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The Hidden Garden by petitesorciere

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 18,217
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature

Genres: Romance, AU, Young Adult
Characters: Hermione, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 05/30/2011
Last Chapter: 01/15/2012
Last Updated: 01/15/2012

Summary:


Every single night, Draco is woken up by loud noises coming from Hermione's room. He knows she's up to something, even if she won't admit it, and he's determined to find out exactly what it is. Gorgeous banner by the truly talented Iriki at TDA.


Chapter 1: Chapter One
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This story is based on the fairy tale ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ – if you know the story, you’ll probably have an idea where this is going, if not, why not leave reading the fairy tale until I finish the story…

 

Draco Malfoy turned over in his bed irritably, and threw one of his pillows at the wall. Every single night, for the past three weeks, just as he was drifting off to sleep, Granger seemed to decide to rearrange her furniture. A little rustling from bed sheets he could have just tolerated, but apparently the entire feng shui of the room was wrong and this couldn’t have been changed during the day. Grabbing another pillow, he slammed it over his head, and buried his face in the mattress.

 

He still couldn’t believe that he had to share quarters with Granger. He had been thrilled when he found out that he was Head Boy. The badge arriving with the owls that morning had brilliant – his father hadn’t criticised him for a whole fifteen minutes. In Madam Malkins, he had pinned the badge straight onto his robes, and raised his chin proudly as he smoothed back his white-blond hair. It was that primal feeling of knowing that he was going to be in control of so many people. He had been so thrilled with the idea of that power, that he hadn’t given a second thought as to who would be Head Girl. If he had been pushed to think about it, he probably would have assumed a Ravenclaw. They always seemed to get quite a lot of Head Girls.

 

Then, on the first day, he had taken himself along to the carriage on the Hogwarts Express, and had gone over to talk to the Prefects for Slytherin House. It had taken him a good minute of posturing before he thought to look around and see who he was sharing duties with. Turning around, his heart sank straight to the bottom of his rib cage: brown curls hanging over the collar of black robes, that in turn sat neatly next to Gryffindor colours. Granger.

 

It made sense when he thought about it. She was clever. She was one of the Golden Trio. She was a teacher’s pet. She had been prefect. And now, she was in his carriage, sharing in his moment, tainting his moment for future tellings.  Sighing loudly and irritably, he had turned his back on Granger and returned his attention to the Slytherin Prefects. Fortunately, they had seen exactly where he was looking, and their noses were wrinkling with similar distaste.

 

It had ruined the first night in the new quarters. The first time in six years that he was going to have a room to himself, instead of listening to Crabbe and Goyle snorting and snoring their way through the night, and he was spending it approximately 15 feet away from Hermione Granger, Gryffindor Mudblood extraordinaire! There was no justice in the world. He would have thought that his first night would have been spent chatting with some pureblood from Ravenclaw (he could have even accepted some of the Hufflepuffs at a pinch) in their common room. He wasn’t above planning a seduction scene in front of the smouldering fire.

 

Instead, he walked in, and his eyes were assaulted with the joint colours of Slytherin and Gryffindor, each seeming to fight for supremacy on the walls. He had no idea who had thought that gold, silver, green and red would look good together, but they were either colour blind, or dangerously under qualified for interior design. Rather than sit and stew in the maelstrom of colour, Draco had gone up to his room, finding a perceptible relief in the cool, cold emerald and silver that swirled across his bedroom walls, and draped across his bed.

 

He had been able to sleep for the first two weeks, and then, Granger decided that she would start causing an immense amount of noise as soon as he was meant to be in the middle of a sleep cycle. You could have set a watch by it. There was about thirty seconds of a groaning, creaking noise, than a clattering for a couple of minutes that would die away slowly, fading into the black night, and then another groaning that ended with a very final thud. Every night, Draco would be woken up by it, would be immensely irritated for the two minutes that the noise went on for, and then he would go back to sleep. All in all, he supposed, it wasn’t having a massive impact on his life. But the fact that it was having any impact at all meant that he was royally pissed off.

 

He never saw Granger in the morning – she was long gone by the time he sauntered down into the common room, pulling his robes neatly together as he did so. He occasionally saw her in the Dining Hall, but there was no way that he was going over to talk to her. Not in full view of everyone. And then on the rare occasions that he saw her in the evening, she was usually hurrying in or out, frequently accompanied by massive piles of books. And Draco Malfoy was not the sort of person who would hurry after a Mudblood, calling for them. No. He waited for them to be relaxed and then he would pounce when they were unawares, leaving them vulnerable and a lot easier to pull down.

 

That was the idea in theory anyway, but it didn’t seem to be bearing fruit. After another three weeks of waiting for the right moment to catch Granger, and becoming more and more irritated at being woken up every night, he conceded that he would need to change his plans. One morning, even more irascible than usual because he had had to get up before 8am, he sat neatly in the common room, waiting for the bane of his life to patter through on her way out.

 

Hermione barely noticed Draco was there at first. She had become so accustomed to never really seeing Draco that she had stopped thinking of him as a major problem, and rather as something that could just be avoided with the necessary precautions – slightly like a mosquito bite. She was gone before he got up, she was rarely in their quarters in the evening, and while she had been worried at first that he might hear her moving around in the night, it had been a month and a half and he hadn’t said anything to her. From what she knew of Malfoy, it was highly unlikely that he would hold his tongue about anything that bothered him even slightly, and she had taken his silence as proof that she was free to do what she pleased.

So on that crisp October morning, when the leaves were just beginning to be rimmed with frost despite how hot the bright sky promised the day would be.  Going into the common room to grab a book that she had left on the table yesterday, she pulled up short at the sight of Malfoy sitting in a chair with his back to the window, his hands impressively still on the arms of it. The thought raced through her mind that he looked ridiculously like a Bond villain, before getting distracted with the thought that Malfoy would never have seen a Bond film, and that was probably quite a shame, because she was prepared to bet that he would enjoy them…

 

Shaking her head slightly, she raised her eyebrows at him. “You’re up unusually early.”

 

Malfoy stared coldly at her. “Well, I’m finding it a lot easier to get up when you so kindly give me a 7 hour warning by rattling around in your room at midnight.”

 

Hermione’s mind began racing. Protective instincts leapt in first – when in doubt of the position that you’re in, deny all knowledge! “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about Malfoy. I haven’t heard anything.”

 

“Well you probably haven’t noticed that much because you’re the one making all the noise. Easy mistake to make.”

 

“Unlike you Malfoy, I don’t spend every night out attempting to sleep with every bimbo in our Year. I’m usually asleep by 12, and I have never been woken up by whatever it is that you’re talking about.” Hermione fidgeted slightly, feeling a lump at the bottom of her shoe.

 

Malfoy decided not to point out that he didn’t attempt to sleep with bimbos, he just slept with them, and instead turned back on the offensive. “And what, the noise is just coming out of nowhere? I find that extremely hard to believe…for Merlin’s sake, Granger, what are you doing?”

 

“I have a stone in my shoe, ok?” Hermione lifted her foot off, took off her shoe, and tipped it upside down, not once taking her eyes off his face, as if daring him to look anywhere else. “Now, you might consider yourself an expert on every subject under the sun, but perhaps you could hold your vanity in check for just one minute and remember that we are in Hogwarts. There is no way anyone could ever know all of its secrets, and I think it’s entirely possible that you’re just hearing one of those anomalies, rather than anything I’m doing. So perhaps you could refrain from oozing this kind of bilious paranoia at me first thing in the morning – frankly I don’t want to have to deal with this until I’ve at least had breakfast.”

 

“Well, I still think it’s you trying to grow yourself a friend, and I would be thrilled if you could do that in daylight hours, rather than while I’m trying to sleep.” Draco drawled at her, not moving from his position in the chair, despite feeling his heart pounding with rage at how casually she dismissed him. He knew what he heard, he knew it was coming from Granger’s room, and the fact that she was denying it meant that she was hiding something.

 

Hermione shook her head pityingly at him, and left the room, scuffing her foot along the carpet as she did so, to kick away what she had just dropped out of her shoe. Snatching her book off the table, she slammed the door to their quarters behind her hard, took a moment to inhale deeply and then hurried along the corridor, her mind whirling.

 

Draco waited until he was sure that she was really gone, and then stood up, moving slowly along the room, until he could see the scuffs in the carpet where Granger had dragged the pile of the carpet the wrong way. Following the direction of her foot, he looked along the floor until a small glint caught his eye. Bending down, he scooped it up and held it between forefinger and thumb, examining it in the early morning light. It was a tiny crystal. If Granger hadn’t tried to kick it away, he probably wouldn’t have ever noticed it on the carpet, but the movement had been shifty enough to draw his attention. Moving the small stone so that it twinkled in the light, he puzzled over it. It was extremely unlikely that Granger had semi-precious stones laying around the floor in her room, and especially not to the extent that they were a minor irritation that she would just kick away. Slipping the stone into his pocket, he sauntered out of the common room.

 

Walking into the Great Hall, he glanced towards the Gryffindor table, and saw Granger, her head bent towards Ginny Weasley’s, deep in conversation. His eyebrows arched momentarily in interest, and he made sure to seat himself at the table so he could continue watching them. Neither of the girls had noticed him come in, and didn’t seem to notice him watching them, lost as they were in their conversation. Draco continued to look at them, only gracing his social circle with raised eyebrows and sardonic smiles for the remainder of the meal. He had bigger fish to fry than sycophantic Slytherins.

 

“Ginny, I’m telling you, he knows that I’m up to something!”

 

“Well, why don’t you just use Muffliato? Ron and Harry use it all the time.” Ginny dug her spoon deep into her bowl, and looked at Hermione anxiously. “Seriously Hermione, he cannot find out what we’re doing, he’ll ruin it all!”

 

“I know he will, I know I have to hide it.” Hermione tore the crust off a slice of toast, and picked at it. “I just hate using spells like that.”

 

“Look, you aren’t using it to hide anything malicious, or to cover up anything that would endanger him, although Merlin knows that he deserves it. It’s just to protect a secret that we all enjoy having, and that doesn’t do anyone any harm.” Now that Ginny considered the problem solved, she turned back to her breakfast, and left Hermione to sit and ponder for the entire meal exactly what she was going to do. If she did something to cover up the noise straight away, then Malfoy would take that as evidence that he had been right. If she didn’t cover it up straight away, then he’d get more and more irate. Maybe…maybe she could set something up to make him think that it really was something to do with Hogwarts, rather than her. Biting down on her toast, she smiled absentmindedly at her friends, and began plotting.

