Bathwater

In Which Malfoy takes Charge

"Settle down, settle down, class." Professor Slughorn tapped his wand impatiently on the glass of his desk. "We've got a few exams to revise before we are let out, alright." He pulled out a stack of parchment from the right drawer of his desk. "Now, I shall read you what your mark was out loud and hopefully those who've failed miserably will feel ashamed of their mark and will be more keen to study before my test."

"A galleon there is a giant 'T' marked on your exam, Weasley," Seamus laughed as he rubbed off the marks of smoke on his face that appeared there once he'd failed to add a few strands of Dean Thomas' hair into his Polyjuice Potion — which of course exploded to flames. (It was still a mystery of how Seamus didn't spontaneously burst into flames when he would walk down a corridor.)

"You know what, Finnegan," Ron leaned forward on his desk, looking at his fellow Gryffindor with a serious expression, "I'll take your wager. I did horrible on that bloody exam." Ron slapped down a couple of sickles on the tabletop, grinning like there was no care in the world. "What kind professor hands out an exam without giving notice, anyway? That exam was waiting to be failed."

Looking up from her school things that she was organizing, Hermione frowned at the redhead with all the disapproval she could muster. "Slughorn told us about the exam three days ago, Ronald," she huffed at him, shoving her parchment of notes into her schoolbag.

"He did not," Ron retorted as he spun a sickle with his fingers.

"Yes he did," Hermione snapped. "You were too busy trying to sneakily pass Parkinson letters as the professor was teaching that you didn't hear a word."

"Well you could've reminded me, 'Mione," Ron said, smirking lightly as Seamus and Harry whispered awes at him mockingly.

The brunette kept her frown, deepening it with annoyance. "I did — You were too occupied stuffing your face you didn't hear a word I said! I even made a study-chart for you!"

"Okay, Hermione, new rule," Ron slapped the sickle on the table, looking at his best friend in a calm way, "remind me of things when I'm not eating or trying to get Pansy's attention. You just won't get a reaction out of me if you do."

Hermione stared at him with an irritated look. "Imagine the rate your brain is turning into mush when you're talking to Parkinson and eating at the same time. It's a wonder to nature that you can actually remember to wear pants everyday."

"Pans makes sure I'm nice and tidy before we leave our chamber." Ron smiled in an odd way that made Hermione feel a bit sickened. He looked bewitched or like child beaming like he'd just made a finger-painting worthy of going on a muggle fridge.

"Tidy?" Harry repeated, staring at him the same way Hermione and Seamus were. "Pans? Oh, mate, you pathetic prat. You're officially head over heels for Pansy Parkinson."

"And that's daunting," the brunette added, nodding her head in agreement. "Considering that you don't even know her that well."

"I know her plenty, 'Mione," Ron replied defensively. "Why do you think I've suddenly snapped out of my funk? It certainly isn't because I woke up and decided today was going to be a better day, I assure you that.

"It was because of her. Because, believe it or not, I have gotten to know her truly. Who she really is without all the wild ruddy rumors that go around about her in this school. I've gotten to know Pans and I like who she is." He crossed his arms over his chest in a very furious manner and turned to frown at Professor Slughorn.

Harry and Hermione exchanged a silent look, Seamus in the background torn between laughing or moving from the awkward tension among the Golden Trio.

"Lavender Brown, 'A'," the Potions Master's voice rung among the classroom before Hermione or Harry had a chance to make amends with Ron as he placed the Gryffindor's parchment on the back of the pile of exams. "Padama Patil, 'E'. Seamus Finnegan, 'P'." He sent Seamus a pitying gaze and placed his paper on the back of the stack.

"….Come off it, Ron," Harry rolled his eyes, risking to whisper at his best friend while the teacher kept speaking. "You know we're just teasing you. We're glad Parkinson actually turned out to be an okay witch. We wouldn't want our mate with the evil Slytherin wench." The Boy Who Lived gave Ron an exaggerated grin.

"You're lucky my sister is in love with you," Ron grunted in return, scowling at the redness from Hermione's cheeks as she contained her laughter from Harry's ridiculous expression, "or I would have killed you for insulting my woman."

