"Will you get off of me?!"
"That's my foot!"
"Merlin! Your breath is awful, Nott!"
"Shut it, Weasley."
"Alright, alright, will everyone just calm down!"
"Harry! Ron! Are you alright?"
"Not..." A grunt. "Really!"
"Malfoy, did you just smell my hair?! What's the matter with you?"
"Shut it, Granger!"
Silence finally fell as Professor McGonagall screamed.
"Now. I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation to all of this," she said calmly. Then bellowed, "PEEVES!"
Cackling laughter echoed throughout the Great Hall as the ghost popped through the snowy sky. He floated down through the candles and stopped right in front of Professor McGonagall. He slapped his hand on his mouth to stifle his laughter and stared at every single student and teacher at Hogwarts, now involuntarily glued to each other in twos. He snickered as he watched the students trying to wrench themselves free of each other, but it only created more chaos as students fell over like Dominoes.
"Awww, is the Professor all mad?" he mocked.
Professor McGonagall's eyes shot fire. "WHAT did you do?"
The ghost giggled again. "Just a little binding spell."
Hermione's eyebrows rose. "You can't do magic, Peeves."
Peeves shot her a wink and floated around in taunting circles. "I didn't say it was me!" he sang.
Professor McGonagall breathed deeply. "Right. Everyone is going to relax and I'm going to try to reach my wand so I can undo this. Excuse me, Professor Flitwick." McGonagall struggled in an attempt to somehow snake her hand inside her robes. Hermione silently cheered her on in her mind, but what inevitably ensued was nothing more than a funny dance between the small man and the tall woman. Hermione heard Malfoy snicker behind her and elbowed him as best she could.
"Watch it, Granger," he hissed.
She sniffed. "If you don't want to stay binded to a Mudblood forever, you may as well shut up."
"Better a Mudblood than a Weasel, eh, Malfoy?" Nott said from across the room.
Ginny whipped her head around as far as it would go. "DEAD, Nott."
Blaise piped up from across the room. "I'd rather than be pinned against a Mudblood or a Weasel than The Boy Who Won't Die."
Instead of a sharp response, Harry just bent his knees and kicked off from the ground, shoving Blaise face-first into a Christmas tree. Blaise's protests only made Harry grin from ear to ear and Ron and Lavender started laughing hysterically.
At least they are enjoying themselves, Hermione thought.
McGonagall finally let out a squeal of frustration and went still. Taking one more calming breath, she turned both her and poor Professor Flitwick back toward Peeves. "Alright, Peeves, free reign of pranks—within reason—for a week if you just tell me who did this."
Peeves' grin grew even wider and his eyes darted around the room. "Which one, which one?" He floated around, smacking random students and pulling Ginny's hair. When he finally reached a wall, he turned back with nothing but seriousness on his face.
"I'm sorry, Professor. I truly am."
No one had ever seen Peeves look that way. Draco actually felt a chill flow through his veins. Everyone was completely silent.
Peeves broke into a grin again and threw his hands into the air. "Because I'm going to enjoy this so much more than all of you!" He clapped his hands and the candles blew out, plunging the Great Hall into darkness. There were cries of shock and anger and Hermione heard the whoosh as Peeves disappeared through the wall.
Draco cursed. "Professor! Get us out of this!"
No response came. Hermione's brow furrowed. She'd never let on about her slight fear of the dark, but not hearing anything was a different fear altogether.
Draco tried again. "Professor!"
Nothing. Not a sound, save the breathing of Hermione and Draco.
"Okay," she said. "WHAT is going on?"
"How the hell should I know?" he retorted and started yanking at the binding spell.
"Malfoy! Struggling isn't gonna help! It just makes it—" But her words turned to a screech as she and Draco plummeted to the ground. She fell on top of him and found herself wrenched against his chest and her cheek smacked his.
"Granger, what the hell!"
She snapped her head up and would've given him the worst glare of death had she been able to see. "It's not my fault!"
They went quiet. Hermione could hear the rumbling of his angry breathing in his chest and she huffed out in frustration.
Time to think.
"Okay, all we know is that Peeves can't do magic, so this is somebody else's fault."
"No shit, Sherlock."
She kneed him as best she could and went on. "I don't see any reason for this to be a dark spell, so it's obviously some practical joke by someone in the school."
Hermione sighed. "Malfoy, we're not gonna get out of this unless we at least try to work together."
Draco sighed and his eyes sought out something, anything to give him an answer. But there was only darkness, only their breathing. "Fine," he said. "What do you suggest?"
"I get the binding. It's a stupid joke. But where ARE we?"
