Author's Note: This has been a very long time in the making, somewhere around three years. Recently the urge to write has returned and I wanted to finish this chapter but I've also been working on a new HG/DM fic as well. I HOPE you enjoy this chapter! I think there will be one or two more before Prudence is complete. Please review!

This is dedicated to a dear friend, silvia elisa. I hope she finds this update! :-)

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any related characters or places.
-

"Can you believe this?" Hermione jumped as a copy of that morning's Daily Prophet was thrust into her line of vision. She blinked heavily before turning to Ginny, who was staring at her expectantly.

She looked back to the newspaper and nearly choked on her dinner. It was an article and photo on the Weird Sisters concert at Hogsmeade that weekend. Which she had attended.

"Yeah, it was- that's definitely something," she murmured, nearly giving it away.

"I can't understand why they would give a concert at Hogsmeade without letting anyone know. I would have snuck out of the school!" Ginny was complaining.

"Maybe that's why," Harry broke in, a subtle smile on his features. He looked at Hermione, watching her push around her food, his expression changing slightly. "Where's your head been today?"

"What do you mean, Harry?" she questioned, attempting to infuse her eyes with a certain level of brightness.

"All day in class you were sort of... well, out of it," Harry admitted, sheepish.

"Was I?" she asked in her best attempt to sound lighthearted. It came out sounding strangled. "Must just be Monday I guess."

"I guess so," Harry repeated, and then broke into a grin. Hermione released an inward sigh of relief. Of course someone had noticed her behaviour today. She was certain she had been about as responsive as a dead newt. She was only thankful Harry had not questioned where her misdirected focus had been all day.

It was only the second day since her date with Malfoy. Sunday she had locked herself in the common room with her studies, hoping to distract herself from thinking about the disastrous end to Saturday night. It had worked well enough. And everyone bought the lie that she had fallen asleep in the library the night before, as it was a common enough occurrence for her.

But then Monday brought curiosity. She suddenly wanted to see him, to... apologize? To make amends, at least. She wasn't entirely sure there was anything to apologize for. For not honouring her end of the bargain? The bargain was rather devoid of honour to begin with. Regardless, she felt like she needed to speak with him.

He had met her gaze in their first class of the morning, and there was nothing in it to suggest they had had a good time before they went to the inn. Nothing but spite. Hermione had quickly torn her eyes from him, fighting back a shiver.

It was the only time he had looked at her all day. He had gone out of his way to ignore her, in classes, at meals, in the hallways. It was as if her existence had suddenly failed to be real.

So much for being able to work things out.

Maybe it had all been a front, and her instincts had been right all along. Everything he had said at dinner had been bait, and all of his seemingly sincere words and actions at the concert had been the last move to reel her in. It was Slytherin to the core. And it had worked like a charm.

Until she realized she felt something for the bloke and panicked. That revelation certainly wasn't helping matters either. Not only the fact that it was never supposed to happen and now she felt like a brainless, spineless twit, but the fact that she now had absolutely no idea what to do about it, and he was treating her like scum beneath his boot.

She thought Saturday night had been a lovely evening, and admittedly, was starting to hope they might do it again. But that wasn't part of the deal by any stretch of the imagination. Malfoy had been straight with her from the beginning: he wanted her in bed, and when she didn't oblige, he had obviously decided she was no longer worth the effort and moved on, indifferent as ever.

Why couldn't she be more aloof about this? She had been doing well enough until that first time she had spoken to him outside and realized there was more to him than a blond-haired shell.

Surely she could be mature about this, and ignore whatever jumble of emotions may be hindering her mindset. Perhaps he would be in the library after dinner, and she could speak with him. And if not, he would be fine the next day, wouldn't he?

She took another look at the Prophet article still on the table in front of her. Shocked, she noticed the picture had morphed into one of the crowd. She watched in silent terror as a small, blurry version of herself gazed up at a small, blurry version of Draco, before pulling him into a kiss.

She still remembered what that kiss had felt like. The way his touch had seared into her being. With an uncomfortable jolt in her heart, she looked away, her gaze unconsciously moving to him at the Slytherin table. He was sitting between Theodore Nott and Pansy Parkinson, picking at the last of his dinner. She wondered if he had seen the photo. Nott said something and Draco smirked; Hermione's heart rate picked up. Bitterly, she set aside her plate, appetite lost.

