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Unexpected by CelestialSlytherin

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 9,722
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Pomfrey, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 10/22/2007
Last Chapter: 06/24/2008
Last Updated: 06/24/2008

Summary:



Amazing banner made by FantasyDreamer of The Dark Arts!

It's Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy's seventh and last year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and things are far different than they've ever been before. What will come of all these changes of personal opinions?


Chapter 1: Something's Different About You
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{Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, much as I may wish it were otherwise. Darnnnn it, learn how to share, J.K. Rowling!}

 

Hermione Granger climbed onto the Hogwarts Express, dragging her trunk behind her with difficulty. It was the first day of her final year at the castle, and this time she could enjoy it. Harry and Ron were nowhere to be found as of yet, so Hermione just pushed her things into the Heads' Compartment and made her way down the length of the train, her Head Girl badge pinned proudly to her chest. Her brown curls had tamed over the summer, now no longer bushy and frizzy, but smooth and silky as they fell upon her shoudlers. She was glancing into the compartments as she passed them, not exactly paying attention to the time, and was suddenly thrown off-kilter as the train lurched forward with an alerting shrill blast of the whistle. A small cry came from her as her equilibrium was upset and she felt herself teeter before beginning the downward topple to the floor. Everyone else had long since been seated, save for one, and it was him that she fell back into when she lost her balance. A pair of strong arms stopped her from tumbling to the floor of the rumbling train. She felt heat rushing to her face as she flushed embarrassedly, and she turned to thank her rescuer.

When she faced the unknown person, her eyes were greeted with an expanse of masculine, black-clothed chest with a Head Boy badge attached to the expensive looking robes. Hermione's gaze traveled up slowly, taking in the rather broad shoulders, the pale, elegant neck, the almost pointed chin, thin but full mouth, and defined cheekbones. She should have realized who it was immediately.

"Sorry, didn't mean to stumble into you. Thanks for that, though. Train caught me off guard, I'm afraid." She apologized, an easy smile turning up her mouth. It was then that her gaze finally reached his storm-grey eyes, and she realized exactly who it was that was holding her and she was being supported by. He looked different somehow; his platinum blonde hair wasn't greased back this year, instead it fell down to partially cover his emotionless eyes. Well, maybe not so emotionless; for a split second, Hermione thought she saw a flicker of something other than disdain and coldness. It was there and gone in a flash, disappearing so quickly she doubted it was ever there. The girl dismissed the thought and too a quick step away from Draco Malfoy and his embrace. She caught sight of his one raised eyebrow, and a half-smirk, which caused her to blush two shades brighter than before, right before she turned and fled back to the Head's Compartment, trying to hide her scarlet cheeks, still hot with humiliation.

 

Harry and Ron were waiting outside the door when she got there, so she let them in and then slammed the door behind her. The two boys didn't notice her flushed face or her hurry to enter; they were too busy arguing over which team was better, the Chudley Cannons or the Bulgarians. Hermione simply sat down, staring at the window as she got lost in thought. After a couple of hurried hugs and absent-minded "We've missed you"'s, they left, still arguing heatedly about Quidditch. The Gryffindor witch's brown orbs gazed out the window, though she wasn't taking anything in. No, her mind was still back in that corridor, trying to grasp what had happened. She'd been wrapped up in his arms, close to his chest, his heat like a radiator that had warmed her through in a split second. And in that tiny moment, she'd felt more emotions that she had in the past year.

She was so preoccupied that she didn't notice when the person her ponderings were focused on stepped silently into the compartment, sliding the glass-windowed door shut behind him. His tall 6' 2" frame created a very commanding presence, and that plus his arresting eyes and silvery hair made him an amazingly attractive man. His mercury-coloured eyes took quick note of her farway expression, and he took immediate advantage of her distantness, allowing his orbs to lazily rake down her. She'd matured astonishingly over the summer. Instead of the annoying, stick-figured, bushy-haired know-it-all he'd been expecting, Draco had been astounded that the first thing he'd been greeted with was an armful of a girl with sweet-smelling chestnut curls and curves in all the right places. And she wasn't dressed as she had always been for the last six years of their acquaintanceship. She had decided this year, she was going to actually dress and behave as a girl. This year, there would be no chance of people forgetting she was a female. She hadn't gone out and bought slutty or provacative outfits, she just wasn't wearing a shapeless school uniform any longer. It was mostly jeans and tee shirts, but she wore them well, that was for sure. The girl was dressed in a black T-shirt and a pair of light blue denim jeans. Both articles of clothing were fitted on her body very attractively. Over her shirt was a long, black cardigan sweater that stopped about four inches above her knees, with sleeves so long they covered her hand all the way to the second knuckle of her fingers. The body of the sweater hugged curves that had either been hidden since he'd known her or had grown miraculously over the past three months, and he had to admit, he was thoroughly enjoying looking at them now.

Draco had been so stunned at the change, he hadn't even acknowledged her apology or expression of gratitude, except with a raised eyebrow and a half-smirk. And while she might believe the latter had been directed at her, it hadn't been. It had been directed at himself. There had once been a time when he'd thought her ugly. Now he wondered how he could have ever seen her as anything but the beautiful girl she was. Yes, Draco Malfoy just admitted he thought the Muggle-born witch was lovely.Things had changed for him the past summer. His father was dead; he'd died during the last battle. His mother was dead, too. She'd been victim of Voldemort's torture and his own father's as well. Her death was what had changed him so. He had thrown off his father's oppressive control and turned against Voldemort, joining the Order of the Phoenix with Professor Snape's help. In all truth, he'd never wanted to serve "Lord" Voldemort. He had no desire to serve a half-blood egomaniac and no wish to be played with or treated as a mere servant. And he never really hated Muggles or Muggle-borns; it was just one more way he'd let himself be controlled, and once he pushed it all away, he left it ALL behind, including the immature and cruel name-calling and disrespect. Draco had been an invaluable spy, and even more valuable in the battle through his anonymity. He'd been destroying Death Eaters from within their ranks, and none of the enemy could tell who was the traitor, so they'd all turned against one another. It had been his help that had allowed the battle to be won, and Potter's defeat of the maniacal Voldemort had finished the war.

