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A/N:  All my love to Cat Lover for the gorgeous image.  Still no DH spoilers.  The switch from reality to daydream is very sudden, with no warning, but I bet you can still figure it out :]


“And just what is that?” came a cold voice.  The sneer was unmistakable: Draco Malfoy.

“None of your business, little git,” replied Fred, attempting to stash away the little purple ball he was holding.
Accio,” Draco commanded, giving a lazy swish of his wand, and on of the purple spheres soared out of Fred’s hand.  “What is this?  A gumball?” Draco said disdainfully.

Struck with sudden inspiration, George chimed in, “Yeah, our newest.  Why don’t you give it a go.”  Casting a meaningful look at Fred, the latter unwillingly followed his brother away from the silvery blond haired boy.  “No point in arguing.  Wonder what he’ll day dream about.” 

“I hope it’s him getting more of those balls shoved up his—” A door opened behind him and Fred bit back exactly where he hoped his new product would go.  “Welcome to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes!”

Outside the shop, Draco turned the purple ball over in his hands.  He wandered over to a bench in a secluded corner.  If he was to try this gumball, who knows what could happen, and he wouldn’t want to be in direct view of unwanted persons.  Feeling a surge of recklessness and apprehension, Draco placed the gumball in his mouth and bit into it.

Loud bangs erupted all around him.  Draco fell off the bench onto the ground, out of sight from those causing the commotion, he hoped.  Draco whipped out his wand and peered into the fray.  There were Death Eaters everywhere locked in fierce battle with members of the Order.  Draco ducked down behind the bench as a blue light soared centimeters within where his nose had been a second previously.  His heart pounded as Draco’s mind whirred.  There was no way he was ready for this.  When it came down to it, Draco just wasn’t ready to be a Death Eater.

The high, maniacal laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange reached his ears.  Draco looked out again and took in the scene, or what he could make out of it.  Neville Longbottom seemed to be taking on Bellatrix, while next to him stood Ginny and Hermione taking on the Carrows.  Harry was engaged in a fierce duel with Yaxley and Ron had his hands busty with Fenrir Greyback.  The shouts and loud bangs of spells seemed not to register with Draco.  He watched on as if in a trance as Hermione stunned Alecta and turned to Amycus, sending a hex at the same moment as Ginny.  The Death Eater was blasted off his feet and turned into something large and tentacled in midair.

Meanwhile, Neville seemed to just avoid a Cruciatus Curse, which ignited a fire of fierce resentment in him.  Enraged, Neville charged at Bellatrix, casting every single curse he ever knew at her.  Before even Draco knew what had happened, Neville was lying on the ground in a full body bind.  “So you want to be like your parents, do you?” Bellatrix taunted in a loud screech just discernable over the raucous noise of the other fighrters,  Just as she raised her wand, Draco jumped up, and something collided with Bellatrix, knocking the dark haired woman off her feet,

“Neville, take Ginny and Hermione and get out of here!” yelled Ron Weasley, standing up and turning to face the women he’d just tackled.

“You filthy blood traitor!” Bellatrix screamed in outrage.  “So little Ronnie thinks he can fight with the big boys, huh?”

“Come on,” Neville said as Ginny released him from the body bind.  Hermione refused to leave the battle, and the next moment Neville and Ginny has Disapparated. 
Draco stood there, hidden in shadows, and watched the scene play out before him.  Ron was sending a continual string of hexes at Bellatrix, who seemed to just avoid each flash of light.  And then it happened: Hermione screamed, Ron looked at her, and Bellatrix sent a Killing Curse.  The red-haried boy that Draco had spent years torturing flew upwards, surrounded by a green light, and then fell unceremoniously back to the ground.  Draco watched on in horror as Hermione screamed in agony and began to shoot curses at Bellatrix.  The dark haired woman laughed cruelly as she deflected each spell.  “What’s the matter little Mudblood?  Did I kill your boyfriend?”

It seemed to have been the last straw.  Hermione gave a fierce yell and Bellatrix screamed terribly.  She had falled to the ground and was jerking uncontrollably.  The fact that she’d just used the Cruciatus Curse hadn’t phased Hermione at all.  “Filthy Mudblood!” Bellatrix gasped.  But before the Death Eater could even raise  her wand, she slumped back to the ground, dead at last.  Hermione gave a desperate sob then cast herself upon Ron, kissing him everywhere and unable to stop her body from being wracked by sobs.

“Get out of here!  Go!” came the deep, booming voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt as more Death Eaters Apparated into the scene.  Left and right, members of the Order were Disapparating, but Hermione seemed oblivious to it all.  Without thinking, Draco rushed forwared and aimed a spell at a masked Death Eater that was charging at Hermione.

“Let’s go!” Draco shouted, grabbing Hermione’s arm.  She wouldn’t let go of Ron.  Draco cursed and aimed a jinx at another oncoming Death Eater.  There were only a few Order members left.  Draco grabbed the heavy arm of Ron, and with a great effort, Disapparated.

Draco landed with a thump on the ground.  By the resulting thumps, he knew trhat Ron and Hermione had made it as well.  He opened his eyes to a wand being pointed in his face.  “You.”  Venom dripped from the word as Hermione looked as though she’d like nothing better than to use an Unforgivable Curse on him as well.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve just saved you from a torturous death, so I’d put that want somewhere else if I was you, Granger.”  Draco fleetingly wondered why his words lacked their usual disdain.  It was just shock, he told himself.  Shock and…pity?

