Draco Malfoy sat alone, as he often did; melancholy, as he often was; and halfway to a drunken stupor, which was not quite so rare as his mother would prefer. Would have preferred. Had once preferred. His late mother was no longer capable of preferring much of anything, really... there. That was accurate, at least.
Draco took a hard drink from the glass of wine balanced on the edge of his sofa. Pinot Noir; his father's favorite wine, and his by proxy. Malfoys didn't swill, but if Malfoys ever did, it might have looked something like this. He wanted to be blissfully unconscious, and quickly, at the very least before his grandmother awoke for the evening. With some difficulty he resisted the urge to guzzle, and rubbed his temple in circles instead, hoping to lull himself to sleep.
Half-heartedly, his eyes followed the flame of the fire in front of him. He remembered the Christmas Eve he'd spent here, his parents having returned from a rather involved charity dinner in Diagon Alley and unwilling to make the commute back home. Mornings were best, of course; evenings were all nightcaps and smeared lipstick and runs in mother's stocking. Mornings were kisses and newspapers, scones and Father reading poetry aloud to Mother on the windowsill. They liked to sit like that, the fire roaring, enjoying the view of the park across the way. It was a good location. A sound investment, his father had always said.
It was all he had left of them now.
"Into the liquor, eh my dearie? I must protest! Wine makes you... dreary," a thickly accented voice cackled from the far wall of the parlor, with far too much glee for the hour and circumstance. Draco rubbed harder. It was too late. Once the woman awoke, it took a number of spells he was nowhere near sober enough to perform to shut her up. The old hag found great pleasure in awful poetry, and he suspected it tormented his father as dearly as it did him.
Had tormented. Did once torment. Tormented once, before-
His grandmother was frail, all spindly limbs, narrow face and thin lips. It was her nose that his father had inherited; a nose that hardened the faces of the women and claimed fear and respect for the men. An entirely Malfoy feature, like the Malfoy coat of arms, or Malfoy marble, a peculiar viridian shade his great-grandfather had strip mined in droves off the Amalfi coast. All were out in full force, here; the townhouse had been designed entirely by his mother, partially to compensate, he was sure, for its Muggle surroundings. Whatever the circumstance, Narcissa Malfoy very rarely spared expense, and took an almost unhealthy pride in her married name... or once took it. Had taken it. Would never take again.
The portrait peered down at him with considerable interest, beady black eyes narrowed in concentration. And how to break him? He was just as frail as she was, in a sense, and in another sense far more.
"Little Draco, little dear, whatever sorrow brings you here?" she cooed. "Dark and cold and fragile free, with only wine for company?"
"Silencing charm's worn off, has it?" he called into the darkness, more to hear a living voice than to say anything of import. "Do shut up tonight, won't you? I've a headache."
"Coarse and crude and rude and mean, prideful prince but so obscene-"
"Shut up," he snapped, with more force. A prince. Of what? "You're exceedingly lucky I kept you here. I should have taken you to burn with the rest of the bloody manor."
Draco blinked. He hadn't meant to say that, not at all; hurriedly, he took another long drink of the wine, swallowing it with little ceremony and going in immediately for another. It hurt his throat. He suppressed a cough.
"Your mother was happy, though, wasn't she? Such a pity, such a pity... such a lovely, lovely girl. I remember in the summers when she'd-"
"I don't want to hear any more! Just shut up!" he swept his wand off of the side table, leveling it in the painting's direction with uncharacteristic vehemence. Since the war, few things had managed to incite even hatred in him, never mind passions of any other sort, but she- his grandmother was a singularly infuriating woman. Portrait. Demon. Ghost.
"You would suffer serious pain if I were to cast incendio right now," he said. His wand shook in his hand, but they'd lived together- if you could call it living- long enough for her to know full well it was nerves, not any lack of conviction. Still, she laughed at him.
"Pain? I can't feel pain, princeling. You, on the other hand-"
"I will do it."
"Do what? Do what my boy couldn't bring himself to do? Go ahead, little Draco, go ahead... I'll burn like your parents did. Like you will, like we all have-" her increasingly hysterical voice ascended to a piercing laugh, and it echoed off the marble, reverberating down the hallway to his parents' bedroom. His parents' old bedroom. The bedroom in which his parents once slept.
