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The sun was setting with the Hogwarts castle soaking up the last few rays of sunlight. Hermione had finished her classwork, sorted the schedule and decided it was time for some stimulating conversation with her close friends. They met up outside, walking the grounds and talking about classes and teachers. The occasional student came in but normally with a blush or a snide comment. They'd been each others companions for so long, all the others were just acquaintances.

They stopped near the water, enjoying the suns reflection on the dark water. A rock skidded across it and Hermione smiled at Ron, “Nice throw.” of course when she tried it sunk.

“So...” Ron said, “About that idea we mentioned yesterday.”

“Same answer as yesterday,” Hermione quickly said, shutting him down. Reaching down she picked up another stone and attempted to skip it.

"Come on Hermione! It'd be fun!"Ron whined.

"Please!" Harry chimed in, “You know you want to. It'd be fun ”

"Right, fun. You two would have a right laugh while I got into all the trouble.!"Sometimes she wondered how they'd remained friends, they were all so different.

The day before Ron had mentioned his brothers had a new prank spell, it could reanimate toys and objects. The main thrill came from the fact the user could control the object, see what was happening from its point of view.

"Aww come on Hermione.We'd be famous for months for pulling that stunt on the great and powerful Malfoy.” Harry threw a rock, it skipping across the pond perfectly just like Ron's. Hermione fumed as hers sank again.

"Famous? I thought you were sick of fame, Mr Potter" Hermione threw another rock into the pond and rolled her eyes. It was obvious that Harry was hanging out with Ron too much. His IQ lessened substantially each year.

"This kind of fame is perfectly fine by me" Harry said with a laugh and punched Ron's arm playfully, “I think we can handle it.”

“Again,” Hermione added, “You get the fame and I get the flogging. Sorry, not appealing.”

"Come on Hermione! Please!"Ron begged, “You wouldn't get into trouble.”

"I can't and won't do that to Malfoy!" I said, “End of story.”

“So..” Ron walked up behind her, “I'm confused. Are you worried about getting into trouble or getting on Draco Malfoy's bad side?”

“Trouble obviously,” she turned to face him, “What would I care if he didn't like me.”

He placed his hands on her shoulder, cupping her neck lightly, "but wouldn't you love to see the ferret squirm from embarrassment?" Ron's thumbs gently brushed her chin. They were mere inches between them, Hermione's knees trembled.

“I..” Hermione's words were quiet. Ron smiled. Did he know what effect his hands were having on her neck? "Ron, I can't" Hermione said, mustering all her strength and trying to ignore his wonderful hands, "It's not right"

"Aww come on!" he lightly touched their foreheads, “For old times sake.”

She shook her head, “No...”

Harry stood off to the side, amazed at what he was seeing. Ron and Hermione were so close, too close for his own comfortable viewing. His arms wrapped around her neck, her arms resting lightly on his sides. It was as if he was viewing an intimate moment and not just a pair of friends.

“Uhh guys,” he chimed in.

Ron's head shot up and he looked at the position he and Hermione were in. His face flushed, as if he'd just come out of a trance, “I..” he pushed back.

The resounding splash as Hermione hit the water would echo in his ears that night. As would her face as she hit the cold water. The ripples stretched out across the water, then a moment later she broke the surface. Her lungs filled with air as she let out a yell.

"Ronald WEASLEY!” her voice was high and full of anger.

"Oh MERLIN , Hermione I'm so sorry" Ron reached down and helped her out of the pond. She took his hand, momentarily forgetting how angry she was.

"I look like a drowned rat!" she whined.

“Simple drying spell would cure that,” Ron mumbled, taking out his wand.

“No!” Harry interrupted, “Ron you're likely to turn her into a fish. Let her cast her own spells.”

He nodded, “I...I am..” he ran a hand through his hair, “I'm sorry Hermione. I forgot where you were standing.”

“You forgot?” she searched his face, so lost as to how he could forget such a thing. Then she realized that in the moment, as they had stood there, she too had forgotten Harry was there and where they were. Had he felt the same thing?

"I'm sorry Hermione! I didn't mean to push you in, I was just--"

"Being a moron!” she cut in.

“Hey!” Harry said, stepping in again, “It was an accident.”

"I know..” she looked down at her clothes and waved her wand over them, mumbling a drying spell as she did.

“Harry,” Ron said moving over to him, “I don't know what just happened.”

His old friend looked at him, “Honestly looked like you were going to kiss her.”

Ron laughed, “Me...kiss Hermione!” he let out a hearty laugh, “As if!”
“Umm..” Harry tapped Ron's shoulder, “She heard you..”

Ron turned just to see Hermione run back into the cast, “Shit..” he said quietly. A small something seemed to tug on his heart, begging him to chase after her. He ignored it.

