Synopsis: School lets out in one month, and Draco still hasn't told Hermione he's fallen for her. When she offers to help him win over the 'mystery woman' he's pining over, what is a Slytherin to do but say yes?
Prompt: Really, Malfoy? Chocolates? Can it get anymore cliché? If you want to win over that mystery woman of yours, you're going to have to do better than that," Hermione says, rolling her eyes at him.
Beta Love: The wonderful LondonsLegend and LightofEvolution!
Written for the Strictly Dramione Spring Fest 2017.
Draco Malfoy is the man with the plan - ehh, sort of. He's been mulling an idea around in his head for some time now...okay, more than some time. Ever since the War ended, Draco began to realize a stir of -ugh, feelings- in his chest every time she walked by.
It started with a pang. A simple hop in his chest. But now...now those feelings were progressing into something stronger. Something he couldn't control. It didn't help that the two of them were assigned the Head Boy and Head Girl positions together. He hadn't anticipated McGonagall to have such a soft spot in her heart for him, though, why had he been surprised at all? The woman, though formidable, is kinder on the inside than she appears. When she gave him the position, she'd rambled on about 'Rebuilding the gap in House Unity' or some tripe.
He understood why Hermione got the job, insufferable little know-it-all that she was. She was outgoing and persistent, much like a speck of lint that kept coming back to a shirt due to static electricity - which, incidentally, was how Draco would have described the jolt in his stomach every time she passed him a folder or handed him a spare bit of parchment.
Damn it. Nearly one year after almost dying in a sodding war, and his ultimate fear isn't the memories of battle, but of the witch sitting on the sofa opposite him: Hermione Jean Granger. No, he isn't a stalker...he's just overheard Ginny Weasley using it in mock-chastisement. Jean. What an odd middle name. Muggle, presumably, and not the least bit flattering.
"Hmph," he sighs, rolling his Quidditch-themed pen across the notebook lazily. What he wouldn't give for a good cup of something strong to get the jitters out of his system.
Today marks one month before classes end and Hermione's vacation to Aruba begins. One month, and she will disappear to soak up the sun and sample local food, music, and men with Potter and Weasley. She isn't seeing anyone (as the rumor mill would have definitely let him know if she was), so it's a ripe time to pluck the forbidden fruit before someone else.
But he has no idea how to go about it. Every time he opens his mouth to try to articulate his thoughts, they come out as something snarky like, "Did you even try to comb your hair today?" or "Good gracious, Granger, who told you that pink and red could be worn together?" He'd receive a healthy snip in return, something to the effect of, "Someone appreciates alliteration, doesn't he?"
And then, there were the 'trying to be nice' things, like holding the door for her or offering spare parchment, but apparently these things were simply considered 'proper' by today's standards and not at all flirtatious. Rubbish, all of these feminist approaches to dating are. How was he supposed to tell someone he liked them if he couldn't even flirt the proper, pureblood way?
How had his father wrangled his mother into a date initially?
Bribery, he supposes.
His head tilts up at the sound of her melodic voice tickling his ears, but his mouth pulls back in that signature, snarky smirk of his - something he's always done as a means to mask his true emotions. What he wants to say is, 'Yes, Hermione?' but what comes out is, "Dear Merlin, are we talking now?"
"Is something the matter? You seem distracted," she notes, raising her eyes from her scribbling something down in her notes up to his eyeline.
The only ground he's made is that they've taken to studying together in their common room, albeit in silence and without consulting one another. The only time they ever speak is when they're paired together for an assignment (which is often, as they are two out of the five that have come back to finish their final year) or when they must perform rounds. Ten at night, patrolling corridors, and he has yet to act on impulse and slam her up against a portrait and have his way with her.
Fantasies. That's all he can muster when it comes to Hermione Granger's affections.
"I'm trying to study," he grumbles, tapping his pen to his notebook irritably. He notices she still writes with one of the Hogwarts regulation quills. Her hands are stained with bits of dried ink from where they've rubbed against her parchment. The pen he holds in his hand does the same thing and dries instantly - the best part is a professor can't tell the difference in strokes. Slytherins work smarter, not harder, and he inwardly chastises the Gryffindor across from him for being so diligent with the rules. He hates it, because all it does is make him admire her.