Draco looked around again. No light, no sound. But his nose perked up. "Do you smell that?" he asked.
He felt her head move as though to look at him. "What?"
"Just smell it."
Hermione lifted her head as far as she could and breathed in deeply. Something...a faint scent of sweetness. It made her woozy and she lowered her head.
Draco felt his nerves jump slightly at the feel of Hermione's face in the crook of his neck.
"It's Devil's Trumpet," she said.
Draco furrowed his brow. "Granger, I don't pay attention in Herbology. What is Devil's Trumpet?"
She took a breath. "They don't teach it in Herbology. My mother had some growing in her garden. It's mainly a Muggle plant. But it's long been believed that it's a distant cousin of the Devil's Snare."
Draco waited. "Meaning...?"
"It's hallucinogenic, Malfoy."
"I brought some to Neville earlier this year because I thought he'd want to research it. THAT was a mistake," he felt her smile. "But the more he worked on it, he figured it was once the precursor to Devil's Snare. The Trumpet roped people in and the Snare trapped them."
"So...what?" Draco asked sarcastically. "We've been binded and now we're supposed to just lay here in the dark and get high?"
Hermione grinned in spite of herself. "Just don't breathe it deeply. I think it was more to create the illusion that we're trapped in some dark place, but we may actually just be laying in plain sight on the floor of the Great Hall."
"In that case, what are the chances of you getting off of me?"
"Not likely. If only I'd just finished practicing how to cast without words."
Draco kept his mouth shut. Maybe...
He took a minute and cleared his mind. He tried to think of the counter spell, but Hermione had shifted and his body reacted. Dammit. He hoped she wouldn't notice. Apparently, she wasn't comfortable because she shifted again and Draco couldn't take it anymore.
"Will you quit it?" he snapped.
"I'm sorry, your Almighty, but I've got a leg cramp!"
"I would too if I'd been dancing with that oaf!"
"You leave Victor out of this! He's a far sight better dancer than Parkinson!"
Draco snorted. "You haven't seen her dance behind closed doors."
"Oh my god," Hermione groaned.
"That’s what she says," Draco grinned.
Draco savored the uncomfortable moment. His mind automatically flew to him and Pansy's midnight romps and he felt himself grow hard. He closed his eyes as he remembered that little swish she did with her hips.
"Um...Malfoy? Could you NOT?"
His eyes snapped open. Shit.
"What, Granger? Never felt that before?"
"Really? NOW you decide to think about Parkinson?"
They both lay quiet for some time. Hermione found her mind trying to figure out who would've done this, and why. Peeves doing it made perfect sense, but this kind of joke required some serious magic and there weren't many who could pull it off except for the professors and that was unlikely. She thought back to right before the binding spell was cast and about who was coupled with whom. Perhaps that was the issue? Romantically? No, she never would've been paired with Malfoy. To mend rifts? Possible. The image popped into her head of Zabini and Harry paired together and she found herself giggling. She also found she couldn't stop.
Draco grunted. "WHAT, Granger?"
She tried to say but the image of Harry crushing Zabini made her giggle all the more.
"I'm sorry!" She laughed. "I just can't get the image of Harry and Zabini out of my head."
Draco rolled his eyes at his laughing companion. The image popped into his head as well and he found himself grinning too. "I imagine they didn't look any more ridiculous than us."
Hermione managed to control herself, but with little giggles still popping out, and said, "But I've been thinking about it. There's no possible reason for this besides a practical joke."
"Can't take a joke?"
"Not that. I'm perfectly capable of that, Malfoy." She coughed a little as the laughter finally died away. "Binding people together I get, but the Devil's Trumpet?"
Draco laid his head back to the floor. He had to admit she was right. In his head, anyway. "True."
"And the only one I can even begin to think who would know its uses is Neville."
Draco snorted. "Somehow I doubt Longbottom is smart enough for this, Granger."
"Shut up," she retorted. "But what if he told someone else about it?"
Hermione sighed. "It could be anyone, Malfoy."
"What if it's not a question of why, or who for that matter, but it’s more specific?"
Hermione looked at him. "What do you mean?"
"Well, this was done to everyone at the dance. But what if it was only one person that was actually targeted and everyone else being spelled just threw suspicion or something?"
She furrowed her brow. "That actually makes sense."
He glared at her. "Don't be so surprised."
"No! I meant...never mind."
"So let's think of who was stuck to whom."
"Okay, well, we've got Harry and Zabini." Another giggle escaped.
Draco grinned. "Yeah, and Little Weasley and Nott."
"Ron and Lavender."
