Disclaimer: This is a non-profit derivative work based on the world and characters of J. K. Rowling.
Characters: Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Others
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance, Smut
Main Pairing: Draco/Hermione
Story Warnings: Dubious Consent, Epilogue? What Epilogue?, Psychological Trauma, Smut
Overall Rating: NC-17
Summary: Nine years after Voldemort's defeat, Hermione decides to take a holiday from her life to work out who she is and what she wants to do with herself. She soon gets the feeling that Draco Malfoy might be the key to her salvation, but Draco seems to be consumed by a need to keep secrets that are destroying him and does not want her interfering. Armed with a determination to save someone who doesn't want to be saved, she sets out to see how he might fit into the oddly shaped puzzle that is her life.
Credit: Thank you to dollfaced, namelessamelie and mazvn for the comprehensive beta and filigree1 for the Britpick. Extra thank you to dollfaced for the banner.
Chapter Length: 7,328
Hermione was filled with the most wonderful tingling sensations as her lover stood over her, touching her, making her squirm beneath him. He stayed her with a pleading voice. He was not yet inside her but he was standing so close, she could feel him. She could feel his need. The very idea that she could make him so excited made her both playful and eager for more, so she squirmed again, this time earning herself a sharp reprimand and a bruising grip on her hip. She didn't care. She just wanted more, and for some reason, she couldn't tell him.
Suddenly he bent down and bit her neck, and there was a blinding flash of reddish grey, making her discontent and she struggled against him, but only for a moment. Then he was moving inside of her, and it was the most wonderful feeling. It was all so new and exciting. He was doing his very best to hold back for her, she just knew, and then it all came together in a burst of bright colours. She looked up at her lover to tell him how amazing it had been, only to see that he was no longer close. She was now standing outside. The moon was full above her, and he had his back turned to her, his hair a bit too long and unmistakably blond. "How can you say that I don't love you?" he whispered.
She frowned. No, it couldn't be him. She looked again, and now he was definitely a young teenage Malfoy, sneering at her and saying, "I hate you! Nobody hears about this, do you hear?"
Gasping, Hermione sat up in her bed, staring wide-eyed at the darkness. Then, as it occurred to her what she had just dreamed, she clasped her mouth with one hand before she let out a horrified giggle.
She'd had a sex dream about Draco Malfoy just now. Clearly, celibacy was addling her brains.
But then again, maybe it hadn't been Malfoy doing the actual sex part. People tended to turn into other people at the blink of an eye when she dreamt things, and they said the most confusing things that always made sense until the moment she woke up. Even if it had been him, it was probably because of that whole loaded conversation she'd had with him on their way back from Hogsmeade. Or maybe it had been because of that potion he'd fed her. Who only knew what had been in that potion? She'd only sipped enough to be able to fake having taken it. The rest had generously been poured down a potted plant that Hermione had been very grateful to find as she'd been wary of doing magic. She'd then slapped her own cheeks in an attempt to look warmed up and healthy.
She'd never trusted Draco Malfoy very much, but she especially didn't trust him when he was suddenly so very concerned for her health and insisting on taking care of it personally. Her every instinct had told her not to drink that potion, and she had long since learned to trust her instincts. Instead she'd waited and gone to the hospital wing where she'd woken up Madam Vera to get a safer treatment. If there were a next time, she would keep her mouth shut around Malfoy and go straight to Madam Vera. She didn't know exactly what Malfoy was up to, but she planned on never finding out. She'd simply be more cautious around him and continue to trust her instincts.
Never mind that those supposedly trustworthy instincts were currently telling her that trying to make this sex dream real might be worth it. Apparently instincts didn't mix well with hormones.
After eating a light breakfast and getting a head start on marking essays, Hermione decided to seek out company for a while. Darius was usually hanging around the staffroom, hoping for someone to help him with his projects. The other teachers sometimes made short appearances as well. And Malfoy... Malfoy's habits were rather erratic, so she didn't even venture a guess. Darius had at one point commented that Malfoy used to be around the staffroom more often, but perhaps Malfoy simply didn't have the time these days.
Hermione found it more likely that Malfoy was simply avoiding her. She didn't know why exactly he would avoid her, but the distaste in his face whenever he looked at her was too pronounced for her to miss. He disliked her to a degree that seemed to come awfully close to hate. That saddened her. She didn't particularly like being hated--who did?--and she didn't quite understand what she'd done to deserve this. Normally, she would attempt to change this state, but Malfoy's eagerness to give her some strange potion last night gave her pause. It was potentially very bad for her health to get caught up with Malfoy and she would probably be much better off merely leaving him alone.