None of the "Golden Trio", as he liked to call them, knew about his betrayal of the Dark Lord, and so he didn't expect anything other than the exact same treatment he'd recieved in all previous years. He didn't really want to be anything other mortal enemies with Potter and Weasley. It would be nice to have something that wasn't going to change, and plus he still detested the two bungling, lucky idiots. However, he couldn't tell himself in all honesty that he wanted to remain hated by the female part of the trio. Back in that hall, it had stirred unfamiliar emotions when he heard her being nice and kind to him. Him, Draco Malfoy. Given, she didn't realize who he was when she was speaking, and she'd run as though a bloody plague were after her when she had figured out who was holding her so intimately, but that didn't change how it had made him feel. It was something he would have never foreseen, nor would have foretold his reaction to Hermione's grateful words of thanks. As soon as he'd seen her falling, his arms had seemed to automatically raise to brace the unbalanced girl, and he'd definitely been hard pressed to release her. Maybe this year wouldn't be a complete disaster, after all.

As though suddenly sensing the presence of another in the shaking train compartment, her head snapped around, chocolate brown eyes catching his immediately. He just continued to watch her in silence, stormy eyes cloaking his slight amusement when her cheeks flushed a becoming pink. A smile of amused tolerance graced his features for a moment before he shook it off and took a seat opposite her on the red velvet cushions. Hermione looked at the other student for a second before returning to staring blindly outside.

"You're welcome, by the way," he drawled blandly, not looking away from the Muggle-born witch. The girl glared at him for a bit, then she reached into the messenger bag that sat beside her. She rummaged through it and soon, pulled a thick book from its depths. The spine of the huge voume was worn and faded with age and use, but she opened it without hesitation to a page somewhere in the middle of the book. Hermione stared at the book for about ten minutes, and then glanced up at the Slytherin student to find that his eyes were still trained intensely on her. She frowned at the other student and spoke coldly.

"What are you looking at, Malfoy? Bugger off and quit looking at me." Draco was snapped out of his musings about the creaminess of her skin and the lushness of her mouth by her spiteful remark. Inwardly, he was laughing; it had never taken much to get a rise out of her. Outwardly, the teen wizard shrugged and smirked.

"I do believe I'm looking at you, Granger, and I'd much rather bugger you." His last words were drowned out, luckily, by the high-pitched blow of the train's whistle which signaled their imminent arrival at the school. It was lucky because, one- her eyes had begun to narrow dangerously as he'd spoken, and two- he needed a quick escape route. The last time she'd looked at him the way she was now, he'd been called a foul little cockroach and ended up with a broken nose and bruised jawbone, courtesy of Ms. Granger herself.

Draco stood quickly, ignoring the Head Girl's words, which were, "Excuse me? Bugger WHO?" He walked to the door quickly, eager to escape as he slid it open, and was about to exit out into the bustling crowd of disembarking students when he heard her speak again, more quietly this time.

"Something's different about you." That was all she said, so Draco paused, looked back at her with those mesmerizing grey eyes, and smiled. He really smiled at her with no sarcasm or malice, and it took her breath away. With that he stepped into the throng of teenagers, and Hermione rushed to the door, watching the unmistakeable firgure as it worked through the mob of people. Questions flitted through her head in a jumble, all of them wanting ungiven answers.

Chapter 2: Unity
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The first years had gotten across the lake and to the castle safely, with only a few mishaps involving fallen students and rescues by the giant squid. But all in all things were fine. Hermione sat beside Harry and Ron in the Great Hall as the new students were Sorted into their new houses. The two boys had found her just minutes after Malfoy had left her standing in the doorway of their compartment, confused, incensed, and feeling some other emotion she wasn't quite familiar with. That other emotion was had been stirred by seeing him actually smile -not a simrk, or a smug grin, but a true smile- for the first time since she'd known him. Gryffindor had gotten quite a few new young wizards and witches, as had Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw and Slytherin hadn't gotten near as many as the other two houses.

Hermione had a massive headache pounding in her temples from the incessant shouting of Houses and the ensuing cheers from each one, and with more than 50 kids left to Sort, it wouldn't be getting any better. She winced in pain as another cheer arose, sending a knife of pain into her brain. Getting up, she hurried away from the Gryffindor table and out of the Great Hall; the girl was heading towards the Head's common room and dormitories Harry and Ron didn't notice her hurried exit as they were arguing -again- about which House would get the most students. The girl squinted her eyes against the illumination the bright torches gave off, the light seeming impossibly magnified to her. Just her luck, a migraine, on the first day back to school.

The brown-haired witch walked briskly down the corridors, one hand rubbing her throbbing temples. She stopped before a painting of a sickly looking old man wearing a kilt and beret, which spoke after a few seconds. "Gimme the password, lass."

"Unity," Hermione complied quietly, and the portrait swung forward, revealing an open entranceway. She stumbled down the short hallway as a wave of dizziness washed over her. This feeling of vertigo was another common symptom of her migraines, and from the feel, it was going to be crippling. The young witch stopped and leaned against the stone wall, head in her hands as she fought the wooziness that had rushed up with the headache.

