Releasing the Pressure
Hermione was perched on the edge of her bed braiding her hair when Ron knocked at her bedroom door. She smiled a greeting when he came into the room, shuffling his feet and glancing around the small room awkwardly.
“How do you live like this, Hermione?” Ron asked shaking his head, his long ginger hair falling into his eyes.
Hermione’s bed was neatly made, the duvet tucked up with hospital corners and the pillows fluffed up to their fullest. The curtains were tied back with neat bows and all of the drawers were closed, no wayward socks peeking out of the tops and no shoes hanging out of the wardrobe either. Books were piled on the little desk in size order with their spines facing outwards for convenience and all parchment, ink and quills were laid out carefully along the desk in the order that they would be needed.
“It’s unnatural,” Ron added, his brow furrowing.
Hermione rolled her eyes and untied the curtains. “You and Harry live in a pig sty.”
Ron grinned. “Organised chaos. There’s method to our madness.”
“I highly doubt that,” Hermione responded, smoothing the curtains down neatly. “I’ve never known you two to be organised about anything.”
“We don’t need to be. We have you,” Ron said simply.
Hermione smiled, her stomach tightening. “So, did you want something in particular as I planned on doing some reading.”
“Well, that has come as a complete surprise,” Ron seated himself at the little desk. “But I did want something in particular.”
“Well?” Hermione pressed, sitting back down on the bed and scratching Crookeshanks behind the ears.
“Harry,” Ron said. “What’s going on?”
“Oh, that,” Hermione caught her bottom lip between her teeth, her eyebrows drawing together for a moment as she considered whether or not to tell Ron about Luna. “Well, Harry sort of told me in confidence.”
“But he didn’t say not to tell me, did he?” Ron argued, pretty certain in his belief that Harry wouldn’t keep anything important from him.
“No,” Hermione said slowly. “He didn’t say not to tell you, but certain kinds of conversations sort of come with a guaranteed confidence clause.”
Ron stifled his sigh of annoyance, irritating Hermione was not going to get him anywhere. “What can be so private that I can’t know about it?” he demanded, his eyes beginning to snap. Anger curdled away in the pit of his stomach as his eyes narrowed, he’d been left out of things his whole life and he didn’t much like the idea of that happening again. Charlie and Bill were years older than him and were busy leading their own lives when he came of an age to talk and share things, Fred and George had each other, Percy was always wrapped up in himself and his ambition and Ginny was his little sister, he could hardly talk to her. It wasn’t as if his brother’s ignored him or weren’t there for him because they were, but he didn’t have someone within his family he could call his own; until he had met Harry, and now it felt as though Harry was slipping away from him and he would be on his own again.
“I’ll ask Harry,” Ron interrupted, pushing himself out of the chair.
“No, don’t do that,” Hermione grabbed hold of Ron’s arm stopping him from leaving, the last thing Harry needed was to go through all that emotional stuff again. Ron simply wasn‘t the right person to handle that kind of talk. “It’s Luna.”
Ron‘s eyebrows raised in surprise. “What about her?”
“Harry has feelings for her and Draco knows and Draco’s temper being what Draco’s temper is, well, you can guess his reaction.”
“What sort of feelings?”
Hermione touched her fingers to her temple and rubbed a slow circle, her eyes closing for a moment. “The biggest feelings you can get. He’s in love with her.”
Ron’s sudden yelling made her jump and Hermione stared up at him in shock. “What? What’s the matter, Ron?”
“What does he think he’s doing having feelings for Luna? What about my sister?” Ron’s face was flushed with his anger and he was almost hopping on the spot.
Hermione’s jaw dropped, she hadn’t for one second even thought about Ginny, and now it was completely clear to her why Harry had opted not to mention anything to Ron. Harry would, Hermione was sure, have thought that she of all people would have the good sense to keep her mouth shut about this and not say anything to Ron and make matters worse.
