Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - March, 1994

It was not uncommon for Hermione Granger to mysteriously disappear for a while after her Potions lesson on Thursday evenings.

Most of Gryffindor's third years were not oblivious to Hermione's prolonged and random absences, especially Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. They were her closest friends, after all. Nevertheless, every time they had brought it up, she dodged their questions and changed the topic, confusing the boys to no end.

By mid-December, Harry and Ron had dropped the subject completely and tried their best to feign indifference about their friend's escapades. After all, it was hard to keep up the concern for someone who was so cryptic and increasingly snappy. It was easier to just assume that Hermione was buried behind a pile of books in the library, as she so often had been the last two years at school.

The truth was, however, that third year at Hogwarts was proving to be quite a challenge for Hermione. So much so that during the second week of classes, and after a particularly nasty comment from Snape about her "pathetic need to show off", Hermione found herself rushing out of the dungeons and into the girl's bathroom.

Surprisingly, the solitude and time to herself seemed to somehow make things more bearable. After crying a bit, she would take a deep breath and try to sort her jumbled mess of feelings into the deepest recesses of her mind.

Hermione would never admit it to anyone – especially not to her best friends – but the academic load was overwhelming, which wasn't helped by the fact that she felt as though no matter how hard she tried to be ahead in all of her classes, it was never enough. She couldn't help but think back with bittersweet nostalgia at how she had so confidently taken on the challenge of attending extra classes with the Time Turner.

With what she felt was much less of an effort, Harry was always besting her at Defense Against the Dark Arts. Not to mention the nightmare that Potions class was because of Snape's occasional demeaning comments and his constant praises to Draco bloody Malfoy.

On a cold March evening, Hermione was sitting by herself near the lake, half-hidden under a big tree and purging herself of a particularly nasty week. She'd been so intent on taking deep, calming breaths, that for a long time she didn't notice the sounds of someone approaching her. Hermione barely had time to hope the person would change their mind and turn the other way before she spotted the intruder.

His pale blonde head and aristocratic posture gave him away immediately.

She only just managed to stifle the annoyed grunt forming in her throat.

Nevertheless, and as though he could somehow sense her eyes on him, he turned and spotted her. Draco Malfoy frowned in annoyance.

"It's a shame one cannot walk around school grounds without bumping into Mudbloods," he sneered at her.

After the particularly trying week she'd endured, Hermione was not in the mood to put up with Malfoy's bigotry.

"It's a shame one cannot peacefully sit in school grounds without spotting narrow-minded prats," she bit back, jutting out her chin defiantly.

Malfoy's grey eyes narrowed into slits as he appraised her. Too late, Hermione noticed with horror that he could now see her tear-streaked cheeks and puffy eyes. Mortified, she broke their eye contact and glanced at her lap.

"You came here to cry because Potter prefers the Weasel over you?" Malfoy asked with a mocking voice.

Hermione internally flinched at the taunt. The topic of her friendship with Ron and Harry was a very delicate one.

"It makes sense," he continued mercilessly, "even a blood traitor is better than a Mudblood bint."

She gaped at him with horror and hatred. Even coming from him, that had been a very cruel comment. Against her better reason, tears began pooling in the corner of her eyes once again.

Malfoy's smirk instantly faded and he nervously looked around. Even he seemed to realize he had gone a bit too far this time.

Furious at Malfoy and at her own weakness, Hermione set her jaw firmly and turned her head upwards but away from him, willing not a single tear to fall. Not while he was watching.

Malfoy cleared his throat and she heard rather than saw him taking a step back.

"You are alright though," he drawled, making it sound almost like a question, as if every syllable had been wrenched from his lips. "I mean, there's no need to summon Pomfrey?"

A moment passed and she could hear him shuffling his feet. Hermione focused on ignoring the burning in behind her lids.

"Just leave," Hermione said coldly, refusing to even glance at him.


The Great Hall, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - December, 1994

"Did Krum get tired of your incessant talking already?" Draco asked, somehow lacking much of his usual cruelty.

His expression seemed more tired than anything and his eyes, for once, were not narrowed down at her.

"Is Parkinson so boring you had to come and pester me?" Hermione snarked immediately.

It was almost ten o'clock and she was sitting in the furthest end of the embellished Great Hall waiting for Viktor and the Butterbeers. She was fuming after her brief confrontation with Ron just moments ago, during which he had thrown ridiculous accusations at her for agreeing to be Viktor's date to the Ball and even dared to question her loyalty to Harry. Hermione had been aghast at the foul words coming out of her friend's mouth and was even more hurt by the fact that Harry's defense of her had been underwhelming.

