They Write Books on this Kind of Feeling (The Establishment of a Meaningful Context)

By attica

Disclaimer: Title belongs to whatever band I borrowed it from; characters belong to their respective mothers, and J.K. Rowling.

A/N: Argus sounds like Hagrid, I know. Don't mind it. I don't know what I was thinking.

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Now, it is as they say: adolescence is what appears to be a large black hole that grows straight in the middle of a beautiful garden and then proceeds to rip out all of the petunias and rosebushes and carnations (by the root) to feed its bottomless, eternally ravenous stomach. It is not a living thing, by any chance, but it is not un-living, either. It feeds when it feels the burning in its loins and even upchucks a few things when it disagrees. How I know now you must be saying, 'How utterly bizarre!' Well, my dears, a word of advice: expect the bizarre and unexpected. Pure, unadulterated life is not meant for old-fashioned folk living in Normalsville for it will just be wasted greatly, which is always one of the great shames God converses about at his Poker nights. He somehow always ends up comparing the human race to dolphins, in which the dolphins win in a no-contest race for living their life at its fullest via leaping joyfully out of the water versus the human race, getting carpal tunnel from their mobiles.

Many teenagers these days get the wrong idea of life. Either they grasp unto the concept of living their lives to the full throttle and carry it to largely unnecessary extremes, or they manage to just slip a little, as if in the action of retrieving a book difficult to reach on a high bookshelf, and thus never truly discover the meaning of free will and the 'The End of the World is Coming' signs that intuitive homeless citizens often make. Very rare is it that young adults comprehend the meaning of balance.

That is why old people – excuse me, adults – shake their heads at modern culture and its domination amongst teenyboppers such as yourself. They see for themselves the lack of balance between the wild and the kind and may even feel a little ashamed, for they hadn't achieved that certain balance until much later on in their age. I understand that I make it out to be a very hard thing, to reach this balance – and it is true. It is a very, very hard thing to accomplish, almost akin to the splitting of atoms.

Now Draco Malfoy was the type of boy who didn't give a living shit about many things. He cared a little about Quidditch, and his father, and his mother, too. His studies as well, perhaps. But that was about it. His world was rather small with many faceless people living in it that he wished to shove out of his space because he hated them. I do hope one gets the gist that he was a genuinely foul boy, the kind that shows up numerous times on lists titled: People I Wish that Were Never Born; People I Would Kill (If I Had the Chance); and even Top Ten People I Would Bang (If They Weren't Such Prats). Yes, he certainly was one of a kind. It would only be necessary for me to inform you that he wasn't very liked at his school – at all. There was one girl, Pansy Parkinson, who was as dumb as a brick, who pined after him occasionally. But this was only because Draco was forced to be nice to her by his mother, who once told him that Pansy had some incurable mental disability.

But besides her, he was what you could call a bigot and an arrogant ass (a rather strange phrase, I say, for I never could understand how an ass could be arrogant. Perhaps supermodels' asses, like Heidi Klum and Giselle Iforgotherlastnamebutithadsomeweirdaccentthinginit, but not normal people, if you get what I mean). He didn't care about anybody but himself, and once – not so long ago – lived in the shadow of his father where he fed on moss and dirt.

However, one day he'd changed considerably, though I cannot tell you how. Perhaps it is like one of those inexplicable, unexplainable events that rarely occur in life, and so when it finally does, it only mystifies. But suffice it to say that Draco Malfoy had been feeling under the weather lately, and could rarely stand to be in class with his peers. He could not concentrate. For the first few days he could not understand why he was feeling the way he was – it was ridiculous, and very cruel. He went to Madam Pomfrey even though he hated the witch, and even she – with a very odd look on her face – told him that she didn't know what he had, but assigned him some medicine anyway.

He'd have owled his father but he did not want him coming up to the school. He'd never told anyone this, but he found it humiliating and embarrassing that his father had to come up here to fight his battles. When he was little, it had been fun to watch, and had brought him a warm sense of security that his daddy was an Alpha Male with great hair. But now, at this day and age, it was excruciating, and people laughed at him once the sheer fright of Lucius Malfoy's presence had been absent at least a day or two from the otherwise-busy halls. So instead Draco stayed in the Slytherin dormitories as much as he could, simply lying in bed with his covers, staring up at the mind-numbingly bare ceiling.

But I, being an omniscient narrator, will tell you the exact reason why Draco Malfoy is feeling so ill and even slightly panicked. See, when foreign sensations happen to creep inside of the human body, it reacts in defense simply because it has never encountered it before and, in its cleverness, thinks it will harm the body. (Something about white cells, too.) But the Malfoys have a very strange history that I myself do not bother with because it does not take much to distract oneself with something else less gory and demented. Thus, with that point made, I shall pack it in a nutshell: Draco Malfoy was in love.

Now you must be laughing! I understand completely how heinous the idea is, but it is true. He was in love, and his body simply did not know how to take it – it thought it was some foreign disease some mosquito brought over from exotic country he couldn't pronounce and his immune system produced chemicals in his body to fight it off.

Here were the symptoms: The constant flutters in his stomach as if he'd eaten caterpillars for breakfast that had then matured into pretty butterflies by lunch. Even the sweating on his palms, and the distracted chaos of his brain. Everything inside him was going amuck, and by then his body had been drained of its disease-fighting-anti-bodies that it had, somehow, brought onto him this very peculiar cold. I do not even know if "cold" would be the exact name for it, but it was some sort of… malady.

I can hear the interior of your brain sizzling, my children, so I suppose holding off on exactly who had unknowingly captured his affections would be cruel. So, I will tell you. The girl who has unwittingly caused this strange climate change in the eternal winter of Draco Malfoy is Pansy Parkinson.

Hah! I kid.

It is not Pansy Parkinson, though she'd like to think so. It is actually someone very opposite from her, much smarter than your average brick.

Hermione Granger.

The great shock of the century, him falling for a girl he hated – but was never faceless in his very small world. Indeed she was one of those he'd have shoved out of his little bubble, but she'd always had her face. So that meant that from the very moment he met her, she'd had this little tidbit of significance shining in her eyes, and it'd stuck on. And on every single occasion she managed to one-up him, the rest of her body became filled in – as if his mind was one large coloring book. It certainly was strange. Every time she'd talked back, or glared at him, or shot some flesh-melting quip, the wonderfully random curls in her hair would get drawn in, then colored. Then it was the light freckles sprinkled across her nose. Then her hands. Again, it was a very peculiar thing, but the very day Draco had felt the "sickness" was the day the entire picture had been filled in.

One may think of it like some sort of board game, or a pitcher becoming filled. The sickness of being in love was the finish line – the lips of the pitcher. A great, mysterious analogy that even Draco could not come close to understanding. All he knew was, he could not stand to be in class – but did not know it was because of her. He saw her and kept glimpsing back because something about her just attracted and pleased his eyes, but he thought it was just because he was demented now, being sick and all. And he was satisfied with this flimsy argument, because like any other man, he feared the truth.

