Sometimes When We Touch (Sequel to You Gotta Breathe)
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and places belong to J.K. Rowling. The song "Sometimes When We Touch" belongs to Dan Hill.
This story is a sequel! Though the first chapter contains a recap of events to this point, I still recommend reading "You Gotta Breathe" if you haven't already done so. It will make things so much clearer!
Ordinarily, I post updates every other Friday, and take great pride in my reliability as a writer who meets her deadlines. (Lately, some unforeseen circumstances /cough/computercrash/cough/ have prevented this, but on the whole I do try, and am usually quite reliable.) This means that yes, there are two weeks between every update, which may seem like a long wait. But personally, when reading a fic I enjoy, I would rather see regular biweekly updates than see three chapters posted in three days, and then nothing for three months! I can only hope that you'll find my updates worth the wait.
(Warning: Draco is somewhat OOC in this. Oh he's still essentially Draco- he's very, I don't know, is "prickly" the right word? But he's in Gryffindor, for one thing. I understand and accept that this alone will be a major turn-off for some people. For another thing, he's in love with Hermione (truly, madly, deeply) which is, in itself, enough to make him OOC because let's face it; Canon Draco is simply not ever going to fall for Hermione. Sorry if I'm bursting anyone's bubble here, but...it ain't gonna happen, people! But if you're reading this you're probably a hard-core D/Hr shipper like me, and are intelligent enough to separate in your mind canon from fanfic, and therefore shouldn't be too bothered, right?)
Draco sat bolt upright in bed, his heart pounding in his ears, disoriented and alarmed. As he pushed his silver hair back out of his eyes, he heard it again; the noise that had awakened him- an unmistakable sound of distress from the next room. Hermione's room. In one fluid movement, he pushed back the scarlet covers and swung his feet over the edge of the bed.
Nightmares again, he thought groggily, wondered fleetingly what time it was, then, as a louder and even more panicked cry reached his ears, he launched himself toward the door with a speed that belied his sleepy state.
It took him all of perhaps five seconds to get from his bedside, across the small hallway that separated the head boy's and girl's rooms, to hers. Bursting through her door, he saw that she was curled tightly on her side in a fetal position, her back to him, trembling violently and sobbing pitifully. The covers around her were in complete disarray, some thrown off the bed altogether.
They were now halfway through their seventh year, and still it was like this every single night she forgot to take her dreamless sleep potion. He couldn't even begin to imagine how she would have gotten through the summer holidays, living in the Muggle world, where the potion was unobtainable, if he hadn't happened to have spent those same holidays with Professor Snape. Once a week like clockwork he had owled her a supply of the precious liquid; the only thing that allowed her to sleep nights. And yet now that they were back at Hogwarts where the potion was in plentiful supply, it seemed that at least once a week she forgot to take it.
Draco couldn't understand how she could keep forgetting something so important; she was such a meticulous person by nature, it didn't make sense. It was so unlike her, in fact, that he was just beginning to formulate a new theory; maybe Hermione, who was, after all, a fiercely independent person, resented her reliance on the potion and was deliberately missing some doses in the hopes of discovering, one night, that she no longer needed it. Was she doing this to herself on purpose? He shook his head in frustration.
Crossing to her bed, he sat on the edge of it and gathered her into his arms. She stiffened against him for a moment, then seemed to melt into his embrace, sobbing with her face buried in his chest. He realized that she was drenched with cold sweat and that this was likely at least part of the reason she was shaking so badly. Awkwardly, not loosening his grip on her, he pulled over the nearest blanket, untangled it to the best of his ability, and drew it up over them both.
"Shhh," he murmured, rocking her gently. "It's all right. It was only a dream. I'm here now, it's okay. Dear heart, it's okay. You're safe… you're safe… it's all right…."
He continued to murmur soothing nonsense to her as she cried herself back to sleep in his arms. Finally, when her breathing was again deep and regular, with only an occasional hiccup as evidence that she had just sobbed herself nearly to the point of hyperventilation, Draco allowed himself to sag back against the headboard and close his eyes, exhausted.
Though his face showed only weariness and strain, inwardly he was raging. Raging against Voldemort, who was the cause of this; who had, last year, raped Hermione up against a wall, as Harry and Ron had looked on helplessly, held back by an invisible barrier, in a disused corridor right here at Hogwarts, a place that was supposed to be a safe haven; a sanctuary from evil. He had robbed her of her virginity (Draco had been astounded when he had learned this, seeing as none of his female Slytherin classmates had reached sixth year with their virginity intact- he knew this for a fact, having been largely responsible), shattered her innocence and what was worse, if possible, was the fact that he had done it in front of her two best- male- friends, for the express purpose of tormenting Harry. Draco actually found himself halfway regretting the fact that Voldemort was dead- he wanted to kill him again at this moment, and not with his wand, either. He wanted to rip him apart bare-handed. His fingers were actually twitching at the thought.