Of course, with that thought dominating her mind, the only one down in the staffroom today would turn out to be Draco Malfoy. If he'd heard her enter, he certainly didn't make the effort to show it. Rather, he remained engrossed in the newspaper he was reading. Hermione stopped and--because she really was terrible at leaving people alone--wondered if he'd acknowledge her if she simply stood there and stared at him long enough.
Putting it to the test, she folded her arms over her chest and pursed her lips, examining the silence nobody was filling. It really wasn't that silent. There was the rustle of her clothes whenever she moved and the crackle of his newspaper, whenever he turned a page. Not to mention this very low hum that she couldn't quite place. Narrowing her eyes, she considered for a bit, finally concluding that since there was no electricity, the hum must be made by the castle. What she was hearing was the hum of a millennium's worth of magic. It was really quite extraordinary--awe-inspiring, even.
Finally, he lowered the paper, pinning her with an annoyed glare. Oh, so he had noticed her, then?
"Hermione! You're up!" It was Darius who had entered behind Hermione, momentarily distracting her. When she glanced back at Malfoy, he'd returned to his newspaper. How typical.
"Indeed," she said, flashing her brightest smile at Darius. "Did he say something?" she nodded towards Malfoy.
"What, Grumpy there? No. He's not exactly talkative, as you know. But this place is rather chatty. Word even has it that his girlfriend demanded he walk you home. That must have been delightful for everyone." Darius seemed to have problems keeping a straight face at the very thought.
She snorted. "Yes. Positively stimulating."
She didn't even have to look at Malfoy to know that he'd raised an eyebrow at her choice of words. Flashes from the dream she'd had last night rose in her mind and she fought hard not to blush. She should probably go easy on the innuendo today.
Darius looked equally intrigued and unfortunately didn't seem to have a subtle or merciful bone in his body. "What makes you say that, then?"
She shrugged and sat down, avoiding looking at Malfoy. She could lie. She should lie. But if she lied, that would mean acknowledging that the dreams meant something. They most definitely didn't. "Nothing," she lied, glancing back at him.
Malfoy's mouth twitched, and she knew she'd somehow still given it away. Blast it.
Darius sat down in his usual spot. "Apart from having to deal with this bloke, were you all right last night?"
"Oh, yes. I was fine. I had some, uh, interesting dreams, but that's hardly worth mentioning." So why had she? She hoped nobody would ask any additional questions.
But of course they did.
"What kind of dreams?" Malfoy had suddenly decided to be a part of the conversation, forcing her to look at him.
His eyes were oddly intense, making a shock go through her lower abdomen as she remembered what last night's dreams had been about.
"Oh, now you get curious." Darius sniggered.
"I'm not even certain what happened in them," Hermione lied. Lying was becoming a nasty habit, but she simply couldn't tell Malfoy the details. "It was merely very... clear. Very colourful. A bit feverish." Oh, yes. Definitely feverish. And colourful. In a sense.
"It could mean something. Don't leave out any details," Malfoy prodded.
She opened her mouth to refuse replying, but then thought better of it. He'd think she was hiding something. Oh, she definitely shouldn't have said anything. "It really wasn't anything extraordinary," she hedged instead. "It was all very confusing and didn't make any sense. I've forgotten most of it, actually." More lies.
He gave her a long look. "I thought you said the dreams were clear."
"They were," she said. "I woke up convinced they were real. But everything faded rather quickly." Except that her pounding heart and the throbbing between her legs had taken quite some time to fade. But he really didn't need to know that, and she had to stop thinking about it!
She'd never had much of a poker face, but she did her best to emulate one anyway.
"Hm." Malfoy narrowed his eyes, studying her in the most unsettling way. Then he relaxed. "It was probably nothing, then."
If he hadn't been so hard to read (there was nothing wrong with his poker face) she would have thought he was relieved. She couldn't help but study him now to try to figure out why he was so interested in some silly fever dream.
He stared back at her, but when she didn't let that faze her, he abruptly excused himself and left the room with not as much as a backward glance.
Hermione blinked. "He really is an odd one, isn't he?" she asked the chair he'd been occupying.
