Hermione couldn't believe it. She hadn't even set foot inside Hogwarts or begun her magical education, and already she had lost her wand. It couldn't have been missing for long, she reasoned. She'd only been practising spells with it moments before she'd spoken with the driver to ask when they were scheduled to arrive.
Convinced it had fallen from her pocket, she had started scanning the hall's deep blue carpet six minutes ago. It would be much easier if there weren't ten or so people walking up and down, but she couldn't very well ask them to evacuate the area. Even so, she could not help but worry the constant movement would cause her wand to get caught beneath someone's robes, or, worst-case scenario, if someone too heavy stepped on it and snapped it in half.
Naturally, after the days upon days she had spent studying and preparing for this very day, the possibly that she had already mucked up brought a fresh wave of panic to spike at her chest, and her searching turned a little frantic.
As she reached the end of the hall and turned to go back, dejected and already imaging the teachers disappointed looks (because no matter what she did in the future she would always be classed as the first-year who lost her wand), Hermione's downcast gaze rested on a pair of perfectly polished shoes standing still, unlike the rest of the students moving from compartment to compartment. Then, she saw her wand lying on the ground before the shoes as a pale hand reached down.
The boy straightened up to fix his robes as if they were dishevelled in the first place and not ironed without a crease. His hair was white blond and slicked back, emphasising his pointed features. His eyes were grey and cold yet carefully curious as he, too, surveyed her.
"This belong to you?" he asked in a clear voice.
He wasn't much taller than she was, but somehow he reeked superiority and had Hermione raising her chin. "Yes," she answered, holding her hand out. He ignored her gesture and continued to twirl the thin wood between his fingers.
"Lost it already, did you," he said, not really a question but a statement. There were two sniggers behind him, and that was when Hermione noticed for the first time (though she was not sure how she missed them they were so large) two other boys beside the blond one. They were not directly on either side of him, otherwise they'd probably block the whole hallway, but they were still large enough that some people took one look at them and turned the other way without bothering to pass.
However, they did not intimidate Hermione. Well, maybe they did a little, but she was not about to show it. It's not like they could hurt her in the middle of a hallway with so many witnesses around. Besides, the blond boy's comment was intended to be an insult, and it hit home. She was exactly afraid of people laughing at her; she was already having a hard time making friends as it was.
Angrily, she looked straight into the boy's amused gaze, without wavering wrapped her fingers around her wand, and snatched it right from his grasp. The mocking smile instantly left his pointed face, replaced by shock, like no one had ever snatched something away from him before.
He's probably a spoilt little brat at home, she thought.
And with the indignant look on his face in her mind, she marched off, pushing past one of his goons and down the hall.
Hermione did not even get halfway back to her own compartment when his voice carried over to her again.
"What's your name?"
She turned, noticing most people had left to change into school robes. It was just her, them, and two other students talking quietly in a corner at the opposite end.
"Hermione Granger," she told him, unsure why exactly.
He strolled over to her, the big boys behind him even more confused than they had been earlier.
"I'm Draco Malfoy," he said. Pausing for a few seconds to make his mind up about something, he then said, "Crabbe, Goyle and I heard Harry Potter was in one of the compartments behind us." Hermione's attention shifted to over his shoulder, resting on the compartment she had already entered not so long ago. "Did you want to come?"
Hermione couldn't help it; she gaped at him. Was this some kind of joke? Hadn't they gotten off to a bad start? Seconds ago he was making fun of her, and now he was asking her to… what? What was he asking? To be friends? Or had he somehow heard she'd met Harry Potter and wanted her to introduce him? Hermione didn't know the answer, which was not something that occurred too often. All she knew was that she had tried to make friends and so far was failing. This was the best offer she'd received.
The beginnings of a smile tugged at her mouth, but soon faded when she remembered something. "Sorry," she said, "but I promised Neville to help him find his toad." She didn't even think Neville liked her much, but that didn't change the fact that she'd promised him, and there were still some people she hadn't asked yet. "How about next time?" she asked, unable to fully conceal the hopefulness in her voice.
Draco's nose wrinkled a bit at Neville's name, though she didn't know why, and Hermione thought there was a shadow of disappointment on his face when it was quickly hidden by the indifferent shrug he gave. "Suit yourself. Next time, then."
He walked away into Harry Potter and Ron Weasley's compartment, but Hermione could not stop herself from feeling slightly more cheerful.
Unbeknownst to her, there would be no next time.
"Well, what do we have here?" drawled a voice that could only belong to one person.
It was obviously not a startling sound, but this particular hall had been dead quiet a moment before, and of course Hermione was brewing an especially forbidden potion that could result in an explosion through the wall directly behind her, so understandably she jumped about a foot in the air.
She whirled around, knowing who it would be before she even turned. But that did not make the proof of him anymore enjoyable, and Hermione groaned inwardly.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" she asked guardedly.
"Simply wondering what you're doing here all by yourself, what with everything that's been going on and students being petrified all over the place." He rested his shoulder against the stonewall. "Don't Potter and Weasley care about you anymore?" he sneered. "How unexpected. The school year's hardly over and there's still plenty of homework for you to do for them. Perhaps they decided being friends with a Mudblood wasn't worth good grades? Not that they're any better themselves, of course."
She glared at him heavily. "You're just angry because you know Harry has actual talent when it comes to Quidditch and Duelling, while you buy your way into the team and cheat because he would've finished you off if you'd used the spells already taught to us."
Malfoy's face twisted with outrage as he stepped from the wall. "How dare you speak to me that way?" he demanded. "You talk as though your opinions are actually worth something. You're a filthy little Mudblood, Granger. Nothing you do matters because your magic isn't real magic."