“I’m gonna…. I’m gonna…. I’m gonna do something!” Ron stormed from the room, his feet thudding loudly in the hallway.
“Ron! Wait!” Hermione jumped up and hurried after him. “Will you wait?” She managed to catch up to him on the stairs and grabbed hold of his arm, tugging him backward. “Please Ron, just hold on for one minute. Think about this before you say something you’ll regret.”
“I’m not the one whose going to do the regretting,” Ron promised through grit teeth, shaking her off and continuing down stairs. He threw open the door to the sitting room where Harry was stretched out along the sofa, his eyes closed. “You better wake up,” Ron said, taking hold of Harry’s ankle and yanking him so hard he slid off the end of the sofa.
Harry hit the floor with a yell and winced as he landed hard on his tail bone. “What the hell’s wrong with you? And why is everyone attacking me today?”
“What’s wrong with me? Well,” Ron said snidely. “I’ve just found out that my best mate is a rotten lying git.”
Harry stared up at Ron, disbelief etched over his face. “What have I done?”
“Ginny!” Ron replied.
A red tinge bloomed in Harry’s cheeks. “I have not!” He hissed, scrambling to his feet. “I haven’t touched Ginny.”
Hermione groaned and rubbed at her forehead, she had a headache looming. “That’s not what he means, Harry.”
“No,” Ron agreed, looking rather mortified at the misunderstanding. “I mean Luna. Hermione told me Harry. She told me how you feel about Luna.”
Harry shot Hermione an annoyed look, but didn’t reproach her. He supposed that it made little or no difference if Ron knew about it, although, wasn’t quite sure why Ron was so upset. “Are you mad that I didn’t tell you or something?” Harry felt that he really didn’t have the energy to deal with that sort of childish behaviour.
“Oh no,” Ron assured him. “I can completely understand why you wouldn’t tell me.”
“I have the feeling I’m meant to know what you’re hinting at, but I don’t, Ron,” Harry held his hands up in a sign if defeat.
“I’m talking about Ginny.”
“What about her?”
“What about her?” Ron raged, his colour rising again. “What about when you told her that you had to break up with her to keep her safe? What about when you kissed her? What about all the promises you made to her?”
“Oh,” Harry paled, running a hand through his already messy black hair. Now of course he could understand where Ron was coming from, and he didn’t blame him at all.
“Oh? Is that all you can say? She’s my sister, Harry. What was she to you? Someone to help you pass the time?” Ron demanded, his fingers curling into fists at his side.
“Of course not!” Harry retaliated, his own anger rising up to meet Ron’s at the unfair accusation. “I care about Ginny. I’ve always cared about Ginny. Luna…. I don’t know how to explain it, she’s just different. The way I feel is different.”
“She’s with someone else,” Ron pointed out unnecessarily.
“I know that.” Harry sighed and sank down on the sofa, dropping his head between his legs.
“If you’re quite attached to having your knees staying in the middle of your legs, I’d stay as far away from Luna as you can.”
Harry looked up at his best friend. “Are you threatening me?”
Ron gave Harry a look that told him Ron thought that he was being a complete idiot. “I was thinking about Malfoy.”
“Oh yeah, him.” Harry nodded and sighed again, massaging his scalp. “I don’t want to hurt Ginny, Ron. I wouldn’t do that, not ever.”
Ron shook his head and snorted disdainfully. “You told me that once before and I believed you. I believed that you thought sending her back to Hogwarts was for her own good. I believed you when you said you had to leave her to keep her safe, so that the Dark Lord wouldn’t use her to get to you or hurt her in any way. I believed all of that, Harry. You know why? Because you’re my best friend.”
Hermione, who had been silent so far finally spoke. “People can’t help who they fall for, Ron. Harry didn’t choose to feel the way he does.” Reaching out she touched his arm tentatively, “Ron, Harry is still your best friend, but people change. We all change as our lives move on, and its inevitable that our feelings will change too and our priorities will shift.”
