Sunteți pe pagina 1din 223

Copyright Page

This book was automatically created by FLAG on September 23rd, 2012, based on content retrieved from The content in this book is copyrighted by frostykitten or their authorised agent(s). All rights are reserved except where explicitly stated otherwise. This story was first published on April 20th, 2011, and was last updated on September 13th, 2011. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated - please email any bugs, problems, feature requests etc. to

Table of Contents
Summary 1. Chapter 1 2. Chapter 2 3. Chapter 3 4. Chapter 4 5. Chapter 5 6. Chapter 6 7. Chapter 7 8. Chapter 8 9. Chapter 9 10. Chapter 10 11. Chapter 11 12. Chapter 12 13. Chapter 13 14. Chapter 14 15. Chapter 15 16. Chapter 16 17. Chapter 17 18. Chapter 18 19. Chapter 19 20. Chapter 20 21. Chapter 21 22. Chapter 22 23. Chapter 23


"You're going to help me kiss all the girls in Hogwarts until I find the one that's going to save my life?" He asked. She wrinkled her nose in distaste, knowing she was going to regret this. "Yes." Draco's a Veela, Hermione helps him find his mate. DM/HG


Chapter 1
Chapter 1 A/N: I know it's been done before, this Veela thing, but I just couldn't resist... So here's my version! This idea has been sitting in my 'ideas' folder for a while, so I decided to make it into an actual story. The exam I have tomorrow and am avoiding studying for was also a motivating factor... This chapter is unbeataed, if anyone wants to volunteer to beta, I'd really appreciate it. ~Frosty Shifting uncomfortably in his chair, Draco rubbed a hand against his aching chest. The gnawing ache had been going on for a while now, and it was starting to worry him slightly. He glanced around the Potions classroom to see if anyone had noticed his discomfort, not wanting to make his weakness obvious. Blaise was directing a worried look at him from across the room where he was sitting beside his partner, Potter. Snape had decided that they were almost enjoying his class on some days so he had assigned them as partners with the person they were least likely to get along with just to add that little bit extra unpleasantness to their day. The old bat didn't want people to think he was going soft. Shaking his head minutely at his friend to signify that he was fine, Draco finished his scan of the room. If Blaise had noticed, then he wasn't hiding his pain as well as he'd hoped. His grey eyes landed on the busy head sitting beside him at their desk. Granger had noticed his discomfort and was staring at him with a concerned look in her molten chocolate eyes. His lips turned down in a frown at his Gryffindor partner. Her eyes were the colour of dirt; flat brown and boring. Not molten chocolate. "Are you all right Malfoy?" She asked in a whisper, ignoring the dark frown marring his face that clearly warned not to comment on what she'd seen. Granger was irritating like that, always sticking her self-righteous nose in other people's business. Draco tried to strengthen his glare and intimidate her into turning back to the

potion they'd been assigned to work on, but the pain in his chest suddenly worsened to an almost unbearable agony. Without his permission, his body curled around his stomach in an unsuccessful effort to soothe the stabbing pains. He barely even registered the impact with the floor as he fell out of his chair and landed in a heap on the unforgiving dungeon stones. The last thing he remembered before the pain intensified to the point where he could no longer maintain consciousness was her cinnamon irises looking down at him anxiously. He blinked at her helplessly as the blackness that had been encroaching on him overwhelmed his vision and he passed out.

With a quiet groan, Draco shifted slightly under the uncomfortable, scratchy sheets. What in the world were the elves thinking putting those things on his bed? They may as well have used sandpaper against his delicate skin. He blearily opened his eyes, glancing around the blindingly white room where he had been sleeping. The events of Potions class came rushing back when he realized that he was in the Hospital Wing. "Oh Draco!" Someone said, throwing their arms around him. The position was a little awkward, as she was sitting in a chair beside his bed and he was lying down. He made a face as he spit out the hair that had gone into his mouth. "Mother? What happened?" The hair that was trying to suffocate him was removed as Narcissa's arms loosened from around his neck. She pulled back to see him better, looking over every visible centimetre of him for bruises from the fall. "I knew your father should have warned you before you left for school," she sighed, smoothing his hair away from his face. Draco's eyes darted to his father as the man finished conversing with the Mediwitch and walked purposefully over to Draco's bed. He hadn't noticed the imposing presence of his father in the room until his mother had mentioned the man. Lucius Malfoy wasn't someone it was wise to overlook. "Son, I have something to tell you," Lucius said after a moment of observing his offspring. His proclamation was followed by more silence. Looking between Draco's expectant face and Lucius' frown, Narcissa sighed.

Lucius may have come across as someone to fear to outside observers, but the man hated to deal with their son's fits of temper and was hesitant to start one. She supposed it was their own fault; they had spoiled the boy when he was young. "What your father is trying to say," she spoke up, shooting Lucius an exasperated look. "Is that he's a Veela, making you one as well; the blood's dominant." Draco's usually pale visage drained of what little blood that was usually there. "Tell me this is some kind of cruel joke." He pleaded. He didn't know much about Veelas, but he did know that being one meant that his 'pure' blood he'd been so proud of was a lie. There was something else nagging at the back of his mind as well, something important he was forgetting about Veelas, but he couldn't seem to put his finger on it. "It's true." Lucius said. "There's something else as well..." Narcissa rolled her eyes at the continued hesitance of her husband. The man really did spoil the boy. It was part of his Veela nature, but that didn't mean it was right. "Draco, as a Veela, you have a mate. This girl is going to come to mean everything to you because she's your soul mate... There's just one little problem; you're going to have to find your mate within the year. Failure to do this will lead to your death." She told him, brutally revealing the truth. Her husband gave her a reproachful look that she ignored. He knew what it was like to have something like that dropped on your head, and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Narcissa wasn't even looking at her husband, all her attention was directed at their son, who was gaping like a fish. "You'll be drawn to her, but there's only one way for you to know for sure who she is." Lucius chimed in when it didn't seem that Draco was going to pull himself together enough to comment. At least the boy wasn't yelling, so far he was taking it better than expected. Draco waited, both dreading and needing to know what his father was going to tell him. "What is it?" "A kiss," Lucius said with a sigh, anticipating his son's negative reaction to the new information. The younger Malfoy's eyes widened in horror before a red tinge of anger started

in his cheeks. "You want me to just go around kissing every girl I meet? Just whore myself around?" He yelled, outraged. "Language!" His mother chided in the background, but they didn't pay her any mind. Lucius raised a pale eyebrow. "I was under the impression you did that already." "Not just anyone, Father. I have standards." Lucius was starting to get fed up with the boy's whinging. Sometimes he wished he'd had a girl, she'd be more likely to be happy that she had a perfect match out there somewhere. "Draco," he gritted out. "This girl is your perfect match in every way; your soul mate. When you find her, those standards will fly out the door." The boy nodded, but he didn't look like he'd been listening. In fact, he looked nauseated. "What if she's in Gryffindor?" He was so overdramatic. Lucius had to wonder if he was ever this irritating when he was young. Narcissa had been watching the exchange between father and son and was starting to tire of it. She put a hand on Lucius' arm to stop the outburst she knew was about to happen. The man didn't have much patience when it came to their son, probably because the boy was just like him. "Draco, you listen to me," his mother ordered. "There's a girl out there who will make you happy for the rest of your life if you can just find her. If you don't, you will die. This isn't something you can just get out of by having your Father use his pull to change the rules. It's time you grew up." She leant down and kissed his forehead before leaving the room. His father patted the boy's shoulder in a show of support and followed his wife out of the room, looking amused at the entire situation. There was no doubt in his mind that Draco would manage to find the girl, Malfoys were nothing if not fully invested in their own self-preservation. His journey to find the girl was sure to be interesting though, Draco had enough of his mother in him to make him outspoken enough to get himself in plenty of trouble before he'd managed to settle down with this girl. Draco stared after his parents in disbelief, unable to properly process the dramatic change his blood had just thrown at him. There was probably some irony in there somewhere; the blood he'd been so proud of for its purity was now going to

kill him. He was too distraught to properly appreciate it. How could his parents just impart information like that one him and the leave? Suddenly, the curtain that had been surrounding the bed beside him whipped back, making him nearly jump out of his skin. It revealed a head of unmistakeable bushy hair and eyes alight with interest and sympathy. Great, more fun was yet to be had. Merlin, what had he done to deserve so much aggravation in one day? Wait... he could probably answer that himself. His eyes snapped down to his left arm before the settled on the nuisance and narrowed into a glare. "Merlin, Granger. What the hell are you doing?" He demanded angrily, unhappy that she'd managed to startle him and with his life in general at the moment. Why did it have to be her who had heard that entire thing with his parents? Now he wouldn't be able to torment her without fear of her revealing his secret. Granger had always been an easy target to torment when he was feeling down. Something about poking fun at her faults had always made him feel better about whatever it was that was bothering him. "I heard what they said," she told him. Her legs swung over the side of the bed she sat on and she hopped down, walking to his bedside and taking the visitor's chair. Draco frowned at how un-intimidated she appeared. He was obviously doing something wrong if she felt so comfortable with him that she just confidently took the visitor's chair like that. "Of course you did," he muttered. "If you tell anyone I'll make sure to make your life miserable. Well, more miserable than it already is." It was obviously already pretty horrible, she spent most of her spare time with the Weasel and Saint Potter. Hermione only rolled her eyes at his threats. "Don't even bother Malfoy, you can insult me all you want, but you're not getting rid of me until I've said what I have to say." She waited to see if he was going to object, but he merely scowled at her. Just to piss him off, she smiled radiantly at him. "Good. Now, as Head Girl, I feel it is my duty to stop something like the preventable death of the Head Boy from happening. So I'm offering my services." She told him primly. Draco took a moment to just stare at her in disbelief. "Granger, there's no way in hell you're my mate. Besides, I don't think you can just... offer."

Immediately, her face took on an appalled expression. That hadn't been what she'd meant at all, but he didn't have to be so mean about rejecting her theoretical offer. Although she hid it well, deep down, Hermione was a little hurt that he'd just write her off without even pausing to think about it for a moment. "That's not what I meant at all. Stop being daft. I was offering to help you find your mate." "You're going to help me kiss all the girls in Hogwarts until I find the one that's going to save my life?" He asked. The kindness that had motivated her offer was something unfamiliar to him. Also, he would have thought something in that plan would upset the delicate morals of the uptight Gryffindor. She wrinkled her nose in distaste, knowing she was going to regret this. "Yes." Instead of the mocking she'd been expecting, he gave her a strange, unreadable look. "Why would you help me?" He asked. "Because it's the right thing to do." She said. He may be an evil prat, but Malfoy didn't deserve to die. Their seventh year was supposed to be all about rebuilding after the war, and what better way to start than for Hermione Granger to do something kind towards Draco Malfoy? Not that she planned on letting the whole thing get out, that would be mortifying. It wasn't her secret to share, so she had no plans on telling a soul. "This doesn't mean I'm going to be nice to you." He spat the word nice like it was a particularly foul disease. "And no one is to know that I'm part Veela." Hermione rolled her eyes. "No one would believe me even if I told. Don't worry, I won't spread it around that you precious 'pure' blood isn't as pure as you thought." Just to irritate him, she patted his cheek condescendingly as she stood from her chair. His reactions were sluggish from his recent collapse, so he wasn't able to pull away in time. As she was leaving, Hermione glanced back at him in confusion. When her hand had touched his cheek, she could have sworn that he'd actually leaned into the contact even while he glared furiously. She shook her head. That was insane; she must have been imagining it. His skin had been warmer than she would have thought, and it wasn't as smooth as it looked. The hair there was blond so she'd never noticed before that Malfoy had
- 10 -

stubble. He'd obviously skipped the shaving spell that morning, probably distracted by the pains his parents had been talking about in hushed voice before he woke. Ron didn't need to use the spell, a sore spot for him that Fred and George exploited mercilessly and a topic Harry and Hermione had learned to carefully avoid. It was odd to think of Malfoy as a man, he'd always been a little bully of a boy in her mind. When he'd been unconscious and unable to talk, he's been almost... attractive. That was a thought that made her worry she'd caught something while in the hospital wing. Malfoy was not attractive. He was an evil, vindictive little prat who spent entirely too much time insulting her and her friends. Shaking off the strange notions flooding her head, Hermione made her way to the Great Hall for dinner. She smiled when she noticed that Harry and Ron had saved her a seat. "Have you been in the hospital wing with Malfoy this whole time?" Ron asked when he noticed her. His eyes were filled with accusation. Her nose wrinkled in distaste at the food that fell out of the redhead's mouth as he talked. Someone really needed to teach the boy some table manners. Even at their most obnoxious, Fred and George knew how to chew with their mouths closed, and Ginny's manners were impeccable. Hermione couldn't help but wonder what had gone wrong with Ron - because something had obviously gone horribly wrong. "He was unconscious Ronald. It's not like I was sitting there enjoying Malfoy's company." Hermione snapped, irritated. With Ron, she got all of the fun of a jealous lover with none of the affection all rolled into one gangly, hot-headed package. He may have been one of her best friends, but she tired of him sometimes. "Did you find out what happened to make him just fall down like that?" Harry asked. Hermione hated lying to her friends, especially after everything that they'd gone through together, but this wasn't her secret to tell and she'd already told Malfoy that she wasn't going to spread his real heritage around. Her only option was to lie. "I just stayed long enough to make sure he wasn't going to die. Can you imagine me having to get used to another Head Boy? It was bad enough before." Her comment successfully distracted Harry. "I still can't believe McGonagall put you two in a dormitory together. It's cruel and unusual punishment!" She rolled her eyes at his predictable reaction, but sat there and nodded at all the
- 11 -

right moments and he repeated the rant she'd already heard too many times. As soon as she could do it without looking like she was starving herself, Hermione retreated from the table. She'd managed to lie, but the lie was weighing heavily on her shoulders. She just wanted a nice, warm bath and a few hours of homework to help her relax. That plan died the moment she heard hurrying footsteps behind her. A glance over her shoulder revealed that Ginny was trotting to catch up. "Hermione, wait!" The redhead called. With a sigh, Hermione stopped so that her friend could catch her. "What's wrong Ginny?" "You were lying." Ginny said. "Back there when Harry asked you if you knew what happened to Malfoy, you lied. I want to know why." She said in her no nonsense voice. Though that tone would have worked on any of her brothers, Hermione was no pushover. "I can't tell you Ginny." She said regretfully as she arrived at the portrait that guarded the Head Dorms. The redhead followed her in, unwilling to accept that as an answer. "C'mon Hermione. I won't tell anyone whatever it is that you're hiding." Hermione sighed, but she wasn't looking at Ginny. She was looking at the figure lounging shirtless on the sofa and giving her an irritated look. Her day just got a little more horrible. "Granger, I know you're obsessed with overachieving, but I was only going to do Gryffindors as a last resort." He drawled in that infuriating way of his. Ginny was confused. She looked between her friend and the git that friend lived with. Then she focused on that git's chest. Merlin. "Does he always walk around like that?" She whispered, awed. If he did, she was going to have to visit Hermione at the Head Dorms more often. Hermione glared towards the Slytherin; sadly, he did. It was part of his campaign to make her uncomfortable and spend as little time as possible in the Head Dorms. So far, the campaign was working quite well.
- 12 -

"It doesn't matter Ginny." Hermione sighed, suddenly more weary than she could remember being in a long time. After the war, things were supposed to have calmed down. She'd obviously forgotten to take into account the fact that nothing in the Magical World ever really 'calmed down'. As if sensing that it was the worst thing he could possibly do, Malfoy rose gracefully from the sofa and approached the pair of Gryffindors. Now that he was looking at her, the She-Weasel wasn't that bad on the eyes. If she didn't have so many unfortunate siblings and atrocious taste in men, then she would almost be up to his standards. He paused when he was in front of them. The redhead's eyes were focused on his chest, as if mesmerized, but Granger was staring at his left arm. Shite. He'd forgotten the glamour charm on the Dark Mark. Wordlessly and wandlessly, he cast the charm he used every day to hide the shameful scar. Distraction. He needed her to stop looking at him like that. He was unsure why, but that disappointed and mournful expression of Granger's needed to stop. Before he could over-think it and talk himself into changing his mind, he grabbed the She-Weasel's chin and kissed her. She hadn't been expecting him to do anything of the sort, so she was unresisting. Draco could feel her lips, warm against his. It felt wrong. She was relatively attractive, and in the past, his hormones would have been satisfied with her. Before either of the Gryffindors could hex him, Draco pulled away and left them there. He'd heard impressive things about the Weasley woman's Bat Bogey Hex and didn't want to stick around and get firsthand knowledge on whether the rumours were true. His lips were tingling, but not in a good way. When he was sure neither of the Gryffindors could see him, he swiped an arm across them in an attempt to stop the unpleasant feeling. Since the whole Veela thing, something had changed. He was supposed to be the person never wanting for female company because they threw themselves at him. How was that supposed to work if there was only one female out there that didn't repulse him? It seemed that his Veela blood was going to force a serious lifestyle change on him. Hermione and Ginny watched him stroll up the stairs and shut his bedroom door
- 13 -

behind him, completely shocked. Slowly, a red flush started to make its way up Ginny's neck. By the time it had reached her face, Hermione'd had time to process what had just happened. Merlin, she was going to murder Malfoy. Although she'd probably have to wait in line after Ginny. And Harry! She was in way over her head; there was no way she'd be able to sit by while he did that to all kinds of unsuspecting girls and broke up relationships all over the school. "What was that?" Ginny asked, looking like she was fighting to keep her composure through the rage darkening her face. "That was Malfoy at peak irritating capacity," the brunette muttered. He was really on form that day. Ginny started wiping her hands across her mouth frantically, trying to rub off the contamination from his slimy, Slytherin lips. "How am I supposed to tell Harry that I've caught some kind of sexually transmitted disease from Malfoy? And you look horrified, but not as surprised as you should. What's going on?" Trust Ginny to notice minute changes in Hermione's expression while being murderously angry. Nervously, Hermione shuffled from foot to foot. Malfoy was an enormously foul person, but it wasn't in her nature to spout the secrets of others. "Can we just forget this ever happened? By the end of the year, you'll have your answer." She said. Either Malfoy would die and the truth would come out, or he'd find whoever his mate was and the truth would still probably come out. The redhead sighed and wiped her mouth one more time. "It's probably best that we just forget. Harry would kill Malfoy for this, and I don't think even the man who killed Voldemort would get away with cold-blooded murder." Gratefully, Hermione nodded. She saw Ginny out the portrait hole and made sure her friend was gone. Once the painting closed behind the other Gryffindor, she leant against the wall in exhaustion. Screw the bath and homework, she was going straight to bed; she'd need all the rest she could get if every day was going to be like this.

- 14 -

Chapter 2
Chapter 2 A/N: A huge thank you to all of you wonderful people who reviewed! I was so happy to read them all, they made me smile. This story is still beta-less, so if anyone has some spare time to help out... I'd really appreciate it! I move in four days, so I'm going to be busy for the next little while, and the update might take a little longer than my usual updates. I'll try to get it to you guys as soon as possible. ~Frosty When she woke up the next morning, Hermione was felling much better. Things always seemed much less hopeless when one was just waking up. Reality and all the stress that came with it would set in later, so she revelled in the optimistic feeling if early morning by staying in her bed a few extra moments. It wasn't helping; reality was setting in despite her refusal to leave the bed. With a sigh, she stood up and dragged herself from bed. She staggered from her room and into - the loo to shower and hopefully wake up a little more. It may have been Saturday, but that didn't mean she was just going to sit around and slack off when there was homework to do! When she came out into the common room, there was an unusual sight waiting for her. Sitting on the same sofa he'd occupied the night before was Malfoy -thankfully with a shirt this time- surrounded by books. Despite his good grades, rarely was the Slytherin prince seen with actual books, they'd completely ruin his apathetic image. His silver eyes flickered her way as she entered the room. "Hey Granger, I'm venomous." He said, holding up the book he was reading. The tone he used gave the impression that he was barely interested, but in his eyes was a disturbed glint. Hermione frowned and came further into the room. She perched on the edge of the sofa and peered at the book he was reading curiously. It was all about Veelas and their mates. Upon a more thorough perusal, she found that all the books he'd surrounded himself with were on similar subjects. Well, at least he was willing to do
- 15 -

his own research instead of making her do it like Harry and Ron would have in the same situation. "That's lovely for you Malfoy," she said sarcastically, picking up one of the books to find out about Veelas for herself. If she was going to live with one, she thought it best that she bring herself up to date on the topic - plus her curiosity was eating her up on the inside. Hermione had once heard a saying that said 'curiosity killed the cat'; she could only hope that it didn't apply to lions as well because she had no plans of leaving the topic of Veelas unexplored. Her hands froze in the process of opening her book when something occurred to her. "Malfoy, you didn't poison Ginny last night, did you?" She asked worriedly. If the redhead was poisoned, there would be no hiding what had happened to her from Harry and Ron, and it would only make them more inclined to kill the Slytherin for touching Ginny. He gave her a look that said he clearly thought she was insane. "Do you really think McGonagall would let me stay at Hogwarts if I was going to go around kissing and killing every girl in the school? My fangs have the venom." His lips pulled back to reveal his teeth. From where she was sitting he teeth looked perfectly normal. And white. And straight. Why had she never noticed that Malfoy had perfect teeth before? "You don't have fangs," she said intelligently, possibly blinded by his teeth. Immediately after the words left her mouth, she knew she sounded like a complete moron. "Apparently they appear when I have to bite my mate and sometimes- just read the damn books and stop asking questions," he snapped. Hermione watched him read for a moment, carefully weighing his motivations. That last statement had sounded an awful lot like an invitation to study up on the topic with him. It was as close to polite and welcoming as Malfoy had ever been and it was disturbing her greatly. She opened the book she'd picked up, settling against the cushions. The literature on Veelas was actually fascinating, so it was easy to become completely immersed in the material. Before she knew it, the sun had slunk across the sky and it was nearly dinnertime. Surprised that she'd managed to spend so much time in Malfoy's presence without a snarky insult, she glanced over at the blond.
- 16 -

He'd fallen asleep! Hermione sighed and shook her head; here she'd thought they were making progress with the civility thing when in reality the prat had fallen asleep. Now that she had a chance to get a good look at him without fear of him staring back, she saw the dark smudges under his eyes and the hollowness of his cheeks. If what the books had said was true, he was feeling stabs of pain on and off as his Veela blood asserted itself, and he probably wasn't getting very much sleep. Just this once, she'd let him sleep and not wake him up to remind him that they needed to prepare for the prefect's meeting on Monday. When her eyes alighted on the book he'd been reading, she cringed; the poor book had crinkled up in his hands as he'd shuffled in his sleep. He was dangerously close to ripping the fragile pages of the very old tome. Hermione couldn't just leave the book like that; it went against everything she stood for. Carefully, she leaned over and started gently tugging on the book, trying to free it from his grasp without doing further damage to the delicate pages. Malfoy shifted slightly in his sleep, stretching his legs out into the space her body had just vacated. His grip on the book loosened while he moved. Hermione snatched it and grinned triumphantly, smoothing out the un-ripped pages with relief. For a minute there, she'd frozen in horror, worried that Malfoy was going to wake up with her standing over him. That would have been difficult to explain; he never would have believed that she was just trying to save the book and had no plans of taking advantage of his unguarded state. After quickly making sure the blond was still sleeping, she turned around to set the book on the coffee table before he managed to do it any more damage to it. She nearly jumped out of her skin when an arm snaked around her waist and yanked her down on top of Malfoy's surprisingly firm torso. His other arm came around her waist to join the first one in holding her tight against his body. No matter how much she wiggled and tried to escape, Hermione was helpless against the sleeping Slytherin. Veelas were known to be stronger than the average human, and Hermione wasn't particularly strong for a human, so it was hopeless. Her hands were pinned, one trapped underneath her and the other held tight to her side, leaving her unable to reach her wand. Her struggles abruptly stopped when she felt his nose drag along her neck, tickling her as he inhaled. The motion sent shivers up her spine.
- 17 -

"MALFOY!" Hermione screeched, restarting her wiggling with new vigour. What exactly was going on escaped her, but the foreboding feeling that she wouldn't like it should she find out lingered in her mind. She felt him tense beside her before he shoved her off the sofa and onto the floor. "What the hell, Granger?" He demanded, darting a quick look around the room as he gained his bearings. The last thing he remembered was dreaming about his mate. He'd been chasing her through darkened corridors that reminded him vaguely of Hogwarts, and just as he'd been about to reach her and see her face, Granger's shrill voice had ruined everything. His eyes narrowed dangerously as they landed on the Gryffindor who wasn't paying any attention to him, she was wincing and rubbing her back. So maybe he'd shoved her a little harder than necessary, but it was her own fault. And he definitely wasn't feeling guilty about it. She paled when she looked up to meet his eyes. A little gasp escaped her lips, drawing his attention to her mouth. Had her lips always looked so rosy and inviting? Draco was confused. Sure, he was used to people cringing from his glare, but Granger was taking her reaction a little far. "What's your problem Granger?" He demanded, sounding less than kind. "You look like you've seen a Boggart." Actually, he'd seen her much calmer when taking on a Boggart, she looked like she'd just seen Voldemort resurrected. "Your eyes," she whispered, pointing. Her hand searched through her pockets until she'd found her wand, which she used to conjure a small hand-mirror. Her hand was trembling slightly as she handed over the mirror. From years of experience, Draco knew that Granger wasn't easily rattled, so her behaviour was starting to disturb him. Deep in the pit of his stomach, he started to develop the feeling that he really wasn't going to like whatever he saw in his reflection. He snatched the mirror from her hand and brought it to his face, wondering what all the fuss was about. Just as he'd seen Granger do, Draco paled; his eyes were pitch-black. The books had said it would happen when he was near his mate, but apparently dreaming about her was enough to make them change. Unless it was Granger? He quickly dismissed the notion as ridiculous. As he watched, his eyes faded to their usual silver. The transformation back to
- 18 -

normalcy was immediately followed by a noticeable lessening of the worry he'd been feeling. This Veela blood of his was obviously going to be more troublesome than even he had anticipated. Granger was still on the floor watching him when he handed her back the mirror. "I was dreaming about her," he mumbled by way of explanation. Awkwardly, Hermione nodded her head in understanding. It seemed that he didn't remember the whole smelling her thing, and she wasn't about to bring it up; he'd probably tell her it was just a hallucination brought on by her intense desire for him or some other codswallop. Before Malfoy, Hermione would never have thought there was such a thing as too much self confidence, but the Slytherin had proved her wrong time and time again. Very wrong. "I'm going to dinner," she mumbled, fleeing the Head Dorms. The whole Veela thing was bringing an entirely new level of discomfort to what had previously been a perfectly dysfunctional hate-hate relationship.

"Do you know what's wrong with Ginny?" Harry whispered when she sat down beside him. The redhead was sitting on the other side of the table beside her brother instead of plastered to her boyfriend's side in her normal seat. "She's been twitchy since she went after you yesterday." Hermione glanced over at Ginny, who appeared to be avoiding her eyes. The redhead was obviously still shaken from the previous night. She was lucky she hadn't seen Malfoy's eyes after he'd woken up from his nap, that was fodder for nightmares on a much higher level than those that a mere kiss from the Slytherin may have triggered. "No idea, Harry." Hermione said. It was lie after lie with her friends recently. The lies were starting to pile up and it was all Malfoy's fault. If she wasn't careful, she'd manage to weave a web of deceit around herself and risk the collapse of her friendships along with that web should it come to light. The blond in question chose that moment to stroll into the Great Hall. Hermione knew he'd been just as rattled by his eye change as she'd been, perhaps more, yet there he was appearing as arrogant and superior as he normally looked. She would have believe his facade was flawless had she not noticed Zabini shoot him a worried look.

- 19 -

Was there some way to read his emotions that she was missing? Zabini appeared to be able to read his friend's expressions through the stony mask. The moment Malfoy sat down, he and Zabini started a vehement conversation in whispers. She averted her gaze when they started to turn and look towards her. If he caught her looking, Malfoy was almost guaranteed to comment on how 'she couldn't keep her eyes off of him' or something else annoying. Why were they looking towards her in the first place? The only reason they would both turn towards her like that was if she had been mentioned in their conversation. Slytherins were talking about her. Nothing good could follow that. "Do you think it's something I did?" Harry asked, still watching Ginny. His comment served to being Hermione back to her present company. She couldn't neglect her friends just because she was worried that she was the subject of discussion at the Slytherin table. Hermione was tempted to just blurt out the truth and ease her friend's worries, but she couldn't. "It's not you Harry." She grabbed a roll and stood up from her seat. "I have to get back to my dorm and finish my homework." Before Harry could object, Hermione jumped up from the table and once again fled the Great Hall. She really had to stop making a habit of that, but it was just so difficult to sit there and know what had happened to cause a rift between the couple yet not be able to say anything. It was so much easier to fight dark wizards than it was to lie to her friends. When she was safely back in her common room, Hermione sat down in her favourite squishy chair and sighed. She grabbed a few of Malfoy's books and started flipping through them, determined to educate herself on everything Veela. The cracking of the fire and the crinkling of pages had soon lulled her into a state of complete focus, allowing all the background noises and worries to fade from her mind. It wasn't long before she was completely immersed in the world of facts and logic that the books provided her. She was halfway through a chapter on a Veela's ability to manipulate a room using pheromones when Malfoy returned. The Slytherin wasn't alone; following behind him was Blaise Zabini. "Is there any reason why you just ordered every Slytherin female over fifteen to line up and then kissed them all?" Zabini asked, shutting the portrait behind him. His question wasn't angry, merely curious about what train of thought could have
- 20 -

possibly motivated Malfoy to do something so strange. "I had to check something," Malfoy muttered. The blond sounded a little depressed; Hermione could only assume it was because he now knew that his mate wasn't going to be a Slytherin. The chances of her being a Pureblood were also decreased now that his house was ruled out. She peeked at them over the top of her book. Malfoy was wiping furiously at his mouth, obviously disturbed by his recent activities. Last week, it would have been strange for Malfoy to be so disturbed by such contact with women, but in her readings she had found that Veelas only wanted their mates; any form of sexual contact with others would just disgust them. "What in Merlin's name could possibly need checking on the lips of all those girls? Is it some new way of testing for fever, or perhaps you were judging the quality of lip gloss and wanted a very broad basis for comparison?" Hermione hid her snicker behind her book. The mental image of Malfoy as a nurse going around kissing people to check their temperature was an amusing one. When the quiet conversation on the other side of the room ceased, she slowly lowered her book to peek at them again. They were staring - again. "Granger, we need the common room. Get out." Malfoy ordered. Hermione merely raised an eyebrow at him before going back to her book. If he thought he could order her around just because most other girls would gladly jump to do his bidding, then he was insane. Quietly, Zabini chuckled. "Draco, mate, how is it that you live with her and still haven't figured out that orders aren't how you get what you want?" The Veela grumbled his annoyance and glared at his friend. Blaise ignored the irate Malfoy and turned his attention to the Gryffindor. "Granger, would you mind giving us the common room? Please? It seems Draco and I have something to talk about." Well when he put it that way... Smiling at the dark Slytherin, Hermione marked her page in the book and stood up. "Of course I wouldn't mind. Have a nice chat Zabini."
- 21 -

He smiled at her as she walked by them. "Please, call me Blaise." "Well then, have a nice chat, Blaise." "I've ruled out Slytherin." The blond called after her just before her door shut. He'd tried the easy house, now she was going to have to help him with the three houses he couldn't expect to jump to do his bidding. Everything would have been so much easier if his mate had just been in Slytherin - which was probably why she wasn't; nothing in Draco's life seemed to be easy. When she had disappeared into her room, Draco rounded on his friend. "Since when are you and Granger so chummy?" He growled. The Veela was unsure why he was so upset about it, but something about the way Granger had smiled at Blaise when he'd been polite had prodded a pit of rage deep in his core. Maybe he could earn himself one of those smiles if he were more polite? No. That was nonsense. Granger was a Mudblood and a know-it-all, not someone worthy of polite questions, only orders. "Draco, you need to calm down. She's like that with anyone who's polite to her on a regular basis. Maybe you should try treating her like a person every now and then instead of something particularly unpleasant that you pulled off the bottom of your shoe." Blaise was right, but Draco was still unsettled. It bothered him that Granger had so willingly listened to the other Slytherin when his own order was ignored. "You were going to tell me why that whole display in the Slytherin common room was necessary," Blaise prodded when it became obvious that Draco was lost in his own mind. With a sigh, Draco sat his friend down and explained everything he knew so far. He was reluctant to share the whole dream incident and waking up with Granger, but he needed to talk about it with someone and Blaise wasn't going to tell. "Wow." The Italian said when Draco had finished explaining everything. "Who would have thought the Malfoys had Veela blood in them?" Blaise looked over his friend contemplatively. "Have you considered the possibility of Granger being your mate?" He asked. No, he hadn't; not until that moment. A little jolt of surprise and something else
- 22 -

ran through him at the thought. It was an insane notion that didn't warrant any more consideration. "Don't be ridiculous Blaise. She's Granger." Not to mention a Mudblood and the best friend of Potter. "I don't think it's ridiculous at all. There's this whole sofa and another chair to choose from, and yet you went right for the chair that Granger just vacated. It was probably still warm when you sat down. Why'd you choose that particular chair?" Surprised, Draco looked around the room and saw that Blaise was right. "It's just a coincidence," he insisted. Blaise didn't look like he believed him. Draco didn't quite believe himself. But it was impossible that Granger was his mate; they were so different, and they did nothing but fight. "If you say so mate..." The Italian said, not willing to get into a fight about something that was only a suspicion. If he turned out to be right, Blaise was never going to let Draco forget this conversation.

When Blaise left, Draco went back to reading the books, determined to find some hints on hunting down his mate. His life depended on finding this girl and he wasn't going to slack on the reading if there was even a small chance that it would help. His eyes were drawn to Granger's closed door. No. Blaise was barmy if he thought Granger was good enough to be matched with a Malfoy. The creaking of floorboards and a shuffling sound made him pause in his reading and listen. Ever since his blood had started to assert itself, Draco's hearing and sight had started to strengthen. He could hear Granger in her room, shuffling around in her sleep. As he listened, she let out a blissful sigh and shifted some more before settling down again. Had she always sounded so feminine while sleeping? Pansy made an annoying snorting noise that made her sound like the pug she resembled, it was repulsive. For a moment, he allowed his mind to wander to the peaceful expression that probably rested on Granger's face as she laid her head delicately against her soft pillow. He frowned; too many girly adjectives, it was obviously time for him to go to
- 23 -

bed. His own bed. He'd just sleep off the strange notions that Blaise had planted in his head.

- 24 -

Chapter 3
Chapter 3 A/N: I'm aware 'sexcapades' isn't an actual word (though itison Urban Dictionary, so that's something), just go with it. A big thanks for Claire96 and TimeToWriteIsHistory for betaing for me! This chapter is much better because of their efforts! Also thanks to everyone who rewieved! You guys are great. I spent most of yesterday having and Avatar marathon (the Nick cartoon, not the movie) and as I was doing that, I wrote. So chapters six and seven of this story are written! Exciting, no? ~Frosty Hermione was on her way to class when someone grabbed her and yanked her behind a statue. The books she'd been carrying scattered on the floor with a loud clatter, pages bending and spines creaking in protest. There was only one person she knew that was rude enough to manhandle her in such a way. "Malfoy, what are you doing?" she hissed. If only the venom in her voice could do him physical harm, he would have been liquefied into a harmless pile of goo long ago and the majority of the problems plaguing her at the moment would disappear. The git was completely unruffled by the rage evident in her eyes. He casually leant against the wall, careful to put as much distance between the two of them as the confines of the small space they occupied would allow. Close proximity with Granger made him uneasy; her Mudblood germs might be contagious.

"I've decided that Ravenclaw is next; there's no way in hell my mate's a Hufflepuff ." He spoke in that way of his where he fully expected her to jump to work and make his p "Malfoy, I said I'll help you. I didn't say I'd literally drop everything and help you." Her eyes moved pointedly to the poor books scattered on the floor. Someone needed to pick them up before a careless person stepped on them. She shoved past him, not caring that he lost his balance and bumped his shoulder rather hard on the wall. The disgruntled noise he made was drowned out by her
- 25 -

irritated muttering as she gathered the books from the page-crinkling pile they'd settled in. Mistreating the papery sources of knowledge was not the way to ask her for her assistance. At least, that's what she assumed his intentions behind dragging her into a small space and announcing he was going to start kissing Ravenclaws had been. His quicksilver eyes were boring holes in her back. She could feel them resting between her shoulder blades like two white-hot brands. The boy really had a talent for making other people uncomfortable under his gaze - she could only assume it was hereditary. Gathering the fallen books to her chest, Hermione turned to glare at him. "Fine, if it'll make you go away, I'll ask. What is it you want?" The smirk that he developed made her regret not running away the moment she was out of the alcove. He continued as if she'd never tried to leave and they'd been holding a perfectly civil conversation. "There are only a few girls in Ravenclaw with the proper pedigree. I'm going to start with that Lovegood bint. The one who's always on about things only she can see. If it's not her -and I pray it's not, then I can move on to the Ravenclaw Patil. I've already kissed her, among other things ... I think, and it wasn't so bad. Though, I was completely sloshed. Actually, It may have been the Gryffindor one, but I can't see even copious amounts of alcohol making me touch a Gryffindor. Now that I think about it, they both may have been there... I just thought she was very hands-y, but two sets of hands would make so much more sense." He tilted his head to the side and looked off into the distance as he tried to remember. Over-sharing was not something Slytherins were known for. She could only assume he was trying to make her uncomfortable with tales of his sexcapades. Hermione just stared. "I know they look almost the same, but how can you mistake two people for one?" He shrugged a nonchalant shoulder. "They looked the same. Now, about my plan for Lovegood." Draco waited to see if she'd start yelling at him, but she only continued looking at him like he was a particularly fascinating puzzle that she didn't really want to solve. When it became apparent that she was waiting for him to speak, he continued. "I need you to lure her into-" "No." She said immediately and with finality.
- 26 -

Draco Malfoy was... well, Draco Malfoy. As such, he wasn't used to people denying him anything. His first reaction was to try and threaten her into doing what he wanted, but Blaise had seemed to get much better results by being polite. Just this once, when he was sure no one was looking, Draco was willing to try it. "What exactly is it about the little of my plan you've heard that you find displeasing?" He gritted out. Okay, so it could have been a little nicer, but he didn't have the people skills Blaise seemed to possess. Those seemed to involve some sort of respect or understanding for the people the skills were to involve. "I'm not going to lure my friends to you like... like lambs to their slaughter!" She shrilled, making Draco wince. His hearing and sight were sharpening thanks to his Veela blood, allowing Granger to bring him a whole new level of pain with her screechy, prissy voice. This affliction of his really was a curse on so many levels. "What I plan on doing to her is hardly slaughter Granger. I've been told that-" Hermione held up a hand, wincing in horror and disgust. "Save it Malfoy. I don't want to hear the praises you've been showered with by simpering fan-girls." She really didn't want the sordid details of his previous relationships. That was best left to whispered conversations between his past conquests. His eyes somehow managed to convey that she should burn in hell while still pulling off an amused expression. She'd never noticed before, but those silver orbs spoke volumes if she looked hard enough. "Granger, you said you were going to help me and have yet to do anything remotely helpful. I was under the impression that you were going to keep your word." She sighed. Dealing with the ferret was exhausting. "I said I'd help you and I will as soon as you come up with a plan that doesn't go against my morals." "Your morals are as airtight as your chastity belt; nothing gets through them. If you have to approve the plan before I act it out, nothing will ever get done." "Then maybe I should come up with the plan," she snapped. Briefly, an image of the kissing booth she'd once seen on an annoying teen movie popped into her head. That would actually solve the problem nicely, but she didn't think Malfoy would lower himself to something like that. Plus, the teachers would never agree to something that skittered dangerously close to the borders of prostitution in their reserved minds. If he got desperate enough, she could suggest it. And take pictures.
- 27 -

"I'm listening," he said, obviously not thinking she would be able to come up with anything. "Well... Your next victim is Luna. I think you should just ask her for a kiss." He looked skeptical and a little worried that she'd gone off the deep end. Draco had known for years that it was only a matter of time before Granger went insane from prolonged exposure to the mind-numbing idiocy of those she called friends. It was understandable that he doubted her, but Hermione was pretty sure that Luna would agree if he would just ask her with something even resembling manners. The dreamy Ravenclaw didn't seem to exist on the same plane of reality as normal people and things that most would consider strange were an everyday occurrence to her. "Just try it, Malfoy," she insisted. Reluctantly, he started making his way towards the Ravenclaw dorms, hoping to run into the Lovegood girl and get the kiss over with so he could cross her off of the list. Hermione followed behind him to make sure things didn't get out of hand - as she'd found they often did when Malfoy was involved. Look at how out of control one little Care of Magical Creatures class had gotten when the ferret had made a nuisance of himself. Sure, Hagrid probably shouldn't have brought a Hippogriff to a gathering of thirteen year olds, but nothing would have gone amiss had Malfoy kept his big mouth shut. The Slytherin glanced over his shoulder at her and rolled his eyes. "Granger, what do you hope to accomplish by following me?" "Think of me as damage control; you have a habit of getting in over your head and I don't want anything bad to happen involving my friends." He gave her a strange look, but didn't dispute her statement. Mentally, she prepared herself for an explosion when she noticed that Luna was walking towards them, accompanied by Ginny. Hermione knew whatever Malfoy had planned wasn't going to end well, she could tell. Ginny already suspected something was wrong because the git had kissed her without Hermione's interference, and now he was going to kiss Luna while Ginny was there to see Hermione stand back and let it happen once again. Both younger girls stopped walking when they noticed Hermione and Malfoy
- 28 -

approaching them - the Ravenclaw with a dreamy smile and the Gryffindor with an apprehensive and irritated expression. The tension was thick as they met in the middle of the corridor. "What are you doing with him?" Ginny asked Hermione while glaring at Malfoy. She wasn't about to let her guard down around the Slytherin; apparently he was so desperate for female attention that he was prone to attaching his face to any unwilling females that allowed him to get too close. It was a wonder he hadn't turned on Hermione before, though it was possible that he was still too hung up on blood purity to "contaminate" himself. "Something I'm probably going to one day look back on and regret," the brunette sighed, speaking too quietly for Ginny to hear. Luna saved Hermione from having to come up with a serious answer to the redhead's question. "Hermione, are you aware that you and Draco are both surrounded by Gargle Sprites? They're rumoured to be drawn to Veelas." The dreamy blonde said in her spacey way. Disbelievingly, Draco examined her eerie blue eyes; there was no way someone had told her his secret, but he refused to believe that her imaginary creatures had assisted her in accurately divining his species. It must have just been some kind of coincidence; even the craziest of people has to guess correctly sometimes, it was statistically improbable for them to always be wrong. He just wished she could have been wrong this time. Something needed to be said to refute her. "I always knew you were insane Lovegood, but I thought you'd have more sense than to accuse me of being anything less than the purest of Purebloods." Draco snapped. He was a little wary of people finding out about his secret and had reacted on instinct, snapping at her with all the venom his sometimes abrasive personality could provide. Granger gave him a reproachful look, but remained silent. She'd decided it was best to just let the events play out as they would and be there to make sure nothing got out of hand and no one died in the fallout. Ginny, and even Luna, knew how to take care of themselves; they'd be fine. Luna just smiled at the other blond, not reacting to his scathing tone. Ginny, however, wasn't so silent. "Don't talk to her like that, you bigheaded git!" She yelled, careful not to get too close to him in case he had another inexplicable attack of the kissing bug. Once had been bad enough, but if Harry ever heard that she'd kissed Malfoy not once but twice, his head would probably explode. Literally.
- 29 -

"Luna, would you do us all a huge favour and just kiss the git quick so we can get out of here and stop Ginny's angry fit before it starts?" Hermione asked. While Ginny was still staring at her friend and stuttering in complete disbelief at what she'd just heard come out of Hermione's mouth, the Ravenclaw tilted her head to the side and contemplated the request. She didn't really see any reason to refuse; it wasn't like the Slytherin was unattractive, and she'd heard good things about his kissing skills. Just because he was a bad person didn't mean she couldn't still enjoy his talents. Malfoy and Ginny were distracted by their confusion over Hermione's uncharacteristically blunt statement, so Luna decided that she may as well fulfil her friend's request while everyone was preoccupied and therefore did not have enough mental presence to resist her actions. Hermione wasn't known for asking strange things of her friends without good reason, so there must be a motive - besides upsetting Ginny - behind the request. No one noticed Luna quietly step closer to Malfoy. She had her hands on his shoulders before her nearness had even caught his attention. Hermione watched as the spacey Ravenclaw pressed her lips against Malfoy's. The expression of surprise on his face was comical; had Ginny not looked like she was about to pop, the entire situation would have been laughable. Trust Luna to just jump right in the deep end and kiss him instead of agreeing to let him kiss her and waiting for him to do it. Malfoy was the one to pull away first, looking thoroughly disturbed. Hermione could tell the only reason he wasn't wiping his hand over his mouth was because people were watching and he was desperately clinging to his Slytherin facade with everything he had. It was obvious that Luna had been ruled out as his mate. The Ravenclaw's blue eyes moved from Hermione's forced frown that was barely concealing her amusement to Ginny's rage to Malfoy's obvious disgust. "I hope you've learned whatever you needed to Draco, because I'm not going to kiss you again. I've obviously upset Ginny, and you're not as good as rumours have led me to believe." Despite the disgust he felt from kissing the obviously barmy blonde, Draco was tempted to kiss her again just to prove himself. He wasn't used to that reaction from the girls he kissed... Actually, he almost preferred that reaction to the usual fawning
- 30 -

he received. No longer able to contain her mirth, Hermione burst out laughing. Malfoy looked like someone had just told him his parents had secretly been Muggles all along and everything he knew about himself was a lie. It was hilarious. Unfortunately, despite Luna's sacrifice in kissing the git to prevent Ginny's explosion, the volatile redhead exploded anyway. "Why are you laughing when that git just molested poor Luna's mouth!" She shrieked. Her face had changed red to match her hair. Ever since the war when Harry had left her out of everything in order to protect her, being left out of the loop had been a soft spot for Ginny and it appeared that she was going to take out her anger on Hermione. Offended, Draco frowned at the She-Weasel. "If anyone's mouth was molested, it was mine!" Granger gave him a look that clearly said "shut up and stop making things worse." He really needed to go and wipe the crazy germs off of his mouth, so just this once, he let the opportunity to torment two Gryffindors at the same time pass him by. While Granger had all of her attention focused on her friend, Draco shot the redhead a superior sneer behind the Head Girl's bushy hair. When she caught sight of him, her freckled cheeks turned an even darker shade of scarlet - a feat he hadn't thought possible. Satisfied that he'd done enough damage for one day, he turned on his heel and made his way back to the Head Dorms to wash his mouth. "Hermione, tell me what the bloody hell is going on! You weren't surprised when Malfoy kissed me, and now you're helping him get girls? Is he really so desperate? And what does he have on you to make you help him like that?" Ginny yelled, waving her arms for emphasis. She really looked kind of ridiculous, but Hermione felt that it wasn't the best time to point that out. "Ginny, that's not what it was..." Hermione started to explain helplessly. There wasn't much she could say in defence of her actions without revealing Malfoy's secret. She had a feeling Ginny would gleefully reveal to the whole school that the 'pure' Malfoy wasn't near as pure as he'd claimed. Though the prat probably deserved such treatment, Hermione's conscience just wouldn't permit something like that to happen. "Then what is it? Is there some kind of conspiracy going on around here, or has the universe just tilted on its axis and you and Malfoy are suddenly friends?"
- 31 -

All of Hermione's amusement had faded in the face of her friend's anger, leaving her tired and apprehensive. "Ginny, I already told you, I can't really explain right now. I'm sure the truth will come out eventually, you're just going to have to trust me." Slightly less red, but still obviously angry, Ginny narrowed her eyes at her friend. "Something's going on in this school and I want to know what it is. I like to know when my friends and I are in danger of kissing attacks from the slimiest Slytherin ever to roam the halls of Hogwarts!" "I can't tell you," Hermione said sadly. She wasn't going to give in just because Ginny yelled at her, but that didn't mean she wasn't saddened by her friend's yelling. Why couldn't the redhead just accept that she wasn't able to share and leave it at that? Ginny's anger seemed to change into something colder. "Then I don't see how we're going to be able to stay on speaking terms while you keep secrets for one of our worst enemies. Come find me when the Hermione I became friends with comes back," she said frostily. Hermione watched her leave sadly. She wasn't sure how that conversation had deteriorated so quickly, but she was pretty content with allowing the blame to fall squarely upon Malfoy's shoulders. Yes, the entire thing was all that stupid prat's fault. Looking around the corridors to ensure that she was alone, Hermione let her sadness show on her face. It pained her to quarrel with her friends. She could only hope that Ginny wouldn't use this new development to turn the entire Gryffindor house against her.

