|The Advocate's Handwriting
Author: Bex-chan PM
Seven years later, and she's there. Right there. Seven years of questions and scribbling her name onto parchment, and she's close enough to touch, close enough to grab her hand, like he should have the first time. Warfic. 6 years post-Hogwarts. One-shot.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Draco M. & Hermione G. - Words: 13,757 - Reviews: 119 - Favs: 405 - Follows: 60 - Published: 04-10-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8010763
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/n: One-shot present for Gabbie (-obliviatee on tumblr) for her birthday! Hope you like it, love! Song suggestions for this are The National - Sorrow, Mumford and Sons - White Blank Page for Draco, and for Hermione Daughter - Medicine (one of my favourite and SO perfect for this one-shot! I've been dying to use it!) Hope you like them!
The Advocate's Handwriting
In a man's letters you know, Madam, his soul lies naked. Nothing is inverted, nothing distorted, you see systems in their elements, you discover actions in their motives.
- Samuel Johnson
It was only a flash of white to begin with, a small shaft of light piercing his eyes between the erratic flutters of his lids.
It was garish and intense, like that first blast of sun after a few too many Firewhiskeys and an uncomfortable nap, and he kept blinking, trying to adjust to it. His eyes were starting to water when he realised he was staring up at a ceiling with one deep crack slicing across it and a few smaller cracks spreading from it, like crooked fingers.
He couldn't feel a thing, his body felt suspended and hollow, and he wondered if he was dead. It certainly felt that way, although there was a ticklish dryness in his throat that made him question it. He just kept staring at the crack, willing sensation to return.
And then his head began to throb, pain pulsating behind his eyelids and bouncing around his skull like a bludger; loud and unforgiving, as if pain could roar. He tried to breathe but his lungs felt below his knees and his Adam's apple was like brick, blocking his throat. He couldn't even cry out or groan, and the instinct to do something to react to the hurricane in his head was so formidable that he thought it would drive him insane if he left it too long.
Something gave, and he managed to loll his head to the side, forcing out a grunt that seemed to slice his windpipe to shreds. His eyes adjusted to a new scene, and it was so incomprehensible that he forgot the pain.
He would've recognised her head of riotous, brown curls anywhere, even they were restrained in a hasty plait. He would've recognised the tone of her ever so slightly tanned skin, and the splash of barely-there freckles over her nose and cheeks, even if her face was half-hidden. And we would've certainly recognised her big, hazel eyes, even if they were closed.
She was sat at a desk beside his bed, fully-clothed and snoozing lightly, hunched over with her head resting in the makeshift nest of her arms, and that was when he knew he was dead.
If she was within ten feet of him, he had to be dead.
And then in a flash, her eyes snapped open, and he was staring into their wide and doe-like brilliance, like he had seven years ago.
Seven long years ago.
She was staring straight back at him, but then she lifted her head, and the sudden movement seemed to bring back all the pain crushing down on him, like a wall of knives. His eyes clenched shut as nausea made the room rock, and he tried to focus on the sound of her, her chair scraping back and then approaching footsteps.
"Malfoy," she said, her voice like a sweet sedative or a song. "Malfoy, stay with me."
He tried, but the pain was too much, and he was sinking into unconscious just when he thought he felt her touch his hand.
In the sleep-awake limbo, the memories burst like fireworks in his brain.
He could hear himself howling in agony as every spell they shot at him felt like fire in his veins, limbs, head, everywhere. He could see their masks and hear the cold laughter behind them, could smell his blood, could taste it as every inch of him burned and bled. Curse after curse just tearing him through him, ripping him apart from the inside out, and he hated himself for crying out. For letting them know their actions were killing him.
He pushed himself away from the memories and concentrated on a scent that didn't belong in them; the crisp and honey-like scent of Asphodel. The memories were fading as he clung to the familiar scent, and he could feel sleep beginning to fall behind as he crept closer and closer to consciousness.
But then he could feel something, someone touching his arm, and his eyes flew open, his hand whipping out to grab a dainty wrist.
"Ow!" a female voice shouted. A voice he knew. Her.
He focused on her, keeping a firm hold on her wrist as he willed his mind to catch up. It was definitely her with her big eyes and big hair, sat on his bed with her fingers still grazing his arm, and he thought he'd gone mad.
"It's okay, Malfoy," she said soothingly. "It's okay. Take a breath."
He realised then how rapid his breathing was but he just kept his eyes on her, not trusting that it was actually her, speaking to him. Touching him.
"It's okay," she repeated, clearly trying not to wince when his grip tightened. "You're safe here. I promise."
He loosened his vice-like fingers, expecting her to quickly withdraw her hand away from him, but she didn't. She just let him take his time.
"Do you know me?"
He almost wanted to laugh. Of course he knew her, and he mumbled her name like he had so many times. "Granger."
Nodding her head with a look of what could have been relief, she smiled down at him. "Hello Malfoy."
He was certain he'd gone mad at that point. Or maybe not. Maybe he'd...
"Am I dead?"
"No," she said. "But you came very close. You've been in a coma for over a month. Thirty-seven days to be precise."
He frowned, blinked, and licked his lips. "Where am I?"
"You're in the Order's main medical wing, a safehouse just outside of Ipswich," she explained. "We found you in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor during a rescue attempt to save Dean Thomas and Padma Patil. The Death Eaters did quite a number on you. Almost every bone in your body was broken. Your back, neck, legs, arms...it's a miracle you survived."
He didn't understand. Why was she speaking like he wasn't a Death Eater? Why was she telling him the location of an Order base? They both knew who he was. What he was. The Dark Mark on his forearm and the last seven years told the tale well enough. He wanted to ask, but his survival instincts kicked in, and her presence was distorting his judgement. All he could think about was what she'd said, that nearly all his bones had been broken, and he tested his body, flexing his arms, his stomach muscles, but it stopped there.
"I can't feel my legs."
"Your legs..." she whispered, her eyebrows drawing together with thought. "I didn't have enough Skele-gro to heal all your bones. I used a lot of it mending your fractured skull and your spine. We have sent people out to get more supplies and potion ingredients, but I'm not sure how long it will take. I managed to fix most of the fractures, but it's only temporary, and there are still splinters that I couldn't fix. Resting weight on them isn't wise, but you'll be able to move them a little. All the bones beneath your knees were...crushed, like chalk-dust. It was like they'd dropped boulders on them-
"It was a wall, actually," he muttered, and her eyes softened.
"I can't understand how we found you alive."
"They kept me alive so I would feel everything. Remember everything."
"Do you remember everything?"
The moment caught up with him then, the bizarreness of the situation, and he jerked away from her. His trained eyes darted around the room, analysing everything that contributed to his surroundings; four white walls, two doors, six hospital beds-come-stretchers, a desk, a few chairs, a large cabinet, her. He kept coming back to her. Her. He scolded himself.
"What the fucking hell am I doing here?" he demanded. "Why the hell would you be helping me?"
"Malfoy, calm down-
"I am a Death Eater," he stated, and it left a bitter taste in his mouth. "I am fucking Death Eater! This is all bullshit! A trick! Why the hell would I be at an Order's safehouse? Why the hell would the Order rescue me at all?"
"Because we know who you are."
Her words stunned him, and he couldn't conjure a reply, a question, or a thought. He scanned her features critically, and he wondered if the Order did know. If she knew. No, they couldn't possibly. He'd been so careful. It was tempting to just look at her for a while and note the differences from the last time he'd seen her, but self-preservation pushed that notion aside. He parted his lips, ready with questions and accusations, but the sound of a door opening cut him off, and in walked Potter.
"He's awake?" he asked Hermione after a quick look at Draco. "Why didn't you come get me? How long has he been awake?"
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here, Potter!" yelled Draco. "What the fuck is going on? What the hell am I doing here?"
