Chapter 1 : Part One
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This Is For Real – part one
Draco Malfoy was sure he was losing his mind. There was no other possible reason for his recent obsession. His thoughts were at once completely muddled and completely clear when she was around. For some reason, the utter venom in her eyes when she glared at him made him smile. He wanted his hands in her hair, regardless of the fact that they would undoubtedly get lost in its incredible mass. He wanted her lips on his, though he knew that she would likely bite his tongue off if he ever tried to kiss her. He wanted to hear her breath shudder when he touched her, rather than hiss with disgust.
She had filled out rather well in the past year, and though Draco wished he could blame his fixation on her newly rounded out shape, he had to admit that this had been building up in him for a long time, possibly ever since she had smacked the shit out of him in third year. He hadn’t seen it as attraction then. After getting over his initial anger and self-disgust at being hit by a girl, he had to begrudgingly admit that he respected her bravery in standing up to him. Not many people in Hogwarts would have.
Up until three weeks ago, it had been mostly unconscious. Sure, maybe he would sometimes watch her walk away after a shared class, but it was only because he was hoping to see Weasley trip and fall. And yeah, maybe he would seek her out with his eyes whenever he went into the Great Hall for a meal, but that was only because he was hoping to see Potter doing something stupid that he could later ridicule him about. And so what if his stomach had burned with something that was suspiciously close to envy whenever she would laugh with or hug one of her beloved friends? It didn’t mean anything, not really. He only paid close attention to her because Draco and the bloody “golden” Trio had been at odds since day one.
But everything had changed in mid-October during a Potions class. The day had been horrible. At breakfast, he had received yet another letter from his father. Though Lucius was still in Azkaban – a reality that Draco could only be grateful for – he still managed to get messages out through assorted unknown Death Eaters that would come to visit him. And ever since the Dementors had abandoned the prison, the messages had been more and more frequent. Lucius was terribly desperate for his only son to follow in his footsteps – and right into the clutches of the Dark Lord. Even though Draco was revolted at the idea of serving the way his father wanted him to, he was even more frightened of his father. So rather than defying Lucius outright, he simply refused to answer.
Lucius’ latest note hadn’t shown any signs that his demands would dissipate anytime soon, despite Draco’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. “It is time, Draco, to take your rightful place next to the Dark Lord… Think of the power you would have over Mudbloods and all the other filth that taints our world… You could have it all, boy. I can’t understand why you hesitate…” The letter had carried on in this way until Draco had finally crumpled it in disgust, unable to continue. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to ignore his father for much longer; Lucius’ letters were becoming more and more impatient. But Draco couldn’t bring himself to go against him.
He had carried his anxiety and deep-seated fear with him throughout the day. He had messed-up in Transfiguration and had almost lost a finger in Herbology when the Fanged Geranium he was replanting noticed his pre-occupation and took the opportunity to pounce. And even the story Zabini had told during lunch about some ridiculous Hufflepuff first year had failed to entertain him.
He hadn’t been looking forward to Potions that Thursday; ever since Snape had begun teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts and that doofus Slughorn had taken over, Draco had lost the position of being the class favorite. That dubious honor now fell to both Potter and Granger. Draco had always been pretty good in Potions – it was easily his best subject, and that was certainly saying something – but somehow Potter had become a Potions genius over the summer, and of course, Granger was Granger.
But that day was different. Oh, he wasn’t looked upon any more favorably than usual. But something happened to set off a chain reaction in Draco’s brain that had led to his current situation; the sad situation of being deep in lust with a girl that wouldn’t look twice in his direction unless it was to aim correctly as she cursed him.
They were making a Sleeping Draught and Draco was having trouble with his. No matter what he did, the potion stubbornly remained bright green; it was supposed to be deep purple. His loud noises of frustration were drawing the annoyed glances of his classmates, but he didn’t care. Suddenly, a small piece of neatly folded parchment fluttered gently onto the desk in front of him. He picked it up curiously and unfolded it to read,
You haven’t added enough sopohorous; there’s still some in your bowl. –H.G.
