Title: The Hard Way

Rating: This will probably be an M rated story eventually. For now though, I'm marking it as T.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to JK Rowling. I merely borrow them, manipulate them and play with them – all for my own twisted pleasure.

A/N: To any of my Bones readers out there, you probably think I am crazy and well, yeah, I am, but I have taken a notion for this ship and well, it has bitten me bad. Also, my other account has fucked up over on the HP archive and I am not recognised.

Also, if anyone is reading this as The Bewitched One – I am the same person, not just stealing someone else's story. Thanks.


The first indication that something, however infinitesimal, had changed came in his fifth year at Hogwarts. Not long after term had started in fact. The weather had only started to shift from summer to autumn and the air still carried a floral sweetness and indolent warmth. Strolling back from Quidditch practice, he was in no hurry to reach the oppressive school dungeons, preferring instead, the half-hearted breeze mixed with the scent of freshly cut grass and ruffled through his silver-blond hair.

He hadn't changed from his Quidditch uniform but it was simply too hot to wear the entire ensemble, so he had taken off his emerald and silver cloak and draped the luxurious garment over one shoulder instead, taking the winding path back to the castle at his leisure because, as a rule, he did not rush.

He had been musing over his new tactics for the year, kicking a shiny brown conker along the path when he heard it. At first, as his chrome eyes shot along the grass, he thought perhaps he might have imagined it. He stopped, his broomstick clutched tightly in his fist as he leaned his ear in the direction of the supposed sound and waited until the shrill, whimpering cry rang through the harvest air again.

Interest aroused, conker forgotten, he strode in the direction of the noise, a prickle of sweat forming on his brow because he was defying one of his own rules about hurrying. Reflecting on this for a moment, he made a conscious effort to slow down, not wishing to betray his cool exterior. When he slid around the corner, the sight that he stumbled upon displeased him greatly.

In hindsight, it was the effect such sight had on him that he was displeased the most about. He had so been enjoying the quiet calm of the September evening and he had no desire to play hero; to her or anyone else, but especially her.

Thomas Bryson of Ravenclaw, who was a year older than him and a considerable bit taller, had her pressed against the wall, his pale ash-wood wand pointed at her heart. He was growling at her, calling her names that, although Draco Malfoy agreed with every single one of them, he believed Bryson had no business saying.

He had insinuated his thigh between hers, forcing her legs apart. Her pleated school skirt rode high on her legs and her eyes, wide and rounded as a frightened rabbit, darted across the ancient stones behind Bryson's head, searching for her wand.

Propping his broom against one of Hogwarts' soaring towers, Malfoy slid his fingers into his cloak and removed his wand.

Up until that point he would have believed nothing significant had changed at all. She was struggling in the firm grip of an older Ravenclaw boy and her words were every bit as filthy as his, but with each wriggle of her body, Bryson's fingers tightened around her arm (in a manner which Draco suspected would leave considerable bruises after) and his growls lowered to the point that he was a snarling animal.

Striding over the flagstones of the plaza, Hermione Granger's eyes met his and he steadfast refused to acknowledge her plight. Bryson did not hear his approach and in fact did not recognize his presence at all until the tip of Draco's wand was pressed to the back of his ear.

"Get off her," he hissed to the sixth year in a menacing way that only a Malfoy and a Slytherin could possibly manage. Bryson lowered his own wand from where it was pressed to Granger's chest.

"Piss off Malfoy," the Ravenclaw replied with a nasty spit. "Slide off back to the dungeon and mind your own business." Draco's fingers tightened around his wand, digging into the spot behind Bryson's earlobe.

"I said," he bit out slowly, as though speaking to a particularly difficult child, "to get-the-fuck-off-her." Cursing was one of Draco's many vices, but it didn't occur to him on this particular evening that he had cursed at all. In fact, he was somewhat preoccupied with the frightened whimpers of Granger. Bryson's grasp around her slackened and she was like a puppet whose controller had released her strings, for she slid to the ground, legs folded beneath her.

"You want to fight over the mudblood, Malfoy?" Bryson asked, a snort of disbelief rising in his chest. Draco's slate eyes narrowed, but if he was having doubts about defending her honour (which he was) he did not show it. "Very un-Slytherin of you. And for a Gryffindor?" Bryson had wicked eyes, Draco thought, his wand aimed over his heart.

