Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Chapter 1:

An Unlikely Pair

Hagrid owes me BIG TIME! Hermione Granger thought darkly as she trudged heavily through the Forbidden Forest.

It was a brisk day in late autumn on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The air was damp and had a bitter cold bite to it. It was just cold enough that Hermione's nose stung and her breath was beginning to show in wispy white puffs—and that only added to her bad mood.

Leaves crunched noisily beneath her feet as she continued on her way. Glancing quickly over her shoulder, she scowled as she caught sight of the person lagging a few yards behind her.

Oh, he definitely owes me . . . .

Brooding, she turned her attention forward once more and began to walk faster, her feet stomping the ground heavily. Silently, she thought back to how she had gotten blindsided into this situation.

It had started off like any other day: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and she had left the coziness of Gryffindor Tower and—careless and laughing—made their way across the green to Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class.

The briskness of the day quickly turned their noses red and caused their cheeks to tingle.

Walking, Hermione had pulled her cloak more tightly around her body. Secretly, she wondered why Hagrid was still having class outdoors—it was much too late in the season for the weather to cooperate. And, to tell you the truth, she found standing out in the cold to be torturous and distracting to her studies.

But they had come to realize a long time ago that it was futile to try and decipher Hagrid's ways of teaching. Every day brought something unexpected and exciting (and, more often than not, dangerous). Plus, he was their friend . . . so they would do whatever he asked of them—even ifit meant standing outside and freezing their asses off.

Reaching the clearing, they had quickly joined a group of fellow Gryffindors who were huddled together for warmth. Quietly, they had talked amongst themselves as they waited for class to start.

Finally, Hagrid had taken his place in front of the class. He was wearing an over-sized coat made of some kind of animal fur. It engulfed his body—adding to his natural bulk—and made him look horrendously large. His eyes—glinting like black beetles— twinkled excitedly above his bushy beard.

Yet just as he had opened his mouth to speak, a group of Slytherins sauntered lazily into the clearing.

And unsurprisingly, it was lead by none other than Draco Malfoy.

The smile on Hagrid's face had quickly vanished and was replaced with a look of disapproval at their tardiness.

Unfazed, Draco had stared contemptuously right back at him.

Uncomfortable tension built in the cold air as their eyes remained locked—each refusing to break eye contact.

In the end though, it had been Hagrid who had forfeited and had torn his eyes from the platinum-haired nuisance. With an angry roll of his eyes, he turned to face the rest of the class.

Instantaneously, his facial features softened and he began to speak eagerly.

With animated hand gestures, Hagrid had delved into their next project: As to be expected, he had discovered a new creature that they could care for. However, this particular creature had a very strict diet . . . a diet very hard to find. But—fortunately for them—the very vegetation the creature survived on could be found in scarce areas within the Forbidden Forest.

Their task was simple enough: Split into pairs, take a section of the Forest (which Hagrid had meticulously mapped out prior to class) and scour—until the vegetation was found. To ensure safety, the boundaries of the predetermined sections lay close to the edge of the Forest.

As the words rushed from his mouth, the cold air caused his breath to swirl around his face like fog.

Listening intently, Hermione didn't mind their upcoming assignment. Hagrid knew the Forbidden Forest backwards and forwards, so she felt safe following his thought out directions. Plus, if they were walking, they might at least be able to stay somewhat warm.

Smiling, she looked over toward Harry and Ron and wondered which one would be partnered with her. She was just beginning to think of "who would owe what," or "who would lose what," or "who would have to do what," in order to be her partner when Hagrid's words cut off her thoughts abruptly:

He was picking pairs.

And she had just been paired with Draco Malfoy.

Hermione looked up at him in horror.

Slowly, she had turned to look at Harry and Ron and caught a glimpse of Draco's face: A look of disgust and pure hatred contorted his features.

When Hagrid had finally finished, the students quickly began to break up into their pairs.

Hermione turned toward Draco, and wasn't surprised to see that he was blatantly ignoring her—his entire body turned so his back was facing her.

