This is a series I'm doing over at The Maple Bookshelf. I'll post a new story each month over there. And if you like to write fanfiction as much as you like to read it, pop over there and enter the spring challenge. I'll be rewarding the winner with a one-shot! Hope to read some great stories and thank-you in advance. Part two (February's story) is already posted over there, and March's will be soon. Thank you!

*All characters and canon situations belong to JK Rowling and I make no money from the writing or publishing of this story.

Two Doors



Draco Malfoy rubbed his eyes and sat up in his bed. It was a cold morning in January, and there was a pounding on his front door and an equally loud pounding in his head. Looking at his clock, he saw that it was eleven in the morning. He was dreading today, and he was dreading answering the door even more because he knew who would be on the other side of his green, front door. It would be 'her'.

Still, he mumbled, "Why the bloody hell is someone knocking on my door at this unholy hour?" The only other breathing creature in his room was his rather large grey, long-haired cat, aptly named, 'Draco's Cat', but affectionately known by his shorter moniker, 'Cat' by his erstwhile owner. Therefore, the question was all that was rhetorical.

There was another loud series of knocks. "Seriously!" Draco barked, moving his feet to the floor and standing. "Don't people know it's either too early or too late to be knocking on a fellow's door?" He grabbed the top sheet from his bed, wrapped it haphazardly around his waist and trudged down the stairs, 'Cat' weaving in and out and around his feet as he went.

Nudging the cat away from the door with his foot, he inhaled a fortifying breath as he opened it wide and sure enough, he saw a smiling Hermione Granger on the other side. She had a basket of heavenly smelling bread in one arm and a vase with flowers in the other. Her hair was down and long and pretty. She wore a smile upon her face and a bright blue winter coat upon her back. A red scarf completed the ensemble, well, that and a bright, beguiling smile.

Draco promptly slammed the door in her face and started to trudge back up the stairs to no avail. She knocked a third time.

Draco sighed loudly, looked down at his cat on the bottom step and said, "Well, are you going to get it?"

The cat walked away quite uninterested, so Draco wrapped the sheet tighter around his middle and went back to his front door. Once there he braced his hands upon the frame, dropped his head so that his forehead touched the cold wood of the door and he paused. He didn't want to see Hermione Granger after what happened yesterday. He might not want to see her ever again.

"What do you want?" he willed himself to say softly. He figured she wouldn't hear him since they had a two inch door between them – he was wrong, of course. She promptly answered, "Draco, won't you open the door and find out what I want?"

Shaking his head no, even as he moved away from the door to pull it open, he cracked it a bit, spied her on his doorstep and barked out, "Get on with it then."

The bright smile she wore on her face earlier slipped slightly, to be replaced by a guarded, dubious one. "I brought you some freshly baked rolls from the bakery on the corner. I wanted to welcome you to your new home on your first morning here."

Draco wanted to knock his head against the wood of his brightly painted green door. "I'm probably moving out by tonight, so really, there's no need." When she didn't reply, he added, "Can't you just leave it outside with a note or something?"

She looked taken aback by his rudeness. Good, for he was taken aback by it as well. "I guess I could have," she started, "except I thought that perhaps we should talk about what happened yesterday."

"I don't want to talk about what happened yesterday," Draco moaned. "I don't want to talk about it, think about it, examined it, re-examined it, outline it, dissect it, and hash-it out to death. I want to forget about it. If you were as smart as you claim to be, you'd forget about it as well. Forget all about it… please, for I intend to." And with that he started to slam the door in her face, thought better of it, opened it wider, grabbed the basket with rolls, tossed it on the side table in his foyer, and THEN he slammed the door in her face.

After that, he sat down on the stairs, pulled his sheet tighter around his middle and began to think about, examine, and re-examine (as well as outline, dissect, and hash out) the blunder that was 'it'… also known as the best/worst kiss of Draco Malfoy's thirty years on the earth.

