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Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart and the senses. - Lao Tzu

She was quite nice. Well, perhaps not nice, Draco decided. She was…tolerable. That was better.

She was chatty too – much too bleeding chatty – but it was just another thing he'd have to tolerate.

She was pretty, he'd give her that. Pretty in a not-so subtle way, really. This was just how Draco liked it…lately. He wanted someone not-so subtle because he didn't want to be bowled over again, taken by surprise, made to feel when it wasn't his choice. He hated sneaky women – end of story.

His date flipped her hair and for a moment Draco was distracted. She had perfect hair. She grinned and sipped her tea as she began to chat away once more.

Draco decided he hated the fact that she was chatty.

"Draco, are you listening?"

He blinked.

What the bloody hell was she just talking about?

Unfortunately, Draco was drawing a big, fat blank.

"Of course."

He used the Malfoy tone; no one ever argued with it, especially not some half-witted witch named Sabine. Or was it Selene? Anyway, it was something pretty close to that. She was lucky he was even talking to her – hell – she was blessed to be spending the afternoon at Madame Puddifoot's with him. It would do wonders for her nonexistent social life because she was only a fourth-year and one of the most unpopular girls in Slytherin House and he was in his last year at Hogwarts and…well, she should have been counting her lucky stars, was all.

So why am I on a date with her?

Draco knew the simple if not pathetic answer to that.

She was a brunette. And Draco liked brunettes. Especially curly-haired ones – bushy-haired, actually – but any brunette would do. The bushy-haired ones were annoying, anyway. Frightfully insufferable. He was better off dating brunettes who were a bit dim and whose hair wasn't scented with cherry blossoms of early spring.

The one that happened to be sitting opposite of him at a rickety table by the window of Madame Puddifoot's didn't have…well, she wasn't quite right.

Sabine or Selene was talking again – she talked about useless things. Or, well, maybe they just all seemed so sodding useless to Draco. She was twisting one end of her hair around an index finger.

She was annoying that was certain but at least she was brunette.

Draco reminded himself once again that he liked brunettes. He always had. At least that's what he had been telling himself because any other explanation seemed highly illogical.

He couldn't recall the name of his first brunette. All he remembered now was that he had been young and the center of attention from all the adults at a Ministry gala to support St. Mungo's Hospital. She had been wearing a bright blue dress and her hair had been the color of dark coffee. He had been seven and they had held hands.

He had been a popular boy, no doubt, as all Malfoys tended to be. As he grew older there had been other brunettes – caramel, coffee, chestnut…looking back, he'd had a thing for brown hair, even as a young boy.

Then, Pansy Parkinson had come along. She had been the embodiment of everything Draco had wanted. She was pureblood, and her father had been one of his father's closest companions. She walked, talked and acted like a girl of breeding and of course, there had been that glorious dark-brown hair flowing down her back. Pansy had seemed perfect, and at twelve and just starting Hogwarts, Draco had believed he deserved perfect.

After all, he wasn't a Malfoy for nothing, was he?

But Pansy had come to school from a trip abroad, her heart and mind overwhelmed with Blaise Zabini and Blaise hadn't seemed indifferent. Draco had never been the kind of boy to compete for a girl's affections but even so, he went head to head with Zabini with fervor unknown to him until the realization that he was fighting for Pansy's attentions with more passion than he felt for her.

Why? It was an impossible thing to admit but it had mostly to do with another brunette. She was a girl Draco never should have noticed and yet he had. She was the girl that had somehow snuck up on him.

Hermione Granger.

Granger had been his second brunette at Hogwarts. Well, if one wanted to be technical, she had been his first - there had been that awful run-in with her in the corridors outside of the Great Hall after the welcoming feast their first year. That was the same night that stupid Potter had decided that being friends with a poor, Muggle-loving wizard like Weasley was better than being friends with a Malfoy. Stupid, he was. All of them, in fact, including Granger. She was the worst of the lot – ugly, bushy-haired Mudblood. Well, maybe not ugly, per se. Annoying – yes, that had been it. Granger had been annoying and easily hate-worthy upon sight.

Draco hadn't really thought about it then but now he wondered why, if he had hated her upon sight, he hadn't been able to forget that wild head of brown hair or the cherry vanilla scent that clung to her.

He had decided it was because she was brunette. And she had the most perfect hair of all – bright and brown, beyond control, shiny and soft-looking. Everyone else had said she looked like she had just coming out of a potions lesson gone wrong but Draco secretly had always found that wild, curly, cinnamon caramel hair fascinating.

Still, he had gone after perfect, pureblooded Pansy Parkinson. She had been the right choice, the choice that made sense, the one that seemed logical. But Draco had learned over his years at Hogwarts that life wasn't always meant to make sense.  At least from where he was sitting.

Granger had been the one.

Of course, as a young boy just starting wizarding school, Draco hadn't known it then. But every date he had gone on during his years at Hogwarts, every girl he had fancied, every half-hearted snog session, each shag, even pureblooded, perfect Pansy Parkinson, had only been mere snippets in the epic, yet to be written tale of Granger and Malfoy.

Draco wasn't sure when Granger had even intertwined herself with his senses.

Had it been the Potions lesson at the end of their first year? Or perhaps it had been the whole puzzle with the Devil's Snare and her determination and loyalty to her friends that had made him stop and take notice? Perhaps she had always possessed a modicum of fascination for Draco and he had simply not acknowledged it? She was the kind of girl that no one noticed until it was too late, after all. She snuck up on you without you knowing it and by the time you realized it, it was too late. Sneaky little bint.

Whatever it had been, at any rate, he had been well aware that Granger was nothing like Pansy. She wasn't trying to be the annoying perfect girl that Pansy was.

