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'D' is for Draco by Lady Cailan

Format: Novella
Chapters: 8
Word Count: 22,598
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Scenes of a mild sexual nature

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: Hermione, Draco, Luna
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 02/13/2014
Last Chapter: 05/19/2014
Last Updated: 05/19/2014

Summary:
Traditions say that on Samhain night, one can divine their true love's name using the peel of an apple. This year, Hermione Granger is about to learn that sometimes, life is unpredictable and fate makes sense of something impossible. Fluffy Dramione.
 
 


Chapter 1: Divination Rubbish
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Hermione Granger was decidedly grumpy as she clutched her books to her chest and prepared to excuse herself from the wide, wooden table in the Great Hall. All around her she heard the warm din of the other students, the sound of laughter, yells, squeals and conversation. She smoothed her school robes and then tucked a stubborn, chestnut curl behind her ear with irritation.

As she contemplated whether to leave or wring Lavender's neck, she stared at the back of Luna's head. Her blonde friend had pulled her hair back from her face using two ridiculous looking purple barrettes from which hung a number of gold, fuzzy, and round puff-like things that sparkled magically. As she focused on Luna's unfortunate hair accessories, Hermione took a deep breath.

I want to spend time with Luna, I do. But I can't do this. Not now, not when my day has been such an agonizing mess already.

Decision made, the bushy-haired Gryffindor stepped over the bench to leave just as Luna looked up, offering her a dreamy smile.

"Where are you going, Hermione? We only just got here."

'Here' happened to be an early lunch in the Great Hall after their morning classes.

Hermione had reluctantly agreed to join her friend for a quick meal before her afternoon lessons, homework, and what she was certain would be a rather unpleasant tutorial.

In fact, her whole day thus far had been an unpleasant affair.

She had awoken that morning to the sound of Lavender's voice, blithering on about nothing and then, her date with Ron at Hogsmeade the following weekend. Then, she had spent a double lesson in Care of Magical Creatures, which had culminated with a rather long assignment and a bite mark on her right thumb. Whilst nursing her thumb, Hermione had spent her next lesson in the dungeon, listening to Slughorn lecture about the dangers of mind altering potions, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been for Draco Malfoy, who had spent the entirety of the lesson whispering about her accident in their previous class. And topping her crappy day was the fact she had nothing to look forward to that evening except an hour long tutoring session with Gregory Goyle.

No, the day was just about as horrid as a day could get.

So, Hermione had not been entirely surprised that the pleasant lunch she had hoped to share with Luna Lovegood had turned out to be a mind-numbingly boring hour spent listening to a gaggle of silly, boy-crazed girls.

It wasn't that Hermione disliked Luna; in fact, she quite liked her, and they had been through too much together for either girl to abandon their fledgling friendship. What was so irritating was the company that Luna kept. Hermione knew she needed female friendships; it was rather odd that her closest friends happened to be Harry and Ron, both unarguably boys. But she preferred boys simply because they were generally no fuss, low drama, and focused on other things besides…

Lavender was giggling as she tossed her blonde curls from her shoulder.

"I'm going to do it," she said, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement. "You heard what Trelawney said, on the night of Samhain, you just drop the peel on the ground, right?"

She picked up a rather lovely looking apple, twisting it in her palm. Then she grinned.

"What if it really works?"

All through their meal, Lavender, the Patil twins and Luna had gone on and on about Trelawney's lesson for the day, which had been about divination with apples.

As if using a crystal ball to see the bloody future wasn't rubbish enough!

The girls around her had quickly bought into the lesson, during which the Divination professor had stated that if on the eve of Samhain, a girl dropped a long bit of peeled apple skin onto the ground, it would land so that it took the shape of the first letter of her true love's first name.

Much to Hermione's chagrin, each of the girls now held shiny, red apples and giggled amongst themselves.

It was bloody annoying, that's what it was. Every year, at the end of October, Trelawney inflicted her claptrap theories on her Divination classes, causing all the brainless girls at Hogwarts to swoon, and the sensible ones, like Hermione, to grind their teeth in irritation.

The brunette stood there, straddling the table bench and giving Luna a grumpy look just as Lavender offered up another one of her impossibly grating titters.

"I wonder how a peel is supposed to form into the shape of a letter," she mused happily.

Yes, there it was – the main reason Hermione chose to spend her time with members of the opposite sex. They didn't go on and on incessantly about things that made no sense! But most importantly, she wasn't constantly reminded that a half-brained twit like Lavender Brown was now in a relationship with Ron.

The boy I just happen to think is perfect for me. It figures.

Lavender was tossing her apple back and forth between her hands.

"I find it hard to believe that it's just going to form the letter 'R' right before my eyes!"

Hermione had reached the level of tolerance she could maintain towards Lavender, and before she could stop herself, the snippy words fell from her lips, making Luna's periwinkle colored eyes widen and the twins gasp.

"That's because it won't!"

She chastised herself internally.

Great, just great, Hermione. Now they're going to think you're bloody jealous.

Lavender looked up at Hermione, batting her long, dark eyelashes.

"Are you having a bad day, Hermione?"

Parvati giggled behind her hands.

"I think someone's jealous!" she sang, her voice muffled.

Luna gave her friend a look of reproach.

"She's just having a bad day, is all. Leave her be."

Hermione gave Luna a grateful look, and put her hands on her hips, fighting the blush that threatened her face.

"Of course I'm not jealous," she huffed. "I'm sensible. Do you really buy into this rubbish? Every year Trelawney insists of feeding you lot silly little stories instead of actually teaching us something useful! And every year all the girls at this school turn into brainless twits, running around with their apple peels and bloody apple seeds trying to divinate who they will and won't be dating! It's mental, is what it is!"

Hermione decided she liked being angry. She slammed her large pile of texts on the wooden table and folded her hands across her chest as she glared at the girls still seated at the table.

"So no, I'm not jealous," she snapped at Lavender. "And I don't think your extra long apple peel is going to fall into the shape of the letter 'R' even if you and Ron get married and have ten children!"

She then glared at the Patil twins.

"Padma, no, I don't think Seamus' freckles are any cuter just because he has got a tan from his holiday at the seashore."

Then, she gazed at Luna.

"Finally, I don't think you need Divination and a stupid apple to know if Neville is interested in you or not. All you need is two eyes! I'd bet even a blind wizard could see how much he likes you!"

Picking up her huge pile of books once more, Hermione gave her companions an exasperated sigh.

"Thanks for inviting me to lunch, Luna. I've got to get to my Arithmancy lesson and then I've got to tutor Goyle."

Padma snickered but Hermione silenced her titter with a glare.

"That's right. I've got more important things to do than to play with my fruit so if you'll excuse me, I've got to get going."

With that, Hermione turned and stormed out of the Great Hall, bushy hair flying behind her, leaving the other girls at the table in shocked silence.

It was only after Hermione had left the castle and was halfway down the grassy hill towards the lake that she was able to admit to herself, that yes, she was jealous.

It wasn't just that she found Divination annoying because it was a pointless subject with a less than stellar reputation for being useful and it wasn't that she was simply too logical to buy into Trelawney's strange theories about apples and the future. She didn't even really care that her classmates and friends seemed to lose their sensibilities when it came to foreseeing their romantic futures.

It was mostly the fact that this year, unlike the others, Ron Weasley was no longer single, and that needled at Hermione more than she had cared to admit.

Hermione had a brilliant memory, and it was times like this that she wasn't able to forget that it was she who had tutored Ron many a late night so that he would pass his classes. It was also she who had sat up with him while he had been burping slugs. She had always been there for him as a sympathetic ear when he was having problems and as a bossy reminder when he was falling behind in his lessons.

She had been a friend, a confidante, someone to laugh with and take comfort from. So, was it too bloody much to ask for him to see her as a girlfriend and not just as a friend who happened to be a girl?

Apparently, it was. And Hermione sighed with disappointment.

The lake was, for all intents and purposes, free from prying eyes. As Hermione plopped down under a tree that faced the water, she found herself completely alone and glad for it. Leaning back, she finally relaxed.

It was unfortunate, she mused, that late autumn happened to be her favorite time of the year, and right now she wasn't even able to enjoy it. Hermione loved the changing colors of the leaves, the way the Forbidden Forest exploded into brilliant reds, oranges and yellows just before they started to fall, highlighting the grasses with splashes of color. She loved the cool weather in the mornings, and the hint of the coming winter in the air.

She even loved reading the traditions and rituals of the harvest, the dying year, and the festivals to welcome the new. She understood that on Samhain, some magic was stronger, senses were heightened and the veil between the living and the dead grew thinner. She knew the power of that night and why some chose to embrace it.

But the logical part of her brain refused to believe that anyone could determine their true love using a piece of fruit. She found the whole notion silly. And, there was the little thing about her jealousy.

Maybe I am just a silly teenaged girl jealous because the boy I like fancies someone else.

"Sometimes, I think we could all get along so much better if we didn't fight, you know?"

Hermione jumped, startled by Luna, who sank down onto the grass next to Hermione, a small smile on her lips.

"I thought I'd come out here to check on you. Are you feeling all right?"

Luna didn't look at Hermione, instead training her strange blue eyes at something in the distance. Hermione shut the textbook that had been sitting on her lap and set it aside, turning to face her friend. The gold puffs on Luna's barrettes danced happily in the late autumn breeze.

"I'm fine."

"You seemed rather upset during lunch," Luna pointed out, turning to watch Hermione with interest.

Hermione gave up, sighing.

"Do you really believe all that nonsense about true love and apples?"

She grumbled the question, still rather miffed about what had happened earlier. Luna shrugged lackadaisically.

"Apples symbolize knowledge and the new harvest. It's quite fitting, if you think about it. With Samhain and all that. Besides, it's no less true than anything else, is it?"

Hermione frowned.

"Well, that's not exactly true. There are theories and legends, and then there are solid facts, like those we learn about in Potions or in History of Magic and Arithmancy. Some things are truer than others, Luna."

Luna was silent for a few moments, considering Hermione's words. When she spoke, it was a sound full of whimsy.

"Everyone has their own truth, Hermione. So how do you decide what's truer than something else?"

The logical Gryffindor was struck silent, contemplating Luna's words. In the end, she couldn't come up with a proper response, and Luna sighed happily.

"It's quite lovely out here when it's the full moon."

When Hermione said nothing, she continued.

"Last year, Trelawney taught us about divining with water, and I was curious, you know?"

Her eyes twinkled when she looked at Hermione.

"Traditions say that if you look at the surface of a still lake on the night of Samhain, you'll see the face of your true love reflected there."

Luna smiled to herself, and then let out a giggle.

"Do you know who I saw?"

Hermione rolled her eyes, seemingly unimpressed.

"Neville?"

Luna remained unaffected by Hermione's lack of enthusiasm.

"If there's really nothing to divination with water and fruit, then how is it that I saw his face?"

Hermione shrugged.

"Maybe he was perched on one of those branches that overhang the lake just there?" she suggested, pointing towards a tree along the edge of the wide lake.

Luna giggled.

"I like you. You always have the strangest notions. Now who's being silly?"

Her chastisement was gentle, but it did little to soothe Hermione's irritation. She stared down at her pile of books dreading the rest of her afternoon and evening.

"Well? Did you do the thing with the apple?" She asked, in spite of herself.

Luna smiled.

"No, I didn't. I don't much like apples, and I hated to waste one. My father always told me if one wastes not, he wants not," she informed Hermione in a sing-song voice as she stood.

There was a moment of silence and then Luna looked down and reached into her pocket, to pull out a small, red apple. She gazed at it with a little smile and then dropped it into Hermione's lap.

"I might this year. The others are going to do it with me, I think. You should come!"

She offered a brilliant smile with her invitation.

"I'd rather be Goyle's Charms tutor for the rest of eternity."

Luna sighed at Hermione's dry response and shrugged.

"That's too bad. But, if you change your mind, let me know. I'll see you later, all right?"

The girls said their good-byes and Luna began her slow meander back to the castle. Hermione sighed and then fell back against the tree trunk once more, staring down at her apple, a wry, yet thoughtful smile on her face.
 
 


Chapter 2: His Horrible, Awful, No Good Day
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Draco Malfoy wore a scowl as he watched Crabbe and another one of his classmates shove each other through the doorway into the Slytherin common room. Draco could not for the life of him fathom why the act itself elicited long bouts of snorting laughter from them both.

He found he wasn't amused in the slightest - in fact he wanted to murder his housemates. It didn't help that his day had been nothing but a sodding mess from the moment he had opened his eyes. And the most irritating thing of all was that he enjoyed this time of year! He liked the cold weather, the promise of winter and pristine, white snow. He loved that the term was coming to and end and he would no longer be subjected to insipid and pointless lectures in classes that did not interest him. And he loved the holiday, for without fail his mother and father would whisk him away to some strange and exotic location to spend Christmas and he could breathe easily for a month until he had to come back to Hogwarts once more. But the best part was that late autumn was flying season; there was something singularly thrilling about mounting one's broomstick and taking off into the air. Quidditch was one of Draco's most favorite things in the world.

So, being that it was late autumn, the change in seasons was in full swing, the weather was cooler, the term was nearly over and he was spending most of his free time on the pitch, Draco should have been enjoying himself.

But, he wasn't. Because it was only the end of October, he had yet to suffer through Samhain and Pansy Parkinson's worthless divination of their nonexistent future together.

Merlin help me.

