Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling and Warner Bros. All fics posted at this community were written entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Title: Song of The Slytherin
Word Count: 7, 989
Summary: 'The Slytherins' are an up-and-coming band in the Wizarding World, but when they lose one of their back-up singers, who takes her place? And, is it really such a bad thing, after all?
Warning(s): AU after the War, and definitely EWE. Also, a few "curse words", I suppose, though nothing you wouldn't expect a Slytherin — particularly Draco — to say.
Author's Note(s): A big thanks to my beta Nitsrek, for putting up with me twice in a row now. Haha!
A HUGE thank you also goes out to Ningloreth, for hosting this Duet (Dramione Duet 2014)!
Although this is AU, I tried to keep certain elements of the HP-verse still intact – do tell me if you spot them! – but that aside, my Duet partner didn't explicitly mention no AU's, so I really hope this is okay. Personally, I had a blast writing this – I was giggling to myself in a coffee shop – so I really hope my partner, and all the readers, enjoy it as well. J
"Blast it, Blaise! I don't think I can take much more of this," Draco complained to his bandmate.
Draco Malfoy was the lead singer and guitarist of a rock band currently on the rise in the Wizarding World, challenging classic favourites such as The Weird Sisters. His bandmates, bassist Blaise Zabini and drummer Theodore Nott, were classmates of his in the Slytherin House during their time in Hogwarts. A couple of their other Housemates were also a part of the band, either as back-up singers — Pansy, Daphne, and Astoria — or bodyguards — Crabbe and Goyle.
At the moment, the band was facing a mini-crisis. Astoria, who has long had a massive crush on Draco and originally only became a part of the band thanks to Daphne's pleading on her behalf, had finally taken a step too far in her quest to get Draco. She had pulled a surprise move during the band's most recent concert by suddenly taking over the back-up singing and stepping out on stage to perform a duet with Draco. Fortunately, Draco recovered fairly quickly, as did the rest of the band, even when Astoria went as far as rubbing her entire body against Draco's and forcing him into a kiss at the end of the song. However, once the concert was over and the band was alone in their dressing room, Draco let his anger rip. He gave Astoria a thorough dressing down, pointing out that if Daphne wasn't their friend, Astoria wouldn't be anywhere close to him. His other bandmates, including Daphne, agreed that Astoria had gone too far, and that her selfish actions could have ruined their concert. Astoria had no choice but to leave, her face an unpleasant mix of tears and anger; whereas, the band was left looking for her replacement.
So far, they were having no luck, as evidenced by Draco's frustrated outburst.
"I mean, Astoria wasn't even that good, but she could at least carry a tune! Millicent Bulstrode, really? Not only does she not do anything for our image, but her voice sounds worse than nails on chalkboard! Why did we even let her try to audition!?"
"Okay, okay, so maybe that wasn't the brightest decision. Hindsight and all that"—Blaise scratched his chin in mock contemplation—"but really, Drake, you need to chill. We'll find someone… eventually."
"Eventually!? We don't have time for 'eventually'! Our next concert is next month, Blaise, and unless you want me serenading Pansy on stage in front of millions of people, then sure, go ahead and take your time to find 'eventually'."
"Hey! That's my girlfriend!" Blaise shouted indignantly. Draco only raised his eyebrow in challenge. Blaise sighed, "Fine, I see your point. But, we can't do anything till someone shows up with some potential, you know that. We've been holding auditions for the last week since Astoria left."
Draco let out a frustrated breath, before putting his head in his hands and groaning. "What are we going to do?"
Before either of the two boys could say anything more, the door to their studio slammed open.
"Guys! Draco, Blaise, come quick!" Theo shouted in what could only be described as giddy excitement.
"What? What is it, Theo?" Draco asked, as he and Blaise stood up hurriedly.
"Just come!" Theo said with a bright grin, grabbing both men and side-along Apparating them.
As the spinning died down, Draco and Blaise stumbled only long enough for Pansy and Daphne, who had apparently been waiting for them, to grab each boy's hand and drag them out of an alley and into what looked to be a club.
"Will anyone explain what's going on!?" Draco shouted, his earlier frustration fuelling his impatience for answers.
"You'll see in a bit, Draco," Daphne said with a grin that matched Theo's earlier one.
"Pansy?" Blaise looked confusedly towards his girlfriend.
"You'll enjoy it, I promise!" Pansy said, a smirk adorning her face.
Both boys didn't look satisfied with these answers, and Draco was about to shout some more, when the lights dimmed and the girls pushed them down onto the seats at the table they had stopped at. Not a minute later, a spotlight illuminated a stage with a stool and a microphone, a piano off to the side behind it. As Draco and Blaise waited, a man came out on stage and strode towards the piano. He took a seat at the bench, flexed his fingers and positioned them on the keys, getting ready to play. A few minutes more, and the reason for Theo and the girls' excitement came on stage.
