All concepts, characters, and magical creatures are sole property of J.K. Rowling; here, used for non-profit & purely entertainment reasons.
The Painted Past
By Adelaide E
"This is it, isn't it?" Hermione asked him quietly. "It's happening now."
Ron stared down at her, the vision in his right eye blurred by a steady stream of blood. Already, she thought distantly. Already, he was bleeding. The first few seconds of the war and her Ron was injured.
She couldn't stomach the idea. That hated word: War. So misleading, with its promises of victory, glory, and the death of evil. Somehow, whenever she thought of the inevitable event, she had never envisioned Ron getting hurt.
The morning was beautiful and chilly. They hadn't stepped outside, but knew because the windows were broken by the sudden attack, and cold air swept through the corridors. It shouldn't have been such a brilliant morning with the darkness plundering their sanctuary.
"I s'ppose so," he said in a low voice. Or perhaps it had been the explosion that tampered with her hearing. Hard to tell. Hard to tell anything in the grey, chaotic maelstrom happening around them. They found peace—fleeting, no doubt—crouching behind a statue just outside the Great Hall.
"It doesn't make sense," she told him, voice so sensible. "We have hundreds of defenses for an attack. Another reason is…" Ron was gazing at her with something akin to pity, and she looked away. "And Harry hasn't felt you-know-who's presence in months. It doesn't make sense." Later, Hermione didn't know how she did it. To speak of sense and reason, when there were children screaming in pain just a few metres away.
"Hermione," he began, now yelling because another explosion rocked the foundation.
"No!" She was not so calm as she liked to appear, for now her chin trembled and her voice cracked. "No! We can't have a war, Ron, we just can't! We have our N.E.W.T's soon, and I have an exam this afternoon and you have practice tomorrow—"
He had grabbed her elbows, with a grip so strong it shocked her into silence. "Hermione. We will fight."
He was right. Imagine that, she thought hollowly. Ronald Weasley was right and Hermione Granger was babbling like an idiot. But the reality had yet to hit her, for she only shook her head numbly. "No, Ron. I can't. I don't want—"
"None of us want to die Hermione," Ron said harshly, still shaking her, still trying to find the calm, collected girl beneath the hysteria. "But we have to fight. We have to protect the younger ones."
"I don't want you to die!" she finished helplessly. A sob escaped her lips, and her arms wrapped around his neck. Hermione clung to him with fervent fear, unable to think of anything else besides him. Yes, she heard the helpless pleas of the first years, and of course she saw the unthinkable injuries of her fellow students…but they weren't Ron. Ron was already bleeding, she reasoned, and surely that was enough? Surely nobody expected him to go charging back into the Hall, where hundreds upon hundreds of Death Eaters were pouring in?
He held her just as tightly, and wondered if she realized that the same fate could be waiting for her. Irrationally, he was angry with her for not knowing that. She was Hermione Granger, for heaven's sake. She knew everything. She should have known that every second just talking meant a wasted second; a second that could have saved another's life. An unshakable resolve hardened within him, and he asked softly, "Where is Harry?"
It was a simple question, and yet sent her into another flood of tears. As if she knew that he planned to assist his best friend in battle. Preferably, Ron thought to himself, with Hogwarts' smartest witch. They were the Golden Trio, after all. No bloody Death Eater could challenge the Golden Trio and live to tell the tale.
Her shoulders began to shake with her weeping, and Ron changed his mind. He didn't want her any where near the fighting. He wanted her at the Burrow, with mum, making some sort of pastry, ready to eat when all this was over. "Go," he ordered, not sure whether he meant to find Harry or to fly to safety. "Go, Hermione."
"No, Ron, please don't—"
"Where is Harry? We must find Harry, Hermione. He must still be in there, I reckon. I'll go find him. You go find Ginny, and then both of you send as many owls as you can—"
They stopped and stared, for Snape was striding purposefully towards them. Roughly shoving Ron aside, he leaned against the statue and heaved a painful sigh.
"Professor," Ron growled, "there has been an attack in the Great Hall—"
"Shut up Weasley," Snape sighed, "there's been another down in the dungeons." The pair watched in horror as he slid to the ground, unable to support himself any longer. Hermione kneeled closer to the man, and found a deep gash in his side. "Never liked Malfoy much," he said faintly.
"Professor, we have to take you to Madame Pomfrey," Ron grunted as he tried to take on the man's weight. With strength one would not expect from a dying man, Snape pushed him away, and slapped Hermione's helping hands. Ever the ungrateful, greasy bat, to the end.
"She needn't waste time on those who can't be saved," Snape explained gaspingly. "And I just popped up here to tell somebody that we've a two front battle." Ron, concerned with the numbers and location, made moves to interrogate their professor further. Hermione slowly backed away, for she realized that the man was dead. It was the first death she had witnessed, the first of thousands. Ron snarled in frustration, and stood to find a suitable sheet to cover for the corpse. His movement caught her eye.
"Don't Ron!" she cried, trying, in vain, to pull him away. To where, he wanted to know. If Hogwarts was no longer a safe haven, where the bloody hell did she expect to flee? "Ron—what will I do if you—if you don't—"
With a strength that was impossible to challenge, Ron pried her arms off and pushed her away. Roughly, he knew, but Hermione would understand his heartlessness later on. Or so he told himself. "Hermione, this is more than you and me. This is about the world as we know it."
