I think you're going to like this chapter...
The meal was served and Hermione managed to keep a smile on her face while Harry teased her and Draco relentlessly. She glanced over at the top table several times and cringed. Pansy looked like there was a nasty smell under her nose and Hermione was sure that she caught her glancing often over to their table, or to be specific, to Draco.
Viktor was chatting amicably with the others on his table. He was smiling and laughing and really, he did look great. Healthy and athletic with a handsome, if rugged face. She turned away. Maybe speaking to him wouldn't be so bad...maybe?
"Are you feeling better?" Draco asked, breaking into her thoughts.
Draco was staring at her intently and she stared back until it became uncomfortable. "You seem...sort of jumpy," Draco pointed out.
"My ex boyfriend is sitting up there with your ex girlfriend! Of course I'm jumpy!"
"You were jumpy before they arrived."
"You're imagining things."
"Am I?" Draco asked. Hermione felt a little rush of affection for him but pushed it down. She couldn't do that anymore.
Ella arrived at that moment, with Scorpius and Albus in tow. She was talking excitedly about the party, the mentors and tomorrow. She grinned widely at Hermione and then spoke to Draco.
"So, you're going to dance aren't you?"
Draco looked at his daughter. "Stop it, Ella."
"Stop what? Have you seen Professor Granger - she looks gorgeous!"
"Thank you, Ella."
"And I did catch you two last night..."
"You didn't catch us because we weren't doing anything!" Draco said, firmly.
"Only because I interrupted..."
Hermione watched Draco's discomfort with a little bit of amusement. "I think you should be the one dancing," she said but Ella wasn't that easily distracted.
"Father is going to ask you because he's always told me that it's polite to not leave a lady sitting at the edge of a dance floor and you look so beautiful, how can he resist?" Ella grinned at them both and then almost danced off herself.
"I'm not dancing," Scorpius said, firmly.
"Neither am I," Albus confirmed.
"Why not, Albus?" Ginny asked. "That little blonde girl looks nice and she keeps watching you."
"Kathyrn? Bleurrgh!" Albus pulled a disgusted face. "No way!"
Hermione laughed at the boys who did a quick exit before anymore girls could be pointed out to them. As she turned back to the table, Draco was standing up. He held his hand out to her.
"Would you like to dance, Professor Granger?" he asked.
"Oh...no!" Hermione jumped in with her answer.
"You sound horrified!"
"No. I just don't want to dance...you know with everyone here..." Hermione swiftly used Viktor and Pansy as her excuse. The truth was she really couldn't handle being so close to Draco feeling in such a vulnerable state.
"Ignore them - that was your advice wasn't it?"
"Yes, but I don't feel like dancing."
"Well, I won't take no for an answer..." Draco dragged her to her feet but she still resisted. That was until he pulled her to the edge of the dance floor and her resistance began to look stupid. She reluctantly let Draco pull her into hold and moved with him as he began dancing. His hand was on her waist and she felt it burning through the material of her dress.
Draco was dressed in a smart shirt and trousers and as she was pulled close to him, his delicious scent wafted over her. He gently held her one hand as they moved together and Hermione tried to not meet the eyes that she felt were watching them from all directions.
He pulled her tighter against him, his head dropping slightly and her emotions misbehaved, not listening to her brain as they responded to him. Why did he have to be quite so charming and handsome. Why did his body have to feel so lean and hard against her? Why did he have to have such perfect skin and lips?
Hermione sank against him a little, unable to fight it. She was no longer aware of their audience because all she could think about was Draco and how her heart was racing just because he was close to her.
Suddenly, it was too much. She couldn't let herself go like this! She pushed him away, the surprise showing on his face.
"I'm sorry, Draco." She stepped away from him and then turned quickly, leaving him standing on the dance floor alone. She didn't think about what she was doing and just headed for the large doors that lead to the hall.
She had no idea what she was doing but before she'd even got half way across the hall, Draco emerged from the doors.
She stopped, not wanting to create a huge scene that everyone would hear. She was sure they all already had their eyes perked, having watched her leave so quickly. She turned around.
"Look - I just need to go. I'm sorry if I made you look stupid but I just have to go."
"I can't say now. Can we talk tomorrow - after the competition?"
"No!" Draco walked over to her. "No, we bloody well can't!"
"I don't want to create a scene..."
"Over what exactly?" Draco asked, his voice sounded strained. "I mean - if I've done something could you at least have the courtesy to tell me what it is?" His words were harsh but his voice sounded more upset than angry. He leaned forward and gently touched her cheek. Hermione blinked and felt her throat tighten. "Yesterday, I let you see me in a state that no-one is ever allowed to see me in," he said, quietly. "Yesterday, I did something that I'd been dreading and it was easy because you helped me." He touched Hermione's cheek again. "So, today I have no intention of letting you feed me some story that I know isn't true. You're upset about something, I want to know what it is."
Hermione wanted to put her head in her hands and cry but she resisted. In spite of herself, she felt her heart melt at his words. She felt the tingles from his touch and her resistance slipped a little. This person standing in front of her bore no resemblance to the Draco Malfoy she was familiar with. This person was being so tender and caring that she could easily have just melted into a pile of mush. She didn't want a row before the competition finished but she was doing a terrible job pretending to be okay and Draco wasn't stupid.
