A/N: Welcome to another--yes, another--one-shot. This one, like Butter and Salt, is longer than my previous one-shots, but unlike B&S this one does not include a character death. This is part fluff, part angst, and part comedy--the latter mostly contributed by Harry and Ginny, who took a much larger side-role in this than I had intended. Like most of my stories, this didn't end up the way I intended, but I am very proud of this end result. There will be more one-shots to come, and soon after I will begin posting chaptered stories (!!!), a list of which can be found in my profile. So, enjoy! Read and reviews are always coveted!
Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it.
The foundations of Hogwarts were shaking. There was a proverbial storm within the grand castle, because Hermione Granger—the brilliant war hero and Head Girl—and Draco Malfoy—the dashing former-spy and Head Boy—were in the midst of a furious argument.
Since the end of the war and their return to "normal life"—though life being normal in a school of Witchcraft and Wizardry was fairly impossible—things had changed.
Harry, the grand Savior of the Wizarding World, had faded into the background as much as possible, happily in love with Ginny and content to give up his ugly habit of saving the world. He handled the press and the public fairly well, absolutely refusing to sign autographs or give out photos—shuddering whenever the idea was even brought up—giving only one, decisive interview to the Quibbler, and acting like a normal seventeen year old boy.
Ron, on the other hand, soaked up the limelight, flourishing in the spotlight. Truth be told, his head was getting rather swelled, but a few choice words from Hermione had deflated him a bit. He had thrown her a few interested glances, but upon meeting nothing but a brick wall his attentions had seemed to wander, and his gaze had recently settled back upon Lavender, who was only too happy to stoke his ego.
But it was Hermione who was most affected. Still bushy-haired, though not quite so bushy, she was still the brilliant young woman with the top grades in the school. She was the Head Girl after seven years of hard work and she was damn proud of it! In terms of academics or wandwork no one could touch her, and in many ways she was still the same Hermione from before the war. But one thing in particular had changed rather dramatically—though perhaps changed was not the right word. Her feud with Draco Malfoy had previously been rather understated, overshadowed by the much grander rivalry between Draco and Harry. Now, however, Harry had stepped back and Hermione had taken his place with a vengeance. Where before she had preached tolerance and patience she now exploded at a mere glare thrown her way.
It seemed that not a day passed without some form of argument between the two Heads. In fact, people were beginning to take bets on who would win what they referred to as "The Final Showdown", the tremendous fight that would eventually leave one or the other as the decisive victor. The odds were almost even, with Hermione as the slightly more favored choice.
Because the fact of the matter was that Hermione Granger was the top of her class, brilliant with a wand, brilliant at academics, and scathing with words when she wanted to be. She was supreme, but Draco Malfoy was a very close second to her. The Slytherin Prince was quite nearly as good with a wand and had a nasty arsenal of almost illegal curses at his disposal, was only slightly behind in academics, and he possessed the unique ability to make people cry with a single glance. Though he and Hermione had, in fact, fought on the same side during the war one could not tell by looking at them that they could even be civil to each other, much less work together.
Between Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy there was only enmity.
Or so it seemed.
So when muffled shouting was heard during the lunch period when the Great Hall was filled to its capacity, and the only two people notably missing were the two Heads, no one was very concerned. It was a bright, sunny, spring afternoon, the year beginning to wind down, and the fights had become almost common place. Even the teachers had began to ignore the shouting, stepping in only when the spells started to fly, having wasted their energies on preaching unity and peace earlier in the year.
But there was something different about this fight, something that could be heard as the voices got closer to the doors of the Great Hall.
"I have had it with this Draco! I'm done! I will not tolerate this anymore!"
"Hermione do not walk away from me! Are you listening to me? Hermione, don't you dare open that fucking door! Turn around and look at me!"
The doors slammed open and the entire Hall plunged into silence as a furious Hermione stormed in, a gust of angry wind following her. She stomped right towards the Gryffindor table, seeming not to notice anyone around her. Draco followed, lengthening his strides to close the distance between them. There were two bright pink spots of anger on his pale cheeks and his gray eyes were narrowed dangerously.
