Tiny Little Fractures

Disclaimer: I hereby disclaim ownership of Harry Potter. Title belongs to Snow Patrol. And that is that.

Summary: And she kept thinking back to when he'd always scowled at her, or hissed at her, but once upon a time she'd heard him say, turning away, that she shouldn't hide. Because hiding never hid you from the world. And the world just kept on living.

A/N: Written for the 3 Keys Fic Exchange over at livejournal (topic: All Hallow's Eve). Also, I stole the Alice idea from one of my other fics, Where Does the Good Go?, because I suck at thinking up costumes. One-shot.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Honeydukes was practically sealed up with gigantic cobwebs and hissing spiders. Tiny bats hung on the ceiling and there was something in the corner that cackled obnoxiously loud. Worse, it was jam-packed with students trying to get in and out. Hermione was one of them, caught in a tight squeeze between two Hufflepuffs. She felt someone ram their elbow into her back, and she flinched, yelling out loud.

"It isn't my fault, damn it!" she yelled, turning her face a little, her face now a little flushed. It was snowing outside – the streets were covered in white. But with almost everybody in an overstuffed sweets shop in heavy coats, not too mention breathing a little too hard, it was enough to make anyone sweat.

"Sorry!" she heard Ron say. "It was me. I didn't mean it. It's just that" – then she heard grunting. Then there was a blinding pain on the back of her neck. "Oh, fuck! Hermione! I'm so sorry about that! I didn't mean it–"

She was clutching the nape of her neck. "Shit, Ron!"

"I'm sorry!" he whined behind her. His mouth was nearly right on the top of her head. They were that close. "Fuck! Where the hell is Harry, anyway? Maybe we should just make one person get all the candy so the three of us wouldn't have to—"

Just then, she felt someone shove against her. The crowd yelled out curses as Hermione almost fell to the ground, but Ron had caught her shoulder – which hurt like hell, by the way. She looked up, glaring, and found someone next to her. He reeked of peppermint and spice.

"Well, Granger, you do know that in order to participate in an orgy your clothes have to be off," he smirked in her ear. She shoved her elbow into his rib, but he caught it, and she grunted, pulling, trying to get her arm back. He wouldn't let go.

"Fuck you, you overgrown rat," she hissed.

"Oh, I love it when you speak dirty to me," he smirked at her.

"Malfoy," Ron said dryly. "Leave us alone, will you? This is already as bad enough as it is. Bother us some other time. I know how much you hate your other hobbies."

He scowled, the light catching in his ash-blond hair and nearly blinding her.

"Tell your mom I said Hi, Weasley. We had a good time last night."

Hermione felt Ron lunge toward Malfoy, which meant he literally pushed his entire six foot two (and still growing) frame against her back, and she nearly fell forwards again. But yet again this was prevented – there was an arm keeping her in place. She looked down and saw Malfoy's arm stretched out in front of her, acting like a restraint, a protection from brutally falling to the floor and getting trampled on by the masses of overeager kids behind her. A look flashed on her face for a quick second, even though she knew nobody else could see what he had done, before he'd retrieved his arm.

Ron was breathing hard against Hermione's ear.

"Fuck you, man! I don't make jokes about your mom!"

"That's because you can't. My mom's dead."

Draco looked somber at this, and Hermione couldn't help but smile and shake her head.

"Get out of here, Malfoy. Go buy yourself a brand new diamond ring or something. Just leave us alone," she said, but she was still laughing.

He shrugged. "Fine. Too many bitches in here, anyway." And before he left, she felt something drop into her pocket. He brushed against her shoulder, and she felt a little spark of warmth jump from his bone to hers, before he squeezed back out of the crowd, the people groaning and murmuring behind him. Hermione tried to crane her neck to look behind her, but knew that was impossible, so she could only assume that he glared at the people moaning to shut them up.

Hermione told Ron to calm down, and he did, and while he busied himself with that, she slid her hand in her coat pocket and felt for what it was. It was a piece of candy.