She was furious. In all their years together, Ron had never seen her so livid that she trembled with rage. When she roared her reply, the volume rivaled the death cries of the impromptu soldiers around them. "There is no world if you're not in it!"
"Don't be daft," he replied coolly, and shoved her in the direction of the Gryffindor tower. "Go, and find Ginny. The twins, if you can."
For a brief moment, he hated himself. Ron nearly suffocated with the amount of guilt caused by the lost, helpless gaze in his fiancée's eyes. Unable to stand the thought that it was the last vision he had of her, Ron swiftly caught her hand, and whispered urgently, "Sum presentialiter, Absens in remota."
It wasn't enough. They didn't feel adequate to her, those age old words of comfort. But it was all he could give at the moment, and Hermione accepted that.
She smiled tremulously, before turning and dashing away. Ron thought he heard her promise that she would return, but couldn't tell amidst the chaos.
There were no tearful hugs, nor desperate kisses. No time for that nonsense. And they did not cry out "I love you's" from across the halls, for they knew that already, and would not waste precious breath in repeating it.
He watched her depart, cringing when rubble or a hex would barely miss her tiny frame. When she was finally out of his sight, Ron absently wiped at his eye before marching into the Hall.
Hermione did return. Ginny had told her not to, that it was too dangerous, but Ginny simply didn't understand. She had to see Ron.
And she did. Hogwarts not only lost the battle, but also a vital part of their Golden Trio.
"What're you studying?"
"Latin, I told you already."
"What's this? Ouch, don't snatch, you horrible thing, you'll leave paper cuts."
Hermione's eyes fluttered open as an irritatingly bright morning poured through the windows, and she was drowsily surprised by the amount of effort the simple action required. In fact, it felt as if her entire body was weighted with faint pain. Thank heavens this bed was so soft…
Whose bed was it?
She sat up, and her head protested the immediate action. Completely disoriented by her ill condition and her mysterious location, she laid back down with a loudly dismal sigh. With her limited view, she saw a large room filled with antique furniture and foreboding paintings. Various magical devices decided she was not at her parents' house. It was tastefully decorated in forest green and blazing gold. The colors reminded of the long forgotten rival between Slytherin and Gryffindor. It seemed so trivial now. After everything else…
The self pitying sigh brought another out of his sleep. "Hermione? Are you awake?" Hermione, stifling a gasp, turned to her right, and found none other than Draco Malfoy sitting in a chair near her bed.
Well, her mind contradicted timidly, we don't know if it's your bed, per se…
She gathered her wits, and snapped tiredly, "Unless I've found a magical way of sleeping eyes wide open, I suppose I am."
Instead of retaliating, Malfoy's gray eyes narrowed and he quickly strode to her side. She was slightly disturbed at how tall he was, but then realised it was due to her current supine position. There would be little chance of injuring him while simply lying there…
All martial thoughts vanished when Malfoy placed a gentle hand on her forehead. "Love, illness is not a feasible reason to get testy with me."
Hermione stared at him, taken aback. There were so many wrong words in his sentence…she didn't know where to begin her horrified dissection.
Her mind, however, recuperated splendidly. Let's start studying that ring on his finger. On his left hand…
No, she decided in a near panic. She did not want to think of that now. Not when that hand started to stroke her hair in a decidedly tender manner.
All righty then, her evil subconscious switched topics, how about the ring on your finger of your left hand…
"Eep!" she let out, startling Malfoy away. Never mind the fact that him leaning over her was surprisingly familiar. As a matter of fact, this entire scenario was familiar. Waking up on this side of the bed, in this particular room, seeing his benign face…déjà vu.
No. No, no, and, for emphasis, no. Waking up with Malfoy was not something with which she would ever grow accustomed. When her enemy raised a pale eyebrow, Hermione explained herself quickly. "The ring on my hand is in no way related the ring on your hand. Got that?"
Married? At eighteen? It was insane! Of course, the idea of matrimony directly after graduation did not seem so terrible with Ron, but this was an entirely different situation…
"Erm…" Hermione smirked when she observed that Malfoy was clearly scared by her malevolent tone. "Dear, I think you're still a bit under the weather." His hand, unfortunately out of Hermione's sight, dropped to rest on her stomach. She slapped it away. Never mind the fact that her mind whispered that he had done that before.
"It is Granger to you, Malfoy. And you have no right to—"
She was prepared to say "touch me" but he had raised his hands in surrender before she could finish. Still, she was not pleased.
"You have no right to tell me that I am under the weather. I'll have you know that I am no where under the weather. I am level with the weather. As a matter of fact, I am so far above the weather, I don't even see the weather. That's how far above the weather I am!"
By the time she finished with her insensible tirade, Draco had risen and distanced himself safely from the bed. After he gulped, he managed to say, "Is this some sort of metaphor for saying you're high?"
Malfoy had learned a thing or two from Quidditch. So dodging her angrily thrown pillow was fairly simple. The bed side lamp landed squarely on his chest, however, and Malfoy glared at the adorable witch on his bed. "Dumbledore warned me you'd be a bit out of sorts after the accident, but he never mentioned flat out insanity," he wheezed as he sorely made his way back to his chair.
