Friday

Slip Before You Fall

Hermione Granger walked slowly down one of the many paths around Hogwarts grounds with careful footing, expertly avoiding patches of ice. It seemed student safety wasn't one of Filch's main concerns, as he had yet to dust the sidewalks with a melting potion. Her cheeks rosy and nose red, Hermione sighed blissfully. Winter had always been her favorite season, and this was one to remember. Her last Hogwarts Christmas. Today was the day before Christmas Eve, last day of classes and, as she had forsaken Astronomy after the O.W.L.s, she was officially on holiday. Hermione smiled as she thought about home... and the big scarlet train which would take her there, bright and early the next morning.

With a small sigh, she hurried to the closest bench, one of the many that lined the pathways, and hoisted her book-laden bag onto the frosty surface. After tossing her hair over her shoulder and adjusting the homemade beanie on her head, Hermione bent down and quickly went about tying her boot string. Not wanting wet feet, she had forsaken her standard issue Mary Janes for something a little more appropriate. When she had re-laced the hook and eye closures and double knotted the knee-high leather, which completely covered her scarlet knee socks, she stood again, perfectly content, and pulled some mittens from her pocket.

As she was dressing her hands, however, another, considerably larger, pair dressed her eyes. She jumped slightly as the cold skin touched her face, but a voice in her ear quickly calmed her.

"Guess who," he challenged, and Hermione relaxed, replacing her 'o' of surprise with a small smirk.

"Gee... I don't know. Crookshanks?" The deep voice laughed.

"Close." Hermione laughed.

"Aren't you a bit old for this?"

"Aw, you're no fun."

"Perhaps I would be if I weren't late for dinner and freezing cold," she insinuated, and the boy removed his hands from her eyes, only to snake them around her waist.

"You know as well as I do that you were going to stop at the library first, anyway," he said, resting his chin on her shoulder, but Hermione pulled herself from his embrace and turned around, ignoring the boy's previous statement. She looked confused.

"What are you doing, Draco?" she inquired, an adorable pout on her face, coupled with furrowed eyebrows. Draco Malfoy, her assailant, gave a lopsided smile as he nervously shoved his hands into his pockets. He'd given himself away again... although, it didn't matter much, as they were alone. No matter how many times he'd slipped up, Hermione never seemed to discover his secret... there were others who suspected... her friends for instance... but no one knew for sure what he was truly hiding.

He loved her.

"You said you were cold," he said, giving a slight shrug, as if it were nothing.

"Oh..." Hermione said, although she still seemed curious. Inwardly, Draco sighed. Suspicion wasn't really a problem... as he knew Hermione, and she'd have a bloody hell of a time battling herself... and in the end, denial would reign supreme. It was always the same. To bystanders, it was quite amusing to watch her face contort in different emotions.

"Can I walk with you?" he asked, to break the slightly prolonged silence, and Hermione seemed startled.

"Oh... of course," she said and reached for her bag, but Draco beat her to it. She rewarded him with a warm smile, and returned to her slowly progressing trip back to the castle. Draco looked as if he'd won some enchanted lottery as he slung her burden of a backpack over his shoulder.

----

It had started a year and a half ago. With the stress of the O.W.L.s relieved and the terror of Voldemort's fifth, consecutive, and need I say, unsuccessful attempt at a comeback eased, the whole of Hogwarts had changed. Not only Hermione, but her entire class had seemed light hearted... that is except Harry. He'd taken the news of Prophecy quite unwell and, coupled with grief over Sirius, spent almost as much time in the library as Hermione did... searching for new and creative ways of cursing Voldemort into the next world. Hermione and Ron had left him to his own, deciding better of trying to convince him otherwise. Although he wasn't sleeping well and had lost a good amount of weight, his grades were as high as ever (which wasn't saying much) and he was still Hogwarts' star seeker.

Ironically, it was Draco who approached Hermione with offer of truce. He had decided that it was too much for a man of his age to take on; school, his parents, the constant fa├žade, and of course... Voldemort's expectations. He admitted that he'd been considering a switch for quite a while, but had ultimately decided that now was probably the best possible time. He was young, but strong... and could take anything his father dished out.

