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The next 6 weeks passed quickly for the students of Hogwarts. Gryffindor won against Slytherin in  Quidditch, but just barely. Because of this, Harry had his team practicing every moment they had for the match against Ravenclaw after the Christmas holiday. Hermione and Draco spent their time either managing the prefects or in the library, studying. Their classes were harder than they had ever been, and since they were taking so many more subjects than anyone else, the homework seemed never ending. Despite this, the time helping each other with homework had only brought them closer together. It seemed the only time they were apart was in the evening when they would go to their dorms and fall straight to sleep.

 

Before they even realized, the Christmas holiday was upon them. They would be spending the holiday apart from each other, in pairs. Harry and Ginny would be spending their holiday at the Burrow. Andromeda had owled Harry and told him that she would be bringing Teddy to visit with throughout the duration of his stay at the burrow. Harry was excited and planned to spend as much of his time as possible just Teddy, Ginny, and himself.

 

Pansy and Blaise at Zabini Manor. Pansy was grateful for the invite and they had big plans to do a lot of nothing during their break.

 

Luna and Neville were going abroad, apparently searching out a new breed of nargles thought to be residing in southern France.  Neville had no idea what a nargle was, but was happy to spend time with Luna trying to find them.

 

Hermione and Draco were keeping with their plan to stay at Hogwarts and to visit Draco's mother on Christmas. They also planned to spend a weekend in Hogsmeade some time during the break, in order to spend some time Christmas shopping for their friends. Neither had said so, but they also looked forward to spending one more night in each other's arms and were going to rent a room for the night at The Hog's Head. They planned to spend the rest of their time studying for their NEWTs.

 

The students had gathered in the Great Hall to say their goodbye's early in the morning. It was an emotional goodbye for many of them, since it would be the longest some of them had been apart from the others since the war. "Have fun at the Burrow, you two." Hermione said, hugging Ginny, her eyes filled with tears.

 

"You too! I wish you would come to the Burrow at least for an afternoon. It will be too long before I see you again otherwise." Ginny said, holding the tears from her eyes as well. Hermione was her best female friend, and she felt like she would have no one to talk to once back at the Burrow.

 

"We will see, Ginny." Hermione said, glancing up at Draco.

 

"Of course Draco is welcome too!" Ginny said, knowing that Hermione would never come without him.  Hermione grinned and Draco gave a polite smile. Hermione gave Harry a hug as well, she would miss him greatly. After one more hug each, Ginny and Harry walked along with Neville and Luna to the edge of the grounds. Once past the barrier, they apparated away to their destinations.

 

Blaise and Pansy approached where Draco and Hermione stood. "Hey, man. Have a great holiday." Blaise reached out and shook Draco's hand.  "What will you do with almost the entire castle to yourself?" Blaise wiggled his eyebrows at Draco, causing Hermione to blush and Draco to smirk.

 

"Ya man, you too, and I am sure we will do plenty of studying." Draco tried to defuse the awkward situation. He shook Blaise's hand, gave Pansy a hug, and put his arm around Hermione as they watched the couple walk away.

 

A few steps away, Blaise turned and said, "And don't do anything I wouldn't do." before turning and rushing Pansy to the apparation point, and they were gone.

 

After the last of their friends were gone, Hermione turned to Draco. "So, I know it is the first day of our break, but we really do need to study. I am only halfway through my lines for Ancient Runes. You still have to read the rest of the Transfiguration homework." Draco rolled his eyes at this typical Hermione thing to say. As his eyes looked toward the ceiling, he noticed one of the school owls swoop down in front of them. It had one letter addressed to Hermione and Draco and another just for Hermione. He handed Hermione hers and opened the other.

 

Dear Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger,

I have some news to share with you. After much deliberation, we have decided to allow certain students to take their NEWTs and leave Hogwarts early, in order to fulfill the needs of the magical community. The two of you are among those who would be allowed to test early. I do however ask that the two of you, in order to fulfill your duties as Head Girl and Head Boy, consider waiting until the normal end of term in May.

