Draco Malfoy Hermione Granger
Multiple Eras
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban
Published: 07/25/2001
Updated: 06/01/2003
Words: 165,200
Chapters: 17
Hits: 239,674

We'll Always Have Paris

Melissa D

Story Summary:
Draco and Hermione go on an exchange program to Beauxbatons Academy. They enter a rocky partnership to help each other make it through all of their classes; neither of them thinks falling in love will be part of the deal.

Chapter 10

Author's Note:
Since so many of you have inquired about a notify list of some sort, I’ve decided to start one. So just let me know if you want me to email you when I get the chapters loaded, and I’ll put you on the list! Thanks to my betas Plu and Myriam for help with this. Plu and Myriam, you may have only been able to do the first part, but it really helped with the rest of it, giving me lots of food for thought. A great big Uber-thanks to the real Lissanne for jumping in as a beta on this chapter! Quick, thorough, and helpful through it all. Plus she knows my entire evil plan for this fic (including the role her namesake will play in it). I appreciate it very much. Now, on with the show:


We’ll Always Have Paris
Chapter 10

Well, how can I forget you, girl?
When there is always something there to remind me?

-- “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes

Draco waited until he couldn’t hear their voices anymore before packing his books and parchment into his bag. He didn’t want to make any sounds and risk Potter hearing him moving about in the study room, but he was fairly certain the deafening thumping in his chest would give him away just the same. One minute, he’d been in heaven, and the next, he was back in hell. Feeling Hermione moving beneath him on the couch, the delicious friction her body made against his, the smooth, warm feel of her breast under his fingers … and then Potter had to ruin it. Like always. Damn Potter!

The frenzied Slytherin grabbed his bag from the side of the couch and threw his school robes on over his head before heading into the main library then into the empty corridor. He hurried through the hallways, speeding toward the Slytherin dungeons, thankful not to meet anyone along the way. He knew he must be quite a sight. He was breathing hard, like he’d just flown three hundred laps on the Quidditch pitch; his face was flushed and his hair was all disheveled. Any lies he’d been telling himself that Hermione Granger had had no effect on him were absurd… their little “study” session had proved that beyond reasonable doubt. Within seconds of their kiss, he had become noticeably aroused and all her gentle touches and soft moans had only increased those sensations. And the way she would nibble his neck just below his ear … he’d never felt anything like it. Potter’s intrusion had done little to diminish Draco’s condition. There was only one thing to do.

Finally, he saw the entrance to the dungeons, and barked the password. The damp, stone wall slid open and he hurried through, hoping to make his way to his room unnoticed, but alas, there was still one person awake, revising her Transfiguration homework.

Lissanne looked up from her book to see a flash of black robes and silvery blond hair dart through the room, rustling her papers, as he swept past to his dormitory. She called out, “Draco, where were …” but he was gone before she could finish her sentence. A few moments later he emerged from his room, a towel in one hand and his toiletries in the other. He glanced oddly at her but said nothing. She called out again as he moved to the boys’ bathrooms, “Draco, where are you going now?”

He answered, but it seemed more like he was speaking to himself than to her, “Shower. Cold shower.”

She shook her head in disbelief and mumbled to herself, “Stark raving mad. I hope he doesn’t get like this before every big test.” Staring at the closed door for a few moments, she then turned back to her homework.


In her haste to pack up her things in the library’s small study room, Hermione had haphazardly stuffed her belongings into her already worn bag. As she hurried along the corridor to try and keep up with an unusually brisk-paced and obviously irritated Harry, her bag split open and everything crashed to the floor. With an exasperated sigh, she muttered, “Bugger” and stopped to pick up her things. Harry kept walking.

She opened her mouth to call to him, but before the words could come out, he spun around, his eyes blazing, “What the…” Harry paused, obviously trying to control his temper. “bloody hell do you think you’re doing?”

Crouched on the ground, she found her wand, pointed it at the oft-repaired bag, and murmured, “Reparo.” The seam sealed instantly, and she began thrusting its contents back inside. With obvious annoyance, she said, “I’m picking up my books and quills, which are now littering the Charms corridor, with no help from you, I might add. You could at least give me a hand instead of standing there, swearing at me for no reason.”

He marched up to her and stood in front of her hunched-over form, but he still wasn’t helping. “I’m not talking about now; I meant earlier – in the library.” His voice rose with anger.

She looked up at him, unable to mask her surprise. Did he see something? He couldn’t have. He was outside. Does he know? He peered down at her, his emerald eyes slicing through her mask of confusion. She had to look away. His eyes always sought the truth; she couldn’t lie to him when he looked at her like that. Veritaserum be damned – looking into his earnest face could make anyone sing like a canary. She busied herself with some parchments on the floor, avoiding his gaze. It was her only chance of keeping quiet. “What are you talking about? I was studying for my Arithmancy exam. You know that.”

She could hear his feet shifting near her, then his face was in front of hers; he had crouched down in front of her, his penetrating eyes searching her guarded face. “Funny, but I don’t ever remember you, or anyone else for that matter, telling me that Arithmancy was a physically demanding subject. When you opened the door down there, you were breathing so hard and your clothes were so mangled, I thought you’d been wrestling a troll.” He paused, watching a thousand emotions flicker across her face. “And I heard noises too. Actually, it was more like moaning.”

Hermione’s face flushed as scarlet as Harry’s Quidditch robes. She stood to grab a quill that had landed on the other side of the hall. Anything to get away from his searching eyes. “Moaning? That’s absurd.” She laughed, but it quivered with her nervousness. Her hand shook as she reached for the quill.

But Harry was quicker. He hadn’t been the youngest Seeker in one hundred years for nothing. He jumped across the hall and snatched the quill from the floor, then stood abruptly in front of his best friend. The girl he thought he knew better than any other. The girl who had never lied to him. “I saw his bag, Hermione. I know Malfoy was in there with you.”

Sometimes she really hated how direct Harry was. He didn’t play games, he didn’t skirt the issue; Harry spoke his mind, which was usually an excellent weapon. Most people never expected to be hit with the truth head on, so when he did it, they had no time to react, no time to wiggle their way out of it. Fortunately, Hermione had never been on the receiving end of his blunt questioning … before now. She was speechless.

She tried to turn away from him, but he grabbed her by the hand and led her into the empty Charms classroom for some privacy. He waved his wand and spoke “Lumos” a bit more harshly than necessary. “I saw a bag with the Slytherin crest and a school robe with a Prefect badge slung over it, leaning against the sofa. The only Prefect in Slytherin is Malfoy, so are you going to tell me what he was doing there? Or should I just go down there and ask him myself?”

She opened her mouth to try and give him a reasonable explanation, but unfortunately she couldn’t think of one. Her head was spinning too much from everything that had transpired in the last quarter of an hour. She couldn’t think of an excuse and, more importantly, she didn’t want to. She couldn’t lie to her best friend any more -- it wasn’t right, and she needed someone to talk to. Everything was so mixed up in her head and in her heart, creating confusion and anxiety. In a strange way, she was glad he’d seen Draco’s bag.

Hermione slumped into a chair and laid her head on top of the desk in front of her. She groaned, “Harry, I can’t even make sense out of it. How can I explain it to you?”

He was unmoved by her obvious distress. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and said, “I don’t know, but you’d better start talking. Because right now so many things are racing through my mind and each possibility of why you’d be with Malfoy when you told us you were studying is worse than the last.”

Head still face down on the desk, she said, “But we were studying. Or at least, that’s how it had started.”

An awful image flittered through Harry’s mind and all anger dissipated as he moved quickly to where Hermione sat. “Oh God, Hermione, did Malfoy hurt you? Did he do something …?”

She looked up instantly, a bewildered expression in her eyes. “What? No. It was nothing like that.”

Harry willed himself to calm down. “Then tell me what’s been going on. I know something happened while you were at Beauxbatons… you haven’t been the same since you’ve been back. At first, I thought you were just trying to adjust to being back at Hogwarts, but you’ve been back for over six weeks now, and you still seem distant. You spend all your time studying, and when you do hang out with us, you get this far-off look in your eyes. We all thought you’ve just been nervous about this Arithmancy test and have been studying like mad for it, and then I see Malfoy’s stuff in your private study room. What am I supposed to think?”

Hermione stood up and began to pace nervously around the room. His emotions were fluctuating from concern to anger rapidly, because of Hermione’s odd, tight-lipped behavior. She was testing his patience. “Start talking, Hermione, or I will go find Malfoy in the dungeons, except I’ll go get Ron first so we can both hear it straight from him.”

She raised her hands in frustration. “All right, all right, I’ll tell you. But you have to promise to hear me out and listen before saying anything.”

Harry suddenly got a worried look on his face. “Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

She smiled weakly, and then proceeded to tell him everything, from the train ride to the scene in the library. From her first act of blackmail to Draco’s last request for help. From Phillippe’s first charming smile to his two black eyes, courtesy of Draco; she did spare him lengthy, detailed descriptions of her more … private … moments with his blond nemesis. She knew it was as hard for Harry to listen to her talk as it was for her to tell him about her and Draco.

It took her a while to tell Harry everything, and when she finished, Hermione felt a brief sense of relief. Harry had remained silent throughout most of her talking, interrupting only for clarification on the night of the Bon Voyage ball and how Draco had come to know of Phillippe’s schemes. It felt good to talk to someone about everything that had happened and not have to hide it anymore. Her voice raspy from all her talking, Hermione finished and sat back, taking a deep breath. She knew the easy part was over. Waiting for his reaction, wondering what he was going to say, filled her with great trepidation and apprehension. She hoped he’d try to remain calm and rational and not explode like a Filibuster Firework; however, a little part of her feared it would be too much for him to process, and he would explode like Ron would.

He looked at her for a long while in silence, his mind playing back the story she’d just told him. When he finally did speak, his tone was serious. “I’m sorry, Hermione, but I just can’t believe Malfoy could change that much in eight weeks. It doesn’t make sense. Look who his father is, look at the kind of people he hangs around with. They’re all in Voldemort’s inner circle.” He could see she was opening her mouth to interject, so he added hastily, “And I know you’re too smart to believe all the crap Lucius has been feeding the Ministry in the past year about how he’s cleaned up his act. I saw him there with Voldemort the night Cedric died. Lucius Malfoy is still a Death Eater, no matter how much he, or his son, denies it.”

Harry choked a bit at the memory of that awful night. Hermione knew it still haunted him. Ron had told her Harry would sometimes wake in the middle of the night, calling out Cedric’s name in anguish. “I don’t disagree with you about Draco’s father. All I’m saying is Draco does not have to turn out like him.” Harry raised his eyebrows her in surprise, so she explained. “Look, both of my parents are dentists, and even if I had never found out I was a witch, I still would never have been a dentist. I’m terrified of those drills and the Novocaine shots.” She shivered at the thought of them, and Harry smiled a little. She continued, more cautiously. “And look at you. Your aunt and uncle are two of the most narrow-minded, unforgiving, bigoted, cold-hearted people on the planet, and you are nothing like them. You are one of the sweetest, most gracious people I know. So where does it say Draco has to follow in Lucius’ footsteps?”

Harry was still unconvinced. “Don’t you see? He’s acting just like his father now.” Hermione looked at him questioningly. “You’ve been lying to your friends for weeks, because Malfoy asked you to. He manipulated you and schemed to get you to help him, essentially cutting you off from your friends.”

Hermione shook her head in denial. “It wasn’t like that. He really needed my help for Arithmancy, and up until tonight, we really did spend all of our time studying for it. And I offered my help; he didn’t ask. I’d do the same thing for anyone who needed it. Besides, technically, I didn’t lie to you. I was studying for Arithmancy every night I said I was.”

