Chapter Twenty-One: Friday Evening

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 waded through the original disaster; CoquetteKitten added a spit and polish.

 

It was time for dinner, according to her growling stomach. She sent a quick Galleon message to Harry, stretched, and got up to make herself presentable. Gone forever was the Hermione who didn’t care what she looked like. In her place, was a new creature, not yet completely self-assured but certainly not timid.   Her natural confidence, which had been ebbing for most of the past week, surged forth.

 

Hermione waved her wand in the direction of her nap-wrinkled clothes and set them to rights with a simple grooming charm. She touched up her make-up, and then re-piled her hair on her head and secured it with the beautiful, emerald-studded silver comb. On impulse, she dropped her glamour to reveal the breathtaking dress beneath – the one she’d been planning to conceal until the after-dinner visit with her wizards. As she was about to leave her room, Hermione looked at herself one last time in the mirror and was shocked by how much she had changed in a week. She looked . . . No fitting word came to her mind.

 

 

She looked something, whatever that something was, judging by some lingering looks from the other students as she and Harry swept into the great hall. Her longest school robes covered most of the gown, showing just an inch or two of the rich silk fabric that covered her feet. Hermione made her way over to the Gryffindor table as quickly as possible. Ginny and Luna were already there, and Ginny grinned at her as she sat down.

 

“‘Lo, ‘Mione. Hot date tonight? Who’s the lucky Malfoy?” Her friend asked sotto voice.

 

“Shut it, you!” She snapped, but she was grinning.

 

Ron was seated a few places down at the table, his arm thrown around Lavender Brown’s shoulders, but his smile turned to a frown when he saw Hermione.

 

“Oi! ‘Mione! What are you doing all tarted up? You don’t even look like yourself!”

 

She raised her startled face to meet Ron’s, and in the process saw that Draco was watching warily from the Slytherin table just behind Ron’s back. This is what I get for not seeing Ron for what he actually was years ago and putting him in his place – back when I knew he was an idiot and could punch him without worrying about the Malfoy reputation! She fumed inwardly. And took the high road.

 

“Hello, Mr. Weasley. Pass the rolls, please?

 

Ron Weasley’s face was slowly turning an ugly shade of red, and it looked as though steam was threatening to blow from his ears. “Hermione! You really should go and wash your face. Who’re you trying to impress, anyway?”

 

She flushed from the unwanted, demeaning attention and knew that Draco was hearing every loud word Ron said. In fact, judging by the silence that was falling around them, a lot of people were hearing Ron. She tried to keep her voice steady and firm as she replied, “Please, just stop. You have no right to say any such thing to me. You’re not my brother, and you’re not my boyfriend. Now, are you going to pass the rolls or not?”

 

He grabbed at the basket of rolls nearest him and shoved them toward Hermione so that they spilled everywhere. And when she jumped up from the table to avoid the buttered bread, Ron noticed as her robes parted and revealed her gown. “Merlin, ‘Mione! Go and put your regular clothes on, will you?! You’re done up like a Knockturn Alley slag tonight!”

 

Harry chose at this moment to step in. He looked appalled. “Come on, Ron! She looks nice. This is our Hermione we’re talking about, mate! She could never look like a . . . like that!”

 

“Says the Boy With His Hands up Two Skirts! Stay out of it, Potter!” Ron’s voice was even louder now, and Hermione knew that the time had finally arrived. She stood, letting her school robes slide from her shoulders, and spoke to Ron, pointing at him with her left hand. It brought her handmark to his attention for the first time. There were audible gasps, and the sound of whispering broke out at the tables nearest her.

 

“Leave Harry alone. He’s done nothing wrong, and neither have I for that matter!” She spoke in a quiet, deadly voice, but it seemed to carry to many ears.

 

Ron was staring at the beautiful dragon marking. Now that she had removed her robes, it could be seen twisting from her ring finger, around her hand, and up her forearm. He stood now, too, raging, and he left any pretense of a private conversation behind as he began shouting at Hermione.

 

“You cow! You bitch! You were supposed to be mine after school! Haven’t I made that clear enough for you? You were supposed to WAIT!”

 

Hermione’s eyes stung with furious tears. How could he?! After nearly eight years spent side-by-side, after everything we’ve done, and seen, and been through together – even if he weren’t suggesting he’d had expectations that we would be together, how could he talk to me like this?

 

The entire student body had grown silent at Ron’s outburst. The teachers watched gravely from the dais. She felt rather than saw Draco approaching from her right, and gave a small shudder of relief when she felt his hand glide across the silk of her dress and come to rest in the small of her back. He stood there quietly as she absorbed the strength lent by his presence. Finally her chin came up. Her voice was clear and carried for quite a distance. “You made no claim, and now I am the prize of another House.”

 

She heard Draco give a deep sigh and then let him direct her toward the back of the great hall, toward the doors. Halfway there, he broke away and walked back to the Gryffindor table. He leaned aggressively over the table near a cringing Ron and spoke quietly. Draco stood frozen in a striking position of dominance for several moments with his wand drawn on Ron, perhaps waiting for a sign that his words had hit their mark. The redhead finally dropped his eyes in submission.