 

*

 

Later that evening, Draco hovered around the corner that separated his room from Hermione’s. He knew that something would happen tonight, and he was damn well going to catch her in the middle of doing whatever it was she was doing. Checking his watch impatiently, he saw that he only had a few minutes left. Quietly, he slid around the corner, waiting just to one side of Granger’s door.

 

Almost breathlessly, he watched the second hand on his watch tick around agonisingly slowly. There were a torturous few seconds where there was no noise, and then the deep rumbling began. Draco thumped his fist against the wall in victory – there was no way in hell that Granger wouldn’t hear that; it was even louder out here, and it was definitely coming from her room.

 

Moving in front of the door, he began thumping at it. “Granger, there is no way you can tell me that you’re not hearing that! What the hell are you doing in there?”

 

“Perhaps you’d like to tell me what the hell you’re doing out here first?”

 

Draco spun around, clamping his lips firmly together to stop his jaw dropping. “What are you doing out here?”

 

“I was over in the Gryffindor common room talking to my friends. I am back slightly after curfew, but I suppose that’s the benefit of being Head Girl. Now, perhaps you’d like to tell me exactly why you’re hammering on my door?”


”Granger, can you not hear that?” Draco pointed angrily at her door, but by now the rumbling had stopped, and although he listened out for the tapping noise, nothing came.

 

Hermione tipped her head to one side and listened mock-intently. “Well, riveting though this is, I can’t hear anything. Far more likely that the noises are coming from inside your head.” Just as Draco opened his mouth to respond, she narrowed her eyes. “Now get the hell away from my door, I want to go to bed.”

 

Pushing past Draco, she opened the door and slammed it behind her quickly, frustrating Draco who had been hovering behind her, hoping to see in. All he saw was a flash of red and gold, and the swirl of her robes as she shut the door firmly on him.

Shaking his head, he moved back to his room. How could this have been the one night where the whole cycle didn’t play out? Pausing, his hand on his doorframe, he looked back at Hermione’s room. The reason the whole cycle didn’t play out as usual was because not everything was usual here. Granger was never out of her room after curfew. It was different because she had made it different.  Draco smirked. She was definitely up to something.

 

Hermione rested her back against the door, and waited until she heard Draco’s door shut. Then she waited a few minutes more, listening intently for the sound of footsteps on the soft carpets of the hall. Then, checking that she had locked her door behind her, she looked at the door that she had opened in the stone wall of her room, leaving the tapestry bunched towards the ceiling. Smiling at the success of her plan, she moved towards her wardrobe.

 

*

 

The next morning, Draco smoothed his hair down neatly, fussed with the knot of his tie for a moment, and then knocked sharply on Snape’s office door. At the command to enter, he stepped through and smiled. “Have you a moment Professor?”

 

“Yes Malfoy, what is it?” Snape looked up at him briefly, before turning his attention back to the potion that was bubbling on the desk in front of him.

 

“Well Sir, I was just wondering whether you knew anything about moving walls in the quarters for Head Boys and Girls?”

 

Snape glanced up at him. “No, I’ve never heard anything like that. As far as I know, those quarters have been used since Hogwarts was founded, and I’ve never heard anything about moving walls. Why, what have you seen?”

 

“I haven’t seen anything Professor. I can just hear what sounds like a moving wall coming from Granger’s room.”

 

“A moving wall?”

 

“Yes Professor. I was thinking about it last night, and it sounds like the wall behind the Leaky Cauldron that leads to Diagon Alley. Granger says nothing’s happening, and she can’t hear anything, but I don’t see how not, it’s really loud. And it happens every single night at just gone midnight.”

 

Snape left the potion bubbling quietly, and stepped around to the front of desk. “What are you saying Malfoy?”

 

“Absolutely nothing Sir…at the moment. I just wanted to know if you knew anything about moving walls.”

 

“Nothing. But I would remind you that the Head Students must be responsible for their own good conduct. If Miss Granger were acting inappropriately, then you would need to draw that to someone’s attention.”

 

“Of course, Sir.” Draco smiled, and went back to the door. Snape understood perfectly, and that meant Granger was going down.

 

He walked back up to the Dining Hall, and made a point of walking past the Gryffindor table. As he did, he was sure that he heard the words ‘fell for it perfectly – I’m sure he won’t bring it up again!’ coming from Granger. Smirking, he sat down in the middle of his group, and began plotting.

 

AN: So, first chapter of another story, and I'm finally back! To anyone who has been kind enough to keep an eye out for my stories, thank you, it is enormously appreciated. I know that I've had quite a few reviews that I haven't responded to, and I will try and get straight on them, because I am enormously grateful. In the meantime, please review this one, as reviews make me ridiculously happy.

In other news, I have a story that I am never going to finish - I got carried away with other stuff, and now I don't really know where I'm going with it. Rather than try and struggle through it and ruin it, I was wondering if anyone would want to take it over? This is the link to the story http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com/viewstory.php?psid=261084, and you can find the stories that it links to on my main author pages. Just send me a message through the website, and we can go from there.

Anyway, thanks for reading, is enormously appreciated. Petitesorciere xx


Chapter 2: Chapter Two
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Hermione pressed her ear against the solid frame of her door and listened intently. She couldn’t hear Malfoy in the hall, but perversely that did very little to calm her nerves. She had seen how Malfoy operated over six years of school, and she was perfectly aware that if he thought something untoward was happening, there was no way he was going to just give up without a fight. The fact that he had gone so quiet made her think that he was definitely up to something and the words ‘biding his time’ kept flashing across her mind at a worryingly repetitive rate.

 

Turning around and tipping her head against the door, Hermione sighed. She couldn’t help feeling slightly guilty; if she had used Muffliato right from the start, then she could have avoided this entire situation. But she hated that spell so much, she justified. It was underhand and devious. Plus, she and the other Gryffindor boys and girls had been causing exactly the same kind of noise from their dormitory, and the students in other dormitories had never said a word. No one ever heard a thing, so it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that this would have been the case from the Head Girl’s room.

 

Grinding her teeth, she contemplated the unfairness of it. She was causing the same amount of noise as she had been for the past year around less people, in quarters with thicker walls than the Gryffindor dormitories, and she was only using it for half of each journey, because she was able to come back through the old Gryffindor way – it was safe for her to travel that way back late at night. Arguably, she was causing less harm than she had before, and the sheer unfairness of having to share quarters with Malfoy meant that she was now running the risk of ruining the whole thing for everyone involved.

 

If only she still had the Time Turner, she could have gone back and told herself to cast Muffliato every single night because Malfoy was the kind of ferret who got his teeth into prey and didn’t let go until he hit the jugular. Breathing in deeply, she told herself to stop being pathetic. Regrets were a waste of time, and additional they implied remorse for past actions. Hermione was not remorseful, she had no intention of giving up her midnight excursions, and she was perfectly sure that none of the others wanted to either. Therefore, she would not spend time thinking about how she might have covered her tracks better in the past, and she would focus instead on how she could make this better in the future.

 

Moving over to her wardrobe, and pushing all her normal clothes over to one side, she tapped her wand against the hidden compartment at the back of it, watching as the wood pulled itself apart to reveal the chamber inside. Musing as she fished around the different materials, she wondered what she could do. If she started casting Muffliato from now, she couldn’t help feeling that Malfoy would take that as an admission of her guilt, and that he had caught her doing something wrong and she was now trying to hide her tracks.

 

Pushing taffeta to one side, and feeling cool silk across her fingers, she held the material up to the light, and wondered if she had any accessories that would work with it.  The more she thought about it, she knew that Malfoy hadn’t been fooled by her little act from last night. It was simply too convenient that she would just happen to be out in the corridor on the night after he had accused her of doing something wrong, and that she would be able to try to convince him that he was imagining the entire thing. Plus, she had to admit; the noises did seem very loud. She was sure that they had never been that loud in the Gryffindor rooms – maybe they had soundproofing spells.

 

Releasing her hair from the ties that had held it in place all day, she began re-pinning it into soft coils that clustered around the base of her neck, thinking as she did so that at least the entire adventure had been good for teaching her how to style her hair in minutes. Draping a string of small pearls around her neck, she turned to the mirror, and began lining her eyes. Maybe she could erase Malfoy’s memory and then just start using Muffliato. He would never know what had happened, and she would be able to carry on with him none the wiser.

 

Slipping the coral silk over her head, holding it carefully so as not to smudge her lipstick, she rearranged the dress so that it sat properly against her curves. Something just didn’t feel right about doing that to Malfoy. She wasn’t entirely sure why, he wouldn’t have hesitated to do much worse to her. She tugged at the dress once more and turned to the mirror. Malfoy might have done worse to her, but she was better than that. Plus, on an entirely practical level, it could unravel so easily. If Malfoy had mentioned this to anyone else, then they might ask him about it, and if he had no memory of it, that was bound to set alarm bells ringing.

 

Sweeping back a lock of hair from her face, and running back to the door to press her ear against it one last time, she thought that she would think about this tomorrow. Her thoughts were whirling around in circles, and she wasn’t getting anywhere productive. Far better to go and enjoy herself, and deal with this later. Surely, she thought, that was so different to her normal line of thinking that it counted as a form of courage, and wasn’t that what being a Gryffindor was about? Seizing the moment, enjoying life, all that jazz?

 

Scooping up a pair of glittering slippers from the bottom of the compartment in her wardrobe, she turned them over and resisted the urge to curse. She had worn through the soles of yet another pair. Sighing heavily, she pointed her wand at them, and patched them over. She would repair them properly tomorrow, while she thought about how best to deal with Malfoy.

 

She flourished her wand and cast a spell on her bedroom door to secure it, and then spun around and cast the spell on her wall. Although she had seen it dozens of time now, she never failed to thrill a little when the wall being crumpling upwards, the bricks of the wall slotting into each other, until the passage lay before her, the steps gleaming in the candlelight. It had been such hard work finding the spell to extend the existing passage that ran from the Gryffindor dormitories to the Head Girl’s room, and it had been a horrid fortnight. Now, every day that she opened the wall and saw that the staircase was still there, she was relieved.

 

Tapping over the threshold of the wall, she pattered down the stairs, knowing that the wall would be folding back down for the evening in a few seconds. She would return back through the existing corridor into the Gryffindor dormitories – this staircase was far too steep to be running up every night, especially with how tired she was by the end of the night. She kept an old black robe in the girls’ dormitory, and wore it over her dress as she slid through the shadows of the school, knowing that if she was ever challenged, her status as Head Girl was more than enough to protect her. Then, every morning, she would just leave slightly before Malfoy, the robe tucked neatly in her bag, to be returned to the Gryffindor tower.  It worked perfectly.

