It was the start of sixth year at Hogwarts. The students lingered after their satisfying first night feast, after the Sorting Hat sorted the first years into their Houses. Pumpkin juice was sipped, chocolate frogs hopped along the tables. The excitement in the air was felt by all. Even Draco was excited under his surly demeanor. He elbowed Crabbe who was seeing how many pumpkin pasties he could shove into his mouth, causing him to spit crumbs everywhere.
"Disgusting," muttered Draco, wiping his sleeve. He looked up and glanced around the room, looking once again for her. He hadn't seen Hermione yet. The summer had been long and torturous, his father constantly on him for this or that, his dreams filled with Hermione's sweet laughter and smile. Now he gulped and wiped his arm across his forehead. He needed one sweet glance. He saw Potter and that ginger toad and knew she was near. The Weasley twins were blocking her from view and had been all evening.
Suddenly, Fred and George both stood up, saying something apparently amusing as those around them burst into loud laughter. The twins bowed and headed out of the dining hall.
And there she was. Their eyes met. Draco looked at her from under a lock of platinum blonde hair. His mouth twitched. It took all he had not to break out in a grin when he saw her blush and look down, hiding her own smile. Draco watched as Ron talked nonstop, food flying out of his mouth. The kid was a pig, just like his own chums. Hermione deserved better than him. Being in his father's company and forced into plans of the Dark Lord hung over Draco like a dark cloud, following him wherever he went. He may not be what Hermione deserved, but he wanted her. He had since he had first seen her.
Throughout the years, Draco and Hermione had an outwardly hateful relationship. She had even punched him in the face once. But when no one was watching…when the poison of Death Eaters and the pomp of Potter and Weasley didn't envelop them, they snuck looks. Not just catching each other's eyes, but gazes that lasted a beat longer than a normal cursory glance. Last year in Potions, Longbottom had nearly killed them all when he added the wrong herb to his cauldron and an explosion rocked the classroom. Immediately, Draco had backed up and thrown his arm out, for across the aisle sat Hermione. In the midst of the smoke and confusion, his hand had brushed hers and he felt her fingers tremble as they brushed along his before moving away.
"Come on, we're going to the common room," Goyle said, punching Draco in his arm. Irritated, Draco pushed away from the table and stood up. He grabbed his wand, which had been on the table, and shoved it into his robe. He didn't look back at Hermione. Why torture myself, he figured.
Hermione watched Draco stand up and noticed how tall he had gotten. Though slender, he had a strength about him and she caught herself for the umpteenth time thinking about his arms around her. She looked at Ron and Harry, both who were laughing and enjoying being back together at school. They would utterly flip out if they knew she was incredibly attracted to Draco Malfoy. The feel of his hand, stretched out to protect her last year in potions, often danced through her thoughts and she ached to feel his hands touching her even more.
"Yoo-hoo, Hermione!" Harry was saying. He waved a hand in front of her face. "What are you daydreaming about?"
Hermione cleared her throat and gathered her things.
"I'm just tired after the trip here today. I'm going to go to bed," she said.
"Wait, we'll go with you!" said Ron, pocketing a few sweets before they disappeared.
The three left the dining hall and rounded the corner. Down the hallway they saw Draco standing at the entrance to the dungeon stairwell. He looked disappointed to see them.
"What are you looking at, Malfoy?" Ron asked.
Draco just glared at him and said nothing. The three walked on. Hermione felt Draco's eyes as she walked in the opposite direction of him, the opposite way of where she wanted to be, as always.
And so such similar occurrences happened that semester until the first trip to Hogsmeade. Draco desperately hoped he could get Hermione alone, just to talk. Her very voice constricted his heart in a way that nothing else did.
Hermione saw Draco head into The Three Broomsticks, alone. She gasped at the opportunity.
"What is it?" Harry asked, looking at her.
"Oh um…I forgot I wanted to go to Scrivenshaft's. I need some new quills."
"Boring!" said Ron. "Meet us at Honeydukes."
Hermione watched her friends disappear into Honeydukes before racing to The Three Broomsticks. She took a deep breath and went in. She did not try to find Draco, but ordered a butterbeer and sat down with it at an empty booth. Her hands shook as she lifted the glass to her lips.
"Meet me out back….Hermione." A soft, but deep and discernible voice carried over the booth behind her. She saw Draco walk by her and through the bar to go outside.
Hermione stood up, her butterbeer forgotten. Draco never spoke to her unless it was an angry insult. She followed his path and went outside, the noise immediately hushed as she shut the door behind her.
Draco leaned against the building and looked up when she walked out.
"Hermione," he nodded.
"Hello, Draco." Hermione hugged herself, unsure of what else to say and do. It was also chilly out.
"Are you cold?" Draco asked, standing away from the building and coming closer. The look of such care was something she did not see in him often and her heart melted.
"A-a little," she said, tucking a stray curl of hair behind her ear.
Draco reached up a hand and ran it down her arm. He looked into her eyes.
"This song and dance we do every year…" he started. His hand dropped.
"I know, it's silly," said Hermione. "But if we…well…."
"The fabrics of the universe would be torn, I know," said Draco.
Hermione looked at him and smiled. Draco broke into a grin.
"I don't think I've ever seen you smile like that," said Hermione.
Draco gently pushed Hermione against the building. They looked deep into each other's eyes. Draco put his hands on Hermione's shoulders and she tentatively put her hands on his waist and drew him nearer.
Draco leaned in and gently kissed her. Her lips were so soft. Their lips stayed together as their mouths opened and the kiss deepened, a little sound of pleasure coming from Hermione. Seconds turned into minutes when suddenly a crash was heard inside and the two broke apart, breathing heavily.
"Maybe we could try this…?" Hermione said, a pained look crossing her face. She put a hand on Draco's cheek.
Draco reached up and squeezed her hand before gently pulling it away.
"You know we can't." He kissed her quickly on the forehead and cleared his throat before abruptly turning to go back inside.
Hermione, in a shocked daze, slowly walked away from her true love, once again, towards the two friends who would never understand.