Chapter 16: Of Hairpins and Hogsmeade

A/N: Why can't I write a title that isn't an alliteration? Whatever. I'm not even going to try to make excuses for my absence, although I am truly sorry about it. So please enjoy Chapter 16. :)

P.S. I've written some highly condensed chapter plot summaries, since you've probably forgotten! (Again, entirely my fault, sorry!)

Chapter 1: Hermione finds Draco crying in the bathroom (because he can't figure out how to fix the vanishing cabinet or kill Dumbledore and is afraid for his life)- Draco gets angry and scares her off.

Chapter 2: Draco feels bad about hurting her, retells it from his perspective, and reflects on how he is ashamed of his fear.

Chapter 3: Hermione keeps having nightmares about Draco, and goes outside to study in "her spot", but is interrupted by someone, and climbs a tree to avoid them.

Chapter 4: Draco has a Quidditch practice, and we learn about Bella, his "pet" thestral. He decides to take a nap in "his spot".

Chapter 5: Draco finds a book in his spot, and realizes it's Hermione's. When he slams it shut, it scares Hermione, and she falls out of the tree, right on top of him.

Chapter 6: Hermione hurt her ankle falling out of the tree, and, much to Hermione's embarrassment, Draco carries her to Hagrid's.

Chapter 7: Hagrid is suspicious of Hermione's injury, but she assures him Draco was helping her. She returns to her room to find her book returned. Draco disappears for a few days, and looks terrible when he finally returns. Later, Hermione discovers Harry and Ron beating up Draco for what he did to her. She tries to stop them, but Harry uses Sectumsempra on Draco, and he collapses.

Chapter 8: Hermione takes Harry's broom and (with difficulty) flies Draco to the hospital wing, where they crash through the window and Hermione is knocked unconscious.

Chapter 9: She wakes up to find Harry and Ron asleep at her bedside and Draco, unconscious but alive. She sits there and holds his hand for a little, realizing that she might have feelings for him. It is hinted that Harry might have been awake the whole time.

Chapter 10: Draco wakes up to a sharp pain in his arm, and panics when he sees a dark figure in the room. It turns out to be Snape, who tells him cryptically that "the Order" hasn't been given, but that his next mistake might be his last. He advises him to cover up his dark mark while he's at Hogwarts, as anyone who sees it will also have to die.

Chapter 11: Draco has a nightmare in which Voldemort tortures him for his failure, and then forces his mother and father to use the cabinet, which is still broken and will kill them. He tries to save them, but the dark mark on his arm comes alive and spreads over his body, leaving him paralyzed. He wakes up in a cold sweat, relieved that it was a dream but reminding himself that it would happen if he doesn't succeed.

Chapter 12: While still recovering in the hospital wing, Draco overhears that a thestral has been hurt, and, terrified that it was Bella, drags himself down to Hagrid's to see. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Hagrid are having tea when they notice someone in the garden. Hagrid goes to check, and when Hermione follows him, they find Draco lying next to Bella in a pool of blood.

Chapter 13: Hermione uses charms to heal Draco, who then tells her about his relationship with Bella. Hermione tells him he can talk to her, and Draco admits he doesn't "hate her quite as much as he used to." Draco infers that Hermione is still mad at Harry for hurting him, and the thought pleases him. They walk back to the castle together, and Hermione returns him to the hospital wing.

Chapter 14: Draco returns to classes, but finds himself utterly lost in Transfiguration, and Professor McGonagall suggests that Hermione tutor him. Harry and Ron don't like this idea, but she agrees to meet him in the library for a study session. Draco isn't really taking it seriously, and after acting ridiculous and getting Hermione in trouble with Madame Pince, steals her wand. When she tries to get it back, she notices his bandage, and asks him what's wrong with his arm. He snaps at her, but then agrees to let her see. The chapter ends with the dark mark being revealed.

Chapter 15: Draco thinks Hermione has run away, but she suddenly hugs him instead. He tells her how he became a death eater, and how Voldemort gave him a job to do. (Although he doesn't tell her what it was.) He also tells her about "the Order"- when a death eater has failed, the Order is given, and they are brutally killed by their fellow death eaters. Hermione assures him that Dumbledore will help him, and they part ways for the night.

