A/N: Hey there lovely ones!
I have a new chapter for you. The trials I went through to get this out. Real life, guys, real life.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine. It probably would have turned out rather differently if it was.
The worry sat like a leaden lump in his stomach, a sick twist of anxiety, and he knew there was no getting away from it now. The rain had soaked him through long ago, not that he cared. He'd been sitting in the Potter's garden for close to an hour, maybe more, when at last the door opened and Demelza stuck her head out, grimacing at the rain, which had turned from frantic lashings to a more depressing, persistent drizzle. She looked around the garden in search of him, and when she caught sight of him she gave a yelp and called for him to come into the house.
"Malfoy, you utter fool, have you been sitting in the pissing rain this whole time? Are you dense? Get over here!"
He walked over to her, not in any particular hurry. It wasn't as though he could get any wetter.
"Merlin's beard," Demelza said, shaking her head in dismay, "you're wet through. Have you never heard of an Impervius? Come on then; into the house - I'll sort you out."
He shrugged, but stepped into the house nonetheless. He said nothing, simply looking around him, as he dripped water onto the floor.
"You're not as gobby as Harry led me to believe," she observed, pulling out her wand and casting a warming charm. "Though every bit as stupid."
"That's quite the compliment," he replied drily, as warm air wrapped around him like a blanket.
"Yes, well, you've plenty of time to prove me wrong."
He didn't answer. She looked askance at him for a minute, and he knew that she was running those shrewd, assessing eyes over him, but he chose not to acknowledge it. She'd only ask questions – and Draco wasn't answering any of them.
Of course, that was all at an end now anyway.
He had to tell Hermione everything. Or rather, an amended version.
He wanted to do the right thing – he did – but he risked the prospect of losing her, and that chilled him in a way that the torrential rainstorm had not. He didn't want to think about why that was, though that kiss they'd shared only complicated matters more.
It wasn't like he hadn't wanted it though. He had. Badly.
And as he thought about it – the kiss, the rain, the feel of her – knowing that it would likely be the only time he experienced such a moment, he felt a bleakness and a burning thirst in his throat, one that wouldn't be soothed by something as insipid as tea or pumpkin juice, but rather the slick fire of a fine scotch. He blinked rapidly, and cleared his throat, as though the ache there was merely a speck of dust, but it wasn't. It really wasn't.
"Where's Hermione?" he asked, attempting to distract himself. It didn't work.
"She's just down in the kitchen with Harry," she replied with a shrug, flicking her wand again, and casting a drying charm. "They're chatting."
And regardless of how much she tried to hide it, no matter how much pride she took in her professionalism, she could not disguise the unmitigated joy in her eyes.
"So she remembered?" he asked, feeling an uncomfortable squirm in his chest.
He was arrested by the idea that she'd had an unprecedented breakthrough and somehow remembered everything, and he hadn't told her the truth. And funnily enough, that thought was every bit as chilling as the telling her the truth.
So either way he was fucked.
"She remembered something," Demelza said, waving her wand once more, and ending the charms. Then she turned, leading him down the hall. "Let's get you some tea – and maybe a Pepper-Up potion. Hermione can tell you about it herself."
He walked into a large kitchen, warm and welcoming, and saw Hermione sitting at a scrubbed table, her hands clasped around a cup of tea. Potter was seated opposite her, and they were absorbed in conversation. Draco felt a curl of jealousy course though him like an illness
He took a moment to remind himself that Harry Potter was a married man.
A happily married man.
He glanced at Demelza and saw that she was watching Hermione and Potter with an enviably serene expression. Then Hermione broke off, and turned to him, her gaze dark and warm, a half-smile on her lips, which turned knowing, and ripe with allure as their eyes met in a heated glance.
"Oh…" she said, her voice rather soft. "Hello. Your hair is dripping wet, you know."
"Yes," he replied absently, suddenly finding it difficult see beyond anything but her, though he tried to shrug it off. "The rain. How"-
"I'm sorry for leaving you in the rain like that," she cut in, a blush creeping reluctantly onto her cheeks.
"It's fine," he said, shrugging again. Beside him, Demelza smothered a laugh. "How did it go?"
