The end of year feast was always something to look forward to but this year it seemed even more so. Dumbledore had spoken to them all at dinner the week before and made an announcement.
"Good evening to you all!" He called and his voice stopped everyone else's conversations dead. Heads swivelled to look at him and not a single eye was turned away. That was the effect of Dumbledore. "I hope you are enjoying your dinner as usual. I have a few things to say before I bid you all goodnight."
Hermione stared at Dumbledore carefully, not quite sure what he was going to say. Ginny, who sat on her left, was fiddling with her fork and when she dropped it loudly, Dumbledore's eyes fell on her. If possible, she turned a deeper shade of red than her hair and bowed her head. Grinning, Hermione turned back to the headmaster, her eyes catching Malfoy's as she turned her head and she felt herself smile as she remembered the night before that they had spent together.
"First of all, I would like to congratulate all students who sat their O. or their N.E. this year; I have had word back from the judicators and they were pleased to tell me that everyone passed. You will receive your official results at the end of the summer."
There was a loud cheer from the fifth and seventh year students and Hermione felt a stab of nervousness; she would be sitting her N.E. next year and knew it was going to be hard work.
"Secondly, well done to Gryffindor for winning the Quidditch cup for another year!" The cheer was louder this time round and Hermione joined in with Ginny as they screamed. Glares were sent their way, mainly from the Slytherin table and Hermione smirked in the direction of Malfoy. "Yes, well done, well done. Now, on to what I really wanted to talk about." Everyone grew silent, patiently waiting for this 'news'.
"I have decided this year for the end of year feast that it will be – I believe the Muggles say – bigger and better than the last? I think that's it. What I mean is that all house tables will be joined together – you don't sit with your house, you sit with whoever you want. The food will be slightly different, similar to that at the Yule Ball for those students who remember." There was a murmur across the hall at this announcement and Ginny screwed her nose up at Hermione who shrugged in return. "It has been a different year this year, though not everyone will have felt it. Some ties were broken and others strengthened and I think you'll all agree with me that unity is what's best. To our seventh year students who are graduating next week..."
Hermione droned out knowing she would be receiving a similar speech next year and she rested her head on her hands, eyes closing for a moment. She thought over what Dumbledore had just said and realised it fitted well with what had happened to her. Her eyes flew open and she found Harry and Ron sat a few seats down from her. They were laughing about some shared joke and Hermione felt a small dash of longing to join them and laugh with them. While the arguments had stopped – there was a period of time where all Ron could do was shoot insults at Hermione and it had been hard to keep a thick skin and not let them get to her – they still weren't friends as they used to be.
Malfoy had been a surprising source of support throughout that time and though he had got in to a few arguments with Ron – and occasionally Harry – himself, most of the time he spent telling Hermione not to worry about what they said. Though he wasn't one for showing emotions often, if Hermione was upset he would always comfort her and she loved him for it. That wasn't to say that he had stopped being a prat, he just seemed to be a prat less when he was with her.
It was something she missed terribly and although she had Ginny – who had stuck by her side throughout the whole mess and Hermione would have been lost and alone without her – it wasn't the same as the two boys she had grown up with. The fact that she and Malfoy were still together was another factor and this of course put Ron off and no doubt Harry too. She had not spoken to Harry since the whole mess and while her and Ron had exchanged harsh words, Harry had merely watched from the sidelines and as she watched him now, she wished more than ever they could all talk normally again. She had been impressed when Malfoy had stopped insulting her old friends and Ginny had commented that she didn't think it would happen. Hermione didn't ask him to, he simply stopped and after awhile Hermione picked up on it. When she asked him why he only shrugged and muttered 'because of you'. She had loved him even more for that.
"And so, although this is not the end of year feast nor is it the seventh year graduation, I realise I have spoken for too long about things that will be mentioned at both events. Alas, it is the curse of an old man. Please enjoy your dessert and I wish you a good night." There was a splattering of applause and the noise in the hall grew as people started talking again, some standing up and heading out of the Great Hall already. Hermione turned back to Ginny and they discussed the end of term feast at great length over their chocolate pudding.
When the day finally arrived, there was a buzz at breakfast about who was going to sit where and as Hermione finished her toast and made her way out of the hall, she spotted Malfoy up ahead. She ran to catch up with him and slipped her hand into his wordlessly. He looked down and gave her a rare smile. They walked out on to the grounds which were bathed in sunlight and started towards the lake, other groups of people lounging in the sun nearby.
"Where are you going to sit tonight?" He asked and she sighed. It was something she had been asking herself since Dumbledore made the announcement. On one hand, she wanted to sit with her fellow Gryffindors, the people she spent most of her time with and more importantly, Harry and Ron – though she knew that probably wasn't possible. But there was a stronger part of her that wanted to be with Malfoy. Though they had another year at school yet, there seemed to be something final about this one and she couldn't figure out why it seemed so different from the others. Musing that it was probably just because so much had changed this year, she turned her attention back to Malfoy.