“Nice to know that my sister doesn’t rank on the list of priorities anymore,” Ron said darkly.
“That’s not what I mean and you know it,” Hermione snapped, her lips pursing in annoyance.
“I know,” Ron relented, his anger fading from his face when he looked at Hermione and a small smile crept over his lips. “I know you didn’t mean anything like that.”
Hermione smiled back, a pink blush colouring her cheeks. She knew, had always known that deep down inside where he kept it buried as deep as possible was a soft side to Ron Weasley. He did have the ability of making a situation worse than it needed to be, and most of the time he said the wrong thing, but his heart, which was big and warm, was in the right place. Sometimes, Hermione admitted to herself, Ron could be irrational, he could be awkward and bumbling when it came to feelings and emotions; but he was good and he was decent and he always wanted to do the right thing. He was stronger than he thought he was, more understanding than he gave himself credit for; and she loved him with her whole heart.
Her fingers tightened on Ron’s arm for a moment as her eyes met his and Hermione suddenly didn’t want the moment to end. But, Ron turned away from her as quickly as he had turned to look at her.
“You know, I was never mad on the idea of you and Ginny in the first place,” Ron told Harry. “But, she’s my sister and she was happy with you, and you’re my best friend and you seemed happy with her, so I let it go. She was devastated when you broke up with her. Ginny isn’t stupid, she could see where you were coming from, but she still cried all the time. I really did think you were doing the right thing,” He gave a short laugh that sounded hard and brittle in the quiet room. “And all this time you were just paving the way for Luna.”
“Ron!” Hermione exclaimed, horrified at the claim.
“I’ll work with you, Harry. I’ll fight along side you because I want to fight and because we need everyone we can get. But I won’t forgive you for this.” Ron spun on his heel and left the room before Harry had a chance to reply.
“Oh I’m not having that!” Harry snapped, getting to his feet and preparing to storm after his friend.
Hermione put out a hand, placing it on Harry’s chest she gave him a small shove back towards the sofa. “No, Harry. I don’t think it’s a good idea to carry this conversation on at the moment. Ron’s said a lot of things he didn’t really mean…”
“I think he meant every syllable,” Harry said.
“We all say things in the heat of the moment,” Hermione pointed out. “Just leave it for tonight and talk to him in the morning. He’ll have calmed down by then.”
“Fine,” Harry sighed and leant back into the cushions. “I have more important things to worry about than Ron sulking anyway.”
“You need him, Harry,” Hermione reminded him. “We’re a team, you, me and Ron.”
“Maybe I don’t need him,” Harry glared viciously at the closed door. “I’ve got Lucius now, maybe I’ve got a new team.”
“Don’t do this,” Hermione said, her voice hoarse with worry. “Don’t dismiss Ron, don’t break us up over a misunderstanding.”
“He’s perfectly willing to dismiss me!” Harry snapped. “All he’s doing is arguing with me over pointless stuff and questioning everything that Lucius says.”
“Yes I know that, but surely you can see his point?”
“He never tries to see my point though, does he?”
“Ginny is Ron’s sister,” Hermione replied touchily. “It’s only natural that he would look to protect her. And as for Mr Malfoy, well, considering his, shall we say colourful history, surely you can see Ron’s point there as well?”
“Lucius is the one getting things done around here, he’s the one making sure that we’re gaining some victories. All Ron can do is worry about my love life and all you do is get yourself kidnapped!” Harry complained crossly.
Hermione blanched at the comment, as Harry brushed past her and yanked open the door. He paused in the door way, resting his head against the splintered wood of the frame. “I’m sorry, Hermione. I didn’t mean that.” He glanced over his shoulder at her. “I was terrified for you when I found out the Death Eaters had you. I’m just angry with Ron and he’s gone sulking somewhere and I’m taking it out on you.”
