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A loud noise woke her from her dreamless sleep and she bolted up in bed as a flash of red hair streaked through the door and bounced down on her bed out of breath and threw something at the tired brunette.

“Look at this!” Ginny cried shaking the newspaper she had thrown in Hermione’s face. Hermione glanced at it and then took it up quickly in her hands and stared at it.

“Oh no,” she whispered under her breath, “how did they find out about this?” she shook the paper in front of Ginny wildly.

Right on the front page, filling up all but a small box in the corner and the headline, was a picture of Hermione Granger dressed in her ball dress and kissing a dark haired stranger. Hermione couldn’t understand how they would have managed to get this picture. The annoying thing was that it wasn’t their first kiss, the small kiss, it was the big kiss. The kiss that had sent her stomach to jelly and her legs weak.

She watched Draco as he pulled her close and their hands linked together. She hadn’t realised he had been rubbing his thumb in circles on the back of it. And the question was, how did they know it was Hermione, someone must have tipped them off because even she wouldn’t have been able to recognise her from that position. Unless they had been following her all night.

The headline read ‘Hermione’s secret smooch’ in bold letters across the top of the paper. She groaned and began to read the words that had been printed along with it.

Griffindor princess and golden trio member Hermione Granger (18) was last night caught kissing in a castle courtyard. The question is…who is the dark haired man she is kissing? Reports from inside Hogwarts tell us that no one at the Christmas ball knew who he was and he has not been seen since he was spotted walking from the hall with our beloved Miss Granger. Rumours have been flying that…continues pg 8.

Hermione turned quickly to page eight, Ginny reading over her shoulder and making noises whenever she saw something that interested her.

…the man in question is in fact quidditch legend Victor Krum who Miss Granger had a brief affair with four years previous at a ball similar to this. All we know is that this ’prince charming’ is a very lucky guy but will have competition. Our sources tell us that ex-boyfriend Ronald Weasley left girlfriend Lavender Brown (who you will know as the girl he left Hermione for) and declared his love for Hermione in front of the school. We have been told that he apologised to Miss Granger and told her that he wanted her to take him back. It was at this point our mystery man walked onto the scene and took our lovely Miss Granger outside. Unfortunately he charmed the gazebo they were in so that we could not hear what they were saying but the picture speaks for itself does it not readers? So Miss Granger if you are reading this (which we think you will be) who is this prince charming and where does he come from? We would love to know as I’m sure would the rest of the wizarding world.

Hermione screamed out in frustration and closed the paper roughly.

“I don’t get how they keep finding these things out! ‘Our sources tell us?’ I would like to find this source and curse their head off!”

“Listen Mione, this is good,” Ginny said crossing her legs underneath her.

“Good?” Hermione said, “I fail to see how this is good!”

“Well they don’t know who he is do they? They don’t know it is Malfoy and it’s just going to have to say that way.”

“Of course it’s going to stay that way! You know what I said to you last night, it has to stay that way. He will be the mystery man I once kissed at a ball and no one is going to know any different. Especially not Harry.”

“Hermione come on, I may be Ron’s sister but I have the tact that he doesn’t. Speaking of Ron he is going to go mental when he sees this.” Hermione shrugged.

“That’s not my problem.”

“No you don’t get it,” Ginny said, “I told you last night that McGonagall had to send him out after he flipped out about the guy taking you off. Well he went crazy Mione. He pulled out his wand and sent a curse at you both but you were gone before it could hit you and it shattered one of the ice sculptures. Harry had to disarm him and he just went to run after you both but Harry put him in a leg locker curse. He was shouting at everyone, I have never seen him so angry.”

“So?” Hermione said, “what does it make any difference if he sees this?”

“Because he’s going to want to know who the guy is and he’s going to do anything to find out. Hermione he’s going to ask you and he’s going to shout at you. If I know Ron this will be another one of those things he overreacts to.”

Hermione looked back at the paper and banged her fist down on the bed. How could they keep doing this to her! Why couldn’t they just leave her alone? This was all Malfoy’s fault! This was his entire fault! He had led her to the stupid courtyard and he had stupidly kissed her! Why did he have to kiss her! If he hadn’t this would have all been fine! There would have been no paper report and not stupid guilt and not stupid feelings!

