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Chapter 7: Draco’s Room Ron was about to take another bite of his toast, when his gaze was forced upwards. “It looks as though Hermione is getting another delivery,” he said. His eyes then followed a brown school owl as it approached the girl sitting next to him and dropped a letter in her lap. He leaned close to Harry and said in a loud voice, “I bet it’s from her favorite teacher.” He glanced at Hermione, giving her an amused look. “Tell us Hermione, is there something going between you and the professor that we should know about?” He continued to nudge Hermione with his elbow until she looked his way. “Harry and I are wondering: have you switched over to lesbianism?” The comment caused Harry to spit out his pumpkin juice all over his breakfast. He and Ron then lowered their head and began to laugh. Hermione would have smacked either one of them on the back of the head – especially Ron, who was now pointing at Professor Monroe and muttering something in Harry’s ear that caused him to laugh harder – but she did nothing. That had been the first time in weeks that she had seen Harry and Ron in such good spirits, and she didn’t want to spoil their fun, even though it was at her expense. Plus, she had another reason for wanting them to be preoccupied. She had long noticed that the letter in front of her was not in her teacher’s handwriting. She moved away from the two boys, so neither one of them could glance over her shoulder and read the letter. Written on the parchment in front of her was part of a poem that she quickly recognized; the poet was her mom’s favorite and a prominent fixture in the Muggle literary world. She placed the parchment in her pocket and glanced at the Slytherin table. Draco was engrossed in conversation with Crabbe, but she could see the he was looking at her from the corner of his eyes. “Who’s sent the letter?” Hermione nearly jumped when she felt Ron’s fingers on her shoulder. His gaze darted from her lap to her empty hands, in search of the correspondence, which he assumed detailed Hermione and her professor’s secret love affair. Hermione glanced at him and then at Harry, before muttering, “No one.” “Sure it isn’t,” said Ron. Hermione went back to stirring her porridge. Ron and Harry had clearly made up their minds on who the sender was, and she wanted it to remain that way. She and Draco had not talked to one another for a week, and her two friends had welcomed the Slytherin’s absence with relief and happiness. She glanced at Draco one more time; he was now looking at her. She stared back at him, all the while showing no signs that his letter had touched her in any way. When afternoon classes were finally over, Hermione headed to the dorms. She dropped her bag on the floor and fell onto her bed. It had been very difficult for her to concentrate in most of her classes that day, like it has for the past couple of days. Ever since their kiss, her mind had been swimming with thoughts about Draco. In Potions and Mythology, she always found herself looking at him, as she wondered about his motives for the sudden embrace. Perhaps he was just messing with me, she would say to herself. She had seen plenty of evidence that Draco loved to toy with the emotions of those around him. And that she had made him confess to having once been in love, gave Draco even more motivation to play with her mind. Her reasoning was only enforced by the fact that he had not made any attempts, till that morning, to contact her. “He wants me to be confused,” she muttered two days after their kiss, when he had passed her in the halls without glancing her way. “He knows I’ll be agonizing over why he did it. And he’s enjoying every moment of it.” Hermione shut her eyes as she rested her head on the pillow. Although she tried to push back all thoughts of him from her mind because they always left her feeling angry and frustrated, she could not escape the musky scent of his cologne. Then, the feel of his lips against hers came back to her. She had been surprised by how soft his lips had been and how gentle he had been when… “Oh God,” she said. She now sat up on her bed and placed her hands over her face. She stared down at her bedspread as she tried to get all thoughts of him out of her mind, when she heard a tapping noise against the window. Thinking it was only the wind, she first tried to ignore the disturbance. But she finally looked up, when it became more persistent. She stared at the brown school owl for another minute, until it banged its beak against the glass once more. Hermione got up from her bed and opened the window. The owl flew onto the windowsill and waited for her to untie the package from its leg. When he was finally free, the owl flashed her a look of annoyance, before flying away. Hermione reached for the rolled sheet of parchment, which had a white calla lily attached to it. ************ Hermione peeked around the corner to make sure no one was there, before she continued down the dark hall. After walking several feet, she halted when she thought she heard a noise. She held her breath, and listened for any footsteps. When she heard nothing, she proceeded up a winding staircase. She stood in front of the room for a minute, before opening the door and walking inside. She squinted and turned her head to the side when the flood of moonlight splashed across her face; the bright glow was a sharp contrast from the dark halls she had been walking in. When her eyes had finally adjusted, she looked around the room. It was too small and out of the way to have been a classroom, but it was also too clean to have been a storage unit. The hardwood floors and rugs told her that the space must have been a professor’s office. She searched for the boy, and