A/N: Don't own nothing.
Well, here is the last part. Try not to die of happiness. =P
The Skeleton in the Closet
In the last chapter…
In a small, contrite voice Hermione begged, 'Please say something.'
'Is that all what it was for you? A mistake?'
Expecting to hear Ginny explode, the quiet answer Hermione received was most disturbing. Especially considering it hadn't been Ginny answering her at all, but Malfoy.
All the blood in Hermione's face rushed to her feet, and she swayed into the side of the stall.
The slight crash jolted Hermione from her stupor. 'What the hell, Malfoy! Can't you read? The sign on the door clearly states that this is the women's washroom.' The words echoed off the walls, amplifying the hysteria in her voice and causing her to cringe.
'Answer the question, Hermione.'
Fine, if that's what he wanted.
'Yes, that's all it was for me. Nothing but a string of stupid, foolish mistakes. My stupidest mistake,' she said again, making sure she sounded convinced of her pronouncement.
The door to her stall opened, and Hermione nearly screamed. 'What if I had been on the toilet?'
'Then it would have been locked,' Malfoy said, matter-of-factly, joining her in the stall and closing it behind him. 'And you're lying.'
Ack! It was crowded in here. Her eyes darted about the tiny space, looking for a means of escape. She couldn't take a step back, otherwise her leg would touch the toilet, and she didn't much care for any kind of bodily contact with such a dirty, foul thing. But at this point she considered bodily contact with Malfoy equally toxic. In an act of compromise, she turned her back on him, facing the rear of the stall, hovering precariously between the two hazards.
'How would you know whether or not I'm lying? It's not like we ever really talked. You'd just haul me into a closet without even a by-your-leave and stick your tongue down my throat,' Hermione accused.
She screwed her eyes shut, willing him to disappear. After all, the very idea of Malfoy sharing a stall with her was ludicrous. Malfoy hated public restrooms with a passion, hence why they only met in supply closets and abandoned offices, though there were plenty of Ministry restrooms to be had. But however surreal this moment was in theory, the feel of him at her back, his hand on her hip, the scent of his cologne, was too real to ignore. Her traitorous body lurched towards him by force of a habit ingrained through months of meeting in tight places.
'That's not true,' he rasped against her neck. The impertinent cur! She pushed him away, squeezing by him as she burst out of the stall and rushed to the sink. Her hands gripped the counter, welcoming the way the hard edges dug into her palms.
After a few deep breaths, she lifted her head, catching her reflection in the mirror. There she was in all her glory. Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age, reduced to shedding tears over a selfish wanker in the women's toilets. Her life literally in the crapper.
When she'd let Malfoy first kiss her those many months ago, who could have predicted this outcome? Well, she had, for one, and if she had told anyone, they would have warned her away too. Hadn't she always entered the supply closets (when she actually needed something other than Malfoy) full of dread that he'd be there with someone else? Hadn't she opened every memo he sent, worried that he'd use the impersonal messages to put an end once for all to their special arrangement? In fact, the only times she'd truly felt at ease were when she was actually with Malfoy or had just left him.
Hermione Granger, you stupid idiot! Why didn't you listen to yourself! Why did you let your silly feelings override your common sense!
She leaned forward and glared at her reflection. The unflattering fluorescent lighting not only made her skin look sallow, but it highlighted the pinched, dissatisfied look of her mouth as well as the bags under her eyes, both products of a month of restless nights.
The sight was almost vindicating. After all, she deserved this. And what better place to finally have it all out than in a public restroom—the most fitting end for their tawdry beginning.
As if on cue, Malfoy strode out of the stall and stood behind her, spying on her through the mirror. 'You're a terrible liar.'
Hermione met his eyes in the mirror. 'Then let's have the truth. Zabini was right. Our meetings were scandalous and illicit. It was best that they ended when they did.'
Malfoy grimaced, but said nothing in return. For once, she felt no satisfaction from being right.
'Where are your accusations of lying now?'
