"And you, Draco?" the slim boy questioned absently as he collapsed onto his bed. The blonde he was addressing ignored him and continued to fiddle with his emerald tie. "I should think not, Dursley," he finally answered. "Shame, that is," Dudley sighed, eyeing his smartly dressed roommate. "You never want to party, yet you're always dressed like you're off to some bloody movie premiere. Make the rest of us look bad."
"Well, with my dazzling good looks that's not a particularly difficult feat," Draco shot back with a smug smirk. He tugged on his tie and smoothed out his silver vest. He eyed himself over satisfactorily while Dudley rolled his eyes. "What is it with you and green? Never seen you without some kind of green on, honestly."
The corners of Draco's lips curled upwards in a secret smile. "Just a school thing I never grew out of, I suppose." He turned on his heel, grabbed his coat off the hook, and stepped towards the door. Before leaving, he called out over his shoulder, "Don't miss me too terribly, Duddykins!" Draco scrambled out the door just in time to hear Dudley's shoe collide with it. "Good riddance, you foul git!" Dudley shouted after him, an amused lilt in his rude words.
Draco shook his head as a grin crept its way onto his face. With his coat slung over his shoulder casually, the Slytherin whistled a cheery tune to himself, knowing he would need it for the dinner he was about to have.
"Ah! You're here!" a feminine voice exclaimed delightedly. Hermione Granger was nearly tackled to the floor by the eccentric raven haired girl that came dashing toward her. The curly haired brunette laughed happily as she returned the hug. "Hermione, I missed you!"
"Oh, I missed you more, Erin," Hermione returned in a quiet voice. "I felt like I'd never see you again."
"Well, you have stayed away for nearly two years, so if it felt that way, it's your own fault," Erin scolded with a contradicting grin. Hermione smiled halfheartedly and let herself be dragged into the cramped room. Her words had been true. With the war, she worried her Muggle friends would be targets if she was seen with them. Then, she had been too busy patching her life back together after the final battle to have such lighthearted visits. But now, now she was ready. She, unlike Harry, was finding herself drawn back into the Muggle world, in a desperate need for something a little more familiar, a little more stable. Though, as she was realizing a tad too late, Erin most likely was not the friend she should be seeking anything stable with.
"Everyone, everyone! This is my best friend, Hermione! She holed herself up in some snooty boarding school in Scotland and then proper disappeared for two years. But now she's back and we're gonna party!" Erin announced with great enthusiasm. The strangers in the room raised their glasses in a cheer before downing their contents.
Hermione struggled to settle in, but soon found herself feeling claustrophobic. There were too many people in an entirely too small room. She lasted only an hour before she bolted.
Hermione rushed from the room, only to crash into someone halfway down the hall. She stumbled back with a disgruntled gasp. The brunette smoothed her aching forehead with her hand and glanced up to see who she had collided with. Hazel eyes met silver and the world froze.
"M-Malfoy?" she stuttered in disbelief.
Eyes already wide from having recognized her, Draco's eyes nearly bugged out of his head. He unceremoniously clamped a hand over her mouth. "Don't call me that!" he snapped. But it was not a malicious tone. It was...frightened? Hermione jerked away from his hand, mind reeling from the fact that he had willing touched her for the first time.
"B-but what are you doing here? This is a Muggle university!" Hermione whispered frantically, the gears in her mind in overdrive.
"I am a student here, if you must know, you nosey little Mu-" Draco's sneer faltered when the dreaded slur fought its way off his tongue. The two both noticeably stiffened. "I-I'm sorry. I haven't called anyone that since-since the, well...it's just, I haven't seen anyone at all, and then you..." he trailed off nervously. Hermione followed his gaze over her shoulder to find a string of girls giggling and waving at him. Hermione rolled her eyes at his ego and made to shove past him. A hand wrapped gently around her arm. "Don't go. I want to talk. Somewhere less...public." His breath tickled her cheek.
Without knowing why he was leading her to his room and why she was following him, the two made their way to room 905. Draco held the door open for Hermione, and she hesitantly walked inside.
"Why?" she wondered. "Why are you here? Why did you not want me to call you Malfoy? And why the hell am I not hexing you?"
Draco shifted nervously from foot to foot. He hadn't to face the war save for the disastrous dinners he had with his lonesome mother in nearly two years. Being confronted by none other than Hermione Granger had him uncharacteristically rattled.
