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Chapter 3 : Table For Five, Please
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Chapter 3. Table For Five, Please
«Martin?» I was whispering.
The night was still, with only the soothing sound of passing cars breaking the silence. I felt Martin rolling over to the other side of the bed, but he didn't answer.
«Martin?» A little louder now, but not a sound in response. I sighed.
I eyed his back in jealousy. He never had any trouble sleeping; he could sleep on couches, floors, standing up, sitting down and one time he even fell asleep during.... Well, let's just say – the bloke likes to sleep.
Another feeling took over, guilt. I hadn't told him about what had happened, or almost happened, with Draco that morning a few weeks ago. I never really saw the need, especially since the apartment was completely Martin-free when I got home. He'd spent the night at Joe's – his best friend, and the best man in our upcoming wedding. Again the guilt washed over me.
Many sleepless nights had gone by since... Since what happened with Draco, and every time I closed my eyes – there he was again, haunting me. Teasing me with those sparkling eyes of his, smiling down at me, the passionate kisses... It was as if my head wouldn't respect my decision to forget those certain moments.
Damn you, treacherous head!
I sighed again. It seemed I had to add another sleepless night to the list. Which was becoming dangerously long...
Admitting defeat with a frustrated growl, I swung my feet onto the floor and made my way through the darkness, accidentally kicking my shin against the corner of the coffee table. It had happened so many times lately I should start remembering where to avoid walking. But I guess my shin was the new device to find furniture in the dark.
The only thing that could get my mind away from him was mind-numbingly bad TV-shows, or (if I was lucky) I'd come across a channel that aired the King of geniusness:
And once again I found myself sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, watching just about anything until the sweet release of sleep took over my body.
With a loud shriek, I fell from my uncomfortable position on the sofa, and landed on the floor.
«Hermione, darling, your phone has been ringing all morning. Please answer it, it's very annoying.»
Martin threw my cell phone on the sofa, and without really looking at it, I flipped it open.
«Hello?» I croaked.
«Hermione!» Ginny's excited voice rang in my ears – it was really too early for this.
«Ginny? What's going on? Why are you calling this early?»
I covered a yawn with my free hand, and dragged myself into a seated position.
«You will never guess who I ran into on my way to work this morning!» She giggled like she was sixteen again, and I just had to smile.
«Who? George Clooney?»
I got up and walked, half-blind, to the kitchen.
«Hah! I wish. No, it's someone we went to school with. Come on, guess!»
I looked around me while pouring myself a hot cup of coffee. As if he could feel my need to be alone, Martin came up to me and kissed my cheek before leaving for work. I waited until I was sure he was gone before answering her.
«So it's someone from...school? Hm...»
«I'll just say it, you'll never guess it anyway. It's Draco Malfoy!»
The cup met the floor with a loud smash, leaving coffee stains on everything in sight.
«Yes, I know! I was surprised too. But he's really changed, Hermione. I think all the stories we've heard about him are true.»
«Were you ever convinced otherwise?» I asked, not able to help myself.
«No, but you never know, right? I mean, he's a Malfoy, no matter how many heroic stories Harry tells us about him. But after talking to him for a little while, I realised that, I don't know, that he was actually quite nice.»
«Wow, don't let Ron hear you say that.»
Even though my voice was controlled, my heart was pounding harder by the second.
«Actually, he seems quite excited at the prospect of seeing him again too. Even though he told me that the only reason he's coming is to boast about some case he got and not Draco. But I guess that's better than nothing, right?»
«Wait a second,» I squinted my eyes, hoping I'd heard wrong. «What do you mean 'that's the only reason he's coming'? Coming where?»
«To dinner with us on Tuesday, of course.»
«Oh yes, I forgot to tell you. We're all going out on Tuesday, I hope that's all right?»
It was hard to swallow now, and I could feel my lungs tightening.
«Erm, of course.»