"You'll get used to him," Darius said. "But about the dream... you left out the good parts, didn't you?" He sat down in the newly vacated chair and pursed his lips at her.
"What good parts?" Oh, dear.
Darius snorted. "You looked so embarrassed. You dreamt about him, didn't you?"
If she kept denying it, it would only seem extra suspicious. Curse her for being too honest. "Is that supposed to mean something now?"
He shook his head. "Not at all. I had a dream about Minerva the other night, and she isn't quite my type."
Hermione couldn't help the giggle. Minerva McGonagall must be pushing a hundred by now, and Darius couldn't be much older than thirty. Talk about what a May-December relationship that would be!
"So what was it about?" Darius prodded. "I promise I won't tease. Much."
"I don't think so."
"Come now, Hermione. There's no reception for my telly here, so my entertainment options are already severely limited. Don't deny me this chance to know something that Malfoy doesn't."
Hermione made a face. "It was as bad as it gets."
Hermione sighed. What did it matter if Darius knew? What did it even matter if Malfoy knew? It had been a silly dream, nothing more. Why was she behaving like one of the school girls she was teaching? "I had sex with him," she confessed. "In the dream, I mean. On a table or something, because I seem to remember he was standing over me and I was on something hard and flat. But the scenery changed once or twice so I can't be completely certain."
"Why can't you have those kind of dreams about me?" Darius teased. "Then we could go and see if reality would live up to the dream. As a highly scientific experiment, of course."
She ignored the teasing. "The funny thing, though, was that I think it must have been my first time. At least there was some kind of pain. It's all very odd since the dream didn't at all resemble my actual first time, which was... uh, well, not relevant actually, so never mind." She blushed again. Some things were private.
"So it was bad sex, then?" he asked, perking up. "Maybe it's your subconscious's way of telling you that tangling with Malfoy will be bad for you."
"Oh, and it's not like you have an agenda," she half-scolded, half-teased.
He shook his head. "So maybe I do. A little bit. But the thing is... Malfoy is... I've known him for two years now, and Carys is the first witch that I've seen him treat like an actual human being. Well, apart from Minerva and let's not go there again. I don't know if you actually mean to encourage him with your hints and blushes, but..." Darius grimaced.
Hermione stared at him. He thought she was trying to encourage Malfoy? And he was giving her a serious warning? "I thought the two of you were some kind of friends," she said after a short pause.
"Friends?" he asked with a short laugh. "Whatever gave you that idea? Malfoy tolerates other people. He does not make friends. I try to stay somewhat on his good side because he's always willing to supply a bit of magic to get me to shut up and leave him alone, but that's as far as it goes."
"Oh." Hermione sat back. She'd of course noticed how the two of them addressed each other, but she hadn't actually thought there'd been this level of dislike behind it.
"But I suppose he's not a bad sort entirely," Darius amended, seeing the look on her face. "He doesn't ignore me any more than he ignores anyone else, and that's more than can be said for most people. Things are going much better for me than I could ever have hoped when I took the mad chance and applied for this job, but there are those who don't want to see me in this position. Each year so far, a few students have dropped my class after learning that I can't do magic."
"That's awful!" Hermione immediately objected.
He smiled at her, indulgently, as if she were an over-eager pet. "I suppose. But I prefer to focus on the good things in life."
That, Hermione supposed, was one of the greater differences between her and Darius. She was always going to focus on the things that needed to be fixed.
Bracing herself and holding firmer onto her load of scrolls, Hermione firmly knocked on the one blasted door she had tried to avoid. As expected, she was told in a clear tone to "Enter!" and so she did.
Draco Malfoy was seated behind his desk, marking essays. And from the amount of red ink, she would say he was doing a very thorough job of it. Really. If he was so opposed to the idea of being compared to Severus Snape, he shouldn't act like him.
She hadn't seen him about for a while now, except at the occasional meal. She got the distinct impression that he was avoiding her. But considering the nature of the dream she'd had, she didn't mind that overly much. It was very difficult to have an intimate dream about someone and then look them in the eyes without blushing, after all.
"Granger?" he asked, rising from his seat, but not offering her a chair. "Can I help you?"
She hadn't noticed the first time she'd been here, but his office was devoid of any personal touches. No pictures, no funny little knick-knack that didn't belong, not even any books beyond what she assumed must be the most standard writings for his subject. It was like he didn't want to feel too at home here. It made her sad to see how consistently he seemed to reject anything that could be warm and comforting in his life. There wasn't even a picture of his family, which was something Hermione would have expected if she'd thought about it.