As he walked into the common room and stood framed in the doorway, Pansy perked up instantly, her violet eyes sparkling as she offered him a wave and an insufferable simper, all the while whispering and giggling with one of her friends. Draco forced a grimace which he hoped looked like a smile.

Two years before, he had suffered through having to go to the lake and watch her stare at the surface like the worst kind of fool, hoping that she saw his reflection in the water. Then, last year, he had spent the whole of the month of November convincing her that the apple peel she had dropped on the ground the night of Samhain had not fallen into the shape of a "D", but instead, was clearly an "O".

Draco readily admitted that whatever letter it was, could have been a "D", but he sure wasn't going to allow Pansy even a scrap of hope that he was in her future – no way, no how. November was only three days away, and he planned on making sure that this year he wasn't subjected to more of her divination rubbish. And he'd do anything to make that happen.

As he walked into the main part of the common room, he expertly avoided Pansy's gaze, moving instead towards the stairs that led up to the dormitories.

"Draco, I didn't know you'd be here!"

Pansy's annoying voice carried across the room and Draco turned, trying not to wince.

"And where would I be, pray tell? This is still the Slytherin common room, is it not? My bed and all my personal assets were still upstairs, last time I checked."

Pansy giggled.

"Well, someone's in a mood! Did my Drakey have a bad day?"

She offered him a seductive glance no doubt meant for his benefit, but one that did absolutely nothing for him. He couldn't have been less interested in her at the moment, and he loathed the most uncreative pet name she had given him.

"Not that it matters, but yes, I did. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to the library."

"Why?" she questioned in surprise.

Draco began to grow increasingly irritated with her.

"Why does anyone go to the library, Pansy? I've got an essay for Potions and some reading to catch up on."

"We could do it together," she murmured suggestively.

Draco thought back to the last time they had "studied" together. It had been exactly a year ago, and only a few weeks before he had started his disastrous relationship with Daphne Greengrass, the purported sweetheart of Slytherin house.

Sweetheart, my arse. More like traitorous whore. I can't believe I even touched her!

At any rate, the entire affair with Pansy had been rather…boring, and the bed too small to be comfortable. Besides, Draco had just realized he couldn't take another moment of her company.

"I'm not interested, all right?"

Pansy took a step back, her eyes flashing indignantly and then she whirled away from him.

"I don't know why I even bother."

He heard her mutter it under her breath, and he wondered the same thing. But, he wasn't too worried about rebuffing her because Pansy was the kind of insipid girl who just didn't give up; he knew she'd be back, foretelling their never-to-happen romantic future with her blasted apple peel and all.

Draco had discovered months ago that he had very little patience for Pansy on a good day, let alone one that had gone so fantastically badly. And this particular day was easily the most rotten one of the whole week.

He had awoken to a pounding headache and the sound of Crabbe and Goyle arguing about something not even interesting enough to recall. He had suffered through Magical History and Care of Magical Creatures, two classes that he couldn't have found more worthless if he had tried. Lunch had been a sordid affair of bite, chew, swallow and ignore Pansy's suggestive giggles and now, he had to sneak around his own blasted common room because the aforementioned had turned into the worst kind of leech. Not only was she a clingy leech, but she was an idiotic, clingy leech, spouting garbage about the future, her true love and a sodding apple peel!

The only part of his day that hadn't been completely insufferable had been when Hermione Granger had taken a bite to her thumb, compliments of the hideous creature that oaf Hagrid had scrounged out of the Forbidden Forest for their lesson.

Now, that had been amusing. Draco wasn't sure why, exactly, only certain that he found Hermione, her brain and her disgusting bushy head of hair unpalatable. Maybe it was that she was clearly the brightest pupil in their year, and try as he might, Draco couldn't quite keep up with the unholy way that she devoured information, processed it and was able to spew it back out on command. Or maybe it was the fact that she was friends with Harry Potter, which was almost a greater sin than her filthy Mudblood status. Whatever it was, Draco had dubbed her worthless and a waste of his time. Except, of course, when something caused her pain or embarrassment, both of which Draco enjoyed immensely.

He found himself distracted by the memory of Granger and their Care of Magical Creatures lesson and didn't move quickly enough to avoid getting plowed into by a pair of giggling girls, one of whom was holding her Divination book. They gave him round-eyed stares and then burst into more giggles, and as they hurried down the stairs, Draco swore he could hear them whisper Pansy's name.

Merlin's saggy tits!

Samhain was just around the corner, and the world was going mad! It was the kind of madness that made him want to slit his wrists, thank you very much.

Grabbing his books, Draco made a hasty decision. He'd go to the library. At least there, he'd be alone and free of Pansy for an hour or so, and seeing as he was desperate, he wouldn't turn up his nose at even a minute's respite. He'd relish a whole sixty, if he could get them.

 




When Draco stepped into the vast, cavernous room that housed the main part of the Hogwarts library, he made a disturbing discovery. Fate didn't mess around when it came to bad days – and apparently this particular day was going to be bad from morning until he lay back down in his bed to go to sleep. Right in front of him a group of Slytherins were laughing and mocking Goyle, who was being tutored by none other than the know-it-all Mudblood Granger, sporting a particularly ugly looking jumper and a bandage on her wounded thumb.

She was leaning across the table reading something from their Charms text, and for a moment, Draco was taken aback by the way the candlelight in the room seemed to make her impossibly frizzy curls alight with color. It must have been just that, a trick of the light- he would never have called her pretty or anything even remotely close.

She wasn't; she never had been. Granger had always been the bookworm. She had always been the girl who stayed behind on weekend trips to Hogsmeade, the one who had two boys as best friends which gave her a lame excuse not to date, even though no one really wanted to date her. She was the one who always raised her hand in class, who always followed the bloody rules, and who probably never had any fun at all. She was annoying, insufferable, and just…plain. There was nothing about her to make her stand out.

How could any boy find that attractive?

Draco couldn't hear what his housemates were saying, but by the tone of the voice that carried across the parchment-scented air, he got the distinct impression that it was extremely derisive. Though he didn't know some of the younger Slytherins, the gang leader was Blaise Zabini, the kind of chap who had a knack for being able to humiliate anyone in any situation. He was surrounded by the ever-present group of Slytherins. Unfortunately, that included raven-haired Daphne, who now held the title of ex-girlfriend.

Thank Merlin for that. Why would I have ever wanted a girl who couldn't keep her knickers on around someone else?

He knew he was bitter, but Draco had found that forgetting Daphne had left him for Zabini was nearly impossible. And he hated seeing her around school because it was a constant reminder of what had happened. And what a complete, sodding prat Blaise Zabini really was.

Draco moved in towards the table, ready to wade into a rather large pot of bubbling tension. It would be quite the distraction from the pesky Pansy situation, anyway.

Zabini was laughing.

"Goyle and Granger. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

The dark skinned boy was smirking down at Goyle, who had turned a particularly vivid shade of pink. Draco decided it was not becoming on him. Granger, however, was flushed with that same, unsightly color. Somehow, he found that it gave her…well, it didn't exactly make her attractive, but at least she no longer looked so plain. Instead, the anger and embarrassment made her brown eyes flash and her cheeks brighten.

She almost looked…decent. Yes, that was it. There was just no way she was pretty.

Just then, he heard Granger reply, her tone tight with discomfort.

"Don't pay them any attention."

She was clearly speaking to Goyle who looked like he had swallowed something nasty, and her face was turned down towards the Charms textbook that lay between them.

Zabini was laughing in a mocking way.

"Come on, Mudblood. Goyle's not a picky sod. Beggars can't be choosers, after all."

The others seemed to be egging him on, and Draco watched with interest, saying nothing. Blaise elbowed the guy next to him, still rather amused at what was transpiring. Then he gave Granger a swift kick, which made the girl jump and glare in his direction.

He only stared down at her contemptuously.

"Where's your apple? All the other ninnies here seem to buy into this Divination stuff, yeah?"

The other boys in the small circle pushed each other around a bit, sniggering. But they stopped when Granger stood, facing their ringleader fearlessly.

"You wish I was like the rest of the ninnies here, do you?"

As she spoke, she managed to give Daphne a scathing look.

Zabini rolled his eyes, offering what Draco knew to be his patented look of disinterest. Most people found it disconcerting, girls thought it was sexy, but Draco believed it made him look like an arse.

Zabini's voice carried what was just the right amount of nonchalance mixed with disgust, and Draco recognized the tone, having used it himself many times.

"Actually, I wish you and the other disgusting Mudbloods weren't allowed in Hogwarts at all."

Draco glanced at Granger only to see her smirk, those brown eyes flashing dangerously.

"Well, unfortunately for you, that's not the case. And, even more sadly, I'm not one of those girls that buys into this Divination claptrap either."

She gathered her books from the table and picked them up.

"That's too bad for you, I guess, because I know boys like you feed off that rubbish. You probably look forward to Samhain every year, don't you? Is that how you measure your own self-worth, Zabini? Do you fancy yourself manly and popular just because of some silly, pointless, nonfactual fortune telling?"

She rolled her eyes, and Draco hid his satisfied smirk behind the textbook he was carrying. It wouldn't do to get involved in Zabini's needless drama, yet he found it amusing that a Mudblood was able to knock him from his pedestal so easily, whilst pegging him as the narcissistic fool that he was. He only hoped that Daphne would recognize it as well, and feel regret at what she had done, choosing Zabini.

"It's sad. Some boys really are smart, funny, popular and fun to be around, and they know it and aren't presumptuous about it. And then there's you, Zabini. It must be awful to have to hide behind some silly theories from a useless class for positive reinforcement, since the reality is that you're actually quite pathetic."

She offered him a saccharine smile.

"I'd rather not waste any more time on you, so I'll be on my way then."

She turned on her heel and walked towards the stacks at the back of the library without looking back. Zabini watched her go in shock, his mouth hanging slightly open.

"The nerve of that little bint!"

Draco thought in some ways, Zabini's anger was justified- after all, no man wanted to be ripped apart in front of his friends, especially by a Mudblood. Luckily, though, it had happened to someone else, and not to him. And he decided he was glad it had happened to Zabini.

I can't think of a traitorous prat more deserving.

The others in the group played the roles of sympathetic friends.

"Ignore her, Blaise," Daphne said in a tone meant to soothe. "Who cares what a Mudblood thinks, anyway?"

Zabini nodded, his jaw still clenched as he glared in the direction the girl had gone. He wore a patented expression of one severely wounded.

"Right." he agreed. "I'm hungry."

Without another word, he stalked towards the exit of the library, ignoring Draco completely as he passed. The blond Slytherin waited for a moment to let the inevitable horde of people leave as well; wherever Blaise went, he took his entourage of stupidity. And the brainless tart he was unfortunate enough to call a girlfriend.

For a moment, Draco felt white-hot rage.

Then, everything was back to normal. The library was mostly empty and quiet, and this was, in the end, what Draco had been seeking. He put his books down on the table that Granger and Goyle had vacated, letting out a rush of air whilst standing and looking around, having no intentions now to actually buckle down and study.

He smirked.

The truth was, in spite of her being a Mudblood, Granger was quite feisty. Who else had the audacity to stand up to Blaise Zabini? That, in itself impressed Draco, though he'd never be as stupid as to actually say it out loud. She was an annoying, bushy-haired brainiac, but Draco could admit that her behavior earlier had been brilliantly tenacious.

Really he was in no mood to actually do something as mundane as schoolwork. In fact, he had a much better idea. Draco glanced around the library furtively for a second time, before hurrying into the stacks in the direction Granger had gone, with a grin on his face. At least, picking on her would get his mind off of Zabini, Daphne, Pansy and the awful, horrible day he was having.

This was going to be fun.
 


Chapter 3: If You Must Throw, Never Throw Softly
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Hermione loved the library. Especially the deepest, darkest corners of the cavernous space where the air was redolent of old parchment and worn leather and the shadows played a game of chase with the candlelight. In this place she was utterly alone which was just how she liked it. This was where she felt most comfortable, here, where the scent of books permeated her senses and where she could think in peace and focus on something other than the madness that was quickly taking over the whole school.

It was almost too dark to see in the stacks. The large wooden bookcases rose up on either side of her as she ambled through, Magical Theory text open in one hand, running her fingers along the row of tomes she was interested in with the other.

"Achievements in Charms….not quite," she murmured to herself, squinting to see the titles of the texts before her. "Advanced Potions - no. Advanced Runes Translation…not even."

She was still angry about the confrontation earlier with Blaise Zabini earlier.What a loathsome, conceited, spoiled prat! Hermione ground her teeth together, groaning under her breath.

"Aha!"

She pulled down the book she needed - a dusty, leather bound volume of the Anthology of 18th Century Charms. She'd work on coming up with a better study guide - one that Goyle could understand, if there was such a thing.

At least her night was almost over, she decided. It wasn't much of a consolation, but it was something. In the meantime she could lose herself in the Charms book for an hour or so and avoid any more nasty surprises in the library.

"Well, well, well, Granger. How's the thumb?"

The silky smooth drawl belonged to none other than Hogwarts' second biggest prat.

Looks like I spoke too soon.

Draco Malfoy was framed in the aisle that separated the two stacks. Swallowing her anger, Hermione shrugged.

"As if you care."

She hadn't noticed him before and wondered for a moment how long he had been there.

Did he see my row with Zabini?

Giving it no more thought, Hermione moved to exit the aisle, walking with a nonchalance she didn't feel. He stopped her effectively by blocking her only way out, an infuriating smirk on his lips as she glared down at her as if challenging her to take another step. They were standing too closely now, and Hermione realized with a start exactly how tall he was. She only came up to his shoulder, and out of nowhere, she felt a sudden flood of nervousness.

