A/N: This was a fast update for me! I wrote and rewrote this entire chapter twice before I decided I was content with it. The outline I've written out for this story actually had a few more events that were supposed to take place in this one, but it started to get too long (for my tastes) so I broke it up.

I feel like I do need to kind of reiterate the fact that this is a slower-paced story when it comes to Draco and Hermione, but we ARE starting to get there.

One thing, however, I wasn't sure where the disappearing step is actually located in the book, so if I'm completely wrong on that part, don't hate me too much!

Enjoy! (And review! Those make me happy! :] )

Woes of a Coward

Chapter Eight

Draco awoke to a headache so strong it made him nauseous, and his stomach churned further when the smell of something similar to cinnamon apples filled his nostrils. Who in their right mind would bring oatmeal into their dormitory after a night like the last one, he'd thought angrily, and that was when a figure on his bed shifted.

Despite the fact that he'd felt so sore that he thought he couldn't move for fear of his body simply exploding, he leapt from his bed at a lightning pace, his heart racing so fast that he became dizzy and had to grab his nightstand to steady himself. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to block out what sounded like five stadiums of Quidditch fans screaming, magnified at top volume in his mind. His head would surely split open if he made anymore sudden movements, and he was tempted to just allow the sensation to black out take over. He'd deal with how he felt in a few more hours when there wasn't a female in his bed.

Slowly, he opened his eyes, and glanced at the sleeping figure. When he saw the chestnut hair he breathed out, relieved, at least, that it wasn't Pansy… Before dread took over him again, because he knew it was Astoria.

His blankets were draped over her, all he could see was her neck, it was, after all, freezing in the dungeons. He said a silent plead to Merlin, hoping that they'd just fallen asleep talking, but after he pulled the sheets down that dream was crushed. She was stark naked. Oh fuck…he thought. …But… Despite his emotions, he lifted the sheets a little higher to see what she was supporting, and he'd be lying if he said he didn't like what he saw.

Then came the real problem, however. He remembered nothing. In fact the last thing he could recall at all was coming to the dungeons to continue to have a party with the rest of the Slytherin. There had been more firewhiskey that Astoria had charmed into looking like butterbeer to smuggle in (Draco had been mildly impressed at that – that was NEWT level magic, after all and she was two years younger than him), a game of strip Exploding Snap, he briefly recalled a bunch of singing, and after that his mind went black, as though part of his memory were simply erased. He'd been pissed before, far more pissed than this, actually, but never before had he woken up with someone in his bed and couldn't recall how she'd gotten there. Well, to be honest, he'd never been with a girl aside from Pansy, and he had to be very bladdered to get to the point to knock boots with her regardless, yet he could still remember every time. Whether he wanted to or not.

His feet were beginning to turn ice-cold from the floor, and he grabbed his discarded robes and threw them on. He was going to see Madame Pomfrey about getting something for his splitting headache and hopefully try and make some sense of the evening. Plus, he didn't want to be there when Astoria woke up.

He walked as fast as his body would allow him, which was actually a rather slug-like pace, and left the dormitory, closing the door behind him as gently as possible. The common room was a sight to see. There were people sleeping all over, looking half-dead, and it smelled horrid. He actually had to walk over two different puddles of the results of too much drinking, and he was sure his face was as green as their furniture. He stopped and rested against the door once he'd finally gotten out of there, to take several deep breaths, afraid he'd get sick if he didn't.

It took a full minute for the wave of nausea to pass before he could push himself off the door and continue on.

That particular walk to the Hospital Wing was the longest walk he'd ever done. He cursed that it was on the third floor, and cursed even more when he forgot about the disappearing step that caused him to tumble and nearly fall. He'd never felt so happy to see Madame Pomfrey in his life, and made up some story he was sure she could see through about how he thought he had a bug of some sort. He could hear her muttering under her breath but couldn't tell what it was she was saying as she searched around through her potions. He was too fixated on feeling better to smart off to her like he'd always done in the past, and even mumbled a brief, "Thanks," once she handed a small glass to him to drink.

