Disclaimer: I do not own HP. :-)

A/N: This is for Sofia's second D/Hr contest! Hope you like it, everyone. x

The Fear

"Mr. Draco Malfoy!"

Professor Lupin was tapping his foot impatiently on the linoleum floor as he waited for a sauntering Draco to arrive near the now quaking closet.

"What have we got here?" Draco muttered as he stood beside his Lycanthropic professor as the elder moved towards the closet.

"Ah, Mr. Malfoy, if you have been watching and listening to the practical tests your classmates have taken, you will realize that what you are about to face boggarts."

"Boggarts, sir?"

"Yes, boggarts! Fascinating things! Now, Mr. Malfoy, the boggart is a shape-shifting creature that transforms into the victim's greatest and worst fear."

"Fear? Sir, I'm not afraid of anything."

"Well-projected confidence, my dear boy," Professor Lupin tapped his shoulder encouragingly. "But again, the worst part of fear is that it catches its victims off-guard. In short you are unaware."

Draco smirked.

"Anyway, all you've got to do to weaken the boggart is to imagine the funniest thing that comes to mind and it will transform into the most comic of beings. Be strong and say, "Riddikulus!"'

"Riddikulus?" Draco repeated. "Yes, this is totally and utterly riddikulus."

The Slytherins snorted.

"Shut up, Malfoy!" Harry Potter snapped. "You have got to learn to give some respect to your elders! Or do Malfoys skip the etiquette part?"

"Takes one to know one, Potter," Draco spat. "The Dark Lord took—"

"ENOUGH!" Professor Lupin boomed. "Now let's get on with this skill test! Mr. Malfoy, are you ready?"

"Always been."

"Oh, Draco." Pansy Parkinson sighed.

Draco's smirk grew wider.

"On the count of three now," Lupin said. "One."

Draco got into wand position.

"Two."

What were my fears? He thought.

And his mind returned with another answer: None.

He was ready for anything.

"Three."

The door burst open.

Tears stung his eyes as he recalled the memory. He could see his reflection in the mirror as he lost himself in the rushing sound of the water coming from the faucet. Every day, he would blame himself for that one failed skill test. And the bad thing was, that happened three years ago. He was in his sixth year and yet, the vividness of that recollection still hurt. He blamed his parents for raising such a hellish household, blamed the Death Eaters for branding the Dark Mark on him, and for his selfish self, for putting his morality aside to conquer some sort of greedy want Voldemort wanted just to lose to Harry in the end.

And now, he had lost the very people who had allied with him. Blaise, Goyle, Crabbe, and Theodore Nott would not even give him a second look as he passed their way. Pansy Parkinson was all over Blaise now and would not even give a single flirtatious gesture at him. He was facing the post-Voldemort era alone. And what was more terrible than being lonely? He splashed water on his face again. The night was not getting any younger. Dawn was approaching. What was the point of living when you know that the fear would come creeping behind your back and scare the hell out of you?

It had been the way she had looked at him. Curiosity piqued in the brainy conscious of Hermione Granger as she stole a glance at the Slytherin table. She saw the laughing mugs of the Slytherins as Blaise Zabini cracked a joke for what seemed like the third time in that sitting. However, she saw Draco Malfoy eating his custard alone. And she felt a pang of sympathy for her enemy. Why?

Oh, that Hermione Granger just irks me. Draco thought angrily as he saw her mahogany eyes darting through the crowd, clearly aimed at him. He shot her a glare in response and she looked away. Leave it to her to be a pain in the arse.

She shot him a glare too and turned her back on him, finally leaving him in peace. But as she threw her head back and laughed with her friends, he suddenly felt a pang of jealousy. Why don't I deserve friends too?

The boggart shifted into a shape now. Draco squinted his eyes to get a clearer view of his "fear." The other students watched intently as the shape-shifter finished molding itself.

And for some reason, Draco froze.

"Go now, Draco! Do it!" Lupin urged.

The shape had turned into an unusual concept that grew strange outstretched arms and walked toward him.

"Step back." Draco commanded as he walked backwards.

The figure did not listen and continued to step forward.

"Step back!"

Draco's wand hand quivered.

"Welcome me." It said.

"Riddik—"

"WELCOME ME!"

Draco's head shook vigorously.

"No. No. No."

"Oy, everybody, take a gander! Ickle Malfoy's afraid of…"

"LOVE!" Draco bellowed as he splashed water on his face. It was his second night in the bathroom and due to his insomnia, his once handsome face looked like he had aged ten years. His eyebags were sallow, his skin was branding a sick pale color, and his lips were chapped. His hair was also tousled everywhere and his clothes were mismatched. But who cared? No one spoke to him and The Golden Trio was getting on his nerves. "Who cares about the damn concept? The three pigheaded gits can hog all of it, for all I care!"

