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The Butterfly Effect


Throughout the castle many of the students lamented the miserable quality of the weather that Saturday afternoon. As the days crept closer to winter bleakness, the opportunities for weekend afternoons spent playing Quidditch or wandering the grounds became all the more rare. There was one student, however, who was entirely unconcerned about this fact and indeed revelled in the opportunity to stay safely nestled within the privacy of her rooms.

Considering the eventful night one Hermione Granger had experienced, and the resulting lack of sleep, some time spent in seclusion was exactly what she wanted. The harsh pumping of adrenaline which had coursed through her veins the night before, continued to pulse in her mind even after all physical manifestations had faded.

She was highly conscious of the rather audacious manner of her actions, and truth be told felt a small measure of pride at a deviousness she had not known she had. She had lain in bed for hours, gazing up at the canopy roof. But instead of her eyes tracing the ornate detail in the wooden structure, she had seen his face and the twisting expressions flickering like Muggle film. Hermione had only really caught these expressions once hidden beneath the comforting embrace of the Invisibility Cloak, for she had not had the time to stand and watch for realisation to light his features.

She recalled the visceral quality of his response upon finding her gone, and the ring, which he coveted also. He had lashed out with a violence that had only been hinted at in their past dealings, but that which he usually kept under cloak of composure and disdain. She could think only of the relief she had felt that he had not caught up with her.

It was not only her feelings of triumph, the adrenaline and small measure of disconcertion regarding his inevitable retaliation which had kept her up. It was the recollection of that strange moment before she fled, when she had reached for the chain around his neck and felt the uneven beating of his heart. The lack of drawn breath and the piercing quality of his eyes, so close to, had almost made her forget why she was there in the first place.

That he had somehow forgotten also, or indeed been so taken aback as to not immediately push her away, was all the more perplexing. It was a strange development in their interactions of late, the very physical nature of them. For she had only touched him once before, to lash out in unexpected violence in their youth, and he had certainly never wished to come near her: dirty as she apparently was to him.

It was these very thoughts and others like them which haunted her every minute that morning. She had given up all attempts at further sleep, and elected to shower, dress and make some effort at using her day productively. She knew inherently that she had no intention of leaving her room if possible. Perhaps it was a cowardly measure, but in her opinion, given the potential wrath from Malfoy, an astute one.

She was seated, as she had been for some time, before the richly glowing fire which blazed a dancing glory in the hearth. Spread across the small wooden table before her were innumerable tomes and texts, of varying sizes and age, in addition to her own notes, which were splattered with ink from her writings. The majority of the material had been left on one of the bookshelves in the bedroom of her dormitory, courtesy of McGonagall and on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix.

She had spent much time in her first few weeks at Hogwarts poring over the literature, shaping her thoughts and trying to glean as much information about the kind of magic she was dealing with as she possibly could. Hermione had never been one to jump straight in on the advice or information of others, even authority figures like Lupin who knew much about old magic. She had always placed her trust in theory, and the knowledge she could glean from books. It was something that her professor had understood about her, knowing clearly that for her to do what had to be done, she had to do her own research.

That was all well and good, but it had become increasingly apparent to her that this particular kind of magic was far more intuitive than she liked or had previously dealt with. No amount of book reading would assist Harry, but she would persevere nonetheless because at the very least if she knew all she could about it, then it would help her master the ring. And that was what she was going to do: Harry’s success and their whole livelihood depended on it.

It was a heavy burden she knew, and not one that would usually be entrusted to students but Harry was far more than that. And both she and Ron had to be as well, for him.

Of course, despite consciously trying to do the best for Harry and their cause, she could hardly deny that her methods thus far had been more rash and risky than he would have liked. Following Draco Malfoy to his secret meeting with known Death Eaters, and then meeting with him under those circumstances was foolhardy. But it was a war, and she knew she had to hold up her end of things.

Besides, Draco Malfoy was a better opponent to face than Voldemort. This thought brought her little comfort, though.

It was a moot point at this rate. She had her ring back, and so far as she could tell, Malfoy had gleaned little about it in the time he held it under his care. That he knew it was important was easily discernible from his sudden interest in her behaviour. She could only hope that this would not be enough to reveal the Order’s plans should the information be divulged to either his father or Voldemort.

Her hand lifted and pressed against the warm weight on her collarbone, relishing the ring’s presence there once more. No amount of vengeance from Malfoy could counteract the relief she felt at having the token back.

