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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 and , 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.