Draco frowned and spat out the mouthwash potion he'd been swishing around in his mouth to ensure maximum disinfecting. His chest was aching and he wasn't sure why. The previous pain had been from his blood asserting itself; now that it was firmly established, there was no reason he should be hurting because of the Veela blood until much closer to his birthday. If he hadn't found his mate by then it was going to start to kill him; the books had warned that it would be even more painful than it was when his blood asserted itself. On top of the strange ache, he felt... sad. Was there no end to the annoying things his stupid Veela heritage was going to make him feel? He brought a hand up to the
- 32 -

affected area in an attempt to soothe the pain, but was distracted by the portrait to the Head's Dorm banging open and a distraught Granger entering. It was obvious that she didn't notice him peeking around the door of the loo at her, otherwise she never would have just burst into tears the way she did. From years of taunting her, Draco knew that Granger rarely let herself cry when someone was watching for fear of appearing to be a helpless, blubbering female. He watched as she snuggled into a chair in front of the fire and let the tears fall down her face uninhibited. They sparkled in the firelight and looked oddly attractive, adding glittering adornments to her already appealing skin. He once again rubbed a hand over the strange feeling in his chest as he watched her. Something was strange. Normally, Granger crying would have cheered him up considerably, but this time he was only left with an unsettled feeling and an unpleasant taste in his mouth. Something was very, very strange indeed.

- 33 -

Chapter 4
Chapter 4 A/N: Hello readers! Happy Mother's Day! ... Well, it is here in Canada anyway. I was too lazy to look it up to see if it was the same anywhere else, but do you really need an excuse to appreciate your mom or grandma or both? I don't think so. A huge thanks to Claire96 and TimeToWriteIsHistory for their wonderful beta work. This chapter is much better and makes quite a bit more sense thanks to them. I can't wait to hear what you guys think of it! Also, thanks to everyone who reviewed, I really appreciate the extra time you guys take to tell me what you think! ~Frosty Hermione felt a little better when she woke up, still cuddled in the chair in front of the fire in the Head's common room. On the trip back to her room, the possibility that Ginny could speak to Harry and Ron, who could join the redhead in her quest to ignore her, had crashed upon her. She'd be without her friends and still have to help Malfoy with his stupid Veela thing! That was not a future she wanted to experience. Her eyebrows drew together in confusion when she saw that she was covered with a blanket. Had she somehow pulled it over herself during the night without remembering it? That was highly unlikely, as she hadn't intended to fall asleep there. She'd just sort of drifted off as she cried. The alternative was that Malfoy had covered her sometime in the night. Even the notion of such kindness from the evil Slytherin was ridiculous. She must have grabbed the blanket for herself. Her eyes skittered across the walls until they landed on the clock in the kitchen. She was going to miss breakfast if she didn't hurry up... On the other hand, she wasn't really looking forward to a stony silence from Ginny and the possibility of a similar stony silence from her two best friends. That apple that was sitting on the kitchen table was starting to look more and more attractive. No. She was a Gryffindor and she wasn't going to just run from her friends because there was a chance that they were upset with her. She was going to face them like the lioness she was instead of the mouse she'd been impersonating that morning.
- 34 -

Determinedly, she rushed into the shower to quickly wash before she went down to breakfast. Her face was puffy from crying and her cheeks were slashed with tear-tracts. She desperately needed to scrub off the evidence of her night spent in hysterics. The heat from the water soothed the crick that had developed while she slept at a strange angle in the chair all night and washed away the evidence of tears. Crying had eased some of the sadness she'd been feeling and she felt ready to face the day. By the time she got out of the shower she felt like a person again instead of a puffy lump of a person who only wanted to lounge around and stare moodily at things. Freshly cleaned and dressed, Hermione rushed out of her room. She was in such a hurry that she almost overlooked the sharp eyes watching her. "Granger, we need to talk." She stopped her frantic shuffling around her desk as she tried to find her Transfiguration homework and turned to face the Slytherin. He was casually leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom, looking like he had all the answers. Wasn't he even a little bit worried about being late for breakfast? Of course not, he was Malfoy; he didn't rush for other people, other people rushed for him. He was probably confident that his mate would just be dropped in his lap so didn't find it necessary to be worried about that either. It must be nice for him to have such confidence when there should be no hope. Maybe he knew something she didn't. "What do you want?" she sighed. "There's a good chance my day's going to be completely miserable, so I guess it makes sense that you're here to start it off with that extra dose of emotional turmoil before the day begins." "Calm down," Malfoy muttered irritably. "I'm not here to make your day any worse - right now anyway, I make no promises for later. As I was going to say before you so rudely interrupted me: Blaise has this... theory that he won't shut up about until I somehow manage to disprove it." His face darkened in irritation at the mere mention of Blaise and his crazy ideas. He barely even understood why he was entertaining the thought of testing the insanity, but something told him that if he could just prove Blaise wrong, then he could rest easy knowing Granger wasn't his mate. Hermione was getting impatient. Breakfast was officially over, and if she didn't get to class soon, then she was going to be late. As Head students it was their duty to set a good example for the rest of the school, and though Malfoy didn't seem to take that duty seriously, Hermione took it twice as seriously to make up for her partner's slack.
- 35 -

"What do you need me here for to test this theory?" She demanded. Hermione didn't like the contemplative look in his eyes, but she wasn't able to move away before his large hand gripped the back of her neck and pulled her head back by a handful of hair, leaving her unable to escape his grip. "This," he mumbled as his lips pressed against hers surprisingly gently, softly moving against her unsuspecting mouth. Fireworks burst in her stomach at the contact and she felt like she was tingling everywhere. The severity of her reaction startled her; it had never felt like that when Ron kissed her. Unconsciously, she leaned into the contact, craving more. With a gasp, she realized what she was doing and pulled away, eyes wide as saucers. She'd just let Malfoy kiss her and had enjoyed it - something she swore right then to never tell anyone. Her friends would never forgive her. Hell, she wasn't sure she was going to be able to forgive herself. He was the enemy, not someone she should be canoodling with! "Anything?" He asked before she could flee - he knew she would. Hermione looked away. "Nope. Nothing special," she mumbled. Bravely, despite her mortification and embarrassment, she turned back to face him. His grey eyes bore into hers for a moment, gauging her honesty. Abruptly, he averted his gaze as she had done. "Yah, nothing for me either." The Slytherin was so shaken that he couldn't even think up a proper insult, something that rarely happened to him. Heart pounding like mad and hands shaking, Hermione snatched her bag off the floor and ran from the room, not caring that she probably didn't have her Transfiguration homework with her. That one little kiss with Malfoy had been something else, but she had to remember he was Malfoy and the only reason he'd kissed her was to make sure she wasn't the one who would save his life. Now that he was sure she wasn't the one, he wouldn't ever have a need to repeat the action. She realized this with something akin to regret and immediately crushed the feeling out of existence. After a few days of avoiding the prat - for her own metal health, of course - she was sure everything would go back to normal between the two of them. It just wasn't fair that he could hate her so much and yet still have the ability to make her feel so... elated with just one little action.
- 36 -

Her stomach dropped when she realized that what Malfoy had just done would only make dealing with her friends that much more difficult. The Slytherin had claimed that he had only been proving his friend wrong, but Hermione suspected he'd been trying to mess with her mind. If that had been his goal, it had certainly worked; she wasn't sure if she could face anyone for quite a while knowing that should Malfoy try and kiss her again, she wasn't entirely sure she wouldn't let him.

After Granger fled through the portrait hole, Draco sank to the floor and buried his head in his hands. Something was wrong with him - terribly wrong. His gums were tingling in such a way that told him he probably had fangs at the moment and he was willing to bet everything he owned that his eyes were pure obsidian. He was going to kill Blaise for pushing him until he kissed the woman just to shut him up. If he'd wanted a nagging wife, he would have gotten married. Now he had to face the very real possibility that it was more than likely Granger was his mate. The moment his lips had come into contact with hers, he'd felt right and completed and all that other romantic slop he'd once dismissed as the result of a conspiracy between women to mould men into something more gentle and flowery. His whole situation was both worrying and annoying. Not only did he have to come to terms with the more than likely fact that he was going to have to spend the rest of his life with Granger, but it was very probable that he was going to be forced to bring her to terms with that fact as well. This had to be his punishment for tormenting her for so long. When his gums started to feel normal again, Draco reluctantly gathered himself from the floor and moved into the washroom. He closed his eyes and leant his hands against the counter, not willing to face his reflection while he looked like a monster. Head hanging, Draco wondered what he would do if his eyes wouldn't change back to their normal colour; would he even have a chance convincing Granger to stop his death if he was obviously not entirely human? She would be too frightened of his appearance to even give him a chance. He took in a big gasp of air to steady his nerves, not realizing that he'd been holding his breath until he felt the wave of relief wash through him. As fortified as he was going to get, Draco opened his eyes and looked in the mirror. Grey. The eyes staring back at him were the usual cold grey ones and his teeth
- 37 -

were back to normal size. Save for the tiny pinpricks the sharp fangs had cut in his bottom lip, there was no evidence of his earlier episode. Thank Merlin. The immediate crisis had been averted, but he was haunted by the knowledge that something similar was going to happen every time he was sufficiently emotionally unstable or got too close to Granger. As a Pureblooded child, it had been necessary for Draco to learn to conceal his emotions, but controlling them was another story entirely. He wasn't near as good at actually controlling his inner turmoil as he was at hiding it. He sighed and splashed some water on his face before walking into the small kitchen attached onto the Head's Common room. Reaching way back into one of the lower cupboards, he rooted around for what he knew was concealed there. As his fingers wrapped around the cool glass of the bottle, thoughts of Granger and her intense disapproval of alcohol ran through his head. He knew that this wasn't a solution to his problem, but if it could loosen the knot of anxiety that seemed to have become his personal companion since the first time he'd felt that little pain in his chest, then he was willing to risk the ire of his fellow Head. He took a seat on the sofa in front of the fire, lounging there in his usual arrogant way. The Firewhiskey burned all the way down his throat and into his stomach, but it filled him with comforting warmth. The only sounds in the room were the sloshing of liquid, the clinking of glass, and the crackling of the fire. It was peaceful in a strange way. After a few glasses, a lovely, numbing fog settled around his brain. That was how Granger found him when she came back from her classes. "Malfoy, are you drinking?" She demanded in that shrill and prudish way of hers. Merlin, was he going to be stuck with that voice nagging him for the rest of his life? The idea wasn't as unappealing as it should have been. "Why yes I am, thanks for noticing." He glanced towards the near empty bottle of alcohol sitting on the coffee table in front of him and the completely empty glass sitting beside it. When had all the alcohol gone away? He was sure it had been half full last time he'd looked. His fellow Head was certainly fond of stating the obvious. "You know that's against the rules!" Her eyes widened in horror as something else occurred to her. "Did you skip your classes to drink?" Draco wasn't interested in listening to her nagging, so he gave her something else to think about. "You know Granger, ever since I first met you, whenever I was feeling really miserable, I'd seek you out. I used to think it was because putting the
- 38 -

Muggleborn in her place could brighten the day of any self-respecting Pureblood, but now I'm starting to think it was just being near you that made me feel better." Hermione was dreadfully uncomfortable facing his intensity. She shifted from foot to foot under his stare, worried that his haunting eyes could see right through her. "I don't know what you're talking about." Draco wasn't having any of that. The Gryffindor Princess was entirely too fond of lying to him for someone who was supposed to be morally upstanding and all that nonsense. "See, I think you know exactly what I'm talking about." He said. Perhaps it was the alcohol talking, but confronting her about the whole kiss incident seemed like a good idea. The blush that was rapidly staining her cheeks served as an obvious affirmation of what Draco had already discerned: she'd felt something too. "Fine," she grumbled. "I think I have a general idea of where you're going with this, and I'm telling you now: you're wrong and you're drunk." "Why do you think I'm drunk?" Draco demanded. It certainly wasn't in celebration of something. He'd had a few glasses, but he was only tipsy at best. "Your complete disregard for rules you're supposed to enforce and a sense of entitlement that makes you think you can get away with anything. What does getting drunk in the middle of the day matter to someone who's above the rules?" He nodded, "That's part of it, but there's a more pressing matter that's led me to drink. You're a smart girl; look past your denial and I think you could figure it out." Hermione stared at him for a moment, making sure she'd correctly interpreted his meaning. "You think I'm your mate," she sighed, coming around the back of the sofa to join him in sitting on it. Obligingly, Malfoy moved his feet so she had room to join him. "What're we going to do?" Her voice was squeakier and younger-sounding than she would have liked, but Malfoy didn't mention it. "What I'm going to do is obvious; I'm going to wait for your decision. You've got a more difficult task. You have to decide if you hate me enough to let me die or if your annoying compassion is going to persuade you to spend the rest of your life with me
- 39 -

forever pestering you." Hermione frowned at him. "You're not doing the best of jobs in persuading me to help you." "No, I'm not. I suspect I'll regret it later, but right now I'm being brutally honest with you. You should enjoy it while it lasts; Slytherins aren't so transparent very frequently." His eyebrows drew together. Something in the back of his mind was bothering him, he just couldn't figure out what it was... The pain in his chest! It was back again, along with that sad feeling he knew wasn't his. What was it that could make Granger feel that upset? After a moment of thought, Draco discovered the one thing that could upset Granger so much - those idiotic friends of hers. "What'd they do?" he asked, more irritated than he should have been that she was upset considering he'd devoted so much time to make her that way in the past. She turned her big, questioning eyes onto him, making him want to just... rip out the throat of the person who had brought into existence the sadness he saw there. Ugh. This Veela thing was strange on so many levels. Compassion was certainly a new thing for the blond. "I don't know what you're talking about." Draco was really starting to tire of her denial. "You've read the books, you know that even before I bite you I can feel your emotions. The only people with the power to make you feel that miserable are those idiot friends of yours, so what'd they do?" Her lower lip trembled as she listened to something dangerously close to concern coming from the last person she ever would have expected it from. In an effort to comfort herself, she brought her knees up to her chest and hugged them tightly. She wasn't sure she liked this new, observant Malfoy. "Ginny's upset with me because I won't tell her your secret and she knows something's up, so she's refusing to talk to me 'until I'm ready to tell her what's going on'. She even threatened to tell Harry and Ron that something was off between you and I, but she hasn't yet. I'm worried about what will happen if she does." Hermione had been immensely relieved when she rushed into class and found that Harry and Ron were shooting her worried looks instead of ignoring her like she'd
- 40 -

been dreading they would do. It had been a small comfort that she still had the support of Harry and Ron when she knew in the back of her mind that it was only a matter of time before something came out to make them go the same way as Ginny and freeze her out. Draco sighed. "This is why I prefer minions to friends; people think that just because you're fond of them they have your permission to meddle in your life." "That's so... cold." Hermione had never thought to appreciate that she had so many friends who worried about her, but talking to Malfoy made her glad of that fact. He had such a depressing outlook on friendship. "That's Slytherin, love," he drawled, mangling the term of endearment into something mocking. Unconsciously, Draco had been shifting towards her throughout their entire conversation. Hermione hadn't noticed until their legs brushed against each other as she shifted slightly. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, taking advantage of her closeness and giving in to the Veela. In a normal situation, Hermione would never have allowed him to get anywhere near her -particularly after what happened last time- but he was being almost kind to her and she could really use the strange comfort his presence provided, so she allowed the contact. With a sigh, she leant against his strong body and let his warmth soothe away the tension she'd been feeling all day. The books had said that a Veela would go out of his way, even against his personality, if his mate needed him to, but Hermione hadn't really believed it until that moment. Drunk or not, Malfoy was not acting like a Malfoy. She really should come to a decision quickly if he was telling the truth and she held his life in her hands. What if he was playing some kind of cruel joke on her, making her decide his fate and then laughing at her because she thought she could ever be tied to him in any way? It seemed like something he might try. "Malfoy?" She asked, pulling away slightly but not breaking the contact between them. "Mmm?" He hummed, absently curling the fingers of the hand flung over her shoulders around a strand of her hair. It was so soft, and when he pulled it out straight, the curl bounced right back into its loose ringlet. Her hair was fascinating.
- 41 -

"Prove it." That got his attention. His silver eyes moved to hers with a question held in their depths. Hermione elaborated, "Prove to me that I'm your mate and this whole thing isn't some cruel joke you've invented to humiliate me."

- 42 -

Chapter 5
Chapter 5 A/N: My sister's kitten has this thing where she likes to sleep on people's chests as close to your neck as she can. She really likes to lodge herself under chins... Once she's there, she usually starts purring. I don't know why, but this makes me really drowsy, so I figured if a tiny kitten's purrs does that, then a much bigger creature purring would have a similar effect. I'm surprised more of you didn't guess how he was going to prove it. Congratulations to for heavens sake for guessing correctly! Also, thanks to Clairs 96 for reading this over and thanks to TimeToWriteIsHistory for fixing all my mistakes! And, of course, thanks to everyone who reviewed! I was very excited to read them all. ~Frosty Hermione elaborated, "Prove to me that I'm your mate and this whole thing isn't some cruel joke you've invented to humiliate me." Angered that she would ever think he'd lie about something so deathly serious, Draco leant forward and kissed her forcefully. Two days ago, Hermione would have expected her first reaction upon any sort of contact with Malfoy's lips to be revulsion and horror. He was so dedicated to his house that she wouldn't have been surprised if his lips had been scaly and his tongue was forked. The first time he'd kissed her, he'd proved those notions wrong, and the second time was no different than the first. She enjoyed kissing the prat. He might have been an unpleasant person, but his kisses were anything but unpleasant. When he reached for her to pull her closer, she came back to reality and jolted herself away from him. Her breathing was deep and rapid, a desperate attempt to calm her racing heart. "You don't just kiss people!" Hermione snapped. Her voice was breathy with a barely audible tremble in it - completely ineffective for both intimidation and
- 43 -

scolding. She knew it would take a lot to teach an old snake new tricks, and in her current condition, she just wasn't up to the task of teaching one of the most thick-headed snakes of all. "I was under the impression that's exactly what I've been doing. Only you have this effect on me, though." There was a strange quality to his voice - something other. It was like his normal tone, but there was an echo behind it in a lower and higher register at once. "You're going to have to look at me for my point to be adequately proven," he said. Reluctantly, Hermione brought her eyes to rest on his face. When she saw what was there, she squeaked in surprise and fear as she shuffled back as far as the confines of the sofa would allow. Just like his voice, there were changes to his face. His eyes were once again that bottomless obsidian she'd seen before, but that wasn't the only difference. He had fangs. They weren't overly long or pronounced, but they were noticeable, perfectly white and sharp, resting on slight indentations in his surprisingly full bottom lip. Individually each slight change would not have made much of a difference, but together, they were startling. Just when she'd started to get her heart-rate under control, the git had to go and do something to get it back up again - only this time, it was in fear. Though it had been confusing and upsetting, the kiss was preferable to fear when it came to speeding up her heart. Darkly, Draco chuckled at her fear. It hurt him a little to see her looking at him like he was some kind of monster, but comforted himself with the knowledge that he'd recently had similar thoughts. "Believe me now?" Had his voice not lost the eerie quality, Hermione would probably have continued to be scared. But he was back to his normal, abrasive self again; his eyes and teeth were just slightly different. While that other Malfoy had been intimidating, this Malfoy she'd had ample practice in handling. His black eyes widened when he saw she was still a little doubtful. "With all the worrying about my life I've been doing, do you really think I have the time to find a glamour charm this realistic?" Honestly, she seemed to think he had all kinds of spare time to waste researching and then practising complicated charms just to screw with her head a little. She gave him entirely too much credit. Before she had time to react, his hand had darted out and grabbed her wrist. She
- 44 -

was frozen in some sort of horrified trance as he brought that wrist up to his mouth and gently bit her - not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough for her to feel the sharp points of his extended canines pressing on her flesh. "Malfoy!" Hermione yelled in shock, snatching her hand back and cradling it against her chest as if he'd injured it. "The books say I have to agree before you bite me or else you'll just end up with a poisoned mate." "I've read all the books you have, do you really think I'd forget something important like that? I had no intention of biting you." His eyes were less black and his teeth less... pointy when Hermione looked up from her careful examination of her wrist to glare at him. "There will be no biting taking place here." She snapped. He'd given her quite a shock when she'd thought he was biting her and it made her realize the severity of their situation. Deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone was a big adjustment, but deciding to spend the rest of your life bound to someone who made it blatantly obvious that they hated you on numerous occasions was just insanity. Hermione was many things, but insane was not one of them. Unfortunately, self-sacrificing was. Refusing to allow him another opportunity to demonstrate his superior strength and reflexes, Hermione stood and left him there on the sofa while she headed to her room to think. She only got halfway there when she was stopped by a strange sound. It was a lot like a cat's purring, but deeper. Confused and wary of whatever new and strange thing he was going to throw at her next, she slowly turned back to the Veela. All of the colour had drained from his face and he slouched against the couch, looking defeated. "Malfoy... are you purring?" She asked. Didn't purring mean he was happy? What had happened to cause such a drastic change in him in the few seconds since she'd looked away? "I'm stressed. Purring isn't only for when I'm happy," he growled, sounding more hostile towards her than she'd heard in a long time. More hostile than she'd heard him since before the Veela thing. It was like they were enemies again. She didn't want to push his already frayed temper, but that sound emitting from somewhere in his chest was fascinating. "Why?" "Because you just rejected me and I'm dealing with the fact that I only have months left to live!"
- 45 -

Draco hated that even though he was going to die because of her, a part of him still wanted to spend as much time with her as possible before his eventual demise. He'd known from the moment it became obvious that Granger was his mate that there was a possibility she would reject him, but he'd thought she'd at least give him a chance before condemning him. Hermione hated being confused. She had no idea what Malfoy was talking about; when had she rejected him? Quickly, she ran over their conversation in her head. Her eyes widened when she realized what had happened. "When I said that there won't be any biting taking place here, it wasn't a rejection," she clarified. In retrospect, she could have phrased her reprimand a little better. Whoever it was that said hindsight is always 20/20 knew what they were talking about. "I wouldn't make a decision like that so rashly. Give me time to think." It was with relief that she noticed the purring had lessened in volume and he'd regained some colour in his face. His silver eyes were looking at her with an unfathomable expression. "Do you know when my birthday is Granger?" For a moment, she was confused as to why in the world he'd be asking her that, but then she realized; she had until his birthday to make her decision. "No," she said. "It's June fifth. You have the rest of the school year to come to a decision." There was such finality in his voice that it gave Hermione chills. This was a serious situation and she needed to give the entire Malfoy thing serious thought - not that she'd let him die. Deep in her heart, she knew that she just didn't have it in her to let him die when it was in her power to save the bastard. No one deserved the slow, painful death of a Veela pining for a mate who rejected them, not even Malfoy.

Hermione calmly flipped the page in her book and did her best to ignore the irate blond pacing behind the sofa on which she was curled up. She understood that the common room was for the both of them to use, but it wasn't like he was doing anything productive. He was just pacing. He could just as easily pace in his bedroom, where it wouldn't bother her. "Malfoy! What's your problem?" She demanded when he turned around to take probably the sixth millionth pass.
- 46 -

"I've got this... anxiety, but I don't know why," he said. Draco was the type of person who felt stress and pressure, but rarely gnawing anxiety. When he'd been trying to kill Dumbledore, he'd collapsed under the stress occasionally, but never the milder feeling he was currently experiencing. Realization dawned on his face when Hermione only raised her eyebrows. "It's you. You're the one who's anxious. What's your problem?" Hermione turned back to her book, regretting opening her big mouth. Had she just kept it shut, she would have been free to continue reading in peace. What was so great about the common room anyway? She could have just as easily read in her room, where Malfoy wouldn't be anywhere near her. Not about to be deterred by her lack of comment, Draco kept talking. "Do you always feel things so... vividly? I haven't felt this ill at ease since - well, let's just say that there were lives on the line." She calmly flipped another page and continued to ignore him. Her anxiety was bad enough without Malfoy trying to talk to her about it and distracting her from the book - her only coping mechanism at the moment. "How are you not pacing or something?" Malfoy demanded. He was unable to sit still, and there she was calmly reading a book like there was nothing bothering her! Since he had yet to bite her, the books had said that he would only be experiencing a fraction of the real emotions. That was one thing he wasn't looking forward to should she actually let him bite her. When the seat cushion beside her sagged under his weight Hermione rolled her eyes to the ceiling and sighed; she knew he wasn't going to let this go. "What can I do to make you go away?" He pulled her book away from her, feeling a little better when he was within touching distance of her calming presence. "How are you so calm?" "Reading's my coping mechanism when I'm feeling anxious. Now give me back the book." Draco's lips tugged downwards in a frown as he looked at the book in his hands. "I don't think that's very healthy." "Says the king of either bottling it up or taking it out on innocent bystanders." Okay, so he didn't have the best coping mechanisms either. Well, there was a
- 47 -

simple remedy to that. Quickly, so she didn't have time to yell at him, Draco reached across the small distance between them, snatched her up and pulled her snugly into his lap, making sure to keep an arm around her waist to ensure she couldn't escape. "What are you doing?" she demanded, wiggling in a desperate attempt to escape his hold. "I make a much better coping mechanism than some boring old book. Now stop wiggling." He tightened his grip around her waist and pulled her against his chest. His Veela was completely content in that moment and he could feel her anxiety fading as she gradually relaxed against him. Hermione knew when a fight was futile. Malfoy was completely set on holding her and she didn't hate his nearness as much as she should have. She could feel herself relaxing against him but was powerless to stop herself. It took her a moment, but she eventually managed to control her reactions to the blond prat enough to lean away from him slightly. "If I'm going to stay in your lap, at least give me my book back." Content that she was going to stay where she was, Draco didn't mind returning to her the thing that drew so much of her attention away from him. As she read, he leant forward and rested his chin on her shoulder, taking in her scent and basking in her presence. The damn Veela blood in him was making him into some kind of hopeless romantic. It made him want to do mushy things that had never been appealing to him before, like cuddle and write poetry. Dear Merlin, he was considering poetry. He drew the line at rose petals. If he ever even thought about introducing rose petals into the mix, then he was going to seek some kind of help. Perhaps a brain transplant. Hermione knew that Veelas could manipulate people using their pheromones, and she also knew that was probably what Malfoy was doing, but at the moment, couldn't seem to bring herself to care. He was doing wonders for the anxiety she'd been feeling. His light caresses and warm presence just melted away her negative feelings. As if sensing what she'd been thinking, Malfoy spoke. "So what is it that had you all worked up?" He was purring again. She could only assume it was from happiness or something similar this time. Apparently that was all it took to completely relax her; she was
- 48 -

putty in his hands. Her body moulded against his and her eyelids started to droop. "I'm going to talk to Ginny today. I'm not sure what I'm going to say yet, but I have to do something before irreparable damage to our friendship is done." She murmured. Her drooping eyelids snapped open when she became fully aware of what was happening. She elbowed him in the stomach hard enough to make him release his grip in surprise and jumped out of his lap, not stopping her retreat until she was well out of his reach. "Stop that." She firmly ordered. "Stop what?" He asked, falsely innocent. Along with the death sentence that came if his mate rejected him, Draco had some weapons to being her closer to him, and he wasn't about to throw his life away without first persuading her in any way he could. "Stop using pheromones and whatever else you were doing to make me all..." She trailed off, not sure what word she was looking for. "Relaxed? Pleasant?" Malfoy offered. Hermione made a noise of frustration and left to find her redheaded friend since he was obviously in a mood to make her hex him. Maybe she should just tell Ginny the truth; after all, when she discovered that she was his mate, Malfoy's secret became Hermione's as well. The trip from the Head's Common room to the Gryffindor tower was actually a very short one, so she was going to have to make up her mind quickly. "Password?" the Fat Lady asked. Hermione hadn't had enough time to come to a decision, so she was going to have to think on her feet. She spouted off the password of the month and climbed through the portrait hole, wondering how she was going to approach her friend. It would be easiest if she could just catch Ginny on her own and quietly explain everything. Hopefully, the truth would be enough to appease the temperamental redhead. Ginny was rushing out of Gryffindor's common room just as the brunette was going in, causing them to nearly collide as their paths crossed. "We need to talk," Hermione said firmly, not allowing her fried to pass her by without saying something. She just couldn't understand how Ginny expected their conflicts to get resolved when any situation bringing them together by chance ended
- 49 -

in stony silence on her part. It just wasn't reasonable. "I can't right now; I have to-" Hermione grabbed her arm as the other girl tried to continue walking away. "You can't just keep trying to make me miserable because I did something you don't like. Let me explain." Glancing between the open portrait hole and her friend, Ginny nodded stoically. "Fine. I have to go meet Luna so she can return my Herbology notes, but I'll stop by the Head Dorms after that." That said, she continued on her way, sidestepping Hermione. As her friend passed her, Hermione slipped a piece of paper in the other girl's hand with the password for the Head Dorms on it to allow her access. That way, she wouldn't have to knock and risk Malfoy answering and inflaming the situation even more. The brunette sighed, knowing that convincing Ginny to speak with her was the easy part; the difficult bit was going to be making her understand. She rushed through the halls to get back with enough time to make sure Malfoy was going to be out of the way while Ginny was there - nothing could make the situation go south faster than Malfoy set on being annoying. Her eyes darted around the Head's common room; he wasn't where she had left him. Where could the prat have gone? Quietly, she peeked into his room to see if he was sleeping, but he wasn't there. He must have gone to the Slytherin dorms or something... Well, now that she didn't have to waste time getting rid of Malfoy, she had a moment to herself to prepare what she was going to say to Ginny. She mulled over whether she was going to reveal everything she knew, or if she could give an edited version of the truth, just enough to placate the hot-headed Weasley female. Both options had their pros and cons. Absently, she wandered into her own room to get the book she'd been reading the night before so she'd have something productive to do while she waited for her friend. There was only so much agonizing over what to say she could do. In the end, she knew that the truth was best. When her attention landed on her bed, she froze in place, unable to believe what
- 50 -

she was seeing. "What are you doing?" She yelled, frantic. Draco blinked open his eyes and stared at her for a moment, waiting for her form to come into focus. "I was under the impression that I was sleeping." "You're in my bedroom! In my bed!" The blond sighed. If that was all, then he was going back to sleep. She'd been yelling like something was on fire or the giant squid had gone on a rampage and was heading right for them. He rolled over and pulled one of her pillows over his head, attempting to block out the sound of her screeching. Hermione was on the verge of hyperventilating. Ginny was due to show up any second to talk over the whole Malfoy debacle and now the git was in her bed. She was willing to bet a lot of money that he wasn't fully clothed under her covers. Time for a new tactic. "Malfoy, do you not need me if you're going survive past your next birthday?" He grumbled something that she assumed was a grudging assent. "Then get out of my bed before Ginny gets here and sees you because she'd going to kill me the as soon as she does." The pillow came off his face and he glared at her. "I hate you sometimes," he grumbled, pulling the covers off of his chest to reveal that he was only wearing boxers. Sometimes, Hermione hated it when she was right. Sleeping in her bed was one thing, but removing his clothes first was pushing the envelope towards unreasonable. "That's what makes it so interesting that you're chemically drawn to me. I'm assuming that's why you're in my bed?" She asked. He nodded, completely unabashed that he was barely clothed. "It smells like you, the Veela leaves me alone and lets me sleep when I'm there." Running a stressed hand through her hair, Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She'd talk to him about boundaries later. At the moment, she needed him out of her room before Ginny showed up.
- 51 -

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 A/N: When I write Ginny, I kind of model her after my sister... She's quick to anger but quick to forgive. I know a few of you aren't all that fond of her, but I don't think she would be all understanding after thinking her friend let something she didn't like ambush and then kiss her. Thanks to Claire96 and TimeToWriteIsHistory for their wonderful betaing skills and thanks to everyone who reviewed! ~Frosty "Malfoy, you shouldn't be worrying about your Veela; you should be worrying about me! Get out of my bed before I hex you!" Hermione gritted out between teeth so tightly clenched her parents were probably wincing somewhere from the enamel damage. As dentists, they had a keen sense for when their offspring was doing something that could cause harm to her pearly-whites, a trait that had annoyed Hermione to no end as a child, as they could always somehow tell when she'd stolen a cookie or forgot to floss. The blond boy occupying her bed sighed. "Granger," he said, mocking her threatening tone, "it's not my fault I'm part magical creature and your bed is one of the few places I can have a restful sleep. I thought you were all for the equal rights of magical creatures." "Not when they're as infuriating as you are," she muttered under her breath. House Elves had never once invaded her personal space to sleep in her bad and insult her at the same time. Part of the reason she'd been fighting so hard for them was because they didn't fight for themselves. She knew for a fact that Malfoy was perfectly comfortable standing up for himself, even when he was in the wrong. She was just contemplating a nice hex she'd read about in the Restricted Section that would leave Malfoy a cuttlefish (until she cast the counter-curse, of course) when she heard the click of the portrait hole opening. Hermione intensely regretted giving Ginny the password, allowing the girl free access to find her in a number of compromising positions with the pushy Veela before proper explanation had been given.
- 52 -

"I'm here to listen to what you have to say Hermione. This better not be some kind of trick so Malfoy can kiss me again," called the irritated voice of Ginny. The girl was not sounding like she was all that open to explanations at the moment. Anxiously, Hermione tapped her fingers against her thigh as she thought. There wasn't really anything she could do except leave Malfoy where he was and hope that Ginny wouldn't find him. She'd just keep her conversation with Ginny as short as possible and then come back to hex the prat into oblivion. Yes, she was starting to like the plan more and more. "Okay Malfoy, Ginny's here so I can explain what's been going on with me lately. She's very upset that I wasn't surprised or even all that angry when you kissed her. Finding you in my bed isn't going to help anything, so just... go back to sleep." Having had no desire to leave her bed in the first place, Draco made a sleepy sound of agreement and snuggled down amongst her pillows and blankets once more. They were still warm from his body heat and practically calling to him. For the moment, he was content to sleep, but if the She-Weasel was still there when he was finished with his nap he had every intention of making sure she suffered for causing all that misery he'd been experiencing through Hermione. Feeling like she was marching off to face her own execution, Hermione left Malfoy in her bed and went downstairs to the Head's common room. She'd managed to escape the evil, scaly clutches of the Dark Lord, only to risk a stroke from all the stress Malfoy's situation was putting her under. Ginny was waiting in front of the fireplace with her arms crossed, ready for a confrontation. It seemed she was willing to listen but had already decided Hermione was in the wrong. "Well?" she asked, one eyebrow raised and tapping a foot like she had something better to do and was impatient to get to it. "I've never been able to refuse someone when they needed help," Hermione started, "and Malfoy needed - needs - my help." "So you just drop everything and help Malfoy go around assaulting your friends? What could he possibly have said to trick you into feeling sorry enough for him to go along with whatever his current evil scheme entails?" Internally, Hermione sighed. This was going to be more difficult than she had originally thought. It was one of their less advertised traits, but bull-headed
- 53 -

stubbornness was just as common as bravery in Gryffindor house.

