That's how Hermione felt as she sat down. She wrung her hands together, sighing as she seated herself down onto the damp, green grass. Summer was fast approaching - in fact, there was only one day left of her fifth year at Hogwarts. And yet, here she sat - unmoving and silent. It was peculiar for anyone to see Hermione Granger sitting alone without a book under her nose.
She didn't care though. Her thoughts strayed to Gryffindor Tower; where she knew Ron and Harry were packing their things before they would have to return back home. She was already packed for the lonely journey that would ensure she headed back to the Muggle world - away from magical spells and culture for another summer. It stung even more this year; she could feel her insides burning at the mere thought of leaving Harry and Ron; especially after the events in the Department of Mysteries.
'Sirius,' she whispered under her breath. Sirius Black was dead. It seemed so surreal; like she was in a dream and any minute now someone would come and wake her up…someone... anyone. Just as long as she didn't feel this empty gaping hole inside of her begin to grow.
She and Sirius hadn't been necessarily close, in fact she had disagreed with him on a lot of decisions he had ever made. Some inkling inside of her was always looking out for Harry, and something about her screamed that Sirius was trying to once again live out his childhood fantasies with James Potter.
But still, it hurt to know that one of the people who had been involved in such a large and incomplete adventure, would no longer be smiling at them from across the dinner table. That he would no longer be popping up in the fireplace, grinning ear to ear, ready to hear every, if any problems that she, Ron or Harry had. Some part of her would always miss that large black dog who would run at their heels and grin, his silly little doggie grin.
She rasped out a long, strained breath. The sun was setting, shedding its pink and orange streaks across the horizon and decorating the already gorgeous landscape. The sound of crackling leaves caught Hermione's attention and she glanced over her shoulder.
There was no one there.
She shook her head, hugging her knees to her chest and resting her head on her knees. Her long brown hair draped down onto her knees, tickling them through her long, white stockings. She heard another crackle of leaves. Narrowing her eyes, she turned around once more -- only to be met once again with nothingness.
"What the..." she muttered under her breath. Hermione stood up and brushed the few damp leaves and blades of grass from her blouse, skirt and leggings.
"You missed a spot," a voice drawled from above her. In her surprise, she looked up into the tree, only to be met with two steely grey eyes. Her face suddenly contorted into a glare and her hands balled into fists.
"What the hell are you doing here, Malfoy?" she hissed. He smirked, folding his arms and propping them up on one of the spare branches. His legs were sprawled out in an awkwardly relaxed manner as he raised his chin and gestured towards the lake.
"It's the last sunset of my fifth year," he began, not even looking at her as he spoke. "I'd appreciate being left alone to enjoy it."
Hermione narrowed her eyes, practically seething with hatred as she glared at the uncaring boy. She stifled a snort. "I was here first; I don't see why I should have to leave."
"Actually," he said boringly, "I've been here for quite awhile. You were just too absentminded to notice."
Hermione blinked looking down at where she had been sitting before glancing back up at the Slytherin who was watching her curiously from above. He sneered, turning away from her to admire the landscape. Not willing to give in to defeat, she merely sat herself back down on the damp grass, muttering curses under her breath.
Obviously amused, Draco's eyes trailed over the lake and the two sat in relative silence for a few minutes.
"Where are Potter and Weasley? Aren't they supposed to be out here protecting you from mass-murdering, evil overlords?" He drawled after some time had passed.
"They're preparing for the trip home," she said plainly. She was surprised, though she didn't show it. Small talk was not common between enemies.
"Oddly enough, I'd have thought that they would be out here, comforting you over the loss of someone as great and honoured as Sirius Black," he muttered sarcastically.
Hermione opened her mouth, then closed it, before realizing that he must have overheard her musings. She gritted her teeth and kept her eyes on the serene lake. "Don't you dare speak about Sirius," she growled, warningly.
Sharp, brittle laughter echoed out of the tree. Hermione looked up at the young boy, who smirked devilishly down at her. His face was one of malice and detest, but he nonetheless, jumped down from the tree. She edged away from his feet, which had landed just a centimetre away from her fingers.
"So, tell me Granger, why shouldn't I speak about Black?"
"Because," she admonished, "he was too good a person for anyone of your calibre to so much as recognize."
Draco raised his eyebrows, his face shining with silent rebuke. "He was of my family, you know?"
She looked at him, startled. He smirked knowingly, silently glad of her surprised. "Sirius Black was my second cousin."
"You're lying," she blurted out.
"No, Granger, my mother was, at some point of her life, his cousin."
"Some point of his life?"
"Black has been a disgrace to his family since he was a teen. He was disowned years before I was even born."
"Oh..." Hermione whispered. Draco nodded slowly to himself as he repeated the words that still lingered on the tip of his tongue. He shoved his hands deep inside his pockets and turned to face the lake, his slicked silver-blonde locks falling out of place and shadowing his eyes.