"I'm sure it'll feel real when I curse you into oblivion," she snarled.
He laughed humourlessly. "Go on, then," he challenged. "Do it."
Her fingers twitched towards her pocket. Hermione wanted nothing more than to hurt him in that instant, but she couldn't. She wouldn't react because that was just what he wanted.
He laughed again. "See? You don't have the guts because Merlin forbid I tell a teacher."
"You would tell a teacher!" she snapped. "You'd run off, robe between your legs, and have a cry on Snape's shoulder!"
"Professor Snape," he corrected, smirking now. "You Gryffindors are so pathetic. I'm beginning to think more so than Hufflepuff."
"The only one who's pathetic here is you." She started to storm away, but he followed. "Go away."
"And don't think I didn't see you come out of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom."
She froze. Oh no, if Malfoy went in there and recognised the Polyjuice…
"The only friend to actually like you is a ghost. How very tragic."
She was relieved that he hadn't seemed to catch on to what she was actually doing in there, but his remark still flamed her fury. Hermione turned to him, her face serious and voice dangerously low. "Do me a favour, Malfoy, and get out of my life."
Her message must have gotten across, because he stopped following her after that. On the way back to Gryffindor tower she thought of nothing but how much she loathed Draco Malfoy. She never thought like this, but if she had to pick anyone to drop off the face of the planet, it would be him.
If he disappeared forever, she would never care.
"Harry, please leave."
"I'm trying to tell you I'm not on Ron's side!" he told her, his emerald eyes irritated and evidently tired. "But you've got to admit, it looks bad. Crookshanks has been having a go at Scabbers ever since you brought him. Even before that."
"There's no real proof. I'll listen when Ron brings me some."
"There were cat hairs on –"
"Harry, leave!" she hissed angrily, eyes darting nervously over to Madam Pince four aisles away. "You'll get me kicked out if you don't, and I've got so much work to do as it is."
"Have lunch with me by the lake," he suggested. "An hour won't hurt."
Hermione ran her fingers through her hair, bushier than usual from the endless list of things to stress over – Sirius Black, the time-turner, Harry's bloody Firebolt, classes, Buckbeak's case, and now Ron and his steadfast hatred for Crookshanks. She wondered if things would worsen as she got older, or if learning to juggle so many responsibilities was something one learned as they grew up.
Harry continued to persuade her for five more minutes when Madam Pince gave the both of them one of her warning looks. He packed up his things after that, either because he did not want to get Hermione thrown out of the library too or because he had finally accepted that she would not be moving anytime soon.
When Harry disappeared out the door, Hermione put down her quill to massage her aching hand, then pressed her palms over her eyes until she saw white spots. She was so upset and beyond furious with Ron. It's not as though Scabbers did anything impressive, and Ron made fun of him most of the time anyway! It wasn't her fault, even if – if – Crookshanks did eat him, he had no right to blame her. Cats ate rats. It was basic animal instinct, for crying out loud.
Somewhere between thinking about all this, her head had rested on her essay. Closing her eyes for a bit couldn't hurt, right? She'd spent so much of her should-be-sleeping-hours studying anyway; she deserved at least a minute…
Hermione was woken by a soft tickling in her ear. She thought it was her hair again, but then she remembered that it was up in a ponytail today to try and tame it's wildness. She turned her head to the side, her right ear now hidden by her arm. She stayed like that peacefully for a couple more seconds, then the tickling resumed in her other exposed ear, more persistent than the first time. Annoyed, Hermione moved her head enough so that one eye could peek over her elbow. She saw first the black robes, then the Slytherin crest, and then she remembered where she was.
She bolted up so fast that her chair nearly tilted backwards. The person standing next to her gave an amused sort of snort.
"Malfoy," she greeted through gritted teeth, looking up at him. "What are you doing?"
He shrugged, kicking out the chair beside her with his shoe and flopping himself into it with grace she would never have. Hermione scooted away, distrust written all over her face. He raised both eyebrows at that but did not comment. Instead, he lifted up his hand, and she had been ready to jump off her seat with whatever he had when she saw it was her wand.
"How did you –?" she started incredulously.
"Wasn't hard, Granger," he said, tossing it over to her carelessly. She caught it and quickly stashed it in her robes, as far away from him as possible. "You left it lying next to your quill. Anyone could have cursed you while you slept, so I thought I'd take it upon myself to wake you."
"You didn't wake me, something tickled –" She stopped, eyes growing wide, then turned to him angrily. "You stuck my wand in my ear in order to wake me up?"
Malfoy had the decency to look smug. "You don't take much care of it do you? The only thing to defend yourself and you leave it where just about anyone could snatch it."
"Stop pretending that you have anything worth teaching me. I can defend myself without it." That was a lie, but he didn't have to know that.
"Oh, yes," Malfoy nodded mockingly. "The Muggle way, I assume? Where you roll around in the mud and hit each other like barbarians?"
Her mouth opened and closed in a way that strikingly resembled a goldfish, then wordlessly Hermione collected all her belongings in her arms and dropped her heavy bag three times before getting it to rest securely on her shoulder.
"Now what are you doing?" he asked lazily, folding his arms over his chest.
"There's no point in asking you," she explained, voice strained because of the trouble she was having keeping everything in her arms, "so I'm leaving."
She settled her things on the table one across. He kept watching her, even when she went back to pick up pieces of parchment she'd dropped. A few students were glancing over curiously at the scene. Hermione ignored them. She sat down and picked up her quill, tried to start writing, but she could still feel him looking at her.