"How's he doing?" he asked, ignoring Draco's comment, which infuriated him immensely. "Injuries healing fine?"
"Seems to be going well, but he won't be able to use his legs until Ron and Neville get back-
"Potter, I swear to Merlin, if you don't tell me what is going on, I will fucking strangle you!"
"You're going to strangle me when you can't walk?"
"I only need my hands to break your neck."
Harry looked nervous for a brief moment, glancing down at the floor and pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose like a child, but then his expression was purposeful. "Hermione, would you leave us alone please?"
The look that creased up her face was brilliant. It reminded Draco of that Potions class in Sixth Year — also seven years ago — when Potter had managed to successfully brew Draught of Living Death, and she'd looked on with a conflicted gaze of support and suspicion. That was exactly how she looked now, torn and uncertain, but doing her best to conceal it as Potter's best friend.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "You know, I do know everything-
"I know, but I just want to talk with him alone."
Her frown deepened as she reluctantly rose from her seat, flicking her eyes back to Draco before she gave her friend a pointed look. "Fine. But not for long, Harry. He needs rest."
Draco watched her go with more attention than necessary, but he caught himself and narrowed a fuming glare at Potter. "Well? Do I have to fucking ask you again?"
Harry sighed and reached into the pocket of his oversized jacket, pulling a wad of parchments, and Draco instantly knew what they were. Dropping them on the bed, Harry then sat down as Draco stared at the letters, refusing to reach out and grab them despite the itch in his fingertips.
"Those are letters warning us about Death Eater attacks, hideouts, gatherings-
"I know what they are, Potter."
"And we know you wrote those," said Harry. "That's why you're here."
Draco clenched his jaw, feeling far too exposed for his liking. Yes, he'd written them. Could probably recite them word for word given enough time. Some were years old, tattered at the edges and crumpled, and some were fresh, from within the last twelve months. Refusing to meet Potter's expectant eyes, he licked his teeth, carefully planning what he should say.
At least he had an answer now. At least he knew why Potter and his band of feckless idiots had decided to drag his dying arse out of the dungeons, but he couldn't for the life of him decide if that was a good thing. He was tempted to deny it, but he'd had a feeling this would arise when Granger had told him that they knew who he was. And had he not really been waiting for this opportunity? A chance to defect and assist the Order, as he secretly had been doing for years? Here was that opportunity, but resentment and pride made him reluctant, even if Potter's demeanour was relaxed and accommodating.
"When did you figure it out?"
"Not long ago. Maybe a couple of weeks before we found you."
"Hermione was rummaging through our old Potions text books," he explained slowly. "She found mine from Fourth Year. Do you remember you used to send me little notes, taking the piss out of me?"
Draco smirked. "Yeah, so?"
"We found one tucked between the pages, and I noticed something." He picked up one of the letters and pointed to a particular word. "You have an unusual way of writing your Ys. You see it's kind of curved in a loop and it comes back on itself-
"I am perfectly aware of what my handwriting looks like, Potter. Get on with it."
"Well, I noticed the same thing in the letters. Your handwriting may have changed, but you still have similar patterns, like the way you dot your Is and cross your Ts. I was sceptical at first but I reread the letters and...I just knew. I tried to contact you-
"Then that was probably how they figured me out and tortured me within an inch of my life," he snarled. "So cheers for that."
"I'm sorry," said Harry, and Draco was thrown by how sincere he sounded. "I tried to be as discreet as possible-
"Worked like a charm-
"You did send these though, didn't you."
It wasn't a question, and Draco chewed his tongue . "Fine. I sent them."
"Oh, I don't know, Potter," he said coolly. "I could tell you I started sending them after Voldemort killed my mother and then tortured my father until he begged for death-
"But that happened three years ago," Harry cut in. "You've been sending these for five years."
"Exactly," he replied, his tone stoic. "So your guess is as good as mine."
Harry rubbed his lips together, evidently uncertain about what he intended to say. "For a long time, we thought Cormac McLaggen was sending us the letters."
Draco scowled, half-confused and half-offended. "I can assure you that McLaggen is very much a devout Death Eater, not to mention completely bloody psychotic. And he killed Finnegan in front of you all. Why the hell would you think it was him?"
He was rubbing his lips together again. "You know, before Cormac killed Seamus that day, he grabbed Hermione by the throat. He said...crude things to her and...touched her a bit. George managed to save her, but he did a similar thing about a year ago, when we fought at Kent."
No, Draco hadn't known that, and he felt his ears get hot, and a spark went off his on his brain, but he managed to keep himself steady. "Right," he forced out. "So?"
"Well, Cormac used to be infatuated with Hermione in Sixth Year. He still seems to have a sick interest in her-
"Do you have a fucking point, Potter?"
His next words were tentative, quiet, and hasty. "You mention Hermione a lot in the letters."
All the muscles in Draco's body seized up and inhaled sharply through his nose, his nostrils flaring and his mouth tight with fury. He absently wondered just how affronted he looked, and then wondered if he that gave him away. He was half-tempted to set all the letters on fire and deny all knowledge, but there was too much of him in them, too much of the dormant part of his being, and he couldn't bring himself to destroy the evidence of it.
"Just what the hell are you insinuating, Potter?" he spat.
"Nothing, I just-
"Because I fucking swear-
"Look," sighed Harry, reaching to snatch a handful of the letters. "You mention her in over half of them. Like this one: Granger can probably work it out with that brilliant mind of hers. This one: I'm sure Granger's already figured out what they're doing-
"Shut it, Potter-
"This one: Granger should check that library she no doubt has somewhere-
"And this one: Try to convince Granger not to fight this time-
"ENOUGH, POTTER!" Draco yelled. "Fucking hell, why can't you just learn when to shut it? Such a wanker."
Harry regarded him warily for a moment and then placed the letters back on the bed, clearing his throat. "Alright. It was just an observation." He paused and averted his eyes. "You know, I didn't show her the ones that include her name, or I altered them so she wouldn't see. I knew she'd stress about it and wonder...well, you know what she's like-
"I don't give a shit." It wasn't even close to the truth. He felt relieved actually, but Potter already knew too much.
"Right," Harry mumbled awkwardly, apparently unconvinced. "Right, well...thank you for sending these and helping us. I know you risked a lot to-
"For Merlin's sake," he huffed, rolling his eyes. "I'm not doing this pathetic Hufflepuff crap with you. I get it, you're grateful. What the hell happens now?"
"Well, that's up to you really. You can either wait until you're healed and go, or you can stay." He looked Draco dead in the eye. "And fight for us."
"That easily? No Veritaserum? No Legilimency?"
"Well, we did run a few tests while you were unconscious," he admitted. "Hermione decided that Legilimency would be too much for you to handle. She planted a thought in your mind about letter-writing, and extracted a few memories of you writing them. We used the pensieve, studied them, and we're satisfied they're genuine-
"You went snooping around in my fucking head?" he hissed. "You piece of-
"We needed something a bit more concrete than my gut feeling. Anyway, judging from your actions, you've been on our side for years. I know I wouldn't have a problem with it, and the others would come round to the idea. It's not like you're the first Death Eater to defect and join us. Everyone gets on with Theo fine now."
Draco frowned pensively, toying with one of the letters between his fingers. One with Granger's name on it.
"Look, you don't need to decide now," Harry shrugged, rising to his feet. "You can wait until you're completely healed. I'll leave you to get some rest."
"Hang on a second, Potter," he called, waiting until the other man had turned back to face him. "I don't want Granger treating me."
"I don't need a reason. I think I'm entitled to a request seeing as you almost got me killed."
"Sorry, Malfoy, but there's no alternative," he said. "After Pomfrey was killed, Hermione took over. Neville and Susan help her occasionally, but Neville's not here and Susan isn't experienced enough to care for you. Hermione's the only option."