"Think I'll go to the library," she murmured to Harry, inconspicuously turning the page of the Prophet so as not to leave it open there.

"Don't be out too late," Harry replied, his attention half distracted by the quidditch chat he had been involved in. Then he turned to her. "Really, you've been working yourself to the bone."

"I'll be just fine," she assured, standing to leave. She hated that she chanced one last look at him before she left. Hated how completely unable she suddenly was to eliminate him from her mind. But she couldn't even fathom hating him, not anymore.

She found herself wandering the castle, pondering where he might be. She made her way to the library, in the far back at her favourite table, but he wasn't there. She attempted to get some homework finished, but was unable to focus and after twenty minutes, she gave up.

Without realizing where she was walking, she suddenly found herself hovering uncomfortably outside of the Slytherin common room down in the dungeons. Thankfully she lost her nerve and hurried off before she could be discovered.

Maybe he was flying? A quick walk past the Quidditch pitch told her the Hufflepuff team was having a practice, and Malfoy would not be welcome there.

Finally, she approached his tree by the lake, the one where he liked to watch the sunrise. Nothing.

Either he was doing something she couldn't figure, or he was making one hell of an effort to avoid her. She sat down, defeated, against the tree. It was probably for the best anyway – what would she have possibly said to him? She closed her eyes briefly, realizing how exhausted she was. Maybe just a quick nap and then she would be able to get through some schoolwork.

"Granger." Her eyes flew open at the voice. She must have dozed for a while, as the sky was much darker than when she sat down, a chill in the breeze which hadn't been before.

He was there. Staring down at her, his expression passive.

"Malfoy, hi," she said after a moments' hesitation, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. He was dressed in track pants and a white t-shirt. This seemed odd.

"What are you doing here, Granger?" His eyes didn't reveal anything.

"I must have fallen asleep," she admitted. "I was out for a walk. What are you doing here?"

"Went for a run," he shrugged. The corners of his lips were twitching, the first sign of friendly emotion she had seen from him since their date.

A faint smile crossed her lips as well.

"I thought running did you no good."

"Maybe a little." Now he rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. "I was trying to escape you."

"Did it work?" she asked, her eyes narrowed slightly.

"Evidently not." He laughed, briefly, and it lit up her soul. Maybe he would be willing to hear her out.

"I was hoping I might run into you," she said, aware of his eyes on her and even more aware that she was blushing bright red.

His eyes, moments ago warm and receptive, shut off. He looked away from her, shaking his head.

"I don't want to talk about Saturday," he muttered, turning to walk away.

Hermione jumped to her feet, surprising herself, and him too, judging by the look on his face, when she stepped close to him. She tentatively reached out, touching his hand with hers. When he didn't move away, she wrapped her hand into his.

He looked at her, confused. Hermione felt her heart pounding in her throat.

"I'm sorry." Her words were little more than a whisper. "I meant to go through with it, I honestly did, but I just couldn't."

He hesitated, then sighed. He removed his hand from within hers, but kept it close, tracing patterns on the back of her hand.

"Honestly, I thought you were going to." He met her gaze, and she felt the hot feeling return to her cheeks, knew his words had no less effect on her than they ever did. She swallowed down a heavy lump in her throat. "So what was it?"

"What do you mean?" she asked, thrown.

"Nerves? Morals? Fear?" He smirked slightly. "You suddenly found me to be hideous?"

"Fear, I suppose," she settled on, not wanting him to know the truth.

"I wouldn't hurt you, you know that," he replied, shaking his head. "Nothing to fear, unless you can't deal with ridiculous amounts of pleasure." He laughed once at his own joke. She flushed lightly at the thought.

"Can I make it up to you?" Her question was timid, so quiet she thought he might not have even heard. She had no idea why she was speaking to him like this. This should be what she wanted – he was finally leaving her alone.

But she couldn't have it like this. Not after the side of him she had seen on the weekend.

