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Hermione's Choice

Hermione walked into the library and went directly to the Restricted Section. Upon arrival she placed herself in her well-worn seat and it had been surreal. She couldn't believe that within a few minutes Draco would saunter into her field of vision. And he would think that he was so smooth. It infuriated her that he might really believe he'd been very suave to have thought of this dramatic reveal, so she jumped on her feet and started pacing with her arms crossed.

Draco had been leaning against the wall in the shadows. Hermione hadn't noticed him on her mission to get into the library. He had a gut wrenching feeling that she had figured out that he was her reader. It would have been just in the nick of time, too, since she hadn't approached him prior to that point. Luckily all of his nerves had built up over the entire week so he could not have been more frightened in those moments than he was on Sunday when he couldn't take back the word "Revealed" written her journal. It had to have been nearly fifteen minutes before he found the strength to enter the library, breathless and weak kneed.

When Hermione heard footsteps behind her she stiffened out of mere habit. Normally she'd have spun around to meet her maker, her figurative maker, but she could hardly move. This was the moment where she would have to look at Draco and openly discuss everything that had happened. And that meant they'd have to talk about their feelings and what they should do after this meeting. This idea had put Hermione in such a crippled state that she stopped breathing when the air stirred next to her.

After he approached Granger he noted that her chest stop moving and her knuckles whitened against her triceps. She did not move to look at him as he made his not-so-grand entrance. Once he moved around and looked at her face he found confirmation that she knew. Hermione knew that he was her reader. He reminded himself that this wasn't the end of the world and was in fact the plan he'd hatched on his own accord. All this would do was dictate how things would, at the very least, begin.

He poked his hand out to her with innocent eyes, or at least what Draco hoped were innocent eyes. Much to his surprise the Gryffindor grabbed his hand and followed him to the table, which he usually sat at, the one further away than any other. Then he prompted the conversation the only way he could now that he understood what Hermione knew.

"When you did you put it together?" Draco felt himself relax. Considering only minutes ago he was still somewhat panicked mentally, he could hardly believe his ease and comfort when he started talking to her. However, he had been the anonymous one. Draco had twice the information that Granger did throughout everything. As for her, she was facing a stranger while he knew the entire time what he was getting into from the beginning. Hermione did not have that advantage. That had rendered Draco speechless at times during the week because it very well could have ended up being the reason Hermione turned him away.

Much to her surprise she found Draco's voice to be, well, very suave indeed - and calming, too. It was exactly what she'd condemned him for before he showed up. Draco Malfoy wasn't supposed to be suave to her of all people. Besides that, she still had not looked at him directly and was not sure that she was ready, exactly. So she should not have described him in a positive light. The entire ride back from Hogsmeade allowed her to settle on the fact that he was her reader. She had even been able to square away with the fact that she had romantic feelings for her reader - who had ended up being Draco Malfoy, a boy she would not have missed if he had died a month ago. Then, with a frown on her lips, she remembered that Draco had asked her a question.

"About an hour and a half ago? I put it together over dinner at The Three Broomsticks." Hermione felt her lips go numb as the reality settled further. She had responded in a civilized conversation with Draco that was not motivated by a desire to get information. Her eyes remained downcast as she shook her head anxiously.

Draco felt himself reach out to Hermione and push her chin upward. His touch must have persuaded her to finally look into his eyes. Besides, it would not have been the first time they'd looked at one another. It wouldn't have even been the first time they'd made eye contact with that level of intensity behind them. The only difference then was that they did it with exactly the same information.

"What was your first thought?" He was scared to ask this question without a doubt, and it sounded more like a whimper than anything at the time. The fact that any of the words were audible would always shock Draco.

She would never be able to explain what it was about knowing Draco was her reader that made her succumb to the Slytherin boy. It certainly wasn't charm. Yet when he made her look at him she did not resist. And even more, she had not been inhibited to speak at all. She told Draco exactly what he'd asked for.

"Honestly, my first thought was that I was an idiot for not realizing immediately. Once that thought crossed my mind a few hundred times and I could feel something other than stupid – well – I guess I thought that it couldn't really have been anyone else, could it have?" Hermione had plenty of time to think about Draco being her reader. Someone who was playing the role of "anonymous" was hardly ever all that "anonymous." The dead giveaway should have been that Draco was interacting with her more frequently, but since he never seemed out of character she hadn't questioned it. He always sounded as if he thought himself superior, condescending tone and all. But the frequency of the run-ins and encounters…

"There was nobody else who ever invested their time in me from the Slytherin House. Positively or negatively, it was always you making sure I was different, that I felt different. If my reader would have been anyone else I can't believe that they would have been nearly as successful at the whole mess as you have been."