Draco had come to Hermione in hopes that she, of all people, would be willing to grant him a second chance. Of course, she was hesitant... but as the weeks passed and he had refrained from throwing a single harsh word at both she and her friends, Hermione had a change of heart. It proved to have been a good investment, as with Harry practically dead on his feet, and Ron even more obsessed with Quidditch than usual, now that he was on the team, Draco became a useful friend. In seventh year, which was nearly half passed, they'd taken on the responsibilities of Head Boy and Girl, which made talking and spending time together much less difficult.

At first, the friendship had remained a secret, and again, it was Draco who made the first move. At lunch one afternoon, near the end of sixth year, he'd walked right up to the Gryffindor table and spent the meal with them; across from Ron, next to Hermione, and diagonal from Harry Potter. Hermione had been expecting this, as he'd toyed with the idea with her, and played along, as if they'd been friends forever. Harry and Ron were shocked into making no move to change this, and, after some heavy explanations from Hermione, decided to give their enemy a chance as well.

Old habits die-hard, however, as Harry, Ron, and Draco never really became friends... they were simply acquaintances, still on a last name basis, but on level ground. They no longer threw insults, and occasionally had conversations. Draco had never felt so happy in his life.

Of course, it didn't take long for word to spread throughout the school and, as gossip tends to do, the story made it into the wrong hands... which then passed it on to Draco's father. Of course, Lucius Malfoy was livid... but Draco simply unleashed his master plan. He would stand up to his father.

Lucius arrived at Hogwarts with plans to severely injure a certain few Gryffindor, and take his son away... but Draco had other plans. He didn't even cower as his father approached him, and stared him straight in the eye, pleased with the surprise he saw there. His father was not a young man, by any means. Middle aged, but more so by years as a death eater. When Draco raised his wand to challenge, Lucius backed down. He was no fool... his son was much more than a match for him, and he knew it. So, with that, he banished Draco from Malfoy Manor, emptied his safe at Gringotts, and all in all, evicted him from the family. Again, Draco had never been happier.

Now, poorer than even Ron Weasley, Draco was ecstatic. He had what little clothing he'd brought along to Hogwarts, his wand, and some true friends. It was more than he could ever have needed, and he knew it.

----

"So, are you doing anything tonight?" Draco asked, only slightly nervously, and Hermione regarded him with a raised eyebrow.

"Why?" He gave her a lopsided grin and shrugged his unused shoulder.

"I thought maybe we could do something... you know, being the last night before break and everything," he told her, and Hermione frowned.

"Oh... I'm sorry, Draco, but I promised Harry and Ron I'd go with them to the Gryffindor party tonight... it's sort of tradition."

"Oh," Draco said, undeniably disappointed. He hadn't even thought she'd say no. In attempt to cheer him up, Hermione gave a proposition.

"You can come too, if you want," she said hopefully, but Draco simply gave her a sad smile and shook his head.

"I'm a Slytherin, Hermione. I'm not even supposed to KNOW about the Gryffindor parties, much less attend one. Plus, you know Potter and Weasley wouldn't exactly approve... and about 90% of Gryffindor still hates me." Hermione nodded.

"I suppose all of that is true... but I'm not a statistic," she stated proudly and Draco chuckled. "I'm serious," she insisted. "I want you to come." Again, however, the blonde shook his head.

"No, don't worry about it... but I've got dibbs. We get to hang out first when you come back, and I'm not taking no for an answer. I don't care if I end up helping you unpack." Hermione laughed.

"Alright, alright. What are you doing for Christmas?"

"Well, I can't go home..." he reminded her and she frowned a little, but nodded.

"Whom are you staying with, then?"

"No one... I'm staying here." Hermione snapped her head up.

"What?" she asked, as if it were the most cold hearted thing anyone could ever do to a person. Draco simply laughed.

"Well, what did you think? Crabbe and Goyle aren't allowed to talk to me anymore, most of Slytherin are a bit cold shouldered to me, whether it be because they feel betrayed or because their parents told them to, and I don't really have any other friends," he said, and shrugged. Hermione, however, looked painfully sympathetic. "It's alright, though. Give me plenty of time for all that bloody homework."