"Dumbledore knows I'm here?" Malfoy nodded. "And he's allowed it?" Another nod. "Has he gone senile?"
He almost nodded again—for he learned that was the best way to avoid arguments with women—when he belatedly realized her question. "No," he replied, confused. "In fact, if he were to speak against a husband and wife living together, that would have called to question his faculties. Still," Draco added, laughing to himself, "He said the craziest thing the other day. Claimed that the petrol jelly beans weren't that bad—Hermione? Love? Dear?"
No use. She had fainted.
He set about reviving her when a well placed kick in his thigh successfully distracted him.
"Mione," he ground out, "if this is how you treat family, I'd hate to see what you do to the enemy."
"You are the enemy," Hermione retorted angrily, and sat up against the head board. Malfoy stared at her in wonder.
"You are the enemy."
"Since first year!"
"Oh Merlin," Draco sighed in exasperation and sat on the bed. "I thought we got over the Hogwarts drama."
"How can we get over something that we are still in? What?" Hermione noticed he was staring at her with obvious concern etched on his face. There was something wrong; besides the obvious fact that hell froze over and she and Malfoy were married. Hermione could not shake the feeling of dissension within this universe. She could not easily place her finger on it, just as one could not discern the hidden discord in an entire symphony.
"Hermione," he said carefully, scooting closer. "What is the last thing you remember?"
Her chocolate eyes darkened considerably, and her entire body become taut with fury.
"The battle, you git. The battle against your father and the rest of the bloody Death Eaters." Hermione looked away and took a deep breath. She would not show weakness before Malfoy. She refused to, despite the dark and chaotic images this conversation resurrected. Her mind made a futile attempt to ward off the past. Seven hours of pure hell.
Don't think about it now…
Her professors' valiant last stand to protect the children; Snape the first to die. Madame Pomfrey's honour as she tended the wounded pupils, evil or good.
Let's just tuck the pain away, forget the cold the past brings…
Dumbledore's indescribable power as he towered fearlessly before the squad of potential executioners. Harry's determined green eyes flaring as he searched for and found the Dark Lord himself.
We'll live with the memories some how…
She remembered the twins' search of their youngest brother and sister in the horrible combat, only to find their final resting places amidst the rubble. That was only half way through the battle.
And Ron's last kiss on her bloody lips before he turned away. To wait for Harry to join him at the end of the Great Hall. She remembered being dragged out of the most dangerous site by Zacharias Smith, watching in terror as the great doors swung shut with finality.
Hermione saw him, but not for as long as she liked. She never saw his very last minute, she never heard his very last breath. All she had to remember was him turning away. To die, leaving his girl all alone in that world he had just sacrificed himself for.
Please, let's just think of happier things…
But she couldn't. Not with the vision of Ron's handsome face, covered in soil and grime and blood of fighting, staring at her with such longing. She would give anything to see him again, if only for a second. To see him, to hug him, to clean him up and say, softly, "You have dirt on your face? Did you know?"
The sob escaped her lips before she could help it. Things weren't supposed to go so wrong that day. She had awoken that morning, thinking the worst of the day would be a Latin exam. She had passed out when she lost the only man she had ever loved.
Two strong arms enveloped her, and Hermione leaned into the warm chest before her.
"Hermione," Draco said thickly. "That was nearly a year ago."
She didn't listen. She couldn't, so lost in her grief. Her voice became dark and scratchy as she remembered Malfoy's particular role.
"You were a Death Eater," Hermione accused in a hiss. Draco did not release her, though the tension in her frail body frightened him. "Just like your father." It was not fair to remind him, Hermione knew. Lucius had died at the First Battle, apparently not as powerful as he liked to believe.
"We all bear the marks of our past," he murmured nonchalantly. Hermione eyed his arm, seething as she pulled back the sleeve to reveal the condemning brand. Draco gave a bitter smile. "Of course, some of our marks are more obvious than others."
Oh yes, they had scars. How very well she knew that. Even a few of the youngest students became horribly disfigured after the First Battle. If the Death Eaters could not kill all, then they ensured that the lucky survivors would remember the suffering. Be it a cut or a burn, a lost friend or a lost sense, they would remember. Hermione, burdened with so many wounds she had lost count, realized that the bastards had forced her to lose her sense of hope.
She wanted to fight this supposed Death Eater before her…but god she was tired. She could no more fight than a blind man could witness another dawn. What was the point? The dawn came, the sun warmed them, but that sightless man couldn't see it. And Draco was within her reach, and he was vulnerable, but there would be no triumph to shine through if she attacked.
Draco hugged her tighter, forcing her to return to the here and now. "Hermione, listen. I think the lab explosion might have affected your memory. The First Battle happened a year ago." Was it a lie? Hermione harbored no ill will towards illusions and lies at this moment. For Truth only offered a grey and unchangeable past. "Hermione, don't you remember anything since then?"
"What are you talking about?" she asked, lifting her tear stained face to his own. Draco fought the urge to kiss all her worries away. He recognized that frozen landscape in her eyes, and fought doggedly to thaw it. He would not lose her to memories, not after he had warred against all the other odds to win her now.
"Granger," she corrected coldly, though made no movement to escape his embrace. Draco smiled, and took it as a sign she was softening.
