TITLE: Snow in Mid-Summer, Spring in Mid-Autumn
AUTHOR: Campy Capybara
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.
SUMMARY: Draco Malfoy has a Byronic soul? And just who is his muse?

AUTHOR'S NOTE: For Megaera1 in the Fall Fic Exchange. As usual, more notes will be found at the end of this fic. Pardon the weird formatting - it's difficult getting the format right with ffnet.

"Autumn is a second spring
When every leaf's a flower."
by Albert Cames

"—well that's just about as likely to happen as snow in mid-summer!"

Hermione suddenly looked up at the cool sensation enveloping her – and to her horror, she saw tiny perfect snowflakes drifting down before her eyes.

"You were saying, Mudblood?"

On hearing that unmistakable drawl, Hermione turned around so fast that her head of bushy curls almost slapped Ginny Weasley in the face. Her eyes narrowed as she spied her school nemesis tucking his wand nonchalantly into his robe pocket.


"Mudblood." He gave her a mocking bow.

"What's the meaning of this?" Hermione raised her hand, indicating the silently drifting snow around her.

"Snow in mid-summer?" Malfoy smirked, as he gave a one-shouldered shrug.

The Gryffindor girls stared at Slytherin blankly.

"I'm just showing you that the idea of snow in mid-summer is not as futile as a muggle would believe; for a wizard, nothing is impossible."

"By any chance, Malfoy," Ginny piped up, a sly gleam in her eyes, "did you hear what Hermione and I were talking about?"

"Eavesdropping?" The Slytherin flicked an unseen dust off his robe and stood with his head tilted in an arrogant stance. "Not my modus operandi. I just thought that the Mudblood needed a magical reminder that we do things differently around here," he sneered.

At that moment, Pansy Parkinson, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe walked out of Flourish and Blott's, laden with magical texts needed for their final year at Hogwarts.

"Oi, Draco, are those Gryffindors giving you any problem?" Crabbe asked in his usual lumbering manner.

Draco rolled his eyes in exasperation at Crabbe's implication. He cut his eyes to the larger boy, causing him to pale and shut up immediately. With a final sneering nod at Hermione and Ginny, Draco and his entourage walked across the street to Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.

"Not. A. Word," Hermione warned her friend before turning around with her wand out to stop the snowfall. Just as she thought – Ginny's eyes were dancing in devilish delight even as she tried clamping her lips tightly to hold in her laughter.

Taking a deep breath to sober herself up, Ginny found it difficult to keep her lips from upturning at the corners as she said, "You see? Even Draco doesn't think it impossible."

Hermione gave a snort of exasperation. "You're right," she shook her unmanageable mass of russet hair, crossing her arms before her, "Of course, it's not impossible – how could both Draco and you be wrong?" she frowned. "What utter rubbish! Next, you'll tell me that Snape will single-handedly turn the tide for us against Voldemort and the Death Eaters."

"Ah, but Draco did say that for a wizard, nothing is impossible," Ginny grinned triumphantly as she brushed past Hermione to get into Flourish and Blotts, leaving the older girl standing on the sidewalk staring after her.

Staring at her reflection in the mirror before her, adjusting the single-strand pearl necklace around her neck, Hermione did not quite believe that it was a mere three months ago that she had had that exchange with Draco Malfoy in Diagon Alley – nor that far greater impossibilities than snow in mid-summer could ever have the chance of fruition.

The first impossibility happened before the school term even happened – she was not made Head Girl! Regrettably, her leaving the school in her fifth year without permission left an indelible black mark on her school records, which barred her from taking up office as Head Girl. Happily, the school's Head Pupils were both from Ravenclaw – a House that did not chafe as much as if any of the Head Pupils hailed from Slytherin.

