A/N: Here is Chapter 8. I hope it doesn't disappoint, because there's only one more to go!
“A-absolutely shocking, sir! A disaster in the making!”
“Oh, a right spectacle! Children these days…”
Albus Dumbledore had just admitted a twittering Flitwick and blubbering Slughorn into his office. The two teachers had been so flustered that they had nearly tripped over their own feet in their haste to enter the room. Now the Headmaster surveyed them serenely over his half-moon glasses. “What, my dear friends, seems to be the matter?” A small smile played on his lips.
“I overheard in the Entrance Hall—”
“And we came straight to you…”
Slughorn and Flitwick continued to stumble over each others’ words until Dumbledore held up a hand for silence.
“Filius, Horace, do calm down,” he said. “Whatever spectacle Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger have created, I’m certain it’s nothing of great consequence.” His smile grew. “Do calm down.”
The two teachers proceeded to gulp down deep breaths and exhale slowly. Slughorn was the first to get his thoughts straight. Flushing so red he could’ve passed for a Weasley, he began, talking very quickly. “Well, Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy were speaking to each other outside of the Great Hall today. Which is strange enough as it is. I stayed close to make sure there would be no violence. But based on their conversation, I can only assume that they”—he paused, blushing furiously—“slept together.”
Slughorn had ended in a barely audible whisper. He himself was a rambunctious man, to be sure, but it was quite awkward to be discussing this sort of thing with the Headmaster. Especially if it was about students.
Luckily Flitwick saved him from having to continue. “You know the history behind those two as well as any of us, Headmaster,” he chimed in, looking nervous. “I’m extremely concerned about this lapse in judgment, especially on Ms. Granger’s part.” He looked at Dumbledore beseechingly. “The girl will certainly get hurt if they continue on in this fashion.”
Throughout this, Dumbledore’s smile had not wavered. He chuckled to himself momentarily before tuning back into what Flitwick was saying.
“…you don’t suppose we should take this opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of the Contraceptive Herb to the students, do you? You know, the whole “eat 3 hours before for best results” talk?”
Slughorn grimaced. “The Contraceptive Herb doesn’t always work, Filius,” he said knowingly.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows with a grimace. “There will be no need for the Contraceptive Herb lecture, gentlemen. I have a feeling that whatever the problem between Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy, it will work out splendidly.” He smiled at the two men. “Meanwhile, you needn’t worry yourselves over this any longer. I will take care of any problems that might arise.”
“But sir—” Slughorn protested.
“Surely we can’t just sit here…” Flitwick said. “Ms. Granger is one of our brightest and most promising students!”
“And Mr. Malfoy’s family is one of the greatest and most influential in the Wizarding world!” Slughorn interjected.
“I assure you,” Dumbledore said, firmly talking over the two teachers, “that no harm will come of this situation. I will see to it. Now please, gentlemen. I understand that you have classes that need to be attended to?” He held open the door out of his office and beckoned to them.
Slughorn jumped up, remembering for the first time that he had the Slytherin sixth-years in his classroom right now, waiting to be taught Potions. Including Draco Malfoy.
“I do believe I’ll give the Contraceptive Herb talk anyway,” he grumbled to Flitwick as the two teachers made their way back down the winding staircase.
As the door slammed shut, Dumbledore made his way to one of the large windows in his office and looked outside at the grounds. By all appearances, his plan was working wonderfully. It was exactly as he had suspected: that if all the inhibitions and connotations that were associated with Slytherin and Gryffindor were removed, the members of the two Houses would get along quite spectacularly. Perhaps in time, Slytherin/Gryffindor couples would even be successful.
He smiled to himself. Of course, he knew that the rumors about Draco and Hermione were untrue. He himself had observed them on the “island”, though he had been very careful to remain unseen. His plan had only worked because Draco and Hermione had thought they were alone and isolated.
And now his plan was at its apex. Because Draco and Hermione had both shown affection for each other in public, their secret was now out. They were both bound to be upset. They would need to talk to each other, alone. And of course they would wait until nightfall.
Tonight, he would remove the spells on the “island”. The illusion would hold, but Draco and Hermione would only be themselves. All their restrictions would not slide away as they had in previous nights. It would only be then that they could finally see the parallel between the life they had held on the “island,” and reality.
It was by far the best plan Dumbledore had ever concocted. It was foolproof. He had artfully crafted it until it was so good that he could even consider it marginally better than Michelangelo’s best.
Dumbledore turned away from the window and went to his desk. This called for a celebration. He pulled out a bag of his favorite lemon drops, and chuckled to himself.
