A/N: Written for dmhgficexchange for one sandi_wandi.

"This is pathetic," Harry suddenly announces, putting his beer down with a thud. The table reverberates under her fingers. Startled, her eyes quickly shift back to him, the palm of her hand reflexively moving towards the nape of her neck. She unconsciously hides under her hair.

"What does?" She takes a big gulp of beer. She knows this tone. She also knows that hearing whatever he has to say would sting a lot less if she were less sober.

"This," he says, coolly. He's motioning towards something behind her. "The way you're looking at him. The way she's looking at him. I'll give you a clue: I wouldn't be caught dead looking at him that way. I'd rather be caught fucking a coral reef." He popped a chip in his mouth. "And die."

She almost opens her mouth to defend herself – "I don't know what you're talking about" – but instead she plugs it back up with another big swill of beer.

"Look at you," he says pityingly, shaking his head. "Guilty as tried."

"I," she finds herself saying indignantly, swallowing, "like beer."

"So do I. And everybody else in this damn bar. But you don't see any of them making googly eyes at some blond asshole at the corner of the room." Then he pauses. "Oh wait. There is one other person."

She rolls her eyes. "Get off it."

"No," he says, sticking his finger in her face. "You get off it. I've been sitting here for thirty minutes watching you make your oh-so-subtle glimpses at them in that booth in the corner. You," he emphasizes and she feels a slight sting at his ruthless honesty, "are pathetic."

For a minute there is absolute silence between them. He watches her with steady eyes, waiting, while she fights the shameful descent of her gaze. The jukebox in the far corner switches records, and several televisions are playing a game that nobody ever watches. She hears the clinks of congratulatory beer toasts, and the indistinct conversations, along with sporadic bursts of drunk laughter.

"Fine," she finally says. "Let's say, hypothetically, that you're right. That – hypothetically – that is indeed where my glances are directed, and not, say, the game on TV."

He shakes his head, laughing. "You hate televised sports."

"People can change."

"Not you."

"Now, Harry," she says, "that's not fair. I'm not exempt from change."

"I'll tell you what's not fair. Him getting all this undeserved attention – that's not fair. I gave five bucks in change to a bum on the street today. I stopped so a dog could cross. And I started using recycled paper. Do you see any women eyeing me the same way you two are doing to him?"

"Maybe you just can't see them." She then unnecessarily points out that he's nearsighted.

"I wear glasses." He sighs. "You know, I almost regret having ever brought this up. You're in a big muck of denial. You're in the Pacific Ocean of denials. This is the kind of denial that causes 70% of insomnia, and causes 90% of patheticness." He grabs a cold fry out of her appetizer. "If you like him, why don't you just tell him?"

She's almost insulted that he has to ask. "Because I can't."

Then he catches up to his words. He sees the look that she's giving him and he swallows, realizing how stupid he had just sounded. "Right. What the fuck was I thinking? We don't live in that world."

"No," she says to him. "We don't."

Then, after picking his teeth, he leans in. "Look, I'm going to play the devil's advocate here – so don't hit me. But, see – why can't we live in that world? I always ask myself that. Whenever I see Crabbe or Goyle coming in for business meetings, and they give me that acknowledging nod, I ask myself, why can't I just say Hi? Why do I have to be a ruthless asshole? Why can't I ask them how their moms are doing, or if Crabbe's wife has given birth? It's like we're all still in isolation. And because of what? Because of something that happened ten years ago. We got peace but nothing's changed about how we act towards each other, have you ever noticed that?

"There we were, parading and fighting for equality. And then we turn around and give our childhood enemies the silent treatment and sit in bars thinking about how we can never tell someone who used to be on the other side we just might want to have their babies."

"This is deep," she says dryly, "for someone who keyed Blaise Zabini's car the other day."

"That's different. He stole my parking spot." He picks up his beer. "See? That was over a recent event. Not over something that happened ten years ago. Now, see Ginny there? Look at her. Inapprehensive, open, free."

"Shameless," she adds, drinking more beer.

"That's right!" he says, pounding his fist on the table. "Because she literally has no shame, because she's let go of all of these historically-bound grudges."

"So if you were me, with this – hypothetical situation," she says then, slowly, "you would tell him?"

"Oh, no – are you fucking kidding?" he says. "I would never tell a soul. Personally, I'd shoot myself. But it's just something to think about. If you were brave," he says, drinking his beer, "you'd do it."

"But if I was smart. . ." she starts.