All of Draco's problems started yesterday when he moved into his brand new home. No, actually, his problems started two weeks earlier, on January 3rd, to be exact, when Draco's found a perfect house to lease, owned by his friend, Adrian Pucey. The house was situated in Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey. It was a lovely white brick, semi-attached with three stories, in the heart of the town. It hosted one red door and one green door and it was far away from his parents, close enough to London proper, and far enough away from Draco's ex-girlfriend, so without even looking inside, Draco told his friend, "I'll take it."

Adrian told him at the time, "The left side, the one with the green door, is the empty space. It's been totally remodeled, and better yet, it's owned by a wizard, so it's been completely kitted out with Floo accessibility, wards, you name it."

"Who owns it?" Draco asked his friend.

Adrian smiled. "Yours truly."

Draco almost walked away right then. Instead, he asked, "Who lives on the other side?"

"A witch," Adrian quipped. "Now are you serious about taking it or not? I happen to know you can afford the rent, because let's face it, you could afford to buy the whole block if you wanted, and I do have other people interested in it."

Draco stood on the front sidewalk, gazed up at the building in front of him, and then glanced back toward the red door. "Who lives there, behind the red door? A name if you please?"

"Why does that matter?" Adrian asked with a wave of his hand. "You're a quiet bloke, she's a quiet woman, and you won't even know the other one is there."

Draco took a long, deep breath in through his nose and exhaled it slowly. "I'll only ask one more time, Pucey. Who lives behind the red door?"

Adrian looked at his friend sheepishly and finally answered. "I think you might already know who lives there."

And with that, Draco did turn around and started to walk away, yet he only got a few steps from the front stoop before Adrian was pulling him back with a tug to his arm.

"Let's face it, Malfoy," Adrian scolded, "You've been drifting from place to place, day by day, living mostly in a fog since your girlfriend left you. You need to set down roots again. You need to start living again. It doesn't matter who lives behind the red door."

Folding his arms in front of him, Draco pouted and said, "My girlfriend didn't leave me, for your information. I left her, albeit after she cheated on me, but still, I left her."

"Yes, yes," Adrian commiserated, "and it's been eight months and you still aren't over it yet. " Placing his hand back on Draco's arm, Adrian said softly, "You need this, Malfoy, in more ways than one. You need to get away from your folks, and you need someone like her to help you do it."

Draco glared at his friend. "You're trying to set me up, aren't you?" He shook his finger at Adrian. "I won't be made a fool of, and I won't be manipulated."

Adrian sighed. "I know how you've always felt about her, Malfoy."

No need to elucidate further… Draco and Adrian both knew to whom 'her' referred. "I haven't always felt this way about her," Draco objected, sitting down on the steps leading up to the green door. "I've only felt this way for the last few years, give or take a year."

Sitting beside him, Adrian supplied with a smile, "Word through the grapevine is that all is not as it should be in her happily-ever after farce of a relationship with Weasley. Did you know that?"

Rolling his eyes, Draco said, "Of course I know it. Her wanker of a boyfriend isn't very judicious about his liaisons. I suppose I should thank my lucky stars that at least Astoria cheated on me discreetly."

Nodding, Adrian said, "You should just thank the gods above that you found out what she was like before you married her."

Draco knew that was the truth. He also new that he shouldn't tempt fate by moving in next door to Hermione Granger, but then again, he was forever tempting fate. He not only often tempted fate, he also constantly poked it in the arse with a stick, just for the fun of it. What would be, would be. If he was meant to live next door to the woman he had often thought should be his, then so be it.

He went back to his flat, packed up his belonging, and two short weeks later had completely moved into the house with the green door, while Hermione Granger lived in the house with the red door directly next door.

To make moving day even more harried, Draco accepted an invitation to Harry Potter's wedding, to be held at Hogwarts, on the very same day that he had moved in. He didn't know why 'the man who had to live' had to send Draco an invitation, but he figured Hermione would be there, and since they were going to be neighbors and all, it would be neighborly to go to Potter's wedding… at least, that's what Draco told himself.

It was January, it was Scotland, yet the day was beautiful – cold, yes, but not windy and not freezing and no snow. There was a large tent, placed upon the Quidditch Pitch, to be kept warm by magic, where the ceremony was to be held and another tent for the reception. Arriving a bit late (because it was moving day) Draco slipped in right before the wedding started and sat down next to Adrian just as the ceremony began.

