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No use crying over spilled ink

Hermione had gotten up early and was sitting at a small table in the Gryffindor common room. She was going over her ancient runes notes again, while Ginny sat across from her, attempting to look like she was studying.

Several weeks had gone by since the beginning of term. All things considered, it was going very well. Her classes seemed less stressful, given the real world experiences she had endured with Ron and Harry the previous year. She had noticed Ron and Cho making eyes at each other, which she couldn't have been happier about. At least now she knew Ron had finally moved on. She had developed a close friendship with a girl, which was a new experience. She and Ginny had spent many nights in the common room discussing everything from boys to the future. Ginny and Harry had moved past the hand holding stage and had moved right on to snogging every chance they got. Hermione had even shared a little of her feelings about Draco. She told Ginny about how she had actually began to enjoy Draco’s company and how she even started to consider him a friend. They had another meeting with the Costume Ball committee tonight, and she was thankful for his help in organizing everything.

What she hadn't shared with Ginny was her unsettling attraction to him. They had been spending more and more time together, always under the guise of planning the Halloween Ball or dealing with prefects as Head Boy and Girl. As she pondered their last such "meeting", her eyes were glazed over, her mind deep in thought.

"...Hermione?... Hermione!" Ginny finally got her attention, after saying Hermione’s name several times.

"Sorry, what?" Hermione answered, embarrassed.

"You ok? Anything you want to talk about?" Ginny raised an eyebrow and Hermione blushed lightly.

"Nah, just thinking..." Ginny didn't seem satisfied by her answer.

"Spill it Granger! If I didn't know better, I would say your mind was with the Head Boy just a moment ago..."

Hermione went beet red. How did Ginny know? "I have no idea what you are talking about." She lowered her head and pretended to go back to studying.

Ginny grabbed Hermione’s book from her hands and locked eyes with her. "Come on girl, it's just me. Let's talk."

Hermione decided to finally confide in her friend. She looked around to ensure they were alone before continuing. "I don't know Ginny, it's like he is a whole different person. He actually apologized for the way he has treated me throughout the years. He looks at me completely different than anyone has before. And when I am with him, it just seems right. It is so easy to talk to him."

Ginny smirked, "It doesn't hurt that he is completely sexy, does it?..."

Hermione's blush returned. "There is that too..." The girls giggled with each other as the door to the boys' dorm opened. They both stopped laughing and looked towards the door.

"Hey, Hermione, Ginny, you ready to go eat?" Harry asked, as he and Ron came down the steps en route to breakfast. Harry wondered what had gotten into the girls. He knew it probably had something to do with a boy, but didn't dare ask in front of Ron. He made a mental note to ask Ginny later.

"Um, ya. Let's go." Hermione said, smiling at Ginny. They gathered their books and set off with their friends towards the Great Hall.


"Over here." Neville called to them to join him, before turning his attention back to Luna. Luna had been sitting with them since the house seating had been done away with. She and Neville seemed even more inseparable than before, if that was possible.

Draco usually sat with them as well. He had found it easier to just join them, since McGonagall's mandate that he and Hermione's sit together. He felt more at ease in this crowd than with the Slytherin group anyway. He had not been able to convince Pansy and Blaise to join them, though he had tried. Harry had been making an effort to include Malfoy. Therefore, he scooted over to make room for Malfoy as he approached the group.

'Morning Malfoy." Hermione's greeted Malfoy without looking at him. "Do you have everything ready for tonight's meeting?" Her face was blushing with the thoughts of her conversation with Ginny.
"Yes, here is the letter to the Weird Sisters asking them to perform at the Ball. I will drop it off at the owlery after you look it over." He held out the letter towards Hermione. As she reached for it, their eyes locked for a moment. Hermione blushed and Draco smirked. Hermione quickly took the letter and engrossed herself in looking it over.

