Author: Shiv5468 PM
The battle is over, so what happens now...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Draco M. & Hermione G. - Words: 6,152 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 53 - Follows: 6 - Published: 11-04-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3228825
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So they'd won the war, and Hermione was trying hard to hold on to that thought, and not think about how many people were lost and it didn't really matter whose side they'd been on, because they were dead.
And she was sitting here, in the dark, staying away from Harry and Ron because Harry wasn't quite Harry any more and Ron just won't see it. He thinks it will all go back to normal afterwards, and Harry will marry Ginny and Ron will marry her and they'll all live happily ever after.
That isn't going to happen.
To be fair, it was never going to happen, and she knows that the war is going to be her alibi for splitting up with Ron. It could be her alibi for failure for the rest of her life, but she won't let it.
She thinks Ron will.
She thinks that she might feel regretful, guilty even, about that in ten years time but right now all she feels is that he's a great weight she's been carrying for years and she's tired of it.
The worst casualty of the war is their friendship, except that's bollocks really. It's nothing compared to the bitter ache of losing a son or daughter that time doesn't heal only dull, and she knows she was always tagging along behind them anyway. It was always HarryandRon, and her even though Ron tried to make it Ronandher.
The war has only hastened the inevitable rift that time and different interests would have brought about.
The infirmary is dark and empty. The wounded and the dead have been taken to their separate places, with little sign of their passing; the house elves have been diligent in their cleaning. There is only a roll of bandages lying on the floor to show that this room had heard the cries of the wounded, the whimpers of the dying as they bargained with fate, and the sobs of those left to mourn.
It's silent now.
But she can still hear them, needs to hear them, to remind herself that it was real and painful and bloody, so that she won't join the others feverishly pretending that it was a price worth paying. There will be time for the usual invocations later to mollify sharp grief to something more acceptable, like water wearing down stone.
Muggles did it better, she thought. Two world wars meant that they'd had time enough to find the right phrase for the occasion.
At the going down of the sun
Over time they had created their rituals to allow the weary mind to step in a familiar pattern when it was too overwhelmed by grief to think, but without descending to platitude. The words had the same power as any spell: an invocation given strength by a multitude of grieving voices.
and in the morning.
She will gather their names and faces to her, and make sure that it all bloody well counts for something because anything less is intolerable.
we will remember them
It will be up to her, she knows; Harry and Ron will be good aurors, but they will be good because they like people and want to help them not because they burn with a sense of outrage at injustice.
Harry likes Dobby. He thinks of Dobby as a friend, but he's never been interested in the fate of other Dobby's. He doesn't move from the particular to the general.
Hermione has never liked house elves: their servility irritates her. Giving them clothes was foolish and flawed, but she knows that there is some secret to their enslavement, and that one day she will solve it.
Her lack of empathy for them is a failing, she admits, but it does allow her to think her way to solutions rather than feel her way there. What's better – to be liked by Harry or to be helped by her? To be put into a neat little box marked, injustice, to be rectified as soon as practicable?
Though sometimes she wonders if that's how Voldemort started out – wanting to make the world a better, cleaner place – but then she thinks that if she's worrying about it, there's enough difference between her and him. He never doubted for one moment; right up to the moment of his death.
She shivers. It is cold in the ward, but she doesn't want to cast a warming charm. It seems disrespectful somehow: that she should be warm when so many are cold.
There's a faint noise from behind her of someone moving along the corridor, and she nearly turns and asks what they want, but there's something furtive about the sound. Sheandharryandron know to trust their instincts on these matters. She casts a disillusionment charm and moves into the shadows.
She thinks she's being silly when she see who it is.
But there's something wrong with the way he's standing and when he reaches into his robes for a flask she knows.
"I wouldn't," she says. Her voice is soft, but there's a threat in it. His hand pauses, flask halfway to his mouth. He says nothing.
She asks who he is but he doesn't reply. It doesn't matter; his features melt, roil and coalesce to show his true face.
He is still silent but makes no move for his wand.
She doesn't ask who he's helping. He's not talking, and even if he did give her a name it wouldn't be true. It's not hard to work out though. There can't be many people that he'd risk this for, and she ought to be calling for help but there's Harry to think of; Harry who wants to kill Snape like he wants to breathe, and who could have done it before and be justified in doing it, but not now. He's not the same as before this started, but given time he could pretend to be. Killing Voldemort made him a hero; killing Snape makes him a murderer.
