Hermione wasn't sure why she was surprised that Draco would still be able to irk and irritate her. Just because she had grown to appreciate his humor and complexity and downright sexiness did not mean the boy wasn't still Draco Malfoy and all that entailed. She also wasn't sure why she was still surprised that she couldn't read him. Deciding that she actually liked him as a person wasn't going to cause him to suddenly become transparent. The smoke around his motives remained as foggy as ever. Case in point he'd shown up with his flipping broom.

He knew she was terrified of broom flight. He also knew she couldn't balk at leaving with him in front of the boys after all that had happened. She was forced to act like it was no big deal to climb on that teeny tiny twig of a deathtrap and smile as if she had no problem with it at all. They could have walked. They could have skipped, or hopped, or called for a carriage. If precious pureblood Draco Malfoy couldn't be bothered with plebian non-magic travel they could have checked out a portkey for the lousy 3-meter distance. Instead he had brought the broom.

Maybe she should set the damn thing on fire and teach him not to push her. She specialized in tiny undetectable portable magical fires. Maybe she ought to remind him that he was messing with a Witch of the utmost skill and a slightly manic violent temper. Maybe she needed to remember just who she was dealing with here. Give Malfoy an inch and he would take a mile. She had to maintain the upper hand, or at least equal footing with him, or he would stomp all over her and her heart in a merry dance of pureblood superiority.

Had he brought the broom to subtly put her back in her place and gain advantage after he had been so kind to her last night and this morning? Was he feeling so unbalanced that he felt the need to intimidate her and play games with her mind? Or did he just want to mess with Harry and Ron? The sweet way he had smiled at her seemed to indicate that he wasn't feeling hostile towards her but who knew what went on behind those mercurial eyes of his. Maybe he was being sweet to her just to throw her off balance. Maybe he was just a boy and liked broomsticks and she was assigning him motive without evidence.

Regardless, she got her little digs in. Placing herself with her back to his front instead of cuddling up with him. She'd worn a nice dress on the off chance he meant it about the lunch invitation and spent a ton of time on her hair to tame it. Now she had to dangle on a damn broom with her legs flashing the world and her hair would be destroyed. Either Draco didn't know any more about girls than Ron did or he had done this on purpose. He seemingly ignored her less than warm posture on the broom and wrapped himself thoroughly around her, scooting up close and leaving no room for air between them, shifting her slightly to a more balanced position and even giving her friends a nod before pushing off and taking to flight.

She forgave him slightly when she felt his magic wrap around her causing her skirt to modestly lay flat and keep her from flashing her friends.

Plus she found her irritation difficult to hold onto when she was desperately trying to hold onto her composure and sanity as they hurled through time and space like maniacs. He swept a wide turn, tilting the broom and her hands flung out without her consent to dig into his forearms to feel more stable, leaning back hard against him for balance. He had the nerve to give a low laugh in her ear even as he shifted their positions so she was cradled in the vee of his thighs more securely alleviating some of the topsy turvy unbalanced feeling of being on broomstick.

That was actually very nice.

She would have never thought that she would associate Draco Malfoy with words like steady and stable and safety. Still this new position shielded her from the whipping wind and made her feel like it would actually be difficult to fall. Plus he smelled nice. A nice solid, stable, warm wall of muscle and security that smelled familiar and comforting. She knew better than to think those mushy thoughts, even as she snuggled into his embrace and soaked up his presence. Reminding herself firmly not to over analyze. She had decided to just relax and enjoy the time she had with him. He was a smooth flyer and didn't jar her too much and she closed her eyes and thought about how much dating Draco Malfoy was like a roller coaster. Her emotions had been jerked back and forth far more than her body on this broom flight. This moment was no different. Vexation and fear on one stuttered breath and the next she was flooded with desire and want and overwhelming affection for him.

If she hadn't been in need of professional intervention for her mental state when she had embarked on this journey she would definitely need it when it was over.

"I supposed you want to land and apparate rather than fly into London." He murmured in her ear, close enough to the sensitive lobe not to have his words wash away in the wind. Rather than shout back or turn and upset her balance she just nodded firmly and he began their decent. She tried to scramble off the broom with some sense of dignity without seeming like she was in a big hurry to get out of his nice warm arms. She wasn't, but she didn't like the broom no matter what company attended her on it. Still the friendly almost goofy look he'd had on earlier had disappeared to be replaced by a much more familiar dark scowl.

