It goes without saying that it's been a while. I hope my writing is still okay, as it feels kind of rusty. Let me know how you feel about this chapter.

And That That Don't Kill Me Will Only Make Me Stronger

Hermione woke up the next morning, and lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. There was no flooding memories of the past few days as her mine became alert, because she simply hadn't been able to stop thinking of the past few days in the first place. She sighed. She didn't even get respite in her dreams, which had been filled with Draco.

He was kissing her.

He was pushing her away.

He was insulting her, to the point where she would break down and collapse.

He was confiding in her, smiling at her, whispering conspiringly in her ear.

She shivered and willed it to be the weekend. But all the magical power in the world couldn't make that happen. She knew that.

Rolling to her side, she checked the clock, and decided that she had a few minutes to spare. She reached over to the bedside table to grab the gift wrapped box, still unopened.

"Draco," she murmured sadly, fingering the box. This time though, she resisted the temptation to unravel it.

In part, it was because she had learned that she wasn't as strong as she originally though. Oh, it had nothing to do with physical strength. It was that she had misjudged herself; she thought she would have enough inner strength and willpower to keep her distance from Draco. Maybe, she toyed with the idea, she never gave those previous girls a chance.

Maybe, she judged them too severely. He was like the flame, and the moths certainly weren't to blame. Early on in their relationship, Draco had called her out on this.

She smiled bitterly. There was the saying, she recalled, 'know thy enemy'.

Well, he certainly knew her – she had, unknowingly, and quite willingly, let him.

Draco, on the other hand, was always behind one mask or the other. And in those moments where he ran from one to the next, in those moments where you could catch short, fleeting glimpses of the man behind it all…those were the moments to treasure and store in a pensive. They were rare, and far between.

Hermione's eyes flicked to the clock once again, and groaned. She threw off her blanket and sat up. There was never a battle Hermione shied away from, and she wouldn't start now.

And today would be a battle, that she was certain of.

There were two other things she was certain of.

On was the fact that if she loved him like she believed he did, then she needed more than this.

And secondly, if this was all he could give, then she would move past him. He would forever remain a lesson to her, a brief lovely part of her past – a passionate affair even, if she were in a particularly romantic mood – but the past. It would hurt, Hermione admitted, as she fixed up her uniform in the mirror.

She touched the reflection of her face. But she was stronger than this, better than this, and smarter than to let herself fall to pieces over a man who didn't care.

As she turned to left, she remembered she had forgotten something. Hermione turned around and picked up the box, dropping it into her schoolbag.

He had had that necklace for ages. He had bought it the moment anything resembling a relationship between him and Hermione started. Despite how happy he was with her, despite Alicia's words and actions, he had gone to the jewelers out of habit and fear, maybe even for assurance.

Fear, because before it had even started, she had begun changing him. He knew it. He felt it. And he had hated it.

Sometimes, in rare moments, he wished he were braver. Maybe, he very grudgingly admitted, if Potter were in his place, he would stand taller and parade Hermione around to show her off to everybody. Everyone else be damned.

That's what she deserved, he thought sullenly. And for that, and that alone, would he give the only ounce of respect for that foolish Gryffindor bravery.

In fleeting moments, it hurt him. To see both the hurt, and the accusations in her eyes when he pushed her away. He scoffed inwardly. Like it was easy for him.

It wasn't.

He finally headed back to the head's common room, when, from the window in his room in the dungeons, he saw the moon high in the sky.

He left the dungeons, and headed to the common room. That was his plan at least. Yet somehow, he ended up outside the library. He simply had a feeling she would be there. He knew he shouldn't go in. He knew he should just turn back, and head to his room. It was better this way, if he didn't see her. Still, it was futile protesting. He couldn't resist. Even as he scanned the library couches, he knew she would be there. He had already braced himself as the guilt coursed through his body. Guilt for all that he had done to her, all that he had said about her, and what he planned to do.

He averted his eyes as he tried to walk away. He had a plan. He would go back to their common roo, head straight to her room without looking at her, place it on her bed, and then go to sleep. By the time she saw it, he would be gone. That was the easiest way.

