Hermione slept restlessly, which showed plainly on her face as she trudged about campus the morning following her encounter with Draco. As soon as he'd left, the young witch had gone into the bathroom and taken a scalding shower after emptying the contents of her stomach; Hermione felt foolish and childlike. She chastised herself for being so naïve—for believing that things had changed between them that much—for abandoning logical thought and doing something that felt right. She saw where following emotions and hormones led her and hated herself for allowing it to occur.
Hermione had returned to her room after her final morning exam; she had nearly two hours before she was due to present in Transfigurations, and Hermione decided she would use the time to pack up her belongings in preparation for her departure that afternoon. She was glad the term was over, because she knew she'd never be able to forget what had happened in that room. She had no sooner unlocked the door and tossed her bag down when her phone chirped from the bedside table.
"Hello?" Hermione winced a bit; her voice was rough and thick. She knew Harry would demand to know what was wrong at once, and she was correct.
"What's wrong, Hermione?"
"Nothing," she lied feebly.
"Tell me this instant or I'll be over there in five minutes; you can't lie to my face, I know you better than that."
"Nothing, Harry," she insisted. "Just exam stress."
"Right," he said sarcastically before he hung up. He was standing in her room exactly five minutes later.
"You shouldn't have come."
Harry looked her over, noting how exhausted she appeared. "You look dreadful, and I insist that you tell me what's bothering you."
She hadn't meant to tell him. The words came gushing out along with a torrent of tears, and when Harry wrapped her in a firm hug she responded by sobbing harder.
"Don't hate me for this, Harry, please."
He smoothed her hair back, smiling lightly when it sprung back into place immediately. "Why would I hate you?"
"Because I—with Malfoy," she said miserably.
"That part of your life is none of my concern," he told her adamantly. "But he's hurt you, and if you give the word, I'll kill him."
She looked into her friend's face, realising that he was perfectly serious. "Don't bother," she said ruefully, "I imagine he's drowned himself in the shower already—shame from touching a mudblood and all that."
A quirk of Harry's lips told her that he was suppressing a smile, but it did not last long. His expression turned very serious and he looked to her, "I really, really don't want to ask you this," he hedged. "But were you safe?"
He watched the small frown on her face turn to an expression of unmasked anguish; he had his answer. She broke down again, curling into herself as the tears poured down her pale face. He tried to soothe her, stroking her hair and murmuring nonsensical words into her ear. Harry Potter could never have imagined this situation occurring—Hermione Granger sobbing uncontrollably because in a fit of pique…in a fit of unprotected pique…she'd slept with Malfoy, given him her virginity and had her heart broken.
"When are you going home?" he asked her.
"I'm supposed to go this afternoon," she answered with a great sniffle. "How am I going to face my mum? I'm a complete mess—one look at me and she'll know something is terribly wrong and I'm afraid that she'll ask and I'll spill the whole thing out to her."
"You could stay with me."
Hermione gave a weak smile, "I'd rather face my parents than face Ron. He won't be nearly as understanding as you were, Harry." She paused for a moment. "Thank you."
"Anything for a friend, right?" Hermione had bent to dab her eyes with a tissue; she didn't see the tightness in Harry's face or the slightly pained look in his eyes.
"I'd better get my things packed, I plan on leaving immediately after Transfigurations."
Harry nodded, "You'll have to see him again, then. Be strong, present your project and get out of there, all right? The less you see of him, the better."
Hermione agreed. She hugged Harry, who promised he'd look in on her that evening at her parent's house. Thankful for being a witch, Hermione had all of her belongings packed into a magically expanded truck, which she used a charm to shrink before tossing it into her school bag. With one last, final look at the room, Hermione closed the door and set off to Transfiguration.
Draco's heart stopped when she entered the classroom and made her way to the seat next to him. She sat, took out the materials she would need along with the formal draft of their paper to hand in, and she didn't say a word. He could tell she'd been crying, and he knew he had caused every tear she'd shed. Professor Trumbull bustled into the classroom moments later and waved his wand at the blackboard, revealing the presentation order; Hermione and Draco were set to present third.
