The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
Beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten lent their editing skills to this chapter.
Harry and Hermione walked back to Gryffindor tower in silence, only talking when they reached the commons. He told her to send a Galleon message when she was ready, and headed toward the stairs to the boys’ dormitory.
Back in her room, Hermione only stopped to brush her teeth, touch up what little makeup she wore, and smooth her curls. Sending Harry a ‘ready’ message, she grabbed the transfigured box and raced to the common room. Less than forty-five minutes later, she was dragging her friend through the library to their favorite seats. Once again, they had arrived before Draco. Hermione wandered off to find her favorite transfiguration reference work.
The book she was reading was ridiculously huge and heavy, and she opted to sit on the floor right by its shelf rather than drag it anywhere. I’ll only be a few minutes. Soon she was lying flat on her stomach, knees bent and ankles crossed in the air. She was so involved in her notes that she didn’t even notice Draco when he sat down beside her. She jumped visibly when he finally said, “What on earth are you doing, Miss Granger?”
“Oh! Just one more minute. Almost done.”
The only sound was the scratching of her quill against parchment for a bit, and then she looked up. Draco was sitting beside her, his back to the bookshelf. He had one long leg stretched out beside her, and the other was bent at the knee. His elbows were perched on a lower shelf. He’s beautiful.
“What are you working on?”
“Nothing, actually. I love this book, and it just occurred to me that I won’t be able to enjoy it for much longer. I wanted to write down a few favorite parts.”
Draco glanced at the cover of the tome as Hermione closed it. “Light reading?”
She laughed and sat up on her knees, putting them almost at the same level. The young wizard must have been waiting for that, because he reached out and pulled her into his arms. Hermione went to him gladly. “By the way, Professor Dumbledore gave me your present but said I was to wait to open it.”
Draco lifted one eyebrow in a manner eerily similar to Lucius. “You don’t happen to have it with you, I suppose?”
“Yes. When I told him we were meeting here, he transfigured it into a book for me. It’s over there by my schoolbag.” She started to get up.
“Stay here, and I’ll get it.” He tapped her on the head in emphasis, leaned forward at the waist and reached a long arm for it.
He’s so graceful. Her eyes followed his every movement. Draco quickly reverted the gift back to its original form. As he performed Finite, Hermione’s mind went elsewhere and she giggled. He looked at her questioningly.
“Oh, it’s just that the, um, dress I wore to the stake acceptance was a transfigured silk scarf. Ginny warned me I’d end up looking like a house-elf in a hanky if anyone used that counter-spell. Good thing it wasn’t part of the ceremony.”
Draco eyes glazed for more than a few seconds, and she anxiously asked, “What’s wrong?”
The young wizard blinked and processed her question. A slight flush rose in his cheeks and he dropped his eyes as he said, “I was imagining you in a green silk scarf. You didn’t look at all like a house elf.”
Hermione was blushing, too. “Thank you, I think.”
He held the package out in front of her at face level. “Would you like your present now?”
She was momentarily distracted by the way his long hands wrapped around the box’s angles. “Oh – yes, please.”
Draco maneuvered his long body beside hers, and he wrapped an arm around her shoulders so that he could help hold the box in her lap. Together they untied the bow and pulled off the paper. Hermione was having a hard time focusing on anything other than Draco at the moment, but she managed to remove the lid. There, under several layers of tissue, was a dark grey dress of heavy silk. The young witch touched the fabric reverently and then raised it up a few inches by the delicate shoulder straps.
“It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
His breath tickled her ear. “The color will look lovely against your skin.”
She turned her face to his, “I love it.”
Hermione rose to stand, shaking out the folds in the storm-colored gown. She held it up against her torso and watched the way the light played against it, adding blue and deep purple flashes. The curly-headed witch looked down at her wizard with an awed expression.
“I’ve never owned anything so . . . “
Draco was reaching out to her, beckoning her back down to his side. She complied, and the two of them tucked the garment back into the box. He wrapped his arm around her again, reaching to hold her hand in his own. He murmured in her ear. “Wear it for our next visit. Please?”
Even if I weren’t overdosing on his scent right now, I don’t think I could say no to him. “Of course. Only, isn’t it a bit fancy to wear during the day?”
“Perhaps here at school. If you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself, you could Glamour it. Say you’ll wear it for me.”
He had been watching her lips as she talked, and Hermione knew he was thinking of kissing her. The thought made her almost giddy. “I’ll wear it tomorrow. We will have a visit then, won’t we?”
He was leaning toward her, his gaze still on her mouth. “Undoubtedly.”
He spoke the word against her lips and then pressed his mouth to hers. Hermione reached up to thread her fingers through his hair, and he gave a small, pleasurable moan. He was falling forward gently, pressing her to lean back toward the bookshelf behind her. Draco’s left arm was still wrapped around her, holding her against his chest, and now his right arm braced against the floor at her far side. Hermione was having difficulty remembering to breathe, and she wrapped her arms around him and held on as if for dear life. When their lips finally met, they moved together in a succession of heated kisses.
Suddenly he broke from the kiss with a flinch and jumped away from her as though he’d received an electric shock. Hermione reached out a trembling hand toward him. “Are you all right? What was that?”
