Draco sat on the window ledge, the cold soaking into his thighs as he stared at the stone floor, elbows resting on his knees. He wanted to crawl up inside himself, then try crawling up inside himself again. He'd overreacted that much was clear if the look of pure shock plastered almost comically across his friends' faces were anything to go by. Pansy would corner him, of that he was certain. She'd sidle up, and ask all manner of personal questions, before finding out his secret. He would be named and shamed, hexed and hated. Then sent into banishment, where he would forever spend the rest of his days cursing Granger and her stupid name. Draco groaned into his hands forlornly, wondering if he could get hold of a time turner.
"Malfoy?" He groaned again at the sound of her voice, hoping that it was just an illusion brought on by his recent bout of crazy.
"You're not real, I'm imagining things," He muttered to himself, wincing when he felt the tell-tale thrum of magic that permeated the air whenever she was around. No such luck.
"Malfoy…" Hermione hesitated, tipping her head to the side in concern. She'd spotted Malfoy when he'd had his little outburst and for reasons completely unknown to her, she had decided to follow him. The Gryffindor bravery that had been at her heel, urging her forward had now somehow dissipated and she was at a loss as what to do or say. She was all too aware of what had happened the last time they had seen each other, and though she had convinced herself it didn't matter, being in his presence again made her think that somehow it did, it really did.
"Malfoy, we need to…" The blonde stood up quickly, picking his bag up from off the floor and stalking past her.
"Leave me alone, Granger." Hermione bristled, keeping pace with him as he stormed down the corridor.
"We need to talk." She could not believe that in spite of everything he still managed to her annoy her with just a few words.
"There's nothing to talk about." Draco sped up, wondering if he could just attempt to apparate, how bad could it realistically go?
"Yes, there is Malfoy, and you know there is." Draco rolled his eyes.
"Why can't you just…fine, what is it your bushy hairdness would like to talk about now? About fighting for all the wishy-washy goodness in the world? Perhaps you've come to tell me that my distaste for our little conversations about all things nice and flowery, is actually due to my repressed desire to become a hero? Spoiler alert, Granger, you're wrong."
"Would you just stop," Hermione huffed, once again falling behind, "Stop being a prat and just-just listen. It's about last night." Draco stopped suddenly, and Hermione stumbled so as not to bump into him.
"You want to talk about last night? Okay, here's a rundown," Draco started walking again, but slower this time, wanting Hermione to hear every word. "You, being the particular brand of touchy Gryffindor, that you are, got all up in arms, when I, being realistic,"
"Pratish more like," Hermione muttered under her breath.
"Told you a few home truths."
"They were not truths…they were - look I'm not here to argue you with you."
"Then don't." He shrugged and without missing a beat, continued, "Then - for reasons entirely to do with your proclivity for sticking your snout where it doesn't belong - a bowl plucked us from the library and dumped us in someone else's memory. And then, guess what Granger?" He stopped, turning to look at her, his grey eyes glimmering, making her breath catch.
"What?" she asked, cursing herself when she realised how breathless she sounded.
"Nothing - and I'm going to repeat this, just in case, you missed it like you do everything else - nothing else happened. You hear me, nothing." Draco concentrated on his own words, hoping that if he said it enough, then it might be true. He knew it was hopeless when he felt guilty at the hurt that flashed across her face before being replaced with a look of sheer determination.
"Harry saw us," Hermione said, the words leaving her mouth like a sigh. For a moment Draco just stared at her, wondering vaguely if she'd noticed him staring at her lips, thanking Merlin that she'd spoken before he'd done something really stupid.
"What?" He spluttered.
"Well more like he heard us," Hermione lifted her bag strap further up her shoulder, trailing behind the Slytherin as he began walking listlessly down the corridor, running his fingers through his hair in frustration.
"Damn, Potty, why does he have to get involved with everything?" He mumbled, shouldering past some first years, who'd been stupid enough to wander in front of him, Hermione shot them a sympathetic smile as she passed.
