Celestial Navigation by phlox – Chapter Three
Draco had some simple, quick errands to run before the shops closed for the night.
...call Ottoman's Ends and Things and tell them to deliver at noon; they always book so they're running early, so that way you'll be able to sleep 'til at least ten. You need groceries, right? Fine. You can pop over to the Sainsbury's near Charing Cross Road, and from there you can swing back to the Magical Menagerie for Owl treats. Your Flitterbloom is starting to wilt, so I'd add Hilda's Herb Haven to the list and pick up some plant food. And hey, since you're such a wild man, while you're there you could stop next door at Beaufort's Liquor Barn for a bottle of bubbly for your bird— Oh, but then, you don't have one of those, and alcohol might induce something like fun or holiday spirit into your life, and we can't have that. Never you mind, mate, your 'plans' for the evening are oodles better.
The WDS had grown rather terse of late. It seemed that it wasn't too keen on being asked simple, direct questions and nothing else; it rather enjoyed giving advice and commentary, and was downright affronted by the notion that its primary function could be something so tedious as giving directions.
But in the past few weeks, straightforward queries were all Draco's prototype had been given. In response, directions had been supplied miraculously leading toward the perfect flat, and he was now happily calling it home. He'd kept his head down and his directives clear and had met no detours in his travels.
And no Hermione.
Draco had been ignoring that flutter in his belly that had belonged to her (and her alone) for a while, just as he'd been avoiding examining his feelings about these chance meetings all along. If pressed, he would have said he enjoyed them. Were Veritaserum to have been applied, however, he would have surely spilled a litany of hearts and flowers the likes of which even a lesser man like the Weasel would have found embarrassing.
To be fair, it had taken him some time to figure out. He was out of practice, after all; he'd not really had a sincere friend of any sort for... well, ever, and finding someone who challenged him as Granger did was unsettling, to say the least. Neither Crabbe nor Goyle had ever been up to the task, and Pansy was (in retrospect) infuriatingly simpering in her adoration (which only went so far, it turned out: about as far as his conviction, parole, exile, and general disgrace, and he hadn't heard from her in years).
So at first, he'd regarded Granger as a novelty. She was undeniably intelligent and feisty, but most of all she'd just been there– delightfully, randomly in his path. A reminder of what it had felt like to live in the Muggle world, with every day an adventure, she made the blood buzz in his veins like one of those extreme sports his fellow couriers got up to on their days off.
Soon though, he was noticing things like the grace of her hand as she stirred her tea. The way she pursed her lips just so when she was thinking was worryingly distracting. On one occasion, the sun lit her hair in such a way that it exploded in dozens of different shades and hues (such that he would never be able to label it as anything as banal as 'brown' ever again), and he'd lost his train of thought and gaped like an imbecile. When he'd recovered his senses, it was only to come to the conclusion that he was well and truly buggered.
It was thus only appropriate and predictable that the Weasley git would bear witness and capitalize on his folly.
Help me find my home... take me to where I will feel at home.
It wasn't possible for Draco to be any more pathetic. One look at the pity in that ginger prat's eyes and he'd finally understood his heart had been asking the device to lead the way to Hermione all along. He hadn't stuck around to be told that there wasn't a chance in hell, but had done the only sensible thing; he'd changed his directives to the WDS to ask for a flat and nothing more. Sure enough, she was easy to miss from then on.
But seeing her in Boots... Draco had hoped maybe something other than his own yearnings had brought them together. When he'd seen she was using the device herself, there had been one glorious moment where he'd thought that, maybe, she'd been led to him by desires of her own.
And yet, it was not to be. It was a chance meeting borne from her voracious appetite for books (he'd never been so annoyed by her freakish habits), and she couldn't possibly be interested. Draco had learned well from all the magazines – bloody useful they were – how a woman should act when she wants to attract a man or convey her interest. Hermione was doing none of it.
He could cut his losses though, and make the best of it. His new flat was ideal; a beautifully maintained older building, it was at the very edge of Diagon Alley in a neighborhood newly renovated after damage sustained in the war. He was slowly unpacking and settling in, he had it nearly half furnished, and he'd decided to spend a nice, quiet evening at home.
It mattered not at all that the evening spreading out before him was New Year's Eve.
Bloody useless holiday. Its very purpose seemed to be to make any single person feel more lonely than alone. He could have done the usual and attended his mum's yearly soirée, but that would have defeated the purpose of moving out. This was about independence, and if 'independent' translated to 'solitary' for a time, it couldn't be helped. So the plan for the night was to gorge on the sweetest of sweets while listening to the wireless until the new year snuck right on by.
