This fic is NOT and I repeat NOT like anything else I have ever done, nor like anything I am very likely to do again. It takes place in a HIGHLY improbable future (AU) and the characters are definitely OOC. It is based on a dream I had while I was finishing off Silencio and it was meant as an angst relief when I wrote it. It wasn't really meant for publishing. It only got polished and published because I showed it to a couple of people who actually liked it and thought it was cute and funny. If you are going to flame me for this then let me save you the trouble and give you my response right off: YAWN!
Thanks very much to SunSun, who is not new but indeed very old! Ehm… I mean… She's been stalking me since even before the beginning and she's been reading everyone's reviews and writing me long essays on everything I've written so far. And she's ruthless, I tells ya And also thanks to Maz for laughing his ass off, MissNibbles for always saying "I like it!" (no, honestly, I wish sometimes that my betas would be nicer to me… ;) ) and to kazfeist for putting up with my demands. XD
Hermione was hurrying along the street on her way to work, when she saw it. She stopped up and stared at it. No way, they didn't. But it appeared that they had. It was a poster and the two painted people in the poster were flirting unabashedly, the man winking at the woman who blushed and looked at him adoringly.
"Do you like it?" A grinning form materialized next to her. Where did he come from?
"I think you know the answer to that one, Malfoy," she replied.
"I do, yes. But the look on your face was worth it."
She scowled at him. "At least they didn't make you look like some… ninny!" She gestured wildly at the poster, where her drawn self was batting her eyelids at his drawn self. Hermione Granger never batted her eyelids!
He chuckled. "I don't know why you're that bothered by it. It's just another publicity stunt."
She glared at him. She hated publicity stunts. She hated when they made her look like a goose. Just because she lived by her voice, didn't mean that she had her brains locked away in a safety deposit box somewhere.
She gasped and pulled out her wand to hex the poster as it got just a little too fresh.
"Granger, don't you think you're over—" The rest of what he was about to say disappeared in laughter, as she hurled a hex at the male cartoon form, and rather than hitting it straight on, making it disappear as designed, she only nicked the edge of its shirt, making it shirtless. If that wasn't bad enough, the female form then took it upon herself to pounce on it, and they both toppled out of sight.
Hermione blushed furiously. That was not what she had intended. She scowled at Malfoy, who could barely contain himself and who was craning his neck, trying to see what their poster-selves were up to.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" she asked suspiciously.
"Why, waiting for you, of course!" he smoothly replied.
She gaped at him. "You knew!" she said. "You knew they had put these out and you didn't tell me?"
He raised an eyebrow and smirked at her. "Hardly worth the effort of telling you when you were about to see for yourself."
"You could have owled me! You could even have dropped by to let me know!"
"Yes," he said his smirk widening. "But I would have missed that look on your face…"
"I hate you!" she clearly started and began walking again. She wasn't concerned about being late for work, though; after this stunt they could all wait for her until Hell froze over as far as she was concerned.
"It wasn't me who made the posters," he pointed out as he followed her. "It wasn't me who forced you to agree to this whole little act, either."
"No, but it was you who readily agreed to it all!" she said bitterly. It had been futile for her to fight two managers, countless PR representatives, a lawyer representing the interests of the company,and Malfoy, who had begun setting the plan in motion as soon as he'd agreed to it. The plan being that they were to pretend to be actually dating. As if anyone would buy that.
He shrugged. "I didn't think it would matter that much," he said. "It's just a front, you know, you don't have to actually date me. I don't understand why you bother being that upset about it."
Hermione didn't reply. If her choosing a career in singing was unlikely, then him doing the same was downright ludicrous. If someone had told her, when they were at school, that the infamous heir to the Malfoy dynasty would end up on stage, having teenage witches throwing unmentionables at him, she would have laughed at the very idea.
Even if she would have agreed to the idea of them both singing, she would most certainly have wagered 10,000 galleons against anyone who would have guessed that they would end up working together. Their styles were so different. She had chosen a more classical, dignified style, whereas he had a rather hard sound to him. Always the Bad Boy.
She would even have wagered an astounding 100,000 galleons against anyone who would claim that the Slytherin Bad Boy Draco Malfoy occasionally would write his own songs. He had actually written three of the songs she was performing with him and it was more than slightly disturbing, given the intimate nature of two of the songs. It just wasn't the Malfoy way.
But then again, she'd heard that his relationship with his parents had cooled considerably after the war. He'd probably found that he'd had to rely on talent rather than Daddy's influence to get by and, as much as Hermione hated to admit it, he had talent. It was the only reason she'd agreed to work with him in the first place.
She had just never thought they'd ask her to agree to this!
"It's just so stupid!" she exclaimed. "If they like what we do, then what does it matter if we even like each other?"
"We're selling a fantasy. A day dream. All the girls are wishing they were you. You should feel honored." He was smirking again. Having all those teenage girls swooning over him hadn't exactly made him humble.
"Oh, yeah?" she asked. "And what about all the boys?"
He shook his head. "Oh, Granger. You know that boys generally don't listen to this stuff we're making. But I'm sure that those that do, do, indeed, also wish that they were you."
She raised an eyebrow. "So you are implying that there are no boys out there wanting any of this?" She struck an exaggerated pose.
He surveyed her critically. "Perhaps a few," he said. "Granted, you have improved since our days at Hogwarts… But then again, there was hardly any other way to go, was there? And you still refuse to try and tame that bushiness of yours."