They were gone.
Draco lowered his wand and turned back to his rapidly emptying glass of wine. He swirled the remnants about, inhaling the scent as he'd seen his father do. It was warm, and hard, and so terribly human... it was old, and alive, and it chased away the chill of the rainy autumn evening as it burned down his throat.
He knew he wasn't really cold; the temperature charms had been cast by the most skilled wizards money could bribe, and the floor was carpeted thick and windows sealed to the quick besides. It was more the darkness he had trouble escaping- and the wine was warm, and warmth was light where nothing else was and would likely ever be.
Casting a disparaging glance toward the now-silent portrait, Draco took the bottle in hand only to find it newly empty. How quickly it had emptied! And he was hardly of age to summon up more. This had been the last bottle left in the cabinet. The last vintage his father had selected, the last vineyard his mother had been meant to sample from, her delicate features lighting up with delight when he offered her a taste...
Lucius Malfoy would never stock the cabinet again. His father had taken great pride in it, once.
He'd go out for more himself.
Draco stood, regaining his balance on the arm of the sofa. A sobering charm would likely do him right, but he didn't fancy the headache. Not to mention that it would be a waste of all his almost superhuman efforts toward the contrary effect. He'd been a lightweight, once; funny what grief did to one's capacity for inebriation.
There wasn't very much that was funny about grief.
Shrugging a finely tailored coat over his robes, Draco stepped out of his apartment, locking the door behind him with a tap of his wand. He continued down a flight of stairs to the ground level, where he considered apparating but decided against it, due mostly to his drunkenness. He hardly knew where he was going; considering the hour it was unlikely that any wizarding liquor stores would be open. Venturing deeper into Muggle London was distasteful at best, though he'd had some good times there. Before things had gotten serious, when it was all intrigue and classified reports and clandestine meetings with his Aunt, and his cousin, and Professor Snape-
It seemed such a very long time ago, now.
With a slight incline of his head to the night watchman, who bowed deeply in return, Draco walked through the frosted glass doors of his building and out onto the street. He'd always found it amusing how much the illusion of wealth did to keep the Muggles away. There were no unplottable charms on it, no anti-Muggle wards at all... only near-illegible golden letters engraved in elegant script on the doorway and a thickly woven red carpet out front. That had always been enough to separate him from other wizards. Why shouldn't it scare the others off as well?
Yes, he had always found it amusing, and quite so; but he could hardly escape frustration with it now. He wanted to scream at them, all of them, the giddy couples staggering home from Finnegan's Pub around the corner, the gang of teenagers just back from the Muggle cinema, headed off toward the park; every last one of them, and all the others in the city, besides. You almost died You almost died and they died for you though they didn't want to-
He'd head toward Diagon Alley. Closer and closer, there would be more Wizard homes and apartment buildings mixed in with the Muggle ones... rather like his, though even moreso, Muggle next to Wizarding apartments, room by room. He couldn't fathom how they stood it, but somehow, they had, and for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Yes, he'd head toward Diagon Alley; careful to keep his face shielded from the curious, all those children and their blankfaced elders, curious about the Slytherin who turned, the boy who saved the Boy Who Lived, the heir to the largest vault in all of Gringotts and a hundred acres of blackened Earth.
And what else had he to his name? Pity, and proffered friendship. The pity he'd repudiated, the friendship he'd refused, and now he was alone in the world entirely, cast off by his formers and disdainful of what he'd betrayed them for. And what was that, exactly?
He hardly knew at all.
Cross St. A crossroad, a river crossing... was it going to his head yet? The wine, of course. The street was familiar; he usually crossed on the other side of the park, but this was a scenic route, old buildings with Victorian facades, painted in bright colors and drawn with carved wood. When had he been here before?
Granger. Bright-eyed girl, Prefect, Head, Member of the Order of the Phoenix; a mudblood, a child he'd pushed into the mud and called names and pulled the pigtails of. Brown hair. Brown eyes. A light was on in her window.
Unsure and entirely sure of his movements, Draco approached her building. His body moved as if it were routine. There was no doorman here. Only a set of mailboxes and a stack of day-old newspapers at the foot of the creaking staircase. It was 28B. He'd been here before. It had been a very dreary day.