"Is that why you stopped writing ten minutes ago?" she asks, lolling her head to the side. She still wears her Hogwarts jumper and skirt, (regulation, of course), and the material of her sweater pulls up, revealing her stomach when she stretches to yawn, leaning her head back against the sofa. Draco gulps softly and tears his eyes back to his notebook.
"That's dangerous." A playful grin spreads across her face.
Draco is confused. Since when does she smile at him? His defenses spring out like claws, and he snaps, "Perhaps for those who don't know how to utilize thoughts properly. But as it were, one of the people in this room is more than capable." Just for an added bonus, he concludes, "I'll give you a hint, Granger. It isn't you."
"Charming, as always." She blows the ink on her parchment dry before scrolling it up and setting it on the coffee table between them. "But if you're talking about yourself, I'd like to point out that you, obviously, aren't as observant as you think."
"You aren't studying at all, are you?" She leans forward, swinging her legs underneath her. She crawls comfortably to the edge of the sofa and rests her elbow on the arm rest, followed by her chin in her hand. "No books. No trained look in your eye…"
"You're analyzing me now?"
"Observing," she corrects. Then she thinks about it. "Maybe analyzing a little."
"Why?" he drawls.
"Because you look like you're about to burst," she states. "So what is it? What could make Draco Malfoy so flustered?"
"I'm not flustered."
"Your tie is crooked, your hair is out of place, and I haven't heard you grumble under your breath since you plopped down in that chair an hour ago. Either you're sick, or you're contemplating something."
"Leave it alone Granger," he growls quietly, pulling his journal closer to him. Her eyes are instantly drawn to it, and fascination breaches her face.
"Are you writing something? Poetry?"
"Poetry? Why in Merlin's great name would I be writing poetry? Do I look like the sort of chap that pours his feelings out into intricate sonnets? Do I?"
"Alright, Malfoy. Simmer down. It was just a guess," she shrugs. Another moment goes by. "So what is it?"
"Were you always this nosey in school? I refuse to believe your thirst for knowledge has gotten stronger over the last year."
Hermione stands up, taking a step toward him that has his heart racing a mile a minute. "Let me see."
Draco narrows his eyes. "No. Go sate your curiosities elsewhere."
She takes another step closer. And then another. "Don't be a child. It's alright if it is poetry. I won't judge you."
"It isn't bloody poetry, Granger-" he starts, but he cuts himself off when she dives for the book. Quickly, he tucks it between his back and the chair, smirking as he takes in her close proximity. Her hand still reaches out to where the book was moments before, ever so close to his chest. Her other hand leans on the armrest of his chair, her face painstakingly close to his. "You seriously have no self-control, do you?" he quips.
"Oh, fine." She rolls her eyes. "Be your secretive-self. See if I care." She stands upright and crosses her arms in a small pout. It's adorable.
Triumphantly, Draco pulls his notebook back out and wags it in front of her face. "I put the sly in Slyther-" The book is ripped from his hands in an instant, and he jerks out of his chair in time for her to open the pages back up to the bookmark in the center.
"Well, this doesn't look like poetry," Hermione muses, facing him but taking a step back out of caution. The ferocity in his gaze is unnerving, he's sure. "I'm not sure where to begin," she reads aloud. "So I'll just start out by saying I love your laugh."
Draco tenses where he stands, afraid to move, to speak, to breathe. Shit, shit, double shit, triple shit and the like. How the Hell could he have let this happen?
"The room lights up when you smile, but you'll never know it. You're too proud to see such vanities." Hermione's eyebrows furrow in perplexity. To his horror, her eyes continue trailing over the words as she mouths them to herself. Finally, those same eyebrows shoot halfway up her forehead, and she turns her gaze on him. "Oh."
Draco could die of mortification.
"Are you happy now?" he seethes under his breath.
Tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, she offers the notebook back to him. "A crush isn't anything to be ashamed of, Malfoy. We all have them."
"Hmph." Yes, but not everyone had the person they harbored feelings for reading their unfinished love proclamations. "Going to gloat now? Tell the whole school I write love-letters? I wouldn't if I were you. I know where you sleep." It's meant to be a threat, but it rolls off the tip of his tongue with unrequited promise.
Hermione rolls her eyes. "I actually thought it was rather sweet."
He squints at her. "Did you…" His voice drips with skepticism.