She didn't dare take it out lest Ron saw it and started to talk shit again, so she just drew out her hand, patted her pocket and was finally relieved when the crowd started to move again. They took this as a chance to slip through (which took some very careful and slick maneuvering, but they did it) and they finally found Harry by the Risk Mints, mints that were particularly risky to take simply because each one was different and either made you lose your mind, do something horrible, or just… well, there were a million other things, but that was the basic concept.

"We should get out of here," Harry told them when they finally came around. "It's a madhouse."

"Yeah, see, we really didn't notice when we were getting dry humped by five people at the same time when we were coming in," Hermione dryly quipped.

"Right, right. I'm sorry for making you come in here. Stop whining, will you? It's Halloween in a few days. Cheer up."

Hermione nodded, rolling her eyes, but looked around and saw that Ron had disappeared. "Ron's gone off again. It's your turn this time. I'm getting out of here. It's getting hard to breathe," she said, watching a first year go by, apparently a Muggle-born, because he had his inhaler out, and they heard its contents move as he shook it up and down in the air, his face pink and glistening with sweat.

"All right then," Harry told her, looking at the candy jars again. "We'll see you later." The gummy worms were still trying to crawl out, almost tapping at the glass like fingers. "You sure you don't want anything?"

Hermione remembered the piece of candy in her pocket. "Nope. Thanks anyway. I'll see you later. Be safe."

It took her almost ten minutes trying to get out of the damn candy store alone, and when she finally did, all she did was stand there, in the cold, breathing in the fresh air. She'd never appreciated personal space as much as she did then.

"Thank you, God," she exaggerated, looking out. It'd gotten dark fast, and now the frosted streetlamps were all lit up. It was lightly snowing again, and she watched a few people go by. Not quite feeling up to returning to Hogwarts yet, she started towards the pub – but not really aiming to get inside and have a drink. Didn't really feel like it today – it was nice out here, tingly and frosty. Definitely gave her the vibe that the holidays were nearing them yet again. She started to think about how time seemed to fly by when they were preoccupied with other things. Their last Halloween at Hogwarts would be coming soon, followed by their last Christmas. They still had half of the year left to go, but she knew that would pass just as fast. Before they knew it, it would be graduation, and the rest of their lives they'd anticipated since as far back as she could remember, would begin.

After about seven minutes of walking by herself, she suddenly felt a presence next to her and didn't even bother to look up before she found herself smiling.

"Last time I heard, you had mail," she heard him say. It was a playful tone this time – something he didn't really engage in, but it was obvious he let loose when he was around her. She looked up, and his blond hair was almost as light as the snow. His cheeks were a little pink from the cold.

"Yeah," she laughed. "Yeah, I heard that, too."

"Well, whip it out then," he told her. "Let's see."

Hermione reached into her pocket and took out the piece of candy he'd secretly dropped in her pocket earlier, in Honeydukes. It was actually a candy ring, and she looked at it. It looked dazzling as they walked beneath a lamppost, and she slipped it on. She held it out for him to see.

"Well, there. How does it look?"

He peered at it. He grabbed her hand and brought it to his face. "You know what? You've got hairy knuckles."

She snatched her hand back, laughing. "Fuck you, man."

He was still smiling. "It looks good."

They just walked for a while, not saying anything, before he spoke up again.

"What are you doing on Thursday?"

She looked up at him. "The party, remember? The Halloween party?"

He scoffed. "Don't tell me you're going to that boring thing. They've got that shitty band playing, and all the professors are going to be patrolling around after what happened last time–"

"Nobody said you had to go," she pointed out to him, as smartass-y as she could, because she knew that charmed the pants off of him.

He scowled at her.

Hah. Just kidding.

"I know, Granger. But I don't want you to go, either."

She was surprised. "Why not? You think I'm going to get drunk and go off and do something reckless with someone?" She started to smile at his sudden possessiveness, enjoying the way he seemed to near his body towards her as they walked farther on. "You're thinking I might forget about you just because you're not there, is that it?"

He shrugged, but she could tell it wasn't like those other shrugs he pushed her way before. "More or less." She snorted. "I just mean, I want us to go somewhere. Alone."

