Author's Note: My first real Dramione one-shot! This is set during seventh year, with Hermione as Head Girl and Draco as prefect. I kind of like this one, which is actually pretty rare, as I usually don't like my own writing. You can decide whether it's AU or canon, because I'm not quite sure myself.
This is just made up of a bunch of short scenes, and I think it's kind of cute. I might end up turning this into a longer fic, but I doubt I will. Anyway, please tell me what you think; I've never been gifted with one-shots, so any criticisms shall be appreciated.
Draco is slightly out of character, I believe. Ah, well. Makes things more interesting.
Disclaimer: Characters are JKR's. Few scenes heavily inspired by Markus Zusak.
Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)
Hermione Granger had an addiction.
No, she wasn't buying illegal Muggle drugs off Mundungus Fletcher like half the student population was, and she hated the taste of firewhiskey or any type of alcohol. She wasn't addicted to coffee, either…though she loved the stuff, she had to admit, more than most people.
Actually, the addiction was seemingly harmless, and it came to her in the form of checkers.
She didn't really know why she loved it so much: After all, there were only so many strategies one could have when playing the game, and Hermione Granger could certainly talk strategy. Her uncle had started teaching her to play when she was around five, so it was only natural that she enjoyed it. But she supposed she also liked the red and black pieces…and the simplicity. Chess was alright, certainly, but she liked the equality in checkers… Not like in chess, with knights that moved in specific formations, queens that could move as they pleased, and pawns that could only move one bloody square while all the other pieces traipsed around the playing board like gods.
In checkers, everyone was the same. Just one square at a time.
It was late; the time was probably past one in the morning. It was times like these that Hermione liked to sneak her checkerboard under her cloak and head to the deserted corridor on the third floor. She didn't like the common room, much…she could rarely find a worthy opponent to play her in checkers, so her board was constantly bewitched to play for itself. Hermione didn't like the odd stares she got from her fellow Gryffindors for this, nor did she like the half-hearted offers to join in the game.
No, Hermione liked to play checkers alone. It was better this way.
She sat down on the cold, stone floor and set the wooden board down on the groud. She dug in the waistband of her pajamas for her wand, then noticed she had forgotten it. It was too dark to see, so she waited in silence for her eyes to adjust. Sighing, she began setting up the pieces by hand.
She found herself completely immersed in the game, as usual. The opposing side (in other words, no one) had just made an excellent move, forcing Hermione to sacrifice three of her pieces to take down a King. Had she not been so absorbed in the game and what her next move would be, she might have noticed the soft sound of footsteps coming closer.
"Are you playing checkers by yourself, Granger?"
She looked up suddenly from the board, her concentration broken. Her expression soon morphed into one of disgust as she saw who she was talking to.
"As a matter of fact, I am. Now leave."
"Aren't you supposed to be setting an example as Head Girl? Shouldn't you be safe in your common room with Weasley instead of bewitching checkerboards to play against you?"
"I could say the same to you, Malfoy. Just replace Head Girl with 'prefect.' Why are you out this late, anyway?"
A muscle in Malfoy's jaw twitched dangerously. He hated being reminded that it was Ernie Macmillan, not he, who had been made Head Boy. His father hadn't been too pleased with this, though Lucius's anger was more directed at the headmaster than at Malfoy.
"I got bored," Malfoy said simply, crossing him arms casually across his chest. "Been wandering the school for a good half hour. Couldn't sleep."
Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Me neither. But as you may have noticed, I chose not to disturb the peace and aimlessly roam the corridors."
"No, no, you're just sitting on your arse playing checkers."
"Better than what you're doing, Malfoy," she pointed out. "Filch could catch you."
"What if Filch catches you sitting here, then?"
"He never comes down here anymore," said Hermione dismissively, once more concentrating on the board. She sighed as a black piece moved forward and claimed one of her own red pieces.
"You really need a life, Granger," Malfoy observed with a hint of amusement in his voice. "Honestly, checkers? Can't you play chess?"
"Of course I can. It's boring."
"It's better than checkers."
"Only because you're pathetic at checkers, I'll bet."
"How can one be pathetic at checkers? Obviously, it doesn't take any skill or intellect, seeing as you can play."
"Don't provoke me, Malfoy. I haven't got my wand, so any damage I inflict upon you will have to be done with my bare hands."
"You haven't got a wand?" he sneered. "Rule number one, Granger: never reveal your weaknesses to your enemies."
"It's not a weakness," she insisted, reaching down to the checkerboard and jumping a black piece. "I can still tear you limb from limb."