The truth is perhaps one of the most common things people all over the world are afraid of – this is not silly. It is actually a quite reasonable fear compared to the fear of spiders, or the number 13, or anything else, as a matter of fact. The word 'truth' instantly implies some dubious cloud, a mysterious blanket that would and could affect every single aspect of your life, which is frightening to most folk. It is the sort of thing Stephen King would write in his novels. But perhaps it is also the fear of knowing something that came from deep, deep, deep down inside of you. The truth isn't always pretty – it comes from the darkness, and the unknown. It is tantamount to the deepest level of the sea; nobody knows what goes on there simply because they can't. There are some things life chooses to keep hidden, sometimes forever.

But there are also some things life allows you to find on your own.

See, Draco Malfoy wasn't the brightest bulb in the bunch when it came to matters of love. He had never pondered the object, nor thought it so important as to actually think about it. So of course he should be oblivious to the changes of his heart and body and mind. He was also living in fierce denial that any ounce of truth his body was trying to leak, he blocked out.

So, life intervened. Just this once.

From Hermione Granger's excessive late-night study sessions, her exhaustion was simply too much to bear and managed to fall asleep in her most favorite class: Transfiguration. As was the same for Draco Malfoy, who had not gotten any sleep the night before due to the gargantuan snoring of his dorm mates. And so both were fatefully issued a detention together in a humiliating class announcement, at which both were horrified at (and did not bother to hide).

After class, Hermione received much ridicule from one Ron Weasley while Draco Malfoy simply put his head back down again, too lethargic to care.

"Detention!" her friend sighed with an odd sense of jubilee. "Well, I never thought I'd see the day Hermione Granger would fall asleep in class. What about you, Harry? Did you see this day coming?"

Harry shook his head.

"Don't rub it in," she hissed through her teeth.

"With Malfoy!" he laughed aloud, shaking his ginger head. He pointed upwards. "No offense, dollface, but I think someone up there's furious with you. It certainly seems like some sort of punishment."

Then they parted ways, with both of her friends patting her on the shoulder for luck and mumbling certain ways of defense against Malfoy.

Hermione entered the empty classroom, looking around. It was sort of eerie, walking into a place that had always seemed to hustle and bustle with life. Nevertheless, Draco Malfoy was already there, with his head down on his arms, silent. She took her seat across from him, setting down her satchel, glimpsing over at him. Needless to say, she wondered what had been wrong with him lately. His constant fire-backs about Harry and Ron and her "dirty" blood had been shockingly nonexistent in the halls. In fact, in retrospect, she rarely saw him in the halls these days. He always seemed to disappear after class, weaving through the crowd as if in a hurry, and then just vanishing when she reached the corner.

When she realized she'd been staring at him and thinking all of these things for over one whole unguarded minute, she looked away, her hands on her lap. Rightfully so, she was not very comfortable with thinking about her pure-blood enemy without the slightest bit of disdain and only with mystification, like that time Harry Potter had been so smitten with Cho Chang. (What did he ever see in her, anyway?)

Meanwhile, she did not know that Draco Malfoy was very aware of her presence in the room and felt as if his stomach on the brink of these mini-spasms that he hated very much. He'd heard her come in very quietly, and felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand, as if knowing her attention was on him was thrilling. I tell you, Draco did not find very many things thrilling – the only thing that thrilled him, perhaps, before that moment was flying. And it was akin to that, in a way, being disconnected to the world yet very much being enveloped by it. (But not really.)

A sharp clicking of heels disturbed his thinking.

"Mr. Malfoy, you'd do best to keep your head up," came the sharp voice of Professor McGonagall.

His professor was a very fiery woman – aged by grace, yet could still spit venom through her brittle lips. She was one of the most brilliant professors in the school; her tendency to be stern and just was only one of the reasons her students respected her. In fact, her secret motto was – only recited aloud as she stood before her mirror at precisely 7:15 in the morning – "McGonagall taketh no shite from anyone." Yes, she was a woman of that exact caliber.

He put his head up quickly, his spine rigid, finding himself looking at the very stern-mouthed lady, her eyes narrowed underneath her pointed hat.

"Good. Now keep conscious." She pursed her lips. "You two are, by far, my brightest students," she said to the pair of them, and Draco subconsciously peered at Granger from the corner of his eye. Just as he'd predicted, she was looking down in shame.

"I feel worry at the thought that the two of you may be overworking yourselves to the point of exhaustion. If that is the case, I must know." She looked expectedly at the two of them. "Well?"

"No, Professor," they said in unison.

She nodded her head. "Very well, then. Now, I have an errand to run. Argus Filch will come by here in ten minutes, and in those ten minutes I hope not to find any reason to suspect any foul play betwixt the two of you. He will be the one issuing your detention, and if it is needed, your detention will be extended for however long you feel the need to misbehave. Is that clear?"

Both nodded their heads.

"Very good."

Then she left, with her hunter green robes fluttering behind her.

Hermione briefly looked at the boy sitting across from her, but when she caught his eyes she quickly looked away.

"I don't think I need to ask why you fell asleep in class," he drawled aloud.

"Nor you," she spit back. "Late-night modifications of your plans to resurrect Hitler yet again? It's getting quite pathetic, your efforts. It isn't as if you don't already have enough racially prejudiced friends."

"Oh, ouch. Now you've gone and pricked a hole in my heart. How will I ever manage to live?" he said mockingly.

She gasped, feigning surprise on her face. "You have a heart? And here I thought your central source of life was a rusty old bedpan filled with maggots!"

Unknowingly, this sort of hurt young Draco Malfoy, to hear that sort of thing about himself – let alone imagining it within the deep cervices of his mind. It was quite a nasty thing to envision.

"It's better than being a Mudblood," he snarled, beside his better judgment.

"That argument's getting awfully old, Draco Malfoy," she said with narrowed eyes and clear disdain. "I think spitting it at me fifty times a day wears it down, don't you?"

"Nope!" he said loudly, and quite obnoxiously.

"Shut up!" she hissed at him. "Just shut up."

"What's the matter, Granger? Can't take the heat?"

"The heat?" she scoffed. "It's your breath, Malfoy. It's quite rank. I can smell it all the way over here." She made a face. "Must be all that fancy caviar you eat."

"It's better than the live rat you eat. I haven't seen such barbaric dining since the cave men." He sneered at her. "Or hygiene, for that matter. Haven't you ever heard of conditioner, Granger?"

"Oh, now I think your maturity's way understated here."

"Tell me, does it crackle when you comb your hair?"

"And what do you put in yours? Crisco?"

"Snap, crackle, pop!"

"Shut up, you festering turd!"

"You're getting a little flushed over there, Granger. Are the rats you ate today disagreeing with you? Is that it? Maybe a bit of the rabies? Going a bit mad, are you?"

Needless to say, Hermione Granger was just about ready to combust at this point. Thankfully, it was at this moment that Argus Filch stepped into the class; just managing to catch the last bit of the sentence Draco Malfoy had just thrown at her.

It seems to me that although Draco was unknowingly in love with her, it did not change the fact that he had a grand time trying to grind her ego under his heel – especially when the insults were being reciprocated at such a quick-witted level. He never did realize the error of his ways until much later on when it would only seem silly to do anything about it. Thus, as Argus Filch halted his limp by the door, annoyingly glancing at the two students while his cat, Mrs. Norris, darted underneath the tables and chairs, Draco only felt pride in his chest. Pride that sooner withered at the gravelly shout of their frightening prison-keeper.