"I'm surprised to see you here. Didn't think you'd come," Adrian said in a whisper.

"I was invited," Draco huffed a bit too loudly, causing the woman sitting in front of them to offer him a put upon look.

Adrian stared at his friend with an odd expression. "I know you were invited, I only meant because you just moved into your new house this morning."

"The wonders of magic, my dear, Pucey, is that I can be in one country one minute, and in another one the next." Draco sat back in his chair and said, "It's not as if I did any of the work involved with moving. What's the point of being filthy rich if I have to do all the work?"

Adrian laughed, causing the woman in front of them to turn around and look at the two men even as she said, "Hush!"

Draco bumped his shoulder into Adrian's and said, "You heard her… hush.

"I think she's hushing you, not me," Adrian offered. Just then, Hermione Granger walked up the aisle. Adrian leaned toward Malfoy and said, "Have you introduced yourself to your new neighbor yet? The girl behind the red door?"

Draco became quiet as he watched her walk up the aisle. She was serving as the matron-of-honor, but she was more beautiful than the bride herself. He said softly, "I hardly think I need to introduce myself to her. I've known her most of my life. She must know I moved in."

The woman who was sitting in front of them turned back around and hissed, "Would you two be quiet?"

"There's nothing happening yet but some music playing and people walking. Don't have a stroke," Draco hissed right back. Then he stood from his place and walked outside of the tent. Adrian followed him.

"Stupid wedding," Draco mumbled, leaning against the mouth of the tent. "You know, I still recall the moment I knew that I liked her, I mean, really, really liked her."

"Astoria?" Adrian quizzed.

With a small shake of his head, Draco said, "No, not that stupid bint. The girl behind the red door – Hermione Granger."

"You 'really, really' like her? Do tell," Adrian prompted.

"I don't think I will," Draco said with ire. "It doesn't even matter. Forget I said it." To change the subject, Draco said, "I was shocked when I got an invitation to Potter's wedding."

Adrian smiled. "Bygones and all of that."

Draco waved his hand in front of his face dismissively. "More like he wanted to appear to be the better man than me, but whatever. I hope it's a blessedly short ceremony." Leaning his back against the pole holding open the flap of the tent, he said, "I was shocked that Granger wasn't still living with Weaselbee."

"I don't think they've made their split public yet, because of Potter's wedding, but she just moved into her side of the house the day before I showed it to you," Adrian relayed.

At that moment, the two friends spied the woman of their conversation making her way out a side entrance of the tent. "That was a short ceremony," Adrian remarked.

"I don't think it's over," Draco observed, peering inside the tent to watch as the wedding commenced. Hermione continued walking through the woods, traveling farther and farther from the tent. Without a word to his friend, he pushed away from the tent's opening and followed.

Weaving in and out of trees in the dense woods, Draco was surprised how much colder it was in the woods than it was in the open field where the wedding was being held. He wondered if Granger was as cold as he was, because she only had on a pretty little dress with no coat or sweater.

He followed her, at a distance, toward the edge of the lake, and was shocked when she slipped off her shoes and dipped her feet into the edge of the water, along the muddy bank. The water had to be biting cold, for even if it was sunny, it was still January. However, she didn't seem to notice the cold. She looked so deep in thought that Draco started to leave, but she suddenly stood very still and lifted her face toward the sunshine.

Draco remained frozen behind a large tree, watching and waiting. He maintained his safe distance behind the big oak, and even as he realized he was invading her privacy – staring at her like some voyeur – he felt completely compelled to watch her.

The first thought that went through his head was that she resembled a wood nymph, or a fairy, as she stepped carefully around the rocks and reeds in the water at the edge of the lake. Perhaps, if she wasn't a wood nymph, she was a water nymph at the very least. She lifted the hair off her nape with both hands and then let it drop back down her back.

Draco wanted to reach out and touch that hair more than he wanted anything. His mind began to ramble and he began to imagine what that hair would feel like in his hands, on his chest, across his face. What would her hair look like wet, down her back?