Harry rolled his eyes at her rationalization. “You lied by omission. Every night you said you were off to study, you conveniently forgot to add that it was with Malfoy. That’s a pretty big detail to leave out.”

She sighed heavily. “It just seemed easier that way. We’d been avoiding everything for weeks. I guess it was inevitable that something would crack. Between all the stress of the test and keeping it a secret and everything that happened in France, don’t you think it makes sense something would have to give?” She needed to hear someone else say it was okay, that she wasn’t going crazy. That there was a rational explanation for the way she was feeling.

He leaned back in his chair. “I guess so. I could tell something was on your mind, and bad things do happen when you try and keep it bottled up. So I guess the next question is … are you planning on telling Ron?” He ran his fingers through his already messy hair and twined them behind the back of his head.

Hermione paled at the thought of telling her fiery, redheaded friend. Where Harry could listen to reason when necessary, Ron was notorious for his “act first, think later” approach to life. She wasn’t sure she could handle the fallout from telling him. She thought about it for a moment and argued, “Why do I have to tell Ron anything? At least, not right now anyway.” She smirked at him. “Are you going to sit there and tell me you boys have told me about every girl you’ve kissed?” Hermione knew she had him there, because she knew for a fact Ron had kissed a girl he’d met while visiting Charlie in Romania, and the only reason Hermione knew was because Ginny had told her. Ron hadn’t breathed a word to her. “I’m still waiting for Ron to ‘fess up about his fling with that Romanian witch.”

Harry’s eyes widened in disbelief, and he spluttered, “I don’t think it was technically a ‘fling.’ More like hand holding and a little kissing.” He laughed a little at his friend’s expense. “Fred and George harassed and teased him mercilessly.”

She laughed a little too. “I know. Ginny told me. But see what I mean? I had to hear all this from Ginny. Neither you nor Ron saw the need to tell me about it, so I don’t see why Ron needs to know about me and Draco.”

Harry flinched at her continual use of Malfoy’s first name. It sounded so foreign to him to hear her speaking of the thorn in their side with such familiarity. He raised his eyebrows in wonder. “Are you saying there is a ‘you and Draco’ to speak of?”

“No,” she replied hurriedly. Seeing the curious reaction on Harry’s face, she explained, “I mean, I don’t see any point in telling Ron when there’s nothing to tell. You know how Ron gets. And if he ever found out I kissed a Malfoy …”

Harry nodded in agreement. “Point taken. Ron can barely stand being in the same school with Malfoy, and if he knew you and Malfoy had …well, I think his reaction would put Gryffindor House in the red zone for house points.” They both chuckled a bit. But Harry continued, his tone more serious. “Hermione, you aren’t planning to pursue anything with Malfoy, are you?”

She took a deep breath. “I haven’t really given it much thought.” But from the look in her eyes, Harry could tell this wasn’t entirely true. He had a feeling she’d thought of little else, whether she admitted it to herself or not.

“Then let me just say this, and please hear me out.” He placed his hand gently on her arm and squeezed it comfortingly. “I’m not sure I can believe this new and improved Malfoy you seem to know. It’s too far beyond the realm of possibilities for me to swallow. But I can tell you believe it, and you’re the smartest person I know next to Dumbledore, so I trust you to not be deluded by Malfoy’s powers of persuasion.” Hermione blushed at Harry’s compliments and trust in her.

“You have to admit, he has been much more polite to Gryffindors this term,” Hermione offered as proof. “Any fights or scuffles between his friends and my friends have usually been instigated by my two overprotective bodyguards or his overgrown cronies,” she smiled. “He’s held his tongue much more than he has in the past. That has to count for something, doesn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” he admitted begrudgingly, but added in a stronger voice, “However, that does not mean I trust him. Not by a long shot. And I think you’ll only get hurt if you continue on this way with him. Even if he has gotten a personality transplant, his family is still the same. And they’d hurt you, Hermione. The first chance he got, Lucius Malfoy would hurt you. Make no mistake about it.” He was speaking with such earnestness and concern, Hermione was moved by the strength of his conviction. She’d forgotten how nice it was to talk so openly and honestly with Harry. He knew her; he understood her, in the way only a best friend could. “It’s easy to make promises to someone when you’re in another country or within the sanctuary of Hogwarts, but will Draco be able to keep those promises when he’s face-to-face with his housemates or his parents? Relationships between Slytherins and Gryffindors are notorious for ending badly, and you two aren’t just any students.”

Hermione opened her eyes wide in surprise and giggled, “Crikey, Harry, you make it sound like we’ve declared our undying love for each other or something. Draco hasn’t promised me anything … and I haven’t promised him anything either.” At the look of relief washing over Harry’s face, she added, “It was only a few kisses, and each and every one was a total surprise, so we never even talked about any of this.”

“So you aren’t in a relationship with him?”

“If by ‘relationship,’ you mean dating and holding hands and taking long, romantic walks together, then no.”

Harry took a deep breath. “Do you want a relationship with him?”

She looked at him nervously, feeling his emerald gaze pulling the truth from inside. “If he reverts to his ferret boy, cocky, self-centered attitude, then no, of course not.” She covered his hand on her arm with her warm touch. “I know it sounds strange, but I don’t think I’d actually met the real Draco Malfoy until we went to Beauxbatons. I think the boy we’ve tangled with for five years wasn’t the real wizard.”

“You deserve better than someone who can’t be the same with you in public as he is in private.” He spoke with conviction, his eyes imploring her to not act impulsively.

“I know, which is why I’m not counting on anything serious developing between us. You know me, Harry. I’m as logical as they come. And getting involved with a Malfoy is about the most illogical thing a Muggle-born witch can do.”

He smiled, happy to hear her assurances. “So you’re not in love with him?”

She grinned broadly, “In love with him? Harry, contrary to what my other roommates Parvati and Lavender may say, the average girl does not fall in and out of love with a different bloke every couple of weeks.”

His cheeks burned with embarrassment. From the way the girls in the common room talked, it seemed like they were always talking about being in love with one boy or another. “Well, all right then. At least that’s clear.” She stood from her chair, confident their little “talk” was finally concluding. The mood in the room was considerably lighter than when he’d first grabbed her hand and pulled her in the classroom. But then a thought struck him as they headed toward the door. He stopped walking and turned, tilting his head and studying her. “Hermione, do you think you’re falling in love with Malfoy?”

If he was hoping for a firm denial, he was sorely disappointed. She bit her bottom lip and replied, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.”

Harry reasoned, “Then you should probably try and avoid any one-on-one contact with him, before things progress any further and you get in over your head.”

“I can’t turn my back on him, Harry. Not now. For eight weeks he was essentially cut off from all the negative influences of Slytherin House and their Mudblood-hating propaganda. While my friends and family sent me loads of letters and care packages, Draco got only a handful. The couple of letters his father did manage to send I don’t think were very friendly either. I think being separated from everything gave us both a chance to see how the other half live. His life isn’t as easy and enchanting as he’s made it out to be, and I think he’s recognized things aren’t as black and white as he was taught. I’m not going to throw that away just because you’re scared of what we might do if I’m alone with him.”

He conceded, “All right. I’m only saying he’s still too unpredictable and he may decide to use his …” He paused, trying to find a word which didn’t make him want to vomit, finally settling on, “…closeness with you to scheme and manipulate and be all King Slytherin again.” He paused again, a bit more uncomfortably. “And what if he does try something again? Do you really want to be some girl he’s more than willing to snog behind closed doors, but can barely be civil to in front of other people?”

Hermione pondered this, since Harry actually had a point. “What do you suggest then? If he still wants me to help him study for Arithmancy, I don’t want to say ‘No,’ because that may only make him cling even further to his father’s ideas about Muggle-borns.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “You could always have a chaperon.” Hermione’s eyes widened in shock. “Someone who already knows about your situation with him … someone who would make certain Malfoy kept his mind on Arithmancy and his hands off you. Someone like me.” Harry didn’t think he’d ever get used to knowing that Draco Malfoy -- the bane of his existence, the egotist extraordinaire, the smuggest of all smug bastards in the universe -- was the bloke who had evoked such moans of pleasure from Hermione. It was unfathomable and downright surreal. But he also knew Hermione was very stubborn and independent, and pushing her away from him by continually bad-mouthing Malfoy at this critical stage would only push her directly into Malfoy’s open arms … and in Harry’s opinion, there was no more dangerous place for a Muggle-born witch to be than in the embrace of a Malfoy.

In that room Harry vowed to keep an even closer watch on Draco Malfoy than he ever had before.


Draco waited anxiously for Hermione to enter the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning. Somehow he thought he’d be able to read her expression about what had happened after she and Potter had left the library last night, but she never showed up. He told himself she probably just wanted to get some extra studying in before Arithmancy that morning, but he got a funny feeling that wasn’t the real reason for her absence. Every time he glanced over at the Gryffindor table, piercing green knives were staring back. Harry Potter was watching Draco more vociferously than ever before.

After breakfast he hurried to Professor Vector’s classroom, hoping to share a few words with Hermione before the exam, but she wasn’t there either. For some reason beyond his comprehension, he needed to see her before the exam. Her presence could calm him. Finally she arrived just before the bell rang to signal the start of the class. She hurried to her desk and took her seat next to Dean Thomas, a fellow Gryffindor, without so much as a glance at the Slytherin side of the room. Professor Vector passed the exams, and he started flipping through the pages. It all looked familiar. He was actually prepared for it. He could feel her eyes on him, so he chanced a look across the room. She smiled slightly, and mouthed, “Good luck.” And with one final deep breath, he plunged in.

After Draco handed in his exam, he gathered up his books to leave. He felt fairly confident that he did well – better than he would have without Hermione’s help. He actually understood the questions and was able to work through the problems. He knew better than to try and find a moment to speak with Hermione after an Arithmancy exam; everyone crowded around her, like she was a living, breathing answer key. As far as the rest of their classmates were concerned, Hermione’s answers were the right answers, so there was always much comparison. “Hermione, what did you get for 15? How about 20B?” It was the same after every test.

For the next day, every time he saw Hermione, she was with one of her Gryffindor friends. Potter, in particular, seemed especially attached to her hip. She seemed more at ease and relaxed than in recent weeks. She laughed and smiled, reminding Draco of some of their more carefree days in France – their late night study sessions, their trip to Paris. It made his stomach flip flop to see her eyes sparkle again, but made him queasy to know her smile wasn’t for him. He could tell something had changed between her and Potter, something after he had come to get Hermione at the library, and Draco was going crazy with curiosity.

An unfamiliar, unbidden jolt of jealousy zinged through his mind as he watched Hermione with Weasley and Potter at breakfast Friday morning. They were all grinning and talking good-naturedly, teasing Hermione with some scary looking pieces of bacon and a carafe of orange juice. He looked around his own house table, much more subdued and much less buoyant than the Gryffindor table. Why would she look at him when she had her friends to keep her occupied? He’d thought they’d crossed a hurdle of sorts that night in the library study room. That must have been all she needed to let go, he mused silently. A few more kisses to get him out of her system. So why didn’t it work for him? Why was she still preying on his thoughts?

Finally, something happened to show some chinks in her armour. The owl post. Like every morning at breakfast, the owls came swooping into the Great Hall to deliver their letters and parcels. Two birds in particular caught Draco’s attention, because they were each sporting a Beauxbatons crest and were carrying large packages. One flew to Hermione and delivered its parcel just as an identical package fell in front of Draco. He recognized Isabel’s neat, feminine handwriting immediately.

Lissanne was sitting next to him. She looked at the package with curiosity. “Mmmm. From a secret admirer, Draco? Love letters from silly witches hoping to land you as their boyfriend?”

