The Ladder

Hermione Granger needed help. It had taken a very long time for her to come to that conclusion, and she did not like it at all. She was the cleverest witch of her age, after all. People came to her for help. She knew the answers, cast the spells, and found the solutions. She was seldom in a position of helplessness.

The ladder shifted minutely, and her breath caught in her throat. She fought to keep still, and winced at the burning pain in the back of her head. God, it was so stupid!

A series of ridiculous mishaps had led to her current predicament. She had gone to the library alone, sneaking out of the Gryffindor common room with Harry's cloak. It was long past midnight, but she had not been able to sleep. The Arithmancy formula she needed to solve tomorrow's problem had kept dancing just out of her reach. She had gotten up to research.

The books she needed had been high on a library shelf. She had rolled the ladder over and climbed up, and up, and up to the dusty shelf. The tomes were large and she had stupidly pulled out five of them, stacking them perilously high on one arm instead of Levitating them. She blamed exhaustion for her stupidity. That and the fact that she had just returned from a holiday with her parents, and was used to doing things the Muggle way.

Her foot had slipped on a rung, dislodging the books and snapping the lit wand from her belt where she had tucked it. She had nearly fallen, and spun around to clutch at the sides of the ladder, sending the final two books dropping to the floor. Her hair had flown out like a shampoo model's, and snagged quite firmly on a metal bracket used to hold the rungs to the ladder sides. Her twisting motion had also apparently dislodged a wheel from the track far above, causing the ladder to uncouple and lurch violently.

Hermione had clutched the ladder for dear life, and felt a large hunk of hair threaten to tear out as she did so. She had frozen with her heart in her throat, perilously perched on the ladder in the darkness.

When her panic had subsided, Hermione had tried Summoning her wand, but it must have been trapped by the heavy books. If she tried to move, even to inch upward and free her hair, the ladder creaked alarmingly, held in place by a single wheel.

Hermione was stuck.

She thought hours had passed—her thighs ached with the effort of not moving, and every attempt to reach up and free her caught hair had succeeded only in trapping it further.

The library door opened. Oh, thank God, she thought fervently.

"Help!" she cried, not caring if Madam Pince, Filch or even Professor Snape appeared, so long as they helped her down. Anyone would be acceptable. That foolish thought was immediately revised when the light from an upheld wand revealed the aristocratic face of Draco Malfoy.

"Well, well, well," he said with a smirk. "What have we here?"

Hermione was not big on swearing, but she uttered a good number of curse words under her breath at that moment.

"I don't suppose you would consent to help me down?" she asked without hope.

"No, I would not." Malfoy grinned wickedly. Hermione felt very exposed, trapped with her back to a rickety ladder, wearing a skirt that seemed suddenly far too short, and being perused by the boy most likely to hex her. She pressed her knees together quickly, and held tightly as the ladder began to sway with the motion. "I think I'll stand here and bask in your helplessness, while I marvel at the sheer stupidity of your situation. Damned pity I don't have a camera."

The Slytherin was true to his word, and stood at the bottom of the ladder, grinning up at her lazily. She glared down at him. After a moment, she realized he looked different from normal—softer, somehow. She decided it must be the lack of uniform. He wore black trousers and a loose shirt of some pale color that appeared grey in the muted light. His hair was also different. It hung loose, partially obscuring his eyes, instead of combed back in the severed style he usually preferred.

He looked quite handsome, actually. Hermione decided the headache induced by her trapped hair was beginning to cause brain damage.

Malfoy watched her curiously and she shut her eyes. The pain blooming in the back of her head dragged itself forward to blanket her entire skull. He seemed to tire of holding his wand aloft, and lit several sconces on nearby shelves, casting a pale glow on them both.

"Why don't you just climb down?" he asked.

"My hair is caught," she admitted. "And the ladder is off the track."

His grin was positively shark-like. "Your wand?"

"Trapped beneath the books when they fell," she snapped. "Look, if you won't help me, will you at least leave?"

"And miss the spectacle when the ladder gives way? Perish the thought."

"I hate you," she said vehemently.

Malfoy made a clucking sound. "I don't think so, Granger. I've seen you watching me."

Hermione nearly choked, and the slight movement caused the ladder to shift again. Her hands clenched more tightly on the wood, and a startled eep slipped past her lips.