(Note to future self, if you don't want to write 15 chapter summaries, actually finish the fics you start before writing new ones…)

All caught up? Awesome! Chapter 16, I choose you! Go!

. . .

Of Hairpins and Hogsmeade

. . .

It was nearly a week later, and Professor McGonagall had just finished teaching them how to turn a toothpick into a hairpin. Draco was extremely proud – his toothpick had become a shining silver pin, with ornately detailed leaves, and a small, pink, pearl rose on the one end. McGonagall herself had nodded approvingly as she walked past his desk.

And on top of that, the quiz Draco dropped smugly on Hermione's desk had a large 100% scrawled across it. Draco and Hermione had had several more tutoring sessions, and Draco had been studying in his free time. He didn't want her to think he was stupid, after all, because he wasn't. Probably.

Hermione picked the parchment up and examined it (Draco hoped to read his answers and not to check for forgeries), then smiled broadly at him. "Well done!"

Draco waved away her compliment. "It's nothing. Alright Granger, let's see your hairpin."

Hermione placed it on the desk; hers was also silver, but sleeker, and studded with three small, perfectly round emeralds.

Draco thought his was better, which he said, and then held it out for her to see.

"Oh, that's beautiful Draco, you're really improving."

"Here," he said, and she turned scarlet as he leaned over the desk and gently pinned it just behind her right ear.

He hurriedly stood back up, a slight pink coloring his cheeks.

"Thank-you," she murmured, brushing her fingertips over the pin.

"Well- what else am I going to do with it? Anyway, there's a Hogsmeade trip this weekend, and I-" (He swallowed dryly.) "I want you to go with me. I- well, Crabbe and Goyle have detention, blew up a lavatory or something, and I need to do some Christmas shopping, and I don't fancy going alone-"

"Well, Harry and Ron have Quidditch practice most of the weekend, since there's a match against Hufflepuff next week, so I don't suppose I have anything else to do- alright."

Draco looked as though that wasn't the answer he was expecting, then said shortly, "Fine then. See you on Saturday."

. . .

Saturday morning was the first day of December, and Draco woke to an unusual brightness. One slipper on (the other had misplaced itself), he stumbled over to the window to see a fine layer of snow frosting the castle grounds. More continued to drift down from the sky in large, lazy flakes.

Draco grinned. What a perfect day. He loved the snow. So clean, and white, and fresh- and perfect for throwing at people.

He abruptly stopped grinning to himself when he realized Blaise Zabini was still in the room, and looking at him curiously. Draco slapped a scowl on his face and began rummaging through his trunk, looking for something to wear.

Finding nothing, he called over his shoulder, "Blaise, you're a well-dressed man, I assume you're rather fashion-savvy… what do you wear to something that's… not really a date, but sort of… is? Or perhaps you wish it were, but you're not sure she does. Or maybe it is and it's you that doesn't know it."

Draco frowned to himself, reconsidering that sentence, and then realized that Blaise had been talking.

"…robes are not really appropriate in that situation. Perhaps a nice sweater vest or a button-down shirt. For you, I would stay away from the sweater vest, you'd look like a prat. Maybe a button-down in… powder blue with black slacks and a black undershirt; no tie, leave the top two buttons undone."

A little worried about just how easily Blaise came up with an outfit for him, Draco dug out a white shirt and charmed it an icy blue. He dressed, and then looked critically at himself in the full mirror hanging on the door. He was so accustomed to wearing just black that it took a few seconds to get used to seeing himself in color. It did make him look less pale, and he noted that it also brought out the hint of blue in his grey eyes. Draco looked himself over one more time, then nodded approvingly. Blaise certainly had a knack for clothes, anyway.

"Who are you going with, anyway?" Blaise asked through a stream of swears as Draco looked for his other dress shoe.

"Er… it's no one that you know. She doesn't go to Hogwarts."

Blaise looked at him skeptically, but decided that Draco wasn't going to tell him, and let it go.

"Alright well… how do I look?"

"Do you really need to wear your hair like that? It makes you look like… I don't even know what, but do you have stock in hair gel companies or something?"

Draco chose to ignore that, grabbed his wallet and watch off the table, and left.

. . .

