moo-vee. But if it's not that kind of a beast, what's the story about then?”
Hermione grabbed the Beauty and the Beast video, closed the cabinet doors and took a seat next to the boy again. She furrowed her brows a bit as she studied the cover of the familiar movie. How could she describe the story without hinting at the similarities between it and their own situation?
“Well... There's this prince who's really selfish and doesn't care about anyone besides himself. One day a curse is placed upon him and it turns him into a beast,” she started her explanation.
The silence prompted her to go on, and she stole a glance at Draco. The hard part was about to begin. “He has to learn how to love and be loved in return before his twenty-first birthday, or he'll remain a beast forever.”
“Twenty-first birthday,” he repeated, blinking slowly. He would turn 21 in less than a year. “Well, does he learn to...you know?”
“He does,” Hermione admitted, pausing to pick her next words very carefully. "A girl called Belle comes to live with him in his castle, and they form a bond as time passes. It's the thought of losing the other that makes them realise how they feel.”
Draco shifted nervously. He was clearly making the connections.
“I see,” he uttered tensely.
“It's not so serious all the time,” she quickly added. “There are these silly little household items that sing and dance – they're actually the servants, but the curse changed them too. And the songs are really funny.”
She twirled the video in her hands nervously. The atmosphere could not have been any more awkward. If only she could read his thoughts... Did he think she thought he was doomed and wanted to save him from the same destiny? She didn't think that, not at all. Well, at least not that much. Hermione was torn in two directions. On one hand, she didn't want Draco to get the wrong idea. On the other hand, she didn't want to explain herself in case she was wrong about her assumptions regarding what he was thinking.
The silence was broken as Ginny suddenly entered the room. Hermione heaved a sigh of relief at the interruption.
“There you are,” Ginny smiled widely. The tone of her voice led Hermione to believe that the girl was pleased to catch her friend in Draco's company. “Ooh, are you going to watch Beauty and the Beast?”
“The TV doesn't work,” Hermione told the redhead.
“What a shame. She's made me watch that movie countless times over the years, it would have been nice to see someone suffer the same fate,” Ginny told Draco with a laugh. “Sure, it's a good one, but I think Hermione relates to the brown-haired bookworm more than I do.”
It felt like a bucket of cold water had been poured over Hermione. She gulped and glanced at Draco cautiously, only to find him looking at her, his eyebrows raised. Ginny didn't notice.
“Anyways, do you mind if I join you guys in a while? I'll just make myself a cup of tea first, it's a bit chilly in here. You want some?” The duo on the sofa shook their heads in unison. “Alrighty then, I'll be back in a minute.”
She twirled around and left the room, leaving Hermione and Draco alone in the tension-filled silence. It didn't last for long.
“So, that Belle girl is a bookworm, huh?” he mused with a smirk. “With brown hair, no less. Sounds like someone I know.”
“It's just a coincidence,” Hermione murmured without meeting his gaze.
“I'm sure it is,” he agreed. With a badly concealed grin and fake casualness, he then proceeded to inch closer to her, stretching his arms and resting one of them on the back of the couch directly behind her. “Just like me holding you near is a coincidence.”
“Stop that,” she swatted the arm away. ”Ginny will get suspicious.”
She could have bitten her head off for her slip of the tongue. “Uh, nothing really... She just thinks there's something going on. You know, between you and me.”
“She does?” Draco raised an eyebrow in amusement. “Well that just won't do. We obviously have to distract her.” He leaned closer and lowered his voice into a conspiratory murmur. “It'll be our little secret.”
Hermione turned towards him to remind him that there really wasn't a secret in the first place, but her breath hitched in her throat as she saw just how close the sneaky blonde actually was. She automatically lifted her head a bit to look into his eyes.
Wrong move. Her brain scolded her the moment it registered the alluring magnetism in Draco’s gorgeous grey orbs. It felt as if every fiber of her being was suddenly tuned into the frequency that was Draco. Time seemed to stand still all of a sudden, and there were little jolts of electricity in the parts of her closest to his body. With such an intense awareness of the boy sitting next to her, she was surprised to find that her senses were still functioning. She could hear footsteps approaching the living room, and with great difficulty she snapped out of her daze and turned away from her rather striking distraction just as Ginny walked through the door.
The redhead's eyes grew wide as she measured the distance between her friend and the boy she sat next to. They were definitely closer to each other than before, but she thought it best not to mention anything. How could she observe them if they were on the defensive from the start? She sat down on a comfy armchair opposite the pair.
