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Gripping the worn grey stone with cold fingers, the girl leaned forward gulping in heady amounts of oxygen. Her mass of untamed curls flew about her face in symphony with the icy wind that blew through the open spaces of the Astronomy tower. She ignored the chill that gnawed at her cheeks and made her fingers stiff. She needed clarity; she needed answers. She only wished this place would provide them.

 

Hermione Granger had spent her days gliding in and out of a reverie so fixed that it haunted her steps. As each sliver of sunlight melted to dusk and back again, she felt she was slipping in and out of herself. Who that was right now, she could not begin to fathom. Her bizarre conversation with Seamus on the floor of her dormitory area now seemed so long ago. She felt jaded when she recalled it, as though her admission to him about her uncertainty with regards to Malfoy had suddenly made everything suffocatingly real, had infiltrated her reality beyond her comprehension.

 

Hermione was not even sure she could say she hated him anymore, at least not in the direct way of the past, which was so much more easily defined. She was at once intrigued and repelled and it scared her to reflect upon just how long she had been feeling that way. Draco Malfoy was indefinable and it tortured her endlessly to think that he, so young a man, was capable of wreaking such havoc on a woman – more specifically, a woman like her. She recalled so many months prior the way she had looked upon him dispassionately, feeling empathy for his previous victims.

 

She was a girl who had always craved security, had always needed the answers before she asked the question. And yet here she was. A place where she had dived full bodily into the unknown. And it was in that inky dark place that she had been treading these last few months, desperately trying to break the unreachable surface. To breathe in the clear air of which she had so deprived herself.

 

****

 

In another part of the vast castle, a tall figure radiating a pale white glow in the surrounding darkness, stalked without his usual grace, around the corner to the corridor on which is rooms were located. As the fair-haired young man raised his head, weary from lack of sleep, he noticed a svelte figure reclining against his door. The pose gave the appearance of having been mastered through many hours of practiced study. When he noticed the distinctive dark hair and sharp blue eyes, he sneered slightly, knowing perfectly well that it had been.

 

“You took your time,” she said softly, a cultivated huskiness evident in her tone.

 

“Pansy…”

 

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

Draco Malfoy looked at the girl before muttering the requisite password under his breath, lest she get any ideas. Entering the spacious rooms, the agitated muscles in his legs cried in complaint as they directed him to the single chaise chair, which had been pushed directly in front of the fire. He had sat there staring at its flames, lost in thought, many times before this night.

 

He sank his form into the soft velvet cushion, allowing his elbows to rest against his legs as he gazed at the now burning embers of the hearth.  

 

“Draco… it’s been a while.” She said it as a statement of fact. She was right.

 

 He continued to stare at the raw orange light as it savaged the charred wood in its grasp. “Indeed,” he finally muttered. Draco could hear her slinking around the room and tried to ignore the feeling. Pansy Parkinson was very pleased with herself about something; he could hear it in her voice, could imagine the bright glint in her eye.

 

“Tell me, Draco, why does she still stare at you?”

 

His chest tightened, but did not betray the nonchalant tone with which he replied. “Who are you talking about, Pansy. Plenty of people look at me… and we both know that you’re one of them.” He turned his gaze evenly towards her. She had his attention now.

 

She flushed slightly. “You know who I mean, Draco. The Mudblood. Why?”

 

“How should I know?” But he did know. He did know that she had been watching him, much as he had watched her in the past. He was certain that she burned with the same bizarre and intense fixation as he did. Only he saw very little of her during the day. It was at night when she visited him, behind closed eyelids in his private dormitory, his private thoughts.

 

It was in those moments that he gave up the struggle of understanding the meaning of it all. He simply let it wash over him. He drowned willingly in the thoughts of her and the thoughts of him. When he could almost feel the heat of her hands pressing against him, could recall thoughts of her sweat slicked legs tangled in his. He nearly drowned in her each night.

