Other Side of Midnight
He chose to wait for her in the trophy room. This room was the one his father used to exhibit all of his prized catches, and one that was charmed with only the highest-ranking concealment spells. Despite his cultured appearance Lucius Malfoy had quite a brutal streak that could only be seen in the grotesque ways the animals were displayed, and this brutal streak was a well-guarded secret, one that the entire family strove hard to protect. Only a limited number of people ventured in and out without risking life and limb, and outside the immediate family Draco could only think of another one who could – and that was, of course, through his own help.
He waited for her here, where no one could see them except the eyes of the murdered, mutilated mammals. Patience was never one of his good virtues, and this showed as he took one razor-sharp knife and threw it on the wall. Discontented, his eye caught the slender neck of a suspended deer, and with one smooth flick of his wrist the knife he held was now deeply embedded on the deer's stuffed flesh. He was about to throw another one, when he heard that distinct, popping sound that alerted him to another's presence in the room.
She was here. Finally.
"What is it?" she asked him, her voice tinged with annoyance. He looked at her; saw the pink cheeks brought by the unnatural coldness of the night. Her eyes strayed to the roaring flames in the fireplace, and she released a relieved sigh, undoubtedly grateful that she'd be warmed. She tucked her wand back to her robes, and headed towards it – but remembering his presence, she brought her gaze back at him and immediately her guard was up again.
It was ironic that she'd still be like this around him. He thought about the last night she was here, when she was writhing and gasping in the shamed pleasures caused by his touch. Seeing them together, disgust and revulsion on both their faces, one might be severely shocked to learn the number of nights they shared intimacies reserved for people bound by marriage or even love. How could a couple - if they could even be called as such - carry on like this?
"I'm giving you a chance," was his simple, practiced reply. Draco Malfoy had never claimed to be an ungenerous person. Why, too many people already benefited from his generosity, those who were fortunate enough to be graced by his good deeds. Hermione Granger, with all her filthy blood and filthy relations, was surprisingly about to be included in that very short list.
Some people could only be so lucky.
"What chance?" she asked again, her brows knitted together in a way that spoke of her frustration. "What do you want?"
There was that unveiled trepidation embedded in those simple, uncomplicated four words. It would have been so easy to succumb to it, to answer her with what he really wanted. To show her what he really wanted to do now that she was here. But he steeled himself and said, "A war."
She stiffened, just as he knew she would. Then, "You'll have your bloody war. Don't worry about that."
"I'm not." He stood and walked to her, absorbing her presence, knowing that this might very well be the last night he could look at her and not have to kill her. Yet. "There would be a war brewing between us soon. But that isn't the reason I want you here."
She rolled her eyes. "Then what is it? Quit wasting our time, Malfoy. Out with it!"
He reached out, brushed a hand against her cheek. Her eyes widened, her lips pursed, but she didn't step back. It was not her nature to refuse a confrontation - be it in the form of argumentation or blatant seduction. "You're beautiful. Have I told you that?"
Her nostrils flared. She was clearly fighting the urge to slap his hand away. "Yes. Right after calling me a 'Mudblood whore' if I remember correctly."
He moved his hand until he was tracing the gentle curve of her neck. "If I touch you like this," he said softly, "will you pull away?"
"I didn't," she replied, her eyes trained on nothing else but at him. "I won't."
He kissed her then, hard, ragged, needy. For several seconds, nothing else existed. But soon, the truth came rushing in and just as quickly he stepped back. He was tracing her mouth with his thumb when he said, "You're stupid. You know that?"
"And you're a pathetic excuse for a Pureblood wizard." But his insult had hurt her, and it showed in her eyes. "Are we done?"
"No." Now his concealed feelings came bubbling forth. He pushed himself off her. "You've always been the clever one, Granger. You should know when to pull away. You should know that you should pull away!"
"What? What in hell are you--" Pursing her lips again, she took the wand out of her robes. "This is pointless," she muttered, glaring at him. "I'm going to count to ten. If by then you still haven't--"
"I don't want to be the one to kill you."
She was silenced by that heartfelt, outrageous admission. "I'd love to see you try," she said bitterly.
"I don't want to kill you, and Voldemort knows this," he said, ignoring her caustic remark. "Tomorrow, or the day after that, I might start hunting you down. If I see you then, I will kill you." He looked away. "Whether I want to or not would be irrelevant in a war."
"I know," she muttered in a flat voice. "I know."
He faced her again. "I could still get to you, though, and you proved that to me just now." His voice changed, channeled his rage. "Voldemort will use that to our advantage. Take my word for it."
