1-THE HANDKERCHIEF

It was a rare afternoon that Harry got to spend some time with Ron. He hadn't seen his best mate in a while…since the day he kissed Lavender and they started spending every waking moment together. Harry had seen Hermione heading towards him and he'd been about to wave but when she saw Ron she vanished. Harry sighed and cleaned his glasses on his robes as Ron started to set up the wizard's chess. He wondered why Hermione was being so weird. Surely she didn't like Ron?

As they began to play, Ron started to tap his fingers on the desk.

"Snape is such an idiot." Ron snapped, as his knight viciously ripped the head of Harry's queen. "Lavender didn't deserve detention."

Harry felt slightly sick at the soppy way Ron said her name. Harry had expected them to split up almost immediately but they'd been together a good three months and nothing seemed about to give.

"I hope she comes back soon." Ron glanced around the room.

"Right." Harry said, moving a pawn and wishing he'd gone to the library with Hermione instead.

"Harry?" Ron sounded…nervous.

"Yeah?" Harry raised an eyebrow.

"Have…have you ever…do you…do you think you've ever loved anyone? Like Cho?"

There was a pause. When Ron asked Harry is he'd loved anyone, his mind didn't spring to Cho. It instead sprang to a pretty, petite redhead, whose hair he wanted to stroke, whose hands he wanted to hold, whose lips he wanted to kiss….but he couldn't. Not Ron's sister.

"I didn't love Cho." Harry said truthfully. "But she didn't love me either. We never had a chance, she was in love with Cedric and I was in lo…uh…freaked out about Voldemort."

"Can I tell you something?"

"Sure…" said Harry, with a very bad feeling. Ron leaned forwards.

Behind the tapestry, Hermione listened too. She hadn't meant to listen, but it had been the only place to hide before Ron saw her. She didn't want to talk to Ron. But it seemed he had a confession to make…and her heart desperately hoped that it was that he didn't love Lavender…and that he loved someone else instead. Someone closer to home.

"I love her. Lavender. She's all I can think about all of the time. In lessons I don't hear a word because I can't keep my eyes off her…off her body…which by the way looks SO much better when it's not covered with robes…mmm. But it's not just about the physical stuff Harry; she's the only girl I can ever see myself with. The only person I ever want to hold and talk to and love. I can…I can see her in my future. Everywhere I look. Those blue eyes, that blonde hair, that girl. And by some crazy miracle she loves me too…Imagine, Lavender Weasley." Ron grinned goofily and Harry wondered if pretending to vomit was an appropriate response.

Behind the tapestry, a heart shattered. Holding back sobs, Hermione retreated into the corner of the cubbyhole. She was surprised but relieved to discover that there was a hidden door – allowing her to escape the Gryffindor common room without Ron seeing her. She was on the fourth floor somewhere – a fairly empty corridor at the busiest of times. Now, it was deserted. Hermione didn't have the strength to stand and she sank to the floor, her back to a corner.

He'd done physical stuff with Lavender. He wanted to marry her. He loved her and she loved him. Hermione was choking on air, crying desperately, yearning for arms that she could never had. The future she'd envisaged was gone. Her wildest dreams smashed and broken at her feet.

The words echoed in her head, in the voice that she'd come to love with a yearning passion. She heard footsteps, but she didn't look up. Nobody would bother a crying girl. In theory.

Malfoy absentmindedly strolled along a corridor somewhere. He was avoiding Pansy Parkinson who wanted to get together after their string of one-nighters. Malfoy was a bit of a womaniser. He'd slept with a good handful of Slytherin girls, many of them in the year below. They were all too willing to get in with the old, rich Malfoy family. Pathetic thought Malfoy. While the sex was good, they didn't satisfy the craving he found in himself. Not a craving to be physically satiated but a craving to be loved. For who he was and not for his name. But that wasn't why Pansy wanted to be his girlfriend. She was just after his money and reputation, like all the other whores.

A noise distracted his absent strolling and he looked down to see a girl curled up in a corner. Disgruntled, he took in the bushy brown locks of the Granger girl. She was probably sleeping after staying up all night working. Nerd. Mudblood.

"Oi, mudblood, stop sleeping." He sneered, kicking her foot before walking on. He walked slowly, in the mood for confrontation, but she didn't retaliate. That was odd. Granger normally always had some form of retaliation – she was smart like him and good at comebacks. He looked over his shoulder and saw that Granger wasn't sleeping but crying.

She probably failed some test or something. He was going to walk off but then he thought when would Granger ever fail a test? Slowly, he turned around.

There was something…something in those brown teary eyes that he couldn't walk away from. No gentleman left a girl crying, even if she was a Gryffindor AND a mudblood in one.

"What's the matter?" He asked, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. He was used to seducing girls, not reassuring them. She looked up at him through her wet lashes, bewilderment showing in her eyes. Like warm pools of liquid chocolate. God, she was beautiful. How had he not noticed? The almond shape of her eyes, the perfection of her nose, the fantastically high planes of her cheekbones, her full kissable lips. He'd been blinded by her lowly status. She was practically a muggle for god's sake.

"Why do you care?" she whispered. She couldn't get angry at Malfoy because everything was focussed on trying to fix her broken heart. She needed to stay strong. But…he wanted to marry her for goodness sake. She would never be Hermione Weasley. But there would be a Lavender Weasley. The thought brought on a fresh wave of tears and she buried her face in her hands.

Mainly because he wanted to see her face again, Malfoy crouched down next to her and fished in his pocket for his silk handkerchief, with the DM sewn in green on the corner.

Down the corridor, a teacher stopped in shock and made himself invisible.

Was Draco Malfoy actually preying on Granger now? Snape fumed. Granger was his best student. He couldn't let Malfoy ruin her like he'd ruined so many other girls. After him, they just gave up trying. Snape didn't like Granger but he wouldn't want her future to be ruined by Draco. But…something about the situation seemed odd to Snape. Malfoy was tenderly pulling the girls wrists from her face…and gently drying her eyes with his handkerchief.

Why would Draco choose Granger for one of his…past times, Snape thought wryly. Draco hated anyone who wasn't Pureblood like him…and he hated Granger. It seemed strange that he would want her for sex. Shrugging, Snape hurried away. He had things to do. He'd keep an eye on the situation and if it did seem that his Slytherin was messing Hermione around then he would step in.

Hermione held still as Draco dried her eyes, wondering if perhaps she was dreaming. Draco hated her. She was a muggle-born…he called her a mudblood. Why was he drying her eyes and murmuring 'it's okay, it's okay'? Nothing made sense.

"Hermione?" Harry's voice echoed down the corridor. After the conversation with Ron, Lavender had turned up and Harry had gratefully escaped. Unable to find Hermione in her normal haunts, he'd begun to wander all over the castle for want of something better to do, hoping she wasn't in a bathroom somewhere.

Draco stiffened.

"Here," he stuffed the handkerchief into Her hand and gently closer Her fingers around it. "Give it back…when you don't need it anymore."

Before he left, his hands closed in a brief squeeze around her shoulder ad before she could thank him for his unexpected kindness he was gone.

I was just being a gentleman. I was just being a gentleman. Hissed Draco to himself as he hurried away. He crashed into Millie Blackward, a tall curvy girl with blonde hair in the year below. She grinned coyly at him – they had history – and he threw himself into her open embrace to try and wipe the image of that beautiful face from his eyelids…

"HERM-Oh there you are." Harry skidded to a breathless halt, when he spotted his best friend. She was examining a piece of silk, an odd look on her face. "What's that?"

"Oh…nothing." She said, blushing. She stood and stuffed the thing in her pocket. "Shall we go to the Library?"