"You wouldn't," he finishes. "Not ever."


There's something about fresh air, especially fresh winter air. The kind that's crisp and stings wherever it touches. She doesn't bother bringing out her jacket because this is the effect she wants – to get sobered up by the air, if that makes any sense. It makes everything staggeringly clear, and sometimes – sometimes this is something she tends to avoid. That's when she calls in sick. That's when she sleeps in late and calls into the office with her hoarse morning voice and tells them she can't possibly make it in today, she feels – quite frankly – like shit. Health-wise. And it's convincing as day, because she's not one to lie. Ever.

She hears the door open and close behind her, along with the shuffle of footsteps, but she doesn't pay any mind. Lots of drunks come stumbling out here to throw up or pass out this time of night, so when she glances behind her to see which kind it's going to be, she finds parts of her suddenly freezing up – all of them. All of her parts. Suddenly it's not the cold that's the only thing that's sobering.

"I see that you're a fan of hypothermia," he says to her. And then he lights up.

She turns her head around quickly – too quickly, she then realizes, because she feels a head rush. She feels her face heating up and she doesn't know why, or maybe it's because she doesn't want to know why – both confusion and denial, all at the same time. All she knows is, despite the little things she feels that are uncannily big enough to affect her sleep at night, and give her little tingles in her fingers, it's not enough. She feels her indignation and pride creeping back in, like ice water through her veins, and it brings her comfort. Confidence. Assurance.

She doesn't say anything for a while. From the corner of her eye she sees the glowing orange butt of his cigarette, burning and smoldering. It makes his face glow.

"My date's going well, thank you," he says.

"I didn't ask," she bristles.

"You don't have to. I know you were dying with curiosity."

"That, or you were just dying to tell."

"Tell me something, Granger," he says, then. "How is it that someone like Ginny Weasley can ask me out on a date and get hopelessly drunk in hopes of getting me to think of taking advantage of her, without any prerequisites whatsoever – while you still talk to me like I'm the scum of the earth?"

The answer's easy. She grateful for this – God forbid when there ever comes a time when the answer's not easy and she's in front of him.

"You didn't humiliate her."

"I humiliated her brothers. Her friends."

"But not her."

"No," he says, then. But she notices his voice has gotten slightly distant. "She got too pretty."

"There's the forgiving kind, and then there's just the weak kind," she finds herself saying through her teeth, a bit stung. The cold hurts her a little more now. "The kind that don't have convictions. The kind that don't care about the past."

"And which one are you?"

She's surprised he has to ask. "Neither."

"That's a shame." She doesn't know if she's heard him correctly – but she bites her lip to keep herself from asking him why. "Go ahead, ask me why. Ask me why it's a shame."

He's taunting her – or is he? His voice is calm but not mocking or superior.

Finally, she gives in – albeit stiffly. "Why?"

"Because I've thought about this. I've thought about this, and I've come to the conclusion that if your prior statement weren't true – we could be friends. Strange thought, I know, but that's what I truly, honestly think."

Her voice unknowingly gets small. "Friends," she echoes. And for a very long time she can't seem to wrap her mind around it. Friends. Like the way she was friends with Harry, and Ron. Like the way she talked to them and spilled her guts and cared for them. No, she can't wrap her mind around it. She tries, very hard, but there's just something inside her – a frozen, iron fist that holds her tightly. She is bound to who she was, even if everything about her is prehistoric and needed a good tuning up. She clings to it. She is an antique in a modern world, and she clings to it.

She shakes her head, laughing a breathless laugh. "No. Never."

She hears motion from behind her, but she doesn't turn around. His heel is grinding against the pavement, crushing his cigarette. "Times have changed, Granger. You can't keep living in the past. One day – it's going to hit you hard, and you aren't going to know who the hell you are anymore."


She never tells him that their conversation from that night haunts her. It never comes up. But sometimes, late at night, she hears the ticking of her clock, and she lies awake for hours. The constant continuance of time, the way it never waits for anybody – even for someone whose clock is broken. It doesn't wait for repairs, and it doesn't wait for any healing or mending. It expects you to get up, to be responsible, to be an adult and bear the brunt of it. You climb a tree, and you end up spending the rest of your day picking out the splinters from your hands. But that view was incredible, they'd say. That view was worth it.

She thinks she's made progress. Change is hard; especially when you've stuck onto something else quite different. And there are times when she feels like a wolf in sheep's clothing: uncomfortable, uneasy, and fake. But she convinces herself it's for the better. And it has, in no part, anything to do with what Malfoy had told her.

