Disclaimer: All characters and recognizable places belong to JK - yadda yadda yadda, not making any money, only the plot is mine.

Warnings: Smut!fic! (but not in chapter 1) Contains language and sexual content, the latter of which is (as requested) very much in the dub-con category.

Notes: Fic will be 3 chapters long. It is already complete and will be updated weekly until the whole thing's posted. Many thanks to Alex and Noelle for beta reading! You guys ROCK :)

This fic was an entry in the "Ring in the New Year with Draco and Hermione" fic exchange. The request was as follows: "I would like a fic involving an unexpected encounter between a drunk Malfoy and melancholic Hermione, right before midnight on New Year's. Bastard/Dark!Draco, Witty!Hermione. Very dubious consent ensues. No fluff, please!"


God, would he ever stop breaking her heart? Ever? She didn't think she could take much more of this.

Hermione shouldered open the door, and the night chill hit her like a slap to the face. Angrily dashing tears away with one hand, she pulled her wrap tighter with the other... for all the good it did her. The wrap was a flimsy thing, designed more for style than functionality.

The heavy door thudded shut behind her.

For a long moment, she simply stood on the stoop, fighting to get her breathing, and her emotions, under control. And, although she would have preferred not to admit it to herself, waiting – waiting to see if anyone would come after her.

No one did.

Well, of course not. She blinked back the fresh wave of tears that threatened. They were… much too busy at the moment.

She uttered a short bark of bitter laughter and reached up to push her hair out of her face. It had almost entirely escaped the chignon she had crafted so carefully just a few short hours ago; never able to be tamed for long, her hair.

Maybe that was why Ron so clearly preferred the company of another tonight; the daughter of no less a personage than the Italian Minister of Magic himself, who had seen fit to privilege the British Ministry with his attendance at tonight's New Years Ball.

She had hair that rippled like cool black silk, all the way down to her waist.

An errant sob caught Hermione unaware and almost managed to rip its way out.

No. She bore down on it with all her might, reducing it to a mere gasp, which puffed whitely in the frosty air. It was clear out tonight, and cold. Late, too; nearly midnight. She would miss the countdown.

For a brief moment, she entertained the notion of going back in. Simply holding her head up and carrying on. But she dismissed the thought almost as soon as she'd formed it. It was just too painful. She could not - would not - bear it any longer. This was a new low, and she needed to leave and lick her wounds in solitude.

How could he keep doing this to her? How?

First Lavender back in school... then Hannah Abbot a year after graduation; that Ministry intern last year, and now he had progressed to complete, random strangers at formal events!

No. No more. No MORE.

With fingers that were shaking from more than just cold, she fumbled the slim diamond solitaire ring off her finger. It came easily, assisted by the chill in the air. Glancing quickly around, she placed it gently down on a nearby stone ledge. Perhaps Ron would see it when he emerged later on, no doubt flushed and tousle-haired, arm in arm with his latest conquest. Perhaps he wouldn't. She found she no longer cared, one way or the other.

Ron could go straight to hell and stay there, for all it mattered to her.

She did spare a moment's thought for Harry; he would probably realize she was missing before Ron did, and would most likely feel it more keenly than Ron as well. Ron wasn't likely, after all, to be feeling anything other than that Italian witch's derrière for the rest of the night. Harry, though... he'd beat himself up over it later, regardless of the fact that she didn't hold him a bit responsible. Of course he wouldn't have noticed what was going on; he and Ginny had only just returned from their honeymoon in time to celebrate Christmas at the Burrow. It was a miracle they'd left their bedroom long enough to put in an appearance tonight at all, and they only had eyes for each other, which was an entirely natural state for a pair of deliriously happy newlyweds. Harry probably wouldn't have noticed if the building had caught on fire!

So she didn't blame him. She envied him his happiness, and much more than that she envied Ginny his devotedness... but blame him? No. Which simply meant that as soon as he actually cottoned on, he'd blame himself enough for both of them. That's just the way he was.

Well, she couldn't help the way he was. She couldn't bear going back in there to find him, either. And she couldn't stay here any longer. She'd just have to deal with the fallout tomorrow.

Well, congratulations, Hermione, she thought to herself as she descended the steps, her inner voice both bitter and terribly sad. Ginny, Fleur and Molly were all talking about reducing for a New Year's resolution, but you've got them all beat, haven't you? Gone and lost yourself a good ninety kilos, and it's not even midnight yet!

Eyes still blurred with tears, she reached the sidewalk - and that was when the heel of her left shoe broke, twisting her ankle and nearly sending her spilling into the street. She managed, just barely, to catch herself on the stairway's railing.