It's not that she's seen enough death today that makes her decide to help him, though she has. It's the pinched face, the fine tremor in his hands that he's trying to conceal, and the look of exhaustion that she's seen in Harry's face too often to remain unmoved by it now when worn by different features. They are the same, Malfoy and her, and the distinction of being on different sides is trivial compared to this: that they were both born to their roles, and dragged along by others more powerful than themselves and never asked what they wanted, not when they were eleven and never afterwards.
"What do you need?" she says, and her heart clenches at the look on his face. It's perilously close to hope, though that's too generous a word to apply to what is no more than an easing of terror.
"Dunno." He draws his sleeve across his face, and she pretends that he's wiping dirt off.
"Everything then." She hesitates. "You aren't going to do anything stupid are you?"
He summons of the ghost of a smile and you can almost see the boy he used to be, the boy she never liked but is glad to see has survived somehow. "Define stupid. On a scale of nought to taking the Dark Mark."
"Do we have a truce?" she persists. She's stupid enough to help him, but not stupid enough to turn her back on him without some kind of assurances.
He nods. "You'll be safe," he says. "Word of a Malfoy."
And she doesn't ask how much that's worth, but nods, and gathers together as many phials of potions that she can find and puts them into a special carrying case. Her hand hesitates over the phoenix tears: they are rare and who knows when they will be able to get a replacement.
"Who is it for, Draco?"
He still says nothing, but looks at her as if she's broken some unspoken agreement.
"No one gets something for nothing in this life," she says.
"It's not my Dad," he says, after a while. She shrugs. She's never really crossed wands with Lucius, not since the Department of Mysteries, and it's not personal between them. There are others she'd cheerfully flay and then heal and flay again and see how long it took them to die but not him.
When she makes no move to add the phoenix tears to the bag, he looks bewildered. It's as if there's nothing else in the world but Malfoys. As if he can't think who else she could hate that much. He thinks about it for a while, trying to work out what other denials he can offer without giving too much away. "Bellatrix is dead."
"Good." He flinches at that, and she wonders why. Maybe Auntie Bella is an entirely different person to Bellatrix Lestrange and all he can remember is someone who bought him cockroach clusters for Christmas. All she knows is that Neville still limps from Auntie Bella's attempt to kill the entire Longbottom family and that knowing Bellatrix is dead fills Hermione with a quiet satisfaction that could easily turn into gloating. She adds the phoenix tears to the satchel and hands the bag to him.
There's another noise from the corridor, and their heads snap round in unison; someone is coming. Several someones. Draco makes a sudden move to his pocket and Hermione flinches, but he's only reaching for the flask.
She puts her hand out to stop him and is faintly surprised when he doesn't call her names or jerk away. "It's no good," she murmurs. "He's in the infirmary; they'll guess."
He pales and his breath hitches.
"They've dropped the apparation wards for the healers," she said, and winces at the thought of what she's about to do. She's tired, exhausted even, and Sidelong Apparation is going to hurt.
And it does.
There's a horrible moment when she thinks she's going to lose the sandwich she bolted an hour ago, and she knows she looks like shit because even Draco is looking at her in worry as she crouches over, dry heaving.
She wipes the back of her hand across her mouth, and forces her spine to straighten.
Just one last effort and then she can have a sit down and a cup of tea and go to bed for a week and pull the covers over her head and just sleep, though she bets that after ten minutes someone would be nagging at her to come and sort something out for them. Sometimes she wonders if she's wicked, because she certainly gets no rest.
"Right," she says. "Here's the stuff. You can find your own way from here, I suppose."
Draco looks round for landmarks. "Yeah, I know where we are." He stands there awkwardly for a bit, at a loss for words. "Thanks, Granger," he says eventually. "I owe you one."
"You do." She nods. It's easier to think of this as an exchange of favours – though it's hard to see what a fugitive could do to repay her – than as some sort of kindness. They aren't friends, and never will be.
A noise from behind them has her turning on her heels, wand at the ready.
"Put your wands down," he shouts, and doesn't wait for them to comply, but fires off a hex that shoots past them to strike an inoffensive bush behind them which catches light.
"I'm looking for my friends," Hermione shouts back. "They're missing."
"A likely story," the Auror replies. "You look like a pair of troublemakers to me. Over here," he shouts. "I've got a pair of them."
There's the sound of other voices answering from nearby, and Malfoy grabs hold of her.
