The Bodyguard

(Rated PG-13 for coarse language, sexual references and mature themes)

Disclaimer: While I have no proper one, I'll give it a shot ... The characters Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy and all other people, things, etc affiliated with the world of Harry Potter do not belong to me, but to J.K. Rowling. I am making no profits from this story. Shows like Hack and other entertainment programs, films, etc do not belong to me either, but to their creators, etc. Do not sue me. I own nothing (except for Tammy Harding - she's mine).

Summary: She was the successful, intelligent and hard-working Ministry official. He was the partying, rich and gorgeous playboy. But when Hermione Granger is unwittingly hired a bodyguard in the form of Draco Malfoy, the people who believe that opposites attract even say that they themselves are wrong ...

Right?

Note: Once again, French appears during this chapter. Use the wonders of Google Translator to figure it out. :)

Another Note: This chapter is for my buddy Leigh who turned the scary age of 15 on, coincidentally, 15th September. A long distance 'Happy Birthday' to Leigh (as the Yanks have taken you away) – and may your threats for a new chapter be quelled.

THE BODYGUARD

Chapter 12 – Observations

Draco Malfoy liked to think of himself as somebody that you could look up to when you desperately needed some help. Not that he would offer helpful advice.

No, Draco was more the type of person who waited for somebody in need to come crawling to him, begging for help. He, of course, would valiantly oblige, throwing in a few random smirks and smug looks.

Then in true Malfoy fashion, he would give troubled advice, and would kick back and relax whilst watching somebody else ruin their own life.

And so he found himself sitting in a cream coloured chair in the bedroom of Hermione Granger. He was indeed kicking back and relaxing, and was also watching somebody ruining their life.

Moonlight was seeping in through the small slits between the blinds which had not quite closed. It illuminated Hermione's pale blue blankets and sheets, the exposed parts lighter than the others. Her blankets periodically rose up and then down.

For some odd reason, Draco liked watching people sleep. He liked seeing how people acted when they didn't even know that they were being watched; when they ate, when they did work, and finally, when they slept.

He preferred the last out of all three of the previously mentioned. Draco found that when people slept they didn't really show any particular personality, not really any bias, prejudice, or beliefs. Just a seemingly dull face.

But one man's trash could be another's treasure. Considering that, Draco had found his jackpot. When studying people as they were sleeping, Draco took into consideration that when you sleep, your innermost personality, beliefs and feelings were shown through the face. A person would not be aware enough to be on their guard. Their feelings were up for exhibition.

And Draco loved that power.

He was a Malfoy – Draco Malfoy, none the less – and power that came into any form appealed to him. Even small amounts which other people weren't even aware of; he found that power to be the one which felt the best.

He studied Hermione's face.

It was crossed with what looked like frustration, sadness, and apprehension. Her brow was slightly furrowed as she breathed steadily in and out. Her mouth was turned down in a show of sadness. And a small wrinkling in her nose indicated apprehension.

It was after a few moments that Draco decided there was turmoil in Hermione's life; he wasn't sure if that was how she looked like normally when she was sleeping. He had never watched Hermione sleep, though he had never really shown any interest in it before.

Draco touched his lips with the tip of his thumb in a thinking pose, his elbow resting on its appropriate arm rest. He surely didn't want to create so much turmoil in Hermione's life; he was sure that what he did was making her anxious enough.

Draco looked over to the stack of dirty laundry in the corner of Hermione's bedroom. The corner of the envelope was barely visible, sticking out between a few differently coloured garments. He thought about the letter.

It was dodgy, to say the least.

Suspicious? Yes.

Badly-written? Of course.

Intended to scare? Maybe … he hadn't decided on that one yet.

Draco had been with his father before he had gone to jail. He had watched Lucius Malfoy write kidnap and death letters all the time, his face screwing up into a cruel smirk. It slightly sickened Draco that somebody could take pleasure into creating so much fear.

But then again, Draco was always a man of great contradiction.

The letter seemed to have the intention to scare as well as physically harm, and the contents was certainly written quite damning. It had been sent on an expensive looking sort of paper, light brown in colour.

And Draco knew how the writer was feeling when they had written the letter. He had done handwriting analysis in advertently when looking at his father when he wrote spiteful letters. Hard and strong strokes indicated an angry person; a person with slanted and lighter coloured writing was more likely to be more relaxed.

He knew how the writer had felt. Oh, did he know …

Hermione stirred in her sleep, a soft little sleeping moan escaping from her. She had turned slightly in her sleep, and was now on her back, as opposed to her previous position on her right side. Draco could see her face quite clearly now.

There was a form of restlessness on her face now; as if she were impatient after waiting for something. Her features frowned slightly. The moonlight was hitting her cheek bone mostly, giving her face a hollowed-out look.

Draco would never admit it, and he would never say it out loud or even fully acknowledge it; but if she hadn't been a muggleborn, but a pureblood, he would have had at least tried to subtly hit on her.

It was, it seemed; society's rule that if you were pretty, you needed a pretty partner. Draco's eyebrows knotted in thought. Did that mean he was a pretty boy?

No, of course not, he reassured himself quickly. There's nothing wrong with being a pretty boy, though … he added.

Hermione groaned again in her sleep, and shifted into a presumably more comfortable position. Her hair was being hit by the moonlight now.