"Hermione, god dammit!" He shouted, and everyone seemed to freeze as they realized, with a jolt, that he had said Hermione as opposed to Granger or Mudblood or any of his grotesque mocking nicknames. "Stop fucking walking away from me!"
"Go fuck yourself, Draco." She shot over her shoulder, not looking at him, and everyone seemed to freeze even more as they realized that Hermione Granger had just said the word 'fuck'. Minerva McGonagall's mouth hung open as she stared at her favorite student.
Draco's jaw set and he sped up his pace, closing the distance and grabbing her arm, forcing her to stop and face him. She whirled with all the ferocity of a wild animal and there was a fierce gleam in her eyes that would have made many a person cower in fear. Draco seemed to not notice, the gleam in his eyes equally primitive and angry.
"Let go of me!" She shouted, thrashing at him. His grip only tightened on her arm.
"Like hell. Stop running like a cowardly little girl."
"I would never run from the likes of you, Draco. Spineless little boys don't scare me at all." She snapped, still trying to break his grip on her. "Get the fuck off of me."
"There's plenty of fear in your eyes, Hermione. Because face it, at heart you're nothing but a trumped up mudblood—." He stopped, his lips pressing together tightly, his eyes widening. The expression on Hermione's face flashed through a myriad of emotion in a matter of only seconds, shifting from hot, burning anger to sadness, to hurt, to—was that betrayal?—and finally settling into anger again. This anger was cold, steely and unbreakable. The teachers stood, breaking free of their shock and preparing to stop the fight before the situation deteriorated any further.
But too late. Hermione jerked free of his grip—or perhaps he let her go, his fingers retracting from her skin as though the touch of her burned. She stepped back half a step, just enough to get room, and then swung her fist hard, striking him squarely in the nose. He stumbled to the ground, hands flying to his face. From the ground he stared up at her through a bloody mess, his eyes gray and wide and sorry. She stood over him, trembling, her hand still clenched into a fist. Only once before had she abandoned all rational thought and acted to primitively; then she had grinned a triumphant—if mildly ashamed—grin and whispered "that felt good". Now she stared down at him as though staring at a bug beneath her feet.
Now, shaking all over, she looked him dead in the eye and said echoing words. "We're through."
The words hung in the air, tangible as she fled, as Draco stared into space, blood trickling through his fingers, as Hermione's friends stared and stared, trying to reconcile the Hermione they had known with this new person.
And finally Draco turned his head upwards to the bright blue enchanted ceiling, to where the sun shone, and whispered "I'm sorry."
In the aftermath of the fight, when Draco was taken to the Hospital Wing to deal with his probably broken nose and Hermione was completely gone, Ginny Weasley turned to her boyfriend, a determined look on her face. Harry, seeing said expression, groaned.
"No, Gin. Whatever it is, no."
She raised her eyebrows at him, her lips pursing. "I haven't even said anything."
He folded his arms. "Yes, but that expression says that you want me to do something impossible that I will probably not like very much. I'm done saving the world, remember?"
She folded her arms as well, mirroring his body language. "You're not going to be saving the world. Just your best friend."
He sighed again, shaking his head, his expression softening into defeat. He was done with saving the world, but he would never be able to resist letting his hero complex take over when his best friends were involved. "What do you want me to do?"
She looked away for a moment, collecting her thoughts. "I'm going to go find 'Mione and calm her down. I have a sneaking suspicion that there was more to that fight—and all of the other ones—than meets the eye and I will get to the bottom of it. But since I have a fairly good idea of what just happened, I have a very important job for you to do."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Ginny, love, if this crazy plan of yours involves Draco Malfoy—."
"Go talk to him."
"Dammit!" He said. "I knew it! I knew I was going to hate whatever you wanted me to do. Absolutely not, Gin. I'm not talking to Draco Malfoy. I don't know what the hell just happened but I am not talking to him! You can't make me!"
