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CHAPTER FIVE: Return to Hogwarts



Two weeks had come and gone, where Hermione no longer stayed at Malfoy Manor, and instead, taken up residence back at her home with her parents.

Each day—for an hour or two—Draco had kept his promise and had come to visit. Hermione lived for these hours, even though she’d constantly been around family and friends, magical and non-magical alike.

She’d contacted the Weasley’s first off. They’d been worried sick about her, and had even invited her to come and stay at the Burrow, but Hermione knew that it wasn’t fair to her parents, who would not be seeing her until Christmas once she went back to start her final year at Hogwarts.

But none the less, she had talked to both Ginny and Ron.

Ginny knew about Draco but Ron didn’t. She was reluctant to tell him anything because she knew that he wouldn’t understand. Like her, Ron was still in a lot of pain and confusion.

He thought that it was unfair that Harry died, and Draco survived—something that Hermione was guilty of too, at another time.

Harry.

She hadn’t thought about him in awhile. At least not the mind-numbing persistence that at one time made him such a vivid character in her thoughts. She really didn’t think that making herself continuously miserable was a good idea.

Instead she focused her thoughts on Draco.

He’d been considerably patient with her. Aside from what Hermione liked to call ‘accidental’ kisses (she thought it was adorable when he’d blush and say ‘sorry’ after them) he’d resigned himself to being a good friend to her.

Draco would talk to her about simple things. He didn’t pressure her to drench up old memories. He just accepted her as she was.

She was grateful for him.


---


The day to return to Hogwarts finally came.

Draco, dressed in black pants and a dark green polo shirt, walked down Platform 9 ¾, looking for familiar faces. He was impatiently waiting behind a first year that was having difficulty lifting her trunk. He had finally had enough and did it for her.

‘Thank you!’ she’d said with all the excitement only first years could have.

He shook his head at himself in disgust.

Hermione had made him weak. If word got around that he was helping little kids—his reputation of being feared and respected would go up in smoke!

‘Don’t mention it,’ he said and stomped away.

But before he could mutter any other uncomplimentary things about little kids, he saw her. She stood with the Weasley’s. In the middle of all the carrot-red hair, the girl, which had nearly driven him crazy all summer—she stood in jeans and a button up light blue shirt, with her hair half up and half down.

He caught her eye, and she acknowledged him.

Regretfully, Draco turned away and got into a carriage. He knew that he couldn’t talk to her while Weasel was around.

He knew that the girl Weasley knew, but Hermione had told him to stay away from Weasel himself.

For once, he relented.


---


The first week back at Hogwarts was full of excitement.

Hermione settled into the Head’s Dormitories with Ron, already well into her Head Girl duties. Her days had already fallen into a fast-paced pattern.

In the mornings, she’d drag Ron out of bed, and then supervise in the Great Hall during breakfast. From her seat at the top of the Gryffindor table, she could see Draco, and he’d usually catch her eye once, and then turn away.

After breakfast, she would go about her classes, with Charms, Potions, DADA, Care of Magical Creatures, Transfiguration and Herbology the first three with Draco.

In the afternoon break; between her last classes and dinner, she would meet Draco in the library.

There they would catch up in the day’s events...


‘Hey there,’ she touched his ear, coming from behind him as he was picking out a book.

‘Hey,’ he turned to face her, an ‘almost’ smile tugging at his lips.

‘How was your day?’

‘Hell—do you know how many times I just wanted to kiss you?’ he asked, before lowering his lips to hers.

This was definitely no ‘accidental’ kiss. Let’s just say he didn’t say sorry after it.

‘Yeah, I saw you looking a bit irritable during Charms,’ she teased him.

‘Did you have to wear that damn cherry lip gloss that you know I like?’ he growled at her.

She let out a short laugh.

‘I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist it. You know how much I like it when you look at my lips...’ This time it was her that was staring hungrily at his lips.

‘Hermione,’ he groaned, ‘that’s the kind of comment that can be misinterpreted...’

‘Well, misinterpret away Mr. Malfoy...’ her mouth inched towards him.

‘Eew... that’s gross!’ a third voice broke in.

Hermione and Draco jumped back from each other, enough so that Hermione hit the bookshelf and hit her head against it.

‘Argh! Ginny!!! What’d I say about sneaking up on me?’ she rubbed her head.

‘Sorry, but I just thought I’d warn you both, that Ron is looking for you Hermione, and also— he’s been asking questions about Malfoy looking at you so strangely during class,’ Ginny paused and grinned, ‘thanks for explaining the latter part,’ she winked at Draco.

He blushed and cleared his throat.

‘I better go,’ Hermione said softly.

Draco’s eyes went straight to hers and softened, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’


---


Draco lay on his back, waiting for sleep to conquer him.

It was after the first Quidditch match of the season, with Gryffindor Vs Slytherin. It had been in memory of none other than Harry Potter.

They’d had a minutes silence on the ground, for Harry and the others who were taken by the Second War.

‘They will be missed, but never forgotten. They will be remembered in our hearts,’ Professor Dumbledore had said sombrely, ‘now Quidditch players, let’s give them a game that they’ll enjoy watching from up wherever they are.’

And the stadium erupted and the game began.

Every player wore black armbands, and even the Slytherins, normally the most vicious of Quidditch players, eased up—they didn’t have any dirty tricks up their sleeves.

Slytherin had won.

Gryffindor hadn’t found a replacement seeker yet, so they were stuck with Ginny Weasley—who for the life of her—though not exactly a bad seeker, was no Harry Potter.

Draco himself had overtaken her at the last second and caught the golden snitch. The crowd had burst into steady applause.

Now he closed his eyes as he remembered searching for Hermione’s face.

The joy in his own eyes was dulled by the look of pain in hers—both of them—and possibly the entire crowd knew that if Potter had been there—he would have caught the snitch. It was his specialty; he was practically legend for it.

He’d wanted to brag to Hermione—share his joy with her—but he knew that though she would have tried to share his joy, she just couldn’t.

Her loyalty to Harry, and their friendship—or whatever their relationship was—would always be conflicting and forcing her to choose.

He’d quickly turned away and pretended he hadn’t seen her.

He’d avoided her during dinner, and celebrated the night with his Quidditch buddies. He missed their rendezvous in the library, sending a note via owl saying all his muscles were hurting and he just wanted a long soak in the bath before sleeping.

He didn’t want her forced joy for him.

He didn’t want her to pretend that she was happy for him.

Because given the chance... he knew what she’d choose.

He sighed and turned in his bed, irritated at himself. He punched his pillow once or twice before giving up. He pulled off his covers and went to grab himself a book.

This was going to be a long night.
---


Hermione knew she’d hurt him.

She’d seen it flash in his eyes, even from far, far away in the stands.

What the hell was she doing?

She was breaking his heart, and by doing so, she was breaking her own.



A/N: All I can say is, I'm a champion! WOO HOO. I can work html. Thanks Bleeding Roses!!! For answering my desperate plea and keeping me sane! Well-- Im sorry that nothing seems to be resolving... but in real life thats how people are... kinda hard headed. Enjoy!!! -love Kei

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