Harry witnessed the exchange and it hit him. Why hadn’t he seen it before? Malfoy was the boy who had caught Hermione's attention! Harry got up from the table and looked at Malfoy "Hey Malfoy, can I talk to you for a minute." It was not a question. Harry wasn't near full, but he had to talk with him now.
"Sure, I didn’t want breakfast anyway." Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. He had barely eaten anything.
As soon as they were outside the great hall, Harry turned to Draco. "Ok, what's going on with you and Hermione?" Draco’s face remained neutral, judging Harry's reaction. The anger Harry had expected to feel evaporated. The animosity of years past was gone. His voice calmed as he continued. "I see the way you look at each other. She has been distracted and daydreaming since the beginning of term. You can’t tell me you have no idea what I am talking about."

"There is nothing going on!" Wait, distracted? By me? "Hermione and I work together as Head Boy and Girl, and co-chair the Halloween Ball committee. That's all.” He paused. “Why? Has she said something?" He tried hard to squash the flicker of hope that he felt deep inside. There was no way she could have feelings for someone like him. She was the embodiment of all that is good in the world and he was just a former Death Eater.

"No, but I know Hermione. She is not easily distracted from anything, especially her studies. I just wanted to say that I do not object, for now. I know you have changed, Malfoy. I have not forgotten what you did for me and my friends last year, and for that I am eternally grateful. But, I want you to know that if you ever hurt her, it will be last thing you do." His face was as firm as his tone when he finished.

Draco's face was purposely indifferent. "What I did that day at the Manor was nothing. It was the right thing to do. Anyone of you would have done the same."

Harry wasn't sure why, but he wanted to reassure Draco. "An old friend once taught me how important it was to choose what was right over that which is easy.." Harry truly appreciated the truth of Dumbledore's words. "I know it was not easy for you and I wanted you to know that I realize that."
"Thanks Potter, that means more than you know to me. Hermione is beautiful and kind. I don’t deserve a girl like her."

"You deserve to be happy; so does Hermione. And believe me, she could do a lot worse." A smile
crossed Harry's face at this, which was returned by Draco.

Back in the hall, Ginny and Hermione exchanged a look before both of their pairs of eyes followed Harry and Draco as they left the Great Hall.

Just then both girls attention was diverted, as a brown owl swooped down dropping a letter in Hermione's lap. Hermione was perplexed. Who would be owling her? Her parents were still in Australia sans their memories of her, and all of her friends were here at Hogwarts. Hermione looked over the rolled parchment. The parchment was high quality, with immaculate penmanship.

Miss Granger,
I hope you are enjoying your time at Hogwarts. Wow, Head Girl, your parents would be so proud. If they remembered you, that is. I encourage you to enjoy your taste of freedom within these walls while it lasts. You have taken something from me, and it is only a matter of time before I return the favor.
Until we meet again,
Your old friend

Hermione went pale. Who could this letter be from? She had absolutely no idea, and the mystery author had not given her any clues. Whoever it was knew an awful lot about her, which scared her even more. She stuffed the letter in her robes and ran from the hall. She had to find Harry and Ron. They would help her decipher this mystery.

Ginny watched as Hermione followed suit, leaving Ginny to continue breakfast, however awkward it may be, along with the seemingly stuck-at-the-mouth Neville and Luna.

*

The conversation with Harry that morning stuck in Draco's head all day. He went through the motions of going to class, but his mind was stuck on Harry's words "I just wanted to say that I do not object, for now. I have not forgotten what you did for me and my friends last year, and for that I am eternally grateful." He did not deserve Harry's confidence in him. He was still thinking of it when he walked into the classroom where the Halloween Ball committee meetings were held at the end of the day. Hermione had been the first to arrive, and was sitting alone, looking over her notes, her back to the door. Immediately he could smell the sweet floral scent that accompanied Hermione wherever she went. He loved the smell and paused for a moment to enjoy the smell and to gaze at her as she sat twirling a small strand of hair around her finger. The smell seemed to calm him, making him forget the stress of the day.

He was so absorbed in the view that he didn't notice the rest of the committee arriving.
"Earth to Draco!" Blaise was never known for his discretion. Pansy and the others followed Blaise into the room.