"I don't believe that. I know Granger still fights with you. Who looks after the medical wing when she's not here?"
"Hermione invented a system where if anyone uses their emergency Portkeys to come here, she has a ring that burns and informs her so she can return," he explained. "We discussed the option of her staying here, but I need her on the battlefield. She's arguably the most skilled of us and...well, you know that. You were there when she killed Bellatrix."
Draco sighed and massaged the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache begin to pulse by his temple. "Then I'll just have to put up with her then, won't I?"
"Why are you-
"The conversation's done, Potter. You may recommence your exit."
Harry opened his mouth to respond, but Draco directed a threatening look his way that accomplished the desired effect. The vibrations of the door closing seemed to aggravate his headache and trigger a dizzy spell . He gathered the letters, skimming them and subconsciously lingering on Granger's name before he tucked them under his mattress as the headache began to pound like drums, and when he dropped his head back against the pillow, he was out in seconds.
He'd dreamt of masks and curses again, and when the sound of Granger's dulcet laugh had sliced through the nightmare, he'd followed it like a lost boy looking for a home.
He was awake now, but his eyes were shut, and Granger was laughing again, somewhere to his right, probably at her desk. But who she was laughing at or with, he'd yet to figure out.
"Ah, be careful with that," she said.
"What's that?" a new voice asked. A child's voice.
"That's my wand."
"Can I play?"
"No, sweetheart, you're too young to be playing with wands yet. Do you understand?"
There was a pause, and then, "Please can I play?"
Hermione was laughing again, and the temptation to peek was too strong for Draco to ignore. Opening his eyes a crack, he noticed the child first; a small redheaded girl with freckles, perhaps three years old, dressed in Muggle jeans and red top. She was sat on Hermione's lap, trying desperately to reach for the forbidden items on the desk while Hermione affectionately stroked her hairand tried to convince her to settle down, and Draco felt something in his chest shatter. Between the freckles, brown eyes, and ginger hair, Draco reached the most obvious conclusion, and it was like a knife to his gut.
Hermione suddenly turned to look at him, and he was caught in the bewitching intensity of her eyes again, and all he could do was stare back with trained indifference. The little girl seemed to notice him then, and she studied him with a wide and curious gaze before she looked back up to Hermione.
"Is he a good guy or bad guy?"
Hermione smiled, keeping the eye contact with him. "He's a good guy, we think," she said, only turning away when there was a knock at the door. "Come on then, Rosemary. That will be your Grandfather. He's going to take you for breakfast."
The child frowned as Hermione lowered her to the floor but toddled on her little legs towards the door anyway, disappearing out of Draco's sight as Hermione exchanged a quick conversation with Arthur Weasley, too quietly for him to catch. When she walked back to the desk, he couldn't look at her, instead focusing on the ceiling crack and forcing a cold look on his face that he hoped didn't look bitter.
"Did we wake you?"
"Yes," he rasped out. "Your kid's loud, Granger."
"My...? Oh, I'm not Rosemary's mother."
Draco snapped his confused eyes towards her, quashing the look of relief that threatened to steal his features. "She's not yours?"
"No, she's Lavender's and Ron's daughter," she replied, as though it was obvious. "Couldn't you tell? She's the spitting image of Lavender."
"Weasley had a kid with Big-Mouth Brown? She was an irritating bitch at Hogwarts."
"Yes, well...a lot of people have changed since Hogwarts," she commented in that shrewd tone of hers, and he didn't miss her knowing gaze. "Lavender's calmed down a lot actually. They had Rosemary three years ago. She's my Goddaughter."
He would've exhaled if she hadn't been so close. "Just what the world needs; another Weasley."
"Oh hush, she's lovely. Clever too."
"I doubt that very much considering her parentage-
"I refuse to be goaded into an argument about my friends," she interrupted, her tone clinical as she flipped open a notebook and twirled a quill between her fingers. "So, how're you feeling? Any dizziness? Feelings of sickness? Blurry vision? Localised pain?"
"And don't even think of lying. You need to tell me if you have any symptoms. We don't know for definite what Curses were used on you."
Furrowing his brow and straining his neck so it would crack, he grumbled, "Headaches and dizziness."
"Well, we can probably blame them on a concussion, but I will run some tests," she said, scribbling a few notes. Pulling open a drawer, she rummaged for a moment and then turned to him, offering something with her flat palm. "In the meantime, I need you to take these."
He scrutinised the two small, white, round objects in her palm critically. "What the hell are they?"
"They're antibiotics. Muggle medicine. They help combat infection. It's just a precaution really, but I'd like you to take two, three times a day until I'm positive."
"I know you're not a fan of anything Muggle, but as you know, potions and other magical options are in short supply," she told him, pushing them into his hand and then holding out a bottle of water to take. "I assure you they're safe."
He hesitated, his eyes lingering on her face for a long moment before he knocked back the tablets without a gulp of the water. "Satisfied?"
"Yes," she nodded. "You know, you are being rather cooperative. A lot more trusting than I expected."
"I don't trust you," he argued quickly. Possibly too quickly. "You're just incapable of being dishonest, Granger. Even if a lie somehow managed to form in your mouth, your body would give you away. You're too...good for it."
She pouted, like he'd offended her. "I am perfectly capable of lying, thank you-
"No, you're not-
"And your assumption that I am too good for it is illogical." A darkness seemed to swell in her eyes, and she looked down at the floor. "I have killed people. How can that make me too good?"
"Because you did it out of necessity," he replied. "We've all killed, Granger. "
"That doesn't stop it from staining you...your soul." She stopped and shook her head, and he thought she looked ashamed when she looked back up to him. "It's irrelevant how much I hated Bellatrix, I have still prematurely ended someone's life."
He shrugged nonchalantly. "Someone had to."
"Don't you bear any resentment towards me at all? She was your aunt."
"Only by blood."
Her eyebrows lifted with surprise. "Blood always seemed like an important factor to you."
"Yeah, well, it's like you said," he spoke slowly, ensuring she was looking directly at him before he continued. "A lot of people have changed since Hogwarts."
She didn't blink for a long time, but when she did the air in the room became heavier, almost suffocating. She made a small noise, something between a sigh and a cough as she averted her eyes, and then she was back to scribbling in her notebook, with her ever-methodical expression back in place.
"Okay, I just need to ask you a few questions," she mumbled. "Do you have any hereditary illness I should know about?"
"Have you been taking any kind of medicines or healing potions?"
"Weasleys," he smirked. "And don't frown at me like that, they do give me a rash."
"Well, you'd better get used to it," she said tersely, looking to the side. "You'll be sharing this room with one."
He followed her eyeline and for the first time noticed that one of the other beds was occupied by the bumps of a female, and a splash of red hair spilling out across the pillow. With a groan of his aching muscles, he pulled himself up to sit to get a better view and recognised the unconscious woman instantly.
"Molly," she finished for him. "Yes, Molly Weasley."
"What's she doing here?"
"She was a hit by a curse five months ago, when we fought at Bromsgrove," she explained quietly. "It's...um...the curse is basically burning her to death from the inside; her internal organs are slowly disintegrating. I've put her into an induced coma so she won't feel the pain."
"You can't find a counter-curse?"
"I can't even find any reference to the curse itself. It's immune to all the healing methods I've tried and it's just...eating her alive. Sometimes she wakes up, and her screams...I've never heard anything like them. It's like she's being ripped apart."
Draco clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "Wouldn't it be kinder to put her out of her misery?"
He thought she would be horrified by his suggestion, but she simply shrugged.
"I'm still hoping I can find something to cure her," she confessed, and she sounded so sad. "And if I don't...well, she's dying."
"We're all dying, Granger."
