In a fit of desperation Pansy locks Draco and Hermione in the Room of Requirement. Unfortunately she's taken a lesson from Harry's muggle fairy tales, and… kissing becomes the "key?" Written for the Draco/Hermione Valentine's Exchange, 2006.

The Broom Closet Plots

"But Pansy! He's the bloody Boy-Who-Lived! Remember, arch-nemesis of your parents' best friends and so on?"

"Just shut up, Draco Malfoy!" she demanded, whirling around to face him. "Yes, yes, and yes to all your 'objections;' now will you just get it through your head that maybe I don't care?"

"Your parents – "

" – will be overjoyed that someone in the family might redeem the Parkinson name. Public disgrace and a stint in St. Mungo's are hardly the keys to high society these days, Draco."

Her old friend and erstwhile betrothed stared at her.

"What?" she snapped, indignant.

"Merlin. I do believe Pothead's already succeeded in rotting your brain," said Draco, dearly revolted.

"Oh gods. One, sourness is unbecoming to you, Draco. Two, your objection is pointless anyway."

"Whatever, Pansy. I still can't believe you're doing this," he muttered. "If Potter proposes to you before school's out… By Ethelred the Unready, I'd die of the cliché."

"Hmph. You're a stooge, Draco Malfoy," she tossed at him. "See if I care when you get eaten alive by Hagrid's indestructible giant Beaky-Wheat pet thing, now that it's back and all." She felt a small thrill of satisfaction at the reaction this got from Draco, who paled in anger and turned to leave. Good. She was finally rid of the git.

As she proceeded alone down the hall, Pansy realized two things. One, she needed some peace from Draco sodding Malfoy, and a healthily Slytherin dose of revenge from him too. Two, he needed a girl. A Gryffindor girl, actually. Maybe then he'd stop nagging her about Harry.

Suddenly Pansy thought of something and her eyes lit up.

It was just perfect. She was hellish, insufferable, prudish, persistent as a lakeful of piranhas, and a Gryffindor to boot. And he was just the type to get a reaction from her, if nothing else. Throw them together and… Well, it wouldn't be easy, but a little magic would do the trick, thought Pansy, a sly smile playing over her face. And she had just the thing.

She made a mental note to thank Harry properly next time for teaching her how to use the Room of Requirement.

Good plan notwithstanding, words failed to describe the extent of Pansy's fury when she arrived the Great Hall to find a ring of students around – predictably – the best friends of Hogwart's newest and most controversial couple.

"Merlin, you utter imbeciles!" she screeched at the bystanders, throwing the weight of a full-fledged temper tantrum at their unsuspecting bodies. "Pull them away from each other, if you've got anything beyond boiled oyster for brains! Or are you all impersonating Goyle as your idol of the day?"

Several frightened fifth-years took one look at her and dove headfirst into the rather perilous fray. They soon emerged victorious, managing to drag a red-faced Ron away from an equally flushed and furious Draco.

Pansy left Ron to his own devices and marched over to Draco.

It occurred to the Weasley that he was getting the much better deal.

Draco had known that he was in for a rough ride, but he still hadn't expected Pansy to lock him in a broom closet overnight in her fury.

Oh well, he thought. In small dark spaces, there were ways of… occupying the time.

Unfortunately this consoling thought lasted no more than a minute. Suddenly the door was opened, another body was pushed in, and then the portal slammed closed again.

Damn, thought Draco. So much for that thoughtful privacy from Pansy. Now it was getting to be real punishment…

A searching hand jabbed the side of his nose.

"Hey! Watch it, idiot. I'll have you know that my left nostril is probably worth more than all your property combined. Do it again and I'll be forced to sue you for vandalism of my august self!"

A slight pause, then he heard a most terrible wail.

"Oh, gods. Please no. Not Draco Malfoy, if you've any mercy at all…"

"Oh good. I see you come trained with a proper respect for my person," he said into the dark, smirking slightly. "That's a plus. Perhaps I won't sue, then."

"Not you, you ridiculous pompous ass," shrieked the voice, half-hysterical by now. "I mean the gods, the bloody omnipotent gods that are currently laughing at my utter and abject misery!"

Draco had already opened his mouth to deliver an appropriately searing retort when something fell into place.
"Bloody hell. Granger?"

"Don't 'bloody hell' me, you amoral prat!"

"I'll bloody well 'bloody hell' whoever I want, you horrific busy-haired shrub!"

"Obnoxious twit!"

"Insufferable bint!"

"At least I'm not a pigmentation-challenged rodent!"

"Ferrets aren't rodents! Do you know what are rodents, though? Beavers! So I'm not the one who really – " There was a brief coughing spasm, then,
"Holy mother of Merlin. I think I just broke a vocal chord."

There was a pause, before a rippling burst of loud laughter came. Draco's fingers itched to strangle that horrible horrible girl.

"All right. That's it. I'm suing for vandalism, slander, and defamation of character the moment we set foot out of this dratted place," he bit out, fuming.

"You will be doing no such thing, Draco Malfoy," Hermione replied, sounding particularly snooty and encyclopedic. "Personal injuries are not vandalization. And when are we getting out of here, anyway?"

There was a silence.

"Whoever stuck you in didn't tell you?"

"…N - no, Harry never said a thing."

"I'd assumed that Pansy was making me stay the night."

"Oh." A pause, then, as the words sank in: "Oh good lord. But that's – that's completely and totally insane! They can't expect us to stay here for more than the space of an hour and emerge alive!"