Hermione subconsciously touched her still rather unruly hair which she had to fight daily to make it look passable. "I like my hair the way it is," she lied. In reality she just didn't want to give up the last thing that she felt made her her. Hermione Granger, bushy-haired know-it-all. She had so precious little left that reminded her of those days.
"You're the only one, then," he blandly stated. "But I suppose your body is all right."
Her eyes widened. She really didn't want Malfoy commenting on her body. "Gee, thank you," she said. "I bet the reporters just feel the love when you tell them that."
He pursed his lips. "You know that's not what I tell them."
She knew. Oh, she knew. She'd seen one of the interviews he'd given to the Witch Weekly and it positively made her ears burn. She didn't want to recall the words and she didn't care if it was all lies – she did not want him saying things like that, as if the two of them were… they were…
The look on her face must have been funny, because he glanced at her and then began chuckling again.
They were interrupted by someone squealing and three teenage witches approaching. She briefly wondered why they weren't in school, but then she realized that they quite possibly were old enough to be done with school.
Great. Now she felt old, too.
They must be here solely for the off-chance that they'd run into them, because this road largely held office-buildings and less than prosperous shops that couldn't make it in Diagon Alley. In fact, there were so few people who ever thought to go to this part of London unless they had to that it made it an ideal place to work when you didn't want your face recognized all the time.
Malfoy put on his most charming smile, which was hardly as charming as he himself thought it was, and the girls looked ready to swoon. Hermione fought hard not to roll her eyes, but offered them a smile as sincere as she was capable of.
After signing a few pictures, Hermione excused them and dragged Malfoy off before he did anything that would reflect badly on her. His wink at the girls suggested that she was right in her assessment.
He smirked at her. "Very nice, Granger!" he said.
"What?" She had no clue what he was on about.
His smirk widened. "The jealousy act. You almost had even me fooled."
This time she didn't hold back her rolling of the eyes. "I didn't act jealous, you halfwit. Why would I? You're old enough to be their… Well, older brother." She had to admit that that argument lacked punch. But they had been frightfully young.
"You hinting that I should go for someone whose older brother I couldn't be? Perhaps someone nine months older than me?" he asked suggestively.
Drat. He was doing it again. Teasing her in an area where she wasn't very comfortable being teased, and by him! He was supposed to sneer at her, not be flirting insincerely.
"I don't care who you go for," she said. "But wouldn't it defeat the purpose of this whole charade?"
"You're right," he said with a sigh. "And a shame too. The blonde was really pretty." He was suddenly studying a scrap of parchment.
Hermione glanced at it. It was a name and address. "Where did you get that?"
He smirked and made a vague gesture. "Pretty blonde…"
She gaped. "She'd give you that right under my nose? The nerve…"
"Yes, I know," he lamented. "Such a good opportunity with a woman of loose morals and I can't even grab it…"
"Please tell me that you're not keeping that," Hermione said, narrowing her eyes.
He carefully folded the paper and put it away. "Fine," he said innocently. "I'm not keeping that."
Hermione groaned but abandoned making him see reason.
"Justwhy are you going through with this whole farce, anyway?" she asked through clenched teeth.
He shrugged. "Same reason I do any of it. For the money and the girls. But I have to admit that your reaction is also making it worthwhile."
She longed for the days when he had simply called her a Mudblood.
The building where they were both currently working came into view.
"Oh, look," she said cheerfully. "We're here! Too bad I won't be seeing you today, huh?"
"Oh, yeah, about that…" he said in a voice so amused that she felt her heart sinking. "There's a meeting today at 10. I was told to tell you."
She scowled at him. "Just when did they tell you to tell me?"
"Yesterday, after you'd left."
"Any reason they couldn't owl me?"
He grinned. "I suppose they thought I might as well be the one to tell you since I was going to give you a hard time about the posters anyway."
They had told him about the posters yesterday, but nobody had seen it fit to owl her about it? Cowards.
"See you." He winked at her and proceeded inside.
Hermione wondered if it would be considered a breach of contract if she hexed the hell out of him.
Hermione leaned back in the comfortable leather couch, closed her eyes and massaged her own aching temples. That had been one hell of a meeting. No, really. It had been Hell.
Madness. This was all madness.
She was definitely not renewing her contract once it was up and her manager just might find herself with one less client as well. In fact, turning her back on everyone and leaving the country sounded ideal right about now.
She felt the couch move as someone sat down next to her, but she didn't even have to look. She knew who it was.
"It's not that bad…" he began, but she held up a hand to cut him off.
"Don't," she said. "Just… don't."
He sighed but fell silent for a while.
"Is it just because it's me or would you object if it was anyone?" he then asked.
She considered. "I'd object if it was anyone," she said. "But it's worse when it's you." She opened her eyes to find him gazing at her pensively.
"I know you hate me—" he began.
"No, really?" she asked sarcastically.
"—but you can't keep holding grudges from when we were children. We have a decent working relationship."
She raised an eyebrow at him. He never missed a beat in bothering her in any way he could. One time he'd gone as far as having her sprout feathers right before an important interview. Needless to say, she had been late for the interview and Malfoy had had to personally beg her not to break her contract.
"Look, it's not like I'm malevolent," he said. "And I don't call you the M-word anymore. It's just… I can't help myself."
"Why not, pray tell?"
