Luna handed Hermione a small pendant as they sat together at the Ravenclaw table an hour later. They had just finished their lunches and Luna, waiting with expectation, watched Hermione who was having trouble focusing on what was going on around her.
Why did he kiss me? What did it mean? Maybe it didn't mean anything; maybe he just kisses everyone-
Luna interrupted Hermione's derailing train of thought.
"I know you said you didn't want it, but I thought I'd give it to you anyway. It's the moonstone I was telling you about the other day. I really think you ought to wear it. It'll bring you a sense of calm."
Under normal circumstances, Hermione would have fought Luna on her insistence, but something had changed in the hallway by Myrtle's bathroom. She stood, unmoving, as Luna tied the blue ribbon securely around Hermione's neck and then admired the pendant for a moment.
Maybe he thought I'd be just like those girls who want him – ripe for the taking, and…and easy. How humiliating!
Luna either didn't notice Hermione's inner turmoil, or she found no reason to mention it, instead, patting the pendant with admiration.
"It's quite beautiful, and it goes with your hair," she declared happily.
Hermione smiled, a bit distractedly.
It didn't feel like he was trying to trick me. It felt nice, really.
Then she gazed at her dreamy-eyed friend.
"Luna, are you and your friends still doing the apple thing tonight?" she found herself asking, against her better judgment.
"Oh, yes! Would you like to join us? We're meeting near the library right before midnight!"
What am I thinking? I'm not one of them, and I'm not really going to buy into this, am I?
But there was something thrilling about the idea that maybe…just maybe that apple peel would surprise her. And that maybe there was such a thing as fate, and that Luna was right; life was surprising sometimes.
Besides, no one is going to think I'm strange. They're all just as bad!
Smirking to herself, Hermione reached for a shiny, green apple, holding the fruit in the palm of her hand thoughtfully.
"I can't believe I'm really considering this," she murmured, hear heart skipping a beat as she tried not to think of Malfoy. It would do no good, and Hermione didn't want to get her hopes up. Not that she had them up, not really. Not when Divination made no sense! But then again-
"It'll be fun," she assured her, and then bit her lip. "I know you're not comfortable with the others. Why don't I meet you here, right before midnight?"
Hermione offered Luna a grateful smile.
"That would be brilliant."
"Perfect, then," said Luna with an answering smile. "And hold onto that apple. You never know, Hermione."
With that, Hermione bid her friend good-bye, and then sat the apple on the table, staring at it with a grin on her face.
Draco stared at his lunch with contempt, trying not to look around. What had happened with Granger had been unacceptable!
How am I going to convince her of my utter hatred when I've gone and bloody kissed her? What now? What if someone finds out?
He stabbed at his jacket potato hatefully, and a few of his housemates gave him strange, startled looks. He was glad no one attempted to make conversation with him and even gladder that Pansy had not shown up for lunch.
I shouldn't have bothered with lunch. I should have skipped this, and hidden out in the dungeons until afternoon lessons.
But Draco knew either way, he wasn't going to be able to stop thinking about the way Granger's mouth felt against his, and the almost inaudible sigh that had escaped her when their lips had touched.
I bloody kissed her? Merlin's right arsecheek, what's wrong with me?
Finally, he shoved his plate away in frustration. He knew what was wrong; the certainty washed over him, and Draco found that he loathed himself and his stupid feelings.
Standing, he glanced around the Great Hall but didn't see her. Without another thought, Draco left the Slytherin table, ignoring those he had left behind and the whispers that were bound to begin. He had a girl to find, after all.
It's easier to tell someone your feelings, even if you don't know if they feel the same way and I'm going to just do it. What's the worst that can happen?
Long after all the food was gone, and the decorations were mostly down, Hermione crept into the empty Great Hall, still dimly lit by gleaming candles, which flickered from within the bright, orange pumpkins that had been set around the perimeter of all the tables. Here and there an enchanted orange streamer floated across the high, wide ceiling. The faint smell of roast chicken and treacle tart lingered in the air.