I'm going mental! It's only Malfoy! I've faced worse things before.

She waited, hesitating, but Malfoy made no move to let her pass.

"Next time, Granger, I suppose you'll be more careful. Any person with half a brain would never stick their fingers into a box full of those hideous, black, fuzzy creatures."

His tone was disdainful, and Hermione rolled her eyes, not liking the way he was looking at her.

"They're not called hideous, black, fuzzy creatures, Malfoy. They're called doxies, and I didn't stick my hand anywhere. That thing jumped up and bit me. Unlike some people, I like to be involved in my education instead of standing towards the back like some scared little boy."

He laughed at her scornfully.

"It's not being scared, it's called being smart."

"Which you're not."

Hermione found that she was both livid and that his stupid sneer was starting to drive her a bit nuts.

"As lovely as this little chat has been Malfoy, I should be going. It's getting late."

The blond Slytherin leaned against one of the stacks, casually making an exaggerated show of studying her, his eyes lingering. She wore heavy black shoes and white socks, a knee length skirt and a white shirt. She had topped the unsightly ensemble with an extremely ugly jumper.

"You look hideous, Granger."

"Shut up, Malfoy."

"Not your best comeback, I'm afraid. What happened to all those witty one-liners? Did that row with Zabini tire you out?"

She turned that same pleasantly pink color and her eyes flashed brilliantly in his direction in spite of the dim lighting.

"Trust me I could outwit him any day of the week. I could outwit him even if I was unconscious -he's an idiot. Unfortunately, I've got more important things to do than to argue about something as pointless as Divination, especially with someone like Blaise Zabini!"

Draco offered another smirk, lifting one blond eyebrow.

"Really? I think you're afraid to admit that if you peel that apple on Samhain night you'll find that there'll be no letter for you at all."

She gasped and bit her lip, flashing him a hateful glare.

"Sod off, Malfoy! What do you know, anyway?"

"I know that no-one wants to date you. Obviously it's upsetting you, Granger. Come on, wouldn't it just be better to come to terms with the fact that no one wants you? Or, were you hoping your true love was the Weasel? If that's the case, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I hear he's been snogging the daylights out of that blond bint who wears the atrocious bows in her hair."

Hermione glared at him and she looked about as angry as a rabid hippogriff, Draco decided. He found it rather satisfying that she was so easily riled.

"I don't care what Ron Weasley is doing with Lavender Brown!" Hermione snapped, voice tight with repressed anger.

He cocked his head as if in thought, lips twitching with amusement.

"Hmm…I think you protest far too much."

He was smirking confidently in a way that further infuriated Hermione who had thought she couldn't get any angrier.

"And I think you're clearly off your trolley!"

"Ouch, Granger. That really kills," he drawled, his voice dripping with mock hurt.

He watched with interest as the color that had flushed her cheeks deepened to a brilliant crimson as she narrowed her eyes. "Maybe not, but this might," she muttered, pulling out her wand from her school robes and pointing it directly at his nose.

"Get out of my way, Malfoy."

"Or what, you'll hit me with a big, bad curse?"

"Don't tempt me! I've got top marks in Charms and don't think for a second that I don't know enough spells to cause you excruciating pain if you don't get out of my way this instant!"

He let out a snort.

"I never knew you to be so violent, Granger." He took a suggestive step closer, raising one well-groomed eyebrow. "Say, I like that in a woman."

Hermione huffed.

"That's not exactly flattering, is it? Seeing as you're not particularly discriminating. What do you look for in a girl, Malfoy? Besides the fact that she has be able to breathe?"

At her well placed comment, his lips twisted from a smirk into a sneer.

"I'm quite discriminatory, actually. I hate filthy little Mudbloods."

"That's good to hear because I'd shag Voldemort before I got anywhere near you."

Draco found himself growing annoyed at the look on her face. Her expression reminded him of a day last week when that silly cow Bulstrode had realized the house elves had not made enough plum pudding for dessert.

"Well, there's no accounting for taste, I always say. You're a twisted little witch, aren't you?"

"And you're a pathetic little boy! I guess that's why Daphne ran the first chance she got, yeah? I hear she's been shagging Zabini. I don't blame her really - he might be an insufferable arsehole, but anyone's better than you."

Draco stopped, feeling suddenly like he had been hit head on by the blasted Hogwarts Express. Leave it to the Mudblood to somehow feel out his sensitive spot and the one thing that made him see red. Something sparked in the depths of his molten gray eyes and the sneer on his lips faltered, quivering for a moment, as two spots of color appeared high on his pale cheeks.

Hermione felt a wave of satisfaction at having finally gotten to him although if it were anyone else she might have felt bad about it.

It's Draco Malfoy, for Merlin's sake! I don't have to feel sorry for him!

"Daphne is a stupid bitch, and Zabini is a pretentious wanker. I've moved past all that, Granger. It's old news. At least I'm not pining away after someone who clearly doesn't want me. So watch who you're calling pathetic."

Her whole evening having gone completely down the toilet, Hermione wanted nothing more than to hurt Malfoy, to claw his eyes out because he had hit so close to the mark. She knew on the one hand that to give in would only be inviting more of his mockery but on the other hand she couldn't pretend it wasn't the truth, could she?

"Felicitations," she spat. "Pansy Parkinson is quite the catch, even if she is that desperate."

"At least she's not a reclusive loser!"

"I'd rather be reclusive than an embarrassment to my house and my classmates! She even makes her so-called friends cringe when she opens her mouth in Divination and spews that rubbish about apple peel. She actually convinces herself, imagine that!"

Hermione rolled her eyes, her face rigid with disdain and Draco found himself even more angry.

"And how do you know it's not true?" he countered, inwardly shocked at the fact that he was defending a load of dragon dung in the name of saving face.

"Because I use facts and logic. And I'm proud of the fact that I don't buy into the hype, Malfoy. It's for brainless ninnies who have nothing better to do." She glared at him with contempt. "And for stupid, conceited little boys like you and Blaise Zabini who get off on the attention."

Flabbergasted, Draco turned pink.

"You're just jealous!"

"Of what?"

"Of the fact that we're popular and you're…nothing."

"If that's what it takes to be popular I'll pass, thank you."

Sniffing, Hermione finally remembered to move, shoving him out of the way.

"You and Pansy are perfect together. You're both pathetic."

With one last glare she hurried around the tall stack, clutching her book to her chest. Draco stared after her, mouth hanging open.

Tormenting her hadn't been nearly as much fun as he had thought it would be.
 


Chapter 4: Growing Attractions
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Draco sat in the Great Hall wearing a scowl that would have scared an ogre staring distastefully at his stack of pancakes. The Slytherin table was empty this early in the morning and he was glad of it. There was no way he could handle seeing any of his housemates - in fact if possible he never wanted to see any of them again.

He was in the foulest mood imaginable and his lessons hadn't even started!

That's got to be a sodding record.

Using fierce swipes Draco cut into his pancakes, shoving them into his mouth vehemently. Try as he might the only thing the blond-haired Slytherin could think of was the previous night and the less than satisfying conversation with the little know-it-all bitch Gryffindor.

I am Draco Malfoy! How did I let that silly tart get the best of me?

He had felt thoroughly dissatisfied when Granger had shoved past him their discussion effectively terminated. He'd intended to have a bit of fun at her expense, and it had backfired on him. In a major way.

Bloody hell!

All he could think about was Daphne and Blaise.

Damn that Mudblood!

He was angry with her, true, but he was angrier at himself for allowing her to get to him. For letting others make him weak.

Who cares about them? Daphne's a stupid bitch and Zabini's exactly what Hermione called him – pathetic!

He stopped.

Did I just refer to the Mudblood by name?

He didn't have time to dwell on the unfortunate slip because just then his morning went from bad to unbearable. Pansy walked into the Great Hall, her circle of giggling girlfriends following her. The thought of spending time with Pansy made Draco grind his teeth in frustration and suddenly he wanted nothing more than to apparate out of the Great Hall. The pancakes that had tasted almost decent a minute before now tasted like nothing, like paper, like-

"Drakey! Are we in a better mood this morning?"

Her croon was beyond grating and it made Draco bite the inside of his lip to keep from screaming.

"Fine."

"Oh, good!"

Then she offered him what she most likely thought was an enticing smile. Fortunately, he wasn't even remotely fooled by a batting eyelash, pouty lip or any other wiles – especially if those wiles belonged to Pansy Parkinson.

He took another bite of the tasteless breakfast on his plate, doing his best to look anywhere but at Pansy, who had plopped herself down next to him without permission, and allowed her silly girlfriends to surround him as well.

Staring around at the Great Hall wasn't much fun, Draco realized. Very few students were up this early; in fact, he was clearly insane because even the Mudblood Bookworm wasn't down for breakfast yet! He wondered if maybe she had already come and gone, although that seemed impossible since he'd come to the Hall nearly at daybreak. Or maybe, that morning, she hadn't taken breakfast.

Or maybe you're a nutter, Malfoy, thinking about her!

Unfortunately, the alternative was talking to Pansy, and that was becoming more and more distasteful by the second. Correction. By the millisecond.

"Draco, are you planning on going to the Halloween Feast?"

The question was sly, but Draco found it impossibly irritating.

"Are you?"

"Of course!" she giggled.

"Well, then, I'll plan on skipping it."

He liked it when she got all red-faced and that hideous pug nose of hers began to flare. She looked less like a girl and more like the dog she was. Quite fitting, Draco thought.

"Must you always be this cruel?"

"I must." He got to his feet. "And if you used the loaf Merlin gave you, you'd realize that I eat everyday, Parkinson. Halloween night is no different, and seeing as I'm here most nights for supper, it goes without saying I'll probably be eating that night, too."

Pansy was pouting.

"I just thought maybe we could do something different that night, you know? With it being Samhain and everything. I really hate it when you get like this!"

"And I really hate stupid girls."

Reaching across the table, he gathered up his books, stuffing them into his pack with unusual carelessness. He was in a hurry to get away from this girl and her nutty Samhain ramblings, afraid he'd be subjected to more in less than three…two…one…

"I wish you'd just give in and realize that we're meant to be!"

Draco groaned.

"Spare me just one day, won't you, and shove off?" he spat, and then turned on his heel, stalking out of the Great Hall.

Now where am I going to go?

The thought was an irritating one, as his first lesson wasn't due to start for another two hours and he didn't relish pissing the morning away stalking the Hogwarts corridors like some pureblood version of Argus Filch. Without thinking, Draco found himself heading towards the library. He needed help. And he was pretty sure that he'd find the unholy source of all knowledge in the library. Bushy-hair, ugly jumper and all.

 




Hermione found herself in such a bad mood the morning following her row with Malfoy that she had even missed her usual morning porridge and cup of tea. This was especially grating because Hermione relished the two early mornings she had each week, where she spent alone time in the Great Hall eating and reading without disruption. It wasn't that she didn't love being in the company of Harry and Ron; that was the furthest thing from the truth. She happened to be a bit miffed at the both of them, though. Ron for being a daft prick and Harry because lately he had taken to walking about the school like some kind of proud peacock, certain that Ginny's Samhain apple divination would reveal him as her true love.

As if that's any kind of secret? Bloody hell, they make Luna seem normal!

This morning, however, she wasn't just irritated with her brainless friends. She found that she was also still quite angry about what had happened in the library the previous night.

At least I didn't let him win, she thought, remembering the dumbfounded look on Malfoy's face as she had stalked away from him. It was a small consolation, but Hermione smirked with pleasure at the thought just the same. They called him the Slytherin Prince, didn't they? Merlin's gift to witches, she supposed. And yet, she still could beat him in a good, old-fashioned battle of wits. Just because he happened to be handsome didn't mean he was smart. Not that she found him handsome, Hermione amended hastily. She didn't. Others might have, but she…well, it wasn't like he was as hideous as Crabbe and Goyle, but he just wasn't her type. At all. She didn't like blond men, and especially ones that wore perpetual scowls.

Wait, what I am I thinking?

Clearing her throat, Hermione blushed at the strange turn her thoughts had taken and she refocused her attentions on the massive Charms tome that lay on the desk in front of her. It was best she concentrate on schoolwork than idle, stupid thoughts, anyway.

As if her stupid, idle thoughts had conjured him, Draco Malfoy dropped unceremoniously into the chair opposite her at the large, wooden desk. Hermione started at his sudden appearance, making the blond Slytherin smirk.

She looked around; they were alone.

"Granger, I need your help."

Hermione let out a snort.

"No, you don't."

"I do," he insisted, and when Hermione looked up from her book the look on his face was one of grave sincerity.

"Well, even if you did, which I don't believe, why would you ask me?" she said icily, eyes narrowing. "Especially after the way you treated me the last time we spoke?"

She returned her gaze to the book.

"Why would I be asking if I didn't need your help?" he asked snidely.

"To torment me?" she replied without looking up.

"Come off it, Granger. We both know that you weren't being tormented last night. I bet you got off on our little discussion."

Hermione gasped and when her eyes shot up to meet his, he was wearing a grin of satisfaction.

"You're disgusting!"

Draco made a show of gasping in turn and covering his heart with his hand. But what he really wanted to do was laugh at the pink color that flushed across her cheeks, making her brown eyes sparkle. He liked her when she was all up in arms.

"Tell me something I don't know!"

Then he fell back against the chair once more, casually studying his fingernails.

"As I was saying, I need your help."