finally found him lying on the ground a few feet away. She almost didn’t recognize him, as the dancing flames around him cast a deep glow on his pale skin. ************ Draco lay on the floor in front of the fireplace, with his hands crossed against his chest. He turned his head and quickly glanced up at Hermione, before looking up at the ceiling once more. From the corner of his eyes, he watched as she stayed perched at the entryway. She was unsure of herself, Draco thought to himself. He smiled inwardly. Hermione finally took a seat on the floor, several feet away. “How did you do on Binns’ exam?” he asked. “I did fine.” He waited for her to ask him the same question, but she remained quiet. He assumed she already knew the answer. He then looked at her and took in her appearance. He could detect a bit of rouge on her lips and the scent of her perfume was clearly evident; however, the fragrance was more intense than the last time. “I’ve never come into this room before,” she said. “How could you? I always place a locking spell when I leave.” Seeing that she must have been giving him an odd look just then, he added, “No one comes here. Not even Filch. So, I took this room for my own last year.” Hermione pulled out a sheet of parchment from the pocket of her robes and examined it. “This poem you sent me, I always interpreted it to be about a man apologizing to his wife for some wrongdoing. Did you intend it to be an apology to me?” “Who’s to say? If that’s the way you interpret it.” Draco signed loudly and placed his hands underneath his head. “I just thought it was nice.” “And are you aware that the poet is a Muggle?” Hermione spoke slowly and made sure to emphasize the last word. “Yes.” “And that doesn’t bother you?” “Of course not.” Draco rolled onto his side and faced her. He then traced his finger around the pattern on the rug below, as he glanced at her through his long lashes. “I don’t let such things come between me and my intellectual enlightenment. But, if it bothers you—“ “Why should it bother me?” interrupted Hermione. “I’m Muggle-born, remember?” “Then I guess it’s not an issue.” He stopped playing with the fringes on the rug and kept close watch of Hermione’s actions. He noticed that she had moved further away from him. “Intellectual enlightenment, my ass,” Hermione muttered under her breath. She then snorted. “I’ve seen your dalliances with girls around school and at meal times. I doubt that you—“ “Are you accusing me of using poetry to woo girls?” “Yes.” Hermione reached into the pocket of her robes and pulled out a flower. “Here’s your lily. I don’t know what you had in mind by sending it to me, but let me assure you that I do not want it.” She got to her feet and tossed the flower onto Draco’s stomach. She then walked to the door. Draco sat up and leaned against the wall, causing the flower to roll onto the floor. “Your assumptions about me are wrong, you know.” Hermione stayed by the entryway and crossed her arms against her chest. “And what assumptions do you think I have about you?” “That everything I do is premeditated.” “That’s because it is. I find it hard to believe that you would allow yourself a moment of wild abandonment. I think that everything you do and say is thought out well in advance. Take your actions with me for example; I don’t believe for a moment that our little kiss was an accident. You did it purely to throw me off.” Unlike her pervious words, however, Hermione’s last statement came off sounding uncertain. But Draco did nothing to deny or confirm her belief and simply muttered, “If that’s what you think.” Hermione stood by the door for another moment. She alternated between grasping the doorknob and bringing her hand back to her side. Draco eventually stopped looking at her and glanced at the fire. He could hear Hermione huffing angrily. But he did not let such sounds draw a reaction from him, nor would he coax her into staying, which he assumed is what she wanted. But in the end, she sat back on the floor. “I wish I was as calculated as you think I am,” Draco said after a long silence. “But I’m not.” “Then why did you kiss me?” “I don’t know. I don’t have a definite answer for everything I do. Maybe I did it because I saw that you were stressed. Or perhaps I wanted to experience what it would be like, or maybe because I was bored.” Seeing that a frown was now present on Hermione’s brow, he added, “All I know is that I don’t regret what I did.” The statement seemed to do the trick. The harsh glare in Hermione’s eyes disappeared. Draco brushed his hair behind his ear and said, “There was a time in particular when I lost control over myself.” He took a long pause and only continued after he saw the look of anticipation on Hermione’s face. “I allowed myself to fall in love.” “Was it with the same person you were referring to yesterday?” “Yes.” Hermione moved closer to him and leaned forward. “How did you meet her?” Draco gazed back at the now dying fire, as he rung his hand. “We were in the same class together. It started really slow, actually. We spent most of our time just looking at each other. A lot of people tried to tell her not to talk to me, but she has a mind of her own.” Hermione was now lying on the floor on top of her robes, her gaze fixed on him. “In the beginning,” he stated, “it was just…” Draco considered whether to continue; the rest of his statement was not flattering. But he knew Hermione would have guessed the truth sooner or later, considering she was already well acquainted with his reputation. “In the beginning, I pursued her just for the thrill of it.” A look of disapproval flashed on Hermione’s face. “But it soon turned into something more serious,” Draco added. “Something about her drew me to her.” He twirled the flower in his hand