Draco kept on thinking. He was never this restless when he slept; at least, he didn't think he was. Once he got into bed and turned off the lights and closed his eyes; that was the way he stayed for the rest of his sleep. He hardly ever moved. He could tell from his positioning when he woke up that he barely moved at all.

Draco even remembered as a child he measured the distance between his nose and his nightstand; it came in at 25cm. Then, when he woke up in the morning, he measured the distance again; 23cm. He found it fascinating to discover things you didn't even know about yourself.

By now, Draco was aware that he was feeling quite groggy. The cream arm chair, though small, was surprisingly comfortable. He vaguely remembered there had been pillows on it when he sat down.

But now he was feeling cold, as well as tired. Looking around, he realised that his blanket had been left on the sofa. Frowning, he looked forlornly at the doorway, hoping that he would get his blanket silently. He did not want to wake up Hermione; it would ruin the look on her face. He knew that if she discovered he was watching her, she would deliberately put on a fake face when she went to sleep.

'The Accio charm could work …' he thought to himself as he settled languidly on the cushions. 'No, that would be too loud,'

So Draco had to do without his 900 thread count blanket. He looked around wistfully; he was, after all, Draco Malfoy. There was no way that he would sleep without a blanket when he needed one.

Hermione's pink, fluffy dressing gown was resting on the edge of the bed. Draco presumed that whenever she woke up she would grab it and pull it on; then be ready to tackle the day, and Draco's comments.

So he grabbed the bathrobe and it covered him from the chest down to his ankles. Draco crossed his legs, and the bathrobe ended up pooling on the floor in front of him. At least he was warm.

And, for the rest of the time he was awake, Draco studied Hermione Granger's face. He noticed that she had dimples when her eyebrows knitted. He noticed that sometimes when she slept her mouth would be slightly open; that she curled up into a ball during most of her sleep.

He fell asleep watching her face.

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The clock hit 06.30.

"Alright, up and at them, you lazy girl!" the alarm clock on Hermione's bedside table started screeching. "Oh come on, you can't have had that many tequilas' last night that you can't get up …"

Hermione groaned loudly and reached out for the stupid clock. Yes, it came from Harry. Yes, it insulted. Yes, she was trying to destroy it. Her hand batted at it irritably and insistently.

"OW! Watch it, you ham-fisted cow!" the alarm clock yelled. Finally, Hermione found the off button and managed to shut the stupid thing up. She heard a yawn.

"Enjoying yourself there?" Draco had obviously been woken up as well, and he was stretching like a cat from his position in the arm chair.

"Hardly," she replied stonily, sitting up and patting around blindly for her bathrobe.

Draco took a subtle notice at what she was wearing – a pink satin top, from his angle. When she had gone to bed the night before, she had on an oversized T-shirt and boxer shorts; not in the least sexy.

"What happened to the t-shirt?" he asked casually, gladly noting that he had the bathrobe she was looking for as a blanket on him.

"What?" she asked groggily, wiping at her hair.

"I said, what happened to the t-shirt?" Draco pulled up the bathrobe and folded it, placing the end result on his lap. "Your pyjamas,"

"Huh? Oh, sometimes I take it off at night when it's too hot." Draco raised an eyebrow slightly. Who knew that the sensible, laced up Hermione Granger wore slightly … well … naughty sleepwear?

"Where the bloody heck is my bathrobe?" she suddenly exclaimed in frustration.

"Are you always this uncoordinated in the morning?" Draco asked, folding his arms. He enjoyed watching Hermione when she was annoyed; there was something entertaining about it.

"No, but I'm ready to be angry in the morning," she said, and pushed back the cover. Hermione walked over to Draco, having finally spotted her bathrobe, her nightgown at a sensible mid-calf length. "I'll thank you for giving that back to me," she snapped waspishly, yanking the bathrobe from his lap.

"You're quite welcome," he replied with a smug smile.

Tottering about in her bathrobe, Hermione made it to the bathroom and closed the door. Draco got up and headed for the kitchen.

Try as she might, Hermione Granger could not hide all of the pent-up emotions swimming around inside of her. As she started wetting her face towel with some hot water, Hermione looked into the mirror. The usual tired, grumpy and reddish face looked back.

Then she drew focus to her eyes.

It was with a slight face of dismay that she remembered what had happened last night. She had confessed everything, everything to Draco bloody Malfoy. She remembered how she had yelled at him with reckless abandon whilst he had a scraped cheek and was cowering on the armrest of her couch. She remembered slamming her bedroom door.

She remembered crying.

Hermione looked back into the mirror. Her eyes would have been bloodshot; almost as red as her cheeks were now. Suddenly a thought hit her, and she felt sick.

Draco Malfoy knew everything personal about her life.

And the worse thing was, she had told him everything that he knew. She may have been in a state of slight hysteria, but she had still told him.

An abrupt burning sensation met her fingers. Swearing, Hermione realised that she had left the hot water on for her face towel and had forgotten to turn it off. In new found anger, she wrenched on the cold water tap, and her fingers were instantly greeted with more scalding hot water; water needed time to cool down in between changing temperatures.

"Argh, crap!" she said, angrily pulling her finger away. It was a deep red colour, and it stung profusely. This was probably the only other thing she needed.