Her anger for him grew steadily as she looked at the picture. Without thinking of Ginny, who had crookshanks in her arms, Hermione pulled off her covers quickly, ripped her door open, paper still in hand and banged loudly on Draco’s door with her fist. She stood fuming and banging for a few seconds before a half-naked Malfoy opened it sleepily. Hermione pushed her way through and left him to close it behind her.

“Granger what are you doing in here?” he asked as she stood looking at him, her hands on her hips and her eyes glaring. She walked up to him and pushed the paper into his hands.

“This is what I’m doing in here. Look what you and your stupid kiss did!” she walked away and started pacing as he quickly read.

“Well at least they don’t know it’s me,” he said closing the paper and placing it on a table near the door.

“Yes but look at it! Now I have the entire wizarding world, which will include one of my best friends wanting to know who you are! Do you realise how much trouble you have caused me!”

“Hermione will you calm-” she stormed up to him and poked him hard in the chest though it didn’t seem to affect him.

“No I will not calm down Draco Malfoy! Don’t you see what you and your stupid kiss and your stupid…” she trailed off as she looked into his eyes. She hadn’t realised his face had been that close until she looked up.

She was caught off guard for a couple of seconds but soon righted herself, stomped her foot and went to walk away. Draco caught her arm quickly and pulled her back.

“Hermione,” he whispered, his voice sending flutters through her heart. But no she could not do this, she couldn’t let him get hurt. She tried to pull away but he was holding on to her to tightly. “Yes it is bad they have printed it, yes I realise everyone is going to want to know.” He pulled her face around to look at him but Hermione glanced away and reeled from his arms when she saw it.

She stepped back a few steps and didn’t take her eyes off his mark. It sat there on his left forearm. The dark grey contrasting with the pale skin. She hadn’t thought about it when she had noticed that he wasn’t wearing a shirt but now she saw it and reality dawned on her.

Malfoy followed her gaze and when he realised what she was looking at he walked forward and took her in his arms, kissing her head softly. She didn’t stop him though she felt like she should have.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“It’s not your fault,” she replied, just as quietly. She pulled away slightly and traced the mark with her finger.

“It’s just a scar,” Draco said echoing her words, “scars fade. Scars are just symbols of the past. A past that has gone and won’t come back again. I promise.” A lump rose in Hermione’s throat. He promised it wouldn’t come back but something was trying to drag him back. She didn’t understand it, it confused her too much. The two sides that were watching, she didn’t understand which side thought he was theirs. Was he already pretending to be dark or had they not even managed to get that far yet, were they just watching. She didn’t know and she wanted to find out. But if she asked he would have known she had been listening and she didn’t think that he would be too happy about that.

Hermione nodded at Draco’s word and let her head fall into his chest and closed her eyes. She had told him the night before that she couldn’t do it. That she couldn’t be with him. But here she was in his arms and it felt good.

“Draco,” she said glancing up at him, “look, I said that we can’t-” He stopped her words with a kiss. She had been caught off guard but she liked it. She felt all her feeling flood into him as he held her tightly and kissed her. He pulled away and looked at her.

“Don’t tell me that, we can do this, we have to do this.” He led her over to the bed and they sat down. Hermione crossed her legs underneath her and ran her hands through her hair quickly.

“But it’s…dangerous, for the both of us.”

“I told you I can protect you Hermione and you have to believe that.”

“I do its just-”

“Hermione you have no idea. You don’t know what it’s like for me, having you around, talking to you or just sitting with you in silence, it helps me and I can’t lose that.” He took in a deep breath and stood up. He walked a few steps and then walked back again. He looked down at her and sighed. “Look, what I told Potter yesterday morning wasn’t true, the ministry is watching me, I have two years to prove myself and if I can’t then I land myself a lifetime cell in Azkaban.”

Hermione bit her tongue. He was going to tell her what he and Blaise had been talking about. She wanted to tell him not to bother, that she had already heard it but she felt good that he would tell her this. He wanted her to know him and what he was involved with. Maybe she would find out more about this guy that was threatening Draco. He hurried back to her side and sat down next to her taking her hands in his.

“What I am about to tell you, you cannot tell another soul, not even the Weasley girl.”