Malfoy watched without expression, likely waiting to see if she would tumble down and yank half her hair out in the process. Her chest heaved as the motion subsided.

"Damn you! Can't you just put the ladder on track? I know you're capable."

Malfoy gasped in mock astonishment. "A compliment? From Granger? How the mighty have fallen. Desperate straits demand desperate measures, eh. Granger?"

"Sod off, Malfoy."

"Perhaps I'll help you, if you say please," he said.

She rolled her eyes, knowing that was a blatant lie. "Please," she snapped, just in case. She was heartily sick of being stuck on a ladder.

Astoundingly, Malfoy cast a spell. The ladder lurched again. For a moment, she was sure he had dislodged the second wheel. A burst of pain shot through her head—she was surprised the hair had not torn completely free of her scalp by now. The ladder righted itself, and regained solid footing. She sighed in partial relief.

"Thank… thank you," she said, and meant it.

Malfoy said nothing, merely watched her without moving. Hermione tried to lever herself up and—finally!—free her hair. Her thighs trembled with the exertion of holding herself in place for so long.

"Coming down?" Malfoy asked mildly.

"In a minute… I can't seem to move," she said. "My muscles have locked up."

Malfoy sighed heavily. "I will most likely regret this," he said in a dark tone.

Hermione watched in horror as he began to climb the ladder.

"No!" she cried. "No, no, no, you just stay down there."

"I'm only coming up to help you, for pity's sake," he said brusquely. "If I'd wanted to hurt you, I could have done it from down there."

"You don't want to hurt me?" she asked in confusion. Before he could reply, she added, "Can't you cast a spell from down there?"

Malfoy snorted and kept climbing. "Would you have me cast a Cutting Charm and lop half your hair off?"

"No!"

"Well, then, I shall have to come up there and take a look. It might be as simple as a Dislodging Spell."

"You could try that from there," she suggested.

"Not close enough. I might Dislodge you, and down you would go. I thought you were trying to avoid that."

Hermione was almost willing to chance it. She did not want to be in close proximity to Draco Malfoy on a narrow ladder. He drew closer and closer. His head rose until it was level with her chest. His hands held the ladder on either side of her waist.

"Close enough?" she asked hopefully.

"Can't move at all, eh, Granger?" he asked instead of answering.

She unclenched one hand from the wood. The muscles twinged in protest. She realized Malfoy's head was in a distinctly odd place. She could feel his breath wafting against her chest, brushing against her skin where the buttons were open. She had dressed very inappropriately for a jaunt out of the Gryffindor common room.

"Nice cauldrons, Granger," Malfoy murmured, causing Hermione's breath to hitch in her throat.

"My hair?" she prompted, pretending to ignore his comment.

"No, your hair is atrocious. But your tits are surprisingly attractive."

She gasped in outrage, but her protest was choked off when he gained another rung and pressed himself fully against her. She felt his body nearly scald into her with a rush of warmth—she had not noticed the chill until Malfoy's heat dispelled it. She shook off the sensation and opened her mouth to snarl at him, and then she felt his hands in her hair. He really was trying to disentangle it.

Malfoy cast a spell. Hermione tugged hopefully, eager to be away from both the ladder and Draco Malfoy, but she winced sharply at the renewal of pain.

"Hmmm, apparently a Dislodging Charm won't work on hair. Good to know," Malfoy said. "You know, instead of sitting here all night trying to come up with a suitable spell, how about I just push you up to loosen that damned nest, all right?"

Panic nearly short-circuited Hermione's brain, especially when she realized her knees had opened to give Malfoy easier egress up the ladder. She tried to suggest several other spells, but Malfoy tucked his wand into his belt and shoved a hand beneath her skirt.

Shocked brown eyes met shocked grey eyes for a frozen moment, and then Hermione gasped as a wicked smirk curved Malfoy's beautiful lips.

"Granger, you are a naughty, naughty girl," he purred with a voice that was like honey on silk. Hermione cheerfully willed herself to die at that moment. She had, indeed, been in a wicked mood, unable to sleep for Arithmancy problems coupled with provocative dreams of a gorgeous blond hunk featured in Teen Witch Weekly. Hermione had gotten up, dragged on her skirt and blouse, and had then impulsively shucked her knickers. It had been stupid and sinful, but she had been going to the library alone, for pity's sake. It had seemed completely harmless, and only the tiniest bit brazen—until now.