He could tell she'd given him only the mere minimum, clearly not wanting to go out of her way to make him completely well when she knew it was his own fault he felt as he did. The small potion eased his pounding migraine to a lingering ache, but it did make his nausea disappear. He felt loads better, but on any normal day if he'd felt how he did at that moment he would have gone to her to make himself feel one-hundred percent again. Still, it was the best he could have hoped for, given the situation.

"I suppose I should make a whole batch?" She called out to him, before he could leave. "I'm sure I'll be seeing more of you, correct?"

He shrugged noncommittally, though he could tell she took it as a yes, and then headed to the Great Hall to hopefully grab something to eat. He felt ravenous all the sudden and he thought food would probably clear away the rest of his headache.

The Great Hall was almost empty. Breakfast would be ending in about thirty minutes and all the good stuff was usually gone by then. The Slytherin table only held two girls, both who looked like they were First Years, and Draco seated himself as far away from them as possible. He filled his plate with sausage and French toast, pouring the syrup into its own little bowl for dipping. He didn't like making messes, especially with his food, he hated for anything on his plate to ever touch.

He was enjoying the quiet buzz of conversations, the food that though it had been sitting out still tasted fresh and warm, and the fact that he was alone, when he felt his spine stiffen and then he got chills. He glanced up and looked around the room, a little nervous, and then his eyes settled on the Gryffindor table. Weasley. He had a plate in front of him but he hadn't touched anything. He wasn't even trying to hide the fact that he was glaring.

Draco stabbed his fork through a sausage link and held it up towards the lanky Gryffindor in a "cheers!" like fashion, grinned broadly, and took a bite. Weasley's face turned bright red, nearly matching the color of his hair, and Draco smirked despite himself. Satisfaction at clearly doing something right in life for the freckled git to still be letting him get under his skin made the rest of his headache disappear entirely. He finished his meal happily, the events of the morning momentarily forgotten.

oOo

Hermione's hair was wild.

True, it was always wild, but today it seemed like nothing she did made it calm down any. She'd even gone as far as to borrow Miracle Potion from a Fourth Year named Brandy who happened to have the same frizzy hair, and though it had calmed it down some, her hair still looked like a lion's mane.

Hermione spent nearly twenty minutes in the bathroom trying to do something to tame it, but in the end she sighed, exasperated, and gave up. She only had about a half hour left until breakfast ended, so she might as well go and just deal with it as it was. It was Sunday, after all, and it wasn't as if she'd be spending all day in and out of classrooms feeling self-conscious of people not being able to see over the volume of her hair. That had been an issue when she was younger, before she discovered magical hair potions, and now she was starting to think she'd used them so much her hair had become immune to them.

When she entered the Great Hall she hesitated in the entrance. Ron was sitting, alone, glaring over at Draco, who looked to be very pleased to be eating whatever it was he was eating. She'd not thought that Harry wouldn't be here, and to be honest she didn't want to deal with Ron alone. Especially considering she could tell he was in one of his moods he found himself in so often lately. She'd been putting off having the break-up talk with him, however, and she felt that if he lost his temper again this morning that maybe it might benefit her. Then she could simply blame the break-up over his irrationality.

She knew that was a horrible thing to do, but the thought of such an easy exit gave her confidence the boost it needed for her to make her way over to him.

She stood at across from him, and then realized she'd been kidding herself earlier. She felt nervous all over again and thought her plan was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever come up with. "Ahem," she quietly cleared her throat. "May I sit down?" She questioned, feeling more and more ludicrous as the time passed.

He nodded briefly and she sat across from him effectively blocking his view of Draco, noticing that his entire body was stiff. She'd been about to speak, though what she was going to say she was unsure of, but he beat her to it. "I don't want to lose you," he said. He was still stiff, and looking down at his plate of food now, avoiding her eyes. "So tell me what I can do to fix this...if anything. If it's that I don't hang over you like Harry and Ginny, or that I spend more time with my mates more than you, or...I don't know," he looked up at her, finally, anger gone. Now he just looked incredibly depressed. "I can't stand the thought of you not being with me. I've been wanting this for years, I finally get it, and I'm mucking it up like I do everything. Don't throw this away. Just tell me how I can change."

