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In His Eyes by silverotter1
Chapter 8 : Confessions
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 24


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Chapter 8 Confessions

Hermione’s blood was boiling but oddly, she was calm and controlled. She walked purposefully down the stone passage to Harry’s quarters feeling numb and empty, betrayed by two men she cared for deeply.

Not bothering to knock, she raised her wand. “Diffindo!” The door blew open and she marched in with her head held high. Ginny and Harry, who were seated on the davenport, glanced up in surprise at her unconventional entrance. She did not mince her words, but spoke with the directness she was known for.

“What Dark Magic did you use on Draco?”

“Hermione- What? Is that what he told you? So, that’s how he defends his abominable behavior…?”

“He wasn’t defending himself at all. Answer my question.”

“He drew blood, Hermione!” Harry spat.

“It was unacceptable, ‘Mione,” interjected Ginny, quietly.

“Yes, Ginny, quite so. I just spoke with Draco and he is well aware he made a serious error in judgment. However, I would like Harry to explain the Dark Magic he used on Draco.”

“In case you’ve forgotten, Hermione, he’s the one who used Dark Magic!” Harry spat.

She quickly rounded back on him. “So did you.”

“I’m sorry? What are you talking about?”

“The Half-Blood Prince, Harry and his dark spells! Sixth year. Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom.”

Harry gaped at her. He was maddened with this whole ruddy business and felt that Draco Malfoy was entirely more trouble than he was worth.

Sure, Harry could not deny the information Malfoy had provided in regards to Voldemort had proven to be invaluable, but Harry could not, would not, condone a relationship between Hermione and Draco. He began to feel compression in his chest, no doubt from the rock and the hard place he now found himself so firmly wedged into.

Harry’s emerald eyes bore into Hermione’s. “I didn’t know what I was doing, that day, in moaning Myrtle’s lavatory. You know that Hermione. I’ve told you that.

“Yes but I want you to tell me exactly what happened. Everything!” She was almost hysterical.

A bitter, metallic taste flooded Harry mouth. He did not want to tell Hermione anything that would give her a reason to feel pity for Draco. He didn’t know what else he could do; it was plain she would not take no for an answer.

Harry sighed and after a pregnant pause began to speak. “I saw Malfoy, crying his eyes out like a baby. He was obviously in great distress over something…his task from Voldemort no doubt. He was surprised to see me there; he was going to use the Cruciatus Curse….”

“Yes, yes…I know that part Harry,” Hermione urged. “What did the dark spell do to Draco?”

“The Dark Magic spell from the potions book, Sectumsempra…it practically eviscerated Malfoy, there was blood…everywhere. I nearly fainted from the sight of it. I had no idea what that spell would do; I would never have used it had I known. If Snape hadn’t healed Draco- he would’ve bled to death.”

No one spoke. Harry continued on, “That’s the difference, Hermione. I didn’t know I was using Dark Magic. Malfoy used it on me with intent.”

Hermione said nothing to this, only eyed Harry inquisitively, pain etched in her frozen expression.

“Maybe… it was just an involuntary reaction, Harry.” Ginny spoke with quiet confidence as both Harry and Hermione turned to focus on her pensive face. She went on, “Draco using that Dark spell…while dueling. After all we don’t even know where Draco’s been or what he’s gone through-“

Harry gave a great snort.

“-and you were really laying it on him, Harry. Levicorpus? Rather humiliating, if I do say so myself… and in front of students, too…” Ginny gave him a small grin that told Harry she knew him all too well. “Besides, we know that you didn’t mean to use Sectumsempra on Draco, but he doesn’t. He probably believes you tried to kill him.”

Hermione gave Ginny a grateful smile. Her friend had voiced the very things Hermione herself had wanted to say but was sure if she had, Harry would’ve scoffed at her.

“Ginny, you can’t be serious! You’re defending Malfoy! Unbelievable. He was about to use the Cruciatus Curse on me. Even moaning Myrtle could vouch for that.”