 

And then in the morning, she could haunt him no more. He wouldn’t let her. During those hours, he would not look in her direction. He could not. Pansy was always watching and waiting intently. To be caught staring at a Mudblood was deemed unforgiveable, and he had don’t it often enough.

 

It was obscene. Yet all the while, he knew she was there. In his Potions class, sitting at the front of the room her curls plastered to her neck, at meals sitting on the opposite side of the room to him. She was always there. Draco recalled many an occasion when she had not been so easy to locate.

 

“Draco.” The voice whispered in his ear, drawing him out of his reverie. A hand slowly travelled the breadth of one shoulder, massaging the tense muscle it found there.

 

He swallowed and closed his troubled gaze to the burning embers. The hands continued their descent down the lightly sheathed skin, nimble fingers slipping the black robe from his shoulders. They tickled the fine skin of his throat. He was sensitive there. She knew that.

 

He felt a presence before him and knew that she had kneeled in the gap between his legs. She raised her body up and pressed against him. She was warm and he greedily soaked it in. Her flat palms rested on his shirt as fingers sneaked through the buttonholes. Draco gasped at her touch on his bare skin. Her nubile tongue skittered over the tender flesh behind his left ear before lowering to dance across his pulse. She was practiced, was Pansy. He ought to know.

 

As her mouth honoured the strong line of his jaw, her knowing hands moved down to rest on clothed upper thighs, satisfied as the muscles bunched beneath her touch. Her cool breath fanned the soft strands from his face and pliant lips pressed into his. They were both firm and soft and she used them to prise his own open. Eyes of burnt sienna flashed behind his lids – eyes, which owned him in this room.

 

In a reflex action that left the dark haired girl sprawled on the floor, he jumped out of his chair muttering to himself in agitation. His long fingered hands tore through his hair as his clouded gaze cleared, taking in the sight of Pansy eyeing him, disgruntled. He kicked the chair with a suddenness, which caused her to gasp and jump back. She watched him, from a distance, repeating the action. She had never seen this level of ferocity from him. Draco was, above all else, in reign of his emotions.

 

He turned to her once more, shaking. “Get out. Get the fuck out, NOW!”

 

She did not need telling twice.

 

He continued his crazed actions before slumping gracelessly to the floor, exhaustion racking his bones. Draco gasped for breath, completely bewildered by his actions. His eyes smarted as his head dropped to hang between his raised knees, before he closed his eyes. A desperate bid to block it all out.

 

 

*

 

The following afternoon, Draco stood staring at the many shelves in the darkened and slightly mildew-ridden corner in which he had found himself. It was the restricted section, and as he blanched once more from the overwhelming smell of decay, Draco quite understood why. He had arrived at this secluded section of the library searching for answers to his unasked questions.

 

Retrieving yet another volume from the slightly rickety shelf, a look of mild horror marred his features as he surreptitiously wiped clean his hands. At a gentle rustling sound from the next aisle over, his sharp grey eyes cut upwards. It was most likely a foolhardy first year sneaking into the unknown area on a quest for notoriety amongst his peers. Draco waltzed immediately around the corner to frighten the disillusioned student.

 

He instead ambled upon a girl disguised by a cloud of unruly curls and a large tome. His breath seized in his throat as he acknowledged that it was in fact the first time he had seen her this close to in a very long time. He ought to have left then. He didn’t. He felt compelled to stay there in that damp and dark place with the girl who by all rights was fit only for such surroundings. Not like him.

 

“So this is where you hide.”

 

She jumped, visibly shaken from her own intense contemplations. He noted her eyes as they widened with recognition and something less definable, before they became shielded. His gaze followed her pink tongue as it moistened her upper lip; it was clearly an unconscious act.

 

“Malfoy,” she said finally, her gaze flicking quickly over his shoulder as though she were deciding whether he would attack her again, as he had that night so many weeks ago. The night that still tortured him with images of parted lips and glazed tawny eyes.

 

He still did not understand quite how that night had escalated the way it did. He had aimed to scare her, and though he was quite sure he had, he had caused himself a more enduring pain. Draco feared he had revealed too much to the Head Girl in the last year. And yet each time he was near the infernal know-it-all his brain would disconnect. It was ridiculously plebeian in his opinion, and he resented her for it.