A petite brunette walked up to the microphone; her light summer dress swaying slightly as she took a seat on the stool. Her face was down; her hair tied in a low ponytail draped over her right shoulder. As the man began to play, the woman lifted her head and opened her mouth.
As the sweet voice filled the club, Theo and the girls exchanged excited looks, and turned to the other two members of their band, expectantly.
Blaise could only scratch his chin, as he said in an awed voice, "She's good."
When Draco didn't say anything, Pansy prompted, "Drake? What do you think?"
Without taking his eyes off the siren on stage, Draco said, "She's the one."
Draco was waiting outside the dressing room at the back of the club, his foot tapping impatiently. He was alone; his bandmates had offered to come, but Draco insisted he could talk to her alone.
"Don't antagonise the girl, okay?" Theo had told him.
"Really Drake, we're serious! We had a bad history with her — are you sure you don't want Blaise or Theo to talk to her instead? I mean, she doesn't know them as well…" Pansy bit her lip in contemplation.
"You're willingly throwing your boyfriend at another girl, Pans?" Draco mocked.
"Oh please"—Pansy let out an exasperated sigh—"we're not children anymore, Drake. I won't fall for that tactic, and you know it. Besides, if I should be worried about anyone — and I'm not, mind you — I think those groupies deserve my distrust more than her. She's the paragon of all virtues, isn't she? She wouldn't do it, even if she could."
Draco couldn't disagree. She really was perfect. But then, he'd known that for a long time now.
So now, he was leaning on the wall beside her door, waiting for the Gryffindor Princess herself to make her appearance. Thankfully, he didn't have to wait too long.
"Thank you, Max. It's always a pleasure performing with you." He could hear her voice, definitely not as grating as it was way back when.
As the sound of heels started to get louder, Draco straightened up and faced the direction in which she'd be appearing.
As she came into view, brown eyes widened at the sight of him as she said, "Malfoy?"
"Granger… Hermione, hello."
A brown eyebrow shot up at his address, before her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Since when have you called me Hermione?"
"I merely thought I'd be polite," Draco said in reply, as he fought to keep the sneer out of his voice.
Seeming to sense that she had been impolite herself, Hermione Granger sheepishly offered her own apology, "I'm sorry, that was rude of me. Hello, Draco. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"No, it's quite all right. I understand that we've had a… less than pleasant history, so your suspicion is well-founded. As for the purpose of my visit… do you mind if we talk inside?" Draco gestured to the door beside them.
Startled at his calm demeanour, and more than a little suspicious at talking to him alone — 'well-founded, indeed,' she couldn't help but think — Hermione hesitated, before finally giving him a curt nod and allowing him into the dressing room.
As the door shut behind them, Hermione casually made her way over to the dresser, where she discreetly pulled out her wand from her ever-present clutch with the Undetectable Extension Charm. She kept her eye on Draco through the mirror, as she gave the impression of freshening up and packing her things.
Draco simply stared at her, silent for a moment, before Hermione prompted him with a "Well, you were saying?"
"I would like to make you an offer," Draco stated, not bothering to beat around the bush.
"An offer?" Hermione repeated, bemused.
"I know you are familiar with our band, Grang— Hermione, despite the fact that you keep hours in the Muggle world." Draco raised his eyebrows in gesture to his surroundings.
Hermione only tapped her foot, an unimpressed look on her face at his implication, but Draco ignored it and continued on.
"We have a concert next month, and we are in need of another singer." At this, he paused, waiting for her reaction.
"And… you are asking me?" Hermione spun to face him directly, her face a mixture of emotions Draco had no trouble identifying — disbelief, flattery, suspicion, anger.
"We've been holding auditions for a week now, and no one has come out worthy," was Draco's only response.
"Worthy!? And suddenly the Mudblood is!?" Anger had won, and Hermione stood up with eyes blazing.
"Wha—!? That wasn't—" Draco looked surprised at the word he hadn't heard in a long time, but had used for much longer.
"Get out! I don't care to hear your 'offer' any longer!" Hermione shouted, angrily making her way to the door.
But, as she made to pass Draco, his hand shot out and gripped her arm.
"Let go of me! Let go, you foul, loathsome—"
"Granger, wait! That wasn't what I meant at all!"
"—Evil, little cockroach!" Hermione tried yanking her arm away.
"Wait! DAMMIT, GRANGER!" Draco roared, as he forcefully pulled on Hermione's arm, making her stumble into him. He grabbed both her arms in his hands and gave her a little shake.
"Would you just wait one second!? I didn't say anything close to what you're implying, you bint! You think you're so great, but you're as judgmental as you used to claim we were! What happened to being the goody-two-shoes know-it-all Gryffindor Princess, protector of the weak and the Elves?" Draco shouted in her face, his stormy grey eyes boring into her own blazing ones.
"I am protecting the weak, you ponce, and I'm going to protect them from you!" She spat back angrily.
