Chapter 4 : Chapter Four
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September passed quickly for Hermione as she threw herself into her studies and before she knew it, she was spending the first Saturday in October writing essays. She told herself it was because she needed to stay ahead of the tough and challenging curriculum, but as she peaked around a shelf in the library, she was forced to admit there might be more to it. Hermione reluctantly acknowledged she might have been avoiding certain people. It had been going great when they’d been avoiding her too, but during the last two days it had been increasingly harder and harder to not run into Harry or Draco. Shed almost begun to think that they might be trying to anti-avoid her, if that was even a thing.
Finding the coast clear, Hermione grabbed large stack of books on various muggle medicines before scurrying out of the library and back to her dorm. She slid to a stop when she saw Harry leaning against the wall opposite the portrait she needed through. Maybe he didn’t see me . . . She started to back around the corner when he snapped his head in her direction.
“Honestly, Hermione,” Harry sounded exasperated, “I know everybody thinks I’m unobservant, but even a blind moose would see that. You aren’t sneaky.”
Hermione sniffed and flounced over to give her password, ignoring his jab at her. I was sneaky enough to help defeat Voldemort and keep you safe while on the run. Sending her books up to her room, she settled onto one of the couches and motioned him to join her. Instead, he perched on the edge of the coffee table in front of her, their knees almost touching. Harry kept glancing upstairs, over his shoulder, toward Draco’s room.
“He isn’t here; Quidditch practice,” Hermione said answering the question he clearly hadn’t asked.
Harry nodded, “You’ve been avoiding me.”
“Not so much you,” Hermione smiled, “more the conflict.”
Harry laughed, “She thinks it’s because you’re feeling guilty.”
“And I think she’s projecting her own feelings.”
“’Mione,” Harry’s voice was strained, “I thought we weren’t going to discuss that anymore.”
Hermione knew it was hard on him, but she pressed on, “Out of everybody, Harry, I understand the most. I just can’t imagine…” She trailed off, realizing he had stopped listening. From personal experience, she figured he was probably replaying the moment he found out about Ginny and Dean over in his head. Hermione had been there, but unlike Harry and Ron, she hadn’t been surprised. Ginny was always a wild card, so finding her making out with Dean at George’s funeral hadn’t really surprised her. After all, the whole Weasley clan was going through such a rough time and despite the fact Harry and Hermione were like family, at the end of the day, they weren’t and couldn’t fathom what Ginny and her brothers were going through that day. Hermione was sure that Ginny loved Harry more than anything and that Dean was simply a way to cope with all that was going on after the war, so despite being angry that Ginny had hurt Harry, Hermione had forgiven her readily. But it was during those few weeks after all of the funerals – after Harry found out and had insisted upon a break – that Ginny had begun to act like Harry and Hermione had something. When in truth, they were never more than good friends.
Hermione moved to join him on the table, “Hey, she’ll come around, Harry. She loves you more than anything.”
Harry nodded before leaning his head on her shoulder. They sat like that for some time, lost in their own thoughts and taking comfort from each other’s presence when Draco stumbled in, dirty and bloodied from practice. His team hadn’t been taking it any easier on him, but since the first night, Hermione hadn’t offered to help patch him up and he hadn’t asked. He didn’t say anything as he passed them, but the eyebrow he raised spoke volumes.
“Moments like these I seriously consider turning him back into a ferret,” Hermione muttered.
Apparently Draco heard her because he threw a glare over his shoulder at the two of them before sniffing loudly. Hermione dissolved into giggles and Harry struggled not to follow suit; the blonde stalked up the stairs, ignoring the two amused Gryffindors as he shut his door loudly.
“You know, ‘Mione, I don’t generally agree with anything the Deatheaters did, but that will always be an exception!” Harry finally broke in to a full blown laughing fit, table shaking under him.
