Chapter 4 : Falling
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The pair made their way back to the warmth of Hogwarts laughing and running. The snow had soaked both of them and they were eager to get warm, plus Draco was now worried about the end of his nose falling off.
“I told you, it’s not going to fall off!” Hermione tried to convince him as they raced to the door. She could feel her hair freezing in place.
“You’re just saying that to make me feel better!” Draco argued, his hand covering his nose as they plowed through the still falling snow. Hermione rolled her eyes and pushed the door to the castle open. Heat hit them, but it wasn’t enough. They were both shivering. They needed fire. “To our dorms!” Draco shouted dramatically, arm raised like he was commanding an army. Hermione nodded her agreement and the two tore through the castle towards their dorms with chattering teeth.
Paintings and tapestries glared at them as they caused a ruckus through the halls. Hermione was panting by the time they reached the painting of Paris and Helen that hid the entrance to their quarters. This time they were fighting about Helen cheating on Paris with a knight in another tapestry on the other side of the castle. Helen of Troy wasn’t exactly known for her fidelity.
“Honestly, you think I’d cheat on you with a metal head? You’ve got be joking.”
“Well then where did you go last night?”
“I don’t think that’s any of your business.” Helen pouted.
Paris looked upset. “Fine. Then I’m going to see Guinevere.”
“Arthur’s Guinevere?” gasped Helen.
“Yes! I should have never taken you away from Troy you spoiled, lying, cheat-“
“PARIS, SHUT UP!” Draco and Hermione yelled the password simultaneously, unable to take the bickering between the two lovers any more. The wall vanished to reveal the corridor that led to their common room.
“Heat. Heat. Heat. I need heat.” Chattered Hermione as she dashed towards the bright fire in their common room with Draco right behind her. That bright warmth was the only thing on her mind as they entered the warm room. They both stood directly in front of the fire and Hermione wrung out her now melting hair. It wasn’t enough. Her sweater held in freezing water that she was desperate to get off of her skin. She looked over at Draco who was already pulling his jumper over his head once more. If he could do it, so could she. She kicked off her shoes and socks and with numb fingers pulled her red sweater off over her head, leaving her in her still soaking blue jeans and a white camisole.
That was when Draco saw it. Lace. Dark violet lace. Hermione’s camisole was wet and clung to her. Since when had she looked like that? Draco’s mind reeled. He’d known that she’d filled out, but for the most part she hid the changes her body had gone through rather well. Not anymore. Her waist was thin, but sloped into lovely shaped hips, but Draco’s attention was focused on a higher region of Hermione’s body. Lace. He saw lace. He’d never expected Hermione to be the lace type; he’d expected her to be boring and practical, but there it was, staring him in the face. Okay, not really. He couldn’t see that much. He saw the straps, as her camisole was merely spaghetti strapped and the dark violet straps of her bra weren’t covered, and he saw the rest through her camisole. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
Hermione didn’t even notice this inspection. She was determined to not look at him. She knew he had his shirt off. She knew the kind of reaction that brought about in her. Focused on the fire, Hermione held out her hands to the blazing heat and ignored Draco completely. However, she still had not stopped shivering.
She looked at him. Mistake number one.
“Hermione, you’re freezing.”
She looked into his eyes. Mistake number two. They were dark and she wasn’t oblivious to the fact that he could probably see through her white shirt straight to her bra. She felt her cheeks start to flush. How had she let this happen?
He held out his arms. “Come on, you’ll warm up faster this way. Sharing body heat and all that.”
She listened to his logic. Mistake number three. It was all she could do to nod and take a step toward him. Any form of coherency was far from her lips as he pulled her shivering body into his arms.
Merlin he was warm…
And taller than she had previously given him credit for. The top of her head brushed right under his chin as she gave herself over to his embrace. For a few moments she was stiff in his arms, keeping her own very tightly held to her sides, until she started to feel heat washing over her body. She slowly stopped shivering as she stood in the arms of the blond boy she had previously despised for seven years. She began to wrap her own arms around his pale, lean torso, she even found herself leaning into him and resting her cheek against his collarbone. It felt… well, it felt good. It was strange, she thought, how much better she fit in Draco’s embrace than she ever had in Ron’s, or even one of Harry’s magnificent hugs. This just felt… right. Natural. She let out a deep sigh against his chest and closed her eyes. He was just so warm. Not to mention firm. She felt completely and utterly safe leaning against his broad chest with his strong arms warming her.