“I’m not defending him, or what he did- back then or now. I’m just trying to be objective. McGonagall wants us to set our personal feelings aside-“

“Oh, as Hermione has?” quipped Harry.

“You know what I mean Harry, and if you would, you might see that I am probably right.”

He suspected Ginny was right, but he hated to admit it. Instead, he sighed heavily, shrugged and nodded then turned to fetch himself a stiff drink.

Ginny’s sympathetic gaze fell on Hermione and broke through her controlled façade. Small tears spilled out from her brimming eyes.

“Oh, ‘Mione, don’t cry. Those two have a ton of animosity. Don’t put yourself in the middle of it. I know what you did, to help Draco.”

“I helped him with the counter spell,” she sobbed. “It made things worse.”

“Hermione, don’t get in the middle of it with Draco and Harry. Let it be. If you want a relationship with Draco, don’t try to mend fences between those two. Nothing good can come of it. Let them figure it out themselves; they may never be friends but I think they could learn to be civil, for you. I know Harry cares deeply for you and he would do it for you, in his own way, in his own time. And Draco, I think he’d do anything to be with you, including making nice with Harry. But you have to let them come to it on their own terms, otherwise it won’t work.”

“Male ego?” she sniffed.

“Precisely.”

“But, Ginny… Dark Magic. Why would Draco-“

“Remember Hermione, Minerva would not allow Draco to be here if he was a threat. As for Dark Magic- Dark Magic is…I don’t want to say it can be addictive, but…once you’ve done it…really done it, with feeling, it can be an easy thing to draw on. And Harry was getting the best of him. But that aside,” she added quietly, “I have my own theory as to why Draco is here.”

Hermione furrowed her brows quizzically as Ginny shook her head, “Not now, we’ll talk about that later.”

Hermione looked intrigued but nodded quickly in agreement as she joined Ginny on the sofa. “Ginny, you’re such a good friend. Thank you for supporting me and handling Harry.”

“Oh, I can handle Harry alright.” She smiled brightly, “He’s prideful- but not beyond reasoning. Harry runs with his emotions at times; they do tend to get the better of him now and again. But that’s much of why I love him so.”

Hermione smiled. “And he loves you, too.”

Ginny beamed. “Hermione, don’t fret about Harry. You’re like a sister to him; he’s protective and possessive of you… I know it’s hard to live with, I should know! I’ve got enough brothers!”

Both girls laughed and hugged. Ginny was a true healer; like a balm for one’s soul.

Harry returned to the room, shaking his head as he observed the two of them. He knew what was coming. Hermione was getting closer to letting Malfoy in, of that he was sure. If she could overlook this, it was only a matter of time before Malfoy wormed his way into her heart.



***



The first of November brought with it a wintry blast that whipped about the grounds and seeped its way into the castle corridors, which would now remain cold until well into spring.

Draco woke, early for a Sunday, feeling the cold and remembering Hermione’s icy disposition since the duel and over the previous month. He groped for his wand at his bedside table, magicked a crackling fire upon the hearth and tossed the wand back down, raking his fingers through his messy blond bangs.

“Damn!” He cursed aloud, cursed himself for thinking of her again. He felt exceptionally irritable and decided a brisk walk around the lake would help to clear his head.

He knew Hermione was attracted to him. He just wished she’d give him a chance to show her how different he was now. Well, not altogether different, he is still a Slytherin after all. Even so, he had grown up quickly after that night atop the Astronomy Tower with Dumbledore.

Draco closed his eyes and let the memories come. Memories that had tormented him, plagued, and besieged him. If Snape had not shown up when he did… Draco had not known what would have become of his life; that is if he would have survived the wrath of Voldemort and the Death Eaters.

He recalled standing there on that tower, as if on the edge of a massive cliff, getting ready to free fall without any means to stop himself from crashing. Draco had known when he looked in Dumbledore’s eyes, that he could not do it; he had known actually from the time his father and Voldemort had told him his task. He was scared out of his mind, thinking Voldemort would surely kill him and his mother, if he, Draco, did not do Voldemort’s bidding. He really had cared not if his father lived or died. Lucius had been dead to him long before this terrible task was placed in his hands. Draco had only realized the truth after he and Snape disapparated from outside the castle grounds.