She looked back at him, her eyes half-lidded and troubled, but with a deep breath she was back to normal, placing down her notebook and quill before she rose to her feet. "You must be starving," she said. "I'll go and get you some food."
He watched her until she disappeared out of the room and then reached beneath the mattress, pulling out one of the letters to read back the words he had written over a year ago.
Don't bring Granger with you if you're planning to retrieve the prisoners from the Crabbe Dungeons. She'll be too affected by what's in there.
He glared at his handwriting and realised how mistaken he'd been. Granger was just as broken as the rest of them.
Thirteen repetitive days later and Draco had already sussed out Granger's routine.
When he woke up, she was always there, ready with her Muggle medicine and a few questions to determine if was either better or worse, occasionally instructing him to drink a potion. Then she would bring him food, sit beside Molly's bed, and just drown herself in books and papers, desperately flicking through pages, jotting down notes, and casting the occasional spell on the Weasley Matriarch. She'd disappear, bring him dinner, return to her spot, and then the same again for his evening lunch.
She kept the conversation with him minimal, not out of principal or rudeness, but just because she was that concentrated on doing what she could. He would always fall asleep with her still sat in the chair, and when he woke up, she did it all again. It was late in the evening now, and another day of inactivity and silence was starting to get to him. He also felt slightly off today; too warm to feel comfortable and almost lethargic. He watched Granger in that chair, muttering to herself between books tapping the quill against her chin.
"Do you ever sleep?"
She didn't look up. "Of course I sleep."
"I've never seen you sleep."
"I sleep in there," she said, nodding her head to the second door in the room. The one he'd never even seen her open. "I like to stay close, in case anything happens."
He huffed out an agitated breath. "Granger, the boredom in this place is going to drive me insane."
"Would you like a book?"
"No, I don't want a fucking book," he snapped, cringing when a headache practically stabbed him between the eyes. "Fuck. Granger, have you got any Pain-Killing Potion, or something?"
"Are you alright?"
He clenched his eyes shut. "Headache."
He heard her moving, and when he opened his eyes she was his side with a gentle look of concern on her face, scanning him in a way that made him feel uneasy. Humming with thought, she stretched out her hand, and he jerked away before she could touch him.
"What the hell are you-
"Hold still," she whispered. "I just want to test your temperature."
He bit down on his back teeth, clenching his jaw, but he didn't pull away when she tried again. She flattened her palm against his forehead, and it was refreshingly cool, and her skin so soft, more like petals than fingertips. He wanted to shut his eyes again, but he resisted, even when her hand fell down to graze the backs of her fingers against his cheek, and then the other.
"You're quite hot."
He grinned cockily, unable to ignore such an inviting opportunity. "How nice of you to notice, Granger," he remarked, and he was more than a little surprised when she rolled her half-amused eyes and smiled back.
"That was poor, Malfoy. Almost embarrassing actually."
"You made it too easy to resist."
"I'm sure," she said. "You are rather warm though. I don't think you have a fever. It's probably just your body getting used to the different potions in your system, but I'll take a blood test, just to be safe."
"A blood test?"
"Don't worry, I'm not going to take a few pints out of you or anything," she assured him, removing her wand from her pocket. "Just a few drops."
She was reaching for him again, and she tugged up the sleeve of his jumper before he could stop her, exposing his Dark Mark. They both froze and it was like a barrier had been formed between them, a shield that punctuated their differences and reminded him just how separate from him she was. He didn't like her looking at it. It disgusted him that she should ever be this close to the stain on his skin, his life, and he expected her to turn away, but she didn't.
"Do you regret it?" she asked.
He thought about lying. He even invented a perfect lie, ready to save some dignity, but maybe there was just no more space in him for dishonesty, or maybe he decided she deserved better than that.
"It's like every other scar I have," he muttered. "It's there to remind me of something that went wrong."
She hesitated, chewing her bottom lip."I've been working on a counter-spell for this too. Theo came to me about it a couple of years ago, and I think I'm pretty close."
He nodded, uncertain what he could say to that. He allowed her to cast a silent and small Diffindo, which sliced a centimetre-long cut just below his Dark Mark, and he barely felt a pinch. She squeezed the skin either side of the wound to push some of his blood into a vial before quickly sealing the wound, and turning to her desk to start whatever the hell she planned to do.
There was a subtle tingling where her fingers had been, and he wondered if it was simply the spell, or if he was just so unacquainted with body heat that it felt so...there. Then he wondered if was just her. Her and her body heat.
"How come I've never seen you go to bed then?" he asked. "If that even is your bedroom."
"I wait until you fall asleep before I go to bed."
"I don't know," she frowned. "I guess I just like to know you're settled."
His eyebrows knitted together, bemused. "So if I were to stay up all night, you would stay awake?"
"Either that or I'd just knock you out with a potion or something. Probably the latter."
"Well, I may just test out that theory."
She sighed and leaned back in her chair. "If you must."
He'd tried to the point that his eyelids had ached, but somewhere around three in the morning, he'd been lulled to sleep by the sound of her humming a song he didn't know. His body was still recovering, and seven years' worth of sleepless nights were catching up to him now that he could shut his eyes without the slightest dose of paranoia. The last time he'd felt remotely safe had been back in Fifth Year, before everything had started to crumble around him and crash at his feet, and his body seemed keen to steal what sleep it could.
So when a shrill and horrifying scream jolted him awake barely an hour after he'd dropped off, it took him a few moments to gather himself. By the time his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, Hermione was running out of her room, tripping over her frantic feet in a set of baggy pyjamas, and her wand in her hand. As she lit several candles and illuminated the room, she didn't look at him, her attention completely focussed on Molly Weasley as she shrieked and thrashed around in her bed.
"Molly!" she shouted over the racket, bending over the bed and trying to grab the woman's flailing limbs. "Molly, it's okay! It's me! Molly, look at me!"
Draco watched in silence as Hermione managed to grab Molly's arms, pinning them down at her sides, and then she carefully eased herself on to the bed.
"It's me, Molly! It's Hermione!" she tried desperately. "It's okay, it's okay."
The screams slowly simmered into pathetic sobs and whines, and Hermione released Molly's arms, began stroking her hair and forehead soothingly as Molly trembled so much that the bed seemed to vibrate a few inches across the floor.
"I know it hurts," said Hermione. "I know it does, but it's okay. It's okay."
But then she started to scream again and try to tear herself away, and Hermione cautiously lifted her wand to rest against the woman's temple, and muttered, "Soporus."
And then everything went silent, so silent that it made Draco's eardrums ring as Molly's body went limp, and the echo of her last scream faded. He held his breath, studying Hermione as she adjusted the sleeping witch into a more comfortable position before dropping her head into her hands. He could hear her muffled crying and see her shoulders shaking, and the feeling in his chest was something he couldn't place.
Her head snapped up, but she didn't attempt to hide her tears, simply stared at him across the room with a heartbreaking helplessness in her eyes that he'd never seen before. She was always so composed, so reasonable, and he thought that if she was breaking down, there was no hope for any of them.
"She's been like a mother to me," she choked out. "After I sent my parents away, she was there for me. She sung me to sleep if I was crying, read me silly little stories when I missed them too much."
He didn't respond; just listened.
"I'm trying," she whimpered. "I'm trying so hard to help her, but I'm just losing. I don't know what I can do. And I'm so tired."
He felt guilty then for challenging her to stay up late, but guilt was a feeling he knew well. She was on her feet then, brushing away her tears and smoothing out the creases in her pyjamas before she began to walk towards him, almost in a trance-like state.
"I'm sorry," she said, sitting down on his bed. "I'm sorry."
"You have no reason to be sorry," he told her.
"Would you like some Sleeping Draught? I, um, I'm pretty sure I have some-
"You should have some."