When the water had cooled down, Hermione pushed her hand underneath the steady flow once again, and was satisfied that the stinging feeling had disappeared.

Blooming heck she wished she could change her life.

It wasn't the first time that she had contemplated the thought; when she had been labelled a know-it-all by Snape, or Draco himself during school years, she had often wondered why she didn't change and become a know-it-all in the areas that weren't magical; why she hadn't just returned to normal school and live her life with the secret of being a witch.

But then, being the smart witch that she was, Hermione had realised how complicated it would have been, how resentful she would have been, and how lucky she was – you were lucky if you were born magical; twice as much if you weren't but acquired the gene. And, besides, Hermione Granger was an appreciative person. So she would appreciate her gift.

Whether she liked it or not.

After finishing up in the bathroom, Hermione came out, not-quite-ready for the onslaught that Draco would imminently bring. She was sure that when she sat down at the kitchen table - cutting up pears to put into her cereal – Draco would pop out of nowhere and say something like, "Still want to confide in me, Granger?" with a giant, annoying smirk on his face.

But when she sat down and started pouring milk into her bowl of bran (the pears had already cut themselves up) and Draco sat down opposite her, he didn't say anything. He wasn't watching her, or even giving the slightest hint of doing so.

Her cereal emitted crunching noises as she pushed the bran underneath the layer of milk. It provided an awkward noise filler in between the two.

She looked at him quickly through side glances. He was calmly sorting through the fruit bowl on the table, distracted superficially. Overturning an orange here, gently tossing aside an apple there. Draco Malfoy seemed collected; perhaps even bored.

And Hermione knew that whenever Draco Malfoy was bored, he was bound to create fun for himself. Trying to ignore her intuitive side, however, she scooped up some bran and pear and shovelled it into her mouth.

'It's here; right here. He's going to say something … NOW!' Hermione thought; sub-consciously leaving a spot of silence for Draco to comment. There was nothing.

Hermione swallowed and half-heartedly returned to her bowl; the ticking of her wall clock piercing the noise.

There was a clinking of glass on something fine, and Hermione's head snapped instinctively to the glass bowl. However, it turned out to be nothing more than Draco accidentally hitting the bowl with his polished fingernails.

Hermione spooned another mouthful of bran and pear into her mouth.

"So, Granger," Draco smiled superlatively at her, his white teeth camouflaging into his pale skin.

'Here we go,' Hermione thought. She chewed as she waited for him to finish his sentence.

"Got any other hot gossip on yourself that you would like to report?" Draco's teeth stayed where they were; the prospect, let alone sight, of Draco Malfoy smiling for so long, was rather daunting.

Hermione cleared her throat and kept chewing. Silence was infuriating; she had learnt that just then.

"No?" Draco asked, his grey eyes flitting over her chewing figure. He seemed to be searching for lost; untold information. "Anything else about work, perhaps, you would like to report on?"

'I'd like to fire you,' she thought bitterly, swallowing.

'Yeah right,' the evil voice said in her head. 'Maybe you would if he wasn't so good looking and so smart and so witty and so –'

'Shut up,' she thought tiredly. Was it really that normal to be fighting with the voices in your head?

"So nothing on work then," Draco said, his spoon twirling around in the cereal bowl. He lowered his head to meet her eyes with his. Hers were previously staring at the table before they were confronted with the sight of Draco's. She looked away, blinking.

"Well; there's got to be something that you'd like to divulge to me," Draco asked innocently. His fingers returned to the fruit bowl, and he made a little satisfied noise when he picked out a few cherries. "How's your love life, Granger?" he asked, as he popped one of the red fruits symbolically.

Hermione cleared her throat. If that had not happened to her, she would have been laughing. However, that had just happened to her, and she was not in the mood for this kind of behaviour. Not that she ever was in the first place.

"Come up with a blank, again?" Draco, in his clearly self-satisfied smirk, delighted in tormenting Hermione. Goodness knew with all that pent-up energy, and being sober in the morning was giving him a new lease on life – screw up Hermione's one.

Hermione mumbled something.

"What was that?" Draco swallowed the cherry he had been chewing contentedly. His lips were stained a pale red colour; clashing somewhat with his pale skin.

"I said 'screw you', Malfoy." Hermione repeated frostily.

"Well, I would gladly welcome that," Draco's cherry lips spread into a wide, toothy smile. "And here I was thinking that your love life was positively over. Pardon me; I am quite mistaken."

"Quite," Hermione agreed.

The spoon in her bran and pear was tapping incessantly against the bowl she was using; the rhythm steadily growing quicker, until she dropped the spoon altogether and leaned back in her chair.

Draco was leaning on his arm. Hermione hoped that his elbow would slip off the table and his chin would come into contact with the table in nice, clean thump.

"I'm – I'm going to work," she said in a tone that was both decisive yet confused. Hermione went and grabbed her coat from her bedroom doorknob.

Draco smirked. He had certainly gotten under her goat.

"Leaving so soon?" Draco got up from the table as Hermione started pulling on her coat. "Why don't you show me some manners? I'm here, trying to make conversation with you, and you ignore me! Rudeness …" Draco gave her another self-satisfied smirk. Hermione could feel her face burning.

Right now, it was a little pink in colour. Soon, it would be full blown blushing.

"Though I do have to note that you were quite responsive yesterday; I didn't even have to say anything and you just wouldn't shut up …"

Red.

