Before I started Hogwarts, there were two children I could play with, the only pure-blood wizards in our mostly-Muggle community. Aubrianna was my favorite to visit. She had a toy broomstick and we would always ride on it together, her in front of me, until her mother would scold us for going too high and risking being seen. But once we were down on the ground, we couldn't even wait until we were standing up before we were in a fit of hysterical laughter, over some stupid thing we had done in the air. I always came home from her house so refreshed and happy, all my worries forgotten for a few short hours.

The other girl, Hazel, was just the opposite. I never wanted to go to her house; she came to mine, without even asking. All our conversations were about how I was undeserving to be her friend, which I could never figure out, since she was the one coming to me. Every time I tried to change the subject, she would tell me that it's rude to interrupt, and continued speaking, not letting me get a word in edgewise.

Once she left, I felt degraded, and would jump onto my mother's bed, and she eventually learned exactly what this meant. I would crawl into her warm arms, and she would whisper in my ear that she loves me and that I shouldn't let Hazel make me feel this way, that I'm stronger than her. I wish I could agree with that. When I was fooling others into thinking that I'm stronger, braver, more ambitious than I really am, I also fooled myself. I knew I wasn't the girl everyone saw. I was weaker, but I'd never let anyone see that. But today, I feel different.

I lean my head against Draco's shoulder. I slowly bring my gaze up to him, where he smiles. Not a huge grin, but a slow, subtle smile, suited well for someone like Draco. Not too affectionate, not too close, but loving just the same. He makes me feel like I belong here. He makes me feel more confident in myself than I have in years. And for that, I love him.

I didn't realize what love truly felt like until just recently. With my masked emotions, our love was masked as well. He knew I was hiding something. He didn't dare give into love so quickly, his one weakness that, when he dared a giving into carefully, brought us together, and into my painful lies, which brought us farther apart than we ever knew. I gave in first, the weak one of us two, and gave in to my raw feelings of desperation, desire, and discontentment. But I know it was the right thing to do.

i We walk together for the entire trip to Hogsmeade, not saying much, but hardly feeling awkward. I do not want to look at him, though. I do not want to look over and see a puzzled expression on his face, one that shows that he feels betrayed.

I eventually tell myself that I have to look at him. I have already made one sacrifice today, potentially jeopardizing our relationship. I can risk one more sacrifice, a small one. I hesitantly bring my gaze to him, where our eyes meet. Then what he does surprises me. He wraps his fingers around mine, and squeezes my hand, just a little tighter. I raise my head higher, and before either of us knows what we are doing, I kiss him./i

No, i I tell myself./i I shouldn't be doing this. I shouldn't be here in front of everyone, kissing him, of all things. What will people think?…It doesn't matter.i I don't want to think about things like that anymore. I still haven't learned to push those things to the back of my mind. It has been just a few hours since I revealed myself. Those things still haunt me, and will for a long time before I learn that those things aren't important. But…

I slide my arms from around Draco's waist and snap them back to my side. I run, ignoring the strange looks people are giving me. I run until I reach the Slytherin common room. I gasp the password and the door swings open. Scarlett is sitting by the fireplace, reading a book. She turns around and asks, "How'd it go?"

I am too out of breath to explain, so I just gasp, "I did it."/i

Sitting here, leaning against him, I am content, for the first time in so long. I forgot what it felt like to be so peaceful, and am realizing what it feels like to love like this. And I know, that for the first time since I met Draco, I will be able to sleep a quiet, dreamless sleep. hr

I wake up refreshed, ready to see Draco again, and to be myself for the second day in six years. I go to the Great Hall, and take a seat next to Draco and Monica. As usual, Travis is sitting by us, and we go through our usual routine. Then, as I am putting food on my plate, I have one hand resting on the bench. Draco slides his hand to mine, then grabs it, more firmly than before, but I know he is not being aggressive. He has never told me before that he loves me, but now, I don't even doubt it.

