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A Mother's Dying Wish by required_inspiration
Chapter 16 : The Wintertime Waltz
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 40


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December 20th

~*~



    “No, no, no!” Hermione shouted, frantically pointing at a large bowl of blue fruit sitting on the Hogwarts kitchen’s counter.  “Dobby, didn’t I say rhubarb crumble for dessert?!”

    “Oh, yes, Miss! Dobby is sorry, Miss!” Dobby whisked away the offending bowl of blueberries in an instant, turning his protuberant green eyes expectantly on Hermione.

    It was 5:30 on the night of the Wintertime Waltz. Hermione was, certifiably, going bonkers.

House-elves bustled busily around the kitchen preparing the night’s feast and casting a wary eye on Hermione who had already barged in three times. Dobby was set the task of dealing with her.

“Miss, please, we elves have things under control!” squeaked Dobby imploringly.  

    “Yes, yes, I know,” Hermione said, nervously wiping the sheen of sweat from her forehead. “It’s just that this all has to be perfect, Dobby.”

    “Dobby knows this, Miss. You must trust, Dobby!”

    Hermione’s brow wrinkled and her cheeks pinked, “Oh, I do trust you, Dobby –”

    “Hermione Granger!” Draco bellowed, storming into the kitchens.

    “They had blueberries!” Hermione cried instantly in her defense.

    Draco ---– already sporting a crisp white button-down, pressed black trousers, and his crimson tie hanging undone around his collar – marched over to her and grabbed her arm.

    “You are done, Granger. Do you realize you only have thirty minutes to get ready?”

    “What makes you think I’ll need longer?” Hermione demanded, hand on hip.

    Draco sighed. “Yes, yes, you look lovely already, but, if you haven’t noticed, you’re sweating off your makeup!”

    Hermione clenched her jaw and quickly picked up a spoon to examine her reflection in.

    “Dammit,” she mumbled under her breath.

    “Alright, we’re leaving,” Draco commanded, steering her towards the portrait hole.

    “Goodbye, Miss!” Dobby said with a smile. The house-elves seemed to exhale a collective sigh of relief as the two Heads finally abandoned their kitchen.


    “Malfoy, do not nag me! I will be ready in time!” Hermione called angrily down the stairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her.

    Sighing against the closed door and staring at the chaos of her bedroom, she wasn’t so sure.

    “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” she muttered, rushing around to collect her clothes for the night. “I look a complete mess!”

    Hurrying into the bathroom, she appraised herself for a moment and then went straight to work on subduing her unruly mane. Three flicks of her wand later and her curls were pulled back into a simple yet elegant knot at the back of her head.

    “Now for the face,” she grumbled, splashing herself with cool water. She applied her makeup as quickly as her inexperienced hand was able, swishing a powdery brush across her forehead and cheekbones, flicking mascara over her brown eyelashes and dusting her cheeks with blush. The next step was harder as she hardly ever bothered with such silly things as eye-shadow, liner, or lipstick.

    “Granger, you look ridiculous.”

    Hermione dropped her kohl pencil in shock and turned angrily to look at him.

    “How many times am I going to have ask you to NOT enter my rooms unannounced before I have to physically maim you?”

    “Well, I did knock, but it seems you had the water running so you didn’t hear me,” Draco explained with an infuriating smirk. “Now what on earth are you doing to your face?”

    “Applying eyeliner! What does it look like?” Hermione growled.

    “I don’t know, some sort of self-mutilation maybe?” Draco mimed squinting and stabbing himself in the eye for her.

    “Oh shut up and let me concentrate,” she snarled, turning back to the mirror.

    “Someone’s cranky,” Draco mumbled, turning back to her room.

    Hermione appeared in the doorframe after a few moments of tense silence, and huffed agitatedly seeing that he was still there. Her crimson frock was hanging over the open door to her wardrobe and she proceeded to stomp over to it.

    “It’s been lovely chatting, Drakey, but I really would like some privacy to change, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” Hermione requested, sarcastically sweet.

    Smiling, Draco raised one hand to cover his eyes.

    Hermione gave him a withering look as he peeped between his fingers and he slouched out the door, tapping the face of his wristwatch and shaking his head at her.