"Can't believe Granger plays checkers," he said scathingly, picking up the piece that Hermione had just claimed and flicking it to the floor. "Checkers is for sissy girls."
"Perfect, Malfoy," she muttered dryly. "You can play, then."
His face was dotted with fury, but he quickly let the feeling pass.
When in doubt, smirk, he reminded himself. "'Night, Mudblood."
"Goodnight, Ferret," she said tiredly, waving lightly.
It was Saturday. Midnight had come and gone. Two weeks had passed since Hermione had met Malfoy at night while she was playing checkers. The thought of possibly seeing him again was more than enough to get her to stay in her own four-poster bed with the curtains drawn; she had played checkers there for a few nights instead. But nothing could silence the incessant chatter of Lavender and Parvati (did they never sleep?) and she much preferred the silent calm of the third floor hallway.
A pair of feet stopped in front of her.
Hermione looked up and frowned. "I see you're back."
"Yes," said Malfoy simply. Hermione noticed she was seeing him in Muggle attire for the first time; his pajamas looked silk and expensive, but they were different from the robes Hermione always saw him in. "I always wander around at night now. Can never sleep."
"Maybe you've got insomnia? Go get some potion from Madam Pomfrey."
Malfoy shrugged. "You playing checkers again?"
"Ridiculous. Why d'you have to play out here, anyway? Haven't you got a perfectly serviceable common room? Ignoring Weasel again?"
"Spare me, Malfoy. How would you know if I've ever ignored Ron in my life?"
"Honestly, Granger, the whole school talks about it."
Hermione narrowed her eyes and began setting up the board. "Get back to your common room, or I'll have to dock points."
"How about a game of checkers, then, Granger?"
"Fine," she scowled, "if it will make you go away. Just one game."
He knelt in front of the board, smirking. "Smoke comes before fire," he reminded her (as if she were an amateur! hmph!) , and moved one of his black pieces.
"Wow, you're good at this, aren't you?" scoffed Hermione, as she later jumped three of his pieces in one go. Malfoy sucked in his cheeks and continued playing.
"King me," said Hermione suddenly. Malfoy groaned.
"Didn't know this game was so bloody annoying," Malfoy murmured.
"You're not bad," said Hermione truthfully, looking at him. "You just need practice."
Fifteen minutes later, Hermione took the last of Malfoy's tokens. "Well, that's that," she said with finality. "Looks like you've got to leave me alone, now."
"What if I don't want to?"
Hermione pursed her lips in contemplation. She looked like she wanted to tell Malfoy to get the hell out of her face, but instead she said, "Then you can meet me here tomorrow, and I can destroy you in checkers again."
The next day had passed much too quickly for Hermione's liking, as she was soon back in the corridor with her checkerboard, waiting for Malfoy's return.
"Why?" she muttered. "Why, Hermione Jean, did you find it such a brilliant idea to invite your enemy here for a light game of checkers?"
"Having second thoughts already?" He had arrived.
"Obviously," she simpered, quickly setting up the board. "Didn't think you'd show. Want to go first?"
He did, and he lost. Miserably. Had anyone else been walking the corridors at night, perhaps they would have detected the way Malfoy glanced at Hermione with less coldness in his eyes as she mercilessly slaughtered him in the game, or the way he congratulated her on beating him, even though he had wanted to win himself.
He hated her. Certainly.
It was a known fact. It was more than a fact, even.
But she was really good at checkers.
Malfoy didn't give her any trouble, Hermione decided. Maybe he just liked to play checkers. So she was back again the next night, waiting for his arrival. He wasn't bad without his two goons…he was a normal kid, maybe, lest a tad paler and conceited. But Hermione could stomach that.
"Here, you think you can set up the game?" She pushed the slim wooden board toward him along with the small velvet pouch where she kept the checker pieces.
"Surely. Five galleons to the winner?" Malfoy suggested, rattling a bag of coins in his pocket.
"You carry money in your pajamas?" asked Hermione, amused. "Anyway, Malfoy, I think we know who's going to win."
"We won't know until we play, will we?" Annoying smirk.
As expected, she beat him easily, having nearly thirteen years of experience under her belt. It only took eleven short minutes for the game to end. "Five galleons, Malfoy."
Scowling, he threw five gold coins her way. His grey eyes caught hers.
"But Granger," he began, "what do I get for losing?"
"A nice fist in the face?" she proposed. "Honestly, I went easy on—"
The rest of her sentence was cut off, though, as he pressed his lips gently to hers. How long it lasted, neither could tell. Hermione, seemingly frozen in shock, had gone completely numb and could no sooner have pushed Malfoy away than sprouted tentacles. When they finally broke apart, it was Malfoy that looked uncomfortable.
