Hermione Granger held her breath as she pressed her back against the stone wall, attempting to stay out of sight in one of the many dark alcoves at Hogwarts. A group of whispers passed the alcove, and she spotted the blur of school robes moving past. She swallowed against the lump in her throat, her heart still racing from the near miss of having been spotted. She will never take having Harry's Invisibility Cloak for granted.
It wasn't as if she weren't allowed to roam the hallways after hours. Being Head Girl had its benefits. But she didn't particularly want to have to explain why she was sneaking around in the dungeons this late at night. They were still breaking the rules, even if it was for the greater good of their project.
The whispers finally disappeared down the hall— most likely a group of out-of-bed Slytherins Hermione would have normally reprimanded. Peeking out of the shadows, she made sure the coast was clear before racing towards the Potions lab.
Once she had cleared the doorway of their classroom, Hermione closed the heavy, wooden door and sealed their work area in the back of the classroom with a Disillusionment Charm. She sighed, feeling at least mildly safer.
Sneaking around Hogwarts had always been a thrill with Harry and Ron, but this little excursion certainly wasn't. She felt a pang of familiar sadness at the reminder of Harry and Ron, who both had chosen not to come back to Hogwarts to retake their seventh year.
"About time, Granger." A lazy male drawl emerged from the shadows.
She knew he'd be here. But he still spooked her nonetheless, and an unexpected shiver ran down her spine. It's the adrenaline, a natural reaction, that's all.
Hermione squinted at the dark classroom around her. Draco Malfoy's annoyed form emerged from the supply cupboard, a small ingredient vial in hand.
"I ran over here from Gryffindor Tower. Need I remind you not all of us are cold-blooded enough to reside in the dungeons?" Hermione waved her hands around her before setting them on her hips. "And that we are behind on this potion because of you? All you had to do was keep an eye on the cauldron."
Malfoy placed the vial beside their steaming cauldron and glowered at her. He was angry; she could tell from his deliberate movement. She shouldn't have brought it up again. They'd already had this argument earlier in the day, which had ended in them both being dismissed from class by a less -than-amused Slughorn.
"And I told you, your pathetic display of potion making distracted me. We couldn't use whatever it was you prepared."
"My batch would have worked just fine, you arse!" she barked at him, tossing her knapsack on nearby chair.
Malfoy's jaws clenched as he looked about ready to hex her. On reflex, Hermione's hand inched closer to her pant pocket, where she had tucked her wand in before leaving.
He caught the movement and frowned. "Can we just get to work? This was not how I wanted to spend my Thursday night."
That was the other argument they'd had earlier. He'd just had to deal with her having actual responsibilities and Head Girl duties. "We could have met right after supper."
"I was busy." Malfoy grabbed the text and uncorked the vial of what Hermione could now see was Sulphur Vive. The dark yellow powder would burn one's nose and throat terribly if it were inhaled.
That was when Hermione noticed he was still dressed in his school robes. Surely he would have had the time to change since classes ended hours ago. Come to think of it, she didn't recall seeing him in the Great Hall at all.
"You weren't at supper." Her voice was louder than she had expected, and she hoped it had come out more speculative than suspicious. At the tensing of his back, she guessed it hadn't.
"Worried about my well-being now?" he asked wryly.
"No," she blurted defensively, "Just curious as to why you'd miss supper."
He looked at her then and studied her, no doubt wondering if she had been spying on him. She hadn't been, of course. Not that she hadn't been encouraged to by Harry or Ron.
It was common knowledge that Narcissa Malfoy had been adamant that Draco go back to properly finish his seventh year, most likely a political move to help clear their family's sullied image. But that didn't make the Ministry any less wary of the family.
Malfoy looked as if he was on the verge of saying something, but then quickly changed his mind and grimaced at her. "None of your bloody business."
Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes as she walked to their work table. Malfoy shook the vial and measured the exact amount of Sulpur Vive required. He let out a breath as he corked the vial.
It was an unfortunate potions mishap that had happened earlier in the day, when they'd both failed to keep an eye on the bubbling concoction. Right in the middle of class, their cauldron had started to smoke, and a sickly-sweet smell had risen from it. The potion had turned a dark reddish-brown, a far cry from the light purple it was supposed to be.
A month's worth of work was gone. Hermione had been on the brink of tears, mortified by such a public display of failure. Malfoy had been pissed off, and he'd stared at the cauldron like he was about to curse it.