She glanced at the array of books spread before her, and made a quick decision. She had spent so much time pining for its return, and yet she had never once made an attempt to familiarise herself with it. Ultimately, according to Lupin, the only way she was going to master this was to wear it. Not all the time, for the resulting magic was far too volatile in the beginning, but she was never going to reach that stage if she simply continued to read about it.

With this borne in mind, she reached for the fastening at the nape of her neck, removed the chain – which she had only just repaired this morning – and placed the small silver band in the centre of her palm. The increased thrumming of the ring was like a pulse against her skin. It made her forget it was inanimate, for it felt so very alive. It was alive with magic. That was the difference.

Lifting her palm closer for inspection, Hermione ran an errant finger along the curved band, noting the way the light seemed to chase the action. She pulled in a deep breath then, the kind that ought to be soothing, but she was tense with anticipation. When she did slip the cool metal onto her finger, noting its perfect fit and the way it continued to hum, she was distracted enough not to notice the absence of anything happening. If truth be told, she didn't feel any different.

She blew the hair back from her face and reached for her wand.  The only real way to test, she surmised, was to go straight in. She stood, now armed with her wand, and gazed about the room. It was several seconds before she realised the difference, the warmth which was rising up within her. It was magic. The kind that made her think back to her childhood when she was giddy with excitement at the thought of unicorns and princesses and witches. She was a witch, and yet this was a primitive kind of magic she had never felt before.

Hermione’s fingertips tingled as she toyed with her wand, mind skipping to any number of small spells she could try out. A summoning charm seemed to her the least destructive and so with a whispered incantation and the well rehearsed flicking of her wand, she watched the general vicinity with rapt attention. When no object was forthcoming, she made a second attempt, slightly perplexed that she could have gotten such a simple spell wrong.

She tried to ignore the bubble of anxiety that was starting to form in the pit of her stomach, the inexplicable feeling of inadequacy, when she failed yet again. And again. And again.

She was caught so swiftly in a blind panic that she was not fully conscious of the sweeping gestures she made with her wand and the increasing imprecations that tumbled from her lips. She only knew the sudden irrational fear that something was wrong, with the ring, with her. And she could not afford to fail Harry, not in this. As the thoughts consumed her, she aimed hexes and charms around the room, causing the colour to pop across her retina like shooting stars.

She could actually feel her frustration and anxiety seeping, like poison, through her blood stream before manifesting into hot, fat tears that slid down her cheeks. Eyes closed, and her wand arm waving frantically before her, an aggravated cry reverberated outside the barriers of her membrane and bounced around the flat surfaces of the room. Thunder seemed to echo in her ears as the sound of splintering wood and smashing glass began to register in her brain. She simultaneously opened her eyes and yanked the ring from her slim finger, letting it drop carelessly to the floor.

Hermione blinked furiously as she attempted to draw in a deep and ragged lungful of air. Her eyes, still watery, scanned the debris that littered the room, and widened in utter shock and disbelief at what had just occurred. The sofa, on which she had been seated moments earlier, had been thrown unceremoniously across the room destroying everything in its wake, which comprised of half the furnishings. Her horror was all the more acute upon realising that her copious notes and the aged tomes from which she had derived her research were strewn about the floor.

Her bow-shaped mouth fell slightly open as she gazed from the wreckage to the ring and back again. Her mind was in freefall at the sheer damage she had caused, yet she refused to indulge the desire to analyse what happened until she had remedied the situation.

Shortly thereafter, with the ring harmlessly located on the small table and the furniture returned to normal, Hermione ran an agitated hand through her hair. Her thoughts were a jumble.

There was a bitter sort of irony, she mused, in the fact that the overwhelmingly intuitive power of the ring had destroyed all of her attempts at applying logic and reason to figuring out its secrets. That it had fed on her feelings of anxiety was clear, and yet it had seemed to exacerbate those emotions at the same time. Hermione liked to think of herself as being level headed and practical in situations such as this. She concluded that such a strong reaction could not be entirely down to her.

One thing that was evident was that the strength of magic tied to the ring and her ability to use it effectively, depended on a surge of emotion. Controlled emotion. How one could control that which was the very antithesis of composure, she could not fathom.