In the meantime, she continues to go to the bar with Harry, and Malfoy continues to date Ginny.

"I don't get it," he says to her. "I said it to you, too. Why does he get the credit?"

"He doesn't," she says. "He's an asshole."

"That doesn't change the fact, Hermione, that you still listened to him and not to me. I should be offended by that, but I'm going to let it go, because this change could be for the better." He picks through their appetizer with his finger. "So. Do you think they're going to get married and have blond, freckled diva babies?"

"Maybe. They'd be obscenely good at Quidditch, though."

"Oh," he melodramatically announces. He clutches his heart. "God, the thought hurts me. It makes me shake in my boots! If that's the case – I hope his nutrients are lacking enough for the little bastards to lose their way, if you know what I mean. If we're lucky they'll go insane and kill each other off. Like Lord of the Flies. Survivor gets the egg – but there will be no survivors."

"I don't know," she says. "She's his type. Beautiful and all that."

"But she's also bipolar, remember? That's the most important thing to know about beautiful people. With people, you've got to read the fine print. Especially the pretty ones – for some reason the pretty ones are a hell of a lot more messed up than the rest of us."

"Like Cho."

"God, yes. Like Cho. That beautiful, emotional basket case. I still – well, still think about her."

There's a thread of silence. A solemn thought comes to her, and before she knows it – before she can stop it – it's already come out of her mouth.

"He thinks we can be friends."

He nearly chokes on his buffalo wing. "What? Malfoy?"

"Yeah. Malfoy," she mutters.

"He said that to you? Are you sure you didn't dream it?" He's wiping his face with his napkin, smeared with barbeque sauce. "Was he high? Or drunk? Or wearing a straitjacket?"

"He was smoking a cigarette. We were outside. He told me about his date, even though I didn't ask."

"See," he says then. "What'd I just tell you? Beautiful people. They're just mental hospital escapees with better faces. I swear to God, if I was crazy enough, I'd tell people to lock 'em up and put them in a zoo."


To put a beginning to her situation would prove tricky – so she tries not to think of it at all. But it is difficult, seeing as how he sits a few desks away from her. He passes by when he goes to get coffee. He passes on the way to the bathroom. He passes on his way to the door to leave for the day. Every single day he goes back and forth, passing her, and she glues her eyes to whatever is in front of her, sometimes gritting her teeth. He passes by and every time she gets caught in an after-gust of his scent; a strange minty and bourbonish smell that slightly burns the inside of her nose, mixed in with a bit of citrus. But sometimes – sometimes she also smells pine.

One day he never comes in. The scent is absent and she doesn't want to seem obvious, but she looks over at his desk. It's empty.

"He took some woman he's dating to this cabin his parents have," she hears somebody say. "Don't know when he'll be back."

She tries very hard to not feel what she feels bubbling underneath the surface. She busies herself with what she needs to get done, and when she's finished early, she leaves early. She leaves the office with her mind still on that elusive pine.


"Well? Aren't you going to ask me where I was?"

He has a thing for slow-burning cigarettes. It makes him stink, but that's why he carries around a small packet of mint leaves in his pocket. He makes it a habit to chew them on his way in.

She's not too drunk this time. She's not exactly sure why this is. It's a Friday night, after a long week, and she's only had a half of beer. She couldn't stomach the rest.

She wonders how long this is going to keep happening. They always seem to end their conversations just in time for his cigarette to burn out.

"You were in your parents' cabin," she says, her stomach still wrangled with knots, "with Ginny."

"I believe I underestimated you, Granger. Now I know you do snoop."

"I overheard someone."

There's a slight pause. She keeps her face ahead of her, looking out at the road. A few cars pass, their lights speeding past, before they're back to their tense quiet.

He exhales a plume of smoke. "I had a lousy time – you know, between friends."

"We," she says, "are not friends. What we are is unclear. We are categorically ambiguous. But if we are anything, we sure aren't friends."

"Good," he says. "Fair enough." Then he sits beside her, his cigarette hanging off the side of his mouth. He blows the smoke out into the air in front of them – but all it looks like is a breath in winter. "Now, between non-friends, why didn't you tell me she was bipolar?"

She can't help it – a little smile snakes its way across her face. She rubs her hands together, using friction to keep them warm, before she answers. "I didn't think it was my place."