    Placing two fingers to each temple, Hermione closed her eyes and rubbed in forceful circles. Preparation for the Waltz felt like an infinite loop of tasks and to-dos; right now, all Hermione wanted was to curl up under the covers and hide from it all.

    Opening her eyes, the red dress stared her down. She breathed a sigh of defeat. Nope, no hiding now. I’ve come this far and now it’s time to put on the dress.
    She quickly stripped off her clothes and pulled the silky gown from its hanger. Pulling the smooth fabric over her hips, relief washed over her and she realized it would all soon be over. 

    Glancing at the clock on her mantle she jumped realizing she had but ten minutes left and then quickly crooked her elbow around trying to zip up the back.

    “Blast,” she muttered. “…Draco!”

    “What is it now, woman?”

    “Help me with my dress?”

    “Well you come over here then!”

    Hermione rolled her eyes and scurried across the hall, arms pinned to her sides to avoid any indecent exposure.

    “I can’t quite reach the back,” she mumbled briefly in explanation.

    He just grinned and motioned for her to turn around.

    “Alright, Granger, suck it in!”

    Hermione pulled in her breath and the zipper slid easily upwards.

    “There you go,” he said patting her back awkwardly. “You look sufficiently suffocated now.”

    “Thanks a heap,” she shot back, appraising herself in the mirror. “Ugh, good thing I’m properly concealed. This dress would burst at the seams with my belly.”

     “Hmm well perhaps you should have bought a larger size and gone unconcealed!” he replied, raising his eyebrows at her.

    “You’re quite right… I can’t think of a better time or place to announce to the world that I’m pregnant by ancient magical means!”

    “You’ve got to bite the bullet one of these days, Granger,” he said, combing back his blond strands. “What do you plan to do once the baby comes? Go into hiding?”

    “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that yet… and frankly, I don’t want to. Not just now, at least.”    

Draco looked at her through the mirror, sighing in resignation. “Fine then. While you’re here, could you help me with my tie and cufflinks?”

    “I suppose I could make time for that…”

    He smirked at her and walked over to his wardrobe.

    Glancing idly about his tidy room, Hermione was confronted with the sight of his large, green and silver bedecked four-poster, underneath which she had oh-so-recently discovered perhaps every book ever written on that ancient magical means…

    She looked quickly away. This is not the time or place to talk about that.

    Malfoy approached again, golden cufflinks in hand. “Something wrong?”

    “No!” she replied a little too quickly. “Well, yes, actually. Malfoy, be honest, have you been practicing for our opening waltz?”

    He narrowed his eyes at her for a brief second and then, smiling wolfishly, swooped an arm around her back and began spinning her in effortless circles.

    “How’s this, Granger? Up to your standards?”

    She rolled her eyes at him, “I guess you have been practicing then.”

    “But of course.”

    He twirled her around the room a few times, even daring to lower her into an audacious dip. As he snapped her back up, her nose was inches from the pulse point of his jaw. She breathed in and caught the scent of his aftershave, musky and marvelous…

    “Okay, Malfoy, you’ve made your point… Save something for the dance floor.”



    The entrance hall was a humming sea of faces – students, teachers and guests. Spirited laughter rang off the old stone walls as the done-up party goers mingled before the opening of the Great Hall’s doors.

    Draco had managed to push Hermione out of the portrait hole just in time – they were only just walking down the marble stairs at 6:01.
    “Okay, Malfoy, smile graciously,” Hermione said between her teeth as they glided carefully down the stairs, arm in arm.

    “Try not to look like you’ve got a small sapling halfway up your –”

    Hermione stamped hard on his toe as they reached the last step.

    “Feisty, I see,” he said, grimacing in pain. “Alright go socialize with your fan club over there. I’ll ask McGonagall if we should open the doors.”

    He was gone before she could protest and so she turned intending to do just as he suggested. Harry and Ron were huddled together in a corner by the front doors, both waving enthusiastically at her to join them.

    “Hi boys,” she said, cheerily enough as she approached them.

    “Quite some show you’ve got going here, Hermione,” Harry said, smiling at her. “I’ve gotten a sneak peak of the Great Hall and it looks brilliant.”

    “Oh do you think so? I was so worried all the gold and silver was going to be too much…”

    “Ah come off it,” said Ron, looking at her like she was crazy. “Only you could’ve pulled it all off.”