"Why aren't you wearing my cloak? That thing you have on is too flimsy for flying." He didn't bother to dismount, instead hovering easily over the ground, his feet firmly planted to keep the broom steady.

"You can't be serious!" she laughed at him and tried to smooth her hair. "Not only is your lovely cloak six sizes too big for me I didn't know we were flying today."

She didn't bother to censor the bite in her tone and was amused to note that her attitude seemed to please him. He probably thought it was very "Slytherin". He leaned back, more relaxed, and then did some sort of fancy dismount that she was sure he practiced in the mirror.

"Your hair looks fine, windblown, very sexy." He leered at her as he got closer but she glared up at him unaffected by his brand of smoothness. Her hair probably looked like a rats nest and she had wanted to look nice. He always left her flustered and off balance while he waltzed around all confidence and charm. Screw him.

"It looks windblown every day. I wanted to look halfway decent for lunch!"

He took her hand and smiled down at her in that sincere sweet way he had earlier. The look that was so completely unfamiliar to her. She wanted to glance behind her and see who he was looking at. She wanted to hunt down and interrogate past girlfriends and see if he had ever looked at one of them that way. She wanted to grab his face with both hands and plaster those lips with kisses.

"I assure you Hermione, you look very lovely." He pushed a lock of wild hair behind her ear and trailed his thumb you're her jawline. "Your soft curls frame your pretty face just right. I will only apologize that the broom ride was unexpected, because it certainly did nothing to lessen how stunning you look today."

What ought to have sounded cheesy and stupid had her blushing like a novice who had never been given a complement and when he leaned in to kiss her she kissed him back without reservation.

She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her body close. Wanting to enjoy him and signal that things had changed for her. She wanted him to know that she was open to being physical with him. She realized as he dropped his hands to her bum and gave each check a familiar squeeze that they were alone. For the first time there was no one coming to interrupt or watch or judge them. It was just her and him and the birds and the bees.

It was a heady feeling.

He must not have cared or noticed himself because he was pulling back from her after only a few moments.

"I'm starving," He told her, immediately helping her take off her cloak which would not be appropriate for lunch. She couldn't help but shiver when his warm fingers brushed her bare collarbone but he seemed completely focused on food and didn't seem to notice. Bending to grab up his discarded broom and putting their things in a row of lockers she hadn't noticed before, probably shielded by magic if you didn't know they were there. He took her elbow and began propelling them towards the area marked for apparation. "We've got reservations. You will love this place. Are you comfortable with side-along?"


Having her eyes spit fire at him in the forest had put him back on firm ground for a moment. He knew how to deal with a Hermione who was mad at him. But now she was back to smiling up at him with those dazzling teeth and sparkling eyes. Holding his hand and saying nice things. How the hell did he do that? How did he make her go from mad to loving in a matter of minutes? It couldn't be the kissing. He'd kissed her often enough and it hadn't turned her sweet. More often it had turned her heels and made her flee from him. It wasn't the cheesy compliments. He'd told her she was pretty plenty of times. He had no idea what he'd done right and he sure as hell didn't know how to keep from doing wrong.

Having her happily stroll along holding his hand while she enjoyed their London stroll turned his stomach into a nest of doxies. This moment was far too perfect. A happy content affectionate Hermione was not for him. He only deserved the snarky angry witch Hermione. She saw something in a shop and made an excited exclamation and dragged him in behind her, never letting go of his hand. Chattering happily about this or that and leaning into him sweetly. Jesus, he might expire from the heady feeling it gave him. He couldn't quit smiling. He felt like the day after Samantha Svelte had popped his cherry, or the day he had made the Quiddich team, or when he held his wand for the first time.

He'd always scoffed at guys who went shopping with their girls. Even rolled his eyes at his father when spent hours at a time lavishing his wife with anything that caught her eye. He now understood the appeal of pulling out his purse and insisting on purchasing a lovely self-inking quill set that had drawn Hermione's interest because it looked to fit her hand better than the usual big hulking model. He felt no shame at being the one to carry their increasing purchases so she could flit around unburdened. He didn't care one whit when they were late for lunch or when she took forever to decide what she wanted off the menu.