She looked up at him again, her thumb playing the candy ring on her finger, moving it around. "Where?"

He smirked at her, the haughty kind that she hated. "You really think I'd give all my secrets away? Stop being so stupid, Granger." He motioned to her face. "Your face might be stuck that way forever."

She sighed. Her thumb left the ring alone. "Well, I promised Harry and Ron – I can't just bail on them like that."

His narrow face drew down into a glower. Her friends were always a sore subject for them to discuss. Sure, the hostility had lessened ever since the war, but it did not change the fact that they were still enemies. Not even the fact that she and Draco had began to engage privately. If everything had been as dandy as those fairytales said, they would find no need for dropping candy rings secretly in coat pockets or covert meetings. The end of the war still wouldn't change the reaction in the public when they learned about her and Draco's "relationship." They were too smart not to know that.

"Well, Potter and Weasley aren't your boyfriends, are they?"

Hermione stiffened. She hated the tone of his voice – it sort of stung her inside. "Stop that, Draco. I thought we agreed—"

He scoffed, nodding his head, a frustrated expression on his face. "Oh, right. We aren't official. We're just trying it out, like this is some kind of shoe you see at a shop, or a coat. If it doesn't fit you'll put it back on the rack and leave. Tell me, Granger, when are you going to be ready to commit to something big and scary instead of settling for lame-as-fuck liaisons like this, huh?"

Her eyebrows furrowed angrily as she looked at his face, her chest clenching inside of her body. She felt shock running along with her pulse from his quick temper, but it quickly passed. Her fists clenched and she felt a cold draft pass her way, sending shivers down to her knees. "Look, we talked about this, and you said—"

"Things change, Granger," he told her forcefully, suddenly stopping her, grabbing her shoulders. Her heels dug into the snow below her.

His face was just inches from her own, and she only realized that she'd started to hold her breath when he'd accosted her.

"Malfoy," she said quietly, nervously looking around at the people passing by, watching them curiously, "let's talk about this later."

And then he pulled back from her, sighing, still looking angry. "What are you really afraid of, Granger? I thought I was the wimp here, not you."

"I'm not afraid of anything," she said through gritted teeth.

"Is it the war? Is that it?" he asked her, his eyes shrinking to slits. "Because that ended, you know. People died. My mother died. My father died. My whole fucking family died. So what line are you so careful not to step out of? Because," he said, gesturing around them, irritating her even more, "I don't see any."

"Because you've got nothing to lose," she hissed. "You've already lost everything."

"Well, damn!" he yelled at her, and she flinched. "At least that's good for something, right?

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she asked him, her voice rising. "Last time we talked about this, you weren't even ready to—"

"Things change," he repeated to her.

"What do you want from me?" she yelled, catching the attention of some passerby. "What else could I possibly give you?" Unknowingly, she started to tear up. She hated these damn moments. They reminded her of all the Muggle picture shows she'd seen, the sappy romantic ones, where they always had scenes like this. It'd felt a lot different, though, sitting in her seat with her popcorn and looking up at the screen.

It'd hurt a lot less.

What was it about things now that she couldn't let go? Was it really a matter of being afraid to give her heart away completely – or was it out of forward thinking, that she really wanted to preserve part of it for her Great Love? And was it wrong that she thought he wasn't going to be that – her Great Love? Because after the war, it was true, everybody had been shaken and rattled in the things they thought they would always stand firm in. Things like Good, and Evil – because she realized that there wasn't a Good, or an Evil. Just a common basic thought, or idea. And the people who stood in between were always considered enemies, too, or cowards – when really, they just wanted no part in it.

And wasn't it a great surprise when she'd ended up walking back to their victory with another prize in hand: Draco Malfoy's heart? But what was it about her now that when she lay awake in bed, thinking, she didn't feel the flutter in her heart whenever she thought of him? That maybe she felt bound to things she didn't feel, just because when she'd made that tiny step across the now-inexistent line – he'd assumed she'd ran the whole mile?

