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The walk through the forest was slow going. The forest was uneven and difficult terrain at the best of times and this was certainly not the best of times. Hermione held onto Malfoy so tightly she was sure she’d leave finger shaped bruises on his ribs. She expected him to complain, but he didn’t say a word as he helped drag her back through the forest. The baby unicorn seemed content to trot along beside them. After what felt like an hour of walking, but couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes, she had to stop. The pain in her foot and leg was excruciating and she didn’t think she could stay upright much longer. 
 

“Please I have to rest,” she told Malfoy. 
 

“You can rest when we get you up to the castle. They’ve got to be wondering where we are by now,” he tried to urge her forward but could see she was in too much pain. He lowered her gently against the trunk of a tree and then took a seat on a fallen log across from her. The foal wandered over to nibble at some purple flowering bushes a few feet away. He was still attached to Malfoy’s waist. 
 

“Thanks,” she breathed out. 
 

“Don’t mention it,” he told her. He was being one hundred percent serious. 
 

They sat in silence for a few moments before her curiosity got the better of her. 
 

“Malfoy?” She said calmly. 
 

“What?” He answered annoyed. 
 

“Can I ask you something?” She asked. 
 

“Well seeing as you just did, I think you’re more than capable,” he sneered at her and she rolled her eyes more out of habit than true annoyance. She could feel little more than the pain in her leg. 
 

“Something else then, why did the unicorns thoughts make you so angry?” She asked tentatively. For a moment she was sure he was about to tell her off, but then he sighed a soul deep sigh and looked at her. 
 

“Because it isn’t fair. He’s so young and he doesn’t have a chance. His life’s already been decided for him.” He said sullenly. 
 

“But what do you mean?” She asked again, encouraged by his answer. 
 

“I mean some things, creatures and people, are affected by things at a young age. They don’t get to decide what happens to them. It just happens and then they’re left to pick up the pieces.” He spoke quietly to her as if he were afraid someone might here. As though someone might read between the lines of what he was saying. 

 

“But sometimes intervention happens. Sometimes they get a second chance.” She smiled at him and he looked at her with a hard stare. 
 

“And sometimes they don’t. No one wants to save the bad creatures. The spiders and the snakes and the werewolves. People only want to help things they deem worthy.” He broke her gaze and stared off into the trees. 
 

Hermione felt tears prickle her eyes and not from the pain in her leg. How could someone so bright think they were unworthy of being saved? She was one to think that everyone and everything deserved to be saved if that was their choice. Even the spiders and the snakes. For someone who had always been treated like a spoiled prince, it shocked her to know that Malfoy found himself so unworthy. Surely if he thought himself so damaged and discarded, he must know that he’d been wrong. Those who knew they’d done wrong always had the potential to change. Acknowledging wrongdoing was the first step in setting it right. 
 

“And maybe that’s a mistake. Perhaps the spiders and the snakes don’t get a second chance because they’ve never been told they could have one.” She said softly. He looked thoughtful as he stared into the woods for a moment before he spoke. 
 

“Maybe,” he whispered so softly it was almost indiscernible. She figured that was the best she was going to get at this moment. Still it felt like a breakthrough. 
 

Neither of them spoke after that. He continued to keep watch on their surroundings while she tried to push through the pain so she could get back up and walk some more. It wasn’t looking good. She was getting quite sleepy and her limbs felt like lead anvils. She had nearly nodded off when they heard a rustling in the bushes around them. She snapped to attention, glancing around nervously. The foals ear pricked up, but he didn’t seem alarmed. Nonetheless Malfoy pulled his wand and came to stand in front of her. She was touched at his gesture to protect her. 
 

They listened and watched as the noises got louder and closer. The foal crept closer to the noises and Malfoy tried to pull him back. He was straining against his tether so hard that Malfoy was forced to take a step forward to relieve the tension. Hermione could feel her heart pounding in her chest as they waited with baited breath. They both knew the kinds of creatures they could encounter in the forest. Merlin knew what was about to stop through the trees. 
 

Finally after several tense moments another small unicorn stepped through the bushes. Hermione nearly cried in relief that it was a “good” creature. Malfoy lowered his wand and tried to take some inconspicuous steadying breaths. This unicorn baby was a female. Seconds after she wandered into view a full grown adult unicorn followed behind her. Her mother, Hermione guessed. Unicorns were brilliant creatures, particularly fully grown ones. She glowed white silver in the dim light of the forest and Hermione watched her wander over the the same flowers their unicorn had been eating. Their foal, delighted at finding a friend, was trotting around trying to get the other baby to play with him. She smiled at the scene before her. They had probably just aced their assignment.