He knocked. It opened. She appeared in the doorway, warm lamplight from the inside framing her unmanageable hair in gold. She hadn't aged at all. He was glad she hadn't; it made all of this easier. As if he'd been caught in the hallway after hours, or passed by in the dining hall. A meeting of chance.
"Draco Malfoy?" she asked blearily. Blinked twice, then came to attention. "What is it? Has something happened?"
"No, nothing," he responded quickly. "I just..." he trailed off, gesturing helplessly at the space between them. What could he say? "I don't know. It's raining, your light was on, and..." another helpless silence. She met his eyes, and something in them begged for her.
It wasn't a look she was too terribly used to.
"Perhaps you'd better come in," she said, stepping aside so that he could enter. He did, dripping water all over the pristine slate tile of her foyer. His mother would have killed him. After she'd made a fuss about the cold.
"You'll catch cold," said Hermione warmly, as if on cue, and latched the door behind him with her wand. She was wearing a quilted house coat (burgundy and gold and stitched, no doubt, by Molly Weasley) with a pair of white flannel pajamas. She looked warm. He was sorry he'd woken her. "Cast a drying charm, won't you? I'll put on some water."
Draco nodded, drying himself before venturing further into her apartment. It was relatively small by wizarding standards, though he imagined it would be considered comfortable for a Muggle. The 'real' space it occupied was hardly anything at all, just a bedroom and a bathroom, though through the careful use of some (entirely legal, he was sure) charms, it had been expanded to include a kitchen, study, and parlor.
Unsure of where to put his eyes, Draco studied the pictures on the mantle of her fireplace. There were numerous photographs of an older couple- Muggle, by their clothing; the man clearly snored and the woman looked to be mumbling softly in her sleep. She had exceedingly bright teeth. Aside from them, her mantle oeuvre featured Potter and Weasley most of all, grinning sleepily in Quidditch uniforms, school robes, and the odd set of Muggle clothing. There was a photograph from Harry and Ginny's wedding, to which Draco had been invited but had not attended. They beamed in the sunlight of the garden of the Burrow, Ron, an arm around Luna Lovegood, standing proudly next to Harry; Dean Thomas and a suspiciously puffy-eyed Hermione smiling warmly in Ginny's direction. Draco found their joy almost painfully disconcerting.
But that had been before.
The whistle of the tea pot broke him out of his reverie, and Hermione quickly withdrew the kettle from her Muggle stove, setting it out on her kitchen counter. Hesitantly, Draco sat at her dining table, feeling more and more awkward by the moment. She smiled weakly at him from the kitchen, as if to acknowledge the absurdity of it all, and he felt slightly heartened.
Only slightly, as it were.
"So," she said, pouring the hot water through the strainer into the cup she'd set before him, "what keeps you out at this time of night?"
"Wine," he answered, without thinking, and instantly regretted it. Her mouth turned down in a disapproving frown, and she took a seat to his right at the head of the table. A safe enough distance between them, but a comfortable sort of closeness.
Deliberate, of course. She hadn't changed at all from the Prefect he'd watched, spattered with blood whispering soothing words to a devastated Padma Patil; a vengeful Neville Longbottom; a thousand terrified children he'd known-
"Drowning your sorrows is liquor will hardly help them, Draco," she admonished, blowing on her tea to cool it. He found himself strangely fascinated by the gesture; she was the most accomplished witch of his generation, but there was something so foreign about her, so curiously Muggle. She raised an eyebrow as if to ask what on earth he was staring at, and he quickly turned his attention back to his own cup.
"I'm well aware of that, Granger," he replied, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his tone. Despite the intended effect, her face softened, and she leaned forward in her chair to look up into his eyes.
"Come on, Draco," she emphasized his first name, as if to say they were far past the ridiculous surname references of their youth. "Didn't you- you know, speak to anyone after it ended?"
"Speak to whom, exactly?" he shot back, more bitterly than he'd meant to. "Madam Pince? Ginny Weasley?"
"Anyone, Draco. Surely you had an Empath- the Blacks did, I'm sure of it."
