“I have a business proposition for you,” Draco said, and flashed her a wide grin. “It’s a lucrative deal, and would be mutually satisfying for both of us. Hermione,” he paused for effect, “I intend to marry you.”
Hermione’s eyes widened and her mouth fell open as she stared into his smirking, but perfectly serious, face.
Earlier That Week
Hermione could remember the exact moment that Draco Malfoy walked into her small shop in Diagon Alley, and back into her life. It had been a Tuesday around lunch time, and the shop was empty, which she begrudgingly admitted was its usual state. The only sound was the scratching of her quill, as she stood behind the counter and scribbled down notes for her debut novel.
Then the bell above the door gave a feeble ring and she looked up to see Draco Malfoy stepping over the threshold and into her shop. She lowered her quill and reached for her wand, which was hidden under the counter. Just in case.
Malfoy paused and looked about, taking in the large wooden shelves crammed with paperbacks and threadbare red carpet. Then his piercing eyes settled on her.
“Hello, Granger,” he said and walked towards her, his long legs eating up the ground between them.
“Malfoy,” she greeted, nodding her head at him. Her fingers were still wrapped around her wand.
“I had to see your little shop for myself,” he drawled, and picked up a slim volume from the display on the counter. “Is it true that you only sell Muggle books?”
“Yes, my shop specialises in Muggle literature and history,” she replied, trying to keep the venom out of her voice. “Can I help you with anything?”
“No, I’m just browsing for the moment.” He put the book back and gave her a thin smile.
Hermione could feel her body tensing up, as she watched him, hawk-like, saunter round the shelves apparently in search of a book. But she wouldn’t put it past him to be ‘casing the joint’ for some nefarious reason.
A few minutes later Malfoy came back to the counter, but now he held a book. He placed it in front of her and she couldn’t help but snort when she read the title. “Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Really Malfoy, did you read the back cover?” she incredulously asked.
“As a matter of a fact I did,” he said. “And I think this Darcy fellow seems a very maligned bloke.” He paused, and seemed to take in her raised eyebrows. “I mean he can’t help having all that money.” And then he had the audacity to wink at her.
“Of course, you’d say that,” she muttered, and carefully placed the book into a paper bag. “That will be two Galleons,” and although it pained her to say, she added, “if you please.”
Draco fished out the coins from inside his robes and placed them, gently, into her outstretched hand. “I’ll let you know how I find Jane Austen’s work,” he said and turned to leave.
“You really don’t have to,” she quickly assured.
Draco paused on his way out the shop and gave her a brilliant smile. “Oh, but I do, Granger. I simply cannot get enough of your horrified expression every time you look at me.”
The bell tinkled once more as he closed the door behind him.
The next day, Draco strutted back into the shop and Hermione burst out laughing when she caught sight of what he was wearing. Gone were his wizard robes to be replaced by a blue double-breasted jacket, a white cravat, knee high socks which were tucked into cream breeches, and bright buckled shoes. He tipped his tall top hat at her in a sign of greeting.
“What are you wearing?” Hermione managed to say, between her giggles.
“Why Granger, is this not the height of Muggle fashion? I followed Miss Austen’s description exactly,” Draco said, placing one hand behind his back and one foot forward in a striking pose. With the trousers pulled tightly against his hips, a bulge was created in his groin. A very pronounced bulge, in fact.
“Yes, at the beginning of the nineteenth century!” she chortled. She was laughing so hard that she developed a stitch. She doubled over, resting her forehead on the open parchment on the counter.
“So.” He paused. “Muggles don’t wear this now?”
“No, they don’t,” she said, her face still pressed to the parchment. “Muggles only wear top hats as a costume these days.” Having caught her breath back, she stood up.
“Err…Granger,” Draco hesitantly said, “you have some ink on your forehead.” He came closer and peered at her. “I think it says ‘throbbing’ backwards?”
Hermione lifted her hand to her head, then looked down at the wet and, now smudged, parchment on the counter. “Oh dear, I’ll have to rewrite the whole page again.”
Draco turned his head to the side, so he could read the parchment. “Why are you talking about ‘his throbbing head’? Oh.” He stopped, the realisation dawning on him.
“Don’t read it!” she cried and grabbed the parchment, hiding it behind her back.
“Granger, you saucy minx.” A smirk curled his mouth. “Those were some steamy sentences.” She blushed at his words, and rubbed her hand across her forehead, trying to wipe the ink away. “Stop, stop, Granger,” Draco said and brushed her hand aside. “You’re going to take your eye out. Here, let me.” She watched, almost hypnotised, as his pink tongue darted out and licked his thumb. He grasped her chin, and holding her face still, he lightly smoothed his moist thumb over the ink stain on her forehead. “There,” he said, as he let her go, “it’s gone.”
“Thanks,” she breathed, feeling more than a little stunned by his actions.
“Now your face is fixed, well, as fixed as I can make it in this short amount of time,” he drolly said. “I’m going to search for another book.”
As Draco wandered about the shelves, he called out, “I was right about that Darcy chap. Poor sod spent the whole book forking out cash for other people’s mistakes.”
“Darcy made quite a few errors himself,” Hermione commented, a tad reproachfully.