Draco watched the tub as it slowly filled with steaming water, toying with the small vial he held tightly in his left hand. Bloody ferret – I’ll never live that down. He hated Crouch Jr. for that. It had taken days to get the rodent smell out of his and clothes and that was with various full strength cleaning charms and a few attempts from his house elves. Once the water reached level with the edge of the tub, Draco turned off the spout and poured the lilac potion into the water. He’d read about this the other day in the library and had ordered some from one of his companies – Bradwell’s Pain Away Soak. He knew the name was stupid, but what could you do about that? Apparently Bradwell’s would help with his muscle soreness if he soaked in it long enough. Draco wasn’t sure he believed it, but at this point he was willing to try anything.
Sinking into the tub, Draco ignored the water that splashed over the edge. He’d been avoiding the head girl for the last few weeks, unwilling to admit to himself that he had crossed a line the night she helped him. I crossed it before then. I let myself warm to her. In a desperate attempt to stay away from Hermione and to keep his growing feelings for her in check, he had stopped sitting by her in class and only spoke to her when absolutely necessary – like at prefect meetings. Draco realized with a start that his water had grown cold, so he drained his bath and moved to the shower to finish washing. As he scrubbed furiously, he realized happily that his muscles were no longer so and movements weren’t painful. He found himself grinning wildly as he dried off; it was the first time in weeks that it hadn’t hurt to move. Not that that was entirely unusual, giving his upbringing. Pushing thoughts of his father aside, Draco practically bounced into his room before throwing on a pair of pajama pants and hurrying downstairs to the small kitchen. He was absolutely starving!
Ignoring Harry and Hermione – Still laughing about that horrid incident no doubt – he toasted a croissant before spreading it with raspberry preserves. Perching on the counter, Draco munched happily.
“How’s the team?”
Draco looked up at Harry where he was leaning against the door to the small room, “Brilliant. You know, when they aren’t attempting to bludger me to death.”
Harry laughed, “I was hoping for awful.”
“Only when you play Hufflepuff!”
“Right?” Harry moved to the fridge, looking for a butterbeer, “Don’t know why they even bother to have one. Right embarrassing it is.”
Hermione walked in, nose in a book, “Harry, have you asked anybody to the ball yet? You know it has to be from another house. Ginny mustn’t like that too much, I suspect. Oh,” she looked up, noticing Draco on the counter and paused before shaking her head slightly and continuing, “um, right, tell Gin she should ask Asher, that Ravenclaw? He has a girlfriend in France so...”
“She’s already asked Theo,” Draco said, watching her intently, unsure of her reaction.
“Knott?” Hermione wrinkled her nose, clearly disgusted about Ginny’s choice.
Harry laughed, “Ron’s going to blow a gasket.”
“Gasket?” It was Draco’s turn to look confused. Must be a muggle term.
Hermione closed her book, a finger marking her spot, “A gasket is a seal placed between to pieces of materials to stop leaks.”
Draco smirked; Harry was rolling his eyes at her know-it-all tone behind her back. Hermione kept explaining various instances when gaskets were used, but Draco had stopped listening and was just watching her. She looked so alive when she was lecturing. She clearly loved teaching and he found he liked watching her do something she loved.
“What about you, Harry?” Hermione had finally stopped lecturing and was back to the original topic at hand – dates.
“I’m going with Luna, of course,” Harry smiled, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And it was, to Hermione at least, from her decisive nod and happy smile.
“And you?” Harry grabbed a cup of fruit from the fridge and sat down at the table.
Hermione joined him, taking a sip of his butterbeer and stealing a blueberry from his snack, “Actually, the headmistress expects Draco and me to go together.”
Harry laughed, “A show of school unity, of course.”
“Of course!” Hermione continued to pick fruit from Harry’s bowl for a few minutes while Draco and Harry went back to discussing Quidditch.
Draco kept watching her, but she seemed to be completely lost in her book. Harry finished his butterbeer and it was only then that Draco realized how late it was. Harry seemed to just be realizing it too, because he shrugged awkwardly as he got up to toss the bottle in the bin.
“’Mione,” Harry leaned down and kissed the top of her head, “I’m headed back to our dorm.”
She nodded absentmindedly, clearly still focused on her book, “Mmmhhh, night Harry.”
