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The Hero Within by Jemione

Format: Novel
Chapters: 15
Word Count: 59,801
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Humor, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 08/31/2008
Last Chapter: 05/27/2011
Last Updated: 05/27/2011

Summary:
Beautiful banner made by hannah17 at PHFF. Thank you! :)







They were brought together by extraordinary circumstances.

She was weak, he was there for her.
He needed to break free, she showed him a new way to be.


Non HBP or DH compliant.

67,000+ reads!

May 23rd 2011: Sorry for the long absence! I WILL finish this story one day, but I'm not making any promises on when that'll happen. Hang in there!


Chapter 1: Chapter One
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Chapter One 



She sat on the bed in her muddy underwear as he walked in. She barely even glanced at her visitor: she had grown accustomed to people coming down to the dungeons to make fun of her or throw another curse at her. That didn't seem to be the case this time, however.

With the help of a tiny house-elf, the visitor brought a huge bucket full of water and a table loaded with different items in the cell. He nodded to the elf and she left the dungeons, closing the door to the cell behind her.

”What is this?” the prisoner asked her visitor. Her voice was hoarse for she hadn't used it much.

”I'm going to wash you,” he said simply. ”Can you stand?”

She looked at him, her empty eyes showing no emotion. ”I think so.”

She got up and made her way closer to him. The heavy chains in her hands and feet slowed her down. There was something about her that wasn't right.

He remembered the day she had arrived at Malfoy Manor. 


Draco sat at his desk and stared at the blank paper in front of him. He wasn't the least bit interested in writing the damn letter, but it seemed there was no escape. Or so he thought.

Still struggling with the opening sentence, Draco glanced out of his window. The sight he encountered immediately grabbed his attention. There was a bunch of Death Eaters on the front yard of the Manor, but that alone wasn't particularly special. It wasn't that weird to see them form a circle and torture some poor creature, either. What made the situation so distinctive was the victim: a young, long-haired girl in her underwear.


Draco knew the Death Eaters loved to humiliate their captives, but this was something else. He had never seen them play with someone stripped-down. It also seemed they were giving the girl an extra hard time – she received the Cruciatus Curse again and again and again. There had to be something special about her, and he wanted to find out what it was.

Glad to have found an excuse to forget about his letter, he got up and left his room. He made his way through the empty corridors of the Manor and to the front door. Once out, he headed towards the group of Death Eaters. 


As he drew closer, one of the hooded figures turned to look at him.

”Ah, there you are, son,” came the voice of Lucius Malfoy. ”Why don't you come say hello to our little guest.” 


Draco took the last few steps and had now a straight view of the 'little guest'. She was down on her knees, breathing in quick gasps. She was shaking vigorously. Her long, curly brown hair covered her face.

”Well aren't you being impolite, miss?” Lucius mocked. ”Show your face!”

The girl did nothing to show that she'd heard the command.

”Alright then, let's do it the hard way... Imperio!”

She could no longer fight back. Her head was raised for her and as her hair fell from her face, Draco's jaw dropped.


Hermione Granger. The unbeatable, forever-strong Gryffindor Lioness, violated in the cruellest of ways. And even in the awful state she was in, she managed to give him a glare so intense he could've sworn she reached out for his soul and ripped it in two.

He had thought he'd become numb after witnessing so many people being mercilessly tortured, but obviously he had been wrong. It hurt really badly to see her in pain. All he could think about was that she shouldn't have been there.

”Aren't you going to say anything, Draco?” Lucius inquired.

”I, uh... I'm speechless,” Draco shook his head in disbelief.


A satisfied smile formed on his father's face. ”Yes, our guest is indeed very...special.” 


Shaking off the memory, Draco realised what was different about her. She no longer held her head high – it seemed she had given up her hopes of getting out. She had only been at the Manor for a little over two weeks, and she looked miserable.

Draco rolled his sleeves up before taking a sponge, wetting it and gently starting to wash her left arm with it. She flinched a bit but didn't move away. He worked silently, washing both her arms, her neck, face, back and stomach. Not once did she say anything, or react at all for that matter.

When he was done washing her stomach, he wiped his forehead with the back of his free hand. His left hand. Up until then Hermione had been neutral and impassive, but she suddenly came back to life with a jolt. She grabbed Draco's hand and turned it so she could see his inner arm, disbelief written all over her face.

”You don't have the Dark Mark,” she spluttered.

Draco quickly looked around as if to see if there was someone listening to them. Apparently there wasn't, as he relaxed and then answered. ”I don't.”

”Why?”

”Because I haven't taken it,” he chuckled. ”My mother has been rather creative, making up excuses for me to not do it yet.” His face suddenly grew grim. ”But now I've turned 20 and there's not much she can do anymore. I guess it's only a matter of time.”

He crouched so he could start washing her legs, but she wasn't ready to let the subject drop.

”So you don't want to take it, then?”

Draco stayed silent for a while. ”I think it's best I don't answer that.”

They went back to not speaking. After a while Draco told Hermione to sit down on a small stool so he could wash her hair. He wasn't an expert on washing girls' hair, but he did his best and was done fairly soon.

”Why are you doing this?” Hermione asked as Draco was putting away the washing tools.

”Because you're having dinner with me. I thought this would make you feel a bit more comfortable.”

”Oh.”

”So, uh... I brought you some clean underwear.” He seemed to hesitate, first glancing at her and then the set of plain white bra and panties on the table. ”Do you mind...?”

”Go ahead.” Her face was devoid of all emotion.

Draco grabbed a towel and carefully dried her. He then helped her change her underwear and even performed a small spell to get her hair dry. He'd also brought her one of his old t-shirts. It was big enough to look like a dress on her. Or maybe she was just really tiny, he couldn't tell – back at Hogwarts she had always been covered with big school robes. Either way, they were done with the washing part of the evening.

”Tinky,” Draco called.

The house-elf appeared outside the cell. Together they took the table and bucket out and brought in a new table, this time with dinner for two. The scents were incredible. A bowl full of chicken soup, a piece of bread, some vegetables and a big glass of milk were displayed on both sides of the table. Hermione hadn't seen that much food since the day she'd been abducted.

Draco gestured for her to sit down.

”You need to be careful with the food. Your stomach might not be able to take it,” he adviced her, sitting down too.

”And why do you care whether I throw up or not?” There was a hint of something new in her voice. Was it irritation? Draco felt a bit taken aback, because along with discovering he didn't have the Dark Mark, that was the biggest reaction that had come out of her. She almost seemed like the girl back in school, a clever response ready on her lips for every mean comment he sent her way.

”I don't,” he replied, shrugging. ”I just don't think you're getting much to eat after this. You might as well try and keep it in.”

”Why did they make you come here?” Hermione enquired.

”They didn't. I sort of volunteered.”

A look of disgust formed on her face. ”You volunteered? So you could rub in in my face, is that it?”

”What...?” Draco was genuinely astonished. ”No, you got it all wrong. They weren't going to give you food or anything, it was my idea.”

Hermione eyed him suspiciously. ”Why would you do that for me?”

He shrugged. ”Now that you're here, we might as well keep you alive.”

She still wasn't sure she believed him, but decided not to push it any further. Instead she turned to look at her food. Everything looked delicious...almost too delicious.

”It's not poisoned,” Draco said, as if sensing her thoughts. ”I'm having everything you're having.” To prove his point, he took a spoonful of his soup and swallowed it. ”See? I didn't drop dead. It's completely safe.”

”How do I know you didn't put anything in my food?”

”Gee, Granger. Why do you have to make everything so hard? Give me your bowl.”

He had a taste of her soup, too, and didn't pass out. She made him taste everything else nevertheless, just in case. Once he'd had a bit of every sort, she gave a pleased nod and tucked in. Draco shook his head, a slight smile on his face. The rest of the dinner was eaten in silence.

As he was leaving the cell after dinner, he stopped and turned around to address her. ”Look, Granger... You're not the only one who feels like a captive here. The least I can do is make you feel a bit better.”

She looked at him straight in the eye for a moment before lowering her head. He sighed and turned to leave, closing the door behind him. He was locking the door when he heard her quiet voice.

”Hey Malfoy... Thanks.”

She watched him go, feeling a bit puzzled. Maybe he wasn't that bad after all.










A/N: I'm finally publishing! I've been on the site for almost a year, which means it's taken me ages to actually get something out. But here it is now, and I'm proud of my baby. :)

The first chapter might seem a bit dark, but it'll lighten up soon enough. If you read it, please review and let me know what you think!

Love, 

Jemione


Chapter 2: Chapter Two
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: Before you go to the chapter, here's a little recap from the previous one. I plan to do this in the beginning of every new chapter, that should make it easier for you to remember what was relevant in the previous one.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.
 


! Warning: An act of  S t r o n g  V i o l e n c e  is mentioned in this chapter. !








The end of Chapter One:

”Look, Granger... You're not the only one who feels like a captive here. The least I can do is make you feel a bit better.”

She looked at him straight in the eye for a moment before lowering her head. He sighed and turned to leave, closing the door behind him. He was locking the door when he heard her quiet voice.

”Hey Malfoy... Thanks.”

She watched him go, feeling a bit puzzled. Maybe he wasn't that bad after all. 









Chapter Two



After the dinner with Hermione, Draco took the habit of visiting her every day in the dungeons. They didn't talk much, but it seemed to him that she was almost waiting for him to come see her. He even smuggled her an apple once and she didn't make him taste it first. That made him feel oddly content.

On the fourth day after the dinner, he was once again on his way to the dungeons when he heard a set of loud, cheerful noises coming from one of the Manor's many sitting rooms. He decided to see what the fuss was about, and a moment later he was standing at the doorway. A big bunch of Death Eaters was gathered in the room, evidently preparing for something. Roars of laughter could be heard from every corner of the room.

”Oh, come on in, Draco!” welcomed one of the men.

”What's going on? Are you having a party?”

”You could say that,” he grinned in an evil way. ”We had a little chat and decided to have some fun with the Mudblood.”

”That little bitch is going to be begging for mercy,” someone cheered in the background.

”She sure is... Can you imagine Potter's face when he finds out what we did to his little girlfriend?” 

Draco glanced at the table in the middle of the room, fear building inside of him. There were handcuffs, whips and ropes on the table. It was quite obvious what kind of ”fun” they were planning on having with poor Granger.

”Care to take part in the action, Draco?”

”Thanks, but I think I'll pass,” he replied, feeling nauseous.

He quickly left the room with a great amount of thoughts buzzing in his head. He knew he had to help her, but how? Surely they wouldn't agree to not going through with their plan. There was no point in hiding her, either – they would find her. He couldn't get her out of the house, because it was impossible to apparate out of the Manor. Someone would see them if he tried to smuggle her out. There was no one he could ask for help... Or was there?

”Tinky,” he said to himself. Apparition rules didn't apply to house-elfs.

But where was the she? In the kitchen, maybe? He started towards the kitchen, but realised it was only taking him further away from the dungeons. How could he get to Granger in time if he was running around the house looking for Tinky?

Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. Was he stupid or something? Why didn't he just call her? ”Tinky!”

There was a crack and the house-elf appeared right in front of him. ”Yes, Master Draco?”

”I need your help,” he told her in a hushed voice. ”In the dungeons, now!”

Draco could feel the adrenaline rush through him as they hurried towards the dungeons. The clock was ticking. He had seen enough and knew he only had one choice – he couldn't let them do that to her. He wouldn't let them do that to her.

”We need to get her out of here, they're going to hurt her really badly,” Draco informed Tinky as they ran down the stairs that led to the dungeons. Finally they reached their destination. Draco went straight to Hermione's cell. ”Granger, come here!”

”What is it? What's going on?” She was surprised to see him look so serious and desperate.

”There's no time to explain, we need to go,” he panted and turned to address the house-elf. ”Tinky, I need you to take us somewhere safe. They can't find us!”

The house-elf nodded, her huge eyes wide as plates. Hermione seemed scared and she was still too far away from the bars.

”Granger, come on!”

She took the last steps and stuck her arms outside the bars. Draco and Tinky both took a firm grip of her. They were gone in a second.

A moment later their feet met solid ground, or floor to be precise.

”Hogwarts!” Draco breathed as he took in his surroundings. ”Tinky, you're a genious!”

Tinky gave a bow so low her nose nearly touched the floor of the Entrance Hall. ”Master Draco has always been good to Tinky, it is an honor for Tinky to fulfill his wishes!”

”That's good,” he said. ”Because I have another task for you.”

”Tinky is ready to serve her Master!”

”Go straight to my room. There's a black bag in my closet – get it and bring it here. If you can find Granger's wand, bring that too. No one can see you. Understand?”

”Yes, Master Draco,” Tinky squeaked and disappeared with a pop. Draco finally had a moment to catch his breath.

”Malfoy, what's going on?”

Draco slowly looked at Hermione. She looked so innocent with her big chocolate eyes wide open. With great effort he managed to utter, ”They were going to rape you.”

She gasped, bringing a hand to her mouth. Her eyes were full of complete horror. Suddenly the doors to the Great Hall opened, and Draco instinctively pulled Hermione closer to him. They both turned to look at none other than Albus Dumbledore.

The Headmaster only needed a brief look at them. ”My office. Now.”

He pointed his wand towards Hermione and Vanished the chains. She was baffled from suddenly being free from all restrains and Draco had to pull her arm to get her going. They followed the Headmaster to his office, and had barely sat down when Tinky appeared in front of them. She was carrying a black bag and Hermione's wand.

”Tinky brings Master Draco's bag and the Miss' wand! No one saw Tinky!”

”Good,” Draco nodded approvingly. ”Thank you, Tinky. I'll always be grateful for what you've done. But when you go home...you don't know were we are. You haven't seen or heard anything. You've been doing your chores all day. Alright?”

”Yes, Master Draco, Tinky knows nothing!”

”Great,” Draco sighed. ”You can go back now. It was good to know you.”

The elf nodded firmly and dissappeared for the last time. Once the commotion had subsided, Draco and Hermione found that the Headmaster's eyes were on them.

”Care to explain what this is all about?”

Seeing that Hermione was still too shocked to say anything, Draco decided to do the talking. He told Dumbledore about Hermione being captured by Death Eaters and brought to the Malfoy Manor. He told him how they'd Crucio'd her in the yard, making her writhe in agony in a pool of mud. After the torturing session they'd put her in the dungeons that were situated in the basement of Malfoy Manor. She had been there for nearly three weeks, with barely enough food to keep her going, Draco revised.

”I know I should have done something earlier, but I didn't know how I could help her. At least she was alive,” he said, his head held down in an ashamed manner.

”What made you decide to save her today?” Dumbledore didn't sound like he was judging Draco at all – his tone was more like an interested one.

From the corner of his eye Draco saw Hermione stiffen. He knew it was hard for her to hear, but it had to be said. ”They, um... They were going to rape her. All of them.”

Dumbledore stayed silent for a while, watching them. ”I see,” he finally said. With that, he stood up, went to the door and sent a Patronus down the stairs. A few minutes later Professor McGonagall joined them.

”Minerva, would you be kind and escort Miss Granger to the Hospital Wing and have Poppy look at her?” Dumbledore asked. ”I will have a chat with Mr. Malfoy here and we will join you a bit later. And please make sure that no one sees you.”

”Yes, Albus, of course,” McGonagall replied. If she was surprised to see the unlikely duo of her former students, she hid it well.

Hermione stood up and followed Professor McGonagall out of the Headmaster's office. 



* * * 



”I cannot believe it,” Madam Pomfrey murmured angrily a bit later while fussing around Hermione. ”How dare they treat people like – like they were scum! Did you even get to wash yourself?”

”I was given a sponge bath once,” she replied quietly.

”You were? By whom?”

”I don't know if I'm aloud to tell,” she hesitated, looking at professor McGonagall. ”It was, um, the one in Headmaster's office.”

McGonagall nodded. ”I see. Poppy, if you don't mind, we have to wait for professor Dumbledore's permission before we talk about these things – there might be lives at stake if the information gets into wrong hands.”

Madam Pomfrey nodded and carried on with her rant. She muttered mostly to herself and Hermione tuned out the voice. She felt really overwhelmed. It was hard to believe she was at Hogwarts, surrounded by people she knew and trusted. A mere hour ago she'd been held captive in the dungeons of the Malfoy Manor. Everything had happened so fast it almost made her feel dizzy.

And then, of course, there was Malfoy. He had helped her out, saving her from something so cruel it hurt to even think about it. While doing it, he'd also put his own safety on the line. Saving a Mudblood meant there was no way he could go back home. From now on the Death Eaters would be after him, too. Malfoy had known it and yet he'd decided to give up everything he had in order to save her. He'd even covered the tracks by giving the house-elf some carefully selected commands.

What would he do now? Where would he go? Even though she was immensely relieved to be free, she felt sorry for him. In times of war, one act could be the cause of losing everything. She didn't think it was fair. He had done something incredibly noble and would be forced to hide Merlin knew where because of that. It was wrong.

The sound of the infirmary door opening interrupted Hermione's thoughts, and she watched Professor Dumbledore and Draco walk in. Madam Pomfrey's eyebrows shot up in surprise at the sight of the young blond, but she didn't say anything. Dumbledore nodded at her and briskly walked over to Hermione's bedside.

”Miss Granger, I have informed your parents, Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley and Miss Weasley that you are no longer missing. I am afraid I cannot arrange a visit from your parents yet, but the rest will be here first thing tomorrow morning,” Dumbledore told Hermione. ”Mr. Malfoy will also be staying here in the Hospital Wing as it is not safe for him to wonder around the castle. Now if you will excuse me, I have some things I need to take care of. I will see you tomorrow morning. Good night.”

”Good night, Professor,” Hermione and Draco both replied. 



* * * 



It was finally quiet in the infirmary. Professor McGonagall had left a while ago, followed by Madam Pomfrey. After mulling it over in her mind for quite some time, Hermione decided to question Draco about something that had been bothering her. Feeling rather nervous, she took a deep breath and called him over. Soon he was sitting in a chair next to her bed.

”When we were in Dumbledore's office, you said 'all of them' were going to rape me.” She kept nibbling her blanket as she spoke. ”I assume you were talking about the Death Eaters, but I'm not quite sure how many all of them is.”

Draco couldn't look at her. It was enough to hear you could have been raped by a bunch of Death Eaters, telling her how many there had been would be too cruel.

”I don't know.”

”Would you look at me?” Hermione asked in a calm but commanding tone. He lifted his gaze and met her eyes. ”How many?”

”I'm not sure... Ten, maybe twenty.” He gave her an apologetic look. ”I'm sorry.”

Hermione shut her eyes tightly, biting her lip. It was obvious she was holding back tears, and Draco was horrified. He didn't know what to do when people cried, he'd never really dealt with situations like that. He chose to give it a go nevertheless.

”Hey, it's alright,” he said, tentatively placing his hand on hers. ”Nothing happened, you're here and you're safe.”

”I know,” she replied quietly. ”But where will you go? You can't go home because you got me out of there...”

”Oh, didn't you know?” he asked, his tone surprised. ”Dumbledore's arranging some kind of a safe house with the Order, we'll both be going there.” Hermione's eyes widened at the news and her jaw dropped slightly. Draco gave her a lopsided smirk. ”Looks like you're still stuck with me.” 











A/N: Oooh, a safe house! Isn't that exciting? I wonder what will happen when they get there... Just kidding – I know that already :D You guys will have to wait for a while, though. 

And yes – Dumbledore is alive, since this story isn't HBP or DH compliant. So no trying to kill Dumbledore on Draco's part, no Horcrux business, no free years, nothing like that. They graduated normally and had other adventures in the last two years of Hogwarts. :D


By the way, what do you think of the lovely banner? A big thank you goes to the amazing hannah17. You rock! :)

Last but not least: If you read it, please leave me a review. I'd love to hear your comments. Like it? Hate it? Why so? I appreciate all the feedback I get, it helps me improve my work.

Love,

Jemione


Chapter 3: Chapter Three
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.









The end of Chapter Two:


Hey, it's alright,” he said, tentatively placing his hand on hers. ”Nothing happened, you're here and you're safe.”

I know,” she replied quietly. ”But where will you go? You can't go home because you got me out of there...”

Oh, didn't you know?” he asked, his tone surprised. ”Dumbledore's arranging some kind of a safe house with the Order, we'll both be going there.” Hermione's eyes widened at the news and her jaw dropped slightly. Draco gave her a lopsided smirk. ”Looks like you're still stuck with me.”








Chapter Three

 

On her first morning of freedom, Hermione still found herself quite puzzled. She had woken up in a nice, warm bed, eaten breakfast and even taken a bath. There had only been a quick Tergeo to clean her up the previous evening, so it was really relaxing to float in the tub with a lot of lovely-scented bath foam. It all felt like pampering even though it was actually rather normal day-to-day routine.

Aside from wishing Draco a good morning, she hadn't spoken to him. She was still adjusting to the thought of living in a safe house with him. She was glad he didn't have to go into hiding by himself, but she also had her doubts about the arrangement. Her friends would surely go ballistic – with Ron's temper and Harry's history with Malfoy there were bound to be problems.

It seemed she was about to learn more about the subject – Professor Dumbledore had just entered the infirmary and beckoned Draco to leave his corner and listen to what he had to say.

”Good morning Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore nodded as they were all gathered together. ”I have arranged a safe house to which you two will be moved in a few hours. You will be accompanied by two Order members at all times.” He paused and then addressed Draco. ”Mr. Malfoy, I have to ask you to leave the Hospital Wing for a short while. Miss Granger is having visitors and I believe they might not be delighted to see you here.”

Draco nodded and followed Professor McGonagall, who had been waiting for him at the door. Dumbledore waited for the door to close before he resumed talking.

”Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley and Miss Weasley will be here shortly. I have talked to them and given them the essentials, but I believe you should be the one to tell them who got you out of there and why.”

Hermione nodded, already bracing herself for the reunion. She was happy to see her best friends, but also a bit worried about how they would react.

”I will send them in,” Dumbledore said and turned to leave.

A moment later Harry, Ron and Ginny rushed into the room and gathered around her bed to wrap her in a collective hug.

”We were so worried about you,” Ginny breathed.

”It's great to have you back,” Harry continued.

”I will bloody well kill those Death Eaters when I see them!” exclaimed Ron.

Hermione was happy to be surrounded by her closest friends again. They were prattling away like madmen, telling her about things that had happened while she had been away. Crookshanks had been going crazy, Ginny told her. She'd had to look after the cat since she was Hermione's roommate. Ron was kind enough to give her a quick update on the latest Quidditch results. All of them had to convince her that her job at the Ministry of Magic could wait. It would have to wait, actually – she wouldn't be going back for a while. The Death Eaters had captured her as she had been going home after work, and it had been decided that she shouldn't be such an easy target anymore.

Everyone had obviously been worried sick about her, and after her disappearance the Order had done a lot to make sure that those closest to Harry were safe. With Voldemort still on the loose, they couldn't risk losing anyone important to the one who was supposed to destroy him.

”Oh dear, I almost forgot,” Ginny said at some point of the conversation. She left the bedside and went to pick up a bag she had dropped on the floor when entering the infirmary. No one had remembered it until now. 

Ginny had taken the initiative to bring a bag full of Hermione's clothes and other necessities from their apartment. She accepted the present with gratitude. It was good to have something other to wear than the school uniform she'd been given.

Harry and the two redheads were eager to keep the discussion going, but it soon started to feel like meaningless chit-chatting to Hermione. No one had brought up her experiences at the Manor, or even the fact that she had been there for quite a while. It seemed to her that they were avoiding the whole subject. Did they think she didn't want to talk about it? Sure it was a heavy matter but it needed to be discussed. She was already beginning to think her friends were denying that anything had happened, but then she noticed how quiet Ginny had gotten. It was quite clear that the girl had something on her mind. It had to have something to do with her time in captivity, and Hermione grasped the opportunity to bring it up.

”Ginny, is there something you'd like to ask me?”

”Well, yeah,” the girl admitted. ”Dumbledore told us that you were hurt real bad at the Manor, but...” It seemed that she was afraid to say the words. ”They didn't...touch you, did they?”

”They didn't,” Hermione said, lowering her head. ”But they were going to. That's why someone decided to help me get out.”

”Someone helped you escape? Who was it?” Harry's green eyes showed just how much the news had surprised him.

”Uh... Don't freak out on me now. I know you'll find it hard to believe, but it's the truth,” she assured, looking at everyone very seriously. She took a deep breath before dropping the bomb. ”It was Malfoy.”

”Bloody hell!”

That was Ron, obviously. 

”I thought you'd react like that,” Hermione rolled her eyes. ”Really mature of you, Ron. In any case, I hope you'll all get over whatever attitude you have towards him because, um... Did you guys hear about the safe house thing? You did? Yeah, well – he'll be there too. He can't go home anymore!” Hermione nearly had to shout the last part so she couldn't be interrupted.

Ron groaned unhappily. ”How come we have to put up with that soddy git? It's so unfair!”

”Look, I know he's been a git. I was there too. But if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here chatting with you guys,” Hermione reasoned in a soothing voice. ”I have to give him a chance. What kind of a person would I be if I didn't?”

The three didn't dare to answer. Ron seemed the most reluctant about the new situation, while Harry and Ginny both gave a neutral nod. Harry's expression was rather thoughtful, but he didn't say anything. Hermione took that as a good sign, and decided to throw in an assumption of hers.

”If you really think about it, we haven't seen him much after graduation. He could have changed.”

Ginny smiled. ”You always believe there's something good in everyone.”

”I guess I do,” she answered.

The group fell into silence. After a moment of looking around the infirmary and thinking about what to say, Harry cleared his throat.

”So... I think our time is up,” he said. ”We shouldn't be bothering you too much.”

”Oh no, I don't mind you being here at all,” Hermione pleaded for them to stay. Her words fell on deaf ears, for her friends had been given strict orders from Dumbledore himself. She sighed in defeat. ”Well, at least let me walk you to the door.”

They all got up, and she gave everyone a hug at the infirmary door. Before they left, Ginny remembered to inform her that they'd be joining her at the safe house a few days later.

She closed the door as they disappeared down the corridor. The visit had taken more of her strength than she would've liked to admit – it felt like she'd run a marathon. She also realized that her attitude towards Draco had changed during the conversation. It was almost like she had been his attorney for a moment, defending him in front of a suspicious crowd. He had no one else on his side, and someone had to do it, she reasoned. After everything he'd done for her she wasn't about to leave him on his own.

And because of all the hassle the announcement about her savior had created, the topic of her kidnapping had been completely forgotten. She was really disappointed that she hadn't been able to get it off her chest. It had been really hard for her to spend all that time in the cold dungeons with nothing but her thoughts as company, and now that she was finally free, her closest friends didn't even ask her how she had been doing. What were they thinking? That she was strong enough to deal with it all by herself? Sure, she kept things to herself sometimes, but it didn't mean she could spend nearly three weeks in imprisonment and just forget about it.

She was breathing heavily as she made her way back to her bed. Suddenly she took a sharp intake of air as her legs gave in, making her fall down.

”Madam... Madam Pomfrey?” Hermione called weakly. The woman hurried over from her office and saw the girl on the floor.

”Yes... Sometimes this happens after a traumatic event,” Madam Pomfrey said, helping her up. ”When you were still in captivity, you needed all the strength you had to help you escape if there was a chance. Now that you're safe again, you might occasionally lose control of your body.”

”What? How long will it last?”

”It might go on for a while. You need to regain some strength and weight, too. It won't be like this all the time, mostly you will be alright.” Madam Pomfrey gave Hermione a firm look. ”Do refrain from stressing out. It might trigger the reaction.”

The nurse gave her a potion so she wouldn't pass out while they were moving her to the safe house. She felt much better right away. It was a good thing she did, because McGonagall brought Draco back to the infirmary only a few minutes later. She didn't want to appear weak in front of him. She could take care of herself.

 

* * *

 

An hour later Hermione and Draco were in the Headmaster's office, waiting to be transported to the safe house. Both had their luggage with them. While Hermione kept her bag on the floor, Draco held onto his tightly. Dumbledore had told them their escorts would be arriving shortly.

”You will use Side-Along Apparation to get to your destination,” the old man explained. ”The two Order members who are taking you to the safe house should be here any moment. I believe you are familiar with them. Ah, here they come...”

As Dumbledore moved to give some space for the newcomers, a young woman with brilliantly pink hair stepped out of his fireplace.

”Wotcher, Mione,” Tonks grinned.

”Tonks!” Hermione gave a delighted squeal and hurried to hug the witch. ”I had no idea you'd be coming!”

”I wanted to surprise you. Great to see you're okay,” she said. She then turned to give her cousin a curt nod. ”Malfoy.”

Draco nodded back, a serious look on his face. It soon turned into one of horror when he saw the next person to emerge from the fireplace. Even though it hadn't been the real Mad-Eye Moody who'd turned him into a ferret in their fourth year at Hogwarts, he took a few steps back. Hermione's hand flew in front of her mouth as she resisted the urge to giggle.

”Hello Nymphadora, Alastor,” Dumbledore greeted. ”If you don't mind, I'd like to say a few words about the safe house system to these two before you go.” 

Moody grunted in response. Dumbledore took that as a sign to address Draco and Hermione.

”You will be switching houses from time to time. You will spend about a week in the first one, but there is no regular pattern or time limit,” the Headmaster told them. ”The Order finds it wise to have other locations in use, too. In case the headquarters can't be used for some reason, there will be other places for back-up.” He paused for a moment and continued in a more serious tone. ”I must ask you to stay inside the house at all times. The arrangement should be safe, but one can never be too sure.”

Hermione nodded firmly. She had no problem with staying in, unless she really needed a break from Draco's presence. Her friends might not like the situation, but she would worry about that later. At the moment she had to focus on other things – Mad-Eye was clearly getting prepared for the transportation. His normal eye checked that everything was under control.

”Everyone ready? Let's get going, then.”

Moody took a firm grip of the nauseous-looking Draco, while Tonks put her hand on Hermione's shoulder. They left the Headmaster's office and reached their destination in a moment's time.

While Moody checked and double-checked the security spells, the pink-haired witch showed them around the house. There were two storeys and an attic. The kitchen seemed comfortable, and the four bedrooms were spacious. Hermione tried to hide her excitement as she spotted a huge bookshelf in the living room. It was quite clear that she would be enjoying her stay.

As Tonks left their company to join Moody, knocking over a chair as she went, Draco and Hermione went to explore their rooms. The latter was done organising her things fairly fast. There was only one little thing she had to do before she could get absorbed in the lovely books she knew she would find in the living room. Taking a deep breath, she headed towards the room of her savior and current fellow inhabitant.

The door was open, but she didn't want to barge in uninvited. ”Umm... Malfoy?”

”Yeah?” He was in the process of unpacking his black bag, but he stopped what he was doing and turned to look at the girl standing in the doorway.

”I never really thanked you. You know, for getting me out of there. I really appreciate it,” said Hermione.

”Oh, that... It was nothing,” Draco shrugged.

”I think it was plenty. But I'm not going to argue about that,” she smiled. ”I'll be in the living room if you need me.”

She turned to leave, but found that it wasn't that easy to get going. She had barely been able to take a few steps when her knees gave in again. Luckily there was a table right next to her – she took hold of it, groaning.

”What was that? Granger, are you alright?” Draco was by her side in an instant.

”Yeah... It's my damn legs. They're not supporting me.”

”What's wrong with them?” He furrowed his brows. ”You were all fine earlier.”

”Madam Pomfrey gave me a potion before we came here. She said this is some kind of a stress reaction. Now that I'm safe, it's okay to be...weak.” Her expression told him how much she disliked her condition. ”So basically my legs were just fine when I was in the dungeons because that way I could use them if I had to escape.”

”Oh. I guess it makes sense... Come on now, I'll help you down the stairs.” For a moment they tried to position their arms comfortably so he could support her, but it proved to be much harder than one would think. Draco had a better idea. ”Nah, what the hell... I'll just carry you.”

”What? No, it's alright, I can walk if you just –”

Hermione's protests died as Draco lifted her in his arms. They were downstairs and in the living room in no time. He placed her on the sofa and then headed to the book shelf.

”So, what would you like to read? I suppose that's why you were on your way here,” he glanced at her, a teasing smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

”Yeah,” she admitted. ”What books are there?”

He started to read the names of the books out loud. There were both Muggle and wizard related pieces of work: detective stories, old Muggle classics, all sorts of wizarding guides, horror stories, Gilderoy Lockhart's Quide to Household Pests...and one lonely Harlequin.

”Ooh, I want that one!”

”It's a romance novel,” Draco said incredulously as he took the book from the shelf. ”Why not one of these Muggle horror books or this...Crime and Punishment?”

”The last thing I need right now is a heavy book like that one,” she replied. ”A romance novel is light and easy to read, and it might just take my mind off of everything else.”

”If you say so,” Draco said. He picked a book for himself, too. ”I might as well keep you company. We wouldn't want you suffering a fit in here all by yourself, now would we?”

He handed her the Harlequin and sat in an armchair opposite the sofa. They sat in a comfortable silence for some time, both reading their books. Hermione was happy with her choice, because nothing in it reminded her of the horrors she had experienced. It was nice and relaxing, and not unpleasant in the least bit... Until the plot took a turn in a new direction.

She should have seen it coming, really. It was a Harlequin book after all. The book's event in itself wasn't that bad – the problem was her reaction. Even though she knew Draco couldn't possibly know what she was reading at the moment, she blushed furiously. He happened to glance at her right then, naturally.

”What is it? Why are you so red?”

”It's nothing,” she replied quickly, instinctively trying to protect the book.

That was the wrong move. Draco became curious and obviously wanted to find out what made Hermione's face turn pink. Her eyes grew wide as he approached, and she wrapped her arms securely around the book. Yet he somehow managed to snatch it from her.