I looked around for something to clean up the coffee with, and found a napkin. While getting down on my knees to dry up the stains, Ginny went on talking about how Harry (and Ron, but mainly Harry) was looking forward to meeting Draco again. Apparently they'd only corresponded through letters for almost a year seeing as Draco had been working overseas. Occationally I replied with a «yeah» and a «mhm», but my mind was miles away.
«So I'll see you and Martin at Logan's Tavern on Tuesday? Remember, it's eight o'clock.» Ginny was practically chirping into her phone, and my head was spinning.
«Oh, yes, about that. Martin is, ehm, not going to be able to make it, he's got plans with Joe. So, it'll just be us.»
The lie fell out of my mouth before I could even comprehend my own words.
«Why am I not surprised? All right, just us magic people then. I'll talk to you later! Bye!»
Before I could even say goodbye, the conversation was over.
This had disaster written all over it.
It was only fifteen minutes until I had to be at the restaurant, but I was still standing in front of the mirror in the bedroom. My palms were sweating, and my whole wardrobe lay scattered by my feet. I sighed for the umpteenth time that evening, and basically ripped off the shirt I was wearing and threw it onto the floor with the others.
«I can just go like this, that'll be fun. At least nobody will be wearing the same thing.» With a low growl, I stared at my half-naked reflection.
«It shouldn't be this difficult! It's just clothes, for crying out loud...»
I kicked my way to my wardrobe and shuffled through the small amount still in there. It was just then that I saw it, the dress I'd been wearing the last time I saw him.
As if someone had flipped a switch, my pulse quickened and I was seeing spots.
I was overreacting, right? Nothing had happened, and we were just meeting for dinner – with other people. Nothing to be scared of. Unless...
Unless he told everyone what we did. That we'd already met.
A sudden knock on the front door woke me up from my thoughts, and I ran to open it. With a towel to cover up my undressed body, I peeked out the door only to see Ginny's radiant face.
«Hi, Herm- What? You're not dressed yet? We have to be there in less than ten minutes! And since you don't Apparate, we have to leave this second. So hurry up!»
Ginny marched to my bedroom, looked around on the floor and picked up a black dress and a pair of red pumps.
«There. Go change – now!»
She pushed the clothes into my shaking hands and before I knew it I was dressed and shoved out of the door.
«There you are. I was starting to worry.» Harry was standing by the entrance of the restaurant, and he welcomed his wife with a kiss while running his fingers through her long, red hair.
«Hermione had a small wardrobe problem,» Ginny replied and looked adoringly at Harry.
She was glowing, and didn't even notice her brother who was standing right beside Harry, but Ron didn't mind. They were always like that, the two lovebirds.
«Hi, Hermione.» Ron stepped past the newlyweds, and gave me a one-armed hug. «So, dinner with Draco Malfoy. That's going to be... Strange.»
«To say the least,» I answered, and tried to return the hug.
«So it's not just me? Harry told me several times that I was overreacting, and that the ferret's changed a lot... But how much could he really change, am I right?»
«I don't know. Maybe Harry's right...-»
«You're taking Harry's side! Unfair... Well, at least I'll get to shove it in Malfoy's face that I was the one who got the Simpson-case. That smug son of a-»
«Ron,» Harry warned, sending Ron a didn't-we-already-had-this-talk look.
«Fine. But I'm telling you, even though everyone regards him as the best in the business, you know, present company excluded, I am the one who got the-»
«Ron.» This time his sister was the one sending the warning glares, and Ron immediately shut his mouth.
«So,» Ron turned to me, changing the subject, «where's Martin tonight? I heard he couldn't come. Again.»
Ron's blue eyes seemed to see right through me, and I had to look away.
«Are you all right, Hermione?»
Blast. That man knew me too well.
«Of course, Ron, I just-»
Air left my body, and I froze.
Draco Malfoy was walking up to us, but for me it was like time slowed down, and I had no choice but to marvel at the beautiful creature walking in front of me.
Did he look this good the last time I saw him? Probably.
While grinning widely he strode right toward us, getting closer by the second. I felt like gasping for air, but my lungs wouldn't cooperate.
