Bus Stop—Part Nine
By Marmalade Fever
Hermione's aunt Hattie sent her a knowing wink from over her playing cards. "Darling, was it simply my poor eyesight, or did you and the young gentleman hold hands yesterday?" Her sweet little face was scrunched into the epitome of innocence.
Hermione nodded. "As a matter of fact… we're going on a date today."
Bursting with a buzz of energy that, by all means, should not have belonged to a woman of Hattie's age, the old woman hopped to her feet, spun around in a circle, and clicked her heels together. "Oh… oh… oh…" By the time the woman sat down, Hermione was dizzy just from watching her. "I knew it! I just knew it!"
Hermione smiled nervously. "Did you?"
Hattie fanned herself with the three of hearts, beaming. "Yes, dear, I did." She looked over to the clock on the wall. "You had better be going. You don't want to leave him waiting." She had almost managed to herd Hermione through the door before she stopped to ask a question. "What's his name, dear? He looks like a William to me."
Hermione blushed ever so slightly. "His name is Draco. Draco Malfoy."
Her aunt tutted. "Very odd. No matter. Off you go, dear." And Hermione was out the door before she could say another word.
The temperature had risen, and she walked with the sun shining down onto her shoulders. She reached the end of the sidewalk and slowed. She had arrived at the bus stop first, it would seem. She opened up her parasol, only feeling slightly embarrassed by it. Now all she had to do was wait for him. A few muggles passed her on the sidewalk, two of them crossing the street together.
"Good morning." And there he was, walking at a leisurely gait down the sidewalk from the other direction. He was wearing brown pants and a white button-up shirt. But something was awry.
"Where's your umbrella?" she asked, a little surprised that he didn't have it with him.
Malfoy… Draco shrugged. "I decided, simply, that we don't need it anymore."
"We…" Hermione frowned. "We don't? What about our tradition?"
"Unnecessary. The ice has melted between us. There's no more sheltering now." With that, he gently took her parasol, closed it, and handed it back to her.
He grinned. "Don't you just adore complicated metaphors?"
"I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do." He moved closer to her, picked up her hand, and squeezed it. Her heart beat faster.
"That's the best argument I've ever heard come out of your mouth."
She laughed a tiny, nervous little laugh. "I'll have to use it more often, then."
"By gum… I think you might be flirting with me, Granger. I'll write that down in my diary, right after the entry where you asked me my intentions."
"You keep a diary?"
He wiggled his eyebrows. "Wouldn't you like to know? August 1st: Today Granger flirted with me. It was a sorry attempt, but I found it enjoyable, nonetheless."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I am so glad I amuse you so."
"I thought you would be. I'm quite interested in knowing what the rest of the passage will say."
Hermione cleared her throat. "Then I made fun of her for her flirting ability, and she punched me in the stomach. How about that?"
"I don't think it's very likely to happen now that you've warned me," he mused. "Later I kissed her, and she made the most adorable purring sound. How about that?"
Hermione's eyes went wide. "I don't think it's very likely to happen now that you've warned me."
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. "Don't be too sure." Hermione squirmed slightly, finding it suddenly a little hard to swallow. "Merlin but your red," he added, smirking. "But it is only fitting."
Hermione's blush slowly dissipated as she scrunched her face up. "What do you mean?"
"Close your eyes and I'll show you."
Hermione blushed even harder. "I don't know if that's the best idea."
Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Merlin, Granger, just close them for a couple seconds." Hermione raised an eyebrow at him before slowly closing her eyes. What he was up to was beyond her, and she half wondered if she should be doing something with her lips, puckering them or something. "You can open them now." She opened one eye, then the other slowly. "My lady."
"Oh…" she said and took the proffered red rose from him. She sniffed it, and that little candle inside of her beamed. "Thank you." She smiled up at him.
"You're an easy one to please," he commented, stretching his arms up over his head leisurely.
Hermione couldn't help herself and giggled. She couldn't get over how gentlemanly he was acting, for the most part. "Should I ask where you were hiding this?" she asked, referring to the rose.
He shook his head. "Ah, but a great magician never reveals his secrets."
Hermione smirked a little. "That's a funny thing to say considering where we went to school."
"But don't you forget about my anklet either," he reminded her, winking.
Hermione sighed. "And I suppose that my theory about the wand in your umbrella must have been false, considering you don't have it with you today," she said, dropping her tone so the surrounding muggles wouldn't overhear her.
He shrugged noncommittally. "I do believe the bus is nearly here," he told her, grabbing hold of her shoulders and physically turning her so that she could see. The number fifty-two came to a rolling stop before them. "Do you still think fifty-two is an unlucky number for you?" he asked as they queued up.