"Alive? How about mentally uncorrupted? I can feel my brain cells committing suicide already! If I were a building, then several hundred of them just leaped out of the thirtieth-story window!"

"Shut up and stop exaggerating. You think your brain is deteriorating? I'll be surprised if noxious fumes of bigotry don't waft out of your unwashed ears and render me a useless gibbering idiot!"

Miffed. "My ears are actually very clean, thank you. I'm not plebeian, Granger; have the good grace to modify your insults accordingly. And the bigotry jibe is getting old."

A silence, then a moan from nearby.
"Oh my god. I'd rather die than be stuck here any longer…"

"I'll help you arrange that," Draco volunteered, in his most virtuous tone.

"I'd even rather be cooked in a vat of hot oil," continued Hermione, as if she hadn't heard him at all.

"With oysters and lobsters in them," added Draco.

"And be served to a giantess for an evening meal."

"Yes, but I don't know if your ribs are straight enough to serve as a proper toothpick, though…"

" - Will you just shut up? I'd like to plan my own death, thank you very much."

"That's silly. Purebloods always have their deaths planned for them."

"…Do you realize what you just said?"


A sputter of surprise. "What – do they really?"

"…Well, no. Not really. But still, I'm sure they wouldn't mind me breaking the tradition to aid a fellow student in need; besides, you're not Pureblood anyway."

"Malfoy. That is a pathetic archaic construct designed to keep you petty bored types occupied and out of extensive trouble."

"Yes, I know."

"You're an imbecile for believing a single word of that propagandaic ro – wait. What did you say?"

"What what?"

"About petty archaic contructs."

"Oh, that. I said that I agreed."

"But then why – "

"I don't have to answer. I'm an ambiguous person, Granger, so deal with it."

"But – but – "

" - oh, fine; stop your spluttering, it makes you look like a fool. …It's because I'm bored, mostly. It's something to think about."


"See, now you're doing it too.

"No – I mean, what's something to think about?"

A sigh. "Gods, Granger. You were supposed to have a brain? …I meant archaisms. I think about archaisms. And one can only think about it for so long without realizing that either the Dark Lord was some sort of… slavish hypocrite, or the rest of us were just vaguely delusional. And I'll take delusional over slavish any day."

He heard her huff. "Well, then," Hermione said, rather briskly. "That's different. I, um. Er. Um… Welcome to the fold?"

A long silence.

"Granger. I'm not a bloody house elf. Or a sheep."

"Actually the latter's arguable," Hermione muttered to herself, wishing for a book.

Four hours later – or something like that – they were still inside.

"I wish I'd had some food on me," muttered Hermione unhappily, flicking runes onto the four walls with her lighted wand.

"Yes, well."

"Aren't you hungry?"

"'The great-souled man does not easily cave to bodily demands,'" intoned Draco.

Hermione blinked. "Hm. That was - ?"


"Right." She blinked again. "Wait - Aristotle, a… wizard?"

"Damn right he was a wizard," responded Draco, haughty again. "Distant kin, actually. One of Mum's great-grandmothers was Greek."

"Oh. Wow."

"Yes, well." Draco's chin lifted higher as he preened. "You see, the War may be over and all, Granger, but there are things in old blood that you can never dream of. Aristotle's the least of it all. Zabini's got direct hits to Sinbad and Scherazade, and tradition has it that the Malfoys are even related to Helen of Troy."


"Yes. Ever heard of a wizard called Gindelf, Granger?"

"…only a Gandalf. And that's in Muggle literature; with a Ring of Power and hobbits and all that other fantastical rot," she said hesitantly.

"Wait. There's muggle literature about a Ring of Power? And Holbeits?" Draco looked incredulous.

"Hobbits. Yes."

"No no – they're called Holbeits. Native to Scandinavia. There's still some around today, I think."

"…Good god. It sounded a lot like you just said that hobbits are real," murmured Hermione, eyes wide in the dim light of their wands.

"Well, Holbeits are, I don't know about your weird habbit-things."

"But – " Hermione stopped and took a deep breath.

She had always regretted that Middle-Earth was not real, and when she first found out about Hogwarts and magic, she'd hoped on a scale that she never had before. But later it turned out that Tolkien's fantastic worlds were just that – fantasy. Now, though… perhaps she had just been searching for it the wrong way. After all, names did change through the ages, she supposed.

"All right," she said, slowly. "So – tell me about this Gindelf?"

Malfoy smirked, preparing to begin, and suddenly it occurred to Hermione that it was not an altogether unattractive expression in certain lights. Proud, yes, and a little obnoxious.

But nobody was perfect. Some just hid it better than most.

Three hours later he'd finished the wizarding account of the story, and she'd given him the Muggle version, complete with stilted "Elvish" phrases.

"So… there aren't actual elves? I mean, well, the tall ones."

Draco snorted. "Your Toll-keen person was probably writing about wizards, Granger. I'll be he just had a thing for pointy ears."

"Oh." She thought about that for a while.

One could only stand for so long, and after at least four hours, they'd found themselves sitting together on the floor of the broom closet. Due to the extremely small floor space, this involved a good deal of entanglement between the two. Hermione fought down the beginnings of a blush as she remembered this, and tried desperately to think of something to say.

"So. Erm. It's, uh, nearly Valentine's Day, isn't it?"