Hermione pondered this for only a moment, imagining Draco scribbling a Potions essay alone in the common room while she sung Christmas carols with her parents. Although, all aspects were enhanced by her overactive imagination; the common room was a drippy dungeon cell with no tree, no presents, and no fire, and the carols were sung through sips of extraordinary hot chocolate and bites of the delicious Christmas feast her mother made (considerably larger and tastier than any she'd made previously).

With these images flashing through her mind, she vigorously shook her head.

"No, I won't let you." Draco laughed out loud, looking quite confused.

"Won't let me what?"

"I won't let you freeze to death and do potions homework on Christmas," she insisted, and, although this only made Draco more puzzled, he said nothing. Hermione shook her head again. "No..." She paused a moment, then looked up at him. "You can come home with me. We have an apartment over our garage, which is where my room is... and there's a guest room up there. We can have a nice, warm, muggle Christmas and leave all homework for the night before we come back." Draco looked, frankly, amazed. Hermione gave him pleading eyes, but he shook his head.

"No... I couldn't impose on you like that."

"My parents won't mind... I promise. Harry and Ron come over all the time, and they don't even give notice... usually they just sort of flue in and ask what's for dinner... but my Dad is always ecstatic. He was never very popular in school... and it makes him proud to see that I have friends. Please? I'll have a positively horrid holiday imagining you here all alone..." she explained, and Draco laughed again.

"It's not like it would be the first time..."

"Draco! That's really not making me feel better. Please?" she pleaded, protruding her bottom lip in a childish, puppy dog pout.

"Alright, alright! Honestly, woman... you'd think there were going to torture me." Hermione glared at the ground.

"You never know. I still don't like the looks Zabini gives you during Quidditch." Draco lifted a hand and tugged her woolen hat over her eyes, causing a cheery shriek to erupt from her violet lips. Laughing, he trotted away, only to discover it wasn't such a good idea. Hermione regained her eyesight just in time to see the blonde's feet comically slip out from underneath him, rendering gravity to savagely slam his body to the ground. Hermione laughed out loud and chased after him... but with much more careful footing.

----

A burst of warm air greeted the Head couple as they reentered the school, one of which was still giggling as the other limped. Outside the great hall doors, Hermione turned back to her friend and reached out her hand.

"You go ahead, I'm going to take my stuff back to the common room first," she said, but Draco made no move to hand over anything.

"I'll do it," he volunteered. "I've eaten already anyway." Hermione lifted an eyebrow at his retreating back.

"Oh really?" she asked, and he turned to face her, nodding cheekily. "When?" Draco played innocent.

"Lunch..." he informed before turning and dashing up the grand staircase. Deciding that it wouldn't make much sense to go after him, Hermione shook her head and entered the Great Hall with just enough time to eat... if she fed herself as fast as Ron did.

---

Draco, grinning to himself, entered his common room and placed Hermione's bag on the couch, where it was easily visible. He took a moment to massage his shoulder before retreating to his room and changing from robes into something more suitable. With this finished, Draco found himself unoccupied.

With a shrug, he gathered some parchment and quills into a shoulder bag and started back through the portrait, heading for the library. Hermione may have wanted to save everything for the last day... but she always finished her work with much more speed. That would understandably be a big mistake for Draco and, thinking ahead, he decided it'd be best to do as much as he could tonight, and then save the rest.

When he exited the common room, however, something stood in his way. A certain, red haired, freckle faced, something.

"Malfoy," it regarded him, nose scrunched as if the name were synonymous with spinach. Draco looked bewildered.

"Weasley," he answered back, and Ron gave a disgusted laugh.

"I hear you're going home with Hermione for break?" he questioned, although he knew the answer already. Draco, again, looked confused.

"Actually, yes... how did you know?"

"She just told me."

"Ah." There was an awkward silence and Draco had just opened his mouth to ask if there was anything more, when Ron interrupted him.