"I suppose not," she answered.
"And I suppose it's all thanks to little old me?" Malfoy asked, pushing some of his blond hair from his eyes dashingly.
"You do give yourself airs, don't you?" Hermione ducked under his arm and onto the bus ahead of him. She flashed her bus pass and sat down next to a window, Malfoy sitting down beside her.
"Like I would answer such a sarcastic question." He stretched his arm over the back of the seat and slowly dropped it onto her shoulder.
"Very smooth," she teased.
"I'm a Malfoy. I'm nothing if not suave." Very slowly he moved his hand so that he was fingering one of her haphazard curls. "Your hair is crinkly."
"Is that a compliment or an insult?" Hermione was very slowly relaxing into the seat and tried not to mind that he had scooted himself right up next to her today, their legs brushing together.
"That's an observation. Do you use conditioner?"
Hermione nearly laughed out loud. "Yes. Do you?"
"Of course. And in the future, please answer all applicable questions with 'I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do.'"
Her face turned to mock-seriousness. "Oh, I will."
He nodded smartly. "Good. Now I just have to think of an applicable question."
Hermione feigned worry. "Oh dear. What have I gotten myself into now?"
He grinned evilly. "Do you… eat cockroach clusters daily?"
"I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do," she replied, rolling her eyes at him. He laughed, still twirling her hair around his index finger.
"Do you have a tea cozy collection?"
"You're a bizarre little man."
"Just answer the question, Granger."
Hermione sighed. "I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do," she said. "Because tea cozies are just that interesting to collect," she added, her tone dripping sarcasm.
Malfoy tapped his chin, thinking. "Do you… get butterflies in your stomach when you look at me?"
Hermione blushed. "Er…"
He smiled. "Please answer?" He wrapped her hair around his finger and gave it a gentle tug.
"I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do," she mumbled, blushing even harder. "Now stop asking silly questions, you prat." She swatted his knee.
He pretended to look hurt. The bus slowed to a stop. "Well, here's your stop. I must say I'm pleased you aren't getting off today."
"Are you?" she asked.
"I'm Draco Malfoy. Of course I am." He nodded succinctly.
"I do declare, I think you get butterflies from looking at me," Hermione teased.
He scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. I get moths. Much more masculine."
"Oh, I'm sure." Hermione couldn't help it and smiled. "That's my house just over there," she said, pointing down the street to her little one story house.
He wrinkled his nose. "Hmm…"
"Hmm?" she asked.
"It's a bit small for my taste," he replied. "But I suppose it will have to do. It's not as if you'll be living there all that much longer."
Hermione frowned. "What on Earth do you mean by that?"
Malfoy rubbed his chin. "We'll see."
Malfoy patted her knee. "Just never you mind about that."
"You're positively infuriating, I hope you know," Hermione said, just staring at him. "Now please, tell me."
He sighed and ran one hand through his hair. "We're twenty-eight," he said, as if that was all she needed to know.
"Yes, and?" She crossed her arms.
He plucked one of her hands from her and squeezed it, his thumb gently caressing her knuckle. "And if all goes well, I'd like to get a move on, don't you?"
Hermione's mouth dropped open a degree. "Are you saying what I think you're saying, on our first date?" She could hardly believe it.
He shrugged. "What do you think I'm saying?"
Hermione just sat there sputtering for a good thirty seconds. "It sounds as if you're saying that you want to," she dropped her voice so she merely mouthed "marry me."
"Yeah, that's about right. So?"
She gulped so hard she started to cough. "Excuse me?"
"Hey, you're the one who was talking about children," he said.
"Yeah, but… Oh, sweet Merlin, no one's going to believe me when I tell them about this..."
He smirked widely. "Mind if I watch when you do?"
She snorted. "Sure, why not?" She breathed harshly, in and out. "I feel faint."
At this he looked concerned. "Want me to open a window?" She nodded and he reached across her to slide their window upward. The light breeze hit her face and she breathed a little easier. "Good grief, Granger. What are you going to do when I propose for real? Die?"
"When?" she squeaked. It wasn't even an if; it was a when!
"What? You don't think it's going to go well?" he asked coolly.
"Well, I, um…"
"Take it easy," he said. "You can put your head on my shoulder if you'd like." Before she could even think, he'd gently pushed her head onto his shoulder for her. She stayed like that, just trying to control her breathing, until he announced that they had arrived at the Leaky Cauldron.
They left the bus, he still holding her hand, and stepped down onto the sidewalk, just a little bit away from the Leaky Cauldron. The muggles that exited with them slid their eyes right over the pub and paid them no attention as the two strolled in. It was dark and only a few patrons sat at tables, drinking mead. "Morning Tom," Malfoy greeted, waving at the barkeep who was busy polishing a glass.
