For Michelle

Something a little more mature for someone a little more mature. Happy birthday, dear.

Hermione slammed her book shut. A small puff of dust rose into the the dome of the ornate lamp sitting on the heavy oak table on the library. The low glow reflected off the embossed title: Advanced Charms, Sixth Edition, and sent a small clench of pain through her tired eyes. It was almost eleven o'clock and she still couldn't perform a steady flight animation charm.

This charm in particular was not extremely difficult. Like many charms McGonagall had taught this year, it required the caster to balance multiple components of the spell in the mind at once. Not only was their origami crane supposed to float, it was to flap its delicate wings as well. Hermione could manage the separate aspects easily, and her bird could gently flap it's wings or float above the stacks. However, she couldn't seem to get the bird to do both at the same time.

She had holed up in the quietest corner of the library, shielded by towering shelves of musty books, with only two other small tables nearby. In this way Hermione had been hidden from view and able to quietly practice the spells despite magic being banned in the library. The feeling of breaking the rules gave her a thrill but a small voice still whispered that she would be caught.

However some students still wandered back to her corner, but anyone who had come near in an attempt to sit at either of these tables had been discouraged by a glare so fierce it would scare a griffin.

Of course one fearless studier ignored the warning looks and chose to spread his books and parchment out on the table directly in front of her own. For the past hour he had alternated between reading, hunting for books on the surrounding shelves, and flicking his wand, muttering the exact charm she was attempting to master. Although they were on completely opposite sides of the nook at different tables, Hermione couldn't help but feel he was invading her personal space. She tried to ignore him, but after another botched crane she heard him scoff quietly.

"Malfoy," she hissed, clenching her teeth and meeting the pale eyes of the boy across the tables. Draco laughed.

"Got something to say, Granger?" he asked. "Of course, seeing as you can't even pronounce a simple charm correctly I doubt you could manage..."

"I won't grace that with a reply," she said, throwing her hair over her reddening face and resuming her search for the reason of her failure in the book in front of her.

His face remained impassive as he leaned back in his chair, long legs stretched out under the table. "Whatever you say, Granger." Pulling out a fresh piece of parchment, he quickly folded it into a neat paper crane, his deft fingers creasing and bending. Setting it in the middle of the table, he pointed his wand and cast the spell. "Avius leviosa!" The small white bird launched itself into the air, it's wings bending and flapping just like a sparrow's. Riding invisible thermals to the ceiling of the library it did two small laps around their respective tables and then dive bombed Hermione's head. She pushed herself out of her chair quickly in an attempt to escape the projectile, but Draco stopped it abruptly in mid-air to hang in front of her.

"Are you crazy?" Hermione knocked the bird out of the air then sat back down heavily and started throwing her books and parchment into her bag. "I just wanted a quiet place to study but no, Malfoy's got to show off and almost get us caught using magic and- the least you could do is listen!" she exclaimed, exasperated. Malfoy was already folding another crane and making it zoom around her head and dart in and out of the shelves. She threw her hands in the air and grabbed her bag. "I'll leave you to your fun. Some of us actually have work to do." She turned on her heel to make a dramatic exit and started hurrying away through the stacks.

Malfoy jumped up and loped after her, grabbing her wrist. "Wait, Granger, truce."

She eyed him skeptically. "No," she decided, but he held on.

"I'll teach you how to make it fly if you want."

Hermione stopped and weighed her options. Malfoy was an annoying prick but her chances of finding someone else this late at night were slim. The library was almost empty, certainly this far back in the stacks, and neither Harry nor Ron were in the Advanced Charms class with her. They'd have no idea how to perform the charm. No harm could come of letting Malfoy teach her, except maybe wounded pride, and she would still owe him nothing because he had been so immature earlier.

"Fine." she agreed.

"Okay," he began. "It's all about balance."

Pulling out two chairs from her table, they both sat down and he turned his so they were face to face. "You've got to focus on two things at once: the flight and the wings. Tap your foot and snap your fingers." She obliged, taking his momentary distraction over watching her hands and feet to study him. His grey eyes were bridged by a narrow Roman nose, only made more prominent by his cheekbones knifing upwards, altogether a beautiful but unforgiving face. He interrupted her thoughts. "That's too easy. See if you can rub your stomach and pat your head."

She did so. "I feel like a fool."

"That's what you are, Granger, get over it," he replied dryly. "Okay, stop. So the feeling you have when you do that, of being in two places at once-"

"Like Disapparating?" she interjected.

"Yes. That's the sense you should hold in your mind when you cast the spell," he finished. Hermione picked up her wand off the table and pointed at her crane. "Avius leviosa." The bird flapped its wings feebly and fell over. She swore quietly.

"Let's try a different exercise," he said. He grabbed her left hand with his right. "Thumb wrestle with me and write the alphabet with your other hand." She looked at him blankly. His palm was cool against her overheating fingers fueled by the perpetual blush of embarrassment on her face. He rolled his eyes. "Don't look so stupid, Granger, you know the alphabet don't you? Write."

Picking up a quill with her right hand, she began trying to form letters while her thumb evaded Malfoy's own attempts to pin it down. After she finished the entire alphabet and gotten the last pin (though still losing 5-2), she pulled away to try the spell again.

"Avius leviosa."

This time the crane rose a few feet in the air, wings visibly moving, before falling to the table. "Yes!" she cried delightedly. Draco got out of his chair and walked around the tables to get his own wand and crane. "Keep practicing and we can race them," he said, smirking.

Unfortunately that seemed to be the end of Hermione's luck. Despite numerous attempts to coax her crane higher after that, it never stayed airborne for long. Glancing at his watch, Malfoy noticed that it was ten minutes to midnight, closing time. He cleared his throat. "You should go," he told her, stowing his wand in his bag. "Too bad you can't seem to get it," he said almost sincerely.

"Yeah," she sighed, putting her own wand away and throwing her small bag's long strap over her shoulder. Her hair caught the light of lamps as she pushed it behind her ear, watching Malfoy pick up his bag. "Thank you for the help, Draco. Really."

"Just remember for the test tomorrow: balance." He watched her walk a few steps away through the stacks before she paused. Raising her arms to meet over her head, she lifted a foot off the ground and stood on her toes. "You mean balance like this?" she laughed.

"Goodnight, Hermione."

"Goodnight, Draco." She continued down the narrow aisle, silhouetted by the shelves. Five longs steps and Draco was there, wrapping an arm around her waist and pressing his lips to hers.

"Balance," he said against her responsive lips as she wound her hands around his neck, pulling him closer. He lifted his hands away and held them over his head like a surrender, forcing Hermione to focus solely on his mouth against hers. "Not just one," he breathed, reveling in the feel of her hands on his shoulders. After a few seconds he pulled back and moved his lips to her neck while replacing one hand to her waist and the other to her hair, barely moving his mouth while his hands teased and tangled. "Or the other," he whispered, trailing kisses to her ear. Hermione's hands cupped his face and drew him back to her lips. "But both." He kissed her passionately and he swore for a moment he could feel her lips form words against his own.

"Avius leviosa."