 

“Draco.” Did I say that? It couldn’t have been very loud if she had, but then again the great hall was almost completely silent. He turned his head toward her slowly. Hermione held out her left hand to him, leaving it raised and outstretched for everyone to see.

 

Draco was still immobile, leaned over Ron, but looking at her. She said his name again, louder this time, and couldn’t help smiling when he abruptly straightened up and glided across the room to her. He’s dangerous. Just not to me. His eyes locked on hers and Hermione forgot everything else. He reached her, his large form shielding her from the bulk of the student body. A feeling of precognition washed over her. This is how it will be. He’ll allow me to defend myself because he knows I need that, and he’ll protect me because that’s what he needs.

 

“Shall we go?” His usually soft, husky voice was deeper and laced with adrenaline. Draco once again placed his hand on the small of her back and turned her in the direction of the doors. They left the silent hall behind them.

 

The two paused outside in the castle entry, suddenly aware that they were breaking the most important rule of the courtship by being alone together. Draco stepped away from her awkwardly.

 

“We should wait here for the Headmaster. I’m sure someone’s on their way now.”

 

“I could-”

 

Draco raised an eloquent eyebrow as he cut her off. “I don’t think letting you out of my sight is a good idea. You’ve gotten yourself in enough trouble tonight already, and that was with me at your side.”

 

He’s teasing me! Oh, Merlin – he’s twinkling at me, too! She swooned a little, and Draco’s handsome face became smug when he realized this. They stood far across the entry from each other until Harry rescued them about five minutes later, barging noisily through the doors as if to give them warning of his approach.

 

He was grinning. “That was quite a scene you two made. Sorry I didn’t come right away, but it was shepherd’s pie for the main course, and that’s no good cold. Just had to finish up quick. I’m to escort the two of you to the kitchen so that you can eat something before your visit – Dumbledore’s request.”

 

 

Hermione hugged him fiercely. “I hope you get lots and lots of extra kinky sex tonight from the girls, Harry.”

 

She remembered Draco was within earshot, and blushed as she stole a peek from the corner of her eyes. He was blushing and shaking his head as if to rid himself of a thought. I’ll bet he’s trying to follow Rule Number One. I wonder what he’s thinking that he doesn’t want to tell me.

 

The house elves seemed to have been expecting them, and had food set out on a table away from the hustle and bustle of the workspaces. Draco spoke briefly with Harry before he left, arranging for him to meet Hermione at the Headmaster’s office at a specific time, and her friend was off like a shot.

 

When the meal had been eaten and the table cleared, Draco and Hermione gravitated to each other. He held her hands at her sides and bent to speak close enough to her ear that she could feel his breath tickling it.

 

“Hermione, what you said in there – it was . . .”

 

“Oh, Draco! I’m so sorry if it was inappropriate! It’s just that-”

 

He put a warm finger against her mouth, effectively silencing her. “Not inappropriate. Very appropriate. Very . . .very . . .” Words seemed to fail him, and so in their place he showed her exactly how very very her short speech had been. He kissed her thoroughly, wrapping his hands around her sides and sliding his fingers softly along the silk of her gown.

 

He pulled away slightly and smiled the small, lopsided half-smile that she was coming to adore.

 

“Also very very – you calling me by my given name.” He kissed her again and she moaned against his lips. Their lips repeated the same pleasing motion for some time.

 

“Hermione.”

 

“Mmmhmm?” Is this another one of my Malfoy-induced dreams? If I open my eyes, will I find myself tucked in bed? Better keep them closed, just in case.

 

He was placing soft kisses on her cheeks now, and his hands were leaving her sides. She heard a little whining noise, and wondered who had made it. Draco’s husky chuckle caused her eyes to fly open then. It had come from her! She flushed, and he watched the color spread over her face.

 

“I like your noises,” he whispered and stepped back to a respectful distance, “but we should go. I’m sure Lucius is here by now.”

 

A house elf accompanied them through the castle on their way to the Headmaster’s office. Hermione wrapped herself in one of Draco’s arms and walked with her head leaning against his side. She held his hand in both of hers, clutching it to her chest. Draco didn’t seem to mind her sudden proprietary use of his body, and she wondered eventually if it had anything to do with the fact that his hand was, in essence, supporting the slight weight of one of her breasts.

 

“Hermione.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Wear my scarf at the game.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And go with me to the celebration in the village.”

 

“Can we . . . is that okay to do?”

 

She could hear the smile I his voice. “Well if you’re worried that someone might notice, it’s rather too late for that.”

 

“Then, yes.”

 

“And then go with me to the Ravenclaw party tomorrow night.”

 

“I’d love to, but . . .”

 

“I see. Already made plans with another wizard?”

 

She gave a peal of buoyant laughter. “I was thinking about chaperones, and rules, and all that.”

 

“Ask Harry if he plans to attend. If he is, we’ll be fine.”

 

They walked a few minutes in silence.

 

“Hermione.”

 

“Yes, Draco?” She looked up to see him smiling.

 

“I just wanted to hear you say it again.”

 

They walked the rest of the way in happy silence.

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