It was the Transfiguration Test at Lunchtime and then afterwards, Draco and Erik were going to run another wand class. This time, pupils from Hogwarts would be invited as well and Hermione hoped that this might be Draco's test to see what reception wand lessons might receive should they be included in the Hogwarts curriculum. So far, the list of pupils who had put their names down was fairly extensive and Hermione decided that the wand class would have to be split between upper and lower school. She was on her way to check with Erik and Draco if they would mind doing two classes instead of one. Draco had gone home last night but was returning early to set up the wand lesson.
As Hermione walked across the Castle, she let her mind wander back to last night with Erik. She hadn't actually tried to pin him down as to what it was he thought he could see (or feel) between her and Draco because she wasn't sure she really wanted the answer. Their situation was strange and, although she was willing to admit, if only to herself, that she felt something for Draco; she wasn't sure what it was. Attraction, fascination and, certainly whilst at the lodge, a little affection but she found it hard to push herself to admit anything deeper than that.
As she rounded the next corner, she saw Ella approaching, obviously having just been to see her Father.
"Good morning," Hermione said.
"Good morning, Professor," Ella answered, unusually politely.
"How are you feeling about the test later?"
"As I always feel about a test that doesn't involve a broom!"
"You'll be fine – you've proved to everyone that you can cope with a variety of tests," Hermione tried to reassure her.
"I'll be watching you later, Ella. Good luck." Hermione gave her a smile and was about to walk on when Ella stepped in her path.
"Are you going to see Father?"
"Yes, Ella. Are you okay?"
"I suppose so."
Hermione looked at her pupil intently. "I'm getting to know you better, Ella because I can tell you want to get something off your chest."
Ella looked up at Hermione and gave a small smile. "Yes, I do."
Hermione nodded. "Go on then – I'm listening."
"It's about you staying at The Lodge." Hermione looked surprised – she hadn't been expecting this subject matter. Ella continued. "It's just that Father doesn't allow anyone to stay there usually…I mean friends, of course and my school friends…what I mean is not usually other women."
"Other women?" Hermione put her head to one side. "I think the intention was for Professor Corbin to chaperone you and your friends but I had to step in when she was unwell."
"I know…..but then you and Father stayed there alone."
"We couldn't get back, Ella. It wouldn't have been safe for us to try," Hermione frowned and lowered her voice, trying to speak tactfully. "I know it's a special place and you probably have lots of memories of your Mother there. I do understand that you might feel a little upset that I was there. It was just circumstances that meant I had to stay – I wouldn't do anything that might upset you or Scorpius."
Ella's expression changed immediately, her lovely face lighting up, her smile wide. "Is that what you think I meant?"
"Well…..I don't want you to be worried…"
"I'm not worried," Ella nodded her head, vigorously. "I'm not worried or upset or anything like that."
"Well, that's good then. I'm glad."
"What I meant was that Father never wants anyone to stay there," Ella took a look along the deserted corridor and then leant closer. "No girlfriends – no-one we haven't know for years. It's a shame for him to be alone all the time."
"Well, losing someone so close to you can be difficult to overcome…and Ella, I'm not your Father's girlfriend."
"I know you're not yet but he wanted you there!" Ella did a triumphant little step backwards and Hermione shook her head.
"Oh no, Ella! You mustn't interpret it like that. As I said, it was just the weather that stopped us returning with you and your friends….."
"You went back to find him."
"I was concerned about him – in case he'd been hurt."
"And then he let you stay."
"Because of the weather."
Ella moved closer again and gave a little shrug of her shoulders. "You were wearing some of the clothes."
Hermione felt her heart rate increase, not sure how to respond to this. Just how much could she explain to Ella who sometimes seemed so grown up and yet other times so immature?
"This isn't really a conversation we can have in a corridor, Ella. I think you're old enough to understand if I explain but we can't do it now or here. Would you like to come to my office this evening? I think it's time we had a little chat."
Ella raised her eyebrows, looking strikingly like her Father for a moment. "I suppose so."
"Good – come after dinner. I'll see you later."
Hermione watched as Ella sauntered along the corridor and then turned back towards the classroom where Draco should be. She gave a little sigh, not sure how that meeting would unfold later. As she reached the door, she pushed it open and found Draco arranging several desks and a large display cabinet at one end of the room.
