Sorry for the delay on this! I had meant to post over the weekend and it got away from me.
Continued love to my team In Dreams, LightofEvolution, and Mcal. Also, I added a final scene to this post-edit so the team cannot be blamed for any errors or poor choices on my part lol
Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers and just a general Happy Holiday season to everyone. I have an advent piece that will be revealed in December so be on the lookout for that if you are so inclined! I love holiday fests :)
As always, thank you endlessly to all of you for reading.
Considering she was the one who approached him, who forgave him with no prompting, Granger spends the rest of the week doing a bang up job of ignoring Draco completely. It serves as quite aggravating, which is a mystery unto itself. Why the fuck is he so concerned? They had what? Three conversations worth anything? So why is he so affected by her inattention?
The most obvious answer is that it had felt wonderful for just a moment, not to be treated like a villain from one of the good ones. As if he'd dubbed her emissary of the Light, her polite and charming interactions, brief and few that they were, had been something he couldn't have known he was missing.
Now she's back to the way she treated him years before. Turning her head when they brush their gazes, leaving the Great Hall as he enters, her meal not finished and her eyes down. She agreed to partner in Potions, but he's not sure what that looks like with her distaste for him reignited.
Another weekend has come, and Draco is doing what he always does when the bulk of the student body makes their way to Hogsmeade: staying far away from the village and hiding in plain sight on the lowly populated grounds.
He's sitting with his back against a tall elm, tossing a Snitch in the air and catching it, when he hears her laughter bounce across the acoustics of the lake. Peeking around the trunk, he catches Granger waving a farewell to Dean Thomas, Lovegood, and the Bones girl from Hufflepuff. They wave back as she walks away, tucking a curl behind her ear to keep the light breeze from blowing it into her eyes. She doesn't see him, and he watches her approach as her friends head back to the castle.
Eyes still down, she's digging around in her bag and finally comes up with a book. He grins just a little. Of course she is. Reading by the lake on a sunny afternoon. It's so fucking 'Granger' he's never found her more endearing.
She walks past him, no more than a few paces away, and lays her robe onto the ground like a picnic blanket. Settling in, Granger opens her book and begins to read, never noticing his eyes on her.
Does he approach? Best case, they have a nice conversation, and she finds herself comfortable in his presence again. Worst case, he drives her away, further alienating her and ruining both of their lovely solitary afternoons.
Not to mention, buggering his chance to brew a decent final potion if she sticks him back with Goyle. The last stage of a good Felix is the trickiest part, six months of preparation in peril in those final moments.
Draco watches her a bit longer. Long enough to start feeling like a bit of a creep. With a sigh at himself, he rises and makes his way quietly toward the witch in question.
She's absorbed, delicate hands holding her book, fingertips turning pages at a fairly rapid rate. He wonders what she's reading, if it's anything he's read before. Could they have a conversation about the book? If he can catch a glimpse, it could be his opening. An innocuous way to start a conversation and not seem like a reprobate stalking a young witch. Maybe he could-
His boot snaps a stick in half and her head shoots up, eyes locking onto his. Unsure how else to proceed, he gives her a sheepish grin. "Sorry, I was trying to be quiet." At her slightly more horrified look, he elaborates. "I didn't want to startle you, I just… was wondering what you're reading."
He cringes internally. It sounds like a bad chat up line and he knows it.
She looks down at the book in her hands then back up to his face. "Just a Muggle book," she answers, and he isn't sure he's welcome to ask more. Not sure he's terribly welcome to be in her presence at all.
"I've never read a Muggle book," he says, fully aware how obvious that must sound, but he is gratified when she giggles a little.
"No, I can't imagine you have. Don't tell me you're interested," she asks with a smirk, and he smiles back in kind, taking it as an invitation to approach.
Once he reaches her spot, he drops down into the grass, careful not to sit on her robes. That seems a step too intimate, so he keeps a respectful distance between them and leans back on his elbows, gazing over the lake.
"Tell me about it?"
He doesn't take his eyes off the lake, heart beating a little faster at the ensuing silence. He half expects her to excuse herself, but then she's speaking again.