Draco was trying to sleep. "Trying" being the operative word. The Gryffindor girls a floor below him weren't being loud, but that annoying ache in his chest was back. He knew this meant that despite the relatively quiet volume level of the conversation, the She-Weasel was being hurtful. The Veela part of him wasn't going to just let him sleep if his mate was upset. He knew he wasn't going to be able to nap in peace until they'd settled their little disagreement, so he was going to have to help it along. With a few muttered expletives, he dragged himself out of Granger's bed and quietly padded out of the room in his bare feet. Briefly, he considered putting his slippers on, but quickly dismissed that notion - that would be admitting he was going to be out of the bed long enough for his feet to get cold. He did however, relent and put his pants and shirt back on - it just wouldn't do to have Weaslette so busy molesting him with her eyes that she didn't hear any of his words. "I didn't drop everything to just help him along with an evil plan, I knew what was going on," Granger's voice floated up the stairs. Just hearing her soothed some of the irritation that was boiling hot within him. Draco knew this meant he was probably in trouble; for someone with his commitment issues, becoming a Veela wasn't exactly a comfortable transition. He'd wanted to stay free of the shackles of a relationship for as long as possible, yet a large part of him wanted nothing more than to claim Granger and spend the rest of his days doting on her. "Oh, so you knew Malfoy was going to kiss me and you just let him?" the grating voice of the youngest Weasley followed Hermione's. Between the two, the contrast in their voices was startling; both of them were shrill, but Hermione's was music to his ears and the other woman's made him want to cringe. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs, Draco could see the both of them. They were standing in front of the fire, Granger looking miserable and the other one looking like she was ready to strangle someone at any moment. If she decided on Granger, Draco was going to revoke his rule of never hitting women. "You don't have anything to say?" the redhead asked incredulously. "So you really did know! We're done here." Angrily, she turned towards the door, making the
- 54 -

stabbing ache Draco was feeling intensify. This simply wouldn't do; at the rate they were going, he wasn't going to get his nap at all. "Stop right there Weaslette," Draco called. Surprisingly, it actually worked and she froze in place. Maybe he was getting better with the pheromone thing than he'd thought. He made a mental note to try and get Granger to join him for that nap later if she wasn't in a mood to hex him. "What?" she practically growled, whipping around to face him. Despite her anger at Hermione, Ginny was still her friend. With Draco, there were no such ties stopping her from taking the entirety of her anger out on him. "What Granger's trying to keep from you is that she was helping me out of pity because I was dying," Draco said, his tone clipped and to the point. Granger made a sound of protest at the pity comment, but he waved her off and continued. "I'm a Veela and I was searching for my mate. Kissing people was the only way to be sure whether she was the one or not. Needless to say, you were not." There was a moment of almost complete silence. The only sound in the room was the quiet crackling of the fire as it burned hungrily through its fuel, completely ignorant of the staring contest going on mere centimetres from its hearth. Unfortunately, the annoyingly astute redhead picked up on the one word in his entire speech he'd been hoping she'd overlook. "'Was' searching?" He inwardly winced. It figured that she would make his confession as painful as possible. She was a Weasley. Outwardly, he projected his usual calm demeanour. "Yes, 'was.' I've found her and I'd appreciate it if you'd stop making her miserable, because it's interfering with my sleep schedule." Somewhere deep inside him, beside Granger's hurt, he could feel her anger starting to grow. That was probably a "no" to the nap later then. Immediately seemed like a good time to retreat back into her bedroom and finish his sleep - alone . Before the Gryffindors could get over their shock at his baldly honest statements, he turned and retreated up the stairs, back into Granger's room. Just as he was shutting the door, he heard the She-Weasel ask "Did he just go into your room?" Hermione scrunched up her face in irritation at the brazen actions of her blond companion. She had to comfort herself with the fact that he had put his clothes back
- 55 -

on before emerging from her bedroom. That would have caused all kinds of hell she just didn't want to have to contend with. "He claims he sleeps better in my bed because it smells like me and the Veela part of him lets him rest when it's calmed by my scent. I was in the process of kicking him out when you showed up, so I let him stay there to avoid you seeing him leaving and making me explain everything to you." Hermione mumbled. "So he was telling the truth? He's really a Veela, you're sure?" The brunette nodded. "Fangs, black eyes and everything." Softening slightly towards her friend, Ginny took a seat on the sofa. "Hermione, I know you're all for finding the good in everyone, but this is Malfoy we're talking about. Agreeing to be his mate means you're going to have to spend the rest of your life with him." Hermione joined her and slumped slightly, "I know." "I realize you don't want to hear this, but he's Malfoy. Would it really be such a huge loss if he died?" "Ginny!" She exclaimed, shocked that her friend would even consider letting the git die just because he was... well, a git. It wouldn't make her much better than a murderer to let him die just because she wasn't willing to make a few sacrifices, and she didn't want that guilt on her soul. The redhead sighed and leaned against Hermione, giving her a one-armed hug. "You're too kind for your own good." "Does this mean I'm forgiven?" Head tilted to the side, the youngest Weasley regarded the girl who had been one of her closest friends for years. She knew that she'd allowed her issues with being left out to interfere with her judgement and that she should have trusted that Hermione knew what she was doing despite the evidence she'd witnessed to the contrary. "Provided you don't let Malfoy kiss me again, I suppose all is well." Hermione laughed, feeling light with relief that they were back to normal. Now she only had to tell Harry and Ron about the whole Veela thing and pray they never
- 56 -

found out about Ginny's involvement. On the bright side: at least Malfoy hadn't tried to kiss either of them. She shuddered at the mere thought of the fallout if he ever tried something like that. Regretfully, Ginny glanced at the clock sitting on the fireplace mantle. "I'd love to stay and talk some more, and I bet you could use some girl talk time after everything that' s happened while I've been too busy being a bitch to help you, but I promised Luna that we'd catch some Nargles so Hagrid can use them in his lessons come Christmas time." Hermione snorted. "Good luck with that." The redhead left the room laughing at Hermione's doubt. For someone so smart, the girl wasn't very open to new ideas that sounded a little out there - not that Ginny actually believed they'd manage to find - much less catch - a Nargle, but still, it never hurt to keep an open mind about things. When Ginny was gone, Hermione, feeling happy, looked up the stairs toward her bedroom. What was she going to do about Malfoy? And Harry and Ron? Merlin, she was lucky Ginny had taken the news so well. It was unlikely that her two friends would be so level-headed about the whole thing. She sat there, staring blankly out the window at the fluffy clouds visible in the sky. The clock kept ticking while she ran through possible outcomes in her mind. She wasn't one to just jump in and randomly choose something without logic and much thought like Ron was prone to do. Hermione preferred to completely weigh all the options before coming to a decision. Maybe it would be best if she just invited them over to the Head Dorms and let them find Malfoy in her bed? No, that wouldn't work; they'd be just as likely to murder the blond as they were to listen to the explanation of why he was in her room. Without having come to a decision, she sighed and got up from the sofa. She'd wasted all kinds of time just staring out the window and thinking, and it obviously wasn't helping her. "You're in a better mood," Malfoy observed when she entered her bedroom. He had one silver eye cracked open to watch her as she moved further into the room, leaving the door open behind her. The feelings of anger and sadness had been replaced with a bubbly, light sensation, keeping him just as awake and fidgety as the
- 57 -

previous feelings had. "Everything's fine between me and Ginny now. But you probably already know that; I somehow find it hard to believe that you're not using those newly sharp ears of yours to eavesdrop." Unabashed, he smirked; she knew him well. "Are you worried she's going to run to Potter and tell him everything she's learned?" In all honesty, Draco was a little concerned that Potter and Weasley would find out what had happened and come hunting for him. It wasn't that he believed they would actually be able to do him harm, but when one has people lurking around that are out for blood, it was always nice to have some forewarning. Hermione perched on the chair that sat in the corner of her room and faced the blond on the bed. "I'm not worried about Ginny saying anything to Harry and Ron; she knows this whole thing is my story to tell." She was just so... trusting. To Draco, it was strange for someone to have so much faith in their friends - particularly when said friends had recently turned on her. Draco didn't like it; he just knew that trust was going to get her in trouble one day. "I want to be there when you tell Potter and Weasley," he announced. It was unlikely, but there was always the possibility that the Weasel or even Potter would lash out at their friend when they found out the truth. "No," she said flatly and without any hesitation. "Granger-" "Don't Granger me! When I tell my friends that I plan on spending the rest of my life with someone they hate, I don't want you there to make the entire situation worse!" Noticing that he was looking at her with an odd, happy expression that didn't fit the situation at all, she tilted her head to the side, thrown off by his strange reaction. "What?" Draco was no longer feeling tired, he was feeling invigorated. She'd just agreed! Well, not officially, but she'd made her intentions to become his mate and keep him alive clear. There was hope for him yet. Her confused expression and snippy question made it obvious she had no idea what she'd just done.
- 58 -

"You just said you intend to become my mate and keep me alive." She sighed and deflated, her anger fading under her resignation. "Of course I'm not going to let you die. No one save for Voldemort and possibly a few people currently in Azkaban awaiting the Kiss deserve that death." Draco was too elated to be peeved that she had known she was going to keep him alive and had left him to stew in worry while he thought she was wavering back and forth with her decision. He jumped from the bed, raced across the room and scooped her up in a hug that probably would have squished her had his Veela side not reminded him that he was stronger than he used to be and he shouldn't squish his mate. After the quick hug he kept his hold on her and spun the both of them around in an exuberant twirl. Not so long ago, Hermione would have panicked if Malfoy had suddenly scooped her up and spun her around. But that was before she'd known that he was physically incapable of harming her or had witnessed how infectious his smile could be when it was genuine and fuelled by happiness instead of the bitter, smug smirk he usually wore. She wasn't sure whether it was his Veela side kicking in or if there was a genuinely warm person hidden inside him. Come to think of it, she was happier than she should be considering the situation. Maybe it was more than his smile that was infectious. Focusing her attention inward and ignoring her surroundings, Hermione delved inside herself. She found that she was feeling the apprehension she thought would be expected in her current position, but that was covered by much stronger elation and warm happiness. With a start she realized that only the apprehension was her own feeling. Draco sensed the change in her and set her gently on the ground. "What's wrong?" "You're happy." "And this bothers you?" Hermione shook her head; he didn't understand what she meant. "No. You're happy and I can feel it."
- 59 -

Malfoy seemed unsurprised by this statement. "It's disconcerting at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly." He tried to sound reassuring, but it didn't work as well as he'd hoped. The panic inside her was rapidly swelling, and it was starting to set him on edge. "This isn't supposed to happen until I agree to be your mate! I never agreed, I just accidentally blurted out my intentions to keep you alive." He sighed and reached out to grab her shoulders gently. "Granger, it's the same thing. You either become my mate and I live or you don't and I die. Now which is it?" Hermione took a deep breath to steady herself. She'd been expecting more time before she came to a definite decision. Once she agreed, it would be much harder to change her mind. Refusing after she'd already agreed could kill Malfoy, even before his birthday. The moment she uttered those words, the courtship ritual would be set into motion and things would start changing more drastically than before. The books had all been insistent that the mate should only agree to stay with their Veela if they were sure they would go through the entire process. "I'll be your mate," she said quietly, but with enough conviction to satisfy him. Draco could tell she needed some time to process everything, so instead of smothering her in affection like his annoyingly romantic Veela side wanted him to do, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and moved towards the door. "I have to go to Quidditch practice. You should go spend some time with the Weaslette and talk this out or something," he called over his shoulder. Girls liked to have long, boring talks about their feelings and things, right? He didn't stay to witness her reaction to his statement. Hermione stared after him with her hand pressed against the still-tingling cheek he had just pecked. He was right; she needed to talk to Ginny.

- 60 -

Chapter 7
Chapter 7 A/N: You guys are amazing! I'm shocked at how many reviews I've been getting, so thank you! You know who else is amazing? My two beta readers Claire96 and TimeToWriteIsHistory! Seriously, the story is much better thanks to their efforts. I took a few days to think where I wanted this story to go, and then I spent another few days writing like the wind (is that an actual expression? It should be), so I'm now into chapter 13 of this story. Also, for those of you who read Lifelike Shadows and have been waiting for the oneshot companion, that's been posted! It's called Shadow No Longer. ~Frosty The moment Hermione stepped out of the portrait hole, she knew something strange was going on. Floating throughout the halls were bunches of mistletoe with excitedly chattering students underneath them. Everywhere there were clumps of people staring with wonder at the normal-looking plant. With all the strange things that magic was capable of, making a relatively commonplace plant float wasn't even worth batting an eye - much less the attention it was receiving. She could only surmise that something else was afoot. "What's happened?" She asked a group of first-years standing nearby. "Luna Lovegood actually caught a Nargle!" one of them squeaked out in her hyper little voice. "Now the castle's been invaded by mistletoe because everyone wants to find one for themselves," she continued. The girl sounded somewhere between awed and disbelieving. Hermione shared those feelings, though she leant heavily toward the disbelieving end of that scale. In all of her reading, never had she found proof that Nargles existed - she'd barely even found mention of the things outside of the Quibbler. She really had to find Ginny and get to the bottom of whatever had happened while they'd been searching for Nargles because she refused to take it from a secondary source that they'd actually discovered something that didn't exist.
- 61 -

As she made her way to the Gryffindor common room, she marvelled at all the mistletoe that had appeared in the castle in the short period of time since she'd last seen Ginny. It never ceased to amaze Hermione how fast things could change in the magical world. One minute the entire school thought Luna was loony, and the next she was the hero of the school for allegedly proving that one of her hallucinations were actually real. She found her redheaded friend close to the Gryffindor tower, staring with disbelief at the nearest floating plant. "Ginny, it's all around the school that you and Luna actually caught a Nargle. Is that true?" The other girl glanced both ways down the corridor suspiciously before grabbing her friend's arm and yanking her into a nook behind a tapestry. "She may seem dreamy, but Luna's relentless. She said we couldn't leave until we actually caught a Nargle." Hermione raised her eyebrows. "And?" "And... I kind of glued a pair of googly eyes onto a mistletoe leaf and called it a Nargle." Ginny looked both horrified with her actions and amused that it had actually worked. She was a little apprehensive about how the uptight Hermione would take this news. "Ginny! That's horrible you shouldn't have-" her lecture was interrupted by a hiccup of laughter which was soon followed by many more until both girls were clutching their sides in mirth. "I think all that time with Malfoy has loosened up your obsession with rules," the redhead observed. Hermione wanted to object that being friends with Harry and Ron throughout the years had forced her to relax her tight grip on obeying the rules, but she was laughing too hard. She merely hiccupped another laugh and shook her head.

Draco circled the pitch, looking over his team. He was pleased with the progress they'd been making - well, everyone except...

- 62 -

"Blaise! What the hell are you looking at? You're supposed to be watching the goal!" The dark Slytherin barely even glanced at the irritated team captain. He was one of the few people in the entire school who could get away with treating the blond with anything other than respect. "Didn't you hear? Lovegood found a Nargle," Blaise said, still not paying any attention to the goalposts he was supposed to be guarding. The chasers darted in behind him and scored two goals while he was addressing his blond friend, making said friend growl in frustration. "Zabini," Draco growled, "I don't care. Now get back to guarding the bloody goal!" He would have had to be blind to miss the mistletoe and gossip that had overrun the school while he'd been heading outside to the Quidditch pitch. Their practice went on with more effectiveness once Blaise's brain was back on the game and Draco could relax a little easier knowing that they had a chance of winning the cup if his players could just keep playing the way they had been in practices of late. Suddenly, Draco spotted the Snitch glinting in the sunlight on the other side of the pitch. He lowered his body until he was almost parallel with his broomstick and raced across the field as fast as his top of the line racing broom and Veela reflexes would allow. His reaching fingers were just about to close around the fluttering gold ball when he felt a rush of amusement and happiness from Hermione. He was unable to keep a goofy smile off of his face as he felt how happy she was at that moment. It warmed him to the core in a strange way which his own happiness couldn't compare. With effort, he managed to bring his focus back on the game; it wouldn't do to scold Blaise for something and then turn around to do that very thing himself. Before the Snitch could get away, he snatched it and smothered the grin on his face - he couldn't have the team thinking he was going soft. "Draco!" A frantic voice behind him yelled. He heard a strange whooshing whistle that didn't bode well for his future health. The blond turned around just in time to take a Bludger right to his chest. He swore he could hear each individual rib as it snapped on impact. The startled breath he tried to take in caused him excruciating pain and the edges of his vision started
- 63 -

to go fuzzy and black as unconsciousness threatened to wrap him in its dark blanket. Just before he succumbed to his wounds and passed out, Draco's last thought was that someone on his team was going to pay for their incompetence.

The big smile faded off of Hermione's face as she felt a pain in her chest. It rapidly intensified until it had grown from a small twinge to almost unbearable, making her fall to the ground. Her arms tightly wrapped around her torso in an instinctual - and unsuccessful - effort to ease the pain. Ginny knelt down beside her, concerned. "Hermione, what's wrong?" She jumped back when her friend looked up at her from the floor. "I think something happened to Malfoy - why're you looking at me like that?" As quickly as it had appeared, the pain went away again, leaving her confused. Ginny was looking at her like she was some kind of monster. Much like she'd looked at Malfoy when she'd first seen his eyes change. Hermione felt a stab of panic that had nothing to do with the mysterious pain she'd just experienced. Merlin, were her eyes changing as well? Quickly, she conjured a mirror and stared at herself. Just like Malfoy's had been, her eyes were pure obsidian. "Ginny, I have to get to the Quidditch pitch," she said in the calmest voice she could manage. Her readings had informed her that what she was experiencing most commonly happened when the Veela was in pain of danger. Confused, the redhead nodded and followed her friend as she ran towards the Entrance Hall. They never made it all the way outside; as soon as they got to the bottom of the stairs, Blaise entered the castle levitating a broken-looking Malfoy. Hermione made a distressed sound and rushed forward. "What happened?" she asked Blaise, doing her best to stay calm. No matter how many times people she cared about were injured, it never got easier to see them in pain. Blaise gestured that they should continue moving. They rushed towards the
- 64 -

Hospital Wing as he spoke. "The Beaters were being morons. Draco was just about to catch the Snitch and the blighter accidentally hit a Bludger towards him. It all happened so fast..." Hermione followed along with the dark Slytherin as he hurried through the halls. Her shorter legs had to really work to keep up with the longer strides of the boy, but she puffed along beside him, determined to keep up. Somewhere along the line it seemed that Ginny had disappeared. She had probably gone to find a teacher. Together, they burst into the hospital wing, startling the Mediwitch on the other side of the doors. "What is it you children have gotten into now?" the old woman sighed in exasperation. She spent all her time patching up those children, and there was still always someone in need of more help. Keeping all them whole was like running uphill in the sand; it was exhausting. "Quidditch," Blaise said, trying to steady his breathing after his long run. No more explanation was needed; Madam Pomfrey immediately launched into a long-winded rant about her hatred for the "mindlessly brutal sport" as she bustled purposefully towards them. Gently, Blaise lowered Draco to one of the waiting hospital beds as the Mediwitch watched with disapproval. Not wanting to look at the mess of purpling splotches that made up Malfoy's chest, Hermione stepped close to his bed and angled herself so she could only see his face. Her hands shook slightly as she reached for his and held on tightly. Something about seeing his face free of its usual arrogant expression hurt her. Malfoy just wasn't himself if he wasn't feeling superior to someone. She had no idea how he managed it, but he somehow made that characteristic part of his charm - not that she'd ever admit this to him. He should have looked peaceful in his unconsciousness, but there was a little line between his eyebrows and a slight wrinkling in the skin around his eyes that spoke of the pain his body was suffering.
- 65 -

There was a sickening crack from behind her as the Healer repaired the bones that had shattered when the Bludger hit. Hermione couldn't see what was going on, but she had a clear view of Blaise's face on the other side of Malfoy. He was looking positively green. "Hermione, I can't stand hospitals. Can you stay here with him?" the boy gasped, appearing unsure as to whether he was going to throw up or pass out. She nodded; it was obvious that something was going to give if Blaise stayed in the hospital wing a moment longer and none of them needed that added stress. Immediately, the Slytherin fled the Hospital Wing. Another bone-grating crunch echoed throughout the room. "Is he going to be all right?" Hermione asked, not looking over her shoulder at what was happening, instead focusing all of her attention on Malfoy's face. He wasn't looking as wan and pale as he had just minutes before. From her reading, Hermione knew that Veelas could heal much quicker than normal people, but Malfoy had been hurt so badly, she was still worried. "He's going to be a little tender for a few days, but Mr. Malfoy is Veela, so he'll be fine in a few hours." Sagging with relief, Hermione let herself fall into the visitor's chair waiting beside the blond's bed. Reassured that he was going to be fine, she chanced a glance at his chest to take inventory of the damage. She was surprised to see that it was already wrapped tightly in gauzy strips of bandage. Madam Pomfrey worked fast. Her worried eyes darted to meet the Mediwitch's when Malfoy shifted slightly in his sleep and let out a pained groan. A comforting smile was half-way formed on Madam Pomfrey's face when it froze, along with all of her other movement. "Miss Granger, you're not Mr. Malfoy's mate by any chance, are you?" Hermione tilted her head to the side, not sure how that was relevant. "Yes. Why?" "Because now that's he's starting to wake up, your eyes are pure black." Her eyes must have changed back to their normal colour once Malfoy had lost
- 66 -

consciousness. This meant that no one had witnessed her running through the halls with obsidian orbs for eyes. It was a little disappointing that they were back to black again. The doors to the Hospital Wing burst open once more as what appeared to be the entire Hufflepuff second year class rushed in. Each one was eager to lose the tail or ears they'd sprouted from a Potion's accident gone horribly wrong. Madam Pomfrey frowned. She hated that the teachers seemed to put the poor children into dangerous situations every day. Why couldn't they ever make a potion for sunshine and rainbows with no dangerous ingredients? "Miss Granger, I don't usually do this, but your secret will be out if those children notice your eyes. I'm going to close the curtain around Mr. Malfoy's bed to allow you some privacy. I expect you to conduct yourself appropriately as Head Girl." The brunette nodded, eager to be away from prying eyes in her state. She wasn't sure what it was that the Mediwitch expected her to get into with an unconscious Malfoy, but she wasn't going to question it. "She thinks you're going to jump me," said a croaky voice from the bed beside her. "I wouldn't be opposed to that, just be careful of my ribs for a while; I seem to have broken most of them recently." Once Hermione got over her shock that Malfoy was not only awake, but speaking, she directed a stern look at him. "You're an ass," she announced, wanting dearly to whack him, but worried that it would jostle his injuries. "And you're inconsiderate for worrying so much that it dragged me back to consciousness." Had she really disturbed his rest like that? Hermione frowned worriedly at the thought that she was detrimental to his recovery merely by existing. Maybe if she left the distance would dull his ability to experience what she was feeling. Sensing the change in emotions, Draco tiredly reached out a hand to rest it on hers as she clutched nervously at his sheets. "Granger, I didn't mean that." He rubbed his thumb over the dip between her two largest knuckles, soothing away her worries with pheromones and a soft touch. "You know, I'm pretty sure I
- 67 -

read in one of the books that I'll heal faster if you're lying with me - preferably without clothes, but I'll settle for you getting in bed with me." Hermione pulled her hand away from him, feeling a little desolate without his touch. "Cite me your sources and I'll be more than willing to research this theory of yours. If it proves to be true then I'll be willing to consider getting into bed with you." Draco sighed hugely, wincing as his ribs gave a twinge of pain at the movement. It would have been nice is she'd actually agreed. The Veela wanted her as close as physically possible. It was just the Veela that wanted her near... wasn't it? At the moment, he didn't really care which part of him wanted it, he just wanted her closer. He finally regained his bearings enough to focus on her and was surprised by what he saw. "Granger, your eyes." His hand reached up and he gently traced his index finger down the side of her nose and over the delicate skin under her eye. Trying to hide how much that one feather-light caress affected her, Hermione leant away from him even though she wanted nothing more than to lean closer. "Your eyes are black as well. The books say it'll fade with your injuries." "I know what the books say, I've been reading them just as avidly as you have." She raised a skeptical eyebrow, making him roll his obsidian eyes to the ceiling. "Fine, maybe not quite as avidly as you, but not all of us salivate over knowledge like you seem to." Her irritation with him was growing. He could feel it, yet he just couldn't bring himself to stop with the comments designed to piss her off. It never failed to entertain him when she got all worked up. She would bristle with her indignant anger and her eyes would flash. "How is it that you always manage to ruin sweet gestures with acerbic words?" she demanded. Draco knew she wasn't really upset with him. He gave her his most heart-stopping grin, something that would have made lesser girls melt into a puddle of worshipful goo. "It's part of my charm, love."
- 68 -

If he was well enough to attempt to mess with her mind, then she was confident that he was going to be fine. It helped that she could feel that his pain had faded significantly. As if sensing the direction of her thought - and she wasn't entirely sure he couldn't do that - Malfoy spoke. "I'm... sorry for putting you through that pain." The hesitation before saying 'sorry' made Hermione think that it wasn't something he said often. Touched at his concern, she reached out and took his hand again. "I'm fine, I've had worse." He started running his thumb along her hand as he'd been doing before. "You shouldn't have to." The words were a growl, but Hermione wasn't sure who was the target of his anger. She had a suspicion that he was upset with himself for getting hurt when she could feel it. "Don't be an idiot; life is painful. It happens to everyone at some point or another and you'll only kill yourself trying to shelter me from all of it." Hermione scolded. She squeezed his hand to punctuate her statement. Movement out of the corner of her eyes drew her attention away from Malfoy. The curtain sheltering them from the rest of the Hospital Wing was rippling as if someone had been holding it to the side and then released it. Had someone seen them? She glanced at Malfoy; he was supposed to be the one with the superior senses. "Did someone just...?" "Yeah, someone just looked in and saw us," he said grimly.

- 69 -

Chapter 8
Chapter 8 A/N: Hallo readers! Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up hours too early and angry because of it? For some reason that was me this morning... Luckily for you guys, it came with the urge to post another chapter. So here it is... at 7am. Ugh. As always, thanks to all the wonderful people who take the time to review. Also thanks to Claire96 and TimeToWriteIsHistory for their beta work. This is the third time I've written this chapter... I keep scrapping it because I don't like where it ends up. I hope you guys like it. ~Frosty Immediately, Hermione started worrying. Who could have seen them? Whoever it was probably hadn't witnessed much, but seeing the two Head students holding hands while both of them had coal-black eyes would probably raise some questions. Questions neither of them were ready to answer publicly. "Stop your pointless worrying Granger, the truth will either come out or it won't. There's no sense making the both of us sick with worry," Malfoy scolded. He carefully stretched himself out to see how his injuries were healing. The twinges of pain were gone, and there was nothing impeding his movements, so he figured he was just about back to normal. For all the trouble it caused, he was glad he was a Veela; without the accelerated healing abilities, he may not have survived the accident. Death by Quidditch practice - that would have been an embarrassing way for the Malfoy line to end. Slowly, he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of his bed while Granger made sounds of protest and hovered anxiously. She had her arms half reaching towards him as if she was going to somehow stop his fall should his legs refuse to hold his weight. It was a pointless gesture; his weight would bring her down with him, potentially crushing her and probably injuring himself as well. Silly girl. He dipped his head a little to get a look at Granger's eyes as she studied him for
- 70 -

any sign that he shouldn't be up from the bed. "Granger, your eyes are back to normal. I'm assuming mine are too?" She glanced up at him and nodded, looking like she dearly wanted to scold him for being up and about but knew it would be an exercise in futility. "Good. Here's what we'll do: you leave now, and I'll take a few minutes to regain my balance and then follow. That way, those screechy nuisances crowding the Hospital Wing won't see us leave together and spread rumours. We'll meet back at the Head Dorms." "Should you be up and out of bed so soon? You looked near death only a little while ago," she said. It was true he was looking better, but that didn't mean he couldn't relapse if he pushed himself too far. He was touched by her concern, but didn't really want to argue with her at the moment. He pressed his palm in the centre of her back and gently propelled her outside of the curtain still surrounding his bed. People turned to stare in confusion as she stumbled out of the curtain, arms spread for balance. She waved them off with a self-depreciating smile at her 'clumsiness'. Hermione wanted nothing more than to burst back through those curtains and yell at Malfoy for manhandling her like that, but many of the people crowding the Hospital Wing were still looking in her direction. Her eyes searched the group of children for the grey head of hair that stood taller than the rest. "Madam Pomfrey, I'm going back now," she called when she caught sight of the Mediwitch. The woman only nodded absently to show that she'd heard as she tended to the children in need of medical attention. She slipped out the infirmary doors, wanting to put as much time as possible between her and Malfoy's exits in order to avoid suspicion. Her pace was hurried as she headed for her destination. Halfway back to the Head Dorms, Hermione found Blaise leaning over in the corridor with his hands braced on his knees and still looking pale. His head shot up and he rushed over to her when he saw the quickly approaching Gryffindor.
- 71 -

"How is he?" Hermione smiled at the concern in his voice; despite their seemingly cold house, the two Slytherins were quite close. "He's fine, Veela healing and all that stuff - why are you looking at me like that?" The Slytherin was smirking at her with a knowing expression, seemingly over his worry once he knew his friend was going to be fine. "I was right about you being his mate, wasn't I?" She shot a frantic glance around the corridor to see if anyone was near enough to overhear, but there was no one anywhere. "Don't talk about things like that when people can hear!" she hissed quietly, grabbing his arm and towing him behind her as she made her way towards the common room. He allowed her to move him, unresisting. Malfoy would be along any moment and Blaise could reassure himself then that there was nothing wrong with the Veela from the privacy of the Head's common room. Hermione and Blaise had just settled down in front of the fire when Malfoy entered, limping slightly. It seemed he wasn't as completely healed as he'd pretended back at the hospital wing. His eyes immediately darted over to his friend suspiciously, wondering what the Italian was doing sitting alone with his mate in front of a fire, a potentially romantic setting. The suspicion faded when Granger hopped up from her seat and rushed over to him without a backwards look at Blaise. Draco scowled; the damn Veela was making him suspicious of his friends now? "Malfoy, you're limping. I knew you should have stayed in the Hospital Wing a little longer, you're still injured!" She grabbed his arm and escorted him over to a chair. When she moved to retake her seat on the sofa, Draco reached out and pulled her onto his lap, not caring that it made his ribs twinge a little on the impact. "I see you're feeling better," Blaise said dryly as Hermione started scolding and trying to escape. "You're obviously well enough to be terrorizing Granger." The blond wrapped his arms around her, purring so quietly that Hermione almost couldn't hear him despite her proximity. Her involuntary proximity. Had he not been recently injured, she would have fought harder, but she didn't want to hurt him, even if he was being pushy with his affection.
- 72 -

The Italian merely raised an eyebrow at his friend. "You're really milking the injury thing for all it's worth, aren't you?" There was a knock on the portrait, signalling the appearance of what was sure to be yet another interruption. Hermione shot the possessive Veela a look that clearly told him he needed to let her go until they knew who it was at the door, but he just smirked and tightened his hold on her, not willing to let her leave just yet. "Malfoy, let me go," she hissed, too quietly to be heard by the visitor in the corridor. When he remained adamantly holding onto her, she started to wiggle, trying to escape. Despite her desperation to be free before whomever it was on the other side of the door spoke the password and entered to find her in a compromising position, Hermione was still careful to mind his recently healed injuries. Sometimes she cursed her kindness; it would have been so easy to escape had she been willing to elbow him in the recently broken ribs. "Mr. Malfoy?" called McGonagall's voice. "Miss Granger?" He was just opening his mouth to answer her when the Headmistress spoke the password and entered. Hermione redoubled her efforts to escape while her professor stood staring at the pair with something akin to complete shock. She would have expected to find the Malfoy heir in a compromising position, but never Hermione Granger. The girl was too polite to let her teachers find her doing something inappropriate, even in her own common room - or so McGonagall thought. It was obvious that the girl was subtly trying to escape the hold he had on her. McGonagall was a little worried for the intelligent brunette. "Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger, Mr. Zabini," she greeted when she'd recovered from her surprise. Visibly gathering her thoughts, the woman turned to Draco. "Madam Pomfrey said you snuck out of the hospital wing before she had a chance to discharge you, but it seems to me that you're perfectly fine," the Headmistress explained. She never would have thought that the Head Students would get on so well and it was difficult for her not to stare and ask all kinds of questions she had no business asking. Hermione was completely mortified. She wasn't the type of girl to engage in
- 73 -

frequent public displays of affection and definitely never in front of teachers, the Headmistress in particular. Had Malfoy not grabbed her and held her there in his lap, she was relatively confident that no teacher would have ever caught her in such a compromising position. "I'm healed. Between the magic and the Veela blood, I'm feeling almost back to normal," the Veela insisted. He could feel how distraught Granger was getting under the sharp eyes of the Headmistress, so he reluctantly released her before she stopped caring that his ribs were tender and attacked them in an effort to escape. McGonagall looked between her two pupils, unsure how she was going to phrase her thoughts. "Mr. Malfoy... Am I correct in assuming that you have found your mate in Miss Granger?" "We haven't known for very long," Hermione said. She wasn't sure if she was defensive or just wanted her head of house to accept the choice she'd made in agreeing to keep Malfoy alive. Either way, she felt it necessary to clarify. "Well, congratulations on your discovery and I wish you luck on the difficult journey ahead of you. Mr. Malfoy, you're to report to the Hospital Wing tomorrow morning for a quick check-up, and Miss Granger, I have the altered patrol schedules you asked for." The elderly woman strode forward, presented the brunette with the required parchment, and left again. As soon as the portrait was firmly shut, Hermione rounded on the blond with her wand drawn. "The next time I tell you to let me go, you will let me go," she said, barely managing to keep her emotions under control. When she'd glared at him long enough to see that he understood her seriousness, she followed her head of house's example and left through the portrait hole to go post the schedules she'd just received. Blaise looked to his friend with amusement. "You've got your work cut out for you there, mate." Draco hid a dreamy smile from the other Slytherin. He had his work cut out for him all right, and he wouldn't want it any other way.

What Hermione should have been doing was going to the Prefect's meeting room and posting the new patrol schedule, but she felt like she deserved a break something that rarely crossed her mind. The emotional rollercoaster her life had
- 74 -

become since Malfoy's blood had asserted itself was exhausting. Besides, there was always someone who had a problem with their patrol partner or time slot, and she just didn't have the patience to deal with whiny prefects. If he hadn't recently been so severely injured, Hermione may have tried to talk Malfoy into dealing with their complaints for once in his career as Head Boy. For some reason, no one ever seemed to complain when it was Malfoy posting the schedule. She had a feeling it had something to do with the scowl he usually wore whenever she had managed to trick him into actually doing the duty. Maybe she would just go rest in the Gryffindor common room for a while. If she went there, she would have the added bonus of finding out where it was that Ginny had disappeared to; one minute the redhead had been running behind her to find out what had happened to Malfoy on the Quidditch pitch, and the next she was gone. Mind made up, Hermione changed direction and headed towards the Gryffindor tower. She had to dodge a few of the groups still loitering around the halls and staring at mistletoe like it was the first time they'd seen the plant, but other than that, she didn't meet a soul on her short journey. The Gryffindor common room was in chaos, Harry and Ron at the centre of it. Hermione worked her way through the crowd to her friends, mumbling apologies to the people she jostled. "What's going on here?" she demanded in her best Head Girl voice with her hands on her hips. Ron seemed to be the source of all the madness, so she directed her question at him. He grinned, mindless of her irritation. "Haven't you heard? The Slytherin Beaters hit a Bludger at Malfoy so hard he barely survived!" Hermione's face hardened and she crossed her arms. "And how exactly is the misfortune of a fellow student reason for such rejoicing?" she asked in a dangerous tone. Ron paled, having learned not to mince words when she used that voice. "He's Malfoy," the redhead said as if that was all the explanation needed. She shot a glance at Harry to see if he shared Ron's sentiments. While he didn't look upset, Harry wasn't actively joining the jubilation that Ron exuded. His reaction made Hermione feel hopeful that Harry at least might be able to understand why she couldn't just let Malfoy die. After all, he had saved him from the room of requirement.
- 75 -

Her disapproving gaze turned to the rest of Gryffindor house. "Shame on all of you for being so happy that someone else is in pain. Are you Gryffindors or Slytherins?" That got their attention, she'd hit them where it hurt: right in their Gryffindor pride. Every one of the gathered students looked a little startled and then upset. Some of them even looked appropriately ashamed of themselves. Whatever their feelings, only a few of the Gryffindors could bear to remain in the common room under Hermione's disapproving stare. In a matter of minutes, Hermione was standing alone with Harry and Ron. The latter was making sure to keep a safe distance between himself and the angry brunette. "You scare me sometimes," Ron mumbled. Hermione shrugged, feeling a little better after having let out some steam. She took a seat in one of the cushy armchairs and raised her eyebrows at her friends in an invitation for them to join her. The brunette had no intention of standing up again until she'd had some time to relax, and if they were going to have a conversation, she felt it would be better if they weren't looming over her. Harry joined her willingly enough, but Ron was still a little miffed that she'd ruined the fun he'd been having at Malfoy's expense. He had a petulant pout on his face when he took a seat on the far side of Harry so he did have to sit beside her. Always trying to be the mediator, Harry looked between his two friends. "Let's not let Malfoy of all people cause a fight." Hermione winced internally, but wasn't ready to explain the whole thing to them, particularly when she was so run down. Instead she just nodded and snuggled down in her chair, ready to sit there for a while. "Have either of you seen Ginny?" she asked. She figured that she may as well try and find Ginny if she wasn't going to do anything productive. "I haven't seen her since she went off Nargle hunting with Luna. Did you hear they caught one?" Harry said. She snorted in amusement. "It wasn't a real Nargle, Ginny stuck googly eyes on a mistletoe leaf and called it a Nargle." Harry and Ron glanced at one another and burst out laughing. Tiredly, Hermione joined in. She didn't have to worry about telling Ginny the truth, or Malfoy dying, or
- 76 -

escaping Malfoy as he held her in front of Professor McGonagall. Her day had been exhausting and it was finally catching up to her. Without her permission, her eyelids started drooping and she yawned so hugely that her jaw creaked in objection. Her friends didn't notice that she was falling asleep; they were debating what Luna's reaction would have been when Ginny presented her with the "Nargle". "Hermione?" Harry asked when he saw that her eyes were closed. She didn't answer him, only snuggled deeper into her chair. He glanced over at Ron, who only shrugged, they continued their conversation in hushed voices. The two boys didn't pay much attention when she started whimpering and shifting in her sleep. They'd spent an awful lot of time with Hermione in a tent and knew that she sometimes spoke in her sleep when she was under pressure so they didn't think anything of the sounds she was making. When her sounds of distress increased in volume, their attention was drawn to her. Little whimpering were normal, but not yells. "Should we wake her up?" Ron asked hesitantly. They could tell that she needed the rest; Hermione wasn't the type to just fall asleep in public unless she was completely run down. Harry was just reaching a hand out to shake her shoulder when she woke up with a gasp and looked around the room with wide eyes. Through her strange and new connection with Malfoy, she could feel that he knew she'd been terrified and was angry, but he probably had no idea that she hadn't been in danger at any time during that terror. She couldn't even remember what the dream had been about, but she knew it was going to cause all kinds of trouble if Malfoy got to her while she was still with her friends. The Veela was going to have worked himself up into a right state and then by the time he found her, he wasn't going to be able to deal with Harry and Ron's misplaced protection. "I have to go," she said, jumping up from the chair and heading towards the portrait hole. They made some objections behind her, but she had already yanked open the door. When her eyes met the angry black ones of Malfoy, she knew the situation was just going to go downhill from there. She felt a jolt of panic; if his eyes were black, did that mean he was upset enough for hers to be as well?
- 77 -

"Granger," Malfoy said in a strange mix of surprise and relief. Before she could answer him, she was pressed against his chest as he held her tightly. His relief washed over them both, working as a calming balm. She slipped out of his grasp, aware that her friends were behind her, probably only silent because of their shock. "I'm fine Malfoy, it was just a nightmare." The Veela didn't pay her attempt at reassurance much heed, he pulled her through the open portrait hole and made sure she was behind him. His grip was gentle and he tugged her arm, but the movement must have looked rough, because it served to snap Harry and Ron out of their state of shock. "Get away from her, Malfoy!" Ron shouted. He advanced towards the blond, closely followed by Harry. Hermione saw the exact second they noticed there was something off about the Veela; their eyes widened and they drew their wands. "Malfoy, step away from Hermione," Harry ordered in a much calmer voice than Ron had used. He took a step forward, hoping to distract Malfoy from his friend. That seemed to be the single worst thing he could have possibly done. Malfoy bared his teeth and started growling, not moving a single millimetre away from her. Hermione desperately tried to think of a way to diffuse the situation before someone got hurt.

