Chapter 5 : The Stair
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«Stop!» Draco sat with his legs around Hermione's hips, pinning her to the floor – tickling her. Her laughter filled his ears and made his heart sing in approval to the wonderful sound. Never hearing her laughter before, he savoured this moment so that he could dwell on the fascinating tones of it when he was waiting for sleep.
«Draco! Sto-» Laughing harder and louder than ever, she couldn't finish her sentence, but continued to try and wrestle him. Draco knew that if she really wanted him to quit she wouldn't just wriggle underneath him – he knew that she enjoyed this harmless fun just as much as he did.
Hermione had been sitting on Draco's lap on the loveseat in their empty common room before their humorous fight began. While laughing, teasing and occasionally kissing each other they had been talking about their weaknesses. About that time, Hermione confessed that she was extremely ticklish, and made Draco swear never to tickle her. A promise Draco had no problem breaking as soon as he had the opportunity.
When he saw her smiling and laughing now, he could see a gleam in her eyes that he had never seen before. Her eyes had always mesmerized him, but lately they had been oddly vacated, empty. He figured it must have something to do with that Potter and the Weasleys had all left the school. What happened to the Weasley-girl though, he had to admit, was tragic. Deciding never to mention it and not think about it again, he bent down to Hermione's heated face. Understanding what he was doing, she lay perfectly still – only her chest rising and falling with the sounds of her heavy breathing. Smoldering him with her eyes, she parted her lips slightly, waiting for Draco to bend down half an inch and make her day. The more he thought about it, the less sense it made for her to like him. Sometimes he saw it – felt it. Her feelings for him was painted all over her face, signaling with her eyes that a kiss from him was her greatest pleasure. How in the world did he, Draco, deserve something this beautiful, talented and deep down good? Her index finger reached up to touch the worried wrinkle on his forehead and smoothed it out. Sinking into her touch, feeling how careful she was with him, he closed his eyes with a moan. He was still sitting on top of her, his arms supporting his own weight at either side of her head. Feeling her explore his face now with the other hand as well, he breathed heavily, trying to keep sane at the sense of her touch.
«Draco..?» The sound of her whispering shouldn't be so familiar to him. It shouldn't feel like home – not yet. Every tone, every musical note, those low tunes sent ripples through his insides – warming him. He swallowed before answering.
«Yes, Hermione?» Not willing to let go of the moment, he still had his eyes shut – expecting something to burst the bubble of happiness that surrounded him.
«On second thought,» She said, wriggling away from him and sitting back on the loveseat they had just vacated. While sighing, she made a feeble attempt of flattening her static hair, and grabbed her Potions book.
«What is it?» Draco looked at her, noticing that she avoided his gaze. Why couldn't she ever just say what she was thinking? Like so many other times, this was the kind of moment where Draco wished he had the power to read minds. What was under the surface of the pretty head of hers? Well, he thought, I guess I'll never know. He knew that she would always be a mystery to him. Smiling at his own thought he got up from the floor and went to his room, but not without walking to Hermione first, and kissing her lightly at the top of her head.
Hermione watched Draco close the door behind him, and exhaled at the moment he was out of sight. She was biting her lower lip, imprisoning the words that had so easily almost left her mouth. The three words that would certaily not make Draco run into her open arms. Every boy hated hearing those words, unless they were the first ones to say them, and all they wanted was to hear that same sentence in return. Hermione shook her head, No, she was absolutely not going to say it. And the sooner her betraying mouth would get that, the better. If she lost her focus, just for the tiniest of seconds, her mouth would just ramble out those words. So she had to be extremely careful; because if it was something she knew, it was what the prescence of Draco made her act like her mind was drugged. With a determined nod, she released her lower lip and made herself leap into the world of Potions – not the easiest thing to do. But her determination made her swallow her feelings, and put aside any though that may have disturbed her in any way – good or bad. And the fact that she could smell Draco's intoxicating perfume on her clothes didn't help – it didn't help at all.
As Hermione closed her Potions book later that evening, she went straight out of the portrait hole and down to the Great Hall for supper. She didn't even permit herself to cast a glance at Draco's bedroom door, pretending that she had forgotten all about him. While walking peacefully down the long and seemingly endless staircase, she pondered if she should have reminded him of the time. Stopping to dwell on that, she bit her lower lip again, sighed and came to the conclusion that he after all was a grown boy, and could certainly tell the time perfectly on his own. With that decition fresh in mind she nodded to herself and continued down the stairs.
«Miss Granger,» Hermione turned around and almost lost her balance. «Just the girl I wanted to see.» Professor McGonagall stood on the staircase, just a few steps behind Hermione, looking down at her.
«Professor?» Hermione grabbed the railing, and looked up at her teacher. Minnerva McGonagall had always scared her a little bit. Her eyes had shot lightning at Hermione's one too many times, and she knew that when McGonagall lips were only a thin line, someone was in trouble.