Draco took out his own wand and, as if to prove to the girl before him that he wasn’t about to hurt her, he began to cast defensive spells around the cave he had brought them to.  Draco turned around, but before he could even open his mouth, Hermione had burst into fresh sobs and was holding Ron’s body again.  Draco felt as if he was trespassing on something indecent.  He’d never seen someone cry like that before.  Draco felt a stab of guilt in his stomach and turned away.  Muttering something about tea, Draco set about transforming a rock into a teapot, lighting a fire and shooting a jet of water into the pot from his wand.

“Tea…tea…” Draco muttered.  He looked around the cave, but to no avail.  Draco sighed and began rummaging around his robes’ pockets.  Draco was very particular about his tea, and often carried around his own leaves.  Finding them in a little pouch, he added the leaved to the boiling water and conjured two cups.  Hermione’s sobs had slowed into a bit of noisy crying, and by the time the tea was done, she was reduced to hiccoughs and sniffling.  “Here.”  Draco shoved the teacup at her a bit more forceful than he intended, and a bit of tea sloshed out of the side.  Yet Hermione took the porcelain cup without protest and began sipping the tea without a word.  Draco sat there, drinking his own tea, and was at a loss as to what to do.

A long silence passed between the two, as each sipped their tea, lost in their own thoughts.  Then Draco heard a soft plip—plop and wondered it if had began to rain outside.  It wasn’t long before he realized that what he had believed to be raindrops turned out to be the sound of Hermione’s tears dripping steadily into her abandoned cup of tea.  Draco remembered a long time ago when his mother was crying and his father gave her a handkerchief.  Draco took out a silver handkerchief that had his initials embroidered on it in emerald green.  He carefully took the cup out of Hermione’s hand and replaced it with his silken kerchief.

Hermione seemed completely bewildered at the piece of cloth that had just been placed in her hand.  She looked up at Draco, as if she had never seen him before.  The tears still slid steadily down Hermione’s cheeks, but she wiped them away now.  Draco stole furtive glances at the girl next to him.  Hermione looked lost, desperate.  Her eyes were red rimmed and she just sat there as if she had experienced the Dementor’s Kiss.  Draco had never seen anything so pitiful in his life.  Once, when he was very little, Draco recalled a time when he felt as bad as Hermione must be feeling.  He had refused to have his mother comfort him and sat alone in a corner instead.  It wasn’t until his mother had come over and pulled him into a hug did Draco realize that’s precisely what he had wanted.  Draco stared at Hermione, at her misty eyes and languid body.

“Granger?”  She didn’t even blink.  “Granger?”  This was not working.  Draco moved over so that he was sitting next to her.  “Hermione.”  He said the name so softly that he wasn’t sure he’d even uttered it.  But he had, and at last Hermione turned to him.  And then she was hitting him and shouting every accusation she could think of at Draco.  “Stop it.  I didn’t—Granger, stop it!”  Draco grabbed her wrists and held her still.  He should have known that she’d raise hell to give to him.  “I didn’t tell them where to find you, I didn’t instigate any fights, and I didn’t kill Weasley!”

“But you rescued me,” Hermione gasped between sobs.  “Please…don’t get me rescued.”  Draco relinquished his grip on Hermione.  “I wish I’d died.”  And Draco didn’t know what had happened, but Hermione was sobbing into his chest.  “I’d prefer not to be rescued…” she mumbled into his shirt.  Draco’s mind seemed to have gone blank.  What had his mother done to comfort him?

Draco took a deep breath, and slowly, cautiously, placed his hands around the girl crying her soul out to him.  He drew her in slightly and instinctively began to smooth out her hair.  He wasn’t quite sure how long he sat there, comforting one of his sworn enemies, staring into the dull, lifeless blue eyes of another, but at long last, Hermione seemed to have calmed down substantially.

“Hermione.”  Why had he said her first name?  And why wasn’t he feeling the usual rush of loathing?  “I’m—I’m really sorry.”  Had he just said he was sorry?

“I know.” 

Hermione was raising her face to meet his, and Draco was afraid of what he’d see when he looked into her brown eyes.  But when Hermione looked up to meet his gaze, Draco didn’t look into warm chocolate eyes, but rather cold hazel ones.  And the warm weight against him wasn’t the small body of Hermione Granger, but the somewhat larger form of Pansy Parkinson.

“Draco?”  The voice was higher, more disgustingly sweet.  Draco blinked hard.  “Draco, you were just sitting there, not moving, so…Are you all right?”

Of course he was all right.  But Hermione wasn’t.  And Ron certainly wasn’t.

 “I’m fine,” he said coolly.  He stood up from the bench and began to walk away, Pansy following in his waked.  What the hell had just happened?  What he needed now, Draco thought, was a good cup of tea.  He rummaged around in his robes and pulled out his tea leaf pouch.  It was then that he noticed three rather unnerving things: Ron, Harry and Hermione walking across the street; his tea leaf pouch empty; and his handkerchief wet and crumpled, as if it had been through some extreme use.  Draco turned around and looked at the twins’ joke shop, then stared at the girl with bushy brown hair happily walking down the street.

 Draco studded the damp handkerchief into his pocket and muttered, “Impossible.”  But he watched until he could no longer see the brown hair swaying happily in the crisp winter air.         

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