Draco was stirring coffee in the private kitchen, the scent of it lingering on the air with a pleasant, warming, rich aroma. Hermione smiled as she drifted about the common room in her dressing-gown and picked up the book she’d neglected to put away last night. Sliding it into its place on the shelf, she turned to see Draco watching her curiously.
“What?” She half-barked, half-laughed as she remembered that now her guard could be let down, now he wasn’t going to continuously insult her. Unless last night was a joke, unless all that he said had been a lie, or some sort of bet he had with his friends. But then why would he treat Blaise the way he did if this was all something false?
“Do you want some? Coffee - I mean.”
“Oh,” she grinned gratefully, allowing her eyes to rest hesitatingly on his lean body that poised perfectly as he leant one shoulder on the door frame. “That would be great, thank you.”
It was weird, this dramatic change in her former enemy. Could it possibly be out of vanity for her new image, or was he generally making an attempt to like her? She paused and squatted on the arm of the sofa, pondering as she oversaw his making of the hot drink. The thick dark liquid steamed as he poured it into a generous sized mug and raised one eyebrow in questioning for milk. She nodded and nodded again as he heaped in sugar, then watched as he brought it over to her and placed it in her hands.
“This is strange,” she informed him, sipping the coffee and relaxing to its wonderful taste. “You know, us - being, well, friends.”
He nodded but broke the ice of his face with a smile and a casual, “I could get used to it.”
Hermione stood up with the coffee still clasped in her hands and wandered off towards the shower. Once she was clean she hurried into her clothes and brushed on some make-up, then ran a comb through her hair and breathed in deeply, releasing that air in an outward sigh. Stepping out into the freshness of the air, she discovered Draco leaning back in a chair, reading a book on Arithmancy.
“Is that first lesson?” She asked him, to which he looked up in vague annoyance at her interruption, then abruptly nodded. She shrugged and grabbed her bag, ready to go down to breakfast and then Arithmancy. “Are you coming?”
“No, I thought I’d just grab something from our own kitchen. You’re welcome to join me, but er - you’d probably rather be with your friends.”
“You are my friend.” It felt ridiculous placing that concept alongside Draco. Draco - now why did it feel so normal calling him that? “But yes, I think it would be nice to eat with Harry and Ginny this morning.”
“Ron? Oh, well - no,” she murmured softly. “Not Ron. He’s . . . changed, for the worst since we came back. I’d rather avoid him for the moment.”
Lessons were interesting, but sometimes Hermione couldn’t help but feel herself distracted. Boys’ eyes studying her every move didn’t help, and a deep ache in her heart told her she wanted nothing more than Ryan in her arms. She missed him so deeply, it was like her heart was torn to shreds over and over every second she was away from him. Every now and then she thought she’d caught the flash of deep-chocolate brown eyes, rimmed with a delicate black, or an affectionate voice matching his calling out her name across the busy corridors. But he was never there. She knew it was stupid, but when she neglected to get letters from him in the morning, she worried he had forgotten her and had found someone else. It was love that made her think all this, an infatuation that clouded her mind. What she longed for most in the world, was to show him off to her friends, to flaunt that the boring Hermione Granger had a boyfriend ten-times hotter than anyone else in Hogwarts.
“Ron, Harry,” she greeted her friends as she waded her way through a sea of students and took her place at the Gryffindor table. “I have something to tell you.”
Ron looked grumpy and ignored her, reaching for the porridge bowl and pretending he hadn’t heard. Harry however, nodded towards a seat opposite himself and Ginny, who was squeezing hold of his hand beneath the table.
“Go ahead, what is it?”
It was hard to put into words, but she knew that sooner or later, they’d find out anyway. She might as well allow them to have it the gentle way - “I-I’ve made friends with Dra - Malfoy.”
Ginny stared at her in shock, and Harry simply gasped. Ron’s reaction however, was very different.
“You what?” He exploded, his eyes glinting dangerously. “You’ve made friends with -? Hermione, are you mad? What part of evil-cunning-bastard-Slytherin do you not understand?”
“It’s not like that. Draco’s changed.”
“Draco?” Ron spat scornfully.
“I’ve seen a whole new side to him. A side that can be friendly, that can be accepting. He proposed the friendship - and I worked out that really, he’s not so bad after all.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “And I always thought you were intelligent.”
Hermione threw back her hands in exasperation. “Oh for heaven’s sake, Ron! Why is it that everything I say lately you have to contradict? What is wrong with you?”
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong, shall I?” he growled testily, fury bleaching his ears to scarlet. “It’s not me who’s got the problem, Hermione - it’s you. You’ve changed since we came back - just look at you. Since when did you care about what your hair looked like, or about make-up? You think you look good, but I’ll tell you what you really look like, shall I? You look desperate!”
