Losses beyond imagining

Chapter 17

Draco waited impatiently outside some Muggle establishment. Hermione had insisted on it, and as he had paid for Sunday tea, she would get the check this time. Draco had gritted his teeth when she’d informed him, but since he didn’t have that much Muggle money left, perhaps it was for the best.

She looked quite happy as she came strolling towards him, together with Ginny. Whatever had she taken her for?

“We were just shopping,” Hermione greeted him, when Ginny pursed her lips disapprovingly. “Ginny needed a new dress… so I left work early. Her anniversary is coming up soon…”

“Did you find anything to your liking?” Draco asked a bit stiffly.

“I did…” Ginny replied, “and I’ve got to run…” she further claimed, looking at her watch.

“See you tomorrow…” Hermione said, before she took his arm and dragged him into his first Muggle restaurant ever…

It actually wasn’t all that different. The food smelled good, even if he hadn’t seen it yet. The lights were nice… the seats comfortable… His table companion looked lovely…

But would he recognize the food?

“This is one of my favorite Italian restaurants,” Hermione said cheerfully. “The pasta is great… Or you could have pizza, if you want…”

“Not too fond of pizza myself…” Draco replied. Inwardly, he was relieved… Italian food he knew quite well as he had spent some summer vacations there.

“You’ve had it before then?” Hermione was surprised.

“I’ve had it in Italy when I was…. eight maybe…? I accidently used a bit too much pepper… and since then, I've rather lost my taste for them..”

Hermione laughed. “But then you should try again,” she said, “it can’t be any worse, right?”

“Are you challenging me?”

“Yes,” she said firmly. “Not just on this matter either…”

“That’s what I feared…” he sighed dramatically in return.

Draco did order a pizza: the one with the most toppings.

“Looks like you don’t want to miss out on anything…” Hermione grinned.

“I may not look it but I’ve got quite the appetite,” he replied.

The wait for his pizza, and Hermione’s risotto, took quite long however, and Draco commented on it: “Is it supposed to be such a long wait?”

Hermione raised her eyebrows and sneered: “Have you’ve ever prepared food yourself?”

He shook his head. “Of course not,” he replied indignantly, “that’s what house elves are for…”

Hermione was inclined to say “like Dobby?!,” but decided not to antagonize him any further.

“Well…” she said instead, “before I came to Hogwarts, I helped my parents cook during weekends. We’ve always had a lot of fun preparing it… They’d help me with presentation and such… and during the wait we’d play games, or simply talk, or they’d help me prepare for exams…”

“The point being…?” he questioned her.

“Cooking… Muggle cooking anyway… takes time… Water has to boil… Dough has to rise…” she explained. “For instance, for pasta, you have to wait for the water to cook which takes a couple of minutes… and then the pasta itself has to cook.. If it’s fresh like here, that will take maybe two minutes, but if it’s dried pasta from a box, it could take up to twelve or even fourteen minutes…”

“That’s such a long time…” he said surprised. “And you have to just sit and wait there…?”

“Well, my dad used to walk away to watch telly for a bit, my mum usually does stay and keeps stirring if she isn’t phoning one of her friends… and I used to just sit in the kitchen reading a book with one eye on the cooking pan…”

Draco gaped at her. “I don’t think I understood any of that…” he said.

“Perhaps you should have take Muggle Studies…” she smiled wistfully.

“Can you imagine my parents reaction to that?!” he grinned back.

“Well, at least you’ve read your first Jane Austen… I take it you did read it?” she asked, suddenly resembling a young and equally stern McGonagall.

Draco nodded and said: “On that note… Who do you think I resemble so much? I was rather hoping for Darcy..”

“So you did read it?!”

“I just wanted to figure out which snob you meant… that’s all,” he said.

Their pizza and risotto finally arrived, and for a few minutes the both of them were silently savoring their food.