For a moment, both of them only huffed angrily, their eyes never leaving the other's, as the silence stretched on between them. Finally—
"I didn't mean to offend you, as much as you'd like to argue otherwise," Draco said in a firm voice, seeming to have gotten control of his temper.
"The others warned me not to anger you," he muttered to himself self-deprecatingly, as he slowly released her.
Hermione snorted in disbelief before sniping back, "Just seeing you angers me."
Draco growled as he looked at her, "What the hell is your problem!? Did it even occur to you that I have been nothing but polite when I saw you tonight!? That you were the one who couldn't even scrounge up the basic decency to at least hear what I had to say!? And that I sure as hell have never so much as said that word since the War ended THREE YEARS AGO!?"
Hermione crossed her arms and faced him straight on. "Oh, so you think it makes a difference, do you? That you're polite to me 'tonight', when you've been rude and downright hurtful for the six years I knew you in school? And, that you haven't said 'Mudblood' in three years, when you've used it — to me, no less — everyday since our Second Year at Hogwarts, even when I had no idea what it meant at the time? And after all that time, you think that just because you're a semi-famous rock star now, just because the Wizarding World has forgiven you for all your non-existent crimes, you think that I should grant you forgiveness for the crimes you actually did commit, all without even 'offering' me a freakin' apology!? Well, think again, Malfoy!"
He gaped at her. For seconds after she had finished her rant, all he could do was gape at her.
When he finally managed to pull his thoughts together, he blurted out, "I'M SORRY!"
He didn't even see her raised eyebrow, as he had lowered his head while saying, "I thought about it — so many times — approaching you after the War, apologising. But, I'm not a Gryffindor. I was… worried, that you'd tell me exactly what you just did. That you'd find… I'm not worthy of forgiving."
A beat of silence, then, "I really am sorry."
Draco made to leave, when a soft voice broke into his thoughts, "Can I hear your proposal now?"
He looked up at her in disbelief. Before he could say a word, she held up her hand and said in a voice a bit louder than before but no less firm, "I don't know if I've forgiven you just yet, but I'm also not saying that you aren't 'worthy of forgiveness'. It's been a while, and things have been said, but the past is the past. With time… with time, I might change my mind. Or not. It all depends. In the meantime, I think it would be best to actually hear what you came to say. After all, you did come all this way."
She looked at him expectantly. He gave a small smile.
"So? What did she say?" Pansy practically pounced on Draco as soon as he appeared at the studio the next day.
Before he could reply though, Blaise answered for him, "Do you even need to ask, Pans? With this guy's infamous temper, I'm surprised he even showed up today in one piece."
"Har har, Zabini." Draco glared at the Italian.
"Please tell me you didn't antagonise her, Drake," Theo groaned. "We've been looking for a replacement for Astoria for a long time now, and she's the best we've seen so far! I told you not to antagonise her, didn't I?"
Draco scowled, a tick forming in his forehead as he opened his mouth to let his friends know just what he thought of them and their comments. At least, he would have said something, when they all heard a voice outside the door.
The door opened and Hermione stepped in, dressed in a casual sweater and jeans. At the four former Slytherins' agape faces, she turned to Draco with a raised eyebrow. "You did say to come at 1, yes?"
"Yes, I did. As I was trying to tell these imbeciles over here"—Draco couldn't help the smug tone in his voice as he glanced at his shocked friends—"even the Gryffindor Princess is apparently not immune to my charms."
"Charms!? You actually cast a spell on her, Draco!? We're not that desperate." Daphne clapped her hands to her mouth in shock.
"Wha—!? That's not—" Draco was about to retort angrily, when Blaise cut in.
"She's right, Drake. How else could you have gotten her here?"
"Oh Merlin, Drake! What did you do!?" Pansy was still in disbelief.
Hermione couldn't help it. She started giggling, and after glancing at Draco's angry face, it escalated to full blown laughter.
"Argh! Stop laughing, Hermione! This isn't funny!" Draco glared at her, which only served to fuel her laughter more.
After a while, even the other Slytherins were snickering along, and soon enough, the studio was filled with their amusement.
Draco glared at them all in turn, his arms crossed and his lips in a pout as he waited for them to calm down.
"Are you done having your yucks at my expense now?" He scowled.
The laughter finally dying down, it was Hermione who spoke, "I didn't realise even your friends have such a high opinion of you, Malfoy."
He only sulked further.
Pansy couldn't help letting out one last giggle before turning to the blond. "Oh come off it, Drake. We were just surprised. Though, I really do have to ask, how did he convince you, Granger?"
Hermione didn't bat an eyelash. "He didn't. I simply thought I'd give him — you — a chance. Today is meant to be a trial run of sorts. If I like what I see, then I'll think about it."
Pansy raised her eyebrow at this, her face suddenly serious. "A little arrogant of you, Granger. But practical, I suppose. Perhaps you'll fit in with 'The Slytherins', after all."
