As much as Draco hated leaving Hermione at the Three Broomsticks, he knew that he must. His contact would be waiting and he really had no other choice, but to follow through with this meeting. The two had met twice before and again, Draco had no news; nothing concrete to offer. That which they sought was not in the potions dungeon, that was for sure, but it was at Hogwarts. Snape knew it had not been taken from the school grounds. Draco had no idea how Snape knew this and he didn’t much care. He just wanted to find the bleeding thing before … before …
Draco’s thoughts evaporated as he entered the dodgy little pub, his sharp, hard eyes scanned the room quickly and rested on his congruence. He strode to the table and slid into the opposite chair, apprehension bubbling up in his stomach like a putrid, poisonous, potion boiling and rolling in a cauldron; he steeled himself for the debriefing.
“Well then, have you made any progress?"
Draco felt familiar dread wash over him and he launched into a full, lengthy report.
Outside the Hog’s Head Pub, two unseen emerald-green eyes peered in through the dingy window at Draco and a shrouded stranger. Harry had followed Draco from the Broomsticks, having been thoroughly irritated to see Draco and Hermione together at the bar. He had ducked under shadows in the alleyway and donned the invisibility cloak; he was never without it on his person since the end of his sixth year. Now, here he stood watching that wretched excuse for a wizard, Malfoy, in very incriminating circumstances.
“What are you up to, Malfoy?” Harry whispered to himself. He swore the millionth time to find out just that.
Early the next morning, while Hermione sat enjoying her breakfast tea and an English muffin, this was her leisurely Sunday morning ritual. Suddenly, there came a rapping at her door; an impatient kind of knocking that immediately set her uneasy.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“It’s me, Harry. I need to speak to you, Hermione. It’s important.” His voice was full of urgent insistence that put Hermione in an irritated frame of mind.
“Okay, okay, keep your knickers on,” she replied and opened the door. Harry swept in past her. “Good morning to you too, Harry.” She chided while turning to face him. She sighed when she saw the troubled look on his face.
“I’ve got to ask you, Hermione, what, in the name of Merlin’s beard, where you doing sitting at a bar making eyes at Draco Malfoy?”
Hermione sighed wearily, “I am not in the mood for this conversation, Harry.”
Harry ignored her comment and continued anyway, “Don’t you recall, you and Ginny were supposed to meet me at Weaselys’ Wizard Weezes? Ron was there - I reckon he would have liked to have seen you.”
Hermione winced at the mention of Ron. Harry had said it so accusingly.
“Finally, I just came looking for you both at The Three Broomsticks and low and behold, what to my wondering eyes should I see - you and Malfoy cozying up at the bar!”
“Listen, Harry, I just lost track of things …”
“Oh! It wouldn’t be the first time you ‘lost track of things’ while pondering over Draco Malfoy. I recollect once before you even missed a class due to it!” Harry’s nasty retort pushed Hermione’s buttons at last.
“What? Care to expound on that comment?” she snapped back, her temper now flaring.
“Remember, in third year, you pulled your wand on him and gave him a good smack? Draco Malfoy has always been able to draw you out; he’s always been able to wind you up, Hermione. A little too much if you ask me!”
“Well, no one is asking you!”
“Are you interested in Malfoy? Romantically?”
“Harry! My love life is none of your business!”
“I’ll take that as a yes," he snorted, looking hard at her.
Hermione crossed her arms in front of her. “Listen. I know you’re dreaming of me and Ron getting back together but it is NEVER going to happen, Harry!”
“No! Let me finish. I know we were all best friends in school, the Golden-Trio, tra-la-la, but things are different now. I made a terrible mistake dating Ron.”
“Hermione, I know Ron can be immature and has a hard time communicating his feelings.”
Hermione had had it. Without ever meaning to speak of it, she shouted, “He cheated on me, Harry! He cheated with Lavender Brown and do you want to know how I found out? I walked in on them in MY bed.”
Harry looked as if he’d been hit with a Bludger. He was speechless, his mouth hanging open. Harry’s hard look softened at once and he breathed out, “I’m sorry, Hermione, I didn’t know.”
“Well, forget it. I’m over it.”
“Ron is a complete ass.”
“Please, just forget it." Hermione took the opportunity to slide in the question she'd been wanting to ask, "Harry, I need to ask you something.”
“Sure, Hermione, anything.” He was still reeling from the information she had just shared.
She spoke haltingly. “What exactly happened on the Astronomy Tower, that night? Everything, Harry, tell me all the details, please. I need to know for my own piece of mind.”
Harry’s look instantly hardened. “What does it matter of the details? You know what happened that night. You were in the castle.”
“But I wasn’t up there with you, Dumbledore and Draco. You know what I’m asking you Harry. Was Draco really going to do it? Could he have? I need to know, Harry.” Small tears slid from the corners of her eyes and this angered Harry further, seeing this much emotion from Hermione concerning Draco.