She hadn't wasted the opportunity.

Instantly, she was at Hagrid's side, quietly pleading for an explanation.

Remorse had filled Hagrid's black eyes. Quickly, he looked over at Draco's back before lowering his voice. Almost inaudibly, he hastily explained that students weren't doing too well in his class—Draco one of them. If they didn't raise their grades, he was in danger of losing his job as a teacher at Hogwarts.

Hermione listened, her anger subsiding briefly as her heart broke for her friend.

Hagrid loved this class . . . and to lose it would kill him. And consequentially, as his friend, Hermione would also feel that pain.

But there was a solution to all of this: A very simple solution. And it was a solution that Hermione had the opportunity to fulfill. So, no matter what discrepancies she was feeling, she had no choice but to push aside the petty differences that she shared with the pestiferous Slytherin and follow through. She wouldn't be able to bear living with herself if she didn't.

So, that was exactly what she had done. Begrudgingly, she had pushed aside all argument and, with an inward sigh and a discontented backwards glance at Draco, had agreed with a single nod of her head.

Silent gratitude had quickly filled Hagrid's eyes, but he hadn't had time to express it in words—the student pairings were beginning to break off toward the forest. Hastily, with a final thankful glance at Hermione, Hagrid had raced toward them, loudly yelling to send up red sparks if they encountered any problems.

Watching Hagrid's back, Hermione had taken a deep breath—attempting to level out her emotions—and forced herself to think happy thoughts before turning back to face Draco.

He was staring at her with a look of unadulterated repugnance on his face.

Swallowing her pride, Hermione had forced a thin smile onto her face. Yet, just as she opened her mouth to say something to him, Draco rolled his eyes irritably and turned toward the woods. Hermione had watched in shock—her mouth still slightly agape—and watched as he strolled toward Hagrid, viciously ripped the directions to their section from his hand, and disappeared through the foliage—without so much as a glance backwards.

And that's where they were now: slowly making their way through the Forbidden Forest toward their assigned section. Neither had spoken a word since they began, but at one point, Hermione caught up with Draco, then passed him, and was now leading. Draco lagged behind, jadedly shuffling his feet through the leaves.

And, to tell you the truth, Hermione was tiring of his blasé attitude. She glanced down at the directions that she had angrily snatched from Draco's lightly clenched fist and sighed. She knew that they were heading in the right direction, but because they were the last group to receive their assignment, their predetermined section of the Forbidden Forest was the farthest out. Or, perhaps Hagrid had assigned them that particular section because she was Hermione, and he knew he could trust her. Either way, Hermione was quickly exhausting, and frankly, she was sick of doing all the work.

A large boulder loomed in the midst of a sudden clearing and Hermione took the chance to lean against it. Breathing heavily—her face tingling in the brisk air—she brushed her frazzled hair back from her face and looked back at Draco in vexation.

He stopped a few feet back and appeared to ignore her blatant look.

Hermione frowned deeply, her eyebrows knitting tightly over her eyes. Angrily, she cleared her throat.

Draco looked up, annoyed. "What?" His drawl mirrored his facial features.

Hermione sighed heavily before answering. "Do you maybe want to lead for awhile?" She didn't try to mask the exasperation in her voice.

Coolly, Draco looked briefly at his manicured fingernails before looking her square in the face. Nonchalantly, he shrugged. "No."

Hermione felt her blood boil in her veins. "Look, Malfoy . . . you are not going to ride my coat-tails on this one."

Draco's silvery eyes narrowed. "I don't take charity from anyone . . . especially a Mudblood like you."

Hermione ignored his comment and pressed her hands tightly on her hips. "Then, I suggest you take some initiative, or I'll tell Hagrid that you did jack squat for this assignment!"

Mock concern crossed Draco's harsh features. "Oh, no . . . please don't tattle on me to the big, giant oaf!"

Silently, they glared at each other—each refusing to budge. Hermione felt anger racing through her as she glowered at him.

Finally, Draco's expression melted back into one of indifference—and he actually had the audacity to look bored.