"I remembered something. Or someone, rather," she said, with a small smile, which grew into something brighter. "Neville Longbottom."
At her words, the snarl of anxiety unraveled, and he was able to breathe again. He dragged in a welcome breath. He could see Potter watching him carefully for his reaction – but he had no intention of satisfying his expectations, whatever they may have been.
"It turns out we were friends," Hermione offered, unable to keep the smile from her face. "I… I think Neville was my first friend. I remembered meeting him, you see, on the train. Really remembered."
They stayed a little while, Hermione finishing her cup of tea, Draco the Pepper-Up potion Demelza had forced on him, as Hermione told him about what she had remembered. But once they had covered that, they were left only to make idle chatter. It had a slightly stilted feel to it. It was a stark reminder to all of them that though Hermione may have been sitting with them in person, she was not the girl they remembered but someone wholly altered.
Hermione made the first move to leave, much to Draco's relief. She began gathering up her things, and thanking Potter and Demelza.
"I know very little about… about all of this," she sighed, raising her hands, as if to indicate the entire situation, "but what I do know is that today I remembered something. Something real. And I have you to thank for that," she said as she turned to Demelza, gratitude plain on her face. "I thought I was mad for the longest time, you know… so thank you for proving me wrong."
Draco allowed a smile to cross his face briefly, as he watched Hermione out of the corner of his eye. He couldn't help it, despite the irritable knot of disquiet still simmering low in his gut. She looked to him then, catching the trace of a smile on his lips, and she bowed her mouth to a smile of her own.
Then she turned her gaze to Potter, moved cautiously to give him a hug and Draco watched as the other wizard pulled Hermione gently into the circle of his arms, and realized that he was losing the fight against himself, and tried desperately to deny it.
After they'd left – Malfoy had Flooed them away – and Harry watched with a multifaceted kind of bitterness that he couldn't explain. The Draco Malfoy that Harry had known in school was not the man who'd stepped into his house today with wary eyes and an inexplicable friendship with Hermione Granger.
But then… well, Harry wasn't sure that she really was Hermione any more.
People changed. He knew that.
But it didn't stop the pain that he'd felt – watching her unthinking trust of someone who'd once professed to hate all of her kind. And if Harry were being honest with himself, with the benefit of hindsight, he knew that Malfoy didn't think that way - that he never really had. Malfoy hadn't thought he was better than all Muggleborns, he'd thought he was better than absolutely everyone, the obnoxious shit.
"You're brooding," Demelza's voice fell softly into his ear, as her arms slid around his waist. "Do I need to ask what about?"
"No," he replied with a heavy sigh. And then after a beat or two of silence: "She's different. Like the Hermione I knew, but… not."
Demelza let out a rich little chuckle, and Harry smiled at the sound of it.
"I daresay she'd say the same about you."
"Do you think she'll remember me?" he asked, and his voice sounded very small, even to his own ears.
"It's early days, Harry. You know that. If we rush it – well, you know the risks. And then you'll never get her back."
The clink of the crystal glasses as they knocked together was complex and satisfying, and a balm to Draco's fretful mind, as he scooped up the tumblers and the bottle of Firewhiskey. There was an odd, rushing feeling of foreboding gathering in his chest – and knew it was a dangerous thing, but really didn't care for it at that moment.
He wanted to be reckless.
If he was going to do this… tell her the truth… then, he needed to be reckless. He needed to be numb.
He strolled into his sitting room, affecting an ease he didn't have, to where Hermione stood, watching the rain patter heedlessly against the windows, and the leaden sky, as the sound of distant thunder rumbled.
She turned at the sound of his footsteps and moved towards him, but her face was unreadable.
"I come bearing Firewhiskey," he said, raising the bottle and glasses a fraction, and he saw her eyes flick down to them before returning to meet his gaze with a quizzical frown.
"A truly delightful wizarding beverage," he replied, a grin skirting his face, as he stepped past her and set the bottle and glasses down on a coffee table.
"Alcoholic, obviously," she said, still frowning.
"I thought I was supposed to provide the alcohol," she went on, barely acknowledging his words.
"Does it matter?" he asked, impatience making his tone gruff.