"I used to think that you talking had its merits; however, now, I seem to be quite happy for you to be yapping away,"

Tomato.

"So, one more time, anything else you'd like to say?"

"Drop dead, Malfoy." Was the reply he received, before Hermione Apparated to the office.

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The office was once again alive with busy and buzzing activity. Paper airplanes with little messages inside whizzed around above peoples' heads. The place smelled like pumpkin juice; whether it had come straight from the pitcher or in somebody's mug. Conservative wizarding types were walking around in their sensible robes and work shoes. Most were carrying earmarked pages covered in highlighter.

Most of them.

Tamara Harding was bending over a solid looking wooden desk, her originally un-sensible work skirt now pooling up above her knees. She seemed to be reaching for something on the top of a cubicle.

"Morning, Tammy," Hermione greeted. Tammy jerked up suddenly and her knees collided painfully with the desk.

"Ow – hello, Hermione." She rubbed her knees and peered at them, pouting. "How are you?" she asked, looking up, but still rubbing her knees.

"Fine … I guess …" Hermione's face twisted as she recalled the past events.

"Are you sure?" Tammy asked, the painful twangs in her knees disappearing slowly.

Hermione cleared her throat. "Yes, I'm fine." She offered a hand.

"Thanks," Tammy grunted, flashing her immaculate smile as she took the hand, and hoisted herself up. "Now, do you want some pumpkin juice?"

"Sure," Hermione smiled, slowly following her to the table carrying the pitcher of juice.

What was wrong with her? Usually, Hermione would tell Tammy everything about her life – what it is was like to be eating a TV dinner whilst watching bad soap opera re-runs; what is was like being the boss of the office and being totally lost in it all; what shampoo and conditioner she used; which destination she'd like most to travel to; which famous wizard and which famous muggle she'd like to marry; everything.

Tammy had been there through it all – like one of those metaphorical sisters; though Hermione preferred not to think of her in such a sappy way, even though Tammy deserved that title very much.

So why wasn't she telling Tammy about the letter? About the potentially life-threatening letter; no matter how much of a dud it was bound to be.

Hermione opened her mouth.

"Tammy, I've got to tell you some—"

"Bonjour, mon cancrelat laid." Draco's smooth voice cut Hermione mid-sentence, just before he gave Hermione a warning look.

"Bonjour, yourself!" Tammy squealed happily; slipping her arms around Draco's neck. Hermione looked away. This wasn't exactly a comforting sight.

"Je trouve vos cheveux sales et en mauvais état." Draco sprouted further, playing around with Tammy's brown hair.

"Je souhaite que vous cessiez de taquiner cette personne.." Hermione muttered to herself than anyone.

"Jamais." Draco said back. Tammy giggled. "Votre tête est pleine d'air." Hermione snorted, and Tammy gave her a slightly reproachful look.

"I'm going." Hermione turned on her heel and headed for her office. It seemed like she only did so because she either didn't want to hear Tammy getting insulted further; or because she remembered what she was doing with Draco Malfoy and that stupid mouth of his last night.

And how he knew how to use it.

Boy, did he know how to use it.

Making an irritated noise to herself, Hermione pushed open her office door and seated herself in her familiar squishy armchair.

This place, her office, was one of the most secure places to her in the entire world. It was her own little private quarters, a place where she could do as she pleased amongst the demands of work. Hermione often thought of it as a home away from home.

She had barely settled herself in her chair when Draco opened the door and walked in.

"Had enough fun for one day?" Hermione asked ruefully as she started on the morning's filing.

"Not quite," Draco smirked, standing right next to Hermione's chair. He crossed his arms; one hand subconsciously reaching into his robes to manage a firm grip on his wand.

"What are you doing?" Hermione asked, noticing his close proximity. Usually, he was at least two metres behind her, looking more bored than anything.

"Bodyguard-ing." Draco quipped.

"What?" Hermione asked incredulously.

"Bodyguard-ing." Draco repeated. "I'm guarding your body."

"Yes, well can't you guard my body from a distance?" Hermione asked irritably.

"That wouldn't work then, would it?" Draco asked smugly.

"What is up with you?" she suddenly asked. Draco raised an eyebrow.

"Pardon?"

"I said, what is wrong with you?" Hermione snapped irritably.

"I don't know about you, Granger, but I at least, seem to harbour some … thoughts on that little letter you received –" Instantly Draco knew he had made a mistake.

"What?" she asked deadly. Silently.

"Nothing." Draco said promptly. He had to lie pretty profusely to get himself out of this situation.

"No, it wasn't 'nothing'." Hermione slowly got up from her chair. Draco was averting her eyes. "What did you say?"

"I said 'nothing'." Draco said; a bored look over his face as he looked at her.

"Before that," Hermione insisted, getting a little impatient.

"Nothing," Draco repeated firmly.

"Tell me," she said.

"Fine!" Draco said, uncrossing his arms. "I read your stupid little letter, OK?" Hermione's face was grim.

"How dare you do such a thi –"

"No, I'm sorry, that's the wrong answer." Draco intercepted. He took the opportunity of Hermione being momentarily silenced to continue. "Granger, you got sent a note from somebody's who wants to kidnap you. Kidnap you."

He took note of her flustered face.