“I can’t believe you let this happen!” Hermione screeched as soon as she caught sight of Draco’s bright blond head among the leafy bushes. He had been looking for her ever since he’d arrived, but now that he saw what a mood she was in he was beginning to feel the urge to hide. Tonight he felt none of that strange courage that the island usually gave him. He could identify the coward in him rising again, and he loathed it. Of course, before he had gone to bed he had given himself a pep talk.
But now one look into those fearfully bright brown eyes, burning with some inscrutable emotion, and Draco was terrified.
“I—I—” He stumbled over his own tongue.
Hermione glared at him. “You have no idea of the type of things I’ve had to endure all day! I’ve got fourth-years whispering around me wherever I go, teachers giving me pathetically concerned looks”—she threw her hands up in the air—“and even the house elves are offering me extra Contraceptive Herb! Draco, it’s all so bloody shameful! And it’s all the worse because nobody will believe me.” She put her hands on her hips. “It won’t work unless you back me up and say it’s not true, you know.”
“I do, I do,” Draco said hurriedly. Too hurriedly.
Hermione’s brows drew down severely. “I hope you don’t think this is some sort of status boost for you, Draco,” she said warningly, her voice straining with anger. “All the Slytherins are already steaming mad, and it won’t be long before your dad finds out. Besides, I won’t let you go exploiting my reputation to try to gain fame and respect for yourself!” she huffed.
Now Draco put his foot down. He had been trying to find the right way to apologize for the situation, but Hermione was being difficult, as usual. How could she even think for a moment that Draco had been using her?
“Hold on a minute, dearie,” he growled in a momentary flash of anger. “You make it seem like everything is my fault. But who’s the one who screamed it to the entire Entrance Hall? Huh?”
Hermione bit her lip. “I just forgot that they were all there!” she cried out in exasperation. “You made me so upset, saying that you were going to give up and that we could never be friends because of Harry.” She lowered her voice to a shameful whisper. “I wasn’t thinking, I guess.”
Draco gaped, all bravado and anger gone. Could he, Draco Malfoy, really have had such an effect on Hermione Granger?
Tears were beginning to form in her eyes. “You don’t understand. How could you? Now you’re just the boy who scored. But I’m the harlot.” She swiped angrily at her wet cheeks and turned away from him, her voice rising once more. “I’ve worked so hard these past six years to earn the respect of everyone at Hogwarts, and then along comes Draco Malfoy, Mr. High-and-Mighty, who just ruins it all in one moment!”
Her shrill voice echoed through the expanse of forest around them and across the waters and then came back. Hermione stood still, staring away into the horizon, her breathing heavy.
Draco struggled with himself as he watched her sad form. A lump had risen in his throat. It was too large to swallow, and too large to talk around. He could do nothing but gaze at her back, which rapidly rose and fell with small sobs. Quiet fell between them, and in the twilight they could see the dark silhouettes of the surrounding trees framed up against the lighter sky.
Finally she spoke again. “And if they all knew the truth, they’d be disappointed,” she whispered. “Because there’s nothing to tell. You don’t even really want me.”
After a brief moment of silence, she tried to stomp away in a fury, because that was what both she and Draco expected her to do. But she found that Draco’s silence was draining the anger out of her; if he didn’t argue, she couldn’t either. The lack of explanation and apology from him left her with a sharp sense of want, an instinct to stay and listen to him. She felt with trepidation that if indeed there was something coming, she did not want to miss it. And as unreasonable as it was, there was no doubt in the world that Hermione would forgive him in a moment, if he asked it.
Hermione paused mid-step, her head spinning. She wanted him to ask it. She wanted to grant it.
She didn’t turn back to face him, but her hesitation was all it took to release Draco from his frozen state. Swallowing his terror, he bridged the gap between them in four long strides and skidded to a halt about an inch away from her. She could feel the body heat radiating off of him. He could see stray strands of her hair sticking to his sweater.
Hermione swallowed. She turned around and looked up into his pale face. “Yes?” she asked softly.
Draco tried to speak. Really, he did. But unlike the other nights he had spent with her on the island, tonight the ideas weren’t flowing into his head fully formed and complete with words to express them. Even as he belatedly remembered what he had been about to say, his instinct was kicking in yet again and he choked the forbidden words back. She was a Gryffindor and he was a Slytherin. They should have been on their guard, if they even spoke to each other at all.
And yet it seemed that Hermione had already forever and permanently thrown away that guard. When Hermione had looked at him it was not with the brute anger one blindly directed towards the enemy; she saw that he existed separate from the conditions of his life, a part of it but also an entity without. He had almost learned to see people that way, but now the magic of the island was gone.
He looked down at the top of Hermione’s head. It was painful and aggravating to think that she had learned something important that he hadn’t. He wondered how in the world she could think that anything that existed on the island could be applied to real life.