    Hermione blushed a little and hastened to change the subject, “So where are Ginny and Luna?”

    “God knows,” Ron sighed, throwing up his hands.

    “Probably off in the girl’s room,” guessed Harry. “They’re going to be upset they didn’t get to see you before the first dance.”

    “Oh no, are the doors opening?” Hermione shrieked as a fresh wave of panic rose within her.

    “That’s what it looks like. Deep breaths, ‘Mione. It’ll be over before you know it!”

    “Yeah and if ferret boy tries to pull anything, we’ll get him,” Ron grumbled menacingly, reaching inside his coat to hold his wand.

    The boys moved away into the crowd that was slowly melting through the Great Hall’s open doors. Hermione could here ‘Ooh’s and ‘Ahh’s as the mass of people finally made it inside. Her stomach steadied a little knowing that the decorations, at least, were being noticed and appreciated.

    She slinked over to the side of the doorway to wait for Draco. The two of them would be the last guests to enter the hall, and, when they did, it would be to musical accompaniment. Hermione gulped.

    Finally, he was heading towards her and only a few remaining stragglers were being ushered into the hall. He looked even taller in his black tuxedo, his shoulders broader, his legs longer. Hermione scarcely knew how she would be able to manage to hang onto him during their dance.

    He held out his hand with an assuring smile, however his eyes looked curious and questioning. Had he noticed her looking?

    Waiting before the once again closed doors to the Great Hall, they could hear the music begin for their entrance and waltz. Just as the doors slowly cracked open, Draco leant down so that his lips were hardly a centimeter from her earlobe.

    “Be careful, Granger. I know I’m dashing, but any more looks like that and you’ll have people thinking you’ve gone and fallen in love with me.”

    The silver bedecked room was upon them and a smirking Draco led an utterly dumbstruck Hermione onto the glimmering dance floor.



     “Friends, colleagues, esteemed guests,” began Dumbledore, beaming around at the hall filled with people, “Welcome to Hogwarts’ first annual Wintertime Waltz. Our world’s time of living in shadows and fear is now over, our demon banished. Let this new era be filled with equal amounts life, light and celebration. Happy holidays!”

    The crowd applauded, cheering jubilantly as the feast began.

    Draco and Hermione had collapsed into their seats at the head table after finishing their opening waltz, very grateful for the Headmaster’s prompt speechmaking.

    “And here’s to you two, Miss Granger and Mister Malfoy,” spoke Dumbledore over the chatter at their table, giving them both a warm smile. “Many thanks for giving us such a wonderful evening of celebration.”

    They both smiled humbly as their table toasted them, and soon Dumbledore went back to his animated conversation with Professor Olafson, the Headmaster at Durmstrang.
     
    “I agree, Granger, here’s to us,” Draco said softly, producing two flutes filled with pale gold liquid from thin air.

    “Malfoy, is that alcohol?” Hermione whispered sharply.

    “They’re only cider, you worrywart,” he assured, grinning at her look of shock and handing her one to clink. “To us.”

    “To us,” she agreed, taking a sip.

    The dinner sailed by without a hitch and, before Hermione realized it, Draco was leading her out to the dance floor again, this time thankfully amongst many other couples.

    The whirled gracefully to the orchestra’s more upbeat tempo, Draco playfully changing direction whenever he saw fit and earning him small shrieks of shock from Hermione.

    Dancing, Hermione realized, had hardly been the object of her nerves earlier. It was the being watched by a roomful of people part that had her stomach doubling itself over in knots. Dancing with Draco was actually fun in away, pleasurable. He wore the most charming smile as he twirled her effortlessly around the floor -– like he was conducting her own personal roller-coaster, delighting in every shriek he got out of her.

    They danced happily like that for a few songs before Harry interrupted, asking if Malfoy would mind sacrificing his partner for a bit. Hermione had to stamp on his foot again because, for a moment, he looked as though he were going to deny him. He grudgingly agreed, pinching her side in retaliation and stalking away only to be immediately besieged with dance requests from a horde of younger girls.

    “You didn’t have to do that, Harry,” Hermione snapped, watching Malfoy’s retreating form.