- 78 -

Chapter 9
Chapter 9 A/N: It seems that quite a few of you are excited about this chapter, so I hope I didn't screw up the confrontation scene. *grins* I tried not to. You know, I was checking the stats page for this story and was shocked that last chapter got over 50 reviews. I was completely stunned. You guys are awesome! Thanks to Claire96 for betaing! Also thanks to Vianney (sorry it took me so long to make the changes) for pointing out my mistakes! On that note... this chapter is only half(?) betaed. Claire96 looks for plot holes and things that don't quite make sense, but I need a second beta to fix my sentence structure and punctuation errors. That sort of thing. Any volunteers? PM me or review telling me if you'd like to. ~Frosty Surprisingly enough, Hermione was actually more worried about Malfoy with his very recently healed injuries than she was about her friends. The Veela in him wouldn't allow the Slytherin to favour his injuries when faced with the perceived danger her friends posed to her person. Harry and Ron were armed and outnumbered the Veela. They also had the added advantage of relying on their human minds instead of the anger fuelled instinct that were controlling Malfoy. "Hermione, run!" Harry yelled, charging forward and launching a stunning spell at Malfoy that the Veela barely managed to dodge even with his supernatural reflexes. Resolutely, Hermione didn't move a step away from Malfoy. Giving her friends a clear shot of him without having to worry about hitting her by accident wasn't going to help anything. "I'm not going anywhere; he's not going to hurt me. And if you two would stop being so threatening, then he'd calm down and we could discuss this like civilized people instead of animals." Ron didn't look convinced and kept a tight grip on his wand, but Harry seemed
- 79 -

willing to give her a chance to explain before he threw anymore potentially harmful spells. He slowly lowered his wand, keeping a wary eye on Malfoy. The Veela was still growling quietly, but he had relaxed slightly along with Harry. "Thank you," she said, relieved. Now all she had to do was ensure that Malfoy didn't try to rip anyone's head off for looking at her wrong. It was strange the things she'd been forced to concern herself with since she'd discovered Malfoy's secret. At least she was rarely bored... Well, her friends were on board with the talking thing, but Malfoy still refused to allow her out from behind him and had yet to stop growling. Slowly, she edged up to stand just behind the arm he'd flung out in front of her and placed a palm flat in the centre of his back. His black eyes didn't turn away from her friends, but she could feel the shift in him that signified he was paying attention to her. "Come back to the Head Dorms and we can talk to Harry and Ron, okay Malfoy?" she said in a soothing voice, doing her best to project a calm feeling towards him. Her palm rubbed his back gently while she spoke. Hopefully, the soothing movement and the contact would help him calm down and think logically. The Veela didn't answer, but he did stop growling and turn to look at her. It may have been because she'd seen her own eyes coloured depthless black, but Hermione wasn't bothered by his stare. She gave him a reassuring smile and took his hand to lead him back to the Head Dorms. Malfoy was in the Gryffindor common room, a place he'd never be able to feel comfortable. Hermione knew that she needed to get him somewhere that he could relax - his own territory, so to speak. "Why are you touching him?" Ron demanded angrily, completely ruining whatever calm Hermione had managed to instil within the Veela. Malfoy starting growling again and Hermione's patience for her friend suddenly disappeared completely. "For once in your life just be quiet and wait for an explanation before you start yelling!" she snapped. Ron looked bewildered for a moment before he started turning red. Harry saw the explosion that was about to happen and headed it off by elbowing the redhead and speaking to him in a rapid whisper as they followed Hermione and Malfoy towards the Head Dorms. She was unable to decipher the words, but the gist of the quiet conversation behind her seemed to consist of Harry telling Ron to "stop being such an arse and give her a chance to explain".
- 80 -

Whatever it was that Harry said, it kept Ron from doing anything stupid that he'd regret when his temper cooled off. It was with great relief that Hermione finally arrived in front of the portrait guarding the Head's common room and spoke the password. She stepped up to the portrait hole and then reached behind her, grabbed Malfoy and pushed him inside first. She wanted him inside before he could even think about defending his territory against the "intruders". Blaise was still there, sitting backwards on the sofa with his chin resting on the backrest. "What's going on? You Gryffindors all look like something uncomfortable crawled up your arses, and Draco, you ran off like you were going to rip someone's head off." The Slytherin didn't seem bothered in the least that everyone who had just entered was looking at him with hostility. He probably needed an immunity to such hostility to remain friends with Malfoy and all of his moods. "Blaise, you're not helping things," Hermione sighed. "Any chance you can make yourself scarce while we have a serious conversation here?" The Slytherin looked contemplative, but she had a feeling her request wasn't enough to make him leave when there was sure to be an interesting confrontation going on right where he was. "Please," she added, putting some of her desperation into her voice. Reluctantly, Blaise got up and left them to the shouting match that was sure to ensue. "I'll expect details later, mate," he called over his shoulder to Draco. "Alright Hermione, explain to us what exactly has been going on around here," Harry said as soon as the portrait hole was closed behind the Slytherin. Malfoy seemed to have regained some measure of control over the Veela that had taken over. "Don't speak to her like that. She's been nothing but fiercely loyal to you since you were all annoying little first years, yet you automatically assume she's done something wrong because she hasn't told you one little thing," he said, his voice close to a snarl. "What do you care Malfoy? You've done nothing but make her miserable since the first time you met her!" Ron exclaimed. "Stop!" Hermione commanded. "Honestly, I feel like I've suddenly been charged with taking care of a trio of three year olds! Now we're all going to sit and have a
- 81 -

civilized conversation." She pointed a stern finger towards the sitting area. "I'm not sitting anywhere with him," Ron said with a nasty glare directed at Malfoy. "You've just volunteered to get the tea from the kitchens then." Her voice was clipped and brooked no argument. Hermione knew she could intimidate Ron when she was in a temper and grinned a secret smile as he turned and obeyed her order. Malfoy caught her expression and smirked at her. She could feel that he was both surprised and proud. Ugh, it should not make her feel good when he was proud of her harsh treatment of her friends! It seemed Malfoy wasn't the only one experiencing the effects of their unusual circumstances. Harry went to sit in one of the cushy chairs and Hermione sat on the edge of the sofa, Malfoy not far behind her. He settled beside her at a distance that would almost be reasonable between friends. She was just thankful that he didn't try to pull her into his lap or make some other move to show possession of her in front of Harry. It was a small victory, but with the way her day had been going, it wouldn't have surprised her if the Veela had tried to bite her right in front of her friend. "What's going on Hermione?" Harry asked, glaring at the blond. "Is Malfoy hurting you?" The Slytherin growled at the mere suggestion, but Hermione waved him off. They would never get anywhere if she had to calm him down every time Harry asked a reasonable question. "No, he's not hurting me, but he is a Veela. And I'm his mate." Harry tilted his head to the side, his messy hair flopping around and only getting messier. "You're friends with Malfoy? And what is he?" "Come on Potter, keep up! A Veela is a magical creature that bonds for life with one person, their mate. Granger's mine," Malfoy said. Blinking his green eyes, Harry looked to Hermione, hoping she'd burst out laughing and declare the whole thing some kind of elaborate joke. When she remained silent, those emerald orbs darkened with worry. "Hermione, he's just pulling my leg, right?" She shook her head. "No, he's telling the truth."
- 82 -

"That's not funny." A sad smile pulled up the corners of her lips. "I know; it's deadly serious." Malfoy sensed her melancholy and bumped her with his shoulder in an attempt to cheer her up. She shot him a small smile, understanding his motivation behind the gesture and appreciating it. The action caught Harry's attention and he stared at the pair like they'd suddenly announced they were from another planet. "There's nothing you can do to get out of this thing?" Hermione was about to answer, but Malfoy interrupted her. "There are a number of things she could do, but they all result in my death." "You couldn't just let him die?" Harry asked, already knowing the answer, but unable to let it go without at least voicing the thought. Hermione had been through enough, she didn't deserve this on top of everything else she'd had to face in her short life. "Don't be ridiculous," she snapped. Her decision had already been made and she wasn't going to allow Harry to question it when he didn't have any clue what was going on. He should know better than to question her once her mind was made up. Despite her agreement to be his mate, Draco had felt a little twinge of worry when Potter had so callously suggested that Granger just let him die. He didn't think it was very fair that she could trust him with her life and be confident that he wouldn't betray her, but he couldn't even be positive she was going to follow through with her agreement to become his mate in every sense of the word until he bit her and solidified their connection with his venom. At the mere thought of sinking his teeth into her soft skin and making her his own, Draco's teeth started to sharpen and elongate into those of the Veela. Hermione felt his annoyance at the change and gave him a questioning look. She watched as he turned his head so Harry wouldn't be able to see and pulled his lips back to show her his teeth. The colour drained from her face. "Go deal with that, seeing those will only make Harry worry about me more," she hissed in a whisper. Fangs were not going to help her argument that Malfoy was never going to hurt her - particularly if she had to explain the things were for use on her.
- 83 -

Draco was reluctant to leave her alone with Potter, but he could feel her concern for her friend and her reluctance to cause him more worry. "You're lucky I'm so nice," he grumbled quietly. Hermione snorted. "More like genetically inclined to make me happy." "Same thing." Harry watched Malfoy retreat up the stairs and disappear through a door. "Is he really?" At her questioning look, he elaborated. "Genetically inclined to make you happy." "Yes, he-" Harry interrupted her explanation with laughter. "Malfoy, Draco Malfoy can make you happy? The idea is laughable." A stab of irritation that wasn't her own made itself known in Hermione's chest. With his Veela hearing, Malfoy must be able to hear every word exchanged. It seemed he wasn't happy with Harry's laughter. She was saved from having to intervene before Malfoy got angry enough to come down and do something about the cause of his irritation by a knock at the portrait hole. If it was who she thought waiting out in the corridor, then her intervention had probably only been delayed rather than thwarted. When she pulled the portrait open, Ron was on the other side balancing a tea tray on his knee to knock on the portrait again. He very nearly dropped the tray in surprise when he saw that there was no longer anything for him to hit and Hermione was looking at him expectantly. "You actually brought tea?" she asked in disbelief as she stepped out of the way to allow him entry into the Head Dorms. The redhead shrugged as best he could with the tray in his hands. "I'm not as bad as you obviously think; I was just a little... shocked that you were touching Malfoy instead of hexing him." Harry seemed just as surprised when they rejoined him. "Ron, you're not off in a rage?"
- 84 -

Hermione happily picked up one of the teacups and sipped at the deliciously warm beverage steaming within the delicate cup. She hummed her happiness with her eyes closed; she'd really needed a tea. "So what'd I miss?" Ron asked, looking between his friends. "I'm a Veela, Granger's my mate, and you lost your chance with her because you're an idiot who can't manage to pull his head out of his arse long enough to realize she's not going to wait around for you forever while you fool around with Brown," Malfoy said as he came back into the room. Ron spit his sip of tea all over Harry and started choking, which caused the blond to laugh in malicious glee. No doubt he'd intended to cause such a reaction. Hermione shot him a warning look, but he just grinned at her, making sure she got a good look at his teeth so she could be reassured that they were back to normal. At least she wouldn't have to worry about that while she was trying to prevent her friends from murdering him. How comforting. "Ron and I are just friends," the brunette insisted as Malfoy sat down beside her once again. He was slightly closer to her than he'd been when it was just Harry there, but Hermione didn't comment. "No matter what's he's told you, he still wants to get in your pants. Trust me; it makes my Veela edgy for him to even be in the room with you." Hermione raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Are you sure that's not just you blaming your petty hatred of my friends on the influence of the magical creature that's in your blood?" Finally realizing he had a wand and didn't need to be dabbing at himself with napkins, Harry cleaned up the mess Ron had made of him and finally registered what it was that Hermione and Malfoy had been saying. For once, he wasn't sure he agreed with Hermione; though Harry would never admit it, he thought Malfoy may be right just this once. "I do not have feelings for Hermione! I mean, look at her!" the redhead burst out, finally regaining control of his ability to speak. The tips of his ears were pink, exposing his words as the lie that they were. Harry frantically tried to shush his friend before he went even farther, but Ron just shook off the restraining hand on his shoulder and continued. The redhead
- 85 -

could probably feel that his ears were giving away his lie and felt the need to elaborate. "Her hair is a disaster, her eyes are boring brown, and she has no chest to speak of. And her personality! She's a bossy know-it-all that's some kind of mix between a nagging mum, and a psychotic librarian who can't seem to loosen up enough to have some fun, much less let the people around you have any." He was breathing heavily by the time he'd reached the end of his rant. Hermione had sat there in stunned silence while she let the horrible things he was saying sink in. It hurt all the more because Ron was someone she cared and such venom wasn't something she would have expected of him, regardless of his habit of speaking first thinking later. Utterly humiliated and horrified that one of her best friends thought those things about her, she fled the room in tears. Not since the Lavender incident in sixth year had she been so downcast because of Ron. Draco had been keeping his eyes closed after the Weasel said such hurtful things to his mate because he knew if he opened them and stopped the deep, calming breaths he'd been taking, then he was going to rip that annoyingly red hair right off of his head and shove it down his throat. He knew just how miserable Granger was at the moment, and no one got away with making his mate feel like that. The Veela needed some convincing from the rational side of his brain that, despite his horrible words, Granger wouldn't be any less achingly sad if he killed the person who made her so. "What is wrong with you?" he heard Potter demand of his so-called friend. Finally satisfied that he could probably restrain himself from murdering the Weasel, Draco opened his eyes. The foul redhead had his hands pressed against his face and was practically exuding misery. The blond frowned is disapproval; he was exuding misery, but not remorse. A few swift steps forward brought him to loom over the pathetic lump. He felt enough rage that it was practically guaranteed that his eyes were pools of intimidating obsidian. Good. They would help drive his point home through that thick skull. The cowardly Weasel huddled down the chair to put as much distance between them as possible when Draco leaned over to put them close to eye-level. Never would he have thought to willingly put himself so close to the repulsive Gryffindor,
- 86 -

but Granger's well-being had somehow become a huge motivator in his actions of late. "If you ever upset her again, I will tear you apart," he hissed in his most dangerous voice. For an added touch, he let some of the Veela through so that the words were overlain with a sense of otherness that made the confrontation completely terrifying for the Weasel. "Have him gone when we get back," Draco called over his shoulder to Potter. He had to find Granger and try to lessen some of the damage those hurtful words had caused. The blond didn't even notice that his desire to find her and comfort her was just as much his own as the Veela part of him.

- 87 -

Chapter 10
Chapter 10 A/N: Thanks to Clair96 for betaing and Bulba-Chan for her rainbow of corrections. The story's much better thanks to those two! Also thanks to everyone who reviewed and all the people who were willing to give up some of their time to help make this story better! I was touched. Summer's here! I've gone and gotten asunburn.I suppose that's what I get for spending the day floating in the pool reading. But I hadnew booksand it's just the best place in the world to read. I wrote this chapter while it was still cool outside, I don't think it would have come out the same if it was as summery as it is now. ~Frosty Draco exited the Gryffindor common room and tried to think of where Granger could have hidden. He had a vague sense that she was no longer within the walls of Hogwarts. That warranted investigation - if only to test the accuracy of his strange new intuition. It would come in handy should she decide to run off in the future. People darted out of his path as he stormed through the halls; he was picturing many creatively cruel ways to murder Weasley without ending up in Azkaban. She -and by extension, Draco- felt practically sick with grief and a soul-numbing sadness that seemed to soak into the bones and linger there. Never had the blond experienced such a crushing feeling, and he fully intended to crush the one who was forcing him to experience it. When Draco heaved open the large doors in the Entrance Hall, he was nearly blinded by the stark contrast from the gloomy corridors to the bright grounds. The sun was nearly set; everything was awash with warm golden light. Every leaf on the many trees sparkled with the rain that was falling in fat droplets from the raincloud over Hogwarts. As a Slytherin, he preferred darkness and gloom - all the best lurking happened near dusk and during the night, golden sunlight was such a Gryffindor thing. Granger would probably have appreciated the weather if she wasn't in such a foul temper. If only he could find the girl so he could remind her of how much she appreciated that kind of shite.
- 88 -

He found her by the lake. She was letting the rain hide her tears as she threw stones into the water. His Veela wanted him to declare his undying devotion to her and then make her smile, but that would hardly remedy the situation. It was only the Veela part of him that was devoted to her, so the declaration itself would most likely cause her undue distress as she agonized over his free will. To be honest, sometimes he agonized over his free will as well. Sure, she was starting to grow on him, but when you can't be sure your feelings aren't the result of the chemical influence of your magical creature blood, you're reluctant to accept what they say. "You do realize that your white shirt is practically transparent right now, don't you?" was the first thing out of his mouth. He saw her actually start at his voice. Good, his sneaking skills were still intact - though she was so overwhelmed with emotion at the moment, a bumbling elephant could have caught her by surprise. A flash of lightning illuminated the sky just as she turned around to see the Veela standing there watching and waiting for her reaction. She was about to comply when he slipped off his cloak and slung it around her shoulders, wrapping her in the warm fabric. Hermione looked up at him with confused eyes. She was grateful for the warmth of the soft fabric against her cold flesh, but she wasn't sure she liked what the lingering scent of his skin was doing to her. Had she not been so distraught by what Ron had said, she probably would have blushed. "Thank you," she said as he sat down beside her, mindless of the mud soaking into his pants or the rain quickly making his shirt as transparent as hers had been. Despite her sadness, it was an effort to tear her eyes away from the rather impressive chest and arms his clinging shirt was revealing. His hair was slightly darker with the moisture sticking it to his skull and the colour served to bring out the grey of his eyes, making them seem all the more intense. Why was it that she probably looked like a drowned rat in the rain, but he just looked more attractive? It was just another one of the many things in the universe that weren't fair. They sat in silence for a while; the only sounds were Hermione's quiet sniffles and the plopping of the raindrops as they hit the lake. "It's not true, you know," Draco said. Her watery brown eyes turned to look at him, a question in their depths.
- 89 -

"The things that Flobberworm you call a friend said," he elaborated. Slowly, so he didn't scare her away and so that she had plenty of time to object, Draco brought an arm up and placed it around her shoulders. Hermione felt a flash of worry that someone would see them and the secret would be out, but it was raining and cold,; no one else would be crazy enough to be outside in the bad weather. She leaned against him, in need of the warmth and the comfort he was offering. "You're saying you've never once thought of me as a 'psychotic librarian'?" she asked, her voice bitter. "Maybe the kind with a secret bondage room hidden behind her bookshelves." "You're disgusting," she said without any heat. He nodded, smirking a little at her accusation. "I also know he was wrong about your alleged 'flat chest' thanks to this rain and your strict adherence to the dress code's required white shirt." She tried to pull away, but Draco could feel that she didn't really have her heart behind the move and resisted. "He was wrong about your eyes; when you're happy, they sparkle with tiny little gold flecks and swirls of hazel. And your hair isn't a disaster, it's like a waterfall of sunlight and chocolate and it smells divine." A small smile crept onto her lips. Never in her life would she have thought that Ron would make her cry, and Malfoy would come after her to make her feel better. The world was backwards, and she wasn't sure she was entirely opposed to the change. Malfoy frowned and tilted his head to the side, resting it against the top of hers. "I sound like a namby-pamby." A watery chuckle escaped her at the distress he was feeling over that fact. "Don't feel so upset about it, I think you're sweet." "No, my bloody Veela is 'sweet'." He sneered at the word like it was something foul. "If I didn't fight it, I'd probably end up writing poetry about your study habits or the way you yell at me." She felt him shiver and immediately felt guilty for taking his warm cloak and keeping him out in the cold. "I think we should go back inside," she said. Draco nodded, trying to hide the chattering of his teeth. He stood up and then
- 90 -

offered her his hand. Her expression was surprised before she blinked it away and accepted his assistance with a small smile. Hermione felt waterlogged as she started walking back to the castle. Malfoy's cloak had stopped keeping her warm and only served to hold more of the cold water against her skin. She peeled off the garment and handed it back to him as they walked, their shoes making identical squelching sounds with every step. She'd somehow acquired enough mud to sufficiently protect her modesty despite her transparent clothing. They maintained a careful distance between them on their trek through the halls so as not to draw too much attention to themselves. Sadly, the effort was wasted; it wasn't every day the Head Boy and Girl walked through the halls looking like they'd just participated in a mud wrestling match. It didn't help that they were walking together without so much as a snarky comment shared between the two. Filch would be after their hides if he ever found out who it was that dripped mud through the school. When they arrived at the portrait guarding their dorms, Draco stepped in front of her. "Let me go in first," he requested. If the Weasel was still there, he wasn't about to let the cockroach have any contact with Granger; she'd been hurt enough that day. Exhausted and shivering, Hermione just didn't have the energy to argue with Malfoy's odd request. She stepped back and allowed him to enter. The blond poked his head out a moment later, obviously satisfied with whatever it was that he'd found inside - or hadn't found, she realized. "You can come in now." Hermione rolled her eyes and stepped inside the common room. She sniffled as the portrait shut behind her, drawing Malfoy's attention. Her poor nose was running from the chill she'd caught while outside in the rain. He waved his wand and cast a drying and warming charm on the both of them. She nodded her thanks, feeling a little better, but the chill had settled in her bones where a simple warming charm couldn't reach it. "Where are you going?" he asked when she started up the stairs to her room. "To wash this mud off. Then I'm going to go to the prefect's baths and soak in it until I feel like a human again." Hermione stopped as she realized a lot of the ache she was feeling was actually Malfoy's injuries paining him.
- 91 -

"If you wear swim trunks, you can join me in the bath." He was surprised by the offer, but he wasn't going to question her unexpected invitation. A nice, hot soak was just what he needed, and the company of Granger would be only help matters. Wordlessly, Draco went to his room to get his trunks and a towel.

Slightly obscuring her view of the blond already in the tub, tendrils of steam made their way towards the ceiling from the hot surface of the bathwater. His arms spread out along the edge and his eyes closed. Silently padding closer, she wondered if he was asleep. He certainly looked more peaceful than she'd seen him in a while. Actually, he looked more peaceful than she could ever remember seeing him outside of their dorms. Rarely did he let his guard down enough to rest as he was at that moment. Realizing she was staring, she looked away, mentally berating herself for not realizing that he'd take less time in the shower than she would. He had much less hair to rinse and she'd been sitting in the mud longer, giving it time to soak through her clothes more. At least she'd had the sense to change into her bathing suit before she got to the bath area; it would have been embarrassing to make him turn the other way so she could change, or to see his knowing smirk as she had to return to the shower stall to switch outfits. Trying not to make any noise just in case Malfoy was asleep, Hermione moved to the edge and dipped a toe in the water. It was the perfect temperature, just warm enough to be slightly uncomfortable at first and then to completely relax her once she was submerged. As she slipped into the water, tiny ripples radiated out and lapped against Malfoy's bare chest. He eyes opened a sliver to watch her swim out to the middle of the pool and float there on her back. Her swimsuit was one of those single piece ones that were completely modest, but somehow, he found it more appealing than a bikini that left nothing to the imagination could ever be - not that he wouldn't love to see her in one of those as well. He continued to watch her through slitted eyes as he felt her relaxation as well as his own. Hermione lay on her back and just let herself float, her hair swaying in the water. She was completely relaxed for the first time in what felt like forever. There was just one thing stopping her from complete relaxation. "I can feel your eyes on me Malfoy," she said.
- 92 -

"It's only my eyes because I know you're going to hit me for anything more," he answered without a pause. She chose not to comment, unwilling to get into an argument and ruin her sense of peace. How it was that she could be so relaxed in the presence of Malfoy was a mystery to her, but she wasn't going to question it. For just that moment, she knew everything was going to be all right. Ron could say all the horrible things he wanted, and she would bounce back from it after letting out her grief. She wouldn't let her pettiness keep her down. The brunette floated on the surface of the water, suspended in a place between sleeping and consciousness. She barely registered the hands that gently rested on her waist and pulled her to the side of the tub. Her body was pulled under the water while her head tipped sideways to rest on a warm and slightly slippery shoulder. He let her rest like that for a while, their fingers and toes going wrinkly, but eventually he spoke, breaking her trance. "Granger, I have no problem with you sleeping on me, but I'm tired as well and if we both sleep here, we'll probably drown." Sleepily, Hermione mumbled something that might have been agreement and pulled herself out of the water. Malfoy wasn't far behind her.

Harry and Ginny were pacing in front of the portrait guarding the Head Dorms when Hermione and Draco got there. They were both a little dazed from the very warm bath. "Where were you two?" Ginny asked. "Where were you? One minute you were behind me running to the Quidditch pitch and the next you were gone!" Hermione said. "Luna caught me and gave me quite a talking to about 'falsifying a Nargle'. Apparently it's an offense worthy of being trampled by a Crumple-Horned Snorkback, but she couldn't find one of those so she settled for a long, rambling lecture." The brunette chuckled, swaying a little on her feet. The bath had been perhaps a touch too hot, raising her blood pressure enough to make her a little dizzy.

- 93 -

Harry noticed the movement, his eyebrows drawing together in concern as he stepped forward to steady her. To his surprise, Malfoy beat him to it, slipping an arm around her waist as if touching her was the most natural thing in the world. It seemed the blond wasn't dwelling on the blood purity thing anymore if he was so willing to touch Hermione. He hadn't been sure the whole Veela thing wasn't some kind of trick, even after the explanation Hermione had given him, but when Malfoy had stopped her fall, there had been genuine affection on his face. "I just wanted to make sure you were all right before I went to bed," Harry said to his friend. The glimpse of her face he'd gotten before she fled from Ron's cruel words had made his heart ache in sympathy for her. Ginny had shot her trademark Bat-Bogey hex at her brother when she found out what he'd said to Hermione, but it didn't seem enough compensation for the damage he'd done. Hermione smiled at her friend. She moved away from Malfoy's steadying arm to give him a hug, but she stopped halfway to him and glanced back at the blond. It wouldn't do for him to attack Harry just because she wanted to hug him. The Veela rolled his eyes, but he sighed and nodded. Just because he wasn't going to stop it didn't mean he had to like it. While she hugged her friend and Draco grappled with his Veela side that wanted to rip the girl out of the other man's embrace, he distracted himself by opening the portrait. "Let's take this mushy scene inside before I have to take points from you for being out after curfew," he said irritably. The three Gryffindors filed into the common room after him with no complaints, which was in itself a notable occurrence. Draco's chest was starting to hurt again, and he knew he needed rest. Logically, he knew Potter and the She-Weasel weren't going to hurt his mate, even if his Veela wasn't entirely convinced. He trudged up the stairs to his bedroom, but was unable to resist entering hers when he passed it first. It was just so enticing, much like she was when she wasn't scolding him - sometimes even then. He couldn't very well go to bed without first saying goodnight to her. On the nightstand was one of the books on Veelas that Granger had obviously taken with her for some 'light' reading before bed. Draco picked up the book and started reading while he waited for her.

- 94 -

"You never told us where it was you two came back from," Ginny observed. The redhead watched Hermione wince at something she'd seen over Harry's shoulder and looked just in time to see Malfoy disappear into her room once again. She'd ask about that when Harry wasn't hanging around... "We were cold from the rain, so we went to the prefect's baths to warm up," Hermione said. "We both had our bathing suits on," she added when she caught sight of Harry's horrified and angry expression. "Hermione, you're sure he's not trying to..." Harry trailed off, unsure what exactly he was going to accuse the blond of. "He hasn't done anything wrong Harry, and I actually trust him." Her face darkened, "Much more than Ron." "Give him time, he'll come around." Her dark-haired friend patted her back comfortingly. Satisfied that she was going to be fine, he started to make his way towards the exit. When Ginny didn't follow, he glanced back at her in confusion. "You go, I'll catch up," she said. Harry shrugged, opening the painting and leaving. "Now tell me what happened," Ginny ordered. "What are you talking about?" Hermione was too tired to deal with Ginny's confusing mood swings. "Don't try and kid me Hermione. You and Malfoy in a steamy room half naked? There's no way he didn't try and take advantage of that situation." The brunette blushed. "Nothing happened, I fell asleep." "Then how do you know he didn't try anything?" Hermione could feel that Malfoy was offended by her friend's accusations. She hadn't thought for a moment that he wasn't going to listen in on her conversation, so it didn't surprise her. "He only touched me to stop me from drowning."
- 95 -

Ginny was still skeptical. "And how'd he do that?" "He pulled me into his lap," she mumbled. "You were pressed against Malfoy's wet, naked chest and you didn't even wake up enough to make sure he kept his hands to himself?" "Ginny, it was fine. Now please let me sleep," Hermione begged. She knew the redhead's attitude stemmed from genuine concern, but she just didn't have the energy to deal with an inquisition. Reluctantly, Ginny nodded and followed after Harry. Her sharp eyes promised she wasn't going to let the conversation drop entirely. Hermione sighed in relief and went up to her room to see what it was that was making Malfoy apprehensive and worried. "Granger, have you read this book?" Malfoy asked in a strangely tight voice the moment she walked through her door. "Yes." It was on her nightstand, what did he expect she'd been doing with it? "It says Veela can sprout wings like some kind of- of-" he stopped, unable to think of a comparison. "Magical creature?" Hermione supplied. The look he sent her made it clear he didn't find her amusing. "Did you not read to the end of the paragraph?" she asked in exasperation, getting into the bed beside him to point. "It says that very few Veela ever actually 'sprout' wings, and even then it's almost always pure Veelas." From Malfoy's emotions twisting inside her, she could tell that he was relieved by her words. She understood his worry; wings were something much more strange and different than black eyes or fangs. They would be a huge change in comparison to the other, relatively small ones. But the chances of him growing wings were so slim it was practically impossible. She settled under her covers, content that they were done with the subject.

- 96 -

Chapter 11
Chapter 11 A/N: Hello readers! I'm eating nachos and salsa.Mildsalsa. I go into the grocery store telling myself that I want MEDIUM and every time I somehow manage to get mild. It's like I briefly lose the ability to distinguish between the two words every time I step into the grocery store. *sigh* To the person who asked if June fifth is Draco's actual birthday, I can't answer you when you review anonymously, but yes it is (according to the internet). I was going to make you wait for this a bit longer, but then I noticed it's been 6 days since my last update... It seems like less to me. Anyway! Here's the next chapter. Thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! Also thanks to all the wonderful people who review! ~Frosty "Psst! Over here," a voice whispered. It was the only sound that echoed in the silent space. Hermione blinked her eyes opened sleepily and looked around the room. She nearly screamed when she saw a dark figure lurking in the corner of the room, but the person was making frantic shushing motions that encouraged her to hold off the reaction. "I'm not going to hurt you!" Despite the reassurances, Hermione still felt better with her fingers wrapped around her wand. "Who are you and what do you want?" she asked, her wand pointed towards the corner. The shadow stepped forward, revealing a head of golden hair and stylish robes. "Narcissa Malfoy, and I'm here to take you out for breakfast," the woman answered. Hermione hesitated. "Does Malfoy know you're here?"
- 97 -

She didn't think the Veela's mother was going to hurt her, but she also didn't think Malfoy would appreciate it if he learned that his mother was lurking around his mate's room at all hours, just waiting to take her away. The older woman ignored the question. "I received the most interesting letter from Theodore Nott last night informing me of a scene he'd witnessed in the Hospital Wing between my son and a certain Muggleborn. It seems my son didn't see fit to tell his mother that he'd found his mate, and we could stop worrying that he was going to die an untimely death." The brunette felt horrible. She could only imagine the worry the Malfoys had been going through while she hadn't even spared them a thought. Granted, they hadn't been the kindest to her in the past, but no parent deserved that kind of stress when a simple word from her or their son would have alleviated it. She was going to take that as a 'no, Malfoy has no idea I'm here'. At least the mystery of who it was who'd peeked in on them in the Hospital Wing was solved. "Now, I'd like to speak with you somewhere Draco can't interfere. Let's go get breakfast," the woman insisted again. Hermione glanced at her clock. "It's five in the morning." Normally, she wouldn't have considered it, but this woman was obviously a master of the guilt trip. Hermione almost felt obligated to go with Mrs. Malfoy and talk as an apology for not making sure the woman knew that her only son had located his mate. She also felt horrible for not assuring Mrs. Malfoy that she wasn't going to let him die. "Not in Australia; I thought we'd have a lunch and call it breakfast." It wasn't like she was going to be able to get back to sleep after the scare she'd just had, and Mrs. Malfoy wasn't going to hurt her if she wanted her son to survive, so Hermione nodded. "Just give me a minute to get dressed," she said. Narcissa was waiting in front of the fireplace when she came out of her room. "Um, Mrs. Malfoy, shouldn't we tell Malfoy where we're going?" she asked. If he wasn't willing to leave her alone with her friends for fear she'd be hurt, Hermione couldn't see it going over well if he woke up in the morning and couldn't find her anywhere.
- 98 -

The older woman waved a dismissive hand. "He deserves to worry a little after what he put me and his father through - and it's Cissa, dear." Hermione didn't necessarily agree with her methods, but she supposed Narcissa knew her son better than she did. Maybe she'd get back before Malfoy woke up, and he wouldn't even need to know that she'd ever been gone. They stepped into the swirling green flames and stepped out again in an entirely different setting. Hermione looked around the expensive-looking restaurant with wide, sleepy eyes. Malfoy's family and their secret were really cutting into her sleep time. She tried to blink herself into a more awake state as they were escorted to a table and given menus to peruse. "First off," Narcissa said the moment their waitress was out of earshot. "I want you to tell me if you're planning on keeping my son alive past his next birthday." Hermione frowned; was that what this thing was about? It was some sort of bribery and then intimidation tactic? "I've already agreed to be his mate," she said firmly. Immediately, the woman's face softened, and she reached across the table to take Hermione's hand. "Thank you," she said vehemently. "I know you two haven't had the best history and that just makes this difficult transition all the more challenging. I can't offer you much in return, but I'm here for you if you have any questions." Narcissa released her hand when their waitress came back with their drinks. "Can I ask what it's like... to be completely bonded?" Hermione had been reading all about what would happen, but never what it would feel like. She wanted to know what it was that she was getting herself into - not because she would back out, but because she wanted to be prepared. "It's strange at first, but you adjust relatively quickly - or at least I did. There will always be a little part of him inside your head and vice versa, though his presence in your mind will probably be more pronounced. Once you get used to the odd sensation, it's reassuring to know he's always there." Hermione wasn't sure she wanted that, it sounded like a complete invasion of her privacy. It wasn't that she thought Malfoy would abuse the things he learned in her mind; it was more that she liked her quiet time. As someone who spent so much of her time alone and quiet with books, she'd developed an appreciation to the
- 99 -

complete silence and alone time, broken only by the whispering of pages as she turned them. A voice in her mind would make it all the more difficult, wouldn't it? She tilted her head to the side slightly as she felt a growing anxiety that she knew wasn't hers. "Malfoy's up, and he's getting anxious about something. I'm assuming it's my empty bed," she said. Narcissa waved her hand in that dismissive gesture again. "We don't have to worry about him until he smells me in your room and starts to get angry. An anxious Veela is bothersome, but an enraged one is trouble." Storing that advice away for later analysis, Hermione nodded. It would probably come in handy at some point. She could feel that Malfoy was increasingly anxious, but he hadn't yet reached anger. Their food had arrived, and Hermione was half finished before she felt a twist of anger so intense that she dropped her fork. "We have to get back now," she said with wide eyes directed towards Narcissa. There was no time for explanations, she had to go. The woman took one look at her expression and shooed her away. "You go calm him down; I'll take care of the bill." "One more thing!" Narcissa called after her when she was almost to the fireplace. "If you call him by his first name, I'm betting he'll be overjoyed, keep that in mind for when he's upset." Hermione nodded her thanks, rushed to the fireplace, threw the powder in the fire, and called out her destination without stopping her run. She knew Malfoy would get into trouble if she left him too long on his own; he'd probably end up having some sort of confrontation with her friends after going to the Gryffindor tower to make sure she wasn't there. She tripped over a burning log on her way out of the flames and ended up sprawled on the carpet in an ungraceful heap. Rubbing her poor, bumped head, Hermione slowly opened her eyes. They widened when they landed on a pair of pale feet. Following the feet up, she met the obsidian depths of Malfoy's stare. He didn't look pleased. In fact, he looked livid.
- 100 -

"Where were you?" he demanded in an angry voice that contrasted with his actions as he pulled her to her feet and started gently brushing the soot from her clothes. "Your mum wanted to take me out for lunch." She could feel the anger radiating off of him, and it was difficult not to flinch away from his touch - no matter how gentle. The knowledge that he wouldn't hurt her was the only think that stopped her. "At five in the morning?" Hermione shrugged. "We went to Australia." "You could have told me! I woke up to get a glass of water and found that your door was open and your bed was empty. I couldn't find you anywhere, what was I supposed to think? That you'd gone for a nice stroll? I was worried sick!" His eyes were flashing with anger by the end of his rant, and Hermione would have been afraid of him if she hadn't known him. He was impressive when he was enraged. "Kind of like your parents were wondering if you'd survive until your next birthday?" "That's not the same thing," he snarled. Hermione crossed her arms. "How is it any different?" "I thought you were dead, or kidnapped, or worse. Mother could have-" he broke off with a grimace of pain. Hermione thought he was being over dramatic, but quickly realized something was wrong when his back arched sharply, and he fell to the floor, writhing in pain. There was only a slight delay before a bloom of heat started in her back and intensified until it was unbearable. She knew she was getting a watered-down version of what he was feeling and could only imagine the pain he was experiencing. She focused on breathing as the pain and the heat that accompanied it started to fade. Soon, it was completely gone and she was able to drag herself to her feet. She was still a little shaky, but it was just residual from the pain. When she saw Malfoy she gasped; on his back were a massive pair of wings the same glossy platinum as his hair. The feathery appendages were folded tightly
- 101 -

against his back. He seemed to realize they were there at the same time she noticed them. Slowly, he lifter them and spread them to their full wingspan, stretching. Hermione guessed his wingspan was close to five metres. "Bloody hell," Malfoy grumbled. He pulled himself to his feet and swayed while he adjusted to the additional weight on his back. "So... what? I'm just stuck with some huge, feathery appendages for the rest of my life?" Hermione shook her head. "No, they're like the rest of your Veela transformation; they'll disappear if you just calm down." "It's kind of difficult to stay calm when you suddenly grow wings." She knew it wasn't her he was upset with, so she didn't take his abrasive tone to heart. Tentatively, Hermione reached out and ran her fingers over the soft feathers. His entire wing twitched at the contact. "Did I hurt you?" she asked worriedly, drawing her hand back. "No, that feels nice - strange, but somehow nice," he murmured. "Keep going?" Curious about the new development, Hermione was more than willing to explore the soft wings. She stood directly behind Malfoy as he held the wings straight back. It was like having a warm, feathery wall on either side of her body. Starting at their base where they connected with his strong shoulders and back, Hermione ran her fingers over his wings, marvelling at them. Ever since she first came to Hogwarts, she'd been forced to take the strangeness of the magical world in stride; so now she was more than used to just accepting strange things as normal. Malfoy's Veela heritage had forced her to face more oddities than she'd encountered in her entire school career within a few days. She was starting to feel like nothing could throw her anymore. Malfoy started purring when she reached the end of his left wing and moved to the right. Once she'd finished with them, he awkwardly shook the feathers back into place and folded them up against his back. She watched with interest as they sunk into him and disappeared, leaving an expanse of unblemished skin visible through a hole in his shirt.
- 102 -

"I really hope that's the last of the surprises my blood has to throw at me," the blond grumbled, turning to face his mate. Hermione felt a rush of affection for him; he was almost as lost in the whole thing as she was and his life was on the line in addition to that. Without over thinking it, she stepped forward and wrapped him in a tight hug. She would have done the same thing had Harry been in such a bitter, melancholy mood, but it felt like it meant something different with Malfoy. "We'll get through this," she said against him chest as he recovered from his surprise and wrapped his arms around her in return. "What do you say we go have a nap, catch up on some of that sleep we've both been missing out on?" Draco asked, hoping to take advantage of her mood. Hermione contemplated it. "I'm assuming you're suggesting this because you want to sleep in my bed again?" "No, it doesn't have to be your bed; mine's fine as long as you're in it." She knew it was difficult for him to sleep deeply without her presence, and he had just gone through a traumatic experience. "You touch me inappropriately once and I remove whatever part of you that did it," she threatened. Draco nodded willingly, taking her hand and pulling her up to his room before she could think of a reason to go back on her agreement. She ran a hand over the sheets, marvelling at how soft they were. Her parents had never been tight for money in her lifetime, but they'd never been willing to spend the heaps of money on sheets like Malfoy's would have cost. It was obscene. Tentatively, she sat down on the bed and lay back while Malfoy did the same on the other side with more confidence. He covered the both of them with the blankets. "Don't hurt me for this," he said right before he wrapped an arm around her waist to pull her close. "Malfoy!" Hermione squeaked in surprise. He buried his face in her hair. "Just relax, Granger. I'm not touching you inappropriately."
- 103 -

Uncomfortable with the contact, Hermione remained tense. She was trying to decide if he was in fact touching her inappropriately. She may have to lop off one of his arms. Malfoy sighed, making her hair tickle her neck. He was going to have to take extreme measures. His eyes turned distant and he moved his attention inward. A moment later, Hermione started to relax. "I don't like you using those pheromones on me," she said. "Nothing I can do about that, there's no way I'd be able to sleep while you're rigid as a board and we both need the rest." When he started purring, the last of Hermione's resistance faded, and she let him lull her to sleep with the soothing rumble. Draco wasn't far behind her, drifting of just moments later, still purring.

It was close to noon before Hermione woke. The sight that met her sleep-blurred gaze was a pair of equally bleary grey eyes. "What time is it?" she asked. Malfoy's eyes darkened with irritation. "Time to write my mother a letter asking what the hell she thought she was doing sneaking into my mate's room at an unreasonable hour and whisking her away to Australia." She shifted uncomfortably under his stare. It was annoying, but Hermione just couldn't make a certain nagging question disappear: why hadn't he told his parents about her? She could only assume it was because he was ashamed to be associated with a Muggleborn. Hadn't he made his feelings on her parentage abundantly clear on numerous occasions in the past? Maybe not so much recently, but she found it unlikely that he could just forget his upbringing so quickly. He tilted his blond head to the side and looked at her with confusion. "Why do you hurt all of a sudden?" Hermione turned her head so he couldn't stare at her like he could see into her soul anymore. She pulled out of his embrace and moved towards the door, trying to ignore his bewilderment and slight hurt. "I just need some time alone," she said before leaving his room.
- 104 -

It was inevitable that he would eventually hunt her down, but Hermione needed some time alone to get her thoughts in order. Most of the castle's residents were at lunch so she didn't run into anyone on her way through the corridors. She was heading to the best place in the castle to stare out over the grounds and think. Despite her fear of heights, Hermione actually liked to sit in the astronomy tower and let her mind go where it wanted. It was as close to flying as she would ever willingly go and she relished the exhilarating wind as it whipped her hair into tangled strands. Later, she'd curse herself for letting it whip around freely, but at the moment she just didn't care. She sidled up to one of the railings and heaved herself up to perch on the thick stone top, careful to keep a strong grip even though it was wide enough for her to easily sit without fear of falling. Just because she wasn't letting her fear of heights get the better of her didn't mean it didn't still make her nervous to be so high off the nice, solid ground. It wasn't long before she heard footsteps coming up the tower stairs. She sighed, but didn't make any effort to actively avoid the Veela. What was the point? He could always find her again just as easily. "Do I get to ask what it is that's upset you, or will that only make things worse?" he asked, coming up to lean against the railing beside her. Her answer was on the tip of her tongue when he snaked an arm around her waist and yanked her off of the railing. Hermione whipped her blazing eyes to his. How dare he just move her like some inanimate object! "You're going to fall to your - and by extension, my - death. Why the sudden suicidal tendencies?" His voice was without emotions. "I'm not suicidal; I just wanted some time alone to think about everything. This is all so fast and when you're around, my brain doesn't work as logically as it should." "It's fast for me as well," he pointed out. "And I don't run off and hide like a child." "Sometimes I just want to be alone. That doesn't make me a child; it makes me human! Don't you ever just want some privacy?" Hermione yelled. She wasn't really upset with him, but couldn't seem to stop herself from lashing out at the innocent
- 105 -

bystander. "I used to, but ever since the Veela blood took over, I mostly just want you when I'm upset. I suppose that makes me inhuman," he said coldly. Hermione winced, not intending her words to be taken that way. "Malfoy, that's not..." she trailed off when she turned and saw that he was no longer in the tower. Well, that went well. With an aggravated huff of breath, she pulled herself onto the stone railing once again and stared moodily out over the grounds.

- 106 -

Chapter 12
Chapter 12 A/N: Hello readers! I took my computer in to be fixed over the weekend... Three different people worked on it for a total of 6 hours and it'sstillnot entirely fixed. I really have a talent for destroying electronics. Luckily, this only interfered with my typing schedule and not the posting one because I have another chapter for you! Anyway! Thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing and to everyone who took the time to review. Don't think I read your review and then forget, they can sometimes keep me smiling for days after I get them. ~Frosty Hermione was brooding; she knew that, but she just couldn't seem to make herself stop. She just couldn't seem to reconcile the Malfoy who had been her constant nemesis for most of her childhood with the Malfoy who soothed away the hurt Ron had caused while they sat in the mud. The same conclusion kept appearing in her mind; Malfoy wasn't really the almost kind person she'd come to know of late, that was his Veela side forcing him to do things. Did she really want to spend the rest of her life with someone who wouldn't give her the time of day if he didn't have a genetic glitch that made him want -need- her? She sighed gustily and continued staring out at the grounds. It wasn't really a matter of what she wanted; it was a matter of what was right. No matter how she interpreted the situation, letting Malfoy die because she had some doubts about his motivations wasn't the right thing to do. Sometimes she hated being so caring.

While Hermione brooded, Draco retreated to the Slytherin common room to find Blaise. He needed to vent, and his friend was usually good at listening - Blaise was also one of the few Slytherins brave enough to tell him to stop being an idiot. The dark Slytherin was sitting in one of the cushy chairs in front of the fire and watching the merry flames dance in the grate.
- 107 -

Draco stared glared? at the younger students sitting near his friend until they squeaked in fear and scuttled away. He flopped into a recently vacated seat. Leaning back against the sofa, the Veela put the crook of his elbow over his eyes. "Granger's going to kill me, Blaise." He missed the widening of his friend's eyes. "She's not going to be your mate?" It took the blond a moment to make sense of the genuine concern in Blaise's voice. "What? No. She's just has so many ... feelings." Blaise snorted. "Not all of us can be bastions of unemotional snark and sarcasm like you pretend to be. What is it in particular that she's done this time to have you in a huff?" "She's sitting on the railing in the Astronomy tower trying contemplating her demise." The Italian arched an eyebrow at his dramatic friend. "What's she actually doing?" "Every little thing is a battle with her; any other girl in this school would be dying to have my attention so focused on her, yet Granger has all these worries and concerns. She doesn't like me to hold her even though the damn Veela isn't ever fully calm unless I am. And this morning, I woke up to find her gone. Do you know where she went? Australia, with my mother." "Good." Draco whipped his arm off of his face to stare at his so called 'friend' in disbelief. " Good?" "Yes. If she just threw herself at you, you'd be bored immediately. It's a good thing that she keeps you on your toes. She'll keep you guessing for the rest of your lives together." The statement was met with silence and a moody glare. Inside, Draco was secretly pleased by the mention of spending the rest of his life with her - provided 'the rest of his life' didn't end on his next birthday. Blaise just laughed. The Veela griped and moaned about it, but Draco and Hermione were a good match. Once they'd cleared up the issues that kept getting in between them, he was confident they could be happy.
- 108 -

As the Italian watched, Draco was off the sofa and halfway across the common room in a flurry of motion almost too fast for the eye to follow. "Draco? What's happened?" "Granger's gone and fallen off the Astronomy tower," the Veela growled. His eyes were black, his teeth were sharp and wings had made an appearance, ripping a hole right through his shirt once again. Blaise could only chase after him as the blond raced through the corridors towards the Entrance Hall.

Hermione rolled her eyes when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She had been hoping that Malfoy would leave her alone for a while to sort out her thoughts; apparently she's been too optimistic. He was probably coming back to tell her to get off the railing, which was just hypocritical of him; he'd put himself in much more dangerous situations in the past playing Quidditch. "Malfoy, I've only been here for-" "I'm not Malfoy," a familiar voice said. Surprised, she whipped around to face him just as a particularly powerful gust of wind buffeted the tower. Combined, they were just enough to throw off her balance. She scrabbled at the stone, trying to get a grip without success. She just had enough time to think that Malfoy had been right before she was tumbling off of the railing and towards the ground far below. A terrified scream ripped from her throat as she looked back up at the tower and saw Ron's pale, horrified face staring down at her.

As he ran, Draco kept reliving the explosion of pain as he'd felt her hit the ground, and then the terrifying nothingness that immediately followed it. Granger just had to be all right, she had to be. He ran out the front doors, shoving people out of his way. Those idiots stupid enough to get in the way of a rushing Veela deserved to be thrown into walls or shoved to the stone ground.