"It's about one of the Muggle wars. Not sure if you know… well, anything about them, I guess. But Muggles have wars and conflicts all the time, some worse than others but all bloody."
He contemplates longer than is probably comfortable before musing darkly, "So we're not all that different then."
"No," she agrees with a sad laugh, "not at all."
He only pauses a moment before breaking the short silence quite soundly. "Do you really think you can forgive me, Granger? Because it seems like maybe you said it without thinking."
He can virtually hear her bristle as she responds stiffly, "I do very little without thinking."
"No argument on that. But as much as you said you could, you've been avoiding me." He looks at her, finds her glaring, and asks, "Why are you avoiding me if you don't hate me?"
He watches as she studies his face, eyes bouncing between his own. "I don't know if I should tell you," she admits with a whisper.
A lot of possibilities flash through his mind. Perhaps her friends are to blame? Maybe the Weasel heard word of their civility and put his foot down. He seems the type to demand her loyalty, even if (according to The Prophet) their romantic entanglement met a fast end.
Maybe she simply remembered all the things he'd done. Or, fuck, maybe she's been talking to someone else about the war. Draco was spared from the worst of Death Eater realities, he never killed anyone, but his hands are hardly clean. It's probably too much for her. The forgiveness she was ready to dole out, snatched away in the face of what he's done.
And why does he even care? He's lived eighteen years without Hermione Granger's approval. It's not as if it changes anything. She's still a Muggleborn, and he's the son of a Death Eater, and the very notion that they could have been friends was nothing but an indulgent fantasy.
Stiffening his posture, feeling riled despite the civil discord, he starts to rise from the ground. "Don't worry about it, Granger. Keep your secrets and your forgiveness."
He feels her hand on his arm, but it slides off as he stands. He's five paces toward the castle when she calls his name again and another three when he hears the scuffle of her trying to rise.
Six more paces, and his stride is much longer than hers. It's because of this he realizes she must have run to catch up when her small hand grabs the back of his jumper.
"Hey! What is your problem?"
He rounds on her, incensed by her bossy tone as much as he is enamoured by her flushed cheeks. More than anything, he's angry at himself. He let her make him believe things might be different, and he's fairly irritated at his own stupidity.
"Nothing," he answers. "I'm excellent. Look, I'm doing you a favour here, alright? You're having second thoughts, and I'm walking away. We can both save face."
He starts to turn, but her honest confusion gives him pause. "Second thoughts? The hell are you talking about? I'm just…hesitant…"
He rolls his eyes. Such an innocuous way to imply that she's terrified of him. Or disgusted by him. Hesitant… Yes, he would imagine that's the least of it. Draco is coming up with a response, a scathing reply to whatever she is about to hint at, when she surprises him yet again.
"I was hexed, you see. Or maybe hexed is too strong a word? It was just a charm gone wrong, no malice intended. But, I've been led to believe that maybe it showed me something profound. Something… in regards to you."
Granger looks up at him through her dark lashes, and he is mortified to say he feels his breath catch. Something in her expression is so vulnerable, it makes him swallow down an urge to protect her from harm.
It's not the first time he feels that way, but the circumstances now are considerably less dire yet much more intimate than that awful night in his ancestral home.
Draco doesn't like at all this wrong-footed feeling that he is starting to associate with Granger. He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Tell me or don't, alright? But don't dance around it expecting me to drag it out of you."
She stomps her foot once, fists balled at her side. "I'm not doing that! I'm just… I'm working up to it. I don't even believe in this nonsense, but it's hard not to believe in something when you see it with your own bloody eyes day in and day out! How does it even make any sense!? Soulmates?! Most ridiculous, illogical, asinine, nonsense I've ever heard, and of course Trelawney doesn't help matters, with her tea leaves and scarves and vegan granola, and I know she just makes up insanity to keep students interested in her vapid-"
She's shocked into silence as Draco stares at her with wide eyes. "Merlin, witch, when you get on a tirade…"
"Sorry. It's just, I tend to have a lot to say on the subject, but it's an unpopular opinion."
