A Post Hogwarts Affair Chapter 17
A/N added 1/18: if you read the version posted yesterday, I took that down and added another part to this chapter.
There was heat exuding from his body. Real heat, like it was warm and everything, and it was swallowing me up… Good God, Hermione! I caught myself. I had been musing about his body heat. His bloody body heat. And I was surprised that it was warm. This crush was taking its toll not only on my emotions but apparently on my brain cells as well. Just marvelous!
We were sitting in the restaurant, in our own private little room, ridiculously early. I distinctly remembered Draco telling me that we had to meet them in about an hour; I had been at his house for fifteen minutes at the most. That meant that I had to sit here for forty-five stretchy little minutes and wait it out, with only the world's most confusing man sitting next to me.
At least it was entertainment of some sort.
"So," I said dully, my mind still thinking of the broken glass encounter, as I'd begun to call it. I hated myself at these moments, because I was such a total and complete girl. Had to analyze every single thing. I knew girls that looked at guys' fingernails to tell if he was into her or not; surely I couldn't be turning in to that? But maybe I was. Who knew? Feeling particularly masochistic, I commented, "I hear you're going with Lavender Brown to Parvati's wedding."
Draco nodded. He didn't say anything, though, and I was personally hurt that however painful my topic of conversation was…he wasn't even following through with it! I mean, please, he was acting so antisocial! "That's exciting," I finally commented dryly. "Look. I don't want to sit here and make small talk with you. Frankly, you're not worth it, and the only reason I'm here is so that I can make it easier for you and the Rivers. Oh, and let me add that I have not seen them for years!"
He glared. I tried to remember the semblance of normality and absolute rightness that went with that glare. Glares were familiar; I could deal with them. I mean, all my life I'd glared at this guy, poked him, shouted at him, slapped him, hated him…and now…now things were different. I liked glares. I didn't like broken glass.
"Good," I finally scowled in his direction. "Please keep glaring."
"I will," he replied childishly. "How could I not when all I have to look at is you!"
Even though I'd been thinking the exact same words it still hurt when he voiced them out loud and I heard them swirl around me. "Excuse me?" I said sharply. "I think that's going beyond anything appropriate."
He didn't answer and then after a good half-minute or so he simply commented, "they're here".
I turned, all squabbles forgotten as I looked to see two lovely people I just hadn't met in years and years. And there they were! Mrs. Rivers didn't look a day older (botox? collagen? implants?) and while Mr. Rivers had considerably aged he had done so very gracefully.
"Hermione, darling, you look just marvelous!" Mrs. Rivers enveloped me in a tight hug, which although I was used to dealing well with awkwardness now, was still impossibly hard to breathe in without sounding like I was dying of a hacking cough.
"I'll have to let your parents know you've grown into a stunning woman," Mr. Rivers teased with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm surprised they don't keep you on a leash."
I thought I would faint. I wasn't sure what Draco would say of this "crude Muggle humor" he was probably thinking about. And for the first time I felt a slight twinge of embarrassment about my own heritage. I assure you, it was very short, very very very short-lived, because this crush had warped my own ideals, but soon everything was back on track. Of course Draco wasn't worth sacrificing my early childhood and all that had gone with it. Of course Draco wasn't worth forgetting the Muggle world over.
"Touché, Mr. Rivers," I grinned.
"Shall we have a seat?" Draco jumped in, probably eager to have a say in the conversation after he'd been introduced. "I'm sure we've plenty to discuss."
"Oh, yes, business, what a drag," Mr. Rivers laughed heartily. "I hardly want to think about it!"
"Darling," Mrs. Rivers purred, "now that we're here we might as well give it a thought. You know Hermione, we hardly even thought about what we'd say, we were just so excited about seeing you! Poor Teresa was just jealous out of her mind! She's dying to see you again! It's been just too long!"
I smiled warmly. Screw Draco Malfoy. I was enjoying myself because I truly hadn't seen these people and sometimes it was nice to just sit and catch up. The conversation continued in this vein until appetizers and wine were served. Draco warmed instantly. I knew he was calculating the approximate amount that Mr. Rivers drank; he knew it was good to have your prospects loose and relaxed before proposing business ventures.
"So, tell me about your company," Draco said rather seductively, smiling beatifically at the couple. God it was turning me on so much just to see him talk like that. He was so suave; so… ooh, it was indescribable.