Harry lifted his palms out before him and giving a surrendering pose.

"Harry, m'boy, you have an 'E' for the exam. Congratulations." Professor Slughorn smiled warmly at the famous boy. "Same goes for you, Mister Weasley. Splendid work on describing the mixture of the Drought of Living Death."

"What?" Hermione's jaw dropped. "How did you achieve an Exceeds Expectations? You didn't even study!"

"It's all in here, 'Mione." Ron tapped the side of his forehead with his finger, grinning proudly even as Seamus took his sickles from the table.

"This isn't a galleon, Weasley, but I'll let it slide." The Irish Gryffindor pocketed the money.

Clearing his throat to grab attention again, Professor Slughorn said, "and, Miss Granger, like always an 'O' for your brilliant answers."

Hermione flushed red as the Professor lifted her paper to display the red 'Outstanding' scribbled on the parchment of her exam.

"—Professor can we come in now? Peeves is outside and he's gotten a cauldron of Bubble Juice." Pansy Parkinson poked her head inside the Potions classroom, her pale face looking extremely annoyed. "He's threatening to soak us, and unless the Headmistress would like a scene of me killing an already dead poltergeist.…." The Slytherin witch trailed off, motioning with her palm what would happen if her anger got out of control.

"Of course, of course." Professor Slughorn motioned her in. "Tell your classmates it's alright to enter, my dear."

As the class turned from the door to stare at Ron, Seamus took the opportunity to nudge his fellow Gryffindor with a giant leer on his face. "It's Pansy!" He shouted and Ron blushed. "Whooooo!"

"Shut up." Ron blushed even more and sat up straighter on his stool as Pansy Parkinson came walking elegantly towards him, the other students trailing in after her.

A much more graceful grin than Ron's was on her face as she placed a kiss on his cheek; turning quickly away from him to push Seamus from his stool next to her fiancée without an 'excuse me'.

"Granger." Hermione held on the edge of her table as a small whisper graced her ear; catching her off guard as she focused on Ron and his round of giggles. She felt the shiver that went up her spine that the voice caused, one that ignited the goosebumps on her arm.

She swallowed roughly trying to find her composure as her skin still tingled. "Malfoy," she replied to the blonde Slytherin's greeting after a moment. She collected her thoughts quickly as she watched him take a stool from another table and drag it to sit beside her. He laced his cold fingers with hers, but his eyes and attention remained on the main desk ahead.

"Had a good day?"

"I should say," Draco responded to the girl's question. He was going to add a little more detail until Ginny Weasley passed him, slapping his arm playfully like they were the best of friends as she headed her way towards Harry.

Grimacing at that, he pushed it away after a second and turned back to the girl beside him. "And yours?"

"Now, now, children," the professor began before Hermione had a chance to answer. "Seeing as today's the last day before departing to our homes for the Christmas holidays and there's no Family Consumer lesson, Professor Sprout asked me to remind you that the deadline for the dates of the weddings should be presented to the Headmistress in four days."

A murmur broke out amongst the Sixth and Seventh Years.

"What if we choose not to?" Startled by the chiming voice that asked the question, the Potions room became deadly quiet. Enough silence filled the classroom that the brewing bubbles of cauldrons away were heard.

"Well, Miss Lovegood—" Also surprised by the angry look spread on the Ravenclaw's face, the professor cleared his throat uneasily again. He sent a look between her and Dean Thomas — who sat four tables away from her like he was in restriction. "Like the Headmistress and even the Minister have said in previous occasions, the Marriage Law is not up for discussion. It is required out of you and so you will obliged to it." He sent looks of worry to the other students as Luna's glare became more dominate. "On the fifth day of your holiday, if you fail to summit a date, the Ministry will owl you with the date they've chosen for you."

Silence pounded again and the popping bubbles of the cauldrons became like breathing in the background for a few moments as no one said anything; everyone remained looking shockingly at the blonde witch.

Taking a deep breath, Luna said, "So you're telling me that regardless of certain…mishaps I'm still stuck with Thomas?" Her pale complexion was furious, more furious than anyone could've ever imagined she could conjure up.

At her clear fit she was about to go into, Neville reached over to her; taking her hand. But as he attempted to squeeze it, showing his support and that he loved her, Luna shoved it away.