She clung to it for a moment, heart racing, breath coming in short, sharp gasps, wondering what she could possibly have done to deserve so much misfortune in so short a time. Could the night get any worse? Honestly, could it? There was nothing she wanted to do more at that moment than just stomp her feet and scream - scream like a toddler throwing a tantrum, scream with frustration and anger and hurt. But obviously, with one ankle compromised and the other foot still clad in a treacherous heeled shoe of its own (and what had she been thinking to wear heels tonight anyway!? She was so not a high-heels sort of a girl! Oh right, she'd been thinking Ron would like them, the more fool her...) that would not be in the least bit advisable.

Instead she eased the remains of the shoe off her injured foot, sat on the bottommost step and removed the other one as well, then stood again and gingerly tried her weight on her already-swelling left foot.

It held up... but not without protest. Wincing, she glanced first up, then down the street and was rewarded with the sight of a brightly lit, all-night pharmacy about a block and a half away. She'd been planning to Apparate straight home, assuming the street was deserted, but now she decided she'd hobble down there first and pick up some Muggle painkillers. Her injury was not so severe as to warrant a trip to St. Mungo's, but nor did she have the least desire to re-enter the party and ask for help with a healing charm. As for healing it herself, her present shaken and agitated state made it unwise to try.

Perhaps most compelling of all was the fact that Ron would have laughed at the idea of easing her discomfort through Muggle means. Well, Ron could rot. She wanted some Tylenol.

Letting go of the railing, she took a step toward the pharmacy; and hissed a sharp breath in through her teeth and the pang her ankle gave her. The next step was easier, though, and the following one easier still. She limped away from the Ministry's New Year party in her stocking feet, her ring still lying near the top of the steps, and both of her shoes at the bottom.


" - and hex you into next week, you stupid Muggle bast - "

"Good Lord, Malfoy!?"

It was a silly question, really; of course it was Draco Malfoy. Despite the fact that he could very nearly have passed for an ordinary Londoner in the coal black trousers and simple white dress shirt he was wearing, there really was no mistaking the man. He was the only person she'd ever met in her life, after all, who possessed hair the exact color of confectioner's sugar - not to mention that scathing, sneering tone of voice she'd thought she'd never have to hear again after leaving Hogwarts... and was in fact hearing right now.

It was Malfoy, all right... but what in God's name was he doing in a Muggle pharmacy in the middle of the night, and holding the proprietor at wandpoint, no less?

She supposed it was her own fault, for assuming the night could not possibly get any worse.

The proprietor, for his part, was wielding a cricket bat, feet planted far apart and looking about ready to bash Malfoy's skull in. In fact, taking advantage of Malfoy's moment of distraction - (for Malfoy was clearly as stupefied at encountering Hermione as she was at encountering him) - he edged in closer and raised the bat to strike.

"NO!" Without having the least idea what compelled her to do so, Hermione lunged forward, injured ankle and all, and interposed herself squarely between the two men.

"Stop it this instant!" It was impossible to say which of them she was addressing; most likely both. But a second later, sensing his hesitation, she turned her attention to the shopkeeper. "This isn't what it looks like."

"Isn't what it looks like!?" the man repeated with incredulous anger. "This person is a lunatic! Comes in here ordering me around like he's the bloody crown prince or something - demanding a hangover potion; yes, a potion no less - and now he's threatening me with his little... pointy stick!"

Behind Hermione, Malfoy snarled.

"And spouting nonsense talk too," the proprietor went on; "he offered to pay me with gallons - gallons of what, I'd like to know!? Out of his goddamned mind! And now, just now, he called me a Muggle - that's not even a word! The man is clearly mad, and a menace. I'm phoning the police!"

"You don't understand!" Well, that was true at any rate; she didn't understand herself. Didn't understand the situation she'd just walked into, and really didn't understand her compulsion to get involved. "I know this man; we went to school together. He's... he..." her mind was racing.

Suddenly, it came to her. "He has Tourette's!"

Behind her, Malfoy gave an indignant squawk. The proprietor's eyebrows shot up nearly to his hairline, but he lowered the bat - fractionally, at least.

"It's true," Hermione continued in a rush, "it can be alarming if you don't understand it, but really he's harmless."

"Harmless!" Draco choked behind her.

"Sometimes he... gets overexcited and... and it triggers the syndrome. He brandishes... whatever is handy, a stick he picked up on the street; and he shouts things that make no sense. He can even make up words up on the spot, like, like... what did you say?... muggie?"

"Muggle," the man said. He still looked suspicious, but he lowered the bat further. A quick glance out of the corner of her eye revealed to Hermione a Malfoy that was simply staring at her in slack-jawed, horrified disbelief. He'd lowered his wand as well. It appeared that the crisis was over.

"I'll take him home, there's no need for force, or for calling anyone. Really, it's fine." She half turned, and grabbed Draco by the arm. He stiffened, but did not otherwise react. He was still too shocked, it seemed, by her interference.