«I have noticed some differences in you lately, Miss Granger. Late for classes, and when you manage to come at all, you are very distracted.» Hermione looked down at McGonagall's shoes. They were black.
«I was worrying that maybe it had something to do with young Master Malfoy.» At the second Hermione heard his name, she coughed. It sounded fake, as though she was trying to cover up something she wasn't meant to say. Had McGonagall connected the dots?
«Are you comfortable living together so closely, Miss Granger? I told the Headmaster that you two having to live together, considering your history, wasn't one of his best ideas. But he wouldn't hear of it.» McGonagall stared at Hermione's face for a long moment before continuing. «I could make some other arrangements if you feel uncomfortable, Miss Granger?» Hermione's heart raced. What was she supposed to say now? She had to act as though Draco was not the love of her life, but her one true enemy. But how was she going to say that without it sounding like a line performed by a bad actor? Still staring at McGonagall's black shoes, her thoughts were racing each other, and suddenly she met her teachers eyes. They were not shooting any lightning now. Just showing evident signs of curiosity.
«Auch!» Something caught both Hermione and the Professor's attention. A girl came falling down the steps, diving ungracefully into the air like an unprepareed circus act. The girl caught Hermione's robes as she passed her, and pulled her down a few steps, until they both stopped.
«Kelsey Smith!» McGonagall gasped, and ran down the steps and helped Hermione and the girl on their feet. To Hermione's shock the girl named Kelsey started laughing, and before she had time to think, she started laughing herself. She didn't even notice that McGonagall had left, after saying something about talking to her later. Kelsey and Hermione laughed for what felt like an eternity, and when they finally did stop, Hermione's stomach was hurting in a way it hadn't done in a long time. The moment they both had caught their breath, Kelsey spoke with a very different accent. «You're Hermione Granger, right? I thought I recognized you.» Kelsey smiled and put a stray of hair behind her ear. She was a little smaller than Hermione was, with dark brown hair to her shoulders. Her brown eyes was now looking into Hermione's, and Hermione could feel in that moment that this girl was one she was able to trust.
«Yes, that's me. And you are..?» Hermione put out her hand, and waited. But Kelsey started smiling ang giggling.
«Kelsey. Always so proper, aren't you?» She grabbed Hermione's hand and shook it, while giggling silently.
«What?» Feeling like she was missing something, Hermione looked sceptical at Kelsey.
«You english, you're all so proper. With your dialect, your school uniforms and the handshake. It wouldn't surprise me if you had an umbrella stacked between your robes somewhere.» It took Hermione a second, and then she was laughing again. Light, and effortless.
«You're american, aren't you?» She managed to breathe out between her laughter attacks.
«Nope. A canadian, and proud of it. Go syrup!» That set Hermione laughing even more. And she could sense that the laughter came more easily for each time. The two girls walked down to the great hall together, all the while talking and getting to know each other. Hermione learned that Kelsey and her family had to move to London, because her father had gotten a position in the Ministry of Magic. And because of that, she had to change schools from her school in Canada to Hogwarts. She missed it, Hermione could sense that.
«But enough about me. Let's talk about you!» Kelsey sat down at the end of the table, and Hermione sat down beside her.
«There's really nothing to tell.» Hermione poured some pumpkin juice in her goblet, avoiding Kelsey's gaze.
«You've gotta be kidding me?»
«You're the one that's been saving the wizarding world with those other two, aren't you? Harry Potter and that red headed guy.»
«Yeah, him. Well?»
«Well, tell me! Where are they? Have you been planning this all out? I bet you know, don't you? And by the way, I heard some rumor that there was something a bit more than friendship between you and Harry Potter. Is it true? I'm sorry if I'm asking to much - you don't really have to answer.» But Hermione could see in her eyes that she wanted to know. Not because she was going to tell everyone, but because she wanted to hear for herself if the stories were true. And if the Great Trio were fighting evil, once more.
«Actually, Kelsey, I'd prefer not to talk about it now. I will tell you later, though.»
«Oh, I'm sorry!»
«For sticking my nose up where it doesn't belong. I can see that it hurts you to talk about them, so I'll just shut up. Ok? I'm shutting up now.» Of course this made Hermione giggle - even though she had just been reminded of being left at Hogwarts by her two best friends.
One thing that she was truly certain of right then and there, was that the open and bleeding wound was now starting to heal. Thanks to two people. None of them that she had ever expected to make her heart whole again. Maybe one day, with a lot of help, she could go on with her life. Move on.
«It's okay, Kelsey. Really. And you've got nothing to apologize for. Unless you count calling me 'proper', you could apologize for that. It stung.» Hermione had to fight the laughter.
«No. You deserved it.»
And they laughed together once again – and the sound echoed around the Great Hall, making several other students turn their heads.
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