The second impossibility happened during the end of the first week of the new term – Voldemort struck; and Harry Potter struck him down. The idea that Voldemort would have changed his usual time to strike from the end of the school year to its start was totally unexpected. And now, for the first time since forever in Hermione's mind, Harry, Ron and she were going through a school term devoid of the threat of not making it to the final term alive. Well, with Harry and Ron it was not a guarantee that there won't be a life-threatening adventure even with Voldemort gone; but the stress and worry of the past few years were instantly removed from her mind the day Voldemort was reduced to a pile of white ashes, scattered into the four winds.

The third impossibility happened on the day of Voldemort's attack: The support of Slytherin House, led by its more notorious members, to the side Hogwarts stood, in the battle against the Death Eaters in the Quidditch pitch. The four Houses finally heeded the desperate call by the Sorting Hat's song that year – that 'Unless all four Houses unite, Darkness will overcome light'. That final line of the Sorting Hat's song, resounding loud into the Great Hall, had struck a chord with the diners that night. The silence after that warning was so profound, that the first few first years that were sorted had few responses from their housemates, as the upper forms were quietly considering the implications of the warning.

That third impossibility swiftly led to the fourth, fifth and sixth impossibilities—

The Killing Curse did not work.

Nor did the Cruciatious.

Nor did the Imperious.

Amazingly, what protected the children and staff of Hogwarts from the Unforgivables was a love protection potion created by Hogwarts' little-loved Potions professor. The key to the potion came to the Potion Master late one night during the summer as he discussed Old Magik with the Headmaster. In discussing how Harry was protected from the Killing Curse by Lily Potter's sacrifice, the teachers had a sudden epiphany – what they had always assumed to protect Harry was not a mere blood sacrifice by his mother, but its basis in love – that emotion which counteracted the hate that was so essential for casting the Killing Curse. Theoretically, if the children were saturated with love, hate and the various spells carried via this cruel emotion had no power – for indeed, love was far more powerful than hate; where love was, hate could not exist. Likewise, as the younger professor reflected wryly, what was unforgivable could only be forgiven through a conscious act of loving forgiveness – would it not be likewise that love imbibed, would 'forgive' the intentions of the Unforgivables?

Sensing that they had approached the problem in the right direction, the crux of the situation was in bottling love – not the typical lust potions masquerading as love, but love that manifest itself in a personal sacrifice, in order that another might prosper; a love that Lily Potter showed, in laying down her life for her son.

There was a reason for love potions being outlawed in Hogwarts, as well as being on the Ministry's restricted potions list. All standard love potions had heart as its base ingredient, of course; but the hearts culled from the various creatures used in the love potion affected the intensity of the emotion in the imbiber. And as Snape rightly disclosed to his mentor, emotions in culled heart invariably varied from fear, to anger, to despair and hate. Because of this, love potions were not only notoriously difficult to create, there were few guarantees that the resulting outcome would be one sought by its brewer. Therefore, unless the main emotion of the heart culled was known, the resultant potion would be useless.

What more a love protection potion to repel hate-based charms.

So what Snape needed was a willing heart.

As Draco Malfoy had said during that summer – for a wizard, nothing was impossible. Snape decided that if a willing heart was what was needed to create the protection potion, he had to use his own heart – that was the only way to ensure that the heart was willing and not plagued with doubt or fear or tainted with selfish reciprocation. The malicious joke that the Potion Master had no heart, he'd known since he began teaching at the school, but rather than dwell on the anger that joke inflamed, he thought with a detached irony that soon he would indeed have a less than a whole heart, making that cruel joke more factual. With that decision made, Snape put off working on the potion for a fortnight; spending his time working through his pensive instead, to ensure that he healed his own heart of angry and hateful emotions, especially that of James Potter's memories. Once he was satisfied that he was able to see his worst memories with equanimity, he armed himself with a little-used spell that any muggle heart surgeon would give their right hand for, and took enough heart tissue to use for the love potion. It was a dicey and harrowing experience for him – too little heart tissue culled might not be enough to make the base for the potion, which would then be easily replicated for the entire school's consumption; too much culled and that problem would be the least of his worries. All that remained from that nerve-racking experience was a large scar over the position of his heart on his chest.