”Let's see what it says in here,” he smirked. Then he did the one thing she wished he wouldn't do – fixed his eyes on the text and started to read out loud. ”He wrapped his arms around her slender waist and gave her a passionate kiss, to which she eagerly responded. They moved to the other side of the room where a bed was waiting and...” Draco suddenly stopped reading aloud, his eyes still moving over the text. A wide grin spread on his face as he read and finally turned to look at Hermione. ”My my, Granger, I had no idea you were into this sort of books.”

”I didn't know they were going to do that, I've never read the book before! Oh wipe that grin off your face, will you?”

”Maybe tomorrow,” he replied cheekily. ”This is just too much fun. Who would've thought the innocent little Gryffindor Princess was into erotica!”

Malfoy!” She was speechless. Well, almost. ”That is not the case and don't you dare go telling people that!”

”Don't worry, I'll keep your secret... Besides, who would I tell? That Moody guy? ... No, I think I'll keep it to myself. Well, maybe I'll bring it up every once in a while to keep you on your toes.”

He was grinning from ear to ear, and Hermione could almost feel steam coming out of hers. 

”Oh Merlin, you really are a sight,” Draco chuckled. ”Alright, I'll give you your book back. If you don't mind, I'd like you to wait until I'm gone before you start reading again... I don't want to witness it getting out of hand.” He dropped the book in her lap and left the room in an overly dramatic speed. 

She could barely breathe. That bastard had some cheek!

 

* * *

 

The teasing continued even after dinner. While Hermione had been having a conversation with Tonks, Draco had been grinning and whistling to himself in the background. When she had come back to the living room to read (obviously she wasn't going to abandon a book she had already started), he followed her. Even though he was ticking her off, on some level she was glad to have him there – she wasn't feeling too strong at the moment. There were funny things happening in the book again and she needed a break, but couldn't move around the house by herself.

”Malfoy?”

”Yes, my lady? What can I do for you?” He jumped out of his chair and gave a mock-bow.

”I, umm, I need to go to the bathroom.”

He saw the pretty little flush on her cheeks and immediately drew his conclusions.

”So, it's that stuff again, huh? Honestly, I never thought you were so kinky...”

This time she didn't even bother to answer, but gave him a stern look instead. Draco decided not to push her buttons any further and helped her get to the bathroom without any comments. He did have an annoying grin on his face all the while, though.

He couldn't believe how much fun he was having. He felt more free than he'd ever felt in his whole life. Being Lucius Malfoy's only son hadn't been easy on him, as he'd been forced to do what his father wanted and share his values. Ever since he'd been born, he'd been listening to the same tirade about purebloods being better than others. He had believed in it, too. It had never even crossed his mind to go against what his father had taught him, not until he'd started having thoughts of his own in his last year at Hogwarts.

Funnily enough, it had been Hermione who had made him question what he'd been brought up to believe. How could a Muggle-born beat him in every class if they were supposed to be inferior to him? Could she be the exception to the rule? Then again there were Crabbe and Goyle, who were purebloods and barely knew how to tie their own shoelaces. Draco had come to the conclusion that maybe his father wasn't right after all.

Once he had opened up his eyes and accepted that, he had been feeling like a prisoner. Obviously he couldn't voice his thoughts, so instead he'd been repressing his real opinion for a few years already. Now he was finally out of the Manor, spending all his time with a girl he'd hated for as long as he could remember. Except that he didn't feel that way anymore. Hadn't felt that way for a while actually. He'd seen a new side of her and quite frankly, he had liked it. Not having to pretend she was a lowlife was very liberating.

Draco had to admit to himself that he actually enjoyed Hermione's company. Being on good terms with her was much better than the continuous bickering. Not insulting her also meant that he didn't get a biting comeback in return. Instead he would tease her and make her blush, which was actually a rather pleasant sight.

All in all she wasn't that bad, he decided. When Hermione emerged from the bathroom, he wasn't grinning at her anymore – the small smile was genuine.











A/N: The book ”Crime and Punishment” is Fyodor Dostoevsky's. (I haven't actually read it, but I know it's a classic.) That Harlequin quote isn't actually real, it's something I made up – hopefully it sounds about right.

I know some of you probably winced when Tonks called Hermione ”Mione”, but come on... ”Wotcher Hermione”?? That just doesn't sound good, so I went with the Mione.

Since it took me so long to get this chapter out, I'm giving you guys a little sneak peek from the next chappy. I hope it makes up for the wait. :)

As always, I love getting reviews, and I'll answer all of them!

Love, 

Jemione









In Chapter Four:

 

”Is there anything I can do for you?”

”I could really use a hug,” she replied in a broken voice.

”That's not exactly my specialty, but I'll do my best,” Draco smiled.


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. 








In the end of Chapter Three:


Draco had to admit to himself that he actually enjoyed Hermione's company. Being on good terms with her was much better than the continuous bickering. Not insulting her also meant that he didn't get a biting comeback in return. Instead he would tease her and make her blush, which was actually a rather pleasant sight.

All in all she wasn't that bad, he decided. When Hermione emerged from the bathroom, he wasn't grinning at her anymore – the small smile was genuine.
 









Chapter Four 



The next day Hermione decided not to read her book, because she was hoping it would make Draco stop teasing her. The plan didn't exactly work. He couldn't snatch the book from her hands or stare at her and grin while she was reading, but he could follow her and ask her where her book was or if she was planning to read it anytime soon. She found it immensely annoying.

She took every chance to get away from his continuous questions. He didn't dare to say anything if she was with an Order member, so she tried to stay in their company as much as she could. Unfortunately they had other things to do, too – for example making sure that the house was safe. The guardian pairs also worked in shifts. When the pair changed in the afternoon, Hermione noticed she didn't really know either of the two. In her moment of desperation she decided to start knitting.

Ginny had put some yarn and Hermione's knitting needles in the bag she had brought. It was common knowledge to her friends that knitting helped her relax, and at the moment she definitely needed to relax. She was sure that Draco would leave her alone if she was doing something as boring as knitting.

She was wrong.

”What are you doing?” he asked curiously as he plopped down on the sofa next to her. 

”Knitting,” she answered, trying not to sigh in defeat.

”What are you knitting?”

”Woolen stockings.”

Despite the fact that it was mid-summer, she was cold. Draco watched her work silently for a moment.

”Where did you learn to do that?” he enquired soon.

Hermione glanced at him quickly. He was being surprisingly nice, even though she was sure he was somehow trying to irritate her. ”I studied the theory by myself. I started making little hats in our fifth year at Hogwarts, and after that I've been knitting other stuff as well.”

”Why did you make little hats?” Draco asked, furrowing his brows.

She blushed a bit. She knew he would probably make fun of her, but she wasn't ashamed of her S.P.E.W. project.

”I wanted to free the house-elves. I thought that they weren't treated fairly, and I haven't changed my mind,” she huffed.

Draco nodded in understanding, and that was it. Instead of picking on her he just sat there, drumming his knees with his fingers and looking around for some kind of stimulus to fix his eyes on. Hermione looked at him with wide eyes, but he didn't notice. She couldn't believe he was being so nice. He had always been such a pain in the arse.

Suddenly she was angry at herself. Hadn't she promised herself to give him a chance? Yet here she was, trying to look for flaws even though Draco really hadn't been that bad. She shook her head a bit and decided to observe his behavior for a couple of days before judging him. 



* * * 



Not worrying about how Draco was acting seemed to lower Hermione's stress level – she was gaining strength pretty quickly. She needed help getting up the stairs before going to bed that evening, but the following morning she felt a lot better already. She was so happy to bounce down the stairs by herself that she didn't even stop to think that maybe she hadn't fully recovered yet.

Hermione spent the morning doing things she hadn't been able to do the day before. She hand-washed the dishes, learned a couple of new defensive spells from Hestia Jones and re-arranged the living-room book shelf. Keeping herself busy with all the normal stuff felt great, but she was about to learn it wasn't such a good idea after all.

She reached her breaking point while arranging her bed chamber.

The room looked spotless once she was finished cleaning it. The dust that had previously covered the tables was gone, her things were placed around the room even more neatly than before, the flowers had fresh water. Looking around, Hermione decided that the only thing left to do was to change the place of the flower vase. It would look better on the other side of the room.

She picked up the vase and turned, noticing to her horror that her steps were short and wobbly. She didn't make it to the table where she was supposed to put the flowers. Her legs gave in once again and she fell to the floor, the glass shattering into pieces and cutting her – she didn't even notice the trickle of blood. She hated herself so much for losing control.

Draco had heard the crashing noise and rushed to the door just in time to hear Hermione's words, full of loathing towards her condition.

”I... hate...being...weak.”

He came in, fixing the broken vase with a flick of his wand. He sat down next to her, gathered the flowers back into the vase and dried the floor.

”Are you alright?” he asked quietly once he was done.

Hermione didn't answer. She just sat there, leaning on her arms and taking in shaky breaths to calm herself down. Her anger was quickly being replaced with desperation over the powerless state she was in. She really hated it.

Draco noticed the small wound in her hand. He reached to lift it up and carefully healed the cut. He could see that she was about to break down, and he wanted to do whatever he could to comfort her.

”Is there anything I can do for you?”

”I could really use a hug,” she replied in a broken voice.

”That's not exactly my specialty, but I'll do my best,” Draco smiled.

He gathered Hermione in his arms and pulled her close. He was a bit surprised at how good it felt to have her wrap her arms around him. It really was nice. Still he could sense that something wasn't right. Hermione was stiff, as if she was trying to keep herself from crying. Draco felt a pang of guilt in his chest as he realized how much pain she had to have inside her. If only he could make it better...

”Let it out,” he whispered softly a moment later. ”I know you're hurting. Just let it all out.”

And she did. All the pain she had fought to hide when she had been Crucio'd and hexed, the feelings of utter loneliness during those weeks spent in the cold dungeons, the horror that came from thinking she could have been raped, the disappointment of not being able to talk through her experiences with her friends... Everything. She let it all out. And while she cried her heart out, Draco held her, stroking her hair and murmuring soothing words in her ear. Not once did he tell her not to cry.

”You've been a brave little Gryffindor, but you don't want to bottle up the bad feelings. Trust me. I've been doing it for years,” he told her with a hint of bitterness in his voice at the last bit.

”No one has asked me what it was like,” Hermione sobbed in a strangled tone. ”They think I'm fine, but they don't know how hard it was...”

”They didn't ask you what it was like?” He disentangled himself from her to look at her properly. He couldn't believe what he was hearing – he had always thought her friends would do anything for her. How hard could it be to ask a simple question?

She shook her head in response, looking thoroughly miserable. As her eyes met Draco's, a lonely teardrop fell down her cheek. He raised his hand and gently wiped it away. But even after he was done with the motion, he didn't remove his hand from her face. Something told him that his touch could make her feel better, and he caressed her cheek lightly to see if it would help.

And indeed, a small smile formed on her face as she closed her eyes. The small, comforting gesture seemed particularly significant coming from Draco Malfoy. He wasn't her friend, but he was there when she really needed one. And more importantly, he knew what she had been through. He knew she had been hurt and didn't try to play it down or ignore it. At the time being, she was happy to have him by her side. It didn't matter that their history was rather hostile... That was in the past. At the moment she didn't want to worry about a thing. For whatever reason, she felt safe with him. 



* * * 



It was very liberating for Hermione to realise that she was comfortable in Draco's company. She had already stopped watching his behavior, now she could lift the restrictions she'd put on hers. He had already seen her cry, though, so she didn't think there was much she could hide from him after that. Nevertheless, it was a huge change to show her emotions so openly in front of him. She didn't feel like she had to hide her amusement or bite back a sarcastic comment in case he didn't understand her humor – which he did, by the way – it was pretty much like being with anyone she knew and liked. Or got along with, at least.

In the evening of the day of Hermione's breakdown, she made hot chocolate for herself and Draco. They sat in the kitchen sipping on their hot drinks and talking about knitting. Well, Hermione was explaining the technique and Draco was listening, but still. Obviously he had known that fabric didn't just appear out of nowhere, but he found it interesting to actually see someone create a peace of clothing. And she only had yarn and knitting needles for help.

But no matter how liberated Hermione felt, it couldn't hide the fact that they were quickly running out of things to do. She had kept her distance to the Harlequin (just in case), and besides knitting that was about the only pastime she had. The safe house was proving to be quite boring.

On their fourth day at the house, Draco found Hermione jumping on the second floor, trying to reach a drawstring that was hanging from the ceiling. She was a tad bit too short for the job and looked quite funny.

”Ahem... What are you doing?” he asked. The tone of his voice gave away his amusement.

”I'm – trying – to get – to the attic,” she explained, jumping all the while.

”Let me do that for you,” Draco offered.

He lifted his hand and being a lot taller than Hermione, he grabbed the drawstring easily. He pulled it carefully, revealing a set of attic ladders. They were soon fully extended and ready for use.

”Thank you,” Hermione nodded. She lifted her foot on the first step, but Draco stopped her.

”Uh, Granger, are you sure you want to go there all by yourself?”

”Of course I'm not going there by myself. You're coming with me,” she announced brightly.

He raised his brows. ”I am?” Hermione started to climb the stairs as if she hadn't heard the question, and Draco sighed. ”I guess I am.”

They climbed the stairs and emerged in the attic. The place was awfully dusty, and there were only a few boxes and a tall cabinet. Draco looked around while Hermione went over to the cabinet. Soon he heard her excited squeal.

”Ooh, they have Draughts in here!”

”They have what?”

”It's a board game... A bit like Wizard's Chess, but a lot less violent,” she explained with a happy smile on her face and childlike enthusiasm shining in her eyes. ”Can we play?”

He couldn't say no to her, and they left the sooty attic. The board, which looked like a normal chess board, only smaller, was set on the kitchen table and Hermione told him the rules of the game. They decided to have a test round before starting to play properly. Draco had the dark pieces and he made the first move.

”You can only move your pieces diagonally on the dark squares – yes, just like that. And now it's my turn. If you think about a strategy, you might want to back you pieces up or... Well, you've just done what I was going to explain. There's an unoccupied square behind your piece – there – I can jump over your piece with mine...and now I eat you,” she exclaimed happily.

”Wait a minute,” Draco quickly moved his chair away from the table in surprise. ”I thought you said it wasn't violent. And now you're going cannibal on me?”

Hermione let out a giggle, the lovely noise sending shivers down Draco's spine. He had never heard her laugh like that.

”No, silly, I'm not going cannibal on you,” she smiled widely. ”I captured your piece and now you've lost it. I always called it eating when I was little,” she told him. ”Oh, and look – you can eat me too!”

He couldn't help the grin that spread on his face. The girl was actually rather adorable when she let her excitement bubble out and take over. She was so full of life – he couldn't believe she was the same person he'd seen in the dungeons less than a week ago.

”I suppose I'll have to eat you then,” he answered and moved his dark piece over her light one.

Draco soon got the gist of the game, and won the third round. Even though Hermione was a skilled player, he was sometimes a step ahead of her. But even then he let her win every once in a while. The genuine delight on her face was enough of a victory for him. He had a passing thought about how people would react if they knew what he was doing, but he shooed it away. If he wanted to play a Muggle board game with Granger, he would do that. If he wanted to let her win just to see her smile, he would do that too. It was no one else's business.

They played Draughts the whole afternoon, only pausing to eat. That day was the best one either of them had had in a while. When Draco went to bed in the evening, he was still smiling. 



* * * 



He didn't get up right away when he woke up the next morning. He lay down on his comfy bed and thought about his days at the safe house with Hermione. His behavior had changed quite a lot in that little time. Of course he knew that the extraordinary situation they were in was affecting him, but he was glad it did.

After he'd helped her the first time she collapsed, he had realised it was easy. He had even learned to like being the one she could count on – being her rock. It felt natural, and he'd gotten used to it during the few days they had spent together. Knowing that someone needed him actually made him feel rather masculine and proud of himself. The only thing he was concerned about was the fact that Hermione's friends would be arriving at the safe house that very day. In his opinion it was way too soon. How long would it take for them to shove him aside whenever she needed help? Not too long, he presumed. Then he would be forced to spend all his time alone. Sure, he'd been doing a lot of that in his life, but it was different now. He had seen what life could be like and he hated to think he might have to let it go.

Another thought also occurred to Draco – what if Hermione was dating one of the Wonder Boys? He knew she and Weasley had been together at the time of graduation, but he didn't know if they were still an item. She hadn't said anything. Not that it mattered if she had a boyfriend, obviously... He was just wondering what the situation was.

Finally he got up and dressed, already dreading the moment the gang would arrive. Time seemed to be moving faster than he would have liked. It felt like he had only sat down to have lunch a minute earlier when Hermione was already urging him to get up and form a welcoming committee with her. He wasn't too keen on the idea for obvious reasons.

”They need to understand that you really are here, and you're not going anywhere,” she said. ”It'll be easier for everyone if they see that we're getting along. Please, just behave yourself.”

”And if I don't? What are going to do, eat me?” he replied sarcastically.

”Malfoy... Please, be nice,” she pleaded. He could see she was getting stressed out again, so he nodded. She gave him a grateful smile.

They went to the lobby to get ready for the newcomers. Lupin was there, too, as was some other Order member – Hermione didn't know him. She was quite nervous about seeing her friends. They wouldn't be happy to see Malfoy standing right by her side, but it had to be done. He would not be left out, she would see to that. She just needed to make sure her friends saw how comfortable she was in Draco's company.

Then it was already time to set the plan into action. A group of people had just Apparated in front of them. Harry, Ron and Ginny each had their own escort, who quickly nodded at Lupin and that nameless Order member and disappeared again, leaving them to get settled.

Hermione greeted her friends by hugging each one, but after that she took a few steps back to stand next to Draco. Harry raised his brows in surprise, Ginny's eyes widened and Ron had an ugly look on his face. Even Lupin seemed to be watching the situation from where he stood.

”So... How have you been?” Hermione asked tentatively.

”We've been in better company than you,” Ron spit out, looking at Draco with clear hate.

The blonde's eyes narrowed dangerously, but Hermione placed her hand on his arm to calm him down. That did the trick. He took a breath and looked away from Ron.

”I've been in good company,” Hermione glanced at Draco with a small smile. When she turned to look at the centre of the room, she met less than friendly faces. She shifted nervously. ”Look, it really isn't that bad, if you just let me explain –”

She suddenly stopped speaking and blinked twice. Draco noticed the slight shaking as she slowly lowered her head to look at her legs, and instinctively moved closer to wrap his arm around her waist. He was just in time. 

”Oi! Get your dirty hands off of her!” Ron exclaimed as Hermione fell into Draco's embrace.

”It's alright, Ron... It's my legs, they're not supporting me. He's just helping.”

”Well I can do that,” Ron said, shuffling over and grabbing his friend from the enemy with a bit more force than was necessary. ”Let's get you to the living room.”

Hermione was only able to send a quick look to Draco over her shoulder, hoping he could see she didn't want to leave him like that. Nothing was going as planned, she thought as she was being dragged to the living room. She was already separated from Draco and her friends didn't understand the situation one bit. She would just have to take care of it alone. Just because someone didn't like seeing her with the Malfoy heir didn't mean she would let go of him, not after she had seen a glimpse of a whole new person in him.

”I still can't believe they're making you stay here with that Death Eater,” Ron grunted as he sat her down on the sofa. ”But don't worry Hermione. I'll take time off from work and come here to make sure he doesn't bother you again.”

Excuse me?” Hermione couldn't believe what she was hearing. ”First of all, Ronald, you are most definitely not taking any more time off from work than you already are. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you very much. And secondly, he is not a Death Eater.”

Ron's mouth hung open. He had not been expecting such an outburst to follow his noble offer. Harry, however, wasn't concentrating on that part of Hermione's statement. ”How do you know he's not a Death Eater?”

”I've seen his arm,” she replied, turning to look at Harry. ”He doesn't have the Mark.”

”That doesn't make him any less of a jerk,” Ron rolled his eyes.

”You should keep some distance to him,” Harry adviced.

Hermione's eyes flashed dangeriously, but Ginny interrupted her before she could give her scathing comment. ”Look, here's the way I see it – if Hermione says that he's alright, then he is alright. Or do you still think he's an ass?”

”No, he's nothing like he used to be,” the brunette assured.

”I thought so. Your word is enough for me, and it should be enough for you guys too,” Ginny glanced angrily at Harry and Ron. She looked awfully a lot like her mother, and the boys didn't dare to talk back.

After a moment of silence, Hermione spoke again. ”I don't know if it proves anything, but he didn't even laugh when I told him about S.P.E.W. And he was really nice to his house-elf.”

No one made a comment, but Ginny gave her a smile. They soon moved to other subjects. While they talked, Hermione noticed she was looking at her two male friends with whole new eyes. Now that she thought about it, they had always been quite protective of her when it came to other men around her. If they hadn't pre-approved someone, he wasn't allowed anywhere near her. It had been rather embarrassing to have them show up at her work to obviously check on the people she was working with. Of course she knew it was good to know what kind of people your friend is dealing with, but this was getting ridiculous. It wasn't like she was about to start dating Draco Malfoy, for Merlin's sake!

They had a nice, long talk, during which Hermione was able to tell them a bit more about her time at the Malfoy Manor. She didn't go into details too much, for she didn't want to get too emotional. After all, she had let it out once already. They also talked about everything that was going on in the outside world. At dinner Harry remembered to mention that Hermione's parents would visit her the following week at the second safe house. They would bring Crookshanks with them.

After dinner the group of four returned to the living room. Harry and Ron were arguing about some player in the English National Quidditch Team – Ron thought they should replace him with some Chudley Cannons player. Once she was sure the boys were wrapped up in their conversation, Ginny decided to do some questioning about Hermione and Draco's suddenly warmed terms. There was something shady about the situation. She couldn't stay overnight, so no time could be wasted.

”So tell me, what's the deal with you and Malfoy?” she enquired curiously. ”He rushed to help you pretty fast earlier.”

”I know how it must have looked, but there's no 'me and Malfoy', Ginny,” Hermione gave her friend a firm look. ”He just happened to get me out of a sticky situation. And, well, he's been rather nice towards me.”

And?”

”And what? That's all there is.”

Ginny raised her brows and grinned. She seemed to think there was something going on that Hermione wasn't telling her. Which there wasn't... Obviously. 



* * * 



While Hermione had been having fun with her friends, Draco had spent the whole day sulking in his room, feeling extremely gloomy. He'd had the worst day in a long time. When there was a knock on his door in the evening, he only grunted in response.

”Hi... Can I come in?” Hermione asked, opening the door a fraction.

”Yeah, sure... What is it?” He moved to sit more straight on his bed, feeling a lot more alive already.

”I just felt like talking to someone. Ginny had to go home already and the boys are hardly good conversationalists, so I thought I'd come see you,” she explained, closing the door behind her.

Draco gave her a smile and gestured for her to sit down at the foot-end of his bed. In the inside he was a lot more glad to see her than he appeared to be, for he had been feeling secretly depressed the whole day. The seven hours she had spent with her friends and away from him, to be precise.He had been rather surprised by his own reaction. It seemed that Hermione had wrapped him around her finger, and it had only taken her a few days. Not being the one she leaned on had felt surprisingly bad.

But now she had come to see him, and that told him something. Even though her friends might want to keep her away from him, she made her own decisions. And she had decided she wanted to spend time with him. Him, not them. The thought made him feel slightly light-headed. She couldn't be seeing either of her male friends, either – otherwise she wouldn't have come to him.

”How was your day? What did you do?” Hermione wanted to know.

”Boring. I've been sitting here doing nothing all day.”

”Nothing? You could have read something,” she said.

Draco gave her a condescending look. ”All the books are in the living room.”

”You could have come to get one.”

”Yeah, and have Potter and Weasley glare at me like they want to strangle me? I don't think so.”

”I'm sure they don't want to strangle you,” she assured. Draco just raised his brows and said nothing. ”So you've been by yourself the whole day?”

”Yeah,” he said, shrugging. ”It's no big deal, I do that a lot. Or at least I did... Back at the Manor.”

He didn't look at her. He didn't want to remind her about the place where she had suffered so much, and the fact that it had been his home. That he had lived all his life surrounded by the kind of people she hated from the bottom of her heart. He didn't want her to remember that she had hated him for half of her life.

It seemed that Hermione wasn't thinking about anything like that, though. ”I've been meaning to ask you about that... How are you holding up? This is hardly easy for you, being ripped away from everything you're used to.”

”I'm alright,” he replied. He couldn't believe she cared about how he was doing – he hadn't even thought about it himself. ”It's not like I miss home or anything. My mother might be concerned about me, though.”

”I don't know if it makes you feel any better, but at least she doesn't have to worry about you getting the Dark Mark,” Hermione pointed out.

Draco's eyes lit up and a nice smile spread across his face. ”She doesn't,” he agreed. He suddenly grinned. ”And I've probably been disinherited already!”

”Why is that a good thing?”

”Because past generations of Malfoys are turning in their graves as we speak, because we're speaking,” he rolled his eyes. ”I think it's quite an accomplishment. I might make it to the history books.”

There was a smile tugging at the corner of Hermione's lips. It got even wider when Draco voiced a question that had come into his mind.

”Speaking of books...have you finished that kinky one yet?” he enquired with a grin.

”I'm afraid I've been too busy for that,” she quipped. ”But I'll try to see if I have some time tomorrow. Ask me again later.”

He nodded, making a mental note to himself to do just that.

”So... Lupin told me you skipped dinner.”

Draco's stomach grumbled in response. He had indeed skipped dinner, for he had wanted to make sure he didn't have to watch Hermione with her friends and have her ignore him completely. Although she probably wouldn't have done that – she had even come to see him voluntarily, why wouldn't she have talked to him at dinner? Draco had to admit to himself that he had probably been a bit foolish. And now he was hungry.

”Yeah, I should probably eat something,” he remarked.

”You probably should,” Hermione commented. She decided not to mention that Lupin had told her Draco had seemed to be moping when he had gone to tell him dinner was ready. ”You know... I don't think I ever thanked you for visiting me in the dungeons,” she continued. ”It was nice to see a familiar face. Even if it was yours...ferret boy.”

”Ha ha, very funny,” Draco rolled his eyes again, an amused smile playing on his lips.

Hermione grinned. ”It's not a bad thing, really. I like animals.”

Draco was about to answer the interesting comment, when they heard a knock on the door.

”Malfoy? Can I have a word,” came Harry's voice through the door.

”Sure... Just a sec,” Draco gave his reply. They both got off the bed.

”I should go,” Hermione noted. She glanced at the bed and straightened the badly wrinkled cover with a flick of her wand. ”Just a precaution,” she answered Draco's questioning look. ”We wouldn't want them thinking anything funny.”

With that, she walked to the door and opened it, greeting Harry with a bright smile. His mouth fell open with surprise.

Hermione?”

”Yes, it's me – do I look like a troll or something? Close your mouth, Harry darling,” she adviced kindly. ”You're going to catch a fly. Anyways, I'm going to bed... Night, boys.”

She left the two standing there and went to get ready for bed. 



* * * 



The next day Hermione wanted to make sure Draco wasn't left all by himself. She persuaded him to come to the living room to read something. He was a little reluctant to be in the same room as Harry and Ron, but settled into a secluded corner nevertheless. For a fleeting moment she wondered why Harry had come to see him the previous evening, but soon forgot about it.

”So, what have you been doing in here? I guess there isn't that much to do,” Harry asked her.

”Nothing much really. I've been reading a bit,” Hermione shrugged.

”I should have known,” Harry laughed. ”Do they have Hogwarts: A History in here?”

”Well, not exactly... I've been reading other stuff,” she said, squirmimg a bit at the thought of the Harlequin book.

”Okay. Just remember that you don't have to educate yourself all the time,” he smiled.

That caused a low chuckle to be heard from the corner where Draco sat. They all turned to look at him.

”What's your problem, Malfoy?” Ron demanded. ”It's none of your business if Hermione likes to learn new stuff. Get used to it or get away.”

”On the contrary, I have no problem with her thirst for knowledge,” Draco replied smoothly. ”And I'm sure her book was very...educational.”

The mischievous twinkle in his eyes caused a small blush to creep on Hermione's cheeks. It annoyed her to no end, for normally she wasn't the type of girl who blushed. Malfoy had created weird responses in her in general. And of course she had known he would tease her about the whole book thing, but she had hoped he wouldn't bring it up while her friends were present. Obviously that had been a fat chance.

”Of course it was, this is Hermione we're talking about,” Ron grunted, clearly missing the message that was only meant for Hermione to understand. ”You could learn a lot from her if you were smart enough to listen.”

Draco flashed his trademark smirk. ”I'm sure I could. So, Granger, did you find anything useful in that book? 'Cause if you did, I'm all ears.”

Harry and Ron turned to look at her, too. She avoided everyone's gaze and muttered in a muffled tone, ”I'm sure you'll do fine with your current amount of knowledge.”

Draco grinned from ear to ear as he watched Hermione beckon her friends to follow her out of the room. He would let her go now, but he'd get back to the subject later on.



* * *



A couple of hours later Hermione was washing the dishes when Draco came into the kitchen, whistling to himself. He was annoyingly chipper – how dare he do that when she was mad at him? – and she scowled at him. It didn't affect him in the least bit – he only whistled louder. Suddenly she recognized the tune and blushed to the root. It was Celestina Warbeck's A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love. No wonder he was having so much fun.

”You really are insufferable, I hope you know that,” she huffed.

”I know,” he grinned. ”But I'm also unbelievably charming, so it doesn't matter.”

”You are not,” Hermione rolled her eyes. Still she couldn't hide her smile.

”Yet my mere presence has made you smile,” he pointed out.

”Your mere presence annoys the hell out of me,” she chuckled in response.

”And I don't believe a word you say,” Draco told her. He jumped to sit on the kitchen counter a few feet away from her. ”So where are the Wonder Boys?”

”They fled the scene when they saw the dishes.”

”Ah... Should have seen that coming. But aren't they afraid that big, bad Draco Malfoy might do something to their precious friend?”

Hermione turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. She gave him the once-over and a crooked, devilish smile. ”They have no need to worry about me. See, I could do you with my eyes closed and my hands behind my back, and they know it too.”

”Oh, really? Think you can do me?” His grin reached from ear to ear. ”Bring it on.”

”Oh, I will. You won't even know what hit you,” she smirked, rather a lot like he used to do. Then she turned back to the dishes.

He couldn't wait to be alone with her again. 











A/N: Aah... Juicyness! :D Aren't they cute together?

Just to let you know, Draughts is also known as checkers, if that helps anyone who didn't recnognise the game.

I hope you enjoyed this extra long chapter – I have no idea how it got so long, but I suppose it doesn't matter! As always, I love hearing your thoughts about the chappy. Any review is great, no matter how long it is!

Love,

Jemione


Chapter 5: Chapter Five
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

 





In the end of Chapter Four:

 

So where are the Wonder Boys?”

They fled the scene when they saw the dishes.” 

Ah... Should have seen that coming. But aren't they afraid that big, bad Draco Malfoy might do something to their precious friend?”

Hermione turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised. She gave him the once-over and a crooked, devilish smile. ”They have no need to worry about me. See, I could do you with my eyes closed and my hands behind my back, and they know it too.”

Oh, really? Think you can do me?” His grin reached from ear to ear. ”Bring it on.”

Oh, I will. You won't even know what hit you,” she smirked, rather a lot like he used to do. Then she turned back to the dishes.

He couldn't wait to be alone with her again.

 





 

Chapter Five
 


During the couple of days that followed their ambiguous conversation in the kitchen, Hermione found that Draco's eyes were on her all the time. He wouldn't say much, but there was a knowing smile playing on his lips when she looked back at him. Every now and then he would raise his eyebrow in challenge – he was clearly waiting for her to show him what she was capable of.

She was still a bit shocked about the audacity she'd shown. Normally she wasn't the type of person who would let such indecent comments slip out of her mouth, and yet she had told Draco Malfoy she could do him with her hands behind her back. She supposed she should have been ashamed, but she wasn't. So she had said something that could be interpreted as lewd. Big deal. No one even knew besides herself and Draco. And it wasn't like she had meant it that way, it was just a warning not to mess with her too much. 

The bit of humor was affecting in other ways, too. Hermione had noticed that Draco had been looking at her with a newfound respect after the comment – at least when he wasn't busy sporting his 'bring–it–on–I–know–you–want-to' expression, that is. That wasn't often, but still.

”Hello Granger,” Draco greeted as he sat down in an armchair next to the one Hermione was currently located in. ”How are you doing today?”

”Fine, thank you,” she replied. There was something other than her well-being on his mind, she could tell from the innocent look on his face. Most likely it had something to do with either the Harlequin book or the conversation they'd had in the kitchen. Or both.

It was funny, really, how well she had learned to interpret what it meant when he looked at her a certain way. Sure, most of his looks gave away his intention of teasing her, but she also knew it wasn't a bad kind of teasing. To be honest, some of his quips were actually quite funny. It was the type of humor she liked but didn't get to enjoy much. Their witty banters felt refreshing, for she didn't have to explain herself or her words like she often had to with Harry and Ron. Ginny was better at it than the boys, but not as good as Draco. There was also something about him that made her excited in a whole new way whenever they talked. She wasn't exactly sure what it meant, but she kind of liked it.

”I noticed that a certain book has been returned to the book shelf.”

She smiled to herself – she had known he would notice. ”I was wondering when you would bring that up.”

”Well, the cat is on the table now. How was your reading experience? Enjoyable?” Draco questioned with a smirk. 

”It was actually quite educational, as you suspected a few days ago,” Hermione told him. ”I daresay I learned I couple of new things, in theory at least.”

”I'm sure you learned all kinds of new ways to...do things.”

She shook her head a bit at his amusement, rolling her eyes. Even though he was making her smile, he would soon have to find new jokes. He was running out of ways to approach his favourite subjects. Unless something came up, she would have to start thinking about sacrificing herself to give him something new to talk about. A small, dirty-ish quip would surely be worth the trouble if he could make her laugh because of it. Of course she wouldn't say anything unless it was absolutely necessary... She wasn't that kind of girl. Ahem.