 

*

 

Draco waited until the tapping that he knew so well died away, and then pressed his wand against the lock on Granger’s door, whispering ‘Alohomora’. The door didn’t budge, and he had to admit that he wasn’t particularly surprised. If Granger was going to the trouble of elaborate lies to cover up whatever it was she was doing, then he would have been amazed if she’d trusted to a basic spell to safeguard the entire thing.

 

Looking around, just to make sure that she wasn’t lurking behind him again, he told himself that he only had one choice, and that the idea had only just occurred to him, and he had not been turning the idea over in his head for an entire afternoon.  Aiming his wand very carefully at the handle of the door, and the lock beneath it, he muttered ‘Confringo’ and watched as it exploded off. Yes, there was residual damage in the form of the majority of the door lying across the corridor, but he could deal with that later.

 

Stepping eagerly into Granger’s room, his jaw dropped as he saw the wall in front of him sliding down a 2 foot gap in the wall. As he tried to make sense of what he had just seen – he was sure that he had seen a staircase behind the wall, but how was that even possible? – a Gryffindor tapestry dropped down over the wall, with an air of ‘show’s over, nothing to see here’.

 

Draco pointed his wand at the wall and muttered a few spells, but did nothing other than fray the edge of the tapestry slightly. Putting his wand away, he consoled himself with the idea that he had definitely made some progress. A wall opened in Granger’s room, Granger disappears, the wall closes up. She was most certainly up to something, and now he had a vague idea of how she was doing something wrong, it would be so much easier to find out exactly what it was that she was doing wrong.

 

Turning away from the wall, Draco cast his eye around the rest of the room, taking a mental inventory.

 

A still photo of Granger and two older people. He assumed this was a Muggle picture, and those were her parents (wrinkling his nose mentally as he did so).

 

A moving photo of Granger, Weasley and Potter, beaming out at him. Idiots.

 

The door of Granger’s wardrobe hanging open slightly. Struck with a faint sense of the illicit nature of what he was doing, and reminded of when he was a little boy and used to climb inside his mother’s wardrobe to press his cheek against the soft furs she had, Draco pulled the door wider open. Nothing as remotely interesting as furs in here, just school uniforms and Muggle clothes.

 

As he moved to push the doors back to how he had found them, Draco paused. Something wasn’t right. Some of the clothes weren’t hanging quite right: Granger was such a neat-freak that her wardrobe looked like a clothes rail in a shop, but on one side, all the clothes were bunched together, like someone had pushed them to one side to reach past them, and then hadn’t pushed them back.

 

Reaching his hand through the cotton skirts, Draco pushed forward, expecting to hit the cool wood at the back of the cabinet. Instead, his hand continued forward until he nearly overbalanced. Reaching around, shoulder deep in the wardrobe, he grasped at slippery material, dragging it forward into the light.

 

Draco pulled back, his face contorted in confusion. It was a ballgown. Slinky, and prettily pale pink, with small beaded straps that would have crossed over across the back, which he now realised would have been left totally bare by how low the dress was cut at the back. Dropping it to the floor, he reached forward again and dragged out another one.

 

This one was frothy with petticoats – emerald green satin glistened under the bedroom lights, as he held it up, so that the white lace of the underskirts was obscured. Reaching forward, he grabbed more and more of them. It seemed never ending: dress after dress. Where the hell had Granger gotten all of these? And more importantly, why did she have them?

 

He stood in the middle of the fabrics: smooth silk intertwined with lustrous satin, rustling taffetas, floating chiffons and gleaming jewels. There was no point in putting all of this back. He was going to stay right here in Granger’s room, and she was going to explain this to him, whether she wanted to or not.

 

He repaired the door, setting it right on its hinges, and closing it quietly, sealing himself in the room. He would never be able to work out how to follow Granger, so she would just have to tell him everything, and he had the element of surprise on his side, so it should be quite easy. Draco smirked, but knew that his anger about being woken had abated quite substantially. What was the point of impotent fury when there was something that piqued his interest quite as much as this? Plus, depending on how juicy the secret was that Granger was keeping, the possibilities could be endless. He settled himself down in Granger’s desk chair, facing the door, wand at the ready. This was going to be great fun.

 

*

 

Hermione stepped onto the crystal path that led down to where they all congregated each night. She could already see the soft lights up ahead of her, and hear the laughter of her friends. Disregarding any lingering thoughts of Malfoy, she hurried along the path, holding her dress up to one side so as not to step on the fluttering hem.  She would deal with Malfoy tomorrow. After all, he only had unfounded suspicions, that he had gotten from the other side of her bedroom door. As far as he knew, she was pure as the driven snow. She could deal with him tomorrow.

 

AN: So I hope you enjoyed that chapter! As always, please please please, please x infinity, do review. It makes it so much easier to write the next chapter, and it’s so great to get feedback as I’m going along. In other news, Rifts and Romance is still up for grabs if anyone wants it? If you go to my author page, you’ll be able to find it on there. I will give support as much as the new author wants, and if someone is reading this who had toyed with the idea of starting a story, but has never quite gotten round to it, then please let me know – this could be perfect for you! I don’t want it to be left unfinished – it looks unhappy. Anyway, as always, thanks for reading, it is massively appreciated. Love from petitesorciere xxx

 

 

 


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



Ginny came up behind Hermione, and tapped her on the shoulder, smiling as Hermione turned around, with the corners of her lips already quirking up. “Hey Hermione!” She stepped back to take in the coral dress properly. “That one’s lovely!”

 

“And the same back to you!” Hermione smiled at her, watching how the tiny small crystals on the deep blue material shimmered in the soft light. “Have you been here long?”

 

“No, I only just came down, the others have been down for about 10 minutes I think though. I wore through another pair of shoes, I had to find another pair.”

 

“Me too. There must be a spell we can use, this is getting ridiculous.” Hermione linked arms with Ginny and the pair of them set off along the path.

 

They were just within the border of the Forbidden Forest, on the side closest to the lake. Set within the canopy of trees was a clear little garden, its borders edged off with rose bushes. A delicate, iron wrought gazebo sat in the centre, tiny little lights flickering along the path that led to it. The gazebo itself was softly lit with creamy lights the floated along the softly draped roof and around the metal poles that supported it, slotting in among the elaborate scrollwork of the walls. The entire place was lit with this pearly glow, casting an attractive gleam on the face of every Gryffindor there. All of them, all in the sixth or seventh year, smiled around at each other, chatting among themselves, enjoying the nature of their secret and the friendliness within it.

 

Hermione split away from Ginny and went up to Harry and Ron. Both of them were in dress robes; Ron’s considerably nicer than the ones he had had to wear in Fourth Year for the Yuletide Ball. She touched him on the arm to get his attention and smiled up at the pair of them.

 

“Hermione! Any trouble from Malfoy tonight?”

 

“No, but that makes me more nervous…actually, do you know what? I am not thinking about this at all tonight. I am going to enjoy it, just as I do every night, and then I can deal with him tomorrow. He is not going to ruin this for us!”

 

Harry laughed, as Hermione practically stamped her foot in defiance. “Well, that’s probably the right idea. Do you know if we’re starting soon?”

 

Ron glanced around. “It looks like everyone’s here. We might as well.” He took his wand out of his breast pocket, and everyone took their lead from him, pulling out their wand and raising them towards the ceiling. They all moved their wands in gently synchrony, performing the moves that they had all painstakingly learnt and perfected. As they completed the sequence, music blossomed from thin air and filled the gazebo.

 

Every person in the gazebo knew what he or she would do now. It had been awkward at first, trying to get the confidence to dance, trying to be that uninhibited around people they knew only from school. They had stood awkwardly at other sides of the room, until one couple dared to breach the middle ground and begin twirling slowly in the middle of it.

 

As Ron held out his hand to Hermione, she took it gently and the pair of them swirled into the kaleidoscope of coloured dresses and crisp robes, feeling the music flow through every person present. There were no formal steps, but there was a definite feeling of grace, of belonging to another time and another world, and there was a unity to their movements that couldn’t have been found in a normal dance. As the evening went on, they would be less formal, but they all instinctively began dancing like this. It suited the setting, the clothing, the secret.

 

Time spun away from all of them, as it did every night, and before they knew it, their time was drawing to a close as the music grew quieter and their dancing petered out. As soon as the music was gone, they began to realise exactly how tired they were, and yawns could be heard around the room where previously they had all been laughing together. Girls gently pushed loops of their hair back from where they had escaped from the pins, and boys loosened the top buttons of their robes.

 

All the easy chatter from earlier in the night was gone, and with arms linked, or hands knotted together, they all made their way back along the crystal path that led to the passage that would take them back up into Gryffindor tower. Hermione, walking in the middle of Harry and Ron, rested her head gently on Ron’s arm. She felt utterly content, all thoughts of Malfoy completely banished. It was this feeling, the one that she had after a magical night with her friends, that convinced her that she was totally right in continuing with this secret.

 

Finally, they had made their way up into the common room. Parvati slowly pushed the wall open, and peeked out into the common room, saw it was clear and slid out into the room. Not speaking to each other, not wanting to wake any of the younger students, all of them slid up to their respective dormitories. Hermione ran up, snatched her robe from where it was underneath Ginny’s bed, and pulled it over her head, frowning slightly as she saw that it did not quite cover the coral silk that fluttered to the floor.

 

Waving goodbye at the girls, she ran back down through the common room and began pattering through the quiet castle as quickly as she dared. It was so late that even the patrolling teachers had gone to bed, and she didn’t feel the need to use the Marauders Map, as she had when they first began going down to the Forest every night. Her footsteps sounded so small in the vast emptiness of Hogwarts, and she listened to their rhythm as she made her way to her own quarters.

 

Whispering the password, hearing the murmur of her own voice in the depths of the night, she slid up the stairs, arriving at her door and performing the voiceless magic that would unlock it. She waited a second to make sure that she couldn’t hear Draco stirring and then opened the door a crack to slide through it, spinning around immediately to shut and lock it behind her.

 

“So which dress was it tonight Granger?”

 

The voice that came from behind her was so unexpected that Hermione couldn’t help but let a small scream escape. Spinning around, she saw what she had been totally unprepared for. Malfoy was sitting smugly in the middle of her room, her dresses hovering in midair behind him, their seams filled out with air, as though she was wearing them.