“Ron!” she screamed at him, standing up furiously and glaring at him. “How could you? You make out as if I’m some kind of -”
“Slut?” he laughed. “Because that’s what you’re acting like. It makes me wonder how your bought Malfoy’s friendship . . .”
This time Hermione didn’t even bother with answering him. He wasn’t worth the trouble. Let him think what he liked. Instead she marched out of the Great Hall and towards her lesson.
Why did every breakfast time have to resort in an argument? What had happened to her friends? Why were they all against her? This time when she sat down at her desk she was calmer, having thought everything through and pushed it aside as irrelevant. Ron didn’t matter anymore. If he wanted to treat her like rubbish then let him. He wasn’t much of a friend after all.
The only other person in the room was Blaise Zabini,. He scowled when she caught his eye and stood up, pulling up a chair to fit beside her.
“What was all that about yesterday?” He enquired roughly, running a hand through his soft hair that fell like gentle sheets of tawny-gold across his eyes.
“Yesterday? Oh.” She recalled the way Draco had stood up for her and pushed his friend out. She breathed out a sigh and when she sucked in a breath again, she caught a hint of his pleasant aroma. Clearly someone had bathed with lavender soap this morning. “Well, nothing really. It’s just that Draco and I are . . . friends now.”
It sounded so strange, associating that string of words together, but she felt a spread of warmth touch her as she considered them. No more insults, no more pranks - it seemed she was not the only one who had grown up this year.
“You’re friends?” Blaise mouthed with disbelief.
“Well, seeing as we share the same common room and private quarters, yes, we thought it would be childish to hold a grudge against one another.”
“He’s only after you for one thing, you know. We all are. I can guarantee you a better shag though -”
“I don’t want to know.” He shifted uncomfortably as she announced her disdain. “Can you go away, please?”
“Just making conversation.”
She glowered as he moved away and turned to pull her books out. Draco entered the room, smiling. He sat down alongside her, to which Blaise frowned and drew up his chair again.
“What?” He added defensively when Hermione and Draco raised their eyebrows at him. “We’re all friends here . . .”
The class was boring, the work a little too easy for Hermione to deal with. She scrawled the answers on a piece of paper in less than five minutes and spent the remainder of the class debating with Draco and Blaise on which was the best theory to apply to answering questions.
They skipped the Great Hall and ate lunch together in their quarters, whipping together a meal of salmon sandwiches and vanilla ice cream. The vanilla reminded Hermione of the scent and taste of Ryan, and she closed her eyes at the delicious thought of him.
“What are you thinking?” asked Blaise hungrily, to which she ignored him.
“What’s next lesson?”
“You were thinking about lesson and looking so lustful?” Sniggered Blaise. “Have you got a crush on Professor Snape or something? It’s Potions.”
That lesson was spent ignoring Harry and Ron and enjoying the disgusted looks on their faces as they noticed her chosen company. She even flirted a little bit, which was most unlike her, brushing her hand past Blaise’s leg to make him grin and Ron glower. Ron deserved all he got, and his jealousy was thoroughly enjoyable.
It was at the end of that lesson that Harry caught her arm. He didn’t look angry, but he didn’t look overly-pleased either.
“I’ve been looking for you since breakfast,” he informed her. “Where were you?”
“I - well, I wanted to avoid Ron, after what happened this morning.”
He eyed her sympathetically. “Hermione, I‘m sorry he treats you like that, but you know what Ron’s like . . . I’m glad you’re friends with Malfoy. Well, it’s a bit awkward but . . . well, it’s weird - just don’t turn out like them, ok?”
She smiled warmly and gave him a quick hug. “Of course not. What’s that you’ve got there?”
“These? Oh, that was why I was looking for you.” He pulled out two letters from his bag and handed them over to her. “These arrived for you in the post this morning.”
Her hand shook eagerly as she recognised the handwriting of Ryan. She would save that one until last, to savour it. “Thank you., Harry.”
She could hardly steel herself to keep control as she rushed out of the dungeons and up to her room, throwing her bag down with excitement. It was from her agency, with a request that she should model for another magazine next weekend. Grinning, she opened the next letter and her smile broadened.
I miss you like hell. My tour finishes next Thursday and I really want to see you. Is it possible we could meet up next weekend? You can stay with me, in my London flat, if you can get time off school. Write back to the above address if you can make it.
Love you loads.
Her heart beast faster with happiness. It fitted in perfectly with the photoshoot - she would have to speak to Dumbledore, and Seamus for that matter. He would know all about Muggle reactions to discovering a partner was magical. She dreaded Ryan’s reaction, but decided it was time he knew.
Author's Note: I'm really sorry for the amount of time it took to update. I hope you will please, please review telling me your thoughts and perhaps opinions upon what you would like to see happening in the rest of this fic. Some of you have lovely ideas that they have volounteered and I will most certainly use. Can I just say thanks so much for everyone's support so far in this - I really apprechiate it.
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