"What now?" she snapped, swivelling around. "Why did you even sit with me? Won't it hurt your little reputation?"
Malfoy strolled over and placed himself at the table beside hers. "Granger, I have so much to boast about. Why on earth would I waste the opportunity? My father certainly didn't when he complained about that foul creature of Hagrid's."
Hermione slammed her quill down. "You're just looking for attention! Buckbeak didn't hurt your arm that badly."
Madam Pince looked over, glaring with her mouth pressed tightly together.
"The School Governors were looking for an excuse to sack Hagrid anyway. Even you know he's an oaf. Not at all teacher material, but then again, neither is Dumbledore –"
She laughed bitterly. "You're pathetic, Malfoy. Absolutely pathetic."
"You think I'm pathetic? Odd, because I recall someone eagerly rushing to open the gate to get me to the hospital wing faster," he mused, tapping his pale chin in thought. "Now, who was that? Oh, that's right. You."
"I did that for Hagrid, not you," she said hotly.
"Whatever helps you sleep at night, Granger," he drawled.
Once more, Hermione attempted to get back to work. But there had always been something undeniably infuriating about Malfoy that she couldn't just let go. She looked over at him again. She would get nothing done like this, and she'd wasted enough time as it was. "Why don't you leave?" Unable to resist adding an insult, "It's clear you're not studying, which isn't surprising considering I'm still topping you at every class."
Malfoy rose from his chair, standing at his full height. Hermione, ready, also stood. He was taller by two inches, but she managed to get her wand ready first.
They both stood there, glaring angrily at one another. Hermione didn't know what would've happened had there been no interference, but it wasn't long before Madam Pince stormed over, fury all over her lined face as she yelled about disrespecting rules and how this was a place to study and how dare they disturb other students. She then ordered Malfoy to get his stuff and leave. Hermione smiled a little despite the guilt she was feeling at having caused such a scene in her favourite place in all of Hogwarts. Except when Malfoy had started his walk of shame to the double doors, Madam Pince rounded on her just as furiously and ordered Hermione out too.
She packed up her items indignantly; cheeks flushed a brilliant red as she left the library, all students' eyes on her, allowing herself a quiet groan when the doors slammed shut behind her. She hadn't finished any of her essay since Harry had been there; if she'd just gone to lunch with him instead of run into a certain prat, she might've actually gotten some work done.
"The know-it-all kicked out of the library. This is something I thought I'd never see."
Her parents had always said that when anger threatened to overcome you, it was best to count to ten. Normally she would have done that, but so far the entire year had been horrible, and she really didn't need Draco Malfoy's crap, and her temper was becoming virtually nonexistent.
Just as furiously as Madam Pince, she spun to him. "I hate you," she seethed. "And one day very soon I'm going to smack that stupid smirk right off your face."
He chuckled. "I have no doubt you hate me, but it can't be compared to how much Weasley hates you now. And Potter, come to think of it. I'm fairly certain he just talks to you out of pity. Weasley, however, isn't even doing that. Would you like to hear what I heard him say about you the other day? It was harsh." Her jaw had clenched, and Malfoy saw this, his eyes on her searching carefully for what hurt most. What he said next was right on the spot. "You like him, don't you?" he queried. "I've seen you look at him all lovey-dovey like. I feel embarrassed for you, Granger. I don't even think Weasley would sink as low to feel anything for you."
She opened her mouth, closed it, did the whole goldfish imitation again before she realised she had nothing to say. She was drained and stressed and tired and had no friends and had just been thrown out of the only place she found any kind of salvation and it was such a rotten, rotten day, and it wasn't long before everything crashed over her, making her lips tremble.
Hermione left as fast as she could. She just couldn't take it anymore, and there was no way she could let Malfoy see her cry. But in her haste she dropped one of her many belongings, an inkbottle, no less. The glass cracked open and spilled all over the ground.
"Brilliant," she muttered thickly, bending to pick it up quickly before he could say something or catch on that he'd actually gotten her upset. Albeit in her distraction, she picked up the broken pieces first – which were entirely covered in the black goop – cut her finger, and now she wouldn't be able to pick up her wand without digging through her robes and dirtying them both. Her complete carelessness was enough for a sob to rattle her shoulders. She must have looked incurably pathetic, sitting on her knees like that.
"Show's over, Malfoy," she said, still staring at the ink. "You can go now. Tell your friends before you forget the details."
She heard his footsteps go down the hall. Then they paused. He couldn't have gone around the corner yet. Hermione glanced up, her sight distorted from tears yet to be shed. He wasn't very far away; she could still make out the expression on his face as a very torn one, his light eyes going from where he should be going to her.
Hermione saw him roll his eyes and thought he muttered something under his breath as he came back to her, but she was so surprised when he knelt down in front of her that she couldn't be sure of anything.
Malfoy pulled out his wand and pointed at the ink spill. "Tergeo," he said quietly, and Hermione made a mental note to remember that one. The ink staining the floor vanished. He moved his attention to the little glass bottle, using a Reparo spell. "Give me your hand," he instructed. Hermione did not react fast enough, so he simply grabbed it himself. As the cool tip of his wand rested on her palm, she couldn't pretend she wasn't apprehensive. His hold around her wrist was tight, but when she relaxed her hand, a part of her concluding that he wasn't going to hex her, his grip became gentle. So gentle, she couldn't help but timidly look up at him. His head was bent forward a little, eyes fixed on her hand and the evaporating ink. He must have felt her looking at him, because without warning his gaze flashed up to meet hers. Only briefly, his cheeks a soft petal pink.
Malfoy dropped her hand like it was something poisonous and stood.
