The next time I saw her, mid-April, was in the library at Hogwarts, where she was feverishly scribbling notes in black composition book that I can only assume she picked up at a Muggle shop.
Draco slid into the chair across from her and leaned forward.
'Well, well, well,' he drawled. 'If it isn't – '
'Get lost,' she told him, without even glancing upwards. 'I'm not interested in your Pureblood mania. I'll take points from Slytherin.'
'You can't take points anymore, Granger. But I see you still haven't lost your touch.'
'I see you have,' she retorted cheerfully.
I snorted and then ducked behind a bookshelf as they both whipped their heads around.
'Now that you're gone, I have top marks for our year,' Malfoy continued.
'Not technically, because I never formally withdrew from the school, and I still turn in all assignments,' she replied placidly.
Malfoy stood up.
'See you around then, Miss Know-it-all,' he sneered.
'Can't wait,' she muttered, waving a hand noncommittally.
I waited a few minutes before occupying the seat that Draco had vacated.
'Do you want me to warn him about bothering you?' I asked, immediately wondering of why I was offering to do something so foolish. To threaten a Malfoy was tantamount to announcing fealty to the Order of the Phoenix. She jumped at the sound of my voice.
'No,' she said, recovering her composure. 'He won't try anything at Hogwarts.'
'Don't be so sure, Granger,' I told her in a whisper. 'You know he put Mme Rosmerta under the Imperius Curse, and that he nearly killed Dumbledore. He did it all of his own free will. He's dangerous: his mother paid off the Ministry so that he could wiggle out of Azkaban, he wasn't under the Imperius Curse himself.'
She glared at me.
'Do you take me for a fool, Zabini? Of course I don't believe he was under the Imperius Curse.'
I snuck the folded parchment that Draco had slipped me into my lap as soon as he left, in order to read it. Twenty minutes, it read. I was putting it into my pocket when Zabini seated himself at my table. I was nervous that he had noticed, but it seemed that all he was concerned about was Draco.
'You know he was acting of his own free will and you didn't hex him the moment he sat down?' Zabini said incredulously.
I raised an eyebrow at him.
'What's that supposed to mean?' he asked. 'You're always doing that.'
'I can look after myself,' I told him. 'Malfoy poses little threat to me.'
Zabini remained across from me a while, saying nothing. I kept glancing at my watch, waiting for him to leave, until I couldn't stay any longer.
'I must go. It's been –' I paused, '– well, it hasn't been like anything.'
After slinging my bag over my shoulder, I walked purposefully to the seventh floor corridor and the Room of Requirement. Draco arrived at the same time.
'Why couldn't you have just written me a note, or sent a Patronus?' I hissed at him.
'Because then I wouldn't be spending time with you,' he drawled. 'Come on, I'll get the door.' He began to pace in front of the wall.
'You'd better have a very good st– '
I was silenced by Draco's lips crashing down on mine. My eyes widened as he pulled away and murmured in my ear, 'Blaise is watching.'
'Do you mind?' he called out to Zabini, hand on my hip, propelling me towards the wall and focusing on me again.
Before his lips reached mine again, I saw that Zabini's eyes were clouded with disbelief, the sting of betrayal, and disgust. He turned on his heel and left. Draco released me and disappeared into the Room of Requirement.
I stalked in after him.
'Was that necessary?' I demanded, crossing my arms.
'It was the only plausible excuse for our meeting that I could think of,' Draco protested, sinking into an armchair.
'Plausible?!' I questioned indignantly. I sat in an adjacent chair. 'I hope you know that was an awful kiss, by the way,'
'I can do better,' he drawled, smirking.
'I certainly hope so,' I told him, 'but that is neither here nor there. That little display just set me back quite a bit with Zabini.'
Draco looked surprised.
'You're trying to ensnare him?'
'Not like that,' I rebutted hotly. 'I convinced him to talk to McGonagall. He thinks you're an evil little weasel, so you've basically just classes me as the same.'
'Draco,' I said sharply, 'please, just tell me what you need to tell me, so I can try to mend things with Blaise, and try to find a plausible excuse to cover up yours.'