Hermione thought it had been a splendid feast indeed; the only disappointment was that she had missed out on the sweet filled pumpkins, as she was quite fond of treacle fudge and chocoballs, but had been in the middle of her first helping of pudding and hadn't been able to snag a piece before all of it was gone. Everyone had come down to eat their supper together, and the room had been filled with laughter and anticipation of the coming weekend. Hagrid's hollowed out pumpkins had lit the room merrily and even the house ghosts had come to join the festivities. Underlying all of that, there was a buzz of anxiousness amongst the many females in the room. It was quite unspoken, but still very much there. Hermione's initial reaction when she had sat down at her table for supper with her friends was to laugh and roll her eyes at their silly little notions, but that night she found she couldn't.
She walked into the massive hall, holding a small knife, a hand mirror and her little, green apple. On that Samhain night, Hermione was going to be just like all the other girls at Hogwarts.
This is humiliating, Hermione Granger! Shame on you!
She smirked down at the fruit in her hand, taking a huge breath. Or, maybe not. It might have been silly and held no validity, but Hermione had learned something from Luna and Draco in the last few days. It was time to move on. She knew that this was one miniscule way to do that, even if it meant nothing in the long run.
She waited, hopping up on the edge of one of the long, wooden tables, and taking a huge breath. Midnight was fast approaching and each time she heard a thump or shuffle, she turned her head towards the large, oak doors on the other side of the room. It was nearly time, and as the hour approached, Hermione set the knife and apple down on the table, eyeing herself in the hand mirror.
With a look of contemplation, she studied the girl who was reflected there.
Malfoy's right, I think. I'm too good to waste my time on Ron Weasley. Tonight marks the dying year, and tomorrow everything starts anew. Sometimes things don't work out the way they're supposed to and it hurts, but only for a little while and only if you let it.
She tried a smile.
Ron's loss, I'll wager.
Beyond the Great Hall, the clocks began to chime the witching hour, and Hermione turned around, wondering where Luna had gotten to. She waited for a few seconds, and then sighed, picking up the paring knife.
"I'd best start then," she muttered to herself, still feeling mighty silly. In the dim lights of the flickering candles, she began to peel the small apple, careful not to break the train. Round and round she went, holding on to the damp fleshy fruit until most of the peel had been removed. Taking a breath, she set the peel aside.
Slowly, her heart beating strangely within her, Hermione cut the apple into nine pieces, and picked up the first, putting it to her mouth, feeling suddenly happy with herself.
I am Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of my age. I have single-handedly debunked the myth of pureblood supremacy. Silly, little, Muggle-born me!
Then, came the second piece.
My eyes are rather pretty, really. And I don't care what anyone says – no one has got hair like mine, and I love it.
She ate the third, chewing thoughtfully and then her lips turned up in a tiny smile.
I'm funny, too.
Her smile widened as she picked up the fifth piece.
I've got the best friends a girl can ask for.
With a little confident smirk, Hermione ate her sixth apple piece.
Viktor Krum, Bulgaria's favorite Seeker, asked me to the Yule Ball. So there.
Her smile twitched impishly as she thought of what had happened earlier that afternoon – again. She couldn't help but grin at her reflection, popping the seventh piece into her mouth.
The Slytherin Prince kissed me. He actually kissed me, and it wasn't just a kiss on the cheek. It was an honest to goodness real kiss…
Beyond the Great Hall, the clocks continued to chime the hour, and Hermione picked up the eighth piece and ate it quickly.
I might fancy you now, Ron Weasley. But someday I won't and you're going to wish I did.
With that thought in mind she picked up the last piece of her apple and took a huge breath.
Here goes nothing. I still can't believe I'm doing this!
In complete silence, Hermione tossed the apple over her shoulder just as Luna had instructed, and with trepidation, gazed into the mirror. For a moment there was nothing but the flickering yellow light dancing along the walls of the Hall and then her heart stopped as she saw a flash of white-blond hair.