Was she trying too hard not to set herself up for something potentially great – or horrible – or was she simply just too much in the gray area, still wallowing there, waiting for something to lift her up from that?

He wasn't doing that for her, not right now. He was trying to, but he couldn't. Like she was stuck in it.

His eyes were dark, but they glittered from the whiteness of the snow around them. "I don't know," he told her coldly. "I thought you could tell me."

A breath escaped from her lips, forming a white vapor, but silence reverberated from her body to his, and his body to hers.

"I don't know what you want from me," she finally whispered. But she didn't tell him that she was trying, because suddenly she was overcome with doubts she thought she'd long buried. And she knew that if she spoke anymore, he'd see right through her.

He looked at her, hard, for a long time. "Keep the ring," he told her, starting to walk backwards, and he started to shrink away in front of her, slowly. "I don't want it." Then he turned around, his black coat so distracting from the contrast of the whiteness of the snow, leaving her behind.

And Hermione, she just stared after him. A small white fleck landed in her hair, and then more came, sprinkling down on her, baptizing her in its minute glory. She looked up to the snow, feeling its coolness on her face, and just stood there awhile. When she opened her eyes she saw nothing but the night sky, and the stars were luminous above her, reminding her of how absolutely shitty her own world was, and how impossible that was going to be to fix.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In class, and everywhere else, students from all Houses and years bounced off the balls of their feet in eager anticipation for All Hallow's Eve. The house-elves had taken to decorating the common rooms, as well as the Great Hall and the corridors. The ghosts were in high spirits ("A funny saying, I say, because we are spirits, and we are high," winked Sir Nicholas) as they glided around with happy faces, chatting about the joy of Halloween.

Ron and Harry were ones especially excited for the coming holiday. They'd already mastered their costumes for the party on Thursday night and had snagged dates. Of course, ever since what happened on the night they'd visited Hogsmeade, Hermione had seemed to lose what little enthusiasm she had for the occasion. Not that she went around showing it – she was her usual self, reading books at the table, studying; for lack of better things to do. She'd chosen to be Alice from Through the Looking Glass and already had the appropriate clothes for it, and while it looked a great deal of fun, as Harry and Ron talked on and on about it with bright eyes at breakfast, she just continued to read her book and eat her meal.

"Oy, Hermione. What's wrong with you? You on your monthly or something?"

Hermione looked up, frowning a little. "No, I'm not on my monthly. Not that it's any of your business."

"You're the only one who isn't in bunches thinking about tonight!" Harry informed her. "Come on, don't you think it's going to be fantastic?"

"Yeah, who do you think's gonna win the contest?" Ron asked.

"I don't know," she told them, though she feigned it as if she was actually thinking about it. "And I do think it's going to be fun. But the hype's not gotten to me." She shrugged. "Go figure."

Ron waved it off. "Nah, you wait and see, Hermione. It'll hit you like a wall of bricks. You'll be going insane from all the fun by the end of the night, I promise you."

She looked up, then, straight across the room, where the Slytherins sat. She watched for a second as Draco was talking to Pansy and Millicent with Blaise alongside them, nodding and laughing.

"Right," she muttered under her breath, before looking back down at her book and flipping the page.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Later on, the Girls' Dormitory in Gryffindor Tower was quite a hazardous place – the air smelled of hairspray and a blend of numerous perfumes that made all of the girls hold their breath as they passed. Make-up was being spilled, removers were getting passed back and forth, and big hair was the "thing." The girls had even conjured up seven more mirrors. There was frenetic chatting, half-naked girls running around the dorm, and lots and lots of lipstick.

Hermione retreated to the loo, where she also found Parvati, who was doing her make-up there instead. The loo was empty because of its poor lighting; the girls took note of this and left it vacant – leaving it a safe haven to people like Hermione.

"Hey Hermione," said Parvati, putting on mascara.