It was a testament to Snape's mastery in his profession that the potion worked. He had Moody tested the Killing Curse on himself, so sure he was that his theory was sound. Paradoxically, the love that Snape had for the people who loved him not saved them, and allowed them to easily arrest every single Death Eater that appeared that morning.

Which led to the seventh impossibility: the Slytherins' sudden popularity in Hogwarts.

A smart aleck commented that perhaps Slytherin House's new charisma was a by-product of their Head of House's potion; for certainly Slytherins could be just as captivatingly charming as Gryffindors, but without the Gryffindors' usually boisterous and flashy manners. Slytherins, as befit their House's motivation, only worked their charms when it benefits their ambition; and post-war, the Slytherins had the freedom to realise ambitions that they could not even dreamed of because of their families' allegiance.

Sympathy was the first emotion felt by Hogwarts students from non-Slytherin homes, when it was revealed that most Slytherins had to toe the family line under threat of the Unforgivables. Now that their Death Eater parents have been sent to Azkaban, and the children put under Ward of the State or fostered to more caring family members, the Slytherins were now free to follow their hearts and make their own decisions in whatever they wanted to do.

After sympathy, fascination and admiration were next to bloom, especially when the Slytherins coupled their exquisitely elegant manners with the roles they played on the day of the attack. Gryffindors were naturally brave in battle, but the cunning and fortitude in Slytherins' duelling skills and the stratagems they used won them not a few admirers. Not lacking in numbers were the Slytherins slated to receive Order of Merlins, led by their Head of House, which added to Slytherin's already alluring aura.

Which led Hermione to consider impossibility number eight – Draco Malfoy.

He was the impossibility that had Hermione speaking of snow in mid-summer.

He was the impossibility that had Hermione blushing in indignant anger at Ginny's notion: that He was infatuated with Hermione was possibly the most impossible thing in wizardom.

Well, shall we not consider Exhibit A: His blatant use of the word 'Mudblood' to refer to herself. Didn't he call her that repulsive word even during that chance meeting in July? Hermione doubted that his use of that filthy word constitute a term of endearment.

Well, fine, so that day was the last time he used that word… and he did apologise for its use and his offences towards her after Voldemort was vanquished… but the fact remained that he had introduced that vile word in their second year! And despite him not using that word since that day, marked in her diary as Saturday, 7 September 1996, the day Draco Malfoy apologised to her, the past six weeks did not make up for the six years of verbal abuse!

Then there was Exhibit B: His continued altercations with Harry and Ron. There were no sudden "understanding" arrived at in their exchanges, nor were there any marked respect given to either parties. Whilst the Gryffindors were in agreement that Malfoy was to be sympathised for his having to grow up with Lucius Malfoy as his father, the sympathy was easily forgotten in the light of their manner of meeting along Hogwarts' corridors: They met, they verbally abused each other, and they (whenever they could get away with it) drew wands on the other.

So okay! He never extended his abuse at her, nor was Ron and Harry's behaviour all that was conciliatory… but it was the principle of the matter!

And witness, Exhibit C: His arrogance at… well, at everything that he did since that first week of school! His still holier-than-thou manners, his posturing… All right, already! He did have a certain savoir faire, but really, his affectations in flicking invisible dust motes was very, very irritating!

And then there was Exhibit D… Exhibit D—

"Well, I'm quite sure I'm right, you know. I seem to recall someone thinking it was impossible for snow in mid-summer, for Snape to – now what was it? – single-handedly turn the tide in our war against Voldemort?" Ginny grinned at her friend who was observing how the pearls look on her in front of the mirror.

"And I seem to recall someone meeting Harry at the Three Broomsticks in half an hour," Hermione retorted, removing the necklace and replacing it on the jewellery rack. "Are you still on about that ridiculous notion of yours?"