He didn't know how long he stood in front of her, staring at her. He didn't know what he was doing either.

Perhaps he was trying to draw in every detail of her, brand her in his thoughts and memories so as to never forget. Because he knew that after tonight, she would probably never look at him with anything but hatred again.

No, he sighed. Hermione would forgive him eventually. Either because that was who she was, or as a means of revenge so that the guilt would gnaw at him from inside, out – until he was gone.

He willed himself to walk away, but his body did the opposite. His hand reached out and swept the hair off her face, almost tenderly. Like he had done many times before.

He bent down, and placed the softest kiss on her forehead, even as the box burned traitorously in his hands.

Placing that box in her room was perhaps the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.

And he recalled his last thought before walking into her room.

Saying goodbye – not to nya to anyone – had never hurt this much before.

Draco really didn't give him enough credit, Blaise surmised.

"Hey Crabbe, you hungry?" Blaised nudged the man beside him.

Crabbe grunted in annoyance, as he was trying, hopelessly, to build a house of cards. Then, after reconsidering, he answered in affirmative.

After some pointed staring, Blaise rolled his eyes. "Why don't," he said, rudely and sarcastically, " you go get something to eat?" He paused. "And take Goyle with you."

Crabbe and Goyle looked at each other, shrugged, and got up.

Blaise waited for them to leave and shut the door before starting. "It's amazing that I can have a full conversation in front of you, and you're still off daydreaming in la la land." He simply shook his head when he got no response, and snapped his fingers in front of Draco's face. "Earth to Lovegood?"

"What?" Draco finally snapped, angry because he had been having a particularly good fantasy with Hermione.

"For weeks, you're never around. You disappear right after dinner, are practically a ghost on weekends…and now you're here, all day, everyday." He continued on quickly, seeing Draco open his mouth to retort. "The dungeons aren't that nice."

Draco quickly churned up a couple responses in his head, before settling on one. "I'm just sick of Granger, is all," he lied. "I just don't want to see her." Not a lie.

Blaise knew it too. "Right," he scoffed.

Draco picked up on this. "What, you don't believe me?" he challenged.

"I believe you. I believe you don't want to see her because you guys got into some kind of tiff. But sick of her? Not quite yet Malfoy. You haven't gotten her out of your system yet."

Draco started to protest. He even forced himself to come up with a few insults about her to add. To prove himself. But Blaise held up a hand.

"You're insults are half-hearted at best," Blaise sneered. He continued. "Don't deny it. You've been looking after her all day, first tentatively, then curiously."

Blaise waited patiently as Draco considered this.

Draco begrudgingly had to admit it was the truth. Granger just wasn't acting the way he had expected – namely, sad and distraught. He was also fully expecting anger and wrath.

She hadn't acted like she didn't care though. Instead, it was more like she wasn't taking him seriously.

"Yes," Draco conceded. "Continue, as you clearly have something else on your mind, " he allowed.

Not that Blaise was waiting for permission. "Look, I don't care what you're getting yourself into. But be careful. Not everyone's as ignorant and stupid as you think."

Draco nodded curtly. Both men understood it as a thanks. Blaise was looking out for him, Draco knew. Maybe it was time to talk to Hermione. He gulped.

As Draco got up to leave, Blaise couldn't help but quip. "Say hello to Granger for me."

But Draco was too busy to hear him. He was busy reminding himself that he had done what he had to, and he couldn't – wouldn't – let himself change his mind.

He repeated this to himself, like a mantra, all the way back to the common room. He feared that he would finally give in. He was scared of her wrath, and even more scared of her pain. He didn't know if he could take either, as cowardly as it sounded.

Upon finding it abandoned, he sighed. Draco guessed he would have to put it off until tomorrow.

As he walked into his room, however, all thoughts left his mind. He was infinitely surprised to find the box sitting on his bed.

It was almost like back when they were playing games with each other. Almost.

But Draco knew better.

This wasn't a game anymore. Draco tried desperately to bring his mantra back to the forefront of his mind again, in vain.