Their classmates had tittered around them when they'd redirected their rage on each other. Malfoy mostly defended himself as Hermione had berated him. The outburst had been put to an end when Slughorn physically pulled them apart, dismissing them from class.
At this rate, they wouldn't have a presentable potion before Christmas. Hermione sighed. "Look, neither of us asked for this, but our serious lack of communication is going to jeopardize my-- our -- marks. Can we just pretend to act professional until we get this done?"
Malfoy looked at her skeptically before tossing the Sulphur into the cauldron, saying nothing.
"Once we present a perfect Wound-Cleaning Potion, we'll never have to speak to each other again."
At that, he smirked. "Promise?"
Hermione shook her head disapprovingly at him as she grabbed some dried Dittany leaves and a mortar and pestle from the cupboard. His smirk unsettled her; there wasn't any of the usual malice behind it.
With a dull thunk, she set the stone mortar down and started shredding the leaves into it. Grabbing the pestle, she was just about to grind the leaves into a fine powder when her hand froze in midair at the sound of a harsh whisper. She glanced at Draco, panic rising in her gut. The prat didn't even look up from the text he was reading.
She set the pestle down and walked toward the front of the classroom. "Malfoy—"
Suddenly the door swung open and Hermione jumped back, quickly backtracking into her Disillusionment Charm.
A petite Slytherin girl sauntered in. Her strawberry blonde hair was let down and held back with a black ribbon. She giggled and twirled around flirtatiously at the boy who was paused at the doorway, completely oblivious to the pair of them working in the back of the classroom.
"Daphne, let's just go back to the common room."
"Oh come on, Vaisey." Daphne Greengrass grinned at the boy, who from his profile looked to be one of the Chasers on the Slytherin Quidditch team.
He sighed and stepped in, surveying the classroom. "A bit repetitive don't you think? Didn't we already use this last week?"
But apparently, he didn't really care for an answer, because he grabbed Daphne by the hips and started snogging her senseless. Hermione grimaced and took another step back. Ew.
With a delighted moan, Daphne fisted her hands into Vaisey's shirt and started pulling it out of the waistband of his trousers. Hermione immediately thought she'd have to blow their cover to prevent the situation from spiraling completely out of control.
Vaisey pulled away with a gasp. "What was that?"
"I don't hear anything."
"It smells like something's burning." Vaisey untangled himself from Daphne and walked towards the back of the classroom.
Hermione went into full-panic mode at the thought of the potion burning, again. She backpedaled, hitting something hard, and nearly yelled at the feel of Draco's hands grabbing her, one at her wrist and the other on her arm. His fingers squeezed once, as if to tell her to be still.
"We're in Potions. It always smells like something is burning," Daphne sighed.
Vaisey wasn't persuaded and continued to walk towards them, eyes searching for something he couldn't see. Involuntarily, Hermione took another step back with Malfoy as he pulled her with him, guiding them until his back hit the table. They had nowhere else to go and all she could do was stay frozen with the knowledge that Malfoy's chest was warm against her back and strangely inviting, even through her knitted sweater.
Wait, what? Hermione's eyes widened at the thought, and she inhaled the gasp that was fighting its way out. She would have moved had Malfoy not had his grip on her. It was a good thing too, or she would have walked right into Vaisey.
The Slytherin Chaser took another step, putting him directly in front of them. Hermione leaned her head slightly back to avoid Vaisey's questing nose and eyes. Malfoy's chest pressed tightly against her as he took a deep inhale, his breath coming out quieter than Hermione would ever be able to mimic.
Then he did it again, and all Hermione could think was how glad she was she had showered after digging through the forest with Professor Sprout in Herbology earlier that day. Blood rushed to her ears and Hermione nearly laughed out loud. What a ridiculous thought!
Suddenly, Vaisey turned around, apparently satisfied with his snooping, "Come on. Let's go find that bottle of Firewhiskey Blaise smuggled in last week."
Vaisey grabbed Daphne by the hand, and the pair left the classroom. Another moment had passed before Draco loosened his grip on her and then let go of her completely. An uncomfortable silence filled the classroom as they both went back to work, neither daring to look at the other.
After grinding the dittany, Hermione handed it over in silence. He took the powder and added it to the cauldron in silence. She had just finished dicing up some ginger root when Malfoy cleared his throat and finally spoke up.
"After we add the ginger, it says to watch it for another minute before stirring counter-clockwise three times."