 

“What…”

 

“What am I doing here? Oh Granger,” Malfoy stood up and walked up to her. “Poor, unsuspecting, stupid Granger, you didn’t think I would give up that easily did you? You didn’t honestly think that one little charade of being outside your room when the noise began and pretending that you couldn’t hear it would be enough, did you?”

 

Hermione whipped her wand out from her voluminous sleeve. “Don’t you dare call me stupid, you’re the one who broke into my room. I could have you suspended for that!”

 

Draco pulled out his own wand, and held it casually between forefingers. “And what you are doing is so innocent that you would run the risk of reporting me to senior staff? Why Granger, I’ve totally overestimated this.  I thought the fact that you have hidden tunnels running from your room and a collection of evening wear concealed in your wardrobe, and the fact that you’ve been running through the school in the middle of the night was illicit. How foolish I’ve been, how stupid of me, how remiss of me to think you capable of…”

 

“That will do Malfoy.” Hermione said in disgust, putting her wand to one side, and watching carefully as he did the same. “What do you want?”

 

“Well, I’ll start by seeing what you’re wearing Granger, I’m very curious about this little collection you seem to have amassed.”

 

Hermione glowered at him, and hugged her robe closer to herself. “Try again.”

 

“Suit yourself, I’ll just go and wake up Snape.” Malfoy made to move towards the door. Hermione stared at him with complete and utter contempt, and picked up her wand again.

 

“Please don’t think that I will hesitate to curse you. If you really are going to tell a teacher, then I have nothing to lose, and I’ve always wanted to try an act of desperation.”

 

Malfoy smirked. “Courage when cornered Granger. How far do you think that will take you?”

 

“A lot further than letting you dictate what items of clothing I show you.”

 

Malfoy turned back to gesture at the dresses hanging in mid air. “Well, I’ve already seen all of these. I do like this one here,” he gestured at the emerald green taffeta. “It looks like it belongs to someone in Slytherin, not you. But then Granger, none of these look like they belong to you. Surely they ought to be a drab skirt and buttoned up school shirt?”

 

“Malfoy, in case it had escaped your notice, it is three in the morning, and I want to go to bed. Perhaps you could make whatever point it is that you are trying to come to?” Hermione yawned and began unpinning her hair, hoping to display some form of nonchalance that would get rid of him.

 

“I want to know what you’re doing.” Draco dropped down into her desk chair, and watched her.

 

“What I’m doing?” Hermione kept her back to him, and unpinned another coil of hair.

 

Draco paused for a minute, momentarily distracted by the loops of hair falling across her shoulder. “Granger, let’s not play that game. You are standing in your bedroom which has a wall that opens up to a secret passage. You are wearing an evening gown, and have a load more hanging in your wardrobe. You are coming back to your room in the early hours of the morning, and you are wearing a robe over what looks like a silk confection, which you wouldn’t be doing if you weren’t trying to hide something. Now, perhaps you could just answer my questions and we could put this farce behind us.”

 

“I can’t tell you, you’ll ruin it all.” Hermione unpinned the last part of her hair, and let it fall down around her shoulders.

 

“You don’t know that.”

 

“You’re a Slytherin, of course you’ll ruin it all.”

 

Draco had to concede her point. “Well, what if I had something to gain from keeping it secret?”

 

Hermione hugged her robe to herself again. “Meaning what precisely?”

Draco rolled his eyes. “Granger, I am a Slytherin. We thrive on secrets. Having one that no one in my house knew about, and one that involved a Gryffindor. That’s a big currency, and one that I wouldn’t give up freely.”

 

“That you wouldn’t give up until something valuable enough came along.”

 

“Sometimes just keeping a secret is valuable enough.” Draco crossed his arms and stared coolly at Hermione, waiting for her to break.

 

Sure enough, she took a deep breath. “I am swearing you to secrecy on this, and I’m only telling you because I can’t think of a way out of this that doesn’t involve cursing you, although that is rapidly becoming a more attractive option. Last year, in sixth year, Ginny and I were just mucking around in the common room. She’s really good at curses, and she was showing me a new one that she’d learnt. She didn’t hold her wand quite right for it, and instead of showing me the curse, she sent a bolt at the wall at the other side of the common room. No one else was in there, it was so late at night, so only the pair of us saw what happened next.

 

“The wall separated. It was like Diagon Alley, when you’re approaching it from the Leaky Cauldron. It just came apart, as easily as nothing, and as we stepped towards it, we could feel this slight breeze coming up, and all these candles lit magically inside it. There was a staircase going down. We didn’t even think about it, we both just stepped in and went down the stairs. We were so excited to think that we might be discovering a secret for Hogwarts that no one had seen before. I mean, I had never read about this, and I’ve read Hogwarts: A History so many times!

 

“It took us about 10 minutes to get to the end of the tunnel, and it led out onto this small crystal path. We didn’t even think about where we going, but there was a moment where we realised we were being led into the Forbidden Forest that made us a little nervous. We tried not to think about it too much, and the further we got onto the path, the safer we felt. It was like there was protection across the path, because we made it straight to this tiny little garden before we even realised. It was beautiful, there were all these flowers, and then this gazebo in the middle. It was a little bit run down, but you could tell that it had been really pretty.”

 

Hermione paused and looked at Draco, who was looking at back her with the appearance of rapt attention. Sighing, she continued. “We had no idea why it was there, why it was hidden away in the Forest, and why it had protections over it. In the middle of the floor, there were these enormous chests. We counted them and there were 24. They opened as soon as we touched them. It was amazing; they were all full of evening clothes. Even more perfectly, half were full of men’s evening clothes, and half were women’s clothes.”

 

Hermione paused again, this time to look fondly at the dresses floating in mid air. “It made perfect sense, there are 12 girls in Sixth and Seventh year in Gryffindor, and the same amount of boys. We ran straight back up the tunnel, checking that we could open the wall again, and the next day we told everyone else. We all went down the next day, we split the clothes, we made the gazebo look nice, we strengthened the charms across it, and we spend every evening there.”

 

“Doing what?” Draco asked suspiciously.

 

“Ummm…Gryffindor stuff.” Hermione answered weakly, well aware that ‘Dancing’ would not have been an appropriate answer. Draco quirked an eyebrow and smirked, but decided to let it go for now.

 

“So, you all go down to this place every evening and do mysterious Gryffindor things while dressed in evening wear? Well, it’s nice that you have a hobby Granger.”

 

Hermione glared at him. “You would never have known about this if I hadn’t been made Head Girl. When I had to move in here, it took me ages to find a spell that would make a tunnel and connect it to the existing one, and it’s clearly a lot noisier than the other one.”

 

“Now, Granger, here you sound quite irritable. Are you cross because I found you out, or because your magic isn’t good enough to remain inconspicuous?”

 

“Shut up Malfoy.” Hermione stopped and considered. “A little bit of both, but mainly the first. And even then, mainly because it’s you.”

 

“So now you sneak out of your room in the middle of the night, do your Gryffindor things, and then I imagine you go back to the Gryffindor common room with the others, dress in that hideous robe, and then come back here and pretend like nothing ever happened?”

 

Hermione nodded, and ran her fingers back through her hair. Draco halted again – surely her hair wasn’t actually that lustrous.

 

“Why don’t you come straight back here?”

 

“The tunnel from here is really steep, and I’m usually quite tired by the end of the night. Plus…” Hermione blushed, “it’s nice to go back with the others, it makes me feel more like one of them.”

 

“I will never understand Gryffindors.” Draco stood up and brushed some imaginary dust off his trousers. “Well Granger, you can have your secret if it means so much to you.”

 

“Really? Why?” Hermione asked suspiciously.

 

“I don’t have proof.” Draco shrugged. “You could just pretend to have been absolutely oblivious of everything in this room, and I imagine every Gryffindor would back you up.”

 

Hermione stared coldly at him. “You’re giving up far too easily and I don’t trust you.”

 

“Slytherins are pragmatic. I have nothing to gain right now. Proof is integral. However, as a goodwill gesture Granger, you can show me what dress you picked tonight.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Curiosity.”

 

“Killed the cat. I’m not showing you my dress.”

 

“Well, I suppose I could try going to Professor Snape. I probably know enough know to make sure that you don’t try any ‘acts of desperation’.” Draco stood in the open doorway and laughed at her.

 

“Oh, fine.” Hermione hissed, and took her robe off. Draco watched her for a minute appraisingly, eying the coral silk that floated around her.

 

“I prefer the blue one.”

 

“Oh for Merlin’s sake…” Hermione cursed, snatched up her wand and flicked it, slamming the door shut.

 

Draco jumped back smartly, to avoid having his fingers caught in the doorjamb. The coral did suit her, now that he thought about it. Girls. So touchy when it came to clothes. Smirking to himself, he sauntered back into his room. He had meant what he said. She could have her secret…for now. Proof was too important and he wouldn’t risk getting her back up anymore until he had that. But there was no way this matter was forgotten.

 

Hermione flicked her wand and let her dresses float back into her cupboard. There was no way she trusted Malfoy to keep the secret. She would have to keep a very close eye on him until she thought of a way to resolve the matter. There was no way she was letting him give her secret away.

 

 

A/N: Well, I hope that makes a little bit more sense! As always, I hope you enjoyed, and reviews make my day, so do leave me one. I’ll try and get the next chapter up a bit sooner. Love petitesorciere xxxHogH


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
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“You told him?!” Ginny hissed at Hermione incredulously.

 

Hermione glanced around anxiously, wondering who else had heard Ginny spitting like an angry cat. “What was I meant to say?”

 

“Anything! Anything at all, except the truth! Just lie Hermione!”

 

“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m not that good at coming up with lies off the top of my head!” Hermione heard her own voice reach angry cat notes and forced herself to suck in a terse deep breath. “What was I meant to say? Oh, yes Draco, I’m wearing an evening gown because I’m actually Princess Anastasia. Please return me to the Romanovs.” At Ginny’s blank gaze, she dragged in another breath. “Muggle reference. Ignore me.”

 

“Well, I’m sure you could have come up with something better than telling him the whole story!”

 

“He was in my room Ginny, it threw me off.”

 

“Well, curse first, think later. You could have come up with a perfectly good excuse if you’d knocked him out and changed your clothes, and hidden everything away.”

 

Hermione dug her spoon down to the bottom of her bowl. “It’s done now. And he said he wouldn’t tell a teacher.”