    “What did you want to be dancing with the ferret, Hermione?” he asked with a feigned innocence.

    “What? No, of course not. Don’t be silly,” she said, pulling herself closer to hide her blushing face over his shoulder.

    Smiling to himself, Harry added, “You two did look like you were having a good time…”

    Hermione coughed spastically.

    “You alright, ‘Mione?”

    “Quite alright, yes. And no! We weren’t having a good time! No!”

    “Oh?” he asked, bemused. “So why were you so put out by me cutting in?”

    “Put out? What! That’s completely ludicrous! I was merely… being polite. Thought he might still be in earshot or something.”

    Harry pressed his lips together, trying very hard not to laugh. Hermione was quite comical when she tried so pathetically to lie.

    “I see. My mistake then.”

    The song came to an end and, giving Harry an awkward hug, Hermione mumbled, “Er, sorry, but I’ve got to go check the thing, er… yeah.”

    Walking absentmindedly in no direction in particular, Hermione felt a hand close around her forearm as she passed a large sparkling fir.

    “Hi!” said Ginny brightly, pulling Hermione around, “You look gorrrrgeous.”

    “Oh, thanks, Ginny,” replied Hermione, laughing nervously and looking around to see if Harry had followed. “So do you.”

    “Side tracked?” grinned Ginny. “Come, let’s pop into the loo and powder our noses.”

    Hermione felt herself suddenly being wheeled in the direction of the girls’ lavatory and, once inside, deposited on plush pink poof.

    “The ball is really lovely, Hermione,” complimented Ginny earnestly, appraising her reflection in the long mirrors above the sinks.

    “Uhuh, thanks,” said Hermione, craning her neck to look out the door as a pair of Beauxbatons girls stumbled in giggling.

    “And that first dance,” exclaimed Ginny as she twirled around to face her. “Positively electric.”

    Hermione stared at her, blood infusing her cheeks traitorously. “Um, what? What do you mean?”

    “I mean the chemistry was tangible. Everyone was practically holding their breaths!”

    Hermione stared some more. “No…” she said slowly, “It was just a normal dance. Nothing special.”

    “Oh, sweetie, that was no ordinary dance.”

    “Of course it was! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

    Ginny smiled, “It was like watching something explicit and sexy. Yes, I would say there was an irrevocable sexuality to it.”

    Hermione nearly fell off her poof. “WHAT?”

    “You two were lost in each other… it was captivating.”

    “You’re off your rocker,” exclaimed Hermione shakily, rising to her feet.

    “I’m just telling you what I saw,” continued Ginny, smiling deviously at her through the mirror as she fixed her hair. “I can’t say I was that shocked…”

    “Urgh stop! I’ve – I’ve got to be going.”

    “You’re probably right! Go find Malfoy… those rose bushes in the courtyard are really excellent –”

    Hermione cut her off, pushing her way out the swinging lavatory door.

    Exhaling deeply as she walked hurriedly back into the Great Hall, she kept her head on a constant swivel, looking frantically right and left for the people she wanted to avoid. Harry, Ron, Ginny… Hmm since when have my best friends been the ones I try to steer clear of? The slick blond head of a rather tall figure appeared over the crowd. That’s why.

    She didn’t know if Draco had spotted her, but she knew for certain that if he did, there was a possibility he would ask for another dance, and there was no way she was going to let that happen again. “Positively electric” was still ringing in her ears.

    Pushing her way through the crowds in an effort to find a safe-haven, someone caught her elbow. Oh no, who is it this time?

    “Viktor!”

    “Herm-own-ninny!”

    Hermione was positively gobsmakced as she gave her old beaux a hug.

    “I can’t believe I didn’t think I’d see you here!”

    “Professor Olafson invited me as his personal guest – I, of course, vanted to see Hogwarts again.”

    Hermione blushed lightly, “Well it is so good to see you, Viktor.”

    “Ah, Krum!” It seemed as if Malfoy had spotted them. “Wonderful you could make it!”

    “Oh, hello, Malfoy,” Viktor replied, courteously enough. His face betrayed him though – he looked more than a little upset at having been interrupted.

    “Did you know Viktor was coming, Draco?” Hermione asked sternly.

    “Yes, yes. Didn’t I tell you? Olafson wrote about it more than a week ago.”