At her words, his eyebrows had shot into his hair, accompanied with a snort of derision.

"You don't want me to answer that," he advised, then shook his head. "I think I need to let go of this and move on."

Hermione felt her heart drop. He lifted his hand to her hair, leaning in to place a soft kiss on her forehead. Her heart and brain betrayed her as she felt the hot spike of tears building at the corner of her eyes.

"Don't," she choked out. She hoped he couldn't see the tears. "Maybe I just need more time."

But even as she said this, she knew it wasn't true. She could tell he felt the same way. She knew she was utterly transparent; he could see right through her facade.

"Hermione," he paused. He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "Time is not what you need."

He pulled away, taking a few steps toward the lake. Suddenly he turned back to her, a grim look on his face.

"You know this all started as a bit of a joke, right? I wanted to throw off your studies and thought this was the best way to do it."

His confession wasn't necessarily surprising, but it still jolted Hermione to hear it said so openly.

He walked closer to the lake, sat down by the shore, relaxing in the cool breeze coming off the water. He gestured for her to join him, and she did, hesitantly.

"Damnit, Granger," he suddenly said, his voice rough and aggressive. "How do you do this to me?" He turned to her as if demanding an explanation. She stared back, lost for words. What did he mean? She wasn't aware she had done anything to him.

"No girl has ever made me so infuriated," he continued, then his voice softened. "So confused."

"I don't know what you mean," she finally said, her voice shaky.

"What I mean, Granger," he paused, taking a deep breath. "What I mean is that I want to go on a date with you. Again. A real one, no bloody strings attached, no fake expectations."

He met her eyes then, grey eyes lit up by the moon reflecting off the surface of the lake. Her heart, pounding a frantic rhythm, felt warm and joyful.

Just maybe – he felt something for her too? Was this what she wanted? He's a Slytherin, her mind screamed. He's everything you live your life against! Her pounding heart, drowning out her screaming brain, won out.

"I'd love to," she breathed.

"You plan it this time. No fancy night out, no big to-do. Whatever you want to do, we'll do it."

The sincerity in his tone blew her away.

"I had fun the other night, with the big fancy night out," she admitted, smiling.

"So did I," he said, returning the smile. "If that's what you want, then we can go out again. It just didn't strike me as entirely you. I want to know you."

"Okay, I can think of something to do," she said, though she wasn't sure she would ever be able to match his date.

"Good. Friday?"

"Friday works for me," she said, trying to fight back the pure excitement threatening to overtake her.

He grinned, leaned in and kissed her before she could prepare herself. The electric current from the weekend was still there, though now it felt different. Before it was tinged with worry and concern that he was expecting something she wasn't sure she could give. This was not the same.

She kissed him back, actually allowing herself to accept this, the feeling in her heart, set to burst.

He jerked away at the sound of a rustling in the bush nearby, his eyes rapidly scanning the area. It was just a rabbit. Even so, he seemed satisfied, smirking at her.

"Friday," he whispered, giving her one more brief kiss before he stood up and was gone. Hermione, in a daze, followed minutes later, her brain hardly able to process what had happened. She was afraid if she looked into it further, she may start second guessing herself. Was this what she wanted? Yes, her heart thought so. Did she think it would ever happen in a million years? That one, she wasn't so sure.

That night, she managed a restful sleep, dreaming of snowy blond hair and soft grey eyes.
-

It was Wednesday, and it was snowing. Hard. High winds whistled around the castle, cold blizzarding gusts pervading the walls in places, snow building up in front of the doors.

Hermione looked up as a few post owls managed to fly into the Great Hall, looking worse for wear. In particular, she saw an owl land at Malfoy's plate, dropping a letter into his breakfast before quickly taking off to the Owlery, lest it be sent back out into the cold.

She watched the blond as what little colour was in his face drained from it almost instantly. He pushed away his plate, looking sick. Feeling her gaze on him, he looked up, his expression dull shock. Running an aggravated hand through his hair, he quickly stood and left the hall, the letter clenched tightly in his fist.

What?

Hermione knew better than to follow him, but couldn't help her interest from growing throughout the day. Outdoor classes were all cancelled due to weather, which meant she found herself with a free period in which she went to the library to work on an essay.