"Yes. It's nice to know there's a softer side to you." She chews on her lower lip in awkward silence. "So...who is she? This mystery woman of yours?"
Despite his heart whamming away in his chest, he smirks. "Wouldn't you love to know?"
"I asked, didn't I?"
They stare at each other challengingly for a moment before Draco realizes he has the upper hand, not the lower. She's genuinely curious, and it's eating her up inside. His emotions be damned, he can't resist a bit of fun. "Is your love life that inadequate you feel the need to butt into mine?" It sounds harsh, but the smirk on his face is teasing.
Hermione gives a light shrug and turns away from him, her mouth creased in a smile. "You'll never win her over with something like that!" She sets off toward the staircase leading up to her bedroom door and climbs the steps one by one with confidence. It's as if she knows what she's said has struck a chord in him. With a flippant yawn she peers back over her shoulder before retreating into her bedroom, allowing Draco free of the spell she's placed on him.
Draco collapses back in his chair, gripping his notebook tight. Her words echo within him, playing him like a fiddle. Eventually, he pries the notebook back open, re-reading his work. She's right, he thinks. This would never win her over. Especially now that she thinks it's about someone else. Embarrassment floods him, and he slams the book shut, rubbing his hand over his face. "Fuck it all." He stalks over to the staircase, about to take up the first step when he remembers the charmed staircases that prevent a boy from entering a girl's dorm. With a roll of his eyes, he chucks the notebook up the staircase and hits her door with it.
Some seconds later, Hermione emerges, dressed in a bathrobe and a toothbrush dangling out of the corner of her mouth. "S'oming wong?"
Draco raises an eyebrow, and she throws up a 'wait just a moment' finger before retreating back into her room. The sound of her spitting into a sink can be heard, and then she's back in her doorway, wiping remnants of toothpaste from her lips.
"I asked if something was wrong."
"As a matter of fact," he drawls, fingers curling around the banister. "You're right. My entire note was rubbish."
"I never said that," she comments, but he cuts her off.
"How would I go about wooing the witch in my sights?"
Hermione's mouth slowly gapes open as she processes his question. "Are...are you asking me for dating advice? Me?"
"You're a woman, aren't you?"
Curling the bathrobe tighter around her, she replies, "I'm surprised you took the time to notice."
Oh, I've noticed, alright. The things he would do to her would be unholy, and then the things he would do after that would make her never want to leave his side again. She's the only one, only one, who hasn't looked at him with disapproval for the mark on his arm or the allegations made against him. Though that blasted mark, now faded into a heinous scar, is what keeps himself at arm's length from her. Perhaps she could look past his xenophobic nature as a child, but could she look past his involvement in the war? Truly? Still, he has to try, doesn't he?
"Why me?" she blurts out. "Why don't you ask Pansy to help you?"
It's true, Pansy Parkinson came back to finish her year as well, along with Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom. Though — "Pansy and I aren't close like before," he states, refusing to tear his eyes away from Hermione's stare for even a moment. If he does, she might see right through him. "And, besides, she'd be jealous it wasn't her."
"That's a relief." Hermione adds on, "I would be concerned if you thought Pansy Parkinson's laugh lights up a room. It's more like a hyena…"
Draco can't help it - a shred of his gooey center oozes through in the form of a snorted laugh. "Or the merpeople's speech heard above water."
"Touché." Hermione dips her head softly, her grin widening. "Alright, Malfoy. I'll help you, but on one condition."
Anything, he thinks. "Depends," he says.
"You must attempt to be a bit...nicer. To me. We only have a month left together, and it would make our duties much easier if we were to converse instead of quip."
"But quipping is what makes it fun," he smirks, leaning against the banister. He catches the flirtation in his voice and sobers. "I suppose I could...be a bit nicer…" For you.
"Splendid." She grins in triumph. "Tomorrow, after first rounds, we can get to work before class."
"That early?" he groans.
"No time like the present, and procrastination is failure's second cousin!" She reaches for the door handle, pauses, and then says, "Well, I...goodnight, Malfoy."
He nods crisply. "Night, Granger."
When the door shuts behind her, he releases an anxious sigh and slumps against the banister. "Fucking Hell…" Just what has he gotten himself into?
Hermione reaches for a bagel in the center of the table, stealing a glance at Draco, who is busy jotting down ideas on how to woo a woman, as per her suggestion. She still has no clue the woman is her, but any excuse he has to be close to her is good enough for him; besides, he might actually learn a thing or two on what she prefers.