“NO! I WON’T DISCUSS IT, HERMIONE!” Harry stormed past her and out the door leaving Hermione shocked and stunned at the intensity of his outburst.
Later that week, Hermione sat at her desk in front of a large class of fifth years. Each student was trying to transfigure his or her heavily loaded pincushion into a small baby hedgehog. The low murmurings of the incantations drifted round the room, lulling Hermione into thoughts of Draco.
The dueling club was scheduled to begin that very Saturday morning in the Great Hall. Hermione felt a mixture of apprehension and trepidation about what might happen when Harry and Draco squared off given the state of things. She had seen the frozen glares between the two and had a sense Draco had been restraining himself as much as possible for her sake and she wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold off. He was, after all, a very passionate person, as was Harry.
A gentle knock at the door jarred her from these reflections and the sight of a certain blond-headed Professor took her much by surprise.
“Professor Granger, sorry to interrupt you.”
The students hushed and turned toward the voice.
“I‘d like a word, if I may?”
The students all turned to look at Hermione.
“Yes, of course Professor Malfoy.”
She rose from her seat, her carriage stern and confident as she walked to the classroom door yet her legs felt like two rubbery grindylow tentacles. Some of the girls tittered behind their hands, whispering to one another. Hermione’s no nonsense look and warning tone broke over them all.
“Continue your transfiguration; I hope by the time I re-enter this room, someone has produced a decent hedgehog.”
The students immediately hustled back to work and Draco smiled at the command Hermione had of her classroom.
She joined him at the door and together they entered the deserted stone corridor. Hermione closed the classroom door behind her looking miffed.
“Oh, for Merlin’s sake, Malfoy, what on earth could be so important that you found it necessary to interrupt my class?”
“You do know, Granger, you sound so much like McGonagall, it’s frightening.”
She frowned at him. “Do you have a reason for interrupting or do you just enjoy wasting my time?”
He flashed one of his boyish grins; his long blonde bangs fell casually into his eyes and he tossed his head ever so slightly to coax them back into place.
“Well, Professor,” he mover closer to her and she instinctively backed up, “I wanted to tell you how sorry I was that I had to interrupt our date in Hogsmeade, it couldn’t be helped - I had something unexpected come up. But I really enjoyed your company, and I want you to join me this evening so we can pick up where we left off.” He was looking at her again with that deep stare that made her feel warm all over.
Even so she could not believe his gall - interrupting her class to flirt with her and ask her out? She snorted, rolling her eyes.
“Date? Sorry, you call that a date? Ha!”
“I know; it was unsatisfying for me too. Let me treat you to a real date,” he moved closer still and she backed up finding cold stonewall behind her. “I want to spend time with you, Hermione. I want you to get to know me, the way I am now.” He placed one hand on the wall beside her head.
“Did you not hear me at the pub when I told you to sod off!” she whispered intensely, her eyes igniting.
“Oh, I heard you,” he spoke in a breathy whisper, closer than ever now, “I just don’t believe you meant it.” Draco’s other hand reached up to a wayward curl that had fallen from her tight upswept tresses and wound it gently around his finger. Hermione gave a shiver and closed her eyes; his smooth voice flooded over her, engulfing her in that now familiar heat. That heat - what was it? Anger? Fear? Desire?
“What do you say, Granger, you and me with a bottle of wine and candlelight? Let me show you I know how to treat a lady.”
He smelled fantastic, woodsy and masculine, his closeness was like an electrical current, setting off sparks all through her body, begging for a connection to be made.
She mustered all of her strength to fight temptation and opened her large eyes, coyly turning them up to meet his. In a seductive voice she breathed, “Well, Malfoy,” placing her hands on his broad chest, smoothing and caressing the collar of his robes, “there’s only one thing I can say to that …”
Draco’s eyebrows shot up and he looked expectantly at her.
“Get bent!” With that, she pushed him away hard, turning and flinging open her door to storm into the classroom.
Draco felt like someone had thrown ice water in his face or more like down his pants. “Damn you, woman!” he sputtered and turned to see a very amused Harry Potter hanging out of his DADA classroom door, a self-satisfied look on his face.
“So, Malfoy, are you still entertaining silly notions that you have a chance with Hermione?”
“What’s with you Potter? You’re just about as annoying as Peeves, always lurking about.”
“Don’t forget we have Dueling Club this Saturday, Malfoy.” Harry was obviously stifling his laughter.
“Oh, how could I forget our little date, Potter, I wouldn’t miss it,” goaded Draco.
“Well, at least you’ll have one date to look forward to then, eh?” Harry sniggered and breezed back into his classroom, leaving Draco seething at Harry’s parting jab.