"You'd better find someone else, Malfoy. I'm rather busy trying to come up with a study guide for your dim-witted accomplice."

Malfoy scowled.

"Come on, Granger. You're the only girl in this whole school who hasn't bought into this Samhain Divination rubbish!"

Hermione looked up, trying not to appear interested in this turn of events, even though she was. She raised one eyebrow.

"Oh? And here I thought you liked your girls stupid, Malfoy? I thought you were spending the next two days preening over how many girls are going to fall at your feet?" she said disdainfully.

"I can't do it another year." Draco suddenly leaned across the table in one fluid movement with a grace that surprised her. "I can't take Pansy and her shoddy theories on how we should be together. Help me, Granger. You've got a sensible head on those Mudblood shoulders, haven't you? You know all about this rubbish, and you haven't fallen prey to it. Tell me what to tell her to get her off this!"

Hermione rolled her eyes, feeling more hurt at his constant reminders of her blood status than she would ever admit.

"Look, Malfoy, it's not like you're the only boy in school whose first name begins with the letter 'D'! Tell her that she's going to end up with Dennis Creevey."

Draco stared.

"You're kidding me."

"I actually don't care what you tell her," she countered easily and shrugged. "There's also Dean Thomas."

Draco looked appalled.

"They're both bloody Gryffindors! She won't believe me!"

Hermione found she rather liked the fact that Draco Malfoy seemed so…upset about this. It was nice to see that he wasn't as put together as he allowed everyone to think.

It's probably eating away at him, knowing he has to come to me for help.

"Since when did being in a certain House get in the way of true love?"

She smirked.

"There's Derek Bletchley and Darren Ogden. They're both Slytherin, if that makes any difference."

Draco nodded and watched her tick off names on her fingers.

"And Derek Chambers in Ravenclaw. Oh, and Dexter Flume from Hufflepuff, he's rather nice. His grandparents own Honeydukes, so if Pansy likes that sort of thing…"

Draco gave her a strange look.

"This is Pansy we're talking about, not Millie Bullstrode."

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh.

"All I'm saying is that even if she thinks she's seeing the first letter of your name, I'm sure you could convince her she's meant to be with someone else. Merlin's beard! You were given a brain, weren't you? Why don't you try using it?"

"This insanity is melting it." Draco scowled.

"I'd say it's your arrogance."

Once more, Draco found himself wanting to laugh. In spite of her strange jumper and the fact that he found her loathsome, she really was quite witty. And smart. He wondered why it had taken him this long to realize it.

Hermione leaned against her elbow, propped up on the table.

"Did you actually see this supposed apple peel, Malfoy?"

"What?"

"Did you see it? Were you with her when she did it?"

"Bloody hell! Why would I encourage her? Besides, she's with that gaggling group of vapid biddies all the time and I don't have the strength to deal with it all."

Hermione offered him a little smirk although it seemed awfully condescending to Draco.

"Well, then, how are you so sure that she even saw the letter "D"? Or if she saw any letter at all?"

Draco sat back, flabbergasted. This, he hadn't thought about; he had just assumed that Pansy wouldn't lie about something like that. After all, she had wanted him for ages, it seemed!

"She might be lying to you, Malfoy. She wants you, I'm not questioning that, but for someone who is reportedly such a womanizer you don't know much about girls at all, do you?"

Draco flushed a bright pink color, and, for a moment, Hermione swore he might have been handsome. Just a little bit.

"Girls will do anything to get what they want. The clever ones, anyway."

Draco glared at her.

"Oh, yeah? Then what about you, Miss Clever Knickers? Do you do anything to get what you want? Why haven't you gone after that wretched blood traitor, since everyone says you want him so much?"

Though Hermione was taken aback for a few seconds, she couldn't deny that the question held a certain validity. If a woman did what she needed to get what she wanted, why hadn't she gone after Ron the way she should have? Why hadn't she fought for what had been hers for so long, and was now in the clutches of some silly little Goldilocks?

I don't know.

She flushed pink from embarrassment at being caught without an answer, at the audacity of the boy lounging in front of her for even asking such a taboo question, and the fact that he was trying to change the subject!

"That's not your business! And stop deflecting!"

Draco snorted, but ignored her.

"Ah, cover uncertainty with haughtiness. Good choice," he drawled with obvious sarcasm, his eyes flickering over her for a second with lazy interest.

"What is it about the Weasel anyway? It's not like he's got much going for him, is it? Have you seen him, Granger? That unsightly hair and those ugly freckles make me want to hit him with a bludger, put him out of his misery."

He continued to speak, with amusement dancing in the depths of his silver eyes. Somehow, Hermione couldn't look away. Maybe it was because she was secretly glad someone was putting Ron down, she decided. He deserved it, at least in some ways.

"Since it's clearly not his looks, I thought maybe you liked him for his mind. But, after a bit of consideration, I realized he's really quite thick. I'm stumped, Granger. What is it about him?"

He smiled. It was strange to see Draco Malfoy smile genuinely, she realized. Not only that, but it was awfully flustering, making her look away for a moment.

"He's not stupid!" she exclaimed, instantly on the defense. "And I happen to like red hair, Malfoy!"

She had stood, her eyes narrowing in his direction, and Draco, not to be outdone, was standing as well.

"Clearly."

Hermione couldn't gauge his tone, but realized she didn't care. She gathered her books, shoving them into her pack quickly, wanting to be away from this boy who was making her feel strange, and asking questions she didn't have answers for.

"But, maybe, you don't want him as much as you think. Could that be why you're letting him run around with Lavender Brown?"

Fingers trembling, Hermione glared up at Draco.

"Sod off, Malfoy. This is none of your business."

Stepping away from the table, he shrugged nonchalantly.

"Or, maybe, you're just a coward, yeah? Afraid to go after what you want." He offered her another unsettling smile. "Such irony, you being a Gryffindor and all."

Hermione stood rigidly in place, watching him as he sauntered away.
 


Chapter 5: Everything is Better on a Broomstick
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Later that day, Hermione sat in the Quidditch stands, a large book open on her lap. The late autumn breeze ruffled her unruly chestnut curls, causing her to groan with irritation. Her head was bent over the text and she was attempting to be oblivious to the action on the field, while at the same time trying not to think of the conversation that morning in the library with Malfoy.

All in all, she was failing on both counts, and with a groan she gave up, turning her head towards the pitch.

The day was warm, unusually so for the end of October, with the sun riding high in a sky full of cotton-white clouds that danced on the cool breeze. Most of the students had opted to spend the afternoon after lessons out of doors, enjoying the last, lingering days of the season before the brutal winter arrived.

Some of the members of the Gryffindor team were tossing a quaffle around whilst working on their flying skills. The members of the Slytherin team had taken the time out of their busy schedule to come and mock Harry's effort at a late afternoon practice. On the other side of the field, a group of Slytherin girls sat whispering and shooting Ginny and the other Gryffindor girls patented, nasty looks. Way up high, above the stands and the goalposts on the field, Draco Malfoy did lazy circles on his broomstick, oblivious to everything that was going on around him, simply enjoying the afternoon.

Normally, Hermione enjoyed Quidditch. She loved the excitement, the danger, and she was proud of Harry and the entire team. She had been especially proud when, after Oliver Wood had left Hogwarts, Ron had made the team's Keeper. But now she wished he never had. Secretly, she wished that everyone would stop acting like he was the best thing to happen to the sport since the first ever Quidditch World Cup and she hated how arrogant Ron could get when he was surrounded by his teammates. She loathed the way Lavender and her girlfriends cheered and giggled from the stands, as if Ron were Keeper for the Chudley Cannons, and not just for Gryffindor!

All of it made her a bit ill and as she sat in the stands, Hermione curled into herself even more hoping that no one would notice her. Bloody Quidditch. Sodding Ron. Stupid Malfoy.

But even though she tried to concentrate on her schoolwork, she couldn't quite ignore the laughter around her, the sound of Ron's voice in the distance and the way Lavender was fawning over him. And she couldn't get Draco Malfoy's words out of her mind.

Am I really being a coward? Maybe I should just tell Ron how I feel! Maybe he never knew – he can be a bit thick.

Hermione gnawed her lip jealously as Lavender adjusted the collar of Ron's shirt and gave him a peck on the cheek, her face beaming. Ron seemed rather taken with her, unfortunately, and it made Hermione both angry and sad.

What if I make a fool out of myself? I could bare my feelings to him, but what if he laughs at me?

But no, Ron wasn't that kind of bloke. He was still her friend first and foremost - and a friend would never treat her that way.

Still, if he doesn't return my feelings, it would be the worst kind of humiliation. I might not be able to concentrate for weeks, and that'll be detrimental to my lessons.

But, if she didn't say something, Draco Malfoy's suspicions would be confirmed. Her eyes swiveled up towards the blue skies where he was a dot on the horizon, gracefully hovering and moving with the breeze, almost like some sort of black and green bird.

And why do I care what he thinks?

Sighing, Hermione pouted for a moment, so deep in her thoughts that she didn't notice Luna Lovegood who had joined her in the stands.

"You all right, Hermione? You seem…so determined to do something?"

Hermione blinked rapidly, glancing at her friend.

"Oh, um…yeah."

Luna gave her a tolerant smile. Hermione noticed her earrings were made of what looked like small pieces of wire wrapped with orange paper. It was quite bizarre.

"You should try Felix Felicis," she suggested. "Or maybe you did? It's like you're…"

"I haven't, Luna."

"Oh. Well, you've been acting a bit odd lately, did you know that? Did you get stung by a billywig? My father says they make you crazy-"

"No, Luna."

Hermione glanced again at her strange friend, but Luna offered only a dreamy smile and stared up at the clouds for a moment.

"It's going to be a cold Samhain. You can tell from the shape of the clouds."

"Hmm."

In the end, Hermione gave up on going to see Ron. After all, she would need some liquid luck if she was going to take such a huge step. Instead she sat down once more, all her earlier reckless intent gone. Trying to get her mind off of Ron only made her think of Malfoy, who was still doing lazy loops in the afternoon sky above them.

"Luna, I was thinking about Divination earlier today."

Luna looked at Hermione, startled, gray eyes lighting up.

"Really? It's good that you've opened your mind up to the possibilities," she said conversationally.

"I didn't say that."

Hermione paused and bit her lip, throwing caution out the window.

Oh, what's it matter anyway?

"I was having a chat this morning with someone on just this subject. Say you divined your true love's name starts with a "D". How would you know whose name it really is?"

She avoided looking towards the Slytherin flying high in the sky.

"There are many boys whose names begin with that letter. There's Dean and Dennis, and then Dexter from Hufflepuff. Or Draco and Derek in Slytherin…"

Luna smiled happily.

"That's easy! Divination is never just black and white."

Hermione tried not to roll her eyes.

Of course it's not. That's because Divination is rubbish, plain and simple.

"I've asked my father to do an article in the Quibbler on just that! I've read loads on Divination with apples, Hermione. If you really want to see the face of your soul mate, you have to cut your apple into nine pieces. Then you stand facing away from a mirror in a dark room and you eat each piece. When you get to the ninth, you toss it over your shoulder and look into the mirror. You should see the face of your true love."

Luna smiled, as if the whole thing made complete sense.

"See? You won't have to worry who it is, because you'll see him right before your eyes!"

Hermione stared, her eyes wide. Then, she snorted in disbelief, feeling badly at the sudden look of hurt on Luna's face. It disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

"You can't really believe that."

Her laugh was weak, for she could see from Luna's expression that the ash-blonde girl clearly believed it.

"Nine is very symbolic, Hermione. It represents finality, the last simple, single-digit number. It's been associated with couples for centuries. I don't see why it's that hard to believe."

Luna's face was solemn, her words affirming her strange belief. Although Hermione found herself wanting to laugh at such rubbish, she realized that at least she could tell Malfoy what Luna had told her, and therefore get him off her back for good. She had more important things to think about, after all.

She stood, gathering her things, and tightening the red and gold scarf she wore around her neck. Luna stood with her, a smile on her face. Harry, who had just joined Ron and Lavender, turned his green eyes up towards the stands, giving Hermione and Luna a happy wave, his dark hair tousled from the wind.

Hermione waved back, forcing a smile she didn't feel and Luna spoke, pushing her long hair off her thin shoulder.

"You really ought to open your mind to the possibilities. Divination traditions shouldn't be scoffed at. After all, if people have been following them for centuries, there must be some truth to them."

Hermione nodded as she watched the Gryffindor team fly off to the side of the bleachers, while the Slytherins took the field and Malfoy flew down from great heights to join them.

"I find all of that so hard to believe."

"Then why did you ask?"

It was a simple question, and Hermione had learned awhile back that Luna was never accusatory – she was simply curious about everything. Hermione's eyes strayed down to the field where a certain blond Slytherin stood, holding his broomstick and laughing with Crabbe and Goyle. On the field he wasn't the cross, scowling boy that she knew from lessons. He seemed comfortable, both in posture and in the casual trainers, trousers and shirt he wore beneath his brilliant green Quidditch robes. His face was flushed from the autumn wind and his hair carelessly tousled.

He looks like a boy, not a bully. That's a first.

But on closer inspection, which Hermione was prone to, she could see that he was carefully avoiding Pansy Parkinson's gaze, angling himself away from her, and on occasion he would shoot glares in Blaise and Daphne's direction, his expression dark and almost hurt.

I suppose no one's life is perfect. Some of us try harder than others, though.