Malfoy shook his head, pushing away the lock of hair that fell across his forehead by the movement. 'You didn't always think what we did was so disgusting. But then, how could you?' His fingers moved behind her head, toyed with one of the curls that had escaped her chignon. 'I was there. I know what happened. It wasn't illicit or scandalous. Farthest thing from it.'
She leaned against the counter, trying to get away from his quiet words and the gentle pull of his fingers. A small puddle of water that rimmed the sink soaked the front of her robes, making her shiver. Hermione wrapped her arms around herself.
'It sounds like we are remembering a very different event. You're probably confusing this with something you did with another girl.'
His hand moved to her neck, touching the soft skin of the underside of her jaw. In the past, it had always been a prelude to certain physical reactions—weak knees, fluttering eyelashes, and goosebumps—but Malfoy had always been too distracted to notice. Or so she thought. Her cheeks burned as he stroked his fingers down the length of her arm, running over her prickled flesh. 'Events, Hermione, not event. It happened more than once. And only with you.'
'In that case, maybe you can help me recall something.'
'That day we almost got caught, what was it you shoved me into—a desk or a filing cabinet? Because whatever it was, I hit it pretty hard.' Hermione laughed, rubbing the outside of her thigh. 'The bruise still hasn't faded.'
Draco's mouth fell open. Reflexively, he reached for the injured limb, but decided better halfway there, letting his hand fall limply at his side. 'I didn't know.'
Hermione waved away his 'apology.' The bruise hadn't actually hurt her. She knew it was an accident. The truly painful part happened after they left the office.
Hermione turned her head aside, tired of his scrutiny of her. 'Go away, Malfoy. Can't you see you're not wanted?'
'You don't mean-'
'Will you stop telling me how I feel? You don't even know me!'
'I know plenty.'
'Knowing how I like to be touched doesn't count,' Hermione scoffed, using her elbow to put some much needed space between them.
'Then what about your kindness? Or your sense of fairness?'
'Kindness and fairness. Wow, Malfoy, you sure know how to make a girl feel special!'
'You already have ample proof that I want you. You asked for evidence that I know you on a deeper level.'
'Things like that can't be determined from a kiss.'
'Not just a kiss, Hermione. A series of kisses that spanned the course of four months. And don't deny it.'
Deny it? If only. She'd been trying to for weeks, but no matter how hard she tried, remembrances would intrude.
'I take it from your silence that you agree.'
She shrugged her shoulders, pretending not to care. 'Think what you like, Malfoy. You always have, no matter my objections.'
Malfoy laughed snidely. 'What objections? You were always an eager participant in what we did.'
She moved to push him away, but he trapped her by the sink, locking his arms on either side of her. 'Merlin, Hermione, why do you have to be like this? You're driving me insane.'
'Don't try to pin that on me! You were barmy to begin with! Now get off of me.'
Malfoy moved his hands from the sink, wrapping them firmly around her waist when she started struggling against him. 'You're upset with me,' he said calmly, infuriating her all the more. 'A little anger is understandable given what you overheard, but you're acting childish.'
'I am not!'
'Oh, that's right. I only imagined that you ignored me this past month. I must have forgotten that time you let me explain myself, and we discussed this simple misunderstanding like two rational adults,' he said, each word wrapped in thorns.
'Maybe we should ask Blaise to remember for you.'
Malfoy scowled in the mirror.
'And for all your protests, you never once tried to contact me,' she added triumphantly.
Malfoy growled somewhere at the back of his throat, further tightening his arms around her. 'You lit all my memos on fire and sent me their charred remains. I never once saw you set foot outside your office. And when I tried to enter, you barred me by means of a rather vicious hex. My body hair has yet to grow back, in case you were wondering.'
'Of course you weren't, you bloodless shrew,' he said proudly, even affectionately.
'And that spell wasn't for you. There has been a rash of office theft. Someone keeps stealing my extra fine point quills. That is the only reason that spell was in place, so don't fancy yourself anything special.'