She was met with a stony silence. And she thought again of their cramped position.

"I mean, the cupids are terrible, aren't they? All those fluttering pink winged things…" she was rambling now, and she couldn't stop – because what would she say if she did? Hermione plowed on through the flush on her face. "I hate the mail-drop in the morning, all those large ungainly packages and obnoxious charmed gifts... They're absolutely revolting, aren't they?"

To her surprise, she got an answer.

"They're absolutely terrible. Last year I got a singing teddy bear," drawled Draco, a wry smile on his face. "I think it was Pansy, but I can't be sure. It wouldn't shut up for a week."

Hermione laughed despite herself. "Oh gods. I can just see that," she giggled, closing her eyes and imagining his horrified expression. "My condolences to you."

"Accepted," he replied evenly, the slightest hint of a smile on his face. It was past midnight, and he wanted to sleep, and yet he had to exert great effort to keep from laughing with her. She was infectious, and in more ways than one.

"Now, if you've had enough of laughing at my expense…? Note, Granger, that this is the first and last time you'll ever get away with it."

"Yes yes," she smiled, and he was surprised to realize that actually she is quite pretty like that in his tired mind. He watched her check her watch and frown.

"Only 1 a.m.," she said, sighing. "Well then. Um."

"…Explain those other dragon stories you were mentioning," he said at last, mostly to put her out of the increasing awkwardness.

"Oh. All right then."

Soon he was surprised to realize that he was actually interested in what she had to say. Muggles wrote damn good stories, he had to admit. Even if they failed at everything else.

Though, of course, Draco found that he and Hermione still had plenty of disagreements.

"Oh please," he'd burst out at last, a good while later. "'My love, I'd give the world to see you safe?' What kind of a line is that?"

"It's a very sweet line, that's what it is," Hermione had retorted, gravely offended.

"Bloody Merlin. Spare me the hyperbole, Granger? What'll he say next? That he'll contribute his little pinky to the jackpot pile?"

"No," she'd bitten out, fuming. "He said that he'd crown the world with the moon, too, if she promised to return his love!"

And so on. Somewhere, under layers of disgruntled remarks, Draco was extremely amused by it all. Granger is a romantic, he discovered. Now that was a secret worth having.

"So she kisses him? It's a bloody freaking frog!"

"Well, yes," huffed Hermione rather indignantly. "The whole point is that her faith and goodness won out. And I think it's also sort of about, you know, appearances don't matter and all that."

"No, it's not. Clearly appearances did matter, because she married a prince, not a frog."

"But she kissed the frog!"

"I know! You don't have to remind me of it! Can we please discuss a less revolting 'fairy tale' now? No wonder all you muggles have such polluted minds." Draco turned his head away, disgruntled.

"…Oh my god. Harrycomesaveme."

He turned back to find Hermione staring at him in utter amazement, and Draco felt himself start to become distinctly uncomfortable.
"Stop staring, Granger. What?"

"It's not my fault I'm staring! You're the one who's pouting! I think I'm scarred for life!"

Hurriedly he corrected his expression. "Well, I'm already scarred for life with all that disgusting frog-kissing, so that's hardly the worst of our worries!"

"…You're right, actually. The worst of our worries is how to get the hell out of here, and – "

" - Bloody Merlin. You just swore."


"You said 'hell,'" explained Draco, eyes wide with awe.

Hermione fixed him with a flat expression, rather offended.
"Look, Malfoy, I'm not a total prude just because I'm a Gryffindor and I do all my homework on time!"

"Early," corrected the blond boy distantly.

"Fine. I do it early." She huffed. "Anyway, I… Malfoy? Hello? Earth to Malfoy? Wake up now?"

He blinked. "Shut up, Granger," he said quickly, turning the slightest bit pink. "I swear, you're insufferable when you talk."

"Oh, and that's why I've been telling Muggle fairy tales to you for the past hour or so?" She stuck her hands on her waist and glared across the small space between their faces.

"Fine," he amended, shooting her a snooty sidelong glance. "I'll admit that you're better when you're telling stories. But that's hardly saying much."

"Nobody said it was," she returned acidly. "Why were you spacing out back there, anyway?"

Because I'm a bad boy with a dirty, dirty mind, and you just swore and protested that you weren't a prude.
"…None of your business," he snapped.

Hermione hmphed and readjusted her legs. "Fine then. Go and be a prick to me."

Gladly, O sweet wench.
"Shut up and get on with the next story," Draco said, still frowning.

Three hours later, they'd moved on to poetry.

"Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night... What immortal hand or eye dare frame they fearful symmetry?"

Draco watched as Hermione finished with a happy sigh, relishing the taste of the words on her tongue. "I adore William Blake," she murmured, leaning back against the wall.

"Tengo un tigre grande en mi pantalones," responded Draco noncommittally, waiting for her reaction.

It was immediate. He watched in lazy amusement as her face flushed bright red.

She opened her mouth for several seconds before words came out.
"You – you do realize you just said 'I have a large tiger in my pants' in Spanish?" she asked, blushing madly and pointedly avoiding his gaze.

"Actually, I was just making up sounds, Granger," he drawled, sarcastic.

"You – " she stopped and glared at him. "You do realize that you've spoiled Blake for me forever because of that nasty… association you've given me now?"

"On the contrary, Granger. I haven't given you anything. Yet."

She squirmed some more, and a corner of Draco's mouth pricked upwards. Whoever knew that Granger had this much entertainment value in that adorable fussy prudishness of hers?