Draco inhaled deeply and opened his eyes. He was so far from that now; so far from that scared, cowardly boy who was easily led. He had decided his own way; he had chosen a different path for himself that night. Draco only wished they all could see the truth, especially Hermione. Only Hermione. If she knew the whole truth and believed in him, he wouldn’t care what anyone else thought.

In time, they’ll all know the truth.

Rising slowly from his deep-green, almost black satin sheets, he ambled to the bath to enjoy a hot shower.

Some twenty minutes later, Draco dressed quickly in a black roll neck sweater and dark blue-black denim jeans. He wound his silver and green House scarf around his neck and headed down to the Great Hall to grab a steaming cup of elf-made coffee. He swore it was better than any he could conjure.

Once through the entrance doors, he descended the stone steps and strolled toward the lake. The air was crisp and clean, chilling his nose as he inhaled, a sharp contrast to the hot coffee that spread its warmth as he swallowed.

Draco came round a willow tree, walked the length of a number of unruly shrubberies, and passed by a small brier thicket. There was a carved marble bench, he knew, hidden from view of the castle and it was on this very bench that Draco planned to enjoy his coffee.

As he came into the clearing, he was surprised to see somebody already sitting there, gazing out across the lake. It was Hermione, looking lovely in a thick charcoal sweater and casual black corduroys, her knees drawn up to her chest, arms wrapped tightly round her legs.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think anyone would be out here this early,” Draco said easily and walked to the bench. “Do you mind if I join you? - or I could just go…” he added haltingly after seeing the black look on her face.

Hermione was startled to hear someone speak to her, let alone Draco. She had, in fact, been thinking of him, trying to make sense of things, of things Harry had said. She also felt somewhat pleased to see him. A fortnight had passed since the duel and she had not spoken to Draco since. But all that just didn’t seem important now. Not after speaking with Ginny.

“No, don’t go. Sit down. Please.” Hermione moved over from the middle of the small bench and Draco sat, close enough for his thigh to brush against hers.

“Coffee?” He offered her his mug.

“Oh, sure.” She took a drink, feeling the warmth flow over her tongue and down her throat. “Thanks. That’s good coffee. I usually take tea.” Her sonorous voice was like music to his ears.

“Elf-made”

“Ah-”

Draco grinned and took the steaming mug, raising it to his own lips. They sat in comfortable quiet for a while, listening to the gentle lapping of the lake water licking at the shore.

“You know, I really am sorry about the champagne…that night at McGonagall’s.” Hermione glanced sheepishly at him.

He gave a low chuckle. “Yeah…, and what am I doing handing you a scalding hot beverage this morning…” Then he added, “I probably deserved it-”

“No,” she interrupted, “You were being very gentlemanly, apologizing to me and I-“

“Hermione.” He placed his free hand over hers and looked deeply into her dark-brown eyes, “I want you to know I am sorry I caused you so much pain with the horrible things I said and did to you.”

She returned his deep look and nodded slightly. “Thank you for saying that.”

“In those days,” he continued cautiously, “I was under my father’s control. I’m not proud of it nor of the things I did, but it is what it is and I’m sorry for it.”

Hermione looked fixedly at Draco. She had never considered Draco may have been at odds with his father’s world view. She took the coffee in both hands and took another sip, remaining silent, waiting to see if he would continue opening up to her. It felt comfortable and safe; the silence, his company, and sharing his coffee. She was glad he had happened upon her this morning.

When it seemed as though he would say no more, she chanced it.

“Draco?” she probed, softly.

“Yes,” He was ready to answer honestly anything she asked.

“What was it like…growing up as Lucius Malfoy’s son?”

He didn’t look at her, but continued to stare out over the lake, its gray surface mirrored in his eyes. Draco felt her intense gaze and he knew he must tell her the truth. If he wanted this woman in his life, he knew he had to be as honest as he could be. She deserved nothing less.