He actually grinned. "Your reaction is always priceless; whether you get angry or embarrassed it's always enormously gratifying. I've never met anyone whose buttons are so easily pushed."
She stared at him incredulously. "And that's a good thing?"
He shrugged lightly. "If you don't want me to have so much fun with it, then don't react in a way that I like to provoke."
She groaned at his logic. And him they wanted her to spend so much time with.
"Will you renege?" he asked.
His concern was understandable. It was his career on the line as well as hers. She just didn't get why it couldn't be all about the music, but had to be all about all of this other inconsequential stuff. This newest scheme of theirs…
"No," she moaned. "But I'll complain about it every single day."
He looked relieved. "It wouldn't be you if you didn't."
"I really do hate you," she mumbled.
"I know," he replied.
"Is that it, then?" Hermione asked, looking skeptically at the muggle vehicle. "Just why am I doing this, again?"
"Publicity, dear," her manager Isobel patted her shoulder. "These things are all the rage these days. Muggle things are so exotic. This will get you all over the world over the next month."
Yes, that was the plan. For some ludicrous reason they were supposed to ride across the world, starting with Europe and ending up in Asia, promoting themselves in the wizard communities on the way with concerts, interviews and general appearances.
"What if I say I've had enough publicity?" Hermione ventured. "I don't really need any more." She really did lead quite a comfortable life already.
Isobel gasped and clutched her chest. "My dear girl, there is no such thing as enough publicity! And you'll have fun – you'll see!"
Hermione really, really doubted it.
"You already agreed," Isobel pointed out. "You can't turn back now."
"What's this?" Malfoy asked, approaching. "You backing out already, Granger? Funny, I would have pegged you as one who'd last at least a couple of days…"
"I'm not backing out," Hermione said defensively. "I'm just trying to remember exactly why I'm doing this."
The glance Malfoy shot her as he made his way into the old rundown double-decker, told her that he remained unconvinced.
Sighing, Hermione followed. She winced at what she saw inside. It was as rundown in here as it was on the outside. Upstairs Malfoy was whistling. What could he possibly have to be so happy about? In fact, why was he always so disgustingly happy?
Again, she longed for the days at Hogwarts where Malfoy had been less than happy. In fact, some of the time, he had seemed downright miserable. Deeply immersed in these pleasurable memories she went up the stairs up to…
A spacious and comfortable flat.
Hermione wearily pinched the bridge of her nose. Of course. How could she forget the way that only wizards would call this doing it like the muggles do?
Well, at least this meant that she would get her own room instead of having to bunk next to Malfoy and four musicians that she had never met before.
"You know," said Malfoy, who had sat down at a table at the dining area. "It wouldn't kill you to smile every once in a while. You always look so glum."
She shot him a dark look and went to where she assumed the bedrooms were located.
"I call the one on the right," he called after her.
She ignored him but took the room on the left just the same. She would have to share a bathroom with Malfoy. Oh, joy. She was used to having her own bathroom and sharing one with him wasn't her idea of a good time. Well, at least, it seemed it was only with him she had to share.
She went to inspect the kitchen and rolled her eyes when she noticed the house elf standing there. Like muggles, indeed.
"So, when are we leaving?" she asked Malfoy, sitting down in a comfortable armchair.
He only briefly looked up from the papers in front of him. "Five minutes ago."
"No way!" she exclaimed and got up and went to a window, but sure enough the world was moving. It looked a little odd from inside the flat – especially since she didn't feel any movement.
She hadn't seen anyone else enter, though. "Where are the other guys?" she asked.
"What other guys?"
"Oh, them. They have their own place downstairs. I actually work better when I'm not constantly disturbed." He looked at her pointedly, and she rolled her eyes but left him alone.
It didn't take her long to become bored, though. She had brought books, of course, but she was feeling too wired to truly immerse herself in them. She briefly considered going to say hi to the others, but she wasn't really interested in doing that either.
She was as reclusive as she had ever been, these days. Most people she met were either star-struck, trying to push their own work on her, or snubbing her out of jealousy. And that was excepting the occasional aspiring male singer/actor/model who thought that seducing her might help his career.
Still, she wasn't complaining. She got to create something beautiful, something people would never have thought she could, and she got to make a difference.
"Would you stop fidgeting?" Malfoy said behind her and she turned to find him scowling at her.
"I'm not fidgeting," she sniffed. "I'm just… bored."
"We haven't been aboard this bus for more than an hour! You're supposed to be smart – find something to do!" He dismissed her again as he bent over his papers.
His tone miffed her. Find something to do, indeed. She got up, stretched and went to have a look at what he was doing. A quick peek showed that it was sheets of music spread out in front of him, and he was frantically writing and crossing out.
She tiptoed behind him, but he was bent over the paper in a way it made her impossible to see what it said.
"What are you doing?" she asked, making him jump.
"Granger! Why are you sneaking up on me like that?" He placed his arm on the paper, blocking it more effectively from her view.
"I'm not sneaking. I was walking. Show me!"
"If it's a song then I'm bound to see anyway…"
He looked at her haughtily. "Hardly."
"What's that supposed to mean?" She crossed her arms over her chest.
"You're a nosy one today, aren't you, Granger?" he asked.
"And you're an evasive one, which, given how you usually are, is quite interesting."
She snatched at the paper, but he blocked her, before folding it and putting it away so she couldn't reach it.