A pair of large, warm hands clasped her shoulders and she heard someone speak through the dark haze the small hall had become. "Granger? Are you alright? Bloody hell." The male voice cursed, and she felt herself being lifted off her feet, one arm beneath her knees and the other supporting her back. Hermione draped her arms around his neck unconciously, her face pressed against the hard wall of his chest. With every breath she inhaled some of his scent; absently, she contemplated it. A very unique smell, it was a mixture of musky male, some sexy smelling cologne, and some other fragrance she'd never smelt before.

"Going to make a habit of this, are you, Granger? You must like being in my arms." When he spoke, she could hear the rumble of it in his chest with every word he said, and when he chuckled, it was absolutely delightful, even with her pounding headache.

Draco carried her through the common room they would share and up the stairs, down the hall and into her room. It was a large chamber, decorated in crimson and silver. The Slytherin boy bore his slight and dazed burden over to the queen-sized four poster bed, setting the other student's slender body atop the deep-red downy bedspread that covered the soft mattress. The girl fell asleep immediately, eyes closing slowly as she took another look at her rescuer for the second time, as though trying to memorize his face.

The Head Boy stood there beside the bed for a moment, his steely grey eyes watching her in her peaceufl slumber. Without realizing, his hand raised and very gently brushed away a tendril of brunette hair that had crossed her forehead. As soon as what he'd done hit him, he mentally slapped himself, backing away from the sleeping young woman with a stragely fierce look. He came closer again, but only to remove her shoes gently, divest her of her heavy outer robe, and very carefully pick her up enough to draw the bedclothes back. He placed her on the mattress as cautiously as possible, before tugging the blanket and sheets up over her still body.

Draco turned and retreated quickly from the room, closing the door softly behind him. The young wizard returned to the common room, throwing himself onto the couch and staring mulishly into the fire. Heavens to Merlin, what was he doing? He must be barking mad! It hadn't even been 24 hours since school had officially begun, and twice already he'd been in extremely proximity to her. Twice he'd been close enough to smell the perfume she wore that smelled of flowers. And twice, he'd been hit so hard with feelings of unusual protectiveness it had left him reeling. With a deep sigh, he raked a hand through his platinum hair, and stood, going back up the heavily carpeted stairs led up to their separate dorms.

The Slytherin creeped to her door again, opening it to look in on her. She was lying on her side facing the door, burrowed deep into her comforter. Her wavy brown hair was fanned about her head, haloing her lovely face. He sighed again, closing the door softly and going to his own room. His room was the same size as hers and identical, except it was decorated in silver, gold, and black. A yawn came from Draco's mouth as he unceremoniously dropped his robes on the floor and stripped off his shirt, stretching languidly, arms reaching above his head.

The young man drug a hand down his face, mind confused and a whole host of other emotions he didn't care to name. He quickly finished undressing and changing for bed, wanting to crawl into his comfortable, big bed as soon as possible, in the hopes of banishing these disconcerting feelings and thoughts.

It was, however, a failed attempt; while his body was weary, his mind was overactive and restless with thoughts of the witch in the next room. Hours later, when sleep finally claimed him, she was the last thing he thought about before he drifted off. Even then, he dreamed.

Chapter 3: Princess
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A shaft of light fell through the window, lengthening across the carpeted floor until it grew up the side of the ornate wooden-framed bed and shone upon the person laying huddled beneath the deep red blanket. Hermione's eyelids fluttered open, her pupils dilating painfully so that she clenched them shut again. The sleepy girl groaned softly, her arms coming from beneath the heavy cover to stretch above her head. She sighed gently as she felt the delicious stretching of her tired muscles.

Her hand fumbled for her wand on the bedside table blindly, and she realized something wasn't right. At night when she went to bed, she always, always put her wand on the nightstand within easy reach; a little caution learned from during the war. Hermione sat up in bed and blinked rapidly to clear her blurry vision, ignoring the protesting of her sluggish body. Her head whipped from side to side frantically as she took in her unfamiliar surroundings. She was frantic with panic until her sense and logic kicked in.

Within seconds she calmed, her brain sealing most of the previous day's events into her head in the right order again. Tossing the covers back, she admired the new room that accompanied her heightened student status. The girl slid off the high bed, brown eyes flicking around the room and alighting upon the heap of robes that lay in the middle of her floor. Quickly, she picked them up and reached into the pockets. Her hand groped blindly through several pockets before her fingers finally grasped something other than fabric. "Ah-ha!" she exclaimed triumphantly as she removed her wand.

"Tiempo," the witch murmured with a flick of her wand, taking note of the time the ghost clock advertised. Her brown pools widened and she let out a high-pitched shriek as she realized the lateness of the hour. "Oh NO!" The Gryffindor female began flying around the room, grabbing parchment and quills, and tossing books into her bag. The whole time she was berating herself audibly, much to the amusement of the blonde-haired wizard who stood watching from her now-open door.

Draco chuckled out loud, unable to suppress it any longer. Hermione's head snapped up as she heard the out-of-place sound, and her eyes, already wide with anxiety, grew even wider as she took in the sight of the male standing at her door. The chocolate colored orbs started at the bottom on his pale, narrow bare feet, and worked their way up his leanly muscled legs --clothed in black silk pajama pants-- and his tapered hips. They continued their journey, slowly ascending his flat, toned stomach and smoothly muscled chest, his semi-broad shoulders, and his pale elegant neck.

When she finally met his eyes, the gray of them was full of humor and that in and of itself was a huge shock. The girl's eyes were wide as saucers. Draco stood still under her scrutiny, a smile tugging at his sensuous lips, but instead of letting it come out, a signature smirk came to his face in its place.