"Empaths," he snorted, sipping at the too-hot tea and feeling rather sorry for himself. "Capital idea, Hermione. Because nothing I needed to speak of was classified in any sense, and Empaths are ever so reliable wizards."
"Ginny's reliable," she replied, with some indignance.
"And she's a Weasley," he answered, as if it answered everything. Hermione snorted, primly plopping a single lump of sugar into her tea and two into his.
He wouldn't laugh. It wasn't funny.
"Oh, please," she frowned. "Don't tell me you're still on about all that. Not after what you've been through with them-"
"If you kill together, you ought to suffer together afterward, is that it? No, thank you. I enjoy my dignity," he said. Hermione only raised an eyebrow.
"Well at least you can still take pleasure in being as unpleasant as humanly possible. I'm told that's a skill."
They sipped their tea in silence. He felt like a fool. In the Great Hall you left after a confrontation; your friends laughed, her friends reddened and threatened; you retreated to the safety of the Slytherin table. The bodies he'd seen laid bare across it; the blood that stained the wood. There wasn't much of that kind of comfort left in the world.
There wasn't much of much left for him at all.
He felt a vague sort of foreboding, as if something were bubbling up inside him; a chemical reaction, about to spill out through his wounds and pores and orifices. A quicksilver; burning, painful, acidic. To wash it all away.
Hermione took one of his hands in hers. He spoke.
"My mother," he managed. He breathed. He started again. "She wouldn't kill Nymphadora. She told me she could see Aunt Bella's eyes in her, in that- that form she takes when she's hurt. She spared her, and Lucius spared her, and when he-" Hermione made to move closer to him, but he waved her away, "when he ordered my father to take my mother, he wouldn't. And he couldn't run. They were going to come for me at Grimmuald Place, you know? Were going to take me, and run off until this all blew over, because in his heart my father knew it would. That's what the portraits said. But he found them. At home. And he set fire to it."
There. It was out now. His skin tingled. He felt raw. Hermione made a small, wounded noise. Draco Malfoy, a victim of the war. Who would have thought?
"Oh," she said quietly, moving around the table to sit next to him. Hesitantly, she wrapped her arms around his waist, considerably shorter than he but far, far warmer. He tensed for a moment, then buried his face in her neck, trying his hardest to suppress the hysterical sob that threatened. They weren't tears; it was breath he needed, warmth and oxygen and light and all the things he couldn't have in that damned apartment with the marble and the cackling voices of his grandmother and the dead.
Her portrait. It was his grandmother's portrait. She was dead, too, just like his parents and his housemates and Aunt Bella and everyone else-
"Shh," said Hermione. He complied.
"I'm glad you told me," she said finally, murmuring it into his shoulder. Her lips felt warm; the vibration of her voice echoed all across his collarbone. A pleasant sensation- like a goodnight kiss. It had been a long time since anyone had kissed him.
She pressed her lips to his cheek, then, chaste and passionate, and her desire to heal was such that if she could have taken him into her, every last inch of him, all traces, metaphysical and otherwise, she would have; just to dull the pain and see it halved, somehow. He felt it.
Just the sensation of warm skin against skin was something he'd missed so dearly but had never felt properly, it seemed. Not until now when she so damn warm and so clearly cared and no one had ever touched him quite in this way before. No one. Never. Not once before, but now.
Their lips touched and crackled. It was warm, and bright, and brilliant and affectionate and so full of desire for good things only that he felt a bit like breaking down again. Draco Malfoy didn't get very sentimental; neither did Hermione Granger. This was something more than that.
Shedding her robe, she led him into her bedroom, trailing behind linked only by hands. He was reeling. She'd kissed him; or he'd kissed her, it hardly mattered. He felt drunk. He was drunk. That didn't matter either. Slowly, she slipped off his shoes, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his shirt and crawled into bed. He crawled in after her. The sheets were cold.
She pulled his trembling body to hers, mother and sister and healer and lover overtaking her considerable measure of common sense entirely.
She was so warm.
They were asleep in minutes.
Draco woke first. He always woke early; mornings were his very favorite time of day. His mother had preferred Dylan Thomas above all others. His father, T.S Eliot. He'd always liked Byron. He wondered which Hermione liked best; he'd ask her when she woke.