But that was none of her business, so she merely said, "I've come up with some ideas for a House Unity project to be done later in the year and I was handing these out to the other Heads of Houses for some initial feedback."
"That's... good?" He looked puzzled and a little annoyed.
She decided to play with him. "Yes, isn't it?"
He didn't seem to want to play. "But what does it have to do with me? I'm not a Head."
Oh, the potential to make fun of him with that unintentional pun. But she must not stoop that low. Not right now, anyway. "No, I know. Horace Slughorn is the Head of Slytherin." She smiled and patiently waited for a response.
"So why are you here?" he finally gritted out.
"Why, he sent me here, of course," she blithely replied. "He listened to my pitch and then decided it was a task for young people to handle."
Actually, he'd mostly seemed like he'd wanted to get rid of her, and Malfoy looked as if he suspected as much.
"He can't put it all on me!" he insisted. "Tell McGonagall that he's trying to weasel out of it and what kind of poor message that sends. I'm sure she'll beat him into submission."
Hermione shook her head. "Mm, not really, no. She decided it was a marvellous idea and asked me to arrange for a younger team across the Houses. That means you, me, Darius Dorcas and Variel Volubilis. Wow, try saying that three times fast."
"Dorky doesn't have a House."
"He functions under Hufflepuff. Grubbly-Plank had no problem with him representing her House."
He scowled extra hard as if it were her fault that Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank, current Head of Hufflepuff, hadn't put up a fight. "What's Flitwick's excuse? Variel doesn't even live in the castle!"
"She doesn't need to, actually. As the Transfiguration teacher, she's visible enough. She's agreed to stay late some days, and nobody said the Heads couldn't help us at all. Have you finished protesting?"
He placed his palms on his desk and leaned forwards, a strangely intense look in his eyes. "I don't want to get caught up in any of your stupid projects, Granger."
"My projects aren't stupid!" she immediately objected.
He snorted. "What's this project about, then?"
"An outing to a Muggle town."
"That's about as stupid as it gets." He sat back down, all but dismissing her presence.
She sniffed, a little wounded. "The othering of Muggles, to the extent where nobody seems to know even the very basics, is what makes our society so weak in the face of hate- and fear-mongering."
"If that's what Dorky wants to do with his Muggle Studies class, then by all means--"
"No, it should be mandatory."
"What, all of the school?"
"No, I was thinking just one of the years to begin with. Maybe fourth year, that's nice and in the middle. Or seventh year, if we want to reach them with at least one project before they leave, although their heads are probably so full of the NEWTs that--"
"Could you shut up for a second?" He'd sat back and was rubbing his temple as if he had a headache. "Why don't you just do whatever you want?" he then said, as if refusing to participate was promoting unity in any way.
"Because you'd all have to come along if we're going anywhere," she said. "Especially you. Slytherin is the House I'm expecting the most resistance from."
"Fine. I'll do whatever it takes to get you to shut up and leave me alone."
Oh, how frustrating! Why did he always have to be such a disinterested git? She seemed to be able to vaguely remember a time when he'd had passions too. For all the wrong things, granted, but there had to be a way to redirect that. He had to have new things that caught his interest and made him want to devote his time and energies to them. She would find something that would make him want to help her, even if it killed her! But first things first. "That's not good enough! You have to get involved, Malfoy, and help us work towards a better understanding across the Houses!"
"Oh, I have to do that, do I?" He scowled at her.
"In that case--the Muggle town trip is an even stupider idea. If you want to promote House unity and not just try to sell one of your numerous uninspired causes, you'll have to do something that's closer to home."
"Huh." She sat down uninvited. "What do you suggest?"
"I don't know, Granger. Something that mixes it up a bit so they would have to socialize outside their own Houses."
Hermione nodded, seeing his reasoning. "I guess we have to think of something to that effect, then."
She ignored his dramatically pained look. He'd been the one to invite a whole new idea, so he really shouldn't complain when he got his way.
Her decision to leave him alone had been completely forgotten.
"So what was wrong with the staffroom?" Darius asked, looking around the meeting room Hermione had hijacked for the occasion.
"The staffroom," she explained, unloading her parchments on the large table, "is where we go to relax. I wanted a more productive setting."
