A/N: Yeah, its been a while, sorry about that. I will save you the long list of excuses and just fork over the chapter that you all have been waiting so patiently for. Chapter seven wont take as long as this one though, so thats the good news. Enjoy.
When I woke up the following morning, I had had the worst hangover I had ever experienced in my entire life. It was nearly enough to put me off alcohol for the rest of my natural existence. Nearly, mind you. Draco had slept on the lounge in my office, and respectfully tiptoed out in the early morning without disturbing me. While a large part of me was breathless with relief that I woke up alone, fully clothed, and in my own bed, a very small portion of me wanted someone to be there with me while I struggled to recount the previous night’s events. However, I could only play the cards I had been dealt, and I had found no logical reason to get all bent out of shape about something of such pettiness.
The weeks dragged on, and each day felt like it was getting shorter and shorter, taking more and more time away from the things that needed to be done. Everyday I healed a tiny bit more, I accepted things a little more easily, and I smiled a bit more frequently. I wasn’t better, but I was getting there, slowly, carefully. Every Saturday night Draco would come to my office with a box of chocolates and a bottle of red wine, and we would sit and moan about the week past, or sometimes we would say nothing at all and simply enjoy the fact that we had survived one more day. However, we never got drunk like we had been that first night, because we both knew that once school started, both of our arses would be fried if we were caught intoxicated by a student. And besides, I had no desire to relive that morning after, it sure was a killer.
By late April, the school grounds were beginning to show signs of life that it hadn’t seen in quite some time. Rainstorms blew over and left flowers sprouting in their wake. Snow began to melt, and birds built their new homes in the trees. The giant squid woke from his frigid winter slumber and was sloshing around in the lake, breaking the thin layer of ice that was left on the water’s surface, and on the first day of May, a rainbow streaked across the clear Scottish skyline. At last, Hogwarts was breathing.
Renovation of the castle was completed by June, and with all the nice weather we had been having, I had every door and window in the castle propped open the let the entire thing air out to ensure that the old, damp, musty smell was gone.
One day near the end of July, it was so sweltering hot that all the professors (myself included) were forced into shedding their thick wizarding robes and adorning instead looser, thinner, muggle clothing. After lunch on that particular day, I went outside by the lake to find Carmondy, Lavender, and Neville splashing around the water’s edge like giddy school children. I smiled slightly as I remembered doing that when I actually was a giddy school child. Not far away from them, Draco was lounging under the shade of a tree, the sunlight that broke past the leaves danced playfully on his face and bare chest. I gulped guiltily as I absorbed the image like a dry sponge exposed to water. Before I knew it, I was standing directly above him, gazing down. Feeling my presence, he opened his eyes and squinted up at me.
“She wears color.” He said, eyeing me up and down before settling back on my face. Glancing down at my powder blue blouse and my cream skirt I tugged nervously at the hems before responding.
“I was wondering what it would take you to get out of all that black. I suppose summer finally coaxed you out, eh?”
“It’s hot today.” I answered lamely.
“Yes, that it is.” He stretched his arms behind his head with a satisfying “Ahhhh...”
His chest was so…
I wanted to touch it, but I didn’t dare. I couldn’t even imagine what kind of mixed message it would send him, and besides, any of the other professors could have seen my actions and before I would have been able to say “But-” there would be an article in The Daily Prophet about some kind of “affair”.
It occurred to me a moment later that as I was still standing over him, with him lying comfortably on the grass at my feet, that I was wearing a skirt, and should his eyes wander a couple inches to the right, he would be able to tell exactly what color my knickers were. I sat down promptly and crossed my ankles, leaning back on my hands.
“So Headmistress, have you heard back from the students yet?” Draco said, trying to strike up conversation again.
“Yes, a few parents of returning students were a bit skeptical about sending them back, but the first years were quite receptive.”
“I wonder what this place is going to look like filled with kids, when I’m not going to be one of them.”