"But, now that you've suggested it – " he made as to move towards her and she immediately flattened herself against the wall.

"Don't you dare, Draco Malfoy!" she declared adamantly, wand raised.

"…Bloody Merlin. Don't get your knickers in a twist, Granger. It's called teasing."

"I know. That's what scares me. Look at who we are, Malfoy. You do not tease me."

"Hmm. Good point." He looked up. "But then again, one could theoretically argue that perhaps all of my incessant provocations of you stem from a suppressed desire to do nothing except tease."

He stopped abruptly. And that sounded entirely too dirty.

Apparently she had realized this too, because Hermione Granger was now staring at him with the most adorably terrified-abhorrent-perplexed expression on her face.

It was about this time that Draco realized he'd been dropping in "adorable" among the adjectives he used for Granger, and felt like he was going to be sick. Except it was probably more accurate to say that he was far more sick at the thought that he wasn't actually sick at the idea of calling Granger adorable. Or at the idea of snogging her until daybreak, for that matter.

But, you know, he told himself. Deprivation and all that. It was excusable.

"Granger, will you stop sneezing?"

She blinked blearily. "Sorry, but I can't!" She caught her breath and fought another sniffle. "It's not my fault Hogwarts doesn't heat its bloody drafty broom closets at night!" Another loud sneeze cut off any further words.

Draco groaned. "Please, Granger!"

"Look, it's not my bloody choice! I can't control the blasted things!"

She just swore three times in less than a minute. Gods. Draco shifted uncomfortably. I must be rubbing off on her.

"Well, why don't you conjure up a blanket or something?"

"I told you already – I can't even transfigure a glass of water in here, do you really think it'll let me get a blanket? I swear this place is trying to kill us slowly or something…"

She shivered again, and rubbed her arms furiously in an attempt to warm them. Something in Draco quailed.

"Oh fine then, come over here and I'll let you share half my cloak," he told her at last, beckoning her over as he removed it from his shoulders to spread it over himself like a blanket.

She stared at him for a long moment. Did he just say - ?
"Er. That's, um, very nice of you to offer, Malfoy, but there is this slight problem where –" she stopped to sneeze – "excuse me. Where there is definitely not enough room for me to squeeze in next to you." She shivered again and stared at her shoes, huddled for warmth. "Thanks, though."

Draco blinked a few times, then came to a decision.

"Oh, to hell with it," he muttered as reached over and pulled her onto his lap, ignoring her squeal of protest. He arranged her carefully against his chest and pulled the heavy cloak over them both. She was surprisingly light, he noted, and he tried not think about the fact that he knew this because she was sitting on him in a rather uncomfortable proximity.

"Er," she said, after he'd settled comfortably against the wall again. "I – um -"

"Shut up and go to sleep, Granger," he muttered, eyes determinedly closed, letting the light die on his wand and sticking it back into his pocket. "I, for one, am dead tired."

She seemed to consider this for a moment before following suit. The cloak was heavy and soft, and he was warm and smelled rather nice, and she couldn't deny that having his arms wrapped around her was not an altogether unpleasant sensation. And did she mention he was warm?

She sniffled slightly one last time, and closed her eyes.

When Draco woke, he was sitting on his side and aching in several places, curled protectively around something warm and soft and sweet-smelling in his arms.

Suddenly he realized that the something had legs, and these legs were draped over his own. Crap. Granger. Mentally he swore, and prayed that Pothead's best friend would not kill him immediately upon waking.

Gingerly, he tried adjusting to a more comfortable (and less incriminating) position to free the numbness from his calves. Granger stirred slightly in her sleep, moving so that her head was tucked under his chin. Her breath came in warm steady gusts over his collarbone, and Draco was seized with a sudden strange emotion.

He scooted around a tad bit more, careful not to wake the girl in his arms. He tightened his arms around her imperceptibly and let his head rest against the wall, waiting for her to wake. A curl escaped and with one hand he tucked it gently back into place.

He didn't worry about to explaining the wave of tenderness that had stolen over him. At about six in the morning, or so he guessed the time, it was acceptable to be rather uncharacteristic.

As he sat on the hard floor, staring at the wooden door, one hand running lightly through her rich curls, it occurred to him that he was in a strangely pleasant situation. He had actually enjoyed last night's stories and banter and bickering, he realized, a little disbelieving of it in spite of himself. It had been… nice. She was clever and witty and sincere, and he found himself a little shocked as he realized that he liked these traits in her.

Hermione wasn't at all Slytherin. She wasn't even particularly ambitious – just a perfectionist who perpetually felt that she had something to prove. Her sincerity and general goodwill were on the scale of sickening, he supposed. And yet here he was, cradling her gently, playing with her hair, contemplating what it was that made her tick.

He concluded that she was half a mystery. And that was okay, he thought, because in her other half, the intelligent, stubborn, slightly unsure half, she was actually freakishly similar to himself.

Slowly Draco reached for his wand and cast a lumos spell, filling the vague darkness of the room with a soft light. She really was quite lovely, he concluded. Nothing remarkable, of course - but there was something very pleasant and humble and undemanding about her prettiness.
It left him quite undone.

Hermione awoke to a gentle light and the steady rise and fall of someone's chest. Uncharacteristically, she felt strangely comforted – though against what exactly, she was not sure.

"You're up."