"Now, see, I don't believe that," he says. "I don't believe that for one minute. You, Granger, don't give a shit about whether it's in your place or not. I think you didn't tell me because—"

"Because I hate you," she finishes. "I hated you, and I wanted you to find out for yourself."

He nods in understanding. "Hence the lousy time at my parents' cabin."


"Are you happy, then?"

For a minute she's confused, and she sends him a look. He's closer than he's ever been, and noticing this makes her nervous. Just a little. She finds herself wanting to scoot away, but she's already gotten warm where she is.

"You know. Lousy time. Bipolar Ginny," he explains, taking another inhale of smoke.


He looks at her, then. Just looks at her, tapping his cigarette with his finger. The tiny orange sparks fly from the tip, glowing before dying out. "Why do you sit out here by yourself – other than the fact that you hate people?"

She shakes her head. "I don't hate people."

"No. I hate people. You – you want them all killed."

"I come out here – I sit out here and think."

He sits in silence for a minute, as if waiting for more. "So that's it then?" he says. "You just sit here and think."

She doesn't say anything. She just nods her head and tries not to think about how strange this is, and how even stranger it is that his cigarette seems to be burning much more slowly than usual.

"What do you think about?"

"Nothing," she says. "Or at least –it seems like it. You don't get to any conclusion sitting out here."

"Maybe," he tells her then, his voice low, "you're not supposed to. Maybe you're going to spend your entire life thinking about it and you're never going to figure it out."

"Well," she says, "that's a scary thought."

He looks at her, moving his cigarette away from his mouth. "Is it? I don't think so. It's only scary to you because you can't stand the thought of never figuring things out. That's the problem with your type," he says. "You think you can rule the world by just trying to think about everything."

She shakes her head, even though it sounds just like her. She doesn't believe he can get her right on just the first try. It'd be a lucky guess.

"You're not as hard to read as you think," he says then.

Or that.

"You think that by trying to distance yourself from people who've done you wrong – you'll never be tempted to forgive them. You've gotten too comfortable sitting there and feeling superior because you're the last of your kind. Last of your kind to let go, and there you are, still holding strong. You think that by staying where you are, distancing yourself from everyone, you won't have anything to lose." He looks at her then, waiting for a reaction, one pale brow quirked upwards. "Everybody's got something to lose, Granger. Doesn't matter where you sit."

There's a thick palpable silence then. She feels something burning like a fire inside the pit of her throat – something that tastes sour and bile. Something so thick she can't swallow. She glares out at the scenery in front of them, her fingers clenching tightly inside the pockets of her thin, flimsy coat.

"You're unbelievable," she says.

"I'm right," he says back.

"You're an asshole. Assholes always think they're right."

"Good. See? We're reciprocating. Tell me more about myself, Granger. I am highly interested in what you have to say about my character and moral values." He says this mockingly.

"You don't need someone to tell someone else that they're a snake," she hisses.

"You can do better than that. Come on. Come on!" He's riling her up, and she realizes this, so she tries her best not to play his game. She gets up then, heading straight for the door to get back into the bar, but before she knows it he's suddenly shoved her against the ice-cold brick wall. She tries to free herself, but this only makes him press harder, his frozen fingers digging into her arms. She spots his cigarette where he's left it, a tiny glowing spot on the pavement.

"Come on," he tells her, his breath hitting her face. She smells smoke, and it stings the inside of her nose. It's hard to breathe. She's almost afraid to look at him. "You can do better than that. I know you can. I know you've been saving them up for me, Granger. Saving them up for that one moment. Well, here it is. Here it fucking is. So come on."

"Let go of me," she spits at him. Her arms begin to flail and so do her legs, but he's too strong. He keeps her exactly where she's at.

"Come on!" he yells. Her ears ring and her brain – she doesn't know what's happened to it. All she can hear is her blood pounding, everywhere, everywhere all at once. Her body fades into her pulse, and her breathing labors – quickening, cut, and harsh. She doesn't know what's going on, but she's so frighteningly sure that she's never felt this scared – or alive.

"Come on! This is it, Granger! Just say it! Just say it!"

But she can't. Her throat is blocked up with something obtrusive and painful – were they words? Were they words cramming to come spilling out? She can't tell. All she knows is, she feels her hate for him burning her alive. Every inch of her skin has been doused with gasoline and now she was burning alive, and all this time – he'd been holding the match. Just a strike. Just a strike.

His hands are shaking her, as if – as if he shook her hard enough, the words she so badly needed to say but couldn't form would topple out somehow.