He's got a portkey somewhere, because she feels that distinctive pull in her stomach and the scenery shifts around them. They reappear in a grubby room. The paint is peeling from the walls, and the colour of the carpet can't be determined it's so filthy. The only point of colour in the room is the acid green sofa, which gives off a faint smell of cat.
"Sorry, Granger, I couldn't afford to let them get hold of either of us."
She ought to feel more worried about being alone with Malfoy, but these days she's more worried about the Ministry than him. He's not going to shove Veritaserum down her throat and ask her questions about Harry. And, really, he could have killed her and used the portkey so their tentative truce is holding.
"I can't let you go either," he says. "Not yet."
Malfoy looks like a puppet whose string has been cut. He's been running on desperation and terror for far too long to be able to think what to do with his unexpected guest. So Hermione does what Hermione always does in situations and takes charge.
"You may as well show me the patient then," she says.
"I don't know…" he says, but he's walking over to a door because she's using that tone of voice that works on boys and dogs both, like a high-pitched whistle that only they can hear. He hesitates; his hand is on the doorknob, and he's mildly puzzled as to how that has happened.
She doesn't give him a chance to balk, and bustles past him. The reason for his hesitation is obvious: a long nose, and a shock of greasy hair is all that can be seen of the man wrapped in the nest of blankets on the floor, but it's enough to recognise him.
"Snape," she says, and the head comes up.
"Granger." Snape's voice sounds just the same: rich, strong and deep. It's a shock to hear it again after this time, and is utterly out of place in this fetid hellhole. "Come to finish me off?"
She should feel angry or vengeful or something, but mostly what she feels is tired and grubby and a bit numb.
"You don't have to help," Malfoy says.
"Don't be an idiot, Malfoy. Of course I'm going to help," she replies, and moves next to the figure huddled on the floor. Snape slowly levers himself up to a sitting position, but he's weak and has to lean on the wall for support.
"I shall assume that insult was directed at my son," comes a cold voice, and there's Lucius Malfoy staring down at her with the hard eyes of a predator. But Hermione had faced down Voldemort earlier that day, and seen in his mad red eyes a mind that had loved nothing or everything if you thought that love meant wanting to possess things. Lucius loves his son, and has not abandoned his friend. He's almost a saint in comparison.
"Word of a Malfoy?" she asks, and Lucius looks at Draco then nods his head, once, sharply. Lucius moves to crouch on the other side of Snape and she rather thinks she's going to live through this but she isn't sure about Snape who is looking pale and waxy and about two inches away from the grave.
"You look awful," she says.
"I feel awful," he snaps. "And your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired."
"I can always leave," she says.
And his hand shoots out and grabs her by the wrist, hard, like a drowning man clutching at a spar. "No."
"No," she agrees softly. "No, I won't leave."
She sets out the contents of the bag on the floor, and tries to think what to do.
"Why are you here?" the elder Malfoy asks, and it isn't mild curiosity. He doesn't trust her. It's peculiar to think that someone like that doesn't trust her, as if she is the dangerous one, the duplicitous one, the killer.
Though that is true after today, which is something she will have to think about later when she has the luxury of time and conscience.
"For Harry, in a way," she replies. "For all sorts of reasons, but mostly for Harry."
"It's always about Harry," Snape says, but he sounds as if he understands what she means.
She nods. "Not only about Harry though. I just didn't think you'd believe any arguments based on fellow feeling and common decency."
Snape snorts. "Not much. I'm surprised you have any illusions about that left."
"So am I; the Ministry …" she doesn't finish the sentence because if she starts on that topic she won't be able to stop.
"I thought they were on your side, Granger," Malfoy says. She supposes she's going to have to start thinking of him as Draco, because there is no way on earth she is going to call his father Lucius, not even inside her head where he probably can't hear.
"Funny, we thought they were on your side," she replies, throwing him a quick glance over her shoulder. "The Ministry… they're bound to want to go after Harry next; they can't afford him to be The Boy Who Lived Twice for too long. It'd be much more convenient if he were dead, but failing that disgrace will do."
She smoothes her palms on her robes; they're a little sweaty. "But if there are still Death Eaters on the loose, well, that's a different story isn't it?"
She turns back to Snape. "Now, what do you need? I've got a selection of the finest potions that Hogwarts can provide. Brewed by a master, I suspect."