"Parvati," said Hermione, nodding to her. "I take it you're—"

"Too much chaos out there," Parvati shrugged, being careful to separate her lashes with a needle. "Can't stand it when they start getting shrill. The hairspray makes me gag. So I thought, why not? Shitty lighting, true. But I reckon it can't be as bad as out there." She lowered the needle a little from her eye (unknowingly relieving Hermione, who was always nervous when it came to sharp things near sensitive parts of the body like eyes), turning her face to her.

"Alice, huh?" Parvati smiled wryly. "Suits you perfectly."

Hermione looked down at her dress. "Thanks," she said. "I guess."

Parvati raised the needle again and started to separate her lashes on her other eye. "So, who's your date?"

"No one," said Hermione, fetching out her comb. "I'm going with Harry and Ron."

"Oh," she replied flatly. "Don't Harry and Ron have dates? I thought I heard—"

"Yeah, they do," Hermione said, combing through her damp hair.

"Why didn't you ask anyone? I mean, what's stopping you? Even Neville's got a date." She exaggerated this by squinting her eyes. "I really do think you've got a lot of blossoming to do, Hermione."

"Blossoming?" Hermione smiled.

"Yeah," said Parvati nonchalantly. "Like a flower. You know." She set down the needle, tucking it in a cloth and putting it back in her bag. She then got out some concealer. She sent Hermione a look. "I saw you, you know. The other night."

Hermione tensed. "Other night?"

"Uh huh," said Parvati, looking at her through the mirror, the small bottle in her hands. "At Hogsmeade. With Malfoy."

"Oh," she replied, her stomach suddenly filled with bulky knots. "That. We were just talking."

"Talking." She twisted off the cap. "Of course."

Hermione looked at her seriously. "It was nothing, Parvati."

She was dabbing on the concealer little by little. First around her eyes. "Fine. I believe you, Hermione. But, I mean – I was just confused, that's all. I heard Pansy talking in the hallway the other day. Draco asked her to the Halloween party." She lowered her hand, poised inches from the mirror. "And I just thought, since the war's over, why hide? What's the danger in letting the public know how you feel about each other?" She paused. "It can't be worth it, can it? Seeing him with another girl?"

Hermione stared at Parvati in the mirror, trying to soak in what she had said.

"It can't be worth it, can it? Seeing him with another girl?"

She put her comb back in her bag. "I don't know. Thanks anyway, Parvati. Have fun tonight." And then she left.

Hermione rushed back into the haze of hairspray and tight, shiny costumes. Somehow the girls, as they passed, turned into blurs. The kind that people always get when they're in a moving car and they try to take a picture of something. Like it was all smeared, and there was no true detail, and everything about it was ambiguous and undefined. Out of focus. Distracted. Like she – or it – was moving too fast. But here was the question: which one was it? Was it she, who was out of pace? Or was the world just moving way too fast for her to take it in?

She sat down on her bed, and their chattering filled her ears. The abstract glare of their glitzy costumes came and went, and then they were gone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hermione arrived at the Great Hall a little late. Half an hour late, to be exact. She'd stopped by to help one of the first years with her make-up and costume – she'd had detention and it'd caused her to fall behind with her preparation. But when she'd been helping the girl, she felt relieved. There was no need in her that desired to get there early. There was no need in her that desired to even go at all. But she remembered that she'd promised Harry and Ron she'd show up. She was thinking to maybe hang around for thirty minutes before leaving. They probably wouldn't even notice.

"Hermione, don't you want to dance?" Ginny asked her, as Hermione was sitting at one of the tables, drinking punch.

"Not really," she replied.

"Oh, come on," Ginny insisted. "You've got to dance!" Just then, Seamus came around, grabbing a cup off of the table and drinking from it. Hermione eyed him, laughing.

"That's not yours, you know," she pointed out.

"I know," he said, as he downed it. Then he laid the cup back down. "Now, why aren't a pair of you lovely ladies out there on the dance floor?" he asked, looking particularly nice in his suit. Everybody had asked him what he was, and all he said was, "Bond. James Bond." Apparently Dean had shown him a few pictures and had gotten him obsessed with the secret agent business.

Ginny smiled, glancing at Hermione. "Seamus, Hermione's being a spoilsport here. What do you say to giving her a dance around?"