The funny part was that I knew what he was doing. I mean I knew him! He was pretty slimy alright and when he cleaned himself up… I still fell for it. He was beautiful. Waterfalls talking. Maybe I wasn't just in crush, and the word love danced on my lips…
Hah, very funny Hermione. I caught myself before going round the bend completely. That was just totally ridiculous. So maybe my crush was bordering on infatuation, but love, love was a far cry off. And I wouldn't think of it again.
I enjoyed myself. It was good fun—and we hadn't really started to discuss business because every time Draco tried one of the Rivers would start telling a little-Hermione-and-Teresa story or something of the sort. I could tell Draco was pretty upset towards the end and decided I'd better make it up to him considering he had flown these people in on his money and was banking on a good deal. But before I could do so Mrs. Rivers injected her own little interlude.
"So Hermione sweets, I think you've gotten cosy with your boss! Isn't that racy!"
While we were both expecting such a turn of events, neither of us (I hope) expected it in such crude terms. I nearly spit out my wine and the look on Draco's face was far from pleasant; it took me back to the days of Hogwarts when his expression was permanently ugly. "well," I began tentatively, "he's not really my boss - he's just a higher-up." A white lie never hurt anyone, right?
Mr. Rivers laughed. "Well he's quite the higher-up. We'll have to snap a photo to show Teresa. So young man, tell me about yourself. I want to know what kind of men our Hermione likes."
But before a very pissed off looking Malfoy could reply, Mrs. Rivers looked at me with a frown. "I thought Teresa told me you were married... but I guess she never your husband's name. I suppose we're meeting him in flesh!"
Awkward. My face was positively blistering. It was hot and I was itchy. "Well um I got divorced... some months ago," Icouldn't even bring myself to look into her eyes. And then pointing to Draco I added for emphasis, "we're not married."
It was dead silent for a moment and I thought the cause was hopeless until Draco saved the day, so to speak. Although I didn't want to see him in tight spandex like those muggle superheroes... or shit, did I?
Draco laughed. "we're not quite at that level yet," he laughed and squeezed my hand. "but I have to say she is lovely."
I wouldn't let myself believe the words, because I knew they were for show. But it felt really nice to pretend that he meant them. Very, very nice, in fact so nice that I would've jumped headfirst into my daydreams had I not had an important business dinner to finish.
"So she is," the Rivers' agreed.
Finally I decided this was enough side-tracking, and it was time to get back on track. And I didn't want to hear any more of those false compliments from Draco, which were certainly not true.
"So, Mr. Rivers," I began politely as I took a bite of chocolate mousse (heavenly, I assure you. Who cared about diets at times like these? Whatever; I'd rather be full and fat any day). "I'm surprised you're still at the helm of your company. I would think you would retire by now."
"Oh dearie," Mrs. Rivers agreed wholeheartedly, "I've been telling him this for years. He just can't seem to let it go!"
Draco ahem-ed and I put a warning hand on his to tell him to shut up; I was in my element. "Why so?" I asked.
"can't trust just anyone with my baby," Mr. Rivers noted. "don't want them to ruin it."
"What would you say if I proposed to buy your company? Have it merge with ours?" I smiled sweetly at Draco and Mr. Rivers at the same time. "You know I wouldn't let it go to ruin."
For a second there was silence. I could tell by the predatory gleam in Draco's eyes that he certainly would not mind in the least. "Oh yes," he stepped cautiously, "I've been looking to invest in a small successful oil company and this… this fits perfectly."
With a few memories of the past and how responsible I was, we convinced Mrs. Rivers pretty quickly. It took a good long effort to bring Mr. Rivers around but the evening ended in a promise to let us buy the company.
Holy shit. Teresa's parents were going to be stinking rich.
And I was going to get a promotion; I knew it.
Later, Draco and I made our way back to his house—so it did appear we were dating, which fully satisfied gossipy Mrs. Rivers. Yes I loved the woman but honestly nothing pleased her more than a full plate of juicy scandalous rumors. "So?" I asked, eyes sparkling. "That went extraordinarily well, didn't it?"
"Better than I expected," he grinned. "it was a real dud in the beginning. I thought I was going mad."
"Why? They're so sweet!"
"And totally unfit for the owl-eat-owl business world out there! How that company was successful I'll never know!"
"Maybe by good service," I sniffed. Sometimes Draco could just be so damn insensitive. "Anyhow you'll convert it into a magical oil company won't you?"
"Yes. The market for that is just incredible, and right now there isn't a well-known name brand. And … you're good at marketing. I want you to be the top advertising executive for this new branch of my company; I've already decided to call it Wizoil."
"Wizoil?" I asked skeptically, rolling it around on my tongue. "Strange."
"But you won't forget it, will you? It's rather memorable and that's what I'm going for."