"Save me from bored women," he grumbled. "What about a game of Wizard Chess instead?"
"Merlin, no!" Hermione said, shaking her head vigorously. She had no intention of playing any kind of game with Malfoy where she'd be predestined to lose. "I… hate the game," she lamely explained when he looked at her with some surprise.
"Exploding Snap, then?" he offered, and she accepted.
Travelling with Malfoy was not as bad as Hermione had feared. At times it was actually quite pleasant. Whenever she got bored, all she had to do was bother him a bit and he'd find a way to entertain her. She wondered whether he did it to make sure that she stayed put, to get her to stop bothering him, or simply because he was a bit bored himself. It didn't really matter, though. She got her way and that was all she needed.
She quickly learned that he never wanted to show what he was writing. He didn't say much about why; except that it was personal, and it seemed that no amount of pleading, pouting or threatening could make him change his mind.
It was two days later when they were to make their first appearance. Hermione didn't like appearances outside of concerts much, which really put her in the wrong line of work. She had thought herself safe from those attentions when she chose to pursue classical music instead of the pop variety, but ever since Magical Records had paired her with Malfoy, the attention had gone nuts. This was the main reason why everyone was pushing her to put on an act: More attention. More publicity. More sales.
Always more sales. It was just one of those things that she had to learn to live with, she supposed.
She pasted a smile on her face and left the bus with Malfoy on her heels. The lights and the sounds were deafening and she felt a headache coming on. He put an arm around her shoulders and she stiffened slightly as the noise grew. He just waved and smiled and turned to buss her cheek and whisper "Relax, Granger, and be glad you're not an actress."
She wanted to scowl but instead she smiled adoringly and batted her eyelids, sending him into a coughing fit.
Maybe there was just a little fun to be had, after all.
"How can you stand it?" Hermione asked hours later as they were finally aboard the bus again. "How can you stand lying to everyone?"
Malfoy considered for a moment. "I don't consider it lying," he then said. "I consider it acting a bit. We could be dating and it's a mere coincidence that we aren't."
She snorted at that. "So your interview in the Witch Weekly wasn't lying?"
He smiled. "Nope, it was embellishing the truth a bit."
Trust a Malfoy to see it like that. She shook her head.
"Why are you doing this?" he asked, surprising her.
"Because everyone's forcing me?" she ventured.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Why are you singing? Why aren't you working at the Ministry, pushing papers, 'making a difference'?"
Hermione looked down at her hands that were folded in her lap. There had been a time where she had thought she would have gone that way as well. There had been a time when life had been so very different.
"I can make a difference now," she said. "Probably an even greater difference than pushing papers would."
He raised an eyebrow. "So, you plan to use your fame for the greater good?"
She shrugged. "If all this lying doesn't completely ruin my credentials."
He leaned forward. "Why would it? If anything, doesn't this help?"
She frowned at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, we are promoting pureblood / muggleborn relationships, aren't we?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Yes… Come to think of it, why are you agreeing to that?"
He looked slightly taken aback. "I guess… I guess times are changing and it's about time that people found out."
"Or maybe you are really just doing it for the money and the girls."
His gaze flickered but then he smirked. "Maybe."
After a couple of weeks, boredom begun to take over. There were, of course, several different appearances to make, but they were unevenly divided. One day they would be going to three places and then the next four days they would just be on the road. There was only so much practicing that Hermione wanted to do with Malfoy, and playing Exploding Snap and Gobstones soon lost its novelty. She even gave in and played Wizard Chess with him once, but lost so spectacularly that she refused to try again.
Hence, she was spending yet another evening on the couch, staring into a perfectly good book that she wasn't enjoying. Why couldn't she concentrate anymore? She was feeling irritable and restless. She supposed it might be some form of cabin fever. It wasn't that she minded being shut up that much, at home she did it all the time – it was more that she didn't like not having the choice. Also, Malfoy was annoying her.
She decided to glower at the culprit. He was in the same spot he was always in, day in and day out, writing things that he refused to show her. She felt left out and she resented that the only way to get his attention was to ask for it.
Which made no sense.
It wasn't that she wanted his attention; it was more that she disliked being ignored. She was smart and interesting, damn it. He was supposed to be bothering her while she could find plenty of other things to do. Like, for example, reading this book. This very good book she was reading.
This very good book that she couldn't even remember what was about.
Malfoy looked up catching her eye.
"What?" he said.
"What?" she echoed.
"What did I do now?" he asked.
"Your scribbling is annoying me," she sniffed. She wasn't about to admit what she had really been thinking.
"Is that so?" he asked, leaning back in his chair. "And you wouldn't happen to be bored again, by any chance?"
"Not at all!" she primly said. "But your noisy quill is distracting me from this very good book."
"Itmust be very distracting," he commented. "You haven't seemed to turn a page for the past three hours."
She threw the book aside. "I hate being cooped up here all day and all night and… with you!"
He had an inscrutable look on his face. "What would you like me to do about it, Granger? I try to be nice but obviously that's not enough for you so what is it you want?"
She didn't reply. Instead she got up and went to her bedroom, slamming the door after herself.
The dramatic exit didn't last long. A couple of hours later Hermione tiptoed out to the kitchen because she was hungry. She was half-hoping that Malfoy would stay true to form and not notice her, but, of course, that would have been too convenient.
