Hermione, Draco, and the Ravenclaws had searched the Room of Lost Things together for a while before Cho Chang called out, "I think I've found it!" The group converged on her within seconds, forming a circle around the sparkling tiara. Luna Lovegood's eyes were wide with awe as she stared at the emblem that had been lost for so many years. Padma Patil's fingers shook as they reached for the diadem — just to touch it, to know that it was real.
"Alright then," Hermione spoke, breaking the intense silence. She reached for the diadem, and Cho only resisted for a moment before letting it go. "Everyone, I'm sure the others are securing the castle downstairs. Luna, if you'd lead them to the Great Hall, please."
"But what are you going to do with the diadem?" Michael Corner called from the back of the group.
Hermione turned outward so she could face the small crowd. "Thank you so much for all of your help. Right now, we need our resources securing the castle."
"That's all well and good," Michael responded. "But what does a Gryffindor and a Slytherin want with the relic from our house?"
Draco stepped forward. "We all want Voldemort gone, right? Well, to make sure we can defeat him, we have to destroy this," he gestured toward the tiara in Hermione's hands.
There was a soft uproar from the students crowded around them, but Luna silenced them with a clap of her hands. "It had already been lost to us, therefore we've lost nothing. But we will lose if we don't go downstairs and help," she told her classmates calmly. Knowing they couldn't resist logic, Luna didn't wait for a response before she started ushering the Ravenclaws out of the room.
Draco and Hermione followed behind the group, and Draco turned to Hermione, gesturing once more to the emblem in her hands. "How do we destroy it?"
Keeping her gaze ahead of them and alert as they entered the hallway, Hermione listed off the known ways automatically. "Basilisk venom and fiendfyre are the two ways we know," she responded. "Harry and Ginny went to go get fangs from the Chamber of Secrets. We'll destroy it when they get back."
"We could use fiendfyre right now though," Draco offered with a shrug.
"Too dangerous. We can't control it."
"I can," Draco said nonchalantly, and Hermione finally turned to look at him, shock etched into her face. He smirked. "Never thought being a death eater would actually come in handy."
Shaking her head with a small smile, Hermione turned down the hallway. "There's an abandoned classroom over there. I'm not risking the Room of Requirements." They walked side by side, and when they entered the room, Hermione went about warding them in while Draco started building a crystal clear orb.
When Hermione finished, she turned to watch Draco's magic; the bubble was about the size of a quaffle. A fog danced around the edges. Hermione was impressed; being able to create a space and ward that space at the same time was advanced magic. To build something that would withstand cursed fire was beyond even Hermione's understanding. Not only was his magic enchanting, he was a beautiful sight to behold. She knew this was the start of the final battle. She also knew she should be focusing on that. But considering the fact she or Draco could die tonight, Hermione took the time to appreciate the relationship they'd managed to build in a short time.
Draco stopped suddenly, bringing his wand to his side and turning to the curly-haired witch. The look on her face made a smile break out across his own. It was crazy, he knew. They should be scared out of their wits. They were, of course, but he also appreciated the specific beat his heart played when he looked at Hermione Granger, the way his breath caught in his chest when she smiled at him. He reached his hand out, and she took it. Surprised, he pulled her to him, and she brought her hands up to his chest. Her brown eyes were locked onto his before darting to his lips. As she looked at his mouth, Hermione tilted her head slightly and pulled her bottom lip between her teeth. Draco watched her every move intently, and when she came to a stop, he swooped in, pushing his mouth against hers.
Her lips were hungry as they danced against his. The kiss was — all at once — sweet, passionate, and desperate. Reluctantly, Draco pulled away, uncrossing his eyes as he inhaled deeply. "I was, uhm, reaching for — for the diadem, actually," he stuttered, running a nervous hand through his hair. He smirked at her. "But that was good, too."
"Right! Right," Hermione said, taking a step back and holding out the silver, sapphire encrusted jewelry as a blush crept across her cheeks. He chuckled softly under his breath and took it. Turning back to his creation, he pushed the horcrux into the encasement. Draco whispered a spell Hermione couldn't hear as he pointed his wand at the tiara floating in the middle of the orb. Suddenly, flames erupted inside the otherwise clear case. Tom Riddle's head ballooned out of the diadem, but the horcrux didn't have the opportunity to torment its destroyer. Riddle's mouth was wide open in an O shape; he was screaming, but Draco and Hermione could hear no sound. The orb expanded to fit the new occupant of its space, and the fiendfyre was controlled.
Hermione watched in silence, disgusted at the dark magic but still impressed by Draco's own magic. It was cathartic for Draco to watch Voldemort in such a vulnerable position, watch him disintegrate into screams in the cursed fire. It made their mission to bring the dark wizard down feel possible, something that, having seen the enthusiasm of his supporters, hadn't instilled much hope in him before now. He felt like he was physically chipping a piece off the armor that was Voldemort's immortality. Not only did it help him truly feel how much he had changed, he hoped it was doing the same thing for the witch he'd fallen for.
The witch in question breathed a sigh of relief as Draco cast a few final spells to extinguish the flames, and the fiendfyre evaporated along with the magical encasement. The diadem, burnt to a crisp, dropped into Draco's outstretched hands.
As the pair left the classroom and headed back toward the Room of Requirements, they saw Harry and Ginny returning with a similarly burnt goblet. Hermione ran up to them, having grabbed the destroyed horcrux from Draco. "He was brilliant!" she exclaimed as she reached them. "We found this diadem, and Draco destroyed it with fiendyfe! He can keep it controlled."
Harry narrowed his eyes, his lips pulling down slightly at the corners, but Ginny looked impressed, placing her hands on her hips as she looked Draco up and down. Harry held up the cup. "Well, we got rid of this one," he responded, though he knew that was the original plan, while Draco went above and beyond. It made him feel strange. He felt a little weary of the supposedly former death eater, but he trusted Hermione.
"What's next?" Draco asked the group.
"The snake," Harry responded with a resigned sigh.
"Bloody hell," the blonde responded with a shake of his head. "I don't know how we're going to get to that thing. It's always at Voldemort's side."
"We?" Harry asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Draco narrowed his eyes, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "Yes. We," he said determinedly, daring the Chosen One to question him.
The men continued to stare each other down before Hermione stepped between them. "Seriously? Can we please continue our outrageously dangerous task of ridding the world of the evilest wizard of all time?"
Harry sighed, nodding in resignation and held his hand out to Draco. "She's right," he said.
Draco let the man's hand hang there for a moment before shrugging and grasping it. "She usually is."
A/N: First kiss! I hope you all enjoyed the chapter. I'm headed out to NYC tomorrow, but I'll be back home in time to post your regularly scheduled chapter next week. Thank you to all of you still reading this story, and thank you, of course, to my beautiful beta JadePresley.