Harry Potter and all of its settings and characters belong to JK Rowling.
Three days later the castle was mostly empty as the majority of students and staff had gone home for the Easter holiday. Draco sat watching Hermione's fitful sleep and crushed the letter he'd just received in his fist. He wanted to hide it from her. To take care of it himself instead of adding to her worries with a problem that they would undoubtedly argue about how to deal with. But he'd made a promise to her and he intended to keep it. Tomorrow. Restless as it looked he would not interrupt the little sleep she was managing. A moment later she sat bolt upright in bed and the letter was quickly pushed from his mind.
"I have an idea!"
She tossed her legs out from under the covers and dressed herself with a hasty spell as she headed for the door. He followed closely behind listening to her mutter to herself about shield bubbles and curses and stopped her before she opened the door leading out into the Slytherin common room.
"I'm eager to learn what has you so excited but I think walking out that particular door might put a damper on the evening. My house has an alarming rate of insomnia and a loose curfew as long as we stay inside Slytherin boundaries."
Her eyes focused for the first time since she'd woken and she pulled her hand back sharply.
"Sorry. I forgot where I was."
"Care to tell me where we're going?" He said as he pulled on a shirt and followed her through the correct door.
"Grimmauld Place. I need something cursed to practice on." She replied as she practically flew through their common room to her bedroom.
"Practice what on?"
"The shield." Her eyes lit up and she bit her lip. "Draco, I think I know how to save Harry."
"I'm a what?"
"You're a horcrux, Harry."
Dumbledore's office had never been quite so silent before and Hermione rushed to continue, "But I can fix it."
Harry, now fully awake, blinked at her, "Judging by your level of enthusiasm I'm hoping the plan doesn't involve stabbing a basilisk fang through my eye."
Draco rolled his eyes. "I think she's saving that for her backup plan."
Hermione elbowed him. "No one's stabbing anybody."
Harry's gaze went to the sword of Gryffindor sitting on Dumbledore's desk.
"That's for after I make the transfer."
"Why don't you explain your plan, Miss Granger." Dumbledore smiled kindly.
"I'm going to pull the piece of Voldemort's soul out of you and put it in this music box."
"You're going to-" Harry trailed off as if not really comprehending what she was saying and so instead decided to grasp onto something easier to take in, "Hang on, isn't that the cursed music box no one could remove from Mrs. Black's old room?"
"It was. It occurred to me that I could use my shield to trap magic in just as easily as I could keep magic out and in that line of thinking I could potentially surround any harmful magic and cut it off from its intent. I tested my theory earlier this morning when I used my shield to isolate the curse, remove it from the box and then crush it."
"You crushed a seventy five year old curse?"
"Yes, but I doubt that will work with a horcrux so I'm just going to change the vessel to something we don't mind stabbing."
Harry stared at her for a moment. "Have I told you lately that I'm really glad you're on our side?"
She smiled, "Yes, well, lucky for you the other side wouldn't have me."
Pansy felt pain exploding across the side of her face from where her father's hand had just connected and as she fell to the ground all she could think was, It's not supposed to be now.
She thought she'd had more time. She thought surely he wouldn't make any arrangements until after graduation.
She'd been wrong.
And the shock of hearing the news of her betrothal coupled with the announcement that the wedding would take place before the end of the week had a denial slipping from her lips before she could stop it.
"No?" Her father's voice shook with rage and she could smell alcohol practically seeping from his pores as he pulled her up by her hair, "You think to defy me? Bring the Dark Lord's wrath down on me?" He hit her again and stars danced before her eyes.
"It's obviously been too long-"
"-since I've taught you-"
"-a lesson in obedience."
Her arm shot up and blocked his last blow as something in her that had long been broken suddenly snapped back into place.
This man had hit her for the last time.
There was no more need to scrape and beg for forgiveness to placate his temper. Fighting back now would not mean extended torment later. She'd always planned to escape but the method had centered around simply not getting on the train after graduation. The prospect of being married off to a Death Eater by the end of the week considerably upped the time table. She was leaving. Now.
