Hermione was unsure how she was supposed to feel when she left the library that night. For every minute she thought her kindness was working, she was knocked back by Malfoy’s anger. Why was he so angry? Surely coming back to school could not be the worst option out there. She could see there was still a darkness within him though. Despite his surrender at the end of the battle last spring he still felt allegiances to people who were not on the right side of the law. How she longed to help him. She wanted nothing more than to pull him into the light with her. She knew she was in trouble. Her feelings for him were changing. It was more now than just being nice because no one else was. Now she wanted to see him as much as she could. Even if it was just an angry argument, she craved the interaction. She craved it so much it scared her.
The insults were wearing though. She’d think she’d made progress and then he’d bring up her blood. She wasn’t sure how many more angry brush offs she should accept before she abandoned her project. She knew though that if she were forced to abandon it that it was going to hurt very much. She felt so much compassion for his situation now that it would kill her if she couldn’t make a real breakthrough soon. She wondered when she’d started to care so much. She did though and that inspired her new plan.
The next time they spoke it would not be initiated be her. She had given the game her best offensive approach and now it was time to fall back on the sidelines. If he truly was capable of being changed, he would come to her. If not she’d be forced to label it a lost cause. Her heart constricted at that thought. She feared he would feel even more abandoned without her need to seek him out, but this would be a good lesson. He’d been an arse to her in the library. He needed to get the message that she would not keep trying only to be treated badly. She was much too strong to deal with that. Her plan was to be tested sooner than she thought.
The following evening Hermione went to the library as she usually did. There were only two or three students studying in their own corners when she got there. It was wonderfully quiet which was just the way she preferred it. She piled up in her usual aisle near the window and started to work on her homework. It proved more difficult than she thought it would be, but this time it was the weather causing distractions. It was storming again and the rain pounded on the window. The panes rattled every time the thunder boomed and she found herself on edge. She’d never been overly fond of storms. She’d set her books aside to watch it rain and she watched as lightening lit up the grounds. She felt someone’s presence behind her and looked over her shoulder. To her immense surprise, Malfoy was back. He sat at the end of her aisle and leaned his back up against the high bookshelf. She kept her word to herself and did not speak. She went back to watching it storm. Nearly a half hour passed before he finally broke the silence.
“Are you ignoring me?” He couldn’t resist asking.
“Of course not,” she scoffed.
“Then why haven’t you spoken to me today. You’re always bothering me with your chatter.” He said placing a shiny gold bookmark in whatever he was reading.
“That’s why, I don’t want to speak to someone who doesn’t want me too. You made it clear last night that you don’t think I’m worthy of speaking to you.” She shrugged him off and went back to the window.
“I said we can’t be friends. I didn’t say you couldn’t speak to me.” He said to her back.
“Do I need your permission to speak to you?” She asked irritated at his arrogance.
“Not anymore, I used to think people did.” He answered honestly and she relented. She turned away from the window to face him.
“And now?” She pressed.
“Now no one talks to me either way. No one but you. At least until today.” He told her. He bent his knees up and rested his elbows on them. He looked relaxed there with her.
“Why do you want a mudblood speaking to you?” She asked.
“I told you not to call yourself that,” he said coldly. She braved herself for another potential mood shift.
“I won’t if you won’t.” She countered. He was silent for a moment.
“I’ll try,” he conceded. She accepted that. It would take time to unlearn that behavior.
“Fine, did you want something specific or did you just want to have this trivial conversation?” She asked him honestly.
“You’re prickly tonight,” he commented and she sighed.
“How else am I supposed to be? I never know from minute to minute when we’re having a civilized conversation or when you’re mad at me again. I’m trying to go with the flow here, but I’m getting a little seasick.” She told him honestly and he looked mildly contrite with himself.
“You said your parents are dentists. What are they like?” He asked suddenly. He completely ignored her comments on his mood swing.
“Well,” she paused. “They’re like any parents I suppose. They’re always supportive of me and of course they worry. After last year my dad is convinced I’m going to get myself killed. My mum is just hurt I wiped their memories and sent them away.”
“I didn’t know you did that.” He looked surprised and she shrugged. “Why did you do it?”
“I was afraid Voldemort would kill them to get to me. I couldn’t go fight a war without doing everything I could to keep them safe. They’re the most important people in my life.” She watched the emotions play across his face: sadness, anger, sadness again until at last he settled back into indifference.
“That must have been hard.” He said softly.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Tears stung her eyes at the memory. “I’m just grateful to have them back. It could have gone wrong in so many ways. The memory charm is tricky. There could have been permanent damage-”
“You could’ve been killed.” He interrupted her.
“Well yes, there was always that.” She said and an awkward silence fell over them.
“They must love you very much,” he told her, breaking the silence.
“Of course they do. Don’t your parents love you?” She asked without thinking. Much to her surprise he did not get angry.
“They love me as much as they’re able. My mother loves me I think. For my father, well, I’ve always just been a pawn in his game. Now I’m a disgrace.” He seemed to waver in how to feel about this revelation.