'Alright. Part of what I'm about to say is pertaining to the Order, part is a solution to our little problem,' he said, wiggling his eyebrows. 'Business first. Voldemort wants to attack the Burrow. Get it put under the Fidelius Charm as soon as possible.'
My eyes widened.
'By Saturday,' he said grimly. 'But I'd get it done sooner.'
'Why didn't you just tell McGonagall?'
'Because, Hermione, I can't just waltz up to the Headmistress's office like you can. Besides, I saw you in the library, hadn't spoken to you in ages, and decided we should chat.'
'Charming,' I said. 'What's you're so-called solution to our "little problem?" '
'It's simple. Tell Zabini that you're trying to seduce information out of me.'
'Do I look like the seducing type?' I asked, amused.
Draco looked at me appraisingly.
'I don't know. You could have that potential capacity hidden away.'
I pursed my lips.
'I hope we won't be making any more exhibitions,' I said, giving in.
'Only if Blaise shows up again,' Draco said, 'which hopefully will not happen.'
'Cross your fingers,' I said, 'and watch your back. I wouldn't put it past Zabini to hex you if he feels I've compromised his position and told you he went to McGonagall.'
I headed out of the castle, only to set head-long into Zabini the corridor before the gargoyles guarding the Headmistress's office.
'Sorry,' I said, before I realized who it was.
He grasped my wrist none too lightly.
'Ow!' I exclaimed, wrenching out of his grip.
'Game's up, Granger,' he said dangerously, his wand levelled at me.
'Zabini, it's not what it looked like,' I hissed.
'Like hell it isn't,' he said. 'I saw you kiss.'
'Look, I'll tell you the truth,' I said, glancing around us, my heart beating fast, 'but you've got to promise not to tell anyone else.'
He regarded me suspiciously, but gave a jerk of his head to show his assent.
'I'm trying to get information out of him,' I said quietly. 'It sounds crazy, but that's what's going on.'
'You're lying, Granger. Draco's an Occlumens. You'll never be able to get past his barriers. Snape couldn't. I heard him bragging about it.'
I put on a sly smile.
'I don't need Occlumency to get information out of Malfoy. He's a man.'
Zabini's eyes widened.
'You mean you're shagging him to get him to spill?'
'No,' I retorted. 'I'm biding my time for the opportunity to glean some crucial details and then I'll dangle to bait. He'll not be getting lucky with me, but he doesn't know that.'
To my surprise, Zabini chuckled.
'You're really something,' he said.
'Now, if you'll excuse, me, I need to speak to McGonagall,' I told him haughtily to cover my relief, sidestepping him.
'What if I won't excuse you?' he smirked, blocking my path.
'Then I will be forced to put my wand to use,' I answered sweetly, flourishing said wand.
McGonagall was glad to learn of the pre-meditated attack on the Burrow so far ahead of time and even waved cheerily at me as I Flooed back to Grimmauld Place to rejoin Harry and Ron.
When I told them the news of the subterfuge started by Draco kissing me, they sort of lost their tempers, dear boys. I know they remember that.
The next time I saw Draco, I made sure to comment on his relationship with Granger. He grinned like the Cheshire cat and raised both his eyebrows at once. With such a wild look, I could tell that he thought their relationship was real from her side.
'I have a feeling she will be a very profitable conquest, Blaise,' he said with a glint in his eye. Knowing as I do now that it was all a trick, I have to hand it to Draco: he really pulled out all the stops to protect his mad ruse.
'You have to look past the Muggleborn issue. She's attractive under those robes,' he said, twirling his wand. 'Crazy for me, too. I'll have her telling me all her secrets in no time, and I'll have a bit of fun along the way.'
Somehow, I didn't like him talking about her as if she were an object.
'You're disgusting,' I told him frankly.
He literally tumbled off his sofa.
'Jealous, Blaise?' he asked cockily from his position on the rug. 'You can probably have a go when I'm through.'
'I'm not jealous,' I denied coolly, 'I just don't think you should speak that way about a woman.'