"Oh, what, so I shouldn't allow you to seduce me in the battlefield? What a very sound advice." Sarcasm, aggravation, coated every syllable. "Just what is your point, Malfoy? Is this your odd way of telling me to be wary of the enemies, especially you? Because if you are, then this meeting is definitely a waste of our time - I know that already."
"Do you?" he challenged. "Your damned pride could get you killed."
"As said by the world's humblest man," she retorted, her eyes blazing.
He grabbed both her shoulders and squeezed. "Aren't you afraid I'd use your feelings against you?"
She jutted her chin, didn't refute his words. "Aren't you afraid I'd use yours?"
He had to smile at that. "And that is the reason we're here." He released her, watched silently as she rubbed her shoulders. "I may have the solution to both our problems. I know that you would never turn your back on your pathetic friends, and hell would have to freeze before I turn my back on mine." He paused, waiting for her to try and convince him to join her side.
Just like he didn't try to convince her to join him.
"This solution would ensure our safety in war, so that either of us wouldn't have an advantage over the other. If necessary – and it would be – one of us could kill the other."
They might as well be talking about the weather, or the plants, or the death of all these poor creatures, what with the calmness and normalcy in both their tones.
"What do you say?"
She looked at him, her mouth closed, her stance contemplative. She didn't promise him that their newfound love would conquer all, or tell him that they could run away together, get married somewhere, and raise a family happily. She wouldn't beg him to think and revolt and prove to her that he loved her – because she knew, like he did, that it would only be a waste of their time.
It was war.
And in war, love had no place anywhere.
"All right," she said, finally. "What's your solution?"
His expression grim, he grabbed a vial from the table and tossed it at her.
She studied the thing she held in her hands. "What would this do to us?"
"Help us forget," he told her simply, as if those three words were all the explanation she needed.
And it probably was. She nodded, accepted what little he could give her, and prepared to leave.
Her eyes were huge and uncharacteristically misty as she turned to him.
"Drink it all," he advised. "And I'll see you in hell."
The war started unexpectedly, an inferno erupting without warning and difficulty. When dawn came, there were already a multitude of dead bodies littering the grounds, and flames ravishing already ruined homes and shops. Hope remained only in those who had all their families intact, and some of those who didn't were quick to succumb to helplessness and death.
Some of those who had already lost loved ones and friends strove hard to make the enemies pay. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Two enemies as price for a friend, three for a brother or sister, five for a father or mother.
And so it went on, until it was apparent that one side's glory was at hand.
He was with his friends then, enjoying the carnage and victory that they were experiencing. A loud cry pierced the sky, followed by different shouts of spells and enchantments that signaled an ongoing battle somewhere else. Draco Malfoy was the first to come to the scene, and in that scene he found Hermione Granger outnumbered by his fellow Death Eaters. Her friends were there, only they were useless and dead. She was alone, and still defiant to the end.
Sometimes this clever little witch could be so stupid.
"Give it up," he taunted, and watched as she pointed her wand at him. Unperturbed, he quickly disarmed her. "Give it up, Mudblood! You've lost. Beg for your life and I might consider giving you a quick death."
She jutted her chin. "Go to hell, you arrogant bastard!"
"Well, then. You asked for it." He smirked at her, then lifted his wand. "This one's mine," he said, only loud enough for his fellows to hear. Nodding their heads and grinning, they lowered their own wands, and waited for her slow, painful death.
Only it was their slow, painful deaths that arrived.
When his last, betrayed friend had fallen, Draco Malfoy looked at her and ordered, "Go. Now!"
She looked confused, lost, dazed. But seeing that he had already lowered his wand, she gave him a quick nod and bent to retrieve hers on the ground.
"Good girl," he breathed, relieved she followed all he had said. "Now leave."
She straightened and pinned him with a question: "Why?"
He heard a sound from his left. If someone saw what he'd done… "Damn it, woman, don't ask questions! Just—"
"You didn't drink it either," she accused him softly. Then her voice hardened. "Don't you want to forget what happened between us?'
"Don't you?" he shot back.
Mutely, she shook her head. She started towards him. "Draco…"
He knew what she wanted to say. Hell, that was what he wanted to say himself. But he would never promise that their newfound love would conquer all, or tell her that they could run away together, get married somewhere, and raise a family happily. He wouldn't tell her to think and revolt and prove to him how much she loved him – because he knew, like she did, that it would only be a waste of their time.
It was war.
And in war, love had no place anywhere.
"I said go," he started, his voice hoarse. "GO!"
And obediently, she disappeared from his sight.
Author's Notes: Title is from another Sidney Sheldon book I recently read.