He smirked at her as he opened the parcel. Isabel had apparently used an entire roll of tape to make sure the box did not tear open in flight. “Very funny, Liss. It’s from Isabel Dupris. You remember, the girl I told you about at Beauxbatons. She’s the daughter of the French Minister of Magic.” Finally he got one side open and was able to slide the contents out. There was a note on top.

Dearest Draco …

“Aha! It is a love letter,” Lissanne exclaimed, peering over Draco’s shoulder to read his note.

He turned away so she couldn’t see. “Do you mind? This is private.” He and Isabel had exchanged several letters in the past few weeks, and she had always mentioned Hermione. Although he would never mention the pretty Gryffindor in his replies, Isabel would still ask, “How’s Hermione?” He did not think it would be prudent for Lissanne or any of the other Slytherins to see anything about Hermione in his correspondence. Feeling he was relatively safe from her prying eyes, he started to read it again.

Dearest Draco,

I hope all is well at Hogwarts. It is dreadfully boring without you here to stir things up. Phillippe is still being remarkably well behaved since the thrashing you gave him, so I don’t even have his antics to entertain me.

I am sending along some pictures which were taken during your visit here. Some of them will be in our yearbook at the end of the school term, but I could not wait so long for you to see them. Consider it an early Christmas present. I think you will enjoy them.

Best wishes,

P.S. I’ve sent copies to Hermione as well. Even in your picture, you dance beautifully together.

Draco reread the post script again. He looked nervously over at the Gryffindor table and saw Hermione’s anxious face staring back at him as she too unwrapped her package before turning her eyes back to its contents. Settled inside soft, spongy packing material, Draco fished out his gift. There was a photo album with the Beauxbatons crest and his name engraved on the front cover. It contained pictures of some of their field trips and different classroom snapshots. There was also an exquisite picture frame, decorated with gold and silver trim. Draco gasped when he saw what the frame held – it was the picture from the Bon Voyage ball the Beauxbatons student photographer had snapped while Draco and Hermione were dancing. His jaw dropped as the Draco and Hermione in the picture held each other close, staring adoringly into each other’s eyes. Isabel was right – they did look beautiful together. In an instant, he was catapulted back to that night, the way Hermione felt in his arms, the way her hair smelled, the way her robes made her eyes sparkle … and the way they had kissed on the terrace.

A sharp intake of breath to his right brought Draco back from his reminiscing. Lissanne had managed to sneak a glance at the picture, and her usually warm, chocolate brown eyes stared back at him with disbelief. Quickly she snatched the frame from his hands and shoved it carefully into its box, so as to not draw any more attention to them than necessary. She rose from her chair, gathering up her books. She asked, “Draco, I forgot my Charms book down in the dungeon. Will you come with me to get it?”

She tugged on the sleeve of his robe, so he picked up his package and books and followed wordlessly after her.


Hermione watched Draco’s exit with Lissanne. She had felt his eyes on her ever since the previous morning – watching her, waiting for a chance to speak with her alone – but Hermione had been careful to not provide him with such an opportunity. After her talk with Harry, she’d spent most of the night pondering over her best friend’s words of advice, and they made sense to her. If she were in fact falling in love with Draco (and the little voice inside her head told her this was a certainty), then Hermione needed to pull back. She doubted if Draco would publicly acknowledge any type of romantic relationship existed between them. Behind closed doors, he might be willing to put their past behind them so that they could continue doing whatever it was they were doing. But would he risk soiling the Malfoy name by associating himself with a Mudblood? Would he have the courage to stand up to his father and the Slytherins? She wasn’t so sure.

Hermione was used to standing up for what she believed in and fighting for what she wanted. Even when everyone told her SPEW was a worthless cause, she held tight to her convictions that house elves deserved more rights than they were given. Her parents had raised her to speak her mind and fight the fights that needed fighting. But Hermione knew Draco had been raised in an entirely different environment. At Malfoy Manor, conformity was served every day, with a side order of old school wizarding values thrown in for good measure. In the Malfoy world, pure bloods did not mix with Mudbloods – not unless they were asking for trouble. And Hermione knew Draco did not want to bring any more trouble to his family’s name; that’s why he’d worked so hard during the exchange program – to restore some pride for his family in the wizarding society.

So Isabel’s gift, though generous and thoughtful, could not have come at a worse time. Hermione did not need any reminders of how irresistible Draco had looked in his dress robes or how she had quivered as his arms enveloped her while they danced. Even the picture Hermione looked as if she was going to swoon under his deep silver gaze.

It took a few moments for Hermione to realize what she was holding in her hands. She could feel the blood rush to her face as the memories of the Bon Voyage ball swept over her. She smashed it swiftly to her chest, and glanced furtively around the table to check if anyone else had seen it too. Fortunately, most of her friends were male, and they were more interested in oohing and ahhing over the pictures of Isabel in the photo album than noticing what was in the frame. Hermione had brought only a few pictures back to Hogwarts with her, and there weren’t many of Isabel since she and Hermione had not been very friendly toward each other during the first half of her trip. Most of the pictures in the album were from their last night there at the dance.

“Boys,” Ginny muttered from Hermione’s right side. She rolled her eyes in disgust. “You’d swear they’d never seen a girl before.”

“Hmmm,” Hermione murmured distractedly. She looked as Ginny nodded to the ogling boys. “Oh, right. Boys.”

Ginny gestured at the picture frame Hermione was still holding against her chest and remarked, “Were those the dress robes you bought in Paris? They look really pretty on you.” She watched as Hermione’s face pinked up with embarrassment, but she continued nonchalantly, “If that picture’s any indication, I’d say Malfoy liked them too.”

Hermione looked at her friend and opened her mouth like she was about to say something; however, she thought better of it and closed it quickly. As she placed the frame back in the box, face-down so no one else could see the waltzing pair, she finally answered, “Yes, those are my Valeri robes. Isabel recommended the shop to me. You know me, Gin – I don’t know one designer from the next, but she said .…”

Ginny halted Hermione’s rambling by placing a gentle hand on the older girl’s trembling arm. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the old adage was certainly true in this case. No wonder Hermione’s been so distracted, and I don’t blame her one bit, Ginny thought. If a boy had looked at her like that, she’d be all discombobulated too. The fact that it was Draco Malfoy only made the situation that much stickier. But Hermione wasn’t the first Gryffindor witch to find herself drawn to a Slytherin wizard. In fact, Ginny knew several girls in her house who had very obvious crushes on the ill-tempered yet undeniably handsome Slytherin Prefect. He was the quintessential bad boy … money, power, attitude, and great hair.

And Ginny knew first-hand how seductive and alluring the “dark side” could be. Her experience with Tom Riddle’s diary had left an impression on her. Even though she had sensed something was wrong about it, she had continued going back for more. And Hermione had never judged Ginny for any of that; she never made Ginny feel ashamed for her actions. Now Ginny was going to return the favour. If Hermione was involved with Malfoy, Ginny would be there for her.

Ginny squeezed Hermione’s hand and offered, “Hermione, if you ever need to talk about anything .…”

Hermione smiled weakly at Ginny. “I’m fine. Really. There’s nothing to talk about,” she explained. “But I do want to put this package up in my dormitory before Potions, so I’m going to head up.”

“Do you want some company?” Ginny offered.

“No,” Hermione replied hastily. She was not really in the mood for another heart-to-heart, even though she knew Ginny was genuinely trying to help. But she just wanted to be alone for a bit … before she had to face Draco in Potions.

They had double Potions together that morning, and she could not avoid him there. Professor Snape had been partnering them together in almost every class since they’d returned to Hogwarts. Even for Snape, she thought this particular method of torture was exceeding its limits. Ron had insisted that Snape was just punishing Gryffindor because he didn’t like them and the best way to do that was to make sure she couldn’t help her friends during class. The Slytherins were even starting to complain because Draco was the best Potions student in their house, and if he was paired off with Hermione, they could not get his help as easily either. She just hoped a tiny shred of dignity would find its way into the Potions Master that morning and give her a small respite from Draco for a little while. They were starting a new potion that morning, and Snape often changed partners around when they were brewing something new.

Finally, she rescued the photo album from the throng of admiring boys and made her way up to Gryffindor Tower. She would have to rush to make sure she’d make it back down to the dungeons before the bell rang, but that was all right. She needed a brisk walk anyway. As she walked toward the steps, she could hear excited voices coming from inside one of the sitting rooms off the main hallway. Her curiosity got the better of her and she slowed to listen to see if she could make out the voices, but then Snape strode out of the Main Hall, slamming the door shut behind him, startling her out of her curiosity.

“Have you no sense of direction this morning, Miss Granger?” he hissed at her. “Unless you and your prankster friends have found some way to move the dungeons, you should be heading down, not up, for your first class.”

His cold, calculated glare froze her in her spot on the stairs. “Yes, Professor,” she stammered. “I just need to put something in my dormitory before class.” She held up her large parcel so he could see it, her hands trembling under his icy gaze.

“Then why are you just standing there, girl? Be quick about it. The bell will ring soon, and I will not tolerate any tardiness from you. Prefect or not, you can still lose house points.” Without waiting for a reply he spun around and moved noiselessly down the hallway, his billowing robes the only indication that he was moving.

Carrying her package awkwardly, Hermione raced up the stairs, having completely forgotten the excited conversation in the small room.


They walked only a short time before she turned down a side hallway and pulled Draco into a small sitting room with her. She dropped her things on the floor and started pacing; Draco watched her curiously.

Without preamble, Lissanne turned to him and fumed, “Are you insane? Hermione Granger? You’ve been carrying on with Hermione fucking Granger?”

Draco set his things down on a nearby table. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. What are you talking about? I think you’re the crazy one here… ” He tried to lie, but had a feeling it was a lost cause. Lissanne was not stupid. One good look at that picture and anyone would think the couple dancing in it were hopelessly in love.

She began pacing the room, but never took her eyes off him. “And to think all this time, I thought you were shagging Harry Potter.”

“What?” Draco cried in horror, his face getting even paler than usual. “Why would you think I’d be …” he fumbled around for words, “that I’d be … doing anything with that sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, scarfaced git? Least of all shagging him. Honestly, Liss, I think you need to get to the hospital wing. You’re completely off your rocker.”

“It was the only logical explanation as to why you would watch the Gryffindor table day in and day out with such intensity, and I know redheads aren’t your type. I thought you were having a secret tryst with Harry or that you at least wanted to. Not that I’d blame you. He does have that whole I’m-sexy-without-even-trying look going for him, and that hair that screams for you to run your fingers through it, and those penetrating green eyes …” Her eyes glistened naughtily. “I’ll bet he can do amazing things with his broomstick,” she commented, licking her lips.

“Do you want me to leave you alone? I have better things to do than to watch the birth of yet another member of the Harry Potter Fan Club,” he remarked sarcastically. “He’d be lucky if someone like me gave him a second glance.” With a scandalized tone, he added, “And why are you thinking about stuff like that anyway? You’re only fifteen. You shouldn’t be thinking about me doing anything like that with another bloke … or anyone else for that matter.”

She rolled her eyes at him and waved dismissively. “Grow up, Draco. I probably have more experience than you do.” He looked appalled at the suggestion. “Durmstrang is in northern Bulgaria, where it’s cold and damp three-fourths of the year. How do you think we kept warm?” She smirked suggestively. “And it’s not like there was anything else to do there. Our castle was much smaller than Hogwarts, and we had far less land to roam and no Forbidden Forest to peak our interests. Sex was our most popular extracurricular activity. I learned to pay attention to body language. And the way you’ve been acting, I could tell you’d developed a sweet tooth for Gryffindors.” She shook her head in disbelief. “But I never imagined you would be wasting all your staring on that Mudblood.”

Draco snapped automatically in defense, “Watch your mouth, Lissanne.”