Harry smiled at her. Draco couldn’t miss how found of her Harry was. That was probably what Ginny kept seeing – and apparently mistaking for something more than brotherly affection. Draco raised a hand as Harry left and he nodded in response. It was kind of nice to be publicly on speaking terms with Harry.
Draco watched Hermione. She was making notes in an old, beaten book. It looked like it was probably one she had gotten from the RBR. Slipping off the counter, he grabbed a bottle from the fridge and took Harry’s vacated seat at the table. Mysteries of the Past : America’s Vanishing Pureblood Elite? Draco had no idea why she’d be reading that – let alone all of the other books focused on American purebloods that he’ seen around their dorm since they’d gotten back each as old and worn down as the one she had open now.
Draco loved her eyes. They’d always reminded him of this ring his grandmother had – at first glance it was a deep brown with gold flecks, but upon further inspection, green and purple and even blue shone through. A wonder, unexpected combination – just like her.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d prefer it if you wouldn’t stare so directly.”
He turned tomato red at Hermione’s statement. Draco had been so lost in her eyes and his thoughts that he hadn’t heard her snap her book shut or even notice that she had started staring at him. He didn’t know what to say, so he just shrugged.
Hermione rolled her eyes skyward, “Honestly, the way you and Harry shrug is utterly ridiculous.”
Draco hadn’t even realized he’d copied the other boy’s go-to answer until she pointed it out. Desperate to shift the attention away from himself, he scrambled for anything to ask her, “Why are you reading about Americans?”
“Why did you give me that look?”
He thought about pretending he had no idea what she was talking about, but he knew that she would see through that. He stayed silent, frantically trying to come up with any answer other than the truth.
“My, point,” Hermione continued, “is that somethings aren’t meant for sharing.” And with that, she took his butterbeer and left the room, tossing her slightly frizzy tendrils over her shoulder as she went.
He couldn’t help it, it was such an unexpected answer combined with her taking his drink that he tossed his head back, laughter erupting from his lips. It was easy to see, sharing this space with her, why Weasley fell so hard for her. Hermione was entirely different than he expected. She was prone to dry humor, sang horribly loud and off key in the shower, danced around her room (she’d left her door to the bathroom cracked once and he had snuck a peak only to see her with wild curls, twirling about), and was incredibly messy.
I love it.
The thought wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the easy way he accepted it was. He realized he was tired – tired of fighting it, tired of ignoring her, tired of letting the old ways he’d finally fought against control him. Shaking his head, he grabbed another butterbeer from the fridge and headed up to his room. That potions essay wasn’t going to write itself.
Settling back into her pillows, Hermione took a long drag from Harry’s butterbeer; Draco as being strange. Well, maybe he was being himself and she had never bothered to see it, but still – it was throwing her off. They way he’d been looking at her all night was – what’s the right word? – not creepy, but strange to say the least. Strange seemed to be the theme of the day with Gin asking Knott and Harry just showing up acting like everything was normal. Pushing all of the night’s events aside, Hermione went back to studying her book until she fell asleep, quill still in hand.
Hermione awoke with a start the knocking on her bedroom door. Cracking an open slowly, she was surprised to that sunlight was streaming in through her curtains.
“Mmmm?” It was all the response she could manage as she buried her head back in her pillows. Her door cracked open just as she became aware of a sharp stabbing in her stomach region. Looking down, she was slightly put off to see her quill stabbing her. Moving to peer over the edge of the bed, she found her book sprawled on the floor. Fell asleep reading . . . again. Merlin . . . A pair of black trainers entered her sight, distracting her from the reoccurring problem at hand and reminding her that she was forced awake by somebody. Blearily, she looked up and Draco came into focus. That smile, light. Startled further awake by her half asleep thought, she sat upright quickly, swaying at the dizziness that came with the movement. Draco looked ready for the day, his casual jean outfit complete with a smile.
Rolling her eyes at his peppy demeanor, she searched her night stand for her watch, ignoring him. Remembering again that she had fallen asleep without getting ready she looked at her wrist and – three forty five in the afternoon!