She blinked, and there he was. Her heart stopped beating.
"Well, tie me to a tree and call me a bowtruckle," she whispered in shock.
Has Luna been right this whole time? Is there really a bit more to Trelawney's codswallop?
She could see him now, wearing his signature smirk, and the image seemed so real, as if he were really there-
"Quite the sentiment, Granger. I thought you would have gotten sick of all those wretched forest critters by now."
She whirled around at the sound of his voice, dropping the mirror in her surprise. It shattered against the ground into hundreds of tiny, sharp pieces.
He was standing mere feet from her, his head cocked and his blond hair shimmering under the strange candlelight. His self-satisfied smirk widened into a smile and Hermione realized suddenly that she was actually disappointed. She looked wordlessly at the shattered mirror realizing that midnight had come and gone and she had seen no-one.
The worst part was that for a moment, when she had glimpsed that flash of blond hair, she had been happy.
Her eyes narrowed, and her cheeks began to burn from the embarrassment of being caught doing…what she had been doing. That and being angry was as good a cover up as any to hide her disappointment.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, trying to make it so her voice wasn't so bloody squeaky.
Malfoy smirked, taking a step closer, the glass from the broken mirror crunching under one of his shoes.
"Clearly interrupting something you didn't want me to see."
He grinned as that same glorious red color spread across her cheeks. He tried to side-step her, but she was much too quick.
"Come on, Granger. What do you have here?" he asked with a smirk. "Is that an apple peel I see? And this from Hermione Granger who is supposed to be above all this? Now what did you call this sort of thing? Rubbish, if I remember correctly?"
Blushing furiously, Hermione pushed him back just as he tried to reach and grab the apple peel from the table.
"You're the most insufferable boy I have ever met!"
His eyes glimmered with annoyance.
"That's too bad, isn't it? I suppose only the Weasel is good enough for the resident Gryffindor Princess, is that it?"
"I never said that!" she exclaimed hotly, a blush coloring her cheeks. "This has nothing to do with Ron and everything to do with you! You're incredibly frustrating! Why can't you just leave well enough alone, Malfoy? What's wrong with you?"
She turned angrily and stooped, using her wand to repair the shattered mirror while blinking back tears of suppressed annoyance. Behind her, she heard his quiet chuckle.
"I can't help it, Granger. There's just something about you…I don't know what it is, actually. Could be that Hagrid's been giving you hair-styling tips, or maybe it's that jumper-"
He was suddenly interrupted as she drew her wand, pointing it directly at his heart.
"If you hate me, my hair and my jumpers so much, what are you doing here? And why did you kiss me?"
Hermione was shocked at her own question, but nevertheless, she could no longer take back the words. It frightened her how hard her heart was hammering and how much she needed an answer.
Draco nearly laughed at the intense look on her face and the adorable way she turned up her nose at him and then promptly berated himself for even thinking that she was adorable. Even though she was.
"What can I say, Granger? It was rather foul, wasn't it? We all have our slip-ups now and again."
She watched a cruel smile spread slowly across his face and exploded.
"I hate you! I hate everything about you!" she shrieked, shame fueling her anger, because the thing she hated the most was that she had actually sort of liked him. And she had hoped he'd feel the same way. Was this how it would always be? One boy after another rejecting her? At least Malfoy hadn't known how she felt, and Hermione allowed herself that small consolation.
Moving quickly, Hermione gathered her things, tucking them into her robes and then glared at him with unbridled fury.
"I won't waste another moment talking to you!"
She whirled on him without hesitation, feeling the anger build with each footstep that carried her away from him. She was furious with him, certainly, but Hermione couldn't quite shake the feeling that it was not just about Malfoy. She was also furious with herself for entertaining the thought that he might have cared about her. Even if it was just a little.
He's a worthless git, and I'm a silly, stupid girl.