- 109 -

When his eyes landed on her broken form and confirmed the sinking suspicion he'd had, Draco wailed. It wasn't anything close to a human sound, instead an unearthly outpouring of his grief. All who heard it would never forget the haunting call. Rushing to the fallen body, he searched for signs of life. Very faintly, he could feel a pulse threading weakly in her neck. He sagged with relief. Feeling eyes on him, Draco glanced up, meeting the worried gaze of Weasley. His mate's safety took priority, but as soon as she was well again, Weasley was going to pay for doing this to her. He knew the redhead had been upset with Granger, but there was no reason to push her from the tower. Lucky for Draco, Blaise had had the sense to go and fetch Madam Pomfrey the moment he'd seen that Hermione needed medical attention. When he returned with the Mediwitch, they found the Veela crouched over his mate and stroking her hair while making a strange, high keening sound. The Mediwitch moved to rush forward and help the fallen girl, but Blaise stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. "Draco's not in control of himself right now, don't make any sudden moves or he could attack." Resolute, Madam Pomfrey nodded and slowly approached the Veela. "Mr. Malfoy, I need to look over Miss. Granger," she said in a low, soothing voice. He whipped his head around to face her and started growling, hunkering low over Hermione in an effort to shield her from the perceived threat. "Draco, you have to let her take a look if you want her to get any better," Blaise said, hoping his friend would be more inclined to listen to someone he knew better. He almost took a step back when he saw the rage and sorrow in his friend's black eyes, but he stopped himself just in time; that would have been a big mistake. Draco was a wild animal at the moment, and he couldn't show weakness. Gradually, Draco stood up straight and made room for the Mediwitch, but he didn't leave Hermione's side. "Is she going to live?" the Veela asked, sounding younger than Blaise had ever heard him, even when they'd been children. "It's too soon to tell," Madam Pomfrey regretfully said. She raised her wand and levitated the Head Girl to the Hospital Wing, the Veela and his friend in tow.

- 110 -

Draco had calmed considerably since Granger's accident. The Veela wasn't in control anymore, but he still wasn't back to normal. He felt... empty was the only word he could think of to describe his feelings. Despite what the books said and what he'd been told, a little part of him had been confident that the loss of Granger would actually kill him. That little piece of him had died when she'd fallen off of the tower; there was no longer any doubt in his mind that should she ever die or leave him, he wouldn't be long for this world. "Mate, when did you get wings?" Blaise asked in an attempt to take his friend's mind off of the hushed conversations going on in the next room. The blond had been forced away from Hermione's side because his hovering was interfering with their ability to treat her. He wasn't happy about the arrangement, but was willing to try anything if it meant that they were going to bring Granger back to him. "Early this morning," he clipped out in a monotone, not really listening to his answer. "Can you fly?" Blaise persisted. "Theoretically." The books said it was possible, but he'd only had the wings for a day, and he hadn't exactly had spare time to experiment with the things. If Granger didn't survive, he never would. Agitated, Draco started pacing the room. He unconsciously ruffled his wings and resettled them every few steps. The things had been awkward to move the first time, but he was rapidly getting used to them - though he'd prefer to be rid of the things. A quiet cough made Draco stop his movements. "Is she all right?" he asked the Mediwitch. She was flanked by McGonagall and a specialist from St. Mungo's, and they all looked exceedingly grim. "Mr. Malfoy, we need you to come with us," said Professor McGonagall. Obediently, Draco followed, a feeling of dread in his chest. "What is it?" he asked the two Mediwitches in Madam Pomfrey's office. "At the moment, it's not looking likely that Miss. Granger will ever wake up. However," she continued when Draco started to sag, "we think there might be a way you can save her."
- 111 -

"How?" Draco asked immediately, willing to do anything. McGonagall pressed her lips into a thin line and looked away before the Healer started her explanation, telling Draco he wasn't going to like the solution they'd devised. "Are you aware that Veela venom is incredibly toxic?" she asked. Draco nodded dismissively, impatient to get to the point. "Yes, to everyone except the mate, for whom the venom holds healing-" He looked between the three women in the room. "I can't bite her unless she agrees, that could screw up the bond." "You can't bite her at all if she doesn't survive the night, she broke her spine and ruptured a few internal organs not to mention the damage to her brain. We've done everything we can and have healed most of her injuries, but even magical medicine can only go so far. As things stand now, the chances of her living until tomorrow are very slim. We wouldn't be asking this of you otherwise." "We do have to inform you what can happen should this go wrong," McGonagall chimed in. "I know what'll happen if the bond gets corrupted; we spend the rest of our lives unable to be happy with one another but trapped together." The three women nodded grimly. It seemed that none of them could bring themselves to make eye contact with him. "You're sure this is her only chance?" Draco asked. They nodded again. He took a deep breath. "All right, take me to her." Madam Pomfrey led the way to one of the few private rooms in the Hospital Wing. They were usually reserved for dangerous or highly contagious cases, but Hermione had been given one because the distraught Veela she'd come in with had made her case dangerous. Draco paled at the sight of her; she looked so broken. There weren't any visible injuries that he could see, but she looked small and pale lying motionless in that
- 112 -

hospital bed. She wasn't Granger without that glow about her; stubbornness, kindness and determination were usually written across her face, or at least visible in her eyes, but not this time. "It's not supposed to be like this," he whispered sadly, smoothing her hair out of her face. As much as his Veela wanted to make Granger his, she was supposed to be awake and willing when it happened. It sounded cheesy, but it was a shared experience. With nothing but misery, he gently nosed along her neck, looking for the right place. "I hope you'll forgive me for this," he mumbled against her skin. Taking a deep breath he opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the base of her neck. If she hadn't agreed to the marking, there was a risk of poisoning her, but that would only happen if he'd bitten her with the intent to possess. There was nothing in his mind but making her well again, so he hoped she was safe. The books had described the marking as an enjoyable experience, but Draco only felt dirty and sad. What he was doing wasn't right, but it could very well save his mate's life. His heart leapt when her still form started to wiggle, trying to escape the fangs embedded in her skin. The small movements increased until she was thrashing and whimpering. He pulled away, distressed by her obvious pain. It wasn't supposed to hurt her; he was unsure whether she was in pain because their bond had soured or because she was healing as the venom worked its way through her body. He was supposed to protect her from pain, and yet, he was the one causing it. Her movements abruptly stopped, and she let out a deep breath. It appeared that she had relaxed and fallen into a deep sleep. Draco knew she may not want anything to do with him when she woke up, so he should probably cherish the time he had left with her. Though she could be annoying, his Veela smoothed away the things that had bothered him about her and it kept nudging him towards affectionate feelings. He didn't love her, but he wasn't heartless, and they were bonded, he needed to be close so it could solidify. As gently as possible, he shifted her over in the bed to make room. He tried not to jostle her as he climbed into the small hospital bed and wrapped his arms around her. His nose immediately went to her hair that still smelled faintly the fruity
- 113 -

shampoo she had used the night before to wash her hair. Underneath that was the smell that was just Granger, a light flowery smell mixed with sunlight. The position was a little uncomfortable and one of his wings was bunched up awkwardly against the scratchy sheets, but he ignored his discomfort and pressed himself closer to her warm form, wrapping himself around her as best he could. The door cracked open and McGonagall poked her worried face into the room. "If you're finished, we need to check her over," she said regretfully. "Do the tests, but I'm not moving," the Veela insisted, tightening his hold on the limp form of his mate. Wanting to pretend they were alone, he closed his eyes as the Mediwitches came in and cast a series of spells over Granger. "She's going to be all right," said the visiting Healer with awe. "That's debateable; if the bond sours, neither of us are going to be 'all right'," Draco growled without opening his eyes. It wasn't their fault, but he had always been the type to shoot the messenger, and then everyone else in the vicinity. He could hear the women shifting uncomfortably. They probably blamed themselves for suggesting that he bite her in the first place. Burying his face further in her hair and breathing deeply, Draco tried to calm himself down. "Just leave us." Even though he was a student and they weren't required to listen to him, the women filed out of the room and left him to his mate. He lay like that for hours, unmoving and uninterrupted. Just waiting for some sign that they were going to be fine was wearing on Draco's nerves. He couldn't sleep and he couldn't or seem to relax, but he also couldn't bring himself to leave Granger. "Draco?" he opened his eyes reluctantly to see his mother standing in the door with the tears running down her face. "What?" he grumbled. "Oh, Draco," she said, rushing into the room and hugging him. Lucius stepped into the room behind his wife. "Let's have this conversation somewhere else, we'll let Miss Granger get her rest."
- 114 -

"I'm not leaving her," Draco said petulantly. "Son, we need to speak with you," his father insisted. Very reluctantly, Draco released Granger and followed his parents from the room. "What is it?" he asked once they were out of the room and closed off in the one beside it. "We've just heard what it was you had to do to save your mate. I think you need to prepare for what could happen should your bond become corrupted," Lucius said. Narcissa straightened her posture and wiped her tears as she reached for her husband's hand. "You won't die, but there will be times you wished you were dead. The bond is something that is supposed to be formed out of love, but yours was created out of desperation. I imagine it felt wrong to do?" Draco nodded, remembering the feeling with a cringe. "It may not happen right away; these things can take up to a year to fully form, so they have that long to go south. If it does, you will still be drawn to one another, but you'll gradually grow to hate each other," she continued. Impatient, Draco shifted and shuffled his wings. "I know all of this," he snapped, his black eyes flashing. Narcissa stepped forward and hugged him, not worried in the least about the irritated growl that escaped him. "We're just here to make sure you know what you're getting into." With black eyes matching his son's Lucius glared towards the door. "They should have contacted us and had us come and speak to you before they let you do anything ." "It wouldn't have changed my decision, she needed to live and I was the only solution," Draco said. He couldn't help but notice that his father was infinitely better at controlling his Veela than he was. Draco could only hope that he would one day manage to reign in his extreme reactions with the skill of his father. "We know, darling, but someone should have been there to outline all of the repercussions and risks for you," his mother said.
- 115 -

Draco's head suddenly whipped around to face towards where he knew Granger to be laying on the other side of the wall. "She's awake," he said with a mixture of dread and relief.

- 116 -

Chapter 13
Chapter 13 A/N: Hello readers! Many of you weren't all that pleased with me for leaving the last chapter where I did, but look at me! Updating way before a week's up. *sadeyes* Am I forgiven? If what both my betas said about this chapter is true, you're probably going to be mad at me all over again by the end of this chapter, so withhold any forgiveness you may have until you've read the chapter. As always, thanks to the wonderful Claire96 and Bulba-chan (also wonderful) for betaing! And to everyone who reviewed! You guys are so great! Just to clarify a few things: I probably should have been clearer with my description of the events in the tower. Ron didn't push her, he startled her and she lost her balance. When I imagined that scene, he wasn't even close enough to touch her, but on the other side of the room. Also, I probably should have mentioned that my computer problems won't delete this story. I have backups on skydrive and a memory stick, so I won't be losing this story, don't worry. ~Frosty I'm sorry, please be okay. I'm sorry, please be okay. Hermione awoke to feelings of both hope and heart-sick misery along with a strange mantra that seemed to be in her head. She drew in a panicked breath, ready to call out for someone, when warm hands came to rest on either side of her face, calming her. A spark ran through her at the contact, telling her who that was there with her. "Granger, it's all right," he murmured. Her eyes snapped open to take in the worried Veela standing beside her bed.
- 117 -

"You have wings again," was the first thing out of her mouth. Her voice was scratchy and it came out as more of a whisper, but Malfoy heard her just fine. His hands slid down her face to hold her shoulders worriedly. "I've addled your brain." Hermione Granger was not one to state the obvious like that. The slightly clouded look in her eyes didn't help his worry that she'd suffered some sort of brain damage during the bonding or from her fall. "No, the impact with the ground did that." He winced at the reminder, but Hermione ignored the reaction and continued. "You're just hovering over me and making it hard for me to think." Her eyes went distant as her mind travelled elsewhere. "Were you inside my head talking not so long ago?" She couldn't understand the dread she started to feel at her statement; all she knew was that it wasn't coming from her own mind. Her eyebrows drew together in confusion and she looked at him questioningly. Without even thinking about her actions, she reached towards him and took his hand, whether to comfort or in search of it, she wasn't sure. "What's wrong?" "You were dying," he explained. "They told me the only way to save you was to bite you." Hermione was horrified, but not for the reason he was probably thinking. It must have been horrible for them to make him face that kind of choice. She was upset that she'd missed the chance for a proper bonding ceremony, the kind where she was willing, but she'd known from the moment that he'd told her that she was his mate that eventually he was going to bite her. Sure, she would have liked a little more time to prepare herself before it happened, but she wasn't upset that they were bound. He was obviously not going to wait and find out why she was horrified, because he was halfway out the door before she'd even gathered her thoughts on the matter. Merlin, she was going to need to figure out how to censor her thoughts and emotions if he was going to just run away every time she didn't react favourably to something he did. Had he been expecting her to leap for joy? Because that was just irrational. They were doing their best to flounder their way through some semblance of a relationship, and recent events had forced them to remove their water wings and plunge into the deep end unprepared. He seemed to expect her to just take that in
- 118 -

stride, even as he was a mess over the whole incident. Too weak to chase after him, Hermione was left to lay in her bad and glare at the ceiling as she tried to figure out how to reach out to him with her mind like she knew she had the ability to do. It was like trying to figure out how to move a muscle she'd never used before; she could feel that it was there, but the trick to moving it eluded her. "Is everything all right in here? Draco ran off in a huff," Narcissa asked, poking her head around the door. Hermione was surprised that Malfoy's parents had managed to appear so quickly. But once she'd given it a moment of thought, she realized it made perfect sense if they were worried that the girl who decided whether their son lived or died by his next birthday survived an accident. "He can feel my emotions, but he's gone and misinterpreted what it was that he was feeling from me. He told me that he had to bite me in order for me to survive and he didn't like what it was that he felt from me," Hermione explained. She figured that his mother was one of the few people who both knew about Veelas and about Malfoy, so she was a good person to talk to about the problem. Lucius followed his wife into the room when she entered. He stopped just inside the door and allowed his eyes to follow Narcissa as she perched on the edge of Hermione's bed. "Have you tried using your bond to call him back?" he asked. Speaking with Narcissa was one thing - the woman had saved Harry's life - but being comfortable with Lucius Malfoy in the room was another thing entirely. Hermione feared that it would take some adjustment before she could occupy the same room as the man without feeling like she should know where her wand was at all times in case he decided to attack. Reminding herself that he couldn't harm her unless he wanted to face the wrath of his own son, Hermione looked to Lucius. "I've been trying, but it's not working." The anxious look the two Malfoy's in the room shot at each other told Hermione that something was wrong with the way she'd described her connection. "What? It's not supposed to be like that?" she asked, worried. Narcissa shook her head. "No, you should be able to feel him all the time as a presence in the back of your mind. There shouldn't be any effort involved in contacting him."
- 119 -

"Don't worry the girl, Cissa; she's been through enough recently. He could just be blocking her out," Lucius chided. "Why would he want to block out his mate?" Narcissa demanded, glaring at her husband. "Well, I'm sure Miss Granger has the answer. What was it exactly that he's misunderstood?" "He thinks I was upset because he bit me without asking, but I was upset because they made him bite me without asking. The books say it's anything but pleasant and he had to-" she cut off when she was suddenly smothered in a hug. "You're such a sweet girl," the blonde woman said as she nearly smothered said 'sweet girl' with her embrace. "I was so worried Draco was going to end up with that nasty Parkinson wench." The insult to Parkinson startled a chuckle out of Hermione; who knew such proper people could insult one of their own? She stopped when she noticed the both the older Malfoys were looking grim. "Everything would have been easier if she'd been Parkinson," Lucius said. His wife turned to glare at him. "You don't have to say it like we don't want Hermione!" she snapped. Hermione was a little hurt, but honestly, she had expected much worse from the blood supremacists. She kept quiet and let them bicker; it comforted her that even a properly bonded Veela and mate could bicker. From what the books had been saying, Hermione had worried that everything would be sunshine and rainbows from the moment Malfoy sunk his fangs into her. That could be nice on occasion, but there would be no fire in the relationship, which would eventually bore her. "Why don't we just explain to the girl why I said it instead of letting her think I don't approve of her?" Lucius said, sounding exasperate with his wife. Surprised, Hermione tuned back into their conversation. "Pardon?" she asked. "These horrible things that have happened to you and Draco, we think we know why they've been happening." Narcissa shot a glare at her husband, who only shuffled uncomfortably.
- 120 -

"When I was young," he started. "I was infatuated with a Muggle girl from a village near the Manor. When my father found out about it, he was livid. He was so livid he cast a curse on me. Should I ever feel anything but contempt for Muggles, unlucky things would start happening. The bad luck would intensify with my feelings." "How does this affect me?" Hermione asked with a sinking feeling. 'Bad luck' could be used to describe the accidents that had been happening to her and Malfoy over the past few days... if one was prone to understatement. "I believe that it has somehow transferred to my son and multiplied in the process. The bout of bad luck I was originally cursed with has increased into near-death incidents." "So if I don't stay with him, he'll pine and die and if I do, something horrible will happen and we'll both die?" Hermione asked, needing clarification that her grasp of the new information was correct. Narcissa nodded. "Essentially." She turned to her husband, "I told you she was a sharp one, Lucius." "Indeed." "What can I do about this?" Hermione asked. "We're working on finding a way to break the curse, but since my father is dead, we are working without the knowledge of what curse was originally cast," Lucius said. Hermione's eyes lit up as something occurred to her. "I know a curse breaker! He's one of the best." They looked at her questioningly, waiting for her to elaborate. She knew they probably weren't going to like her answer, but if he could fix the mess, then they couldn't exactly afford to be picky. "Bill Weasley." Immediately, Lucius' lip curled in distaste and Narcissa looked vaguely ill. It seemed that abandoning their prejudices in order to accept their son's mate was one thing, but where the Weasleys were concerned, it was quite another.
- 121 -

Draco was miserable. Granger was going to reject him, their bond was going to go sour and he was going to live the rest of his life connected to someone who hated him. He could feel her trying to reach him through their bond, but she wasn't in pain or distressed, just annoyed, so he was able to block out her insistent prodding. She was probably looking for him to tell him she didn't want to see him again, and he didn't think he could bear that. Blaise had been waiting in the hospital wing to make sure that Granger lived, but he followed Draco out when the Veela stormed past with a ferocious scowl. "Where are we going?" he asked his moody friend. "Head Dorms." On a normal day, Draco was never particularly verbose unless he was insulting someone, but when he truly descended into a mood, it was like pulling teeth to find out what was going through his mind. "Okay, why are we going to the Head Dorms?" "Alcohol." Blaise paused; he probably should have seen that one coming. His friend didn't have the best ways of dealing with his problems. Blaise knew that it was going to be his job to loosen his friend's tongue with alcohol and then get him to actually talk about what it was that was bothering him so. He sighed; he was such a good friend, and so underappreciated. They passed a group of second years who caught sight of Malfoy and turned to run in the other direction. "Looks like your secret's out, unless you're going to try and pass off wings as a fashion statement." Draco only snarled. Undeterred, Blaise continued. "And apparently, we don't care." The blond continued trudging through the halls, unconcerned that his current appearance held the potential to undo all the work put into hiding the secret of the Malfoy line. Blaise sighed; he was an amazing friend. A quick wave of his wand had Draco under a Disillusionment spell. Hopefully, no one would believe those second years
- 122 -

when they said the Head boy was literally a monster. When he got to the portrait hole, Draco tried to close it before his friend could enter, but Blaise lunged forward and just managed to catch the edge of the frame. The two Slytherins ignored the protests of the painting and engaged in a little staring contest made difficult by the Disillusionment spell still covering the blond. Eventually, Draco moved away from the door and into the common room, allowing Blaise to enter. Safely concealed from prying eyes, Blaise cancelled the spell hiding his friend. "It's a wasted effort; I'm sure someone saw me when I raced outside to find Granger," Draco muttered. Blaise ignored Draco and his usual pessimism. He moved to the place he knew his friend hid the alcohol and pulled out a bottle of Firewhiskey and some glasses. Draco accepted the glass offered to him, drank the liquid in one gulp and held out the glass for more. "Another." "Don't you think you should take it easy, mate?" "No. The first was for me, the second's for my Veela. He won't shut up - bastard." "Alcohol isn't going to make the Veela voice in your head stop influencing you," Blaise tried to reason. Draco raised an eyebrow. "You know from experience that drinking can't stop the voices?" Reluctantly, Blaise ceded to the blond's request and handed over another glass, and then another when the second one didn't prove to be sufficient. By the time the third glass was finished, Draco was sitting on the sofa holding his head. "It's not working. If anything, he's only getting more insistent. Granger keeps trying to talk to me and the Veela doesn't like it that I'm blocking her out." "Have you considered finding out what it is that Granger's trying so hard to tell you?" At Draco's dark look, Blaise winced. "Of course you haven't, what was I thinking?" He handed the Veela another glass and took a small sip of his own. "Explain to me what exactly it is that's bothering you so much?"
- 123 -

"My imminent death, that's what's bothering me," Draco snarled. Blaise sat down as well, completely un-intimidated; Draco had been snarling at him since they were three years old, the sudden appearance of fangs and wings wasn't going to make him suddenly fear his friend. "I don't think that's it," he said flatly. "Blaise, Mother insisted I learned a few languages growing up, but none of them were moron. You're going to have to translate." The Italian rolled his eyes; of course Draco had to make an insult out of 'I don't understand'. "I've seen you when faced with your imminent death, and you're not like this. I think this is more about Granger rejecting you. Just when you were starting to open up to her, she goes and rejects you - which you're only assuming, by the way, because you're too afraid of actually talking to her and finding out for sure." The Veela's obsidian eyes turned to his friend and regarded the other boy silently. Slowly, Draco reached out and took the glass out of Blaise's hand. "I think you've had too much to drink," he said, tipping his head back and finishing his own glass.

Shortly after they'd dropped their news on her, Narcissa and Lucius had taken their leave. Hermione guessed they were going to sit down and come to terms with the idea that a Weasley could be helpful. Still bedridden, bored, and unable to get through to the stubborn mule of a Veela to whom she was eternally bound, Hermione was staring moodily at the wall when Madam Pomfrey stuck her head around the door. "Your friends are here to see you, and they're rather insistent that I let them in this instant. Are you feeling up to more company?" she asked. Hermione nodded, knowing her friends were probably beside themselves with worry after the fall she'd taken. She regretted the motion when her head started to pound. Falling off of towers hurt and it seemed that even Veela venom couldn't heal her completely. Why did Malfoy have to come from such a twisted family? She never would have fallen if that curse hadn't been trying to kill the both of them. "How're you feeling?" Ginny asked, keeping her voice subdued in deference of Hermione's recent injuries. Harry followed her into the room, concern lighting up his green eyes.
- 124 -

"I'm going to be fine. You can stop looking at me like you're worried I'm going to disappear," Hermione told them, trying for a carefree laugh but falling short. Ginny ran over to the bed and carefully hugged Hermione. "For a while there, we thought we were going to lose you," she said, sniffling. Harry took his turn hugging her as soon as Ginny released her hold. "They wouldn't tell us what they needed Malfoy to do, but he didn't look happy when he stormed out of here." Someone coughed, drawing their attention to the door where Ron was shuffling, unsure if he was welcome in the room. "Ron, I lost my balance and fell, it had nothing to do with you," Hermione said. She knew he was probably blaming himself for the whole thing. Come to think of it, Malfoy was probably blaming him for the whole thing as well. "Though you might want to avoid Malfoy until I can talk to him," she amended. The redhead eased his way into the room, but stayed back towards the wall instead of approaching her bed to hug her. "I'm sorry I said those mean things, Hermione. I let my temper get the better of me." Hermione pursed her lips, not quite ready to forgive him. Her recent near-death experience had made her feel more inclined to feeling understanding towards her friend, but his words had cut her deeply and she wasn't going to just let him off because he'd stuttered out an apology. "You're not to blame for my fall, but you're also not off the hook for saying such hurtful things," she said, motioning him over to give her a hug. Hesitantly, Ron sidled up to the bed and gave her an awkward one-armed squeeze. "Merlin, that's one hell of a hickey!" he said as he pulled away, noticing the mark on her neck. "I don't think that's a love bite, I think it's a Veela bite," Ginny said with wide eyes. They all looked to Hermione for an explanation.

- 125 -

Chapter 14
Chapter 14 A/N: Hello readers! It's 5:30 am here and I'm somehow awake... Which is strange because I didn't get to sleep until almost three. If you're going to tell me something is 'stupid' tell me why, or at least leave a signed review so I can ask. I welcomeconstructivecriticism, but someone obviously needs to look up the definition of that word. The rest of you reviewers are just amazing of course, and I completely adore reading what you have to say. *tries to hug reviewers but only ends up awkwardly hugging computer* As always, thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for their lovely beta work. They spend their spare time making this story better, and if it had worked before with the reviewers, I'd have given them hugs as well. *nosewrinkle* Apparently sleep-deprivation makes me a hugging fiend, which is strange for me. I'm going to just post this and try to get some more sleep, I think. ~Frosty "It is a Veela bite," the brunette mumbled. She hadn't really had time to process the change in her relationship with Malfoy herself, much less managed to think of what she was going to tell her friends. "I'm missing something," Harry said, looking at the mark on his friend's neck and wincing. Compared to what it must have felt like for her to fall off the tower, the pain was probably nothing, but that bite looked like it had hurt - hell, it looked like it still hurt. "I've been reading up on Veelas; they have fangs to bite their mate and bind them to themselves forever. If Malfoy bit Hermione, it means their bonding is official, she can't back out," Ginny said. "They're stuck with each other until they die." Harry and Ron looked to their bedridden friend, horrified. "It's true. Veela venom actually has the ability to heal their mate, but to everyone
- 126 -

else it's highly toxic. The only reason I'm alive is because Malfoy bit me," Hermione told them. If they were grateful to Malfoy for her survival, then they were more likely to forgive him for the next insulting thing he said about them - and Hermione wasn't optimistic enough to think there wasn't going to be a next time. "There's something else that his parents told me while they were visiting," she held up a hand to stop the outrage both Harry and Ron were practically bursting to express. "They think that it's unusual that both Malfoy and I got into serious accidents so close together. Lucius had a curse cast on him that he believes Malfoy may have inherited." Hermione gave them a minute to digest the news while she played with the edge of her sheets, trying to think of a way to ask her next question. She decided that the direct approach was best. "I need to make an appointment for Malfoy and me with Bill. Do you think he'd take a look at us and see what he can do?" Ron looked disturbed that she wanted to bring Malfoy anywhere near his family, but Ginny looked to be considering the idea. "I'll send him a letter today and ask," she told her friend, patting the other girl on the arm. "I don't think my poor heart can take another night of wondering if you're going to survive." "Thank you, Ginny," the brunette said with a genuine smile. Tentatively, Hermione started to pull herself into a sitting position. Despite being almost completely free of injuries, her body still ached like she'd fallen out of a tower. Her friends all hovered anxiously and voiced half-formed protests, but none of them actually tried to stop her, knowing it was a pointless endeavour to stop Hermione Granger once her stubborn mind was set on something. "Help me out of the bed?" she asked once it became obvious that she wasn't going to be able to complete the task under her own power. They weren't happy about it, but both Harry and Ginny each took one of her arms over their shoulders and levered her gently out of the bed. They helped her across the room while Ron held the door open. "What's going on here?" Madam Pomfrey demanded the moment they'd stepped into the main part of the Hospital Wing. "Why are you out of bed Miss Granger?" "I have to talk to Malfoy and he's ignoring me," Hermione explained truthfully. "I can rest just as well in my own bed as this one - probably better. Rest is all I need, isn't it?"
- 127 -

The Mediwitch pursed her lips, but she couldn't argue. Turning her back on the students for a moment, she pulled out a vial of a numbing potion. "Take this for the residual pain, the dosage is on the bottle," she said, making her disapproval obvious. Gratefully, Hermione accepted the vial and limped out of the room with the assistance of her friends. She realized that she must have been talking with the Malfoys and staring at the wall longer than she thought, because it was dark outside. Apparently, Time flies when you're having awkward conversations with the parents of your significant other. They travelled through the halls and arrived at the Head Dorms without incident. Hermione spoke the password to let them through the portrait hole. Once again, Ron held it open while the other two helped Hermione inside. "What's that sound?" Ginny asked, looking around the room for the source of the strange noise. Hermione tilted her head and listened, then frowned. "Purring, and I'm doubting it's because he's happy." She looked around the room, but Malfoy's silvery head was not visible. Where was he? Ginny and Harry shared a confused look with each other and then Ron, but they all nodded as if they understood when Hermione glanced their way. "Malfoy?" she called, looking around for him. Her three friends joined her in searching the room, but they couldn't find the source of the purring. Hermione let them look, leaning heavily on the kitchen table to support herself. When she nearly tripped over a shoe, she glanced down. Ah, it was still attached to a leg. What was he doing under the table? "Malfoy?" she said again, painfully kneeling down so she could see his face. The Slytherin was flat on his back, staring vacantly at the wooden underside of the table. "You have too many feelingsh," he slurred. "It's resh-ridiculous. I'm bonded to you, but it doesn't' mean I understand what's going through that bushy head of yours." He reached slightly to her left and made a petting motion. "Malfoy, are you drunk?"
- 128 -

He nodded sagely. "I tried to get to my room to sleep, but I fell down. Then I deshided that here worksss too." "I found him!" Hermione called to her friends. They gathered at the edge of the table and leant down to see the pair under it. "Is he drunk?" Ginny asked. "Help me get him to his room," the brunette said as she stiffly crawled out from under the table. Harry and Ron looked disgusted, but they reluctantly grabbed one of his arms each and dragged him out to where they could get a grip under his arms and help him to his feet. "Unhand me you pheasants!" Malfoy ordered, trying to struggle but only succeeding in making Harry step on his foot. "I think he means peasants," Ginny mumbled as she followed the boys up the stairs supporting Hermione. They split up at the landing, the boys going into Malfoy's room and the girls into Hermione's. "Are you sure you're going to be fine here alone? Malfoy's not exactly in any condition to take care of you if you need something." Hermione waved off her concern. "I hardly think I'm going to need any help sleeping. I'll be fine." It took some convincing, but eventually, Ginny left her there. Harry and Ron stuck their heads around her door to wish her good night before they left, muttering about the decadence of Malfoy's bedroom and how someone so evil didn't deserve to be spoilt like that. Happy to be back in her own bed, Hermione fell asleep almost instantly. It couldn't have been more than a few short hours later that she woke up again; something was off. Hermione blinked her bleary eyes open to see a figure standing in the doorway. "Malfoy?" she asked. He staggered into her room and crawled into her bed. "Don' feel good," he mumbled, snuggling against her back and pressing his nose in her hair. "And Granger doesn't want me; she was disgusted that I bit her."
- 129 -

Hermione was pleased to feel that most of the aches she'd been experiencing had receded. She was less pleased to have a drunken Veela in her bed. "First off: if you throw up in here, I'm going to strangle you. Second: I never rejected you; it wasn't disgust I was feeling, it was horror that you'd been forced to bite me. I knew it would have been an unpleasant experience for you." She thought about telling him about the curse as well, but he was so out of it that she'd just have to do it again in the morning. He just didn't have the processing power at the moment to deal with any more bad news. Her only answer was the happy humming sound he made before he started purring. "You better not throw up," she mumbled, relaxing against him. She knew it would be pointless to attempt to get him out of her bed, so she decided to yell at him for it in the morning.

A groaning sound coming from right beside her woke her up. She rolled over and propped her head up on her elbow to watch Malfoy pressing a palm to his forehead. "That's what you get for drinking so much," Hermione said primly. "You're all right?" he asked as he buried his head underneath one of the many pillows she liked to have scattered across her bed. Hermione raised an eyebrow. "You're rolling around on the bed groaning because of a hangover and you want to know if I'm all right?" He shrugged. "It's my Veela, he's a selfless bastard." His voice was muffled by the pillow, but she heard him all the same. Hermione wasn't so sure it was just the Veela part of him anymore, but she wasn't going to have that argument when she'd just woken up. "Speaking of my Veela," Malfoy said, shifting the pillow slightly so he could peek out at her from under the edge. "I'm not worried about you rejecting me anymore, but I can't seem to remember why." She understood the question he was implying with his statement. "You're an idiot.
- 130 -

I was never going to reject you; you just jumped to conclusions." The pillow lurched slightly as he nodded, not feeling up to having a long conversation about how it was that he had misinterpreted her emotions. Hermione frowned at him; if she was only feeling a fraction of what he was, then she couldn't imagine how horrible he felt. Alcohol was evil and he was an idiot for abusing it so thoroughly. "I'm guessing you're not going to be attending your morning classes?" she asked. The amused snort confirmed her suspicions. Since she still felt exhausted even after a full night's sleep, Hermione figured no one would mind if she missed some classes as well. It wasn't like she'd fall behind unless they somehow managed to cover three weeks worth of work in one day. Her friends would be shocked if they knew how un-Hermione her thoughts were at the moment, but sometimes she just needed to take a break. She got out of bed and padded to the kitchenette attached to the common room. If she was going to have a conversation with him, then she needed to get some coffee into Malfoy. And probably a Pepper Up potion - preferably in the coffee. With a cup of tea for herself and Malfoy's altered coffee, she went back into her room. The blond was sound asleep in her bed, his face still under the pillow. It was a wonder he didn't suffocate sleeping like that. Hermione set her the beverages down on the nightstand and pulled the pillow off of his face. "Malfoy, you need to wake up, we have to talk," she said firmly. "It can't wait until the hippogriffs currently stampeding on my head have given up?" Grabbing the coffee and putting it in his hand, Hermione settled on the bed beside him. "No, it's important. Your parents came to visit me in the Hospital Wing after you had stormed off. They told me something disturbing." He held up a hand to stop her from explaining further. Bringing the steaming cup
- 131 -

to his lips, he sucked back half the glass in one big gulp. His face contorted into a grimace of pain as the hot liquid scalded his mouth and tongue. "Okay, continue," he said, blinking away the tears that had formed from the pain. "Apparently, your family is cursed; your parents think our accidents were encouraged by this curse and they're only going to escalate if we get closer." Hermione retold the story as she'd heard it, including the origins of the curse. She waited for a reaction, but was disappointed when Malfoy didn't say anything. "You look like you've swallowed a lemon," she observed when the silence became too much. "My father's a bigger hypocrite than I thought. First we're not technically 'pure' and now I find he had no problem fraternising with Muggles when he was young." Hermione felt like someone had punched her in the stomach as she came to a realization: if she ever wanted to have children, Malfoy would be their father. She didn't put any stock in blood purity, but like it or not, the wizading world would. The first half-blood Malfoys ever would be her children. Unbidden, her arms came up and wrapped around her waist, as if she could protect those hypothetical future children with the gesture. A clink signified Malfoy setting down his coffee cut. He gently pulled her arms down to her side and pressed a kiss to her stomach before resting his head there and looking up at her face. "Don't ever worry about what people will think. They'll be Malfoys, and capable of dealing with anything. And should something come along that they can't handle, Veelas are listed as magical creatures and as such, can't be tried for murder." "I'm almost certain that you only count as a magical creature in the eyes of the law while you're under the influence of your instincts. It doesn't exclude you from cold-blooded murder." Regardless of her disapproval of his tactics, Hermione was strangely comforted. "Admit it, you're falling for my charm," Malfoy said smugly, having felt her comfort. Absently, Hermione flicked him in the forehead. Her mind was already working on another issue that had been bothering her. "How is it that you're always in my head, but I rarely get a spare thought from you?" she asked, giving in to the temptation and touching his soft hair. Why was it that boys were always the ones who got the amazing hair and she just got a pouf-ball?
- 132 -

"I'll tell you if you don't stop," he mumbled. His eyes had drifted shut and a blissful expression had made its way onto his face. Surprised, Hermione looked down. While she'd been internally ranting about hair, her hand had started stroking his soft locks like she would have done to Crookshanks had he been resting on her stomach like Malfoy was. "I don't appreciate being compared to your cat." Hermione just kept stroking and raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for the answer she'd been promised. "Occulmency. Between Snape and Aunt Bellatrix, I was taught to be a very accomplished Occulmens." "So if you hadn't been so accomplished in Occulmency, then I'd be in your head just as much as you're in mine?" "Yes." Harry had tried to teach her Occulmency second hand from Snape, but his grasp of it wasn't the best and she'd become too frustrated with his lack of knowledge to continue the lessons. There was only so much she was able to do with the help of books, so she'd done her best and prayed it was enough should she ever get captured. She looked down at Malfoy, who was suddenly less relaxed and happy than he'd been a moment ago. It only took her a moment to realize what it was that had his knickers in a twist. "There was nothing you could have done," she soothed, knowing he was thinking back to the incident with his aunt. "It barely even bothers me anymore." "Granger, I'm inside your mind, it's not like you can lie to me." His head was lifted by her stomach as she took a deep breath. "Can you take your walls down so I can see inside your mind as well?" Malfoy hesitated and Hermione could feel his trepidation at letting her see something so personal. If he couldn't trust her, than he obviously couldn't trust anyone. Narrowing his silver eyes, he looked up at her. "It's not that I don't trust you, it's
- 133 -

that I'm not sure you're going to like what you find in there. Hermione squared her shoulders. "Try me." He stared deep into her eyes for a moment, trying to judge if she really wanted to do something so personal as rifle around in his head. Finding that she was resolute in her decision, he let out a long breath, bringing down the barriers that had become second nature for him to hold steady. She was unprepared for the river of information that was suddenly battering her brain. Memories, feelings, thoughts and ideas not her own were fighting with the things already occupying her mind. Her eyes closed in an effort to manage it. Through sheer force of will, she managed to fight back and organize what he was giving her into a semblance of order. The first thing that hit her was the affection towards herself that was predominant in his recent memories. He couldn't claim it was just his Veela anymore, she's seen and felt that he was starting to care. Her eyes snapped open and met the worried ones of Malfoy. He'd sat up and had his hands on her shoulders, as if he was about to shake her. "That wasn't a pleasant experience," Hermione said, trying to calm her breathing that she hadn't even realized was elevated. There were still fragments of thoughts and feelings in her mind, as if some of them had broken off and caught there, tangled with her emotions and notions within her head. "For either of us," he muttered, looking away. "Does that mean our bond is sour?" Hermione asked fearfully. Malfoy was briefly worried, but then he calmed and shook his head. "No, I think letting anyone see most of your life in a condensed form would be uncomfortable, even for a Veela and his mate." "So we're okay?" She knew she sounded like one of those girls always asking her partner if their relationship was healthy, but he was the one better prepared to make an educated guess. His fingers ran over the place he's bitten her, sending shivers down her spine. What had been a sore wound when Ron first noticed it had completely healed while she slept. The mark had changed to two small puncture marks that were the shiny white of old scars.
- 134 -

"We still have time for the bond to become corrupted, but for the moment, we're okay." He pulled her closer, as if the motion could shelter her from any forces that might try to tear them apart in the future. "We'll be okay," he said. Hermione wasn't sure whether he was trying to reassure her or himself.

- 135 -

Chapter 15
Chapter 15 A/N: The second time I read through this, it was confusing me because I forgot Draco can hear a lot of Hermione's internal dialogue... So I thought I'd remind you guys in case you've forgotten. As always, thanks to Claire96 and Bluba-chan for betaing! Also thanks to everyone who reviewed! I actually had to double check when my stats checker thingy said I'd exceeded 500 reviews, I was shocked. *tear* The last Harry Potter movie is over. I was practically bouncing in my seat when it started, but then I spent quite a bit of it hiding my face. Now it's over and I'm sad... There'll always be fanfiction though! So here's another chapter. ~Frosty Hermione wasn't someone who missed class unless something was seriously wrong, so it wasn't a surprise when Harry and Ginny showed up at the Head's common room during lunch to make sure she was all right. When Hermione opened the portrait hole still in her pyjamas Ginny crossed her arms and gave her friend a knowing look. "Long night?" The redhead's tone was laden with hidden implications. Malfoy's snicker from the sofa told her that he could feel her mortification at the assumption. Fighting down a blush, Hermione let them in. "Get your minds out of the gutter," she grumbled, including herself in that statement. "Did you get a chance to send that letter to Bill?" Hermione asked as a way to change the subject. She followed her friends as they took seats in front of the fire. Surprisingly, they didn't seem to mind that Malfoy was already in the room. Saving her life seemed to have made him slightly more tolerable to them. She wasn't sure if this newfound tolerance would last once he opened his irritating mouth. "Who's this Bill?" Malfoy demanded before Ginny could answer. A frustrated look from his mate didn't dull his need to know who the mystery man was. He didn't like Granger asking about other men and not even telling him. What if this 'Bill' turned
- 136 -

out to be competition for Granger's affections? His eyes narrowed at the thought. "He's Ginny's brother and a curse breaker. We're going to ask him to see if he can do anything about our curse," Hermione said. Her exasperation was clear in her voice. She could feel that he was unreasonably jealous just because she'd mentioned an unknown male's name. They were going to have to work on that. The Slytherin didn't look pleased that they were asking a Weasley for help, but he caught Hermione's warning look and didn't say something rude about them in front of Ginny. The brunette smiled a secret smile; at least she knew he could learn to be civil. Harry, who had been silent until that moment, spoke up. "You're feeling better, Hermione?" "Do you really think I'd let her get the door if she wasn't feeling better?" Malfoy snapped. He was irritated at the implication that he couldn't take care of her properly. It was doubly upsetting because of the severe injury she'd recently suffered while he'd been unable to prevent it. Hermione glanced over at the blond sharply. She knew whatever was bothering the Veela wasn't Harry's words, but she wasn't going to confront him with her friends there watching. It was best to forget about it until later. Her eyes moved to the clock on the mantle of the fireplace. Their lunch break would be over soon and she needed to be ready if she was going to attend her classes for the rest of the day. "I think I'm going to go to classes this afternoon. Could you two wait here for a minute while I get my uniform on?" They looked a little uncomfortable being left alone with the blond, but her friends didn't complain as she walked up the stairs and disappeared into her room. "Keep an eye on her today, she's still a little weak," Malfoy warned the moment his mate was out of earshot. He knew she had her mind set on going to classes and there was nothing he could do to stop her, but he couldn't just let her go without someone watching over her. The two Gryffindors looked at him with surprise, but they nodded. "Of course," Harry said.
- 137 -

Abruptly, Malfoy snapped shut the book he'd been reading and darted over to the kitchenette to rifle through cupboards. He came back with a bottle in his hand. "The pain potion that Madam Pomfrey gave her," the blond explained. He held it out to Harry, who hesitantly accepted it. "Make her take it if she starts hurting, even if she tries to say no." A thump upstairs made Malfoy glance over his shoulder to make sure she wasn't coming. "And if she starts looking pale and tired, send her back here, even if it's in the middle of a lesson and she refuses." By the time Hermione came down the stairs, fully dressed and with her book bag slung over her shoulder, Malfoy was back reading his book as if he'd never moved and the Gryffindor couple were trying to smother their surprised expressions. Who knew Malfoy could be so nurturing and protective? They could only assume it was the Veela part of him making him act like that; he certainly hadn't shown this side of him in all the years he'd been tormenting Hermione. "Ready?" the brunette asked. Her friends shook off their surprise and followed the Head Girl out of the portrait hole. Hermione darted Malfoy a suspicious look over her shoulder just as she was about to disappear from view, but he only raised an eyebrow at her. She shook her head and went off to her classes.