"McGonagall and Flitwick."
"You and me."
They thought for a minute.
"I don't remember anyone else," Draco said.
"Neither do I," Hermione sighed. "I can't even begin to think of a connection there."
"Well, you have to admit that it's a bit weird that we've got three Slytherins and three Gryffindors."
Hermione's eyebrows rose. "Yeah."
"Well, who ever did this is cracked if they think it's supposed to be a ‘bonding' experience."
Hermione snorted. "No pun needed, Malfoy, but what if it is?"
Draco turned his head away and frowned. "Then they should do a better job."
Hermione frowned as well. "Wait, that actually makes sense! Professors Flitwick and McGonagall had a tiff last week and haven't been speaking much since!"
Draco turned back toward her. "And Weasley and Brown?"
"Well, Ron wasn't very kind to her about her choice of dress for the Yule Ball."
"So you're thinking that this is an intervention of sorts? That we can't get out of this until we resolve our differences?"
Hermione stayed quiet.
He closed his eyes. "Dammit."
Hermione crooked an eyebrow and looked down. "If you'd been kind from the beginning, Malfoy, maybe this never would've happened," she suggested.
Draco's eyes popped open. "Oh no. No, you don't. Don't you EVEN try to make this my fault!"
"Well?! You were the one who started all of this by calling me a ‘Mudblood!'"
"It's not my fault you were born unnatural!"
Hermione reared back. "How DARE you?"
Hermione felt tears burning and turned away as much as possible. There was no way she would cry in front of him again. "As far as I'm concerned, Malfoy, I'd rather just stay here forever rather than give anyone the satisfaction of forgiving you."
Draco laughed. "I never said I was sorry!"
Her head snapped back to him and he could feel the heat of her anger. "Who I was born to and where I came from has very little to do with who I am now! I'm a perfectly capable girl! The smartest witch of her age! I've beaten the scores of every single one of your Slytherin buddies and punched you once already, and if you'd ever bothered to even think of how hard I've had to work because of the reputation you and your evil friends set up for me, you'd might even turn out to be slightly more of a person with sentience than your father!"
Draco's grin fell from his face and his eyes narrowed. "You leave my father out of this."
She felt an evil smile creep up her face. "Hit a sore spot, did I?"
"I mean it, Granger. Shut it right now."
"Why should I? You prefer to make fun of my blood, so why don't we focus on yours? Your lot kisses the feet of the most evil wizard in ages, but how did it go last time? Did you succeed? Did the Dark Lord give you a reward?"
"Last I heard, your father had to work the hardest to please the Dark Lord because, oh what was it Zabini said? ‘He's completely incapable of anything besides brushing his hair and polishing his walking stick.'"
"And apparently there's the one about your mother and a certain Death Eater."
Draco growled and pushed against Hermione until they were both rolling across the floor. Hermione yelled and tried to push herself away from him. When they finally came to a stop, Draco positioned himself above her and pushed down. Hermione gasped as her air was constricted. Her eyes flew wide and she tried to look at him.
He enunciated every word. "Never, EVER say anything against my mother."
Hermione gasped again and finally let herself go slack. She felt the tenseness of his anger and she found herself ashamed.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I never should've said those things."
Draco's mind was in a blind rage. Who was this girl, really, to think that she could ever judge someone like the beautiful Narcissa Malfoy? He felt her body soften and felt his rage ebb and start to flow. He rolled over so that they lay beside each other again. He closed his eyes, trying to will away the pain that his rage created. He thought of their home always crawling with followers of the Dark Lord. He thought of his father and his cruel words and the pain his walking stick created. He thought of his mother and the tears she cried at night.
"I can't remember," he whispered.
He felt her lift her head as though to look at him. "Remember what?" she whispered.
He tried to lift his hand to rub the pain throbbing through his head, but is stayed glued to his side through the spell. He bit back a sob, hoping she wouldn't notice.
She did. Cruel and brutal or not, Malfoy was still a human being, somewhere in there. She felt a deep shame for what she'd said. She couldn't recall a time—besides the cockroach comment—when she'd insulted him to his face the way he did her. Whether or not he deserved it was not the issue. She was made to bring people together and so she asked again.
"Remember what, Malfoy?"
When Draco opened his eyes, he felt a single tear flowed down his cheek.
"I can't remember the last time my home didn't have a Death Eater crawling through the house."
Hermione blinked. "At all?"
Draco gave a small grin. "No. Not at all." And Hermione saw a completely different side of him in the next couple of minutes. "I remember one day when my mother and I were in the garden. I think I was four. She'd just showed me how to make the color brighter on some lilies. And I managed to make one bright purple." He breathed deeply. "I watched it get crushed under the foot of Fenrir Greyback."
