The cough woke me up.

I'm sure I would have slept for a few more hours if I hadn't started coughing like I did. A body-wracking choke is a more accurate description, but I hadn't been around anyone sick lately, especially not that sick. I hadn't heard anyone cough like that since my mother had pneumonia a few years before.

I sat up and coughed until I could breathe freely again. In the process, I noticed the light coming in the window at an odd angle, letting me know I had slept far past breakfast. Oh well. I wasn't really hungry anyway.

After my brief coughing fit was over, I looked up to see Draco leaning against the doorway, dressed in a black sweater and jeans. He grinned. "Are you done yet?"

"I think so." I grinned back. He just smiled wider. "What?"

He jutted his chin toward me. I looked down to see that the sheets had fallen off my top half in my haste to sit up, so my bare chest was exposed to the room. I quickly pulled them back up, still a little nervous about being around Draco naked.

He just laughed. He strode across the room and kissed me on the forehead.

I did a quick scan of the room. I saw my clothes stewn all across the floor, my bra sitting atop his desk, my sweats laying near the door. How was I supposed to get dressed without him watching?

I cleared my throat. "Erm. What time is it?"

"Almost noon. You slept nearly twelve hours."

"Oh. Then I guess it's—starting."

"Starting? What do you mean?"

"Madam Pomfrey said I'd sleep a lot."


There was a heavy pause.

"I need to get dressed."


"For the last time, I'm not going to bring you food. You need to get out of this room."

I was pleading with Draco in our common room again, but he wouldn't budge.

"Ugh! You don't understand." I crossed my arms. My stomach growled. I hadn't eaten anything since the day before.

"Oh, stop it. You don't have to go to the Great Hall, you can go straight to the kitchens, but Hermione, you can't stay in here until—well, you know."

I glared at him. It was a simple request, really.

He came and kneeled in front of me. He put his elbows on my knees and looked me in the eyes. "Okay, then answer me this. Why don't you want to leave this room? It's not like this wallpaper is all that great."

I looked away. "Just....people."

He moved over so that his eyes were once again in my field of vision and gave me a soft kiss on the lips. Then he asked, "What about those people?"

"I just don't feel like talking to anyone right now," I mumbled.

"Fair enough," he replied. "But I'm still not bringing you food." He stood up.

"Fine.  I'll go down to the kitchens. But only because I'm starving, you know, not because you had any influence on me."

He put an arm around my shoulders, I threw my arm around his waist, and we left the room.


They saw us. I don't know how, but they saw us. Maybe they were on there way to see me, to coax me out of my room and get an explanation for last night's erratic behavior. Maybe they were also on their way to the kitchens for a bite to eat. It doesn't matter, because whatever it was, they saw us.

"Hermione?" I heard Ron's voice coming from behind me first. He always was the most vocal of us—er, them in awkward situations.

I continued walking, though speeding up a little. Draco sensed the change in me and sped up too. I thought they might give up on me if I didn't turn around.

"Hermione?" Harry's voice this time. We walked a little bit faster.

"Hermione!" Ron again. I grabbed Draco's hand and broke into a run. I could see the portrait of the bowl of fruit just ahead. I reached out, tickled the pear, and ducked inside before Harry and Ron could catch up. I sealed the door behind us.

I turned on Draco. "Are you happy now?"

He was desperately trying not to laugh. "Not at all."

Seeing his face, I couldn't help it. I burst out laughing; so did he. I stumbled toward him and we laughed together for what seemed like hours. I was wiping away tears by the time we calmed down. I had nearly forgotten my hunger, but it returned as soon as I remembered.

I looked around at the giant kitchen and asked one of the house elves if it was too late to get something to eat for lunch. Of course, being a house elf, he and a few others brought several platters of all different kinds of food for me. I chose a turkey sandwich and sat down. I noticed Draco still standing near the door, so I motioned to the seat beside me.

He came and sat down hesitantly. I could tell there was something on his mind. I swallowed a mouthful of turkey and asked, "What's wrong?"

He took a deep breath and said, "I was just wondering if you had any....plans." I knew what he meant. I put down my sandwich and took a breath. He took it the wrong way. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—"

"No, I'm glad you asked. Who else is going to?" I took another breath and looked down. "I think I'd like to be cremated. I don't want to think of my body rotting away in a box for the rest of forever. And maybe scatter the ashes near the ocean. I've always liked the coast."

I looked back up at my first and only love. His eyes were swimming with tears. He blinked, and one of them cascaded down his cheek. I reached up and wiped it away.

He held my hand to his face and closed his eyes.

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