Hermione glanced around, twining her fingers in the strap of her book bag in discomfort. Everyone was whispering and shooting her covert looks out of the corners of their eyes. Some people even seemed a little wary of her. What in the world was going on? I suspect that's my fault. I ran through the school looking like a Veela. It seems our secret is out, Malfoy's voice sounded in her head. She jumped a little at the sound of it, not entirely used to the strange new form of communication. "Sorry, I forgot to warn you," Ginny whispered. "A few people saw Malfoy run outside to you the other day with fangs and wings and scary eyes. You know how news travels around here." Hermione frowned and tried to direct her thoughts back to Malfoy. She was careful; she didn't want him to get a bunch of thoughts he didn't need to hear tangled in with the one meant for him. Is this why you're not going to classes today?

- 138 -

Somehow, he managed a mental snort. No. I'm a Malfoy, we don't hide from anyone. "Are you going to be all right?" Harry asked, glaring at the nearest group of whispering students until they stopped. "Of course. There have been worse things circling about me; at least this one's true." She could feel Malfoy's approval at her words. The Veela needed something better to do than hang around in her head and eavesdrop all day. He should have gone to his classes. "That's the spirit," Harry said with a smile, slinging an arm around both Hermione and Ginny's shoulders. Immediately, Malfoy started growling in her head. She had no idea how he managed to make his thoughts into a growl. Had he not been acting territorial over her like a dog with a chew toy, she may have been impressed. Hermione rolled her eyes and gently extracted herself from her friend's hold. "Malfoy feels threatened when other males get too close," she said by way of apology. Harry looked like he wanted to argue, but, not wanting to get into an argument in the middle of a crowded corridor, he kept his mouth shut; everyone seemed to be watching Hermione like vultures, just waiting for something interesting or scandalous to happen so they could report it to anyone who would stand still long enough. Really? I'm not going to be able to escape your unreasonably jealous streak even when you're on the other side of the castle? she asked the blond in exasperation. Her only answer was silence, but she could sense that he was smug. Bastard. She was definitely not taking his feeling into consideration next time she came into contact with another male. Harry held his piece until the end of the day. He caught up to Hermione as she made her way back to the Head dorms. "What was that before when you said I can't touch you because it'll upset Malfoy? Since when do you let him tell you what to do?" he demanded. Just to test if she would shy from his touch, he reached out and grabbed her elbow to turn her to face him as they walked.
- 139 -

"He'll calm down once our bond is stronger, but right now he's a little edgy," she defended. "How do you even know it's upsetting him?" Hermione looked away. Malfoy had withdrawn from her mind when lessons had begun, leaving her to her schoolwork - probably because nothing worth listening in on was going to happen while she was in class. He was taking a nap if she was interpreting the drowsy feeling she was getting from him correctly. It was strange how fast she was adjusting to so little privacy within her own mind. The quick acceptance was almost like magic. "Hermione?" "He's in my head - not all the time, but he was when we were walking to class." She realized Harry was no longer walking beside her and looked back. He had frozen mid-step, gaping like a fish. "Malfoy... can read your mind?" he managed to stutter out around the shock weighing down his tongue. Hermione nodded and continued walking, knowing Harry would follow. "It would go both ways if he wasn't such an accomplished Occulmens. I only get feelings and the occasional thought from him." She was so busy watching Harry for a reaction to be paying much attention to where she was going. Her toe caught on a suit of armour and she fell to the ground with a thud. Immediately, she was overwhelmed with pain. The fall had managed to ruin all that relaxing and healing she'd done that morning and instead brought back the pain. She lay on the floor, waiting for her breathing to calm and the bone-deep ache to reduce enough for her to form a coherent sentence. Something cool pressed against her lips and tilted a foul-tasting liquid into her mouth. Almost instinctively, she swallowed it, sighing in relief when the pain relieving potion took effect. The floor was nice and cool compared to the burning pain she'd just experienced, so she lay her head back down and pressed it to the stones. She just needed to relax for a few moments. Alright Granger? Malfoy asked in her head. His thoughts were sluggish with sleep, confirming her guess that he'd been taking a nap. She sent him back a reassuring
- 140 -

feeling and rolled herself into a sitting position. "How did you know to bring my pain potion?" she asked Harry. She suspected she already knew the answer, but wanted confirmation. "Malfoy made me take it while you were getting dressed." Of course he had; he took any opportunity to be meddlesome. She was exceedingly glad he'd put in the extra effort though. Otherwise, she would have been left writhing in pain on the floor until someone had come to help - it probably would have been Malfoy. Harry extended a hand to help her up, which she accepted gratefully. Without the added assistance, she may not have been able to get up from the floor. Her little episode had left her feeling drained and a little shaky. "Are you going to be alright to walk?" Harry asked, watching her as she stumbled and limped a few steps. Her pain may have been virtually eliminated by the potion, but she was still stiff all over and got achy if she extended herself too far. Carefully, she took a few steps on her own and frowned. "I hate feeling like an invalid," she muttered, allowing Harry to pull one of her arms over his shoulder and support some of her weight. He had to bend down a little to make up for their height difference. "Malfoy's not saying anything snarky?" he asked. She didn't answer. Instead, her head whipped around to a corridor off to the left, where there was a figure approaching - a very blond figure. He wasn't running or anything, but walking quickly. His pace didn't slow when he caught up to them, he scooped his mate up glaring at the other boy the entire time. "Someone might see," Hermione whispered to Malfoy. She could tell he wasn't mad or threatened at Harry for touching her, but something was bothering him. His eyes were still their usual mercury, so she knew the Veela wasn't in control. His hold tightened minutely. "What's bothering me is you risking your health because you don't want to miss a few measly hours of class," he snapped. He didn't even glance at her to scold her, his eyes were firmly looking ahead and watching where he was going. It hurt a little that he was so pointedly avoiding eye contact. Any answer she may have constructed was interrupted when his blond head
- 141 -

whipped around to face Harry as they moved away from him. "Take your hand off your wand Potter; I'm not going to hurt her." Harry still looked hesitant and didn't remove his hand, so the Veela continued, "It makes no sense that I would be so upset over her tendency to endanger her health that I would hurt her." Hermione couldn't see around Malfoy's broad shoulders to be able to tell what Harry had done, but apparently Malfoy was satisfied with it because he relaxed marginally. "Are you all right, Hermione?" Harry asked cautiously. "I'm fine Harry, he won't hurt me," she said, frustrated that Malfoy would let her actually see her friend to answer. She heard Harry's footsteps as he retreated down the hall in the opposite direction. "You can put me down now. I'm perfectly capable of -" "Liar," Malfoy interrupted. She grumbled in irritation, but sensed he may be right so she allowed him to continue. They were almost at the Head's dorm anyway. How he managed to get her inside the portrait hole without even jostling her was a mystery to her, but she was glad he managed it. "Go to sleep," he ordered as he set her on her bed. Briefly, she considered arguing just for argument's sake, but he gave her a look that told her he knew what she was thinking and wouldn't stand for it. She was so tired anyway... Her eyes drifted shut and she was asleep before he had even left the room.

The first thing she noticed was that her feet were cold. Immediately after that, she heard quiet breathingand the thumping sound of an increasingly familiar heartbeat. Cracking an eye open, she saw that someone was carrying her. "Malfoy, where are we going?" she asked, looking up to the face of the Veela. "Outside."
- 142 -

She shifted a little, making herself more comfortable in his arms. "Why?" His silver eyes darted down to look at her sharply. "What do you mean why? You crawled into my bed crying and wouldn't stop until I'd agreed to take you outside." Surprised, Hermione brought a hand up to her face and found that her cheeks were wet. Something strange was going on. His steps abruptly stopped. "You really don't remember doing that?" Hermione went over the last thing she could remember, which was snuggling down under her covers and going to sleep. She could feel Malfoy going over the memory with her. A flash of a gruesome scene appeared in her mind. It was a fragment of the nightmare she'd had while she slept, appearing in that foggy way dreams had during waking hours. Malfoy must have seen it along with her because he suddenly went completely still. "What is it?" Hermione whispered, not sure she wanted the answer. Something about what he'd seen in her head was making him very agitated; his body was practically rigid against her. "How long have you been having these bad dreams?" His voice was tightly controlled, which was a waste of effort because she could feel that he was agitated. She thought back, trying to remember when the first one had happened. It had been while she was living in the Head dorms, so not that long ago... "I think they started not long after I moved into the Head dorms. Why are you so worried about them?" He didn't answer, instead turning and hurrying through the corridors towards their dorm. "I can walk you know," Hermione grumbled. If he was going to treat her like a child and ignore her questions, then the least he could do was let her walk on her own. "I'm not treating you like a child, I'll answer any questions you ask when I actually
- 143 -

have answers instead of only suspicions." Now he was answering her thoughts instead of her words. She frowned and tried to wiggle out of his arms. If he was in her thoughts, then he knew that she hated feeling like he was the one with all the answers and she was only a pawn along for the ride. It wasn't nice of him to make her feel useless when just walking beside him instead of being carried could solve some of the problem. "It makes me feel better to know you're safe against me. Allow me that?" he asked. There was a hint of pleading in the question that caught her attention. Her struggling stopped, but her glare didn't. "I don't like being left in the dark." For the second time in two days, he was carrying her back to the Head dorms. It was starting to become a routine thing for them and needed to stop. "I don't see why it has to; I enjoy holding you." Hermione scowled fiercely, but he just smirked fondly down at her. They entered the Head dorms and he laid her down on the sofa. Immediately, she pulled herself in a sitting position and looked at him expectantly until he joined her. He had answers and she was going to get them out of him. "Tell me what it is you think is causing my dreams." He sighed. "I think it's this curse that's trying to kill us. If my suspicions are correct, it's getting creative with the ways it tries." A shudder of horror went through her at his words. That curse brought a whole new meaning to the term cruel and unusual punishment. Her parents had always grounded her on those rare occasions when she misbehaved, not left her to a painful death should she disobey their order. "My family has always been a controlling lot. They're big on the obedience," Malfoy said. She inched closer until their shoulders were touching. Grabbing his arm, she pulled it around her shoulders and snuggled against his side, trying to dispel the cold feeling of dread in her chest. Malfoy's presence didn't make everything feel better like it should have; their situation had become too complicated for a comforting presence to make everything seem okay.
- 144 -

"I'm sure Bill will have the answer and we'll be able to break this curse," she said with false confidence. Malfoy's doubt was wrapped around him like a blanket, but he nodded nonetheless and tightened his hold on her.

- 145 -

Chapter 16
Chapter 16 A/N: Hello readers, it's been a while! Sorry about the wait... It's just that I'm quite busy right now as are both the beta readers for this story, so the updates might take a tad longer than before. Also, I've been having computer trouble again! Gah. I swear it hates me. If it could move, it would probably strangle me in my sleep. Anyway! Thanks to all the lovely people who took the time to review and thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! I've been informed air kisses are better than hugs (and make me look slightly less crazy when directed towards my computer) so, *airkisses* ~Frosty "Do your friends never leave you the bloody hell alone?" Malfoy grumbled the next morning when a banging on the portrait pulled them from slumber. They had fallen asleep curled up on the sofa in the common room after their little excursion in the middle of the night. He glared towards the portrait; maybe the moron on the other side would feel how unwelcome they were and make the wise choice to leave. Immediately. "How do you know it's my friends and not yours?" she asked, her voice still rough from sleep. "Mine know I won't open the door before noon, and if I do, they'll wish I hadn't." With a tired grumble, she extracted herself from his hold and was ready to go to the door when he stopped her with an arm around her waist. "You sit on the sofa and rest until you're completely healed," he ordered sternly. Hermione relaxed back against the still-warm cushions and listened to his footsteps as he crossed the room and opened the portrait. "What do you want, Weaselette?" he snarled. At his voice, Hermione poked her head up over the back of the sofa and started to
- 146 -

stand up to go see her friend. Malfoy stopped her with a growl and a warning look. "You stay there," he ordered Hermione. His sharp eyes whipped back to the waiting Weasley. "You come in." "What brings you here this morning?" Hermione asked her friend as the redhead, with a bemused expression on her face, skirted around Malfoy. "Bill got back to me this morning. He said that if it's already made a try on each of your lives by causing serious accidents, you have some time before it'll try again. There's something he needs to check about your curse first, and then he'll come here and take a look at the both of you," Ginny said. Hermione sighed with relief, glad that someone was going to look into the curse. She could tell that Malfoy felt the same. Some of the weight of responsibility had been lifted off of their shoulders with the promise of someone more capable of delving into the matter. "Did he give you an approximate time for when he'd be here?" The worry in her eyes may have abated slightly, but Hermione was still anxious to be free of the curse. "A few days," Ginny answered with an apologetic look. "Granger's life is in danger and your brother can't manage to drag himself away from-" Malfoy started on an angry rant. "Malfoy!" Hermione shouted. Bill was going out of his way to help them and all Malfoy could do was complain that it was going to take him a few days to be able to get to them. Draco glanced over his shoulder at her, looking irritated, but he stopped the tirade against Bill he'd been about to begin. The warning that had been implicit when she shouted her name was even more obvious as her thoughts broke through his anger. Ginny raised surprised eyebrows at Hermione. Never had she seen Malfoy just... concede like that. The Veela bond was just getting more and more impressive as she witnessed new aspects of it. It was also a little strange to see Malfoy watching her friend so... intently. "I'm just going to leave," Ginny said, looking between the two of them.
- 147 -

Hermione waved her goodbye from the sofa, fully aware that Malfoy probably wasn't going to let her up unless there was some sort of serious threat to her person. Malfoy ignored the redhead, shutting the portrait almost on her face. "That wasn't very nice, she went out of her way to tell us that she'd heard from her brother and you thank her by shutting the door in her face," Hermione scolded as he crossed the room and lifted her feet to sit under them. "You seem to agree with the saying 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all'. I was just doing what you wanted." Hermione glared. "I don't think the saying means that you should do rude things to people to make up for the horrible things you don't say." "You're going to have to choose your battles Granger."

If she was going to be forced to sit around all day while there were classes going on, Hermione insisted that Malfoy attend those classes and bring her all of the work she was going to miss. It had taken some encouragement - he'd been quite taken with the idea of spending the entire day relaxing with her - but she'd managed to get him out of the portrait hole. Your friends keep shooting me looks like they think I've locked you in a tower somewhere, Malfoy complained in her head. She rolled her eyes. That's essentially what you've done. Yes, but it's for your own good. I'm sure that's what the evil witch told Rapunzel as well. Malfoy made what equated to a mental sigh and turned his attention back to what the teacher was saying. She could feel the shift in his attention and allowed hers to drift as well. Her back was feeling stiff from too much time spent sitting on the sofa. If she wasn't going to be doing much moving that day, then she might as well be stretched out on her bed where it was more comfortable.
- 148 -

On the third stair from the top, her foot slipped and she fell to her knees, hitting her shins and letting out a groan of pain. Immediately, Malfoy was back in her head with wordless questions, asking if she was all right. I just slipped and bumped my legs, pay attention to class, she ordered him. She wasn't normally so clumsy, so she could only assume she was going to have to be more careful if the curse was going to turn everyday events into accidents waiting to happen. As she was getting into her bed, she somehow managed to bump her hip on her nightstand. She quickly reassured Malfoy once again that she was fine and tried to sleep. The Veela didn't rush away from class to make sure she was all right, but he did leave as soon as he was allowed and came straight to the Head Dorms. Not finding her on the sofa, he delved further into their living space, searching for her. Hermione was half asleep when her door creaked open. She blinked herself awake as Malfoy ran a gentle hand over the bruises that had formed on her shins. Abruptly, he stood and started pacing back and forth, alternating between anger and distress. He started muttering to himself as Hermione watched, bewildered. "We're sitting ducks! We can only wait until something else horrible happens. What if one of us dies?" Hermione stayed quiet, only following him with her eyes while she listened to his ranting. When he stopped speaking and continued pacing, she stood from the bed and stepped into his path. She wrapped her arms around his middle, burying her face in his chest. His agitation had his heartbeat up, and he was tensed to pounce on the next person who dared to displease him. Malfoy wasn't handling the stress well at all. "It'll be all right," she said soothingly as her hands made light patterns on his back. The Veela relaxed marginally against her, but some tension still remained. "Nothing's all right." Hermione pulled away from him abruptly. If she wasn't going to be able to calm him, then she was going to have to distract him, take his mind off of what was
- 149 -

bothering the both of them. "What's your favourite dessert?" He was confused, but she was his mate and he wouldn't deny her something he could so easily give. "Strawberries on shortcake with whipped cream." Her eyebrows rose in surprise; she hadn't thought he would choose something involving fresh fruit. Malfoy had always seemed the type to like something complicated or expensive as his favourite dessert. "Wait here, I'll go to the kitchen and get some," she said, moving towards the door. "Is this an attempt to get my mind off of this damned curse?" Hermione smiled. "Will it work?" He thought about it. "It might. You're not going to the kitchens to get the food though." He snapped his fingers and a House Elf appeared. "Bring us two servings of shortcake with strawberries and whipped cream." At Hermione's stern look, he grudgingly added a "please" to the end of his request. They moved downstairs to wait for their treats. Almost as soon as they reached the sofa, the House Elf was back with the requested desserts. Hermione smiled her thanks to the creature and sat cross-legged on the floor so she could use the coffee table to hold her plate. She placed Malfoy's down beside her and looked over to him. The expression on his face told her that eating while seated on the floor wasn't something he frequently attempted. "Don't be so uptight. Just sit with me on the floor," she told him, knowing it would spur him into joining her to prove he wasn't 'uptight'. Turning back to her dessert to allow him time without her looking on to work out whether he wanted to sit, Hermione found that it looked even more delicious than it had in her imagination. The House Elves had really outdone themselves. The shortcake was piled high with plump, red strawberries and the cream was pure white. Scooping bit up with her finger, she found that the whipped cream was fresh and sweet.
- 150 -

Much like a cat, Draco waited until her attention was elsewhere before he joined her on the floor, awkwardly crossing his legs under him and resting his back against the sofa. "I don't appreciate the cat comparison Granger. This isn't the first time either," he grumbled. "I feel like a-" there was a pause as he tried to figure out the perfect word for what sitting on the floor did to him. "Commoner?" Hermione offered with an amused twist of her lips. He let her feel his irritation, but didn't comment, instead turning his attention to the dessert. It took effort, but Hermione didn't think about the similarity between his actions and Crookshanks when he was angry with her. Smiling as she took a bite of the delicious dessert, Hermione bumped him with her shoulder as encouragement to lighten up a little. She thought of an amusing idea and picked up a strawberry with her fingers and popped it into her mouth. "If you really want to feel common, try eating with your fingers." The cake was crumbly and a little sticky, but she managed to rip off a piece without making a mess of her hands. He watched her with a mix of horror and rapt attention as she dipped the chunk of cake in the whipped cream, placed another strawberry on top, and then put the entire mess of it in her mouth. "Your turn," Hermione said, still grinning at him. Hesitantly, Malfoy stretched out a long finger, gathered a scoop of whipped cream and brought it to his mouth. After that first little sampling, he seemed to get over his aversion to touching his food with his fingers and starting eating with less hesitation. He was saying something - she could tell that much - but for the life of her, she just couldn't focus on his words. Instead, what had her attention was the spot of whipped cream on his face near the corner of his mouth. Her eyes were transfixed on that spot of pure white against the paleness of his skin. Before she knew what she was doing, she had leant in, grabbed the back of his head and pulled him close so she could lick off the sugary treat. He stayed perfectly still and allowed the contact, slightly startled but not entirely unsurprised. As soon as her tongue was no longer in contact with his skin, she pulled away, mortified.
- 151 -

"I'm sorry," she squeaked, covering her mouth with both of her hands and blushing like a tomato. Just barely stopping herself from scuttling away and hiding from him, she hesitantly met his stare. His cool grey eyes were contemplating her, not looking in the least offended. "I was wondering how long it would take for you to be compelled as well," he said smugly. Hermione tried to get her brain working enough to remember what he was talking about. He wasn't upset? From the way he was speaking, she gathered that he'd almost expected something similar to happen. "Now that we're bonded, I'm more compelled to be with you and you're going to become increasingly compelled to be with me," he explained, answering the roiling questions in her thoughts. "You've been having urges like that since we bonded? How can you resist them?" Hermione had always thought that she had decent willpower, but she had been helpless to resist licking him once the idea had popped into her head. The strange, irresistible desire to put her tongue anywhere near Malfoy's person wasn't something she would have ever thought would be an issue to resist. Yet she'd been helpless against just that impulse. It seemed that everything had been turned upside down of late and nothing was as it had been. Sometimes, she didn't think being bound to Malfoy was worse than going back to her life before him. "You know I'll accept any contact you'll allow me because my Veela longs for you. I, on the other hand, know you won't welcome a kiss. You don't even like to let me sleep in your bed without extenuating circumstances." He looked away, hiding the sadness churning in his eyes, but the movement wasn't fast enough. Hermione watched the tense set of his shoulders, knowing he was hiding that he was upset. She'd been hurting him for a while and hadn't even known it. He'd hidden it well if she hadn't even been able to feel it from him through their bond. It wasn't right for him to look so sad. He was supposed to be arrogant, or smirking, or smug! Not all downtrodden because she'd been oblivious. She drew in a breath, smelling their delicious dessert and Malfoy's equally appealing scent. There was one way to cheer him up and deal with the strange draw she was experiencing at the same time...
- 152 -

"So... if I were to kiss you, I wouldn't have to worry about you pulling away in disgust?" she asked hesitantly. He looked at her like she'd just said something ludicrous. "Of course not, you're my ma-" Her lips pressed against his before he could finish the sentence. It wasn't like the last time they'd kissed, there hadn't been anything but chemistry behind the kisses before. This time, she'd developed an affection for him that somehow made her breathless after that first contact. There were still the fireworks she was beginning to expect, but they were accompanied by a slow-moving warmth that made her want to melt against him and never leave. As his hands wrapped around her and pulled her against him in an embrace she didn't even want to resist, her mind started wondering if it was the Veela or Malfoy who was kissing her. One of them wanted her because it had to and the other hated her because of her blood - or he had until very recently. Maybe she should reread some of the books and see what they said on the topic. Malfoy pulled away from her with a sigh, but didn't let her move back to her former seat, keeping her so close she was in his lap. "Are you really thinking about books while I kiss you?" He wasn't angry, but there was a hint of annoyance in the back of his obsidian orbs. She had the grace to blush. "I'm having trouble with your sudden change of heart about me. You have to understand how strange it is for me that you're not repulsed by my blood after you've made it so clear in the past how much you hated me for it. "It's... hard to have one part of you care about another person's safety more than your own and still have another part of you that hates that person for some arbitrary reason. Eventually, the stronger side's going to win out, and for me, the Veela was the stronger side. Much stronger." He must have sensed the slight doubt she still harboured, because he continued. "I bit you to solidify our bond, remember? Do you think I managed that without getting some of your blood in my mouth? I wouldn't have done that if I thought it was dirty." Her nod made her forehead brush against his shoulder. She hadn't realized that
- 153 -

she'd been leaning towards him as he spoke. Closing the rest of the distance and resting her cheek on him, she spoke to his neck. "Does it really bother you that I try to keep you out of my bed?" Her breath brushed across his skin, seeming to distract him from forming an answer for a moment. He visibly pulled himself together. "I hear every little shuffle and sigh you make as you sleep and it makes the Veela want to go to you. When I stop us, he gets restless and I don't sleep properly." Did she really want to offer what she was about to offer? Hermione took a moment to confirm that she was sure; it would be cruel to give him something he wanted and then take it away because she spoke rashly. "I'd be willing to let you share my bed if you can keep your hands to yourself." She blushed and pressed her face closer to his neck in an attempt to hide the colour spreading across her cheeks. "I'm not ready for..." He stopped her by twisting and placing a gentle kiss on her hair. "I know," he murmured. Then he said two words he'd only uttered a handful of times in his entire life and only meant them half of those times: "thank you."

- 154 -

Chapter 17
Chapter 17 A/N: Hello readers! Sorry this is a little later than normal, but I had an exam and then an essay due for my summer course and both the beta readers for this story are busy as well. But it's here now, so all is forgiven... right? A huge thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing and to everyone who reviewed! I can never remember if I killed Snape off or not. I had to actually check the first chapter of this story... It seems I didn't. In case you're wondering why this chapter is so long, there's an outtake of sorts that's stuck on the end of the actual chapter (I didn't want to tease you guys and post it separately, then you'd be all disappointed when you saw it wasn't a real chapter). It's not significant to the plot, so feel free to skip it. ~Frosty Draco woke up and stared at the ceiling. There was something different about the day and he'd only been awake for a moment. He felt well-rested and his Veela was practically overflowing with satisfaction. He also found that he was quietly purring. It was strange for him to wake up so contented. Glancing down, he smiled fondly - it wasn't something Malfoys usually did, but there was no one there to witness his tender moment. His light mood was due almost entirely to the petite brunette clutching his arm. In typical Gryffindor fashion, she'd been good to her word and allowed him into her bed for the night. At first, she had been awkward and uncomfortable, but she eventually fell asleep. If she knew he'd helped her along with some pheromones, she hadn't commented, and Draco wasn't planning on volunteering the information. True to his promise to keep his hands to himself, he hadn't reached out and brought her closer no matter how much he'd wanted to. However, when she had clutched his arm and hugged it between her breasts he hadn't pulled himself free. He also hadn't resisted the contact when she threw a leg over one of his and
- 155 -

brought herself even closer to him. By morning, she had managed to mould herself to his side, leaving no space between them. He liked sleeping Granger, she wasn't afraid to allow herself to snuggle against him. There were none of the doubts that would have prevented awake Granger from enjoying the contact. He'd been trying to avoid thinking of it, but if he survived past his next birthday, almost every morning for the rest of his life would be spent this way. It wasn't as horrible of a thought as he would have expected. In fact, the idea was almost appealing. He debated waking her up, but they still had time before classes, and he knew as soon as she was conscious, she'd kick him out of her room so she could get ready. He liked being in her room. It wasn't just that it smelled of Granger and made him feel at home, it was the spirit of the room itself. There was something feminine and kind in the very spirit of the place that called to him. Maybe he was projecting his impressions of Granger onto the space that was hers, or maybe a person can have an effect on the space they live in. If traumatic experiences could create a ghost or forever ruin a place, he didn't see why the reverse couldn't also be true. His eyes were drawn to her when she started making small noises of distress and wiggling against him. That was slightly distracting. Not wanting to wake her up, but unable to allow her distress to continue, he smoothed a hand down her hair making shushing sounds. He wasn't the comforting type, but he didn't want her to be upset, even in her sleep. His gentle touch didn't work, her distress elevated until she was thrashing around in the restraining circle of his arms. Draco was starting to get worried that she was going to hurt herself thrashing around. With a huge gasp, she freed herself from his grasp and jumped from the bed and across the room before she was even completely awake. She hung her head and hid her face in her hands as her shoulders shook. Slowly, so as not to startle her, Draco rose from the bed and walked over to her. With a gentle finger under her chin, he lifted her head so he could see her eyes. When he caught sight of her face, he froze in horror. Hermione felt his overwhelming worry and was confused. She'd only really known him for a little while, but he wasn't the type to get so distraught over nothing. Tears
- 156 -

warranted a little concern, but not what he was feeling. Not even a Veela should have so much worry over a little bad dream. She sniffled, trying to get a hold of herself so she could ask him what was wrong. At the moment she was too distraught to form coherent sentences. Before she could pull herself together, he was wiping off her tears with a shaking hand. Searching through her mind, she couldn't think of anything that had ever made Malfoy distraught enough to actually shake - and he had lived with Voldemort for a while. She started panicking. "Your tears," he whispered, showing her the black liquid staining his pale fingers. With wordless horror that matched his, she brought her own hand to her face and then examined it. Black. Her fingers were covered that same black liquid. They felt like normal tears, but they were completely opaque and solid black. "What's happening to me?" Her voice was trembling just as much as his fingers had. So fast that her eyes could barely follow the movement, he wrapped his arms around her shaking frame and pulled her to the bed into his lap. "I don't know, but we're going to find out and stop it," he said. The effect of his words was somewhat ruined by the slight wobble in his voice. Her strange tears had rattled him to the core. Veelas were fiercely protective of their mates, but how could he protect her from her own tears? "Do you think this is an effect of the curse?" Hermione asked, a little calmer. He was just as disturbed as she was, but for some reason, being in his arms made her feel better. Even if the position didn't actually make anything better, it made her feel like everything would be better eventually. "I think we should contact that Weasley and tell him to hurry his arse up," was his answer. "Better yet, we're going to hunt down a different Curse Breaker; someone who can help us now." The brunette took a deep breath and scrubbed at her eyes, afraid more black tears would fall. She shifted out of Malfoy's lap and stood up. "I've missed enough school because of this curse, I'm not letting it keep me from classes today. If we're leaving the school, it will be after the last class has finished or you can go alone," she said primly. The door was shutting behind her before he could voice an objection.
- 157 -

Merlin she bounced back fast. Draco was starting to understand what it was the differentiated a Gryffindor from a Slytherin: a complete disregard for personal safety mixed with a heaping dose of insanity.

Draco walked into the Potion's classroom feeling gloomy. The knowing looks Blaise kept sending him implied the other Slytherin thought he was sulking - he wasn't! He just thought it wasn't a good idea for Granger to be in a room with a bunch of idiots and an array of combustible ingredients when they had a curse doing everything in its power to destroy them. They might as well just bring the Dark Lord back, hand over their wands and tell him to take his best shot. Maybe Snape would give them something nice and harmless to make and for once Finnegan would manage to get through an entire class without making something explode. Draco scowled; and maybe Hagrid would magically sprout a duck bill and declare himself a new species of platypus. "Today you're making the Draught of Liquid Fire," Snape announced, making Draco cringe. That didn't sound like something harmless. Not noticing Draco's inner turmoil, Snape continued. "If any of you actually read the chapters for today's class, you would know what this potion does. Hand down Miss Granger, I didn't ask a question," he added without even glancing at her raised hand. "This potion is highly explosive. You put it in magically sealed glass vials, shake it, and throw it into the air. The effect is similar to that of Muggle fireworks for those of you who have seen them." The Potions professor didn't look particularly happy to be making the Muggle reference, but the school had been making a conscious effort to include more Muggle culture in the classes that didn't deal directly with the subject in an effort to increase tolerance. Snape obviously wasn't a supporter of the school's efforts. This wasn't really a surprise to anyone, Snape wasn't really a strong supporter of anything. The class lapsed into silence as the page numbers they needed appeared on the board. "What are you waiting for?" Snape snapped. Draco watched as Granger wove through the students all rushing to sit with their partners. She plopped down beside him without comment and immediately started organising her ingredients.

- 158 -

"I don't think it's a good idea for us to be here," he whispered. Hermione glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. The Veela was looking at the relatively harmless ingredients she was lining up in front of her as if they were something volatile just waiting to explode. She could feel his worry, but how much trouble could she really get into during one little potion's class? With obvious reluctance, Malfoy lit a fire under his cauldron and filled it with water. Too lazy to open his own book, he glanced over at the one Hermione already had opened to the correct page. She could feel Malfoy's intent stare focused on her fingers as she carefully chopped some of the ingredients. She liked to keep the knife she used for potions sharp to save time in the preparation stage, but it was working against her at the moment because was more dangerous to her sharp than it would be dull. "Granger, I think you should let me chop the ingredients," Malfoy said in a pained voice. His eyes didn't leave her fingers so near the sharp blade for a moment. It was like he thought he'd be able to stop an accident by watching. She glared at him. "I'm perfectly capable of dicing this without slicing my fing-" her sentence broke off in a hiss of pain. The chopping had continued as she'd glared at him and the knife had slipped and nicked one of her fingers. Immediately, Malfoy snatched the knife from her and set it on his side of the desk. He seemed to think that it was going to injure her again of its own accord if she wasn't distanced from it. "We need to go to the hospital wing," he said, reaching out and gently taking the hand she's cut. Hermione watched a single drop of blood fall from the small slice in her finger and raised an eyebrow at the Veela. "I've had paper cuts deeper than this," she dismissed, pulling her hand from him and putting the sliced finger in her mouth. The blond still looked like he wanted to throw her over his shoulder and drag her to get medical attention before she lost another whole drop of her precious blood. For someone who had lived through some pretty gruesome Quidditch injuries and a war, he was awfully worked up over one little cut. You keep forgetting I'm in your head, don't you? Malfoy's voice asked in her mind. Outwardly, he was avoiding eye contact and chopping ingredients. She blushed, feeling a little guilty about forgetting he could hear her thoughts and
- 159 -

then thinking something less than charitable about him when he was only concerned about her safety. Just because he was over reacting didn't mean there wasn't some real danger hidden behind his exaggerated worries. Pulling the injured finger out of her mouth, she showed it to him. "Look, it's not even bleeding anymore." His eyes slid over to take a quick look, but he didn't acknowledge her further. "You're going to pout because I thought you were overreacting?" she asked in disbelief. "I can censor my words, but my thoughts are more difficult." The silent treatment continued. Hermione huffed in annoyance and started adding the piles of ingredients Malfoy had been chopping into the cauldron. They worked in silence until the entire potion was complete. She poked Malfoy in the ribs as he cleaned off his working area with a wave of his wand. The Veela understood her meaning. "It's not our potion I was worried about; we're in a room full of idiots who still have plenty of time to make something explode." Just as he finished speaking, there was a warning shout from the other side of the classroom. He barely had time to throw himself on top of Hermione before there was a splash of potion that washed over him. Luckily, it was a complete potion that had already been subjected to a cooling charm so it wasn't a boiling potentially dangerous potion. "Malfoy?" Hermione asked in a worried whisper. "I'm fine," he mumbled. There were a few gasps from around the room as he raised his head up to look at her. It seemed that he's been worked up enough about the possibility of the potion hitting her that his eyes were black. Hermione could see feathers over his shoulders, so she knew his wings were back as well. When she looked back to his face, she snorted with laughter. "What?" he asked, slowly getting off of her and offering her a hand to help her up. "Your eyebrows are escaping," she said. Reaching up, she captured his eyebrows,
- 160 -

which had somehow been transformed into twin caterpillars that were wandering off towards his ears. They tickled in her hand with their wriggling as she tried to keep a hold on them. "Professor, I think we need to go to the hospital wing," Hermione called. She received a curt nod in reply; Snape was set on scolding the pair who had ruined their potion. Apparently, the Potions professor thought Malfoy should have exploded into a burst of sparkling flame the moment the potion came into contact with his skin. Hermione was thankful some of her classmates were complete failures at Potions, but Snape seemed rather put out that they were "such spectacular examples of incompetence". Draco stalked from the room, muttering his agreement to Snape's tirade against the idiots. Disturbed by the wiggling of eyebrow caterpillars in her hand, Hermione hurried after him. By the time they'd arrived at the Hospital Wing, Draco had calmed enough for his less human characteristics to have faded back to normal. It was busy, so Hermione was shooed out of the room to make space for the students with actual magical injuries. She handed Malfoy his eyebrows and headed off to wait for him in the Head's common room.

While waiting for the Mediwitch to fix his eyebrows back where they belonged, Draco noticed something strange. His Veela wasn't in the back of his head telling him he should go find Granger and see how she was doing. The Veela was always in the back of his mind wondering where Granger was and if she was comfortable. It was like a part of him had gone missing. Worried, Draco retreated into his mind and mentally poked the dormant Veela. Could this be a symptom of their bond souring? He'd thought everything had been going fine with Granger, evidently he'd been mistaken. He scowled and tried to think of what it was that could have changed since she left him at the Hospital Wing. Could there have been a side-effect to the potion he'd been bathed in besides the loss of his eyebrows? The rest of his visit to the Hospital Wing passed by in a blur as he tried to wake the Veela part of him. It was strange for him to be without the presence in his mind. Not so long ago he would have been thankful to be free from the prissy magical creature that forced him to do nice things, but that was before he'd come to accept and even embrace it.
- 161 -

As soon as he was dismissed, he rushed to the Head Dorms to see what he could find in the Veela books. He was hoping for some kind of simple explanation that wasn't the corruption of their bond. Granger seemed to have been waiting on the other side of the portrait hole. When he burst into the room, he nearly bowled right over her. He wrapped one arm around her and flung the other one out to press against the wall, steadying them both. "Merlin Granger, are you trying to kill me?" he asked without any real venom. She ignored the comment; she could feel that something wasn't right with him. Her small hands pressed on either side of his face as her eyes searched his. "What's the matter?" Draco had been about to answer when he realized something monumental: his Veela was dormant, yet he had still caught her without thought, was still holding her against himself. Without his Veela, he was Malfoy and she was Granger and they shouldn't be comfortable so close to one another. Yet... he couldn't bring himself to pull away from her touch. "Why do you feel so troubled?" Hermione persisted. "I think my Veela's gone dormant or something. I can feel it in my head, but he isn't trying to influence my actions anymore." "You actually haven't noticed, have you?" Hermione asked with dawning understanding. "Haven't noticed what?" "You've changed since the whole Veela thing started. You're more... kind. It's like your Veela is working subconsciously to influence you instead of trying to bully you into acting the way it wants." He frowned. "I don't think that's the case; I think he was trying to show me something." The damned Veela was trying to show him that he couldn't blame it for every kind feeling he had towards Granger. He may have to start accepting that he liked her without the interference of his magical blood.
- 162 -

There was a relatively simple way to find out, but he wasn't certain he wanted to know for sure. Liking Granger without his Veela there meant that he was over the whole blood prejudice thing. Their years of animosity would be gone and he wouldn't be able to claim it was his Veela side alone was being hopelessly romantic anymore. Draco looked down at the girl in his arms. She was staring up at him with a questioning and mildly worried expression. He took a deep breath; if his Veela came back and he hadn't tried this, then he would forever wonder if it was just the magical influence. "Why are you so apprehensive?" Granger asked him, unable to read the expression on his face, but picking up on his emotions. He pulled her closer, bent his head, and kissed her. A/N: That's the end of this chapter. This next bitwaspart of the next chapter (most of it, actually), but I took it out because it was too out of character. I'm giving it to you now because some of you were curious what would happen if Hermione got her period. So, if you decide to read the stuff after this note, know that it NEVER HAPPENED and is only here for your amusement. Also, it's not betaed or really edited because it's not part of the story. Outtake Hermione pressed a hand to her stomach and glanced at the calendar. She wasn't going to be feeling well for the next few days. It occurred to her that it was entirely possible Malfoy was going to experience the symptoms right along with her. Lovely, she was going to get to explain to the Veela that he was experiencing pains because she had her period. Mortified at the thought, Hermione shut herself in her bedroom. She'd have a nice, quiet day curled around a hot water bottle reading and avoiding the Veela for as long as possible. The longer she could prolong the awkward explanation, the better. She felt him send her a questioning feeling and panicked. Later, she would have no idea how she managed it, but she reflexively twisted something in her mind that allowed her to block him out. The peace and quiet in her own head was at first a relief, but then rapidly started to become a gaping hole where there was an obvious piece missing. It made her feel empty to not have a small piece of his consciousness there with her, making sure she was happy and occasionally providing snarky comments about her friends.
- 163 -

Just as she was turning the last page of chapter one in her book, there was a knock on her door. "Granger, why do you hurt? And why have you locked me out of your mind?" he called through her door. His voice wasn't panicked or angry yet, but he didn't sound happy. "I'm fine Malfoy," she answered, ignoring his questions. There was silence on the other side of the door, but Hermione knew he hadn't left because she could still see his shadow in the crack where the wood ended just above the carpet. She stopped her reading and stilled as she listened to him, wondering what he was going to do next. A thump and then the sound of fabric rustling came from the corridor. The shadow under her door suddenly got bigger as Malfoy leant back against the wood and slid to the floor. "What can I do to make us stop feeling like this?" he asked. Hermione winced; he sounded as miserable as she felt and it was entirely her fault. She tried to think of something that would make her feel better. As soon as she'd arrived back at her room, she'd popped a few painkillers to dull the pain, but they weren't working as well as she'd hoped. What she really needed was another female to sympathise - and possibly bring some chocolate ice cream. "Can you get Ginny?" She would have to ask the redhead to get her the ice cream; if she asked Malfoy to bring it to her, he'd just get the House Elves to do it, and she didn't want to make them do more work than they had to. Malfoy sighed from the other side of the door, but he made a sound of assent and pulled himself to his feet.

Outside the Gryffindor portrait was no place for any self-respecting Slytherin to linger. Draco glared at what he could only describe as a painted horror. Visually, she wasn't entirely offensive -if he was being generous- but her attitude tipped the scales to the side of repulsive. When he'd fist knocked on her portrait she'd made such a fuss that he considered just blasting her off of her hinges and entering, but he'd had a feeling that Granger
- 164 -

wouldn't exactly be pleased with that course of action. Instead, he'd chosen to ignore her protests and continue knocking until someone opened the painting. Luckily, it had been an easily intimidated first year who was more than willing to agree to fetch the She-Weasel if it meant that he could escape the terrifying gaze of the Head Boy. "What do you want Malfoy?" the redhead demanded the second she saw the Slytherin leaning against the wall opposite the Fat Lady. "Granger's locked herself in her room and won't come out. She said you would make her feel better, though I don't see what she expects you to do about the stomach pains. Do you know what's wrong with her?" The She-Weasel raised her pale eyebrows at him and gave him a knowing smile that set him on edge. The bint knew what was wrong with his mate and the glint in her eyes said she wasn't going to tell him what it was until she'd spoken to Granger. Pressing a hand against his abdomen in an effort to ease the pain, Draco led the way to the Head Dorms. Immediately upon entering the Head's quarters, the female Weasley disappeared into Granger's room and shut the door behind her, almost hitting Draco in the nose as he tried to follow. He glared fiercely at the offending piece of wood. Since no one was there to see, he indulged himself in a pout. His mate had some mysterious problem that was hurting him and making the both of them miserable and she wouldn't even tell him what was wrong. He was just working his way up to a pout of epic proportions when the door clicked open. Quickly, he schooled his face into an irritated frown. He didn't want the She-Weasel to report back to the Gryffindors that he pouted. Draco watched warily as the redhead came out of Granger's bedroom looking entirely too amused for whatever dire situation was keeping his mate away from him. In fact, the She-Weasel looked like she was trying to hold back laughter. "Congratulations Malfoy, you've become a woman now," she gasped out before melting into giggles at the expression on his face. "What the bloody hell are you talking about?" he demanded. She restrained her mirth. "Hermione - and, by extension, you - are experiencing
- 165 -

the discomfort that can accompany menstruation." He titled his head to the side, still not seeming to comprehend what she was saying. "She has her period and you're feeling the cramps as well!" Ginny practically yelled, fed up with the blond idiot. Hermione groaned from the other side of the locked door. "Thanks for sharing that with the entire castle Ginny," she called. The redhead shrugged, completely unabashed. She moved to leave, but decided to impart some last minute advice upon the Veela first. "Just try not to antagonize her; she'll be a little touchy for a while." An evil grin spread across her face. "It's not like you have some sort of history of getting on her nerves or anything. You should be fine." Draco paled and glanced at the door warily.