She'd bristled away from her friends' table and found a place as far away from them as possible, hoping to regain her bearings. Unluckily for her, Malfoy, who at first appeared to also be looking for a peaceful place to sit, had spotted her a few minutes later and unsurprisingly made his way over to annoy her.

But nothing would ruin the Yule Ball for her, not Ron's stupid accusations or Malfoy's disparaging comments.

She could feel his cold stare boring holes through her head, but Hermione kept her gaze fixed stubbornly elsewhere, ignoring him as best as she could. She knew denying him attention would bother the egoistical prat more than any witty comeback.

After a while, the Weird Sisters ended their song and Hermione was finally able to spot Viktor amongst the sea of smiling couples. He looked a bit out of place as he looked around the ballroom for her, his big frame sticking out in the crowd. As soon as his gaze landed on her, he smiled and walked towards her carrying two large Butterbeers. Hermione couldn't help the blush that colored her cheeks and wasted no time in joining him, all thoughts about Ron, disloyalty, and Malfoy forgotten.

Viktor's dark gaze and broad grin kept her blissfully distracted the rest of the evening. At midnight, when the Weird Sisters finished their act and everyone gave a last loud round of applause, Hermione looked up at her dancing partner with a soft smile. It had truly been a magnificent night.

Out in the Entrance Hall, a flushed Hermione kissed Viktor's cheek goodnight, feeling somewhat self-conscious. She was oblivious of her two best friends lurking close behind, watching the whole exchange. Viktor left and she turned to make her way up the marble staircase.

She found Ron's angry stare fixed on her, following her every move. Hermione set her jaw and chose to ignore it; she did not have the energy to put up with any more drama. Throwing a withering look his way, she flounced past him up the magnificent staircase without so much as a word.

Hermione made her way angrily through the halls, not bothering to acknowledge the few people that looked at her curiously. Intent as she was to reach Gryffindor tower as quickly as possible, she'd forgotten that the staircase she was currently climbing tended to randomly veer in a different direction at exactly half past midnight. Mid-step and without having a hold on the banister, Hermione wobbled and fought to catch her balance, a difficult task in her new, slightly heeled shoes.

Someone behind her reached out and steadied her, stopping her short of stumbling down the stairs.

"Are you alright?" an unmistakable voice said.

She whipped around, flinching away from the steady hand in the middle of her back.

He seemed to realize who she was a few moments later, and his face hardened a bit as he appraised her.

Hermione steeled herself for the inevitable insult.

Malfoy, however, seemed somewhat frozen on the spot. For once, it appeared as though he had nothing to say.

Probably disgusted at having touched a Mudblood, Hermione thought viciously.

The staircase finally anchored itself onto a new hall, and Hermione wasted no time in climbing the remaining stairs and getting as far away from him as possible.


The Hogwarts Express - June, 1996

London was still thirty minutes away, and Hermione decided to venture from the compartment she currently shared with Ron, Harry, Ginny, and Neville. Her mind, as always, went a mile a minute as she thought about the recent events she and her friends had faced during their adventure in the Department of Mysteries. Hermione was sure that, now that Voldemort's return had been confirmed, the whole wizarding community would be on high alert. Nothing would be the same, and maybe it was for the best that everyone was aware that they were once again in the middle of a war.

Despite being deep in thought while making her way through the packed train, Hermione found it odd to see an empty compartment a little farther down. The door was closed with magic, she noted when she tried giving it a nudge and it remained in place. Intrigued, Hermione drew her wand and muttered a spell.

The door opened, and she could hear the unmistakable sound of heavy breaths.

But she was alone, wasn't she?

Puzzled, Hermione looked around and finally located the source of the noise. Three deformed and barely identifiable lumps lay hoisted up in the farthest luggage rack. Judging from the Hogwarts uniforms they were squeezed into, they had once been students. She scrunched up her face in disgust.

Making good on her role as Prefect, Hermione thought about the spell needed to reverse this rather nasty amalgamation of jinxes. She failed to notice, however, the silver and green streaks on the uniforms until it was too late. She had already muttered a counter-jinx, pointing at the lump closest to her.

She immediately saw it morph into a more human-looking figure.

At once, enraged grey eyes locked on hers. Hermione groaned.

"Great," she said with a huff.

Silence.

"Are you alright?" she tried again, asking the first thing that came to mind.

Judging by the lack of insults, Hermione figured that Malfoy was still under the influence of one too many jinxes. As she glanced at the other two deformed figures, Hermione thought she could recognize Crabbe and Goyle.

