Hermione went back to work to avoid the thoughts of Ron that invaded her mind whenever she was idle and so did Harry.
Bits and Pieces
Draco flopped on his leather couch and sighed. When he closed his eyes, what he saw made him stand up and go straight to the bar in the living room. He took the bottle of Firewhiskey and poured it into a glass.
He gulped the whiskey and winced.
Brown eyes… accusing…
He drank again, trying to drown the picture of the naked Hermione wrapped in a blanket, staring at him in disbelief. He shifted his thoughts partially.
For the past weeks, he had worked extra hard and even worked overtime more than he ever had in the past several months. His hard work was being paid off by the growth in sales but that wasn't his goal in working hard. He tried to completely bury the only memory of not taunting, teasing or annoying Hermione Granger but he couldn't seem to stop her image from popping out whenever he was about to rest. He looked at his drink and took a sip, watching the liquid swirl as he moved the glass. A loud ring echoed in the empty living room. He walked to the couch and answered it.
"Sir, there's someone who would like to speak to you," his secretary said as a greeting.
"Who is it?" Draco asked, annoyed.
"Mr. Zabini, sir," she replied reluctantly, noting the tone of Draco's voice.
"Tell him to give you his number and send it to me."
"Yes, sir," she replied and waited for him to hung up.
Draco sat on the couch and waited for his hand phone to beep. When it did, he dialed the number that the secretary sent him.
"Blaise," Draco said.
"Draco, who was that?" Blaise asked. "Your girlfriend?"
Draco thought for a while, thinking if it was time to tell him.
"You can't say huh?" Blaise said after a moment of silence. "She sounded like someone serving you."
"She's someone I need," Draco said after careful thought.
"You never told us you had a girlfriend," Blaise said, hiding the surprise he was feeling. He remembered the prank he and Pansy played when he was drunk.
"Why did you call?" Draco said, letting the issue of the girlfriend/secretary drown in between the lines.
"I was about to ask you out on a date. Pansy and I are going out tonight for a few drinks," Blaise said.
"Yeah, sure, I'll meet up with you," Draco said after glancing at the whiskey on the bar.
"Somewhere nearer," Draco said quickly, thinking of the last time they went there.
"How would I know what's nearer? I don't even know where you live."
"I'm somewhere in the center."
"Why so secretive?"
"I'm enjoying the way you are obsessing over my non-existent address," Draco answered.
"I'll pick you up then and we'll find a place," Blaise offered. "We'll wait for you in Lillain's coffee shop."
Draco hung up and slipped a coat on. He glanced at the whiskey on the bar and left his home. He hurried to the coffee shop, thinking that Blaise and Pansy would apparate and would see him walking to the coffee shop from Serpent Towers. A bell rang as he entered the coffee shop and the smell of brewed coffee greeted him. He sat on one of the chairs and ordered lemonade. Lillain wasn't in the shop as what he had expected.
It was about thirty minutes before Blaise and Pansy arrived and Draco eyed them both.
"Did you two do something first before coming here?" Draco said, irritated, since he had expected them to arrive ten minutes the latest.
"We used the car," Blaise explained. Translated: We didn't apparate.
After a few moments of his complaining, they all went to the car with a lighter atmosphere.
"So, Draco… I remember you evaded my question. Was that your girlfriend?" Blaise said glancing at the mirror to see Draco seated at the back.
"I heard about that. A female in your house?" Pansy said turning to face Draco. Draco crossed his arms and didn't say anything. Pansy laughed.
"Blaise! He isn't answering the question!" Pansy said to Blaise and tugged his sleeve as he drove.
"You didn't want to tell us your address and the ever reliable muggle directory was helpful," Blaise said. Draco turned to him and said: "So that's where you got the telephone number?"
Draco bought an apartment near the office, reserved the largest unit for whoever will be his secretary and rented out the rest of the units to his staff. He did that so that the number registered to that apartment unit will be under his name and whoever wanted to call him will have to pass the call through the secretary. Then, he kept the real telephone number and address. He didn't want to be reached directly but he didn't want to be inaccessible either. So he thought of the layout before he started hiring his staff.
"I wonder why you're keeping your address from us," Blaise said.
"Are you living in a garage?" Pansy said and chuckled.
Draco didn't say anything.
"You are?!" Pansy suddenly turned to him.
