It seemed, to Dawn, as if time was on its own schedule after she settled into her routine at the school. Or maybe it was just that there were so many people to meet, tons of things to do, sights to see. She didn’t have time to get bored between all of that and her tutoring sessions.
Before she knew it the summer holidays were approaching, and with it her promised visit back to Sunnydale. Just for a couple weeks, while her tutors refreshed themselves before coming back to help her for the rest of the summer. They would be leaving when the summer was over, though. To seek out employment or secondary education.
Draco was one of those that would be leaving.
She didn’t blame him for it. Not one bit. He had been at the school for a long time. Seven full years of exams and preparations for a life outside of Hogwarts’ walls. He deserved to go out in the world and make a name for himself.
Or, another name, anyway. He already had one name, the hated Malfoy name. She bit back a smile, the hundreds of stories he had told her about his rather auspicious beginnings running through her mind. Maybe now he’d be able to be just Draco, and be something other than the boy his father created to be a mirror image of dark hatred.
Just thinking of Draco, his sparkling eyes and slicked back hair, made Dawn get flustered. They had become friends, with her introducing him to TV via the set available at the cabin Willow shared with Remus Lupin, and he had shown her the joys of the wizarding world, in addition to tutoring her in the evenings.
But her body, and heart, wasn’t content to allow them to remain just friends.
If someone asked her when the feelings of ‘more than friendship’ had started for the sneering young man, Dawn honestly wouldn’t have been able to say. They had to have grown gradually, though they manifested themselves for the first time with a startling bout of jealousy that left her reeling. Seeing Draco kiss Brigit, a sixth year Ravenclaw, had struck nerves in her body that she hadn’t even been aware existed. It both hurt her and made her very angry all at the same time. And it wasn’t until later that night, lying in bed with tear streaks on her cheeks, that she could realize why that was.
She really liked Draco – and not in the way that she was supposed to as his friend. She wanted to kiss him in the halls, hold his hand. She wanted to share Butterbeers at Madame Rosmerta’s with him. There was no end to the number of things she wanted to do with him, in reality. That was when she had faced her feelings for the first time, but it hadn’t been when they started. That point had been far passed by the time she finally discovered for herself how she felt.
Dawn turned, glancing out of the window at the setting sun. Only two more days and she’d be going back to Sunnydale. Back to her sister and her friends. Her surrogate family and real one. She’d get to live a normal Muggle life for those few weeks before she returned to Hogwarts for more tutoring. She could feel that familiar tug of her senses, the desire to run free that she had felt on and off ever since she had first indulged in her Animagus ability.
Well, no time like the present to go for a run, she decided.
The school halls were deserted as she slipped through them. Class was still in session for the students, she was one of few that had nothing to do during the early afternoon hours. Her tutoring only happened in the morning and early evening. Never in the afternoon. A side door led her out of the castle and into one of the gardens.
The spell to change herself into her Animagus form was second-nature to her after months of practicing, and she shifted without a fault, running through the warmth of the afternoon sun. The grass beneath her feet was crisp and green, smelling of the earth and the freshness of living things. The long blades of it tickled her whiskers and she sneezed, pausing in her leaping bounds to wipe at her delicate pink nose with the side of a paw.
“Aw, look at the wittle kitty.”
Dawn tensed, turning to hiss at the mocking man that stood before her.
“Kitten has claws,” Draco purred, kneeling down to rub her back. “Be a good girl, Dawn. Would hate for something to happen to you when you’re so. . . helpless.”
She morphed back before he could say another world, glaring. He was the last person she had wanted to see today. It was too hard to be around him on normal days, much less today, when she had to face the idea that soon they wouldn’t even get to go to Hogwarts together anymore.
“Why so sour today, cutie?”
That brought an inward cringe from the wisp of an eighteen year old. She frowned, arms crossed. “Don’t call me that.”
He looked taken aback, and she almost apologized for what she had said.
“Just because,” she waved him off. “It doesn’t matter. Just don’t do it. And don’t mock me when I’m in kitten-form, ferret-boy.”
Draco flushed, and she marveled at the pink contrast on his pale white skin. She knew what he was thinking at that moment – he never should have told her what his own Animagus form was. Personally, she thought it to be very, very amusing. Who would have known that a punishment inflicted on him by a professor his fourth year would stick with him into his adulthood, shaping the very creature he was as an Animagus.