Sighing, she muttered a few more counter-jinxes. Some of the magic she could undo, some of the magic would just have to wear off with time. At least they wouldn't be as bad off as they were now once they reached London, Hermione thought with dark amusement. It wasn't as if she hadn't tried to help at least a little, even if they didn't deserve it.

As she left the compartment, laughter bubbled up from her chest. It seemed like a fitting ending to an otherwise trying school year.


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - January, 1997

Hermione had been studying her astronomy charts when she absentmindedly realized she needed to use the facilities. A few seconds later, she hastily made her way through the library corridor and up the staircase leading to the second floor.

It was no surprise to find the second-floor girls' lavatory empty, and Hermione mentally thanked Merlin for this. Not even Moaning Myrtle seemed to be in her usual stall, which really was a relief.

However, Hermione was not alone for long.

Shortly after she entered a random stall, Hermione heard quick paces entering the large lavatory. Distractedly, she heard a faint, shuddering breath and even more shuffling and movement.

Hermione carelessly unlocked the door and, just as she was swinging it open, heard a deep, hushed whisper.

"Myrtle, is that you?"

It was definitely a male voice.

She heard a whoosh coming from a couple of stalls on her left and ducked back into her cubicle.

"I thought you wouldn't come here again," Moaning Myrtle's familiar, poignant voice said, echoing in the walls.

Hermione heard a shuddering sob which was definitely not Myrtle's. Mildly interested, she kept quiet and tried to decipher any of the words being whispered.

After a few minutes passed and it became clear that by silently sitting in her cubicle she was only wasting her precious study time, Hermione resolved to leave the lavatory. Those astronomy charts wouldn't study themselves, after all.

She stepped out of the cubicle rather brusquely.

Before her was the last person she expected to find in such a predicament.

Hermione halted abruptly and gaped at Draco Malfoy's battered-looking form, slumped on the lavatory floor and having what appeared to be a heart-to-heart with Moaning bloody Myrtle.

Malfoy's head snapped in her direction, his previously soulful eyes narrowing into angry grey slits.

"What are you doing here?" he all but snarled at her.

Hermione took a couple of hesitant steps in his direction. Was he hurt? It certainly didn't appear so. Why was he here? Myrtle had mentioned earlier that this was not the first time he'd been here.

"What do you fucking want Granger?" Malfoy asked, his voice rising in alarm when he noticed she was inching closer.

Now only a couple of feet away from him, Hermione was able to appraise him. Gone was his carefully kempt appearance, gone was the usual cold confidence in his stance.

She'd never seen Draco Malfoy looking worse.

"Are… Are you alright?" Hermione asked quietly, unable to help herself.

"Of course he's not!" Myrtle cried at her rudely.

"What is it to you?" Malfoy barked almost at the same time.

Hermione's expression hardened and she turned to leave.

As she sat at her favorite place in the library and prepared to resume her examination of astronomy maps, Hermione couldn't help but think back at what she had witnessed. It was true that, despite it being only the second month of the term, they were already buried nose-deep in homework. However, for some reason, Hermione was sure that Draco Malfoy's distress was definitely not academically related.

Sometime later in the Gryffindor common room, Harry was once again insisting that Malfoy was up to something. Ron listened to him without comment and glanced at Hermione with a light grin, clearly amused with his friend's speculations that his nemesis was a Death Eater. She thought back to Malfoy's distressed expression and wondered if she should recall the bizarre scene for her friends.

Somehow, and for a reason she didn't quite understand, Hermione felt uncomfortable at the mere idea of morbidly speculating about someone's pain. Even if that hypothetical someone was an entitled prat.

Hermione decided against it.


Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - May, 1998

Malfoy stared at the place where the door to the Room of Requirement had been with a shocked expression.

"Cra-Crabbe," he choked out amidst a violent fit of coughing, horror quickly beginning to slacken his sharp features. "Crabbe!"

"He's dead," Ron bit unceremoniously at him.

Hermione coughed, still struggling to vanish the corrupting smoke from her throat and lungs. The others were trying to compose themselves around her, everyone still somewhat dazed.

It wasn't until several ghosts lunged in their direction from the other side of the hall that someone finally moved. Harry scrambled to his feet and glanced down the hall, where the noises of the ongoing battle could be heard. The continuous choir of screams slowly began to register. It could only mean that the Death Eaters had passed through the magical wards and finally infiltrated the castle's walls.

Hermione felt her stomach painfully drop at the idea.

She vaguely registered Ron and Harry discussing Ginny's whereabouts and possibly splitting up to search for her.

"No," she intervened firmly, "Let's stick together. I say we go–"

The words died on her throat as she noticed the old, discolored tiara hanging loosely from Harry's arm. It was charred almost beyond recognition.