She wondered what the letter had said. She had arithmancy with him after lunch, and she supposed she could wait and ask him then.

But when the time came, he sat quietly alone at his table, not acknowledging her attempts to catch his attention. Lingering after the lecture, she managed to catch him alone in the classroom, locking the door.

"What happened?" she asked, walking over to him.

"What do you mean?" he returned softly, meeting her worried gaze.

"You had a letter," she stated, confused. "You looked distraught."

"It was nothing," he replied briskly, packing his things into his bag.

"It didn't look like nothing," she pushed.

"Looks can be deceiving," he murmured dismissively, and Hermione sensed that was the end of that. Sighing, she made her way to the door, about to unlock it.

"Granger," he said from behind her, and she froze, looking back to him. He had a glint in his eye. "Did I ever tell you you've got a great arse?"

He grinned, giving the aforementioned arse a smack as he brushed past her and left the room, leaving her behind with nothing but an inconspicuous wink.

Shaking her head, she hurried off in the opposite direction to get to her next class.
-

By Friday afternoon the snow finally let up and the sun came out for the first time in days.

Hermione felt it was somehow a promising sign, given her date with Draco was tonight. Unfortunately, for as much thought as she had given it, she still wasn't sure what they were going to do. It was her task to plan the date, and she had made a long list of ideas, unsatisfied with everything she considered.

As she stepped outside for the first time in several days, however, looking around the white land lit up by the bright sun, it struck her. As the pieces fell together, she hurried off to a different part of the castle to prepare.

After everything was ready, she made a quick round of the school, hoping to locate him. He was sitting at her table in the library. He looked up as she walked toward him, smirking, his eyes aglow.

"So Granger, what sort of torture have you planned for us tonight?" he grinned. Smiling, she took a seat across from him.

"You'll have to wait and see. Come on, the date is starting now. Go get your winter clothes!" she encouraged and he feigned terror.

"But Granger, it's been snowing. Or didn't you notice?" he muttered.

"It's stopped. No sympathy. Go," she said, lips curving into a smile. Shaking his head, he did as she asked and they met ten minutes later by the entrance doors.

She led him to an area near the Quidditch pitch, still coated in two feet of fresh snow. Draco was staring at the powder almost distastefully.

Hermione watched his reaction, the ghost of a smile on her lips.

"This will do!" she announced, drawing her wand. He turned to look at her in disbelief and she fought the urge to giggle.

"So, these will be the territories," she arbitrarily delineated two equal areas with her wand, and the snow in one tinged green, and in the other it turned gold. She turned to him, still eyeing the ground with a skeptical expression.

"I challenge you, Malfoy, to a snow war," she said, smiling up at him.

"What on earth is that, Granger?" he asked, lips twitching. She could see he was fighting hard to keep from making a snide remark.

"It's an activity Muggles like," she responded, eyes alight. His own eyes narrowed, lips pursed as he realized what she was doing. This was a test.

"Fantastic," he murmured sarcastically, shooting her a grin. "So what do we do?" He drew his wand, walking towards the light green patch of snow.

"No magic." He stared at her blankly, before hesitantly putting his wand away. "Basically, it's simple. You may build your defenses to withstand an attack from me, and vice versa. Anything goes."

"Anything?" he waggled his eyebrows at her and Hermione laughed.

"Within reason, of course," now she was giggling at him.

"And then... we throw snow at one another?"

"Precisely!" she exclaimed, happy he was catching on.

"The things Muggles do for entertainment baffles me, Granger," he informed her, though he said it with good humour. "Alright, I think I got it. You better watch your back, girl."

Excited, Hermione ran off to the patch of pale gold snow, mentally mapping out the construction of her fort. She quickly began, packing snow tightly and expertly, while he watched her from his side, eyebrows raised.

When Hermione glanced over ten minutes later, Malfoy was awkwardly standing next to a small wall of snow that barely reached his knees.

"I'm no good at this, if that was your intention," he called over to her and Hermione laughed.

"It wasn't, no, but it's a bonus!" she called back, building a lookout post into the exposed side of her own fort, much stronger looking than his.