The classroom broke out into excited murmurs, looking back in forth between Luna and Dean due to the clear understanding that something had gone terribly wrong.

Noticing the commotion and the tension in the air as well, the professor sighed defeated as he answered her question. "I'm sure you know the answer to that, Miss Lovegood."

Luna hopped off her stool. "Apparently so, Professor. " She picked up her schoolbag, aware that all eyes were on her, and she tossed the strap over her head. "I'm doomed to that Gryffindor forever because of your law." She glared deeper at the Potions Master and then stormed out of his classroom without looking back.

"…And I thought you were a piece of work." Seamus turned to Lavender Brown, who had joined him at the table, and gave her a smile of relief. "I'm now officially glad I'm paired off with you, Lav. Poor Dean. That girl's a whole new level of mental."

Hermione watched as Lavender swallowed roughly, her cheeks turning a pink color and a twisted expression on her face. "Yeah. I wonder what got into Loony Lovegood." She knitted her eyebrows together and looked at the tabletop; ignoring the arm Seamus had draped over her shoulder.

"Hoping that you have an excellent holiday, class is dismissed," Professor Slughorn said rather hesitantly, still looking after Luna's long gone trail with deep confusion.

Jumping off his stool faster than what he could catch a snitch, Harry headed towards Dean. "What did you do, mate?" He bombarded his fellow Gryffindor with the obvious question, not even trying to be modest about it. "What could you, the greatest bloke there is, possibly do to Luna?"

Dean continued to sit on his place, ignoring as a small group formed around him; waiting for him to answer Harry's question.

"Potter's dense if he thinks Thomas will tell him of his cowardly act," Draco whispered to Hermione as he helped her off the stool as he didn't particularly care to stay around for the scene most Gryffindors were about to have with their house-mate. "The last thing Thomas will do is tell Potter that he betrayed Lovegood."

Hermione narrowed her eyes at the blonde Slytherin. "You don't know that. Maybe Harry can—"

"No, he cannot help, Granger." Draco rolled his silvery eyes at her. And with their hands still clasped together he directed her towards the door. "From what I've observed for the previous years, and from what I've heard and made fun of before, Potter has a deep sense of affection for the Lovegood girl, right? He treats her like a sister, alike you, and cares deeply about her."

The brunette gave a nod, not saying anything so he'd continue.

"You can't possibly think Potter would help a bloke who hurt his sister, right? Especially since he's quite the sentimental git himself, always going on about the importance of loyalty and all that?"

Hermione raised her eyebrow at Malfoy. "For someone who has hated Harry for so long you sure know how he thinks, Malfoy." She smirked lightly at the Slytherin as he stopped from her sudden remark; forgetting about where he was going with the subject.

"It's not hard to guess, Granger," he said in firm voice. "If that Weasel of yours were to hurt Pansy in such way, and I knew that it scarred her deeply, I'd make sure the Weasel King would die a most painful death without a thought." (Or even if he didn't hurt Pansy, who cares. He'd still take a go at the redheaded sidekick, but the precious bookworm need not know that.)

Hermione tried not to scoff as she adjusted her schoolbag on her shoulder. "Since when do you care about other people, Malfoy?"

"I care about you." Sure enough, that wiped the smirk right of the Muggle-Born's face; much to Draco's satisfaction. He hated it when the Gryffindor had an accusing hold over him and was able to put a smirk — his smirk — on her pale face like she owned it.

Hermione cleared her throat, trying not to let her surprise show. "We should go pack, the train leaves in a couple of hours and we have nothing in our trunks."

"Mine has been packed." He let go of her hand and slowly made it move to her waist. "I expect you're going home for the holidays?" He asked in a low voice, gazing deep into her hazel eyes.

Knitting her eyebrows in confusion of why her heart gave a loud thump, she had to force herself not to stutter. "No actually. Mrs. Weasley has invited Harry and I over and I accepted seeing as my parents will travel to Australia for their anniversary. Not to mention I couldn't pass the opportunity of finding out who George was paired off with."

Swallowing her comment of the Weasleys and the adoration that burned in her eyes for them, the damn blood traitors, he gave her waist a tight press. "You will miss me, right?"

