Hogwarts Horror

Hermione looked down at her watch. Fifteen minutes to go. With a sigh, she walked down the final corridor on her patrol, shining her Lumos-lit wand in the various nooks and crannies of the castle, looking for anything amiss. The good thing about being on the late patrol was that nothing much happened. The bad thing was that it was a complete waste of time because nothing much happened. All illicit affairs had long since been committed. There were no points to be taken, no crimes to report, no detentions to give. The stragglers, snoggers and other more nefarious ne'er-do-wells were all back to their dorms by now. The professors had retired for the night. It was doubtful even Mrs. Norris was still awake.

But just because nothing ever happened on the late shift didn't mean it wasn't creepy. Because it was. Very creepy. Especially when you were all alone. Which she was. She was supposed to have a patrol partner, the useless Head Boy to be precise, but Malfoy preferred to patrol separately. He claimed it was so that they could finish up early, but it was more likely that he didn't want to spend time with her and get any of her "germs." What did she care? It wasn't like she wanted to go on a midnight stroll with the stupid ferret. Still, it was eerily quiet in the castle at this time of night, which made the occasional creaking sounds and other unexplainable noises even more frightening. The monstrous shadows created by her Lumos-lit wand didn't help.

If it wasn't for the fact that she was Head Girl, and an all-around responsible person, she would skip this last bit of patrol. It wasn't that she was scared or anything. She just had an Arithmancy project to finish. It wasn't due for another month, but she wasn't one to procrastinate. It was worth half her grade and her particular project was very complex. It involved multiple number charts and... Oh, who was she kidding? She could easily finish it over lunch tomorrow and probably even throw in a little extra credit for fun. Maybe she was a little scared. She had no idea how a wuss like Malfoy managed to patrol alone. But if he could do it, so could she. With a determined step, Hermione shook off the shiver that was creeping up her spine and continued down the corridor. She was just being silly. After all, what did she have to be afraid of? Nothing ever happened on the late shift.

BOOM!

Except for tonight, apparently. Hermione flinched at the loud noise. The deafening crash had come from one of the lower floors. Creeping down the staircase, Hermione followed the sounds of breaking glass. It seemed to be coming from the Potions classroom. This was Malfoy's section of the castle to patrol, but knowing him, he had probably already gone to bed. Lazy slacker. It would be irresponsible of her not to investigate. So, with her wand drawn, she tiptoed toward the door. Taking a deep breath, she slowly pushed the door open and peeked in.

The room was completely dark. She pointed her wand into the room. Even with her strongest Lumos, only a small circle of light broke through the darkness. Shining the light around, she saw desks toppled over, books and pieces of parchment scattered all over the floor and something that made her gasp out loud. It was Malfoy. Standing on a chair.

She hadn't expected to find him here, and it was a bit of a shock to see him looming over her like that. "What are you doing?" she asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he growled, glaring into her Lumos.

Hermione stared at him blankly. "Standing on a chair?"

"Ten points to Gryffindor for stating the obvious," Draco said sarcastically.

She was about to retort when she heard more glass breaking. It was coming from the supply cupboard. Someone or something was in there, rummaging through the shelves. Professor Snape was not going to be happy in the morning. It sounded like every single one of his precious ingredients was being destroyed. Looking up at Malfoy, she saw his gaze fixed on the cupboard door with a slightly crazed look in his eyes. "What–"

"Turn off your light!" he ordered.

"Why?" Hermione asked with suspicion. Hell if she was going to stand around in the dark with Malfoy without a very good reason for doing so.

"Because I said so," Draco snapped.

"You're not the boss of me," Hermione snapped back.

"Fine," huffed Draco exasperatedly. "Do what you want. I hope it eats you."

"What is it?" asked Hermione, trying not to show any fear, but stepping up on the chair next to Malfoy just in case.