Draco couldn’t believe this was happening. Here he was standing with a soaking Hermione Granger willingly in his arms. Every moment he spent with her he hated Pansy more and more. She didn’t feel like this. Didn’t feel soft and warm and so bloody perfect. He laughed at himself in his head. He was being ridiculous. Nothing was going to happen between him and Hermione. Clearly she didn’t trust him, considering her arms were still tightly held to her- whoa nevermind. Those were her arms wrapping around him. He held her tighter. Felt the wet fabric of her shirt cooling his skin. He tried not to focus on the fact that her chest was pressed right up against his and that- Merlin that was her breath… Malfoy’s mind went blank. Just like that. He looked down at the brown-haired beauty in his arms and mentally kicked himself. This would never. Ever. Work. But as long as she was willing, he was going to keep her this way. Damn pheromones. He wasn’t thinking clearly, but he didn’t care.
Draco’s fingers crept down to the hem of her camisole and slowly peeled the wet fabric from her skin, exposing the skin of her back and stomach to the warm air and his warm body. Hermione hummed against him, lost in the heat that was taking over her body. He didn’t dare lift the fabric higher than the bottom of her bra, but it was enough. Her smooth stomach was suddenly in contact with his and he splayed his hands across her lower back. Draco looked down at her and couldn’t help but smile. Her hair was drying, and it was as frizzy as ever.
With so many things that had changed over the years, he basked in the knowledge that some things would always stay the same.
Her breath was a steady rhythm of air against his body, for a moment he thought she’d fallen asleep draped against him.
“Mmmmhmmmm” was her mumbled response. She didn’t pull away, nor did she open her eyes. He. Was. Warm. and she felt exhausted. Her wet jeans were slightly uncomfortable, but not enough to make her leave the warmth of Draco’s embrace. She could deal with wet, slightly cold jeans for this.
“We should probably, uhm… you know, go put on dry clothes. I don’t want yo- us to get sick.” He berated himself in his head. Why had he said that? He had a perfectly willing, wet girl in his arms and he’d just suggested her leaving his embrace. What the bloody hell was wrong with him?
“Oh…” Hermione lifted her cheek from where it had been resting on his chest. “Right. Sorry, uhm…” She blushed as she began to pull away from him. How had she gotten in this position? Oh right. Mistakes one, two, and three. The air around her wasn’t nearly as warm as Draco’s body had been and she shuddered involuntarily as she broke free of his arms. She didn’t dare look at his face; instead, she studied the intricate pattern on the floor. She felt his gaze on her and blushed further, realizing that a large portion of her stomach was exposed above her low slung jeans. She bit her lip and pulled the camisole back over her now warm skin. “I’ll just, uhm… See you at dinner then.”
Hermione backed away from Draco who was still watching her. She turned to face the staircase that would lead up to her room. She heard Draco turn to go as well. She took a deep breath, “Oh, Draco?” She called over her shoulder.
He turned and looked at her expectantly. Hermione’s face broke into an almost suggestive grin. “Thanks for playing with me.” And with that, she turned and hurried up the stairs.
Draco’s final thoughts as he watched her? Bloody hell, that witch is going to be the death of me.
Draco joined Hermione at the Gryffindor table again that night, as she was loathe to eat at the Slytherin table considering Draco had said Gryffindor food was better. Hermione was not one for downgrading. A few students and professors watched them interact together, horribly confused as to what might have happened between the two to make them coexist so amiably, but for the most part the pair went unnoticed. Draco had already caused a scene at lunch, so now that the two were being relatively quiet, no one truly cared or noticed them sitting together.
