Recklessness and Water

Draco fell out of bed, disturbed by the incessant ringing of his loft flat’s doorbell. Grumbling and rubbing at his eyes, he crossed the living area (not forgetting to stub various appendages on various types of furniture) and made his way to the door.

"For bloody’s fuck sake," he slurred, moving aside the metal plate which hid the hallway spy-hole. The very top of a curly brown head could be seen, given a strange halo appearance by the yellow emergency lights. Draco rolled his eyes and removed the charm around the door, opening it to reveal the exact specimen he had anticipated. "Oh, look," he said in sleepy bitterness. "A midget's come to give me a Christmas present."

Hermione, who was standing in the doorway with a large cardboard box, tried very hard to glare at him, but only managed to do so with one half of her face, making the gesture not very intimidating at all. She gave up after two more tries and shoved her box at him.

"Here!" she shouted and Draco jumped, not having anticipated such a burst of sound.

"Shh, Hermione-- hell, you're going to wake up the whole floor," he hissed at her, taking her arm to pull her inside, but she resisted.

"No, I'm not going in there!" she shouted, "If I go in, I know what'll happen! You'll make me think I'm wrong! Then you'll make me do that thing with my tongue, like this!" Hermione imitated the act she had described, and Draco looked around in horror, hoping that none of his neighbors had been startled awake by her tactlessness.

"Hermione... are you drunk?"

"What do you care! I brought you your rubbish! I'm leaving you!" she bellowed and shoved the box at him. Draco took it by impulse and she spun on her heel, tromping down the hall. It was then that Draco noticed that her particular lack of altitude that evening was due to the fact that she wasn't wearing shoes. In fact, she wasn't wearing very much at all.

Draco sighed and set the box on the floor before returning to his room to dress quickly and slip on some shoes of his own. When he returned to the doorway, Hermione was standing there tapping her bare foot against his threshold.

"I can't believe you!" she cursed at him, pushing hard against his chest. "I said I was leaving you and you didn't even come after me! What is wrong with you?"

"Hermione, please stop yelling?" Draco asked desperately.

"Why didn't you come after me?"

"I was coming- I wanted shoes. And pants. It's almost September--"

"I don't care! I don't care! La, la, la, la!" she interrupted childishly, jamming index fingers into her ears. She dropped her hands to her sides and glared at his nose. "I hate you, Draco Malfoy. I don't know what I ever saw in you." She turned and walked away again, and Draco was set off-guard. She hadn't screamed the final two sentences, and it bothered him how serious she had sounded. He went after her immediately, closing the door quietly and sprinting down the hall.

When Draco found Hermione she was walking down the street in her limited attire with arms crossed over her chest. He ran up to her and touched her arm.

"Hermione, what are you doing? How much did you have to drink?"

"Shut up. I don't love you anymore. Go away."


"You don't care what happens to me. I could die and you wouldn't notice for days. You wouldn't care," she rambled, her bottom lip beginning to tremble with the crisp new autumn air. The sidewalk was wet and her feet were numb with cold.

"Hey," Draco said forcefully, eyebrows drawn together, and stopped her. She turned to look at him, her resolve unruffled. "Don't you ever say that again. Do you understand me? That is not funny."

"I wasn't trying to be funny," she spat. "I'm just being honest." He squeezed her shoulders and she squirmed slightly under the pressure.

"Look, Hermione. You can yell at me. You can scream, you can hit me, you can claim you don't love me... you can come to my house at three o'clock in the fucking morning with a box of junk and probably get me evicted with your domestic disturbances, but don't you dare imply that I don't care about you. I love you, dammit." He released her and Hermione was thrown slightly off-balance, grabbing at a nearby lamppost to keep from falling. "God, you really are hammered, aren't you? What were you thinking, Hermione?" He took a step toward her and she shied away, hugging the lamppost and shivering against it. Draco felt instantly guilty and placed a soft palm against her back. "I'm sorry. Come on- I'll take you home."

"No!" she said, her stubbornness suddenly resurfacing. "I'm perfectly capable of getting home on my own, thank you very much. Not that you would notice if I didn't." Draco set his jaw.


"Leave me alone. What do you want? You want to shake me some more? Make fashionable little hand-shaped bruises on my arms? No, thank you."

"That's not fair."

"A lot of things aren't fair, Draco!" her voice rose again, sharp and biting, and she pushed off the lamppost and started down the street again. Draco was feeling as if something had stabbed him and was having a difficult time finding words.

"Where are you going?" he asked, his voice small and muted by the sounds of city nightlife.

"Home. Away from you."

"Did you drive?" he asked, louder now as he walked in step by her side.

"No," she said. "Not that that matters to you." Draco reached out to gently stop her, and felt her tremble against the warmth of his hand.

"I can't let you apparate like this. You'll splice yourself," he said and she opened her mouth to counter him, but he cut her off. "And it does matter to me. I'll drive you." She pulled away from him and crossed her arms, entertaining her stubbornness. Draco tried his best to stay calm. "Please, Hermione? You're going to freeze to death. You're hardly wearing anything." Hermione looked down at herself, as if his observation had come as new knowledge to her as well. Her eyebrows drew close to one another and her lips pursed.

"Oh yeah," she said and removed the shirt she was wearing. "This is yours too," she said and shoved it at him. Draco stared open-mouthed as she stood before him in a black sports bra and a pair of grey boxer shorts. He decided not to mention the fact that the shorts also belonged to him. Immediately, Draco removed his coat and sweater and forced them onto his scantily clad girlfriend. She struggled, but their softness and extra warmth from his body heat proved too tempting for her tenacity to withstand. The heat was like a drug, and she swam in the soft folds of Draco's sweater while he put her vacated t-shirt on over his undershirt. He moved to embrace her and Hermione allowed him, cuddling into his chest and absorbing his heat as he held her to him.

"Come on, love," he coaxed softly, and she did not argue as he led her to his auto, which was parked illegally in front of his apartment building. He deposited her in the passenger seat and she shivered against the leather upholstery as he rounded the front of the car and sat on the driver's side. After starting the engine, Draco turned the heat up as far as it would go and held Hermione until her shivering was slightly less shattering. "Better?" he asked and she nodded softly, pulling away and moving to latch her seatbelt. Draco shook his head and did the same, before preparing the car to make the long journey to her home. Hermione lived in Newcastle upon Tyne, which was about as bloody far from London as one could get and still be in England. He frequently complained about the distance between them, but their work separated them and the ingenious invention of apparition made it only a mild inconvenience. It was times like this that Draco wished he had pushed the subject.

Hermione kept her arms crossed and stared out the window as they traveled, looking very upset and weary. Draco also noted that it looked like she had been crying.

"Hey," he said softly, and she turned to him habitually before forcing her eyes back to the swiftly passing guard rails. "What did I do, anyway?" Her lip trembled, and she looked even angrier than she had before.

"I can't believe you even have to ask. I can't believe I put up with this..." she lamented to the roof of the car, throwing her hands up and allowing the seatbelt to slap the bottom of her chin. "Dammit!" she yelled as she pulled it away from her. "I hate being short!" Her hand unconsciously made its way to her chest, to massage the imperceptible pain away. "Oh," she said softly. "I guess I don't need this anymore either." Hermione reached into her bra and extracted a wrinkled and tattered photograph. She looked inconsolable as she held it, running her thumb over the faces. Draco leaned over slightly to see, and smiled softly before his frown mirrored her own.

"You still have that picture?" he asked, turning back to watch the road, and Hermione nodded.

"Of course I do. I loved you so much."

"Oh," Draco said, unable to ignore the fact that even though she probably didn't mean it, and she was drunk and not thinking clearly, the past tense of her statement bit at him. "And do you always keep it in your bra?" He had expected her to glare at him, but she continued to sadly stare at the picture and nodded softly.


"For five years?"

"For five years."

To be frank, Draco had absolutely no idea what to say. She looked so devastated, and her hands shook as she let the picture slide from her fingertips and fit itself between the windshield and dashboard. It was still dark, and as they passed under streetlights the haunted image of their faces shown washed-out and upside down on the windshield. Hermione fought silently with her seatbelt for a moment, attempting to get comfortable, before mumbling something about statistics showing that more people had died from seatbelts than from car-ejections and un-hooking it, leaving her free to curl up against the door and nuzzle the soft brown interior fabric. She sniffled and it only took Draco a glance to realize that she was crying freely into the arm of his sweater. He sacrificed some of his control on the steering wheel to place a hand on her thigh, but Hermione pushed him away.

"Hermione," he said softly, reluctantly putting his hand back on the wheel. "You're serious about this, aren't you? You're drunk, but you mean it. You're... you're leaving me."

"You're just figuring this out now, Draco?" Hermione said softly, crying harder now and shuddering against her sobs. A thousand memories of their relationship ran on a reel through Draco's mind, like one's life flashes before their eyes just before they die. He could feel his heart breaking as he jumped between memories of their dates and nights on his couch in front of the tele, or on the floor of her bedroom wrapped in sheets and memories of bickering at Hogwarts and kisses after Quidditch and snogging in closets. Finally, his thoughts settled on the night immortalized on a piece of muggle Polaroid paper and flashing mocking grins at him each time his car passed under a streetlight.

"But... why? Just tell me what I did, Hermione. I'll fix it. I'm sorry," he pleaded, squeezing the padded cover on the wheel. She shook her head.

"You don't even know what you've done and you're sorry. You're just sorry because I'm mad at you. You don't care what's wrong."

"That's not true, dammit. You're being so stubborn. You're being so... like you."

"Would you love me if I wasn't?" she asked, evidently before she could stop herself, because his hesitance to answer made her sob harder. "Forget it." Draco sighed.

"Please, just tell me what I did. If I can't fix it, then you can rant and rave and haul off if you want to."

"Draco, what day is it?" she asked, wiping at her eyes and looking over her shoulder at him. Draco glanced at her a few times, confused.

"I... I don't know. August something. The thirtieth?"

"It's September, Draco," she corrected, yelling at him as a fresh new batch of tears began spilling over her cheeks. Draco looked taken completely off-guard.

"Really? I don't know, then. The third?"

