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Draco paused, silent as a ghost. The corridor was empty, echoing with the faint sound of voices and laughter coming from the other floors and the dripping of water from one of the bathrooms. For a moment, he wondered where Granger had gone.

Try as he might, he couldn't get the image of her out of his mind. The way she had gotten up from the Gryffindor table after Weasley's obvious rejection of her affections, holding her head high and her lips pressed into a thin line of barely put-on bravery. The way she had managed a smile for her friend, and mechanically walked to the great, oak doors leading out of the Hall, but most especially…

The way she had lifted her head towards the enchanted ceiling for only a split second easily missed by someone who hadn't been looking closely, and blinked rapidly, clearly trying not to cry.

He should have been glad; he should have been thrilled at the fact that Granger, a Mudblood, was suffering pain. Especially since he liked her, and she didn't want him.

But he wasn't glad, and even if that had bothered him, Draco found he couldn't help it.

What gives Weasley the right to be such a sodding prat? Who does he think he is?

She was sitting curled up against the window, her face pressed against the glass and she was crying, which made Draco feel the worst kind of helpless. Even though he thought he had made sufficient noise in approaching the window where she sat, Granger seemed oblivious to his arrival.

What am I doing here? What am I going to say? Should I even say anything? What on earth is wrong with me? I can't really think that she'd want me. She probably thinks she can't get better than a bloody Gryffindor anyway!

The frantic questions rolled over one another in his fevered mind and Draco froze in place.

It's this stupid Samhain rubbish – that's it. It's messing with my mind, and come tomorrow morning, it's going to be November 1st and these insane feelings will just go away. I'll be normal again.

He gave her his patented glare but she still did not notice him.

Well, don't stand there. Keep on moving. The worst thing you can do now is say her name.

"Granger, what are you doing here?"

So much for curing myself of this stupid infatuation, he thought grumpily. But there was no helping it, he knew.

Draco realized his question was unnecessary; he had seen what happened in the Great Hall, yet somehow he felt the need to hear it from her.

She looked up at the sound of her name and swallowed, wiping at her tears and then putting her head back down, her thick, brown curls falling across the tops of her knees.

Draco was taken aback; for the first time ever, she had no snappy comeback, no cutting remark and no defensive comment.

And it was bloody annoying.

"Hasn't anyone ever taught you it's polite to speak when spoken to?"

"Oh," she muttered flatly, lifting her head once more. "You're still here."

"Aren't you going to answer me?" he asked with growing irritation, like a spoiled, little boy.


She began to lay her head back down, but Draco found himself grabbing her elbow.

"What are you doing here?" he repeated the question.

"I'm sitting."

"You can't just sit in the middle of the hallway!"

"I'm not in the middle, I'm on the side. And I want to be alone."

"You can't be alone here! There are plenty of places to be alone, Granger. There's the Forbidden Forest, loads of disused classrooms near the Divination wing, the owlery on a Sunday night, the dungeons. Well, I suppose the Bloody Baron haunts the dungeons, but only on Wednesdays, Thursdays and every third Monday. Today's Friday. So why here?"

She jumped up, pulling out her wand and pointing it directly at his heart. In spite of her obvious rage, her wand was deathly still, aimed for maximum damage.

"Who cares why I'm here? I am so sick of you! Stop following me around! Stop being such a nosy little ferret, Malfoy! Leave me alone!"

She advanced, her wand unwavering and her eyes glittering with murderous intent.

"Or I'll hex you within an inch of your worthless life."

"I'm beginning to sense a pattern, Granger. It seems to me you like waving that wand in my face way too much."

She was not amused.

"You deserve it! You can't just walk around this stupid school telling people where they can and can't go!"

Boy and girl stared at one another for one moment of complete silence, and then he moved to the windowsill, hopping up effortlessly and staring at her silently.

Hermione had expected a confrontation. Perhaps even a duel, which she had been quite confident she would win. She had expected a snide comment, another insult about her hair, her jumper, or her shoes. She had been prepared for derision and ridicule but instead, Malfoy simply sat on the windowsill watching her.

And this she wasn't expecting.

Wand faltering for a moment, Hermione felt herself growing weak, a breath she didn't even know she had been holding escaping her with one rushed exhalation.

Eying him suspiciously, she spoke.

