His hands were a welcome fire against her skin. Kiss after kiss, the surrounding cupboard slipped further from Hermione’s consciousness. Draco’s insistent lips made sure of that. The crisp linen of his unbuttoned shirt was familiar in her grip, almost as familiar as his fingers slipping past her knickers and sinking deep inside her core. A whimper rumbled through her throat, but Draco smothered the sound with another hungry kiss. Muffliato Charm or not, they wouldn’t risk someone hearing the Head Boy and Girl breaking at least three different school rules.
They didn’t have long — they hardly ever did — but her breathing quickly turned ragged when the pad of his thumb brought her to the peak of satisfaction. Draco concealed her moans with his ever-present lips while she rode out the orgasm, her legs still wrapped around his waist as he kept her pressed between his chest and the wall. He stole one last kiss then rested their foreheads against one another, allowing their shallow breaths to pass between them.
“Not bad, Granger,” Draco whispered with a grin. A sparkle glinted in his gaze despite the darkness. “And you said we wouldn’t have time.”
Hermione’s body hummed in the blissful aftermath, but she couldn’t stay and relish the sensation. After returning her feet to the ground, she rotated Draco’s wrist until she caught enough light from the crack beneath the door to read the face of his watch.
Great. If she didn’t hurry, she would be late for class.
Hermione smoothed the pleats of her skirt. “History of Magic is on the opposite side of the castle,” she said before attending to her shirt buttons. “This really couldn’t wait?”
Draco snorted a brief laugh. “Binns won’t notice if you don’t show up. He didn’t even notice when he died.” He dragged her into his embrace, and Hermione let out a squeal as he pulled her back flush with his bare chest. He nipped at her ear. “Though if you insist on leaving, you can always return the favour during tonight’s patrol.”
She tilted her head to glare at him, yet all he did was smirk.
Gods, he was infuriating. But unlike years prior, his antagonism was gone, leaving behind nothing but smug confidence that made Hermione want to roll her eyes while biting back a smile.
With their relationship carefully hidden from everyone else, Hermione couldn’t blame Draco for wanting to steal a few minutes together during the break between lunch and afternoon classes. But just because he had a free block next period didn’t mean she could linger.
Hermione peeled herself away and peered up to meet the swirling grey of his eyes. “I have to go, Draco,” she said more insistently this time, despite her growing urge to stay. Her teeth grazed her bottom lip. “But I’m sure I can make it up to you later.”
A pleased grin stretched across Draco’s mouth until Hermione popped up on her toes and vanished it with a soft, parting kiss. Thoughts of what they could do that night were bound to keep him sufficiently occupied.
She bent down to retrieve her tie from the floor, but the sound of Draco’s voice soon pulled her back upright.
Her heart did a little leap when she looked over her shoulder to face him one last time.
He smiled. “See you in Potions.”
With a twist of her wand, the tie slipped under her collar and knotted itself while Hermione made a final attempt to flatten her hair. One advantage of having notoriously bushy hair was that no one questioned when it looked slightly more unkempt than usual. Her only problem now was trying to make it to History of Magic without missing too much of the lecture.
It was easy for Hermione to slip into the main corridor unnoticed. Hardly any students used the narrow corridor in which their storage cupboard was located. But as she picked up speed and began to weave through the thinning crowd of students, Hermione felt multiple people eye her with curiosity, confusion, and even mild contempt.
Yes, yes, the Head Girl is practically running through the corridors, she wanted to say to them. I’ll deduct ten house points from Gryffindor as soon as I get to class.
When Hermione arrived, she opened the door as quietly as possible. The flat drone of Professor Binns’ lecture resonated in the otherwise silent classroom. Almost no one turned to face her; most were too attentive taking notes or had already begun drifting off. The only person who paid her any notice was Neville. Hermione settled into the empty spot next to him, thankful that he had chosen a desk in the back row.
Binns was detailing the Wizards’ Councils of the early 20th century, and Hermione wanted his perspective for the essay due next week. Yet as she dug into her bag for her textbook, parchment, and a quill, she could feel Neville’s wide eyes still looking her way.
“Yes, I know I’m late,” she whispered once her parchment was flat on the desk. “I got tied up with some Head Girl things.”