Hogwarts was beginning to look a bit cheerier, despite its lack of students. The Great hall was decked out with decorations in every which way. A large Christmas tree had been brought in from the forbidden forest and decorated to glistening glory by the house elves. Green, red, silver and gold tinsel were strewn everywhere and even strings of popcorn laced the columns surrounding the Hall. Every once in awhile fireworks would light up the “sky” and rain glitter down upon the hall’s occupants then vanish into thin air.
“So you really don’t like flying?” inquired Draco.
Hermione shook her head fiercely. “I’m terrified of heights. I got out of flying whenever I could first year. Faked injuries, sickness, staying late in class to help other teachers or ask questions to make me late, but they always gave me a pass so I wouldn’t get in trouble.”
“How in Hogwarts could you fake being sick with Madame Pomfrey around?”
Hermione grinned almost wickedly while Draco waited with a raised, skeptical eyebrow. “Befriending the Weasley twins was the smartest thing I’ve ever done at Hogwarts.”
“No…” gasped Draco. “Hermione Granger stooped to asking the Weasley twins for help to get out of flying lessons?”
She scoffed. “Are you kidding? They were throwing their latest products at me once they found out I could do their homework for them. The gits had some bit of moral compass, didn’t think it was right if I did it for free.”
Draco gaped at her. Who would have thought that the corruption of Hermione Granger had started as early as first year by the Weasley family? “Wow, Granger. Didn’t think you had it in you… kind of a Slytherin move, wouldn’t you say?” Draco got rolling of eyes as his response. “Genius though, had I known the twins were going to be so successful I’d have invested in them.”
Hermione laughed. “Don’t worry, Draco. I’m sure the twins will always be open to taking your money.” Draco joined in her laughter and nodded his agreement. Everyone was always willing to take money.
After a few moments, Draco sobered. “So what ever happened to you and the weasel anyways?” Hermione’s smile quickly vanished. Personal question. Was Draco entitled to ask personal questions like that yet?
Hermione bit her lip as she contemplated telling Draco the ins and outs of she and Ron’s relationship. “We just decided that we were better off as friends…” She shrugged. While it was true, it wasn’t everything. She hoped it would be enough to appease him.
Draco gave her a meaningful look. “You really expect me to believe that?” Hermione shrugged sheepishly. “Look, if you don’t want to tell me, I understand. I guess it isn’t really my business but…” he had to ask. “Who dumped who?”
“I dumped him… it’s why I didn’t go back to the burrow this Christmas. He keeps giving me this sad, wistful look.” She leaned forward on the table. “Imagine the look a puppy would give you after you kicked it. It would be hurt, but that wouldn’t keep it from being completely loyal to you.”
Draco shrugged. He wasn’t entirely familiar with pets.
“It’s so frustrating! Like he actually thinks we can just get back together after everything that’s happened, after everything he did to m-“ Hermione cut herself off before continuing. Draco had enough information.
“Hmmm,” was all she got out of him. She felt exposed, vulnerable, almost opening up to him. She had to think of something else to talk about… Well, turnabout is fair play…
“So what about you and Pansy?” Hermione inquired nonchalantly. “You two have been together since, what, fifth year? Should the wizarding world start listening for wedding bells?”
Draco looked at her resembling a deer in headlights before bursting into laughter. “Are… Are you kidding?” he managed to get out between laughs. Hermione almost looked offended that he was laughing at her question. He tried to regain control of himself. “I hate Pansy.” He offered with a shrug. “I mean, I date her because it’s expected of me. If I didn’t and word got back to my family…”
“But I thought…” Hermione let her voice fade. She didn’t know how he would respond to her bringing up his father’s imprisonment and his mother’s stay at St. Mungo’s. He knew where she was going with it anyways.
“Come on, Granger. Not all my family is locked up somewhere.” He teased her and she felt relieved. He shrugged again. “I don’t know. Everyone expects me to marry her…” His eyes hardened. “but I’d die first.”
A wide eyed Hermione sat across from him. “Wow… I don’t sense any resentment or anything…”
“I’m sure it is,” She offered.
They were silent for a few moments.
“So, no flying for you then, huh?” Draco asked again. Hermione laughed and shook her head. “I could teach you, you know… if you wanted.” She gave him a meaningful look. “What?”