When Hermione turned around to Blaise's voice, she was surprised to see Malfoy staring at her. She blushed. He gave her a small smile, before taking his seat next to her at the front of the room. "Ok everyone, thank you for coming. As you know, we will be discussing decorations tonight." Hermione
started the meeting.

The meeting continued as planned as each member gave their decor ideas for the ball. They finally came to a consensus to stick with only basic decor, much to Hermione's dismay. She had wanted to go extremely over the top with the decor, but was overruled. Once the meeting had ended and everyone else had left, Draco approached Hermione as she gathered her belongings, stuffing them all into her very favorite beaded bag. "Hermione, I was wondering if you had some time to stick around and help me with my transfiguration homework."

Hermione looked at him, one eyebrow raised. "Sure, no problem." she knew his grade was near the top of the class they shared. There was no way he really needed her help. She couldn't deny that she liked the idea of a little more time with him, so she agreed. She summoned two comfy chairs for them to sit in, facing each other. He pulled out his books and parchment.

They sat for several hours more discussing everything from their transfiguration homework to Blaise and Pansy’s budding romance. They were once again enjoying each other's company as the hours flew by.

"So, where will you be spending your holiday?" Hermione asked, knowing that his parents were not at Malfoy Manor.

"I think I will be staying here this year. McGonagall has given me permission to use her office to floo to St. Mungo's on Christmas. I want to check on my mum and see how she is improving." Despite his words, his voice held no sign of hope whatsoever.

"That will be nice." Hermione tried to sound reassuring. "I will be staying over the holiday as well. I am waiting until I complete my final term at Hogwarts before going to get my parents from Australia. I think it will make the transition easier if I am able to take time to be with them when they return." The memory of the letter, and its reference to her parents flickered in the back of her mind.
Draco hesitated. "Do you think you would want to go with me to see my mum? It may be easier if I wasn't alone. Blaise and Pansy are going to Zabini Manor over the holiday.”

Hermione answered without hesitation. "Of course Draco. I can go with you."

Draco's head was spinning. "Did she just call me Draco? Not Malfoy, but Draco." She had never called him by his given name before. It felt so much more personal, and he like the sound of his name on her lips.

He decided to attempt to get himself back on task. He picked up his quill to continue on his lines. “Can I borrow some ink? Mine is empty.” Draco asked Hermione.

“Sure.” Hermione grabbed her bottle of ink and leaned over to hand it to him. He reached to grab it, and his hand closed over hers. Her first instinct was to pull away, but she kept her hand there, looking up at Draco. Draco looked up at her, his hand on hers and leaned in towards her. Hermione unconsciously leaned closer, feeling the undeniable pull towards him. As she got closer, she could smell the wonderful male cologne that she had come to associate with him. She closed her eyes and breathed in his smell. When she opened her eyes, he was staring at her, a terrified look in his eyes. She immediately let go of the ink and pulled away. "What was I thinking? I wanted him to kiss me, that’s what I was thinking. But of course he didn’t want to kiss me! Why would HE want to kiss ME?" She thought to herself

Draco watched her as if in slow motion. She leaned over to hand him the ink. He reached for it, grasping her hand in the process. Immediately he felt as though the floor was falling beneath him. It was as though he had grabbed onto a live wire. He could not let go. Then she closed her eyes and leaned closer. He wanted more than anything to lean in and feel the softness of her lips on his. "She wants me to kiss her. She is just so beautiful, and she smells so amazing. No! I can't. I am no good for her. She will only get hurt", he thought. He pulled away and let go of the ink. The now unsupported ink bottle crashed to the ground. Hermione screamed at the sound of the bottle shattering on the floor. Draco immediately pulled his wand out and muttered “scourgify” as the ink disappeared, along with the shattered bottle.

