A/N: This story was entered into Dramione Fanfiction Forum's Sounds Like Dramione competition! I was lucky enough to snag Runner up in a handful of categories and have my name listed among some really incredible authors that I adore and respect! Make sure to check out the entire collection! Biggest thanks to my Alpha and Beta, MCal and Ravenslight for their work on this little diddy.

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Turning down the corridor, Hermione chewed on the side of her cheek as she peered in the open classrooms, twitching her wand in the direction of closed doors and levying bored sighs when even those yielded nothing of interest. It's not that she wanted to find something. Surely not. But it would certainly be something to spice up the last ninety minutes of insufferable silence she'd been sharing with Malfoy.

The audacity of his presence at Hogwarts again bristled her fragile moral countenance. For Merlin's sake, he'd let Death Eaters into the school not but two years ago.

Yet here he stood in all his brooding glory. He kept mostly to himself, his snide remarks missing their normal zing and somehow, felt more… playful, if that was at all possible. Somehow, that enraged Hermione more. It would have been far easier to fight with him if he were still acting the fool he'd been sixth year.

The final corridor led through the courtyard, and Hermione fought off a shiver, casting a quiet warming spell over her shoulders as their shoes clicked along the cobbled stone.

Hogwarts had been rebuilt grandly; the courtyard now boasted a proud statue of Albus Dumbledore, gallantly lifting his wand towards the sky as his robes billowed behind him, and despite the impending Autumn chill, flowers remained under a lovely stasis charm year-round.

The moon was full and glowing in the clear night sky, and if only she could but take a moment. There was a time in the very recent past when she'd thought she'd never have the chance to experience Hogwarts again—she'd been sure of it. Now, against all odds, here she stood. Her feet slowed of their own volition, her eyes catching over the columns at the starry skies.

Malfoy paused as well, leaning on the opposite side of the pillar in all his smug indifference. This is why she was glad she came from humble beginnings; when you did, you had the opportunity to appreciate simple things in life. She sucked in a wispy breath as her fingers trailed on the smooth stone, and she perched on the ledge.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Hermione said absently, momentarily forgetting exactly who she was spending her evening with.

Draco snorted in response.

"Never mind," she huffed, rising to her feet and sweeping her hair from her shoulders. "Last hall, let's go."

"What?" He chuckled. "You get your knickers wet for a full moon and I'm the tosser?"

Hermione's jaw fell open, her lips popping as she stared at him. "You can't talk to me like that!"

Malfoy's grin turned Cheshire and he peered down at her. "Like what?"

"About the state of my knickers," Hermione said with a tight jaw. "It's crass. Besides that, it's wholly untrue and just something you say to get a rise out of me, so I don't appreciate it."

"Okay," Malfoy acquiesced. "Tell me something that is true about your knickers then?" At that, Hermione froze in her step. The blood drained from her face as she stared at him. "Are they black? Lacy?" Draco took a dangerous step into her; she could feel his breath fan over her face. "Are they those kind that ride deliciously halfway up your arse cheek just so us poor blokes might catch a peek—"

Without thinking, Hermione's hand whipped across his face, and as his head snapped to the side, a rosy handprint appeared on his cheek. Hermione was panting, adrenaline and rage mixing in a fiery cocktail in her blood.

When Draco returned his glare to her, his eyes tight and angry, she gulped. "Twenty points from Gryffindor for assaulting another student."

An indignant little huff slipped past Hermione's lips, and she crossed her arms tightly under her breasts and jutted her left foot out. "Twenty-five from Slytherin for harassing another student."

"Fifty points for—"

"'Mione?" A new, sleepy voice called from behind Draco's shoulder.

Hermione took a quick step back, the blush fading from her cheeks as she spotted Ron at the foot of Gryffindor Tower, hair disheveled and pyjama pants hanging low on his hips. He was wearing the shirt he'd insisted on buying in Australia, even though he had no idea who the band was, and Hermione couldn't help but smile at her friend—well, boyfriend. Merlin, that was still weird.

"Ron?" She took a few steps past Malfoy, leaving him futilely rubbing his injured cheek. Hermione flexed her own fist a few times trying to banish the throbbing sting left behind. "Everything okay?"

"Yes, of course." Ron's icy glare was trained over Hermione's shoulder, staring daggers in Malfoy's direction. "Everything okay here?"

Shifting her weight from foot to foot, she messed with the hem of her skirt, not quite sure why she felt so embarrassed. "Of course."

"Well, it's just that I told you I'd wait up for you. When you were a few minutes late, I thought I'd come check. Since you're… you know… with Malfoy." The blond made a disgruntled noise behind her.

"Oh, yes. You know how he is. We're all finished up for tonight." Ron reached his palm for hers, and she felt a nervous flutter in belly, but not in that way that made girls keen… it was more like what she imagined kissing her brother would be like. But no, she'd been in love with Ron for years. This was meant to be. She threaded her fingers with his and stood awkwardly at his side; Malfoy huffed and stormed past them, robes billowing after him.