His eyes widened in shock as he stared at her, not quite comprehending the concept of his weak, frightened daughter fighting back. Frightened she may be, but weak? She'd taken great lengths over the years to make damn sure that once she had her freedom no one would ever be able to take it from her again. Even woozy she had no problem disarming him and leaving him petrified on the floor.
She stared down at him for a moment, this man who had defined her childhood in levels of fear, opened her mouth to speak... and then turned on her heel and walked from the room without a backward glance. She would not give him even one more moment of her life. She gathered some of her things and the money she'd been saving since the day her sister died and then she walked out of her house for the very last time.
Halfway down the path she started to shake and feel a bit dizzy. By the time she reached the gate tears were clouding her vision and she was losing control of her breathing. It seemed her supply of adrenaline was abandoning her and both her body and her emotions were reminding her of their injuries. She needed somewhere to regroup before she set off. Somewhere she could be safe. Somewhere that would help restore her faith in the world. Suddenly she knew exactly where she needed to be. It was insane but she was tired and broken and somehow she felt if she could just see it once, to prove it was real, then she could go on. She would just look in. No one would even know she was there.
Before she could talk herself out of it she turned on the spot and apparated.
Ron narrowed his eyes at the window over the kitchen sink as he caught an edge of a shadow for the third time. He set down his spoon, dodged a glob of pie Fred hurled in his direction when Mum had turned to scold George for putting his elbows on the table, and stood up. He was careful to keep his eyes off the window as he started grabbing plates.
"It's Fred's turn for dishes, dear." His mother called as he turned toward the sink.
"Right," he said absently as he deposited the stack of plates and casually let his gaze flit about the porch, "I forgot." He caught a glimpse of movement, like a limb being tucked into the shadows directly below the window sill. "I'll just take the trash out then." He grabbed the bag, ignoring the strange look his mother was giving him, and palmed his wand as he headed out the back door.
As soon as the door shut he dropped the bag and pointed his wand into the dark space beneath the window.
"Come out of there, very slowly, and explain what you are doing lurking around my kitchen." He put every ounce of coercion he had into his tone and hoped it wasn't being wasted on a gnome or a stray cat. The shadows started to stir and what came out of them would edge into his nightmares for the rest of his life.
Pansy Parkinson stood on unsteady feet with her eye swollen shut, her lip split open, and blood dried into her shirt. He didn't think an image had ever effected him quite so viscerally.
"I'm sorry," she said before he could speak and then started backing towards the steps, "I didn't mean for anyone to see me. I'll go now."
He moved to block her path and stayed close as she looked like she was about to collapse.
"The only place you're going is inside so I can patch you up and you can tell me who did this to you."
She shook her head. "I'm fine, really I have to go. I shouldn't have come but I just-" Her voice grew thready and her steps faltered. He reached out just in time to keep her from tumbling to the ground. She looked up at him with a slightly unfocused expression. "I just needed to see it once, how it's supposed to be."
His heart clenched as a tear escaped her good eye and then tore wide open as she whispered, "A family."
He scooped her up into his arms just as she lost the battle to stay conscious and as he carried her into the house he contemplated murder.
Pansy woke free from pain and in a bed that smelled like every batch of Amortentia she'd ever brewed. She made a sleepy mental note to ask the inn keeper what they used on the sheets and snuggled in to drift back off. She had almost managed it when she suddenly shot bolt upright, her eyes scanning the room with the hope that what she saw would prove the memory that had just crashed into her false.
Everything from the lurid orange Chudley Cannons decor to the Gryffindor tie sitting on top the nearest pile of men's clothing gave credit to the idea that she had actually passed out in Ron Weasley's arms after confessing that she'd been spying on his family.
