Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I'm just having some fun with the characters.
Moments to Build On
"The essay on Regrowth Potion is rather difficult, don't you think?"
Draco looked up from his own essay. The bushy haired Gryffindor who had taken up with Potter and Weasley was settling into the seat across from him. He looked around the library. There were plenty of empty tables. Why was she sitting with him?
"What are you doing?" he asked, figuring it was about the same question and also got across that he did not want her here.
She wasn't fazed by his icy tone and began setting up her parchment and books.
"Being friendly," she said. She laced her fingers together atop the table and met his eyes. "Don't you think it's silly? That you hate all of us just because of our house and because your father and Ron's don't get along? Being a Gryffindor or a Slytherin isn't everything and I'm certain you are no more a carbon copy of your father than Ron is of his. So," she finished, holding her hand out to him, "friends?"
Draco stared at her hand, then slowly lifted his eyes to hers. It took nearly a minute for the light in her eyes to dim, for her hand to drop to her lap and her shoulders to slump. Draco rolled up his parchment, flipped his book shut, and stuffed both into his bag. He stood, stopping beside her chair so that he could loom over her when he said, "I have plenty of other reasons to hate you."
"How is the Weasel doing?"
Hermione stopped in the middle of the deserted hallway. Her eyes closed and she counted silently to ten. She'd developed the habit when she was little and all she knew was that occasionally bad things happened when she was exceptionally mad. She'd had theories back then but magic had been low on the list and she was often too busy reading ahead for school to spend much time worrying over it.
She let two seconds tick by after reaching ten before she turned. Draco Malfoy deserved a count of twelve at least.
She was happy to see he was alone. Being a girl, she doubted Crabbe and Goyle would touch her but they were still intimidating.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" she asked, matching him scorn for scorn.
He put on an innocent smile that wouldn't have fooled anyone. "I just wanted to know if Weasley was all right? That was quite a hex he cast on himself." Malfoy couldn't help the gleeful sneer that formed as he said the last words.
"Malfoy," Hermione said slowly, stepping up until they were toe to toe. "I can forgive you for calling me the worst possible name you could think of. But I will not let you make fun of my friends, especially when they could have been seriously hurt. Remember, I've read ahead in every class we take and my wand isn't broken."
"Stop it!" Granger cried, slamming her fists down on the desk. The inkwell jumped and several black drops fell across her parchment.
Draco bit his lip, trying to hold back laughter. It wasn't that he cared about her feelings, he just knew that the sooner he broke out laughing, the sooner she would leave and he wouldn't be able to enjoy tormenting her any longer.
"You are not stupid! You're more than capable of doing this work!"
Draco lifted his bandaged arm.
"Oh, don't give me that!" she snapped. "You may not be able to write, but you can at least come up with half-decent answers. I know you're good at Potions, so stop faking or I'll-"
"You'll what?" he asked coldly. "Go tell Professor Snape you refuse to do the job he put to you? How well do you think that'll go over?"
She looked at him like he was a particularly disgusting bug, never taking her eyes off him as she pulled a new roll of parchment from her bag. She unfurled it with an audible snap and held it up so he could see.
"This is the last piece of parchment I will waste on your homework," she said. "If you rethink something, I will cross it out, which means the less forethought you put into your answers the worse this essay will look. Snape may get mad at me but he'll think your thought process is horrible and since you're his favorite student there's every chance he'll decide you need some extra help."
Draco's eyes widened. He liked Snape, but not enough to risk one-on-one tutoring sessions with the man.
"Fine," he grumbled and began reciting the essay as he wanted it written. He was mildly disappointed when she was fast enough to start writing that she didn't have to ask him to back up.
A strangled gasp pulled Hermione back to reality. She bit her tingling lip and turned her head into Viktor's shoulder, trying to hold back an embarrassed giggle.
"Ah, Draco!" Viktor said warmly and Hermione pulled back from him in surprise. Like her own name, Viktor couldn't quite pronounce Malfoy's right. His accent hardened the second syllable, making the boy sound like some fictional villain. It was oddly fitting.
"Malfoy," Hermione said, nodding as amiably as she could. She should have expected this. Viktor had pulled her into an empty hallway in the dungeons. It was surprising it had taken this long for them to be found by a Slytherin. Too bad it had to be this Slytherin.
Malfoy returned her gesture and quickly focused on Viktor. "Karkaroff is looking for you," he said stiffly.
"Ah! I am late for our meeting!" Viktor cried. He turned to Hermione with an apologetic smile.
"It's all right," she said quickly.
"I do not want to leave you alone."
Hermione laughed. One of the things she liked best about Viktor was his sense of chivalry, so rare in boys today; but really, she didn't need walking back to her common room every day.
"I'll be fine," she said, patting his chest comfortingly.