"We'll see," was her only response.
Blaise broke the tension that was forming with a "Well, let's get to it then; we haven't got all day. Practise is on, mates."
Everyone went to their places, while Hermione took a seat in front of the makeshift stage.
"All right, we'll start with our main song for the concert," Draco said, once everyone was ready. "Pansy, for the meantime, you've got the female lead. Blaise, don't strain yourself on the chorus. Theo, nothing too flashy for your solo. Got it?"
With a nod from each of his bandmates, Draco gave Theo a signal, as he took his own place in front of the microphone.
"A one, a two, a one, two, three…" Theo counted. And so, practise began.
Hermione knew Draco was the leader of the band — the Slytherin Prince, even after Hogwarts. She was surprised though, with the authority he demonstrated. Throughout their years in Hogwarts, she had only ever really seen him with Crabbe and Goyle, where his 'leadership' seemed more like bullying than actual authority. She couldn't be sure if it was merely that she hadn't seen or known enough about him then, or that he had changed after the War, but she could definitely tell now that he exuded confidence befitting his position in the band. And, by the sound of their music, it was justified.
Even after their performance had finished, as she listened to Draco commenting more on certain points and techniques, she couldn't stop herself from admiring the way in which he encouraged his friends, and accepted their own opinions. Despite the band's earlier teasing, she could clearly tell that they respected him, both as a friend and as a leader. It was this realisation — and admittedly, a curiosity to find out more about him — that led Hermione to stand and approach them, saying, "I've decided."
The Slytherins had stopped in their discussion, and turned to her.
"I'll join your band."
Despite Draco's earlier assertion that Hermione knew the band, it was perhaps more accurate to say that she had known of the band. That is to say, before that practise session, she had never actually listened to their music or really paid them any attention. With the band's next concert less than a month away, Hermione had a lot of catching up to do. Then again, she didn't graduate top of her class in Hogwarts doing nothing, after all.
Draco had given her their set list, along with a CD of their songs, the scores, lyrics, and parts she would be required to sing in.
"There are several duets where we'll need a female lead, the main song being only one of them. We normally take turns trying them out, with either Pansy or Daphne in this case, and decide after who will be taking which part," Draco explained. Seeing Hermione about to comment, he raised his hand and added, "But, you don't have to do that if you're not comfortable with it. After all, they are a couple of love songs, and you've got to actually look like you could fall in love with me, Hermione." He smirked at her.
"Well gee, if that's the requirement, I don't think I'd even bother, Malfoy. After all, we both know I'm just not into ferrets," Hermione snarked back.
A flash of hurt crossed Draco's face, startling Hermione for the split second before it disappeared. "Of course, your type's more of a Weasel, yeah?"
Hermione bristled at the slight to her best friend. "I'll have you know, Malfoy, that Ron's wonderful. We just decided we're much better off as friends."
He shrugged. "You said that on your own; I didn't say anything."
Before their fight could escalate, as they often did back in Hogwarts, Theo smoothly cut in, "All right, you two. We're all adults now, and in one band no less. I'm sure we can all learn to get along."
The two gave stiff nods, as they continued to glare at each other. Theo sighed in exasperation. "Oh, for crying out loud! C'mon, Drake, let's practise some more while Granger goes over the pieces."
As Theo dragged Draco back to the stage, Hermione felt a twinge in her chest. Draco's words brought back memories she had tried to forget. She wasn't lying when she told him that she and Ron had decided to remain as friends. She merely omitted the fact that that decision had come after a fight that left Hermione's self-confidence as a woman in shreds.
She had always known she was brighter than most; coupled with her studiousness, she felt justified in being known as 'The Brightest Witch of their Age'. Even as a child, she'd been outspoken and held strongly to what she believed to be right, characteristics that had not changed even after — or more so because of — the horrors of the War. However, as long as she had known these things about herself, she had also always known that she had never been outright pretty. She knew she wasn't ugly; and, after Viktor Krum and the Yule Ball, she had thought she could finally be seen as the woman she felt inside. But, constantly being surrounded by males — in Gryffindor and in the Order — as well as her subsequent relationship with Ron had proven to her that, in terms of stereotypical femininity, she would always fall short. There would always be someone prettier. And, while that had never been much of an issue for her before, she couldn't dismiss that longing to be treated, just once, as the woman — the princess — that she truly was. Surely, she deserved that much, right?
Ron hadn't seemed to think so — not when he shamelessly flirted with Lavender in Sixth Year, and certainly not when he had thrown such careless insults during the fight that led to their break-up. While he had apologised, Hermione knew he probably didn't realise exactly how much his words had broken her self-esteem. For that alone, Hermione couldn't — and wouldn't — ever get back together with Ron Weasley.