Draco blushed. He didn't need to see Hermione's lips curl upward to know that his cheeks were the shade of a freshly bloomed rose. And that would have been without considering his nearly white pigment and sickly blonde hair. He sucked in his bottom lip and bit down, trying not to laugh at himself, or at the truth in her words.

There really wasn't another person at Hogwarts, especially in the Slytherin House, whom paid more attention to Hermione Granger than him. It made him wonder if all those years he actually liked her but didn't know how to emotionally handle it. Growing up he had known how his parents felt about Muggle-borns and half bloods so how else would an eleven-year-old act when they were instantly infatuated with the type of person his parents wanted dead?

"I will take that as a compliment, I suppose. You do want me to think that was a nice statement, right?" Composure was probably lost now that she'd flattered him. Or at least he felt flattered. On top of that he had found that he was suddenly confused about himself and his intentions. It was clear to Draco, however, that he had feelings for Granger before he had seen her waiting in the library. He simply had not expected to witness it would bring forward the possibility that maybe he liked her for even longer than he had acknowledged.

Hermione had to fight back a shudder when Draco's cheeks flared. She dared to admit a level of irresistibility in the way he bit his lip, even the way he tucked in his chin when his self-confidence waivered. She placed her hands on the table and leaned forward, knowing that her active participation would capture the young man's attention.

"If you wanted it to be, then it was. If not, then please feel free to feel as insulted as I ever have when you've spoken to me." She immediately felt horrorstricken by how hateful the comment must have sounded. Her hands flew even further outward unconsciously as she silently tried to apologize for her statement.

Draco laughed when the brunette panicked after she made a very honest statement. It had been sort of nice to see her snarky; he liked it even. Hermione was too intelligent to not be a bit of a sarcastic git at times. He had also decided that as long as he was enjoying her company that he should wrap his hands over hers. As soon as he did the air in the library shifted. Hermione didn't pull away. Draco hadn't known what to expect so he had just hoped that she'd accept the act of affection. When his laugh died away and he was left a lingering smirk over his lips.

"I could care less about if that was actually a compliment or not. I've had enough to last me a lifetime, anyway. But…"

"But… that is hardly the reason we are here. We are here about something more important. About the letters, about the fondness, the stuff that brought us to this exact day, time, and place…" Hermione had never been the breathy, trailing off sort of person. Somehow she sort of transformed into that person after the letters started. Nothing had been quite as concrete or logical after those began. Quickly she glanced at their hands, intertwined so compatibly.

Draco watched Hermione look helplessly at their fingers laced around one another. It felt natural and that had to be the reason she was so unnerved by it. In some ways it was hard for him to swallow it completely as well. That was not to suggest that he didn't like it. In fact, he craved more of it. This oasis with Granger was more than he had hoped for in the last week.

"I imagine you've got more questions than I do. Want to do a 'q and a' thing?" Draco suggested the only thing that really came to mind at the time. There would be little else they could do to keep the conversational pace steady and natural. Hermione did not react at first so he questioned himself immediately, "That sounds childish, doesn't it?"

Hermione wiggled around a bit, but had not moved her hands the slightest. In fact, she had actually tightened her grip on Draco.

"I actually think it is brilliant. Do you need a moment?" Hermione thought it would be funny to use her best mock-Rita Skeeter tone of voice when she responded. Draco must have picked up on it right away because he chuckled handsomely at her. She wasn't sure at the time why she chose 'handsomely' as the way to best describe his laughter but it seemed to have been the best fit. There was no other word that had come to mind when she questioned it, so she left it that way in her mind. A handsome laugh - just the sort that matched his face…

"No, no, miss, I think I'm ready." Draco enjoyed the playful moment between them. He couldn't have dreamt up such an easygoing encounter if he had been a madman, let alone in his right mind. Even though he knew he shouldn't have expected it to last forever, Draco certainly allowed himself to believe it invulnerable.

"Why did you actually respond?" She felt that if she asked something simple Draco would accidentally answer all of the unspoken questions as well. It had been a terrible plan of action but at least it had been a plan.