«Well, Draco Malfoy, I almost thought you'd back out.»
Harry smiled and they shook hands, Ron (to my surprise) did the same, and suddenly the three of them started laughing (Ron eyeing Draco with suspicion the entire time, though). Of what, I had no idea, because by now all sounds were drowned out by my own pounding heartbeats.
Draco's eyes were even more sparkling than I'd remembered, and the pain of being reminded of the last time I looked into them was almost too hard to bear. I felt so vulnerable again, the feeling sending me back to the moment where he'd left me on that bed...-
Everyone was watching, or at least it felt like it.
His hand was stretched out in front of him, and like a magnet he drew mine into his, then gently pressed it. Again I felt like my hand would drown within his, and memories of that night several weeks ago crept into my conciousness, but I quickly pushed them away.
«Hi, Draco,» I breathed.
«Shall we go in? I'm starving!» Ginny interrupted, giving me the opportunity to let go of Draco's hand.
Ginny pulled Harry with her into the resturant, and I forced my feet to move. And now that I wasn't looking at him anymore, I felt a lot better. Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad, after all?
The maitre'd showed us to a round table in the middle of the room, and just as I was about to sit down, Draco pulled my chair out and waited for me to sit. For a moment all I could do was stare at him, and I had to force my body to move. After helping me with my chair, he sat down beside me, and that's when I noticed everyone staring at us – mouths open.
«Well,» Ginny muttered, smiling, «never thought I'd see that.»
Nervous laughter echoed around the table, and I could feel the tension. At that moment our waiter cut in and gave us our menus. Thankful for the interruption I buried my head in the menu and tried to focus on what I was reading.
All around us, people were chatting, making the contrast even more distinct. I felt I should say something, but Draco beat me to the punch.
«So what has everyone been up to? I know we work at the same place, but, you know what I mean. It's got to be at least... three years, right?» He looked around the table, and suddenly everyone's faces turned serious.
«Five. It's been five years.» Ron took a bite of the breadstick he was fiddling with, and swallowed slowly.
Painful memories of the last time we were all gathered passed through everyone's minds.
«A long time...» Draco whispered, but suddenly his expression changed and he looked at Harry and Ginny. «I heard that the two of you recently got married? Congratulations!»
Ginny looked adoringly at her new husband before answering.
«Yes, we've been married for six months, two weeks and four days.»
Harry laughed at her accurate count, and kissed her cheek.
«Actually, I proposed to her four and a half years ago, but I was turned down.»
«Harry! That's not true!» Ginny slapped Harry's arm, while grinning widely. «Don't listen to him, Draco, I just wanted to wait for a little while, that's all.»
«And 'a little while' turned into four and a half years.»
Again Ginny slapped his arm, Harry laughed heartily.
«I do believe I've made it up to you...» Ginny whispered and looked into Harry's eyes.
«Oi, please,» Ron cut in, «I'm still her older brother, and I still think of her as a little ten-year-old with pigtails, so...-»
Everyone around the table laughed at Ron's red face, and as if by magic, the tense atmosphere simply dissapreared.
«I'm going to ignore the comment about me in pigtails, because nothing can ruin my good mood today. And what I was meaning to say, before you interrupted me, was...» Ginny looked at Harry.
Excitement was written all over their faces, and they grinned widely at each other. Harry nodded as if they'd been having a silent conversation, and turned to the rest of the table with sheer joy in his eyes.
Everything that followed was in a complete blur for me. Ron jumped up and down while hugging both his sister and Harry, and then dragged me into a sort of a victory dance while yelling 'I'm going to be an uncle!' over and over.
Laughter and joyful screams filled the entire room, but all I could see was Draco. His face was stiff, and even though he was smiling, I could see him distancing himself from the rest of us.
«A baby. I'm really happy for you.» Draco tried to join the excitement.
It seemed I was the only one who saw the melancholy in his blue eyes.
