DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Blind

"I'm blind—not stupid!" Hermione Granger lashed out in heated frustration.

The Slytherin charged with her care glared furiously into the empty caramel eyes of the stubborn witch. His menacing sneer was an ineffective retaliation to the Gryffindor's words, but the threat laced in the low timbre of his voice was.

"Granger," he took his time to enunciate, "I am aware that you are frustrated right now," he spoke slowly, in a patronising tone, which did little to placate the angry girl, "but Dumbledore has put you under my watch, and like it or not—" he emphasised, "—you will have dinner here, you will eat the chicken I cut for you, and you will do it without further displays of childish wilfulness!"

For a long moment, silence reigned in the Head Pupils' quarters, as silent wills battled for dominance in the room. Quicksilver eyes stared at the defiant posture of the seated Head Girl. Draco Malfoy knew that Granger was too stubborn to cry; even though he could see the effort it took for the muggleborn witch to stay the tremor of her downturn lips. Her face was tilted upwards to his, and she instinctively blinked her eyes to keep her tears at bay.

She must know that the situation they were in was not his choice! If only someone else had pushed him away from that botched potion! If only he had not walked by the Granger-Longbottom cauldron at that precise moment! If only the ingredient for Granger's antidote would be available all year round, instead of only on Beltane, which was four whole months away! If only… Well, he supposed that it was useless to play 'if only's. Dumbledore had decreed that since the Head Girl had saved his life, thus putting him under The Wizard's Debt, and since the both of them shared common quarters, it was only natural that Draco Malfoy took care of Hermione Granger until her temporary blindness was cured.

But all the same, it was bloody inconvenient!

For Draco Malfoy, in all his pampered, selfish, seventeen years, he had never had an occasion to personally take care of another being – human or otherwise. And if it wasn't for that Life Debt, he would never need to look after the Head Girl.

It wasn't as if the seventh year Potions class was even trying to create the poison! Chalk it up to fool's luck—or in this case, Longbottom's erstwhile inability to create a simple earwax remover potion! With Longbottom's ill-timed stirring, he created what was one of the hardest timed-stirring poisons in Moste Potente Potions, only to overturn it when Draco was on his way to the ingredient cabinet at the back of the class. In pushing Draco away from the overturned potion, Hermione was unfortunate enough to have inhaled enough of the fumes to cause blindness, but was fortunate enough to have avoided contact with the poison, which would have attacked her nervous system with fatal results.

Still, Draco's sense of honour—yes, contrary to popular beliefs, Slytherins do abide by a strict code of honour, albeit little understood by non-Slytherins—dictated that he was obliged to make sure that the Head Girl was well taken care of, and this required the Head Girl to partake of the evening meal.

Draco broke the silence with an exasperated sigh. "Granger," he lightened his tone, conceding to the stubborn witch, "I know that this is not easy for you at all. But neither is this easy for me."

The witch turned her face away.

Draco ran a hand through his blond hair and tried again. "You might prefer to eat in the Great Hall, but until we've figured out the logistics of that, we'll have to have our meals here first."

"I don't need you to cut my food for me," Hermione reiterated. "I'm not stupid."

"No you are not," Draco rolled his eyes. "You are blind, and you can't see to cut your food. It is not a mark of stupidity that you can't see. And look—"

Hermione flinched, and Draco nearly groaned at his insensitive turn of phrase. He had never needed to be sensitive, but he wasn't about to lose this battle of wills yet. Plunging on, he continued, as if he wasn't aware of his gaffe, "—I'm not going to feed you; the chicken's only cut up – you're still feeding yourself."

Another bout of silence followed.

Hermione could hear her Slytherin counterpart seating himself on her left, instead of at the opposite end of the table. Why was he doing this? He needn't pretend to take care of her – both of them knew that there was no love lost between the two of them. Besides, Dumbledore wouldn't know, would he? Malfoy could have just left her to her own devices, couldn't he?

But why was she so stupid to have inhaled the Muraro fumes? She knew the fumes were just as deadly as the poison itself. Oh, why did she have to be blinded at a time like this? NEWTs was only five months away! By the time she regained her sight, it might be too late for her to catch up in her revision! And how on earth did Malfoy get the job to 'take care' of her? What was Dumbledore thinking? Why couldn't she be given her old bed back in the Gryffindor Dormitory, and placed under the care of Harry or Ron – or even Lavender and Parvati? Still, she had to be grateful that Dumbledore did not revoke her Head Girl badge or appointed someone else to take her place. She had to be grateful for that, at least. Just as she had to be grateful that all her Professors believed that she was not only able to successfully undertake her NEWTs this year, instead of having to forfeit the entire year to take her NEWTs with Ginny's peers, but was also strong enough to continue her studies despite her blindness. Lesser wizards and witches would have confined themselves to the sickbed with their blindness until the Beltane Moonflowers could be harvested. But not her. Not Hermione Jane Granger. In fact, she had requested that her parents not be notified, just like her accident with the Polyjuice Potion in her second year, where she was confined to the Infirmary for weeks. Her Professors' faith in her academic ability and strength as a person meant a lot to her, even though she suspected that Snape's endorsement was not so much his belief in her ability as much as he not wanting to spend an extra year teaching the Gryffindor Know-It-All.

But it was so hard! So hard and humbling to rely on her school nemesis for something so simple and mundane as to cut her meat. Why did it have to be Malfoy? Why him?

If only Neville had pushed Malfoy away! But Neville – that oaf! – he just stood there in shock, when what should have been a bright yellow earwax remover potion turned that unique iridescent purplish-black – the mark of the deadly Mauraro Poison. She had known instinctively what Neville had created, having read about the Poison in her second year, and had pushed Malfoy out of the potion's path in the nick of time; only to have stupidly breathed in the poison's noxious fumes!

Now Neville's apologetic, but it wasn't really his fault, was it? And Malfoy's stuck with babysitting her… and her frustration at her inability to see was eating her alive.

But for once, Malfoy was right. She couldn't eat in the Great Hall until certain logistics were worked out. It was not only that eating at the Gryffindor table might be a messy affair; the presence of hot beverages and soups might potentially scald her if she were not careful.

Also, someone would need to cut her food for her until she got used to eating blind.

And it wasn't as if she didn't recognise that Malfoy had been more than accommodating to her anger and frustrations since he'd escorted her from the Infirmary to dine in their common room. He could have hexed her – and frankly, she would have 'silencio' him if their situation were reversed.

Hermione lifted her left hand to the table and patted for her fork. She transferred the fork to her right hand and felt for the plate. Mentally gauging the position of the cut chicken, it took her two tries before spearing the meat and getting it into the mouth. She was aware of the silent Slytherin on her left as she masticated the tasteless meat. When she'd swallowed that first bite, she turned Malfoy's direction, saying, "Well, are you just going to watch me eat? Aren't you going to have your dinner as well?"

As far as Draco was concerned, Granger had just announced a truce to their battle of wills.

TBC.

A/N: sighs I told myself that I do not have time for this, but my muse refuses to listen. I was supposed to continue 'Dream', but the characters there don't want to cooperate with me! grrrr Never fear – I will corral them into where I want them to be soon enough! grins

'Blind' is partially inspired by Wendy's story idea (dracohermionecommunity/message/5850) and a take on the entire 'one character turns blind' genre. A word of warning though, the story will get depressing for a time; Hermione's blindness is a fearful thing. As usual, there is research for this story, and part of it included walking around blindfolded to get a feel of relying on other senses. winks

Also, this is a work-in-progress, and I may not update as often as I like. There is something of a plot in this story, but like 'Dream', I anticipate that this story will be a looooong one in telling.