His words made her heart melt. The voice in her head that was practically screaming earlier that he was wrong for her was now whispering, what if? What if Ron was for her? She had spent seven years trying to get him, seven years of friendship and she couldn't deny he'd been her first real love. Sure, she didn't feel it for him all the time, but it couldn't be said that she felt nothing for him all the time. Maybe that was what love was, what did she know? Maybe they should attempt to work through it. After all, Ron was here begging for another chance, and Draco was sitting alone at his table, content to be that way. There wasn't a future with the Slytherin. But is there one with Ron, either? She asked herself sadly. "Ron..." She began quietly, not sure what to say.

"All I'm asking is you give me until after Christmas. It's a few weeks away. And when the new year starts, if you still feel the same, then we'll part mutually and that will be that. But be mine until then." His tone was practically pleading.

She knew that this was very out of character for him. Ron was stubborn, he could go the rest of his life angry at someone if they didn't apologize first, so this was a huge step out of his comfort zone. She owed him that much, right? What was a few weeks, after all? "Alright...We'll just enjoy the holiday and see how things go."

She hated how she'd given in so easily. When he smiled at her and held her head across the table she felt her stomach churn guiltily. It made her sad to think that not too long ago this simple gesture would have made her feel butterflies. How had things changed so quickly, anyway?

Ron began to eat then, as though he'd been starving, his mood obviously lifted. Despite herself, Hermione did feel the corners of her mouth begin to lift in a smile. She did care about him, after all, and she liked to see him happy.

They soon began to converse about things that were just natural for them. He listened to her rant about her Arithmancy assignment she'd rewritten three times, he teased her, he made his usual outrageous jokes that caused her to use her signature stern tone with him, and they laughed together. The tight knot that had taken over her stomach from the moment she saw him in the Great Hall had disappeared completely by the time they'd finished their meal, and they sat there happily continuing their conversation long after the food disappeared. Ron invited her to go for a walk around the grounds and she found herself instantly agreeing to the idea.

Maybe, she thought, it wasn't always such a horrible thing to be wrong.

oOo

Draco stormed into the men's bathroom, slamming the door behind him and glaring at his reflection in the mirror. He'd been in a great mood until he had to watch the displays of affection between the Mudblood and her disgusting boyfriend, and suddenly his nausea and headache had returned like it had never left. His hands were literally shaking from his anger, and he'd gripped the basin tightly to attempt to calm himself down.

Why was he feeling like this? What feeling was this, anyway? It felt like the more he thought he had gotten his mind wrapped around an idea of how he felt, something happened and he felt completely different. He had to tell himself numerous times it was jealousy that was making him want to hex the next person he saw, but rather just the thought of a blood-traitor and a Mudblood producing more filth for wizardkind. His father would feel the same, right? Anybody would, it was only normal.

Of course, Draco knew he was only fooling himself and after a moment he simply gave into it (after kicking the sink so many times he felt for sure he'd broken his toe). He liked the Mudblood. He didn't know why. She wasn't even that attractive, she wasn't working with much of a bosom, and she had no respectable blood qualities. Sure, she was brilliant, and passionate, and brave, but he could find that anywhere. Astoria was probably all of those things and she looked great.

He took a shaky breath, and squeezed his eyes closed. He would just have to spend more time with Granger, that was all, and maybe the more time he spent around her the more annoyed with her he'd become and then everything would go back to normal. He knew that plan was ridiculous at best, but it was the only one he had at the time, because he couldn't avoid her because of that pathetic project they were stuck working on until Valentine's Day.

He abruptly left the bathroom when a Hufflepuff he didn't recognize stepped inside, and bumped straight into Astoria.

She looked dreadful. Her eyes were swollen as though she couldn't bare to keep them open because the light was too much, her hair had been thrown back into a sloppy bun, and her clothes were wrinkled as though she'd just grabbed the first thing she could find, and it had been found at the bottom of her trunk. Stripped of her make-up she was just average looking, but Merlin, her eyes were always bright that he could never truly look away from them.