"If you insist on last names, I'll have to call you Malfoy, which you are inexplicably calling me. It will be quite confusing when visitors come for tea. 'Malfoy,' one will say, 'I adore your hair, whatever do you do to it?' Then they will have two answers at once. One about good conditioner and the other about getting struck by lightning."
Against her will, Hermione giggled and allowed him to wipe the last of her tears. As small as the success was, Draco beamed happily as if he had saved the world. Then she registered the first part of his silly little speech.
"Erm…did you say my last name is now Malfoy?"
"Yes. Hermione Malfoy, the Beautiful and Brilliant."
Hermione was considerably less enthusiastic about the apparent name change. His optimism was dangerously contagious, she noted.
"Uh…did a strange twist of fate link us to be long lost cousins?" Draco, now perplexed, shook his head in a negative.
"Did I have to assume an alias to avoid Death Eater bounty hunters?"
Again, he told her no.
"Well," Hermione asked, a bit desperately, "did you adopt me?"
At that, Draco did not even answer. He was too busy chuckling. "Oh, that explosion addled your brains all right. Honestly. Adopt you?"
"At the lab," he explained patiently, and kissed her cheek chastely. Her skin tingled, much to her bewilderment.
"Your Potions lab. You're the Potions professor at Beauxbatons."
Hermione shifted, and then glared at her so called husband. "This is a trick."
"I beg your pardon?"
"None of this is true. I would never become a Potions professor, nor would I teach at that school. And, really, isn't it a bit silly for me to go directly into the work force without getting some sort of university education?"
Draco gazed around the room, as if in hopes of finding someone to support his claims. Instead of waiting for his response, Hermione scooted out of his arms impatiently. "Where am I?"
"Our home," Draco answered, bewildered. His wide eyed, pouty lipped expression reminded Hermione of a little boy asked to recite all the ministers of magic in alphabetical order.
"And why am I here?"
"Because you had an accident and the headmaster gave you a few days off. Bloody well should have, in my opinion. Imagine! Only a month for your honey moon—"
"Stop talking, please," Hermione requested politely, trying with all her being to erase his last two words from her mind. "When may I leave?"
Now, Draco Malfoy was positively dumbfounded. "Beg your pardon?"
"How soon will I recover and when may I leave?"
"Look," Draco began roughly, and pushed himself away from the bed. "I know you're not overly fond of this abode, but it is my inheritance and I won't deny it. You needn't fake amnesia to try and make us move to a nicer place."
"Don't be ridiculous," she muttered crossly, inwardly wondering what the hell he was talking about. Hermione wasn't completely comfortable with the fact that she and Draco had spoken of domestic matters. It seemed so utterly…married. "I don't give a damn about this house—"
"Castle," he corrected off handedly.
"Castle. All I want is to find Dumbledore and get this marriage nonsense straightened out."
"Now you sound like your Gryffindor mates," Draco said darkly, and Hermione witnessed a ghost of the Malfoy she once knew. He threw his hands up in the air in surrender. "All right. I'm going to owl Pomfrey and Dumbledore about this." With a brooding and injured air, Draco swiftly turned and strode out of the room. She thought she heard faint grumblings of "Marriage nonsense my arse."
Fifteen minutes later, Draco found his newly awakened bride standing on a chair, attempting to see—or escape—out of one of the high windows. He gently cleared his throat, but went ignored. Remembering his successful attempts of humour earlier, Draco gave a feminine, "Hem, hem," and saw her flash him a quick smile.
"Just…er…observing," she trailed off lamely. Cautiously, she stepped off the chair, and gingerly made her way to the bed. "How many stories are there?"
"Er…by appearances, five. Magically…who knows?" He shrugged and sat in his chair. "Don't fiddle with that," he scolded when Hermione absently tugged on her various bandages. They covered her wrist to her elbow, as they were the closest body parts to the supposed miscalculated cauldron.
"You were gone for a while," she noted awkwardly, and sat on the bed. Far from him, he noticed, a bit hurt. Apparently regaining some spirit, Hermione added snidely, "Couldn't you have just sent one of your house elves to do your bidding?"
"All right," he sighed and traversed the room to stand before her. An action that made her even more uncomfortable. "A, considering our 'till death do us part' situation, it would be our house elves. And two, I had given them all your damn kidney shaped hats."
Hermione was slightly stuck on the "A,…two…" thing until the last part of his explanation hit her. "You…you…freed the house elves?"
"You wouldn't even consider it until I did," he shrugged.
"My first proposal. Very poetic, in fact. Three stanzas about your hair, your eyes, your ars…" Hermione glared. "…your aspiring mind," he quickly saved.
"There was more than one proposal?" He nodded simply, as if this was all ancient history.
"Let's see…I proposed only two days before the Fifth Battle. And, after various ploys, string pulling, and several heart scars later, I proposed an hour after the seventh and Final Battle. Which was, you should know, nearly six months ago."
"That must have been romantic," she responded dully. "You on one knee, amid the blood and gore."
"It should have been," he agreed lightly, missing the sarcasm in her tone, "if you said yes. But no, I had to go and get almost killed before you even admitted you loved me."
"How could you have gotten almost killed after the Final Battle?" At her question, Draco looked sheepish, and shuffled from foot to foot.