He looked around in surprise to see Hermione Granger looking in his direction with an exasperated expression on her face. Then he looked down and scowled; she was right. There was still a very small bit of granules in his bowl. He hadn’t been paying enough attention and had left some behind. He decided to respond to her note. He wiped her words away with his wand and wrote,
And how, exactly, do I rectify this? –D.M.
He briefly considered crumpling the note into a small ball and chucking it at her, but that wouldn’t get him anywhere, and he would be left with a bad mark for the day’s work. Instead, he refolded the parchment and sent it fluttering toward her. He was surprised that Weasley and Potter didn’t notice the note’s arrival. Hermione picked it up, read it quickly with eyes narrowed in irritation, quickly wrote a reply, and sent it pelting back toward him. He caught it in the air and read,
Just add it now and stir; it shouldn’t cause any problems. Now will you please shut up and allow those of us who did it correctly the first time around to finish our work in peace? –H.G.
He cocked his brow. Should he trust her? For all he knew, adding the rest of the sopohorous now would cause his cauldron to explode. Then again, what choice did he really have? Either way he would get a bad mark, and the chances of Hermione Granger risking her own potion’s perfect progress just to play a prank were slim to none. Draco picked up the bowl and poured. He gave his Draught a quick stir and it immediately turned a perfect shade of purple.
He smiled and unconsciously turned his head in Hermione’s direction. She wasn’t looking at him, but there was a rather self-satisfied smile gracing her lips. He had never really noticed her mouth before. It was pink, full and lush; had it always been that way? He began to take a more thorough study of her face. Her eyes were deep brown and thickly lashed. Her cheeks were slightly pink, and he couldn’t tell if it was a natural flush or heat from leaning over a hot cauldron for the last hour and a half; probably a little bit of both. He supposed that her beauty – and he had never believed that he would equate beauty with Hermione Granger, though now it seemed an effortless connection – was natural, because she didn’t seem the type to fuss over make-up in the morning. She was more likely concerned with double-checking her homework from the night before than applying the perfect amount of mascara.
Draco, like every other red-blooded boy in the entire school, had noticed the way her body had changed over the past year and it was all for the better. She leaned back from her cauldron in a pleased manner. Draco glanced at his watch and realized that there were only five minutes left in class. He looked back to Hermione, suddenly finding her fascinating to watch.
She reached up and pulled the band from her hair, giving her head a slight shake. Her massive hair fell over her shoulders and down her back silkily. Though it was curly as always, it was no longer bushy or out of control. When had that changed? There was so much hair that it framed her face in a way that made her look incredibly innocent and incredibly seductive at the same time. She was listening with apparent interest to something that Potter was saying, and Draco suddenly found himself wishing that she would look at him with such focus. She licked her lips and smiled softly with a slight tilt of her head. Draco couldn’t stop his blood from rushing to places it had no business rushing to at the moment. He was suddenly grateful that his robes were a little loose, the better to mask certain uncomfortable situations. It wasn’t as though she was doing anything overtly seductive, and this was Granger, for crying out loud, so why was his reaction to her so strong? Suddenly, Blaise Zabini elbowed him sharply in the ribs, drawing him back into the present.
“Draco, my boy, are you with us?”
Draco pulled himself out of his daze. The entire class was staring at him curiously, all except the trio at Hermione’s table; they apparently couldn’t care less. “I’m sorry, sir. What were you saying?”
“I was just congratulating you on a perfectly prepared potion.” Draco glanced in Hermione’s direction. She was paying attention now and there was a cocky smile on her face. He couldn’t explain why that was such a turn on.
“Oh, thank you, Professor,” he managed to reply. The bell rang, and Slughorn was the first one out the door, followed by the students.
“You alright, mate?” Blaise asked him curiously. Blaise was Draco’s only real friend in the school, simply because they were so similar. Both pureblooded, and both secretly disgusted by You-Know-Who and everyone who followed him. Not to mention that Blaise was the only person that knew how Draco truly felt about his father.
“Yeah, I’m alright… just a little woozy. The fumes got to me, I guess.” Draco gestured that Blaise was free to leave without him, and with a last confused glance, he walked out of the dungeon classroom leaving Draco alone.
