Chapter Twelve:

It is possible the first time you mount the Granian it will attempt to, or even succeed at, bucking you off. Do not be discouraged. If you have faithfully followed the steps in this guide, this is the final stage – the final rebellion of a wild creature that knows it has met its match.

Extract from "From Wild Beast to Wizard's Steed, a how-to guide on taming Granian".

"What the hell are you doing?" Weasley exploded, as soon as their feet touched the ground.

Hermione's body language had been uncertain, but at this outburst, her spine noticeably stiffened.

"Having a flying lesson," she announced, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

Weasley was dumbfounded (emphasis on the "dumb"). "But you hate flying!" he objected. "And why – by Merlin's beard and balls! – would you be having a flying lesson with him?"

"Language, Ron!" Hermione snapped.

Potter spoke up for the first time. "Come on, Hermione." His voice was more controlled than Weasley's, but there was still a thread of anger through it. "I think we're owed more of an explanation than that."

"I told you Malfoy and I were studying together." In her defensiveness, she had reverted back to his last name.

"Since when does studying equal flying on a broomstick?" Weasley roared. "Are you mental? Anything could have happened to you! What if he'd decided it was the perfect time to get rid of you? All it would take is a little push!"

Draco and Hermione simultaneously rolled their eyes. "Weasley, even you can't be moronic enough to think I'd try to bump Granger off on school property."

"You see! You see!" Weasley was extending a shaking finger. "He practically admitted it – he only said he wouldn't do it here, not that he wouldn't do it at all!"

"Don't be ridiculous, Ronald." Hermione's tone was scathing.

"Mate," Potter interjected, in a slightly discomfited tone, "I don't think he'd actually try to kill her…"

Balked of support, Weasley spluttered, then rallied. "Well, he's clearly up to something! He must be using you for some reason! Merlin, Hermione – you're supposed to be the clever one! How could you be so stupid?"

Draco's lip curled. "You know, for someone who claims to be Granger's friend you don't have a very high opinion of her. If I really intended her harm, do you honestly think she wouldn't be able to pick up on it? Or do you think she's so helpless and passive she couldn't take care of herself if I did try something? Let's face it, of the three of you she's got by far the biggest Bludgers."

Weasley's mouth opened and closed a few times, now incapable of even spluttering. In a detached fashion, Draco noticed his face was turning purple with rage – it was like watching a carrot Transfigure into an aubergine from the neck up. He became aware of a fixed regard; Hermione was staring at him like she'd never seen him before.

Potter's cheeks had bloomed with angry blotches. "We know how clever Hermione is – we don't need you to tell us that, Malfoy. Hermione's one of the brightest people I know, but she's also one of the kindest. And she's always had a weakness for lost causes." He eyed Draco meaningfully.

Hermione turned a Basilisk glare on Potter, but Draco only smirked. "Ouch, Potter! You should be more careful – you could really hurt someone with that Flobber–sharp wit."

Weasley seemed to have recovered his voice, more's the pity. "Shut up, Malfoy, you slimy git! If you aren't planning on hurting Hermione, why are you two spending so much time together?"

"It's none of your business, Won-Won!" Hermione said with savage emphasis.

Draco didn't understand the significance of this nickname, but clearly the Ponce and the Pauper did, judging by the way Potter grimaced and Weasley's complexion progressed rapidly from aubergine to beetroot. (He was really working his way through the vegetables.) Draco couldn't help but grin at the scornful tone with which the nickname had been uttered; he loved Hermione's vicious side.

Hermione had paused but apparently it was only to draw breath for her next remark: "SO BACK OFF! Or I'll set the birds on you again." She narrowed her eyes at him with deadly promise.

Weasley blanched but, like a Crup with a bone, still wouldn't let it go. "Come on, Hermione – think about it," he urged. "Why would Malfoy want to hang out with you? It's either because he's plotting something against Harry, or he fancies you. And, well…" His tone left no doubt as to the total lack of likelihood of the latter.

"Ron..." Potter said in an urgent undertone, apparently recognising the looming danger.

"Maybe it's a plot involving You-Know-Who!" Weasley burst out. Draco made a noise of total disgust at such stupidity; even Potter looked embarrassed.

"Let me get this straight." Hermione's tone was deathly quiet. "You're saying that it is more likely Voldemort, the scourge of wizardkind," – she started advancing on Weasley – "has entrusted a mission to bring down his mortal enemy to a school pupil," – Weasley started stepping back, looking nervous – "the crux of this plan being that he spend time studying with Harry's Muggle friend" – Hermione's voice was gaining strength – "and that that is more likely than a single – sodding – boy fancying me?!" By this point Hermione was screeching and Weasley was using Potter as a human shield.

Draco watched the proceedings with unholy joy.

"I didn't mean… I didn't think… Come on, Hermione, you know I don't think that – it's just... it's Malfoy!" Weasley made a final impassioned plea.

Hermione's nose was so far in the air she ran the risk of colliding with passing birds.

"That's always been your problem." She sniffed. "Not thinking." In one action, she moved alongside Draco and linked her arm through his. "Come on, Draco." She turned him round. "We've got a 'studying' session to get to." She smirked saucily over her shoulder at her friends then marched them off, leaving a grimacing Potter and gibbering Weasley in their wake.

