The room was sparse except for the bed that was placed up against the far wall. Mold and death perfumed the dank air, making it almost impossible to breathe without feeling the need to retch. All in all, it felt as if she had entered Hell itself; but instead of being suffocated by unbearable heat, she was slowly being turned into a popsicle. Heavy puffs of air appeared before her face with every breath that she took, and, with each second that passed, her body began to feel a little more numb.
How the man in front of her was still alive, she didn't know. Though, upon closer inspection, she had to wonder if he was, indeed, still among the land of the living, considering the stillness in which he lay. From her place by the door, she couldn't see his chest rising, and he certainly hadn't moved when the guard had opened the cell door. He'd only been imprisoned a year, but it looked like the past few months had taken quite a toll.
Daring to move closer, she looked him over and couldn't help but notice how thin he'd become, which shouldn't have been a surprise but, somehow, it was. He had his back to her and the only thing covering him was a thin looking shirt and a pair of threadbare pants. No socks covered his dirty feet; it didn't even look like he'd been given a blanket to protect him from the bitter cold.
Taking a fortifying breath, she walked forward until her knees hit the side of the hard mattress. When the prisoner was within her reach, she slowly stretched out her hand to rest against his bony shoulder, and immediately gasped when she felt how cold his body truly was. In a blink of an eye, her hand flashed to press against his neck, searching for any sign of life, and she sighed in relief when she detected a faint pulse, indicating that Azkaban hadn't completely killed him. Yet.
"We're going to get you out of here," she whispered.
Getting him into a sitting position was difficult in his unconscious state, but she managed to lift him up enough to get a good grip on him. When she had him in her arms, she reached for her Portkey and said the word that would take them to her flat. The tugging sensation that pulled at her stomach was comforting in its familiarity, giving her something to hold on to in the midst of her uneasiness.
When she'd taken on the challenge of getting Lucius Malfoy released from his life sentence, she'd done so out of pity. After watching Draco try to build a life after everything that had happened, she'd been moved by compassion to try and put what was left of the Malfoy family back together again. It wasn't a decision that her friends approved of, but it was a decision that she felt good about, nevertheless.
Well, she had felt good about it until all of her hard work had paid off. That was when things had started to feel real, and that had changed everything. Going into it, she had been fully aware that any chance of actually succeeding was slim but that hadn't stopped her from trying. Turned out she was much more persuasive than she had originally given herself credit for. Being a war heroine hadn't hurt either.
Reaching their destination brought her back to the present; a very scary, very strange present. The only thing her frozen mind could think to do was get him into the spare bedroom and clean him up a bit for when he did wake up. Since she couldn't drag him from point A to point B, she got her wand out from inside of her jacket and performed a simple levitating spell. When she had him on the bed, she magicked his hair and body clean, searched him for any hidden injuries, and transformed a pair of her pajama's into a size he could fit into. By the time he was looking presentable again, Hermione was feeling drained so she left the room to go and make herself a cup of tea.
She was pouring a bit of milk into the finished product when she felt Harry enter the flat through the fireplace. By the way he was walking, she could tell he was less than happy with her, and she was sure of it when he stomped into the kitchen with a furious scowl on his face. "I was informed by the Minister of Magic that you finally managed to free Lucius from Azkaban," he said, getting right to the point.
Not wanting to let the tea get cold, she took a sip. A rebellious part of her enjoyed the way his eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared. She loved her friend dearly, but he'd been less than supportive in her quest to save Lucius, and while she could understand his feelings, she wished he would take the time and try to understand hers. "That's right. They released him this morning, but there was a lot of paperwork. I haven't been home long."
"You're just going to pretend that everything is normal." It was more statement than question, said through clenched teeth.
"I'm only trying to keep a level head, Harry," she sighed. "This is all a bit...crazy, I know, but we've been over this a thousand times."
He ran his hand through his hair like he always did when he was frustrated. It used to always make her smile; tonight it just made her feel sad. "Yes, we have, and you know I can't support this."
Slamming her hand down on the table wasn't intentional but damn it, couldn't he see that she needed him right now? "This isn't about us! This is about what's right, and both Draco and Lucius helped us defeat Voldemort. We can't just forget that."
Striding closer, he pointed a finger down the hall to where Malfoy was sleeping. "He's a criminal, Hermione. He may have changed sides at the last minute but that means nothing. It doesn't cancel out all of the other horrible things he's done."
"Of course it doesn't. I'm not trying to pretend like he's a hero, but he's not without hope either." She got to her feet. "Draco deserves to have his father back," she finished softly, her eyes pleading with him to understand.
She watched him shake his head. "He never had a father to begin with. You're wasting your time and I'm not going to stand by and watch you make the worst mistake of your life. I'm sorry, 'Mione." He turned around and left as quickly as he'd come, taking a piece of her heart with him.
Tears welled up in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She had gone into this knowing it wouldn't be easy; she'd known there would be consequences because very few things in life were easy or without consequence. If her friends didn't want to stand by her, then so be it. She was used to being on her own.
A horrified scream reached her ears, pulling her from her dark thoughts. She bolted down the hall and threw the door open, not paying any attention to the way it banged against the wall. The blonde man was thrashing around in the bed, asleep. One scream followed the next until it became a steady beat in her head. Ears ringing, she went to him and tried her best to soothe him, but she could hardly even hear herself over his cries. Touching him didn't seem like a good idea, but she reached out for his arm anyway and, to her surprise, he calmed down.
"Mr. Malfoy," she said. Nothing happened.