"Buckbeak really holds a grudge…rotten animal, if you ask me. We had to use all the creatures we had to fight the Death Eaters. Then, of course, we had to round them up again. Have you ever seen Longbottom on a hippogriff? Graceful as…well, himself."
"Oh!" Hermione let out in frustration. "God damn it all to hell! You're not supposed to be funny. It will make this more difficult to get annulled!"
"Beg your pardon?" he asked, voice a bit cracked with panic.
Hermione gave one of her patented know-it-all looks. "Regardless of what you say, Malfoy, I can't stay here, being mistress of the house hold, if I can't remember becoming mistress of the house hold. Don't you think it would be fair if I left for a while?"
"Beg your pardon!" He couldn't help his rising volume. "We're barely newly weds!"
"That's simply hear say," she dismissed carelessly.
Draco began to pace, unable to deal with this new disaster. "Simply hear say?"
"Yes, as in I heard you say it. Rather unreliable source…I must apparate to Dumbledore. Or Mrs. Weasley, if she's available. Oh and my parents, while I'm out…"
Something flashed in his bright grey eyes. "You can't leave me."
Hermione braced herself for a psychotic spiel concerning her as an eternal possession of his and all that cliché rubbish. She was then disappointed by simple logic and irrevocable truth. Damn the reasonable ferret.
Draco shrugged apologetically and said, "Reasons beyond my control, actually. Your wand was broken in the lab accident. Mrs. Weasley is attempting to get Ginny settled in Romania—she believed a vacation with her older brother was best for the little girl's nerves."
Hermione frowned, and wondered if the Weasley's lost more than Ron and the twins. With all her heart, she sympathized. Draco, oblivious to her stab of concern, continued to speak.
"Your parents are recently emerging from the Ministry's witness protection program. It will be a while before we get their exact location." Hermione started, but knew Dumbledore would never let her parents in harm's way.
"And Dumbledore is tremendously busy overseeing the reconstruction of Hogwarts. Had a devil of a time catching Fluffy after the mongrel was set loose after the Third Battle. At this moment, they're constructing a tunnel so that the horrid thing can come and go as he pleases. No bloody use, if you ask me, now that the Philosopher's stone is gone. But I suppose that Hagrid character would want the tri headed freak to stay out of pity. Same business with Grawp, though I can't imagine any use for that thing—"
He was babbling, and he knew it. Hermione knew that he knew it, and furthermore, knew that he knew that she knew it. It was a bit endearing, this pitiful attempt to distract her. It was also rather unnecessary, considering how stranded she was. No wand, nobody available, and injuries to boot.
"Harry's alive, isn't he? If Voldermort's defeated, then Harry must be alive."
Draco managed a safe distance between them before answering. The action was enough to fill Hermione with painful apprehension. Various explanations filled her head, and each one included words of the end of his life.
"Well…we could only assume."
"Wait—" Hermione interrupted when she realised the word "dead" was not involved in his response. "What do you mean? Where is he?"
"I—er—we…couldn't find him. There was, of course, a final show down between the two. I swear, Hermione, Potter was bloody brilliant."
At that, Hermione's eyes narrowed, waiting for the sneer that revealed his comment as sarcastic. It never came. Instead, in his gaze shone sincere admiration.
"I never knew a wizard could be so powerful. I'm sure even Dumbledore, if he were there, would have been impressed. Then—they vanished. Not for long. We theorized that Voldermort had brought a portkey with him. Dumbledore suggested that they must have battled where Voldermort first emerged. Some time later, when we all had given up hope, he reappeared."
"Was he injured? Did he have amnesia too?" Draco shook his head, eyes downcast.
"No, Hermione, you misunderstand me. Voldermort reappeared, dead. Naturally, that means that Potter's alive. Some where…we just don't know where."
Immediately, Hermione's chocolate eyes became watery with the news. A split second later, she told herself to be thankful that her friend was alive. Ginny must have been devastated. "But," she asked in a small voice, "where was I?"
"At Hogwarts. We all were. That's where battles one, three, five, and six took place. Two occurred during a Puddlemere Quidditch game. Nasty bastards, attacking during when those crowds least expected it."
Hermione was beginning to doubt this was the real Draco Malfoy at all, considering he was uncharacteristically regretful of innocent people's deaths. Perhaps she had been kidnapped by a deranged zombie look alike…
"Course, bloody idiots deserved it. Who the hell participates in or attends a damn Quidditch match in the middle of a war?"
Then again, there was a strong possibility this was the real Draco the Arse Malfoy.
"The seventh happened at Christmas. Most of the houses stayed to help defend. Joining Dumbledore's Army, eh?" Hermione gave a ghost of a smile, and bade him to continue. "And we fought, because half the time we were under siege, and the other we were to afraid to leave. Hufflepuffs especially, stupid prats."
"Is that idiot Fudge still Minister?"
"Oh no. Demoted, naturally. Couldn't get a job any where, poor bloke. But Dumbledore took pity on him and made him Mr. Filch's assistant. Until he could find something more lucrative, of course."
Hermione smirked weakly. "Of course."
Draco edged to the door again. He had been talking so long he felt an ache in his knees. Simultaneously, they noticed the waning light pouring into the room.
