Author's Note: I don't own HP. For everyone's info, I took out the lyrics throughout this piece because I don't think they add too much to the story. The song that went with this chapter is "Fully Alive" by Flyleaf.
Draco Malfoy was alive. He could feel again. Blood coursed through his veins at an alarming rate, mixing slowly but forcefully with adrenaline. And all it took was one look into those large brown eyes and the air was not knocked from him, rather, it was knocked into him, as though fresh air had been forced through his lungs and his eyes had been opened. He was possessed. His body was no longer his. It was a vessel through which his mind unraveled. He was no longer walking from class, he was floating. Floating on the air she had pressed into and out of him.
He wanted this strange feeling to last. At the same time, he wished it away. It was not real, he kept telling himself. He could not feel this for the woman. Not without tarnishing his family's reputation and destroying all he had worked for. However, it was there. And she knew. She knew. He could not fathom how, but the damned little witch knew about it. He had simply sat in his usual seat in Potions, directly across from her and who he considered the lesser two of the Golden Trio. Throughout the class, he remained concentrating on his cauldron, ignoring the Three as per usual, at least usual for this year. In years past, he would have taken advantage of the seating arrangement to harass all three of them, but this year, he simply did not have the energy. The War left him drained and colder than before, to the point he even ignored his housemates.
He could not ignore the Head Girl, try as he might have. Sharing the same living quarters left him bereft of any will to destroy her, even as he attempted to convince himself to do the Dark Lord's bidding. But, to Draco, killing Hermione Granger was like destroying every specimen of an endangered flower, gorgeous and filled with knowledge, and he had no right to pluck it from the ground. It went against all principle of blood and status, but he had grown fond of her over the last few months.
Maybe it was the way she always smelt of cinnamon and apples. Maybe it was her neatness and cleanliness. Or maybe it lay deeper then the superficial layer of her gentle beauty. He acknowledged crushingly her chestnut curls that had long since been devoid of their crazed messiness and her gently slender frame, and tried to wipe the images from his mind. It was wrong to see her this way, wrong to think that someone of the lowest dirty blood could be so crave-able. And yet there she sat, a mere six feet from him, chewing her quill and clutching her potions book as though it were her only protection from the slew of insults both Snape and Pansy threw at her each class. Indeed, she seemed poised either for attack or escape, her stance in the chair unnatural, as she sat at the extreme edge of her seat, one foot forward for leaping, one flat for control.
He was unsure as to when he had begun to notice the slight Gryffendor, he was only sure of the fact she seemed stuck in his head permanently. Something about her made her unforgettable to him. And a small part of him wondered if there was no irony in his-dare he say it- falling for her. The lion with the snake, the green with the red, the evil with the good; there was no proper fit for this in the world.
All that remained clear to him, was that she somehow felt the same way.
Draco tousled his white-blond hair as he peered in the mirror at his pale white face. Yes, it was obvious to everyone, that he had grown much paler over the moving months. His involvement in the War was evidently taking a toll on him. How does Dumbledore not see that I cannot go on? How can he expect me to live through this?
He paced his dormitory, his head in his hands, pressing his hair flatter against it,in a way, holding in his sanity. This could not go on. He could not handle everything that was being thrown at him. He was not a good Legilimens, and yet he was forced to meet with the members of the Dark Order just as he met with Dumbledore to exchange information. It was hard to remember to never think about what he heard in the confines of Dumbledore's quarters, and to never give the wrong information to either side. It was hard to sneak away when he was required, to slip into the Room of Requirement and through the small wardrobe closet to his father. It was harder still to meet the demands of his schoolwork, which had as of yet been increasing in difficulty.
As an errant thought, he wondered how the other students were managing to keep up. He for once could sympathize with the complaints of the Trio's male members, who through not lacking in brawn or determination, nor even in intelligence, they lacked the abilities Hermione was adept at utilizing, and often came to her for aide. He had no friends like that, as Crabbe and Goyle were the least likely specimens of intelligence within Slytherin House, and while Blaise was a good friend as well as dependable, he had no patience for such matters. Pansy, while good for a caress and concern, was rather dull and held no interest in anyone's schoolwork past the point of barely managing her own. She relied on using her "goods" to get ahead, and the only male who dared be only friends with her; excepting himself, happened to be Blaise, and that was hardly and endearing couple. Not to mention the humiliation of admitting that although he was Head Boy, sharp-witted, knowledgeable, curious and hard-working; even he could use a study partner would just about destroy any amount of respect anyone from the other Houses contained.