The students who choose to take advantage of this opportunity will take their exams the week that school resumes after the holiday, in January. Many of your friends are among those who are being offered this choice. They will receive a letter similar to this one upon arriving to their destinations today.

Please take your time and think this over. It is a big decision, and should be treated as such. If you have any questions, feel free to come to my office. The current password is "licorice snaps".

 

SIncerely,

Professor Minerva McGonagall

Headmistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

Hermione then opened her letter.

 

Dear Miss Granger,

Please meet me in my office this evening at 6pm, I have a situation to discuss with you. I ask that you do not share with anyone the fact that you will be meeting with me. If you feel the need, you may allow Mr. Malfoy to be privy to this information, and he may accompany you to my office. No one else is to know.

Until this evening,

Professor Minerva McGonagall

Headmistress, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

 

Hermione held the letter, and stood there for a moment in contemplation.

"Hermione? Everything ok?" Draco asked, taking in the contemplative look on her face.

Noting his concern, Hermione seemed to come to a conclusion and handed him the letter. After reading it, he looked at Hermione. "Do you want for me to come with you?"

"I think you should. She wouldn't have offered that you could come with me if she didn't have good reason for you to be there."

 

*

Hermione walked alongside Draco as they headed towards the headmistress's office shortly before 6 o'clock that night. She was nervous, and quiet. Draco took her hand in his, interlacing their fingers. He slowly rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb, trying to calm the obviously agitated girl beside him. Hermione felt the relief flooding through her from where their hands joined. She looked up at him, and gave him a grateful smile as they approached the entry to the headmistress's office.

"Licorice snaps" Hermione said, and they stepped forward onto the moving staircase. As they approached the door, it opened before them.

"Please do come in." Professor McGonagall said, standing up behind her desk, and waving her arm towards the two empty chairs in front of her. The two students sat down, their hands separating because of the distance between the chairs. McGonagall noticed this and said "You may want to move the chairs closer, Miss Granger, I think you may need a hand to hold during this meeting."

Hermione looked worried, but did as she was told. Something is wrong. Why do I need a hand to hold? Hermione's head swam with all the possibilities, her parents, had the death eaters found them? Her friends, had harm come to them? Surely not, McGonagall could not have known so soon, as she had received the letter requesting her presence at this meeting only moments after watching her friends apparate away. She once again felt a sort of calm come over her as Draco reached over and took her hand in his once more. He gave it a gentle squeeze, and she knew she could handle whatever news McGonagall had for her.

"First, I need to remind the two of you that this meeting is of the utmost secrecy. No one is to know where you have been tonight, or what we are to speak of." Both students nodded their understanding. With a look of worry and concern, McGonagall picked up her wand, waving it over her desk. She spoke a spell too quietly for Draco and Hermione to understand, after which the top of the desk opened, revealing a secret compartment below the surface. It was from within this compartment that she retrieved a stack of letters that were bound together with a thin twine. She hesitated before handing the letters to Hermione. "Miss Granger, I have a confession to make. I have been withholding some of your mail for the better part of this term. I apologize but assure you it was completely necessary to do so until a point in time when you could read them alone, or in this case with Mr. Malfoy."

 

Hermione pulled one end of the twine, releasing the letters. She took the first one in her hand, noting the perfect penmanship on the outside of the letters. It looked familiar to her, but she could not place it. It wasn't until she opened the letter and began to read the threatening words written inside that she remembered that it was the very same writing as the letter that she had received early in the term. Her face went white as she realized that there were at least 10 more letters, all addressed in the same way, sitting on her lap. She took her time, reading each one in turn, before handing it to Draco. After reading them all, she looked to Draco as he finished the reading the last letter. Terror was written on her face. If first letter had been worrisome, and seemed threatening, each letter had grown progressively more so, detailing the writer's plans to torture Hermione in retaliation for something she had taken from him.