The rape had had far-reaching consequences, and truthfully, not all of them had been negative. Voldemort was dead, after all, and that was a good thing, regardless of how much Draco would have liked to resurrect him at the moment, only to kill him again- and again- and again. And Draco's life had changed drastically, and mostly for the better. When he had come upon Hermione moments after the attack, cradled in Ron's arms, more than half-dead, he had been forced to consciously admit something to himself that he had known deep-down but had been denying for the better part of a year; he loved this girl. Loved her wholly and completely and fiercely; body, mind and soul. So when Potter and Weasley had gone AWOL to track Voldemort back to his lair and exact revenge, he had followed them, bringing with him, at her insistence, Hermione, who, typically, had demanded to be allowed to avenge herself. In the end, it had taken all four of them working together to defeat the Dark Lord, and Draco had very nearly died, not because of Voldemort, but because Potter, thinking he had brought Hermione against her will to deliver her to the Dark Lord, had stabbed him, just barely missing his heart.
He shook his head now, at the thought of it. Golden-Boy Potter- who would have thought he had it in him? Shit, but that had hurt. Once he had recovered, though, he had been hailed a hero- an entirely new experience for him, and rather an agreeable one at that- and had been resorted into Gryffindor House. Yes, this meant he had been disowned (his father had actually showed up at Hogwarts with murderous intent, but together with Potter, Weasley and Hermione he had managed to hold him off until Dumbledore had arrived and sent him packing), and yes, this meant that his former housemates, the Slytherins, had it in for him big-time, and were always trying to corner him alone in the hallways. But his disinheritance caused him no major concern because his grandparents had left him a fortune years ago, that he had recently come into on his seventeenth birthday, and as for the Slytherins- he was confident that he could handle them easily enough should the need arise. So far it hadn't. His new housemates (especially Potter and Weasley) were fiercely protective- the Slytherins had failed thus far in their attempts to isolate him.
So yes, there were drawbacks, but they were far outweighed by the advantages of his new life. The biggest of these being, of course, Hermione's love. It still amazed him when he took the time to really think about it, that she could love him as much as he did her- he felt wholly unworthy of her, after the way he had treated her and her friends for so many years. Yet she did return his love, and they had been dating since the night of his resorting; they had recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, in fact. They were easily the most celebrated couple in the school, seeing as they were Head Boy and Girl, and most of the student body treated their romance as a sort of fairy-tale come true; a real-life beauty- tames-the-beast story, since it was common knowledge that it was his love for her that had wrought this incredible change in Draco. But most of the student body failed to see what Draco was seeing right now- the fallout of the atrocity that had set this entire chain of events into motion- Hermione's rape. While the whole school knew that Voldemort had attacked Hermione, Harry and Ron were the only students beside Draco who knew that the attack had been sexual. And even they didn't know about these chronic night-terrors. Draco was the only one who heard her cries in the dark, since their rooms were so close to each other; located off a small private corridor that opened into the Gryffindor common room, beside the fireplace. (Each House within the school contained a similar pair of Head rooms- Percy had been the last to occupy the Gryffindor Head Boy's room four years ago, while his girlfriend Penelope had been in the Ravenclaw Head Girl's room, but both Gryffindor Head rooms had not been occupied at the same time like this since the days of Lily Evans and James Potter.)
It wasn't as if Harry and Ron couldn't sense something wrong, however. Of course they could. They had been so close to Hermione for so long that they couldn't fail to notice the changes in her lately. Her pallid complexion and the dark circles under her eyes that were sure signs of mounting sleep deprivation, coupled with a new tendency to doze off in the library, and once or twice now even in class, with her head on a pile of books, only to wake moments later with a violent start. Then there was her steadily dwindling appetite, and a new (and hitherto completely uncharacteristic) hesitance to walk the halls of the school alone. Yes, Ron and Harry could see as well as Draco that she was suffering both physically and emotionally, and that her condition was worsening with time, rather than improving as they had hoped it might.
The confident, outspoken girl she had been prior to the attack was fading away, and none of the three boys closest to her had any idea how to halt the process that was, slowly but surely, robbing them of the Hermione they knew and loved.
Furthermore, each of the three boys had demons of their own to battle.
Harry. He was being eaten alive by guilt because he knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the one and only reason Voldemort had attacked Hermione had been to torment him by forcing him to watch. Hermione had been nothing more to Voldemort than a means to an end; a way to make Harry suffer. Because his friends meant more to Harry than his own life, as Voldemort had well known. So suffer he had, and he still continued to do so a year after the Dark Lord's demise.