"And yet you seem to live your little life on, despite it. You don't tell your friends. You don't tell your boyfriend," Draco spat out that last word with a little contempt, to his surprise, "and you don't even tell your bodyguard."

"So?" Hermione seemed to have remembered that she could a say in this discussion. "It's none of your business."

"It's my business if you're going to get hurt." Draco said quietly.

Hermione's brain stopped working. Since when did Draco Malfoy care about her?

No, wait, scratch that.

Since when did Draco Malfoy care about anybody?

"Since when did you care about me?" she asked, voicing her thoughts exactly.

"Since I am the bodyguard," Draco replied.

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It was during lunch that it happened.

Hermione was enjoying a nice sandwich (chicken, lettuce, mayonnaise) and some pumpkin juice at her desk. She was going through some Ancient Rune papers (Hermione's equivalent of fun puzzles from the newspaper some people do) and happily decoding by using the key at the bottom of the page when …

A tapping at the window.

Hermione dropped her quill with a shaky hand, nearly knocking over her ink pot. The last time she had heard that noise, something bad had happened, to say the least. And so to hear it again in such a short amount of time was not healthy.

Draco, in the meantime, had turned around and opened the window. A small letter, like the one he had opened when he was watching Hermione sleep, fell onto the window sill, addressed simply to 'Hermione Granger'.

"Where the heck is the owl?" Draco asked bemusedly, letter in one hand, scratching his head with the other.

'Crap.' Hermione thought. She got up and snatched the letter from Draco's hands.

"Oi!" Draco protested, whirling around. He made to re-snatch the letter back; but Hermione had already opened it.

Tick, tock.

Tick, tock.

Tick, tock.

It's just a matter of time …

Hermione paled. She had been secretly clinging onto the hope that the first letter was really just a hoax; or something that was just a joke. A cruel, merciless hoax – yet still a hoax.

This wasn't a hoax.

"Give me that –" Draco grabbed the letter from Hermione's growingly limp hands. The energy came rushing back into her form as soon as the letter left her hands.

She didn't want him to see it – a stupid idea – perhaps because she wanted something; anything that was currently personal to her not to be exposed. Hermione knew that was stupid – risking her own safety for something private to remain in her private life. A part of her let Draco take it.

" 'Tick, tock'?" Draco asked incredulously. "This person has ridiculously bad writers' block." Hermione blinked.

"What?" she asked.

"You heard me," Draco said in a tired voice, reading the letter over. "Anyone could have written this – you're deranged boyfriend, as you say, even could have."

"What?" she repeated. Draco rolled his eyes and dropped the letter onto her Ancient Runes paper with a plop.

"I'm saying that it could have been anybody who sent you that letter – don't discount anybody." Draco said simply. Hermione looked at him oddly. He seemed to be taking this quite well. Then again, he wasn't the one being threatened.

"Even the 'deranged boyfriend', as you put it?" Hermione asked carefully.

"You said he was the 'deranged boyfriend' originally," Draco lied.

"When did I say that?"

"A while ago,"

"You remember things I said 'a while ago'?" Hermione asked incredulously, on the verge of laughing.

"Bouncing ferrets do have good memories."

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Why was she even here?

It was seven o'clock at night, and Hermione was standing at Tom's door. It was a navy blue one, made of wood, and had a brass door knocker on it. She had a sudden urge to run; or Apparate away from where she currently was.

Where did she get this sudden urge to come here? Certainly, it hadn't stemmed from a lot of careful thought and consideration. She hadn't, as a matter of fact, given any thought or consideration into this. It seemed almost spontaneous.

Gathering up her courage, and in advertently holding in her breath, Hermione grabbed the door knocker and knocked three times.

"Just a minute!" Tom called. Hermione was fiddling with one of her nails. It was a little habit she had when she was nervous. Once again, she considered running away.

Before she even had time to move, however, the door swung open.

There stood Tom in a nice grey, woollen jumper and black pants. His hair was all messy and he was wiping his hands with a damp dish towel. From the looks of things, it seemed like he had been playing around with an ink set; there was ink on his fingers and on the dish towel; and expensive paper was littered around the home.

"Hermione!" he said, the dish towel falling to the ground as he gave her a small kiss on the lips. She managed a smile.

"Hello, Tom," she said in a bit of a forced voice.

"Come in, come in!" he said, stepping back from the doorway in order to let her through. "I've just been practising some calligraphy."

"Er, no it's OK." Hermione said. Tom, his face showing a slightly deflated look, stood back into the doorway.

"Are you alright?" he asked, one hand gripping onto the doorframe.

"Not really, no." she replied. Hermione grimaced and looked at the bottom of the door whilst she thought about how to break this to Tom in the nicest way possible.

"Well, can I do anything for you, then?" he asked. He followed her eyes down to the pavement. "Are my stairs sticky or something?"

"Oh, no," Hermione looked up. How was she going to say this? "Look, Tom, I think that …"

"Mmm?" he asked, still looking at the pavement.

"I think that we should … see other people."

Tom looked up. "What?"

"I think that we should see other people," she repeated.

"But ... but …" Tom looked sadly around, as if his question and its answer were somehow floating around Hermione's head. "Why?"

