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Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Harry Potter characters. Get that through your head, and then put it back in and keep it there!

Attention: This story is Pre-HBP. Most of the things in here contradict Half-Blood Prince a lot, just like most other stories out there at the moment. Also, characters in here are a tiny bit OoC, because we know this story would never actually happen. However, I've tried my hardest to create situations and give in-character dialogue that helps to keep most characters in character. And this story is rated R for violence, sexual content, (NOT SEX, just heavy snogging in detail ;), and for swearing. I just write everything very descriptively, and people have told me that if I uped the rating, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. But I'm not because I don’t have too :)

So please read this story and enjoy! If you find anything questionable, please email me and I will answer it as best I can!

Chapter summary: Hermione Granger is sick and tired of turning the other cheek when Ron sneaks off to fool around with Lavender. When she confronts him about it, things turn out horribly wrong, and left in her most vulnerable state, Draco Malfoy comes along and latches down on his prey. Hermione isn't going to get away… not now, not ever.


The October Hollow
By Darkwing731

((-Chapter One-))
Cold October Frostbite

October 17

Where in the world could he be?

Really, it was the dance that the seventh-years had been looking forward to all year, the girls obsessing over their dress robes for months and the boys nervously counting down the days to date-asking time, and her date was missing! Hermione would not stand for this, and the minute walked into the room he was going to be lectured all the way to Hell and back, and it wouldn't bother Hermione one bit.

Many people were already dancing, swaying to the music with arms wrapped around waists, fingers clasped on shoulders and in hands, gazes warm and smiles flirtatious. Not Hermione; she was downright livid. She had made these plans with Ron a long time ago when the dance had been announced, and Ron promised that he'd be there, be her date and dance and have fun.

Hermione pushed through the crowd, eyes narrowed and seeking out Harry Potter.

"Harry, have you seen Ron?" she growled, quite unable to hold in her anger. Harry looked taken aback.

"He told me he went outside to get some fresh air with you," he said, slightly confused. He unconsciously took a tiny step backward when Hermione tensed in anger.

"I've been waiting here, in this stupid frivolous dress for the past half hour, for him to come in and find me! When did he tell you this?" she demanded through clenched teeth.

"Erm, I dunno, err…" She glared at him while he sputtered, "…a h-half hour ago."

Hermione's hands were trembling in rage. "He's avoiding me, I know it. I'm going to find him, Harry, I'm sick of this!"

Hermione stormed through the crowd, which was filled with couples and friends chatting, watching the dancing and attempting to find a partner for the next song. Just as she reached the side doors that led out into the inky night, they opened.

Ron entered his shirt buttoned clumsily, and his hair mussed. He paled when he caught sight of Hermione, heading toward him with a positively furious expression on her face, but he looked worse than dead when Lavender Brown came through the doorway behind him and walked into the corridor. Her dress was wrinkled a bit, and her hair trailed down in strands, sticking to her sweaty forehead.

Hermione noticed the look Lavender tossed at Ron before she walked off, and the peculiar scent she had. There was the same odor coming from Ron, and she couldn't help but wonder if one really could smell dishonesty in the air…

"Where were you?" Hermione demanded, arms crossed, glaring at both her boyfriend and Lavender's retreating back.

"I, erm, was…outside…I-I just stepped back in, you saw me!" he stammered.

"What exactly were you doing?" Hermione wasn't stupid. She could sense Ron's unfaithfulness a meter away, and she was sick of turning the other cheek and pretending it was fine. She couldn't let him get away with it this time, not when it was so blatantly obvious.

"Getting fresh air," he said at once, avoiding her eyes.

"With Lavender?" Hermione said sharply, eyes narrowing.

"She, uh… she just, uh, happened to be out there," he mumbled. He glanced at her, flinching at her icy look. "We weren't doing anything!" he burst out.

"Not doing anything, were you?" Hermione snarled, looking pointedly down the corridor the other girl had disappeared down. She grabbed his arm and dragged him outside, where the frigid night immediately raised goose bumps on her arms.

