Chapter 3 : Just Pretend
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By the time I had woken up, Malfoy had already gone to work. It was a Friday so I had the whole day free. My wrist was bandaged, but the cuts and bruises on my face were still as clear as day. When I looked in the mirror, I shuddered at my own reflection, but at the same time was glad that I had survived last night. Some muggles could be just as dangerous and terrifying as some wizards and I had almost forgotten that. I should have used my wand on that guy yesterday but he held onto me so tight that I couldn’t get into my bag. But what would I have done? Stunning him and exposing myself was not a good idea.
After a hot shower, I went and ate breakfast. Malfoy had left me some soggy buttered toast but I threw it away and made a bowl of porridge. Just the thought of what happened between made me feel giddy. I was uncomfortable, upset, hurt and embarrassed all at once because of how he had shunned me. I was laid bare - literally laid bare and had let him do it to me, only for him to walk away. I didn’t understand him and I wanted to.
My mobile phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket, hoping it was Malfoy checking up on me, but it was Stacey. Not him.
Frowning angrily, I answered.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” she screamed. “I called your phone last night and Malfoy picked up and told me what happened.”
“I’m okay,” I told her quietly. “Thanks for calling.”
“Listen, I -”
I ended the call, ended my breakfast and headed straight out of the door.
Although she was the worst friend ever, Stacey had given me a little bit of advice the other night. And if I wanted Malfoy to know how I felt - in my own words - I would just have to do it. I would just have to tell him and hope that he didn’t laugh in my face.
I spent the afternoon buying a couple of things for a night in with the last bit of my wages. Tiny candles, a bottle of white wine, and ingredients for a small pasta meal. People stared at me as I walked the streets, because of the injury on my face, a huge purple bruise. They couldn’t see my sprained wrist or the bruise on my stomach. An old lady asked if I was okay and I told her I was, even though I was nervous about the night ahead.
When Malfoy came home from work that night, he got the shock of his life. I had put on a plain black dress, brushed my hair out and turned all of the lights off for the sake of the glittering candles..
“Did they cut off the electricity again?” he called from the door as he took off his shoes. I was beginning to regret what I was doing. He was in a foul mood. “Great. Another night with no fucking warm water and -”
“Hi.” I stood by the table, where the meal was emitting hot steam and a lovely tomato smell. “Did you have a good day at work?”
I was playing ‘the good wife’, asking about his day in the hope that he would realise what I was trying to tell him.
“What are you doing?” he said exasperatedly.
“I made dinner, like always. Sit down.” I pulled him over to the table with my good hand and he fell into a chair and looked around.
I filled his glass with wine with a nervous smile. “Do you like it?” I asked hopefully.
“Look at you.” He pointed at my bandaged wrist and my battered face. “You should be resting, not cooking.”
“It was no trouble.”
“How much did this cost? You didn’t use the rest of your money, did you?”
“I don’t mind spending -”
“For goodness sake, Granger! That money was supposed to last you another two weeks.”
“Don’t lecture me.”
“Fine.” He picked up a fork and began to eat. “Just don’t complain to me when you need to buy something.”
Silently, I ate. He had a point, but I didn’t want to admit it.
After ten minutes, when he had nearly finished, I tried again. “How was work?”
He rolled his eyes. “How it usually is. They treat me like a servant boy and it doesn’t get any easier. Draco do this. Draco do that; every single day.”
He was so grumpy, it was a wonder why I even liked him. Well, there was his bright eyes, his amazing smile and generally the way he looked out for me. And usually when we talked it wasn’t this terrible.
“You know … you can always talk to me,” I muttered.
“I’m talking to you now, aren’t I?”
I dropped my knife and fork down onto my plate. “Why do you have to be so horrible? I’m really trying here.”
“Trying to what?”
“Trying t-to … get your attention.”
I put my head down and fiddled with my fingers underneath the table. I scrunched up my bare toes and then looked up at him. He was looking down too.
“Why would you want to do that?”
My chest tightened as I spoke quietly. “You heard what Stacey said. But obviously you didn’t want to believe it.”
He put this cutlery down and drank his wine. “You know this is just pretend, don’t you?”
“Of course.” I stared into his eyes forcing him to look back. “But I can’t help but wonder why you wanted to do this thing to begin with. Why did you even want to pretend?” I excused myself from the table and stood by the bedroom door, body torn between been close to him and being very far away.