Hermione gathered her possessions and shoved them into her bag in enough time to watch him leave. Before he could round the corner, she was incapable of stopping herself from calling out, "Thank you."
He paused. Just for a second. Then left.
Hermione muttered dark nothings under her breath as she stormed through the crowd of students, careful not to trip on her periwinkle robes as she did. The last thing she needed was to land flat on her face right now.
She couldn't believe Ronald. How dare he? Fraternising with the enemy indeed! He was the one not so very long ago going out of his way for an autograph from Viktor, and now this! Harry had said himself he didn't mind her being here with Viktor, so what the hell was Ron's problem?
He's just being a git because he's having a lousy time, she thought furiously.
In fact, Hermione was so furious that she wasn't looking where she was walking, and she bumped right into someone, causing him to spill the drink he'd been holding all down his front.
"Oh, Merlin," she moaned, getting out her wand. "I am so sorry about that. Tergeo," she said, watching the pink stain fade from the person's robes. She smiled when it was gone and looked up slowly. "There, can't notice a… thing." Hermione finally saw who she had spilled punch all over. Her face fell. "Malfoy."
"Granger," he returned. His eyes roved over her, and for one shell-shocked second she thought he was checking her out, but then he said, "You're angry and I haven't spoken to you once tonight. What happened, got hexed again?" He cocked his head to the side, examining her. "Huh. Your teeth don't seem to be getting any larger?"
She glared at him icily. "How's that tail coming along, ferret? I think I can still see a little of it."
Malfoy tried to appear nonchalant, but he couldn't help but give a quick sideways glance behind him worriedly. "Enlighten me," he drawled when he'd assured himself there was no tail. "Who's taken up my responsibly to infuriate you?"
She didn't answer; it was none of his business. She tightened her jaw.
"Ah," he said softly. "Weasley."
"Isn't it always." She'd meant her words to sound light, but they came out bitter instead. The students around them spared momentary glances, but there was hardly anything unusual about Hermione looking angry in Malfoy's presence.
As her body half turned to leave, Malfoy said in a matter–of-fact tone, "You know he's jealous, don't you?"
"Yes," she said, for some reason a little embarrassed. "But that gives him no right to make me feel bad about myself just because he's feeling bad."
"Listen, Granger. When you have the misfortune to be in Weasley's company next, tell him to get some of that stupid Gryffindor courage everyone's always on about and ask you before somebody else does, and not as a last resort. See what grand comeback he'll have for that one."
Hermione stared at him, beyond surprised. What was Malfoy doing? He'd been mean to her all year and now he was giving advice? She knew it wasn't his idea of a joke; he was looking far too serious for that. His gaze on her was abruptly too much, and she looked around the Great Hall to avoid it.
"I think Parkinson's looking for you," she said by way of distraction.
It was true; Pansy was standing to their left, searching over the heads of dancing students with two drinks in her hands.
"Krum's coming this way," Malfoy said, nodding to the right. He looked back to her, a little awkward now. "This conversation never happened."
"What conversation?" she asked, allowing the faintest smile.
"Malfoy, don't do this," Hermione said desperately as he dragged her down the corridor with him, his hand clasped firmly around her upper arm.
"Sorry, Granger," the pleased smirk on his face told her he was feeling anything but remorse, "but you and I both know Umbridge would be wonderfully delighted to discover what you and your little friends are up to."
"We're not up to anything," she tried hopelessly.
Malfoy gave a disbelieving snort. "Oh, I'm sure, especially seeing as how I saw you come out of some disappearing door before."
Hermione gnawed on her lip. She had no frigging clue how to get out of this situation; he'd Disarmed her before she'd even turned around. A dirty trick, really, but what had she expected from a Slytherin? She might've been angrier at him for his gutless attack, had it not been for the overwhelming anxiety knot twisting in her stomach. She couldn't – wouldn't – be the downfall of Dumbledore's Army. She would not say a thing to Umbridge, but Umbridge didn't play by rules either. She had Veritaserum.
The thought of that foul, toadlike woman stirred furious emotions inside her. Similar to the feeling she'd had when she'd punched Malfoy back in third. Her feet were still stumbling behind said ferret while he pulled her along, so she waited to gain her footing, and then dug her heels into the ground, hard.
Hermione hadn't hoped for great results, but apparently she was stronger than she'd realised in that moment, because her sudden halt was enough to have Malfoy almost fall backwards into her, while it was an effort for Hermione to also keep her balance and not tumble into him.
Through this, his hand did not waver from her arm. But he did turn to look at her in surprise, which quickly shifted to anger. He parted his mouth to shout, but she got there first.
"Malfoy." Her voice was solid and serious with just the right amount of gentleness, and it must have been the right tone to use, because he did not try and talk over her. "Please."
He held her gaze, cold grey eyes boring into her warm brown ones. His grip gradually loosened, his shoulders slumping. "Granger…" he said slowly. She felt herself stand taller in anticipation, only to deflate seconds later when his face twisted into a sneer. "Do you honestly believe that little act will work on me? Tsk, tsk, you really don't know me at all."
"We've never known anything about each other and never will," Hermione part growled, jerking her arm uselessly to get away from him.
He raised his eyebrows. "Positive about that?" When she remained stiff and tight-lipped Malfoy rolled his eyes and sighed. "You have nothing to offer me if I let you go." He yanked her after him.
"But what if I do have something you –!" they had just rounded a corner when her words made him stop again, resulting in Hermione crashing into his chest, "want… from… me," she finished quietly, looking up and seeing their faces were less than three inches apart.