Draco stayed for a moment to clear his head. What the hell was wrong with him? This was Granger after all, why should he care what she looked like? And why should it suddenly affect him so? He shook his head. It was a one-time, out-of-the-blue reaction. It wouldn’t happen again. He grabbed his bag and walked out of the classroom. Winding his way through the dungeons hallways toward the stairs that would lead to the Great Hall, he heard voices around a near-by corner. He moved closer and recognized Hermione’s voice. And since when had he started thinking of her by her first name?
“No, go ahead; I’m going to be a few minutes. I need to repack the entire bag.”
“We can wait,” came Weasley’s response, though it sounded a little impatient.
“Go, Ron.” Draco could practically hear the smile in her voice when she spoke to her friend. “I know you haven’t eaten in nearly four hours, you must be near starvation.”
“Thanks, Mione.” This time it was Potter speaking. “I promised to meet Ginny.”
“Go, go, go,” she said distractedly.
There came the sound of footsteps walking away and Weasley’s fading voice saying, “Just where are you planning on meeting my sister, Potter?”
“In the Great Hall, mate. For dinner. Stop being so paranoid.”
“I’m not paranoid.”
“It’s like you think I’m going to throw Ginny against the nearest wall and have my way with her right in front of you.”
There was a pause, and then, “You’re not actually going to do that, are you?”
Draco heard Hermione chuckle to herself. He considered just waiting until she left to continue on, but then he called himself a coward. Why should he be afraid of her? And besides, he needed to thank her for her help. It was the polite thing to do, wasn’t it? He started walking again and turned the corner casually. Hermione (and her torn bag) were closer than he had expected them to be. She was kneeling on the cold stone floor, repacking her over-stuffed backpack. Her hair was hanging in her face and her fingers were running over the binding of one of her many books in an unconsciously sensual way that made it difficult for Draco to breathe properly. Her copy of Ancient Runes was lying right in front of his feet. He picked it up without thinking, walked the few steps to where she was, and held it in front of her face.
“Thanks,” she said, grabbing hold of it without looking up. He didn’t let go until she glanced up with a slightly crooked smile. When she saw his face, however, the smile fell away. “Oh, it’s you,” she said ripping the book from him with unnecessary force. Her fingers brushed his and pure, undiluted lust shot through him. Again, he found himself quite thankful that his robes were loose.
“Well, hello to you, too,” he was able to say after a moment.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” she asked nastily, now repacking her bag as fast as was humanly possible.
“Just to thank you. Are you always this suspicious?” He leaned nonchalantly against the wall as he spoke, trying to hide his inexplicable response to her.
“When it comes to Slytherins, of course I – wait… I must have heard you wrong, because for a moment I thought you said you wanted to thank me, but that couldn’t be possible. Reparo.” She stood and swung her newly re-sown bag over her shoulder. Draco resisted the urge to offer to carry it for her; if his father had taught him nothing else, it was to be a gentleman at all times, though he knew Hermione probably wouldn’t trust chivalry when it came from him. Still, she looked far too slight to be able to lift something that heavy.
“Apparently it is possible. But speaking of impossibilities, how can you possibly carry that thing around all day?”
“I charmed it to be weightless.” She turned and began to walk away. Not wanting the conversation to end, he caught up with her and matched her pace easily.
“Why so eager to leave, Granger?”
She glanced sideways at him and let out a very frustrated, very loud sigh. “Hmm, let me think… could it possibly be because I hate you?” she asked sarcastically. He smiled; he had never seen this side of her up close before, this feisty woman that wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She sped up, hinting rather obviously that she didn’t want to be anywhere near him. He chose to disregard this and quickened his steps.
“What do you want?” Hermione growled.
“That’s a very loaded question, Granger.” She looked at him quizzically, but he didn’t elaborate. She stopped walking abruptly and turned to face him.
“Look, I don’t know why you’re acting like this, but go away, okay? I really don’t have the patience for you at the moment, and I would hate to get kicked out of school for hexing you.”
He held up his hands and took a few steps back in surrender. “Fine,” he said.