«Thank you, Draco. I'm really glad you're here.» Ginny put her hand on top of Draco's, and gave him a genuine smile. I could swear I saw his lip quiver for just a millisecond, but it was over before I could know for sure.
For most of the dinner our main topic was the new baby, then for a brief while Draco's Auror adventures, then it was back to the baby. Apparently they could never exhaust the topic.
Sometimes Draco's arm or knee would graze mine, making my heartbeat increase, but he didn't even look at me once through the entire dinner.
Because of this(and because of the red wine turning my concentration into pure dragon's dung) I was caught completely off guard when Draco suddenly turned to me the moment our desserts arrived.
«Hermione, you've been abnormally quiet. What have you been up to these past years?»
I opened my mouth, but no words came out. Those damn eyes(mixed with the alcohol, as previously stated) were once again taking away my ability to think or speak.
«Hermione is engaged, actually,» Ginny said, and I wanted to kiss her for answering for me.
Bless her impatient self.
I nodded in agreement, taking another sip of my wine.
«Really? To anyone I know?» Was he teasing me?
«N-no.» I swallowed hard before continuing. «He's a Muggle.»
Draco smiled at me, sending my already speeding heart into a gallop. If he didn't give it up with those looks, there was a definite chance of me having a very serious heart-attack.
«Well, congratulations to you too, then. How did the two of you meet?»
I opened and closed my mouth several times before I could answer him.
«Uhm, we, I, the thing is, we-»
«They met at the library. They were about to grab the same book, argued about who grabbed it first and that was it. The rest is history.»
I love you, Ginny Potter!
«So you both like books. Good for you, Granger, that's true love right there.»
With nothing more interesting than a nod in response, he continued to interrogate me.
«Where do you work?» Just as he was asking the question, I felt his hand touch my arm under the table.
I gasped for air, and looked around me. Nobody had noticed anything - they were back to talking about Ginny's pregnancy. Hesitant, I turned my head to look at him again. His soft strokes made my skin burn, and the second our eyes met sparks were flying.
«Erm...» I could feel my brain turning into mush by the second, and I looked down to collect my crumbling thoughts.
«You don't remember?» He was teasing me.
«Of course I do!» I protested. «I work for the publishing house 'Smythe & Son', you've probably never heard of it, since it's-»
«Wait a second!» Draco's hand froze, and his eyes widened with surprise. «Did you say 'Smythe & Son'?»
With a skeptic look, I nodded again. He laughed out loud, and he removed his hand from my arm for a moment, but it was long enough for me to place it on the table.
«What's so funny?» Asked Ron, finally looking at us. He eyed Draco suspiciouosly – I guess some grudges never completely let go.
«I just found out that Hermione and I are going to be working at the same publishing house!»
This wasn't happening...
Panic struck me, mixed with an odd sense of anticipation that made my body tingle.
«I applied for the job as a cover-art designer, and I just received news today that I got it. I'm starting tomorrow.»
«So you're quitting the Auror business? I didn't hear anything about that. Did you, Ron?» Harry said while fiddling with Ginny's hair.
«Can't say I did, no,» Ron answered grumpily - probably now figuring out why he got the Simpson-case instead of Draco.
«Yeah, I wanted to get away from the pressure for a while. Chasing down Death Eaters can really take it out of you, as I'm sure the two of you can understand.» Harry nodded in agreement at this, Ron shook his head indignantly. «So what better than working with Muggles to get over the worries of the Magical world, right?» Draco smiled.
Ron, Harry and Ginny congratulated him (Ron less enthusiastically than the others), but my mind was still processing the fact that I was going to have to see him every day – starting tomorrow.
I forced myself to smile, but I was more than grateful when Ginny had to cut the night short because of nausea.
I like your timing, little baby. I bet we're going to get along just fine.
«Goodbye, Draco. It was good seeing you again.»