“It seemed like the obvious thing to do,” Malfoy argued.
I stepped closer to him in a fit of rage. “Why did you kiss me?” I asked, voice breaking.
“Because it - it just happened!” he said in a raised voice.
“So why not just put my hopes up again? Why not kiss me right now?”
He shook his head. “I - I can’t …”
I grasped his face between my fingertips and kissed him. “There.” I kissed him again. “That wasn’t so hard.” Another kiss sealed our lips.
Malfoy forced me away with strong arms and stood from his chair.
I fell down the wall in silence, staring at him as one tear fell down my nose.
He blew out the candles and left out of the front door without even glancing at me as he passed.
He came back eventually at around midnight that evening and I was sitting on the bathroom floor, questioning myself and my motives. I had made a complete and utter fool out of myself tonight. He didn’t like me. It was obvious. He didn’t want me anywhere near him at the best of times, but then there were odd moments when I thought he cared about me. Like when he constantly held my hand when he changed my clothes for me last night and when he helped me when I was attacked. The little things he did seemed to cancel out the large spaces of time when we would not speak.
There was a crash and I leaned up, hair falling over my face. It sounded as though it had been something in my room. I pulled myself up and went along the hall.
My stomach flipped. There was giggling - along with other joyous sounds.
I pushed open the door … to find Malfoy … under the covers … of my bed … with a blonde somebody …
Breathe, Hermione …
“What are you doing?” I said loudly, my body quivering slightly.
His head came out and he blushed. “Granger …” He blinked as if he could not see me properly. He was drunk. He had gone out and tried to drink away his problems. Brilliant.
This couldn’t be happening …
The blonde girl stuck her head out too. And she was beautiful. Much more beautiful than me.
“Who is she?” she asked Malfoy, while I clutched the door handle and tried to stop myself from shouting at him.
“Erm …” he said.
My chest hurt. All I wanted to do was yell at him, to scream at the top of my voice, to relieve my lungs of this pain.
“I’m his girlfriend!” I said.
How could he do this …?
He felt the same way that I did …
I loved him … somewhere inside there was love. Or the potential for something quite like it.
“No, she -” he began.
“I am,” I said defiantly. If there was any time for me to pretend, this was it. I hoped he hated me for this - as much as I hated him for ripping my heart out of my chest and stamping on it.
“You told me you didn’t have a girlfriend.” The girl rolled from over him and my body coiled up at the fact that she was naked - and so was he.
My feet took me out of the room and minutes later, the mystery woman was gone. But it was if her presence had not left. I could still smell her sharp perfume all around me.
I stormed back into my bedroom, where Malfoy was sat looking utterly perplexed.
“How could you do that after what I told you?” I laughed sadly. “Is that why you wouldn’t go near me? You already had a girlfriend?”
“No …” he whispered.
“Then what’s this?” I had found a business card of hers on the ground. It said Emmeline Weston, Maxwell & Sons. “She works with you.”
“Yes but -”
“I thought you cared about me, Malfoy. My mistake.”
“I do care about you Granger. Too much. Are you happy now?”
“I’m ecstatic,” I said sarcastically.
He pulled on some trousers and sneered. “Why don’t you just go?!” Malfoy flung his hand towards the door, as if willing me to take those steps.
“What?” I breathed heavily as I tried to comprehend what he was saying. “Don’t be ridiculous. No! You don’t mean that. You’re drunk.”
“Not that drunk. Get out!” he shouted as he buttoned up his shirt.
“NO! I’ve done nothing wrong!”
“My money pays for this place! I can tell you to leave if I want to!”
My eyes were moving from left to right frantically. He was serious. He was actually willing to throw me out now that the pressure of his feelings that gotten too great. My hands, my entire body was shaking with fright. “NO! I’m not going!” I reached out to him with my hands as if begging. I wasn’t ready to go out there alone.
“YES, YOU ARE!”
He grabbed my arm tightly and pulled me out of the bedroom. “GET OFF ME!” Malfoy held me around my middle. “YOU CAN’T THROW ME OUT! YOU CAN’T! I REFUSE TO LEAVE!” As he dragged me, I held onto the doorframes or anything that I came across, but he would pull me off. I tried hitting him and throwing my arms about but nothing helped.
“I CAN!” he yelled. “I’VE GOT NO REASON TO KEEP YOU HERE!”
“Not one?” I asked quietly while attempting to wipe my face while he held onto me.
“Not a single reason.”
“You kissed me that night we left the safehouse!” I shouted, willing him to see reason. “You didn’t have to, but you did. You still haven’t told me why.”
“That was different!” He wasn’t holding me so tightly now. He just held my wrists securely and faced me.
“Different to what? How is it different to any other situation when a guy and a girl like each other?”
“You know why it’s different.”
I ignored him and got to the main problem. “You won’t admit your feelings because you’re a pureblood and I’m muggleborn. You barely speak to me because of it.”
“No - ”
“You liar! You have the fact that my parents are muggles. I see it in your eyes whenever you look at me.”
Malfoy ignored me and went in at a different angle. “When you can give me a reason for you to stay, I’ll let you stay.” But there isn’t one, I bet he was thinking.
I used this situation to point out all of the things he should appreciate about me, things he had forgotten.
“I keep you company.”
He shrugged. “I’m no stranger to loneliness.”
I laughed. “No wonder you’re so bitter.” Then I said, “My name is on the tenancy agreement too.”
“So? That means nothing to me.”
“I taught you how to be a muggle.”
“I’ve learnt enough,” he said in a hushed tone, looking at the ground.
“You said we should stick together. We agreed that -”
“Well maybe I changed my mind!”
“I thought you were looking out for me! So you can admit that you care about me and still throw me out? You are such a hypocrite, Draco Malfoy!”
“So hate me, then! Do you think I care?!”
“Hate you? I could never hate you, Malfoy! Ever since we got here, I’ve liked you. You’ve been redeeming yourself from the schooldays bit by bit and I’ve grown to care for you more than I could ever imagine and it kills me to say it, but tonight I’m finding it so hard to like you as much as I do.” There was his reason. That was why I could not leave. I would never abandon him even if he had done the same to me. We had formed a bond and we would never forget the time we spent together.
His arms let me go and I fell to the ground. Didn’t he understand? We lived together for months as a couple. How could I not have fallen for him? That was why it hurt me so much that he was screwing another girl just hours after I had told him how I felt, and in my own bed too. I would never sleep in it again. “And I know you care for me too much to throw me out like this.”
“I don’t think so,” he said quietly.
I couldn’t understand him. Surely, he was lying. And I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leave him. For months we had done everything together and I hadn’t ever left home alone. I didn’t know how to survive without him.
“I think I love you …” The thought became words and he stared at me, frowning, torn between anger, pain and confusion.
A silent tear fell from each eye.
I sat on the ground and trying had not to sniffle as he left me in the hallway for about ten minutes. But I knew he still wanted me to leave. Malfoy sat at the table with his head in hands.
There was a knock on the front door.
“Get the door,” he whispered.
I rolled over to face the wall making it obvious that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Sighing, he got up to answer the knocking.
“Excuse me, one of your neighbours called earlier. Said there was a disturbance here,” I heard from the floor. The police.
“No, nothing’s wrong,” Malfoy said.
The police officer pushed the door open and saw my tired figure on the ground. He pushed past Malfoy and knelt down beside me.
“Are you okay, Miss?” he asked.
Exhausted, I nodded.
The officer looked at Malfoy, who was standing at the door beside the other policeman. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
“Did he do this to you?” I guessed he was referring to the fresh-looking cuts and bruises on my face.
Even though I could have easily said no, I did nothing and to police officers, that was as good as a confession.
“Cuff him,” he told the other officer.
“WHAT?” Malfoy shouted. “I didn’t do that to her. She was attacked yesterday. I didn’t do anything to her. TELL THEM I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!” he ordered me as he was handcuffed.
“He didn’t -”
The police officer said, “Miss, please, I’m only pointing out what I see and doing my job.”
“He didn’t hit me!”
“And victims of domestic violence don’t lie to protect their spouses?” He rolled his eyes and dragged Malfoy out of the front door.
“Tell him, Granger!” Malfoy slurred. “Tell him … what - what happened …”
“I told him …” I muttered.
“Drunk too,” the officer said. “A night in a cell should help him sleep it off until morning when we question him.” He pulled out a card. “We’ll be in touch. Stay safe, Miss.”
I stood on the balcony and watched as Malfoy was put into the back of the police car, holding my breath the entire time, wondering how I had let my life get to this point.
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