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disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and Draco's past ;)

A/N: God, I apologize so much. I actually had this chapter written and posted on ff.net over a week ago and I completely forgot to post it up here. Nevertheless, here it is. It's a little short and I am a little wrapped up with homework for now (ugh!) but I can safely say that I will have the next chapter posted by Monday. In the meantime, enjoy this one. p.s.: i really enjoy feedback :)

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BURYING THE HATCHET

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He watched her as she tilted her head back. Her arms were spread, her lips carved in a sweet smile as the wind teased through her brown locks. It was a picturesque scene, he thought. She was a portrait of simple happiness amidst a landscape of drab, gray winter. The snow which had blanketed the scenery over a week ago had melted, leaving behind splotchy wet patches of ground. Draco shivered inwardly, feeling as though he was looking at a painting mocking him of what was to come. He watched on as she breathed the cool air deeply, her face pale and rosy at the same time as she wrapped her arms around her small chest, lowering her head and turning to face him. That sweet smile was still etched onto her face.

"You look sad," she commented, stepping towards him.

He forced himself to smile for her then. "I was just admiring you."

"Draco..."

"Don't," he cut in, exhaling lightly as he reached out a gloved hand through her hair. "I'm just ... glad you're out."

"Mmm yea, it's nice." She closed her eyes at his touch, then took his hand in both of hers, moving closer to him. "One week in there with Madam Pomfrey fussing over me was just ... ick."

He chuckled then. "Ick?"

She grinned, a soft, almost childish grin and pressed the side of her face against his chest. "Ick. I don't like the smell of antiseptic."

"That muggle sterilisation potion?"

"Chemical," she corrected him as his arms went around her waist, holding her close.

"I learn something new every day."

Hermione chuckled softly, opening her eyes as she tiptoed to peck him on the lips. "Cute. Listen, I'm going to go into Hogsmeade with Harry and Ron and Ginny today, alright?"

It wasn't really a question. His eyebrows creased lightly. He had been looking forward to spending the entire day of the second Hogsmeade visit with her. 'But I can't prevent her from being with her friends, can I?' He answered with a vague nod and half-hearted smile which earned him a roll of the eyes and a light playful smack on the arm from his girlfriend.

"Oh, don't give me that look. I'll meet you in the Three Broomsticks for lunch, how about that?"

"I'll be waiting," he agreed, pulling her close for a kiss before she went off in search of her Gryffindor friends.

Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, Draco trudged off to the carriages to find Pansy smiling brightly at him. Before he could react, she grabbed his arm and pulled them into one of the waiting carriages. He smiled weakly at her as she closed the doors, signalling the thestrals to proceed to Hogsmeade.

. . .

The ride to Hogsmeade had been awkward. Pansy spent about ten minutes explaining that she still thinks he's a jerk and needed a reality check but what he did for Granger had changed her mind and decided he had learned his lessons so would it be too much to ask for her best friend back? He had been taken aback by her ramble and even more so when she broke down and started apologizing for her erratic behaviour towards him. His heart softened and he calmed her down, admitting that he did miss having her as his best friend. She had laughed at her own follied attempts in seducing him, revealing that she had thought that was what he wanted after the Yule Ball in their fourth year. He shared her laughter and after promising to catch up with her soon and insisting that he needed to be alone, they parted ways in Honeydukes.

He sampled a few of the new sweets Honeydukes had to offer and spent most of his morning wandering around Hogsmeade, feeling more or less at peace with himself. With half an hour to spare before his lunch date with Hermione, he made his way towards the Three Broomsticks, somehow managing to trip over a loose flagstone along the way and bumping into someone.

"Pardon me," he apologised without thinking, picking up the shopping bag the person had dropped.

"Wow."

He looked up to see Lavender Brown looking at him with an expression of utmost surprise. Draco straightened himself up and handed her the bag. She took the bag from his hand, her eyes focused on him with curiosity. It was only when he made to leave that she seemed to find her voice.

