A winter thunderstorm is rare, unlikely, and a little bit magical. Much like with a thundersnow, a set of very rare circumstances can come to pass in order to create something beautiful.
Hermione jolted awake as a huge bang rattled the Head's tower and probably the entire school.
Immediately, she was on her feet and with her wand in hand and pointed towards the darkness that pressed in on her from all sides. It was obviously very late – or early.
The war may have been over, but that didn't mean that all the dangers in the world had disappeared with Voldemort. There were still quite a few people out there that would be happy to see her dead, and she had to stay alert if she wanted to reach an old age.
Quiet as a mouse and shrouded in shadows, she crept down the stairs leading to the Head's common room, unwilling to give her position away to potential attackers with a lumos. She knew her path well enough to traverse it with her eyes firmly shut, and was practical enough to know that what little comfort a light would provide wouldn't be worth exposing herself. She'd been Head Girl for half the year, so she had no trouble going down the stairs.
When the foundation-rattling rumble sounded again, she first jumped and then relaxed as she realized what it was that had happened. She rolled her eyes at herself for overreacting. They weren't under attack, it was just a thunderstorm. In the middle of winter, something so unexpected that an attack almost made more sense to her.
Well, she couldn't exactly go back to bed now. She was too worked up to get back to sleep.
In addition to that, she'd noticed a pattern in the Head Boy's behaviour during when they'd first started to live together at the beginning of the school year. As the last of summer had faded, bringing the usual slew of storms, she'd found herself more often than not spending late nights in front of the common room fire. She'd found that she couldn't sleep through the raging of the storm.
Without fail, as soon as the thunder started, the Head Boy would come padding down the stairs to join her. She believed it to be one of his scars from the war. Everyone seemed to have them, but his manifested themselves as a black marking on his left forearm and a need for human company during thunderstorms.
They never spoke during or those late-night rendezvous, and they never mentioned them while they continued to bicker during the day, but their usual insults lost a lot of their heat.
Hermione grabbed a blanket from the back of the sofa and wrapped it around her shoulders to guard against the chill. The House Elves never quite succeeded in keeping the fires high enough to give the drafty castle warmth. The stone rooms were permeated with cool air that leaked in through the cracks and holes in walls and around windows.
Pulling the blanket tight, she wandered over to the window to watch the storm while she waited. The thunder was loud; she probably wouldn't have long to wait.
The snow on the ground lit up brilliantly as a fork of lightning branched across the sky. It was an almost sublime sight; a world of ghostly white lit from above by forks of blinding light while everything around it was impenetrable, velvety darkness. Common snowflakes weren't what fell from the sky; they had been transformed into sparkling diamonds by the lightning. The storm was as eerily beautiful as it was fiercely dangerous.
Right on schedule, she heard the quiet snick of a door closing and muffled footsteps coming down the stairs. She expected him to just take a seat and sit in silence like he usually did during a thunderstorm, but she never heard the telltale creak of the sofa. Another flash of lightning and then the rumble of thunder distracted her from thinking too hard on a sound she'd probably missed in all the commotion from outside their tower.
Her ruminations paused when she felt warmth at her back that told her Malfoy was much too close. They usually maintained a steady distance between the two of them by unspoken agreement. Bad things happened when they got too close; the punch in third year was a prime example of that.
She knew he wasn't dangerous, but still, sneaking up on her in the middle of the night wasn't exactly the best way to set her at ease. Whipping around, she looked up into his unreadable, silvery eyes.
"What are you doing Malfoy?" she asked.
With surprise, she noted that he actually looked uncomfortable and a tad awkward. For someone who almost always appeared to be in control of himself, the contrast was shocking.
He didn't quite meet her eyes. "You're not sitting down."
Hermione raised an eyebrow in an unwitting imitation of a look he'd directed her way on more than one occasion. Was he really commenting on her seating choice?
His uncomfortable shifting intensified as the silence stretched between them. He was practically wringing his hands. "You're supposed to sit on one side of the sofa and read while I sit on the other side."
As his meaning sunk in, Hermione's stare of confusion turned into a look of understanding. He wanted her to sit with him.
Since he'd already broken their unspoken agreement to never speak, Hermione figured that she may as well voice something that she had been wondering for a while. After all, she lived for answers and he was practically offering them to her.
"Why do you always come down here during thunderstorms?"
Sure, she had theories, but they were just that, theories. Hermione liked her answers to be absolutes.
His eyes moved pointedly to the sofa, clearly hinting that he wasn't going to answer until she gave him what he wanted.
With a sigh and one last wistful glance at the beautiful scene outside, she shuffled across the room and plopped down on the sofa. Her back was to the window so she could only tell that lightning was still ravaging the sky from the flashes that lit up the room and the thunder that continue to boom.
He joined her, sitting a little closer than he usually would. It seemed that he was really determined to push their boundaries. Maybe the strange storm had given him an unusual amount of courage.