"No!" Draco quickly said when she misunderstood his silence.
"Have you ever used a muggle directory Draco?" Blaise said with a playful tone and it made Draco wonder about his tone.
"Maybe," Draco answered after remembering he let his secretary do the searching. "Why?"
"Well, do you know what's in a directory?" Blaise asked and glanced at him.
"Phone numbers," Draco said matter-of-factly. Blaise chuckled. Draco sat back and looked out the car window. He saw a familiar low rise apartment and the familiar street that he passed every time he walked out of his office.
"Why are we here?!" Draco asked and sat upright.
"Well, we are obsessing over your secretive attitude," Blaise said as he drove.
"What are you hiding?" Pansy added. Draco realized what they planned to do.
Draco apparated into his secretary's apartment unit. He didn't know that Pansy and Blaise would go as far as copy the address and find it. He saw a lady in the kitchen, her back turned to the door.
"Liza!" Draco called out and rushed to her. Liza, his secretary, jumped at the sound of his voice and quickly turned around.
"What are you doing here?!" Liza said, surprised. She had forgotten 'sir' and 'boss' the moment she turned to him.
"Don't ask questions. Pretend to be my girlfriend starting now!" Draco quickly said.
"What?! H-how did you get in?" Liza said still a bit surprised that her boss was standing in her kitchen. Draco had forgotten that Liza was a muggle and she didn't know apparition.
"Your door was unlocked," Draco lied and started to walk to the living room. He pointed his wand at the door and unlocked it when Liza was temporarily blocked by the divider.
"I locked that a while ago," Liza defended.
"You should always double-check," Draco said quickly and sat on her couch. Liza rushed to the door and found it unlocked.
"He apparated!" Pansy looked at the back after the crack and didn't find Draco.
"What is he hiding?" Blaise said after a while.
"I'll go after him," Pansy said but Blaise held her wrist before she could apparate. Blaise kept the wheel steady and started to park in front of the apartment.
"You can't apparate just like that. You might end up in a room with a muggle and you'll deliver a shock after just appearing like that," Blaise explained. "Draco knows the place well. He might have gone straight into his apartment."
Pansy huffed. "Let's walk then." She opened the car door and Blaise followed. They walked into the apartment building and looked for the unit they had copied from the directory.
"Remember, pretend," Draco said and added, "And I live here with you." The doorbell rang after he spoke. Liza stared at him confused but she just nodded, wondering if this was one of his mood swings. She walked to the door to open it but Draco rushed beside her and said softly, "Let's open it together, shall we?"
Liza just nodded and they opened the door for Blaise and Pansy.
"Draco!" Blaise greeted as if they had met only now. "What are you hiding?!"
"I wonder…" Pansy said as soon as they were allowed to enter the apartment. Blaise and Pansy went to the living room and looked around then Blaise turned to Liza.
"So, you're his patient girlfriend?" Blaise said and extended a hand. "My name's Blaise Zabini."
Liza chuckled at the word patient. "Liza Addel." Draco stood behind her protectively.
Brown hair, brown eyes… just like… Blaise thought as he studied her in a surreptitious manner.
"Pansy Parkinson," Pansy said and smiled at her but was a bit far to shake her hand. Liza nodded in acknowledgement.
"Please sit," Liza said while wondering why Draco Malfoy was hiding his real address from his two so-called friends.
They all sat. Pansy and Blaise took the long couch so Liza sat on the single chair and Draco sat on its armrest as if they sat beside each other all the time.
"I really don't understand. Why did you hide her from us?" Pansy asked.
"I didn't," Draco quickly answered.
"Yes, you did," Blaise said. "After you made us think you're not the same Malfoy. You said you haven't dated anyone in a while."
"I knew you'd be investigating on your own. You went as far as tracking this address," Draco said.
"Are you ashamed that you're with me?" Liza suddenly chimed in and looked at Draco. Draco was surprised that she spoke and moreover asked something that he couldn't answer right away.
Pansy chuckled and said to Draco: "You're in trouble."
"It's not like that," Draco said and placed an arm around her shoulders which made Liza tense up a bit. "I just wanted to make an impression that I've changed a lot."
"Draco used to have a lot of girls chasing him," Pansy said suddenly.
"Pansy was one of them," Blaise added, a bit worried that Pansy's statement might make Liza leave Draco instantly.