 

They both turned to the headmistress, in hopes that she somehow had the answers that they had been unable to come up with after the first letter. "I want you to know that I also know about the first letter that you received. I also know that Mr. Potter, as well as Mr. and Miss Weasley have read it and that the lot of you were unable to come up with any plausible solutions." Hermione had no idea how she knew, but couldn't say she was surprised. McGonagall always seemed to know things, like the headmaster before her.

 

"I want you to know that the Ministry is aware of all of the letters, and has a special auror team working on it at this very moment. It will please you to know that they have come up with very little more than you did, and they are trained professionals. It seems they have come to a dead end, which is why I am coming to you now. I need to know if anything in any of these letters stands out to you. Is there anything that gives you any idea who may be sending these letters?"

 

"The writer does refer quite often to the fact that I have taken something from him. I cannot think of anything I may have taken at any point that would be of consequence to a Death Eater. You do believe it to be a Death Eater, don't you Professor?"

 

"That we can be sure of, Miss Granger."

 

"We searched for and destroyed the horcruxes, which I would think to have been important only to Voldemort, as he would not have shared their existence with anyone beyond his inner circle, which we believed to be himself and Bellatrix Lestrange. Since the two of them are dead, I do not believe it to be this the writer speaks of."

 

Draco stared at Hermione open mouthed. Horcruxes? Those are some of the darkest known magic. What did Hermione know of them? Hermione realized too late that Draco did not know about the details of her time last year. She gave him a look upon realizing her slip that said I'll tell you later.

 

Professor McGonagall did not even acknowledge the interaction. Instead, she continued the conversation with Hermione. "I agree Miss Granger. There must be something else they believe you have taken. Whatever it is, it has to be something that he or she values greatly."

 

"As far as I have ever known, there are very few things in most Death Eaters' lives that they actually place any value in." Draco had far more experience than the other two with Death Eaters and the way they think. "One would be money, the other would be power. Since I do not think Hermione has ever gotten any money from any Death Eater, I think it is safe to assume that they believe she took something that has compromised their power in some way."

 

"What could I have that would give them power? That doesn't make any sense Draco. I do not associate with any of them or anyone who runs in their circles." Hermione looked to Draco, hoping he had some sort of insight, some idea what they may want. If they could figure this out, maybe they could figure out who was writing the letters. Draco looked as stumped as she was.

 

"It may help for you two to try to think it all over during your break. The other thing that I wanted to ask of you two is that you do not leave the castle for any reason, other than the planned trip to St. Mungo's on Christmas." Draco looked at Hermione, her disappointed look matching his. "Is this a problem? I wasn't aware that the two of you had planned to leave for the holiday."

 

"I'm sorry, Professor, but we had planned to spend a weekend in Hogsmeade to do some Christmas shopping for our friends and family." Hermione hoped that something could be done to change the headmistress's opinion.

 

"I will allow the two of you one day at Hogsmeade, this should be ample time to do whatever shopping you will need to do. I will arrange for an Auror to accompany you, to ensure you are both safe." The hesitant looks that both of the students tried to hide did not go unnoticed. "Also, on another matter altogether, I have decided that the remaining students from your year will be moving into a separate dorm for the remainder of the school year. My reasoning being first that there will be very few students from your year are expected to return after the holiday. Also, for those students like yourselves that will be preparing for an extra large number of NEWT exams, the common room will be designed to be more accommodating to studying away from the rest of the students' disruptions. I have taken the liberty of having the house elves move both of your belongings into your new dorms as you two are the only ones from your year that are here for the duration of break." She paused a moment to allow for any objections, ones she knew would not come. "Unless either of you have any questions, or ideas about the letters, I can take the two of you and show you where your new dorms will be?"

 

Hermione looked to Draco. "No, Professor, we don't have anything. I would like to know if I could keep these letters, though."

 

"I do not see a problem with that. The ministry has done all they needed to with them. If you two do come up with anything, please let me know immediately." Professor McGonagall stood up, leading the two of them to their new dorms.

 

She led them to the far side of the castle on the main floor. They approached a large painting of none other than Albus Dumbledore. Professor McGonagall approached the painting. "Good afternoon Albus." The portrait Dumbledore nodded a hello to the group. "Hippogriff" McGonagall said, and the portrait swung open, revealing another corridor which led to an archway at the opposite end. The walls of the corridor were lined with torches that created a soft glowing pathway to the room at the opposite end.