Ron. Like Harry, he had witnessed the rape and been unable to do anything to stop it. His guilt stemmed in part from this helplessness to save the girl he loved (and he did love her, oh yes- Draco knew this for a fact and accepted it without rancor, secure in the knowledge of Hermione's love for him), but Ron's guilt was more complex- he had, characteristically, been yelling at Hermione moments before the attack, and it was his harsh, angry words that had sent her dashing off alone, around a bend in the corridor and straight into Voldemort, who had been waiting to ambush Harry but had changed his plan when Hermione had presented herself as such an easy target. This, indeed, was the true root of Ron's agony.
And then there was Draco himself. All he bore was simply the guilt and regret of an entire lifetime, up until last year, wasted in the service of a monster. All his life he had been raised to revere Voldemort; groomed to one day take over his father's position as the Dark Lord's right-hand man. But that was before Voldemort had very nearly killed Hermione- the one friend (for that's what she had been at the time; his friend- the romance had come later) he had ever actually cared about.
He sighed and shook his head again, wearily. Hermione, responding to his unhappiness on some basic level, stirred and whimpered in his arms, but remained asleep. He dropped a kiss on the top of her head, then let his own head fall back against the bed once more.
"You gotta stop doing this to yourself, Hermione," he whispered, only because he was sure she couldn't hear him. "I can't stand it. It kills me. I love you so… so much…."
He drifted away into a troubled, almost feverish sleep.
At breakfast in the Great Hall some five days later, both Hermione and Draco were unusually subdued, even by their normal standards of late.
For Draco, this was because he had just been released that morning after having spent two full days in the hospital wing; the aftermath of a Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match three days earlier.
These matches were pure hell for Draco, due to the fact that the only objective of the entire Slytherin team was to knock him off his broom as violently as possible, as far from the ground as possible, and hopefully kill him. Really, it was only his utter, dogged determination not to let the Slytherins best him once and for all that kept him playing Quidditch; he had lost most of his love for the sport when he had had to give up the position of seeker. He was still a damn good flyer, and a skilled and aggressive beater, and an overall asset to the Gryffindor team, but he no longer looked forward to the matches with the keen anticipation that he always had as a Slytherin. Of course once he'd been resorted into Gryffindor he had known he could no longer play seeker; though they had welcomed him with remarkable ease into their midst, considering all the previous years of violent animosity, it had been too much to hope for that the Gryffindors would allow him to replace Potter; that would have been out of the question. Potter had brought them far too many victories over the years- he was a legendary seeker- youngest in a hundred blah blah blah. Plus Draco had never once beat him to the snitch, so based on that alone Potter was the obvious choice for seeker in his seventh and final year. Draco understood this. Still, he missed the thrill of the hunt for the snitch- missed the exultation of feeling his fingers close about the tiny, fluttering object, feeling the rapid beat of its wings against the cage of his hand. For he had caught it many times as a Slytherin- just never against Potter.
And he had come to realize in the time he had been playing alongside Potter instead of against him, that it was this knowledge, the knowledge that he had never yet beaten Hogwarts' golden boy, together with his fiercely competitive nature, that had been his driving motivation as Slytherin seeker; that had caused the keen anticipation he remembered feeling before every match he had played against Gryffindor- the thought that this might be the game, this might be the day- his day- when he would finally beat Potter to that bloody snitch. Ah, but that victory would have been sweet- and now it was never to come. Looking back, he had to admit to himself (he would never admit it to anyone else) that the game of Quidditch had soured for him as soon as he had realized that he would never again be in competition with Potter.
Still, one must keep up appearances, so resigning the team was not an option, and the matches against Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were borderline enjoyable; it was, at least, excellent stress relief to hit large, heavy objects at other students and attempt to knock them into space all in the name of good, sporting fun. He had discovered quite a talent for it, too. But these matches against Slytherin- ye fucking gods. They were a bloody nightmare, from start to finish. His former teammates literally did not care whether or not they won- he supposed after seven years they had realized that Potter was pretty much unbeatable anyway- and so they applied themselves fully- all of them, from the keeper to the new seeker- to attempting to murder him. The only mercy was that the matches were usually short, since Potter, unimpeded in his search for the snitch, always caught it quickly.
This most recent match, for instance, had ended in eight minutes, with Potter capturing the snitch at precisely the same instant that, at the opposite end of the field, Draco was hit with both Slytherin bludgers at once; one in the face, breaking his jaw and rendering him unconscious, and the other in the stomach, knocking him from his broom to the ground some fifteen feet below (he made a point of flying low when playing Slytherin). The first twenty-four hours after the match he had spent out cold; the second, merely in intense pain. The match had been played bright and early on a Saturday morning, so there had gone his weekend, and it had been a Hogsmeade weekend too, goddamn it all to hell. But here he was on Monday morning, having just been released by Madam Pomfrey, fit as a fiddle and ready for the day's classes, the first of which, right after breakfast, would be- double advanced potions with the Slytherins. Well wasn't life just frickin grand?