"As long as you miss me," sarcasm dripped from the Gryffindor's voice.

The Slytherin chuckled. "Blaise is right, you know?" He moved his left palm towards the softness of her cheek; smirking at her with some pride. "You have been spending quite a lot of time with me."

"…Imagine what a year by your side will do to me," Hermione muttered as she found herself leaning into his palm. Not feeling the coldness that always invaded his body.

Staring so deeply at her, Draco found that there was a sudden spark in her brown eyes that made her face lit up. It was something quite magical that he found himself prolonging the stare. He was captivated by the sight, by the essence of her purity. He never imagined that he would ever find someone who just glistened with innocence the way she did. Sure, he had heard stories and at times experienced her wrath, but he never imagined that she was this wholesome.

Without saying a word he leaned forward and made his forehead connect with hers, just for the sake of it. He remained staring into her eyes that he paid no attention to his uneven breathing.

They have been an official couple for about a week now and he'd only kissed her once, and that was her doing, now he wanted his turn. It was only fair, wasn't it? So he started caressing her nose gently with his, he closed his eyes and blurred her out of his vision and pressed his lips to hers.

At first his lips just touched hers. He let them stay still for a moment, trying to let the softness of them play with his conscience of what he was going to do to her. He tried to let the smoothness give him some remorse, but alike the coward he heard people say he was, he began to sync his lips with hers and forgot about her innocence. Moving his mouth in a firm but caressing way, he brought the hand that rested on her cheek to the back of her neck and pushed her closer. He kept kissing her with a passion that was not like him, but was filled with someone who had a heart.

But Malfoys had no heart, so he had to tear himself away; not wanting her to see that feeling of something.

"…Hope you have a great holiday with the Weasleys, Granger," he whispered with ease over her lips, pulling away from the feel of them with a step back.

Before she could say anything to Malfoy, she tumbled back on her feet as he made his way down the corridor. Her back collided with the marbled wall and she heaved for some air.

"Breathless much, Hermione?" A redhead danced her way silently from inside of the Potions classroom. "I always am whenever Harry looks at me that way or when he snogs me." Ginny crossed her arms over her chest, staring at the retreating figure of the Slytherin alike her friend.

"I am not breathless, Gin." Hermione steadied herself as soon as the oxygen in her body started flowing naturally again. "I just haven't gotten used to having Malfoy...kiss me. It's weird, that's all."

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Oh, yeah, because having your boyfriend kiss you is such an abnormality."

"I've been kissed twice in my life, Ginny," Hermione said with a hint of irritation. "And if you recall by what I told you about them, kissing Malfoy is different. He's the enemy."

"He's your fiancée," Ginny retorted, shaking her long fiery hair at Hermione. "You've got to stop thinking in back of that brilliant head of yours that this is the strangest thing you will ever have to do. Because, 'Mione, you've got to face it, this is reality. And kissing Malfoy will be as well for the rest of your life."

Hermione frowned, looking disturbed by that.

Ginny shrugged. "It's true and you know it. Embrace it."

"I feel so much better," the brunette grunted. "But," she added quickly before Ginny could say something heatedly, "at least we are civil to one another and agreed to make the best of this. And that's better than anything, right?"

"Of course." Ginny smiled widely, latching her arm on to Hermione's. "Now, aren't you excited about finding out who George got? I can't wait to tease him over it. Hopefully he got someone like mum, that'll be torture!"

Hermione laughed as Ginny dragged her the opposite way in which he fiancée left. "I can't believe he hasn't wanted to tell anyone about it. Ron said not even your parents knew. Could it be that bad that he's resorted to mystery?"

"She's probably some Veela and he has become too entranced to think clearly, just like Bill did with Fleur." Ginny laughed loudly as she thought of her new sister-in-law. "I wonder if his wedding date will clash with mine. I'm having no witch interfere with my day so that can be a problem."

"I'm sure it won't."

Ginny nodded, chin up. "It better not. I'm celebrating the new year as a married woman," she said almighty, daring the forces of the universe to go against her. "Have you and Malfoy chosen a date?"