Oh, how she hated him!

She hated how he always seemed to remain so goddamn cool. No matter what she did, what she said, or how she looked at him, it never seemed to faze him—and that pissed her off.

Finally, Draco rolled his eyes sarcastically from her. Turning on his heel, he began to stroll off.

Taken aback, Hermione stood, momentarily frozen in place, until she realized that he was walking away from her.

Confused, she quickly looked around the clearing—lifting her hands palm up at her sides—before yelling toward his retreating back. "What the hell are you doing?!"

"Taking initiative." Draco refused to turn around, and his voice sounded far away as he continued on his path away from her.

"But, that's the wrong way!"

"Then go your own way." There was a slight edge to his words.

"But we have to do this as a team!"

Draco didn't answer her. Instead, he continued to make his way down his own path. His broad back was quickly getting harder to see through the trees.

Hermione watched him retreat, open-mouthed. Torn, she looked down the path that they should be going down and then back toward the direction Draco was going.

His cloaked back was now nearly invisible to her.

Cursing under her breath—with one final glance down the correct path—she abruptly took off at a jog to catch him.

He was already a good 50 feet ahead of her and walking with a purpose, so by the time Hermione caught up with him, she was thoroughly out of breath. With a final burst of speed, she brushed passed him and stopped, blocking his path.

Draco skidded to a halt, looking irritated.

Hermione ignored him and, panting, placed her hands on her hips. "You're going the wrong way."

"I don't care."

Without any warning, Draco turned to his right and began once again through the leaves.

Hermione bit her tongue at his immaturity and raced to catch up. Running, she overtook him quickly and once more threw herself in his path.

"You're not going to be able to complete the assignment if you go that way!"

Draco rolled his eyes and spun away from her once more.

Fuming, Hermione yelled at his back. "You won't find the right vegetation!"

Draco ignored her, and his strides became longer.

Feeling anger build in her chest, Hermione took a few deep breaths before hurrying after him. He was so far ahead of her by that time, that she had to sprint just to get close to him. Yet, as soon as she was within reach of him, he abruptly turned from her and started down another path.

Hermione turned to follow, but once more, as soon as she was close enough, he would turn a random degree and move away from her.

They continued this way for a long time.

Yet, with each turn, Draco's footsteps would widen—his pace quickening—until he was almost jogging.

It was almost as if he were making it into a game—a sadistic game of Cat and Mouse—and he was enjoying this torment of her way too much.

Because, no matter how fast Hermione ran—or how close she got—she was always the Cat . . . and unable to keep up with his long legs.

Twisting and turning, she followed him, running restlessly through the Forbidden Forest. She wasn't quite sure where her focus came from, but she had become determined that he would not win this one, and thusly, her mind was centered on that, and nothing else.

Branches and leaves whipped past her head and snagged painfully in her hair. Keeping her eyes trained on Draco's retreating back, she brushed her hands around her face hastily, freeing herself from the bothersome twigs.

He was once more an arms-length away, but Hermione's lungs burned. Her mouth was dry, and her tongue felt thick as it lay heavily on the bottom of her mouth. She was quickly tiring and it was become more and more difficult to breathe. Gasping, she tried to push her legs a few more steps, but they were weak and felt like Jell-O.

Breaking into a small clearing, Hermione suddenly stumbled and fell, scraping her knees painfully on the pine-needle covered ground. Shaking, she pushed herself upright. Panting, she remained bent over and clutched at the stitch in her side. She couldn't catch her breath and her anger was beginning to resurface.

And she blamed that anger on her next action—because she couldn't put any other rational explanation to what she did:

Bowed toward the ground, her eyes fell upon a small stone. Before she knew what she was doing, her mind went blank as all thought was replaced with undiluted rage and she was suddenly bending toward the ground. Her small hand wrapped around the stone. It was smooth and cold and weighed heavily in her palm.

She had never had a good arm, so she wasn't quite sure what she was trying to accomplish. But, with fire fueling her movements, her arm was suddenly cocked behind her ear and she was yelling.