“Ah, yes,” He sounded entirely too smug, “you’ve noticed the time. I thought I should wake you since we have a meeting with the headmistress in fifteen minutes.”
Hermione glared up at him, “Thought that, did you? How lovely.”
Draco laughed outright at the disdain and annoyance that filled her words before disappearing back out her door. Hermione jumped right up and charmed herself clean – thank merlin for magic! – before changing into a wide navy and cream striped tee shirt dress and a jean jacket. Slipping into her brown sandals, she flicked her wand at her hair, weaving it into a thick, slightly disheveled French braid. Rushing into the loo, she brushed her teeth while her mascara applied itself. Grabbing the notebook she used for head girl duties, she bounced down the stairs only eight minutes after Draco woke her.
Smugly, she smirked at him, “Ready?”
“I’m impressed,” He clapped a few times before handing her a muffin and leading her into the hallway. The walked to McGonagall’s office in silence, her munching on the muffin and him not so discreetly looking at her.
“Um, so what color do I need to match to?”
“What?” Hermione was lost as to what he could be referring.
“You know,” Draco said, gesturing vaguely, “on Saturday – the ball? You said last night that we are supposed to attend together…”
Hermione almost dropped her muffin, “Fu-”
She rolled her eyes at him before continuing, “I completely forgot to get a dress! I have no idea! No dress…”
Hermione trailed off, clearly distraught.
“What are you doing this afternoon?” Draco stepped in front of her, forcing her to stop.
“I was going to read some more, maybe go see Hagrid. Why?”
“Let’s go get you a dress. I have a place that can get you what you need.”
Hermione laughed, “Of course Draco Malfoy has a dress place.”
The way she phrased it sounded ludicrous, so Draco joined in. The continued the rest of the way in silence, Hermione thinking about his offer.
When they reached the office door, Hermione turned toward him, impulsively, “Ok.”
His answering smile was so delighted, Hermione wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him so pleased. The meeting with the headmistress passed quickly as they finalized everything needed for Saturday. More or less, the meeting was just to update her on what the various committees had put together. Just like the Yule Ball, only years four and up were invited. But unlike before, they had decided to put something else on the night for the younger students and had planned a mixer on the fourth floor with games and such in order for them not to feel too left out.
“You’ve done remarkable work,” McGonagall informed them as she showed them out of her office, “I’m proud of the cooperation you two have fostered between the houses.”
“Thank you, headmistress,” they murmured in unison.
Hermione waited until they were further down the hall before speaking, “I’ll need to go back to the dorm to get my purse.”
“Of course,” Draco murmured, clearly elsewhere in his thoughts.
Once they reached the dorm, they both disappeared into their respective rooms. Hermione knew she couldn’t go anywhere with Draco Malfoy as herself, so she took a moment to change into a black silk tank top and dark grey fitted skirt, before shaking her hair loose from its braid. Slipping into black heels, she summoned a potion from her trunk and swallowed the emerald liquid. Slowly, her hair changed into stick straight, raven locks and her skin paled considerable until she was sure she might be paler than Draco. Leaning close to the mirror above her dresser, she slicked red lipstick on her lips before adding a touch of blush and eyeliner. Sticking her wallet, some sunglasses, and her wand into a black clutch, she headed back downstairs. Draco was sitting on one of the arm chairs. She nodded slightly when she saw he’d changed into black trousers and a matching shirt. He raised an eyebrow at her appearance.
“Hermione Granger wouldn’t go dress shopping with Draco Malfoy,” She couldn’t help the ‘duh’ tone in her voice; it should have been obvious.
Draco drew exceptionally close to her – so close she could see the slightest trace of freckles smattering across his nose – and reached out, running her hair threw his fingers, “I like your curls better.”
It was just a notch above a whisper, and Hermione was surprised to find her stomach in knots as he tucked it back behind her left ear. He’s acting so – familiar. It was unsettling and not exactly unpleasant. Clearing her throat, Hermione stepped around him, heading toward the portrait hole.
