Hermione stretched her arms above her head and opened her eyes. As soon as she did so, the familiar ache reasserted itself. She tried to draw her muscles back in on herself, trying to soothe them, but the ache just spread through her body. Sighing, she heaved herself out of bed and dressed herself, resisting the urge to throw herself out of the door semi-clothed.
It wasn’t until she was in the hall, surrounded by laughing students that she felt the ache ease significantly. Knowing that she was only a matter of feet away from Draco allowed her to relax and involve herself in conversation: the longing subdued to the faintest desire. Sitting with her back to the Slytherin table, she told herself resolutely that this was all she needed to stop her body’s urgings. Anything more would be overkill. She didn’t rely on him, she told herself, she was using him to alleviate the constant pressure on her. It was highly unpleasant, hateful even, but a philosophical outlook was the only way to approach this. If she told herself that she relied on him, that she truly needed Malfoy, then she would go mad.
Draco watched Hermione’s back, and saw in it the same tense alignment that he knew now characterised his own posture. It was the determined strength of someone who had an unwavering resolution not to give in to something that they knew would make them feel good. And simply because they thought that giving in would be morally impermissible. He curled his lip. Did she think that such behaviour would elevate her to some state above the rest of them?
He looked along the table at his housemates. Yes, few of them were quite as selfish as he was, but all of them made sure to keep their own interests at heart at every available opportunity. If they wanted something, they went out and they took it, not caring who they hurt in the process, even if it was one of their own. But then again, none of them had ever had to deal with Granger.
The entire situation had put him in the biggest quandary of his life. How was he meant to reconcile his own longing to satisfy his every urge with the fact that doing so would mean getting closer to a girl that he truly loathed, and in doing so alleviating her own suffering? It went against every instinct he had.
Buttering a slice of toast as though he was trying to scrape it to pieces, he wished he could tear apart the source of this suffering just as easily. Glaring at the people who surrounded him, unable to understand what he was going through, he wondered what he was meant to do. Yes, being in the same room as her made him feel much better, but the fact that he relied on her to do that made his skin crawl. She might be able to accept that she felt better in his glorious presence (surely most did), but he would not rely on her to do anything for him.
He watched as she stood up and swung her bag onto her shoulder, smiling at her friends and waving as she left. She clearly didn’t focus enough attention on retaining her control over her own body, and her head snapped to one side, her eyes instantly seeking out his. As soon as their eyes met, he watched as she bit down on her lip and yanked her head away again. Draco narrowed his eyes and watched as she walked out of the hall as quickly as she could while maintaining some dignity.
Standing up, not bothering with any pleasantries to his housemates, he left the hall, striding past the first years who were in his way, he watched as she walked up the flight of stairs to her first class. Despite the fact that his class was in the opposite direction, he let his body take over momentarily, and follow her.
Hermione stood outside her class, puzzling at the fact that her body still wasn’t screaming at her. Looking around, she saw Draco’s shining blonde head standing at the other end of the corridor. Her eyes widened in horror, and she glanced back to see if anyone had noticed her staring. Her classmates were obliviously chatting amongst themselves and she took advantage of the situation to hurry back down the corridor and prod Draco’s chest with a sharp finger. “What the hell do you think you’re playing at? Following me here?”
Draco stared coldly at her. “I don’t know why I did it. All I know is I hate you, and you’re the only person who makes me feel vaguely normal again, because of the hideous perversion of the universe that seems to be taking place.”
“Will you grow up?” She spat. “I am suffering through exactly the same thing as you but I am able to pull myself together long enough to function well enough in normal society. So why can’t you do the same?”
“ Because you’re so selfish that you can’t be that normal! You’re just thinking about yourself.”
“Do you think I want people to see me talking to you?”
“I don’t care about your snide little comments, I don’t want you worming around on the periphery of my life! Pull yourself together, and leave me alone.”
“I can’t leave you alone.” He hissed. “It kills me to admit it, but I cannot deal with this constant…discomfort.”
“I can see why you weren’t in Gryffindor…not brave enough to deal with more than twenty four hours of a little nagging.”
“This is not nagging, this is my body fighting my brain and I refuse to put up with it.” He breathed in deeply. “I have a proposition for you.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” she answered, and began to turn away.
“I know you’re stubborn Granger, but are you going to be so pigheaded that you rather exist in this state than to listen to the compromise that I’m offering? Hardly intelligent, is it?”
She turned back to him. “I will listen, so this had better be damn good.”
He pulled her to one side of the corridor, glaring at the few people who dared to cast a glance at them. “One hour, every night. Before we go to bed. Just let our bodies be near to each other, and maybe that’ll be enough to let us get through the rest of the day normally.”
“What makes you so sure? You’re hardly as clever as you think you are?”
“We were together for less than ten minutes last night, and it was enough to let us sleep. An hour should be sufficient for a day. If not, it’s one hour and we never have to do it again. Alright?”
She met his snarl with her own. “Fine. Just…fine. Where are we meeting?”
“That room that you lot hid in from Professor Umbridge in Fifth Year. We need… a room where we won’t be discovered. At 9 o’clock tonight.”
Giving him one last searing glare, Hermione turned on her heel and walked away from him, feeling the pull in her centre as he stayed where he was.
