A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 17: The Summer that Changed it All:

“Tell me why we’re driving to a magical resort again, instead of apparating,” Draco complained from the passenger side of Hermione’s car.

“I might want my car while we’re up here. It’s beautiful countryside, and there’s nothing better to do on a summer afternoon than to take a long drive in the country,” she reminded him. She had already told him that twice.

“I can think of a few things,” Theo snickered from the backseat. Draco smiled at him, looked back at Hermione, who frown, and he smiled wider. He could think of a few things, too.

“You know Granger, if you had already taught Theo and me how to drive, we could help with this little trip,” Draco lectured.

“Yes, tell us again, Malfoy, how far did you travel on your adventure driving the couch?” Theo joked from the backseat.

“Seriously, it’s unfair,” Draco complained as Hermione and Theo continued to laugh. “Theo got a real lesson, in a real car, and all I got was a lesson on which pedal were the peaches and which pedal was represented by the tomatoes.”

“Do you remember?” Hermione asked.

Draco thought for a moment and said, “The tomatoes were the accelerator.”

Hermione snickered and said, “They were the brake! That’s why you’re still learning on the couch, Mister.”

“Damn,” Draco retorted. Theo laughed and leaned back in the backseat, his legs up on one side. He shut his eyes. Hermione looked over her shoulder at him and then she quickly glanced at Draco. She looked away when he stared back at her.

Draco had decided to wait and tell Theo about his and Hermione’s ‘new’ friendship until they got to their new summer jobs. It only happened two days ago, and they had all been too busy packing that they had barely had time to talk, let alone really TALK. As they climbed in Hermione’s auto this morning, she said, “Are we going to talk to Theo?”

Draco said, “Soon, I promise.”

They drove a while longer and while they were on a long stretch of road, Draco took her left hand in his right. Theo was leaning against the backseat, his eyes still closed, so he couldn’t see them. She smiled without looking at him.

He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this happy. He wasn’t sure he had ever been this happy.

“When are you going to teach me to drive, Hermione, for real?” Draco asked, while still holding her hand.

“I’ll teach you both this summer. Theo has wanted to learn more, too,” she replied.

Draco looked at Theo in the rearview mirror. He said, “Theo, wake up.” Theo opened his eyes. “What the hell are our jobs, anyway?”

“You and I are waiters. Hermione is working in the kitchen,” he said.

“Sounds glamorous,” he retorted.

“It sounds like we got what we could at the last minute,” Theo reminded him. “You know, just last summer I was a guest here, and now I’m working here.” He looked out the side window and became quiet.

Hermione looked quickly over to Draco. He gave her hand another gentle squeeze. Theo’s mother was having financial troubles. They weren’t sure why, but for some reason after his father died, it seemed that someone, somehow, drained most of their foreign accounts. They still had some money at Gringotts, but for the most part, Theo was now on his own, to pay for University and the like, just like Draco. He hadn’t adapted as well as Draco had. He was having a hard time. Theo suddenly smiled and leaned toward the front seat. Draco had to let go of Hermione’s hand quickly. Theo said, “At least we’re all three spending the summer together, and Hermione is going to teach us both to drive. That should be fun.”

And just like that, he was happy once more. His emotions were constantly like a seesaw, up and down. He would spend days in bed, alone, not talking to anyone, and then he would be bouncing off the walls, happy and carefree. Hermione told Draco that he needed help. Draco told Hermione he just needed time. Whatever he needed, he had his friends, and that was what was important.

They pulled up the drive and Theo said, “Just pull up to the portico Hermione, and the valet will park the car.”

“I think we need to pull around back,” Draco said glumly.

“Oh, yeah,” Theo realized.

Hermione looked back at Theo and gave him a small smile. She pulled around back.

Two weeks later, they were settling into a happy enough routine. Hermione helped prep the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Draco and Theo worked as waiters. They had every evening free, and one afternoon a week. Theo and Draco shared a flat over the kitchen with three other waiters. Hermione was in a room at the back of the large resort, by herself, but in a wing with the other kitchen staff.