“She has a name,” Hermione pointed out.

“Hermione, I need you to promise, if it gets out that you know you will be in so much danger and I can’t do that. I need to tell you because I need you to know this but you can’t tell anyone.”

“I promise,” she said simply. Draco took in a deep breath and then started.

“The ministry want me on my best behaviour and I am trying to do that. I want to be good and I am trying to be loyal to them. It doesn’t help that I have a short temper and I have aurors trailing me everywhere I go, you know that’s why Professor Anderson’s here? He is an Auror sent to watch me and make sure I don’t slip up. But I am trying and you have to believe that this is what I want. There is only one problem in my plan. There is an organisation; it’s sprung up, being formed by ex deatheaters. The ones that managed to keep themselves out of Azkaban. There is a man at the head of it and he is one of the most dangerous men I know. He’s not like Voldemort, he is different and he has a long-term plan. No one knows what it is but we figure that he wants to become minister for magic or something like that. He wants me to join. I have refused and he hasn’t pushed me yet because he’s not like that. We have a choice to join. It’s not join or die like it was with Voldemort. It is different. He wants me because I am talented and I can help him achieve his goals…” He trailed off and got back up and walked away.

Hermione felt her heart swell slightly. She could see how this was hurting him. How part of him felt like he didn’t have a choice, just like he didn’t have a choice with the mark. Draco turned back to her and continued.

“This organisation isn’t very big, there are ten of them at the most but they are all specially trained in something or other. He wants me because of my status in the community. He wants me as his spy in the ministry and because I am powerful. No one really gets it but Hermione I am powerful, I could be top of the class if I wanted. He himself is a powerful man and high in position. He has people working for his cause without knowing that they are. I can’t say who he is, you would know him but you need to know that he has his ways of everything. The problem with the fact that he is watching me is that I have to look as though I am still regular old Draco Malfoy. The Draco Malfoy you knew for seven years. That way he will be satisfied and leave me alone until he thinks it’s time that he really needs me, which won’t be for a long time now and hopefully I will be able to do something to stop him by then. You can see the dilemma of having the two groups watching. This is why I was hesitant about you. You Hermione are the thing that would make him snap. If he found out about you, if he knew I was in love with you… well I would have a hard time getting out of it. This is all so hard to explain but I have decided that I don’t care anymore. Hermione I want to be with you and I want to be good. I will fight him and I will make sure I win. He’s not getting me Hermione.”

“But how do you know all this? All this inside information if the ministry is trailing you?” Hermione asked.

“I go and visit my mother. Remember how I said my father had ways of knowing about what I do even though he is in Azkaban. Well he isn’t in Azkaban. Hermione, even Blaise doesn’t know this. He just thinks I have been approached, he has too and he refused also but that’s not the point. My father is part of this group and while on trial he was switched. There is another man in their drinking polyjuice potion and pretending to be my father. My real father is in Italy with my mother posing as her younger and new boyfriend. He knows exactly what is going on at all times. He has said that he doesn’t want me to join. Oddly for my father he actually wants me to get through these two years. I think that is why I’m not being forced. This guy knows that if I get through these two years I don’t have Azkaban hanging over my head and I can ‘go back to normal.’ So when the two years is up and I am free from the ministry’s eye and can do what I want, he will want me. Of course like I said he can’t have me…” He sat back down at turned to Hermione.

“Why have you told me all of this?” she asked, tears starting to drip down her face.

“Because I want you to show what I would do to have you. I would risk all of that to have you. And to show you how you are keeping me on the right track. How you are helping me just by breathing. Hermione please, just say we can try.” He wiped the tears with his thumb and kissed her forehead gently.

“Can I think about it?” she asked softly. Draco smiled.

“You can have as long as you want, I’ll always be waiting for you,” he whispered stroking her cheek with the back of his hand.

“Can we carry on as normal while I think?”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Hermione mirrored his smiled and stood up leaving the room. She returned to her own, sank down onto the floor, her back to the door, and sobbed. Ginny who was still in the room when she got back tried to console her friend and tried to ask what was wrong but Hermione refused to say. She just told her that she had a lot of thinking to do and shooed the girl from her room so she could get ready for breakfast.

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