He left the bathroom and stomped back to his Common Room.

"Honestly, Ron, could you be any more pigheaded?" Hermione huffed as she flipped through her Arithmancy textbook.

Ron frowned and ignored her comment as he bit down on his turkey. Harry grinned as he browsed through the Daily Prophet while sipping his orange juice. As he put down his paper, he saw Hermione glancing at the window again. Or was it toward the Slytherin table?

Damn it, Granger! Stop looking at me. Draco thought as he sliced his roast beef, hating the feeling of being watched. Hermione had been looking at him again and he locked eyes with her. Her stone-cold face carved into a smile and he realized that he'd been staring longer than he'd intended to. And…

Wait just a bloody minute. Did Granger just smile at me?

He blinked twice and refocused but Hermione had already turned her back and was busy chatting with her best friends. He was caught off-guard by her sudden gesture and regretted the first thought that popped into his head:

She had the most perfect set of teeth.

He slammed his spoon down and stormed out of the Great Hall.

Rattle.

"What was that?" Draco asked himself, shocked by the sudden noise. He was on the third floor corridor, walking around to shake the new thought forming in his mind.

Hermione Granger.

For some reason, she had started surfacing in his thoughts ever since that day where she had given him an apologetic glance when Harry and Ron were laughing at him for failing the skill test three years ago. Yes, he admitted that he'd thought about her occasionally, probably about wanting to kill her off too. Oh, whom was he kidding?

Maybe she was being nice due to some conspiracy she had with those nutheads she had for friends. He didn't know. Would Granger be the type?

Rattle, rattle.

He was near the Defense Against the Dark Arts room and immediately, the same recollections he'd been having flooded through his mind and he lost himself in a stream of terrible consciousness. He was so absorbed in the fear that he bumped into Hermione Granger.

"Malfoy?" she asked.

"Who else?" Draco snapped.

"Don't go all huffy on me. I was just making sure."

"You can't tell me what to do."

"Who do you—"

"What? What, Granger?"

Hermione shook her head.

"You know what? I don't want to waste my time arguing. You've clearly been having a few bad weeks and I don't want to add to your trouble."

Draco's jaw hung open.

"What?"

"Just, er, feel better," She tapped his shoulder gingerly and she walked away. "Goodnight, Malfoy."

It had been a good few weeks for Draco. He had been sleeping better but yet thoughts of Hermione Granger had begun to take over thoughts of the fear. He had been thinking of her more frequently now and the feeling was not as terrible as before.

Besides, she had become the diversion to the closet rattling so why push her away? And of course, who can deny her incredible figure?

Draco gasped as the thought dawned on him.

Did he just think that?

Hermione hid behind a tree as she watched Draco reading a book. She watched him smile as he flipped through the pages and she felt herself blushing. Draco Malfoy had not looked that good in ages. His skin had more colour, his hair was still messy but in a good way, and his lips were back to their moisturized selves.

"I never knew Draco Malfoy enjoyed reading books." She said as she walked over to the bench across him.

Draco looked around and saw Hermione sitting across him, her legs crossed as her shorter than usual skirt highlighted her calves. Draco shivered as he refocused on his book. Hermione watched Draco's fingers tap on his lips as he smirked. Hermione felt herself swoon but caught herself just in time.

"Nice to see you too, Granger," Draco put down the book and looked at her. "Excuse you, but I do much more than plot evil, you know."

Draco watched Hermione's cheek tinge red and he gave her a half-smile. He thought she looked ravishing as she bit her lip.

"Oh, really?" Hermione giggled.

Draco cocked his head to the right and smirked. Hermione blushed even more.

"So, tell me, Granger, why are you being so nice to me? You aren't the type to be nice to a Slytherin, especially I. And have you forgotten the years of torture I've put you and your friends through?"

Hermione rested her head on her open-palmed hand that was resting on her knee. "People change, Malfoy."

She stood up and walked over to him and whispered in his ear, "Knowing that somebody cares for you, even if he or she's the only one, can make a difference to a person's life. Maybe I want to be that difference."

Draco stiffened at the sudden contact he and Hermione made but was distracted by the lavender scent her body gave off.

"So are you saying you care for me?"

Hermione was already heading back when she turned around and smiled.

Over the course of the term, he had developed a secret friendship with Hermione Granger. There would be across-the-room glances and then subtle flirtations in the library where they'd always stay in to browse books, a common interest they had now in fact shared.

