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Return After The War by fromtheashes248
Chapter 5 : Explosions Abound
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 27


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A/N: ANNOUCEMENT!!! My story does include some very slight DH spoilers. They were completely unintentional, and they don’t really have that much to do with the main plot line of the book, but if you want to know absolutely NOTHING about DH, DO NOT read this! Of course, if you’ve already read the book, then you know what the small parallels are and you know that they don’t matter all that much… Okay, I know the last chapter was super-long, but a lot of that was because there was more dialogue and song lyrics… oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted to put a lot of stuff in there, but it really works better that way! Coming in this chapter, Draco and Hermione head back to the dorm, Hermione has a hangover, and someone gets punched in the face! I promise, that is a scene you WILL enjoy! In fact, I think you’ll enjoy the entire chapter, or at least I hope you will. And for those who are waiting to find out exactly what happened between Harry and Ginny, prepare for your dreams to be fulfilled. Okay, well, maybe not your dreams, but you’ll definitely find out. In chapter two, I said that Harry left her at night, but that was wrong; it was supposed to be morning. I used some more song lyrics in this chapter… this story is starting to become semi-song-fic. Please tell me if it’s working; I like the way it works, but if it sounds stupid to everyone else, I need to know, so please review. For everyone who has reviewed, thank you sooo much; I appreciate the kind words and support more than I can say. And just so it isn’t confusing, thoughts are in italics and song lyrics are italicized and in bold. Okay, this A/N is way too long, I’ll stop now. Read on! And enjoy!



Chapter 5: Explosions Abound

“Thanks again, Harry!” Hermione threw herself at her friend. It was lucky he caught her in a hug; otherwise she would have fallen flat on her face. “I love you, ya know? I really do… Ginny!” She flung herself off of Harry and in the general direction of where Ginny was.

As she teetered off, Harry asked Draco, “Are you sure you don’t want help getting her back up to the dorm? Ginny and I, and some other people, have to stay to clean up some, but I can come back.”

“No, I’ll be fine. I’ll carry her if I have to.”

“Thanks mate. I’ve never seen her like this. I think people just kept buying her drinks because they wanted to know what Hermione Granger would be like when she’s smashed.”

“Well, they certainly found out. At least she’s a cheerful drunk.”

Harry laughed as Ginny walked up to them, Hermione’s arm slung around her neck. “Hermione?” she said gently. “Draco’s gonna take you back to the dorm now, okay?”

“You’re not coming?” When Ginny shook her head, Hermione grabbed her in a sloppy hug and cried, “I’ll miss you!”

“I’ll miss you, too, but I’ll see you tomorrow. You go sleep now.”

“I like sleeping.”

“Me too. Bye-bye.”

Draco put his arm around Hermione’s slim waist and steered her in the direction of the castle. He gave Harry and Ginny a little wave, and they set off back to the dorm.

“Well, that was interesting,” said Ginny as she watched them walk away. “Come on, we’d better get to cleaning; I don’t want to be here all night. Dean’s offered to help us.”

“Fantastic,” Harry said sarcastically as he held the door of the pub open for her. “I can’t wait.”

Down the street, Draco was enjoying the fact that Hermione had to lean heavily against him to stay upright. “My head feels muddled,” she complained. He thought it was cute that she was slurring her words a bit.

“Yes, well, that’s what happens when you drink too much.”

“I’m fine! I don’t need you telling me I drank too much!” She pushed herself away from him to prove that she could stand on her own two feet… and she promptly fell on her ass.

As he helped her up, she said, “You know what? I think I may have had too much to drink.” He only laughed.

They had reached the stone steps of the castle. This was going to be tricky, getting her inside without anyone realizing that she was drunk. “I’m going to carry you the rest of the way. Just pretend you’re sleeping and if anyone asks I’ll tell them you fell asleep at the pub.”

“Oh, okay. But why do you need to carry me?” she asked as he swung her into his arms. Her stomach flipped over and it had nothing to do with all the fire whiskey she had drank. He lifted her as if she weighed nothing, and she felt safe in his arms. She tried to pretend she was sleeping as they walked through the Entrance Hall and started up the steps.

“Because you, Hermione, are well and truly pissed. It wouldn’t do for the Head Girl to be caught intoxicated.” They had reached the fourth floor by using a shortcut he knew of, and he had just begun climbing the stairs to the fifth when she lifted her head off his shoulder to stare at him in shocked amazement. “What? Put your head down, you’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“You said my name,” she said softly, smiling beautifully at him. He turned down the corridor to their dorm.

“And…?” he said in a distracted manner as he opened the door while still carrying her. He gave Sarah the password. Though she lifted her eyebrows in a questioning manner, Sarah said nothing and swung open to let them in.