It was going rather well so far, Hermione contemplated, whereas Draco was wondering if he should try to find a Muggle Study book somewhere… and hide it in his closet as well. He would need some kind of dictionary if he wanted to fully understand Hermione…

“What are you thinking about?” she wondered.

“I just thought… I suppose I could use a Muggle dictionary…”

“I’m sure they’re available… I got a Wizard one for my parents…”

Draco laughed. “I didn’t know those existed.”

“Of course they do! They’re extremely useful.”

The pizza tasted a lot better this time around; he had to give her that.

“How’s your risotto?” he asked when they both fell silent again.

“Very good.. I usually have the pasta but wanted to try something different for a change…”

Draco grinned naughtily: “much like going to dinner with the likes of me…”

Hermione started coughing and blushed crimson.

“I suppose you could say that…” she said a little shyly.

“The same goes for me…” he acknowledged, “but I find it a welcome one…”

“You do?” she asked. “I know I can be a bit irritating sometimes…”

“That’s better than being downright evil…” he said gloomily. “I’m still surprised you’re not embarrassed to be seen with me…”

“Malfoy… Draco,” she said softly. “I don’t think you’re downright evil… You did make a lot of bad choices for sure… and a few good ones too…” she faltered, still a bit unsure where all this was going…

“But not enough for you to trust me…” he said bitterly. “Is that what you were going to say?”

“Trust has to be earned,” Hermione replied simply. “I’m giving you a chance to do so…”

“When will you be satisfied…?” he asked, trying hard to keep desperation out of his voice. “Would you have me lie and pretend I’m all Muggle loving and…”

“If you’re genuinely interested in me, than surely you are Muggle loving..?” Hermione blurted out.

Draco stared at her flabbergasted, dropping his cutlery unceremoniously. What had she just said?!

She nervously smiled at him, but didn’t cast her eyes downwards, meeting his gaze instead.

He was completely taken aback, but then an emotion overcame him that he hadn’t felt in a long time… Before he knew it, Draco was roaring with laughter.

Hermione began to giggle herself, and soon people were turning their heads to look at them.

“It’s only logic…” she said a little flustered, when they had both calmed down.

He shook his head in amusement. “You are something else…”

Draco had hoped for a real kiss after that, but she’d only offered him his cheek at their goodbye. Still better than he had actually expected… and, more importantly, a good sign. They would meet again soon and that was the most important of all.

Contentedly, he made his way home. The large grin on his face did not escape his mother, who sighed in frustration. Her son was falling head over heels in love…. with a Muggle born no less! And even worse, she couldn’t consult her husband about it!

Hermione swapped notes with George. Medusa Milford was growing on him as well. It seemed they had both fallen for Slytherins after hating that house and its members for so long…

It was hurtful for George to see her with her sister Medea though as it brought back memories of Fred. Witnessing the closeness between the two sisters was soul-piercing… It was the only negative in a budding love story. However, she did know firsthand what it was like to be twins.

“I cannot believe I’m beginning to really like Malfoy… Draco, I mean… I have to stop saying that…”

“And you’d never seen him laugh before?” George asked amused.

“Not with joy, no…. smirk, and sneer, and laugh at people…. But never cheerfully…”

“Seems like he likes your sense of humor…”

“Isn’t it crazy?” she said shyly. “I used to hate his guts… It really is crazy… isn’t?”

“Hey..” he replied. “Same here… I’m crazy too. Ginny told mum so I’ve gotten an earful back home..”

“Did she mention Malfoy as well?” Hermione panicked. She didn’t want to receive a scolding from Mrs. Weasley. She was quite scary when angered….

“Not yet… Hope she won’t mention it at the anniversary party…”

“Oh, no…” Hermione moaned. “Everyone is sure to ask if I’m dating! What do I say…?”

“Just say you’ve met a tall blond strange through the Owl-line…” He joked.

“Do you think Andromeda knows?” Hermione suddenly wondered.

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