They began walking, neither of them speaking. The blush was fading from Draco’s face and with it her comfortableness. She was fine as long as he was the flustered one, but as soon as that passed she was back where she started, quietly sad that the feelings of friendship she had for him had stopped being enough to cover the very real feelings of lust and caring she had for him.
“So . . .” She sighed, hardly conscious that she had done so until she saw Draco’s head turn towards her out of the corner of her eye. She flushed briefly, turning her head so that he wouldn’t see it.
“What’s wrong with you today?”
The same thing that had been wrong with her for a while, she wanted to tell him. But, no. He didn’t feel that way for her. And probably never would. Brigit, the one that had initially inspired her feelings of jealousy, was a seemingly permanent fixture in Draco’s life.
“Nothing.” She settled for, snapping the word out with a bitter twist of her lips that she hoped he’d see as a smile.
“O-kay.” His drawl was long and confused, his forehead wrinkled with the emotion. “Brigit and I broke up earlier, by the way. You’ll hear it all over the school by dinner.”
Dawn stumbled, one foot crashing into the other in an undignified mood. She sighed mentally at herself, continuing along with another one of those looks from Draco.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” That was cheerful and consoling enough, she hoped. Not at all thankful or energetically joyous that he and his girlfriend had called it quits. “What happened.”
He shrugged. “She wasn’t what I was looking for.”
A part of her wanted to scream ‘what the hell are you looking for, then?’. The other part of her didn’t really want to know, for fear that, once again, she wouldn’t quite measure up to some silly standards that her friend had. This had to be what Willow felt like when she was in high school crushing on Xander, Dawn decided. That unrequited feeling that one could find oneself having towards a good friend . . .
“It’s better this way,” Draco continued on, robe pushed aside just enough that he could put his hands in his pockets.
It was a funny sensation, to have your heart skip a beat. But that’s what she felt when she caught of him just then. His hair was ruffled just a bit, not completely slicked back nor wild and free. Silver eyes were squinted in the sunlight of the afternoon. His robes were immaculate, as always, with a freshly pressed white shirt and a nice pair of black slacks beneath them. He was like a Slytherin model, all grace and beauty but with that deadly certainty that came from living in a House where constant vigilance was the only way to stay alive for long.
She didn’t quite measure up. Sure, she knew she was pretty. That came from being who she was. Buffy was pretty. Her mother had been beautiful in that aged type of way. So – the prettiness was there.
But she wasn’t Draco’s type.
He liked cold girls, she had noticed that right off the bat. His ex-girlfriends were cold pieces of art, beautiful to look at, chilling to touch. There had to be something he saw in them, of course. But she couldn’t find it. Nor could anyone in her immediate circle of friends.
That was fine, though. Let him be with all the women he wanted.
It wasn’t as if she had any claim over him outside of the bounds of pure friendship.
“Aren’t you even curious, Summers?”
He was using her last name, not usually a good sign. It meant trouble, if previous incidents were to be used as a judge of things.
“Curious about what?”
Draco stopped, grabbing her arm to pause her own movements. “About what I’m looking for, maybe?”
That was not what she had expected to hear. True, she hadn’t expected anything. He was acting oddly, for sure.
“No.” She snapped, too quick even for her own sensitive ears. She sounded nervous, paranoid. Did he think that she –cared- what he was looking for? There was no good reason for her to care - not that he should know, anyway.
"My, my, Summers. Testy today?"
She blushed, turning her head away from him. "I'm just excited, you know. About going home."
It sounded like a lie, even to her and, when she turned back to look at Draco, she could see that he hadn't bought it either.
"What's wrong with you?"
"Nothing." She ground through clenched teeth. God was torturing her, for sure. That was the only excuse for this horrid taunting questioning coming from the man she had slowly, but surely, fallen in love with.
He could say those words so politely British on one hand and with a sneer the next. Right now it was a mixture of the two.
"Am not." She argued senselessly.
Oh, now he was just mocking her.
"No - you look," he cut her off with an explosive sigh. "You're acting like the little girl I always expected you to be. Something is wrong and you won't tell me what it is. I thought we were friends."
She frowned, eyes cutting to the ground. She didn't want to look into those silvery depths at that moment - didn't want to risk that he would see what she could never tell him.