"That makes sense," Variel Volubilis--the wizarding world certainly seemed to favour tongue twister names--said, sitting down next to Malfoy, far too closely to be subtle, since they were only the four of them in this room. Malfoy, who Hermione had expected to be either indifferent or sneer, shot Variel a mischievous little smile that Variel took as an invitation to lean even closer.
Hermione didn't actually know Variel very well, but already the witch annoyed her. She'd seen her around, of course, at some meals and at the monthly staff meeting, but the other woman tended to go home as soon as she was done with her classes for the day unless she had office hours. She was a few years older than the rest of them--yet not old enough to stop Darius from flirting--and usually seemed nice enough. Then again, possibly no witch was old enough to stop Darius. It didn't matter, though, as she was too busy going after Malfoy to even notice Darius's antics. And Malfoy... although usually aloof, seemed to return those looks now.
"What brought this on?" Darius asked. "I thought we already had a plan."
"Malfoy killed it," Hermione said, making Malfoy sigh and close his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. That annoyed her as well. Why could he never be civil around her, when he could flirt with Variel?
"I'm sorry I ever said anything," he said to no one in particular.
"But I wanted to go!" Darius said, looking quite disappointed.
"You can still go, Dorky," Malfoy said. "No one is keeping you tied down here."
"I can't take students out without anyone with magic accompanying us," Darius growled at Malfoy. "And you very well know that."
"I'll go with you," Hermione offered, rather absentmindedly.
Darius immediately perked up. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. But I want to solve this first."
"So... " Variel said, glancing at Malfoy but addressing Hermione. "What exactly is it you need?"
Hermione took a deep breath, willing all of her irrational annoyance with half the people present to go away before she replied, "There's a lot of competitiveness between the Houses, which is perfectly fine, but the students tend to allow that rivalry to take over. I want to introduce something that will force them to see beyond their own House and possibly form interhouse friendships."
"You can't force people to form friendships, Granger," Malfoy said.
"No, but I can force them to do things that make it easier to form those friendships!" she snapped, making Malfoy raise an eyebrow at her. If she didn't know better, she'd say he looked amused.
"I like it," Variel said. "Something like a-a school play? They had those at Beauxbatons every year I worked there."
"That's... that's actually a good idea," Hermione said, making a note of it whilst disliking Variel more each passing minute. Why did her suggestion have to make sense?
"Wrong," Malfoy said in an extremely bored voice. "It's an awful idea, although not nearly as awful as going to a Muggle village." He didn't even seem to notice how put out Variel looked at his blunt dismissal. Hermione noticed and had to suppress a smile.
She mentally scolded herself for being petty and asked, "Why's that?" Then she narrowed her eyes at him for good measure.
"Think it through for a moment, will you?" Draco asked, haughty as ever. "There are no current students with a passion for the arts, or they would have approached someone for permission to set something up or at the very least we'd see some shenanigans in their free time. So someone in this room will get stuck doing all the work. That means either trying to get students to sign up or, worse, making participation mandatory, which would probably result in active resistance from the students. Then there's coming up with a script, where and when to rehearse and perform, hours and hours of directing, costumes, music, scenery... and I haven't even touched on all the scheduling and re-scheduling that would need to be done to fit in lessons, homework, quidditch, runny noses, the odd detention... Do any of you care enough to do even a fraction of that? I certainly don't."
Hermione glowered at him. He was right. The majority of the work load would land on the teachers. And why was she so bloody pleased that Variel's idea wasn't so good after all? "Nobody said this would be a free ride."
"No, but you're hopelessly naïve," he retorted. "You think if you force the kids together, they will naturally bond. They won't. The division is there for a reason--because people like it that way. Nobody is telling them they can't be friends with someone from another House. They just don't always happen to have anything in common!"
There was a brief silence where Hermione didn't quite know how to respond to his statement.
"Wow," Darius then said. "Grumpy suddenly has a lot of opinions!"
"But he has a point," Variel added to nobody's great surprise. "I mean... I'm still supporting the general idea, but I'm not about to sacrifice my every waking moment to this cause. And I see children mingling between Houses all the time. The only Houses that don't really want to mingle with each other are Gryffindor and Slytherin, and that's because they are polar opposites."
"You see Slytherin mingling with Hufflepuff?" Hermione asked.
Variel shrugged. "I have at least one sixth year Slytherin girl and Hufflepuff boy that are seeing each other. They're both very good at Quidditch, and he frequently laments that she has to play for the wrong team and keep losing him the Cup."
