This is to all of you who have been someone's secret. Or to you people who have been too 'embarrassing' to date. This is to you, my friends... we're in the same boat.
Or, if you're one of the lucky ones who has never experienced that feeling, just enjoy the story! :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing, though I wish I didn't.
Hermione stayed up late that night.
She had ordered a new book from Obscurus Books, and it had finally arrived that morning in the post. The book was delightfully filled with interesting information, mostly about Herbology and Potions, and Hermione had just made a mental note to lend the book to Neville when the portrait door swung open violently.
Jumping slightly, Hermione turned around swiftly and was greeted by a stumbling figure, a figure who tossed itself onto the nearest couch and started sobbing wildly.
"Parvati," Hermione said, and the figure started, raising its head to reveal the dark-haired girl. Her face was streaked with makeup and tears, her full lips trembling. "Er..." Suddenly, Hermione didn't know what to say. 'What are you doing?' and 'Wow, you're hysterical' seemed inappropriate.
"Her- Hermione," Parvati said, swallowing with what seemed like difficulty. "What... what are you doing up?"
Glancing at the grand clock in the corner and confirming that it was indeed late, almost three, Hermione lamely gestured with her book. "Um. New book. I stayed up to read it."
Parvati just stared at her, another tear escaping and sliding down her cheek slowly.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked impulsively. Normally, she'd avoid Parvati and her drama. Normally - and this was quite cruel - she really wouldn't care. But tonight was somehow different, and Parvati truly seemed upset.
Parvati sighed, rubbing at her eyes with her palms. "Kevin Entwhistle. Do you know him?"
Hermione thought for a moment. "Vaguely. He's in Ravenclaw, right?" She had heard of him but never saw him around much; he, apparently, had more girls tagging around him than anyone else in the school.
Parvati nodded miserably. Hermione wondered for a moment if Kevin had rejected her, then dismissed that thought. She couldn't be that much of a mess if a boy had turned her down, could she?
"Did he... what about him?" Hermione ventured, when Parvati didn't volunteer any more information. Parvati sighed again, looking straight into Hermione's eyes.
"Hermione," she said seriously. "Don't be a secret."
"What?" Utterly nonplussed, Hermione snapped her book shut and placed it on her lap, giving Parvati her undivided attention now.
Parvati gazed moodily down at her hands. "Kevin and I... we've been what I thought was dating for months now, since school started. He insisted that we don't tell anyone, because his parents wouldn't let him date and he has a cousin here that would tell on him."
Hermione's mouth twisted up. She could see where this was going. And suddenly, her stomach clenched painfully, but before she could respond to that, Parvati pressed on.
"So I met him in secret. We had fun. He seemed so sweet, he even told me he loved me. I- I slept with him; my first time was with him." At this, Parvati's eyes welled up again. "And then I found him kissing Astoria Greengrass yesterday."
"Astoria Greengrass?" Hermione was surprised at this. As much as she didn't want to admit it, she was very interested in Parvati's tale, and was even leaning a bit toward the girl, drinking in everything. "Oh, Parvati-"
"And," Parvati continued, sniffling, "I confronted him, said it was over, that I wouldn't date a cheater." Good for you, Hermione thought firmly. "He laughed."
"He laughed, and said, 'Woah, Parvati, we weren't dating. This was just for fun'."
"'No offense, or anything, but anyway, I'd only date someone who was like me.' 'Like you?' I had asked. He said... 'You know. Popular.'"
Hermione sat there, staring at Parvati, who was now gazing unseeingly at the fireplace. "He was embarrassed of me, that's why he hid me. He had no trouble fooling around with Astoria in the main commons, and of course he didn't, she's so pretty, so-"
"Parvati," Hermione interrupted, "You're better than that. So, so much better. Kevin's an asshole, and truthfully, it's better it ended, because I would have been the one embarrassed to be with him."
Parvati shook her head, then let it fall down to the couch cushions. "Hermione," she repeated, "don't be someone's secret. Ever."
And they sat there for the next half hour, in a heavy silence, Hermione clenching at her new book that she lost interest in, Parvati picking at the loose threads on the cushions.
Eventually, Hermione stood up, joints creaking. "I'm tired, goodnight," she murmured, still rattled. Parvati looked at her curiously but shrugged, muttering a farewell.