"Good morning," Hermione said.
Draco put down the wand he was holding and looked over at Hermione properly. "Sorry – I've just had a visit from my daughter. It's not started my day off particularly well."
Hermione frowned. "I've just seen her outside – she didn't seem upset."
"No – she's not upset. Not yet, anyway."
Hermione shook her head. "You've lost me, sorry."
Draco came over and perched himself on the edge of a desk next to Hermione. Try as she might, she couldn't help but notice how he was looking this morning. He was dressed in proper Wizard robes, obviously for the lesson later and it made him look like a grown up version of the boy she remembered from school. She felt her lips twist into a smile and tried to force it away. Too late – Draco noticed.
"What's amusing now?"
"Nothing. Tell me about Ella."
"Not until you tell me what you're laughing at."
Hermione bit her lip but whereas, a few months ago, she wouldn't have dreamed of confessing to Draco what was making her laugh, she now knew she could.
"It's what you're wearing."
Draco looked down at himself, as if he'd forgotten what he had on. "What's wrong with it."
"Nothing. It looks very official – you look like a professor."
"So why the amusement?"
"It just reminded me of school – it was what you wore when we were at school together."
Draco did another glance downwards and then back up to Hermione. She was pleased to see a small smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "Am I stirring up some bad memories? Would you like me to take them off?" Hermione now grinned properly at his unfortunate phrasing. Of course she'd like him to take them off! She felt a little surprised at her own thoughts. Draco starred at her puzzled for a moment until he realized what he'd said. He waved his hand downwards. "Well, I know you'd like me to take them off but what I meant was - is it upsetting you, seeing me as the obnoxious, little twerp again?"
"No – not upsetting. Just very amusing."
Draco leant a little closer. "Shall I take them off anyway?" he said, suggestively and then his face lit up with a familiar smirk.
"We were talking about Ella?" Hermione ignored him and returned the conversation to where it had started. Nevertheless, she couldn't help the little thrill she got from his words. He was just teasing her, she knew that, but it was definitely in a flirty way.
Draco grinned and then nodded his head. "Yes – we were. Well, my dear daughter has informed me this morning that she won't be attending the wand lesson because she already has a date with Bernhard." Draco emphasized the word 'date', his tone conveying his feelings on this matter.
"Well, she did attend the one you did previously."
"I don't care about the lesson! It's the date I'm worried about."
"Why? Bernhard seems a nice enough boy and he's from Durmstrang so I thought you'd approve."
"She's twelve years old."
"Okay – she's thirteen years old. Too young for boys."
Hermione raised her eyebrows and folded her arms across her chest. "Were you, or were you not permanently attached to Pansy at this age?"
Draco looked surprised and then his eyes flashed. "She was attached to me."
"But you were spending all your time together?"
"Not all our time."
"Most of it?"
Draco sighed, resignedly. "That's not the point."
"I think it's exactly the point." Hermione grinned, enjoying having the upper hand. "It's healthy for her to start having an interest in boys. I'm sure Ella's idea of a date isn't comparable to yours!"
He sighed again. "I suppose you're right. Why do you have to be bloody right?"
Hermione laughed. "So why wasn't she upset then? She seemed perfectly happy when I saw her."
"I didn't tell her that I didn't approve. Not before the competition – I thought I'd confront her about it straight after it finished," Draco explained.
"You're not going to though, are you?"
"Yes – why not?"
"It's healthy for her to start having an interest in boys…." Hermione started to repeat her previous sentence, emphasizing the repetition to prove her point. Draco held up his hand to silence her.
"You don't think I should say anything?" he asked and Hermione couldn't help but smile again. Here was Draco Malfoy asking her how to deal with his daughter! How amusing!
"You definitely shouldn't say anything. It won't be anything serious – Bernhard returns to Durmstrang straight after the completion ends."
"What about you and Krum? The distance never stopped you two getting it on."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "We didn't get it on!"
"That's not what I heard," Draco said, in a disbelieving tone.
"Well, I heard that you were a two timing, womanizing scoundrel - doesn't mean it's true, or does it?"
