Chapter 16 : Finally
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Draco took a couple moments to listen to the music, his ears perking up as it sounded around them. “Wonderful choice in music Granger, really,” He pointed out sarcastically, though of course he couldn’t hide the fact that he was grinning.
“I’m sorry,” Hermione replied, rolling her eyes, “It was too short notice to reserve the Weird Sisters... I mean, how was I supposed to know some strange Slytherin boy would break into my bedroom tonight to throw me a private party?”
“Strange, Granger? I thought we were pretty close!”
Nonetheless, Draco softly placed his hand on her shoulder, and then used the other one to clasp her waist.
He laughed nonchalantly, blending in perfectly with the airy sound of the music.
“What is it?” Hermione asked skeptically.
“It’s just, that I’m taking a second to stand outside of my body and look down at us, and never in a million years would I have imagined myself dancing with Beaver-tooth-Granger.”
“Well, never would I have hoped to be dancing with Malfoy the Magic Ferret.” Hermione responded, purposely pinching her grip on his shoulder.
“Oh don’t lie,” He laughed, “You know you wanted me from the beginning.”
“What if I were in Gryffindor?” He asked, “Would you have liked me then?”
“You still would’ve been a Malfoy and no matter the house, I would still hate you.”
He smiled at this, turning them slightly to fit the tune. “I’m a Malfoy now,” he pointed out, “And it doesn’t look like you hate me.”
Hermione turned a rabid shade of red, realizing that he was right. “Maybe I do hate you.” She said, frowning, as though trying to figure it out for herself.
“You don’t.” Draco replied, leaning into her ear, “I know that you don’t.”
She didn’t reply this time, she merely allowed the two of them to get swept into the music, like it was some sort of hypnotic rhythm that drew them into a trance, forgetting that time passed around them.
“Why were you crying tonight?” He asked her suddenly.
“Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, when I found you in your bed your face was red… you smelled like salt.”
She laughed awkwardly. “That doesn’t mean I was crying!”
He rolled his eyes at her. “What happened?” He coerced.
“Do you really want to know?”
“I had a horrible time at the party Ron threw me, okay?”
“Why are you so bent on encroaching into my personal life?!” She snapped forcefully.
“Why were you sad?” He said again, his voice becoming so soft that it reached a timid whisper. He looked at her with heavy eyes, as though he could read her mind.
“Ron,” She managed, trying to avoid his steady gaze.
When he didn’t say anything, she knew that only meant he wanted her to continue.
“He... He got drunk.”
Still he was silent.
“He got drunk… and he started acting like an idiot, and he threw himself all over me.”
Hermione saw the tension in Draco’s brow, and maybe even the flame of anger behind his irises. “How so?” He asked, his voice becoming firm with frustration.
“He kissed me.”
“He KISSED you?” Draco half yelled, his face twisting into some form of shock. When Hermione simply nodded he looked away as though contemplating this.
Hermione however found herself completed surprised by his zealous reaction. Draco looked like he was premeditating Ron’s murder in his head.
“What did you do?” He asked, attempting to keep a calm stance, though the blood ran ramped in his pale cheeks.
“I.. I tried to push him away, it didn’t work, and finally I slapped him.”
Draco’s next reaction was somewhere between hatred and pride. “Good,” He said, his voice cracking, “I’m glad you slapped him. Did he hurt you? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Hermione confirmed, smiling sweetly.
“You don’t like him then…” He pointed out. “If you pushed him away.”
Hermione just shrugged. “He was drunk. He wasn’t himself…”
Draco sighed deeply. “What are you two, anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you like him? Does he like you?”
Hermione pursed her lips slightly, knitting her dark brows together and tightening her shoulders. “I don’t know. I just… I used to like him, but lately I…”
“A simple answer would be fine.”
“I don’t like him that way.”
He nodded, his poker face unreadable now, as he had gotten a reign on his reactions. “What the heck are we, then?” Draco asked, smiling gently.
Hermione released her grip on him, allowing her arms to fall limply to her side. She heaved a great sigh, and folded her arms, seriously wondering herself. “There are so many things I could say,” She said strangely, more to herself than to him.
“Then give me an example.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what we are.”
“What do you know, then?”
She was silent, running her mind over the events from this year, over all the ways she felt about Malfoy. She looked at him. His eyes were crooked as though perplexed, his cupids bow mouth was lopsided, and yet everything about him still looked perfect and clean, symmetric, even. It was a typical Malfoy trait she had noticed even in her first year.
She noted to herself what he had done for her, saved her from a night of lonely misery like some masked bandit sneaking into the sanctity of the Gryffindor common room. How he had saved her from the lake, bought her the Phoenix quill, taught her to fly, and made her laugh.
“I know I like you.” She said, without any more hesitation. “A lot.”
“Then that’s all you need to know.” He said smiling, leaning in to embrace her again.
She still held him back. “What does this mean?”
He was quiet, not sure what she meant but awaiting her to finish.
Hermione nodded weakly.
“You tell me.”
She abandoned all thought of giving him a darting answer, of one that could swing this way or that, as she leaned back in to kiss him for the second time, so that it enlivened her even more than the first.
He was caught off guard by her response, unexpected, so he was rigid and stiff. But, he quickly eased himself in to fit with her, so they could match each other, like one was molded for the other.
His arms slipped back into the nook of her waist, and her hands found the point of his neck where the bristles of his hair began.
Her nostrils flared with the scent drifting from his collar, a bonfire smell like a summer night, a wisp of warm nostalgia.
He pulled away to speak into her ear again. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said gently. “Happy birthday Hermione.”
She smiled one last time, taking in his words and coveting them in the dark cavity of her heart, so they would remain forever, and she allowed him to kiss her again.
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