"I'm not sure. If I sat with Ginny would you come and sit with us?" His face set at the question and she sighed again. "Don't worry. I'll come and sit with you."
"Hermione!" The pair turned around and saw Ginny coming towards them, her face alight with happiness and Hermione raised an eyebrow. "I had to warn you." She gasped and Hermione instantly grew worried despite the look of joy on Ginny's face.
"What? What happened?" She asked and Ginny shook her head.
"Nothing bad. I've just been talking to Harry – he and Ron have been talking about you." She began and Malfoy snorted from next to Hermione; she ignored him, as did Ginny. "Harry is coming out here to find you and try and make things up with you."
"Really?" Hermione asked and Ginny nodded, her breathing now back to normal. "Oh." She wasn't quite sure how to take the news and feeling Malfoy's hand squeeze hers, she looked up into his pale face.
"I'll go. He'll be out here soon. Make sure you talk properly." His words were short but Hermione knew him well enough now that he meant them. He leaned down and kissed her softly on the cheek before disappearing off around the lake. Hermione turned back to Ginny who was pulling a face.
"Shut up, Ginny." Hermione said and Ginny laughed.
"I just – it still amazes me that that's Malfoy who used to pick on all of us – it amazes me that he's so...normal with you." She said and shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. "Wait here then, okay? I'll let Harry know where you are."
Hermione nodded and sat down under a nearby tree, watching Ginny disappear. She had mixed thoughts about talking to Harry; part of her wanted to but the other part was worried. There must still be anger on his part and if she was honest, there was some anger on her part. Before she had time to dwell on these feelings however, she saw footsteps approaching and looked up into Harry's green eyes. He sat down wordlessly next to her and they were silent for a second.
"How did you find your exams?" Harry asked and Hermione laughed inwardly at the conversation starter. She turned and gave him a smile before answering the question.
"Stressful, but I think I did okay. How about you?"
"Stressful, but without you to tell us what to study, I don't think Ron and I did as well as you probably did." There was a tinge of sadness to his tone and it hurt Hermione to hear it. She looked out across the grounds and spotted Malfoy on the other side of the lake watching them carefully and it made her feel strangely good that he was just a little bit jealous.
"I'm sorry my choices hurt and affected you so much." She said quietly and took his hand. "It was never my intention. What happened surprised me as well as you – I didn't think I was going to – "
"It's okay. Don't apologise. It was just hard seeing you with a Malfoy, you know? The one who called you Mudblood in second year and countless other names. It just didn't fit, is all." Harry said and Hermione stayed quiet. "Obviously he's doing something right if you're still together. Ron's the one who had the hardest time with it."
"I know – that's why he isn't here, I guess." She said and her voice seemed to get quieter and quieter.
"He wants to make amends too but you know him – it's a lot harder for him, he's too stubborn."
"Why now though?"
Harry dropped her hand and ran it through his hair before taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes. "I don't know, to be honest. It's the end of the year and it's our last year next year – something needed to be done." He grinned shyly over at her and she leapt forward to hug him, squeezing him tight.
"I know it'll take awhile before things go back to normal but I've missed you, Harry." She whispered and he squeezed her back.
"I've missed you too." His voice was thick and she wondered if tears were forming in his eyes like they were in hers. She pulled away and saw Malfoy approaching from a distance, the contact between her and Harry obviously too much for him. "Will you sit with us tonight?"
"Oh – I – er – "
"Ron and I have talked. If Malfoy wants to sit with us too, that's fine. I don't think Ron will speak to him but that's an improvement on cursing him." Harry offered and Hermione laughed as Malfoy stood in front of them. There was a tense moment as the two boys looked at each other before Harry stood up and gave what seemed to be a smile. "Malfoy." He said tersely and smiled at Hermione before he walked away across the grass. Hermione stood up and Malfoy took her hand quickly as if to show she was his.
"You alright, Malfoy?" She asked coyly and he shot her a look.
"Did you have to hug him?" He asked grumpily and she laughed.
"Yes, I did. Jealous?" They started walking back towards the castle and on the steps Hermione spotted Harry and Ginny. With a soft gasp she realised they were kissing and she smiled, happy for her friends.
"No." Malfoy replied though they both knew it was an outright lie. "What did he say?"
"Oh, he told me that you're a git and that I should break up with you on the spot." She said and he whipped his head around to look at her, growing angry at the laugh she came out with.
"Why do you have to tease me like that?" He growled.
"Because it's funny to see you squirm and it's so easy. We just talked about what happened." She told him and they entered the castle.
"Where was the Weas-Ron?" Malfoy asked and Hermione pinched his side for the name he almost called Ron. "Ow!"