He caught up to her in the hallway, “My mother is close friends with Madame Cecily. She will be more than willing to accommodate whatever you desire.”
“Lovely,” Hermione didn’t turn to look at him, and they continued to the entry hall in silence.
Many students nodded to them as they passed, all of them clearly wondering who was accompanying Draco. Murmurs broke out in their wake and Hermione couldn’t help but smirk. This is kind of fun!
“Mia,” Harry jogged up the stair to join them, “how unlikely to see you here.”
Hermione ignored Draco’s puzzled expression and nodded to Ginny, who stood behind Harry, before addressing him, “Yes, well, Draco needed to run a few errands and I wished to join.”
Harry’s eyes sparkled as he laughed, “Have a good time!”
Hermione winked, “Always do!”
Draco nodded to Harry and Ginny as they continued up the stairs, “Mia?”
“You didn’t honestly think I would answer to Hermione looking like this?” She rolled her eyes, “Aren’t you supposed to be second in your class?”
Draco laughed softly, “Sassy, Granger.”
She rolled her eyes, but was stopped from replying by a gentle voice, “Draco! And who, if I may, is this?”
Astoria and her friends had rounded the corner in front of them and she was smiling up at Draco, annoyance just barely noticeable in her eyes.
Hermione smiled warmly, holding her hand out for a handshake, “Mia Vanderbilt; pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Astoria Greengrass; lovely to meet you,” Hermione resisted the urge to smirk at the girl’s obviously strained smile as they shook hands.
Draco placed his arm around Hermione’s waist, “It’s great to see you again, Tori, but I’m afraid we don’t have time to chat.”
Allowing Draco to steer her around the group of stunned girls, Hermione smiled warmly again, “Please give Daphne my best!”
Once around the corner, Draco dropped his arm and continued to lead Hermione down to the dungeons, “Vanderbilt?”
“Mmm,” Hermione responded noncommittally, “where are we going?”
“There’s a passage to Hogsmead just back here,” Draco said, pushing aside a tapestry of Lucinda the Singing Dwarf. Draco lit his wand and led Hermione down a shockingly clean passage for roughly twenty minutes that emptied out into the basement of the Quidditch shop. Reluctantly, Hermione agreed to side-along apparition since she didn’t know where they were going. With a loud pop, they landed in a dank alley way.
“And we are…?”
“Milan,” Draco said smiling as she followed him out into the sun.
Slipping on her sunglasses, Hermione followed behind him. She’d been to Milan a few times with her family – her mother did so love to shop – but rarely this part of the city. Finally Draco stopped in front of a quaint brick storefront with a white awning and a sign reading Lagerfeld’s House of Couture.He paused for a moment and Hermione used it to slip into her pureblood façade. Draco smiled reassuringly – reassuringly! – at her before pushing open the black door. A small bell signaled their arrival and a tall, modelesque woman looked up from where she was arranging grey and black peonies in a vase.
“Mister Malfoy,” she dipped slightly into a curtsy, “what a lovely surprise.”
“Devon, lovely as always,” He kissed both her cheeks before continuing, “may I introduced Miss Vanderbilt?”
“Pleasure,” Devon said, nodding at Hermione.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at the slight, “Likewise, I’m sure.”
Draco watched the exchange with interest, before asking, “Is Cecily in today?”
Devon offered to go get the Madame and disappeared through a door, presumably in the back. Hermione and Draco settled themselves onto a small sofa.
“My mother has always wanted to come here,” Hermione said conversationally as they waited.
Draco showed no reaction to the information that her mother had gone shopping in the wizarding part of Milan, “You’ll have to bring her. The Madame does wonderful work.”
“Oh, Draco! It’s so wonderful to see you!” A slightly plump woman wearing a silk frock swept in from the back, her greying hair piled into an intricate bun on the top of her hair, impeccable makeup highlighting her high cheekbones and bright blue eyes.
Draco smiled warmly as he embraced her, “It’s been too long, Cece.”