"Malfoy, wait." He turned to look at her, she faltered. "I-uh...well, thanks."

He nodded warily as she stepped closer, a light smile curving her lips. "How is Hermione?" He blinked and her smile turned a little remorseful. "I haven't been to the hospital wing since Valentine's and ... I heard she got out last night but I seem to have missed her."

It was his turn to smile. "Well she can be evasive sometimes. She's alright though. Probably in Zonko's right now with Potter and the Weasels."

She nodded, her face crimped with thought but before he could begin wondering if he should ask, she spoke, her voice soft and strangely distant.

"Malfoy, I ... I may not be in any position to ask and you don't have to answer me if you don't want to. It's just that ... when I saw Hermione that night, writhing on the ground and ... fainting in your arms ... it scared me. And I don't know if you know or if you care to know but it ... well, it reminded me of ..."

She broke off then, unable to continue but it was unneccesary for her to do so as Draco put two and two together. He wasn't stupid.

"I'm sorry Brown. I do know what happened. It must've been horrible, watching the Patil twins die."

She shivered, both hands clutching the handle of her shopping bag. "They were like my sisters, you know? I loved them. That war just ... it destroyed so much." She broke off, scoffing at herself. "I'm sorry, you didn't need to listen to all this."

"It's fine."

"Hermione isn't fine." The look in her eyes somehow told him she knew more about the situation than the average student. "I know she's ill ... she's been ill a couple years now and everytime I ask her about it, she just brushed me off, saying she's fine. I bought all of it then but now after watching her collapse ... I know she's ill. And I know you know, Malfoy. Look," she raised her hand to silence him when he opened his mouth to speak. "I'm not trying to get the truth out of you or trying to be nosy here. I'm just saying, Hermione is my friend too. I love her and it scares me that she's shutting so many people out lately. It scares me that she collapsed and spent a week in the hospital wing. It scares me to think that I might lose another friend."

Lavender made no move to stop Draco from gently wiping away the stray tear on her cheek. She simply stood there, clutching her shopping bag with a face full of emotions. Her eyes were wide and glassy as she fixed her watery gaze at him.

"Just ... take care of her, okay? And if ... if my worries come true, I ... I want to know that you at least made her happy."

"How do you know?"

"She stopped crying in the girls' toilets. Don't stop whatever you're doing to her."

"I have no intention of stopping."

"Good, good," she nodded. "That's good, she deserves to be happy..."

"Lavender..."

She fidgeted. "I have to go, I'll ... I'll see you around, Malfoy."

His hand which caressed her cheek just moments ago hung in the air, slowly curling into a fist. All of a sudden, his surroundings seemed to crowd in on him as though the buildings and people weren't there before. His mind worked quickly and Draco soon found himself a little furious with himself. Was he so completely wrapped up in himself that he had failed to remember the deaths of Parvati and Padma Patil? While it was true that he was never close to the twins or even Lavender for that matter, it should not have been forgotten so easily. He remembered vividly now, crouching between bushes and turning at the wrong moment to see Lavender bending over twin corpses. There had been no time for tears although he did catch a glimpse of the pure horror and disbelief on her face.

Draco sighed heavily. He knew he was being hard on himself. There had been too many deaths during the War, including that of one of his closest friends, Theodore Nott. Of course, Nott had been on the wrong side. Draco had failed to convince him not to follow their Death Eater fathers' footsteps but the Notts were too completely immersed in Dark Arts and the glorification of Voldemort. Theodore's death was not to be quickly forgotten. Draco had been haunted by exaggerated nightmares of the event the entire summer, starting out in variations but always ending the same way, watching Theodore die and being completely helpless to change the situation.

"Well," he muttered to himself, staring at the direction Lavender had gone, "I can't change the past."

He shook himself a little, glanced at the time and began carving the remaining footsteps towards the Three Broomsticks.

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