"What subject? You do realize you're having a conversation without letting anyone participate?" Fuck him, if it isn't adorable when she's agitated like this. Like a wet kitten.
There's another moment of silence during which they just stare at each other, and Draco let's himself pretend for just a moment that maybe they can be friends. A little fantasy never hurt anyone, right?
Finally, she gestures back toward the lake. "Can we sit back down? I left my robe over there."
He glances to where she means and finds her robe still strewn across the ground. She must have been quite insistent on regaining his attention. Something about that fact heartens him, and so, he agrees. "Sure. Lead the way." Draco sweeps his arm out for her to go ahead, and then falls in step beside her for the short journey back.
When they are seated once again on the ground, Hermione is back to the embarrassing loss of words when they were here only a few moments ago. She huffs at herself, looking at him out of the corner of her eye. He's back to looking at the lake, poised and unaffected. Everything must be so easy for the Malfoy scion, and it aggravates her to no end. How luxurious to never wonder who you are, to never be that fish out of water that it was to be a Muggleborn in a magical world. And they are supposedly fated?
"It doesn't even make sense," she says aloud, finishing her silent thought. When he doesn't prompt, she just tears into the conversation, destructive as rending flesh, and hopes she's not the one left bleeding.
"A spell was cast against me as I mentioned. It affected my sight for a few days, leaving me seeing the world in monochromatic themes of color. One day everything was yellow, another day shades of blue… I've been through all the prismatic colors of the rainbow, and it's finally back to normal."
She looks again to make sure he's listening. He nods but still doesn't speak.
"The thing is, that's all it was supposed to do, but it was cast wrong. And so, everyday, instead of the color of the rest of the world, you have been in shades of red."
That gets his attention. He squints at her, working it out. "Red?"
"Red," she confirms. "Shades of it. So your skin is actually more a pale blush because you're so fair. Your hair isn't much darker. Your robes though, brick red. Your tie is striped in crimson and light rose. And, even though my sight is back to normal, you are still like this. Only you," she finishes quietly, her bravery failing her. How in Merlin's name does she admit the next part? The part she doesn't believe and is likely to serve to anger him.
But he's smart, Draco Malfoy, and he's already piecing together what she said with what she hasn't. "And Trelawney," he nudges, "she had something to say about this? Something illogical, was it?"
Closing her eyes, searching for fortitude in the darkness behind her lids, she rasps out an unsure, "Yes. She said that whoever I was seeing differently, it's because we are meant to be… more."
Inside herself, she hides away, breathing shallow and trying to make herself look small. Expecting laughter or anger or scoffing disbelief, she armours herself for a long beat before opening her eyes to find him staring back at her.
With a soft and sad smile, she asks, "See? Silly, right?"
Slowly, side to side, Draco shakes his head. His disbelief seems beyond words, so Hermione fills the silence for him. "I know, it's unbelievable. This is why I didn't want to say anything. Divination." She snorts in derision.
One long digit lightly touches her chin, and then her face is being directed to look at Draco once again. His hand drops away, but she's held by the strength in his gaze. He's closer than before, leaned toward her and neck craned in her direction.
"Divination," he says carefully, "I'll have you know, is one of the oldest, most respected branches of magic. And Trelawney," he adds with more volume to stop her attempt to interrupt, "while a bit frivolous day to day, has been known to get things right from time to time. Your boy Potter can attest to that."
"I... I suppose," she says weakly, captive in his gaze as his grey eyes dart between hers.
"So you've discounted the possibility then? Because you don't believe in Divination, Granger? Or because you can't imagine it being true?"
"Both, maybe," she answers, confused. "I'm sure it's nothing you would want to entertain."
She looks away then, finally breaking the metaphorical spell he has her under. She can't tell if he's being cruel, if he's setting her up for a fall, but her fast-beating heart and blushed cheeks are likely giving away that she's not unaffected by him.
She would swear his voice is closer still when he asks, low, "And you know me so well, then? To know what I might entertain?"
"I know I'm a Mudblood," she says without thinking, and squeezes her eyes closed in regret. A whispered, "Sorry," follows suit, but she is sure he will leave regardless of her apology.