She shook her head. "No, I need to be up early-
"Granger, you clearly need some rest-
"Can I sleep here?" she asked. "With you?"
Draco's eyes went wide. He wondered if she thought she was dreaming, and judging by her glazed stare it was likely, but he nodded his head anyway, questioning if it might actually be him who was dreaming.
"I don't like sleeping by myself," mumbled Hermione. "It's too cold in that room."
Apparently a nod wasn't enough, so he shifted himself back on the bed, twisting onto his side to provide a space for her. She simply sat there for a moment, and just when he thought that she'd changed her mind, she lowered herself down and sank beneath the blanket with her back to him. The bed was so small that it was impossible for their bodies not to graze, and he had to stop himself from edging closer to her, perhaps even snaking his arm around her waist.
"You're so warm," she mumbled. "I always imagined you'd be cold."
And then seconds later, she was breathing deeply in sleep, and the temptation to touch her haunted him until he found sleep himself.
When he woke the next day, he was alone, and glance at the clock told him he'd slept past midday.
Hermione was back in her chair, buried in her books, and he spent the better half of the day wondering if it had happened at all.
"I'm telling you, Granger, check your history books. The Goblin Rebellion in 1772 was a cover-up so that the Ministry could 'misplace' money that was owed to the Swedish Ministry, so they wouldn't have to pay it back."
"Oh, is it? Then why did we almost go to war with Sweden in 1774?"
"Because they were illegally keeping the majority of our Welsh Green Dragons without our consent. They essentially stole a large number of our dragon population because their Norwegian Ridgebacks weren't breeding."
"No, that's what the Ministry wanted the public to believe. Honestly, Granger, you've never heard of propaganda?"
"Of course I-
"The Ministry were too stingy to pay back the money they owed, and when Sweden threatened war, they invented that story about the dragons so the public would still have faith in them. It's all there if you just know where to look."
"What a load of a rubbish. Honestly, Draco, I never took you for a conspiracy theorist."
His mouth fell shut. It wasn't the first time she'd called him by his first name, perhaps the tenth or eleventh, but it still stunned him whenever she did. He'd been here almost a month now (well, two really, even if he'd only been conscious for one), and after the night she'd slept in his bed, days had passed a little differently. She still spent hours with her head hidden behind a book, but they spoke more, usually locked in harmless debates like they were now, and hell, he enjoyed them. He'd forgotten how stimulating a discussion could be, and Granger was the perfect person to keep him entertained with her quick wit and encyclopaedic knowledge.
"If I was a conspiracy theorist, I might comment on the fact that Weasley and Longbottom are taking so long to find the potion ingredients."
She frowned. "I did warn you it would take a while. They've probably had to go to Scotland, maybe even Ireland to find them."
"It's been what, two months?"
"I know you're restless, Draco," she sighed. "But I know the boys are doing their best to find what you need. Try to be patient."
He rolled his eyes but didn't reply, and when he looked up at her she was watching him with an anxious gaze, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth.
"What is it?"
"Why did you tell Harry that you didn't want me to be in charge of your treatment?" she asked. "Is it...is it because of my blood-
"No," he interrupted, reminding himself to punch Potter for his inability to keep his mouth shut. "I think it's pretty fucking obvious from the letters that I stopped believing that bullshit since...Well, for a while." He paused and balled his fists. "Have I mentioned that once since I've been here? Or given you any indication that it's an issue?"
"No, so why did you tell Harry that?"
He thought quickly. "It was merely a question of your competency. I know you're not a trained Healer-
"And why did you send us the letters?" she rushed out. "I mean, something or...someone must've catalysed it."
His muscles tensed and his eyes narrowed. Fuck, she knew. It was written all over her lovely face as she tilted her head expectantly, studying him through her low lashes. She'd probably read them and noted the countless times he'd written her name. The gap between his mattress and the bed frame was hardly a genius hiding place. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she was just genuinely curious, as would be typical of her character. Maybe this was just another thing he was paranoid about.
"I wrote them because I hate Voldemort, and I want him dead, even if it means siding with Saint Potter and his groupies." It wasn't a lie, he was simply avoiding the core of her question. "That's why I wrote the letters."
Hermione nodded, averting her eyes. "You know, I wondered...I mean, I remember..."
Say it. Seven years ago.
Of course she remembered. Why shouldn't she? She'd been there. Been right there. That incident seven years ago had been an elephant sitting in the room since he'd woken up here and seen her, and they'd both ignored it because bringing it up would mean...something.
"What?" he urged. "What do you remember?"
It was a miracle her lip wasn't bleeding. "Nothing," she said. "Nothing. I'll go and get you some dinner."
And she hurried out of the room before he could really determine if what had just happened was significant. For the next nine days, she didn't bring it up again, so neither did he, and the elephant in the room just sat there, glaring at them.
It's an odd thing; how you can have your eyes shut but know that there's someone watching you.
It was that bizarre sensation that stirred Draco, and when his lids fluttered open, he was looking at Hermione. She was at his side, perched on the bed with one half of her face glowing by the gold light of a candle on the desk, and he guessed by the navy darkness shrouding the room that it was around five or six in the morning.
Despite his half-asleep, dazed state, he instantly knew something was wrong; her shoulders were slumped and her breathing was shallow, and when he looked a little closer, he could see the tears spilling down her cheeks. One splashed against his knuckles, and it shocked him wide awake.
"Granger?" he said, his voice husky with sleep. "Granger, what is it?"
"We lost Molly a few hours ago," she mumbled. "She's gone."
Frowning, he glanced in the direction of Molly's bed, finding it empty, made, like no one had ever been there.
"Lee and Charlie took her away, ready to be buried," she said, swallowing hard. "I...by the time I even noticed, she was already cold. How could I not notice? I thought I had more time to try and help her but-
She broke off on a sob, bowing her head as her features creased up with emotion. She looked so completely distraught, so lost, and he couldn't bear it. He reached up with one hand, cupped the side of her face and stroked the ridge of her cheekbone with his thumb, soothing away the damp tracks of her tears. To his surprise, she didn't pull back, only stiffened a little and stared down at him with her wide and brilliant eyes.
"Don't cry, Granger," he said, lifting his other hand to touch the other side of her face. "It doesn't suit you."
Her lashes quivered and she inhaled a shaky breath. "Draco," she began tentatively. "Do you ever think...do you ever think about when we were in Sixth Year, and-
Every. Fucking. Day.
He was stunned. Completely and utterly stunned. He could only watch as she dampened her lips with one quick swipe of her tongue, and then it was her — definitely her — that leaned forward, hesitating for a only a moment, before she kissed him.
Her lips was so soft, supple, uncertain, and he pushed his hands into her hair, tangling his fingers into her curls, pulling her down just that little bit closer to him. He pressed his mouth harder against hers to make the kiss definite, firmer, folding his lips around her swollen bottom one and feeling her hand grip his forearm, her nails digging into his Dark sucked and then she sucked, tongues accidentally licking at each other's teeth and lips. It wasn't fast or passionate, more desperate and fragile, the kind of kiss that leaves your heart sore and everywhere else numb.
She pulled back, sighed, and dropped her forehead against his, her fingernails still digging into his skin.
"Can I sleep here please?"
He nodded and shifted to the edge of the bed, just as he had before, but this time when she lowered her body into his bed, she faced him. Again, he wondered is he should wrap an arm around her, but she made the decision for him, grabbing his hand to loop his arm around her waist. So he tugged her close, rested his chin against her crown, and felt her rest her palm against his chest. Against his heart.
When he woke up, he could tell it was past midday. The sun had had time to warm up the room.
The space bedside him was still warm but Hermione was sitting up with a back to him, fumbling with something in her lap, and he craned his neck to peek. The bed creaked with his movements and she started, looking at him over her shoulder, and then slowly lifting her hand, holding his letters.