“You’ve never said my first name before… you always just call me Granger.” He set her back on her feet once they were through the door. She didn’t remove her arms from around his neck and he couldn’t bring himself to ask her to. “I like it when you say my name… Draco.”

Hearing his first name roll off Hermione’s tongue was exciting for some reason. It sounded different when she said it… it sounded right. He smiled at her. “Well, I like it when you say my name, too. Let’s get you to bed, then; you’re going to have one hell of a hang-over in the morning.” He guided her to her room.

“Draco, if I ask you to do something, will you do it?”

“Well, that all depends,” he said as he sat her down on the bed and began to take off her shoes for her. In her current state he doubted that she would be able to handle the task on her own. He helped her lay down, pulled the covers up over her, put the rubbish bin next to the bed, and sat down on the edge. “What is it you want me to do?”

She pushed herself up on her elbows and looked him straight in the eye. “I want your hands on me; I want you to kiss me.”

His mouth dried up and he had a furious internal struggle over what to do. In the end, however, his more gentlemanly side won out, though it was a very close call. “Why do you have to be drunk, Granger?” he muttered. At her questioning gaze, he continued, “I’m not going to kiss you, not now.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re drunk.” He leaned down over her. “There are things I want to do to you, Hermione, and you’re going to want to be sober when I do them.”

She let out a soft “oh” of surprise, pure lust clouding her vision at his words.

“I also don’t want you regretting whatever happens between us. I want you willing and ready; I can wait until you are.” He stood up and walked to the door. “Get some sleep, Granger. I’ll see you in the morning.”

With that he closed the door behind him and went into his own room. He sat down on the edge of the bed and scrubbed his hands over his face. It looked like he had gotten the answer to his earlier question. Yep, he thought, she is definitely trying to kill me.

************************************************************************
When Hermione woke the next morning, the first thing she noticed was that the inside of her mouth seemed to have been coated with sandpaper. She wondered what time it was, so she opened her eyes intending to look at the clock on the bedside table, but she shut them almost immediately. That small motion seemed to have awoken two Beaters behind both of her eyes, and they were gleefully using her eyeballs as Bludgers. She groaned, but that was a bad idea as well. Her stomach rolled and she wanted to whimper, but she thought that one more sound might actually cause her head to split in two. She needed to get to the bathroom; maybe a nice, hot shower would bring her back from the dead. But in order to get to the bathroom, she had to move, and that was going to be a problem.

She forced herself to sit up, very slowly. She held her head in her hands as her legs dangled off the edge of the bed. She was afraid if she let go, her head might roll off her shoulders and onto the floor; then again, that might be a relief. Just as she was trying to talk herself into trying to stand, she heard her door open. Too weak to look up, she merely made a pathetic sound in the back of her throat.

“So, are we alive, then?” Draco spoke in hushed tones, and Hermione was grateful. Anything louder than that might have killed her, or at least she felt that it would. “I was wondering when you would wake up; it’s already half-past eleven. I brought you some tea and dry toast, if you think you can hold it down.” He set the small tray down on her desk.

“Shower,” she said quietly, her voice rusty.

“Drink this first,” he said, handing her some Haggly’s Hang-Over Helper. “It’s a potion for hangovers. Trust me, I’ve had cause to use it before and it works… it just takes a few minutes to kick in,” he said when she hesitated.

“I’m never drinking again,” she said hoarsely after downing the potion.

“Of course you will; you’ll just be more cautious about it next time. Well, come on, then,” he said. He grabbed one of her hands and led her gently into the Common Room, helping her around the obstacles of furniture. She wondered vaguely why she was letting him help her; usually she was too stubborn to except help from anyone, even Harry or Ron. She supposed that in her weakened state, she just didn’t have the energy to refuse assistance.

When they reached the bathroom, he grabbed one of her towels and laid it next to her shower stall. “Unless you want my help getting undressed, and I would be more than happy to oblige,” she slit her eyes open to glare at him balefully. “Okay, then, I’ll leave you to it,” he said with a smirk.

She undressed quickly, set the temperature to near blistering, and stepped under the spray with a thankful moan. Though she knew it would likely be painful, she stuck her face under the spray, trying to wake herself up. After some time under the water, she felt relatively near human again. She started washing her hair with vanilla-scented shampoo, struggling to remember what had happened the night before. Everything was hazy in her mind, muddled and vague. Not very surprising that I can’t remember anything, is it? I practically drank the entire bar.