“Good… um, bye.” She gave him one last confused glance, and then she turned and made her way up the steps that led to the Entrance Hall. Draco had watched her until she was out of sight, trying to ignore the urge to sigh wistfully.
That was three weeks ago, and ever since, Draco had been completely obsessed with Hermione Granger. It was affecting everything he did. He couldn’t concentrate in classes that they shared together. And he really couldn’t understand it. Oh, he understood why he found her attractive, but what he couldn’t fathom was why he suddenly found her so interesting. It wasn’t as though he had shared some kind of life-changing moment with her. Nothing, really; just a few dismissive words in an empty hallway, and certainly not enough to inspire this commanding lust.
Hermione hadn’t failed to notice his continuous staring. Of course, he did nothing to hide it from her. Whenever she looked at him, she scowled, and he found himself looking forward to seeing her lip curl in that particular way. He was enchanted by her laughter, even if it was directed at him. He found himself making excuses to be in the library when he knew she would be there, which was pretty much all the time. He believed she was at her most gorgeous when reading. The expressions that floated over her face – humor, puzzlement, interest – were varied and fascinating to him. It was rather worrisome that he knew he could spend an entire night watching her read and enjoy himself immensely.
All in all, he considered himself completely pathetic. Not only was he unable to move past this… infatuation, but he wasn’t doing anything about it. Under usual circumstances, he would have made a move right away. He took pride in the fact that he was good with women, but when it came to Hermione, he had no idea how to act.
Hermione, for her part, was very near boiling point. Draco Malfoy was by far the most infuriating person on the planet. What the hell was he thinking, staring at her all the bloody time? The thing that bothered her the most wasn’t his incessant staring, however, because that could be ignored after a while. No, the biggest problem was her own response. She hated the fact that every time he looked at her, her body tingled in reply. When her fingertips had grazed his that day in the dungeon’s hallway, it was as though a bolt of electricity had flown through her body.
She refused to admit that she could be attracted to Draco Malfoy. Sure, he might be well-made in the physical sense, far from hard on the eyes, and it was obvious that Quidditch training had treated him favorably. And she was human, wasn’t she? Any woman would find the combination of stormy gray eyes and dirty blond hair (that fell into those eyes charmingly) alluring. But intellectually and emotionally, he was the most revolting creature she had ever come into contact with, including Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts from fourth year. And that disgust, she was sure, would never go away.
November had come to Hogwarts with a vengeance, as though its greatest wish was to tear the school and its inhabitants to pieces. Heading out to Herbology was a twice-weekly hell, and Hermione could only be thankful that they didn’t also have Care of Magical Creatures anymore. Not that she didn’t love spending time with Hagrid, but there was no way the entire class would fit into his tiny cabin, and that would have been the only way to keep warm.
Plus, that was one less class that she had to share with Draco Malfoy, and considering his recent penchant for staring, she could only be grateful.
She was beginning to dread Potions classes. It was very difficult to concentrate when you were being watched the entire time. If this kept up, she was going to have to confront him about it. It was ridiculous. No matter how often she sent him a hateful glare, there was absolutely no change; on the contrary, if his amused little grins were any indication, he seemed to enjoy it.
Even now, in the middle of an exam, she could feel him looking at her. Hermione finished her final answer, rolled up her parchment, got up to give it to Slughorn, and returned to her seat. She pulled out her Arithmancy book and began reading.
A few minutes later, Draco also rose to turn in his exam, and Hermione tried desperately hard not to notice. On his way to the front of the class, he passed by Hermione’s desk and casually, as though it was accidental, allowed his fingertips to graze over the back of her hand. She immediately snatched it away from the edge of the table where it had been resting. Her skin was burning, and she couldn’t decide if the sensation was pleasurable or not, especially when brought about by someone that she was supposed to hate. She glanced around quickly; no one else seemed to have noticed what had happened. Perhaps it had been accidental.
Draco was heading back in her direction and his eyes were, of course, trained on her. She focused her energy on glaring at him and didn’t notice the piece of folded parchment that landed on her desk until he had resumed his seat. It was lying on the open pages of her Arithmancy book. Rather than read it, she checked to see if he was watching, which he was. She sat it on the edge of her desk so that he could see it clearly, and she burned it. Sending him a satisfied look when he scowled, she turned peacefully back to her book and continued reading.
