Hermione woke up and wondered why she was lying on plush carpet rather than her bed. Tipping her head to one side, narrowing her eyes against the morning light that was coming in through an unexplained window, she stretched out her arms and thought that something seemed unusual.
What was it, she pondered? Obviously, there was the fact that she was lying on carpet rather than cool sheets. But it was something else. As her sleepy brain began to function properly, she realised what it was. It wasn’t that she felt unusual, it was the fact that she felt normal! After weeks of having her body perpetually tugging her in strange ways, to be waking up content was absolutely blissful. But why was she ok? Sitting up suddenly, she smiled to herself. The charm had finally broken!
“Well that was far too abrupt for my liking Granger.” An acerbic drawl cut into her happiness.
Hermione whipped her head round and saw Draco lying behind her on the carpet, just inches away from her. “Oh…damnit!” she growled. “I thought the charm had broken.”
“Now, why would you want the charm to break? After last night, I was under the impression that you were rather enjoying the charm. You certainly didn’t make any protests.” His eyes travelled past her cheeks, across her lips and down her neck.
Hermione glanced down and saw a dangerous amount of buttons undone on her shirt. Well, it was dangerous for her. Just mildly risqué on anyone else. “You have absolutely no shame.”
“And that goes double for you.” Draco stretched his arms above his head and Hermione snapped her head away as she saw the hem of his shirt rise above his belt, exposing a lean, pale stomach.
She stood up and began smoothing her clothing down. “I refuse to believe that you can even begin to think that I have less shame than you.”
“Any girl who willingly straddles and kisses a man like her life depends on it, and who whimpers whenever his lips are moved away from hers, is not a little prude. Certainly not the type of prude that you seem so keen to portray yourself as.”
“I’m not a prude! I just don’t kiss random boys. And incidentally, you aren’t a man, you’re an immature…”
But before she could turn around and complete her lecture, Draco had jumped up and was already filling in the words. “I’m an immature little boy who has no idea how easy his life has been and has never had to work for anything. I don’t really care about what you think of me Granger. I’m just interested in why, in the cold light of day, you’re so eager to deny something that you beg for by firelight.”
Hermione looked at his cold face and wondered precisely what it was that compelled her to kiss him. She could deal with the charm. At that precise moment, she felt the need to press her body along the length of his, but she knew she could control that. She could resist him, easily, despite the discomfort. What was it that changed, so slowly and imperceptibly at night that meant she flew into his arms at the slightest provocation?
“You just going to blame it on the charm Granger?” he asked, his eyes watching the emotions scudding across her face like clouds. “That would be the easy way out.”
“It’s the way that makes sense,” she shouted, her temper flaring up. “I don’t like you, you have made it perfectly clear that you hate me, and yet we keep ending up kissing! So there must be some explanation, and the one that seems most logical and is widely accepted by the entire school, is that we are under the influence of a charm! And in fact, it doesn’t even need to be accepted by the whole school! I was there, and I saw you being your usual conceited self and destroying what would have been a perfectly good charm if I cast it, and now we’re in this position and I’m having to try and justify kissing the boy that I hate most in this school!”
“That is your precise problem!” Draco’s cold arrogance dissipated in frustration. “Why do you have to analyse everything? Why can’t you just accept that you feel like this?”
“You’re a fine one to talk! You analyse everything that happens to you, and what everyone’s worth is, what they can do without you!
“And look how satisfied I am! Analysing is all well and good if you can work it to your advantage, but Granger, you clearly can’t do it.”
“I can analyse you down to your cold roots,” Hermione spat.
“Oh please. All you’re going to do is tell me that I’m not happy and I never will be, and all this treating people like scum is a mask to hide how unhappy I was, and how I must have had a hideously tragic childhood, and all I want is my father’s approval.”
Hermione fell back slightly and tried to keep her face blank. It was precisely what she had been about to say.
He smirked at her silence. “Well, I hate to break it to you, but I am very happy, and plan to stay so, I enjoy treating people the way I do, I had a pleasant childhood and feel no pressing need for any further approval from my father.”
“You always have to have an answer for everything, don’t you?” she snapped, and slid her shoes on, intending to leave while she still had a shred of dignity left.
“And you always have an excuse to run away from an argument that you can’t win.” Draco slouched back into his chair. “Go on Granger, run away. I know you’ll be back here tonight, pretending you don’t want me to kiss you.”
His cool dismissal stung more than any of his overly-accurate summaries on her personality, and her cheeks flaming, she fled back to the Gryffindor common room.
