Author's Note: Thank you for all your reviews. I'm glad you enjoyed this light-hearted fiction as I did writing it.
Thanks once more to Scarlettcat for her great prompts for the Hawthorn & Vine Treasured Tropes and to River in Egypt for helping me out and editing this at short notice.
Chapter 6: Snape's Downfall
Repotting the Dragon's Flame had been easier than Hermione had imagined. It was probably, because she and Neville had worked together so many times over the years that they were attuned to each other's magic. They soon had the protesting plant in its new, bigger home and had backed away to a safe distance, releasing the shield charm now it was no longer needed.
"High five!" Hermione said, putting her hand up in the air.
It was only when Neville looked at her as if she was crazy, that she remembered lots of things didn't translate across into the wizarding world and high fives were one of them.
"Er … yeah, never mind. Muggle thing." she mumbled, a little embarrassed.
She looked across the greenhouse and tried to find her courage. She really needed to tell Neville the truth about their 'relationship', but it was easier said than done. However, Ginny was right, the longer she strung this out the more likely she was to seriously hurt Neville and destroy her friendship with him in the long run. She took a deep breath and was about to speak, when fingers softly tangled in her hair. She jumped and looked at Neville, who was concentrating on pulling something out of her hair.
"Here," he said, holding up a dead leaf. "It was stuck in your hair."
"Oh, thanks," she said, becoming mute when he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
"Er … Neville, about us-"
She had to stop as he leant down to obviously kiss her. She should have known this moment was coming and been prepared - after all, they had apparently been dating for four days and she'd so far managed to duck out of this. However, she wasn't and couldn't help but panic a little, moving backwards and bumping into the table behind them. He followed her over and was about to kiss her, when the greenhouse door banged open.
Neville jumped back and Hermione looked over to see an enraged Head Boy in the doorway, his wand raised.
"Malfoy, what do you think you're doing?" she asked.
"Get away from her!" the Slytherin ordered, ignoring her question.
Neville just looked confused, but continued to hover close next to her. Apparently this was too much for Malfoy.
"I said get away from her!"
"Have you lost your mind? She's my girlfriend! Why should I stay away from her?"
The Head Boy had continued to stalk towards them, his wand raised before he reached out a hand and grabbed her wrist, tugging her towards him. "Tell him, Hermione!"
"Tell me what?" Neville asked, grabbing her other wrist and attempting to tug her back.
"Okay, can you both stop manhandling me? And have you lost your marbles, Malfoy? What exactly am I meant to be telling Neville?"
"You're asking me if I'm the crazy one, when you're dating him by mistake?"
Neville scoffed. "Have you been eating something funny, Malfoy? What do you know about our relationship? Right, Hermione?"
He looked at her and saw the blush on her face and narrowed his eyes. She knew that she looked guilty, but she couldn't help it. However, she was confused as to how Malfoy knew anything about her relationship with Neville, but the fact that he'd stated the truth so matter of factly couldn't be denied and the guilt couldn't be suppressed.
"Are you really dating me by accident?"
"No, it's not like that, Neville," she said weakly.
"What do you mean 'not like that'? What is it like?" he asked, letting go of her wrist.
Unfortunately, as he and Malfoy had still been engaged in an undignified tug of war over her, this release meant that she was flung rather hard against Malfoy, who had still been pulling her towards him. He lost his balance and went flying backwards and straight into the newly repotted Dragon's Flame.
The plant, never docile at the best of times, reacted as if under attack and with a loud belch, opened its tentacles and spewed forth a dangerous combination of scalding hot ash, gas and lava that had been incubating inside of it. Neville jumped on top of her, pushing them both out of the way of the flame.
There was an almighty explosion as the noxious cocktail reacted with the humid air and the last thing Hermione remembered was hearing hundreds of panes of glass shatter.
She regained consciousness in the Infirmary, blinking her eyes against the harsh light.
"Thank goodness you're okay," a voice said from beside her.
She turned to see the red hair of Ginny Weasley sitting there, Ron and Harry flanking her either side.
"How long have I been out for?" she croaked.
She gratefully accepted the glass of water from Harry and sipped, washing the dry taste from her mouth.
"A good couple of hours."
"What happened? The last thing I remember is Neville pushing me to the floor."
"The greenhouse came down on top of you. It took four professors to dig you all out."
"And Malfoy? He's okay?" she asked, a little panicked, the image of him laying at her feet, unconscious in the Potions classroom fresh in her memory.