He doesn't, but she hears him suck in a breath meant to fortify, meant to calm. "And I'm a Death Eater," he says next. "But you forgave me for that. And maybe… you think you knew who I was as a Death Eater, but not entirely who I am now."
"And who you are now is different?" Hermione chances a look back and finds him closer still, nose to nose, and her exhale shudders through her throat.
"I'm different," he assures and presses his lips to hers.
When he pulls away, she doesn't move for quite some time. Finally blinking her eyes open, she's faced with a contemplative Draco staring back. The silence stretches on, and when he gets up to leave, she doesn't follow. Hermione is left alone with her thoughts as he walks away, a beacon of red against the green of the earth.
Draco spends Sunday in solitary reflection. He is not hiding, thanks very much.
What the fuck had he been thinking? He kissed her. Kissed her then ran away, and he's not entirely sure which component of that is worse.
Regardless of how she feels about the concept, there is a part of Granger that is entertaining what Trelawney told her. Fated. Soulmates? He's not entirely sure he believes it either, to be honest, but more because it seems implausible than due to any basic distrust of the magic.
She said it was cast wrong, that she'd basically been hexed. Maybe the error is in the meaning itself. Maybe they are not tied together at all. Or tied in animosity.
But that doesn't feel right, either. Not anymore. Any feelings of animosity for her are long gone, dried up and dead on the floor of his own parlour, if not before that particularly traumatic day.
The only other option, of course, the possibility to entertain, is that it's true. The spell is accurate, and Trelawney identified it properly, and Hermione Granger is Draco's destiny.
Even thinking it seems ludicrous. And isn't that what Granger had thought of the whole affair? Ridiculous. Illogical. And she is the smartest witch Hogwarts has seen in a generation, so who is he to argue? Who is Draco Malfoy, fallen Death Eater, to deny what she has concluded?
Finally pulling himself away from the mire of his own self-pitying thoughts, he makes his way to dinner just as the meal is near its end. The Hall is virtually empty, only a couple of lower year 'Puffs at the far end of their table and a solitary Ravenclaw absorbed in a book. Draco takes a seat on a Slytherin bench as far from any other students as possible. The plates before him refresh, and he has a private banquet all his own.
Footsteps barely register as the little Hufflepuffs take their leave. The Ravenclaw must head out next, because on his subsequent glance around, he is alone in the grand room. It's peaceful, the night sky charmed above his head, and no eyes on him. He takes a bite of the peach cobbler that caught his eye, mind going blissfully blank for a while.
The bench jars beneath him, his next bite falling from his fork. Looking over, he could not be less surprised at the pile of hair beside him; dark eyes, a bit narrowed, staring out from the curly abyss.
"You can't just go around kissing people and then running away."
He puts the fork down and adopts an unaffected expression. With a cool lift of his brow, he counters, "You didn't try very hard to stop me."
With a huff, she shakes her head to show her annoyance. "I was a bit caught off guard, to be fair."
"Yes, well, I was a bit caught off guard that you've been walking around thinking I'm your bleeding soulmate." He pauses, considering, then asks with a bit of renewed heat, "Is that why you suddenly decided to be so magnanimous? Some obligation in case you find yourself stuck with me in the long term?"
"Of course not," she hisses, voice dropping. "And would you keep your voice down?"
"Unbelievable." Draco pushes back hard from the table, shifting the entire bench and nearly setting Granger off her balance. "You tracked me down, and now you're what? Afraid someone might catch wind that we are associated? Don't fucking trouble yourself, Granger. True or not, I'll just make the choice for you."
With that, he strides away, fuming and oddly disappointed. It's not like he exactly believed it, but he had started to enjoy her company. All or nothing Gryffindor that she is, he's fairly certain she will give him a wide berth from here out.
He doesn't. It's a familiar scenario.
If anything, he picks up his pace, hitting the corridor and making for the stairs. What he wouldn't give for a distraction, but curfew is nearly upon them, and most every student will be in their dorms.
"Draco! Would you stop?!"