"It's–"

Before he could finish his sentence, the door to the supply cupboard creaked open, and Hermione watched with wide eyes as something small and furry rolled out. Pointing her wand at it, she tried to catch a glimpse of what the creature was, but it was very quick and kept rolling out of the small patch of light from her Lumos. It rolled haphazardly about the room, crashing into the walls and furniture until it finally stopped right in front of them. Shining her light on it, Hermione stared at the creature in surprise. It was not what she expected to find. Its beady little eyes fixed on Draco, it let out a hiss.

Hermione snorted. "How vile must you be that Pygmy Puffs don't even like you?"

Draco glared at her. "For your information, Paulo doesn't like anyone."

"On a first name basis, are you?" asked Hermione with a bemused expression on her face.

"Unfortunately," grumbled Draco. "He belongs to Pansy, and he's a menace."

"Pansy Parkinson's purple Pygmy Puff Paulo. Try saying that five times fast."

Draco only scowled in response.

"Well, I suppose we may as well call it a night. Our patrol is almost over anyway. You can take Paulo back to the Slytherin dorms with you."

"I'm not touching him," said Draco, with a horrified expression on his face. "You take him back."

"But it's on your way," pointed out Hermione.

"I don't care. I'm not doing it."

"Are you scared?" Hermione teased.

"No. I just happen to like all of my appendages."

"He's a Pygmy Puff," said Hermione, rolling her eyes.

"A vicious Pygmy Puff. With an agenda. Ever since I told Pansy I didn't want to be her boyfriend, he's been stalking me. I'm pretty sure he's trying to kill me."

Hermione looked at him like he was crazy. "He's a Pygmy Puff," she said again.

"You try picking him up if you're so brave," Malfoy challenged.

Hermione started to step off the chair when Paulo lunged at her leg with his tiny, sharp teeth bared. She pulled back just in time.

Malfoy gave her a smug look. "Told you, he was vicious."

"I'd ask Fred and George for my money back if I were her," said Hermione, glaring at the creature.

"Oh, she didn't get it from those two losers. She got it from some breeder in Knockturn Alley."

"What did they breed it with? A manticore?"

"Yep."

Hermione's eyes widened in shock. "That's completely irresponsible. Who would be stupid enough to think that's a good idea?"

Draco gave her a pointed look. "I don't know. Who would be stupid enough to think that's a good idea? Sounds like it would be a giant mistake to me. Or perhaps a half-giant mistake," he said sarcastically, not so subtly referring to Hagrid's experimental Blast-Ended Skrewts.

Hermione turned red in the face. She didn't really have a response to that. So, she changed the subject. "Have you tried Immobulizing it?"

"Aren't you supposed to be the smartest witch of your age?" Draco drawled patronizingly.

Hermione glared at him.

"Because if you were the smartest witch of your age, which I doubt, you would know that manticores are resistant to magic."

"I... I knew that," Hermione sputtered.

"Sure you did," said Draco, pulling out a flask and taking a swig.

"What is that?"

"Firewhisky. And before you ask, no. You can't have any."

"I don't want any. Firewhisky is against school rules."

"And you never break school rules, do you?" Malfoy smirked at her before taking another swig.

"Ten points from Slytherin," Hermione said snootily.

"I. Don't. Care. A few more swigs of this, and I won't care about anything. Not even being stuck in a room with you."

"Give me that flask," said Hermione suddenly, holding out her hand.

"I told you I wasn't sharing. I don't want any of your cooties."

"You are so childish," Hermione huffed, reaching for the flask. "Just give it to me."

"No," said Malfoy, slapping her hand away. "Get your own."

"I just want to see it," snapped Hermione, trying to wrestle the flask from his tight grasp.

Draco slapped her hand away again, which caused her to slap his hand in retaliation. It continued on in this way back and forth until it escalated into them both batting their hands together like two riled up cats.

Hermione finally stopped and breathing heavily, said, "This is ridiculous. Why do you have to be so difficult? Why can't you just do what I ask like a normal person?"

"You didn't say please."

Hermione let out an exaggerated huff. "Would you please give me the Firewhisky?"