    “You must have forgotten to mention it,” she said, giving him a beady stare.

    “Sorry, Granger,” he smiled back at her. “Didn’t realize it would be a problem.”

    She opened her mouth to deliver a no doubt snappy retort, but Krum, who had been staring absentmindedly at the sea of dancers, grabbed her hand and asked, “Herm-own-ninny, vould you dance with me?”

    “Ah, well, yes, I suppose,” she said quickly, taken aback.

    He smiled at her and turned away to lead her out onto the dance floor. Hermione looked back, prepared to give Draco a glare, but was surprised by the expression that greeted her. He stood unmoving, his mouth a stoic line. His eyes, however, usually so grey and guarded, flashed dangerously. Seeing her eyes on his, he turned sharply and blended into the crowd.

    The dance with Viktor went slowly, Hermione’s mind on other things. The Bulgarian chatted happily about his life, his Quidditch career, his sister’s new baby, his recent trip to Dubai. Hermione’s eyes were trained over his shoulder, nodding and smiling occasionally at his stories.

    After a moment of silence between them, he said, “I am sorry, Herm-own-ninny. I have been doing all the talking. Tell me about your life – what is new here in Britain?”

    “Oh,” Hermione smiled, laughing nervously. “Not much has changed since you were here last, Viktor. Unless you count the defeat of the Dark Lord…”

    Viktor laughed, “Of course, I know all about that… tell me about you.”

    “Oh, well,” I’m actually pregnant right now by means of an ancient, barely explored magic. “Of course I’m up to my ears in homework! I’m taking EIGHT N.E.W.T’s, isn’t that insane?”

    Viktor smiled indulgently at her, “I’m sure it’s not too much for you. You vere always so brilliant.”

    Hermione blushed and looked away. “Well, that on top of all these Head Girl duties and I figure they’ll have to wheel me out of here come June. I’m bound to collapse!” She smiled slightly to herself at the irony of that statement… They will indeed have to wheel me out of here.

    “I doubt that very much,” said Viktor slowly. “You are stronger than you think.”

    Hermione blushed again. “Thank you, Viktor,” she said quietly.

    The song ended and the throng of dancers stopped to clap for the orchestra.

    “Vell, Herm-own-ninny, I vill hopefully see you again someday. I vill let you go now though – I know you must have things to do.” Smiling at her, he kissed her once on each cheek and walked away, slightly duck-footed and hunchbacked as ever.

    Hermione sighed, lost for the smallest moment in the simplicity of Viktor Krum.

    Her reverie ended, however, when she realized she was now standing unaccompanied in the middle of the dance floor. She hastened away between the ever-swirling couples and made her way towards the doors to the entrance hall.

    Finally, room to breathe. The hall was quiet, only a few whispering twosomes sat secluded in the shadows offered by the marble stairs. Hermione ignored them and followed the beckoning of outside air that floated pleasantly through open front doors.

    Pearl-bright snow veiled the lawns of Hogwarts, capped the swaying firs in the forbidden forest, and dripped diamond-like swords from the castle’s parapets.

    Hermione clicked her heels down the cold stone steps and meandered about the magically warmed rose garden. The web of warming charms extended all the way to the lake and so Hermione set her course, strolling leisurely, her crimson dress whispering across the icy grass as she admired the wintry beauty of the grounds.

    She approached the dock and the barren beech tree. The lake had always made her nervous with its silent depths, but she liked it even less with its seal of hard ice. Carefully, she stepped out onto the dock, her weight making the wooden planks creak. At the very tip she closed her eyes and made a pose as though she were about to dive.

    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Granger.”

    She jumped so badly she nearly fell onto the slick ice.

    “Malfoy!” her voice echoed unpleasantly through the quiet grounds. “How long have you been standing there?”

    Draco was leaning casually against the side of the beech tree, invisible to her as she walked from the opposite direction.

    “Since long before you decided to intrude.”

    “Sorry, didn’t realize this was Malfoy property all of a sudden…”

    He shot her a look, eyebrows raised. “Now what on earth are you doing out here, Granger? I was under the impression you were suitably entertained for the rest of the evening.”

    She looked at him, questioning.

    “Krum?” he asked snidely.