"Fifty points from Gryffindor for being out past curfew!" Malfoy growled over his shoulder, and Hermione simply bared her teeth. Bollocks. He'd got them there.

"Honestly, can't you get assigned to a different patrol partner? With everything that's happened the last few years, you shouldn't need to stay so bloody close to him. It's not right."

Hermione offered him a half-smile and nodded. "Maybe. I'll see if someone wants to change it up. Thursdays I'm with Neville, so that'll be nice."

Ron's hand rested on the curve of her lower back stiffly, and his eyes darted away from hers as he mumbled the password to the Fat Lady, and they slipped up the stairs.

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This time Malfoy didn't stay silent for nearly as long, much to Hermione's displeasure.

"I just don't get it—" he began, his hands shoved deep in his trouser pockets.

"Yeah? Keep at it, Malfoy. I'm sure you're bound to get that basic reading level up with a little hard work." Her lips twitched in a smile as she pulled open a broom cupboard, deftly hitting the floor as a bat came flapping out, nearly slapping her in the forehead. "Bugger!"

Malfoy chuckled, seemingly unphased and held his palm out to her. She stared at his hand for a long moment, unsure if he was about to hex her with the other. After his head tilted to the side and he let out a snide breath, she took the gesture and rose ungracefully to her feet.

They hadn't spoken a word outside of their patrol the week prior, barely making eye contact, truthfully. Except for that one time outside the Great Hall when they'd nearly barrelled into each other and then continued on in a strange sidestep in the same direction… three times. Eventually, he placed his hands on her waist and lifted her off her toes, depositing her outside of his path and continued on his merry way without nary a look back.

Hermione had gone slack-jawed, her belly in a tangle of riotous nerves at having his hands on her in such a way. Heat had stained her cheeks, much as it did now, and once she'd made it halfway down the hall, she snuck a peek over her shoulder as Luna prattled on. She remembered vividly the hitch in her throat as she spotted his silver gaze also searching her out, and he turned, walking backward for a moment as he flicked his chin, tossing the hair from his eyes, and blew her a kiss and a wink.

The prat was insufferable.

"Yes," he drawled, bringing her back to the present. "Because despite nearly besting you—"

"Nearly being the operative word."

"For the past seven years—"

"Only six," she corrected haughtily. "We both were absent last year or else we wouldn't be here now."

Malfoy let out an exaggerated sigh, dragging his palm down his face before trying again. "Despite all of that, I actually can read at an acceptable level, Granger. I'll happily put my O.W.L.s up to yours any day."

Hermione rolled her eyes, her lips curling in a grin she couldn't help but hide. "I wouldn't advise it. You'd just be second… again." She looked up at him, sticking the tip of her tongue out and scrunching up her nose in the most immature gesture she could think of.

Malfoy deadpanned. "If you'd let me get my original thought out, you little swot, you'd find I was about to say that I was surprised you were dating Weasley."

Hermione's heart stuttered and slammed around her chest in a violent protest to retreat from this conversation. "Why should that surprise you?" she asked, poorly feigning disinterest.

"Uh, because he's a loser—"

Against her volition, a chuckle slipped over her tongue, and her hand moved up to swat at his chest with the back of her hand, much as she would do with Harry or Ron when they were taking the mickey out of her. But before her hand made contact, his impossibly fast reflexes shot out and gripped her wrist, tugging her a step closer. Her breath caught in her throat as he leered down at her, his normally light grey stare darkened.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk. That would make it the third time you've laid hands on me, Granger." He pulled her a little closer until she could feel her breasts bumping into his chest, and she felt something quicken deep in her belly. "And if there's a third, it better be in bed." His thumb swiped at the pulse point on the underside of her wrist, and her gaze fell to his parted lips.

The moment faded as his lips pulled up in his signature, smug smirk, and she yanked her hand out of his grasp and straightened her tidy robes. She blinked a few determined times and turned on her heel, staring a moment at the empty hall before remembering her route and charging towards it.

"You would like to be slapped around in bed, Malfoy." This was dangerous territory, one that her entire body leaned into even though her mind kept yanking at the reigns.

"And how would you presume to know that, Granger? Heard something you liked?"

Hermione scoffed, rolling her eyes as she pointed her wand in an empty classroom. "Of course not. It's just obvious you're a deviant."

That earned a bright peel of laughter, and Hermione balked over her shoulder at the wizard nearly doubled over. "Oh, Granger. You have absolutely no idea." There was another brief respite of his grating voice after his laughter subsided, but it seemed he was relentless to drop the subject. "I just can't see you and Weasley together. He's so… so…"

"So what? Kind? Thoughtful? Handsome?" Hermione listed off the attributes that she was so desperately trying to convince herself of. "I can see why you're insecure."

"Oh, Merlin." Malfoy took a few long strides to land in front of her, his hands curling around her forearms, and he shook her slightly. One hand came up to snap his fingers in front of her wide, confused eyes. "Have you been hexed? Love potion, probably. Maybe Imperious, though I doubt the dolt would know how to cast anything past a big fat Expelliarmous." Malfoy rolled his eyes, and with a small giggle, Hermione continued past him, ignoring the searing feeling his fingertips left in their wake.