"I suppose not," she replied carelessly, though her tone verged on sullen.
"Oh, shut up, Hermione," he said, unable to help the exasperated groan that escaped as he turned to pour them both a drink.
He wondered, as he picked up the bottle, if she'd attempt to hex him.
Instead, a thread of laugher reached his ears, and he turned back to her. Her face was suffused with a rosy flush, and she'd brought her fingertips to her mouth, as if to contain her giggles. He handed her a glass, meeting her eyes with a brief, rueful grin.
She brought the glass to her nose, and sniffed at it, reminding him of a disdainful cat, then brought it to her lips. He saw the moment of surprise and appreciation that bloomed across her face, as she raised the glass to her mouth for another taste. He raised his own glass to her in a salute, and took a restrained sip, though he dearly wanted to toss it back and feel its fire coating the back of his throat.
Watching her closely, Draco noticed her sip a few more times at the glass, quick and nervous, and then suddenly her eyes locked to his. Her gaze was dark and deep, black like coffee and rich earth, and her expression was difficult to fathom. They were standing, still and rather awkward, only a few feet from one another, and yet, it felt like something far further than that.
There was a wealth of the unspoken in the waiting stillness between them.
Hermione looked away, inhaling rapidly for a moment or two. And then, to Draco's astonishment (and admiration), she tossed the alcohol back like a pro, gasping slightly as the burn that felt like slow embers began at the base of her throat, spreading out in fiery tendrils, to tickle and warm the body.
He knew it well, that warmth.
He gave a wry chuckle, causing Hermione to look at him again, and he shot her a sardonic grin before throwing the Firewhiskey back against his throat, appreciating the burn – needing it – picking up the bottle to pour himself another one.
"You want another?" he asked, raising a brow.
She handed him her glass, and this time he was more generous.
"So do you want to start, or shall I?" she said, wandering away over to a bookshelf to examine some of the titles of the books nestled there, sipping idly on her refilled drink.
She was deliberately not looking at him, Draco thought.
"Why don't we have another few drinks first," he replied, playing for time. "I did warn you that I would not be doing this sober."
That got her attention.
"So you did," she mused, then she scrunched up her nose, thinking a moment, and sauntered over to the sofa, and sat down, watching him with heavy-lidded eyes.
He allowed his eyes to travel over her, meeting her eyes first, lingeringly; then down over her shoulders, her breasts; and further, into the narrow of her waist and to the flare of her hips; and then her long legs. He felt a graze of heat that had absolutely nothing to do with the alcohol he'd just poured into himself.
Still, he chased it down with a gulp of Firewhiskey, feeling its mellow pull, and then made his way, almost prowling, over to where Hermione sat, dropping himself down next to her. Close, but not too close.
She blushed, but didn't say anything.
"So what did you think of Potter?" he asked, because he really did want to know, and the alcohol was beginning to take effect, loosening his tongue.
She smiled faintly, and sipped on her drink again before answering.
"I liked him," she said simply.
"Well, I don't really know him anymore, do I?"
"Hmmm," he paused for a moment to consider it.
"I can't remember him at all," she said, rather matter-of-fact. "Not a thing."
"But what?" she asked, a disingenuous smile tugging at her mouth.
"But there's more to it than that, isn't there?" he probed, watching her intently, through half-lidded eyes.
She hesitated before replying, mulling her thoughts like the drink in her hand, a slow swirl.
"I don't remember him," she began with a sigh. "But I know him. There is something in me… in him, maybe – I don't know… and it compels me," she said in something of a rush, then shook her head. "I can't explain it. I mean… I only met him, and yet… it's as though I completely understand him.
"But if I try to think of something, remember something, anything, about him, then… nothing, It's blank," she went on, looking straight at him. "And I can't quite reconcile that. It doesn't… It doesn't fit."
"You aren't doubting yourself again, are you?" he asked, frowning.
"No, not exactly."
"So what is it?" he tried again, but she was being unforthcoming, hesitating again.
"I feel all of these things," she finally said, "like today with Harry, or the memory of Neville – and they're like instinct. I know them, like I know that I have a nose on my face. And yet when my mind searches for more, there is nothing there.