"Let me just tell you now, Malfoy..." he started, pulling himself from the wall and stepping right into Draco's personal space. "If you so much as think about touching her... so help me Merlin, I will make you pay." Draco's eyes became unmentionably cold.

"What are you implying, Weasley?" he asked. "I would never... never do anything to hurt her." Ron gave a sick chuckle.

"Of course you wouldn't... never happened before, has it?" Ron asked, and Draco set his jaw. "That's not what I'm talking about, Malfoy. She is mine, so hands off."

"You speak of Hermione as if she were an object," Draco said, sounding disgusted above all, and Ron looked him up and down.

"Just be forewarned, Malfoy," he spat before spinning on his heel and starting away. Draco glared after him, but his gaze softened as he saw Hermione approaching. As she read the expression on his face, her own grew confused.

"What's wrong?" she asked, in that sweet, innocent little voice of hers. Draco shook off his rage and pretended as if nothing had ensued.

"Are you dating Weasley?" Hermione looked taken aback.

"No, of course not. Why? Did someone say that?" Draco shook his head slowly, eyes turning back to the hall as if he expected to still see Ron.

"No... I just got the impression. Forget it." Hermione didn't lose her confused expression.

"Alright... what are you doing?"

"I was going to the library..." She grinned.

"What a coincidence..." Draco laughed.

"Oh yes, so unprecedented," he mocked as he watched Hermione enter the common room. She exited a moment later, and again, they walked side by side to their destination.

-----

"Are you ready?" Hermione asked as she stopped at her front door, turning around to face her blonde guest. Draco gave a bit of a smile.

"I smell like a cab driver... what was the point of that, again?" Hermione smiled sympathetically.

"You do not, my father doesn't like to ride in cars... and we can't leave him home alone," she explained as she brushed his sweater and fixed the collar. "Okay," she sighed, when he was deemed satisfactory, then gave a deep squeal of excitement. Draco laughed.

"Are you always this excitable?" Hermione giggled and shook her head.

"I don't know what's wrong with me. Come on," she said and took his hand, dragging him toward the door. Hermione knocked three times before opening the slab, although she didn't wait for a response. "Mum?" she called into the cheery home. "I've brought you a Christmas present!" Hermione announced, giving Draco a little smirk. He pretended to laugh, although it was quite sarcastic.

"Hermione, love?" called a slightly deeper voice, followed by a short, busty, woman with unruly hair to rival her daughters. Although, the frizz was much more obvious on the older woman, as Mrs. Granger wore her hair down, while Hermione's was twisted into a tight braid. "Oh," Mrs. Granger said, sounding surprised as she took account of an extra blonde. "Happy Christmas, indeed," she added in a way that made Draco blush, and Hermione giggle. "Who might this be?"

"Mum, this is my friend Draco. Draco, my Mum," she introduced, and Mrs. Granger regarded Draco appreciatively as she stretched out a hand in greeting. Being from a formal upbringing, Draco didn't think twice before bringing the matron's knuckles to his lips. Hermione smiled proudly, as if she were a trainer and he her French poodle. "He'll be staying with us for Christmas."

"Oh," her mother perked, "Will he now?" Hermione nodded exaggeratedly, but Draco merely gave an embarrassed smirk.

"If that's alright, of course," he added, but Mrs. Granger laughed.

"Oh, by all means, please do. Dristan, love, Hermione's home... and she's brought another friend," the older woman called into the next room, before heading back to what Draco assumed was the kitchen. Hermione beamed at him as they waited, and, moments later, another man entered the room. Hermione bounded to him immediately, but Draco was too surprised to do much of anything.

"Happy Christmas, Daddy," Hermione chimed as she bent to hug the man who was seated quite naturally in a large iron wheelchair, and he chuckled heartily as he returned her embrace.

"I've missed you, love. What's this your mother's on about?" Hermione grinned again. Draco could honestly say he'd never seen her that happy for such an extended period before.

"I've brought company. Daddy, this is Draco, Draco, my father," she said, concluding introductions with a sigh. Draco smoothly replaced his smile as if it had never faltered and held out his hand to the patron, who smiled widely as he took it.

"Nice to meet you, Sir."