Opening the portrait hole, the blond ran a wary eye over his guest. "I'd come back in a week if I were you," Draco warned. "You can't stop us from visiting Hermione!" Harry said loud enough for Hermione to hear. Draco shook his head. "I'm not trying to stop you, I'm just telling you that it might be best if you didn't see her right now." "Why not?" The blond hesitated, unsure if she could hear the conversation he was having. "She's a little... on edge right now." Hermione's shrill yell could be clearly heard in the corridor. "I will not let hormones dictate my mood!" "Of course not," Draco soothed. Harry stared at the blond with large eyes. He knew how Hermione could get
- 166 -

sometimes. "Ginny gives her a glass of hot chocolate and a hug when she gets like this. Sometimes she bursts into tears, but she always feels better after." Draco nodded his thanks, relieved that he could do something for his distressed mate. Never in his life had he been so thankful that he had a penis.

- 167 -

Chapter 18
Chapter 18 A/N: Yes, yes. I know I'm a bad person. But look! Another chapter! As always, thanks to the wonderful Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! And to all you lovely reviewers! I'm still in shock every time I see how many reviews this story has received... So thanks! ~Frosty He pulled her closer, bent his head, and kissed her. Hermione would have preferred an explanation that involved words, but she quickly got over her unsatisfied curiosity as Malfoy pulled her closer. She relaxed against his familiar warmth and responded to the insistent movement of his lips. Her hands were just threading into his hair to bring his face even nearer when he pulled back. "Do I get an actual explanation now?" she asked, almost irritated that he'd pulled away just when things were getting interesting. If he wasn't going to give her an actual answer and he wasn't going to kiss her again, she was going to hex him. Malfoy must have heard that thought, because he twisted his lips twisted into a wry smirk before explaining. "My Veela's dormant, yet I kissed you. I kissed you and I enjoyed it - a lot. In fact, I'd like to do it again." Hermione blinked. She was starting to understand what it was that had him on edge. It almost made her feel bad that the same thing that was bothering him actually soothed some of the apprehension she'd been feeling about them as a couple. He enjoyed kissing her without his Veela blood forcing him to do so. His attraction to her was genuine, and it seemed that some of his affection for her was as well if the way he was holding her was any indication. He had automatically caught her and steadied the both of them when they had collided moments before. Only months ago, he probably would have watched her fall and mocked her for her clumsiness. The impression she'd gained from seeing into his mind was only strengthened by his actions. "Would it upset you if I said I'm happy this is happening?" Hermione asked
- 168 -

hesitantly when it became apparent that he wasn't going to elaborate. He pursed his lips, contemplating what he felt about her question. After quickly scanning through her thoughts on the matter, he understood what she meant. There was no maliciousness behind the thought, and she was upset that his turmoil served to comfort some of her worries. He couldn't seem to find it in herself to be upset with her. Hermione felt the change in his mood and knew she was forgiven. "Can we finish that kiss now?" she asked. As much as he wanted to spend the day kissing her and just basking in her presence, he'd come across her memories from that morning while he'd been in her head. There was no way he was going to let her just live in fear like that if there was anything he could do to help. They needed to get to a curse breaker before something irreversible happened. He held her tight and placed a gentle peck against her mouth. "I'll kiss you all you want when we have this curse off of us. Right now, we need to find someone to get rid of the curse that's trying to kill us before it actually succeeds." To someone who didn't know him, the look in his cold grey eyes would be threatening, or at least disconcerting. Hermione, however, was familiar with him and his expressions; she could see the worry hidden in his stare. He was trying to cover it with his trademark hostility, but it was there. "You're not going to let me go so I can attend the rest of my classes, are you?" Hermione asked with a resigned sigh. The arms wrapped around her stopped being something of comfort and changed into a restraining force as they tightened slightly. He regarded her with a closed look that told her she was completely right. His arms loosened to rest at the small of her back so he could talk to her easier. "St. Mungo's has a curse breaker on staff. I hear the bloke's work is mediocre at best, but it might not be a complete waste of time. At least we'll be doing something instead of going to class as if we didn't both come dangerously close to death in the last few days." She tugged herself out of his grasp. There was no way she would be able to sit in their classes and pretend to be focusing on her work while she felt Malfoy worry what she'd slip and impale herself with a quill or have some other, equally ridiculous accident. "McGonagall can give us permission to Floo-"
- 169 -

"That'll take too long. C'mon Granger, live a little," the blond admonished. His arms want back around her as he pulled her to the fire. He chose not to acknowledge the fact that she thought he worried she was going to injure herself with a quill. Although now that he thought about it, those points were awfully sharp. They were stumbling out into the waiting room of St. Mungo's before she even had time to voice her objections. Draco was sure she had numerous inconsequential objections about breaking school rules or not having an appointment at the hospital. If she was going to be a Malfoy, then she was going to have to get over such silly worries. He paused. She was his mate, she was his. One day, she was going to be his wife. Not so long ago, marriage terrified him, but that was when he was going to have to marry some vapid Pureblood. He was looking forward to marrying Granger one day. They just had to survive the curse first. "The fireplace in the Head's common room shouldn't be hooked up to the Floo network," she protested feebly, disregarding the fact that they had just used it to get to the hospital. "My parents aren't the most trusting pair, particularly after that little stunt the school pulled while you were in the Hospital Wing. You didn't think they'd leave us without a way to escape should we ever need it, did you?" He didn't wait for a response. Instead, he turned his attention to a passing Mediwizard. "I need a curse breaker," he said. The Mediwizard ran his eyes over the pair of them coolly. They were both still wearing their school uniforms, which didn't exactly inspire respect or fear. "I don't care. And I won't care for another-" he looked at his watch "- fifteen minutes. I'm on break, check in at the desk and someone will be with you shortly," the man dismissed without even turning to fully look at them. Hermione sensed Malfoy's anger with the man and was a little worried. He was already on edge from his helplessness against the curse, and his temper was more easily frayed than usual. Really, he was a ticking time-bomb. "Malfoy," she said in warning, but it came too late. The blond had already grabbed a handful of the Healer's green robes and lifted him so they were nose-to-nose.
- 170 -

"Malfoy!" Hermione said again, more frantically. She could see hospital security heading their way and knew Malfoy would cause a scene should they try and force him to release the Mediwizard. Veelas didn't appreciate it when people tried to restrain them, particularly when their Veela side was in control. "Draco," she pleaded, hoping his mother had been right about using his first name. The Veela dropped the Healer and looked at her in surprise. "You called me Draco." It seemed Narcissa had been completely right about her son. Hermione wondered what other tidbits of advice the blonde woman could have. Narcissa had certainly had time to get some insights into the mind of a Malfoy male - hell, she'd raised one. She made a mental note to ask later. Hermione pasted on a fake smile for the benefit of the approaching security guard. "Yes, I did. I needed to get your attention. Now help the nice Healer to his feet before security comes and kicks us out." He didn't look happy about it, but Malfoy did as she asked. "What did you need the curse breaker for?" the Mediwizard asked, darting wary looks at Malfoy while he addressed Hermione. He'd obviously decided she was the reasonable one who could give him the answers he was looking for. "A curse is trying to kill us both," Hermione said simply, not wanting to get into details in such a public place. The Malfoys had enough darkness to their name already; they didn't need something else to blacken it. The man nodded. "I'm Healer Reese, the on-staff curse breaker. If you would step into the examining room, I'll be back in a few minutes and take a look at you." He indicated a door. Hermione and Draco shared a glance. She shrugged and entered the room Healer Reese had shown them. It was a standard examining room; a few chairs and a sink with the required exam table covered in crinkly paper. There were jars of tongue depressors and cotton balls on display and the air smelled of industrial antiseptics. It was different from her parent's offices, but the smell was the same. The hospital atmosphere that disturbed so many people reminded her of her childhood playing in her parent's offices of their dental
- 171 -

practice. That same atmosphere that disturbed many people was actually almost comforting for her. "You called me Draco," the blond said again while Hermione climbed up onto the table, the paper making all kinds of noise. "I said I needed to get your attention. It got your attention." Her answer seemed to be the end of their conversation. Malfoy came over and leant against the table beside her as she swung her feet, bumping her heels against the cold metal of the base. They sat in a comfortable silence while they waited. "Hermione," Malfoy said slowly. It was as if he was trying a new dessert for the first time and wanted to thoroughly savour all the flavours. She did her best to suppress a shiver of pleasure, but didn't think she quite managed. Malfoy sent her a knowing look that confirmed her suspicions. The stupid prat knew exactly what he was doing! Hermione huffed in irritation, but wasn't going to start that sort of competition, particularly in such a public place. "What sort of competition would that be?" he asked in a falsely innocent voice. The smirk he was wearing completely ruined the effect. Hermione really needed to invest in some Occulmency. "That would just take the fun out it, wouldn't it?" "For you," she mumbled, shooting him a half-hearted glare. Their attention turned to the door as the Healer entered the room in a whoosh of air that smelled of cigarette smoke. "You made us wait here while you nipped out for a fag?" Malfoy asked in disbelief. Before he could start abusing the poor Mediwizard again, Hermione laid a calming hand on the Veela's arm. "He's willing to help us. He can have all the cigarette breaks he wants," she admonished. Her attention turned to the Healer. "Why are you willing to help us after Draco attacked you in the hall?" The man shrugged. "Honestly, you two are interesting. Your case is even more so. Do you have any idea how many idiotic parents leave their wands where their children can reach them? Many. The mind of a toddler isn't a complicated place.
- 172 -

They want toys, shiny things, and their damned apple juice, and the curses they manage to cast reflect those wants. You have no idea how many of those idiot parents end up on my exam table because they spout apple juice every time they open their mouths." Hermione wasn't sure what she could say to that, so she kept her mouth shut. She shot a look at Malfoy that told him he should do the same. "Tell me everything you know about your curse," the Mediwizard said. He sat down in a chair and pulled out a file, quill poised to write. Hermione explained about Lucius and his Muggle friend when they were children and how the curse seemed to have intensified when it passed on to Draco. The more she explained, the more excited the Healer appeared, which Hermione was starting to understand didn't bode well for her. The man tapped the feathery end of his quill against his lips while he thought. "Have you considered... not being together?" "Not an option," Malfoy insisted coldly and without hesitation. Hermione nodded her agreement. "I assumed that would be the case." Healer Reese looked between the pair, unsure if the blond one was going to be able to restrain himself from attacking him for a second time. "I'm going to need to examine you both," he said with a wary glance at the blond again. Neither of them objected, so he brought out his wand and cast several diagnostic spells. Hermione waited in silence as she tried to stand perfectly still. She wasn't sure if the spells would malfunction if she shifted, but she didn't want to take the chance that she'd have to go through the spells again. Malfoy's Veela may have been dormant, but it still didn't like someone pointing their wand at him and his mate. She could feel his agitation and didn't want a repeat of what had happened in the hall. The Healer made some notes and muttered to himself, scratching something out and then scribbling furiously.
- 173 -

"I need you to stand at the other side of the room," he said to Hermione. She shot a glance at Malfoy to make sure he was going to let her move without a fuss. So minutely that the Healer probably didn't even notice, the Veela nodded. Taking a few steps to get to the other side of the relatively small room, she turned around to face the Veela. She was about to ask 'what now?' when the Mediwizard reached out and touched her forehead with his wand. It wasn't a threatening gesture, but Malfoy took it as such. With a flurry of motion and feathers, Malfoy was across the room and had her in his arms. In an effort to completely shield her from view, he wrapped his wings around her as well. He made sure to leave them open enough that he could see the Healer still in case the man planned on making any other moves. "I thought there was something off about your relationship," the Healer said smugly. "What are you, a Veela?" He didn't sound intimidated in the least by Malfoy, which was a mistake. Hermione tried to turn around in Malfoy's arms to see the Healer, but she was met with a wall of feathers, not being tall enough to see. In other circumstances, the silky warmth surrounding her would have been enjoyable, but she had other things on her mind. "Was that really the best way to test your theory?" Hermione demanded. Her voice was muffled slightly by the feathers surrounding her. She tried pushing against Malfoy's arms, but they didn't budge. The Healer ignored her irritated question and thoughtfully tapped his wand against his chin. "Is there anything else, anything at all that you've left out or forgotten to tell me?" the Mediwizard asked. "I cried black tears," Hermione said, hoping it would be medically relevant. Malfoy's arms tightened around her, attempting to protect her from something he didn't understand. How do you shield someone from their own tears? Even preventing any sadness she may feel still doesn't exclude tears of happiness or laughter. Her heart dropped when all colour faded from the Healer's face. "I have to go check something," the man said in a weak voice.
- 174 -

Suddenly grateful that Malfoy refused to release her, Hermione leant back against his chest. "What are the chances he was suddenly so scared looking because he just remembered that he left something in the oven?" she asked. Draco scoffed. "That man obviously lives at the hospital; I highly doubt he's made himself anything but those Muggle instant noodles since medical school." "That's what I thought," she sighed. Healers dealt with all kinds of disturbing medical maladies on a regular basis, and yet she'd managed to say something that scared one of them. It wasn't a comforting thought. "The man's a thoughtless jerk, but he's not going to hurt me; you can let me go now." Slowly, he removed his arms. Hermione grabbed his hand and tugged him behind her as she walked back over to her crinkly-papered seat once again. Malfoy had just relaxed enough to lean beside her when the Healer came back into the room with a thick medical text in his hands. He didn't look up from the pages as he addressed them. "You either have a disease that spreads like a plague and causes slow, painful deaths -that's what I was worried you might have - or your bond with your Veela is in danger." He tilted his head to the side and nodded to himself. "I'm thinking it's the latter since the former only happened once in the thirteen hundreds on an island in the middle of the ocean and hasn't made a reappearance since." "You couldn't have said the less dire possibility first?" Malfoy gritted out from between clenched teeth. The Healer shrugged. "I suppose." "Look," Malfoy snapped. "Are you going to be able to help us or not?" Hermione watched as the Mediwizard frowned. It seemed he didn't think he could help, but that his pride was preventing him from admitting this. "This case seems to be beyond my expertise," the man said reluctantly. "I can recommend a specialist, but the wait will be a few months." "This was a waste of time," Draco snarled. He stomped across the room and looked back at Hermione expectantly. Sighing, she jumped off of the crinkly paper and followed him. "Thanks for your time," she said to the Healer with a weak smile as she passed him.
- 175 -

"Do we have a plan or are we just storming off angrily?" Hermione asked as she trotted through the corridor behind Malfoy. They appeared to be making their way back toward the fireplaces. "We're going to go back to Hogwarts and try to avoid anything dangerous until the damned curse-breaking Weasel can fix us. The black tears were the most worrying thing, and it turns out, you'd probably have them without the curse anyway." "He said it means our bond is in danger," Hermione mumbled, reaching a hand up to touch the corner of her eye. Malfoy ran his fingers through his hair. "We'll deal with that later," he sighed. She nodded and followed him through the fire and back to Hogwarts.

- 176 -

Chapter 19
Chapter 19 A/N: Hello readers! Guess what! Allergy season has begun! Which means allergy medication, which means drowsy Frosty. I'm not sure how that'll effect my posting rate, but I imagine it would increase the time I spend staring at the computer (and walls, but you're not really interested in that). Thanks to everyone who reviewed! You guys seem to be worried that I'm going to write a sad ending, but I'm not capable of that, so stay calm. *grins* Also thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing. ~Frosty After they returned from St. Mungo's, Hermione resigned herself to a boring day locked up in the Head's common room with Malfoy. Considering how eventful the past few days had been, she was almost looking forward to a few uneventful hours. She could use them to catch up on the schoolwork she'd missed; being less than two months ahead in her readings and assignments was practically unthinkable to Hermione. Unfortunately, Malfoy didn't seem to agree with her desire to stay safe. "Are you insane? Do you remember what happened the last time you were on a broom?" she demanded, trying to tug said broom from his hands. Unsurprisingly, she wasn't able to wrench the wood out of his much stronger grip. He gave her a frustrated and irritated look, something she hadn't seen since before the whole Veela kerfuffle arose. The feelings that were emanating from him matched his expression. "Granger, the Slytherin team has practice right now, and they can't exactly practice without their seeker and captain," the blond said patiently. He raised the broom above his head so she couldn't reach it anymore and turned towards the door. "Draco!" Hermione said, desperate to get him to stop. Boys and their sports! It seemed that it only took a few days for him to get over the life-threatening injury he'd experienced and jump right back into the game. She knew he didn't have a death wish, but he was certainly acting like he did. "Granger, people are counting on me," he sighed, answering both her plea and her
- 177 -

thoughts. "I'm counting on you," she mumbled. His face softened and he set the broom on the floor, freeing his hands to take her shoulders. "I'm just going to go out there for a few hours of practice. Nothing bad will happen, you'll see." Hermione was completely unmoved. "You're taking stupid risks!" "I can't just keep waiting around for something to kill us! I need to get away for a while." Hermione stepped out from under his hands, understanding what it was that he was really saying. "You mean you need to get away from me." "Granger-" he started to object. "Just go if you're so determined to end up back in the hospital wing," she snapped, interrupting his protests. Turning her back on the blond, Hermione headed towards the sofa. If he wasn't going to take her feelings into consideration and just run off to his death, then she was hardly going to mope around and worry. She frowned; it didn't matter that she was determined to let him run off to his fate, she was going to worry about the stupid, reckless git because she cared. It would have been so much easier if she'd still hated him, there would have been some concern over his well-being, but not the anxiousness she was feeling at the moment. Once again, Malfoy had been privy to her thoughts and commented. "Why don't you invite your friends over and spend the day with them? It'll keep you from worrying yourself sick. Just... try to keep the touching to a minimum - particularly with the Weasel." She refused to answer, listening as he picked up his broom and left. The door clicked quietly shut behind him. He may have been being a careless ass with a death wish, but that didn't mean Malfoy's suggestion that she visit her friends wasn't a good one. Hermione tilted her head to the side and contemplated the idea while she glared out the window at the tiny figures that were gathering on the pitch. When she saw the blond one approach the others, she huffed in irritation. In the back of her mind,
- 178 -

she'd been holding out hope that maybe he'd see sense before he actually got to the pitch. No such luck. With one last glare out the window towards the Quidditch pitch where her Veela was about to do something stupid and unnecessarily dangerous, she slipped out the door. The Gryffindor common room was rowdy; she could hear them before the Fat Lady was even in sight. Hermione knew she wasn't acting like herself when she actually contemplated just walking away and pretending she didn't hear whatever it was they were doing in there. That was not a Hermione thing to think. She was just so tired. Few things frayed one's nerves faster than the constant knowledge that there was this invisible, seemingly unstoppable force out there actively trying to exterminate you. Shaking her head at her uncharacteristic behaviour, she recited the password to a frazzled looking Fat Lady and entered the Gryffindor common room. Utter bedlam. No one even glanced towards the portrait as it opened and admitted the Head Girl. She pushed her way through the crowd until she found Ginny. "What's going on?" Hermione asked. She was forced to duck as some of the Weasley's fireworks went off somewhere on the other side of the room and arced over the crowd towards the place where her head had been a moment before. Gryffindors were known to be a rowdy bunch when they were celebrating something - and even sometimes when they weren't - but this was just insanity. "Dennis Creevy somehow managed to accidentally upturn his potion on himself and Snape. Dennis was holding powdered unicorn horn, which negated the effects of the potion, but Snape is now in the hospital wing with his nose quadruple its normal impressive size," the redhead said with a snort. "We're celebrating this 'victory for Gryffindor' according to Ron." Hermione rolled her eyes; it figured that the rowdy display had originated with Ron. He was more like the twins than he cared to admit. "Want to come to the Head's common room with me and distract me from the fact that Malfoy's out risking his life because he's too pig-headed to stay away from the Quidditch pitch until the bloody curse has been lifted from us? He's adamant that I stay out of danger, but refuses to listen to me when I ask that he stay somewhere
- 179 -

safe." Ginny listened to her friend's distressed rant quietly with a small, knowing smile on her face. She wordlessly slung an arm around the older girl's shoulders once the brunette had finished. "Let's get you out of here. You look like you need some tea." Hermione nodded her curly head and leant against her friend. "Do you think I should break this up before we leave?" She waved a hand vaguely towards the people gathered in the Gryffindor tower. They both glanced around at the chaos that had descended upon the common room. Seamus had somehow managed to blow something up, taking out both his eyebrows and an unfortunate cushy chair that had been within the blast radius. The fire in the grate seemed to have been charmed to flash read and gold, and someone had stuck a few first years to the ceiling as some sort of deranged party decorations. "No, I think they'll be fine without a mature influence just this once." Hermione shot a worried look at the first years on the ceiling and the smouldering chair, but she shrugged and allowed Ginny to pull her from the room. Just this once, she was going to do the selfish, irresponsible thing and not worry about what the others were getting up to. Ginny had managed to drag her halfway out of the portrait hole before her conscience got the best of her. She whipped around and let the first years down from the ceiling, extinguished the burning chair and cast silencing charms on the room so that their noise wouldn't bother the rest of the castle. Task complete, she was able to allow her friend to pull her the rest of the way out of the Gryffindor tower. Knowing that there was complete chaos going on in the Gryffindor tower would have prevented her from calming down properly, so really, she was still being selfish... sort of. "Hermione, wait!" Harry called as he stumbled out of the portrait hole after her, Ron close on his heels. Both girls stopped and turned around, wondering what it was that Harry wanted. "Why do you look like you lost your puppy?" Harry asked. "Because that's what happened, in a sense. Her idiot Veela has stopped following her like a lost puppy and is outside playing Quidditch as we speak," Ginny said, earning herself a glare from Hermione.
- 180 -

The brunette objected to labelling Malfoy a lost puppy. Although he did have some vaguely puppy-like qualities when you thought about it... "Want us to hex him?" Ron asked, sounding entirely too hopeful for someone who was only trying to be helpful. "I'm upset because he's unnecessarily endangering himself. Hexing him kind of defeats that purpose," Hermione snapped. She turned her back on them and started marching towards the Head's common room. Quiet footsteps and hushed whispers told her they were following, but she didn't turn around to look. She did, however, leave the portrait to the Head's dorms open behind her so they could follow her inside. They may not care much about Malfoy, but they cared about her, and they could distract her from her worry so she didn't wear holes in the carpet with her pacing - a habit that seemed to be contagious. Somewhere along the line, Ginny had split off from the group to head down to the kitchens and grab them some tea and finger sandwiches, leaving Hermione alone with Harry and Ron. "Hermione, are you really that worried about the ferret?" Harry asked, closely examining his friend's face. She looked anxious and was constantly wringing her hands together. It was obvious she was trying to fight the urge to pace. Her foot would lift and move to take a step before she realised what she was doing and jerked herself back into her previous position. She sighed and sat down on the sofa. "When I found out I was his mate and that I was going to have to spend the rest of my life with him for him to survive, I was terrified. But... it's amazing how fast your entire world can change. I went from being terrified spending the foreseeable future with him to being unable to picture my future without him in it. And now the idiot is risking his life because of a bloody game." She was horrified to hear her voice crack. The stupid ferret had managed to weasel himself into her heart and now she cared. She cared that he was being a moron and she worried that he might die. He was making her go through that for just a game. There was no way he would have let her do something like that; she should have tried harder to stop him. Harry sat down beside her and patted her back awkwardly, not sure how much contact it would take to piss off Malfoy. He stiffened slightly when she leaned against him like she used to, but let it go; Malfoy was the one who put her in such a state that she needed comfort, he would just have to deal with the consequences.
- 181 -

"I think he's put some kind of spell on you. Why else would you choose him over-" Ron broke off when Ginny came into the room, realized her brother was about to put his large foot in his mouth once again and cast a quick Confundus on him. "Not until I shave the entire hippopotamus. You know how testy he gets when he feels bristles," he finished, looking a little confused, but determined nonetheless. Ginny brought them all tea and they nibbled on the sandwiches while Ron continued to mutter around mouthfuls of food about how angry the hippo was going to be. A few minutes after Hermione finished her first cup of tea, she was fast asleep. "Did you slip something into her tea?" Harry asked his girlfriend. Ginny shrugged, looking a little guilty. "Just a calming draught, but I think I got the dosage wrong and it put her to sleep." At Harry's expression the redhead got a little defensive. "You saw how on edge she was! She hasn't been sleeping properly and she deserves some rest." "I think we should put her to bed," Ron said, finally lucid again. The other two glanced at each other, but they nodded in agreement. Despite the likelihood that Ron had ulterior motives, Hermione would be much more comfortable in her own bed. Ron ignored their obvious glances and smoothed her hair back fondly before picking up the sleeping figure of Hermione. She shifted restlessly in his arms, but stayed asleep. He was halfway up the stairs when his arms started to shake and he began to develop a cramp in his back. Malfoy may have been able to carry her around like she weighed nothing, but Hermione was heavy. She wasn't overweight or anything, but 100 plus pounds of dead weight wasn't easy to lug up a flight of stairs - particularly when she kept shifting around. "Harry!" Ron gasped in a strangled voice. "Come take her from me before I drop her." Alarmed, Harry rushed up the stairs and tried to take Hermione from the redhead. Somehow, in the process of handing her over, they lost their grip on her head and it fell backwards until her top half was close to upside down.
- 182 -

"You're going to wake her up!" Harry hissed at Ron. They both glanced down at her when she made an irritated noise in her sleep and then blinked her eyes open. "Draco," she murmured happily, reaching her arms out towards the bottom of the stairs. She was obviously still mostly asleep, or she would have been yelling at all of them. Her friends for drugging her only to wake her up again and her Veela for needlessly endangering himself by making her worry herself to the point where her friends thought they needed to drug her. Harry and Ron paled before slowly turning their heads to look in the direction Hermione was still reaching. Standing at the bottom of the stairs with his arms crossed and a stormy expression on his face was Malfoy. "Explain to me why I shouldn't tear you two morons into tiny pieces," he growled, looking between the two Gryffindor boys as he ascended the steps. When he arrived at Hermione, he turned her right-side-up and brought her into her his arms with an ease that had Ron looking annoyed. She immediately snuggled against him and went back to sleep. "I'm waiting," Draco hissed, making sure to keep his voice down so as not to wake Hermione again. His effort was in vain, the sleeping brunette jolted awake. When she realized who it was that she was snuggled against, she leaned away as if he burned her. Hermione wiggled until he let her down. Swatting his hands away as he reached for her, she put space between them. "Don't talk to me, you're an idiot," she snapped when he opened his mouth to say something. The angry brunette stormed up the rest of the stairs and slammed the door behind her. "She's right, you're an idiot," Ginny added from the bottom of the stairs. Draco sighed. So it had been a selfish decision, but he'd just needed some normalcy back in his life, just for a little while. He hadn't been thinking of what his selfish decision had been doing to Granger. He'd known she'd worry a little, but never had he thought his mate would need to be drugged by her friends so that she wouldn't worry herself sick.
- 183 -

His sharp grey eyes looked at the three Gryffindors staring at him. "What are you still doing here? She obviously doesn't want company right now," he snapped. Ron was reaching for his wand and Harry was about to voice his objections, but Ginny stopped them. "Give those two time to work it out," she said sternly. The male two thirds of the Golden Trio were reluctant, but they knew Ginny was usually right about these things, and so they listened to the redhead. With a few last glares at Malfoy, they left the Head's common room completely. Draco trudged up the rest of the stairs and stood outside Granger's room. "Any chance you're not going to make me sleep alone tonight?" His only answer was a loud thump as she whipped what sounded like a pillow at the door. Normally, he'd be inclined to push the limits of her anger and open the door to make her face him, but he could feel that she was furious with him at the moment along with a complicated jumble of other emotions. She was in no mood to deal with him directly and it would probably take her several hours before she was willing to speak to him again. Draco tried brushing his mind against her own, but she had closed hers pretty firmly. What little he could gain from her thoughts was just a bunch of profanity directed at him and his person. For someone who rarely swore, Granger had quite the vocabulary. Draco was impressed, and also positive that it wasn't the best time to attempt a conversation with her. He was just about to retreat into his own room when the fire in the common room flared and a tall redhead entered. Draco frowned at the earring dangling from the man's ear and the ponytail he was sporting. This was obviously some sort of strange criminal that needed to be disposed of immediately. He had started to stalk down the stairs with his hand on his wand when the man noticed him. "You must be Draco," the man said. Pausing, Draco took in the appearance of the obviously fashion challenged man one more time through narrowed eyes. Red hair, slightly gangly, and practically oozing Gryffindor spirit; this man must be a Weasley. Most likely Bill Weasley. It was a good thing he hadn't hexed him then, that probably would have made the Weasley less inclined to help with the curse. He stopped his descent and raised an eyebrow. "Who's asking?"
- 184 -

It was better to make sure his assessment was correct than to drop his guard and get hexed. That would leave his irritated mate completely unprotected and unsuspecting that there was even a danger lurking in her own common room. The man answered before Draco's imaginings of possible dangers to his mate could get too out of hand. "Bill Weasley. Is Hermione here somewhere? I'd like to get a look at that curse you two have."

- 185 -

Chapter 20
Chapter 20 A/N: Hello readers! Look, another chapter! Remember, it has a happy ending, so don't get too upset with me, kay? Thanks to everyone who reviewed! You guys are amazing! Also thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! ~Frosty Draco glanced back up the stairs towards the Head Girl's rooms. It figured that the Weasley would know to show up at the worst possible moment. That entire family had something against the Malfoys, even when they claimed to be trying to help. His father maintained that they were jealous of the Malfoy family wealth, and Draco had yet to see evidence on the contrary. "Give me a minute," he said to the waiting weasel. He trudged back up the stairs and hesitated with his hand on her doorknob before twisting it and entering the room. Immediately, he had to duck as she chucked all of her pillows at his head. So that was why she insisted on keeping so many of the things on her bed. "Get out!" she shouted. "I don't want to deal with you right now." Draco caught one of the larger pillows and used it to deflect the next few that sailed at his head. "I know you don't, and I was willing to give you some time to yourself to cool down, but that was before Bill Weasley came out of the fireplace in the common room." Hermione stopped throwing her pillows and looked at him suspiciously. The timing was a little too convenient for her to be completely sure Bill's appearance wasn't a fictitious event that Malfoy was using to get her out of her bedroom and talking to him again. "He's really down there?" she asked.
- 186 -

He nodded. Hermione pulled herself together. Her mother had not raised her to be rude and sulk in her room while a guest waited to be greeted. With a sigh, she stood from the bed and brushed past Malfoy, completely ignoring him. Bill had chosen a horrible moment to finally make an appearance. The redhead watched as the two Head students came down the stairs. Hermione was pointedly avoiding eye contact with the blond. Bill had been under the impression that they were getting along to an extent. What he was seeing looked like outright animosity. He watched as Hermione caught sight of him and forced a smile. "Thanks for coming, Bill." "No problem. I'm sorry it took so long, but I went to see Mr. Malfoy's parents first. I had to get a better idea of the original curse before I could look at the mutated version." Two pairs of eye widened in surprise; neither of them had expected him to actually go and visit the elder Malfoys. There was no love lost between the two families, and it probably hadn't been a pleasant visit. "What did they say?" Malfoy asked. He knew his parents would have been cooperative if it meant the curse would be broken, but that didn't mean they would be civil about it. That visit would have been something he would have wanted to see. "They explained their theories about the curse and the story of its origin," Bill said, pulling out his wand. "I just need to cast some spells to see what's going on." Hermione felt Malfoy shift closer to her, but she continued to ignore him. She was still mad at the git. Bill wasn't going to hurt either of them, so any concern the Veela was feeling at the moment was misplaced. He could just deal with it and keep his distance while Bill tried to fix them. She stood perfectly still as the cool touch of spell-work washed over her. Malfoy moved even closer; she could feel the brush of his shoulder with every breath that expanded his chest. He could obviously feel the wash of magic as well and was disconcerted by it. "Stop!" Malfoy suddenly snapped. "Something's wrong."
- 187 -

Bill looked confused, but he heeded the order and lowered his wand, looking at the blond questioningly. Malfoy ignored the older man and grabbed his mate by her shoulders. He ignored her resistance and protests, burying his nose in the mass of hair resting against her neck. The deep breath he took made goose bumps break out on Hermione's skin. She fought off a larger reaction with difficulty. It wouldn't do to have the Veela all smug while she was trying to be mad at him. As quickly as he'd grabbed her, he let her go again and rounded on Bill. "What have you done?" Malfoy's voice was a low, dangerous hiss. "What's wrong?" Bill asked, looking completely bewildered. He glanced at Hermione and saw that she was looking just as confused. "She doesn't smell right." The Veela's tone made it clear that he thought this was a completely repulsive concept to him. "She doesn't smell like Granger, like mine." Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, but Bill interrupted before she could say something scathing to the prat. "Sorry about that; it's a side-effect of one of the spells I just cast." Making sure to keep his distance, the blond leaned over and sniffed the top of his mate's head. "She smells like celery." It was an accusation. "Stop being a drama queen," Hermione admonished. She brought her arm up to her nose and sniffed. It really did smell like celery. "I don't like celery," Malfoy said petulantly. "It'll fade in a few hours, mate," Bill tried to placate. "A few hours?" "I'm not particularly fond of celery either, but if it means I'll still be alive in a few days, then I'll deal with it," Hermione snapped. She grabbed Malfoy by the hand and pulled him back beside her. A protest was half-formed on his lips, but she elbowed him in the side and turned back to Bill.
- 188 -

"Ignore him. Please continue." Copper eyebrows rose in amusement, but Bill didn't comment. He raised his wand and continued the spells he'd been performing before Malfoy had interrupted. When he was finished, Bill asked them both to take a seat. "I'm going to go home and do some research, I'll be back tomorrow with some spells to try. While I'm gone, you two need to be extra careful, this is a really twisted curse on the pair of you." Draco scoffed bitterly. "If there's anything my family excels at, it's dark curses." "Er... right," said Bill, looking uncomfortable. "I'm going to go get started on that research." Hermione stood from the sofa to say her thanks and show him to the fireplace while the blond glared to make sure the oldest Weasley son kept his hands to himself. As soon as the redheaded man disappeared into a swirl of emerald flame, Hermione rounded on Malfoy. "Was it really necessary to make such a big deal because I smell wrong?" Perhaps if she hadn't already been displeased with him, then she wouldn't have been quite so confrontational with her question. As it was, Malfoy deserved some animosity. He indicated she should take a seat beside him while he took a minute to order his thoughts. Hermione huffed; she was still irritated with him, but she also wanted to know what he had to say. With a glare to let him know that she still wasn't pleased with him, she seated herself as far away from him as the sofa would allow. "My sense of smell is a lot stronger than yours. It plays a part just as important as my eyes when it comes to recognising you. You could bathe in a vat of perfume and still smell like you underneath, but this spell makes you smell like only celery. There's no more you hidden underneath. The only equivalent I can think of would be if I were to take Polyjuice; on the surface I'd be someone completely different than before. You're saying that wouldn't throw you off a little?" Hermione saw his point, but it hadn't been necessary to make such a fuss about it. "Fine, I'll just make sure to stay away from you until I smell right again. We wouldn't want you to be disturbed."
- 189 -

She pushed herself up off the sofa and was ready to storm off to her room once again, but Malfoy was quicker. Grabbing her by the wrist, he yanked on her arm, making her fall against him on the sofa. "Let me go," Hermione ordered as she tried to free herself. Her attempts were unsuccessful. "You're not going anywhere until you talk to me." His grip tightened until she didn't even have room to wiggle. "I don't have anything to say to you." "Well, maybe I have something to say to you," he growled. Hermione was so close that the low tones of his voice rumbled throughout her as well as him. She wasn't going to let him see that he was affecting her though - even if he could probably tell since he was in her mind and all that. "Do I get to choose whether or not I listen?" "No." Sighing, she ceased her struggling. Hermione was smart enough to know he wasn't going to release her until he'd said his piece. "I knew there was a reason people are always on about your intelligence," he said smugly. "There's obviously something wrong with yours if you think gloating like that is going to help your case any." His eyes narrowed slightly at the insult, but he didn't comment. "What I was going to say," he gritted out, "was that I don't think we should be near each other until we're rid of this curse." His hold on her tightened when she started to protest, making her fall silent. He wanted to finish speaking before he let her voice her opinion. "I think being close is only making it increase its attempts on our lives. Hell, if we can't be free of the thing, I suggest you go find someone else and live safely." "Where's your inner Slytherin? You're getting dangerously close to selfless with that statement," Hermione admonished, glad he couldn't see her face and the tears
- 190 -

she was desperately fighting off. Draco wasn't fooled for a second. "If I die, our bond will be gone and you'll be able to live a normal life without curses or forced bonds." "Why?" she asked, not needing to elaborate. "I've had something of an epiphany recently. Before I bit you, I wouldn't have survived your death, but now that I've bitten you, I'm starting to feel like I may not want to. I figure if I'm going to die either way, I may as well do what I can to make sure one of us keeps living happily." He was being sappy, and he knew it, but he needed to make her understand. There was no reason the both of them had to die. Granger was warm and kind, she lit up a room with her smile. The world didn't have enough good left, and removing her would be taking away a large piece of the little that remained. Draco had done enough harm in his life, and this just may redeem him - every little bit would help. Hermione twisted in his grip and slapped him before he could stop her. "Don't talk like that. We both survived a war, against rather intimidating odds, we're not going to let some curse your crotchety grandfather cast years ago do what Voldemort and an army of Death Eaters couldn't." Having been completely unprepared for the violent move, Draco released her and held a hand to his cheek, staring at the small brunette in shock. She sure could pack quite a punch when she wanted to - something he probably should have learned back in third year. "You hit me," he said. Hermione shrugged. "It's not the first time, and if you keep saying stupid things like that, it won't be the last." She took advantage of his continued shock by kissing him. "We're in this together," she said when she pulled away. They lapsed into silence, Draco still holding Hermione. She wasn't going to attempt to escape anymore, but he liked to hold her. He had an idea and he knew she wasn't going to like it one bit. It made him hold her that much tighter. "Draco?" she asked.
- 191 -

He looked up at her expectantly, pleased that she was using his name again. "I don't like celery either." That surprised a laugh out of him. "Does our recent discovery of our mutual hatred of celery mean I don't have to sleep alone tonight?" Hermione rested her forehead on his shoulder. "No." She felt him sag a little and a wave of disappointment through their connection. "You don't have to sleep alone because I like you and you're surprisingly sweet when you're not being a moron." "To bed then," Draco decided. He slid a hand down her leg and snaked his arm under the back of her knees before standing up and bringing her with him. With a squeak of surprise, Hermione wrapped her arms around his neck to balance herself. She knew he wasn't going to drop her, but the movement was instinctual. When he got her up the stairs and into her room, he dropped her onto the bed, where she bounced. Hermione flailed a little, trying to regain her bearings. "What was that for?" she demanded. "Because you spend almost all of your time being all... put together, even if you're all chaos inside. It's fun to throw you off sometimes and see that instant of panic on your face." It was impossible to be mad at him when he looked at her like that, it made her melt. Trying to fight off a smile and maintain her glare, she shifted over, making room in the bed. Like he always had before, Draco was careful to leave space between the two of them when he slid under the covers. His mate seemed to have other ideas though. As soon as they were both settled, she scooted over and wrapped herself around him like she did almost every night in her sleep. The fact that she was fully conscious made the contact that much more enjoyable. Slowly, so as not to scare her off, he brought his arms around her, smiling. He was going to savour the time he had left with her.

- 192 -

Hermione was cold. This was something strange, because Malfoy was warm and made her warm when he shared her bed - sometimes almost too warm. So it was strange that she was cold. She stretched out across the bed and found that it wasn't just her who was cold; the entire bed was cool, including the place where Malfoy had been resting. He'd left her alone in her bed. Searching her mind, she found that the bed was the only place he'd left her alone. His presence in the back of her mind wasn't what it should be. There were no emotions or anything coming through like she'd become used to. He was still there, but he was blocking her out again. Worried, Hermione got out of bed and padded over to his room, hoping he'd just wandered over to his own room to get pyjamas or something. Empty. His door was open and the room beyond was empty, as was the rest of the Head dorms. Remembering their conversation from the previous night, something horrible occurred to her. She raced back up the stairs to her room, snatched her wand off of her bedside table, and practically launched herself out of the portrait hole. She was going to strangle him if he'd done what she thought he had. Her trip through the school and down to the dungeon was practically a blur. Before she knew it, Hermione was standing in front of the entrance to the Slytherin common room and desperately searching through her mind for the password. As Head Girl, she was told the passwords to all the houses, but they were constantly changing and she'd had a lot on her mind recently. Just as she was contemplating knocking and hoping someone would answer, the wall opened and revealed the grim face of Blaise Zabini. "I am such a good friend," the Slytherin muttered. Hermione looked at him questioningly. "What are you talking about?" "Tell me why you're here and I'll tell you why I'm such a good friend to Draco - a completely underappreciated friend at that." He stepped back, allowing her to enter the common room. Hermione tried to keep a disapproving expression off of her face when he reached over to a side table and grabbed a glass of Firewhiskey. If she was there to ask Blaise for help finding his friend, then it would be counterproductive to make her displeasure over his alcohol consumption obvious. She perched uncomfortably on one of the leather sofas and raised her eyebrows in surprise when he produced
- 193 -

another full glass. "You were expecting me?" she asked. Her disapproval of drinking on school grounds was well known, plus her position as Head Girl obligated her to report such infractions. If he was offering her a drink knowing her reputation, then she would probably need that drink. Reluctantly, she accepted the glass. "I was. Now tell me why you're here so we can get on with this painful conversation and you can get on with fixing his idiocy." Hermione was a little confused by the Slytherin and his cryptic statements, but Blaise had known Malfoy much longer than she had. There was a point buried somewhere in his words, she just had to wait until he reached it. "Well," she started slowly. "I woke up alone-" her sentence broke off as she realized what the Slytherin would assume after hearing those words. To her surprise, Blaise just waved her on, looking completely unruffled. "I woke up alone and something Draco said earlier tonight came back to me. I'm worried he's gone and run away, that he's going to try and keep me safe from the curse by making himself miserable." Blaise took a drink, draining most of his glass in one go before answering. "Draco's always been fiercely loyal to those he loves," the Slytherin watched as Hermione visibly tried to suppress a blush at the word love. He hid a smirk behind his glass as he took another sip before continuing. "This Veela thing seems to have only intensified that quality. He's not only going to make himself miserable, the idiot's decided that he's made you miserable and you don't deserve that." Paling, Hermione took an almost equally large drink of her own alcohol. "He's decided that he needs to die to keep me happy?" she squeaked out when the burning in her throat had receded.