Viktor ignored her assurances, a resolute glint appearing in his eyes. He looked to Malfoy.
"Draco?" he asked. "May I ask a favor of you?"
Hermione tried to catch Malfoy's eye but he was still ignoring her presence. He nodded and Hermione held back a moan.
"Would you escort Hermy-own-nee to her room?"
Malfoy looked shocked for a fraction of a second before covering it up with his usual cool mask. "Of course," he said, offering Hermione his arm.
She took it, trying not to wince when her hand came into contact with his sleeve. She said her goodbyes to Viktor and let Malfoy lead her around the corner.
"All right," she said, pulling away the second they were out of Viktor's sight, "enough of that." She hurried down the hall, only to realize Malfoy was close on her heels. "If you're planning on mocking me about being caught with my boyfriend, don't, Malfoy. I'm not in the mood."
His spine stiffened and he didn't quite look at her while he forced himself to answer. "Krum asked me for a favor and I said I would do it."
Hermione stared at him for several long seconds before nodding slowly. "Okay."
They fell into step beside one another and Hermione tried not to think of Malfoy and chivalry in the same sentence.
"I'll do your homework," she said.
Draco ignored her, keeping up his steady pace as he dragged her down the hall.
"For a month."
He kept going.
He didn't even pause.
That got him to stop. He smirked down at her, not loosening his firm hold on her arm.
"What?" she asked, confused.
"I wasn't aware Muggles knew the magic word."
Her head fell back and she gave a pained sigh. Her eyes closed and her lips moved slowly, silently forming words he couldn't read. He cocked his head to the side, wondering just what she was doing. When she finally lifted her head and looked at him he raised one eyebrow in question.
"I'm counting to dispel my anger."
"I thought it was customary to count to ten," he said. "That was nearly thirty seconds."
"You're special,"she said. Her sneer was derisive enough to give even Pansy a run for her money.
He grinned. "It's nice to know you alter your usual patterns to accommodate me."
She looked away from him, dismissing his dig.
"I'm still taking you to Umbridge." He gave a tug and she put her hand over his on her arm.
"No! Malfoy! Wait!"
"You have nothing to offer me," he said, pausing to give her a sneer of his own. Pansy, she might beat, but it would take years of practice before she could best him. "What do you honestly think you could say that would make me let you go?"
She bit her lip, eyes darting about in search of an answer to her problem. Finally, her eyes met his. They widened and he frowned, wondering why she was suddenly fearful. Suddenly her eyes darkened resolutely. The next second her lips were on his.
A million thoughts hit him at once and came crashing to an immediate halt. Hermione Granger was kissing him. Hermione Granger was kissing him!
And he didn't hate it.
He barely had time to form that thought when she was gone, rushing down the hall. He'd let go of her arm, he realized dumbly.
"Thank you, Malfoy!" she called brightly over her shoulder. Draco barely heard her. He didn't move from his spot for a solid five minutes.
Hermione dropped her near-bursting book bag on the library table across from Malfoy. Memories of first year painfully clear in her mind, she spoke before he could.
"I don't know why, but for some reason you've been distracted all year. Your grades are slipping which means your Prefect status is in jeopardy and, loathe as I am to admit it, I'd rather deal with you than one of the other Slytherins who may well be worse. The enemy you know and all that. So you are going to accept my study help whether you like it or not. All right, Malfoy?"
He blinked up at her, grey eyes distant as if emerging from a dream. He really was out of it these days. It was just as well. If he were his normal self he'd probably ask why she was really doing this, because of course Nott and Zabini were both nicer than he was. Neither had ever called her names or even spoken five words together to her.
She pulled out her books, noting where he was in his Transfiguration essay and ignoring the several finished essays sticking out of her bag. She pointed out a place where he could expand his thoughts more and he began editing.
She rested her chin on her hand while she watched his perfect scrawl flow over the paper. She'd already finished every piece of homework for the next month. It was hard no to be an overachiever when she couldn't bring herself to go back to Gryffindor Tower. Ron would be there. With Lavender. It hurt too much to see them together.
Her eyes strayed up to Malfoy's face. She'd kissed him last year. It hadn't been much of a kiss but it hadn't been the horrible experience one liked to think kissing their sworn enemy would be.
"Stop it," he said so quietly she almost didn't hear.
Hermione blinked, startled out of her thoughts.
"Stop what?" she asked, looking to his essay.
"Stop thinking about - last year."
Her cheeks heated and her eyes focused on the memory rather than the parchment before her.
"Do you ever?" she asked. "Think about it, I mean."
His hand clenched around his quill until his knuckles turned white.
"I'm sorry. I know you hate me and it was probably the worst thing I could have done to you. Let's just-"
He stood so fast his chair nearly tumbled over. He grabbed her arm much as he had the year before and dragged her back into the stacks, deeper and deeper until they reached the rarely used Fiction section. He spun her around and slammed her into the shelves, his lips meeting hers.