Really, it's quite Slytherin of him. Infiltrating is definitely something he's good at.
He's thankful she's agreed to take breakfast back to their common room so no one can overhear their discussion. The last thing he needs is everyone making assumptions about the topic in front of them.
"So," she says, biting into her breakfast, "you won't tell me who she is. Could you at least describe her a little for me?"
"If I describe her, won't that give it away?" he jeers, trying to concentrate on his writing.
"Such a man. - I meant her likes, her dislikes. Her personality, not her looks."
"Oh." He blinks. "Um...well, she's intelligent." He instantly regrets the description, because it seems too obvious. Though, for someone who finds the minute details in nearly everything, she doesn't catch on.
"That's a start," she nods. "Go on."
"What does she like to do?"
His quill stills against the parchment, and he feels heat crawl up his neck. "She enjoys reading."
Hermione reaches into the bag beside her on the floor and pulls out a scrap of parchment, making a note. "Anything else?"
Making lists, he thinks. What can he say that won't give him away? "She likes helping others. Really, I think she likes to take on charity cases…" Weasley, Potter, house elves, me...The list goes on and on.
"That's good for you, then," she quips, a confident smirk on her face. Draco feels his cheeks burn as he childishly sticks out his tongue. "Is that it?"
"Does it matter?" he asks, defensive.
"Well, yes. Depending on her personality, it could make or break how you assert yourself into her life."
Hmm, he hadn't thought of it like that.
"Is there anything the two of you have in common?"
Draco chews the inside of his cheek, pondering. "I'm still figuring that out. Though, I do see her watch the Quidditch tournaments from time to time." He's still the Slytherin Seeker, by another spout of luck, and he's caught himself glancing at her in the stands as she watches the show. She cheers, and she hollers, and it's more than House spirit. She enjoys watching the same way he enjoys playing. It breathes inspiration into him every game.
"So maybe you two could talk about that?" she offers.
"I wouldn't even know how to begin," he mutters, setting down his writing utensil. "We don't...talk much."
"Is the charismatic Draco Malfoy saying he doesn't know how to strike up a simple conversation?" She quirks an eyebrow.
"No, not at all. That isn't what I said," he states defensively. "But she isn't like other girls, and I doubt what works on them would work on her."
"What usually works?"
"My face," he states simply, giving a saucy grin for show. "Usually followed with, 'Hi, I'm Draco.'"
"How do you keep the girls away?" she jostles.
"With a stick - located in my pa-"
"Shall we get back to work?" she stretches over the table for his notes and snatches them up. "Let's see what you've come up with." She begins to read aloud. "Flowers. Dinner. A box of - Oh, good gracious. Really, Malfoy? Chocolates? Can it get anymore cliché? If you want to win over that mystery woman of yours, you're going to have to do better than that," Hermione says, rolling her eyes at him.
Draco frowns. "What's the matter with anything I've written?"
"Well, nothing if you're looking to date someone out of the fifties." She grabs his quill and begins scratching out his notes. Then, she begins to make her own. "You'll want to start with proper conversation. Get to know her. Favorite color. Her favorite class. Maybe what she plans to do once she graduates." She continues jotting down until the parchment is full, and then she hands it back to him. "Alright. Here you go."
Draco quirks an eyebrow, reading it over. "Am I trying to get to know her or interview her for research studies?"
"What's the matter with my questions?" She pouts, her lower lip protruding out slightly. It makes Draco's heart skip a beat.
He sees his opening and takes it, smirking. "Alright. How would you propose I go about asking her, then?"
"Make light conversation, of course."
"Like what we're doing now?" he asks.
"What's your favorite color, Granger?"
Hermione gives him a skeptical look. "What are you doing?"
"I'm practicing," he lies. It's only a lie because this is the real deal - he genuinely wants to know.
With another roll of her eyes, she leans her head in her hand and answers, "Blue."
"Like the color of your dress you wore to the Yule Ball?" he notes with curiosity. He realizes his mistake almost immediately, cursing himself under his breath for letting his noticing of her peek through.
Her eyebrows shoot up. She looks rather impressed. "As a matter of fact. See? You're doing just fine. I don't see why talking to this mystery woman of yours would be an issue for you."