She wanted to stay relatively close to Hogwarts because it was dark out, and the wind had her shivering even in her blinding anger. She wished she had her cloak, but currently it was hanging on a seat in the Great Hall, and she didn't dare leave Ron alone for even a second; the castle could hide him away easily.

She stalked past couples smothered against each other, bodies attached at the mouth and while she felt the instant need to tell them all to go to Hell, or just assign them all detention, she was silent. After all, Ron needed to be dealt with, and this issue with him would be ignored no longer.

Ron was tense, and he tried to jerk his arm from Hermione's steel grip as he stumbled after her, his voice a light whine of worry that was barely audible over the deep echo of pounding music.

By the lake, frost was already consuming the edges of the water and most of the grassy foothills that led into the mountains. By the time the neon lights that had been burning into her eyes had faded into the night, giving her a world of black and grey, green merely a color lurking in the back of her pupils as the nighttime world was etched into her mind like the bright moon. This was deepest night, and the darkness that enclosed Ron and Hermione would hold their secrets and their sorrows. Her anger might be heard, but the devastation because would go unseen; not even moonlight could betray her this night, and the absence of the large orange harvest moon in the distance, the old face staring back down at her, made the night darker than she could bear. Her fingers were webbed, it seemed, and her body was part of the harmonic background of colder colors, slowly seeping to blackness.

"Tell me what's going on," she demanded, her voice wavering, as she stopped by the lakeshore and turned to face him, causing him to nearly stumble to a halt.

A pause, then, "I don't know what you're talking about." Ron's words sounded badly rehearsed.

Hermione's head whipped toward him, eyes narrowing to slits.

"What in Merlin's name do you think I am, Ronald Weasley? I'm not stupid! I can see what's happening!" she screeched at him.

This was anger beyond anger. They had only been dating around since the middle of summer, but this betrayal… when had it started? When had she started to notice this, when Ginny's frown had suggested that she say something, but Hermione would ignore her, breezily moving on to a new subject? When had her trust in him fallen into pieces, leaving her with the coat that protected their relationship that was burning up before her eyes? Where was the love that was once so real?

She knew that this night was going to end it all, all that she had wanted and spent nights planning for and cried about when things went wrong. She knew that the anger—hurting so harshly that it brought tears to her eyes, blood to her cheeks, her jagged breathing sounding so loud that Ron was visibly cowering—would end it completely.

"There's nothing going on," he mumbled, drawing a few steps back, pulling his wrist from her grip at last. The whole way to the lake, she hadn't let go in fear that he would run away.

"Stop denying it, Ron! I'm not blind!" she yelled. This was too much; he was incredibly immature to keep hiding the truth from her. She knew that she could accuse him all she wanted, even if she walked in on him and Lavender, and he would still insist that her accusation was wrong.

"I'm—I'm not denying anything, Hermione," he said, still trying to take inconspicuous steps backwards.

She watched him through narrowed eyes. "You're fooling around with Lavender, Ron! I know it, and I've heard her and Parvati talk about it all the way until dawn too many times! I've practically caught you two more than once! Why won't you just admit it?" she hissed furiously at him.

He mumbled something, turning away from her for the first time without attempting to run away. Despite the blackness pressing onto her pupils, she could still faintly detect that his ears were turning red.

"Say it louder." Her voice trembled, but she needed to hear this.

"I-I didn't want to lose you," he whispered, swallowing the fear in his throat and looking back at her cautiously.

His words, although quieter than she had ever heard his voice before, echoed through her head, anchoring her feet to the ground as if cementing them. He didn't want to lose her, so he committed this—thisadultery instead? It made her clench her fists, and squeeze her eyes shut in frustration. Her breathing was hard; she was struggling to keep her rage at bay.

What kind of logic did Ron Weasley really live by? It wasn't like she hadn't known about his impaired judgment before, but instead, she had just started ignoring it, just like she had the whole…thing between Ron and Lavender. When she committed herself to him, didn't she try to wipe away all the negative things she knew about him, attempting to put him in the best possible light?