She could tell he didn't believe her. 'Alright, Hermione, it wasn't to avoid me. But since you just admitted to turning your office into a fortress against would-be quill thieves, please explain how I was supposed to contact you.'
'It's not my problem if you weren't intelligent enough to figure it out.'
'Ah, but I did figure it out,' he said, smiling grimly at her. 'I'm here now, aren't I?'
Hermione rolled her eyes. 'Unfortunately. Well, you have my undivided attention now…not that I have any choice in the matter,' she grumbled.
Malfoy placed his hands on her shoulders, turned her so she faced him. 'Good, because I want to make myself perfectly clear. I didn't mean a word of what I said to Sharon. The only reason I said that was because I thought you wanted to keep us a secret and that seemed the best way of doing it. Do you understand?'
No, she didn't understand that. Especially when, 'A simple "No, we aren't dating," would have sufficed.'
'Sharon would never have accepted that.'
'I don't bloody care what bloody Sharon Vernus bloody accepts.'
'She has the biggest mouth on the floor. If I couldn't convince her, she would have spread rumors about what we were doing.'
Hermione shook her head, persisting in the safety of her stubbornness. 'And I'm sure it had nothing to do with your fear of the department finding out you that enjoy snogging Mudbloods.'
'Don't say that,' he said, raising his voice.
It had been a low blow. Besides, she had other points of contention, all of them extremely valid. First off, 'You were scared your parents would find out about us and disown you.'
'You don't even know my parents.'
'I don't need to! You're a Malfoy. In what world would they ever be happy to discover their only son repeatedly sought the company of a Muggleborn?'
"Well, I didn't see you rushing to proclaim your association with me either. Why should I risk getting disinherited over a girl who only acknowledges me in closets and empty offices? A girl who uses me to prove to herself that she isn't the Office Swot and Spinster?'
'I wasn't using you! And I am happy with who I am, even if you treated me like something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe. And you…' her voice broke and she jerked away from him. 'You know I can't stand Sharon Vernus. Did you have to flirt with her right after you'd kissed me?'
'I didn't mean any of that!' he shouted.
'I don't care if you meant it or not! It hurt me!'
Malfoy pressed his lips together in a thin line. When he spoke again, he crisply informed her, 'If you listened to what I said, you would realize that I was actually telling her the truth.'
'That makes it even worse!' Hermione yelled and resumed her struggling.
'Hermione, now listen—ow, dammit, Granger!' She managed to get one good kick in before Malfoy clamped down on her flailing limbs. 'Think! Think about what I told Sharon.'
'Which part? When you said you couldn't stand to touch me? Or was it the bit about me being so pathetic no guy would ever like me? Or maybe that I'm boring, and that you want Shar—' Her voice cracked again. Oh gods, she couldn't even say it. She stopped struggling against Malfoy and hung her head in shame.
'Hermione,' he murmured, 'I said I couldn't be paid to touch you. Obviously I like touching you, very much. Why would I need to be bribed to do something I willingly do?'
Hermione took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes. When Malfoy pressed his lips to her temple, she didn't move away.
'And I didn't say you were pathetic, just that I couldn't picture a guy liking you. And it's true; the very idea of someone other than me liking you makes me want to destroy something. And we both know that you aren't boring. How could you believe I think you're boring? If you were, I wouldn't have kept coming back to you over and over.'
'But what about Sharon?'
Malfoy kissed her again, letting his lips linger by her ear. 'She is nothing but an ingratiating simpleton, and I have absolutely no physical interest in her whatsoever. Which is exactly why working with her would be productive. At least I'd be able to get work done. With you, I can't seem to trouble myself with anything so mundane as work.' He nuzzled her cheek with his nose, and Hermione almost smiled.
He must have seen the weakening in her armor. 'Tell me I'm forgiven,' he demanded.
Hermione chewed her lip. She wanted to forgive him, really she did, but…
'Gods, Granger, what is there to think about?' Malfoy snarled, letting go of her to pace the floor.
'Plenty. Your answer seems a bit too convenient.'