Hermione realized that Luna was still waiting patiently for an answer which starlted her out of thinking about Malfoy. The fact that she was thinking about him at all was disconcerting, to say the least. She chalked it up to the fact that lately, she was seeing things about him that she normally didn't see. That was all. It wasn't as if she liked him.

Hermione sighed, turning to her friend.

"No real reason, Luna. Just curious I suppose."

Somehow, sharing the conversations she had been having with Malfoy of late weren't what she wanted to talk to Luna about right then. Instead, she offered her friend a smile.

"Call it broadening my horizons."

Luna smiled warmly in response and pulled on Hermione's sleeve.

"You won't be sorry. You need to focus on something besides Ron. I know why you were upset in the Great Hall the other day. We all thought you'd end up with him, you know. Sometimes life is funny, though."

Hermione felt her stomach curdling and her face falling. For a few moments, talking to Luna had been a brilliant distraction. That, and the fact that Malfoy-

Too bad those moments didn't last.

"Right."

Ginny had joined Harry, Ron and Lavender down on the side of the pitch and Hermione watched with a strange, jealous feeing as she leaned up to give Harry a peck on the mouth.

Harry's so happy. Ginny and Ron are too. I'm the one who feels left out. Let them spend the rest of the week giddy over those stupid apple peels. What do I care? Let Ron move on with someone else when I was the one who-

Hermione felt horrible, hanging her head so that her friends couldn't tell how upset she was, blinking away tears of frustration.

"I should let you wear my moonstone pendant," Luna said suddenly in her soft voice.

"What?" Hermione sniffed.

No matter how brilliant she considered herself, Luna's mind remained a mystery yet to be solved.

"Don't you know? Moonstone helps calm emotions and brings well-being. I should-"

Hermione stopped her.

"Thanks, Luna. But don't worry. I'll be fine."

She clutched her books to her chest, taking a breath.

"I'm going to the library. I'll see you later?"

Luna looked as if she would argue Hermione's point, but thankfully she didn't.

"See you."

I'll make a quick getaway. No one will see me.

But just when she thought she was free and clear, everything happened all at once.

 




Everything was better on a broomstick. Draco had learned that his first year at Hogwarts, the moment he had pushed off from the ground and sailed into the air, clutching his Comet 260 with a mixture of exhilaration and trepidation. It had been like nothing he had experienced before. When he was up in the air, Draco didn't have to think about his lessons or pretending to be someone he wasn't. He didn't have to worry about Pansy or what she would say next. Or how betrayed he felt by both Zabini and Daphne.

And on days like this one, when the breeze was perfect and the sun shone brightly, Draco believed all was right in the world. As everything carried on below him, he found he was just fine floating above it all lazily, meandering without purpose back and forth above the field.

The Nimbus he was currently flying was one of the first models to have come out and Draco smirked, remembering how his father had so graciously bought each of the Slytherin fliers their own broom, solidifying Draco's place on the team after their first year. Though Draco loved flying, he knew he wasn't a particularly good Quidditch player. And so whilst others had upgraded their broomsticks, Draco had held onto his original; it served him just fine.

He smiled, looking down for a moment. Yes, everything was better on a broomstick.

Draco knew that soon enough he'd have to come back down to earth and call practice, as their game against Gryffindor was only two weeks away and some of his beaters were a bit out of sorts. But, he didn't want to because from his vantage point above the field he had caught a glimpse of Pansy Parkinson and her friends, Blaise and Daphne holding hands and the fact that Potter and Weasley were holding court.

For a moment he wished he didn't have to come down from the clouds at all. The last thing he wanted to do was come up with new ways to brush off Pansy's incessant devotion. He didn't want to watch Blaise groping all over what had once been his. And he certainly didn't want to face Harry bloody Potter or any of his friends; he was constantly reminded that even though he should be better than they were, he never felt like it was true.

It doesn't matter that he associates with Mudbloods and blood traitors or that he's not even pureblood! Everyone still fawns all over him like he's Merlin come to life once again! It makes me sick!

No, there were definitely reasons for him not to come down to earth. Unfortunately, he found himself gracefully soaring towards the ground and that was when he spotted her.

She was so plain, that most of the time she would have escaped his attentions, but something about the way the sunlight glinted off of that ridiculous hair made Draco take notice. She sat six rows behind Weasley, next to Loony Lovegood. Quite predictably, there was an impossibly huge book open on her lap but she was not reading it, instead staring at the back of Weasley's head, wearing a miserable expression.

As Draco touched the ground, his face was a hard mask of irritation and growing anger. Something about the fact that she was so miserable made him angry, but he wasn't able to define what that something was.

Weasley is such a wanker. Why would any girl, even Granger, waste her bloody time on him? It's not like he's got anything to offer, is it?

He decided that was why he was angry with the whole situation – simply because Granger should have been too intelligent to pine after someone as stupid as Weasley. Draco thought that she ought to have known better. She had an answer for everything, after all. She was the one with the sharp comebacks; the one who had put Zabini in his place.

She even put me in my place.

And that was, if nothing else, rather impressive.

But she acts like this when it comes to Weaselbee, who is a complete moron compared to me.

It made absolutely no sense.

Ignoring Pansy's syrupy looks and Zabini's self-satisfied smirk, Draco walked across the pitch determinedly until he was facing Potter, Weasley and the rest of their motley group.

Nothings, all of them.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't Potter and his brainless entourage," he found himself saying, simply because it was expected of him.

"Why don't you go choke, Malfoy?"

Draco sneered at Ginny Weasley, who had instantly jumped to her boyfriend's defense.

"My, Potter. How much do you pay her to defend you? I know her family's poor, but that's a new low, even if they are Weasleys."

He watched with amusement as Potter's face hardened.

"You're not wanted here, Malfoy. I called Gryffindor practice."

"You might have called practice, but you didn't officially reserve the pitch so I suppose you'll just have to share, won't you? Though that'll hardly matter, seeing as your Keeper is worthless and your Seekers can't catch for shit."

At the mention of his prowess as a Keeper or lack thereof, Weasley launched himself forward, his face turning pink and clashing unfortunately with his hair.

"You're a worthless little git, did you know that? You're not wanted here and you've got no friends so you run around bullying everyone you can! Why don't you leave us alone?"

Draco found himself laughing and in that moment he felt her eyes on him. Granger's eyes. Strange, how he could feel them. He glanced at her casually from over Ron Weasley's hair and suddenly, their earlier conversation washed over him.

Grinning at Weasley then, he spoke.

"Someone ought to do everyone a favor and hit you with a bludger. That ought to put you out of your ugly misery."

Weasley went from pink to red.

"You…you…"

"So eloquent, too."

Everyone was watching him, and Draco felt…well, it didn't feel right. Usually, when he won these little victories over the Boy-Who-Lived and his worthless companions, he felt good. But right at this moment all he felt was irritation and vague discomfort.

Potter advanced menacingly, raising his wand, and Draco smirked, taking a step back.

"Now, now, let's not have any unpleasantness," he drawled, his tone a shade too snide. "I'm not staying. I've got better things to do than stare at your ugly faces all afternoon."

Even though Potter was angry, Weasley was speechless and their stupid girlfriends were looking righteously indignant…still Draco felt something wasn't right.

He didn't take the time to analyze his thoughts though, instead turning on his heel and stalking towards his team, head held high. He was too good for Potter and the rest of them, anyway. It was in that moment that Draco realized he was not only angry with Potter and Weasley, he was angry with Granger too.

Turning around, he looked up in her direction, and she still sat there, a befuddled look on her face.

"Oi, Granger! For about a day I did think you were intelligent."

He shot Weasley a look of disgust.

"I changed my mind."

He spared her no more time, turning around and glaring at Zabini.

"Take over for me."

"And why should I do that? Where do you have to go all of a sudden?"

"Quit being such a nosy prat. I've got my reasons," he spat in disgust.

Without another word he walked off the pitch in the direction of the locker rooms, never looking back. For some inexplicable reason, Draco realized that the only reason he could think of happened to be that he didn't want to see Hermione's Granger's face.
 


Chapter 6: His Unrest
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No matter how many times he swiped at his robes, Draco wasn't able to get the disgusting yellowish pus off his gloves.

Revolting! What the hell is the Malfoy name good for if I can't get out of doing nonsensical rubbish like this?

He stared with hatred at the nasty, black slug-like things that lay before him on the table in the greenhouse as Sprout walked between the rows of students lecturing on the proper way to harvest bubotuber pus. Draco thought the whole thing was a huge waste of time, especially because Samhain morning happened to fall on a Friday this year. It wasn't like anyone actually cared. They were too busy thinking about the Samhain feast, their stupid apples and divining the future.

Groaning, he stopped wiping and moved to the next bubotuber, cursing his life, his family, his existence.

"Here, Draco. You can have some of mine."

It was Pansy. Lost in his complete revulsion for Herbology, Draco had forgotten that he still shared a bench with the bane of his existence. She sat next to him, talking to him incessantly from one side, her voice full of eagerness, whereas he found he didn't give a toss what she said. Pansy was too helpful and too keen on him. She was too easy and that was the worst part.

He didn't offer a word of thanks as he snatched the small bowl that held the yellow substance without looking at her. Instead, he stared towards the window of the wide room, where Hermione Granger was working diligently at her task, never lifting her head. Though he couldn't see because of all the riotous curls on her head, he imagined she was carefully lancing each of the disgusting, yellow swellings, just as that old biddy, Sprout had been teaching them.

Stupid Granger thinks she knows it all. Merlin, she thinks she's so much smarter than the rest of us! Makes one wonder why she can't tell how pathetic it is to pine after a boy like Ron Weasley, especially since there are so many better ones available!

Somehow the thought upset him more than Draco would admit. What had transpired on the Quidditch pitch the day before needled him fiercely and just that fact was driving him mad. Sighing, he returned to the task at hand, very carefully ignoring Pansy Parkinson as she chattered on and on about things he would never care about and only half heard.

His mind was on the girl that sat on the other side of the room.

_________________________________________________________________________



Draco saw her again a few hours later, in the Charms corridor as she was leaving Flitwick's classroom, laughing at something Loony Lovegood had just said. Her laugh was light; it sounded like the bells that he could hear when he was at home for the Christmas holiday. Strangely enough when she laughed Granger was almost pretty.

Yes, he had to admit the thought was an insane one. The fact was that in the last two days, Draco had done and thought things that made no sense to him. Like talking to a Mudblood. Almost feeling sorry for her. And thinking that when she laughed she was-

I don't like this. There's no reason for me to be thinking like this. I loathe the way she affects me!

He'd have to stop it. Hermione Granger wasn't pretty! She was boring, a bookworm, rather irritating, and he had only talked to her because he needed her help and she hadn't been able to help him.

So why am I still thinking about her?

Scowling, he leaned against one of the stone walls, waiting for her to pass him by.

Unsurprisingly, their eyes met and Draco felt a sense of satisfaction. At least she still had the good sense to recognize that he was better than her and when he deigned to look at someone, they were supposed to look back.

Draco's smugness died the moment she passed him by without a word, as if he were nothing. Flabbergasted he straightened, his eyes following her head of unruly hair, mouth hanging open.

How dare she ignore me! I'll show her!

"That's a rather ugly jumper you're wearing today, Granger! I'm starting to think you might have a horrific collection of those hiding out in your closet!"

What am I doing?

It was as though he was obsessed wit the need to have her attention.

Draco saw her stop and her back straighten as she tensed up, turning slowly. Her eyes were alight with challenge, her jaw clenched and her nose scrunched up in a way that wasn't altogether unattractive. In fact, there was something about her that made his breath catch. As they stared at one another, Draco came to a disturbing, startling epiphany. Suddenly, everything made sense and there was no escaping it.

Draco wished he were alone so he could consider these strange, unwanted feelings that Hermione Granger had stirred within him. He was smart enough to know there was a logical explanation, and one he had been avoiding for at least two days. He liked her.

Shit. Now, that's impossible! I can't like her!

No, it wasn't right. Yet there was no other reason for his softening towards her, nothing to explain away the unfortunate fact that the feisty Mudblood seemed to know exactly how to make him lose his self-control.

Draco began to fight an inner battle that he knew the logical part of him would lose. He feared it would be a bloody slaughter.

She's insufferable!

Yes, of course she was. And somehow it was that aspect of her personality that was also strangely appealing.

What about the fact that she's an uptight, sharp-tongued harpy?

Was that really so bad when compared to the other girls in the school? Most of them were vapid and silly with no substance or wit at all.

I hate her!

This was true too; Draco did loathe her, but for all the wrong reasons. He loathed the fact that a girl as smart, capable and open-minded hadn't chosen him - she had chosen someone else.

"Do you plan on saying something, or are you simply going to stand there like an idiot because that's what Malfoys do?"

Her voice was like ice, and it made Draco want to claw her eyes out in his confusion and frustration.

"Your ugliness has rendered me speechless," he snapped.

"And I should care what you think because…?"

"Because, I'm Draco Malfoy."

She laughed at his petulance.

"Unlike everyone else stupid enough to buy into your egotism, I don't care who you are, Malfoy! I don't care what you think and what you do! You have no right to question my actions and decisions. Not right now, and certainly not yesterday. Get over yourself and leave me alone!"

She didn't spare him another second, instead whirling on the heel of her worn shoes and stomping down the hallway holding her head high. Draco was overcome with confusion. How was it that she was walking away from him? He was suddenly enraged at the casual way with which Granger had brushed him off. It wasn't possible, was it? He should have been the one to deride and push her away.

All he wanted to do was to grab her by that impossible hair and show her who was in charge. Unfortunately, he wanted to show her with his lips, which was part of his problem.