She stopped pacing and crossed her arms in front of her. She might only have been five foot four, but Lissanne Sheldon had a presence, which commanded attention when she wanted it. “Now you’ve taken to defending her honour, too. This is most disappointing. And monumentally stupid.” She stared at him, hard. “How long have you been in love with her? Did it start at Beauxbatons or has it been going on longer than that?”

He raised his hands to try and settle her down. “Hold on a minute. I’m not in love with anyone. Not Hermione Granger, no Gryffindor redheads, and certainly not Harry Potter. So take a deep breath, relax, and tell me what the hell you’re going on about.”

She settled into a plush chair by the fireplace. “Ever since you’ve been back from France, you’ve seemed different than I remembered -- less explosive, more contemplative. I’ve watched you in the common room, but you never really talk with anyone, or indeed even show any interest in anyone. Your eyes sort of glaze over, and your mind seems a million miles away. I asked around, and apparently, you’ve always been that way with your housemates. Even when you dated Pansy Parkinson -- which, by the way, was a horrible lapse in judgment on your part -- you were always aloof and pompous. But I could still tell something was up. Being a year younger than you, I don’t have the luxury of observing you in class, so my only chances to watch you outside the dungeons are at meal times. And that’s when I saw it. Your face would come alive every time you looked at the Gryffindors. I don’t mean alive with joy or happiness or anything sappy like that, but just that you would show some flicker of emotion.

“I may only have been here for a short time, but it didn’t take long to learn of your long-running feud with The Boy Who Lived. So I thought you kept staring at him, like a whole love/hate thing. And you know what they say, hate is just a form of love. When I saw that picture of you and that witch dancing, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The way you were looking at her, Draco. You better pray I was the only one who saw that and that there are no copies of it floating around anywhere. I could understand you getting involved with Harry, but … Hermione Granger?” Lissanne stood and resumed her pacing. “That is out of the question. It’s social suicide.”

He seated himself across from her, sitting on the edge, shaking his head in disbelief. “Let me get this straight. You see no problems with me playing hide the broomstick with the Boy Wonder, even though he’s done nothing but irritate and annoy the hell out of me since our first trip on the Hogwarts Express.” Lissanne nodded, so he carried on, “Yet the idea of me with the smartest witch Hogwarts has seen since Minerva McGonagall was a student is worse than a Dementor’s Kiss?”

She nodded again, crossing her legs at the knee and folding her arms. “Yes, that about sums it up.”

He sat back in the sofa, stretching himself out leisurely. “Care to explain it to me?”

“It’s simple, Draco. At least being with Potter provides you with a strategic advantage. It gets you up close and personal with an enemy of you and your family. Yes, you’re both wizards, but that’s what made it so perfect.”

He made a funny face. “Argh. You’re not one of those girls who gets turned on by thinking about two guys together, are you? What were they teaching you at that school?”

She laughed. “No, nothing like that. If you had been carrying on with him, it would have given you something to hold over Harry, if you ever needed it, and a little emotional blackmail can go a long way.”

“But he could easily turn the tables on me,” he reasoned. “It’s not like my father would take kindly to knowing I shagged another boy.”

“If you were able to use that relationship to get to Harry, your father wouldn’t care how many times you screwed Harry.” She looked at him gravely. “Your father is a master at exploiting opportunities, Draco. He’d see the advantages to you being intimate with Harry Potter. Sure, he’d be livid at first, but then he’d see exactly what I do -- that boy carries clout in the wizarding community, and he’s only sixteen. Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s a full-fledged wizard. The world will be his for the taking. And harbouring a secret like that could be very beneficial for your family.”

He rolled his eyes. “Are you getting to a point sometime soon, or is this just another chance to expound on Potter’s innumerable virtues? And I hope you’re not trying to convince me to take up with Potter, because that will never happen. That is one ship I won’t set sail on.”

Lissanne laughed, “I will get to the point if you’d stop interrupting me.” She grinned at him, cheekily, “Were you always this big a pain in the arse?”

He drawled back, “What can I say, baby? I was born bad.”

He smirked at her, making her smile. It was good to see a glint of the old Draco behind his long lashes and brooding teenage angst. All those sidelong glances and pent up frustrations were turning Draco into a melodramatic bore.

His gaze turned serious again. “You were saying.”

She pushed her hair back from her face and tucked one side behind her ear. “Hermione is a Mudblood. Any associations with her beyond mandatory school sanctioned ones are not prudent for you … or your family’s status.” She raised her hand to halt his protests. “She may be the best in the school, but you know to the old wizarding families that count, at least the ones that our families associate with, the fact she has two Muggle parents cannot be overlooked.” Her face was fixed and stern. “She has dirty blood, Draco. All the academic accolades and school awards can never change what she is. I can’t believe you, of all people, could forget something so crucial.”

He laughed haughtily, “You’re one to talk. Weren’t you just telling me last week about all the fun you and your Durmstrang friends had sneaking into Muggle pubs, picking up different guys?”

“That was different,” Lissanne explained. “None of us ever developed feelings for any of those louts. It was more of an experiment to see how much we could get away with. We knew we were just out for a good time.” She reached across the gap between them and rested her hand on his knee. “There’s a line between us with Muggles and Mudbloods – and you’ve crossed it.”

He pushed her hand from his leg. “Would you stop saying that?” he exclaimed. “I haven’t done anything like you’re suggesting.” But the little voice in the back of his head told him this wasn’t entirely true. Even if he had crossed some “line,” it was none of Lissanne’s business. It was time to turn the tables, time to regain control of this conversation. “And when did you become such an elitist snob anyway? You were tickled pink when Hermione introduced herself to you when she and I first got back. You acted like Christmas had come early.”

Lissanne smirked, “Of course Hermione Granger interested me – she was the thing Viktor Krum would miss most during the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. She’s a legend at Durmstrang. Even if she weren’t the top in her class or best friends with The Boy Who Lived, her relationship with Krum would still make her worth knowing to any of the girls I went to school with. She was the first thing Krum took more interest in than his Firebolt, and that in itself was a miracle. I was under strict instructions to report back to all my friends with detailed descriptions of what she looked like in person.” She brushed some lint off her robe and sat primly back in her seat. “And as for your ‘elitist snob’ comment, that’s a bit like calling the kettle black, isn’t it? Before Little Miss Perfect danced her way into your heart, you were the most arrogant, pretentious prat I’d ever met … and I’m sure I’m not the only one with that opinion of you.”

“I know; it’s a gift,” he breathed out pompously. He confessed, “Some of the Slytherin girls say the same thing about you. About how you think you’re better than them and talk to students from other houses, shunning Slytherins for other students.”

She sighed, “I still can’t get a handle on all the interhouse competition that goes on here. At Durmstrang, only purebloods are allowed, so there was none of this mixing of half-bloods and Mudbloods with the rest of us. The cliques were determined by who was the best, the prettiest, the richest, etc. Just being in a certain dormitory didn’t automatically carry a certain status with it.” She sat up proudly in her chair. “I interact with the people who can do the most for me and my future. And I won’t change just because some sniveling, spoiled little brats like Pansy and Blaise think I should play by their rules, because that won’t get me anywhere outside Hogwarts’ walls.”

“Wow,” Draco said in awe. “You’ve become quite a schemer, haven’t you?”

“I’ve just learned to play the game, and I thought you had too. All I’m saying is, I’m not the one who’s changed. You are,” Lissanne reasoned.

Tired from all their talking, Draco rose gracefully from his seat and moved to get his bag from the table by the door. “The bell is going to ring soon. We should get to class.”

Lissanne pouted, “I’m not through saying what I have to say to you.”

He opened the door and, without a backward glance, replied, “But I’m through listening.”


Hermione had practically run from the Gryffindor Tower down to the dungeons, and it was a good thing. She had just sat down in the seat Harry had saved for her at a table with Ron when the bell rang. As she dug her Potions book, a quill, and some parchment from the deep recesses of her bag, Professor Snape emerged from his side office. Subconsciously, her eyes flickered up front to where Draco sat between Crabbe and Goyle. He was leaning back in his chair, his legs stretched languorously in front of him. From where she was sitting, she could see his striking profile, and it was a beautiful view. His head was tipped back, resting on the top of the bench so he was looking up at the ceiling, but his eyes were closed in contemplation. She watched his long eyelashes twitch as his eyes moved beneath, the muscles in his jaw moving as he clenched and unclenched his mouth, the smooth, satiny skin on his cheek as she remembered how soft it felt under her fingertips. She closed her eyes, wondering if she’d be able to smell his cologne amidst all the other boys and Potions smells. She inhaled deeply …

Professor Snape slammed his office door noisily behind him, dragging everyone’s attention to him. Hermione’s eyes flew open just as Draco sat up abruptly, running his long fingers nonchalantly through his hair, even though it didn’t need it. His hair seemed magically charmed to stay in place.

With his hands clasped tightly behind his back, Professor Snape walked briskly to the back and shut the classroom door before heading to the front again. With a flourish, he turned to face his students, their eyes keenly watching and waiting for his instructions. Finally he let his eyes settle on Hermione, causing her to shift uncomfortably in her seat. He seemed to be contemplating something, but he was an impossible man to read.

At last he spoke in his silky voice, “As you know, we will be starting the lessons on Basic First Aid Draughts this morning. First on our list is the Bruise-Be-Gone potion. You will be brewing these potions individually, not in pairs, so you may remain at your current tables if you choose.”

“Finally,” Ron muttered under his breath. “It’s about time that greasy git let Hermione stay with us for a while.” Harry nodded in agreement.

Snape looked back and forth as he slowly made his way down the centre aisle, clicking his heels with each step. “For those of you studious enough to prepare for today’s lesson, which most likely means no one, you will remember that the key ingredients to this potion is …” He paused, waiting for a courageous student to raise his or her hand.

Seeing as no one else was raising theirs, Hermione put her hand in the air. He nodded at her. “Fresh-picked yarrow root.”

“Correct, Miss Granger,” he answered briskly. “Five points to Gryffindor. Can anyone tell me why it is important to use fresh yarrow roots instead of dried ones? ”

At the sound of her voice, Draco’s head turned in her direction and their eyes locked for a few brief moments before Ron nudged her in the shoulder for managing to squeak out a few points for their house.

“Mr. Malfoy?” Snape called out, bringing Draco’s attention away from the way Hermione’s hair lay over her shoulders, resting just above her firm, supple … “Sometime today, Mr. Malfoy.”

Goyle elbowed Draco hard in the ribs. Before turning his attention back to the front of the room, Draco was treated to a frigid glower, courtesy of Harry Potter. If looks could kill, Draco would have been yarrow dust. “Oh, yarrow root. It has to be fresh, because if you mix dried yarrow with the salamander spleens, the potion will turn bruises into boils when applied to the skin.”

“Excellent,” commended Snape. “Very well put. Ten points to Slytherin. And since we need fresh yarrow root, Professor Sprout has graciously agreed to part with some from her greenhouse for our lessons.” He carefully looked around the classroom, his eyes gleaming with mischief, and Hermione felt an inexplicable twinge in her stomach. “Mr. Malfoy … Miss Granger, kindly go to the greenhouse to get the yarrow root from Professor Sprout.”

The twinge was now a full flip. Harry and Ron looked at Hermione, Harry more nervously. He jumped from his seat, startling everyone but Snape, who just glowered at the young raven-haired wizard. “Er, Professor, I’ll run down to the greenhouse. Malfoy and Hermione can both stay here.”

“Sit back down, Potter,” Snape scowled at him. “I don’t think this errand requires the services of The Great and Powerful Potter. I am quite confident Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger can find their way to the greenhouse without any cataclysmic events occurring. Besides, they are the only two students in this class with an inkling of what’s going on.” As he sneered at Harry, Snape approached him so that Harry could see his yellow teeth as he grinned nastily. “Judging from your grades this term, you would be wise to keep your mouth shut and pay attention instead of spending your precious class time sniggering with your friends,” he spat at the Gryffindor.

