Hermione woke up the next morning and laid in bed contemplating everything. Last night had been fun, hanging out with Ron and Harry, playing exploding snap. Hermione had been thoroughly enjoying herself, at least until Ginny showed up. It was that she didn't like Ginny, quite the opposite, she loved her like a sister. It was the way she was with Harry. Hermione could see the way that they looked at each other, laughed with each other, and it made her miss Malfoy. As much as she hated to admit it she missed the git. Bringing to mind what Pansy had said quickly extinguished those feelings and she was left with nothing but hurt and anger. In her opinion it was better than the longing for him so she went with it.
It was still early but Hermione figured she might as well get a start on the day. She had homework to double check and books to read. Ever since this thing with Draco she had noticed that her extra curricular reading had suffered. She usually managed to get through four or five books a week, her current average was down to about two.
She would fix that starting today. She was going to fix a lot of things, get back to her old self, and stop being this star-crossed, school-crush, infatuated teenager. It had been fun, and exciting, and it made her heart do odd little things but she had decided that romance belonged in books that she could chose to, or not to, read. Bringing romance into every day life was just much too complicated.
Freshly showered and feeling a bit like her usual self, she went down to the Common Room with books in hand. She made her way over to her favorite spot by the window and pulled out her Arithmancy homework so she could go over each problem and make sure that it was perfect. The Common Room was delightfully quiet and empty and Hermione enjoyed the solitude as she got lost in the complicated problems of her favorite subject. About ten minutes later, sure that her work was flawless, she put the parchment away and pulled out her History of Magic essay. She'd gotten no more than five lines of proof-reading into it when she heard foot steps approaching.
Hermione looked up as she saw Ron coming towards her and she soon realized that something was off. He looked… well… nice. Usually Sunday mornings had him stumbling down the stairs about an hour later than it was now, hair messed, and wrinkled clothes thrown on. This morning his hair was neatly arranged and he was wearing a Gryffindor sweater and nice pants, not his usual carefree attire.
"Ron? Are you alright?" she asked putting her homework to the side as she gave him a smile. She was surprised to see that his face turned red at her question. Something was definitely up.
"Uhm…" Ron cleared his throat as Hermione looked at him, quite perplexed. "Hermione, I was wondering if… that is… if you would like to… perhaps… go with me… as in accompany me… to the Valentine's day dance next month… if you want?"
Hermione felt her own face growing red. The very last thing that she wanted to think about was going to a dance on Valentine's Day. The way Ron was acting made her think that he definitely wasn't asking her to go as friends either. Which bothered her because she wasn't ready to think about being anything more than friends with anyone right now.
"This is also for you too. I stayed up working on the spell so that it was perfect." She watched as he pulled out a bouquet of yellow daisies from behind his back and handed them to her. Hermione didn't know what else to do but take them. Her acceptance apparently boosted Ron's courage because he cleared his throat and then started again.
"I like you Hermione. I really like you, and we've been dancing around this for years, and this is our last year here, I might not have a chance after this so I'd like to say, I mean I wanted to ask you, if maybe you could give us a shot because I… well… I really like you and I think I could make you happy if you'd let me." The words came out so fast that Hermione wasn't sure she had heard him right. She was going in to full fledged panic mode. What was she supposed to say? Of course she liked Ron back, had even liked him in that way, but right now, all she felt for him was an endearing love, a friendly love, and she wasn't sure it could grow into what he wanted it to be.
"Um, wow, Ron. I think I just need a day or two to think this over. I've got a lot on my mind right now." Hermione didn't want to mention Draco but she knew that he was there, lingering between them. Ron looked a little disappointed but he looked as if he had expected an answer like that.
"No problem, thanks for listening," he turned and made his way so quickly up the stairs that Hermione didn't even have time to thank him for the flowers. She stared after him for a long time, thinking. Ron was a good guy, one of her best friends. Everything she knew said that the best relationships happened between people that were friends first and lovers later. While romantic relationships had been something that she had rarely put much thought into, the truth was that she didn't want to be alone for the rest of her life. After she graduated she'd be so busy with all the things she had planned that this might be her only chance to have something that could last.
First, she had to stop thinking about the relationship with Draco that kept failing. She told herself to be logical. Logic and reason had rarely ever failed her. Logically she and Draco didn't have a chance, logically she had been friends with Ron for almost seven years now and while they got into their disagreements and fights the fact remained that they were unwavering. She could never picture herself not being friends with him. Ron made her laugh, he cheered her up, he knew her for who she was and liked her for all of those reasons. Logically he was a good choice, he was the right choice.
Hermione went up to her room and put her homework away and grabbed a book she hadn't finished reading. She was going to go down to the Great Hall and try to eat something. Honestly, she wanted to get there and finish eating before the Slytherins arrived. Yesterday's humiliation was still fresh in her mind.
With her book in hand she made her way down to breakfast, intent on eating and then finding some place where she could be alone to read and push all of her complicated thoughts out of her head. She had almost made it to the Great Hall when she heard someone call her name. Turning around she stopped as she saw Draco walking towards her.
She had a feeling things were going to get a little bit more complicated.