Ginny's attention was diverted to a pair of earrings in the jewellery case next to Hermione.

"Should I get those for you?" Hermione asked, pointing to the gold pair Ginny was interested in. "Christmas is coming, and I know you've lost one side of your favourite pair."

The redhead shook her head. "The design isn't quite what I'm looking for. And don't change the subject, Hermione!" she admonished. "It's been what – three months?" An unladylike snort, and Ginny continued, "All right, six weeks since he apologised. It's really unlike you to harbour a grudge for so long. And the way the two of you dance around each other – it's making the rest of us dizzy!"

"Dance around what?" Hermione interject, trying to look innocent.

"Don't you 'dance around what' with me! What you and Draco have been doing, of course!"

"I'll have you know there's no me and Draco – and there's certainly nothing going on between us! All you've got in your head is some strange, nonsensical idea that Malfoy has got some crush on me. Well, I don't believe – not one bit!"

"You mean you're not even the teensiest attracted to Draco?" came the sly question.

Hermione coloured, but nose in the air, she answered snootily, "Of course not. He's just a whiny albino Slytherin ferret."

"Ah, but a cute whiny albino Slytherin ferret."

Hermione rolled her eyes and turned away from her friend. Walking to the dress robes hanging on the rack, she browsed through them. Ginny walked up to her and removed a pale blue dress off the rack. "What about this? I'll look wonderful on you for the Halloween Feast Ball."

Hermione looked at the dress and shook her head in disapproval. "Too pastel," she replied. "Too girly."

The Halloween Feast Ball was to have the triple function of celebrating the fall of Voldemort; presenting Snape's Order of Merlin, First Class, for the part he played in the downfall of the Dark Lord, as well as to celebrate the festivities of Halloween.

"What about this one?" Ginny asked, holding aloft a garment in a rich dark green.

"Are you quite mad?" Hermione asked derisively. "Green? If I didn't know that you're quite in love with Harry, I'd say you're a tad too obsessive about that Slytherin! Why don't you wear that for the ball?"

Ginny pursed her lips in mock dejection. "I'd wear this, but I'm afraid with my colourings I'll look like an early Christmas ornament! On you, though, this colour's perfect! No? At this rate Hermione, Halloween will be over before you decide what to get for the Ball," Ginny complained, returning the dress to the rack. "Don't forget, dear, you're to receive an Order of Merlin with Harry and Ron – and you do want to look your best, don't you?"

"Certainly," Hermione agreed, focussed on the rack before her, "but I don't want to look like a poster child for Slytherin! Neither do I want to look like I've only got Gryffindor colours in my wardrobe—" she gave a moue of distaste at the red dress robe she was looking at. "Yellow is quite—" a grimace, "but blue's rather staid," she added, as she scanned the rack's blue offering.

"Pink? Purple? Orange? Teal?" asked Ginny in exasperation. "I've got to go meet Harry within this millennia, you know!"

Hermione shook her head at Ginny's suggestions. "Well, you've got four years until then," she grinned. "But what about you? You haven't bought a dress robe, have you?"

"Oh, Mum's making mine," Ginny replied with a smile. "I gave her a design I saw in Witch's Weekly. Look, Hermione, I really have to go—"

"Oh this one!" Hermione squealed, taking a long, white robe off the rack.

"But I thought you didn't want pastel—"

"White's not pastel," Hermione sniffed. "White is the absence of colour! Besides," she confided with an excited grin, "it's perfect for the medal presentation. It's symbolic of all that's good, you know."

Ginny smiled wryly and shook her head at Hermione. "Look, if you want me to stay to see how the dress look on you, I will – but Harry's not going to be too happy about that."

"Actually, you know what?" said Hermione absently, as she held the dress in front of her to see its effect in the mirror, "I'm fine. Go meet Harry – you know you want to." She looked at her friend in the mirror, "I'll make my own way back to school after getting a few more shopping done. And say 'hi' to Harry for me, won't you?"