"Oh, real mature, Malfoy," Hermione scoffed, following him up a stairwell, realising that he was heading up to the astronomy tower, "and it's not like he specifically followed us, he was researching. He said he heard voices that sounded like you and me, went to investigate, but, poof," she opened her hand in mid-air, as she said it, "we'd gone."
Hermione looked up as she bumped into Malfoy, who'd paused on the steps shooting her an amused smirk, over his shoulder. "Poof? Is that the er, technical term?" He questioned, raising one eyebrow, barely containing the laughter. Hermione stared down at her feet self-consciously.
"It's a figure of speech" she mumbled, annoyed at herself when she felt the burn of a blush on her cheeks.
"And I have a secret fetish for unicorns," He said dryly.
"Well, that's not beyond the realms of possibility. Is it the horn?" Draco squinted his eyes in annoyance and carried on climbing the steps, trying to ignore the churning in the pit of his stomach. She'd looked so nice, and he'd thought how easy it would be just to close the space between them. Just once, just to find out what the fascination was with biting that bottom lip all the time.
"Either way, we'd gone," Hermione continued, still grinning at her joke.
"Soo, what did you tell him?"
Hermione shrugged, "I told him I wasn't anywhere near the library, or you, for that matter." Hermione sucked in fresh air as they made it to the top of the astronomy tower, the wind blowing ferociously, grey clouds rumbling angrily in the sky. The Astronomy tower was always so quiet on a stormy day, the cold weather chasing any would be stragglers inside. Hermione would always brave the elements just to have space to herself, watching forks of lightning crackle across the sky and stab into the ground in a flash of light. In the wonder of it all, the usual thoughts that plagued her mind on a daily basis fell silent.
"And Potty just believed you?" Draco asked, leaning against the railings of the tower and pinning her with a grey stare, the same colour as the clouds.
"I'm not in the habit of lying, Malfoy," she muttered, realising the hypocrisy of her statement considering she had, in fact, lied to Harry. She gripped the iron railing focusing on the bite of cold against her palm.
"Hmm, I've always believed that myself, but here we are several lies and rule breakings later and not so much as a hint of heart palpitation."
'Correct me if I'm wrong,' Hermione said, turning her head to look at him, as he mirrored her actions; gripping the rail and looking out at the rain that was falling in great heavy sheets, "but that almost sounded like you, a Malfoy, admitting you were wrong about something. This could actually be the end of the world. We have the weather for it I suppose."
"Oh, ha-ha, Granger," Draco said, rolling his eyes before meeting her gaze, "congratulations on making a funny." In spite of his sarcasm, Hermione smiled, puffing out her chest with pride. "Besides,' he shrugged, "admitting I'm wrong in order to prove you are in fact a liar, still in line with the Malfoy code, the end justifies the means."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night," Hermione muttered.
"That would be a stuffed unicorn.' His eyes glittered, a grin chasing dimples into his cheeks, that only grew as Hermione started giggling. He made a grand display of sauntering to the other side of the tower when thoughts of how adorable she looked stifling her giggles threatened drastic actions such as flinging himself off the tower.
"So, what is the point in all this, Granger. We going to have to take out Potter, does he know too much?" Hermione sobered at his words, tapping the cold metal under her hands awkwardly.
"Harry says that he believes me, but I know him, he probably knows that something's up."
"So, I was thinking, that…that if we were going to meet, then we'd have to be careful about it." Draco's heart hammered in his chest; she wanted to meet him, wanted to spend time with him. The idea of it made him happy and disgusted all at once, unsure of how to react, he scoffed.
"You sure you want to spend time with? Remember I'm not as drastically heroic as Potty." He spat, he wanted it to sound harsh, but it didn't, it sounded more like a challenge, and as always, she rose to the occasion.
"Wha...you're still banging on about that? Slytherins are so petty," she said incredulously, shaking her head.
"And Gryffindors - one, in particular, naming and shaming, you - are insufferable." he pointed at her, shooting her a smug smirk as she scowled at him. Draco died a little inside when he realised that the wrinkle in her nose looked decidedly cute.
"So, you've said, like a thousand times," she answered wearily.