    She wrinkled her brows, “ What about him?”

    “Don’t play stupid.”

    “Malfoy,” she sighed, “What are you going on about?”

    “Am I mistaken or was he not a past… fling of yours?”

    “Fling? I wouldn’t call it that, I don’t think.” Hermione replied tersely, cheeks reddening.

    “What would you call it then?”

    “I don’t know… it was complicated. Nothing you would understand.”

    Draco’s jaw clenched, “Why wouldn’t I understand?”

    “Because you can’t define relationships by the innocent terms mine and Viktor’s was defined by!” Hermione spat, getting annoyed.

    “And what is that supposed to mean, Granger?”

    Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Viktor was… enamored with me. He was a wonderful companion, pleasant to be around while he was here for the Triwizard, but we didn’t do any of the things I’m sure you would consider necessary for us to be counted as a ‘fling’.”

    “And what sorts of things would those be do you think?”

    Hermione’s face flushed even more. “I would rather not say.”

    Draco’s lips twitched at that statement. “Oh come on, Granger,” he said smoothly, walking closer toward her, “I can take it.”

    “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about!”

    “Maybe…” he smiled wolfishly at her, “But I want to hear you say it.”

    She stared, eyes wide, at him. “I will do no such thing!”

    “So no kissing then?” he asked smugly. “No hand holding, no tender touches, no… intimate acts of any kind?”

    Hermione’s cheeks burned nearly as red as her crimson frock.

    “Or were there?” he asked with a smile.

    “We kissed once,” she admitted coldly, pressing her lips into a clean, hard line.

    “Granger!” Malfoy exclaimed in playful, mocking indignation. “How shameful!”

    Hermione sighed and turned to lean against the dock’s rail, “Oh shut up, Malfoy.”

    He walked over and leaned against the rail next to her, “Kissing, in my book, constitutes a fling, Granger.”

    Hermione exhaled sharply, “Really? I figured you had slightly higher standards as to what counted as a fling.”

    “Whatever do you mean?” he asked, grinning silently to himself as they stared out at the vast frozen lake.

    “I mean you have a – a reputation,” Hermione stuttered.

    Draco stole a sideways glance at her and smirked, “Care to enlighten me?”

    She turned quickly to face him, leaning her bare right elbow against the wooden rail. “Hmm let’s see… Parkinson, Davis, Greengrass, Folsom – Am I missing anyone?” She ticked off the names on her fingers.

    Draco chuckled, “I don’t deny flings, although not with all of them. But the rumors that I can tell by the lovely pink in your cheeks you’ve heard are most definitely… exaggerations.” He smiled widely at the look of astonishment on her face.

    “How exaggerated?” she coughed, eyes as wide as saucers.

    “Oh all the important stuff.”

    Hermione’s mouth fell open and then, after a few moments, turned into a grin.

    “No, you’re lying,” she asserted. “You can’t be a… a…”

    “A what?”

    She watched his eyes carefully. “A virgin.”

    “Oh, you’re right, I’m not!” he confirmed, smirking.

    She punched his arm.

    “So then why did you say ‘All of the important stuff’?”

    “Well, it wasn’t with any of the names you so knowledgably recounted.”

    “But those are all of the Slytherin girls in our year! Except Millicent Bulstrode… Oh don’t tell me it was her!” Hermione grinned wickedly as Draco shot her a look of reproach.

    “No. It wasn’t any girl at Hogwarts. Her name was Louise and we met the summer after third year.”

    “Not at Hogwarts? She wasn’t a witch?!”

    “Will you let me finish, Granger?”

    “Fine, go ahead.”

    “As I was saying, we met after third year during the summer my mother was fed up with England. She took me to visit her cousins in the south of France. Louise was the daughter of their neighbor friends.”

    “So Beauxbatons then…” Hermione mumbled to herself.

    “Yes. So there you have it! My one previous romantic experience.”

    “Very interesting, Malfoy.”

    “Hah, glad I could provide some entertainment for you, Hermione.”

    She looked at him oddly, but smiled as he said her first name. He’d likely said it before, but this time it sounded like an effort. Like he was choosing to say it rather than slipping into saying it and wanted her to do the same for him.

    “Well it’s interesting because it’s so innocent!”