Draco subconsciously rubs at his left forearm, knowing the exact reason why he doesn't talk to Hermione this way on a regular basis. She's everything good and proper, like crisp parchment and freshly cut grass; he's dragonhide and acidic potions. Quietly, he reads over her notes and folds the parchment up, sticking it in his pocket. "Thanks for the advice, Granger. I'll, er, let you know how it goes."
"You're leaving?" she asks. "So soon?"
His palms are sweaty as he reaches for his book bag. He mulls over inviting her to come watch the Slytherin team practice, but he fears the rejection, and so he swallows the request back down his throat before it reaches his mouth. "See you." And then he leaves their common room, quickly stepping out from behind the portrait. He's relieved when he finds an empty hallway to slump himself against the wall and unfold her notes again. As he brings the parchment to his face, he inhales the scent, thinking how perverse it is that he finds the need to smell a piece of paper simply because she's touched it. But how else is he supposed to sate his infuriating appetite for her?
"Malfoy?" a voice booms around the corner, and Draco shoves the note back in his pocket just before someone rounds the corner. Hermione holds his quill in her hand. "You forgot this."
A flush of pink dusts his cheeks as he clears his throat, places his best Malfoy-scowl on his face, and takes the quill from her. "Running after me already? I knew I was charming, Granger, but still…"
The quip is met with an enormous eye roll and a wave of the hand. "Bye, Malfoy!"
She retreats back the way she came, and Draco's entire body is afire.
"There you are!" Hermione exclaims a week later as Draco steps through the portrait into their shared living quarters. His body is drenched in rain water and sweat from another grueling Quidditch practice, and he wants nothing more than to retreat to his bedroom, collapse on his bed, and maybe have a hearty wank before some shut eye. Granger, however, seems to have other plans as she closes her book and pats down the spot next to her.
"You're never this cheery to see me," he grumbles, unhooking the strap of his elbow pads and letting them fall to the floor. "What do you want?"
"I haven't seen much of you lately. I thought it might have something to do with your mystery girl, so I hoped you'd let me know how my advice went."
"Er…" It hasn't gone anywhere. Draco has avoided Hermione like the plague. Fear keeps him from using the cheat sheet on her - fear of rejection.
"Come on, Malfoy. We promised we'd be nicer to each other."
He pauses. "Yeah, alright." The temptation to be next to her is too great to resist. "Let me go change." He slips off his soppy shoes and pads his way up the stairs, careful to not let the water dripping from his clothing trip him. The last thing he needs is to make a fool of himself in front of her. When the door shut behind him, Draco quickly discards his waterlogged clothes and rummages through his dresser, pulling out a pair of soft lounge pants. He shrugs them on and walks to his armour, nearly reaching for a casual short sleeve until his eyes catch sight of the scar along his forearm, and he changes his mind. He opts for a thin, grey sweater instead, making sure to pull the sleeves all the way down to his wrists. With a heavy sigh, he leaves the wet clothes on the floor and goes downstairs to find the pretty girl of his desires curled up on one side of the sofa, reading again.
"Ahem," he cleares his throat.
Hermione peers up from her book and smiles. "Better?"
"Much." He approaches the sofa and takes a seat next to her, careful to leave room between them. Draco twiddles his thumbs, adding, "So...what are you reading?"
"Oh this?" Hermione glances down at the book, covering the title up with her hand. "It's muggle...you wouldn't be interested."
Well, she'd wanted him to get to know his 'mystery woman', hadn't she? Draco gives it a try. "It's alright, Granger. I asked. It's only polite to answer." He pries the book out of her reluctant hands and eyes the title. "The Great Gatsby."
"It's a classic," she says, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
"What's it about?"
"A lot of things. But the general gist is a man trying to obtain social status to impress a woman, all to have it backfire on him."
Draco can relate. He can't even begin to count the number of times he'd slung around his pureblood status all over the place, and now, sitting next to Hermione, it means nothing. If anything, he's the one that feels inferior next to her. He fidgets with his sleeve, pulling it down over his palm. "Sounds paradoxical."
"Indeed." Hermione takes her book back, and their thumbs touch in the process. Draco's almost certain she can't hear the way his breath hitches, but he can't be one hundred percent sure. He covers it up with a lofty smirk and runs his fingers through his wet tresses.
