Forgiveness Comes

While most wars in which wizards and witches have fought over the centuries eventually led to greater understanding and improved relations...

Hermione read silently, but that hand felt so good, traversing between the north and south poles of her leg.

...the wars with giants led to further isolation...

He had such a nice touch, if he'd just stop trying to move southeeast.

She grabbed the hand again and returned it to the north pole of her knee, earning a small grunt of protest from Draco, seated to her left.

...from the tribes, who now inhabit...

The hand slid up again.

Hermione looked up from her history book and saw that rather than reviewing his notes on a Felixis Felicis potion, Draco was watching her.

"This isn't working," she whispered to him, her eyes drawn, as usual, to the triangle of his full, tempting mouth and hypnotic eyes. They were darker grey than usual, seeming to take on the somber atmosphere of the library, where she was making a valiant effort to study, despite his distraction.

He put an arm over the back of her chair and turned toward her. "That's because you already know what you're reading," he whispered in return, more considerate of the pre-OWLs and NEWTs students surrounding them than of Hermione's personal space.

"There's nothing else for you to learn there," he said, sliding a finger down the length of her neck, desperate to use his lips there as well.

She tingled, taking in the points of the triangle once more. Perhaps he was right, about giant wars anyway, and she did have something on her mind.

They were in a far corner, away from Madam Pince's desk or the rows of bookshelves, and the study group who had been occupying the table closest to them had just called it a night. The golden flickering from the candles in the wall sconces seemed to soften the look of everything. It might have the same effect on the delicate subject matter.

She closed her book. "There's something I want to talk to you about."

"Talk," he said, no longer resisting his urge to kiss her neck, since the librarian was on the other side of the room shelving books, and those annoying fifth years were gone.

"Umm, could you sit over there?" she requested, pointing to a chair on the other side of the square table.

Draco raised his head with a look of curiosity, evidenced by his upraised chin and lowered eyelids. He moved to the other side. What did she have to say? Was she ending it? He was more anxious than he hoped he appeared.

Hermione sensed his unease and smiled. "Can I have a foot rub?" she asked, lifting her leg onto his lap. His half-smile showed his relief, as he slipped off her slip-on and began a slow rotation of her ankle.

She closed her eyes and sighed. He really did have a wonderful touch. Where was I, she asked herself, raising her other foot for the same treatment.

Oh...right. "I think we should introduce our parents to each other," she said in a rush.

Her masseur stopped. "What?" he asked sharply, recalling his father's hateful remarks to her, the event at the Manor and the one Hermione didn't know about...must never know about: his conversation with her father regarding his mother.

She dug a toe into his thigh, urging him to continue.

"Have you lost your mind, Granger?" His voice was a little louder with his surprise and worry.

"No, it's all still here," she said, flipping back her dark caramel hair. "If we truly want to be together, Draco, we have to do it at some point."

"Why?" he asked with his mouth turned down in petulance.

"It's normal," she said, lowering her legs and straightening the books in front of her.

"There's nothing normal about what's happened with you and my family," he snapped, leaning forward. She could see that the eyes were no longer drab grey, but alive and fiery, like new stars.

She turned her eyes down from them and sighed. "Do you remember what you said to me the first day at the ski lodge, about how we should declare détente?"

"I had much more in mind than just a cooling of hostilities," he reminded her, the words pelting out with his displeasure.

Now Hermione leaned forward and put a hand over one of his fists, pressed against the table. "But the principle's the same," she argued. "Forgiveness shouldn't only come to those who look so good in ski pants."

She stroked his Slytherin vanity the way she did Crookshanks' fur, with the same result. Draco purred and his fingers slackened from a fist to weave with hers. "We should go skiing again," he said, in a voice warmed with memory.

"We will," she promised. "We can make all kinds of plans, after this one little thing."

Madam Pince had plans of her own tonight and she was in a hurry. She had a new gentleman friend who was supposed to contact her through the Floo network. She shelved her last book and, not noticing anyone at the tables around her desk, hurried out and locked the library door behind her. She even failed to extinguish all of the lights.

"Draco," Hermione prompted from their remote corner.

His fingers separated from hers and drummed on the table, as if mentally listing all of the reasons this was such a bad idea, including the ones he wouldn't tell her about their parents' flirtation.

"My father can be cruel, Hermione."

As if I need a reminder of that, from him or Hagrid. She shrugged. "My father sometimes belches."

He rolled his eyes at the silliness of the comparison. "He could try to hurt you, and then I'd have to kill him."