"So, Granger, were you meeting someone here?" Malfoy asked without removing his hand. He cupped her intimately, and she bit her lip until it nearly bled.

"No. Will you please remove your hand?" she whispered.

"I don't know," Malfoy said in a musing tone. His fingers moved slightly, and she willed her trembling legs to push herself away. Malfoy felt her move, and pressed harder. His fingers suddenly slipped inside, tearing a ragged gasp from her.

"What… what are you doing?" she asked. Malfoy tipped his head and nuzzled the side of her neck. His hot breath, combined with his fingers being where they ought not, sent a jolt of lust shooting through her. She tried to remember that he was Draco fucking Malfoy, the boy who despised her, the boy who called her Mudblood, the boy who… oh God, who sucked on the side of her neck…

She must have made a sound that was not a protest, for he chuckled against her throat, and nipped with those perfect white teeth. His hand twisted slightly, and his thumb brushed against her clit—Hermione bucked against his hand and felt a rush of wetness in her loins. Bloody hell, she was betrayed by her own body.

"Want me to help you up, Granger?" he asked, teasing her with that hot, wet breath, and sending a shudder through her as he moved his thumb again. Her traitorous legs had fallen open of their own volition, giving him easier access.

No, no, no, dear God no, she thought, but she could not force the words past her arid throat. She was surprised she had enough air to breathe—she had none left for speech.

"Silence means assent," he said, and lowered his head. It wasn't until that gorgeous mouth fastened on one of her nipples that she realized he had unbuttoned her blouse without her knowledge. She whimpered as he laved her nipple into stiffness, and cried out when every lick sent a tongue of flame careening down to join his fingers.

She was mindless by the time Malfoy finished with the second nipple. She was bloody lucky he held her to the ladder, because she would likely have fallen. Her hands had left the wood sometime previously, and tangled in his silken blond hair.

She dimly noticed when his hand disappeared, only to be replaced by a delightful, hard length.

"Oh," she managed.

Malfoy's lips locked onto her throat again, and if he spoke, it was too muffled for her to understand. He buried his cock deep into her hot wetness, and she felt her hips thrust forward like the wanton beast she had become. Malfoy pulled out and thrust forward, shoving her up and into the rungs of the ladder. The movement should have hurt, but he managed to hit the sweet spot, and she gasped with surprised delight instead of pain.

Malfoy's hands gripped her thighs almost painfully and she wrapped her legs around his naked hips. He thrust forward in a fantastic rhythm, earning a cry from Hermione at every jolt of bliss, until an astounding orgasm exploded through her. She bit into the corded muscle that bound his neck to his shoulder, shuddering with the impact of his last few strokes.

Malfoy stiffened against her, and shook with his own release, gasping hotly against her neck. Their uneven panting echoed in the room as they both stilled.

"You bit me," Malfoy complained softly.

You fucked me, she wanted to protest, but putting words to it would make it all too real. "You… you…" was all she could manage.

"Your hair is free, I think," Malfoy said. She moved her head experimentally, and her cheek brushed against his. God, he even smelled delightful…

"Can you stand on your own?" he asked, and she blushed scarlet. She disentangled her legs from his waist, and found a rung with one foot. The movement dislodged his softening cock, and she gasped at the loss.

She snatched her hands from Malfoy's hair as if burned, and placed them back on the comforting solidity of the ladder.

Malfoy's eyes met hers for a moment, and the maddening smirk curving his lips deepened her blush. How could she have let him—? His head dipped and his mouth fastened on one of her still-exposed nipples, ultra-sensitive in the aftermath. She shivered.

"Call me next time you need a hand, Granger," he said when his lips detached. He backed quickly down the ladder, hopped off lightly, and sauntered away.

Hermione quickly climbed down, shaking with reaction, and fumbled her clothing back into order. She snatched her wand from beneath the stack of books and gripped it tightly. She was sorely tempted to track Malfoy down and Obliviate him, but he was most likely prepared for such an action.

Call me next time you need a hand.

Bloody hell.