Hermione sighed softly. She went to Harry and laced her arms around his waist, resting her cheek against his back. “I know, Harry. You have a lot to deal with and we’re not being as supportive as we could be. All this stuff about relationships, its trivial but we’re focusing on it because its easier than thinking about all the important things that are going on. Its like a release of the pressure or something.”
Harry patted her hand affectionately and Hermione smiled. “From now on we’ll deal with everything together, make decisions together; just like we used to.”
“Yeah,” Harry grinned. “That’s kept us alive this long.”
The door to the library opened and Lucius stuck his head around the corner, “Ah, Potter, there you are.“ He eyed them both for a moment and Harry was uncomfortably aware that he was still standing in Hermione‘s arms. “Once you’ve finished romancing every girl in the house, could I have word?”
Harry rolled his eyes as Lucius ducked back into the library. “When does he think I have time to romance anyone? And who uses the phrase “romance” these days?”
“It could have been worse,” Hermione said crossing the hallway to the library. “He could have said wooing every girl in the house.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “That would have been cringe worthy. Although, I don’t see him as a wooing type of man.”
“No,” Hermione nodded. “He’s too suave for that.”
“You uh, you think he’s suave?” Harry asked surprised.
“Oh yes. Mr Malfoy has suave stamped all over him.”
Hermione laughed loudly. “You? Oh you are funny sometimes, Harry.” She laughed again and patted his shoulder before entering the library.
Harry pursed his lips gloomily. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”
Draco drifted through the crack under the front door and floated up the stairs. He took form in his room, sweeping his cloak from around his shoulders, pulling off his t-shirt and toeing off his shoes, Draco let his senses stretch out; probing through the air, searching for Luna.
He didn’t jump when he felt her move up behind him, but his skin did tingle when the tips of her fingers trailed along his shoulder blades. Her arms slid around him, small and slender, her skin soft and warm against his own cold, marble frame.
“Hi.” Her breath ghosted over his back.
“Did you hunt?” she asked quietly, her fingers tracing the sliver of blonde hair that ran from his navel down his stomach and into the waistband of his tailored trousers.
“Yes.” He hated to admit such a thing to Luna, but he also knew that she would know he had fed off another human being whether he told her so or not. It was just in his nature now.
“Did you catch?” Her voice was a breathy whisper, her lips grazing his skin as she spoke.
Draco swallowed reflexively, his fangs lengthening, his face changing as his emotions heightened. “Yes.”
“Would you like to catch some more?”
“Huh?” His forehead ruffled in confusion.
“Nothing worth having comes easy, Draco.“ She pressed a kiss to the centre of his back and then she was gone, slipping out of the door and into the darkened hallway.
Draco took a moment to get his head straight, his senses tingling, his muscles tightening in anticipation as he pulled off his socks allowing his bare feet to be cushioned by the carpet. His nose wrinkled when he eyed the threadbare carpet, all dark and dingy. His Malfoy side was still very strong.
Moving swiftly to the door, Draco left the bedroom and stood in the hallway. The bathroom was a few doors down, the door itself stood ajar and Draco could feel the heavy steam in the air tinged with the scent of jasmine that told him Luna had taken a bath earlier this evening. She always used jasmine scented soaps.
“So, you want to be chased do you, Luna?” he murmured, his lips curling into a smirk.
Draco found Luna’s scent easily; her hair, her skin, her blood, it all drew together and created the most appealing, tantalising scent he had ever encountered. He drew the scent deeply into his nose, letting it lock in his head and rock deliciously through his entire body right down to his toes.
His fangs throbbing, his body wound as tightly as a coiled spring, Draco stalked forward into the dimness of the hallway, following the strong scent.. He paused at two doors to listen carefully, assessing the quietness of the rooms beyond and deciding that Luna had not hidden in either one of them.