Draco sat through the first two presentations, though he had no idea if they were good—he wasn't paying a lick of attention. His mind was occupied with thoughts of the witch next to him and with his own guilt and self-chastisement. When light applause startled him, he chanced a look at her, noting that she was gathering her things and moving to the head of the room.
He spoke first, detailing their project and its outcome, and then Hermione took over, giving a truly fantastic presentation of their experimentation and conclusions. Her voice had been clear and strong and he couldn't help but admire her strength in what was obviously a trying time. Hermione and Draco were easily able to answer the questions from both the professor and their peers; when hearty applause sounded through the classroom both students breathed a sigh of relief.
Once the classroom had become silent once more, Professor Trumbull gazed at the pair of students gathering their things. His eyes held something akin to admiration, and when he commended them on overcoming their differences and learning to work together on such an exemplary project, Draco noticed Hermione's lower lip had begun trembling the slightest bit. She quickly crammed her things into her bag and fled the classroom, causing everyone to look at Draco in confusion. Gritting his teeth and quickly making a choice, he dashed after her, ignoring the whispers from the other students.
He skidded into the hallway, looking both left and right wondering which way she'd gone. Not seeing her and chancing a guess that she'd gone toward the residence hall, he ran full speed in that direction. He'd reached her room and flung the door open, expecting to find her there; he found a deserted room that held absolutely no indication that she'd ever been there. Sighing in frustration and running a hand through his mussed hair, he headed to his own room in order to pack. He, too, was going home for Christmas, and he dreaded the atmosphere in the austere manor. In that moment, Draco had every reason to believe that this would be the most miserable Christmas he'd ever had, and he knew Hermione Granger's wouldn't be any better.
Hermione had left the classroom and immediately headed to an apparition point nearby; within a minute she was standing in her old bedroom at her parent's home in Manchester. She sank onto the bed, still covered in her favourite faded blue duvet…Hermione thought she would never feel well enough to face her parents.
Helen Granger had no idea her daughter had come home, so when she passed down the hallway carrying a pile of freshly laundered towels, she nearly shrieked when she saw her daughter sprawled across her bed.
Hermione bolted upright at the sound of her mother's voice, "Mum!"
"When did you get here? What on earth is the matter with you, dear? You look terrible."
"I've been here less than five minutes, and I'm just tired, mum—exam stress."
Helen looked at her daughter, scepticism evident on her face. "Exam stress? That's all? You've never cried over your exams before." At her daughter's questioning look, Helen explained.
"You look as if you've been crying for days. So don't give me that exam stress rubbish; tell me what's wrong. I'm your mother, Hermione—you can tell me anything."
"Really, mum. I'm just tired. I was up very late last night making final revisions on my Transfiguration presentation. I need a good night's sleep and a decent meal and I'll be fine. I promise."
Helen nodded, turning to the door she told Hermione, "Dinner won't be ready for another two hours, so you just have a nap, alright?" The woman was fairly certain her only child was withholding something important.
Hermione reclined on her childhood bed, feeling ridiculous for being such a mess in front of her mother. When she awoke some time later, it was to find Harry Potter tying her hair in knots.
"Untie every one of them, or I'll do you bodily harm," she growled. Harry laughed and cast a charm to unsnarl her hair. "What are you doing here, Harry, and why couldn't you let me sleep—I hardly slept at all last night…"
"I told you I would look in on you," he said airily. "And I've brought you something." He produced a phial of lilac coloured potion, which she took hesitantly. "Drink up," he commanded.
She sat up, straightening her jumper and looking at the phial curiously. "Not until you tell me what it is, what it does, and where you got it."
"It's a contraceptive potion meant to be taken up to seventy-two hours after the fact, and I bought it from a reputable apothecary, so drink it now, or I'll stun you and pour it down your throat."
Harry's voice sounded oddly forceful to Hermione, but she knew he had her best interest at heart. She did as he'd told her to and tossed back the potion in two gulps. Immediately pulling a face she said, "Really, Harry, that's the foulest potion I've ever had."
"Hopefully this will be the only time you ever need it."
The silence between them was rather uncomfortable, which was unusual for the pair of them.