Draco had been unable to sleep for the majority of the night. Each time he thought he had everything figured out, another thought would creep up and he'd have to start thinking all over again. Hermione didn't trust him so he wasn't going to bother. Which meant he had to find a way to do what he had been told to do, get information about Potter and give it to his father. Easiest road to take. Then the thought that Hermione didn't trust him because she had good reason not to would come into play and he felt bad for being angry about it. If he was her he wouldn't be all that quick to trust him either. But Hermione was supposed to be the one person that he didn't have to hide from, that saw him for who he really was. That made the hurt and anger come back. Then he would rationalize that he was still hiding from her. He had secrets from her. He hadn't told her about his father, so in all honesty it was partly his fault.
There was one thing that was the deciding factor in his decision on where to go now. Friday night when they'd been laying in the Library together and they had been going back and forth on what they were to each other he had said something to her. Something that he hadn't forgotten about.
"I'll try if you try."
He'd meant it when he said it. So he was going to try, and if it blew up in his face then at least for the first time since Christmas break he would know what to do. He wouldn't be conflicted, there would be one clear choice and he'd do what needed to be done.
His decision finally made he'd fallen into a restless sleep. He woke up early so as to avoid Pansy. He still had to stifle the urge to hex her into oblivion. After what she had done last night it was a miracle that she'd made it this far unscathed. It was probably because she had hidden in her dorm for the rest of the night. She'd have to come out eventually.
So here he was, seven-thirty in the morning on a Sunday, waiting near the steps that lead down from the Gryffindor tower, hoping that he'd see her soon so that he could try. He wasn't sure how receptive she'd be to listening to him but he hoped she'd at least allow him an explanation about Pansy. His worst fear was that she'd walk down those stairs with Potter and Weasley and then proceed to completely ignore him.
A few minutes later he was relieved to see her coming down the stairs alone. He hid in she shadows just to make sure and after she had passed he called her name. She spun around and when she saw that it was him she didn't look very happy.
He made his way over to her and was glad that she had at least stopped. He stood there for a moment looking at her. Trying to figure out what to say. In all of his time thinking he hadn't thought this far. He just wanted things to be alright between them.
"Will you let me explain about yesterday?" he asked. He was expecting to be shot down. He was waiting for it and it never came. She looked at him, there was silence and then she asked one simple question.
Draco had a very simple answer to that. "When we were in the Library you asked me to promise that I wouldn't stop talking to you, I'm trying to keep a promise, for once."
From the look on her face she hadn't expected that answer and Draco had to admit that he was proud of himself. He liked being able to surprise her. He wanted her to see him as something different.
"Do you want to go grab a seat in the Great Hall?"
Now it was his turn to be surprised, he hadn't necessarily expected her to want to have such a public conversation. It was strange how his anger had dissipated with the dawn of morning. As he had stood out in the hall waiting he realized that when it came to her he was slowly starting to let go of his ego. Which was something that was alien to him. If he was being honest with himself, he wanted to secret her away to some hidden corner and then kiss her until she was no longer angry with him. However it looked like he was going to have to do that with words instead.
Draco followed Hermione into the Great Hall and they took a seat at the end of the Gryffindor table across from one another. Hermione proceeded to pour herself a glass of juice and wait for him to start explaining.
"I know that you were angry because you thought that I'd let Pansy read your note. I was angry because for the first time in my life I was starting to feel like there was someone that was seeing me for who I really was. Who didn't always assume that I was the liar and the manipulator, that there was something else to me. That you just automatically assumed that it was my fault, like I'd set out to hurt you. It made me feel like we hadn't gotten anywhere. That you still see me as 'Malfoy'. I've tried hard to be different and… and I just wanted you to see that." Draco felt like running. This thing, talking about feelings, was not something that came easily to him. It made him feel embarrassed, it made him feel weak, and he hated it. Yet he did it because it was something that had to be done, for her.
"You didn't let her read the note?" she asked hesitantly. He wanted to believe that she already knew the answer, that she was just looking for confirmation.
"No I didn't. She took it from me and decided to recite it to our entire Common Room. I tried to get it back. I was waiting outside the Great Hall for you so that I could explain, Pansy just showed up before I could get to that." There was something else on the tip of his tongue but he couldn't say it. He couldn't tell her how he had lied to all of the Slytherin and told them that he was using her. That he had made her look like a foolish girl who could be so easily manipulated. She was bound not to appreciate that. Even when he was trying to be honest there were always secrets.
"I'm sorry that I panicked. Everything just happened so unexpectedly and I reacted without thinking. I think sometimes it's just easiest to assume the worse instead of sticking with it. You scare me."
"How do I scare you?" he asked as he looked across the table, his eyes staring into hers. He thought he knew the answer. The intimacy that he shared with her, so much more powerful, and meaningful, than anything sexual, was daunting. He had never thought that he had the capacity to feel what he felt for her and he was beginning to think that for all of her loving friends and family, maybe she'd never imagined feeling this way either.
"You know why." He did. That knowledge filled him with the courage to do something that he never thought was possible. It was time to let go of the secrets. It was time to tell her about his father, about what Lucius wanted him to do. He wanted her to fully trust him, as long as he had that then maybe he could trust himself.
"Hermione, there's something I need to tell you." It was time to let go of the secrets.
A voice came from behind him. "And what would that be?" Draco turned around to see that it was Weasley who had spoken.
Draco sighed. It was going to be a long morning.
Sorry for the very long hiatus. I seem to have found my groove again. Fingers crossed that it sticks with me. As always reviews are what keep me chugging along. I always come back for you guys.