She narrowed her eyes, changing her body position only slightly, her foot tapping gently against the marble floor, drumming a steady beat that every man recognizes as trouble. Harry's forehead furrowed and he cursed again.
"Dammit!" He stood slowly from the table, his expression that of a condemned man making his last walk to the gallows. Ginny rose as well, her smile bright and infectious. She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"I knew you'd see it my way, love."
After searching all the obvious places where Hermione would retreat to, Ginny paused to think. Where would a brilliant but distraught girl with a penchant for books and breaking rules run to when things got bad? Not the library, not the dorm, not the astronomy tower, not any of the classrooms. The grounds, maybe, but Ginny just had this inkling feeling that she was still in the school. And, finally, the answer hit her. She would run to the place where no one would look, to the place that held both good and bad memories, to the place where a girl crying wouldn't be noticed because there was always a girl crying.
Turning around, Ginny quickened her pace and headed straight for the second floor girl's lavatory, the known haunting ground of Moaning Myrtle and the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
After merely opening the door, Ginny knew that her hunch was right. The sobbing was much softer and more desperate than Myrtle's theatrical sobs, and she could hear the ghost's voice over the sobbing, attempting to be comforting and failing rather miserably. Upon hearing the door open Myrtle floated upwards, her arms folded and the look on her face fierce.
"If you're here to bother her you can just turn right around and leave." Myrtle said, for once not wrapped up in her own misery and showing a rare compassionate streak. "She's upset enough as it is."
"She's also my best friend, Myrtle, and I'm not going anywhere." She walked further into the bathroom, managing to shoot the sink and the snake engraved into the tap only one mildly uneasy look. Since her first year she had avoided this particular bathroom like a plague, because she could still remember the feeling of her mouth forming those unnatural words, could still remember the cloudy feeling of having someone else control her body.
She steeled herself and walked past the sink, marching over to the locked stall and rapping her knuckles against it firmly. "'Mione, it's me. Open up, hun."
"Go away, Gin." Hermione's muffled, hoarse voice responded.
"Not a chance Hermione. Not until you come out and talk to me. Or at least let me in there. You can either open up and let me in or I'll blast the door open."
There was a short pause and the sound of the lock being fiddled with. The door swung open and Hermione peered out at her, eyes red and resentful. "Can you just leave me alone, Ginny?" Ginny shook her head, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around the slightly taller teenager.
"Not a chance." She repeated. Hermione was stiff for a moment, before she returned the embrace and buried her face into Ginny's sweater, sobbing brokenly. Ginny held her for a long moment, rubbing her back soothingly and whispering comforting nothing words.
"Tell me what went wrong, 'Mione."
"I—I have no idea what you're talking about." Hermione said unconvincingly. Ginny gave her a Look—one that said Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.
"What went wrong with you and Draco, love. We'll talk about you having a secret relationship later, but let's deal with this little fight for now."
Hermione's mouth opened and closed silently, and the red-head smiled despite herself. "Don't worry. You had me just as convinced as everyone else, but that last fight was rather revealing."
The bushy-haired teenager seemed to crumple. "It wasn't a fake fight." She finally whispered. "Not like all of the others. The others—it was fun to fight about nothing at all, and it kept our cover. The more we seemed to hate each other, the less anyone would suspect the truth. And we couldn't talk to each other in public, so fighting made that possible. And—it was thrilling sometimes. I mean, we never meant any of the horrible things we said, but it was fun trying to come up with better insults. A challenge." She sniffled. "But that was a real fight."
"About what?" Ginny asked, smoothing her friend's hair.
Hermione sniffed, trying to control herself. She wiped her face on her sleeve, dabbing away the tears at the corners of her eyes. "I—he—," she sucked in a breath. "He got a letter from his mum," she said in a wavering voice. "And he wanted to tell her, about us you know? But I didn't. I didn't want to tell anyone, much less his mum. I was—scared." She whispered the last word, choking on it as though it lodged in her throat with no intention of moving. "I was scared of everyone knowing. But I just…I didn't tell him that. I just…," she shook her head, at a loss for words. "He accused me of being ashamed of being with him and I got mad and I walked away and he just kept pushing and I just kept pushing back and…." She dashed angrily at the tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. "He called me that word." She said, in a tiny voice. "He promised he wouldn't. He promised he would never."