He absolutely will not. He reaches the stairs and feels them shift, relieved. Unfortunately, that relief is short-lived when the insane witch breaks into a run and jumps over the gap as it forms. Draco finds himself with his arms full of Granger as she barrels into him and nearly takes them both down.
"What is wrong with you?!" He's panting and so is she, his arms still half supporting her. "Do you have a death wish? Stupid bloody witch…"
She looks up, still breathing heavily and not stepping away. "It's not stupidity to take risks." She pauses, then goads in a rather pointed manner, "Or are you regretting what happened by the lake? Was it just an accident when you kissed me?"
He is flummoxed by the challenge in her voice, his eyes going a bit wider as he stares at her. He stares while she tips up onto her toes, stares as her gaze searches his. He stares until her mouth is pushed tight against his, decisive. She's much more bold than the cautious press of lips he gave her.
Slamming his eyelids down, he kisses her in turn with enough force that she takes a step back. He follows, easing her until she is against the railing. His lips part and so do hers, and his tongue flicks out. She tastes him in turn, and then his hands are in her hair, gripping so the curls twist around his fingers, and her hands are splayed against his back, holding his chest flush against hers.
There is a jolt as the stairs move back into place, and they are left panting once again, but for a much more pleasant reason than her near fall into the bowels of the castle.
Her eyes open slowly, then wide as they can go. Reaching a hand, she plays with the fringe at his brow, mesmerized. Draco does have awfully fine hair, he's been told. Quite fetching. He grins, ready to tease her for her being so caught up in his appearance, when she interrupts his line of thought.
"You're back," she says, her fingertips running down the side of his face to his jaw. "You're not red anymore." Dropping her hand, she looks back to his eyes.
"What do you think that means?"
"I guess, if Trelawney is to be believed, that it means I've made my choice."
Draco understands immediately and straightens his posture a bit, pulling his arms away to give her space. With a smile he hopes is charming, but that might be a bit resigned, he says, "Then I suppose that means, either I will walk you to class in the morning, or that kiss was really disappointing for you."
Her answering smile is a little shy, her eyes blinking closed as she laughs lightly. Granger tilts her head and asks, "You'd walk me to class?"
"Of course," he says, smile daring to grow a little wider, a bit more confident. "I'll even come up to your tower, wait at the Gryffindor portrait. Carry your books all the way down. It's a proper gentlemanly way to do this."
"So you…You want to see where this goes?"
"Who am I to judge the fates, Granger? If a kiss that good broke a spell, there must be something to this, right?" He winks. "I don't know about you, but I thought that was fairly earth shattering."
Granger grins back and takes his hand, leading him off the stairs just in time for them to break away and move once more. "Well, I guess you should walk me to my dorm then. So you know where it is for tomorrow."
Draco offers his elbow and she slips her arm into the crook. He smiles down at her, finding it easy to get a bit lost in those dark eyes. "Gladly. Is it far from Gryffindor then?"
"Oh no, it's right next to the portrait."
"Then I know the way, Granger, but I'll still walk you."
She eyes him curiously. "You know where the Gryffindor commons are? Did you… have you dated another lion?"
Something in her tone is a little sad, a little jealous. Draco finds that to be interesting, and, while he's rather chuffed to have her possessive over him already, he also wants to put her at ease. If they really are fated, starting with some honestly is probably the way to go.
"No, no, nothing like that. I'll tell you, in the interest of building trust, you understand." He sighs, looking around to be sure they are alone, and then leaning closer to speak more softly. "In third year, I was sure Potter was doing something illegal. Harbouring Black is what I thought. So I brewed up some Polyjuice and snuck in. Nothing really came of it, honestly. Followed him in, but just ended up watching Weasel beat him at chess." He shrugs. "It was stupid and pointless. Of course he wasn't hiding a grown person in the Tower. Ridiculous… But I was young and it just seemed-"
Draco breaks off, shaking his head at his younger self. He chances a look down at Hermione to find her chewing her lip in that way she has. He hopes he hasn't fucked this up already.
"Granger? Don't be angry. You know who I was then. What I believed... Don't tell me something like this will put an end before we even start."