"The same," Mr. Granger stated with a laugh. He raised his eyebrows at his daughter. "I've heard nothing but good things."

"Daddy..." Hermione scolded, blushing slightly and giving her father a playful glare.

"Mina..." he said, mocking her tone. Hermione shook her head.

"Daddy, where's Ty?" Mr. Granger maneuvered his chair to view up the staircase, which was situated to the right of the door.

"Napping at the moment, love."

"Well," Hermione said, "Someone has to wake him up, because... we're supposed to be there in fifteen minutes."

"I think I hear your mother calling," Mr. Granger said, rolling his wheels back a few feet before spinning 180 degrees and heading straight for the kitchen. Hermione shook her head.

"Come on, Draco," she said before taking his hand and again pulling, but this time up the stairs.

"Where are we going?" he asked curiously, and Hermione laughed.

"Upstairs, to wake Ty."

"Well, yeah... but where do we have to be in fifteen minutes? And who's Ty?"

"It's tradition, Draco... every year, Ty and I go to Mary Miller's Orphanage and pass out presents to all the orphans. It's not far from here... and my Mum spends all year buying toys for them... the owner, Ms. Miller, gives us a list of all the children... name, age, and interests. I know most of them by face now, anyway... And, as for your second question," Hermione continued, "This is Ty." She stopped at the door directly at the top of the stairs, and knocked softly.

"C'min!" called an excited, high-pitched voice, and Hermione cracked the door open.

"Are you napping, like you're supposed to be?" she asked, but never officially got an answer.

"Mynee!" screeched the voice, before heavy footsteps were heard, and the door swung open to reveal a three-foot tall red head, which clung directly to Hermione's leg. She chortled softly, before lifting him onto her hip. After an Eskimo kiss, Hermione set back into her introductions.

"Ty..." she started, then turned to her escort. "This is Draco. He's going to be staying with us while I'm home. Can you say hi?" Draco gave the boy a small smile, and Ty grinned.

"Heya. I'm six," he boasted and Draco laughed. Hermione simply smiled for a moment, then hugged the little boy close to her.

"Are you ready?" He nodded enthusiastically. "Oh really? You're planning to go without shoes?" This threw Ty into a burst of giggles, and he shook his head. "I didn't think so. Go have Daddy help you and I'll be down in a minute, alright?"

"Okay, Mynee. Bye... Mynee's friend," Ty said as Hermione put him down, and Draco waved as the boy bounded back downstairs. When he turned back to Hermione, however, she looked slightly saddened.

"I would tell you exactly what my father has... but it's long and medical and I don't understand it anyway... basically, what happens, is the disease starts at the bottom and works it's way up. It begins with short periods of unprovoked numbness in the feet and legs... which then become longer and longer.... sometimes lasting for days... and, finally, they just stop working all together," she explained, and Draco frowned.

"I'm sorry..." he tried, but she simply laughed and shook her head.

"It's hereditary, but can only be contracted by men. My great, great grandfather had it, passed it through his daughter, who passed it through hers, who then gave it to my father. And..." she paused a moment. "Ty has it." Draco's face fell.

"No..." Hermione nodded.

"He hasn't shown any signs yet... but it's worked into the chromosomes. At some point, he'll become as feeble as my father... it could be next month, it could be thirty years from now. My father was lucky... his didn't hit until he was a teenager."

"Hermione..." Draco started, moving to embrace her, and Hermione allowed it, but laughed into his chest.

"It's okay..." she insisted, shaking her head. "I'm fine. I just thought you should know..." Draco could only nod. "Come on, I'll show you your room." She insisted, and started back down the stairs, followed closely by Draco. They passed through the entry room, where Draco could see Ty and Mr. Granger in the room past, the boy sitting on his father's lap while he tied his shoes. For some reason, the happy picture seemed tainted.

