Title: Misguided Sympathy (3/3)

Author: Vashka

Rating: PG-13 for some cursing

Summary: An earth-shattering conversation with Draco Malfoy makes Hermione see the errors of her ways. Will the Slytherins and Gryffindors survive Hermione's kindness intact? Or will the spirit of Interhouse Cooperation triumph?

Author's Note: I really loved writing this fic, and I am so happy you liked it! I am working on the next chapter of Vengeance, but am stuck on a few things. Be patient! It should be up within a week or so.

000

Disclaimer – I really don't own Harry Potter

000

Operation: Set up Granger and Malfoy

The next week was quite uncomfortable for Draco Malfoy.

For some reason, he kept running into Granger. Literally. He didn't think he had had this much bodily contact with a girl since… ever. (Never to be admitted to anyone, of course.) The upside of 'The Incidents,' as he dubbed them in his mind, was the increase in time to tease the hell out of Granger. The downside… Well, the downside was that her scent (Jasmine), the feel of her skin (like wet silk), the texture of her hair (surprisingly soft), the heat of her eyes when angry… and well, everything, was burned into his brain.

He was sure he was having the same effect on her.

He hoped he was having the same effect.

Well… he couldn't tell, honestly.

He was almost certain she felt the same irritating breathlessness earlier by the lake. There he was, reading Advanced Arithmancy for Really, Really Smart People in the sun, when he heard a soft "Oh!" and something small and female shaped landed on top of him. Hard.

After he regained breathing, he realized the small figure was actually quite well proportioned and squirming in a very delicious way. If she keeps that up, she might get more than she bargained for.

Then he got a good look at her face and realized the curvy woman was actually not a woman at all, but The Most Annoying Bint on the Planet. (But Still Rather Good Looking, Unfortunately)

She suddenly stopped wriggling and searched his face. Her hair was up off of her face, and frizzed slightly from its confines. It looks like she has a halo, he thought.

Her dark, dark eyes softened and she whispered, "Malfoy…"

His breathing sped up a little, and he unconsciously looked at her lips as they hovered so close to his.

"Would you help me get up?"

Shaking idiotic thoughts from his mind, he quickly disentangled them, and squelched any desire he might have for the silly little know-it-all. It would never work anyway, and he certainly wouldn't give the U.H.A. the satisfaction.

Neither of them noticed the cloak peeking out from behind the trees.

000

It happened again in Ancient Runes. If Draco wasn't absolutely sure that he was destined to lead a charmed life, he might think some deity was plotting against him. Or the U.H.A.

Hmmm… Nah. They wouldn't go against him. He was much too intimidating.

There were only five students in N.E.W.T. level Ancient Runes, and the Professor never stayed long after class. Draco lingered that day to look over the homework assignment once more, making sure he understood the requirements. Quickly packing up, he sauntered out of the classroom just behind Granger. Damn, she really is short. Even compared to me.

Bemused, Draco suddenly felt a sharp tug on his right ankle. Dropping his bag, and windmilling his arms in a completely undignified attempt to keep his balance, he had almost righted himself when he felt another hard tug on his left.

He was done for.

Falling (Gracefully. Malfoys were always graceful.) straight onto Hermione.

His arm somehow became entangled with her bag, and as he simultaneously tried to stand up and extract his arm, he suddenly realized that his hands were brushing very sensitive parts of her anatomy. Flushing scarlet (Curse his pale complexion!) he lowered his petrified gaze to Hermione's.

Flushed a furious red, her eyes glittered dangerously. "And just what do you think you are doing?"

Trying to put his hands in a safe place and get out of the situation, he spat, "What does it look like, Granger?" He smirked, "Just repaying the favor. You know you like it."

He wasn't sure what devil made him say that, but her reaction certainly was amusing.

Mouth gaping, eyes wide, she started sputtering, "What? You think that I… You… Me… This… UGH!"