She remembered, dimly, Draco carrying her up the stairs… she remembered him saying her name for the first time. And why did that memory stick out so clearly? And then… had he actually put her in bed? Who knew Draco Malfoy had kindness in him? The memories were starting to clear a bit, thanks to the hangover potion Draco had given her. She had to remember to thank him for everything he had done… and everything he hadn’t done. Suddenly, she remembered everything, including the conversation they had after she was in bed. She knew she should feel embarrassed about the fact that she had actually told him that she wanted his hands on her… but there was little room for embarrassment when she was so pleased about what his response had been. So, he wants to do things to me, does he…? That could get very interesting.

After she dried off, she thought that she could maybe stomach that tea now. In fact, she felt fantastic. She wrapped a towel around herself and walked quickly into her room. She got dressed in a comfortable pair of jeans and an oversized Hogwarts sweatshirt. She pulled her hair back into a loose ponytail. Finally, she allowed herself to look in the mirror. Well, it wasn’t that bad. The shower had cleared away any make-up that had been smeared and she didn’t feel dirty anymore; she simply looked as though she needed some rest and relaxation. She thought she might actually take the day off. She had finished all her homework for the coming week, after all. Ron had said something about visiting Hagrid today and that was something to look forward to.

She walked out of her bedroom and into the Common Room to find Draco sitting on the couch reading a book. He looked up. “Feeling human yet?”

“Actually, I feel wonderful. Thank you for the potion… and everything else.”

“Here, I got you a present.” He picked up a small, rectangular box from next to the couch and tossed it to her lightly.

She caught it easily. “You got me a present?”

“That’s the traditional thing to do when someone has a birthday.” He smirked.

“You didn’t have to get me anything, Draco,” she said, but there was a small smile on her face when she spoke.

So, she remembers saying my first name, then. It sounds even better when she’s sober. “I know, and I wasn’t going to, actually. But I saw this and… well, it fit. It’s not much. Are you going to open it?”

With a curious smile, she pulled off the ribbon (which was a Slytherin green, she noted) and took the top off. When she saw (and heard) what was inside, she burst out laughing. Inside was a gold necklace and hanging on the chain was a miniature golden lion. The lion was roaring and prowling about bad-temperedly. “You are absolutely ridiculous,” she said, still laughing.

He stood up and walked over to her. “Don’t worry.” His famous smirk was still in place. He took the necklace out of its box and went about clipping it around her neck. “The shopkeeper promised that it doesn’t bite,” he said from behind her, his breath tickling her ear.

His fingers trailed on the back of her neck, sending delicious little shivers up and down her spine. Hermione wanted to arch her back and purr like a cat, but thought it might be a little bit obvious.

“Thank you,” she finally managed huskily. He loved her voice when it was like that. She realized rather abruptly that she was starving. And not just for breakfast, she admitted to herself. She turned around to face him, and took a small step back. If she didn’t get a little distance, she was going to explode. “Can I repay you by cooking some breakfast for us both?”

He smiled. “What were you planning on making?”

“Er… I was thinking maybe French toast? I’ve a yen for it.”

“A yen, eh? Well, can I ask you to do me a favor, then?”

“Perhaps.”

“Can, um… could you teach me how to make it?”

She smiled.

************************************************************************
Hermione wasn’t the only one to wake up in a bad mood that morning; Ginny was out of sorts as well. The party last night had ended a bit before two, and she hadn’t gotten into bed until just after four. And on top of that, every time she had tried to talk to Harry last night, Dean had interrupted her, even when they were cleaning out the pub. Ginny wasn’t stupid; she knew that Dean wanted her back, but she wasn’t ready to be with anyone yet. She refused to admit to herself that she was still waiting for Harry; if he didn’t want her anymore, then she didn’t want him either.

But it was so… tempting being around him again, even if things were a little strained. She was doing her best to act nonchalant after what had happened between them. Ginny still thought he had been a bloody imbecile. She had been so angry with him (and still was, to a certain extent), though she knew, deep down, that he was right. And she supposed she had made it a little more difficult for him than it should have been, but really, what was she supposed to do? Sit there and accept everything he said to her? Agree to let go of the one thing that was right in her world? No, she couldn’t do that… but she did regret some of the things she had said to him. And laying in bed that morning thinking about the night before, it was hard not to remember.

It was the morning after Bill and Fleur’s wedding and Ginny had risen early. She knew that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were leaving the Burrow the next day and she wanted as much time with them as possible, especially with Harry. He had been a little distant the ever since school had ended a week ago, but it was easy enough to understand why. After all, he was heading off to, literally, fight for his life. She was just pouring herself a cup of hot tea when Harry walked in.

“Hi,” she said smiling at him sleepily. “Do you want a cup?”

“Ginny…”

“Listen,” she said as she poured a second cup for him and added cream the way he liked. “I was thinking, since you three are leaving tomorrow, that we could all spend the day together. I know you have a get ready and pack and all that, but I could help.”