“You really think I’m going to let my arch nemesis of seven years teach me how to do something that will very likely get me killed or severely injured if I screw up?”
Draco mocked offense. “Arch nemesis. Ouch. That hurts, Hermione.” He placed a hand over his heart. “Right here. That hurts.” More eye rolling. Draco became serious for a moment and looked into her eyes. “You really think I’d let you get hurt? Have the past few days meant nothing to you?”
Hermione blushed and couldn’t hold his gaze. “Of course they have but…” whoa, did I just admit that? “it’s just… I don’t want people watching me or anything. What if I’m terrible at it? I don’t cope well with failure… especially if there are people watching.”
“No one is here. It’s Christmas break.”
“We could do it at night,” he offered. She lifted her eyes to his.
Draco shrugged. “Why not?”
“Well it’s just that curfew is-“ She was cut off by a scoff from Draco.
“Hogwarts is easy to sneak out of… if you know the right way to do it.” She gave him a scandalized look. “You’d be surprised, really. It’s a piece of cake.” She continued to look at him skeptically. “Really, Hermione. What have you got to lose?”
“Oh, I don’t know. My life, limbs, health, confidence, self-esteem, etc…” She could have gone on.
“Shut it. Where’s that Gryffindor bravery, hmm? Scared of a little flying. You should have been a hufflepuff.” Draco taunted her. She narrowed her gaze at him.
“Don’t provoke me, Malfoy.”
“And what if I do?”
“I’ll hex you into oblivion.”
He raised his hands in surrender. “One flying lesson, we’ll see how it goes.”
She considered him for a moment. “Fine. But the moment I want to stop, we stop. Deal?” She offered her hand across the table. He took it.
Hermione and Draco hadn’t stayed in the Great Hall much longer after forging their deal. They didn’t decide on a lesson time either. The subject had actually been dropped in favor of a debate over which candy was better. Chocolate frogs versus Bot’s Every Flavor Beans. Hermione had won the debate. Chocolate frogs for the win.
They’d walked around the halls for a while after dinner, talking to paintings, tapestries, and ghosts, simply because they had nothing else today. When they returned to their common room Hermione had said goodnight and gone up to her room to get ready for bed. Waiting for her in her room was Hedwig, Harry’s large white owl. Hermione could have squealed with delight. In fact, she did.
“Hedwig!” The owl flapped over to her, perched on her shoulder, and gently nipped at her ear. “Yes, I’ve missed you too!” Hermione made her way over to her bed where two letters awaited her viewing. She recognized Harry’s handwriting on one of the letters and opened it first.
We miss you a lot here at the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley won’t forgive us for leaving you there all alone with Malfoy. Hope he’s not being too bothersome, but I’m sure you’re not having any trouble. He knows if he pushes you too far you’re not afraid to clock him right in the kisser. Even now that might be my favorite memory of you.
Oh, I’ve bought your Christmas gift! I must say, I think I’ve outdone myself this year. And since you already know that you’ll get a sweater from Mrs. Weasley, I’m going to tell you that it’s actually not especially hideous this year. It might actually be something you can wear. Oh, Ron says hello. Anyways, we miss you. Ginny is going stark raving mad being surrounded by all us boys and no girl to whine to. We’re all staying very entertained.
Hermione smiled at the letter. Malfoy wasn’t being any trouble at all… not now, at least. She opened the letter that was obviously from Ginny next.
I severely dislike being left alone this Christmas without you. The boys are driving me crazy! At least I have Crookshanks for company, thank you so much for letting me keep him over Christmas. I hope Malfoy isn’t giving you too much trouble, I noticed that he wasn’t packing his bags to leave.
Oh, I miss you! You know that if you change your mind we’d be so happy for you to come stay with us, but I understand about the whole Ron thing. Try to have fun without us and don’t read too many books or get too far ahead on your homework! I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve gotten you for Christmas. I’m sure you’ll love it! Well, maybe not. But one day you’ll appreciate me for it! Just a few more days till Christmas!
You simply must write back and tell me everything about everything!