Ginny had a protective hand in front of her flat belly as she got out of the chilly night air and into the Taxi. Harry quickly shook Draco's hand while Ginny pulled his coat, reminding him to hurry. Ginny, inheriting her father's love of all things Muggle, loved Taxis and always insisted on getting one. And as the two of them drove off, Ron, Draco and I waited for the next Taxi to drive by.
You could cut the awkward tension with a knife.
«Bye, Draco,» said Ron as a Taxi drove up next to us. Ron too preferred to take a Taxi back to his apartment. Although he claimed that the reason to this was that Apparating too much made his stomach queasy. «You're gonna be okay? Sure you don't want to share one?» He asked me while he eyed Draco suspiciouosly.
I shook my head in response. After mentally reminding myself that I wasn't a mute, I answered him.
«I'll be fine. It's just a ten-minute walk, and then I'm home.» I hope I wasn't slurring my words too much.
I tried to reassure him with a smile, but Ron wouldn't be fooled.
«I don't like you walking alone in the dark. It's not safe-» The Taxi-driver interrupted him by honking his horn, and Ron opened the door.
«Why don't I walk you home, Hermione?» Draco asked suddenly, making Ron's head turn so fast I could almost hear his neck snap.
«Hey, mate, are you getting in or what?!» Yelled the driver, and Ron's face looked torn.
«It's okay, I don't mind. What do you say, Hermione?» Draco said, turning to me.
I strongly believe that Draco was hypnotizing me to nod, but either way, I did nod. With a last suspicious scowl at Draco, Ron got into the Taxi without uttering a word, and drove away.
«Shall we go, m'lady?» Draco gave me his arm. I hesitated and looked at him through skeptic eyes.
«Oh please, Granger, I won't lure you into a dark alley.»
That smile of his could melt any heart, and mine was now getting the full effect. I gently put my arm through his, and we started walking. Suddenly I was laughing, and Draco looked down at me with a weird expression.
«What?» He asked, and I smiled up at him.
«1954 called and wants its expression back.»
«What do you mean?» He stopped in his tracks and was now facing me, his face cracking into a grin.
«Who says 'lure' anymore?» I asked while laughing. And we started walking again.
I might not have found the situation as funny if it hadn't been for the many glasses of red wine I'd had with dinner. I remembered now how I'd ordered drink after drink, wanting to have something other than the man next to me to focus on.
I failed. Obviously.
«Are you a little bit drunk, Hermione?»
Draco wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and only then did I notice that I was shivering. Had it been this cold the entire time?
«No! I'm just... Okay, maybe just a-a li-little bit.»
«I saw how you practically inhaled that wine. Is it me, or do you have a tendency to drink too much in my prescence?»
He'd refererd to the last time we were toghether, but I didn't really catch it. Instead, I noticed the smug grin that was evident in his voice, and I tried to pull away, but he only held me closer.
«Whether you're right or wrong doesn't matter, b-because it's n-none of-f-f your business, D-D-Draco!»
I was literally shaking with cold now, making my teeth chatter. Draco suddenly stopped in his tracks, took off his jacket and put it around my shivering body.
«Better?» He asked, locking eyes with me.
I nodded, and then suddenly remembered something
I had to repeatedly drag my eyes away from his to keep the last fragment of my concentration intact.
«I didn't know you could draw.»
«What do you mean?»
«Your new job. You're an artist. I didn't know you could be...'artistic'.» I air-quoted, making Draco grin.
«There's a lot of things you don't know about me, Hermione.»
«Like the fact that you've got a massive tattoo on your back?»
He hadn't expected that, and looked away from me. I mentally punched myself for ruining the moment.
«Forget I asked,» I whispered, breaking the silence.
He nodded in response and then he looked back at me. The moment our eyes met, I felt as if I'd been chugging down a whole bottle of Felix Felicis, the sensation made me smile – a smile which he returned.
We were standing just a few blocks away from my apartment, but I was in no hurry to get home. It was so comfortable standing here with him. Doing nothing but sink into the depths of his glorious eyes.