"I know," Hermione answered back, her voice just above a murmur.
"There's no need for you to be here then." He held out his hand for the ginger.
Hermione handed over the mini cutting board with the ginger, looking quickly away when her fingers brushed against his. After dusting off her work space, she put the mortar and pestle back on a wall cabinet. She stood there for a second before turning back to Malfoy. "Well, if you're sure..."
"Try not to run into anyone on the way up Granger, even with all the noise you manage to make," Malfoy called out without turning to face her.
She frowned at his back and muttered her thanks as she gathered her things and left.
It was a chilly afternoon as they marched towards Hogsmeade for a Potions field trip. The itinerary included stops at the Apothecary and Dogweeds and Deathcap. Hermione and her peers all donned scarves and hats, but it was not so cold where they needed their heavy winter cloaks. All were happy to be out of the dungeons and outside for once.
"What's this?" Dean Thomas exclaimed as he waved a scroll in the air, mischief written all over his face.
"Oi, that's my only copy! Give it here, Dean!" Zacharias Smith exclaimed, knocking into Hermione as he jumped up to snatch his Muggle Studies essay from Dean's hands.
Hermione readjusted her maroon scarf as she frowned at the blond Hufflepuff.
Unfortunately for Zacharias, Dean still managed to read some of the essay. The tall Gryffindor laughed and patted him on the shoulder. "There isn't an actual web on the internet, you twit!"
A red-faced Zacharias huffed before shoving the scroll back into his knapsack. Before he could defend himself, Slughorn promptly jogged past them and interrupted. "No time to waste! I'll keep my lecture short today and I'll give you the rest of the class time for your team projects! Remember they're due next week!"
The Advanced Potions class, which was made up of mostly eighth year repeaters and a handful of seventh years, made their way through the two shops, listening to Slughorn as he spoke.
Two weeks had passed since that weird night, and both she and Draco had gone on pretending it hadn't happened. Which was fine by Hermione—not like she had analyzed and nit-picked the events in her head. Or that she had started to watch him every time he was in the same room.
Before she knew it, Slughorn wrapped up his lecture with twenty minutes left to spare. She inwardly groaned as everyone began rearranging themselves into their project pairs. Malfoy said nothing when she arrived at his side. Instead, he chose to inspect a premium vial of Pepper-up potion.
She grabbed her ingredient list and double checked what they needed to purchase from the shop. "So when are we meeting tonight?"
"I don't really see the point. I'll stop by the classroom when I have the time."
Not feeling assured, she had to disagree. "I'm not taking any chances this close to the due date. And we need fresh algae from the lake—"
"Then I'll go get some before I go back." The irritation was clear in his voice.
"No need, I'll be out visiting Hagrid anyway. I'll get the algae and meet you there before supper. I don't have duties tonight."
Draco looked like he was about to protest as he placed the Pepper-Up vial back on the shelf. But Hermione wasn't taking no for an answer. "You—"
"Fine," he murmured.
She nodded, but then was distracted by the arrival of one Ron Weasley. A chilly gust of wind followed him in, his freckled cheeks tinged red from his trek outside. He didn't look surprised to see the group of former schoolmates as he scanned the shop and spotted her.
"Hermione!" Ron called out as he walked over. Caution and suspicion grew in his eyes as his gaze fell on the blond male behind her. "And Malfoy…"
Draco nodded, barely acknowledging the red-head before turning to inspect the wall of various potions and ingredients.
Content with ignoring each other, Ron turned back to her. "Mum wants to know if you'll be over for supper sometime over Christmas break. Unless you're too busy—"
"Of course not. I'll owl her about it when I get back." Hermione wasn't one to disappoint Mrs. Weasley. Not that it was a sacrifice anyway, even with the current awkwardness between her and Ron. The food was always bountiful, the company always merry.
"Great!" But the excitement didn't read in his eyes and they both struggled to find casual small talk.
Then suddenly, a squeal sounded across the room. Ron turned to the source and blushed a deep red. "Got to go."
He barely made it across the room of the Apothecary before Lavender Brown jumped into his arms. Hermione assumed they must have planned to run into each other, since this was the last place Ron would be making a stop while in town.
Over the summer, Hermione had told him she wasn't sure she wanted to have a relationship while he was away and she went back to Hogwarts. To be fair, she may have said it out of spite and disappointment that he had chosen not to go back with her.
And then she had learned he had got back together with Lavender at the end of summer. It still stung that he'd moved on so quickly. But she guessed she'd made the right decision after all.