"See something you like, Granger?" he drawled out with an entertained tinge to his voice. The young woman clamped her gaping mouth shut and sent him a glare, snapping at him in return.

"Shut-up, will you, Malfoy? What do you want, and why aren't you in classes already? It's hideously late." She resumed her mad dashing about like a mad woman, trying to hide the red of her cheeks and embarassment at being caught acting so rudely. She'd been blatantly staring at the man, likely as not drooling! Her thoughts were interrupted again by Malfoy's voice.

"Oh, I just heard a scream and thought I might see what the bloody hell was going on, and to make sure a murder wasn't taking place in my new quarters. I'm not gone to classes because there are no classes today. Earth to Granger?" He explained sarcastically.

Hermione, who had just picked up her heavy N.E.W.T.'s Potion textbook, let it fall from her hand to the floor with a loud thump.

"Oh. That's right," she said, flustered,"It's Saturday. And it's a Hogsmeade weekend." One small hand ran through the length of her chestnut locks as she began replacing the items she'd tossed into her bookbag.

"Well, it's a tad too late for Hogsmeade this time. The group left an hour ago and McGonagall said that this year they won't be allowing stragglers." Draco informed her matter-of-factly, a yawn spreading his mouth wide. The older male propped a bare shoulder on the doorframe, a smug grin crossing his lips.

"So I guess that means you're stuck with me."

Hermione started to reply, then she realized what was happening here. She, the female portion of the infamous Gryffindor Trio, was holding a civil conversation, with Malfoy, Slytherin Prince and arch nemesis of the Golden Trio. Said nemesis just also happened to be decidedly indecent. A retort rose to her lips in response as she thought about this strange turn of events.

"I most certainly am NOT stuck with you, I'm sure Harry and Ron stayed here looking for me when I didn't show up in time to leave with them. I'll just find them and spend the day with them." She turned and tossed the remaining things from her bag onto the dresser, wrinkling her nose in self-disgust as she realized she was still wearing the same clothes she'd had on yesterday. Since Voldemort had been defeated, she never wore a set of clothes for more than one day at a time. The last battle in which he'd fallen had lasted for upwards of two days, and for that long, she'd been in the same clothes and covered in soot and gore from the numerous wounding charms being used. It had totally disgusted her, and even now she gave a tremor of repulsion, and had to fight the urge to tear her garments from her body.

"Well, all I know is that last time I saw your two blokes," as he continued his voice became colored with disdain and contempt, "Potter had his tongue down the Weasley girl's throat, and Weaselbee was groping Brown's arse. Quite openly, and disgustingly, might I add."

The girl he'd come to call the Gryffindor princess glanced up at him, and just as quickly looked away. But not so quickly that he didn't see the hurt that welled in her coffee-colored eyes at his statement.

"Oh," she said quietly. "Well, then, I'll work on getting-- wait. Why am I talking to you? Why are you being so...civil to me?" Her query was sudden and unexpected, because she was eager and searching for something to get her mind off her neglectful friends.

The boy shrugged one shoulder and turned to go back to his own room, but Hermione saw it coming; quickly, she ran to him and grabbed his arm. Her small hand didn't even begin to circle his bicep, but it stopped him in his tracks as effectively as any Leg-Locker Jinx would have. He could feel the shape of her hand like a brand against his skin. Her hand was soft and smooth, and for a moment he reveled in her touch.

He shook himself out of it mentally and looked down at her hand, then over his shoulder at her face, gray-clouded orbs locking with hers. "Why? Would you rather I treat you the way I have for the past six years?" The intensity in the moment that passed then crackled like electricity between the two teenagers. When Hermione spoke finally, it was hard for him to tear himself back into reality.

"I don't know. Yes. Yes, I would rather it be the same! At least then something wouldn't change!" She ended on a belligerant note, wanting to fight with someone to relieve her anger, resentment, and confusion, and Malfoy was the perfect candidate. She hated him anyway. Didn't she?

But the Slytherin did nothing, except continue look at her searchingly, his gaze seeming to see everything she wanted to hide. "Sorry, then, princess, because I like being this way a lot more than I liked being a sodding prick all the time."

The girl looked at him with a raised brow, looking uncannily familiar with the expression on her face. Her hand still remained where she'd placed it. His own larger palm came up and covered hers, fingers closing gently around the appendage. Hermione licked her lips unconciously, her heart thumping in her chest quickly all of a sudden.

That heart skipped a few beats as he turned around slowly, still holding her hand tightly. He moved even closer to the witch, so close that his breath feathered hotly over her cheek, and her eyelids lowered to where they almost were closed. Her lips parted slightly as she waited for the touch of his mouth on hers.

Draco looked at her face posed so sensually, and it was all he could not to kiss her, but he just whispered, "At least, not to you, princess. Something's different about you."

With that, he released her hand and stepped away, padding down the hallway to his own room. In his wake he left a very confused and dazed witch. The whole exchange had taken at the most five minutes, but it seemed like an eternity.

Chapter 4: Revelations
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{A/N: Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading this story faithfully and for the reviewers who have been so praiseful and encouraging. This story will be eight chapters long, so please continue to read and review, because it makes me giggle and grin!! Thanks again!}

Two weeks passed, and during that time, Hermione attempted to avoid Draco. Each time she thought of how blatantly she'd reacted to his closeness and touch, her face flushed hot. It didn't help that while she was trying to stay away from the blonde Slytherin, he seemed to be seeking her out.