Draco stepped outside of the castle, and immediately regretted not wearing a coat. He thought about running back down to the dungeons, but the sight of Hermione stopped him. She was waiting by the gate, wearing a brown wool coat and green, hand-knitted gloves with a matching scarf. Draco also noted that she was wearing his hairpin again. She was breathtaking. Or maybe it was the freezing air. Whatever.

Draco jogged over to where she was standing, and skidded to a halt on the slightly icy ground.

"Oh, Draco, where is your coat? You'll catch your death out here!"

Draco waved his hand dismissively and said, "I don't get cold. I'm so hot it simply doesn't affect me."

He winked at her, and she rolled her eyes, grabbed his elbow, and pulled him towards the gates leading to Hogsmeade.

. . .

By the time they had gotten down into town, Draco was freezing. He was trying valiantly to stop his teeth from chattering, but it really was too cold for what he was wearing.

"So where do you want to go first?" Hermione asked, looking sideways at him.

"I- I- A- A- ACHOO!" Draco sneezed so violently that he nearly fell over, and had to grab Hermione's shoulder for support.

"S-sorry," Draco chattered, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.

Hermione pulled off her scarf and flung it over Draco's head. He tried to protest, but she gave him a look, and he held still while she tied it securely around his neck. Thankfully his cheeks were already red from the cold, because he felt his face heat up significantly as he caught a whiff of her perfume.

Hermione drew back, also looking a little more flushed, and said, "There. It's not a coat, but I suppose it will help… Still, we'd better go inside. Scrivenshaft's is closest, why don't we go in? I'm sure your father could use a new quill…"

"So long as it's warm, sure."

It was not "warm" per say, but it was warmer. Draco milled around the shelves until he found a nice looking raven-feathered one with a sapphire studded base, decided his father probably didn't have a quill preference anyway, and paid eight galleons and three knuts for it.

Next, they ventured into Gladrag's Wizardwear, and Draco found a nice emerald necklace for his mother. However, Draco had a sneezing fit when they stepped out of Honeydukes, (where Hermione had bought a large bag of assorted sweets for Harry and Ron) and Hermione insisted that they go have a nice hot drink.

"Why don't we go down to Madam Puddifoot's?"

Draco's pained expression prompted an, "Oh, no, we don't have to go in there. I just thought it would be empty, since it's, well, so horrid. There's the Hog's Head, then?"

"Why don't we just go to the Three Broomsticks? I could use a butterbeer." Draco sneezed again. "Or a firewhiskey."

"I- I just thought you wouldn't want to be seen, you know, together." Hermione shuffled her boots in the slushy snow at their feet.

Draco hadn't really thought about this potential problem, and took a split second to mull it over. Contrary to every other year at Hogwarts, his own popularity was basically last on his extensive list of "Things to Worry About." (First was being murdered by his psychopath boss, second was failing school and having to live with his parents forever, and third was... well, you know, girls. Girl. Quite often and illogically, this item slipped its way to the top of the list, somehow.)

"So you're embarrassed to be seen with me, is that it? Granger, I know you're practically perfect, but am I really that bad? I think I'm rather charming." He had meant it as a joke, but as soon as he stopped talking, he realized what he had said. Hermione, too, had heard it, and both of them disregarded the rest and fixated on the fact that he had just called Hermione "perfect."

Feeling hot pinpricks on the back of his neck, and not knowing what else to do, Draco cautiously grazed his hand over Hermione's cheek, their eyes meeting with shock and disbelief and excitement, his hand cupping her face, leaning in slowly, their noses brushing, their lips just about to touch, and then- ACHOO. Draco sneezed violently on her coat.

Now, Draco had always considered himself to be rather smooth with the ladies, but this – talk about awkward. Draco let his forehead rest disconsolately on her shoulder for a few seconds before he straightened up, grabbed her hand and started walking quickly towards the pub, pulling her behind him.

Draco paused on the doorstep, a sudden fear of what kind of smack-talk he was going to have to endure for the rest of his time at Hogwarts washing over him. But that was stupid. This was what he, Draco, wanted, more than anything else, and he would be a coward if he let it get to him. Well, more of a coward, anyway.

Taking a deep breath, and muttering "Screw it," under his breath, he gave Hermione's hand a little squeeze and threw open the door, which thudded loudly against the wall.

Every single person stopped talking and turned to stare as Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger walked hand-in-hand into The Three Broomsticks.