The dress and matching shoes were in the Gladrags bag. Her mission for this Hogsmeade weekend completed, Hermione strolled along the quiet countryside alone back to the castle.

"Gryffindor colours," she mused, taking in a lungful of the cool scent brought on by the west wind of autumn. The entire countryside was awash in the colours of warm crimson and gold. The vegetation much further ahead of her at the Forbidden Forest, and at her west, by the Hogwarts Lake, were glittering like rubies and amethysts in the bright late afternoon sun. Taking a little known track, Hermione stopped at a particularly scenic vista, a small outcropping that allowed a view of the castle in the autumnal splendour, as she sighed her appreciation.

She sat down at a conveniently placed log, no doubt put there by another appreciative traveller along this path, who knew the worth of a picturesque resting place. Reflecting on the beauty surrounding her, Hermione had mixed feelings as she stared at the imposing castle framed by the majestic colours of red and gold. She was certainly glad that the darkness of a short while ago would not touch the goodness that emanated from that bastion, that leveller of people that is Hogwarts—yet she couldn't help but feel a touch of melancholia knowing that this would probably be the last time she saw Hogwarts in this favourite season of hers as a student.

"A knut for your thoughts," a familiar drawl came from behind her.

She whipped her head around, sending her bushy hair swinging. A dreadful feeling of deja vu overcame her. "Malfoy."

He gave her a curt bow and a cynical smile.

"And where are your lackeys this afternoon?" she persisted in mock civility.

"I might ask the same of you," he replied coolly, with an uplifted brow. Indicating the available space on Hermione's log, he asked, "May I?"

With some reluctance, she shrugged her approval, and moved along the log to make space for her schoolmate, ignoring his presence as best she could.

He sighed. "Lovely view isn't it?"

Small talk – just her luck. She gave him a non-committal harrumph.

"You might not know this, but autumn's my favourite season; there's something quite refreshing about the cooler atmosphere and warm colours." He might as well be talking to a statue the way Hermione was so unresponsive.

"Summer's too hot and winter's rather bleak, but autumn, ah autumn,

'Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves! '

"Longfellow. I'm impressed—a muggle poet, Malfoy?" she turned around with a mocking look on her face.

A wry smile was the only response to Hermione's verbal thrust. "Ah yes, that know-it-all brain of yours at work. Well, I must say that I'm not at all surprise at your knowing Longfellow; I had expected you would, you know. In that, I have you at a disadvantage: there's a great deal you don't know about me," he said, flicking invisible dust from his robe sleeves.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. A backhanded compliment? She wasn't sure what Malfoy's angle was—and now with Ginny's ludicrous belief that he had a crush on her looming in her mind, she felt quite awkward being alone with him on this lonely outcrop off the usual Hogwarts trail.

"Any wizard worth his wand will tell you that the magic of poetry is the domain of muggles. Enchant the land with amethyst,'2 can only be written by a muggle. Most wizards are too concrete for metaphors; our mental pictures translate into pure magic, whereas non-magical beings put theirs into their art. A pretty verse, a simple ditty is all that wizards can compose."

"Indeed? I seem to recall a certain bit of ditty you composed in our fifth year – 'Weasley is our King', I believe."

Malfoy had an amused glimmer in his mercurial eyes. "Not one of my better ones - and certainly no match for Longfellow's verse."

"Not one of your better ones? You mean to say that you have more?" she laughed. "You can't have me believe that you've got the heart of a poet, Malfoy!"

He grinned sardonically at her gay laughter. "Heart of a poet? Sounds positively Byronic!" he exclaimed, striking a posture so haughty, so aristocratic, it sent Hermione on another peal of laughter at the incongruous thought of Malfoy as that dark-haired legendary controversial poet.

Hermione wiped her eyes with her fingertips. "Really, Malfoy, what are you doing here?"