"Come along, Draco," she said firmly. "That's enough mischief for one night. Let's go."

Astonishingly enough, he came with her. He really did appear to be quite inebriated, she saw; his eyes were slightly out of focus and he was unsteady on his feet. She held onto him until they reached the door.

"Get out of here, then, the both of you!" the proprietor called querulously after them. "I won't call anyone, but I don't want to see either of you around here again, ever!"

That was when Draco wrenched away from her and turned back toward the other man, his pale eyes positively glittering with malevolent mirth.

"Gild the strawberry barber," he shouted, apparently determined to make the most of the free license Hermione had just given him to spout nonsense. "Crispy Chinese chicken, you terrific wanker! Higglety-pigglety-BOO!"

"Malfoy, come ON!" Hermione said frantically, grabbing his arm again and yanking him forcefully out the door. "Cat testicles!" Draco hollered furiously just as it slammed shut behind them, isolating them on the cold, deserted midnight street.


For a moment they just stood there, staring at each other. Then Draco wrenched his arm away - Hermione hadn't even noticed that she'd still been holding onto it.

"Get off me, Granger," he spat. He raked her quickly from head to foot with eyes as pale, and glintingly cold, as ice. "You haven't changed a bit. Still the same meddlesome know-it-all as ever, eh? Never gets old, fighting other people's battles?" He gave a derisive snort. "Small wonder you're alone on New Year's Eve... even your pair of besotted bookends must have given you up by now. Pathetic. Tourette's. Go bugger your Tourette's, you do-good little -"


It was impossible to say in that instant which one of them was more shocked that she had slapped him; Draco, staring at her speechlessly as a crimson handprint bloomed across his cheek, or Hermione herself, who didn't even fully comprehend what she had done until it occurred to her that her hand was stinging... badly.

Even so, she didn't back down. To the contrary, her own face was suddenly suffused with a furious flush. She had gone through too much already tonight - too much by half - to put up with his schoolyard insults right now. Or, that was what she told herself at any rate. A smidge closer to the truth might have been that his words had hit painfully close to home. Neither Ron nor Harry had noticed her leaving the party. And honestly, that hurt. A lot. Not to mention the reason she'd left.

She'd been wanting something - someone - to lash out at, she realized belatedly, and Malfoy fit the bill nicely.

"Who in Merlin's name do you think you are, Draco Malfoy!?" she demanded furiously. I haven't seen you for five years, and I might as well add that I haven't missed you for five seconds! You don't know the first thing about who I am today, except that I just saved you getting a cricket bat to the head - which I now very much regret! I'm starting to think a cricket bat to the head would do you a world of good, you arrogant, condescending bastard!"

For a second, Draco's jaw dropped even further, but he recovered himself quickly. "You're barking, Granger," he spat. "As if that stupid, fat Muggle could possibly have - "

"And stop disparaging Muggles! What were you doing in a Muggle shop anyway, if you still hate them so much!?"

Suddenly, Draco looked defeated.

"Because it was the first place I saw and my head hurts like a bastard, Granger," he said, simultaneously stashing his wand away with his left hand and raising his right to his temple, massaging it with the heel of his hand. "And you're not helping matters any, I might add."

Hermione's curiosity - one of her very strongest inborn traits - got the best of her at that point and she found herself asking, against her better judgment, "First place you saw? Just what are you doing in this part of town, anyway?"

He took a deep breath and for a moment it actually looked as if he might answer... then he seemed to catch himself. His eyes narrowed, his jaw hardened, and any hope of a productive conversation was, Hermione saw in that instant, utterly lost.

"You are something else, Granger, you know that?" he said in a tone of tired disgust. "I didn't ask for your help and I sure as hell don't want to stand around in the cold, making small talk with you. So just piss off, all right?"

And he shoved past her, knocking her hard with his shoulder as he did so.

She stumbled back a step... and her injured ankle twisted, shooting a bolt of protesting agony straight up her leg.

She gave a yelp of pain and surprise, and the next thing she was aware of was sitting flat on her bum on the freezing sidewalk as the burgundy chiffon skirts of her evening gown puddled all around her.

And oh, the tears wanted to come.

If there was one thing that could be said for her encounter with Malfoy, it was that it had distracted her, however briefly, from all the other... circumstances of this night. It was a distraction that she had been grateful for. And now it was over, leaving her worse off than ever, hurt and miserable in a heap on the ground.

At least this was the lowest she could sink. It couldn't possibly get any worse than this... right?