Lavender cooed as she brushed a stray hair behind his ear. Ron grinned sheepishly and accidentally knocked over a bottle of beetle juice, causing the glass to shatter and spill everywhere.
"Is that what passes as Gryffindor courtship these days?" Malfoy muttered to her right.
"Unfortunately," Hermione murmured. She was about to change the subject, but Slughorn did that for her by announcing the near end of the class and the importance of making it back to Hogwarts on time.
She grabbed the vials of ingredients they needed and rushed to the counter. She insisted on paying, but Malfoy ignored her and handed over a few Galleons to the clerk. Without another word, Malfoy left the Apothecary, finding escape with his Slytherin mates.
"That wasn't funny, Malfoy!" Hermione yelled as she slammed the tin of algae on their wooden work table after marching into the classroom with the furious intent of telling him off. Her anger boiled at the memory of poor Neville in the infirmary.
Malfoy turned to her with tiredness in his eyes; concern was clearly the furthest thing from his mind. "You're going to have to be more specific than that, I'm afraid."
"That immature little stunt you and your friends pulled on Neville. He could have been seriously hurt!" Hermione dropped her bag with an angry toss. "He nearly fell two stories!"
His eyebrows shot up at that, the tone of his voice raising. "And you think I had something to do it?"
"Yes! Where else would Harper have gotten the idea to charm Neville's arms into a pair of enormous wings?" Malfoy blinked and Hermione knew he was picturing the unusual image of her house mate. "You don't deny it?"
"I didn't tell Harper to do anything!" Draco exclaimed.
"You didn't give him the idea to shoot fire hexes at Neville to scare him into using the wings?" She narrowed her eyes at him.
Draco growled and stood up from his seat. He took a calculated step towards her, his height looming over her. "No."
Hermione refused to be intimidated. She raised her chin up and looked directly at him. "It was a stupid prank. You need to get your house in order."
He rolled his eyes at her. "They'll hardly listen to me. And I have better things to do than watch over them. Maybe your friends just need to toughen up."
Hermione was astonished at him admitting his loss of power over his house mates. More so, she actually believed him. Over the last couple months, Malfoy had flown relatively under the radar, keeping to himself rather than flouncing around with his pack of Slytherins. Granted, he was still a prat and scared the living day lights out of any unfortunate first years.
"Neville is tough—he just shouldn't have turned his back on a Slytherin." Hermione sniffed. "Madam Pomfrey managed to reverse the hex, but there were… feathers left behind. She had to pull them out by hand. It looked painful."
His lips tightened and then the corners tugged into a smirk. "I'm sorry to hear that."
If only he sounded sincere. But his mirth was contagious and she found herself fighting a grin. She shook her head and cleared her throat, killing whatever humor that was forming at Neville's expense.
Malfoy stepped away from the table as she stepped in front of the cauldron. "Is that the algae?"
"Yes." Hermione grabbed the tin, opened the lid and gave a shake. The wet algae leaves sloshed in the tin.
"Well, go ahead. Prepare it and add it in," he ordered with the air of an aristocrat before walking to his knapsack at an adjacent work table.
Hermione held her tongue. Just a few more days, and then this would all be over. She followed the directions in their text exactly, drying the algae slightly with a cloth, leaving it just a bit damp. Before adding it to the cauldron, she turned around and found Malfoy investigating a Honeydukes sweets box and piece of folded parchment.
He caught her looking and held up the parchment with a smirk. "Early Christmas present from Pansy."
Malfoy must have liked his sweets more than Dumbledore from the hungry look he was giving the box. He didn't even bother reading what must have been a heart-felt letter from Pansy before ripping into the box. He frowned at the contents, apparently unhappy with the choices.
"What is it?" Surely Pansy wouldn't have messed that one up.
Malfoy tilted the box towards her, revealing a collection of expensive looking little chocolate bon-bons and truffles. It looked like something he should have given to Pansy, not the other way around. Hermione smirked and turned back to the cauldron. She dropped the first algae leaf in and watched it disintegrate.
An odd groan sounded behind her, which she would have mistaken for enjoyment had he not spoken up. "What the bloody hell?"
She turned and found him inspecting a piece of half-bitten truffle as if it was completely foreign to him. "It's a piece of chocolate, Malfoy."
He ignored her and put the truffle up to his nose. "It smells odd, sort of like…"
"Chocolate?" Hermione said with a deadpan tone.