"What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to be alone, so I was taking a stroll. That was, until I nearly tripped over you sitting in the middle of the hallway."

Hermione turned bright red with annoyance.

"I already told you I am not in the middle of the hallway!" she shrieked impatiently. "And if you want to be alone, what are you doing talking to me?"

She watched as he offered the tiniest of shrugs.

"It should be quite clear. I'm telling you not to sit in the middle of the hallway."

Fed up, Hermione raised her wand at him again, causing Draco to smirk.

"You really should do something about that twitchy wand hand of yours."

"Either tell me what you want or go away, Malfoy!"

His gaze was steady, and somehow, Hermione found it impossible to look away.

"Was it Weasley who made you cry?" he asked changing the subject abruptly.

Her silence was the answer Draco sought. Sighing, he looked away from her all his earlier amusement gone.

"Sometimes it's just easier, you know? To tell them how you feel even if you aren't sure that they feel the same way. You do it quickly, like pulling off a plaster. And then it hurts only for a little while."

Hermione's brow furrowed at his quiet tone, his words, everything. Once more her wand wavered, and finally she lowered it.

"To be hurt, someone has to have feelings in the first place. Last time I checked you didn't have any."

He sneered at her, shaking his head.

"Has anyone ever told you how incredibly annoying you are, Granger? You have quite the penchant for nastiness."

Hermione offered a soft snort as she put away her wand, taking a step towards him.

"It takes one to know one, I suppose."

He shifted, the movement almost unnoticeable, to make room for her. And Hermione sat, tucking her hands under her thighs and Draco found himself studying her profile as he spoke.

"Do you have a comeback for everything?"

She didn't look at him.

"Not always. But you make it too easy."

After that, they were silent for a few comfortable moments.

"At least you told him, Granger."

"Is that supposed to make me feel better, Malfoy?"


"That's good, because right now I feel downright rotten."

"But now you can move on. It's over and you don't have to dwell on it. Who wants to be pathetic, especially over someone like Weasley?"

Hermione glanced at him for a moment, frowning. For the life of her, she couldn't figure out this boy next to her; he was an enigma, and the simplest thing would be to call him a spoiled prat and dismiss him.

But, it wasn't that simple.

"Did you come up with that one on your own, Malfoy, or did someone tell you that when Daphne left you for Zabini?"

In another moment of unpredictability, the blond Slytherin remained silent. Hermione sighed in frustration.

"Look, you can't possibly tell me it felt good when Daphne moved on with someone else."

As she turned to look at him she felt a flicker of triumph, for his face took on a pinched expression, as if he had eaten something unpalatable.

"You're really starting to try my patience."

"Too bad," replied Hermione dismissively. "You're the one that followed me here, not the other way around."

Irritated boy glared at attitudinal girl for a few moments, and then let out an exasperated sigh.

"It didn't feel good when it was happening, Granger. But trust me, you get over it."

He shrugged, and gave her a once-over.

"And one day, you'll meet a boy who's going to appreciate your bushy hair, ugly jumpers and that rapier wit."

As his words died away, he took a moment to glance at her and suddenly Draco realized he wasn't afraid to admit that he could be that boy.

"And I'll be as happy as you and Pansy," snapped Hermione, feeling a spike of irritation at the thought of Pansy Parkinson. Draco snorted.

"I'd rather shag Sprout in a bathtub full of bubotuber pus."

"Sounds romantic," she snickered.

"You don't know the half of it, Granger."

"Pansy still after you, I see?"

"Like a niffler on a galleon."

She held back a bout of giggles, in spite of her crappy day and the disappointment over Ron. And the most surprising thing was that she was sitting with Malfoy – the same Malfoy whom she had thought she hated, and yet, didn't hate as much as she had originally thought. He might have been a first-class git, but he was intelligent and funny. And maybe he was conceited and a bit standoffish, but no one was perfect. It seemed to Hermione that Draco took the time to carefully feel out the people around him – as if he was uncertain about how they would respond to him, or of what they would say.

She had to admit that it did make him a bit snobbish, but then again, that would mean she was guilty of the same. And at least he noticed her, unlike Ron. And that was the strangest thing of all, but she wasn't going to question it, at least not right now.

With a small smirk, Hermione spoke.

"Speaking of Pansy, I might be able to help you out, after all. You were being such an arse the other day I almost decided not to tell you, but I talked to Luna about your…little problem."