"He's fine," a voice in the bay next to her said. "He's still out cold as he got the worse of it, but Madam Pomfrey says he'll be fine."
Hermione turned her head and saw Neville sitting up in his bed, half of his face covered in gauze, with a few scratches visible. She felt guilty once more. She'd been so worried about Malfoy that she hadn't even thought to enquire about Neville, the boy who'd made sure that she was protected in the greenhouse.
Ginny, a lot more sensitive to tense atmospheres than Hermione's best friends, leant down and pecked her on the cheek. "Anyway, now that you're awake, we'll be off. It's nearly curfew and we've already overstayed our welcome with Madam Pomfrey."
Harry and Ron followed her leave, after crushing her in a hug, and soon Hermione was left alone with Neville and an unconscious Malfoy.
"We need to talk," Neville said.
She sighed. She really didn't want to have this conversation, as she was more than aware that she had behaved atrociously towards him, which was something Neville really didn't deserve.
"I know," she said quietly, plucking at her blanket.
"Why?" he asked simply.
She didn't bother trying to dress it up. "I didn't know how to tell you that I didn't feel the same way. You were so happy at Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop and I didn't want to burst your bubble."
"You were going to have to tell me at some point."
"I know, I just hadn't really figured out when. And I really wanted to see the Dragon's Flame," she confessed, shame-faced.
He gave a curt laugh and silence fell between them.
"What's happening between you and Malfoy?" he asked, ten minutes later.
"Nothing!" she replied defensively.
"But you like him?"
Having this conversation with her ex-boyfriend of a few minutes felt really wrong but she owed him the truth.
"Yes," she whispered.
He smiled, a little bitterly. "Thanks for not lying. I wouldn't have believed you if you had of course - he was the first person you asked about."
She flushed. "I know and I'm sorry. You were the one who pushed me to safety and, by the looks of it, got cut up in the process."
Hermione was saved any further painful conversation by Madam Pomfrey bustling through the door. "Ah, Miss Granger, you are awake. Good."
The nurse proceeded to do a series of diagnostic spells and at the end proclaimed her fit and well. "It's remarkable really," she commented.
"It's all thanks to Neville here, he protected me."
Madam Pomfrey smiled at the Gryffindor wizard, who was a favourite of hers. "Mr. Longbottom was lucky to get off with a few scratches. You are free to go, now," she said, looking at Neville, who hastily scrambled up from the bed.
"What about me?" Hermione asked.
"Sorry, I would like to keep you in over night. That was some bump on the head you took," the nurse said, putting a pair of fresh pyjamas at the foot of her bed.
Neville hesitated. It was obvious that he wanted to say more but not in front of the nurse, who picked up on it straight away. She gave them both an amused look. "Make sure you're back in Gryffindor Tower before curfew, Mr. Longbottom."
He nodded his agreement and Madam Pomfrey walked across the Infirmary and into her quarters, shutting the door.
Hermione looked awkwardly at Neville. "I really am sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I know," he said, coming across and patting her hand.
"Can you forgive me?"
He smiled. "Of course I can. We're friends first and, to be honest, I never had any hope anyway. These last few days have felt too good to be true and they were. I can't be angry at that."
"You're a better person than me," she replied.
"Maybe," he said.
He hesitated once more before looking over at the sleeping Head Boy. "So, what are you going to do regarding Malfoy?"
She gnawed her lip uncertainly. "I haven't really thought that through."
"I suggest you go for it. Take it from me, it's amazing when what you dream for, but had never hoped to achieve, actually happens. And in your case, I don't think it will turn out to be an illusion."
Hermione couldn't help the tears that welled up in her eyes. She pulled him into a fierce hug. "You're the best, Neville, and you're going to find someone a hundred times better than I am, who is going to make you so happy."
He kissed her forehead. "Don't worry about me, I'm tougher than I look."
"I know you are but I hate that I've made you sad."
His silence was telling and her heart broke a little at the pain she'd caused him. Ginny was right, she had been cruel. He squeezed her hand before turning and leaving the Infirmary.
Hermione was listlessly reading on her bed when she heard the change in Malfoy's breathing. Instead of the deep and slow breaths it had been for the past four hours, it was now laboured, almost as if he was struggling with something. The rustle of the sheets indicated that he was tossing and turning, too.