"Jesus Christ, Malfoy! Could you just grow up?!"

With those words, her arm was suddenly snapping forward and the rock was hurling through the air.

Still breathing heavily, Hermione watched with growing horror as it rotated rapidly through the air on a straight path . . .

. . . and clocked Draco directly on the back of the head.

His head snapped forward and his forward momentum ceased.

And it was exactly at that moment—exactly when Draco turned around and she was able to see the murderous look on his face—that her mind was suddenly clear again and her anger was quickly replaced with fear.

Draco's silver eyes narrowed and turned a dangerous shade of molten metal. In three quick steps—with his robes billowing behind him vehemently—he crossed the small clearing and closed the space between them.

Hermione's mind and heart were racing, but she forced herself to stand her ground.

Draco took one final step and stopped directly in front of Hermione.

Hermione had never noticed before, but now, with him standing so close and his chest heaving, Hermione was suddenly acutely aware of his height. He stood nearly a solid foot above her, and there was venom dripping from every inch of his frame.

She didn't mean to, but suddenly instinct kicked in, and her hand twitched slightly toward the wand that was hidden in her robes.

It didn't go unnoticed.

Draco's eyes flickered from her face, to her hand, and back . . . and time suddenly seemed to move in slow motion.

Draco's face twisted into a scowl at the same time his hand moved toward his robes.

Hermione noticed the movement and suddenly her own hand was wrapped tightly around her wand.

Concurrently, their wands emerged.

There was a blur of movement.

Without a second though, and with a snap of her wrist, Hermione thrust her wand into Draco's neck.

She was a quick draw, but unfortunately, so was he.

And it was with surprise that Hermione felt the tip of Draco's wand pressing into her own throat.

Together, they stood glaring at each other—each waiting for the other to make the first move.

Breathing heavily, Hermione concentrated on keeping her arm steady and her wand tight against Draco's skin. She didn't know exactly what she was planning on doing—was she really prepared to hurt him?—but she wasn't about to back down.

Draco stood equally as still, his nostrils flaring in anger. He too refused to back down as his stare bore into her.

Seconds ticked by, with the sounds of the Forest the only noise around them.

Later, Hermione would look back at the incident. She wasn't sure if she would ever be able to figure out whose fault it all was—was it Draco's for his childish immaturity?

Or was it hers for picking up that damned rock?

No, it was his for leading her blindly through the Forest to that specific clearing.

Then again, it could very well be hers for tripping and falling at that exact instant.

But no matter how much she thought about it, she would never truly be able to cast blame.

But she would be able to pinpoint the exact instant that everything went wrong.

It was the exact instant—when their eyes were locked on one another, scowls written on their faces, their wands pressed tightly into each other's throats—when the earth shook slightly beneath their feet.

The movement was minuscule—hardly noticeable at all—yet Hermione felt it under her shoes. With a gasp, she tore her eyes from Draco's face, but that was the only thing she had a chance to do.

Because the earth suddenly fell from beneath them.

It all happened so suddenly. One moment, they were staring at each other—daring the other to make the first move. Then, they were falling . . . and Hermione was screaming.

The sudden drop caused Hermione's arms to fly above her head and she was horror-stricken when she felt her wand slip from her fingers.

It felt as if they fell forever through darkness. Hermione couldn't see a thing in front of her face—she only felt the wind whipping past her head, tangling her hair and causing her robes to billow.

And then the ground was suddenly there.

She hit it, hard.

Her stomach lurched at the sudden stop.

Her feet hit first, but her knees couldn't handle the impact and buckled. The momentum behind the fall caused her to fall violently forward. She tried to put her hands down in front of her—to cushion her fall—but everything was happening too fast.

Her hands slid out from under her—scraping painfully across the ground—and, unable to protect herself, her temple slammed into the ground. Stars exploded in front of her eyes in the darkness.

Crumpled and broken, she lay face-down on the cold ground, unable to breathe as pain flowed over her body in waves.

Finally, unable to fight it any further, her eyes rolled back into her head and everything went black.