She crumpled in Ginny's arms, dissolving into tears and gasps for breath. Ginny held her tightly, not quite sure of what to say, just rubbing her back soothingly and whispering that it would be okay.
Hermione whispered back, through her choked sobs.
"No. It won't."
Harry Potter stood hesitantly outside of the entrance to the Hospital Wing, cursing his girlfriend under his breath and thanking the gods that she couldn't hear what he was saying. He folded his arms, staring at the doors with a stubborn expression on his face. "I won't do it." He said allowed. "I don't give a damn what happens to Malfoy."
Then he sighed. Because the fact was that no, he didn't give a damn about what happened to Malfoy. But he did care about Hermione, and Ginny was right. There was something more to that last fight, and Draco Malfoy had the answers. With a resigned expression he pushed open the doors, stepping into the place that he found his way to far too often for his liking.
Draco was sitting upright on one of the hospital beds, his back against the headboard, his legs stretched out in front of him. His head was tilted back slightly, leaning against the wall, and his eyes stared vacantly forward. His nose had been healed, and the only signs of the wound were the bloodstains on the collar of his robes. His hair—normally perfect—was everywhere, and his skin—already pale—was practically bloodless, transparent and showing the blue veins beneath. Madame Pomfrey stood in front of him, her expression concerned.
As Harry stepped into the room the Medi-Witch looked up, raising an eyebrow. "Tell me that you haven't injured yourself again, Mr. Potter." She said, her voice dry.
He shook his head. "No, Madame Pomfrey." He shifted on his feet, uncomfortable. "I actually…well, I actually came to talk to Malfoy."
Her eyebrow lifted higher. "Forgive me if I don't quite believe you, Mr. Potter, as you and Mr. Malfoy have sent each other here on quite a few occasions. I'll have no arguing in my hospital wing." She looked to Draco, but he hadn't moved, not an inch, not a muscle. He seemed frozen; his lips pressed tightly together, his eyes glossy and vacant.
"Really, Madame Pomfrey, I just want to talk to him." He scowled a little. "Ginny made me come."
She looked at him for a long moment, and then looked at Draco, sighing. "I suppose you can try to talk to him, but he hasn't been responsive at all. It's almost as though he's in shock, which is possible, I suppose but…what happened in the Great Hall, Mr. Potter? Severus mentioned an argument between Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger and that she punched him, ergo his broken nose. But this lack of response is…troubling."
Harry approached the bed where his rival sat cautiously. "He and Hermione were fighting again, yeah." He said, looking at the Medi-Witch and then at the blonde wizard. "But…," he hesitated, "it was different, you know? Just, something different. Anyway, she was walking away from him and he grabbed her and they were arguing and then he called her a mudblood—."
For the first time, Draco showed signs of life, flinching at the word mudblood. Both Harry and Madame Pomfrey stared at him curiously. The blonde's eyes closed and he licked his lips, as though he were about to say something. There was only silence.
Harry folded his arms, staring at the other teenager. "Malfoy?" He finally said. To his surprise, Draco's eyes opened. They were shiny, but at the same time they were dead, and Harry almost took a step back, a bite of concern bolting through him. He had seen that expression before—in his own eyes, after Sirius's death. His mouth opened and closed—he wanted to ask a question, but he had no idea what to say. His world was slowly but surely drifting off-kilter, because the same look he had seen in the mirror so many times was no reflected in Draco Malfoy's gaze.
Startling him again—and his world shifted a little more off-kilter—Draco's mouth opened and he began to speak, his voice hoarse and low and sad. Sad.
