Disclaimer: All characters belong to J. K. Rowling and Warner Brothers and I make no money from the writing or publishing of this story.

A/N: Dramione fic. Mostly realizing there's UST to be had. Yep, a guilty pleasure of mine.

A Side Note: I've read sooo many fics here that I'm bound to gain some ideas from other wonderful authors out there. If you read this and recognize the idea from another story or you are the author of said story please PM me and I'll make sure to credit you. Remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thanks for reading!

This year was supposed to be different.

Sixth year was supposed to be the year where Ron finally noticed her.

Well, that's what she was hoping for anyways.

Guess it was all for naught. Ron believed it was the year to snog "Lav-Lav" senseless all over the place. In front of everyone. Not caring who was around. Such a lack of respect for others, Hermione thought.

Once again she finds herself carrying a ton in her messenger as she walks to the library. Why haven't I applied a featherweight charm to this yet?! Hm. Something to do once I get settled.

After a quick nod of acknowledgement to Ms. Pince she walks briskly to her unofficial/official designated alcove. Her sanctuary away from Harry, Ron, Malfoy, giggling girls, and basically, everyone. This was her time to focus on her first friends, her books and the knowledge they impart without any recriminations or expectations.

They help me forget about the loneli- No, wrong train of thought! Yes, you don't care that Ron has Lavender and Harry's obsessed with Malfoy while looking longingly at Ginny. No! She shakes her head vigorously as if someone is disagreeing with her – mainly herself, but she won't admit to that.

As she rounds the corner she bumps into Malfoy and all of their belongings fall to the ground along with all of their limbs in a tangled heap. They hurriedly untangle themselves trying their hardest to not focus on the strange burning sensation making them hyper-aware of the other.

With a sneer firmly in place Malfoy drawls, "Good going, Granger."

"Malfoy." She's so flustered and trying to gather all her things she almost retorts with a sarcastically scathing remark but she suddenly stops herself noticing that there's no bite to his words. Maybe he's just as confused as I am to this burning sensation? Or maybe that's all in my head and I'm simply imagining things? Great! What's next, hallucinating?!

Shrugging off those wayward thoughts she apologizes sincerely with a quiet, "Sorry about that."

His sneer falters, quickly to be replaced with confusion as his eyes go through a barrage of feelings. Slightly proving to Hermione that Draco is in fact human for she sees surprise and fear. Wait, fear? Thrown in is some wariness and defensiveness (as he looks around to make sure they are in fact alone), the look changing to a grudging acceptance. But most of all he looks tired.

That's when she notices that the usually kept together look is slightly skewed with his tie undone, uniform somewhat wrinkled, light blond hair mussed, and, to complete the image, shadows under his grey eyes.

As she gives him another quick once over she realizes that he is quite handsome like this, especially with his appearance giving off a devil may care attitude. It's just the shadows showing his tiredness that gives her a slight pause, but it definitely doesn't detract from the package, if anything it enhances it with a sense of mystery making her wonder what is happening in his life that is causing him to lose sleep over it. As she continues her perusal she notices that The Ferret has certainly grown up as she grudgingly admires his nice broad shoulders, tapered waist, and strong lean legs.

Finally noticing that she needs to pay attention to what he's saying she mentally shakes herself back to the present.

"No, Granger," he sighs. "It was just as much my fault as it was yours." He says this so softly and honestly it's Hermione's turn to go through her own list of emotions.

There's a big part of her that says not to trust him but there's also another part that recognizes something else. Something that she can identify with herself.

It is an air of begrudging complacence and how it has disgustingly taken a toll on one's soul. How for the first time ever there is someone who sees and, above all, understands. She just nods her head as she looks into those slate grey eyes that hold so much depth that she briefly wonders why she never saw it before.

Perhaps it was never there before.

Finally looking away she grabs for the last book on the floor just as he does.

As their hands connect a slow burn starts to spread up her arm sluggishly, yet persistently. This time there's no denying the feeling on her part, but does he feel it as well? Still, she tries to write it off as nothing but cannot as Malfoy jumps slightly as if he himself can no longer ignore it as he looks at her quickly with a hint of surprise and shock that quickly turns into determination.

She sees the gears turning in his brain and just knows that something of significance happened.

He nods to her and gracefully stands up and walking away leaving her slightly bewildered and out of breath.

Dear Circe, whatever that was just means that their relationship has turned on its axis. She can't explain it but there's some sort of instinct insisting it to be so and to not ignore this. Whatever this is. But the real question is – How will it show in front of others? And will she ever get the chance to touch him again?