Without realising it, his mouth drew me closer. Those hypnotic abilities of his forcing my eyes to close and my body to lean in. It was as if I didn't have any say in the matter anymore. My body was in total control, shutting down every thought in my mind, leaving only the echoes of how much I wanted him.
No, I was craving him.
The feeling scared me, and my eyes flew open. Not waiting another moment I hurried away from him. What was I doing? I had a fiance!
«Wait! Why the rush?» He caught up with me and tried to touch my arm, but I pulled away. «What's the matter? Was it something I did?»
«You know perfectly well what's the matter, and what you did!» I snarled.
And as I rounded a corner (momentarily forgetting the layer of ice covering the streets) I slid on a particularly nasty patch of ice. Draco's arms shot protectively out to catch me.
«Let. Go. Of. Me!»
I pushed myself away from him, only to fall flat on my bum instead.
«Yes, I bet that's much better.»
His warm laughter tried to make it's way into my already melted heart, but I didn't let it. This had to stop.
«Why did you run, Hermione?»
He reached out his hand, and it looked so tempting. Of course, it was a perfectly simple gesture, but I didn't trust my own body. It had a tendency to overreact when it came in any sort of physical contact with this man. So I got up on my own, brushed away the dirt on my backside and hurried along.
«Can you please answer me?» He had caught up with me again.
Couldn't he just leave me alone?
«I don't trust you enough to tell you.» I promised myself I wouldn't say another word to him after this.
I pressed my lips together. Hah! He'd have to pry them open to get another word out of me. Stupid, hypnotic git.
«Really? I would have thought I'd earned your trust by now? Especially because of what happen-»
I held up my hand to stop him from talking. It worked. Yay!
I could see the door to my flat down the street. Almost there, just a little more. Unfortunately that was the moment he grabbed my shoulders and forced me to stop.
«Why did you run just now?» His eyes were serious, but that was all I was willing to see, my head was already bowed down, my own eyes focusing on the ground between our feet.
I took off his coat and gave it back to him – all the time avoiding his stare.
«Was it because we almost kissed?» He asked hesitantly, his voice no louder than a whisper.
I nodded. Redness crept into my cheeks.
«And the thought of kissing me made you run? Gee, thanks.»
«It's not like that,» I whispered against my will.
Damn! There went my plan about not speaking to him out the window. Well, I could just as well continue speaking now that I'd already broken my promise.
«I have a fiance, Draco. I'm not supposed to kiss anyone but him, I've promised him, I've made a vow that-»
«You haven't promised or vowed anything! Until you're married, you're allowed to kiss whomever you want, whenever you want,» he told me firmly, but something flickered in his eyes, something resembling guilt.
His words crept under my skin and stayed there. My body screamed in agreement and urged me to get closer to him. My head, on the other hand, was protesting heavily and eventually won.
«That's not right, Draco. I'm not going to cheat on Martin. He deserves more than that.»
I tried to pull away, but he was stronger than I was, and there was of course the fact that I really didn't want to leave him – I was a horrible and weak person!
«Does he love you?» His question made my head snap, and the look he gave me made my fragile body tingle.
«O-Of course he does,» I stuttered.
He was up to something - I sensed it.
«And do you love him?»
I squirmed under his scutinizing stare. For a moment I just stood there, still as a statue. I swallowed hard, and managed to look away. I could feel his eyes on me still, which made me stutter more.
«Well, I really... Martin is, you know, he's a good man. I really do, of course, like to be with him. I-I am fond of him. Yes, I am. I care about him very much.»
Once I dared myself to raise my eyes, I froze. The look Draco was giving me evoked the strongest urge to run and hide.
«You're fond of him? Your fiance?»
«You know what? I don't have to explain myself to you!»
I ran for real now, and didn't even notice that I was wearing high heels that certainly wasn't made for running. Why did the evening always end with me running away from Draco Malfoy?
He didn't come after me this time, and an odd mix of disappointment and relief washed over me.
«I'll see you tomorrow!» He yelled as I swung open the door to the building, and disappeared through it.
Tomorrow was going to be a tough day.
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