Harry flushed with anger, but sat down. He turned to Hermione and eyed her anxiously. He was the only one who knew of her situation with Malfoy. “Are you sure you’ll be all right?”

“Blimey, Potter. It’s not like I’m going to hex her the minute we walk out the door,” Draco drawled. He had risen from his seat and was walking past their table to exit the Potions lab when he had overheard Harry’s gentle question to Hermione. It made him sick to see Harry go automatically into “Overprotective Mode.” Hexing Hermione wasn’t a problem when they were alone; it was the kissing and touching that always got in the way.

Ron jumped in. “Of course you wouldn’t, Malfoy,” he hissed. “Because you know we’d be right here to hex you back five times as bad. Or have you forgotten about the little incident on the Hogwarts Express after fourth year?” The memory of Malfoy and his goons unconscious in the train hallway made Ron smile fondly, but Draco turn red with anger. “You’re so sneaky, you’d wait until you were alone, when you’d think you could surprise her, but Hermione’s too smart to let you trick her like that.”

Draco smirked at knowing Weasley would most likely have a coronary if he knew what Draco really liked to do when he was alone with Hermione.

“In your seat, Weasley,” Snape ordered. “If Miss Granger doesn’t need Potter’s escort services, I’m certain yours aren’t required either. And five points from Gryffindor.”

“What for?”

“For being a nuisance and disrupting my class with your idle threats.”

Ron started to protest, but Hermione turned to him. “Ron,” she assured him, “you just lost the points I got for us. Don’t make it any worse. We’re only going to the greenhouse, where we’re meeting up with a teacher.” She glanced oddly at Draco. “What could happen from here to there?”

Draco stepped back to let Hermione pass in front of him, and Harry noticed he held the door for her as she passed, like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to do. A Malfoy voluntarily holding the door for a Muggle-born witch; Harry wasn’t sure what to think. Then he saw a strange look pass between the two students before the door closed behind them. He couldn’t ponder its implications for too long though, because Snape’s grating voice cut through the increasing chatter in the classroom. “Mr. Potter, if you’re through gawking at the door, perhaps you could enlighten us on the similarities between the Bruise-Be-Gone and Skelegrow potions?”


They paused as they stood in the cold, empty hallway. Hermione looked down at her feet before finally saying, “We should get going. Professor Sprout is expecting us.” She turned to walk in the direction of the main door and they walked a little while before Draco suddenly stopped. He reached out and grabbed her arm gently. She felt her face heat up at the closeness. It was easier to find the strength to resist him when she was with Harry or Ron. They were like her anchors to reality.

“Wait. We can’t head out yet,” he said as she slightly stepped away from him, keeping them a safe distance apart.

“Why not?”

“Hermione, it’s mid-December. We’ll freeze to death if we walk all the way to the greenhouse in just our house robes,” he reasoned. “Wait here,” he instructed, and he turned on his heels before she could object.

The few minutes alone gave her some time for a little pep talk with herself. This is no big deal, she thought. You run errands all the time for teachers. There’s no reason this one should make you nervous and fidgety. We’ll just head to the greenhouse and come back. No problem. Just walk fast and keep your mind off what it was like the last time you were alone with him. And don’t look at him! Eyes forward and you can’t see the way his hair glistens in the sunlight, or the way his lips move when he talks, or the way … That’s it! Eyes forward at all times!

Her eyes were closed as she conversed with herself, so she didn’t hear him approach. Two factors she hadn’t counted in during her mini-speech were the delicious way he smelled and the low timbre of his voice when he spoke, which never failed to send shivers through her body. Not looking at him did nothing to protect her from those equally effective weapons of his.

She breathed in his expensive cologne and heard him speak while her eyes were still closed, her head slightly bowed. “Here, put this on,” he offered, speaking gently to her. She could tell he was standing very close to her; his breath blew through her hair. When she opened her eyes, he was swishing one of his heavy cloaks around her shoulders. It smelled just like him, and before she could stop herself, she inhaled deeply, drowning in the scent of him. He stepped closer to free her hair from being trapped underneath his heavy cloak, gently resting it over her shoulders and down her back. With a gentle touch, he fastened the top clasp for her. She stood motionless before him, paralyzed for fear of what she might do if he leaned in a bit closer.

He thought back to his conversation with Lissanne just fifteen minutes previously, but none of it mattered to him now. The girl in front of him was not some filthy, dirty lowlife who ought to be shunned from the wizarding world; she was a beautiful, intelligent creature and he wanted nothing more than to feel her again. Perhaps he could convince her to take a detour on the way. He realized he was staring, so he explained, “This should keep you warm.” His own face warmed as he spoke to her, reaching up a hand to stroke her cheek.

“Thank you,” she replied before pulling away and resuming her brisk walking. “I don’t want to miss too much of Professor Snape’s lecture. If we hurry, we should be back fairly quickly, since Professor Sprout already has the roots ready for us.”

“So, how do you think you did on the Arithmancy exam?” he asked, wanting to keep her talking. It set him at ease.

“Okay, I think. I thought there would have been more questions on spatial derivatives, since we spent so much time on them in class. But other than that, I thought it was fair.”

Draco chuckled, “Personally, I’m glad there were only a couple questions on that. But you sound almost disappointed.”

“Not disappointed, exactly … just surprised. It’s like all that time we spent studying them was a big waste.”

He chanced a look at her by his side. Her eyes were fixated on the floor in front of her. She seemed hesitant to look at any place other than her feet. “It wasn’t all a waste, was it?”

“No, not all of it,” she admitted, her voice cracking faintly.

His legs were longer than hers, but he found himself practically running to keep pace with her. In no time at all, Hermione was almost in the Main Hall. It was ironic. For the past two days, he had been searching for every opportunity to get her alone, to speak with her about what had happened before Harry’s intrusion, but now that he finally had his wish, Draco had no idea how to bring it up. He couldn’t just blurt it out. Maybe if they had more privacy, he’d feel more relaxed. As he held the main door open for her, he suggested, “Why don’t we cut through the rose garden? They keep the paths cleared of snow, so our feet won’t get wet and slushy, and the greenhouse is just a little ways past it.”

Hermione looked at him, wondering if his intentions had anything to do with dry feet. The twinkle in his eyes told her she was right, but she couldn’t resist smiling at him. He could really be irresistible when he wanted to be. She conceded, “All right, we’ll cut through, but only because it will be faster, and I don’t want to miss too much of class.”

He felt unusually elated. All of Lissanne’s warnings had completely fallen by the wayside as soon as he and Hermione were outside, where they could be free from prying eyes, free to touch, and he wanted nothing more than to touch her again. She looked so alluring in his heavy cloak with the dragons trimmed around the collar. It was much too big for her, and it practically dragged on the ground as she walked, but he didn’t mind. Plus they were keeping things secret; it’s not like anyone had to find out about anything. He hadn’t confirmed anything to Lissanne about his “relationship” with Hermione. Lissanne only had speculations and ideas about what she thought was true. And Draco knew she would be discreet; despite her earlier reaction, Draco knew she would never do anything to hurt him. She was a friend, but she was also an ally.

Hermione had resumed her fast-paced walking again, like she really was trying to get to the greenhouse as quickly as possible. Once they turned into the gardens and were headed down a snow-free path, he ran a few steps ahead and spun around, walking backwards while she continued walking forwards. He teased, “Why are you in such a rush? We can take our time if we want. Professor Snape likes me. But you didn’t take Weasley’s words to heart, did you? You aren’t really afraid I might hex you out here while we’re all alone?” His grey eyes twinkled in the bright sunlight, and he stopped so fast in front of her, she stepped right into him. As he reached around her waist to hold her body against him, he whispered in a silky voice, “I can think of so many other things I’d rather do.”

She didn’t resist as he leaned over to meet her lips with his. Instead she closed her eyes, holding her breath, waiting with anticipation for the moment when she would taste him once more. When it finally came, she felt all the tension wash away from her body, for when she was wrapped in Draco’s arms like this, things seemed so uncomplicated. There was no confusion, and everything made sense. Her hand reached up behind his neck, and his feather-soft hair trailed over the backs of her fingers. It was just a girl kissing a boy, who kissed her like no other ever had. She felt his kisses all the way down to her toes.

Except that he wasn’t just any boy.

In the recesses of her mind, Harry’s words came fluttering back to her from Wednesday night -- You deserve better than someone who can’t be the same with you in public as he is in private. Slowly, regrettably, she moved her hand down to his chest, and gently pushed him away from her. She bit her lip nervously.

He peered at her through half-lidded eyes, a smile playing on the corners of his mouth. “You taste good,” he told her, licking his lips. “Like syrup.”

“I had pancakes with maple syrup at breakfast.”

“Mmmmm. Maple syrup. That’s my favourite.” He bent forward for another taste, but she kept her hand firmly in the centre of his chest, halting his attempt. “What’s the matter?” he asked, looking around at the deserted pathway. “There’s nobody else around, so no one will see us. Everyone’s in class.”

She disentangled herself from his tender embrace and stepped back a few paces, more than a little disheartened he had jumped to the conclusion her hesitancy had stemmed from a fear of their being caught. “It’s not that.” As almost an afterthought, she asked, “Would it be so awful if someone did see us?” She held her breath, hoping for a miracle, but it never came.

Without hesitation, he huffed, “Of course it would. Draco Malfoy found kissing a Muggle-born witch? My housemates would be all over me for it, considering who you are, and my father …” His voice trailed off as he spoke. “I don’t even want to think about what my father would do to me.”

Bristling at his vehement reaction and how he was so concerned about his precious reputation, her mind scrambled for how to say what she needed to tell him. Finally, she decided the direct approach was the best. She took a deep breath. “I told Harry.”

He took a few steps back as well. “Told Harry what?” he asked slowly, fearing he already knew the answer. He tried to joke, “Told him he was a self-righteous, overrated prat? I’ve been telling Potter that for years, but he’s got a bad case of denial.”

She threw her shoulders back in an effort to gather some courage, and looked up at him stubbornly. “About you and me. After he picked me up at the library Wednesday night, I told him.”

“You did what? Why would you do that? No wonder he’s been staring at me the past few days like he’s been dreaming up horrible and painful ways for me to die.”

“I had no choice. He saw your bag and school robe by the couch when I opened the door, and he’s not an idiot, like you would have everyone believe. He’s much more observant than you give him credit for. He was all ready to get Ron and go you ask you about it himself unless I told him what we were doing in there. One look at me and he could tell he hadn’t interrupted any solitary studying. And the truth is, I needed to tell him.”

“So he just asked, and you told him.”


“He didn’t threaten you with bodily harm?”


“He didn’t threaten you with a potion brewed by Longbottom?”


”He didn’t threaten to hide all of your books until the end of the term?”


“He just asked you.”

“That’s right.”

“So now I’m wondering, where was all the Gryffindor strength and courage I’m always hearing about? All that logic and quick thinking you’ve been lauded for ad nauseum by your teachers and the Headmaster himself? Are you sure you were sorted into the right house, Granger?” He was obviously mortified, stunning Hermione by how deeply he felt it. She hadn’t heard him call her by her last name in months. It stung more than his biting criticisms of her. And his mocking tone didn’t do much to make her feel better either.

“You weren’t there, Draco. I’d like to see you look one of your closest friends in the eye and tell an outright lie, if they’d asked you point blank if there was something going on between us.”

“One of my friends did ask me about you,” he spat to a startled Hermione. “Liss just saw the picture Isabel sent each of us, and she pulled me out of breakfast to ask me what was going on.”

“What did you tell her?” Hermione gulped, remembering her first reaction to seeing them dancing closely together.