"To answer your question earlier, yeah, I've been getting to know my mystery witch a little better." Like how she enjoys curling up with a good book when it's pouring kneazles and skrewts outside. Like how she doesn't bother putting on a show to sit in the shared space between them. Any time he shared a common room with girls in the past, they would always look their best when coming to share the public space. Granger seemed comfortable in her oversized shirt and black lounge shorts, hair flying every which way without a speck of makeup on her face. He's noticed she's done things like this in the past, but she's never invited him to sit with her.
"And?" she asks, excitement in her voice.
"Have you asked her out?"
"I don't think we're there yet," he tells her, leaning his arm on the back of the sofa. "She seems friendly, though." A part of him enjoys that she's clueless to his adoration of her.
"That's good," she replies, her voice warm and comforting. "You only have three weeks left to woo her."
Three weeks. Draco doesn't need reminding.
"Hogsmeade trip!" Pansy screeches excitedly in Draco's ear, hanging on his arm as they walk the path to Hogsmeade for the last time. "Aren't you excited, Draco?"
Draco shrugs her off of him, trying his best not to watch Hermione's hips sway ahead of him. She's deep in conversation with Longbottom, most likely about plants. "Are we talking again?" he asks Pansy.
"Why wouldn't we be?"
Draco forgoes mentioning that he and Pansy haven't spent any one-on-one time since New Year's, nostalgic for the friendship.
"Blaise is meeting us in Hogsmeade," Pansy continues, tucking her hands behind her back and skipping backwards as she walks the trail. "Want to grab drinks with us?"
Draco agrees, and an hour later finds himself in The Three Broomsticks with the two, tucked away in a corner table, each of them with their own mug of butterbeer. Truth be told, he's only suggested the place because he saw Hermione and Longbottom slip in here thirty minutes ago. They sit at a table near the unused fireplace with cups of fairy meade. Draco knows the taste - sweet, but also light, much like the flavor of lemon tarts but without the heaviness and all of the effects of alcohol. He'd love to lick the liquid from her lips and...
"A bunch of the upper years are gathering together in the Shrieking Shack for a party," Pansy says, snapping Draco out of his thoughts.
"That's idiotic, considering curfew," Draco points out.
"Bernard - that poxy little sixth year Puff - managed to brew a proper sobering draught. Plenty of time to get sloshed and then clean up before heading back to Hogwarts."
"A party during the day," Blaise muses. "Well, I'm in."
"Granger is going too," Pansy adds, catching gazes with Draco, who tries to play off his joy with arrogant ignorance.
"...And? Why do I care?"
"Oh, please, are we still playing the 'I don't have the hots for the mudblood' card?" Pansy rolls her eyes, exchanging smirks with Blaise. "You've two weeks, you know. You might as well spit it out and tell her."
The tips of Draco's ears burn hot as he rises from the table and pushes his mug to the center of it. "You've lost the plot, Pansy."
She merely shrugged in reply. "Your lips say no, but your eyes have been shagging her since we've arrived."
As Blaise snorts into his mug of butterbeer, Draco pushes in his chair and retreats away from the table, toward the exit. He's almost cleared the room when he hears Hermione shout for him. He ignores her, pushing open the door and stepping out into the bright, summer sun. He makes it a few more paces before the door pushes open and Hermione emerges, calling his name again. "Malfoy!"
He stops, turning on his heels toward her. "Granger…" he drawls, sticking his hands in his pockets for show while plastering a smirk on his lips. "To what do I owe the misfortune?"
"Are you coming to the party this afternoon?" she asks, her speech slightly slurred. The butterbeer must already have her head buzzing.
"Don't know," he replies with a shrug.
"I think you should." Hermione nods firmly.
Hermione glances down to her feet, and there's a moment where Draco thinks she might be blushing. But it's probably only due to the alcohol's hold over her. Her eyes flicker back up to meet his. "Your mystery woman might be there."
"Most likely," he admits, knowing full well that if Hermione goes, she will be.
"So I thought I might be able to help you," she offers.
Draco snorts into his shoulder, trying to cover up an amused laugh. "You just want to know who it is. - Nosy know-it-all can't take it if she doesn't have all the answers, can she?" he chides. Her eyebrows furrow together in confirmation. "Alright, Granger. Have it your way." He gets brave. "I'll point her out today at the party, if she comes."