"Malfoy, runnin' your arrogant mouth ag'in, are yeh?" he snarled, his rough face scrunched up menacingly – as always. "Children these days… no respect. They should do what they used ter do ter us when we misbehaved, hang yeh up by yer thumbs, upside down, with the floor covered wi'h snakes…" He glared at the two of them, who were now as silent as death. "Well?" he yelled, making Hermione jump in her seat. "What're yeh waiting for? Get up!"

Both of them stood, with Hermione bringing along her satchel. She began to walk toward Filch, who then glanced down at what she was holding.

"Wait. Yeh won't be needin' that where I'm takin' yeh," he chuckled evilly, and, with a pale face, she set it back on the table, making sure not to make any slightest bit of eye contact with Malfoy, who was standing beside her. She noticed Mrs. Norris, meowing loudly, purring and rubbing herself against his legs, leaving noticeable chunks of orange cat hair on his trousers.

Draco was scowling down at the cat, trying to push her away with his foot, but she only meowed louder, following him. Perhaps it is safe to say that Mrs. Norris had quite a bit of a thing for the young Malfoy's legs.

"Follow me," Filch commanded gruffly. He glanced behind him. "And don't yeh dare lag."

Filch exited the class with Hermione following close behind, quietly minding what was going on behind her with Malfoy and Mrs. Norris. She could hear him muttering under his breath, whispering numerous swear words, and heard his fumbled footsteps against the marble.

"Get away from me, cat!" she heard him irritatingly say behind her, and Filch came to an abrupt stop in front of Hermione, causing her to blindly bump into him. She steadied herself immediately some distance away from him, determinedly attempting to shake away the odor of unwashed hair and beeswax.

Filch turned around, red and furious, his mouth warped into an angry scowl. "What did yeh say about my cat?" he shouted threateningly.

"Nothing," Draco said in reply, because the boy certainly had enough mind to know not to excite the impetuous old man, even if he did not have enough wits about him to know that he was very secretly in love with the girl standing exactly two feet and six point five inches away from him.

He preserved his cool manner. "I didn't say anything."

"Yehr lyin'!" Filch shouted at him. "Yehr lyin' to me face!"

Draco said it again. "I didn't say anything about your cat."

Just then, in a quick flurry of movement, Filch had lunged past Hermione and grabbed Draco's collar, causing the unwitting pair of students to blink in surprise. Hermione had her hand to her mouth, feeling her heart beat fast and muffled in her chest. And the Malfoy boy, well, he kept his cool for he had learned very early in his life to keep his cool to his death. He did not mention the pungent stench of the man's breath as he practically panted into his pores, or the hideous state of his skin. He just kept silent in a way that most would perceive as arrogance.

"Don't yeh lie to me," Filch snarled. Just then, Argus' normally defunct light bulb began to flicker. He had an idea.

He let go of Draco's collar, now crinkled and gray from the soot of the man's fingers, and looked over at Hermione Granger, who was just standing and watching with slight fear pounding in her blood vessels.

"What say yeh, Granger? Did he say summat?" He was nearly glaring at her, and she almost felt as if the flesh would melt off her face. She also found enough in her to glance over in Draco's direction, and his face was stone-like and stoic, his gray eyes telling her to cooperate. Now, the real Hermione Granger would have said that Malfoy was a liar in a heartbeat, but for some unfathomable reason she did not even know herself, her mouth opened and out spilled some very disagreeable words:

"He didn't say anything." Her mouth was slightly dry, and she licked her lips, wondering if her lie could be discovered by the way warm air was now shooting out of her nose. "About-about your cat."

Obviously, this was not the answer Filch wanted to hear. So, instead, he scowled at the two of them, letting out a large snort. He ducked down, forcefully picking up Mrs. Norris, who screeched from being separated from Draco's legs. He petted her, calming her down.

"Well, well. Partners in crime now, are yeh?" he growled, eyeing the both of them. "What do they put in the water here?"

Then he turned around again, not letting go of Mrs. Norris, mumbling incoherently about the twisted and perverse minds of children nowadays and vividly comparing them to anarchists and Lucifer's offspring.

Draco Malfoy resumed walking a few steps behind Hermione, staring blankly at the back of her bushy head. Just like any other intelligent person on this little ball of land we call Earth, he was utterly mystified at the fact that she'd covered for him after their little verbal battle in the classroom just minutes ago. What had happened, exactly? Perhaps she'd been possessed by some wandering spirit passing by, or she'd lapsed into some sort of temporary insanity. Those explanations would have made much more sense, he assumed, than any other she could give him. That is, assuming they'd ever talk about it again – which was not very likely at all. Any interaction betwixt two such clashing personalities could hardly exist without the passionate hate-verb they both seemed to be such massive fans of. And in the back of the Malfoy's mind, he realized this with a little bit of disappointment. This was a microscopic bit, of course – never enough for him to actually feel.

But as he was walking behind her he did manage to catch a whiff of the scent of her hair – it smelt rather like vanilla, which he immediately thought was strange. He'd never encountered vanilla-smelling hair before, and hence, did not know until that very second that he liked it. Very much.

Upon this realization he felt repulsed and convinced himself to set some more distance in between the pair of them, until Filch happened to notice and barked that they now stick together. So, in his effort to get away from her pleasant-smelling hair, he found himself actually getting far much closer than he ever wished to be, being forced to walk alongside her, as if they'd been cruelly handcuffed. It was most definitely awkward, with the silence stiff and the tension very culpable in the air. He tried hard to focus his mind on other things, like looking to his far right where she would not distract him, but he then began to hear the little things: the soft hush of her shoes, the way her legs would brush against her skirt when she walked.

Under normal circumstances this would have not bothered him so – nor would he have cared enough to listen. But it was as if he was under some magical cloud that made him observant to every single little aspect, and the harder he tried to shake it away, the tighter it clung on. Her fresh smell hugged the insides of his nose, and he could have sworn it was like poison.

After about ten minutes of walking, Filch came to a stop in front of a little door. He turned his gruff appearance to them.

"Wait here. No funny business, all righ'? Just wait."

Then he disappeared, closing the door behind him, leaving the two of them in a very, very awkward situation. Like most people, they did not have a single clue as to how to handle it, so they attempted to ignore the person they were standing beside, Hermione scratching her ear on occasion, quietly tapping her shoe on the marble. Draco Malfoy was looking away, but glimpsed every two minutes to see what she was doing, which was always – nothing.

"Right when he comes out," she suddenly said aloud, "I'm going to tell him that you did say something about his cat, and that you're a liar." She did not sound haughty as she said this, but confident, and firm. It sounded as if she was trying to reassure herself.

He snorted. "What? And instantly let him know that you lied, too? Or have you forgotten that part?"

Indeed, she had forgotten about that part, but did not tell him so. Her face simply lost its color, and her throat dried out again. In honesty, the thing that scared her the most about covering up for Draco Malfoy was that she was actually capable of doing it – of aiding this uncouth monster. It was like a nightmare. Why had she done it? Why? She could not find any reason at all – at all – beside the one of temporary insanity, which seemed to be matching up perfectly.