"Besides enjoying the view?" he leaned back on his hands and looked at his companion, "why, enjoying the conversation with a lovely peer, of course. It's not easy to find someone to hold an intelligent conversation with at Hogwarts—" a sneer, "—one would think that such an elite educational institution as ours would have more academics with some level of wit."

Although Hermione agreed with his observation, she refrained from verbalizing it. She did sometimes wished that Ron and Harry would talk about things other than Quidditch – which seemed like just about the only thing they were able to talk about now that Voldemort was no more. Quidditch and girls to be precise. However, as far as she was concerned, this was just another example of that arrogance she so despised in Malfoy.

He did not seem to notice her lack of response though.

"Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them --
The summer flowers depart --
Sit still -- as all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart."3

"Browning, Malfoy? I must confess I never thought you had it in you," she quietly teased, lulled by his hypnotic rich baritone.

"A bit melancholic, I suppose, but most autumnal odes are melancholic. A few of the modern poets celebrate the season's festivities – harvest mainly, like Longfellow's; but by large, Shelly, Sisson, Browning – even Shakespeare saw autumn as the advent for dreary winter… an inevitable change that leads to life's end," he shook his head, "I prefer to see autumn as a season for a fresh start."

"Shouldn't that be spring's prerogative?" Hermione asked, feeling bizarre to be discussing poetry with the Slytherin.

"Perhaps if one sees the year as starting from spring, but as Hogwarts terms begins in autumn… well, for the past seven years, it just seems like the year begins in autumn, doesn't it?"

"Well, I suppose if you looked at it from that way…" Hermione trailed off.

Malfoy gave her an enigmatic smile and turned his gaze towards the castle below them. "Everything is a matter of perspective."

They sat looking out at the same vista, and Hermione spent the silent moments pondering what he said. He was right, of course. Everything was a matter of perspective.

His baritone broke into her reverie;

"Leaves turn copper, burnished to the shade

Of eyes that I wait a whole summer to see.

A season of waiting amid summer's heat,

Summer's noise and insipid prattle

For autumn's cool contralto –

A voice of reason, discoursing

Crispin's charms; of potions' perfect philtre

In gilded tones.

Strawberry scented auburn curls

Ignites yet another season of blazing enemy crossfire –

A heat without warmth

A regretful winter of hate

Dare I gather our fallen leaves and kindle another fire?

A pyre of penitence and contrition;

A new beginning out of ashes

Like a crimson phoenix blossoming

Unto a new life;

A new passion."

Hermione did not know what to make of it. All she knew was that for the life of her, she couldn't remove her gaze from his wintry eyes. She felt as if her breath was taken away from her; her heart drummed a bizarre rhythm and there was a strange frisson running along her nerve endings. She wished she were as far away from Malfoy as humanly possible.

Finally managing to break out of that strange interlude, she took a deep breath and said in an unnaturally high-pitched voice, "Well, Malfoy, you've certainly got better poems than that ditty from our fifth year," she gave an awkwardly fake cheery smile, " And it certainly has been quite enlightening having this chat with you!" Quickly gathering her belongings, she stood up and continued without missing a beat, "I must get back to Hogwarts now – you know how it is! I'm meeting Harry and Ron at the Gryffindor Common Room! Not that you needed to know that, of course—ha ha—but oh, look at the time! I'm sure I'm late! We've got to revise those NEWTs, you know!"

By this time, Hermione was already walking backwards towards the path. "Oh, no need to get up, Malfoy! I'll be fine making my way back on my own. Bye!" She walked off as fast as she could without actually running.

And if Malfoy noticed her becoming blush in her fluster, he did not mention it.

"The Order of Merlin, Second Class – Hermione Granger," Professor McGonagall announced.

Thunderous applause resounded from the seated diners as Hermione stepped up to the stage in the Great Hall. Her flowing white dress robes, accented with gold piping, shimmered in its folds, causing her to look as if she floated before Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic.