Her head snaps his way, train of thought broken, and then a wide grin splits her face. She lunges, and he has to catch her once again. With no railing to help catch him, no stair to brace his foot against, he nearly tumbles to the ground. Granger is wrapped around him like an enormous Tentacula, her mouth bruising against his.
When they part, he pants out an amused, "So I didn't mess up, then? I'm forgiven for my sneaky Slytherin ways?"
Her grin is radiant and she plants one last peck on his lips. "I was just thinking how very well suited we might be after all, if I still had any doubts. Meet me before breakfast, and I'll tell you about my first attempt at Polyjuice. You won't believe it."
She breaks away and turns to the door to her left, a red filigree 'G' adorning the wood. "See you in the morning, Draco."
He stands for some time, staring after her, grinning like a fool.
Hermione tries very hard not to tell Draco about the cat portion of her polyjuice incident, but damned if he's not too insightful for her own good. He asks just the right questions, and, not being one to lie, she eventually gives up the entire sordid affair, every detail from the tip of her tail to the top of her pointy ears.
He seems charmed by the whole thing, and holds her hand under the table in the Great Hall, smiling at her like a niffler at gold.
He walks her every day for the week. They weather the expected explosion from Ron and the condescending concern from Harry and the vitriol of a few of the louder snakes, but none of it diminishes the draw she feels toward him, the way her heart rate spikes when he looks at her with his boyish smile.
They finish a perfect batch of Felix, but Draco tells her he believes he has inherent luck without it.
On Saturday, they visit Hogsmeade, taking bites from each other's dinners and strolling lazily through the streets. He walks her to her dorm as he has every night, but this time, she doesn't let him leave. They wake Sunday morning lying face to face, his arm slung over her waist and his blonde fringe tickling her nose.
Hermione mentally adds Sybill Trewlaney to her Christmas card list, though it pains her to do so.
Fuck, she hates being wrong.
Draco nuzzles closer, sliding the tip of his nose against the bridge of hers, sighing in contentment, and she accepts that this one time, it was worth it.
She doesn't ask anymore, how he takes his tea.
Handing the cup and saucer his way, Severus takes the bit of mismatched porcelain and nods his thanks. Very few people are aware of the odd companionship of a former Death Eater and the controversial Divination professor. Both are rather private and full of secrets, after all. He, inundated with decades worth of knowledge surrounding Dark dealings and Light machinations, and she with the answers to the universe, hidden beneath technicolor tea cosies, and ludicrously large glasses she doesn't actually need to see.
"So," he says with no preamble, "the Granger girl...Had a hand in that nonsense I suppose?"
Sybill shakes her head before dumping a disgusting amount of sugar into her own serving of English Breakfast. "Hardly. Ron Weasley was the particular conduit for that bit of fate. Purely by accident of course, but accidents are the most reliable messengers of the gods, wouldn't you say?"
Taking a long, indulgent sip, the usually taciturn professor offers a rare grin. "Yet you are the one who delivered the news to her directly. How, I often wonder, do you guard against self fulfilling prophecies? Surely you can see how problematic that would be if you do not wish to claim credit for truth amongst the theater."
"Exactly that," she answers. "See enough death in the tea leaves, and no one believes your mundanities anyway. Especially the Hermione Grangers of the world. More likely, that girl would have missed her moment simply to prove me wrong."
"A tragedy for Mister Malfoy to be sure," he says, sarcastic and venomous.
His colleague levels him with a look. "Do not pretend, Severus, you do not wish him every happiness."
With a sigh, he allows, "Perhaps. Unfortunate that it comes part and parcel with Potter and a hurricane of hair."
And Sybill laughs because she sees the humour in his anger and his spite, and he smiles back at her because he sees the brilliance beneath her eccentricities.
Twenty years ago, she told him they would be the best of friends, and he wasted five denying it. He's learned many lessons since then, not the least of which being that Sybill Trelawney is not half as dotty as she behaves and is twice as sharp as any witch he knows.
Seven years ago she told him a muggleborn would be the next Lady Malfoy, and Severus had only raised his brow as he sipped his perfectly prepared tea.
That's a wrap! Thank you once again for reading this little piece. See you in December!