Hermione wanted to fight it, but she felt her heart go out to Draco.
"That was the last good time I think I had. Greyback was in all the scary stories. He was the one who would take the children if we didn't go to sleep at night. My mom swept me up and took me into the house and put me in my room. I remember hearing her and my father fighting late into the night. Greyback lived there for months. One full moon when he turned, my mother stayed in the room with me. I remember Greyback breaking down the door and starting at me but my mother managed to keep him back by spelling him."
"And your father did nothing?"
Draco snorted. "Part of me has always wondered if he wanted Greyback to turn me. How valuable I would be then."
Hermione nodded in understanding. "A half veela turned werewolf."
He went quiet for a while. "Part of me always wondered if people thought that rumor about my mother were true. I know it is about my father, but not her."
Hermione looked down. "Don't hate me for saying I'm not surprised."
Draco turned toward her. "Blaise wasn't either."
Her eyes opened wide. "Really?"
Draco grinned. "Not that I care, but Mrs. Zabini is definitely something else. And with her reputation for dead husbands, you can imagine how I might not care."
"And what about Blaise?"
"Who do you think told me?"
She went quiet.
"Blaise hates his mother, but with good reason. He's not the cold-hearted bastard I am."
"It sounds more like you were made a cold-hearted bastard, Malfoy."
He went quiet at that.
Hermione sighed. "I never would've said those things normally."
"I imagine not."
"What does that mean?" she asked.
"You're too kind for that sort of thing."
Hermione stared in his direction until she felt his head turn back toward her. "I'm sorry. I must've blacked out for a second there. Did you just say I was ‘kind'?"
He flushed but didn't look away. "It's just..." He turned away. "Never mind."
She willed him to look back in her direction. "No. What?"
He sighed. "You were right. You've never insulted me like that before. But you're right. I ask for it."
Hermione was taken aback. "Was that your way of apologizing?"
"Draco Malfoy is actually apologizing to a Mudblood?"
He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yes alright! I'm a pure-blooded, prejudiced asshat of a git, okay?"
"Say something!" he roared.
"I...well," she tried. "I'm not really sure what to say."
"Granger," he growled.
She lowered her head and smiled into his neck. "Sorry. Um, yes. Of course. I forgive you."
Draco felt relieved and annoyed at the same time. Of course, if they were in plain sight to everyone in the Great Hall he'd never live this down. But if they weren't...
He felt something gnawing in the back of his mind. "Does this make us friends or something?"
She furrowed her brow. "Well, I don't know."
"Not that I'd want to be..."
"Oh, of course not."
He nodded curtly.
"But as your non-friend," she asked, "what are the chances of the Mudblood thing going away?"
He thought about it. They lay there for a little while until Hermione broke the silence.
He lifted his head and realized that he actually could look. In the darkness of their bubble, a little glowing orb was shining. It didn't cast much light but when he looked in surprise at Hermione, he could see a little of her. And she was grinning.
"Maybe that is what we're supposed to do! Maybe the light's coming through because we actually...um..."
"Made a connection?" He provided.
She gave him a sheepish grin.
"Okay, so if we're more or less okay with each other, then why can't we see everything?"
"Maybe," she said, "we're not through."
"Meaning you didn't answer my question."
He let out a huff of breath and looked away. Everything in the girl he currently found himself bonded to was everything he was raised to hate.
"Malfoy, we're not really that different," she whispered.
He closed his eyes. He knew she was right. He knew she'd always been right. His pride wouldn't admit it. His father wouldn't admit it. All he knew wouldn't recognize that this girl lying beside him was anything that he should see as a human being.
He opened his eyes and looked her. Two ears, two eyes, one nose, a cute little mouth. She could cast spells quicker than anyone he'd ever seen. Her eyes searched his for an answer. The look in them wasn't a plea of mercy or respect, but rather, hope. She hoped for him. And he found himself wondering if Pansy or Nott or even Snape would ever do that for him or look at him the way she did right now.
And he felt his heart finally soften.
"No, we're not," he said.
She closed her eyes and let out the breath she was holding. When she opened her eyes again, she looked at him like he had hung the moon and Draco suddenly realized that his heart hadn't just softened, it seemed to jolt back to life. He tore his eyes away from hers and looked at her forehead, her cheeks, the nape of her neck, her lips, and back to her eyes. Her look was full of confusion and wonder, like she was anticipating something. But when he realized what he wanted to do, her eyes tore away from his toward the light.
"It's brighter," she said.