All he cared about was the minutes spinning by till they had to be back to the school. The clock mocked him. Relentlessly ticking along, stealing the seconds till this idealistic time with her would end and they would be back where they started. The castle. With all of its burdens and expectations and complications. A thousand people watching his every move due to a hundred reasons he had no control over. Here and Now. Just him and Hermione, it was a flat out paradise. He'd never known what he was missing. He'd take an afternoon watching her enjoy eating over the fancy parties and expensive trips he usually enjoyed a hundred times over.

Any minute now he would open his mouth and ruin everything. She'd remember she was spending the day with Draco Malfoy and not one of her stupid cheerful friends and that sweet grin of hers would slip off her face. She'd pull away from him and stand cold and distant, arms crossed, and lash him verbally up one way and down the other. Any second. He knew he was messing up, over and over. He was being too formal and too stiff and too stupid. The corner of her mouth would tighten and she would look like she could almost frown. Then she would just smile and say something else. It wasn't anything he was doing. She was just choosing to be pleasant and easy going and fun. Why?

Maybe she was pleasant like this to everyone and he'd just never spent enough time not picking a fight with her to notice. He felt an irrational desire to pick at her and snap at her and invoke an angry response. That was unique to him. She saved her most mean viscous verbal lashings just for him. He'd never seen her lose her cool with anyone else the way she did with him. Now he was just another boy to her. Their kissing had been pleasant enough in the forest but had lacked that edge of fear he was used to summoning in her. She was just enjoying the kissing. She could be kissing anyone. If she were kissing Draco Malfoy in her mind then the response wouldn't have been sweet surrender.

He knew he was being stupid but he couldn't help it. Why did it even matter why she was going out of her way to be pleasant to him? She was generally a pleasant person. It didn't mean she was being fake. It didn't mean she was lying. Maybe she really was having a good time. He kept slipping. He kept frowning at her and saying snarky things. He kept trying to reign himself in but the more she deliberately ignored his bad behavior the worse it got. He was Draco Fucking Malfoy. He would not be patronized and he would not be coddled and he would not be manipulated.

Just what the fuck was she playing at here? Did she think she had conquered him? Did she think because he clearly wanted into her knickers that she could play him? Did she think she had tamed him? Had she?

By the time they had apparated back to the forest apparition point on the Hogwarts grounds he was spoiling for a fight.


Draco was grumbling about her being too prissy to ride broom stick and that he should call for a carriage when Hermione finally snapped.

She jerked her arm away from his light grip and turned on him fiercely. "What the Hell is your problem!"

What had started out as an extremely pleasant outing, improved by a clearly indulgent Draco Malfoy had gone very south. His mood had soured by inches and the more pleasant she attempted to be the worse it got. She didn't know what she had done to shift his mood from infectiously happy to bitchy and pouty but she had had enough. So sorry that spending time with her had ruined his day but lunch had been his sorry idea. So he could stuff it. She was not that insufferable. In fact, most people were able to spend long stretches of time with her without turning into assholes. In point of fact, her morning had been filled with such people who actually liked spending time with her.

He gave her his patented snooty smirk and crossed his arms over his chest. Reinforcing his physical distance from her.

"You made it very clear this morning that you didn't approve of broom stick travel."

"Screw your broomstick and the ass hat that rode in on it. I've been nothing but pleasant all day!"

"Yes, I am aware. I've put up with your insufferable Gryffindor pretentious cheeriness all day." He spit out with an acidic venomous tone that she hadn't been subjected to in years. She had to stop herself from visibly recoiling and giving him the satisfaction.

"I am not pretentious!" She barked back, advancing into his space, refusing to allow herself to be intimidated by the likes of Draco Malfoy. "I'm sorry you spend your days and nights cavorting with Vipers instead of friends, but some people are capable of interaction without venomous repartee and calculated scheming."