"Damnit!" Hermione stopped, turning her wide eyes to the redhead. "That's what I forgot!"

X

"Relax, will you?" Ron huffed as he reached for another mince pie. "You're getting me all jumpy."

"Shut up, Ronald."

"And there you go," Ron sighed, chewing on his pie. "Women."

"Mum, wasn't George supposed to be here twenty minutes ago?" Ginny asked from her seat on the couch next to Harry, rolling her eyes secretively at her mother's boiling hostility from there.

"And twenty minutes ago, Ginevra, is when you should've gone up and changed into proper attire," Mrs. Weasley hissed, placing two more plates on the center table of the living room.

She had been up all morning, and probably the night before when the Golden Trio arrived, cleaning the Burrow spotless over and over. She was so excited and anxious to meet the woman that was helping her son out of his mourning, who was giving his blue eyes some light once again that her nerves were on edge. Because any person who had the power to give George Weasley's smile back to his face was worth stressing over; even if it drove her family insane.

"You've been in your nightgown all afternoon, didn't I teach you better than that?"

"I never had to dress properly for any of my brothers girlfriends," Ginny said casually in response to her mother, checking her nails as she ignored that Harry looked at her nightgown and sighed. (He knew defeat when he saw it, and Mrs. Weasley was not going to convince Ginny to put on her evening robes any time soon.) "Why should I start now?"

"Because George's fiancée isn't just any fiancée, Ginny." Her mother slapped a hand to stop Ron's twitching fingers from moving to another mince pie. "This is the woman who has been helping him out of his depression. She has given your brother some will to continue on. And that, Ginevra, is worth so much more than your casualness and indifference to everybody else."

Ginny swallowed a lump forming inside of her throat. "Playing the guilt card, are you, woman?" She said as she stood from the couch. "Fine, I shall go and change. But," she raised a finger at her mother as tears welled up in her sockets, "know that I do it for George."

"...For George," Mrs. Weasley murmured, turning away from her daughter.

And not wanting the emotions in the air to get out of hand, Ron snaked his hand passed his mother's slap and grabbed another pie as he said, "Mummy, you should really meet my Pans. I think you will like her as well. She did wondrous things for me."

"Is that so?" The elder witch snuck a look at her son's best friends. "Is Pansy Parkinson worth to have my little Ronnie?"

Looking at each other for a moment in consultation, Harry and Hermione nodded their heads at her in unison.

"Well then, Ron, once you agree upon the date of your wedding and decide to introduce your family to her, I promise I will make a tray of mince pies dedicated to you, sweetheart."

"Well get to baking, woman, because we've decided on a date!" Ron clapped cheerfully after he shoved the remaining of his sixth miniature pie into his mouth.

"What?" Harry and Hermione gawked at their best friend. "When the bloody hell did you decide this?" Their voices mixed together.

"Three days ago," Ron stated simply, rubbing his stomach. "We decided that April is the month in which we wed."

"She even taught you grammar and you didn't tell us?" Hermione proclaimed shockingly. "I feel betrayed!"

"Come off it," Ron snorted. "I've been too focused on Pans that I forgot to mention it, that's all. No need to get your knickers into a twist. Besides, you'll be a part of the wedding, won't you?" He looked up at them expectantly. "Best men?"

"I will hex you for that comment, Ronald." Hermione glared from her seat on Mister Weasley's armchair. "No matter how sweet of you it is to have Harry and I in your wedding."

"—He's home!" Mrs. Weasley shrieked loudly, interrupting the moment between the three best friends, as she looked up at her unique clock.

All eyes looked at the hand that had George's face engraved on that now pointed to the hour that read 'Home'.

Feeling a bit guilty that the famous Weasley clock only held eight hands instead of the nine that had always been there since he first laid eyes on it many years ago, Harry got up from his seat with something pressing down at his chest. "I'll open the door, Mrs. Weasley, so you can finish restoring the pies Ron ate."

"No, dear." Mrs. Weasley shook her head, knowing exactly the feeling swimming in his emerald eyes that he was trying to hide. She wouldn't have Harry feeling guilty about the death of George's twin anymore, it wasn't his fault.