---

During the trip to the orphanage, Mr. Granger occupied the front passenger seat, while Mrs. Granger drove. Ty was seated between Hermione and Draco in the seat behind, and looked as if he'd won the lottery, beaming up at both teenagers. Draco kept glancing in Hermione's direction, although she seemed quite cheerful. He couldn't help but feel sorry for her... she was too good at covering the truth. It was only when she out and told him about her family that she showed any sign that it bothered her... but now that he could recognize it, Hermione was easy to read. She kept a bit of sorrow deep inside... which flickered brighter each time she heard either Ty or her father speak. When the quartet of Grangers, plus a Malfoy, arrived at their destination, Mrs. Granger pulled their guest aside, and whispered a request into his ear. Draco grinned.

"I'd be glad to, Ma'am," he assured, before retreating to the back of the SUV to help Hermione with the extremely large bags of presents.

"Are you alright?" she asked, pulling a bag over her shoulder, and Draco smiled at her, nodding.

"Of course." Draco walked into the large white building with a bag over each arm, following Hermione as she trailed behind Ty, who carried one box, but acted as if he were St. Nick himself. The elderly woman at the front desk made quite the fuss over his growth before leading them to the room the children played in, which also happened to hold the tree. Thirty children chorused 'Mynee!' before practically plowing over her. She laughed and set the bag down at her feet like a piece of meat to distract panthers from their prey. Draco, although much less of a target, followed suite. He waited a moment before approaching her. "Hermione." She turned to him sharply, a big grin on her face. For the first time since he'd been informed of her father's condition, Draco saw no sorrow in her eyes.

"Hm?"

"I have to go," he said, jabbing a thumb in the direction of the door. Hermione looked confused. "I'm accompanying your parents as they go tree hunting." At this, a slow grin crept onto Hermione's face and she lunged at him, trapping Draco in an unexpected embrace, which pushed him back a few feet. He laughed.

"Oh, I could just kiss you! Daddy'll love that!" she praised, holding tight to him, as Draco tentatively responded, aware of every inch of her body which touched his own.

"You gots to," said another voice, which caused Hermione to pull back a bit, with a tiny laugh.

"What, Link?" she asked a black haired boy, who looked about Ty's age, although he was much larger. He pointed upward, and in turn, both teens did the same. They were now standing in the doorway... directly under a sprig of mistletoe. Hermione laughed again. "Thank you, Link. Go open your present." With a grin, the little boy dove into the bags of presents, searching for one with his name on it.

"He does have a point," Draco stated, with the girl of his dreams still locked in his arms. Hermione blushed as she turned back to him.

"I don't know..." she started, but was interrupted as Draco took a turn toward tradition. At first, there was a simple, soft peck... but Hermione seemed far from resisting, and Draco took her cheek in his hand as he brought his lips closer again. When this kiss was finished, Hermione slowly exhaled. "Wow..." Draco smirked as he brought her back into his embrace, and rested his chin on her shoulder once more. "Draco..." she started, still speaking softly, as if in a dream, but again, Draco interrupted her.

"I love you," he blurted softly into her ear, but not after gasping at his own stupidity. Small suspicions were one thing... but she was bound to believe it if he went out and said it... Hermione stepped back with wide eyes.

"What?"

"I...er..." Draco stuttered, nervously scratching the back of his neck.

"Mynee, Mynee... Jimmy needs help... he can't read yet..." said one of the children, but it was soon followed by a chorus of 'Me too's' and 'So does so-and-so's. Hermione looked between the pleading children and Draco, who was visibly kicking himself for his slip up.

"Can you hold that thought for just a minute... I've go to..." she said, gesturing to the children, but Draco shook his head.

"Your parents are waiting for me."

"Oh... right..." she paused a moment, then sighed. "Alright... come up to the apartment when you get back... I think we need to talk." Draco sighed. That was a put down if he'd ever heard one.

"Sure... whatever you want," he agreed, then toddled out of the lobby, toward the white beast of a car which belonged to the Grangers. Hermione watched him as he left, but was soon sucked into the raging wave of children, excited to have presents on Christmas Eve.

-------

Hermione returned that afternoon with a sleeping little brother and a worry- laden mind. Against her will, her brain had repeated Draco's words over and over throughout the entire day, and had not yet stopped. Knowing the unpredictability of her father when picking a tree, Hermione had no clue as to when her parents would return with her friend... if he remained in one piece.