"Congratulations, Miss Granger," the Minister greeted, pinning the medal on her robes. He leaned forward to bestow her a congratulatory kiss. Hermione, not anticipating this gesture, turned at that instant to accept the renewed applause of the audience, causing the Minister to end up with a lipful of sleekeazy-coated hair.

"The Order of Merlin, Second Class – Draco Malfoy—"

In the order they received their award, they were seated at the table.

It was exactly a week since Hermione's hasty retreat from her disquieting tête-à-tête with Malfoy, off the Hogsmeade trail.

A week that had Hermione avoiding the blonde Slytherin as best she could; not consciously of course, since their shared curriculum and school activities meant that they couldn't effectively avoid each other to Hermione's satisfaction.

A week that, with Hermione's photographic memory, she had spent replaying Malfoy's poem incessantly – during class, during meals, daydreaming in the library and especially during the quiet hours of night; looking for meaning where she was sure (that is, she was quite sure; hopefully sure) none were present.

A week that felt entirely too short for her to come up with some kind of suitable response for the forest-green robed lad who was now sitting next to her; causing her inner balance to go awry. It was not difficult a task for him to do, seeing as how good he looked in formal robes, and how close he was sitting beside her that his woodsy scent – an autumnal scent that harkened her to that strange session she had had with him the week before drifted over to her.

Still, she was not a Gryffindor for nothing. Taking a firm grip on her scattered nerves, she maintained a cheerful countenance, chatting enthusiastically with Mandy Brocklehurst who sat by her right. Harry and Ron, sitting with the other Order of Merlin, First Class recipients, could detect nothing of how discomposed the young witch really was.

Dinner was done, the tables were sent away, and the ballroom was made ready.

"May I have this dance, Hermione?"

Flustered, she turned to her left, and saw Malfoy with an amused gleam in his eyes. She felt a blush betraying her, but she was still adamant about allowing Malfoy to play this… this… game with her.

"Hermione? I didn't know that you even knew my name," she sniffed, perfecting an aloofness that would make any Slytherin proud.

"Very funny," he sneered, taking hold of her hands in his warm ones, leading her out to the dance floor. She made no protest, but kept her face impassive.

"I know that your name's Hermione Jane Granger. I know your muggle parents are dentists. I know that Potter and Weasley are staring at us with murder in their eyes—no, don't look," he smirked in that way of his that made her itched to slap his face.

Or kissed it senseless.

Really, she did not mean that. Really, she didn't! It was just that his proximity was sending her cool logic spinning. Of course she didn't want to kiss him – honestly! Why should she? He had a filthy mouth – 'Mudblood', remember? Did he kiss his mother with that mouth? How would he kiss her with that mouth – not that she wanted to know… it was only an intellectual curiosity; she really did not wish for a practical lesson in kissing his mouth. No. Never. But if he offered… NO! Really, Hermione!

By the time she had argued herself into a dizzy, the waltz drew to a close, and before she knew herself, Malfoy had deftly spirited Hermione into the gardens.

Here, the shrubs and trees were alighted with fairies, celebrating a mid-Autumn festival, dancing and chatting into the night. With the light casting a golden sheen on the carpet of gold leaves, and the westerly breeze showering down tiny golden yellow leaves, it felt like a strange warm wintery world Hermione was in.


"Draco," he interrupted, a slight teasing smile on his lips. He led Hermione to a seat by a picturesque view of the Lake. "I do know that among the millions of fact in that mind of yours, my name is one of them."

"Fine, Draco," she stressed, rolling her eyes, striving to take charge of this situation the way she always took charge when it came to Harry and Ron.

"Look, Draco, I really don't know what your game is—"

"There is no game," he protested mildly.

"Don't interrupt!" she admonished, standing up from the stone bench, her hands in that all familiar Hermione-the-prefect gesture on her hips. 'When in doubt, Hermione, go on the offensive!' she told herself. "I don't know what you're up to and… and… it's… it's… I don't like it! What is… What do you want?" she stated most inarticulately.

