Hermione gave the potion a last stir and smiled with satisfaction at the sickly green bubbling mess within the cauldron. She pulled a vial from her pocket. Within it was a single long black hair. Hermione watched as the hair fell from the upturned vial and disappeared into the boiling potion. The mess immediately turned an ugly violet colour. Scooping out a cup full, Hermione looked at her reflection in the mirror.
This was it--all of her planning and the month it had taken to brew the polyjuice were about to pay off. She was about to get what she'd dreamed of since fourth year. She smiled and closed her eyes. Putting the cup to her lips, she drank.
Her skin began to tingle, her hair darkening to a deep black as she felt herself growing thinner and just slightly shorter. The sensations stopped just as suddenly as they had begun and Hermione looked up into the deep blue-green eyes of Pansy Parkinson. She admired the transformation for a moment or two, pouting her lips and batting her eyes seductively. She'd been studying Pansy's mannerisms for the past two weeks and had them down to a t. Not even the most observant Ravenclaw would be able to tell the difference between herself and the real Pansy once she was in action. Though, she didn't mean for there to be any observers. Hermione smirked to herself and set off in search of Draco Malfoy.
She found him in the Slytherin common room, just as she had hoped-- alone. He glanced up as she walked in, smiling a genuine smile that he reserved for a select few. She'd only received it once before in fourth year when she'd entered the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum. Draco had looked right past Pansy that night and smiled that breathtaking smile just for her. She had fallen for him instantly.
"Hey, Pans," Draco called, patting the empty place on the couch beside him. Hermione's heart pounded loudly in her chest as she sat down beside him. He put his arm around her, as casually as if he did it on a daily basis--which, she thought, he probably did. "What're you doing back so soon? I thought you and Blaise were heading down to the village."
"Hoggsmeade is such a bore," Hermione replied, calling upon her well-rehearsed background story. "I'd rather spend some quality time with you, Drakie." She hated the nickname, but it was necessary for a believable disguise. Draco deserved a much more masculine nickname—like Dray—than Pansy's girly "Drakie". Draco smiled.
"Haven't heard that old name in a while." He chuckled at some distant memory. His arm tightened around Hermione's shoulders as he hugged her to him. She breathed deeply, savouring his musky-sweet scent. She'd wanted this for so long—time to begin her seduction.
She placed her hand on his chest, feeling his heart beat steadily beneath her palm. He stroked her shoulder—his hands were so warm against her bare skin, like fire against ice. She snuggled in closer to him, moving her hand down to his thigh. She was so close to her goal now, so close to seeing the body that those pesky school robes had been hiding from her. Hermione sighed in contentment as Draco pressed a kiss to the top of her head.
"There's something I've been meaning to ask you, Pans," Draco mumbled. She sat up, feeling herself begin to drown in his quicksilver eyes. "There's someone I've liked for quite a while now--since fourth year, really. Maybe you noticed how distracted I was at the Yule Ball..."
Hermione smiled, her heart fluttering in her chest. "You did seem rather distant," she lied, making the most of her story. "I saw your eyes wander more than once." Draco smiled.
"Was it that obvious?" He suddenly became very nervous and rather tense. "It's getting down to the end of the year, and with the war over there are all sorts of new possibilities popping up. I really want this person to know how I feel about them. But this person is someone I've pretended to hate for a very long time. I don't know if going up and professing my love would really go over well."
"Love? You really love this person?"
Draco nodded. "I do." His eyes met hers, soft and so vulnerable. Sue envied Pansy this trust he had in her--she saw this side of Draco on a daily basis. "What do you think I should do?"
"I say tell her anyway. If she cares for you as much as you do for her, your past won't matter." Draco smiled and chuckled a little.
"Alright, Pans," he said. "I'll do it first thing tomorrow."
Hermione celebrated on her way back to the girl's bathroom. Draco Malfoy was in love with her! This was a much better ending to her plan than she could have expected. She watched in the mirror as Pansy's reflection slowly faded back into her own. She cleaned up the mess she'd left in the far stall, spelling the cauldron clean and closing the potion book as she slipped it into her bag. Tomorrow was going to be an eventful day; she had better get her rest.
Hermione made her way down to breakfast with Ron and Harry by her side. Her stomach was full of butterflies. She'd been daydreaming all morning about how Draco would approach her and just how she would react. As the descended the stairs to the entrance hall, her heart began to beat a little faster. He was waiting at the foot of the stairs, watching them descend with an anxious light in his eyes.
Draco cleared his throat as they reached the floor. He nodded to each of them in turn, mumbling a nervous "good morning".
"What do you want, Malfoy?" Ron hissed, his eyes shooting darts at the blonde.
"Sorry to disrupt your morning, Weasley," Draco replied. His voice was void of any contempt he once held towards Ron. Hermione was impressed. "I just have something I feel needs to be said." Hermione's butterflies began to flutter faster and faster about her stomach, dancing to the beat of her racing heart. "I was wondering if I could speak to Harry."
Hermione froze. That wasn't right. Perhaps she had misheard him. And yet, Harry looked just as stunned as she was. Draco must have decided to settle the feud between him and Harry before he asked Hermione out. Yes, that was it.
"Whatever you have to say to Harry can be said in front of us," Ron announced. Everyone in the entrance hall was watching them now. Hermione could feel the tension in the air as the whispers went around the room.
Draco didn't seem to like Ron's demand at all. He looked down at the floor for a moment or two and took a deep breath. He nodded and looked up at them once more.
"That's reasonable enough." His eyes met Harry's and Hermione could practically see the sparks flying between the two of them.
'Oh no,' she thought, her feeling of elation fading immediately. She had been dead wrong. It wasn't her Draco had been talking about the day before--it had been Harry. She thought back to the Yule Ball and realized her mistake. Harry and Parvati had entered behind herself and Viktor. Draco had been smiling that beautifully genuine smile at Harry, not her. She felt so stupid.
"Harry, I know we haven't been on the best terms during our years here..." He shook his head. "Alright, so that was the biggest understatement of the century--we've hated each other. But there's more to the story than meets the eye. All those times I was mean to you, all the times I called you names or tripped you in the hall, it was to get your attention. The truth is, I've fallen for you, Harry. I've loved you for nearly four years--ever since I saw you at the Yule Ball. You looked so incredible that night. You wouldn't believe how jealous I was of Parvati that night. She got to dance with you, and I didn't.
"I know it may be hard to fathom, but I really do care for you. I'm sorry for everything I've done in the past. I know it's probably ruined my chances of ever being with you, but I just wanted you to know how I felt before it was too late."
The room was deadly silent for several long moments. Hermione looked at Ron, flinching at the mix of confusion and horror on his face. Harry and Draco didn't break eye contact for the fraction of a second. The crowd around them waited with baited breath.
"So, do you love me or just like me?" Harry asked at last. "You were a little unclear on that part. I'm not sure I can be with someone who simply proclaims that he likes me in front of a huge crowd. It's not nearly as romantic as professing love." He smiled at Draco.
"I love you, Harry," Draco answered, smiling again, too. "More than anything."
"About time, you git." Harry grinned and stepped up to the blonde wrapping his arms around the boy's neck and kissing him. The room erupted with applause. Hermione looked at Ron and smiled at his confusion. Seeing Harry so happy took the edge off her disappointment, but it didn’t erase it. She didn't know if she was more upset that Draco had wanted Harry over her, or that she hadn't seen it coming. It all seemed so obvious now. How could she have missed the signs?
Hermione smiled at the boys, wrapped contentedly in each other’s arms. This was Harry's happy ending, not her own, and she wouldn't trade it for the world.