He couldn’t exactly say that he was amazed by her reaction, but he hadn’t expected her to be quite so vicious. Apparently she was still suspicious of him and she still didn’t want to be friends. Well, that would have to change. Draco had no idea how to go about changing the way she felt about him, but there had to be some way to do it…
That night, Hermione went straight to the library after dinner to research for her Transfiguration essay. She had urged Harry and Ron to join her, knowing full well that they hadn’t started yet, but they had declined. She wasn’t surprised at this, since both boys were wrapped up in their respective girlfriends. Harry and Ginny were “studying” together in front of the fire, and Ron and Lavender would be busy engaging in activities that Hermione would rather not know the details of.
Though she was pleased that her friends were both happy, it was kind of difficult being a fifth wheel. And if she was truthful, she wanted to be with someone who loved her the way Harry and Ginny obviously loved each other, or at the very least, desired her the way Ron and Lavender did. It was hard being lonely when everyone around you wasn’t. Even Neville and Luna had begun to make cow eyes at each other, and Hermione knew it was only a matter of time before that relationship exploded.
Driving these thoughts from her mind, she collected the necessary books (which by Hermione’s standards were quite a few in number) and grabbed a vacant table in an empty area of the library. She had only just opened the first of her stack when none other than Draco Malfoy dropped down across from her, a single book in his hands.
“What a surprise meeting you in the library, Granger,” he said sarcastically, though Hermione was surprised that the sarcasm was more friendly than malicious in nature.
“What are you doing here?” she snapped.
“It’s a library,” he retorted, raising his eyebrow a fraction. “Obviously I’ve come to read a book.”
“Can’t you read it somewhere else?”
“Hmm… no, thanks. I’m rather comfortable here.” He settled himself in, opened his book, and began to read. Hermione wasn’t about to be driven away from her table, and he wasn’t really doing anything to bother her. His presence was irksome enough, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to ignore him, as long as he kept to himself.
He didn’t. Draco’s eyes were on her from the moment she went back to reading. He liked what she was wearing. It wasn’t the Hogwarts uniform, but Muggle clothing. A pair of jeans and a plain white T-shirt that fit her rather nicely; these clothing items certainly complemented her body more sufficiently than the Hogwarts sweater that he usually saw her in. Although he had no objection to Hermione in a skirt, especially since when she crossed her legs the skirt would hike up and expose several inches of fascinating skin.
After a few tense moments, Hermione couldn’t take it anymore. “Stop it,” she ground out.
“Stop what?” he asked, in a poor imitation of innocence. Hermione doubted whether Draco Malfoy had ever experienced an innocent moment in his entire life.
“You know what! Stop staring at me,” she said.
“It’s extremely distracting.” Hermione could have hit herself the second the words were out of her mouth, realizing how they must have sounded.
“Really?” he grinned slowly. He closed his book and gave up all pretext of reading. This was exactly the reaction he had been hoping for. “How so?”
“It’s annoying me, and the annoyance is distracting.” This was a lie, of course, but she could hardly say that it was difficult to concentrate to on her school work because her entire body was vibrating in reaction to his constant gaze.
“I don’t think that’s what you meant, Granger.” His words were spoken softly, and sounded far more seductive than they should have.
Hermione stood quickly and picked up her bag. “I don’t care what you think, Malfoy,” she snapped. “I’m leaving.” She left the books on the table and began to make her way through the stacks.
Draco didn’t have to think twice; he got up and followed her. They were so deep into the library that it was completely deserted. No one could see them, and it was likely that no one would be able to hear them either.
“Granger, stop!” he called softly. Not surprisingly, Hermione didn’t respond, except to move even more quickly. Draco caught up with her easily, grabbed her upper arm, and spun her around to face him. She pulled away from him, but didn’t move to leave.