"The nineteenth."

"No it isn't," he said simply.

"Yes it is!"

"No, it isn't, because that's your... your... oh bloody hell."

"My what?" Hermione prompted. "My birthday, is it? Draco I waited at home all day for you... for you to call or apparate or for your owl to show up with one of those pre-made sappy stupid fucking department store birthday cards with puppies and bad jokes about how old I am and love, Draco scribbled at the bottom. But it didn't come. You never came. I spent my whole twenty-second birthday by myself at home in my flat waiting for you and drinking the champagne Harry sent me. How many more twenty-second birthdays am I going to get, Draco? None. And I wasted this one."

"God, Hermione, I'm so sorry-- I didn't even realize, the- the stupid leaves."

"Don't bother making excuses, Draco. I've made up my mind. Just take me home, if you must, and go away."

"Okay, so I shouldn't try to talk my way out of it. I screwed up... quite badly this time. I'm sorry, Hermione. I truly am. I didn't mean to forget, the time just snuck up on me. I bought you a present and everything. It's in the glove box."

"I don't want your stupid gift. You can't buy me, Draco."

"I know that!" he shouted in his own defense. "I... I know. It's one of the things I love so much about you. Please, Hermione. You can't tell me you want to throw us away on a whim like this. Don't you remember how in love we are? How happy we are together?"

"You know what I remember, Draco? I remember how in love and happy we were," she said, and fished for the picture again. She held it close to her face and closed her eyes. "I remember when you were the most romantic boy of all the ones in school. My girlfriends and I used to gossip for hours about all the things you used to do. And they would say Oh, I wish Harry would do something like that or The last time Seamus said anything like that, he was drunk and talking to his bottle of butterbeer. I remember when you wouldn't forget my birthday if you were being held at wand-point. It hasn't been like that in so long, Draco. I don't even know if you're the same person who did all those things."

"Hermione, we've been busy- I..."

"I don't want to talk about it anymore, Draco. I just want to go home." She threw the picture back on the dashboard as if it had burned her and curled up against the door to sleep. Draco complied with her wishes and turned his full attention back to the road. It didn't take long for the little crumpled picture to catch his eye again and he was forced to relive overwhelming memories every time his eyes flashed to its reflection in the windshield.


"Oh, Draco, thank you so much for doing this for me. I didn't know what I was going to do," Hermione said as she slid into the limo and thanked the chauffer who had opened the door for her. She made sure all of the folds of her large dress were tucked safely inside before she allowed him to close it. Draco brushed at the folds of his tuxedo jacket.

"I still don't see why you have to go. It's not even your school."

"I know," she said. "It's sort of a long story. I apparated to New York, because I wanted some pizza and my friend Tucker from the muggle world told me about somewhere with evidently exceptional pizza. He moved there last year, so I thought that he would know better than anyone. I didn't expect to see him there, but when he asked what I was doing I couldn't just say that I'd 'popped in for a bite' so I told him I was staying for the summer with relatives and he invited me to this formal dance, but then he said that he'd promised someone else that he would take them, but he'd already bought me a ticket so then I just had to go and also to find a date who wouldn't mind spending six boring hours with me." She paused. "You didn't have to rent a limousine. That's rather expensive." Draco was staring at her blankly, as if he had lost the conversation some time back and was simply waiting for her to finish speaking.

"Oh. I didn't rent it, it's my father's. He won't notice that it's missing."

"Wow, you really are rich, aren't you?"

"Slightly. So, you don't want to go to this thing at all?"


"You look nice," he offered, moving from the seat across from her to the one next to her.

"Thank you. I've never been so uncomfortable in my life, but thank you."

"So if you hate it so much, why are we going?" Draco asked and Hermione sighed in frustration, tilting her head back.

"I don't know. Tucker wants me to come; I don't want him to be disappointed."

"He's still got his date. He'll have fun without you."

"Well, I suppose so," she said, lifting her head again. "But you're already here, and we've got these clothes and everything."

"So, we'll do something else. Just us. What do people do in New York?"

"More important than the fact that we're in New York, is the fact that it's almost midnight. What are we going to do? Go bowling?"

"If you want to," Draco said, smiling widely and Hermione laughed at him.

"You're so weird. You don't even know what bowling is," she said and he shook his shoulders, smiling.

"So? I'll find out. It'll be an adventure. If you're there, it'll be fun, I have no doubt about that," he stated. Hermione tried to keep from laughing and shook her head at him, looking through the tinted window. "No bowling? All right, fine. I'll pick something." Draco returned to his former seat and tapped slightly on the window that separated them from the driver. The vinyl curtain lowered to reveal the kind chauffer, and Draco whispered into his ear so that Hermione couldn't hear. The chauffer looked delighted at whatever idea Draco was harboring in his maniacal brain and the vinyl door closed again as Draco retook his seat next to Hermione and threw an arm over her shoulders. The smirk on his face was award-winning.

"What did you tell him?" she asked suspiciously, but Draco mocked an innocent look and shook his shoulders.

"I didn't say a word."

"You're a deceptive bastard!"

"I am an adventurer. It comes with the territory."

After what seemed like hours of driving, the limousine came to a stop and Hermione made for the door handle in anxious excitement, but Draco stopped her.

"Not yet," he said. Take your shoes off. They're lovely, by the way. Now," he took off his tie and tied it like a blindfold to shield her eyes. "No peeking."

"Draco! Where are we?"

"You'll see," he said. "You'll see." Hermione heard the door open, and then felt Draco's hand in hers as he led her out of the car. She grabbed her clutch purse from its place on the seat and allowed him to lead her in blind faith.

"Ow," she said as her feet pressed into the sharp, rocky ground. A moment later she felt him scoop her into his arms and held on desperately to his shoulders. "Draco! Put me down!"

"It's either this, or your hurt your feet. Did you have to get such a big dress? I can't see where I'm going."

"Well I didn't anticipate being carried damsel-style over great distances when I bought it, Draco Malfoy!"

"All right, all right. I'm sorry. We're almost there," he said, and a few steps later Hermione was placed on her feet again. This time the ground was very soft and cool, like sand. Draco took her hand again, and led her a few meters across the soft ground.

"Draco, what's that water sound? We're at the beach, aren't we!" she shouted, and dropped her little purse in surprise.

"Oh," Draco said, sounding very dejected. "You're too smart for your own good sometimes, you know. Come on," he led her forward, and Hermione felt water splash against her feet. She quickly let go of his hand and stepped back.

"Draco, I can't..." she started, but he scooped her up again a moment later and Hermione heard water moving as he waded into it. "Draco, stop! Go back! Don't you dare drop me, or I'll... I'll!" Draco chuckled heartily and dropped her into the water, which was now up to his waist. She came up sputtering, with seaweed stuck in the pretty hair clip she wore. "My mother is going to kill me! This dress cost almost two hundred pounds!"

"I'll reimburse her," he said, and removed the wet blindfold from her eyes. Hermione sat on the sandy ground, wearing a large and very wet dress, watching Draco Malfoy stand in waist deep water and fix his tie like he was getting ready for an important dinner and she couldn't help but start to laugh. Draco smiled at her happiness and helped her stand.

"Oh, it's so heavy," she said of her dress, ringing out a few of the outer ruffles in vain.

"So, take it off," Draco said casually and Hermione looked instantly up at him. He was smirking brilliantly.

"I'm not wearing much underneath," she said, lifting an eyebrow at him, and Draco shrugged.

"I'll turn around, if you want," he said, and did. Hermione stared at his back suspiciously, but decided that her undergarments were no less revealing than a bathing suit and threw caution to the wind, unzipping the dress and stepping out of it. Draco, who had not anticipated her to actually heed his suggestion, felt his eyes grow wide at the realization.

"All right, you can turn around now," she said, gathering her dress in her arms and attempting to heave it onto the beach. She managed halfway and gave up. Draco turned to see her standing on the beach in a full length white slip, which was very wet and allowed her black undergarments to be clearly seen underneath. She stretched at the great loss of heavy fabric and looked around at the crystal clear lake and smooth, sandy beaches before turning around with a smile and starting toward Draco, looking beautiful in the moonlight.

"You look amazing," he said, truly meaning it this time. Her heavy dress had been lovely, but it was not what Hermione would wear. It did not compliment her. The slip was simple and elegant despite its intended purpose, and Draco couldn't help but to stare. Hermione laughed as she approached him.

"I do not. I have seaweed in my hair," she said, and Draco looked as if he were trying very hard to find words. Hermione opened her mouth to comment about this uncharacteristic inability when he pressed his lips to hers and held her wet body close to him. When they broke apart, Hermione was the one left without words.

"Hermione," Draco said, holding her face in his hand and softly brushing her hair with his fingertips. "I'm in love with you. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before... I-" he started, showing signs of an oncoming fit of rambling, and Hermione pressed a finger to his lips.

"I love you too," she said, smiling, and kissed him deeply to punctuate her confession. He was numbed with euphoria as they broke a second time, but Hermione seemed to be reenergized and giddy. "Hey, Draco-- I'll race you," she said and pulled away from him to dive into the water and make for the dark horizon. Draco stripped himself of his excess clothing and followed her.

"Hermione!" he said as he caught up to her just before the lake dipped too deep for him to reach the bottom with his feet, and she laughed as she turned around to accept him. He held her to him and she wrapped her legs around his waist, allowing the amazing strength of his toes to hold them erect in the water as she was now too short to reach the bottom. "Where are we racing to?" he asked, smirking as he placed his hands firmly on her buttocks. She lifted a suspicious eyebrow at him and he gave her an innocent look.

"I don't know," she said, grinning. "Until we find an adventure." Draco smiled at her and stood to his full height, which brought the top of his shoulders out of the water. Hermione began to laugh. "Draco, you're still wearing your tie," she said amusedly and brought her hand to her own neck. Suddenly, she looked very scared. "Oh, no-- my necklace. It must have fallen off when-- shit." She looked so tremendously sad that Draco felt he had to say something.

"I'll replace that too. Don't worry about it now-- we were having fun and..."

"You can't. It's an antique, a family heirloom. My grandmother would be rolling in her grave."