Then, finally – "I hate you! I – hate – you!" she hears somebody scream. The voice is shrill and pierces through the frozen night air, full of so much weight that she's surprised it doesn't sink directly into the ground. It doesn't immediately occur to her that the voice is hers.

She tells him that every day she wishes he'd been the one to die. That he is a living and constant reminder of the people who got off too easy – of people who didn't deserve to live in peace, who didn't suffer like she and her friends did. They hadn't paid their dues like she did. She paid more than her dues – she'd paid in blood, and in the dead bodies of her friends.

But there's more. In the midst of the hateful words that come out of her mouth, she finds herself holding back one last thing. She tries her best to swallow it back down, to try to bury it deep inside her. But her throat is too dry, and it's jammed itself in the middle of her throat, stubborn and insistent.

The silence that comes after is tense and noisy. She still hears the ringing in her ears. Her words are far gone into the distant night sky, but for once she can finally look him in the eye. She feels a deep, profound heaviness in her. Her knees are weak and she knows that if he were to let go, she would just collapse.

His breaths are warming one side of her cheek, heavy and laborious. The other side of her – it feels frozen.

"Good," he says to her, almost inaudibly. Then he gets louder. "Good."

He slowly lets go of her, and her knees almost buckle but she holds herself up, clutching onto the wall behind her. Her vision is blurry and the pounding in her veins is getting to be too much for her. He stands in front of her, just looking. Just looking.

"You're never going to forgive me," he says.

"I never want to," she whispers, and the moment she says that she feels a deep loss inside of her, gutting her inside out. She knows what forgiving him will do to her. She has enough sense to know that it could destroy her; that whatever this could possibly be inside her that finds comfort in his smoky, bourbonish smell could destroy her. She won't recognize herself.

She's already started to change.

"So what now?" he says. His cigarette that he'd left on the ground has died out. At first she doesn't quite know whether he's talking to himself or to her, but she answers him anyway.

"I don't know."


"What I don't get," Harry says, "is why we can't go back to the bar anymore. They had half-off appetizers, for God's sake!"

"Who says I'm stopping you?" she says, taking a bite of their newly reinstated Friday Night take-out. A televised sport is on in the background.

He grumbles under his breath, taking a drink out of his bottle. "You don't even want to tell me what the hell happened over there that made you swear that place off forever. What? Did you walk into a stall and somebody forgot to flush?"

"Sure," she tells him.

He looks at her for a minute, as if trying to read her. Then he shakes his head, laughing. "I swear, you're just about the strangest person these days, Hermione. Ever since the war. You're just about the strangest one out of everyone that came out of there alive."


The brick wall is scuffed now. Someone's spray painted graffiti on one side and there are flyers for a lost dog littered all over the floor. There's a condom cinched in between two bricks, where a crack has been worn away to reveal some type of deep fissure. A few torn-up plastic bags. As she sits there, the cold night air is long gone. It's hot now – humid, and hot, and the pavement underneath her jeans is still cooling off from the afternoon high. It was light when she got here, but now it's getting darker. She's got nothing else to do but to watch the sun go down.

She has a lot to think about. Inside her house she feels too closed in – as if her thoughts were closed in with her, too. They were suffocating her that way. This way, they had room to move, and she had room to breathe. Nothing to keep her in. Nothing to contain her.

She hears the door open behind her. It has a little squeak now, and it groans as it shuts.

"Want a smoke?" he asks her, even though he knows better.

"No thanks."

He fetches a cigarette out of his pocket and lights up, before sitting down beside her. He smells like smoke and mint, as well as bourbon and citrus and pine. She doesn't know how it works, but it does. It just does.

"Good," he says, exhaling. "This stuff could really kill you."

He shoves his lighter into his back pocket, his eyes only flickering up at her before he moves them back out to the sky. "I heard you turned in your two weeks notice today."

"You heard right."

"I thought you liked your job."

"I did."

He's quiet for a while. His face is smooth and calm but she can almost hear the gears shifting inside his head, putting pieces together.

"I heard about you and Ginny," she says. "I'm sorry."

He snorts. "No you're not. Don't ever tell me you're sorry, Granger. Because you're not. You've just quit your job for some reason you won't tell anyone. If there's anything you're feeling, it's not sorry, especially not for me."

"What happened?"

"We wanted different things. The roads diverged – you ever hear that? You start out on one path and then everything goes fine and dandy, and then suddenly, before you know it – you find out there was a turn you'd missed and you're on a completely different road. It takes you awhile to notice that the other person's not there with you, but you do. Eventually."

