A/N: I had an idea about how this chapter was going to go, and how I would like it to go, but it wasn't until I was frantically practising for my French oral exam and this song started playing on my friend's iPod that I truly got the inspiration. The end was a struggle, because there were many different ways I could think of but none of them seemed good enough. The second last part was one of two ideas for an epilogue that I decided not to include, so I put it in this chapter. The other idea I may end up writing and posting as a oneshot to accompany this story, but I currently have no plans to do so.
The title is because I like the symmetry of sorts of having the story title match the last chapter, it is relevant, and I even though I like the song I quote, I can't bear to name a chapter after a song with Taylor Swift in it. Sorry TSwift fans.
Recent updates: Relaxation Yoga is a Dramione one shot I posted in October, Shatter is a three part I posted in late July.
I remember every look upon your face
The way you roll your eyes, the way you taste
You make it hard for breathing
'Cause when I close my eyes and drift away
I think of you and everything's okay
…And maybe it's true
That I can't live without you.
Two is Better Than One, Boys Like Girls ft. Taylor Swift
Winter exams came and went in a flurry of panic, late nights and lots of coffee. By the time the last exam was over, most of the sixth years walked around in a daze for the day before full consciousness returned in the evening and celebratory parties began.
The day after, nursing hangovers (though no one could quite remember drinking anything other than some punch) and lack of sleep, the students piled onto trains and said goodbye to their friends for the holidays. Harry, Ron and Hermione each went to their respective houses and then met up at the Order's headquarters the day before Christmas. She was disappointed to hear that Draco had already left to spend the next few days with his parents, heavily guarded, and wouldn't return until New Year's Eve. She often saw Theodore around the house, as he could no longer go home after declaring his loyalty to the Order, but a lot of his time was spent talking to members of the Order and trying to give as much information as he knew, which unfortunately turned out to be very little.
By the time New Years Eve rolled around she spent most of her time eagerly turning every time a door opened, until Harry started giving her pityingly obvious looks of consternation and she refrained from continuing. It wasn't until their New Year's party had been going on for a bit that she spotted Draco sitting in the corner of the room with Theodore, drinking out of long necked bottles with no labels.
The sight of him was jarring, and she halted in the midst of laughing at a joke George had told her. The lack of an excuse to talk to him, other than demanding to know what he was drinking, prevented her from leaving the loud, happy group of all her friends and the adults who had remained there for the night. She spent a large majority of the night subtly glancing over to see what he was doing. When 12:00 hit, she cheered along with the rest and gave Ron a small kiss on the cheek, which she would've done to Harry had he not been embracing Ginny (very carefully, of course, as her brothers were all keeping a careful eye on him).
When he did return he spent all day in his room, or with Theodore. She spent countless nights imaging seeking him out to talk to him, or even Draco looking for her because he missed her. She ended up not seeing him once until they were all escorted back to Platform 9 ¾, during which time she was on opposite sides of the group than him and he soon disappeared into the crowds of students on the platform. Somehow, even when she was doing her patrolling rounds to keep rowdy students in line, she never made contact with him.
By the time Hogwarts was in sight she had given up hope and was trying very hard to keep her spirits high.
At school Hermione felt like a vital part of her was missing, and she didn't know how to get it back. Every day she would wake up to the quiet chatter of Lavender and Parvati, both of whom were a lot more considerate now they'd all moved back into their dormitories. She would get ready in the bathroom adjoined to them, stepping out of her shower onto the tiles she'd thought she would miss but now felt wrong. The mirror that she could see herself in wasn't encircled by a spiralling silver design, but a simple gold frame.
After she was dressed she would leave her dormitory and walk down the stairs into the Gryffindor Common Room, all red and gold and so unlike what she was used to. Instead of seeing Draco waiting for her, it would be Ron and Harry. And while she loved them, she truly did, she couldn't quench the disappointment that would pass through her. They would all walk to the Great Hall, often accompanied by Ginny, and would take their seats at the Gryffindor table. She couldn't help but glancing at where the extra table should have been, but was now just an empty space.
On certain days she would look purposefully to the Slytherin table, her eyes scanning the students there until she found herself looking at Draco. He was usually talking to those around him, most specifically Blaise and Gavin, who often chose to sit there. Sometimes he would simply be looking at the table, or just listening to the people around them, and she would turn away, feeling like she'd left something behind.