- 194 -

Chapter 21
Chapter 21 A/N: Hello readers! Thanks so much for all the reviews! It really motivates me to get editing (most of the time, I hate editing)! Also thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for their wonderful betaing skills! Only two chapters after this! I put somewhere that there's only going to be 22, but it's actually 23. So one more than a lot of you were thinking... Good, right? I'm reminding you now: don't worry. Happy ending, remember? Okay. On with the chapter! I'm sure you're impatient. ~Frosty Paling, Hermione took an almost equally large drink of her own alcohol. "He's decided that he needs to die to keep me happy?" she squeaked out when the burning in her throat had receded. Blaise nodded. "I tried to stop him, but he went all Veela on me and nearly ripped my throat out." The Slytherin winced as he ran his hand over a thin scratch near the hollow of his throat. Hermione was shocked that Malfoy had come so close to injuring his friend. He must have been almost completely under the control of his Veela to no longer recognise Blaise. Frowning to herself, she pushed her surprise aside and focused on more pressing matters. "Why are you not more concerned? Could you have gone after him? You can't just-" "Granger!" he interrupted her outpouring of questions. "Draco is a Malfoy, and the whole lot of them are Slytherin to the core. He won't do anything drastic until he knows that being away from you will actually make the curse stop. My job was supposed to be watching you and reporting if the curse seems to be fading." He refilled both of their glasses. "This is why I'm such a good friend. Dealing with hysterical Gryffindors is not one of my favourite things to do."
- 195 -

Hermione ignored the comment; that was something Malfoy was going to have to deal with when she found him and dragged him back to the school by his ear. Blaise was right though, he was a good friend. She'd make sure to have a word with her Veela about leaving his friends to deal with his problems while she was angry at him. "Do you know where he is?" she asked. His glass made a clinking sound as he sat it on the table; it was the only sound in the room. She waited with bated breath for his answer. Sure, she would probably be able to find the blond given enough time, but she wanted to find him and yell at him while her anger was still fresh. It would be so much more effective that way. Blaise stared at his empty glass for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts. In actuality, he was preparing himself for an explosion. Gryffindors were known for their passion, which sometimes made them a little volatile. "I know where he is, but I'm not going to tell you until tomorrow." Her eyes were probably comically widened, but Hermione wasn't paying attention to her expression at the moment. She was contemplating launching herself at the Slytherin and demanding answers while she hit him repeatedly - preferably with something pointy. But, knowing Blaise and his infuriating ways, hitting him would probably only make him clam up and refuse to give her any answers. She was going to have to use her words, no matter how much she wanted to use her fists - or her wand. "Why?" was all she asked. "Honestly? Because the idiot needs to spend some time alone to straighten out his thoughts. He doesn't seem to realize something that's completely obvious to everyone else: that you care about him aside from your bond. The idiot thinks you'll just... recover if he dies, but everyone else can see that it'll tear you up inside." Hermione exhaled heavily and let herself fall against the back of the sofa. "So I just have to wait here and hope he doesn't kill himself with only your word reassuring me that he's fine?" Grinning, Blaise lifted the bottle of alcohol that had been sitting with him. "Want to get completely smashed while we wait?" It was the only thing he could think of to help her at the moment. Drinking was what Draco did when he was upset, could his mate really be that different?
- 196 -

Despite her protests that she didn't want to drink, Blaise watched as the Gryffindor drank enough alcohol to put her back to sleep. When she was fully unconscious on the sofa, the Slytherin tiredly rubbed a hand over his face. He didn't have anything personal against Hermione, but hysterical females were not his thing. Draco supplied more than enough emotional turmoil for three people; Blaise didn't need to deal with his best friend's girlfriend as well. Summoning a blanket from his room, he placed it over the sleeping Gryffindor and then collapsed back into the chair he'd previously occupied. Rivalries between houses weren't what they'd been before the war, but it still wouldn't be wise to leave Hermione Granger asleep and vulnerable in the heart of Slytherin territory. If something happened to Hermione, Blaise didn't doubt for a minute that Draco would murder whoever harmed her and then go through with his idiotic plan of suicide anyway out of heartbreak. She wasn't the only one worried about the idiot blond, Blaise was concerned about his friend as well, but he didn't have the luxury of unconsciousness. Instead, he had to watch over Hermione while she got to sleep. Blaise sighed and leant his head against the back of his chair, prepared for a long night. He really was an amazing friend.

Hermione woke up with a horrible taste in her mouth and a quartet of Slytherin first years gathered around her. They didn't look menacing, merely curious, but they still weren't a nice sight to wake up to. One of them was prodding her with his wand. "Oi! Clear off!" Blaise shouted as he came back into the room. "I leave for one minute to brush my teeth and you gather around Hermione like a bunch of vultures!" Looking terrified, the first years scurried off. When she turned to Blaise, she saw that he was watching the fleeing students contemplatively. At her questioning look, he grinned. "They ran for the door quite quickly. Not as good as Draco could have done, but pretty impressive nonetheless." "You can hardly compare yourself to him, he learned from the best," Hermione muttered, remembering Lucius' cold stare. That man could probably freeze a volcano with his eyes alone if he wanted to. When she remembered why it was that she was sleeping in the Slytherin common room, her half-smile fell right off her face.
- 197 -

"Are you going to tell me where Draco is now?" "Promise me something first." If it would make him tell her where Draco was, Hermione was willing to promise quite a lot. Blaise had been right; it would tear her up inside if the Veela actually went through with it and killed himself so she could be happy. He was a moron for thinking that in the first place! What kind of person did that? Better yet, what kind of person was happy that someone else had killed themselves for their benefit? She took a deep breath to calm the resurgence of her anger. "That depends on what you want me to promise," Hermione said, knowing from experience that it was best to clarify when speaking to Slytherins. "Promise me you won't let him off easy because you're glad he's not hurt or because he was doing something 'sweet' in his misguided, stupid way. You need to thoroughly chew him out for being an idiot." Oh. That was something she could do. In fact, she was more than willing to scold him so completely that his ears were on fire when she was done. "I don't think that's going to be a problem," she said with a grin. Blaise nodded. "Good. He's in the Shrieking Shack." She was out the door practically before he'd finished the word 'shack'. "Give him a good kick in the shins from me. I sure as hell wouldn't get away with it!" Blaise called after her. Hermione ran through the castle and out the front doors. Luckily, there were few students on the grounds so early in the morning. Otherwise, she may have had to postpone her trip so she didn't inadvertently show a bunch of younger students a way to break school rules. It really wouldn't reflect well on her as Head Girl. After grabbing a stick and hitting the knot, Hermione rushed past the frozen branches and climbed down into the tunnel. She briefly wondered how it was that Draco had managed to get off of school property without knowing about the passage, but was then distracted. She'd been thinking of him as Draco. He wasn't 'Malfoy' to her anymore, not really. He was someone she cared about, and that meant it was time to drop the formality - though she'd probably still use his last name to yell at him. Yelling at 'Malfoy' was something of a habit for her. The Shrieking Shack was almost the same as she remembered it. There was
- 198 -

possibly more dust than she recalled, but that was to be expected as it had been a few years since she'd last seen the place. It didn't take her long to find Draco. He was staring out the window in the room Sirius had lead them when they'd still thought he was a murder. The Veela must have been thinking about something really important, because he didn't seem to hear her sneaking up on him. Hermione crossed her arms and prepared herself for a confrontation. "You're an idiot," she said, making him jump and whip around. "How'd you find me?" Hermione shrugged. "Blaise." "That bloody interfering sod." She folded her arms over her chest. "He was only trying to help me fix some of the mess your half-witted idea caused. You know, Blaise said something that I think you would benefit from hearing. He said that you think I'll recover if you die, but everyone else can see that it'll tear me up inside." While Draco stood there speechless, Hermione crossed the room and stood toe-to-toe to him. "Do you know Blaise had to get me to drink a bunch of alcohol to calm down enough to actually go to sleep? I spent the night on a sofa in the Slytherin common room and woke up with a bunch of first years poking at me. That was what happened when I found out you were missing. What do you think would happen if you were dead?" He had the grace to look properly chastened. Hermione took advantage of his inattention to kick him in the shin. Hard. "What was that for?" he demanded. Completely unrepentant, Hermione glared. "That was from Blaise. He had to deal with a distraught Gryffindor, which was probably a stressful experience for him. And apparently you tried to rip his throat out?" If she hadn't been watching him closely, she probably would have missed the slight pinkness that stained his cheeks. "I didn't mean to, but I was in quite a state when I tried to leave, and Blaise grabbed my arm to try and stop me. The Veela took over and threatened him, but I never actually touched him." The blond watched her warily. "You're not going to hit me again, are you?" He
- 199 -

could read her mind, but she was getting good at carefully not thinking about her actions until she was already in motion. The contemplative look she was directing at him was worrying. She was about to do something - probably kick him again. It already felt like she'd chipped the bone in his leg a little. "Lean down a bit," Hermione ordered. He was tensed for another attack, but Draco did as she'd asked. He'd dug himself so deep that it was probably better to just let her get her anger out and then talk reason to her. Instead of the slap he was expecting, she kissed his cheek. "You're an idiot," she said again, with more affection than last time. "But your heart was in the right place, even if your brain was noticeably absent." Draco straightened and frowned down at her from the extra height. "I can point out a number of times in the past where you Gryffindors have done dangerous, life threatening things for 'the greater good' or whatever it is that you people fight for." "Most of those life threatening things were following Harry, and that boy has some serious problems with sitting still until there's a concrete plan and backup behind him," Hermione mumbled. Grabbing her hand, Draco pulled her over to the bed. He sat down and brought her to stand between his legs, so they were closer to the same level. His face was dead serious as he stared deep into her eyes. "Are you telling me that your side knew all along how suicidal Potter was?" Hermione laughed. "Harry's a wonderful person and he cares about his friends over everything else. Even he knows that this gets him in trouble sometimes." At his shell-shocked expression, she laughed some more. "Did you think you 'fighters for the light' were the only ones who had noticed that about him? I bet you thought we were all idiots to following him without knowing his obvious shortcomings." "How could you follow someone so blatantly flawed?" he asked. A sharp bark of laughter from Hermione was his answer. "You followed a nose-less psychopath with daddy issues so bad he turned to genocide for comfort." "A very threatening and unhinged nose-less psychopath. Most of the Death Eaters were just as happy as your side when you won. Living with the Dark Lord was no picnic." He shuddered, obviously reliving some disturbing memories.
- 200 -

"We're off topic," she sighed. "My point is, you're an idiot." "An idiot whose heart was in the right place," he reminded. Hermione stepped closer and wrapped her arms around him. "I would have been devastated if you had gone and killed yourself. Never do something like that again." Not able to make a promise that he knew he may one day have to break, Draco just pulled her closer and kissed her, reopening their connection at the same time. She obviously wasn't going to let him go through with his plan, so there was no point in making them both miserable by continuing to block her out of his mind. Hermione wasn't fooled. But for a while there, she hadn't been sure she'd ever get to kiss him again, so she allowed him to distract her. She made a mental note to not let him get away with this sort of thing on a regular basis. He must have heard that last bit, because he tugged her onto his lap and slid a hand up into her hair to pull her closer. He was really quite good at the distraction thing. Internally, she winced when she felt a wave of smugness from him. Great, he'd heard that too and now he was going to be insufferable - well, more insufferable than normal. Instead of being upset with him for his forwardness, she allowed herself to melt against him. He was holding her as if he'd thought he wasn't going to get to hold her again - which he had. When he slipped his fingers under the edge of her shirt and traced circles across her skin, she hummed her approval, forgetting that she was trying to keep his ego at a reasonable level. Another wave of smugness brushed against her mind. This time, there was something else mixed in with the smugness, something warm and protective. She didn't have time to delve further into the appealing emotion because at that moment, the entire house gave a huge shudder. They pulled apart. "What was that?" Hermione whispered, trying to catch her breath. "It felt like the whole shack shook on its foundations," Draco said. The Shrieking Shack wasn't the sturdiest structure in the world; if the whole thing was shaking, it was entirely possible the entire place could come down. He made sure to keep his arms around her, just in case parts of the ceiling were to collapse or
- 201 -

something like that. His reflexes were faster than hers and could probably move her out of the way before she was hit. A horrible thought occurred to Hermione, causing panic to wash over her, and by extension, her mate. What if the curse was going to try and kill them by taking the entire shack down around them? "We need to get out of here," the Veela said in answer to her thought. He stood up and started dragging her towards the door. When she glanced back towards the window she froze, eyes wide and horrified. The implications of what she was seeing didn't take long to filter through her sharp mind. So intent was Draco on getting her out of the room that he didn't notice she'd stopped walking and he was dragging her across the dusty floor. "Draco," Hermione whispered, trying to tug her hand free from his steel grip. He was so focused on getting her out of there that he didn't even hear her protest. "Draco!" she tried again, slightly louder. He still didn't relent in his efforts to get her out of the room. "DRACO!" Hermione shouted, grabbing onto the doorframe as he pulled her through it. That time it worked, freezing him in his tracks. "What wrong? What is it?" he asked, looking her over for injuries. He didn't see how she could have been hurt in the few seconds he'd been trying to pull her out of the room, but she was certainly panicked. Hermione pointed a shaking finger towards the window. "Look outside." When he did, the meagre colour he had in his face rapidly faded until he was white as a sheet. He grabbed her hand and pulled her again, but this time she let him. They ran down the hall and into the room next door. Out the window there, it was the same. "We have to get out of here," Draco said for the second time, sounding more desperate. Hermione agreed wholeheartedly and followed him as he dragged her down the stairs to the front door. Every window they passed on the way showed the same terrifying thing.
- 202 -

When he ripped open the flimsy pieces of wood that made up the door, they didn't run outside. They couldn't run outside. The scenery outside the door showed the same thing as every window in the entire sack did. "We're trapped," Hermione said, completely horrified. They were going to die.

- 203 -

Chapter 22
Chapter 22 A/N: Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed! I had lots of fun reading your guesses! I was actually kind of proud of myself that I came up with something that none of you guessed. Also thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! Something quite upsetting happened the other day... I got a PM from someone who had been over on wattpad and noticed that my story, Lifelike Shadows had been posted. By someone other than me! It had the same title and everything, they didn't even try to hide that it was the same one. So, many thanks to that person for bringing it to my attention, and if you guys notice something like that, tell the original author. It's really upsetting to find out someone's stolen your story, but it's better to know. Thankfully, either wattpad or the author has taken Lifelike Shadows down from the site. Anyway! The reason you're all here! On with the story. ~Frosty Draco reached out a hand to touch the fluttering blackness that had trapped them inside the shack, but Hermione slapped his hand away just before it could make contact. "Don't touch it!" she said, pulling the both of them away from the door and slamming it, as if that could make what was on the other side disappear. Worry and despair were exuding from her in a constant, stomach turning pulse. "You've seen something like this before?" he asked. The emotions he was feeling from her were too extreme; she had to have some sort of idea about what it was they were facing to be so distraught. "Only once," she said quietly, "in the Department of Mysteries. If I'm right, that's the Veil between this world and death. It's a one way trip if you want to go through it; there's not coming back."
- 204 -

Saying it out loud somehow made it that much worse. Hermione pressed herself close to the Veela's side for comfort. It didn't really work, but she was slightly warmer. "So we're literally surrounded by death," Draco muttered grimly. He was trying to work out in his head any way that would allow him to get the both of them out of there alive, or failing that, a way to get his mate out in one livingpiece. Nothing was coming to mind. "I've never heard of a curse able to transport living people to the other side of the Veil. This is a rather impressive curse your grandfather cast." She walked over to the stairs and plopped down onto the lowest one, burying her head in her hands. Draco joined her, scooting over until their thighs were touching. "There has to be some way to get out of here. We can't just... die like this." "I'm not sure we're not already dead. You can't get to the other side of the Veil without dying. There's no coming back from that. I can't see how a curse could be able to defy laws of nature - and death's a pretty important one." Grabbing her chin, he pulled her face up and turned her head. "Don't talk like that. What happened to Gryffindors continuing to hope even when the odds were stacked overwhelmingly in favour of the other side?" "What happened to Slytherins being realists? We're on the other side of the Veil. Technically speaking, we're dead." She stared deep into his eyes, challenging him to refute her. Draco didn't answer her with words. He took one of the hands she was twisting in her lap and pressed it against his chest, right over his heart. "Would I have a heartbeat if I was dead?" He was right. Hermione took comfort from the steady beating under her hand and tried to get the chaotic swirling of her thoughts to settle into something resembling order. They were alive, they were just... on the other side of the Veil separating the living from the dead. There had to be some way to get out of this situation. "We could start with how we got into this situation in the first place," Draco suggested, having followed her thoughts. "You're right," she murmured. "If it could have done this all along, why did it wait until now to strike? Was it a safety precaution to keep innocent people safe, were
- 205 -

the protections of Hogwarts keeping it at bay, or was it something else? There's any number of things that could have triggered the sudden onset of the curse." She glanced over at Draco to see that he was pale - well, paler than usual. "What? What have you thought of?" "It's not what I thought of just now, it's what I thought while I was kissing you earlier. It was the most fleeting of thoughts, barely even worth mentioning, but I think it may be what triggered the curse." Hermione waited, but it didn't seem like he was going to elaborate. "Are you going to tell me that that thought was?" "I'm not sure how well-received it will be," he hedged. Her eyes rolled to the ceiling in exasperation, it figured that now would be the time Draco suddenly lost his confidence. "As long as you weren't thinking how disgusting it was to be kissing the dirty Mudblood, I don't think there's much you could say that would bother me beyond what a little grovelling couldn't fix." "Hermione..." he started, about to address the Mudblood comment by telling her how stupid she was being. Against her will, tears started pooling in her eyes. "Oh Merlin, that really is what you were thinking? I thought you didn't care about that blood purity stuff anymore. Do you really-" "I love you!" he blurted, unable to deal with her pain any longer. Hermione stopped her rant and stared at him like he'd grown a second head. "That's what I thought while I was kissing you. I thought 'I love her and would be perfectly content to have her never leave my arms'," he continued when he saw that he had her attention. Blocking him completely out of her mind so he wouldn't be able to know what she was thinking, Hermione stared deep into his eyes. He seemed to know what she was trying to figure out and willingly opened his mind to her, allowing her to see that he was telling the truth. She could also see that he was sure she didn't feel the same way and worried that telling her this was going to scare her away. Without warning, Hermione kicked him as hard as she could from the awkward
- 206 -

angle she was sitting at. "What the bloody hell are you doing?" he demanded, reaching down to cup his throbbing injury in an attempt to sooth some of the pain. It was ineffective; his mate was violent. "Do you still love me?" The expression he directed her way clearly said he was questioning her sanity. "Yes! I'm a little upset that you seem so fond of abusing me, but that will hardly make me stop loving you. I've known for years that you have moments when you're abusive and spiteful. It hardly stopped me from falling in love with you in the first place." She let out a deep breath and leant against him, closing her eyes in frustration. "I wouldn't have worked on me either," she sighed. Just in case, she pinched her collarbone as hard as she could. "Yeah, doesn't work." Oh, wait. It had to be Draco who hurt her. "Pinch me or something," she ordered half-heartedly. She really didn't think he'd be able to hurt her just to settle her curiosity, but it was worth a try. An odd feeling from Draco made her open her eyes again. "What?" she asked. He was focused on the red welt that had appeared where she'd pinched herself. "If there's a need for you to hurt yourself, then doesn't that mean you have feelings for me as well?" "Is this really the time to be discussing feelings?" she asked evasively. Draco wasn't going to let her get away that easily. He pulled her closer until she was straddling his lap and started to run his fingers over the spot on her neck where the blood was close to the surface. The soft caresses were going a long way to sooth the lingering pain from the pinch. Goose-bumps followed in the wake of his touch as Hermione fought off shivers. "There's a good chance we're going to die very soon - if we're not dead already. I think now is the perfect time to discuss feelings," he said, leaning forward to replace his fingers with his lips, pressing gentle kisses to the red skin.
- 207 -

"What are you doing?" she asked, sounding breathless. It was getting difficult to think of a coherent response. She knew she should pull away and discuss ways to survive the ordeal they'd found themselves facing, but her body just wouldn't obey her. Her traitorous mortal coil threaded fingers through his hair and arched closer to him. "Stopping you from coming up with excuses. Now do you have feelings for me or not?" He punctuated the end of his sentence with a nip to the tender patch of skin. A pleasant shiver went down her spine as she sucked in a breath. "I love you t-AH!" As soon as he got his answer, Draco had slid a hand down her back and pinched her bum. He tightened his arms when she tried to escape his lap. "Do you still love me?" he asked, his face serious, but laughter in his eyes. She glared, but the struggling stopped. Her eyes promised vengeance at a later date - if they survived. Technically, his pinch had actually made them even, but who was counting? "Not so funny now when the tables have turned, is it?" "Shouldn't you be more concerned with the fact that we're probably going to die?" she asked, trying to get him back on task. The situation was rapidly getting out of hand, and if they were only working with limited time, they were wasting it. She wanted to just let him take away all her worries, but any distractions he could provide would only be temporary. They would still be in mortal peril, only they'd be worse off because of the lost time. "For the record, any time spent together with 'distractions' would not be 'lost time'." He placed a one last peck against the reddened spot on her neck. As he pulled away to face her, all the laughter and teasing drained from him. She almost felt bad for ruining one of his rare, light moments. "But I haven't forgotten," he continued. He sighed and shifted slightly so she was more comfortable, but didn't let her go. "What can you tell me about this Veil?" "Well, when I saw it in the Ministry, it was cold everywhere around it. I'm worried it's going to start leeching warmth from the house."
- 208 -

Draco nodded. "Okay, so if we're not already dead and stuck in some kind of limbo, then we have to worry about dying of hypothermia. Anything else we should worry about killing us?" "Starvation, dehydration... We don't even know how much air is in here." Her eyes travelled to the windows with an almost accusatory look as she wondered if oxygen could seep in through the cracks. Was there even oxygen on the other side of death? She had always liked to think she wasn't going to need to worry about that sort of thing once she'd died. "So, staying is death, but so is leaving?" Laying her head against his shoulder, Hermione sighed. "From the looks of it, we're dead either way; we just get to choose whether we die quickly or slowly." They sat there for hours trying to find a possible way out of the house. Every window, door, and secret passageway was checked and every spell they could think of was used. Nothing was effective. They worked until, completely exhausted, they fell asleep tangled together in the only bed in the shack.

Draco had been running over an idea in his head for a while, but he hadn't voiced the idea. He knew his mate would violently oppose it. He had also been holding out hope that they would be able to think of some sort of alternative. Sadly, nothing had come up. After what must have only been an hour or so of exhausted sleep, Draco was completely awake and thinking of this idea once more. He looked over at the sleeping figure of his mate clinging to him the way she always seemed to in her sleep. Strange as it was, he really did love her, and he couldn't bear the thought that there was a way to save her; he hadn't tried it because he knew it would make her upset and angry with him. Hurt feelings on her part were better than her death. If only he could go back to that time in his life when he had tried to anger and upset her, then he could act out his plan in peace. It was hard for him to always take another person's feelings into consideration before his every action. Although, surprisingly, the impulse came startlingly easy. Carefully extracting himself from the tangle of Hermione's limbs, he got out of bed
- 209 -

and quietly padded around to the other side of the bed. She looked so peaceful when she was asleep. Younger too. There weren't all those worries plaguing her while she was in dreamland. Gently, he smoothed some of her hair off of her face and kissed her forehead, lingering there moments too long because he couldn't bring himself to leave her. It wasn't the most satisfying kiss considering it was going to be his last, but it was better than nothing. He snuck out of the room, down the stairs and over to the door. With a deep breath, he turned the doorknob and pulled, revealing the waving sheet of darkness once more. Would touching that really kill him? It seemed that the undulating blackness was calling to him, telling him the peace rest on the other side. Draco suspected it was a bad thing that the Veil was calling to him. Waves of cold were swirling around him, trying to reach inside the house. If it was warm inside, then it meant that Hermione was probably going to survive after he touched the Veil and broke the curse. If one of them were to die, the curse would be broken. He was counting on the curse releasing her once he was dead. Slowly, he reached out his hand towards the Veil. His fingers were just about to brush the rippling blackness when he heard a floorboard creak behind him. Before he knew what had happened, he'd been whipped across the room and collided with the opposite wall, landing on the floor in an ungraceful heap. "You idiot! You were just going to kill yourself in the middle of the night? It's like you're trying to find situations that make it necessary for you to kill yourself! Did you not think how I would feel in the morning when I woke up alone and couldn't find you anywhere?" Hermione was at her shrillest, trying to get her words out around hiccupping sobs. She'd gone from zero to hysterical in the time it took him to cross the room, but that wasn't what had his attention. Her tears were black again. Draco pulled himself to his feet and brushed off the dust he'd picked up on the floor, acting as if he'd merely stumbled and fallen, not been magically launched into a wall. He looked at his hysterical mate coolly. "I didn't think much beyond that you'd wake up tomorrow and be alive."
- 210 -

"Did it occur to you that by leaving me here alone, the curse would let you out the other side and kill me instead?" Her hands swiped angrily at her tears. It seemed she had yet to notice that the smears down her pale cheeks were so black they seemed to absorb what little light that was in the room. He winced; that hadn't occurred to him. Hermione stomped over and offered him her hand. He looked from her thin, black stained fingers to her glaring eyes. "What are you doing?" he asked. "If we're doing this, we're doing this together," she said, looking pointedly at her still outstretched hand. When she noticed the black liquid, she took her hand back and swiped at her cheeks some more, trying to get all of it off of her face. "I'm crying black tears again." It wasn't a question, it was a resigned statement. Draco stepped closer and dabbed away a missed droplet at the edge of her eye with his sleeve. "You were." She sniffled and scrubbed her face a bit more. "I'm thinking it's a subtle hint to stop trying to kill yourself for my own good. It would really endanger our bond if you were dead and I was furious with you." For the second time, she offered her hand. "Maybe everything will turn out all right. In fact, we've both been through worse and come out all right. I'm sure we'll survive this." Hermione knew he didn't believe her - hell, she didn't think anyone would believe that pathetic lie. She was a terrible liar and he was a Slytherin; even if he hadn't had the advantage of knowing most of her thoughts, he would have been able to catch the lie. Instead of calling her on the obvious mistruth, he looked away and nodded, tension showing in his jaw and around his shoulders. Draco wasn't happy that she was insisting on going with him, but he'd never be able to forgive himself if she was right and the curse killed her once he was on the other side. It made sense for the curse to work that way; his grandfather would rather have had the Muggle girl die than his only heir. He took her hand, lacing their fingers together tightly. "We'll go through at the exact same time."
- 211 -

At least that way, if they were going to die, it would be together. Being the one left behind would have been extremely difficult, no matter which of them it was that survived. Hermione nodded, her heart racing as they crossed the room towards the door. She held his hand tightly as he opened the door. "Draco?" she said when the coldness of the Veil rushed to invade the warm house. He looked down at her questioningly. "I meant it when I said I love you," she said, blushing slightly. It was strange to be open about such strong emotions, but he needed to know if she was going to die. Draco smiled warmly at her. "I know, I did too. Still do." She nodded, too panicked to have a tender moment with him, but trying for an equally warm smile. "On the count of three?" "Nope, take a deep breath, then we go." They both stood still for a moment, breathing what they hoped weren't their last breaths. With one last shared glance full of equal parts love and fear, they stepped forward and into the Veil. A/N: I know. Cliff-hanger! They're aproblemfor me...

- 212 -

Chapter 23
Chapter 23 A/N: Hello readers! Here's the LAST CHAPTER! Sorry for making you wait so long for this chapter (I know that was a horrible cliffhanger I left you with), I had it all ready to get to you quicker, but I noticed a few things that needed to change. I've been picking at this chapter for days, and I think it's finally ready. I hope you like it! I'm saying it now: there won't be a sequel or epilogue or anything, I've got the whole Veela thing out of my system I think. Thanks so much to everyone who's review this story! It wouldn't have been half as good without your input. Also many thanks to Claire96 and Bulba-chan for betaing! If you're looking for something to read after this story, I have a new one calledTensions and Tea Leaves, it's a Rose/Scorpius fic. I also have a few Dramione stories started that should be posted in the near future, so keep your eyes out! I'll let you guys read before I abuse exclamation points any more. ~Frosty Sunlight streamed through the windows, illuminating specks of dust and making them look like pinpricks of brightness in the air. All was silent save for a faint rustling of a mouse from the kitchen one room over. Lying completely still in the middle of the dusty floor were two bodies, their fingers tightly intertwined. So motionless were those bodies that a thin layer of dust was starting to accumulate over the both of them. A passerby would have taken them for a pair of mannequins left discarded in the old shack. Suddenly, the blond one sat up with a huge gasp. Greedily gulping in air as if he hadn't taken a breath in a while, he tried to regain control of his breathing. It took him a second to get enough air to his oxygen-starved brain to notice his surroundings, but once his did, he turned to his unmoving companion.
- 213 -

His eyes darkened to black as they widened in horror. "Hermione?" he said, panicked. One hand whipped to her neck to check her pulse. Maybe the curse had let him live going through the Veil and killed her. Could some cruel twist of the curse allow him to survive after they had been prepared to die together? That would be a very Malfoy thing to do, raising hopes high only to crush them back down with ruthless glee. She didn't have a heartbeat, and she wasn't breathing. His fingers pressed deeper into the soft skin of her neck, desperately searching for some indication that his mate was alive. A keening sound began in the back of his throat completely against his will. She couldn't be dead! Just as Draco was about to succumb to the despair that his mate was dead and gone for good, she took a huge, gasping breath as he had done only moments before. Her frantic eyes sought out the black ones of her Veela. "Thank Merlin," he breathed, pulling her over and hugging her tightly. If tears hadn't been someone a Malfoy would never shed, he would have cried. As it was, a tear or two may have slipped out of his tightly shut eyelids. "Draco, you're cutting off my air," she gasped when the hug lasted a tad too long and was a little too tight. Her breathing hadn't calmed down and the tight squeezing wasn't helping her to regain a more normal rhythm. His grip loosened, but he didn't put her down, unwilling to be so far away from her. Even the littlest loss of contact was unacceptable when, only a moment before, he'd been sure he would be alone for the rest of his life. Never again did he want to face a situation like that. Hermione was too important to ever be in danger again not that she would appreciate his attempts at protecting her. Hermione concentrated on taking deep breaths for a moment, waiting until her breathing had slowed down a little before she took a look at her surroundings. They were still in the Shrieking Shack, but there was sunlight outside instead of the impenetrable blackness. They were alive. And on the living side of the Veil.
- 214 -

Something fluffy over Draco's shoulder caught her attention. "You have wings again," she noted, reaching a hand to pet the nearest feathery appendage. They were so sleek and platinum coloured that she was always surprised to feel that his wings were warm. The metallic appearance of his feathers hinted at a cold, metal texture, but that was completely wrong. Hermione liked his wings. "Why is it that you keep waking up and pointing out my wings?" Draco asked in exasperation. His eyes were probably deep black and he could feel his fangs, but the first thing she chose to comment on was his wings? Always the wings with her. Maybe she had some sort of avian fetish. Was there even such a thing? She just smiled at him, running her fingers over the silky feathers. Softly, she drew her fingertips over the place where the downy feathers merged with his back. Her lips twisted into a small smirk when Draco's arms involuntarily tightened around her waist and he shivered slightly. Though he complained, it was abundantly obvious that he thoroughly enjoyed the attention she paid to his wings. "They're kind of hard to miss," she said, slightly embarrassed. They were warm and fluffy and she liked to pet them, but she wasn't going to tell him that. He'd probably laugh at her for thinking girly thoughts. "You've forgotten I'm in your mind again, haven't you?" he asked, sounding amused. "Give me a bit of a break, we almost died not so long ago, I'm not up to a hundred percent yet." Her honey eyes abruptly darkened. Their banter would only do so much, they were going to have to actually discuss the issues that they'd just lived through eventually."Draco, what happened to us?" she asked. The Veela shrugged; he didn't have any more answers than she did. Perhaps they'd never know what it was that had happened to land them on the wrong side of the Veil. What he did know was that if Hermione was correct and they'd returned from the other side of death, they were the only two people in written history to have ever visited the other side of the Veil and lived to tell about it. "I think we were dead while we were over there. Waking up just now didn't feel like coming back to consciousness from a snooze, I had to work much too hard to breathe right." She frowned just thinking about her panic while she tried to breathe
- 215 -

properly. Thinking of how he hadn't been able to find a pulse at first on Hermione's neck, Draco was forced to agree. "For a brief time, I believe that we really were on the other side of the Veil. Technically dead." "Then why did we get out alive?" It was more a rhetorical question than something she expected him to answer. Surprisingly, he had one. "I think... that we were supposed to stay there until we died. The coldness and general threatening nature of the Veil was supposed to keep us scared and trapped until death." Hermione wasn't convinced. "Desperate people resort to desperate measures. I think anyone would try to pass through the Veil after a while." "Maybe the fact that you're my mate and we're bonded threw off the curse. Our connection is very different than anything Father could have had with some nameless Muggle girl," he offered. Horrified at how close they'd brushed against death, Hermione could only sigh and press her face into his shoulder. They would probably never have definite answers. "I hope this means we're going to be done with this bloody curse." Draco smoothed his hands down her hair, letting them continue down her back before stopping at the small of her back and repeating the motion. "It succeeded in killing us. I think that broke the thing, there's no reason for it to stick around once we're no longer alive." Over his shoulder, she watched her hands as they brushed his feathers. It was time for them to stop with the fighting against the curse and start working on their happily ever after - Hermione wasn't so unrealistic that she thought their happy ending wasn't going to take some work. Following her thoughts, Draco smirked affectionately at her, stretching the wings out behind him so she could admire them. They really were rather impressive, and the perfect thing to distract her from the melancholy turn her thoughts had taken. When her fingers reached for them once more, he moved the feathers just out of her reach.
- 216 -

"What do you say we give them a go?"For someone who had recently almost died, he was in remarkably good spirits. Perhaps it was because he'd thought he was going to lose his life that he was able to seem co carefree. Appreciate what you've got and all that nonsense. "Give what a go? What are you talking about?" There was no way he meant what she thought he meant. No. He couldn't. He knew how horrible she was when it came to flying a broom, what made him think that she'd be more comfortable with that? Nothing. Nothing would make him think she'd be all right with his idea, but he was going to try and make her go anyway. He had a devious Slytherin mind for just that type of thing. "The wings Granger. Keep up." She looked from his wings to his eyes and back again. When she realized he really was thinking that horrible, unreasonable thought, she tried to get out of his arms. "No. No no no nononononono. Draco, no." Those wings of his were a new addition, and he'd yet to fly on them. Hermione was a big believer in empiricism, but she'd rather not be along for the ride when he tested those feathery accidents waiting to happen. Ignoring her protests, he stood up, bringing her with him. "No! I'm terrified of heights! You can't just make me fly; I'm not the flying type. I don't even like broomsticks! Or Ferris Wheels!" Her screeches echoed around the Shrieking Shack, probably only reinforcing the rumours surrounding the place. The acoustics in the wooden structure were actually quite impressive, especially when one considered all the dust layering everything and muffling sound. There would be stories of a new, higher pitched phantom circling Hogsmeade before the end of the week. Draco didn't know what a Ferris Wheel was, but he assumed it was some sort of round, Muggle flying device; perhaps something similar to a broomstick, but for non-magical people. His contemplations briefly distracted him while he opened the door and pulled the flailing Gryffindor through the doorway. He'd have to ask her what a Ferris Wheel was when she was more open to sharing information.
- 217 -

Hermione tried to latch onto the door frame as she passed, but the Veela used his greater strength to easily pull her away. He tried a few experimental flaps, just to get his bearings, but his instincts quickly took over. After a little jump to get him going, they were airborne, and his mate was screaming. Quite impressively actually. The girl had an amazing set of lungs. His grip on her was firm, and he was careful not to buffet her on the down stroke. If a swan's wing was strong enough to break bone, he didn't want to imagine the damage his much more powerful wings could do to his delicate mate. "Hermione, stop screaming. You have your wand, you can stop yourself before you hit the ground. Just breathe, try enjoying the flight. Hell, you might even consider opening your eyes before we get to Hogwarts. There's quite a view from all the way up here." Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and she was trying to pretend they weren't high above the ground. As long as she didn't look, she could imagine they were only a metre or so off of the ground and was only mildly panicked. If it weren't for the rhythmic whooshing of air as he flapped his wings, she would have been able to convince herself they were on the ground. "How is it you managed to fly a broom out of the Room of Requirement while blasting walls open and being pursued by Fiendfyre, but you can't manage to even open your eyes right now? I've got you, you're perfectly safe." He sent her a rush of comforting feelings and protectiveness that reassured her more than words ever could have. Her screaming stopped, but she wasn't much less panicked. "If I survived walking through the Veil only to die because you dropped me, I'll come back and poltergeist you," she threatened, cracking one eye open reluctantly. The ground was a long way away. Sheer force of will kept her from letting out a squeak of terror or just breaking down and screaming her head off. She nearly missed his laugh and comment of "I wouldn't want it any other way, love," because she was so focused on the ground. It really was awfully far away. "It's far enough away that you have time to get your wand out and cast a spell to stop your fall before you hit," he said, once again answering her thoughts.
- 218 -

The Veela may have had a point, but there was always a chance she could pass out from fear on the way down. The constant beating of his wings reminded her of the time in third year when she and Harry had ridden Buckbeak. Flying with Draco was more like riding a hippogriff than a broom if she had to liken it to past flying experiences. "Really? Now you're going to compare me to a hippogriff? What is it with you and comparing me to animals?" he grumbled, more amused than upset. "Because half the time, you act like the animals I've seen. Be happy they're fierce animals at least, Ron once told me my hair reminded him of a Pygmy Puff." Draco laughed. "And you immediately reminded him of a dragon as you yelled at him for saying something stupid?" "That goes without saying," she said primly. That had been a particularly bad day for her, and Ron had been practically in tears by the time she was done with him. Sometimes running away and finding somewhere quiet to cry about something Ron said just wasn't what she wanted to do. Sometimes she just had to chew him out for his careless and stupid words. Maybe, if the planets aligned just right, he'd actually learn his lesson one day. They fell into silence as Hogwarts came into view. It was good to be somewhere safe again. There were only a few students out on the grounds, but it was the quartet gathered just outside of the Whomping Willow's circle of reach that drew the blond's attention. "What's happened that would make Blaise willingly hang out with a bunch of Gryffindors - that bunch in particular? I would have thought he'd have better taste than that," Draco said with feigned contempt. Hermione didn't have an answer for him. They landed several metres behind Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Blaise with a small thump. Draco lost his balance on impact and they ended up falling over and tumbling down a small incline. They came to a stop at the feet of their friends; Hermione sprawled on top of Draco and both of them laughing. It felt good to be so carefree and happy without the weight of the world on their shoulders, which only
- 219 -

served to increase their mirth. "You're going to need to work on your landings," Hermione said. Someone cleared their throat irritably. The pair in the grass looked up at the pale faces of their friends, wondering why they looked so serious. "What's wrong?" Hermione asked, starting to get a little worried. They'd only been gone for the night, how could they be so worried after so little time? "You've been gone for almost a week," Ginny said, looking at them almost accusingly. "Blaise came and got us when you didn't come back by nightfall that first day and we went looking for you, but the Shrieking Shack was just... gone. There was no sign of it anywhere." Hermione and Draco shared a look before climbing to their feet. Brushing a dead leaf off of Draco's shoulder, Hermione kept her head still while he pulled a twig from their hair. "We were kind of... on the other side of the Veil," Hermione started, then she launched into the entire explanation - excluding anything remotely personal and Draco's repeated attempts to off himself. "So the curse is broken?" Harry asked once they were done explaining how they'd woken up alive in the Shrieking Shack. "As far as we can tell," Draco said. He was shooting wary glares at Blaise, who was giving him a strange look in return. "What?" he finally snapped at his friend. "You nearly died not so long ago, yet I've never seen you happier," Blaise accused. Shrugging, Draco gave a half smile that unnerved every Gryffindor present save Hermione. Slytherins just weren't supposed to look so happy. They were a brooding, plotting bunch, not prone to merriment and other plebeian pastimes. Draco's smile filled with joy and love was downright disturbing. It was like seeing a unicorn wandering the forbidden forest wearing a tutu and roller-skates; disturbing on many levels and so very wrong. "Is anyone else a little worried he's just figured out how to get away with our murders?" Ron whispered to Harry and Ginny. His voice carried to all present,
- 220 -

making Blaise and Draco smirk. "We figured that out in third year, we just couldn't justify the waste of resources on someone who could only manage to be a mild nuisance on the best of days," Draco said to the outspoken redhead. "Hermione, on the other hand, was a big nuisance, always beating you in classes and even actually punching you in the face once. Yet you never seemed to get around to getting rid of her," Ginny observed, grinning evilly. "We all know I'm a bit biased when it comes to Hermione," Draco said. Did they honestly expect him to be embarrassed? These Gryffindors obviously still had a thing or two to learn about the loyalty of Slytherins. Hermione was his and he wanted the world to know. Eventually, the three Gryffindors went back to the castle to report to their teachers that the Head students were alive and well, leaving Hermione alone with the two Slytherins. "Spit it out," Draco said the moment the retreating trio were out of earshot. He rounded on his friend with a stern look on his face. Blaise shifted uncomfortably, trying for innocent. "I've had a long day Blaise, just say it," Draco snapped. He was glad Blaise's interference had ended up with him keeping his life and his mate, but he didn't have much patience for secrets, particularly the poorly-kept ones. "Your parents have been notified and are on their way. I'm pretty sure your mother's going to claw someone's eyes out for letting you off school property and your father is ready to strangle you for sneakingoff school property and getting caught. I don't think either of them are very happy with you and your dumb ideas... Have fun," Blaise flashed a fake smile and then fled before Draco could hit him. The blond scowled after his so-called friend. "May as well get this over with," he sighed, following the rest of them into the castle, Hermione beside him. Draco reached over and took Hermione's hand as they walked. "Want to get engaged?" he asked casually without breaking his stride or making eye contact. "It might distract my parents from killing me long enough for me to get away if they
- 221 -

notice a ring on your finger. I'm only asking because you seem so set on keeping me alive," he smirked at her. Bushy head titled to the side, Hermione tried to figure out if he was kidding. "You have a ring?" she asked. Her question hadn't been a serious one; she'd thought she was being clever in asking to see the ring as if she wanted a look at it before she made a decision. She smiled slightly at her little joke; like the ring actually mattered. He shocked her when he nodded and rifled around in his pocket before producing a beautiful, antique-looking ring. Hermione was almost afraid to touch it because it looked so delicate. It must have been Goblin made to get that kind of detail and beauty without it being so fragile that it couldn't be worn. "Mother must have slipped it into my pocket that day I bit you, I didn't find it until the House Elves tried to wash my clothes and showed it to me." Hermione looked from him to the ring before staring into his eyes. He could have phrased it better, but he was serious about his question. "Okay." She shrugged and held her hand out to him. His sharp eyes stared at her hard for a moment, gauging whether she was serious or not. There was no doubt in her eyes. Before she could change her mind, he took her delicate hand in his larger one and slipped the ring on the appropriate finger. The band resized itself to fit snugly. It couldn't have fit better if it had been made for her. The Veela looked shocked that she'd agreed so quickly. He was still blinking at the ring on her finger, giving off waves of confusion that were outweighing the spark of happiness. "What?" Hermione asked. "It's not like I had plans to sleep around and make sure you're right for me. You're it. Why not get engaged?" She turned her hand back and forth, gazing at the sunlight as it played across the diamonds. Though not one to concern herself with material things, she could still appreciate the beauty of her new adornment. Draco watched her for a moment, pleased that she'd agreed. He'd been half-joking with the proposal, but she'd seriously said yes, so he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. Elation rapidly overtook any other emotion he was experiencing.
- 222 -

"So how are we going to deal with my parents?" he asked. Tilting her head to the side, Hermione narrowed her eyes in thought. "I was thinking we could just rush in and surprise them. You could grab your school trunk; throw me at them, shouting something along the lines of 'she agreed to marry me, being fawning'; and then you run. I'll wrap myself around your father's knees to keep him from following and your mother will have to help untangle me. It should buy you enough time to get off school grounds and Apparate somewhere safe." At his blank look, she laughed and threaded her left arm through his, angling her hand so that her ring was practically on display to anyone who cared to look. "How about we walk in like this and let them come to their own conclusions?" Draco leaned down to kiss the top of her head, murmuring his agreement. Parentage be damned; she was the most magical person he'd ever met. He only wished it hadn't taken his Veela side so long to make him see it, and a life-threatening curse to bring them together. Their bond still had time to go sour, but he was confident they could take anything life decided to throw at them - unless she wanted him to go to a Weasley get-together, then they'd have a problem. The End

- 223 -