He told her about his mother and happy childhood with her love protecting him from Lucius who was hardly ever around in Draco’s early years, always off with the Death Eaters. He spoke of how his mother took all the abuse for him until the year before he entered Hogwarts. Then his father suddenly took a vested interest in Draco’s so called coming of age.

Draco told Hermione of the fear, physical abuse, and mind control Lucius had used against him during those years; how he could never really be himself at school. At that time Draco didn’t even know who he was, only who his father said he should be.

Hermione listened without interruption or judgment. She only moved to take the coffee from him every now and again, never taking her eyes off Draco’s resolute porcelain features.

Draco went on to tell her about his jealously of Harry, who had true friends in herself and Ron. He told her he had wanted Harry’s friendship that very first year, trying to bully him to get it that first night on the stone steps. He confessed he did not feel as his father felt about muggle-borns, but in his youth, and naivety, he believed he had no recourse but to do as his father instructed. Lucius was cunning; he knew how much Draco loved his mother so Lucius would mistreat and mishandle her on account of Draco’s transgressions.

Draco took pause before finally forging on. He revealed his anxiety and fear in their sixth year when he had been instructed by Lord Voldemort to murder Dumbledore. Hermione was barely breathing when Draco divulged what his father had said to him regarding Draco’s task.

“Lucius swore to me if I didn’t do as the Dark Lord instructed, he would kill me and mother; that is if there was anything let of us after Voldemort was done…” Draco’s eyes glistened with moisture for in instant and he inhaled deeply. He sighed and gained control of his emotions completely and masterfully; he had many years of practice hiding his true feelings.

They sat quietly for a while as the last of the coffee went cold in the mug and the chill in the air intensified.

Hermione had a million more questions she wanted to ask, but she also knew now was not the time. Instead, she spoke softly.

“Draco, I’m sorry you lived through that hell. We don’t get to choose our parents, or how they treat us, but it makes me happy to see you’ve been strong enough to rise above it and be the person you’d wanted to be, by your own choice. That takes strength and courage.”

He gazed at her with a bit of wonder and hope.

She covered his hand with her small one and smiled sweetly. “I forgive you, Draco.”

Draco felt his heart swell, the warmth from her touch flooding through him. He longed to lean towards her, pull her close and gently kiss her petaline lips.

Hermione again saw truth in his eyes, and gratitude. She felt a peculiar desire for Draco to kiss her and as they stared at each other, she thought for one fleeting moment that he would.

“Draco,” she said on impulse, “Would you like to join me for drinks tonight in my suite? I’m having a bit of a soiree…”

He was momentarily stunned. “I’d be delighted. What time shall I come round?” he asked smiling broadly.

She returned his smile. “You could drop by a bit early, say, just before eight or so? But listen, I’ve got a few things to do…” She stood and as she did, snowflakes began to fall from the steely sky. She looked up, her cheeks and nose glowing pink from the brisk air, the flakes drifting slowly down around her and landing in her brown curls. Draco swore to himself he had never seen a more beautiful sight; this woman before him had forgiven him and with her forgiveness, had released his heart from a prison that had held it for as long as he could remember.

“It’s snowing!” she exclaimed laughing and held her hands out while slowly twirling around. Draco watched the innocent happiness on her face; he wanted so much to be a part of her life, to share in that happiness.

“So it is,” he laughed with her.

“Well,” she exhaled, suddenly breathless; her face a flush with anticipation, “I’ll see you later then.”

Draco watched her go and as she vanished behind the thicket making her way back to the castle, he turned back to the lake. He continued to look out across the gray glass surface for a long while, eyes blank and staring.

“Merlin, help me with what I must do,” he muttered and taking out his wand, tapped the ruby ring, placed his hand inconspicuously under his chin and summoned his contact to report the latest information…




***




Hermione had come in from the cold feeling exhilarated. She graded essays for her fourth years, wrote a few lesson plans for her advanced sixth year research group and arranged her private quarters in preparation for the gathering that evening. Only few close friends would be there; Cho and Michael, Neville and Luna, and Ginny and Harry had promised to stop by after their dinner date in Hogsmeade. And Draco. She still could not believe she had invited him; it had seemed right at the time but as the evening drew near she felt more and more wary. With Harry coming, she began to dread the tension.