Classes were eerily similar to the way they'd been, but also extremely different. Instead of the different coloured trim on robes being divided on two sides, they mixed freely as the students interacted with members of other houses. In the hallways there was a lot of chatter among members of different social groups, Lisa calling out a happy greeting to Theodore, who responded with a wave and a smile, or Colin popping over to give his Slytherin girlfriend a quick kiss, young Ravenclaws trading study notes with Slytherins in the library, Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors walking around the lake, a newfound acceptance of all four houses that had never been present before.
After they'd parted ways the first interaction Hermione and Draco had was several days after they'd moved back to their original dormitories. She'd been walking down the hall with Ron on the way to Charms behind Harry and Ginny, whose next class was across the hall from theirs, and she and Draco had crossed paths. The hallways were packed with students and they'd come face to face in the middle of the crowd. She stopped instinctively, her eyes locked with his and she couldn't prevent a gasp from escaping her lips.
The moment seemed to freeze time as everything else fell away from her. Scenes in muggle movies, and books where the heroine came face to face with the guy she fancied had always seemed so cliché. Yet here she was experiencing one and she couldn't deny that she was feeling sentiments that countless writers had described in their efforts to pack as much drama into their books as possible.
Ron looked over his shoulder at her, a question forming on his lips as the force of the people walking behind her pushed her forward. Her eyes dropped from his face and she moved past him, her hand brushing his lightly. Hugging her text book to her chest she shifted her bag on her shoulder and walked on, fighting the urge to turn around.
"What was that about?" Ron asked her lightly, grimacing with distaste as Harry pressed a kiss to Ginny's lips outside her classroom door.
"What was what?" Hermione asked, stepping into the classroom. They took their seat in the middle row, a compromise between her desire to sit in the front and his desire to sit in the back.
"You and Malfoy in the hallway." He said, flipping his book open. "You had a moment."
"Hey Ron." Morag grinned at her companion and they high fived each other, before he moved to sit down. They delay provided her enough time to focus herself and try to calm down her heartbeat.
"We didn't have a moment."
"What are you talking about?" Harry dropped down into the seat beside her, a happy smile pasted on his face. "That moment you and Malfoy had in the hallway?"
"We didn't have a moment!" Hermione exclaimed, her face flushing. "It was just…I mean, it's a little weird seeing each other, after the assignment is over, and everything."
"Really?" Harry looked doubtful, "I don't find it weird with Blaise."
"Yeah, and clearly Morag and I don't find it weird." Ron gestured between his friend and himself to illustrate his point. "We just high fived. So why would you?"
"I don't know." She felt rather flustered and wished that Professor Flitwick had chosen another day to be late. "I just…"
"We're not stupid." Harry said gently after she floundered for a bit, and Ron nodded in agreement. "We've all pretty much established that there's something going on between you two."
"'All'?" She repeated with wide eyes. "What do you mean 'all'?"
"Ginny, Harry and I." Ron said, slightly red in the face. "We've never seen you look like that, Hermione. And we just want you to know that…" He was clearly very uncomfortable with the way the conversation was progressing. "Well…If you're holding back because of us, it's OK."
"All we want is for you to be happy." Harry nodded a few too many times, his face flushing as well. "If your idea of happiness happens to include Malfoy, than we're fine with it. If Malfoy can give you the kind of happiness Ginny gives me, then we don't want you to miss out."
"Yeah." Ron nodded and a grin broke out on his face. "Except please try not to smile as mushily as Harry. It's really quite sickening."
"I don't smile mushily." Harry protested with a bemused glare.
"Yes, you do. You just did it." Ron rolled his eyes and looked up as Professor Flitwick hurried in the door, murmuring a few quick apologies and giving them their review instructions.
As Hermione flipped though her book to find her study notes she blinked rapidly a few times, clearing her eyes. "Thanks." They both turned to her with smiles on their faces, but said nothing in response, other than Harry muttering "I don't smile mushily," under his breath.
The first time they actually spoke was in Potions, when they were given a period to finish up their work on the assignment and make sure everything was in order. It was quite awkward at first and she was reluctant to leave the comfort of her original seat and move to his table.
"Have you finished your potion descriptions?" She asked quietly, shuffling through her papers to sort them out.