He turned around and looked at the light and saw that she was right. He found himself smiling slightly at the supposed ridiculousness of their situation and what they—what he—he had to do to get out of it. And when he turned back to look at her, he found himself suddenly not wanting to get out of their small prison.
He looked into her eyes again and she looked boldly right back at him. That same hope hung there, but also something more. Longing. He felt she was telling him something with her eyes. To his surprise, he found himself suddenly looking at her lips. He looked back into her eyes and saw a calm, a kind of "Ah. There you are." And he leaned in and lightly touched his lips to hers.
He heard and felt her gasp and he pushed into her a little bit more. She melted against him. His tongue traced the lining of her lips and she opened her mouth to let him in. She sighed into his mouth. He felt his hands twitch to touch her and he suddenly realized he could move. He lifted one hand to her cheek and traced her skin to the back of her neck, her hair tickling his fingers. His other hand grasped the fabric of her dress around her waist and pulled her closer to him, deepening the kiss. Her hands came up to arms and he heard a gasp come from her throat and she pulled away.
"Shhh," he said. "For once, Hermione, don't talk."
He kissed her again, his tongue swirling against hers in a dance. She sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck and rolled over on top of him. He pulled her close to him and held on for dear life.
God, he thought. Don't let this stop. She moved her hips against him and he felt ecstasy flow through him and he broke the kiss and lay his head on the floor as her tongue started to trace the curves of his neck. When she reached the cleft in his neck, he felt his eyes open in pleasure...
...and he stared up in shock.
He could see the Great Hall.
"Hermione!" he whispered. Either she couldn't hear him or she didn't care because her fingers started tracing from his chest down his stomach and to the top of his pants. His eyes rolled back into his head, taking in the feel of her fingers and the wetness of her tongue and the candlelight above their heads.
"Wait! Hermione, stop! Look!"
She grunted in frustration and looked at him in annoyance. Then she looked around in shock. She rolled off of him on to the floor and gasped aloud at the sight around her.
He stared with her.
All the people caught in the binding spell had been released and everyone was wandering around and talking. Harry and Zabini passed the couple on the floor. Professor Flitwick was relighting the candles in the Christmas trees and Lavender was brushing flecks of snow off of Ron's dress robes. Nott and Ginny walked toward Draco and Hermione, arguing about Nott's bad breath. They stopped just in front of the couple and continued yelling at each other.
Draco furrowed his brow. "Can they...are we actually back?"
Hermione shook her head. "I don't know."
"Can they see us?"
Hermione reached up a hand and waved it frantically in Ginny's direction.
"I guess not," Draco said.
Hermione brought her hand up to her face and looked at it. She reached out and waved again.
Draco sneered and grinned. "What are you doing?"
"I..." she whispered. "I think we're under the Invisibility Cloak."
"The what?" he said.
She grinned and turned to him. "Just don't say anything too loudly."
"What are you on about?"
"They can't see us, Draco, because we're under an Invisibility Cloak."
He looked around. Suddenly he realized that there did seem to be a filter in his vision. He reached out with his hand and felt fabric. Tracing his fingers down the length of the cloak, he realized that he and Hermione were, in fact, completely out of sight of everyone in the room. He looked at her and grinned. She grinned back.
Out in the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall clapped her hands loudly. "Everyone, please pay attention!" All heads turned to her. "I'm relieved that we've managed to break the spell for most of you, but we still have some repairs to make and I do believe that Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger are still caught wherever we all were. So, if you please, all of you return to your common rooms and we will resume the ball as soon as we can. Prefects, please help get your people back to their houses." She turned and started ushering people out into the Entrance Hall.
Draco breathed a sigh of relief and Hermione lay down beside him and let out a sigh of her own. He turned his head toward her. Rolling over, he propped his head up on his hand.
"So, did we want to get caught?" he asked with a teasing smile.
She rolled her eyes and turned to him. "Did you?"
He found himself thinking seriously about the question. "Honestly? In a way."
She blinked and found herself grinning. "You're not embarrassed to have just been making out with a Mudblood?"
"You, Granger," he leaned in until they were nose to nose, "are the smartest witch of her age."
She smiled and he leaned in and kissed her again. She kissed him with more passion than he thought she would've ever had. He was so wrapped up in the softness of her hair and the velvet feel of her tongue that he barely noticed the draft now swirling around him. Hermione gasped in his mouth and pushed him off of her. Turning to see what she was looking at, he found himself staring at Harry and Blaise. They were grinning from ear to ear and they both squatted down to the couple.
"So," Harry asked, "when's the honeymoon?"