The rattling had lessened in volume when he had befriended the Gryffindor princess and he felt himself loosen up whenever she was around. The feeling was great but yet the new emotions were still not powerful enough to defeat the old feelings of fright and fear.

Yes, the rattling had lessened but it didn't mean it had stopped.

His heels were tapping lightly on the creaky floorboards of the library as his fingers traced the now hoary spines of the tomes Hogwarts had kept over the years.

Hermione Granger was scanning a shelf of books and her steps were sauntering as she moved forward. Her hands were constantly on the move as she took and returned books after she browsed through the summary.

She hadn't realized that Draco was on the other side of the shelf and when she reached out, a hand brushed hers and she let out a soft screech.

"Found you." Draco's husky voice whispered.

Hermione was blushing furiously now. She knew she should focus on looking for that Ancient Runes book but she couldn't resist sneaking a look at the striking appearance of the Slytherin Prince. The moonlight fell beautifully on his golden head of hair as locks fell gently, shading the grey eyes he had. His lips were curled into his usual smirk and his nose was slightly upturned. And she felt him staring at her too as he was casually leaning on the concrete wall near the window.

"Ancient Runes… Ancient Runes…"

The beguiling scent of wood spice filled her area of space as he felt him now nearing her, his right arm outstretched and his toned figure leaning in towards hers. She daren't turn around or she knew her knees would helplessly weaken when she would look at him up close.

"Turn around, Granger," Draco whispered. "Stop looking at those tomes. They could live for another century or two without your hawk eyes leering over them like bait."

Hermione couldn't breathe.

"I have your Ancient Runes book." He was leaning into her mass of curly brown hair now and Hermione felt his finger tracing the outline of her shoulder. The grazing left an exhilarating burn and she felt herself wanting more. But she knew she had to resist.

"You—You do?" Hermione squeaked.

"Mmmm." He murmured into her ear.

"Before I do, I just want to say, thank you for letting me into your life," Hermione managed. "I love how you knew that you can never fight those fears alone all the time. You have changed and I'm glad you welcomed me."

She turned to face him and her arms were outstretched.

Draco, however, took three steps back.

"What?" he said, his ears suddenly ringing.

"I said—"

"I knew what you said!"

"Then why did you—"

Oh god.

The fear.

Outstretched arms, 'welcome me.'

Temptation.

It's making me surrender.

No.

No.

"Get away from me, Granger," he blurted. "Get away."

"What are you talking about? It was just a hug—"

"Are you trying to make me surrender, huh, fear? WELL YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!"

"DRACO MALFOY, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?"

"I knew it! I knew it! You are not Hermione Granger! She would never drag me into a situation like this. She would not try to tempt me to give up this fight between fear. You are FEAR. And guess what, I'm not surrendering!"
"GET OVER YOURSELF, MALFOY! THERE'S NO FEAR. YOU'VE FACED IT THREE YEARS AGO. YOU'VE WELCOMED ME ALREADY AND WE'RE GETTING THERE!"

"Those words! Welcome me."

He was shaking with fright and fury.

"Have you gone delusional?"

Hermione was shaking too as she put her arms down and her friendly brown eyes shot rays of hatred at Draco.

"You're—You're trying to change me, fear. You're trying to make me think that I can't fight alone. You—you get away from me!"

"YOU'VE GONE MAD, MALFOY!" she screeched, not caring that they were in the library. "THERE IS NO—"

She gripped onto his wrist to prove she was of human flesh but he brushed her off, his face full of fright. He whipped out his wand and screamed, "RIDDIKULUS!"

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" she exclaimed as she hid behind the shelves. Books were flying everywhere as he repeated the incantation.

"RIDDIKULUS! RIDDIKULUS!" he screamed as Hermione darted from area to area, avoiding the sparks shooting from his wand. "DON'T YOU EVER THINK THAT YOU CAN CHANGE ME."

"You're hurting me."

"WELL THEN, FEAR," he said as tears rolled down his cheeks. "I GUESS I'VE WON THEN."

Draco ran out of the library, blinded with the old feelings of fear and left a sobbing Hermione Granger clutching an Ancient Runes book.

"Are you okay, Hermione?" Harry asked as Hermione played with her peas. "You seem a little off."

Hermione didn't respond and continued playing with her peas, all the while glancing at the now empty seat of Draco Malfoy. It had been a good three weeks since she and Draco had talked. And it was painful. She thought about everything that happened between him and how close she was to helping him and letting him know that she, unlike everyone else, cared for him. She felt pricking sensations in her eyes as she saw the rage and fury and fear of Draco's orbs as he left her alone in the library, succumbing to fear's temptations.