as he spoke. He began to pluck out some of the petals, and threw them carelessly into the fire. “Don’t do that,” said Hermione. She reached for his hand and pulled the plant from his grasp. “You’re ruining it.” Her hands wandered gently along the remaining petals, before she placed the flower in her pocket. “What made you fall for her?” “She was one of the smartest students in our literature class. And of course she belongs to a House that is known for its beautiful girls—“ “That stereotype about Ravenclaw girls is highly exaggerated,” said Hermione. “Just the other day, Justin Flinch-Fletchley was telling everyone that his Ravenclaw partner looks like m—was not very good-looking.” “First of all, I wouldn’t trust the boy’s judgment of girls. Secondly, although there might be some bad apples in Ravenclaw, let me assure you that the girl in question is not one of them. She is absolutely stunning.” Hermione made no other attempts to challenge the supposed beauty of Draco’s former flame, and patiently waited for him to tell her more of his relationship. “The rest of it gets a bit personal,” Draco said. “And I’d rather not talk about it. But what about you? Have you ever fallen in love?” “Didn’t you ask me that question already?” “Yes, but you never answered me. You pretended to drink your butterbeer.” “I wasn’t pretend—“ Hermione stopped talking and turned her head to stare at the large map on the opposite end of the wall. Draco touched her chin to grab her attention, but quickly brought his hand back to his lap when Hermione move away from him. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in love,” Hermione finally responded. “Not even with your quidditch player?” “He was sweet, but I don’t think it was love.” Hermione spoke in a soft voice. But after looking in Draco’s direction, she cleared her throat and said, “Anyway, I don’t think I would have been able to handle it. Relationships can get a bit messy.” “Plus, it would mean that you would have to open yourself up.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Well, you accused me of not throwing caution to the wind, but the same could be said for you as well.” Hermione sat up. “That’s not true at all. There have been plenty of times when I’ve ‘thrown caution to the wind,’ as you put it. Especially in regards to school rules.” “Oh yes, you’re little misadventures with Potter and Weasley. I’m sorry, but sneaking around school after hours with your little friends is not the same thing as opening your heart to someone.” “It’s not like that at all. I was really young…and Krum and I—“ Hermione stopped talking when she realized her defenses were having no effect on Draco, who was now bestowing her with an unimpressed gaze. She looked away. Draco drummed his fingers against the heath of the fireplace, as he waited for her to stop sulking. Although Hermione eventually faced him, she did not resume her previous position of lying on the floor. She wouldn’t meet his eyes, as she gathered her robes from the floor and draped them over her bare legs. After a lengthy silence, she asked, “Are you going to reveal the identity of the girl who captured your heart?” Draco was not quick to answer. “I wouldn’t say she ‘captured’ anything. And, no, I won’t tell you who she is. I want her to remain anonymous.” “That’s very noble of you,” said Hermione. The comment caused Draco to lean forward as he tried to detect any sarcasm in her voice. “But I’m pretty sure I can tell who the girl is.” Hermione paused for a substantially long time, before muttering, “All I have to do is look down at the Ravenclaw table for the girl who looks emotionally scarred.” A triumphant smile curled onto Hermione’s lips. She looked directly into Draco’s eyes, as if daring him to speak. When he remained quiet, she casually glanced down at her nails and exhaled loudly. Draco narrowed his eyes as he watched the self satisfied look on Hermione’s face grow. “Get out,” he said. Hermione drew her attention away from her hand. “What?” “I said get out.” “But why?” “Because you have the audacity to make light of a serious situation.” “Just because I said this girl might be emotionally scarred? Draco, come on. We all know that many of the girls you date end up getting hurt.” “Yes, I am aware of that rumor. But we were not talking about some fling I had several summers ago. This was an actual relationship. And I don’t appreciate you making smart-alecky comments about it.” “You’re not serious, are you?” Draco got to his feet. “I am definitely serious. And now I want you to leave.” Hermione got up as well, and continued to stare at him with her mouth opened. But she eventually picked her robes from the floor and draped them over her shoulders. A quick glance at Draco revealed there was no change in the harsh expression on his face. Hermione headed for the door and quietly walked out of the room. ************ Draco continued down the hall to the Slytherin common room in a slow pace. He had waited nearly twenty minutes after Hermione had exited the room to finally leave. Most of that time had been spent listening to her pace back and forth in a nearby hall. He had expected her to come back into the room, but she did not. He was about to round the corner to his dorms, when he heard footsteps behind him. “Draco.” Draco did not stop. “Draco,” she said again, this time a little louder. Draco halted in the middle of the hall. He closed his eyes when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, but I had to talk to you,” she said. “It’s a bit late, don’t you think?” Draco muttered. “I know, but it can’t wait.” Draco finally turned around and faced her. “Make it quick. I don’t feel like getting caught by Filch.” Hermione quickly gazed up and down the hall at the mention of the caretaker. She took hold of Draco’s sleeve and pulled him into a darkened corridor. “What just happened back there?” she asked when they were properly shielded from the view of passersby. “It’s quite simple what happened: You got smart with me, and I told you to leave.” “Now, who’s being smart?” Hermione tugged on his sleeve, which she had not let go of. Her gaze met his, and then drifted down to the fabric still clutched between her fingers. She quickly released it. “I didn’t think you’d get so upset,” said Hermione. “I wasn’t upset. I was simply perturbed. And why wouldn’t I be Granger?” Hermione flinched when he referred to her by her surname. “Wouldn’t you get offended if I was to make fun of something that was dear to you?” Draco asked. He paused and placed a finger to his temple. “And as I recall, several years ago, you not only got offended, but you hit me as well.” “That was a different situation. You were making fun of Hag—Wait a minute. You’re the one that started it by saying I was too cold-hearted to fall in love.” “Those weren’t my words.” Draco took a deep breath then and lowered his head. “I really don’t want to get into this again, because it will get us nowhere. And if you’ll excuse me—“ “Don’t leave,” said Hermione. Her hand moved towards his to prevent him from walking away, but she brought her arm back to her side before any contact was made. “Listen, I didn’t mean to offend you back there. I guess I was just fuming because of your last comments to me.” Hermione looked down at her robes and ran her hand along the buttons, as though trying to find her words. She then met his eyes once more. “It must have taken a lot for you to share all of that information with me.” She smiled to herself then. Her hand dropped into her pocket and she began to finger the contents within. Draco remembered that that was the pocket she had placed the lily. “I guess it was true about you,” she mumbled. “What’s true about me?” asked Draco. Hermione hesitated for a moment. A shocked look flashed in her eyes; she had not intended for him to hear her last comment. “Nothing.” She glanced away as she ran her fingers through her hair. Draco remained quiet and watched her. He then placed his hand in her hair as well. He, at first, tried to tame her wild locks by gently pressing down on her head. But when his actions did nothing to make her hair appear less bushy, he curled his finger around a few strands instead. Hermione stood rigid, with both arms at her side. “Why don’t you have a man?” Draco asked. Hermione opened her mouth several times, but was unable to utter a response. Draco’s fingers had now slipped to her temple, where they stayed momentarily, before moving along her cheek and finally resting on the crook of her neck. He could feel the pulse of her rapid heartbeats just under his fingertips. Hermione moved away momentarily when he began to finger the nape of her neck. But she eventually relaxed into his touch. “Perhaps you’re waiting for someone special,” he muttered. His fingers had not grazed past the small hairs at the back of Hermione’s neck. “Or maybe you’re too consumed in your studies to even care.” He paused for a moment, as a sly smile spread on his lips. “But something tells me that this is not the case.” “What about you?” Hermione said in a soft voice. “Why aren’t you—“ She stopped talking when Draco placed his other hand under her chin. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. When she looked back at him, there was a determined expression in her eyes, which said she would not let his touch frazzle her nerves. “What aren’t you with someone?” she asked again, this time in a steadier voice. Draco did not answer immediately, as he was too preoccupied in running his fingers along her skin. Although Hermione tried hard not to flinch or show any other reaction, Draco could still feel her body shaking. “How do you know I haven’t got my eyes on someone right now?” he responded. “Someone smart, attractive,” his thumb now moved along Hermione’s lower lip, causing her to jerk her head back, “and definitely feisty.” “I think I hear Filch coming down the hall,” Hermione said. She then glanced over her shoulder and began to survey the adjoining hall. “I hear nothing.” The halls were indeed quiet, except for their whispering. He soon realized she just wanted an excuse to escape their close contact. “Plus, Filch wouldn’t be in the dungeons at this time. He’ll most likely be in the kitchens. Crabbe and Goyle like to have a late-night feast.” He took hold of both Hermione’s arms to draw her attention back to him. “Move towards the light,” he said. Hermione took a step to her left. When she was standing underneath the moonlight, Draco stared down at her, his eyes taking in her features. A momentary flush appeared on Hermione’s cheeks when she realized he was scrutinizing her appearance. Draco did not verbalize what he thought of her looks, and continued to gaze down at her in silence. He then lowered his head and kissed her. Unlike their previous embrace, Hermione’s lips were now relaxed and not pursed in a tight line. Draco opened his eyes; Hermione was staring back at him. Draco pulled away. Staring into her eyes, Draco wondered whether Hermione would storm down the hall. Although he did enjoy the startled reaction he was able to produce in her during their previous encounter, he did not want tonight’s embrace to end prematurely. He wrapped his arm around her waist and splayed his fingers against the small of her back, pulling her into his body. Hermione made no attempts to move away. Draco kissed her once more. He opened his eyes halfway through the kiss; Hermione’s lids were closed. Draco applied pressure against Hermione’s back and deepened the kiss.

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