"Yeah. If you have, too, why don't we just look them over?" He suggested, calm and still and perfect and so frustratingly close to the way he'd been before the assignment, except without the sneers.
"Good idea." Hermione cleared her throat uncomfortably and checked the order of her papers. "Right, so here they are." As they exchanged their work their hands brushed and tingles shot up her arm. "Thanks."
Silence commenced and she focused on his writing, filling the page in front of her. When she edited essays and papers written by Harry and Ron she was always tempted to rewrite sentences and change words and correct everything, but with Draco's she found herself absorbed by his eloquent phrasing. Her quill remained on the desk beside her, untouched, until she was finished. "It looks good to me." She looked up with a smile, which faltered slightly when she found that he had been looking directly at her.
"Yours too." As they passed the parchment back she entertained a sort of hope that their hands would touch again, but he seemed to position his fingers purposefully out her way. "So, how have you been?"
The casual air to the question surprised her and she couldn't help but feel jealous of how composed he was. She was positive that emotions were flashing across her face unbelievably fast, and he could no doubt read them all. "I've been alright." She smiled, nodding somewhat mechanically. "It's such an adjustment. I'd forgotten what it's like not to have my own room, and the noise of the common room."
"That's the worst bit." He rolled his eyes, interest sparkling in his eyes. "I've been so used to only about four people working, but the common room is deafening! I find the library so much more peaceful."
"I agree, definitely. The library has become my refuge."
"I'm pretty sure it's always been your refuge," he said with a smirk. She'd missed the expression so much and now, to be presented with his characteristic expression was like breathing after holding your breath.
"Well, sort of." Her laugh came out a bit more breathlessly than she would have liked, but she hadn't embarrassed herself terribly yet so she considered herself quite well off.
"Maybe we could plan to go to the library together," Draco suggested and she stared at him. Was he asking her out in a slightly romantic way, or was this just a simple study between two friends? "Study a bit for tests and the like."
"That would be nice." Flushing, Hermione looked down and, to busy her hands, once more started shuffling her papers around and making it all too obvious that she was flustered.
"Great. Oh, I found something of yours, by the way." He suddenly remembered and reached out for his bag, digging around inside it."Here it is," he held out a hairclip with a pink butterfly on the end. "I don't know when it fell out, but it was mixed in with the things in my trunk."
"Thanks," she reached out and their hands definitely brushed that time. Was it an accident? He looked unfazed and shut his bag again. The way he kissed me was definitely not friendly. "It was probably from when we were playing tag, when I was little."
"Probably. You were terrible at that game." He smirked at her again and she felt herself flush a bit.
"You were almost three times my size, your legs were way longer." She protested, laughing. "There was hardly any chance that I could catch you."
"What was I supposed to do, let you win?" He looked so disgusted by the idea that she found herself bursting into laughter all over again.
"I let you win in Hide and Go Seek."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did!" She willed the conversation to go on forever, if he would only keep smiling at her like that.
"Mm, no, I'm just particularly adept at hiding." He grinned, "You're only trying to salvage your pride, but I know the truth."
"Do you?" She asked in what she hoped was a successfully smooth and coy way. "Finally developed your omniscient skills?"
"Obviously." Draco said and smirked at her, "Which is how I know what you're thinking right now."
"Mm, really? What, pray tell, am I thinking then?" For a brief moment she actually felt a bit of fear that he did know what she was thinking, but then rationalized that they weren't keeping constant eye contact with each other and he obviously wasn't able to just fish into her thoughts.
"You're wondering how you never noticed my truly stunning natural good looks until this exact moment." He fluttered his eyelashes at her and she laughed a bit nervously, because she had actually been thinking about his bone structure and the softness of his hair.
"Actually I was wondering if you could tell me what shampoo you use." She said and raised her eyebrows at him in challenge. "That way I'll know how to avoid the overdone look you've got."
"My hair is not overdone," Draco protested, his hand reaching up and threading through his hair. "Nope, silky. Feel it." He inclined his head towards her and without thinking she reached out, running her hand down the side of his head, brushing over his ear and halting just above his shoulder blade.
For a moment she seemed to lose complete control of her fingers, and sat completely still, arm outstretched. Draco had frozen the moment she'd touched him and they stared at each other, quite awkwardly, until Blaise wandered over.
