I thought I'd post one of my H/D stories on here for the fun of it. :)

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

The First Step

Harry Potter was an unusual boy, not least of all because he'd vanquished an evil Dark wizard a mere five months ago. The details of his private life, however, were no less peculiar, as his friends well knew. One friend in particular, Hermione Granger, had had her suspicions for a few months now that something strange was once again occurring. This was precisely why she smiled knowingly when Harry sat down next to her in the Gryffindor common room in the afternoon on Halloween of their eighth year at Hogwarts, looking deeply confused and disconcerted.

"Hello, Harry," Hermione said kindly, setting a book down in her lap and marking the line she'd been reading with a finger.

"Hi, 'Mione," he mumbled, looking anywhere but at her. She looked past Harry to the other side of the common room where Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom sat playing wizard chess. Her new boyfriend, Ron, had chosen to accompany a couple of the other eighth years (Dean Thomas and Parvati Patil) to Hogsmeade. Hermione had been very much enjoying her quiet afternoon, as Harry had chosen to play some Quidditch with Ginny, Michael Corner, Zacharias Smith, and, interestingly, Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy. The inter-house companionship was a rather fresh development, having been urged and insisted upon more so than ever before since the first day of term. It was only recently that students had been independently seeking one another out, but it secretly put a smile on almost everyone's face to see it happening. Of course, the prospect of Harry and Draco Malfoy playing a relaxed game of Quidditch seemed far from doable yet in Hermione's opinion, but she'd been positively delighted when Harry had informed her that morning of his plans for the afternoon.

"How was Quidditch?" she asked, discreetly checking his exposed skin for any indication of fighting. The only thing visible was a small scratch on his left elbow, which could have easily come from something other than a hex.

"Good . . . Fun," he said, finally looking up at her. "I caught the Snitch."

"Shocking," Hermione teased. Harry's cheeks went lightly pink and Hermione giggled. "Why did you come inside?"

"Hm? Oh, I just got kind of tired . . ." he said, trailing off in the end, seemingly thinking about something. Hermione raised a brow in question.

"I see. And everyone else is still out there?"

"Yeah." Harry was silent for a moment before he sighed and seemed to give up the façade. Hermione was grateful. "Er—Hermione . . . do you think I could talk to you for a minute?"

"Of course, Harry," she said, refraining from making a sarcastic comment regarding the fact that they'd already been speaking for longer. "What's up?"

Harry seemed to gather his thoughts before speaking again.

"It's about Ginny . . ."

Hermione had to bite back her smirk. This was most certainly heading in the right direction.

"Relationship troubles?" If her suspicions were correct, and really, they usually were, Harry's problem extended well beyond "relationship troubles," though that would indeed be an entailment.

"Er—sort of." Hermione removed the book from her lap and brought her legs up to cross them in her seat. Harry watched this rather vacantly. "It's a little bit more . . . complicated, I guess. It's not even all about Ginny." He stopped and seemed to think. "In fact, I think it's more about me." He sighed. "I've been thinking a lot lately."

"Oh? What kind of thinking?"

Harry looked up at her with pain in his eyes and it broke Hermione's heart. It seemed very unfair that Harry, of all people, should have to deal with something such as exploring a new sexual orientation, especially after having already dealt with so much. He deserved normality now. He wanted it so much. But she was sure that once he figured it out, he would be the happiest boy alive. He just needed to become comfortable with it and find someone wonderful.

"Um . . . well, it kind of started a few . . ." he broke off, looking unsure of himself, and then squeezed his eyes shut. "Actually, it started around sixth year. I just didn't pay much attention then." Hermione's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. Sixth year? She definitely had not noticed anything that far back. "I don't know how to say this," he sighed, lowering his head into his hands. Hermione bit her lip as she watched him. Should she help him out a bit, move it along?

"Well, Harry, you said it had something to do with Ginny. Why don't you start with how it relates to her?"

He looked up, clearly cautious of what he should say.

"I thought I really liked her sixth year," he said. "But it was never . . . enough, I guess. It's hard to explain. After the war I just kind of felt like I was supposed to get back together with her. She likes me a lot and I . . . I love her, I just don't . . . I don't—"

"You don't love her that way," Hermione supplied. Harry nodded sadly. "Okay, so how does that tie into the larger . . . issue?"

"I don't think it's Ginny," he said quietly, looking at the floor. "I think it's more . . . well . . ."

"Girls." Harry's head shot up and he looked at Hermione incredulously. He seemed lost for words. Both How did you know? and What are you talking about? were almost tangibly on the tip of his tongue.

In the end, the former won out, Harry's cheeks becoming rosy with embarrassment.

"How did you know?" he choked out, looking pleadingly at Hermione. "I . . . I don't even know . . . I can't . . . I just don't get what's going on." His face was once more obscured in his hands and Hermione stood up from her seat and went over to Harry, perching on the arm of his chair and laying a comforting hand on his back.