Hermione tried her best to stay calm. Hearing the word from his mouth had almost been physically painful. He'd laughed at the thought of kissing her. Was that how he really felt? Or was he just being shy in front of Harry? If she'd leaned up and kissed him would he have responded? Sighing she greeted the portrait, a kind old man with a crooked cane. Reciting the password he swung open for her but not before asking if she was alright. She lied of course.

Entering the common room Hermione looked around, she'd worked so hard and it felt as if it was all for nothing at this moment. She didn't care that she was Head Girl, or that she had to look after Malfoy. All she wanted was for Ron to notice her. A sniffle caught the tears edging her throat.

"Trouble in paradise?"

"None of your business,” she said quietly.

“Oh but I think I'll make it my business today,” he'd been sitting by the fire, reading a book although it closed with a resounding 'thwack' before he turned his chair towards her.

"Not in the mood Malfoy" Hermione replied, heading towards the stairs.
“Ohhh no you don't,” his wheels were faster than her feet and he blocked the stairs, “You've seen me at my lowest, which is humiliating and you seem to enjoy it. Now it's my turn. Sit.” he motioned for the couch.

“Malfoy...” she began.

“Sit!” he pointed his wand towards the couch, “Move.”

Hermione would have stood but Malfoy's stubborn nature was just as strong as hers. She sighed, exasperated at the situation she moved and flopped down on the couch. Malfoy grinned and positioned himself to her right, just to prevent her from jumping up towards the stairs.
“So, what'd they do now?” he asked.

"Who?"Hermione said, pretending not to clue in.

"The only two men who can stand being around you" he paused, then continued," Wait ..let me rephrase that..the only two creatures with male anatomy that can stand being around you ..I wouldn't classify them as men yet" he paused again, "..wait..I probably never will"

Hermione chuckled lightly.

"Excuse me?"he raised his brow, “You're not angry?”

“No...” she then realized why his face looked so surprised. He'd just insulted Harry and Ron, to which she'd normally create a snide remark or some threat or some comparison to him and a small white rat.

"What the hell did they do to you, to make you agree with me?” Draco looked her over.

" Nothing..." she bit her lip.

"Right,” he wheeled in front of her and looked her dead in the face, “I've been fighting with you Hermione Granger since the first day we met. You and I... its a tradition. We hex each other, we fight and we enjoy it. I've got many great memories over the past few years and I know exactly what it takes to tip you over the edge.”

“Maybe I've grown up?” she said, crossing her arms while attempting to avoid his prying eyes.

“No, that I would have noticed.” he raised his brow, “What happened?”
Hermione sighed, “Nothing..”

“Bullshit.” Draco said, surprising her with his use of a muggle swearword.

“No seriously,” Hermione said, “Nothing happened.” she then sighed, “and that's the issue.”

“Mmmm..” Draco rubbed his chin, “I'm sensing that a certain red head is involved in this delusion.”

“I..” there was no point in denying it so Hermione just nodded.

“What happened?” he leaned closer, “Exactly what happened.”

“I uh.” she closed her eyes slightly remembering the feeling of Ron's hands, “We were down by the pond.” she opened her eyes, “Talking about random things..the boys wanted my help.”

“Help with?” he queried.

“A prank..” she bit her lip.

“To pull on me I assume,” he pushed a blonde strand of hair out of the way.

“Yea..but I refused.” she quickly added.

“How noble of you Granger.” he rolled his eyes, “Anyways, and then?”
“I..” she could feel the memories, they were still fresh in her mind but voicing them was difficult, “I refused and Ron..well he came to talk to me, to try to convince me. He got close.” she stopped, “Umm..” her cheeks flushed.

Draco hadn't seen her blush like this, it was new and he felt annoyance that it was over such a lower being as Weasley. How she could like him was beyond Draco's comprehensive ability, “And?”

“He put his hands on my neck..and tried to tell me I wouldn't get into trouble and that--”

“Wait,” he wheeled closed to the couch, “Come forward.”

“Why?” she said, a little weary.

“I want to do a little experiment. Now scoot! Sit on the edge of the couch so I can get close enough.” he watched as she moved forward, to which he promptly set himself in front of her. Their knees were touching, he couldn't feel it and yet he knew it without looking, “Now, you said his hands were on your neck.”

“Yea..” Hermione nodded.

“Show me,” he held out his hands.

“What!” her eyes grew big.

“Look, you want my honest assessment of the situation you gotta show me.” he put his hands on her lap.

“I never said anything about wanting anything from you.” she attempted to stand but he pulled her down.

“Look Granger, you want my opinion believe me. Now shut up and show me.” he let go of her wrists and put his hands on hers.

Hermione looked at his hands and lightly touched them, his palms were warm and she found herself lightly skimming her nails over them,
investigating the softness.

“I said show me, not grope me.” Draco snapped at her, mostly because his body was responding to her light caresses.