"I still hate you, Granger."
"I hate you, too," she said firmly.
He smirked and added, "But not as much as I should."
Hermione stubbornly avoided sneaking out at night for a solid three weeks, before finally deciding one night that anything was better than being in the same room as her two silly roommates (who were trying to get Hermione to join in a conversation that involved speculating which Hogwarts male student had the longest apparatus). Sighing in defeat, she clutched her checkerboard under her arm, along with her favorite book, and headed down toward the corridor, hoping against her will that Malfoy would stop by.
The checkerboard lay on the floor without purpose; Hermione opened Wuthering Heights, ready to read about Heathcliff and Catherine, and was just about to get lost in the story—
"So you're finally here, are you?"
There was obvious distaste in his voice, and Hermione despite herself felt her confidence shrinking.
Malfoy continued. "How come you've been avoiding me, Granger?"
Hermione mouth twitched. "I'm here now, aren't I? Shut up and play a game of checkers."
"You know I've stopped by every night?"
"Sorry," said Hermione bitterly, closing her book and placing it on the floor.
Malfoy gestured to the novel. "You're actually reading that shit?"
Hermione's lips flattened into a thin line as she said, "This is my favorite book, thank you. It's all about love, and hardship—"
"Yeah, I know. I've read it. It's a pile of rubbish."
Hermione stifled a laughed and shook her head vehemently. "It's an excellent novel. I brought it because I didn't know if you'd show up…"
He made an impatient noise as he said, "I'm not the one who hid in my common room for three weeks, Granger."
Hermione glared at him and quickly set up the game. Without hesitating, she thrust a red piece forward. "I don't care if smoke comes before fire, Malfoy," she said as Malfoy opened his mouth to protest. "Just play the bloody game."
"If you insist." His eyebrows came together; he tried to make more out of her, wondering why she was in such a bad mood. His answer came fairly quickly, on the wings of words.
"Why did you kiss me, Malfoy?"
Malfoy smirked. "Because I hate you, Granger."
"Oh." Hermione was unimpressed. "King me."
Malfoy placed one of the red pieces he had just claimed on Hermione's King. "I've got a question too, Granger," he said in a smug tone.
"Yeah." Hermione cringed as Malfoy jumped two of her pieces in one go.
He leaned in close, so that his breath was upon hers. "Why did you kiss me back?"
Another dark night. Another game of checkers. Hermione never tired of it. Sure, Malfoy was hardly gifted in the game, but he was much more fun to talk to than most of her friends. With Malfoy, there was always the chance of an unexpected insult on its way, and Hermione liked having to think rapidly for comebacks.
The kiss had long been forgiven and forgotten, and Hermione did not hesitate to tell Malfoy that she could only offer him her friendship. As much as she hated to admit it, she cared about Malfoy…which was precisely why she could not allow herself to be with him.
She always ended up hurting the people that loved her. Like Viktor…she had hurt Viktor.
They sat huddled over the board, the soles of their shoes touching.
"You know what, Malfoy?"
"What? Hey, I've made it to the other side! King me," he smirked, immensely proud of himself.
Hermione smiled and obliged. "Malfoy, you're alright."
"Yeah, yeah, Granger," he said lightly, waving her compliments away. "Tell me something I don't know."
Hermione took his hand in hers, interlocking their fingers. Their hands hung, suspended in the air, as Hermione's thumb softly grazed Malfoy's. She couldn't help but notice how well their hands fit together…like puzzle pieces.
"We're perfect together, aren't we?"
"I told you to tell me something I don't know," he said, pushing his shoe still more firmly against hers.
It was sunny, which meant that Hermione and Malfoy were off to class instead of meeting for a midnight rendezvous on the third floor. Everywhere, seventh-year Gryffindor and Slytherin students were laughing and chatting animatedly on their way to the dungeons, but occasionally snuck glances at two friends who were having a minor dispute:
"Malfoy, you git, what are you doing?"
"I'm carrying your books for you, Granger, what does it look like?"
"Malfoy, people are starting to stare."
"So? Let them stare. I'm carrying your books."
Hermione made a wild grab for them as the two walked toward the dungeons. "Give them back!" she hissed, swatting his arm. "We're not supposed to be friends, remember? You hate me, remember?"
Malfoy laughed. "Of course I hate you, Granger. In fact, I absolutely abhor you. Why wouldn't I? But that still"—he lifted her books out of reach—"doesn't change the fact that I'm carrying your books all the way to Potions class."