That second question came completely unbidden and took her by surprise.

Dear Merlin, I hope that this will go away. Yes, this must be some sort of potion or spell. There's no way that Draco affects me this way! Wait, Draco? Ugh! Not now! Back to the situation at hand. Yes, the sincerity and all the other emotions were an act. Yes. An act. An act for something that I don't want to think about. Best to put it out of my mind and go to my alcove. Yes, focus on my homework.

Quietly beginning to chant "homework, homework, homework" under her breath all the way to her little sanctuary she bumps into no one else. Never once allowing herself to look back.

Days pass and Draco finds himself thinking back to his run-in with Granger. Again.

He still remembers the fire reaching to his very soul. Deftly ignoring what it could mean and focusing on remembering how she looked to him as she looked him over as well. Ah, the little Bookworm has definitely grown up nicely.

She may use her robes and loose regulation standard uniform - No skirt shortening or blouse tightening for Miss Prim and Proper! - to let others think that she has no curves but Draco has seen her when she's in the library and believes no one is around. There is definitely something to be said about Muggle clothing and how it conforms to the curves of the body. Especially one as delicious as Granger's. Even her bird's nest of bushy hair has calmed down to become long luxurious curls that fall to the middle of her back.

He especially loves it when her eyes turn golden with fire as her lion's mane sparks with undiluted power. Yes, a tempest of her own anger waiting to be unleashed.

Oh, how he can help her find different ways to channel her temper!

So I may like to rile her up from time to time. It is always a glorious sight to behold.

Not that he would ever admit that to anyone, though.

Taking a deep inhale as he lustfully thinks about her pouty lips that practically beg a man to fall into her charms and ravish her at a moment's notice. Hearing that husky voice from those lips only make it harder for him to stop from tasting those lips, even if they are spouting off angry retorts.

Maybe it was his hormones that began to feature Hermione in his dreams when he began to notice that she was starting to mature physically, and quite nicely at that.

It was as if her body was finally catching up to her mental maturity. He may be a snobbish egotistical prat but that did not mean the he wasn't aware of his surroundings. Draco was a Slytherin after all.

Unbeknownst to anyone it was ever since third year when he started to question the Pureblood supremacist rhetoric. If he was to be truly honest with himself it started since first year when Granger had to be above him, in the top spot, in academics. It was when Granger punched him and broke his nose that it literally hit him once more.

These treacherous thoughts only solidified even more when his father was thrown into Azkaban leaving his mother and himself to become complete slaves to the Dark Lord. Oh, how he despises that man-creature-thing. If he were so powerful then why can't he even kill a simple half-blood? Why is it that the stark-raving megalomaniac must rule in such fear? Throwing around Crucio's as if Salazar himself had requested it so? Ridiculous, he sneers to himself.

No matter how cunning he has to be when it comes to his family, he does not and will not forget the main credo all Malfoy's live by: Do anything and everything to ensure the family's safety first above all others.

Which as far as Draco is concerned he is sure as Hades that does not include the Dark Lord or his precious Death Eaters.

The only question here is: What does one do when the family forgets this Golden Rule?

Currently it seems that Lucius has let his own pride get in the way, losing sight of the big picture.

Therefore, it seems that Draco must go to extreme measures to protect his mother. As far as he's concerned his father is a lost cause.

Thank Merlin he has a plan.

He looks around the library once more to insure that no one else is around. Except for her. There she is in her alcove away from the rest of the school. Once more he secretly admires the amber colored hair fighting to be free of its constraint and bottom lip being chewed unmercifully while in thought. Deciding that it was now or never he took a deep breath and began to approach his last hope.

"Hey, Granger." Malfoy decides to sit across from her with his usual air of indifference. No need to let her know of his nervousness.

Surprisingly the smirk/sneer is nowhere to be seen.

Narrowing her eyes and going on the defensive right away as she sees that they're alone she is about to retort scathingly when she takes in his face and looks into his eyes. Something she finds in them causes her to take a deep breath and respond much calmer than originally intended.

"Malfoy." She says cautiously while trying to figure out why he's nervous, no matter how indifferent his mask may be his eyes give him away.

His demeanor shows boredom but his eyes are telling a whole different story. He seems vulnerable with the shadows under his eyes even more pronounced than the last time they spoke in the library – actually, that time was the last time they had spoken at all.

Odd since he always seems to catch her or Harry, or anyone really, at least once a day in order to berate them about their lack of breeding, intelligence, or something or other. When, as she thinks back on it, he has been exceedingly quiet this year, seemingly content to disappear into the background. Yes, odd.