He was chuckling to himself when she stayed silent. "Never knew you had it in you, Granger."

"I don't have it in me," she snapped, trying to keep her voice low lest Filch hear her through the thick wood of the door, "if you're talking about the rotting, unbridled core of evil you have simmering in your very being. Mrs. Norris is a cat, Malfoy," she spat. "She's a cat. Lying about her is –"

"Not evil," he said, cutting her off, "in case you didn't know. Maybe you ought to stop re-writing the dictionary, Granger. People have jobs for that – smart, unbiased people."

"Stop trying to play it off like it's justified," she said.

"Oh yes, well, let's see then. What could possibly justify lying about a cat? Very little things, Granger. Very little." He scowled at her. "I don't see why you're so anal about the orange fur ball, anyhow. It's a walking terror. You've seen it. Little seizures and spasms at random. I think it's actually trying to act out against trauma. Imagine what Filch does to it when they're alone."

"Her," she corrected sternly. "Not it."

"Oh, like you care."

There was creaking before the door opened, revealing Filch and Mrs. Norris. He looked at them in a slight pause, as if trying to figure out if they'd done something they shouldn't have while he was gone, before narrowing his eyes yet again and closing the door behind him.

"Come on," he snarled, and they began to walk again.

He led them to the library, where he then handed them over to Madam Pince at the front desk. Madam Pince was a fairly old woman rumored to have never been married (hence a spinster) and lived in a shoe. Of course, this was only in accordance to Ron's poem about her, rightly titled: Madam Pince Was a Fairly Old Woman Who Was Never Married and Lived in a Shoe. Exactly why Ronald Weasley had chosen to write a poem about her was the precise mystery, and not what sort of shoe she lived in (though many beg to differ).

She peered from underneath her square spectacles to look thoroughly at the pair of them, during which they felt incredibly awkward and even a bit violated, before she spoke.

"Very well, Argus. Thank you."

"Give 'em a dirty job," he told her, glancing at them again. "A real dirty one."

Madam Pince nodded, and Mr. Filch limped away, cooing to Mrs. Norris who was still in his arms. She stood, walking alongside her desk, waving them over.

"Back here. Come on. Let's hurry. You've got a big job here today."

Draco trailed after Hermione, who practically leaped after the librarian, as she led them to a place they had never been before: behind the front desk of the library. It was rather a big mystery what was held behind the last shelf Madam Pince used only for reserved books, and it was often speculated about at very random times amongst the students. So it was actually very interesting to both Draco and Hermione, who had probably only ever wondered about it three exact times in their lives, to see Madam Pince unlock a door to a room.

Yes, it was precisely just that.

A room.

A vast, vast room, with books in stacks on the floor, on the tables, on the couches. Old books, new books, rare books, common books. There was a stale smell that pounced on them upon entering as well that they weren't too fond of.

"That's a lot of… books," Hermione found herself saying out loud.

"Indeed, Miss Granger. Now, listen closely. Your job today is to organize all of these – and I mean all – in alphabetical order and by publishing date on that shelf over there" – she pointed to the gigantic shelf decorated with a bejeweled skull and numerous cobwebs to their left. "There are two sides to it. It should have enough space. And, also, clean off their covers. Dust the shelves. No one's been in this room for decades, so there're bound to be some critters as well. The Non-Toxic Magical Book cleaners are over there in that box, and fetch me if you have any problems."

She turned around, heading for the door.

She stopped.

"Oh, and be careful with the books. Some do tend to bite."

She started to walk.

"And" – she summoned both their wands, which Draco and Hermione both flinched at, feeling a deep sadness in their bodies. "No magic. Sorry. Standard rule of detention, you understand."

Then she left for the last decisive time, leaving them alone in the musty place of dusty, possibly moldy books.

"Well," Hermione dismally sighed, picking up one of the books on the stack beside her, making a face as it coughed dust in her face. "We should get started."

Draco Malfoy simply grunted, looking around.

"Well, don't be a priss," she said in annoyance, grunting, trying to carry over a large stack of books. "A little bit of dirt won't hurt."

"Oh, give it a rest, Granger," he said, before swooping by, lifting the heavy pile of books right from her hands so infuriatingly effortlessly. He walked over to the table, setting it down, looking at her. "We've got six hours and no wands. That's looking to be a very bloody outcome if we've got to speak to each other, now, isn't it?"

"Are you proposing that we not speak to each other for these entire four hours?" she asked, rather dumbly.

"Yes. I don't want you talking to me unless you think you're about to keel over and die, or if you've been crushed by a falling shelf, and even then I want you to think over your decision carefully." He crooked an eyebrow at her. "Understand?"

"Yes, Mother dearest," Hermione grumbled under her breath, turning around to mind the other books. She did not mind that he preferred no interaction – in fact, she was rather happy with that decision. He'd only get her all wound up and most probably force her to do something that would only gain her another glorious detention.

"I'll start over here."

She was trying to look over the covers of the books when Draco threw a rag in her face, following the clatter of a bottle on the stone beside her. She picked the rag off, glaring at him. He had a slight smirk as he was wiping one of the books.

"You're going to need that to clean the books. Didn't you hear the old bat?"

She only let out a disgusted sigh, wishing she could take the bottle of cleaner fluid and throw it at his head. In fact, she quite felt like this every time she saw him, and she felt very stupid now, thinking that he had changed simply because his ugly smirking face had seemingly ceased popping in front of her face to ridicule her and her friends in some cruel public announcement.

"Rat bastards never change," she silently whispered to herself, squeezing some fluid into her rag and furiously wiping the cover clean, "you know that."

In case you'd never met a girl like Hermione Granger before, she had a very complex mind and way of thinking. Perhaps it had been a birth defect, of having the ability to be some sort of wunderkind, but not exactly comprehending the fact that certain things on earth had no place in human understanding. Take Draco Malfoy, for example. She thought about him at very random times (and some rather not) and though she told herself to settle for what he put out, on some days when she was feeling rather mad she'd think about what he was really about. It was like an itch that she couldn't scratch – didn't want to, lest it spread. She was a girl of that sort of logic, full of contradictory wants.

But the fact was, she fancied the thought that she gave every person a second chance. Of course, in this tangent, she did not accurately describe (or consider) Draco as a person – or human being, at that. She could not let the grudge over elementary – yet still inevitably scarring – bullying go.

He was a mean prick, and he did not deserve her kindness.

They cleaned the books first, setting them in individual stacks. They deliberately worked with their backs turned to one another as to prevent repeatedly glancing up to see the epitome of their version of unpleasant company. They did not talk aloud and only attempted to tame their minds, thinking about other matters very far from their situation, and this place, and this person. It was quite astounding, really, the sheer force of their brainpower.

However, being that Draco Malfoy was ill with love with the girl working just a few yards from him (and did not have the slightest clue about it), he couldn't help but turn his head and watch her. It was a very impulsive action that he did not even plan, or think of doing – until it happened. He did not even register it until much later on, in which he would, quite reasonably, question his God-given sanity. But with the slight twist of his neck, he secretly watched her as she lifted up books and cleaned them, setting them down neatly on another pile, her head bobbing on occasion. For a reason utterly inexplicable to him and to any other person on this planet, he suddenly thought as if he was seeing her in a different light. (This realization was equivalent to the feeling of getting hit by a train.) Which he then thought was obviously dumb and hokey to the highest level, for lights were always at the same brightness in Hogwarts to prevent possible eyestrain for the students.