With a frustrated scream, she bucked her hips and neatly rolled him over, so that her thighs were straddling his lean hips. Firmly smacking her hands on his chest, she levered herself up, picked up her bag and flounced to the door, leaving a shell-shocked Draco flat on his back.

Hermione flipped her hair over her shoulder angrily, and pulled the handle firmly.

The door didn't budge.

Furrowing her brows, she tried again with the same result.

Throwing her bag on the floor, she whipped out her wand. "Alohomora!"

Nothing happened.

Blowing a bit of hair out of her eyes, she looked at the door with a pinched expression. "Why am I not surprised?"

Throwing a battery of advanced unlocking charms at the door, she soon wore herself out. Panting slightly, she muttered, "I knew I should have looked at Studies for the Advanced Locksmith more closely. I just flipped through it, and look at the pickle I'm in now." Looking over her shoulder, she called, "Malfoy? Oi! Malfoy! What are you still doing on the floor?"

Draco was lying on his back in the same position he was in when Hermione so dramatically threw him.

Thighs straddling… there… Hips touching… there…

Very distracted, he didn't notice the book aimed directly at his head.

"Ow! Merlin Granger, that bloody hurt!"

"Good. Now get off your arse and help with this door."

Fifteen minutes and many useless spells later, they were still stuck.

Growling in frustration, Hermione kicked the door.

Draco smirked, "Feel better?"

Hermione sent him a dry look, "Much." Picking up her bag from the floor, she moved to one of the abandoned desks. "I might as well get some work done. This was my last class, and I usually spend this time in the library, so no one will probably miss me until dinner. You?"

Draco leaned against the door and ran a tired hand through his hair. "Same. With my schedule, no one will talk to the Professors until dinner."

Sighing, Hermione unpacked her books. "I was afraid of that."

Draco shrugged and set up his materials on the opposite side of the room. Nothing better to do than study anyway.

After about a half-hour of reading, he became aware of a prickling sensation on the back of his neck. Someone's watching me.

When it didn't subside after a few moments, he quickly looked up and caught Granger's dark eyes gazing at him intently.

She flushed brightly, and looked back at her papers.

Draco, disgruntled, spat out, "What do you want?"

Hermione, still with color high on her cheeks, nevertheless, looked him straight in the eye. "I don't have my Potions text. If I want to do a decent job on the essay due next week, I need to start today… But then this happened." She smiled half-heartedly, "I saw that you were reading it, and I was wondering if I could look on with you?"

Draco smirked, "I don't know, what will you give me?"

The slightly embarrassed expression Hermione had been sporting quickly morphed into one Draco was more familiar with. Anger.

She glared at him and said, "Fine! See if I need you… you slimy, sneaky…"

Suddenly, she cut herself off. Her anger deflated, she turned back to her studies. She mumbled an apology so softly that Draco almost didn't hear it.

"Sorry Malfoy."

Those words somehow melted Draco's façade of anger as well. He sighed wearily, and rolled his eyes to the heavens, sure that he was crazy for what he was about to offer the annoying cow.

"You can study over here."

"Come again?"

"Are you deaf as well as daft, woman? It's a one time offer!"

Hermione, looking very surprised, quickly gathered her things and scurried over to Draco's table. Setting up her things, she soon started scratching away on a loose leaf of parchment.

As she leaned over to read some passage, she was careful not to touch him. However, her wild hair was down today. Consequently, as she bent forward, her hair would gently brush against his face and neck, distracting the hell out of him. This close, her scent overwhelmed him, at once calming and exciting him.

He hoped someone found them soon.

000

"They're studying!"

Pansy turned to her partners in crime, Ron, Ginny and Harry, and threw her arms up in frustration. Disgruntled, she looked through the window again.

Ginny looked at the cozy scene inside and grinned wickedly, "With academic geeks, there is no telling what they consider foreplay. They could be having mental sex right now."