He had known the woman before him forever, but it felt as if he were seeing her for the very first time. Taken aback by the sudden feeling of warmth and want that settled deeply in his chest, he was further surprised when she stepped deeper into the lake, until the water was up to the hem of her dress and she suddenly began to splash around, kicking water this way, splashing it that way with her hands, her dress becoming so wet that her body was soon outlined sensually against the sodden material. He stared at her, mesmerized. She was lovely, feminine, and left him so incredibly wanting. He wanted her. He wanted that. He wanted it all.

Draco felt like he was imposing, so he had to make his presence known. "Hello?" he asked, cautiously, not quite carefully, almost as if he didn't mean to induce uneasiness upon her.

The water nymph didn't turn around at the sound of his voice, so he thought that perhaps she hadn't heard him, but then she bent at the waist, cupped some water up in her hands, stood upright and let it dribble from her fingers as she said, "Hello." Still, she didn't turn around.

"You should get out of there this instant," Draco retorted sterner than he meant to. "It's cold, and you don't even have a coat on and here it is, the middle of January." He slipped his coat from his shoulders and held it out to her, although turned away from him, she didn't see it.

"I'm a grown woman who doesn't take orders from anyone, especially you, Draco Malfoy." She peered over her shoulder, grinned at him, and then turned around.

Did she know it was him before she turned around? Kicking one foot in the water, she continued, "I was wondering when you were going to say hello to me." She stepped out of the water, pulled her wand out of a pocket in her dress, and dried herself instantly.

"So you knew I was here?" he asked, leaning one shoulder against the tree, draping his coat across one shoulder.

"You mean 'here' as at Harry's wedding, or 'here' as in the forest, following me?" Hermione stepped away from the water and walked up the bank to where she left her shoes.

Draco shrugged. "Both, I suppose. Here, take my coat."

"I'm fine, warming spell," she managed. "Imagine my surprise to find you at both places… at the wedding and following me."

"Imagine meeting you here, too." Draco still handed her his jacket. She slipped it over her shoulders without arguing.

"Well, Harry is my best friend," she stated, bending down to slip a shoe over one of her feet.

"That's why I'm here, too. He's my best friend." Draco couldn't stop the smirk from coming on his face at his blatant lie. She saw through his sarcasm easily and smiled as well.

"I didn't know that," she quipped.

"Yes, we've been best friends for eons," he continued. "And what I really meant was, imagine meeting you here, as in, at the lake."

"I needed some time to myself," she explained. "I suppose it was rude to leave during the ceremony, but I couldn't stand being there for one more second. It's petty of me to admit, but I seriously thought the next wedding I would be involved in was my own." She shrugged and added, "But fate had other plans."

"Fate is an effing bore," Draco imparted. "Screw Fate and its plans, that's what I always say."

"Words to live by," she mused. Moving the other shoe around with her foot, Hermione began to stumble, so Draco rushed to her side, placed a hand on her arm, giving her purchase so that she could put the shoe on easier.

"Thanks," she murmured, slipping that shoe on her foot. "Is Harry really your best friend?"

"My best enemy," Draco corrected. "Why did you need time to yourself?"

"Why did you follow me instead of staying at the ceremony?" she asked.

"I feel like this conversation is on a two-second delay or something," Draco said with a confused look on his face. "See, with a normal conversation, I ask you a question, you answer it right away, and so on and so forth."

"And instead," she replied, "You're asking me questions, I'm asking you questions, then I comment on your own questions, and you comment on my questions, but in actuality, neither of us gets answers to OUR questions, right?"

Draco laughed. "I don't know what the bloody hell you just said." He pointed toward the water. "That lake looks cold and muddy. You really shouldn't have gone wadding at a wedding." Draco felt like the world's biggest prig about now… bossy and arrogant. The fact was that the water looked cool and refreshing and he had wanted to join her, and was about to slip off his shoes and socks and do just that when instead he said, 'hello'.

"Wadding at a wedding," she repeated. "It was cold and a bit muddy, I suppose, but still better than staying in there, with the happily, soon to be, married couple. Besides, Harry understood. He nodded to me before I slipped away."