Hermione yanked open her bed curtains, and just barely muffled a scream as she made out a figure sprawled on the bedsheets. She shouldn't have been surprised, though. He snuck into her dorms nearly every week, claiming that the Gryffindor rooms were warmer and 'homier', as he put it. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she relaxed, though hardly. Parvati's speech was still ringing in her ears.
Draco Malfoy cracked open an eye, a lazy smile stretching on the half of his face that was showing.
"Move," Hermione hissed, kicking at his legs, and he rolled to the side, emitting a low groan.
"What time is it?" Draco slurred sleepily, eyes now tightly shut.
"About four," Hermione replied quietly, watching the moonlight splay on his sharp features. His arms crept out and pulled her deep into the comfort of her sheets, and she automatically snuggled back to fit his figure.
His breath slowed down, and Hermione reached out to pull the curtains closed again, the rings rasping noisily against the metal bar.
"Shh," Draco breathed out, half-asleep. "Don't wanna wake your roommates..." and even as she lay there, Draco nodded off, and fell once more into a deep sleep.
She wouldn't want that, now would she.
The next morning, Draco was gone.
That made sense, Hermione thought as she stretched out, toes curling. She had gone to bed probably hours before he had slipped in her room, dropping down on her bed like it was his. He also had a class ridiculously early, while Hermione didn't start until nearly noon.
Her book was lying on her nightstand, and Hermione would have looked it over without another thought if not for the way it was perched. She had thrown it lazily there last night, but now it was straight, perfectly aligned with the corners.
Draco, Hermione rolled her eyes. How wrong was it that he was the neat one, always clicking his tongue and readjusting her sheets, her loose parchment papers, even her hair? She was the smart one, she should be the one fussing over every stray quill.
She idly opened the cover; inside, in elegant scripture, held the words: Sleep tight love.
Hermione slammed the cover down, a blush heating at her cheeks. Through the open curtains she could see Lavender peering at her curiously, but Hermione ignored the other girl and pulled on her clothes, shaking her head.
She couldn't be.
Hermione stomped down to the Great Hall, still thinking. He was her secret, too. Sort of. She had only told her closest friends... so really, only three people - Harry, Ron and Ginny - knew, so technically he was a secret.
They were supportive, if wary. Harry seemed most at ease (Ron the least, expectedly), despite him ironically having the biggest rivalry with Draco.
She slid in beside Harry and pulled a random plate toward her.
"Hey." He didn't seem too happy either.
"You seem upset," Harry commented, eyeing Hermione peripherally. She shrugged.
"So do you."
"Ah. Yeah. Well, Ginny has a date with Michael Corner."
Why, why did all problems have to do with love and relationships? Couldn't there be any simple problems like, I failed my Transfiguration exam? I got a detention? My parents are making me babysit my cousins for the entire winter break?
"Damn, if I have to write one more essay for that fucking class I swear I'll rip McGonagall's head off."
Hermione would have turned around and thanked the person for a nice, easy problem, had she not recognized the cocky drawl and the insistence on cussing. She even identified the claps of his shoes on the stone floor, if that was possible. And as he walked by, she caught the whiff of his scent - no cologne, just pure, fresh-
"Ouch!" Hermione knocked her elbow against Harry as a hand slapped her lightly on the back of her head. "Draco!"
She turned, scowling fiercely only to bite her lip at his expression. Like he didn't know why the hell he just did that. She wondered if anyone else noticed his action.
Harry did, and he blinked at her before turning to Draco, who stood there next to Blaise Zabini looking smug, and somehow a little lost.
"Hey, loser," Draco said, before turning on his heel and walking off, Blaise looking over his shoulder to look at Hermione once before shrugging and continuing on. Obviously, he wasn't in the loop. And he was Draco's best friend, if only friend.
Harry took a slow bite of his toast. "Weird morning," he muttered.
Hermione laughed despite herself. "What did you say about Michael Corner?" she asked, hoping to distract him. It worked.
"That jerk," he griped, setting down his toast roughly and grabbing at his mug of coffee, a Muggle drink that was served seemingly to only him and Hermione at breakfast. "I wouldn't be so worried if they hadn't had history together, I mean I could call it an innocent date, but they've already gone out, and..."
Hermione caught Draco's eyes from across the room. He started to smile, before Blaise stared directly at her too. Draco noticed.
And his smile fell, and he looked away.
Hermione headed down for dinner alone. She had spent the afternoon reading in the library, and had been perfectly content to curl up in a ball on one of the armchairs and lose herself for a couple hours in a novel.