“Do you want something?” she asked as calmly as she could with a viciously polite smile, obviously trying to be as well-mannered as possible. Draco stepped closer to her, and smirked when she involuntarily backed into the bookshelf. They were extremely close, less than an inch between their bodies, and the air was suddenly thick around them. Nervous as she was, Hermione still held her head up and looked him straight in the eye.
Draco leaned his head in slightly, and for one shocked moment, Hermione was sure he was going to kiss her. Her breath clogged in her lungs and her lips were tingling in heady anticipation. The idea of being kissed by Draco Malfoy should be revolting, but apparently her body felt differently.
“Why did you burn my note?” he asked suddenly.
“What?” Hermione had to literally shake her head to clear it. She was mortified that her mind had wandered, wondering what it would feel like when his lips met hers; she had actually been staring at his mouth.
“My note,” he repeated with a smirk, knowing exactly where her thoughts had drifted to. “Why did you burn it?”
“I didn’t want it.”
“Why? You had no idea what it said. There could have been very important information in there.”
“I’m sorry, but I highly doubt that.” She really needed him to back up, but didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of hearing her ask. There had to be a way to regain the upper-hand. “I’m surprised you’re still here; aren’t you afraid of being contaminated by the Mudblood?”
He winced and stepped back a little, at which point Hermione let out a little sigh of relief that Draco didn’t catch because he was staring at the floor. “Don’t call yourself that,” he muttered.
“Why shouldn’t I?” she asked, furrowing her brow, deeply confused by his reply. “You do.”
“Yeah, well… about that…” he blew out a breath and looked into her eyes sincerely. “I’m sorry.”
Hermione’s mouth literally dropped open and Draco couldn’t help chuckling at her shocked stare. When she didn’t speak for several moments, he said, “I never thought I’d see the day when Hermione Granger was rendered speechless.”
She closed her eyes and gave her head a little shake. Surely this was some kind of hallucination. But no, when she opened her eyes, Draco was still standing there with an amused smile gracing his features. “I – wait – you – I – what?” she stammered, unable to form a proper sentence.
Draco’s smile drifted into sadness that surprised her. “That’s my father’s belief, not mine. I don’t give a damn about your blood. I only said those things because… well, anyway, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” He conjured a single red rose and held it out to her. She took it without speaking, still staring at him silently.
Draco took a step so that he was close to her again and reached up to skim his fingertips along her jaw. She could feel his breath breeze softly against her cheek, and Hermione let her eyes flutter closed, sure that, this time, he would kiss her. But he didn’t. His hand dropped, and she opened her eyes to look at him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Granger,” he murmured before turning and walking away. He waited until he was several stacks from her before letting his breath blow out shakily. Why hadn’t he kissed her? He could tell she had been expecting him to; hell, he had expected him to. He had wanted to kiss her for weeks, and for the first time, there was the chance that she would have let him, and he blew it.
What the hell was wrong with him? Half of him wanted to go back and just grab her, but the other half (the sane half, apparently) knew that would be a stupid move. He decided to head for the prefect bathroom; a cold shower was in order.
Meanwhile, Hermione was still where Draco had left her. She slid to the floor noiselessly, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened and why she was disappointed that it had ended so suddenly.
She looked down at the rose in her hand. It was deep red, and just beginning to unfurl. Malfoy probably reckoned there was some sort of ridiculous symbolism there; red and green, working together in harmony. Sure, the crimson bloom was beautiful, but the green stem was riddled with thorns. It wouldn’t do well to forget that.
For the next week, Hermione was constantly on edge. Draco hadn’t stopped staring at her, and she was almost used to that. But now he was doing other things as well. Whenever they crossed paths in the corridors, he would find some excuse to touch her, though no one else seemed to realize it was happening.
He would walk past her so closely that their shoulders would brush, or he would reach out and run his fingers down her arm, from her elbow to her wrist. He seemed to be fond of doing this when she had her sleeves rolled up. Once he had even gone so far as to grab her hand with his own for a few seconds as he passed her.
She didn’t know how he was able to be so inconspicuous about it. Even Harry and Ron didn’t know it was happening, but she wasn’t about to tell them what was going on. The first time it had happened, Hermione had gasped aloud, and Harry had asked her if she was alright. Draco had looked her at with a cocky smile on his face while no one was watching. It was getting completely out of hand.