As twilight approached, Hermione situated herself on the end of the couch, next to the phone, holding a mug of hot chocolate while Ty slept peacefully, resting against her hip. She sighed frequently, and brushed her fingers through his auburn hair, so much like their father's.

Hermione had no sooner decided that she would go out looking if there was no word of her parents or houseguest within the next hour, when a loud, swooping noise startled her. With a slight gasp, she snapped her head toward its source, which just happened to be the fireplace, and sighed in relief as she recognized Ron, who was brushing soot from his robes.

"Bloody hell, Ron, you scared the living daylights out of me..." she scolded before shifting in her position and taking Ty in her arms. Ron simply gave a lopsided smile in apology as he watched Hermione bring her brother into another room, which he already knew was her bedroom, and carefully closed the door as she exited. "What are you doing here, anyway?" she asked, looking confused, before making her way back to the couch.

"Well, hello to you too," he greeted sarcastically, and Hermione laughed. Ron helped himself to a seat on the couch before continuing. "I just came to see how you were getting on with Malfoy... and to give you your Christmas present." Hermione grinned and leaned closer, eyes sparkling.

"Ooo! What'd ya get me?" she pleaded, her 'you shouldn't have's long since given up. Ron laughed.

"Well... normally I would say not to open it until tomorrow, but..." Hermione nodded her encouragement, but the excited smile on her face was wiped away as Ron pitched himself forward and trapped her in a steamy kiss. Hermione gasped in shock, which only allowed him access to her mouth, and Ron pushed her against the couch, using his bulk to his advantage. For a few seconds, Hermione was too shocked to do anything but attempt to take in all that was happening. Ron's kiss was hard... cold... hungry... so much unlike Draco's. There was no warmth at all, despite the temperature of his tongue, and Hermione found herself simply wishing he would stop.

"Ron..." she said, but in the opposite of encouragement, pushing at his chest. "Stop."

"Come on, Hermione... it doesn't have to mean anything..." he proposed, before starting back in. Hermione, knowing she had nothing on his sturdy frame, gave herself up to him, and discontinued her struggle. He was one of her best friends... she still trusted him not to do anything stupid. This was fine... just a little fun... which she hoped would end... soon.

------

Draco trudged up the stairs to the apartment, head hung as he rung his hands. He knew he would have to explain himself... he just didn't know how. She wasn't supposed to know... she wasn't ever supposed to know. He never wanted this to happen... to sacrifice his only true friend on some love trip of his underdeveloped heart.

When the Slytherin reached the door at the top of the stairs, he lifted a hand to knock, but changed his mind before doing so. It was pointless, really... he'd have to enter whether she answered or not.

"Hermio... ne..." he called as he opened the door, but the word died in his throat as he took notice of the couple on the couch. Ron was startled at the voice and spun, allowing Hermione to sit up.

"Draco, I..." Hermione started, but he shook his head, taking a step back onto the landing.

"I'm sorry... I'll just... come back later," he insisted, lips twisted in a forced smile. Inside, of course, his heart had shattered. It wasn't so much that she'd chosen someone else, but simply the fact that it had been Ron... whom she'd assured just yesterday she had no feelings for. After only a second's span of torment, seeing the dread in Hermione's eyes, and the smirk on Weasley's face as he wiped his lips with the back of a hand, Draco turned and fled down the stairs.

"Draco, wait!" Hermione pleaded, starting after him, but something held her back; a hand, tightly woven around her wrist. "Ron..." she said in confusion, struggling out of his grasp.

"Let him go, Hermione; he isn't even worth going after. I can give you so much more..." Hermione's eyes narrowed.

"I don't want you," she hissed slowly, as if he needed each second to decode her words. "Let me go." It was Ron's turn to glare.

"No." As cold eyes met furious, a rage boiled inside of Hermione. She opened her mouth to speak again, but something from a distance cut her off. The loud screech of car tires.

Hermione felt her heart stop at the dull thump that preceded the sharp church of metal on metal.

"Draco," she whispered, heart wrenched, and turned back to Ron. "Let me go... please..." Ron's grip tightened.