Ginny and Crookshanks
Hermione quickly set about writing back to each of her friends. She relayed to both of them that Malfoy had not caused her much trouble, but made sure to leave out any hint of their newfound friendship. She told them about how quiet the castle was and that she couldn’t wait as well for them to receive their presents. And she told Ginny that she sent her love to Crookshanks and the rest of the Weasley family.
Hermione sealed up the individual letters to Harry and Ginny and gave them to Hedwig along with a small treat for the owl’s trouble. After another nip to Hermione’s ear, Hedwig flew out the window Hermione had opened and into the night.
With her friendship duties finished, Hermione went to bathroom to quickly wash her face and brush her teeth. She returned to her room, changed into a pair of pajama pants and a soft tank top, and threw her hair up into a messy bun. Climbing into bed Hermione went over the recent events. Draco Malfoy wasn’t a jerk, as least, not to her anymore, He was funny, and he might be able to keep up with her in a conversation. Not to mention he was attractive. She didn’t mind spending time with him, especially if she got to look at him.
Hermione slowly drifted into unconsciousness and had just started dreaming when a tapping noise woke her up. She groggily opened her eyes and looked around. Surely it wasn’t an owl, was it? She threw off her covers and walked to her window with a yawn. When she reached it, she didn’t expect to find grey eyes staring expectantly at her.
Draco raised a finger to his lips and gave her a harsh look that quieted her. She opened her window, shivering against the cold air that blew in to her room. “What the bloody hell are you doing out there? What time is it?” hissed Hermione.
Draco shrugged. “It’s a little after one, and I’m teaching you how to fly, of course. Get on my broom.”
“What?” Hermione asked incredulously. “No chance!”
“Come on, Granger, it’ll be fun!”
Draco noticed what she was wearing for the first time. Certainly not appropriate for a Winter night flying lesson. He was loathe to say it but, “Well then put some clothes on for Merlin’s sake! We haven’t got all night!”
Hermione groaned. “You’re not going to let me go back to sleep, are you.” It wasn’t really a question. Draco answered anyways with a grin.
She sighed. “Turn around.” And Draco obliged, turning his broom to face away from her window so she could change. After pulling on a long sleeved shirt, sweater, long underwear, jeans, two pairs of sock and boots, Hermione grabbed a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a wool headband to go over her ears. She let her hair down and slid the headband in place over her forehead. “Alright, Malfoy. Let’s get this over with.”
He turned back around and gave her a teasing smirk. “Don’t be too excited, Granger.”
“I’ll try to control myself…. How do I get on?”
“Just climb up onto the windowsill…. Just like that, great. I’ll bring the broom to you… Swing your leg over. Now, wrap your arms around me… perfect. Ow. Wait. Relax, I can’t breathe! Open your eyes, Granger. Don’t be such a first year. See now, isn’t that better? Stop shaking your head 'no' so hard, you’re making it hard to balance.” Draco slowly started to fly away from the tower that they lived in and Hermione’s grip around his waist became tighter. “Really, Hermione, if I can’t breathe, I can’t fly and then you’ll have to take over.” Her grip loosened, but that didn’t keep her from burying her face into his back and squeezing her eyes shut as he flew over the grounds to the Quidditch pitch. Hermione fought back hyperventilating. She really hated heights…
Draco landed them safely on the ground and Hermione opened her eyes. She was shaking, but not from the cold. Draco laughed. “Look, you’re fine, see? Not dead. Not even injured. I can’t believe the girl who helped take down Voldemort is scared of heights. And here I’d thought you fearless.”
“Don’t patronize me, Malfoy.” She warned. Again, Draco lifted his hands in surrender.
“Alright, Alright.” He then went into teacher mode. “So you’re not going to learn how to fly on my firebolt. That’d be reckless.” He held out his hand and a different broom came flying into it. “This is my Nimbus 1000. It’s faster and less temperamental than the school’s brooms. You shouldn’t have much trouble with it.” He held the broom out to her and she took it hesitantly. “Come on, hold it firmly. You’re not going to break it… Better.”