Saturday morning dawned gray and rainy; a slow soaking rain that permeated the castle with damp chill, causing Hermione to shiver and draw her professorial robes more tightly about her. She and Ginny walked shoulder to shoulder in silence.
Hermione kept thinking back to earlier in the week, when Draco had practically groped her in the hall outside her classroom. It was hard for her to believe he seriously wanted to spend time with her. The prospect of spending time alone with him gave her an odd, little swoop in her stomach. She felt that same twinge whenever she thought of him. She thrillingly recalled the way he sauntered majestically through the halls, the way his smile curled slightly on the left side of his lips, the way he tipped his head down and lifted his eyes to peer at her through his blonde fringe. The effect he had on her was disconcerting; she had been tempted to accept his offer, but something within her held her back.
Ginny snuck quick look sideways at Hermione, noticing she seemed distant and anxious.
“Hermione, don’t be nervous. The boys should mind themselves; there’ll be students and professors watching,” said Ginny determinedly, almost as if she were trying to convince herself as well.
“Draco asked me out.”
Ginny stared at her friend trying to read her, but was unsuccessful. “Really?” she implored. “And what did you say?”
“I told him to ‘get bent’.”
“So… you told him no?” Ginny laughed and then asked, “What did you really say?”
Hermione sighed heavily and looked Ginny in the eye. “I told him to ‘get bent’. That’s what I said.”
Ginny sniggered behind her hand. “Oh, Hermione … the poor guy, you didn’t?”
“Yes. I did.”
Ginny pressed her lips together, biting back the question of 'why'.
The two walked together briskly along the torch lit corridor drawing nearer and nearer to the Great Hall, an enthusiastic din greeted their ears, swelling as they approached. Anticipation and excitement seeped from the place and as the two professors entered, Hermione shot Ginny a foreboding glance.
They made their way quickly to the raised platform upon which a stage had appeared. This was where Draco and Harry would assume their positions, like some many years before. A time when harmless jinxes and name-calling; taunting and scheming; were the least of their worries. However, Voldemort was gone now they all lived in peace. A peace that she hoped would continue.
The students murmured excitedly and many knew at least something of the history between Potter and Malfoy. The tension was palpable between the two professors and this was not lost on many of the students. Rumors flew and trickled down much like water seeking its own level.
Hermione scanned the room absentmindedly, her eyes finding Cho and Luna making their way through the horde. She turned back to the stage to see Draco sauntering out, a haughty expression gracing his fine features, followed by a stony-faced Harry.
“Why does Harry look so morbid?” Hermione whispered to Ginny.
“Well, Harry doesn’t want to lose it and really hurt Draco, you know.”
“Oh my god!” Hermione moaned.
“I’m just joking, Hermione. Relax.”
They turned their attention back to the stage upon hearing Draco’s drawling tone reverberating throughout the Hall.
“Good morning students, fellow teachers. Professor Potter and I will be demonstrating proper dueling techniques for your pleasure today. You will observe the appropriate etiquette, manner and placement required for proper dueling. Professor Potter will attempt to block my disarming charm."
Harry glared at Draco with contempt; Draco sneered back with disdain.
Luna came up behind Hermione and Ginny breathing her wispy voice over them, “Oh this should be good.”
“Shh!” Hermione and Ginny shushed her simultaneously, and turned back to the scene unfolding before them.
Draco and Harry stood facing each other. Draco nodded curtly; Harry barely inclined his own head of untidy black hair. They each turned with a snap and began pacing away from one another, time seemed to move in slow motion, there wasn’t a single sound emitting from the Hall save for the soft footfalls of the duelers. Then in an instant both men turned-
A brilliant green flash shot forth from Draco’s wand as fire-red streaks emitted from Harry’s. The two spells collided in midair, raining a barrage of multicolored sparks down on those standing closest to the stage. Shrieks and yells emanated from a mass of students, but their duel continued.
“Folliculios!” spat Draco, and the jinx hit Harry square in the face making his hair grow so quickly, in seconds it was covering his eyes, past his chin, to his chest.
“Finite incantatem!” Harry growled and instantly his hair sucked back into his head.
“Engoroio!” he bellowed, and as red jets hit Draco in the face, his nose grew and expanded in seconds to take over his face.
“Reducio!" With his nose returned to normal size, Draco shouted, “Blastovomus!”
at the same time Harry yelled, “Protego!”
Draco’s jinx was diverted back on to himself, sending him flying back into the stonewall.
“Levicorpus!” came Harry’s manic voice and Draco was whipped back up into the air by his ankle. Harry bounced his wand up and down, back and forth as if some mad conductor and Draco bobbed across the stage, over the crowd and back again.
The students were still in rapt silence, almost fearful of what they were witnessing. Hermione couldn’t stand it any longer. She inconspicuously pointed her wand toward Draco and said in her head ‘Liberacorpus!'