“Sometimes, in the pursuit of power, people lose sight of the things that really matter. It’s not a reflection of those things, but rather a reflection of what kind of people they are.” She tried to comfort him with her words, but she wasn’t sure how much her words were worth to him at this stage of their non friendship.
“You think everyone is worthy of love?” He looked at her curiously.
“Of course. None of us ask to born. We’re brought here through no fault of our own. It’s our parents duty to love us. Unfortunately some of them don’t fulfill that duty.” She explained it to him the best way she knew how.
“Do you think Voldemort deserved love?” He pressed her.
“Of course not. Voldemort was evil.” His face fell at her words. “But Tom Riddle, as a child before he decided to magic away his humanity, was just as worthy of love as anyone.”
“Do you think he could have been saved?” He asked her.
“Unfortunately no, but Voldemort did more than make bad choices. Voldemort gave up his own soul for the sake of evil. He was a unique situation. You’re nothing like Voldemort.” She longed to reach out and touch him, but he was too far away and she feared moving would break the spell.
“We’re all capable of turning out that way though.” He shrugged as if he’d already accepted his destiny.
“We’re all capable of a lot of things. That doesn’t mean we’re destined for them. Even Dumbledore made some terrible mistakes,” she consoled him.
“Really?” He seemed interested in this so she told him about Rita Skeeter’s book. She told him how they’d learned that not all of it was just made up in her mind and that at one time Dumbledore had been a powerful dark wizard. She promised to loan him the book. “So you see we have the power to change our lives with just a choice.”
“You really believe in the power of good, don’t you?” He asked her incredulously.
“Yes I really do. I’ve seen it first hand. I saw Dumbledore die for all of us. I saw one of my best friends lose his brother. I saw my best friend die to save all of our lives. I watched Remus and Tonks and Moody and countless others die in the name of good. I also saw a certain blonde question his teachings and save the lives of three teenagers who were trying to save the world. And now here we sit. Voldemort is dead. No one lives in fear anymore. So I have to say with one hundred percent certainty that there is power in love and good can always persevere.” She spoke with such conviction Malfoy almost believed her. Almost. It was hard to imagine himself on that list of people who had sacrificed so much.
“And if I told you I didn’t do it for you three? If I told you I did it because I didn’t want them calling him back to the house that night, because I feared him would you still think me one of your heroes?” He refused to meet her gaze when he asked this.
He feared this would be the thing that put a stop to their tentative acquaintanceship. She thought he was redeemable because of that one gesture. At the time, the only person he’d wanted to save was himself. It didn’t matter that Potter and his friends were in danger. He just didn’t want that thing in his house again if he could help it. He was, as usual, looking out only for himself. He hadn’t helped Granger while she’d been tortured. He hadn’t offered them any help in escaping. All he had done was try and delay the inevitable.
“I would think,” she paused and he finally looked up at her out of the side of his eye. “That anyone who was not afraid of him was very foolish, and that if I thought I was protecting myself and my family that I would do the same thing in a heartbeat. I also think that maybe deep down you wanted him gone for good, and you knew that buying us some time would help us defeat him. Sometimes we don’t know the reasons for our actions in the moment. It’s only after we’ve done what we did that we have time to reflect on the why.”
His head perked up at this and she smiled softly at him. She was thrilled at the conversational breakthrough they were having. Her stomach did a small somersault as she watched him twist a stray thread between is long fingers. He’d taken off his uniform robes and was wearing a white button up shirt and slacks. His Slytherin tie hung loose around his neck and the top two buttons of his shirt were unfastened. She’d been right to think he would look lovely in something form fitting.
“You’re staring at me.” He stared plainly.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized not meaning it in the least. “I rarely see you so relaxed. It’s a new phenomenon for me to study.”
“Is that what you’re doing? Studying me?” He asked indifferently.
“It started that way. I wanted to know what you were doing here, why you’d come back. Then I saw you were so miserable, and no one was being nice to you. I figured you could use a small bit of kindness.” She shrugged nonchalantly as if it were the most normal thing in the world to study another human like a bug in a jar.
“Why did you care? I’ve never been nice to you. Who are you to give a damn about my happiness? I don’t need pity.” He was angry again.
“Because I saw a lot of bad things last year, Malfoy. I watched my friends die. I watched the entire world turn it’s back on us while we were out there trying to save it. I was tortured and beaten and nearly died myself. I told you I don’t like to see anyone suffer. It’s more than that though. Every time I see someone in pain, I feel like I’m back at your house. I feel the pain of what was done to me there, and I can’t stand it. I have seen and felt enough suffering to last ten lifetimes. If I can stop it, even in a small capacity, I feel like I’ve got to try. That’s nothing to do with pity.” She had worked herself up and her face was flushed. She’d never shared that. Not even with Harry and Ron. The fact that her torture still haunted her was her own secret until now. She wasn’t sure why she chose to share it with Malfoy of all people, but she’d never related more to someone in her life.
“I really am sorry about that. I wish I could take it back for her, for all of them actually.” He said not unkindly.