She also notices that his hair is still slightly disheveled as if he's been running his hands through it repeatedly.

The more she looks at him the more she realizes that Malfoy may in fact be a normal teen.

You know, he may actually have some sort of substance. Woah. These thoughts are just as foundation-shaking on my conceptions of Malfoy as last time. Breathe and don't get carried away with these fantastical notions. He's still a pureblood bigot!

But thinking of their last meeting reminds her of the brief touches they inadvertently shared. Just thinking of their touches brings a heat to her cheeks while simultaneously realizing that she's been staring at Draco's eyes this whole time so quickly looks away.

A bit irritated with being caught woolgathering, really it was not ogling, she looks back to Malfoy and realizes that he seems to have seen all of her thoughts as a small smirk graces his face and eyes glinting with humor as he casually raises an eyebrow to let her know she has indeed been caught out looking him over.

Prat, she thinks to herself wondering what on Earth is happening to her! Realizing that ignoring what just happened is the best policy. She clears her throat quickly and straightens her spine, remembering that she never answered his greeting.

"Well, Malfoy? Why are you here? What do you want besides wasting my time by keeping me from doing my assignments?" She bites out harsher than intended all because she doesn't like how her body is reacting to him.

His smirk falters a bit while the humor in his eyes dim to then be replaced with what can only be hurt and uncertainty to quickly change into the usual haughty look. His mask.

How could she have never noticed how expressive his eyes were before?

"Now, now, Granger. You look like you've been doing homework for hours and what better way to relax for a bit than to be in my glorious presence?" All of this was said as if it were a part of a script that he was comfortable with, smirk firmly in place, and a suffocating air of snobbery to boot.

Suddenly it occurred to her that he was stalling. He had no idea how to proceed.

How? She asked herself. How in Merlin's name can I see all of this now? As plain as day? And why hasn't he insulted me or called me a "Mudblood" yet?

"Draco," she haltingly started, some sort of inner instinct telling her to take this path, regardless of how wrong it should feel, at least her mind was telling her. But she ignored it because of this instinct. Abruptly realizing that what she was about to do could change their relationship completely.

"Draco." She begins again with more confidence than she actually felt. "Whatever you want to tell me you can do so knowing that it will be in complete confidence. No one else has to know."

She wasn't sure what had suddenly come over her but she knew by the look in his eyes that she'd done the right thing. Especially since she felt that just by saying his first name was a huge mistake, not to mention what she had just offered!

After a significantly long pause where he looked at her with a mask of indifference she began to believe that the feeling of making a mistake overriding what her instinct felt was the right path. Deciding to take it back and try to figure out a way to get out of this mess of her own making without hexes being thrown. "I mean, I know you won't believe me. It – it – it's just not possible with our past and all. Just forg–"

Before she started talking he was trying to remember what he had diligently prepared beforehand but, distressingly, all he could come up with was a how lovely she looked today in her muggle clothing with her robe thrown casually on the chair next to her! Thankfully not all of his sense had abandoned him as he was able to note that she was beginning to backtrack on her offer.

Which is why he cut her off before she could backtrack. "Hermione. I know we aren't friends. There's no love lost between us and probably never will be." Not exactly what he was planning on saying!

He took a breath once more, worried if he should go on. He never planned on being so honest. He was a Slytherin damn it! What he was about to do was something Slytherin's just didn't do. Well it was done but with the other person feeling as if they should be grateful for the opportunity to "help" them.

Now he had just mucked it all up!

No going back now. I have to do this for mother.

And to save my own arse.

Taking another quick breath he gathered all his chaotic thoughts and decided to continue with the 'honest' approach in order to reach his goal for a better future. "It seems that I need your help."

He seemed so relieved to have said it out loud she was taken aback never having expected to hear that from him. Those words seemed so foreign out of his mouth all she could do was stare at him in shock, mouth agape.

Quickly snapping her mouth shut she began taking in all of his features, looking closely to make sure that he wasn't trying to deceive her into some sort of false sense of calm before he pounced.

All she could see was his sincerity and fear. Yes, it was uncertainty laced with fear of rejection as he looked around to make sure that no one else was around. After what seemed like forever his face morphed into the familiar sneer and haughtiness she was more accustomed to. Finally seeing that this was a defense mechanism of his she vowed to never take it to heart whenever she saw it ever again.

"Well, Granger, are you just going to sit and stare at me all day or are you actually going to make your mouth useful for once and tell me how you're going to help me and my mother?"