"I certainly recognise the stoppers," Snape says blandly. "I believe I will have a little of the blue, and a large gulp of the green." The hand he puts out to take the bottles is shaking, and Malfoy has to help him. She knows what's in those bottles and she's worried, because they'll do nothing more than boost his energy for a while. They won't make anything better, and she has to wonder why that is. She doesn't like any of the answers she's coming up with.
"What …" she begins, but Snape's eyes flickers over to Draco, so she changes what she is going to say. "What I need is some hot water to wash some of this dirt off, so I can get a better look at things. Can you sort that out, Draco?"
"Even if I was your House Elf, which I'm not, we can't use magic in here," Draco says, and though there's bite in his tone, it's more about being cold, tired and on the run than resentment of her.
There's an inner pocket to her robe, and if she can reach it – there, there it is – she has a spare wand. She throws it to him and his seeker's reflexes kick in and he catches it. "It's not much good," she says. "So you can't do anything fancy with it, but it's shielded from the Ministry and almost undetectable."
"A Granger special?" he says, looking at it carefully. "I've heard of these."
She doesn't tell him that Bill Weasley made it; it was her idea after all.
He stumbles off into the depths of the house, and his progress is marked by a succession of swear words as he stumbles into things.
"Right," she says. "Tell me."
"You've changed," Snape says.
"I know, and not for the better. Now tell me."
Snape's eyes drifted shut for a moment. "A leaving present from Bella, who didn't take kindly to us deserting our Master: Mortus Tardus."
"Which means that if you don't get treated at St Mungo's you've got a couple of days at most," she says.
"It would save them the cost of the execution," Snape says bitterly. "I doubt there'd be anyone willing to treat me, and I'd rather die a free man. Sod that, I'd rather not die at all."
"Then we'll have to cast the counter curse ourselves," she says.
He smiles faintly. "There isn't one. Not without Bella, and she's not in a position to be able to cast anything any more."
Lucius shifts, and his breath hisses in his mouth. Hermione isn't going to ask, she really thinks it would be unwise to ask, but she has a feeling she knows what happened to Bellatrix. Why does he think she'll care?
Because she doesn't; she's taken a life herself and is no longer entitled to the moral high ground. Killing people isn't difficult. It ought to be. You think it will be, and you wind yourself up to do it. But then, after the first death, you think: oh, what was the fuss about? Do normal people feel this way? And she really needs to know the answer to that, so she asks Snape.
And he wants to tell her that he's not her teacher anymore, certainly not in this, but that last thought at least would be a lie. This is what he has taught her.
"Do you really think yourself that dangerous," Lucius sneers. "In a few weeks you'll be screaming."
He nods. Perhaps it's a kindness in return for her help; perhaps it's one last piece of cruelty, but it's something she needs to hear, that will allow her to separate the world into them and us again. Except she ruins it by asking, "Is that how you felt? Is that how you know?" and then blanches as she realises how close to death she has come with that question.
But Draco is looking at his father, and it seems her question is a gift and a trap in one. If he lays claim to their common humanity, and elides them and us, then he bridges the gap between him and his son, but accepts her as an equal. Draco once thought his father was a god; now he'd be grateful to know he was a man. Lucius' lips twist. "I was twenty. I spewed my guts, and spent the next week drinking myself into a stupor tying to forget. It got easier with practice."
"I shall avoid practising then," Hermione says, then returns to the issue at hand. "It's a little known fact, that the counter curse doesn't actually require the caster; merely the caster's wand."
There's silence then, and the faint sparking of hope on Snape's face. He doesn't ask whether she's sure, and neither does Lucius.
"I might know where the wand is to be found," Lucius offers eventually. "But I doubt that you'll be able to use it."
For a moment she thinks he's referring to her inferior status, and he is in a way; she hasn't got the right blood in her veins to be able to pick up the wand. No doubt it's been tied to Bellatrix' family, as is common in the older families. Wands handed down through the generations, from father to son and mother to daughter, and if they direct line dies out they pass to collateral branches.
Which gives her an idea.
"Draco has Black blood. He could bind the wand to me." Hermione knows the risks of that. If they get it wrong, she'll be a gibbering wreck, and that's if she's lucky. If she's unlucky… well the Aurors won't have to worry about anything in a hundred yard radius. "Or he could try and master the counter-curse." Not that she thinks that he's got the time to learn it, even if he does have the ability, but she's learned that giving people a choice between the obvious answer and one that cannot work makes them feel like they've got some autonomy and makes them sulk less.