She cleared her throat at the thought of her late son, and looked at Harry lovingly. "You deserve to be here, Harry, you're family of course."

"Speaking of family, why isn't dad here? Bill, Fleur, and Percy for that matter?" Ron spoke up, also noticing Harry's saddened eyes; interjecting before his friend felt awkward by the tears glistening his mother's eyes.

"Arthur and Percy are at the Ministry, they will meet George's fiancée after, and Bill and Fleur went to France for the Christmas holidays so they'll have to wait a little longer," his mother explained quickly as voices were heard outside of the window.

Knock. Knock.

"Oh!" Mrs. Weasley gasped. "What should I do?"

Ron raised his eyebrow at his mother and grunted. "You do this, mum—" Ron stood from his seat and walked towards the edge of the living room. "Come in!" He shouted, and turned back to his mother. "See? Simple."

"I'm all for the dramatics today and no one had the decency to open the ruddy door?" A familiar tall redhead man entered the Burrow's front door, grinning widely at the people in front of him. "I'm staying in my flat from now on, you people are terribly bad mannered."

"George!" Mrs. Weasley screamed happily.

"Mummy," the redhead man smiled and took a few steps towards the elderly witch. "It smells fantastic, but I told you not to outdo yourself. You're going to stuff us before Christmas rolls around."

"Georgie! Georgie!" In a blur, Mrs. Weasley closed the few steps that separated her from her son and she embraced him tightly; crying into his chest as he patted her back gently. "I haven't seen you in the longest, my darling!"

"Mum, I saw you three weeks ago," George attempted to laugh, but found it a bit difficult as he looked around his childhood home.

He had left the Burrow for many reasons, and all of them consisted of the memories that were painted on every corner of his family home. He could see the flashbacks of a pair of wicked, humorous, and evil twins racing through the steps as one of their siblings chased after them; threatening them for their latest prank. Their laughter seemed to bounce off the walls like it was happening at that very moment and penetrate George's only ear and broke his heart.

"…Mum overreacts, George, you know that," Ron muttered as he made his way awkwardly towards his brother and mother. "You should've seen the dance she made when she saw us get off the train."

"Well, Ronniekins, you get taller everyday, lad!" George replied to his younger brother, reaching out an arm to him. "Keep it up and we'll have trouble convincing the Ministry you aren't an unregistered half-giant!"

Ron smiled at that, not looking at George's face for too long, and hugged his brother limply. Just letting the time tick as he held on to his brother: a connection to the one he lost.

"Well you two, don't I get a hello?" George asked as he pushed his mother and brother from him. "Or are you attempting to blend in with the wall while this sodding family moment ends?"

"Oh, George. Always the prat," Hermione laughed as she made his way to him.

"There is one in every family, Hermione." George patted her back like he did to his mother; not fully heartedly but with some affection.

Hermione bit her tongue before she could remind him there used to be two of them. "You look great!" She said instead, smiling at the redhead sincerely.

"And you're still alive!" George replied teasingly as Harry came up to him and embraced him slightly. George had always been fond of Harry's lack of emotional display that he made sure to give him a rougher pat; just to mess with him. "I heard from Ron you're engaged to Malfoy. That must have sucked Merlin's saggy ba—"

"George!" Two voices seem to hiss out the name, but one hand had smacked him on the back of the head.

Entering silently through the kitchen's door, all eyes had moved from George Weasley and onto a tall figure standing next to him. Dark brown eyes staring at them in return with a glow and a half-smile as they all registered her appearance.

"Mum this is all I found! If that ruddy witch doesn't—" Ginny came stomping down the staircase, pulling on a dress that her Auntie Muriel sent her for her last birthday with disgust.

The room was dead quiet, waiting for Ginny for the lack of not knowing what to do next from the new woman in the house.

"Are you serious?" The youngest Weasley snapped, coming to a stop by the couch she was previously sitting on as she gaped at them. "I wore this hideous dress for her?" She pointed a white finger at the two figures standing by the door.

Everyone continued to say nothing, the scene suddenly awkward. But Ginny found no trace of it as she started pulling her dress over her head, her nightgown underneath it.

"Bloody hell, Angelina. I could've just kept my nightgown on if you would have told us it was you!"

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