Draco pretended to think about it, and then said, "No."

Hermione glared but then suddenly her eyes went wide and she screamed, "It's on your leg!"

Draco let out a shriek, and in his panic, loosened his grip on the flask, allowing Hermione to snatch it out of his hand.

"Ha!" she exclaimed triumphantly.

Draco looked down to see Paulo in the exact same place he was before, just staring up at him. Glaring at Hermione, he said, "Go ahead, drink it. I love taking points off Gryffindor."

"Oh, I'm not going to drink it," she said, smirking. Turning the flask over, she dumped the entire contents on the floor.

"Hey!" exclaimed Draco. "That was Ogden's Finest. You're paying for that."

"How about I repay you by saving your life? Miserable excuse that it is."

"And how exactly are you going to do that?" asked Malfoy skeptically.

Hermione shone her light on the floor. Paulo was greedily lapping up the Firewhisky. After the Pygmy Puff had consumed every last drop, he rolled over on his back and started snoring loudly. Smugly, Hermione jumped off the chair and said, "You are welcome."

"You should be thanking me," said Draco, climbing down from his chair after he was sure it was safe. "I was the one who saved you."

"It was my idea," huffed Hermione indignantly.

He smirked. "But it was MY Firewhisky."

Hermione smirked back at him. "Twenty-five points from Slytherin."

"For what?" asked Draco angrily.

"For intoxicating a Pygmy Puff on school grounds."

"It was YOUR idea," Draco protested.

"Yes, but it was YOUR Firewhisky." Hermione smirked and turned on her heel, leaving him with a scowl on his face and a drunken Pygmy Puff at his feet.

Letting out an exasperated sigh, Draco bent down and picked up the furry little puff ball. Holding it up to his face, he glared at it and said, "This is all your fault."

Paulo opened his eyes, and looking up at Draco, drunkenly gurgled, "Ahhgua goo."

"Is that all you have to say for yourself?" asked Draco, softening a little bit toward the adorable purple ball of fluff.

Paulo let out a loud belch and "accidentally" set Draco's hair on fire.

Screaming hysterically, Draco hurled Paulo across the room and quickly cast an Augmenti spell to put out the fire.

"You stupid little crossbreed! You've ruined my hair," he yelled.

"What is going on here?" panted Hermione, running back into the classroom, shining her Lumos all around. Seeing Paulo shaking in the corner of the room, Hermione said accusingly, "What did you do to him?"

"What did I do to him?" yelled Malfoy. "That monster set me on fire!"

"Oh, you poor thing," said Hermione soothingly, ignoring Draco and crouching down by Paulo. "Did that meany Malfoy hurt you?"

Paulo answered with another belch, lighting her skirt on fire. Hermione yelped, and leaping backward away from the fire-breathing monster, quickly put out the flames. "Well, I guess he's okay," she said a little shakily, stepping even further away from him.

"Are you sure? Why don't you take a closer look?" Draco suggested angrily.

"You don't have to be rude about it," huffed Hermione.

"Oh, sorry if I'm being rude," said Draco insincerely. "I guess being set on fire makes me a little cranky."

"Are you hurt? I can help you," offered Hermione.

"You're not playing Healer with me," Draco said adamantly. "I need a professional."

"For your information, I happen to know quite a few healing spells. And I've been told I perform them just as well, if not better, than the so-called professionals. I briefly considered becoming a Healer before I settled on Magical Law Enforcement. I thought I could better serve–"

Draco cut her off with a loud yawn.

Hermione scowled. "Let me take a look at you," she ordered, walking toward him with her wand drawn.

"No," said Draco, backing away from her, his arm held out to block her view.

"It can't be that bad. Come on. Let me see," insisted Hermione, trying to catch a glimpse of him with the light of her wand.

"No," said Draco firmly, keeping his hands over his head.

"Quit... being... such... a... baby," said Hermione, struggling to pull one of his arms away from his face.

"Get... off... me," huffed Draco, trying to shake her off.