Draco's voice was a thrumming rumble against her cheek, and she sat up so quickly that she just barely missed clipping his chin.

"You're turning red," he pointed out, a hint of amusement in his tone.

"…Thank you," she bit out rather acidly, furiously trying to ignore the fact that she was again sitting on him. And that he had his arms around her. And that, well, it felt nice.

He sent a cool glance her way. "What I meant was that you don't, well, need to turn red."

She gave him a strange look. "And, what, I don't need to breathe either? It's not exactly something I control, Draco," she shot at him.

He ignored most of her sentence in favor of one word. "…So it's Draco now, is it?"

He smirked slightly, and Hermione was forced to admit again that it really was not so bad an expression on him. Though it isn't sexy. Anything but sexy, she told herself vehemently. Not at all.

"Yes, well. Um. I figured that, well, we may as well be, you know, civil and all."

He gave her an appraising look. "Agreed," he said at last, slowly, face unreadable. "…I always did think Hermione was pleasant to say."

She stared at him as if his eyeballs had popped out and started singing. "I am so missing something here," she started, when a bell and a sudden stampede outside the closet cut her off.

Her mouth dropped open, and hurriedly she checked her watch.

"It's already eight," she said at last, eyes wide with horror, forgetting everything else in the face of impending cataclysm.

"Well. Crap."

"Oh lord - I can't believe they forgot about us! I'm missing Potions! This is a crisis," she exclaimed, wringing her hands. "And now Snape will dock points and I won't have a clue as to what we learned in class today, and Harry and Ron will be no help at all, and – "

Sighing, Draco clamped a hand over her mouth. "Look, Granger. I'm sure they'll come get us eventually. Somehow I doubt that Dumbledore would just let a Head Girl and a Malfoy rot in a broom closet forever."

She smiled wanly at that. "Yes, well..." The noise died down, and she seemed to grow resigned to her fate.

"…You can never tell, though. Maybe he'd do it for the Malfoy," she quipped weakly. "You know, do the world a service and rid it of one more…"

Draco mock-glared at her and to his surprise, she grinned back at him. Faced with her sweet smile, he fought the ridiculous urge to… something. He stopped his thoughts quickly.

Three hours later they still weren't released.

"Okay. So I can understand making us skip breakfast, but forcing us to starve is an entirely different matter," grumbled Hermione. They were standing again in the small cramped space, and they'd counted four bells already.

"Yes, well." Draco looked pensive. "Hey - do you think it's possible that maybe we're supposed to… I don't know, do something in order to get out? Like… solve a puzzle, or something like that."

Hermione considered that for a moment. "That actually seems probable. Except there's nothing really to do, as far as I can tell."

"Huh. Yes, well. There is that."

They sat down again and stayed in companionable silence for a while. Suddenly a thought occurred to Draco.



"Pansy… well, um, Pothea – Potter tells her stuff?"

"Well I imagine he says something to her," Hermione replied, eyeing him strangely. "That does seem, you know, normal?" She concluded that missing breakfast did bad things to his mind.

"Well, I meant – Muggle stuff." He was met with a blank look. "No – like, you know, fairy tales and so on."

"Um. Possibly? How would I know? And what does this have to do with anything, anyway?" Hermione crossed her arms.

"Well, um. I was thinking. I mean, I know Pansy pretty well – " Draco didn't miss how she stiffened as this – "just 'cause we've been friends for a long time and all, and she's sort of the… scheming, conniving type? She likes to matchmake for me." He made a face. "And I was just thinking, you know. With the fairy tales. All the… kissing of frogs and hated enemies and suchlike. You know?" He shifted uncomfortably before daring a peek at her face.

Hermione looked as if she were going to be violently sick.
Draco felt a little stab of something at her expression and stiffened into frigid silence.

It was a long, uncomfortable moment before he heard her speak.

"Well. That does seem to make sense. Knowing Harry, too."
She looked no more pleased than she had a moment ago.

Another silence.

"Well then. We might as well just… get it over with, then," remarked Draco at last.

Hermione found herself rather surprised by how suddenly all the emotion had left his voice, and bit down on the tiny flare of hurt she felt.

"Yes," she said, quietly, not moving.

A long moment later, Draco shifted and positioned himself appropriately.

"Well. Sorry," he said rather flatly, not looking at her eyes. He lowered his head and touched his lips to hers.

She'd barely registered the half-kiss when the door creaked open by itself, light flooding the small closet. He was up and off her in a flash.

"…See you in Runes," he said quietly, avoiding her gaze and walking briskly away, leaving her still leaning against the broom closet's back wall.

Two days later the Great Hall erupted into pink and white. Hermione had reconciled with Harry after a day of refusing to speak to him for his "plotting," and so the old Trio walked into breakfast as they had always done, the only change being Pansy at Harry's side until they parted ways at the tables.

The much-anticipated mail drop came, and Hermione was reminded sharply of her time with Draco in the broom closet. He agreed that it was a stupid tradition, she thought, tossing peevish looks at the owls and the giggling girls and the blushing boys around her. She immediately realized what she was thinking and retracted the thought, scolding herself mentally for wavering again.

If she were to be entirely honest with herself, Hermione would have to admit that she'd passed the time in the broom closet far more pleasantly than she could have ever anticipated. And she would have to admit that she often caught her eyes wandering over to an unmistakable shock of blond hair. And that she had not been revolted by the semi-kiss they'd shared.

