A Fool In Love: Chapter One
Disclaimer: Only the plot is mine. The characters, setting, and everything else belong to JKR
Next time, thought Hermione as she tuned out the prattle of her tablemates, I have got to remember to say no! She sighed and gently massaged her temples. This lunch meeting couldn't end soon enough.
"It was simply romantic," Ginny concluded with a faraway look in her eyes. "I've always dreamed of going to Paris with my fiancé ever since I was a little girl. But with everything that Harry planned…it was better than my dreams."
"That's nice. Paris is such a fun place to visit," said Lavender. "Ron and I like to go over there for the weekends. You know, he loves food and I love fashion." She shrugged her shoulders. "Next month though, we're going to Venice. Can you imagine that? I can't wait to ride on one of the gondolas. It is going to be so romantic."
"Really? Can you swim?" asked Ginny snidely. "Just in case you fall in of course."
"That's what magic is for," Lavender replied. "Isn't that right, Hermione?" Both witches turned to glare at Hermione, each of them silently commanding Hermione to agree with her.
For what must have been the hundredth time that hour, Hermione bit her tongue. Ginny and Lavender did not get along. Hermione wondered why they still insisted on getting together for lunch amongst the girls at least once a month. It would have been more logical for the two witches to avoid one another, given how much they mutually despised each other. Needless to say these lunches were always a bit of a trial for Hermione, and Harry and Ron owed her dearly for trying to keep the two witches in line when they were together. Especially since the only time Ginny and Lavender actually agreed on something was when they were making light of Hermione's love life or lack thereof.
"Does it matter? I'm sure if something happens, Ron will be able to save you. Weasleys are known for being able to think on their feet," Hermione said, after a quick mental review of her options. Hopefully that would satisfy both of them.
"True enough," said Lavender. "Ron would never let anything bad happen to me."
"I know what you mean," Ginny quickly put in. "I always feel safest when Harry's around. That's not surprising, considering that no one ever gets the jump on him."
"Really now?" asked Lavender with an arched eyebrow. Hermione wanted to groan. The way Ginny and Lavender were acting you would think that they were still back at Hogwarts. Hermione wished they would grow up and figure out that at the end of the day, there was no prize for best relationship. Instead, you had to get up the next morning and keep working on it so it would continue to thrive.
"I didn't mean it like that," Ginny said. She waved her hand languidly at her brother's girlfriend. "Has Ron been out of the country or something?" she asked knowing full well that her brother was currently in town. "You always get so…well one always knows when it's been awhile for you." She smiled, showing all her pretty teeth to the other witch.
Lavender huffed in annoyance. "Sounds like you have some experience there," she said shortly. Suddenly she smiled brilliantly at Hermione. "Oh! I am so sorry, Hermione. You must think me ever so rude. I know that you've been between men for…how long was it now?" She cocked her head to one side, all false sympathy and concern.
"Forever," Ginny muttered under her breath.
That was it, Hermione decided. She had had it with the both of them. It was true that she was currently not seeing anyone—her schedule was so full that it was a miracle she still had time to feed her cat—but they didn't have to rub it in. Every. Single. Time.
"Oh, but I am seeing someone new," Hermione told her party. "Not for that long yet, so it's still so new. But I think this might be it." Ginny and Lavender exchanged a glance, which Hermione interpreted as them not believing a word she said. She was always shit at lying.
"Imagine that," said Ginny. "So what is this dream wizard of yours like?"
"Very, very intelligent, of course. You know, for me, intelligence is the ultimate turn on," Hermione said. She sighed and clutched her hands together. "I like a man who can hold up his end of the conversation. He has the most biting wit."
"Is he handsome?" asked Lavender.
"Yes," was Hermione's answer. "Devastatingly so. I suppose the combination of that with his intellect makes him a tad bit arrogant, kind of like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. But then, what girl doesn't dream of finding her own Darcy?"
"Which means he's rich?" put in Ginny.
Hermione paused. Damn it, she was just digging herself in deeper. There was no way they were going to believe her if she made this wizard sound too good to be true. But she couldn't very well say no after the comparison she had made and they weren't inclined to believe her in the first place, so she might as well go for broke. "Yes," she said slowly. "I haven't asked how many galleons he has at Gringotts, so to speak, but he doesn't want for anything."
"He sounds perfect," Lavender noted. One could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she tried to think of a way to trip Hermione up. "You ought to invite him to dinner with us and the boys if you're serious."
"Yes, well," Hermione said, her mind racing to find a way out of the trap. "He's always so busy, and of course, I'm afraid how the boys will react. They're still a bit over-protective of me even after all this time."