Draco backed away and stumbled on an overturned chair, causing him to fall backwards. Hermione fell on top of him and took the opportunity to pin him down. Shining her Lumos-lit wand in his face, she tried to suppress her giggle. "It's not that bad," she lied.

"Shut up," grumbled Draco, trying to smooth his frizzy hair down. "It's nearly as bad as yours."

"There is nothing wrong with my hair," huffed Hermione, still perched on top of him.

"Please," Draco scoffed. "You have a giant bush on your head. I bet if I tried to run my fingers through your hair, I would lose my hand."

"Trust me. If you do try running your fingers through my hair, you will lose your hand."

Hermione pointed her wand at him.

"What are you doing?" he asked in a panicked voice, squirming underneath her.

"I'm going to fix your hair. Now, hold still," Hermione commanded.

"I told you I want a professional. You obviously don't know anything about hair. Have you looked in a mirror lately?"

"I know just the spell to use. Quit squirming."

Draco stopped squirming and then almost immediately flipped her over so that he was on top.

Taken by surprise, Hermione's wand flew out of her hand and the room went dark again. She was so shocked to find Malfoy on top of her that she didn't even think to struggle. For a long while, they stayed in that same position, neither of them moving. It was a very surreal moment. They were so close, she could feel his heart beating in time with hers. And then she felt something else.

"Is that your hand in my hair?" Hermione growled.

"No?"

"Just because I can't see anything, doesn't mean I can't feel you fondling my hair."

"Okay. Fine. I'm fondling your hair. But not because I want to. My hand got caught in it when I flipped you over, and I'm trying to get it unstuck. It's your own fault for not knowing any decent haircare spells. Although I have to admit, your hair is really soft. And surprisingly silky. Ahhhhhhh! It's eating my hand!" he suddenly screamed.

Angrily, Hermione pushed him off of her, yanking out some of her hair in the process. "That's not funny."

"I'm not joking. I think I'm bleeding." He shined his wand on his hand, and along with a clump of her hair, a tiny drop of blood glistened in the light. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he dropped to the floor in a dead faint.

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh. Crawling on her hands and knees, she felt around for her wand. Finally, locating it across the room, she crawled back to Draco and pointed her wand in his face. "Augmenti."

A stream of water shot out, shocking Draco into consciousness. His eyes fluttered open to find her hovering over him. Lifting his wand to see her more clearly, he immediately let out a scream.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You are such a drama queen."

"Your hair! Your hair! Your hair!" he shouted.

"I told you that wasn't funny," Hermione scolded.

"It's. In. Your. Hair," said Draco in a terrified voice, scooting away from her.

Tentatively, Hermione reached up and felt around in her hair. She touched something soft and furry, and it suddenly dawned on her. "It's in my hair. It's in my hair. It's in my hair!"

She started running around the room screaming hysterically. She, then finally came to a stop in front of Draco and shrieked, "Get it out!"

Screaming, Draco scrambled to his feet and ran in the opposite direction.

"Get it off me! Get it off me! Get it off me!" Hermione yelled, running after him.

"Quit following me!" Draco shouted, trying to get away from her.

Realizing Draco was going to be of no help whatsoever, Hermione stopped running after him and tried to shake Paulo from her hair. Eventually, she was able to yank the Pygmy Puff free, and it fell to the floor with a thump. It was so still, Hermione was afraid she may have killed it. But then its eyes snapped open, and its fur puffed out, making it twice its actual size. Warily, she backed away from it, but it slowly rolled toward her making an odd clicking sound as it went. Hermione kept backing up until she bumped into Draco, who was cowering in a corner. With nowhere to go, they huddled together and watched as the Pygmy Puff rolled to a stop in front of them, still clicking. Hermione and Draco stared at Paulo, and Paulo stared back.

"We need to try to make it to the door," Hermione whispered.

"You go first," Draco whispered back.