The first week, Hermione and Draco had the same afternoon off. She decided to try to teach him to drive again. She was in their flat and she handed him a pillow. She had a can of tomatoes and a can of peaches as pedals, which she placed in front of him. She put an umbrella in the middle cushion of the couch. Draco said, “Is it going to rain?” He put the pillow behind him.

She reached behind him and handed him the pillow again. She told him, “It’s very important you don’t ever let go of the steering wheel.”

“This is a pillow.” He thought she was smart enough to know that.

“I know.”

“Hermione, we’ve already done this twice now. I think I can drive with a pillow, already. Please, take me in a real car, just this once. Maybe we can even really snog this time.”

She laughed and said, “What are we waiting for, come on!” She grabbed his hand and they ran outside. It was pouring rain. They ran to her car and she got in the driver’s side, but then scooted over. He got in beside her and shut the door.

“Do you want me to learn in the rain?” he asked. He was slightly apprehensive.

“Maybe not, but we’re already in the car,” she replied. Then she smiled.

“Ah, the snogging is what you’re after, little girl,” he said. He matched her smile. She pushed on his shoulder. He pushed her back.

She pushed him harder. He pulled on both her wrists and pulled her over to him. The damn steering wheel was in the way. Too bad, it wasn’t a pillow. He wanted to pull her onto his lap. He had to settle for having her as close to him as he could get her. He placed one hand on the back of her neck, while the other hand still held one wrist. He brought her to him and kissed her soundly. She moved so that she was slightly on her knees. She pulled away for a moment, but only to lean over him.

He wondered what she was doing as she leaned across him, and as she reached down on the floor by the door…not that he was complaining. Then, without notice, the seat back fell backwards. She tumbled over with him. He was on his back, holding her on top of him and he said, “Ah, the seat goes back. See, cars are made for snogging.”

She nodded and said, “And for so much more.”

“You embarrass me, Granger,” he joked. He reached up and stroked her hair.

“I meant transportation, you git,” she protested.

“Sure you did,” he smiled back. He stroked her hair again and this time she leaned forward and kissed him. She kissed his lips gently, and then with her body against his, and her hands on his face, she kissed his eyes, then his forehead, and then down around his jaw. He shut his eyes, delighted at the feel of her body on his body, and her mouth on his mouth.

She lingered on his lips this time, and when she opened her lips, he naturally opened his.

He reached around her and let his hand travel down to her bum, where he grasped it lightly. She kissed him again. He moaned. She shifted on him, and then she lifted her face from his and said, “I can’t do much more, not yet. I don’t feel right until we tell Theo. Please, understand.”

He did. He loved her even more for that. He might ache for her to continue, but he understood why she didn’t want to.

Instead, they spent the rest of their afternoon off in her car talking. It was one of the nicest afternoons he had ever had.

Draco’s next afternoon off was with Theo. Hermione’s afternoon off that week wasn’t until the next day. Draco dropped by the kitchen after lunch and asked to see Hermione outside. She stepped outside, wiping her hands on her apron. He grabbed her hands as soon as she was done and pulled her around to the back of the building. He kissed her quickly and said, “I’ve been dying to do that for days.”

“Are you going to tell Theo this afternoon?”

“Yes, I will,” he promised.

“Draco, if he seems too fragile, or in one of his sad moods, don’t tell him yet,” she said. She was remembering her father’s moods. She had never told Draco about them, but both she and her mother constantly had to walk on eggshells when he was in one of his “dark moods”, and she felt the same way around Theo when he was sad. Without ever discussing it, Draco felt the same.

He merely nodded. He leaned forward grabbed her face in his hands and kissed her lips again, this time lingering a bit longer than the first quick kiss.

He heard Theo calling his name. He winked at Hermione and went off with Theo.

The men decided to take a long hike in the woods. While in the woods, Draco asked, “Can we take a break?”

They stopped as the path widened, and Theo climbed on a low-lying branch, and sat down with his back against the trunk of the tree. He said, “Hermione seems like she’s having a good time so far.”