Later that night, Hermione finished the last paces in front of the blank space of wall and watched as a door appeared in front of her. Pushing it open reluctantly, she stepped into the room.
She knew that he was in the room: as soon as she had walked anywhere near the room, she could feel his presence in there, brooding away at the situation that they were in.
She looked around, taking in the dark red drapes of the room and the flickering fire. “What the hell were you imagining?”
He was sitting on a sofa in front of the fire and answered her without deigning to turn his head. “I didn’t specify this. I can only presume that other students who didn’t want to be discovered wanted some sort of romantic hideaway, and the room has decided to use the same model again.”
“Fantastic.” She slumped into an armchair, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. “Just fantastic. Stuck in a room, with you and a fire. And for the first time all day my body is actually happy.”
“Shut up Granger.”
Hermione looked at him and wondered whether she would prefer to rip his head off or just gouge his eyes out. Either was an attractive option. Instead, she fixed her gaze on the fire, watching it flickering away. Completely inconsistent and utterly hypnotizing.
Surreptitiously, Draco changed his line of vision, allowing him to watch the orange and yellow light flash over Hermione’s face, the light catching in her eyes. She looked remarkably distant from the situation, her face calm and composed. “How can you stay so calm?” He asked.
“What?” Suddenly, all the calm was gone from her face, and her eyes were narrowed as she looked at him.
“Clearly you’re more civil in the middle of the night. I asked, how can you stay so calm?”
“Because I’m a better person than you.” She answered coldly. “I am able to see that being utterly vile is not going to resolve this situation, no matter how much I loathe you. So I have determined to put up with this as best I can. And that means tuning you out as much as I can.”
They stared frostily at each other, each daring the other to look away first. Draco closed his eyes first. “I hate this. I can’t stand you, and the idea that you make me feel even slightly better is horrific.”
“And do you think that I feel any better about this situation Malfoy? You think I can stand you?”
“Consider myself lucky to have you in such close quarters? I don’t think so Malfoy. In fact, I consider myself extremely unlucky. You’re vile and pretentious, and in an ideal world I would have absolutely nothing to do with you.”
Draco smiled sarcastically. “That sounded practised.”
“That sounded stupidly egotistic.” She smirked back at him.
He turned sullenly back to the fire and moved his shoulders back, letting his muscles relax. “How about it we just wait this hour out in silence?”
“You’re the one who keeps talking.” She closed her eyes again and let the firelight play off her face.
Draco looked at her, and saw for the first time the long lashes that lay against her cheek. They were unfeasibly long, and he hated her for it. They were too noticeable, almost cartoonish. They were too attractive for Granger.
She looked up and saw him looking at her, almost angrily. “What is your problem?” she snapped. “I’m not doing anything to you.”
Draco glared at her. “I was just thinking Granger, that we might as well make the most of the forty five minutes that we’ve got left. Move closer.”
“What?” She sat up straight, and he felt even that small movement release the tiniest bit of tension in the muscles in his back. “Are you so spoilt that you think I’m going to obey your commands?”
“Are you so stupid that you’re not going to make the most of the few opportunities we’ve got to stop this feeling?”
“Not if it means being close to you!”
“Merlin, Granger! Pull yourself together. You think I’m going to jump you?”
“No, I’m worried about you polluting my airspace.”
“Granger,” he growled, reaching forward and grabbing her wrist. The contact threw her off balance: while her mind shrieked at her to get away from him, her body instantly moved forward, enthusiastically and beyond any control on the part of her mind. She ended up, sprawled on the sofa next to him, her cheeks flaming.
“What are you doing?” She shrieked through closed teeth. “You know what our bodies do, so why the hell would you make an actual contact between us?”
Draco just looked at her, her hair curled around her shoulders. At that moment, with her eyes wide in anger and her breath coming quickly and looking more attractive than he had ever seen her before, he had never hated her more. And yet his hand was still clamped around her wrist, his body refusing to let him let go.
“You’re still holding onto my wrist,” she stated calmly.
“I can’t let go,” he answered, just as evenly.
“Stop playing the idiot, and actually let go of me.” She grasped at his hand, and felt her own hand lock around him. “What? No!”
“See Granger? Well, today has been informative. I’ve learnt that you’re not nearly as clever as you like to think that you are. Because thanks to your idiocy, we are now entwined. Well done you!”
Hermione breathed in deeply. “Right. Right. What we’re going to do, is to relax. Just…stay still, and be calm. And then our bodies will get their fix and they will allow us to let go.”
Draco sat back, and Hermione fell with him. “A little warning would be nice,” she hissed and struggled to rearrange herself. The position of their hands made it impossible to find any comfortable compromise until he was sitting back and she was resting her shoulder on his chest, their hands out in front of them.
The tactile nature of the relationship that was being forced upon them meant that both of them sat rigidly, staring fixedly in opposite directions. But soon the firelight and the warmth of the room began to seep into the minds and unconsciously, they relaxed, their bodies moulding closely together. Draco looked at his hands and knew that he would be able to let go of Hermione if he really focused. But one look at her profile, and the soft brown of her hair was enough to make him keep his mouth closed and his body pressed against hers.
AN: Hey everyone, sorry about the delay on this chapter, I had exams which had to come first. But here's the latest chapter and all your comments are very much appreciated! Petitesorciere xxx