Sixth year had been a complete bore, and though Hermione had done everything she had the courage for to show Ron she liked him, he still wouldn’t buck up and do something about it.
She knew he liked her too, and Merlin, yes, she could be the one to make the first move, but she wanted to be chased. She wanted something surprising. She was so tired of putting more effort into her and Ron’s and Harry’s relationships than they did. She wanted them to go after her when she was upset. She wanted them to ask her how her classes were going. She wanted them to offer her notes when she had on off day—and actually have them be good notes—for once.
So she waited, and hoped, and—walked into the common room to see Lavender and Ron kissing one day.
She’d dashed out, tears already burning her eyes, biting down on her tongue to keep from crying as she passed others in the halls.
She found an unoccupied stairwell at last and sat down, burying her face in her lap.
She jerked her head up, quickly wiping away tears, and turned around to look up toward the speaker descending the stairs. “Malfoy?” She turned forward again. “What do you want?”
His fancy shoes—dragon hide or mermaid scale, or whatever rich boys wear—clicked to a stop beside her. “I saw you running—you looked … upset.”
She sniffed. “I’m fine.”
Draco and she had never really spoken. He’d thrown a few jabs at her about her hair and abhorrent Gryffindor chivalry over the years, but he, and the other Slytherins he hung around, were not looking to include a muggleborn like her in their circle. Their paths never really crossed except in class when they would sometimes be paired together for projects. Professor Snape in particular seemed to like paring them, for whatever nefarious reason.
She glanced at him in surprise when he sat down beside her. “What are you doing?”
“Well don’t. I have friends for that.” Her chest ached at her retort, feeling very much like she didn’t have friends.
He glanced around the stairwell. “Oh, and where is Perfect Potter and the Weasel?”
Snogging Lavender Brown. Who Hermione had thought was also a friend, who was someone she had confided in about her crush on Ron.
“You and Pansy …” Hermione said without thinking. “You’re like, engaged right?”
He gave her a peculiar look. “Un—no. We’re sixteen.”
She deflated. “Oh. I thought you two had a long-standing marriage contract thing your parents set up before you were born.”
“While that can be a practice implemented by pureblood families, Granger, I am happy to say Pansy and I have no plans on becoming attached. We’re just fucking.”
She nodded, pretending like sex was a common, normal thing to talk about. Pretending like it didn’t make her a little embarrassed, a little flushed. Pretending she wasn’t a virgin. “Right.”
“Why do you ask?”
She shrugged. “I just wanted to know if … it had been easier that way. Getting together.”
“We aren’t together.”
She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“She offered, I accepted. Easy as that.”
She turned morose again. What happened to boys being romantic and caring? She’d grown up watching her father moon over her mother, and she wanted that. Dedication, effort—but the bar was now on the floor.
She stood up. “She deserves more than that.” All girls did.
He tipped his head back and watched her with a lazy grin, arms on his knees. “She gets plenty.”
Hermione scoffed and strode off, not ready to acknowledge the fact that—at this point—she would take even the littlest bit of effort from Ron.
“So this is about Weasley, then?” Draco asked, sidling up to her in the hall as she headed to her next class.
She glared up at the persistent Slytherin. “What?”
“I saw you basically levitate out of the great hall the moment Brown sat down on his lap.”
She blushed. “I had a paper to finish—”
“For what class?”
“Potions!” She cringed. Damn it.
“Ha! We share potions, and we don’t have a paper,” he declared with a smirk.
She huffed at him. “Why do you even care?”
He shrugged. “I wouldn’t say I care, I just find it interesting.”
He turned so that he was facing her, walking backward down the hall. “That you think he’s worth your time.”
“Just because you two have a stupid pureblood rivalry—”
“You misunderstand me,” he interrupted, chuckling, gray eyes gleaming. “Brown and him? Makes sense. You and Weasley?” He tisked with a theatrical frown. “What a waste.”
“Because I’m a mudblood?” she seethed, coming to a halt.
He stopped too and spoke his next words in a very careful way. “Because you’re Hermione Granger. Head of the class. While he’s Ronald Weasley, head of the Harry Potter fan club.”
To be fair, having a famous quidditch star father, Harry had grown up in the spotlight.
Ron and Harry had been friends since they were little, but she had noticed how easily Ron could get jealous of him.
“You wouldn’t understand,” she argued in Ron’s defense, a habit more than anything. “You are the Harry of your friend group, Draco.”
He shrugged. “Whatever you say, Granger.”