“Oh Draco, don’t worry, you will always be a child.” He shoved me lightly in the arm, knocking me on my side. I flopped on to my back, but stayed down. I felt a buzz of happiness when I was around him, and not just on the nights we drank wine together. It surprised me that the boy who used to walk around like he had a long spoon shoved his arse was the same one who was teaching me how to relax.
I closed my eyes and let the sunlight play on my eyelids gently. When I opened them again, the sun was almost set, leaving a hazy darkness to mingle with the muggy air. Sitting up abruptly, I looked around to see if anyone else was still out. I thought I was alone, until I heard a slash coming from the lake. Standing up, I went to investigate.
In the remaining light I could see a spot of blond bobbing around in the water.
“Draco? What are you doing? What time is it?”
“I’m swimming, what does it look like I’m doing? I think it’s about six or so, everybody went in for dinner a little while ago.”
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“Because you looked happy.” He answered.
“I was.” I said more to myself than to him. Through the haze I could tell that he was smiling.
“Come on in, the waters’ fine.” He called to me. I shook my head vigorously.
“Yes way. Have a little fun, would you? When the students get here it will be nothing but work.”
“I like work. Besides, I don’t have a swim suit.”
“Neither do I.” He said slyly. I was grateful that he couldn’t see the blush creep up on my cheeks from where he was floating in the lake. “You’re wearing knickers I presume?”
“Of course I am! What kind of girl do you take me for?”
“Then take off the bloody clothes and jump in! I’ll even turn around if you want.”
I scrunched up my face. “I don’t think so.”
“Hermione,” he pleaded. “Everyone is at dinner; no one is going to see you.”
I felt myself squirming.
“Maybe just a quick dip…” I caved in. “But you have to turn all the way around Malfoy or else I will fire you.”
“You have my word. No peeking.”
“You’re word still means very little to me.” I retorted as I fluidly slipped my skirt down my hips. I stepped out of it and folded it carefully and set in on the grass where it wouldn’t get wet. I slowly unbuttoned my blouse, pausing for a moment at the last one to wonder if this was really such a good idea. Tossing the idea aside, I undid the final button and shrugged it off my shoulders, placing it beside by skirt and shoes.
“Are you in yet?”
I glided into the lake as silently as I could and floated over to Draco. He must have felt the ripples in the water because he turned around.
“Now I am.” I treaded water a few feet away. My feet could have touched the bottom if I had stood on my tippy-toes, but it was just easier to keep my lower half moving. He looked at me for a minute before saying anything. I imagined that I resembled a lagoon creature in that moment, with the ends of my hair dripping, cheeks flushed red and dewy, and my mascara threatening to run any second.
“Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“Well actually, it was rather taxing having to wade through all that sticky lake mud to get out here…” I trailed on, feigning contemplation. He grinned.
“Oh yeah? How’s this for being ‘taxing’?” Before I could react, he had placed both hands on my head and dunked my under, fully submerging me into the murky depths of the lake. My arms flailed in panic and sought out something to hold on to so I could pull myself back up. My hands found his shoulders, and once he took his hands off of my now waterlogged head I was able to wrap my arms around his neck, clinging to him and cursing at him at the same time.
“Oh you little p-prat!” I sputtered, coughing up a little bit of lake water. He laughed at me. Laughed at my choking gasps for air. I wanted to fire the immature ponce, but thinking back I’m glad I didn’t, since that would have been a tad extreme.
The air around us had cooled off, and looking around I saw steam rising off the surface of the water, giving the lake an even more magical ambiance. Had I not been a witch, and had there not been a giant squid, assorted mermaids, and flesh hungry aquatic animals swimming beneath me, I think I would have started to believe in magic at that moment. I turned my gaze back to Draco then, who still had a hold on me from when I clung to him in desperation.
He was looking at me very… intently.
And I was looking back.
“Hermione,” he said. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
It wasn’t a question, or a demand, just a statement. And maybe it was because he was soaking wet, maybe it was because he made me forget, or maybe it was because I liked the invincibility I felt when he touched me, or maybe because I just plain wanted to, but regardless of the reason,
I let him.