Draco had only just gotten the device in his ear to ask what shops were open late this evening when it came to life barking a list of commands, and he suddenly couldn't be buggered with the damn thing's feelings any longer. He needed some sugar and some comfort and he needed it now, and that meant going out into the night without the WDS for the first time in months. A thrill of danger slid down his spine as he returned the gadget to its box and walked confidently out the door.
He cared not a whit for the lack of dry goods or perishables in his kitchen nor the state of his Flitterbloom. His mood didn't need the application of liquor of any sort, and the only little lady he'd be spending this evening with was one by the name of Marie Claire, and she'd be teaching him all about the Top Ten Female Erogenous Zones.
After all, tomorrow was another year.
Hermione had just about had it with these errands.
...because, as you know, chocolate is an aphrodisiac, but I believe it was Flamel who postulated that the properties of the substance were increased tenfold by melting. And with the addition of vanilla. And cinnamon. Cinnamon, as a matter of fact, is the scent men most associate with feelings of comfort. Oi! Are you listening to me? It's there just over your left should— Excellent choice. I would have gone for the cinnamon sticks as well; they'll be brilliant used in the hot chocolate for both flavor and garnish. Now, how about you pick up some eggs, luv? You never know when you're going to be making a breakfast omelet for two, right? And speaking of which... coming up on your right is something you really should consider having on hand. That national campaign really got me to thinking. If you want to rely on your little pack of 'pills,' that's all well and good, but I really think you should consider—
The shop was empty enough to face the embarrassment – she just couldn't take another merry moment. The commentary hadn't ceased from the minute she'd stepped on the pavement outside her flat, through Diagon Alley, and all the way out to nearby Muggle London.
She'd merely rolled her eyes when the WDS led her to the lingerie shop near Knockturn Alley, the innuendo thick in her ear. When it had tried to entice her into buying out the entire selection of single-malt Firewhiskys at Beaufort's Liquor Barn to 'put a little fire in her furnace,' she'd just calmly left the shop. But the detour into Flourish and Blotts had seemed completely innocuous and promising until she'd found herself in one of the back aisles, being nudged gently toward The Kama Sutra.
At every stop and in all her travels in between, she'd kept her eye out for that singular, elusive blond she'd thought for sure would be her destination. When the device had finally pressed her to go to the Muggle supermarket for reinforcements against the long night ahead, she had been ready to throw in the towel. Sure, she'd passed on perfectly good invitations to a number of New Year's Eve parties, but it was just a night (not really at all unlike any other night), and she could spend it in the comfort and solitude of her own flat if she damn well chose.
There had been one last, brief thrill though, as the WDS pushed her toward the cookies and cakes aisle in Sainsbury's; her heart had skipped a beat at the sight of the Twinkies, sure that Draco was nearby, but there'd been no one but some giggling teens. Those same teens had scurried away from Hermione in fear when she'd finally had enough of the loquacious earpiece at the condom display to scream.
She paid for her basket full of goodies (and yes, she'd followed the advice about stocking up on eggs and such, because it was indeed good to be prepared) and decided finally to call it a night. Dejected, downcast and Draco-less, she walked slowly back to her flat, arriving back at her building no better for the walk. Pushing the button to call the lift, she stood slouched in the lobby, lost in thought.
Perhaps she'd gotten it all wrong.
Though it was undeniably statistically improbable, there was nothing truly earth-shaking about her having encountered Draco in Muggle London on that particular day while she was in the midst of that certain errand. It was no more coincidental than the myriad other times she'd run into him about town, and that didn't have any intriguing undertones; after all, he'd been the one to discover her those times, purely by chance and in simply going about his day, so it couldn't be that—
Her train of thought was interrupted by the ding of the lift and the whirr of the doors opening to reveal none other than the subject of her thoughts himself. There Draco Malfoy stood, under the harsh lighting and the tacky wallpaper, staring back at her with his mouth agape, surely mirroring her own look of astonishment.
"What are you doing here?" Draco and Hermione said in perfect sync.
"I live here." They did it again – just like it happened in movies.
Red-faced, looking about at the lobby and the lift, they said, "Well, not here, but—" Each stopped short, flustered, amazed, and embarrassed.
Hermione recovered enough of herself to cut through the shock to the salient point in all of this. "Hang on, you live here in this building? This is my building. Since when do you live here, in my building?"
"I've just moved in," Draco said, his tone unsurprisingly defensive.
"How on earth did you get in? Flats never become available in this building. People have to die for a space to open here." Hermione blushed at that; she wasn't particularly proud of the fact that she'd gotten her place as a result of her work-mate's grandmother's fatal dragon pox. She was too distracted at first by her own embarrassment though, to notice his discomfort.
"I... well, I tried a few very fine estate agents at first, but they had no luck." Clearing his throat, he continued, "I gather you're familiar with the 'Wizarding Directive System,' so you're aware of how it—?" He made a gesture with his hand that was surely supposed to elucidate matters, but he was no longer making eye contact to see her nod along. "Well, to make a long story short, I used the device to be... led to this, er, place. Here."