“What you should have said. Nothing. I admitted nothing, and I denied everything. Merlin help the poor sap who asks you to be his Secret Keeper; you’d be easier to crack than a peanut.” He laughed cruelly. “The really strange part is before she saw the picture, Liss thought I was shagging Potter.”

Under normal circumstances, Hermione would have probably fallen over in a fit of laughter, but she wasn’t feeling very jovial at the moment.

He looked at her imploringly, “Why did you have to tell him the truth? Because Potter and Weasley don’t hate me enough already? Don’t you know the truth can do more harm than good?”

“I couldn’t handle it any longer; I was confused about everything. It’s not like I normally go around snogging the enemy every day of the week. For five years I was certain I knew exactly what you were: a pompous, arrogant arse who took pleasure in annoying me ever since I stepped foot in Hogwarts. How could I reconcile that with the warm, intelligent, impassioned wizard who awakened parts in me I never knew were there? I’m a logical person, but I just couldn’t get any of it to make sense to me. My heart was taking me places my head would never go. And not having anyone to talk about it with just exacerbated everything. Not to mention lying to my best friends is one of the worst things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t keep doing that either. And it was wrong of me to start it in the first place.”

“Oh no, you didn’t blab to Weasley too, did you?” he lamented.

“No, I didn’t ‘blab’ to anyone else. I only told Harry, and I’m glad I did. It felt good to get it all off my chest.”

“I’m glad you feel so happy and relieved about making my life an even more hellish existence.” Under his breath, he muttered, “I can’t believe this has happened.”

“Not everything is about you, you self-involved, self-indulgent, conceited bastard.” She didn’t appreciate his attempts at trying to make her feel guilty. She did the right thing by talking to Harry. He as much confirmed he had been suspicious something was going on with her. Better to hear it straight from her instead of all sorts of wild rumours starting. “Harry, Ron, and I tell each other just about everything, and we help each other get through difficult situations. I needed to talk to someone about what’s been happening between us, someone to help me figure it all out, and Harry was there to listen.”

“Excuse me for thinking you agreed with me that this needed to be kept quiet. Where could I have gotten such a ludicrous idea like that?” he asked in mock exaggeration. “Oh, that’s right – from you. You were the one who said we should study in secret and not let anyone know we were working together on Arithmancy. I thought you understood how important discretion was, but far be it from me to get in the way of the great bond between the Gryffindor Three. You wouldn’t survive one week as a Slytherin.”

“Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment,” she snarked at him. “I only suggested that to avoid any unnecessary confrontation and distractions. I didn’t want to be put in the position of trying to explain something I didn’t quite understand myself.” She paused and looked his square in the eyes. “But I never thought we needed to hide anything because I was ashamed of it. Judging from your reaction, I’d say shame was your primary cause for wanting to keep it a secret.”

“That’s not fair, Hermione. I’m a Slytherin Prefect and a Malfoy. I’m as pureblooded as a wizard can get.” He used her earlier line of reasoning. “And it’s not like I go around snogging Muggle-borns every day of the week either. You can’t stand there and tell me you were dying to announce to everyone in the Gryffindor common room that you kissed the infamous ‘Ferret Boy.’ That’s not the kind of thing a good Gryffindor girl wants to shout from the rooftops.”

“That is not true, and you know it. It may have been difficult for a while if anyone found out, because of the surprise factor, but it’s not like I’m a stranger to unpopular opinions. I would never have been ashamed of it. If I believe in something strongly enough, I fight for it.”

“Are you saying you would have stood up to your friends about us? Tried to get them to see it wasn’t a game?”

“I guess we’ll never know,” she replied, unable to hide her disappointment at his reactions. “I can deal with opposition, but the look of horror on your face when you found out Harry knew – I don’t want to be with someone who’s ashamed of me. I deserve better than that.”

“Is that what Potter said during your heart-to-heart?” he spat, overtaken with jealousy at her closeness with Harry.

“No, it’s what I say.”

She was exhausted from their talk, and Draco wasn’t feeling much better about it. Their walk to the greenhouse had not gone at all like he’d hoped. Instead of a few stolen kisses in a discreet hiding place with the only girl who’d ever made his heart thump with a simple smile, he was feeling like the enemy again. He couldn’t shake the feeling something amazing had stopped before it even had a decent chance to start. And he felt emptier than he thought possible.

They walked in silence for a few moments, both pondering how much things had shifted once again for them.

Hermione broke the silence. “We can still study together if you want, because it helps both of us, but it can’t go beyond that. If you don’t want anyone from Slytherin to know I’m helping you, I’ll be discreet as always, but studying is all we’ll be doing.”

“We tried that already. Remember? It didn’t work out very well. If I recall correctly our last study session ended with you running your hands up and down my back, and my hands …”

He looked at her teasingly, biting his bottom lip in that way that made Hermione forget everything else around her. “I know what we were doing, Draco. You don’t need to bring it up.” When she closed her eyes, she could still feel his hands gently rubbing the top of her breast. Just thinking about it chased away the cold December chill. “But maybe we could invite some other students to study with us – maybe some other students from our class, or …” she hesitated, wondering if she should even mention it, “or Harry’s offered to study with us.”

He laughed icily. “What, like a chaperon? No thanks. I’d rather eat live slugs.” She started walking again. “I don’t understand why you’ve done this. Why you’re making things more complicated than they need to be. I thought things were finally sorting themselves out. Why did you want to change that?”

“Because I couldn’t go on that way. You’re like two different people. You’re still the smug, arrogant wizard who enjoys irking my friends, but when we’re alone, you’re smart, intelligent, and kind.” Her voice quivered slightly. “And I’d be lying if I said my mind was on Arithmancy every night in the library.” She reached out beside her and grabbed his hand, halting their walking. She looked up at him and confessed, “Just being with you hurts me more than any hex could. And I don’t want to just be some girl you snog in the shadows. I’m not a casual fling kind of girl, and if I pretended I was, I’d be setting myself up for a fall.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that, so he said nothing at all. They walked on in silence the rest of the way.

Somehow they’d finally made it to the greenhouse door. They stood outside looking at each other, then the door swung open. Professor Sprout greeted them cheerily, “Hello, children. I was wondering if you’d be along soon. Come inside, dears. It’s cold out there.”

“You have no idea,” Draco muttered quietly before stepping inside the warm greenhouse.

Their walk back was unsurprisingly much quicker and quieter. The mood was tense, but not in a malicious way. It was more melancholy. Sprout had loaded their arms up with several trays of yarrow roots for Professor Snape’s lessons, so they had enough to concentrate on by just trying to not drop any of it. Hermione had a more laborious time of it, because the cloak she wore was so big on her.

When they finally made it to the dungeons, Draco paused to open the door, but Hermione whispered, “Draco, wait.” She set her trays on the floor. She reached up to her neck and undid the clasp of his robe, sliding it off her shoulders. She held it out to him. “Thank you for letting me borrow your cloak.”

“You're welcome,” he acknowledged, but he didn’t look at her. He put his roots down beside hers. “Wait here for me while I put these cloaks away. The last thing we need is for Peeves to come along and decide to have a spot of fun.”

“All right.” She watched as he turned and walked away. He seemed to have lost a bit of his swagger, walking quietly instead of clicking his heels along the stone floor. While she waited, she realized she could still smell the cologne from his cloak, lingering on her clothes. She felt her eyes fill up with tears. She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand as he approached once more.

He picked up her tray and handed it to her, then took his. He looked at her, his eyes shielding any emotion he was feeling. “Ready?” he asked.

She nodded, and he opened the door to a scene familiar to both. Ron was standing at his table, face ashen, eyes glazed over. Snape was sneering disgustedly at the Gryffindor, and he admonished, “Mr. Weasley, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. Sit down.”

With heavy hearts, they went to the front of the room to deliver their roots. Snape eyed them curiously, but said nothing other than instructing them to get to their seats. With one final look, they headed to their friends.

“What took you guys so long?” Ron mumbled. “He’s been grilling me for hours.”

Harry rolled his eyes and clarified, “More like two minutes. Snape’s been entertaining himself quizzing us on the potions from our second year final.”

Hermione laughed weakly, “Sorry I missed it. Did he ask you anything?”

“Are you kidding? I was first on his hit list,” Harry laughed. The class had settled in and people were heading to the front to get their fresh yarrow root. Ron got the ingredients for their table, leaving Harry alone with Hermione. He fiddled with his quill. He reached up and pushed his glasses up, watching her meaningfully. His emerald eyes were always so warm when he looked at her; it was one of the reasons she had developed a crush on him last year. She knew Harry would never hurt her; it wasn’t in his nature to be cruel. But after all the events in the past few months, she had realized what she had felt for Harry then was just a crush. Falling for him was the safe option, but thinking of him had never evoked the kind of responses she got when she thought of Draco. He finally broached the uncomfortable subject. “You and Malfoy were gone for a while. Did anything out of the ordinary happen?”

Hermione tried to look sternly at him, but she couldn’t hold the face for long. She was so proud of him. She could tell he was dying to ask her what she had been doing with Draco, but Harry held his tongue. She shook her head. “Everything’s fine.” She could feel the tears prickling behind her eyelids, and took a deep breath, which was a bad idea. She could smell Draco on her clothes.

He could tell she wasn’t as fine as she wanted him to believe. “Hermione …” he started.

But she cut him off, “Well maybe not ‘fine,’ per se, but it will be. We sort of discussed what you and I had discussed.” She hesitated for a few seconds then sputtered, “And it didn’t go as I would have hoped. So that’s the end of it.”

He rested a hand gently on her hand, wanting to be supportive, but deep down thrilled that Draco had disappointed her. “Are you sure it’s over?”

She glanced over at Draco, talking with Goyle as he pulled some parchments from his bag. “It’s over.”


The next week and a half flew by at record speed. The time before the holidays usually did. Last minute holiday shopping in Hogsmeade, exams, the Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match, and the Yule Ball. There was so much to keep Draco’s mind occupied, but he found his thoughts were consistently filled with a certain pair of sorrowful cinnamon eyes and the knowledge he’d caused that pain. After Hermione’s words had had time to sink in, Draco thought he would have been angry or frustrated with her for putting him on the spot like that, for wanting him to take such a giant step; however, the anger never came. He was numb more than anything else. Most days flew by in a haze, and he made sure he saw Hermione as little as possible, sitting with his back to the Gryffindor table at meal times, avoiding the library at all costs, sitting in the front row in Potions, so he had no chance to catch a glimpse of her during class. It seemed to him she was trying the same tactics as him.

He tried not to dwell too much on his conversation with Hermione in the garden, but that didn’t mean he always succeeded. It was easier the week before the Quidditch match. When Draco had been studying for his Arithmancy exam, he’d been terribly neglectful of his Quidditch practices. Now he spent a lot of time on the Quidditch pitch to prepare for the annual grudge match, and it was a welcome distraction. He’d be so exhausted by the end of the day, he’d fall right to sleep. It saved him from lying awake ‘til all hours, wondering if Hermione was also awake thinking of him.

The Quidditch match was unusually tense. Potter had seemed even more inspired than usual to wipe the pitch with Draco’s bloodied body. And he had plenty of time to do it – the Snitch didn’t make an appearance until three and a half hours into the match. Fortunately for the Slytherins, their team had excellent, experienced Chasers while the Gryffindor squad was fairly green. Fortunately for the Gryffindors, they had Harry Potter on their side, and he was flying with more focus and determination than anyone could remember. The two Seekers had flown high above the pitch for most of the match, but they were certain to stay close to one another. Even without the aid of Omnioculars, the crowd below could see the two Seekers had plenty to say to each other, and it was pretty clear they weren’t exchanging Treacle Tart recipes.