His eyes locked onto hers. The corridor they were in was deserted, everyone being at dinner, thus making it dead silent, and all Hermione could hear was his breathing, his warm breath on her face as he asked very softly, "And what might that be? Hm? What would you give me in return?"
She didn't know if she was more perverted than she thought, or if Malfoy was intending to talk in such a low voice, but his tone sent warmth spreading all down her, had her stomach fluttering and heart beating painfully against her chest. Her breathing quickened. He must have heard, it would have been impossible not to, and in response his eyes darkened in a way that had nothing whatsoever to do with anger. Experimentally, his body moved closer to hers, their clothes brushing. The air was too thick and hot. Hermione tried to swallow, but her throat was so dry and sweet Merlin what the hell was happening? This was Malfoy. MalfoyMalfoyMalfoyMalfoy.
She knew he hadn't planned on her acting this way. She knew he was doing it just for curiosities sake (she couldn't let herself think he was doing this for any other reason) and that was when Hermione decided she wouldn't be toyed with.
She moved her body closer so their chests were now brushing and their legs well and truly in contact. He wasn't prepared for that, his eyes widening when she leaned in to answer his question.
"I'll give you anything you want," she whispered near his ear.
His breath caught and his eyes took on a glazed look. Draco watched her intently, both of their breaths hot in the small space between them. His hand moved faintly upwards, dragging the fabric with it. His gaze flickered down to her lips.
She wondered what might have happened had she waited a few seconds longer, but the tension had become too much for her to bear, and Hermione took a step back. Her cheeks were flaming red as she cleared her throat.
"If I ever catch you doing something you shouldn't be, I'll let it go," she offered quietly, mouth still very dry. "No questions asked."
Draco blinked as if coming back to reality, then considered her words. He recovered quickly, lips quirking up into a smirk. "And you'll assist me if assistance is required?"
"Didn't think so." He began to take her away again.
"Deal!" she rushed out.
Draco gaped at her. Obviously, he hadn't thought she'd take him up on that offer. He surveyed her for several seconds. Everyone knew Hermione Granger did not make deals she couldn't keep, and so he let her go. She flexed her arm to recover some of the feeling.
"Bloody hell," he muttered, "you'd better be telling the truth. Are you aware how much trouble this could get me in? If I find you again like this I swear I won't be letting you go."
Hermione, who was so overflowed with relief, beamed and stood on her tiptoes to place a swift kiss on Draco's cheek.
"Thank you!" she said happily, running down the hall and leaving a very stupefied Draco Malfoy behind.
Months later when Umbridge finds the Room of Requirement and orders the Inquisitorial Squad to search for the escaping members of Dumbledore's Army, Draco runs into Hermione. She asks where Harry is. He warns her to keep away from him for now. Hermione reluctantly follows his advice, and Draco lets her go free all over again.
Hermione could take down four Death Eaters by herself no problem. She could solve any riddle you threw at her. Any complex potion she was told to make she would make. But she had never been gifted with remarkable physical strength, and Cormac Mclaggen certainly had that Keeper's build.
She didn't know when it had happened. He'd found her standing – well, hiding – outside of Slughorn's party, insisted they take a short walk, and as she was trying to think of things to discuss with this person she had nothing in common with, he'd grabbed her and had tried to kiss her. Again.
Obviously Hermione resisted. But it wasn't like all the other times tonight. This appeared to be his breaking point, the moment his patience snapped. She knew this party wasn't going at all how he'd wanted, and after Harry told her he'd eaten dragon's balls, she couldn't pretend not to understand why he was so short tempered.
However, regardless of how foul his night was, that did not mean it was okay to seize Hermione's wrists in a violent death hold, did not mean he could slam his broad body into hers so her back hit the stonewall, and it absolutely did not give him permission to continue pursuing her.
With both his hands busy holding hers above her head, there was no way for him to stop her moving her head from side to side to dodge his mouth.
"Cormac," she said, as calm as she could, "I told you. I'm not interested."
"But I am," he said, hardly listening to her. As he pressed in closer, his leg forced her legs apart, and waves of panic washed over her.
She felt certain Cormac wouldn't rape her. He wasn't that kind of guy. But he was frustrated and clearly desperate enough that roaming hands would be the least of her worries. She could see the way his eyes were set that he was planning all sorts of things. She did not think any further as to what those things might be.
Quiet, brisk footsteps and dark mutterings (she thought she caught the words 'Snape' and 'fool'), was the only warning she got before someone rounded the corner. Not just someone. Draco Malfoy. Hermione hadn't had much to do with him this year. Not that she ever had anything to do with him, but it was less than was normal. He claimed to be ill often and was rarely present at meals. In classes when he showed, he was quiet and reserved, like he was somewhere else entirely.
He looked furious over something; eyes livid and fists clenched tightly at his sides, and was so distracted that she wouldn't have been surprised if he walked right by them. But Draco did see them at the end of the hall, and stopped so suddenly his dark robes swished around his legs. His face changed instantly, eyebrows rising to the roof at the confounded sight he'd stumbled upon.
There was total silence as his calculating gaze travelled from Cormac, whose body was squishing hers with his face flushed in anger, to Hermione's hands, held forcibly over her head so strongly they were rapidly turning a shade of purple, at the strap of her dress hanging off to one shoulder, then finally stopping at her face.
"Nothing to see here, Malfoy," Cormac said with no interest, only sparing Draco a brief glance. He was not bothered by Draco's appearance because out of anyone to catch him doing this to Hermione, he was probably the best. Draco hated her, after all, therefore would not interfere.
Draco met Cormac's quick gaze, staring into the back of his honey blond hair even after he'd looked away. His attention fixed on Hermione again, gazes locking over Mclaggen's shoulder. Hermione struggled and Cormac held on firmer, his fingernails digging into her flesh and earning a pained little noise to escape her throat.