It was then Hermione noticed the full flush of his cheeks, rather startling against his fair skin. She didn't have time to really appreciate it, however, because her brain processed what he'd just said and shifted into high gear.
"What did you ask for?" She said, her voice hushed.
"I—" He cut himself off with a sigh, finally wrenching his gaze up to hers. Whatever war was going on within him, it burned through that look into her, and she held her breath until he spoke again, his tone resigned. "I asked for a flat in a building that... had everything I want."
Another theory flickered to life in her mind. "What floor do you live on?" she blurted.
His eyes narrowed for only a moment, calculating her reasoning. "Seventh."
"Nine," he said cautiously, trying to read her reaction.
"Mine's eleven," she said breathlessly. "We share pipes."
Brow furrowed, he shook his head, disbelieving. "I've been here a week – where have you been?"
"Out." She let out a long breath in relief. "Looking for you."
All the days of searching, all of the questioning and researching and hypothesizing and testing, and the WDS always led her back home. Maybe it was a coincidence, and maybe it didn't signify anything, but it had simply placed Draco in her path. If she wasn't part of what was enticing about the building and if she wasn't one of the things he wanted, it didn't matter.
Because Hermione finally realized that the undeniable conclusion of this whole experiment was that she wanted him. She shouldn't have needed any bloody gadget or doohickey to tell her that.
Just do it, luv. I mean, he's not my type, but if you really go for that so-pale-it's-see-through complexion, then I'm not one to judge. So go on – don't leave a guy hanging like that. Just remember the cinnamon. And the vanilla. And what I said about the—
Hermione stepped forward, and Draco's eyes widened as she approached. Both of her hands were full, laden with shopping bags from her evening's journey, so she had to trust him to follow her lead. She leaned in and raised on her toes, reaching, searching. He gasped softly as he caught on.
A hand, trembling slightly, cradled her face as his arm snaked cautiously around her waist. Her eyes slid shut only a moment before his lips touched hers, safely to her destination at last.
Draco was floating, existing in a space out of time.
She was quite simply the most delicious woman he'd ever tasted, and he couldn't possibly let go or he'd spin helplessly out into the ether. He was not at all sure how he'd survived so bloody long without her soft, spirited kisses and the little noises she made at the back of her throat. He wasn't going to risk ever relinquishing them.
But then the ding of the lift and the whirr of the doors closing on them pulled him back down to earth.
Instinctively, he pulled her inside as the doors shut. Hunching over, he fumbled with her hand to take one of the heavy bags, his hand still questing about her waist. Her fingers, newly freed, threaded into his hair, leaving a tingle over his scalp that shot down his spine. Spinning them, he backed her up against the wall.
Pushing closer to her, he got as near as humanly possible, wanting to breathe her air, to devour her.
She tried to pull back, making as though she wanted to speak, but he followed. A harsh yank at his hair made him relent, but only just.
"Where are we—" She glanced to the side at the buttons on the lift's control panel.
He reached out blindly and pushed one, completely unconcerned as the lift sped them upward to Merlin-only-cared where, and dove immediately to recapture her lips.
Draco knew somewhere deep down that this was rather momentous, an event preceded by many an obstacle and precipitated by unlikelihood. There should probably be sincere reflection involved, and possibly a discussion about how they could and should proceed. The two of them were good at negotiating, talking through things, and reaching agreements, after all (or agreeing to disagree, but that was nearly the same thing).
But Draco's brain wasn't in just then. Sorry. Please call later.
The lift came to a stop with a jolt, and Hermione took over as the doors opened, pushing him so that he walked backward with her out of the lift. He had no idea which floor they'd reached, and he couldn't be buggered to look.
They ambled awkwardly down the hall. Hermione periodically leaned off-balance until Draco relieved her of the bag she carried, holding both in his hand. He still had one arm to wrap around her with a hand to explore her curves (paying particular attention to erogenous zone number two). But she had both hands free, and they were immediately pulling at him, fisting in his hair, and unbuttoning his coat.
He walked forward as she pulled, backward as she pushed. Now they were cooking with gas, and made much quicker progress through the hallway. He only noticed they'd reached the door to the stairwell once they'd walked through it. Following her lead, they inched step-by-step up the stairs.
On the second half of the stairway past the landing, she lost her balance. As she fell to her bum on one of the steps, Draco took immediate advantage. Sinking to his knees, he covered her, taking his place between her thighs. Her legs wrapped about him and squeezed, and he released a plaintive moan he barely recognized as his own.