"Harry, what's that on your arm?"

Harry choked out a few words. A dark, thick liquid seeped out of the blackened diadem that had once belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. Harry suddenly flinched at the thing in his hand as it abruptly broke apart.

"It must have been Fiendfyre!" she exclaimed with both shock and fear. They certainly were lucky to have gotten out of the Room of Requirement alive.

As she explained what Fiendfyre was and how it was one of the most dangerous options to destroy a Horcrux, her brain churned restlessly. With the diadem gone, there was only one Horcrux left.

Just as she was explaining this to her two friends, loud shrieks invaded the hall. The shock of red hair was the first thing she registered before noticing the hooded masks. Hermione ran to help Fred and Percy without a second thought.

She heard Percy and Fred screaming somewhere to her right as they deflected several spells and managed to hit some of the Death Eaters.

She felt it and saw it before she heard it.

It all happened too fast.

Everything around them flew to pieces, everyone and everything dispersed into unrecognizable shards. Suddenly, Hermione was powerfully thrown from her feet and landed several feet back, debris breaking her fall. She could feel her body crushed by several heavy rocks from what once had been the seventh-floor corridor. All Hermione could register was a hot, sharp pain in every one of her limbs.

A few moments later, she felt some of the weight lift off her legs and looked down in gratefulness and confusion. If Hermione weren't in so much pain, she would have surely been flooded with shock to see Draco Malfoy kneeling beside her, helping her.

He looked every bit as battered as she felt.

Once he'd removed the debris trapping Hermione's legs, he winced and dragged himself closer to her.

"Granger, are you alright?"

At the sound of his voice, irrational, primal fear shot through her. She was painfully aware of how vulnerable she was, trapped under the wrecked boulders of the castle and all but wandless. Malfoy's jaw clenched when he recognized the expression in her face and he stopped pulling himself closer.

Hermione craned her neck around as much as her current predicament allowed, frantically searching for her wand. If she could only get to it, she would feel safer, she thought desperately just as she noticed that her right arm, her wand arm, lay beneath the fallen debris.

Suddenly, she had regained most of her mobility as the biggest boulders were not trapping her any longer.

She glanced at Malfoy, but he was not looking at her. He had dragged himself a few feet away and was clutching something in his hands.

Her wand. The wand that had previously belonged to Bellatrix Lestrange.

She felt the blood drain away from her face.

Malfoy had lost his wand to Harry and then lost his mother's wand to the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirement.

All too fast, unreadable grey eyes pierced her, and he clambered to his feet. Her wand was still held on one of his hands.

And then Draco Malfoy did the last thing she expected him to do.

He walked a couple of steps towards her and extended his hand, offering Hermione his aunt's wand.

She ripped it from his hand without hesitation and scrambled backward and away from him, lest he changed his mind.

Malfoy chuckled darkly. A low sound that barely registered in the chaos around them.

Hermione glanced at the wand in her hand, the very representation of her life at this moment, still in disbelief.

When she finally looked up, Malfoy was long gone.

The events that followed were painfully distorted and jumbled in her overanxious mind. After living through what seemed to be the worst moments of her life, Hermione felt strangely detached. Adrenaline and the pure will to live guided her on those last few hours, pushing her forward into a fight that seemed to never end. She couldn't even remember when it all had begun.

Afterward, Hermione glanced at the three Malfoys, awkwardly huddled in the middle of what had once been the magnificent Great Hall. She couldn't help but feel the tiniest pang in her chest.

He hadn't identified them at Malfoy Manor, which Hermione had credited to a random fluke of good luck for them. She hadn't thought back on it at all, too occupied with finding the missing Horcruxes. But then he'd helped her out of the rubble and given her Bellatrix's wand, even though it meant he'd be unarmed during the battle. And now Hermione was thinking back on everything and could not find a reasonable explanation for any of it.

Unless it meant that Draco Malfoy, for some reason, had decided to turn his back on Voldemort and the Death Eaters. On his parents and childhood friends. On the pure-blood values he prided himself in.

But why?

A dull pounding on the left side of her head indicated that she was too stressed out and tired. Or that she probably had a concussion.

Hermione credited the wild thoughts and feelings running through her mind to the many sleepless nights that had preceded this very moment and the adrenaline rush of brushing off against almost-certain death.

Before she glanced away from the blonde family, his piercing gaze caught her own, locking her in place. For once, they showed only profound uncertainty. A feeling that very much mirrored her own.

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Thanks for reading so far! This is the first Dramione I've ever written and I'm so nervous about finally posting it here. I'd love to hear your thoughts!