“Later, Neville. I don’t want to miss anything else.”
The information wasn’t much different from what Hermione had previously read in their textbook, but her quill flew across the page as she took notes anyway. Throughout class, Hermione could feel Neville peering at her, but she never glanced back. She was concentrating.
Eventually, the echo of the bells rang through the castle, and Binns concluded his reminder about the essay due next week. Several students startled from their naps while Hermione returned her quill and parchment to her bag and then pressed the textbook against her chest.
Neville once more turned to her, lips open to speak, when Hermione cut in first.
“I need Professor Binns to write me a note for the Restricted Section to help me with the essay,” she rushed to say before Binns floated out of the classroom. “I’ll see you at dinner.”
Hermione faintly heard Neville say something after her, but her attention had already shifted to Professor Binns.
A few minutes later, the signed note laid tucked beneath the cover of Hermione’s copy of A History of Magic. She considered stopping by the library during the short break before Potions but decided it better not to risk being late for class twice in one afternoon. Instead, she kept the textbook clamped against her chest as she walked down the Grand Staircase towards the dungeons.
Everything seemed normal when she arrived. Slughorn was distractedly unaware of the arriving witches and wizards as he scripted notes on the chalkboard while the N.E.W.T. students prepared their stations. Yet when Hermione took a stool beside Harry and Ron, they both stared at her in bewilderment.
Hermione sighed. First Neville, now Ron and Harry? She wasn’t even late this time!
She opted to ignore it. They were likely looking for advice on today’s potion before class even began.
But as Harry’s gaze seemed to follow her every move, it appeared he wasn’t going to let whatever go.
“Uh, Hermione?” he asked while she leaned over to retrieve Advanced Potion Making from her bag. “Why are you wearing a Slytherin tie?”
Her movements ceased.
She prayed to all four founders that there was no factual basis for Harry’s question, but the sinking feeling in her gut betrayed that hope. Sure enough, when Hermione glanced down at the tie hanging around her neck, it was patterned with green and silver stripes. She allowed herself one brief moment of panic before her brain set to work.
“It’s a statement,” she declared once she sat back upright. “All school year, most students have opted to disregard or shun our Slytherin classmates. Don’t you think it’s time we embrace inter-house unity?”
Ron and Harry exchanged sceptical glances.
“There’s a good reason we don’t acknowledge them,” Ron returned. He motioned his head towards Theo Nott and Blaise Zabini’s table. “Even if those two didn’t join the Death Eaters, one’s got a Death Eater father and the other wasn’t exactly against their cause. And do I even need to bring up Malfoy?”
Oh, Merlin, if she was wearing a Slytherin tie then that meant—
The door opened, and Draco stepped in. Their eyes locked, as they almost always did when one of them entered a room, expecting to find the other. She jerked her head downward and grazed her knuckles over the damning tie. Harry and Ron were too busy griping for either of them to notice. But Draco did.
In a subtle scramble, he exited the classroom before anyone seemed to notice his half of the mistake. When he entered again, the tie that had been red and gold less than a minute earlier was now charmed green and silver.
She let out a soft exhale. That had been close.
But instead of heading to his usual station to join his housemates, Draco strode straight towards Hermione.
“Speak of the bloody devil,” Ron grumbled. He huffed when Draco stopped at their table. “What do you want, Malfoy?”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “Must you always neglect your manners?” he quipped. “I’m merely here to compliment Granger on her choice in tie.”
Hermione’s face prickled. He wasn’t supposed to draw more attention to it.
But Draco knew that. He had to know that. Which meant he was doing this on purpose.
She stiffened her posture, leaning into her narrative. “It’s for inter-house unity.”
Amusement twinkled in Draco’s gaze. “Really?” The edges of his lips nearly betrayed a smile. “Yearning to join us in Slytherin? Can’t say I blame you. I’d also want to leave these two dimwits in Gryffindor.”
Hermione tilted her head in disapproval, even if she did suspect that he was intentionally inciting Harry and Ron to distract them from the truth.
“At least Hermione has the capacity to see past house lines,” Harry snapped in her defence. “You’re too much of a git to even consider seeing beyond your walls of green.”
“Is that so?” Draco slipped out his wand and pointed it towards his chest. With a single swish, Hermione’s tie around his neck returned to its original colour. He assessed his handiwork with a grin. “Now Granger’s not the only one.”
For a fleeting flicker, he glanced at Hermione, the sincerity behind his actions shining through before he stalked away from them. Her own grin cracked her lips. All that so he could justify still wearing her Gryffindor tie.
Harry and Ron spent the rest of Potions grumbling about Draco. Hermione couldn’t stop smiling.
"Sure you don't want to wear it more often?"
Hermione snickered while the spring's fresh breeze tumbled through the late night air. After they finished their Patrol rounds, she and Draco had slipped into the courtyard to steal a few more minutes together before they returned to their dormitories.
Hermione ran her fingers over Draco's Slytherin tie, still in the same place around her neck where it had been since early afternoon. Considering the ordeal in Potions, it would have been suspicious if Hermione changed back to her Gryffindor tie, especially after Harry remembered that she had been wearing it during lunch. She had to commit to the story. Dinner had been an endless stream of debating the importance of inter-house unity with Ron, Harry, and several other of her housemates. Based on the furtive glances Hermione managed to steal throughout the meal, it seemed Draco’s housemates had opted to ignore him, with the sole exception of Theo and Blaise.
"I think we stirred enough commotion to last the rest of the school year," she said as she pulled at the knot and slipped the tie off her neck. She handed it back to Draco, but he didn't accept.
"Keep it," he said, pushing the proffered item back towards Hermione. "I've got half a dozen more in my trunk." He peered down at the Gryffindor tie resting atop his shirt and smiled. "Besides, I don't hate this one as much as I thought I would."
Hermione bit the inside of her lip. "Just be careful where you hide it," she said before tucking Draco's tie into her pocket. "Next time, we might not be able to lie our way out of it."
She laid across the stone bench and rested her head in Draco’s lap, enjoying the simplicity of the moment. His fingers wisped through the strands of her hair, and Hermione closed her eyes in content. It was far from the way they originally intended on spending the evening, but there would be plenty of opportunities for them to steal more heated moments together in the weeks ahead.
They’d have to go back to their dorms soon. Most of the professors would be asleep by now, but Filch and Mrs Norris would be all too happy to catch students roaming the castle at this hour, particularly the two Heads no longer on duty.
Just a few more minutes, she told herself. Then they could go to bed and wake up tomorrow, once again pretending as though they hadn’t been dating nearly half the school year.
“How much longer do we plan on keeping this secret?”
Draco’s question pulled her out of her shroud of serenity. She peeled open her eyelids, immediately met by the contemplative grey eyes staring down at her.
She blinked. They had never discussed not keeping their relationship secret. It had always been an unspoken understanding. But after their near accidental reveal, this conversation was inevitable.
A deep breath inflated her lungs. “Graduation is just a couple months away. As long as we’re more cautious, we should be able to last until then.”
His features fell. “Then what?”
Silence descended over them as Hermione contemplated his latest question. She honestly hadn’t planned that far in advance. She had always been a forward-thinking witch, but she was so focused on her N.E.W.T.s and career prospects that she hadn’t stopped to consider them.
Draco cleared his throat, focus drifting away from her. “I’d understand if you’d want to end things before graduation.”
Hermione sat upright. “Why would I do that?”
“You and I both know you’re the one with significantly more to lose from this,” he deadpanned. “The vast majority of Hogwarts, not to mention the whole wizarding world, already detests me, be it due to my Death Eater past or my family’s sullied reputation among purebloods. My path in society is already tainted. Yours isn’t.”
Something twisted in Hermione’s insides. “I’m aware of the risks, Draco. But I’m also no stranger to gossip and hearsay at the expense of myself and those I care about. People may not understand at first, but I stand by my beliefs, especially when I know the others are wrong. And they’re wrong about you.”
He wrapped his fingers to the back of Hermione’s head and pulled her in for a kiss, deep and firm. She cared for him; she truly did. During moments like these, the bubbling inside her stomach and the buzz inside her heart made her believe those feelings had solidified beyond mere caring. But she didn’t want to admit anything greater when she was concealing so much of that truth from everyone else.
It took over an hour for Hermione to fall asleep that night, her mind whirling with an abundance of new thoughts.
Ron lifted an eyebrow in greeting when Hermione joined him and the others at the Gryffindor table for breakfast.
“Back to red and gold already?” he asked. “What happened to Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw? Don’t they deserve a day as well?”
“We’re already plenty amicable with those houses,” Hermione said as she sat across from Ron and Harry and took a seat beside Luna — evidence enough for her statement.
“I thought your idea was wonderful,” Luna said, sporting a lilac tie adorned with a print of some magical creature Hermione presumed her father had imagined. “The colour of our ties shouldn’t matter, nor the house of who we befriend.”
Hermione thanked Luna for her support, but Ron and Harry didn’t look convinced, even after what they had said in the Potions classroom.
“It’s not as though they’re making any attempts to befriend us either,” Harry said. “They seem content with letting the school year pass without addressing anything that happened last year.”
Hermione seized her chance. “What about what Malfoy did yesterday? Did that count for anything?”
Ron huffed. “Please. He was just doing that to annoy me and Harry. None of it was sincere.”
“And where’s your proof for that claim?” Hermione instinctively snapped.
“Easy. He’s Malfoy.”
Hermione frowned. “That’s not an explanation.”
“Sure it is,” Ron said with a dismissive snort. “You must know him better than any of us, having to put up with him as your co-Head. The bloke’s the same arrogant prat as always. Hasn’t changed, never will.”
Anger rippled in Hermione’s chest. Words of ire danced on her tongue, alongside the rising temptation to tell Ron for a countless time how he was blindly wrong about something. But when she caught a glimpse of who had just walked into the Great Hall and his eyes found hers as they always did, a new plan sprouted.
“Yes, I do know him better than any of you,” she declared before pushing herself to her feet. “But Draco has changed. And I have proof.”
Hermione strode down the length of the Gryffindor table, feeling her friends track her as she moved towards the entrance. Even as she approached him, she didn’t slow. She had already made up her mind.
As soon as she was close enough, Hermione grabbed Draco by his Slytherin tie and kissed him. Not a peck. Not even brief. Long. Slow. So there was no mistaking that this was anything short of genuine.
The surrounding chatter grew near silent as shock permeated the Great Hall. When Hermione pulled away, the whispers commenced. But she didn’t pay them any mind. Nor, it seemed, did Draco. His eyes were set solely on her.
“I don’t want to be a secret anymore,” she said for his ears only.
A smile spread Draco’s lips. “Good, because if that wasn’t your intention, we would have needed a long conversation about what it means to be ‘more cautious.’” He reached out to twine their fingers together. “What changed?”
“I had enough of pretending not to see you differently,” she resolved. Heat bloomed up her cheeks. “And I thought it a necessary step before telling you I love you.”
Draco’s smile broadened, and Hermione wished she could mentally save that moment, forever remembering the way his eyes sparkled. It was cut short when Draco pulled out his wand and pointed to his tie, ending the Colouring Charm to reveal her Gryffindor tie.
“I love you, too.”
He tucked away his wand and rejoined their hands. Hermione’s heart hammered so fast, she feared it might burst.
She bit down on her lower lip, but it was impossible to stop her smile. “In that case, you better join me at the Gryffindor table for breakfast.”
Draco chuckled. “Only for the sake of inter-house unity.”
They approach the Gryffindor table where Harry, Ron, and essentially everyone else was gawking, but Luna appeared delighted.
“You two look happy,” Luna beamed at them. “That explains why the aura around you felt different this morning, Hermione. And why I saw Malfoy wearing a Gryffindor tie on my way to Potions yesterday.”
Harry blinked himself out of his stunned daze long enough to stare at Luna. “But you’re in the Potions class before ours. Malfoy didn’t charm his tie until—”
Harry went ghost pale while the heat of Hermione’s cheeks spread down her neck and across her chest. Underneath the table, Draco’s hand found hers and gave it a squeeze. It would take time for her friends to adjust, but already, she had no regrets about where this step would lead her and Draco next.