'Of course it does. It's the truth.'
Hermione rolled her eyes. 'And I'm supposed to believe that you wouldn't lie to me?'
'Alright, since you don't believe me, tell me what I should have done? Just kept kissing you when Sharon barged in? Let her blab to everyone about what we've been doing?'
'Yes!' she shouted.
Hermione slapped her hand over her mouth. Her admission was tantamount to saying she wanted a real relationship. That she actually liked him and not just making out with him. Maybe he would ignore it. Or like her, would be too insecure to assume that she wanted to be with him.
'Do you mean that?' Malfoy asked, his eyes intent as a snake's on its prey. He didn't wait for her answer. Striding over, he stopped just short of touching her. 'Because you are the only thing that makes working in that hellhole bearable. I don't want this to be over.'
'What is "this," Draco?' she gestured tiredly between the both of them. 'Do you even know what "this" is? Because I don't, and it drives me spare.'
Malfoy ran his hand over her arm, trying to soothe her. 'It's whatever we want it to be.'
Hermione's spirits sagged. If he just wanted a return to the status quo, she'd have to refuse. She needed more than random snogs between boxes of quills and spellotape. She deserved more than that, and so did Malfoy, whether he'd admit it or not. And even if he didn't want her the same way she wanted him, at least she'd know, right? No more agonizing over whether she could ring him up for a real date. No more wondering if she actually mattered to him.
'What if,' she mouthed, her voice deserting her. Swallowing, she tried again. 'What if we don't want the same things?' She forced herself to look at him, but she couldn't stop the tremors in her hands.
'Impossible,' he said fiercely, his grey eyes fixed on hers.
'Draco, that's not an answer.'
'I want everyone to know that you are mine, Hermione. Isn't that what you want?'
Her heart, such a broken and empty place since she'd turned her back on Draco, suddenly brimmed over with happiness. Her eyes welled up, and she had to blink back her tears. And her cheeks hurt from the width of her smile. Yes. That is exactly what she wanted, but if she spoke, she'd disgrace herself by crying. She'd been doing so well thus far, holding it all back. And she didn't want this to be the first time Draco saw her cry.
Before she could finish nodding her head, he'd swept her into his arms. 'Gods, Hermione.' The warmth in his voice did funny things to her heart; the pinched feeling in the bridge of her nose returned. Maybe it would be alright if she cried after all, because she wasn't sure how much longer she could hold her emotions in check.
He hadn't even kissed her and already she felt weak in the knees. So when he claimed her lips, she allowed herself to lean into him, letting his solid frame bear her up. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she laughed against his mouth as he lifted her onto the counter and continued kissing her.
Pulling back, she placed her hands on either side of his face. 'I missed you.'
Half of his mouth twitched upward, but without any of the smugness of his usual smirk. 'We'll have to fix that. For my part, I promise to never give you a moment's peace.'
Naturally, that set off her waterworks. Hermione roughly swiped at the treacherous tears that had managed to seep out the corner of her eye. 'Geez, Malfoy, we've haven't even been dating for three minutes and you're already making me cry,' she joked, trying to lighten the mood. 'Some boyfriend.'
Draco didn't answer, only kissed the rogue tears that had escaped Hermione's overzealous hand. Two on her cheek, one at the corner of her mouth. Just as she was about to apologize for being such a ninny, he pressed his lips to hers, rendering her speechless.
She greedily sank her fingertips into his hair, pulling a sigh from Draco's mouth. It had been so long, she'd forgotten how soft it was. And she was sure she'd forgotten other things too. Determined to reacquaint herself, she pulled him closer, locking her ankles behind his back.
'Well, I never!'
Huh? Hermione turned away from Draco's questing mouth and stole a glance over his shoulder. In the doorway stood an older woman, dripping in jewels and indignation. With a muttered curse, Hermione buried her face in Draco's neck.