Turning the corner, she bumped into a hard chest.
"Oh, hey," he smiled warmly, eyes flickering around the hallway carefully. Hermione picked up on this, and struggled to keep the frown off her face.
"Hey," she grinned back, and finding some courage, took his hand in hers. She felt a thrill of achievement as he shot her a smirk, one that was filled with something she hoped was pleasure.
They walked a couple steps like this, idly chatting about house-elves, when suddenly a gaggle of gossipy third-year girls trotted past.
He dropped her hand like it was on fire, and ran a hand through his hair, looking extremely nervous. Hermione was a little stung, though she kept the hurt look off her face as Draco stopped and faced her.
"I forgot something in my room," he said, not even looking at her. He was beginning to look more and more panicked as the hallway started to fill up with people, people who started to look at them - two enemies who were casually talking, standing a little too close. "I'll see you later?" Gray eyes now locked on hers; she could only nod.
She leaned up, not even knowing what she was hoping for. But he turned swiftly, tugging at his light hair and scurrying off quickly.
Hermione entered the Hall alone, a lump in her throat.
"You know what we might want to do sometime?" Hermione asked casually, flipping through a textbook as Draco scrawled absentmindedly on a piece of parchment at her feet.
"Tell people," she blurted. Okay, she had wanted something more eloquent, but she had just said it bluntly, and it seemed to have the same effect. Draco glanced up, knowing exactly what she meant. To her intense disappointment, fear showed in his eyes for one quick moment.
"Sometime," Hermione added, "You know, not right now, not if you don't want to, but I mean, sometime-" Why. Why was she still talking.
"Does anyone know right now?" Draco asked, entire body still.
"Er. Harry. Ron, Ginny. Uh, I'm actually pretty sure Neville knows too, he hinted at it but didn't really ask directly..."
"And they're... fine with it?" Draco said, staring at her oddly.
Hermione blinked. "Yes. Mostly. It took a while to get used to, I think, but now they're - they're fairly fine, I'd say. They trust my judgment."
He was still looking at her with that twisted expression, like he ate
something sour. "I don't think we should-"
"What?" demanded Hermione, suddenly defensive. "Sorry, I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be your secret."
And with that, his expression changed smoothly to shock. Eyes wide, he opened his mouth wordlessly. Hermione barreled on.
"Sorry, that we've been together for months and you can't bring yourself to even acknowledge in public that we're together. I'm sorry if you're embarrassed of me, I'm sorry that I'm not - not like you!"
He glared at her. "Trust me, you should not be sorry that you're not like me."
Hermione stood up, painfully aware of how dramatic she was being, and glowered at Draco, gesturing around the room as she started to storm out.
"I'm sorry, that you feel the need to hide me away in your dorm room on a Friday night, when nobody is within a three hundred foot radius!" And she grasped at the doorknob, swinging it open to face an amused looking Blaise.
"Ah-" she uttered, a little startled as his dark eyes swept past her to rest on Draco.
"Hmm," he hummed, crossing his arms. "So, Draco, this has been your little project for the last few months. I'm a little relieved, I have to say. I thought you were gay."
Hermione shot Draco a scathing look before rushing out past Blaise, who watched her go.
Just as she slammed the door shut, she heard Blaise laugh once.
"You screwed that one up."
Breakfast Saturday morning was brutal. She avoided at all costs the Slytherin table, even though it was barely filled. She had slept badly, tossing and turning and trying to wrench out the thoughts of Draco that kept creeping up.
He was embarrassed of her, fine. She wasn't the usual girls he'd been with, she wasn't tall, exotic Astoria Greengrass or blonde Primrose Hahn, that was fine. He was shallow. And she could move on and be with someone who was not. Easy.
Hermione miserably stuffed a piece of roll into her mouth, though she made an effort to join in Ron, Harry and Ginny's conversation on Quidditch.
But, God, that sport was just so dull, she didn't even want to listen, much less contribute.
A mug slammed down on her left, and a tall figure awkwardly slid in beside her. "Hi," Draco snapped at the Gryffindor table, and a silence fell.
Neville broke it after a few tense seconds by smiling and replying with a friendly, "Hello, Malfoy."
Draco looked slightly unnerved, but forced a clumsy smile back . "Longbottom," he returned, nodding once. He sipped at his mug, sliding his gaze toward Hermione. "Wait five minutes," he hissed, looking both furious and apprehensive, "wait five fucking minutes and you'll see why I've never done this."