He averted his eyes and clenched his jaw, humiliated. Well, that was it. She knew now; knew that she was the catalyst. She was clutching his soul in her hand, scribbled on aging parchment, and it was all too telling. No doubt she'd read her name, again, and again, and again. Over and over, and he felt so exposed.
"You know," she said. "I used to call you the anonymous advocate. And I always thought you had beautiful handwriting."
He didn't look at her.
"I've...um...I'm guessing Harry didn't show me them all. I haven't seen some of these-
"Just spit it out, Granger," he snapped. "Just say it."
She nibbled her lip — of course she did — and tilted her head. "You write about me in them."
"...Quite a bit."
She paused, blushed a little. "Are...are you-
He closed his eyes and wondered if he should've waited for her to finish, but it was irrelevant. She would've asked if he was infatuated with her, obsessed with her, in love with her, and it was yes to all. They're all the same anyway, all unhealthy and sanity-draining when they're unrequited.
Love is nothing more than a pure word for obsession to steady the idealistic romantics in the world, but it bleeds you dry just the same. Makes you vulnerable. Makes you crumble.
She'd been quiet too long but he wasn't ready to look at her, and then he felt her fingers on his chin, gently pulling his head towards her, and he opened his eyes.
"I think you're the bravest person I know."
He snorted, tried to jerk his head away, but she stopped him.
"No, listen to me," she said. "It's easy for us who were born on the right side. We're fortunate that we were raised to know what's good. It's so much harder for people who were raised on the wrong side to accept what's right, to fight against everything you were told from an infant. To separate yourself from all you've known."
He wanted to kiss her again.
"I've always known you could do it," she went on. "Since that time in Sixth Year, I knew you'd fight. Even if you didn't take my hand."
He closed his eyes. He knew full well what she was referring to. He would dream about it sometimes, would remember how her arm had been outstretched, her hand hovering in front him, willing him to take it. But of course, he hadn't, and he wondered if that moment had been where it all went wrong...or right? Why he hadn't killed Dumbledore. Why he'd begun to question his prejudices towards Muggle-borns. When he had decided that he would contribute to Voldemort's demise.
All because he hadn't melted his palm with hers. So many things would've been different...
"Offer me your hand now."
Her smile turned sad, but again, it was she who initiated the kiss, and this one was a bold one. The kind that leaves your mouth sore. His hands were in her hair again, pulling her down to him, latching their lips together so forcefully that they ached a little. He tugged at her bottom lip, his teeth fitting into the dents from her own incessant chewing, and she sighed, moaned, and shuffled closer to him. His hands moved down to her hips, pulling her into his lap, and for a moment he wondered he'd crossed a line, but she didn't resist, straddling his pelvis. He sat up, belting his arms around her waist as she wound hers around his neck, never once breaking the kiss.
And how long had he thought about doing this with her? Imagined it. Fantasised about it. Craved it. And she was actually here, sucking on his mouth, her fingernails raking through his hair, scratching his shoulders. She must've realised he was already hard. He was pressing into her inner thigh for Merlin's sake.
She was yanking at the hem of his t-shirt. Yes, she definitely was. Fuck. She moved it up his body, her fingers across his ribs as she did, and he couldn't suppress the shiver that shot up his spine. After she'd tossed his t-shirt to the side, her hands were on his chest, collarbone, gripping his shoulders, his upper arms, anywhere.
Their breathing was so elevated now that the kiss had become clumsy clashes of lips, frantic and heated. He was itching to remove her pyjama top, but he hesitated, questioning if he was getting too carried away with the surreal prospect of where this was leading. He was so caught up in the pace, her taste, her sighs, just her her her.
He pulled away, just an inch so that their noses were touching, and opened his eyes to find hers wide, glazed, and curious.
"You're sure?" he asked. The specifics were hardly necessary.
She reached for his hands, guided them to her bottom of her loose-fitting top, and helped him pull it over her head. His heartbeat was roaring in his chest now, and as her coffee-coloured curls spilled around her shoulders, he thought she was exquisite, so much more stunning than the images he'd had in his head.
Now that that had been done, he felt unstoppable.
He gave her one slow, burning kiss, before he moved his lips to her throat and chest, and he felt the vibrations of her moan against his tongue. She was fidgeting in his lap, wriggling her way out of her pyjama bottoms and underwear, and her movements made him harder. He knew he needed to calm himself; the mixture of anticipation and longing for this had him far too eager, and he wanted this to last. Needed it to last. He'd be damned if he explode too early when he'd been waiting for this for seven fucking years.
He dropped his hands to the gap between her legs, grazing the backs of his fingers up the skin of her inner-thigh, and then to the heat of her. And she was swollen and wet and perfect, and he swiped his thumb back and forth, back and forth, slowly to begin with, and then in fast, heavy circles. She made a little whimpering sound by his ear, and he pushed two fingers inside, hooking them back until he found the spot, and pressed there, again and again until her chest was heaving. He tightened the arms around her waist when she began to shake a little — not quaking with the climax, just the blissful little shivers in the build-up — and that was the point he knew it would be enough.
He removed his hand and eased down his bottoms and boxers, having a little difficulty with his injured legs and Hermione's kisses against his jaw, but she helped, practically wrenching them away and changing her position so they would fall from his feet.
They were both bare now, just all skin and instinct, and she was settling herself back on his lap, Draco gathered the blanket around them like a cocoon, partly for warmth and partly so they were isolated from everything and everyone. He grabbed her legs, pulling at the backs of her bent knees, and he looked directly into her eyes as he adjusted her angle, and pushed inside of her.
She stared straight back at him, her jaw going slack and her nails stabbing into his back, but her eyes stayed locked with his. He just wanted to absorb the details of her face as he thrust his hips, and he reached up to push her hair away of her face so he could see her properly. She was so fascinating; with each drive, her lashes would flutter, her mouth would change shape, and a dulcet noise would leave her. He was groaning now too, although they sounded more like growls rumbling around in his chest.
He hated that his legs were injured, they were slowing him down, but she seemed to sense that, and she began rocking, swaying, writhing, and that was the point he lost control. Everything got faster and harder and deeper, and they were kissing again, and she tasted of that salty-sweet combination of sweat, sugar, and sex.
Now she was quaking, making strangled sounds of pleasure between their kiss, her breathing pattern broken and erratic, and her back stiffened and he felt her come undone, spasming around him and choking on a long moan.
He let himself go then. That had been his goal; to take her to that consuming point of complete bliss, and now he could follow her there. He thrust into her still-throbbing warmth one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times, and then he burst. Exploded. And he was a mess of hoarse groans and shuddering limbs. He fell back on the bed, careful to keep Hermione close as the tingling subsided, but by the time his body felt like his again, she was breathing deeply, asleep, and resting ever so perfectly against his chest.
Exhaustion was creeping up on him so quickly, but he fought it, feeling that if he shut his eyes, something would change. She might change. Even disappear or come to her senses. So he toyed with a stray lock of her hair, forcing his eyes to stay open for as long as possible, until it hurt.
"...swear to Merlin, you could sleep for Great Britain."
Draco grunted and blinked away the clingy blur of sleep, his half-lidded eyes focussing on the source of the voice. She was sat up in the space beside him, legs crossed and blanket folded around her, covering everything beneath her creamy shoulders. Her hair was wild and chaotic, bushier than he'd ever seen and surrounding her face like a lion's mane, and she was smiling at him. Smiling at him, somewhat shyly, and he squinted at her curiously.
"I said it's about time you woke up," she said. "You could sleep for Great Britain."
He glanced at the clock and did a double-take. "We slept all evening and all night?"
"Yes." She averted her eyes and tucked her hair behind her ear. "It's the best I've slept in a long time to be honest."