Face it, Malfoy. You like her.

Hunching into his school robes a bit more, Draco Malfoy hurried in the opposite direction, his hair falling into his eyes.

Well, I'll cure myself of that soon enough, and she won't ever have to have known..

________________________________________________________________________



Luna was watching Hermione, her eyes full of concern and interest.

"Would you like to go to the library with me, Hermione? I'm going to help Neville do some research on more uses for Bubotuber."

Hermione nodded without much enthusiasm, her mind still on her latest run-in with Malfoy. It had been happening far too much in the last two days, since their row in the library three nights before.

Have I just not noticed him before?

It was a cold and unwelcome thought, because Hermione didn't want to believe she had noticed Draco Malfoy at all. If he had been around all this time, and she hadn't noticed him until now, what did that mean? She certainly didn't want to dwell on the possibilities.

Lately, she had seen him in the library not just in the mornings but in the evenings as well. He had been watching her in the greenhouse during Herbology lessons. Not to mention the way he had leered during Care of Magical Creatures.

Hermione blushed uncomfortably as she thought once more on what had happened at the Quidditch pitch the day before and tried, in vain, to make sense of it all. It just didn't compute. It wasn't like Malfoy had ever bothered with her before his whole ordeal with Pansy Parkinson just as it wasn't like she had ever thought about him before.

All she knew was that he had been right; she was pining after Ron, acting like a silly little girl, and the only solution was simply to have it out with Ron and then move on, no matter what the outcome was.

Can I do that?

Hermione took a deep breath. She would have to.

If only I wasn't so jealous! If only Samhain and stupid Divination didn't exist! If only Draco Malfoy hadn't followed me in the library that night!

Too many 'if onlys' made Hermione dizzy and she swallowed, turning towards Luna.

"Let's stop at the Great Hall first. I need to talk to Ron."

No time like the present.

________________________________________________________________________



The moment Hermione's admission fell from her lips she wished she could take it back. But once those damning words were out there was no going back, and Hermione knew instantly that Ron didn't feel the same way as she did. It wasn't like he even had to say a word; she had seen his face change, a clear yet irrevocable look in his brown eyes.

She had tried and failed. She, Hermione Granger, brightest witch in her year, the girl with all the answers, had failed.

Her heart stopped beating in that heavy, sickening moment.

He doesn't feel the same way.

Tears prickled and Hermione's fingers grew icy-cold. She tried to blink the heat building behind her eyes away, but it came all the same, threatening her vision, making her cheeks burn as hot as her hands were cold. The feeling of being rejected was like nothing Hermione had ever felt; it was almost a physical pain, like she wanted to wince with each dulled heartbeat. As she fought with herself, she could hear the sound of Ron's voice.

"I didn't…I didn't know, Hermione, honest! I do care about you. You're brilliant, and funny, and tough. You're the best mate a bloke could have, but I-"

Hermione could see Ron's worry and disappointment, and in spite of the fact that he had just crushed her heart in his hands she wanted to tell him it was all right, that she would be fine. It wasn't his fault he didn't feel the same, was it? And she didn't want him to pretend.

It just wasn't meant to be.

Hermione could no longer look at Ron, and, turning away, she brought her hands to her cheeks, hoping to warm them or to cool herself down; she wasn't sure which one she was trying for at that moment. The one thing she was sure of was that it hurt.

It was a dizzying, humiliating kind of hurt, the kind of hurt that made you want to tear your hair out, scream at the top of your lungs, grind your teeth, and then curl up into a ball and die.

But what could a girl really do besides lift her head high and force a smile she didn't feel?

Hermione did just that. And then she gathered her things to go realizing that she had been getting up and leaving an awful lot lately. Maybe she just didn't fit in; maybe she never would.

She heard herself tell Ron to have a good time at the feast that night, and she offered Luna a broken smile as well, though she knew it wasn't nearly as sincere as she wished it to be. She willed her legs to move one in front of another, to take her away somewhere else entirely. Somewhere where she could be alone.

How was a girl supposed to get over such a disappointment, then? It wasn't like Hermione had any prior experience – in fact, she had none at all. And it wasn't as if she could turn to any of her girlfriends. Luna had Neville, and Ginny was deliriously happy with Harry.

Hermione paused at the two oak doors leading out of the Great Hall, a sudden, overwhelming need to cry washing over her. Blinking rapidly, she worked to keep from embarrassing herself further and wondered where to go next.

In the end, she chose a well secluded corridor; the one nearest Myrtle's bathroom. She knew that almost no one ventured that way, and she would be sufficiently alone. There, she climbed up on the windowsill, leaned against the glass, and began to cry.
 
 


Chapter 7: Stolen Kisses Are Always the Sweetest
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Draco paused, silent as a ghost. The corridor was empty, echoing with the faint sound of voices and laughter coming from the other floors and the dripping of water from one of the bathrooms. For a moment, he wondered where Granger had gone.

Try as he might, he couldn't get the image of her out of his mind. The way she had gotten up from the Gryffindor table after Weasley's obvious rejection of her affections, holding her head high and her lips pressed into a thin line of barely put-on bravery. The way she had managed a smile for her friend, and mechanically walked to the great, oak doors leading out of the Hall, but most especially…

The way she had lifted her head towards the enchanted ceiling for only a split second easily missed by someone who hadn't been looking closely, and blinked rapidly, clearly trying not to cry.

He should have been glad; he should have been thrilled at the fact that Granger, a Mudblood, was suffering pain. Especially since he liked her, and she didn't want him.

But he wasn't glad, and even if that had bothered him, Draco found he couldn't help it.

What gives Weasley the right to be such a sodding prat? Who does he think he is?

She was sitting curled up against the window, her face pressed against the glass and she was crying, which made Draco feel the worst kind of helpless. Even though he thought he had made sufficient noise in approaching the window where she sat, Granger seemed oblivious to his arrival.

What am I doing here? What am I going to say? Should I even say anything? What on earth is wrong with me? I can't really think that she'd want me. She probably thinks she can't get better than a bloody Gryffindor anyway!

The frantic questions rolled over one another in his fevered mind and Draco froze in place.

It's this stupid Samhain rubbish – that's it. It's messing with my mind, and come tomorrow morning, it's going to be November 1st and these insane feelings will just go away. I'll be normal again.

He gave her his patented glare but she still did not notice him.

Well, don't stand there. Keep on moving. The worst thing you can do now is say her name.

"Granger, what are you doing here?"

So much for curing myself of this stupid infatuation, he thought grumpily. But there was no helping it, he knew.

Draco realized his question was unnecessary; he had seen what happened in the Great Hall, yet somehow he felt the need to hear it from her.

She looked up at the sound of her name and swallowed, wiping at her tears and then putting her head back down, her thick, brown curls falling across the tops of her knees.

Draco was taken aback; for the first time ever, she had no snappy comeback, no cutting remark and no defensive comment.

And it was bloody annoying.

"Hasn't anyone ever taught you it's polite to speak when spoken to?"

"Oh," she muttered flatly, lifting her head once more. "You're still here."

"Aren't you going to answer me?" he asked with growing irritation, like a spoiled, little boy.

"No."

She began to lay her head back down, but Draco found himself grabbing her elbow.

"What are you doing here?" he repeated the question.

"I'm sitting."

"You can't just sit in the middle of the hallway!"

"I'm not in the middle, I'm on the side. And I want to be alone."

"You can't be alone here! There are plenty of places to be alone, Granger. There's the Forbidden Forest, loads of disused classrooms near the Divination wing, the owlery on a Sunday night, the dungeons. Well, I suppose the Bloody Baron haunts the dungeons, but only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and every third Monday. Today's Friday. So why here?"

She jumped up, pulling out her wand and pointing it directly at his heart. In spite of her obvious rage, her wand was deathly still, aimed for maximum damage.

"Who cares why I'm here? I am so sick of you! Stop following me around! Stop being such a nosy little ferret, Malfoy! Leave me alone!"

She advanced, her wand unwavering and her eyes glittering with murderous intent.

"Or I'll hex you within an inch of your worthless life."

"I'm beginning to sense a pattern, Granger. It seems to me you like waving that wand in my face way too much."

She was not amused.

"You deserve it! You can't just walk around this stupid school telling people where they can and can't go!"

Boy and girl stared at one another for one moment of complete silence, and then he moved to the windowsill, hopping up effortlessly and staring at her silently.

Hermione had expected a confrontation. Perhaps even a duel, which she had been quite confident she would win. She had expected a snide comment, another insult about her hair, her jumper, or her shoes. She had been prepared for derision and ridicule but instead, Malfoy simply sat on the windowsill watching her.

And this she wasn't expecting.

Wand faltering for a moment, Hermione felt herself growing weak, a breath she didn't even know she had been holding escaping her with one rushed exhalation.

Eying him suspiciously, she spoke.

"What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to be alone, so I was taking a stroll. That was, until I nearly tripped over you sitting in the middle of the hallway."

Hermione turned bright red with annoyance.

"I already told you I am not in the middle of the hallway!" she shrieked impatiently. "And if you want to be alone, what are you doing talking to me?"

She watched as he offered the tiniest of shrugs.

"It should be quite clear. I'm telling you not to sit in the middle of the hallway."

Fed up, Hermione raised her wand at him again, causing Draco to smirk.

"You really should do something about that twitchy wand hand of yours."

"Either tell me what you want or go away, Malfoy!"

His gaze was steady, and somehow, Hermione found it impossible to look away.

"Was it Weasley who made you cry?" he asked changing the subject abruptly.

Her silence was the answer Draco sought. Sighing, he looked away from her all his earlier amusement gone.

"Sometimes it's just easier, you know? To tell them how you feel even if you aren't sure that they feel the same way. You do it quickly, like pulling off a plaster. And then it hurts only for a little while."

Hermione's brow furrowed at his quiet tone, his words, everything. Once more her wand wavered, and finally she lowered it.

"To be hurt, someone has to have feelings in the first place. Last time I checked you didn't have any."

He sneered at her, shaking his head.

"Has anyone ever told you how incredibly annoying you are, Granger? You have quite the penchant for nastiness."

Hermione offered a soft snort as she put away her wand, taking a step towards him.

"It takes one to know one, I suppose."

He shifted, the movement almost unnoticeable, to make room for her. And Hermione sat, tucking her hands under her thighs and Draco found himself studying her profile as he spoke.

"Do you have a comeback for everything?"

She didn't look at him.

"Not always. But you make it too easy."

After that, they were silent for a few comfortable moments.

"At least you told him, Granger."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better, Malfoy?"

"No."

"That's good, because right now I feel downright rotten."

"But now you can move on. It's over and you don't have to dwell on it. Who wants to be pathetic, especially over someone like Weasley?"

Hermione glanced at him for a moment, frowning. For the life of her, she couldn't figure out this boy next to her; he was an enigma, and the simplest thing would be to call him a spoiled prat and dismiss him.

But, it wasn't that simple.

"Did you come up with that one on your own, Malfoy, or did someone tell you that when Daphne left you for Zabini?"

In another moment of unpredictability, the blond Slytherin remained silent. Hermione sighed in frustration.

"Look, you can't possibly tell me it felt good when Daphne moved on with someone else."

As she turned to look at him she felt a flicker of triumph, for his face took on a pinched expression, as if he had eaten something unpalatable.

"You're really starting to try my patience."

"Too bad," replied Hermione dismissively. "You're the one that followed me here, not the other way around."

Irritated boy glared at attitudinal girl for a few moments, and then let out an exasperated sigh.

"It didn't feel good when it was happening, Granger. But trust me, you get over it."

He shrugged, and gave her a once-over.

"And one day, you'll meet a boy who's going to appreciate your bushy hair, ugly jumpers and that rapier wit."

As his words died away, he took a moment to glance at her and suddenly Draco realized he wasn't afraid to admit that he could be that boy.

"And I'll be as happy as you and Pansy," snapped Hermione, feeling a spike of irritation at the thought of Pansy Parkinson. Draco snorted.

"I'd rather shag Sprout in a bathtub full of bubotuber pus."

"Sounds romantic," she snickered.

"You don't know the half of it, Granger."

"Pansy still after you, I see?"

"Like a niffler on a galleon."

She held back a bout of giggles, in spite of her crappy day and the disappointment over Ron. And the most surprising thing was that she was sitting with Malfoy – the same Malfoy whom she had thought she hated, and yet, didn't hate as much as she had originally thought. He might have been a first-class git, but he was intelligent and funny. And maybe he was conceited and a bit standoffish, but no one was perfect. It seemed to Hermione that Draco took the time to carefully feel out the people around him – as if he was uncertain about how they would respond to him, or of what they would say.

She had to admit that it did make him a bit snobbish, but then again, that would mean she was guilty of the same. And at least he noticed her, unlike Ron. And that was the strangest thing of all, but she wasn't going to question it, at least not right now.

With a small smirk, Hermione spoke.

"Speaking of Pansy, I might be able to help you out, after all. You were being such an arse the other day I almost decided not to tell you, but I talked to Luna about your…little problem."

"What little problem?" he exclaimed with alarm.

"You know... the apple, the peel and the Divination rubbish?"

"Sounds like the title of some horrible Muggle book."

This time, Hermione did laugh and then told him what Luna had shared with her at the pitch the day before.

"So really all you have to do is make sure you charm whatever mirror she'll be using. You can make her see whomever you want her to. I suggest Dexter Flume - I think Pansy might like being the future owner of Honeydukes."