"You want to know something that would make my grandmother roll in her grave?" Draco asked slyly and Hermione once again felt the need to lift an eyebrow at him. He kissed her again, as deeply as she had kissed before. She shuddered against him. "Are you cold?" he asked, marking small kisses down her neck.

"No," she whispered and her hands disappeared under the water, creeping across his chest and toward the spot where her hips rested against him. Draco paused and looked questioningly up at her. Hermione bit her lip and smiled seductively. "Quite the opposite."

It wasn't until the sun began to peek over the horizon that Draco and Hermione dragged themselves from the clutches of the seductive water. Hermione fished her dress from the sand and attempted to dry it with a spell, but the many layers of fabric outweighed her magic. The dress was still very damp and wrinkled, but decidedly less cumbersome as it once was. Draco put on his clothes, but seemed to be unable to locate his shirt. Hermione assumed that it had floated away with her underwear.

"Draco," she said, lifting the small purse from where it had fallen in the sand. "Come here, I want to take a picture." He came to her and spun her around before kissing her once more and setting her on the ground.

"Anything you want," he said and smiled on command as she lifted the muggle camera above them and shouted Say cheese! over the incoming tide.


It was this picture that mocked the Draco Malfoy of five years later from its place on his windshield. Each time a beam of light passed from above, the image of his grinning face next to Hermione's stared at him, squeezed to one side of the frame at a strange camera angle so that the beach, water, and sunrise were all very visible behind them and the top of Hermione's fancy, sand-covered dress was clearly identifiable next to Draco's similarly conditioned tuxedo jacket and forest green tie. He was bare-chested and the flower corsage on his jacket was peeking into the corner of the frame and looked to have been driven through a wood-chipper.

Draco noticed that the sign for Newcastle claimed that it was only about an hour away. Hermione had appeared at his doorstep at approximately twelve-thirty in the evening (a slightly more manageable hour than the exaggerated three o'clock in the fucking morning he had claimed) and they had been on the road for nearly four hours. The sun would be rising soon.

The image of the picture flashed across the window again and Draco put on a face of determination as he jerked the wheel to the right and nearly ran three other cars off the wide road to take the turn. They honked their horns irritatingly at him, and Hermione stirred in her sleep.

"Draco?" she asked, without opening her eyes. "What's happened?"

"Nothing, love," he said, inwardly savoring the few seconds that he would be on her good graces again. "Go back to sleep." He knew from his rollercoaster of a relationship with her that she was very forgetful in her sleep. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry things have changed so much. I didn't even realize- you deserve so much better than what I've given you. I'll fix it, Hermione. I won't forget again."

"Draco," she said again, and he turned to her. "Turn off the radio, won't you? I'm so tired." He held in the heartbreaking feeling and turned back to the road.

"Sure, love."

There was silence again until the car pulled off the road and came to a stop. Hermione was unbothered by this action and slumbered on while Draco went about his own business, opening the glove box and retrieving an item which he placed in his pocket before closing it softly and exiting the car. It was easy to keep Hermione sleeping as he lifted her from the seat and held her closely in his arms. She hugged him tightly in her sleep and sighed softly into his ear.

Draco walked across the beach of sand and left his shoes in his wake, continuing into the water until it was up to his waist. He shivered at the cold of it and shook Hermione.

"Hermione, sweetheart. Wake up, I have a surprise for you."

"What? Draco... oh, Draco. Put me down right now! What do you think you're doing? Didn't you hear what I said? Don't you think I'm serious?" she asked, some of her drunkenness worn off in sleep. It took a moment for Hermione to realize the exact situation she was in. The moon was low in the sky, but it was still dark. She was being carried by the only boy she had ever loved, held over what must be a stabbing cold body of water in the moonlit night. Just out of eye-range, the busy sounds of congested traffic could be heard, mixed with honking motorists and the shudder of large cargo trucks. She held Draco tighter. "Oh, Draco," she said, touched by the trouble he had gone to. A moment later, she realized the sort of danger she was in. "Please don't drop me." Draco kissed her forehead softly, as it was the closest patch of skin to his lips.

"Don't worry about your dress, I'll reimburse you," he said and dropped her into the freezing water. Hermione held fast to his neck and managed to stay standing so that she was only wet up to her waist.

"Oh!" she cried in outrage. "It's freezing!" Hermione tried to be angry with Draco, but he was standing in front of her wearing a shirt that hadn't fit him since his last year of Hogwarts and the high waist and petite shoulders made his appearance so comical that she couldn't help but start to laugh. She held him around his chest and he pressed her closer, reveling in her embrace. "You're so sweet. I love this."

"I knew you would. I'm sorry, Hermione. Really."

"Yes, well. I'm not sure I forgive you. It really was a terrible thing to do," she said and he nodded guiltily.

"I know it was." He paused for a moment, holding her close, then suddenly pulled back. "Hey- what's that?" he asked, pointing into the water. Hermione followed the arrow of his arm with her eyes.

"What's what? I don't see anything."

"I'll see," he said, and dived into the water. Hermione shuddered at the thought of how cold it must be. Draco resurfaced a moment later with something stringy and beautiful.

"L-look what I found," he said, his teeth chattering and skin taught with cold. He opened his hand to reveal a beautiful opal amulet on a silver chain, studded with tiny diamonds and sparkling in the moonlight. Hermione gasped and covered her mouth, as it was an exact replica of the family necklace she had lost five years before.

"Oh, Draco," she said, taking it in her hands and marveling at its beauty. "Where did you get this?"

"D-D-Didn't you see? I just... f-found it."

"Don't be coy. How long did it take you to track it down?" she asked, pushing at his shoulder and ignoring the hypothermic tint to his lips. She wasn't exactly warm-and-toasty herself.

"Five years," he said, and she looked up at him. "Happy birthday."

"Draco, I love you. I don't want to leave you anymore," she said, and he laughed, hugging her to him more tightly than ever before.

"You have no idea how good it feels to hear you say that," he said and she shuddered violently.

"God, this water is freezing," she said. "Are you trying to kill me?"

"It isn't my fault," Draco said, warmer now that she was holding him. "I thought it was August."


A/N: I do not own Harry Potter or:

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago

Turned around backward so the windshield shows

Every streetlight reveals this picture in reverse

And still it’s so much clearer

I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge

The moon is low tonight

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

I’m not sure all these people understand, it’s not like years ago

The fear of getting caught, of recklessness and water, they cannot see me naked

These things they go away, replaced by everyday

Nightswimming, remembering that night

September’s coming soon, I'm pining for the moon

The photograph reflects, every streetlight a reminder

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

Nightswimming by REM.

For Tucker.

Should auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

"Malfoy?" Hermione called through the common room as she attempted to descend the stairs and strap on a warn-in sneaker at the same time. "Draco, are you still here?" She sighed in frustration at his lack of answer and paused in the center of the common room to lace and tie said sneaker. She was dressed in warm clothing, long jeans and a zip-up sweater, hoping to stop the late autumn frost from chapping her skin.

Hermione took to Draco's staircase two steps at a time, stopping to knock on the door, which was cracked open slightly as if closed in haste. Hermione had all but decided to peek into the room and validate Draco's absence when the door in front of her flew open as if sucked by some infinite vortex. Hermione had jumped backward with a start, but regained herself quickly and looked up into the wild eyes of said black hole.

Draco Malfoy was standing in the doorway, holding the knob. He was wearing dark stone washed jeans that seemed to be a size or so too large for him and were falling down despite his belt, which had been fastened in the front even though most of the belt loops were forgotten and squished beneath its leather binding. His white t-shirt was unbuttoned at the top and looked to be made of rice paper, as thin as she had ever seen, with a tiny label emblem stitched above the left chest pocket. It was half tucked into his jeans on one side, and half tucked into only his belt on the other. His slightly uncharacteristic muggle dress had forgone him shoes or socks, and his tie could be seen slithering under the bed.

What startled Hermione more than his disheveled clothing was his overall stance and demeanor. He was breathing raggedly and his normally reserved grey eyes had a wildness to them, which only complimented the forest of white-blond cowlicks that sprung from his head. Hermione could only assume that it was effect of his hair gel fetish and excessive contact to nervous hands.

The second he opened the door, Draco leaned his forehead against a hand, which was gripping the doorframe. Hermione couldn't speak at the sight of him and waited in silence for something to happen. Draco took a few pant-like breaths and lifted his head again to look at her. His eyes seemed slightly less wild, and softened at the sight of her.

"Well," he said, swallowing dryly. "What is it?"

Well, he sounds all right, Hermione noted to herself, as Draco's voice had no biting quality to it whatsoever, and in fact made the whole of him seem calmer.

"Um..." she stuttered, "I was, I was wondering if you were going to Hogsmeade today?" she asked, having some difficulty remembering what it was she had wanted. "I wanted to let Crookshanks run around the common room, but I'd rather he be in his crate if no one is here. You don't have to look after him or anything, I'd just feel... better."

Draco regarded her calmly as she spoke, bending his head again to rest his temple on his wrist. He was quiet when she finished, and blinked at her.

"Of course," she started again, a little less confident than before. "If you don't want him out here I can lock him up there anyway." On a normal day, Hermione would never have given Draco this option, because on a normal day Draco would have jumped at the chance to take it. Today he continued to regard her respectfully, now looking slightly more interested and even a bit sad. He sighed heavily as she fidgeted before him.

"I don't care what you do with your cat, Hermione. He can have the whole wing of the school if he wants it," he said, and turned to reenter his room. Hermione noticed that he shoved his hands into his hair as he walked back toward the bed. She frowned and tried to make herself forget about Malfoy and carry on with her day, but she was bothered by his long list of out-of-character behaviors that morning and could not force her feet to move from his landing. Draco seemed to have forgotten about her, as he was now lying face down on his bed, lamenting silently and, again, hyperventilating. Hermione took a step forward.


This time her appearance seemed to have an opposite affect; Draco was so startled by her voice that he jumped a clear foot in the air before rolling off of his bed and onto the floor. He cursed and Hermione took a few steps into his room.