'Good evening, Mrs. Haversham,' Draco answered cheerfully. He must have seen the woman's reflection in the mirror, because he hadn't moved from his place against the sink. Between her legs! When she told Draco she wanted others to know he was hers, this had not been what she meant. Hermione whimpered quietly in embarrassment and let her legs fall to either side of him.
Hermione stole a peek from her hiding place. The older woman blinked a few times, adjusting the spectacles on her face. 'Oh, is that you, Draco? I didn't recognize you with…' her lily white hand gestured to Hermione. Clearing her throat, Mrs. Haversham said, 'I trust your mother and father are in good health.'
Draco moved Hermione's arms from around his shoulders and turned to face the older lady. He leaned back against the sink, making it impossible for her to move. Lucky for everyone involved Hermione had decided to wear trousers to work today. Still, she made sure to poke him in the ribs.
'My parents are in excellent health, thank you.'
'I'm very glad to hear it. When I spoke with Narcissa last week, she was coming down with a ghastly migraine, poor dear.'
Draco made a sympathetic sound. 'She is subject to those from time to time. Thankfully father knows a spell that alleviates most of the pain.'
'Too bad he doesn't know how to change the weather. I'd wager all my galleons it's what caused her migraine in the first place. I can't remember the last time it was this windy.' Mrs. Haversham shook her head in disapproval.
'Neither can I. And you and Mr. Haversham? Have you been well?'
Merciful Morgana! Hermione understood not wanting to be rude, but this was ridiculous! Did Draco expect to conduct an entire conversation with her wrapped around him? She poked his ribs again, urging him to hurry things up with the old biddy.
'Oh, how kind of you to ask, Draco. Harold is well, but that's to be expected; he has the constitution of a hippogriff. As for myself, I've never felt better. I had been feeling under the weather, and your mother offered me some water she'd imported from Bulgaria; it comes from a hot spring that is heated by dragons. And you know how salamanders live in fire. Their blood has all sorts of magical properties, and it seeps into the hot springs, giving the water its curative powers. Ever since I had that water, I've never been better.'
'I'll make sure to let her know you enjoyed it.'
'Please do! And if you could, ask her the name of the water supplier. I forgot who it was.'
'Of course. Is there anything else you'd like me to pass along to my parents?'
'No, I think that's it.' The old woman covered her mouth and coughed daintily. 'Well, I suppose I'll leave you to your lady friend.'
'Good evening, Mrs. Haversham.'
'Good evening, dear.'
When the door shut behind Mrs. Haversham, Hermione leaned her face against his back and groaned.
'Come on,' Draco said encouragingly. 'That actually went rather well.'
'Are you serious? I thought she'd never leave!'
'Funny, that's what my mother always says when she visits the Manor.'
'Well, she must like her enough to give her specially imported Bulgarian dragon water. I can't imagine that's cheap.'
'What? Oh, that.' Draco chuckled. 'Actually, mum had the house elves serve her tap water. She only made up that other stuff because Haversham's a hypochondriac. '
'And the migraines?'
'Also made up. She only gets them when she wants to end one of Haversham's floo calls or visits.'
Hermione rested her head against the mirror. 'How long do you think before she tells your parents what she saw?'
'Why? Are you worried?'
Malfoy pursed his lips in disapproval. 'But you said you were alright with that.'
'With people knowing we're together, yes. With your mother and father learning that we made out in a bathroom, no.'
Malfoy shuddered. 'Ugh, I had forgotten where we were until then. Thanks for the reminder.' He took her hand and helped her off the counter, then turned to one of the sinks and began washing his hands. 'And as for my parents, I already told them about you a while back.'
Glancing over his shoulder, he asked, 'Why are you still standing over there?'
'I don't need to wash my hands. I didn't go to the bathroom. And what were you saying about your parents.'
'Humor me. Otherwise I will revoke your hair-touching privileges when we kiss.'
'You're not going to answer my question about your parents, are you?'
Hermione joined Malfoy at the sink, making sure to dry her hands on his robes when she finished. He shook his head at her immaturity, and she stuck her tongue out at the back of his head as she followed him to the bathroom door. Then almost ran into him when he suddenly stopped.