Just as Draco spun back toward her, his face the picture of astonishment, Hermione's attention was caught by shouts from up the street. She couldn't make out the words, but she recognized the voices, all right. Looking back toward the building where the party had been, she could make out, clearly despite the distance, Ron and Harry. The two of them were standing so close together that they had to be toe-to-toe... and it was patently obvious that they were not engaged in a friendly conversation. Ginny was framed in the open doorway, her hair a corona of fire illuminated by the light that was pouring out onto the stoop, and the dark-haired Italian girl was standing with her arms wrapped tightly about herself, at the foot of the steps. Hermione concluded that she and Ron must have left the party together, and that Harry (and naturally Ginny, seeing as the two of them were attached at the hip) had come out after him.

Harry had something fisted in his hand; Hermione couldn't make out what it was at this distance, but she had a pretty good idea anyway. He was shaking it at Ron for emphasis as he spoke, gesturing with his other arm in a sweeping movement that encompassed the entirety of the street.

"Oh God," Hermione breathed, folding her body over so that her head was resting on her knees and clasping both hands around her throbbing, aching ankle, "God, please make it stop. Make this night stop!"


"Get out of here, Malfoy. Leave me alone."

"What are you playing at?" His tone was half irritated, half accusatory. Why oh why didn't he just leave? "I barely touched you."

"My ankle was hurt already. That's why I was in the pharmacy!" It was all she could do not to allow the words to become a wail. She lifted her head, glancing past him down the street, to where Ginny now appeared to be physically restraining Harry - then quickly scanned her surroundings, searching for an escape. Apparating had ceased to be an option; she was so distraught at this point, her concentration so thoroughly shot, that she would splinch for sure.

There was, however, an alley, just past the pharmacy's storefront, that she could probably crawl into before anyone on the stoop registered her presence. If it weren't for Malfoy standing over her, glowering, his uncanny, starlight-colored hair guaranteed to attract someone's attention before long. "Go away, Malfoy, just... please go away."

It was at that point that he muttered something that sounded as if it could have been, "What the fuck did I do to deserve this tonight!?"

It was pure indignation that finally motivated her to raise her head. That was exactly how she felt! How dare he... how dare he... steal her sentiments like that! Just who in the hell did he think he was!?

Her angry words died in her throat however, as she took in the fact that he was standing quite still, with a hand extended down to her.

She had to fight back the impulse to actually rub her eyes.

"What... are you doing?" she stammered.

"Regardless of what you may think of me, Granger," he said in a surprisingly calm and steady voice, "I do not make a habit of knocking women down and then walking away. Now take my hand."

She hesitated.

"On the other hand," Draco continued, almost conversationally and looking not directly at her but rather somewhere off over her right shoulder, "I'm not going to stand here freezing my arse off all night. For the last time, Granger - " he flexed his fingers in the age-old gesture for come ON - "take my hand."

Somewhat against her better judgment, she took it.

He pulled her to her feet and even though she was careful to favor it, the pain in her injured ankle still made her cry out. She was astonished when Draco snugged an arm around her waist, steadying her - then froze in horror when she heard, very clearly, her name being called from down the street.

She'd been so worried about Draco attracting attention; and then she'd gone and done it herself.

Draco stiffened as well, turning toward the sound. A block and a half away, four heads had swiveled in their direction at the sound of Hermione's cry. As they watched, Ron, who'd been halfway down the steps by this time, took the rest of them at a vault, and started toward them.

"Should've known they wouldn't be far off," Draco muttered in a patently disgusted tone. He loosened his grip on Hermione. "Looks like your spotted prince is here to save the day."

"No!" To her own amazement - and his - she tightened her grip on him almost frantically. "Malfoy, get me out of here!"

He swiveled his gaze onto her, staring at her like she'd sprouted a second head. "Granger, what the hell - "

"I mean it! I can't... I can't deal with them right now! Please!" Oh God, she was begging him. "Please get me out of here."

Ron, apparently near enough now to realize who her companion was, gave a shout and broke into a run. Now Harry took the steps two at a time and started after him. They were closing on her, and fast.

"Malfoy, now!"

He glanced from her, to Ron and Harry, and then back. For a heartbeat's worth of time, then two, she watched the indecision flare behind his pale eyes. "Malfoy, please," she whispered again, debasing herself completely. It was better than facing Ron now, with his brand-new flavor of the night right there, watching. Anything was preferable to that.

"You suppose Weasley's recognized me?" Draco asked then, falling once again into the detached, conversational tone he'd been using a few moments before.

"Yes!" Hermione said desperately; she almost sobbed the word.

"In that case, I'll do it," Draco drawled, the same malignant humor glinting in his pale eyes as she had spotted earlier, when he'd been spouting rubbish at the pharmacist. "But you owe me, Granger."

She opened her mouth to retort - owe him, indeed! When she'd only lately saved him from a concussion, or worse! - but before she could utter a single syllable, she was caught by the crushing, breathtaking darkness of side-along Apparition.

Ron's yell of surprised outrage was the last thing she heard before she was whirled away.