 
 

* * *

 
 

The second week of the safe house system had begun and it was time to switch houses. Harry and Ron had left for the new house earlier than Draco and Hermione, even though Ron had agreed to the arrangement quite reluctantly. At the moment Draco and Hermione were in the lobby with two Order members. Their bags were packed and they were ready to be transported.

”You know, I'm really glad we got out of the Manor. I never knew you were such a great girl,” Draco said as they waited for the port key to activate. ”You really are something.”

Hermione looked at him, surprised. He seemed to genuinely mean it. She gave him a delighted smile. 

”You're not too bad yourself,” she admitted. She suddenly felt funny and had to turn away to avoid his gaze. She really hoped he wouldn't notice, but he did.

”What's that, Granger? You're not blushing, are you?” You could just hear the smirk.

”Of course not,” she mumbled, not looking at him.

Draco raised his brows in a doubtful manner, still smirking. 

”I'll get back to you on that,” he winked at her cheekily.

”Get ready now, it's almost time,” one of the Order members told them. ”Hold on tight.”

All four put a hand on the shiny black men's shoe as it started to emanate a blue light. Before Hermione felt a tug behind her navel, an arm snaked around her waist. She looked at Draco questioningly.

”He told us to hold on tight,” he murmured.

She had to close her eyes as the port key worked its magic, but she could feel the strong arm around her and smell the somewhat intoxicating scent that came from Draco. She hadn't noticed how good he smelled until then. Before she could give her discovery another thought, they had reached their destination. They had a welcoming committee, too. Ron glared at Draco angrily when he saw how close the blonde was to his friend. Wearing a rather smug expression, Draco lazily let go of Hermione. He took his bag and disappeared up the stairs to get settled in his new room on the third floor.

Hermione, instead, had to spend some time assuring her male friends that everything was alright and the young Malfoy had only wanted to make sure the port key didn't leave her behind. She didn't really believe it herself, either, so it was no wonder the boys were suspicious. Harry let go of the subject a lot before Ron, who wanted Hermione to promise she wouldn't stand next to Draco the next time they traveled by port key.

When she went to Draco's room later that evening, she was in a bad mood. She had barely closed the door behind her before scowling at the boy sitting on the bed.

”I hope you're happy now.”

”I didn't know you cared so much,” he smirked mockingly.

”I was talking about that little stunt you pulled when we got here, you dimwit,” Hermione snarled. ”Do you have any idea how long it took me to calm down Harry and Ron?”

”Let me see... We've been here for almost five hours and you haven't come to see me before this, so... I'd say it took you about four and a half hours.” From the look she gave him he could tell she didn't appreciate his humor at the moment. ”Look, you just need to tell your watchdogs to back down. You shouldn't have to explain yourself all the time.”

”I know,” she sighed and sat down next to him. ”It's just so frustrating. I don't even know why I like being in your company, but I do, and you have to keep provoking them all the time. And I haven't heard you complaining about being around me, either,” she added quickly as Draco opened his mouth to speak.

”True,” his lips curved into a smile. ”But you can't expect me to just stop bothering them, I've been doing it for the most of my life, and – what are you looking at?”

”There's something in your hair.”

She reached her hand to get rid of the mysterious thing, but he startled and dodged her hand.

”Draco, what are you doing? I'll get it off a lot faster if you stay put,” Hermione told him.

He had an amazed expression on his face as he stopped moving. ”You called me Draco."
 
”Well, it is your name,” she rolled her eyes even though she was a bit surprised, too. She stretched her hand out again and wasn't interrupted this time. ”Is it okay if I call you that?”

”Yeah,” he said, but twitched uncomfortably at the same time.

Hermione frowned. ”If you don't like it, I can still call you Malfoy.”

”No, it's not that, it's just...” There was a small tinge of pink on his cheeks. ”Normally I don't let other people touch my hair.”

Hermione stopped what she was doing and gaped at him. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. ”You don't – I mean – uh... I'll just try and be quick.”

Draco watched her facial expressions and sighed. ”Go ahead, laugh at me.”

”No, it's not that, I totally understand,” she said quickly. Her lips were twitching, though. ”Everyone has parts they don't let random people touch. Although I don't think hair is that common to have on the limitations list... But don't worry, your hair is safe now. I got that thing off. How did you get a sticker in your hair?”

She didn't wait for an answer, but got up and left the room instead. After the door had closed behind her, Draco could have sworn he heard her giggling to herself.

 
 

* * *

 
 

He woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a muffled cry. He sat up abrubtly, looking around with alertness. He listened carefully and soon heard the voice again. It came from the room next to his – it had to be Hermione. He got up, took his wand with him and was soon at Hermione's door. He didn't bother knocking, but closed the door behind him so that the others wouldn't wake up.

”Lumos,” he whispered.

Hermione was lying on her bed and clearly in pain. Tears were falling down her cheeks as she moaned something totally incomprehensible. Draco sat down on her bed, took hold of her arm and shook her gently.

”Wake up, Granger,” he told her. ”Wake up!”

She stirred a bit but still didn't wake up. Draco was starting to panic. What if she didn't wake up, what if she just died in his arms? He shook her even more strongly.

”Granger – Hermione – please wake up!”

She trembled violently for a moment and suddenly opened her eyes wide, taking in rapid breaths.

”Merlin, you scared me! Are you alright?”

”Draco...? Is that you?” Her voice was barely a whisper.

”Yeah, it's me. Everything's alright. It was just a bad dream,” he said softly.

”Oh, Draco,” she breathed, sitting up and flinging her arms around his neck.

She started to sob uncontrollably. Draco wasn't quite sure what he should do, but his arms went around her nevertheless. 

”Are you alright?” 

”It was the worst dream ever,” Hermione managed to mumble in between her sobs. She needed a moment to compose herself before she could go on. ”I was back at the Manor and the Death Eaters were after me... They were going to r-rape me... And I looked everywhere for you, but you weren't there, I couldn't find you anywhere...”

Again she burst into tears. Draco let her cry against his shoulder for a while before he quietly asked, ”You were looking for me?”

She sniffed before lifting her head and answering. ”Yeah. I knew you were the only one who could save me... But you weren't there.” She sniffed again.

”I'm here now,” Draco said, giving her a comforting hug. ”I'm right here looking after you.”

”Draco... Could you please stay here? I don't want to be alone.”

”Yeah, of course I'll stay,” he smiled.

They settled down on Hermione's bed. She placed her head on his chest and he wrapped his arms around her. It was only a matter of minutes before she fell asleep, and Draco listened to her steady breathing for a while before he was sleeping too.

 
 

* * *



They woke up to a series of loud bangs on the door.

”Hermione!” Bang, bang! ”Are you awake?” Bang! ”We need to talk to you!” It was Ron.

”What the hell,” Hermione muttered sleepily before calling out a little louder, ”What is it?”

”Oh good, you're awake! Can we come in?”

”Give me a minute,” she answered, moving into a sitting position. Draco was still lying next to her, rubbing his eyes and giving her a smile.

”It's Malfoy,” Ron exclaimed through the door. ”He's not in his room and we've searched the whole house, we think he's gone back to the Death Eaters!”

That made Hermione's jaw drop. The confusion was quickly replaced by a very different feeling, however. She got up and headed to the door.

Ron thinks, not me, I never said anything about –”

Harry stopped talking in mid-sentence as an infuriated Hermione Granger yanked the door open.

”RONALD WEASLEY! You can't always assume the worst of people! I am going to kick you!”

”Wow, 'Mione, calm down! Why are you yelling at me? You should be yelling at Malfoy, he's the one that's gone missing without saying a word!”

”But he hasn't gone anywhere,” Hermione sighed. ”He's right here in my room.”

Ron furrowed his brows. ”What are you talking about? He can't be there,” he stated, getting past Hermione and into the room.

He soon realized he was wrong, but totally forgot about it – the sight in front of him was something he just couldn't take. A half-naked Draco Malfoy was sitting on Hermione's bed, his hair all messed up, wearing a pair of pyjama pants and no shirt. If Hermione had been paying attention to that detail, she would have noticed that Draco looked rather delicious in that state.

”WHAT IN THE NAME OF MERLIN ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?”

”Ron! Stop shouting, you idiot,” she ordered, stepping in between Ron and Draco, who had stood up.

”I WANT AN EXPLANATION FOR THIS,” Ron yelled, completely ignoring the commandment.

”You might want to shut up,” Draco snarled at Ron, his eyes narrowing.

”Draco, please don't,” Hermione pleaded. 

”Don't worry,” he gave her a crooked smile. ”I won't start a fight. For your information, Weasley, Granger had a nightmare last night. I woke her up and she wanted me to stay here, so I did.”

”Why didn't you wake me up? I would've stayed with you,” Ron looked at Hermione with furrowed brows.

”Oh Ron, why would I wake you up when he was already here?”

”I don't know,” he shrugged. 

Harry had stayed in the back the whole time, but now he came closer and put a hand on Ron's shoulder. ”Come on, Ron, let's go get some breakfast.”

Ron glanced at Draco one more time, but followed Harry downstairs nevertheless. He didn't even try and persuade Hermione to come with them, and she was happy about it. She sighed again, shaking her head.

”I should go,” Draco muttered, heading to the door.

”Draco, wait,” she pleaded. She didn't want him to leave like that – he would probably stay in his room sulking the whole day, reminding himself of just how much and why he had used to hate the three of them. It had seemed like he was starting to open up and she didn't want it to go to waste. 

He turned around to look at her. ”Yeah?”

”I'm really sorry for all that,” Hermione sighed. Again. ”Ron loses his temper quite easily.”

”I can see that.” He didn't look at her.

”Yeah... Well, anyways, I wanted to thank you for staying with me. It really helped.”

His face softened a bit. ”You're welcome.”

”So, um... I think I'll get dressed and go get some breakfast. You'll probably want some time before you come downstairs?” He nodded in agreement. ”Well, I'll see you when you're ready then.”

He left her alone and headed to his room. She sat on her bed for a while, trying to get her thoughts straight. Then she got dressed, mentally prepared herself for lecturing Ron and went to the kitchen.

Harry and Ron were both there, eating toast and drinking tea. Ron gave Hermione a sheepish look when she sat down and took some toast. She decided to go easy on him as he already seemed to be sorry for his actions.

”Ron,” she started, sighing as she sat down. ”I don't know where to start.”

”How about I start and say that I'm sorry? I didn't mean to upset you.”

”I know you didn't, but that's hardly the point. This isn't about you making me feel bad. This is about you not respecting Draco one bit,” she told him. ”You guys don't really know what it was like to be at the Manor. You have no idea how hard it was for me. I went through a lot of pain, and he helped me. When we had left the school, he was there for me when I needed it. Can't you just give him some credit for that?”

”I just don't trust him,” Ron muttered. ”And since when have you called him Draco?”

”That is none of your business.”

”Well, I don't like it. He might have been nice to you, but I haven't seen any of it. He'll always be an annoying ferret to me, and I won't –”

”You won't what?”

Draco had just walked in. Ron didn't bother to answer him. Instead he gave him a glare and got up, signalling he was leaving the kitchen. He looked at Harry who was still sitting and clearly avoiding his eyes.

”Are you coming, mate?”

”Umm, why don't you go ahead. I'll be there in a minute.”

”Whatever,” Ron grunted and stormed out of the kitchen.

Draco raised his brows as he watched the situation, seemingly interested. He didn't comment, however. He sat down next to Hermione and took some toast, too. She gave him a small smile.

”Malfoy,” Harry said, shifting uncomfortably on his chair. ”I, um, I'm sorry for Ron. He gets a little carried away sometimes, especially when it comes to Hermione.”

”I've noticed,” Draco commented dryly.

”Yeah...well...he has a bad temper,” Harry said.  It seemed he'd had his share of being polite to Draco, for he got up and made to leave the room. ”I should probably see how he's doing.”

Draco shook his head when the other boy had left the room. ”I don't get you Gryffindors. You can't leave your friend alone for one minute if you think there's something wrong with them? Jeez, I bet that's annoying.”

Hermione smiled at him, her eyes twinkling merrily. ”You'll get used to it.”

 







A/N: I have a question for you readers. When it comes to Draco and Hermione's possible relationship, do you think it's going too fast? If you think of the psychological side, is the progress believable? I'd really love to hear what you think.


Love, 

Jemione


Chapter 6: Chapter Six
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Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.








In the end of Chapter Five:

 

I don't get you Gryffindors. You can't leave your friend alone for one minute if you think there's something wrong with them? Jeez, I bet that's annoying.”

Hermione smiled at him, her eyes twinkling merrily. ”You'll get used to it.”








 

Chapter Six

 

It had been over six weeks since Hermione had last seen her parents, and now that they were coming to visit her at the safe house, she was excited to see them, but also a bit nervous. She knew they must have been worried sick about her, for it had always been a bit difficult for them to understand the magical world. Having their only daughter kidnapped by the cruellest group in such a strange society probably hadn't made it any easier. She'd most likely have to reassure her parents and make them believe that she could handle things and that they didn't need to try and protect her or anything like that. It was her life and she would live it her way.

Hermione's uncomfortable fidgeting and the worried facial expressions she sported at breakfast tipped Draco off to her restlessness. He knew she hadn't slept well. Their rooms were side by side, and he'd heard her tossing and turning in her bed for a long time before finally falling asleep. Obviously he hadn't been trying to listen to what she was doing, he'd just heard it...involuntarily, of course.

”You didn't sleep too well last night, did you?” he asked.

”No, not really,” Hermione admitted. ”I guess I had a lot on my mind. I haven't seen my parents in a long time, and...well...I was afraid of falling asleep. You know, because of that nightmare.”

“You didn't want to have another one?” Draco asked quietly. 

She shook her head. 

“Of course you didn’t, but you can't keep avoiding sleep, you know that, right?” he continued concernedly. 

“Yeah, I know. I'm sure it'll get better once all this hassle goes away, but thanks for looking after me,” she replied, smiling.

The rest of the morning went by quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to get ready to see her parents. The Grangers would be brought straight to the living room, so that's where she waited for them. She had only just sat down when she heard the familiar popping sound of Apparition. She turned and saw that her parents were on either side of Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had undoubtedly managed to calm their nerves significantly. They rushed to wrap their daughter in a massive hug, Hermione's mother dropping the ginger cat she had been holding in her arms in the process. They heard an angry meow, but none of them seemed to notice. Kingsley subtly left the room to give them some privacy.

“My darling, I'm so glad you're alright,” Mrs. Granger cried in Hermione's hair. Mr. Granger was wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, too.

They spent the next couple of hours talking in the living room. Crookshanks sat in Hermione's lap all the while, purring contentedly. Just as she had predicted, she had to convince her parents there was no need for her to leave the magical world behind. The protection she had was far better when she wasn't amongst Muggles and she reminded her parents about Harry and Rontwo boys the Grangers had grown quite fond of and who were also extremely protective of her.

“But it wasn't Harry and Ron who saved you this time, was it?” Mr. Granger asked, furrowing his brows.

“No,” she replied, “not this time...”

Hermione told them about the boy that she and her friends had hated back at school, but who had, surprisingly, proven to be quite heroic. He'd left his whole life behind him in order to help her escape. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were both eager to meet the boy who had saved their daughter, and their chance finally came when Tonks informed them that dinner was ready.

Crookshanks kept fussing at Hermione's feet as they made their way to the dining room. The table had been neatly set and, as the Grangers entered the room, Crookshanks headed straight Draco’s chair and settled comfortably in his lap. 

Hermione's brows shot up. “Look at that,” she mused. “I think he likes you.”

As Draco hesitantly patted the cat, Mr. Granger walked over to him and offered his hand. Draco shook hands with Hermione's father from where he sat, as the rather large cat in his lap prohibited him from standing.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Granger,” he nodded politely.

“The pleasure is all mine, young man,” the older man said. “I hear you've risked your life to rescue my daughter. I want you to know that you will always be welcome in our home.”

“Oh...thank you,” Draco said and glanced at Hermione.

She didn't hear the rest of their short conversation, as her mother leaned in closer and began to speak.

“What a charming young man,” the woman whispered, clearly impressed. “When are you bringing him home with you?”

Mum!

“I'm just saying, darling,” Mrs. Granger replied with a sly smile. “The boy is rather fetching. Just think of how beautiful your children would be!”

“Oh my god, mum, stop that! I'm not having children with him!” Hermione hissed in embarassment.

“A woman can always dream,” her mother replied, heaving a great sigh and ignoring the appalled look on her daughter's face. “Let's sit down for dinner, shall we?”

Hermione sat down, looking at her mother with wide, wary eyes. The woman had better keep her mouth shut – it would be beyond embarrassing if she voiced her wish for grandchildren in front of everyone! Besides, Harry and Ron were also in the room, and they would tear Draco apart if he made even the tiniest comment on the subject. She was sure he would, too.

Against her better judgement, she decided to steal a glance at the blond. He raised a questioning eyebrow at her as their eyes met. Hermione pursed her lips and shook her head. There was no way she would ever tell him what her mother had said.

The dinner was pleasant, even though Hermione kept constant watch of her mother in case she would blurt out something embarassing. Luckily, she didn't, and it was soon time for Kingsley to take the Granger couple back home. The whole group proceeded to the lobby to say their goodbyes, Hermione straining her ears to listen to what her mother said to Draco. To her relief, it didn't seem too bad. The woman's words to her daughter were another story, however.

“Hermione, darling, I feel much better about you staying here now. I can see you're in good company,” she stated and smiled in a pleased manner. “Do make the most of your time here.”

”Thanks, mum. I'll try my best,” the girl replied and rolled her eyes before waving goodbye to her parents.

 

* * *

 

A couple of hours later, Hermione noticed that she hadn't seen her cat for a while. She searched the whole house, calling for her pet, but he was nowhere to be seen. Of course, there was still one room she hadn't checked. It was a room she had been avoiding. It seemed she would have to face Draco if she wanted to find her cat.

Indeed, Crookshanks was lying on Draco's bed, purring loudly as the boy scratched him. Looking up at the newcomer, Draco gave her a crooked smile.

“Hey there. Looking for this furball, are you?”

“He's not a furball,” Hermione protested and crossed her arms. She thought about remaining in the doorway, but it seemed that Crookshanks was enjoying himself too much to get up. Sighing, she closed the door and went to sit on the bed, too. 

“He is a bit lazy, though,” she continued irritably.

“Too right he is,” Draco replied with a chuckle. “He came in, laid down, and hasn't moved since. I guess he likes the attention.” 

Hermione didn't reply so Draco decided to change the subject. “Your parents seem nice. What do they do for a living?”

”They're dentists. They take care of people's teeth,” she told him.

”Right...teeth,” he said and nodded in comprehension. Suddenly, he remembered something that made him frown. ”Hey...didn't you use to have, uh...large teeth?”

To his surprise, she grinned. He had hesitated in asking the question because he knew girls could be touchy when it came to their appearance. Apparently, Hermione wasn't one of those girls.

”I did, actually. I should probably thank you for getting rid of them,” she said with a smile. “Remember when you hit me with the Densaugeo hex back in fourth year?”

Draco looked rather uncomfortable and she giggled. “Oh, don't worry about it, it got better after that. Madam Pomfrey shrunk my teeth and I let her take off a bit more than she should have.”

“Couldn't your parents have done that if they take care of teeth?”

“Yes, of course, but they wouldn't let me go through with the operation. I had to live with the ugly teeth for years and I hated it, but you made it better with that hex...so thanks.”

”Well...you're welcome, I guess,” Draco said. “By the way, what where you and your mother talking about before dinner? You looked kind of funny.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Hermione replied firmly. “And don't you pester me about it because I'm not talking.”

He raised his brows curiously. “It can't be that bad. I won't tell anyone... I promise.”

“Yeah, well, neither will I so you might as well drop the subject,” she replied forcefully.

Draco nodded and they sat in silence until Hermione excused herself, grabbing Crookshanks from his bed, and left the room. Draco stared thoughtfully at the door as she closed it behind her. He’d be sure to find out what she and her mother had been talking about.

 

* * *

 

The next day brought with it a new hassle in the form of Molly and Ginny Weasley. One would have thought that there were a dozen new people in the house, but no – the Weasley women were really just that noisy. It was something akin to a herd of stampeding rhinos. After their arrival around noon, everyone gathered in the kitchen.

“My dear girl, you are awfully skinny,” Mrs. Weasley fussed as she hugged Hermione tightly. “You really need to put some meat on your bones. Here, I brought you some chicken soup.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said politely and smiled as she took the heavy container from the older witch.

“It was the least I could do!” Mrs. Weasley replied sweetly. “Now sit down and eat, love.”

Mrs. Weasley shuffled to the cupboard to get a bowl for Hermione and, while doing so, she noticed Draco standing in the doorway. He hadn't dared come straight into the kitchen for he wasn't sure he'd be welcome. The Malfoy and Weasley families had held a grudge against each other for longer than he could remember, and the Weasley matriarch was likely to frown upon seeing him.

The tension in the room seemed to rise rapidly as the two eyed each other. The redheaded witch took a deep breath...and smiled. She wasn't about to let some old quarrel get in the way, not after the boy had saved Hermione. She loved the girl like she was her own daughter.

“Why don't you sit down too, Draco? Here, have some soup,” Mrs. Weasley said amicably and took out two bowls. “You are quite pale, it could put a little colour in your face.”

Draco nodded in disbelief. She had let him off the hook, just like that! Why? Was it because of what he had done for Hermione? The Weasley woman wasn't even related to the girl! Maybe it was some sort of ‘good people’ thing that Gryffindors did. Merlin knew they had weird tendencies. He grabbed his spoon and started to eat, lost in his thoughts.

Hermione looked at him with a small smile. It was good to see that Mrs. Weasley had accepted him, for she could be very persuasive (and a bit frightening) when she wanted to. Even though her sons were adults, she could convince them, or force them, to be nicer to Draco. This would definitely come in handy. At the moment, Ron was shooting daggers at Draco, incensed that his mother had invited him to have some of her delicious soup, while he hadn’t even been asked to sit down. It was easy to see that he thought it unfair, and that made him dislike the blonde all the more.

Harry wasn't taking sides – his neutral attitude towards Draco was a positive surprise. It seemed like he was adjusting to the situation, even though he wasn't quite ready to wholly accept the Malfoy heir.

Ginny was taking it even further and Hermione could see the wheels turning in her friend's head. The girl had been fine with Hermione spending time with Draco, and now she had an almost hungry look in her eyes when she glanced between the two of them. Hermione shook her head and made a mental note to avoid any private discussions with the redhead. Merlin only knew what she was plotting. Hermione had a hunch that Ginny would probably try to hook her up with the blonde.

She looked at Draco again and instantly became worried. He had finished eating and sat there, looking at his plate, clearly unhappy about something. She had thought that knowing that everyone didn't hate him would make him feel good, but it didn't seem to be the case. Suddenly, he excused himself and left the kitchen without even sparing her a glance, or anyone else for that matter.

Hermione felt a rise of panic inside her. Whatever he was planning couldn't be good. She still had a little soup left and she lapped at it hurriedly. After thanking Mrs. Weasley for the food, she got up to leave and was in such a rush that she didn't notice that a certain person was pursuing her. Until she called her name, that is.

“Hermione, we need to talk,” Ginny’s voice rang out behind her.

“Ginny, I'm in a bit of a hurry right now, can we talk later?”

“We are going to talk now, unless you want me to hit you with a Bat Bogey hex. Now get in here,” Ginny stated firmly and opened a closet door, gesturing for Hermione to get inside. The Gryffindor obeyed reluctantly and stepped into the small room.

“What is this about?” she asked and sighed in defeat. 

“That's what I'd like to know,” Ginny replied, frowning in disapproval. “You've been keeping things from me! Guess what Harry and Ron told me? That you spent the night with Draco!”

“Calm down, Ginny, it wasn't like that,” Hermione exclaimed and huffed in annoyance. “I had a nightmare and he woke me up. He stayed because I didn't want to be alone. You can hardly call that spending the night.”

“Yeah, but still, I can smell a great romance coming and I want to witness the beginning of it,” Ginny said. Hermione noted that she didn't seem so angry anymore.

“Honestly, what the hell is wrong with everyone? First my mum wants me to have children with him, and now you're grilling me about something that's not even there!”

“Your mum said that?” the redhead giggled. “She wants you to have his kids?”

“Yep, that's pretty much what she said, but it’s beside the point. There is absolutely nothing going on between me and Draco,” Hermione stated soundly.

“You've said that before, but I've seen the way you look at him...it’s like you care,” Ginny replied. “You might not be ready to accept it, but I'm telling you...the two of you will end up together.”

“You know what, Ginny? I think you're delusional. Now if you'll excuse me, there are some things I need to do.”

Hermione flung open the closet door and hastened towards Draco’s bedroom. When she finally got there, his black bag and all his belongings were piled on his bed. He was packing.

“Draco, what is this?”

He looked up but didn't answer or stop what he was doing. Hermione closed the door behind her, rushed over to him and grabbed hold of his arms. It wasn't an easy task for a small girl like her to tear the young man away from his bag, but somehow she managed to do it.

“What are you doing?” she demanded.

“Let go of me,” Draco grunted. “I shouldn't be here. I have to go.”

He tried to maneuver past Hermione to get at his bag, but she drew her wand and pointed it at his jaw.

“You are not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on.”

He saw the fire blazing in her eyes and shook his head. Why wouldn’t she just let him go? It would be best for everyone if he left to be on his own. A Slytherin could never fit in with a group of Gryffindors, everyone knew that. 

Draco sighed dejectedly. “I don't belong here,” he said quietly.

“What are you talking about? Sit down and tell me,” Hermione ordered. 

When he didn't comply right away, she pressed her wand against his throat. “I said, sit down.”

Draco decided to do as she said, in case she thought it a good idea to hex his face off. He moved a pile of t-shirts aside and sat down, but still he didn't say anything. He didn't even know what he could say. He'd had a great time with her, but it wouldn't – couldn't – last. They were from two different worlds, and the fact remained that a majority of the people in her world couldn't stand the sight of him.

“Don't try the silent treatment with me. It won't work,” Hermione stated coolly.

He glanced at her and noted the determined look on her face. He was going to have to suck it up and speak.

“Look...this just isn't my place,” he said softly and then sighed. There was a sleeve of a shirt hanging from his bag, and he twirled it around his fingers. “It's too weird. You're all supposed to hate me, and then suddenly some of you don't. Like Mrs. Weasley – why is she so nice to me? Our families have never been friends. I just... I don't deserve it.”

“But that's not how we think,” Hermione shook her head. She flicked her wand to move some of Draco's things out of the way before sitting down next to him. “Just because your families don't like each other doesn't mean it should always be that way. I'm practically a part of their family and you did me a great favor. That pretty much makes up for it.”

“But that was just one thing,” Draco protested. “How could it possibly make up for everything I’ve done?”

She shrugged. “It just does.”

They sat in silence for a while and Hermione lifted her legs up onto the bed in order to get more comfortable. Unfortunately, she was wearing a skirt, which made the task quite a bit harder and she fought for a moment to find a sitting position that was comfortable and one that didn't show her knickers. Draco didn't even seem to notice her struggle.

“I think you've spent enough time with me already,” he murmured. “You should go and be with your friends.” 

“What do you think I'm doing right now?” she asked quietly.

Once again he looked up at her, but this time in surprise. She thought of him as her friend? Yet another thing he didn't deserve. How could he ever be worthy of her friendship, with everything he'd done in the past? As he looked at her, he saw things he had never noticed before. He saw her calm and patient expression and the trust in her doe-like eyes. She believed in him. If she thought he had something good in him, who was he to say no to that? But he had to be sure.

“Shouldn't you hate me?”

”I probably should, but I don't,” she shrugged. “You were an ass back at school, I don't deny that, but we were kids. You have been there for me at a time when I've needed a friend more than ever, and that's way more important.”

He nodded. If she really felt that way, he should accept it with gratitude.

“Draco...if you don't mind my asking, who's your closest friend?”

He started a bit as he realised that she was probably his closest friend at the moment. But it was probably best he didn't tell her that. ”I... I don't really have that many friends. Or at least I'm not that close to any of them.”

“Well, how about back in school, or growing up?” 

“Uh... I guess Crabbe and Goyle, but I didn't really think of them as friends. They were more like minions,” he replied with an embarrassed grin.

Hermione smiled amusedly but didn't comment. “What about your parents, are you close to them?”

The fact that his father had tortured Hermione came rushing back to Draco. He clenched his fists to control the sudden rage he felt towards the man. If he ever saw him again...

“I never really gotten along with my father, but my mother always seemed to care about me. She sacrificed a lot to help me,” he told her. “If you don't mind my asking...why are you giving me the third degree?”

“It's just a little Muggle thing called psychology,” she said with a smile. “Maybe it's so weird for you here because you've never really had anyone be nice to you without pretense. Crabbe and Goyle were probably just sucking up, and your mother is supposed to like you. You just can't believe that someone would appreciate you for who you are and what you've done.”

“And you do, huh?” Draco received another smile in response. “Well, I still don't understand that Mrs. Weasley... I mean, sure, she might have forgiven me, but shouldn't she be mad at you for breaking up with her son? You're obviously not together anymore.”

“It's a funny story, actually,” Hermione replied with a laugh. “Mrs. Weasley was the one that told me I'd probably be better off without Ron. It was the summer after graduation and we spent a lot of our time at the Burrow. Naturally, she kept an eye on us and in the process she heard the two of us bickering a lot because – well – that's what we do. Finally she came up to me and said that, uh...she thought I deserved better. Obviously she had thought about Ron, too, but there are just so many things about me that he'll never understand.” 

Hermione took a moment to breathe and collect her thoughts. “We split up soon after that. It was a bit awkward for a while, but our friendship is back to normal as you might have seen.”

“Yeah...well, that's good.” 

Draco stole a glance at her, furrowing his brows a bit at a thought that was bothering him. “So, uh...it didn't get weird even though you'd...you know...seen a lot of each other?”

“Oh, no,” Hermione blushed, shaking her head. “We never, uh...we never went there.”

Oh,” Draco uttered, trying to hide the triumphant smirk that was threatening to plaster itself all over his face. “That's nice, um, I mean it's nice that you, uh, didn't have to deal with that.”

“It's heartwarming to see how much you care about my well-being,” Hermione quipped sarcastically, a smile tugging at her lips.

He grinned in response. He couldn't deny it – she made him smile. That in itself was enough of a reason to not go on some stupid hideout journey all by himself. He tugged at the sleeve he'd been playing with to get the shirt out of the bag.

”So... I take it you're staying?” Hermione asked and raised her eyebrows expectantly. 

Draco shrugged. Even though she knew what Ginny would think if she ever found out, the brunette decided to play the damsel-in-distress card. “You know, I might have another nightmare some time, and who would I turn to if you left? You're like a knight in shining armour for me.”

”I'm afraid I don't have my armour with me,” he chuckled as he rifled through his bag. “D'you think silk boxers will do?”

Hermione grinned. “I'm sure you'll make a great hero in your silk boxers.”

Draco raised his brows and zipped his bag, a mischievous grin on his face. “If you’d ever like to test that theory, let me know.”


 






 
A/N: A huge thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :) Any errors you might find are there because I was too stubborn to correct them. :D

How did you guys like Hermione's parents? I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. There was also quite a lot of progress made in the long talk between Draco and Hermione. Did you think it was too long?

There used to be a sneak-peek from Chapter Seven here, but since the chapter got so long that I had to do some splitting, the scene is actually in Chapter Nine. I thought I'd edit my A/N so you guys don't get too confused. :)

Love,

Jemione

Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
A/N: I had a lot of fun writing this chapter. I really hope you enjoy it, too! :)

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

Warning: There are l o t s  o f  s e x u a l   i n n u e n d o e s in this chapter – don't like it, don't read it.








In the end of Chapter Six:


So...I take it you're staying?” Hermione asked and raised her eyebrows expectantly. 

Draco shrugged. Even though she knew what Ginny would think if she ever found out, the brunette decided to play the damsel-in-distress card. “You know, I might have another nightmare some time, and who would I turn to if you left? You're like a knight in shining armour for me.”

I'm afraid I don't have my armour with me,” he chuckled as he rifled through his bag. “D'you think silk boxers will do?”

Hermione grinned. “I'm sure you'll make a great hero in your silk boxers.”

Draco raised his brows and zipped his bag, a mischievous grin on his face. “If you’d ever like to test that theory, let me know.”








 
 
Chapter Seven 

 

The kitchen was quiet save for the clatter of the dishes Hermione was busy washing. The whole house actually seemed quiet with no Weasleys or Harry there to make noise. Hermione welcomed the change with gratitude – she still felt a bit tired at times, and it was good to have some time to herself. The fact that they had been moved to a new safe house, and a Muggle house to boot, helped her relax even more.

She and Draco had arrived at the house the day before, and, luckily, they’d be able to enjoy the peace and quiet until the next afternoon. They had already eaten dinner, which meant there wasn't much of the day left. She was looking forward to finishing the dishes and talking to Draco. He had been in a good mood since they'd had their long conversation a couple of days ago. There had been glimpses of something she had yet to determine in his eyes, but they'd been in the company of their guardians and she had been unable to ask him what it was about. She had a hunch that it wasn't something she'd want other people to know about.

Hermione inhaled deeply and caught a whiff of the citrus detergent she was using to wash the dishes. She thought about the young Malfoy and suddenly there was an unexplainable tingling sensation in the pit of her stomach. She couldn't understand what had caused it - was she subconsciously waiting for something to happen?

Her train of thought was interrupted as someone opened the kitchen door. Hermione looked up to see Draco enter the room, sporting a mischievous expression, and she instantly felt suspicious. He came closer, scrutinizing her figure with his hungry gaze. Her breathing grew erratic as he settled behind her, his arms taking up positions on either side of her body, trapping her between himself and the sink quite effectively.

