< >"It - it's - " he sputtered miserably. "It's insane. I know it is, you know it is, they all know it is! They've made it oh, so clear!" His face was red and tears still streamed down his face involuntarily as he turned his head this way and that to look at the staring hall. "Hardly any of them believe it," he whispered to her, "but I believe it. It was so maddening to me in the beginning, and up until just seconds ago, it still was, but . . . but I all I know now it that . . . more than anything . . . I love you."
< >Hermione wiped her eyes and looked him straight in the eye, her tears also still flowing. "I love you, too, Draco," she whispered back. She looked behind him. "Let him go." Nothing happened. "Let him go!" Hermione yelled, the grips suddenly releasing, and sending him into the floor, landing in a heap.
< >Draco stayed there for a moment too long, he suspected, and Hermione kneeled in front of him. She reached out and touched his scar, making him look up at her. He saw Pansy staring at him over her shoulder and he smiled at Hermione lovingly. Pansy stalked away.
< >Two arms grabbed his arms suddenly and pulled him too his feet. Turning his head, Draco saw Crabbe and Weasley looking at him solemnly, then he turned his head back to Hermione.
< >The Great Hall was still silent, everyone holding their breath. Professor Dumbledore looked rather shocked, along with the rest of the professors, especially Professor Snape, who looked on, white as a sheet, appearing about to faint, yet with a small, almost knowing smile gracing his face.
< >As Draco tried to step forward, he found exhaustion overtaking him, and he began to crumple to the floor. Three people caught him this time from behind - Crabbe, Weasley, and Harry Potter - and held him up, causing him to sort of slant toward Hermione.
< >"If you love him so," Weasley said from behind quietly, "prove it, Hermione."
< >Hermione threw back her head and laughed. "I will prove it, Ron, I will." And with that, she threw her arms around Draco's neck, and kissed him more passionately than she ever had.
< >Crabbe, Weasley, and Harry Potter let go and he swung his arms around Hermione, loving her right back. They held on tightly, even after their lips parted from the other, gazing into each other's eyes, tears gone forever now.
< >There was a short, silent pause in the room, then the hall erupted in loud shouting and clapping. Draco and Hermione looked around, bewildered, and many started laughing as they walked over to the two.
< >A strong hand closed around Draco's shoulder and he looked up, startled. Snape looked down at him, silent, until he said in a soft, almost pained voice, "At least you didn't loose her, Mr. Malfoy."
< >"I could have, professor," Draco replied in a whisper.
< >Snape now seemed ready to cry. "But I did." He then walked from the room.
< >Draco suddenly felt eyes on him and his eyes flew around, finally settling on Harry Potter, who looked from him to the fleeing Professor Snape. "Don't worry about him," Potter said, smiling slightly. "He didn't lose her all the way." Potter then followed after Snape quickly.
< >Hermione smiled at Draco and he rested his head against hers.
< >"There is still the matter of the fire, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore's voice boomed suddenly. He appeared in front of the two; the crowd around quickly parted, moving to the side.
< >"Professor Dumbledore, sir," Hermione said quickly, detaching herself from Draco. She swept up to Dumbledore gracefully. "Might I have my say?" She didn't wait for an answer. "I was with Draco, and I always blow out the candle, so it was my fault . . ."
< >Draco snatched her arm and pulled her back to him. "What are you doing?" he hissed into her ear. "Leave it to be my fault, Hermione! Think about your grades! Your future!"
< >"You are my future, Draco," Hermione said quietly, kissing him tenderly.
< >Draco and Hermione wrapped their arms around each other again as the kissed, leaning against the other. "I love you so much, you know," he murmured to her after they parted lips.
< >"How many times have you told me?" Hermione whispered back, settling her chin on his shoulder.
< >"Many times and many more to come, my love," Draco replied, crying happily into Hermione's hair.