But that wasn't important now; Hermione shook her head to rid herself of the unwanted thoughts. She glanced up to see the band playing another song, before focusing on the score sheets in front of her. All the while, she missed the longing look in Draco's eyes.
It had been two weeks since Hermione had joined the band, and she was quickly getting the hang of it. She had surprised the group when she came to practise the day after she had joined with all the pieces already memorised. Their startled faces, and Draco's backhanded compliment, made the all-nighter worth it. After that, it took a while for her to get the feel of the band's music. Previously, she had done several solos in the club where Theo had found her; this was her first time having to sing with a group of people. It didn't help that the Slytherins had an established rapport among them, and she was both new and a Gryffindor — clearly the odd one out. But, with the daily practises, both she and the band members began to feel more at ease with each other, and she had formed a slight friendship with the other two females singers.
Today, they were going to try the three duets the band would be performing for their concert. Hermione was still on the fence whether she would be trying out along with Pansy and Daphne, but she figured she'd just wait and see what happens later on.
"So"—Pansy sidled up to her, a cheeky grin on her face—"are you going to try out for any of the duets today?"
"She should. It would save us the trouble of having to imagine Draco as either Blaise or Theo, right Pansy?" Daphne smirked.
Hermione couldn't help but giggle at that. "I feel sorry for Malfoy. I can't imagine the pressure of having to sing while imagining Blaise or Theo pummelling him for any accidental moves. Has it ever happened before?"
"Oh, it has!" Daphne exclaimed, before leaning in mischievously. "He accidentally groped my ass instead of my waist once, when he was supposed to pull me closer. It just so happened that we were right in front of Theo at the time. I could almost see him sweat when we finished and he glanced at Theo, only to have him glaring right back."
The girls all giggled at the imagery.
"I remember that!"—Pansy snickered—"Theo was so mad. He gave Drake a dressing down the moment we got back to our rooms."
Hermione laughed again. "Well, I don't know if I want to try out anymore, if that's going to happen. I might disappoint him though, as I don't have much to grope anyway."
Pansy and Daphne only raised their eyebrows at this. They were about to ask her what she meant, when the boys came striding in.
"You girls ready?" Blaise asked, as he picked up his guitar and got up on stage. The three nodded, and took their places to the side.
During the duets, Blaise was the lead guitar, while Draco took his position as bass, to free him up to focus on the necessary steps for the duet. As he began the riff for the first duet, Pansy stepped forward to signal she'd be first to try out.
As the try-outs progressed with first Pansy, then Daphne singing with Draco, Hermione wondered if she still needed to try out, after all. It seemed that both Pansy and Daphne knew exactly what to do, and she envied the graceful way they moved about on stage. She could believe that they were meant to be there, shining in front of the audience. The only flaw in their otherwise splendid performance was that there was a clear lack of chemistry between the girls and Draco. Rapport, after all, was nothing compared to actual chemistry.
As the two girls finished their turn, the boys convened to discuss which of the two would be better suited for that duet. While they were discussing, Pansy directed a questioning — almost suggestive — look to Hermione. Clearly understanding the implied question, Hermione fidgeted just a bit before clearing her throat and saying, "Can I try?"
The boys looked at her for a moment, and Hermione caught a quick whispered exchange between Blaise and Draco, before Draco stepped up to her and nodded his head.
She took a deep breath, and the music started again.
The first line was Draco's, and his clear voice reverberated throughout the studio. He kept his eyes on hers as he sang, making Hermione more than just a bit nervous under his gaze. When her first line came, her usually clear voice came out with a slight wobble, unused to the intenseness of the duet. Draco had stepped closer to her and taken her hand then; and, she found strength in the slight squeeze she felt, as she regained her footing. She kept her eyes on his as they continued to sing, not even aware that where Pansy and Daphne had spun and danced at this point in the duet, she and Draco merely stood staring into each other's eyes, singing to each other's souls.
It was only as the last note faded away that awareness of the rest of the world came crashing into Hermione's consciousness. She quickly averted her gaze, as she felt her cheeks heat up.
'Oh Merlin, what was that?' She was so embarrassed, she didn't know what to say.
The stunned silence was broken by Draco, "Hermione will be doing the duet with me."
Suddenly, Hermione was engulfed in the hugs and squeals of Pansy and Daphne. 'Wait, what?' She chanced a glance at Draco then and was surprised to see him gazing — 'Was that longing?' — straight at her, before turning around to go to Theo and Blaise. 'What the hell is happening?'
The last two weeks before the concert went by in a whirlwind of activity and heart-thumping moments, in Hermione's eyes. They spent the majority of those two weeks practicing Hermione and Draco's duets, and every time Hermione looked into Draco's eyes, her heartbeat sped up and the world around her seemed to just melt away. Their voices blended together perfectly, and despite the lack of movement as they sang — Hermione just couldn't concentrate on dancing with everything else going on inside her — they managed to bring out the soul of the song without the flashy performance Pansy and Daphne had shown during their try-outs. It was in this manner that the day of their concert arrived.