Hermione was still trying to clear her head. She wasn't sure what had happened, or if anything had happened at all. She only knew that in the few seconds that she and Draco had looked at each other, for it couldn't have been much longer than that – although it had certainly felt like an eternity – her head had been spinning like crazy. Now that she thought about it, she realised her heart was also beating erratically. Abruptly, as if struck by lighting, she understood what it meant.
She was falling for him, fast and hard.
Closing her eyes, Hermione inhaled deeply to calm her raging heart and thoughts. She didn't think she could stop the feelings but she would try to keep them to herself. She had to, because only moments after her insight, she was already feeling quite vulnerable. The emotions she was going through were extremely powerful, and having been so caught off guard by them, she didn't know if she would be able to hide them for long. Ginny knew her very well, and Draco was sitting right next to her. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that something was going on.
Deciding to try and act cool nevertheless, she opened her eyes and put a smile on her face. Ginny was looking at her with a suspicious expression on her face, whereas Draco didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. In order to have something to do, Hermione retrieved the Beauty and the Beast video and got up to return it to the cabinet. When settling back on the sofa, she made sure not to sit too close to Draco.
The three of them started a conversation about nothing in particular. It was a relief and a welcome distraction for Hermione to see how well Ginny accepted Draco. She didn't give him any nasty comments about his past, but it was probably because she had never been at the center of the hostilities between him and their group of friends. Ginny hadn't been a part of the worst of it, but that didn't diminish the gratitude Hermione felt towards her. It was great to have someone who wasn't openly against the boy she'd grown so fond of during the few weeks she'd spent with him.
The longer they chit-chatted, the harder it was for Hermione to focus on the subject at hand. She found her thoughts drifting towards forbidden areas quite often. It was difficult to keep the worried frown off her face when she thought about her other friends finding out and reacting badly. Yet that was nothing compared to her sudden yearning to look at Draco, when she knew she couldn't. If she let herself do that, everything she felt would shine right through her eyes. It had all happened so fast she hadn't had time to adjust. She needed time to think and regain control of her senses.
“Guys... I'm not feeling that well,” she murmured quietly, not meeting their eyes. “I think I'll go upstairs and lie down for a while.”
Refusing Ginny and Draco's offers to keep her company, Hermione exited the living room and climbed up the stairs, her head full of thoughts. It was one thing to do a little harmless flirting with someone, but quite another to become infatuated with them. Flirting didn't hurt anyone but there was a possibility of heartbreak should the latter get out.
Now that she thought about it, she couldn't believe how blind she had been. Why hadn't she seen this coming? The signs had all been there, she just hadn't noticed them the right way. Like the pieces of a puzzle, it was all starting to make sense.
He had been making her blush since their first day at the first safe house. She had felt safe in his arms that day when he'd comforted her. It had been easy to let go of her defensive walls when she was with him, and she had enjoyed his company immensely. She had actually missed him when her friends had kept him away, even though she hadn't admitted that to anyone.
Then there was that silly little comment – about her being able to do him with her eyes closed and all that jazz – had that been a message from her subconscious side? That was no longer an option, obviously. Doing him. Draco might very well be open to the idea, but now that there were feelings involved on her side, it simply wouldn't do. A fling would be downright dangerous.
What made everything even more overwhelming for Hermione was how fast it had happened. The circumstances affected the situation, of course. Staying within four walls all the time intensified every feeling she experienced. Their living space was limited and the people were always the same. There was no escape from it. Nevertheless, it had been a huge blow to have all these emotions bombard her right out of the blue.
She had been very attracted to him the previous evening, she could see that now. Honestly, what kind of an idiot was she, not recognising it for what it was before? Some genius she was. But she couldn't think of how stupid she had been before, not when there was a much more important question hanging in the air – what on earth would she do now?
* * *
After mulling it over in her head for quite some time, Hermione finally managed to convince herself that her newly discovered feelings didn't have to change anything. So she had a little crush on Draco. Big deal. If she could just keep acting normal, he wouldn't even notice. He didn't need to know about any of it, and she didn't need to worry about being rejected. Nothing needed to change.
If only he didn't make it so hard for her to hang onto that thought.