"Mornin' Mr. Malfoy. Miss Granger, isn't it?" he asked, before shrugging and going back to his work. It seemed to dawn on Hermione that they had left Muggle London. Anyone they knew might see them together now. It frightened and excited her at once. Malfoy led them through the back door.
"Well, seeing how I'm wandless, I'll let you do the honors," he said, gesturing to the brick wall. Hermione nodded and tapped the necessary bricks. Almost instantly Diagon Alley unfolded in front of them. "And now for the more boring part of our date, in which I go to work." He squeezed her hand as she looked up and down the street, looking for any familiar faces. No one seemed to have noticed that they were holding hands or that he had just used the word date in reference to themselves. He led her into the ice cream parlor.
Florean Fortescue waved cheerfully. "Hello Draco, you're just in time. I just finished the final touches to something and could use your expertise." He rushed into the kitchen and returned a moment later with a small scoop of a very strange looking ice cream. Florean stood with hands clasped in suspense while Malfoy made a fine act of sloshing the ice cream around in his mouth, as if he were wine tasting.
"Nutty… pistachio? A hint of cinnamon… no, cardamom. And…" Malfoy looked surprised. "Pineapple? Pistachio, cardamom and pineapple?" He licked his spoon. "It's a winner," he said, and clapped his employer on the back. Florean looked positively ecstatic. "Call it… pinachiamom."
"Excellent," Florean replied, grinning. "I was a little worried it wouldn't go over…"
"No, no. It's really very good. Want a taste?" he asked, turning to Hermione.
"Oh, of course! I'll get you a spoon," Florean volunteered. He left and came back a second later and watched Hermione's reaction carefully.
"Yum," she said, almost more so because the man looked like he was desperate for approval than because she thought it was good.
"You really like it?" he asked. Hermione nodded. "Good. Don't I know you?"
"Well," she began, "I have been here before…"
"She's Hermione Granger," Malfoy interrupted. "You know… Harry Potter's friend."
"Oh, of course…" The ice cream man smiled. "Well, you might as well leave early, Draco."
Malfoy turned and grinned at her. "I love my job," he said, "especially when I only have to be here for three minutes."
Hermione laughed at this. "Well, that's good."
"Let's go, shall we?" he asked, offering her his arm. They left the ice cream parlor and reemerged onto the bustling street. He checked his watch. "I suppose it's close enough to lunch time to get something to eat. Sound good?"
"Sounds very good," Hermione answered. She hadn't eaten much breakfast that morning, having been all nerves and no appetite. They walked through the crowd, dodging the different shoppers, and ultimately went into a restaurant called The Top Hat. The sign above its doorway depicted a white rabbit dodging in and out of a black top hat.
The restaurant was dark and lit by candles, which struck Hermione as strange considering it wasn't even noon yet. Malfoy placed his hand carefully on the small of her back and steered her forward to the host. "Malfoy, party of two," he said, a hint of smugness in his voice as the host checked the list of reservations and nodded.
"Right this way, sir, madam," the man said. He was wearing tuxedo style robes and, fittingly, a silk top hat. He seated them at a private booth by a window overlooking a magically depicted garden scene.
"This is… nice," Hermione said, blushing a little. She was horribly underdressed, wearing another sundress from her shopping trip the day before. Malfoy, apparently, didn't seem to mind so long as he had a nice view of her calves, though they were presently tucked safely away beneath the tablecloth.
A waiter wearing an outfit matching the host's appeared, introduced himself as Gerard, handed them their menus, and left them to their own devices.
Malfoy surveyed his menu and Hermione turned to her own, jumping slightly when his hand reached across the table to trail his fingers across her arm. "So…" she said, as she finally decided that she'd have the house salad.
"So?" he asked, not looking up.
"I'm still having a little trouble believing that we're… well, on a date," she said, taking a quick sip of lemon water.
Malfoy shrugged. "Stranger things have happened, I assure you."
"True." She squirmed in her seat a little.
He paused to tap his chin for a second. "I have a question for you."
"I do. Here it is: do you like my hair this way?"
Hermione hid a snort behind her hand. "I'm Hermione Granger…"
"Of course you do," Malfoy finished for her. He grinned. "But really, you don't think it's too long?" His hair was just starting to curl around his ears.
"No, it's good at that length." Hermione smiled, relaxing into the situation slightly.
"You know…" he began, "I have a little confession for you."
"And what is that?" Hermione asked, tucking some of her erstwhile hair behind her ear.
Malfoy sighed. "I never disliked your hair."
Hermione's mouth fell open just a little. "No?"