"It's just… difficult. I can't… I don't know what to do with that," she finished, her voice trailing off lamely.
"Well you've no context for any of these memories, or anyone in our world anymore, do you? So how can you be expected to make sense of what you've seen, or anyone you've met?" he asked, matter-of-factly.
She looked thoughtful at that.
"I can tell you a bit, if you want?" he offered, knowing the answer already.
She nodded swiftly.
"I met you on the train, same as Neville Longbottom," he began. "Everyone gets the train. It's called the Hogwarts Express. We used to Floo there, to the train station, or my parents would Apparate with me –but I know there's an entrance for the Muggle-borns, from King's Cross."
"King's Cross? In London?" she asked, twisting her brow quizzically.
"Yes, concealed from the Muggle public, apparently. I've never used it, actually. Never had the need," he replied with a shrug. He'd never really thought about it before. He'd never had to. "Anyway, I met you while we were on the train. You were actually looking for Neville's lost toad. You talked a lot." He paused. "It was rather… disconcerting."
And it had been too. He still remembered. She'd come bustling into the compartment he'd been sat in with Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle. He'd always liked them. They were quiet, and slow, and had made for good friends.
He'd been entirely thrown by Hermione, her younger incarnation. She'd suddenly appeared, wild haired, and rather tiny, babbling as many facts about the wizarding world as she could manage into single sentence, and asking imperiously about a lost toad, and talking about how she'd seen Harry Potter, and did they know he was in a compartment just down the way?
He'd assumed, wrongly, for a moment or two, that she was pureblood, and had wondered who she was, until she'd mentioned that her parents were dentists, and had to explain…
And then he had known, and he'd had to bite down on his confusion, while an unconscious sneer rose to shape his mouth. And she'd seen it – and understood immediately. Of course she had. She'd been astounding even then.
Not that his younger self would ever have admitted it.
"How was it disconcerting?" she asked, sitting forward eagerly, and then swerving slightly to avoid sloshing her drink all over herself.
"Ah well…" he said, wondering how to go on. "You how remember how I told you that my parents are descended from two ancient magical families?"
She nodded, and he knocked his drink back once again – fervent mouthfuls of Dutch courage – to bolster his nerve. It was now or never – at least let it be on his terms.
"Well... They're part of a group of magical families known as the Sacred Twenty-Eight. My family, the Malfoy family, we're one of the more ancient and… illustrious bloodlines. We're what's known as 'pureblood'," he said, watching her closely, and then, when she tilted her head as if in question, he went on. "Blood is important in the wizarding world. Or, rather, it was.
He sighed, knowing that it was not precisely the truth – that bigotry and ignorance and prejudice still existed in factions across wizarding society, and that he had once been the poster-boy for all of it.
"Many witches and wizards…" he went on, trying, trying, and struggling. "Many witches and wizards of pureblood descent believed themselves to be superior to people like you. Muggle-borns. They believed that their magic was better, that their blood was better. That Muggleborns were an anomaly… an abomination."
He shot a look at her and watched as her face grew rather pale, looking narrow and horrified.
"It's an old conflict," he sighed. "Very old. It flared up again in the early part of the twentieth century, and then again in the seventies. And then, once again, about ten years ago."
But she hadn't heard him. She was still wan and stricken, eyes wide, and her hand… She had brought her hand up to her forearm and was running her fingers absently over the tattoo, and the ragged scar which lay beneath.
And then, through stiff lips:
"Mudblood," she breathed, in a voice devoid of any inflection.
Then she blinked a moment, and her eyes refocused on him, and he could see that she was beginning to put the pieces together. A Muggle-born, a war hero, an ancient conflict, and a scar slurring her arm.
Yes, she understood. He could see it, though she tried to shy away from it.
"I'll have another drink," she said, her voice clipped.
No argument from him. With a quick wave of his wand, he summoned another bottle of Firewhiskey. Just in case. It wouldn't do for them to run low.
He poured them each a drink from the open bottle, setting the extra bottle on the coffee table in front of them. She took a quick gulp, coughing slightly, and shot him a defiant look. He lifted his glass to her in a silent salute, and followed suit.
Neither spoke for a moment.
