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disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot and Draco's err, well, Hermione's medication ;) A/N: Ahem, excuse the extreme fluffiness of this chapter. I got bored, my internet is running at an incredibly SLOW pace and I just pulled this chapter right out of my head. Anyway, seeing how it's not doing any damage to the story in general, hope you enjoy it better than I did! P.S. I will award fifty house points to both Gryffindor and Slytherin if anyone can tell me the answer to Draco's Potions homework question! :D
*** IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH ***
It was a calm Sunday night, a light breeze toying through the dark outdoors. A handful of stars generously spaced apart in the deep velvet of the sky twinkled away dutifully. On the grounds of the magnificent castle, a soft chorus of night creatures could be heard as they went about their nightly romps. A picture of serenity and yet inside a certain student's private room, a bustle of papers could be heard coupled with vague mutterings. A solitary lamp gave out just enough light as needed by the young boy hunched over his books. Impatiently tapping a quill against the desk with one hand, Draco flipped through his textbook with a slight frown etched on his forehead. "No .. no that's not it...oh good Lord what are the secret properties of Henbane?" A soft tapping on his window startled him and he looked up to see a familiar brown owl with a letter attached to its leg. Curious as to who would be owling him at almost midnight, he crossed the room in long quick strides and retrieved the letter. The owl cocked its head to the side and pecked his hand affectionately before taking off. Draco raised an eyebrow at this then turned his attention to the letter in his hand, pausing only a second before tearing it open. Dear Draco It's been weeks and you have not said one word to me. Did I do anything wrong? I assure you I have said and done nothing about her. Please do talk to me soon, I miss you terribly. yours truly Pansy He crumpled the letter up in a tight ball and tossed it away. Parkinson might have written him a rather detached and formal letter but he knew her true feelings better. The girl was bitter and deeply jealous of the supposed bond between him and Hermione. Draco snorted. She was no fool, that Parkinson. She knew through his subliminal actions and words that he was falling for the witty witch and yet was adamant to believe this was true. It was a sick fantasy of hers that someday he would ask for her hand in marriage, he knew. Draco often thought that would only happen if they were the last two people left and the world's population depended on them. He wished fervently that he had had a way of knowing she would obsess about him ever since he took her to the Yule Ball two years ago. Making his way back to his desk, the boy soon realised he was in no situation to complete his homework. Knowing fully well the consequences of not finishing his Potions essay, he blew out the light in the lamp and headed out of his room. Draco was about to walk down the stairs when his glance fell upon the stairs leading to the room opposite. His heart gave a sudden thump and he found himself making his way towards the stairs and up them, one tentative step at a time. His right hand slowly raised and after a moment's hesitation, gave two quick knocks. A whole minute passed by without a reply of any sort and he sighed lightly. Whatever possessed him to do that, he did not know. Draco put it down to his frustration of barely seeing her over the past few weeks since his release from the hospital wing. She had stubbornly avoided any contact with him and when he tried reaching out to her before or after classes that they shared together, she would simply ignore him. Eventually she had taken to coming to class just in time and leaving at the exact minute the bell rang out. This left him deeply annoyed and yet worried that her odd behaviour might have been his doing. After all, how often does someone who you once thought of as your mortal enemy confess their love for you? She was scared, he knew this and was desperate to let her know that she had no reason to be. After all, this was his life in jeapordy should he love a muggleborn. Shaking his head, he made his way down and over to the couch. He waved his wand at the fireplace which soon produced a warm, inviting fire and he laid back on the couch. 'Hermione Hermione ... how do I get you to talk to me now?' He thought back on Parkinson's letter. Perhaps he could send her a letter? But the moment he thought it, he shook the idea out of his head. He could just picture his letter being delivered to her only to be ripped apart to shreds within seconds. No. He needed to talk to her face to face. Just as he began formulating a plan to corner her into letting him say his peace, the portrait door swung open inwards. Draco sat up just in time to see Hermione stumble in, losing her balance as she did so and falling onto the floor. 'Thank you God.' He stood up slowly, waiting for her to regain her bearings but when she remained on the floor in a crumpled heap, worry once again seeped in. He made his way over to her and knelt down beside her. Her small body, hidden under massive amounts of robes and hair shook slightly, giving reason to his worry for her well-being. "Hermione...?" A low sound emitted from the mess that was Hermione, something that sounded like a cross between a tortured groan and a stifled sob. Her body shook again with a more visible pain. His anxiety leaked through to his voice and he dared gently touch her back in a small gesture of concern. Upon contact however, he almost withdrew his hand for even through the multiple layers of her clothing, he could feel the heat of her body. Without another word, he swiftly gathered her into his arms and carried her over to the couch, laying her down on it. Another soft cry clearly indicated the amount of pain she was holding