Disclaimer: Still not wonderful enough to be JKR.
A/N: I like that so many of you like this! This chapter is just sort of to move things along before the summer, where I think I'll need to write two editions of certain chapters, or bump up the rating on this, if you guys don't mind.
Oh, forgive the offense/defense refference. I was watching the cowboys game at the time XD
The Rumor Mill was up and running again, seemingly making up for lost time.
Draco Malfoy, it was told, had been scorned by his lover.
Several girls did nothing to hide the fact that they were pleased beyond words by this sudden development. None, however, attempted to approach and ask for details as to whether it was just a lover's tiff, or a true end. The confidence that had been exuded exponentially over the past six months had run out and now he was just a bumbling grousing bully again.
The rational (yet somehow still gossiping) person was more inclined to say that it was finals. Perhaps between his family's expectations and her own NEWTs/finals/OWLs, they were forced to call a temporary truce. The romantic, also, wanted to believe this reasoning, hoping that by this weekend or the leaving feast he would become again what he was, and do something grand and dreamy to let everyone know who she was publicly.
When Hermione overheard Lavender passing on this view to Ginny at lunch, she went very pale and felt her stomach drop a number of inches from its previous position in her abdomen. Somehow she managed to find enough voice to pester Lavender about talking about frivolous things when shouldn't she be studying for her divination test? While Lavender might not have caught the catty joke, Ginny and Harry did. Both gave her odd looks when she stood up and collected her bags to leave – she'd given up ages ago on convincing people that divination was a shoddy science, and it certainly wasn't in her general nature to be so mean about it with Lavender and the others.
"Alright Hermione?" Harry questioned before she left them for complete solitude again.
"Yes, yes" she answered distractedly, waving her hand in the air. "I'm a little stressed, but I haven't even started on studying the practical applications of Herbology for tomorrow's exam! I'll be back for dinner, promise!"
Once outside the Great Hall, her mind was buzzing with things far different than gardening. She thought she'd done the right thing…he'd looked so confused Saturday…not doing anything was for the good of everything. Yes, she had been a little surprised and secretly glad that he had showed up frazzled to the Defense against the Dark Arts exam yesterday, and a little worse for wear today for the potions practical. It was his own fault he hadn't spent the time studying and his life after school would then suffer. Not her own. Definitely not her fault.
And this proposal thing. Lavender must be imagining things. Sure, wizards and witches tended to marry young, but really, engagement right out of Hogwarts?
He had been waiting in this spot for twenty minutes.
Why, he couldn't really say, but it seemed like a fine idea to meet up with her in this spot rather than hunt her down. He didn't want her that much.
Finally Draco heard her heavy steps clipping down the corridor.
He positioned himself dead center of the hallway, ready to tackle her down if he had to, when a heavy hand clapped itself on his shoulder.
"Draco, my friend! Why so tense?" He never had learned to anticipate Blaise's light steps.
Draco's eyes were still trained on the corner she would come around any second and didn't look at his friend even as he answered, "No reason, just waiting."
"Aha! I know why," Blaise came around to be face-to-face, "it's because of your who-ever-she-is? Not getting any?" He laughed in a way that would otherwise let Draco know he was joking but an odd twitch had started in his jaw from clenching his teeth so hard.
Hermione's bushy hair and brisk step had placed her in their corridor just as Blaise mentioned Draco's physical lacking. When Blaise's harsh laugh reached her, Draco saw her eyes fly towards them, and a panicked look pass over her features momentarily before being quelled. Slowly, but surely, an annoyed scowl almost reminiscent of his own began to mar her face.
By this time Blaise was aware that his joke was either not heard, or not taken the right way. He turned around to see what had Draco's total attention, only to find Granger the Head Girl staring them down ferociously. He tilted his head slightly to his friend and whispered, "Bone to pick with her? Leave her be, school's almost over and it won't matter anymore." Draco tensed more as the boy kept talking; he was the only one of the three moving at all. "And if she found out about you two, who cares? The littlest weasel didn't bother you much, why should Granger?"
Draco wanted to come out of his temporarily paralysis. He wanted to laugh at Blaise and say he didn't need a little chit to relax. He wanted to ignore Hermione, because he still didn't know what he was doing there waiting for her. Instead he just watched as Blaise walked away from him, towards the tiny witch at the other end of the hall; watched as he inclined his head at her, and turned the corner opposite from the one she had come down; watched as she followed the clueless third party with her eyes and nodded her head in return.
Then she continued down towards him like he wasn't even there. She wasn't looking at him, but she wasn't looking anywhere else. To her, he really wasn't there.
Five feet away, she angled to the right. So did he.
Two feet away, she swerved left. He side-stepped in front of her.
She finally saw him.
"I ended it Malfoy."
"There was nothing to end. I just kissed you a couple times."
"Good, then I didn't end anything and you can let me get to the greenhouses." Hermione took two steps back to give a wide enough birth around him. Again, he stepped with her.
"So if you don't want anything, Granger, why didn't you hex me like you did the first night?" His eyes had narrowed and his lips were curling unpleasantly. She suspected he might have looked like this when he broke Harry's nose. Her stomach was flipping circles in a new routine from the excited one it had been performing the last week. He was irrefutably angry. Possibly at her.
"You have no reason to be angry at me," Hermione tried to continue on in a calm voice and hugged her texts closer to her chest. "I'm sure we can go on like we have all year –"
"Half of my year was spent waiting around you!" He took an aggressive step forward, putting himself in an offense stance, when he was so clearly on the defensive.
She cocked her head to the side, as if confused by his statement. "I didn't think either of us were worth all of it Draco. I know I certainly thought you weren't. I never did."
"You thought I wasn't worthy enough for you?" He almost laughed at the irony.
"I want you to kiss me again." Any thoughts of laughing were put on immediate hold. Everything in Draco's body seemed to freeze when her words seeped in. "I want whatever it is you want to start again, and keep going, once we're out of school. You won't have to worry about how you look if it were to be public, and you can keep up the gossip if you want. Your ego, status, and grades won't suffer at all."
As organized and reasonable and prior planning oriented Hermione Granger was, all of the reasons she listed came straight off the top of her head. She was almost pleased with herself for once. But she couldn't stop there.
"If you kiss me now, it'll be the last till the end of term. Until we're far away from Hogwarts. I think you still just like the fantasies –"
Draco rushed upon her, right there in the middle of the hall. His hands were up at the sides of her face, fingers combed through her hair, tilting her head back so he could crush his lips to hers. If this was his last kiss when he had waited all term for just one, if he had to wait nearly two more weeks for another, this kiss was to be the greatest. Her bottom lip was captured between his, and he pulled it further in to taste it and have it in his teeth. Hermione's mouth was responding beautifully to his own, her tongue running along what little she had of his lip. She turned her head to make the kiss more complete and was rewarded when his tongue entered and met with hers.
After what wasn't anywhere near long enough, Draco vaguely wondered where her hands were and why were they not grasping him desperately. He pulled away to breathe and look at Hermione, her lips swollen and wet and chest heaving where she had her books still clutched so tightly her knuckles were white. He let out a reluctant groan as he untangled his hands from her hair and watched her come to. He stepped back, placing a (difficult) respectful distance between their bodies.
"I'll see you at King's Cross Granger." He walked stiffly down the corridor but turned when he heard Hermione call his name.
"Draco! Keep writing those notes. Please?"
He merely smiled at her and walked away again.