Chapter Fifteen: Wednesday Afternoon

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.

 

Harry simply said, “Follow me,” when he met her outside of Herbology. He turned on his heel and set a brisk pace through the castle towards the great hall. Instead of following the rest of the crowd in to lunch, he beckoned her to the entrance hall, and from there to the main doors.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“You’ll see.”

 

Hermione followed Harry along the paved path towards the lake in silence until she caught sight of Luna and Draco far ahead, each carrying an armload of something. “What’s going on?”

 

Her friend grinned at her, pulling her along by the arm now. “Picnic! Who says Ron’s the only one who can sneak out during meals?”

 

Hermione gave a delighted laugh and broke into a run. “That’s brilliant!”

 

By the edge of the lake, and behind an outcropping of stone, Luna was spreading out a large blanket. Draco knelt nearby, rummaging through a large basket. By the time Hermione and Harry reached them, most of the work had been done.

 

Draco stood as she approached, smiling in that happy-grave way of his. “Good afternoon, Miss Granger.”

 

“Hi.” Hermione had resolved to call him by his name when she next saw him, but his greeting threw her off. I think he’s trying not to put any pressure on me. Or maybe he feels shy in front of the others. He can be very sweet.

 

They stood there for a moment shyly. Draco finally said, “I hope you’re hungry. Luna and I asked for at least one of everything, and the house elves added even more. Please sit down.”

 

He was right. The four of them tucked into the meal now spread before them. Hermione noticed that Draco’s manners, which had seemed impeccable at their lunch together on Monday, relaxed in this informal atmosphere. For some reason, she enjoyed watching him forgo his fork to eat with his hands, and tried to keep from staring. She was amazed at the amount of food he ingested, and said as much. He treated her to one of his soft, husky laughs. “We had morning Quidditch practice, and flying always makes me hungry.”

 

“Me, too,” agreed Harry.

 

Luna looked up from her Cornish pasty. “You know, I’m always hungriest after-”

 

Harry silenced her with a firm shake of his head and a change in subject. “Pass the roast chicken, please.”

 

Talk turned back to Quidditch. The last game of the year was on Saturday, and since it was to be a match against Gryffindor and Slytherin, both wizards would be playing. Harry asked Luna to wear a Gryffindor scarf for him, and Draco looked at Hermione speculatively.

 

She squirmed. Please don’t ask me. I can’t say yes right now, and I don’t want to hurt you. The expression on her face must have given him whatever answer he needed. He gave her an understanding sort of smile and turned to ask Luna if she would be announcing the game.

 

Eventually the conversation naturally divided in two, and Hermione and Draco immersed themselves in a bubble so tight it repelled all sound except each other’s voices. They had been talking about careers they’d considered. Draco was saying, “For a long time I wanted to be a Healer.”

 

She looked at his beautiful hands as they gracefully tore apart a roll. An image came to mind unbidden of Draco running his hands over her body. I’d let you heal me. She blushed as if on cue. “That’s a lofty goal.”

 

“Do you think so?”

 

“Well, if you think of the hours, and the emotional fatigue Healers must endure. I don’t know if I could function in the midst of such suffering. What made you consider it?”

 

“I think it was because of the way Lucius raised me. Abraxas and Narcissa both died unexpectedly, and so Lucius alternated between panicking every time my nose ran to trying to toughen me up with all kinds of rigorous drills. He learned to heal all my childhood illnesses and injuries, and by the time I entered school, I knew all kinds of useful remedies. Staying alive was important to Lucius, and I think that transferred to me.”

 

“So what about now? I mean, what are you leaning toward?”

 

Draco gave her a blinding smile. “I love potions work. Severus was a brilliant teacher, and I forgot all about being a Healer after that first lesson in his classroom. Do you remember his speech?”

 

She laughed delightedly. “Bewitch the mind, ensnare the senses?* That man was a master of words!”

 

’Bottle fame, brew glory, and even put a stopper in death’.” His smile faltered as he finished the quote, and Hermione realized that Draco must miss his godfather very much. Another person taken from him. She tried to steer the conversation gently back to lighter waters.

 

“What about Lucius? Does he enjoy potions as well?”

 

Draco rolled his eyes. “Lucius is shite at potions. He’s too intense. Volatile, really.”

 

“He seems so poised!”

 

“He has a lot of self-control, and usually keeps his emotions to himself. And, I think you have a calming effect on him. Potions, however, are far too sensitive for his personality. Severus wouldn’t even allow him around when he was brewing!”

 

The sounds of Harry and Luna arguing good-naturedly about something eventually filtered through and dissolved their bubble. Draco was just finishing his last plate of food as the others packed up the remains of lunch. He flopped back on the blanket and gave a contented sigh. Hermione followed the lines of his handsome face until he opened his eyes and caught her in the act. Draco looked triumphant, and he murmured something so quietly that she only saw his lips moving.