It was a close race, but the Gryffindor team was victorious, winning by a score of 380-310. So while it was a Slytherin loss, they still had a chance at the Quidditch House Cup for the year since it was determined by points, not wins. They could run the score up on Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw and win the Cup that way. As the Gryffindor fans poured onto the field to congratulate their team, Draco spotted Hermione almost immediately, as if his heart knew the only thing which would hurt him worse than to lose to Potter again would be to watch Hermione bouncing over to his rival to give him a celebratory hug.

She congratulated the Gryffindor hero, smiling her praise at him. Draco watched her curiously for a few moments. She smiled broadly at her housemates, but seemed more subdued than the rest of them, especially considering her team had just won. She looked over at him, locking eyes with him for the first time since their walk through the garden. He held her gaze longer than he should have, but he was powerless to turn away. The world around them seemed to dissolve. There was no sound, no colours, everything except Hermione was a blur. She looked like she was about to open her mouth to smile or speak, he wasn’t sure. Then she seemed to think better of it and turned to Weasley instead, touching him lightly on the arm, and leading him away to the castle behind the horde of giddy Gryffindors.

When she’d told him she would have stood up to her friends if he’d wanted to be with her, he’d told himself she was just saying it, that she wouldn’t be able to follow through. But he knew she was being honest. Hermione Granger did not make her choices in life hoping to win any popularity contests. She did what she thought was right, even if nobody else believed the same thing. Draco was the one hung up on appearances, not her.

Since he hadn’t been studying with her anymore, he began spending more time in the common room and with his Quidditch teammates because of practice. Lissanne had dragged him to Hogsmeade to do some shopping, doing everything in her feminine powers to keep his attention any place than on Gryffindors ever since she had seen the picture. He still never told her or admitted anything. In fact, she never mentioned the photograph again, but he could tell it was lingering in the back of her mind.

Finally, when they were in the Hogsmeade bookstore, one of the clerks approached him. “Mr. Malfoy, the book of Muggle fairytales you ordered -- “The Complete Collection of the Brothers Grimm”-- has finally come in. I never would have pegged you to be so interested in a Muggle book. The pictures don’t even move. Would you like me to wrap it up for you?”

Draco had completely forgotten he had ordered it. It was meant to be a silly little Christmas gift for Hermione. A small remembrance of their trip to Paris and their lunch with Professor Merriwether, but now it only served as a knife through his heart. “No. No, that’s all right. I won’t be needing the book after all.”

The small exchange seemed to allay Lissanne’s suspicions that Draco and Hermione were a secret item. She still watched him, but not as if she were studying him, searching for the truth. Her curiosity was sated – for the time being.

Draoc was looking forward to getting out of the castle for their short holiday break, even though most of the fourth year and up were staying a few extra days for the Yule Ball; however, instead of having the ball on Christmas day this year, it was being held two days before so that students could still spend the holiday with their families. He felt some distance would do him good, some time in his family’s house and in his own room. They were reminders of his place in the world.

While packing for his holiday, Midas clipped his beak on Draco’s window, a note from Lucius attached to the owl’s leg. Draco rolled his eyes, knowing what would be inside. Dear Draco … blah blah blah. I have some very important work, which needs my immediate and undivided attention. I don’t care for this overly sentimental holiday drivel. I’d rather work than spend time with my family. Blah blah blah … Father.

Draco usually received the same kind of letter every year a few weeks before the holiday break, but he’d hoped this year was going to be different, because the holiday approached and no letter had come – until now. It was pretty much what Draco had expected with a few new twists. His father would be traveling for several months and would not be reachable by any conventional methods. “Your mother will be able to get in touch with me in the event of a dire emergency,” Lucius had written. “But it must be serious. Do not interrupt me for petty nonsense or things you should be able to deal with on your own. This is a crucial trip. I will explain everything to you upon my return.” In addition, Draco’s mother would be spending her holiday on the beaches of Argentina, so there would be no one at Malfoy Manor for the holidays.

He crumpled up the letter and threw it agitatedly into the fire. This meant Draco would have to stay at Hogwarts for the entire break, which only added salt to his open wound. “Bollocks,” he muttered aloud to no one. “Now I have to spend the entire holiday in the castle.” He knew Potter spent every break at Hogwarts because those Muggles he lived with never wanted him back. Draco also knew Potter’s friends usually stayed with him to keep him company. “This holiday is going to be bloody awful.”


The Yule Ball was in full swing by the time Hermione had arrived with her two escorts, Harry and Ron. Not escorts exactly, since neither of them were her date, but the three of them entered the Great Hall together just the same. They had decided they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of finding dates, so it made sense to all go alone together.

Before they entered the busy room, their arms linked together with Hermione in the middle, Harry leaned over and whispered in Hermione’s ear, “You really do look beautiful tonight, Hermione. Make sure to save me a dance.” His eyes twinkled at her behind his round glasses, and he gave her a charming smile which would bring most witches to their knees.

She blushed, “You look mighty handsome yourself, Mr. Potter. You’ll be beating all the girls off with a wand.”

Ron turned to look at his two best friends. “Hey, what about me? Not everyone can be blessed with my rugged good looks,” he joked, puffing out his chest and giving her a wry grin.

She giggled as Harry rolled his eyes. “Ron, you know you’re devastatingly handsome.” In an exaggerated girlish voice, she teased, “That bright red hair, those deep blue eyes, that soft, milky skin …”

His ears turned redder than his hair. “You can stop now, thanks. I know you’re just trying to cover up your deep-seated desire for me.” Hermione laughed good-naturedly and Harry almost doubled over in laughter. He sighed, “Everybody wants a piece of me. It’s a curse really.”

In good spirits, they entered the hall, laughing so hard Hermione had to cling to the arms of her two handsome escorts to help her remain standing.

Draco was already there, standing with some Slytherin boys near one of the windows, drinking some chilled pumpkin juice. The sight of her took his breath away. She was stunning. She was wearing her plum-colored Valeri robes – the same ones she had worn to the Beauxbatons ball, the same ones she had on in the picture locked away in his trunk which he looked at every morning when he got up and every evening when he went to bed. But tonight she looked different. Her hair was sleek and shiny, instead of curled about her face. And it seemed to glitter under the twinkling Christmas lights in the hall. Her face danced with happiness as she laughed whole-heartedly on the arms of her two friends. He hadn’t seen her look that happy in such a long time that it hurt to see such joy and know he was not a part of it. She looked over at the window, and he could see her gasp as their eyes locked, startling her away from Weasley and Potter’s attentions. Potter’s gaze followed hers and he turned her away deftly to some of their friends at a nearby table. Surrounded by his friends in a roomful of chattering, excited students, Draco had never felt lonelier before in his life.

After dinner, the tables were moved away so that the dancing could commence. Several Slytherin girls and a number of Ravenclaws asked him to dance, but he deferred each time, knowing dancing with any girl other Hermione would feel awkward, because only she could fit so perfectly with him. He even entertained with the idea of asking her to dance himself, wondering what she would say. Memories of their picture haunted him as she danced the night away with her Gryffindor buddies, her dance card seemingly full.

Finally, Lissanne stomped up to him. “Are you going to sit here moping all night or are you going to ask me to dance?”

She had asked him to take her, and he’d agreed before he realized it would mean he’d be spending the night watching Hermione dance with everyone except him. He couldn’t get out of it, because Lissanne would never let him.

“All right. One dance,” he offered. He felt he owed her for putting up with his moodiness the past few weeks. He tilted his head as he looked up at her from his chair. She was growing up into quite a beautiful witch. Her hair was pulled onto the top of her head in big curls, and she had placed deep red velvet ribbons throughout the curls. The ribbons matched her dress robes, made of a heavy velvet material, soft to the touch. Her lips matched the deep red of her robes and her eyelids sparkled like glitter under her thick eyelashes.

She smiled happily and clapped her hands excitedly. She had been watching pretty girls all night muster up their courage and take their chance by asking the sexy blond Prefect for a spin on the dance floor. The fact he’d rejected them all except her was worth noting. She held out her hand to him, and he took it as she helped him to his feet. “Just so you know, I’m expecting at least three songs out of this.” She pouted prettily. “Once you sit down, I have a feeling I won’t get you on your feet again for the rest of the night.”

“Only three?” he joked. “I thought you’d refuse to let me sit down altogether.”

She held his hand in hers as she led him to an open space on the floor then placed it gently around her waist as she took his other hand in hers. It had been several years since she had danced with her childhood friend at a friend’s wedding. He was much shorter then, and not nearly as handsome. She could feel many pairs of eyes on them as people turned to see who had lured the dragon to the dance floor. They started moving to the music, and he led her very simply to a popular Muggle holiday song, “White Christmas.” Apparently the Headmaster had a soft spot for old Muggle classics. She kidded, “See, this isn’t so bad. I promise not to step on your toes either this time.” He laughed at the memory, but remained silent. He didn’t have to say it, but she could tell he was hoping for another girl to be in his arms instead.

She’d been sensing it all night. He looked positively miserable, and had a feeling he would end up doing something in the heat of the moment. Perhaps it’s for the best, she mused. Perhaps he’ll finally realize there are consequences for his actions and learn that Hermione Granger can never be part of our world. Even if he has to learn the hard way.

Meanwhile, Hermione was sitting at a table, taking a breather. She had danced just about every song and was getting tired. She was glad Lavender had done a spell on her hair to prevent it from frizzing up halfway through the night. Harry had offered to get them both some pumpkin juice, so she sat down to wait. She’d skillfully avoided looking at the other students all evening. It was easy to do that when she was dancing, giving her someone else to look at, someone else to focus her attentions on. But none of the evening’s dance partners had made her feel like Draco had. None of them had held her as close or as skillfully as he had. Although she’d had fun dancing with her friends, dancing with Draco was an experience she could never forget – the way he held her firmly to him, the way he moved so gracefully that she felt like he was carrying her effortlessly, the way he led the dance with reserved confidence and stellar grace. She feared that if she stopped moving, her mind would drift back to the last time she wore these robes, to the last ball she’d attended, to the last person she’d danced with. She thought if she held it up close, she could still smell the autumn air in her robes from when she and Draco had been outside on the VIP terrace at the Beauxbatons castle. But it was impossible. She had had her robes thoroughly cleaned before tonight. Maybe it was just her imagination. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking.

A spot of silvery blond amidst all the red, green, and black colours on the dance floor caught her eye. He was dancing. Another girl was wrapped in his arms. A girl who wasn’t her.

A gentle touch on her shoulder pulled her attention away from the floor. “Harry, back so soon,” she began, turning around to greet the owner of the gentle touch. A pair of clear blue eyes and half moon spectacles were peering down at her. She stood embarrassedly, “Headmaster, I’m sorry. I thought you were Harry with our drinks.”

“It is I who must apologize, Miss Granger. I did not mean to startle you,” Professor Dumbledore assured her kindly. “On the contrary, I was hoping you might do me the honour of sharing a dance with me before one of your many suitors snatches you away again.”

Her eyes opened wide in surprise, and she graciously accepted, “Certainly, Professor. I’d be delighted.” She smiled broadly as he held out his arm to her and led her smoothly to an open space on the floor.

Hermione felt very honoured indeed. While the Headmaster usually danced a few songs at the Yule Ball, it was usually with staff members or visiting guests. He was not as spry as he used to be, Hermione understood that, but the only student he would usually dance with was the Head Girl. Everyone just assumed it was so he would not have any open displays of favouritism.

As if reading her minds, Dumbledore spoke up as they started their dance. “You seem to be having a lovely time at the ball this evening, Miss Granger, but I can’t help but notice a certain sadness behind your eyes.” She ducked shyly at his keen observation. “Do not be embarrassed,” he soothed. “You have been doing a splendid job of covering it up, but I am more observant than most. Is there anything you would like to discuss? Anything on your mind?”