“How’s the assignment going?” Draco asked as he took a seat across from her in the library.
She glared at him. “Fine.” She covered up her arithmancy homework when he glanced down at the parchment.
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“I’ll figure it out. I was a little … distracted in class.” She was loathed to admit this to him. Ron and Lavender had played footsie the entire lecture and she hadn’t been able to concentrate.
Draco fumbled around in his bag and pulled out a worn journal. He opened it to a certain page and then spun it around to face her. “Here—my notes.”
She was about to spit some vitriol at him about not needing his help, but her eyes caught on the even and neat penmanship, the detailed and organized problems he had solved as examples.
She swallowed. “Thanks …”
“Don’t mention it. Oh, and I’d stay out of the Herbology section if I were you.” He stood, grabbing his bag.
“Just trust me.” He walked off, and not ten minutes later, a giggling Lavender and flushed Ron were kicked out of the library by Ms. Pince—from the Herbology section.
“But that’s too many lacewing flies!”
“No, it’s not, Granger. Those two little ones equal one normal-sized one.”
She sighed and sat down in a huff, resigned to letting Draco finish the potion project on his own. She glanced at the clock.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for the game?”
“And let you botch this potion?”
“Just because this is the one class you can sometimes best me in—”
She crossed her arms and grumbled, “You’re impossible.”
They brewed in silence for a moment, him stirring the cauldron slowly.
“Are you coming to the game?” he asked with an air of casualness she didn’t exactly believe.
“What if I promised to get Nott to hit Weasley with a bludger?”
She snorted a laugh. The ache in her chest from when she thought about Ron was a dull thing now, easing more every day. Nothing like seeing your crush constantly snogging another girl to negate said crush. Or the boy from one of the most powerful wizarding families telling you that you could do better.
Her lips quirked. “I’m surprised you’d want me there—just another witness to watching you lose.”
He grinned. “I’ve beaten Potter before.”
“Barely,” she drawled.
In the end, she did actually go to the game, and she was strangely glad she had. Malfoy did catch the snitch—but it wasn’t enough. Ron had somehow pulled some skill out of his arse and deflected all but one quaffle from the Slytherin team. Gryffindor scored enough to still win by twenty points even without the snitch.
Everyone converged in the great hall, laughing and yelling in raucous joy from the adrenalin of the game, singing some stupid song about Weasley being a king. Such nonsense.
Hermione was headed over to Ron to congratulate him, to continue the ruse of being indifferent about him and Lavender, but a few steps away, Brown crashed into him and stuck her tongue down his throat. People were cheering and Hermione wanted to fall through the floor.
She glanced around for Harry, needing to ground herself somehow, and blessedly found him walking into the hall, still carrying his Firebolt—talking to Malfoy.
Her eyes locked onto Draco, took in his windswept hair, his jersey, his quidditch pads and gloves …
He glanced up at that moment and looked right at her.
For a second, she was frozen, caught between wanting to bolt and also wanting to … she had no idea. All she knew was that Ron and she would never be a thing and she was starting to think that was okay, that there were better things waiting on her …
Malfoy’s gaze cut over to Lavender and Ron still going at it, then back to her, Harry still babbling to him, oblivious. As if Malfoy could tell she was struggling at a crossroads, he grinned. And it was a challenge.
She set her shoulders back and marched right up to the cocky Slytherin, grabbed his jersey with both hands, and yanked him down so she could press her lips to his.
“Oh,” Harry said, confused and shocked as she interrupted whatever conversation the two seekers were having.
She kissed Draco hard and rough, and he met her without hesitation, his arms wrapping around her waist and pulling her flush against him. She could hear the fluttering wings of the snitch he had caught, clutched in one of his hands still, the frantic flutter the same rhythm as her heartbeat …
She broke away and stepped back, breathing hard. She cleared her throat. “Congratulations.”
The whole hall had gone silent, people looking on in surprise—Ron looking at her with his jaw slack. She didn’t care. Maybe the kiss had started as a way to show him … something. But somewhere in the middle of it, probably when Draco’s tongue had touched hers, it turned into something so much more. More than she was prepared to handle.
She spun around and walked quickly from the hall, taking the steps two at a time to get away, to try and figure out why she had liked kissing Draco Malfoy so much—
“Not so fast, Granger!”
She jumped and picked up her pace, pulse rising. “Go away, Malfoy!”
“Not a chance.”
Merlin, curse his longer legs, he was going to catch her …
Well, Hermione had desired to be chased. She should have planned for being caught.