“We don’t choose our families. I’ve told you there’s nothing for you to apologize for.”
“Maybe we don’t, but we do choose how we act in certain situations. You taught me that recently,” he gave her a small smile from behind his fringe.
“Well it’s good to see that you’re learning something through these half arsed conversations we try to have,” she giggled. How absurd to be giggling with Draco Malfoy. The thought only made her giggle harder.
Malfoy looked at her as if she really had gone mad. She couldn’t stop her giggling, but her laugh was pleasant. Her nose scrunched a little and she looked quite lovely.
“Ahem,” someone else had walked up to the aisle they were sitting in. “The library is closing now. Perhaps you’d like to take your rambunctious behavior elsewhere?” Madam Pince looked down at them disapprovingly.
“Sorry Madam Pince,” Hermione quickly schooled her expression and began sticking her things back into her bag. Malfoy remained silent but collected his things.
“Do try to remember your library etiquette next time?” Madame Pince posed it as a question as she marched them from the library.
Madame Pince deposited them in the corridor outside the library. The two of them were at a bit of a loss at the change of setting. The dimly lit hallway was quite a change from the bright lights of the library.
“Well, I guess we should get back to our dormitories before it gets too late,” Hermione said awkwardly.
“I guess so,” Malfoy said feeling just as awkward.
The two of them walked silently until they reached the stairs where they needed to part ways.
“Well goodnight then,” he turned to go down the stairs.
“What?” He asked looking up at her.
“Tonight was nice,” she told him honestly.
“I don’t know if I’d say nice. It was a nice change from the Slytherin idiots. Even your company is preferential to theirs.” His mask was back in place now that they’d left their nest in the library. She sighed and turned to head upstairs to bed.
“Granger?” He stopped her this time and she turned.
“Will you be in the library tomorrow evening?” He asked her looking down at the floor beneath his feet. It cost him to ask her. He shouldn’t want to meet her again, but he couldn’t resist either.
“It’s likely,” she smiled down at him. “Goodnight.” And she turned to go up the stairs.
Hermione was in a brightly lit room laying on a bed with green silk sheets. The walls were painted a dark rich grey. Heavy black curtains were hung over the windows as well as around the large canopy bed she was laying in. She wasn’t quite sure what she was doing there, but she felt no urge to leave. She was naked beneath the sheets and the silk felt wonderful on her bare skin. She was so comfortable in the bed. She was just starting to wonder what she was doing there when the door opposite her opened. Draco Malfoy stepped into the room and her breath caught in her throat. He was dressed in an unbuttoned black dress shirt. His defined chest shone in the bright lights of the room. Her gaze trailed down his stomach to his waistline. A pair of black, tight fitting boxer briefs hung low on his pale hips. She wet her suddenly dry lips as she trailed her gaze over his underwear, marveling at the way the fabric of them stretched tight against what was beneath them. His pelvic bones were well defined and made a nice frame for what he had to offer.
She watched his as he prowled across the room. He moved with the silky grace of a black panther and she tried to slow her breathing. He climbed onto the bed and crawled up her body until he was at eye level with her.
“Malfoy, what are you doing?” She asked, her voice cracking as he hovered over her. His body was hard against her own softness and she was shaking beneath him.
“Only what you want me too,” he whispered seductively in her ear. She whimpered at the brush if hot air near her neck.
He trailed kisses down her jawline, over her neck, along her chest until he reached the edge of the sheet. Suddenly self conscious, she stopped him.
“You know you want this,” he breathed in her ear again and she sighed. Merlin his body felt good against hers. “Tell me you want it,” he whispered against her neck.
“I want it,” she whined beneath him. “I want you.” She was so breathless now she almost couldn’t speak.
He had a hungry look in his eyes as he lifted the sheets away from her body.
Hermione woke up tangled in the sheets in her own bedroom. She was sweating and the fabric was clinging to her uncomfortably. She flung her covers to the floor letting the cool air sooth her burning skin. Where had that come from? A forest rescue and a simple conversation in the library and she was having naughty dreams about Malfoy. How on earth was she going to look him in the eye again after that?
She stared at the canopy of her bed and sighed into the empty air. She’d never experienced anything like that awake or asleep. She wondered idly what was wrong with her. Clearly her subconscious mind found Malfoy attractive. Her conscious mind had noticed it as well though while she’d been watching him those last few weeks. What would people think if they knew what was going on in her mind? She was having fantasy dreams about a former death eater. Harry and Ron would disown her.
She pondered on it for a while as sleep had eluded her. The hardest part was going to be facing Malfoy now, for really it was none of Harry and Ron’s or anyone else’s business. She’d have to get a handle on her thoughts and make it stop. But do you want it to stop? She asked herself as she picked up her bed clothes off the floor. She rolled over under the covers in hopes of getting more sleep, but she couldn’t stop herself from reliving the dream one more time in her mind. The delicious feeling in her lower bell burned like liquid sugar. Perhaps the dream wasn’t so bad, she thought as she rolled over and drifted off once more.
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