“I think so. It’s hard work though,” Draco said. He climbed up the same tree and sat on a branch above Theo. He reached for a higher limb and broke off a small branch. He whacked it against the tree. “Theo, tell me the truth, how are you doing since your father died.”

“I’m fine,” he said quickly. He jumped off the low branch and sat under the tree.

“Hermione thinks you’re depressed,” Draco said as he jumped down next to his friend.

“Well,” Theo began, “she’s just being such a little sweetheart. I’m fine, really. I mean, I miss him and all, but it’s not as if he was in my life anymore. He was in prison.”

Where he belonged, in Draco’s opinion. Draco looked over at Theo and said, “Be truthful to me, do you ever think of Hermione as more than a friend?”

Theo was quiet for a long time and then said, “Am I that transparent about everything?”

Draco sucked in his breath. Theo stood up and with his back to Draco he declared, “Fine, Hermione’s right, I’m not handling things well. I feel sad all the time. I feel like I’m disconnected from my own body. I have dark, disturbing thoughts that I can’t control. Sometimes I think my sadness is swallowing me whole, and the only light in my life is my friendship with you,” he turned and looked at Draco, “and the way I feel about her.” He took a step closer to Draco and said, “Heaven help me, Malfoy, but I think I’m in love with her.”

Draco felt lightheaded, and for the first time in years tears actually threatened to come to his eyes. He couldn’t breathe. He looked down. Theo kneeled beside him, grabbed his arm, and pleaded, “Don’t tell her though. At least not yet. I have some things to work through first, and then maybe I can let her know. She might not even feel the same way about me. I think the hope that she might love me back is the only thing that keeps me going sometimes. She’s the only thing that makes my black days brighter. She’s the reason I get out of bed in the morning. If I didn’t have you and her, I would have nothing. I would have no reason to live.”

There it was, concise and to the point. Theo Nott, the stupid bastard, the stupid fool, and Draco’s oldest and dearest friend, the person he loved the most after Hermione and his mother, had just ruined Draco’s life and he didn’t even know it. Draco couldn’t tell him now. Maybe he would never be able to tell him.

He didn’t even know how he would tell Hermione. The only good thing was that he hadn’t yet told Hermione that he loved her. Thank goodness for that. Draco was confident that she didn’t love him yet, at least not in the way that he loved her. She would get over this.

He would have to make her get over this. He couldn’t hurt Theo, not right now, with his emotional state so precarious. He knew what he had to do.

The men walked back to the resort. That evening, all of the kitchen staff and the wait staff were outside, sitting around a bonfire. Hermione was still in her room getting ready. Draco wished she would just hurry up and come outside already. When he saw her approach, he knew what he had to do.

He walked up to a girl named Gloria and smiled at her. She smiled back. He held out his hand. She took it. He pulled her to him and said, “What do you say you and I go find a spot to be alone?”

The girl giggled and took Draco’s hand and led him around the side of the building just as Hermione came into view. She immediately frowned. She felt that her chest hurt. She felt flushed and confused. She sat next to Theo and he asked, “Can I get you a butterbeer?”

She nodded, but didn’t say a word. She continued to look toward the side of the building where Draco and that girl had just disappeared.

A few moments later, a disheveled Draco, and the strange girl, came back around the building, smiling and holding hands. He let go of her hand and put his around her waist. Then she leaned over and kissed his cheek. Hermione’s eyes were on them the whole time. Draco felt like the biggest bastard in the world. He felt like a coward. He looked over at her and he immediately knew that he had messed up. He should have just told her what Theo had said, and that it wouldn’t work between them, because of Theo.

That wouldn’t have hurt her as much as he had just hurt her. Theo walked back over to her to hand her the butterbeer, but she refused. She looked Draco in the eyes, with a pained expression, and she ran back inside.

Theo looked confused but sat back down and drank the butterbeer.

The girl Gloria asked Draco if he wanted to go to her room. He said, “No way in hell.” He turned from the group and apparated to his own room, where he went into the bathroom and vomited in disgust.

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