 

The students followed the professor into the common room. It was an older looking room with rounded walls, creating a single solid curved surface for walls. It had dark wood floors, with small area rugs in different areas. The ceilings were high and was illuminated by the natural light that poured in through the numerous windows that lined the curved walls far above the floor. There were 3 doors other than the one they had entered through. "the door on the right leads to the girls corridor, the one on the left to the boys'. The door in the middle is a common bathroom. At the end of each of your corridors you will find the Head Girl and Head Boy room. There is another bathroom that is for the Heads only, which each of you can access from your room." McGonagall said, motioning to each door in turn.

 

"I will leave the two of you to get comfortable and unpack. You will find your items in your rooms. Remember to let me know immediately if you come up with any other ideas concerning the letters." The professor turned to leave as the students looked around at their new home.

 

Once the professor was gone, Draco turned to Hermione, taking the letters from her hand. He placed them on a nearby table and put his arms around her waist, pulling her close. Hermione laid her head on his chest, letting out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding. They stood like this for the longest time before she pulled back from him, a smile on her face. "Thank you Draco. For being there for me through all of this. I don't know what I would do if I didn't..." Draco put his fingers on her lips, successfully quieting her, after which his finger was replaced by his lips. She reciprocated, showing her appreciation this way instead. The letters, and all the stress that went with them would have been too much if she did not have Draco there with her. As it was, the thoughts were not far from her mind, but for now she was happy to live in this moment.

 

Hermione placed her hands around his strong waist. Draco's left hand traveled up to the back of her neck, holding her face on his. She opened her lips, granting his tongue access to her mouth. He took full advantage, caressing her tongue with his. Her heart was racing with desire. She began pulling his t-shirt from where it was tucked his pants, placing her hands on his bare back, beneath his shirt. She felt his sharp intake of breath at the contact. He immediately pulled his head back from hers, placing his hands on her wrists, pulling them from behind him. "Hermione, we need to stop."

 

She could not hide the hurt in her eyes. It was just like the night she had wanted to kiss him all over again. She started to turn away, but he held tight to her wrists. "Let me go, Draco. I am sorry. I thought you wanted to..." She couldn't stop the tears that formed in her eyes.

 

Draco reached up and wiped a tear that ran down her cheek. He then placed his palm against her cheek, and looked deep into her eyes. "Oh, please don't misunderstand, love. I absolutely want exactly what you thought I wanted. I just don't think we are ready for that yet. You mean the world to me. I don't want to ruin that by going too fast. Come here." He pulled her against him once more. "You are the most beautiful and sexy woman that I have ever known. I would be barking mad if I didn't want you."

 

Hermione smiled up at him, drying her eyes. "Are you sure?" He pulled her back into another kiss as his answer.

 

"Do you want to go unpack?" Draco asked. Hermione nodded. "I'll help you if you help me?" Draco smiled as he followed her towards the girls' dorm door. He almost fell over backwards, though, when he slammed into an invisible barrier when he tried to pass through the door to follow Hermione.

 

"What the?" Hermione exclaimed when she heard the bang of Draco hitting the invisible wall. "Maybe you cannot come down this corridor."

 

"I have an idea!" Draco said, running towards the boys' door. "Go to your room. I'll meet you there." And he was gone.

 

Hermione had no idea what he was thinking, but did as he told her. She walked down the short corridor to the last door on the left that had a sign on the door that read HEAD GIRL. She opened the door and gasped. It was the biggest bedroom she had ever seen. It has to be as big as my parents' entire house. The floor was a lush cream carpet, pale blue walls, and four windows lining the outer wall, that were covered in the sheerest of white fabric. There was a huge four poster bed in the middle of the room that was made of pale white wood, hung with linens of pale blue that matched the walls and a duvet that was white and cream. On the far side of the room there was a sitting area with two overstuffed chairs that looked to be covered with the softest material Hermione had ever seen. In the other corner of the room, next to a beautiful armoire made of wood that matched that of the bed was her belongings.

