More (Alternate ending)
"You'll have a nice life with Weasley, but we could have so much more—the laughter, the understanding and compatibility, passion. You can see it, can't you?" he said, as his lips moved over her face. "You can feel it," he added more intensely, grasping her in a tight hug and kissing her as though it were his last opportunity.
Hermione responded in spite of herself and inched her arms around his neck, pulling him closer until breaking away, breathless. She looked at his patrician face for a moment then said, "I'm a Muggle-born."
"I don't care," answered Draco, trying to kiss her again.
"No, that's not what I mean," she said. She disengaged from him and moved to the seating group in front of the fireplace, surreptitiously sweeping her wand over her parents' door to cause them to gradually fall asleep. She slowly sat down and stared at the fire.
His eyes followed her. "What do you mean?" he asked, throwing up his hands in frustration.
Hermione had her elbow on the armrest of the sofa and her arm propped up to support the side of her head. "It's hard to say without sounding really calculating."
Draco walked over to sit on the fireplace's slate hearth. "Don't worry about that; I appreciate calculating."
She raised her brown eyes to him and he could feel his heart beating.
"I want to belong to the wizarding community," she explained hesitantly, "but I don't really have a connection to it, other than my relationships with Harry, Ron and...his family."
Draco snorted softly. "So that's Weasley's appeal—the whole ginger mob?"
Her head shot up. "No, I love Ron."
His look was total befuddlement as he asked, "Why?"
She smiled softly. "I feel so much with him. Exasperation, yes, but there's also companionship, affection..."
"Passion, heat?" interjected Draco.
She looked down. "That time in sixth year when he was poisoned..."
"You mean the time he drank the poisoned mead that I intended for Dumbledore," Draco stated matter-of-factly, stretching his legs in front of him, ankles crossed.
Hermione raised her eyes again. "I'd forgotten that part." She sighed and glanced around the cozy great room, smiling at the gentle snoring now coming from behind her parents' door. "I was so frightened of losing him then and I was so jealous that whole time he was with Lavender Brown." She turned back to the blond man in front of the fire. "I was never jealous of Pansy Parkinson."
Draco snickered as he rose from the hearth and sat next to Hermione on the sofa. "Well, she was always jealous of you."
He turned toward her and took her hand. "Because since Pansy wanted my attention so badly, she knew something you didn't—that it was always directed at you."
Hermione's pulse raced when he held her hand. Listening to him now, she wondered if he could feel it.
"Probably from the day that you punched me, you've been my guilty obsession. And, considering how I was raised, you can imagine my confusion, self-disgust, yet still elation whenever I saw you. What were you saying about Ron making you feel so much? I run through a gamut of emotions just thinking about you."
Her eyes were glued to his face as he made his admission. Now he looked away and withdrew his hand, suddenly timid. "I heard you once tell somebody that you were going skiing with your mother and father."
Hermione's quick mind understood. She responded with a light intake of breath.
"That's right, clever girl," he said, "I've been haunting ski lodges ever since, hoping I might find you."
She shook her head in puzzlement. "Draco, we never spoke. Some years you'd done horrible things just before Christmas holiday. How..."
He pushed out a huge sigh. "Don't try to make sense of it, Granger. I've never been able to." He pulled the front of his sweater away from him, as if he were too warm, then glanced at her again. "Will you take a walk with me?"
"Alright," she said, getting her jacket from her pile of luggage in the middle of the room.
During their conversation, Ron's owl Pigwidgeon had flapped his wings impatiently, awaiting the answer to return to his master. Draco addressed him now from the open door. "Come along, molter. You need some open space too."
Outside, the sun and crisp air seemed to innervate Draco and he spoke more assuredly. "You know, if things hadn't been the way they were at Hogwarts and with my family, we would have been naturally drawn to each other."
He took her hand again, as they eschewed the path and instead tramped over the snowy terrain, having cast spells to keep warm and sure-footed. Someone following their prints later would observe how the tell-tale marks moved closer, an indication that the couple had unconsciously closed the distance between them.
"You were always so lovely," Draco observed, "even before you fixed your teeth."
"How did you know about that?"
He chuckled. "I told you; you always had my attention. Anyway, we were both leaders in our houses, top of our class and, as we've proven this week, strongly attracted to each other."
She couldn't argue the point so continued to listen without comment.
He spoke more carefully now. "I thought if we should ever see each other away from school and all of our influences, that we could just be ourselves and maybe we'd have a chance. That's all I've ever wanted. Well, not all," he said, stopping to put his arms around her and drill his heather eyes into her brain, "but I had to have the chance first."
Hermione looked up at him, wondering if he was employing a more subtle form of Legilimency, because she felt entranced.
He leaned down for a small kiss. "Stay, Hermione. Give us the chance."
Again she wrapped her arms around him and deepened the kiss, pressing herself against him more brazenly than she'd ever done in her life.
"Does Weasley bring this out in you?" he asked hoarsely, his fingers tangling in her hair, as he tried to draw her even closer.
"No," she admitted. She made a decision. "Do you have a quill?"
He produced a ready-ink quill with a grin and she called to the small owl, who hadn't let the couple out of his sight.
Hermione attached the note to his leg and watched the bird fly off with what she'd imagined her future to be.
Draco wrapped his arms around her from behind and buried his face between her neck and shoulder. "We'll have dinner with your mother and father tonight. I'll be so charming, I'll have all three of you eating out of the palm of my hand."
"You better be," she said, "because I just gave up the largest magical family circle in England for you."
He pulled his arms around her more tightly. "Maybe this is all the circle you need."
She rested her hands on his arms and leaned back against him. "Maybe."
He was quiet for a moment then turned her to face him. "Actually, I can't believe that the girl responsible for SPEW and Dumbledore's Army never organized all of the Muggle-borns at school."
He grinned down at her. "Think about it. That would be your obvious support group, unless you really need a Pure-blood family to give you validation."
She gave him a withering look and his smile broadened. "And another thing...I don't like your name."
"You don't?" she asked, a little hurt.
"No, and I don't always want to call you Granger either. For some time I've been thinking of you as Jean."
"You know my middle name?"
He pointed to himself. "Obsessed, remember?"
She laughed. "Not Jeanoria or Jeanadora or some other pompous variation?"
"No, just Jean—something no one else calls you. It's all mine."
"Hmmm," she said playfully, "then I should tell you, I've never liked Draco."
"What," he said, raising his voice, "it's a noble, magnificent name."
She shook her head, her eyes gleaming. "Pompous. I think I'll call you...Ralph."
His affronted gasp set her giggling. Smiling down at her, he said, "Alright, Ralph it is. We'll find a place for you when we get back and you can start organizing your group, if that's something you want to do."
"Possibly I can include Half-bloods too," she said, warming up to the idea. We could be the Society for Un-Pure Magical Endeavors."
He snickered. "SUPME? Sounds like a fun group. I wish I could join."
"Draco Malfoy in a club for Mudbloods and Half-bloods," she said in mock horror.
"Not Draco," he said, lowering his head to kiss her again, "Ralph."
The person later following their footprints would be surprised how they suddenly stopped, as if the couple had disappeared. As they Apparated back to the cabin, Pigwidgeon continued his flight, carrying a polite "Dear Ron..." letter. Hermione knew he would never completely turn away from her, even after this rejection.
Still she'd chosen Draco, the young man who stirred her mind and body, giving him, giving them, all that he said he'd ever wanted—a chance.