"Oh, gosh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I thought you knew I was there..." she said, helping him up off the floor and sitting beside him on the bed. Draco rubbed at his eyes for a few minutes, before dropping them between his knees and turning to her.

"Jesus, Granger. Give a guy a heart attack," he said, smiling and she smiled too. "Shouldn't you be in Hogsmeade with your friends anyway? Buying things and drinking butterbeer and having... fun? You'll miss the carriages." He sounded bitter.

"I'll walk if I miss the carriages. I'm not quite ready to leave yet."

"Hm," he grunted, and his body seemed to completely relax and fold over itself, sending his head to fall between the crossed arms over his knees. Hermione placed a gentle hand on his back.

"Draco," she said softly, leaning closer to him. "Are you all right?" A tremor wracked his body in the form of a course laugh.

"Of course I am. I've had worse falls than that one," he said and Hermione assumed him to be referring to his six years of Quidditch. She smiled half heartedly.

"I don't mean that," she said, in the same soft voice she had used before. Draco became increasingly aware of her hand on the curve of his back. The thin t-shirt gave little resistance and it felt almost as if she were touching his skin with her palm and tiny padded fingers. "Just in general," she continued. "All together... you're all right?" Draco's form dropped even lower, relaxed it seemed, though Hermione could feel his muscles tighten and tense as he moved. He dropped his head between his knees and moved them to hold it like a vice before lacing his fingers behind his neck, as one would do if they should feel faint. Hermione moved slightly closer, concern drawing her eyebrows toward the bridge of her nose.

Draco was quiet and Hermione waited for him to speak, lifting the hand on his back only to replace it immediately with the sharp intake of breath he took at the absence of it's soft pressure. Hermione moved her hand across his cotton t-shirt comfortingly, opening her mouth under the pretense of knowing what to say. Draco exhaled deeply and Hermione frowned, as she had not known that he had been holding his breath at all.

"Do you want the truth, Hermione?" he asked, but didn't wait for an answer. He sat up so that his elbows were again rested on his knees and turned to her, his face flushed from the pull of gravity on his arteries. "I have no idea," he said, looking straight into her eyes. Hermione stared back, and her hand ceased to make warm little circles over his spine. Draco turned away at this, looking abashedly at the gray carpet of his room. Once again, Hermione was left with nothing adequate to say. "Actually," Draco unexpectedly continued, looking up toward the mahogany bureau against the wall. "That's not true at all. There is most definitely something wrong with me." His face was rapidly losing color as the blood returned to a normal balance, and Hermione could see his sickly pale approaching again.

"Draco..." she started, but he refused to look at her. "You can talk to me. Maybe.. you'll feel better if you tell someone." At this, Draco jumped up from the bed and let out a nervous, whooping sort of laugh. Hermione stayed seated and looked at her abandoned hand before looking up to face him again. He was pacing, breathing heavily and lodging his fingers deep into his hair. Her heart leapt at the sight of him. He looked so troubled and unsure, so unlike the Draco Malfoy she had known for so long. Despite the fact that they had never truly been friends, she felt a deep insatiable pull to reach out to him; to help him.

Draco was talking like an announcer at a particularly involved Quidditch match.

"I can't tell you, are you kidding me? What good would that do? What could you possibly say? No. I won't. I've made up my mind. I've been doing that a lot, lately. What can I say, I'm impulsive..." he stopped and turned to her, pulling his hands from his hair. He looked genuinely curious, like a small child. "What are you still doing here?"

"I... I don't want to leave you like this," she admitted, still looking at him. He stared. "Do you... want me to leave?" she tried, speaking slowly. Draco shrugged. Hermione nodded softly. "All right. Why don't you come sit down, and we'll talk?" Immediately, he launched back into his reserved mode, pacing and shaking his head furiously.

"No. No, I can't."


"Because, Hermione," he spat. The sudden bite in his voice made her jump. He sighed and turned away again. "I can't get you mixed up in this. You're too nice, that's why you're asking. If you weren't, you would have left by now. I know you. You'll... you'll be sad. You'll blame yourself. I can't stand to have done it if I know you'll blame yourself."

"You can't... to have done what? Draco, you're starting to scare me a little. Just tell me what's so wrong."

"You don't have to be scared. It's me who should be scared. But I'm not. I'm not," he repeated, hugging himself and turning away from her. Hermione stood from the bed, finally succumbing to her desire to reach out to him. He didn't shy away when she touched his arm, but Hermione could feel him shaking violently underneath his thin clothing.

"Oh, Draco," she said, wrapping her arms around him and standing on tiptoes so that his head would fit beneath her chin. She held him to her and he continued to tremble, taking ragged breaths. It sounded very much like he wanted to continue hyperventilating, but was forcing himself to do otherwise.

"Why are you doing this?" he whispered, punctuated by his breathing. Hermione held him tighter.

"Draco, I am head girl and you are a student in distress. It's my job to want to help you," she said, unsure of what he would want or need to hear. Feeling him tense, she hurriedly continues. "And you're my coworker. And... my friend." She held him close with one hand and lifted the other to smooth some of his hair. "I care about you." Draco unfolded his arms from where they were curled around his body and embraced her tightly around the torso. Hermione whispered soft words of comfort into his ear as she steered him back toward the bed. She tried to have him sit, but he wordlessly refused to release her and awkwardly managed to bring her onto the bed, so that they were both lying beside one another.

Despite the situation, Hermione kicked off her sneakers so that they would not dirty his unmade sheets. As soon as her legs straightened, Draco trapped one between his own. One of his arms was now crushed under his body, and the other was holding Hermione tightly to him. He pressed his face to the top of her chest, just below the nape of her neck. He was still trembling and trying hard to breathe steadily.

"It's all right, Draco," she whispered to him, placing one of her hands in his unoccupied one that lay between them and using the other to smooth his hair. "We'll talk when you're ready."

"I'm sorry," he said and cleared his throat, making an attempt to compose himself. Hermione shushed him. He nuzzled her chest softly. "But... what about Hogsmeade?"

"You're more important than Hogsmeade."

Draco squeezed his eyes shut to hold back a sob, but Hermione moved her hand from his hair to press against his back and hold him close to her.

"It's all right to cry, Draco. You'll feel so much better, I promise," she said and Draco let the breath he was holding burst from him. "There, see? Better already." She smiled and Draco laughed dryly as a wayward tear trickled down his face. He sniffled softly and closed his eyes, digging his nose more deeply into Hermione's sternum. There was a long period of silence, and Hermione had almost decided that Draco had fallen asleep, when he opened his eyes and took a deep breath, tilting his face up to her.

"I just... I just feel like... like nothing matters. Like nothing I do can change anything," he said, and Hermione listened, but did not interrupt. Draco felt the urge to cry seize him again and pressed his nose to her. "It's started with this war. This impending doom. My father... he wants me to be on his side. To fight beside him in a blazing ring of dark glory and take down Dumbledore's people and Potter and everyone else. Everyone knows that. Everyone expects that." He took a stuttered sigh. "My mother... she wants me to go into hiding. She's my mother, she doesn't want me hurt-- she wants to send me away to some other school and some other country. And you..." He paused. "You want me to be good." Hermione shook her head and smoothed the hair from his forehead.

"I am in no position to tell you what to do, Draco," she said softly and she felt him hold her tighter. She waited a long time. "What do you want?"

"I don't know. That's it exactly!" Draco shivered. "I feel like it doesn't matter, that nothing I could do would make the world any better than it is. If I do what my father says, and devote myself to Voldemort what could possibly come of it? What happens when he's supreme ruler of the wizarding world? I might have to kill something. I've never killed anything in my life, Hermione. I know he'll do it for me if I can't. And then he'll kill me. And he'll have killed you, and he'll have killed everyone who doesn't know. Everyone who's naïve to all this shit. And I don't really think he can win. He's almost died a thousand times just trying to take over England. Even if he beats Harry, there's got to be someone out there who'll take him.

"And my mother. She'll brand me a coward for eternity... and, then if Voldemort wins, what? He'll kill me for being traitorous. So, two out of three and I'm dead. That seems like it would make my decision easy, doesn't it? I should just join the light side, and be with you, and lock up all the death eaters and laugh manically when Voldemort says 'Curse you, Harry Potter!' and live happily ever after, right? Of course not. The wizarding world did not have peace before Voldemort and there is no way it's going to have peace even if he's destroyed. We'll just start another war about something stupid. Like, England will rebel against Ireland because we want a different minister than they have. People are ridiculously addicted to conflict and wizards are twice as bad. There's no way to save the world, Hermione. There's no bloody way. Nothing I can do will make a difference."

"Draco, you're right. It's hard, there's no easy answer," Hermione said softly, her nose nestled in his spicy smelling ditchwater locks. Draco gave a dry laugh.

"I thought you might say something like that. So, now you understand why I had to do what I've done, don't you?" he asked and Hermione swore she felt his lips press to her skin. She squeezed the limp hand she had been holding and it came to life, squeezing back.

"Draco," Hermione said, trying to keep the hesitation from her voice. "What did you do?" He shook his head.

"That's not the question. The question is what should I have done? What side should I have taken? What fork in the road?"

"Well," she said, "You need to decide what is more important to you. What one thing you want to devote your life for. You're only one man, Draco. You can't save the world, but you can pick one thing that's worthy of your devotion and try as hard as you can to make that as good as possible. I've chosen Harry. I didn't have a choice, really. He was my friend and I wanted to save him. I still want to save him. Now I have to; I've chosen my destiny. There's no changing it now. You still have time, Draco. You can pick something that means the world to you."

He laughed in true humor, and she looked down to see a tiny smirk on his blanched face. He seemed to be getting chalky and paler as time went on.

"You regret choosing Harry?"

"Of course not," she said, but it didn't wipe the smirk from his lips. "I love Harry like a brother. Like a son, even-- I have to protect him. I could never live with myself if something happened to him and I knew there was something I could have done to stop it."

"I love you," Draco said with fierce resolve, pressing his lips with full force to her collarbone, and Hermione was taken aback.

"You don't mean that, Draco. You're just upset and..."

"No. I do, I mean it so much. You're such a beautiful person, Hermione. You're so selfless and kind and so unlike anyone I've ever known in my life."