It had gotten to the point that she was spending more time in the company of her prior worst enemy than she was her two supposed best friends. Harry and Ron hadn't spoken to her since the first day back at school. Everytime she saw the two of them, they were thoroughly involved in snogging with Ginny and Lavender. Part of her was tempted to toss them detentions when she saw them in the hallways, but her loyal side would not allow her that joy. She'd gotten so lonely she had begun to depend on Malfoy, and even though it had been rather awkward at first, it had turned out that they had more in common than previously believed.

Today had been another Hogsmeade weekend, and she had watched Harry and Ron walk out the gates, without her, again. She made herself become angry with them for ignoring her so, after she'd been such a good friend to them, but really, she simply wanted to break down and cry. Why must things be so different this year? It was overwhelming the stressed teenager, and her thoughts spun as she stared deeply into the flames at the hearth.

With Voldemort truly dead and no more evil murderers out to rule the world, at least for the moment, Harry no longer had any use or need for her, her intelligence, and infinitely bossy attitude. Ron had gotten over her this summer once she had made it perfectly clear that she did not love him in a romantic way, and thus no longer followed her like a love-struck puppy. Her prior worst enemy was behaving in a totally considerate fashion towards her, being kind and polite to her even in public. Things weren't supposed to be this way. What was a girl to do when she was no longer needed, and sought after by someone she used to abhor?

It was about 6pm and the Head Girl was lounging on one of the plush couches that were scattered about the common room. A large book rested in her lap, closed, amazingly. It was the same book she'd pulled out on the train to ignore Malfoy; the silver lettering shone in the flickering light cast by the blaze within the grate. 'Romeo and Juliet', her favorite romance, a tale of star-crossed lovers who weren't allowed to be together, and so, instead of being forced to live without the other, committed suicide. Yes, tragic, but amazingly romantic.

Hermoine was still staring into the fire with her legs stretched out on the couch when Draco entered the common room silently. She was so absorbed in thought she didn't realize he was even there until he pushed her legs off the cushion and arrogantly sat in their place. The Gryffindor witch scowled at him, but her heart wasn't really in it; actually, she was glad for the company and distraction from her ponderings.

The blonde Slytherin chuckled at her softly, and just sent a smirk in her direction in response to her scowling expression.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" she asked finally, sounding worn out and uncaring. The boy in question watched her for an instant before replying, in his usual maddening fashion.

"Do stop scowling, it doesn't really become you, princess."

She frowned once more at the name he'd given her, though privately, she thought it was cute, and in a strange way, sweet.

"Why do you keep calling me that? It's quite odd." she declared and was struck with a sudden idea. Why must she scarifice her comfortableness simply because he wanted the seat she'd had her feet resting on? With that abrupt thought she swung her jean-clad legs and barefeet up, and settled them across his thighs.

He regarded the tiny, smooth-skinned feet and their dark blue toenail polish for a few seconds before looking up at her. Draco had an almost incredulous expression on his countenance that slowly changed to a smile.

"Well, princess," he murmured, stressing the nickname,"if you're propping your feet on my lap, I think we've reached a whole new level in our...shall we say, relationship." He shot her a devilish look as she giggled and then continued in a more serious tone, "So maybe you should call me Draco, instead of Malfoy."

His storm grey eyes gazed steadily at Hermione. She had to admit, he looked amazing in the dim light from the fire. His features were cast into shadow, giving him a gaunt appearance, but one that worked for his looks. Mal---Draco had one long arm slung across the back of the couch, and the other was draped negligently over her shins. And those intense eyes were still watching her with a fierceness that sent tremors down her body.

"Er...ok..Draco," she responded hesitantly. "But I have one question. Answer me this. Why are you different? What made you change? Last school year, you used every breath in my presence to call me vile names, up until the moment I stepped off the train for summer break.This is a touch drastic, Draco." The dark haired girl was surprised at how easily the name rolled off her tongue.

Her wonderings started up anew. It seemed she was always checking him out and marvelling silently at his looks. What was wrong with her, for Merlin's sake? This was Malfoy, the one who'd tortured her endlessly for six years of her life. But he wasn't the same. No, he definitely wasn't the same person he'd been the last time she'd seen him. That cruelness that used to hover like an aura was gone completely now.

While she contemplated this, Draco was doing some observing of his own. The younger witch was leaning against the arm of the couch, hair falling in silky waves upon her slender shoulders that shone in the reddish-orange light. Hermione had a dreamy look on her face as she watched him, her orbs soft and betraying. Her slim, shapely legs were settled comfortably across his thighs, and he could see every gentle and lovely curve of her body, thanks to her deep green fitted sweater and denim pants. The girl was so tempting, without even realizing she was. Maybe that's what attracted him to her so; she was simply gorgeous without being ostentatious.

Draco returned his thoughts to her words. He mulled her inquiry over for a moment, knowing that if he said something now, he wouldn't stop till it was all out. But even understanding that, he decided to speak.

"Well, princess, things changed drastically for me over the past three months. It's only natural for me to be drastic in return. I discovered things I believed in were flawed, and that a lot of things weren't as they seemed. I realized just how bad things were getting and the huge mistakes I'd made and that I was about to make a whole lot more."

The wizard paused there and his gaze flicked over to her, and she could see the remorse there. She could see the apology before he even made it.

"I'm sorry for all that, Hermione, I really am. I know just how bad I made things for you and how much I hurt you by being such a git." From there he looked away again, continuing his story of his mother's torture and eventual death at the hands of his own father and the Dark Lord. He told her of his own helpless rage as he was forced to watch it all take place while under a Body-Binding spell, and how at the first opportunity he'd gone to Dumbledore and the Order. And he explained all the names he'd given and Death Eater's strategies he'd betrayed. All he had asked for was that Lucius Malfoy be saved for him to care of. That was how he'd avenged his mother's horrid, torturous death; he'd been the one to cast the Killing Curse on his bastard of a father.