"Because I am not the prat you knew in school. I actually enjoy studying here. I needed to...ground myself somehow. And I thought this was the best way to do so. And I'd prefer you not to call me that because that's not the name I go by here. I'm, well, the Muggles here know me as Draco Macy. And because you want to know the answers to the first questions, I assume," Draco answered in a nervous honesty.
Dudley was about to push the door all the way open before he recognized that there were raised voices on the other side. Frowning, he paused. His mysterious roommate almost never had people over. Curious, Dudley felt no shame in eavesdropping.
"Well, isn't that bloody rich!" a feminine voice scoffed. "The poster child of Purebloods everywhere suddenly denying it."
Dudley frowned, not recognizing the voice or understanding the words.
"Macy or Malfoy, it doesn't make a difference. You're still the same scumbag that tortured me for years at school. The same boy who became a goddamn Death Eater. These Muggles may not know that you joined the bloodthirsty maniac who wanted to eradicate them from the earth, but I do. They may not know that you're a Malfoy, that you're the boy who let Death Eaters into the castle, who tried to kill one of the greatest Headmasters in history. But you do. And you bloody well know that you're the worthless, spineless coward that let his deranged aunt torture me in his own home!"
Dudley's heart was pounding. He inched open the door to catch sight of a furious girl, honey brown hair a wild mane of curls. His blonde roommate was wordlessly standing across from her. She pulled up the sleeve of her red sweater. She held her arm up to Draco's face. "You see that?" she asked, voice cracking. "Mudblood. You taught me that word. And your family ensured that I would never forget it." Her voice had gone dark, her eyes full of fury.
Draco finally broke his stoic face. "That mental bitch was not my family."
"And you! You have this beautiful brand to remind you of the terrible person you were and always will be!" the girl shouted, shoving up the sleeve of his dress shirt. Dudley eyed the skull and snake warily now. He had always been intrigued by it, not expecting his straight-laced roommate to be the tattoo type. He had always said it was the worst mistake of his life. "To remind you that you were at the beck and call of the worst-"
"I know, Granger, I bloody well know!" Draco yelled venomously. Dudley had never seen him so impassioned. "Yes, I took the Dark Mark! Without it he'd have killed my mother! Maybe I was a prejudiced dick in school, but that doesn't mean I wanted to kill anyone. You self-righteous Gryffindors, who doing everything for 'family', never considered that that was my motivation too! My mother is the only person I ever loved. When the Dark Lord threatens her death or the mark, of course I'd take the mark. You saw how pathetic I was. I was inept as a Death Eater. He took over my own fucking house and used it as headquarters for a genocide I never supported!"
The girl stared him down stubbornly.
"Granger," he pleaded, his voice thick with emotion Dudley had yet to witness, "It fucking tore my entire being to pieces when she did that to you. I never wanted the war to begin with, not really. And if there were ever any doubts, that cured me of them. I was fucking done. That is why I am here. That is why I don't go by Malfoy. I haven't been able to go back to the Manor without hearing your screams. I can't sleep without seeing your eyes pleading for me to do something. I'm sorry it wasn't enough, and maybe I don't deserve it, but I'm trying to move on like you and the rest of the world."
Dudley had a sinking feeling. He had no idea what they were talking about but knew it couldn't be good.
"I told myself if I got off in my trial then I would come here, learn about this world," Draco explained. "And I love it here. I really do. And I hate to say it, but...it wouldn't have been possible without Potter."
At that, Dudley stormed into the room. Hermione and Draco jumped in surprise, the tense atmosphere they had created broken. "You can't possibly be talking about Harry bloody Potter!" Dudley exclaimed in exasperation. Hermione threw Draco a look, unsure of the slender boy who had just burst into their wizarding conversation.
"Lightning scar? Glasses? Disgustingly messy black hair? Hero-complex? Self-righteous arse?" Draco volunteered quite readily while Hermione gaped at the two boys. Dudley grimaced. "The one and only."
"H-how do you know Harry?" Hermione finally demanded.
Dudley's face flushed. "He's my cousin."
"Dudley?" Hermione wondered in shock just as Draco stammered, "M-my roommate is family with the bloody Boy-Who-Lived?"
Dudley took a cautious step back from them. "If you know Harry, then you-you're, I mean, you do-"
Neither Gryffindor nor Slytherin were willing to offer him an answer.