She hated to admit it, but she needed Draco's help. Sure, she could get rid of Cormac the second he moved to touch her, one less hand on her wrists would be enough for her to break free and get her wand and hex his balls off. But that was also leaving an opportunity open for him to actually get his hands on her, even if only for a second. With Draco's help, it'd make things faster and easier. And so she struggled again, silently communicating with him that this wasn't want she wanted.
Draco watched her and she was sure he understood what she was trying to convey. There were a couple more seconds where she started to think he might walk away, of him just staring. But then his body leaned against the wall, his arms folding over his chest.
"So, what've I walked in on?" Draco asked casually. "A snogging session? Don't you normally need permission before you do that?" He clicked his tongue in disapproval. "Gotta say, it doesn't look like she's too willing, Mclaggen."
"Since when has Granger been any of your –?" Cormac broke off, his gaze having wandered to Draco and what he was holding. His arms were still crossed, hence his wand effectively camouflaged, pointing directly at Cormac. When Draco had managed to draw his wand she had no clue, and maybe it was this reason why Mclaggen looked considerably less cocky than before.
Draco's strange attitude this year hadn't only earned Harry's attention, but the entire school's. It wasn't much of a change, but it was clear to anyone who passed or looked him in the eye that Draco was not a bully anymore, but something else entirely threatening. He stepped forward leisurely, his long fingers twirling his wand this way and that. In the light flickering over his pale face, Hermione saw what she hadn't before – the hardness to his jaw, the cold, chilling fury glistening in his eyes. It wasn't an outright anger, but a hauntingly calm one. Scarier than any kind of resentment Cormac might have.
"Let go of her hands," Draco ordered patiently.
Hermione watched his Adams apple bob as Mclaggen swallowed. There was a defeated air about him now, and after slight reluctance, he complied with Draco's demand. Her arms fell to her sides again, protesting in pain as feeling came back. She rubbed her wrists. There would be marks tomorrow, surely.
"And take a good, long step away," Draco finished.
She heard Cormac's teeth grit, his cheeks a flush of pink from either embarrassment or anger, but he did as was told, and the tension holding her up released, her shoulders slumping.
Furiously, Cormac stormed over to Draco, who seemed to be prepared for this type of reaction and met him half way, their faces right up close to each other's.
"Want her all for yourself, huh?" Mclaggen said in a shaking voice.
"Tell anyone about this, and I let the entire female population of this bloody school know what I just witnessed. Either that, or I will find and Obliviate your peanut sized brain. Clear?" he hissed, eyes glinting dangerously.
Mclaggen's upper lip curled. He did not say anything on the matter, but Hermione was positive he wouldn't risk a dateless year as a result. He left, casting hateful glances until he was no longer in sight.
They shared a long, measured moment after that. The kind you could only share with someone you were supposed to hate who'd just subsequently rescued you from a situation that could have turned out far worse than it did. There was a lot of discomfort on both sides, and a tenseness that filled the air. She was going to say thanks, except with a graceful flourish Draco strode down the hall to his left.
Hermione knew she probably should have left it at that. He was just trying to make what had just happened less awkward and strange than it already was. That, or he really did have somewhere else to be. She didn't know anymore. Not that she had never known him, but he was no longer the pompous little snot she'd grown used to and instead had evolved into this ireful stranger. Truthfully, his cold detachment towards everything, even winning the Quidditch cup or beating her in lessons, irked her somewhat.
Although, it didn't prevent her curiosity from rising to its peak, and she was jogging (as fast as she could in her heels) to catch up. She grabbed onto his arm unthinkingly, and Draco violently shoved her off.
"Don't touch me," he growled venomously, barely sparing her a glance when she stumbled.
Stubbornly, stupidly, abandoning all reason, Hermione grasped him again. This time, catching his hand. The intimate gesture ceased Draco's walking instantly. He swivelled around to her, incredulous that she had the nerve to do what she had.
"Go away," he snarled. "Haven't I made that clear enough for you, Granger?" Despite the fury in his tone, he made no move to shove her again.
"What's going on with you?" she demanded. "All year you've been acting different and sneaking off and pretending to be ill. Why?"
Draco's face twisted into rage, and she thought he was going to yell. He stepped into her personal space, and Hermione braced herself by lifting her chin and fixing him with a levelled, challenging glare. That was how she saw it. The change in him. His rage melted away into something else – something that looked an awful lot like tired resignation, as though he could not summon the energy to be angry with her anymore. As though he couldn't find the energy to do anything anymore.
He battled with himself for a moment, an anguished expression on his face that made her heart ache. Then, his whole persona seemed to slump. There was no other way to describe how his shoulders fell and his head ducked forward. He did not seem so threatening now.
"I can't," he said, the words coming out as one big sigh.
Bravely, Hermione let her hand tighten softly over his. She lowered her own head to look him in the eyes, but he would not meet her stare. "Let me help you," she pleaded. "Whatever it is Draco, I can help you."
He barked a laugh. "I'm so far beyond help, Granger."
"Last year, we made a deal. I would help if I ever caught you doing something you shouldn't be. Earlier, you 'crashed' Slughorn's party, and just now you were coming back from seeing Snape," at the panicked look that crossed his face she added, "I didn't hear anything, but I know he knows what's up with you."
"If I remember correctly, you said you wouldn't ask any questions."
"Yes," she agreed, "but you also said that I had to assist you if assistance was needed. So now's your chance, what can I do for you?"