But there was just something he couldn't explain. Something different, perhaps, about her. Was it her hair? No. It was the same wild, untamable mess it always was. And he continued to ponder this while his pride had taken a coffee break, thus vulnerable to such thoughts without resistance. He knew something had changed. What he didn't know was that it was him. This, too, is only expected. There was no apparent reason he could have known – he was never the type to scour through his emotions on a rainy day.

However, as lost in his mystifying thoughts as he was, he did not in any way register the look Hermione Granger was shooting him once she had turned around, inevitably then discovering his unmoving pupils directed right at her. It was quite an embarrassing moment, not to mention puzzling for the young girl, as she wondered in the back of her head if she had something on her face.

"Something you want, Malfoy?" she dryly spoke aloud, snapping Draco out of his peculiar trance. He'd have started to blush with humiliation if his face allowed it – alas, it did not.

"Nothing," he brusquely answered, trying to play it off, meanwhile wondering what in the world was wrong with him today. "Just astounded by your excruciating dullness, is all."

She rolled her eyes. "Please do the entire human race a favor, Malfoy, and go to hell."

"Impossible request, Granger. Then who would be around to remind you daily of your painful-yet-amusing-to-witness inadequacy?"

"Oh, right," she said, sarcastically. "What was I thinking, envisioning the world without your significant contribution of goodwill?" She scoffed, shaking her head.

"Oh Granger, how your sarcasm bites into my very soul," Draco dryly remarked, turning back around, unable to catch the withering look of daggers she shot him. His face was now scrunched up in his self-blame, slamming a book down on occasion when he became so very frustrated with the constant disorientation he felt wallowing about in his skull.

They worked in silence for about twenty minutes before he heard the sound of shoes scuffling behind him, and then there was a loud thump as he nearly jumped back in surprise, Granger practically panting over a large stack of epic books. A flurry of dust visibly exhaled into the air, triggering a tickle in his nose.

"What are you doing?" he irritably asked her.

"Well, we've got to organize them, don't we?" she answered tersely. "We'll be needing this table to sort everything out before setting them on the bookshelf."

"Oh. Right," he muttered, feeling foolish not to have seen that. He turned away, but felt a pounding in his wrists at the close proximity they were now to be working in.

Thus, she worked beside him, mumbling under her breath, which drove him partially mad because he could not concentrate with somebody talking. But for some reason, he did not snap at her to shut up and merely kept it in, trying his best to tune her out, squinting at the titles of the books.

"No, you're putting it in the wrong pile," she suddenly snapped at him when he set down a book, leaning over quickly, his hand brushing against something warm and supple: her breast. He oddly registered this with a very weird feeling in his stomach, and a dryness suddenly flooding his throat and mouth, his fingers tingling. He froze, as if expecting her to have felt it and suddenly stop to yell at him, or perhaps slam one of the books into his face. But she simply continued to fuss over the organization of the piles of books, telling him exactly where he was supposed to put it, while he simply did not listen, because his hand was on fire.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"Do you understand?" she asked him, and he blinked at her, trying hard to remember everything that she'd told him while his body had crept into some sort of chaos. She was giving him a stern look, her lips pressed thinly on her mouth, a wispy brown curl hovering aside her temple. That woozy sensation came sweeping back again, the one carrying the idea of seeing someone in a different light, and he felt as if everything had gone a bit fuzzy.

But when he did not say anything to her and was once again engaged in the internal conflict of his own mind (which hadn't been this much of a pain in the ass before, be assured), her stern look transitioned into one of oddity, then curiosity, then concern, then mild fear. Such a phase, however, only took place within one minute, after which she then squeezed herself back into her pod; adopting that fierce exterior she was known for.

"Something the matter with you, Malfoy?" she asked him, getting back to work, glancing sideways at him. "Did you swallow your tongue or something? I asked you if you understood what I said."

Then, it seemed as if his jaw had begun to operate again.

"Y-Yeah," he said, before looking away, flustered. "I heard you, Granger," he lied, fitting back into his cool, witty self. "No need to repeat yourself. I'm afraid that'd just bring me one step closer to a bore-related death."

She slammed a book down, making his ears ring. She had turned her body completely around now, facing him, her hand on her waist.

"Did they put you on medication or something?" she asked him seriously, her brows knitted together. "Because they should. Although I doubt any medication could cure your condition – that's rather a case for divine powers. But you know what they say about modern medicine: it works miracles."

"Gee, thanks, Granger," he snarled back at her. "Your pearls of wisdom are always tantamount to the sensation of someone setting off a firecracker in my ear."

Her grip on the book was tightening, her eyes increasingly narrowing at him. Her chest was tight, and her ribcage was taut with anger and long-brewing annoyance.

"Let me ask you something, Malfoy. When you wake up in the morning, do you ever get the feeling as if somewhere out there, somebody's desperately praying to God you'd just keel over and die? Because that's me. And three billion other people, I expect. Either this is God's idea of a cruel joke, or he really does love his skee ball tournaments."

"Ouch, Granger. I think I've just been burned. But I think I'd burn better if I had your hair. In fact, I bet I'd start a wildfire."

Just then, there was a beige blur in the corner of his eye. This moment was perhaps the moment Draco Malfoy would be thankful for his rigorous Quidditch training, for it had tuned his reflexes to an extraordinary scale, hence making it possible for him to accomplish otherwise-impossible acts of defense such as this.

There was the loud sound of skin hitting skin, and Draco found himself looking straight into her furious face, his left hand having caught her wrist in her attempt to slap him. Her eyes were furious and cut through him like fire, brimmed pink with rage, with her dainty chin trembling. A few curls had flung onto her forehead and cheek when he'd caught her wrist and pulled her forward, closer to him. He could feel her erratic breaths against his skin.

"Who said you could touch me?" he snarled at her.

"Let go of me," she whispered, enraged. She tried to jerk her wrist away. "Let go of me, Malfoy, or I swear—"

"You swear what? You'll sic your dogs, Weasley and Potter, on me? You'll get me expelled? You'll do what, Granger?" he said lowly. "You think far too highly of yourself sometimes, Granger. I think we need to do something about that, don't you?"

"Let me go," she said to him, her voice firmer. His grip on her wrist was becoming painful, and she felt her skin getting hot and feverish.

The quick and unexpected transition of events had an odd affect on their environment. The air became tense, but muggy and increasingly heavy with something they could not explain. Inside Draco, his mouth had become filled with a drought he could not swallow down, and his heart had jumped up to a place it did not belong. The connection of his palm to her wrist, his fingers pressing down so hard that he could feel her pulse begin to quicken, completely in sync with his own, was dangerous but deeply alluring. His brain felt like snow melting in the spring sun, a messy useless slush, and everywhere on his body he could feel pulsing hot knots begin to throb – in his joints, in his veins.

"If I do, will you hit me again?"