Draco had watched emotionlessly and ruthlessly as the light faded from Lucius' cold eyes, leaving them empty and lifeless in death. It was the first he'd ever spoken of these things to anyone, and helpless, grieving tears welled up in his troubled eyes as he orated the entire ordeal, leaving nothing out. When he finished, it was as though there was nothing left in him but a deep, greedy sadness that threatened to completely overwhelm him.

Hermione had tear tracks on her own visage as she suddenly understood everything that had occurred in Draco's life. Her arms reached for him and she pulled him close to her, hugging him tightly with his head resting on her shoulder as he cried and shook silently. His hands were clenched into tight fists where they rested against her waist.

After an indeterminable amount of time, his shaking ceased and the teardrops dried, but the two remained in that same position, both of them thinking, mostly about the other, and both of them drawing much needed comfort, though it was sought for different reasons.

Soon, Hermione's eyelids began to droop, the emotional turmoil having taken its toll on her. Draco was just as tired. He toed off his shoes and wrapped his arms around the petite waist of the girl who'd fallen asleep. He adjusted the both of them until he was able to recline on the couch, dragging her along with him gently. Hermione lay atop him, her head cradled tenderly against his chest. Their legs were entangled from Draco's laborious manuevering and his arms were still draped around her slim form.

Draco drifted off like that, the Gryffindor's soft warm mass a welcome, soothing weight.

Chapter 5: Discoveries
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The next morning was a total disaster. Neither of the sleeping teenagers woke on time for breakfast in the Great Hall, and it seemed that for once Harry and Ron noticed she wasn't present. Acutally, it was Neville who first realized Hermione was not at the long table with the rest of the Gryffindors. Once he spoke up, her two friends immediately grew concerned. Ron and Harry stood quickly, exiting the full hall with haste as they began their search for their friend. On the train, when they'd all talked, Hermione had given them the location and password for her new Head's quarters. Her negligent friends searced the library first, then the grounds, heading for the Head dorms last. 

When they entered the portrait of the aged Irishman, they could not believe their eyes. Ron directly had his wand drawn and pointed at the Slytherin, who had snapped awake at the loud bellows the two boys had issued upon thier entrance.

"What the bloody hell are you doing to Hermione?!" Ron yelled just as Harry was screaming, "You stupid ferret, get your disgusting hands off her!"

It was complete chaos as the girl being fought over woke blearily, eyes widening at the scene before her. Ron's face was redder than his hair, his wand trained on Draco; Harry's was likewise directed at the cold, haughty mask on the blonde wizard's face, signature smirk included.

"What a pair of wankers you two are. It's amazing, even to me, and I've got first-hand experience." He sneered, earning a glare from Hermione for a split second. He threw his hands up as if in surrender, and turned, walking away from both the boys and the wands that now were aimed at his back.

"I'll be back there in a bit, okay, Draco?" She called over her shoulder to his retreating back, a smile raising to her features as she saw his hand raise in acknowledgement, "Whatever you say, princess," his seemingly indifferent response.  The smile that had come was quickly erased as she turned back to face the two belligerent males who were now gaping in shock. 

"What? What?!" she said agitatedly, crossing her arms across her chest with a mutinous expression on her face.  Ron spluttered a bit, floundering for understanding. 

"You're mad at US? We're just trying to protect you, Hermione! What the hell was going on anyway?!" Harry's green eyes flicked over to her, orbs questioning as he, too, awaited an answer to the last question. But she altogether ignored that part of his tirade.

"Yes, I'm mad at you! At you BOTH! What right do you have to come in here, pointing wands and screaming? Oh, and you're trying to protect me? Protect me! Then you should protect me from yourselves! My God, do you realize that neither of you have ever bothered to even owl me since just after the battle? Do you realize we haven't spoken for than five minutes since before the last battle? I don't think you know how much that hurt and still hurts, to know that I'm so disposable to you once you don't need my book smarts or intelligence anymore!" She took a ragged breath as tears tracked down her slightly red-splotched face. 

"You didn't even come looking for me when I left the Great Hall during the Sorting Ceremony, and you didn't stick around yesterday when I didn't show up for the Hogsmeade outing, or for the one the first weekend of school. But Draco did. Draco stayed behind, for me, so I wouldn't have to be alone. He's been a better friend lately than the two of you combined. You don't have to protect me from him; ironically, you've been hurting me worse than he ever has. He's been the one picking up the pieces and being good to me." 

The witch sat down heavily, tears tracking down her face still, but at an even faster rate now. She cried in her hurt and anger at the callousness of the two people who were supposed to be her closest and most treasured friends. Her tirade had brought up those feelings of being forgotten, ignored, and completely unimportant.

"Hermione, we're --" both of the Gryffindor males were cut short when she stood, one hand held up for silence as she swiped angrily at her wet eyes with her other one.

"I don't care. Just go away, okay? Just leave me alone, since you've been doing such a stand-up job at it so far."

"But --"

" I said GO!" she finally screamed at the top of her voice, which was proving ample in her stress.

At that point, Draco -- who had been listening to the whole thing from the doorway of his room -- re-emerged, one hand grasping the slender stick of wood that was his wand. 

"I believe she just told you to sod off, Potty and Weasel. Now get out of our common room before I dock points or just hex you. Still on the fence, but I'm sure you can imagine which one I'm leaning more towards." were his icy words as he moved to stand in front the crying girl, between her and those she had once called her friends.