As she stormed along the corridors, seething with rage, she wondered what she was meant to do. She was used to having all the answers, and she wasn’t prepared to deal with a situation where the answer was not only impossible to find, but being purposefully hidden from her. If she didn’t know better (and she did know better, because she had spent more than five minutes with Draco), she would assume that he actually wanted to kiss her.
And if she was taking that assumption as true (which she WASN’T, she told herself resolutely), that just threw up a whole host of new problems. It wasn’t that she didn’t know about romance. Of course she knew about romance. She had kissed boys, she had seen her friends in the giddy heights of teenage love and in the depths of the ensuing despair. She had watched and lived the romances of her favourite fictional characters. She knew all about romance, and it looked extremely complicated for very little payoff. What was a giggle at shared joke compared to weeks of sobbing in bed listening to a song about losing the supposed love of your life?
She pushed her way through the Portrait of the Fat Lady and immediately saw Ron and Harry sitting in front of one of the windows, sun across the chess board in front of them. She felt a little rush of warmth. This was what it was about: friendliness and shared secrets that didn’t have to end in hurt. Waving at them, she pushed her way past the giggling first years, and pulled a chair up to the table. She received a nod from each of the boys for her troubles.
“We’ve hardly seen you the past couple of days,” Ron commented, pushing at one of his pawns with a slightly grimy nail.
“Well, you know how it is.” Hermione smiled awkwardly and tried to let the ambience of the Gryffindor common room wash over her. It used to comfort her, and on some level she was sure that it still did. However, she was more concerned by the fact that she actually wanted to claw off her skin and send the rest of her body sprinting down to wherever Draco was. She knew from experience that she would be able to find him so easily, that he was probably looking for her too. And that made her more frustrated than ever and made her want to rip off her own skin for being so incredibly traitorous. All in all, she was fidgeting so much that even Harry and Ron noticed.
“So the spell isn’t wearing off?” Harry said sympathetically. It distracted her slightly, in that it made her want to scratch off his face rather than her own.
“Oh yes Harry, it’s completely gone,” she said sweetly. “I’ve just decided that sitting still is for squares. I’m now going to wriggle constantly. If you ever wonder what I’m doing, just think ‘Hermione is pretending that her body is trying to fight her’. Ok?”
“No need for sarcasm,” Harry said, with a slightly hurt expression.
“Harry! What do you want me to say when you ask stupid questions? When the charm wears off, you will know because I will come in leaping for joy!” She slumped back into her chair. “Or the way that this is going, I will hobble in on my zimmer frame and gently wave an osteoporosis-riddled arm.”
“Positive thinking, that’s the way forward.” Ron said absent-mindedly.
“I don’t think the situation requires clichés.” Hermione spat, and picked at her nails. The three of them sat in a tense silence, Hermione picking at her nails until Ron’s queen pounced on Harry’s knight and thrashed it to the edge of the board. She jumped and felt her body immediately jerk at the door, seizing the opportunity that had been given to it.
“If it wasn’t Draco, I could do it! If it was anyone else, it would be fine!” She burst out, causing the two boys to look at her. “And I hate that my body is fighting my brain!”
Harry and Ron looked at each other, wondering what they were meant to say. “Hermione, if we could stop it, we would.”
She looked at them sadly. “I know you would if you could. But you can’t. And you can’t understand what I’m going through. The only person who can is Draco and it’s not exactly like he’s someone I want to be talking to. Every time I try to, I just end up so angry and frustrated.”
“Why are you talking to him?” Ron asked suspiciously.
“I spend an hour every day with him. It’s more than slightly awkward to sit there in silence.”
“Well, it’s only an hour,” Ron muttered.
“Ron, if he speaks to me, I’m not going to sit there in silence. I’m not a spoilt ten year old. And this entire ordeal is so ghastly that I need at least one thing to make this bearable.”
“Well, can’t we do that?” Harry asked.
“No, not really,” Hermione answered, with a shrug of her shoulders.
“Why not?” Harry asked brightly, his mind seizing on a new possibility. “We could come and sit with you and Malfoy. And then you could just talk to him instead of us, and you wouldn’t have to feel so irritated.”
Now that her time with a capricious, infuriating man-child was about to be taken away from her, it suddenly seemed unusually precious. “Well…we wouldn’t be able to have a decent conversation, we would just have him sneering on all the conversations.” And making surprisingly astute observations, she thought.
“We can just ignore him. It’ll be fun.”