Although Hermione obviously did have something on her mind, she did not to discuss her love life, or lack thereof, with her school Headmaster. “I’m fine, sir, just a little tired. That’s all. There’s always so much to do before the holidays.”

He sighed in agreement, “That there is. But you must not forget that the holidays should be a joyous time … and a time of forgiveness and hope.” He looked over her head, his eyes scanning the room, but for what Hermione was not sure. His eyes flickered mischievously.

His words lingered in her ears as they danced through the crowd -- a time of forgiveness and hope – but she was jolted from her reverie, literally. Professor Dumbledore had spun her swiftly around, and right into another couple.

“Ow! Watch it, klutz,” a sharp voice cried. “Those are two hundred Galleon shoes you’re tromping on … “ Lissanne’s voice trailed off and she looked properly chastised as Professor Dumbledore smiled benignly at Miss Sheldon and her dance partner, a very pale-looking Draco Malfoy.

“My apologies, Miss Sheldon. I hope I did not damage your shoes or your feet.” He smiled warmly at the students. Lissanne gulped, embarrassed at her harsh comments to the head of the school, but he put her mind at rest. “I fear I was getting carried away by this enchanting music and my lovely dance partner.”

Hermione flushed and looked everywhere but at the boy in front of her. Her head was swimming with a million ways to excuse herself from this horribly awkward situation, but her mouth would not open. She was frozen. Then the Headmaster did something, leaving all the students agog.

“Miss Sheldon, I’ve been wanting to meet with you to see how you are adjusting to your new school,” he smiled. “Now seems like a good time. Sometimes my office can seem forbidding and overbearing. How about if we have a chat while we dance? It’s much friendlier that way.” He looked innocently at his students. “That is, Miss Granger, if you don’t object to cutting our dance short.” Taking her silence as acknowledgement, he gently took Lissanne’s hand in his and started to lead her away from Draco and Hermione. Dumbledore turned back and added, his eyes dancing with unmistakable delight, “Mr. Malfoy, would you be so kind as to finish my dance with Miss Granger for me? She is a delightful partner.” With one final smile from him and a look of astonishment from Lissanne, he spun her slowly across the dance floor, chatting animatedly, leaving Hermione and Draco standing together.

The words were out of his mouth before he could take the time to think about it, “He’s right. You are a delightful partner.” His heart pounded as he looked at her as she played with the sleeve of her robe. She was normally so confident and direct. In the past, seeing her so nervous and discomposed would have brought him such devious pleasure; however, now he just wanted to kiss her anxiety away. He’d have to shake that old man’s hand one of these days; thanks to Dumbledore’s two left feet, Draco had Hermione in front of him – where he could tell her what he should have said in the garden. That he was a fool, that he was miserable without her, that he thought about her constantly, that he missed her, and not just the kissing – all of her. The way she wouldn’t quit until she understood a problem, the way she smiled when she finally figured it out, the way she twirled her hair when she concentrated, the way she could look at him and really see him like no other person had.

He stepped forward slowly taking one hand in his, holding their hands together as he rested his other hand around her waist. Her fingers trembled slightly at his touch. She looked around at the other students, some of who were beginning to stare curiously at them. “Draco, you don’t have to do this just because Dumbledore told you to.”

“I want to.” His voice was firm with conviction, and she knew he meant it.

The Christmas song ended, and a new one started. Hermione recognized it, even if the musicians were playing it a little slower than the original Muggle version. It was one of her favourites.

Love I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart

He looked into her eyes as he held on more tightly to her, pulling her closer to him. She didn’t resist. As they moved in time to the music, everything around them faded away, leaving just the melodic lyrics and their beating hearts pressed close together. Neither of them spoke out loud, letting themselves get lost in the music.

When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are.

She closed her eyes, relishing the way his arm felt around her back, the way his firm hold enveloped her in his warmth. She was certain the only times she had ever seen the real Draco Malfoy were when she was this close to him. So close she could see beyond the steely grey coldness of his eyes to the warm heart he kept hidden to the rest of the world. Feeling his eyes on her, she opened them once more to see him.

All my instincts, they return
And the grand façade,
So soon will burn
Without a noise,
Without my pride
I reach out from the inside.

As she peered up at him with such emotion, such warmth, everything else was irrelevant – his family, his housemates, his father. He’d spent so many years wondering what anyone would find if they dared to see the real Draco Malfoy. Hermione had, and she didn’t run away. Instead he’d pushed her away, but he couldn’t do it anymore. He didn’t want to. A smile curled on his lips.

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches

She smiled back, starting with her lips, but it reached her warm chocolate brown eyes almost instantly. Not breaking eye contact, he pulled their outstretched hands inward, raising her hand to his mouth. His lips brushed lightly over her fingers, and she looked up at him, astonished.

Then slowly, she moved her hand to rest it on his chest. She could feel his heart pounding against her fingers through his robes. She moved her hand upward, resting her fingers along his neck as she caressed his cheek with her thumb.

In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes.

His feet stopped moving, pausing their slow moving dance. Her eyes glistened before him, happy and excited, as she waited with anticipation. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger before moving his head down, trailing soft kisses on her cheek. He could feel her inhale and hold her breath, and she felt his lips form a smile against her cheek.

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive.

He leaned away from her, running his hand up and down her the smooth fabric of her robes. She could see the emotions in his eyes: the final vestiges of a once impenetrable wall breaking down, the fear as he jumped into the unknown, then a calm, assured serenity. She whispered, “I’ve missed you.”

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand façade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside.

“But I’m here with you now,” he said in a low voice. “And I’m not going anywhere.” He placed his hand under her chin and tilted her face toward him. With a quick wink, he bent toward her and kissed her sweetly on the mouth. They stayed that way for a few brief moments, their heads swirling with relief at finally giving in to what they had started so many weeks ago in Paris. It had been a long surprising road, which made their kiss that much sweeter. Hermione placed her arms around his waist, resting her hands on his back as he hugged her close. She opened her mouth to him, and their kiss deepened with each breath.

When they finally pulled away, they heard several loud gasps of surprise nearby. They suddenly seemed to remember they weren’t alone, but rather in a roomful of crowded students and stunned onlookers. The last chord of the song was played, and the room fell into complete silence. Hermione took a deep breath, and let it out with a wide grin she couldn’t fight. She felt his arms tighten around her and she buried her face into his chest.

His face turned serious. “Did you hear that?”

It was impossible for Hermione to hear anything over the thumping of her heart. “No, what was it?” She looked around nervously, growing increasingly wary at the continued silence.

“It sounds like someone’s sobbing,” he explained solemnly. “Not that I can blame anyone. The sexiest wizard to grace the halls of this hallowed institution is officially spoken for.” He arched his eyebrow at her, giving her the sexiest smile she had ever seen, causing her breath to hitch in her chest. That smile was for her.

She rolled her eyes at him. “How can anyone be that full of themselves?”

“Talent. Pure talent,” he quipped. He put his arm around her shoulder and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

She pulled his lips to hers and kissed him deeply again, her heart lighter than she could ever remember. She’d deal with all the repercussions of this miraculous turn of events later. For now, she just wanted to enjoy being in Draco’s embrace for as long as she could.

Faint rumblings started moving throughout the crowd. People started pointing at something. Harry had come back to the table, ready with a lengthy apology for Hermione for getting dragged into yet another Quidditch discussion with some Hufflepuffs. She must be dying of thirst by now, he thought angrily at himself. He knew tonight could not be easy for her, no matter how much of a brave face she showed to everyone else. Harry knew from experience how it felt to not be with someone you had feelings for. And Hermione was too special a person to spend her night languishing over a boy who wasn’t worthy to lick her cauldron clean let alone capture her heart. And if Harry had to spend all night showing her a good time, he was more than happy to oblige.

As he approached the table where he’d left her, he noticed a large crowd of students standing in a corner of the dance floor. “What’s going on over there?” he asked Neville and Ron, who were sitting down.

“I don’t know,” answered Ron. “The band stopped singing and everything just got quiet. I’ll have a look.” He pulled his chair out and stood on it. His face paled, and his eyes grew wide. He opened his mouth to speak. “Hermione?” he whimpered.

Harry quickly got on the chair next to him, and saw the same thing Ron had. There in the middle of a shocked group of onlookers, Hermione Granger, their best friend since they were eleven, was kissing Draco Malfoy with more passion than Harry had ever seen in her. His stomach churned.

A flash of red beside him startled Harry back. Ron had jumped from his seat and was heading into the fray. Harry rushed ahead and cut off Ron’s path. “Wait, Ron. You need to calm down before you go rushing over there.”

“Did you see what I saw, Harry? She’s lost her bloody marbles. Or else that bastard is using Imperius on her.”

Harry sighed, “He’s not using Imperius, Ron.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know, okay. Trust me.”

Ron clenched his fists at his side. “Do you know something I don’t? If you do, you’d better tell me right now,” his voice was rapidly rising.

Harry shifted nervously from one foot to the other. “Well …”

Professor Snape sat at the Head table, having just finished a round outside to make sure students weren’t whisking away to the privacy of the rose bushes on the side of the castle. He spied the Headmaster dancing with the new Slytherin girl, but his attentions were quickly drawn to what everyone else seemed to be staring at. The two students at the centre of everyone’s attention were unmistakable. Snape moved along the table, grabbing the pot of hot chocolate to warm himself from the outside cold.

Professor Vector commented, “That is an interesting turn of events.” She nodded at the kissing pair.

Snape looked up casually, then turned back to his hot chocolate. “I have more important things to do with my time than waste it analyzing the hormonal activities of two students.”

“That’s not what I’ve heard, Severus,” Minerva commented wryly, causing Snape to pause before the cup got to his lips. “I have it on good authority that you’ve been playing quite the matchmaker with Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger. Pairing them up week after week, sending them on secret ‘errands’ together. Don’t tell me you have taken no notice of your students romantic attentions.”

The teachers turned to him in surprise.

He cleared his throat. “All that teenage angst was a disruption in my class,” he reasoned. “They spent all their time mooning over each other. It was distracting. And I do not tolerate distractions in my class.” He tossed the hot liquid down his throat in one gulp, forgetting its temperature and had a coughing fit as it scalded his throat on the way down.

Minerva rose to start dispersing the crowd. As she passed the Potions Master, she touched his shoulder lightly. She easily joked, “Careful, Severus. Pick up a bow and arrow and people might start mistaking you for Cupid.”

The other teachers snickered as Snape’s face burned crimson.

^^^^^^^^^^^^To Be Continued^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Author notes: References:

* Draco’s line: “What can I say, baby? I was born bad.” is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
* the “fight the fights that needed fighting” line was inspired by a similar line in the film The American President.
* Snape’s “I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul” speech is from the Adam Sandler film Billy Madison.
* The song Draco and Hermione dance to is Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”
* Isabel’s excessive taping is in homage to my dear, sweet mother who tapes every package she sends within an inch of its life.
* Lissanne thinking Draco liked Harry is me poking fun at myself, because I am a HUGE Harry/Draco shipper. Draco saying “That is one ship I won’t set sail on” is totally meant to be ironic, because that is my favorite ship.

Enjoy this chapter, kids, because there won’t be another until at least the end of April. All the begging and pleading in the world unfortunately can’t change this. I’ve got loads to catch up on. Normally I take a one or two week break between chapters to give my mind a rest, but I didn’t with this one. I started right in on it after posting chapter 9, so I need a bit of a break from WAHP. But at least there are no cliffhangers this time!

Thanks to everyone who’s reviewed on schnoogle and ff.net as well as everyone who’s emailed me. I really do appreciate it. If you want to talk D/Hr, check out the D/Hr Leather and Libraries thread at www.fictionally.org. We have a lot of fun there!