Hermione slowly moved a toe toward the door, and Paulo immediately let out a loud hiss, causing her to quickly pull her toe back before she lost it. "I think we need a diversion."

"Good idea. You make the diversion, and I'll run for help," said Draco.

"Why do I have to make the diversion?" Hermione questioned.

"Because it was your idea," answered Draco.

"But–"

Before she could protest, Draco created the diversion by pushing Hermione at Paulo. With a loud wail, Paulo lunged at her ankles. Screaming, Hermione flung herself onto Draco's back as he was fleeing toward the door. She continued to cling to him, deciding her best defense was to use the expendable Head Boy as a human shield. Draco tried to shake her off, but she held on tight. Paulo went into full attack mode, and they both hopped around ridiculously from foot to foot, trying to avoid his sharp teeth. Not knowing how else to protect himself, Draco held his wand like a sword and lashed out at the beast. Complete chaos ensued as they tried to fend off the crazed Pygmy Puff.

In her panic, Hermione kept yelling, "Kill it! Kill it!" And then her conscience would take over and she would scream, "No! Don't kill it! It's a living creature." And then she would change her mind again and screech, "Ahhhhh! Kill the frigging fuzzy bastard!"

Finally, Draco couldn't take it any longer and kicked Paulo across the room. Paulo bounced off the wall, and giving himself a shake, started slowly rolling back toward them again.

"Immobulus!" Hermione shouted.

Nothing happened. She tried more spells and still nothing happened.

Draco gave her an "I told you so" look and then said, "I told you so."

"There must be some kind of spell that will work."

Draco shook his head. "It's been bred to be resistant to magic. There's only one thing to do."

"What's that?"

"Run!" He made a break for the door.

Not knowing what else to do, Hermione ran after him. They sped down the corridor with Paulo rolling after them. Even without legs, Paulo was pretty fast and easily picked up speed along the way. He was soon nipping at their heels. Seeing an open broom cupboard ahead, Hermione pushed Draco into it and jumped in after him. Kicking Paulo out of the way, she quickly pulled the door shut. Paulo banged against the door but was unable to get in. Hermione and Draco took the opportunity to catch their breath.

Draco finally broke the silence. He cast a Lumos so that he could scowl at her properly. "What did you do that for?" he asked angrily.

"What is your problem?" Hermione asked, sounding a little put out that he didn't appreciate her quick thinking.

"You've trapped us in a broom cupboard. You do realize what that means, don't you?"

"That I just saved your ass, and you are being an ungrateful git?" she snapped.

"No, it means you've trapped us in a bloody broom cupboard."

"Ten points to Slytherin for stating the obvious," retorted Hermione.

"Ha ha," replied Draco, not at all amused. "You really don't get it, do you, Granger? We are stuck in a broom cupboard until someone finds us."

"Who cares?" huffed Hermione. "So, you have to spend one lousy night with me. It's not like it's going to be fun for me either. Believe me, you are no picnic. You're a bit of a prat, to be honest. But it's not going to be forever. Someone will rescue us in the morning and then we will never have to see each other again." Then thinking about it, she added, "Except for in class. And for Head duties. Perhaps in the corridor. I mean it's a big school, but it's nearly impossible to avoid the occasional run in. And there's always the library and the Great Hall and–"

"It's not being stuck with you that's the problem," Draco interrupted. "Although, if you're going to keep yammering on like that, it's going to make for a very long night. The problem is someone finding us. In a broom cupboard. Together."

At Hermione's blank stare, he snapped, "The whole school is going to think we're shagging!"

"No, they won't," Hermione scoffed.

"What else would we be doing in a broom cupboard?" Draco persisted.

"I don't know. Getting a broom?"

"Ugh. You'd better hope they don't think we're using props."

"What?"

"Never mind. We need to come up with an excuse."

"Why don't we just tell the truth?" asked Hermione.

"That we're hiding from a Pygmy Puff? Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?"

"More ridiculous than us shagging?" Hermione said sarcastically.