"Don't be ridiculous. Ron and I have always had this—" Her brain knew the word she was thinking, but it didn't sound right, and it slipped over her tongue like vinegar. "Chemistry."

That annoying laughter filled the hall again, and Draco paused to hunch over as his booming laugh faded in the night air. "Granger, that chemistry must really be something, because whatever it is, it's turned your skin green, and you seem on the verge of vomiting."

"You couldn't possibly understand, Malfoy. Chemistry like Ron and I have, it's… well, it's once in a lifetime." Her chin tilted proudly as she spoke even though the valley between her brows creased, and she grimaced slightly when he wasn't watching.

"Right. This 'chemistry' you speak of... I'm sure it's something shared just between you and your beloved. It's painfully obvious with the way he lets his food roll around his gaping mouth half-chewed as you stare at him with adoring disgust. Or maybe it was the other day when he snatched the book you were reading and held it over your head and made you hop around like a petulant child."

Hermione winced. That particular moment had actually made her quite cross with Ron, and he'd simply thrown a playful elbow into her gut after handing it back to her and disappeared down the hall with Seamus. Truthfully, Hermione knew it wasn't supposed to be like this. She wasn't sure how it was supposed to be, but surely not like this.

There had been a hundred moments in her life when she wondered why she hadn't been placed in Ravenclaw. She had all the correct attributes, the right temperament; still, the sorting hat had insisted she was Gryffindor. Now that Hermione had seen a little bit of the world and experienced things a little more fully, she got it.

Hermione was someone that thrived on the rush. That surge of adrenaline when she climbed on an emaciated, barely freed dragon's back after storming Gringotts. That flood of chaotic energy as she wielded spell after spell on a battlefield. That low, burning deep in her belly when Viktor had slid his hands over her body the summer after fifth. There was a call inside her that felt quieted now that the war had ended.

She was marching blindly into a future with a half a dozen red-headed babies and an apron around her swollen belly and all with a boy she claimed she loved, even if she could at times barely stand him. But maybe… maybe that's what love was supposed to be. It wasn't sweeping romantic gestures and lust-filled trysts that left you panting—even if she wanted it to be.

Hermione felt deflated as she and Malfoy paused at the courtyard again, staring at the waning moon in silence. Something about this place and the peace that settled over them made her speak to him as if he weren't Malfoy, even if only for a moment.

"It's weird, isn't it? Being back?"

Draco hummed his response from the far side of the pillar.

Hermoine sat on the low-lying ledge, curling her feet under her. The crisp night air sent a chill through her, and she crossed her arms, rubbing absently at her forearms. "Nothing is like I thought it would be."

"Yeah, welcome to my life," he drawled, moving around the pillar to sit across from her, pushing his fringe back and away from his eyes.

A snide remark played on the tip of her tongue, but she bit it back. She didn't want to break the moment yet. "Are you glad you came back?"

Malfoy shrugged. "It was this or a year in Azkaban—so, yeah. Glad I came back."

When he'd been appointed a prefect upon entering their eighth year, the rest of them had nearly rioted. McGonagall in all her stoic wisdom had simply reminded them that in order to rise to the occasion, one must be given the opportunity. It seemed a bit of a stretch to her… after all, did he need to be given a prefects badge and no curfew?

"Is your boyfriend going to be waiting at the end of the hall for us to return? Scared I might steal you away in the dark of night or something?" Hermione's eyes snapped to Malfoy's and that feeling returned. That shy little flutter whenever he touched her, even when he teased her or just—looked at her like this. His silver gaze was lidded, his brows arched up, and his posture relaxed. In these moments, it was easy to forget he was Malfoy. He was almost just… Draco.

Her lips quirked up, her nose scrunching just a touch. "Maybe." Another long stretch of silence as Hermione rubbed at her arms, ignoring her partner's stare as she did so. "Malfoy?"

"Yeah?" His voice was low and husky.

"Do you really like to get slapped in bed? How on earth could you find that pleasurable?" She was half teasing, though honestly, she would like to know the answer at some point because it sounded quite awful.

He barked out a laugh and stood, adjusting his robes and carding a hand through his hair. "Oh, Granger. You innocent little lion cub."

Hermoine's brow furrowed, and she gulped, trying to swallow the flutter further down as she joined him in standing. "Guess that's it for the night then? Goodnight, Malfoy." She thrust her palm between them, and when he stared at her outstretched gesture and chuckled, mortification dripped over the length of her body. A handshake? Merlin, Morgana, and all four founders, she was an absolute dolt.

His cool touch wrapped around her hand, and he shook it once, his brows lowering as his thumb slid needlessly over the skin on top of her wrist. "Night, Granger. Tell Weasley I said hello."

A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold crawled up her spine as Draco turned on his heel and disappeared down the hall.