The two male parts of the Golden Trio looked at their former friend again, before lowering their wands and turning. Harry and Ron stalked angrily out of the portrait hole, both wondering what exactly had just happened between them, their once best friend, and thier hated enemy. 

Draco watched them until the painting swung closed with eyes the color of steel; at the moment they seemed to be just as hard as the material they were colored after as well. A sight worked out of him, his fingers pushing through is already mussed hair.  The Slytherin turned to face the Gryffindor female he'd started gaining feelings for, and those eyes of steel softened at an amazing rate. 

"You okay, princess? Sorry for not waiting, but they were doing a good job of pissing me off." He took the chance to examine her form as she had her head buried in her hands, and at her defeated posture, something deep inside him stirred. He could feel a pain in his chest, and some profound conception made itself known inside his head and his heart. Somewhere, somehow, someway, in the past three or so weeks, between saving her from falling, putting her to bed, and spilling his guts to her, he'd fallen in love with the dark-haired Gryffindor witch. 

The blonde man saw her shoulders shake minutely and was instantly on his knees before her. "Hermione, don't cry. Please don't cry. I-... I can't stand it." Their roles were reversed; this time, she was hurting and he was comforting her as best he knew. His arms engulfed her until she ceased her quiet bawling; finally, Hermione drew back and gave him a watery smile. Draco's hands cupped her face, his thumbs gently wiping away the last tears from her cheeks tenderly. 

"The two of them are useless prats. Come on; let's go for a walk, shall we?" He unfolded his tall frame from where he'd kneeled in front of her, offering her one pale, long hand as he towered over her. When she placed her hand in his and allowed him to pull her to her feet, it amazed him that he'd never really noticed how tiny she was; even standing up beside him, he was still a good six inches taller than her 5' 5" height. His palm encompassed her much smaller one, giving her a sense of security, one she hadn't really had since after the battle during the past summer. It was something she was desperately searching for in the world that had been so upheaved lately. 

The unlikely duo were for the most part silent, though every once in a while the tall blonde would look down and murmur something to make the darker haired girl laugh or grin. Many students were absolutely dumbfounded when they spotted the Slytherin prince and the Gryffindor bookworm walking across the grounds hand-in-hand. And they weren't handcuffed, either! The general consensus was that they must have been hexed or cursed or some combination of the two.

The two students spent most of the remainder of the day just strolling and talking with each other. When darkness fell outside, they made their way inside, and both went off in separate directions to get ready and attend dinner. Hermione simply pulled her hair back and pinned her Head Girl badge to her shirt. Tucking her wand into the waistband of her blue jeans, she hurried down to the Great Hall. She took a seat at the very far end of the Gryffindor table, digging into her meal with gusto -- after all, she missed breakfast and she and Draco had skipped lunch. 

She was reaching for another roll when she glanced across the cavernous room towards the Slytherin table. Her brown orbs searched for Draco's platinum hair amongst the sea of brown and other colors, but he was nowhere to be found. That was when she noticed Harry and Ron's absence, as well. A sense of unease washed over her as she went to Ginny and Lavender, whom were sitting together. 

"Do either of you know where Harry and Ron would happen to be?" she asked, feeling even more anxious as the two witches shook their heads in response.  Hermione hastened out of the room, now very worried. Draco had told her he would see her in the Great Hall, which meant he'd intended to be there. And Harry and Ron miss a meal? It NEVER happened, unless something was going on; this time, she worried it was something far worse than the usual saving-of-the-world routine. The Gryffindor witch searched all over the castle, becoming more worried about Draco with every passing hour that he didn't turn up. She felt, she knew, something wasn't right. 

Finally, the female was about to give up when she passed a hallway entrance that was completely dark, hearing something from it's obscured depths. It sounded like the crying of a wounded animal of some sort. The bookwormish girl stopped in her tracks, a feeling of dread washing up over her chest and clenching her tightly and making it hard to breathe. She pulled her wand from her jeans slowly, raising it with a trembling hand as she took the first step into the darkened corridor. 

"Lumos," she whispered, the narrow shaft of light erupting from her wand tip. Hermione aimed the beam ahead of her and took a few more hesitant steps into the darkness. Nothing as far as the ray of magical illumination stretched could be seen. She was beginning to doubt she'd heard anything at all and was entertaining thoughts of turning around when, there! She heard it again. It still remained just out of range, it seemed, as she shone the beam throughout the hallway. "Draco?" she called out again, advancing towards the origin of the sound. 

There, at the edge of the pool of light, was a black-clothed shoulder. Breath stuck in her throat, Hermione hurried towards it, choking back a horrified gasp as Draco's face came into view. Initial relief hit her, but was overtaken by shocked horror at his appearance. The usually immaculate male was covered in scratches and bruises, both eyes swollen shut. His school robes were torn and ripped, and his normally sleek platinum hair was matted and dirty, coated with dirt and blood. The girl rushed to him, arms cradling his battered body gently. 

"Oh, Merlin, what happened? Hold on, Draco." She murmured, grasping his hand, and was overjoyed when she felt him squeeze her fingers faintly. "Forgive me for this, but there's no other way for me to get you help without hurting you more." 

With the quick efficiency of her skill, she cast the Body-Binding spell on him, then Levitated his stiff form. Her mind was single-tracked: get the abused boy to the Infirmary. Her body was on auto-pilot, carrying out the single-trackedness of her mental state. It wasn't long before she had him in the Hospital Wing, under the watchful and skillful eyes of Madam Pomfrey.