"Second only to Millie Bullstrode," he replied cheekily. Hermione groaned.

"You're terrible."

"I can't apologize, Granger. Being a loathsome prat is part of my manly essence."

"That isn't exactly a positive thing, Malfoy."

"Who says?"

She gave up, shaking her head, but not looking at all put-off, which Draco decided was a very good thing. As he stood to go, he realized he was reluctant to do so. It had been awhile since he had felt what he was feeling now.

He looked up and down the hallway, suddenly awkward.

"So, I'm thoroughly tired of you, Granger. I think I'm going to go."

His tone was dry, and Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Don't let me stop you, Malfoy. After all, you have your pristine reputation to uphold," she replied sarcastically.

He gave her a snide look.

"That's right, and don't you forget it."

He had hoped that the sniping between them would alleviate whatever awkwardness he was feeling but he felt it once more after his words died away in the empty corridor.

Hermione glanced at him feeling suddenly shy and then averted her gaze, clearing her throat. He was too close, and she felt…well, whatever it was she felt wasn't something she usually felt around him, and she wasn't ready to analyze it at all.

"So, are you leaving?" she asked, looking anywhere but at him.

"Granger."

Hermione looked at him, feeling a bit startled at the fact that he had stepped close enough to make her heartbeat strangely inside of her. When he spoke, his words were the last ones she ever expected to hear.

"You're really something, you know? I hate to see you wasted on a prat like Weasley."

As he searched her face, he saw a bit of color rising up on her cheeks, and something uncertain flickering in the depths of her eyes, making Draco wonder how he could have missed how brilliant they were.

The stillness only lasted a brief second, as Hermione jumped up, her eyes narrowing. She put her hands on her hips and Draco was glad that she hadn't gone for her blasted wand again.

"So next you'll be telling me exactly who I should be wasted on, is that it? I don't appreciate the insinuation that I'm some kind of object to be passed around to the highest bidder, Malfoy! I'll bet you think you're so much better than Ron, don't you? You think maybe I should waste myself on you?"

The words escaped her before she could stop them and Hermione couldn't deny the sudden thrill that rushed through her at the thought. Draco felt a shiver run down his back at the fact that the girl standing in front of him looked angry enough to bite.

Unfortunately, she was standing close enough to do just that and he decided right then that he didn't want to be bitten or yelled at. So he did the first thing that came to his mind – he grabbed her chin, forced her face up towards his and pressed his lips against hers.

Hermione initially kissed him back, wondering if all boys' mouths felt so soft, and how on earth he knew exactly how to fit his lips so perfectly against her own. And then she realized who it was she was kissing.

"Malfoy!" she screeched.

Draco ducked as she pulled out her wand and hit him with it.

"Ouch! Granger, was that really necessary?" he asked, rubbing his shoulder with a wounded expression.

She lifted her chin haughtily.

"Of course it was! You don't just get to kiss me! That's what happens when you do things without asking!"

"I was only-"

"You were only nothing, Malfoy! Go!"

"Fine, I guess I won't be seeing you around, then."

His expression was reminiscent of that of a little boy who hasn't got his own way.

"That's right, you won't."

"And just for the record, you suck at kissing!" he lied.

"I don't bloody care what you think about me or my kissing!"

He felt his face grow hot.

"You and the Weasel deserve each other!"

As he hurried away from her, Hermione fought to keep her erratic heartbeat under control. Her fingers came up to her lips, as she marveled at what had just happened. Had he just kissed her? Why had he kissed her?

Did I like it?

No, no of course not.

Hermione touched her fingers against her lips once more, turning around to gaze in the direction Malfoy had gone.

Maybe…

Her heart hammered weirdly within her.

Oh, hell. Of course I did.

Confused and bewildered, Hermione rushed down the hallway in the opposite direction.
 
 
 


Chapter 8: D is for Draco
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Luna handed Hermione a small pendant as they sat together at the Ravenclaw table an hour later. They had just finished their lunches and Luna, waiting with expectation, watched Hermione who was having trouble focusing on what was going on around her.

Why did he kiss me? What did it mean? Maybe it didn't mean anything; maybe he just kisses everyone-

Luna interrupted Hermione's derailing train of thought.

"I know you said you didn't want it, but I thought I'd give it to you anyway. It's the moonstone I was telling you about the other day. I really think you ought to wear it. It'll bring you a sense of calm."

Under normal circumstances, Hermione would have fought Luna on her insistence, but something had changed in the hallway by Myrtle's bathroom. She stood, unmoving, as Luna tied the blue ribbon securely around Hermione's neck and then admired the pendant for a moment.

Maybe he thought I'd be just like those girls who want him – ripe for the taking, and…and easy. How humiliating!

Luna either didn't notice Hermione's inner turmoil, or she found no reason to mention it, instead, patting the pendant with admiration.

"It's quite beautiful, and it goes with your hair," she declared happily.

Hermione smiled, a bit distractedly.

"Hmm…"

It didn't feel like he was trying to trick me. It felt nice, really.

Then she gazed at her dreamy-eyed friend.

"Luna, are you and your friends still doing the apple thing tonight?" she found herself asking, against her better judgment.

Luna beamed.

"Oh, yes! Would you like to join us? We're meeting near the library right before midnight!"

What am I thinking? I'm not one of them, and I'm not really going to buy into this, am I?

But there was something thrilling about the idea that maybe…just maybe that apple peel would surprise her. And that maybe there was such a thing as fate, and that Luna was right; life was surprising sometimes.

Besides, no one is going to think I'm strange. They're all just as bad!

Smirking to herself, Hermione reached for a shiny, green apple, holding the fruit in the palm of her hand thoughtfully.

"I can't believe I'm really considering this," she murmured, hear heart skipping a beat as she tried not to think of Malfoy. It would do no good, and Hermione didn't want to get her hopes up. Not that she had them up, not really. Not when Divination made no sense! But then again-

Luna giggled.

"It'll be fun," she assured her, and then bit her lip. "I know you're not comfortable with the others. Why don't I meet you here, right before midnight?"

Hermione offered Luna a grateful smile.

"That would be brilliant."

"Perfect, then," said Luna with an answering smile. "And hold onto that apple. You never know, Hermione."

With that, Hermione bid her friend good-bye, and then sat the apple on the table, staring at it with a grin on her face.




Draco stared at his lunch with contempt, trying not to look around. What had happened with Granger had been unacceptable!

How am I going to convince her of my utter hatred when I've gone and bloody kissed her? What now? What if someone finds out?

He stabbed at his jacket potato hatefully, and a few of his housemates gave him strange, startled looks. He was glad no one attempted to make conversation with him and even gladder that Pansy had not shown up for lunch.

I shouldn't have bothered with lunch. I should have skipped this, and hidden out in the dungeons until afternoon lessons.

But Draco knew either way, he wasn't going to be able to stop thinking about the way Granger's mouth felt against his, and the almost inaudible sigh that had escaped her when their lips had touched.

I bloody kissed her? Merlin's right arsecheek, what's wrong with me?

Finally, he shoved his plate away in frustration. He knew what was wrong; the certainty washed over him, and Draco found that he loathed himself and his stupid feelings.

Standing, he glanced around the Great Hall but didn't see her. Without another thought, Draco left the Slytherin table, ignoring those he had left behind and the whispers that were bound to begin. He had a girl to find, after all.

It's easier to tell someone your feelings, even if you don't know if they feel the same way and I'm going to just do it. What's the worst that can happen?




Long after all the food was gone, and the decorations were mostly down, Hermione crept into the empty Great Hall, still dimly lit by gleaming candles, which flickered from within the bright, orange pumpkins that had been set around the perimeter of all the tables. Here and there an enchanted orange streamer floated across the high, wide ceiling. The faint smell of roast chicken and treacle tart lingered in the air.

Hermione thought it had been a splendid feast indeed; the only disappointment was that she had missed out on the sweet filled pumpkins, as she was quite fond of treacle fudge and chocoballs, but had been in the middle of her first helping of pudding and hadn't been able to snag a piece before all of it was gone. Everyone had come down to eat their supper together, and the room had been filled with laughter and anticipation of the coming weekend. Hagrid's hollowed out pumpkins had lit the room merrily and even the house ghosts had come to join the festivities. Underlying all of that, there was a buzz of anxiousness amongst the many females in the room. It was quite unspoken, but still very much there. Hermione's initial reaction when she had sat down at her table for supper with her friends was to laugh and roll her eyes at their silly little notions, but that night she found she couldn't.

She walked into the massive hall, holding a small knife, a hand mirror and her little, green apple. On that Samhain night, Hermione was going to be just like all the other girls at Hogwarts.

This is humiliating, Hermione Granger! Shame on you!

She smirked down at the fruit in her hand, taking a huge breath. Or, maybe not. It might have been silly and held no validity, but Hermione had learned something from Luna and Draco in the last few days. It was time to move on. She knew that this was one miniscule way to do that, even if it meant nothing in the long run.

She waited, hopping up on the edge of one of the long, wooden tables, and taking a huge breath. Midnight was fast approaching and each time she heard a thump or shuffle, she turned her head towards the large, oak doors on the other side of the room. It was nearly time, and as the hour approached, Hermione set the knife and apple down on the table, eyeing herself in the hand mirror.

With a look of contemplation, she studied the girl who was reflected there.

Malfoy's right, I think. I'm too good to waste my time on Ron Weasley. Tonight marks the dying year, and tomorrow everything starts anew. Sometimes things don't work out the way they're supposed to and it hurts, but only for a little while and only if you let it.

She tried a smile.

Ron's loss, I'll wager.

Beyond the Great Hall, the clocks began to chime the witching hour, and Hermione turned around, wondering where Luna had gotten to. She waited for a few seconds, and then sighed, picking up the paring knife.

"I'd best start then," she muttered to herself, still feeling mighty silly. In the dim lights of the flickering candles, she began to peel the small apple, careful not to break the train. Round and round she went, holding on to the damp fleshy fruit until most of the peel had been removed. Taking a breath, she set the peel aside.

For later.

Slowly, her heart beating strangely within her, Hermione cut the apple into nine pieces, and picked up the first, putting it to her mouth, feeling suddenly happy with herself.

I am Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of my age. I have single-handedly debunked the myth of pureblood supremacy. Silly, little, Muggle-born me!

Then, came the second piece.

My eyes are rather pretty, really. And I don't care what anyone says – no one has got hair like mine, and I love it.

She ate the third, chewing thoughtfully and then her lips turned up in a tiny smile.

I'm funny, too.

Her smile widened as she picked up the fifth piece.

I've got the best friends a girl can ask for.

With a little confident smirk, Hermione ate her sixth apple piece.

Viktor Krum, Bulgaria's favorite Seeker, asked me to the Yule Ball. So there.

Her smile twitched impishly as she thought of what had happened earlier that afternoon – again. She couldn't help but grin at her reflection, popping the seventh piece into her mouth.

The Slytherin Prince kissed me. He actually kissed me, and it wasn't just a kiss on the cheek. It was an honest to goodness real kiss…

Beyond the Great Hall, the clocks continued to chime the hour, and Hermione picked up the eighth piece and ate it quickly.

I might fancy you now, Ron Weasley. But someday I won't and you're going to wish I did.

With that thought in mind she picked up the last piece of her apple and took a huge breath.

Here goes nothing. I still can't believe I'm doing this!

In complete silence, Hermione tossed the apple over her shoulder just as Luna had instructed, and with trepidation, gazed into the mirror. For a moment there was nothing but the flickering yellow light dancing along the walls of the Hall and then her heart stopped as she saw a flash of white-blond hair.

Malfoy?

She blinked, and there he was. Her heart stopped beating.

"Well, tie me to a tree and call me a bowtruckle," she whispered in shock.

Has Luna been right this whole time? Is there really a bit more to Trelawney's codswallop?

She could see him now, wearing his signature smirk, and the image seemed so real, as if he were really there-

"Quite the sentiment, Granger. I thought you would have gotten sick of all those wretched forest critters by now."

She whirled around at the sound of his voice, dropping the mirror in her surprise. It shattered against the ground into hundreds of tiny, sharp pieces.

He was standing mere feet from her, his head cocked and his blond hair shimmering under the strange candlelight. His self-satisfied smirk widened into a smile and Hermione realized suddenly that she was actually disappointed. She looked wordlessly at the shattered mirror realizing that midnight had come and gone and she had seen no-one.

The worst part was that for a moment, when she had glimpsed that flash of blond hair, she had been happy.

"You again!"

Her eyes narrowed, and her cheeks began to burn from the embarrassment of being caught doing…what she had been doing. That and being angry was as good a cover up as any to hide her disappointment.

Bollocks!

"What are you doing here?" she asked, trying to make it so her voice wasn't so bloody squeaky.

Malfoy smirked, taking a step closer, the glass from the broken mirror crunching under one of his shoes.

"Clearly interrupting something you didn't want me to see."

He grinned as that same glorious red color spread across her cheeks. He tried to side-step her, but she was much too quick.

"Come on, Granger. What do you have here?" he asked with a smirk. "Is that an apple peel I see? And this from Hermione Granger who is supposed to be above all this? Now what did you call this sort of thing? Rubbish, if I remember correctly?"

Blushing furiously, Hermione pushed him back just as he tried to reach and grab the apple peel from the table.

"You're the most insufferable boy I have ever met!"

His eyes glimmered with annoyance.

"That's too bad, isn't it? I suppose only the Weasel is good enough for the resident Gryffindor Princess, is that it?"