"You're impossible," she seethed.
"Yeah," he agreed, handing her the books as they entered the classroom. "But that's what you like about me."
This was the fifteenth time counting that Hermione and met Malfoy in their corridor for a friendly game of checkers. Malfoy had yet to win a game, though he was getting considerably better. On this particular night, things we a bit shaky, due to one simple reason:
"So you're going out with Weasel then?"
"Yeah," she said tonelessly. "And don't call him that."
"So…how is he?"
Hermione glared at him, but if anything, it was friendly glare. "Here, set up the pieces." She pushed the board toward him.
Malfoy sighed and flicked his wand: The pieces zoomed into formation. The corners of Hermione's mouth turned downward.
"Do you need magic for every little thing?" she said exasperatedly. "Alright, you go first."
Malfoy looked down at the red and black circles, but he didn't pick up any. He kept looking at Hermione, his expression once again impossible to read.
"What?" said Hermione blankly.
"Why?" he asked.
"I don't know," she said in frustration. "He asked me if I wanted to Hogsmeade, and I had nothing better to do, so I said yes. Can we play?"
"Do you love him yet?" he asked.
Her eyes softened. "No, I don't," she whispered. "I—I'm not a big fan of love, I guess. I'll go first, then, shall I?"
Hermione's eyes refocused on the checkboard as she moved her piece forward, so she didn't see Malfoy's shoulders relax considerably.
Ron threw a look over his shoulder and saw Malfoy standing coolly a few meters away from him, the Hogwarts castle acting as an impressive backdrop. Ron's eyebrows knitted together; he nodded his greeting.
"Malfoy," he said coldly. "What do you want?"
"What do you think?"
Silence. Then, Ron sighed.
"Guess I couldn't avoid you forever," Ron said bitterly. He bent down to roll up his pants leg, then slowly waded into the water until he was in ankle-deep. He stood still, his eyes trailing over the soft, blue landscape in front of him. The lake was always gorgeous at this time of year.
Malfoy took a few steps closer, though he still stayed a good distance from Ron.
"Granger's pretty special," he said conversationally. "Plays a good game of checkers."
"I know," said Ron. He turned to look at Malfoy with a look of curiosity. "How come I see you with her all the time?"
"Haven't the faintest idea. When do you see us together?"
Ron twisted his mouth is obvious distaste. "Come off it, Malfoy. You're always walking with her to class or meeting up with her on the grounds."
Malfoy smirked, saying, "Yeah, I guess I do see her a lot. Don't you?"
Ron ignored him. "You like her, then?"
Malfoy shrugged. "I detest Granger, you should know."
Now his smirk widened, his hands finding his pockets with ease. When Malfoy spoke, his voice was calm and self-assured. "Does it bother you if I have feelings for her?"
Ron seemed to think for a minute; he silently chewed the inside of his cheek, wondering. Finally, he said, "Yeah, it does. But I think I knew it all along. She talks about you sometimes."
"Do you…" Ron scratched his chin in thought. "Do you love her?"
The Slytherin raised a pale eyebrow and countered, "Does she love you?"
Ron frowned and faced the blue again.
"I don't think she loves anyone, you know," said Malfoy indifferently, joining Ron at the edge of the lake. Ron's teeth gritted dangerously, but he continued to stare out into the clear, glittering water. "She told me once that she's not a huge fan of love."
"She loves you," muttered Ron.
Malfoy nodded, his expression unreadable. "Maybe. But she wants you."
Ron smiled bitterly. "Yeah. Now get the hell out of here before I pound you to a bloody pulp."
"See you, Weasley."
"You're getting better at this," observed Hermione as Malfoy claimed another one of her pieces. He currently had three King pieces, which was quite an achievement. He grinned in return.
And did something stupid.
He leaned over the checkerboard, acting completely on impulse, and kissed Hermione on the mouth. It was less awkward than last time, he decided, as he felt her soft lips and her faint breath and how the silence seemed to thunder in his ears, how the beauty of her seemed to rush through him, how he melted into her and she into him…he was dead, surely, because nothing in life could feel like this…he was…he was…
He was shot down.
Hermione turned away, staring at the floor. Gnawing her lip mercilessly, she slipped the thin black elastic out of her hair, letting her thick curls sweep out around her head. She looked him in the eyes.
"I can't do this with you, Malfoy. I care about you too much."
Malfoy sighed. "I know. I'm sorry."
"You should hate me."
"I do," Malfoy said solemnly, though the corner of his mouth twitched. "More than you know."
