Ever since Hermione Granger had slapped him, during their third year, something changed within Draco Malfoy. There was something about the fiery Muggle-Born that stirred something inside of him. Something he knew was wrong. If his father had known of his feelings for the bushy-haired Gryffindor, he would have been banished from his family faster than you could have said Blood-traitor. Which was why he treated her increasingly more harshly as the years passed. Perhaps if he could convince others that he had hated her, he would have been able to convince himself as well.

Although, Draco did hate her, in a way. He hated her for eliciting unwanted feelings inside of him. For causing him to re-think everything that he had ever known. Her kind was filth. He had been taught that even before he could sit up on his own. Mudbloods were dirty, they were unnatural and they were beneath him. But after watching her for six years, he started to think that perhaps that was a lie. Hermione Granger, as much as he hated to admit it and as much as it irritated him at times, was beyond brilliant. Crabbe and Goyle, who were Purebloods, couldn't hold a candle to her when it came to everything involving magic or logic. She was well-spoken, kind – well not to him exactly – and unfathomably strong willed. She intrigued him as much as she infuriated him.

He stared at her, as he sat studying in the library one evening. She hadn't noticed him, or if she had, she did not acknowledge his presence. As he watched her tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear, he couldn't help but think that she was quite pretty, in an unconventional way. There was something alluring about the way she gently nibbled on the end of her quill, or the way her nose would scrunch up as she furiously wrote on her parchment. If she'd ever let him, he felt he could lose himself in her large brown eyes for hours.

When she looked up and happened to lock eyes with him, after his heart regained its normal rhythm, he noticed they were red and a bit watery. She'd been crying again. Ever since that idiot Weasley began snogging that horrid Brown all over the school, Hermione seemed to have been coming apart at the seams. Draco would never understand what she saw in that moron, but it was clear that she'd obviously had feelings for him. Any idiot could have seen that, except Weasley – obviously.

In a way, he almost enjoyed seeing her suffering. It caused him to feel less alone in his own anguish. He had been no closer to achieving what The Dark Lord ordered him to accomplish than he was on the first day of term. He'd never admit it out loud, but truthfully, he was terrified. Each day felt like one closer to the swinging ax above his head finally dropping and ending his life. Sleeping had become damn near impossible, and even when he had managed to get an hour or two, they were spent having nightmares of Voldemort's cold, cruel laugh ringing out like thunder before seeing the flash of green light explode from his wand. He'd wake up screaming, covered in sweat. His dorm mates had long since stopped asking what his issue was.

Hermione's eyes narrowed as they were still holding firmly onto his grey ones. Wanting to keep up appearances, his mouth twisted cruelly as he called over to her.

"Mind directing your attention elsewhere, Granger? I'd just eaten and would like to keep it down."

It was immature, he knew that, but he could not help himself. The hurtful words always seemed to spew out of his mouth before he could contain himself. He felt his heart constrict painfully upon watching the ire grow on her face. She started closing up her books and packing her belongings into her bag.

"Shove off, Malfoy," she shot back. But something was off about her voice, he noticed. The normal acid which usually saturated each syllable she'd throw at him was missing. Instead, she sounded tired; defeated.

He didn't know what caused him to do what he did next. Maybe it was the fact that he'd slept for a total of roughly ten hours in the last week, or that he had been feeling so drained, emotionally and physically, that his verbal filter had broken, but as he watched her attempt to storm out of the library, he stopped her.

"Weasley is a sodding fool," he blurted out.

Draco internally cursed himself as he watched her stop in her tracks and visibly stiffen.

What in Merlin's name had he said that for?

"I'm sorry?" She asked; her back still turned to him.

He ran his hand through his white-blond hair. "Nothing. I didn't say anything, Granger," he lied.

She slowly turned and faced him. Her eyes were steely and her lips were pressed together in such a way that she eerily resembled an irate Professor McGonagall. "What did you say to me, Malfoy?" She demanded.

Draco rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair, feigning nonchalance by lazily twirling his wand between his fingers. "Like I would willingly speak to you, Granger," he scoffed.

She stepped closer. He could almost feel the heat from her anger surround him.

"You most certainly did say something, Malfoy!" She hissed.

Draco's eyes drifted to her wand hand. He noticed it twitch and he would have been fooling himself if he said that didn't make him slightly nervous.

Regardless, a cocky smile spread across his lips. He briefly considered backing off, but it was too much fun goading her. And fun was hard to come by these days.

"Let's just pretend for a moment that I might have spoken to you. Trust me, it would have been a mistake. A lapse in judgement, you can say."

He watched in amusement as her shoulders rose and fell while taking in a deep breath, then pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and index finger. A crease formed between her eyebrows and a red tint slowly crept up her neck and filled in her cheeks. Draco wouldn't had been surprised if he saw steam expel from her ears.