Over the next few minutes, Draco taught Hermione everything she should have learned as a first year. How to hold the broom, balance her weight, shift from side to side to turn, stop, and the basics of landing. With the intro out of the way, he smiled at her. “Ready to kick off?”
Hermione took a deep breath and bit her bottom lip. “I think so. I’m nervous.”
“You’ll be just fine.” Draco reassured her. “You don’t even have to go very high. Just hover for a few seconds.”
She took another deep break. “Okay, I’ll try.” She closed her eyes and prepared to kick off of the ground.
“HERMIONE, WAIT!” Her eyes snapped open.
“You can’t fly with your eyes closed! That’s dangerous!”
She sighed. “Oh, right… Well, here goes.” With that, she gripped the broom tightly and kicked off the ground. She had expected gravity to grip her and bring her crashing back down to the ground, but it didn’t. Hermione hovered a few feet off the ground. She gasped and beamed at Draco. “Oh my Merlin! I’m doing it!”
Draco clapped. “That’s really good. Now bring it down… slowly… There you go. Perfect!” he encouraged her as her feet hit the ground once more.
“Draco, that was wonderful!” She threw her arms around him. “Thank you!” After a moment, Hermione pulled away and blushed at her own outburst. She looked down at the ground for a moment and then met his eyes, a glint in her own. “Can I do it again?”
He laughed. “That’s what we’re out here for. Hop back on. This time, hover up and lean forward just a bit to move. Not too far, or you’ll go shooting off through one of the goals if you’re not careful.” Hermione nodded as she mounted the broom again. She kicked off and once more hovered just a few feet in the air. After a moment, she leaned slightly and the broom inched forward. “Good, Hermione. Now lean to your left just a touch and see if you can make a circle around me.”
Successfully completing her circle, Hermione set the broom back down on the ground and looked at Draco for affirmation. “You’re good, Hermione. A natural, really. You should have been doing this years ago. I’ll go up with you this time so you won’t have to stop so soon.” Draco mounted his firebolt and kicked off. “Coming?”
Hermione nodded with a smile and kicked off with him. She slowly maneuvered her broom alongside his. “So what now?” Draco pointed to the Quidditch goals on the far side of the field.
“Let’s see if you can learn how to weave in and out of those and we’ll take it from there.”
Draco and Hermione spent roughly the next half hour or so flying around the pitch while Hermione became more and more comfortable on her borrowed Nimbus 1000. Once or twice she would lean forward too quickly and it would dart forward, but she always managed to hang on and regain control quickly. Draco was genuinely impressed. However, he noticed her starting to shake a bit with the cold, “Should we call it a night?”
Hermione pouted. “Can’t we stay out just a bit longer?”
“Aren’t you cold?”
“Yes, but I don’t care.”
“I do. We’ll stay out a few more minutes, and then we’re heading back.”
“Fine.” Hermione huffed unhappily. Draco rolled his eyes and then looked to Hermione who was grinning at him. “Let’s go higher.” She received a raised eyebrow in response. “I know, I know. But I’m not scared. I want to!” Draco shrugged.
“Okay, if you say so. Just be careful.”
Hermione scoffed. “Be careful. You sound like my mother. I’m not a child.” She mock whined at him as she rode her broom higher into the sky.
Anyone with eyes could see that… Draco thought as he climbed in the sky with her, but he played along. “Uh, huh. Sure you’re not. This is coming from the girl who clung to me the entire ride out here like a scared first year.” They were a good hundred meters into the air by now.
“I resent that!” Hermione quipped then screamed. She had intended to whip around on her broom to face Draco, but had leaned too far to the side. Her broom flipped, completely destroying and balance she had. She was thrown from her seat. Desperately Hermione tried to keep her grip on her broom, but her soft gloves wouldn’t allow it. Before she knew it, she was free falling. She watched the ground rush up to violently meet her for a few seconds before thinking Blast it, I’m going to die a virgin and losing consciousness.
“HERMIONE! NO!” Draco shouted as he and his firebolt dove after her. He prayed he would reach her in time, but she already had hundreds of feet on him. He pushed his broom faster.
He had to reach her.
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