"Spare me your sanctimonious preaching. Yes Yes, Gryffindor's are so much better than Slytherins, we've all heard the propaganda. Believe it or not people who are sorted into other houses don't actually sit around and cry that they aren't part of Gryiffen-Gits. In truth we'd all go insane if we didn't have several hours a night we are able to relax in our common rooms without being submitted to your holier than thou smug stupid propagandizing."

"At least the other houses are sorted according to merit instead of being sorted just because of who their parents were."

"You act as if tradition and history are foul words. Just because you don't have any familial pride doesn't mean the rest of us should give up our way of life to make you feel better about being new to OUR world."

"This is just as much My World as it is Your World, Draco Malfoy." She hissed, hating that she could feel burning in her eyes. The precursor to angry tears. She'd eat her hat before she let this smug pureblood see her cry. Belonging was a sore spot for her. What did he know? What did he know about not fitting into one world because your magic set you apart. Finally finding out that there are others like you. The excitement of coming to this new world, your world, where you would finally fit in. Only to find out that they hated you too. Not because of who you are, or what you did. But because you were born to the wrong world. The one that didn't want you either. What did he know?

He knew nothing.

Spoilt poor little rich boy. So obsessed with history he didn't see the right now clearly. She hadn't realized she had balled up her fists until one hit him solidly in the chest and he seized her hand, holding her to him.

"There's my girl," He murmured. Seemingly her fury had somehow set him at ease. The downshift was startling enough to catch her by surprise and she struggled to catch her breath and catch up with his changing mood. "I always wondered how they could have sorted someone so brilliant into that house of dullards, then I saw you this way and I knew. All that passion, too much for logical Ravenclaw. All that ambition, too much for passive Hufflepuff. There was nowhere else to put you. I wonder, if you'd been pure if they would have sorted you Slytherin?"

And there was her Draco, lips twisted cruelly, holding her tightly against him.

She couldn't help but bark a laugh even as she glared him down. "Pure and Slytherin? That is an oxymoron. Are there any girls over 3rd year that are pure in your house?"

"Can you even count yourself pure anymore?" He whispered. Suddenly she was aware of how close they were, that he was staring at her mouth. "After you've been consorting with a dirty Slytherin?"

Just what the hell was going on here? She was nice to him all day and all it did was wind him up and make him spit fire and ice at her. She threw her arms around him in this very forest and all he could think about was getting to London to have lunch. Lose her temper and suddenly he was that Draco again. Warm and inviting and tempting. Looking at her that way that she had never seen him look at anyone, ever. Looking at her in that way that made her feel special and precious and stupid because Draco freaking Malfoy had just insulted her and now she wanted to kiss him.

"Why don't you like it when I'm nice to you?" She found herself wondering out loud in a whisper. She hadn't meant to say it. No matter what she did she couldn't escape herself. She was Hermione Granger and when a question needed answering she couldn't help but blurt it out. When a question needed asked she couldn't help but ask, even if it was thoughtless and tactless and rude. His face darkened in a way she was familiar with and she knew that her eyes were probably filled with sadness for him. Knew he hated pity or concern or compassion directed at him. The great Draco Malfoy was above such plebian emotions. She couldn't help it, her heart twisted for him. Had so few people been nice to him that it was completely foreign?

His hand tightened on her fist in an almost painful way and his eyes went hard and cold, clear as glacier ice. He didn't, however, pull away. The cold physical distance between them earlier had thawed and there was nothing between them but heat and high emotion. "I like it," He gritted out, "When you are real with me."

A niggling thought stayed her mouth for a heartbeat as she pulled it from her swirling mind and examined it for truth. She'd been so wrapped up in her own insecurity it hadn't occurred to her that Malfoy might be feeling the same. He was just so…Draco. An impenetrable force of confidence and smugness and rightness. But he was still human. He was just as capable of self-doubt as the lowborn commoners. Hermione was not hailed as the smartest witch of her age for no reason. Blessed clarity swept over her like an icy breeze and she smiled up at him, hope blooming in her chest against all reason.

"I was being real with you Draco. I like being with you. I like the way you make me feel. It's nice. It makes me smile." She confessed despite her better judgement. Any vulnerability could be twisted and used against her but she couldn't stand the thought of him thinking she was trying to manipulate or use him. She'd been thrilled about having lunch with him. He'd had her flying on cloud nine. Butterflies in her stomach. Joy in her step. Until he'd gone sour for seemingly no reason. She'd tried her best to show and not tell. To let him know with actions and not words that she cared. It hurt her heart to think that he might believe that she was faking it.