Chapter 6: Saving Me
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{A/N} -- Okay, guys, I know, it's finally up and coming again! I finally found the right notebook with the rest of the story in it, so I'm updating as fast as I can type and get things validated. This chapter is dedicated to all the reviewers of this story:

Twippy, Prettyinpink315, ms. critic, JillianUnleashed, anyavioletta, whatup, HarryGinny4eva, Lya_Darkfury, supertools, fiestysnowboarderchick, Hanna Louise, K B Lynne, retro_spunk, lilyjames, GoodGirlsBadBoys, innocentlydark, KArina, Wiccasandwands2193, kelly, Trogdor2030, dracosgem, hanoverpretz01, XxsupertoolsxX ((<-- LOVE HER/HIM! xD)), and again, lilyjames. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!

-- CelestialSlytherin ((Betsy Venom))






There was a severely pissed off brown-haired Gryffindor witch with steaming coffee coloured eyes storming down the corridor that led to Gryffindor tower. Hermione couldn't remember ever being this angry before, or as hurt, not even in the pain-filled months of the war. Draco had been beaten badly, with at least two cracked ribs, and, as she had thought when she'd noticed the funny angle his arm hung at, a broken right arm. His entire body was covered in sickeningly darkening bruises, and who knew what else was wrong inside him that she'd not even gotten the chance to learn about. As soon as she'd used her wand to blast open the doors of the infirmary, the worried girl had yelled for Madam Pomfrey. The Healer had come scurrying towards them, a look of shock passing across her work-worn visage. She'd seen many fights in her number of years as the school's medical head, but this could possibly the worst beating she'd ever had the horror to encounter.

The two females had gotten Draco into a bed with a quick burst of a Levitating Spell, and then the older witch had set to work immediately on the male. He'd become unconcious somewhere around the third flight of stairs Hermione had had to locomotor him up, and Madam Pomfrey asked no questions. The younger girl didn't need to ask questions. She knew what had happened -- Harry and Ron. Hermione stayed just long enough to make sure the Slytherin wasn't in any true danger before heading out. That's how she came to be standing outside the painting of The Fat Lady, chest heaving as she spoke the password curtly and clambered inside the portrait hole.

When she emerged in the red and gold common room, the very first thing she saw were the two males she'd come looking for, sprawled on opposite couches in the almost empty chamber. Harry was sporting a busted lip and yellow-and-purple eye, while the red-head had a bloody nose and was cradling his one hand to his chest. Both were wearing bruised knuckles and torn robes. The darker-haired male looked up as the upset girl came form the entrance, an apprehensive look crossing his face; he quickly motioned to his accomplice, and the two of them scrambled up, making a mad dash for the stairs up to the boy's dormitories.

"Stop! You bloody well get your arse back here!" She screamed. That would have been enough to stop any witch or wizard in the school in their tracks, coming from the mouth of the ever-perfect Miss Hermione Jane Granger, but a flick of her wand and a few more murmured words gave the two boys no choice in the matter. A Body-Binding Charm hit them in the backs, and while Harry dropped harmlessly to the thick carpet, Ron wasn't so lucky. The ginger-haired boy had been closer to the stairs, away from the plush carpeting that had saved Harry's fall; when he dropped, the witch heard his nose break with a sickening crunch. She didn't even flinch, however; he was getting what he deserved.

The young woman stood over them, a helplessly angry and disappointed look on her face. "How could you do that to Draco? How? After I told you just how amazing he's been to me, you still went and did something like this! He's the one who's been here for me since the start of the year. He saved me from falling on the train, helped me to bed when I was dizzy and almost falling over from a migraine, and he was the one who stayed behind when the two of you went traipsing off to Hogsmeade, happily sucking face with your girlfriends! I know him much better than you, and I deserve a say in who I'm close to. You don't care about me, that's not the reason you beat him up, much as you may say it is," she ranted at the two immobile wizards, sneering with a fierceness Draco would've been proud of. Harry's green eyes widened behind his glasses at the anger and pain in her orbs.

"No, you beat him because you had to carry on this little rivalry from the past, and for no reason! He didn't even provoke you." The disappointment and disbelief in her words, covered by the boiling fury, was enough to make the concious culprit look ashamed. But Hermione was having no mercy. They'd beaten the man she'd grown to care deeply about and tried to use her as an excuse. In a few moments, she left the same way she'd come, just a little less angry and more worried, leaving behind two exceedingly cursed Gryffindors. Now that some of her anger had been assauged, an almost overwhelming sense of panic was rising within her. She need to get back to Draco, and make sure he was okay. It was her fault, after all, that they'd come after him when he'd been vulnerable.

It was intimidating, really, how much she'd grown to care about him in the past few weeks. But she didn't dwell on it as she sprinted through corridors back towards the infirmary. Within two minutes she was throwing open the huge doors as she had before, gasping for breath while she scanned each bed for the head of platinum hair. Madam Pomfrey had just placed the cap back on a bottle of what Hermione knew to be Skele-Grow, so things had been a bit worse than the harried girl had feared. The older witch left the two of them alone as the curly-haired witch approached slowly, breath still heaving from her lungs but not quite as fiercely. She stopped at the end of the flat cot, brows furrowing in worry as she looked at him.

Madam Pomfrey had stripped him of his shirt, robes, and trousers, and when her brown eyes caught sight of the contusions that marred his customarily flawless skin, a hand rose to her mouth. His alabaster skin was splotched with sickening greens and jaundice yellows, with some LSU purple in places (( haha, representin'! )). Draco's eyes were closed, his dusky lashes lying against his cheeks; he looked serene, the tranquility of sleep giving him an even more attractive appearance, if that was even possible. His chest rose and fell in a slow, steady rhythm. Hermione pulled up a chair to his bedside, and grasping his hand, settled in for the morning, or his awakening, whichever would come first.

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