A Mandatory Alliance

By: Provocative Envy

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Author's Note: Well, this is it. This turned out to be a bit shorter than I'd originally anticipated, but oh, well. I'd like to thank all of you who reviewed and read this story; I love compliments. And for anyone who cares, I'm going to start another fic within the next few days, simply because it's summer and I got sick and all my friends are leaving me for Honduras. So I'll mope and occupy myself with Harry Potter fanfiction. Thanks again so much for all of you who took the time to review. I sincerely appreciate it.

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

To: One of the Many Girls Whom I Owe an Apology To

This is both very out of character for me and very difficult to write. But I must do it, for my conscience is eating away at my brain.

I'm sorry.

There. I said it. Happy? You evil, conniving little--

Ahem. Back to my original point.

You were right. I don't deserve her. The perfect girl, the golden girl, the girl I'll never be worthy of ten minutes with because she's so much better than me. The girl I'm not sure I can live without anymore, but have to anyways. The girl I regret hating. The only girl who can't disappoint me. The girl I love.

Oh, you have no idea how much I wish that I'd had the fucking sense to listen to you all those…uh…days ago. How badly I want to go back in time and take my chance when I had it. Just go and redo the past few weeks and show her I'm not the massive prick she thinks I am.

But that would be lying. Since I am the massive prick she thinks I am. In fact, I'm probably worse than what she thinks I am. I'm pathetic. I'm lower than pathetic. I'm…dear God, I'm nearly at Potter's level of inferiority.

But to return to my original purpose, I'm apologizing for treating you almost as badly as I treated Hermione. I was insufferably rude to you, and you didn't do a thing to warrant it. I'm genuinely sorry that you had to put up with me. I'm sure you cursed your bad luck that you got me for a pen pal, huh? (Truthfully, I'm shocked you had the patience to not send some kind of powdered arsenic in one of your letters just to get rid of me. In retrospect, I would have understood.)

Nonetheless, I desperately need your advice. I realize I'm asking more than any sane person would be willing to give, but please. I beg you to forget the past.

You see, she is dating this complete prat now. I finally realized that I loved her the very day she decided she loved him. And I can't do a thing about it. Well, it's actually only been about a day since I saw her in the library saying she loved him, but I'm so desperate for advice right now that I haven't mustered up the courage to leave my dormitory since then. I'm lovesick, dear girl.

And goddamn but it felt good to admit that.

From: I'm Depressed and Possibly Suicidal So Please Reply Quickly. I Own Razor Blades, You Know. And I've Read Those Melodramatic Muggle Novels Where Anguished Teenagers Attempt to Rid Themselves of Pent-up Angst by Slicing Open Their Major Arteries, So I Know What to Do with Them.

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It was as if he'd disappeared off the face of the earth. Or had been cursed into oblivion by one of the many first-years he insisted on tormenting, and no one had bothered to tell her.

Or was hiding from her, but that was an explanation she really didn't want to face. It would make her feel like a desperate stalker who was reduced to hunting down prospective boyfriends by roaming the hallways and threatening his usual cronies with painful dismemberment if they didn't tell her where he was. Not that she'd done that.

In fact, every time she approached Crabbe and demanded he give her Draco's whereabouts, he would smile secretively at her and scamper off to count rocks, or whatever it was he did when Draco wasn't around to provide entertainment. Of course, she'd only been searching for a day, but still: it was obvious he was avoiding her.

"Hermione?" Harry asked her at dinner that day.

"What?" she snapped back, stabbing her chicken with her fork repeatedly.

"Is anything wrong?" he inquired cautiously.

"Oh, life's just peachy, Harry. Why do you ask?" she replied testily.

"Because you just cracked your plate and didn't notice."

"Oh. Well, these things happen, you know. It's not like I'm some kind of violent freak who breaks plates to have a smashing good time."

"Of course not, Hermione," he said kindly, petting her forearm as she seethed quietly. "I understand that things with Justin might be a little rough right now--"

"What the hell is it with you people? Me and Justin? There is no me and Justin! Never has been, never will be!" she shouted, prying her arm from Harry's fingers and stomping away.

Once she reached the hallway, her defenses broke down, though; her anger was forgotten and the tears started falling.

She couldn't believe that Draco would do this to her, that he would make her feel so humiliated so he could relish in a few seconds of glory. It was so unbelievably awful that she could hardly face up to it: he was abandoning her for a final victory over Harry in their stupid feud. Yet he wasn't abandoning her: there really wasn't anything he was giving up.

Of course, she realized, sniffling as the truth settled in. There never was a me and him, just like there never was a me and Justin. He doesn't know what he's doing to me.

It was her first rational thought in an entire day, and it made her feel normal. Maybe she could slowly forget about her "I love Draco Malfoy" epiphany and return to her "I am the logical bookworm" façade.

No, she said to herself, you can't do that either. Because nothing can ever be the same.

Oh, how it rankled her that the infuriating boy she couldn't bring herself to admit she loved anymore would have such a lasting effect on her. That no matter how hard she could try to deny anything ever happened, she'd have the constant reminder of her painfully clear loss of level-headedness.

Which would just make her remember why she'd tried to forget him in the first place: he hadn't loved her back.

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Draco was making his way to the Great Hall for dinner when he noticed the small, huddled figure sitting against the wall across the door. He couldn't place who it was, since he was so far away, and he was curious as to who could be crying in public so shamelessly. As he edged closer, however, his breath caught.

"Hermione?" he whispered, crouching next to her.

Instead of replying, she looked up, her eyes bloodshot and her face tearstained.

"You look like a drowned rat," he told her affectionately, brushing her messy hair back from her head.

"Lovely compliment. Maybe you'd like to join me for my six o'clock wrist slitting exercise. My therapist back home says it'll do wonders for my disposition," she shot back sarcastically, narrowing her eyes and wrenching her body from his grasp. He'd never know how much it had taken out of her to accomplish that, though.

"Feisty as ever," he commented lovingly, gazing at her with unabashed longing as she remained colder than that stupid fricking iceberg that had sunk the Titanic.

"What do you want?" she demanded, turning away slightly so she didn't have to look at him.

"You," he said honestly, realizing he was finished with lying to her. It had caused him too much stress being dishonest, since she always seemed to find out.

"Yeah, and Ron can actually read," she snorted, determined not to let him see her lower lip tremble.

"Can he really?" Draco asked mildly, holding up his hands defensively as she glared at him. "I'm kidding, Hermione. But would you listen to me for a second? I just…I want to explain myself."

"Whatever."

"Alright then. I'll be blunt. I am in love with you. I spent the past twenty-four hours thinking of nothing but you, dreaming of nothing but you, wanting nothing but you. I heard your voice in my head and thought I was going crazy; I replayed every word I'd ever said to you in my mind and I've been worrying and crying and getting mad, and the past week has been this whirlwind of emotions that's made me want to scream, or-I don't know--"

He never got to finish his impassioned speech, though. She'd gone and interrupted him with a kiss so unlike their first he almost didn't return it.

But then instinct took over and he cradled her face in his hands, basking in the feel of her mouth on his. It was enchanting to be so lost in another person: one split-second look into her eyes was tantamount to being unconscious.

He let his tongue dart out, tracing the curve of her lips before she gasped and offered him deeper access. In a haze of heady desire he acknowledged her gentle tug on his robes, urging him to locate a more private place to continue their…activity.

He obliged with enthusiasm, breaking their kiss just in time to hear her say:

"I love you, Draco Malfoy."

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