“Granger... I could just eat you up,” he breathed in her ear in a low, sultry voice. “If you want some fun, come upstairs when you're finished.”

Excuse me?” Hermione gasped, her eyes as wide as the plates she was washing. He was barely touching her and her skin was erupting in tingles all over. The suggestion in his words made her feel decidedly flustered.

“I think you know what I'm talking about.”

“I'm not sure I do,” she replied breathlessly. It was hard to think when he was so close.

He let out a small chuckle. Her reaction amused him to no end, but he decided to let her off the hook. “I found that Draughts game in the attic.”

Oh,” Hermione sighed with relief. “Sure. I'll be up as soon as I get this done.”

“Good girl,” Draco murmured in her hair.

He let go of the sink and stepped away from her. She was surprised to find herself disappointed at the loss of his warmth, but luckily she was too dazed to say anything. She slowly looked at the blond who, before leaving the kitchen, turned to shamelessly wink at her in the doorway.

She shook her head as he disappeared, mentally scolding herself. What had she been thinking? That he was offering to indulge in guilty pleasures with her? That was just crazy. They were friends and that was it, and he had been talking about the game all along. Although that didn't explain the tone of his voice. It had been heated. Had his voice always been so alluring? And more importantly, when had she started to think that any part of him was alluring? 

It was definitely Ginny's fault. The girl had planted stupid thoughts into her head, the worst being that stupid vision of her and Draco ending up together. Well, she would just have to dispose of those silly ideas. They were only something her friend had created in that delusional head of hers, so it should be an easy task.

However, when Hermione finally appeared in the upstairs bedroom, she found that it would be more challenging than she had initially thought. Draco was sitting on the floor, leaning on his bed, looking extremely relaxed. And cute. He'd probably leaned on his hand or something because there was a red mark on his cheek. For some reason she thought that was awfully sweet, and she couldn't shake the warm feeling that was spreading through her.

“There you are, Granger,” he noticed her standing there looking at him. “So, are you ready to do it?”

“Uh...do it?” She gulped, trying hard to get rid of the R-rated image that had just presented itself.

“Yeah,” Draco gave her a predatory smile. He could see that his choice of words hadn't been wasted. “Get down to business. Play the game.”

He gestured towards the pieces he'd set on the board that lay on the floor. Apparently, she'd been so preoccupied in watching him that she hadn't noticed them at all. Annoyed at herself, she made a small huffing noise, sat down on the floor and nodded firmly.

“Sure. Let's play.”

She pushed her mass of curls out of the way and waited for Draco to make the first move. He was the dark side again, she thought to herself sarcastically. How fitting. There was something about him that felt like a magnetic pull, she observed as he moved his piece. She responded, fighting the urge to reach her hand out to touch him as she gently pushed her light piece. She was forced to learn a whole new type of self-control in order to play the bloody game.

There didn't seem to be enough space. The five feet between their bunk beds had seemed convenient enough, but that had been before she'd sat down to play with him. They were both leaning on their respective beds, but Hermione still had to be careful not to brush against his long legs with hers when she switched her sitting position. She didn't really know what she was so afraid of. 

She feebly thought about sleeping in the third bunk bed, the one closest to the door, but knew it wasn't a good idea. Her friends would be joining them the next day and she thought it was best for her to be in the middle in order to keep Harry and Ron (mostly Ron) as far away from Draco as possible. The accommodations clearly weren't on her side. The room already felt crowded with just the two of them in it – how bad would it get with three more people? She'd just have to work with what she had. And a big part of that was to put herself on the line to form a wall between the boys.

Time seemed to drag on and fly past at the same time as they played. Hermione had lost track of how many matches they'd had, but she was fairly sure she was winning. She'd found some quite miraculous ways to save herself when it had looked like there was no hope. Even though she'd been lost in her thoughts at times, she had to admit that her game was flowing effortlessly. It was easy. Almost...too easy.

“Malfoy,” she frowned as something dawned on her. ”You're not letting me win, are you?”

“What, me? Why would I do such thing?” 

His expression was way too innocent, and she growled in frustration. 

“That's it. I'm not playing anymore,” she announced and got up. “I'm going to bed.”

Yanking open her bag, Hermione took out her pyjamas and bag of toiletries. She headed for the en-suite bathroom without sparing a glance at the boy. Contrary to her thoughts back in the kitchen, she didn't feel like talking to him at the moment. Instead of answering her questions he would probably just make her feel more confused.

She'd barely settled in front of the huge mirror in the bathroom and picked up her toothbrush when she got company. She should have closed the door.

“You don't mind if I brush my teeth quickly, do you?” Draco grinned at her. Her answer was a seething glare. “I figured I should get it over with in case you decide to move in here.”

Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself down and then focused solely on the task at hand – brushing her teeth. She was immensely glad that there were two sinks in the bathroom. That meant she could stay on her side and not worry about the annoying creature next to her. Fortunately he was finished soon, but he tested his luck – and her patience – once more before leaving her alone.

“I'm going to change now, so no peeking, alright? No matter how much you want to do it,” he winked at her.

He ducked just in time to avoid the hairbrush she'd thrown at him. 

“Wow, no need to resort to violence,” Draco rolled his eyes. “I'm sure you like to dominate, but can't you wait until we're in the bedroom? Okay, okay... I'm going!”

This time, her shampoo bottle hit the door just as he closed it behind him.

Hermione went on with her evening routines, trying to control her anger. Her head filled with razor sharp comments she would throw at Draco when she was finished in the bathroom. That would teach him not to play games with her. She was not interested in peeking at him while he changed his clothes, thank you very much! He would have to learn to keep his mouth shut about such preposterous things if he wanted to keep his pretty face. (Not that it was pretty – it was just a saying.)

Changing into a matching t-shirt and shorts, Hermione prepared herself for scolding the boy. She put her things back in her toiletry bag and took one last determined huff of breath. With angrily narrowed eyes she stepped back into the room.

Her resolve faded with one look at him.

He was wearing silky pyjama pants of slytherin green and no shirt. His upper body wasn't anywhere nearly as muscular as a body builder's, but it was easy to see he'd been taking care of himself. Hermione saw a trail of hair starting from his navel and disappearing below his waistband. It fascinated her, and made her wonder if there was some sort of treasure hidden in the other end of the path. 

Not that she was interested in what could be found inside those pants, obviously. It was just a passing thought... Or was it? If she couldn't even convince herself she wasn't interested, how could she make him believe in her lies?

He had seen her looking at him, of course. He raised a challenging eyebrow as if to say, “Well?”, but thankfully he didn't comment aloud. Hermione quickly scrambled to sit down on her bed, her back facing Draco. She busied herself with putting her toiletry bag in just the right corner of her big bag. In the short time she'd looked at him, she couldn't have helped noticing the defined line where his lower abdominals led towards his pelvis. The V-shaped crease had created a silhouette that reminded her of an arrow that showed her exactly which way she should go.

She tried so hard not to think of how tempting it looked, how bad she wanted to touch it. How bad she wanted to feel it curve in the direction of great adventures. She was really glad he couldn't see the prominent blush on her cheeks. 

“Granger?” came the silky voice of the blonde. 

“Mm-hmm?” She didn't trust her voice enough to speak.

“I'm feeling kind of lonely in this big bed... I wouldn't mind if you joined me.”

Her head whipped around. It was a good thing Draco had his eyes closed, because her blush deepened even more at the sight of him lying on his bed with his hands behind his head. When had he lied down? Did he know how good he looked like that? The smirk on his lips suggested he did. He'd probably been practising his position in front of the mirror for endless hours, that sneaky little devil.

“Thanks, but I'm fine here,” she replied and got up to switch off the lights. She tried not to think of how he'd rolled his eyes when she'd explained how lamps and electricity worked.

Hermione settled down on her bed, happy to be able to fight her blush away in the darkness. She had a feeling they weren't done with the discussion yet, and she was right.

“You do remember having a nightmare a few days back?” Draco asked a short while later. He received an affirmative sound in response. “You asked me to stay with you, and I did. So...technically you owe me one.”

His logic made sense, sort of. It would indeed be polite to return the favor. But what would he get out of it? Was he just playing her again? She found she didn't really care.

“Well, obviously I don't want to owe you anything.” With that, she grabbed her pillow and cover and made her way to Draco's bed.

He moved closer to the wall to make some room for her and pulled his covers over himself while he was at it. The bed was big, Hermione noted as she settled down next to him. It had probably been widened with magic. But even though it was larger than the average single bed, there were only a couple of inches separating them. She tried to think of something to say in order to distract herself. It would be dangerous to let her mind analyze the inviting warmth that radiated off of Draco's body, because she knew she couldn't do it. 

“So... You don't think you'll be able to sleep alone?”

“If that'll make you stay here, then sure,” Draco murmured. There was a hint of a smile in his voice.

That didn't exactly help Hermione in her task to divert her attention. She could have slapped herself for thinking of how his voice was seductive in its soft roughness – she was stronger than that! She wasn't some silly bint in a romance novel, she could and she would resist him. Yet her heart was thumping so loudly it shouldn't even be possible. She was sure he could hear it, too. Anyone within a ten mile radius could probably hear it, for crying out loud. 

She didn't understand her reaction to the closeness. Nothing was even happening between them, they were only lying down next to each other. On the same bed. Sure, it had been a while since she'd done that with a guy, but she didn't remember her heart beating like this. Draco probably did that sort of things a lot, she thought to herself. How else could he be so calm and collected?

What Hermione didn't know was that the cool exterior was just a façade. Internally, Draco was dealing with emotions just as turbulent as Hermione's, but he'd had more practise in keeping them to himself. His heart was beating just as loudly as hers was, he could barely hear his own thoughts. He'd been playing with the idea of having her in his bed all day, but hadn't thought it would actually become reality. And now that it had, Draco had to keep his eyes closed to restrain himself.

The girl was still suffering from the weight-loss caused by her time at the Manor, but she was quite a lovely sight in her modest nighties nevertheless. So lovely, in fact, that covering himself with his blanket had been a precaution in case he couldn't control his bodily reactions. There was something about this girl that pleased his extremely selective taste in women. She wasn't any ordinary girl – she was challenging. She was fiery, confident, loyal, caring, intelligent, sarcastic, playful... She was letting him close, and he couldn't believe his luck. Hermione Granger was more than everything he could ever have hoped to find in a woman, and she was in his bed.

Draco's eyes shot open at the thought. He wanted to make sure it was really happening. It took him a moment to adjust to the darkness. When his sight was as good as it could be in the dark, he turned to look at the girl next to him. She was staring at the bottom of the upper bunk. He frowned.

“Everything alright there, Granger?”

“Huh?” She startled a bit and then shook her head. ”Yeah, I'm fine. I was just...thinking.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“Everything...and nothing,” she sighed.

“Could you be a bit more specific?” Draco smiled crookedly.

Hermione glanced at him briefly, but then went back to staring at the bottom of the upper bunk. “I don't really feel like it. Besides, we should probably try to get some sleep.”

“Yeah, you're right,” he admitted and flashed a grin. “You know, you can always come closer if you get cold or something. I'm pretty hot.”

She rolled her eyes in response, and turned her back to him. It was clearly a signal for him to shut his mouth.

“Night, Granger.”

“Night, Malfoy.”

 
 

* * *

 
 

Hermione woke up curled against Draco's body. They were nestled in a spooning position, his arms wrapped around her in a possessive manner. It felt surprisingly comfortable, but she was a little stiff from being like that for so long. She stretched herself just a bit, inadvertedly moving her butt closer to Draco's groin. Her whole body tensed as she felt something rather hard pressing against her.

“That is so rude.”

Draco chuckled. “Good morning to you, too.”

“Oh, is that your way of saying good morning?”

“Technically, it's not my way of saying good morning... Something in this bed has a mind of its own,” he chuckled. “Besides, you should take it as a compliment. This morning is...ahem...quite obviously a better one than the average.” 

She could feel him smile against her neck. She shook her head in disbelief. “You're a pervert.”

“Oh, me? Look at the pot calling the kettle black. I haven't seen you move an inch,” Draco pointed out. “Someone might think you're enjoying this.”

“Oh, me?” she huffed, throwing his words right back at him. “I think it's quite obvious that you are the one who's enjoying this.”

“Aww, come on, that's not fair. Just because my reaction is visible doesn't mean I'm the only one who likes being like this.”

Now that he said it, Hermione realised that her body was reacting to the situation visibly, too. She quickly crossed her arms in front of her chest to avoid getting caught. She actually wasn't against spending the rest of the day right there with him, listening to what her body was telling her to do, but he didn't need to know that. It would put him at an unfair advantage and, quite frankly, she was already having troubles thinking straight. She didn't want him to blur her thoughts every time he wanted something done his way.

“You still haven't moved that much, Granger.”

“I'm getting up right now,” she announced indignantly and proceeded to do just that.

“What's the rush? We could have a little fun before breakfast...”

It had always been easier for him to go with the familiar playboy role, but as he watched her gather her pillow and blanket in her arms and carry them back to her bed, he knew that was about to change. He couldn't ignore the new feelings that were brewing inside of him. The ones that made him want to show her he wasn't just some rich jerk who was after one thing and one thing only. In a brief flash of memory, he saw the faces of the Death Eaters who were preparing to rape the girl. He would never be like them.

“Granger, wait.” 

He sat up on his bed as she came to a halt at the bathroom door and turned to look at him. With an exasperated growl, he grabbed his pillow and put it in his lap to hide the tent that was set up there. This wasn't the time for wrong impressions.

“I just wanted to tell you that I would never force anyone to sleep with me,” Draco told her sincerely, shaking his head and hoping she didn't doubt his words. “I've never felt the need to do that.”

“I believe you,” she replied. Surprisingly, there was a teasing smile on her lips. “I mean, why would you need to force anyone? Who wouldn't want a piece of that?”

The amazing sound of his laughter followed her as she entered the bathroom. She looked at herself in the mirror, and saw her eyes twinkling and her mouth curving to a silly grin. She didn't know about other girls, but she sure as hell wanted a piece of Draco Malfoy.

 
 

* * *

 
 

If Alastor Moody had been paying attention to what the two were doing that morning, he would have found himself in world of confusion. Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy had never been friends at school, and they had only spent a little more than two weeks in the constant company of each other at various safe houses. Yet they seemed to have a lot of private jokes and shared experiences. The unlikely duo exchanged meaningful looks and knowing smiles all through the morning, entertaining themselves with something only they knew.

Yes, that would have made just about anyone confused. But Alastor Moody wasn't paying attention. He had been extremely busy keeping an eye of every inch of the Muggle house ever since he had started his shift after breakfast. Any evidence of anything out of the ordinary was completely lost on him.





* * *


 

“You studied Arithmancy back at Hogwarts, didn't you?” Hermione questioned Draco at lunch. They were alone in the kitchen. 

“Yeah, I did. Why?”

“Well, I was just wondering if some of it could be applied to real life. Variable analysis, for example.”

He prompted her to go on with a nod of understanding.

“If you think about human behavior... Do you think it's possible to understand the reasons behind it if you observe separate actions carefully?”

Draco straightened his back and leaned against his chair. “What kind of behavior are we talking about?”

“I was actually thinking about you,” she replied, moving her knife around her plate casually. “About the way you've been acting lately.”

“And?” he raised an eyebrow. “Have the variables told you why I'm such an irresistibly charming young man?”

“That wasn't exactly what I was trying to find out,” Hermione corrected. “But it is interesting to think of why you would want to present yourself that way. To me, at least.”

“And why do you think that is?”

“It seems quite obvious, actually, but I wanted to gather some empirical evidence before jumping to conclusions,” she told him with a wry smile. “If I've interpreted the variables correctly – especially the rather significant one that...presented itself this morning – there might be an inkling towards some sort of physical interest.”

“That sounds about right,” Draco gave her a crooked smirk. “And if your conclusion happened to be correct... What would you say?” 

Hermione considered her options for a moment. The opportunity was an interesting one, that was for sure. Draco was attractive and intelligent, and highly qualified for the job if she wanted to let go of logical reasoning and follow her needs instead. She just wasn't sure she wanted to do that. Surely it would help her relax if she could get rid of some of the tension in her body, but was it worth it? Was that all she wanted from him? Did she want to risk it going awry and spend Merlin knows how long in an awkward atmosphere?

She was just about to give her answer, when a loud greeting came from the lounge.

“We're here!”

Neither of them were ready to let go of their time alone, but they had no choice. They barely had time to exchange a restless glance before the voices reached the kitchen.

“There you are, Hermione. Is there any food left?” Ron dropped his bag in the doorway and shuffled to sit down next to Hermione.

“There's plenty. Have some,” she replied, handing Ron the serving bowl.

He needn't be told twice. As he tucked in, Hermione heaved a small sigh and took a look at Harry and Ginny, who had also sat down at the table but weren't in such a rush to get to the food. Ginny had an interesting expression on her face, triumph mingled with curiosity, and Hermione looked away quickly. She knew she didn't want to hear whatever interpretations the redhead had about how she and Draco were sitting or what her sigh a moment ago had meant.

“So,” Harry coughed to clear his throat, “how are you?”

“I'm fine, Harry, thanks,” Hermione smiled.

“You...slept well and everything?”

“Uh... I did,” she assured, knowing her friend was probably worried about Draco hexing her in her sleep or something along the line. “Like a baby.”

None of her friends could possibly know which bed she'd slept so well in, but she was still worried. She risked a glance at Draco. He was staring at his plate intently as he ate, trying to keep the grin off of his face. As a result, he looked quite weird.

“What are you grimacing at?” Ron narrowed his eyes, misinterpreting the look on Draco's face. “You've a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in, that should make you happy.”

“Don't be stupid, Ron. Do you think he enjoys waking up in here?” She gave Draco a meaningful look. The corner of her mouth twitched a bit. “With a bunch of former enemies in the same...house?”

“It really is hard,” Draco assured with a serious nod. “I mean, just this morning... Wow. I really don't think it could get any harder than that.”

Hermione was having difficulties keeping her face straight. “It must have been painful.”

“Extremely so,” Draco shook his head as if trying to forget about the ”awful” memory. “But I'm still standing, so no worries.”

“Yeah...that's all very interesting,” Harry interrupted and then addressed Hermione. “What have you been up to in here?”

“We were actually having an interesting conversation on variables before the three of you arrived,” Draco told him before Hermione could answer. “We didn't have time to finish, though. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject later, Granger.”

“Ugh. I'm glad I never studied Arithmancy,” Ron shuddered.

“It's probably best you didn't – you would have been in way over your head, ” Draco quipped.

“No one asked for your opinion, nerd!”

“Calm down, boys,” Hermione soothed. “And Ron, don't insult people who like to study. It has never done you any good.”

The boy glared at Draco, but obeyed. Even though he didn't like it, he knew who Hermione would side with if he said anything more.

“Much better. I think I'm ready for dessert,” Hermione announced and reached for the dish in question. “Draco, would you like some pie?”

The blonde grinned widely. “Well, yeah – who wouldn't want a piece of that?”

Hermione had a beaming smile on her face as she cut a piece of apple pie for them both. She knew her behavior was bound to arouse suspicions, but at the moment she didn't care. As long as she could keep having her banters with Draco and no one asked too many questions, she would be happy.

 
 









A/N: Huge thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

This chapter is one of my personal favorites, and I would love to hear what you thought about it. What do you think Hermione might do with the whole physical interest thing? Can she control herself, or will there be action? :D

Hope you enjoyed it!

Love, 

Jemione

Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: dracosgem beta read this chapter, thank you so much for being so fast! You're the best :) 

Warning: There are lots of s e x u a l  i n n u e n d o e s in this chapter, too.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.







In Chapter Seven:

 

If I've interpreted the variables correctly – especially the rather significant one that...presented itself this morning – there might be an inkling towards some sort of physical interest.”

That sounds about right,” Draco gave her a crooked smirk. “And if your conclusion happened to be correct... What would you say?”

 








Chapter Eight 



“Granger, I've been meaning to ask you... What in the name of Merlin is that?”

Draco was pointing at the old-fashioned television that sat in the corner of the living room on a small cabinet. There was a befuddled expression on his face. 

“That's a television. Muggles use it for entertainment and spreading news around the world,” Hermione told him. “There are all kinds of shows and movies on TV.”

“Shows and moo-vees? What are those?”

“Well... I guess it's a bit like reading a book, but instead of reading you see what happens. Like in plays. I wish I could show you, but the TV doesn't work,” she sighed. “There's too much protective magic in the house. The wireless is fine, but that shouldn't be a surprise since wizards use them all the time.”

Draco shook his head a bit. “Crazy Muggles and their inventions.”

“It's not crazy! It's a lot of fun,” Hermione contradicted with clear enthusiasm in her voice. She hopped off the sofa, sat down on the floor in front of the TV and threw open the cabinet doors. “I really wish it functioned, there are so many great videos in here: Titanic, Sleepless in Seattle, Sense and Sensibility, Shakespeare in Love, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast...”

“What was that last one?” he chuckled.

“Beauty and the Beast... Why?”

“What kind of a beast are we talking about?” he asked in return, the corners of his mouth curving into a grin. “If it's what I think it is, I bet you'd just love to read a book with that title.”

She gave him a stern look, but the corners of her mouth were twitching, too. “It's not that kind of a beast.”

“What a shame,” Draco grinned. “It would've made an interesting moo-vee. But if it's not that kind of a beast, what's the story about then?”

Hermione grabbed the Beauty and the Beast video, closed the cabinet doors and took a seat next to the boy again. She furrowed her brows a bit as she studied the cover of the familiar movie. How could she describe the story without hinting at the similarities between it and their own situation?

“Well... There's this prince who's really selfish and doesn't care about anyone besides himself. One day a curse is placed upon him and it turns him into a beast,” she started her explanation.

The silence prompted her to go on, and she stole a glance at Draco. The hard part was about to begin. “He has to learn how to love and be loved in return before his twenty-first birthday, or he'll remain a beast forever.”

“Twenty-first birthday,” he repeated, blinking slowly. He would turn 21 in less than a year. “Well, does he learn to...you know?” 

“He does,” Hermione admitted, pausing to pick her next words very carefully. "A girl called Belle comes to live with him in his castle, and they form a bond as time passes. It's the thought of losing the other that makes them realise how they feel.”

Draco shifted nervously. He was clearly making the connections. 

“I see,” he uttered tensely.

“It's not so serious all the time,” she quickly added. “There are these silly little household items that sing and dance – they're actually the servants, but the curse changed them too. And the songs are really funny.”

She twirled the video in her hands nervously. The atmosphere could not have been any more awkward. If only she could read his thoughts... Did he think she thought he was doomed and wanted to save him from the same destiny? She didn't think that, not at all. Well, at least not that much. Hermione was torn in two directions. On one hand, she didn't want Draco to get the wrong idea. On the other hand, she didn't want to explain herself in case she was wrong about her assumptions regarding what he was thinking.

The silence was broken as Ginny suddenly entered the room. Hermione heaved a sigh of relief at the interruption.

“There you are,” Ginny smiled widely. The tone of her voice led Hermione to believe that the girl was pleased to catch her friend in Draco's company. “Ooh, are you going to watch Beauty and the Beast?”

“The TV doesn't work,” Hermione told the redhead.

“What a shame. She's made me watch that movie countless times over the years, it would have been nice to see someone suffer the same fate,” Ginny told Draco with a laugh. “Sure, it's a good one, but I think Hermione relates to the brown-haired bookworm more than I do.”

It felt like a bucket of cold water had been poured over Hermione. She gulped and glanced at Draco cautiously, only to find him looking at her, his eyebrows raised. Ginny didn't notice.

“Anyways, do you mind if I join you guys in a while? I'll just make myself a cup of tea first, it's a bit chilly in here. You want some?” The duo on the sofa shook their heads in unison. “Alrighty then, I'll be back in a minute.”

She twirled around and left the room, leaving Hermione and Draco alone in the tension-filled silence. It didn't last for long.

“So, that Belle girl is a bookworm, huh?” he mused with a smirk. “With brown hair, no less. Sounds like someone I know.”

“It's just a coincidence,” Hermione murmured without meeting his gaze.

“I'm sure it is,” he agreed. With a badly concealed grin and fake casualness, he then proceeded to inch closer to her, stretching his arms and resting one of them on the back of the couch directly behind her. “Just like me holding you near is a coincidence.”

“Stop that,” she swatted the arm away. ”Ginny will get suspicious.”

“About what?”

She could have bitten her head off for her slip of the tongue. “Uh, nothing really... She just thinks there's something going on. You know, between you and me.”

“She does?” Draco raised an eyebrow in amusement. “Well that just won't do. We obviously have to distract her.” He leaned closer and lowered his voice into a conspiratory murmur. “It'll be our little secret.”

Hermione turned towards him to remind him that there really wasn't a secret in the first place, but her breath hitched in her throat as she saw just how close the sneaky blonde actually was. She automatically lifted her head a bit to look into his eyes. 

Wrong move. Her brain scolded her the moment it registered the alluring magnetism in Draco’s gorgeous grey orbs. It felt as if every fiber of her being was suddenly tuned into the frequency that was Draco. Time seemed to stand still all of a sudden, and there were little jolts of electricity in the parts of her closest to his body. With such an intense awareness of the boy sitting next to her, she was surprised to find that her senses were still functioning. She could hear footsteps approaching the living room, and with great difficulty she snapped out of her daze and turned away from her rather striking distraction just as Ginny walked through the door.

The redhead's eyes grew wide as she measured the distance between her friend and the boy she sat next to. They were definitely closer to each other than before, but she thought it best not to mention anything. How could she observe them if they were on the defensive from the start? She sat down on a comfy armchair opposite the pair. 

Hermione was still trying to clear her head. She wasn't sure what had happened, or if anything had happened at all. She only knew that in the few seconds that she and Draco had looked at each other, for it couldn't have been much longer than that – although it had certainly felt like an eternity – her head had been spinning like crazy. Now that she thought about it, she realised her heart was also beating erratically. Abruptly, as if struck by lighting, she understood what it meant.

She was falling for him, fast and hard.

Closing her eyes, Hermione inhaled deeply to calm her raging heart and thoughts. She didn't think she could stop the feelings but she would try to keep them to herself. She had to, because only moments after her insight, she was already feeling quite vulnerable. The emotions she was going through were extremely powerful, and having been so caught off guard by them, she didn't know if she would be able to hide them for long. Ginny knew her very well, and Draco was sitting right next to her. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that something was going on.

Deciding to try and act cool nevertheless, she opened her eyes and put a smile on her face. Ginny was looking at her with a suspicious expression on her face, whereas Draco didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. In order to have something to do, Hermione retrieved the Beauty and the Beast video and got up to return it to the cabinet. When settling back on the sofa, she made sure not to sit too close to Draco.

The three of them started a conversation about nothing in particular. It was a relief and a welcome distraction for Hermione to see how well Ginny accepted Draco. She didn't give him any nasty comments about his past, but it was probably because she had never been at the center of the hostilities between him and their group of friends. Ginny hadn't been a part of the worst of it, but that didn't diminish the gratitude Hermione felt towards her. It was great to have someone who wasn't openly against the boy she'd grown so fond of during the few weeks she'd spent with him. 

The longer they chit-chatted, the harder it was for Hermione to focus on the subject at hand. She found her thoughts drifting towards forbidden areas quite often. It was difficult to keep the worried frown off her face when she thought about her other friends finding out and reacting badly. Yet that was nothing compared to her sudden yearning to look at Draco, when she knew she couldn't. If she let herself do that, everything she felt would shine right through her eyes. It had all happened so fast she hadn't had time to adjust. She needed time to think and regain control of her senses.

“Guys... I'm not feeling that well,” she murmured quietly, not meeting their eyes. “I think I'll go upstairs and lie down for a while.”

Refusing Ginny and Draco's offers to keep her company, Hermione exited the living room and climbed up the stairs, her head full of thoughts. It was one thing to do a little harmless flirting with someone, but quite another to become infatuated with them. Flirting didn't hurt anyone but there was a possibility of heartbreak should the latter get out. 

Now that she thought about it, she couldn't believe how blind she had been. Why hadn't she seen this coming? The signs had all been there, she just hadn't noticed them the right way. Like the pieces of a puzzle, it was all starting to make sense.

He had been making her blush since their first day at the first safe house. She had felt safe in his arms that day when he'd comforted her. It had been easy to let go of her defensive walls when she was with him, and she had enjoyed his company immensely. She had actually missed him when her friends had kept him away, even though she hadn't admitted that to anyone. 

Then there was that silly little comment – about her being able to do him with her eyes closed and all that jazz – had that been a message from her subconscious side? That was no longer an option, obviously. Doing him. Draco might very well be open to the idea, but now that there were feelings involved on her side, it simply wouldn't do. A fling would be downright dangerous.

What made everything even more overwhelming for Hermione was how fast it had happened. The circumstances affected the situation, of course. Staying within four walls all the time intensified every feeling she experienced. Their living space was limited and the people were always the same. There was no escape from it. Nevertheless, it had been a huge blow to have all these emotions bombard her right out of the blue.

She had been very attracted to him the previous evening, she could see that now. Honestly, what kind of an idiot was she, not recognising it for what it was before? Some genius she was. But she couldn't think of how stupid she had been before, not when there was a much more important question hanging in the air – what on earth would she do now?

 


* * *


 

After mulling it over in her head for quite some time, Hermione finally managed to convince herself that her newly discovered feelings didn't have to change anything. So she had a little crush on Draco. Big deal. If she could just keep acting normal, he wouldn't even notice. He didn't need to know about any of it, and she didn't need to worry about being rejected. Nothing needed to change.

If only he didn't make it so hard for her to hang onto that thought.

Once he was sure that she wasn't ‘feeling faint’ anymore, he continued with the sort of teasing they'd been enjoying earlier. What he didn't know was that her response to it was quite different from the one she'd had before. It didn't take anything special for her heart to start hammering like crazy, all that was needed was Draco's presence. She tried not to look at him straight in the eye, because every time she did, she could literally feel the changes in her appearance. Did he know that dilated pupils were a sign of attraction? She hoped he didn't.

At the moment they were alone in the en-suite bathroom of the bedroom, getting ready to go to sleep. Draco had slipped in to join her right before Hermione's friends had entered the bedroom. Ron's loud complaints about the sleeping arrangements had barely registered in her head, for she had been busy trying to control the fluttery feeling in her stomach. 

“Want to hear a secret?” the cause of said fluttery feeling asked abrubtly, waking her from her reverie.

“Sure. Tell me,” she replied.

She hoped her voice didn't sound too shaky, for that was how she felt. It got even worse when Draco moved closer to her. He was way too close. Her wide eyes met his teasing ones in the mirror for a short moment before he turned his head toward hers.

“I'm wearing my silk boxers,” he whispered in her ear.

His low voice sent shivers down her spine and her eyes closed automatically. Stay in control, stay in control, Hermione chanted inside her head. She couldn't afford to get her hopes up, there was no point in it. Nothing needed to change.

She let out a small 'mm-hmm' sound to show that she'd heard him. Draco smirked.

“How about it, Belle? D'you feel like trying to tame a beast?”

Her eyes shot open. What if something could change?

She wasn't sure if he knew any French, but he'd just called her beautiful. Could he really mean it? Her thundering heart wanted to believe he did. The she remembered she had a question to answer.

“Uh... Right now?” she mumbled, unable to think of anything better. “There are people in the next room.”

A grin spread on Draco's face. “Ever heard of the Silencing Charm?”

“Right, that... Yes, that would indeed be helpful,” she admitted breathlessly. A voice in the back of her head was shouting at her to change the subject, but she couldn't come up with anything.

“Granger, are you actually considering it?” he asked, the grin still etched on his face. “'Cause if you are, you know I'm game.”

A blush tinged Hermione's cheeks. “Of course I'm not considering it.”

“Are you sure? It could be a lot of fun.”

She was glad he was wearing a t-shirt with the familiar pyjama pants. Not only did it make it easier for her to resist his charm, but it was also nice that not everyone got to see what he had underneath that garment. 

“I think I'll manage,” she quickly forced the reply out of her mouth before she could change her mind.

“We can take a rain check any day if you like,” Draco winked at her. “Or any night. Whatever you prefer.”

“Sure,” Hermione mumbled before she could stop herself. She was glad to see Draco leave the bathroom after giving her one last teasing smile. As soon as he'd closed the door behind him, her walls collapsed.

Letting out a huge breath, she put her hands on either side of the sink for support. She was exhausted, both emotionally and physically. Could not showing how she felt really take up so much energy? If it did, she couldn't handle it for long. 

Why was he doing this? What did he want from her? He was interested in spending the night with her, that much was clear. If that was all he had in mind, she couldn't let herself fall into that trap. He would just use her time and again, and she would let him because she craved to be near him. Then one day he would be free to leave the safe house and she would never see him again. She couldn't let that happen. 

What could she let happen, then? What did she want from him? She wasn't sure. It was all so confusing, she didn't know what to think of it. She decided to try and keep herself calm. That way she could examine how she felt when she was with Draco, determine what it was she wanted from him and if it was possible for her to have that.

Glad to have made at least some kind of decision, Hermione braced herself and stepped into the bedroom. Everyone else was in their bunks already. She made her way to her bed, sat down and glanced briefly at Draco. Seeing the sly look on his face instantly made her wary.

“Hey, Granger,” he called, “Care to join me?”

“Dream on, Malfoy,” Ron hollered from his position on the upper bed closest to the door. “Like she would ever want to sleep in your bed!”

“Right... Silly me,” Draco smirked. But when his eyes met Hermione's, they both knew he was far from being silly.

To avoid any further questions, she quickly scrambled to lie down and pull the covers over herself. A moment later Ginny's head peeked at her from the upper bed.

“Hermione, I need to talk to you tomorrow.”

Great. Just what she needed... But she would just have to deal with it. “Sure.”