“Ginny…”

She placed the cup in front of him at the table before leaning back against the counter. “And then tonight I can send you off in proper fashion.” She sent him a seductive smile. “Why aren’t you sitting?” She got a quivering sense that something was wrong; his face was wrong, his eyes were blank. She felt suddenly wide-awake.

It’s amazing
How you make your face just like a wall
How you take your heart and turn it off
How I turn my head and lose it all


“Ginny -”

“What happened? What’s wrong?”

“I was up all night packing. I’m leaving in a few minutes.”

“But… I thought you all agreed to spend the day after the wedding. Why -”

“Ron and Hermione are leaving for Grimmauld Place tomorrow. I’m going ahead to Godric’s Hollow first. I have to… I need to go there.”

She was trying to understand. “Oh. Well, I’ll go with you, if you want -”

“No… Ginny…let’s sit down.” He knew he had to do it quick, before he stopped himself.

He was starting to scare her. “No, Harry, I don’t want to sit down. What the hell is going on?”

“Ginny, we can’t… this has to end.”

“What are you talking about? What needs to end?”

“I can’t let you be with me when all this is happening, Gin. He’ll use you to hurt me; I won’t let you get hurt.”

It’s aggravating
How you threw me on and you tore me out
How your good intentions turn to doubt
The way you needed time to sort it out


“I really don’t think that’s your decision to make. I don’t care if it’s dangerous.”

“I do. This isn’t something that we can discuss, Ginny. It’s just the way it has to be.”

“No, it isn’t.” Now she was getting angry. “You’re just being a selfish prat.”

“Excuse me?” The tone of his voice clearly showed that she had pissed him off, but Ginny didn’t care.

“You heard me. You’re trying to be noble and you’re trying to protect me. Well I don’t need you to, and you bloody well know that. You just don’t want to have to spend time worrying about anybody but yourself.”

“Do you honestly think it’s easy for me to leave you? Do you really believe that I want to walk away from you?” He crossed to her and grabbed her arms in frustration. “How do you think I’m going to feel, not being able to think about you, touch you, kiss you?” He slid his hands up her arms, over her shoulders and up to frame her face. His voice was suddenly sorrowful. “I won’t be able to see your face, or smell your hair, or hear you laugh.”

“Harry…” She could feel her eyes filling with tears. Then don’t leave.

“But I can’t think about that. I can’t let what I want get in the way of what’s right.”

“And this is right? It’s right for us both to be hurting?” She brought her hands up to cuff his wrists. She was crying freely now, but she didn’t seem to have noticed. “Harry… you know this is wrong.”

“I’d rather you be alive hating me then dead loving me.”

I’m not saying there wasn’t nothing wrong
I didn’t think you’d ever get tired of me
But if that’s how it’s gonna leave
Straight out from underneath
Then we’ll see who’s sorry now
Tell me is that how it's going to end
When you know you've been depending on
The one you're leaving now
The one you're leaving out


“Nothing I say matters does it? You’ve made up your mind for both of us.” She removed his hands from her face and took a large step back so she wasn’t touching him in any way. “You should go now,” she said quietly.

“Ginny…” He reached up as if to touch her. She slapped his hand away.

“Don’t touch me,” she said, her voice dangerously low. “Don’t you fucking dare. It’s over, right? So get out.” When he didn’t move, she screamed. “Get out!”

He turned without another word and left the kitchen. Ginny turned to face the sink, still crying silently, her knuckles white from clutching the counter. She heard voices in the hall, and the sound of the front door opening and closing. So, he’s gone, then.

“Ginny?” Mrs. Weasley walked in, sounding very confused. “What happened? I just spoke to Harry; he said he was leaving and to say good-bye to everyone. He looked miserable… Ginny?”

She remembered vaguely sliding weakly to the floor and sobbing, hearing her mother calling for Ron to carry her back upstairs, Hermione sitting with her while she cried. Ginny shook her head and wiped the tears from her cheeks, bringing herself back to the present. It was over a year ago; get over it, she told herself.

She got out of bed and got dressed. Wincing slightly when she realized what time it was (it was almost noon), she headed down the stairs from the girls’ dormitory and into the Common Room. Her eyes fell on Harry, who was sitting in front of the fire playing chess with Ron. As usual, it seemed that he was losing spectacularly. She sat down next to her brother. “Losing again, Harry?”

“Yes,” he sighed. “I don’t think I’ve beaten him once.”

“You did once last year,” Ron reminded him. “But I was sick, so I suppose that doesn’t count. Ginny, we’re going to go get Hermione in a little while and visit Hagrid; do you want to come?”

“Yeah, sure. Sounds like fun.”

“Hey, Ginny,” said Dean Thomas, appearing out of nowhere once again.