"You said we were friends, didn't you? Can't friends grow closer?"

"Draco, you barely know me."

"It doesn't matter," he said sharply, but frowned and looked up at her when she shuddered. "You know me, Hermione. You know me better than... God you're the best friend I've ever had. I can't think of a single person who would have found me like you did, who would have seen that I was hurting and that I needed someone, and would have given up everything they had planned for the day to be with me. To comfort me, and let me... let me cry with them. I never cry, not in front of anyone. Not even... me. You listened to me. You didn't tell me what to do, you just listened. I know you want me to be good. As much as you say you want me to pick for myself, deep inside you want me to say I want to be good. That I want to save Potter with you. That I want to avenge Dumbledore. And still you say 'You have to decide for yourself'. God, Hermione, I love you so much." Hermione blinked when he finished and felt herself crying into his hair. She knew it was stupid to be so uplifted by his words, to feel that flutter of butterflies she'd read so much about, just because he was complimenting her. She knew it was stupid to entertain thoughts of kissing him and holding him like this and falling in love with him when he didn't know what he was saying. When he was just upset and speaking out of pure emotions like sadness and confusion. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her lips to his hair again.

Hermione didn't notice Draco move his head until she felt flutter-like kisses all over her face as his lips traced her features like mice in a maze, unable to find the cheese of her lips. He pulled back just as he reached the tip of her nose and Hermione opened her eyes, disappointed that he had stopped before marking a kiss where she wanted one the most. Presently, the puzzled mice had followed all the twists and turns of their journey only to stand in front of their prize, staring at it though they were but inches away. Hermione decided that he was just timid, because things were moving so quickly. She decided he was just asking for permission, that he wanted to kiss her but didn't know how. She closed her eyes and pitched forward.

Draco turned his face so that she marked a kiss on his cheek and whispered, "No. I can't. I want to so much, but I can't." Hermione was puzzled and disappointed, but shook her head as Draco's tears began to fall down his face once more.

"No, it's all right," she whispered back, holding his face and bringing it forward to kiss his forehead. Draco shifted upward to rest his forehead against hers. He was quiet again, for a long time.

"Hermione," he said and she shushed him, but he shook his head and continued. "You know... how you said that I have to pick something to devote my life to? I pick you. I want you to be so happy, Hermione. Tell me anything you want, right now. Anything I can do."

"Draco..." she started, but the earnest look in his eyes kept her from denying him such a thing. "Right now, I just want you to get better. Tell me anything I can do to make that happen, and I'll be happy." Draco looked suddenly very sad. He shook his head, closing his eyes.

"I don't know if I can do that, Hermione," he said and paused for a moment. "I'm so tired. I'm so tired of everything and I'm just... I just... I want to go to bed."

"That's okay, Draco. You sleep now," she said, stroking the side of his face and coaxing him to close his eyes. "I'll be right here." Draco smiled somewhat sadly.

"Being here with you, like this... I almost regret what I've done. I almost wish things were different."

"Draco," Hermione said, pausing abruptly. "What did you do? I don't like it when you say things like that... it makes me think horrible things."

"I've done some horrible things, Hermione," he said, opening his eyes slightly to see the deeply worried expression of Hermione's.

"Please," she said. "Draco, tell me. You're scaring me."

"Shh," he said, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "I've taken a potion," he admitted. He could see the tears begin to spill from her eyes as her fears were confirmed. "Once I go to sleep, I won't be waking up. It's why I couldn't kiss you, it's why I didn't go to Hogs-"

"Oh, Draco. Say you didn't. Say you're lying. You're not funny, not at all," she said, but she could tell from his face that he was far from trying to be funny. "We have to go see Snape. He can help you, there has to be a spell... or an antidote or something. Draco, please don't shake your head like that. Don't give up..." He was silent, and she stopped begging him soon, dissolving into tears as she held her face close to his.

"Hermione," he said, and she was at attention immediately, eyes open and overflowing. "I know you said... that you're supposed to be dedicated to Potter, but..." He sighed. "Can we pretend, just for today, that it's me? That I'm for you, and you're for me?" There was a hesitant pause. "Am I being selfish?"

"I'll do anything you want, Draco. Anything, just tell me."

"Well," he said, and seemed to blush despite the very pale color of his skin. "I've always thought you had a lovely singing voice. Sing me to sleep? Something I know."

"Draco, I don't want you to go to sleep yet," Hermione cried, pressing herself closer to him.

"Don't be scared, Hermione. Deep... deep in the soul of my heart, I really want to go. There's another world, a better one. I'll be so glad to go. To leave all of this behind. Everything but you. I want you with me when I leave. So, sing to me." Hermione was having trouble controlling the tears that were flowing down her face.

"But... I... all I know are muggle lullabies."

"Hm..." Draco said, kissing her a few times as he waited for inspiration. "What about that song everyone sings on New Year's Eve?" Hermione laughed softly and kissed his nose.

"That isn't a lullaby."

"That's all right," he said. "I've always liked New Year's Eve. You get a whole new start. You can fix things you've done wrong and screw up new things to fix next year..."

"All right then," she said and kissed each of his eyelids slowly as they closed. She held his hand tightly between hers.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and days of auld lang syne

For auld lang syne my dear

For auld lang syne

We'll take a cup of kindness yet

For auld lang syne"

Hermione paused and could scarcely breathe. She tried to listen for the vital signs of his lungs and heart, but heard nothing.

"Draco?" she whispered, and he stirred slightly.

"Mmm. You're so beautiful. Keep singing... please, Hermione. I'm so tired."

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

and days of auld lang syne?

And here's a hand, my trusty friend

And gie's a hand o'thine

We'll take a cup of kindness yet

For auld... lang... syne"

"Draco?" Hermione said again, but this time she got no answer. She started immediately to panic. "Draco? No. No, Draco... wake up. Please wake up. Tell me you were lying, tell me you're okay. Draco!" She shook him hard. "Draco, you are being selfish! You're being a selfish bastard! You can't leave me!" She slapped him. Nothing. "Oh, Draco," she cried in lament, and dissolved to tears on his chest as a deep red mark appeared on his cheek.

She noticed, then, that his heart was still beating, despite his slumber. She could even hear soft snores emitting from his lips. It was then that Hermione recalled that he hadn't ever said that he would die, but only that he wouldn't wake.

Hermione was out of the bed in an instant and had levitated Draco behind her a second later. She directed him to the infirmary as quickly as she could, being careful to make sure he came to no harm along the way. It was there, being debriefed by Madam Pomfrey after having explained the situation, that Harry and Ron found her upon their return to the castle.

"Hermione!" they called in unison, dashing into the room.

"We wanted to ask why you hadn't come to Hogsmeade, like you said," Ron started.

"And Sir Nick said he saw you heading here just a while ago," Harry continued.

"And we thought something terrible must have happened to you!" Ron finished. They both stopped then, forgetting their worrisome quest to view the bed that the four of them were surrounding.

"Malfoy? What's he got to do with anything?" Ron asked and Hermione could hardly control herself from crying once more.

"Not, of course, that it is much of your business, Mr. Weasley, but Mr. Malfoy has suffered a self-inflicted Muertduermes episode. He shan't be waking up."

"But, Madam you said that sometimes they do wake up!" Hermione said, standing from the chair she had curled into at Draco's bedside.

"Only about once every thousand years, Miss Granger. In most cases, the subject will pass on in under a week. There really is very little hope. I have identified Mr. Malfoy's parents via floo and they have signed over his care, as there is nothing that can be done. I can't afford to keep him here for much more than a week. I'm afraid if Mr. Malfoy's condition doesn't... change at that time, I'll have to administer another potion." Hermione, at this point, was near tears.

"Isn't there something I can do? You can't just let him die. He's not dead. He's breathing. His heart is beating... he's thinking, see? His eyes are moving. He's dreaming."

"Miss Granger I'm afraid that unless you can find someone who would agree to take on full care of a very sick young man, there is nothing else I can do."

"I'll take him," Hermione said immediately. Harry and Ron's jaws dropped simultaneously.

"Miss Granger, that is a very big job for a girl your age," Madam Pomfrey said, but Hermione glared.

"What do you care? You're just going to kill him anyway!"

"Well, my word!" The nurse screamed in indignation. "If I were a teacher, I'd give you detention for that! Do what you want with him, Miss Granger. He's under your care now." She stormed out of the cubicle and back to her office.

"But Hermione," Harry started. "You don't even like Malfoy."

"Yeah," Ron said. "He's a git. He deserves whatever he gave himself."

"Maybe he wasn't pleasant, Ron, but for today, I'm dedicated to him. I never break a promise."


Hermione brought Draco back to his room and cleaned his sheets before lying him in bed and charming his disheveled muggle clothes into what she knew to be his favorite pajamas due to his constant wearing of them through the common room. She cleaned his room quietly, humming the tune to Auld lang syne as she worked, and kissed him softly on the forehead before going to the great hall for dinner. She returned moments later with a meal for herself, and a bowl of soup for Draco that she charmed to flow slowly into his mouth as he slept, at a pace that would not allow him to choke or scorch his throat.

When dinner was finished, she performed a scouring charm on them both, cleaned their teeth with magic, and changed into her own pajamas before climbing into bed beside him and moving his arms to hold her. He tightened this hold when she kissed him again, on the lips now that she was sure that there was no danger of poisoning herself as well. She even felt Draco respond to her actions, kissing her back with all the passion of a conscious lover.

"Goodnight, Draco. You selfish bastard."


A/N: I do not own Harry Potter or:

Sing me to sleep (sing me to sleep), I'm tired and I want to go bed

Sing me to sleep (sing me to sleep), And then leave me alone

Don't try to wake me in the morning, Cause I will be gone

Don't feel bad for me; I want you to know

Deep in the soul of my heart I will feel so glad to go

Sing me to sleep (sing me to sleep) I don't want to wake up on my own anymore

Sing to me (sing to me) I don't want to wake up on my own anymore

Don't feel bad for me; I want you to know

Deep in the soul of my heart I really want to go

There is another world, there is a better world and I must leave

I must leave

Asleep by The Smiths

White Butterflies

Dear Micah,

I've never been very keen on Christmas. I guess you already know that. When I was younger and it was filled with magic and mysticism, I was just like any other child, and I did possess a throbbing yearning for the holiday. Now it seems somewhat pointless and impersonal. The day, which once held so much mystery, is now a commercial extravaganza laced with depression, debt and a closet full of hideous woolen sweaters and appliances which will never be used.