Draco was obviously trying to regain his composure, and remained silent with his head down. Finally he took an audible breath, and said shakily, “Rule number one.”
“Rule number– OH. What . . . do you want to talk about it?” She stroked his head in a soothing manner.
“No. Yes.” He paused again for a long time. “Rule number one might end up being the death of me. It states that I must never think of you disrespectfully when I’m with you.”
“I can’t imagine you being disrespectful to me, so I don’t understand why you were pun—“
Draco silenced her with a shake of his head. He was blushing, but forced himself to explain, “I could never act disrespectfully toward you. However, my mind has a way of straying from appropriate thoughts.”
“How is that disrespectful?”
“Lucius explained that rule to me by saying that if I couldn’t bring myself to say what I was thinking out loud in front of you, the thought was inappropriate and therefore disrespectful. He did not warn me that it would be all but impossible to abide by it.”
Her voice betrayed her confusion as she said, “I really don’t see how that applies to–“
“Hermione.” Draco dragged his hands through his hair, tugging at it, and it sounded as though he was driving himself to continue. “Before . . . I was thinking of what I wanted to do . . . with you. To you.”
He said my name. He said my name but I’m not ready to say his, yet. Not yet. And Sweet Circe, did he just say what I thought he . . . “Oh,” she whispered softly. She felt a burning blush spread over her face.
“But I can’t bring myself to say it aloud, and so it’s inappropriate,” He said despondently. Draco briefly raised his eyes to hers before scrubbing a hand across his face.
“I know that I’m terribly naïve, but surely it can’t be that bad.” She couldn’t seem to talk above a whisper. Draco might be experiencing a momentary lack of composure, but she was a terrifying mix of confusion and mortification. What does he want to do to me that he can’t say out loud?
“It isn’t bad at all. It’s right, and natural, and inevitable, and when you’re ready, it will be perfect. But I don’t think you’re nearly ready yet.”
“Ready for what?”
He gave an agonized grimace and bit out, “To hear any of my sordid fantasies. I have been waiting for you for years. It only stands to reason that I’ve been imagining what it would be like when we were finally together.”
Sweet Merlin, he just admitted he’s been having fantasies about me. “I may not be ready yet, but I’m sure I will be soon. After all, we’re getting married in less than ten days.”
That seemed to reassure Draco, as did the kiss that Hermione impulsively pressed to his lips. He looked at her in amazement and brushed a curl from her face with his hand. “You’re my witch.”
They stayed side by side, leaning against the bookshelf and each other for a long time, and there was no need for conversation. Harry finally hunted them down when the library was closing, and they left the library holding hands.
Back at the Gryffindor commons, she and Harry flopped down to play Exploding Snap for a while. Hermione wanted time away from her thoughts, and Harry apparently couldn’t sleep without at least one witch in his bed. Either way, neither was ready to be alone, and the ensuing hilarity of dodging detonating cards was exactly what they both needed.
Halfway through their third game, Ron came down from the boys’ dorms with his arm around Parvati Patil’s waist. “Hi, Harry! What’s up, ‘Mione?”
Harry looked up with a somewhat forced smile, and Hermione waved her right hand, making sure her left one was sufficiently hidden. Ron disengaged himself from Parvati and walked over to his friends. “I’ll play winner of this round. Mione, you’re never around recently. Why’s that, do you suppose?”
Hermione glanced at him and gave a shrug, then turned back to the game. “Hmmmmm. It’s your turn, Harry.” Idiot!
Ron sat down beside her and bumped his shoulder against hers. Hermione shifted slightly away from him and gave him what she was sure was an uncomfortable smile, then returned her focus to the game. He reached out toward her robe-wrapped left hand and said moodily, “You never spend any time with me any more, ‘Mione. I miss you.”
As his fingers made contact with the fabric-covered hand, Hermione snatched it away as if he had a case of Spattergroit.
“Don’t!” She hissed angrily and added, “I’m going to bed. See you in the morning.”
“What’s wrong with you?” Ron whined, and then turned on Harry. “This has something to do with the way you two have been so cozy lately!”
“She’s like a sister to me, and you know it, Ron.” Harry looked toward Hermione and nodded his head toward the stairs to the girls’ dorms. Absolutely. I refuse to deal with him right now. She called out a general ‘good night’.
Ron ignored her and said loudly, “She’s not joining your harem!”
The last thing she heard as she left the room was Harry. “Just shut up, Ron! You don’t know anything!”
Last week I would have gladly held his hand and listened to his excuses like they were lover’s whispers. Now I can’t stand the sight of him. Hermione shuddered at the thought that she might have eventually married Ron if Lucius and Draco hadn’t cast their stake early and unanimously.
Late that night, as Hermione lay in her bed thinking back over her evening with Draco, a lightning-bolt thought occurred to her. She sat upright in bed. He only said he had to think of me respectfully when he was WITH me! He WAS . . . doing what Harry said . . . in the shower before our first library date!
The imbalance of the courtship rules for her and her betrothed would have made her furious at any other time, but she had been assailed by a very . . . disrespectful . . . mental image of a beautiful, showering Draco, thinking of her while bringing himself to a powerful climax.