"I never said that!" she exclaimed hotly, a blush coloring her cheeks. "This has nothing to do with Ron and everything to do with you! You're incredibly frustrating! Why can't you just leave well enough alone, Malfoy? What's wrong with you?"

She turned angrily and stooped, using her wand to repair the shattered mirror while blinking back tears of suppressed annoyance. Behind her, she heard his quiet chuckle.

"I can't help it, Granger. There's just something about you…I don't know what it is, actually. Could be that Hagrid's been giving you hair-styling tips, or maybe it's that jumper-"

He was suddenly interrupted as she drew her wand, pointing it directly at his heart.

"If you hate me, my hair and my jumpers so much, what are you doing here? And why did you kiss me?"

Hermione was shocked at her own question, but nevertheless, she could no longer take back the words. It frightened her how hard her heart was hammering and how much she needed an answer.

Draco nearly laughed at the intense look on her face and the adorable way she turned up her nose at him and then promptly berated himself for even thinking that she was adorable. Even though she was.

"What can I say, Granger? It was rather foul, wasn't it? We all have our slip-ups now and again."

She watched a cruel smile spread slowly across his face and exploded.

"I hate you! I hate everything about you!" she shrieked, shame fueling her anger, because the thing she hated the most was that she had actually sort of liked him. And she had hoped he'd feel the same way. Was this how it would always be? One boy after another rejecting her? At least Malfoy hadn't known how she felt, and Hermione allowed herself that small consolation.

Moving quickly, Hermione gathered her things, tucking them into her robes and then glared at him with unbridled fury.

"I won't waste another moment talking to you!"

She whirled on him without hesitation, feeling the anger build with each footstep that carried her away from him. She was furious with him, certainly, but Hermione couldn't quite shake the feeling that it was not just about Malfoy. She was also furious with herself for entertaining the thought that he might have cared about her. Even if it was just a little.

He's a worthless git, and I'm a silly, stupid girl.

"Granger!"

She stopped, because something about the way he called out her name was…almost pleading.

"So I'm a first class prat! But in case you haven't noticed, I'm here. On Samhain night. And Weasley's not."

Draco found it strange how he couldn't quite say what he wanted to say. Hermione stopped, brow furrowing and heart hammering. When she turned, she found that Malfoy had followed her, a strange glint in his eyes. Struggling to stay calm, she offered a derisive snort.

"Yes, you're here. Don't think I haven't noticed that you've made it some sort of personal mission of yours lately to drive me insane! I don't understand it, but I do know that this has nothing to do with Ron! I'm done with this. Leave me alone."

She hesitated and she saw that his face no longer looked derisive and in fact, he looked strangely…vulnerable.

"Look, Granger, I didn't come here tonight to fight."

Hermione offered a harsh laugh.

"You could have fooled me, Malfoy."

He shook his head, scowling.

"It's the truth! Can I help it if you're completely thick?"

"I am not thick!"

Her shrill retort caused Draco to raise an eyebrow.

"Look, I'll make this simple so your pea-brain can handle it."

Hermione's mouth fell open.

"I can't believe I'm standing her wasting my time!"

She was moving again quickly, and she had just reached the oak doors when his next words stopped her cold.

"I like you, Granger!"

Hermione turned to stare at Draco in shock, completely speechless for the first time in a long while. And he looked rather irritated.

"I like you in that really infuriating way that makes me want to give you my last chocoball…and argue with you all night long because it means I'll get to talk to you…and help you tutor Goyle in the library because I'll get to see you…like you so much I loathe you, like you."

He paused as if uncertain about his next words, and Hermione found that her heart had started to pound shallowly within her as she stared at his equally pained and hopeful expression.

"I'm aware that it doesn't make sense. And I know that you like Ron Weasley," he added, making 'Weasley' sound like 'dragon dung.' After a hesitant pause, he continued.

"But none of that changes the fact that I think about you all the time and when all this apple and Samhain rubbish is finished, I'm still going to like you."

He smirked, feeling like he was flying. He wondered if she'd be there to break the fall when it finally came. Hermione stared at him and frantically searched for a foothold, something that made sense so she could grab onto it and steady herself, but found nothing. Was this really happening or was it a hallucination caused by whatever Divination rubbish she had bought into?

Well, even if it was a hallucination, she decided, it could have been worse.

"You like me?" she asked, a dumbfounded expression on her face.

"Right. I just said that, Granger," he replied impatiently.

Boy and girl eyed the other suspiciously.

"What's that mean?" Hermione asked slowly

"What do you think it means, Granger?" he asked. "Did that apple you just consumed eat away at your brain?"

Hermione whirled around, her mouth going dry and her hammering so wildly inside of her that it made her fingers tremble. When Draco realized she was walking away again,he grabbed her hand and took a deep breath.

"It means that I came down her tonight because I wanted to follow my own advice. It is easier to tell someone how you feel even if you don't know if they feel the same way. It means that even though I find you and your unholy thirst for knowledge insufferable, it's simply because I'm not used to knowing someone who is intelligent or someone who I can go toe to toe with. It also means that the reason I make fun of you is because I'm an uncreative sort who can't think of a better way to get your attention."

He took a step closer.

"It means that your collection of jumpers is horrific but at the same time I can't seem to take my eyes off you. I think you look funny when you laugh, but I find myself hoping you'll laugh anyway because I love the sound."

He took a breath and linked their fingers together.

"And finally, even though I've tried to convince myself that I don't want you and you're worthless because you're a Muggle-born Gryffindor, the truth is that I can't think of any girl in the whole world that I like more."

His lip twitched as he fell into a nervous silence. Hermione stared, her mouth dropping open just slightly.

"So I was hoping you'd agree to come to Hogsmeade with me next weekend."

"Is this…a date?"

"No, it's a Death Eater raid, Granger."

She gazed at him incredulously and he shook his head, unable to do anything else but chuckle.

"Of course, a date."

"Is that what you want?" she asked uncertainly.

"No less than when I asked you five seconds ago."

"Is a date really necessary?"

"No, it's not. We don't need Madam sodding Puddifoot's and a Butterbeer to spend all night arguing with each other. I just thought you might be more tolerable with a face full of treacle tart."

"That snarky mouth of yours will be your downfall, Malfoy."

Her raised an eyebrow with anticipation.

"So, does that mean you don't want to date me?"

"What's in it for me?"

"I'll pay for your sweets."

"Not exactly tempting."

"Hell, I'll go all out. I'll pay for your Butterbeer too."

Hermione smirked, and he took a step closer.

"You'll have to do better than that."

"I'll let you kiss me whenever you want."

His smile could have brightened the darkest night, she realized. She felt herself shiver as his fingers brushed against her face with a gentleness she had never dreamed Draco Malfoy could ever possess. As he looked at her closely, Hermione felt her heart fluttering for the briefest of moments, and it was one of the most wonderful things she had ever felt.

"You think yourself such a catch, don't you, Malfoy? I'll have you know that-"

"Granger?" he interrupted.

"Yes?"

She was breathlessly annoyed.

"Shut up."

Without waiting for her to reply, Draco leaned down to close the candle-lit distance between them sealing their unspoken decision with a gentle kiss. When they pulled apart, she looked slightly dazed and the best part for Draco was the fact that she didn't need words to convey that she felt just as he did which was good, really, because he was just about fed up with her talking anyway.

"See?" he said with a smirk. "It's so much better when you don't talk, Granger."

He smiled in anticipation of the glorious pink color that flushed her cheeks.

"I'll have you know that just because you don't happen to like when I talk doesn't mean that I-"

He put his hand over her lips and she got a whiff of spicy sweetness.

"But you're wrong, I adore it. It's just that right now I can think of better things for you to do with that amazing mouth of yours."

"Twat."

"Any guesses, Granger?"

She stared at him and he thought she was a beautiful, blustering mess.

"I can't believe you!"

"Bloody hell. Just kiss me again."

Her giggle was muffled by his lips.




Neville peered through the crack in the oak doors leading towards the Great Hall.

"But that's Draco Malfoy!" he hissed.

Behind him, Luna was admiring the tiny, green and red bottle caps that she had acquired only a few moments before, her blue-gray eyes glittering in the near darkness.

"Yes, so?"

"It's Malfoy!"

"You say that as if it's something terrible, Neville. Look at them. I don't think it's terrible at all," she decided with a little smile. "I think we need to stop all this prejudice against Slytherin House. They're probably just all misunderstood."

Lifting up one of the bottle caps, Luna admired it against the candle light in the corridor outside of the Great Hall. Neville looked perplexed.

"I thought you were meeting her here to do the apple thing, yeah?"

Luna shrugged with a little smile.

"I was. But then I ran into Draco right there," she said pointing to the stone stairway in the distance. "I think he was waiting for me."

She gave him a knowing look.

"He asked me if I would trade places and then gave me these!"

She opened the palms to show Neville the two bottle caps as if they were the rarest kind of treasure.

"And you allowed him to go in there and torture Hermione? For two silly bottle caps?"

Luna looked defensive.

"I wouldn't consider it torture, Neville," she replied with gentle reproach. "After all, it looks like she's enjoying it. Besides, I can feel her aura…it's pink."

"What?"

Luna sighed, running her fingers along the bottle caps again.

"Pink, Neville. It means she's happy, and it represents love and romance."

Neville shook his head.

"You're barmy! And you sold out one of your best friends for bottle caps!"

"They're not just any bottle caps," she corrected happily. "They're limited edition holiday butterbeer caps, and they're really hard to find. I'm going to make them into Christmas earrings."

Her revelation was accented with a huge smile and Neville shook his head.

"It's Malfoy!"

"He can't be all bad, Neville," Luna preached gently. "No real bad wizard collects butterbeer caps."

"I'll bet Voldemort does."

"He does not," she replied quickly. "We'd know all about it, wouldn't we? That's a strange hobby."

Without another word, a very confused Neville turned to walk away from the doors of the Great Hall, and Luna dashed after him, clutching her newfound, precious bottle caps.

"Wait, I thought we were going to the lake!"

Soon, the hallway was empty.




Hermione and Draco walked through the empty, dark castle wordlessly. The moment between them was tense with anticipation and uncertainty. Hermione would glance at Draco when he wasn't looking, and every once in a while, he would sneak a peek at her when she turned her head.

At first, their hands swung next to one another, and then after a few missed tries, Draco finally managed to secure his fingers in hers, squeezing her hand experimentally. Her smile was the permission he needed, and boy and girl walked contentedly along deserted, winding corridors hand in hand.

Hermione realized suddenly that she had forgotten about Luna.

"I was supposed to meet Luna!"

"Don't worry about it, Granger. She sold you out anyway."

"What are you talking about?"

"I convinced her that I needed to see you more than she did."

Hermione stopped walking and glared at him.

"What did you do to her?"

Draco smirked.

"Nothing at all. I know what the ladies like."

"Come off it."

"Fine. I gave her my limited holiday edition butterbeer caps. Most likely she's going to destroy them to make a pair of those hideous earrings."

He dropped his gaze, a smile touching his lips at the sight of their joined hands.

"It was worth it though. The trade meant I got you."

Hermione stared at him with a mixture of incredulousness and amusement, her cheeks flushing at his compliment.

"I can't believe she traded me for a pair of bottle caps!"

"That and I threatened her with a canary transfiguration hex."

Hermione gave him a strange look and he shrugged.

"What can I say, Granger? She hates birds."

She shook her head and as Draco's gaze moved back down to their hands he saw it.

"Hey, you're still holding that apple peel!"

Hermione frowned. In the crazy events of the evening, she had forgotten that she was still holding it.

"Oh yeah."

There was a silence.

"Well, aren't you going to do your thing?"

"It's after midnight, Malfoy."

"Just do it," he urged, curious in spite of himself. Hell, he had been acting stupidly all evening, so what did it matter?

Hermione hesitated, staring down at the browning, soggy peel in her hands. For a moment she debated it, and then shook her head.

"Forget it," she replied. "It's rubbish anyway."

Draco pulled on her hand.

"You're right. It's completely worthless."

They stared to walk again, turning another, random corner and Hermione tossed the peel over her shoulder without thinking. They took two steps and both stopped, glancing at one another.

"Oh, bugger, what's it matter?" Hermione snapped and they quickly turned around to glance down at the fallen apple peel. It lay discarded and sad looking, in a small, brown heap. Hermione could detect no letter whatsoever.

"There," she said with a bit of resignation. "Proof that Divination is a waste of time. At least we know it now."

She turned back in the direction they had been going.

"Come on," she said and took a few steps forward. Draco, however, smirked and pulled out his wand, muttering an incantation under his breath.

"Malfoy, what are you-"

She turned around to see him standing there, the apple peel at his feet in the perfect shape of a 'D'.

"There," he said. "'D' is for Draco."

Hermione grinned.

"'D' is also for Dexter Flume. Maybe I will be the future Mrs. Honeydukes!"

Glaring at her, Draco would not be outdone. He waved his wand and the 'D' shifted and changed, floating magically and lengthening until the letter became 'Malfoy'.

"Hmm…maybe it's not Dexter after all?"

"And maybe you cheated!"

Draco crossed the distance between them, the apple peel forgotten.

"I think maybe you like it," he whispered, and her eyes lit up in the semi-darkness, a smile on her lips.

"Probably a bit too much," she sighed in happily. Draco smiled down at her.

"You better get used to it then," he informed her. "Apple divination never lies, Granger."

Her laughter was once again muffled by his kiss.

~Fin~




"Soul mates. It's extremely rare, but it exists. It's sort of like twin souls tuned into each other." - What Dreams May Come




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