"Times have changed, Granger," Malfoy said with a vague sneer. "I thought you would have at least watched the kids a little."
"I've tried to," Hermione said, ignoring his derision as best she could and making more notes, "but in my class they all tend to sort themselves by House. I haven't had much chance to watch them socially outside lessons."
"Sounds to me," Darius said, "like it's really the two of you that need to hash it out. Between your Houses, I mean."
Malfoy now openly sneered.
Variel hurriedly added, "But of course we will be here to help."
Hermione fought back a groan. It really did seem like she might need to talk to Malfoy about this. In private. "All right," she forced herself to say. "Let's think about this and then meet up again in a few days, shall we?"
Naturally, Malfoy was the first one out of there, swiftly followed by Variel. Hermione took her time gathering her notes and Darius simply sat there, watching her. It was unnerving.
Finally, just as she was getting ready to leave, Darius said, "That was interesting."
"What was?" she asked, taking extra care not to crumble the parchment.
"You, pretending that you weren't at all interested in him. Tell me," he leaned forwards as if avidly interested in her response, "what's so special about that git?"
Hermione couldn't help the blush that began to spread. She couldn't quite figure it out either. She didn't know why she felt so drawn to Malfoy, when all signs pointed towards him actively hating her. He was hardly even the most handsome man she'd ever met. In fact, Darius might actually be better-looking. "I don't know that he's special. I need him for this project."
"I know," he calmly assured her. "It's just... you're looking at him, Hermione. And you were scowling at Variel, whether you want to own it or not."
"This may be news to you," Hermione replied just as calmly, "but I'm not actually at Hogwarts for the selection in men. I'm only trying to do my job and do it well, and I'm not certain how to do that with one wizard I need to work with actively avoiding me, and the other one flirting with any witch in sight!" She shot him a very pointed look.
He merely smiled at her. "Ouch. I'm not a wizard, though. And my women don't need to be witches. There are other ways to make magic than actual magic..."
"My mistake!" Hermione snapped.
"Also," Darius continued, rather unfazed and with the most annoying grin, "what about Variel? She's not even subtle about her interest in Malfoy--are you going to deny that it affects you?"
Hermione hesitated. She couldn't stand Variel, but she fully realised that she had no good reason for it. She also realised what Darius would make of it if he knew. "She was a lot more accommodating than you and Malfoy," was all she said. "Right now she's probably my favourite out of the lot of you."
Darius shook his head. "All right. If that's how you want to play it. I suppose you don't care where I saw her hands go, either. Or that Malfoy didn't seem to mind. Or that there are a lot of empty rooms between here and their destinations."
"Why would I care?" Hermione made a conscious effort not to frown or grip her notes too hard. She really didn't care. Besides, Malfoy already had a girlfriend, so it was not only stupid but also rather pointless to begin caring. Any other witch, including her, would only be a plaything to him. An open relationship meant that his bed was open, not his heart. She really didn't need to become physically involved with a co-worker. She most certainly didn't need to risk becoming emotionally attached to someone so... so... mean, selfish and immature. But rather than elaborate on that, she simply added, "I only think it's annoying that everyone here finds... mating... more fascinating than teaching!"
At that, Darius grinned again. "Well, the students also find mating more fascinating than learning, so I suppose it all works out in the end."
With a disgusted sound, Hermione left an openly laughing Darius behind.
"Go away, Granger. Find someone else to stalk."
Hermione placed her fists on her hips and narrowed her eyes at the annoying git. He was hiding out in his office as usual. It really was a rubbish hiding spot. If he didn't want to be stalked, he should consider hiding somewhere else.
"We need to talk about the House Unity project," she needlessly said. He knew fully well why she was there, even if he didn't want to acknowledge it. For two days she'd tried, completely in vain, to get him alone. Now that she finally had, she wasn't going to leave that easily.
"We don't really," he replied. "You just do what you usually do and decide what you feel needs to be done, and I'll make sure the Slytherins know."
She made a derisive sound and marched up to his desk to throw down her rolls of parchment. "You need to do more than that. Darius was right. Slytherin and Gryffindor need to get along the most."
"Dorky just wanted to get out of having to do anything himself, and he succeeded."
"He didn't. He's offered to help with anything we need."