She knew that she had, and she knew it had been a huge mistake. She regretted that she was blinded by the novelty of their relationship, how wonderful it had been. She could never see enough of him, yet it appeared that he had tired of her, rather quickly.

Maybe that was why he moved on to Lavender: she was willing to offer Ron things that Hermione couldn't, that she wouldn't. The mere mention of premarital sex not only gained her sniff of contempt, she thought it something almost evil. You married your lover, the one who had you swooning and had you flying off your feet. And sex was something that everyone was supposed to share with someonespecial, someone that they loved and were willing to spend a lifetime with. If you thought about it, a lifetime was a very long time indeed. They had to be truly special for Hermione to share that part of herself with them.

Hermione loved Ron, and she always had. But because of the confident feeling that she loved him, she wanted to wait. She wasn't exactly sure if her talk of 'waiting' had angered him, but it had driven him away. Otherwise, she wouldn't have found him—thank God not literally—tangled in the sheets with Lavender Brown.

She hadn't realized that tears were falling; of frustration or something else, she didn't know. When she had opened her mouth to speak, she had licked her lips, and the salty taste had been there. She had been crying without even knowing it, and it made her chest seize up, her muscles contracting into a tight something that made it difficult to breathe, when she realized she was crying for him.

She didn't want to break up with him, not so suddenly. She had been in love with him all along, despite the sugar-coated lie that she knew was staring her in the face. This tension that was building up inside her—what was it? Anticipation? Dread? Could she be hoping that he'd confess and they'd live happily ever after, or would he tell her off and live that fairy tale ending with Lavender instead?

Her thoughts were so twisted, so tangled like webs, with what was going on, trying too hard to process that he was staring at her face shining with tears and moving towards her; so overflowing with depressing, anxious woes, that she couldn't even feel his arms around her.

"Hermione," he murmured into her hair. Her reluctant, strangled voice sounded suspiciously like a sob, but he couldn't be sure. He pulled her closely, ignoring the guilt washing over him. It was his fault that her body was struggling not to shake, his fault that her face, lips trembling and eyes clamped shut, was smothered into his shoulder.

And most importantly, it was his fault for bringing all this upon her.

"I-I don't want—" But she had to stop. She couldn't go on. She wanted to stay with him, and make him promise his eternal loyalty, despite the fact that she could map out his escape routes to Lavender in the night when he was itching and needed a scratch. She knew he would continue on like he had been for what seemed like ages, barely making it back in time, but being overly relieved when she acted like nothing was going on.

She still wanted to live this lie, even though she knew that ultimately, it would hurt her incredibly. Anything just to stay with him; she'd fight him, the pain, Lavender, the world, just to keep it all tied together. She wanted him, needed him, and the desperate feeling to keep the mood positive tonight was going to be hard, she knew, but she was determined to do it.

"I-I still need you," she mumbled at last into his tear-stained shoulder. She hadn't realized how hard she had been crying those useless tears. And for what, so she could win his sympathy? So she could sway him out of sleeping with Lavender practically every other night? What was left to take from him, to change?

"I know," he said quietly. He held her closer and, despite his previous actions of utter fear (she was terrifying when she was livid), he sucked in a shuddering breath. His moments of mental practice would not come out exactly as he had planned, but would have the same overall effect.

"But I can't keep living this lie with you, Hermione."

The statement of his caused her to rear back her head and look up at him; her cheeks were stained and smudged, her lips chapped and parted. She looked confused, disbelieving. Had he really just spoken what she had silently forbade him to in her mind?

"Ron, don't." Her breath was quicker now, and her lips were pressed together in nervousness.

She couldn't understand how Ron could be brave like this with her, and so suddenly. He was nearly cowering at her feet when she had dragged him out here, so why was she at his mercy, instead of the other way around? Wasn't he supposed to be at her feet while her interrogation took its course, and all would be merry and bright afterwards?

Wasn't he?

"This is a lie, Hermione, you're right. We're falling apart," he said, voice shaking slightly.