Once he was sure that she wasn't ‘feeling faint’ anymore, he continued with the sort of teasing they'd been enjoying earlier. What he didn't know was that her response to it was quite different from the one she'd had before. It didn't take anything special for her heart to start hammering like crazy, all that was needed was Draco's presence. She tried not to look at him straight in the eye, because every time she did, she could literally feel the changes in her appearance. Did he know that dilated pupils were a sign of attraction? She hoped he didn't.
At the moment they were alone in the en-suite bathroom of the bedroom, getting ready to go to sleep. Draco had slipped in to join her right before Hermione's friends had entered the bedroom. Ron's loud complaints about the sleeping arrangements had barely registered in her head, for she had been busy trying to control the fluttery feeling in her stomach.
“Want to hear a secret?” the cause of said fluttery feeling asked abrubtly, waking her from her reverie.
“Sure. Tell me,” she replied.
She hoped her voice didn't sound too shaky, for that was how she felt. It got even worse when Draco moved closer to her. He was way too close. Her wide eyes met his teasing ones in the mirror for a short moment before he turned his head toward hers.
“I'm wearing my silk boxers,” he whispered in her ear.
His low voice sent shivers down her spine and her eyes closed automatically. Stay in control, stay in control, Hermione chanted inside her head. She couldn't afford to get her hopes up, there was no point in it. Nothing needed to change.
She let out a small 'mm-hmm' sound to show that she'd heard him. Draco smirked.
“How about it, Belle? D'you feel like trying to tame a beast?”
Her eyes shot open. What if something could change?
She wasn't sure if he knew any French, but he'd just called her beautiful. Could he really mean it? Her thundering heart wanted to believe he did. The she remembered she had a question to answer.
“Uh... Right now?” she mumbled, unable to think of anything better. “There are people in the next room.”
A grin spread on Draco's face. “Ever heard of the Silencing Charm?”
“Right, that... Yes, that would indeed be helpful,” she admitted breathlessly. A voice in the back of her head was shouting at her to change the subject, but she couldn't come up with anything.
“Granger, are you actually considering it?” he asked, the grin still etched on his face. “'Cause if you are, you know I'm game.”
A blush tinged Hermione's cheeks. “Of course I'm not considering it.”
“Are you sure? It could be a lot of fun.”
She was glad he was wearing a t-shirt with the familiar pyjama pants. Not only did it make it easier for her to resist his charm, but it was also nice that not everyone got to see what he had underneath that garment.
“I think I'll manage,” she quickly forced the reply out of her mouth before she could change her mind.
“We can take a rain check any day if you like,” Draco winked at her. “Or any night. Whatever you prefer.”
“Sure,” Hermione mumbled before she could stop herself. She was glad to see Draco leave the bathroom after giving her one last teasing smile. As soon as he'd closed the door behind him, her walls collapsed.
Letting out a huge breath, she put her hands on either side of the sink for support. She was exhausted, both emotionally and physically. Could not showing how she felt really take up so much energy? If it did, she couldn't handle it for long.
Why was he doing this? What did he want from her? He was interested in spending the night with her, that much was clear. If that was all he had in mind, she couldn't let herself fall into that trap. He would just use her time and again, and she would let him because she craved to be near him. Then one day he would be free to leave the safe house and she would never see him again. She couldn't let that happen.
What could she let happen, then? What did she want from him? She wasn't sure. It was all so confusing, she didn't know what to think of it. She decided to try and keep herself calm. That way she could examine how she felt when she was with Draco, determine what it was she wanted from him and if it was possible for her to have that.
Glad to have made at least some kind of decision, Hermione braced herself and stepped into the bedroom. Everyone else was in their bunks already. She made her way to her bed, sat down and glanced briefly at Draco. Seeing the sly look on his face instantly made her wary.
“Hey, Granger,” he called, “Care to join me?”
“Dream on, Malfoy,” Ron hollered from his position on the upper bed closest to the door. “Like she would ever want to sleep in your bed!”
“Right... Silly me,” Draco smirked. But when his eyes met Hermione's, they both knew he was far from being silly.
To avoid any further questions, she quickly scrambled to lie down and pull the covers over herself. A moment later Ginny's head peeked at her from the upper bed.
“Hermione, I need to talk to you tomorrow.”
Great. Just what she needed... But she would just have to deal with it. “Sure.”
A/N: You probably won't believe this, but I was taken by surprise when Hermione realised she felt something for Draco. I honestly didn't see it coming until it happened! I mean I knew it had to happen soon enough, but I had no idea it would be like that. Crazy, huh? :D
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