Ron turned bright red and started sputtering about little sisters and dirty minds, while Pansy and Harry laughed uproariously at the mental image of Draco reading a Potions textbook to turn on a swooning Hermione.

While they were still chuckling, Ron had finally gained control of his temper enough to speak, and changed the subject. "Gotten very good at that tripping jinx though."

"Tell me about it"

Harry's face was thoughtful, "Maybe the setting isn't right? Don't girls like things to be all romantic and stuff?"

Ginny rolled her eyes, and said wryly, "Yes, Harry, girls like all that 'romance stuff' as you so elegantly put it."

Pansy, bored with the lack of action in the classroom, joined the conversation, "You know, he might be onto something. And I know just the person who could help us out…"

000

"… I can't believe Snape gave me detention. Me! And with you of all people. It's like he wants to torture me."

Hermione rolled her eyes and said, "Well, it's not like you were my first choice either, Malfoy."

Draco ignored her and continued with his rant, "And I didn't do anything wrong! Pansy was tormenting you, as usual, and I was laughing, as usual. And he gave me detention. Me!"

Looking at him out of the corner of her eye, Hermione smirked, "I think the exercise is numbing your brain. Your monologue is getting quite repetitive. I know you can do better."

"Shove it, Granger."

"Oh, clever comeback."

Draco had no response to this, and continued to walk. Snape had sent them to gather the blossoms of the moonflower, which only bloomed on balmy spring nights. As the only moonflower patch was inconveniently stationed deep in the Forbidden Forest, it was often a task for unlucky students who had the pleasure of detention with the irritable Professor.

The night was eerily perfect. Not too cold, with slight breeze, clear skies, full moon.

Draco didn't trust it.

It was almost as if Snape was setting them up on a date.

Niggling thoughts about the U.H.A. and convoluted plans started to form in his mind, but he shoved those thoughts down for later contemplation. Much later.

Right now, he had to concentrate on how horribly annoying Granger was, rather than watch how the moonlight made her skin glow.

Bad brain!

They found the moonflower patch, and it looked like a scene for the Seduction of the Innocent Maiden by the Dashing Hero in a trashy romance novel. (Not that Draco had ever read one for pleasure, of course. Just for instruction on the incomprehensible female mind.)

As he thought about everything but how ethereal Granger looked picking moonflowers, he soon became aware of her voice.

"…You really aren't all that bad Malfoy. I am rather sorry for teasing you all of these years. Maybe I could help others see this side of you. I have it! I could make a group, like S.I.C.K., but perhaps not so formal." As Hermione's active brain started whirring, she started to ignore the boy at her side for the fascinating ideas coming to her. (Maybe a new pamphlet? Malfoy: Secretly Sensitive, sounded nice)

For some reason, her statement made him irrationally angry. He stopped in mid-stride, rounded on Hermione, and grabbed her shoulders, pressing his fingers into the soft flesh of her upper arms. Looking her in the eye, he spoke softly, "I will not be another of your projects, do you hear? I am Draco Malfoy!"

As he spoke his face moved closer and closer to Hermione's shocked one, until his nose was almost brushing hers. "I do not care about what the mindless peons at this school think of me. I am a Slytherin. I will survive adversity and it will make me stronger. I do not need your help."

Her eyes, wide and searching all through his tirade, grew soft. She tilted her head toward his and whispered, "I don't think anyone should be alone. Not even you. Especially not you."

Draco closed his eyes and groaned as the sincerity of her words washed through him and tugged at a secret place in his chest. His hand traveled from her upper arms to caress the nape of her neck, and he sunk his hand into the thick hair there.

He leaned in slightly, until their lips were a breath apart, and said, "You are going to be the death of me, woman."

As his heart pounded in his ears, the scent of moonflowers and Hermione filled his nostrils, making him dizzy, he did the unthinkable.

He kissed Hermione Granger.