"What little problem?" he exclaimed with alarm.

"You know... the apple, the peel and the Divination rubbish?"

"Sounds like the title of some horrible Muggle book."

This time, Hermione did laugh and then told him what Luna had shared with her at the pitch the day before.

"So really all you have to do is make sure you charm whatever mirror she'll be using. You can make her see whomever you want her to. I suggest Dexter Flume - I think Pansy might like being the future owner of Honeydukes."

"Second only to Millie Bullstrode," he replied cheekily. Hermione groaned.

"You're terrible."

"I can't apologize, Granger. Being a loathsome prat is part of my manly essence."

"That isn't exactly a positive thing, Malfoy."

"Who says?"

She gave up, shaking her head, but not looking at all put-off, which Draco decided was a very good thing. As he stood to go, he realized he was reluctant to do so. It had been awhile since he had felt what he was feeling now.

He looked up and down the hallway, suddenly awkward.

"So, I'm thoroughly tired of you, Granger. I think I'm going to go."

His tone was dry, and Hermione raised an eyebrow.

"Don't let me stop you, Malfoy. After all, you have your pristine reputation to uphold," she replied sarcastically.

He gave her a snide look.

"That's right, and don't you forget it."

He had hoped that the sniping between them would alleviate whatever awkwardness he was feeling but he felt it once more after his words died away in the empty corridor.

Hermione glanced at him feeling suddenly shy and then averted her gaze, clearing her throat. He was too close, and she felt…well, whatever it was she felt wasn't something she usually felt around him, and she wasn't ready to analyze it at all.

"So, are you leaving?" she asked, looking anywhere but at him.


Hermione looked at him, feeling a bit startled at the fact that he had stepped close enough to make her heartbeat strangely inside of her. When he spoke, his words were the last ones she ever expected to hear.

"You're really something, you know? I hate to see you wasted on a prat like Weasley."

As he searched her face, he saw a bit of color rising up on her cheeks, and something uncertain flickering in the depths of her eyes, making Draco wonder how he could have missed how brilliant they were.

The stillness only lasted a brief second, as Hermione jumped up, her eyes narrowing. She put her hands on her hips and Draco was glad that she hadn't gone for her blasted wand again.

"So next you'll be telling me exactly who I should be wasted on, is that it? I don't appreciate the insinuation that I'm some kind of object to be passed around to the highest bidder, Malfoy! I'll bet you think you're so much better than Ron, don't you? You think maybe I should waste myself on you?"

The words escaped her before she could stop them and Hermione couldn't deny the sudden thrill that rushed through her at the thought. Draco felt a shiver run down his back at the fact that the girl standing in front of him looked angry enough to bite.

Unfortunately, she was standing close enough to do just that and he decided right then that he didn't want to be bitten or yelled at. So he did the first thing that came to his mind – he grabbed her chin, forced her face up towards his and pressed his lips against hers.

Hermione initially kissed him back, wondering if all boys' mouths felt so soft, and how on earth he knew exactly how to fit his lips so perfectly against her own. And then she realized who it was she was kissing.

"Malfoy!" she screeched.

Draco ducked as she pulled out her wand and hit him with it.

"Ouch! Granger, was that really necessary?" he asked, rubbing his shoulder with a wounded expression.

She lifted her chin haughtily.

"Of course it was! You don't just get to kiss me! That's what happens when you do things without asking!"

"I was only-"

"You were only nothing, Malfoy! Go!"

"Fine, I guess I won't be seeing you around, then."

His expression was reminiscent of that of a little boy who hasn't got his own way.

"That's right, you won't."

"And just for the record, you suck at kissing!" he lied.

"I don't bloody care what you think about me or my kissing!"

He felt his face grow hot.

"You and the Weasel deserve each other!"

As he hurried away from her, Hermione fought to keep her erratic heartbeat under control. Her fingers came up to her lips, as she marveled at what had just happened. Had he just kissed her? Why had he kissed her?

Did I like it?

No, no of course not.

Hermione touched her fingers against her lips once more, turning around to gaze in the direction Malfoy had gone.


Her heart hammered weirdly within her.

Oh, hell. Of course I did.

Confused and bewildered, Hermione rushed down the hallway in the opposite direction.

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