She stopped, because something about the way he called out her name was…almost pleading.
"So I'm a first class prat! But in case you haven't noticed, I'm here. On Samhain night. And Weasley's not."
Draco found it strange how he couldn't quite say what he wanted to say. Hermione stopped, brow furrowing and heart hammering. When she turned, she found that Malfoy had followed her, a strange glint in his eyes. Struggling to stay calm, she offered a derisive snort.
"Yes, you're here. Don't think I haven't noticed that you've made it some sort of personal mission of yours lately to drive me insane! I don't understand it, but I do know that this has nothing to do with Ron! I'm done with this. Leave me alone."
She hesitated and she saw that his face no longer looked derisive and in fact, he looked strangely…vulnerable.
"Look, Granger, I didn't come here tonight to fight."
Hermione offered a harsh laugh.
"You could have fooled me, Malfoy."
He shook his head, scowling.
"It's the truth! Can I help it if you're completely thick?"
"I am not thick!"
Her shrill retort caused Draco to raise an eyebrow.
"Look, I'll make this simple so your pea-brain can handle it."
Hermione's mouth fell open.
"I can't believe I'm standing her wasting my time!"
She was moving again quickly, and she had just reached the oak doors when his next words stopped her cold.
"I like you, Granger!"
Hermione turned to stare at Draco in shock, completely speechless for the first time in a long while. And he looked rather irritated.
"I like you in that really infuriating way that makes me want to give you my last chocoball…and argue with you all night long because it means I'll get to talk to you…and help you tutor Goyle in the library because I'll get to see you…like you so much I loathe you, like you."
He paused as if uncertain about his next words, and Hermione found that her heart had started to pound shallowly within her as she stared at his equally pained and hopeful expression.
"I'm aware that it doesn't make sense. And I know that you like Ron Weasley," he added, making 'Weasley' sound like 'dragon dung.' After a hesitant pause, he continued.
"But none of that changes the fact that I think about you all the time and when all this apple and Samhain rubbish is finished, I'm still going to like you."
He smirked, feeling like he was flying. He wondered if she'd be there to break the fall when it finally came. Hermione stared at him and frantically searched for a foothold, something that made sense so she could grab onto it and steady herself, but found nothing. Was this really happening or was it a hallucination caused by whatever Divination rubbish she had bought into?
Well, even if it was a hallucination, she decided, it could have been worse.
"You like me?" she asked, a dumbfounded expression on her face.
"Right. I just said that, Granger," he replied impatiently.
Boy and girl eyed the other suspiciously.
"What's that mean?" Hermione asked slowly
"What do you think it means, Granger?" he asked. "Did that apple you just consumed eat away at your brain?"
Hermione whirled around, her mouth going dry and her hammering so wildly inside of her that it made her fingers tremble. When Draco realized she was walking away again,he grabbed her hand and took a deep breath.
"It means that I came down her tonight because I wanted to follow my own advice. It is easier to tell someone how you feel even if you don't know if they feel the same way. It means that even though I find you and your unholy thirst for knowledge insufferable, it's simply because I'm not used to knowing someone who is intelligent or someone who I can go toe to toe with. It also means that the reason I make fun of you is because I'm an uncreative sort who can't think of a better way to get your attention."
He took a step closer.
"It means that your collection of jumpers is horrific but at the same time I can't seem to take my eyes off you. I think you look funny when you laugh, but I find myself hoping you'll laugh anyway because I love the sound."
He took a breath and linked their fingers together.
"And finally, even though I've tried to convince myself that I don't want you and you're worthless because you're a Muggle-born Gryffindor, the truth is that I can't think of any girl in the whole world that I like more."
His lip twitched as he fell into a nervous silence. Hermione stared, her mouth dropping open just slightly.
"So I was hoping you'd agree to come to Hogsmeade with me next weekend."
"Is this…a date?"
"No, it's a Death Eater raid, Granger."