I had to agree. My heart was still fluttering from my lovely promotion but I wasn't going to let Mr. High-and-mighty in front of me know it. "Well, I best be getting home," I said, to avoid any confrontations of the sort.
But before I could actually Apparate away, Draco stepped in front of me. He was still a good two feet away, but the way he stared at me made my palpitations increase. I felt close to cardiac arrest, but it was in the most pleasant way possible. His gaze was intense and our eyes clashed, brown and gray, boring, an unsaid competition. I didn't want to lose but I knew if we continued I'd whimper or something like that. I forced myself to tear my eyes away. "What are you doing?" I asked, my breath coming fast and shallow. How could a simple gaze affect me like that?
"Nothing," he whispered. "Nothing at all."
"Just stop," I pleaded. "It's uncomfortable."
"Is it?" His voice was bordering on husky. I was not going to get turned on, no, no, no, no… okay, yeah, I was turned on. Very much so. But I would ignore it.
"I have to go," I said firmly, pushing past him.
I felt a cool hand clasp my wrist – and the first thought that came to mind was that Draco Malfoy was tangibly touching me. It was electric, the way his smooth fingers played on the inside of my wrist. "What are you doing?" I asked sharply, rudely, belying any feelings that I felt inside.
"Hermione," he repeated. "Look at me."
Even though I didn't want to, I did. Something about the way he said it compelled me to do so.
He leaned close to me, very close, close so he could whisper in my ear. "You love me, don't you," it was a statement, not a question. "You watch me. You deny it to yourself, but you know deep down that you want me."
The words were slick whispers tinged with amusement; I could hear the smirk in every syllable even though he wasn't physically smirking for once. I pushed him away. "stop it," but my stomach was pulsing with anxiety and roiling at the situation. I was awfully uncomfortable. So he knew; had known all along; had laughed with glee when he saw the big girl on campus Hermione Granger fall for him, even when she was still married to Ron Weasley. He fucking knew.
"I have to go," I moaned. "I have to go home."
But Draco wasn't done yet, so I knew I wasn't going anywhere. Instead he put his lips so they were hardly inches away from my own and whispered some more. "The thing is, Hermione, I don't believe in love right now. I don't want a girlfriend. I don't like commitment."
I stepped back but he grabbed my waist and pulled me closer. Is he going to kiss me? I found myself wondering idly when I finally felt his lips on my own. I had dreamt of this for so long that I could hardly believe it was real. It was a long kiss; a good kiss. He was good at this, and for a while was successful in distracting me with his dominant kisses and his dominant tongue, but let me tell you, you just can't dominate Hermione Granger. No bloody way.
So I pulled away and gave him a very dirty look. "How dare you kiss me," I scowled, panting heavily, so he knew that I still loved it. "How dare you."
"Why not?" he asked, surprised. "You love me, don't you?"
"that's besides the point," I snarled. "First you tell me you hate commitment, you hate the thought of having a girlfriend, you don't believe in love… and then you kiss me? That's the worst pick up line I've ever heard, and if you think you're getting any with that, think again."
His calm demeanor was back. "I just thought I should let you know," he shrugged. "I think you're a great girl, Hermione. I like you, but this is all I want."
A Muggle term I'd once heard came floating back to me. "You want a friends-with-benefits."
He grinned. "A nice, if not blunt way to put it," he considered. "Yes. Hermione, that's what I want."
"No," I said emphatically. "Absolutely not. I can't do that. I won't do that. NO!"
I stormed out of his house then, and Apparated to my own. As soon as I entered I sank down on my couch, tired and weary and most of all unbelievably sad and upset. He wasn't worth it. He wasn't worth it at all. I mean, what kind of man takes advantage of your love and tries to use it for physical pleasure? Okay, a lot of men, but I hadn't planned on being one of those women!
For a while I simply sat on my couch and cried. I cried for myself, I cried for all the time I'd wasted, I cried for having to still work with him, I cried for his loss—his silly beliefs, his total lack of tact with a girl—but most of all…I cried because even after everything, I still wanted him, still thought of him, still couldn't get over him.
It made me sick to my stomach, and I didn't know what would become of it.
A/N: I started this chapter a long time ago, but I had writer's block until about mid-way through it. I know it's not the longest of chapters, and probably an iffy chapter, but now at least we've gotten somewhere. I guess this is a turning-point chapter; I just hope you guys liked it. Thank you for waiting patiently. I appreciate it so much. Thanks for all of your reviews, and please tell me what you thought of this chapter. I hope I am going in a good direction – and don't worry this fic's not over yet!