'Because you could have written the note,' a sudden thought popped into Hermione's head. Hermione gulped. It was all falling into place now – Tom, the neglected boyfriend whose deprived of Hermione's presence; Tom, the person who had access to expensive looking paper; Tom, the guy who had just been writing something mysteriously as she arrived.

He wrote the note.

"I think we should see other people because …"

'You have homicidal tendencies.' She completed in her mind.

"We shouldn't continue if I never see you – you're being left to your own devices far too much than you should be if you were seeing someone. And I have to do it for me too. I'm finding it hard to relate to you emotionally because we never see each other." Hermione sprouted. Momentarily, she thought that she was writing an essay and everything seemed so methodical; logical.

"But we see each other!" Tom said, straightening up from his previous position. "See? You're with me right now! That's got to count for something,"

"Not when it's to break up." She whispered to herself. "I'm sorry, Tom, but … we have to end it. I don't want to continue this anymore."

"OK," Tom accepted suddenly. "I'm sure that one day we'll get back together."

"Tom, I don't think that –"

"One day, you will see how you were wrong, Hermione Granger." Tom maintained firmly. "We'll be back together, and you'll wonder why you did this."

"I seriously don't think, Tom, that –"

"One day, Hermione. One day." Tom said. He gave her a small peck on the cheek. "Until that day ..."

"Goodbye, Tom."

She Apparated back to her apartment.

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(Sorry if this part is a bit fluffy; I didn't feel like evil-Draco at this particular moment)

Once again, Hermione found her love in ice cream. She was perched precariously on a small, black iron barstool of a chair that was against the kitchen countertop. A trashy soap opera was playing on TV; the borders of the screen misted in a computer generated haze.

Currently, a particularly bold and beautiful character was arguing with another bold and beautiful character about the validity of the first character's mother's heart attack.

"I'm going to die! Die because of what your mother has fabricated, just to drive us apart!" the second bold and beautiful character's yelled, melodramatic tears streaming down her pretty face.

"Lucky cow." Hermione deadpanned, scooping her spoon further into the depths of chocolate chip.

"What do we have here?" Draco entered the scene, spotting the television. "Ooh, this show is good!" He plopped down on the couch, before he had time to correct his mistake.

"You like this show?" Hermione asked dully but incredulously, her spoon no longer moving.

"No." Draco said, averting his eyes from the television.

"You do! You just said so!" Hermione smiled slightly. "Draco Malfoy, pureblood Slytherin, enjoying something Muggle. This is a sight."

"I'm not enjoying it," he cut through smoothly. He spied the ice cream container. "Though, you seem to be enjoying that ice cream of yours,"

"It's been a long day," Hermione said, her spoon digging again. Draco got up and got a spoon. He plopped himself, to Hermione's surprise, directly opposite to her.

"You've been out," he said, smiling triumphantly at his deduction.

"No I haven't." Hermione lied instantly.

"Yes you have." Draco smiled, scooping some ice cream.

"No I haven't!" Hermione repeated.

"See how it feels like now?" Draco asked, slowly pulling the oval part of the spoon out of his mouth.

"Shut up," she said.

There were a few seconds of actual silence, before Draco once again started talking.

"So where did you go?" he asked, dipping the spoon again.

"I didn't go anywhere." Hermione said in a tired tone of voice.

"You've got that ridiculously pink cotton coat on. You've been out." Draco smugly said.

"I do not wear this coat just to go out!" Hermione was shocked.

"Do you ever wear it inside?" Draco asked, once again pulling the spoon slowly out of his mouth. Hermione watched him.

"What?" she asked, slightly drugged at the sight of him sensually eating ice cream. God, this man could make anything sexy, she realised.

"I said, 'do you ever wear it inside?'. Goodness, Granger, you need to pay more attention," Draco smirked. Oh so fun to tamper with her mind.

"Well, no," she said as he dipped the spoon into the container.

"Exactly; you've been out." The ice cream rolled smoothly onto his spoon. "So what did you do?"

"Break up." Hermione said. Draco's spoon stopped rolling.

"What?"

"I said, 'break up.' Goodness, Malfoy, you need to pay more attention," Hermione smirked a little to herself, before returning to the ice cream.

"Ahh, is your little boyfriend crushed?" Draco asked. He didn't know why, but he felt quite buzzing inside. It was probably the amounts of sugar in this ice cream.

"Ex-boyfriend," Hermione offered. Draco swallowed his latest spoonful and stopped, placing the spoon onto the countertop. He studied Hermione. She wasn't taking any of the bait tonight; she seemed almost too tired/heartbroken/whatever the heck it was, to do anything. She was almost friendly when she wasn't ready to hurt him.

"Why did you break up with him?" he asked. The spoon remained on the countertop. The ice cream was going to ruin his physique.

"I don't know." Hermione lied.

"You're lying." Draco said at once. He knew when he was being lied to; he was a Malfoy, after all.

"Why do you want to know, anyway?" Hermione asked flatly. There was no stirring energy in her that empowered her to abuse Malfoy with her ridiculously large vocabulary. It was gone; all gone.

"Curiosity for the large part, I guess." Draco slowly wiped some of the little beads of water forming on the outside of the container away. Hermione stared, her cheeks going inexplicably red. "But any information is good information. I've got to protect you, you know," he added in when she looked at him quizzically.

"Oh, really Malfoy, do you think that I went out to cause more danger to myself?" Hermione snapped.

