Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. All characters you recognize belong to J.K. Rowling, all other are mine. All hail J.K. for giving us fodder to fuel our literary ambitions. Now, on with the show!

Almost

By Savanasi

The darkness cascaded down into the glistening streets of Hogsmeade. Rain dripped down gutters and sloshed along the edge of the road, drowning the enchanted village in murky waters that expelled an almost musical sound. The icicles still hanging from roof edges and sharp ledges twinkled dangerously in the twilight, the moon's aura glinting off of them. An ominous cloud of despair hung over the quiet scene, broken only by the hurried footsteps of a seventeen year old witch, desperately trying to make it back to Honeydukes before it closed.

The more intelligent third of the infamous golden trio, scampered along, clutching her books to her chest and muttering darkly about some event that had delayed her return to Hogwarts; and a wonderfully warm Hogwarts at that. Glancing about in the dense darkness, Hermione pulled out her wand and whispered a drying spell, attempting to keep her books away from the moisture in the air.

The moon slid behind a cloud and the roads were drenched in darkness for a long, quiet minute. As the seconds ticked slowly by, the thumping of several other pairs of shoes join the sound of Hermione's feet. These however, were much heavier boots and thudded along the wet street and then came to shocking stop about ten feet from her.

Hermione, thinking the boots a figment of her imagination or the echo of another waylaid student, continued down her path, cursing Harry and Ron for leaving their assignments till the last minute and not telling her that they couldn't join her in her excursion until well after nine.

The moon drifted back into view, and she huffed a soft sigh of relief at not having to stop and place everything down to dig in her robes for her wand. Unfortunately her luck ran out as the moon plunged permanently into the vast canopy of an approaching stratocumulus. Cursing vehemently at this new twist in her journey, she found a bench on the deserted street, placed her bags down, and began searching feverishly for her wand.

"Lumos."

The soft glow pulsed around her, bathing the surrounding foot and half in a sweet greenish light. But her relief was short lived as the footsteps returned this time, closer and then she smelt it: the dark odor of rotting flesh coupled with expensive cologne.

Death Eaters.

"Nox." Hermione whispered almost inaudibly, trying to make herself as discreet as possible, keeping the advantage of surprise on her side.

"Lucius, I understand the task, but why has the Lord sent only two of us to follow your son."

"Quiet, you fool! She may be dirty, but the girl is not stupid. She will hear you and then all will be for naught!"

The hushed voices grew a smidge louder before dropping off considerably into the darkness. Breathing in deeply, Hermione glanced towards the village, only to see heavy fog rolling down over mountains behind and creeping ever so slowly in her direction.

'Great. Just bloody fabulous.'

Shifting her books so that her wand was in her right hand and completely unhindered she cautiously made her way back onto the street. The lights of the shops were drawing nearer; only a few more steps.

And then she heard it: a soft groaning baritone breathing heavily in the bushes up ahead. Darting quickly towards the sound, Hermione approached the foliage with utmost caution, before a large, warm hand covered her mouth and another grasped her waist and yanked her backwards into the sodden leaves. She gasped under the hand, trying desperately to kick at her attacker only to be shushed by a soft, deep voice.

"Granger, stop moving. It's just me." Draco whispered, his soft, blond hair brushing against her cheek as he glanced around trying to see if they had been spotted. Satisfied with his search, he looked back down at the young woman in his arms before turning her roughly around and pulling her to the floor.

"Malfoy?" Hermione gasped, finally getting the ability to breathe properly back.

"Yes, now shut up and let me think."

"Mal-,"

"I said, shut up and let me fucking think, mudblood." He cut in, viciously cuffing her and then sending an irritated hand through his hair.

At this, Hermione's eyes widened in surprise and then she scampered backwards, trying to put as much space between them as possible. Gazing around, her eyes landed on a shoe, a very moldy old shoe.

Sparing a quick glance back at Draco, who was completely occupied by his incessant mutterings, she crept forward into the next range of bushes and had just reached the shoe when the footsteps started up in a quiet frenzy and then there was dead silence.

"Get up boy." A cold voice rang out in the darkness and Hermione watched as Draco rose up, his hands clenched into fists and his eyes narrowed in anger.

"What?" He demanded, his tone completely devoid of fear.

"Don't you dare 'what?' me Draco, I would've thought I had raised you better than that."

"Father?"

"I stopped being a father to you the day you betrayed our legacy."

There was a pause as Draco raised a single eyebrow at the man who was so many years his senior.

"Lower your wand, Lucius," he drawled, again feigning nonchalance.

Apparently Lucius's patience had worn thin and bare as he shoved his former son bitterly to the ground and then made use of the wand that had been waiting eagerly.

"Crucio!"

Hermione felt the hairs on her neck prickle in horror, as Malfoy began to shake and spasm as the pains shot through his body. The shock only lasted mere moments however, as she pulled herself together, grasped the shoe firmly in hand and then darted in to the center.

"Expelliarmus!" She cried, her voice breaking slightly but the fierceness never leaving it. Malfoy Senior's wand soared into the surrounding bushes and Draco immediately stilled before sitting up slowly. Hermione walked gingerly over to him and put herself in front of him.

"Don't touch him." Her voice wavered slightly; she switched her wand from Lucius to his apprentice and then back again.

"Oh look, the little mudblood thinks she can stop us. How quaint." Lucius sneered his face partially hidden in the shadows.

"Draco, grab my hand and run." Hermione whispered out of the corner of her mouth, her eyes watching the two death eaters suspiciously. She waited a moment before extending her hand and helping a considerably larger and heavier Draco up.

And then they ran.

Draco dashed forward, years of Quidditch finally being put to practical use as he jumped through the shrubbery and moved impossibly fast away from the death eaters. Hermione panted and pushed to keep up and was managing supremely well until a fateful upturned root got in her way, and sent her tumbling ungracefully to the forest floor. The crash ignited a series of multicolored flashes of light as the two death eaters, hot on their trail, fired to the best of their ability, hoping to hit their prey on a lucky shot.

Draco had come to stop the moment he heard the crash and looked back over his shoulder at her. His eyes widened as he saw her grimace in pain and attempt to get up before crumbling to the floor. She looked up at him, a shadow of fleeting hope passing across her face, her eyes twinkling slightly in the dark. His heartbeat quickened as he saw his father coming up behind her, spells erupting from his wand. He lowered his gaze and met her eyes, and he saw her eyes cloud over in pain. She blinked rapidly for a second and then closed her eyes and slumped down defeated. His body turned as he considered his options, realizing the ramifications of being caught now.

Her face flashed before him, the look of sheer will power in her eyes as she sprang from the bushes only moments before to save him. And that should have been all it took.

In fact, he almost turned back to save her.

Almost.