"You'll get over it. He's stubborn but sent his love." She joked and Malfoy snorted.
"Love. He called you a slut, I hope you remember."
"Yes, I do. I also remember you calling me a Mudblood but you don't see me holding that against you, do you?" She reminded him and was pleased to see the tips of his ears grow pink. "Er – they want me to sit with them at the feast tonight."
Draco stopped walking, dropped her hand and looked at her, his facial expression already pleading with her. "What did you say?"
"I was going to say that I was sitting with you but he said you're welcome to sit with them as well." Hermione told him and he stared at her. She could see the battle going on inside his head; he knew how much it meant to her to have her old friends back and at the same time he knew how she felt for him. He took hold of her hand roughly and pulled her towards him, smothering her lips with his in an unexpected move. She didn't resist but kissed him back for a moment before she pushed him away.
"Er – what was that for?"
"Because I love you. I hate telling you that out in the open like this but – Granger if you want to sit with your friends – " He said the word as if it caused him pain and Hermione held back a smirk. " – then that's fine. I'll sit with you if you'll let me." He finished his little speech and Hermione glanced around; there was no one in sight but that didn't stop him scowling.
"Thank you." She whispered and kissed him once more.
The Gryffindors made their way down to the Great Hall together, everyone chatting excitedly about the menu system and what food would be served. Hermione walked next to Ginny, both Harry and Ron nowhere to be seen. Hermione had considered waiting for them to come down from their dormitory and walk with them but decided meeting them at the table would be good enough. The two girls came down the last few steps and Hermione spotted Malfoy outside the doors. She slipped her hand into his as they entered the Great Hall and Malfoy gave Ginny a tight smile which she – reluctantly – returned. The four house tables were set along each wall of the Great Hall forming a large square. The table closest to the teachers table was already full and Ginny led the way towards the right where the majority of the table was empty.
"Where are the other two?" Malfoy asked carefully, his eyes searching the Great Hall as they sat down and Hermione did the same, spotting them with a nervous lurch in her stomach. They were just walking in the doors and Harry spotted her first motioning for Ron to follow him. Hermione stared at Ron, willing him to look at her but he kept his head down and followed Harry. By the time they had made their way to the table, they were lucky to get two seats opposite Hermione, Malfoy and Ginny and they sat down awkwardly.
There was a moment of tense silence and Hermione looked across at them, feeling Malfoy's hand slightly sweaty in her own. Ginny suddenly laughed loudly causing the other four to look at her with matching alarmed expressions.
"Somebody had to break the silence." She shrugged and Hermione smiled nervously at her. There was more silence however this time it was due to Professor Dumbledore standing up to address them all, his robes a brilliant blue and his eyes twinkling at them all.
"Good evening!" He beamed and everyone cheered back at him. "Another year has passed us by and it is times like these we remember the memories that have been made over the past months. I think I can speak for all of our Professors when I say that you have been an exceptional bunch to teach. Though we say goodbye to our seventh year students, we will welcome the first year students and so another set of friends joins us; so is the circle of life, if I may. You have all done so well this year and through trying times you have pulled through to support each other." There was a general whisper through the tables as people tried to work out what he was talking about but as Dumbledore's eyes twinkled in her direction, Hermione wondered if he knew more about her situation than she could have ever thought.
"House unity has proved to be incredibly strong this year and despite the usual rivalries – especially over Quidditch – " A small cheer from the Gryffindors at this. " – we have pulled together as a school incredibly well. I would like you all to congratulate yourselves on another year and I hope you all have a wondrous summer, ready for the next year, whatever it will bring." Applause deafened the hall and Hermione clapped along with them. There was a collective gasp as menus appeared in front of them and students started calling out what they wanted.
"Well, that was interesting." Ginny said, once again making a crack at conversation. Ron looked over at his sister and seemed determined to keep his eyes away from Hermione and Malfoy, their hands clasped together under the table. "What are you going to have Hermione?"
"Oh – er – I'm not sure." Hermione mumbled, lifting the menu and reading it. She looked up and saw Ron and Malfoy staring at each other, Ron looking as if he was going to be sick. She then realised he was trying to smile – or grimace, she wasn't sure – and her face flushed. Glancing at Malfoy she saw him with a similar expression. She held back the laugh that threatened in her throat and addressed Harry. "Are you doing anything over the summer?"
"Er – just staying at Ron's, I think." He said and Hermione knew if things had been different, she would have been doing the same thing. There was another silence and she almost wished they had sat separately.
"Are you doing anything, Hermione?" Ron asked and everyone was silent as Ron's blue eyes finally found hers. It seemed that time had stood still and the air seemed thick with tension around them. She managed a weak smile and he returned it, the apology written across both their faces.