 

“What are you doing here?” she asked him rather guardedly.

 

 

He ignored her question and chose instead to watch her through now heavy lids. She was irritated and uncomfortable. She made it painfully clear as she twitched under the full onslaught of his gaze. Yet she held it. Reluctantly, he knew. But she held it nonetheless. How long they stood there staring intensely at one another, he wasn’t sure.

 

“Right,” she finally muttered before making to walk by him in the narrow aisle. As she did so, his hand swiftly caught her arm and swivelled her around, so closely to him that he had to look right down his nose to hold eye contact. He shouldn’t have touched her. The mere act left a scorch across his skin. She blinked but did not move.

 

 Draco could see a very faint sprinkling of freckles across her nose. They were almost the same shade as her skin tone. He wondered how many other people had seen them this close. Finnigan… Weasley… Potter. He chose that moment to stop thinking about it. They stood so unbearably close together in the narrow aisle that it would no doubt look intimate to onlookers. And it was, in their strange way. The moment bled uncertainty and curiosity and discomfort in the shared knowledge that of all the people they should have stood so close to, it was not the person in front of them.

 

“Fuck,” he breathed. “What the fuck have you done?” Her eyes narrowed in response.

 

“What have I done?” she whispered venomously. “What have I done? You sick, twisted bastard… I have done nothing! This is you, this is all you.” She reiterated her point by pushing hard against his chest.

 

He clenched his jaw, in an attempt to control the torrent that simmered so painfully close to the surface. Instead, he barked out a malicious laugh.

 

“Do you honestly think that I want to be standing here? You think it’s about choice? I just decided to let you screw with my head?” He shook his head, wondering wildly at the turn of conversation. “Well you’ve done a fucking brilliant job,” he muttered.

 

She slapped him clear across the cheek. His skin burned from the contact and he looked at her in shock. Her expression was fierce, then uncertain, as though she hovered on the cusp of something. He wanted to lash out then, to say something, anything to turn the tide. His thoughts stopped when she pushed forward and pressed her mouth to his.

 

 

Before he could form a cohesive thought amid his bewilderment, she pulled back, a look of shock lingering across her features. They must have mirrored his own, not simply at her audacity, but at the fact that she had actually kissed, had instigated something this time. It felt like an admission on her part, and left him feeling simultaneously relieved and perturbed.

 

Before she could change her mind, he was going to make the most of it, this single stolen moment. She was a wicked indulgence he couldn’t afford, but he’s already crossed this line more than once before. Yet, somehow, this was different.  

 

A strange guttural sort of noise seemed to claw at his throat as his hands sank into the depths of hair He hauled her slim frame upwards against his and she grasped at his collar, pulling him closer. He all but died.

 

He slid one free hand down the line of her clothes until he found the delicate nook behind her left knee and drew it up, pressing her intimately against him. Their kiss was not reverent. It was not gentle. They ravaged one another’s mouths with a desperation that burnt through the layers of fabric, thoughts and logic. 

 

She was like velvet, he decided as his palm swept the expanse of her arched leg. And her mouth, at once gentle and urgent, belied an experience he felt sure she did not have. Her fingers raked through his hair, tickling the delicate skin upon his scalp. The sound of his own stifled groan caused him to start suddenly. He pulled her head from his, taking in the swollen red lips, flushed cheeks and darkened gazed. He was insane.

 

After another ragged gulp of air, he shook his head, as though to clear the vestiges of his arousal, which pulsed like poison through his very being. He failed. Draco pulled his hand free from the entwining curls and she slipped back down to her feet. She eyed him in shock and confusion and Draco could not stand to see what was reflected in her gaze a moment longer. Shaking his head once more, he backed away from her as though branded. He didn’t wait for her reaction as he left her there, in that darkened space. That place of ill-formed decisions and mistakes.

 

He had to think. He had to breathe.  

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