 

“What’s that?” She asked in a low voice, leaning forward to hear.

 

He murmured only slightly louder, smirking, and she moved even closer. “Say it again?”

 

She was leaning directly over his smiling face, now. Draco raised his voice enough for her to hear him say, “I need to kiss you.”

 

My words to him, in the hall yesterday. Hermione blushed and glanced over at Harry and Luna, who were now skipping stones at the edge of the lake. Then she looked toward the castle, which was blocked from their view by the rock formation. No one can see us – that’s why they picked this spot.

 

She was momentarily distracted, and said softly, “Thank you for giving me time to adjust before . . .” She gestured vaguely in the direction of the castle.

 

Draco responded, “I understand the need to be away from prying eyes sometimes.”

 

“I’m still working this all out myself; I’m not ready to share this with anyone else quite yet.”

 

“At the moment the only one I’d have you tell is Weasley. He thinks he owns you – and don’t think I don’t know about his family’s stake. Besides, he’s a cretin.”

 

“He’s the last person I want to tell.”

 

“Because it will make it real?”

 

So sweet. So beautiful. She whispered, “It is real,” and lowered her mouth to his.

 

He reached his hands up to the back of her head and held her in place as he kissed her lips. When she pulled away and sat up, Draco followed. His hands threaded through her hair, drawing her back to him. “I wasn’t done yet.”

 

Draco’s kisses were insistent, tender and sweet, and Hermione returned them in kind. At some point, though, her mouth opened just as they kissed, and there was an instant change in Draco. He made a low noise of pleasure, and pulled her against his chest, taking her bottom lip between his. There was a new hunger in the way his mouth moved with hers, and the tendril of desire, nurtured by Lucius at breakfast, unfurled yet more within Hermione. She liked this new way of kissing.

 

A loud call from nearby startled them, and they pulled apart, breathless. Draco scrubbed his hand over his face and then looked at her ruefully. “I’m sorry.”

 

“I’m not.” She blushed yet again, but maintained his gaze, and leaned in to kiss him again.

 

They picked up where they’d left off, and when Luna and Harry finally interrupted them, Draco’s eyes were much darker than their usual pale shade of blue. He pulled his robes around himself, despite the warm temperature. Harry pulled Hermione to her feet and looked down at the blond wizard with what looked to be a sympathetic smile. “Why don’t I take ‘Mione to class? That way you and Luna can tidy up here?”

 

Hermione was surprised when Draco didn’t stand up to say goodbye. He did, however, reach out for her left hand and press a kiss to her dragon’s back. “I’ll see you later.”

 

She was still slightly breathless and dizzy from lack of air, and hoped her smile and nod were a sufficient answer. Harry began pulling her towards the castle. Draco looked smug as she glanced back at him one last time over her shoulder.

 

No sooner were they out of earshot than Harry began teasing her. “So, you and Draco looked like you both enjoyed the picnic.”

 

Yes, Harry.”

 

“And you seem to be getting along very well.”

 

She growled at him as he continued, “In fact, I’ll bet you two would have gotten along even better if we hadn’t interrupted!”

 

Hermione felt guilty at once for her attitude. “Thank you for the picnic, Harry. I enjoyed it very much.”

 

“Mmmmhmmm, I noticed.”

 

She gave in to the teasing and laughed along with him, although she gave him a good punch to the shoulder. As they neared the castle entrance, Harry slowed down. “Oh, look who’s waiting for us. Brace yourself.”

 

Ron was waiting for them on the steps, and he had a sullen look on his face. “Where’ve you two been?”

 

Harry said, “Hi to you, too. We had a picnic lunch and study group.”

 

The redhead looked suspiciously at Hermione, and she suddenly wondered if it was obvious what she’d been doing. For some reason I hope it is. “You two must be pretty cozy with whoever you were studying.”

 

She rolled her eyes. “Look, I don’t question with whom you keep company, so don’t do it to me.”

 

Ron thought for a moment, and answered warily, “Fair enough. But it’s only right that you tell me when you’ll be gone at meals.”

 

A red wave of rage threatened to wash over Hermione, and she sucked in a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. Schooling her features into an innocently curious expression, she asked, “Why’s that?”

 

Obviously shocked speechless, he blinked stupidly (really, even if she hadn’t been so furious she would have been irritated by his idiocy). He stuttered, “Y-Y-You know what I mean.”

 

Harry butted in, “Come on, ‘Mione. We’re going to be late.”

 

“Sorry Harry!” Without another glance at the boy she had once liked so much, Hermione turned and walked quickly away. She wanted to think of something – anything – besides Ron Weasley, and the first thing that came to mind was Draco’s mouth devouring hers. She felt better at once, remembering the sensuous rhythm their mouths had quickly learned. I cannot believe I ever wanted to kiss Ron like that.

*from the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

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