"How well did you know Sirius?" she asked, surprising even herself. Startled, Draco cast a weary glance, before shaking his head and speaking as if to himself:
"I didn't know him at all, it's not like he was going to come visit a family member he never knew after he escaped from Azkaban."
"So, why are you bothering to speak with me about him, Malfoy?"
Draco shrugged, considering for a moment whether he should convert back to his thoroughly evil and bratty self. Perhaps marching back up the castle would serve his credibility some justice. But Hermione's eyes, which were oddly cruel for someone so emotionally wrought, were focused directly on him. He couldn't just leave her there thinking she'd won.
"Because knowledge is power and those who know their enemies, know what they're capable of," he said, thinking of the first excuse that came to his head.
Hermione frowned, cocking her head to its side. "Sirius Black is dead, what more do you need to know about him? You and your Death Eater father aren't up for a round of necromancy, are you?"
"Don't be a bitch, Granger," he shot.
"Don't be an arse, Malfoy," she mimicked, bitterly.
"You're the one who dragged my father into this," he muttered, seethingly. His fingers clenched tightly around his wand, for he was a Malfoy and what is a Malfoy without his pride?
"And you're acting like a toddler," said Hermione, rolling her eyes. She stood up, suddenly feeling her surroundings growing darker. The sun had almost set and here she was, in the ever enveloping darkness, with a boy who seemed ready to hex her into next year. "I don't see why you have such an issue about your father being a Death Eater," she continued. "After all, everyone knows it. Isn't that why he's serving a nice long stretch in Azkaban? Or is he only there for the sights?"
Draco whipped his wand out of his pocket, holding it to Hermione's throat. She stood, taken aback by his reaction. Her face soon settled from shock to annoyance. She scowled at him, not even caring that she had left her wand back in the castle.
"You think you're so fucking smart Granger, don't you?" he growled.
"I don't need to think I'm smart to know that your father is part of the reason Sirius Black is no longer alive!" she roared, her cheeks suddenly tinged with pink. Her jaw clenched and she could feel her nails digging into the palms of her hands. Suddenly, all the rage from her remorse began bombarding her senses. It took all her strength to stop launching herself at him and slapping him. His arrogant frown and his disapproving eyes only caused her more anguish.
"My father didn't kill Sirius Black!" he bellowed, his wand shaking like a leaf in his hand.
"No, but he did the next best thing, didn't he?" she hissed. "He helped set it up! He helped kill your mother's cousin. He and Voldemort enlisted the help of that house elf Kreacher and in the end, Sirius fell through the veil. Face it Malfoy, perhaps your father isn't the pinnacle of perfection that you seem to think he is!"
"Oh isn't he?" Draco sneered. Hermione frowned. "My father may not be walking around as a free man right now, but it won't stop him. Do you really think that the Dark Lord would let his faithful Death Eaters rot away in Azkaban?"
Suddenly, Hermione could no longer feel the so-called Gryffindor bravery flowing through her veins. She shivered as she spied the malevolent glint in his eye. Draco's collected attitude had disappeared into nothingness, leaving behind the shadow of the boy who had been standing in front of her.
"What do you want, Malfoy?" she breathed. Her eyes focused his wand, where green and silver sparks were shooting out. "If you're going to hex me, then you may as well do it."
Draco considered this for a moment, realising with obvious mirth and delight that for once, he had the upper hand over the ever-so-wise Granger. Her dark brown eyes were boring deeply into his steely expression. Hostility and fraudulence lurked within her, yet he didn't seem to care. And then to her astonishment, he slowly lowered his wand.
"Who said I was going to do anything?" he asked, sneering as he lit his wand. The sun had now fully set and the only light they had was the dim light emanating from the castle.
Gaping, Hermione retreated a step, eyeing the young Slytherin suspiciously. "What are you playing at?"
"Nothing," he said plainly, holding his hands up as in surrender. His expression still unsettled the Gryffindor and she narrowed her eyes. "Did you want me to curse you, Granger?"
"Don't be stupid!"
"You see, I don't curse you and I get called stupid. If anything, you should be grateful that you're not a pile of frog innards right about now!"
"You want me to be grateful that you didn't curse me, which incidentally, would have been because I was right about your father?" she almost shouted into the darkness. Suddenly realising the irony, Draco ran the words through his head once more. Cursing under his breath, he frowned and furiously scratched his blonde head of hair.
"Oh just sod off!" he barked, turning his back to her. He began leading himself back to the castle, his lit wand choosing his path.
"Ahem," a sharp voice cut in.
Glowering, he turned back to Hermione. "What do you want now, Granger?"
"I can't see in the dark, Malfoy," she murmured, gesturing to his wand and the dark, camouflaged grounds.
"Use your own."