“That is has, that it has my dear boy! And who is this lovely creature?” She embraced Hermione just as warmly, and Hermione found she couldn’t help but smile in response.
“Mia Vanderbilt, Madame Cecily.”
“Oh, dear, please call me Cece – I insist! Now, you must come back to my office. Draco, be a doll and let us girls have a bit of a chat.” She led Hermione back through a maze of hallways, “Draco’s mother did mention he had a masquerade ball Saturday. Although, she failed to mention you might need a dress. What did you have in mind, dear?”
She settled behind a drawing table, motioning for them to take the seats in front of it, and looked expectantly at Hermione.
Two hours later Hermione emerged, deep in conversation with Cece. Draco had known they’d hit it off, Cece wasn’t a pureblood elitist – or even a pureblood – so even if he had brought Hermione as Hermione, it would have gone fine. He couldn’t quite wrap his head around Hermione’s disguise. At least the one he’d seen before school started looked like her at the core – same curls and bright eyes. But this one with the different hair and piercing blue eyes made him uneasy.
“Really, love,” Cece embraced Hermione again; “you must bring your mother sometime! I would simply adore meeting her!”
“Of course,” Hermione smiled wildly up at her, “You simply must do our dresses for our New Year’s party.”
“Perfect!” Cece Hugged Draco and Hermione again, “I’ll send your outfits over Friday! You must come around more Draco, I insist on it! Lovely to meet you, Hermione!”
The two left the shop smiling, but dropped the grins as they faded into the crowded street. Draco put a hand on her arm to stop her, “Let’s grab dinner before we go back.”
Hermione nodded and let him lead her farther up the street to a tiny café. After being seated, Draco finally addressed what had been bothering him since they’d left the shop, “She knew your name?”
“I had to show her myself so she could properly fit the dress,” Hermione sipped her wine, watching the sky darken over the rooftops.
After ordering, they sat in silence until their food arrived, where they ate in silence. Draco had so many questions about her assumed identity, but he knew now wasn’t the time to ask them. She obviously didn’t want to talk, so he focused on his calamari and white wine. He found himself replaying the afternoon over and over in his head, looking for any piece of information he may have missed.
“Draco,” he was brought out of his thoughts by Hermione’s hand on his, “would you are for any dessert?”
Shaking his head no, he requested the check and paid for their meals. As they headed out to the alley to apperate, Hermine spoke up.
“I could have paid, you know.”
“I’m sure you could have,” He wrapped an arm around her before she could protest anymore and side-alonged them back to the tunnel under Hogsmead.
Hermione rolled her eyes and marched along the tunnel in front of him. What’s got her in a mood? Draco was certain he had no idea, but whatever it was, was eliciting a series of exasperated sighs. He grinned, knowing she couldn’t see him. What a sassy witch. The continued along in that manner until they reached their dorm, at which point she sighed and marched up her stairs. He let himself laugh as he went to his room.
After changing into his pajama pants, he padded barefoot into their bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth. Startled, he saw Hermione looking like herself again, brushing her teeth at her sink, ignoring her as much as much as he could, he brushed his teeth. Soon he found his eyes watching her in the mirror, his resolve to ignore her vanishing. He rinsed his mouth as she wrapped her hair up into a bun, curls falling out all over the place. She met his eyes in the mirror and he lost as resolve.
Turning to her, he closed the pace between them quickly and yanked her bun down, curls spilling over her shoulders. He wrapped one around her finger, ignoring the way her eyes widened at his touch.
“This,” he whispered, “this is how your hair should look. And your eyes…”
He trailed off, tucking her hair behind her ear like he had earlier. The stayed like that for a long minute, and then she surprised him, reaching up and resting her hand on his.
The way she said his name, so soft and gentle, melted him, “Goodnight Hermione.”
Brushing his lips across her forehead, he smiled down at her before turning back to his room. He shut the door behind him without a glance back, never noticing the way she slowly raised her hand and touched the spot where his lips had been.
As always, I would adore to hear from you. Thanks a mil for reading!
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