“Hi, Dean,” she replied. Ron noticed Harry tense momentarily when Dean sat down next to Ginny.

“Do you want to come have lunch with me? I was just about to head down.”

“No, thanks. I’ve just made plans with this lot.”

“Okay then… well, I’ll see you at dinner, yeah?” he said as he got up.

“Sure. Harry?” she said after Dean had walked away. “Are you alright?” His face was blank, but his entire body was tensed up, like he was angry about something. What does he have to be angry about? He left me, not the other way around.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s just go get Hermione,” he answered, his tone irritated. Ron just shook his head as they set off toward the Heads’ dorm. Now Harry was in a jealous funk and Ginny was annoyed. Those two are honestly the most stubborn people I have ever met, he thought.

************************************************************************
By the time they reached the Head dorm, Harry had calmed down a bit. He had no right to be angry after all, Ginny was free to do what ever she wanted with whom ever she wanted. But did she have to do it right in front of him?

“She’s probably feeling miserable right now,” Ginny remarked as they walked down the fifth floor corridor. “Has she ever had that much to drink before?”

“Not that I know of, but she’ll perk up soon enough,” answered Ron. “I brought her some hangover potion. Got it from Fred and George, so it has to be good. Hi, Sarah.” Last week, Hermione had shown all three of them the way into the Heads’ dorm, so they had no trouble getting in.

“Hello, Mr. Weasley. Mr. Potter, Miss Weasley.” She nodded to each of them in turn. “You remember the password, I presume?” she said with a characteristically sad smile.

“‘Forgiveness,’ right?”

“Indeed.” She swung her portrait open to let them in. They were immediately hit with the scent of French toast… burned French toast. Hermione’s laughter was also prevalent.

“No, Draco, that’s far too much batter.”

“I like a lot of batter, thank you.”

“But it keeps burning the outside before the inside is cooked. Do it like this.”

“Hermione?” called Ron.

She popped her head out of the kitchen. “Hi!” she greeted them with a smile. “Do you want to join us for breakfast? Don’t worry; you don’t have to eat what Draco’s cooking. I made plenty before I started trying to teach him. He’s hopeless.”

“I’m not hopeless!” he called from the kitchen. “I’m… learning.”

“Yes, about as fast as a three-legged, blind turtle,” she called back, laughter in her voice.

“Hermione, you don’t look hung-over at all,” said Ginny with some surprise.

“That’s thanks to Draco. I was in a right state this morning, but he gave me some hangover potion and it worked wonders.” Ron’s face tightened slightly at this; he was supposed to be making her feel better, not Malfoy. “Go sit by the fire, I’ll bring out the food and some pumpkin juice.” She scampered back into the kitchen.

“Since when has she been calling him Draco?” said Ron with a sneer of disgust. He scowled when he heard Hermione’s laughter ring out from the kitchen again.

“Well, it is his first name, Ron,” said Ginny sedately. She was hoping something would happen between Draco and her friend. Maybe it would help Ron realize that Hermione had moved on and that he should do the same. Merlin knew nothing else had worked.

“Shut up,” he muttered.

************************************************************************
By the time October arrived, Ron had grown more used to Malfoy’s presence. He still wasn’t happy about it, but he got used to it. Hermione was immensely relieved by this. She had enough to worry about already, what with her Head duties and N.E.W.T.’s coming up and classes and homework and studying; she didn’t need to worry about Ron on top of all that. At the moment, she didn’t have time to think about much of anything other than her Charms assignment. She was working particularly hard on this paper since Professor Flitwick had hinted that they would be very heavily tested on Protean Charms later on in the term, and she hadn’t thought overly much about them since fifth year, which seemed ages away now.

The library was almost empty since curfew was less than thirty minutes away, but Hermione was still searching for any books that would help her write her paper. She had discarded her outer robe not long after she had arrived, throwing it and her wand and bag onto a nearby table before burying herself in books. She was in the back stacks, quite hidden, when she heard someone walking towards her. Before she even had the chance to turn around, she was pinned with her back up against the bookshelf by none other than Blaise Zabini. Her arms were trapped behind her back.

“Well, if it isn’t the Gryffindor princess, all by herself.” His eyes roamed over her freely. “How you doin’, Granger?”

“Get off me Zabini,” she replied lazily, hiding how frightened she felt.

“Why should I? It’s so nice being on you.” She pulled one of her hands free and slapped him across the face. “You’ll pay for that, Mudblood,” he said venomously, grabbing both her arms and shoving her roughly against the bookshelf again.