"The flashing of the lightning and the clamouring noise reminds me of... everything. It's better that I'm not alone." Instead of avoiding her gaze, he was staring at her almost challengingly. It seemed that he expected her to laugh or something. He obviously hadn't put too much thought into why she was always in the common room during storms as well, why she was in there that first night and every night since when the winds started to blow and the rain to lash the stone walls.
"You didn't really answer the question though," she said quietly. "Why do you come down here to sit with me?"
Despite his status as a failed Death Eater and the drastically reduced number of Slytherins attending Hogwarts post-war, he still had friends in the house of snakes that would probably be happy to keep him company for a while. He had people to talk to who he hadn't ridiculed for years and actively worked eradicate her and everyone she loved.
He had that challenging expression on his face once more. "You don't judge me. Hell, you've sat with me through every storm we've had this year and not questioned it until I spoke first. You're infallibly kind, even to me, someone who has been nothing but unpleasant to you in the past. It's... nice, sitting here with you."
Blushing, she couldn't look at him. Something about hearing those words from his mouth made her distinctly uncomfortable. Out of habit, she'd been listening closely for a hint of a mocking tone or a touch of sarcasm, but found none. He appeared completely genuine in his sentiments.
"I don't like thunderstorms much either," she said, still not looking at him. "It's nice not to have to sit them out alone."
She thought about adding more, but they'd had enough revelations for one night. Anything closer to civility between the two of them and the storm outside might warp into a black hole and suck up the Earth or something else impossible. A Slytherin could only get along with a Gryffindor for so long before something imploded.
Another flash of lightning illuminated everything in the room in sharp detail and completely ruining their night vision with the onslaught of brightness. Hermione blinked her eyes a few times, waiting for them to adjust to the darkness once again.
She noticed Malfoy shiver slightly and realized that the blanket she'd grabbed from the sofa was actually his. The initials D M were sewn into the corner and everything. It was a mark of how much he'd changed that he hadn't immediately stolen it from her to either burn it to remove the contamination or use it for himself while he let her freeze.
Unwinding it from her shoulders, she threw the blanket over the blond.
The rush of cold air she felt made her immediately regret giving away her source of warmth, but she knew it had been the right thing to do. She'd been the one to commandeer his blanket in the first place.
He shot her a surprised look before nodding a quick thanks and returning to his contemplation of the glowing embers that were what remained in the hearth.
"Do you ever wonder who we could have been if the Dar-Voldemort had just stayed dead the first time, like he was supposed to?" he asked, sounding slightly lost.
"I'm sure you would have been a stuck-up daddy's boy who considered everyone inferior and I would have been an irritating bookworm who was nothing but condescending."
She smiled slightly bitterly. That bossy little girl she'd been as a child had been forced to grow up too fast. It would have been nice to have an actual childhood – she wouldn't give up her experiences for the world because they were what made her into the person she'd become, but it would have been nice.
When Hermione shivered, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. Hugging her arms around herself in an unconscious effort to keep herself warm, she shivered again.
He slid an arm out from under the blanket and wrapped it around her waist.
Before Hermione knew what had happened, he had pulled her against his side and thrown an edge of the blanket over her lap.
He was nice and warm.
Hermione didn't object to the contact near as much as she would have thought. When he wasn't insulting her he was almost pleasant.
Who was she kidding? She enjoyed his presence more than she would like to admit.
Maybe it was because she hadn't had near enough sleep and she was overtired, but she allowed herself to lean against him.
He mumbled something that she couldn't quite make out.
"What?" Hermione asked, starting to pull away so she could see him.
"I was expecting you to hit me for that." He shifted so that his weight on the cushion made her fall against him once again.
She was silent for a moment while she contemplated how to order her thoughts into something more coherent than their current chaotic jumble. "Something's been happening between us since that first thunderstorm. This just feels... like the next logical step."
He didn't reply for so long that Hermione started to worry she'd said something wrong.
"Don't hit me," he finally said.
Hermione tilted her head back a little to look him in the eyes. Why would she hit him?
"I think I'm skipping a few of those logical steps of yours," he muttered, right before he pressed his lips onto hers.
For someone with a personality that was all sharp edges, Malfoy had surprisingly soft lips. He moved them against hers with a gentle persistence that had her giving in and responding even though she knew she probably shouldn't.
With just as much caution as he was exhibiting, Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him.
He was like the sweets that her parents had always forbidden her to eat as a child; forbidden and enticing. Much the same as those sugary treats, he was enjoyable in the heat of the moment, but would ultimately rot her teeth.
It felt oddly right to be kissing Malfoy. They fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. A puzzle that had been missing a piece for a long time and hadn't even realized it until it found its match. Together, they seemed to make a whole picture, it felt strangely right.
He slowly pulled back, pressing pecks against her lips as if he couldn't bring himself to just break the contact.
No hole in the ground had opened up to suck them both into an alternative dimension, which was surprising considering what had just happened.
They didn't say anything for a bit, both not wanting to ruin the moment. Hermione kept her arms around his neck and rested her forehead on his shoulder. She didn't want to see his face just yet; that kiss had been amazing, but there had to be a catch. She was Hermione Granger, people just didn't kiss her like that.