“No.” She said bluntly. A little too bluntly. “What I mean is…I mean that if we go as a group, I’m just giving Dra- Malfoy ammunition to hit me with. I’ve got to do this on my own. Don’t worry, I’m a big girl.”
“But if he’s upsetting you…”
“Not so much that I need people to hold my hand. I’m fine.” Hermione gave a taut smile and stood up. “I’ve got some work to catch up on, I’ll see you later.”
The rest of the day passed for her in a blur of aching moments of slowness and crazy bursts of time where she lost whole hours in thoughts of Draco kissing her.
Finally, the time came when by some unspoken agreement she and Draco would meet at the Room of Requirements. Barely noticing it, she stood up and slipped out of the common room, drawing closer and closer to the meeting place.
However, when it came to the time to walk in front of the blank patch of wall, she found that she couldn’t quite do it. She knew that he wasn’t in there, she could feel her body still fighting her to find him. But what was she meant to do? She felt humiliated enough after his observations on her earlier that morning, she didn’t need to compound her misery by trailing after him like a lovesick puppy. She couldn’t deal with wanting him, and she couldn’t make herself not want him. Stuck between a Blast-Ended Skrewt and a Basilisk. She slumped to the floor and tipped her head back against the wall.
Draco, meanwhile, prowled along the corridor towards the Room of Requirement. He was just as adrift as Hermione, but far better equipped to deal with it. He knew that he wanted her, and all though he didn’t know why, and didn’t particularly want to explore the reasons of why, he knew that he would get her. He would just take her, use her as he wanted, and then this would be over. It would be simple and he had no intention of allowing himself to be pulled into the emotional quagmire that Hermione had waded into.
He told himself this repeatedly, and was just beginning to get it firmly ensconced in his mind when he turned a corner and saw Hermione slumped on the floor. He had known that she would be there, he had felt the ache lessen, but he hadn’t suspected a picture of despair to be on the floor outside the room.
Walking slowly up to her, he lowered himself onto the floor next to her, and gingerly put an arm across her shoulders. “Why are you here?”
“I don’t know.” She whispered. “I told myself not to come, I told myself that I can’t stand you, but I’m still here. But I couldn’t go in, I knew that you were just laugh at me for being a hypocrite. So I sat here, thinking I would leave, but then I felt you coming and I just couldn’t leave. I couldn’t bear to think that I wouldn’t see you for another day, and now I’ve said way too much and I hate myself for it, and now I’ve just given you so much more stuff to tease me with.” Her voice was rising slightly in pitch and she dropped her forehead onto her knees.
Draco squeezed her shoulder. “I won’t tease you if you don’t want me too.”
“Well that’s a huge comfort,” she mumbled.
“I don’t really want to tease you. I won’t talk if you don’t want me too. And now I’m being nice to you, which I don’t think is usually in my nature and my brain’s telling me not to. So why don’t we both just ignore what our brains are telling us and do what feels right? Because we’re both slightly despondent as it is, and the logical thing to do is do something that makes us feel more positive.”
“But that just means we’ll end up kissing again.” She twisted her face towards him, with her eyes wide, and her eyebrows furrowed.
“Is that so terrible? We like kissing each other.” His grey eyes were cool with logic and she couldn’t help smiling a little bit.
“But it won’t have good consequences.”
“Who cares? If it makes us happy, we don’t have to worry about anyone else and what they say. Come on, try a Slytherin mentality.”
She smiled and as she blinked, Draco saw her lashes brush her check and without thinking, moved his hand so it was cradling her jaw and her cheek. Tipping her face towards his, and watching the look in her eyes, he whispered “why are you so incredibly scared?”
“Because you’re so different.”
“I’m not going to hurt you.” He watched the look in your eyes, and watch the apprehension melt away into the liquid trust that he had been longing to see.
Slowly, so slowly, she moved her hand and slid it into his hair. They were linked together now and the pull towards each other was inexorable. They weren’t sure whether it was the charm anymore, they just knew that they only wanted to be close together, holding tight to each other. And slowly, almost painfully slowly, they pressed their mouths together, feeling the warmth and softness behind yielding lips. Their hands locked into each others hair, and they moved slowly, so that Hermione was held in Draco’s arms, her arms round his neck as his arms slid around her waist and pressed her tightly to his chest. She could feel his heart beating against hers, and without a thought for who might seem them, kneeling together in the corridor, they entwined themselves, and for the first time forgot about scheming and caution, and lost themselves entirely in the moment.