She gazed at him incredulously and he shook his head, unable to do anything else but chuckle.
"Of course, a date."
"Is that what you want?" she asked uncertainly.
"No less than when I asked you five seconds ago."
"Is a date really necessary?"
"No, it's not. We don't need Madam sodding Puddifoot's and a Butterbeer to spend all night arguing with each other. I just thought you might be more tolerable with a face full of treacle tart."
"That snarky mouth of yours will be your downfall, Malfoy."
Her raised an eyebrow with anticipation.
"So, does that mean you don't want to date me?"
"What's in it for me?"
"I'll pay for your sweets."
"Not exactly tempting."
"Hell, I'll go all out. I'll pay for your Butterbeer too."
Hermione smirked, and he took a step closer.
"You'll have to do better than that."
"I'll let you kiss me whenever you want."
His smile could have brightened the darkest night, she realized. She felt herself shiver as his fingers brushed against her face with a gentleness she had never dreamed Draco Malfoy could ever possess. As he looked at her closely, Hermione felt her heart fluttering for the briefest of moments, and it was one of the most wonderful things she had ever felt.
"You think yourself such a catch, don't you, Malfoy? I'll have you know that-"
"Granger?" he interrupted.
She was breathlessly annoyed.
Without waiting for her to reply, Draco leaned down to close the candle-lit distance between them sealing their unspoken decision with a gentle kiss. When they pulled apart, she looked slightly dazed and the best part for Draco was the fact that she didn't need words to convey that she felt just as he did which was good, really, because he was just about fed up with her talking anyway.
"See?" he said with a smirk. "It's so much better when you don't talk, Granger."
He smiled in anticipation of the glorious pink color that flushed her cheeks.
"I'll have you know that just because you don't happen to like when I talk doesn't mean that I-"
He put his hand over her lips and she got a whiff of spicy sweetness.
"But you're wrong, I adore it. It's just that right now I can think of better things for you to do with that amazing mouth of yours."
"Any guesses, Granger?"
She stared at him and he thought she was a beautiful, blustering mess.
"I can't believe you!"
"Bloody hell. Just kiss me again."
Her giggle was muffled by his lips.
Neville peered through the crack in the oak doors leading towards the Great Hall.
"But that's Draco Malfoy!" he hissed.
Behind him, Luna was admiring the tiny, green and red bottle caps that she had acquired only a few moments before, her blue-gray eyes glittering in the near darkness.
"You say that as if it's something terrible, Neville. Look at them. I don't think it's terrible at all," she decided with a little smile. "I think we need to stop all this prejudice against Slytherin House. They're probably just all misunderstood."
Lifting up one of the bottle caps, Luna admired it against the candle light in the corridor outside of the Great Hall. Neville looked perplexed.
"I thought you were meeting her here to do the apple thing, yeah?"
Luna shrugged with a little smile.
"I was. But then I ran into Draco right there," she said pointing to the stone stairway in the distance. "I think he was waiting for me."
She gave him a knowing look.
"He asked me if I would trade places and then gave me these!"
She opened the palms to show Neville the two bottle caps as if they were the rarest kind of treasure.
"And you allowed him to go in there and torture Hermione? For two silly bottle caps?"
Luna looked defensive.
"I wouldn't consider it torture, Neville," she replied with gentle reproach. "After all, it looks like she's enjoying it. Besides, I can feel her aura…it's pink."
Luna sighed, running her fingers along the bottle caps again.
"Pink, Neville. It means she's happy, and it represents love and romance."
Neville shook his head.
"You're barmy! And you sold out one of your best friends for bottle caps!"
"They're not just any bottle caps," she corrected happily. "They're limited edition holiday butterbeer caps, and they're really hard to find. I'm going to make them into Christmas earrings."
Her revelation was accented with a huge smile and Neville shook his head.
"He can't be all bad, Neville," Luna preached gently. "No real bad wizard collects butterbeer caps."
"I'll bet Voldemort does."