"But," she says, swallowing something prickly in her throat, "Ginny needs you."

"There's a difference between needing and wanting someone," he says. "When you want someone, you're perfectly capable of living without them but choose not to. And when you need – well, people really mean want when they say need; it's just a way of being that desperate to put it to extremes." He turns to look at her. "Nobody needs anybody, Granger. They just want to the point of pain. It's just a way of being dramatic."

That's when she brings it up. After a long pause, she finally brings it up, and her stomach is wrangled with uncomfortable and uneasy knots. "The reason I left my job. . . was because of you."

"Well, hell, I could've figured that."

But she's silent, staring at her feet. Then, suddenly, she hears him.

"Oh," he says, his voice inflected with realization. "Shit."

The silence that comes after is torture. She spends most of it trying to fight the urge to bury her face in her hands and run. After all – she doesn't know when she's become comfortable with this. She doesn't know when it happened. She had never made this decision. For all she knew, she was going to have it buried with her when she died.

"That's," he says, "impossible." But when she looks at his face, it tells her it makes sense. In the strangest way possible, it makes sense to him in a way that it doesn't even make sense to her.

"You know," he says, after the longest silence, "I don't deserve you."

Her heart starts to feel hopelessly heavy. She gives everything in her to deny it, but she feels it, nonetheless. Like an impending hole. First comes the mapping. Then the wrecking. She feels a little singed, but she tries her best not to show it.

"Of course you don't," she says, and her voice a little hoarse. "But whoever said life was about being with the person you deserved to be with?"

She isn't trying to plead her case. Or is she?

"No. I mean, I don't deserve you," he says, and for the first time, she hears difficulty in his voice. Frustration. "What I mean is. . . I wouldn't know how to be with you. I couldn't even begin to."

It doesn't make any sense at all, but she understands it.

"I understand."

He sounds earnest. "Do you?"

"Yeah. I do."

"Because I could – I could explain it better—"

She gets up and gives him a smile. It's a smile that comes out of forcibly pressing your lips together so that your mouth doesn't open. . . so that you can't cry.

She doesn't understand why she feels like this. Hurt. She's never invested much of anything in this; she's never led herself up to false expectations. She's never expected anything to come out of this except what was happening now – maybe less. So why did her heart feel like it was being ruptured in two? She had, after all, done this to herself. She'd put herself out there. And the thing is – you can never blame the other person. Because they'd never seen it coming, and it would be wrong to expect them to see it especially when you were trying to hide it even from yourself.

The thought occurs to her that she's come a long way. She's come a long way, and now she is here, trying to get out as fast as she possibly can without breaking.

"Don't worry about me," she tells him, and then she leaves.


There's a knock on her door before she hears the voice.

"Granger," it says. "Open the door."

She doesn't. She's afraid and surprised and shocked all at the same time, and she's convinced she can't move from behind her door. She doesn't even look through the peephole. She knows exactly who it is. And she's petrified.

"You can't blame me," the voice says. "You just can't. How was I supposed to know? How was I supposed to see it coming? You hated me. You hated me. How was I supposed to know?"

She closes her eyes, her forehead against the wood. The thing with heartbreak is that you make peace with it after it happens, even though it continues to throb like a sore wound. Because of this, she wants to tell him to go away. She would go back to the way she had been soon enough - if he would just go away.

"You don't owe me anything, Malfoy," she says through the door. "Go home."

"I'm not here because I owe you anything, Granger. If anything, I'm here because you owe me something."

Her eyes flutter open, her curiosity piqued. "And what do I owe you?"

"A negotiation," he says.

"What negotiation?"

"Open your door, and I'll tell you. I feel incredibly stupid talking to a door."

She does it, but hesitantly. But before she knows it he is in front of her, at her doorstep, with both his cigarettes and lighter haphazardly shoved in his pocket.

"No matter what you say," he tells her then, bluntly and with a straight face, "I will never give up smoking for you."

She can't help it – it's that damned smile again, sneaking its way across her mouth. "Oh? Is that what Ginny asked before you broke up with her?"

"No," he says. "She cried all over my cigarettes. Made them soggy and useless. They were imported, too."

She thinks about it for a while. "And what's in it for me?"

"That's negotiable. But we can start with this."

He crosses across her doorstep, then, and kisses her.

And it's funny, she thinks, because he tastes just like everything he smells. And it works. She doesn't know how, but it does. It just does.