"I promised I would never call her that. I promised. I knew when I said it that I crossed the line and I said it anyway. Because I'm an idiot—," he said it with such vehemence that Harry blinked, wondering how the person in front of him could possibly be the same person he had hated for seven years. "—and I knew that it would hurt her and I did it anyway and I love her but it's over, oh Merlin it's over—."
But Harry hadn't heard anything past those three impossible words: I. Love. Her.
Madame Pomfrey, seeing the look on his face, hastily conjured a chair for him to collapse into. Then, looking between the two teenagers, she retreated to her office. There were some things that needed to be worked out and she would rather not get involved in the love lives of her students. Even if it was interesting.
But she would definitely have some tidbits for Severus and Minerva later.
"Malfoy," Harry said in a far-away voice, cutting through the Slytherin's rambling, "you—you love her?"
Draco's mouth snapped shut and his eyes, for a moment, were owl-wide, before closing in an expression of resignation.
"I love her," he whispered. And then: "I screwed up so bad."
Harry, faced with the revelation that his rival was in love with his best friend—and presumably that said feelings were reciprocated—and confronted with the task of comforting his distraught rival, could figure out only one thing to say.
"She'll forgive you."
And Draco, his eyes still closed, his cheeks wet, could say only one thing back.
"No. She won't."
After months of yelling and screaming on a daily basis, Hogwarts was quiet. Quiet, quiet, too quiet. It was eerie. Only four people knew the truth about what had happened during that last, climactic fight—Ginny, Harry, Draco, and Hermione. The former two refused to speak about what they knew, pretending to be as clueless as the rest of the world. The latter two, on the other hand, were withdrawn and sullen, refusing to even look at each other, much less speak.
Hogwarts had fallen silent. Peaceful, almost, if not for the lingering sense of wrongness in the air. The fights had become more than commonplace, they had become normal. And without them…without them everything was just wrong. Everyone could feel it, but no one quite knew how to remedy the situation.
Ginny cast Hermione a worried look. The older girl was pale, with dark circles under her eyes, and her hair fell limply around her, hiding her face. She picked half-heartedly at her food, a very small portion of the food actually making it into her mouth. When she thought no one was looking, and when her hair covered her eyes, she would shoot glances at the Slytherin table.
Ginny followed the direction of the gaze and looked at Draco. He didn't look any better off than Hermione did; his complexion pallid, his eyes downcast, his fork chasing food around his plate. He would sometimes raise his gaze, look over at Hermione sadly, and look down again.
Harry looked at Ginny, the corners of his mouth turned down sharply. He glanced at Hermione and then back to his girlfriend; Ginny took his hand and leaned to whisper in his ear. "They're killing themselves."
He whispered back. "I know. But what can we do about it?"
The determined expression resurfaced and Harry immediately shook his head. "I don't know what crazy plan you have this time but—." He began. She smiled disarmingly, in a charming way meant to lower his guards and trick him into doing whatever she said. He merely shook his head again, scowling. "No."
"Harry, darling, I haven't even told you anything yet."
He folded his arms, staring her down. She just smiled more broadly and patted his arm gently. "It's okay, love. I'll do all the work. You just have to back me up a little, if I need it."
And with that, she stood up. Hermione looked up and Ginny smiled at her. Hermione tried to smile back, but her lips merely tilted up a little and then settled back down, the attempt looking fake and forced. Ginny's smile faded a little, but the determined expression just increased, and with a nod to her best friend and boyfriend, she marched across the Great Hall.
Straight towards the Slytherin table.
Soon it wasn't just two sets of eyes watching her movements. Everyone in the Great Hall watched her, as she merrily stalked across the hall and flopped down into the seat across from Draco Malfoy, next to Blaise Zabini, who smoothly raised an eyebrow at her. Behind her, she could hear Ron's voice climb in volume and octave, and then abruptly cut off. Draco stared at her dully for a long moment, before shaking his head in puzzlement.
"Weasley," he said in a tired voice, "what are you doing?"