Lavender coldly glared at Hermione, but a wicked gleam appeared in Ginny's eyes. "Tell me, Hermione," she said sweetly, leaning forward in her seat. "Is he blond?"
"Erm.…" Hermione stumbled. Leave it to Ginny to ask for specifics. "Yes," Hermione finally answered. It was easier than thinking up of a hair color for him.
The Cheshire cat grin on Ginny's face had found its match on Lavender's. "Hermione," Lavender said in a loud whisper that could be heard from across the room, "are you telling us that your mystery man is Draco Malfoy?"
Oh fuck, thought Hermione. Fuckity fuckity fuck. What have I done? I don't think there's any other wizard in London that could match that description. Maybe I could say he's an American? But then they'd really insist I bring him over for dinner to prove that I'm not lying. Hermione was so focused on her predicament that she failed to notice that the other witches had ceased paying attention to her and were now staring over her shoulder.
"Darling," said a voice from behind her, "I can't tell you how happy you've made me now that you've decided to finally tell your friends about us." Slowly Hermione turned around and sure enough, Draco Malfoy was standing behind her. He winked at her. Her jaw dropped.
"Close your mouth, love, you don't want to catch any flies," he said, gently lifting her chin up. "Shall we all meet for dinner tonight? Eight o'clock at the manor? We might as well let everyone know at once, dearest." With that, he dropped a light kiss on Hermione's head and Apparated away, leaving her to wonder with everyone else just what had happened.
Hermione's head landed on her desk with a soft thud. The rest of her luncheon with the girls hadn't been very pleasant at all. After Malfoy had dropped by their table to play along with her ill-advised words, Ginny and Lavender had proceeded to pester her with questions, such as how did they meet ("Umm, at Hogwarts," had been her obvious reply) and where was their first date ("That's a secret," she had sputtered out to their disbelieving glares).
They would have likely had gone on for the entire afternoon, but Hermione was able to escape from their clutches by insisting she simply had to get back to work. Once there, she promptly told her assistant not to forward any owls (for fear of howlers from her friends) and then locked herself in her office. Now that she was alone, she was free to think of all the reasons why Malfoy interfered the way he did.
Unfortunately none of the reasons she came up with were good.
The most likely explanation, she thought, was that he intended to humiliate her. That certainly fit in line with their shared history. Of course, if that was his plan, then it didn't really make sense the way he had backed up her words and pretended that he had been seeing her. No, it would have made more sense for him to embarrass her publicly in the restaurant by announcing to everyone that they had never been together and that he would not touch her to save his life. That would have been the easiest way to humiliate her by far.
She shrugged her shoulders. Who knew how Slytherins thought? Perhaps he had innate need to make sure any plan of his was both twisted and cunning. Trying to figure out his reasons for acting the way he did was giving her a headache. Right now, she had more important things to deal with.
Such as figuring out what to do about tonight. After Ginny and Lavender had determined no more information would be forthcoming from Hermione, the two twits had started squealing in glee over Draco's invitation for the evening before starting yet another argument over who would be better dressed for dinner at the manor. Hermione sighed to herself. She supposed that her lie would be revealed sooner rather than later, seeing how there was no way she or any of her friends could Apparate over to Malfoy Manor, much less enter to dine with its inhabitants.
A sharp rap sounded upon her door. "Hermione?" called out her assistant, Jane. "Um…there's someone here to see you."
Hermione stifled a groan. She should have told Jane that she was too busy to deal with any visitors. She had thought that would be obvious after she told the other witch not to forward any owls, but evidently not. "Send them in," she said in a tired voice. She sat up straight in her seat as she girded herself mentally for her friends' arrival.
The door swung open, and to her surprise, in stepped in no other than the cause of this afternoon's headache. "Send them in?" Draco Malfoy echoed her last words. "Were you expecting someone else, darling?" He shut the door behind him before walking over to sit down in the chair across from her, all pureblood charm and grace.
"Well I certainly wasn't expecting to see you here, Malfoy," was her reply.
"Is that so? Then how else would I give you the portkeys? By owl?" He tossed a small pouch on to her desk and rolled his eyes.
"Yes, portkeys for you and your friends to use tonight." He suddenly shot her an alarmed look. "Don't tell me you've forgotten about my invitation from lunch already. It's been barely an hour since we spoke. If you have forgotten, then I guess we will have to put off dinner tonight. We'll be too busy at St. Mungo's, trying to get your head examined."
"No, I hadn't forgotten that. I had been hoping that it was a nightmare." She sighed deeply. "No such luck unfortunately."