He collected his clothing and padded into the kitchen, unintentionally quiet. It must have stopped raining at some point last night. Mechanically, he filled the kettle from the tap and put the water on to boil, leaned against the counter, thinking absently about the day ahead, pulled the water off, burned his fingers (what kind of witch didn't have an Ever-Cooler Teapot Handle, anyway?), strained the tea and dropped two lumps of sugar in.
He looked out the window, hands wrapped fully around the mug to warm them. Frost had settled over the grass in the park across from Hermione's apartment, and the skies were as grey as they'd been the day before. The leaves on the trees were just beginning to turn, red and gold like the stitching on her robe and the light as it played on her skin in the night-time. Red and gold like the colors of her uniform when they were children, and the blood he'd spilled and the color she'd smiled at him last night. Red and gold like the leaves in the park across from Hermione's apartment. He'd remember this turning, this fall, these leaves, this color, and above all else the color of her eyes-
She appeared in the doorway, then, wrapped in the same quilted robe and looking rather charmingly disheveled. He raised his eyes to meet hers, terrified that what he'd find there would break him again, and she beamed at him with the brightest and warmest and most golden smile in the whole of human existence.
He smiled back.
They drank their tea in silence, and he was surprised to note that Hermione made no move toward food, though he was, of course, hardly hungry. The warm drink seemed to soothe away his hangover more gently than a charm would have, and he wondered if the remedy was Muggle or Wizard. The thought hardly troubled him as it would have once, and the thought of that hardly troubled him at all.
He felt domestic, here, sitting across from her in her house robe as the sun rose higher in the sky. If he dared imagine another morning- and he did- he imagined the trees bare, snow falling, and patterned slippers to match the robe; then spring, and light cotton; summer and linen; all the things his mother had taught him and all the things his father had given her that she'd loved.
It was Hermione who broke the silence.
"Shall we go for a walk?"
It was cold, and both Draco and Hermione wore their school scarves, too young and too burdened to have worried about purchasing new ones, and too old to wear them without a coloring of shame.
Draco offered her his arm, and she looked at him as if to say he was being entirely ridiculous but took it anyway. It was a quaint notion; an old notion, a notion entirely unlike she was. She was new and bright and Muggle. Integration was coming; he would be the last pureblood in his family.
They circled the park, and he realized in the light of morning that he had only traveled a few blocks from his own apartment over the course of the evening. Funny how he'd never ventured here before; it seemed ridiculous to think of now. That he'd wasted all this time when there was family here for him; that he'd rejected the friendship and belonging he'd been offered in favor of old traditions and courtly ghosts. It all seemed absurd now.
She turned her face up him.
"What is it you want, Draco?" she asked. Her eyes seemed warmer against the overcast grey sky, brown and depthless, and her mittened hand was warm and tiny in his larger own.
What, then? Prince of what?
"I want to sit by the fire in the winter and read poetry to my wife like my father used to. Before..." Inability to articulate emotion; a common side effect. Hermione's eyes softened. He went on. "Before it all went wrong. You know."
This silence was illimitable, vast, and terrifying. But comfortable, in that it had been entirely expected. What on Earth to say?
"I do know," said Hermione, very quietly. "But it's autumn."
Draco blinked. Then spoke, very hesitantly.
"That's hardly the greatest trouble, is it?"
"Hardly," she laughed, looking up at him. And then she smiled, and a terribly familiar warmth coursed through him, and he realized it was quite likely that he'd never have to run out for anything like it at two in the morning again.
Peace- that was the other name for home.
Title: Iron and Wine
Beta: Lina. (linaeve on ) She's fabulous.
Written For: silvernatashha, aka silverphoenix, for the Draco/Hermione Autumn Challenge thing.
Music: "I Am Drinking Again" by Bonnie "Prince" Billy; "Policy of Truth" by Depeche Mode; pretty much anything by New Order (Joy Division works too, mostly), "The Argument" by Fugazi, tons and tons of (surprise!) Iron and Wine.
Literary Inspiration: James Joyce. Oh, if only.
Credit: "Peace- that was the other name for home" is from Kathleen Norris.
And?: This is a rough draft. I'll probably add a second in later, after my lovely beta has looked it over.