"No." Her eyes were looking straight into his own – and perhaps even somewhere beyond that which he could never know. She swallowed hard.

"Yes."

Then, he asked a question he had never dreamt of ever asking – not to her, not to anyone. He had not even thought it to himself. But it came from somewhere deep inside him, deep, deep, deep – far deeper than he could ever search, or ponder.

"Why do you hate me so much, Granger?" he asked her, almost so quiet as a whisper.

Something unknown stirred inside her when he asked this question – he saw it in her eyes. Suddenly there was this sudden motion, a flicker, of something he'd never seen before. Something about her softened – yet hardened, at the same time, if such a thing was possible.

"Because you live your life trying to bring down everyone else," she answered, without flinching, or looking away. "And you're happy doing it."

"Is that all?"

Surprisingly, she began to slightly smirk. "Honey, that's just the overview."

Suddenly, as if he realized just what he was doing, his grip loosened, and she quickly snatched her wrist away, caressing it gingerly. "Merlin," she said, glancing up at him, but making sure not to look at him for too long. Somehow they both felt as if a wire had snapped in between them, a glowing copper wire, and now it had frayed the sides of their separate worlds – fusing them together. It was too frightening a concept to fully digest; hence their slowly rupturing little minds covered it up, burying it underneath their tangible worries.

"What are you on, steroids?"

"Sorry," he muttered, before turning back to the books. He firmly kept his eyes down in front of him, focusing on the way the chapped leather felt against his skin, his mind thoroughly disarray in every possible way known to human kind. He tried his best not to think of what had happened just seconds before, and what had possessed him to endure such a thing – let alone initiate it – but it was proving to be very impossible, considering the fact that the more one tries not to think about something, the more one does.

Draco, silently sighing, set another book aside.

In an hour, they began to set the books up on the bookshelf. It was a vast shelf, both in height and width, and could also be magically altered to shrink and enlarge. Granger had taken to dusting it first, however, and was trying to bat away the cobwebs. He was still going through the books, but he could see her out of the corner of his eye, her petite body hunching over every time she gave a high-pitched sneeze. She was clutching onto the ladder rail so tight he could see her white knuckles bulging out of her hand, but she'd not once asked for his help. He could have done it – if she'd asked. But it wasn't exactly such a big shocker she hadn't asked – she was one of those independent types, obviously. Had to do everything herself, so she could prove her worth to the world as a woman, or something like that.

The thing about girls like Hermione Granger was that they always seemed to be trying to prove something. Perhaps it was this quality that constantly irked Draco Malfoy whenever he encountered her. She was practically insufferable because of it.

When she finally came down and started to gather some books, Draco silently slipped past her and climbed up the ladder. It was a creaky ladder – undoubtedly old. He spotted the screws on the sides and they were rusted over with age, colored a deep brownish-orange, not to mention the wood also wasn't exactly smooth and shiny. It would have been easy to gain a splinter here or there, if one wasn't careful.

He heard her footsteps behind him – and then they stopped. After a long pause of silence, he looked over his shoulder, and there she was, with an armful of books. She was staring at him.

"I was on the ladder," she told him. "Move."

"Granger, I can't have you mucking up all the books we just polished with your germs and mucus. If you were allergic, you should have just said so. It's no use trying to protect your dignity if you're just going to act like Mrs. Sniffles," he pointed out. "So just hand me the books, and I'll put them in place."

"I'm not allergic," she insisted, her brow sharply creased, annoyed. "I'm around books all day –"

"Well, yes, there's no need to point out the obvious here."

"Get off the ladder. I can do it myself."

"Why are you trying so hard to make this difficult?" Draco snapped. "What could you possibly lose by handing me the books from down there, Granger? Besides hocking up dust bunnies in the later course of the day?"

She was silent. Her doe-like eyes narrowed at him, her shoulders tense and squared, before she begrudgingly turned her head away. She rigidly held out a book to him.

"Fine."

He snatched it away from her, before placing it on the bookshelf. "You know, it helps to cooperate sometimes."

"I cooperate just fine," she said, handing him another book. "It's Nazis like you I don't like."

"Well, that just makes me all warm and fuzzy outside. In fact, I'm so touched – if you need it – maybe I'll give my kidney to you in the future. Or maybe even my liver. Either one. Your pick."

"Does it honestly amuse you to attack people with your dry sarcasm?"

"I don't know. Does it honestly amuse you to attack people with your dry sarcasm?"

This time, she wouldn't let go of the book.

Draco froze, looking back at her. He tugged again. It didn't budge.

"Granger, let go of the book."

"If you stop being an asshole."

"You dream an impossible dream, King." He pulled again. "Just let go of the damn book."

Without her disposition giving away an inch, she finally let the book slip out of her hands. Draco shot her a look, before shoving it in with the other books. Before long, she began to hand it to him in stacks. There were too many books and only two of them – it became a very tedious job, especially since they had stopped talking again after the book incident. Sometimes, when Draco would turn his back, he'd have the lingering suspicion that he'd suddenly feel a sharp pain in the back of his head. He was quite sure she'd throw one of the books at him before their detention was over, simply because she detested him, and perhaps so she could have something to brag about to her little friends later on tonight.

"Why were you falling asleep in class?" she suddenly said aloud, startling him, for he'd been far too engaged in the works of his own brain to mind the silence too much. In fact, it took him a few seconds to actually register she'd asked him a question.

"I mean," she continued on when he didn't say anything, "I think it's rather obvious it isn't because you stayed up all night studying."

He gave her a dry look, grabbing another book. "I don't have the vaguest idea why you'd want to know, besides the fact that you're just a nosy old bint."

"Forgive me if I thought it was something worth knowing," she retorted sharply. "Must have lapsed into temporary insanity again."

"Must be why you're looking so different today, Granger. You aren't wearing your straitjacket!"

There was a tense pause.

"I bet you think life is just one big old joke, don't you, Malfoy?" she spat, annoyed.

"Let me guess. It's a knock-knock joke. No. It's an A Man Walks Into a Bar joke. No. I think it's the one about the monkey. Definitely."

"Why can't you take anything seriously?" she asked, her temper making its infamous flare again. "Why? Is it because of your childhood? Were you never taught how to cry? Were you bathed in ice water?"

Draco cringed. "God, no."

"Then why is it?"

"Well, if you really want to know," he said. "My parents never hugged me – not even once – and thus my whole existence is doomed to be a cold, heartless, hug-less one." He shot her a dirty look. "Then again, that story's been circulating around quite a bit in the Gryffindor dorms, now, hasn't it?"

He turned around, leaning against the steps of the ladder, looking down on her with his brow quirked superiorly.

"What exactly are you aiming at here, Granger? What are you trying to do – crack into my personal life while I break down into tears while you pat my back and tell me that everything's going to be okay, that I'm not going to turn out like my horrid father, before we go to a commercial break?" he said sourly. "And what makes you think I'd tell a lunatic like you?" he snorted. "Better yet, why do you think I'd tell someone like you, who will just take it, twist it around to make me seem like a – what's that word you used again? Oh yeahNazi, and then use to somehow amuse themselves with their personal pride?"

"Because you're the same, aren't you?"