"He does not," she replied quickly. "We'd know all about it, wouldn't we? That's a strange hobby."
Without another word, a very confused Neville turned to walk away from the doors of the Great Hall, and Luna dashed after him, clutching her newfound, precious bottle caps.
"Wait, I thought we were going to the lake!"
Soon, the hallway was empty.
Hermione and Draco walked through the empty, dark castle wordlessly. The moment between them was tense with anticipation and uncertainty. Hermione would glance at Draco when he wasn't looking, and every once in a while, he would sneak a peek at her when she turned her head.
At first, their hands swung next to one another, and then after a few missed tries, Draco finally managed to secure his fingers in hers, squeezing her hand experimentally. Her smile was the permission he needed, and boy and girl walked contentedly along deserted, winding corridors hand in hand.
Hermione realized suddenly that she had forgotten about Luna.
"I was supposed to meet Luna!"
"Don't worry about it, Granger. She sold you out anyway."
"What are you talking about?"
"I convinced her that I needed to see you more than she did."
Hermione stopped walking and glared at him.
"What did you do to her?"
"Nothing at all. I know what the ladies like."
"Come off it."
"Fine. I gave her my limited holiday edition butterbeer caps. Most likely she's going to destroy them to make a pair of those hideous earrings."
He dropped his gaze, a smile touching his lips at the sight of their joined hands.
"It was worth it though. The trade meant I got you."
Hermione stared at him with a mixture of incredulousness and amusement, her cheeks flushing at his compliment.
"I can't believe she traded me for a pair of bottle caps!"
"That and I threatened her with a canary transfiguration hex."
Hermione gave him a strange look and he shrugged.
"What can I say, Granger? She hates birds."
She shook her head and as Draco's gaze moved back down to their hands he saw it.
"Hey, you're still holding that apple peel!"
Hermione frowned. In the crazy events of the evening, she had forgotten that she was still holding it.
There was a silence.
"Well, aren't you going to do your thing?"
"It's after midnight, Malfoy."
"Just do it," he urged, curious in spite of himself. Hell, he had been acting stupidly all evening, so what did it matter?
Hermione hesitated, staring down at the browning, soggy peel in her hands. For a moment she debated it, and then shook her head.
"Forget it," she replied. "It's rubbish anyway."
Draco pulled on her hand.
"You're right. It's completely worthless."
They stared to walk again, turning another, random corner and Hermione tossed the peel over her shoulder without thinking. They took two steps and both stopped, glancing at one another.
"Oh, bugger, what's it matter?" Hermione snapped and they quickly turned around to glance down at the fallen apple peel. It lay discarded and sad looking, in a small, brown heap. Hermione could detect no letter whatsoever.
"There," she said with a bit of resignation. "Proof that Divination is a waste of time. At least we know it now."
She turned back in the direction they had been going.
"Come on," she said and took a few steps forward. Draco, however, smirked and pulled out his wand, muttering an incantation under his breath.
"Malfoy, what are you-"
She turned around to see him standing there, the apple peel at his feet in the perfect shape of a 'D'.
"There," he said. "'D' is for Draco."
"'D' is also for Dexter Flume. Maybe I will be the future Mrs. Honeydukes!"
Glaring at her, Draco would not be outdone. He waved his wand and the 'D' shifted and changed, floating magically and lengthening until the letter became 'Malfoy'.
"Hmm…maybe it's not Dexter after all?"
"And maybe you cheated!"
Draco crossed the distance between them, the apple peel forgotten.
"I think maybe you like it," he whispered, and her eyes lit up in the semi-darkness, a smile on her lips.
"Probably a bit too much," she sighed in happily. Draco smiled down at her.
"You better get used to it then," he informed her. "Apple divination never lies, Granger."
Her laughter was once again muffled by his kiss.
"Soul mates. It's extremely rare, but it exists. It's sort of like twin souls tuned into each other." - What Dreams May Come
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