In retrospect, I suspect that my dislike of Christmas stemmed from my tenth one, in which I was told that my childhood beliefs had been for null, and that the only reindeer I that could fly where the ones lingering in areas of heavy traffic. I was devastated, of course, as any child would be, but I still enjoyed the anticipation of receiving that new coat, or the mittens with the fur lining in them, or a particular pair of mary-janes... but after the fact, it was always disappointing. I don't think it was so much that I wanted more gifts, or different ones, or better ones... but more that, after all that excitement, all that I had to show for it was a few shoes and a stomach full of ham and selected chocolates.

And now that I've grown up, I think it might be worse. I go shopping on Black Friday, just as everyone else does, and I pick over the sales to find a silk tie for Dad and a bracelet for Mum, small things for my friends... and then I spend an entirely outrageous amount of money on lunch because you simply cannot find anywhere that will just sell you a bloody scone anymore, and I put everything in my car and drive home and wrap them all up in brightly colored papers and deposit them beneath the Christmas trees of my friends, or ship them out to family. My mother always sends me a pair of wax lips with her gift, as a memento of a kiss, and Daddy writes a glorified letter about how proud they are. My friends send their own little gifts in return, with tiny folded cards proclaiming 'Thinking of You', and I have to wonder, why today? Why today are you thinking of me? We see each other, or speak with one another all the time, and yet today you decide to shower me with affection as I am doing to you, to let me know you are thinking of me.

And so I said to myself, Micah, I said 'Why not think of someone you don't normally think about? Someone who deserves a thought from you, but never gets one?' And I made up my mind that that was exactly what I was going to do, and I've sent letters to my parents with a much briefer description than this, I must say, explaining exactly why they shouldn't expect much but a card this year. My brother laughed at me; he said "Honey, you've really gone off your rocker this time" and I said, "I know, Eliot. You should have expected it." He shook his head at me and left my kitchen to return to Mum and Dad. He had come to bring me a box of instant cake mix, so that I would be well prepared to make Jesus a birthday cake when the time came that it was appropriate. It's red velvet flavored, and I'm not exactly sure why. Eliot claimed it was His favorite and I wasn't going to argue with him. I'll send home the leftovers.

Anyway, I was set in this mind frame of helping those I had, in the past, overlooked, and I realized; "How am I supposed to know whom to look for? I've overlooked them so many times, it might be habitual." But it wasn't; it wasn't at all. Yesterday, as you know, was my annual shopping adventure, and as I was leaving the department store, a woman came up to me and asked if I could spare any change. I smiled, as I do, and dropped whatever was in my pocket into the little plastic cup that she held so tightly between her fingers. She thanked me as if I had given her the world, and kissed my cheeks before beginning to shuffle down the street.

I almost let her pass without a second thought, but the weight of my boxes caught up to me and I remembered what I had wanted to explore this holiday season. I called her back, cup and all, and asked if she wouldn't mind helping me to my car. She obliged with a strained smile and unlocked my trunk for me so that I could unload myself into it. I thanked her earnestly and asked if there was anything I could do to make it up to her. From the light behind her eyes I could see that there were a million things she wanted, needed really, but she shook her head and turned away, again making her way down the street. I called her back again, and convinced her to come home with me. She showered while I cooked, ate heartily at my table, and then accompanied me back to the department store. I bought her a new jacket to substitute the tattered one she wore, and replaced her rags with an outfit more suited for the weather. I didn't tell her about the hundred note I snuck into the pocket of her trousers.

I had made a date with someone and was already running late, so I apologized and explained that we would have to part ways. She never spoke much, but she hugged me. She squeezed me in her tiny arms and poured out so much feeling into the embrace that I had to stop myself from tearing up. She pulled back then, and touched my forehead, navel, and each shoulder in succession, before whispering "You do God's work," and running into the crowded city street. I followed her with my eyes, but it didn't take her long to leave my sight. I never told her that she was welcome at my home, but I hope she returns sometime. Maybe on Christmas, for dinner or tea, or anything. I know I'll never forget her. And that's what I wanted, isn't it? To think of someone I'd never given thought to before? Micah, if that's what I wanted, why does it feel like my heart is breaking?

I'm sorry; please don't let my inexplicable breakdown ruin your holidays. Happy Christmas and all the best to your family.


Deborah of Judges

~ :.

Draco read the letter three times over before he placed it on the table beside him.

"Debbie," he whispered to himself. "It's words like these that make me think I love you."

He decided not to write back right away, as it wouldn't solve much of anything by way of his problems. He'd been corresponding with this girl, known to him only as Deborah of Judges, since the Christmas of his seventh year. It had been the brainchild of one of his professors, most probably Dumbledore, to anonymously present the seventh year students with a post address of another being as their gifts of the holiday season. He hadn't been very interested at first, and barely glanced at the first few letters that had been sent to him, but then a short, crumpled, and tearstained piece of parchment fell from the envelope in his mailbox, and he felt guilty for his neglect.

Dear Someone,

I'm sorry if I'm bothering you, but I need someone to talk to. I can't tell anyone else, and I thought that you wouldn't mind much, considering you pay very little attention to my notes as it stands. I'm going to die. I've decided, this morning. I don't know exactly how yet, but I know it's going to be Christmas Eve, just after everyone has gone to bed. They will be occupied with presents in the morning and shouldn't find me until after lunch, I expect.

I don't want to be here anymore; to stand in the middle of this cobblestone hell and watch as my life passes me by. I'm not there to witness anything, and it's only in retrospect that I make any realizations. I'm living outside of my body, in an ethereal sort of way, watching as my limbs perform the correct motions of my day-to-day, and my ears perk at the sound of my name. I can't stand to know that I'm just another mindless mass of bones amongst my fellow gobbets, that I have nothing to offer but a place to stick a penis for the purposes of procreation. There's no way out for me, except this. Should I fall into an eternal blackness, or burn in a pit of fire, so be it. At least I will have escaped this bath of misery that has been my home for the hollow years I have walked the earth. Perhaps, if I can find something heavy, I could use the lake over the hill as my executioner.

I just want out.

Deborah of Judges


Draco had kept that letter since the very day he received it, odd because of its deterioration, as if she had battled with herself to send it, and wet with the salt of desolation. It was also very short, which was another oddness of the girl; the three previous letters had all spanned over the yellow plateau of at least a page of parchment, and this note graced less than half. At that very moment in time, Draco sat at his desk and wrote the most difficult and awkward string of words that would ever escape his fingertips.

Dear Deborah,

Please consider yourself. Consider those around you, the ones that love you. Do you want to leave them on this earth alone? You've told me of your family. Your brother, only six; he will need your guidance as he grows, to help him learn right from wrong and gather the wisdom of your example. Do you want him to remember you as the one who was weak? The one who gave up when things got tough? I don't think you do, Debbie. You love him, very much. He'll need you. Your mother and father will need you, as well. They'll be getting on in age, and you'll have to take care of them. You've a lot to live for- don't you see? Things will get better. You'll move past this rough spot, I promise you. From the mouth of experience, heed me.

You know, Debbie, when I was younger my mother used to tell me that if you saw a white butterfly, it meant that you had saved someone's life. I mention this to you now because one has just landed on my window sill. It's fate, Debbie, don't you see? You're not supposed to die today. Or tomorrow, or Christmas Eve.

I'm sorry, if I've made you feel unwanted or unwelcome by my lack of response to your letters. You leave me speechless, every time. I want to answer you, I plan my words, and then life interrupts and I've got to attend to it. As a matter of fact, I'm missing class right now to write this note to you, but I don't care about that. Your life is more important than lectures and notes; Debbie, don't do it. Had I the courage, I would stand at the gates to point you back home.


Micah of Moresheth


His efforts had succeeded. At first, he hadn't been sure; there had been no letter that night, nor the next day. Christmas came and nearly went, when a shy, tiny note fluttered into his possession and stopped his savage heart from chewing its way out of his chest.

Dear Micah,

I couldn't do it. I stood, outside in the snow, with one ankle tied to the heaviest log I could find, and I strained to hold it against my stomach. I was all but ready to do it, and I said my goodbye, and lifted the thing over my head... and then I remembered, that logs don't sink in water. And I laughed. Thank you.


Deborah of Judges


That had been nearly three years ago. Draco had answered every letter from Deborah since, and had watched her progress from whatever breakdown she had suffered, and blossom into an amazing young woman. The most kind-hearted, witty, well-spoken, intelligent, and beautiful woman he had ever met.

And he had never met her. In fact, he knew very little about her. From her dialogue, he gathered that she lived in England, in the city. Possibly London. She was his age, just short of twenty one, and had one brother, aged nine. Statistically, that was the extent. He had never seen her picture, or asked her any questions about herself.

But, he knew other things. He knew that she drank tea with almond extract, three dips and a half cube of sugar. Unless, of course, she couldn't sleep. Then it was a thimble-full of milk, a slice of lemon, and whipped cream.

He knew that she loved her job more than anything else in the world. Of course, he had no idea what her job was, but it didn't matter. To hear her talk of it, or rather, read her write of it, was awe-inspiring. He would find himself lost in her words for hours, even if she hadn't very much to say.

He knew that she could take something tiny and insignificant in her life, and make it sound like a miraculous event. She would talk of finding a tea bag in the back of the cupboard (when she had thought she were entirely out) as if she had found the last remaining unicorn and made sure it found its way onto the ark.

Completely by accident, he was pretty sure she was a brunette. Enclosed in one of her letters was a single strand of brown hair, straight for the most part, but curling inward at the end. Somehow, from this tiny detail, he had managed to construct an entire persona to take the place of the blurry, egg-like creature which had occupied her figure in his mind. And she was beautiful.

