TWATW-Chapter 20-Bite to Eat Together

By Marmalade Fever

Hermione dressed in such a hurried, harassed way that it was a small miracle that she didn't rip her nylons as she pulled them on over her toes. When she finally allowed Draco in, (she figured she should finally start referring to him mentally as such,) she didn't quite meet his eyes and skimmed past him out the bedroom door. She had seen his somewhat puzzled expression through her peripheral vision, but decided to let it be for the time being. She went and sat in the living room on the couch, rubbing at her face and trying to think in a way that she would deem Hermione-like, but she just seemed to keep ending up Parvati-like. She couldn't believe that he would leave something like that so out in the open—really, in an open drawer? Was he demented? What sort of person leaves an engagement ring somewhere where the potential fiancée could manage to find it? Unless it wasn't actually meant for her, but that was certainly doubtful. Who else could he ask? Fidget? Yeah, right, that was a laugh. She believed he was the sort of person who would choose a "mudblood" over a squib any day.

And sweet Merlin, did he still think of her in those terms? He had been living among muggles this whole time. Maybe he had finally gotten past his prejudice. She was the only witch he'd seen in a few months. Ideally, she'd like to think that in a perfect world, Draco Malfoy would overcome all prejudice and settle down with a muggle in a third world country somewhere, but that would leave Hermione herself a little high and dry. She was just selfish enough to gladly admit that that wouldn't actually happen, nor did she want it to happen, though it would do a world of good to his superego.

In any case, they would be here together in the muggle world, pretending to be a happily married couple with a child for an indefinite amount of time, and so long as she and possibly, probably, hopefully he were starting to feel something toward one another, it was the only logical route.

When the sound of his footfalls coming down the stairs alerted her to his presence, she half-turned to get a proper look at him. It might have just been the crazy, twirling hormones that had recently ransacked her system, but he looked very good to her. Very good indeed. So good, in fact, that her heart actually felt like it had torn loose from her ribcage to fly like a little golden snitch about the room.

"Are you feeling okay?" he asked, raising one of his gorgeous blond brows at her.

"Hmm? Fine, why?" she asked, unaware.

"You're staring at me," he accused, grabbing the car keys and jingling them unconsciously.

"Is that a bad thing?" she asked, rising from the couch. Her bladder already felt full again. She was fairly sure that that shouldn't start happening for a few more months, when the baby starts to press up against the offending organ, but her nerves might have also been to blame.

"I... suppose not," he said, giving her a final look before lowering his eyebrow again. He was wearing his dark gray dress shirt, Hermione noted gleefully. She loved that shirt. Would it be terribly open for her to offer him her arm? She decided against it. "Well, come on, birthday witch. Reservations are calling," he said, holding the door open for her.

"Thank you," she said, scuttling past him, her eyes resolutely on the ground again. It wasn't exactly that she wanted to marry him, per se, but it certainly didn't sound objectable at the moment.

Bob Brewster was doing some late afternoon watering as they went out. He flashed her a grin, and, if she wasn't mistaken, he sent Draco a double thumbs up. Draco groaned a little and averted his gaze from their nuisance of a neighbor.

"Off we go," Hermione said in a falsely cheerful voice, as they began to accelerate down the road.

"Yeah, sure," was his reply, as he drove the car further down the street. "How bizarre is it that I'm driving a muggle car, anyway?" he added a moment later.

"Um," Hermione began, wondering if he was trying to throw her off the scent by talking randomly about anything besides them, "a bit bizarre, yes."

"I mean, seriously," he continued, "if my father saw us right now, he'd have a heart attack. Actually, first he'd cast an Avada, then he'd have a heart attack."

Hermione just nodded. Really, what else could she do in reply to that?

"And that's assuming he didn't recognize you straight off," he added. "Son, a proper pureblood like yourself should not be consorting with Mudbloods while operating a muggle contraption. Thirty lashes!" He chuckled.

"So," Hermione interrupted, "where are we going?"

He looked startled for a moment. "Some restaurant I found in the phone book. They had a big ad, so I figured that if they can afford that, they should be fairly decent."

"Not necessarily," Hermione said carefully, now wondering just where exactly they were going, and if it was anything similar to that restaurant in her head with all the white table clothes where her prospective fiancée would get down on one knee and... She shook her head. She was getting carried away. In any case, the place took reservations, and despite Draco's limited knowledge of the muggle world, she was fairly sure he knew enough to be able to pick out a high class restaurant when need be. So it wouldn't be a fast food joint, hopefully. Maybe somewhere with steak. Mm... steak. And mashed potatoes...

"Granger, you're drooling," he noted, temporarily lapsing into his old habits of using her surname.

"Sorry," she muttered embarrassedly, wiping at her mouth. "No lunch," she added in explanation. She wanted to die just then, crumple up into some little ball somewhere because she had drooled in front of the man who was going to propose to her. She might have just blown her chance. Be cool, Hermione, be cool.

"We'll have to order hors d'oeuvres then," he said coolly. That perked her right up again. He hadn't made fun of her! Calloo, kaleigh! She never thought she'd live to see the day. "Ah, here we are," he said, parallel parking next to a dark building with bright sconces that lit up its name.

"Chez Delish," Hermione said slowly. Now why did that name seem familiar? He came around and gave her a helping hand out of the car. She was having increased difficulty with her slight weight gain and the tiny car as of late, and adding to the fact that she was currently wearing a dress and high heels (which were a pain because her ankles were beginning to swell) made things all that much more difficult. And so, with her heart beginning to hammer against her chest all the more, they entered the restaurant.