She had to leave, right now before she had to face any melted chocolate eyes filled with pity. The ones that met her as she pulled open the door were not the ones she expected. Molly Weasley stood with a tray of breakfast in her arms and a kindness in her smile that made Pansy feel more in danger of breaking than anything ever had.
"Oh good, you're awake!" Mrs. Weasley bustled into the room and set the tray on the night stand while Pansy was still trying to gain her balance, "Now maybe my son will stop terrorizing the household. Come here let me look at you."
Pansy found herself standing still while she was examined instead of making her escape and she hadn't the slightest clue why.
"How do you feel? Any lingering dizziness?"
"No, I feel perfectly healed, thank you."
"Yes, well, raising six quidditch players will give you quite a bit of experience healing concussions."
Pansy tensed, waiting for the interrogation that was surely coming.
"Now, then, before I go let Ron know he can stop wearing holes in the rug I want to tell you that you are welcome here as long as you want to stay."
Pansy blinked. Mrs. Weasley just smiled and turned to leave.
"Why?" Pansy's voice came out choked despite her best effort.
"Everyone is entitled to a safe place to exist. It seems to me that you think leaving is the only way to find one," she gestured towards the bag by the bed, "I want you to know that you have another choice."
Pansy was completely out of her depths in this conversation.
"You're offering me a place in your home without knowing anything about me? Without any explanation or information about what kind of trouble I could be bringing with me?"
"My dear, you could bring Voldemort himself down on this house and you would still be welcome in it. Your story is yours to keep or tell. I hope one day you might share it with me but I knew everything I needed to know about you as soon as I saw the way my son looked at you." Mrs. Weasley gave her another kind smile and then she was gone.
Pansy's legs didn't seem to want to support her anymore and she sat down hard on the bed that smelled like everything she'd ever wanted. She had to leave. That fact was clear. She absolutely could not stay here.
Because she wanted to so badly it hurt.
She grabbed her bag and was wondering if it was even possible to get downstairs without being seen or if she should attempt to climb out the window when Ron appeared in the doorway.
They stared at each other for a moment and it felt like gravity was stronger than it should be. Pansy tried to speak, to thank him for his help and tell him she had to leave but the words were stuck in her throat. It was Ron who finally broke the silence.
"Will you tell me what happened?"
She was caught off guard by the tentative note of his request and found herself answering.
He seemed almost to be swallowing the information like he was very carefully keeping himself from blowing apart.
"Will you stay?" Again with the gentleness. She could see him visibly reigning in whatever he was feeling.
"I can't. And quit doing that."
"Talking to me with a forced gentle calm like I might shatter if you talk too loud. I'm not afraid of you."
The sound he made then could have almost been called a laugh if it wasn't so seeped in angst. "Well that makes one of us."
"What are you talking about?"
"I've been up all night trying to get ahold of myself, trying to reset whatever broke open inside me when you fell into my arms covered in bruises and blood, trying to get back the certainty that killing someone, no matter what they've done, is wrong. And I can't do it. I know in my guts that if your father were standing here now I wouldn't hesitate. And that scares the shit out of me."
Pansy stared at him for a moment, this man who smelled like happiness and had just pledged murder in her honor, and then she walked into his arms. She tucked her face into the side of his neck and he held her while she let herself break. When the tears finally stopped she wasn't afraid anymore.
"Stay with me." It was a plea whispered into her hair and she no longer had any reason to deny it. Wanting him, wanting this place had terrified her because all her life anything she'd ever wanted, anything that she'd shown affection for had been used as a weapon against her. She'd learned not to want anything, not to care for anything and that wasn't how she wanted to live. Leaving now would be letting her father continue to control her life and she refused to allow that. She didn't want to start over in a strange place where she'd have to lie about who she was and always be looking over her shoulder. She wanted to finish school and make something of herself. She wanted to finally be able to stand and openly defy everything she'd had to pretend to believe in.
She would stay. And gods help him if he came around here trying to make trouble for these people. She'd kill him herself.