Though, she always reminded herself, she was quite sure that Draco didn't mean to share anything about that. It was purely perfunctory, she was sure. She told herself she wasn't hurt.

So it was hardly surprising that, even as she pursed her lips and glared vaguely at the lovesick couples around her, she hoped against hope that maybe – just maybe – there would be something there for her as well.

The owls came and swirled over the heads of the students in a great flurry of feathers and ribbons and glittering pink parchment. The letters began to fall.

To her right, Ron was blushing furiously at the large package that had landed before him. It was tied with a ribbon from which countless brightly-colored bottlecaps dangled; it did not take much to guess that this was a gift from Luna.

On her left, a large brown owl swooped down towards Harry with a teddy bear in its claws. The moment Harry's hands touched it, the stuffed animal immediately burst out into song. Clearly Pansy had found a more receptive target for her singing teddy bears, Hermione mused, because Harry had flushed to an impressive shade of mauve, and was turning to look for Pansy at the Slytherin table with an utterly goofy expression on his dazed face.

But as boxes and envelopes and rolls of parchments fell thickly around her, Hermione found that her own place remained stubbornly empty. She felt that little stab of hurt again, and bit her lip hard before plastering on her best attempt at a smile.

Hermione Granger, however, was not the type to dwell overmuch on any sort of frippery, and it wasn't long before she'd convinced herself again of the wisdom in abstaining from Valentine's Day, be it voluntary or no. By evening she had fully recovered her dislike of the holiday, and any lingering wistfulness was carefully packed away under several thick layers of intellectual contempt.

She would have been fine, if only she hadn't literally run into Draco Malfoy again on her way down the stairs. Somehow, in the sprawl of books and quills and parchments, she managed to again find herself in a compromising position with the blond boy. Hermione could have screamed.

As it so happened, she jumped up and brushed herself off instead, then immediately setting about gathering her many books. She had stacked eight on the ground and was turning around to look for the other four when she saw Draco Malfoy carefully placing the missing volumes on top of the pile she had just made on the stair.

"Oh. I, er. Um, thank you, I suppose," she managed at last, and not without a great deal of awkwardness. She avoided looking at his face.

"…Don't bother, Hermione," he responded in that unreadable tone, and she glanced up at him quickly. He sent her a vague half-smile that was partially a smirk, too. His grey eyes were carefully blank.

He'd called her Hermione, she realized as he turned and continued up the staircase. She had no idea why, except that he'd said once – it seemed a lifetime ago – that it was… fun to say? She couldn't exactly remember, he'd teased her then, and other things besides.

Suddenly it occurred to her that she had a right to be angry, very angry, and that she had a right to demand answers – and being Hermione Granger, that was exactly what she did.

"Malfoy!" she called up after him, hands on her hips. "Draco, you come back here!"

He half-turned and sent her one long appraising glance over his shoulder.

"You're not done yet. You've some explaining to do," she told him, glaring furiously with the sudden rise of her frustration.

"…Um?" The damned raised eyebrow.

She crossed her arms. "Look. You can't just – just leave and pretend it never happened! I don't deal well with inconsistencies, Dra – Malf – Draco," she huffed. "And there's a giant one glaring me in the eye right now, and we either decide it doesn't exist, or we decide it does exist, and we don't do both! I can't do both! It doesn't - "

" – work that way?"

She stared at him and sputtered for a second. "N – No! It doesn't!"

He fixed her with another of those pale impenetrable stares. "…That's too bad, then, Granger. I'm an ambiguous person. I do work that way."

She blinked once, surprised by his sudden reversal.

"You know what? You're a hopeless coward, and you're too bloody confused for your own good, Malfoy," she shot at his receding back, biting down hard on her lips after and gathering up her large precarious pile of books for the long walk back to the Gryffindor common room. She didn't see him stiffen at her words.

The next morning, something very surprising occurred.

It was breakfast. The newly de-ribboned mail drop came, bringing Ron a large, belated package of homemade caramels from Mrs. Weasley, with express directions involving the sharing of it with Harry, Hermione, and Ginny. Lavender received a mail-order hairbrush from Witch's Wardrobe. And Hermione got a dozen pink roses.

Of course, Fate decreed that they had to be from Neville Longbottom, she thought rather wretchedly, hating herself for thinking as she did.

But she was practical as always, and Hermione grew slightly more resigned to her fate. At least she could be nice to him, she supposed, and so she agreed to help him with his lamentably uninspiring Potions project when he asked.

So, seven hours later, she and Neville were sequestered in a quiet corner of the library, "studying." Hermione soon discovered that trying to actually teach him the material was nearly impossible; Snape seemed to have a drilled a permanent fear of Potions into the awkward boy and no amount of coaxing got results. Eager to get the project finished, Hermione resorted to flipping through a heavy volume of Roots by Rote, whispering applicable information that Neville copied down. She quickly grew very good at ignoring the desperate, hopeful glances he snuck at her. Soon, she thought. Another half-hour and I'll be free…

The sound of a chair being pulled out broke her concentration and Hermione looked up. With surprise, she found herself staring into dark grey eyes.

"Draco Malfoy," she said coolly, determined to be frigidly civil. "What brings you here?"

A corner of his mouth twitched. "Again, we're not in the nineteenth century anymore," he said snidely, sliding into the seat next to hers as Neville gulped and paled from across the table. "Or have you really forgotten so soon?"