"Aren't you guys done yet?" Blaise asked in a mockingly shocked way, oblivious to their tension. Hermione jerked her arm back and coughed, picking up her quill and then resting it back onto the table.
"Er, yeah." Draco collected all his parchment and slipped it into his book, standing up, "shall we meet in the library tomorrow?"
"Yeah, after dinner would be good." Hermione smiled at him, tucking her hair behind her ear and shuffling her papers together. "Tomorrow would be great."
"Hermione!" Ginny came bursting into the Gryffindor Common Room, her hair flying in a stream of red. Several people looked up from their homework and watched her dart through the room, muttering to their friends about what could have caused such frantic behaviour.
"Over here," Hermione waved her hand, not looking away from her Transfiguration essay. "What's wrong?"
"Hermione," something in her friend's tone made Hermione look up, eyebrows drawn together in worry. Ginny's face was flushed and she was breathless. "It's Malfoy. And Ron."
"What?" Hermione jumped to her feet, feeling as if a bucket of ice cold water had been thrown over her. Had Ron and Draco been fighting?
"They're in the Hospital Wing." Ginny said, helping Hermione shove books and papers into her bag. "Harry is down there with him."
"I can't believe-" She beat her textbook's spine with a fist, but it wouldn't fit in her bag, so she snatched it out and held it in her hand. The two girls took off, Hermione's bag slapping her thigh and her book a heavy weight in her arms. After all that they'd been through she was furious that the two would dare fight with each other, and end up in the Hospital Wing, no less.
When they reached their destination Hermione threw the door open, glad that Madame Pomfrey was out of sight and didn't hear it bang noisily of the wall. She was surprised to see that there were five figures lying on beds, but then her own anger caught up with her again, as they were likely innocent bystanders.
Draco was lying down, his eyes shut, and didn't flinch when she entered, like Ron did. Her immediate fear was that he was unconscious, but of course Madame Pomfrey would have been out helping him if that was the case. He appeared to be in a deep sleep. "Ron, how could you attack him?" She hissed, hastening towards his bed with an icy glare on her face. "Are you-"
"Er, Hermione," Harry interrupted from his position beside Ron's bed. "He didn't attack Malfoy."
"Oh, really? So why is he lying unconscious on a bed beside you? Did he attack you first? Because that is a stupid reason-" It seemed that the effort of stopping Hermione before she got into a complete rant was worth it to Ron, whose face was swollen and his left arm in a sling.
"I was defending him," he croaked out, effectively halting Hermione's tirade.
"What?" She stared at him, her mouth hanging open unattractively. The bag she'd roughly shouldered minutes ago slipped to the floor with a loud thud, which Hermione ignored. "What do you mean?"
"Those three over there," Harry cast a disparaging look at what Hermione thought had been innocent bystanders, "attacked Malfoy in an empty passageway when he was alone. Ron walked in and saw them, and he helped fight them off until someone heard the commotion and got a teacher."
"They were-you-oh." Hermione's face flushed and she sank into the chair opposite Harry. Wringing her hands together, she sighed, feeling quite stupid. "Ron was defending him?"
"Yeah, the stupid git. Fainted before he could even say thanks," Ron said in a gravelly tone, and she felt affection course through her.
"I'm sorry, Ron." She reached out a hand and rested it on his arm. "You really can't blame me for thinking you two had been fighting, can you? So does this mean you've patched things up?"
"Er, no. The reason I helped him was because I knew you would be upset if he got hurt." As soon as the words left his lips Ron blushed crimson, and cleared his throat, which sounded as if it had been sandpapered. "Er, and, y'know, three on one is just wrong. Gryffindor instinct...and all..."
Beaming, Hermione leaned over and kissed his forehead. "Thanks, Ron."
"It was an injustice," he babbled on, averting his eyes so he didn't have to see her overjoyed expression. "I couldn't just, you know, stand by and watch him get pummelled, and all...anyone would've done the same. You, Harry, Ginny, Snape..."
Ron continued to list off names, to Harry and Ginny's equal amusement. The latter moved closer to her boyfriend and he wrapped an arm around her waist, a smile stretching across his face.
A shuffling behind Hermione drew her attention away from Ron and she turned, feeling as if something sharp had hit her in the stomach. Draco looked quite a bit worse for wear than Ron, his face covered in bruises and one of his legs wrapped up tightly. "Is he going to be okay?"