"What are your plans for Christmas?" she asked hesitantly.
"I'll be at The Burrow, of course. I couldn't go elsewhere if I wanted to. Ron said Ginny's been practically floating about the house."
Hermione snorted, "President of The Harry Potter Fan Club."
The dark haired wizard looked at her darkly, "Hermione—what are you going to do about Malfoy?"
The question caught her off guard, "Uh, about Malfoy? Nothing. I mean, what could I do?"
"You could try speaking with him—maybe owling him."
"No," she said quickly. "I'm not desperate and this is for the best. I'm not deluded enough to think I have a future with him. What I did was reckless, but I won't continue to be so stupid where he's concerned."
"Good," Harry said firmly. "I think it's for the best. I'm sorry you've been hurt, but I'm glad you'll be able to move on." He hugged her before dragging her down to dinner, which Helen had insisted upon.
"Hermione, it's Christmas Eve!" Helen Granger protested when her daughter said she didn't feel like joining her parents in their visit to their office Christmas party.
"I'm sorry, mum. I know you want me to go, but I don't feel up to it."
"You and I are going to have a talk when I come home," Helen said exasperatedly.
Hermione nodded and stalked off to her room. She knew she was being unreasonable, but she didn't feel well. She didn't feel like plastering a fake smile to her tired face and pretending that things were perfect; things weren't perfect, not by a long shot. She was trying valiantly to put the episode with Malfoy behind her, and she had been doing fairly well until she'd received an owl from him the day before. The large eagle owl had delivered the letter and she'd felt her nerves frazzle immediately. When she inspected the letter, finding D. Malfoy as the sender, Hermione tossed the letter on her desk and refused to open it.
Sinking onto her bed and irritably snatching up the book she'd been reading earlier, Hermione, hoping that the distraction would keep her from bursting into tears or a fit of temper, lost herself in the words printed before her.
Snapping her head up, she realised that she'd nodded off. A glance at her clock revealed the time to be nearly nine o'clock—she'd only been dozing for about half an hour. Relieved that she hadn't slept the entire evening away, Hermione set off down the stairs toward the kitchen for a snack, though she only made it halfway before the doorbell chimed throughout the house repeatedly. Assuming it was Harry and Ron—for Ron was fascinated with the doorbell—she pulled the door open without hesitation and nearly leapt out of her skin when she recognised the man at the door.
Draco Malfoy stood before her, clad in dark trousers and a woollen pea coat. He was shivering, and had spots of pink on his cheeks from the cold. Hermione moved from the doorway allowing him entrance; he moved forward at once, eager to escape the cold.
Hermione wanted to demand that he explain his sudden appearance, she wanted to shout at him, she wanted to run and lock herself into her bedroom, she wanted to slap him, and she wanted to cry. She did none of these things, but merely stared at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. He didn't. He unbuttoned and shed his coat, producing from it a folded letter, which he passed to Hermione. Forcing herself not to snatch it from him, she took it placidly, unfolding the parchment and scanning its contents, eyes widening in shock when she took in its meaning.
"Published?" she muttered weakly, falling onto the settee.
He nodded, but didn't smile or look the least bit happy. He'd submitted their article to Transfiguration Today—the industry's foremost authority on innovative Transfiguration in the wizarding community—and they had sent Draco a letter straightaway informing him that the article he'd worked on with Hermione Granger would be published in the February edition.
"Thank you for telling me," she said after a moment. "But an owl would have sufficed—you didn't need to come all this way."
"I did send an owl. The letter hasn't been opened, and Manchester isn't far at all when you're apparating."
Hermione felt her cheeks flame; she should have opened the letter, but her wounded pride prevented her from doing so. "I—"
"I didn't expect you to read the letter," he said, interrupting her as he moved to sit across from her in an armchair. "I expected you to destroy it."
"We need to talk about this."
Her stomach dropped; she would probably never be prepared to discuss that particular topic with him—certainly not so soon. "Er…"
"An inarticulate Hermione Granger?" Draco asked in a mocking tone.
"Talk, Malfoy," she snapped irritably. "And then leave, I won't have you ruining my Christmas."