"B-But we can work, I know it," she said, nearly begging, trying not to let her lip trembling or her eyes sting. Hermione clenched her jaw when they did; she couldn't cry over this, she had already shed too many tears. What use would it be? He had instigated the fight, and no matter what she did, she could only delay its course, not stop it.

"We can't," he argued softly. A strangled cough, which he suspected had originally been a sob, escaped her mouth.

She clutched his collar, squeezing her eyes together. This was too surreal, it just couldn't be happening. She would never let it happen, not tonight, not ever. And even if it was, she'd try desperately to change it somehow.

"I-I can change," she gasped out, trying to catch her breath. "We'll be like we were in the summer. I-I'll contribute more, I promise." He lowered his eyes to hers, and the fatalistic refusal in his eyes was evident.

"But you won't." He knew she wouldn't; Hermione would always remain the chaste, rule-abiding Head Girl she was now, and he suspected that when she married she would be just the same way. "I know you won't," he murmured, resisting the urge to look away.

"Lavender can't offer what I can!" she cried desperately. "I love you, Ron! She's just a one-night stand who likes to romp around between the sheets!"

"She offers what you can't," he countered, surprised at how firm his words were. "She offers what you won't," he whispered.

Tears rimmed her eyes, though neither of them could tell if it was from fury or anguish. "Is that all you really want, Ron?" she asked her, her face twisted up in something close to disgust, disbelief. "Or are you so sick of me that you figure she'll liven up your life a little bit? Let's not forget that getting away with fooling around is so exciting," she said bitterly, sarcasm dripping from her voice.

"Hermione, the end of my leash was at my collar! I needed freedom, and what I could get from you wasn't good enough!"

Both of them were surprised at his outburst. This night was too confusing; she had him shaking as she threw every accusation at him, which he so far hadn't answered with a yes or no, but the path of the conversation verified her suspicions. And somehow, he had mustered the courage to make her cry before her usual demeanor had suddenly resurfaced, only to be suffocated again. These tricks he was playing, they were all too familiar, and she felt like he was the one under control, despite the proverbial rope she had around his neck.

"Ron," she started weakly. She would not degrade herself even further by hanging onto his jacket, so she made herself pry her fingers off and step back, away from him.

"I-I can't keep doing this, Hermione. I hate lying to you and enjoying myself at the same time. I hate not being able to feel like we did when we started dating. But I hate how screwed up this is—I'm not supposed to be the one doing this." He took a few steps away from her too, so that they were spaced many feet apart, so any bodily harm she wanted to do to him would give him a moment's notice to run.

"I would never cheat on you!" she screeched, eyes suddenly tearing up again. How could he accuse her of something as atrocious as that?

"I didn't mean that," he said quietly. Her anger faltered for a moment, and she hiccupped.

"What did you mean, then?" she asked cautiously. He cast his eyes downwards.

"Breaking up with you." She sucked in her breath rather sharply, staring at him in a stunned silence. "You were supposed to get so mad at me, and stop—this. You weren't supposed to promise to change, Hermione." He looked up at her. "You can't promise something that's impossible."

"But it's not!" she cried. "If I wanted to—to have sex with you, I would!"

"Then why won't you?" he yelled, quite frustrated.

"B-Because I told you I wanted to wait, Ron! You never understood!"

"You're right, I didn't, and I still don't! You promise to change, and now you're yelling at me that you need to wait. You need to listen to me Hermione, I'm not stupid. I know you can't change your morals, and I can't change mine! We aren't compatible!"

"Stop saying that!" she screamed at him. "There are other things to do, if not sleeping together!"

"But you're so damned prudish that you'd scoff at every one of them!" he shouted back.

When had her sadness turned to desperation, and his anxiousness to anger? What was this night doing to her? It was a common fact that any kind of social gathering, there would be at least one female hysterical by the end of the night, for any reason whatsoever. But what in Merlin's name possessed this night to choose her?

"Liar," she cried, though her body was quaking. She knew Ron was right, and so did he.

"No, Hermione, you're the liar," he said softly, his voice bitter. "You told me that you loved me… and how you've treated me isn't love."