So where did that leave him?
He, Draco Malfoy, was nothing more than a pathetic creature, corrupted and cruel to the bone; and everyone seemed to know and believe this. It irritated and hurt him, at the deepest depth of his heart that he was exceptionally guarded around those he called friends, and genuinely hated by most everyone aside from them. She was the only one who knew the real him these days, and he couldn't fathom her fascination. If he found himself to be as ugly-souled as he did, how could she find the good in him?
Sighing, he took up his bag and coat, and headed off to Transfiguration. Before he got out of the common room, Granger came hurtling through the door, and straight into him.
"Oi! Watch where you're going Granger," he said as she brushed past him.
"Oh, I apologize I guess, Malfoy," the way she said his name made his stomach roll. She said it with so much animosity, that it surprised him. What had happened to their truce? Where had the friendliness gone? Had something changed? She reached the top step of the staircase to her room, and paused. He was about halfway through the door, when she spoke again. "I really am sorry," she whispered.
He sighed and just as the portrait closed behind him, he replied just loud enough for her ears to catch it, "I know."
Hermione threw herself on her four-post bed as soon as the portrait swung close, Malfoy's blond head disappearing through it. The tears came easily, flowing from her brown eyes like a small waterfall, soaking her pillow cover. How on earth were they going to make it through this? Their old habits crept up upon them, now and then, and it seemed the strongest thing between them was their delicate emotions and their ability to hurt the other. She could remember the September evening when she had crept quietly into the dorm well past midnight, after an "adventure" with Harry and Ron,and had accidentally trodden on a hunched over Draco, laying by the bathroom floor. He had thrown up all over, and seemed to have fallen asleep from utter exhaustion. She had done the only thing she could do: levitated him to his bed, scourgified all the remnants of sick, and pretended nothing had happened the next morning. At the time, she had been hoping he would never mention it, and for a few days, she was sure nothing had changed. In fact, nothing had, except she found herself watching the wizard more closely.
For a while, he had taunted her when they had first moved in, but within three weeks, he had ceased every derogatory term in his vocabulary, and instead had taken to ignoring her, or simply accepting her presence in the common room. The most he seemed to be able to conjure up was a hateful tone in his utterance of her last name. That simply had no real effect on Hermione, as she went out of her way to avoid him out of habit.
But, eventually, she grew aware that something was troubling the Head Boy. It was plain to her in that his eyes had lost their sparkle, his hair was more lackluster than she could ever recall seeing it as so, and he seemed thinner than usual. Even Harry had noticed the subtle changes in him, commenting on Malfoy's performance in Quidditch one October night at dinner.
"What a victory, Harry," Ron had exclaimed upon sitting at the table. "We really killed Slytherin this time."
"I would agree, except that they hardly were playing up to their usual standards."
Hermione cut in as soon as a sandwich had found Ron's mouth. "How do you mean, Harry? They still gave you hard game, as usual."
"What I mean is, a few of them were slower than I expected. Malfoy's reflexes aren't what they used to be. The snitch came so close to him many times, and he barely made a move for it. Do you remember when I caught it and we won? He seemed half-hearted, distracted, really. He was nearly on the other side of the pitch, and he didn't even make the dive for it as he normally would." Hermione had met his eyes, then looked back at the food in front of her. He was right, she decided. Something was definitely off about him.
Now, she rolled over. Why was she so overcome with cruelty just now in the common room? There was no answer, except in that they had had a falling out the night before. He was not being honest with her, and she had called him on it. She couldn't say what was worse: her desire for knowing what he was hiding from her, and he was hiding something; or the immediate guilt and regret she had felt as he had stormed from the room and slammed his door behind him. She had not heard another word from him the whole night, and had not had the guts to knock on his door and apologize. Then, this morning, she had not seen him at breakfast, and hoped that by Potions, he would be alright with her apology.
Sighing, she opened her Potions book, overturned the picture of them she kept hidden from her friends within its pages, and started her homework.
Attn: Well how's that for a first chapter? Reviews please.