"Actually the womanizing scoundrel bit might apply to me but the two timing part is definitely your territory."
Hermione groaned. "Well, Viktor and I were just friends so you heard wrong. My point is that this might be Ella's first, little fling. We all need our first fling."
"Listen - I'm seeing her later about something. Would you like me to have a word if I can bring the subject up, without being too obvious?"
"Would you?" Draco gave her a look that made Hermione tingle. She took a deep breath and was about to turn her eyes away, not trusting her reaction. His expression then changed. "Why are you seeing Ella later? What has she done now?"
"Nothing - she hasn't done anything. It's nothing to worry about."
"So tell me then."
"Well, I think Ella would prefer it if I didn't."
"I don't care what Ella would prefer - I'd prefer it if you told me."
"No - it's between me and Ella."
"I'm her Father."
"Exactly my point!" Hermione looked at him challengingly and after a moment where they locked gazes, Draco blinked.
"Okay, I'll drop it - but only because I trust you to guide my children properly," he said.
Hermione bit her lip, her eyes twinkling. "Thank you and bloody hell!"
"That was a bona fide, proper, absolutely genuine compliment!"
Draco sighed. "Yeh - that is becoming a very nasty habit of mine!"
Hermione grinned. "So - how are the preparations going for the lesson later? Do you need anything?"
"You mean like a glamorous assistant?" Draco asked with a smirk. "Is Celia free?"
"Ha ha! I meant more quills or parchment," Hermione folded her arms again. "And talking of Celia - how is she?"
Draco frowned. "Why are you asking me? If you're concerned about her welfare, go and ask her."
"I don't mean - how is she...I mean - how is she?" Hermione said the same phrase twice but used a different emphasis.
Draco rolled his eyes. "I know exactly what you mean, so why don't you say what you mean?"
Hermione sighed. "Why is every conversation we have so difficult?"
Draco gave her and intense look. "Not every conversation."
Hermione let her eyes soften as she met his stare. Not every conversation because the one's they'd had at the lodge had been easy and relaxed. "I mean, did it go okay last night?" she asked.
"Mind your own business, Granger. If you're not willing to tell me why you're seeing Ella then I'm not willing to divulge the delightfulness that happened last night."
Hermione pulled a distasteful face. "Euurgh! I really don't want to know about any delightfulness."
"I didn't mean that!" Draco shook his head. "Hermione Granger, you have a dirty mind."
"No - I just have a mind that knows what you're like."
"Thanks a lot."
Hermione sighed. "I just wondered if you were finally paying her some attention. She's desperate for you - don't tell me you haven't noticed."
Draco waved his hand dismissively. "Desperate for me is something I'm accustomed to," he said. "Unfortunately, it's not something I find attractive."
Draco smiled. "Oh, stop with that! She's perfectly nice - I like her."
"What else do you want to know?"
Draco put his head to one side. "She's good company - she has a great sense of humour."
"She's obviously very intelligent with that Ravenclaw wit."
"Draco - it was just a casual question - you don't need to tell me everything."
"She made me laugh..."
"I mean it! You've told me enough."
"I'm meeting her tonight - after dinner."
Hermione stood up straighter, not enjoying this conversation anymore. "Good for you."
Draco also stood up and grabbed her arm. She stared down at it and then back up at his face. He spoke again, his voice low. "Ask me to meet you later."
Hermione stared at him bewildered. "What? What do you mean?"
"Ask me - say you want us to meet later," Draco spoke intensely, his hand still holding her arm.
"You've just told me you're meeting Celia and how great she is!" Hermione snapped at him, worried his strange reaction.
"She is great."
Hermione pulled her arm away roughly. "That's it! I have no idea what you're talking about and it's ridiculous and annoying!"
"She is great," Draco repeated, "but she's not you."
Hermione stopped in her tracks and stared at him. "I don't understand."
"She's not you - I can't talk to her the way I talk to you. She doesn't make me laugh like you do, she doesn't glare at me when I tease her..." Draco paused and then gave a small cough. "So, if you ask me to meet you later then I'll be cancelling my arrangements with Celia."
Duh duh duuuh! Ha ha! This is a step forward but I won't be ending this too soon - as always progression from here won't be rushed. Thank you so much for the wonderful reviews. x