"Do you know how I got it?" she asked suddenly.
He didn't need to ask what she meant. He just didn't know how to answer.
Of course he knew. But that… that was much too close to the bone for comfort, and even worse for her.
He couldn't tell her.
"And?" she probed.
She scowled at that.
"I can't. I… It would be a bad idea," he tried, grasping for the words. How to explain? "It would risk everything that Demelza is trying to do for you. There's a chance that she might kill me, actually."
"How is it you know?" she asked, the imprint of her scowl still there. "Is it common knowledge or something?"
"Please Hermione… I can't tell you. I will. But not now."
"I'll find out you know," she replied fiercely to his denial. "You can't keep it from me. I will find out what happened."
Her eyes were glossy and bright, though whether it was from the Firewhiskey or emotion, he couldn't say.
"I'd be disappointed if you didn't," he said, his voice low and resigned.
She set her glass down onto the table in front of her with a sigh, then sat back and folded her arms. She turned her gaze to him, piercing and intent, and he held himself still under the weight of her examination.
"So many things you can't tell me," she said in a ponderous voice, never taking her eyes from him, and though her tone was soft, her eyes expression was hard.
"You lied to me."
"Not precisely…" he tried, but it came out as something of an unconvincing mumble. He wondered how he could explain, without telling her everything. But then, he didn't want her to know everything. And yet, if that were the case, why was he so intent on helping her regain her memories?
"A lie of omission, then?" she prompted, relentlessly, a glint of maliciousness in her eye.
And he couldn't deny it. So he said nothing, and she nodded with grim satisfaction.
"I thought as much. I think it's time you explained, Draco."
The moment stretched into silence that felt like a hangman's noose around his neck, and he reached instinctively to refill his glass, which he'd emptied without noticing.
"As you wish," he said, as the golden liquid splashed into his glass, soft and satisfying, and he took a quick gulp. "You know," he sighed briefly, "it ties in a bit with what I was telling you – about the blood prejudice, the wars… There's too much to tell really, for me to properly explain it, and I think you know that."
She looked annoyed by that, but didn't dispute it. He took a deep breath, and then the quiet moment before the plunge.
"Well… as I told you," he continued, "I'm descended from two ancient pureblood families. The Malfoys and the Blacks. Both part of the Twenty Eight. And part of that… heritage… meant upholding certain beliefs." He paused to look at her. "I think you can gather what they may have been."
She nodded guardedly.
"I grew up knowing nothing more than the superiority of my family name, my magic… my blood. I learned it at my father's knee," he said, hearing the chord of frustration in his own voice. "I'd never even met a muggle-born until Hogwarts. And he told me that they were stupid and unkempt, filthy creatures – borne of people who were little better than the basest of animals. This, this, is what I knew to be true. Until Hogwarts."
Hermione, brows raised, her mouth twisted into an expression of disgust, swirled the remnants of her drink and threw it back, before reaching across to take the bottle from his hand, muttering something that sounded oddly like 'Fucking hell'.
"My father," Draco went on, "many years ago – before I was born – joined a group of… likeminded people. His father had been in it before him, and, I suppose, he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. Only natural… I wanted the same myself, when I was younger.
"They were a group who were bent on establishing, without question, the dominance of purebloods – over the wizarding populace, over Muggles, over everyone. They were known as the Death Eaters. And they were led by"-
At this Hermione let out a noise that sounded like something between a gasp and a repressed cry. He looked at her, eyebrow raised, wondering for a brief, frantic moment if she'd remembered something.
"You remembered something?" he asked, making a sudden, abrupt movement, he was almost unaware of.
"No," she replied, shooting him a sharp look. "Why? Am I personally acquainted with him?"
No, he thought, but I was. And then he forced himself to suppress a shudder.
Instead, he shook his head.
"I read about him," Hermione offered, a pebble into the ocean of silence.
"No surprises there," Draco said with a wry chuckle, sipping his drink.
"He's mentioned in Hogwarts, A History as one of the most feared Dark wizards of the century."
"Well… that'd be about right," he said, taking another, liberal mouthful of the Firewhiskey. "And my father, and grandfather before him… they were among his most trusted followers."