Dudley slowly sank onto the edge of his bed. His roommate and the brunette watched him warily, each with a sleeve hastily pushed up, bearing the scars of their worst fears. "My roommate's a wizard. After all this time...I don't-" Dudley's voice faded, his eyes staring past them.
"Dudley?" Hermione called softly for his attention. He glanced in her direction. "You're really Dudley Dursley? Harry always described you as so, so..."
"Fat? Selfish?" Dudley offered, snapping out of his daze. Draco merely quirked a curious eyebrow at the exchange. Hermione blushed. "I deserve it. We treated him something awful. My parents, Mum in particular, hated Harry. I was their pride and joy, and grew up treating him the way they did. I never thought it could be any other way. I was so selfish and foul it actually keeps me up at night. And God, the pig tail..."
Hermione and Draco shared a confused look. "The what?"
Dudley's cheeks burned crimson. "Ah, when that terrifyingly large bloke came to collect Harry, after all those blasted letters. I may have eaten his birthday cake. And been given a pig tail."
At his embarrassed admission, Draco burst into laughter. He threw his head back, roaring at his friend's discomfort. "I always tell you that you're a damn pig!"
Hermione was astounded by his carefree demeanor. She didn't think that she had ever seen the Slytherin laugh genuinely. And she certainly had never seen that smile before. Heat rushed to her already rosey cheeks as she realized she quite liked the sight of it.
"Sure, Macy, laugh away. The guy who had a panic attack when we rode the subway together, and he's laughing at me."
Hermione turned to her former adversary. "You rode the subway?"
At the mere memory of the blasted invention, Draco's ivory skin paled even further. He scowled at Dudley's stupid grin. "Never again."
"I suppose it makes more sense now. Did you even know what it was when I took you?" Realization dawned on Dudley's curious face. "I thought it was weird how terribly confused you seemed."
"I can't believe you took the subway," Hermione said mostly to herself.
"I much prefer flying."
"Ah, me, too. Love planes," Dudley agreed.
"I meant brooms."
"Oh. Brooms. Right. Of course."
Draco smirked and Hermione rolled her eyes.
Dudley shook his head, looked to the brunette witched, and then said, "I'm sorry, I just realized I don't have the slightest clue who you are."
"Dudley, Granger. Granger, Dudley," Draco introduced before the girl could. She frowned and shot him a scathing glare. "I have a first name, you know. It's Hermione, in case you forgot."
"How could I forget? All I ever heard was 'Hermione Granger', brightest witch of her age. To me, you're Granger. You always were and always will be."
"And don't you forget it, Draco Malfoy," she said sternly. The boy on the bed frowned. "Malfoy? But?"
Draco finally had the sense to look sheepish. "Yes. That's my real name. Macy's just some name I picked. I made some, uh," he paused, looking to Gryffindor's book worm for help, "Poor decisions in the past." Hermione scoffed audibly. He shot her a glare and continued, "I came here to make up for them, I guess? For a while, hearing my own name just made me sick."
He didn't notice the softening of a certain brunette's hazel eyes.
"Right, right. Malfoy, not Macy. You're a wizard, so I guess a name difference shouldn't be all that shocking." Dudley frowned. "So...you two know Harry?"
"The Boy-Who-Refused-To-Bloody-Die? Yes, unfortunately," Draco admitted with a sly grin at Hermione. "And this is one of his best friends. One third of the Golden Trio, in the flesh."
"Oh, please, don't call us that. It's absolutely absurd," she admonished.
"Best friend? Didn't know he had any."
"Well, it wasn't for a lack of trying on your part, was it?" the witch pointed out. He hung his head shamefully.
"Can I ask something?" he wondered cautiously. He made the other two nervous with his hesitant tone. They nodded. "Well, I heard you two arguing before I walked in. Hardly understood a bloody word. So, I guess I was just wondering...is that why Harry left?"
He was met with silence.
"I mean, we had to leave England for a bit, there. And these people came to take him. It was all so serious and surreal. Then, he was gone. Mum wouldn't explain any of it, though I could tell she knew more than she let on. I just-after all these years, I want to know. I have to know. I didn't even know he was still alive." Dudley finished with a timid voice, not understanding the tortured eyes of the young people before him.
"Dudley, they never told you about Voldemort?" Hermione's small voice questioned. Beside her, the impassive Draco roared to life. He whipped to face her, face scarlet and shouted, "Don't you say it! Don't you say that bastard's name!"