"Done sulking?" he asked behind her as she was finding some cold chicken for herself. She generally refused to let house elves help her. If they wouldn't let her help them, then she certainly would not let them help her. Seemed like a fair trade.
"I don't sulk," she said as she carried her food to the table.
"Then pray tell what you were doing, going off in a snit for no apparent reason?"
"I had reason."
She considered. "No."
"How do you expect me to try and get along when you won't do your part?"
"Then maybe you should just stop trying," she sneered.
Hermione knew that she was being completely unreasonable, but this whole situation was getting to her. She didn't want to be cooped up in some stupid flat on wheels. She didn't want to be some wizard pop idol. She didn't want to feel bored.
She didn't want to spend her every waking hour with Draco Malfoy.
"Is that how you really feel?" he asked, looking inscrutable again. "Do you really hate me that much?"
She didn't reply but merely bit into her dinner. He watched her for a few minutes and then he left. She could hear him going down the stairs to the band's lesser apartment.
And suddenly she felt incredibly lonely.
She pushed away her food, not feeling hungry anymore, and went to her room again.
Hermione awoke with a start. At first she was confused, but then there was another loud clank and some swearing. She got out of bed and pulled on her bathrobe, before going out to check what was going on. It didn't even occur to her to bring her wand.
A chair had toppled over, the coffee table was askew, and on the couch was Malfoy with a bottle of golden liquid. He was frowning and softly mumbling to himself. He had managed to turn on lights for that area, but the rest of the flat was still in darkness.
"Malfoy!" Hermione indignantly said. "Just what on earth are you up to?"
He swung towards her and nearly toppled off the couch. "If it ischn the prissy little bisch. What're you doin' up? Schouldn' you be get'n' your beauty sleep?" He laughed. His voice was slurred and almost unintelligible. The fact that he was still mumbling didn't help much either.
Hermione gaped at him as she went closer. "You're drunk!"
He grinned at her. "Boys down… downschtairs are very hosp... hospitiba… friendly."
Hermione bent down and took the bottle from him. He was about to object when he got a good look at her and started chuckling. Hermione knew what he saw and felt her face heat up. She was wearing a worn, old, comfortable pajama with a just as old and comfortable bathrobe slung over it, and she hadn't thought to tame her hair, which was probably wilder than ever. He'd now officially seen her at her worst. Botheration.
"What possessed you to do this?" she asked, sitting down on the far end of the couch. She had been working with him for more than six months now and this was the first time she'd ever seen him overindulge.
"Jusch wanted a good time," he mumbled. "An' you didn' care if I stayed, anyway…" He stared off into the darkness.
"Well, did you find your good time?" Hermione asked.
He stared gloomily at her. "'Twas all right."
"We should get you to bed," Hermione said, placing the bottle on the table. "Can you walk?"
"Don't want to," he said. "You go to bed."
"I can't just leave you out here," she said.
He shot her an amused glance. "It'sch the liv'n room. I'll manage to schur… survo… live. An' you hate me so you wouldn' care…"
"That's not true," Hermione said, appalled with his reasoning.
Having had quite enough of his slurring, she bent over him and padded him down to find his wand.
He chuckled. "Takin' advantasch of me, Granger?" he asked. "Wouldn' be of musch use to you. Mebbe in a few hours…"
She righted herself, cheeks ablaze and showed him the wand. "Was looking for this, Malfoy. Sorry to disappoint." She frowned, trying to remember, and then she mumbled an incantation.
His eyes widened and he snatched the wand back from her. "The hell are you doing?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Helping."
"Well, I don't want your kind of help," he said, clearly annoyed with her.
It was obvious that the spell had worked and he was a bit less inebriated, but he didn't seem to appreciate her efforts.
She crossed her arms. "So you prefer to be hung over in the morning to accepting my help, is that it?"
"No, I prefer being hung over to being sober." He reached for his liquor, but she grabbed it first, earning her a dark look.
"None of your damn business, Granger. Now give me my damn booze."
She tutted at him. "Tell me why and I might."
His angry gaze bored into hers for several seconds and then he smirked. "Perhaps you'd like to help me with what's ailing me," he said.
"P-perhaps," Hermione said, not liking the way he said that at all. "But I'd have to know what it is."
"Always needing to know everything. Well, the thing is… I'm a bit bored myself," he said, playing with his wand and keeping his gaze on her. "And what I really need…" His smirk widened and Hermione had a feeling she should be running away. "… To alleviate this boredom…" This couldn't be good. "Is a buxom blonde!" At the last word he pointed his wand at her hair, and she knew what he'd done even before a lock of smooth blond hair fell into her eyes. He laughed.
Damn Malfoy and all his tricks!
He raised his wand again, and as she recalled what he'd said about buxom, she pounced on him with an indignant shriek, trying to get his wand from him. He held it just out of her reach and somehow she ended up on top of him.
"Oh, yes, Granger," he teased. "That's exactly what I had in mind!"
After a few futile attempts, Hermione gave up on getting the wand. "Malfoy, one of these days I swear I—" the words stuck in her throat.
Their faces were so close that they almost touched and the thing that had caught her attention was his eyes. They weren't mocking her anymore, but had a soft look to them that made her breath hitch and her heart beat a little faster. One of his hands came up to slowly caress her cheek and she stared at him as if mesmerized.
It seemed inevitable that he was going to kiss her, and she realized that she wanted him to.