Because he was intrigued? Because he was as thirsty for the information just as she was? Because he was miserable in his own life and she presented an alternative so outlandish that it seemed the only way to forget? There were a number of reasons that contributed to his decision. Trying to pick a reason to present had been nearly impossible. Yet, he managed to open his mouth and explain himself somehow.

"When you become so broken and sad as I, you will do anything to change yourself. I don't like the way things are when I'm not at Hogwarts and you didn't seem to like things all that well while you were at Hogwarts. As I pieced that together something about it lingered with me. It captured my attention very ruthlessly. So I read that letter, I read that book, and then I wrote my letter – and I never once really questioned whether it was the right thing because I knew how wrong it should have been. But I wanted to change too badly to not respond." Draco may not have been satisfied for his response if weren't for Hermione's glistening eyes. He knew that his words truly resonated with her and he had been instantly glad to say them. It was just the affirmation that he needed to prove that he hadn't been wrong to try.

Hermione could not have worded it better, she didn't believe, if she had been in Malfoy's shoes. She felt that she had the slightest understanding as to what must have been happening at Draco's home. Since he admitted that he was displeased with it, then she fully expected she would have done the same. Hogwarts must be a refuge for him – a proper home to get away from home, as it were. Hermione, on the other hand, always felt somewhat out of place in the school. She always loved going to the school but she never felt quite right. Going on her fifth year as an outcast, of sorts, she had begun feeling as though she were in the wrong place. Or in the wrong world - as if a crisis had been sewn into her background warning her she didn't belong.

"Right enough, then. What made you start using 'fondly yours?' Not necessarily the reasoning behind the words or the impact you wanted them to have. What did you feel that made you want the impact those words would give. You do realize the way those words read to a desperate girl, right?" She didn't realize until it was entirely too late that she'd sputtered everything out in one breath. Hermione had considered apologizing but Draco grinned too quickly. His eyes shone too brightly. She, honestly, had gotten too distracted. Before he even spoke she'd gathered that he knew all too well what that word did and that he'd actually wanted her to buy into it.

Draco pondered her question, not the in the same way Hermione might have expected. His first thought was the fact that she had actually been the one who used the word ‘fond’ in their letters. He had him up all night; his mind had been distracted for days after that point. Blaise had brought up that he could see right through Draco before Draco himself was even fully aware of how he much her attraction had affected him. It hadn't been until Hermione announced to him that she was fond of her reader aloud that Draco caught on to his own attraction to her. Was this why had had made such a big deal of using "fondly yours" in the letters?

"You said it first." Draco made himself say something while he still tried to piece words together.

"We already know why I used it but the question was about why you used it." Hermione countered. Thankful that she had not gotten to upset about his obvious delay Draco lifted his chin a little, flicked his eyes to ceiling, and then settled his gaze back on hers.

He cleared his throat in an unintentionally dramatic fashion; "I lost sleep over that, actually. I still can't say when I started liking you so much because sitting here literally has me questioning everything that has ever happened between us. However, I think what honestly made me start acknowledging it was when we were in the library, standing just over there." Draco gestured to the place where he caught Granger 'pranking' him while he studied. That had been when she first asked him about her reader. The same time she had said out loud that she was fond of her reader aloud.

"I liked the way it sounded and since you didn't know I was your reader I knew I would never hear it from your lips again. So I thought I could get you to keep writing it, at least as long I would respond I thought you'd keep signing it that way. Then I could still hope. I could pretend. Or perhaps I was doing both." He sighed at the end of his pathetic description. Hermione had been watching him closely. He assumed she was trying to identify if the conversation was pure but she knew it was; she just doubted him. There was no reason to blame her for it either, Draco concluded. He would have been just as worried as she was if he were in her position.

Hermione was somewhat surprised, hadn't she been? She may not have been friends with Draco but she watched him. She watched everyone, and knew about everyone as a result of it. So she knew that Draco wasn't exactly a heartthrob in the Slytherin House. However, girls liked him. A few of them did fawn over his every word. Malfoy knew what it was like to have some be attracted to him, what it was like to have someone want him. So she had had difficulty believing that it really was that simple for him.

"That's all, then? Just thought it sounded good coming from me knowing that I meant it about you…" Hermione frowned immediately, which prevented her from speaking any further. That just seemed too outlandish to her, but then again the whole situation was unfathomable to her. Holding hands with Draco Malfoy, writing letters to him, and being attracted to him.

"Yes." He replied plainly, voice softer than wind on your cheek. She teetered back and pulled her hands from his. Subconsciously she crossed her arms over her chest and started thinking about the matter with which was faced.