Draco threw her an exasperated glare and then closed his eyes, smelling the piece of chocolate once more. He popped the chocolate in his mouth, eyes closed in concentration. All the while, Hermione couldn't stop herself from staring at his mouth and jaw, the way he was working the chocolate around to taste it.
"Tastes like chocolate, but smells like ink…"
She thought of the improbability of chocolate smelling like ink. Gross!
"And parchment." His head shot up and he looked at her with an emotion she couldn't place.
Feeling uncomfortable under his gaze, Hermione turned back to the cauldron and dropped the second leaf in. With the ladle, she stirred it clockwise, watching for the algae to infuse with the potion. "Your girlfriend has strange taste in gifts."
"She's not my girlfriend."
She hummed, not agreeing nor disagreeing with that revelation.
"Though, she's trying very hard to be." His voice came out low and closer than it was before.
"How unfortunate." Hermione fought the tension in her shoulders, the strange need to flee.
"Are we jealous, Granger?"
She could hear amusement in his question. "Of odd-tasting chocolate sweets? Hardly."
The box of sweets hit the floor with a thud behind her, followed by his nearing footsteps. She pulled the ladle out and put it gingerly on the table, hoping he'd continue on his way around her.
He didn't. She could feel his presence behind her and refused to turn around—funny how she didn't even think to get out of the way.
She jumped at the touch of his hand pulling back her hair and fingers on her neck. Turning around, she found he had been closer than she thought, with just a step between them. Malfoy took that last step and closed the distance, his fingers ghosting along her arm and down to her wrist.
"What are you doing?" She whispered, heat flushing on her cheeks and all over. She should move, needed to move.
With a furrow of his brow, his gaze trailed up her neck and past her lips until it met hers. For a moment, he studied her, "I'm not sure."
And then he was kissing her. The idea of it all was absurd enough that Hermione stood frozen, mind completely detached from her body. Malfoy must have expected this, as his hands gripped her hips and pulled her to him. A hand traveled up her back and held her impossibly close as the other ghosted up to her side, fisting into the jumper there. His lips trailed to her jaw and sucked, eliciting a heavy sigh from her, so he did it again, harder.
To Hermione's surprise, she actually liked it. No, more than liked it. It was as if he was leaving a trail of hot embers on her skin. And she actually mewed as she wrapped around his neck. He groaned, apparently happy with her reaction. His breath grew ragged near her ear.
Deciding to throw all rationality out the window, she fisted her fingers into his shirt. He continued to do amazing and sensational things to the underside of her jaw, finding a sweet spot behind her ear she didn't know she had. It was all driving her insane and all she wanted to do now was kiss.
Grabbing his head, she pulled him down to her and kissed him back. This was all insane anyway. Might as well roll with the punches and deal with the repercussions afterward.
They kissed each other with great ferocity, battling each other for dominance over the kiss. She nipped him there; he tugged at her bottom lip there. And once their tongues had entered the fray, all rational thought went out the window. It was just the sound of their heavy pants mingling with the sounds of their lips popping and sucking.
His hands found home at the nape of her neck, holding her at just the right angle for him. Hermione moved forward and pressed herself against him, hands traveling over the contours of his back, and then suddenly she felt his tell-tale hardness pressing against her abdomen.
The shock of it jolted her. With a gasp she pulled her head back and put her hands on his chest. Pushing him away, she didn't dare look down. They stood there, chests heaving, only the sound of their ragged breath in the potions classroom.
They studied each other, the reality of what had just happened washing over them. Draco's lips were red and slick, his hair and shirt disheveled. And she no doubt looked the same. What was the best way to handle this? Should they ignore it? Address the insanity and move on?
"What the fuck?" Malfoy took a step back, hand held out as if to warn her to stay away, the other wiping away the evidence from his lips.
His gaze fell to the floor. It was intense and it looked like he was fighting a losing internal battle. "Stay back!"
"What—" Hermione furrowed her brow and frowned at him. "Calm down!"
"I still want you." His head up shot up and there was the most pitiful look on his face. It looked almost painful for him to admit it.
Hermione took a disturbed step back, feeling like they were the butt of some cruel joke.
"I want ... I want you," His mouth formed over silent words he was still trying to say. "I … I lov—"
"Stop! You stop right there!" It was Hermione's turn to throw her hands up, feeling heat rise in her cheeks. "There is something very seriously wrong here. Are you under some kind of spell?"