Hermione smiled weakly and grasped his hand, squeezing gently. She let go, and his hand fell limply to the floor. "I like it that way. I like it when people wonder why we're walking together after we've hated each other for six years. I like playing checkers with you."
Malfoy forced himself to smile too. "You don't love Ron, do you?" Malfoy asked. Begged.
"No," she answered, snapping the hair tie repeatedly against her wrist. An angry welt began to form. "I don't. I think that's the point."
Fast forward to a week and a half later. Hermione was late to arrive to their checker-playing spot that night. It was exactly one-sixteen, and she had promised to be there at twelve-thirty. It wasn't her fault, really—Lavender and Parvati hadn't wanted to fall asleep, and there were still people in the common room, so she had to wait until she was the only one up to sneak out.
So here she was, forty-six minutes late.
"Malfoy?" she whispered into the darkness. "Malfoy? Lumos."
The dim light swept gracefully throughout the entire hallway, irritating sleeping portrait who hissed out harsh words at the girl. But Hermione only saw Malfoy, leaned up against the wall with two bottles of drinks. One was mulled mead, it seemed. The other, undoubtedly a bottle of Firewhiskey, was halfway empty.
"You decided to show up, did you?" he questioned sourly. "Figured I was worth the time after all?"
"My apologies," Hermione said softly. She knelt down beside him, still clutching the game board beneath her arm.
"You've never been late before." It was an accusation.
"Except those three weeks I pretended you didn't exist," reminded Hermione, tilting her head to the side in comtemplation.
"Why were you late? You with Weasley?"
"Negative," she insisted. "I had to wait for everyone to sleep."
"That never stopped you before."
"Well, they're starting to get suspicious."
"Here," he said coarsely, roughly shoving the bottle into her hands, knocking the checkerboard to the floor. The pieces scattered. "Drink away your troubles, Granger."
"I don't like Firewhiskey."
He nodded. "Thought you wouldn't. That's why I brought you some of this mulled mead. It's not bad."
"Thanks." She took the bottle and sat down next to Malfoy. It had seemed like forever ago that they couldn't stay in the same room without throwing harsh words at each other, or even a few hexes. Sighing, she leaned on him and took a small sip of her drink.
Her head found the perfect spot to rest on his shoulder. As she drank, it was all she could do keep from crying. She liked Malfoy more than she did Ron—and there was no doubt that Malfoy reciprocated her feelings. But she couldn't…she couldn't admit that she loved him.
"Do you hate me, Malfoy? Really, really hate me?" His arm wrapped around her protectively, though there was no one in the corridor but themselves.
He was silent for a brief moment. His teeth ground together as he thought of his answer. His eyes like liquid silver, he took another huge gulp of Firewhiskey. He didn't seem to care as it burned his throat.
"Yes," he finally said. "Very much so."
Hermione chuckled darkly, burying her head in his shoulder. Her curls almost smothered him.
She took another sip of her mulled mead and muttered, "I don't blame you."
It was June already. The checkers matches had not yet stopped, and Draco Malfoy had yet to win. Now, the two friends sat huddled around a small wooden board, the area lit up by two glowing wand tips.
"I beat you again," she said simply, picking up one of Malfoy's black checker pieces and twirling it around her fingers.
"I hate you, Granger."
"I know," Hermione said calmly.
Malfoy raised his eyebrows, shoving his hands in his pockets again. Her face was not bitter or angry. She was amused, more like…smiling slightly, as if the whole thing were very humorous; she gripped his hand gently, guiding it out of his pocket and letting her wrist brush his. Malfoy cleared his throat.
"I may hate you, Granger, but I can't stop thinking about you."
"My, my, Malfoy. That is a problem." Her brown eyes were like pools of dark chocolate, swimming lazily within her irises. She smiled again, gripping his hand tighter.
The school year was nearly finished. Surely she could let herself love him for a few minutes?
It was now…or it was never.
Quickly weighing the pros and cons of each one, Malfoy decided on now.
He pulled her closer to him, breathing the faint scent of her perfume. He loved the feel of her thick curls as they whipped around his face like flames...this time, she did not pull away. Her fingers instead roamed steadily across his chest and she drew herself closer to him; the checkerboard lay forgotten. Leisurely, he lowered his lips to her ear and whispered, "Not really."
"Malfoy?" she said suddenly, lightly tracing his wrist with a steady fingernail.
"What, Granger?" His arms tightened around her.
She smiled, tilting her head and pressing her lips softly against his jaw. "I hate you, too."
He laughed and kissed the corner of her mouth, saying, "I thought so."