Draco had clearly and honestly invested himself in the role as her reader. He could not have continued the joke this far without wavering somehow, she was positive. This also meant that he had to have felt a genuine connection with her to go so far with the engagement. The only problem she faced now what which of the potential outcomes would be the outcome.

"Ginny made a comment about me being your girlfriend. You know, before she knew that she was saying that I was your girlfriend." Hermione made her remark offhandedly. Unsurprisingly this is what had prompted Draco to speak again.

"She didn't help you figure it out, did she? We had an agreement. It was an implied agreement, but an agreement nonetheless." Draco hadn't really considered that Hermione would have gotten information from her best friend. Hermione had never been the type to ask for help but after having heard her say something about Weasley he reeled on the possibility.

"No, she didn't help at all. At least, she hadn't helped intentionally. Her attitude shift did indicate that she knew something, though" Her reply was almost leisurely. Draco appreciated that she did not speak down to him as though he should have noticed the tension. He had been glad at that moment to have had entangled himself with a levelheaded girl who handled herself with poise. If she were a pureblooded witch Draco knew that she was exactly the kind of woman his parents would have wanted him to marry.

None of that mattered to him, of course, otherwise he had never continued with the books. He would have never revealed himself. He would have never gotten the pleasure to sit with Hermione Granger, brightest witch of her age, in the dimming sunlight in his favorite part of the school. It had been clear quite some time ago that Draco had stopped caring what his parents might have thought of him if they ever found out.

Plus, Draco knew he wouldn't have traded anything if he meant he'd lose this memory.

Hermione wondered about each of the possible ends to the game she'd been playing for three weeks. Now that she had more information to factor in she had to reassess everything. Firstly, she knew that it would always be an option for her to reject her reader once she knew whom it was. By turning Draco's affections away they could pretend the books and the letters never happened. They could return to their lives and forget everything. Then there was the possibility that they could at least carry on as they were, minus the anonymity of course. That wouldn't be so bad, Hermione was sure the two of them could maintain a healthy friendship in that fashion.

Lastly, she knew that it was also possible for them to move forward trying to be more. They could try having a relationship – dating – as she had feared and hoped up until that exact moment. Although, the desire for a romance had been most prominent when she hadn't considered the very real possibility that her reader belonged to the Voldemort loyalist family.

"That's not a good sign. You're focused which means you're thinking. And since you're Hermione Granger it means that you're overthinking. That – that – will get us nowhere." She heard Draco whisper almost silently. He probably had thought she wouldn't hear him but she had. Or maybe he had said it intentionally in an attempt to break her train of thought. Hermione knew that either way he had merely made an observation, albeit a scarily accurate observation at the time. It didn't change how taken back she'd been by his statement. Once Hermione snapped back to the present she laid herself half way across the table so she could see every facial movement on Draco's face when she asked her next question.

"What did you think you would accomplish here today, Draco?"

Draco knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish. However, that wasn't what Hermione had asked him about. She asked what he thought he would accomplish. When he was at his most realistic he could only say he thought he'd accomplish one thing, he expected nothing more.

"I'd make you feel something." Draco stated very simply. His eyes had been closed when the words fell from his lips but his heart couldn't have been more open. There was no way feasibly for him to have been more sincere and honest with her, and if it hadn't been received positively…

"Was that intentionally vague?" The tone of her voice forced Draco to reconnect with her. When his lids lifted he saw that she pushed as far back into her seat as possible with her arms so tight over her chest that the discomfort was apartment in her posture. Without a second thought he nodded at her just once, explaining himself immediately after as she would have expected.

"Yes. It covers both what I legitimately expected and also what I wanted to happen. There's no better answer than the one that tells both stories." She sucked in a very sharp breath when he mimicked her, leaning away from the table and tensing up. Draco cleared his throat and wriggled about into a more comfortable position where the top of the chair would not have dug into his bag so harshly.

"Allow me to rephrase my question, Malfoy. Vagueness breeds vagueness. Wouldn't you agree?" Hermione had shifted to a more formal approach in the conversation. It had been completely out of habit. Whenever she became too emotionally involved with something she would forcefully lock up. She would also block everyone around her out. Hermione had always known this and could identify when it was actually happening. But it didn't stop her from continuing on at the time anyway.