She winced as her spine made contact with the rough edges of the shelf behind her. She tried to put her knee into his groin but he blocked it by shoving his body in between her legs. His arousal was pushing against her and she suddenly felt viciously ill. She glanced over to where her wand was sitting on a desk a mere six feet away. It might as well have been six miles. Hermione realized that she was completely helpless; he was much stronger than her physically and she had no wand, no way to fight. She made to jump toward her wand, but he stopped her before she could get far and dragged her even farther away. He chuckled cruelly, “I don’t think so, Mudblood. You and me, we’re going to have some fun first.”

Hermione opened her mouth to scream, but then she felt the tip of his wand under her jaw. “Try and scream, Granger, and I’ll curse you within an inch of your life. Understand?” She nodded quickly. Ropes snaked out of nowhere and bound her hands in front of her; Blaise had obviously used a non-verbal spell, but he had been sloppy. The ropes weren’t very tight and the knots were simple. She immediately started to unknot them. Harry had taught her how to do a lot of things last year, and freeing herself by Muggle means was one of them. She was making progress quickly; hopefully she would be able to do something when she was free.

When Draco entered the library, he was looking for Hermione; they had to patrol soon and he wasn’t sure where she had disappeared to. Some Ravenclaw sixth years told him that they saw her in the Charms section way in the back stacks. The moment he saw Blaise pressing himself up against her, touching her, his vision hazed with red.

As Draco was walking into the aisle where Hermione was, Blaise put one hand on her breast and squeezed roughly while the other slid up her thigh and under her skirt. She tried not to make a sound and to not let her face betray how disgusted and frightened she was; she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. But something must have showed in her eyes. He laughed sadistically, “What’s wrong, Mudblood? You should feel honored that I’m -”

But why she should feel honored she never found out. Draco came out of nowhere and grabbed Blaise from behind, pulling him off of her and slamming him into the bookshelf violently. She could hear Blaise’s head hit the stacks with a sickening crack. She stood, momentarily paralyzed, watching what was happening.

“You don’t touch her,” Draco growled out, his face very close to Blaise’s. He grabbed Blaise’s shirtfront and lifted him a bit off the ground before slamming him brutally into the bookshelf again. “You never touch her, do you understand?”

“Draco, you don’t even have your wand,” Hermione managed to say.

“I don’t need it. I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”

“What is your problem, man?” Blaise gasped, trying to get some control back. “She’s just a Mudblood bitch -” The rest of his comment was cut off when Draco’s fist slammed into his jaw. His wand fell to the ground and Hermione gasped. The cold anger on Draco’s face terrified her. Again, Draco punched Blaise in the face. When Blaise slumped to the floor, clearly unconscious, Draco picked him up and hit him again. And again and again.

“Draco, stop! You’ll kill him.”

“You’re goddamn right I will.”

“Stop!” She put her still loosely bound hands on his upper arm to pull him away; it was like trying to bend steel.

He let Blaise fall to the ground again. Blaise’s face was starting to bruise and one of his eyes was blackened. Hermione backed away, nervous about what Draco would do next. He kneeled down and picked up the dropped wand. Holding it to Blaise’s face, he said “ennervate” and watched as Blaise slowly woke up. Darkly pleased by the fear that covered Blaise’s face when he realized where he was, Draco said in a dangerously soft voice, “Pay very close attention to everything I say.”

Blaise nodded quickly.

He moved in closer. “If you hurt her, if you touch her again, if you even so much as look at her the wrong way, I’ll kill you. Do you understand?”

“You-you wouldn’t dare,” Blaise said, trying not to sound as terrified as he was, his voice slightly slurred by the beginnings of a fat lip.

“Give me a reason, please. I would dearly love to prove you wrong.” He stood up and threw Blaise’s wand into the darkness behind him. It sounded as if the library had closed. He looked down with disgust once more at the beaten figure that was Blaise Zabini, and then dismissed him.

He turned to Hermione, the cold anger dissipating slowly to be replaced by deep concern, looking fully at her for the first time since his arrival. He looked at her hands and saw that they were still bound together. Though his face clouded once again with rage once again, his fingers were gentle as he untied her. The skin beneath the ropes was red and raw. “Are you all right?”

It took her a moment to answer. Now that everything was said and done, and Blaise was no longer a threat to her, the full impact of what had happened was starting to sink in. Looking into Draco’s eyes, she shook her head slowly. “No, I’m not,” she said as she started to tremble. “Take me back to the dorm. Please.”

Neither one of them noticed when Blaise got up painfully and limped off in the direction of his wand. Draco walked over to the table Hermione had been using and quickly packed her bag. Slinging it over his shoulder securely, he walked back and took her in his arms. The second he touched her, she collapsed into him, shaking violently. He realized with shock that she was crying. He had never seen her cry before, not even when he used to taunt her so cruelly. “I’m… I’m s-so c-cold,” she stammered.