That seemed to sober Draco up enough as he straightened up, confusion written all over his face. "I didn't feel anything wrong before."
She followed his gaze as it fell on the box of sweets.
"The chocolate!" They both exclaimed.
Draco snapped his eyes closed and backed away until he reached the other work table. He grabbed his robes, put them on, and threw them over his front, hiding his… Hermione blushed at the thought and looked away.
"Pansy must have laced it with Amortentia," he bit out as he felt around for a chair before taking a seat.
"Talk about being underhanded."
"Oh, I'm getting her back for this. She'll be sorry. But in the meantime, think you can prove to be useful and get me the antidote?" He said.
Hermione crossed her arms and glared at him, but the action was futile as the git still had his eyes closed. "Oh sure, just let me get the spare Hate potion I always keep on hand."
"So you aren't actually useful then."
With a frustrated groan, she stomped over to her bag. "Good luck with getting back to your room blind."
He must have sensed she wasn't bluffing. "Wait! Wait, please. It's nearly suppertime. There are people everywhere!"
"So sorry," Hermione nearly sang out, feeling almost giddy at the thought of Malfoy making a fool of himself.
"Please." His eyes were still closed, hands holding his robes tight. It looked painful for him to admit he needed, had pleaded for her help.
With a sigh, she put her bag back down. They remained silent, both working their minds for a solution. She wracked her brain for an answer but came up short. The last resort would be to get one of the professors.
"Go get the bitterweed," Draco said.
"Bitterweed?" In theory, it should work, she thought. It was the main ingredient in a Hate potion, but consuming such a concentrated amount would be a very bad idea. "You'll be sick, pass out even."
"I'll take the risks," he muttered. "Just Rennervate me if I do."
That surprised her. "You trust me to cast on you?"
"Well, what other option do I have?" Voices and laughter filled the hallway outside, signaling the slow migration of students on their way to the Great Hall for supper. "Granger, I'd like to get this done sometime this century."
Hermione humphed. It was a wonder any of his house mates managed not to strangle him all these years! She turned to fetch the bitterweed, stomping all the way to the cupboard. She swore he had been grinning when she returned to his side.
Uncorking the jar, she pulled out the smallest piece of the pickled plant she could find and placed it in his open palm. Malfoy winced at the cold, wet feel of it. Without another thought, he popped it into his mouth, grimacing at the terrible taste of it.
She took a careful step back and studied his reaction. Then all of a sudden, he gripped his head and stomach, doubling over in pain. Hermione knelt on the floor, not daring to touch him. He probably wouldn't like to be coddled by her. "Was that enough?"
Malfoy let out a terrible gargled noise and writhed on the ground. Hermione glanced at the door, if they made any more noise, it would certainly raise alarm outside.
"Draco, just nod your head if it worked and the potion's worn off." Hermione pulled out her wand and gripped it tightly. He gave her a slight nod and it was all she needed. "Stupefy!"
The spell went through his body with a jolt and then he went limp on the floor. Hermione felt a rise of panic she stared at an unconscious Draco Malfoy lying on the floor of the classroom. Then suddenly the idea came to her. She rushed to the cupboard for the anti-sick potion Slughorn kept on hand in case any of them was about to spew all over his classroom. She ran back to Draco, turned him so he was lying on his back and poured the potion into his mouth. With some effort, she moved to lift him up on her lap, making sure to keep his mouth shut and working his throat to swallow the potion.
When she was sure he had consumed the potion, she pointed her wand down at him and whispered, "Rennervate."
His eyelids fluttered open, the residual anti-sick potion causing him to cough. And for a moment, he looked lost. When he recognized the classroom, he sagged against her lap. "You Stupefied me."
She blushed. "I had to shut you up somehow."
"Well done! Ms. Granger, Mr. Malfoy. Well done!" Slughorn held up a vial of their light-purple Healing potion. They had made a batch of the potion that would have made Bonham Mungo proud.
"Madam Pomfrey will be delighted to hear you've decided to donate these! Top marks!"
Hermione's classmates around her clapped rather unenthusiastically as she beamed. The feeling of accomplishment and being praised for it was sublime. Malfoy bumped her arm as he walked to retrieve the grade sheet Slughorn was holding out for them.
She had been avoiding him since that night she kissed Draco Malfoy. The mere thought of that sent her heart racing. Forget about voicing it to any of her friends. Draco avoided her as well, the rest of their nightly meetings were spent in silence. And one of them always had an excuse to leave early.