She may, at long last, have finally learned tact.
Lucius is difficult to read. His expression is always the same, and only the faintest flickering of muscles round the eyes or tightening of his lips shows how much he doesn't like either of those ideas. "You really think you can do this?"
"I think that it's worth a try. If it feels dicey, if I get the slightest sense that it's not going to work, then I won't attempt it. Then we move on to Plan B."
"Which is?" Snape seems almost amused by the situation.
"I don't know. Sorry, did someone appoint me the brains of this group as well?" Lucius' expression doesn't change, but that absence of reaction reminds that she's not among friends.
"We could always acquire our own healer from St Mungo's," Lucius says evenly, and Hermione winces at the thought of how that would be accomplished. "One with a little more experience."
She drags her fingers through her hair, pushing it out of her face. She can't think with it straying like that. "If you think you can spare the time…"
"Granger is competent enough. She'll do," Snape says. "If Draco's willing to try."
Draco is willing to try, even after the finer details are explained to him. In front of his father he's keen to extinguish the idea that he's a coward, even though Hermione thinks that not killing Dumbledore is probably the bravest thing he's done.
She scrambles to her feet and follows the Malfoys from the room. She knows what she'll find. And there is Bellatrix' body in a crumpled heap in the corner of the kitchen. She looks old without that vital spark propelling her through life. Her hand is clutched tightly round her wand; she won't let it go easily.
"Ready?" she asks, and Draco nods.
He fumbles at his boot, and draws out a switchblade which opens with a vicious hiss. A quick strike, then blood is welling up across his palm. He looks shocked, then amused, when he produces a knife of her own and follows suit.
They push their palms together, holding hands, and Lucius binds them together with magic that slides across her skin and delves deep within her.
"You do realise," Draco says, "that technically we just got married."
"Not quite," she replies. "There's another portion to the ceremony that we've omitted."
"Pity," he says, and leers, but his heart isn't in it. He's as unnerved by the binding as her – she knows this because she can feel it.
"The binding only lasts for a year and a day," Lucius puts in, and he sounds just a little entertained by his son's comments.
"I could make you a very happy woman," Draco adds. "Just say the word."
"The word is no," she replies, and there's a wave of regret/wistfulness/longing/fear/loneliness across the bond and it almost makes her weep.
Together they reach out to take the wand, taking care that Draco's blood has coated the shaft first. They have to tug to free it, and they both breathe a little easier when Bellatrix finally releases her grip.
That's the easy part.
When Draco eases away from her, she can feel the wand stir in her hand, almost as if it were alive. If it is alive it hates her, and she knows that it will resist her at every step. A spike of anxiety hits her, and Draco feels it too, because he tightens his grip on her hand and there's this sense of reassurance and comfort and power directed through her and controlling the wand.
It makes her feel … something that she doesn't want to think about. It's like making love, the way their magics are entwined; more intimate even than that.
They walk into the other room as if they are walking into a ballroom – her hand resting on his, all polite and distant. It's bitterly ironic.
Snape is terrified. She can't tell, but Draco can, and what he knows she knows. Which is extremely disconcerting when she feels a surge of affection towards both Snape and Lucius, and then the tickle of amusement at her confusion.
"Stop that," she hisses. "I need to concentrate."
And he does stop it, and stuffs his feelings away tidily. He moves to stand behind her, never once breaking his grip on the wand. He's pressed up close against her, and his breath is hot against her neck. "Ready?" he asks.
She nods and they begin to work.
It's amazing, is her first thought. There are no words to describe the feeling of them working in tandem, but the analogy of making love was as close as you could get, and it was incredible to have so much power to work with all at once.
Snape's head was thrown back and his mouth was open in a silent scream as the spell washed over him.
The wand was struggling faintly, but couldn't make any head way against the sheer force of their combined will.
She couldn't hold this much power for much longer though. Her vision was beginning to fade into blackness punctuated with red, angry slashes, and her breath was coming in short bursts, and then all at once the spell reached its conclusion with one last crescendo and then she could let go and fall into the darkness.
First she could hear voices, and then there was something soft underneath her cheek, and then there was a disgusting smell but she was too limp to move.
"Come on, Granger, wakey wakey. You're beginning to worry me. I don't want to be a widower, you know. Though I do look good in black. And grey. Well, almost any colour actually, apart from orange. And orange doesn't look good on anyone really."