It had been so comfortable and natural that morning talking to Draco, listening to him. What he had told her about his mother and father had touched her deeply. There was so much more to him then she’d ever realized and she wanted to know more about the person he had become.

To calm her nerves she decided to take a hot bubble bath with a glass of Pinot Grigio, her favorite wine. Her bathroom here at work was fantastic, marble tile and a huge tub with lion head faucets; a walk-in steam shower with multiple shower heads to douse one from head to toe. One wall was mirrored and another had a huge window looking out onto the lake. The sunset was blazing red this evening; having finally found a fracture in the clouds, it gave a mighty burst of light before sinking below the trees of the Forbidden Forest.

“Mmm”, Hermione let out a sigh as she felt the hot water releasing the tension in her neck and shoulders. She was always tight from continually hunching over books and parchment. She leaned back into her bath pillow and took a sip of wine, her mind wandering to Draco.

She called to mind how great he had looked this morning, his fit form evident under his sweater and jeans. She blushed to think about what was under those clothes…she thought about the touch of his hand in the Three Broomsticks and how she had felt when he leaned in close. She imagined again what it would be like to feel his strong arms around her, to be kissed by him. Twice now, she had thought that he was about to and he had not. Hermione now knew, without a doubt, she wanted him to kiss her and if he gave any inclination this evening, she would acquiesce.

Yes, she knew in her heart she wanted it, but in her head she still wasn’t quite sure if it was right. She, Hermione Granger, had always chosen to do the right thing, had she not? She had thought taking the next step with Ron was the right thing but as it turned out, it most certainly was not- and now it seemed their friendship was damaged beyond repair.

“Maybe this time I should follow my heart and not my head.” Hermione drained the glass and poured a second, determined to enjoy the rest of her bath thinking about Draco and where the night may take them.




***



Hermione was pleased with the stage she had set for the gathering in her quarters. Festive, contemporary Jazz played quietly in the background, warm soft lighting flooded the sitting room, and a merry fire danced upon her hearth. She had prepared canapés herself, the muggle way, and placed them on the sideboard next to the drinks. She was dressed to perfection in a low-cut black halter-top of soft, gauzy fabric and white fitted slacks which hugged her waist and hips, flaring generously at her ankles. Lastly she wore her little black ankle straps, the ones Draco had admired that night in September at McGonagall’s.

At the last minute, she was vacillating on whether to wear her hair up or down when there came a gentle rapping on the door.

“Oh, Merlin, I guess down it is.” She glanced at her reflection one last time, satisfied with what she saw and hustled to the door. When she opened it, her heart truly skipped a beat. Draco looked fantastic clad in black tailored trousers, expensive leather shoes, and a steel blue-gray dress shirt over a black-cotton-T. The effect made his eyes stand out intensely and for a moment she was mesmerized.

Draco was pleased with Hermione’s reaction; he knew he looked great tonight, had made sure of it. He was always prepared. What he wasn’t prepared for was how he’d feel when he saw Hermione; she was drop-dead gorgeous. Any old day, he loved how she looked and she always turned him on but, this… tonight she was breathtaking.

“May I come in?” he asked, and flashed a charming grin.

“Yes, of course” she managed. Her eyes roved his fit frame and already she was seriously considering laying more then her eyes on him. She stepped aside and watched him amble into the sitting room.

After a quick glance down the corridor, Hermione closed the door and glided past him to the sideboard. “What can I get you to drink? I’ve got butterbeer, fire whiskey, white wine…and I’ve mixed magic martinis…”

She felt warmth close behind her and then soft breath fan her ear.