It made her think of the Muggle breathing practices that expecting mothers had to do in order to calm themselves. Whatever it took, Hermione was going to have to find a way to centre herself and take things in small steps. She had to get used to wearing the magical object for a few minutes at a time, without holding her wand, before she could start using magic with it. The process would take far longer than she had anticipated, and this was something that concerned her greatly. This was not like normal school years, in fact she had no idea how long she would be in Hogwarts, could not guess when the time for action would be upon them.

The sound of knuckles rapidly knocking on her door pulled Hermione from her introspection. She tensed instinctively, her breath catching in her throat.

“Hermione? Are you there? It’s me… Ginny.”

Relief surged through her and, as she walked to the door, she mentally scolded herself for putting too much stock into Malfoy’s threats. She held open the door to reveal the other girl, but could not help the quick scan her eyes did across the empty corridor behind her: an act which did not go unnoticed by her astute companion.

“Ginny, sorry… I … thought you were someone else. Come in,” she stood aside to let the petite red-haired girl through.

Ginny merely raised a brow at the remark, but waited to comment until they had both sat on the newly mended sofa by the fire. “And who, exactly, did you think it was?”

Hermione looked at her steadily, deciding that an element of truthfulness was in order. Aside from which, she was noted as being a rather poor liar.

“Malfoy.” Ginny Weasley’s eyebrows shot right up at that, an understandable reaction in Hermione’s opinion.

Hermione gave the girl a slightly edited version of the events that had occurred thus far, omitting the fact that Draco Malfoy, himself, was a Death Eater, and choosing to disregard some of their more intimate encounters – if one could call them that.

Although she gave Ginny the general idea, she was unsure why it was that she felt the need to keep certain details to herself for the time being. Much to Hermione’s relief, though Ginny listened carefully and made more than one questionable face in response to her words, the younger girl elected to keep such things to herself.

“Well…all I can say is that you need to be careful, Hermione. I won’t tell you to stay away from him because I know that if you feel that you’re possibly helping the Order, you won’t listen anyway.” She paused and glanced toward the window before continuing, “Just like Harry.”

Hermione wanted to say something then, to refute the comment but the both knew it to be true. Instead she promised the girl that she would indeed be careful. It was a promise she fully intended to keep.

After a prolonged silence, Ginny gestured toward the heap of notes strewn across the table. “I take it that isn’t Charms homework then?”

A grin tugged at the corner of Hermione’s mouth and she shook her head. “No. If only it were… then I might have made some more head way. I’ve just been doing a lot of reading and to be honest… I’m not really sure how things are going.”

Ginny looked toward the seemingly innocuous ring, which was still sitting on the coffee table. “Have you actually tried it on yet?” The hint of trepidation and curiosity in her voice was poorly concealed. This was hardly surprising; the ring seemed to draw attention to itself with ease.

“I did actually,” Hermione said by way of response. “Just before you came by. It was… a mess, really.” She blew back the errant strands of hair from her face, her frustration evident. “I almost blew up all of the furniture.”

“Er… how?” was all the response her friend could supply at that time.

“To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. All I know is that wearing the ring seemed to… heighten my emotions and made the magic more unpredictable.”

“Like when you’re a kid… before you come here and learn to control it…”

“Exactly,” Hermione exclaimed, feeling as though that innocuous comment had somehow shifted her thoughts into place. She looked at Ginny, her heart rate accelerated and feeling rather breathless.

“Do you remember what Dumbledore used to always say to Harry, about Voldemort not understanding love and human emotions? Well, if our powers were being fuelled by our own emotional force… then that could very well be something that he would not recognise or anticipate.”

The other girl pushed her shoulders back, and seemed to be more than a little sad at something Hermione had said. It took her a moment to realise.

“Harry never talked to me about those things…”

Hermione spoke softly when she responded. “Can you blame him? You were the one really good thing in his life, something that had nothing to do with all the rest of it.”

The two girls talked for a while and Ginny spoke to Hermione about Harry for the first time since he had left. She knew it must have been awkward for the younger girl. Though they had always gotten along well and had become quite close, the distinction of Hermione being strictly Harry’s friend and her brother’s friend had always been there. Perhaps that would change. After all, they were here alone together and both felt the missing two acutely.

“I understand why he went, honestly, I do. In fact, I wanted him to go – he’s Harry Potter for Merlin’s sake. It just wouldn’t be him if he weren’t hell-bent on saving the world one more time.” She smiled reminiscently, “I just wish that for once we could all just stop. Stop planning and preparing for a war and an outcome we can’t guarantee will be positive.” She sighed and closed her eyes for a second before looking at Hermione, the light in her eyes now fierce. “I waited a long time for Harry – I won’t give up on him now.”

Hermione gave her friend a warm hug and a nod, “I know,” before the young girl left her once more to her thoughts.


The hours between early afternoon and the fall of dusk were whiled away deep in thoughts for the Head Girl. And when she had found her head too full of all these recollections and revelations, she spent her time reading. The sound of crackling flame upon wood and the crisp turn of pages caused her to be more than a little bit drowsy.

It was in this frame of mind from which she was pulled at the soft tapping sound against one of the window panes. Hermione reluctantly put down her book and turned to see a small brown and white speckled owl hovering outside the window. The howling of the wind showed, quite clearly, that the small creature was fighting rather a large battle against the elements.

Hermione’s fingers gripped the small brass knobs at the base of the window, heaving the sturdy structure up enough to allow the frazzled bird to gain entry. His eagerness to return to the Owlery was clear, because a small parcel was deposited on a nearby lamp table, and he was gone again before she could offer him a treat.

Forgetting the bird, Hermione turned her now piqued curiosity toward the innocuous brown parcel. She knew quite acutely whom she hoped it was from, but any kind of correspondence from her friends would have been sent via the Headmistress. She tried not to keep her hopes up nonetheless.

As the paper wrappings fell away, a piece of parchment and a small gauzy pouch were revealed. With brows raised, Hermione focused her immediate attention on the slip of parchment. The cursive was impeccable, the eloquent sort of hand one only ever found in letters of old. She was both intrigued and perturbed by a gnawing doubt as she read its contents.

A butterfly’s beauty lies in its delicacy, its fragility and its vulnerability to predators. Not all such prey is so defenceless.

Her usually quick mind read over the words repeatedly, trying to process both meaning and intention. There was neither a signature to indicate from whom the missive was sent, nor indeed if she was the intended recipient. Owls had been known to delivery their packages to the wrong person when particularly stressed. She found it more than likely that this was such an occasion, for aside from the riddle-like quality of the message, there was a tone of intimacy which she felt certain was not directed toward her.

As she placed the piece of parchment on the table, her gaze shifted almost hypnotically toward the semi-transparent pouch, so neatly tied with ribbon. She knew that if this was someone else’s business, she should not pry, but the words across the parchment had so intrigued her.

Her heart rate accelerated, as she decided to ignore the small voice somewhere within which told her not to indulge her interest. Slim fingers drew the ribbon strands apart, allowing her to peer within the confines of the fabric. It appeared to be a brooch of some kind, the sort that she had only ever seen in old photographs of wealthy women from bygone eras. Her eyes widened with appreciation when the brooch fell into her hand. It was decorated with an exquisite ornamental butterfly, strikingly azure in its colouring. She had only a split second to admire the jewelled specimen’s delicate beauty before a familiar tug pulled from behind her navel.

Her last thought before the colour began to whirl around her, was one of dread.


The rhythmic ticking of an old clock drew the constant attention of the room’s only occupant. Draco Malfoy reclined against one of the antique arm chairs which made up the suite in the general area of his dormitory. There was a cultivated air of confidence and calm which rang clear in his relaxed posture. And yet he was, in fact, extraordinarily tense at that moment.

He was waiting, as the saying went, with bated breath.

The previous night had been a revelation to the youngest Malfoy. He had thought, in his previous study of Granger’s character, that he would not be taken unawares again, and yet she had somehow managed to get one over him the night before. It was both humiliating and perplexing, for he had yet to determine precisely how she had done it.

One thing that was very clear to him was that with or without her companions, she was gutsy. He found that irked him immensely. It was a tried and true technique to breed fear into one’s opponents, and given his conditioning all through childhood, it was one that Draco had learnt the value in very quickly.

He had seen the fear shimmering like gossamer in her eyes that night when he had cornered her, had felt it in the shaking of her limbs which she tried valiantly to conceal. And yet, only just the night before she had proven a worthy adversary, though he had only ever been taught that she was nothing of the sort.

It seemed quite clear to him that in the absence of him on her shoulder intimidating her, she had decided that his threats were empty and he was therefore not to be feared. The threats of murdering her were, at this point, very much empty. He could hardly curse the Head Girl and get away with it; he could not afford to anyway, there was something she knew which he did not. He would find that out. In the future, however, when war was upon them and they were in the battlefield, he would do it then. He would raise his wand and watch the light leave her eyes. There was no choice.

Something caught in his throat at the thought of it, of killing anyone and especially killing her. He had never taken a life, but knew what was expected of him when he took the mark. It was his birth right and his obligation. But it was a worry for another day.

Right now he had to focus on the task at hand, and that was teaching Granger a lesson. He needed, at the very least, to take the gloss off her triumph. And after what he had seen from her the night before, he thought he knew just how to do that. The prospect of touching her again in any respect had him thrown. She was a Mudblood, and the stain of her skin on his being was something to be reviled.

And yet her touch against the fabric of his robes had been gentle and confusing. Her clear, wide eyes and the scent of her around him had seemed other-worldly, like a torrid dream to be forgotten. But he had learnt a few things now in his dealings with Granger. Although she may have been more intelligent than most, she was still just a girl. Words, threatening or otherwise, would not scare her, but it was the physical intimidation of him which had left her rattled. He would use that, whether it stained him or otherwise.

Draco had not slept the night before. His mind had run through the scene over and over, attempting to pin point the moment when he should have realised what she was doing. He should have known that when she came so close to him - reached out and touched him of her own volition - she was reaching for the necklace. And yet somehow he had been caught up in the distraction.  It was intolerably weak of him. And he vowed then that he would allow her no such chances for surprise again.

She had come to neither breakfast nor lunch, just as he had anticipated. She had what she had come after, but she was likely also trying to keep a low profile for fear of angry outbursts from him. If that was the case, then she did not understand him at all; it was a delicious thought because he was beginning to read her with far greater success. Draco could have a subtle hand when it suited him, and although patience was not something he enjoyed he could wait when the trap was set.

It was.

And he felt fairly confident that it would work. For if there was one thing that the Head Girl could never seem to deny, it was her unabated thirst for knowledge – even at the detriment of her personal safety.

Courtesy of some very clever magic, more advanced than many appeared to think him capable of, and a few lessons from his aunt, he could expect Hermione Granger to appear before him very shortly. Illegal portkeys were no longer so difficult to manage within the grounds of Hogwarts. Wards stronger than the Dark Lord could breach were no longer in place to protect the school.

Dusk consumed the grey light which had filtered through the windows into the room, so that now the light of a crackling hearth and a few gas lit lamps was all that kept the darkness at bay. Draco waited, sitting comfortably and watching those dancing embers with eyes of cobalt grey. He stayed in that position until he felt the signs of her impending arrival.

He glanced to the far corner of the room, watched her back straighten and the small brooch slip from her grasp to hit the floor underfoot. Although her back continued to face him, he noticed with relish the way her hand seemed to be reaching in vain for her wand. He could see quite clearly that she did not have it, had counted on the fact, because she wore fitted Muggle trousers, which left no hiding place for such a necessary weapon.

“Ah, I see you found my invitation.” A smirk curved upon his lips. “I’m delighted you could join me... but I must say I’m rather appalled at your manners. Did they never teach lowly Muggles to greet their hosts properly?”  His tone was conversational, all the better to get a rise out of her.

The brunette slowly turned around, her features impassive but her eyes sharply alert. “Clever, Malfoy. I never would have credited you with such… forethought.”

He nodded, “It was, wasn’t it? After all, it got you here… in my domain.” She bit her lip nervously, and he relished the transparency of her thoughts. Eyes aglow with triumph, he gestured toward a chair and said, “Why don’t you… make yourself comfortable.”

“I’m fine right here,” she said before glancing toward the door – no doubt calculating her chances of an escape.

Draco laughed a low, deep chuckle. “Oh, Granger, you underestimate me so. Did you honestly think I would go to all the effort of inviting you here only to have you run away again? The door is magically locked… therefore you will need a wand to open it and correct me if I’m wrong but I do believe you are currently without that particular item of inventory.” His tone held considerable mocking, and he thoroughly enjoyed the dismay that she fought to keep from her features.

He fully intended to let her go, relatively unscathed. She did not know that, however, and that was entirely the point. The fear of the possibility, and her realisation that he was capable of more than she had perceived, would be enough for him today. This was war, and one fought their battles one day at a time.

Granger tilted her head, the cascading curls tumbling around her shoulders. Her brain was working overtime; he could see it in her pursed lips and crinkled brow line. Still she was quiet, considering her options, he assumed.

“You won’t escape so easily this time,” he murmured, the menacing undertone unconcealed in his words. He rose from his chair and strolled toward her.

She tilted her chin in defiance.

“You’re playing a dangerous game, Granger,” Draco said, his voice rising barely above a whisper. He knew she was listening closely. Draco walked slowly towards her, stopping only a metre away before continuing, “But unfortunately for you – it’s too late to back down now.”

She stood firm and elected to his ignore his statement once again, preferring to stare at a point above his shoulder instead. Draco watched her, his eyes steadily narrowing in impatience.

“Did your dirty, Muggle parents never teach you to look at someone when they’re talking to you?” he uttered scathingly.

The only sign that she had heard his question was a slight tightening of her mouth before she turned her gaze toward the window.

“Yes, they did… though I don’t feel that it counts as being rude when the person is worthy neither of my courtesy nor my respect, Malfoy.” She said, her eyes finally coming to rest on his as she whispered his name somewhat venomously.

He could feel the heat from his blood rising to an angry flush upon his cheeks, and tried in vain to control it. The insinuation that he was the inferior being in the room caused his eyes to flash and his jaw to clench. It might take him some time, but he felt confident that before she left this school for good, she would be forced to acknowledge the inaccuracy of that suggestion. That moment seemed to be an appropriate time to give her a demonstration.

“Poor form, Granger… now I’m upset,” he said in a low voice. He moved toward her in a single, sinuous movement.

He could not deny the heady rush he felt at knowing she was quite this defenceless. He suspected he would not catch her so unawares again and felt quite determined to make the most of the opportunity. Her expression seemed to suggest she had guessed as much. Delightful, he thought.

She had, until this point, avoided backing down in any respect, but a flight over fight instinct had clearly kicked in because she began to back away from him slowly. That was fine by him, she had nowhere to go.

A grin of triumph unfurled across his lips as she continued to back herself into a corner. Eyeing his expression wearily, the dismay showed in her eyes when her path was halted by a door from behind her. He watched her hand reach behind to fiddle with the knob.

“It’s locked… though I can’t imagine what you were planning to do in my bedroom even if it wasn’t.” She was trapped like a fly in his neatly woven web. He rather adored the poetry of the moment.

He was close now, enough to see her discomfort and her uncertainty beneath the veil of defiance. He pressed a palm flat against the door, just beside her head. Errant strands of deceptively soft hair tickled his skin and he tried not to focus too closely on that. The goal here was to show her that no matter how many clever spells and magical objects she had up her sleeve, he could still overpower her when it counted.

And despite the rigid line of her shoulders, and the strong jut of her chin, she seemed so very small and breakable then.

He was very still, as was she. There was something about the anticipation before the fact that always evoked the most fear. Draco watched as she raised large, dark eyes to catch his own. It made him think about the night before, when they had stood this close to one another, and he had found distraction in them then. It was an easy thing to happen. This realisation disconcerted him greatly.

She jumped a fraction when his hand moved unhurriedly to trace the fine bones along her jaw. “Are you scared of me, Granger?” he asked in a low and gravelly tone.

“No,” she whispered back her gaze unwavering, despite the fact that her breathing was clearly very shallow. As was his own, for he tried valiantly to ignore the lightly floral scent of her which invaded his senses.

“Well, you should be.” He moved quickly, and although she had obviously been expecting him to attack, her reflexes were slow. Swift hands moved to catch her wrists, pressing them above her head in one fell swoop. His grip was firm, but not so rough as to hurt her. The purple bloom of bruises on her skin would help neither of them.

She wriggled instinctively, and in response he pressed himself against the soft warmth of her body, moulding her to the door. A knee slipped quickly between her thighs to prevent any retaliatory kicks.

She was pushing against him, wriggling in motions intended to free herself. They would not work. They did, however, cause him some discomfort. A sharply drawn intake of breath, and the need to focus on something other than the feel of her, was vitally important.

The body could not tell the difference between pure and tainted blood. It knew only the sweet smell and yielding softness, both of which were inviting. They should be nothing of the sort. This was punishment for her, and suddenly it was for him too.

“I’ve got you now,” he whispered in a crow of exaltation which concealed his perturbed frame of mind. He pressed his hips more firmly against her as his hands shifted the weight of her wrists so that they were both held firmly in one of his. The other was left free to roam. Her eyes were wide and her breath ragged. It made him wonder whether she had ever stood like this with a boy before, ever felt the inherent differences between male and female quite so acutely. With so many male friends, he would have thought so.

Perhaps not.

He watched her face for flickers of movement, as his free hand traced the thin fabric of her jumper, down the length of her arm. When the errant fingers brushed down her side, she squeezed her eyes closed instinctively. Draco was fascinated by the way her lips parted fractionally when his thumb brushed across an exposed gap of flesh just above the top of her trousers.

His thumb traced over the curve of her hip and felt the slight shiver that tickled her skin in response. Her rich ochre-hued eyes snapped open, holding his, their expression intense.

He swallowed discreetly, and forced his very distinctive smirk to grace his features as his hand slipped under the flimsy fabric. He could feel the tiny sensitized hairs stand to attention. Her skin was warm from the flow of blood beneath it. His travelling hand traced the gentle swell of her stomach and came to rest on the narrow curve of her waist. In chorus with this movement, Draco lowered his head to her neck, his warm breath fanning her bare throat as his nose and inhaled the slightly intoxicating scent of her perfume.

It had gone far enough he knew. He should step back and let her escape to the safe knell of her dormitory. He found, somehow, that he could not. An urgent sort of curiosity had come over him, a compulsion he could not fight. He would find justification for it later, enough to excuse his actions. But in that moment he hardly cared at all.

He was crazy. He had to be.

When Draco’s nose brushed against her heated throat, and his senses were clouded, all logical thoughts seemed to dissipate for a time. His lips moved in a whisper across the exposed pulse point of her neck, and he felt its rhythm jump erratically as he pulled the skin taught between his lips. Draco allowed his tongue to slip past his teeth to lightly scrape across her skin, tasting the sweetness it held.

His errant hand smoothed taunting circles across her skin, revelling in the warmth. He could hear the raggedly drawn breath; he could feel the blood pulse in her throat and her wrists. A stifled whimper issued from her lips, which drew his immediate attention. Her gaze was heavy lidded and confused. It held his own before dropping, no doubt against her will, to his mouth.

The surge in the pit of his stomach was both euphoria and a curse. He would suffer for this later, he knew.

She seemed to guess at his intention almost before he did, and pressed her lips firmly together. His hand moved from the downy skin of her abdomen to take a firm grip of her chin, his thumb moving upward to tug on the indentation of her mouth. She shook her head. Her mouth was soft beneath his when he finally lowered his head. His lips grazed hers gently, teasingly. Her bottom lip was plump and sweet between his teeth, softened against his assault. When he pulled back fractionally, felt her moist lip cling to his and glanced at her closed eyes, he kissed her again.

This time her lips parted in unconscious acquiescence. Draco’s tongue brushed against hers, butterfly light at first before delving into the moist warmth she so protectively guarded. The taste of her was a heady rush to his body, a confusing torrent of feelings he would try not to analyse too closely.

His grip loosened instinctively upon her wrist; his hand falling to brush across her collarbone. She did not pull away, instead sank a little further into him. The situation was spiralling steadily beyond his control. He pulled back then, noting the way her body sagged slightly before she bolted upright in realisation.

Draco’s hand was still pressed against her collarbone, and she seemed to feel the pressure increase when her eyes flew open and horror flooded her features. Her breathing was harsh and a violent flush spread across her features, while he schooled his own. He stared at her intently, and when he finally did speak, the ragged quality was replaced by calm.

“I told you not to play with me… don’t think that you’re safe because you’re on school grounds. You aren’t.” He paused before leaning close to her, so that her gaze was filled entirely with the dark glittering of his own. “I will find out what you’re up to, and why you were following me, don’t you worry. That,” he said emphasising what had just happened, “was just a sample. Take care, Granger.”

To reiterate his point, Draco slammed his palm flat against the door behind her, making the room reverberate with the sound. She jumped.

He pulled back then and withdrew his wand from beneath the folds of his clothing, and with a muttered incantation, unlocked the door to the hallway. Clearly feeling no need to act in rash defiance, she bolted from the room without a second look at him.

The door swung closed and when it did, Draco slumped against the wall. He had intended to teach her a lesson, to intimidate her. But what had happened there was far more damning.

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