He carefully picked her up and carried her back to the dorm as quick as he could, thankful that curfew had fallen and hoping they would meet no one along the way. Right away her arms slid around his neck and she burrowed her face into his chest, still crying. He was surprised that she was allowing him to be anywhere near her after seeing what he had just done. Though he felt no remorse, he was now worried that Hermione would turn away from him, having just seen proof of the fact that his father’s penchant for violence lived on in him, waiting to strike.

After getting into the dorm, he dropped her bag unceremoniously by the door and brought Hermione straight into her room. He paused to grab a light green throw off of her chair. Not wanting to put her down, he pulled it around her clumsily and sat down on the edge of her bed. He leaned back carefully until his back was against the headboard and readjusted his grip on her. He didn’t know how long he sat with her, stroking her hair and softly murmuring words of comfort. When her sobs quieted, he finally spoke. “Are you alright?”

Instead of answering his question, she said, her voice hoarse and low from crying, “I’m sorry.”

His hand tightly briefly in her hair. “You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.”

She lifted her head gently off of his shoulder, not meeting his eyes. Choosing instead to stare at the spot where her head had just been, she insisted, “I’ve been crying all over you. Look, the front of your robes is soaked. I -”

“Hermione, look at me,” he said quietly. She raised her head and looked him in the eye. For some reason, it calmed her. She felt safe with him. He continued in the same calming tone, “I don’t care about the robes. I just need to know that you’re okay.”

“I’m better than I was… Draco, if you hadn’t been there, if you hadn’t stopped him,” her breath began to hitch, “I don’t know what would -”

“But I was there and I did stop him.” Draco brought his hand up to frame her face, staring into her eyes intently. “Don’t think about the what-ifs, Hermione, don’t do that to yourself.” She looked down at his chest again, biting her lip and nodding. They both knew she wouldn’t be able to stop herself from wondering.

Realizing suddenly that she was still sitting in his lap, she slid herself onto the bed, kneeling next to him. She pulled the throw more tightly around her shoulders, more for comfort than for warmth; somehow, Draco had managed to make her warm again. “You seem to be carrying me around a lot lately,” she said with a small smile. Her face became serious again as she looked into his eyes. “Thank you.”

He stood up, paced a little away from the bed, and stuck his hands in his pockets, suddenly uncomfortable. She was acting like he was some kind of hero. What was he supposed to do? Let her get sexually assaulted in the middle of the library? And then he beat the shit out of Zabini because of it; the Slytherin would probably be sporting bruises for at least a week. “Don’t thank me,” he said, turning back towards her. “I’m sorry you saw me… like that, I -”

“You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for,” she cut him off softly, using his earlier words. She didn’t know why he was suddenly so agitated. Rather than calming him as she had hoped, the words only seemed to add fuel to the fire.

“Don’t you understand what that means?” He flung his arms out in anger and his voice had risen. Of all the things she had expected him to burst forth with, this was not it. “I would have killed him if you hadn’t stopped me. What does it say about me, that I can do that to somebody and not feel any remorse about it? I’m no better than he was, that’s what it means.” Realizing that Hermione was confused, he added quietly, “My father was fond of using his hands as well.”

At her stricken look, he felt ashamed. He shoved his hands back into his pockets aggressively. Good job, Draco. Way to kick her when she’s down. He had no right to be yelling at her, especially after what she had just been through. She didn’t need to know about what Lucius Malfoy had been like and it wasn’t an excuse for his actions. Just further proof of the legacy his father had left him, in Draco’s opinion. He paced back to her. “Look, I shouldn’t have yelled. I’m sor-”

She threw up a hand to stop him. “Stop,” she said firmly. “If you apologize one more time, I’ll hit you myself.” She took a deep breath. Repositioning herself so that she was sitting cross-legged, she continued, “I don’t know how to thank you for what you did for me tonight. Not just stopping Blaise, but for… everything.”

Something in her quiet tone soothed him. He tried to lighten the situation. “Maybe you can teach me how to make pancakes tomorrow morning.” He sent her a small smile.

“Deal,” she answered with a smile of her own, but it faded quickly. “I’m so tired,” she whispered, placing her forehead gently into her hand.

He moved toward the door. “You should get some sleep, I’ll just –”

“You’re leaving?” She looked up suddenly, eyes wide.

“You said you were tired,” he responded, slightly confused.

“I am, only… could you stay? Just for a little while?” Her hands were twisting together as they always did when she was nervous.

“Of course.” He crossed back to the bed. Without a word, he sat down, leaned up against the headboard, and pulled her against him so that her head was resting comfortably on his shoulder.