Hermione was insanely curious. Why-?
Not even thirty seconds later, she heard a voice. "Malfoy and Granger? Bloody hell, I guess she must be wild in bed if he's doing her."
Draco's fingers tapped and he shook his head, gripping the handle of his mug with so much force, Hermione half-expected it to shatter. But her mind was elsewhere, on the other comments that started to flow.
"...Only sluts go for Malfoy, they know he's easy..."
"She must be desperate, I heard he tried to kill her-"
"-very desperate, what, will no one go out with her so she has to resort to the Death Eate-"
"You see?" Draco practically screeched, standing up. Conversation in the general vicinity dropped immediately, and a hushed silence filled the Hall. "Hermione," he barked out, waving his free hand while the other threw down the mug to the stone floor. It did shatter this time, tea spreading out in a big puddle. "I'd like nothing more, believe me, to hold your hand and tote you around the corridors. I'd love to, believe me, to call you my girlfriend in public. But I fucking can't, because I know, I know when I do, that these asses" -he waved both his hands around the room- "will call you names. Slut, whore, tramp, wanton, desperate, pick your fucking synonym, because my reputation is shit and I'm not dragging you down with me." He spat on the floor, kicked away the shards of ceramic.
Hermione found her voice. "I don't care," she whispered, and Draco snorted.
"That's why I never told you. I care, though, and c'mon, admit it, you don't want to be labeled like that. I'm not worth it. Within a minute of me sitting next to you, you were the object of everyone's insults already."
Hermione looked around the room; nearly everyone looked ashamed. Her eyes snapped back to where Draco stood, chest heaving.
It was Parvati who broke that silence.
She stood up from her seat next to Lavender (who looked horrified and tried to tug her down) and cleared her throat. Everyone shifted their gazes to her.
"Malf- Draco," she amended, "You and Hermione make a very cute couple." And she sat down, calmly picking up a goblet of pumpkin juice and downing it.
Someone else stood up, Hermione numbly watching. It was Luna. She blinked her overly large eyes and smiled serenely. "Draco Malfoy, you may have a bad reputation, but a reputation for a thousand years may depend on the conduct of a simple moment. You don't have to keep that old reputation. And this was a nice moment."
Draco twitched, not noticing that Hermione stood up.
"Make a new one." Astoria. She tossed her long hair behind her shoulders and shrugged. "Granger has a perfect record, can't it even out your shitty one?"
Draco swiveled around and glared at her, and Astoria flashed white teeth. "Seeing as how you hate me now, I'd say that's a start to your new reputation."
Hermione grabbed at his hand, winding her fingers through his. "Draco," she said seriously, "I wouldn't care if I endured the insults everyday for the rest of my life, they don't know anything and frankly, they're not worth it. But you are."
"Plus," Harry chimed in, looking amused, "I don't think anyone will dare say anything now that Draco smashed a mug on the ground and screamed at everybody."
Draco flushed, though he kept his eyes locked on Hermione's. "I was-" he started, but Hermione cut him off.
"-being you, someone who I love dearly," she smiled.
"This is sickening," Ron hissed to Ginny, who shushed him.
Draco let out a small, real smile. "I was never embarrassed of you," he said, crinkling his brow. "If anything, I thought you'd be embarrassed of me. Mr. Death Eater here, remember?"
Hermione shrugged, tilting up her head and catching Draco's lips. "Well, Mr. Death Eater, you're just going to have to find a way to break it to your little Death Eater posse that you're dating a Mudblood, Hermione Granger to be specific."
He grinned widely, embracing her in a tight hug and burying his face in her hair. Hermione felt instantly at ease, sinking in and feeling for the first time in days, content.
The moment was broken by Parvati, who stood up suddenly, howling, "KEVIN ENTWHISTLE, MARK MY WORDS, YOU'RE GOING TO REGRET BEING AN ASSHOLE!"
"A reputation for a thousand years may depend on the conduct of a single moment". -Ernest Bramah
(I wish I could think of insightful things like that, but alas, I can't, and I have to resort to recycling quotes to make my Ravenclaw characters a little more believably intelligent and clever).
Hurrah for being people's secrets! Just kidding. I was one once. Not fun. This was what I wished had happened... of course it didn't, because this is fiction (but I'm done with that, I'm not THAT weak, I can stand up for myself! :))