She's stretched out on the green sofa, with her head on Draco Malfoy's lap, and he's looking down at her with concern. "Did it work," she croaks, and she feels like she's been out drinking with the Twins for twelve hours and forgotten her hangover potion.
Draco smiles. "It has. He's already thrown a cup at me. I'd say he was on the mend, wouldn't you?"
She nods, and then winces at the shooting pain.
"That's all right," he says. "You can go back to sleep now I know you're not going to peg out on me."
So she wriggles around to get comfortable, and closes her eyes, and dreams of nothing.
When she wakes for a second time, the smell is more pronounced. She's on her own, but the sound of voices is coming from the kitchen. They are sat round the kitchen table, but their conversation dies down when she arrives. The time of confidences and trust is over.
There is tea though, horrid tea that looks like varnish and tastes like brown, but it sends fire spreading through her veins. She suspects that Snape has added something to it, something illegal possibly, but something that's going to allow her to function for the next couple of hours until she can find a bed.
He looks better, though far from well.
"You'll be off then," she says, and he nods. "Take care. I didn't go to all this effort for you to do something stupid and get caught."
Lucius is standing behind her, which makes her uneasy. She hopes they aren't going to Stupefy her, because that gives you an awful headache.
"Five minutes, Draco," he says. "And then we'll be off."
When they are alone, Draco says, "I could break the binding, but I won't." There is dried blood still on her hands, and under her fingernails. It hasn't occurred to her to wash it off. "I like the idea of it," he continues. "It's like a promise that I'll come back."
"Will you," she asks, which is a fairly stupid question, but she isn't feeling at her best.
He stands up, and so does she, because she doesn't like to be at a disadvantage, and she thinks he's going to shake her hand.
But he doesn't.
He takes hold of her hand, and pulls her closer, and kisses her. It's slow, it's gentle, it's thorough, and it steals her breath away. It's almost as powerful as their combined power, and it's making her head swim in the same way.
It's odd, she thinks. She's got herself married to someone she wasn't sure she even liked, and all before she'd left school.
It doesn't stop her kissing him back though.
Eventually, a cough from the doorway reminds Draco that his father is waiting and they separate. He looks sheepish, like any other teenager caught snogging someone by his parents. It's the most normal thing that has happened to either of them for months.
Draco gives her one last peck on the cheek, and presses something cold and metallic into her hand before slipping through the door to leave her alone with Lucius.
She feels something ice cold run down her spine. He's just looking at her, assessing her, and she knows he's found her wanting.
"I'm sure you're sensible enough to realise that this is no basis for anything lasting," he says.
The eyes are half-veiled by his eyelids as he considered what to say next. "I expect we shall meet again."
Lucius sighs. "He could do worse."
"So could I," she offers. "But we'll have to see, won't we?"
"We will." He's at the door, when he turns back to add, "I expect he'll let you know when we are safe."
She follows him out of the house, blinking in the sun. She'd half expected it to be dark. So much had happened; it was odd to find that it had taken no more than a couple of hours to turn her life upside down.
Lucius and Snape both nod in farewell, almost as if they are colleagues now. Draco raises a hand, almost waving but not quite, and then they pop out of existence mere moments apart.
Draco is last to leave.
She stands looking at the spot where they'd been standing for some time, as her weary brain tries to come to terms with what has happened, then gives up in favour of going home. Home is a simple thought, and simple thoughts are all she can manage at the moment.
She looks down at the thing Malfoy gave her. It's a ring, a ring with the Malfoy crest on it, at least that's what she assumes the M and the crossed snakes are, which is sweet. And bloody dangerous, of course. Still, it makes her smile, and that's a precious gift in itself on a day like today.
She packs away her potions carefully, then Apparates back to the castle. It doesn't look like anyone has missed her, but she find she's missing them. So she goes to find them. Ron and Harry are in the Gryffindor common room, hiding from the Ministry and trying to remember what it was like to be a child.
She looks into Ron's eyes and thinks that if she can make the effort to help Malfoy, she can make it for him at least for a little while longer.
Harry thinks it's HermioneandRon and Harry, she realises, and it is in a way. She and Ron are planets circling his sun, but bound together only by that. Their orbits do not cross. She pulls Harry to them, and they end up in a filthy, sweaty heap on the floor to become Hermioneandronandharry and Ronandhermioneandharry and all the other permutations of the trio, for a little while.
Malfoy can wait for now.