A small chuckle bubbled up from his throat, which changed her complexion from crimson to nearly purple.

"Take it easy, Granger," Draco laughed. "If I tell you what I said, will you calm down?"

He heard her teeth grind.

"You know what, Draco? I don't even care," she spat before turning her back on him and walking away.

Draco deliberated for a moment. Should he have let her go? Or should he have went after her? Quickly he packed up his things and hurried out of the library to catch up with her. He justified it to himself by thinking he was bored anyway, and taunting Hermione Granger was usually a sure way of curing said boredom, but deep down, he knew the truth. He wanted a few more minutes with her. It wasn't often, if ever, he had a chance of being alone with her.

She must had heard him coming up behind her.

"What do you want?" she growled.

Once again, his sleep deprived state caused him to speak without thinking.

"I think Weasley is being a twat."

To his surprise, she stopped walking, which caused him to slam right into the back of her.

When she turned around, she eyed him suspiciously.

"What are you playing at?"

He didn't like the way she looked at him. It almost felt as if she was looking right through him. If he'd thought he had a soul, he would have feared she could see it in that moment.

"Just what I said, Granger. Weasley is being a world class prat. Parading himself around the castle, attached at the lips with Brown. It's disgusting." His nose wrinkled as if he smelled something rancid.

Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes. "Is this your idea of some sort of joke, Malfoy? Because I have to say, you've done better."

She started walking again and Draco jogged to catch up.

"No joke. I think even you deserve better than what he's doing to you," he tried to say as sincerely as possible, but it still came out with a sarcastic edge to it.

"Piss off, Malfoy," she whispered.

Draco laughed quietly. As cliché as it might have sounded, she truly did look quite adorable when she was angry. Perhaps that was another reason he worked so hard to rile her up as often has he did? Regardless, he wasn't letting her off the hook so easily.

"Where's precious Potter," he asked after a few seconds silence. "Off building homes for the homeless, or whatever kind of hero nonsense he does?"

A loud sigh came from Hermione as she quickened her pace.

"Please just leave me be," she nearly begged. "I am in no mood for you or your snarky demeanor at the moment – scratch that – at any moment."

"But we're having such a nice chat," Draco said.

Hermione stopped walking again and threw an icy glare his way. Draco almost felt like his temperature dropped under her stare.

"Fine!" she snapped. "Fine. Hypothetically, let's say that I indulge you for ten minutes, would you then leave me alone?"

Her hair seemed to become bushier by the moment and the air almost felt like it crackled around her; Draco had never been more enthralled by her. He quickly closed his mouth, which dropped open on its own accord, and brought his forefinger to rest across his bottom lip, while he pretended to mull it over.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

She let out a sound that was half between a growl and an exasperated sigh, then made her way towards an empty classroom. Draco was glad for her setting of choice, since he had not wished for any of his housemates to catch him with the Muggle-Born best friend of Harry Potter. He knew that would not do well for him. Especially if word travelled back to his parents. Or worse, The Dark Lord. He had taken a risk by even walking down the corridors with her. But he supposed that she did not wish to be seen with him any more than he did not want to be spotted with her.

Draco trailed behind Hermione and when he walked into the vacant room Hermione waved her wand, closing the door behind them. With one more fluid movement from her, all of the candles were lit and the two of them stood in the warm glow from the soft lighting.

Hermione walked towards the desk at the front of the room, leaned against it with arms crossed tightly and looked towards Draco expectantly.

There weren't many instances in Draco's short life when he had felt intimidated. Normally he could throw up his name, money or blood status as a shield; it protected and comforted him as a security blanket would an infant. But standing in that dimly lit classroom, with Hermione staring a hole right through him, he felt a pit in the center of his stomach that was exceedingly rare for him.

She had grown into her looks considerably over the last year, he thought as he studied every inch of her standing before him. She'd grown at least two inches, her cheeks had lost a bit of their childish roundness and her body had begun to fill out, causing her to look more like a young woman rather than the pre-teen she still had more closely resembled the year before. She was exquisite.

The longer he stood staring at her, the more suspicious Hermione appeared to become. She clicked her tongue impatiently and gave him another look that chilled him to his core.

"Well?" She pressed. "Get on with it. What was so important that you felt the need to stalk me down the hallway? Need to fill your daily quota of calling me a Mudblood?"

Her tone was biting; he flinched. He supposed he deserved it. He had been more horrible to her than almost any other student. How foolish he was to think that he could just suddenly speak to her as if she were a friend. Maybe this was a bad idea, he worried.

"You know what, Granger? This was stupid."

Her eyebrows raised to the point where they almost reached her hairline.

"I don't even know why I bothered," he said scathingly before turning and reaching for the doorknob.