For the first time in her life, Hermione was actually considering skipping class. She really, really didn’t want to go to Potions. Trying to convince herself that maybe nothing would happen and the class would progress as it should, she decided to go in the end. The minute she walked in with Harry and Ron, however, she knew she had been wrong.
Lying on the desk in front of her usual seat was a dark, red rose.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” she muttered to herself as they all sat down. There was a note attached. It read,
A tad symbolic, don’t you think?
Hermione couldn’t help but pride herself on being correct about the first flower. She had figured, though, that Draco had given her that rose as a sort of apology, but this one had no purpose whatsoever. But she was distracted from thinking about this when Harry said, “Does it say who left it?”
Hermione pulled herself back to the moment at hand with difficulty and looked at her friend. “What? Oh, no, it doesn’t. I have no idea who left it.”
“Hermione, you’ve got a secret admirer,” Ron said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Hermione forced a laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous, Ron. It was probably left here by someone in the last class.” But she could feel Draco Malfoy’s eyes on her.
Harry wasn’t convinced. When Slughorn walked in, and while Ron was rummaging about in his bag for his book, Harry leaned toward Hermione and said, “Are you okay?”
“Of course,” she replied, confused. “Why shouldn’t I be?”
“I don’t know,” Harry continued in an undertone as Slughorn began his lecture on irreversible poisons. “But you’ve been acting weird the last few weeks, Mione. And you seemed to be a little too annoyed that there’s a rose on your desk.”
“I’m fine,” she replied a bit roughly. “This isn’t a mystery that needs to be solved.”
Harry leaned a way from her, obviously hurt. Hermione felt shame wash into her. “I’m sorry,” he said politely. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“No, Harry, I’m sorry.” She put her hand on his arm. “That was completely uncalled for. I’m just… I’m a little stressed out right now, that’s all. I’m okay, I promise.” She felt horrible for not telling him the truth, but what could she say? That she was having trouble adjusting to the fact that Draco Malfoy was doing… whatever it was that he was doing to her? Somehow she didn’t think that would go over well.
Harry gave her one more concerned glance before pulling out his graffitied copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Hermione took out her own parchment and books, taking notes as usual and trying not to let her mind wander.
But this proved to be difficult. She knew she couldn’t keep Harry and Ron in the dark forever, but what was she supposed to tell them? How could she explain something to them that even she didn’t understand? And even if she could figure out some way of telling them what was happening, what then? In the best case scenario, they would go out of their way to protect her from whatever Draco had planned for her. In the worst case scenario, however, they would take it upon themselves to bring Malfoy to his senses – most likely by beating him to a pulp. Maybe it was selfish, but Hermione didn’t want to deal with either situation.
Hermione’s thoughts were interrupted, however, by the appearance of someone else’s handwriting suddenly appearing on her parchment. Inexplicably, Hermione was able to easily identify who it belonged to – then again, who else would be doing something like this in the middle of class? Not to mention that the ink was Slytherin green. It read,
Like the flower?
Hermione actually bared her teeth, but didn’t dare turn around to look at Draco in case Harry noticed. She considered ignoring the note, but almost instantly dismissed that notion, knowing that disregarding it would do nothing to stop another one from coming. She decided to write back.
What do you want?
Draco immediately answered, pleased by the fact that she hadn’t chosen to ignore him. He knew he must be confusing the hell out of her, but he was also enjoying himself immensely.
A civil conversation for once wouldn’t kill me.
If a civil conversation would result in your death, I would have tried it already.
He grinned and looked up. As he had expected, her back was stiff and she was, of course, still taking notes. He wrote,
Now, now, Granger, is that any way for the future Head Girl to speak? Besides I have a question to ask you. More of a favor, really.
He watched as she read it. Her head cocked to one side, sending the long, twisted braid she had somehow forced her hair into sliding in the same direction. Draco could honestly say that he loved the way the light of multiple fires under cauldrons played off her hair.
I’m not helping you again, Malfoy; if you don’t understand the subject matter, it’s not my problem.