She slipped her feet into her slippers, protecting them from the cold stone floor and padded her way over to Malfoy's bed. As she suspected, he was sleeping uncomfortably, as if his dreams were disturbing his rest. It wouldn't be surprising considering what had happened to them today.
She leant over and smoothed the frown that had gathered in between his eyes. He calmed somewhat, so she settled into the seat next to his bed, summoning her book and clutching his hand with her free one. There was something peaceful about sitting there, in the middle of the night, in silence whilst reading and absently stroking the back of his hand.
It was the sound of a box of chocolates clattering off the bed that pulled Hermione out of her book. She looked over at Draco's bedside table and saw that the little Quidditch figurine she'd made for him had been left on the table, along with the usual boxes of chocolates and sweets. Little Draco appeared to have just woken up and - from the ruffled state of his robes - it appeared the box that he'd just shoved to the floor had squashed him. She tutted, leant down and picked the box back up, placing it away from the figurine at the back. Mini-Malfoy spotted her then and he jumped on his broomstick to land on the open pages of the book. He seemed very pleased to see her and she opened her palm so he could play there.
"I never did thank you for him," Draco said.
She jumped and raised her head to see that the little figurine had apparently woken the larger version up. If Hermione didn't know better then she'd think he was completely fine apart from the bandage around his head, but the flame from the plant had singed half his hair off and resulted in some rather nasty burns that Madam Pomfrey said would take at least twelve hours to heal.
"How did you know it was me?"
He gave her a level stare. "Come on, Granger, who else could produce magic like that? Is any other student at Hogwarts capable of such magic? Besides, look how much adoration he's giving you. People usually save such behaviour for their creator."
She blushed but shrugged a little. "Okay, so I made him for you. I felt guilty for nearly killing you."
"So you should but, lets face it, I nearly killed myself with that Porcupine Quill stunt."
She was so shocked that he'd actually make an admission of fault that she just stared at him.
"What?" he huffed.
"I don't think I've never known you to own up to something before."
He scowled. "Don't get used to it."
She grinned. "I won't."
"So, what happened?"
She faltered. Did he not remember anything? Would he have forgotten basically forcing her to break up with Neville, which hinted at him having feelings for her?
"Er … you came into the greenhouse whilst Neville and I were …"
"I've not lost my memory, Granger!" he snapped.
She glared at him. "How was I to know that? You didn't exactly phrase your question very well."
"I meant why am I in here."
"Oh, well, you bumped into the Dragon's Flame, causing it to attack us and er … you caught the worse of it and you got burnt."
He patted the top of his head and winced. It obviously hurt to touch even through the bandage. He sighed. "How long do I have to be in here?"
"Actually, it's not that bad. You have about six hours left for the paste Madam Pomfrey applied to finish working."
Malfoy wasn't as impressed as she was by this. Hermione guessed that growing up in the magical world and not experiencing the much slower methods of the Muggle medicine meant this wasn't quite so amazing.
"Why are you here? I see your boyfriend has gone."
She flushed at the way he sneered at Neville's former title but at least it boded well for her. "I'm in here for observation because I hit my head really hard. Neville was able to leave as he just had scratches from the broken glass."
He nodded curtly and looked away from her.
"And he's not my boyfriend," she whispered, looking down at her book, which was still resting on the bed.
"We … er … broke up."
The Head Boy narrowed his eyes at her. "Really?"
She shrugged. "Yes, well, it was a bit silly to continue once he realised that it was just a misunderstanding."
For a brief moment, Malfoy did nothing and then he sprung, his quick reflexes taking her by surprise. She squeaked as he hauled her onto the bed, tucked her into his side and kissed her. She froze in shock before softening her lips and returning the kiss.
He lifted his head and smirked down at her. He seemed content to just stare at her, rubbing a hand up and down her side. She wasn't letting him get away with that. She wanted a declaration of feelings.
"What was that for?"
The Slytherin rolled his eyes. "I would've thought that was obvious."
"Not really when you considered we've spent the best part of this year trying to kill each other."
"Suppressed feelings," he muttered vaguely.
"That's not going to cut it."
"This," she said pointing from him to her. "Considering I ended up dating someone for four days because of my inability to tell him how I really feel, you're going to have do better than that."
"Trust you to want to do this the hard way."
She smiled sweetly at him. "When do I ever make your life easy?"
"You have a point," he grumbled before taking a big breath. "Okay, Granger, I like you, I want to date you and be your boyfriend."
She patted his cheek condescendingly. "See, that wasn't hard!"