"It feels strange to tell you this," he admitted softly, and stared at her beautiful face. "After all, you had seen more combat action than myself. Ministry invented a badge, you know, for the likes of you. You, Ginny, Seamus…that's how brave you were. That's how well you fought." His silky voice lost its energy when Hermione's eyes remained perplexed. "You really don't remember?"
Draco grew ineffably depressed when she merely shook her head. "We'll just wait until Dumbledore replies."
"I hope it's soon," said Hermione when he faltered. Draco didn't know whether to be relieved of disappointed by her eagerness.
"I'm going to make supper," he announced, and grimaced at the thought of it. Draco threw her a reassuring smile before opening the door.
"Mal—I mean, Draco? One more thing?" Hermione's tone was carefully polite and, if he didn't know any better, sweet.
He paused, summoned another winning smile, and turned to her again. "Anything, dear."
"Could we have separate sleeping arrangements, if you please? Until I regain my memory, that is."
Draco regretted his promise of "Anything." But her eyes looked so hopeful, and her soft pink lips trembled slightly as she awaited his answer… Malfoy sighed, and couldn't help the anxiety in his voice.
"But…what if that takes days? Weeks…oh Merlin." Here, Draco shuddered. "Or months?"
Hermione gave another sugary sweet smile. "Surely, Draco Malfoy, there is more to this marriage than sex?"
His response was thoroughly male and without contemplation: "But that's the fun part of marriage!"
Which was how he found himself shoved out of the room, with a door slammed in his face. With a smile, Draco sauntered down the shadowy corridors happily. Whether she realized it or not, Amnesiac Hermione had just committed a very wifely act.
Supper included nearly burnt soup, cold bread, and a Malfoy. Not her ideal dining arrangements.
Of course, the food was hardly enjoyable. But what made it unbearable was that he insisted on spoon feeding her, in between loving glances. It was disconcerting.
Hell, it was more than disconcerting. It was terrifying.
Because it almost felt like…Hermione was loath to admit it but, it felt as if she had instigated this Malfoy problem.
The beginning of sixth year, when the world was still a pretty picture only marginally marred by evil. Pansy had publicly quarreled with Draco near the end of breakfast. Hermione had heard it from Harry, because she had missed the fiasco. She had been too busy in the Gryffindor common room, arguing with Ron.
"And then she said," Harry hooted mirthfully, "that he could never satisfy her. That his kisses couldn't thaw an ice cube!" He stopped his chortles when he realized neither of his best friends was listening. "Right. I'll just go find Ginny."
Looking back on it now, she couldn't even remember the subject of feud. Most likely something incredibly trivial, such as homework or school rules. But Ron, being himself, had said something so irritating that Hermione stormed out of the room without any of her books.
As a prefect, she did not want to receive detention from Snape so early in the year. Tardy for retrieving them, or unprepared for abandoning them. She managed to wrangle a sick note from Pomfrey before heading to Hagrid's hut.
Hermione, however, had been so angry with her Ronnie-kins that she had fostered a momentary hatred for all males, even the giant, gentle hearted ones. Her feet led her astray, and she was hardly aware of her destination. "The brutes. The insensitive brutes. The insensitive, dumb, shockingly smelly brutes. The insensitive, dumb, shockingly smelly, utterly incurable brutes."
"I see you've found Potter and Weasel's true nature?" a cold voice drawled.
Startled, Hermione skidded to a halt. A good thing too, considering she was ready to walk into the lake. Slowly turning, she found a rather lonely looking Draco Malfoy sitting on a large rock.
She said nothing. Neither did he. For a few minutes, both simply allowed the sounds of the water fill the silence.
"I suppose you've heard?"
"What?" Hermione asked.
"That I've been dumped by pug face."
"Oh," Hermione replied nonchalantly. "Yes, I heard something about that."
"She'll come crawling back," Draco asserted, though with less confidence than usual.
"Yes," Hermione laughed gently, "you keep telling yourself that."
He frowned sulkily and stared at the water. "Skiving off class, Granger?"
"I am ill."
"Like hell you are."
"Well, you're not in class either."
"I'm doing field research."
"Are you really?" Hermione asked, curiously , and stepped closer. Excitement bubbled inside her, and wondered which class required data gathering. She would be sure to do her best—
"Yes," he answered. "We're in a field, aren't we?"
Her shoulders slumped, and all the academic excitement ebbed.
"What is it with you women?" he exploded suddenly after a lapse of silence. "Why the hell does it have to be so damn complicated? You say one thing, but you mean another. You do one thing, in hopes the complete opposite will occur. I just don't understand it!"
"Er…I'll need an example…"
"Shut it, Granger. I'm not about discuss my love life with the likes of you."
"Please don't," Hermione replied with sincere horror. "Any romance of yours would give me night terrors."
Draco twisted his lips to deliver a biting retort when he suddenly sighed with melancholy. "Yes…I suppose. I didn't make Pansy very happy."
"Pansy is hardly ever happy."
Draco straightened and told her icily, "She managed to be somewhat satisfied with me."
Hermione rolled her eyes and stepped closer. "You don't want to be with someone who is 'satisfied' with you. Nor vice versa."
"I don't? Advise me, then, you insufferable know it all."
"Honestly, the gratitude in the love-challenged is shockingly lacking," she chided. "You want to be with someone who makes you happy. Not just satisfied as one is satisfied with barely successful spell. You want to be completely and wonderfully happy with them."