But in the last couple of days, she caught him looking, as if trying to ferret out some answer by just watching her. She didn't know what he was up to; maybe he'd try to blackmail her or something. It wouldn't be that surprising. That hardly mattered though, all she had to do was hold out for one more day. Christmas break would come and she'd be free.
When Slughorn announced the end of the class, Hermione raced out of the classroom, ignoring anyone she passed in the hallways. She thought she heard a pressing voice calling out for her, but she continued marching down the pathway lining the courtyard that was lightly covered in undisturbed snow.
Eyes wide, she halted upon hearing him say her name, the sound of it not as terrible as she thought it would be. Quite pleasant, actually. Her stomach did that funny little flip, the kind she used to get whenever she accidently bumped into Ron or when a professor announced there would be a pop quiz.
She turned around and found him grinning at her, most likely pleased with himself for having stopped her.
"What?" Hermione asked as she glanced at the curious looks they were getting from their nearby classmates.
"We need to talk."
"About?" Hermione eyed a pair of bystanders behind Malfoy who had decided to stop and actually stare. Malfoy gave her a knowing look.
"Alright," Hermione muttered, grabbing him by the elbow and was awarded with a raised brow. She ushered them both out into the courtyard and walked them behind a solid section of the stone wall.
Malfoy studied her for a moment. "You kissed me."
Hermione sputtered indignantly. He kept his face his face straight, making it impossible for her to read him. "You kissed me first!"
"Yes. But you see, I've thought about it—"
Hermione gaped at his admission.
He continued, "And you could have pushed me away, should have pushed me away."
She blushed, feeling heat pricking at her ears. "We were in that classroom for a while. The fumes must have gotten to me."
"Hm." Draco watched her carefully with those memorizing grey eyes of his, dismissing her flimsy excuse.
It really was too bad the only time they were together had been spent cooped up in the Potions lab. Now that they were outside, she could fully appreciate his eyes in all their glory.
"And what if I told you that Pansy didn't sneak Amortentia into the chocolates?" He was studying her intently, as if her next response was an important one. The implication of the question itself was terrifying enough, especially if he was serious about what it would mean.
Hermione shook her head. "But she must have. You thought they smelled weird."
"That's right," the corner of his lips tugged into an almost smile, "Ink and parchment."
She swallowed nervously and looked away. She had no idea what to with herself and decided to take the easy way out. "If that's all you wanted to talk about—"
"I just have one question for you." His fingers grazed her chin, tilting it so she was facing him again.
Her breath hitched when she met his gaze. He was unbearably close. She could hear the whispers around them getting louder. The Hogwarts gossip mill was already running rampant at their public display. The smart thing to do would be to pull away, but her body stayed exactly where it was.
"You're stubborn," he said, his hand brushed nape of neck, fingertips ghosting past the wisps of hair there.
"That wasn't a question," she whispered, her heart thundering at his touch.
She thought he'd say something biting back at her, make fun of her. Instead he leaned down and placed a kiss at the corner of her lips. He pulled slowly away and she followed his retreating lips for a split second.
Her lips parted and his gaze dropped to them. The bright grey eyes that sparkled at her in the winter sun were now a stormy grey. She had a hard time thinking about much about anything when he looked at her that way.
It was all the assurance she needed. "Oh, the hell with it."
Hermione reached up and grabbed the side of his face. She leaned up and kissed him back. With a growl, he grabbed her hips and pulled her to him, closing the distance. An astounded gasp sounded from somewhere nearby, but Hermione was too focused on the feeling of his lips against hers to care.
When they finally parted, he rested his forehead against hers, grinning that crooked male grin at her like he had just won whatever game they had been playing.
"People are staring." Hermione just realized now she'd have to deal with the backlash from her house, from her friends. She hadn't even thought about it seconds before, the boy just unbalanced her.
"You want to take this somewhere more private?" His tone was teasing.
She rolled her eyes at that and started walking away. "You'll have work a little harder than that, Malfoy."
He easily caught up alongside with her, not throwing his usual death glare at any of the younger years passing by.
She had to quicken her pace to keep up with his long strides. "You're in an unusually good mood."
"It's been an unusually good day," he answered back. He peered down at her. "I really did have a question to ask you."
"And what was that?" Hermione eyed him cautiously.
Draco raised a brow at her. "What do you have planned for the holidays?"