She ducked her head, closing her eyes, pulling her Gryffindor courage from the pit of her stomach to press on. "I don't have to pretend with you and I don't want to. Not anymore. I care about you and I don't care if you know. I like to spend time with you and want to do it more."

She straightened her backbone and lifted her face, brushing his soft lips with hers. Once, twice, three times. Gentle kisses. At some point the hand holding her fist had gentled and his other arm had come around her back. She felt completely safe and cherished in his embrace. She knew it was way out of left field. She would have never in a million years imagined herself here. It was what it was. This was what she wanted. Come what may, right now she was where she wanted to be. If he shot her down he shot her down. At least she hadn't run from it. She was a lioness not a mouse.

"I want to kiss you all the time." She whispered against his lips, "Touch you and taste you and hold you."

When he said nothing, she pulled back a little and opened her eyes. He was staring down at her wide eyed with shock, his mouth slightly open. She had managed to make Draco Malfoy speechless. If she never saw him again and this was the end of their, whatever this was. It was worth it. Just for this moment of him being quiet. The moment stretched out a little too long and she felt defensiveness coming on even though she tried to shove it down.

"So There!" she declared a little forcefully, wanting to provoke a reaction. Stop this waiting on tenterhooks for what he'd say. Of course, he could never do anything as expected. Instead of saying sweet things back, or laughing at her, or any one of a hundred snarky phrases she knew he was capable of, instead he was bending his head and kissing her.

Not the sweet kisses from this morning. He attacked her mouth. His hand finally released her fist to tangle in her hair and leave her free to grip his robes to bring him closer to her. This was better than sweet words for sure. No words could convey the desperate edge to his touch. The want in his kiss. The need in his grip. This was Draco Malfoy being real. This couldn't be faked or polished or watered down. This was Draco uncensored.

Biting her lips and tasting her tongue, using his hand to cup her bum and pull her into his very real, very hard, desire. She wasn't even embarrassed. She was beyond being shy. Instead she was greedy for his touch. She slipped her hand inside the back of his robes to grip his warm strong neck and let her passion take her over. She didn't pull away from him, instead she let her hips roll in a way that felt natural in response and thrilled at the soft growl he let loose between kisses when she rubbed against him firmly.

She was shocked enough to pull back when he delved beneath her skirt and skimmed his fingers under her panties to get a handful of bare cheek, but she didn't deny him access and when he kissed along her jaw she titled her head back and let him kiss and suck her neck sending shivers and goosebumps racing along her skin and her spine.

When he buried his face between her breasts she arched up into him to create lovely friction and he pulled back a little.

"Hermione, I have to stop kissing you now or I'm going to end up shagging you in the dirt." He said, voice gone gravelly and low and so warm.

She smiled at him, the sweetest she could manage through her panting breathlessness. "That's okay."

"No, it's really not," He answered, releasing her ass and smoothing down her skirt, pulling further back. It wasn't the coldness from before but she felt a moment of dejection. His body might want her but he didn't, not really. He must have seen something in her eyes despite her best effort to not show any reaction to his rejection at all because he cupped her face with both hands and gave her the sweetest kiss. One, Two, Three brushes of his lips. A mirror of her own kiss earlier. With her lips swollen and her breath fast it felt supercharged and electric and overwhelming.

"If you want to get me into bed Granger you are going to have to cook me dinner and take me somewhere with sheets."

She was far too wound up to laugh at his attempt at dry humor, but she couldn't let him have the last word so she gave a small amused sound and countered back. "You are such a spoilt rich boy. I suppose you need pillows and candles too."

He kissed her again, just as soft, just as sweet. "I bet you look lovely by candlelight."

A compliment even as he put just a little more space between them. Released her face, to skim both hand down her arms, rubbing them a bit briskly as if she might be cold separated from his warmth.

"Seriously, do you want me to call for a carriage?"

She looked up at him and decided to think about what he needed instead of her fear.

"No, we can take the broom. I trust you."