He couldn't think of a single thing to say to her, so he remained quiet.

"Madame Pomfrey ran out of potion," Astoria said, her voice quiet. "I was actually hoping to find you. I forged a note saying she's given me permission to brew some from Professor Slughorn, and you're the best in Potions in school. Will you help me?"

The compliment raised his ego, and the sneaky way she'd got around not having anything to help with her hangover was all it took for him to set aside their evening and to agree. Well, that, and he didn't exactly have anything else to do.

When they were alone in the Potions classroom and the orange mixture was slowly beginning to reach the correct temperature, she brought up what he'd been dreading. "I'm actually glad I caught you, I wanted to talk about last night."

Inwardly he groaned and through a fit, but on the outside her pursed his lips and briefly made a motion indicating for her to continue.

"I know that you know I fancy you," she began, her voice still hoarse and quiet, as though it hurt for her to speak at all. "But I can accept that it's not something that you're ready for. I won't push the issue again. It's up to you, now, I think I've done enough. I don't want you to feel like you need to be with me, for whatever reason, and it's clear you're going through enough of your own issues, so I'll let you sort that out. If you want to talk or anything, though, you know where to find me."

He let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding and focused his attention on the Gillyweed on the table. "Did we... I mean...What exactly...-?"

She laughed a bit, and then winced and grabbed at her head. "Nothing. Nothing really happened. We snogged, laid on your bed, undressed, and then you blacked out. And I...just wanted to be near you, I guess. So I stayed. You leaving this morning is what opened my eyes to the whole thing, though."

Draco hung his head, his hair tickling his forehead as he did so, not liking how he felt all the sudden. Sure, he didn't want to be with Astoria, but she still really wanted to be with him. He figured it wouldn't be half bad to just be her friend, Merlin knew he didn't really have any of those.

"Can I ask a question though?"

He wanted to say no to that. "Sure."

"What... well... What does Pansy have that I lack?"

He laughed, relieved. "Pansy and I just have history. We've been through a lot together. Pansy was the first person to be there for me and she just kind of stayed. Honestly, I don't even like her half the time."

"Then...what about Hermione?"

He stiffened at her name. He wasn't sure he wanted to talk about this, and he hated that he'd been so transparent about the entire thing. Did everyone know he fancied the Mudblood? "What about her?" There was a warning to his tone, he'd perfected doing that years ago, with Crabbe and Goyle.

"I'm not blind, Draco."

"I wish everyone would stop pretending like they knew anything about that situation. Granger and I work together on a project. Just because I don't hate the ground she walks on doesn't mean I'd touch her, or do anything that could jeopardize my family's bloodline." His words didn't sound very convicting when he spoke them out loud, but Astoria refrained from commenting, so he figured perhaps he'd done an alright job with convincing her. At least for now.

They spoke a little more as the potion finished and Astoria drank it, and Draco watched as her skin turned back to it's usual bright appearance, and she seemed to regain the life in her. She smiled at him gratefully and they poured the rest into a large bottle, telling Professor Slughorn that they were taking it to Madame Pomfrey now, but Astoria stuck it inside of her bag that had an undetectable extension charm on it (again, Draco was impressed by her intelligence, he struggled with that spell) and kept it.

They parted ways outside the classroom and he headed to the library then, and perhaps bump into Granger. He was a little taken aback to see that Granger was already there, however, and was sitting in the spot he usually took, looking instantly nervous when he walked in the room. "Let's go to the Room of Requirement today," she said quickly. "We should start to practice. Everyone else seems to already be finished with their work and we-"

"Okay," he agreed, cutting in. "Spare me your list of excuses. Let's just go and get this over with."

She blinked, and rose to her feet, grabbing her bag. "Now?"

He looked around, and his voice dripped of sarcasm when he spoke, "I suppose you have something better to do? Were you not waiting for me so I would join you?"