Hermione and Dudley both flinched away from the enraged boy. Draco's chest was heaving, his fists clenched tightly by his sides. He rose one hand up to tug his Slytherin green tie loose, clawing at his throat for air. Hermione took a wary step towards him. "Don't, Granger. It's too much. I put that-I put all of that shit behind me. And you just storm in and drag it all back up!"
"Well, I'm sorry, but he asked!" Hermione countered defensively, though she was far more concerned with his deteriorating mental state. Draco cringed but nodded his understanding. "I know, I know. But, I haven't dealt with everything very well. Before coming here, I spent the majority of my time too drunk to remember my own name. And now the sound of it brings it all back." His broken tone was enough to melt her rigid posture. He rubbed his eyes, exhaustion creeping over him. "And I just returned from dinner with my mother. Pleasant as ever, that was. She's still trying to convince me to return to the Manor."
Dudley watched as Hermione recoiled at the word. She absently rubbed her scarred arm. Draco's eyes followed the movement with a look so painfully tragic that Dudley had to look away.
"I feel like whatever it is...it's a hell of a lot more than I thought," he stated dumbly. Draco sank to the floor, back against his bed. He drew his knees to his chest and buried his face in his arms. Hermione, wildly conflicted, eventually sat beside the troubled boy.
"There was a war," she began. "There was a very dark wizard, I said his name earlier, but most people called him 'You-Know-Who." Hermione saw Draco's tensed shoulders relax somewhat at her omission of the name of the man who had ruined his and so many other lives. As she told the tale of the war to Harry's blissfully ignorant cousin, she was acutely aware of the warmth of Draco's body beside her. The blonde, ready to sleep for eternity, was lulled into a much deserved sleep by the hum of Hermione's voice and body beside him.
Dudley followed Hermione's unbelievable story with rapt attention. He couldn't comprehend how all of it could have happened without being noticed by 'muggles', as his cousin's supposed best friend called him. He was momentarily distracted when he realized Draco had fallen asleep. His roommate, always so elusive and calculated, had never looked so...human as his head came to rest on Hermione's shoulder. Dudley did not acknowledge it but was perplexed. He had witnessed them in an all out screaming match when he had first walked in the room. And yet, the intimate action did not seem to stir Hermione in the slightest.
"And well, that's the story," she finally finished, lips chapped, head pounding. She noticed Dudley eyeing Draco's Dark Mark without emotion.
"He was on the wrong side."
Hermione nodded, careful not to stir the sleeping boy. His proximity was wreaking havoc on her mental state. "And you were...tortured."
He felt terrible as the girl winced. "Yes."
"And he was there?"
"It makes sense now. I knew your name sounded familiar..." Dudley murmured suddenly. Hermione gestured for him to continue. He shrugged sheepishly. "Draco talks in his sleep. Well, they're nightmares. He gets them all the time. And he always repeated the same things, over and over. Of course, I could never get him to explain. But now? Now, I understand."
"What did he say?"
"He always sounded panicked, begging someone to stop. And then, well, he said your name. Granger. A lot."
His words hung heavy in the air.
Dudley nodded in affirmation. "I think what he's dreaming of was that. Telling someone to stop, that would be his aunt. And obviously, you."
Hermione's heart cried out for the boy. His blonde hair invaded her sight when she gaze down at him. He seemed, not peaceful, but younger in his sleep than he had seemed just hours before.
"How often? These nightmares? How often?"
Dudley's sad eyes met hers. "Almost every night."
She didn't know what to do with that information. So, she simply took Draco's hand in her own, tangling her fingers through his.
"All that time," she vaguely heard Dudley breathe as she drifted off. "All that time he had the weight of the bloody world on his shoulders, and I cried about having exactly 37 presents."
Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived-Through-Literally-Everything, was suddenly wondering if he hadn't actually died and awoken in some strange alternate universe. Because there was almost certainly no way that he would be witnessing what he was seeing if that weren't the case.
Surely, Hermione Granger could not be saying her breathtakingly beautiful wedding vows to Draco Malfoy. A Draco Malfoy who was positively beaming down at the aforementioned girl with an ineffable love in his eyes. And surely, in no world that Harry Potter knew, would Dudley Dursely be the best man at such a wedding.
Definitely dead, he concluded. Definitely dead.