Gleefully, Hermione's eyes light up. "Great. I'll see you there." She turns back to the door, pauses, and then glances back over her shoulder. "Can't wait." And then she's gone back inside, and Draco's knees tremble in turn. Dare he think it - was she just flirting with him?
Draco is three shots of firewhiskey in before he sees Granger arrive inside the Shrieking Shack. Almost immediately, she finds him in the crowd and seeks him out. He's just about to play a game of one-on-one butterbeer pong with Blaise when she strolls up to the table.
"Granger," Draco nods politely toward her as they spot one another, ignoring the sniggers from Pansy behind him. "Fashionably late or inexplicably early to break up the party?" He gestures behind him. "I'm sure you remember Blaise Zabini."
"Hello," she waves. Blaise tosses a ping-pong ball at her, and she catches it without missing a beat.
"Not bad, Granger," says Blaise. "We were gonna have us a standoff, but want to make it pairs?"
Draco doesn't miss the way Pansy and Blaise grin at one another.
"You don't have to," Draco says at once, but Hermione sloughs off her jacket and tosses it over his face, temporarily blinding him.
"I'd love to," he hears her say as he pries the fabric off of his face. They finish setting up the table, and Hermione whispers under her breath, "I thought you'd be flirting it up with your crush by now."
"Not drunk enough," he replies, handing off the ball to her. "Ladies first?"
The game is close - Pansy and Blaise are formidable opponents, but Hermione manages to hold her own against them, knocking shots out of the way and distracting Blaise with a wink or a crude remark to throw him off. Tipsy Granger is fun. The more she drinks, the looser her inhibitions are, and soon she's discussing how muggles have come up with small cups to fit inside of the larger ones to avoid the ping pong balls from dirtying the alcohol instead of using stasis spells like wizards do. Draco finds it endearing, even as he teases her for it, and soon they're rubbing elbows and making snide, but playful, remarks under their breath to each other.
By the end of the first game, lightweight Draco is drunk, and Hermione is buzzing pretty hard. They win the game by one cup and cheer in joy, shouting above the music playing in the background. Hermione, in all of her drunken glory, throws her arms around Draco's torso and gives him a victory hug. It takes her a moment to realize what she's done, and when she does she pulls away and stands rigid straight, blushing as pink as a strawberry.
"I'm sorry," she says quickly.
Draco shrugs it off and curls an arm around her shoulder. "S'alright, Granger. You don't disgust me near as much as you used to." He could slap himself for his backhanded compliment when Hermione frowns and pulls out of his grasp.
"Excuse me." She walks past him, getting lost in the sea of dancing teenagers.
"Shit, Granger!" he calls out, leaving his friends behind as he attempts to follow Hermione. He finds her again, this time almost at the door, ready to leave. Just as her hand curls around the handle, Draco thrusts his arm out and pushes the door to keep it closed. Hermione turns around, effectively falling into his trap of caging her in. Though, Draco feels like the one who is trapped, caught in her brown irises and sweeping eyelashes. They're close - so close, now, and words escape him.
"What are you doing?" she asks, leaning her head back on the door to keep from swaying. In her hands is a vile of sobering draught; no doubt, she intended to take it when she walked out this door.
"What I said," he begins, "I didn't mean it like that. It came out wrong."
"It's my stupidity for thinking things between us could actually change." Hermione stares him on, a stubbornness in her tone.
Draco feels his insides boil. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"I think we both know. - Now, if you'll excuse me," she makes to move, but Draco extends his other arm out, completely blocking her in. He isn't trying to be pushy, but his inhibitions are gone, and they've only two weeks until she's gone out of his life for good.
"You're really thick, you know," he growls, eyes lidded in drowsiness from alcohol's kiss.
"Wonderful, more insults."
"No, I - that isn't what I-" Draco snarls, and he leans closer, so close he can feel her body heat pulsing off her in waves. "You infuriating witch, it's you."
She blinks at him. "What?"
"It's you I've been trying to…" He clamps his mouth shut, eyes wide from his confession. "Fuck it." He dips his head forward and presses his lips to hers. Immediately, he can taste the butterbeer and smell her perfume; it's intoxicating, mucking up his already dulled senses. His hands pry off of the door and cup her face, thumbs brushing along the delicate skin in sensual circles. He feels her gasp against his mouth, but he doesn't relent. He's determined to get her to see how much she means to him. He nips at her lower lip, capturing it between his teeth, teasing her in new ways. Finally, she releases a small, quivering moan just before she pushes her lips against his and kisses him back.