She smiled at him, but it wasn't a pretty smile anymore. There was an edge to it, as though it were slightly forced. "Let's cut through the pleasantries, shall we Malfoy? You're killing yourself. You also happen to be killing my best friend."
Draco's gaze shot over her shoulder, and she could tell from his flinch that he had caught Hermione's gaze. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but she smoothly continued on, not allowing him room to cut in.
"Now, we could sit here all day and debate whose fault this whole thing is, but the fact is that you probably both share a little of the blame. You clearly crossed a line, but I imagine that she pushed you to it, crossing quite a few lines of her own. Let's just chock this all up to a mistake, shall we? You can talk it out later to your heart's content, after you kiss and make up."
He stared at her. Then he took a deep breath and shook his head. "I—can't."
She was still smiling. "Yes, you can. Listen to me, Malfoy. She loves you. She will forgive you. But not if you just sit here and waste away. You're not going to just get over each other, and this separation is just hurting you. You had a fight. A really bad one, yes, but that doesn't mean it's the end. It isn't the end, unless you let be."
"What am I supposed to do, Weasley?" He whispered, ignoring the looks of his fellow Slytherins.
"Apologize to her. Get down on your knees if you have to, and beg for forgiveness."
"She won't accept it. She shouldn't accept it."
"As gratifying as it is to see you self-chastising, it's not doing you any good." She looked over her shoulder, to where Harry was deep in conversation with Hermione, and she smiled. "And I believe there is a rather good chance that she will accept it. Try, Malfoy. Or you can continue to wallow in misery. It's really your choice."
When Harry watched his girlfriend saunter over to hostile territory and seat herself as though she had every right to be there, he could only shake his head. She launched into what was clearly an advice session for Malfoy, and he smiled. Ron, naturally, was apocalyptic, his ears turning a violent red as he spouted off at the top of his lungs, wondering where in the hell his sister's sanity had run off to. Deciding to head things off before they came to a pass, Harry provided Ginny her "backup", silencing her brother with a soundless spell under the table. Ron continued on, unaware that he could no longer be heard.
Hermione's eyes were fixed on the Slytherin table. "What on earth is she doing?" She asked, glancing at Harry.
And suddenly he realized what dastardly plan his girlfriend had cooked up. He sent a rather vicious glare over his shoulder at the back of her head. Backup, she said. Ha! She had merely swapped their positions, leaving him to talk to Hermione while she talked to Draco. And she had done it in an entirely underhanded, Slytherin way! For a moment he pondered folding his arms and sulking like a child, but then he sighed and resigned himself to his task.
"Trying to fix your relationship problems." He said in a calm voice, as though he were discussing the weather. Hermione's gaze snapped to him, her cheeks flushing with color for the first time in days.
He shrugged. "She's probably convincing Malfoy to man up and apologize." He turned his gaze towards the Slytherin table for a moment and then looked at his best friend out of the corner of his eye. "He doesn't believe that you'll forgive him, you know." He said conversationally.
She stared at him. "What?" She repeated. He looked at her straight on.
"He thinks that you won't forgive him. That's probably the only reason he hasn't apologized yet, because he's positive you would reject him."
"What would you do? If he apologized?"
She dropped her gaze to the table, not answering.
"After all, it was just a mistake." Her gaze shot up. "I'm not condoning it or anything, but you should have seen him afterwards, 'Mione. He hated himself."
"Why are you sticking up for him?" She asked, going on the defensive. "You hate him. I'm surprised you haven't just turned away from me in disgust by now."
He folded his arms. "'Mione," he said gently, "I would never turn my back on you. You're my best friend. In addition to thickhead over there." He nodded his head to Ron, who was still silently yelling. "And Malfoy…," he took a breath. "He's not so bad, I suppose. Because he really loves you. You shouldn't let a stupid fight destroy that."
"It wasn't a stupid fight! It—," she closed her eyes. "Yes it was."
He nodded. "The whole argument started because he wanted to tell people, right?" She nodded mutely. "Why didn't you want anyone to know?"