Just as his hand grasped the cold metal, he heard her grumble.

"I don't either."

He stopped.

He couldn't leave like this. She had to know. She had to understand. Turning around to face her once more, as he stared into her judgmental and apprehensive eyes, he swallowed hard and squared his shoulders. He was Draco Malfoy for Merlin's sake! Why was this perpetual thorn in his side causing him to be so nervous?

Draco took one step forward and felt his heart pump painfully as she took one back. He glanced down and noticed her hand was in the pocket of her robes; wrapped firmly around her wand, he supposed. She wouldn't believe him, he knew, but he had to tell her. Odds are he would leave the empty classroom covered in boils or something of the like, but it would be worth it, he told himself.

"Granger?" He called out in a gravel-like voice. She cocked an eyebrow. "What if I told you that I truly did not hate you?"

"I wouldn't believe you," she answered immediately. He winced.

"I don't," he said softly and took another step in her direction.

As he advanced on her, she backed up until she was pinned up against the large wooden desk. His mouth curled into a sly half smile as he tried to convey with his eyes that she need not worry; she could trust him.

"Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?" she nearly shrieked as he stopped and stood directly in front of her.

He noticed a flicker of fear flash in her eyes. A small part of him enjoyed knowing that he intimidated her as well.

Boldly he reached for her and went to run his hand threw her frizzy main of hair. Just before he touched her, her eyes widened; she immediately slapped his hand away.

"Draco Malfoy! What in the name of Merlin are you playing at!?" she shouted. Her voice trembled just a bit.

He didn't answer, save for a nervous laugh. The tension that was mounting in that room was almost palpable.

Draco was never much for taking chances. He wasn't one to throw all caution to the wind. He didn't believe in fate and he was not one for silly superstitions. Cold, cool, collected and calculating; that was how he prided himself. But now that he had Hermione in a position that he had dreamed about on many occasions, he decided to just go for it, and let the chips fall where they may.

With a deep breath, he brought his head down closer to Hermione and watched her pupils dilate. He wasn't sure if it was because of fear or desire; he suspected the former, but really hoped for the latter. As he brought his lips to hers, before he made his move, he whispered softly, "trust me," then went for it.

At first he felt her completely tense up. His lips worked hard, trying to get her to respond, but she just stood there. He might as well have kissed a statue. Then suddenly something seemed to change. He felt her begin to return the pressure to his lips, and to his complete surprise, she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. Never had he expected her to snog him back. A part of him felt she probably was doing it to get back at Weasley, in her own way. There would be no other reason he could think of to justify her doing this. Nothing would have miffed that ginger-haired git more than the thought of him snogging Hermione Granger.

Her kiss was passionate, and had an edge of anger in it. She bit his lip hard, and he was shocked to feel that he rather enjoyed the pain. She tasted sweet. There was something very floral about her which was as pleasant as it was intoxicating. He felt dizzy and all too soon, she shoved him away.

"What," she panted, her face glowing red. "The – ruddy – hell – was THAT?" she screeched.

Draco could not get the stupid smile off of his face. Regardless if she had feelings for him or not, he was just glad that he had finally done it. "I don't know," he huffed.

Then, without warning, she brought her hand up and slapped him hard across the face. He stood there dumbfounded, but couldn't help but to think, worth it.

She began shouting a string of obscenities. Basically the message, between the violent threats and curse words he did not think her capable of knowing, was that if he had ever attempted something like that again, she would hex his manhood off. Draco laughed the entire time.

As she roughly pushed passed him and marched her way towards the door, he called out to her. "Gran – Hermione! Wait!" She stopped and kept her back to him.

"What?"

He knew that would be the first and only time that he would snog her. He knew, with the upcoming war, they would have no chance of ever truly being together. But most of all, he knew that her heart was not with him. As much as he hated him, and hated that it was true, her heart belonged to that wanker Weasley.

"I'm sorry," he whispered. "But –" he faltered.

"But what, Malfoy," she hissed.

"I had to do it. At least once," he told her in the most sincere and honest tone that he had ever used with anyone.

Hermione turned around. Her expression was one he had never seen on her face before. At least, not while directed towards him. Her eyes softened and the hint of a smile crossed her lips. "Well," she began, her eyes darted to the floor. "Now you have. Just – just don't ever try that again."

Draco laughed. "Wouldn't dream of it, filthy little Mudblood." Although the words were harsh, he knew that both of them had known it was his way of letting her know that things would go back to normal the moment they both left that room.

"Insufferable git," she whispered before turning the doorknob and walking out of his life.

As he stood and brought his hand to his cheek, where she had slapped him, he couldn't help but find the humor in the fact that it had all begun with a slap, and how fitting it was that it had ended the same way. "That's enough now, Draco," he said to himself, before walking out of the room and leaving that part of his life behind forever.