 

Completely forgetting about Draco, Hermione ran over to her bag, retrieving her favorite book. She took it over to one of the chairs and began reading. She nearly jumped out of her skin when the door beside her opened, and Draco stepped through.

 

A broad grin crossed his face when he saw Hermione. "Forgot about me already?" He sat on the floor next to her feet, and placed his hand on her knee. She closed her book and looked down at him.

 

"Never" She said simply. She leaned down and kissed him quickly before standing up and pulling Draco up with her.

 

"Are you going to show me your room?" Hermione was excited to see if Draco's room was like hers.

 

"Sure!" Hermione followed him into their shared bathroom and was again stunned by the sight in front of her. To the left was a counter that ran the length of the the entire room. Above it was a mirror that ran from just above the counter all the way to the ceiling. There were 2 sinks that were made of the whitest marble. To the right was the swimming pool sized bathtub and a glass walled shower. Hermione glanced over at Draco who was staring at her with a smirk on his face. It occurred to her that he had probably had a bathroom this large growing up.

"After you" Draco opened the door on the opposite wall, allowing Hermione to pass before him into his room. The room was exactly like hers, but a mirror image. And where hers had been light and airy, his was dark and warm. All dark wood and deep reds and greens.

Draco walked over to his belongings, retrieving his school books and looking at Hermione. “I’ll meet you in the common room ok?” He leaned down and placed the softest of kisses on her lips before walking away, leaving Hermione flushed and wanting. Before he exited into the boys’ corridor, he turned around giving Hermione his trademark smirk.

Hermione rolled her eyes and walked back through the bathroom to her room where she gathered her school work and continued to the common room.

The two of them spent the remainder of the evening studying and chatting, until long after the sun had gone down. Hermione looked up at Draco when she heard the groan his stomach had given off and realized that they had missed dinner entirely. “Hungry? We could go to the kitchens and see if the house elves have anything for us to eat.”

Draco raised one eyebrow. “Let the poor house elves do extra work?” He had heard about her campaign to free all house elves and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give her a hard time about it.

Hermione blushed. “I know that Kreacher has come to work in the kitchens here and he and I are friends.” She knew it was a poor excuse. Kreacher had come to work at Hogwarts on Harry’s orders. He was not, however, a friend. Nor would she ask a friend to make her dinner after she had missed the dinner that had been prepared. “Maybe you are right. We should not ask them to do that. They have enough work to do without preparing an extra dinner for us.”

Draco laughed at her and grabbed her hand, pulling her out of the room and towards the kitchen. “I was only joking, love. They truly live for these opportunities. They will enjoy it.” Hermione was sceptical, but hungry, so she allowed Draco to lead her to the portrait of fruit. He tickled the pear and the door swung open. Inside several house elves stopped what they were doing to usher the pair inside to a small table.

“What can we do for Master and Miss?” A small girl house elf asked.

“We missed dinner Ally, would you mind it terribly if we had a small snack to hold us over until breakfast?”

Hermione was dumbfounded. How did Draco know this house elf’s name? Even more shocking was the manner in which Draco addressed the elf. His voice held none of the disdain or hatred that his father’s held when he addressed Dobby. Draco noticed Hermione gawking at him and felt the need to explain.

“Ally used to be my personal house elf back at the manor. She has followed me to Hogwarts while I am here since I was 11. She has been with me since I was born. She took care of me as a baby, played with me as a small child, and has prepared more than one meal for me when I missed dining in the Great Hall here at Hogwarts.”

Hermione had gained another amount of respect for Draco, after learning this new insight into his life before this year. She reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezing it tightly in hers. “I love you so much Draco Malfoy.” She could not help this expression of love for this man beside her. 

 

Author's Note: Wow, this was a long one! Sorry, it was necessary though. Please leave me feedback and let me know what you think! Good, bad, or indifferent. I want to hear from you! Thanks for reading

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