"But he can't hurt me, can he?"

Draco wrinkled his brow. "What do you mean?"

She looked down, then lifted her eyes slightly, knowing how that look affected him. "You take my pain, right? So he can't hurt me, as long as you're close to me."

He snickered. "How pragmatic of you."

"Not that I want you to be hurt," she clarified, "but if your biggest objection is your fear that he would hurt me, then...where is everyone?"

Draco turned his head.

"What time is it?" she asked.

He glanced at his watch. "A little after eleven," he answered slowly.

"What?" Hermione exclaimed, now looking around anxiously. "Where is everyone?" She jumped up and looked through the aisles of books and performed a Homenum Revelio charm, to no avail.

Draco followed at a much less panicked pace. "I guess we're locked in," he said, tugging on the oaken double doors at the front of the room.

"No!" Alohamora!" she cried, pointing her wand at the doors, to no avail.

He shook his head. "That won't work on these doors, love. Remember, McGonagall put extra protections on them after the couples were caught in here during the equinox celebrations. We're here until Madam Pince comes in the morning."

Was he smiling? This was a disaster. "But everyone will think we're here for the same reason," she said scrunching her hair between her fingers. It seemed to grow with her agitation.

"What reason is that?" he asked with a laugh in his voice, as he removed the robe over his clothes, then came closer with a familiar leer.

"Don't even think it!" she said sharply, moving away from him. "I told you before I'm not here for your entertainment. I'm a scholar first. I had a very good chance of being Valedictorian before this trick of yours."

Stunned and incensed, Draco gaped. "You think I 'tricked' you into being locked up and used my concern for you to do it?"

Hermione crossed her arms, her eyes sparking with indignation, like pyrite used to ignite a fire. "Maybe. You seem to do everything you can to reduce me to nothing more than your girlfriend."

Draco stared at her, as if replaying her statement in his head to ensure he'd heard it correctly. "Sorry," he said snidely, "I didn't know that my loving you caused such diminution to your value as a person. But maybe now you know how I feel."

Angry and tired as they were, they were still well-trained Hogwarts students in the library. They didn't raise their voices.

"Meaning...?" she asked, following him back to their table, where he picked up the book he'd been reading to return to the shelves.

"Meaning I'm sick of having to feel that you've given me such a great gift when you let me touch you, especially these last two weeks, and snogging for a few minutes after our D.O.D.A. lesson doesn't count!"

Hermione looked at him, standing between the long bookshelves, tall and light with his blond hair and skin, like a beacon in the dark surroundings—one that she couldn't reach. In fact, she'd never felt more distant from him.

"You said you understood," she protested, some of the fire in her eyes cooling with her hurt.

"I never said I liked it," Draco reminded her. "Do you know how many girls I've turned down for you, just in the two weeks that you've been NEWTs-obsessed? And what do I get from you—a little gratitude for patience, some small reminder that I mean something to you? No, just accusations and mistrust. Fine, Hermione. You want to snuggle up with books rather than me, do it."

He turned around and walked the length of the shelves and out of sight.

"At least I don't have to worry about the books not being satisfied with me," she yelled after him.

"At least..." she heard him answer from the bowels of the gloomy room.

Hermione stomped back to the corner table and sat down to resume her studying. Her eyelids became heavy and the open book looked almost like a pillow. Her head fell forward on it, the pages dotted with angry tears, as she imagined all of the Slytherin sluts who had offered themselves to him...

She felt a hand on her back and the slide of a familiar, seductive voice into her consciousness. "I'm sorry, Hermione," Draco said softly, leaning over her. His cool breath on the back of her neck let her know this wasn't a dream.

She sighed in relief and stood, throwing her arms around him. "I'm sorry too," she said, burying her face in his chest. "It was terrible of me to suggest that you'd do something that selfish."

He smoothed her hair, his long, slender hand stark in the glazed pecan-colored tresses. "I have the most brilliant, accomplished girl in this school," he said, still speaking soothingly, "and I'm excessively proud of that. I didn't and wouldn't do anything to endanger that for you. I swear it, Hermione."

She sniffled. "I know. And I don't want you to think my feelings for you are lukewarm or...easily managed." She looked up into his face, holding out her thumb and forefinger for him to see the small space between them. "I have possibly this much more control than you." She slipped her arms around his waist and rested her head against him. "I want you all the time," she concluded in a trembly treble.

"And I've wanted you for years. I've wanted to know you, be someone you could trust, someone you'd want to be with long after we leave here."