It must have brought Hermione out of whatever lovely reverie had possessed her to be comfortable on the concrete steps of a public stairwell. She wriggled and pushed, trying to squirm out of his rather insistent grasp. He thought he'd won a battle when she stilled, and he followed a trail from her pulse down her neck with satisfaction. He felt the vibration against his lips a second before hearing the husky sound.
He'd never heard anything more sensual, more animal, more womanly than the rasp of Hermione's voice just then. His brain took a moment to register exactly what she'd said. She'd never spoken his first name before, and it did something to him that had him gripping the railing to steady himself. He likewise tried to anchor himself in her gaze, but he was lost.
Then, the advantage was all Hermione's. She turned over and crawled up the rest of the steps. He watched helplessly after her (enjoying the view, but still...). By the time she'd reached the door with 'Seventh Floor' painted across it in chipping, gray paint, the fear of losing her had gotten him crawling up after her.
She burst through the door into the hallway with Draco hot on her heels. He wrapped his arm around her from behind, and that was just fine. As long as he could pepper kisses on her neck and bury his face in her hair, (and easily reach erogenous zone number eight) she could walk them to Scotland and back for all he cared.
But they weren't going quite that far. Hermione led them to a door and turned around to face him. He pressed her immediately against it, himself against her, and his mouth to hers. It took her more than a few tries to get his attention this time. Yanking him back by the hair was proving effective, though.
"Wards," she said with a wave at the wood behind her head.
He looked in that direction, but she had to repeat the word and gesture before the metal '9' clued him in that they were leaning against the door to his flat. "Mine?" He leaned in to lick at that strip of skin behind her ear.
He shook his head, now busy with erogenous zone number five. "No. Can't. I don't—" Draco forgot what he was saying somewhere around the word 'can't.'
Again with the yanking of the hair. "We're here," she said with a definite whine, the likes of which he'd never before heard from her.
His sigh was one of genuine frustration. "No furniture."
"Furniture? Why the bloody hell would we need furniture?"
At that moment, Draco had one erogenous zone, and it covered him from head to toe. He dropped the wards with a wave of his hand, turned the doorknob, and pushed through into his flat before his brain went on what he was sure would be an extended leave of absence.
After that, things happened fast. Lights, on; coats, scarves, hats, jumpers, shoes, off. Hands went up shirts and down trousers, things were unbuttoned, unclasped and unzipped.
Draco found himself leaned against the door, his head flung back, only dimly noting that Hermione had fallen to her knees before him. What he was acutely aware of was the bloody perfect sensation of the tips of her fingers rubbing just there... and the way she held and squeezed... exactly the right amount... and the tip of her tongue riiiiiiight—
His head snapped forward to look down at Hermione in amazement. These were things that he always had to show a girl over time with patient instruction, so how could she have possibly gotten it all at once? She stopped and looked up at him, an enchantingly wicked grin on her lips. He groaned and pushed both hands into her hair, brushing it back from her face.
His left hand brushed against something attached to her ear, something small and made of plastic. Angling her head to get a better look, he saw the Wizarding Directive System.
It was in use. That grin of Hermione's turned to a smirk.
"Convenient, hmm?" she said.
The horror of it all doused him at once. "Creepy," he replied with a grimace. Draco was starting to think the WDS wasn't such a good idea for the masses after all, much less as a constant companion whispering intimacies in Hermione's ear (and he had enough money that his grandchildren's great-grandchildren would be just fine without the potential income).
She got to her feet and shrugged, undisturbed. Pulling it from her ear, she raised a brow and said, "You sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. I don't want George bleeding Weasley in your ear while your mouth is— And I'm—" He faltered at that, suddenly unsure, and his cheeks heated to match. "I am going to be... right?"
Hermione nodded, chuckling. She placed the device in Draco's hand and leaned in, kissing him lightly. He relaxed and ran his fingers lightly up and down her arms, contemplating which erogenous zone was next on the menu.
Her brows furrowed, and she appeared lost in thought for a moment before she asked, "Do you think it's George in the WDS?"
"Yeah, of course. It sounds just like him."
"Well, I'd never really thought about it, but now that I do... it sounds rather more like Fred to me."
"They don't— Didn't sound alike?"
"No," Hermione said, wistful. "You could tell the difference."
At that moment, the clock struck midnight (well, it didn't actually 'strike,' as Draco didn't have any of those kinds of clocks in his house) and the sounds of London's revelers, both wizard and Muggle, drifted in from outside. Starting the year off right with a kiss was suddenly of paramount importance. This conversation was not.
He plucked the WDS from Hermione's hand and threw the blasted thing to Merlin-only-cared-where in his perfect, nearly half-furnished flat and pulled her in for that very brilliant snog.
Whoever's voice it was, be it from this world or the next or somewhere in between, he thanked it for its time and wished it peace.
Draco had found his way, and he was home at last.
~*: The End :*~