Malfoy just gave her an impenetrable smile from his seated position, lounging on the bench. "I've never known you to be at a lost for words."

Hermione affirmed his observation by huffing and folding her arms across her chest.

Malfoy relented when it appeared that Hermione was awaiting his response. He stood up, saying, "On my honour, I promise you no games. Is it so impossible that I can deeply attracted to you?"

"As likely as snow in mid-summer," she frowned, bristling.

He smirked. "Ah, not an impossibility for me, you know."

"Fine!" she narrowed her eyes. "Let's look at this from my perspective: there must be a catch somewhere, because I'm not like the girls you guys usually dangle after – I'm plain Jane-bookworm. I'm certainly not drop-dead gorgeous. I'm hardly model-thin. It takes me forever to get my hair sleek. I know I don't inspire poetry—"

Malfoy's eyes sparkled at that.

"—And I'm not comfortable dressing up like other girls. In fact, I left shopping for this dress to the very last minute—" she rolled her eyes. "Moreover, I'm not a silly, simpering schoolgirl – I don't do simpering. I'm fully aware I can be caustic—and frank—and… and I… I don't suffer fools!"

"That is certainly a long list of imperfections; all true, of course," he lifted an eyebrow in amusement, his eyes staring down at hers.

At his ungracious remarks, Hermione's face hardened. Tilting her head up, her eyes flashed with annoyance. "Then why on Earth—"

A whole minute later, when they finally came up for air, his head resting on hers, he said breathlessly, "My darling muse, you have no idea… no idea at all how long I've wanted to do that. Your imperfections—" he grinned, taking a breathe "—only a matter of perception. You challenge me, Hermione… all I can tell you is—" he sighed, as he proceeded to explain his attraction to her once more.

For Megaera1

Things you want your gift to include:

a. A missing earring

b. a not-so-perfect kiss

c. pearls (not to be incorporated with the earring)

d. snow

What you don't want your gift to include: Who on earth is this, what have you done to Draco?!Draco, Girly!Hermione, Crookshanks


1 Autumn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (http: www. poemhunter. com/p/m/poem. asp? poet3085&poem17491)

2 October by Robert Frost. (http:www. netpoets. com/ classic/poems/ 076019 .htm)

3 The Autumn by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (http:www .poemhunter. com/p/m/poem. asp?poet3035&poem15851)

I know I spent a whole section on Magical Theory about the Unforgivables, but there are evidences in canon that emotions play a part in magic. Patronous can only be as strong as its happy memories, and Harry couldn't cast an Unforgivable because he did not carry enough hate to do so. If charms depended on emotions, couldn't potions be so as well? I suspect that vegetation-based potions would therefore be more stable ingredients, but creature-culled potions might affect the strength of the potion. My belief is based on Traditional Chinese Medication – fresh chicken are deemed more potent in its medicinal effects than if frozen chicken are used. At least that's what my grandma says. shrugs and winks If the freshness of the ingredients affects the potency of muggle potions, wouldn't it be logical that the emotion of the creature-based ingredient affect a potion dealing with emotion?

Personally, I struggled a great deal with this challenge. The difficulty is mainly that I've never experienced the four seasons. All I know of seasons is the books and poems I've read, and the movies I've watched. I live in the tropics and the main seasons we have is hot, hot and wet, wet and hot, and did I mention, hot? winks The only cool 'season' is whenever I step into the air-conditioned malls here. I've never seen snow in all my three decades on this planet!

To date, I've had 5 different outlines for this challenge, each differing in tone, content and focus. I finally settled for this one, mainly because of the rich treasure of English autumnal poems, which I felt Draco would have some affinity to. I maintain that Draco has a creative core to come up with 'Weasley is Our King'. Myself, I'm not a poetess, and I beg forgiveness for afflicting my poor verse on you. grins

Megaera1, I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I had fun researching and writing this.