"Easy for you to say, you're not in danger of being rejected."
"Well, you're in luck, Malfoy, because I like you, too," she said before leaning up to kiss him once more.
Someone clearing their throat had Draco opening his eyes. His left arm was completely dead and it was only the lessening of the heavy weight on it that brought it back to life. Painful, stinging life, as pins and needles shot through the limb.
"Ouch," he moaned, as he shook it. "That's the last time I squash into a hospital bed with you, Granger."
She glared at him.
"Good morning, children," a voice at the foot of the bed said.
They both turned guiltily towards the Headmaster, who was smiling.
"Er … Professor, it isn't how it looks" Granger lamely lied.
"I must admit, I'm pleased that the pair of you are getting on a lot better than the last time either of you ended up in the Infirmary."
"What can I say? Granger saw the error of her ways."
"Malfoy!" she shrieked, whacking him on his left arm, which was still throbbing.
"Careful!" he snapped, rubbing it.
"Prat," she bit back.
He smirked and kissed her.
The chuckle from the Headmaster halted them. "I see some things never change. At least you'll enliven Hogwarts in a less explosive way."
Granger blushed adorably and Draco decided there and then that kissing her in front of professors was going to be the most fun he'd had in years. He couldn't wait to try it in front of Professor Snape. He couldn't work out who would be more scarred, the Head Girl or the Potions Master.
"Anyway, I wanted to check that my Head Students are okay after landing themselves in the Infirmary once more," Professor Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling.
The door opened and Madam Pomfrey bustled in, a parade of potions, pastes and bandages floating in behind her.
"Ah, Madam Pomfrey is here. I'll leave you at her mercy. I'm sure I'll see you both later in the day," Professor Dumbledore said.
The loud whispers and exclamations alerted Severus to the fact that something momentous was happening at Hogwarts. He looked up from the lunch he was currently eating to stop as he saw the Head Students enter the Great Hall hand-in-hand.
His stomach twisted, suddenly nauseous as he realised the implications of this. He narrowed his eyes and turned towards Albus, who was sitting there watching him, his eyes twinkling.
"Well, Severus, you lose."
"It's just a bit of hand holding, that doesn't prove anything. They could've seriously injured each other – or been stuck together by magic gone wrong," he conjectured desperately.
The chants of "Kiss! Kiss!" from the student body had Severus turning his head to face the irritating pair once more.
Draco – drat the boy! – decided to live up to his melodramatic nature and to the delight of everyone in the room, bar Severus, had swept Granger off her feet and into a passionate clinch.
His dreams of Slytherin domination melted away at the disgusting display.
He got to his feet. "Mr. Malfoy! Miss Granger!" he bellowed. "Stop that at once! Detention with me, tonight at seven."
The boos rang out around the Hall and Severus scowled as the two lovers took affectionate leave of each other, touching hands before turning to sit at their respective tables.
"I do believe you were the very reason they started dating, Severus," Albus said, infuriatingly smug.
"It was you who organised that rather clever ruse to have Hermione meet Neville Longbottom on Valentine's Day. I won't ask how you knew the boy harboured a crush on the Head Girl, but I do ask that you don't use those methods on the children in the future."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Of course you don't, Severus," the Headmaster said, amused. "But anyway, it was thanks to the short-lived relationship between Hermione and Neville that Draco finally got up the courage to confront his counterpart about his feelings for her."
Damn and blast it! How had this all gone so terribly wrong?
"And I must commend you for encouraging inter-house relationships. I believe Blaise Zabini is now dating Luna Lovegood. It's nice to see the school mingling so well and putting the past behind them."
Severus' eyes sought out Blaise, who was currently clapping Draco on the back and blowing a kiss across to the Ravenclaw table towards Looney Lovegood. It appeared there was no such thing as decent minions anymore.
"I do believe you will be dressing a rather more colourful fashion tomorrow. I have taken the liberty to have some robes delivered to your rooms. They should be waiting for you on your bed."
Severus pursed his lips as he saw how brightly Albus' eyes were twinkling. He was never going to live this down.
AN: Sorry, I know several of you were looking forward to Severus in the Gryffindor colour robes but I couldn't do justice to it and I didn't want to write something shoddy at the end so your imaginations will have to suffice! And I know Neville got his heart mangled but look on the bright side, he has Hannah Abbott waiting for him!
Feel free to go and check out my WIP, The Accidental Malfoy and any of my completed works if you enjoyed this.