He studied her carefully for at least a full minute, weighing his options. Glancing around, with the leverage he had on her hand Draco pulled her into the nearest empty classroom. When he'd shut the door and turned quickly back before Hermione could think to move, their faces were inches apart again.
He was distracted by this for only a second before he was talking again, speaking softly though there was no reason to. "You can get me something, but no questions."
Hermione nodded, eager to help with whatever she could.
"I need Bicorn Horn."
There was a pause. From Slughorn's party, they could still hear people laughing.
Hermione knew Bicorn Horn was used for many other potions than the one she was thinking of, but the way Draco's face was carefully masked off only made her fear the worst.
"Extra credit for potions?" she asked, a little too strained to pass as indifferent.
Draco looked away, at a point beyond her shoulder. "I need it. I don't care how you get it; just make sure it's done by the end of the week."
She wanted so badly to know what was going on inside his head, wanted to know everything that he was facing this year so she could make it better, or at least try. He looked like he hadn't had more than three hours sleep, the bruises under his eyes prominent. His frame was skinnier, she thought, and this brought her to wonder if he ate at all during those days he wasn't in the Great Hall.
Deep down, a part of her recognised that whatever was happening with Draco was so much bigger than either of them should have to deal with. The rest of her refused to think about Harry's continued Death Eater theory. Those people who had the Mark were bad, without the faintest bit of remorse in them. Draco wasn't the kindest person, but he wasn't evil. She knew he could be good, and had faith that he could be better.
But still. A feeling of doubt lingered within her subconscious, and she had to say, "Promise me…" She swallowed and ghosted her fingers over his hand. "Promise you're not up to anything bad. Promise that what you're doing isn't going to hurt anyone."
His eyes grew gentle as his forehead brushed hers. "I promise."
His hand travelled deliberately slowly up her arm to the abandoned strap hanging off her shoulder. He started to push it back up, his fingertips tickling against her skin and spreading waves of shivers down her spine, when her hand curled around his to stop him. She guided his hand to bring the strap back down again, all the while keeping eye contact.
They were so close, she could nearly taste him, noses almost brushing, and she could feel the heat radiating from him through her clothes. His breath was hot and minty on her face, and as his eyes dropped to her lips, she saw the unmistakable and clouded desire residing in them. Desire and longing for her. A wave of heat swept over her until she was warm all over. She licked her lips, if only to tease him, and his breathing hitched. It would take half a second to satisfy both their needs, mouths separated less than an inch, only that inch meant everything.
But when his thumb started tracing tempting circles over her bare shoulder, her heart hammering against her chest, she thought to hell with that inch.
"Do it," she whispered.
Draco did not need any persuasion after that. He moved his face closer, if that were possible, hesitated for several seconds with their lips hovering over each other's, and then his restraint finally broke. He kissed her, slow and deep, his mouth soft and questioning on hers. Her hands gripped his shoulders and ran up to his cheeks, softer than they looked, to wrap around the back of his neck, her fingertips in his silky hair. Draco's hands moved opposite, trailing down the length of her bare arms to her hips, where he pulled her into him, their bodies moulding together. She tugged on his lower lip, soothing over the bite with her tongue, and Draco, with a groan, positioned his hands under Hermione's thighs and lifted her onto a desk.
Her dress had hiked up to expose her legs, where Draco settled himself between them, taking care to not break their kiss. She was becoming breathless, her mouth parting to take quick gulps of air, but still they did not stop. What had started as something tentative rapidly giving in to desire, movements becoming fiercer and wild, his lips kissing hers so vigorously she wouldn't have been surprised if she woke up tomorrow to find them bruised.
He broke away so suddenly and without warning that a sound of protest left her before she could stifle it. He did not look at her as he stepped away, nor when he reached the door. Though he did pause, like he did want to say or do something. In the end, he just smoothed down his clothes and straightened his shoulders.
The door clicked shut behind him, leaving Hermione sitting alone and confused and dishevelled. There was a shooting sensation in her chest, rising to her throat, which felt like concern. But honestly, what did she have to be concerned about? He had promised her.
And like a fool, she believed him.
She found him on the stone bridge, staring at what was left of Hogwarts. She didn't know what had made her come this way, aside from it being one of the few she was sure would not be littered with bodies. She didn't know how she knew he would be here somewhere, but her feet seemed to have taken her subconsciously.
When she saw him, she didn't falter, though a powerful urge to run and scream swept through her.
They had won. Harry was inside being congratulated. Ron was with his family. She thought he should be left alone for that, given everything that had happened. They'd lost so much. She didn't know whether to celebrate or cry. So when Hermione stopped to stand beside Draco, nether of them said a word for five minutes. The silence was not pleasant, though nor was it awkward.
A breeze ruffled their hair, with it the smell of war and dust. She felt Draco look at her before back at the castle. The towers that had not been blown to bits were still on fire; chunks were missing from the castle walls; the ground was covered in rubble; and the sky above was dark and sooty. She thought she could hear people crying out, but maybe her imagination added that itself.
"I had no choice." His tone was even when he broke the silence, like he had rehearsed the words over and over again.
She did not look at him, but understood what he was referring to. She wondered if this was his way of apologising or admitting he was wrong without actually having to say it. "We always have a choice. We've all made sacrifices." The last sentence had something sharp catch in her throat. She swallowed it down as best as she could, but during the past few hours it seemed to have become a permanent thing. She felt as though she was seconds away from falling to her knees and screaming as loud as she could, crying until she couldn't anymore, hitting something until her fists bled.