"McGonagall, Dumbledore, Hannah Abbott, Terry Boot..."
"Oh, good point, Harry. Madame Pomfrey, Theodore Nott..." Ron continued in his goal to list off every single person attending Hogwarts who would have jumped to Draco's defence and Harry shook his head, before continuing.
"Madame Pomfrey said that he could wake up any time. He'll be fine, because they obviously weren't trying to seriously injure him-" at that Hermione snorted, because having your leg in a cast seemed quite serious to her, "and that she'll repair his bones overnight, so tomorrow he'll be good as new."
Unconsciously she dragged her spindly chair closely to him and reached out to take his hand. "Oh, Draco."
"-Creevey, Hagrid, Flitwick-"
"Ron," Ginny interrupted him smoothly and he looked over with a goofy smile on his face, leading Hermione to the suspicion that he may have been given painkillers.
"Yup?" His fingers were still outstretched from where he'd been counting in them, though he'd used each hand more than twice.
"You can stop now. We understand." Harry said with an amused smile on his face, his eyebrows slightly raised. "Besides, none of them stepped up to defend him. You did."
"Yeah, well, I dunno I mean I was just doing my duty to humanity and all," Ron then proceeded to ramble and mumble in a way that would have made Kreacher proud.
"Hey Hermione," Draco dropped his bag onto the table in front of her and pulled out the chair to her left. Her head jerked up to look at him and she felt her face heating up, not only from his use of her first name but also because of the musky scent of Draco that swept over her.
"Hello," she said and hurriedly flipped to a new page in her notebook so he didn't notice the DM she'd idly doodled on the top of the page. "How are you feeling?"
"Fine," he replied and started dragging textbooks from within the confines of his bag. "Madame Pomfrey let me out after dinner last night, too late for me to come find you. I figured this was the place you'd be at 3:00 on a Saturday."
"Why were you trying to find me? Did you have a problem with the Potions assignment? I have all my notes here, if you need to double check something." Hermione had already begun sorting through her notes to find the good copy of her part of the assignment. It wasn't until he reached out a hand and placed it over her own that she stilled, quite suddenly.
"Because," Draco spoke softly and her eyes flickered up to meet his own, "I like spending time with you."
And then, just like that, he withdrew his hand and started copying out a Runes translation. Hermione blinked a few times, her fingers tingling as if from lack of blood circulation, and then hastily resumed her work, her lips twisting into a smile. Even though she knew she really should focus on her schoolwork, as her usual schedule had been pretty thrown off in the last few months, she found herself instead remembering the way Draco had been angry with her after she'd asked him to kiss her. Could it have been because she had said she would pretend it wasn't him, as Ginny had suspected?
"What did you get for this one?" Draco held his parchment closer to her, pointing the tip of his quill towards the third line. "What I've got doesn't make much sense."
"Let me check," Hermione said, flipping through her homework, and she couldn't help but notice the way Draco edged his chair closer to her.
"So it's easier to compare notes," he said by way of explanation, though she couldn't help noticing he seemed a bit pink in the face. The next few minutes were spend in quiet concentration, during which time Hermione's stomach felt so fluttery she almost couldn't sit still, and her hand was a bit wobbly with her quill.
"So I have a question," he burst out suddenly, and it was a bit loudly in the way a person would speak if they had impulsively decided to speak. "Everything that we- You said that the things you did were all you, but-"
Draco broke off, eyebrows pushed together with frustration, and didn't appear to know how to continue. Hermione exhaled slowly, and then said, "I've never really been able to make myself act a certain way around you. I used to try and act like I didn't care about what you did, but that never worked. Everything you do has this way of getting under my skin, not necessarily in a bad way, and I can't keep myself from reacting. Even if I'd tried, there's just something about you..."
He stared at her, closed his eyes briefly, and then reached out and cupped the side of her face with his hand. She felt her breath catch in her throat and let her own hand rest on top of his, curling her fingers with his. "I thought it would be best if we tried to be friends," he said slowly, "but I don't think I can."
"What do you mean?" Hermione had to clear her throat a few times before her voice was smooth.