"Just tell me."
That was out of the question, and she damn well knew it. Dawn looked up, lips pressed together in a thin line. Their eyes met and she could see that he was angry. Not worried, angry.
"Fine, then." He exploded. "Don't tell me. Your friend. I could care less. I knew it was a mistake - this getting to know you crap! Why bother when you're just going to close up the second something goes wrong?"
The words hit her like a simultaneous slap to the face and punch to the stomach.
"Don't bother." He snarled, stepping away from her with a flourish of his robes. "Just don't bother. I don't want to hear it. I came out here to tell you something and I'm going to do it still, despite my better judgement."
He stopped, pushing his hands angrily into his pockets, and just stared at her. Dawn licked her lips, staring right back, curious to see what he wanted to tell her, even after he had just told her off as a friend. If only he knew why she was being so close-mouthed. If only --
He couldn't know.
She wouldn't tell him.
Better to lose his friendship now, this way, than to risk it by telling him something he likely would laugh or taunt her for. At least this way he could remember her with anger -- and not humiliating pity.
"I wanted to tell you -- Merlin! Why does this have to be so hard? I wanted to tell you that you were the one, Dawn. The one that symbolizes what I'm looking for in a girl, woman, whatever. You."
He turned on his heel, walking off through the garden and back towards the school as Dawn stared, open-mouthed. She shook her head, raising a hand to her forehead in a gesture of silent confusion. He had said . . . And now he was walking away.
She felt like running after him but her legs just wouldn't move. It was difficult to breathe, to think. This new information was just. . . too much.
"DRACO!" She called after him, taking one stumbling step forward. And then another. And another, as slowly her legs let her work up to a full-fledged run. He had stopped, but not turned; and she caught up to him in just a matter of moments.
"What?" Voice like ice - the same coldness that she had heard he was famous for. The type that she had only seen in action once or twice towards those that he truly despised. It hurt.
"I wanted to tell you what was wrong. . . If you still cared to know."
"And if I don't?"
She winced, reaching out to lay a hand on his shoulder. Still he didn't turn, and since he wasn't shaking her hand off of him, she didn't try to force him.
"I'll still tell you anyway." She pressed on. "I'll put you in a full body bind if I have to - and then I'll make you listen to me."
He turned, eyebrow raised. "I'd disarm you before you ever got the spell out of your mouth."
She shrugged. "I might get lucky."
"Doubtful," he snorted. "I've watched you in DADA."
"Whatever," she waived the conversation away with a bat of her hand. "Do you want to do this the easy way or the hard way?"
Draco sighed. "Just tell me already, I'd hate to have to hurt you when you try to hex me."
She gave him a stern glare that said that she clearly thought his confidence was a little over the top.
"You wanted to know why I was upset - right?"
"Well. . . it's like this. . .I . . ." She sighed, stomping her foot angrily in the grass. "I was upset because. . . I mean. . .You see. . ."
"Just spit it out already!" Draco growled.
"Fine!" Dawn yelled, throwing her arms up in exasperation both with herself than with him. Why was it still so hard to say this, when he had already told her how he felt? "I was upset with your question because it hit too close to home, Draco. I mean, there you are, asking me if I want to know what you want in a woman - and I'm sitting there praying that you want someone like me and knowing, in my heart, that you don't."
There was confusion on his face, and then his lips spread into a slow smirk that she knew, underneath, was really a smile.
"So - you like me, huh?"
She flushed. "Don't tease."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Smirk in place, he stepped forward so that there were only a few short inches separating them. "Was it my Malfoy charm or my indescribable good looks?"
"I dunno," she drawled. "Maybe it was the ego the gigantic ego."
"Was that it? Never knew that was such a turn on." He ran a finger down her cheek, along the line of her jaw, rubbing his thumb over her lips and effectively cutting off any response she may have made.
And then lips replaced the thumb.
His lips, so pale just like the rest of him, were like bittersweet chocolate. Like those sips of wine she had stolen at home when no one was looking. Sweet, but not too much so, with a bitter edge that defined what they were. She smiled as he pulled away, not surprised to see that same smirk still glued to his face.
"That was . . . nice."
"Only nice?" Draco's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "We'll have to work on that."
Dawn's smile doubled in size, breaking only when Draco's lips once again met hers.
She was going to like this 'working on it' stuff.