"I didn't know what else to do," he said, tinged with frustration and anger. A portion was directed at her, the other because he still had no idea what he was doing, or what would happen now, and she knew he was sorry, but also knew he was too bloody proud to admit it, and probably didn't know how to apologise or where to begin, and he'd just watched people die and realised there was no glory in taking lives, and that everything he'd been told as a child were lies. She saw from the corner of her eye his body move to face hers, could feel his piercing gaze burning right through her. "Is he really gone?" he asked carefully.
His question was simple enough. Reasonable. Something she would ask had she not seen Voldemort die. But it was such a loaded question, and it smashed the barrier she'd slid up, slicing cleanly through whatever control she'd had over her emotions. Lips tightly pressed together, she met his eyes.
Draco was as dirty as she knew she must look. Dirt and soot were smudged on his cheeks, face still shining with the remnants of sweat. His clothes were torn and matted and bloody. He had his fair share of injuries. Nothing as bad as she had already seen, but the gashes and deep cuts on him contrasted strongly with his pale skin and white blond hair. He was surveying her in the same way, guilt lurking behind his eyes. She nodded at his question. He must have sensed her resolve was deteriorating, and his hand gingerly came up, fingers trembling, to unstick a lock of hair from blood that may or may not have been hers on her forehead. Before he could, she moved out of his reach. She couldn't, couldn't, let him touch her as though nothing had happened, as though everything was fan-freakin-tastic when in reality it was all broken.
Draco wasn't discouraged. He tried again to touch her, and each time she slapped and pushed him away lividly, telling him to not touch her, until he caught her wrist and pulled her flush up against him, and that was when she realised she was crying hard, chest rattling sobs.
From all the violence she had witnessed, the gentle gesture confused her. Then confused her even more because this was Draco, and she was supposed to hate him after everything he'd done. But she didn't, which added to the confusion, and all she could do was stare as tears spilled. Real proper ones, hot and thick and enough to sting her already swollen eyes.
And then she was holding onto Draco, pulling him in close and clutching him so tightly it hurt. He responded, his arms going around her just as firm. There wasn't anything romantic about it. They were just two people, who'd experienced too much all at once, who just needed to feel someone there. To hold someone who wasn't dying or because they were afraid of never seeing them again. To have some kind of comfort because, right now, that was what they both needed. And it didn't even matter that they were once on two different sides. All that mattered was he understood, and there was nothing but the heat of his body for long moments.
When Hermione brought herself to let go, she managed to hit him. Not too hard because there was a bruise covering that cheek, but enough that he winced.
"What was that for?" he asked, indignant.
She was still crying, but it was silent, and her voice was thick and choked. "I think you know."
Draco moved to her, and for a split second she thought he was going to hug her again, but then his rough palms cupped her grimy cheeks, his thumbs wiping some of it and the dampness away. She kept her eyes locked on his poignantly up until he came so close she would've been cross-eyed if she tried, and it wasn't long after that she allowed her eyes to shut as he leaned in to kiss her. His lips imploring and unexpectedly soft, as though worried she might break. Though maybe he was keeping in mind her busted lip, or knew that her real feelings lie in the hands of someone else.
He pulled back soon enough, watching her.
"What was that for?" she asked quietly.
A ghost of something akin to a smile flickered across his lips. "I think you know."
"Is this goodbye?"
"For a little while." Sadness tinged his words.
She didn't think he'd see the fresh tears that clouded her vision, as wet as they were, but he did, his finger tilting her chin to meet his gaze full on.
"Don't worry," he assured with a melancholy smile that was probably meant to be a smirk. "I'll be back properly to feel the wrath of Hermione Granger."
"I might believe you if you weren't so horrible keeping promises," she murmured, the faintest bit of bitterness weaved through her tone. His eyes dropped to the floor at that, but he did not say anything. "It's funny," she said heavily, wiping her eyes, "five years ago I would've given anything to have you out of my life, and now look at me." Four years ago, she couldn't imagine letting him see her cry either, but he was. The only thing that broke the following silence were the crackles emitting from the castle, and the occasional howl of wind.
"It did mean something," Draco said suddenly. He met her questioning gaze. "On the outside I thought you were a stuck up know-it-all and you thought I was a pretentious prat, but between the lines, we didn't hate each other. They were only brief moments, but they meant something. And they weren't horrible."
The faintest, clumsiest smile lifted her lips. There was so much to be said, so many questions she needed to ask, and there was this new kind of distance between them to work through. She could hardly process it, but she found she liked Draco Malfoy. If she was going to become his friend, there was a lot to overcome, and it would take a long time, and of course there was the issue of Harry and Ron, but then they hadn't known of her previous meetings with Draco so how should now be any different?
Hermione dug out something from the folds of her jacket and pressed it into Draco's hand, holding it between her own. "This belong to you?"
His lips quirked upwards when he saw his wand. He stashed it back in his robes and glanced left, to where his parents were little more than two black figures in the distance. "You'd better get back before they send a search party."
She nodded again and started backing towards Hogwarts. They shared one last, meaningful look, because she had no idea when she would see him again, and perhaps it was ridiculously foolish of her to trust him again, especially after last time, but she did. She trusted the boy who'd offered her friendship, who'd taunted her, helped her clean up an ink spill, given her advice, let her go because it was so important to her, rescued her from the wandering hands of Cormac Mclaggen. All done quietly and without anyone else knowing.
Both of them turned and headed down opposite directions, he going one way and she the other. They would always be going different ways, but somehow they always ran into each other again, and this time would be no exception.
I had to study all my Harry Potter books for hours just to make sure these interactions between them could have been possible haha. Anyway, first fic I've posted on here (sort of), let me know if it was acceptable/horrible. Feedback is really appreciated.