"In fact, I really rather like it. It just needs to be shaped a little is all," he said. Something about his tone sent a chill running down her spine.
"You mean that when you used to refer to me as the 'bushy-haired mudblood,' you didn't think of the bushy-haired part as an actual negative?"
"Not particularly." Malfoy removed his hand from her arm. "Where is that waiter anyway?" As if on cue, Gerard came up, took their orders, waved his wand, and food and drink appeared before them.
"You really have changed," Hermione commented when the waiter was out of sight.
"Like I said, everyone changes." He took up his knife and fork and began to cut up his pork chop.
"In your case, I'm glad." Hermione stabbed a cherry tomato with her fork and ate it.
"Why do I get this weird feeling like you're about to fish for an apology from me?" he asked.
Hermione squinted. "How'd you know?"
"I'm a great and powerful being. Or not. Anyway, I guess I should say I'm sorry, especially if I'm still hoping for 'all to go well.'"
"You never cease to amaze me."
"Thank you. I'll take that as a compliment. I am, from now on, Draco Malfoy: the Great Amazer of Granger."
"I don't think Amazer is a word," she objected.
"Yeah, but it sounded really nice with the Granger part."
Hermione laughed. "Well, in that case. Apology accepted, O Great Amazer of Granger."
Malfoy smiled and continued eating his pork chop, and Hermione ate some more of her incredibly large romaine and Gorgonzola salad. "How is it?" she asked.
"Not bad. The apricot sauce is just the right amount of sweet and tangy," he replied.
"It seems strange," Hermione mused, "that you didn't get a choice of soup or salad as a starter."
"A bit," he agreed, "but I, for one, actually enjoy finishing my entire meal. When you do get a salad or soup, you're always too stuffed to really enjoy the entrée."
Hermione nodded. "But then you also end up without any vegetables. Fiber is important, you know. And vitamins as well."
"You aren't about to lecture me on roughage, are you?" He raised one of his eyebrows at her. "Because I do plan on eating some cellulose later on in the day."
"I guess I can't complain then." Hermione set her fork down. "And I can't eat another bite. I'm fit to burst."
Malfoy reached across the table and speared a lettuce leaf with his fork. "See? Now I'm eating my vegetables."
Hermione laughed as he ate it. "Well, at least I know you aren't afraid of my germs."
"You have germs? Be honest, is it good bacteria, bad, or some of both?" he asked. He took a swig of his water.
"Some of both, I'd think."
Malfoy stopped and looked at her for a long moment. "You know, I'm really not."
"Not what?" she asked. Her arms had goosebumps that she couldn't quite explain.
He scooted around the booth so that he was right up next to her. "Afraid of your germs," he said, and, before she could quite comprehend what was happening, he'd leaned in over her so that they were nose to nose. "Quite the opposite." His hand went up to tuck her hair behind her ear before he closed the gap between them with a kiss. Hermione's breath hitched within her chest as his lips moved deftly over hers, but he pulled away before she had a real chance to respond.
"I'm glad," she whispered. They smiled at one another, and he gave her hand a squeeze.
The check came, and Malfoy paid. "So," he said, as they walked hand in hand back to the bus stop in front of the Leaky Cauldron, "do you want to do this again some time?"
She blushed. "I'm Hermione Granger. Of course I do."
"Me too, minus the being Hermione Granger part." Malfoy gave her one of his trademark smirks. "Thank your aunt for setting us up, will you?"
"Oh, I will." Hermione clutched at the parasol and the red rose in one hand, and his hand in the other. But she had one last question for him, one that had been nagging at her since she had first started to realize she might, just might, have a crush on him. "That first day at the bus stop last week," she said, slowly, "when you said that you don't sacrifice quality…"
"You mean from our conversation about gum?" he asked, looking down at her. She nodded, looking away from him. Malfoy made a tutting sound. "Oh, Granger… I also said you were nearly perfect. And Sweetheart… no one's perfect."
Hermione's heart skipped a beat. "Did you just call me…?"
"Well, I haven't gotten the hang of calling you by your first name yet, so I thought I'd try something else. You like it?" He kissed her knuckles.
Hermione honestly wasn't sure why, but she felt an inexplicable urge to start crying, and, indeed, her throat closed up a little. So she nodded.
"Something wrong?" he asked.
"No," she managed to say, though her throat wasn't cooperating. "It's just that… all went well."
He smiled, leaned down, and kissed her again. And this time, she purred.
A.N.: I kept adding more and more to the end because it just didn't sound quite right, but I'm pretty pleased with it now. Unless I'm mistaken, this is the longest chapter I have ever written. 11 pages! Well, my dears, it's been fun.