He stopped abruptly as he turned a corner, starting stupidly at the wall in front of him. He had come to a dead end. There was no room in which Luna could have hidden and Draco was fairly certain she had not hidden in the rooms he had already past. He examined the grimy wall with the cracked and peeling wall paper, his vampire vision allowing him the luxury of perfect night vision. Pressing a palm flat to the wall, Draco smoothed his hand over and over it, pressing and retreating as he went. Finally, completely accidentally as Draco wasn’t sure that there would be some hidden passage way or room or something of that kind, a panel in the bottom of the wall slid to one side.
Draco smirked, Luna’s scent hit him straight away. Crouching down, Draco peered into the small hole and found Luna curled into a ball.
“You found me,” she said in an congratulatory tone.
Draco rolled his eyes. “You don’t hide very well, Luna.” He held out his hand to help her crawl out, afraid to pull her out in case he hurt her. “How did you fit in there?”
“With some difficulty,” she admitted, scrambling out onto her knees and slipping her arms around his neck almost immediately. “Aren’t you clever to find me, Draco.”
“Not really,” Draco smoothed her hair from her face. “I’d find you anywhere.”
“How nice,” she smiled sweetly and kissed him; a soft, deep kiss that made him growl in the back of his throat.
He heard her breath catch as his fangs extended again and the sharp tips pressed into the soft plumpness of her bottom lip. For a brief moment, Draco entertained the idea of biting. He remembered all too clearly the taste of her blood, how her skin parted so easily at his insistence and the hot, rich, sweet, red liquid would flow into his mouth, tingle over his tongue and caress his throat, giving him a strength and power Draco never knew existed.
Instead his mouth moved over her jaw, down her neck and he buried his face at her throat feeling the soft warmth of her flesh and the erratic beat of her pulse. His fangs scratched at her skin, and he warned himself again not to bite. To bite would mean he would hurt her, and Draco didn’t want to hurt Luna.
Luna winced in pain. “Your hurting me, Draco.”
He hadn’t realised how tightly he was holding her, and Draco released the pressure of his arms around her small frame. He felt her fingers smooth through his hair and she pressed a little kiss to his cheek. Luna didn’t have to say anything, Draco knew it was her way of telling him well done for not giving into temptation.
When he kissed her again, Draco felt Luna’s body relaxing in his embrace, leaning into him as she kissed him back, his own desire met by hers. Her tongue flickered, very lightly, experimentally, over the tip of one of his fangs and he growled; a blazing heat shooting through his body, hitting his groin with lightening speed.
The next thing Luna knew, she had been flipped onto her back so quickly, so forcefully that she lost her breath and her bearings. She blinked rapidly, staring up at Draco who was now in complete vampire form, his game face on , his fangs startlingly white in the darkness and a growl rumbling low in his chest.
She swallowed, her fingers holding tightly to Draco’s arms, afraid to move, or to speak. Normally, Luna wasn’t afraid of Draco, but she was aware that she had done something stupid, something that if she was anything other than human herself would have been a good thing, but Draco’s dark passion, as wonderful as it was, could also be truly terrifying and put her in a life or death situation.
So, Luna stayed perfectly still and waited as Draco hovered over her, his arms locked, his eyes watching her carefully as he tried to pull himself under control. How long she lay there Luna didn’t know, but presently, Draco lowered his head towards hers, his game face still in place but his emotions reigned in enough to allow him to continue, to kiss her and send her mind spinning.
Draco’s hands, cool on her hot skin made Luna ache and her body arched into his, her arms and legs wrapping around him, keeping him close as her blood sizzled in her veins and desire flooded her entire being.
Draco might very well be scary. He might terrify her on occasions and hold her very life in his hands. But in this moment Luna didn’t care, she had what she wanted. And she wanted, needed, Draco Malfoy.
Draco could hear, although Luna could not as they were deeper in the house than usual, the sound of his father’s voice calling up the stairs to him, demanding that he go down to the library. Well, Draco thought, his father could bloody well wait; his body could not. Whatever it was Lucius Malfoy wanted, Draco had the sinking feeling it was better to put off finding out until later. It wasn’t going to be anything he wanted to do, of that he was sure.