"Yes." He whispered, mirroring her actions as if he held it against her for being so concerned. Hermione sized him up, judging whether or not she had wasted her time and given him a chance he'd never deserved. After shaking her head and stretching her arms out again, the Gryffindor revived whatever bravery she had left to ask the question that would determine how things ended for the pair of them.

"What did you hope to accomplish here today?" Asking this question scared her more than just about anything else she'd ever faced. Hermione had always been weird in that way. Near death experiences were to be expected as far as she'd been concerned, but social interaction of any sort? Those were the moments that frightened her the most. It was a miracle she even had friends. Hermione never believed she'd have a proper boyfriend, since Viktor never really counted in her opinion. This was so close to that that she could not behave the way she wanted to, it was just simply out of her grasp. At least it had felt that way to her.

"I hoped that maybe you'd give me a chance. A clean slate. A fresh start. I thought that maybe I had done enough with my letters and reading the books to prove I was truly very different from my family and their ancestors. Today I wanted to leave this library knowing that I would have a bright future rather than a condemned one." Draco felt that there was no dancing around the topic any further. If he wanted to get it out he had to have gotten it out there and then. His eyes never left Hermione as she twisted to the side of her seat. She stood up after a few minutes and paced around in a bit of a figure eight.

As he waited for her to say something the tension and fear built up at a staggering pace, even though not an hour ago he'd have believed that he couldn't get more anxious than he'd already been. He had literally started sweating as she moved around. Hermione never got very far away from their table in the Restricted Section but she never looked up to see what she was doing. There was no place where she felt more comfortable than in the Library, Draco was sure of that. He only wished that there were no other person she felt more at ease with than him as well.

She'd been silent for nearly ten minutes. It was a struggle for her to process what he'd actually told her. It wasn't that the words didn't register properly because they had. Each individual word had made perfect sense. It was just that all together she could hardly believe that they'd been said to her in that order. From Draco Malfoy's mouth of all people, to add to it! Hermione must have sneered at the ground a hundred times before she actually walked over directly to him and idled at his side. The pit of emotions swallowed her whole and left her with only one feasible conclusion.

"Draco Malfoy, you poor, unfortunate soul…" She started shyly. There would be no way for her to know if she'd made the right decision until it would be much too late. Whatever the consequences she'd have to stand by the choice, even if Draco looked up at her with teary eyes; there would be no turning back. She had more than herself to consider and there was no way romance could make her behave selfishly, Hermione had always known that was her creed. "You poor, beautiful, and unfortunate soul."

Draco quivered underneath her fingertips as she placed a hand carelessly on his shoulder. He had an understanding of what was going to be said before Hermione could have possible formed them behind her teeth. Regardless, if she did not say it out loud there would always be the possibility for her to turn back. In these times, on their respective sides, there was no room for error. There was no room for reckless decisions.

"The only way you will have a future is if things remain exactly as they were before our letters." Hermione had to beg herself to push the words off of her tongue. There would never be a moment in her life more painful that what she'd had to say to her loyal Slytherin reader. She chattered her teeth together nervously before squatting down in front of the boy who tried to run from her.

With his hands swiped up in her own, she coerced him to remain in his place, "You would be hunted if you abandoned your family. Your parents would be tortured and abused if you let them down. Voldemort would become ruthless and everyone we knew would be in twice as much danger as they are now. If you want a future then we must stay where we are…"

There had been no point in hiding his sorrow. Draco could not bring himself to sob as excessively as he would have anywhere else. However, tears spilled from his eyes as though he knew how to do nothing but cry. Hermione reached up to his cheeks and wiped streaks away. He had even noticed her eyes watering. It was clear neither of them was pleased with the direction the conversation had turned, but Draco couldn't help having been most upset that she was the one responsible for the shift.

"I won't beg. I won't beg you to change your mind. I promise." His words were spoken in more of a squeak than anything else. Draco had been aware of the possibility that this would be the outcome of their confrontation. In many ways he must have known that it was the only outcome but he dared to dream of something better.

Having felt more defeated than ever at the reality that consumed him, he leaned down and placed his forehead against Hermione's since there'd be no other opportunities for him to share in such intimate moments.

"I promise you, Hermione Granger." This time he had said it to assure himself that would never bother her again. He would do whatever she asked of him because rejection didn't make him care for her any less; it didn't deter his attraction to her. All he needed to do was remind himself that he would not interfere with her personal affairs. It would never be his business.