“Whatever you’re having...” his low, drawling voice came over her. Hermione shuddered at his overwhelming presence standing inches behind her. She closed her eyes as he swept his fingers up her bare back, between her shoulder blades to find the sweet spot at the nape of her neck. His fingers stroked and caressed, eliciting heat and leaving her craving more.

“You look beautiful, Hermione.”

“Would you like a martini, then?” she asked anxiously. He was so close, his delicious scent, now so familiar, surrounded her. Her skin was tingling where he had touched her.

“What I want…is to kiss you.”

Hermione turned, looking eagerly into his consuming gaze. Her head swam, her heart kicked wildly against her ribs and she felt a quickening of her pulse. Draco’s hand grazed past her hip to rest on the small of her back; his other touched her cheek, his fingers trailing down her jaw to her chin and gently tilting her face up to his, he pressed her body close.

She was trembling, falling into the depths of his silver-blue eyes. He came closer by degrees, and as she closed her eyes she felt his warm soft lips brush hers.

Draco felt her quivering in his arms, her breath coming in short quick pants. Her vulnerability, her innocence excited him beyond measure. Her luscious scent veiled him; she was like a delicate flower, beautiful to behold, blissful to breathe in. And when he kissed her, she sighed against his mouth sending shock waves of desire rippling through him. He felt her body giving in to his touch and she wrapped her arms around his neck, increasing his ardor.

Hermione ran her hands through Draco’s hair, so silky it tickled her fingers. She arched her back, pressing into him, wanting him to deepen their kiss. But then, he pulled away and Hermione opened her eyes to see his- haunting, mysterious and full of question.

“Hermione,” he whispered huskily, “Is it right?”

She needed a minute to come back to herself; she had though he was there, with her, lost in their kiss.

“It’s…it feels… a little fast” she admitted, and blinked back at him, waiting to see what he would do, where he would take them; for she was sure, at this moment, she would give into his advances.

“I want it to be right, Hermione…right for you. Merlin knows I want you, but I won’t push you.”

She could see he was struggling, trying to hold back. His arms were still around her and part of her wanted to clear the sideboard in one fell swoop and pull him down on top of her. The other part of her was scared to death of how much she wanted him.

“I… let’s just…take it slow,” she whispered, her forehead resting on his chest.

Draco rested his chin lightly on top of her curls and murmured into her hair, “It’s important to me that you’re comfortable, that this is what you want, as much as I do; that I’m what you want.”

At these tender words, they stood with their arms around each other, feeling a simmering heat flickering between them, enjoying it, and knowing for now it was all they had.


~`*`~ ~`*`~ ~`*`~


Many moments later, Draco was seated comfortably in Hermione’s sitting room taking liberal swigs of his fire whiskey, while she got herself a glass of wine. Her guests would be arriving shortly and Draco felt he needed more than one drink to deal with the evening ahead.

“You finesse your students well. I admire the control you have in your classroom. And for such a young teacher too,” he said earnestly. “Youngest to be appointed at Hogwarts no less.”

Hermione gave a small smile. Thank you, and what of your discipline techniques?” She joined him, but chose a chair opposite instead of next to him on the sofa as he had hoped.

“Oh, I scare the daylights out of the boys and endear myself to the girls. Needless to say, I’ve got them eating out of my hands.” His eyes twinkled with mirth and Hermione wasn’t sure if he was joking or being serious.

“What do you mean, ‘endear yourself’?” Her eyes narrowed. “I hear you’re the subject of many a school-girl fantasy.”

“And since when have I not been?”

“Ha!”

“Was I the subject of your school-girl fantasies, Hermione?”

A reflective look swept Hermione’s face and she was about to reply with something snappy when there was a knock at the door.

Draco was disappointed and more than a little annoyed their private time was over. And furthermore he would have to endure the lackluster company of her mostly mundane friends, when what he really wanted was alone time with Hermione. This, he found remarkably irksome.

From the misty tone wafting into the room, he didn’t need to guess who it was at the door. Luna and Neville entered, and then Draco heard Cho Chang’s bright salutation, a singsong quality to her voice. At least Cho wasn’t a total bore; she was actually an engaging conversationalist and knew how to have a good time. Even though Draco thought these people were quite dreary, he would endure it; endure anything for the chance to be near Hermione.