That's more like it. That's the Draco I'm used to dealing with. The polite Draco was simply unnerving. Especially after years of being exposed to snark and vitriol being spewed about as if it was to code of conduct for all pureblood bigots.

Of course after this little outburst from the Ferret she almost retorted in a similar fashion out of habit but quickly bit it back as she saw a flash of vulnerability once more before it was replaced with the normal look of slight irritation and overall boredom, cementing her earlier thoughts on how this was a form of protection for him, a mask.

"Draco, what is it that you think I can do for you? Why did you come to me when you could've gone to Dumbledore? Besides, what can I do for the Prince of Slytherin when I'm just a lowly Gryffindor Mudblood?"

She couldn't help it she just had to put that last part in to test him. She had to figure out if he was a really good actor or if he truly was looking for some sort of aide. Thankfully she saw a slight wince cross his features.

"You may be a Mud… Muggleborn," shaking his head in frustration at the slip, "but I have been taught to not trust Ol' Dumbles my entire life. Given my history with Pothead and Weasel I know that there was no way they would even try to listen to what I had to say before they'd hex me within an inch of my life." As he eyes her with frustration at her obvious show of density to even ask why he would go to her out of those choices. Granted he did have a point.

"Now, with you being the smartest witch of our age and all," said with complete sincerity and not a hint of sarcasm, "I knew I had the best chance of being heard from you. Which has been proven, just now, by you listening to all I've said without a hex being thrown."

He had her there.

Still, he hadn't told her what he wanted from her.

"Yes, good for you. Do you want a Chocolate Frog for your great deduction skills?"

See. Draco wasn't the only one to use snarkiness as a defense mechanism. It's what made them such great debate partners, if there was no prejudice or hate involved. Goodness, I am trying so hard to not let the hurt and anger cloud my judgement!

"Tell me, Malfoy, what do you want me to do for you?" Starting to get annoyed on top of the anger at him taking his sweet time building up to his plea. For that's exactly what this was. Draco was begging, as dignified as possible for an escape route.

In the end she really wanted him to get it out so she could go back to studying or simply back to the Common Room.

Really, she needed some more time to think about the entire conversation and perhaps why he affected her this way. She also wasn't used to being alone with Malfoy for such a long period of time without him insulting or hexing her. Honestly, this is quite unnerving.

Finally, after what seemed to be forever, Draco took a deep breath as if steeling himself.

"I need your help to switch sides."

What? Why? Huh? He, the Slytherin Prince? The biggest bigoted Pureblood of them all is asking me for help? A "lowly Mudblood" as he prefers to call me... The Nerve!

She leaned back into her chair looking at him with shock and disbelief. Of course this quickly transformed into anger, mostly at herself, for believing that Malfoy, she spit out his name in her head, would actually be sincere in anything!

Hah, to think that I almost fell for it! Never! Constant Vigilance, indeed!

Letting her anger and righteous indignation go she spit out with a quiet ire-filled whisper as her eyes narrowed onto her target, "Malfoy. Again. Why would I help you? I swear to Merlin if this is some sort of trick-"

"Granger! Shut it and let me finish!" He hissed out exasperatedly. If possible, Hermione's eyes became even more narrowed and enraged. Draco continued quickly hoping that she would let him finish before she took off without hearing his plea, or worse, grabbing her wand and hexing him; he could already see her hand shaking with the urge to grab her wand have at it!

Oh, Salazar, why does she affect me this way?! Why was it so hard to talk to her? Taking a mental step away from those thoughts, because this wasn't the time to get distracted with hormones, he quickly composed his thoughts deciding on how much to share to a possible ally. A Gryffindor ally.

"You think you know how life is at home for me? Well, you're wrong! You know absolutely nothing!" Hm. So he wasn't as composed as he thought as he found himself going into a tizzy while feeling as if he'd just played an entire game of Quidditch.

He couldn't stop now. "I won't deny that the Malfoy's pride themselves on having power. One of the first lessons my father taught me is that Malfoy's come first and everyone else is second."

Well, definitely explains the ego. Imagine being spoon-fed your entire life on your importance over everyone. She mused to herself.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out with an undertone of clear disappointment on his Pater's - on Lucius' - actions, Draco found it in himself to calm down and explain himself further.

"Obviously Lucius has lost his way. Somewhere along the way he chose to actually become a fanatical servant instead of using his position with the Dark Lord to have power. He's lost his way and I'm determined not to follow his example."