Then a lock of her hair fell into her eyes and she remembered – he had turned her blonde because he felt like sleeping with a blonde. She was playing into his fantasy.
Feeling stupid she pushed away from him and he didn't try to retain her. She ran to the bathroom. The door safely locked behind her, she sat down on the edge of the tub and buried her head in her hands. She had never been this embarrassed in her life. She had almost allowed Malfoy to kiss her simply because he had looked like he wanted to. And it wasn't even her he had wanted to kiss.
Tears gathered in her eyes and she was about to give in to them when a pounding on the door jolted her out of it.
"Be done already, Granger," Malfoy was saying on the other side. "I'd like to brush my teeth before I pass out."
As if nothing had happened.
She quickly wiped her eyes and splashed some water in her face before going to her room. She wished she could have turned her hair back before going past Malfoy, but unfortunately her wand was still in her room.
She would have to keep it with her at all times from now on.
The next morning, Hermione stared at her same old self in the mirror. Her hair really was horrible; maybe she should just change it. It wasn't as if everybody else didn't always change their looks. She wouldn't even need to dye it – just straightening it a bit and add some highlights.
But who would she be, then?
She'd still not be the buxom blonde that Malfoy seemed to crave.
She felt a brief pang of jealousy at the thought and then told herself to get a grip. She didn't want for him to want her. If she did, it was just a matter of pride. She just needed to be around people again and she'd get over this… this… whatever this was.
Malfoy might be charming when he put his mind to it, but mostly he was just juvenile and conceited.
It would really help once they didn't have to pretend to be in love anymore. Not that she generally put a lot into pretending, but still.
When she finally left her room, Malfoy was already finishing up his breakfast. He shot her a quick, searching glance. The bugger didn't seem to have a hangover, and he certainly didn't seem remorseful for whatever he might have said and done the night before.
"Took you long enough, Granger," he observed. "You know, being a musician doesn't necessarily mean snoozing until all hours."
"Yeah?" she asked wearily. "What else am I supposed to do, then? Stare at the wall?"
"Actually," he said checking his watch. "You're supposed to be packing. We'll be arriving at our hotel soon."
She stared at him. She'd completely forgotten. They were supposed to be staying in Tokyo for a week and, of course, they couldn't stay in their 'muggle vehicle'. Without another word, she turned to go pack.
"Miss Hermione Granger, I presume?" a very pleasant male voice asked.
She turned to see a rather handsome, tan man. "Yes?" she replied.
"I'm Darm Lyklow. Isobel sent me," he said with a smile. "To make sure that you were well taken care of."
They were standing in the lobby of the luxurious wizard hotel that someone had thought it necessary to book rooms at. First a rundown bus and now luxurious rooms. They really had to get their sources straight.
"She did, did she?" Hermione remarked rather coolly. "And just why would she do that?" It would be like her to try and regain Hermione's favor by coddling her, but Hermione was not in a mood to be appeased.
He didn't get a chance to answer, however. Malfoy was coming up to her, tugging at her arm.
"Come on, Granger, you can flirt later. Right now, we have to make an appearance." He pulled her after him out the front door, they had come in from the back, and she was, once again, surrounded by people and noise.
Again Malfoy slipped an arm around her and was smiling at the masses as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
In his world, maybe.
She avoided looking directly at him as she still felt horribly awkward about the night before, but she tried her best to look happy and in love.
A reporter was allowed past the big wizards in charge of security and she introduced herself as being from the Japanese branch of Witch Weekly. She was a curious-looking little thing, but she seemed nice enough, so Hermione ventured to try and answer her questions.
Suddenly the people started chanting something. The word sounded familiar, but surely it didn't mean..?
"What are they saying?" she asked the little witch.
The witch blushed and then said "kissu, they want you and your young man to kiss."
Hermione stared horrified at the reporter.
"Well, Granger, we'd better give the crowd what they want," Malfoy's voice said closely to her ear.
Before she knew what was happening, she had been turned around and her chin tilted upwards, so he could brush his lips against hers. The roar intensified and several flashes went off, but Hermione was too stunned to react.
It wasn't a long kiss or a passionate kiss. It really just was a brief caress of lips against lips and it was done for the sole reason of pleasing the fans. So why were her lips tingling, her heart beating and her breath coming hard and shallow?
Of course, Malfoy was unaffected and merely beamed at a couple of screaming teenagers.
"Th-that is enough," Hermione mumbled, feeling quite sick and angry at him for doing this to her, and in a daze she turned and went back inside.
She was desperate to avoid Malfoy, so she found Darm and asked him if he'd show her to her rooms. He readily agreed.
"You and your fiancé have separate rooms connected to the same suite," he said as he was showing her around the suite.
"He's not my fiancé!" Hermione blurted out.
"Not yet, anyway," Malfoy said from the door, shooting her a warning glance. He must have immediately followed her.
"No, not at all!" Hermione said, feeling rebellious. "This is all a publicity stunt, you see. A lie to sell our music."
Malfoy looked angry. "Well, there is that," was, however, all he said, as he went to inspect his own room.
Darm smiled at Hermione. "Well, I cannot say that I'm not pleased," he said, taking her hand and brushing his lips against her knuckles. "Dare I hope that your confession means that you wouldn't mind joining me for dinner?"
Hermione blushed. It felt nice to get some attention for her person, for once, and as far as she could tell Darm had nothing to gain from taking her out. "Yes, I'd like that very much," she said, smiling shyly at him.