"You're such a hypocrite!" she screamed. "You cheated on me!"

"You denied me of the most important things when you're in love! That's just as bad!" he shouted.

She started to lunge at him in fury, but her frilled dress got caught around her ankles and she fell to the ground. Pushing her locks off of her sweaty face, she got up clumsily again, her ringlets of frizzy hair plastered to her forehead still.

"What we had was good, Ron. I deprived you of sex, the 'most important factor of love—'"

"It is!"

"—so you taint what we had with some whore!"

"Lavender isn't a whore, Hermione! She's fancied me since last year, and through the way you've treated me, it seems like she'd be much better."

Hermione gaped at him, too furious and too dumbstruck to sort one feeling out from another. She blinked several times, and closing her mouth resolutely she stuck out her chin.

It was bravado, and she knew this. She wasn't sure if Ron could tell or not, but she prayed to God that he couldn't.

"You know what, Ron?" she said, her voice oddly calm. She could feel her muscles tense, and her throat was steadily closing up. She needed to say this before she had to stifle the sobs again.

"Go be with Lavender. Make her bloody ecstatic. Just don't come crawling back to me in the end, got it? If you're going to be like this, I don't need it. It really hurts to do this when I think about it, but if you're going to treat me like shit—" He gaped: Hermione never swore; "—then you can get yourself into some with Lavender."

She couldn't exactly view his reaction to her statement; perhaps it was the rage flowing through her body. Fury was building up slowly in her veins, and her arms were steadily being deprived of feeling as numbness spread over her nerves and filled her flesh with icy fire. Her fingers tingled, and suddenly she felt like she could lunge at him, close her fingers around his throat and burn him to death.

Hermione had never like Lavender all that much. She gossiped, never did her homework and was constantly swooning over a boy whose identity changed every three weeks. She cared too much for her looks; every morning Hermione had to rush to wake up and then hustle in and out of the bathroom because Lavender insisted on special treatment to her face, hair, everything, and it drove Hermione bloody bonkers.

And the fact that she had Ron wrapped around her finger made Hermione all the more furious. Lavender was never supposed to be part of the picture, yet here she was, shoving Hermione out of the frame.

It burned up her arms and swelled in her chest, and Hermione couldn't remember the pain of this entire confrontation hurting so badly. Stabbing pains shot up her arms, pausing for second to give her a false relief before they struck again like lightning. Little bolts of white-hot electricity flowed from her veins and consumed her fingers, making her press her nails into her palms in agony.

She couldn't remember falling to the ground, or starting to cry again, but when the pain finally subsided and all that was left was a throbbing, dull ache, she found herself pressed against the cold, frostbitten earth.

Weakly, she pushed herself up, her arms like glass about to shatter under her own weight. She hastily wiped the tears from her cheeks, keeping her eyes to the ground. Her lips were trembling again, and she knew that if she looked up at Ron her crying would start, and would not cease.


"Just go, Ron," she interrupted bitterly. "Just go."

She watched his feet for a moment; he shifted his weight, and slowly, turned and started retreating until the night consumed him, and she could see him no longer.

She cupped her cheeks, struggling to keep her breath steady. She had to keep control, for if she didn't she'd betray herself. She didn't need Ron; all he did was make her feel degraded, like one of those poor house elves, and someone like that didn't deserve to be with her.

She was better off without him, she knew, and she had to put a stop to the furious, heartbroken protest that the rest of her body was shouting. Honestly, if someone she loved so much would do something like that to her, did she really want to be with him still? Did she really want to continue on with life knowing what he was doing?

After all, she knew watching it before her eyes and not being able to do a damn thing about it would hurt her much more than it did now.

She sat up, rather clumsily, and pushed against her knees to stand, but couldn't manage to get up. Even though it was the only thing she couldn't do successfully at the moment, it made her burst straight into tears.

She had gone and messed up the rest of her life, the rest of her friendships and the rest of… what was alive for Ron. She loved him; didn't that mean anything to him? But no; she had failed in keeping it together, keeping it alive, and it struck her down like an axe to the back of her knees.