Seamus grinned, flashing his pearly whites. "I say, couldn't have been truer to your word, Gin." He extended his hand to her, bowing. "May I have this dance, oh spoilsport?"

Hermione laughed. She figured she ought to give it a go. "You may."

It was an upbeat song they danced to, and she was pleased by Seamus' rhythm and pace. He didn't clobber all over her feet like Harry and Ron had, which relieved her immensely.

"You're a good dancer," she told him.

"Why, thank you," he told her, trying to sound suave. "I am also good at other things. Dancing is just a preview. You know what they say about blokes who dance well."

Hermione quirked an eyebrow as he spun her.

"No, I don't know," she told him.

"I don't either," he grinned. "I was just saying it because it sounded cool. Gotta talk the part, too, you know," he told her. "If I'm dressed like James Bond, I have to talk like James Bond."

"I don't think James Bond ever said anything like that."

Seamus shrugged. "Oh well."

As they were dancing and talking, however, Hermione caught something familiar out of the corner of her eye. She began to look that way as Seamus led her to the middle of the floor, bringing her closer, where she then discovered at what had caught her attention.

There was Draco Malfoy, dancing with Pansy Parkinson, just a few steps away from him. Hermione, however, when he'd turn to look at her, looked away immediately, her cheeks flushing instantly. She tightened her hold on Seamus, feeling sweat drip out of her pores and the cords within her body tighten. For a second, when she looked around, everything was a mass blur again. Then she blinked, and it was back to normal.

"Everything all right, Hermione?" Seamus said, peering at her face. "You're… flushed."

She laughed nervously. "I'm getting a bit hot out here. I think… I think I need to go get some fresh air." She stopped, letting go of him. "Thanks for the dance, Seamus. Really."

"No problem," he told her, though it was very obvious that he was confused by the abrupt end of their dance. "We could still go on, you know, the song isn't over—"

"No thanks. I've really got to go outside." She held her head. "I've got a headache."

So with that excuse she left the Great Hall. As she walked down the music became quieter, and quieter, and the more she felt like the walls had slowed their closing in on her. She inhaled noisily, grateful for the silence, and decided to sneak out to the lake. She slipped through the doors and walked through the snow, though it was absolutely freezing, and she'd gone without a coat. She only held herself and felt the wetness squeak against her shoes, heading towards Squid's home.

The air was cold and sharp, quickly penetrating through her skin. She felt the restrictions of the dense air embed into her face, and she almost felt as if she was made of ice herself.

There was a bench by the lake. She brushed off the snow and sat down, feeling the moisture soak through her dress, but realized she just didn't give enough of a damn. She sat out there, facing towards the lake. It wasn't frozen yet – but it would be, soon, and they would have to move Squid to that aquarium facility just for the season. Everybody would then dig out their ice skates and crowd over the frozen water.

She felt a little sad for Squid. She didn't know how it felt, having to be pulled out of your home. Then again, Squid would always return. But how did that feel, exactly? Being pulled out of your comfort zone – and then being put back in?

She sat there for a while, thinking. It didn't start to snow, but she could feel that overnight there would be a blizzard. The clouds were thick and heavy when she looked up. She could almost taste their precipitous viciousness when she parted her mouth, just a little. The cold cut her tongue.

She was too absorbed in her thoughts to hear the quiet sound of footsteps in the snow, heading towards her. What she did notice, however, was the sudden weight and warmth draped over her frozen body, sending tingles rocketing up her body – fixedly purging her of her icy stiffness. She looked down, recognizing the cloak, and then felt a presence beside her.

He was standing up. From where she was, he seemed a million miles above her.

"You shouldn't come out here without a coat," he told her, flatly, looking forwards.

She shrugged his cape off. "You've got no authority over me," she said coldly. "I can do whatever I want."

"Don't be a bitch, Granger. Just don't."

She stayed quiet, glaring at the lake.

"I know you're angry."

"I'm not angry."