He froze. He continued to stare directly at her. Hiding nothing.

"Watch it, Sparky."

She only shook her head, laughing scornfully. "Why? Are you suddenly offended? Was that too much for you? Do you want me to take it down a notch?" She had her hands on her waist, looking up at him. "You're not any better, you know. Not any better than me, or Harry, or Ron. In fact, you could be worse – you are worse. What are you doing with your life?"

"I'm supposing your ideal answer for me to say would be: 'Nothing. Gee Whiz. What have I been doing with my life? Maybe I should turn over to the good side. Maybe I should invite Potter to my slumber parties at the Manor and we could braid each other's hair and share secrets about dieting," he said mockingly. "Maybe I could have bake sales and give poor people hugs."

She was glaring at him, the sharp kind – where you know you've hit a spot real tender, really close – perhaps even on the bull's eye – to where you'd aimed – where you were sure it'd hurt. And at first Draco had not really been aiming for it to hurt; it was just a sort of normal reflex now, for people like him to go around shooting snide remarks such as this. But certainly it was deserved, wasn't it? She'd started on him first. And what was it, he wanted to know, with people like Granger always trying to guilt people into being "good"? Rubbing their non-achievements right in their face, rubbing it in hard, so they were sure it would burn? Or was it something other than that – was she just trying to find some shard of humanity in an evil person like him so she could sleep better at night, knowing there was still at least a little hope in the world?

Suddenly, she turned on her heel and began to walk away, Draco still oddly hearing the very quiet swishing of her skirt against her thighs. His eyes followed her sharp yet fluid movements, taking a moment to register what she was doing. At first, he did not have the slightest bit of a clue – then the startling realization hit him of where she was heading, and that she clearly wasn't stopping: the door.

"Granger," he said, hastily leaping off the ladder, no longer caring about the possible splinters he might excite, "where the hell are you going?"

"I'm going to ask for another detention. With somebody else. Anybody else. Anybody else except you!" she spat, turning around for a quick second.

He followed after her briskly, before cutting ahead of her, blocking the door.

"Move," she furiously commanded. Her face had been pulled tightly by her hardening disposition. Her lips, he noticed, were suddenly a bright and vivid shade of red that he had never seen before.

"Hey," he told her seriously, "you started it first. You were the one judging me, remember? 'You're worse, Malfoy, what are you doing with your life, you racist bastard'? Remember?"

"Just move," she said again, her rigid eyes unwavering.

"No," he said firmly. "We are going to finish this detention, do you hear me? Because I am not coming back here. We have already done most of what we need, Granger. If you head out now, both of us are going to have to do it over again."

"I don't care," she spat. "Six hours scrubbing bed pans or inhaling dust is better than another two hours with you."

"Now, I know you don't mean that, Granger."

"I mean it more than anything I've ever said in my life."

He sighed, crossing his arms, peering into her face. "Now, I never knew you were the type to give up."

"This isn't giving up," she snarled defensively. "This falls into the categories: Smart Choices and Clever Evasive Skills."

"McGonagall would disagree."

She huffed. "I don't care. And you shouldn't, either, if you're concerned with whether your head's going to stay intact with your neck in about a minute or two if you don't move out of my way."

"Granger, it'd do you some damned good to come to terms with the fact that your threats don't – scare - me, all right, honeycakes? They don't. So you can stop these lucid attempts at making me quiver in my boots, because they aren't going to work." He rolled his eyes. "What is it with you Gryffindors, thinking that with just one blow we'll bowl right over? Of course, if you were Potter, it'd be a slightly different story. But you're, in fact, without a monstrously hideous scar, hence, no quivering. Got it?"

She was glaring at him now, her eyes almost nonexistent.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Trying to target your nose."

"Granger, if you hit me—"

"What are you going to do? Tell your Daddy on me?"

"Well – yes, precisely just that."

It was then she froze, her expression falling into a dumbfounded look. Then she shook her head, turning away. "You're pathetic," she scoffed.

Draco said nothing, and instead pulled some heavy chairs over to block the door, piling numerous tomes on the seats to prevent a quick escape for his detention partner. If, in the next two hours, she attempted to leave, then this should delay her quite a bit – that, or cause some bodily harm, which was fine either way.

"You know, Malfoy, I pity you."

"Well, you shouldn't," he snapped. "I'm bloody sexy as hell."

She whipped around, her arms across her chest.

"You're still trapped in that mind-set, aren't you? Of being underneath Daddy's protection – Daddy's little umbrella so poor wittle Draco's hair won't get wet?" She began to laugh to herself, and Draco's brow leapt to his forehead, watching as strange giggles poured out of her, her chest heaving with her amusement. When she finally calmed down, she continued to talk, no doubt belittling him again. Oh, joy.

"What I'd give to see the day when Daddy fails you, Malfoy."

Draco sneered. "Let's get back to working, Granger."

"No, no," she said, calling after him. "Let's talk about this, Malfoy – it'll be good for you. Maybe shed some light on the little dark corner you've been living your life out of, hm?"

"Would you just shut your bloody trap?" he shouted at her. "Where do you get off feeling high and mighty to start talking about things you absolutely don't know a single damn thing about?"

"Around the same place you get off feeling high and mighty to start talking about dirty blood and dead parents and whatever the hell else you bully us about!" she retaliated. "The problem with you, Malfoy, is that you haven't been put in your place like the rest of us."

"Oh?" he scoffed, circling around her. "Really now? I haven't been put in my place – and you have?" Then his face darkened, as he neared her – almost until the tips of their noses were touching. "Watch your mouth, Granger. You know damn well you don't know anything about me."

"And so what?" she asked, her nostrils flaring. "You know damn well you don't know anything about me, either. That doesn't stop you – even for a second – from doing the things you do."

In the deep, boiling pit of his chest, Draco could not find a single word of denial in response to her statement. Not a single one. Instead, he simply turned around, gritting his jaw, with his muscles taut inside his body. He called upon the divine powers of self-control to help him from lunging at her throat and strangling her, but in the meantime all he could do was refuse to respond and simply try to carry on with the task they had been assigned – key word being try, assuming that Granger would cooperate. Even in the depths of his mind he could not understand her – her immaculate ability to annoy him until he felt the top of skull nearly explode off of his head. With her, nobody was good enough. Only Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the two most incapable idiots he'd ever had the misfortune of gazing upon in his entire festering life.

She was infuriating in that way – her unrelenting loyalty to her friends. She was one of the biggest damn snobs he'd ever met but she'd never be able to admit it, because she felt she was too righteous for that. And be it that Draco was too "evil" to like righteous folk. There they were, with their hallucinations of peace and goodness and justice, trampling on everybody else that wasn't like them.

So, in an attempt to perhaps contain the impending violence of his reaction, he began to grab the books, stacking them on the table.

However, just as he had grabbed the last book, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in between his shoulder blades, and he yelled out, before whirling around to glare at her.

The little bint had thrown a book at him.

"What the hell is your problem?" he shouted at her. "I understand you're used to your cavemen social skills, but throwing books? Have you gone completely bonkers?"

"I wasn't done talking," she seethed.