"Hmm." Draco felt the reverberation of her hum against the thin, tight fabric of his button-down shirt.

"In fact," he said, his face lighting up with an idea, "I'm going to prove to you how well you can trust me."

He waved his wand and a large hammock suddenly appeared, suspended between the largest shelf units in the center of the room.

"You looked so uncomfortable trying to rest with your head on the table," he said in answer to her quizzical look. "I want to show you that I can lie with you and behave myself. Come here," he coaxed her, flinging himself in the hanging bed and holding out his arms for her.

With a little smile, she joined him and they lay back on the pillows he'd conjured, with the scrolling D and H embroidered on them.



He squeezed her. "And they'll be our witnesses that all we do is sleep," he said, pointing to the portraits of former librarians on the wall behind Madame Pince's desk.

Some of them nodded and smiled and Draco felt the last of the tension leave the slim, soft body cuddled next to him.

"I've been thinking..." Hermione began, "about our conversation earlier."

"Thinking what?" Draco asked, using his wand to dim the lights in the room, until everything had an umber glow.

She hesitated. "Your father will never be as non-threatening as he is now."

He half-raised his closed eyelids. "Huh?"

She snuggled closer and glided the tip of her nose over the pulse in his neck. "He doesn't have a wand and the Ministry won't allow him one for at least another year. Don't you think I can win him over in that time?"

He grinned at her. "I think you could charm a yeti in much less time."

Her burnt sienna eyes smiled into his. "Then we'll have the meeting?"

He sighed in resignation. Was there ever any question of her winning him over? He'd just have to make sure that his father didn't try to cast an impotent Avada, and Peré Granger didn't ogle his mother. "How about a public place—lunch at the Leaky Cauldron after graduation?"

She moved her arm up to tickle the back of his neck. "Perfect. Now kiss me good night."

He lowered his head until their lips met and melded and they'd banished all strain between them.

"I love you, Granger."

"I love you, Malfoy."

"I'm still worried."

Hermione giggled. "So am I; Dad might belch."

Draco rolled his eyes. "Worse yet, my father could join him."

She smiled again. "Good night, Draco."

She went to sleep almost immediately. Draco held her, enjoying her soft skin and breathing. This isn't so hard...easy, Ralph.

Hermione's silly name for him had become...localized, while his use of Jean for her had stopped upon his learning that he could be addressing her great-great-grandmother.

His eyes fell on four portraits that caught the faint light of one of the wall sconces.

Perhaps because of Hermione's earlier visitations by Jean and three other ancestor witches, he tended to see them in any quartet of older women.

The one on the left with the auburn hair...did she just wink at him? He winked back at the woman he imagined to be Finola.

Maybe he was more tired than he'd realized, but he thought he saw the persimmony woman next to her become even more disapproving looking—Hester, as he lived and breathed.

Jean could be imagined in the woman on the far right, with dark red lipstick over a squiggly mouth that reminded him of Hermione's.

And Clothilde, in the middle of the group, round and vibrant as Mother Earth herself. Her faded sandy and grey hair was twisted in a braid that rested on her mountainous chest, resembling exposed roots for a tree—a family tree, Draco thought whimsically.

He considered waking Hermione to point out his observations, then, thinking about her concerns for appearances, had another idea. He carefully unlocked himself from their embrace, then strolled to Madam Pince's desk, wearing his most ingratiating smile.

The next morning Hogwarts' current librarian was stunned to see waiting for her a scroll floating in mi-air with a note written on it:

My Dear Madam Pince,
I will thank you not to disturb my friend and me if we are still sleeping when you arrive.
Your careless stewardship of the library resulted in our being locked in here overnight.Your fellow librarians will attest to our model behavior during this trying experience, but I believe you will find them less complimentary of you.

And so, Madam, we come to that age-old proposition—I won't tell if you don't.
Just go about your business as if we're not here, and soon we won't be, and all but the portraits can forget this ever happened...

A confined and traumatized student

Draco watched through half-closed lids as Madam Pince gasped, with her hand over her heart, then pulled down the note and tore it into tiny pieces. She began her morning routine on the far side of the room, with no more than a surreptitious glance at the hammock containing the Malfoy boy and Granger girl.

Draco shook Hermione awake and they scurried out of the room, taking the hammock with them.

Madam peeked around the bookcase as they exited, then reluctantly went back to her desk to face the stern gallery of former curators, for the lecture of the librarians she knew was coming.

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