"I've tried to deny what I feel for you, but I can't anymore. I-"
"God, I absolutely loathe McGonagall. We've barely started the term and already she's loaded us down with work! It's ridiculous." Theodore's irritated drawl was closely followed by his body, and Blaise, who had a dazed expression that clearly showed he wasn't listening. The instant they'd heard movement the two had wrenched their hands away and turned back to their books, faces flushed. "Oh, Draco, good, you can help me!"
That seemed to draw Blaise's attention to the present, where he looked between the two with surprised suspicion. "Hey Hermione. Draco."
"Hello, Blaise," Hermione said breathlessly, folding her notes up and closing her books. "You know, I really have to get back to my Common Room, I'll see you in class, alright?"
"Bye, Granger," Theodore said absentmindedly, oblivious to the glares he was receiving from Blaise.
Her mind raced as she journeyed through the corridors to the Gryffindor Tower, replaying their conversation, her hands continuously fluttering to her cheek as if she could still feel his thumb, tracing over her skin. The way he'd been speaking- what could he have been talking about if not fancying her? No one told their friends how they felt about them with that sort of language. No, Draco must have been on the brink of confessing romantic inclinations for her. At the moment, nothing could prevent her from cursing Theodore and Blaise, and the ability all people seemed to have to show up at the times they are least wanted.
It wasn't until she was furiously brushing her teeth, toothpaste frothing around her mouth, that she decided she would take the final step. Waiting around for Draco to come up to her and confess, waiting for the right time and place could be the equivalent of waiting forever. Draco was what she wanted, and she wouldn't let simple fear stop her from seizing a chance at something she truly desired.
"I can do this," Hermione murmured under her breath as she walked to Potions with Ron and Harry the next morning. "I can do this."
"Sorry?" Ron asked, tilting his head towards her.
"Nothing," she said quickly and averted her eyes from Harry's inquisitive look. Her heart hammered in her chest, a deep thudding inside her and she closed her eyes for a second, trying to calm down. The plan she'd come up with over breakfast basically consisted of waltzing up to Draco, asking to speak to him privately and if he refused, to kiss him on the spot, making her feelings all too clear.
When they finally turned the corner that led straight to their class, Draco was leaning against a wall, speaking to his friends. As soon as he saw her he straightened up and strode towards her. Blaise and Theodore moved out of the way, turning to watch his progress.
"Draco," Hermione said with a voice that trembled slightly, noticing that Harry and Ron were no longer at her sides. "I need to-"
No one would ever know how Hermione Granger might have confessed her feelings for Draco Malfoy that day, because anything she'd been about to say was silenced by said male wrapping his arms around her and drawing her into a deep kiss. Whether a shocked silence filled the hallway or raucous cheers Hermione couldn't have said, because in the next instant she had her arms around Draco's next and every single part of her seemed to thrum Draco.
For the first time in a long time, with Draco's arms holding her close to him, the anxieties from the last few months and the threat of Voldemort's growth seemed to melt away and she felt that everything would be okay.
"So, exactly where am I going?" Draco asked her as she tugged him up the stairs to Gryffindor tower. She beamed over her shoulder at him and turned a corner, putting them straight in front of the Fat Lady.
"Bear with them." Hermione said, ducking in front of him to give him a quick peck, before murmuring "Ruag Csatis." and tugging him into the Gryffindor Common Room. "They just want a bit of fun. It'll be good for you."
"Who exactly is them? I'm starting to get a bit worried," Draco said and used his left hand to tuck a few errant hairs back from his face.
"Don't worry, I'll protect you." Hermione smirked at him and stopped outside a door labelled Sixth Year Boys.
"I'm not sure I like how well you know the way here." He commented dryly, opening the door for her.
Any reply he might have come up with was swept away in surprise. The dormitory he was standing in seemed to have been turned into some kind of dimly lit den. The walls were layered with red sheets stripped from the beds, which had been shoved together to make more room. Red light bathed the five boys standing in front of him, all of whom were in trousers and shirts with red pant doodled intricately up and down their arms and faces, likely done by Dean, who Draco understood was an artist.
"Welcome to your initiation!" Ron called out loudly, gesturing him forwards.
"Er, sorry?" He asked, as Hermione hopped onto the bed closest to the group and watched the proceedings with amusement.
"We have to make you an honorary Gryffindor so the time you spend in the Common Room is alright." Seamus said seriously, holding what looked like a cape in his hands. "This is our ceremony to initiate you into our ranks!"