Draco insists on leaving early to study for the upcoming NEWTS, which leaves me and Monica to talk on our own. We don't talk much though, because Draco was starting all the conversations between us, and we don't see any point in continuing them without him. So as soon as we finish breakfast, we headed to the common room. But we can't get there, because a first year girl is sitting in front of the door, her knees up against her chest, crying.

Monica's initial reaction might have been to push her out of the way, so I decide to do something first. I kneel on the ground, bring my head down to her eye level, and ask, "Are you okay?"

The girl inhaled deeply, then cried, "Amber's always t-teasing me, and today s-she did th-that, then h-hit me." She lets out another wail as she rolls up her sleeve to reveal a bruise, just big enough and just gross enough to make you suddenly feel sorry for her.

Usually I never felt sympathy for first years and their mindless games. But today, I am a new person. I feel like she does deserve attention and sympathy. So we both move out of the path of the doorway, and Monica goes into the common room. I whisper, "You're going to be alright. Amber's just being a-"

The door swings open, and Draco walks out. He sees me, and turns his head to face me. As he opens his mouth to say something, I think that he is impressed with what I am doing. But he just closes his mouth and grabs my hand.

He pulls me away from the girl, who continues sobbing. His grasp on my hand is too strong for me to escape. It's not like when he held my hand this morning. This is not loving.

He pulls me up to the top of the staircase, and starts screaming. "What were you doing out there? Helping a Hufflepuff girl? What got into you over there?"

"Draco, she was…"

He doesn't let me finish my sentence. He reaches out his hand, and by the time I realize what is going on, blood is dribbling down my chin. I whip my hand across my chin to wipe some of the blood off. But it isn't doing me any good, because my lip is cracked and new blood is streaming down my lip and chin. I do not even want to try to speak to him.

I sit on the top step, hoping he leaves, but he doesn't. I look up, and, all my senses lost, I punch him in the stomach. He leans forward, and tries to say something to me but can't. I run to my dormitory.

Monica is sleeping on her bed next to me. I flop onto my bed, and she wakes up. It takes her a moment to realize what is happening, but after a minute, her face changes from drowsy to shocked.

"Gosh, Pansy, what happened to you?" I know that I must look terrible. But that doesn't stop her from coming up to me and carefully sliding her arms around me, like I am now more fragile. But maybe now that I am being someone I'm not, I guess she's right. I am more delicate and exposed.

She starts rubbing my back, and telling me that she is here for me, that it will turn out alright. It reminds me of the times when my mother comforted me because of Hazel's taunting. I hug her, letting sobs shaking my body, not caring what anyone else thinks. And for one moment, everything was

My parents gave me a photo album for my first Christmas here, so I could remember everything that happened during my years at Hogwarts. In the front, they had already put in a few pictures for me. Mostly they were of me and Aubrianna, hovering above the ground on her toy broomstick, or laughing at who-knows-what. Every time I feel homesick, I look through this book.

I flip to the back of the book, where Draco and I are sitting together. Draco has his usual smirk on his face, and though I was probably happy, I look like I do not want to be there. The picture was taken just weeks before I revealed myself to Draco. The day that picture was taken, I realized, though not for the first time, that I was getting in over my head. I was so stressed that day, that it finally was starting to get to me.

I don't want to think about that picture anymore, so I flip to another random page towards the back, but I didn't have a chance to see what the pictures are. Someone slams the book shut, and I quickly guess who it is. I look up, and Draco is smirking.

"Draco! What did you do that for?" I slid my hand out of the album and started rubbing it.

"Hey, I just wanted to apologize for what I did today."

"So you slam my hand in a book. Seriously, Draco, it doesn't make me want to forgive you so quickly…Okay." He sat down on the sofa, next to me. "What did you want to say?"

"Well, I guess you know already, but I'm sorry." Suddenly I wasn't so stressed. I was reassured that maybe all this time, my mother and Monica were right, even if I had doubted them before when everything seemed hopeless. I could never make everything okay, but my situation with Draco, I could tell, was going to get better.

"Also, I want you to know that I…well, I…um…" Before he could finish his sentence, he ran to the boy's dormitories, but I didn't mind. I knew what he was going to tell me.

He was going to tell me that he loved me.