"You don't have to forget. You don't have to pretend it didn't happen. But I want you to have a chance at surviving the war no matter, which side triumphs. I would make you a target. I make everyone around me a target because I'm just…"

She'd sworn that she'd never say the word again, but in that moment she became so enraged about the entire war that she could not have stopped herself from spitting them out as she stood to walk away. Her back had been turned to Malfoy because subconsciously she'd known that it would offend him.

"…a filthy Mudblood."

She stormed away from the scene determined that those would be her last words to him. Hermione knew that she made the right decision but she did not have to be happy with it. Somehow in her head she had pieced together that Draco was as sincere as they'd come. There was next to no chance that anyone would ever be as interested and devoted to her as he has been with the same amount of independence and complexity. The concept of soul mates came to her mind as she abandoned her reader. Hermione nearly screamed out loud about unfair it was that she had to leave hers behind.

Draco waited for Hermione to get out of sight before he composed himself enough to accept his fate. Once he pushed the hurt far enough back to recall what she'd called herself he sprung from his seat. Movingly quickly came naturally to him so it was not even a full minute past before his hands wrapped around Granger's arms. He turned her back around to face him as she shook his head at her.

"Don't you ever say that again, do you understand me?" Draco commanded. He would concede to Hermione's desire to cease all contact. That would be fine if that was what she truly wanted, or believed she would need to do. One thing he would not do was let her put herself down over something that did not matter. Blood didn't matter, not to him – not anymore. "Do you understand me?"

Hermione shocked him by putting her arms around him and mumbling an apology into his neck. It was the briefest exchange but it had frozen him in place. He had not even hugged her back. When she pulled away from him she did not turn away immediately, Draco almost asked himself why. Then he had realized why she didn't move was not the important factor. It had been the perfect opening to do something he'd never have the chance to again.

Hermione was not sure whether or not hugging Malfoy would be a weak point when she looked back over their story. She talked herself into doing it when she saw his face and heard him condemn her for calling herself a Mudblood. The passion in his demand drew something out of her that was inexplicable. But her vulnerability must have done the same to him because after a few seconds of awkward silence he had pressed his lips to hers.

Hermione had only kissed Viktor before and it was different. She would describe those kisses as having been exciting and whimsical. He was a celebrity, after all. Few girls could say that their first kiss was with a celebrity. It would be the kiss other girls could never forgot, the one they relieved in their dreams. Hermione hadn't been that way and never expected that she would be, especially after kissing Draco Malfoy.

His lips were gentle, his tongue smooth, and his breath chilling. Hermione didn't have to exert any energy to recognize the taste of pumpkin jellybeans in his mouth. As they moved together, cautious yet contradictorily anxious, the world seemed to have blackened out around them. It would have been impossible to guess how long they shared in their embrace but every second that it had lasted had been worth it. This would be the kiss Hermione dreamt about.

"Okay, now I promise." Draco laughed as he pulled away from her. His movement away had been very effortless. She wanted to frown, as there was nothing happy about being told by the boy she was sure she might have loved if she'd been given a chance, but she laughed at him instead. It was strange that they started the evening calm and collected. Then they'd gotten caught up in the seriousness of their affections, and nearly ended the night with dramatic angst. But somehow they'd managed to lighten the mood before leaving one another alone for good.

"And I won't forget." She whispered kindly. Neither of them had moved straight away but at least when they did break apart and go separate ways the mood had been light. It didn't matter that they would never get to enjoy one another's company again but there had been something satisfying about the encounter. Draco let her go and never looked back.

Okay, Draco had looked back several times on the way back to the Slytherin common room where Blaise had been waiting up in the dorms. Everyone else who roomed with them had been elsewhere; Draco had ensured it knowing his plans for that night. When he recalled the incident in the library to his new confidante there wasn't an ounce of bitterness.

"You loved her, Draco, you know that, don't ya?" His friend had proclaimed at the end of it all. Draco dropped himself backwards and felt his head crash into the pillow harshly. He had been denying the depth of his feelings since it had only been three weeks since he first read Hermione's words on the now well-worn parchment. But everything that existed between him and his forbidden Gryffindor girl were over and there would be little reason to continue lying about it to himself…

"I never stopped, though, did I?" Neither of them had the need to speak further because it was true. Draco had fallen in love with Hermione somewhere throughout the process. It had been so hard and so quick he'd never be able to say when or why but just that he had done it. Those emotions weren't halted or stinted by Hermione's choice to remain on opposing sides. Draco believed he would never stop loving her. It was very much a part of him, a part that he would cherish forevermore.

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