"Oh Merlin, I don't know if I can do this," Hermione muttered to herself, pacing behind the curtains before the show.
Not only was it her first time to perform for such a large audience, but it was also the first time she would be singing in front of people who quite possibly knew her — she'd always sung in the Muggle world before, to avoid this very scenario. In fact, she'd never actually told Harry, Ron, or any of her other friends for that matter, that she even sang! How would they feel about it, she wondered. Not to mention, she would be singing with Draco Malfoy.
Draco. During those two weeks singing together with him — and love songs, no less — she could no longer bring herself to keep calling him 'Malfoy'. Malfoy evoked feelings of annoyance and borderline disgust; a result from years of name-calling and insults throughout their formative years. But, how could that same Malfoy be the one whose silver eyes sucked her into their depths, whose voice was a sweet caress, whose fleeting touch raised the hair on her arms and forced her heart to gallop? The answer was, it couldn't, as that was clearly not the Malfoy she knew all those years ago. This, this was Draco.
Hermione's heart started to thump for a completely different reason now. The anxiety of performing had drifted away, and instead been replaced with the nervousness of once again having to look into those stormy eyes. She had no idea why she felt this way!
Suddenly, Draco appeared at her side. "Hermione, are you ready?"
"Huh? Already!?" Hermione's head snapped up, panic clearly visible in her gaze.
Recognising this, Draco didn't hesitate to take her hands in his and give them a squeeze. "Relax. You've sung on stage before. It's not much different, I promise."
'Easy for him to say,' Hermione mentally scoffed.
"Besides, I'll be right there with you," Draco added, oblivious to Hermione's discomfort.
'And, that's actually what I'm really worried about,' Hermione silently admitted to herself, though she simply gave Draco a small nod in reply.
"All right, mates! It's showtime," Blaise called out, as he approached the two with the rest of their band in tow. "Let's rock this joint!"
The Slytherins all shouted in eagerness, psyching themselves up for the night. Hermione could only smile slightly, still overcome with nerves, especially since Draco had yet to let her hands go. In fact, he seemed to hold on a tad bit tighter, as he gave her a look — one she could not identify — before finally, he released her hand and took his place at the centre of the stage. She followed the girls to their position, and with one last deep breath, the curtains rose. The show was on.
The energy in the concert hall was alive. Hermione could practically hear the vibrations — she could most certainly hear the screams — caused by the hundreds of bodies crammed into the small space. Even with magic, the hall was clearly not big enough. While she knew the band was a rising star in the wizarding music world, she was surprised by just how famous they really were to garner this big of an audience only a few years into their career.
"Good evening, Britain!" Draco shouted out in greeting to their massive audience, his cocky smirk — that certainly hadn't changed, Hermione noted — firmly in place. Screams — and did Hermione see some girls swooning? — were his reply.
"As you know, we've been doing a couple of small tours around the United Kingdom, and man, are we glad to be back home," he continued on. "Along the way though, we happened to have… picked up a few surprises for you tonight." He glanced at Hermione from the corner of his eye, as he listened to even more screams and cheers. "We're looking forward to showing them to you, so you better enjoy them."
With one last patented smirk — and several more swoons, this time Hermione was sure — Draco turned around and headed closer to his bandmates. He raised his eyebrow at Theo in signal; and, as Theo counted down, the lights dimmed, the fog came out of the sides, and Draco spun around just as the music started.
The beat was thumping; the energy was high. The light was almost blinding, but as Hermione sang, she could only focus on Draco. Her earlier thoughts came back in full force as she watched this man — he had long since grown out of his immature boyhood phase — captured the audience, and her as well. There was something impossibly mesmerising about him — if she didn't know any better, she would have claimed it as a form of the Imperius. But, she did know better. She had watched him, somewhat subconsciously, over the past month's-worth of daily practises; and, she had already noticed something — she had yet to figure out what — that first day, when she had agreed to join the band. Surely, music aside, Draco's presence alone could have accounted for the numerous fans both within the hall, as well as out. No wonder he was The Slytherin Prince, even now.
And, as one song bled into the next, Hermione forgot for a moment her nervousness over the duet; at least, until it came time to actually perform it. It was that familiar riff that brought her to the awareness of her role in the next few moments. She saw Draco looking at her straight on, and his intense gaze almost caused her to trip on her way to his side. As she reached him, just in time for his first heart-wrenching line, she could feel every female eye on her, and her hands shook with nerves. Sensing this, Draco once again took her hands in his, spun her gently — completely impromptu, thus causing her to let out a soft gasp — before pulling her into his arms and the magic of his eyes. And, just like every time before, she felt the world just fall away as her voice came out, sweet and clear, and unmindful of the thoughts of the rest of the world or the worries inside her.