 

A/N: You probably won't believe this, but I was taken by surprise when Hermione realised she felt something for Draco. I honestly didn't see it coming until it happened! I mean I knew it had to happen soon enough, but I had no idea it would be like that. Crazy, huh? :D

As always, I absolutely love getting reviews and I answer every single one of them!

Love,

Jemione

Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
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A/N: The song Hermione hears on the radio is If You Want It To Be Good Girl (Get Yourself A Bad Boy) by the Backstreet Boys. You guys should totally check it out, it's a Dramione song :D (This story is set in 2000 and the album with the song came out in 1997, so it is possible. Just so you know.)

Warning: There are lots of  s e x u a l   i n n u e n d o e s  in this chapter, too.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

 







In Chapter Eight:

 

What did she want from him? She wasn't sure. It was all so confusing, she didn't know what to think of it. She decided to try and keep herself calm. That way she could examine how she felt when she was with Draco, determine what it was she wanted from him and if it was possible for her to have that.









Chapter Nine

 

When Hermione woke up the next morning, she knew the day would be different from the previous one. There was something building up in the pit of her stomach, and that something was anxiety. It seemed to be waiting for a sign or cue that gave it permission to release itself.

Was she waiting for Ginny to get her questioning over and done with? Instead of starting to harass her as soon as they were both up, the girl had let her have her privacy. Soon the whole morning had passed without a word, which implied that an interrogation was most likely about to take place. She would easily be found when it was time, Hermione decided about an hour before lunch as she made her way to the living room. 

She switched on the radio and walked around the room, cleaning up the dust with her wand and humming to herself. She thought about nothing in particular while she worked, which was quite surprising. Shouldn't she have been just as overwhelmed by her feelings as she had been the day before? Surely they couldn't have calmed down already. 

They hadn't, she realised as a new tune started to play on the radio. Their direction had only taken a new turn. The anxiety got its first cue to start going wild as she listened.

It was a Muggle boy band called the Backstreet Boys and their song from a few years back. The song suggested that if a girl wanted to have quality fun of a...certain type, she should get in touch with a bad boy – 'the one who's got it going on'. Oh, she knew who that would be. She had to turn off the radio in the middle of the song to get rid of the rather interesting images that were suddenly popping in her mind. Reading would help her clear her thoughts, she thought hastily and grabbed the first book she laid her hands on.

The book was a detective story with a sassy and smart female protagonist. She was assigned with a task to find out if a handsome, well-known and wealthy young man had something to do with the murder of the mayor of the city she lived in. She had to disguise herself as a maid to be able to move around in his house without questions.

The detective girl was making great progress because the suspect took a liking to her as soon as he saw his new “maid”. After only a couple of days of work, the man called her to his personal study and... Hermione groaned in frustration. They were suddenly having heated sex on his table! They had only just met! She slammed the book shut with a bit more force than was necessary. 

Realizing that a fictional character had more action than she had made her surprisingly frustrated. How come the girl in the book was getting lucky, when she wasn’t? And more importantly, why did she even care?

She knew where this was coming from, of course. Draco fucking Malfoy. Her head was a jumbled mess because of him. It was embarrassing, really – the smartest witch of her age, literally getting her knickers in a twist because of a boy! She had only just admitted to herself she had feelings for him, and now she was, what, lusting after him? This was seriously pathetic. Didn't she have any self-control left? 

Obviously she wouldn’t do anything about it, Hermione thought to herself, shaking her head fiercely. Although she had to admit that it had been a while... No, she thought and frowned. It had actually been a long while. Closing her eyes, she felt quite powerless as the anxiety hit her at full force. She knew what it was now... She needed to get some.

Should she go for it? There was a good chance of getting what she wanted, since it seemed she wanted the same thing as Draco. All she needed to do was find him and... What? Tell him she wanted to jump him? She couldn't even think about it without blushing, how on earth would she voice her problem to him? “Hello Malfoy, would you like to find a nice broom cupboard and shag me senseless?” Uh...no.

Hermione's musings were abrubtly interrupted as the very object of her thoughts entered the living room.

“There you are, Granger! I was looking for you,” Draco told her cheerfully. He frowned as he took in her bewildered expression. “Hey... Are you alright?”

“I... I'm fine,” she gulped shakily. The moment he'd walked in, she had noticed his shirt was untucked and the topmost buttons undone. There wasn't much of his chest showing, but it was enough to have her imagination running wild.

“Really? You look a little... I don't know, hungry maybe,” he shrugged. ”Is there anything I can do for you?” 

She was hungry alright, but not in the way he thought she was...

“Oh no,” she shook her head vigorously. ”I don't need anything, thank you very much. I need to go now.”

With that, she dashed out of the room, leaving a confused Draco in her wake.

Not even thinking of where she was going, Hermione hurried up the stairs and found herself in the bedroom. There was a familiar figure sitting at the foot of their bunk bed, and she knew she had to let some fumes out to feel better. At the moment she couldn't find a better person to talk to than her roommate.

“Oh Ginny,” she sighed in desperation, throwing herself on her bed. “I can't take it anymore. It's been over five months since the last time I got laid! I need release!

“Whoa, calm down,” Ginny set down her magazine and turned to look at her friend. “Where's this coming from? You just woke up today and noticed you're horny all of a sudden?”

“I...well...I guess it's been building up for a few days now,” Hermione replied, suddenly feeling guilty. She knew it was visible on her face, too.

Ginny raised her brows in question. “For a few days now? Is there something going on that I don't know about?”

“Well, you know... Draco's been teasing me a lot lately.”

Excuse me? You're feeling all worked up and horny because of Malfoy?” 

“Shhh! Someone could hear you,” the brunette hissed.

“Oh Merlin,” Ginny grinned. “You have the hots for Malfoy. I knew it.”

“What? No! It's not like that, I don't even like him! As a matter of fact, I hate him, I wish he... he... I wish he went away, right now,” Hermione hastened to explain. She could tell from Ginny's giggling that she didn't sound too convincing.

“Yeah right,” Ginny chuckled. “Hey, why don't you go ask him if he could help you with your...little problem? I'm sure he'd want to make it better if he knew what you were going through because of him.”

GINNY! ” The girl was having way too much fun.

“I'm just trying to help you out,” she laughed merrily. “If my advice wasn't good enough, I suggest you ask someone else.” She got up and started towards the door, talking to herself. “Oh this is just too good...”

“If you tell anyone, I'll kill you!”

“Sure you will, honey,” Ginny chirped and disappeared.

Hermione groaned, hitting her head against her pillow. It didn't really help to diminish her anguish, so she sat up and made to leave the room too. On her way to the door she passed the bathroom and suddenly stopped walking. 

She considered her options for a moment, looked around to see if anyone was there and after cursing her weakness in a low voice, she entered the bathroom. She shut the door behind her, locked it and cast a Silencing Charm. Heaving a deep sigh, she lay down on the soft carpet and slid a hand under her skirt.

 


* * *

 


“Granger, are you feeling alright now? You seemed a little tense earlier,” Draco asked when the three of them were having lunch.

Hermione blushed and Ginny tried hard not to laugh. She'd come back to the bedroom to get her magazine just in time to see the other girl exit the bathroom, a guilty flush on her cheeks. It hadn't taken Ginny long to figure out what had happened, especially after she'd checked if there was someone else in the bathroom and found it empty.

“Yes, I'm feeling a lot better, thanks.” She kicked Ginny under the table. The girl disguised her yelp as a sudden fit of cough.

“Are you sure? If there's anything I can do for you, just let me know,” he insisted.

Ginny couldn't keep her cool any longer – she burst into giggles.

“Would you stop it,” Hermione snapped at her.

“I'm sorry, it's just too funny...”

“What's so funny?” Draco wasn't following. “What's going on?”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Hermione said quickly, giving Ginny a rather painful nudge on the ribs. “She's probably a bit sleep deprived, that's all.”

He gave her an incredulous look but didn't continue on the subject.

 
 

* * *

 
 

“You really need to stop pestering me about this,” Hermione told Ginny a while later when they were alone again, sitting on Hermione's bed.

“I might just do that if you stopped lying to me,” the redhead grinned. “I've been watching you enough to know what's going on. Just admit it... You like him.”

Hermione buried her head in her knees. She did like him, but it wasn't that easy to say the words. It would make everything seem so much more serious, and she wasn't ready for that. She wished she could go back to the time when she was able to enjoy Draco's company without the constant storm of wild butterflies in her stomach. Yet she knew she couldn't do that. There was only one direction she could take, and if she wanted to succeed, she would need help.

“I like him,” she mumbled against her knees.

“What was that? I didn't quite catch it,” Ginny strained her ears to hear the confession.

Hermione lifted her head, and after Ginny saw her eyes, she wouldn't have needed to say anything. She said it anyways.

“I like him.”

After a moment of unbelieving silence as the redhead tried to comprehend the feelings she saw in her friend's eyes, a grin spread on her face. Squealing with enthusiasm, Ginny scrambled closer to hug Hermione.

“I knew it! Oh gosh, you're going to be so happy with him,” she cried happily.

“Let's not get too excited,” Hermione tried to calm her friend down. ”Nothing's happened yet.”

As glad as she was to have a confidant, it also felt weird. She'd been sharing little secrets and personal jokes with Draco for a while already, and it was odd to suddenly be keeping something from him. How overwhelming would it be to sit in the same room with both Ginny and Draco? Every time the blond gave her a comment with a hidden meaning, the redhead would give her the thumbs-up. It wouldn't take him long to figure out unless Ginny was able to remain inconspicuous.

The girl in question pulled away and frowned at Hermione.

“What do you mean? I don't even know what's going on between the two of you, but it's obvious that something's happening.”

“I suppose you could say that... But I'm not sure if there's anything on his side,” she shrugged.

“Oh come on! You should just go for it, don't be such a chicken,” Ginny encouraged.

All of a sudden a look of enlightenment brightened her face. It was soon replaced with a devilish grin, and Hermione immediately felt wary. Whatever it was Ginny had in her mind, it couldn't be good.

“As a matter of fact... You seem to need a friendly shove in the right direction. Hermione, I dare you to squeeze Draco Malfoy's butt.”

She gasped in horror. “Ginny! I will do no such thing!”

“Honey, it's a dare – aren't you supposed to be a Gryffindor? Where's your bravery now?”

“This has nothing to do with bravery! It's pure stupidity,” Hermione huffed.

“You may think whatever you like, but you've been given a dare and I expect you to give me a report of your progress in executing it. Preferably as soon as possible,” Ginny grinned. Before Hermione had time to protest, she had rushed out of the room, leaving her friend to sit on the bed, a horror-struck expression on her face.

 
 

* * *

 
 

Sitting on the sofa with Draco, Hermione knew she was in trouble. Not only was she looking at things from a different perspective after confessing she had feelings for the boy, but there was also that nagging voice in the back of her head that constantly reminded her of the dare she'd been given. It didn't help that the topmost buttons of the boy's shirt were still open, leaving a patch of perfect white skin peaking from underneath. Contemplating the inconvenient situation she was in, she had a feeling something major was about to take place.

And then it happened. She felt herself sinking deeper into the sofa as Draco shifted his weight and got up. He crossed the room right in front of her to rifle through the pieces of work in the bookcase.

She could have sworn she wasn't trying to do it. Honestly. She just couldn't help it! Somehow her gaze drifted to the delicious sight that was Draco's butt. It was nice and firm, and totally worth squeezing. Damn Ginny for pointing out she could do that. Except that she couldn't – it would be way too embarrassing. Amazing, sure, but embarrassing nonetheless. She could not believe how cruel life could get, and, in retaliation, she began banging her head against her knees. 

That didn't help.

“Are you alright?”

Hearing Draco's worried voice made her groan. “No.”

“Well, what's wrong?”

“I don't want to talk about it.”

Draco frowned. “Haven't I told you not to bottle things up? Just spill it. It can't be that bad. How about I get you some water and you work it out while I'm in the kitchen?”

Without waiting for an answer, he turned towards the door. And what do you know – his butt was once again in Hermione's range of vision. The only thing in it, really. It was screaming to be touched. She groaned even louder and resumed banging her head against her knees. 

“Not that again,” she moaned. Draco came back to her straight away to see if she was okay. “Sit down.

“Sure, I'll sit down,” he answered, feeling very puzzled. “Look, you need to tell me what it is. You're freaking me out. Did I do something wrong?”

“No, I don't think you can help it,” she mumbled. “It's not your fault, really.”

“Alright... Well, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Well, I guess you could find yourself some robes and wear them,” she pondered weakly. “Big ones. You know – out of sight, out of mind.

Draco shook his head. “You're not making any sense.”

“I know,” Hermione replied, sighing once again. Life really was hard. “The thing is... You really need to hide your butt. I'm going to squeeze it if you don't.”

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. She was acting all crazy because of his behind? Could this really be happening?

“So let me get this straight – you want to pinch my butt? Is that it?” A grin was spreading across his face slowly but surely.

“Well, uh... Actually Ginny dared me to do it,” she explained quickly – but not quickly enough. Draco had already drawn his own conclusions.

Oh... So Ginny dared you to do it. Sure.” He didn't believe a word of it. 

“She did! I'm not making it up,” Hermione exclaimed. She trotted to the door and yelled at Ginny to come down and prove her right. A moment later the redhead appeared in the doorway, a questioning look on her face. “Ginny, isn't it true that you gave me a dare earlier today? Yes? And what was it?”

Ginny's eyes widened. She looked at Draco and then at Hermione again. Did she really want to announce the dare in front of him? From the intense glare she got, she assumed that was the case. ”I, uh, I dared you to squeeze Malfoy's butt.”

Hermione turned to Draco with a victorious look on her face. “There you have it! I didn't make it up.”

“Maybe not,” Draco replied, an even bigger grin on his face for some reason. “But you totally wanted to do it.”

A blush was creeping on Hermione's cheeks. She had thought she was already past that, but apparently she wasn't. How dare he accuse her of wanting to squeeze his butt! Sure, it was true, but he didn't need to know that.

“That is completely beside the point,” she said, trying to go for a dignified tone. ”Now if you'll excuse me, I have other, more important matters to take care of.”

She had barely turned in the direction of the door when Ginny spoke.

“Uh, Hermione? Does this mean you're not completing the dare?”

“I'd love to hear the answer to that, as well,” Draco smirked. 

Hermione looked at them, disbelief written all over her face. “Is that seriously all you care about? What is wrong with you people?!” 

Ginny shrugged, a sheepish grin on her face, while Draco only looked at her with great amusement dancing in his eyes. That decided it for Hermione more than anything else. Narrowing her eyes and huffing in annoyance, she reached her hand behind Draco's back and, without thinking it any further, boldly squeezed his perfect butt.

“There you have it! Is everyone happy now?” she queried exasperatedly.

“I'm happy if you are, love,” Draco winked at her. “And I'm pretty sure you are. I have a nice arse, if I do say so myself.”

Ugh!” 

Hermione stormed out of the room, her hands constricting in anger. Ginny quickly glanced at the extremely self-satisfied Draco and hurried after her friend. She caught the brunette in the stairs.

“How was it?” she inquired curiously.

“It was amazing,” Hermione sighed. “I hate you.”

“I'm sure you do, but you're also grateful to me for making you do what you just did,” Ginny pointed out.

“I probably am, but then again I'm not exactly thinking straight today, so we can't know for sure...” And she sighed once more.

 


* * * 

 
 

While Hermione spent the next couple of hours avoiding Draco, the boy in question was feeling very pleased with himself. He'd thoroughly enjoyed the attention he'd gotten from Hermione because of that dare. He had always kept himself in good shape, and he didn't mind showing it off every now and then, either. If it helped him get Hermione's attention, he'd be sure to take advantage of his physical fitness. He wanted her to think about him even when they weren't in the same room. It would only be fair – she was all he thought about.

Needless to say, these kinds of schemes weren't something Draco normally had to use in order to get a girl's attention. They had always been drawn to him because of his better-than-average looks and wealthy family. That wasn't the case this time, though. His family would definitely not help him get into Hermione's good books, which meant he had to rely on his looks a lot more. He was good at showing himself in the right angles. Well, that and flirting, obviously.

He had tried to provoke Hermione with his flirting, and it had worked way better than he'd thought it would. It had been a nice surprise to have her respond to it. Her sense of humor was a lot like his in many ways. 

Yet he didn't know what was really going on in that head of hers. He'd caught her staring at him the other night when he hadn't been wearing a shirt, but he'd missed her reaction to the carefully selected pose he'd had on the bed. He couldn't possibly have looked at her without having a reaction of his own.

Draco frowned. Had it been his imagination or had Hermione been acting strangely for the last couple of days? When she'd looked at him, her eyes had seemed...wider somehow. And now that he thought about it, she hadn't even looked at him that much. Not in the eye, at least. Did it have something to do with Ginny suspecting they were hiding things from her? That sort of made sense. The girl had been right on Hermione's heels after she'd completed the dare. His mouth twitched at the thought. What a convenient dare it had been...

When it was time for dinner, Draco was the first one at the table. Hermione couldn't keep away from him now, and the mere thought of seeing her was exhilarating. It had never been like that with anyone else. The thought was a bit frightening, but he also knew he could never go back to the life he'd been living before. The funny thing was, he didn't even want to. At the moment he was practically chained to the house he was in, but it was very clear that it was a healthier environment than Malfoy Manor. He was in better company, and, as long as he was with Hermione, he didn't care about the rest.

She walked in just then, the redhead tagging along. They sat down opposite him. Before he could say anything, Harry and Ron joined them, too. Hermione jumped at the opportunity to keep the attention away from herself.

“Where were you two at lunch?” she asked the boys.

The two shared a look. It was obvious they wouldn't tell the truth.

“We had some...stuff,” Weasley explained lamely.

“Nothing you need to worry about,” Potter added.

Draco watched as her eyes narrowed. She didn't like not knowing everything that was happening around her, but apparently she decided to figure it out later, for she didn't comment.

They ate dinner mostly in silence. Draco observed Hermione every time he was sure no one was looking. She stubbornly kept her eyes on everything and anything but him. What was she thinking about? He had already finished eating when she slipped, and he raised his eyebrow in question. She quickly turned her head away, a hint of a blush tinging her cheeks pink.

It had to be about the dare – that was the last interaction she had with him. Was she thinking about squeezing his butt, what it had been like? The thought brought a wicked, crooked smile to his face. He knew Hermione would soon check his reaction, and he wasn't disappointed. She took one look at his teasing face and blushed furiously. She fidgeted in her seat uncomfortably and managed to grab Ginny's attention.

The redhead glanced at her friend and saw right away that something wasn't quite right about her. Her alert eyes quickly traveled from Hermione to Draco and back to Hermione. She wasn't an idiot, and she'd made the connection between her friend's uneasiness and his staring. Draco didn't really care. He knew who Hermione would be thinking about before she fell asleep.

Harry noticed that Ginny had stopped eating. Frowning, he followed her gaze to see what was going on. He registered the restlessness in his friend and the blonde that was staring at her, and dropped his cutlery on his table with a noisy clank

“That's it. I've had enough of your weird behavior. There's obviously something going on that I don't know about – what is it?” Harry boomed, irritated. 

“Oh, it's just my butt,” Draco smirked. “Granger can't resist it.”

YES I CAN!

Hermione glared at him angrily and he chuckled.

“Are you sure about that? It didn't seem to be the case earlier today...”

Ew,” Ron shuddered. “I don't want to hear this.”

He got to his feet and started towards the door, but turned around to pick up his plate. He then resumed leaving the room.

“You're a jerk, Malfoy, you really are,” Hermione fumed as Ron disappeared.

“And yet you can't resist me, Granger,” Draco quipped.

She groaned and buried her head in her hands, but didn't protest. That didn't go unnoticed. Harry's emerald eyes widened to the point where they looked like they would pop out of their sockets. He slowly turned to look at Draco, who shrugged. He was irresistible, what could he do about it?

Hermione didn't really feel like eating anymore, but she finished her meal out of habit. She couldn't look at Draco. How much had he guessed? Clearly he knew she was physically attracted to him, but was that all? Did he have any idea of how much she yearned to be with him?

Ginny gave her a comforting squeeze in the hand. She barely managed a half-smile to thank the girl. All she wanted to do was leave the kitchen, crawl into a hole and never come out. She didn't exactly get to do that, but she was offered a way out nevertheless.

“Hermione, can I have a word with you?” Harry asked.

She looked at him with resigned eyes. “Sure.”

They put their empty plates away and Hermione followed her friend out of the room. He led her to the second floor and a sitting room she hadn't been to much. They sat down on a comfy sofa, and neither spoke for a while.

“So... You and Malfoy, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess,” she admitted softly.

They sat in silence again, both lost in their thoughts. Hermione had been waiting for some shouting, and she was surprised to get none. Or she would have been, if she had been able to think about such trivial things. At the moment she wasn't capable of that.

“Has he been good to you?”

She started a bit at the sudden question. She looked at Harry, but he wouldn't meet her eyes. He was staring at the carpet intently.

“Yes,” she replied. She hesitated for a moment before continuing. “He's pretty great, you know.”

Harry nodded quietly. “I figured there had to be something...good about him. You wouldn't spend so much time with him if there wasn't.”

Hermione only smiled in response, and he finally looked at her. His expression was sad somehow. 

“I always wished you and Ron would forget about your disagreements,” he confessed. “But I guess that's not going to happen. I've never seen you look so alive with anyone else, not even good ol' Ronnie.”

He shook his head to himself. She could see he wasn't done yet and waited patiently for him to go on.

“I want you to be happy, you know I do,” Harry assured sincerely. “It's just so hard to believe... Of all the people in the world, he's the one who makes you happy.”

“I know,” Hermione sighed with a half-smile. “I didn't exactly see that coming, either. But nothing's happened between us yet and I don't know if anything will, so...let's keep it quiet, alright?”

“Yeah, of course. Just know that I'll be there for you, whatever you decide.”

“Thank you, Harry,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around him to hug him tightly. “You don't know how much that means to me.”

“I probably don't,” Harry admitted, patting her on the back. “I probably don't.”

 








 

A/N: Anyone who wants to squeeze The Butt too, raise your hand xD *raises both hands*

Did you think Hermione seemed OOC with her crazy libido? Obviously she has needs, too, but I figured she might be quite embarrassed about it until she couldn't take it anymore :D

In the next chapter you will learn more about how Draco feels about all of this. Any guesses? :) Also, if anyone is interested in discussing the story further, I have a new Meet The Author page on the forums. Feel free to stop by!

As always, reviews make my day and I answer them all!


Love,

Jemione

Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
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A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.







In the end of Chapter Nine:


I want you to be happy, you know I do,” Harry assured sincerely. “It's just so hard to believe... Of all the people in the world, he's the one who makes you happy.”

I know,” Hermione sighed with a half-smile. “I didn't exactly see that coming, either. But nothing's happened between us yet and I don't know if anything will, so...let's keep it quiet, alright?”

Yeah, of course. Just know that I'll be there for you, whatever you decide.”

Thank you, Harry,” she whispered, wrapping her arms around him to hug him tightly. “You don't know how much that means to me.”

I probably don't,” Harry admitted, patting her on the back. “I probably don't.”

 








Chapter Ten

 

Hermione spent the next day avoiding Draco. Ginny proved to be very helpful in the task. Even though she wanted her friend to face the boy and deal with the situation, she kept her thoughts to herself and came up with excuses to drag Hermione away from him. 

The way she was acting was childish and cowardly, Hermione knew that, but she just wasn't ready to go through with ‘The Talk’. How much did Draco know? Surely he must have noticed that she was acting strangely, but had he made the connection between her behavior and the incident at the dinner table the day before? Had he realised how correct he had been about her inability to resist him? 

Her head was swimming with thoughts, each one crazier and more desperate than the previous. She could feel Ginny's eyes on her as she packed her things – they were leaving for the next safe house that evening. The redhead didn't say much, but her presence was comforting. It was nice to know that whatever happened, she wouldn't have to go through it alone.

A few hours later, it finally was time for everyone to gather in the foyer and wait for the Port Key to activate. The five young adults and two Order members took hold of a hula hoop just as a blue light began to emanate from the Muggle toy. They felt the familiar tug behind their navel, and before they knew it, they had reached their destination. 

The new house was enormous, the first glance told everyone that much. The foyer was vast – there were a couple of doors on each wall and the staircase was remarkably wide. However, it was the biggest and greatest surprise that brought a delighted smile to Hermione's lips.

Hagrid!”

“How're yeh doin', Hermione?” the gigantic man asked, beaming.

“I'm fine, thanks,” Hermione grinned. “It's so great to see you! How have you been?”

“Been worryin' 'bout yeh, young lady, tha's what I bin doin',” Hagrid told her. “Lemme take yer bags, we'll talk upstairs.”

Without waiting for an answer, Hagrid grabbed Hermione's luggage – Ginny had brought additional bags and there were more than a few – and headed towards the stairs. The brunette followed suit. She couldn't help the awed expression on her face as the house was so impressive. There had to be over half a dozen rooms on the second floor, but the Hogwarts gamekeeper led her to the third and opened one of the doors. She stepped in, curious about what was inside.

The room was a bit of a disappointment. After what little she'd seen of the house, she'd been waiting for something grand, but the bed chamber was actually quite small. There was a bed, a closet, a full length mirror, a table and chair...and that was it. There wasn't even a window, but she had gotten used to not seeing the daylight in the past month and a half. She sighed. At least she had her own room where she didn't have to worry about seeing Draco every time she turned around.

“So... Yer alright 'n' everythin'?”

“I'm fine, Hagrid, really. I had a hard time but I've dealt with it... Nothing to worry about anymore.”

“That Malfoy kid bin buggin' yeh? Yeh know I'll set 'im straight if he's bin causin' trouble,” Hagrid grunted, his hold on his old pink umbrella tightening. The gesture would have been more menacing if he'd been able to stand straight, but the room wasn't high enough to allow that.

“That won't be necessary,” Hermione assured, fighting back a smile. “He's been pretty nice to me, actually.”

“Nice? Didn' know them Malfoys could do that,” he frowned.

“Well, Draco does,” she shrugged. “But tell me, what are you doing in here? I haven't seen you in ages!”

“I'm not really s'posed ter tell yeh,” Hagrid lowered his voice, “but they're puttin' more protection on the house... The Order, tha’ is. ‘S Harry's birthday soon an' lots o' wizards are gon' be here then. I'm helpin' out today an' I'll come back when I can.”

Hermione nodded slowly. July 31st was less than a week away, it made sense to start preparing already. The other side would surely keep an eye on anything the Order might do that was out of the ordinary.

“Yeh wanna head downstairs, Hermione?”

“No, I think I'll unpack first,” she replied. Anything to avoid Draco for a few more minutes. “You go ahead, I'll be down when I'm done here.”

“Sure thing,” Hagrid nodded and left the room, crouching to get through the door.

Hermione smiled to herself as she lifted her bags onto the bed and started to empty them. It was good to see Hagrid again, she hadn't realised how much she had missed him. Who else had she forgotten about? She would probably find out soon enough – there would be lots of people at Harry's birthday party. Turning twenty wasn't as important as coming of age, but it was still a big deal. What was she going to wear? She rummaged through her bag and found a pair of...lacy bra?

No,” she gasped in horror.

She dug deeper to see how bad the situation was, only to find out it was simply awful. Her modest pairs of black, white and nude bra were all gone. All she could see was – she whimpered in terrified disbelief – piece after piece of sexy lingerie that she was supposed to wear! There were tiny bows, cute little prints and lace everywhere. And matching panties, too. 

Ginny was behind this, she knew it. What else had she done? Hermione quickly went through the rest of her things to see if there was more damage done, and there was. She huffed angrily. What kind of flaws could the redhead have found in her night clothes? They had matched, after all! There was no point in turning her t-shirts into tank tops and shorts into hot pants, they wouldn't even cover anything!

Ah, but yes... They wouldn't even cover anything.

She heaved a deep sigh. So that's what the girl had in mind – she was supposed to prance around in front of Draco in these skimpy little things to get his attention. Like she would ever do that! If she wanted to get his attention, she could think of something a lot less degrading. Besides, at the moment she wasn't exactly planning on charming him. If anything, she would try her best to stay out of his sight.

She shoved the rest of her things in the closet and headed downstairs, intent on finding out if there was any brain activity left in her friend's head. Ginny was clearly quite out of it. Even Hermione had to admit, though, that she had done a wonderful job in what little time she'd had. The girl had only been alone with the clothes for a couple of minutes after they’d finished packing and Hermione had gone to the bathroom.

The brunette followed her friends' voices and found them in the large but cozy kitchen, chatting with Hagrid. She promptly sat down next to the redheaded girl.

“The house is great, isn't it? Dumbledore charmed it himself,” Ginny told her with an air of respect in her voice.

“Yes, it's lovely,” Hermione replied curtly, closing the subject. “Speaking of charming... Have you been to my bags?”

Ginny flashed a guilty grin at her. “They're all the same size, I just modified them a bit,” she admitted. “Aren't they cute?”

”Oh, they're just peachy,” she retorted sarcastically. “I was just wondering why exactly you thought I would need them.”

“Everything alright there, Hermione?” Harry interjected. “What happened?”

“Trust me, Harry, you don't want to know,” the brunette shook her head.

“Come on, Hermione, you never know when they might come in handy! There could be a,” Ginny cleared her throat, aware of the people listening to the conversation, “a situation where...it would be nice to have them, even though you probably wouldn't need them for long. If you know what I mean.”

Ginny's voice was completely neutral, but Hermione blushed nevertheless.

“I am not discussing this anymore,” she announced indignantly and grabbed a piece of toast.

They had a light evening snack of bread and tea. Once she was done with her meal, Hermione got on her feet and told everyone she was going back to her room. They wished her a good night as she left the kitchen.

Climbing the stairs, she decided to give her new underwear a chance. They were still the same size, did it even matter what they looked like when she was wearing clothes to hide them anyway? Ginny had gone through so much trouble to surprise her, it would be rude not to make use of what she had done, Hermione reasoned.

When she reached the third floor landing, she froze in place. Sitting in a comfy recliner, arms folded over his chest and clearly waiting for her, was Draco. She had forgotten to keep her eyes open for one moment and now she was in trouble. The was no means of escape in sight. Hanging her head in resignation, she took the first step towards the sitting area. 

She had underestimated one thing, however.

Her friends.

“Hermione, I almost forgot I wanted to talk to you about something,” Harry panted. He had hurried up the stairs jumping over three at a time. “Can we go to your room?”

“Sure,” Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. “Let's go.”

They entered her room and closed the door behind them. She cast both the Silencing Charm and Muffliato to make sure they weren't overheard. Then she sat down on her bed to let her suddenly wobbly knees rest.

“Thank you, Harry,” she whispered gratefully. “Thank you so much.”

“Anytime... Are you alright?”

“I'm okay now, I just wasn't expecting to see him... How did you know to swoop in at exactly the right moment?”

“Ginny realised she hadn't seen Malfoy in a while. I was done eating so I ran after you,” Harry explained. “She told me earlier that you weren't ready to talk to him yet.”

Hermione rolled her eyes but smiled nevertheless. "I never thought I'd be happy to have her conspiring behind my back, but I am now...”

“She attacked me the moment she found out I was in on the secret,” he laughed. “Ron might not be that eager about the whole thing, though. I think he was pretty dumbfounded when I left the kitchen in such a hurry... When are you going to tell him?”

She sighed and buried her head in her hands. Ron... He wouldn't take it well. He hated Draco. He hated seeing her spend time with him and he couldn’t understand why she did. Was it really necessary for him to know yet? He'd just turn even more sour, and there was no guarantee he'd have to see her and Draco together. Nothing might even happen. Her heart fell just a bit at the thought.

“I don't know,” she admitted. “I don't like keeping him in the dark, but I don't what I'd say to him. He'll freak out.”

“Do you want me to do it?” Harry offered quietly.

Hermione gave him a surprised look. “You would do that?”

“Sure,” he shrugged. “You would just get into a fight with him if you tried to explain how you feel. It'll be easier this way.”

“Thank you so much... I don't know what I've done to deserve this.”

They talked for quite a while in order to ensure the little charade they were planning on was believable. Once it was late enough, Harry left the room, wishing Hermione a good night. Draco had still been sitting there waiting, and she heard the raven-haired boy explain to him that she was tired and had gone to sleep already. The blonde protested angrily, but didn't come knocking on her door to try and wake her up. She listened to the boys' doors closing and sighed deeply once again. What a long day it had been... And it wasn't even over yet. 


 

* * *

 

Hermione felt absolutely ridiculous. She had just snuck out to go to the bathroom, wearing one of Ginny's two-piece nightie creations and a dressing gown. It was completely pathetic – she had actually waited in her room for half an hour to make sure she didn't run into Draco. How much lower could she sink? She was rapidly becoming a crazy paranoid person who thought someone didn't have better things to do than to follow her around. As if Draco would stay up to see if she was really asleep... He wasn't that desperate, she shook her head to herself.

After finishing with her evening routines, she reflexively prepared herself for tiptoeing back to her room. Then she remembered she was being silly and opened the door without hesitation.

But she wasn't crazy, she wasn't paranoid... It turned out she had been right to have suspicions.

“Fancy seeing you out at this hour, Granger.”

She jumped at the sound of his voice, her hand flying to her mouth to stifle the sharp and surprised intake of air. Her heart was suddenly beating a lot faster.

“Gee, Malfoy, you scared me!”

“Gee, Granger, I thought you were asleep,” the blond retorted.

“I... I was, I just went to the bathroom.”

“You shouldn't talk to Potter all night if you forget about things like going to the bathroom,” Draco narrowed his eyes angrily. “What the hell was that about?”

“It was nothing, really... Look, I'll talk to you tomorrow,” she responded evasively, hoping he would just let it go.

Will you?” he raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Or will you keep running away from me, like you've been doing today?”

“I haven't been running away from you,” Hermione argued quietly, not meeting his eyes.