“It’s just… I couldn’t…”

“Shh, I understand,” he murmured, stroking her hair in a soothing manner. Before long he was laying flat on his back and Hermione was curled up against him (the light green throw now half covering him as well), her head on his chest, being lulled to sleep by the beating of his heart. Draco, however, was still wide-awake. It felt so right, being with her like this. Just lying with her, comforting her, felt more real than… anything else.

“I told you,” she said suddenly in a very sleepy manner.

“Told me what?” he answered quietly.

“I told you; you are nothing like your father,” she whispered before drifting off to sleep. Though she was half-sleeping when she said it, the absolute belief and conviction in her voice comforted him.

A sense of peace settled over him and he closed his eyes, prepared to spend the night next to her. Before he let sleep take him, a strange thought occurred to him. Maybe Hermione was right…

************************************************************************
When Hermione woke up the next morning, she was alone. She looked around to see where Draco had got to. It was strange that she should miss him being in her bed; she was somewhat worried that she had woken up only because he was gone. As her eyes traveled the room, they fell upon the clock on her bedside table. It was ten o’clock in the morning. Oh, Merlin, I am so very, very late. Emitting a loud squeak of surprise she jumped hastily out of bed when she noticed a note sitting next to her clock. She picked it up and scanned hastily. After reading the first line, she let out a brief chuckle and sat back down on the edge of her to read the entire note more slowly.

Granger,
               First off, calm down. It’s Saturday; you aren’t late for class. Second of all, we’ll have to reschedule that cooking lesson. Dumbledore sent me a message to meet him in his office, so that’s likely where I am right now. As I’m writing this, your clock says it’s around quarter to ten. I’m not sure whether or not this is about Zabini; I’ll tell you when I get back. And by the way, if I do get in trouble and you tell me that it’s your fault, I’ll hex you.
                                                                                                                                                Draco


“Shit,” she whispered, leaping off the bed again. Despite whatever Draco might believe, she would still feel responsible if he got into trouble. She had to make sure that Dumbledore knew the whole story, that Draco was just protecting her and that Zabini deserved every bit of what he got. Looking around desperately for her left shoe, she cursed herself for not waking up when he did; she could have gone with him. Finally locating her shoe under the bed, she threw it on and practically flew out of the dorm and all the way up to Dumbledore’s office.

Stopping briefly in front of the stone gargoyle, she gasped out, “Fizzing Whizbees,” to be allowed entrance. She took the rotating steps two at a time, and banged on the door when she got there.

Within seconds, Dumbledore opened the door, a familiar twinkle in his eyes at the sight of her. She saw Draco sitting in one of the two chairs in front of the headmaster’s desk looking stony faced. But his eyes… his eyes were miserable. “Miss Granger. I can’t honestly say I’m surprised to see you.”

“Professor,” she gasped, still trying to catch her breath. She was slightly bent over, clutching at the stitch in her side. “It wasn’t… Draco’s fault, sir. He was just –”

“Miss Granger, please calm down. I am well aware of the events of last night. Believe me; I am in no way going to punish Draco for what happened, and that is not why I called him here. Perhaps he got a little… overly physical while defending you, but I doubt I would have reacted any differently. And in reference to what was done to you,” the twinkle had left his eyes now and was replaced by a cold anger that Hermione had rarely seen. “Trust me, Mr. Zabini will be dealt with accordingly.”

“Oh, er… that’s good, then.” She wasn’t quite sure what to say now that she knew Draco wasn’t going to be punished. She was starting to feel embarrassed, but at the same time she was curious; if this wasn't about Blaise, then what was it about? “I’m sorry to have interrupted, sir, I’ll just, er, leave you to it.”

“Would it be alright if she stayed, sir?” Draco asked, his eyes on the floor.

“That choice is yours, Draco,” the headmaster answered solemnly. “And Hermione’s.”

“Will you stay?” he said quietly, meeting her eyes.

“Of course. What am I staying for?”

She crossed to the chair next to Draco’s. When she sat, he said, “The reading of my father’s will.”



A/N: I know, a bit of a cliffhanger, but I couldn’t help it! I did seriously consider having all the info about Lucius’s will in here, but I think it will work out better this way in the long run. And don’t worry; I promise to update very, very soon. And I also promise that something BIG is going to happen with Draco and Hermione in the next chapter. Oh, and a "Protean Charm" is what Hermione used in fifth year to charm the galleons for the D.A. By the way, the song I used during Harry and Ginny’s break-up was “Leave” by Matchbox Twenty. Now, I have a very important question for you all. Is the music working? Am I going about it the right way? Does it break the mood or add to it? These are questions I desperately need the answers to! Please tell me what you think by leaving a review. So… who else enjoyed Draco beating the crap out of Blaise Zabini? If you did, you should tell me in a review! That would be super cool!!! And to everyone that has already reviewed, I love each and every one of you. You give me a reason to keep writing. Thank you.


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