Draco is on cloud nine hundred and ninety-nine as he slips his fingers up and into her hairline, sensually grasping at the curls he's longed to run his fingers through for nearly a year now. Fuck yes, this is it. The thing he's been missing.
Eventually, he slows the kiss down, pulling away to touch his nose to hers. Her eyes are still closed as she whispers, "Wow."
Draco takes a step back, giving her room to process and breathe. His heart slams away in his chest while he waits for her reaction.
Hermione, cheeks red and lips swollen from the kissing, looks down to the vial of sobering draught in her hand, pops open the top, and downs it at once. She waits a few moments for the effects to take hold before she clears her throat. "I...um...I'll see you back in the dorms, yes?"
It isn't the reaction he's expecting. He watches as she escapes through the front door without so much as a goodbye.
By the time Draco makes it back to the dorms, he's been approached by a slew of students asking him what had happened between him and Hermione. Idiotically, he had kissed her in front of a quarter of his graduating class. His nerves are shot as he strolls through the portrait, sobering draught sloshing around in his stomach.
Hermione is nowhere to be seen, which can only mean she's in her room. Draco slips off his shoe, irritated, and tosses it up the staircase, hitting her door. A moment later, the door rattles, and Hermione opens the door just enough to peer down the stairs at him.
"What the Hell, Granger?" he snaps immediately. That seems to get her attention, and she swings the door wide open now, glaring down at him.
"Really, Malfoy? That's what you have to say?"
"Well...yeah!" He tosses his hands up in the air, exasperated.
"You're a real piece of work, you know."
Draco narrows his eyes. "So you didn't enjoy the kiss?"
"Of course I did!"
"Then what's the bloody problem?"
"The problem is you tricked me, you...you...Slytherin, you!" She steps out of her room, slams the door behind her, and begins her descent down the staircase, each step punctuating her next words. "I thought I was helping you win over some other witch this entire time! Here I've been frustrated, crying myself to sleep and for what? For what?" She stops at the last step, but Draco towers over her, anyway.
"Why would you be crying?" he asks, offering her jacket out to her - the one she left at the party. Hermione snatches it up and tosses it behind her, up the staircase, her eyes never leaving his. Suddenly, Draco feels very small.
"Now who's the daft one, you dolt?" she asks right before grabbing him up by the scruff of his collar and crashing their lips together. Draco's eyes go wide, and his body limp, and he melts against her, slipping his hands around her waist to grasp her hips possessively. This time, her tongue finds its way inside his mouth, coaxing him to scoop her up by the arse he's been fantasizing about - it's supple, fitting perfectly in his hands as she wraps her legs around his waist and arms around his neck. Before either one knows what's hit them, Draco's fumbling to the sofa, Hermione in tow. He sits down with her in his lap, and she is real. This is real. His brain can barely comprehend it before she's reaching for the bottom of his shirt between heated kisses.
Draco stiffens, and his kissing stops. He grabs her hands and stills them.
"Don't," he says, thinking of his Dark Mark scarred on his arm. His eyes trail down to it and give him away, and Hermione follows his gaze, realizing.
"Is this why you wouldn't…" she starts, reaching for his arm. Draco tries to jerk away, but she rolls up his sleeve quickly, causing him to freeze on the spot. "Oh." Hermione takes in the sight of his raised, discolored skin. Her fingers scatter over the site.
"I know," he mumbles, defeated. "I get it."
"It's too much. Me. This."
"Draco…have you been avoiding asking me out because of this?" She gestures to the scarred mark on his arm.
"I...it's a possibility."
"Do you really think I'm that shallow?" Her eyes are gentle, calming his center. He shakes his head and tucks her hair behind her ear.
"On the contrary. I find you far more intelligent than to-" But he's stopped talking because she's kissing him again, and the world is spinning, and everything is right.
"My laugh lights up a room, does it?" she smirks down at him before claiming his mouth again.
Between kisses, Draco manages, "Technically, I said it was your smile…"
They have two weeks to figure out what this snog on the sofa means, but for now, Draco takes it as a win. All of this wasted time, he thinks, and I could have been kissing her all along.