"So how many women are chasing you now?" Liza said and crossed her arms.
"A bunch of them," Draco played along. "But you're the only one I dedicate my attention to."
Liza remembered that Draco's staff was mostly women and Draco would be the topic of some conversations during lunchtime.
"He seems to be hard to please," Liza said once to a friend when Draco was the topic.
"It would be nice to try and please him," her friend replied.
It wasn't hard for him to attract women but he never really showed interest in them. It's like he was waiting for something magical to fill his expectations.
"Where did you two meet?" Pansy asked when cozy silence met Draco's statement. Liza looked up at Pansy and posed as if she was thinking.
"In a bar, right?" Draco said and squeezed Liza's shoulders.
"The bar five blocks from here?" Liza asked and looked at Draco for confirmation. Draco thought of the place and nodded. They both knew that the building where the bar is situated was sold by Draco Malfoy two years ago.
"The bar with the drinks on fire?" Pansy asked.
"I guess it's known for that," Liza smiled. "They call the place Esotico."
"Let's go there then," Blaise suggested. "We had trouble choosing where to go and besides, it's relatively nearer than the others."
"Come with us Liza," Pansy added.
Draco thought for a while and didn't say anything.
"It's alright if I stay here," Liza began.
"No, come with us. Why should you stay here when your boyfriend's out there partying?" Pansy defended.
"I know he won't do anything that'll make me mad and I have some work to do," Liza said with a smile.
"Come with us," Draco suddenly said and looked at her. "You can abandon work for tonight, right?"
"I'm not sure if I can," Liza said.
"You've been doing advance work for the past weeks. Why don't you rest for tonight?" Draco suggested implying that it was alright if she didn't do her work for tonight. Liza didn't reply.
"Just join us and relax," Draco continued to persuade her so Liza nodded, sensing that he wanted her to go with them.
A few rounds of drinks later…
Blaise leaned towards Draco when Liza was in the comfort room. "Is she a muggle?"
"Is that why you kept it from us?" Blaise said. "Because you have a muggle girlfriend?"
Draco nodded, knowing that Blaise would accept this as his excuse of keeping his address from them. Liza returned and the muggle issue was dropped.
"What's your work Liza?" Pansy asked, she was a bit tipsy at that point.
"I work in real estate," Liza replied.
"You work and Draco doesn't?" Pansy asked.
"I don't need to work," Draco interjected.
Liza chuckled. "You really don't need to."
Draco glanced at her. "What are trying to say?"
"Just as I said: you don't need to work," Liza defended.
"Liz," Pansy called her attention. "You better hold on to your boyfriend. That girl keeps on looking at Draco."
Draco turned to where Pansy pointed. His eyes swept the area and found someone familiar: curly brown hair with her back turned to him.
"Don't check her out," Liza said and tugged at Draco's sleeve.
"I was just wondering if I'd met her before," Draco said in reply.
A few rounds more…
Draco assessed the scene in front of him for a while, thinking if it was safe to leave the three. Pansy was slurring her words and Blaise was trying understand her while Liza was slightly tipsy, she had limited her drinking for the night and made sure she was alert enough to keep pretending she was Draco's girlfriend. Draco stood up, excused himself and left for the comfort room but made sure that Liza could handle the two while he was away by catching her eye and placing a hand on her shoulder. Liza smiled at him and gave a slight nod. Draco stood up, feeling light-headed. As he walked to the comfort room, a woman bumped into him as if it was on purpose. Draco cursed and looked up at her but he was taken aback when it was Hermione Granger he was looking at.
"Good evening, Malfoy," Hermione greeted with a smile.
"Hello there, Granger," Draco greeted back after putting on his usual expression.
"Enjoying the evening with your friends?" Hermione asked.
"You can say that, and you?"
Draco suddenly noticed that Hermione's eyes weren't focused.
"You're drunk," he stated.
"Obviously," she said and sipped from the glass she was holding.
"Excuse me," Draco said and left her to go to the comfort room.
Draco came back after a while and searched for the woman he bumped into moments ago. He saw her leaning on the bar talking to the bartender. Draco glanced consciously at the table he shared with Blaise, Pansy and Liza and found them busy with their own stuff. He approached Hermione; he knew he could take advantage of this moment while she was drunk and he could saturate himself with her presence since she has been dominating her drinking sessions for the past weeks. He had to get over the time they woke up in a hotel room and he knew he could only do that by proving to himself she was the mudblood he hated back in Hogwarts.