At that comment, I'm sure Draco would have fallen off the sofa were he not already on the floor.
I went to the dormitory, unsettled about the idea Draco had planted in my mind. Jealous? Me? Why should I be? They're not in a real relationship anyhow.
I sank onto the edge of my mattress as it dawned on me that there was a distinct possibility I had feelings for Hermione Granger.
Unfortunately, Draco's idiotic plan forced me to male frequent trips to Hogwarts. I love Hogwarts, certainly, but going there was unpleasant since many students had withdrawn and those who remained were sometimes quite nasty to me. After having destroyed the last of the Horcruxes in May, I was able to minimize my discomfort at Hogwarts, because Harry, Ron, and I returned to classes for the last month before NEWTs.
'I hear you've come back to school,' Zabini drawled from behind me.
'Yes,' I replied. I lowered my voice. 'Look, I talked to McGonagall and she has Okayed this… We are starting the DA again and we want Slytherins too. Are you in?'
'What's in it for me?' he asked.
'What do you mean, what's in it for you?' I demanded. 'You would be training to help fight Voldemort when the time comes.'
'Why would I want to join?' he asked, essentially repeating his previous question.
'I don't have time for this,' I said flatly, and went past him. I stopped and turned back around. 'Please join,' I said, looking him straight in the eye, which was a mistake, considering our close proximity. 'Please, Blaise,' I said softly.
'Alright,' he said in a low voice. I'll join you. But you've got to keep your lot from attacking me.'
I smiled, and pulled one of our fake galleons from my pocket. I placed it in his open hand and his fingers curled around it, brushing my fingers as I withdrew my hand.
'This will get warm when the date and time for each meeting is set or changed. We meet in the Room of Requirement, where you saw Malfoy kiss me,' I told him and then slipped away to the library, a place where I could think.
I breathed slowly to calm my racing heart as I made my way to the back shelves for a book. Who do you think I encountered there? Draco.
'Ten,' he said, walking past me.
I inwardly groaned. Meeting him in the Room of Requirement seemed less than conducive to what I wanted to do, which was to decide if, perhaps, there was a chance I might fancy Blaise a bit. The possibility that I did was absurd, though likely, and it was also potentially very problematic.
'What do you want?' I asked Draco the moment I entered the room of Requirement.
'To talk, obviously,' he said. 'I just want, for fifteen minutes, to be in the same room with a person who isn't sub-intelligent. And we've got to keep up appearances for dear Blaisey.'
'I see,' I told him, with as much patience as I could manage.
'DA is restarting, isn't it?' he asked.
'Yes, it is. We're recruiting non-Death Eater Slytherins as well now,' I elaborated. 'As she is unmarked, I would ask your oh-so-charming ex, but I think she'd end up with SNEAK written across her face.'
Draco made a sour face and laughed.
'Who've you got so far?'
'Some fifth and sixth years and Zabini.'
'He defended your honour, you know.'
I felt my face flush, but then addressed Draco sternly.
'And did he need to do so?'
'Possibly,' Draco admitted. 'I made a few rude comments, saying I was leeching you for information on Harry and planned on having a bit of fun with you in the process.'
'I would appreciate it if you would refrain from such comments in the future, in front of Zabini. He needs to keep his cover in Slytherin House as well.'
'Maybe I shouldn't have pulled you in here for a chat. I should have known I'd get a talking to,' he said teasingly. 'Why don't you sit down, by the way? Your pacing is making me nervous.'
'I thought Malfoys didn't get nervous,' I said cheekily, sitting in an armchair.
'They don't, in front of most people,' he said, and then tried to fix me with a stare.
'That won't work,' I told him, 'as you well know. Snape taught me and there are none better alive in the practice of Occlumency.'
'I was only taking a peek to check for proof.'
'Proof of what?'
'Oh, I figured there would something to help me decide what's between you and Blaise.'
I felt my face growing hot again.
'Don't be ridiculous,' I scoffed.
'You're the one who's blushing,' he point out annoyingly.
'There can be nothing,' I told him.
Draco only smiled knowingly.