"That brings us back to my earlier question, I believe. Why did you slip away?" Draco found he really wanted to know.

Her shoulders sagged and she merely shook her head. Their fragmented conversation seemed to halt for a moment. Draco didn't want it to end. She didn't appear to care either way, so he nodded his head toward the lake and said, "I thought you looked like some kind of wood nymph out there." Goodness, but if he didn't stop talking soon, he was going to die from embarrassment.

"Since I was in the water, wouldn't I have been a water nymph instead of a wood nymph?" She sat down on a felled tree near to where he stood.

Without invitation, he joined her. "Well, I did revise my assessment mid assessing – from wood nymph to water nymph – not that it matters for it's all the same thing."

"I bet it isn't to the wood nymph, and the water nymph might have a thing or two to say about that, too," Hermione said softly, looking down at her hands as she wrung them together on her lap.

"And isn't this strange conversation just getting stranger and stranger by the minute," Draco remarked.

"You started it," she accused, "so you're the strange one."

"I can live with that moniker," he decided. Then, to add to his embarrassment, he reached out for her hands, placing one of his on top of both of hers to still their movement.

"I'm sorry I called you strange. Everything today is a bit strange and out of character for me," Hermione noticed, moving her left hand under his so that it was turned upward. Then she clasped her fingers around his. "For instance, right before the wedding, my boyfriend, or rather, my former boyfriend, told me that he was going to marry someone else, and he didn't want to work on our relationship. He wanted it to end, and although I knew that announcement was imminent, and I had already moved out of our home, for the life of me, Malfoy, I couldn't even respond to him. I didn't feel indignant, or angry, or confused, or bewildered. I didn't wonder why or anything. I think I mostly felt relieved. I mean, I moved out of our house weeks ago, so it shouldn't have come to a surprise to me that he wanted it to end and well, it wasn't a surprise. It was a relief. Still, he shouldn't have announced it so cavalierly before Harry's wedding."

"Harry's a ponce," Draco spat. Hermione gave him a sharp look, so he revised, "So is Weaselbee, of course." Placing their joined hands on his thigh, he turned to look at her and asked, "Why were you relieved?"

"Because Ron no longer loves me." She bent her head, placing her cheek upon his shoulder.

What was Draco supposed to say to that? Millions, absolutely million, of things popped into his head… 'he's insane', and 'you're too good for him', and 'good, I'm glad, because in the space of the last five minutes I've fallen deeply in love with you and it would do no good for you to love another if I loved you,', but all he said was, "Do you love him?"

She shook her head and said, "I don't think so, thus the reason for my apparent relief and change of address."

He moved her hand to his free hand and then placed his right arm around her shoulders. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Nothing, I suppose. I'll call it over between us, let him continue on with his new life, and I'll continue on as before, living in my new house, next door to you," she stated with a sad smile. "Did you know that we were neighbors? I live on the other side of your house. I live behind the red door and you now, as of this morning, live behind the green one."

"I heard that somewhere," Draco joked. "We're like two doors adrift in the night," he mused to make her laugh.

And she did.

They stayed like that for almost half an hour… his right arm around her, his left hand holding hers, her face tucked against his chest, her hair tickling his nose. Finally, someone on the outskirts of the woods called her name and she said, "I guess I should go."

She removed herself from his embrace and stood. He nodded, stood, and said, "Me, too."

They walked together to the edge of the forest, just beyond the field with the tents, the guests, and the wedding hubbub. Stopping at the same time, she leaned up, braced her right hand on his chest, and pressed her lips to his cheek in a parting kiss.

Draco wrapped an arm around her waist, then turned his face at the last moment, for reasons he didn't understand, and her mouth ended up brushing his mouth instead of his cheek.

The slight kiss seemed to surprise them both. Her lips were so soft and warm. His entire body woke up at the feel of her skin on his. And even as she started to apologize, and he started to stammer, he threw caution to the wind (tempting fate, once again) and he wrapped her tightly in his arms, her breast crushing against his chest, and he kissed her for all he was worth.

He kissed her as if it was the last kiss he would ever experience on this earth.