“Hellooo Draco!” Cho bounded toward him and he rose from the couch into her hug and kiss on the cheek.

Cho’s latest beau, Michael Connor nodded his head. “Hi-ya, Draco.”

“Michael.”

Luna and Neville joined them, drinks in hand. Draco rubbed the back of his neck with his palm feeling tense and uncomfortable in this tight social situation with people he remembered as detesting him and vice versa.

“Draco, said Neville jovially, “I have that plant ready, the one you need for the Drought of Living Death antidote. If you want to stop by my office anytime this week…”

“Excellent, Longbottom. Why don’t you just bring it by the potions dungeon for me?”

“Uh- yeah. Sure Draco, no problem.”

“Why are you making Drought of Living Death antidote, Draco?” Luna inquired idly.

Draco frowned, annoyed with what he considered nosy snooping. “My Advanced Potions group- a bit of a challenge for them…they’re very bright…”

“Hmm… yes, it sounds it. Drought of Living Death antidote is very advanced potion making.”

“Draco, how are you!” Parvati Patil’s voice rang out and she came dragging Dean Thomas behind her.

“Dean-“ said Draco, nodding in his direction, ignoring Parvati. He was reminded of Pansy and her blatant attempts to win his attention.

“Oi, Malfoy. Gryffindor got your Slytherins on the run this year, eh?

“Don’t count us out yet. Our seeker is quite talented; reminds me of myself…”

The men launched into an animated Qudditch discussion and the women drifted off to gather around and sample the canapés Hermione was famous for. Hermione caught Draco’s eye from across the room and they exchanged a smoldering, heated look. She was pleased; her friends seemed to be accepting Draco into the fold.

***



Outside Hermione’s door, Ginny was running Harry the riot act.

“Draco is here tonight, Harry, and Hermione wants him to be here. If I were you, I’d think about her feelings tonight and not my own.”

“I’m not going to pretend to be his best mate, for Merlin’s sake.”

Ginny sighed. “No one is asking you to do that, just be civil. Don’t hang him up by his ankle in other words…” She grinned wryly and wrapped her arms around him.

“You owe me, for this.” Harry’s voice simmered with mischief.

“I’ll be forever in your debt, Mr. Potter.” Ginny stood on her tiptoes and kissed him sweetly.

“Mmm, come back here; more of that please…” Harry held her tight and caught her lips up again with his own.

“Harry!” Ginny pulled back as his kiss heated up. “Don’t get carried away…” His hands had started to roam down to the hem of her sweater, his fingers ducking beneath to find her warm skin.

“I can’t wait until you’re Mrs. Potter,” Harry growled into her flaming red hair.

“We’ve a party to attend.” She tried to wiggle from his grip.

“I’d rather take you home and-“

“Harry!”

“Alright, alright,” he sighed, “Let’s go ‘make nice’ with Malfoy. Merlin! What a shity alternative to my idea for the rest of this evening…”

***


A few hours later, guests began to leave as the evening wound down.  Draco and Harry had not exchanged two words all night, only threatening glares.  The mood, however, was so festive that no one but Ginny and Hermione had seemed to notice.

“Thanks Hermione…”

“…great night…”

“Good show…”

“…had fun…”

“We had a lovely time…”

She stood in the entryway, seeing her guests out and Draco took this cue to leave; he could not be held responsible for what he might do if left alone with Hermione.

She followed him into the hallway to say their goodbyes in private. He faced her, leaning into the stone wall, while flickering torch flames cast long shadows that danced upon the floor. Hands in his pockets, he gazed intently at her with a wicked grin about his lips.

“What,” she whispered, “are you smiling about?”

“Just thinking about earlier, the way you kissed me…”

You kissed me,” she purred back, inching closer to him.

“Oh- right. I guess I did…” Draco pulled his hands from his pockets and lacing his fingers with hers, pulled her close.

“I think you should know,” he breathed, “I’ve wanted you this close to me for a very long time.”

“How long?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” He ran his hand up her arm to her shoulder and tousled a springy curl.

“Hmm, let me guess…” she murmured.

Alright, then.” He kissed her nose. “Guess.”

“Um…since our fourth year, after the Yule Ball?”

Draco’s heart stopped. He stepped back to study her face, which was awash in mischievous pleasure.

“Am I correct, Professor Malfoy?”

“How on earth would you know that? I told no one of my secret feelings for you.”

“I saw you staring at me all night at the Ball, ignoring your date. Did you finally get to…er… have a good time, later on, thinking about me…in your dorm?”

Draco chuckled throatily. “Why you little minx; how would you know that?” He embraced her tightly again, feeling his blood churn, coursing and burning through his veins. “Was I that obvious to you?”

“Mmhm, girls sense those things.”

“Then tell me Miss Granger…What do you sense now?”

It was Hermione’s turn to give a throaty chuckle. “I sense that you are far more dangerous to me now then you were back then, and I would do well to get as far away from you a possible before…”

“Before what?” Draco held her hard against him as if he’d never let go. She didn’t answer him, only stared with a heady, needful look.

“Not quite the answer I was hoping for. But you’re right, you are in danger…”

“Should I be frightened?”

“Why? Do I frighten you Hermione?”

“No.”

“Do you want me to?”

“Shut up.”

“Kiss me then,” he demanded.

“No”

“Why not?”

“Because, Draco Malfoy, you don’t tell me what to do,” she teased.

Will you kiss me then?” He played along, enjoying their arousing banter.

“Are you begging me?”

He regarded her thoughtfully, his gaze penetrating her, piercing her. She felt almost violated by the sheer intensity of it.

“Is that where you want me Hermione? On my knees?”

There was seriousness to his voice that made her doubt if he was playing anymore. It took her off guard and she felt exposed, as if he knew she was taking pleasure in the sense of power she got from stringing him along.

“I’m not sure where I want you,” she confessed.

“How about naked- in your bed?”

Hermione tossed her curls and laughed, heartily.

“You think I’m joking? Oh, and speaking of Balls…”

“Draco!”

“Winter Balls! You know music, dancing...gee Granger, I didn’t know you’d such a dirty mind.  I like it.”

She smacked him a good one and he grabbed her wrists lightly in his hands pulling her arms around his waist.

“You will be accompanying me to the bleeding thing… the Winter Ball that is.”

“Are you asking me to be your date?”

“No, I’m telling you that I am your date, Professor Granger. Really, I thought you were much more quick-witted than this…”

That comment earned him another playful smack. Draco took her wrist again. “Easy now, Granger. What’s with all this abuse? I’m beginning to think you don’t like me very much.” His tongue darted out to wet his bottom lip, a casual gesture she came to associate with ardent feelings on his part.

“Oh, I think I like you well enough.”

“So you’ll go to the Ball with me?”

“I’ll think about it.” She leaned in, turning her face up to him and just as Draco was about to taste her lips once more. The door to her suite opened.

Harry cleared his throat, noticeably uneasy at witnessing the close proximity of Hermione to Draco.

“Er- Hermione? Ginny and I are gonna get going…”

“Yes, thank you for a lovely time,” Ginny said, striding over to Hermione to hug her goodbye. “Let’s talk soon,” she whispered in Hermione’s ear.

“Thank you for coming.” Hermione called out as she watched Ginny catch up with Harry who was already disappearing around the corner.

She turned back to Draco and he took her hand, bringing it to his lips.

“You think about it then…” He kissed her fingertips, lingering just long enough to hint at his hesitancy to leave her. Then he turned and strode away down the darkened corridor as Hermione gazed longingly after him.

***














A/N: this chapter took me longer to tweak. It’s the pivotal chapter in Hermione & Draco’s relationship so I wanted it to be the best I could make it. (reviews please : D)
I hope it lives up to your expectations. Reviews appreciated! = )











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