"A mudblood Gryffindor she might be," he replied with a low snarl, "but she's a female mudblood Gryffindor and if you were a basilisk or a dragon I'd let you have her," a part of his mind wondered if this was altogether true, "but what kind of a cowardly man corners a woman at night and tries to… well… whatever you were trying to do?" Bryson lifted his chin in defiance while Hermione rummaged about the flagstones for her wand, her fingers trembling awfully.

"Teach her a lesson," Bryson spat. Draco shrugged indifferently.

"Whatever. You're a coward." The Ravenclaw flicked his wrist, a formidable curse rising on his lips. Draco was faster, too shrewd a Slytherin to let someone as simple minded and as foolish as Bryson to hex him. "Expelliarmus," he commanded and Bryson flew twenty feet into the air, spinning like a lopsided, slightly dysfunctional top. His wand landed with a thud in the rose bushes ten feet behind him and when he rose from the stony ground, Bryson looked dazed, as if he couldn't believe that a fifth year and gotten one over on him. "Piss off back to your common room Bryson because expelliarmus is not the worst curse I could do."

Draco snatched his broom from where it lay against the wall of the tower, his fingers a tight fist as he slid his wand back into his cloak. "And as for you, Granger, if you're going to walk about the school grounds alone, you deserve everything you get!"

Snapping at her was perhaps his way of rectifying his moment of good nature – for Draco was not familiar with helping others and especially not without a motive.

She had found her wand and was cradling it against her chest, her knees still bent beneath her and her lower lip trembled maddeningly with fear. "And pull yourself together for God's sake!" Draco snapped, wound up tighter than a spring now, "Gryffindor courage indeed? I should think not!"

And once he saw that Bryson had sunk into the shadows and away into the castle, he stalked off, as fast as his sinewy legs would carry him for, Merlin forbid, any of his housemates see that he had saved the life, or at least the virtue, of a mudblood!

He dwelled on that good deed of his for months, trying to reason it out, rationalise it because, he knew, he had no logical reason, none whatsoever, for wanting to see her spared. He hated her, after all.

Lucius would have said that his son was going soft and Draco had to agree, as he paced the Slytherin common room, night after night, haunted by the memory of his encounter with Bryson that autumn evening.

If this is what it feels like to do something noble, screw it! He thought, remembering with stunning clarity, the look on Granger's face when she saw him and their gazes, pureblood to mudblood, fused for the briefest of seconds when he had felt almost… what? He often asked himself. Protective?

His teasing of her continued mercilessly and if anything, he stepped his taunts up a notch, preferring to drown out the memories of his kindness, because that's what it was, really.

Well into their sixth year, when Bryson, a burly seventh year, could still not look Draco in the eye, he bumped into her as she was leaving the library, her wild hair scraped back into a tight knot at the nape of her neck. They had never been alone together since that September evening, and when he was, trying to shimmy past her into the library, Draco found that he was quite intimidated by her and he did not like to feel intimidated by anyone.

"Out of my way you dirty little-" and then he stopped because, with no one to put a show on for, he found that he didn't want to insult her. Not really. He hated her. Despised, if it were more intense a word than hated. Yet her downcast gaze, the pinkish tinge of embarrassment that dusted her cheekbones filled him with shame. He was not at all familiar with the concept of shame and he felt certain that her dirty-blood and the values of such heritage had somehow rubbed off on him and he felt… polluted.

"Malfoy-" Granger began and he shot her the fiery glare of liquid mercury.

"Piss off," he spat and her open mouth snapped shut, her jaw tight with annoyance and humiliation.

"Fine," she retorted, spinning on her heel and striding off down the corridor, mumbling under her breath about how much she loathed him.

He never had reason to be in her company for the remainder of his sixth year, but at night, when sleep didn't come easily, he tossed restlessly with her seemingly pure face in the recesses of his mind.

It was on the carriage back to Hogwarts after the summer, however, that the consequences of that afternoon way back in fifth year began to unfold.

A/N: Over Parchment and Books might be continued at some stage but right now I am leaving it for awhile because the whole 'present tense' thing is quite difficult for me to master, no matter how many pages of it that I write. I hope you see potential in this one, however and I'd love to know what everyone thinks.

Also, if anyone here is a fan of Bones or The X-Files, I am Pereybere over on that archive – so check me out. I've been dabbling in a bit of everything of late.