"A few months now," she said.

"Is it obvious?" His voice was muffled by his hands.

"No . . . well, not terribly. I don't think anyone else has noticed, if that's what you mean." Harry raised his head once more but he looked far from mollified. "When did you start realizing it?"

"I started acknowledging it toward the beginning of the school year. About two months ago." He stopped and looked contemplative for a moment. "During the summer, I knew things weren't right with Ginny. When we . . . when we—you know—it just wasn't right. Something was missing. And, like I said before, I started thinking about sixth year and . . . I guess I tried to push it away again. Once we came to school I just stopped being able to ignore it."

"Is there . . . anyone in particular that's triggered something?" Hermione asked carefully. Truthfully, she'd not been able to pinpoint anything, or rather, anyone. The only thing that had pointed to Harry's sexual orientation had been a vibe she'd gotten. The way Harry was looking at boys very subtly instead of girls. And something about his personality, as well, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Now, she was dying to know if he already had his eye on someone. When his cheeks flushed again, even darker than before, her heart leapt with joy. "Oh, Harry, who is it?"

Harry looked up into her wide, excited eyes and Hermione could feel his trepidation.

"It's been happening since sixth year, 'Mione," he whispered, refusing to look at her. "Sixth year. I just ignored it. It doesn't make any sense. I hate it. I've been trying to convince myself otherwise these past two months, but it's just . . . it doesn't work." He looked up then, an odd mixture of pain and giddiness in his eyes. "When you liked Ron . . . before you were dating . . . did you get that weird, butterfly-feeling when he was around? And, like, if he looked at you, even when you were fighting, your body got all tingly and you felt like you could have just melted then and there?" Hermione smiled, unable to keep the awww off her face. Harry didn't seem to notice. "It's just like suddenly he's the only one I notice in the room. If he's there, I find him. I'm all self-conscious now." Harry raked a stressful hand through his hair. "I really like him, Hermione."

Hermione sucked her lips into her mouth to reduce the enormous smile on her face.

"Harry, that is so wonderful. I'm happy for you! Who is it?"

"You don't understand, Hermione. It's not wonderful. In fact, it's terrible."

"What in the world are you talking about?" Hermione went back to her chair and scooted it closer until their knees were nearly touching. "Do you think he's straight? Because you never know, Harry. And even if he is, some people just need a push in the right direction." She said it teasingly, though she was only half kidding.

"That's not it," Harry croaked. Hermione's brows furrowed.

"Well, what is it then?"

"It's who it is."

Hermione thought for a moment, making a mental list of any boy that could possibly have captured Harry's interest and be a problem. She could think of absolutely no one that fit into this category.

"I can't imagine who it could be," she said finally, mildly annoyed by this fact.

"You could if you really thought about it," Harry muttered darkly. Hermione rolled her eyes.

"I don't see how anyone you have a crush on could be so horrible," she said, leaning back in her chair. "I mean, yeah, if it was Malfoy, but I hardly th—" She stopped abruptly at Harry's reaction to this name—or rather, lack of reaction. Harry pierced her with a meaningful stare. "You're not serious." When Harry merely sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest Hermione's eyes rose beneath her bangs and her mouth dropped open. "You're kidding. This is a joke, right?"

"No, I'm not joking, Hermione." He looked offended and annoyed at this response. "I told you it was a problem and didn't make sense."

"I . . . I didn't mean . . . it's not . . ." She let out a long breath and stared at her friend incredulously. Harry pushed his palms into his eyes and hunched over with a low moan.

"What do I do, 'Mione?"

Hermione, in fact, had no idea what he was supposed to do. This was not just some arbitrary classmate Harry was talking about, but Draco Malfoy. Prissy, snotty, arrogant, Dark Marked, former Death Eater Malfoy. How in the world had this happened?

"Harry, I . . ." She sighed. "Harry, look at me." He looked up and Hermione couldn't help pitying him at the look of misery on his face. "I'm not angry and I'm not judging you, and I know you know that." Harry lifted a brow. "I just . . . Help me understand where this came from. You have to appreciate how out of the blue this is."

"I do understand," he said. "It's weird for me, too. He's been my enemy for as long as I've known him. In sixth year I just started . . . noticing him more, I guess. It started because of my suspicions, but then I got carried away. When I'd follow him, it wasn't just to see what he was doing. That's what I told myself, but . . . I knew it was more than that."

"Well, that clears a lot up," Hermione said, smiling lightly. "Ron and I thought you'd gone mental. Even if you did end up being right."

"I know," Harry chuckled, a small smirk playing on his face. "I did, too. I'd always noticed his hair, but suddenly I appreciated how nice it always looked." Hermione suppressed a giant smile. A light blush, however, colored her cheeks. "And then his pointy face became this kind of really attractive face, but I pushed it all aside. It's ironic, isn't it, that the year I started opening myself up to him was the year he really became my enemy? Before it was just childish, but that year we were on two separate sides of a war."