“Right,” Hermione quickly picked up his hand and lifted them to her neck.

“You sure he wasn't trying to strangle you?” his failed humour was an attempt to ignore how smooth her skin was.

“No..” she spread his fingers on her neck, moving his thumbs up to her face, “Like this..”

“Mmmhmm,” he couldn't believe he was cupping her face in his hands, his white skin actually contrasting to her slightly darker skin, “And then?”

“And then..he came closer...” she bit her lip.

“How much closer?” Draco asked, “Show me.”

Hermione was beginning to think this was a bad idea. A very bad idea. Draco's hands were warming her neck, the heat was almost unbearable and her mouth was beginning to go a little dry.

“Umm..I don't think..” she moved back a little.

“Don't be a coward Granger.” he pulled her towards him, stopping when their noses touched, “I'm not going to bite you.” his voice was quiet.
“I'm not worried about your bite.” she said, gulping visibly as the energy crackled between them.

“Sure..” he tilted his head lightly, “Was he this close to you Granger?”

“Mmhmm..” she nodded, “He..rested his forehead on mine and just held me.”

“I bet this is the closest he's been to you..” he mumbled as their foreheads touched, “And then?”

“Harry spoke.” she said, “and Ron pushed back on my shoulders..and I fell in the lake.”

Draco laughed, “If you weren't already wet enough.”

“I..” she flushed, Draco was still to close. It felt different with him than it had with Ron. When she had been with Ron, the closeness was scary because she liked him so much. With Draco...there was just an air about him that drove her crazy. Angry crazy and in this case there seemed to be something more. She wasn't angry and yet her body seemed to stand on end.

“Is that what you were angry about? He didn't make a move?” he lightly brushed his thumb against her cheek.

“No,” she said shaking her head lightly, “Harry made a comment about it looking like he was going to kiss me and ...”

“He laughed,” Draco finished.

Hermione nodded.

“He's even more of a coward than I thought.” he smiled.

“Do you think he laughed it off because he was nervous? What if he did want to.” she was thinking out loud again.

“Granger, if he wanted to kiss you, he would have. Trust me, being this close to you...” He looked down at her face, noticing how close her lips were to his.

“Being this close to me?” she edged me to finish my sentence.

“Well obviously in my case its causing me a little nausea but..” he instantly regretted the words. Draco could see a sparkle in her eyes fade as it was replaced by an oncoming flow of tears. She blinked and pulled her head away.

“Damn you woman,” he pulled her closer and pressed his lips to hers. He had no idea why but he felt the need to replace the lost kiss. As if it would stop her from crying, not that he cared about her tears. The kiss was brief and simple. Two pairs of lips lightly touching, nothing kinky or seductive, just standard.

Hermione blinked, her eyes open and looking straight into the face of Draco Malfoy as he kissed her. His eyes were closed, his lips seeming to just rest on hers, not making a move. She didn't know what to do, her hand came up to slap him across the face, to push him off. He seemed to sense her hand movement and flinched into the kiss, as if preparing himself for what was to come. To her surprise her hand did move but it came down lightly, resting on his cheek as her lips made a move against his.

It was only a delicate shifting of her lips but Draco took it as enough to continue. Her hand moved across his face and up into his hair. He felt a shiver run down his back as she gripped the hair at the back of his neck. Their mouths moved in unison. The kiss didn't deepen, their tongues stayed retracted but the kiss was still hot enough without it. It last ages, Draco decided to keep going until she stopped but the more he kissed her, the more he realized she seemed to be following his lead and there was no sign of stopping anywhere.

A knock at the portrait finally forced their lips apart. Neither spoke, even if they'd tried both were speechless.

“Hermione?” came Harry's voice from the hall.

“They're here to apologize,” Draco said flatly, pulling his face away from hers as his chair wheeled back.

“What...” she light touched her lips.

“What just happened?” he licked his own lips, the feeling of hers still fresh in his memory, “It was nothing Granger.”

“Nothing?” she repeated, “Right.”

“Honestly, nothing.” he wheeled towards the stairs, “Don't do that girly thing..don't make it more than it is. I just wanted to prove a point.”
“Which was?” she looked over the back of the sofa towards him.

“I'm not sure yet but I'm sure there's a reason.” he headed up the stairs, “Don't take too long. I want to be in bed before midnight.”

Hermione looked at the clock, “What time..did I come back?”

Draco stopped, “About eight..”

“Its almost ten..” she said quietly, where had the last two hours go.

“What can I say, time flies when having fun,” she could almost hear the smirk on his face, “Before midnight Granger.” and then he was gone up the stairs.

Hermione stood up, straightened her skirt and took a deep breath. She wasn't in the mood to face the boys. Moving over to the portrait she looked back at the stairs, then sighed it was time to get back to reality, “Okay....”

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