"No, but like I said … any information is good information." Hermione ducked her head down and focused on the little brown chips in the smooth, rolling hills of vanilla. There was a flash of grey – Draco's eyes. He was trying to get her to look at her.

She looked up and at then at him. He had folded his arms on the countertop, and he was bent forward; toward her. He had pulled up the sleeves of his button down shirt up to elbows, and his hair was ruffled. It looked a bit wet – he had just taken a shower. And he smelt nice. Draco Malfoy smelt nice.

Hermione snorted at her observation. She thought Draco smelt nice. How very odd.

"I thought he wrote the letter." She confessed.

'But is that all?' she suddenly thought. 'There wasn't any other contributing factor to that, at all?' Then it dawned on her. And it wasn't a good dawning.

"Well, I guess that's justified then, isn't it?" Draco asked, blinking a bit to get his hair out of his eyes. "Your breaking up with little lover boy was justified."

"What does that prove?" she asked.

"Absolutely nothing," Draco said, not joking at all. He paused. If he wasn't joking at all, then why did he say it? Surely not to comfort the girl?

He wasn't attracted to Hermione. OK, he wasn't entirely attracted to Hermione. There were tiny, miniscule sparks when he had snogged her for his own benefit, but apart from that, there was nothing.

"I guess this is the part where I break down in tears and you play hero and comfort me with a great big snog," Hermione concluded wryly, surprised at her boldness. Draco raised an eyebrow. "I cry, you let out your closet romantic, and we proceed to snog for the next half hour."

"Excuse me?" Draco asked. Since when did Hermione Granger develop gall?

"You heard me." She said, going back to the ice cream.

Draco got up, picking up his spoon. He walked to the sink, washed the utensil, and then put it in its appropriate spot in the drawer.

"Just so you know, Granger, I am not a closet romantic." Draco countered, leaning into her ear.

CLANG!

The spoon Hermione had been holding fell onto the countertop, bouncing once. But of course, nobody took notice of that. Especially not when Hermione Granger had flung herself at Draco Malfoy.

When you break up with somebody, you almost always go on a rebound relationship. Hermione needed a rebound relationship. Draco was a rebound relationship.

"Granger –" Draco murmured against her lips in surprise.

"Call me Hermione," she said, tangling her fingers through his hair. It was so silky, so soft …

"Hermione –" Draco said, even more surprised than usual.

"Mm?" she asked as she pushed him against the wall of the kitchen, breathing heavily and she kissed him. Suddenly, she felt like doing nothing else but snogging him senseless; making him inane from all that kissing she was about to inflict.

Draco encountered a mental blank. All he could think about, all he could fathom, was that Hermione Granger was snogging him uncontrollably, skilfully, voluntarily, against the wall of her kitchen.

Her hands were pushing through his hair, messing it up. He didn't care. His hands were roaming against the small of her back. She didn't care. She was nibbling on his lip. She paused to let him nibble back. They both didn't care.

'This is wrong,' a small voice in Draco's head popped up. 'She's on the rebound, Draco. Rebound. She doesn't really mean to kiss you like there's no tomorrow. If you're anything of a gentleman, you'll stop this right now before she regrets it.'

Draco was dimly aware that Hermione had now stopped kissing him and was leaning her forehead against his, breathing heavily. Her eyes were closed, her hands roaming all over the collar of his shirt. She started pulling at the buttons.

Then again, who said that Draco Malfoy had to be a gentleman?

He heard her inhale deeply as her fingers momentarily stopped. "You smell nice," she said, lazily tugging at the buttons once more.

"Thank you, Grang - Hermione." Draco tried. It felt weird to call her by her first name. He closed his eyes when she pried open the second button. He didn't want to say it, he really didn't, but his stupid bloody conscience was nagging him.

He was surprised he even had a conscience.

"Hermione," Draco groaned, frustrated at how the extremely small part of him that was decent had taken over.

Her fingers worked quicker. Past the fourth button. She tilted her head upwards and started kissing him again. He tasted like ice cream … God.

"Hermione –" Draco tried again. She tasted like ice cream. Dear Merlin.

"Shut up," she said as her mouth started moving frantically.

'OK, then,' he thought.

But he might as well have shaken his head crazily – he couldn't let her do this! It was a bloody rebound relationship; and he knew that when she realised what she had started, he would have to pick up the pieces.

All the buttons were finished. She was trying to ease the shirt off his shoulders when –

"No." Draco said firmly, pushing her back lightly. He rolled his shoulders forward, his shirt closing inward slightly.

"No?" Hermione asked, surprised. She then smiled and went in for another kiss on the lips. Draco thought that it wasn't fair how good she was at pulling him back in the ignoring of his conscience. He pushed her away.

"No." he repeated. He was going to regret this … "You're going to regret this."

"No, I'm not," Hermione said, giggling, as she leant forward. Her hands were trying to get the blasted shirt off …

"Are you drunk?" Draco suddenly asked; Hermione wouldn't normally act like this. She was prim, proper, composed … not some ditzy little girl who acted like she had never kissed anybody with serious intent before.

"No, I am not drunk!" Suddenly, normal Hermione came back, and Draco seemed relieved. "God, Malfoy!"

"What?" he asked, eyebrows knitted, shirt still open.