Mumbling something unintelligible, he weakly grasped her hand, eyes still closed. His hair was a tangled mess and since it didn't look like he was going to let her go anytime soon, she sat by his head and started running her fingers through the silky strands, in an attempt to fix what his thrashing had ruined. After a few minutes, she was caught unaware when she glanced down to find his eyes focused intently on her. "Where am I?" he croaked.
Sitting there, frozen, Hermione tried to get her brain to start functioning again, but she was stuck in limbo. He was awake. "You're at my flat," she replied numbly.
Confusion darkened his grey irises. "Hermione," he murmured under his breath. "Hermione Granger?"
She tightened her grip on his hand when she felt it trembling underneath her touch. His gaze was flitting from one corner to the next, as if he couldn't quite believe that this wasn't some sort of dream. "Yes, I went to school with your son, remember? You don't need to worry; you're safe now."
Panting, he tried to sit up, but he couldn't even manage to get his arms in a position to lift himself. Eyes flashing to hers, his features twisted into a picture of hate. "Stop this right now," he snarled. "I won't fall for your tricks any longer. Leave me to rot for all I care, but stop tormenting me!"
Having no idea what to make of his sudden change of attitude, she just sat there, staring down at him. When he realized he wasn't strong enough to actually leave the bed, he started trying to shift as far away from her as he could get. The desire to figure out what was wrong engulfed her, so she extended her hand out to him only to snatch it back when he yelled, "Stay away from me!"
"Mr. Malfoy, please," she tried to reason. "You need to calm do-"
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Rolling onto his side, he curled up into a ball and covered his ears with his hands. "I'm still in Azkaban," he said. "I'm still in Azkaban."
He kept saying it over and over, which confused the hell out of her, until she remembered something she'd once heard Sirius say. Harry's uncle would sometimes talk about his time in prison after a few drinks had been poured into him, and the stories he would tell were...beyond horrifying. But he'd once told them that he, and the other inmates, would often have hallucinations of escaping Azkaban only to find out later that none of it had been real. It was one of the ways the Dementors liked to terrorize their prisoners.
"This isn't a hallucination. You were placed in my custody today." Realizing he wasn't listening, she clambered onto the bed and grabbed his wrists. He was weak enough for her to be able to manhandle him onto his back, but she had to straddle his legs to keep him from kicking her off. "Listen, this isn't a trick, Mr. Malfoy. You were released from Azkaban this morning."
"That's what you always say," he retorted with malice.
Not sure what to make of that, she decided to ignore it for the time being. "This is real," she stressed. "I'm real. You're a free man."
He shook his head. "No."
Her patience was reaching the end of its rope. She had no clue what to say to get him to believe her and she was getting tired of trying. "What do I need to say to make you believe this is real?"
For the first time since he woke up, a glint of the old Malfoy resurfaced in his gaze. "Kiss me," he challenged. "Then I'll wake up and all of this will disappear." Turning his head away, he closed his eyes. "It always does."
The very idea of kissing Lucius Malfoy was ludicrous. He was over half her age and an ex-death eater. On top of that, he wasn't in a good place mentally and it looked as if a lot of the hallucinations they'd fed him in prison were centered around her, which she found extremely random. Why her? Why not his deceased wife, Narcissa? Or Draco? But whatever the reason, he needed to understand that he wasn't stuck in Azkaban, and if that meant she had to kiss him, then she would.
Gently, she released one of his wrists so she could cup his chin. When he was facing her again, she bent down, stopping when she was about an inch away from his waiting lips. His eyes hadn't opened, but as if he could feel her closeness, he slowly raised his eyelids to stare up at her, an unreadable expression set on his pale face.
"I'm going to kiss you now, Mr. Malfoy," she warned before she did just that. The kiss was barely a peck, just a chaste meeting of the lips, really. His lips were dry from dehydration and he was shaking from either shock or exhaustion. Regardless, there was a small part of her that enjoyed the way he tilted his head to the side for better access; there was a part of her that enjoyed the way he moaned a little bit when she pulled away.
She knew he was reacting the way he was because he had been starved for touch - any man would be desperate for a little affection after so long, so she didn't dwell on it, but she did, however, store it away for later. "See? This isn't a hallucination."
Blinking, he ran his free hand up her leg. "I usually wake up at this point."
"You're not going to wake up this time because you're already awake." She extricated herself from him. "Now, I'm assuming you're hungry so I'll go get you some of the soup I made."
Halfway out the door, she heard him grit out, "Don't." Turning to look at him from over her shoulder, she waited for him to say something else but he kept his eyes lowered.
"Don't, what, Mr. Malfoy?"
His clenched jaw and fisted hands were visible to her from 10 feet away. He was obviously upset but she wasn't sure what else she could do for him, besides what she was already doing. For Godric's sake, she'd gone so far as to kiss the man to prove a point! Really, there were only so many things she could do to help - she couldn't heal him emotionally; she couldn't take away the painful memories. All she could do was give him food and a warm place to sleep.
"I don't want to be alone," he said at last.
"Then I'll stay," she replied easily. "Try to get some rest."
He only nodded when she went back to sit beside him on the bed. When he hesitantly moved his head to rest on her lap, she said nothing, just started combing her fingers through his hair. The silence was soothing rather than stifling, and when he finally fell asleep, the silence felt like a small victory.
Author's note - Hi! I know this has been done before, but I really wanted to write my own story centered around this idea. I hope everyone enjoys it. There will be a few more chapters, but I'm not planning on it being terribly long. Anyways, let me know what you think! I adore feedback.