When she next looked up, he had vanished, hidden behind a fort so large and luxurious she didn't believe he had built it by hand.

"No fair, Malfoy, I told you no magic," she said, walking to her territorial boundary. His face came out from behind his fort, eyes narrowed.

"I didn't use magic, I swear," he held his hands up.

"Well then how does your fort have a stairway, a network of underground tunnels, a flag and spotlights?" she walked over, admiring his handiwork. He glared at her.

"Fine," he murmured, waving his wand leisurely at it. The fort returned to its former version, looking a bit uneven but tall and sturdy enough. The Slytherin flag remained perched in the top of the wall.

"That's better," she said happily, returning to her side of the field. With a quick wave of her own wand, her fort now sported a Gryffindor flag. She winked at him. She started packing snow into tight, consistent balls, building her ammunition supplies behind her wall.

"Are you ready over there?" he drawled, wandering over. His fort once more seemed magically enhanced, though not as obviously and she let it slide.

"Oh, I'm ready, not sure about you," she stated, smiling. She was rewarded with a snowball to the shoulder, as he retreated to his fort to avoid retribution. Hermione paused, mouth open for a moment before returning fire, hastily moving back to her own defenses as well.

The battle ensued, each firing snowballs mercilessly at one another. Hermione could watch him from her lookout, where he couldn't easily reach her, but in order to get a good hit on him she needed to expose herself and risk being hit. His aim had improved greatly throughout, and she was hit with some hard snowballs, though she knew he wasn't faring much better. She was running low on ammunition, hoping he would surrender soon, but his laughter as he swooped by and nailed her while she was replenishing her stores changed her mind.

With an armful of snowballs, she ran out from her fort, tossing them recklessly at him, encouraging herself to keep moving as his whizzed past her head. Suddenly he fully exposed himself, grabbing her by the territory lines and pulling her down into the thick snow. Without warning, she found herself with a face full of snow, looking up at him straddling her with a smug grin on his face.

"That isn't fair," she spluttered, wiping snow from her face and hair. She was trapped beneath him.

"You said anything goes," he reminded. "I grabbed you when you were on your side, and I was on mine. I win."

To prove his victory over her, he bent over, planting a lingering kiss on her lips.

"Oh fine," she huffed as he stood back up. "I'm hungry anyway. You?"

"Famished," he murmured, smiling. Hermione stood, glancing at him. He had snow everywhere, in his hair, his scarf, over his boots.

"Should we remove the forts?" she asked thoughtfully.

"Nah, let the kids have some fun with it tomorrow," he replied. She laughed, linking her hand through his arm as they walked back to the castle.

"I hope you plan on feeding me," he began, glancing over at her, "considering you've exhausted my energy and now we've missed dinner."

"Of course," she said dismissively, "if I wasn't the date would have to end already, and that won't do."

He grinned back at her, reaching to tuck a piece of snowy hair behind her ear.

"That wouldn't do at all," he replied simply.

"I've commandeered the Prefects' office for the evening," she informed him as they arrived at the office, magically charmed so no one else could enter for the night.

"Clever," he observed, "but this means no one can hear you scream." He raised an eyebrow, smirking at her.

"I think I can handle myself," she replied, spirits light. "I made stew."

She waved her wand and two bowls of the stew she had prepared earlier appeared on the coffee table. They each took a seat on the couch in the office.

Draco stared, unconvinced, at his bowl of stew.

"It looks strange," he said softly, poking at it with his spoon.

"It tastes better than it looks. Just try it," she scoffed, digging into her own bowl, realizing how hungry she really was.

She was distracted from her own dinner as Malfoy made a soft groaning sound.

"Granger, this is so good," he said, pausing between large mouthfuls. "You made this?"

"Yes," she replied, glad that he liked it. "I first tried it in France when I was younger and loved it so much I learned to make it."

"You just went up a million points in my books," he said, eyes wide. "A woman who can cook is such a turn-on."

Hermione decided to take it as a compliment.

"Glad you like it," she said lightly.

"Like it?" he exclaimed, "you'll need to make this for me on my deathbed."