Granger was just…Granger, he supposed.

She was brilliant and obnoxious. She was caring and insufferable. And she was impossibly logical and stubborn. He had admitted grudgingly that she was pretty and besides that she had that impossibly glorious cherry vanilla scented hair.  He told himself that he hated her, but for that hair. And even if he might have fancied her just a bit, it wasn't like anyone would ever know.

Unfortunately for Draco, there had been a grave error in such thinking for Granger had turned out quite perceptive.

"I think I've hit upon it, Malfoy," she had told him one day in the library during their sixth year when he had decided to annoy her with his latest barrage if insults about her school robes and hair amongst other things while she had been making a very impressive effort in tutoring him in Magical History - a tutoring session he had arranged to spend more time with her.

Of course, no one would ever have to know that.

He had stood there waiting for her latest epiphany. There was something about the way her brown eyes sparkled when she was going toe to toe with someone.

"Hit upon what, pray tell, Granger?"

"The reason why you torment me all the time!"

"Well, that would be obvious to even Goyle and Crabbe, wouldn't it? It's because you're a disgusting Muggle-born and I loathe you."

She had watched him curiously and then offered a cheeky grin.

"No, I rather think it's because you fancy me."

"That's highly illogical, Granger. Quite disappointing since your brains were supposed to be your only redeeming quality."

She had shaken her head, and he had been mesmerized by those glorious curls and rendered speechless by the tiniest hint of cherries.

"I think it makes loads of sense," she had told him. "It's as you say. I might be a Muggle-born and seemingly beneath you but I'm still a girl. And you're still just a boy. Sometimes things just…happen, I suppose."

She had gazed up at him with unblinking toffee brown eyes, wearing that same infuriating and yet engaging grin.

"Things don't happen between you and I because I hate you," he had insisted though Draco had found himself confused and bothered by the way she made him feel.

She had only stood to gather up her books and shake her head as if sad by his deduction. Once more he had been intoxicated by her fragranced curls. He hated them; he hated her!

She had given him a look of curiosity.

"Why would you talk to me if you hated me? That's silly."

Draco hadn't had an answer to that one and so he had admitted defeat and considered that perhaps hate wasn't quite the right word, but it wasn't as if he liked her! It was just that hair.

After all, Draco was a hot-blooded male and there was no way in hell he was going to ignore a pretty brunette, no matter how horrid she was. No, he hadn't liked her. There was just something about brown hair that made the pit of his belly twist deliciously. That was all.

Except she wasn't a brunette any longer. And that dark, delicious, twisty feeling in his belly refused to go away.

McGonagall had shown them some bloody transfiguration spell that could change one's hair color. Chaos had broken out amongst the female populace of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as each girl tried to add color, highlights, sparkles and a number of things to their hair.

The blond biddy, Lavender Brown, had started it all by transfiguring her hair to sparkle in the sunshine and under the torches that provided light all through the school. Then there had been Chang and her vivid blue-streaked hair. The Weaselette had added gold highlights to her infuriating red tresses and crazy Lovegood was walking through the school, unashamed, while her hair was tinted with every color of the fucking rainbow.

Granger, however, was subtle. Just like she always had been. Her wild tresses had been alight with the tiniest hints of red – a natural, beautiful addition.

And Draco had found himself suddenly fascinated with all things red – the vivid color of Gryffindor, the bright shade of the apples in the Great Hall, and sometimes the color of cherries – the same cherries that added that scent to her hair – the scent that set his senses reeling with desire.

The worst part was that he had found himself illogically flirting with the red-headed female population at Hogwarts without even realizing it. Since the day of the St. Mungo's benefit Draco had been chasing after brown haired girls – chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, whatever…brunettes.

But Granger had changed all that….Granger and her sodding red highlights and amber hued eyes.  It hadn't mattered to him what color red – brick, burgundy, and strawberry…all of those girls would do just fine, he had supposed.

But none of them were Granger.

She was ruinous, that was all. She was like a sodding virus; he was certain that she infected people. She was like the most powerful Imperius Curse ever known to wizard kind. She had taken him over and Draco hadn't even known when.  He would never let her know that, though. He couldn't; it would ruin him, wouldn't it? Admitting that she ruled every one of his senses.

Draco gazed across the table at his date – just another girl in a line of many before her and she was talking about things he would never hear. She was a replacement – just a consolation prize, another pretty head of hair, a  ruddish brunette.  But his heart hammered and with each beat it longingly whispered one word – a word Draco refused to hear and had drowned out so many times before.

Hermione. Hermione. Hermione.

It was drummed into him – this need, this part of him that he couldn't quite complete. The longing for something he had never stood to gain.

The bell above the door tinkled, startling Draco and making him realize that Sabine (or was it Selene?) was giving him an irritated pout.

"Draco, are you listening?"

There was a couple walking across the crowded room and Draco craned his neck because his heart had skipped a beat. His heart always knew she was there before his mind did.

"Of course I am. I was just thinking about something. I can think and listen at the same time," he replied with irritation.

He looked across the room and she was looking back at him. Granger, with her glorious cherry scented, reddish-brown hair and mesmerizing chocolate colored eyes. Granger, the only one he wanted and the one that the others would never compare to.  She was off with Longbottom or Weasley now and he simply wasn't able to stand up and claim what it was he wanted and so he sat with Sabine.

  His consolation prize tossed her hair again and Draco admired the way the reddish-highlights danced under the light just as her eyes sparkled coquettishly.

He didn't notice that, however; he only noticed one thing.

Her eyes were the same color as Hermione Granger's.





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