Malfoy sighed as if talking to her was a great chore. To him it probably was, and even though she tried not to let it get to her, it still stung and made her angry. "When will you learn, Granger?" he said, patiently, as if to a child. "You're actually the only one who cares about this project of yours. The only one who thinks it's needed."
She crossed her arms protectively over her chest. "McGonagall feels it's needed."
"McGonagall is terrified that Hogwarts might create another Dark Wizard during her time, so she'll do anything to prevent it. My subject is probably the most regulated one for that very reason. If you made her think that there's any way that someone with a dark penchant might revise their thinking this way, then of course she's going to let you do it."
Hermione glared at him, but he didn't flinch or in any way change his expression. "Like it or not, Malfoy," she finally said, "we're going to do this. The more you fight it, the more time you will have to spend with me."
He sighed again in the most annoying and exaggerated manner. "If I can't change this, Granger, then at least tell me how I can end it quickly."
Once more she swallowed the sting of his constant rejection, and sat down in front of him. "You could start by giving me some really good ideas."
He stared at her in disbelief. "I have to give you ideas? You've had days to figure this out! And did I mention yet that I don't care?"
"Yes, but anything I come up with is immediately shot down by Your Highness, so I think you could at least give me an idea of what would be acceptable!"
He blinked, quite taken aback by her tone. "I see. Well, I suppose... force them to look inwards, not outwards."
"Inwards?" she prodded.
"Yes. Each House prides itself of certain strengths. Make them use those. All together. To create something that they wouldn't be able to on their own."
That actually sounded quite fascinating. "What creations did you have in mind?"
He scowled at her. "What? I'm supposed to do all the work? You figure it out!"
Now it was Hermione's turn to sigh. For a second, it had almost seemed like he might take an interest in this or at least give it some thought. "All right. I'm certain that if we spend hours and hours together, you'll eventually--"
"Kill you? I really have no idea what they should make, Granger. I'm not that creative. Or interested. Did I mention my lack of interest?"
"Creative." She mulled that over. "Oh! What if it were a creative project, and they had to think of something themselves?"
Draco shot her a skeptical glance. "No guidelines? That'll end well."
"Of course there will be guidelines. But it'll still force them to communicate in order to come up with something."
"And then they might kill each other. Brilliant! I've always wanted fewer students."
"Oh, stuff it." He raised an eyebrow at her but she ignored him. "Communication is what we want," she continued, "We will assign groups with one student from each House where applicable, and we will force them to use at least two of our four combined subjects and mark them on how well they do and, oh my, we really solved this, didn't we?" She began scribbling, very excited with the new progress.
"I still think it sounds terribly vague."
"Shut up. Were you born to piss on everyone's parade? This will be great!"
"Yes, as a matter a fact I was b-- Wait... did you say two of our subjects? No, you can't do that!"
She looked up, feeling fairly exasperated with Malfoy at this point. "And why ever not?"
"You have Arithmancy, don't you? And Dorcas has Muggle Studies? The vast majority of the groups will have at least one member that isn't taking your classes, and they will have to fall back on the mandatory-to-a-point classes, which will happen to be my Defence Against the Dark Arts and Variel's Transfiguration. You can't do that to us!"
"Hmm." Hermione stopped writing and thoughtfully tapped her quill against her lower lip. "In spite of your terrible whinging, I suppose you do have a point."
"I always have a point."
"Of course you do, dear," she said with all the patience of an elderly matron. "Now do be quiet and let me think."
He scowled at her.
"All right, how about this, then..." she began, completely unfazed by his bad temper, "they freely avail themselves of all subjects, not just any of ours, and everyone extend their office hours as needed? This will also make it relevant to include House Unity themes in everyone's subjects. It will truly be a school-wide project."
"Could this potentially annoy Horace Slughorn?"
"Then I say go for it."
She cracked a smile. "That's what I thought."
"But, Granger..." He leaned forwards in his chair and glared at her. "Do not take to following me around simply because you can. I will not spend more time with you than I absolutely have to. Do you understand that?"
She slowly shook her head, and his stare lost some of its power as the burning determination gave way to confusion.
"What?" he weakly asked.
"You asked me if I understood. I don't."
"What's there to understand? I simply don't want--"
"Why do you hate me so much?" she bluntly asked. If he'd been more subtle, she could probably have let it slide, but since he kept throwing his hate in her face, she felt she deserved to know why.
"You really have to ask me that?"