"No," he repeated, but Hermione had other plans. Before Ron could fathom her plans, Hermione stepped toward him kicked him forcefully in the shin. Now freed, she fled down the stairs and out the door at the bottom, but stopped in her tracks as a nightmare met her eyes.

There, in the middle of the street, was Draco Malfoy, lying beside a little white car, which had smashed into a mini van on the opposite side of the lane. As Hermione watched, the crumpled body shifted slightly and gave a soft moan.

"No!" she called out and rushed to his side, dropping to her knees, and placing a hand gently to the side of his face, which was scratched and bloody. "Don't move, Draco," she pleaded, and the blonde allowed himself to relax against the pavement.

"Hermione..."

"Shh... we'll get help, you'll be fine..." she promised, stroking the smooth skin of his cheek, then looked up. The man from the little white car, who was also sporting a rather nasty cut above his right eye, was coming around the boot of his vehicle, dialing numbers rapidly on a cell phone.

"Hermione..." Draco repeated weakly, and Hermione turned her eyes back down. Even in his state, Draco could see the tears beginning to creep from her eyes. "I... I meant it, you know," he said and Hermione's bottom lip quivered a bit.

"What?" she asked softly, sniffling, and Draco gave a small smile, blinking away the blood dripping into his eyes.

"I love you." Hermione broke down at this... it sounded too much like a goodbye. She gave into one deep sob, turning her face away. "Hermione..." he said again, and she turned back once more. "I need you to promise..." Draco started, pausing only to grit his teeth against a certain pain before he continued. "Not to stay with Ron... he'll hurt you." Hermione shook her head, leaning slightly toward him.

"No... I'm not with him, Draco. Upstairs shouldn't have happened... I didn't want it... this is all my fault, if only I'd..." she stuttered, but Draco slowly shook his head.

"Don't..." he said, voice trailing off and eyes drooping closed. Draco let go of each breath as if it were his last.

"No," Hermione pleaded, shaking her head. "Don't leave me Draco, I..." she hushed herself, speaking softly as she continued. "I love you too." As Hermione looked on, Draco's mouth flickered into a little smile, but then relaxed, and one last breath departed from his cooling lips. "No..." Hermione pleaded. "Draco, come back... please..."

"Hermione," said Ron, who had followed down the stairs and was now crouching beside her. Hermione tore her eyes away from the blood trodden blonde and, without thinking, rested her face into Ron's chest. He wrapped her in his arms, persona softened by her tears, and shushed her. "Shh... don't cry, it's only Malfoy," he whispered to her, and Hermione tensed, tearing herself away from him. Ron looked slightly confused, and it was all Hermione could do to stare at him, shocked beyond reason.

Hermione's face soon contorted in disgust.

"You say that as if I could just go out and buy another one," she hissed, tears flowing in rivers down her rosy cheeks. Ron looked confused.

"Why would you want to?" In a sudden burst of strength and fury, Hermione aimed a well placed right hook directly into Ron's jaw. Her knuckles hit with a satisfying crunch and the force knocked him over, but Hermione ignored his moans of pain, and turned back to Draco, who lie as if sleeping, face upturned and eyes half closed. With such a painful reminder, she inevitably burst into tears again, dropping her head onto his chest and holding a handful of his sweater in her fist.

"I'm sorry..." she whispered, again and again, but, had Draco still been with his body, it was doubtful that he would have heard, as the ambulance sirens drowned out her words... just as the deceit had drowned out his life.

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

When all is said and done and dead, does he love you the way that I do?

Breathing in lightning, tonight's for fighting-- I feel the hurt, so physical

Think twice before you touch my girl, come around I'll let you feel the burn

She spreads her love, she burns me up- I can't let go, I can't get out

I've said enough, enough by now- I can't let go, I can't get out

Wait till the day you finally see I've been here waiting patiently

Crossing my fingers and my Ts, she cried on my shoulder begging, "Please..."

What is it you really want? I'm tired of asking. You come wasted

When I showed up and he was there, I tried my best to grin and bear

And took the stairs, but didn't stop at the street and as we speak, I'm going down


Think Twice by Eve 6

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