Her cheeks turned pink. "Well I just didn't expect that you'd...agree so quickly. I've got something to take care of first, but perhaps we could meet around two?" He glanced at the clock on the wall. It was only an hour away.

"Fine," he replied, haughtily, and then left, knowing that he had just gone to see her and she must have figured that too.

He was angry because he was sure whatever it was that she had to take care of had something to do with Weasley, and that put him in a foul mood. He'd actually been hoping for them to go and practice when she'd suggested it. He really didn't have anything else to do, and that was why he found himself going there right after leaving, on the pretences of setting things up and seeing how the room looked.

He was impressed to say the least. The room was spacious, had a few bookshelves that were filled with books about Inferi and other defensive spells, there was a wall of potions that upon glance and smell he could tell were for wounds, or temporary protection, and a few tables for sitting at and studying. He had no soon as thought that perhaps the room would look better with something for them to aim their practice at, when a few dummies appeared. It seemed the more he thought about adding to the room, the more it created. Soon it looked like an obstacle course that would have made Professor Lupin proud.

He found a few books that he thought might be of service to them and then began just practicing with the dummies to see how it felt. When he grew bored of it he turned his attention the the mirror on the wall, studying his reflection.

His eyes were gray like cement. He'd never really enjoyed them, but he couldn't deny they suited him. They could get dark as he got angry, and turned almost blue when he was turned on, Pansy had told him that it was how she could tell how excited he was, aside from the obvious. His hair was white-blonde and was longer now than he'd ever had it, due to the hair-growth potion from earlier in the year. The cut was the last one Granger had done for him and it was choppy, longer in some places than others, but if he were honest – he liked it. His cheeks were hollow, his nose was pointier than his liking, and his skin seemed to be back to its usual pale ways. He was glad for that. For awhile there it had been almost as gray as his eyes.

If he had to rate himself, he would say he was no Gilderoy Lockhart, but he wasn't bad at all.

A sudden noise behind him made him jump, and he spun around so fast his wand slipped out of his hands and landed halfway between him and Granger. He felt foolish that he'd been caught studying his reflection, and the fact that it was her to catch him made it that much worse. He felt his cheeks turn red, which in turn made him feel defensive.

She glanced at his fallen wand moment, and hesitantly walked over to pick it up. "I'm sorry," she said, quietly, and walked over to him, handing it back. "I probably should have knocked."

"You think?" He snapped, snatching it away from her, and stuffing it in his robes. He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw she was still almost half an hour early, which irritated him. He felt embarrassed, which made him angry, and he wanted to release steam, so he continued to be rude. "So I'm sure you thought this meeting was solely for my benefit, because you spent so much time with the Chosen One that you know how to duel your way around anything, and I must not be good with my wand. Well, just so you know-"

"I never said that," she interrupted, clearly now having a temper. "And I'd appreciate it if you'd stop talking to me like that. I know you can be civil, so why don't you act on it? I'm not your enemy."

He stopped for a moment, seething, and then turned around, facing the wall opposite her, trying to collect himself. He closed his eyes, and once again thought about how lonely he was, how bloody infatuated, or whatever it was, with her he'd become, he thought about her and the Weasel. He knew he was being rude; that he was taking his anger out on her over something insignificant, and Pansy, and whomever else went out of their way to speak to him. He wanted people close by but instead all he was doing was pushing them out of his life. If he continued he'd be completely alone, and he knew it. And as much as he hated to admit it, he wanted Granger on his side. Maybe because, unlike Pansy and the rest of them, she seemed to not mind who he was when it came to an emotional side. He and Pansy had spent years together, but he didn't think she even knew what his favorite Quidditch team was. Yet here was Granger, a girl he'd spoken with maybe 10 times since school had started, and she could understand why he acted how he did, maybe even before he knew himself. "Fine," he said, finally, balling up his fist and relaxing it again.

When he turned back to face her she nodded towards a table by the side of the room, and she wandered over the bookshelf to see if she could find anything worth reading.

Draco cleared his throat when he saw where she was heading, "I already pulled them out… they're on the table." His voice sounded scratchy and almost flat. He felt slightly defeated, and he didn't even know why.