"A nightmare?" He clasped his hands to his chest as though horrified. "How can anything involving me be a nightmare?"
"Very easily." Hermione leveled a steely glare at the too-handsome-for-his-own-good wizard across from her, but it had little effect. "So care to explain why you happened to involve yourself in the conversation I was having with my friends?"
"Because I thought you needed rescuing, fair damsel, though you would be the last one to admit it." He winked roguishly at her. He cut quite a fine figure for a wizard, and her heart fluttered when he beamed at her. Her own lips briefly tugged up into a smile but only briefly. She quickly reasserted her iron control and assumed a more appropriate mien.
"Would it kill you to be serious?" she asked through gritted teeth. Having to deal with the charming bastard in front of her couldn't be good for her health. It definitely wasn't good for her heart to be beating so rapidly simply because of the attention he was giving her.
"But I am," he replied. "Or did you not actually back yourself into a corner when you were trying to put those two twits in their place?"
"They're not twits." Hermione defended her friends automatically although she privately agreed with his assessment. "And fine. Let's go ahead and proceed with the assumption I needed help. Not that I really did, but I can see how someone who doesn't really know me all that well might make that mistake."
She ignored the eye roll he sent her way. She couldn't believe that Malfoy was now acting as though she was the one being difficult. "So even under such circumstances—which again I take pain to emphasize did not actually exist—why would you help me? The two of us have never been friends."
"Would you believe I did so because I've fancied you for many a year and thought that it might be a way to get into your good graces?"
Hermione didn't bother to dignify that piece of idiocy with a reply. She simply glared at Malfoy. Who did he think he was dealing with? She knew perfectly well that witches like her were simply not his type.
"I'll take that as a 'no'. Oh well. It was worth a shot." He leaned back in his chair, the front two legs coming off the ground. "Leaves me in a bit of a quandary though. Since you won't believe the truth, that is. I do want to start our relationship off on the right foot, and so a lie simply won't do. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe a wizard should be honest with his witch."
Hermione sighed wearily. This was exactly why she didn't like dealing with Slytherins. Some of them were all right, but convoluted didn't begin to describe their thought processes. She could feel her headache coming back.
"But I suppose I can see how someone who doesn't know me very well might think that I'm not telling the truth," he went on, mimicking her words from before. "So under such a hypothetical circumstance—which again I take pain to emphasize does not actually exist and that I have been truthful with you, darling—I suppose I might have also come to your aid in order to improve my own standing in society." He shrugged his shoulders eloquently as he finished.
"I see." That actually did make sense to Hermione. Both Draco and Narcissa Malfoy had been spared a trial in exchange for Lucius Malfoy accepting a deal that sent him to Azkaban for five years. Though Draco had since then taken an active part in rebuilding the Wizarding World after the war, there were plenty out there who believe it was simply an act on his part.
Hermione wasn't one of those people. From her own dealings with her boss, she knew that many of her Slytherin classmates sided with the Death Eaters because of the pressure they had felt from their parents. She preferred to believe that most of them did have a genuine change of heart after the war. Certainly Malfoy's actions proved more than anything that was true for him. So if being seen with him for a few weeks helped improved his lot…well she rather thought he deserved it, given all the time and money he had spent to improve the lives of others.
But first she had to make sure that this wasn't a prank or worse. "So then this isn't some scheme to embarrass me?" she asked slowly.
His chair landed with a thump. "Absolutely not!" His mercurial eyes of silver were opened wide as he stared into her common brown ones, and despite herself, her breath hitched in her throat. "I swear to you, Granger, that I wouldn't do that. Please I…I know you have no reason to believe me seeing what a git I was to you back in school, but I wouldn't do that. I'm not that boy any more."
"I know," she said softly. She reached out a tentative hand towards the pouch on her desk. "So my friends and I should be there at eight?"
His smile returned, and it was like the sun coming out after a stormy afternoon. "Yes, they should be there at eight. But if you could get there earlier, then please do. That way we can greet them together, and besides Mother would like to meet you."
Hermione nodded her assent, slightly stunned at the latest turn of events. She was even more startled when Malfoy leapt up from his chair, reaching out for her hand so that he might brush his lips across it as he said, "Until tonight, my lady."
Thankfully he left before she swooned in her seat. Try though she might, she couldn't help but be affected by his charm, but at least she could hide that fact from him.
Or so she hoped.
Author's note: Please don't take this story too seriously. I know I'm not. This is just a light, fluffy tale to wile the summer away. My thanks to Hino-san for the beta.