Draco went near her but he couldn't think of a nice 'hello' line to deliver so he just made himself be noticed by interrupting the two by saying, "Lemonade."
The bartender nodded and smiled at Hermione when he left to prepare Draco's order.
"You're in here and you order lemonade?" Hermione teased but didn't look at him.
"Do you hate lemonade for you to mind that I ordered it?" Draco said and kept his gaze on the mirror in front of them.
"I feel like you did that on purpose," she said accusingly.
"You ordered lemonade so he would leave."
Draco smirked. "And why would I make him leave?"
"So you can be with me," Hermione said and sipped her drink.
Draco snorted. "Don't be so full of yourself."
"Never got over what happened?" Hermione asked him suddenly and he almost fell back.
"The incident in the hotel room?" Draco said matter-of-factly. Hermione nodded. They both still avoided eye contact.
"I can't believe I would go with you, Malfoy. I feel like you forced me or carried me or drugged me."
"You're going too far. I wouldn't do all that just to be with you in a hotel room," Draco said softly and glance to the left to see if Liza was still holding it up with Blaise and Pansy. Pansy was already knocked out and Blaise was supporting her as if he was going to carry her.
"It's weird though. It was only earlier this day when I realized the effect of what happened," Hermione said with a soft tone.
"What do you mean?" Draco asked, a bit distracted by Blaise and Pansy. The bartender came and gave him the lemonade.
Liza rushed to him and said, "They're leaving. He's taking her home."
Draco turned to Blaise but he was already out the door when he saw them. "You may go home too."
Liza nodded, a bit disappointed that Draco didn't go as far as walking her home. Draco turned back to Hermione when Liza left.
"Your friend?" Hermione asked.
"Girlfriend… I guess," Draco said hesitantly, unable to think if it was appropriate.
"Oh," was all she could say.
"Why are you alone?" Draco asked and started to drink the lemonade.
"Harry wouldn't allow me to flirt and drink," Hermione chuckled.
"Flirt and drink… you seem to have changed."
"Did you know me before?" Hermione finally looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
"I know enough to tell me you prefer books over boys," Draco turned to her and didn't break eye contact.
"That was then," Hermione gulped the last contents of her drink and placed the glass down.
"You seem to be wasting the night away," Draco went back to the present.
"I'm not. I've been here for hours wishing that…" Hermione's voice trailed off as she stared at him thoughtfully mixed with worry and confusion.
"Wishing that…?" Draco, puzzled by her mixed emotions, pushed her to go on.
"It's nothing," Hermione said and turned away from him. Draco huffed and faced the bar. "Oh… you changed too, Malfoy."
Draco was about to reply but when he turned to her, she dropped to the ground, her head landed between his shoes. He huffed and drank his lemonade.
"Aren't you going to help her? Or would you like me to do it?" The bartender said to him as if it was a challenge. Draco smirked and squatted to carry her.
As he walked out of the bar with a knocked-out Hermione in his arms, he wondered if he should bring her to the tower or to a hotel but the second option seemed to be out of the question due to their last encounter. He started to walk as he looked for an alley where he could apparate but before he turned into the alley, he saw the apartment so he changed his decision.
"Do you have space in here?" Draco asked as soon as Liza opened the door for him. Liza nodded after looking at the person he was carrying, thinking she couldn't reject him anyway. She went into the extra room and fixed the bed up.
"Sir… do you know her?" Liza asked, not forgetting that pretension was over.
"She was my schoolmate," Draco replied as he laid her on the bed she had prepared.
"What school did you go to, by the way?" Liza asked, suddenly curious.
"It's not a familiar one," Draco walked out of the room and closed the door when Liza stepped out. Draco laid on the couch and massaged the crook of his nose. "Let me rest for a while. I'll leave in a while."
"Would you like some aspirin or coffee sir?" Liza asked.
"Uh, coffee please," he replied and closed his eyes. Liza went into the kitchen to prepare the coffee. When she went back to give it to him, he had fallen asleep on the couch.
"It is hard to pretend," Liza whispered after placing a blanket on him.
Author's Note: It's been a long time. Enjoy! I enjoyed writing it.