"Well, you stopped talking, hence I only assumed you were done," he snarled, nearing her until their bodies were only an inch away. His warm breath and perfume pervaded the air around her, masking her skin. "And, quite frankly, I couldn't give less of a damn even if you were done talking, all right, Granger?"

"Why? Because the truth hurts, doesn't it? I bet you've never even been alone in a room with a person who's willing to tell you the truth, about how much of a monster you are, about how terribly you deserve to burn in hell."

"Oh yes, well, and I feel just terrible about that!" he spat. "Excuse me while I go to the corner and cry! Oh – wait a minute! I forgot – I don't care!"

Just then, she pushed him, her face clouded over with anger.

"Don't – touch – me – Mudblood," he growled.

She pushed him again.

When it was clear that she was not – and never – going to listen to his commands, around her third push, he took it upon himself to accost her. His fingers gripped her arms, holding her intoxicatingly close to him, his eyes burning into hers. She struggled, but he would not let go. Now, it wasn't exactly clear to him what he planned to do while he was holding her like this, perhaps force a few select threats down her throat, or shove her around a bit. But as soon as her body had collided against his, something in his head – something oddly like a light switch – had clicked.

Click.

And that was it.

The steam confined in his skull, compressing against everything and anything, with no outlet – the warmth zipping through his blood vessels, tingling at the tips of his fingers. He'd never felt this way before. Feverish. Feverish with anger. Feverish with passion. Feverish. Never before had someone driven him to the edge of his temper this way. He looked at her and he couldn't decide, suddenly, whether he wanted to punch her or to kiss her. Everything was so turbulent, yet still, and her face was so near that he could make out every fleck of amber in her eyes. Her hot breaths grazed his face.

For a second, he was afraid. Of this feeling, of what he was capable of doing to her – of everything that had led him up to this certain moment. Her skin felt like hot, soft coal against his palms.

Suddenly, like a flash of lightning in the hellish atmosphere of his mind, it occurred to him: could you hate someone so much that you wanted so terribly to kiss them?

And did it matter? Did things like those ever matter in moments like these? No, they did not. So it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, then, that in a split second later he found his scalding lips suddenly pressed down against hers.

Perhaps it was his hate for her that made such a sinful act all the more powerful – the buzz in his ears, the jolts of electricity within his chest. They were kissing, enemy-to-enemy, and it was good – until he suddenly pulled away, shivering at what he had just done. He staggered a few steps backwards, stunned and afraid.

Hermione simply stared at him, shocked, but not necessarily knowing how to react. Perhaps throwing another book at him would suffice – but something inside her told that nothing she could do, ever, could fix whatever problem they had just gotten themselves into now. So, instead, she waited on him. He was looking at her with this look on his face, aghast, while she felt her face hot and burning, but she stood her place. No, she didn't know why it had happened. No, she didn't know what had triggered it. She waited for him to say a word. Whether it would be up for discussion or not. Whether they would try to forget about it, as if it had never happened.

Of course, Draco had far too much pride to let something like that be up for discussion. So, instead, he did what he thought was best: he cleared his throat, painted on the same impassive, cold look on his face, and told her that they'd better get back to work, before turning his back and walking back to the table of books. Indifference was always the best defense.

It was some seconds before Draco finally saw her appear beside him, feeling his muted heartbeats begin to thump loudly inside his ribcage, and he glanced down at his chest, wondering if she could see his heart pounding through his shirt. His palms began to sweat but he carried on silently, ignoring her presence even though her presence was now the only thing he could no longer ignore.

This time, he ascended the ladder and she handed him the books without remark. They remained silent – it was an eerie, tense silence – and Draco even found himself slightly bothered by it. Silence was Granger was never supposed to be like this! Now the silence tortured him. The murky waters lingering underneath said quietness was the culprit of all the torture – the fact that they'd kissed, and it had been burned into their brains to torment them for the rest of their lives. If only there was some sort of permanent cleansing for the mind, maybe this silence would feel differently, and not as if he wanted to purposely fall off of the ladder – headfirst.

The silence strung the mere two hours they had left together out into a century. Once their fingers had accidentally touched and Draco had drawn back as if he'd just been burned, causing the large book to topple down. They avoided looking at each other and had just been going to combust with insanity when the door suddenly creaked open and Madam Pince stepped in, smiling.

"Your detention is done. You may go."

In Hermione Granger's mind there was this loud shriek, yelling out, Thank Merlin! accompanied with what seemed like the toll of a bell, but she could not be bothered to think much upon it. She nodded quickly, feeling the release in her knotted stomach, clutching the books to her chest. Meanwhile, Draco, who was on the ladder, felt himself sigh heavily upon her words, leaning against the worn wood, closing his eyes for a brief moment of reprieve. Once he heard the librarian leave, and Granger's footsteps toward the door, he began to slowly climb down. As she passed him, he glimpsed in her direction and oddly noticed the way she walked – the subtle sway to her hips, so subtle that it was not at all pretentious to the naked eye. In fact, it was… almost intoxicating.

He shook it off, wearily (and warily) following after her, exiting the backroom. He made sure to lag a few paces behind, staring at the back of her bushy head. She opened the library doors and slipped through the small crevice, and he hesitated for a moment, before he did the same.

He walked out into the hall, feeling a strange adjustment in the air – cooler, less stuffy with the compressed scent of dust. But he slowed a little, watching as she turned on her heel and began to walk the other way, to the Gryffindor dormitories. He could not pinpoint exactly what he felt in his chest as he watched her walk away without the fireworks of their clashing personalities – but he'd never admit to feeling that twinge of longing, of disappointment, and of deep-set confusion, anyhow. That explosive day was ended with the mere silent action of walking away in embarrassment, yet it took a little more force than it ought to have for him to do the same.

And so, that was the day Draco Malfoy finally had the slightest bit of an inkling of his secret love for Hermione Granger. One would be amazed at the sorts of things the subconscious hides – perhaps out of shame, and perhaps even simply out of the sake of mystery. Maybe it is because it knows we are not ready for it; it takes a certain amount of maturity to find out exactly how badly you've wanted to kiss the most infuriating person you ever had the displeasure of knowing – or, at least, one of the top three. Or maybe it is not a deal of the subconscious at all – maybe it is all rubbish, and that Draco Malfoy kissed simply because he could. And maybe he had never really been in love with her all this time – he'd just woken up one day with a very mysterious illness and had fallen in love with her the very moment she'd told him the truth (he'd never been in the same room with a person who did so) and had thrown a book at him.

All of these things I cannot answer. I am an omniscient narrator, but I am not God. All I know is, some weeks later, Hermione Granger's lost bookbag was returned in a rather strange manner. She'd left it in McGonagall's class that day they'd had detention but when she had returned for it the next day it had somehow disappeared. So, then, she was quite shocked when she saw it sitting in front of Fat Lady, who was taking her afternoon nap.

As she came closer she saw that there was a note tucked inside the flap. She neatly retrieved it, unfolding the parchment, and there lie these words:

The library at 10. No throwing books this time.

There was no name at the bottom. Then again, no name was needed.

And, well, I shall stop here. It's late, and telling this story has consumed much of my energy. I will end it here. The rest, however, is up to you, and you may do as you very well please.

End.