“It is late, I need to go” Hermione said, not looking at him. It was all she could do to keep the tears from spilling from her eyes. She ran from the room towards the Gryffindor common room. She ran past Ginny, who had been waiting up for her. She ran straight to her bed, laid down with her robes still on, and pulled her curtains tight around her bed. Her unshed tears began to flow uncontrollably as soon as her head hit the pillow. Ginny came in moments later.

“Hermione?” She spoke softly, as she would to a small child. “Are you ok?”

“I am so stupid!” She yelled.

Ginny's tone hardened. She knew this was the only way to make Hermione listen. “Hermione Jean Granger! You are the brightest witch I know! Do not ever let me hear you call yourself that again! What in the world happened?”

“Nothing, I just was stupid enough to think that Draco Malfoy might want to kiss me!” She hid her face in her pillow again in embarrassment. She could not believe she had said that out loud.
Ginny was glad Hermione could not see the appalled look on her face. She knew how Hermione felt about Draco, probably more than she did herself. It just seemed different knowing that Hermione actually wanted to kiss him. Ginny had hated Draco for so long. She had a hard time walking away from those feelings. It did not help that her best friend was now in tears over the boy. “Come on Hermione. Tell me what happened. What did he do to you?”

Hermione sat up on her bed, Ginny sat down next to her. Hermione took a deep breath and spoke quickly, so she would not lose her nerve. “We were studying. We were talking about everything; He is so easy to talk to. Then touched my hand, it was like there was a force pulling me to him. All I could think about was kissing him. Next thing I know, I look up at him and he looks scared of me. I don’t know what happened. I mean I know I am just so ordinary and he is just so… well, hot.” She let a small smile escape her lips as she looked at Ginny. “Anyway, I should have known better.”
“What did he say?” Ginny tried to keep her voice neutral.

"I didn’t give him the chance to feel sorry for me. I grabbed my stuff and ran out of there.”
“Oh, Hermione, come here.” She hugged her friend. “First of all, I do not ever want to hear you refer to yourself as ordinary ever again! What is it about this boy that has you thinking so little of yourself? You are gorgeous. Do you not own a mirror?” Hermione gave a half smile at her joke. “Second, I have seen the way he looks at you. There is no doubt in my mind that he is probably just as upset as you are right now. Probably more, given it is his fault he did not get a kiss tonight.”

Hermione looked at Ginny doubtfully, “I don’t think so. He had the perfect opportunity to kiss me. He didn’t. He is obviously not interested.” Hermione laid back down and rolled away from Ginny.
Ginny got up and said, "Hermione, you need to rest. Things will look different in the morning." It was obvious she was getting nowhere with this tonight.


*

Draco sat stunned, still in the chair Hermione had conjured for him. He had not moved since he watched Hermione gather her belongings and run from the room. He waited there for a long time after, hoping that she would return so he could apologize. What seemed like several hours later, when she didn’t return, he slowly gathered his belongings and left the room, after getting rid of the chairs and returning the classroom to its normal state with a flick of his wand. He hung his head as he slowly made his way back to the dungeons and the Slytherin common room.

He was not surprised to see Blaise and Pansy tangled together in a corner snogging. He continued past them without saying hello. He took a hot shower, as hot as his skin could tolerate, allowing the pain of the heat on his skin to distract him from the pain inside. She had wanted to kiss him. She had made it obvious. He had wanted to kiss her. He just couldn’t do it. He had developed too many feelings for her. He truly cared for her now. Because of this, he could not let himself go any further with her. She deserved better. He would only hurt her.

The only people he had ever loved had only found pain. His mother was still in St. Mungo’s Hospital, receiving psychiatric help. She could not face the atrocities that she had been witness to during the war. His grandmother Druella had loved him dearly, but had been killed during the first war, protecting him. He could not allow Hermione to become victim to his love. He squared his shoulders in resolve. He would end this and spare her the pain that was sure to follow. He turned off the shower, dressed, and climbed into bed. His night was filled with dreams of beautiful brown eyes and exploding ink bottles.


9-2-15 Revised for grammar, spelling, and content
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