 

“No, Hermione. He said he wouldn’t tell a teacher yet. Yet is the key word in that sentence. He did not guarantee to keep our secret until we all leave Hogwarts. He guaranteed to keep your secret until it suited him.”

 

“Well, what am I meant to do?” Hermione contemplated flicking a spoon of porridge at Ginny.

 

“I don’t know.” Ginny tossed her hair over her shoulder in a flaming curtain.

 

“Just…just don’t tell anyone yet. I’ll figure out a solution to it.” Hermione looked pleadingly at Ginny. “Please. I’ll lend you my pearl hair clip for tonight.”

 

Ginny exhaled heavily. “OK, but only because that clip will look great on me. But seriously Hermione, what are you going to do about this?”

 

“I don’t know yet.” Hermione looked over her shoulder at the Slytherin table, but not seeing the flash of blonde hair.

 

*

 

Draco sat at his desk in the Potions class, way ahead of all the other students, even Granger. A smirk playing across his lips, he neatly arranged his books at precise right angles. What he had in mind promised to be great fun, he’d had a whole night to plot it, and he could already picture Granger’s face.

 

True to form and his expectations, she was early, arriving way before any of the other students were even beginning to think about leaving the Great Hall. He wondered idly why she did that? Was she hoping to gain some extra titbit of information that would put her so much further ahead than her classmates? He heard her small feet stop short as she saw him sitting at the desk, and he would have put money on her debating whether just to back out of the room and come back in with the rest of their class, when it was safer.

 

“Don’t chicken out Granger,” he drawled, not turning to look at her. “I was going to talk to you this morning, but you had mysteriously vanished before I got a chance.”

 

“Funny that.” He heard Hermione’s footsteps move behind him, in the direction of her desk. Her voice sounded more sarcastic than he had realised she was capable of.

 

“So then I got to thinking, what if I came and spoke to Slughorn before class? I mean, he’s not quite on the level of Snape, but as a previous head of Slytherin, I’m sure he has some vested interest in making sure that Gryffindor isn’t outdoing us.”

 

Hermione tried to muffle a gasp, and Draco couldn’t resist turning around to look at her face. Yes, exactly as he had expected: eyes wide with horror and anger, and her cheeks already pale. He had been hoping her mouth would drop open in terror at his deviousness, but he would settle for the clenched jaw that she was currently wearing.

 

She unlocked her teeth long enough to hiss “you wouldn’t.”

 

“Oh, wouldn’t I? Is that because it doesn’t fit in with what you’ve been telling all your friends? No Weasley, no Potter, Malfoy wouldn’t ever reveal our secret, he promised.”

 

“You flatter yourself with the idea that I would tell anyone about you going through my wardrobe in the middle of the night,” Hermione said coldly, but she couldn’t help her traitorous cheeks pinkening to the colour of strawberry mousse.

 

“So, it wasn’t Potter and Weasley. It’ll have been one of your friends though. You couldn’t have kept something like that to yourself, it isn’t in your nature. You would have wanted validation of your decision, someone to reassure you that you had made the right choice in not cursing me and choosing to believe what I told you.” Draco stood up and leant back against his desk. “Well Granger, am I right?”

 

“I told Ginny. She advised me to curse you now and think later.” Hermione’s hand involuntarily twitched towards her wand.

 

“Oh, but you wouldn’t do that Granger, because you’re worried that I’ll give you away.”

 

“I could just curse you so well that you wouldn’t never give anything away again. I don’t doubt that I would be doing every one a massive favour if I removed your ability to speak.”

 

“Now, there’s no need for that Granger.” Draco said sweetly, so sweetly that it set Hermione’s teeth on edge just to hear him. “I have been thinking a little more about what you said, and I’ve decided that I’m intrigued.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Hermione dumped her bag on the table, and glared at him as she began pulling books at.


”Granger, shall we try for a little civility? I have you in an unfortunate position, and you are simply going to have to make the best of being in that position.” Draco quirked an eyebrow at her, and Hermione couldn’t help but tear her wand from her sleeve.

 

“Make one more comment about ‘having me’ in any sort of position and you will regret it Malfoy, do I make myself perfectly clear?” Sparks shot from the end of her wand, and the set of her jaw forced Draco to put on the most sardonic tone he had to cover his next words.

 

“Of course Granger.”

 

“Now, what do you want?” Her eyes blazed at him, and he felt the need to square his shoulders before she totally emasculated him.

 

“I am intrigued by the idea of ‘Gryffindor things’. I want to see what they are.” He listened to himself with mild shock. He hadn’t meant to say it quite so baldly, quite so like he was asking for a favour. It was meant to be something that she offered him, and he accepted like royalty dispensing a favour to a peasant.

 

“No.” Hermione looked contemptuously at him and turned back to her desk.

 

“That’s it? You aren’t even going to try and placate me with an excuse?”

 

“Will you get over yourself, you pompous excuse for a human being? If you go and tell a teacher I will find a way to bluff myself out of it. It won’t be pleasant, and yes, you probably will ruin this for me, but I am not going to destroy the entire event for all my friends just because you are curious and trying to get one over on me.” Hermione slammed a textbook down on the table and looked at him angrily.

 

“You don’t have a choice,” Draco blustered, worried that he was losing his edge.

 

“Oh, I most definitely have a choice.” Hermione tapped her wand against the desk edge, ignoring the purple wisps that curled menacingly around her quills and ink pots. “I can ignore all your meaningless threats, and carry on with my life, much the way I always have.”

 

“Meaningless!” Draco hissed at her. She smiled blithely at him and made a neat stack of parchment in front of her seat. “I’ll show you meaningless!”

 

He turned around and stalked towards the small door to the side of the classroom, the one that led to the teacher’s study. Hermione had no doubt that Slughorn was sitting in emerald green splendour, waiting for the right moment to make his usual sweeping entrance. She bit her lip hard, willing herself to call his bluff, not to cave in to what was clearly just a petulant demand for attention.

 

Draco knocked loudly on the door. “Professor, may I talk to you for a minute?”

 

Hermione heard the heavy footsteps moving across the floor, and wondered exactly how inevitable it was that she would give in. Certainly not a foregone conclusion…

 

The wood door creaked open, and Slughorn’s puffy face peered through the crack. “Ah, Mr Malfoy, what can I do for you?” He stepped back, as if to allow Draco room to pass in. Draco turned and smirked at Hermione quickly, watching as the colour drained from her face.

 

“Well, it’s slightly awkward Professor, I’m not really sure how to start telling you this…It’ll just sound so peculiar…”

 

Slughorn’s brow furrowed, and Hermione’s nerves snapped. Darting away from her desk, she went to stand at Malfoy’s side. “What Malfoy means, Professor Slughorn, is that it can sometimes sound a little peculiar to lavish praise upon a teacher. I hope you won’t mind that we chose to come and tell you how much we enjoy your lessons before the rest of our classmates arrive.”

 

Draco looked down at Hermione, her brown eyes fierce in her pale face, as she looked at him with a false smile plastered across her lips, daring him to contradict her. “Is that what I mean Hermione?”







“Yes, Draco,” she growled his name. “It is exactly what you mean.”

 

“Well, I’m a very trusting person, and that has never worked out to my detriment.” Draco flashed a brilliant smile at Slughorn. “Yes, Professor, I just wanted to tell you that I think your lessons are absolutely brilliant, I enjoy them so very much.”

 

“Oh, thank you my boy,” Slughorn murmured, shutting the door to his office behind him as he stepped out into the classroom, chuntering about the joy of teaching and fine students. Draco kept nodding faux-attentively, his eyes on Hermione at all times, watching her anger with immense enjoyment. It might not have gone the way he planned, but he was willing to assume that he had still gotten his own way.

 

It wasn’t until a little later, when both of their potions were under control, and Hermione had rescued the grey putty that Ron had managed to create by stirring in his eye of newt too early, that the small note fluttered inconspicuously through the classroom and landed next to Draco’s hand. Carefully unfurling it, he read the rounded script.

 

I have no idea what you expect me to do.

 

Smirking, he erased her words, and replaced them with his own.

 

Granger, as everyone so delights in saying, you are meant to be the smartest witch of our generation. Surprise me.

 

Hermione poked her wand irritably at the parchment, sending it up in a blue flame. Surprise him indeed. She could surprise him in any number of ways, but they all involved him losing a limb or gaining an unfortunate impediment  and somehow she was sure that that wasn’t what he had in mind. And as he had just shown that he was quite happy to go back on his word as and when it suited him, what choice did she have?

 

But then, how could she possibly show him what they did? He was Draco Malfoy. He was never going to be happy with skulking in the bushes trying to see everything. From her limited contact with him, she knew that he was enough of a show off to demand being the centre of attention, and being part of whatever party was going on. But he was never going to be welcomed. The Gryffindors would never accept having him at their party and knowing that they owed the continued success to one of the most objectionable Slytherins imaginable.

 

She absentmindedly stirred her potion, comforted by the gloopy noise within. An idea began to form. So the Gryffindors would never accept having Malfoy at their party. Well, he wouldn’t come as Malfoy. She could disguise him, that would be easy enough. And then, if she fabricated an excuse for some sort of masked ball, then everyone’s faces would be hidden. Draco wouldn’t be identified or able to identify any of them properly. Simple! Then, if she just got him to make a promise, a proper promise this time, that once he had seen that would be the end of it then she would be home safe and dry. Maybe if she could get some dirt on him. She could cast a spell on him, or drug him with Vertiaserum, get him to spill his most embarrassing secret, and then she would hold that over him and make sure that he kept his promise.

 

Draco glanced over his shoulder at her, and saw a small smile spark at the corners of her mouth. He turned back around and gave one final stir of his potion. It looked like he was going to join the Gryffindors.

 

AN: I think I need to stop promising to get these chapters up quickly…nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed it! Please review, it makes a massive difference. xxx HogH

 


Chapter 5: Chapter 5
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Hermione stopped spinning as the music dimmed into the dark night and felt her heart rate pick up a notch. She wasn’t entirely sure how it was managing to pick up at all, given that it had been accelerating all night and was now fairly close to a hummingbird heartbeat. Everyone was going to be leaving in a matter of seconds, and she would have to stop them and make her pitch and she had absolutely no idea how to go about.