“Yes?” she asked again, breathless with expectancy, and the movement of her diaphragm made him realize that he was clutching her close to his chest.
He peered further down at her, and suddenly he realized that there was no reason for him to hold back any longer. Hermione was giving herself wholly to their cause, and if he really cared about her it was the least he could do to keep his selfish lies from hurting her further. They were alone; there was nobody to hear. For once in his life, Draco Malfoy would be perfectly honest.
Draco lifted Hermione’s chin to make her meet his eyes. “Don’t ever think that I don’t really want you,” he told her firmly. “I do. But…”—he hesitated, his voice less certain—“…do you really think it could work?”
To his surprise, Hermione burst out laughing at the incredulous look on his face. “Don’t look so scared, Draco,” she said, looking amused and relieved all at once. “After all this, I’ve decided that night and day maybe aren’t that different. I bet we could do it.”
Draco raised his eyebrows. “We could?”
“Yes,” she replied bossily. “The whole school already thinks we’re bedding together. How much worse can it be if it were true?”
“You have a point,” he informed her. A strange impulse was growing inside of him, and the temptation was just too much. Grinning wickedly, he added, “But it won’t be easy. We’re both so used to hating each other. In order to get it just right, we’ll need plenty of practice.”
“Practice…?” Hermione arched a brow.
But before Draco could explain, she boldly raised herself onto her tiptoes, balancing herself on his shoulders, and touched her lips to his. There was an awkward moment before Draco, miffed that she had stolen his idea, grabbed her by the middle and backed her up towards the trunk of the nearest palm tree. They were practically nose to nose.
“We’re practicing,” he told her gruffly, before kissing her again.
Hermione shivered as Draco slid his tongue across her bottom lip, sending icy hot prickles down her spine. Her mouth parted open of its own accord, and as Draco’s tongue found her own, Hermione felt her insides clench together. She leaned back against the trunk for fear of fainting.
“Don’t run away,” Draco muttered as he kissed her temple. He took a step closer.
Hermione ran her hand up his wiry chest, underneath his clothing. “I’m—I’m not—not running…away,” she argued haltingly. The feel of his cool skin underneath her fingertips was quite a distraction. “I—”
Ignoring her babbling, Draco kissed his way down to her neck, leaving a trail of fire behind, and Hermione found that such a sensation had never been felt in the world. The strength to stand left her knees in a moment and she began to sink down towards the ground, pulling Draco down with her. Her fingernails scraped Draco’s back carelessly as she yanked him even closer. Kissing Viktor Krum had never been much of a pleasant experience, and Hermione felt now that she had been missing out.
They collapsed onto the sand, ignoring the itchy grains that flew everywhere. As Draco drew away from her neck, Hermione grabbed his sweater and yanked it up over his head so that he was in only an undershirt. She grinned at him and reached up to bring his lips back to hers, running her fingers through his already-ruffled hair.
When the warmth of Draco’s hand began to slide its way up her stomach under her blouse, Hermione finally opened her eyes. While they had been busy practicing, the sun had slipped below the horizon and it had become totally dark.
She placed her hand on Draco’s to stop its advances, and he looked at her with concern. “Is something wrong?” he asked.
Hermione was silent for a moment, trying to assemble an answer in her flustered mind. Her body screamed for her to continue, but in the back of her mind she was doubtful.
Draco watched her expression carefully. “I know you,” he told her softly. He placed his hand on top of hers and squeezed it, smiling a small smile. “You always like to be perfectly perfect. You won’t take the exam until you’ve studied all night, so you can get perfect marks.” He said it matter-of-factly, but the heat in his whisper made Hermione shiver.
He kissed her jawline. “You won’t always be perfect. I’ll like you all the same,” he muttered.
She sighed and squeezed his hand back. “No,” she said firmly. “Not here. It doesn’t feel right.” She looked up at him with a mischievous expression. “We can wait for a while. If it can happen at Hogwarts, it can happen anywhere.”
“Anywhere…?” He grinned.
Hermione leaned near his ear. There was a smile in her voice as she said, “Especially on your father’s desk.”
A/N: I didn't particularly like this one. I feel like I switched from humor to drama to steamy without adequate transition, but thanks to those who reassured me! *huggs* =]
So, I know you all have been waiting anxiously for some Draco/ Hermione action...for 7 whole chapters, to be exact ;). It was short, but I hope I didn't let you guys down!
Fun note: "twittering Flitwick and blubbering Slughorn". Can the assonance get any better than that? =] (for all of you who are NOT english professor-wannabes, that is a literary device)
Only one more chapter left! Please review!