"And yet it still hasn't sunk in. I wonder why that is?" Draco tapped his chin in mock thought, "is it the bushy mane of, what you like to call, hair, or the overinflated sense of know-it-allness, that drowns out the noise?"
"No, it's my Ferrity Prat Filter, FPF for short, gets rid of all the white noise tossers like you make." the statement left him both stunned and impressed.
"Touché, Granger. There's Slytherin in you yet." The words left his mouth before he could stop them, and he watched in horror as they made her smile.
"Nope, it's all Gryffindor. You jealous?" she said looking rather smug.
Draco nearly recoiled when he realised that she was flirting with him, and she was doing it because he'd started it. What had been his desperate attempt at arguing had turned into playful jabs, and she'd bitten back. He hated how much he loved it, how much he wanted to carry on doing it. She surprised him constantly and he was finding it hard to think past how amazing her smile looked, and how it would only take once, just once to find out what she tasted…
"Oh, I forgot to tell you, I've been doing some research." Her words tugged him back into reality, and he watched as she knelt down searching through her school bag.
"So, trying something new, then?" he commented dryly, unable to stop himself from grinning when she shot him an irritated look. It didn't take long before she was stepping towards him, offering up a leather-bound book. He turned, letting the cool metal dig into his back, as he leant against the railings lazily, taking the book from her. Old magic was scrawled across the front in gold. Hesitantly he began flicking through the tome, he'd never heard of such a thing before, but, to his continual annoyance, it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that Granger would have unearthed something about magic that he'd had no idea existed.
"Old magic, it's...incredible. Magic has always been powerful but from what this book describes what we know of spells today is nothing compared to what they used to be like." Draco noted the wonder in her voice, staring up at her, distracted momentarily by the glimmer of awe in her brown eyes. He gulped and looked back down at the book, trying to concentrate on the words. "Apparently wands were made specifically for a wizard, their blood used in the crafting process, that's probably why the wand we found reacted to you the way it did."
"Written by Liptious Lipitiboo." Draco gave her a pointed look. Hermione scowled brushing off his amused stare. She knew all about Liptious Lipitiboo, a pseudonym for a wizard that took it upon himself to cover all the conspiracies that the wizarding world had to offer, writing very in-depth and ultimately pointless texts that were based on almost no evidence.
"I know- I know, but how else do you explain what happened. It has to mean something, even if he is way off what if this conspiracy was, I don't know, based on some fact. It's all we've got to go on. I thought that we could try some spells, maybe get you used to using it. You'll notice that while some are the same, there are hexes and curses that require different forms."
"You expect any of these to work?"
"It's worth a try, surely." Draco sighed, wondering how she could always be so exhaustingly hopeful. It appeared that nothing, not even logic could dissuade her once she got an idea in her head. Hermione turned the pages for him, grinning as she pointed out spells that seemed vaguely familiar, but they sounded different and the movement of the wand was unfamiliar. His heart gave a squeeze when he realised how much it all meant to her. He stayed quiet, not trusting himself to speak.
"I thought with Harry sniffing around, we could meet during the second task."
"What about Potty?"
"What about him?" Hermione asked, defensively.
"Well you know, taking part in said second task, may or may not become the boy who lived to die. Just so happens to be your bosom buddy?"
Hermione stared at her shoes sheepishly. She did feel guilty, as soon as she'd had the idea, she'd felt terrible. But being with Malfoy meant she might get to return to the Sensieve, might find out more about Mina and Edward's story, and weirdly, spending time with him wasn't as bad as she'd initially thought.
"I'm going to help him prepare, give him everything he needs. Look if you don't think it's a good idea, we don't have to do it."
Draco stared at the book in his hands, wondering what his father would say if he knew where he was, who he was talking to, what he was thinking. Pulling himself together and telling her that she could shove her idea up her prissy little arse seemed like the only option. But he just couldn't do it, not when he looked up at her and saw her brown eyes gazing into his with hope.
"Okay," He mumbled. All the thoughts of his father, of what was right and wrong and telling her that she could forget her idea flew out into the storm and were irrelevant, inconsequential, fading into absolute nothingness because she was smiling at him.