 

She had prevaricated as long as she could, managing to hold off for one whole week after sending Malfoy that note in their Potions class. But he had refused to be silent and wait for her to make her move for long. She had had four days of blissful silence, four days where she had tried to convince herself that this was all going to be ok and that he was going to let the matter drop, even while she knew that she was fooling herself. Then, on the fifth day, Malfoy had been waiting for her when she came back from the garden (fortunately outside her bedroom that time) and had made it crystal clear that he had not forgotten her promise and that he had a number of different avenues he was prepared to take the matter down if she didn’t hold up her end of the deal. She had spent yesterday trying to think of the best way to present her idea to the group, and now she was having to deliver the damn thing.

 

Feeling her jaw clench with the customary rage that Malfoy provoked in her, Hermione cleared her throat loudly and wondered why her hands suddenly felt too big for her body. Surely, she thought, a tongue feeling too big for her mouth was far more customary? Not this feeling of having enormous inflated balloons dangling limply from her wrists. She had the urge to fling them around just to see if they were as cold and unresponsive as she sensed they were. Dragging herself back to the present she realised the Gryffindors were all staring at her, waiting patiently for whatever it was she wanted to say, while she stood there panicking and twitching her fingers.

 

“Hi…everyone…thanks…just a really quick suggestion.” She smiled nervously and straightened her shoulders as she prepared to deliver the pitch. “I was thinking…well, we’ve got something amazing here. We have this gorgeous garden, this beautiful set up, these outfits, but we do the same thing every night. I think we run the risk of losing exactly how special this is.”

 

Nods went around the small group, and Hermione felt her heartbeat slow slightly, bringing it back down to a rabbit heartbeat.

 

“So, I was thinking we should have a masked ball. You know, we all really make an effort, all wear masks, pretend that we’re all different people.” Even though she was resolutely not looking at her, Hermione saw Ginny’s eyes narrow slightly in suspicion.

 

Parvati held her hand up. “It’s a nice idea Hermione but there are only 24 of us. I don’t think it will be that hard for us to tell who’s who, even if we wear masks.”

“Well, that was my next point. We should invite some people from other houses.” At the consternation that threatened to break out, Hermione held up her hands in placation. “Not every time. Strictly as a one time occurrence, and just the sixth and seventh years. I know how to open up another passage that will link into this one, we’ll open up one from say, the Room of Requirements, everyone can come through at the start of the night, and go back at the end of the evening and we’ll close it up straight away. No one ever has to know where this garden is or how to get to it, or even how we found it.”

 

“So what, we just invite everyone?” Ron asked incredulously.

 

“No, of course not,” Hermione said irritably, tension making her snappy. “Let’s restrict it to the Dumbledore’s Army people. Let’s face it, after everything we’ve faced together, we ought to be including them in something as good as this.”

 

“If we introduce more people, we’re going to get caught,” Ginny said, and Hermione was sure that this was some sort of oblique reference to Malfoy.

 

“We really don’t have to be. We all managed to get to and from the DA meetings without being caught, it’s just that principle again. I manage to get through the castle in evening wear with just a robe over it, there’s no reason why another 20 people can’t, especially if they filter their arrival and don’t all come in from the same direction. Plus, if they’re all wearing masks, then no one will know who’s there and how to tell tales on them!”

 

Warming to her theme, an idea occurring to her at that precise moment, Hermione began to speak more enthusiastically. “In fact, we could send invitations anonymously, and tell people that if they talk about it the invitation is rescinded. If we say it’s from DA, no one will question it, and they’ll keep the invitations secret. They don’t have to know that it came from Gryffindor. Plus, we’re only inviting people we trust, people who won’t give us away. It’ll be absolutely fine, it’ll be such a fun night, and it’ll be a great way for us to celebrate our good fortune in finding this place.”

 

Hermione hauled in a deep breath of air, and exhaled in relief, realising that her hands appeared to have returned to normal. Harry stepped forward. “You know what Hermione, I think that’s actually a really good idea. We should be inviting other people to come, and as long as we’re careful about who we invite, we shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”

 

“It would be nice to have some different boys here.” Lavender fidgeted with her necklace as she looked over the current offerings.

 

“So, what would we do?”

 

“Well,” Hermione smiled at her success. “We would send the invitations anonymously, just saying that they’re from Dumbledore’s Army. People would be told to wear a mask, and dress formally. We could even set up a room in the Room of Requirements where they all get ready so that they wouldn’t have to go through the castle in evening wear. I’ll make another passage from the Room of Requirements that will link to our one down from the common room. We can have someone there to guide people so that they don’t go the wrong way and back up to our tower.

 

“Then, we dance all night, are the perfect hosts and hostesses as only Gryffindors can be, and then we guide them back up to their passage. We stay with them to filter them leaving the room so that we don’t draw suspicion. Then when they’re all gone, we destroy that passageway. We can even give them a cover story just in case they get caught.

 

“And that’s it. They’re never quite sure who’s been there, they don’t know where the party was and they’ll never be able to get back there. It’s perfect.”

 

There were nods of agreement all around, and Hermione felt her heartbeat finally drop to a human pace. She had pulled it off. Of course, that meant she was going to be inviting Draco Malfoy into their midst, but it would be a solution in the long term. She would get some dirt on him if it killed her and then this entire nightmare would be over and she could go back to wearing through her shoes every night and it would be nobody’s business but her own! Plans were going round for the ball to be on a Friday two weeks away and she heaved another sigh of relief. That gave her plenty of time to think up her plan for the evening, and she might even be able to find a way out of getting Malfoy to the ball before then.

 

As the Gryffindors dispersed into the night, Ginny sidled up to Hermione and put a hand on her elbow. “Wonderful idea Hermione.”

 

Hermione smiled, linked arms with her and the pair of them began walking along the crystal paths. “Thanks Ginny. I think it should be a really fun night.”

 

“I just have to ask…this isn’t a way for you to bring Malfoy here to get him to leave us alone is it?”

 

“Oh, Ginny, I took your advice on that one,” Hermione lied smoothly, feeling a pang go through her. “I just did a memory charm on him, that got rid of the whole problem.”

 

“And he hasn’t mentioned it again? So you don’t think he told anyone as insurance?”

 

“Nope, nothing at all.” Hermione smiled into the darkness, wishing that it were that simple. She had no idea whether Malfoy had told anyone, and she knew that if he had and then found out that she had cursed him, the repercussions would be far worse. At least this way she had a chance of keeping him on her side.

 

“Oh good,” Ginny smiled happily and Hermione stamped down the idea that she was betraying her friend. It was an ends to a means. It didn’t occur to her once that that was an admirable point of view, as far as a Slytherin was concerned.

 

 

*

 

Draco sat with his back pressed firmly against Hermione’s door. Another five minutes and he was just going to blow the door off again and go and wait in there. He was sure he could open that passage and go and find her if he tried hard enough.  She had been dragging her feet for far too long.

 

He had to admit that it did make him nervous pushing Granger as hard as he was. He had thought that she would be extremely easy to manipulate, and that within days he would have been in the centre of the Gryffindors, revelling in his breach of their secrecy. Instead, Hermione had been surprisingly resistant and eventually he had felt the need to push her, before she thought that he was going to let the entire thing drop. The look in her eyes reminded him of the look in the Hippogriff’s eye before it had slashed his arm open in third year, and he had actually had to resist the urge to take a step back from her. She wasn’t nearly as tame as she might have pretended to be.

 

However, he wasn’t anxious enough about Hermione to forget his plan entirely. He had a single minded determination to see exactly what it was that the Gryffindors were getting up to and he was in no doubt that Granger was his only way into that world. So, by hook or by crook, he was going to put enough pressure on her to get him in.

 

He was just reflecting on the unfairness of the fact that this was the one area of his life where being a Pureblood wasn’t going to give him any particular advantage., when he heard clicking footsteps making their way up the stairs towards Hermione’s room. He jumped to his feet, so that he wouldn’t have to look up at Granger.

 

Finally, she was standing in front of him, still wrapped in that baggy old robe, her hands on her hips as she looked at him furiously. “Why are you outside my room again? It’s like having a needy dog.”

 

“Watch your tone Granger.”







“Whatever.” Hermione looked past him dismissively. “I hope you haven’t scratched the paint on my door, trying to claw your way in.”

 

“Oh Granger.” Draco smirked at her. “If I wanted to get in, I’d just blow the door off again.”

 

“Well, why didn’t you then? I might have respected you if you’d done that rather than sitting outside like some lovesick puppy.” She smirked back at him, taking him slightly off guard. “But then of course, I will never actually respect you. So actually the entire point is moot, and you are entirely welcome to sit outside my door like a lovesick pup whenever you want.”

 

Draco looked at her with something akin to horror. “I am not lovesick for you.”

 

“Poor puppy. Is he cranky because he’s been up past his bedtime?” Hermione let another smirk out, slightly taken aback at her own bravado. Now that she had the problem resolved, she didn’t need to worry so much about keeping Draco sweet, but this was daring to an extreme.

 

“Granger. Watch your tone.” Draco rested his back against the wall next to her door. “Now, you can explain to me exactly how far you’ve progressed with your little task.”

 

“I’ve got you in, you’re coming Friday two weeks from now.” Hermione said casually.

 

Draco looked at her, keeping his face as blank as possible but allowing one of his eyebrows to quirk incredulously. “That seems like a long way away Granger. I’d prefer it closer.”

 

Hermione looked at him contemptuously. “You will come when I say you can, and you will not attempt to make my life any more difficult than you already have.”

 

Draco’s carefully blank expression slipped slightly as his mouth dropped open slightly in shock.

 

“What?” Hermione looked at him, careful not to show any anger, knowing that he would jump on it. “You think we’re still in third year? I’m in my seventh year Malfoy, I’m not afraid of you, or what you might say. I am facilitating this only because it will make everyone’s life a lot easier, not because I am genuinely afraid of you. I don’t want my friends to get in trouble, I have done what you wanted to prevent them getting in trouble and once this is done, that will be the end of the matter and you will not be getting any of us in trouble. Maybe if we were younger you might be intimidating me into doing this out of the sheer cruelty that you emanate from every pore of your body, but not any more. Do I make myself clear?”

 

Shocked by the icy disdain of her voice, and aware that not many people dared to speak to him like that, Draco straightened his spine. “Watch it Granger, you don’t want to irritate me.”

 

“Well, from that blindingly stupid attempt at a threat I’ll assume that you’re feeling under pressure to reassert yourself and that my meaning is therefore crystal clear.” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Now, get away from my room. I’ll find you nearer the time and tell you exactly what you need to do.”