To Harry’s surprise, Draco’s upside down form was righted. Another curse came quickly from Draco's mouth, “Minutesempra!” which caught Harry off guard as green sparks headed his way.
A great gash slashed down Harry’s check and blood dripped down his chin onto his collar. His hand flew to the stinging wound and he felt wet, sticky ooze. The crowd gasped and Harry stared with unadulterated hatred at Draco, who stood panting, wand held out like a sword.
“What did I do?” whispered Hermione. Ginny shot her a befuddled glance.
“This must stop. Now,” Ginny ordered, “Where the hell is McGonagall?”
Draco’s mind was racing. What did I just do? Damn it! His eyes swept the crowd, every disbelieving eye was on him and then he saw her. He saw Hermione’s horrified face and understood in an instant what she had done for him. He hesitated and then threw his wand down.
“Good show, Potter. You win.”
Ginny sprinted toward the stage and murmuring incantations, moved her wand over Harry’s wound as the crowd continued to stare in stunned silence. Slowly the mass of students began shuffling aside making way for someone. Minerva McGonagall was weaving her way toward the stage. Once at her destination, she addressed the throng.
“Professors, Heads of House, please gather your students and pair them off to begin practicing disarming charms and blocking spells, only!”
She turned to Draco then to Harry, who was batting away Ginny’s hands from his perfectly healed face.
“Both of you - my study. Now!” Her voice was quivering with anger, mostly at herself.
“Well, gentlemen, this is familiar, is it not?” Minerva questioned, glaring from Harry to Draco and back again, both of whom sat before her. Draco was sulky and sullen, while Harry sat incensed. Harry’s eyes scanned the ceiling of the study, snorting and rubbing his chin with his wand hand. He was quite sure if he did not keep that hand busy, it would use its tool to curse Draco into oblivion.
Dumbledore, resting in his portrait, peeped through one eye and quickly closed it again, pretending to be asleep.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourselves?”
Harry piped up. “Minerva, are you really that surprised? This is Malfoy we’re dealing with!”
Draco sneered and issued forth an indignant ‘humph’.
Minerva eyed them. “You lost control. Both of you.”
“I apologize, Minerva,” said Draco, his pointy chin jutted out with a hint of conceit.
“I expected more from the two of you, I know how you feel toward one another but the time has come to put those feelings aside, is this speech ringing any bells, Potter? It seems I’ve delivered it to you before.”
Harry jumped up. “Give me one God Damn reason why I should put my bloody feelings aside!” he yelled.
Minerva continued to glare at him, and then spoke without wavering. “Because, Potter. Malfoy was the double agent for the Ministry, for the Order, and for you. Draco has been working for our side since the night he disapparated from beyond Hogwarts Gates five years ago.”
Harry fell back on his chair, despondent. “I don’t believe you.”
“Believe it. I’ve never lied to you and I don’t intend to start now. However, I need you to keep this information to yourself, you mustn’t tell anyone.”
“Not even Hermione?”
“No one, Potter”
“What’s going on here, Minerva?” he asked, astonishment in his piercing glare, “Where the hell is Severus Snape?”
“In due time, Potter. Now then, since I can no longer issue either of you a detention, you are both dismissed.”
Draco, who had been sitting silent, stood and exited the study.
Harry stayed where he was, his eyes boring into Minerva for several moments. He made the decision not to push McGonagall just yet, but soon, he would have the whole truth. Finally, he spoke in his low controlled voice, “When the time comes, Minerva, you can count on me, without question.”
“I never doubted that for a moment, Harry.”
Draco hastily strode round the corner heading toward his private quarters and ran headlong into Hermione. Her face was red and blotchy, her eyes puffy, her hands were balled in fists and she glared at him with a ferociousness that was truly formidable.
“You bastard! I helped you and you … you … you used Dark Magic.” She looked as if she would hit him, but instead she threw her hands over her face and crumpled.
Draco darted forward and caught her at the elbows pulling her up; this fueled her rage further and she pounded on his chest. “Why? Why did you do it?”
He felt a stab in his heart; he felt as if she was talking about the incident five years ago – the night on the Astronomy Tower.
“I don’t know. I … I know it was wrong. I stopped. I conceded to Harry. He’s a better man than I am.” Draco hated himself for saying that, but at this moment, the look in Hermione’s eyes made him feel like less than Hippogriff dung.
The last utterance from Draco’s lips alone stopped her physical assault. Draco unhanded her and they stood each regarding the other.
“I understand what you must be feeling, Hermione, but I’m not alone in the blame. Potter was not an innocent bystander. Who knows, he may have used Dark Magic on me had I not beat him to it? It’s not like he hasn’t done it before.”
“Why don’t you ask Potter?” Draco walked past her to his doorway and with one last regrettable look, he disappeared into his suite.
A/N: critiques appreciated! thanks for all the lovely reviews!