With their bodies swaying gently and their hands clasped together, Draco and Hermione put every single member of the audience into a trance with the power of their soul-filled song. Jealousy would abound for sure, but for that moment, even the females in the audience could not deny the unmistakable chemistry between the two. Only when the song ended did Draco and Hermione break eye contact, and the crowd was on its feet in cheers. Draco looked for a moment as if he would kiss her, but he settled for bending down and dropping a chaste kiss on the hand still in his grasp, before letting go and turning to face the overeager crowd once more.
Hermione tried to hold herself together as she made her way back to her original spot between Pansy and Daphne, but her heart was threatening to jump out of her chest with the furiousness in which it was beating. Their practises had not prepared her for what had happened on stage; and, with the next two duets she performed, it seemed she was definitely losing her footing around Draco. Was she just attracted to him, or was she actually falling in love with him? She didn't know; and, quite frankly, she was scared to find out.
The concert was a huge success. The new songs, particularly the duets, were well-received; and, according to the reporters at the event, they were sure to top the charts. After the last of their encores, the band finally made their way to their dressing room backstage.
Pansy, Daphne, Blaise and Theo were walking ahead and chattering happily, clearly still hyped from their performance. While Draco understood that, having experienced the same in their previous concerts, the energy building in him was due to something else; and, glancing at the silent woman beside him, he knew he had to tell her and now. Their other bandmates had already entered the dressing room, when Draco grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her to a stop a few steps away from the door.
"Wha—? Draco?" Hermione looked at him, bemused.
"I love you." Well, okay, that wasn't exactly what he was planning to say, or how he planned to say it, but…
"Ha ha, yeah sure, you made juice spurt out of my noise," Hermione said sarcastically, to cover up the nervousness she felt.
Draco stared at her in surprise, but didn't say anything. He didn't know what to say.
"Draco? You were kidding, right?"
When he still said nothing—"Crap, you're serious?"
Finally, Draco managed to answer her with, "That was disgusting, Hermione. But yes, as a matter of fact, I am serious."
Now Hermione was mad — at him, at herself, she didn't know. All she knew was that she couldn't let this happen. "You're crazy! You're just saying that because of what happened on stage!"
"And what do you think happened on stage?" Draco asked, beginning to get angry himself.
"I don't know! It was a performance, an act! We've been practicing for weeks; surely you knew that!"
"An act, huh? Well, we certainly never practised it like that."
"It was just the atmosphere! We were just going with the flow!" Hermione argued.
"Exactly, the flow! We flow!" Draco shouted, "Why are you so against it!? Is it because it's me, Granger!?"
Hermione gasped, both at Draco's shout, and the fact that he had called her 'Granger' after weeks of not doing so. The tears that came to her eyes upon realising this surprised her more.
"What? What's happening!?" Pansy and the others had run out of the room upon hearing the raised voices.
Draco looked regretful when he noticed Hermione's tears. "Nothing, never mind. Forget it, Hermione." And, he walked away.
"What's with him?" Theo asked, confused.
"Hermione?" Daphne looked at her, sympathetically. "Are you okay?"
"I… I…" She couldn't stop the sob that escaped her throat.
"Oh Hermione." Daphne immediately went to hug the distraught girl as Pansy asked, annoyed, "What the hell did that git do!?"
It took a while for Hermione to calm down, but even then, she wouldn't say anything to the others as to the reason for her breakdown or Draco's parting words. She did feel slightly bad that she had ruined what should have been a fun night celebrating their concert's success — though really, it was Draco's fault. Could he have any worse timing? She didn't really feel like partying now, what with her feeling as confused and downhearted as she did right then, but that shouldn't stop the others from going out and having a good time. She told them as much.
"Well that's just stupid, Hermione! Do you really think we're going to go out and have fun, while we know you're clearly miserable, even if we have no idea why?" Pansy snorted, with her hands on her hips, just daring Hermione to argue. Hermione had learned pretty quickly that when Pansy took on that tone, arguing was the last thing anyone should do. That didn't stop her from trying, though.
"No buts," Daphne asserted, clearly taking Pansy's lead. "We are staying with you until you feel better, or until we can make you tell us why you don't feel well in the first place so we can actually do something to make you feel better."
Hermione couldn't stop the small smile on her face at Daphne's words. Who knew Slytherins cared this much, and for her?
"We know it's Draco," Blaise finally spoke up, content to let the girls handle the emotional bits for the most part, but deciding they needed to get right to it if they wanted to solve this problem tonight. And really, he was pretty sure they knew what the problem was.
"Argh, did he antagonise you? I keep telling him not to antagonise you," Theo said.
Okay, so maybe everybody but Theo knew, Blaise mentally amended.
"He didn't antagonise me, Theo," Hermione defended Draco. She then heaved a soft sigh, before admitting, "He told me he loves me."
"'Atta boy, Drake!"
Hermione blinked in surprise. "What?"