 

“I’m not taking orders from you!” Draco stepped away from the door, and Hermione took the opportunity to flick her wand at the door and step inside, slamming it behind her. Draco screwed up his face in rage, a lock of pale hair falling across his forehead. Raising his wand, he smashed the door open again. He had one moment to see Hermione standing in front of him in a purple silk halterneck dress that fluttered down to the floor, with dark grey beading around the neck, before his entire body froze and crashed facedown to the floor.

 

Hermione pointed her wand at him for a few minutes, trying to convince herself that it would not be a good idea to use the Cruciatus curse. A satisfying idea. One that would undoubtedly teach Malfoy his place, but not a good idea. Breathing deeply, she threw a cloak over Malfoy’s head, just to ensure he wouldn’t see her, and then changed quickly into jeans and a t-shirt. She was tired, she would much rather be in her pyjamas, but there was no way that he was going to see her in those.

 

Taking a final deep breath, and smoothing her face clear of the remaining rage, she removed the cloak from Draco’s head and turned him over, resisting the urge to swear at his frozen body. “Now, I have no idea what you thought you would achieve through destroying my door, invading my privacy and shouting at me, but I hope you can see that you haven’t gained anything.

 

“You will be following my orders, for the simple reason that I know exactly what you need to do to ensure that you aren’t found out by a mob of angry Gryffindors who will not be nearly as patient as I have been with you. They will just tear you to shreds. I admit, it is tempting to let you do that, but I am attempting to hold up my end of the deal with some dignity.

 

“So you will do what I want. That is non-optional. You will stop hovering around outside my room like some deranged stalker. You will stop ruining my door, or there will be serious consequences, of a painful variety.

 

“In a minute, I will be releasing you from this curse. You will stand up, very slowly, so as not to piss me off any more than you already have this evening, and then you will repair my door. You will step out into the corridor, you will close the door behind you and you will leave me alone. If you deviate from this, I will curse you, and you will find yourself wearing an unfortunate set of horns from now until we leave Hogwarts.”

 

Stepping back and ensuring that she had a firm grasp on her wand, Hermione flicked her wand and released Draco from the Body-Bind curse. He stood up slowly, warily. He did exactly as she had asked, repairing the door and then stepping out into the corridor.

 

Just as he was about to shut it, he leaned his head back around and said ‘Nice dress Granger. I still prefer the blue though.”

 

The sparks flew off the wall at the side of his head, and she could hear him laughing his way down the corridor from behind the shut door.

 

Slumping onto her bed, staring at the spot where he had lain, Hermione wondered what on earth she had got herself into. She knew why she was doing what Malfoy wanted. If he did spill his guts to a teacher, then it would mean so much trouble for all of the Gryffindors and she wasn’t happy to risk that. She hadn’t told the Gryffindors what she was doing because she knew that they would rush into it with all the bravery that they possessed but without any of the clear thinking that this situation called for. That was all crystal clear and while she didn’t like lying to her friends she knew that she was doing it for a good reason and they would all do exactly the same thing in her situation (if the wisdom of doing it was pointed out to them). The only part that wasn’t clear to her was why she was protecting Draco. Because she was. She could walk with him unmasked into the middle of that gathering and she and all the Gryffindors could do something, anything, to ensure that he didn’t give their secret away. She had seen Harry angry, she had no doubt that he could get results if he really wanted.

 

She changed slowly into her pyjamas, trying to make sense of the tumbling pictures in her head. Malfoy with that stupid piece of hair hanging over his stupid forehead. Stupid Malfoy blowing her door up. Stupid Malfoy lying prone on her carpet (she enjoyed that one and had to go back to it a few times). Stupid Malfoy with his stupid smirk on his stupid face, stupidly trying to get the better of her. Stupid Malfoy telling her that her dress was nice. Stupid, stupid, stupid Malfoy.

 

*

 

Draco shut his door behind him, and locked it. He resisted the urge to barricade it behind him, telling himself Granger would win if he did that. He had never seen her so angry. It was…interesting. Interesting. Interesting was a good word. A neutral word.

 

He looked in the mirror and swept back the errant piece of hair. He didn’t know what to do. He knew, obviously, that he would be doing exactly what she wanted him to when it came to going to the hidden garden, there was no question of that. Anyone who could look that ferocious was not someone to be trifled with.

 

However, he was more and more aware of the fact that the power was slipping quickly out of his fingers. What was he meant to do? He needed to retain that power or Granger would just find a way to weasel out of the deal. For all that Draco might have wanted to get one over on the Gryffindors he was actually more intrigued by the idea of what they were doing. Granger looked…well, there was no getting around it, she looked phenomenal whenever she came back. He wanted to see exactly what they were doing that required her to look like that.

 

Laying back on his bed, with his fingers interlaced behind his head, he stared up at the black ceiling. He had no idea what they were hiding, but he knew he had to see it and Granger was the way in. He had to do what she said, but he had to make it look like he was doing it of his own volition. He could…he groaned, turned over and buried his face in his emerald pillow. He had no idea how to treat Granger.

 

Further down the corridor, Hermione groaned loudly, turned over and buried her face in her scarlet pillow. She had no idea how to treat Malfoy.

 

AN: And that's another chapter done. Thanks very much for reading - if you have reviewed previous chapters and I haven't replied, I'm very sorry. I am manically busy with work at the moment (sixty hour weeks manic) but am massively grateful for the reviews. So....please review this one as well! It really is so helpful to have feedback. Love petitesorciere xx
HogH


Chapter 6: Chapter 6
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Draco was sitting quietly in the common room when Hermione came down the next morning. Sitting eerily still, as only he could, he looked at her with cold eyes as she stopped short at the sight of him.

 

“What are you doing up so early?”

 

“Well, you seem to manage it so well after a whole night of the excitement of ‘Gryffindor things’. I thought I could attempt to imitate your virtuous nature,” he sneered.

 

“I very much doubt that. I don’t think there’s a single part of you interested in any sort of virtuous nature.”


”Well, only when I can sully it.”







“What a delightfully nauseating conversation to be having before breakfast. What do you want?”

 

“I have decided to let you give me instruction on how to infiltrate your gatherings.”

 

Hermione dropped a book on the table and swung around to face Draco with her arms folded in front of her. “Don’t flatter yourself for one minute Malfoy. You are not infiltrating my gatherings; you are being brought along under extreme tolerance. And you have not ‘decided’ to let me tell you what to do. You are forced to do so because I beat you last night.”

 

“You did not beat me,” he said emphatically.

 

“Please. If we were in prison, you would be my bitch,” she snapped, before pausing, slightly shocked at what had just come out of her mouth.

 

“You are not capable of holding that kind of power over someone.” Draco stood up in one fluid motion, brushing his robes down as he did so. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Hermione registered a sense of vague dread at how calm he was being. A comment like that, especially going from a Mudblood to a Pureblood, ought to have caused extreme anger. It was like dealing with a coiled up snake – you knew it was about to strike but there was no earthly way of knowing when or in what direction the attack would come from.

 

Draco strolled across the room, standing next to her and picking up her books. “I’m not sure you are entirely aware of what you are doing Granger.”

 

Hermione had to agree with him, the entire situation seemed to be spiralling rapidly out of control. After last night this was all meant to be sorted and now it seemed to be even worse. Clinging on to the only thing she could think to do, she reached out and grabbed the end of her books. “Give me those back.”

“No.” Draco held onto them tightly, and Hermione became agonisingly aware of how close she was to him. She could see the flecks of darker grey that were buried in his iris, and see how perfectly relaxed his mouth was despite the situation they were in. She couldn’t let go of the books now, that would be weakness and he would attack, but her purchase on the books wasn’t strong enough to pull them away and his skin was so pale and smooth it was like marble and she was somehow locked eye to eye with him and couldn’t look away for even a second because that would be so very wrong somehow and…

 

Taken aback when he spoke, she unwittingly flinched, and cursed herself as she saw the corners of his mouth curve up in a sneer. “I had a thought last night Granger.”

 

“I’m sure that surprised you Malfoy, you can’t have many of them.” Her lips felt so numb, it was a struggle to get the words out clearly and she couldn’t work out why.

 

“Watch the tone Granger. I was thinking that you are going to be making effort to ignore me on this magical Friday where I come down and get to see what your big secret is, aren’t you?”

 

“Any time spent with you is wasted Malfoy, I certainly have no intention of spending any extra with you.”

 

“Well, that’s no good for me. I will draw attention to myself if I am left alone, and there is no way I am going to be able to make conversation with anyone there. You are going to need to be my guide for the evening.”

 

Hermione felt her face blanch. “No, no I won’t need to be.”

 

“Trust me Granger, the thought is no more pleasant to me. But your entire plan will fall apart if there is one man there who no one speaks to all evening, and I have no interest in cosying up to any of your Gryffindor pals.”

 

“We’re doing it as a masquerade. You’ll be disguised. No one will know who you are. You can talk to anyone.” Hermione listened to herself speak and wondered when she lost the ability to talk in complex sentences. She could feel the tips of her fingers going white with how hard she was holding onto her books, but Malfoy appeared to show no strain at all.

 

“Yes, because that won’t lead to me giving myself away at all. No Granger, you will be spending the entire evening with me, to make sure it goes off without a hitch.” Draco looked down at her, and marvelled at the fact that he could see the ideas running through her eyes as she tried to think of a way out of this. He dropped his voice to a croon. “Granger, you know I’m talking sense. I’m actually trying to make your life easier here. Can you imagine how much everyone will panic if they get even the slightest inkling that someone like me is there? And if I am discovered, then suspicion will fall on you for suggesting the idea – they will know you enabled me. And then I will be torn limb from limb and you will be cast out by all your friends.”

 

Hermione inhaled deeply. She was sure there was something wrong with what he was saying but it seemed so persuasive and perceptive. The scenario he pitched was a very real one. “But that means you’ll have to spend all evening with me, how do I explain that?”

 

“Lie. You’ve done it well enough up until now. Pretend I’m someone you’ve got a crush on.” Draco looked down at her and felt a small catch in his throat.

 

“Why on earth would you even want me pretending that? You can’t stand me, and I would have to be showing romantic interest in you to pull that off.” Hermione heard that her voice had dropped to a whisper and was horrified. How could she have said that, and why was she only thinking it for the first time as it came out of her mouth.

 

“Because…” Draco could just see the white of her teeth behind the pink of her mouth and lost his train of thought for a minute. Her perfume seemed to be all he could smell for one blistering moment, cinnamon and nutmeg. Dragging in a deep breath and hoping that it seemed more derisive than he was capable of feeling at that exact moment, he continued. “Because it is the ends to a means. And I will be playing a part as much as you.”