Sharp brown eyes flashed. "Look, Malfoy. I don't know what stunt you're trying to pull now, but whatever it is, save it for later. We're working, can't you see?"

"You are working," he corrected smoothly. "Longbottom is gawking." He flicked a piece of lint off his sleeve.

"You're insufferable," she shot at him, pointedly picking up her bag and setting it down on the table between them.

"…But we've established that already," he murmured, rising fluidly and turning to leave. "Better watch out, Hermione. There's tigers in the forests," he called over his shoulder.

Hermione sat perfectly still, just short of perplexed.

"Um, Hermione?" Neville's voice floated hesitantly over. "…what was that about?"

She blinked and gave Neville a tight smile. "I have no idea," she said levelly, turning determinedly back to the books. "He's ambiguous and weird, and that's that."

And Hermione vowed not to give the strange blond another thought. Immediately she undertook the expurgation of him from her mind. It worked, somewhat.

"You're so kidding! Then what?"

"So then Dean said, 'Seamus, mate. It's my fault for planting firewhisky in your drink, so I'll let you off all right this time. But if you so much as look at her in the wrong way again…' and he pointed at Seamus' crotch…oh, you should've seen that expression!" Ginny dissolved into helpless giggles, and Hermione couldn't help but join in.

"Wow, Gin," muttered Ron around a mouthful of scrambled eggs. "Well, you know, if Seamus does look at you wrong again…" he trailed off, an impish gleam in his eye.

"Then what?" asked Ginny rather warily, reaching for another slice of toast.

"Then be sure to call me over before Dean gets to him, because I want to see that show." He grinned slightly evilly, and Harry patted his head in mock-mollification.

"Yes, well, I don't think any of us would want to miss it," Hermione agreed, smiling, busily slicing at the sausages on her plate.

"No, I don't think so…" said Ginny, slightly ruefully. She looked up. "Uh, Hermione? Looks like Neville's got another package for you," she said, making her friend blush uncomfortably.

"Oh gods. At least he isn't at the table this time," Hermione sighed, reaching up to accept the plain box from the hovering eagle owl. She opened it warily, half-expecting the package to explode in her hands.

Instead, a puff of smoke came out.

"What the - ?" Harry leaned over for a closer look. "Careful, Hermione, this might, you know… I mean, Neville…"

She nodded and tugged apprehensively at the dark red velvet inside.

"Oh my bloody mother of Merlin," gaped Ron. Next to him, Harry was utterly speechless.

"Hermione? Neville gave you a miniature dragon?" asked Ginny, utterly in disbelief.

Eyes very wide, Hermione reached in and gently lifted out the small grey creature. It burbled and licked her palm.

"It's… tame," she murmured, awed.

"Yes, well, whoever sent you that definitely spent a small vault of galleons on it," said Ginny, reaching out a tentative hand to stroke its back. "Charlie told me about miniature dragons, and they're incredibly hard to breed and train."

"You know, Hermione," Ron ventured, cautious. "I know you want to be nice to Neville and all, but maybe you should… I don't know, clear things up with him…? before he goes about breaking all his vaults?"

She grimaced. "Somehow, I don't think this is from Neville," she replied, reaching again into the box to check for a note of some sort. There was.

"I'll just go run and put him – well, it – back in my room," she said hurriedly, retracting her hand, "or I'll be late for Potions again, and then Snape will really be terrible…" She gently set the squirming thing back in its nest (now the velvet made sense, she realized,) and scooped up the box, bookbag already over her shoulder. "I'll meet you out there; save me a seat!" And she was gone.

Back in her room, Hermione took out the note hurriedly from under the dragon's belly. It was written on plain parchment with plain ink. The handwriting was thin and precise. The message itself was terse.

Her name is Smaugling; leave the window open and she'll hunt for herself.
Trophy Room, eleven o' clock tonight.
Thank you.

As instructed, Hermione left the window open, eyeing the grey dragon nervously – it was only the size of a small owl, and it its wings were quite delicate. Crookshanks appeared from under the bed and crept towards it, sniffing suspiciously. Then he yowled once, fixing the little dragon with stern cat eyes, and padded off, tail waving in the air.

Hermione smiled, assured now that Crookshanks was not going to.. kill it, or something along those lines. Impulsively she kissed its long, elegant snout, and dashed off to the dungeons.

She paused at the base of the stairs that led up to the tower that the Trophy Room was housed in.

Hermione had told neither Harry nor Ron about the message, and now she was beginning to regret coming alone. The corridor was quite abandoned, and soft snores came from many of the portraits along its walls.

It could be anyone waiting up there in the room, she realized. Voldemort was gone. But Hermione hardly doubted that there were still innumerable wizards and witches who would love to do her and Harry harm.

But Crookshanks allowed the dragon, that part wasn't a trick…
-That doesn't mean this meeting is safe, either.
There's no other way of finding out who sent me the dragon.
-Surely that's what the person up in the Trophy Room is thinking, too.

So it's not safe, then, Hermione decided at last, and turned reluctantly to leave.

Above her a door opened, and Hermione began to bolt, before -


She whirled around. I know that voice.

Draco Malfoy clattered loudly down the stairs. Hermione stood perfectly still as he approached, willing her heartbeat to come under her control again.

He stopped less than a foot in front of her, but Hermione refused to let herself shift backwards.

"Malfoy," she said evenly, determined not to betray any shakiness.

He stared at her for a second, face perfectly blank. "So it's back to the same old, again?"