back, causing him to throw caution to the wind and sitting down next to her. "Hermione.." he tried again, this time managing to get a slight movement from her although he could tell it hurt her just doing that. He thought it was only right in suggesting that he inform Madam Pomfrey of her condition. Her next reaction however caught him unawares. Contorting her face into a tight grimace, she made a wild grab for his hand, then proceeding to violently exert her scant energy in trying to hurt him. His eyes widened and quickly took her hands in his, an act which she struggled against. "All right, I take that as a no, calm down." She did as he said and took long, deep laborous breaths before slowly opening her bloodshot eyes to him. "I'm fine ... leave ..." "No, you're not, you're far from fine." "Yes I am," she hissed back. "Hermione look at yourself, you're shaking and running a fever. I don't have to be a medi-wizard to know that you're anything but fine." "Ugh ... oh go away Malfoy.." "I won't until I know you're well." She narrowed her eyes at him, clearly annoyed at his insistence. Realising that he meant what he said, she asked for the medication that she kept in her bedside table drawer. He took one look at her before getting the things she requested. He only had to take look at the strange-looking objects in the bottles in his hands to have enough sense to get her a glass of water as well. Hermione took them wordlessly from him, barely protesting as he helped prop her up while she downed the medicine and water. Draco watched as her breathing slowly returned to normal. The bright red flushing in her cheeks seemed to be gradually fading as well and her body stopped shaking as much. Biting down on his bottom lip, the boy reached his hand out and carefully brushed her hair off her face but she quickly turned away from him. "Leave me, please ..." "What are those things you just took?" "They're my medication. Tablets, if you must know. Muggle medicine but what would you know about that?" "Why are you so angry at me? I'm only trying to help." "Just leave me alone, Malfoy, please. I'm not a toy for you to play your sick, twisted mind games with, all right?" Draco's mouth fell open in shock. So that was why she had been avoiding him, she thought he was playing with her mind. He shook his head, exhaling lightly. "Really, is that what you think I'm doing?" Her head whipped around to face him, her face contorted with anger, hurt and something else he could not quite figure out. Sadness? Disappointment? "Isn't that what you're doing? I told you my secret, I trusted you for some strange, unfathomable reason and what do you do? You twist it around and you play with my feelings. You think it's a fun trip knowing I'm going to drop dead soon and then hearing you tell me that you MIGHT love me? Where the hell do you get off hurting people like that, huh? Tell me Malfoy." He was rendered speechless at her little rant. All the while he had been thinking she worried about him losing his family fortune because he loved her when she was in actuality angered that he was attempting to string her along, something that was never his intention. 'I shouldn't have used the word might. Oh damn it.' "It's not what you think, I-" "No I don't want to hear your rich little excuses, Malfoy. Go back to your Parkinson I'm sure she would be more than willing to buy all those lies that you've been selling to me." "Would you please listen to me, Hermio-" "And stop calling me Hermione!" she yelled, hiding her face behind her hands. The two of them sat there for a minute or two, him twiddling his thumbs and her sobbing silently into her palms. Draco took a deep breath, prepared to be insulted again as he parted his lips to speak. "I really do love you," he whispered tentatively but when she made no attempt to shut him up, he continued on. "I know my actions may be proving otherwise but ever since we became friends I keep thinking about you. How much pain you must be in, the horror of knowing when you are leaving this world. I know that there is nothing I can do to stop it but God, I just want to be able to ease your pain, Hermione! Can't you accept that?" Draco reached out and gently pulled her hands away from her face. Her cheeks glistened with fresh tears and her lips were trembling. With reluctance and a slight glimmer of hope in her eyes, she looked up at him. "I can't..." "Why not?" "I'm not worth being loved at this point. I'll only serve to let you down." "I promise you with all my heart you are worthy of all the love you deserve and so much more. And I know we won't let each other down if you'll just let me help you get through this." "And you'll accept me for who I am? I'm not the world's most perfect person ... Draco." "I believe the question is, will you accept me? The only thing I want right now is for you to let me love you until the very end. Hermione, I love you." She did not reply. Instead she gently pulled her hands away from his grasp, carelessly rubbing the tears off her face with the edges of her sleeves. She then gathered her bottles of medication, stuffing them into the deep pockets of her robes before sliding to the edge of the couch. His heart sank rapidly, mentally kicking himself for revealing so much of his heart to her. 'What was I thinking, that she loves me back? Am I that arrogant to believe she feels the same way about me? Ohh I should just curse myself into oblivion right now..' Draco was sharply jolted out of his thoughts as she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight embrace. He barely had time to register what was happening when he felt his own arms sliding around her waist, holding her close to him. "Hermione.." "Promise me no regrets," she stated simply, tilting her head up to look at him, her face mere inches from his. His eyes searched her face, a small smile upturning his lips as he laid a gentle kiss on the little button-like tip of her nose. "I promise."

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