 

He noticed that he was still holding her to him by means of the books and released them suddenly. Hermione drew them into her and held them to her chest, and he watched her slim fingers clutch around them. “It’s just acting Granger, we’ve both done that before.”

 

“Fine. Just…fine.” She looked up at him, her thoughts clearing more now that they were further apart. “You need to be disguised, that’s non negotiable.”

 

“I’m not an idiot. We’ll work it out tonight.” Draco was turning away, and she thought about arguing with him, but decided that she couldn’t. She was all together far too unbalanced at that precise moment in time and couldn’t marshal her thoughts enough to make a significant contribution to any argument.

 

*

 

That evening Hermione was sitting in the common room waiting for Draco. She had felt so muddled all day, barely able to construct a sentence. It was highly distressing. She couldn’t help feeling that he had gotten one over on her but she still couldn’t work out exactly how he had done it. Maybe it was just a blissful situation where his needs actually coincided with what she wanted to achieve but it certainly didn’t feel like it. She felt like she was being used and manipulated, and she was sure that she was, but she couldn’t work out exactly what the point of the use and the manipulation was.

 

She sighed loudly and poked irritably at the arm of her chair. Maybe, because Malfoy was a Slytherin, the fact that she was being used and manipulated at all was enough. She doubted it though. Pointless game-playing didn’t really seem his style.

 

Draco watched her surreptitiously from the door. She was totally lost in thoughts and hadn’t noticed him come in. Leaning against the doorjamb, he watched as she attempted to leave a mark in the red fabric of her chair with her fingernail. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was so absorbed in watching her, and the fact that he wasn’t entirely sure about his actions was cause for concern.

 

Introspection was no great skill of Draco’s. He didn’t really need to understand his own motivations, as for someone who delighted in remarkably complicated skills, his own desires were usually relatively simple. He wanted to get one over on a hated opponent, he wanted to sleep with the newly blossomed girl, he wanted to learn the secrets. His plots might be intricate, but his own wants and needs were as simple as anyone else’s. The emotions that usually underlay such actions were remarkable only by their absence in Draco and the fact that there now seemed to be a hint of emotion beneath his cool surface was something extremely disturbing to him.

 

He wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but there was certainly some kind of fascination with Granger and her actions. As he was mulling over exactly what it could be that caused that level of interest, she brushed a lock of hair out of her face and, in doing so, saw him.

 

“Oh…hi.”

 

He nodded at her, slightly surprised by the level of basic civility, and felt compelled by some strange instinct to return it. “Nice day?”

 

Her eyes widened slightly in shock as she scanned his question for sarcasm and in finding none, responded. “Uh, it was ok, thank you. You?”

 

“Tolerable.”

 

“Ummm, ok. Good. So, I, uh, thought that I ought to tell you what I’ve planned.”

 

“That would probably be for the best.” Malfoy settled himself in the chair facing her.

 

“Well, I told you, it’s going to be a masquerade.” Draco watched as Hermione fidgeted, uncomfortable enough to be unable to remain still. As he watched her fingers twist around each other and her legs cross and uncross, her foot jiggling as she twitched her ankle, he realised that he had missed a significant amount of what she was saying, and cleared his throat.

 

“Granger, is there a problem?”

 

“What? No!” She said, shrilly enough to alert him to the fact that there definitely was a problem.

 

“You’re wriggling around enough to make me think that Hagrid has released a Blast-Ended Skrewt in here. Is there a problem with the plan?”

 

“No. It’s all fine.” Another twist of her fingers.

 

“So that means that there is a different problem. I would assume, given our previous interactions, that this is a problem on a personal level, presumably relating to actually talking to me and helping to facilitate a shared aim that we have.”

 

“Perceptive,” she observed and let out a carefully controlled breath.

 

“Hardly. I am well aware of how I treat people – I imagine that having to work with me instead of against me is remarkably unsettling.” He quirked his lips and left Hermione contemplating that while it wasn’t exactly a smile, it wasn’t his usual smirk.

 

“Oh. Does that not bother you?”

 

“I’ve never thought about it enough to have let it have any impact on me.” Draco raised an eyebrow. “However, you can stop twitching. I’m not going to bite.”

 

Hermione exhaled again, not having to control it this time. Just as she was letting herself relax slightly, Draco gave a more familiar smirk. “You haven’t asked me nicely enough yet for me to bite.”

 

Hermione inhaled heavily and felt a burst of joy at the return of a familiar anger.  She knew where she stood with this! “What do you honestly expect to achieve through comments like that?”

 

“It’s instinct Granger, I can’t be held responsible for it.”







“You just say lecherous things without realising it?” She asked sarcastically, taking care to keep her tone as careless as he had.

 

“Lecherous? That’s a cruel word. I prefer seductive.”

 

“Really? And then the girl turns around and is thoroughly seduced and you have your wicked way?” Hermione rolled her eyes, and Draco had to fight down a genuine smile at her tone.

 

“No. They still have to ask me nicely.” Draco glanced casually away at the fire.

 

Oooh, Draco, please bite me,” Hermione mocked, her voice simperingly high. Draco turned back to laugh, and caught her with eyelashes demurely lowered and her hands clutched innocently in front of her neck. The gesture was so at odds with the grating voice that she had used to make fun of him, that he completely lost what he was about to say, and could only stare. Sudden images raced in front of his eyes: Hermione looking down and then meeting his eyes with that sudden flash of golden brown, Hermione biting her lip nervously, Hermione with her arms wrapped around his neck as he held her to him. He was so shocked that every word he could have used dried up in his throat and he could only gaze at her.

 

Hermione looked up, aware that the silence was not a usual one, and suddenly realised what she had said. She had just asked Draco Malfoy to bite her. To actually bite her. Yes, she was making fun, but either that hadn’t come across or had fallen disastrously flat. Her lips went numb, and a pink flush grew across her cheekbones as she stared back at Draco.

 

Locked eye to eye, the pair of them incredibly glad for the fact that there was enough distance between them to add some sort of detachment to whatever had just happened, they swallowed in unison, almost audibly in the quiet of the room. Just as the tension was becoming too unbearable, a log collapsed heavily in the grate, a shower of sparks brightening the room briefly.

 

Draco made a concerted effort to remove the newest image of Hermione from her brain, and composed his face. He definitely wasn’t noticing the fact that her top button was undone and he could almost see the hint of her collarbones. He definitely hadn’t noticed that. Collarbones weren’t even a particularly erotic area. He hadn’t noticed it. He hadn’t and he wasn’t thinking about how the shadows from the flickering fire would sit on her shoulders if they were bare. And he was keeping his face neutral, so very neutral.

 

Hermione coughed awkwardly, and looked at him. “So, you need to be disguised.”

 

“Disguised…yes. And you said there would be other people there?”

 

“Yes. I said that we should throw a masquerade ball. We’ve invited people from other houses, keeping it totally anonymous, and I’m hoping that we can make you just blend into the crowd.”

 

“How are the others arriving?”

 

“We’re setting up a tunnel for them in the Room of Requirement. I think you should go through that way – it’ll be fairly obvious if you come out of the tunnel that I use. I have volunteered to see everyone through the tunnel, and we’re staggering the arrivals so as not to draw any suspicion. So you will arrive last, I will be there waiting, and I’ll show you the way, and,” she sighed heavily, “I will stay with you all evening.”

 

“Good. That makes sense.” Draco chose to ignore the heavy sigh. For some reason, he didn’t want to think about this evening being a sacrifice for her. Of course, it was a sacrifice for him too but somehow he couldn’t think about that right now either.

 

Hermione watched him carefully, making sure not to look down at all. She didn’t want it to look like she was lowering her eyelashes coyly, especially after earlier. It was already hard enough to get out that she was going to be spending the whole evening with him; she had had to breathe out to make sure she was able to say the words. For some reason, the thought of it made her heart leap so much that she couldn’t quite catch her breath and get her words out normally. “I was thinking though, we need to change your appearance.”

 

Draco met her eyes. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, your…um…hair. No one else in the school has hair that colour. We need to change it. I can do that, if you’ll let me.” Why had she asked if he would let her, she wondered.

 

“Yes, that…makes sense.” Draco blew out his breath as inconspicuously as he could and decided that he really couldn’t take another moment of whatever was filling the space between them. “Thank you for explaining it all.” Why had he thanked her, he asked himself desperately? “So, the Friday after next? Great. Well, um, you probably need to go and get ready for your Gryffindor things.”

 

Hermione stood up hurriedly, and Draco did as well, realising too late that he should have stayed sitting and let her leave the room. But now he was standing and he had to do something with it. He had no choice, he had to follow her out of the room and go to his room.

 

They ended up walking side by side, both of them painfully, keenly aware of the presence of the other but not daring to really acknowledge it. Finally, after what seemed like a million mile walk, they stood in the corridor that divided their two rooms. Before they could start umming again, Draco decided to take affirmative action, and do something unpleasant.

 

“Thank you for tonight Granger.”

 

“That’s twice you’ve thanked me in one night, what’s wrong with you?” Hermione’s attempt at sarcastic levity fell flat.

 

“Nothing. I even meant to say thank you that time.” Draco attempted a smile, wondering why the motion felt so entirely alien to him. The space between them was small, smaller than it had been in the common room but it suddenly felt like it was too far. She was going to slip away from him into her world of evening dresses and secrecy and he suddenly didn’t want to see that happen, but didn’t know how to make it stop or why he wanted her to stay. He just felt that he needed some sort of contact with her, real contact.

 

Without any more thought than that, he reached out a hand and cupped it around her upper arm, giving it a squeeze. Comforting, friendly, if slightly more brusque than he would have liked. He could see Hermione’s breath catch in her mouth, behind those white teeth, but before he could do anything more than observe that, he felt her hand cup his arm back, just beneath his elbow. The pair of them stood for a split second, locked by that brief contact and shocked at the possible meanings before Hermione came to her senses and let go, whirling around and fleeing into her room, without a backward glance.

 

He heard the slight knock against wood that was obviously her resting her back against the door, and felt like he was intruding on something he had no right to see, something that he had no right to intrude in. Instead, he showed his solidarity in confusion in the only way he could and went into his room, shutting the door gently and resting his own back on it. Sliding down, he mirrored her pose exactly without ever knowing exactly what he was doing. HogH

 

 

AN: So I’m just going to stop apologising for the delay in chapters. However, despite that, I hope you enjoyed this. Please review and let me know. Love petitesorciere xxx


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