“You haven't exactly been running to me, either.”

“I'm not your puppy,” she huffed, trying her hardest to keep the hurt away from her voice, to keep the tears from falling. “You can't expect me to spend every waking moment running after you like an idiot.”

“What?” he shook his head in disbelief. “I've never asked you to do that! You're just so different today, I don't understand... Tell me what's wrong,” he pleaded.

She couldn't look at him. She could barely stand to hear his voice. All the feelings she'd been trying to fight, every reason she'd had to avoid him, it was all crashing in on her. She wanted nothing more than to throw herself in his arms and have him tell her everything was alright, but she couldn't. She couldn't because it might not be alright. She couldn't let him hurt her.

She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. The tears were coming, she could feel it. Why had she let herself get so attached? Was there any way out that wouldn’t hurt? Did she even have it in her to try and get out?

Her heart skipped a beat when she suddenly felt Draco's hands on her shoulders. She shivered involuntarily. No... She didn't have it in her.

“Granger, please... Talk to me.”

Hermione knew she should talk to him, but this wasn't the time or the place. If she could just sleep over the night she might be able to pull herself together and find the strength to be with him again.

“I'm just...having a really bad day,” she finally whispered. “Can we talk tomorrow?”

“I suppose we can,” Draco agreed with a sigh and let go of her. “But don't try any tricks on me tomorrow. I'm running out of patience.”

With that, he turned around and strode to his room without a second glance at her. She had finally opened her eyes and it hurt her to watch his retreating back. Why did everything have to be so hard? She had only tried to protect herself, and somehow she had managed to upset Draco in the process. Wasn't there anything she could do right?

She cried herself to sleep that night.

 


* * *


 

Draco awoke with single-minded determination. Today he would find out exactly what was making Hermione act so strangely. He did not like being ignored, and he was intent on finding out why such a thing was happening. 

Everything had seemed to be alright between him and the girl. They had been flirting and having fun, then suddenly she had shunned him out completely. When had that started? He tried to pinpoint the moment, and ended up establishing it had been the day before yesterday... After she'd had a talk with Potter.

Draco scowled. Hermione was definitely hanging out with Potter too much. They'd had at least two one-on-one chats that he knew about in the last two days. How could they suddenly have so much to talk about? It didn't make any sense, unless they were... No, they couldn't be... Could they?

Were they seeing each other?

A cold feeling was spreading through his body, making him numb. It shouldn't even affect him if she was seeing someone. She was entitled to do whatever she wanted, and he had absolutely no say in it. Yet he felt it concerned him somehow – she had been spending quite a lot of time with him, after all. She couldn't just forget about him. A Malfoy would not be disregarded without an explanation. He had to know. 

A moment later Draco was out of his room, ready to confront the witch. So focused was he on his mission that he failed to notice the two boys lounging in the sitting area. 

He knocked on her door, but was too impatient to wait for a response. He stormed in only to come into an abrubt halt. The brunette was standing in the middle of the room...in her underwear.

“What the hell, Malfoy? GET OUT!!” Hermione cried out angrily.

“Oh come on, Granger, it's not like I haven't seen you in your underwear before,” he protested as she pushed him out of the room and slammed the door in his face. He shook his head to himself. “Women...” 

“What the hell was that supposed to mean?” Ron questioned angrily, only a moment later. Both he and Harry were now standing directly behind Draco.

“What was what supposed to mean?” the blond asked, irritated.

“Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about,” Ron growled. “When would you have seen her in her underwear?”

“What? I thought you guys knew,” Draco furrowed his brows. “She, uh... That's all they let her wear back at the Manor. Didn't she tell you?”

“Obviously I didn't,” came Hermione's cold voice from the doorway.

She'd quickly put on a t-shirt and sweatpants. She threw a murderous glare at Draco and stalked down the stairs, her male friends quickly trailing after her.

He could have hit himself. That certainly wouldn't help him in his task to find out why she was avoiding him – if anything, it would only give the girl more reason to stay away from him. He had to make amends before it was too late.

He couldn't get to Hermione during breakfast – Harry and Ron were seated on either side of her like a pair of annoying bodyguards. All he could do was sit opposite her and helplessly watch as Harry offered her toast, poured her a glass of juice, and performed all sorts of chivalrous deeds. Draco clenched his teeth in annoyance.

On the other side of the table, Hermione was beyond mortified. She still couldn't believe Draco had walked in on her while she had been trying on her new undergarments. He probably hadn't noticed what had been going on, though, for she had kicked him out fairly quickly. It had been humiliating nevertheless. Of course, she reminded herself, he had seen her like that before. It felt like a lifetime ago that he had washed her in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, his hands traveling all over her body... 

She felt an embarrassed blush tinge her cheeks. It hadn't been like that and she knew it, but apparently her overactive imagination was trying to turn the memory into something else. She couldn't think about that now.

Hermione turned to the boy on her left. Based on his stiff posture and sour expression, she assumed Harry had already spoken to him about her feelings for Draco. Ron wouldn't talk to or look at her, but...at least he was there. That was more than she could have hoped for. Though, she might’ve been in more trouble if it hadn't been for the underwear fiasco and Draco’s big mouth. She hadn't actually planned on telling her friends about that, but if it had to come out, she was glad it had helped take the focus off of her for the time being.

If only it could keep her from having to talk to Draco.

 
 

* * *

 
 

Draco hated to see Hermione in such low spirits, especially when he knew it was because of him. He really shouldn't have barged in like that, or told her friends how badly she had been treated at the Manor. Obviously, she didn't want to think about it and now she would likely be forced to explain herself. 

He wished he could make it better somehow, but he didn't know what he could do to comfort her – it clearly wasn't his specialty. The previous night he had seen she was hurting, and he had wanted to hold her and tell her everything was alright. Yet he'd ended up clumsily grabbing her shoulders and then dashing away, annoyed at himself for not being able to do anything else. He just didn't know how to hold her. He'd never dealt with anything like this in his entire life.

More than anything he’d ever desired to learn before, Draco wanted to learn how to be with Hermione. She was good for him, and he wanted to be good for her too. He was extremely lucky to be given the chance to know her better. The way he'd gotten it wasn't exactly ideal but, considering how terribly it could have turned out if he hadn't helped her escape from the Manor, he was willing to deal with what he had been given.

He remembered the day they had escaped from the Manor and the talk he'd had with Professor Dumbledore in his study. Draco told the old man that Voldemort had been fully aware of Hermione's captivity at Malfoy Manor, but that he hadn't considered her worthy of his attention. Harry Potter had been his main target and he hadn’t had time to waste on an insignificant little Mudblood. Draco had thought it ignorant to underestimate how valuable Hermione really was, and Dumbledore agreed whole-heartedly.

He had asked the Headmaster not to tell Hermione about the Voldemort bit – he'd thought she had enough to deal with as it was. There had been a curious spark in his Headmaster’s eyes, but he hadn't said anything. Draco wondered if the old man had suspected something might happen between them even then. It shouldn't have been a surprise. Dumbledore might have seemed a bit demented, but his thoughts were still as razor-sharp as ever.

That wasn't important, though. What really mattered was that the mere thought of Hermione being hurt caused him pain. The fact that he wanted to forget all about his previous life, the way she made him feel, now those were things that mattered. And if he was ever going to have a shot with her, he needed to apologise as soon as possible.











A/N: So, what did you think? How was Hagrid? I had to do some studying to be able to write his lines, I hope they're alright. 

I know some of you are probably dying to see Draco and Hermione together already, but I really don't want to rush them. We're getting closer all the time, though...

As always, I love hearing your thoughts! And if you have any further questions, please visit my Meet The Author page on the forums :)

Love,

Jemione

Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

Warning: There are s e x u a l  r e f e r e n c e s in this chapter. Don't like it, don't read it.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.








In Chapter Ten:


What really mattered was that the mere thought of Hermione being hurt caused him pain. The fact that he wanted to forget all about his previous life, they way she made him feel, now those were things that mattered. And if he was ever going to have a shot with her, he needed to apologise to her as soon as possible.










Chapter Eleven


Draco finally got his chance to talk to Hermione that afternoon. The Wonder Boys were nowhere in sight – she was sitting in the living room with Ginny instead. He hesitated at the doorway long enough for the girls to notice his presence. The redhead glanced at Hermione, who gave a nod to assure it was alright to leave her alone with him. Ginny exited the room and closed the door behind her.

Draco slowly made his way towards the brunette sitting on the sofa. Now that he could talk to her at last, he didn't know where to start. He stopped a few feet from the sofa and looked at his feet, his hands in his pockets.

“Why don't you sit down,” Hermione suggested.

He did as he was told. At first he just sat there awkwardly, looking straight ahead, his hands fidgeting. Then he made a sudden movement that had him facing the girl next to him.

“Look, Granger, I'm sorry,” he blurted out. “I really didn't know.”

“There was no way you could have known, I don't blame you.”

“Yeah, but I still shouldn't have said anything... I'm just really bad at this kind of stuff.”

“It's alright, really,” Hermione assured him. “And it wasn't so much about you telling them what I had to wear at the Manor. I just wasn't expecting you to rush in when I...wasn't dressed. I might have overreacted a bit.”

Draco was surprised to hear that. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to admit he had been wrong just like that, but then again he had been in Slytherin...and she probably hadn’t been placed in Gryffindor without reason. He was also surprised that he had barely even spared a thought to seeing her in the cutest pair of lacy, burgundy red underwear. Was he losing his touch?

“For what it's worth... I thought you looked quite foxy,” he told her with a crooked smile.

Hermione made a huffing noise, but she seemed pleased nevertheless. Draco was relieved to see a small smile on her face. This lighter teasing was what he did best.

“You know, you can squeeze my butt if it makes you feel better.” 

“Ha ha, very funny,” she rolled her eyes.

Draco grinned. It was crazy how such small things made him feel so ecstatic. Hermione wasn't yet as open as she had been before, but it seemed she had forgiven him and was smiling at something he had said. Should he test his luck with something more?

“So... I'm not exactly familiar with the etiquette in these kinds of things, but would this be the place for a make-up hug?” he asked hopefully.

“I suppose now would be the time,” she laughed.

They scrambled closer to each other on the sofa. As Draco wrapped his arms around Hermione, he was hit with the scent of her hair. It was intoxicating. He really wanted to nuzzle her neck, but at the last moment decided it might have been inappropriate. It was just so hard to resist her when she right there, so warm and petite in his arms. He could have held her like that forever... Or the rest of the day, at least.

There was a knock on the door and they broke apart reluctantly. Ginny peeked through the door.

“Is it safe to come back?”

”Yes, come on in,” Hermione called.

They were still adjusting their sitting positions to something that didn't look like they'd just embraced when Ginny walked over to the sitting area. They didn't put much distance between their bodies, however.

“I see you two have made up,” Ginny grinned.

Hermione smiled easily. She knew her eyes were shining brightly, revealing just how happy she was, but she didn't care.

“I suppose you could say that,” she admitted.

“That's good... Anyways, I was thinking if maybe you guys wanted to play something? There were some board games in the second floor library –”

Library?” Hermione squealed. “I didn't know there was a library here!”

“Maybe you shouldn't hide in your room all day,” Draco quipped, smiling at her. “Even I knew there was a library.”

“You can explore the library later, Hermione,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “So do you want me to go get something? Yes? Alright, I'll be back in a bit...”

The redhead skipped out of the room. It only took Hermione a fraction of a second to realise that she was once again alone with Draco. She was very aware of how close he was...and he was really close. There were tingles all over her body, and when she risked a glance at him and saw him smiling to himself, it only got worse. Or maybe it was better. She honestly couldn't tell, for all rational thoughts seemed to be escaping her.

“What are you smiling at?”

“You reminding me about seeing you in sexy lingerie,” he winked at her. “You do realise that's all I'm going to think about tonight?”

“Oh,” she mumbled, looking away and trying very hard to keep from blushing.

Draco smirked and casually swung his arm around Hermione's shoulders. “Am I making you uncomfortable, Granger?”

“No, not at all,” she shook her head vigorously.

It was a downright lie. Her heart was beating like crazy and his touch was making her feel faint.

“Are you sure about that? Look at me,” he purred in a dangeriously sultry voice. 

Gliding his finger smoothly across the side of her face, he tricked her into following the movement. She fell right into his trap and suddenly found herself looking straight into his eyes. Time seemed to slow down, and she couldn't look away – his stormy grey orbs were so mesmerizing. He looked like he was waiting for something. Had he asked her a question?

“Uh... I think I'm a bit nervous,” she gulped anxiously.

“There's no need to be nervous, honey. I don't bite,” he gave her a very predatory smile, “hard...”

Hermione's eyes widened significantly and her mouth fell open a fraction. She could see it very clearly in her head, the things he could do to her... Have her sit in his lap and leave tiny marks all over her... Her breathing was quickly becoming labored, and Draco's mouth curved into the most deliciously crooked smile.

As she watched the blond, she noticed him slowly lower his gaze to...her lips. There was no mistaking it, he was clearly looking at her lips. It only lasted for a moment, but when his eyes met hers again, he looked like he wanted to devour her. She suddenly felt very light-headed. She had seen something similar on TV, and she knew what it meant. He wanted her.

He was going to kiss her, she was sure of it. And she would let him do that and anything else he wanted to do to her, and she would bloody well enjoy it, too. How could she deny anything from him? Try as she might, she couldn't resist him. He had to know that, too. It was so unfair.

Was her head spinning or was he slowly leaning towards her? Oh God, he was. Hermione tried to brace herself for what was to come. Her lashes fluttered a bit, and then...

Draco wrenched himself away from her, his arm quickly sliding off of her shoulders.

“Act normal,” he breathed.

She blinked slowly. Act normal? What the hell?

“I got it,” Ginny exclaimed just then as she entered the room, waving a Cluedo box and dragging Harry along with her. “I thought it would be more fun with four players, I hope you don't mind.”

Harry seemed to mind quite a lot, actually, but he didn't say anything. Hermione tried to focus her attention on her friends, but found it rather difficult after what had just nearly happened. She shook her head a bit to forget about the heated staring contest she'd had with Draco and stared at Ginny as she began to set up the game.

The redhead placed the board on the coffee table and began setting the pieces. It was a bit easier for Hermione to concentrate when she and Ginny explained the rules to Draco. He rolled his eyes when he saw the miniature weapons. 

“Why can't they just use wands,” he muttered to himself.

“It would hardly be a Muggle game if they used wands,” Hermione pointed out.

“Yeah, whatever... Anyways, why don't we just play Truth or Dare? I know how much you like a good dare,” Draco grinned at her.

“Let's just focus on this game, alright?” 

The brunette shuddered a bit at the thought of playing Truth or Dare with the blond. If she didn't want to do his ridiculous dares, he could ask her some pretty revealing questions. Surely he was aware that she had some kind of feelings towards him, but the magnitude of them... That he couldn't possibly know, and she wasn't quite ready to tell him either.

The group started their game of Cluedo. At first Hermione felt a bit wary, and she carefully watched each of the players to see if there would be any trouble. She was afraid that the boys might get into an argument, but then Harry gave her a reassuring smile and she was able to relax.

She was glad to see Harry was giving his support, but she quickly noticed something else, too...curiosity. It made sense, for this was the perfect opportunity to watch how she and Draco behaved when they were together. Every now and then he threw a sneaky glance at them and exchanged knowing looks with Ginny. Hermione was starting to feel a bit panicky. What if Draco noticed what was going on? She tried to hush her friends with a warning look, but they only grinned in response.

Next to her, the oblivious blond was lost in his thoughts. He couldn't believe he was playing a Muggle board game with Harry freaking Potter. The two shared a history of hostility, and it was crazy how Potter seemed so composed. He wasn't clenching his teeth or anything like that. As a matter of fact, he almost looked like he was having fun... How was that possible? Draco could understand that the Weasley girl might be alright in his company – he had figured that Hermione had probably confided in her while they hadn't been talking. She was probably interested in seeing what the situation between he and Hermione was, too. 

However, Potter was another matter entirely. He remembered how the boy had interrupted his evening conversation with the brunette a couple of weeks ago and warned him that his behavior wouldn't go unnoticed if anything happened to Hermione. What could be the reason for this change of heart? 

The explanation was quite obvious... She was sitting right next to him. Potter and Granger were close friends and because they were Gryffindors, he would most likely do just about anything for her. But how would a board game help her? Or was this about keeping an eye on him? Would Potter try to put him in his place if he got too close to her?

As they played, Draco observed the situation inconspicuously. After Hermione had followed Draco's character pawn to the library, the raven-haired boy quickly glanced at the girl and tried to hide a smile. He frowned. Why whould Potter think it was funny that his and Hermione's pawns were alone in a room? Sure, he could see lots of possibilities in the situation himself, but it wasn't like they looked at it the same way.

Unless... Unless they did. 

Draco gulped. The look on Potter's face had been close to affectionate as he had watched Hermione move her piece on the board, as if he'd been proud to see her take action. Did he want to see his friend in the arms of their former enemy? And if that was the case, wouldn't he need to know that it was something she wanted? That was the only way it would make sense. 

A strange feeling enveloped him when he finally understood. What kind of an idiot was he? Potter wasn't seeing Hermione, he was only supporting her. He couldn't believe it... She wanted to be with him, she really did. And two out of her three best friends had accepted that.

It was good to know that she liked him, it truly was, but...he felt detached somehow. Shouldn't he have been happier? Shouldn't it have been great that her friends were so approving? Draco hadn't thought much about what others might say, he'd only been interested in Hermione. Now he realised that she was a package deal – if he wanted her, he would have to deal with her friends, too. He would have to befriend a group of bloody Gryffindors. 

He slowly looked at Potter and the Weasley girl, and then at Hermione. Her friends weren't all that bad, and she was definitely worth it... It could work, right? If he could spend a little time with them every now and then, he would, in turn, get some alone time with her. That wouldn't be too bad.

But when the game ended, he wasn't sure who the real winner was.


 
* * *


 
That evening Draco heard an unfamiliar slow tune playing over and over again in the house. It was quiet, but he could hear it as he sat in his room thinking. He listened to it for quite a while before deciding to see where it was coming from. As he made his made his way down the stairs and stopped behind one of the doors on the second floor, he had his suspicions. They were confirmed as he carefully opened the door and stepped into the room.

Hermione was listening to a Muggle song on the sofa. Her eyes shone with unshed tears as she sat quietly, looking at a lonely candle burning on the table. Draco could finally make out the words of the song.


Take my hand
Take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you


“Is everything alright?” he asked softly. He watched the girl startle a bit at the sound of his voice.

“Oh, it's nothing, I'm just being silly,” she shook her head dismissively. Yet she was wiping her eyes at the same time, and she wouldn't look at him.

Seeing her so sad didn't feel good. He couldn't imagine what she was thinking about, but if the song told him anything at all, he knew it had something to do with him. He knew that giving her the wrong impression was selfish and cruel, especially considering what he was about to do, but he couldn't stop himself.

“Dance with me,” Draco murmured quietly.

Hermione lifted her head in surprise, and he offered her a hand. She took it after a brief moment of hesitation and he pulled her up – and straight into his arms. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and her arms went around his neck easily. It was like their bodies were designed for that very position. 

They started to slowly move around in a circle. Draco knew it was wrong, but he still pulled the girl even closer and buried his face in her hair. He would never get to hold her like that again, and he wanted to make the most of it.

There were so many things he could have done to make her feel good, to make her long for his touch as much as he longed for hers. He knew it would be great if they were to add the physical to their relationship. He'd seen glimpses of her wilder side and was sure that, if he did the right thing, her inner animal would emerge...boy, would that be a sight.

Yet he knew he couldn't do it. A girl like Hermione didn't do one night stands – she would want a relationship. What did he have to offer? Nothing, absolutely nothing. He couldn't take her out on a fancy date because they were stuck inside a bloody safe house. He couldn't give her nice gifts for the same reason and, to be honest, he only had a couple of galleons to his name. There was no way he could guarantee any kind of future for the two of them. Draco knew that Hermione wasn't really a material girl, but surely she had some standards.

And beyond the material – what could he give her, as a man? Sure, he was good-looking and could keep a girl physically satisfied, but that wasn't everything. Though he was undeniably charming, there were lots of flaws to his character. He was nowhere near as brave or noble as the people she called friends. She hung out with the heroic every day, and he was just some selfish bastard. On top of everything else, he was the son of a Death Eater.

Who was stupid Saint Potter to say he was good enough for Hermione? He could never be worthy of her.

He was no hero. She deserved better.

 







 

A/N: The song Hermione was listening to was (obviously) Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley. It seemed so fitting, I just had to use it in this chapter.

Sooo... What do you guys think will happen next? I know that the situation seems bad right now, but don't worry – I won't keep them apart for long. The next chapter is going to be very important.

As always, I love receiving reviews and responding to them, so please let me know what you think! :)

Love, 

Jemione


Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

I managed to finish this chapter even though I was studying for my entrance exam, yay me! There are 4 chapters left after this one.

I wanted to thank everyone who's reviewed my story so far – it really means a lot to me to hear what you think about my writing! You guys have no idea how many times you've made my day, so keep them coming :) 

Without further ado... Here's Chapter Twelve. Enjoy the read! :)

 

Warning: An a c t  o f  s t r o n g  v i o l e n c e is mentioned in this chapter.

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.








 

In Chapter Eleven:

 

Who was stupid Saint Potter to say he was good enough for Hermione? He could never be worthy of her.

He was no hero. She deserved better.









 
 
Chapter Twelve
 
 

Dancing with Draco was like heaven. The way he held her... It was like he never wanted to let go of her. She never wanted him to let go of her, either. She could have spent the rest of her life in his arms. 

Hermione breathed in his sweet scent. She was resting her head against his chest and her eyes were closed. Being so close to him made her blissfully happy. It seemed that he liked it, too, and he had been the one to initiate their current activity. The thought gave her a spark of hope that drove away some of her insecurities...but not all of them.

Behind her closed eyelids, she could feel the tears burning again. What if it wasn't enough that he didn't want to let go? What if she wasn't enough? Could she ever be enough when she wasn't even that special – she just happened to be friends with The Boy Who Lived. Sure she was intelligent, but how far had that gotten her? She had a nice, challenging job, but she hadn't been in a serious relationship in a while. Whatever little involvements she'd had in the past hadn't been that meaningful, either. 

It was different this time, Hermione knew it. She was completely and utterly tired of being alone, and Draco seemed like the perfect solution to the longing she had never voiced. He excited her in ways she hadn't known possible. It was all so unlike anything she had experienced with anyone else. Could he be the one to give her what she greatly needed? For more than anything she wanted in the world, she wanted to be loved. 

Can't help falling in love started once again from the beginning. She knew it was foolish to rush in, but she was so ready to fall in love with him, to give him everything she had. The magnitude of her feelings for him scared her, but she knew there was nothing she could do to stop them. She could only hope that if she ever mustered up the courage to tell him, he wouldn't let her down.

As the last notes of the third round of the song died down, Draco slowly let go of Hermione. Her arms fell to her sides. She finally opened her eyes to look at him, and the tears she'd tried to fight fell down her cheeks silently. 

”Don't cry,” Draco murmured and gently wiped away her tears. ”It'll be alright.”

”Really?” she whispered, looking deep into his eyes in search for an answer.

For a short moment he looked torn, and a flicker of fear coursed through her. She got the feeling that he couldn't make that promise.

He hesitated and looked away from her. ”I... I hope it will be.”

Neither said anything for a while, nor did they look at each other.

”I should leave,” Draco finally said. His tone was strange and somewhat strangled.

Hermione's head whipped up. ”What do you mean, leave?”

He glanced at her, an odd look in his eyes. ”Nothing... I'm just going to bed.”

”Oh,” she nodded. Yet she couldn't help the feeling that something wasn't right.

”Yeah... Well, good night then, I guess.”

The way he looked at her before he exited the room left her unsettled. She really hoped that her intuition was wrong - she had a feeling he might be about to do something foolish.

 
 

* * *

 
 

The following morning Draco was the first thing on Hermione's mind. She had dreamt about him all night long. There were butterflies in her stomach as she thought about their last encounter and she tried, yet again, to analyse what had happened. She was almost positive that there had been something there...that surely he’d felt something too. But when he left, it had been a little weird. She couldn't pinpoint what was wrong, but she'd be sure to find out what it was when she talked to him.

That's what she needed to do – talk to him. It was unavoidable. If she kept mulling everything over in her head, she would surely lose her mind. She needed some kind of reassurance that her feelings weren't a complete waste of time. There was no need for her to reveal how deeply she had fallen, she only intended to let him know that she might be interested. What happened after that was up to him.

Hermione was full of anticipation as she went downstairs for breakfast, but Draco never showed up. She had two extra helpings of toast to postpone the moment she had to leave the kitchen, but it didn't help. Had he eaten already? It wasn't like she'd slept that late. Maybe he had, though... She positioned herself in the living room in a way that allowed her to see the kitchen door, just in case.

She waited for a couple of hours, chatting with Ginny so that it didn't seem like she was stalking the boy. As she glanced towards the door every now and then, only to find it wasn't Draco breezing through it, she thought about giving Ginny an update on what was going on. She decided against it, however. She figured it would only make her more nervous. Not that it really would have mattered... She was already going crazy.

Finally Hermione got tired of waiting for him. If he wouldn't come to her, she would go to him. 

Climbing the stairs to the third floor, she felt jittery but determined. Her hand was shaking like a leaf as she knocked on his door. She waited for a moment, but didn't get an answer.

”Draco, can I come in?” she called, knocking again. No answer. ”Well, I'm coming in, like it or not...”

She opened the door and stopped dead. There were no signs of life in the room, none whatsoever. The bed was made and none of his things were lying around. His bag was nowhere to be seen, either. She drew in a shaky breath and tried not to break in hysterics. 

Where was he? 

 


* * *


 

Hiding in the most remote place he could think of, Draco was deeply ashamed of himself.

He wished he was a real man instead of some pathetic coward. He wished he was good enough for Hermione. He wished he'd never had to do what he'd ended up doing... Yet here he was, sitting in a cupboard under the stairs, hiding from the world and especially from the girl he wanted but couldn't have.

He wished he'd been brave enough to leave. It would have been the right thing to do. If he'd just disappeared, it would have been easier for Hermione to forget about him. But as much as he tried to stay away from her, he realized he couldn't be away from her. He couldn't see her, but at least he could hear her voice as she talked to they Weasley girl in the living room.

Draco knew he couldn't stay in his hideaway forever. Eventually he would have to leave the cupboard, and she would see him. She'd try to talk to him but he'd have to be distant, cold even. It was rude but he had to do it, for her sake. She deserved someone much better than him.

Shaking his head bitterly, Draco swiped a spider off of his knee and prepared to do some more sitting.

 
 

* * *


 

The next couple of days were pure agony for Hermione. She couldn't understand the way Draco was acting. First, he'd been inexplicably gone for half a day and, when he finally showed up at dinner, he had been very unlike himself. He'd been indifferent towards her – his answers were short, and he was clearly avoiding being left alone in a room with her. Overall, his behavior was rude.

She soon found she had to confide in Harry and Ginny. The two were getting suspicious, for her anxiety was hard to miss.

”He's shutting me out,” she told them. ”I think it might have something to do with the other night, when we... Well, something happened, and he's been weird ever since.”

”Something happened?” Harry repeated slowly. He gulped as he tried to comprehend what it meant. ”Do you mean, like... Did you guys kiss?”

”Oh no, we didn't,” Hermione assured quickly. ”We just...kind of...slow danced a bit.”

”Ooh, why didn't you tell me?” Ginny squealed.

The brunette rolled her eyes. ”It didn't seem that meaningful after he started to avoid me.”

The event had indeed lost its meaning for her, or rather she had discovered new perspective to what had occurred between them. She’d thought about it a lot and it made sense.

Even though Draco was physically present, it seemed like he wasn't quite there. He kept their interaction to a minimum. He didn't smile at her anymore or do anything else that signaled that he wanted to be in her company. There was only one explanation... He knew she liked him, but he didn't want to be with her. He was just trying to let her down easy.

On some level she could hear a voice of protest. After all the times he'd teased her and flirted with her, how could he suddenly not be interested? It was all so confusing. Hermione wished that he would just tell her what was going on, tell her straight to her face – not being able to talk to him simply wasn't good for her. What she felt when he incessantly ignored her was nearing physical pain. One way or the other, it needed to be resolved.

Before she could even think about moving on, she needed to be sure he didn't feel anything for her.

 


* * *

 


As Hermione's head swam with dark thoughts, Draco wasn't having any fun, either. He wished he had left instead of being a coward and lurking about. He constantly ignored Hermione in order to let her down gently, and every time he saw the hurt look on her face, he felt so horrible he wanted to hurt himself. But he wasn't brave enough for that, either.

The only thing that comforted him was the idea that, since he wasn't on the run, he wouldn't be caught by Death Eaters. They couldn't force him to drink Veritaserum and spill the beans about where he had been and who he had been with. In a way, he was protecting Hermione and all the people who'd been nice to him despite his heritage.

Draco couldn't believe how much he cared about the former know-it-all. He had only wanted to have a little fun, but she'd turned his whole life upside down. Thanks to her, he'd learned a great deal about himself and what life could be like. How could he cause her pain when he owed her so much? Was it right to stay away if it made her feel bad? Because it clearly did. Was it selfish to tell her that he wanted nothing more than to be with her? Yes, it was extremely selfish. But shouldn't it be her choice to make? If she wanted to give him a chance, who was he to stop her?

Did he even have it in him to say no if she wanted him? Only time would tell.

 
 

* * *


 

It was Harry's birthday. 

The safe house was full of people – Hermione had no idea when they had appeared. To her surprise, she also found that the living room had expanded quite a bit and was now at least three time its original size. It hadn't been that small to start with, either. On top of everything, Mrs. Weasley had arrived early that morning and decorated it lavishly with lots of balloons and ribbons. It was a sight for sore eyes and, naturally, all Gryffindor colours.

Hermione had had so much on her mind that she hadn't even thought about getting Harry anything. Thankfully, Ginny had purchased a Quidditch book that was a present from both of them. Hermione had just enough time to make him a nice card, though. 

Just as she had predicted a week earlier, there were loads of people she hadn't seen in a while. Naturally, they were all Order members. The whole Weasley clan was there, as well as some Hogwarts teachers. Hagrid smiled broadly at her and Tonks gave her a frantic, jovial wave. As she stood in the doorway in her peachy summer dress, looking around at all the familiar faces, a warm feeling spread through her. She was so lucky to have them in her life. 

Her gaze fell on the blonde sitting on a sofa in the far corner of the room. She was happy to have him in her life, too, but whether he wanted to be in it...she wasn’t quite sure. She knew one thing, though – it was time to find out. With determination in her steps and posture, she headed towards Draco. His eyes widened as he saw her approaching. It seemed that he was too surprised to escape, and she was quite fine with that.

”Here's the deal, Malfoy... I've had enough of this cat and mouse game,” Hermione announced as she sat down next to him. ”I think I already know why you don't want to spend time with me, but you just need to say it to my face. I'm a big girl, I can handle it.”

Draco shook his head a bit as if to clear it. ”It's not about you, it's just... I've been thinking a lot. About that whole hero-thing. And I'm just not that guy.”

”What do you mean?” she furrowed her brows. The conversation wasn't going in the direction she'd anticipated.

”I believe I'm missing a very important feature.” 

”And what would that be?”

His heart was beating rapidly. He hadn't seen her coming until she'd been ten feet away, and she had successfully managed to scare him into talking. The only thing on his mind had been his reason to stay away from her. Now that he had started on this subject, there was no turning back. He would have to tell her, even if it resulted in her laughing in his face. He had never felt so exposed before, but he had to do it.

”Well, I'm sure you know the funny thing about heroes... They always get the girl.” He paused, shaking his head. ”And I don't think I'm worthy of that.”

Hermione's jaw dropped. That was not what she'd expected to hear. She blinked a few times and tried to regain her composure. ”Excuse me, what? Are you saying that –”

”Wotcher, Mione!” Tonks exclaimed suddenly and sat down next to Hermione. ”It's a nice party, isn't it?”

”I... Yes, it is,” she replied, displeased about the intrusion.

”I think I'll go get something to eat,” Draco interjected and quickly got up.

”Draco, wait,” Hermione pleaded, but he was already gone.

Tonks finally noticed there was something going on. ”Oh boy... I interrupted something, didn't I?”

”Well yes, sort of,” Hermione sighed. ”But don't worry about it. I'll talk to him later.”

It was easier said than done. Once she was done chatting with Tonks, she spotted Draco talking to Mrs. Weasley on the other side of the room. By the time she got there he'd already fled the scene. When Harry opened his presents, the crowd was too thick for her to get to him. Later she saw him by the drinks table, but she was pulled aside by Professor McGonagall on her way there. 

After chasing him for most of the evening with no success, she was ready to give up. Draco was nowhere to be seen. Not watching where she was going, she bumped into someone. Someone tall and bearded. 

”Good evening, Miss Granger,” Professor Dumbledore greeted her amicably and helped her regain her balance. ”How are you doing today?”

”Oh, hello. I'm doing fine, thank you,” Hermione replied. Yet she couldn't stop herself from scanning the room for Draco once again. ”I'm sorry for bumping into you like that, Professor.”

”I see you have something on your mind,” Dumbledore smiled. ”Is it something you wish to talk about?”

”No, not really. I need to sort it out myself. Thank you for asking, though.”

”You are welcome,” he said. ”But if you don't mind my advice – I believe you will find what you are looking for upstairs.” He answered Hermione's questioning look with a wink. ”That magic eye of Alastor's is quite useful sometimes. I suggest you go find young Mr. Malfoy already.”

”Thank you,” Hermione gasped. 

