Chapter 12: Baths and Breaking Points
Letting herself into the Prefect’s bathroom, she dumped her books, still clutched to her chest in her attempt at escaping her friend’s care and censure, onto one of the benches.
A small cry of alarm alerted her to the occupancy of the room. For the second time in too many days, Hermione found herself staring at the figure of Draco Malfoy standing in the Prefect’s bath.
However startling his presence may have been initially, it could not compare to the sight of him wearing naught but a towel wrapped rather nonchalantly about his trim waist. Years of care and attention, as well as playing Quidditch, had kept him in good shape, and his most recent summer of morose inactivity had not diminished this fact.
He smirked at her when she looked him over again and again. He was reveling in her attention to his figure, and she blushed when she realized that he was taking a similar glance of her.
“I didn’t realize that you were in here. I’ll just be going now.”
She stammered out an apology as well, and as she turned to gather her books and parchment, she heard something so alarming, it drove all other thoughts from her mind.
His entreaty was soft, and at first, Hermione had thought that she had imagined it. Yet when she hazarded a look over her shoulder, he was coming toward her, and his face was earnest. He obviously wanted to talk to her, and Hermione was at a loss for words. All she could think of was,
“What did you just call me?”
He seemed to be surprised by her inquiry and paused mid-step to consider her. Then he smiled at her, and he appeared at once so charming, that Hermione found herself taking a step to meet him halfway. His smile grew wider, and he came right up to her.
Her name on his whisper. It was as if he had read into her mind and found her deepest fantasy. That alone had the power to disarm her completely.
“Draco, about earlier-“ he cut her off with a finger to her mouth, and it took every ounce of will power not to lick her lips.
“I shouldn’t have teased you, and I shouldn’t have put you in such a position as I did.” It was the closest thing to an apology from him Hermione had ever heard. Her astonishment at it caused her to launch into a speech of her own.
“Maybe, but I shouldn’t have been so afraid of being honest. And I certainly shouldn’t have yelled at you, or run off! I should have been mature enough to handle a discussion with you.” She fought the urge to run again as he leaned closer and his brilliantly grey eyes met her nervous brown ones. In them, she saw that indefinable emotion, which was quickly overpowered by understanding.
“Hermi-“ this time it was she that cut him off. Hermione didn’t think she would have been able to survive him using her given name again just yet. So she kissed him with all the passion she could muster and considering the current flurry of emotions running through her, there was quite a bit of passion.
She forgot about her quill and parchment, couldn’t care about the fact that her books lay tossed and forgotten on the bench and floor. All that mattered was that she was kissing Draco Malfoy, and he was kissing her back. Their combined ardor made them forget that they were standing in the bathroom and that Draco was only wearing a towel, wrapped carelessly around his waist.
It did not faze them in the slightest when a rather out of breath Ron suddenly burst into the bathroom. He was followed by Ginny, who took one look at the scene and threw herself at Harry, in order to keep him from entering and seeing the torrid embrace. They had their own scuffle, which resulted in Ron bumping into Hermione and Draco and putting a stop to their activity.
Harry saw them extract themselves from one another, and it did not take him more than a few confused seconds to realize what he had undoubtedly missed. Ron was staring at Hermione in amazement, and when he turned to look at Draco, he turned very red and muttered something about “owls”. No one could figure what owls had to do with anything relevant at that moment, and it took Ginny swooping in to pick up Draco’s fallen towel for anyone to notice what had been amiss.
Draco looked a little abashed and repositioned the towel securely around his waist while turning what Hermione thought to be a darling shade of pink. Harry was speechless at finding them in such a scene, and Ron seemed to be trying very hard not to laugh. Only Ginny could find words enough to fit the situation.
“So, I’d say you patched things up then?” She smiled at Hermione, and for the first time in days, Hermione smiled back with real pleasure.
She knew that Ginny understood, and would hopefully be able to explain things appropriately to the boys. In the meantime, Hermione gave Draco a radiant smile and ushered the others out into the hallway so that he could get dressed.
“Hermione, are things really worked out between you two?” Ginny asked concern etched on her face, and a similar emotion was mirrored in Ron and Harry’s expressions. Any animosity toward her friends that she may have harbored vanished. They loved her and were only trying to watch out for her well-being. She gave Ginny a hug.
“Not totally, but enough for me to not feel so completely helpless when it comes to him. I really appreciate all your support, Gin; it means so much to me.”
She looked at the two people who would have the most problem with her relations with the Slytherin on the other side of the door. With a hopeful smile at Ron, whom she figured to be her best bet as far as well-wishing went, she extended an arm, welcoming him into a hug as well. Ron had no qualms about accepting her hug, but asked anyway,
“You’re sure, ‘Mione? You don’t want me to go in there and rough him up for you? He was a royal prat after all.”
Hermione laughed and shook her head.
“Ron, I never thought I’d say this, but you were right all along. I am in love with that royal prat.” Needing no further assurance, Ron stepped easily into her friendly embrace.
It was nothing to be expected though of Harry. Ron pulled away and all eyes turned to Harry to gauge his reaction to the news.
“I suppose you want me to give you a hug and forget about the past 5 years that he’s been my enemy?” he asked, reluctant to offer his good opinion. Ginny looked at Harry exasperatedly.
“Surely you have bigger problems than a 16-year-old boy!” She pointed out, and the reminder caused Harry to blush slightly, as he stared down into Ginny’s frank brown gaze.
Something glimmered across his expression as he looked at her, and Hermione wondered if Ginny had said something to put that glimpse of hope in Harry’s expression. She also felt a little bad for Ron, since he would be the only one left without having found love.
“Harry, I know you’re probably upset by all this, but I would like to know that you aren’t going to try and hex my boyfriend when he’s got his back turned.”
Harry didn’t look like he liked the way Hermione used the term ‘boyfriend’ in reference to Draco, but he couldn’t deny her this small consolation. He nodded his consent.
Hermione smiled and opened her arms for a hug, but just at that moment, Draco emerged from the Prefect’s bathroom. He was fully dressed, which caused Hermione a flash of momentary sadness at the loss of the sight of all that glorious male flesh. Gathering herself together, she turned back to Harry, only to see him halfway down the corridor.
He never saw her crushed expression or Draco take her hand at seeing her frown. Harry didn’t get to experience the awkwardness of the conversation that followed between the remaining four, nor did he hear the way that Ginny readily accepted and came to terms with Draco and Hermione’s relationship.
He wasn’t around to notice when Ron gave Hermione an extra tight squeeze, and Draco a few words of warning he normally reserved for Ginny’s suitors, before setting off to find his best mate.
He certainly wasn’t there when Hermione ducked back inside the bathroom to gather her study materials.
And Harry completely missed Ginny telling Hermione to be good in an undertone as the three of them made their way to the library to finish the afternoon studying.
No, he never saw any of this.
He was already gone.