She bit her lip, chewing on it gently. "I-I was scared, I think. I didn't know what you—or anyone else—would think and I…I didn't want you to hate me." She said, her voice small. He reached across the table, touching her wrist lightly and smiling at her.
"I don't hate you, 'Mione. Neither does Ginny. Neither will anyone else. Well…okay, maybe Pansy will," he amended at her sharp look. "But that doesn't really matter. Are you still afraid of everyone knowing?"
She took a breath, then slowly shook her head. "Not as much. I have you and Ginny."
"Can you forgive him for what he did, if he apologizes?"
"Good." He threw a look over his shoulder, catching Ginny's gaze and nodding. He turned back to Hermione. "Are you going to continue being miserable, or would you like to retake control of your life?"
She smiled a little, and her expression settled into resolve, frighteningly similar to Ginny's determined expression. Surveying it with interest, Harry decided that it had to be a girl thing. Hermione placed her palms flat on the table and pushed herself out of her chair, rising.
At the exact same time that Draco did.
The two stared at each other, the rest of the Great Hall focusing on them. Silence fell, as everyone waited for whatever would come next.
In unison, their movements as coordinated as ballerina dancers, the couple moved from their tables and walked towards the middle of the hall, meeting in almost the exact center between their two rival tables.
"Hermione," Draco said, his voice soft but carrying through the vast and silent hall, "I-I'm sorry."
Immediately the whispers broke out. After all, there were very few people in the world who had ever heard Draco Malfoy apologize. And apologizing to Hermione Granger, of all people? A few people braced themselves, sure that the apocalypse was going to come rushing down on them all.
"I should never have—I didn't mean too, it just slipped out and God, I'm so sorry."
She took a step forwards, moving into his personal space and placing a finger to his lips, the gesture intimate and, given the rather public sphere, scandalous. The whispers only intensified. "I forgive you." She said, and he closed his eyes. "It's okay, Draco. I forgive you. And I'm sorry for starting the fight."
He shook his head silently and then reached out, pulling her into his embrace. Her arms wrapped around him and they stood in the middle of the hall, the whispers rising like the tide. Each of them whispered—sorry, sorry, sorry—and then Hermione pulled back just the tiniest bit. She looked into his eyes—which were alive again, not dead, not glossy, not vacant—and smiled.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
And as their lips pressed together the whispers broke into shouts, like a wave cresting with a roar. They didn't hear any of it.
Hermione pulled back for breath, then stood on her tiptoes and whispered into Draco's ear. "Never do that again."
He smiled at her. "Yes, dear."
She slapped him lightly on the shoulder and leaned in for another kiss.
At the Slytherin table Ginny surveyed the spectacle with a self-satisfied smirk. Harry looked at her, a tiny grin on his lips, and simply shook his head. She dashed her way across the hall and settled into the seat next to him; he dropped his arm around her shoulders and she leaned in to him.
Ron screamed all the louder, wondering why no one was paying any attention to him.
Ginny looked at her brother out of the corner of her eye. "Silencing? I thought he cut off rather abruptly."
"Think we should unsilence him?" Harry asked, looking at the red-eared male Weasley.
Ginny shook her head. "Nope. Let him shout for a while. It's good for him." She turned her attention back to the middle of the Great Hall. "We did good." She stated, watching the couple as the professors tried to compose themselves enough to calm their students. "They'll be back to normal in no time, screaming at the top of their lungs and disrupting every single meal we have. I'll have to teach Hermione all the ways to get Malfoy to do whatever she wants him to do."
Harry looked at her fondly. "Troublemaker. I should warn Malfoy that he's about to be entered into lifelong slavery."
She grinned and gave him an innocent look. "What fun is that? Let him figure it out on his own. What would you have done if someone warned you?"
"I would have run as far away from you as I possibly could." He teased. She wrinkled her nose at him.
"As if you could get very far away from me. I'd follow you anywhere you went."
He grinned. "I wouldn't have it any other way, Gin."
And then there were two kissing couples in the Great Hall.
So...what did you think? Reviews are love, as always!