"And I suppose Weasel makes you happy?" At the turn of the tables, Hermione shuffled about uncomfortably.
"Most of the time, yes."
"But that's not complete."
"No, I guess not."
"May I have a favour?"
"No," she answered, not missing a beat.
"An experiment," he rephrased, hoping she would rise to the bait. Predictably, Hermione's mahogany gaze sparked to life at the word.
"Oh! All right then! What's the hypothesis?"
"Any girl will develop feelings when kissed right."
"No," she refused, blind to the gleam in his grey eyes. "It's too narrow."
"Fine," he sighed. "Any girl will develop romantic feelings when handled physically in the correct manner."
"Oh no," she disapproved again, "that's too lewd."
"Leave all the perverted thoughts out, please Granger," he snapped. "Pansy said the most horrible thing this morning. And I'd like to know if it's her, or my technique."
Hermione crossed her arms, and tapped her foot sternly. "If you are suggesting to use me as the guinea pig, I happily decline. There are many unsuspecting sixth years, however, who would be delighted to fall for your charm."
"Yes, but they already have developed feelings for me. I'd like to know if my technique is persuasive enough on somebody who hates my guts."
"I hate more than your guts, Malfoy."
"Duly noted, but you can't possibly hate my hair," he said, a bit vainly.
"Because…oh you should be the one coming up with reasons. You, the muggle born hater?"
"Yes, so you hardly matter to me. I wouldn't dare attempt this with a pure blood. What if her parents told my parents I had been leading her on for a snog experiment?"
"Oh my," Hermione said dryly, "I just may swoon with those flowery words."
"Oh come off it," Draco sighed impatiently. He stood, and towered over the much smaller girl. "I don't see what harm it would do. Besides," he added when Hermione shook her head again, "I could always tell Snape you weren't exactly under the weather today."
"Do you know what? I hate you."
"Will you say the same after our kiss?" he challenged.
"We're not going to kiss—mmph!"
She had been ready to let loose a rather acidic expletive when his lips descended on hers. And while she couldn't argue that his lips were very soft, his tongue most stimulating ,and his hands terribly knowledgeable in the ways of physical pleasure…
Hermione did not feel one ounce of excitement.
It went on for quite sometime, because Hermione was confused as to why she didn't feel anything with such a good kisser. The setting was perfect as well, with the bright sun, the pristine lake, and…
Ron, somewhere in the school. Oh dear, how she missed Ron. Even if he was a dumb, insensitive brute, kissing Malfoy made her ache for one of Ron's sweet butterfly kisses against her skin.
Draco pulled away, breathlessly. "Well?"
Hermione, thinking of a certain red haired boy, only smiled with her eyes still shut. Draco shook her, and demanded an analysis.
"Hmm? Oh, what?"
"The kiss, Granger. How was the kiss?"
Despite his hard tone, Hermione could see from his expression that he desperately wanted her conclusion. Perhaps even his self esteem rested on her next words. It wouldn't have been very charitable to say that his kiss did not light one spark of fire within her, and most likely never would. After all, some mental case would someday find his romantic attempts delightful. Stranger things did happen.
"I…er…" Draco's hopeful gaze stared unflinching at her mouth, and Hermione struggled to keep an honest expression. "You know what Malfoy? I detested you before but…" She pictured Ron arranging a smiley face out of her bacon, and flashed her nemesis a dazzling smile. "I think I may like you a bit more."
"You're not joking?" he persisted and released her from his suffocating embrace. Hermione smoothed her hair and straightened her uniform before answering.
"Yes. Parkinson is dead wrong, you know. You kiss very well."
Draco was torn between arrogance and gratitude. He settled somewhere in between. "Thanks, but I already knew that." Upon seeing that his self confidence was still intact—something Hermione wasn't sure she was pleased about—Hermione gave him a giddy good bye and skipped away in search of Ron.
Looking back, perhaps it wasn't the wisest lie to feed him. Especially now, since he was feeding her, pretending the spoon was a Fire bolt. When he was done tending to her as if she were completely invalid, he proposed helping her into her night gown. She refused and sent him on his merry, lonely way.
But Hermione was not a completely heartless creature, even when it came to the matters of her enemies. She had noted his frequent yawns, his gaunt appearance, and the dark circles under his eyes. Nevertheless, he was wholly attentive to her needs. Despite his evident affection and devotion, Hermione was bewildered that no similar feelings were stirred in her heart. What she felt for Draco now was, at best, reserved for intimate friendship. But nothing of romance. Nothing of marriage. Nothing of love.
It was a restless night for her. Sporadically, she was attacked by bouts of paranoia. What if this was a hallucination? What if somewhere, she lay in a coma, and this was an elaborate dream? If not paranoia, then guilt. For if this wasn't fiction, and Draco and she were truly married…it must wound him terribly to gaze lovingly into her eyes without some emotion reflecting back.
What was irksome, however, was his overall devotion. Fluffing her pillows, tearing her bread for her, and all that nonsense. She may have been injured, but she was not a completely useless idiot.
Ron never did that. Considering all her accomplishments since their first year of Hogwarts, the fiery Weasley understood she was no damsel in distress. Even after they officially became a couple, he was not the sort to take her books, nor open doors for her unless she asked it of him. He, just as she wished him to, treated her as an equal. A "bloody brilliant" equal, to quote him exactly.