His wet lips meshed with mine in a slippery kiss. I couldn’t say that I fully enjoyed having water interfere with the traction of my lips on his, his on mine, however there was something strangely erotic about it, something that made that kiss sexier than all the others. Much later I realized what it was that was making it so alluring. It was him. But in that moment, as our skin began to prune from being in water too long, and as our lips got acquainted with each other, I felt like I was soaring. I felt beautiful. I felt indestructible. I felt like I never wanted this to end. I felt like the old Hermione Granger.
And nothing in the world felt better than going home to a place that you had been trying to reach for years. Going home to yourself.
Of course, along with getting my old wits about me came with the stark realization that I was snogging Draco Malfoy, my employee, in a lake, with no clothes on but my now translucent knickers. I pulled away and started back towards land hurriedly. I yanked up my skirt (which was quite difficult mind you, things don’t slide on so well when you are drenched) and buttoned my blouse up as I forced my feet into my shoes. I turned around at the sound of Draco getting out of the water. He scrambled into his clothes as well, and daringly placed a hand on my waist, presumably to get me to look at him and say something.
“Look, if I was out of line back there then-”
“No.” I cut him off. “I was. You are my colleague, and as Headmistress it is my duty to have complete control over my actions, which I didn’t, and I apologize.”
“Was it a mistake? Because it didn’t feel like one.”
“No, not a mistake, just a… fluke.” I was unable to meet his gaze. Not in shame or regret, but out of sheer embarrassment.
“A fluke?” He asked, his eyebrows raised.
“I should really be getting inside now, and you should probably come in too.” I started walking back to the castle, with Draco right by my side, not saying a word. We reached the entry hall and had to part ways.
“I’ll walk you up.” He offered. I shook my head.
“Thank you, but that’s not necessary. It’s out of your way.”
“It’s no problem. I want to.” I responded with a small shrug of my shoulders, and we walked together in weighted silence. When we reached my door, he moved to touch my arm, but I instinctively recoiled.
“You know just as well as I do why it is that this can’t happen. You know why I have a hard time trusting you, and you have to know that it would only end horribly.” As hard as it was, I forced myself to look him in the eyes as I spoke. “We aren’t made for each other, and we hardly have a common ground between us. It’s all very black and white.”
“Don’t you mean green and red?” He asked coldly. His sudden change of demeanor caught me off guard and frightened me slightly.
“Slytherin and Gryffindor, it all comes back to that, doesn’t it? You don’t want to picture yourself with someone like me because you’re afraid of what other people might think. This isn’t about our jobs, or the fact that I’m supposed to be working for you, its about the fact that no matter how much either one of us has changed, you are still holding on to that damn Gryffindor pride that makes you think you deserve better that a Slytherin. I thought I saw something in you tonight in that lake that you didn’t have before, but it must have been the poor lighting, because I can see that I was very wrong.”
“Oh yeah? And what was that that you ‘saw’ in me?” I had placed my hands angrily on my hips, offended by his accusations.
“I thought I saw life, but clearly, you are still just a bloody vegetable. Do yourself and everyone else a favor, Hermione, and get over yourself. Everyone is sick of your pity parties, and your excuses for why you can’t get involved, or why you can’t just look around and be grateful for what you still have left. I tried to help you Hermione, I tried to show you that you weren’t alone here, but the second I got a chance to get close to you, you run away and try and use the fact we work together as an excuse to brush me off like a bothersome piece of lint. For Merlin's sake Hermione, all you do is bloody read!”
“Are you done?” I asked impassively, wanting to disappear into the wall and never come out. He drew a deep breath.
“Yes, I believe I am.”
“Good, since you are finished, you can go screw yourself now Mr. Malfoy.” I turned sharply on my heel, wrenched open the door and walked through, slamming it abrasively behind me.
“Bugger.” I huffed irritably as I crossed my arms across my chest and sunk deep into the sofa. "Bugger, bugger, bugger."