"Hopefully that isn't for a while," she replied, shaking her head at his enthusiasm. Inwardly she wanted to smile at the thought that he might actually want her around for that long.

He set down his empty bowl, staring longingly at it. With a wave of her wand, Hermione re-filled it with a second helping and he eagerly dove back in.

After they were both fed and satisfied, sipping on wine, Hermione leaned forward.

"I thought you might like to learn to play pool," she said casually, glancing over at a pool table she had transfigured on the other side of the room. In the spirit of forcing him to learn Muggle activities, especially one she happened to be particularly good at, she thought it would be interesting.

"What is a pool?" he asked, staring suspiciously at the green-felted table.

"Pool is a game. This is a pool table." She led him over to the table, showing him the balls and cues.

Briefly she explained the rules, demonstrating how the game worked.

"Fine, I'll catch on. Doesn't seem too difficult," he brushed it off.

"Okay, I'll break," she said, smiling. With a flourish she delivered the cue ball perfectly into the triangle of balls, scattering them and sinking a solid colour. Quickly, she sank another one and was leaning over the table, lining up her third shot when she felt hm walk up behind her.

"These are nice pants," he murmured, squeezing her bum through her tight jeans just as she took the shot. The ball went wide of her intended target. She turned around to face him, arms crossed.

"No fair, you threw off my shot," she said, mocking indignation.

"I don't care," he said, smirking as he stepped in even closer, his hands still around her, resting on her behind. She swallowed the heavy lump that had just appeared in her throat.

"Your turn," she said in a low voice. Reluctantly he picked up his cue, lined it up with the cue ball as she had shown him and fired the stick forward as hard as he could. The cue ball deflected off another ball and went flying across the room, rolling into a corner. Malfoy stared after it, shocked.

"Good one," she snorted, picking up the ball and taking her next shot. She sunk two more solids, missing on the third shot.

Malfoy pursed his lips, narrowing his eyes at her.

"Now I see why you wanted to play this. To make me look ridiculous." He raised an eyebrow and stepped toward the table to line up his shot.

"Something like that," she grinned.

"Well, two can play at that game, Granger dearest," he said in such a nonchalant tone it caused her to shiver.

He took the shot, with much more finesse than the first one and he sunk a striped ball.

He turned to Hermione, flashing her with a winning smile that caused her heart to jump. She couldn't help but smile back.

His next shot was close but a miss. Hermione made quick work of the remaining balls in three more turns, sinking the eight ball perfectly as she called it.

"I win," she said softly, grinning up at him. He waved a hand dismissively.

"Best of three," he said, re-setting the balls.

Five games later, Hermione having won them all, Malfoy took a seat back on the couch, disgruntled.

"Okay, you're better at that than I am. Give me a week with this table and I'll destroy you." He glanced at her, attempting to look threatening.

"Okay, we'll rematch in a week," she conceded. She sat next to him on the couch, stretching her legs out and leaning back into him. He wrapped his free arm around her, lacing his fingers with hers. He sat thoughtfully for a moment, before sighing.

"Granger, what am I going to do with you? You drive me insane," he said softly. "And you've been messing with my head."

"I could say the same to you," she replied. "So are you going to tell me what that letter was about you received on Wednesday?"

She turned to look at him, catching his grimace.

"I had hoped you were going to let that go," he said quietly.

"No such luck," she replied with an apologetic smile.

"It was from the Ministry, about my mother. She's dead." He choked the word out, bitterly.

"What?" Hermione spun to face him, eyes wide. "How?"

"They said she was sick," he said in a calm manner. "I don't know that I believe it. She was healthy enough the last time I saw her."

"Which was when?" Hermione asked.

"Christmas, sixth year," he responded after a brief moment of consideration. Hermione froze, staring curiously at him.

"What do you mean, you didn't see her all summer?" she asked, confused.

"No," he shook his head, looking almost guilty.

"Well why not, was she out of England?" Hermione carried on.

"Granger," he said softly and Hermione stopped, gazing at him. "I wasn't home at all during the summer."

When she began to speak again he held up his hand, stopping her.

"Granger, anything I told you about my summer was nonsense. I was on the run. I only came back to Hogwarts because it's protected." He stared at her, his grey eyes pale and honest.