"Yes, you are. You saw me with Pansy, and now you're—"

"And now I'm what?" she snapped, her cold-chapped lips painfully stretching with her brutal syllables. "Now I'm what? Acting unfairly? Being temperamental? Being melodramatic over something so fucking stupid? Really, tell me, Draco. I really want to know just in what way you're judging me now."

His face turned into a glower, as well. "Yes. Unreasonable. You're being unreasonable."

She scoffed. "And this from the boy who threw a fit in the middle of the street over something—"

"Don't act like that'll justify what happened," he snarled at her.

Hermione looked away. "Take your cloak. I don't want it."

"It doesn't matter if you want it or not," he said to her, frigidly. "You need it."

She shook her head. "You're no judge of that."

"Well, neither are you."

"What do you want?" she demanded.

"I want to know why you insist on distancing yourself from me," he almost yelled at her, looking angry. "I mean, what the hell is wrong with us? What is it about us that makes you so damn scared?"

"Who said I was scared?" she said, her eyes narrowing. "Maybe I just don't feel the same way you do."

His expression faltered – but just for a second. "Don't try to act so tough, Hermione. It's old."

"Look," she told him. "If you want to end it, then fine. Just end it."

There was a long silence after this. She could swear she could hear the crackling of the snow, and the sound of the frigid drafts passing by. Neither of them could look at the other. It was too hard.

"I don't want to end it," he finally told her, firmly. "I just want to understand."

And the thing was, everybody wanted to understand. It wasn't just him. She wanted to understand, too.

She looked down. For once, she felt her anger slowly melting away. Because his sincerity was something she couldn't stand – it wasn't often encountered, so when it did come out, it was a big deal. It was special. It meant that he was trying. But was that enough? Trying? Was it ever going to be enough to convince her to just let go?

"Maybe we're just too different."

"People always say that. They're never different."

"Maybe," she said silently. "But there's just something about us, Draco. I feel like it's not it. Does that make sense? That I just can't… commit. Because I'm not ready."

"Okay," he told her. "Okay."

And it was just like that. He sat down next to her, and put his cloak over her shoulders again, and this time she didn't shrug it away. They just sat there, in the freezing cold, but somehow it didn't feel so bad anymore. She looked beside her, and though he was about a head taller than her, he wasn't a million miles up. He was right next to her. And she felt it.

His fingers were against hers, squeezing tightly.

Was it possible that just accepting your fears was enough? For a while? That saying them out loud – that you were afraid, and just weren't ready – was enough for two people to find some kind of bridge – tie a temporary knot to bind the broken ends, just until they came across the real thing? Was it enough to confess the truth – and was it enough that the other end of you was able to sympathize?

Because as she sat there with him, she felt like maybe it was. But perhaps it wasn't, for some people. But it kind of was, for them. They weren't taking the plunge – but little steps, little at a time, until they were finally at the edge, and ready. But for now he was taking her there, wallowing with her, slowly wading through the pool.

Just then, he stood up, bringing her up with him. He began to smile at her as he took something out of his pocket.

"What are you doing?" she asked him.

"Just wait and see," he said, smirking at her.

He took out a sparkler. The magical kind that didn't burn anyone but was just as vivid and perfect. He allowed it to light up as it was exposed to the air, counting in a whisper, as Hermione laughed in delight when the tip began to glow, and the top popped off, the sparks spilling out like a bottle of champagne.

The sparks from the sparkler, glowing and violent but greatly astonishing against the dark, reminded her of all the tiny little fractures that had snuck up on her. No - them. All of them. The four of them. Fractures that had been hiding in the crevices until they'd jumped out, all at the same time, and had torn them apart with things like war, and fear, and loss.

And that's what they were.

Tiny little fractures.

Harry Potter, who'd been laughing with Ron and Dean, thought he saw it in everybody's eyes around him.

Ron Weasley, who'd been taking a drink out of his cup, thought he saw it whizzing across the sky.

And Hermione, her face bright and smiling underneath the electric razz, was anything but surprised when he leaned down and kissed her, slipping a brand new candy ring on her finger, and the tiny little fractures exploded all around them until they were no more.

End.


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