Most importantly, Draco knew one thing about Deborah that blew him away every time the idea crossed his mind. He was in love with her. He was deeply, earnestly, and completely in love with her. He had started to suspect it when, while making love to Brenna, his olive-skinned, dark-haired girlfriend, he had had to fight the desperate urge to roll off of her and stalk to his study to be with Deborah. Brenna had voiced her opinion on his deteriorating performance in bed, but had on the whole been very supportive of his every movement. He had made an effort for Brenna, to make her feel the way they had in the beginning of their relationship, and for a while she was pleased. If she had known that every release had not been for her, that his mind had melded her image with that of Deborah and it was for her body he writhed, Brenna may have felt differently.

Then, Draco let himself slip. That night, after receiving the letter about Black Friday, he had held Brenna, lost in the throws of what he later deemed the most passionate session of love-making he had ever experienced, and groaned "Debbie," into his release. Brenna didn't react immediately. She ignored his slip-up for a moment, riding out the pleasure of her walls as they enclosed around him and milked his orgasm for any drop of that precious liquid which may have remained, and breathed heavily as he collapsed beside her and pulled her close to him.

"God, I love you," he promised her, pressing his lips into the tangles of her hair. Brenna frowned against his naked chest.

"Why do you only tell me so after I've given myself to you?" she asked him, whispering between her panting breaths.

"What?" Draco asked, frowning and shifting to bring her closer to him. "I'm sorry. I'll say it more. I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you..." he said, trailing off as he welcomed sleep.

"Draco?" she peeped and a small smile tugged on his lips.


"Who's 'Debbie'?" Brenna asked, eyes wide and looking up at him. Draco's heart sank, and his eyelids shot upward like broken shades.

"What?" he asked, looking down at her. "Debbie who?"

"You called me Debbie," she said. Her voice was strained and the tears were beginning to collect at the inner corners of her eyes. Draco drew his eyebrows in worry and pushed himself onto his elbow.

"Bren, it's not what you think-" he started, but couldn't force the words to continue. The tears started falling, in fat drops down her cheeks, and his heart broke with guilt. "Baby..." He reached for her, but she tore away and fell to her knees beside the bed, grabbing the rumpled clothes from the floor and gathering them into a pile at her chest. "Brenna, where are you going? Come on, don't leave-"

"I'm going away from you, Micah of Megadeath. I know all about your little love letters, and your precious Deborah..." Brenna said, sobbing to herself as she pulled her skirt over her hips. She turned around to buckle it, then stopped and dropped her hands to her sides. "You didn't even lie to me. Dammit, you didn't even care enough to lie; 'No, Bren, you're delirious. I didn't say anything. Let's go to sleep so we can have a quickie in the morning.'" She paused, standing beside his bed with no shirt and tears running rivers down her face, and Draco's heart broke a thousand times over. He wanted to say something, but the words wouldn't come. "That's all I wanted, Draco. All you had to do was tell me I was wrong, and it would have been fine. But you didn't even deny it... you didn't even care enough to make me feel better. That's why the sex has been so good, hasn't it? You're not sleeping with me at all, are you?"

"Bren, please don't say that..." Draco begged. "I'm not sleeping around. I've never even met her." Brenna crossed her arms over her chest and sobbed, a dead button-up shirt lying limp in her fingertips.

"It doesn't matter, Draco. You're in love with her. You don't want me. I'll stop wasting your time."

She left, and he didn't go after her. Draco wallowed in his crinkled sheets, the smell of sweat and semen and sex lingering around him, and knew she was right. He did love Deborah.

- - -

After Hermione had mailed her letter, she went straight to sleep. It had been a long, confusing day, and she had no ambition to stay up and do anything. As a result of falling to unconsciousness before the sun had set, she was eager to rise before it had risen. Christmas was a few days short of a month away, and yet the city was jumping with holiday cheer. Every station in her car sang to her in the deep, melodic voices of the forties, wishing her a jolly Christmas and hoping alongside her for snow.

Not that snow was anything but plentiful. Hermione parked her little buggy under a streetlamp, locked the doors, and thought Christmas-y thoughts as she walked through the streets and heard her feet crunch the icy layer that had not yet been salted.

As she walked, Hermione passed a lighted tavern and was nearly bowled over by a drunkard who was in the process of being kicked out. The owner, who had been doing the kicking, apologized to Hermione, but did not stay to chat and slammed the door against the cold. The man stayed face down in the snow for a few seconds, then pulled himself to his knees and vomited into the street.

"Oh, my..." Hermione whispered to herself, and was instantly reminded of the beggar woman, who had been ecstatic at the thought of a dollar and fifteen cents in nickels. "Sir, are you all right?"

"Wha?" he asked, blinking strangely and coughing as he wiped his mouth. "Er, yeah, I... I guess I had, a bit to drink..." he said, having trouble focusing his eyes and moving his mouth at the same time. Hermione lowered herself beside him and placed a hand on his back, rubbing it caringly.

"Where do you live?" she asked, her heart going out to the man, whom on any other day would not occupy her mind and thoughts. "I'll take you home."

"Can't go home," he said, and began filling his mouth with snow. When it had melted, and cooled his parched throat, he sighed. "Kicked out."

"Oh, dear. I can't just leave you like this," she said, biting her lip indecisively. "Well, it is the holidays. I suppose you can spend the night with me. Come on, this way."

Hermione helped the man to stand on shaky legs and allowed him to lean heavily on her as she returned to her car. He fell into the back seat and she took the wheel, driving directly home after only having left for ten minutes.

- - -

Draco woke up less than an hour after he had fallen asleep and covered his ears against the frantic pecking at his window.

"Leave it and go, bloody bird," he cursed, but the owl would not comply and continued pecking at a rate quite threatening to the glass. "All right, all right. What's so important?"

The little owl, a flittery brown ball of feathers, burst into the room the second the window was opened, and made a loop around the area before resting on Draco's shoulder and holding out its foot. When he did not immediately move for the letter, the bird let out an irritated squawk and pecked at his ear. Draco took the note and brushed the bird away in annoyance, but it did not leave. It sat on the window sill and stared up at him, squawking at his slothfulness.

Draco opened the note, and first realized that it was speckled in wet blood. His eyes immediately flashed to the closing and his heart fell into the pit of his stomach.

Dear Micah,

I need help. Something happened, I don't know what to do. I don't have a phone, I- you were the only person I could think of to call.

Micah, I don't want to die.


Deborah of Judges


Draco looked up at the bird, which seemed to be projecting a sort of 'I told you it was important' message through its stare.

"Take me to her," he demanded, and the bird hooted softly in agreement. Draco nearly bolted through the door, before remembering that he was in no decent state of attire for leaving his home and, after quickly buttoning a pair of trousers and fighting his way into a jumper, he slipped on his shoes and followed the little bird out the door. It flew high, doubled back, and landed on his neighbor's car. "I can't take that," he told the bird, teeth chattering in the frigid air. "That bloke'd kill me!" The bird would have none of his excuses and lifted his foot in threat to scratch the red enamel. "No! Okay, all right-" He opened the door, which was unlocked, and the bird followed him into the car. The keys were no where to be found, but a simple spell started the engine with very little trouble.

After a very twisty drive of about fifteen minutes, the little brown owl committed a suicide jump out of the window and Draco slammed on the brakes. His messenger flew to the top floor of the building across the road and entered through a lighted window.

Draco left the car in a tow-away zone and stepped over a man who had passed out on the street before he finally entered the bird's chosen building. The elevator was on the first floor, so Draco squeezed his way into it and pushed the button for the top. After five stops to unload, he found himself alone in the compartment, pacing and pulling out his hair with a one-way ticket to the twelfth floor.

When the doors finally opened, Draco burst into the corridor and was greeted with a series of hallways and doors. A strange, strangled sound escaped from his throat and he touched his temples as he turned the floor in his head to figure which hallway would face the front of the building. When he had a guess, he bolted toward it.

"Debbie!" he called, ignoring the foolishness of calling her by her alias. "Debbie, please tell me where you are!"

There was no response, but as Draco scaled the hallway he realized that the door on the end was ajar. Body reacting before his mind could process what he was seeing, Draco found himself inside the open room before he knew he had moved.

"Debbie!" he called again, voice echoing throughout the little apartment. He heard the familiar squawk of his messenger coming from the bedroom, and followed it.

She was lying on the floor, perpendicular to the bed, and for a moment, Draco couldn't move. She was morbidly beautiful; positioned as if sleeping, her brown curly hair fanning out behind her, and a pool of crimson blood marring the pristine white of her camisole.

"Debbie," he whispered, falling to his knees beside her and lifting her into his arms. He shook her gently. "Debbie, please wake up. Please don't be dead, Debbie..."

"Micah?" she asked, feebly, blinking her eyes. She looked up at him curiously. "You came for me?"

"Of course I did," he said, holding her to him. "You scared me half to death." She smiled weakly.

"It's funny," she said. "I'd thought you'd be darker." Draco laughed and laid her gently on the floor, bending to touch their foreheads. He savored the relief for a moment and then straightened, realizing that he had no reason to be relieved. "What happened? Where are you hurt?" She made to sit up, and he helped her lean against the bed.

"I cut..." she said softly, unwrapping the small towel that she had substituted as gauze, and revealed a very long and penetrating gash which ran down the length of her arm and over the precious veins in her wrist. Blood oozed into the freedom of oxygen. Draco took the towel from her and pressed it back to the wound, slowing the blood-flow.

"Did you do this?" he asked her, earnest and devastatingly sincere. She looked up at him, almost frightened by his implications. "Tell me, Debbie. Did you do this to yourself?"

"Micah, no!" she swore, shaking her head feebly. "I didn't, I... I woke up early, and I went for a walk, and there was a man... at the bar down the street. The bartender threw him out and he said he couldn't go home..." she smiled weakly. "I was just thinking of him." Draco wasn't smiling. He lifted his hand to cup her face and shook it gently.

"Why would you do that, Debbie?" he asked. "Not everyone in the world can be trusted. Not everyone is... hell, no one is like you."

"It's okay, Micah. I'm all right," she said in defense, and he shook his head.