"Just … God!" she exclaimed angrily. He continued to look perplexed. "You act like you want me; what with all that ridiculous kissing – and then you just reject my advances? What are you – gay?"

"I am not g-"

"You might as well be!" Hermione snapped, snapping the lid back onto the ice cream container which she had abandoned. "Either you're confused about your sexuality or you don't have enough brain power to be confused about your sexuality."

There was a short humming sound as she opened the freezer door and deposited the ice cream.

"I am not confused about sexuality." Draco said, shirt still open.

"So you're going for the latter?" Hermione asked, crossing her arms angrily.

"You were embarking on a rebound relationship, Granger!" Draco pointed out. Hermione noted that it was now back to last-name references. "Rebounds are never good."

"Then what the hell is your love life supposed to be?" Hermione spat.

"I don't rebound. I have short acquaintances." Draco quipped. Hermione could have punched him – again- for that ridiculously superior tone he had in his voice. She wanted to knock him off his high horse.

Hermione made a loud, angry noise from the back of her throat and stormed off to her bedroom.

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He was watching her again.

This time around, Draco found himself seated in that nice cream coloured chair. And he had his nice, comfortable instead of that bathrobe to keep him warm.

Tonight, Hermione was sleeping on her back, her hair splayed messily around her. Her features seemed more relaxed. Her eyebrows were knitted, but not as much as the night before. Her nose was smooth. Her mouth was red; a vivid, bitten red.

Merlin, he didn't want to admit it. He didn't even want to think about it. But he had to – Draco had learnt that confronting all the things on the inside made you understand yourself better, and therefore you could use yourself to your advantage more when dealing with people or situations.

So he had to face it – Hermione was a damn good kisser. He snorted; she probably read a book about the subject when she was at school and kept the information locked away in her mind, waiting for it to come into good use one day.

He had to confront it – he had enjoyed it. Who wouldn't like getting their brains snogged out by a person who really knew how to use that mouth?

He had to accept it – if his stupid conscience hadn't gotten to him, he probably would have let her do whatever she wanted, and consequently let her self-destruct.

Damn it – he should have let her self-destruct.

Draco continued staring at her. Just because the woman knew how to kiss, and had exhibited that fact rather well previously, it did not mean that he was in love with her.

Love. Draco snorted at the mere concept.

What Hermione exhibited before was lust – something usually mistaken for the elusive emotion, which is given by some, received from others, and confusing for all.

Lust and the thought of being lonely for the rest of her life (probably one of the most common triggers for a rebound relationship) drove her to Draco. Then reality set in, she called him gay, he was semi-naked and confused, and had ultimately left her angry.

The world sucked when it wanted to.

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Author's Note: It's over! The chapter is over! You can rejoice because you will no longer have to strain your eyes in order to read page after page of story!

Apologies for the lateness of the chapter – homework, depravity of internet, depravity of fast computer and many, many, many screenings of House MD and Law and Order: Criminal Intent have caused me to slightly abandon the story. But hey – this chapter was 23 pages long. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Thankies to all the wonderful people who reviewed Chapter 11 – you will receive your imaginary gift of 10kg of Swiss chocolate, as well as some strawberries and some other fruits, plus fondue (of the cheese or chocolate variety) to dip your fruit in it.

Collect your present if you're: HGDM lova, slykitten, dizzydragon, Hgbookworm, Nathifa Femi, BIGHARRYFAN, Mordibly Ori, Jenna (who gets two!), Hazelocean, Kidden, Grace, blonde-brain, Christi-Lynn, texangal1991, mea, XxInstanityxX, DracozGirl, Tacroy, .Aurorablu., princess-amelia, kerry, macbeaner, degrassichick, Megan, F-chan1, mAI, alien726, c-orruptiion, OphidiaHerba, Steelo (who gets two!), ashira-BoOkLoVeR, Leather and Libraries, natyslacks, aphrodite, xOxOkIsSmYaSsXoXo, kawaiitie, unknown, Fiona McKinnon, TheFlameFaerie, SlytherinHotness, Krazee-Reader, Dragon (who gets three!), TheAnglesShadow, Alateriel567 (who gets two!), hermionebabe1, Mess531y, singingcowgirl, Lady Venya of the Isle, NitenGale, sliversun, skittlelove, F4nfic-F4n4tic, Sukimono Mizu, Michelle, LivingImpared, Ale, BakuraLover75, RavensWritingProphecies, Shannon, luvyou4ever, Fair Cruelty, punkprincess92, katherinep (hi, Kat!), Shy-Lil-Dreamer, HarryPotterObsessed, Poseidon's Chickadee, Sunflower18, livetoeat06, Dark Blossem and MoonyMeg.

Thank you again!

Okies, following the suggestion of one of my reviewers, the next present I will give will not be chocolate! For clicking that wonderful little button and reviewing, you shall all receive GOURMET JELLY BEANS! Yay – everybody likes gourmet jelly beans!

The apples and pears argument in Chapter 11 wasn't actually an argument about apples and pears – more like purebloods and muggleborns. Apologies if I sound patronising or if you already knew that …

Until the next chapter of wonderful angsty goodness featuring sexy bad boy Draco, demure and confused Hermione, and a whole lot of other … stuff.

Your devoted fanfiction writer,

—Look at Moiye, Ploise!—