"Oh please, Hermione, don't tell me you still haven't realised!?" Daphne said, exasperated.
"The boy's been in love with you, probably since the Yule Ball in Fourth year," Pansy told her, to her ever-growing shock.
"We all saw the chemistry between you, during the practises, and most especially tonight," Theo agreed.
"Did you really not know?" Blaise raised an eyebrow.
"It's not…! That's not…! I mean…" Hermione sputtered in disbelief.
"Hermione, what do you feel about Draco?" Daphne asked her seriously.
"I…" I don't know, is what Hermione wanted to say. It seemed too fast, too soon; and really, she was downright scared. She wasn't beautiful, no matter what anyone had to say. It didn't matter that the reason she started singing at Muggle clubs in the first place was to make herself feel pretty, especially after Ron's claims otherwise. It didn't matter that she had sung the duets with Draco; surely, if Pansy or Daphne did it, they would always look prettier than her. And she knew, she knew, that for someone to be with Draco, she had to be pretty. Draco was just… so beyond her reach, and she was scared to find out that she wouldn't make it. She didn't think her self-esteem could take that blow.
"I… I'm not pretty," Hermione finally murmured.
"What? What do you mean by that?" Pansy demanded.
"Draco… deserves someone pretty," Hermione explained. "Someone… beautiful. Because, he's such a… a wonderful man. He's so different from when we were in Hogwarts; he's changed so much, and for the better. He calls people's eyes to him, both on and off the stage. His stance commands respect, and his gait exudes confidence. He needs someone who matches him, and can stand beside him proudly. Someone who he can be proud of. I'm not confident enough that I'll ever be that one."
Before Pansy could retort to that, another voice broke in, "You have confidence in everything else, it rather surprises me that you don't have confidence in yourself, Hermione. I don't know how or why you'd ever think you could be anything less than beautiful, or that I could be any less proud of you. I know I've not given you much reason to believe me, after all I've done in our school years, but I want you to know that I have never thought you beneath me. In fact, I was always trying to reach you. And while I'm glad you think I've changed, I did it with the hope that one day, I could prove to you that I could be a match for you."
Draco stepped towards her, as she stared at him wide-eyed, in both disbelief and surprise.
"Will you at least give me a chance?" Draco asked, after a moment of silence.
A beat, and then—"Yes."
One year later.
It had been one year since that fateful day, and Draco and Hermione had been dating for just as long. Hermione had become a regular member of the band, and they'd had several concerts since then, with Hermione singing all of the duets with Draco. With every practise, every song, every concert, and every duet, it was clear to the rest of the band that the couple were getting closer and closer. Even Hermione could not deny that there was definitely something more than simple attraction between her and Draco. However, despite their more intimate relationship, she had yet to repeat those fateful three words.
The band had another concert lined up for that day, and they were taking the morning to relax before then. Draco had been suspiciously absent from the studio all that time, but his presence was still felt in the bouquet of flowers Hermione found on her usual chair, along with a card that read: "To the one whose beauty these flowers pale in comparison to."
Hermione blushed, and Pansy and Daphne, who had been reading over her shoulder, squealed in glee. There was no denying Draco was a romantic, at least when he wanted to be. Since Hermione had agreed to give Draco a chance, he had taken every opportunity to let her know that he had not only changed, but that he cared. He showered her with both compliments and gifts; and, while Hermione wasn't the type to give in to either wealth or flattery, the sincerity behind Draco's actions convinced her more than anything else. They certainly did much for her esteem. Let it be said that Draco definitely knew how to treat a woman.
That evening, as their concert ended, Draco grabbed on to Hermione just before she could enter the dressing room, in a move that was reminiscent of a year before.
He merely smiled at her, before lifting the hand he'd grabbed on to. He slowly turned it palm facing up, and with his other hand, he gently dropped a shiny necklace on her palm. She gasped. It was a thin silver chain, with a pendant of a serpent twirled around a rose.
"Draco, what—" Hermione looked at him in surprise.
"It's our first anniversary, Hermione. Don't tell me you forgot?" Draco said, only a hint of disappointment in his eyes.
Hermione shook her head, her other hand swiping at the tears beginning to leave her eyes. "No, I didn't. I…"
Unable to speak, Hermione merely dragged Draco into the dressing room, which had been conveniently left empty by their bandmates — Hermione had requested their help earlier — and she directed him to a seat. When he was seated, a curious look on his face, Hermione faced him, put on the necklace he had just given her, and softly began to sing — the very song he had heard in the bar when they had met again. As he watched her give this special performance, all for him, his heart warmed and his smile grew. And, when she finished, he made a move to stand up, wanting to embrace her and let her know just how much it meant to him. But, she put her arm out to stop him. She took a step closer, and cleared her throat, before saying in a soft but firm voice the words he'd long wanted to hear, "Draco, I love you."
The happiness he felt then was a better feeling than he'd had after any concert. "I love you, too."