She thought she caught a note of bitterness in his voice. "Well, you started it," she retorted, defensive.

He blinked. "Yes. Well." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, looking away self-consciously. "I… take that back, then. I suppose."

Hermione realized that she had never seen him behave so awkwardly.
"Well…Draco, then. All right. So… why are you here?" Inwardly she winced at how inane she sounded.

He looked up at her, surprised. "Trophy Room, eleven o' clock? I'd thought it was obvious."

She was slightly taken aback. "So it's you."

"…You look disappointed."

"No, no! I mean… Well, just, I mean, after everything… you know, the last few days – I just wasn't – expecting it, I suppose…?"

"Ah. Well." He looked away briefly, awkwardly. "I'm here, then."

"Yes. Yes, you are." She refused to meet his eyes.

"Look, I – "

"No, no – you don't need to explain… I guess… Well, you know. The stuff I said about being a coward, you know, and being confused? Well, you know – it was, I mean, I was angry and all, and I was quite confused myself, and I just – I'm not really mad at you, not for Neville in the library either, I was just sort of… stressed, and don't feel like you need to apologize for it." She stopped.
"The dragon must have cost you a fortune. I don't really… need it, you know. If you want it back."

His jaw tightened almost imperceptibly. "Smaugling – so I assume that you don't like her?"

"No! I just… You don't need it to apologize, you know."

"I'm trying to apologize?"

"Well-! I mean, aren't you?"

"Not particularly, no."

"…All right." Confusion.

A frustrated sigh. "Look. Hermione, I – " He stopped and tried again.

"You know how the ambiguous, they say that they'd give the world, maybe, for an ambiguous someone…?" He looked away again, face flushing slightly as he continued.

"Well. I kind of would, you know. And maybe I'd even… crown it, like you said, with the moon."
A nervous pause. "I kind of would. Just so you know."

Silence. He stopped, barely breathing.

He looked up finally at a feather-light touch on his wrist.

"Draco… I – well, I – " She stopped and stared at him blankly for a long second.
He stiffened as if he'd been slapped hard over the face.

He was turning to leave, cheeks aflame, when her voice came again.

"Draco – if you were a… a frog," she said helplessly, at last. And really he found nothing funny about the statement at all, because in his mind's eye he could see her twisting her hands again as she nervously fought the words, struggled with the unreality of it all.

He turned around.
"Yes?" he said.

"If appearances didn't matter - "

"But they do." Challenging.

"…Yes. And it would look so strange, you know."

"A Slytherin and a Gryffindor."


A pause; then, with blank grey eyes:
"But do you really give a damn?"


A long stare. "Me neither."

"So you…"

She looked utterly bewildered, he noted.

"…Shut up, Granger. You're insufferable when you talk."
And then he closed the very small space between them and lowered his head to hers.

A very long moment later, he released her – though he kept one arm wrapped firmly around her waist.

"Hypocrite," she muttered against his chest.

"What's new?" he asked, and smirked until she pulled him down for another kiss.

"But Draco! A Gryffindor! She's the bloody best friend of the bloody Boy-Who-Lived!"

"Shut up and stop being obnoxious, Pansy. 'The bloody Boy-Who-Lived' is your bloody boyfriend, remember?" He shot her a sour look.

Pansy smirked. "…Just proving a point, Draco dear." She stretched. "Well. It looks like my work is all done here," she said, an extremely self-satisfied expression on her face. She patted down her short dark hair. "Have fun grimacing at the fire, Draco. Personally, I suggest finding Hermione for a good snog. You won't catch me wasting time sulking in a chair just because I can't annoy the wits out of my friend for dating a Gryffindor anymore!" Expertly ducking the pillow he launched at her, she got up and flounced out of the common room.

Harry was waiting outside. "All done?"

"All done," she returned, smiling. "Has Hermione confessed yet?"

"No," he chuckled. "We're letting her get away with the old Arithmancy Project excuse for now, though," he said, leading her away.

"She's persistent, then."

"Yes… though I have to say, her "borrowed" black cloak with the Slytherin crest? A dead giveaway."

Pansy grinned. "We're terrible."

"Yes, but they're worse," pointed out Harry, and she laughed and agreed.

All done! Please review. And, if you'd like to, guess who I am!

Story written for dizzydragon:

Side pairing: Harry/Pansy or Ron/Pansy or Ron/Luna or Harry/Luna or Ginny/Dean (options? Oh, hell yeah.)
Rating: Any
Period: Any
1) Dude, I want real Harrys and real Rons here. Make them actual characters, even if they only appear in a sentence. I don't want no Ron or Harry bashing, dammit!
2) Awkward firsts
3) "Tengo un tigre grande en mi pantalones." I have a large tiger in my pants.In Spanish.
4) No Gorgeous!Hermione and SexGod!Draco
5) A singing teddy bear
6) Oysters
7) A fight!With violence!
8) "You know how the ambiguous, they say that they'd give the world for an ambiguous someone? I kind of would, you know, and maybe I'd even crown it with the moon. I kind of would. Just so you know."
You don't have to use all of these. But, um, I would really appreciate if you kept 1 and 4...?
Tone: At least a touch of humor. Angst/Humor, Drama/Humor works too! (And as this is a Valentines exchange, I suppose at least a touch of romance would work too...haha)
Ending: Happy, but like I said, you can fling the characters along a big slew of whirlpools and big-butt-thunderstorms until they get there.