'What is it?' Hermione asked worriedly. It was too soon for cold feet, wasn't it?
'I don't want to touch the door.'
'Good grief, you're such a baby.' Hermione gave the door a shove, and stomped out of the room, nearly barreling into two witches who were just about to enter. They looked ready to yell at her, but then noticed Draco coming out after her. A look of embarrassment passed over their faces and both checked the door to make sure they hadn't accidentally walked into the men's room. Seizing the opportunity afforded by the witches' temporary confusion, Hermione and Draco slipped away.
Before they came in view of their table, Malfoy intertwined their fingers. Hermione's heart melted a little at the sweet gesture. But when she saw Malfoy smirk at a disappointed Patrick, she made sure to snatch her hand back.
As they approached their table, Ginny looked them over. Her eager, brown eyes did not miss a thing, certainly not Draco's un-tucked shirt or Hermione's rumpled hair. She looked about ready to burst with questions. And when they sat down, she made sure to ask every single one.
As for Blaise, he remained relatively quiet throughout Ginny's interrogation. He only pointed out that Ginny should have listened to him and not worried about Granger despising him two times. (After all, she's been making out with an ex-Death Eater for months. How could she object to me?). How Malfoy had stolen his relationship thunder four times. (I've been properly dating Ginny twice as long as you've been debauching Granger, and yet you'll be the featured couple in tomorrow's Prophet). And that Malfoy owed him a favor five times. (I'd originally selected Goyle as my token friend, but Malfoy begged me to tag along so he could see Granger. You should have seen him. On his knees, bawling like a drunken baby.)
Needless to say, when a rather forlorn Patrick had delivered their check, Draco looked about ready to kill Zabini. Thankfully he didn't have his wand; otherwise Hermione thought he would have done Blaise some real damage. The fingers of his wand hand twitched around hers as they stood up from the table. Still, they managed to make it to the exit without further incident.
As Hermione stepped outside into the cold evening, a wall of light burst before her eyes. Haversham or someone from the restaurant must have alerted the hounds. They stood right outside the restaurant, Quick-Quotes Quills at the ready, foaming at the mouth. Over the hubbub, she could only make out a small percentage of the questions. A blessing in disguise, really, for the questions she did hear were as invasive as Ginny's and twice as offensive. Taking a step back, she bumped into Malfoy. 'Seems we have company,' he said under his breath. 'You ready?'
Before she could answer, someone yelled out from the throng, 'Are the rumors true? Are you two dating?'
Hermione held out her hand to Malfoy. Taking it in his, he pressed his lips to her palm. A burst of light scattered around them, as dazzling as fireworks though most likely just the photographer's flashes.
Following Malfoy as he elbowed his way through the rabble, they were halfway down the street when they realized they had lost Zabini and Ginny. They turned back, only to find them answering the questions of the press. Or rather Zabini answering the questions of the press. As they edged closer to the other half of their double date, Hermione clearly heard Zabini say, 'Yes, I can verify that the rumor of Malfoy using the Ladies' toilet is 100 percent fact. Any other questions? Alright, you in the purple.'
'Forget about him,' Hermione said, extricating her hand from Malfoy's vise-like grip, 'I think it's time we went back to my place.'
Malfoy looked ready to argue, but then the import of her words must have finally made its way to his brain.
'Lead the way,' he said, nearly purring with contentment. As she pulled her wand out, he stood behind her, encircling her waist with his arms.
Wand in hand, she turned to him and offered a sweet smile. 'Since you told your parents about me, I think it's only fair my parents know about you.'
Draco's jaw dropped, and Hermione kindly shut it for him. 'There, there. I'm sure they'll love you.'
Draco's answer, a most lyrical stream of curses the likes of which had never graced human ears (both muggle and magical), was lost in apparation.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed. Now that this DMHG story demon has been exorcised, perhaps I can focus in on finishing my other stories. Thanks for reading.