 

The adult unicorn abandoned the flower bushes and came over to Hermione. She bent her nose down to Hermione’s leg and sniffed at it for a moment before blowing hot air down into her splint. To her surprise, the pain started to ease. Of all the things she knew of unicorns, this was not one of them, but she would not complain. She felt better than she’d felt since running away from the golden flower clearing. When she was finished the unicorn nudged her, and Hermione reached out to stroke her silky neck. Malfoy watched the exchange silently. He was much more interested in the two golden babies trotting around the clearing. He almost smiled but caught himself. Voldemort would have cursed them just to be cruel. He’d never just seen them play before. It was quite a sight to behold. 
 

Hermione meanwhile had come up with an ingenious plan. She continued to stroke the unicorn and smiled up at it. 
 

“Do you think you could take care of our friend? His mother was killed and he’s quite alone,” She asked the white horse. The unicorn looked at the two babies playing across the way as if considering the question. When she turned back to Hermione and dipped her head into a low nod as if she understood what Hermione wanted her to do. 
 

“Thank you, I’m sure you’ll be a lovely mother to him.” She patted the creature softly, and it nuzzled her hair. 

The unicorn wandered over to the two smaller creatures and corralled them together. She looked over at Malfoy, waiting for him to untether the male foal so that she could take him with her. He didn’t seem too sure of that idea. 
 

“It’s alright,” Hermione told him. “She’ll take care of him now. He’ll be better off with his own kind.” 

 

“Right,” Draco said sadly. He walked over to the baby and stroked his mane for a moment before slipping the rope off of its neck. With a wave of his wand he conjured a rather large plate of sugar. He watched the unicorns lick it up before they took of back into the forest. He and Hermione were alone once more. 
 

Without the unicorns calming breath on her injury, the pain was starting to return. She figured she’d better get up and get moving while she still could. 
 

“Come on, we should try to keep going while it’s still light out.” She told Malfoy. He seemed startled out of some deep thought but came to help her up once more. 
 

It was less awkward this time. He pulled her in closer and took more of her weight. It was still slow going, but they were moving better together. 
 

He smells nice, Hermione thought idly to herself. And he did. He smelled of mint and fresh rain and something dark. She couldn’t quite place it, but it was a pleasant combination. She’d never before been close enough to Malfoy to notice. If someone had told her she’d be here in this moment she’d have laughed herself silly. Things change, she reminded herself. 
She was shocked they hadn’t made it back to their clearing yet. They could not have run that far into the forest. The thought of being lost crossed her mind, but she refused to entertain it just then. She did however know she was going to have to rest again soon. She was getting tired again, and every step was torture. Finally she couldn’t go anymore and she stopped. 
 

“Come on, just a little further,” Malfoy urged her, but she couldn’t do it. She was so tired. 
 

She couldn’t support herself anymore and she sighed against Malfoy. Unable to support her weight that way he was forced to lower her to the ground. Her eyes fell closed and did not open again. Panicked, Malfoy tried to wake her. He patted her cheeks and said her name but she only made a faint groaning sound. His heart picked up speed. He couldn’t let anyone find her passed out and unarmed with him. They’d most certainly think the worst. There was blood seeping around the edges of her splint and he realized she must have lost quite a bit of blood. He pointed his wand at her chest. 
 

“Rennervate,” he shouted the spell, but even that did not wake her. He was angry at her now for doing this to him. If only she had not run off. 
 

“Damn it wake up, mud blood,” he shouted about an inch from her face. To his surprise she stirred. 
 

“Don’t be a jerk,” she mumbled. Malfoy grinned in relief. There was that fighting sprit he knew. He quickly schooled his expression as her eyes opened. 

 

“That’s it Granger, stay awake.” He told her. She still looked a bit out of it, but at least her eyes were open. He had to keep them that way. 
 

“Leave me, go get someone. I can’t walk anymore,” she whispered. He had to lean close to hear her. Her brown eyes were no longer rich brown, but a pale hazel. She was fading quickly. He grabbed his wand and shot red sparks up into the air. He wasn’t sure if they could be seen over the trees, but it was all he had. It would be sensible if him to go, but he would not leave her alone and half faint. 
 

“I’m not leaving you,” he told her as he glanced around. There had to be more that he could do to help. If only he’d learned the levitation spell Potter and his friends had been on about in sixth year. He needed to stop the bleeding or she was not going to make it. 
 

“You’re bleeding, Granger. If I don’t stop it you’re not going to make it. It’s going to hurt.” He told her nervously. Her half lidded, unfocused eyes met his and she nodded slowly. 
 

He knelt next to her and magicked the splint away. Her wound was not a pretty site and his stomach rolled. He pushed past it and conjured some bandages. He would need to wrap it tight. He gave her a sorry look before sliding the bandages beneath her leg. With a quick tug, he pulled them as tight as he could. Her scream tore through the woods and through his chest. She sank her fingernails into his shoulder so hard he knew they’d broken the skin. He didn’t ask her to let go. He was sure it was nothing to what she was feeling. With one last quick flick of his wand, he re-splinted her leg. She did not look good when he finished, though she was certainly awake now. 
 

“I’m sorry,” he said honestly. He hated to see pain these days. 
 