Hermione noticed that she called his father by his actual name. A stark move of clearly needing to distance oneself from someone you once adored. Oh, how hard was the fall of his idol? His father? Pay attention! Don't get lost on a tangent. How does Draco feel about the Pureblood propaganda?

Unaware of Hermione's thoughts and seemingly unwilling to stop now that he started. "Besides, what kind of powerful Dark Lord is he really if he constantly loses to Potter? If anything it shows how incompetent he really is if he can't take out a school boy. Really, how pitiful. If a half-blood school boy cannot take out the leader of the Pureblood Supremacy movement then what does that mean for the philosophy itself?

"For me it has proven that we, Purebloods, are not automatically the best." At her unbelieving expression he continues quickly before she can interrupt. "No, really. I may hang out with Crabbe and Goyle but that doesn't mean I do not see the power you wield compared to them." At her scoff he just shrugs looking at her with a wry smirk as if this is a stream of logic that everyone should have realized.

Which she grudgingly admits, if only to herself at the moment, that of course it is something that anyone with common sense could understand.

"So I ask for sanctuary for myself and my mother who is currently wandless in her own home which happens to be occupied by the current Dark Lord." Taking a deep ragged breath Draco feels as if a huge weight has finally been lifted off his shoulders. As if he had not told Granger of all people where the Dark Lord currently resides. Draco is completely focused on actually having shared one of his deepest secrets with someone else.

No matter what she decides to do, I at least know that I have truly done everything for my family.

His other plan was to get his mother out of the house and run even if it meant being poor. He was that committed against becoming a Death Eater.

Hermione, on the other hand, is truly feeling disbelief and is a bit lost about the entire situation. Here was Draco, the ferret, Death Eater in training, asking for help to switch sides, and conveniently letting her know where the Dark Lord is currently living! She discretely pinched herself to see if she was dreaming. Nope, that hurt and he is still sitting across from me.

Looking around once more to ensure they were indeed alone she looked at him in a scrutinizing manner to make sure, once more – Constant Vigilance! – if he was being honest and sincere.

This could all still be an act. Five years of constant taunting and mistrust couldn't be washed away with a simple conversation, no matter how surreal it was, irregardless of what her hormones were having her think about Malfoy lately.

The more she thought about it the more she realized he may actually be telling the truth. Suddenly realizing they were both staring into each other's eyes, again, she blushed a deep red giving the Weasley's a run for their money and quickly looked away. At the same time cataloguing all she saw – apprehension, fear, slight hope, and forced nonchalance although his impatience and anxiety were definitely palpable.

Coming to a decision she forced down the blush and looked Draco in the eyes once more.

"I need to think about your request. See, I don't trust you. That's a given." He opens his mouth but she quickly overrides whatever he would have said. "No, listen and don't interrupt! In order to prove yourself we need to talk more and somewhere no one can just walk in on us."

He raises his eyebrow as his lips start to quirk into a completely new smirk she has never seen him give to her before. Slytherin Sex God, indeed. Meaning that she can hear his message loud and clear.

Once more she continues talking, after a slight, yes slight, pause as her breath is taken away so suddenly. "Get your mind out of the gutter!" As she resolutely ignores the heat she feels in her cheeks.

"I'll owl you with a time and place."

During her little speech she was quickly packing up all her belongings so that when she was done talking she could make a quick escape. She was not flustered!

Managing to give a quick nod she turned away to briskly walk out of the library leaving a pensive Draco behind silently wishing he had caught her hand before she left so abruptly.

Two days later Draco receives an owl.

Looking around to make sure no one is paying him particular attention, as he casually shrugs off Pansy once more and making sure that Pansy is distracted with Theo in a conversation.

Only then does he quickly open it.

He is finally able to take a breath of relief since last talking to her.

Re-reading the unsigned note. Knowing exactly who it was from as his eyes greedily went over her neat handwriting he quickly places the note on his plate and with a quick Incendio all evidence is gone, but the message is easy enough to remember.

Seventh floor

Barnabas the Barmy


Don't be late.

As he looks across the Great Hall to see her surrounded by Gryff's his jaw tightens as he reaffirms what he knew his goal and following course of action will need to be in order to succeed: gaining Granger's trust. Hermione's trust.

Good thing the slow burn he feels whenever they touch makes things much easier to have his goal accomplished.

AN: Thanks for reading. This was something I tried writing years ago hoping for a multi-chapter but that didn't happen. So, it's a one-shot that I just polished a bit and posted.

And in case you were wondering: Title was inspired from "All That I'm Living For" by Evanescence.