But he was by no means indifferent, either. Hermione smiled to herself as she donned a lacy night gown, and remembered how Ron always seemed to know when she needed a laugh, or a hug, or—heavens forbid—a break from studying. Once, in the middle of a trying Transfiguration exam, her eyes flickered once to Ron. It was his silly, cross eyed expression that kept her from fainting with stress. A similar occasion arose when she struggled to keep from hexing Bulstrode during one supper. She had sat on the bench, ears nearly smoking with anger from an insult, when she looked across the table to Ron, who had watched the whole exchange. She had been so angry until then that she only glared at her poor, innocent food. A decidedly inelegant guffaw tore out of her when she saw he had impaled two baby carrots on his canines, and said in his best imitation of his mother, "Now Hermione, there are starving animals and vampires all over the world. Surely you wouldn't let that food go to waste?"
Never mind the fact that anything with those types of fangs were most likely carnivorous, and wouldn't care for her vegetable dominated meal. And never mind the fact that, after a playful shove from Harry, Ron then nearly choked on the aforementioned carrots, turning an unhealthy shade of magenta. And never mind the fact that Bulstrode really did deserve a hexing. Hermione sighed with a wide smile, and murmured a spontaneous "I love you," causing another round of almost choking.
He knew her, perhaps better than she knew herself. Tears dropped, unnoticed, onto her lap as she climbed into the enormous bed.
She hoped that, for all he had done for her, she had been able to do the same.
Hermione tossed and turned, failing to find a comfortable position. It was understandable, when one took into account her wounded arms, her recent amnesia, and the fact that the love of her life was still dead.
Her eyes were duller at breakfast.
No, not duller. Draco studied them again as they silently ate once again in their bed. More like…jaded. Perhaps because she was starting to believe him. Malfoy looked down as soon as she felt his critical gaze.
He had foolishly thought that once she realized the truth of the situation, they would be happier. It did not take long for him to sort out the reason of her sudden sadness. She still missed him. She still missed that dead weasel.
"You know," said Draco conversationally, nearly startling his young wife. "You can't get this annulled." His subconscious told him this was not the best way to comfort her. But part of him didn't give a damn about comforting her. Perhaps it was because old habits died hard, he did not know why; all he knew was that if repeated persuasion would not work, then he would have enforce their marriage legally. Unfair intimidation be damned.
"I'm sorry?" was all Hermione said, suddenly torn from her silent reverie.
"Ministry's laws say a marriage cannot be annulled if consummation had already taken place." With guarded eyes, Draco observed her disgusted expression. "Old fashioned, yes." At least, he hoped the disgust pertained to the law itself, and not the idea of sharing a bed with him. "Under recent events, the laws are undergoing major reconstruction, but I doubt they'll rush to reform the domestic aspects."
Divorce then, her mind immediately replied, though not aloud. For some reason, she sensed now was not the time to test Draco's patience. Especially since his entire aura was so cold and menacing. Hermione watched curiously as his uncharacteristically expressive face came to a decision.
"You can manage on your own, right?" he asked distractedly. She nodded, and Draco left immediately afterwards. She did not see him until noon, when she wondered if she would be forced to navigate her own way to the kitchen. Before that, Hermione spent some time studying their chamber. The night prior, it had bothered her that her pillow smelled like her own hair. And the dressers and shelves were littered with her books, and pictures of her families and friends.
One photograph that particularly startled her was one that sat in a simple wooden frame. Written elegantly at the top was, "Our first picture together," in what she could only assume to be Draco's writing. It was taken with her mother's camera, so the four figures in it remained stationary. She, Harry, and Ron smiled widely for the camera, while far in the back was the fuzzy image of a boy. His pale blonde face was in the process of turning away, but not so quick that it could not be captured by the shutter. Draco had circled her face as well as his, pointedly ignoring the two other males in the photograph. Silly boy.
That was at the train station, just before seventh year truly began. Even in the amateur photo, Hermione recognized the haunted gleam in Harry's green eyes. Her eyes fluttered lovingly to Ron, who was, by his own words, not the handsomest man in the world… But to her, he was. She wouldn't have changed a single thing about him.
The rest of the room was typical Malfoy fashion. Rich, but dark, tasteful yet somehow sinister. Even a snake decorated bowl of candy sitting by Draco's side of the bed, each piece wrapped in green plastic, appeared ready to kill anybody within reasonable distance.
Her stomach rumbled unexpectedly. At the same time, a knock echoed throughout the room. Without waiting for her answer, it swung open, revealing a triumphant husband.
"Dumbledore should be arriving any minute," he informed her haughtily. Draco stared at her expectantly, and Hermione was tempted to perform a little jig with winning sarcasm. Instead, she looked behind her with obvious puzzlement.
"Er…am I supposed to do something?"
"I wasn't looking at you," Draco snapped, with his usual boyish charm. Hermione rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "I was looking at the wardrobe," he explained, tone softer.
Still a bit confused, Hermione turned around as well, and stared at the enormous mahogany wardrobe with uncertainty. Of course, there was always that muggle book, but surely Dumbledore would not fall prey to such a cliché. Aloud, Draco said, clearly amused, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardr—"
A door swung open.