He kissed her as if he had been starving for this kiss, running mad with want and desire, soon to expire, if he didn't kiss her as such.

He kissed her as if every molecule and bone and fiber in his being was asleep until their lips fused and then woke back up in a maelstrom of light and being and fulfillment.

Instant combustion had nothing on this kiss. This kiss saw him shoving his tongue into her mouth… it saw him pulling and pawing at her… it saw him drunk in an erotic haze that was only tempered when she pushed away from him and said, "Please, Draco. Please."

Those three little words were like a bucket of cold water thrown over his head on a cold January day. Please, Draco, please.

And so he turned and left without a backward glance, cursing his ever-loving hide for its foolishness, cursing fate for the fickle beast that it was, and cursing himself for misunderstanding and mishandling the situation that was before him. He had made an awful hash of everything and he couldn't see how he could ever make it right.

And now he was living next door to her. How was he ever to face her.

Recalling the debacle of a kiss, and the strange conversation that came before it, Draco stared at the basket of rolls on his table in his foyer and realized that he didn't want Granger to leave. He didn't want her to go away thinking that he hadn't wanted to kiss her, because he had wanted to, and he wanted to do it again. Quick as a flash he ran upstairs, showered, dressed and saw to all other bodily functions even as he prepared his apology in his head.

He opened the green door and started to dash through it, when wonders of wonders, he stopped short when he saw that she was sitting on the steps outside his front door. She looked to be waiting for him. Good, because he felt as if he had been waiting for her his entire life.

"Oh… hello," he said, stopping awkwardly, then almost stumbling as he came to sit beside her.

They started talking at the same time… "I'm sorry about the kiss," and "I didn't mean to run away." Then they stopped at the same time. Draco said, "You didn't mean to run away?" and Hermione shook her head no, and then asked, "And you're sorry about the kiss? Really?"

"No," he answered truthfully. "I'm sorry I took your sweet little cheek kiss and turned into a snog-fest, and I'm sorry I mauled you and took advantage of the situation, but damn it all to sodding hell, Granger, I cannot, ever, apologize for the way it made me feel."

"How did it make you feel?" she pondered, reaching for his hand with hers.

"That's just it," he started, "It made me feel. That's it. It made me feel. I haven't felt anything for anyone in a very long time, and kissing you made me feel again. I liked kissing you. I want to kiss you again."

"Yet you practically slammed your green door in my face this morning," she pointed out.

"I was embarrassed," he admitted. "And I'm sorry for that as well. I think I was actually feeling a bit overwhelmed."

"You felt disconcerted," she said. "That's understandable."

"I wasn't disconcerted," he disagreed with a odd look upon his face. "I'm Draco Malfoy. I'm never disconcerted. I was a bit overwhelmed, perhaps, but not disconcerted. Speak for yourself."

"Whatever… you're so weird. Perhaps I was the one that was flustered, and I'm sorry I pushed you away," she said on a sigh. "I didn't want to. I wanted to keep kissing you, but I was embarrassed, too. I was embarrassed because I didn't want you to think I would just go around kissing anyone like that. I haven't even kissed my ex-boyfriend like that in a very long time, yet here we were, after having just had a bizarre and somewhat disjointed conversation about love and marriage and wood nymphs and then we were kissing. In truth, I was a bit discombobulated."

"You called me strange, yet you use words like 'discombobulated' to convey your feelings," he joked, bringing her hand up to his mouth to grace it with a kiss. "And I believe it was water nymphs, not wood nymphs. Let's continue this conversation inside. It's cold as a monkey's arse out here."

"I called you weird, not strange. Shall we go through your door or mine?" Hermione asked.

"You called me weird just now, but yesterday you definitely called me strange. Let's start with your door and make it around to mine, say, oh, about tomorrow," Draco answered, his eyebrows moving up and down.

"You really are so strange," she leveled seriously, standing and starting toward her door.

"Says the woman who went wading during a wedding in the lake at Hogwarts in the middle of January," he replied, following her through the red door leading to her house, and then stoutly slamming it shut.

The End

Chapter End Notes: