Draco arrived in Paris on Christmas Eve in the late afternoon, apparating right onto the back porch of the Zabini mansion on the Seine River. He had spent a lot of time here while he was growing up; the fall and disappearance of Voldemort had caused the Death Eaters to go into hiding, and France was infinitely safer than England. Many of the old, dark families had property scattered through Europe but as the Malfoy’s and Zabini’s had always been close, it was here where the two boys spent each summer until their parents deemed it unnecessary to send them away. In exchange for spending all that time at the Zabini Parisian home, the Malfoy’s welcomed the Zabini’s to stay at Malfoy Manor every holiday. Because of all the negotiations, it was no surprise Blaise and Draco became best friends.
That and the fact that Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Zabini shared the same core values and ideals when it came to raising a child – a strong fist, a sharp tongue and knowledge of the dark arts were all essential parts in the upbringing process.
“Ah, Draco, there you are. We were expecting you a week ago.”
Draco turned around from facing the river and nodded his head in acknowledgement at the table where Blaise and the twins sat eating. He held up his left hand, bandaged tightly, and smirked. “I was delayed.”
Michael waved him over. “We’re nursing our hangovers, care to join us?”
The Hale twins, John and Michael, had grown up in the same inner circle as Draco and Blaise, though their parents held much less power and status as far as Death Eaters went. They came from money and a pureblood line but if the Malfoy’s and Zabini’s were number 1 on Voldemort’s follower’s scale, then the Hale’s fell around 4. The families of Crabbe and Goyle fell around a 7, and Merlin knew Draco couldn’t have been happier when the parents of both boys had pulled their sons from Hogwarts at the end of 6th year. John and Michael were not only better company, they were smarter and more engaging.
Draco sat down at the table and picked up a mimosa – champagne mixed with orange juice – and gulped down the fluted glass in one sip. “I’m assuming the lot of you have been keeping out of the way of our parents.”
Blaise nodded and passed him the plate of freshly baked breads, stacked high in the middle with sticky cinnamon rolls his maid was famous for making. “We thought it best since they’ve been in meetings this whole time.”
It was true – all the Death Eaters had congregated at Malfoy Manor and stayed there for weeks now going in and out of the chambers under the house. Draco had tried to leave but his father was not the type to be blown off, so instead of enjoying the unexpected vacation from school, he sat outside the meeting rooms every day running errands for the adults and taking care of whatever his father ordered him to do. It was work meant for a House Elf but Draco didn’t have the luxury of complaining. He wasn’t a fool – he knew the Dark Lord was there, always in the darkness, always making plans. Malfoy Manor was secure and virtually impregnable, especially with all the extra security measures that had been placed for Lord Voldemort’s stay. Draco only saw him once, the morning before he arrived in Paris. He was the reason Draco’s hand was sprained and bandaged.
“Ay, mate? You listening?”
Draco shook his head and looked up. “What?”
John chuckled. “We’ve been invited to a party tonight. Are you going to join us?”
“A party? Aren’t you currently with a hangover?”
Blaise laughed. “It was a hangover, now it’s just a dull migraine.” Draco shook his head. “Stop shaking your head like that, you always do that. Why don’t you lighten up? It’s already Thursday and we go back to school on Sunday, the 3rd. We might as well enjoy this last weekend.”
“Well what time is this thing at?”
Michael glanced at the expensive watch on his wrist. “In a few hours. We were talking about getting dinner in a bit before heading over.”
“You’re eating right now!”
“We’re cleansing right now. We have to soak up the alcohol so we can consume more later!”
Draco shook his head again. “I suppose it wouldn’t kill me to tag along. But if this turns out to be another night of Muggles everywhere, I’m leaving.”
John stood up. “It’s New Year’s Eve mate, you could at least pretend to enjoy yourself for the sake of the rest of us.”
Draco spent the rest of his free time in the spacious room he called his own on the third floor lying in bed. The room was similar to his bedrooms at Hogwarts and the Manor – dark wood, dark furnishings, everything of the finest quality and very expensive. There were a few differences that stood out from his other two rooms, namely the wall that led out to the terrace. All the rooms on the back half of the mansion faced the Seine, and all the walls that bordered inside and outside had floor to ceiling windows with double French doors in the center. It was really quite beautiful – having a wall that looked to be made almost entirely of glass – but for Draco, at times, it was too much light. He had pulled the long curtains closed when he entered the room but even then the rays found ways to slip in. That was what he hated about light – no matter how much you tried to block it out, it always managed to sneak in. It was always there beating down your back at Quidditch practice or reflecting off the moon at night when you’re trying to rest.
He drifted to sleep with those circling thoughts splayed across his mind, dancing behind his eyelids and slowly but surely transforming into the shape of the girl who was the very embodiment of the light he tried so hard to stay away from.
“I see Muggles.”
Around 10 that night, Draco found himself standing shoulder to shoulder with his best mates and the sinking feeling he had been dragged into yet another boring night full of mundane Muggles who drank too much and became too ridiculous. It was just like the boys though – despite their “pure blood is the only blood” upbringing, they found pleasure wherever they could even if came from the people beneath them. After all, to them it was only one night. It was always only one night.
“Ah, Blaise! There you are!”
Draco turned to his left and through the crowd massing towards the large house, he could make out a face he had grown up with. “Davin?”
Davin waved and parted through the groups easily. “Draco! It’s great that you’re here, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this more than anyone else.”
The blonde raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”
Davin smiled easily. “Why don’t you lot come in? I’m sure our hosts will be ecstatic to greet you.”
As the boys followed Davin in, Draco grabbed hold of Blaise’s arm and held him back. “What the hell is going on?”
Blaise shrugged. “It’s just a party mate.”
“Do you take me for a fool Zabini?”
Blaise’s arm fell away as he shrugged out of Draco’s grasp. “Now why would you say that?”
Despite himself, Draco sighed and followed Blaise as he wound his way through the crowd and up the staircase the twins had just taken. Everywhere he looked he could see Muggles – drinking, dancing, talking, sitting, kissing. It made him feel lonely… But only for a split second. He was a Malfoy after all, he didn’t have a need for useless emotions like loneliness or longing.
The tall blonde looked up and there she was.
She looked better than the last time he had seen her – upset and scared in front of the Great Hall the night of the attack – and being in her presence again stirred his stomach in a way that made him uneasy. They had been on this random break for weeks, why now was he running into her? And in Paris of all places?
“What are you doing here?”
She gestured around. “This is my cousin’s house.”
“No I mean here, in Paris.”
Hermione fidgeted uncomfortably. “My mother spent most of her childhood in France and my Grandmother still lives here… After my father…”
Blaise shouldered Draco. “Mrs. Granger has been here since Mr. Granger’s disappearance.”
Draco ran a finger through his hair, flashing back to the night he had brought Hermione flowers and Blaise was already there with that damn kitten. Yet again Blaise knew things about her that Draco wanted to know first, and yet again he was coming in second after his raven haired friend. “I didn’t know.”
Davin smiled at the group and swung his arm around Hermione’s shoulders. “We really should be entertaining our guests, we’ll see you lot later.”
Wait, what? Our guests? “What did Davin say?”
The party became a giant blur to Draco – bodies against bodies, laughter over music – as he wandered aimlessly lost in thought. It was a new feeling for him… He wasn’t sure when it happened exactly, but for some reason he couldn’t get thoughts of her out of his head. If he really put his mind to it, it was obvious it started because of Blaise (as most things in his life did). Since their breakup, Draco had asked – more than once – what Blaise was thinking by dating her in the first place but his best mate always shrugged and moved the conversation into a different direction. He didn’t dare ask Hermione, it was naïve to think that their few conversations in their dorm were enough to qualify asking personal questions about her love life. But now Davin was back in the picture and that was problematic. Davin had already ruined her relationship with Blaise and Draco would be damned if that smooth talker was going to ruin his relationship with her.
Or, not really relationship, but whatever it was. She was in his head and whether he was in hers or not didn’t really matter to him at that point.
“You’re kidding, right? You’re kidding.”
Draco rolled his eyes and looked out the window he was passing. Hermione was out there sitting on the ledge of the terrace and Davin was pacing back and forth in front of her while she wrung her hands together. What the hell is going on now?
Despite feeling sloppy and a perhaps a little tipsy, Draco managed to walk down the wall of windows a bit until he found the door leading out to the terrace. He opened the door a bit louder than he had intended and cleared his throat to grab their attention, though the latter was unnecessary since the first had scared them both.
“What are you two up to?”
Davin smiled charmingly, a trait Draco had grown to recognize over their years of friendship. “Just having a short discussion mate, but we’re all cleared up now.” He turned back to Hermione and brought her right hand up to his lips, brushing her fingers gently in a kiss. “I’ll meet you back inside.”
Hermione watched Davin go before focusing on Draco after the door closed. “What are you doing here?”
He shrugged as he walked over. “I heard talking so-,”
“No I mean at the party.”
“Blaise invited me.”
“And you said yes?”
Draco leaned against the stone wall of the balcony next to Hermione’s crossed legs. “Do you not want to be around me or something Granger?”
She sighed and turned her head to look at him, the wind whipping her neat curls around her face like a storm. “What did you mean when you told me to be careful?”
The question caught him off guard. He was expecting her to ask anything but that, but being the smart girl that she was, of course the subject would always focus on the bigger picture. How to answer it though? There was no way he would risk saying something stupid and giving away the fact that he was worried about her because hell, he wasn’t even sure what his feelings for her were.
“There were Death Eaters on the grounds. You’re a mudblood, aren’t you?”
Too late he realized his mistake, too late he caught his tongue. He felt her stiffen as soon as that word rolled out of his mouth and he knew without looking what kind of expression she’d now have on her face.
“That, I mean I didn’t…”
Hermione shook her head and sniffled, tears beginning to fall from her face as she hoped off the wall. “I guess some things just don’t change.”
Draco threw his head back and shook it, one hand clenching the party cup he had randomly grabbed a while ago and the other pounding the stone despite the bandaging. He could hear her footsteps retreating, moving further and further away from him with each click of her heels. How could he have forgotten something so important? How could he have said something so… It didn’t matter. He shouldn’t have done it and he knew it.
He grabbed her shoulders from behind just as her hand reached out for the doorknob. “I’m sorry, ok? I’m sorry. I didn’t… Mean to say that.”
Hermione rolled her shoulders trying to shrug him off. “Let me go.”
Draco shook his head. “Why should I? I’m trying to apologize and you’re not even listening or accepting it. Who’s the rude one now?”
It took a few moments but she eventually turned around and tossed her hands up in exasperation. “What do you want Draco?”
Draco. “I said I was sorry.”
She exhaled harshly. “It’s fine.”
“It clearly isn’t.”
Those big brown eyes… And now with her being so close he could make out flecks of gold in them. Were those freckles across her cheeks and nose? How had he not noticed it before? His hands moved from her shoulders down to her hands without even thinking and began pulling her after him, his feet stepping backwards until his waist hit the balcony wall he had just sprung away from. Why were her hands so cold? How did she get them to be so soft? And that ring on her left thumb… Where did it come from? Did it mean something? If he wrapped his arms around her waist, would she try to get away?
Cautiously, he let go of her hands and slowly wrapped them around her waist. She felt so fragile and so small, like the butterflies his mother’s cat would chase back at the manor. The fat feline never actually got any, but Draco had watched innumerable times as it huffed and pawed and swiped at the fluttering creatures. Perhaps that was what Hermione was… A delicate butterfly with soft wings, close enough to reach for but far enough to slip away. But he had her now, didn’t he? The ethereal being caught between his claws.
She shivered and drew her arms up to her chest as his hands came to rest behind her waist. “What are you doing?”
There she was, finally out of his mind and standing wrapped between his arms. “What is Davin to you?”
“Davin. What is Davin to you?”
Hermione’s brows furrowed together. “What do you care?”
Somewhere in the distance he could just make out drunken cries counting down, echoing up the winding stairs, down the long hallways and outside to his ears. “What is Davin to you Hermione?”
She sucked her bottom lip in as he leaned forward. “It’s nothing.”
Draco was so close now, her soft, nervous exhales tickling his face as her eyes grew wide. “Tell me Hermione.”
The bridges of their noses touched gingerly; Hermione’s eyes fluttered like the wings of a butterfly caught in the sites of a hungry predator. Her heart beat fast, swinging up and down in smooth but fevered arches.
“It’s nothing serious…”
The countdown was reaching single digits.
“Then be with me,” he whispered, his lips brushing hers as the words fell away.
I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get this up -_- But it was a good chapter, right? :D