Her thoughts ran wild as she ascended the stairs. Finally, she could talk to Draco about whatever crazy theories he had! He didn't think he was a hero? If saving her from being group-raped by Death Eaters wasn't heroic, then what was? Not to mention all the times he had helped her when she hadn’t the strength to carry herself – he could have just left her alone. But if he didn't think he was worthy of having her, how could she convince him that he was?

At the top of the stairs she stopped to take a deep breath and smooth her dress. The door to Draco's room was open a fraction, so she didn't bother to knock. He was sitting on his bed with his back against the wall. He glanced up as she entered the room and closed the door behind her.

Wringing her hands nervously, Hermione took a few tentative steps and came to a halt in the middle of the room. She was more nervous than she had ever been in her life.

”You've been avoiding me," she stated simply.

”I know,” he sighed. ”I'm sorry about that. I wasn't ready to hear what you were going to say. But now that you're here... Let's hear it.”

”I just wanted to tell you that I... I really do think you're a hero.” Her heart was pounding so fast she thought it would jump out of her chest any moment. ”And I like you, Draco, I like you a lot. If you want me, I'm here. Just say the word and I'm yours.”

She was too afraid to look at him after she finished speaking. To be honest, there wasn't much she could see anymore, for her eyes were welling up with tears. It was one of the scariest things she had done in her life, putting herself on the line like that. It took all she had to not start sobbing.

She heard the bed creak as he got up. His quiet footsteps came closer, stopping right in front of her.

”Hey,” Draco said softly, placing a finger under her chin and lifting it up. ”I'm up here.”

Hermione met his eyes and blinked a few times to see him better. He gave her a small smile.

”Now tell me... Are you sure this is what you want? There's not much I can give you.”

”All I need is you,” she assured him.

”You've had me for a long time... Ever since that day you broke the vase and let me comfort you. When you needed me.” He paused to gently caress her cheek. ”No one's ever needed me before.”

”And I've never needed anyone like I need you,” Hermione sniffed, her voice breaking. ”I can't be without you.”

Draco pulled her to him, holding her close and caressing her hair like he'd done a few weeks ago. She clung to him like a lifeline. He was her lifeline – what could she do if she didn't have him? Her life would never be the same if he wasn't in it. She didn't want a life without him.

He didn't want a life without her, either. How could he ever let her go when he finally had a reason to live, a reason to become a better man? He would never let her go again.

He took her face between his hands, looked deep into her eyes and asked, ”Will you be mine?”

”Yes,” she whispered, smiling despite the tears in her eyes. ”I'll always be yours.”

”Thank Merlin,” he smiled widely, ”because I've waited weeks to do this...”

He lowered his face to her level and nuzzled her nose with his affectionately. Her eyes closed in anticipation, and he slowly touched his soft lips to hers. 

She melted into his kiss, and nothing else mattered.

Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

Warning: There are some s e x u a l  i n n u e n d o e s in this chapter. (But if you've read this far, you've probably learned to expect that. :D)









In Chapter Twelve:

 

He took her face between his hands, looked deep into her eyes and asked, ”Will you be mine?”

Yes,” she whispered, smiling despite the tears in her eyes. ”I'll always be yours.”

Thank Merlin,” he smiled widely, ”because I've waited for weeks to do this...”

He lowered his face to her level and nuzzled her nose with his affectionately. Her eyes closed in anticipation, and he slowly touched his soft lips to hers. 

She melted into his kiss, and nothing else mattered.










Chapter Thirteen

 

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Hermione sighed happily. Resting her head against Draco's chest, she smiled so hard her cheeks ached.

“I know,” Draco replied, grinning. “It must be killing you.”

They both shook with laugher and looking at each other only made them smile more. The tears that had previously stained Hermione's face were now dry and she didn't think she'd have any reason to cry again anytime soon.

”Do you want to sit down, or should we just stand here for the rest of the evening?” Draco asked merrily.

”Let's sit down,” Hermione replied.

They settled onto the bed, facing each other. For a moment they were disoriented – they both realised they were sitting on a bed and tried not to think about it. Feeling very self-conscious, Hermione folded her legs underneath her body, while Draco tried to come up with something to say in order to distract them both.

“So... You and me, huh?” he finally noted lamely. It seemed to work, however.

“Yeah,” she smiled. “You and me.”

Looking at him, she thought about how lucky she was. Suddenly, something occurred to her. Kissing him had been nice – really nice – and she wouldn't mind doing some more of it. They were a couple, after all, and she was entitled to it. But how could she express what she wanted when simply thinking about kissing him made her heart beat wildly in response? She glanced coyly at Draco or his lips, to be specific. She nibbled on her lower lip, unaware of what she was doing or the signs she was sending. 

One side of the blond's lips curved into a knowing smile.

“Would you like me to kiss you, Granger?” he asked.

She blushed, realizing she'd been caught, but refused to let the opportunity pass.

“Yes, that would be nice,” she replied with a polite nod, trying to remain dignified despite the silly grin on her face.

Draco chuckled and leaned closer to her. A breath away from her face, he stopped short and looked into her eyes. It was hard to believe that she was looking at him with so much faith and care. She was giving him all of herself, and he would be sure to give her everything he could, too... Starting with a nice, long snog.

After several nice, long snogs (he wanted to give a good first impression), they finally stopped for longer than the necessary breathing breaks. They heard a voice calling from downstairs and recalled that there was an actual world outside their little bubble. 

”Do you think we should go down for dinner?” Hermione murmured, following Draco's jawline with her nose.

”I don't know... I kind of like what where doing in here.”

”Me too, but when was the last time you ate something?”

“As long as I can feast on your lips, I'm happy.” Draco grinned and proceeded to prove his words with a hungry kiss.

She went along for a while, but then broke the kiss with half-hearted determination. The only thing separating their lips was her finger – at the moment, it was her best attempt to put some space between them.

“Seriously, I think we should go,” she repeated breathlessly. “This is getting out of hand.”

“Yeah, I think you're right,” he agreed and then let out a sigh against her finger. “If only you weren't so tempting...”

Hermione smiled, resisting the urge to tell him that she thought he was tempting, too. There was no need to boost his already over-large ego. She made to get up, but Draco grabbed her hand.

“Wait... Just give me a minute to calm down.”

She threw him a questioning glance. He quirked his brow and one side of his mouth curved upwards in amusement. As she grasped the meaning of the look on his face, her mouth formed an 'o' of understanding and she blushed. He needed to let his...thing calm down. It was a bit surprising to learn that she had that kind of effect on him, even though she remembered the the time she'd woken up next to him very clearly. And now he was, once again, having a hard time because of her. She couldn't help but grin. 

“Go ahead, Granger, laugh at the poor man. But don't forget that you made this happen,” he reminded her pointedly.

“Sorry,” Hermione replied, giggling. “I didn't realise I was doing something so exciting.”

Draco rolled his eyes at her cheeky antics. If he didn't learn to control his body, he'd probably be hearing a lot of the same jokes in the near future. He needed to find a way to keep her quiet or steer her attention elsewhere, for he knew it wouldn't be easy to remain restrained with a girl like her.

She really was special – at the moment, the sight of her had captivated his attention so fully he wasn't sure he'd be able to tear his eyes away from her. She was smiling at him, and it looked like she was glowing with happiness. He had never seen anything so beautiful.

“They're going to know, you know,” he remarked softly. “About us.”

“What makes you think that?”

“You... The way you look,” he told her. “You're like an open book. A really pretty open book.”

”That's probably the weirdest compliment I've ever gotten, but thanks,” Hermione grinned. Then, more seriously, she continued. ”Do you mind if we keep it quiet, though, just for today? It's Harry's birthday, after all. It wouldn't be nice to grab everyone's attention.”

”I won't say a word,” Draco promised, ”but I'm telling you, they'll know.”

She shrugged. If it was so obvious, there was nothing she could do about it, but she didn't want to worry too much in case there was nothing to worry about. With that thought, she stood up and Draco followed suit. Apparently he was calm enough already. He took a deep breath and looked at her.

“I guess this is it, then.”

Hermione gave him a small, encouraging smile. As they left the room, she couldn't resist reaching out to him. He shook his head a bit, unable to comprehend how the girl could be so sweet. Hand in hand they made their way down the stairs and into the dining room, trying their best to remain inconspicuous. 

She hadn't wanted to steal the show, but even with their discreet entrance, just one look at her told everyone that she was falling in love.

She looked absolutely radiant. Her eyes sparkled when she risked a glance at Draco, who was sporting a rather adoring expression, too. Only a blind man wouldn't have seen what was going on.

“Hermione!” Ginny squealed with enthusiasm, running from the other end of the room to hug her friend. "Took you guys long enough!”

“I told you they'd know,” Draco remarked and then grinned at Ginny. “Don't strangle my girlfriend, Weasley.”

“Oh right, sorry,” the redhead let go of Hermione. “I'm just so happy for you guys... I knew this would happen!”

“I suppose you did,” the brunette smiled and rolled her eyes slightly. 

“Come and sit down,” Ginny led them to empty seats beside her.

Hermione and Draco sat down obediently and filled their plates with delicious food. It didn't really matter what they were eating, though – they only had eyes for each other. All throughout dinner they were smiling like idiots, unable to stop looking at one another. They didn't spare a thought to what kind of food they put into their mouths. 

As the dinner drew to an end, the new couple started to receive wishes of luck. Mrs. Weasley gave Hermione a big hug and smiled warmly at Draco, congratulating them both. Harry nodded and smiled at Hermione after catching her eye, as did Professor Dumbledore, eyes twinkling merrily. The Weasley twins informed the two that they had to leave, but promised to put Draco to a test when they came back.

The couple was so immersed in the company of their congratulators and each other that neither of them noticed Ron leaving the room, looking like he was about to be sick.

Finally, due to the late hour, people started exiting the dining room to get ready for bed. Hermione got up reluctantly. Separating from Draco was inevitable, and approaching fast, but she wasn't quite ready for it. As they ascended the stairs together, she felt an uncharacteristic pout begin to pull her face.

“Are you alright?” Draco asked her, worried as he noticed her expression.

“I don't want to go to sleep yet,” she huffed, feeling very childish, but she just couldn't help it.

“Then don't,” he offered simply with an amused smile. When she didn't respond, the look on his face turned to one of nervousness and pleading. “Stay with me, will you?” 

“What?” Hermione's head whipped up in surprise.

“Stay with me,” he repeated. “In my room. For the night.”

She looked up at him, not fully understanding what he meant at first. As the request registered in her head, a wide smile spread on her face. If there was any chance of staying with him, she would take it.

“Yes, of course I'll stay,” she rejoiced. “Let me just get my things and brush my teeth!”

She gave him a small peck on the cheek and skipped to her room. She changed into her pyjamas – the ones that covered the most – and grabbed her bag of toiletries as fast as she could. In the bathroom she tried to be fast but thorough, but kept dropping things in her excited rush. There was no hurry, really, because she knew he'd be waiting for her. Still, she just couldn't get back to him fast enough.

Flinging the bathroom door open once she was finished, Hermione ran straight into Ginny on her way to return her things to her room. 

”Whoa! What's the rush?” the redhead exclaimed, rubbing her now sore arm with a frown on her face.

“Oh gosh, I'm sorry! I didn't see you there,” the brunette apologised breathlessly. ”I'm just...kind of...in a hurry.”

A knowing smile spread on Ginny's face. ”Oh, I see. You’ve got a nightly rendezvous with someone special?”

The sly tone of her voice made Hermione blush guiltily. “Uh... I'm actually staying with Draco for the night.”

“Already?!” the redhead's eyebrows shot up in surprise. ‘That was fast! I hope you're being safe?”

Ginny!” she hissed, her blush deepening. “We're not going to do anything!”

“Of course not,” the girl rolled her eyes, clearly disbelieving. “In any case, good luck and tell me all about it in the morning!”

Hermione huffed indignantly as her friend disappeared into the bathroom. How dare she insinuate that she would do that after only a couple of hours of dating! It was out of the question. She had to calm herself down in her room for a minute before facing Draco again, for she didn't want to think too much and ruin her good mood.

As she stepped back into Draco's room and saw him waiting for her, all negative thoughts left her. A smile spread over her face for the umpteenth time that evening – how could anything be wrong when she was with him? 

As she appraised the young man who stood in front of her in his pyjama bottoms and a t-shirt, a devilish grin formed on said young man's face.

“Thank heavens for the Cooling Charm,” he waggled his eyebrows as he eyed her from head to toe. ”'Cause it just got smoking hot in here.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but couldn't help laughing at his cheesy line. “Do you have a book with the worst pick-up lines or something? How do you come up with those?” 

“I figure it doesn't matter what I say, since I've already picked you up.” Draco shrugged and grinned.

“Ah, yes. You do have a point,” she admitted with an exaggerated sigh and moved to snuggle against him. ”But don't push your luck too much.”

”I won't,” he murmured and wrapped his arms around her. He breathed in the scent of her hair and then resumed talking. “So why did you agree to stay with me so quickly?”

“I didn't want to be away from you,” she confessed. “But don't let that get to your head.”

It was too late, though. Draco was already looking very smug. Hermione looked up at him, shook her head and disentangled herself from his embrace. She stepped towards the bed, but stopped short a moment later. Hadn't it been...smaller? And where had the extra pillow and blanket come from?

The blond noticed her hesitation as she surveyed the bed.

“I wouldn't want my girlfriend to sleep uncomfortably,” he explained and coughed uneasily.

She turned her head and looked at him, standing there with his hands in his pockets and looking at his feet. She turned away quickly to hide her smile. He was so cute, trying to act the bad boy even though it was quite evident that he had a soft spot for his girlfriend. She felt a bit light-headed at the thought of her new ‘status’. 

“Well, let's see how well I'm going to sleep in this,” Hermione commented lightly and dug under the covers.

A few moments later, she and Draco were both in the bed, cozily wrapped in their blankets. The brunette blew a lock of curly hair out of her face. She couldn't think of anything to say, and the silence was starting to drag on. It wasn't a comfortable kind of silence, either – it was one of those awkward ones that needed to be broken.

“I don't feel that sleepy yet,” she blurted out the first thing that came to mind and regretted it the moment she heard Draco's answer.

“Me neither.”

His voice was silky and low and it made her head spin. She should have thought twice about the whole sleepover thing before agreeing to it... How was she supposed sleep with him next to her? She’d just told him that she wasn't sleepy, and now she'd have to try and think up a good conversation. Listening to his alluring voice would not be an easy task, not to mention having to come up with a smart reply. 

Draco turned to lie on his side, facing her. Hermione instinctively mimicked his actions and felt her brain turn to mush as she looked at him lying there, looking very relaxed.

“So... What would you like to do?” he asked in that same, silky tone. She wasn't sure if he was trying to sound seductive, but boy, he did.

Out of nowhere, a very strong urge to touch him overtook her. Her eyes were drawn to where a patch of his white skin was showing just above the waistline of his pyjama pants. Her hand was practically itching to slip under his shirt and trace the patterns of his muscles until she knew them by heart. Before she could stop herself, she followed her craving.

Draco's sharp intake of breath at the touch of her hand caused her to look up in wonder. His whole body had tensed and he had squeezed his eyes shut. At that moment Hermione understood that his cool demeanor was just an act, for he was every bit as nervous as she was. The feel of her hand on his lower stomach – dangeriously low, she now realised – had made his body react involuntarily. The shallow breathing told her he was anticipating something to happen. 

Her eyes widened dramatically as she figured out what that something was. He thought her actions were an answer to his question about what she wanted to do! She quickly withdrew her greedy hand from under his shirt, wrapped her arms around Draco and hugged him. She wasn't ready for things to get ouf of control, and judging by the relief emanating from him as he relaxed and hugged her back, neither was he.

“For a moment I thought you were going to jump me,” he chuckled. He'd clearly gone back to cheeky in a matter of seconds.

“Sorry, I wasn't thinking,” Hermione confessed, blushing.

“That's alright, baby. I know I'm irresistible.”

“Draco!” she smacked him lightly on the shoulder. “That's hardly fair. I only lost control for one moment, don't tell me you've never done that.”

“Sure I have, but I've been on my best behavior with you, darling. Wouldn't want to scare you away... I don't know how much you like animals,” he grinned lecherously.

“A-animals?” Hermione stuttered nervously.

“That's right, baby... Wild animals.”

She gulped audibly. She wasn't quite sure what she thought about the turn their conversation had taken. The tone of his voice was once again making her heart beat faster, and she suddenly felt like a prey being stalked by a predator. And what a dangerous predator it was... If he were to attack, she didn't know if she could resist him. If he wished to sink his teeth into her, maybe she’d just let him.

“A little scared, my little Gryffindor?” Draco laughed softly. “Don't worry, baby, I would never do anything you didn't want to do. You know that, right?”

He lifted Hermione's chin with his finger to look into her eyes, and she believed him. The only problem was that if he had any suggestions in the near future, however raunchy they may be, she might very well say yes. 

But as much as she wanted to cave in and let her desires lead the way, she knew she shouldn't. Yes, she wanted to be with him, but she had never been easy and she wasn't about to give up on her values now. She would know when the time was right...and then he could do whatever he pleased with her.

 
 

* * *


 

The next days were the happiest in a long time for both of them. They were kissing and cuddling at every chance they got. Not in the presence of others, though – in order to be polite, they had to leave whatever company they were in several times a day to get a refill on each other. Breakfast was usually eaten rather quickly, for example. It didn't seem to matter that they'd just spent the entire night under the same covers. 

In the daytime they sometimes played games with Harry and Ginny, but the two soon learned not to pick anything that lasted for more than 30 minutes. That was about how long it took the new couple to suddenly remember they had to attend to something immediately. That something was a pleasant session of snogging in the nearest cupboard or empty room, naturally.

In the evenings they talked about their lives and tested their self-control. They were both very careful not to cross any unspoken limits. The touches were light and gentle, and stayed away from forbidden areas. While they were definitely getting to know each other, they didn't want to be too thorough.

After following their routine for a few days, Hermione felt confident about their abilities to restrain themselves, and gave herself permission to slip a bit. She was nestled comfortably against Draco, who was lying on his back and had his arm draped around her. She made sure to give him a warning look before tentatively slipping her hand under his shirt. It wasn't something she'd thought about that much, but she was the kind of girl who liked to finish what she'd started. And she hadn't been able to get acquainted with her boyfriend's abs the first time she'd tried. 

The blond watched her work her way up and down his stomach with a smile on his lips. Her meticulous inspection of his body could have been considered neurotic, but he thought it was endearing. It was fascinating to see how eager she was to learn new things – if it happened to be his body she wanted to study, who was he to stop her?

“You're freaking amazing, Granger, you know that?” 

Hermione looked up in surprise at the sound of his voice. She had completely lost herself in memorizing the shapes she'd found, and it took her a moment to register his words.

“Oh yeah? Why didn't you tell me you like me earlier, then?”

“I guess I wasn't brave enough,” Draco admitted. “That day when I was gone for a while, I, uh – I was hiding in a cupboard under the stairs, thinking I should just stay away from you so you could forget that I exist.”

“Oh my,” Hermione giggled. ”You stayed in...a cupboard? Thinking about sacrificing your own happiness for me? I never realised you were such a Gryffindor!”

What?” he flinched. “Gryffindor? Me? I don't think so!”

“I'm sure it's hard to believe,” she soothed him. “I just happen to know someone who's also spent some time in a cupboard, and put himself on the line to help others more times than I can count. And he's the epitome of Gryffindor.”

“Who, Potter?” Draco scoffed and rolled his eyes. The pointed look he got from Hermione changed his tone. “What? Really?

“It wasn't his choice, but yes, he actually lived in a cupboard for ten years. And don't you dare tease him about that.”

“I wasn't going to,” he rolled his eyes again, “much...”

The brunette shook her head. “My point was that you're a lot more Gryffindor than you think.”

“It's probably contagious,” Draco shrugged. “I think I've been spending too much time with you and your gang of Gryffindorks.”

Hermione finally removed her hand from under his shirt to smack him lightly. “I could leave if you think I'm such a bad influence.”

“Nah, that's alright... I think I can put up with you for a while longer.” He grinned and grabbed her into a bear hug. “Now stop talking and let's see if you can give me some Gryffie bugs through the mouth...”







 

A/N: So that was Chapter Thirteen! How did you like it? Hope it wasn't too fluffy. Anyone care to take a wild guess about what might possibly happen in the next chapter? ;) 

If anyone's been worrying about me not finishing this story, don't worry. It might take me some time, but I WILL finish this. Starting from September I'll probably be pretty busy for some years, because... I'm finally going to university!! :))) I'm really really happy about that so I hope that you'll support me even if it takes me longer to update.

Anyways, I'd love to hear what you thought of this chapter, so please leave a review if you have a few extra minutes! :)

Love,

Jemione

Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 
A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :)

Warning: There are s c e n e s  o f  a  s e x u a l  n a t u r e , s t r o n g  l a n g u a g e and lots of s e x u a l  i n n u e n d o e s in this chapter. Don't like it, don't read it.






In Chapter Thirteen:


I would never do anything you don't want to do. You know that, right?”

He lifted Hermione's chin with his finger to look into her eyes, and she believed him. The only problem was that if he had any suggestions in the near future, however raunchy they may be, she might very well say yes.








Chapter Fourteen

 

The safe house was full of Order members.

While preparing to join Draco for breakfast downstairs, Hermione exited the bathroom and spied Kingley Shacklebolt lounging in the sitting area. He was reading the Daily Prophet with a deep frown on his face. As she descended to the second floor, she greeted Mr. Weasley, who quickly waved his hand before closing the door to one of the sitting rooms behind him. On the last flight of stairs she passed Tonks, who was focused on levitating her large and heavy-looking bag upstairs. Moody stood in the foyer, his magical eye spinning wildly as he scanned his surroundings. Hermione could hear Molly Weasley and Hestia Jones discussing the former's plan for lunch in the kitchen. She also heard raucous laughter coming from the living room. She recognised Hagrid's voice, and...was that Charlie Weasley?

Peeking into the living room she saw that it was, indeed, the Weasley brother she’d thought it was. He and Hagrid were undoubtedly having a conversation about dragons. Charlie spotted her in the doorway and grinned widely.

“Well, if it isn't my favourite bookworm! You look great, Hermione,” he complimented. “How have you been?”

“I've been good, thanks,” she replied dazedly. “You...you're not in Romania.”

“And you're as smart as ever,” Charlie winked.

Hermione blushed. Of course she knew that he wasn't in Romania – he was in the same room as her! It had just been a surprise to see him after such a long time. What was he doing in the safe house, anyways? What were all of the numerous Order members doing there? 

“There you are, Hermione,” Lupin’s voice rang out behind her, effectively breaking her train of thought. “Can I see you for a moment?”

“Uh, sure... I'll talk to you later, Charlie!”

She followed Lupin to a small sitting room and, to her surprise, Draco was also there. He gave her an anxious smile as he stood there with his arms folded across his chest, clearly waiting for something.

“You must be wondering what this is all about,” Lupin said. “I'm sure you've noticed that the house is getting quite crowded. We are actually having some trouble finding rooms for all the people here, and some that are joining us later.”

“Can't you just expand the house some more?”

“We would, but there’s only so much we can do. Some smaller changes can be made, but this particular house has reached its limit. We've been trying to come up with alternative options – this is where you come in,” he nodded towards Hermione. “I really wouldn't ask this if it wasn't absolutely necessary, but Minerva is arriving later today and I would hate to make her sleep on the sofa.”

“Of course,” she agreed with a smile. “What can I do to help?”

Lupin glanced towards Draco. “Well... It seems that you have been spending quite a lot of time in this young man's room already. Would you mind terribly if I asked you to move into his room and give yours to Professor McGonagall? Draco says he's fine with the idea.”

She looked at the blond in surprise, her heart suddenly beating a bit faster. He wanted her to stay with him, after only a week – eight days to be precise – of dating? Sure, she had slept in his bed every single night since they'd gotten together, but this was different. Staying in the same room officially would be almost like living together. If Draco was ready to take that big a step, then so was she.

The boy had been watching her face closely to see her reaction, and he relaxed visibly as she broke into a smile.

“Yes, of course I can do that,” she confirmed. “I don't mind at all!”

“Thank you,” Lupin sighed. “Of course we will make some adjustments to make the transition more comfortable for you.”

“That's nice of you,” Hermione replied absently - she was distracted by the way Draco's eyes sparkled as he looked at her. He wore a huge grin on his face and strolled towards her, leaning down to give her a quick kiss.

“Go get breakfast, honey,” he told her. “I already ate. I'll go upstairs with Lupin and we'll get everything ready in the room. I'll see you in a bit.”

“Okay,” she smiled. “See you.”

She followed the two men out of the room but headed towards the dining room instead of the stairwell. She filled her plate, prepared a cup of tea, and sat down next to Ginny. The redhead grinned at her friend's dazed expression.

“You're moving in with him, aren't you?”

Hermione looked at the girl with wide eyes, her mouth hanging open from the surprisingly accurate assumption. “How...how did you know?”

“Well, I thought you might be at that point in your relationship,” Ginny teased.

Hermione gave her a scathing look and she chuckled. “I’m just kidding, Hermione! There's actually a bunk bed in my room now and Tonks will be staying with me – I figured it’d make sense to put the two of you in the same room as well.”

“Oh,” the brunette uttered.

“Are you talking about me?” Tonks enquired. She had just walked through the door and joined the girls at the breakfast table.

“We were, actually,” Ginny replied, smiling at the older witch. “And you owe me three galleons.”

“Aw, they're moving in together after all?” Tonks grumbled. “I should have known you’d have inside information.”

“Excuse me, but have you two been making bets about my living quarters?” Hermione questioned in astonishment.

“Just a bit,” Ginny grinned. “It was so obvious that you'd bunk up with him, I just couldn't resist taking her money.”

The brunette shook her head in disapproval. “That wasn't very nice of you.”

Accepting the money Tonks offered her, the redhead rolled her eyes – signaling the end of the conversation. The trio chatted about other things for a while. Their talk wasn't very long, though, for soon after Hermione was done with her breakfast, she started glancing at the clock and the door longingly. Ginny quickly got tired of her friend's shuffling.

“Oh, for heaven's sake, just go find him already,” she urged impatiently. 

“Sorry,” the brunette apologized. “I'll talk to you guys later, I promise.”

She put her plate and cup away and hurried up the stairs. Once she got to her room, she went straight to packing. She placed her opened bags on the bed and levitated her belongings inside them in neat piles. It didn't take her long to get everything done.

Taking one last look at the room to make sure it was nice and tidy, she nodded in contentment and grabbed her things. Glad to have gotten everything in her hands at once, she made her way to Draco's room. 

It hadn't gotten any bigger, she noticed right away. Everything looked just the same as before. The table and the chair were on the right, the bed was against the back wall and the closet right next to it. There was a small nightstand alongside the bed. On the left side wall there was the mirror, and right next to it...there was a door that hadn't been there before.

Hermione frowned. What door was that? Putting her bags down, determined to find out what was going on, she closed the distance and took hold of the handle. With one swift movement she opened the door...and froze in shock at the sight before her.

Apparently the door led to a bathroom, and it wasn't empty – Draco was standing under the shower butt naked. He was obviously in the middle of soaping himself. His back was to her and he looked divine. Her mouth fell open as she took in the glorious view. The broad shoulders, the well defined back, the tight arse, and foam all over... Her breathing was quickly becoming ragged.

As if in slow motion, Draco turned his head to look at her, a questioning look on his face. He didn't seem embarrassed in the least. Hermione, instead, blushed furiously.

“I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were... Uh... I'll just go now,” she mumbled, quickly closing the door behind her.

She sat down on the bed, feeling absolutely mortified. How could she have known he was taking a shower? The water hadn't been running, and she hadn't even known they had a bathroom! Not to mention, the door hadn't been locked, either. It was totally not her fault.

Suddenly the image of Draco came rushing back to her, and the question about who was to blame was completely forgotten. Of course she’d known he looked good, but Merlin...seeing that killer body covered in foam was so much better than anything she could have ever imagined. If she had imagined him naked, that is, which she certainly had not. Nevertheless, she had to admit that she found him ridiculously appealing - even more so than before. Draco was unbelievably hot. Draco, her boyfriend, was unbelievably hot.

Speak of the devil... Hermione flinched as the bathroom door opened and the man in question stepped out, a towel wrapped around his hips. His wet hair was a mess and there were droplets of waters on his upper body. He looked utterly delicious and she blushed again as he sat down next to her.

“There's no need to be embarrassed, honey. You're going to see me sooner or later,” he reasoned. “Now you've seen most of it, so there's really nothing to be nervous about anymore. Come to think of it,” a sly smile spread on his face, “I could show you the rest right now, get it over with...”

“Oh, no!” the brunette covered her eyes firmly. “That's really not necessary, I didn't even want to see what I just saw!”

Draco frowned. “You didn't want to see me naked?”

“That's not what I meant,” Hermione huffed, letting her hands fall reflexively. When she noticed Draco’s hands were ready to throw his towel open, she put her hands back on her eyes again, quick as lightning. “Could you please cover yourself!

“Oh,” he mumbled, realizing the position of his hands. He quickly fixed the problem. “Sorry. I'm decent now.”

“Are you sure?” she queried from behind her hands.

“Yes, I'm sure,” Draco rolled his eyes.

Taking a small peek at first to make sure he was telling the truth, Hermione then proceeded to put her hands down in her lap and take a deep breath.

“What I meant to say was that I didn't mean to walk in on you. I didn't know you were taking a shower. I didn't even know we had a bathroom, for that matter.”

“Well, we do,” he shrugged. “Lupin told you he was going to make some adjustments.”

“I didn't know he was talking about a bathroom,” she defended herself. “Anyways, I'm sorry about what happened.”

“Are you really? Did I look that bad?” Draco quirked a brow.

The brunette felt her cheeks flaming yet again. “I didn't...look that closely,” she lied, rather unconvincingly.

“Oh, you didn't, did you?” he grinned wickedly. “Then why are you blushing so adorably, my dear peeper?”

“Okay, I looked,” Hermione confessed and buried her head in her knees. “And I really liked it.”

“That's what I thought,” the blond patted the girl's back approvingly. “If you don't mind, I think I'll get dressed now. Wouldn't want to tempt you any further.”

“Thanks,” she replied weakly. “Lock the door this time, will you?”

The rest of the day went by without any more incidents. Hermione was grateful that Draco didn't bring up the shower fiasco, either. But, as succesful as she was in keeping her thoughts elsewhere during the day, his naked body was all she could think about when they went to sleep that evening. Her hormones were so going to get her in trouble.

 

 

* * *

 

 

The following evening it was Draco's turn to feel the effect of hormones.

He and Hermione were getting ready to go to sleep. The blond was actually done with his evening routines and felt quite tired as he lay in the bed, waiting for his girlfriend. But when the girl emerged from the bathroom, he forgot all about his previous weariness. He almost forgot his name at the sight of her tank top and especially her teeny weeny hotpants. As she set her bag of toiletries on the table, he could see her butt cheeks peeking innocently from under the fabric. He gulped audibly.

If he'd been dared to squeeze her butt that very moment, he'd have done it in a heartbeat. Hell, he'd have done it without a dare if he hadn't been afraid of scaring her away!
 
Hermione turned to walk to the bed, and Draco watched her with widened eyes. He could have sworn her hips were swaying seductively. His thoughts took a dangerous path when she bent over to lift her covers before tucking herself in, and he caught a glimpse of cleavage. After only a few moments of torturing himself with naughty images, he groaned, turned to lie on his stomach and buried his head in his pillow.

“Draco, what are you doing? Are you alright?” Hermione asked worriedly.

“I'm fine,” came the muffled reply. “Don't get me wrong, baby. I really like what you're wearing, but... It's kind of giving me a hard time.”

Again?” she cried out in astonishment. “That's all you do nowadays!”

“Well, what am I supposed to do when you're prancing around in those skimpy little clothes, looking so hot?”

The girl huffed. “It's all Ginny's fault. She tampered with my underwear and nighties a while ago.”

“She did?” Draco asked, lifting his head from the pillow in surprise. “Remind me to thank her.” 

“Whatever,” Hermione muttered, rolling her eyes. “Anyways, I guess I'm just not used to that kind of reaction. It still feels so weird.”

“You must have dated a bunch of idiots before me,” he observed and turned towards her, propping his head up on his arm.

“Maybe I have,” she agreed, “but I must admit that it hasn't been all roses with you, either. You're being so hard on me all the time.”

The boy lifted one sardonic eyebrow as she started to giggle at her joke. The one he'd heard quite a few times already... Sighing, he shook his head to himself and wrapped his arms around the brunette.

“One of these days I'll show you just how hard I can be on you,” he promised.

“I believe you,” Hermione murmured, making herself comfortable in the embrace. “I believe you.”
 

 

* * *

 


It was That Day.

From the moment she opened her eyes in the morning, she knew. The way Draco was looking at her told her everything she needed to know. The gentle smile as he caressed her cheek lightly, the look on his face that promised he'd wait patiently until she was ready. There was nothing sexual about it, but boy, it turned her on. Big time. He would be so good to her, how could she possibly say no anymore? Not that he'd ever asked her to do anything, but still. All she needed was the teeniest bit of persuasion and she'd give all of herself to him.

All throughout the day, Hermione could feel her self-control snapping bit by bit. With each little touch or look from Draco, she became more impatient and desperate to learn just how hard he could be on her. When they went to breakfast and he had his hand on her lower back, there were butterflies in her stomach. When they played wizard's chess before lunch and he watched her with sly calculation on his face, it totally messed up both her brain and her game. His thigh accidentally brushed against hers under the table during dinner, and her heartbeat accelerated noticeably. That was nothing compared to how thoroughly flustered she was in the evening, though, when he lead her upstairs to their room with his arm casually swung around her shoulders.