Malfoy must have heard, but he didn't comment.
The date with Darm really was very nice. He was charming, attentive and a real gentleman. Not to mention that he actually listened when she spoke. She could count the men that actually cared what she had to say on one hand. It was refreshing. The night just flew by and before she knew it, he had taken her back to the suite.
"I had a really nice time," Hermione said, again smiling shyly at the other man.
He returned the smile. "Me too. Does this mean that you'll consider doing it again? Maybe tomorrow?"
"I'm sorry, I can't tomorrow," Hermione replied. "There's this big function…"
"I see," Darm said, looking disappointed.
"But I'm free in…" Hermione did a quick rundown in her mind. "Three days?"
Darm beamed at her. "I will see you in three days, then."
Hermione's smile widened. "Oh, yes, definitely!" she said a little breathlessly.
Darm's eyes moved to her lips and slowly he bent to kiss her. Her eyes drifted shut as his lips gently brushed hers. This was nice. When she didn't object, his lips returned with a bit more force, and she leaned into him. It was definitely nice, but there was no tingling of lips, no quickening of her pulse. Maybe those things weren't really important?
Finally, he lifted his head and smiled at her. "Until next time." And then he was gone.
Hermione looked in the direction that Darm had gone for several seconds, imagining how Malfoy's kiss had felt. It had been so exciting, so invigorating. With a small smile on her lips, she turned to her bedroom. There she stopped dead in her tracks. Malfoy was standing in the door to his own bedroom, leaning against the frame, looking at her with cold, grey eyes that chilled her to the bone. For a few moments they were just looking at each other and then, without a word, he stepped back and closed his door.
Hermione got the feeling that she had just done something very, very wrong.
The next days were really, really busy. There were three performances and four interview sessions and even lunches were a business things with Magical Records' Japanese representatives. Malfoy was at her side through it all, but she couldn't shake the feeling that he was somehow avoiding her. He was the same as ever whenever there was an audience, but whenever there wasn't, he was conspicuously absent-minded or talking to someone else. It was clear that he didn't want to talk to her.
He couldn't be that annoyed that she had told someone the truth, could he? It wasn't as if Darm was about to tell anyone else about it!
When the afternoon on the second day arrived, Hermione retired to the suite. She was exhausted and she still had to go out that night. She flung herself into a comfortable armchair, closed her eyes and sighed with content. This was more like it. When she opened her eyes again, she noticed a piece of parchment on the sofa table.
Feeling curious, she picked it up. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized what it was. It was one of Malfoy's scribbling and it was the first one she had had a chance to glimpse at. It was, indeed, a song and it was entitled The Taste Of Your Kiss. As she skimmed the words, her heart started pounding. How could it be that someone so childish and annoying could write something so deep and beautiful? This was why he was so successful; this was why she had agreed to work with him.
Suddenly the paper was yanked from her hands.
"Enjoying yourself, Granger?" Malfoy asked, looking absolutely livid.
Hermione felt a bit embarrassed at getting caught. "Yes," she replied. "That was beautiful. I didn't realize how—"
"That was private! You had no right!"
Hermione was taken aback by the force of his statement and before she could respond, he tore up the paper and stomped off to his room, slamming the door.
Hermione didn't see Malfoy much after that.
When the evening came of her second date, Hermione was in her room getting ready. She put on one of the new fancy outfits that Isobel had insisted on sending with her, a beautiful bronze gown with fabric flowing everywhere. She loved it. And it was just the thing for the hotel's fancy restaurant.
She also smoothed her hair, leaving only a few curls at her temple and neck when she put up her hair. After all, this was a second date.
Malfoy seemed to have gone out already, because she didn't see him as Darm picked her up. It was a pity, really. It would have been the perfect opportunity to show him that she could be pretty and to remind him that some men did, indeed, find her attractive.
And to hell with the agreement! She was tired of lying in the name of making money.
Again, Darm was the very soul of flirtatious charm and courtesy and Hermione enjoyed herself immensely for several hours. Then, by chance, she looked in the direction of the bar and froze. Malfoy was there and he had seemingly not noticed them. Why would he? He was being very cozy with one of his blondes, slowly caressing her arm up and down, as he bent closer to hear what she said.
Hermione was furious. How dare he? How dare he get mad at her for going on a couple of innocent dates, when he was the one who was being obvious about their sham?
"Isn't that your not-fiancé?" Darm asked. "My, is he looking like he's enjoying himself!"
"Yes," Hermione replied. "One should think that he'd at least have the decency to be a little discreet!" She sniffed loudly and ignored Darm's startled look.
"I see…" he mumbled.
She was too busy glaring at Malfoy, who was now leaving with the blonde, to listen. How dare he?
Hermione was too upset to enjoy the rest of her date much, so she was feeling rather relieved when she was finally deposited back in her suite. Darm had mumbled his regrets, but she wasn't sure what he meant. She assumed that he had alluded to something else he'd said that she hadn't heard.
She knew she hadn't been a very good date for the last part, but she'd just have to make it up to him later.
She was pacing the floor, still in her pretty dress, her shoes long kicked off, when Malfoy made it back what seemed like hours later. He was looking a little rumpled and Hermione didn't want to think about what had brought about that appearance.
"Just what do you think you're doing?" she hissed at him the moment he walked in the door.