“It’s alright,” she said around hyperventilations, but it was not. She’d lost too much blood and her skin was stark white. She could not go any further. He would not leave her. Someone was going to have to find them and soon. “Thanks.” She added. 
 

“You’re welcome,” he breathed. He sat down beside her this time. He told himself it was so he could hear her breathing. 
 

“You’re quite good at this,” she said as she calmed herself. 
 

“If I was good I could heal you.” He muttered back. 
 

“If you were bad you wouldn’t try.” She countered. He did not concede her point though he did not totally disagree. ”How long have we been out here?” She asked him. 
 

“I’m not sure, maybe three hours? Class ended at three so surely someone will find us soon.” He answered. Awkward silence fell over them once more. 
 

Hermione watched him as they sat alone in the forest. He was back to looking arrogant and angry, but she knew there was more. She’d seen him smile at her when she’d opened her eyes earlier. He’d tried to hide it, but she saw. Deep down somewhere, Draco Malfoy had a heart and it was not totally black. 
 

“What do you read in the library?” She asked him out of the blue. Malfoy looked at her like she’d lost her mind. 
 

“What do you care?” He asked coldly. 
 

“I like books,” she shrugged as if that were enough of an answer. 
 

“These days I read anything I can get my hands on. Books are a lovely distraction from my shitty life.” He gave in and she frowned. 
 

“We’re not so different you know. I used to read books because I couldn’t make friends,” she told him looking down in embarrassment. 
 

“Just because we have one thing in common doesn’t make us alike,” he argued. 
 

“Before I got my Hogwarts letter I was destined to become a dentist like both of my parents. That’s a muggle doctor that fixes teeth. I wanted to be a librarian.” She told him. “My parents were terribly disappointed at first.” 
 

“But they accepted it eventually. From the time I was born, I’ve been told what to do. Changing my mind wasn’t an option. We are not the same.” Malfoy looked over at her out of the corner of his eye. She looked troubled by something more than the pain in her leg. 
 

“Now you have a new chance though. You can be whatever you want,” she told him and he sighed. 
 

“What I want is to be left alone,” he turned away. “I just want to live my life.” 
 

“So why don’t you? After you finish school just run away. Do what makes you happy.” She encouraged him. She had no clue about anything. 
 

“That’s not in the cards for me for the foreseeable future, if ever. I’m an evil death eater. People will be watching me until the day I die,” he was solemn now and she reached out to put a hand on his forearm. He did not pull away. 
 

“There are no death eaters anymore. As for people watching you, it’s up to you to decide what they’ll see,” she said quietly. 
 

He turned to face her. Her words were simple enough, but the task of completing them was no small feat. He was jealous of her optimism. In that moment though, he had hope. Hope for a better future for himself. She was still watching him with her hand on his arm. Granger was not ugly, the thought floated through his mind once more. Her petal pink Cupid’s bow mouth was opened slightly and her brown eyes had regained some of their shine. Her dark eyelashes surrounded them in a black curtain of endearment. She was thin and small, but she had some small curves that he as a man could appreciate.
 

What in the hell was he doing? He was looking at Hermione Granger the way he looked at the girls he used to date. He would never date a dirty mudblood like her. Spending so much time not speaking to others had polluted his mind with these filthy thoughts. She was clouding his judgement by being civil to him when no one else would. He had to stop it immediately, but he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out and pushing the same curl behind her ear. She smiled warmly at him and he pulled away disgusted. 
 

“What are you doing to me?” He shouted with his head in his hands. 
 

“I’m not doing anything,” she said in a small voice. She looked so sad, but gone was the concerned Malfoy. His anger was back in full force. 
 

“Stay the hell away from me Granger,” he told her furiously. He’d pulled out his wand, and she flinched back against the tree she was resting against. 
 

It was at that moment their rescuers finally decided to arrive. This was most unfortunate for Malfoy. 
 

“Expelliarmus,” McGonagall shouted and caught his wand deftly in her hand. He turned in shock knowing how this scene must look to them. It was exactly what he’d been trying to avoid. 
 

McGonagall was accompanied by Hagrid who quickly scooped Hermione up in his arms. 
 

“Best get her up to Poppy,” McGonagall told him. “I’ll deal with Mr. Malfoy. I warned you.” She told him sadly. 


He saw every chance he ever had slipping away in that moment. 
 

“Wait Professor!” Hermione yelled from her place in Hagrid’s arms. “Malfoy helped me. He didn’t hurt me. I fell and he helped me.” 
 

“Be that as it may, he is armed and we found your wand in the clearing. There must be an investigation and you Ms. Granger need medical treatment. Off you go,” 

 

She have Malfoy a sorry look, but promised herself she’d make sure he didn’t take the blame for anything. No one was going to listen to her until she’d been seen by Madame Pomfrey. He shrugged and looked at her with malice. He mouthed something that looked suspiciously like “spiders and snakes” before Hagrid whisked her away. Perhaps some things had not changed. 
 

 

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