Hermione's head of steam lasted them all the way to the castle with no signs of abating. Blind with rage, she marched them up staircases and along corridors, muttering all the while about, "The nerve of them!" and "Simply outrageous!" and even "Such hypocrisy!" until they ended up on an empty second floor corridor. By then she had calmed down, and released his arm, looking slightly self-conscious.

"Sorry, Draco," she muttered.

Draco was amused. "Don't mind me…"

"And sorry for not putting Ron right," she added, shuffling her feet.

"How d'you mean?"

"Well, you know, implying that there might be… more... to our studying sessions than just…" She trailed off, cheeks flaming, looking adorably confused.

There was nothing else for it.

Draco stepped forward and cupped her lovely face in his hands, tilting it up. As before he bent his head and pressed his mouth to hers. This time he allowed himself the luxury of gently shaping his lips around hers. After a few all too brief seconds, he went to step away.

He then staggered back when, with a small noise of frustration, Hermione launched herself at him, knocking him backwards as her arms wrapped round his neck and her full weight hit him. Gladly accepting this burden, he braced himself against the wall; even more gladly, he accepted the lips which were urgently moving against his.

Barely repressing a growl of victory, he tangled his hands through her glorious hair and eagerly took what she was offering, all the desire and tension of the last few months surfacing like lava from a dormant, smouldering volcano.

He knew he would never forget the shape of her lips, the texture of her curls, and the all-consuming reality of a willing Hermione not only returning his kisses, but initiating them with a desperate intensity which matched his own.

Her hands were writhing through his hair, twisting it round her fingers with humming approval, until it likely rivalled her own. Unable to contain himself, Draco growled and shot forward until it was Hermione's back that hit the opposite wall, reversing their positions as he pressed the lean length of his body against hers.

Hermione whimpered, head falling back. Draco gladly took this invitation, lips shifting to chase fevered kisses up and down her neck. That scent… her scent, which he had caught all those weeks before in 1B, embraced him, intoxicated, and spurred him on.

Hermione's breath was coming in little hitching gasps, as though she kept forgetting and abruptly remembering to breathe. Draco kissed his way back up her neck and across her jawline, returning to the plush softness of her lips.

Using his superior height, he backed her up even further, one hand remaining in her hair, the other curling around her shoulder, down her side, then round her torso to pull her close, moulding his body to hers. He felt her mouth open under his in a surprised gasp and took advantage of this opportunity to deepen the kiss, tongue darting in to taste, savour and claim.

Hermione moaned... then stiffened in shock as she heard her own voice.

She broke the kiss, gazing at him in stupefaction.

The stasis lasted a few seconds as they stared into each other's eyes, breathing hard. Hermione's pupils were huge with desire... and horror.

Weeks of studying her – firstly because he had needed to, and then because he didn't know how to stop – had gifted Draco with the ability to read Hermione like one of her beloved books.

Hermione wasn't horrified by the kiss; she was horrified by the depth of her feeling towards it. So, it was no surprise when she shoved him away from her and went tearing off down the corridor.

So much for Gryffindor courage!

His amused mental retort would have held more strength if his legs hadn't been buckling and he hadn't had to put a hand out against the wall to steady himself. A singularly foolish smile curled his lips; he tried to suppress it, but it kept springing back like a wayward Snitch.

His heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest – as much from the force of realisation as from the trembling excitement that consumed him. Draco had finally got his kiss, but it wasn't enough.

He realised now one kiss would never be enough.

Draco also tore off down the corridor, but in the opposite direction from Hermione.

One floor and one helter-skelter dash later, Draco was back in the Library, feverishly researching once more. This time he knew to head straight for the Manuals section.

Dashing through the snaking shelves, he raced through the first half of the alphabet, then slowed as he approached the letter 'R'. Eyes frenetically dancing back and forth, he scoured every title. His hand suddenly darted out to extract a dark green book with silver lettering. As he read its title, he grinned in triumph:

"Romancing the Muggle, a how-to guide on wooing and winning Muggle-born witches".


A/N *ducks* Don't shoot me, okay? From previous reviews, I'm guessing some of you didn't want the story to end there. The thing is, I've had this ending written since posting the first chapter. And to me it really feels like that particular arch has come to a close - trying to add anything on here would feel inorganic and possibly create a whiplash change of tone. But that doesn't mean I'm totally done with the story in the wider sense. I'm toying with the idea of a sequel, and I've written some material towards it, but I don't 100% know where I'm going with it, so I won't decide to go ahead with it, or start posting, until I feel like there's a complete story there and I can (try to) do justice to it.

So, thank you for joining me with this story, and a special thank-you to all those who have reviewed, particularly those who have been there from the start. I loved writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. If you did, why not let me know in a review - I've become rather addicted to them ;-)

Until next time,


Updated A/N Jan 2015: This goes out to anyone who might be interested, but particularly to Ali R, as they leave such beautiful reviews which I can't reply to. My pledge to you is that I will re-read the books in the next few months, once I've done that I'll know for sure if a sequel is in the works, and I will let you know.