Granger nodded and made her way over to it, looking at all of the different titles. When Draco joined her she spoke, "I know they fear fire, but I don't think incendio will be enough to fight them off. I mean, maybe if we were only dueling one, but Professor Delcore won't be making this easy for us, I'm sure."

"Well, there are other spells for fire," Draco said, reaching in his bag to find a quill, "Aduro is one, exuro another, though a bit less powerful, inflammo is also pretty good but I've never been able to cast it myself, never needed to use it personally. It's more NEWT level." She was looking at him, almost impressed, and that made him continue, though his voice was more quiet. "And then there's… Fiendfyre." He said, and at the last word he once again thought of Crabbe, and felt his throat constrict slightly.

He could see her expression soften a bit. "Do you…I mean…It's not easy to control, right?"

He swallowed, "It is if you know what you're doing. Crabbe just… he wasn't the smartest bloke. He produced too much too quickly, and by the time I noticed it, it was too large to stop."

She raised her eyebrows at his information. "I knew about it…I know there was a counter-spell, but I thought it was too complicated to learn to stop it."

"It's not easy. It takes about as much work as a Patronus does, a lot of concentration, and a lot of swift wand flicking. You have to do it right, straight away, or it can overpower you. A lot of people have died from it, thinking they could handle it and not."

"Can you cast a Patronus?" She questioned.

He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "I used to be able to," he said, and avoided looking at her, knowing all too well she knew why he couldn't anymore. "It was a snake. I was upset that it wasn't a dragon – it's what I'm named after for Merlin's sake, so I was practicing on changing it, and then before I knew it…I just couldn't make one anymore… What about you?"

"Mine's an otter," she responded, trying to sound as though their conversation was just a casual chat between friends.

"I can see that," he said, glancing up at her. She smiled warmly at him, at the gesture, and he scowled, looking back down. "Anyway, I think we'll be able to get through this not using Fiendfyre. Inflammo might be our best bet, but like I said, it's difficult. What I'm thinking is, since we're doing this together, we can both try and see who can cast it first, and if one of us can't seem to catch on, the other can combine a less powerful fire spell. I mean, we're fighting together, I don't think we both need to risk burning the whole castle down."

"Then let's get to work." She stated, finding the page for the spell, and taking it from the book. She enlarged the paper and stuck it to the wall to their left, so they could practice on the dummies and still see it as they needed.

It took about an hour before either of them were able to produce even a little bit of flames out of the end of their wand, and that was just a slightly successful attempt. Accidentally, twenty minutes prior, Draco's wand had practically blown up at the end and shot the top of the dummies head off before he even knew what was happening. Granger had laughed so hard as his bewildered expression that he had managed a small smile despite himself.

"You were right," she stated, summoning two drinks for them and sliding his across the table to him, "This isn't any easy spell."

"Yeah, it's just the hand movements are quick and they have to be precise. I don't think I've ever had to learn a spell that took so long for me to perfect before," he admitted.

A comfortable silence passed between them. It seemed she was debating if she should ask something out loud or not, and Draco waited, as he wasn't sure what else to say to continue the conversation in the first place. "I… well… I was wondering…" She cleared her throat. "The Happiness Potion…in Slughorn's class… Did you, well, take it often?"

He tensed up, not wanting to discuss it. He knew he was going to answer defensively even before he spoke, "That's none of your business."

"I didn't mean to pry, only I just felt…lousy, I guess, after seeing how it affected you compared to how it affected Daphne."

"Yeah, well…such is life," he twirled his wand around his free hand a moment, and saw her look down and study her drink. Since she wasn't looking, he chose the moment to study her again. He noted that her hair was starting to frizz slightly, from the heat in the room, and he was close enough now to notice some of it was a deeper shade than the rest, and there were a few pieces that were light enough to almost seem blonde. It was funny, but her hair actually matched her eyes almost perfectly. Her eyebrows were tamed and didn't really arch, in fact, they seemed to be straight lines across her face, which reminded him of his mother's. To stop himself from staring any longer, he spoke of the first thing that popped into his mind, recognizing immediately it wasn't the brightest thing to bring up given the moment. "So…you and Weasley, huh… I'm sure you're not with him for his, ah, intellect."