You're joking. Draco would very much have liked to say, but he took in the happy, earnest expressions on the boys' faces. The way Hermione had said "They just want a bit of fun." The fact that he knew they weren't going to do anything too terrible to him, especially not with Hermione in the room.
"Alright." Draco assented and didn't even step back when the group cheered and began to tug off his robes, leaving him dressed similarly to them but with a green tie. He thought of the people standing before him, of the way that had acted towards him in the past few months and realized that perhaps they had already seen something in him that he hadn't realized was there.
"This has got to go." Neville said cheerily, deftly undoing his Slytherin tie and pulling it off his neck, before tossing it to Hermione.
Draco had managed to mostly avoid human contact before the funeral ceremonies had started, but someone he hadn't expected tracked him down to have a quick word. "If you hurt her, I will hurt you ten times worse." Neville had never looked so foreboding as that moment, or more welcoming a moment later. "You're good for her."
"Hold your arms still," Dean set to work with a paint brush and began to trace swirls around his arms in red paint, curlicues linking each stroke.
About midway through November Draco started wondering if anyone else noticed the way Dean Thomas saw the world. Eyes focusing on the little details- the kind of thing that perfects a picture but has little to do with actual reality. He certainly never had, until the Gryffindor starting trading glares for nods and small smiles. That was when Draco wondered if maybe he was missing something in the details, too.
"You have to wear a cape," Seamus was telling him loudly, and tied the string around his neck, fixing the cloth on him. "It's very majestic."
"Congratulations, mate." The boisterous Irish accent sported by Seamus was coupled with a knowledgeable smirk. The confused expression that flitted across Draco's face only made him look all the happier.
"You don't mind me ruffling your hair up a bit, do you?" Ron laughed as he tied a red bandana around Draco's forehead, "Nice. Very sporty."
The moonlight shone through the windows, bathing Ron's hair with an eerie glow and making it appear darker and less offensive than usual. His face, usually distorted with anger or happiness, remained stoically serious and calm for the first time since they'd both been admitted to the Hospital Wing. "You shouldn't pass up this chance. She's worth it, and she loves you."
"Trust me, if you get through this smiling, no one in this room is going to protest your presence." Harry muttered to him as he drew shapes on his face, eye fixed on his chin in concentration.
"You know, Malfoy, bravery isn't just about fighting for what is right." Draco didn't know how Harry knew he was awake, as he was lying in bed, and wondered if the Gryffindor had spent many sleepless nights staring at the ceiling in Number 12 Grimmould Place, too. "It's also about fighting for what you want."
"Repeat after all of us," Harry told him when they had once more formed a line in front of him and they'd assured him this wasn't a magical vow. All the Gryffindors raised their wand hands in the air and Draco followed suit. "I, Draco Malfoy, vow to act in a way that an honorary Gryffindor should and never revert to treachery or scheming when associating when the Gryffindors in this room."
"I vow to never back down from a fight, even when I'm outnumbered," Ron said when Draco had repeated Harry's words. Seamus whooped in response to the idea and Ron's ears went red as he grinned.
"I vow to treat people well and express all the mushy sentiments associated with the Gryffindor House." Neville said, quirking an eyebrow when he noticed the look of mock sadness on Draco's face.
"I vow to try my very best in everything I do, and to always say please and thank you, like a good Gryffindor should." Seamus had to struggle to get through the sentence without bursting into laughter, thickening his accent and making his words nearly indistinguishable.
"I vow to remain loyal to my friends and family when they need it, because I know that one day I will need them too." Dean intoned and watched Draco when he said it, who felt himself flushing a bit under the intense scrutiny.
"If I do not uphold these vows, I will voluntarily relinquish my honorary Gryffindor title and willingly give back my crown." They all said together and watched him with eyes bright and full of anticipation.
Draco glanced at Hermione, who was practically glowing with happiness. "If I do not uphold these vows, I will voluntarily relinquish my honorary Gryffindor title and willingly give back my crown. Wait, crown?"
"Yep!" Seamus reached to the floor behind him and came up with a sparkly silver tiara, running forward to jam it on Draco's head. The combs scratched his scalp and he winced, but adjusted it on his head and smiled awkwardly. "The final part of the ceremony is when you have to dance ritualistically around the room, chanting 'Gryffindor, who-wa-who.'"