He quickly wrote back, slightly annoyed that she assumed he needed her assistance.
That’s not it.
Meet me after the prefect meeting tonight, in the alcove behind that statue of Boris the Bewildered on the fifth floor.
Draco waited anxiously for Hermione’s response, but it never came. Instead, after reading, she spun around quickly to look at him. At her sudden movement, however, Potter seemed to realize something was going on. He turned and looked in the same direction Hermione was looking, which was directly at Draco. He stared stonily back.
Potter glanced back to Hermione (who had turned back to the desk already), and narrowed his gaze. Draco distinctly heard him mutter, “Hermione, what the hell is going on?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Harry,” Draco heard her answer. She was calmly taking notes, acting as though nothing had happened. Harry threw Draco another nasty look before turning back to his work.
The rest of the class passed without any excitement. The only change, as far as Draco could see, was that Potter and Weasley (Potter had obviously mentioned his suspicions to the red-head) seemed to be pestering Hermione with continuous questions while they all worked, and they threw Draco more dirty looks than was normal. If Hermione had told them anything, Draco might have a reason to be worried; he knew Weasley had a vicious temper. But it appeared that she was remaining tight-lipped about what was happening between them.
But, Draco thought as he stirred the ingredients in his cauldron, what is happening between us? What exactly did he want to happen? Sure, he was attracted to Hermione, and everyday that attraction was becoming more than merely physical, but happened next? Where did it go from there? Where could it go? He didn’t have the answers to any of those questions; the only thing he knew for sure was that he didn’t want what he was feeling to go away anytime soon. He would deal with those other issues only when it was absolutely necessary.
Draco was right about one thing, however. Hermione was confused as hell. What possible reason could Draco have for wanting to meet her? But the most confusing part of this entire thing was that Hermione wasn’t sure what her answer was. It should have been an automatic, resounding no, but instead, she found herself unwillingly excited about the idea of being alone with Draco Malfoy. Last time, he had almost kissed her; she couldn’t possibly be hoping that it would actually happen this time, could she?
Hermione refused to belief that Draco was being earnest. He had to have some kind of ulterior motive, but she couldn’t for the life of her figure out what it could be. What was he possibly accomplishing, playing with her this way? For surely that’s what he was doing, playing with her. Hermione’s instinctive urge to find out the answers was struggling with her rational side. She knew the only way to figure this out was to meet with him, but her sensible side also knew that meeting Draco could only complicate things further.
She thought about what Draco had said to her that night in the library. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, she believed him. As ridiculous as it sounded, Hermione had looked into his eyes and seen that he wasn’t lying.
But she also believed that if what he said was true, that he was a coward. She could forgive him for his behavior when they were younger, but neither of them were children anymore. If he really didn’t believe in all the propaganda his father spouted, then he needed to stand up and say so. The fact that he hadn’t done so yet, that he allowed, even encouraged, everyone to believe he was a prejudiced bastard, disgusted her.
Slughorn’s voice rang out suddenly, calling for everyone to bottle up their finished potions and bring them to his desk. Hermione did so quickly and was the first to hand in her potion. When she returned to her seat, there was a rose lying on her chair. There was no note on it this time; there was no need for one.
Hermione glanced around quickly, but Harry and Ron were still waiting at the queue in front of Slughorn's desk to turn in their vials. Her eyes fell on Draco accusingly, but he just smirked (she hated to admit that he was sexy as hell when he did that) and gave a small shrug, as if to say he couldn’t help himself. She picked up both flowers and shoved them into her bag before the boys returned. When the bell rang, Hermione was the first one out the door, eager to get as far away from Draco Malfoy as was humanly possible. She would go to see him after the prefect meeting, but she would only stay long enough to tell him to leave her the hell alone. It was past time to put an end to this.
A/N: That’s the first half. The second half is already written, and I’ll submit it as soon as this one is validated. The wait shouldn’t be more than a couple of days, so keep your eye out for it! The second half is a bit longer than this one, and it includes the song lyrics at the end. I promise that in the next half of the story it gets a bit physical, so… yay! I hope you enjoyed it! And don’t forget to review!