She pursed her lips, but said nothing.

"So…he must be a good shag," he continued, trying to sound like he were joking, but realizing after the words came out that it sounded just as angry as he always portrayed himself to be.

"That is none of your business," she snapped, her tone as defensive as his had been early when he'd told her the same. "I could ask you the same about Pansy."

He grinned at the easy way he could turn the conversation, "Are you curious about my love life?"

She flushed, "N-no. That's – that's not what I –"

"I'll tell you whatever you'd like to know about her," he said, now on a mission to make her feel uncomfortable. "How long we've been together, what our first kiss was like, or the first time we-"

"That's quite alright," she interrupted. "I don't think Pansy would be happy that I knew personal stuff about her. I'm not exactly her best friend."

"Pansy doesn't have friends," he shrugged. "So I don't think it matters."

Another silence stretched between them before she broke it again, "So…how do you know Astoria?"

At the mention of her name he got an odd feeling in his gut, one that he couldn't quite distinguish. "She's a Slytherin…Obviously." He knew that wasn't what she meant, but he also knew she wouldn't pry. However, the fact that somehow she had brought the other girl up made him curious. "I don't know her very well." He admitted. He wasn't quite sure what else he should say about her, so he ended his answer with that.

"She's very pretty," Granger said, almost sounding nonchalant.

"I've noticed…"

Again a silence fell, and this time it seemed as though there were nothing left to talk about, so they finished their drinks and went back to practicing. It seemed as though time wore on, and they tried over and over that Draco felt his guard slipping a little. They began to talk like they had the night they'd spent together in the Hospital Wing, discussing every day events and just simply getting to know each other. Granger was the first one to produce an actual flame that lasted for longer than a couple of seconds, and Draco actually cheered her on, feeling almost excited for her hard work paying off.

He watched her grin and continue to improve the spell, mastering the correct flick and twirl of the wand, and then slowly felt his good mood fade. How had he forgotten exactly who she was, again? He'd let his guard down and now she knew more about him than he truly wanted to share. And as the idea slowly began to okay itself in his head; he couldn't help but feel anxious about what would happen after they left this room, once other people were suddenly involved. He couldn't actually become her friend. He knew he could tell himself over and over that it was feasible, but he was completely sure that if it came up around Pansy or even Zabini, he would deny it and tease her over things he didn't even think were true. Like the other day when he'd called her ugly.

He was, though he hated to admit it, slightly jealous over the fact that she'd gotten the spell to work for her, though he shouldn't have been. He knew she would perfect it before him, she always did, but it just proved that she was the hardest worker between them, and that only made him strive to do better. Which was why when he was able to nearly perfect it just a few minutes after her.

She grinned, clearly as excited for him as he'd been for her, and once the spell went out she put his hand on his upper arm, as though to congratulate him. He'd stiffened at her touch, just for a second, and then he relaxed, and he smiled at her. Her was close enough now to smell her delicate perfume, and to inhale her scent, that he hated that he enjoyed so much. Close enough to embrace her if he wanted to.

They stood there just looking at each other for a moment, before she snapped her hand away, as though realizing that it was him she was touching. "S-sorry," she mumbled, and quickly went to gather her things. "So I was thinking maybe we should work out a system on how to alert one another for evenings that are free for us to meet up here. That way it doesn't look suspicious for others to see me waiting for you in the library." She pulled out a Galleon, and explained how it was how they'd been able to meet up for D.A. lessons back in Fifth Year.

He pocketed the coin after flipping it around to inspect it for a bit, and then glanced back up at her. They locked eyes, and for a moment he felt winded, his mouth felt dry. He wondered briefly what she'd do if he'd gently grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her towards him…

She broke contact first by continuing to put her belongings in her bag. "I'll see you!" she cried, rushing out the door.