Warm lips met his, frozen in shock. Moving slowly, Draco gently kissed her unresponsive mouth. Desperate, he slowly traced the seal of her unmoving lips with the very tip of his tongue. With a shuddering sigh, her arms crept around his over-warm body to clasp him close, surrendering to his touch.

With a triumphant growl, he parted her lips and thrust his tongue hungrily into her hot, waiting cavern. He was mindless, he was calculating, he was dominant, he was submissive. It was everything he had ever wanted in a kiss, but he was left wanting more, so much more.

Hermione suddenly tore herself away from his embrace, hand lightly touching her mouth, her dark, glittering, eyes searching his. Hurriedly picking up the basket of flowers, she muttered something about Snape and a Potions Essay, and ran out of the clearing.

Under the whispering branches, Draco stood amongst the moonflowers and watched her leave.

000

Draco found her by side of the lake the next evening, sitting with her knees drawn up under her chin. She looked small. She looked… vulnerable. The strong, indomitable Hermione Granger in a moment of doubt. Maybe she was a girl after all, with at least some of the insecurities of one.

He sat next to her, watching her out of the corner of his eye. He thought he saw her face flush, but in the dying light, he wasn't sure.

The sat in comfortable silence, watching the squid wave his tentacles in the dying sunlight. Suddenly, Hermione asked, "Do you still think I am prejudiced?"

Draco looked at her face suspiciously, and then sighed, "No. I suppose never really did. Misguided maybe, but not prejudiced."

"I thought…"

"Screw what you thought!" He spat angrily. He looked at her stricken dark eyes and ran a hand through his platinum hair. "I have seen real prejudice. Real hate. I don't think you have ever hated anything in your whole life. I just wanted you to think… to see the incredible hypocrisy of your goody-goody Gryffindor morals."

"Do you… do you hate me?"

"I don't think I ever did. Not really. Resented you, but not hate. I tried and tried, but I never could."

She nodded slightly and looked at her shoes. "Why did you still treat me like shit after… after the battle?"

Draco shrugged and smirked sardonically, "Why did you? Comfort, sameness. It was something I needed"

Hermione was silent as she absorbed this and watched the trees, bright with new growth, wave about in the wind. Suddenly, something seemed to snap into place, and she looked at him directly for the first time, "I guess I needed it too."

"Do you need it anymore?"

Wide eyes look at him, surprised. Then she smiled - a small, true smile. "I guess I… I don't. Maybe that's why I did this. To prove I don't need all this hate in me anymore. I don't know."

"You don't have to know. I don't have to know. I think… I think we just need a chance to just freaking be for once. Screw destiny, screw the future." Draco reached out and touched her cheek, threaded his fingers through her halo-hair, and smiled too.

000

Over by the tree line, there was a slight depression in the ground. In said depression, were two people watching this 'disgusting display of sap.' When they couldn't take the snogging anymore (and Draco and Hermione showed no sign of stopping) they turned their backs on the revoltingly happy couple to look at each other.

Pansy smiled engagingly and said, "U.H.A. mission complete. Was so sweet it gagged me, though. Didn't know Draco had it in him."

Ron smiled back. "Damn that was easy."

"They have been dancing around each other for years, you know. Will make beautiful babies. Probably have a lot of fun doing it too…"

"Ew, Parkinson, spare me! Now my mind feels unclean. Picturing them naked was not what I wanted to do today."

"How about me naked?"

"…What?"

"Damn, I forgot you were a Gryffindor with all of this sneaking. Screw subtlety, just snog me Weasel-boy!"

000

Name/Pen Name: Zarah
LJ Username: N/A
E-mail: you over 18: yes
Rating(s) you're willing to write: G - PG13
Rating(s) of the fic you want: G - PG13
One tone/mood you want your gift to include: humor
One element/theme/item you want your gift to include: Can I ask for a side pairing? If yes, Ron/Pansy.
One common cliche, plot device or stereotype you don't want your gift to include: Sudden makeovers. Spare me, please.