"Nothing yet, just preparing for the exams next year." Hermione told them and there was an odd sound as Ginny, Harry, Malfoy and Ron all snorted at once. She blushed deeply. "What? You can never be ready too early, you know!"
Ron shook his head, a grin on his face. "You haven't changed." She looked at him and smiled warmly, hoping things would be okay between the two of them now.
"Lamb chops." Ginny mumbled from next to them and Hermione felt her stomach growl at the sight of them, glancing at the menu and deciding it was time to eat.
The conversation was awkward throughout the meal but they got through it. Ron and Harry both ignored Malfoy for the most part; if the latter spoke, they wouldn't look at him but mumbled replies to what he had said. Hermione was pleased Malfoy kept his hand on her leg throughout the night; it gave her a small sense of comfort and she couldn't stop thinking about how happy he had made her just by sitting with them. After dessert and a goodnight from the teachers, students started getting up to go to bed. The five of them stood and walked together out of the hall, stopping in the entrance way. There was an awkward silence and Hermione noticed Ron's eyes kept flicking back and forth between the floor and Malfoy and Hermione's intertwined hands.
"Malfoy and I are going for a walk." Hermione stated and Ginny – ever the saviour of awkward conversations – smiled at her.
"Well, goodnight then! Harry, are you coming?" She asked brightly and Harry sent Hermione a smile, taking Ginny's hand and walking away. Hermione spotted a flicker of anger across Ron's face at Harry and Ginny and she smiled at him.
"I didn't think you'd ever let Ginny date after Dean." She said softly and he gave a small laugh. Malfoy squeezed her hand once and let it go, walking off down the corridor and she knew he'd be waiting for her on the seventh floor in front of an all too familiar tapestry. She turned back to Ron. "I'm sorry, Ron. For everything."
He shook his head. "So am I. I treated you horribly." It seemed he felt it easier to talk now that it was just the pair of them and Hermione was thankful for it. "You didn't deserve what I called you – any of it – I just found – it was weird to watch, you know?" He fumbled over his words and Hermione knew it wasn't easy for him to apologise; his cheeks had turned red and he was wringing his hands together.
"I know, it can't have been easy." Hermione replied and they stood uneasily for a moment. "I better go – "
"Yeah, of course. Yeah. So, I –er –I'll see you – on the train?" He left the question hanging and she wondered if she could convince Malfoy to sit with Ron and Harry on the train.
"You will." She smiled. There was always bribery.
Her walk up to the seventh floor passed over in a blur and Hermione couldn't keep the smile off of her face. She finally had her friends back, after weeks of tension and awkwardness. She mused on how crazy the year had been and how much everyone had changed as she stood in front of the tapestry and waited for the door to appear.
"Took you long enough." This was her welcome grunt from the blonde haired boy on the bed and she grinned as she joined him.
"I'm sure you weren't waiting that long." She replied and kissed him lightly. They lay next to each other, their hands knotted together and Hermione felt like she wouldn't mind if they stayed that way forever. She sighed happily and Malfoy looked over at her.
"Did it go okay?"
"Do you care that it did?" She said and he grinned wickedly at her.
"I can't deny that I would love it if you never saw him again." He said and she prodded him in the side. "But if it makes you happy to be his friend again then it makes me happy." He emphasised the word and she laughed softly. "What are you doing over the summer?"
"Like I said earlier – studying." He snorted loudly and Hermione ignored him. "It's good to be prepared!"
"If you say so. I – er – well, my parents don't really know yet and it may take some...convincing but would you want to come and stay for a little while?" Hermione could hear the nerves in her voice and it was an emotion he rarely showed.
"Your parents won't be happy about me though, will they?" She bit her lip. For Malfoy to change and develop feelings for her was one thing; for his parents to accept that and welcome her with open arms was another and she didn't expect it to happen at all.
"Not at first, no. I can be persuasive though." He said and raised his eyebrows suggestively at Hermione who ignored it. "My mother will understand more and she can explain it to my father. Would you want to?"
"Er, well yes, I would. I'd obviously have to talk to my parents about it too." She said and he shrugged.
"You could always Imperio them."
"You are kidding I hope."
"You should know me better than that by now, Hermione." She loved it when he teased her like that and the only thing that beat it was when he kissed her which he then proceeded to do. She smiled into his lips and kissed him back, their tongues meeting in the middle and she felt his hands move to her back, pulling her closer. It felt like total bliss with his lips on hers and she felt she could finally say she was happy. There wasn't a thing to be worried about and she let herself be taken away as Malfoy trailed soft kisses down her neck. Not a thing to worry about in the world. Except her N.E.. Hermione pushed that thought away as Malfoy's hands roamed south she smiled to herself. She was happy.
Okay, kind of a fluffy ending but oh well. Once again, thank you for the reviews and thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it :) I have another Dramione fic in the making so keep an eye out :)