His hands on her back started twisting a strand of her hair around his fingers. "That was much better than the slap I was expecting," he said hesitantly.
Hermione released her hold on his neck and moved back to her former position sitting beside him. It just didn't compute that Draco Malfoy had kissed her. She believed that there hadn't been any ulterior motives behind his actions, but she wasn't sure if he needed some space to deal with what had just happened. That one action had to have gone against everything he'd believed until only months ago.
He flung an arm around her shoulders to make sure she was snuggled tight against him.
Apparently he didn't have any qualms about going against everything he'd been raised to believe.
She titled her head to rest it on his shoulder. "Strangely enough, I think you were right about skipping a few steps. It would have taken us a while, but I think we would have gotten there eventually, it was only a matter of time."
A huge rumble of thunder postponed his answer.
When the thunder had passed, he still didn't say anything. Hermione found that she didn't mind his reticence. Words would probably only ruin the moment; his words in particular hadn't been something she coveted in the past. In fact, comments from his had preceded many of her worst school memories of crying in bathroom stalls.
Knowing he had changed and forgetting the past were two different things. Hermione could understand the circumstances of his upbringing and why he was such a rotten bully as a child, but that didn't mean she had forgiven him for making her feel unwelcome in a world that already didn't seem to have room for her.
Maybe it was best that they just go back to their opposite sides of the sofa. She could cast a warming charm on herself; she didn't need his warmth specifically.
Yet somehow, she couldn't seem to move away from him. She was drawn to him despite their complicated past.
He was an arse a lot of the time, but he wasn't a bad person. There was some lingering resentment over their childhood, but no real blame. Not anymore.
Getting dizzy from the mental circles she was running, Hermione just dropped it. There was no need to sort out everything in the middle of the night and on little sleep. Neither of them were going anywhere in the next few months.
"You're thinking too much. You always think too much," he muttered.
Hermione opened her eyes, having not realized that they'd somehow drifted shut. She must be more tired than she'd thought.
Her large, cinnamon eyes blinked at him. How had he known about the storm that had been raging in her mind?
"Don't look at me like that, I'll end up kissing you again," he groaned.
Unsure how exactly it was that she was looking at him, Hermione turned her eyes away from his mercurial stare and onto her lap. "I'm having trouble reconciling the things you said as a child with your actions just now," she finally said.
"There's nothing to reconcile. I as a spoiled little blighter who believed everything my father told me, and then I grew up." His simple explanation made it seem ridiculous that she was still subconsciously holding onto some of the things he'd said. It's hard to have someone hate you that much and not take a few dents to your emotional armour. Hermione may have been forced to grow up too fast, but that didn't mean she wasn't insecure from time to time – those times frequently involving Malfoy.
"I am sorry though. You didn't deserve to have to hear any of that; you can't help who your parents are any more than I can."
Startled, she whipped her head up to stare at him in disbelief. Had he just apologised to her? She'd never heard Draco Malfoy apologise in all the years she'd known him. She hadn't actually been sure he knew how.
Before she could say anything, he kissed her again, and for the second time, she found herself unwilling to put a stop to the insanity.
It wasn't just that he kept her warm and was something of a safe harbour in the storm, because she could have those same things from Ron and hadn't really enjoyed kissing him. There was something about Malfoy that she was drawn to.
"I warned you not to look at me like that," he said when he finally pulled away.
Too tired to think of an adequate response, Hermione pecked him on the lips and snuggled up to his side once again. He was right; she'd been over-thinking everything. All that mattered was that she liked kissing him and he'd been making her feel less alone since the beginning of the year.
She didn't resist sleep as it started to pull her down into its soft depths. His steady heartbeat was cancelling out the sounds of the storm and soothing her into a state of relaxation.
"We go back to not speaking of this whole storm thing then?" he asked when she had almost fully succumbed to sleep's spell.
"No," she mumbled. "But we don't have to do the talking right this minute."
She snuggled against him and tucked the blanket tighter around the both of them, not noticing how the kind gesture made his eyes soften. Her sigh of contentment made him smile.
When the masses of angry storm clouds finally parted to allow the light of the moon to reach the Earth, everything was peaceful. That delicate light shone into the castle and illuminated a pair of students moulded together under a monogrammed blanket.
Just like the sparkling, pristine snow left as the only evidence of the violent thunderstorm of only moments ago, something new was forged where there had only been animosity in the past. For the first time since the war, Hermione and Draco both managed to fall asleep during a thunderstorm.
Neither of them knew where their relationship was going, but they did know that there would be more storms, and they wouldn't have to sit them out alone.
A/N: This didn't go where I'd been intending it to. It was the result of an In Plain Sight marathon and a somewhat melancholic mood on my part. Oh! And entirely too long reading poetry for school... Apparently that combination does odd things to my writing.
Anyway! I hope you enjoyed!
We had a winter thunderstorm here a few years back and I remember that I was completely confused. There's just not supposed to be lightning and snow in the same place, it feels wrong.
My birthday's on Wednesday and a review would be an awesome gift!