She noted that he truly seemed stung by her words. "I'm sorry for what happened." Her breath caught in her chest even as the tears began to brim in her eyes. "That's not what I meant," he amended in a rush, "I'm sorry I left without an explanation. I'm sorry that I left at all."
"Why did you?" she demanded harshly, though the fierce effect she was attempting failed when her voice broke and tears spilled over her lashes.
"Because I was shocked and frightened—I didn't expect to march into your room and—well, it was unexpected. And then I realised you'd never…I felt guilty and then it was over and you looked at me and you looked so hopeful."
"You're sorry for hurting my feelings?"
"Is that all?"
"No!" he growled in frustration. "You're going to make me spell it out, aren't you? I care for you, you silly bint! I've been miserable for a week—my mother threatened to hex me if I didn't sort myself out! I jinxed Pansy because she told me I was pining for you!" He had begun pacing and running his hands through his hair in frustration. "I told my father I care for you!"
That had shocked Hermione...well, all of it had, really. But Draco telling Lucius Malfoy that he cared for her was simply preposterous.
"He thought you'd bewitched me," Draco continued rambling. "He hauled out every text on spell detection and love potion antidotes he could get his hands on. When his revealing spells failed to turn up anything he actually threatened to send me to St. Mungo's! He thinks I've gone mad. I have gone mad. Merlin, Granger, what have you done to me?"
As he continued to pace, she snatched his arm and pulled him onto the settee next to her. "You're making me dizzy," she said by way of explanation.
"That's all you have to say?" he asked, bewildered.
Hermione snorted, "What would you have me say? That I've been miserable since that night? That I hate you? That I…sod it all," she hissed. "You knew that night that I loved you! I nearly told you right then, standing in that freezing room with a sheet wrapped about me! Do you know how ridiculous I felt?"
He silenced her by crashing his lips to hers; Draco couldn't help but wish she'd been that easy to shut up when they were at Hogwarts.
"Do you forgive me?" he asked when they'd broken apart.
"Are you going to do anything to make me miserable in the near future?" she shot back.
"Not to my knowledge, no."
"I suppose I forgive you, then," she sniffed.
He took her hand as they sat side-by-side on the settee. Minutes passed in comfortable silence and Hermione tilted her head, leaning on Draco's shoulder. "I've missed you, you shrew."
She sighed, "I've missed you too, you arrogant prat."
Hermione's mother ambled through the front door in that moment, leading Hermione's father—who had obviously indulged in one too many eggnogs—along by the arm. She glanced at her daughter before turning toward her husband and sending him up the stairs where he would fall asleep across the bed. Turning back to her only child, Helen Granger approached the couple, coming to stand before them with her hands on her hips.
"I take it you'll be more pleasant tomorrow?"
"I would imagine so, yes," Hermione said flatly. Draco's lips quirked upwards, obviously his mother wasn't alone in her annoyance.
Helen turned her gaze to him, "The Transfigurations partner, I presume?"
"Yes, ma'am. Draco Malfoy."
Helen's eyebrows shot to her hairline—she had heard several stories about the young man before her from Harry, Ron, and even her own daughter…none of the stories reflected the blonde in a positive light. Resisting the urge to laugh at her daughter's fickleness, Helen excused herself to attend to her husband.
"I believe the worst is over," Draco said on a sigh. "Our families are aware of the situation…though I hope your mother won't want to have my mother over for tea."
"I'll make sure she doesn't develop such a notion," Hermione said with a snicker. The idea of Narcissa Malfoy having tea with Helen Granger was positively laughable. When Hermione let her thoughts drift to visions of her father playing golf with Lucius Malfoy she was unable to help the laughter from bubbling forth. "You think the worst is over?" Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow once she'd settled down. Draco nodded and she patted his hand sympathetically. "We've still got to tell Ron."
Draco's knuckles went white even as his eyes grew stormy. Hermione's laughter rang through the sitting room; both teens thinking that perhaps their Christmases wouldn't be so terrible after all.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related trademarks belong to J.K. Rowling. I am not attempting to seek profit from the use of said trademarks, nor infringe upon copyrights held by the author and various publishers.