He almost nodded his head with agreement, but he merely studied her, unable to help himself. "Are you-
"I'd like to do this again," she rushed out, clearly nervous. "I mean I...I like being with you like this...like last night."
He felt an instant sense of calm wash over him, like when the sun spills down from your head to your shoulders. He must've been silent too long because she was staring at him impatiently, seemingly become more agitated with each second that passed.
"I mean...you know, if you have no objection-
"I have no objection," he told her.
Her smile was back, but only for a moment. Her features drooped into a look of disappointment and apprehension, and the calm that had came so quickly dissipated just as fast. She pulled the sheet a little tighter to her chest and cleared her throat.
"I have something to tell you," she mumbled. "I have been dishonest with you."
Impossible, he would've noticed. They'd already been over this, but he felt anxious anyway.
"We received word from Ron and Neville a few days ago. They found the potion ingredients and they're on their way home. They should be back about a week from today, and you'll be fully healed."
His brow furrowed. "Why didn't you just tell-
"I didn't want you to go," she blurted. "Harry told me what he said to you; that you could leave once you were healed, and I didn't want you to leave. I felt like we had some...unfinished business, but I had no idea how to broach the topic. I just wanted time for us to...see what happened. I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have lied-
"I never intended to leave, Granger," he said. "It's not like I have anywhere else I need to be."
"You're staying here?"
He gave her a significant look, hoping she understood. "You're here."
And her smile was brilliant, wider than before, and completely uninhibited. She leaned in, placing a brief but sweet kiss on his tender mouth. When she pulled back, she reached back to grab her wand from the desk, and then pulled at his arm, twisting it so his Dark Mark was bared.
"What are you-
"I had an epiphany this morning," she said, tracing the outline of the Mark with the tip of her wand. "I've been thinking for a while that a spell to counteract this would need to be similar to casting a Patronus. The Patronus neutralises things that evoke unhappiness, like Dementors and Boggarts, with a spell that's born from happiness."
Draco listened to her soothing voice as the subtle heat of her magic began to tickle his skin.
"The magic of the Dark Mark relies completely on hate, so it's only logical what should neutralise it." She lifted his eyes to him, her cheeks a little pink. "Love."
He parted his lips to say something. What, he had no idea, but it didn't matter because she was concentrating on his arm, eyes purposefully narrowed as a red light began to glow from her wand. She took a deep breath and pushed the tip hard into his skin, almost breaking it, but he didn't flinch.
The tingle intensified into a burn, and Draco gritted his teeth, but the pain became irrelevant as he watched the black stain of the Mark begin so slowly recede. The skull and snake shrank, almost dissolved, leaving behind just raised flesh that looked more like a cluster of goosebumps. When all the black had disappeared, she carefully pulled away her wand and smiled proudly, stroking her fingers across where had once been the brand he'd detested so much.
"It worked," she whispered. "It actually worked."
Neither could he.
She laughed a little. "Congratulations. You are officially no longer a Death Eater." She paused, her face turning serious. "But a member of the Order."
He frowned, running a hand over his mouth as his lips moved to form words he hadn't spoken in a long time, and he gave Hermione's hand a brief squeeze. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome."
She squeezed his hand back, and he wondered if she'd have squeezed his hand like that seven years ago, if he'd had the courage to take her hand the first time she'd offered it.
The next six days composed the only time in his life that Draco could say he felt something close to content.
Even though on the second day, Hermione returned from Molly's burial in a complete state and had wept against his chest until she'd fallen asleep, whining and whimpering like a child. Even though on the third day, or night to be precise, she'd woken up sweating and screaming from a nightmare, and he'd held her tight enough to bruise her arms. Even though on the fourth morning, he'd started bleeding after a bad reaction to a potion had reopened one of his wounds, and they'd both woken up covered in a wet blanket of his blood. Even though on the fifth day, he'd been in a particularly foul mood and accused her of trying to poison him, and they'd argued until his vocal chords had felt blistered.
Despite all that, he felt comfortable, satisfied, and very much like he belonged to a home that wasn't a place, but a person; her. She slept in his bed every night (even after that argument), smiled at him in the mornings, and kissed him when she felt like it.
It was addictive, this sense of contentment, and for six days he soaked it all in, relished it, savoured it.
But on the seventh day, it all went to hell.
He woke up alone, which in itself was unusual, but when he glanced at the clock and realised he'd slept past midday, he thought that perhaps Hermione had left for a shower, or to bring them some food. There was something out of place in the room though, and when he glanced at her desk, he found it: a vial of green potion, and propped up against it was a piece of parchment.
Guess who showed up at six this morning with
some potion ingredients? Drink this.
I need to help Ron with something. Hopefully by the time
I get back, you'll be walking.
As odd as it was, the first thing that came to his mind was how beautiful her handwriting was, but then he was eagerly reaching for the vial, digging his thumb beneath the stopper and flicking it away. He smelled the concoction, wrinkling his nose when the abrasive steam of the Skele-gro singed his nostrils. He prepared himself for the burning sensation as he opened his mouth and knocked it back, grimacing at the harsh taste as it spilled down his throat, scalding and scratching all the way down.
He yanked away the blanket and stretched out his legs, already feeling the slow and painful process as the shards and splinters in his calves, ankles and toes began to fix back together. He growled and dug his fingers into the mattress, hissing the air out through his clenched teeth for what must've been twenty minutes, before the pain began to ebb, and he wiggled his toes.
Sitting at the edge of the bed, he planted his feet against the cold floor, and cautiously lifted himself up to stand. He was wobbly, perhaps from months of being bed-ridden or because the potion was still healing him, so he widened his stance. Smirking triumphantly, he pushed himself to take a step, and then another, and another, but when the door burst open and Hermione rushed in, he nearly lost his balance.
She was bleeding.
Her left arm looked like it had been dipped in red paint from shoulder to wrist, and it was on her clothes, in her hair, on her face, streaked up her cheeks like heavy blusher. She was panting heavily, her eyes wet and wide with panic, tears falling down her face and diluting the blood, pink droplets gathering at her chin.
"Granger," he said warily. "What the-
"The Death Eaters followed Ron and Neville here," she gasped, and then her expression crumpled up with anguish. "They're dead; Harry, Ron, Neville, Ginny...so many others."
The first thing that hit him was the need to comfort her, but he was too stunned to move. The next thing that hit him — punched him in his gut —was guilt. Fierce and unyielding guilt. The Death Eaters wouldn't have tracked Weasley and Longbottom had not been for his presence here. His lover wouldn't be sobbing like she was now, bleeding and in shock.
He went to reach for her, but an explosion somewhere outside roared and rattled the building, and Hermione seemed to snap back into action.
"I need to get you out of here," she said, more to herself as she marched towards her desk.
She ripped open the drawer, her hands shaking as she tossed aside items until she was gripping a small hourglass, half-covered in cloth, and she snapped her head back towards him. His confused stare shifted between her flushed face and the trinket in her hands, his head rather dizzy as it struggled to keep up with everything.
"What the hell is that?" he asked, even though he knew.
"It's a Portkey," she replied, her voice deceptively even. "Listen to me, Draco. This will take you to the Isle of Man, just outside of Peel. Get to Peel, find Patrick Street, then turn on to Lake Lane, turn right and you'll find The Creek Inn. Ask for Julian, he will help you-
"What the fuck are you on about?" he bit out. "I'm not going anywhere-
"Yes, you are."
He took a long stride towards her. "I am not leaving-
"Without you," he said, lifting his hand to cup her stained cheek.
"No!" she shouted, jerking away from his touch. "I have to stay here, I have to fight-
"For what? If the Death Eaters have the camp, then we need to leave!"