Preparing herself for bed, Hermione knew she had to resort to using heavier weapons in order to get the kind of attention she wanted from Draco. Since he had enjoyed her revealing nighties so much the previous night, she figured it was time to raise the stakes. She deliberately chose the most risqué nightgown she had. Normally she wouldn't have even dreamed of wearing anything that sexy, but looking into the bathroom mirror, she knew it was exactly what she needed. She was already so horny that the piece of clothing fit her state of mind perfectly.

After one last look in the mirror, she stepped into the bedroom. She could tell right away that her plan was working. The hungry look Draco regarded her with pleased her immensely.

”C'mere, baby,” he called in a low voice.

She let him guide her to sit down in his lap, straddling him. Looking into his eyes, she felt her breath hitch in her throat. Could he possibly lust for her as much as his eyes suggested he did? She felt so giddy and lightheaded that she could have fallen down, but luckily he had a strong hold of her.

He then freed one of his hands from her back to bring her face closer to his. He gave her a long, sensual kiss that lingered on her lips and made her head spin. The feeling might also have been due to sitting in his lap, so close to him. Draco broke the kiss and moved fluidly, attacking Hermione's neck. She inhaled sharply and had to close her eyes to keep them from rolling back in her head. It was sheer ecstasy.

The blond wanted her, that much was certain, but as randy as he seemed to be it was also clear that he was very much in control. He wouldn't touch her the way she wanted him to unless she asked for it.

She moaned in both delight and frustration as Draco found a particularly sensitive spot on her neck. She had absolutely no idea how to voice her desire, and the boy's ministrations were certainly not helping her think straight. Mustering up all the strength she could find, she pushed him away from her and slammed him back on the bed. 

”I need...to breathe,” she explained, conveniently out of breath.

Hermione scrambled off of Draco's lap, and soon found herself in a loose spooning position in front of him. Her back was lightly touching his front. She fought to catch her breath for quite a while, and finally succeeded. Sighing contentedly, she moved just a bit closer to the blond, unintentionally brushing him with her bottom in the process. He drew in an abrupt breath and his whole body tensed. 

The brunette was suddenly very alert. Was that the trick? All she needed to do to drive him wild was to rub herself against him? In order to test her theory, she moved even closer to him. Her nightgown was hitching up but she didn't care, for the boy's uneven breathing was enough of a reaction to prove her right.

“Merlin, woman, what are you doing to me?” Draco groaned softly.

The hazy lust in his low voice sent shivers down her spine. She didn't think anyone had ever wanted her as much as he did at the moment, and the reality of the situation made her feel dizzy. It was a good thing she was lying down, for her legs would surely have betrayed her if she wasn't. Hell, she wasn't even sure if she was still breathing.

Suddenly his hands were everywhere. On her hips, her thighs, her butt, her neck... Everywhere except for underneath her clothes, which was exactly where she wanted them to be. Why couldn't he just forget about chivalry and take her already?!

“You know, we never got to finish that variable conversation,” he pointed out in a husky voice. “I was wondering if you had an opinion on the subject?”

Did she have an opinion on the subject of sleeping with him? Hell yes!! That was all she had thought about all day. This was also the opening she had been waiting for. Draco had been very careful about not pressuring her, and this was as cooperative as he was going to get. Hermione knew she had to grasp the straw or she would explode.

Yes,” she gasped and turned towards him, her breathing getting out of control. “Let's do it. Let's see if our variables fit together.”

“W-what?”

“Honey, this isn't the time for questions,” she told him firmly. “Just take off your clothes and show me what you can do.”

In order to make her point clear, she pulled off her nightgown without hesitation. Draco's eyes were wide with awe as he looked at her bare chest and finally seemed to understand. He quickly stripped off his pajama pants and boxers, threw them on the floor and reached for his wand that was on the bedside table. He then cast a Silencing Charm on each wall, the floor and the ceiling and performed a Contraceptive Spell on Hermione.

The blond put his wand away, took a deep breath and turned to look at the girl lying under the covers with him. Despite the pretty flush on her face, she seemed calm enough.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he had to ask.

She only nodded for she couldn't find her voice. She reached under the blanket and soon her panties accompanied Draco's clothes on the floor. In every way possible, she was ready for him.

He gave her a tender kiss before cautiously moving to hover above her. She suddenly seemed so fragile – he was afraid of crushing her with his body weight. Sensing his hesitation, Hermione smiled at him reassuringly. She wrapped one arm around his neck, placed the other on his back and pulled him closer.

Slowly, tentatively, they became one.








 

A/N: Some of you probably saw that coming... It was quite obvious, really :D I hope it wasn't too much for anyone. I didn't want it to be too detailed.

I have just started my university studies, and at the moment I'm a bit afraid of being too tired to write. I'm traveling to the uni city by train, which means I'll have to wake up earlier, and I'll be home later. I'm trying to arrange myself a free day if I can, that would really help. Keep your fingers crossed that everything works out alright. :)

There are only two more chapters left after this, so I'll try my best to get them done in a reasonable time. Keep an eye on the story summary, I leave little notes regarding the progress every now and then!

As always, reviews are very welcome. Don't forget to check out my replies :)

Love, 
 
Jemione

Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
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A/N: Thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :) You're the bomb!

Warning: As you might already guess, there are sexual innuendoes in this chapter, too.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

 







 

In Chapter Fourteen:

 

Are you sure you want to do this?” he had to ask.

She only nodded for she couldn't find her voice. She reached under the blanket and soon her panties accompanied Draco's clothes on the floor. In every way possible, she was ready for him.

He gave her a tender kiss before cautiously moving to hover above her. She suddenly seemed so fragile – he was afraid of crushing her with his body weight. Sensing his hesitation, Hermione smiled at him reassuringly. She wrapped one arm around his neck, placed the other on his back and pulled him closer.

Slowly, tentatively, they became one.

 









 
 

Chapter Fifteen

 

“Mmmh... That was mind-blowing,” Hermione purred contendedly, lying in Draco's arms.

“I know.” He grinned in a lewd manner.

“And that nipping thing you did to my ear... Wow.”

“Glad you liked it, baby.”

The couple lay there for a while, not saying a word, but instead drinking in the other's scent. Both enjoyed the peaceful moment far too much to get up...not to mention they were far too worn out to have the energy to do it.

“I didn't know you were such a wild little kitten,” Draco suddenly smirked. “I think my back is bleeding.”

“Really? Did I hurt you? Let me see,” the girl demanded, her tone laced with concern.

“It's alright, honey, just a little sore,” he assured her, but turned around obediently nevertheless. “I actually kind of liked it.”

Hermione gave him a condescending look as he waggled his eyebrows. “Have I ever told you that you're a pervert?”

“You might have mentioned it once or twice,” he drawled cockily.

She shook her head and sighed, refusing to lie down again. A brief flicker of mischief flashed across her face, but it quickly segued to suspicious innocence. She gazed at the blond and batted her eyelashes.

“So... D'you need help washing your back?”

Draco's eyes glinted dangerously and he grinned at her. “Why, yes, my dear, I could use some help. Lead the way.”

 

* * *

 

For obvious reasons, the couple decided to sleep a little longer than usual the following morning. When they finally made it out of bed, it was close to lunchtime. Hermione stayed in the bathroom, trying to do something to fix her hair, while Draco wandered around the house. Coming to the second floor, he frowned when he heard unfamiliar voices mixed with Potter and Weasley's. Curious to find out what was going on, he followed the voices and opened one of the doors a moment later.

The sight before him made him roll his eyes so thoroughly that he was afraid they might go crooked permanently. There were three redheaded and one raven-haired boy in the room, and none of them were wearing shirts. Judging by their stances, they were having some kind of stupid competition about who had the biggest muscles.

“What the hell is wrong with you Gryffindors?” he queried in exasperation.

“Ah, there he is! Come on in, Malfoy,” one of the Weasley twins greeted. The blond decided to call him twin A. “We thought you were going to sleep all day.”

“Uh, yeah... I was a bit tired,” Draco squirmed, scratching his head in embarrassment. He didn't think Hermione would appreciate it if he blurted out why he had been so tired.

“Well, now that you're here, dear ferret, we could put you straight to the test,” said the other twin. “See if you're any good for our girl Hermione.”

“Alright... What do you want to ask?”

The twins looked at each other meaningfully, then fixed their gazes on the blond and announced in unison, “Let's see the muscles.”

What? I'm staying out of your stupid competition,” he groused.

“Oh come on, Malfoy, you can't possibly be that skinny,” Twin A replied, a smug grin on his freckled face. “She would have given you the boot already.”

“I'm not, it's just that... I don't think it's a good idea, you know, for other reasons.”

Twin A and Twin B looked at each other, matching smirks on their faces.

“He's a coward,” Ron threw in a challenge.

Draco raised his brow at Ron. He looked back, a defiant look on his face. Against his better judgment, that decided Draco right there – he wouldn't have the redhead call him a coward and get away with it.

“Alright then, I'll do it. But I'll have you know I wanted to save you from this,” he said, pulling his shirt over his head and lining up with the others.

He earned some appreciative pats on his back from the Weasley twins, as one of them took a few steps away from the line to do the evaluation. As the twins looked so similar, there was no reason to assess them both.

“Not bad, not bad at all! But...man, what's that on your back?”

All the boys turned to look at Draco's back, where a series of red scratches adorned more than one spot.

“Dude, have you been tortured lately?” Twin B asked in amazement.

“No, wait,” Twin A shushed, taking a look at the tips of his fingers and then the blond's back, making a comparison. A look of awe and respect appeared on his face. “Malfoy, are those what I think they are?”

Draco shrugged, but couldn't keep the grin from spreading over his face. “What can I say... I'm sharing my bed with a tiger.”

After a moment of stunned silence, the Weasley twins broke into guffaws and patted the blond's back approvingly. Ron's face had taken on an unhealthy greenish-red shade. Harry didn't seem to know if he should be appalled or amused, and his mouth twitched strangely as a result.

“In less than two weeks! He must be doing something our little Ronniekins couldn't do,” Twin B commented cheerily as he pulled his shirt back on.

“I'm sure he has a trick or two up his sleeve, but I wonder...are we finally going to learn what kind of tricks she knows?”

The twins seemed to have yet another conversation topic at the ready, and by only looking at each other! They concluded their wordless exchange with a firm nod, and turned to the now-dressed Malfoy heir with identical sly expressions. Each took him by an arm and led him towards the door.

“Let’s go have some lunch and you can tell us all about it.”

 

* * *

 

Sitting opposite to the twins in the dining room, Draco couldn't help but think he might be in trouble. He knew he shouldn't have said anything about what he'd done with Hermione. He honestly didn't mean to brag, because the girl was so much more than just a conquest to him. She definitely wouldn't jump for joy if she found out that he'd let the information slip.

“Uh, guys... I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention what I said earlier when Granger comes. I don't think she'd be too happy.”

“Ooh, she's got you on a tight leash, doesn't she?” Twin A smirked. “I bet she likes to dominate.”

“That would make sense, wouldn't it? Under the mask of decency, there's a wilder side...”

Draco watched the twins' interact, his eyes widening in horror. They thought Hermione was a little dominatrix? If they brought that theory up in her presence, he was a dead man. The brunette would never forgive him.

Just then the girl in question stepped into the dining room, followed closely by Ginny and Tonks. She smiled delightedly at the twins, and they returned the gesture eagerly.

“Hermione! Come and sit down, we have a lot to talk about,” Twin B welcomed her excitedly. “We've been chatting with your new boyfriend. Real stud, he is.”

“Oh?” Hermione raised her brows politely, although she seemed a bit confused at the twin's tone.

“We hear he has been...making you happy,” Twin A told her impishly, trying to keep his face a bit more serious.

“Oh, yeah,” she smiled serenely as she sat down next to her boyfriend, still oblivious to the hidden meaning of their inquiries. “He's been really great.”

“And you've never felt the need to...punish him for anything?”

Hermione's eyebrows rose as she slowly glanced at the blond, whose cheeks were starting to look a little pink. She then turned back to the twins with a frown on her face. “No... Should I?”

Ron splashed out his pumpkin juice and the twins grinned widely.

“Of course not,” Twin B replied. “It was just a question. Any disciplinary actions are completely up to you.”

“We're just making sure that Malfoy knows to watch his back,” Twin A grinned. “He should know that if he can't keep you satisfied...”

“...the claws might come out,” Twin B finished the sentence.

Harry buried his head in his hands, as did Draco. Ron made some gagging noises and performed a trick he had learned to master lately – quickly fleeing the scene with his plate in tow. All the girls, especially Hermione, just sat their with their mouths open at the absurdity of the situation. It didn't make any sense.

The twins seemed way too happy. What could make them so boisterous? Hermione let her gaze wander from the redheads to the blond, and suddenly something clicked. Fred and George had been overly interested in her love life for a couple of years, always trying to learn about her preferences in bed. She couldn't understand their obsession and had consistently refused to answer their questions. Could they possibly have gotten some answers from her new lover?

“Draco,” she began, her voice ominous. “Do you happen to know why everyone's acting so weird?”
 
“Uh, yeah... They sort of saw my back,” the boy confessed.

Hermione raised her brows, not quite understanding the relevance of his statement. “They saw your back? What does that have to do with... Oh.

She blushed furiously. The twins' identical grins were becoming impossibly wide.

“Right,” she concluded. “So you heard.”

“Too right we did,” Fred and George confirmed in unison.

“Heard about what?” Ginny frowned. “What's going on?”

The brunette didn't answer, but instead buried her head in her hands like her boyfriend had done some time ago.

“Oh gosh,” the Weasley girl gasped. “You slept with him, didn't you? How could you not tell me? It's my birthday!”

“I didn't have time,” Hermione explained weakly from behind her hands. “Happy Birthday, by the way.”

“And more importantly, how could I not hear anything?” Ginny continued, more to herself now. “Oh, thanks. It's just weird, because I walked past your room several times last night and there wasn't a sound...”

Fred raised his eyebrow at Draco, who gulped, but figured it couldn't hurt to tell them. He'd get to the damage control later.

“Silencing Charm,” he mumbled.

“A dominatrix and a screamer?” George's eyes almost bulged out. “You're a lucky man, Malfoy.”

What?” Hermione cried out. “I do not dominate!”

“You did scream a bit, though, honey,” Draco pointed out.

The girl looked so thoroughly flabbergasted that everyone burst out laughing, even she herself after a moment. Some of them laughed so hard that they had tears in their eyes by the time they were able to calm down a bit.

“Why can't you people have love lives of your own,” Hermione sighed as she wiped her eyes. “You wouldn't have to spy on mine.”

“Your love life is just so interesting, baby,” Draco grinned, earning a fierce glare and a smack on the arm.

“I will deal with you later.”

“Ooh, I bet someone's getting whipped,” Fred rejoiced.

“You got that right,” the brunette confirmed. “If you hear someone screaming tonight, it's not going to be me... Now shut up and eat.”

 

* * *

 

During the festive dinner they had in honor of Ginny's 19th birthday, Hermione came to the conclusion that it was quite impossible to stay mad at Draco. She tried her hardest to show her annoyance whenever the twins decided to poke fun, but the blond had the talent of deflecting them and directing her thoughts elsewhere. He reminded her about all the good things without saying or doing much. She wasn't sure if he even knew what he was doing.

His witty repertoire made her think about how much she enjoyed their conversations. Even though he liked to tease her a lot, he really listened and tried his best to understand if she wanted to talk about something she found important. And since he was so clever, he brought a lot of substance to the table and stimulated her intellect in the most delightful manner.
 
Another thing Hermione really liked was the way Draco made her feel. It was great to just cuddle up with him and enjoy the closeness, but even at those moments he was able to keep her on her toes. She never knew what to expect from him. If she was starting to get really comfortable, he might all of a sudden flash her a sexy crooked smirk that sent shivers down her spine. Usually she didn't like not knowing what would happen, but Draco's unpredictable nature made it exciting. The tingly feeling she got every time he surprised her was intoxicating.

She didn't regret sleeping with him at all. It had happened fast, but with the extraordinary circumstance they were in, it was to be expected. How could they not be all over each other when they were spending all that time together? It was unfortunate that the news of the...progress of their relationship had gotten out, but if that was all it took for the Weasley twins to accept the blond, she was fine with it. And if the immensely pleased looks on Fred and George's faces were anything to go by, they were completely supportive of her and Draco's relationship.

The twins seemed so supportive, in fact, that when the couple retreated to their room that evening, Hermione made sure to cast an Imperturbable Charm and every other charm she could think of on their door to stop the two curious redheads from eavesdropping. Once she was done, she nodded to herself in a satisfied manner.

“Is this the part where you punish me for being such a bad boy?” Draco ventured with a roguish grin. “Do you want me to take my clothes off?”

The girl gave him a pointed look. “No, you perv. I was just making sure that no one can listen in on us.”

“Will there be screaming, then?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Draco! Will you stop that? Someone might think you're in need!” She rolled her eyes.

“Well... I have been waiting to be alone with you the whole day,” he shot back, shrugging. “Are you telling me I've been waiting in vain?”

“I'm telling you that I'm quite tired, and would love to go to sleep.”

“Well, in that case I'll go to sleep right now,” Draco decided and was lying under the covers in no time. “Tomorrow'll come faster.”

Hermione rolled her eyes again. The boy was impossible. If he thought she would fulfill his every dirty wish, he had another thing coming... Perhaps she would punish him after all, she smirked to herself as she started to make her way to the bathroom. Her steps halted for a moment as the blond called for her.

“Oh, and honey... If there's some kind of, uh, funny situation going on when you wake up, it really isn't my fault.”

 

* * *

 

The following afternoon Hermione found herself in the first floor living room, a smile gracing her lips from the memory of waking up next to a deliciously disheveled Draco Malfoy. His hair had been mussed up and, like he had predicted, there had indeed been a funny situation going on. She had suggested that maybe his condition was only due to the time of day. The blond had sighed dramatically, claimed that he was like a lovesick puppy and remarked that she was being unnecessarily cruel. He should at least have been allowed to hump her leg.

Needless to say, his wishes hadn't been answered. The brunette had smiled crookedly and pointed out that all puppies needed to be trained properly before earning such liberties. By then it was clear to Draco that he shouldn't have compared himself to a puppy, and he had decided to let the subject drop.

A flash of red hair in the doorway caught Hermione's attention, breaking her from her reverie – Ron had just passed the room. She frowned as she realised that she couldn't remember the last time they’d spoken. Come to think of it, she hadn't even seen him that much lately. Where had he been? And more importantly, why hadn't she noticed anything earlier? Before she knew it, she had hoisted herself off the sofa, determined to find out what was going on.

“I need to talk to Ron,” she informed Draco, who had been sitting next to her.

He nodded in understanding and wished her good luck. She was already halfway to the door. Rushing out of the room, she caught sight of the redhead near the stairs.

“Ron,” she called, “can I talk to you for a moment?”

The boy stopped on his tracks and took a deep breath before turning towards her.

“What is it? I'm busy.”

She was thrown off guard by his less than friendly demeanor. There was no warmth in the way he looked at her, and it actually seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else but there with her. Hermione gulped. When had he become like that? Had she been too blind to see that her best friend had started to resent her? If there was anything she could do to change that, she would, she decided.

“Look, I know we haven't talked a lot lately, but I really want to make things right between us,” she told him honestly. “Can you ever forgive me for neglecting you so horribly?”

“Are you going to keep seeing the ferret?” the redhead asked.

Hermione flinched. Did he honestly hate Draco that much? They had a long and hostile history, but things had changed. He had been nothing but good to her. If him being her boyfriend didn't make a difference...she didn't know what she could do to prove that he wasn't like he used to be.

When Ron didn't get an answer right away, he glanced at the stairs impatiently and sighed. “You're serious about him, aren't you?”

“I am,” she said in a small voice.

“Thought so. Too bad...”

He shook his head in disappointment and started to climb the stairs. Hermione dashed after him and clung to his arm in desperation.

“Can't we just talk about this?” she pleaded frantically.

“I need to go,” the boy told her, sounding very annoyed. “We can talk in two weeks, the next time you remember I exist.”

Hermione let go of the redhead, pain flashing over her face. How could he say things like that after everything they'd been through together? Maybe she hadn't been that great a friend in the last few weeks, but she had never stopped being his friend. Sometimes friends didn't even see each other for a long time. He had been there all the time, he could have said something if he wasn't happy with her behavior.

“Hey, Ron, are you coming? We're about to start,” George called out and threw open one of the doors on the second floor. Only then did he notice Hermione standing next to his brother and the look on his face quickly became awkward. “Oh.”

Time seemed to slow down. From her spot on the stairs Hermione could see a bit of the insides of the room George was in, and she could instantly tell that something wasn't right. Everything felt blurry when she forced herself to move and enter the room. Every single Order member she had seen in the various safe houses in the last couple of months was there, and then some more. Even Professor Dumbledore. A lot of them were sitting around a huge table, but since there wasn't enough space for everyone, many had had to find a place to sit on the floor or a sofa.

She couldn't speak. Her world was about to turn around, she knew it. The last couple of weeks had been amazing, but now her happiness was about to break into pieces.

“It was about time someone told her,” Professor McGonagall huffed as she saw her former student step into the room. “You all know how I felt about keeping her out.”

The older lady threw a fierce glare Harry's way. Hermione's eyes were drawn to her raven-haired friend.

“Harry?” she said in confusion. “What is this?”

The boy looked extremely embarrassed, and he wouldn't look at her. Beside her, Ron was also shuffling nervously. She let her gaze travel on the grave looks on everyone's faces, the notes strewn across the table, the huge map in front of Dumbledore... And suddenly everything made sense.

“What's going on?” Ginny asked just then, having been drawn to the room by all the commotion. She frowned as she saw all the people in the room. “What are you all doing in here?”

“They've been having meetings,” Hermione replied quietly. “And I wasn't invited.”

Now that she thought about it, she realised that something had been going on for a while already. When they had first come into their current safe house, Hagrid had been there...as a third Order guard. Around Harry's birthday more people had started to stay over, and there had been several guards watching over ever since.

But...what were they watching? The house seemed perfectly safe to her. Then again, she had spent most of her time in the arms of Draco, who... She blinked twice. Maybe that was it – they didn't trust Draco? Did they – she gulped – know something she didn't? It couldn't be that. She had been with him all the time, and hadn't noticed anything weird. All colour drained from her face as she considered all sorts of horrible possibilities. Maybe the blond had been a spy for the Dark Side all along, and it had all been an act. Maybe he had been lying to her all this time. Maybe he had never even wanted her.

Her thoughts terrified her, but in her heart she couldn't bring herself to believe in them. How could he have faked all those looks, all those touches? It wasn't possible. Yet she was feeling more and more miserable by the minute.

Next to her, Ginny had been protesting loudly for being left out for a while already. She was creating such a scene that Draco suddenly appeared at the doorway, having been alerted by all the noise. His eyes snapped straight into Hermione's face. He could instantly tell she was terribly upset.

“What have you done to her? Is she alright?” he demanded to know and tried to step into the room, only to be stopped by Mad-Eye Moody.

“She's fine, just a little shocked,” the man assured. His arm was firmly planted across Draco's chest. “If you want to come in and see for yourself...you need to choose the side you're taking in the war.”

“I've already chosen my side,” the young Malfoy snapped, annoyed at their lack of trust in him. “It's right next to her.”

Moody looked at Dumbledore, who was sitting at the end of the long table. The old man nodded. Mad-Eye lowered his arm, and Draco dashed to his girlfriend. He wrapped his arms around the brunette and spoke to her in a low voice.

“What is it, baby? Are you okay?”

“They've been having meetings without me,” she said and pulled the boy even closer to herself. “It hurt to hear it, but I'm good now.”

She felt the burden fall from her chest – Draco had been let in, he wasn't the reason for the meetings. Everything was alright.

Except that it wasn't.

“Yeah... About those meetings we've been having,” Harry cleared his throat. “You're not going to like this.”

“You might want to sit down, dear,” Molly Weasley suggested sympathetically.

Hermione let Draco lead her to a bench by the wall. They sat down, the blond's arm still safely wrapped around the girl's shoulders. Ginny took a seat next to them. The three turned their expectant gazes towards the table, signalling they were ready for the news.

What they learned in the next few minutes was appalling. The Order had been keeping tabs on Voldemort and his followers, as usual, and a month ago they had detected an increase in the group's activity. For the past few weeks a constant stream of Death Eaters had been flowing to their base at the Malfoy Manor. The Order had every reason to believe that the war was coming, and they had been preparing for the fight in silence.

“We have just received confirmation of their plans,” Dumbledore informed with a heavy tone. At this point everyone in the room became more alert – this fresh piece of news was the reason for the meeting. “Lord Voldemort is planning to take over the magical community, and he intends to do it soon...starting with an attack on Hogwarts on the first of September.”

The announcement was met with shocked gasps and heavy cursing. Before anyone had a chance to speak their mind about the matter, Dumbledore continued.

“I know you are upset, but let us not get carried away. We all know about the Dark Side's hate towards Muggleborns, and their crude preferences in fighting. Right now our two main tasks are to find a way to protect the students and to prepare ourselves for the battle. I suggest we split into two groups and start planning.”

The room became a blur of colour as people organized themselves into said two groups. Professor McGonagall and the Weasley parents lead the student protectors into another room, while Dumbledore and Moody took charge of the battle planners.

Hermione stayed glued to her seat. She couldn't believe this was happening. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of all the new little students, crowding at the castle doors in their excitement to start their first semester at Hogwarts, only to walk straight into a bloodbath. How could anyone do that to them, or any of the older students for that matter? Her heart clenched painfully. They had less than three weeks to come up with a solution that would keep the future makers of the wizarding world safe.

“Do you understand why I wanted to keep you and Ginny out?” Harry appeared in front of her and seemed to have sensed her train of thought. “You've been so happy, I didn't want to be the one to ruin it.”

“I suppose I understand,” Hermione sighed.

“What about me?” Ginny queried with a huffing noise. “You could have told me.”

Harry looked at the little redhead with sadness in his eyes. “I wanted you to be happy, too.”

Draco and Hermione both suddenly felt like they were watching something private, and lowered their heads simultaneously. Thankfully the moment didn't last very long, for Harry coughed and continued. “Anyways, I didn't want to bring anyone down with me if I could avoid it. This is my burden to bare.”

Hermione's hand flew to her mouth to stifle her horrified gasp. Merlin... It was Harry's destiny to try and finish off the Dark Lord. Her best friend had no other choice, he had to put himself in the frontline if they were ever going to make it. He had known the moment was coming and he had been carrying that knowledge inside of him all this time. By keeping her out, he had let her enjoy some of the best days of her life.

“Oh, Harry,” she whispered, tears falling down her cheeks as she threw herself in the boy's arms.

He had done so much for her throughout the years of their rock solid friendship. How could she ever make it up to him in the three short weeks she could be sure they had left? Who knew if either of them would make it through the battle. Reality was hitting her hard. But whatever happened in the weeks to come, she would be forever grateful for the time she'd been able to spend on cloud nine.

“What can I do to help?” Draco's voice rang out next to them.

Harry and Hermione loosened their grip on each other, the latter wiping her tears away with the back of her hand. The raven-haired boy looked at his former enemy with a deep respect.

“If you could give us any inside information about the Death Eaters, that would be great."

The blond nodded, taking the hand his girlfriend had offered him and squeezing it gently. They took a seat at the table. All eyes turned to Draco, and as he started to speak, Dumbledore whipped up a long piece of parchment and a quill that began to write down notes.

Being the son of a Death Eater, the young man naturally knew a lot about what had been going on in their camp before he'd left his home. He had tons of useful information about which hexes and curses they preferred, he could even block some of them with effective and little-known counter-curses. Having observed the group from the inside longer than he cared to remember, he had also spotted many of their weaknesses. The most important bit of knowledge concerned his Aunt Bellatrix, who could easily duel against several opponents, but who also forgot to watch her back if she got too excited. The crazy laugh gave away the best moment to attack.

“Thank Merlin she wasn't at the Manor while Hermione was there,” Draco shuddered at the mere thought.

“Who was there, then?” Lupin inquired.

The blond started to list the names of everyone that had been hanging around at his house in the month of June. From the clenching of his jaw Hermione could tell he had something against quite a few of the people he mentioned, and it wasn't too hard to figure out why. Moody listened intently, grunting here and there and mumbling about 'having put them behind bars once already'.

Once Draco was finished with his list, Kingsley gave an update on which Death Eaters the Order believed to have joined Voldemort's forces. Lupin studied the list with a slight frown on his face he seemed to be searching for a name that he couldn't find. He caught the young Malfoy's eye and voiced his observation.

“Someone seems to be missing from the list... May I ask about your mother?”

“She has nothing to do with any of it,” Draco responded fiercely. He rolled up his sleeve to show the unmarred skin of his left arm. “See this? I was never branded with the Dark Mark because of my mother. She hates the Dark Lord as much as any of you do, she just hasn't found a way out.”

“If she joins the battle, she will not be harmed,” Dumbledore promised with such assertiveness that it effectively brought the discussion to an end.

“Great to have some more black sheep in the family,” Tonks couldn't help grinning at Draco.

“Back to business, now,” Moody barked out.

The next couple of hours were spent planning the best defence tactics. A lot had already been thought of in the previous meetings, but now that the location had been clarified, they could focus on different areas of the big picture more efficiently. By the time they ended the meeting and went downstairs for dinner, they had a good basic structure to protect their safety.

Sitting at the table opposite Ron, Hermione watched her redheaded friend and now understood why she hadn't seen him much lately. Immersing himself in the fight planning had given him a valid excuse to stay away from her and her new boyfriend. She didn't have much time to make peace with him, and if she wanted to get her friend back before the war, she would have to start doing damage control right away.

“Ron, I really think we need to talk things through. You can't avoid me forever.”

“What's there to talk about? So you like him,” he scoffed. “That doesn't change the fact that he's barely done any good in his life. And now everyone seems to think he's a hero. Do you have any idea how much that pisses me off?”

“Did you ever stop to think that maybe I didn't have enough of a reason to change who I was before?” Draco narrowed his eyes angrily.

“Oh, so now you've suddenly found a reason to become a whole new person?” Ron mocked.

“As a matter of fact, I have. She's sitting right in front of you.”

That silenced the hot-tempered Gryffindor quite effectively. He slowly turned his head to look at Hermione, who looked at Draco, who shrugged. It was the truth, and there was no point in denying it.

“Yeah... That should have been pretty obvious, Ron,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Then again, you've never been much of a brainiac...”

Ron shot her a scathing look.

“I'm sorry, but it's true!”

“Alright, let's not go there,” Harry interrupted. “All that matters is that Malfoy is fighting on our side now. It would do you well to deal with that, Ron, because I don't think he's going anywhere.”

“I know,” the boy grumbled. “It's just not that easy.”

“Yeah, well, do what you have to do,” Harry told his friend, and then directed his words at Draco. “Thanks for all the help you're giving us, Malfoy. I really appreciate it, I hope you know that.”

“You gave me two incredible weeks with her,” the blond nodded towards Hermione. “The least I can do is help you get a shot at the same kind of happiness.”

He glanced at Ginny on the other side of the table. Both Harry and Ginny blushed and quickly focused on their plates.

“That's, uh, very nice of you,” the raven-haired boy mumbled, and then quickly changed the subject. “Now, is it just me, or does this chicken taste different?”

The two Weasleys and Harry busied themselves in a meaningless conversation about a possible new recipe for either the chicken or the sauce. Draco rolled his eyes at the Gryffindors' inability to discuss affection Potter clearly felt for the girl, if his earlier words in the meeting were anything to go by. He glanced down at his girlfriend, only to find that she was looking at him with the cutest smile on her lips. His heart skipped a beat. When had she managed to wrap him around her finger so completely?

He was still pondering the same question when the two of them left the dining room some time later. They lingered in the foyer, the brunette toying with Draco's fingers.

“So...about what you said earlier...me being your reason to change,” she started lightly, her head tilted to the side. “What does it mean?”

“I guess it means I'd do just about anything for you,” the blond smiled crookedly.

“I see,” she nodded mischievously. “So, basically...if I asked you to make sweet love to me, you...?”

“I would carry you upstairs to get there faster,” Draco grinned. “Your wish is my command, darling.”

The corners of Hermione's lips twitched, her eyes sparkling with mirth as she finally let the dazzling wide smile spread on her face.

“Well, let's go, then, loverboy...”











 
 

A/N: Pheew! That was the super long Chapter Fifteen, finally... Hope you liked it!

So, did anyone see that coming? :D I've been dropping some subtle hints for some time now, because this plot twist was always going to happen. Obviously I couldn't just let them live happily ever after since You-Know-Who is still out there. That being said, I want to remind you that this story is not about Harry beating Voldemort – this is about Draco and Hermione. I will not focus on how they will try to bring down old baldy. Remember that there are all these extremely helpful characters I've kept alive by making this story non HBP or DH compliant ;)

How'd you like the Weasley twins? I've never written such a long scene with them before, so I hope it wasn't awful or anything. Since there is ONLY ONE MORE CHAPTER TO GO, I'd really love to hear if there's anything you think I should work on at this point! The comments I get from you guys give me the strength I need to write even when I'm really tired :) You people rock my world! <3

Love,

Jemione








A/N June 2010: Hi guys, I'm so so sorry for the long wait. I never meant to be this slow with the last chapter, but life gets in the way sometimes. However, I am now trying to brace myself for the inevitable and finally finish this story. I hope you're still out there with a bit of patience left!

Love, Jemione








A/N May 2011: So, yeah... I suck at finishing this story. It's been a year and a half since my last update and I'm DEEPLY SORRY about that. Life has taken me in all sorts of directions, and unfortunately The Hero Within has had to make room for all the new stuff.

 

HOWEVER... I'm not giving up on this story, which is why I haven't listed it as 'Abandoned'. I promise to actually finish this one day, but I can't tell when that'll be. I just know I've kept you guys waiting and it's not fair at all. I hope some of you are still out there! I really appreciate all the support I've been getting, you guys really are awesome :) Hope you can stick with me a little longer still.

 

Love,

Jemione


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