"I can't," she said nervously. Draco expression was questioning and she wrung her fingers together, unsure of what to do. Realising that he wasn't the most patient of people, she sighed. "I left my wand in Gryffindor Tower."
His lips curled into a dark little smile and he took a step closer to her, the light now illuminating her face. His silver-blonde hair caught the light, making him look even more devilish. "What's to stop me from leaving you out here in the dark?"
Hermione huffed, bouncing from one foot to another impatiently. "Oh come on? Do you really think Dumbledore would be that happy to hear you've left me for the centaurs to eat?"
"I don't know, Dumbledore's a strange man," said Draco, nonchalantly.
"Why do you have to make this so difficult?" she hissed.
"Because I've asked a question and I haven't received a reply?" he enquired sweetly.
Having endured enough stalling, Hermione stormed over to Draco and snatched the wand right out of his hand. Before he could even protest, she gripped onto the now free hand and began dragging him across the grounds, towards the castle.
"I can walk, you know!" he ordered, pulling his hand back. She rolled her eyes, silently glad that he hadn't chosen to dally. All she wanted right then was to be back in the castle, within the general vicinity of her friends and teachers.
"Then keep walking," she growled through clenched teeth.
"Mudblood," he hissed under his breath.
"Inbred pig," she countered. They both sauntered towards the castle in relative silence, casting a glare back and forth between one another. They soon neared the large wooden door. Hermione held out Draco's wand, a small, forced smile capturing her features.
"Thankyou Malfoy," she said sarcastically. She reached up to grasp the large, mahogany knocker which was her ticket to escape from 'that bloody Malfoy'. Before she could heave the large doors open, a pale hand landed upon hers.
"What do you want now?" she asked, clearly annoyed. Draco glanced down at the ground, then back at Hermione and the castle. He swallowed the lump that had formed in the base of his throat. It was if he was struggling for the right words. "Spit it out! I don't have all night!"
"What was he like?" Draco blurted out, exasperatedly. Hermione blinked, surprised was an understatement.
"You mean Sirius?" she asked quietly, her temper suddenly disapparating. Draco's cold grey eyes came to rest on her petite face. He nodded grudgingly.
"Why do you want to know about Sirius?" she whispered, suddenly aware of the noises coming from inside the castle. She pulled herself away from the large wooden doors, turning to face the young Slytherin.
"Does it matter?" he asked, shrugging as if it were just a casual, everyday question he was asking and that Hermione was an everyday acquaintance. Hermione considered pressing him for information - to have answers to this new riddle. But the expression on the schoolboy's face proved one of sincerity, something she had yet to have seen in her former years at Hogwarts.
"Sirius Black..." she began, "he was a mystery. To me at least, though I doubt I was the only one." She paused to note the interested expression on Draco's face. She couldn't help but smile as memories of Sirius came flooding back to her. The same lop-sided grin and mischievous twinkle in his eye...
She shook her head, biting her lip before grinning to herself as her eyes twinkled with insubordinate tears. "Sirius was amazing. There are no real words which can truly describe him, though. He was ... he was one of those people that you can never truly forget..."
Hermione reached up and brushed away the warm, salty tears which betrayed her and she stood up, taking a deep breath calm herself. She smiled though, for even in the presence of this Malfoy - one of the people in this world that she could ever truly claim to hate -- she could not suppress the delight and rebellion that shone down on her at the mere memory of that loveable soul.
"Thankyou," whispered Draco.
She looked at him in surprise, as if realising that he was still standing there next to her. The sudden realisation caused her cheeks to burn as she invasively dried her tear stained cheeks. Clearing her throat, her frown returned.
"Why did you want to know about Sirius?" she asked. Her voice was firm, yet calm. Draco pursed his lips, his face was expressionless now as he searched for some kind of satisfying answer.
"Sirius Black... he's a legend within my family. He's hated, to put it plainly..."
"You wanted to know, because you hate him?" she asked, her eyes narrowed slightly.
"Read between the lines. He was hated because he betrayed his family, because he chose the life of a protector of the wizarding race, rather than an ally of the largest power that had ever come to claim the wizarding world."
Hermione nodded slowly, running his words through her head countless times. Suddenly, realisation hit her and her eyes widened slightly. "What are you saying, Malfoy?"
Draco merely smirked. He reached up and gripped a hold on the large mahogany knocker. He knocked, causing the doors to slowly open on their own. He nodded to Hermione slightly, gesturing inside.
"What's there to say?"
Authors Note: OK, I hope it didn't turn out too confusing. This was originally supposed to just have Hermione and Draco discussing Sirius' death by the lake, but I kind of went a but far and got caught up in the characters. I like how I ended it though. Either way, please review and let me know what you thought!
Edited on Oct. 10th 2003 - Changed to Beta'd version. Thank you Lyss!