She choked on groan and shook her head. "I have to help my friends! I need to! They need me-
"You just said they're all dead!" he yelled. "Potter, Weasley, Longbottom, you can't fucking help them, Granger! There's nothing you can do! They're DEAD! Fucking de-
He heard the smack before he felt it; the crack of it temporarily deafened his left ear, and the force of the blow from her bloody hand made his weak legs stumble, and he was falling to the floor just as his cheek began to pound from the whack of her palm. He didn't reach up to nurse it, simply tilted his head to look at her, and she was on the floor too, three feet away, shaking and crying, her hand over her chest like she was trying to calm her heartbeat. Beneath the throb, his cheek was damp and warm, and he licked his lips, caught a bit of her blood and swallowed it down.
Her blood. The route of all his problems, and all his revelations.
He made to near her, but she shot him a desperate look that made him freeze, and then the building was quaking again, people screaming outside, and bang, bang, bang, blasts of spells. He looked up at the ceiling crack, and it looked larger, like it was splitting.
"You need to go," she said, her voice high-pitched and pleading. "You need to, Draco, there's not much time. I will...I will help here, and I will come f-find you when it's over-
"Granger," he sighed. "There's nothing you can do. It is over."
"No," she whined. "No, I can help the others-
"You'll be killed." His voice was so steady, almost cold. "If we leave, we can live. We'll regroup if you want, find the survivors, and start again."
"I belong here!" she snapped.
"Think logically, Granger. Where's the sense in your idea? It's suicide."
"I need to try!"
Draco exhaled, shut his eyes, and balled his fists. "I love you," he said quietly, but his next words were loud. "I just got you after fucking years of waiting and wanting, and I will NOT leave without you! Do you understand me?"
She blinked at him, her jaw slack but her features softer, delicate, desperate. Perhaps desolate. "Draco, please-
"I will shadow you!" he went on. "If you leave, I will leave, but if you stay, I will not budge. There's not a fucking thing you can do about that." He winced and cracked his neck. "And if we stay, we'll be killed."
He studied her intently as her eyes darted between him and the rubble beginning to rain from the ceiling, could see how conflicted she was as she battled with herself. She looked frightened, confused, torn, and he just wanted to scoop her up and activate the Portkey before she could protest, but no. It needed to be her choice. Because people aren't defined by the choices they make, they're defined by the choices they change.
So he stretched out his arm and offered his hand, his palm flat. Inviting.
"Please, Hermione," he said, his fingers itching with the need to have her hand in his. "Come with me."
And she looked at him, stared straight at him, the recognition wild and bright in her eyes.
She remembered. She remembered because they'd been her words once. They'd been her words seven years ago.
Seven years ago.
He ripped his vest over his head, tore off his tie, and gripped the ice-old porcelain of the sink.
His knuckles were whiter than his school shirt and he stared at them for a long moment, trying to push and swallow down the sob that was in his throat with such an effort that he trembled. But it surged out of him, sounding so much louder as it echoed around the bathroom tiles. Droplets of sweat mingled with his tears, falling and hitting the porcelain like hail, and he wiped his brow with his sleeve.
His head shot up to the mirror, focussing on the shadow in the corner, and he whipped his body around, fumbling for his wand.
"It's okay," the voice said, feminine and gentle. "It's okay, I'm not going to do anything."
He hesitated but kept his wand in his fist, squinting and trying to make sense of the shadow. With a few slow steps, she was in the light; brown, bushy hair, school uniform neat and perfectly placed, and her eyes big and round, curious. He snarled and lifted his wand.
"What the fuck do you want, Granger?"
"I saw you come in here," she explained nervously. "You looked...look upset
"Get the fuck out of here!" he yelled. "Piss off! Now!"
She bit her bottom lip, and seemed to be fixated on that gesture. "Malfoy...you need help."
He scoffed, sputtering on some words that refused to form in his mouth. "What the hell are you-
"I know what you are," she said, nodding her head to his left arm. "Your shirt's wet, translucent."
He glanced down at the arm he'd used to wipe his forehead, noticing how the damp material clung to his skin, and then the show beneath. His Dark Mark. He clenched his teeth and looked back at her, and she'd moved closer to him.
"Stay where you are!" he ordered. "If you know what I am, then you know what I am fucking capable of, Mudblood!"
Her lips twitched to that final word, but she took another step forward. "Malfoy, let me help you."
"Help me? What the hell could you possibly do?" He was panting, chest heaving. "You don't a fucking clue what is going on! And I don't your sodding help!"
"I think you do-
"STOP WALKING TOWARDS ME!"
She didn't, and he felt like he was in a bizarre trance as he watched her, almost hypnotised by her slow yet bold strides. When she was about three feet away, she stopped, extended her arm, and pushing down the shaking hand still aiming his wand at her. And he let her.
"Malfoy," she sighed, once his arm had fallen to his side. "It's okay. I can help you."
"No, you can't," he disputed, his voice quiet, more of a hiss. "You, Saint Potter, Weasel, our fucking barmy Headmaster. None of you can do anything."
"You underestimate us-
"No, you underestimate Him." He glanced back down at his arm with the Mark, and her gaze followed. "I have made my choice."
"You can change it," she whispered. "We aren't defined by the choices we make. We're defined by the ones we change."
"I can't change it. Just like you can't change your filthy blood. It is what it is."
He jumped when he felt her hands on his tear-streaked cheeks, holding his face still, and the absurdity of the situation shocked him into silence and immobility. He'd never seen her this close. Even when she'd slapped back in third year, her face hadn't been so near to his, and they hadn't had eye contact. She was so close that he could probably count the freckles across the bridge of her nose, the amber flecks in her brown irises, her eyelashes, everything. She breathed, and he felt the air of it against his chin.
"We can help you if you'll let us," she told him. "You don't have to work for Him, you know. You don't-
"Yes, I do-
"No," she shook her head. "No. You're not evil, Malfoy. I know you're not. I have faith in you."
That word went straight to his chest. Faith. Such a foolish word, yet he felt the physical stab of it inside of him, right in his hammering heart, and his mind felt numb.
Later on, he would blame their proximity and how vulnerable he'd felt for what happened next. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, his nose brushing part hers, and their lips grazing. It was barely a kiss, more of a clash of hot breaths trapped between their mouths, but he could taste the ghost of pumpkin juice flavour on his tongue.
But the moment shattered, cracked, and jerked is head back, shoving her away from him. The floor was slippery though, and they went tumbling down against the hard, harsh tiles. He growled, partly from the pain shooting up his spine from the fall, and partly from humiliation, and when he risked a glance at Granger, she was blushing, her cheek practically glowing with embarrassment. They were both breathing heavily, shivering, and wide-eyed, just staring at each other like strangers who'd never been strangers at all.
"Leave," he spat. "Go, now! Leave me the fuck alone!"
"Malfoy, I want to help you-
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" he bellowed, and this time she flinched.
Her features creased up with thought, and she slowly reached out her hand, her palm flat, inviting him to take it, and he just knew by the tiredness in her expression that this would be his last chance. This would the final offer she would make.
"Please, Draco," she said, her fingers twitching with nerves and hope. "Come with me."
a/n: Hello! So, I dunno how I feel about this fic...I can't decide if I'm happy, but hopefully it's okay! Thanks for reading and I hope you liked it! I should point out the quote from Johnson is paraphrased from a larger quote. Also, 'Soporos' just kinda came from 'Sopor', and it means deep sleep. The spell 'Amor Purus' is pretty obvious, but it basically means pure love. I think that's everything! Yeah, so this was basically my take on the 'what would happen if Hermione had walked in on him in the boys toilets' cliché, so I hope it worked, and I've wanted to try something with an ambiguous ending for a while...so yeah!
My Iso updates are going to take a while as I'm coming up to graduation and my big essays are due, so apologies for that.
Anyway, hope you liked it. Thanks for reading!