"Yes! I do! I told you that I don't hate you, and I certainly have far more reason to--oh, don't look at me like that! You know I have far more reason to hate you than you do to hate me!"
It seemed to take him some effort, but he did manage to tear his gaze from her and tensely stare off to the side for a moment before he said, "I know."
"You're an unwelcome reminder."
She really had to pull it out of him, didn't she? So be it. Even if she had to roll up her sleeves and get in knee-deep with his insults and evasions, she would do it. If she had to endure being snubbed by him for months yet to come, she would at least know why. "Of what?"
"I don't want to--"
He glared at her again. "Of a time best forgotten. Of things I had to do. Things... I never wanted to do. You remind me of every single event that brought out everything ugly and weak and hateful in me, and I wish you'd just... go away."
She was completely shocked. "Why do I--?"
"You were there, Granger. For all of it. Nobody else here was. McGonagall and Longbottom were never quite as actively in my face as you were. Or quite as... good... for that matter." The word 'good' was said with such a twisted sneer, like it was the worst quality one could possibly have.
"So I alone remind you of all these bad things?"
"At the moment, yes. Tough, huh?"
"But you know it's absurd to blame me for any of that!"
He made a derisive sound. "I'm not stupid, Granger. Of course that would be absurd. Rather, I was as spoiled and self-indulgent as you've ever thought me to be and, congratulations, I ended up paying the price. I'm sure it makes you happy to know that. Unfortunately, your happiness isn't something I'm currently in a position to appreciate."
So she reminded him that he'd been spoiled and got in trouble? No, if the way he glared at her was any indicator, it was far worse than that. She couldn't help the uneasy feeling rising inside her. She knew for a fact that due to his young age, unfortunate influences, and willingness to cooperate after the war he hadn't received any official punishment after the war. "What, involving me, could you possibly have paid a price for?"
"You'll never know."
"But you'll still hate me for it?"
He didn't reply but his dark gaze said it all.
She took a deep breath. "You know what I think? I think you hate yourself but find it easier to take it out on me."
"Of course you do. Don't go there, Granger."
"You shouldn't hate yourself."
His voice had been raised and sharpened in clear warning as he gave that one-word command, but she still soldiered on. "It was such a long time ago, and whilst I certainly can't speak for everyone, I know that I've decided to forgive y--"
A sudden movement and sharp noise gave her quite a fright as he'd abruptly jumped out of his chair and smacked his hands down on his desk. "I said, 'don't!'" he hissed.
"Why?" she challenged, pretending that her heart wasn't trying to beat its way out of her chest.
He sneered at her. "Because you're not qualified to speak those words." And then, without as much as another glance in her direction, he simply walked out, leaving her confused and alone in his office.
The kisses made her forget why she shouldn't want them, why she shouldn't want him. She knew better--really, she did!--but she'd never felt like this before. If she did what she ought, what if she'd never feel like this again? She knew it was only physical, but didn't that only make it more excusable? Or was it too shallow and inexcusable, then? Should she want this boy? Was there any way to justify wanting him?
She broke the kiss, needing to think, but he wasn't discouraged by it. He just kissed her neck instead and, Merlin, that felt nice. She tried to make him stop, so she could clear her head, but he dismissed her. "Don't think so much. Just feel."
He was holding her up against a wall, touching her intimately, making her thrash with the want. So good. She wanted it so much. Thinking was overrated.
Suddenly she was cold and alone again, and she blinked in confusion to see that he was standing a few steps away, his grey eyes cold and hard as stone. "You hate me," she said, feeling her stomach sink as she voiced the indisputable fact. She wished he would stop hating her. She had a feeling that if only he would stop hating her, things could be so very good between them. She'd missed him so much. All she wanted was to be with him.
"That’s right I do," he said, his voice twisted with loathing. "I hate you and your two friends, The Boy Who Stalks and sidekick Beggar Boy, with all my heart. That doesn’t keep me from wanting to fuck you."
Hermione opened her eyes to stare at the dark. The Boy Who Stalks? Beggar Boy? It sounded like something Malfoy would've said a decade ago, given half the chance, but why he would do so in the middle of her otherwise quite promising dream, she had no idea. She felt very put off by how it had ended. The dreams weren't likely to become reality, so why was reality intruding on her otherwise enjoyable fantasies?
It was eerie that she was having another one of those dreams, though. She definitely ought to keep a log of them if she had more. A detailed log. For science!