She tried desperately to stop crying, tried to tell herself that she didn't need to because he wasn't worth it, but her emotions wouldn't stop raging. Ron was gone for good, and she knew that he wasn't going to come back anytime soon.

She just wanted to slit her own wrists and die on the spot; being with Ronald Weasley had been the best times of her life, and even though the fights they had gotten into, despite Lavender rearing her hatefully pretty head into their relationship, she and Ron had some fond memories that would make her chest pang, should she recall them. And she didn't want to, not right now, not ever.

She wanted the mere memory of him out of her head this instant; even thinking about the good times would bring her rushing headfirst into her own crying fits again.


Putting aside the fact that she was still bawling her eyes out while trying to keep her emotions under control, the surprise, the fury that rose up out of her was almost instant. The echoes of her own sobs stopped, and she turned to stone as that voice, the sarcastic, spiteful drawl she could recognize in an instant spoke again.

"Really, you'd think Brown was a goddess or something. She's really not even that good in bed, to tell you the truth," Malfoy said offhandedly.

Hermione was standing and staggering like a drunk before he could blink, and she regained her balance quickly.

She was, quite frankly, upset that he had been around long enough to hear about Lavender; that meant he had heard practically the entire row between her and Ron. And here she was, unstable and looking like someone had died, she had been crying so much. Had there ever been a larger opportunity for him to jeer at her, to smirk in delight as he planned out his blackmail?

She hurriedly wiped her cheeks and eyes, rubbing her nose and pushing the unruly hair behind her ears; it stuck to her forehead in spite of her actions. Her dress was crumpled, covered in dirt and mud and bits of rubbish that had held onto the fabric from the ground.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" Her voice was thick, and it sounded as if she had a head cold. She winced at this obvious giveaway; she sounded like a wreck, and both of them knew that she was at the moment.

Hermione stepped back when he appeared out of the darkness. She couldn't see him before, only having heard his stupid voice. His figure was outlined in the darkness despite the black suit he was wearing.

She couldn't help but wonder where Malfoy, the worst Head Boy she had ever seen, had been before, and what he had been doing.

"Poor, poor Granger. I think we all knew this moment was coming, didn't we?" he commented idly, his words dripping with mock curiosity. Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.

"Just sod off, Malfoy," she hissed, her jaw clenched. "I don't need your oh-so-precious thoughts on what just happened, all right?"

"But why ever not?" Malfoy questioned, putting a hand to his chest and trying to appear sincerely hurt. "It's not like I'm the one telling lies. I'm not your dearest boyfriend—whoops, my mistake." He smirked at her cringe; he was going to keep bringing the tender subject up, and Hermione would have none of this.

"I'm leaving," she growled. She didn't want to stay here with Malfoy where he could see her hurt expression even in the fathomless darkness.

She started to storm away, but she hadn't gotten very far when Malfoy's fingers encircled her wrist, digging his fingernails into her skin, and with a yelp of surprise she was flung to the ground. He stood over her, towering against the blackness of the sky, and by what she could make out from the starlight he was sneering at her viciously.

"I wasn't done talking to you, Mudblood," he spat. He grabbed her arm and yanked her up so hard that she whimpered. She stumbled once on her feet, and wrenched her arm out of his grasp.

"Don't you dare put a finger on me, you stupid prat," she snarled. "And I don't care if you were talking to me or not—I've got duties to supervise the dance that is currently happening inside the castle. And so do you! So kindly refrain from touching me at all and shove out of my business."

She folded her arms defiantly across her chest, stuck out her chin and walked away. She knew he wouldn't grab her again—but he didn't need to stop her physically.

"You'll look like a fool, Granger," he said to her as she walked on. She slowed considerably. "Walking in all alone when everyone and their aunts have heard you screaming at Weasel and bawling your eyes out."

She stopped, heart thudding against her chest. His statement was true, and she didn't like to acknowledge that Malfoy was correct about something for once.