As for Hermione, she had spent the last two days by Draco's bedside, forgoing the Hogsmeade trip herself. However, despite her constant vigil during the daylight hours, Madam Pomfrey had refused to allow her to sleep in the hospital wing, the fact that it was the weekend notwithstanding. As a result, she had had two nights in a row of horrifyingly vivid nightmares, with no Draco to hear her cries and comfort her. The first night she had stumbled back to her room from the infirmary and fallen into bed exhausted, forgetting (genuinely this time) to take her potion; the second night, she had remembered to take it- how could she not, after the horrors of the night before- but the dream had come anyway; maybe it was due to the unusual amount of stress she was under, worrying about Draco, or maybe her dosage just needed to be upped. In either case, the dreams had been the same both nights; they had started out with her watching helplessly as Draco fell from his broom, unconscious, toward the hard and rock-strewn ground some fifty feet below, as the Slytherin Quidditch team jeered and turned somersaults in the air- but they had ended, as she knew they must, as all her nightmares did, with her once again in that dank corridor deep under the school, being pinned to the wall by Voldemort.
Both times, she had awakened in the dead of night to the sound of her own frantic screams, and had then laid awake, sobbing and shaking, until dawn.
Hence both Draco's, and Hermione's, subdued state that morning.
They were sitting next to each other at the long Gryffindor table, picking at their respective breakfasts, Hermione slumped exhaustedly against Draco's side, wondering how on earth she was going to make it through a day of classes when she had had perhaps six hours combined of restless, nightmare-strewn sleep over the course of the last two nights, when Dumbledore approached them, looking as every bit as sleep-deprived as Hermione felt, and extremely grave. Raising bloodshot eyes to the headmaster's face, Hermione knew instantly that this did not bode well.
Leaning close over the table, Dumbledore murmured, "Would you be so kind as to come directly to my office after breakfast, Mr. Malfoy? I have already made your excuses to professor Snape. The password is canary crème." Then, without another word to either of them, he left the hall.
Hermione glanced anxiously at Draco, who was merely looking dazed. How hard did that bludger hit his head, anyway? She thought fretfully. Finally dropping all pretense of eating, she pushed her plate away and her hand found Draco's under the table and gripped it hard. "I'm coming with you," she said, quietly but firmly.
Draco blinked at her, then his pale eyes seemed to come back into focus. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, sure." He looked listlessly down at his plate, then pushed it away as well. "C'mon- I don't see any point in hanging around here. Let's go see what this is about."
They stood together and Hermione glanced up toward the staff table, her tired eyes seeking Snape. She saw that he was already watching them, and when his eyes met hers, he inclined his head ever so slightly in her direction. She returned the gesture gratefully; he had just given her permission to miss potions, in order to accompany Draco. She then allowed her boyfriend to pull her by the hand out of the Great Hall.
It was with a sense of deep foreboding that the young couple stood outside the gargoyle-guarded entrance to Dumbledore's office. "Canary crème," Draco said dully, and the stone gargoyle leapt aside, granting them clear passage through the door behind it and up the moving spiral staircase beyond.
"Come in," called Dumbledore's voice, just as they reached the top and Draco raised his hand to knock on the heavy wooden door across the landing. With a last glance at one another, they obeyed.
"Ah, yes," said Dumbledore. He surveyed them both over the tops of his half-moon spectacles, but his eyes held no sign of their usual sparkle. He looked as old and tired and grim as he had in the Great Hall. "Miss Granger- I had rather thought you might come. And Mister Malfoy- I have received some very distressing intelligence. There is no easy way to say this, so I shall choose the simplest way instead. A new Dark Lord is ascending to power; he is already well on his way." He paused for a moment to allow this news to sink in, then continued; "he is gathering Voldemort's former Death Eaters to him and many have pledged him their loyalty already- many, but not all of them. According to my intelligence, there is a task he will need to perform in order to secure the unswerving loyalty of all Voldemort's followers and thus complete his army. He must kill you."
Draco was barely aware of Hermione's horrified gasp beside him; his ears were suddenly ringing and he felt lightheaded. And yet he had seen this coming- had seen it a long way off, truth to tell. There is a subtle difference between shock and surprise; Draco was in shock. He was not, however, at all surprised by this news.
Faintly, over the ringing in his ears, he heard Dumbledore say, "Draco?"
"Father," he croaked.
Dumbledore came around the desk and gently clasped Draco's shoulder. "Draco?" he repeated, "do you need to sit down?" Draco shook his head and in so doing, succeeded in clearing some of the fog out of it. He looked around for Hermione and found that she had sunk into one of Dumbledore's plush armchairs, looking as pale as a ghost.
"It's my father," he repeated, returning his attention to the headmaster, "isn't it?"
"I'm afraid so," Dumbledore replied gravely. "The world has a new Dark Lord to contend with; Lucius Malfoy."