"What's so ridiculous about us shagging?" asked Draco. "Sure, you're not my normal type, but it's plausible that I would give you a pity shag."

"But I would NOT give you a pity shag," retorted Hermione.

"Why not?" asked Draco, sounding offended.

"Because I'm not attracted to you. It just so happens that you are not my type."

"I'm a sex god. I'm everyone's type."

"Not mine."

"Who are you attracted to then? Weasel?" When Hermione didn't answer, Draco snorted. "Figures you'd have poor taste. And I do mean poor. Isn't he dating that girl who never shuts up? What's her name? Lavender Brown?"

"Yes," Hermione practically growled. It was a bit of a sore subject for Hermione at the moment. She had thought that after everything they had gone through defeating Voldemort that things would finally happen for them. That they would finally get together. That Ron would finally make a bloody move. But instead, he went off and snogged Lavender frigging Brown. Again.

After an awkward silence, Malfoy finally said, "You're too good for Weasel anyway. You can do better."

Hermione looked at Malfoy in surprise. That was probably the closest thing to a real compliment he had ever given her.

Malfoy seemed to realize his mistake and quickly added, "I mean, not much better. But you could definitely get someone like, say, Longbottom for example."

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind," said Hermione dryly.

"For the record, I wouldn't shag you either. For pity or any other reason. I'm just saying what people are going to think. Because people are morons. And us shagging, while completely ridiculous and more than a little stomach-churning, is still more believable than the truth. Let's face it, no one is ever going to believe that I am hiding from a Pygmy Puff."

"Sure they will. Everyone already knows you're a coward." At Draco's uncomfortable stare, Hermione stuttered, "I... I mean heroically challenged."

"People think I'm... a coward?"

"Nooooo," said Hermione awkwardly. "They just don't think you're particularly brave is all."

"Brilliant. Just brilliant." Draco scowled. "I'm nothing but a bloody coward."

"That's not true," said Hermione gently, feeling horrible for hurting his feelings. "You can be brave sometimes. In fact, I think it's pretty brave doing the late patrol all by yourself. I get a little scared to be honest."

"I don't really do the late shift all alone," Draco admitted. "I just go back to my dorm. That's why I told you I wanted to patrol alone, so I could skive off."

"Oh. I thought it was because you didn't like me."

"No, I'm just a lazy slacker."

"I thought that too."

"Well, nothing ever happens on the late shift," said Draco, trying to justify it.

"Except for tonight," Hermione pointed out.

"Yeah, except for tonight," Draco grumbled. "Stupid dust ball cornered me on the way back to the dorm. More proof that I'm a coward. Scared of a stupid Pygmy Puff."

"Well, he is a pretty scary Pygmy Puff," said Hermione, trying to make him feel better.

"It doesn't matter," Draco sulked. "I'm still going to be a laughing stock. It's going to be worse than the ferret incident."

"I don't think anything could be worse than that," Hermione said before she could stop herself.

Draco glared. "How about having to go to the Hospital Wing for a bad case of hairballs?"

Hermione glared. She was still sensitive about the cat incident. "At least I wasn't in Crabbe's pants," she retorted.

"That's not what he says." Draco smirked.

"He's obviously lying," Hermione huffed.

"I don't know," mused Draco. "Crabbe's not that picky. Or observant. He probably doesn't even notice your horrid hair."

"I thought my hair was really soft and surprisingly silky," Hermione taunted. "No, wait. That was Paulo you were fondling."

"That's not funny. I almost lost my hand."

"Please," Hermione scoffed. "It was a little scratch. You are such a–"

"A what? A coward?"

"No. A baby."

"Same difference," grumbled Draco.

"Oh, what do you care anyway?" said Hermione exasperatedly. "I thought being brave was for Gryffindors who were too stupid to know any better."

"Says who?"

"You. Yesterday in Potions."

"Oh. Well, it was clever yesterday. Before I knew people actually thought I was a coward."