"They'll all be staring at you, and you'll sit in a chair, all by yourself and you won't dance, and by the end of the evening you'll still be stag and looking miserable," he called; she could hear the malice behind the nonchalance in his voice.

She turned around, her fists shaking, but her head streaming with thoughts.

"Congratulations, Malfoy, you kept me from going inside. I don't see how that's a terribly good victory, but if it helps you sleep at night, then bully for you. I can just go back to my quarters and tell the Headmaster I'm sick, he'd believe me. Now, unless you've a particular reason to keep insulting me, I'm leaving." She let out a hard breath, and turned back around again.

"You're going to cry yourself to sleep if you go back inside, you know."

She whipped around. "What do you want, Malfoy! Why do you keep acting like you bloody care what I'll be doing the moment I walk away from you?" she screamed at him.

"I'm just delaying your pain, is all," he said quietly. She was silent for a moment, rather stunned at the unexpectedness of his statement, and pondered its possible implications.

"No you aren't," she said after a moment; "You're just making it worse." She turned away abruptly from him; her face was twisting up, and she fought to shove any mention or thought of Ron back into the corners of her mind.

"I'm telling you what will happen; knowing how to stop it would give you an advantage, wouldn't it?" he told her. She remained silent. "I'm just trying to help you out, Granger."

"Why?" she demanded instantly, back stiffening.

"No one likes to see you cry, Granger." He paused for a moment. "Especially not me," he murmured.

Hermione could've fallen over. Unless she was going deaf, she definitely heard what he had said. These words of his summoned up her immediate suspicions; it was obviously insincere, but he would never go and actually say that to her unless there was something to be gained in the end. She was curious, to admit, and even though his words shocked her, she couldn't help but try to determine his motivation.

She took a careful step toward him, brushing her eyes as if she had been crying. The tears that had been there previously… well, they were only momentary and she pushed them back. But she gave a little sniff and stared at him.

"Malfoy? What—?" she started, falling off abruptly. She wasn't so good with subtlety, but she was going to give this a shot.

"Weasley was bound to hurt you, you know that?" he said softly, almost gently, moving forward to her. His voice was different, trained. It sounded as if he was accustomed to using it on females he was seducing.

The thought that he was trying to seduce her almost sent her into giggles, but she bit her lip and forced the amusing thought out of her mind.

"I g-guess I did," she agreed quietly, trying to figure out the direction he was going. He stopped a few feet away and looked at her. She looked down at the ground, away from his steely gaze.

"How does it feel," he questioned, "to know that you still love him, but you'll never be able to be with him again? How does it feel to know that you'll be watching him snog the daylights out of Brown, always imagining yourself in her place?"

That certainly struck the nail on the head. Hermione's face twisted up, in anger and in pain, and she wanted to yell that she knew what he was doing and run away. But she couldn't; she tried to keep holding onto the fact that Malfoy most likely did this to make her cry and distract her, and damn him, it was working.

He's tricking you!—He's right though… Ron and Lavender…Ignore it! Stop! He'll… he'll be so happy with her… he might fall in love with her, and I…I…

When had she fallen? When had her knees buckled, resulting in damp stains on her knees? She couldn't remember picturing Ron and Lavender attacking each other playfully, ending up in kissing and the exchanges of "I love you" from both of them. God, it hurt so bad for her to realize and to know that she would never have that again with Ron… that she wouldn't ever have it again at all.

Malfoy was standing next to her, looking down on her crumbling emotions. She pushed herself up, swaying, and hit him halfheartedly in the chest.

"Why did you say that?" she sobbed, her face crinkled and twisted, trying fruitlessly to stop the tears. "Why did you have to say that, you bloody prat?" she whispered.

He remained silent, but took her by the shoulders and pulled her closer, pushing her face gently into his shoulder. She fought him, only for a moment, before the comfort of another human being washed over her and she gave in.

She managed to stifle her sobs eventually, and tears silently slipped down her cheeks.

"You're such a bastard, Malfoy," she mumbled into his shoulder; it was ironic, however, because she was still clutching him, and he was holding her like a lover. It scared her to recognize this, but there was no other way to describe it.