But despite all this, why does she still think of him constantly? Still remember the feel of his finger on his shoulder, his enticing scent, and his eyes? Maybe she had leveled up a notch from the friendly version of care. She knew she'd been denying it but there was no use.

She was in love with Draco Malfoy.

She continued to stare at the peas and then stormed out of the Great Hall, leaving the two now befuddled faces of her best friends.

RUMBLE RUMBLE.

"Change," he spat as he looked at the closet. "What good does that ever come to anybody?"

Clutch.

Let go.

Clutch.

Let go.

Clutch.

Let go.

The handles creaked as his indecisive self grasped again. And then let go.

His courage was wavering as his body shook violently. He was ready.

No he was not.

He was.

No.

He was.

No.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" he banged his fists onto the stone wall of the room as he fought with his frustration.

Why couldn't he face the boggart?

Draco. Draco.

The voice was haunting.

RUMBLE RUMBLE.

Fed up with his cowardice, he opened the doors and again the boggart shape-shifted into a figure with outstretched arms walking toward him.

"Riddik—"

"WELCOME ME."

"RIDDIK—"

"WELCOME ME, DRACO! WELCOME ME!"

"HELP! OH GOD, HELP ME PLEASE! ANYBODY!" Draco was cowering as he took several steps back, the creature catching up swiftly.

He thought of the one person he knew would come to the rescue but she was long gone and angry. She resented his every being and yet he still found himself thinking about her. How had she been?

"WELCOME ME."

Draco fought to scramble and run towards the entrance, his thoughts crashing wildly. Granger—boggart—Granger—riddikulus!

It was too much.

"HELP ME! OH GOD… GET AWAY!"

He knew he was going to be eaten by fear alive. He knew this would be the death of him. And he thought of how stupid he was, pushing away the only one who had ever made an effort to get to know him.

To befriend him.

To realize he was human.

"Granger," he cried. "Granger, I'm sorry."

He knew his parents never cared to know who he was and his friends were just his minions. He never shared secrets with them or shared a couple of Butterbeers. He was born alone and he was to die alone.

And yet she came along.

He knew he'd been fighting the fear when in reality, fear was changing into something much more. And now he maltreated the only person he gradually cared for, befriended, and needed.

He will never be able to tell her he loved her.

"RIDDIKULUS!"

Draco shut his eyes as he heard the clicking of the closet.

He opened his eyes and found Hermione with her signature smile.

"I told you I'd come back for you."

Her arms were outstretched again and tears were falling down her cheeks. She had never looked so beautiful.

"Come here."

Her voice was soft, leveled, and full of compassion.

Draco took a timid step forward but Hermione just ran into him, her body colliding with his as she gripped onto his toned physique. The new emotions brewing in the internal system of Draco's body had reacted in totally mixed ways that his mind was confused with his heart, the fear finally breaking down, loosening its grip on the poor Slytherin boy, and finally dissipating. And all that was left was him and the one holding onto him.

And that was when Draco broke down.

"Grang—Granger," he murmured into her hair in between sobs as Hermione rubbed his back, warmth spreading throughout his body. "I'm sorry. I really am."

"Hush now," she whispered back as she wiped his tears away. "See, doesn't a hug make you feel good?"

"Yes, admittedly." he nodded sheepishly.

He felt his arms move involuntarily to wrap her body as their arms intertwined in what seemed like the warmest of embraces. She let him go but he gripped firmly on her waist.

"Don't go," he whispered as he pulled her closer. "I..."

Hermione raised her right eyebrow in playful confusion and yet in conscious anticipation.

"Yes?"

"I... need you."

Hermione kissed his cheek.

"Say it again."

"I need you, Granger, I do."

He chortled good-naturedly.

"Wow, it does sound good. Saying it, I mean."

Hermione giggled softly into his built chest.

"Granger?"

"Hmm?"

"Is it bad to know that you need someone?"

"No, it isn't."

"But being needy is so cowardly. I want to fight alone, sometimes, you know? I can't just keep depending on other people."

"It isn't cowardly when two people are feeling the same way."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I need you too. More than you'll ever know. We can call each other support systems."

Draco snickered softly.

"Well, let me be the courageous one now."

"Hmm?"

With his finger, Draco lifted her chin a few inches near his and kissed her on the lips and she felt the soft movements of his own as his speech fought to make clear the words he'd been dying to say.

"I love you."

Hermione giggled softly and brushed a blond lock from his eyes.

"My brave Slytherin prince."

She laid her head on his chest and gripped tighter.

"I love you too."

As the moonlight cast its usual pallid glow, its light basked the two lovers in the classroom, holding onto each other, their bodies sending messages of want, of love, and of need.

And from then on, that naughty rattling closet had lost its quaking.