"Excuse me?" he replied, looking a little stunned at the onslaught.
"You get mad at me for revealing the truth when all I'm doing is having some perfectly innocent dinners with a nice man, and then you go picking up bimbos at a bar!"
He raised an eyebrow. "Innocent?" he asked, looking her over. "That why you're decked out like that, batting your eyelids at him all night? And what have you done to your hair?" He sounded appalled of all things.
"I do not bat my eyelids!" she growled. "And since when does how I dress matter? At least my skirt covers my—" she cut off blushing.
He folded his arms and studied her. "It doesn't matter," he said. "I talked to everybody. The deal's off."
Hermione stared at him. "W-what? What are you talking about? When?"
"Yesterday. I flooed back and met with everyone that matters. You don't have to pretend anymore. We've had a nice, quiet breakup and after a few interviews it will all be a thing of the past. You can go back to your old life."
She was thoroughly confused. And a little annoyed that she was always last to know. But mostly confused. "What about the sales? I thought—"
"Damn the sales, Granger!" he interrupted, startling her. "You wanted to go out with that man and now you can. Can't you just be happy, for once?"
She scowled at him for yelling at her. "Oh, like going home with that blonde was a big bother for you."
"If you think I'm going to just sit around while everyone believes me to be a lovesick fool – think again."
"So it's always with the appearances, is it?" she asked. "Everything has to be about how you look."
"No, not everything. I called this off because I thought that was what you wanted. Why are you on my case for going after something for myself afterwards?"
Hermione didn't want to think about it too much. "If it was so easy for you to call off, then why did you get so angry at me for getting a date? Why have you been avoiding me? I wouldn't have done anything in public to break our deal, you know this!"
He didn't reply but shot her a disgusted look and turned to leave again.
"Malfoy!" He didn't stop or respond, but went straight for the door. "Draco!" she yelled, all of her frustration clear in her voice.
He swirled around. "Because I saw you first!"
That wasn't the reply she had expected. "What?" she asked almost inaudibly.
"You talk about what I know, but you know that I have wanted you for months, that I have done whatever I could to please you. You know that I wanted nothing more than for you to kiss me the other night. And then… then this person that you don't even know comes along and he gets everything you always denied me because you fucking hate me and no matter what I do that won't ever change!"
The silence was so thick that you could cut it with a knife as Hermione stood flabbergasted.
"Whatever it is that you want," he continued. "It's obviously not me. So, can't you just be happy now that I freed you from having to pretend? Because there is no way you'll stop hating me, is there? There's no way that I could make you want to be with me. There's no way you could ever fall in love with me."
Hermione swallowed. "No, there isn't…"
Malfoy closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Thank you," he said in a defeated voice as he once again turned to leave. "It was just what I needed to hear to end this perfect day."
"Don't feel sorry for me, Granger. I tend to get a little dramatic."
"I'm not feeling sorry for you," she said, venturing a step towards him. "But I thought you might like to know… There's no way to stop hating you, because I don't." She stopped, as he slowly turned back towards her, and then she hesitantly took another step. "I thought you only wanted to kiss me because I was blonde."
He frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"You've shown a clear preference, and then you hexed me…" her voice faltered.
"I was only teasing you. My only preference for a long time has been looking an awful lot like you."
Hermione blushed a little as she took another step forward. "There's no way to make me want to be with you, because I do… But you went with that blonde tonight."
His gaze was intently fixed on her as she was now standing no more than a couple of feet away from him. "Nothing happened," he hoarsely whispered. "I swear. I went with her and then I didn't want to be with her, so I went for a long walk instead, trying to figure out a way to make you like me."
"You're always mocking me and teasing me."
"It seems the only way to get you to react to me. You seem to just ignore me when I try to be nice. And the last time I showed any interest in you, you locked yourself in the bathroom." He hesitated. "Just to be certain, what do you mean when you say you want to be with me? Y-you don't just mean hang around me, do you?" He was looking very insecure and vulnerable.
"There's no way to make me fall—you've made so many disparaging remarks about my looks. How was that supposed to convey your interest?"
He groaned as she broke off the first thing she was about to say. "How would you have taken it if I had told you that I found you to be the most beautiful woman on the planet?"
"I would have thought you lied."
"Right. And then I would have looked stupid for saying it in the first place."
"So, it's all about looks again, is it?"
"Please finish what you were about to say." His stance was strained. It was as if he couldn't decide whether to grab her or run away.
"Whose idea was this whole dating scheme, anyway?"
"It was mine." She stared at him and he smiled apologetically. "I thought… If you got to know me… I had a hell of a time convincing everyone that it could work, us being so different and all. I had to produce most of it with my own funds…"
"You?" she choked out.
"I knew that you hated me. The tour was my idea too. I thought that if you were forced to spend more time together with me… That you might…" His voice trailed off. "Please finish what you were saying." He gave her a pleading look. "I'll go away if you want, if you just… Please." He looked as if he was in agony. "Why is there no way to make you fall in love with me?"
"Because I already did," she whispered.
In one swift movement he had gathered her into his arms and was holding her close, burying his head in her neck. He made a sound that sounded like something between a laugh and a sob. "That was fucking cruel, Granger," he whispered.
"I know," she said, enjoying the feeling of his arms around her. How could she have missed all the signs? "But I had to get you back somehow, didn't I?"
Chuckling, he hugged her closer, and then his lips were covering hers.