Hermione didn't like to see anyone upset even if it was only Malfoy. "Courage isn't the only worthwhile quality. You have other things going for you," said Hermione, trying to be comforting. "Like, um... You have... hmm, well... you have pretty hair."

Draco glared at her through his frizzy, singed bangs.

"Well, your hair was pretty before... well, you know."

Draco's scowl deepened.

"I really can fix it, you know," said Hermione quickly, pointing her wand at his head and causing him to flinch. "Relax. I've been doing this spell since first year." And she had, as Seamus had always had a propensity for blowing himself up. In fact, she had performed the spell on just about every boy in Gryffindor at some point or another. It had definitely come in handy over the years.

Draco transfigured an old mop into a mirror to check the quality of her spell work. Examining himself closely, he said, "Well, aren't you the know-it-all."

Hermione looked smug.

"I do have pretty hair."

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Thanks," said Draco, sounding sincere.

"You're welcome. We can't both go around with the same hairstyle," she joked awkwardly.

"You really are too good for him, you know," said Draco softly, tucking one of her stray curls behind her ear.

Hermione swallowed hard. She and Malfoy were having a moment. The sudden change in the atmosphere of the tiny broom cupboard was without a doubt the scariest thing that had happened all night. Laughing nervously, she quipped, "Yeah, I'll probably start putting the moves on Neville during Herbology tomorrow."

Draco gave a halfhearted laugh. And the moment was gone.

"Well, goodnight, Granger," Draco said, leaning his head back against the wall and putting out his Lumos.

"Goodnight, Malfoy," Hermione said softly into the darkness.

There was a thump at the door and they both said, "Goodnight, Paulo."

"Hiss!"

The next morning, they woke up to see what looked liked half the school staring at them. Quickly untangling their limbs, they stood up and smoothed down their rumpled robes. Hermione wiped Draco's drool off her shoulder.

Pansy was the first to speak. She held a purring Paulo and had a smirk on her face. "What's the matter, Draco?" she asked in a baby voice. "Were you hiding in the broom cupboard all night with the annoying Head Girl because you were scared of a little Pygmy Puff?" Even some of the fourth years snickered.

"No," sputtered Draco angrily. "I'm not scared of your stupid Pygmy Puff."

"Are you sure about that?" Pansy held Paulo up to Draco's face, causing him to flinch. "Why else would you spend the night in a broom cupboard?"

Draco looked around at the crowd of students staring at him expectantly. "Isn't it obvious?" he asked. "I was having sex with Granger."

Everyone's mouths dropped open, including Hermione's.

Ron pushed through the crowd. Red in the face, he angrily asked, "What the bloody hell is going on here?"

Hermione took one look at Lavender hanging on his arm and snapped, "You heard him. We had... sexual intercourse. Together." Stalking angrily past him, she turned back and said over her shoulder, "And I was magnificent."

"I was magnificent too," Draco proclaimed loudly before going after Hermione.

"You're lucky I didn't hex you," Hermione scolded when Draco caught up to her. "I can't believe you told everyone we had sex."

"And I can't believe you told everyone we had sexual intercourse. Together. Who talks like that?" Draco snorted. At her glare, he said, "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I just couldn't bear everyone thinking I was scared of a stupid Pygmy Puff. I'll tell everyone the truth. I swear."

"Oh, forget about it. I won't tell anyone your secret. It kind of worked out for me anyway. Ron, well... had it coming. It's time I moved on."

"You know what?" said Draco with a determined look on his face. "It's time I moved on as well. I'm tired of being a coward. There's something I've been thinking about doing for quite a while now. But I haven't been brave enough. Until now." Grabbing her by the shoulders, he kissed her. Really kissed her. When he finally pulled away, he smirked and said, "Forget Longbottom. You can do better. Much better."

As she watched him walk away, she knew that things had changed between them. There were moments in your life you couldn't share without ending up something like friends. Or more. And apparently surviving a vicious Pygmy Puff attack was one of them. Hermione smiled. Things were about to get scary. Really scary. And she was okay with that.