"It's sad," Hermione said quietly. Harry really never got a break, did he? "But the war's over now . . . are you going to, I don't know . . . do something about it?"

"What can I do?" Harry leaned back in the chair and glared at nothing in particular. "It's not like I can just walk up to Malfoy and say, 'Oh, hi, Malfoy. I know we've hated each other for seven years now, and I almost killed you that one time in the bathroom, but I actually really like you, so what do you say we forget anything happened and go shag?'"

Hermione felt the color on her cheeks become much darker.

"Sorry," Harry mumbled, "I'm just frustrated."

"You really like him that much, then?"

Harry blew out a long breath and his cheeks puffed out.

"Yeah, I like him that much. If I didn't I wouldn't be so upset!"

Hermione nodded.

"Well, I guess I could help you figure something out."

"Like?" Harry looked supremely skeptical.

"I don't know. Talking to him? That would be a good start."

"I already told you, Hermione, I can't just go talk to Malfoy!"

She pursed her lips in thought. Surely there was some way for Harry to start mending the bridge.

An idea struck her then, something so brilliant (and rather excitingly devious) she simply couldn't keep a smirk off her face. Harry noticed and frowned.

"What?" he said cautiously. "What are you thinking about?"

Instead of answering she stood up, grabbing Harry by the hand and hauling him up as well.

"Hey, wait, where are we going?" he yelled, trying to pull out of her grip. Unfortunately for him, their adventure that had taken place in the past year or so had done wonders for her strength, and so she dragged him easily from the common room. "HERMIONE!"

"We're going to the pitch," she said.

"The pitch? Why?"

"Because I feel like I haven't paid Malfoy much attention this year and if I'm going to help you I need to see him." Harry must have bought this because he continued to follow, although he released heavy, dramatic sighs every few minutes. Hermione silently congratulated herself on a lie well done and thanked Merlin for boys' thick-headedness.

When they got to the pitch the others were still flying. Hermione watched as Harry's eyes landed immediately on Malfoy, hovering gracefully beside Zabini as they talked.

"MALFOY!" Hermione called. Harry froze and looked at her in terror. She merely smiled to herself.

"What are you doing?" he hissed, trying desperately to pull out of her grip. She held tight.

"Ask him to Hogsmeade," she whispered. "There's still plenty of time before the dance and the town is gorgeous right now for the holiday."

"Hermione, are you cra—!" He stopped abruptly when Malfoy landed in front of them, shouldering his broom and raising an elegant eyebrow. He swallowed audibly.

"What can I do for you, Granger?" She noticed the way he glanced briefly at Harry, and the way Harry's face went instantly red.

"Harry had a question, didn't you, Harry?"

Harry watched with his mouth hanging open as Hermione walked away to meet Ginny, who'd just landed on the ground as well. When he turned back to Malfoy the boy was looking at him suspiciously.

"As intriguing as the inside of your mouth surely is, Potter—" Harry's mouth promptly closed and his pants immediately began to feel too tight "—I hope you have something more interesting to say than this," Malfoy drawled. Harry swallowed thickly, contemplating either running or Obliviating him and then running. His mouth was dry and his tongue felt much too thick.

No, a voice inside his head said. This is a perfect opportunity to start talking to him. You defeated Voldemort, you can ask Malfoy on a date.

A date. Oh, Merlin. . . .

Malfoy sighed.

"Well, if that's all—"

"No, wait." Harry blushed fiercely but stood his ground. Malfoy looked at him in both shock and confusion. "I . . . I came to ask you if . . . that is, to see if you'd like to come to—er—Hogsmeade with me . . ."

Malfoy stared blankly, as though he hadn't heard right.

"What did you just say?"

Harry took a deep breath and steeled himself.

"Will you go to Hogsmeade with me, Malfoy?"

In a moment of rarity Malfoy's jaw actually dropped and he stared at Harry as though seeing him for the first time. Harry felt his stomach plummet and his heart clench and knew it had been a bad idea. So, with as much pride as he could muster, he turned, planning to head back to his dorm and hide in his bed for the rest of the year, or maybe even the rest of his life.

"Potter, wait!" Harry turned at the sound of Malfoy's voice, albeit reluctantly. When Malfoy took a few tentative steps forward, his brows furrowed in contemplation, Harry felt his breathing become shallow. "Are you serious?" Harry merely nodded, having nothing else to do. He couldn't speak. Malfoy bit his lip and Harry thought idly it was probably the cutest thing he'd ever seen. "This isn't a joke? There won't be a team of Gryffindors ready to take the piss as soon as we get there?" He shook his head. After a few agonizing moments, Malfoy took a breath and said, "Yes, I will go to Hogsmeade with you."