He stopped, unable to continue, as the vivid imagery of some of his darkest memories flashed before his eyes. And then Hermione, rather unexpectedly, reached across to him and took his hand.
"And you?" she asked, the merest trace of a waver in her voice.
He looked at her hand, slender and soft, wrapped around his own pale one, and the tattoo, vivid on her arm. He pulled his hand out of hers, and made to roll up his sleeve. Gathering the material between his fingers, he pulled it up, exposing his forearm to reveal his Dark Mark.
Faded now, but not entirely gone, never gone, he recognised the twisted irony in their respective scars, but found little humour in it. And, in a gesture that mirrored his own, on the day he had seen her Mudblood tattoo, she reached across once more to pull his arm towards her so that she could study it more closely.
She scooted closer to him, placing his hand into her lap, and ran gentle, enquiring fingertips over the surface of the skin. He could smell her; something that was like the rain, and books and something else, something sweet and clean. Her touch raised gooseflesh on his skin and he felt the thrill of her touch stirring his blood.
She looked up then, after she had spent careful moments examining it, and met his eyes. Her eyes were dark, and berry-black, their expression patient and serious.
"I see," was all she said.
"Do you?" he asked, and this time there was no disguising the current of desperation beneath his words.
"Tell me," she replied, simply.
"I was sixteen…" he began. "And I had no idea what I'd signed myself up for, not really, until after it was done. There's no getting out, you know," he said, taking another gulp of his drink, "once you're in. No backing out. Not unless you like the idea of a painful death.
"And my father," he went on, dragging in a ragged breath, "was in prison. My mother... she was captive in her own home... But I wanted it, at the time." He laughed, and it was bitter and gritty in his mouth. "I wanted to prove myself. To make myself worthy of the Malfoy name.
"Sanctimonia Vincet Semper. That's the family motto. I thought that by following in my father's footsteps, taking up his place... that I was living up to expectation. That I was doing the right thing..." he trailed off, and then faltered.
"But I wasn't cut out for it. I couldn't be what they wanted," he said, gulping back his flickering panic. "My hand was forced, more than once – and I did stupid, reckless things, awful things. But I couldn't do it... I just..."
But here he faltered, and his words trailed away like sand through his fingers.
Looking up, casting his eyes about the room wildly, fearing, knowing, he'd said too much – that there was no going back, that she could see him now in all his ugly, broken shades. But then he felt the touch of those gentle fingers, the same ones that had traced over the white of his Mark, against his jaw, guiding his gaze to her own steady, brown eyes.
He had the fleeting sensation that he was falling, only the merest moment – and surely the alcohol... Then he noticed the determined tilt to her lips, dark intent of her eyes, the way the curls had devolved from curls to familiar frizz – and then she was drawing close, her fingertips chasing along the line of his jaw, down to curve around his neck, pulling him ever closer.
She kissed him softly, but with a surety that caused him to shudder in pure relief, then he pulled away, needing to finish, to make her understand.
"I don't believe it anymore, none of it – I was a boy, stupid and headstrong and selfish, so selfish - but I swear it, Hermione, I'm not that same boy"-
But here she cut him off again, laying a finger to his lips.
"I know," she said.
And that was that. There was a strange stillness to the moment that spun like silver in the air around them, and then he couldn't hold it in any longer. With a gravelly urgency burning in his throat, he pulled her towards him, kissing her roughly, twisting fingers into her fuzzy curls.
"You sure?" He asked, needing to be sure.
She pulled him back to her, meeting his lips with a desire that burned, that matched his own beat for beat, and he fell. No more lies, not now.
He had fallen.
A/N: This needed sooo much work to get it into readable condition. Still, I hope you liked it. I'm really happy with it. Of course I'd love to hear what you all think :)
I want to say thank you, a big thank you to, revine89 for her thoughts and great work as a beta. She is amazing.
Thank you to everyone who was kind enough to leave a review and tell me their thoughts. I'm so thrilled and humbled by the lovely things people wrote. Thank you to all those who faved and followed, and welcome to all new readers.
If you'd like to contact me, you can find me on tumblr under mildred-meadowlark. I'm always happy to say hi :)
- Millie x