“Valid point,” Draco said, sticking his head between a gap in the shelves. “Never moan about a woman when she might be in earshot. Very sloppy work.”
“One might say that you could be accused of similar sloppiness in the past,” she said and nonchalantly rearranged the display of books on the counter.
“I was not always, as I am now,” Draco admitted. Reappearing from the shelves with a book. He waved his prise excitedly at her. “Love Story by Erich Segal. Looks a very light-hearted sort of story.”
Hermione silently smiled to herself as she bagged the book.
“What is it, Granger?” he said, peering her. “Have I said something funny? Or are you just laughing at my face?”
“Just at your clothes, again,” she lied, but continued, “I think you’ll find this book very educational.”
“I hardly think a mere Muggle novel will educate me,” Draco said, dismissively. He strode towards the door, his buckled shoes glinting in the candlelight. He paused in the door way, dramatically silhouetted. “By the way, if you need inspiration in your own writing, you are welcome to write about my throbbing head.”
She had to choke back a retort, as he laughingly shut the door.
The next afternoon, it was almost closing time when Draco paid his visit to her shop. The bell gave its usual weak tinkle, as Draco manoeuvred into the shop;sideways, like an overgrown crab. He had to enter sideways because of all the Ice Hockey padding he was wearing.
He turned and one of his overly large shoulders, knocked over a display of George Orwell’s 1984, and scattered the paperbacks over the floor. Draco gave a grunt of annoyance, but kept waddling towards her. He was clinging to the hockey stick for support as he tried to keep his balance on the skates.
“Oh my, Draco,” Hermione cried, and forgetting herself she rushed towards him. She grasped his arm, which she couldn’t feel under the padding, but she manoeuvred him towards an armchair. Draco, with unaccustomed gracelessness, fell into it, and the hockey stick noisily clattered to the floor. Hermione knelt before him and started loosening the metal skates, her fingers tugging at the stiff straps.
“Why are you wearing all this padding?” she asked, in total bewilderment, as she pulled one of the skates off his feet.
“G’ange,” Draco gurgled from behind the gridded helmet. ‘G’ange ou’ ‘ame!” With an effort, he pulled off the helmet and spat out the rubber gum protector. “That’s better,” he said, massaging his face, “I can feel my jaw again.”
With the helmet off, his bedraggled head looked strangely small alongside his padded body. He was certainly giving her a strange look, a mixture of frustration and, if she wasn’t mistaken, appreciation.
“Granger, I have a bone to pick with you,” he informed and indignantly ripped off the hockey gloves. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
“Warn you about what?” she asked, as she leant the hockey skates against the side of the chair.
“That she dies!” Draco wailed. “How could you let me walk out with that harrowing book? I’ve been up half the night, and then I spent the whole of today finding this Ice Hockey gear.”
“About that,” Hermione said, standing up and looking down at his traumatised expression, “why are you wearing it?”
“Because, it’s what that chap wears in Love Story,” Draco said, as if this made utter sense.
“Only when he plays hockey. He doesn’t stroll around America in huge sports equipment and ice skates.”
“I wanted to make sure I got all the Muggle clothing right, I couldn’t make another blunder like yesterday.”
“My goodness. You idiot. Muggles don’t wear this,” she gestured to the discarded helmet, “all the time.”
“Merlin’s beard. I can’t work out all this Muggle fashion.” He suddenly clicked his fingers. “I’ve had a great idea. You should take me Muggle clothes shopping.”
“No, no, absolutely not,” she said, backing away from him, like he was a mad man, which, she considered, he probably was.
“Come on Granger,” he pleaded, “you could do with getting out of this shop anyway. You’re almost as pale as I am.” Draco rolled up the hockey jersey and looked at his watch. “It’s only five o’clock. We have time.”
“I doubt it, Muggle shops close around now,” Hermione said, not bothering to hide the relief in her voice.
Draco pulled the jersey over his head and started removing the padding. Soon there was a mountain of padding on the floor. Underneath the padding, Draco was wearing a tight black top, which clung to his abdomen muscles like a second skin. He absentmindedly ran a hand through his hair, expertly smoothing back his locks. Hermione felt a great urge to run her fingers through his hair and mess it back up. He’d looked attractive, sitting there with his hair tangled and mussed.
“If we can’t go shopping.” He spoke slowly as if the idea was forming in his head. “Then why don’t you show me where I could go shopping in Muggle London?”
“I think not,” she primly replied.
“Why not? I know you haven’t got any other plans for the rest of the day,” Draco stated, with a perceptiveness that made her blush. “Plus, there is something I want to ask you.”
“Ask me what?”
“Just a little business idea.”
“A business idea?” she blandly repeated.
“How about this,” Draco said. “You go out with me, show me a bit of Muggle London and listen to what I have to say. And if you don’t like it, I’ll never darken your door again.”
“All that? And then you’ll leave me alone?”
“And maybe get a drink with me,” he added.
“Only one drink.”
“Done, it’s a deal. Shake on it?” Draco stuck his hand out to her.
Hermione gave a resigned sigh and took his outstretched hand. The moment her hand was tucked safely in his, Hermione felt a familiar jolt in her belly as Draco started to side-along apparate with her in tow.
The bastard, she thought as her shop disappeared in a swirl of colour.