    “Innocent! I was only fourteen!”

    “No, but compared to how I always viewed your… reputation.”

    “Frankly, I’m a little insulted you believed any of that.”

    “Can you blame me?”

    “The rumors were spread by the likes of Pansy Parkinson! You, of all people, should have seen right through them.”

    “Well you did absolutely nothing to deny it,” she countered hotly.
   
    “And nothing to confirm it!”

    “Oh you did plenty to confirm it,” she mumbled, looking the other way.

    He smirked at the back of her head for a second before saying, “Oh did I? How?”

    She huffed, still looking away. “It’s written all over how you carry yourself, how you behave.”

    “What’s written?”

    Hermione pinched her lips and spun sharply around. “Sex!” she shouted, wildly throwing her arms in the air. “The way you walk, the way you talk, the air of gentlemanly charm, everything about you confirms suspicions!”

    Draco stood there looking quite flabbergasted and then promptly doubled over in hysterical laughter.

    Hermione stamped her foot. “What are you laughing at?!”

    “You!” he managed between gulps of air and continued chuckles.

    Hermione mashed her teeth together.
 
    “Ah, hearing you say that, Granger,” he winked at her. “Priceless.”

    “Wonderful. Glad you enjoyed it.” She turned again and walked farther down the dock.

    “Oh, Granger, what’s wrong now?” He walked closer to her. “Hermione?”

    “It’s just so unfair.”

    “What is?” he asked slowly.

    “You,” she said flatly, looking up at him. “You get a rumor like that without even trying. You have girls fantasizing about being with you all because of some stupid rumor they heard. Which happens to be a lie. I based a large portion of my hate and judgment of you on those rumors, and now I find out they’re untrue, and that really you’ve just been this normal boy, innocent and vulnerable.”

    “I wouldn’t call myself vulnerable!”

    She sighed, turning her back on him. “It was so much easier to dislike you when you were the rumor.”

    “Do you want to dislike me?” He asked quietly after a few moments. She could feel the warm cloud of his breath at the back of her neck.

    “It would be easier…” she turned to face him.

    He looked troubled. “I – well, I don’t dislike you.”

    He ran his fingers through his hair, looking everywhere but in her eyes.

    “Since when?”

    “Since when?” he repeated, laughing nervously. It was an odd sound coming from him. He was hardly ever nervous. “I don’t know. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed it too!”

    “What the sudden lack of animosity?” she said, smiling a little, “The notable absence of foul names?”

    “Yes, those things,” he replied, sharing her smile. “And more.”

    She looked at him openly for a moment, “I, I think we’re friends… Draco.”

    He grinned widely, “Yeah?”

    She nodded, “Yeah.”

    “Huh, never thought that would happen, did we, Granger?”

    “Well I certainly didn’t! Although, I didn’t exactly expect to find myself pregnant during my seventh year and that happened too…”

    “A new era, as our dear Headmaster put it, where all we can expect is the unexpected.”

    Hermione laughed, “That doesn’t even make sense.”

    “Oh, I don’t know… makes sense to me,” he grinned. “Speaking of unexpected, there’s been this thought that has been plaguing me for weeks.”

    “Oh? What kind of thought?” she asked skeptically.

    “More of a desire than a thought,” he said, smiling to himself as he looked out across the lake. “Would you mind if I tried something?”

    She grew quiet, minutely aware of how very close they now were. “Mm-mm,” she mumbled, shaking her head.

    He took a deep breath, looking quite pleased with himself. Then, all of a sudden, his hands were on her lower back, her body flush against him, and… and their lips. Their lips pressed together in one soft, sultry, enveloping kiss. Hermione’s mouth had been slightly open in surprise and she could feel their hot breaths blending together. Her eyes had stayed open from the shock of it, but as his firm hand urged her closer, she allowed them to flutter closed.

    Too soon it seemed, she felt him pull back. She let out a small pleading moan. Opening her eyes, she saw Draco smiling at her, a smile she had never seen before. “If you don’t mind,” he whispered, his words tickling the corner of her mouth, “I was thinking we should do more of this from now on.”

    She smiled and put her hand in his hair to pull him closer, “I think we might be able to arrange that.”

~*~

A/N: Okay. What do you think?!



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