He chuckled, running a caressing hand over her hair and laying it on her shoulder. "You're grateful for this, Granger," he whispered.

"You're taking advantage of me, Malfoy," she retorted in a muffled voice. He gave a little shrug.

"So I am; it wouldn't be the first time, would it?" he asked, though rhetorically. He wrapped his arms tighter around her back, and she started to squirm out of his grasp again.

"Don't fight me, Granger, you want this." He was answered with a little scoff. "We both want this."

"You're sick," she cried, pulling away from his arms. His expression turned stony, his eyes cold and hard.

"And you're beautiful." His voice was colorless and calm, dangerous even. He slowly withdrew his wand from inside his suit and pointed it steadily at her, his face detached and hard.

She was silent, taut and rigid at being so defenseless. The leftover tears were still trickling down her face, her cheeks slowly freezing, and her breathing was jagged and shallow through her open mouth. Another tear or two slid down her cheeks, and he walked to her.

She was petrified, frankly. What he had done to hurt her that night not only angered the living hell out of her, but scared the living hell out of her too. Draco Malfoy was always the stupid, snot-nosed jerk who lived to make fun of her and look down on her, Harry and Ron in the most condescending way he could. There was always something to ridicule about them whenever Malfoy was around, and it had somehow always hurt.

But never… never had he been like this. His wand was under her throat, and the way he was holding himself, so rigidly, made him seem as if he was dying to pounce on her, but withheld himself.

And she didn't like this situation, suddenly. She was wandless (why did she think nothing bad would come of this dance, so she was lured into the security that her wand was not needed?), at his mercy, and all of a sudden he seemed a lot more dangerous than he ever had before. His words dressed him up to seem like one who lurked in the shadows, waiting, wanting to jump out and clamp down on the neck of an innocent for the sheer pleasure of their terror. Or was it just for the sheer pleasure of hurting something, someone, he had been stalking?

Was he stalking her?

"P-Put the wand down, Malfoy," she instructed shakily. His eyes narrowed, and he thrust the tip deeper into her throat. She whimpered and jerked backwards, and in a rush she was toppling over and scrambling to run at her moment of freedom.

The night was so deep with blackness that she had no idea where she was going; curse the moon for being new, she could've used moonlight to manage her way around on this night. Instead, she was stumbling around like a blind woman, her nerves icy and fear screaming from her body.

She didn't know what was happening, how she had managed to escape from him unharmed. She ran as fast as she could, eyes bright with fear and her body alive and taut with terror. There was an angry cry, and the next moment he had an arm around her neck and was slowly applying more and more pressure. A sinewy, clenched hand and wrist appeared before her, and she could feel his muscles tighten.

"M-Malfoy stop!" she gasped, her fingers clawing at his arm, her vision clouding up, her whole body spinning out of control and falling into the black abyss that welcomed her. She fought to push the gray out of her eyes, the fog out of her brain and the welcome emptiness through her sore body, but it wasn't working.

Her body was limp, and slowly her scratching hands stopped clawing and fell, hanging loosely at her sides, swinging like the boneless arms of a puppet with no master. Her muscles relaxed, and her body was slumped against his, using his structure as a support to keep off of the damp, icy ground.

He removed his arm, and caught her before she could fall completely. She was slumped in what looked like an uncomfortable position, and he hitched her up and shifted her body. Her eyes were fluttering, gradually stopping, and her will to stay conscious dissipated as her eyes closed. Her lips were chapped and parted, and he could still hear her breathing shallowly until she lay still in his arms.

He brushed a lock of hair off of her forehead, and held her properly. He observed her face, impassive and calm, and he could feel the need to let his eyes roam when she was in such a vulnerable state. But this time would come later… 

Casting a wary look around, he cradled her in a coldly professional manner and slipped through the darkness into the Forbidden Forest, from which he would not return, not tonight, and hopefully, not ever.


Author's Note: well I hope you enjoyed that! Please continue reading on!

Anyways, review if you wish it!

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