Why would he be so seemingly concerned about her if he was just using her? He'd sat and cried in her office - even Draco Malfoy wasn't that good an actor! When he'd seen her at Hogsmeade, he'd seemed genuinely happy that t she was there. Would her really go to all this trouble just to keep on the right side of his children's professor? No. No - he wouldn't, Hermione was sure of it.
Could she confront him about it? Should she?
"Hermione?" Draco prompted her, his face worried.
"I'm...I've had a bit of an upset..." Hermione fumbled her reply. She was a terrible liar and had always been. Draco was watching her, his eyes showing concern. Hermione pushed a hand through her hair, messing the style up a little. She was sure she wasn't that gullible - she was sure she would be able to tell if Draco was that manipulative. Maybe foolishly, she trusted him.
"I saw you," she blurted out.
"You saw me?"
Draco frowned. "Of course you did -we went to the dress shop together!"
"I mean before that - in the square and in the coffee shop," Hermione paused and then sniffed. "I was in the coffee shop."
She saw Draco's expression change but not into shock or guilt. He still looked puzzled. "You were in the coffee shop? I didn't see you."
"I was behind you - at the next table," Hermione sniffed again. "I heard what you said to that woman...I saw you give her the necklace..."
Draco's eyes widened. "Why didn't you speak to me?"
"Because I'd just watched you with her - giving her that gift," Hermione emphasised the word gift. "It didn't seem like you'd want to be interrupted."
Suddenly, Draco's expression changed again and she watched him relax. "Oh!" he said.
"Oh? What does oh mean?" Hermione demanded. "I mean, I understand quite clearly what -' I've never felt like this before' and 'we should stay together' mean but I'm kind of struggling with 'oh'...."
Draco stepped forward. "Bloody hell, Hermione! What exactly do you think I'm up to?"
Hermione stepped away from him. "I don't know, do I? But I know what it looked like!"
"It wasn't what it looked like."
"Well, you're bound to say that, aren't you!? What it looked like was you giving her jewellery and her thanking you by throwing her arms around you!" Hermione turned away from him. "Do you know what? It's none of my business and I didn't want to bring it up before the competition was over..."
"You bloody stupid girl!" Draco interrupted her ramblings. He grabbed Hermione's shoulders and pushed her backwards. "That women was Daphne!"
"Daphne Greengrass - Astoria's sister!"
Hermione stopped struggling, her jaw dropping open. Astoria's sister - that's why she'd looked familiar. She felt stupid and ecstatic in equal measure. "You were giving her jewellery..."
"After five years, I've finally gone through Astoria's jewellery. I've saved loads for Ella but I thought it would be nice to give a piece to Daphne and one for Camellia as well. I haven't seen Daphne in ages so arranged to meet her..."
"But what you said in the cafe...that didn't sound like things you'd say to your sister-in-law!"
"I can't even remember what I said!"
"You said - I've never felt like this before!"
"I just said that I should have sorted the jewellery out ages ago," Draco explained. "I told her that I'd never felt like this before - I've never felt like sorting it out before."
Hermione groaned, suddenly hearing the conversation with a different set of ears.
"I told her we should keep in touch - Astoria would have liked that. That's what I meant about staying together - as a family," Draco sighed. "Now do you believe me?"
Hermione had to ask one more thing, despite her embarrassment. "But I heard you mention me...I think...you said it was all for the children really..."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Of course I did! I didn't think you'd appreciate me discussing our friendship with Daphne Greengrass! Not when we haven't actually discussed it with each other yet!"
Hermione stepped away from him. "Now I feel like an idiot."
Draco was watching her but she didn't look at him directly. "That'll teach you to listen in on private conversations."
"I didn't do it on purpose! I tried to move but then you would have seen me..."
"Which would have been nice - I could have re-introduced you to Daphne. She's much more reasonable than she was at school."
"I didn't want you to think I was spying on you."
"You were spying on me."
"Draco!" Hermione protested but as she looked up at him, she saw he was grinning.
"Yes, Hermione?" His voice was full of teasing amusement.
Hermione made a groaning sound. "I've made a fool of myself and you're really going to enjoy it, aren't you?"
"Of course I am!" Draco chuckled and Hermione groaned again. "Are we going back in then?" he said.
"I'm probably not the best company for a party."
"Well, I'm not going back in without you." Draco smiled at her again and she couldn't stop smiling back. He gave a little shrug. "Seems that lately, there isn't very much I enjoy doing without you."
Hermione watched him and felt a welling up of emotions. She was so relieved that his meeting had been entirely innocent but still she couldn't seem to tell him properly. Yet, here he was easily telling her how he enjoyed being with her. It was now or never so she forced herself to stop thinking and just speak, blurting the words out.
"I was jealous." She coughed to clear her suddenly very dry throat. "I was jealous - I felt upset...because I like you..." Draco didn't answer her, his eyes were on a journey around her face. When he didn't speak, she continued, nervously. "I was jealous - I hated seeing you with...with someone else..." Hermione forced herself to keep talking. "I've got used to it being just the two of us..."
Draco still didn't speak but his expression was intense, his eyes deep. She felt a little rush of panic. Had she said too much? Maybe he really didn't know how she was feeling? Draco now spoke, very quietly.
"Just the two of us sounds pretty good to me as well, Hermione."
She bit her lip and smiled at him. He offered her his hand and they walked back into the hall together.
Aaah! At little admission from them both...it's not all over yet but at least they've moved closer...x