"Really?" He asked incredulously, throwing a look at Hermione over his shoulder in the hopes she would rescue him.
"Yeah, really. But don't worry, we all join in, so you're not alone!" Draco looked at the other Gryffindors, none of whom seemed as eager as Seamus to dance around the room chanting 'Gryffindor, who-wa-who.'
"Well," Draco said, feeling his dignity shrivel up inside him, "let's get chanting, then."
It wasn't for a couple of weeks that the Gryffindor boys stopped bursting into laughter every time they saw Draco, and by that time Spring had arrived and the weather outside was getting progressively warmer. Hogwarts was renewed with life, flowers growing and bursting with colour, trees and grass a deep green. The cold frostiness of the castle corridors slowly melted away, and a liveliness took over the school that had been missing most noticeably since Pansy's death.
"I really do not think that a person's hair can tell you much about them." Hermione shook her head at Draco, who was smirking at her. They'd decided to take a walk before Transfiguration to get a bit of fresh air.
"Yeah, it definitely can." He replied and took her hand, leading it the nearly florescent blond hair on his head. "Feel my hair. What does that tell you about me?"
"That you spend way too much time in front of the mirror," Hermione rolled her eyes, withdrawing her hand and grinning. "You know, there are therapy groups for girls to go to when their boyfriend spends more time primping than they do."
"There are also therapy groups for guys whose girlfriends spend more time in the library than with them." He retorted, squinting a bit when they turned back to the school and the sun shone directly towards them.
"I do not!" Hermione protested, "I spend a reasonable amount of time in the library. And with you."
"Not enough time with me," Draco murmured, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her closer. The movement made the two bags on his shoulder rock into his leg and he winced. "Merlin, who many books do you have in here?"
"Only a few. My Transfiguration and Potions texts, and a couple books for reading in case I have some spare time." She leaned on, closing her eyes and letting the delightful smell of fresh grass and the wonderful smell she associated with Draco wash over her. "I can carry my bag you know. You don't have to."
"I do," he said and laughed, the sound coming deep from his chest. "I plan on accidentally losing it somewhere so there's nothing to distract you from me."
"We were together last night!" Hermione pointed out, exasperated, and checked the time on his watch to make sure they weren't late for class.
"Yeah, for a few minutes before all the boys in your grade decided it would be fun to turn it into a group hang out!" He shook his head in disgust, shuddering.
"At least they like you."
Draco slipped a bit on the damp grass and lurched forward, almost pulling the pair onto the ground. "Oops!" He let the bags on his shoulders slip off onto the ground and Hermione snatched hers up, shouldering it with a mild glare. "The only reason they like me is because I danced like an idiot in front of them."
She shrugged in response, "I liked your dancing, personally."
"Did you?" Raising his eyebrows he pulled her in close, wrapping his arms around her and pressing their lips together. Hermione felt herself melt and pulled him closer, sighing into the kiss. It was moments like this that she would never get tired of, just the two of them, together.
Regretfully she pulled away, adjusted her bag and intertwined their fingers together. His thumb traced circles on the palm of her hand and tingles shot up and down her spine. "We have to go to class."
"Goody two shoes." Draco muttered under his breath, hitching the straps of his bag on his arm and falling into stride with her.
"Irresponsible ferret." Was Hermione's only reply as the two walked hand in hand back up to the castle.
Author's Note: I promised I would finish this story before the end of the summer, and here it is. This is the first story I've completed longer than three parts. Before I wrote this story I never thought people would be interested in my writing much less like it, I never thought I could actually finish a story of this length or that I could handle criticism of my writing, or that I could improve my writing to what it is today. All you have to do is find one of my earlier chapters (that I haven't ripped apart with my editing) to see how far I've come. For all of those things, I have the people who read and reviewed this story to thank, so thank you everyone who is reading this right now. :) I will make brief updates in my profile if you'd like to know what's going on with me. Feel free to send me a PM, too, and if you'd like to read another of my stories, check out The House of Hell, which is now my primary focus. :)
Special thanks goes to HalfBlood91 and Zarroc who are literally two of the most faithful reviewers ever. Also to Precious Ink, without which this story may not have gotten to this point. And also Silidons, who is just the coolest ever.
Thank you again, guys, for making this so worthwhile! For the last time:
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