"Jones, party of two," Draco informed the hostess, who motioned with one of her red, glossy fingernails for them to follow her. They sat down, one across from the other, at the tiny table for two situated off toward the side, and somewhat secluded because of a large, fake, flowering plant. "I've never understood fake plants," he commented randomly. "I mean, do they give off oxygen? No. So what's the point?"

"Well," Hermione said slowly, taking a quick sip from her glass of ice water, "they're guaranteed not to die on you, you don't have to take care of them, and they always look perfect."

"That's about as bloody exciting as having a stuffed animal instead of a dog," he commented.

"Well, I'm not saying I prefer fake plants. I like real ones a lot more, but for strictly decorational purposes..." She couldn't believe they were having a conversation about fake versus real plants when he had a ring to give her!

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he said, leaning back further in his chair. "You look good tonight," he commented, a little too nonchalantly. "Do something different to your hair?"

Hermione flashed him a nervous smile. "You noticed," she remarked. "Actually I usually use shampoo, but I read somewhere that if you use lemon juice and conditioner, it's actually better for curly hair—" she began, but was cut off by the appearance of their waiter.

"Here are your menus, and can I start you off with anything to drink, or any appetizers?" he asked smoothly, removing a pen and a notepad from his apron pocket.

Draco ran his finger down the list of drinks and ordered himself something alcoholic, while Hermione meekly ordered a glass of milk, holding up her hands innocently and explaining that it was better for her condition than soda, or, heaven forbid, beer. "And the sampler platter," Draco finished off, and the waiter scuttled away with their order. Draco turned back to her. "So, what looks good to you?" he asked, opening up his menu.

Hermione, who had just noticed how crisp and white the tablecloth was, didn't answer at first. She silently turned to her own menu. "I think I'll have a steak with a side of mashed potatoes," she answered at last, remembering her earlier reason for drooling.

"That looked good to me as well," he said, sounding somewhat miffed. "But I think I'll be bold and get these 'baby back ribs,'" he said, as if the name was foreign to him.

"Those are messy," she warned, suddenly getting a vision of him down on one knee holding her hand and getting her completely sticky with barbecue sauce. Wouldn't Madelyn love that story?

"Are they?" he asked, glancing down at his crisp, clean shirt. "Maybe I'll get the steak too, then," he said succinctly.

Hermione subconsciously exhaled in relief. A minute or two later, their waiter returned with their sampler platter, and Draco picked up a jalopeno popper, sniffed at it, and ate it greedily. Great, maybe she didn't want to kiss him at the end of the night after all.

As they waited for their food, Hermione began drumming on the table with her fingernails. She had started growing them out and they were now a respectable length.

"Are you okay?" he repeated, looking at her from the corner of his eye. She nodded emphatically, but continued drumming on the table. She had suddenly gotten a horrible idea into her head. He couldn't propose to her here. This was a muggle restaurant. They were supposed to be married already. But what if he hadn't realized that?

Their food arrived after a twenty minute wait and she watched as he began tearing into his steak without regard for the table manners he usually displayed. She followed suit, of course. If he could be so carefree when he was the one who should be nervous, then there wasn't a reason for her to get so jumpy. "Enjoying your birthday so far?" he asked, looking up after he'd drained his drink.

"So far?" she asked hopefully.

He squinted. "Uh, yeah, as in, up until this point in time?"

She leaned back into her seat. "Yes," she answered simply. "But is there more?"

He looked around helplessly. "We could order dessert," he said, looking dazzled.

She sighed. He was just playing innocent, wasn't he? After they had finished their meals and Draco ordered them each a slice of cheesecake, they sat in silence. Any minute now, Hermione thought to herself, trying her best to look casual. But dessert came and went and he still hadn't done anything remotely suspicious, like say he'd left something in the car, or that he needed to use the bathroom, or that he'd dropped his napkin and needed to pick it up and oh, look what was under the table, would you like it?

And then they were leaving. They were leaving the restaurant. She just couldn't get over the fact. But maybe he preferred to do this in privacy? Away from prying muggle ears that already believed them to be wed?

They got in the car and he started it up like it was the most normal thing in the world, which it sort of was. And then he drove, and they got out in their driveway, and unlocked the door, and they were standing in their living room, completely as if nothing had happened. This had to be it. Maybe he had forgotten to take it out of his sock drawer. His pants pockets did look awfully flat. Or maybe he'd left it here on purpose. She watched mutely as he went to the couch, sat down, and flicked on the telly the same way he might after a hard day at the bookstore. But he did motion her over to sit down next to him. At least he did that. Maybe he'd called some television station and arranged for them to flash "Will you marry me?" onto the screen. No, that just didn't seem like his style.

Crookshanks hopped leisurely onto the couch between them and started to purr. An hour passed. Two hours. "Well, happy birthday, Grangy," he said, and patted her head once. "I think I'll head."

Maybe... now? She followed him up the stairs, but he didn't flinch in the slightest. He just went up to his dresser, pulled out a pair of black silk pajamas, and went straight into the bathroom. And when he came out, he climbed up into his top bunk, rolled over, and must have gone out like a light because she heard snores only a minute later, as she continued to just stare at him. She retrieved her own pajamas and went silently into the bathroom, at which point she allowed herself one sob, and one sob alone. Maybe he was saving it for later, who knew? Certainly not her, anyway. She climbed carefully into the lower bunk, staring up at the underside of his mattress. Men may not understand the minds of women, but no one ever said that women understand the minds of men.

A.N.: I typed this up on Windows 95. Ew. Lol Poor Hermione. Also, brownie points to anyone who caught the Chez Delish reference. It took me awhile to decide between that and Basil Garden.