"No you're not," Draco said, his tone forcing her to look downward in the shame of being reprimanded. He took a heavy breath, and resumed his panic. "No... you're not okay. God, Debbie, I'm sorry..." he said, and drew his attention back to her arm. He lifted up the towel for a quick look, and immediately pushed it back into her skin. She winced at the pressure and let her head roll back onto the bed. Draco kept one hand wrapped tightly around her arm while the other fished in his trousers for his wand. When he found it, he summoned medical assistance. "You have to stay awake," he told her.

"But I'm so tired," she complained, fighting to keep her eyes open.

"No, Debbie," he hissed in whisper. "Wake up." He shook her.


Draco tried to hold the towel tighter to her arm, but it was so soaked with blood that it seemed useless. He peeled it from her skin and stripped himself of his jumper, tying the sleeves in a knot around her wrist and pushing the rest into her forearm.

When the doctors arrived, entering with resounding pops, they intercepted her from him and Draco was pushed far to the wayside. In a blur of blood and stretchers and medical lingo, he found himself lost and soon, very much alone. He was vaguely aware of one doctor, a nurse, maybe, explaining to him which hospital Deborah would be admitted to for treatment, before she too disappeared. If he had been seated on his own bed and not that of his recently departed, he might have thought the whole thing a dream.

Draco used magic to clean himself up and bought a shirt from a sidewalk vendor before apparating to Deborah's hospital. It took him quite a while before he could locate her room, as he had no way of knowing her real name. Had he some forethought, he realized, he could have found it in her apartment.

The witch at the desk seemed to sympathize with him, and said that she knew of the girl he spoke of, but assured him that she could not allow him to enter her room because he was not kin. In any other situation, Draco would have claimed to be her brother, but in what twisted family are siblings not aware of one another's surname? He complied with the nurse and folded himself into a waiting room chair, intent to stay there until visiting hours.

At some time between six a.m. and noon, Draco had fallen into a troubled sleep. The kind reception witch poked him awake, gave him a listing of Debbie's injuries, and told him he could visit her as long as he kept quiet if she was sleeping. She gave him the room number, and Draco took off down the hall, pace not so frantic as before, but still above a meander.

He entered the room, quiet to be mindful of her rest, and drew back the curtain surrounding her bed. She was tucked into starched white sheets, angelic in her slumber, and it was then, with a view unobstructed by panic, that he recognized her.


- - -

Hermione woke slowly and stretched against the wall which was pressed to the side of her bed. To her immediate surprise, the wall fell away quickly, shaking the whole of the bed in its crumbling, and causing her eyes to shoot open. She blinked them into focus in time to see a blond man in a tacky shirt take the seat beside her bed.

"Micah?" she asked softly, the sharp contours of his face inspiring memories of the previous evening. "What are you doing?"

"I'm sorry," he said, his voice strained through the smile on his lips. "I don't know what I was thinking." He sounded far from genuine. Hermione drew in her eyebrows and sat up against the hospital headboard. Micah sat forward on his chair, still wearing a watery smile, and Hermione eyed him oddly.

"What's wrong?" she asked. He shook his head.

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing; I'm just glad to see that you're awake. It seems like it's been... God it has been years since I've heard your voice," he said, shaking his head slightly. Hermione seemed as confused, if not more so.

"Micah, what are you talking about? I just met you yesterday," she reminded him, speaking slowly as if to a misbehaving child. He shook his head.

"I don't know how I didn't see it before," he said, doing little to ease her mind. "Always giving me reports on anything you learn, recommending books... reiterating dozens of times the importance of dental hygiene. It was so obvious."

"Micah... please explain something to me. You're sort of scaring me, a little."

He shook his head softly and stood to lean over her bed and rest the palm of his hand against her cheek.

"No," he said, taking her hand in his. "Don't be scared of me anymore. You've been scared of me long enough, Hermione." She didn't react immediately, still entirely enthralled with her befuddlement, but the realization hit her all at once, and her pupils dilated.

"Who told you my name? Was it the nurses?"

"You did," he said and, interrupting her claim of 'I most certainly did not', continued with his explanation. "Way back in first year, at the train station. You came right up to me, painfully obvious in your muggle clothes, and said 'Hi. I'm Hermione. Do you know where we're supposed to put our luggage?' And I glared at you, and brushed past without answering." Hermione stared, open-mouthed, and let her eyes run over the points of his face in a desperate attempt to place them. Then he smirked, and her eyes widened. She wrenched her hand away from his grasp, causing his lips to fall into a frown and his gaze to break from hers and settle on the emptiness of his palm.

"Draco Malfoy! It's been you this whole time, and you never told me!" she accused, moving her fingertips to cover the gaping hole that was her mouth. Draco eyed her curiously.

"Well... no. That was the whole point of the thing, wasn't it? Not to know?" Suddenly, she looked angry.

"That... whoever it was that started this whole thing! I thought we were writing to people from other schools! I was entirely convinced you were from Beauxbatons," she said, crossing her arms over her chest and pouting in the direction of nothing in particular. Draco couldn't help but smile at her.

"I thought you were a muggle," he said. She turned to him and lifted an eyebrow.

"A muggle? We were corresponding by owl."

"Well, yes; but when you get something like that into your head, you can't shake it after a while," he said, shaking his shoulders and sinking back into his chair.

"Wait- you thought I was a muggle... and you didn't care? If I remember you correctly, that's nothing like you." Draco frowned.

"Well, I did at first. If you remember, I didn't answer your first few letters. But I grew up; you helped me grow up. I definitely don't care anymore."

"Malfoy, I'm not a muggle."

"I know you're not," Draco defended, looking up and drawing his brows as if afraid she wouldn't believe him. He sighed, relaxing. "I don't care what you are, Debbie. I don't care who you are. I-" He stood up again. "I have to tell you something." She looked curious.

"Tell me what?" she asked softly, looking up at him. Draco bent over her and pressed his lips to hers in a light, but passionate kiss. Hermione responded, and they broke away with heavy breaths.

"I've wanted to do that for so long..." Draco told her, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against hers. Hermione stayed silent, her breath fanning against his chin, and Draco wasn't sure if she was surprised, or in the same state of euphoria he found himself visiting. He pulled away after a moment and opened is eyes to see Hermione's flutter and do the same. He lowered himself onto the bed, sitting beside her, and ran the coarse pad of his thumb across her soft-skinned cheek. "I... I love you, Hermione." The innocent look on Hermione's face fell into a frown and she looked away from him, slowly bringing her hands to direct his palm from her cheek.

"You don't even know me," she said, sounding utterly disenchanted. Draco shook his head and replaced his hand.

"Please tell me you don't believe that. I know that you know me, Hermione. Probably better than I do. I pour my soul into those letters... and I know you do. I know you," he said the last part softly, and felt a slight wetness on his hand from the draining of her eyes. She looked up at him.

"No you don't. Draco, you don't know anything about me! Where I live, what I do- my hopes, my dreams, my favorite color... you didn't even know my name until today. How can you possibly love me?"

"That doesn't matter. I can learn those things, if you teach me... but I know other things. More important things... I know you don't go outside when it rains, because then you can't see the streaks on the window pane. I know you wanted to be a ballerina so badly when you were little, that you danced so much you got dizzy and fell of the stage, and broke your leg. I know how much you care about people who couldn't care less about you. I know that in school, when you were upset with your parents, you would think about the time it snowed on Halloween and your mother made you wear those bulky stuffed trousers for tricking, and how angry you were about something so pointless," he paused, because she was crying, and it made his heart break to see it. "Hermione," Draco said, softly, and she turned her gaze to meet his. "I know you know those things about me. The things that mean more than what's on your resume."

"Don't you think I've thought about it too?" she said, suddenly. "Don't you think I've wondered, 'What if we met? What if we fell in love, and got married, and had a few kids and a dog and a house with a white picket fence?' It's just not logical." Draco looked toward the tacky tile floor.

"If you honestly, honestly want me to leave, I will. We can't go back to the way we were again, Hermione. I can't go back to hiding behind a pen; not after last night." He sighed then, leaning in to kiss her forehead, and made to stand from the bed. Hermione caught his arm.

"Wait, Draco. Don't go," she pleaded, and he complied with her, sitting down again and enveloping her in an embrace. "I'm sorry," she said. "I don't want to lose you, I just... I don't know..."

"It's okay," holding her tight against him. "I don't want to make you do anything. We'll start slow, all right? You'll get out this afternoon. Have dinner with me. It doesn't have to be formal; fast food, Chez Pierre, whatever you want." Hermione laughed softly and pulled back.

"Right, because I want to be seen in public with this suicide bandage," she joked, but Draco frowned.

"That's not funny, Hermione," he said, and she looked slightly ashamed. "What happened last night?"

"Well," she said, fingering the white plaster which ran the length of her arm. "I took the man home, and put him to bed, and I was asleep... but he must have gotten up in the middle of the night, because he found the bottle of wine I'd saved from my parents' wedding and drained it, then came asking for more. He was already on the verge of alcohol poisoning when I'd picked him up, so I told him I thought he'd had enough, and took the bottle. He got angry, and I dropped it, and it broke... but I wouldn't give in, and he threatened me with it. I don't think he meant to hurt me, but his aim wasn't so good... or was, depending on how you look at it."

"I can't believe you did that, Debbie. You scared me, you know? First that letter... and then you, and all that blood... I was sure I'd lost you," he said, smoothing her hair with his fingertips. Hermione wore a lopsided smile.

"How did you find me?" she asked, and Draco smirked.

"I followed your owl."

"Oh," she said, smiling at the thought, then her face changed and she looked curious. "You look different." Draco laughed.

"I haven't had a shower in... going on thirty six hours, now."

"No... what happened to that jumper you were wearing last night? That looks like a shirt you'd buy from a street cart." Draco almost laughed out loud.

"I did," he said. "What? You don't like it?" Hermione smiled.

"On the contrary," she said, and Draco eyed her as if she were insane.

"What? It's hideous... what are those supposed to be? Birds?" he asked, scrutinizing the jungle-like print which was marred with blobs of white. Hermione shook her head.

"Butterflies," she corrected. "White butterflies."


A/N: I do not own Harry Potter.