"On the run from -" she paused, mid-thought. "From you father?"

He nodded, looking slightly uncomfortable.

"How come?" she asked quietly. He gave her a look as if she were daft. Suddenly it hit her and she swallowed heavily.

"I went against him. Against the Dark Side." He said it reluctantly, running his hand through his hair anxiously. "You're the first person I've told."

"We talked about this not that long ago?" she questioned.

"I didn't want to tell you," he replied, pursing his lips. "At the time I had no intentions of getting to know you better and I didn't know that I could trust you to keep it to yourself."

Hermione frowned, not sure what to make of this revelation.

"So you aren't switching sides?" she asked.

"No," he shook his head. "No more sides."

"But you left in sixth year?" Hermione could tell he didn't want to keep talking about this but she was suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity.

"The end of sixth year, yes," he replied patiently but tiredly as though her questions were wearing him thin.

"When you – when we, in the library..." she trailed off, face burning. He smirked, eyes crinkled with laughter.

"Yes, the day in the library. I had just defected and wanted to do something that my father would just hate," he shot her a funny look. "Plus I knew it would affect your exams and figured I could get two birds with one stone."

"So you used me," she murmured, feeling awkward.

"No," he shook his head, meeting her eyes. "I had wanted you for a long time, Granger. I just finally admitted it to myself that day."

"Then I suppose I should be flattered," she said.

"You're right," he grinned, "you should. Not every woman catches my eye and, as you know, I don't date."

"Except this is now the second date you've had with me." She couldn't resist the chance to rub it in just a bit. He raised an eyebrow, assessing her closely.

"I'm already planning the third, Granger."

"Oh," she said, caught off guard. She allowed herself to smile – it felt as if a huge weight had come off her shoulders in learning that he had defied his father and everything he stood for. She also understood that in doing do, Draco had made himself a target. He would be okay at Hogwarts – but after that, she couldn't be certain. Did she want to keep this going?

"Stop overthinking everything," he teased, leaning in. "I know you, I can tell that look."

"You're right," she said, embarrassed.

"So, you want to snog or what?" he asked, grinning. Without waiting for a response, his lips were on hers, his tongue teasing hers playfully, his hands in her hair. She kissed back, smiling into his lips, realizing that this kiss didn't have the same urgency as some did from him but that electric force was there all the same, roaring in her ears, pushing her further.

Maybe this was it – she wasn't sure, but maybe now that she knew he was interested in continuing to see her, maybe now that he had expressed interest in her beyond sex, she could let it go to that point. Hermione knew that whatever she felt for him, it was growing.

She was straddling him on the couch, kissing him with feverish intensity, matching his passion and it felt natural and comfortable. Suddenly he gently pushed her back, meeting her gaze. His grey eyes were hot with lust and something else.

"I don't know about you," he began in a low voice, "but I'm fairly tired."

"I suppose," she replied, breathless.

That was it? He was the one who had always tried to convince her to sleep with him and he had just, albeit gently, stopped her from taking it to that point.

She felt hot in the face, this time from embarrassment. Had she done something wrong?

"Shall we sleep here?" he asked, looking at her expectantly. The couch was just wide enough for the two of them.

"I should return to my dorm," she said anxiously, not looking at him. She stood to leave and he jumped up, grabbing her arm.

"I'd like it if you stayed here," he said sincerely. He stared at her closely for a moment, her red cheeks and averted gaze. "You think I'm rejecting you. I can hardly believe that, Granger."

She nodded, a bit jerkily.

"That's how it seems," she replied softly.

"Granger," he lifted a hand to her cheek, running his thumb over her cheekbone. "You aren't ready to do this for real. I should have seen that last time but I'm not going to make that mistake again. As much as I want to do this, I'll try to wait for you."

"Okay," she said, biting her lip. "I'll stay."

He transfigured a blanket, made himself comfortable on the couch and held out an arm for Hermione to crawl into the space next to him.

It was a strange feeling, her body so close to his, but he felt hard and yet soft, warm and comforting and Hermione was asleep before she had time to contemplate it further, a soft smile on her face.