It was nothing like last year - he had been frozen in shock then - and nothing like her only other kissing experience: Viktor. He had always been gentle, almost afraid he might break her. Malfoy - she supposed she should call him Draco since they were snogging in a dark corner of the library and all - was demanding. Everything from his hands on her arms, her hips, her throat to their tongues tangling around one another was a competition. She wasn't about to lose, especially not to Mal- Draco.
She grabbed his shoulders, rubbing her hands back over them but stopping just short of wrapping her arms around his neck. Instead she trailed her hands down his front, pulling apart the folds of his robe and finding his belt. She didn't undo it - she wasn't that kind of girl - she only gave it a firm tug, forcing his hips up to meet hers. He gasped and so did she, feeling the hard, warm length of him even through the layers of clothing.
What was she doing? She let go abruptly, turning her head away and shutting her eyes tightly. He disappeared and she heard a body stumble into the shelf opposite her. She took in a breath that might have been the beginnings of a sob. This wasn't her. She wasn't the girl who cried over a guy who obviously didn't want her and then ran off to kiss a guy who made no secret of hating her. She had more self respect than that. Or at least she'd thought she had.
She opened her eyes, ready to apologize to Malfoy but he spoke before she could.
"This never happened." His eyes were wild, bloodshot. She'd never seen anyone look so frightened. "This never happened," he repeated, quieter this time. He seemed to be trying to convey some message she didn't understand. Before she could make it out he was gone, holding out his arms to catch himself on the shelves with every stumbling step.
He dreamed of her every night in the weeks after Bella tortured her. Sometimes she was screaming on the floor again, sometimes they were kissing in the library, and once she was lying naked on his bed when he walked into his bedroom at the Manor. He woke up immediately, not wanting to know if his mind was delivering him a fantasy or a nightmare.
He went straight to Snape. The walk up to the Headmaster's office from the dungeons just long enough that he had time to worry he might be waking the man. He wasn't.
Snape's eyes were weary when he looked up from a worn bit of parchment he'd been scribbling at.
"I need a sleeping draught," Draco said, breathless from his frantic climb. "Something to keep me from dreaming."
Snape gave it to him without comment, understanding in his eyes.
Draco didn't dream of her again and told himself he was happier that way.
"Do you have any idea how hard it was to find you?"
Hermione froze at the voice. She hadn't heard it since the Battle of Hogwarts and she certainly hadn't known he was out of Azkaban. Slowly, each movement taking extra effort as her brain was overwhelmed with question after question, she marked her page in her book and turned so that she could more easily face him. He'd been sitting on the bench beside her for nearly ten minutes before he spoke, identifying himself to her. It was very rude of him and he deserved a tongue-lashing for it.
"You're in a Muggle park, you know," was what she actually said.
"I know." Draco wasn't looking at her, instead keeping his eyes on the playground in the distance. "It took me an hour of talking about whether or not Thunderbirds were real before Lovegood let slip your whereabouts. I almost gave up hope."
"You make it sound like you tricked her. I promise you, you didn't." Hermione smiled at the way his stoic expression fell. "Luna may seem like she's not all there, but she's the most aware person I know. If she told you where I was it's because she wanted to."
His lips pressed into a thin line as he assimilated that information. No doubt he'd enjoyed being sneaky.
"What are you doing here?" he asked finally. "Lovegood made it sound like this was your usual spot."
Hermione shifted uncomfortably, turning to watch the children play. "I don't enjoy the wizarding world as much as I once did."
He hummed once in understanding and she saw him nod slowly out of the corner of her eye. "You're known for what you did in the war, not for who you are or what you've done since."
He was exactly right. She saw no reason to tell him what he already knew.
A brisk wind tugged at her hair. Hermione did up another button on her jacket as a chill tickled her spine. Draco raised a hand to his collar, undoing the first two buttons of his own jacket before stopping himself. He folded his hands in his lap instead, looking more awkward than she'd ever seen him.
"Are you going to tell me why you've tracked me down or am I meant to guess?" she asked.
He bowed his head and took in a shaky breath. "I just wanted to tell you … I still have plenty of reasons to hate you."
It was like being struck, complete wtih that odd, thoughtless feeling where your mind is trying to catch up with your body.
"But I don't," he continued. "Not at all."
Hermione felt suddenly very, very warm inside.
"I just thought you should know," Draco added quickly and stood. He was leaving. The nicest thing he'd ever said to her and he was running away before she could answer. Little question why he wasn't a Gryffindor.
"Draco!" she called before he could run away.
He stopped in the middle of the park path, only half-turning back to her.
"I'm hungry. Would you like to get some lunch with me?"
He smiled. It wasn't much but it was the most she'd ever seen from him. It was a start.