Title: Beautiful Things Can Come From The Dark
Author: Edie
Rating: R
Story Summary: He found her, broken and bleeding, and it would change everything.
Disclaimer: Completely and utterly not my characters.

Beautiful Things Can Come From The Dark

"Tell me your convoluted stories through
Your half-rotten mouth
I will decipher them to tell the world of your heart-
How beautiful things can come from the dark.
- Azure Ray's 'Beautiful Things Can Come From The Dark

The night air was crisp, so bitterly cold that Draco Malfoy imagined he could feel it permeating his insides. He thought of icy fingers twisting around his intestines, turning and tangling and yanking. Nothing but blood on the inside, blood and the ugly bits that were his guts, and it would hurt worse than a Cruciatus when it all froze. He knew that for fact. He had seen it once, seen life ripping its way from a body, and death was not beautiful.

He should have cast a warming charm but he had forgotten. He had seen a break in the never ending security McGonagall had provided at Hogwarts and he'd seized it. He was too afraid- no, too cautious- to cast one now. The last thing he needed was the ensuing flash of light to alert one of the many Aurors patrolling the perimeter to his presence. Wouldn't he just love to explain what he was doing wandering around the edges of the Forbidden Forest.

Speaking of which… He tightened his cloak and picked up his pace.

It had been a useless excursion anyway but then again most of them had been lately. Draco hadn't heard from his father in two weeks even though he'd checked the blasted cranny in the tree his father had directed him to at every available opportunity for missives. It was the only way his father could communicate with him; the only way he could write to his father. He had no idea who picked up his letters or who dropped his father's off, although he suspected they might have magically transported themselves somehow. Everything in his life was ridiculously veiled and secretive and this was no exception.

Your fault, a voice whispered, nagging and intense. Can't bloody well complain when you were the one rushing in there to do a job completely half arsed.

Although he doubted it would have been different had he been the one wielding the wand at the end. A bit of a stay in Azkaban perhaps but even that would have been brief. To the collective surprise of no one, Dumbledore's death had caused chaos and the prisoners had reacted in a massive revolt. It was as though all of the escapees had vanished into thin air, disappearing to wherever it was Snape had ended up. Regrouping, Draco thought.

As such, the tree was all he had quite simply because Draco had no idea where to begin searching for his father. Merlin, he hadn't even seen his mother in three months despite the fact that she was holed up safely in the Manor. "It wouldn't do to associate with us," she had said rather impassively before he had boarded the Hogwarts Express, "You've no idea of the strings I had to pull to get you back in, Draco. You had better praise Potter every single day for his testimony and do not cause trouble. Someone will send for you when the time comes and only then may you even attempt to prove yourself." No tearful goodbyes from his ice cold mum, only distant glances and odd expressions like she'd never truly seen him before.

It had helped his pride of course that Potter wasn't there. He and Weasley were off fighting the good fight, leaving only Granger behind to hold down the fort. He had heard her telling Weasley's brat of a sister to buck up because it was up to them to keep up morale in their weird world of constant anticipation but Draco had seen her studying in the library and had thought privately (oh fine, publicly. And loudly) that she couldn't pass up her shot at Head Girl; couldn't not do her NEWTs.

Apparently attempted murder didn't look good on one's record as Head Boy was not an honour he himself had achieved. He felt stuck in limbo at times, no longer accepted but not exactly shunned. He had been given his own rooms as a safety measure lest some well meaning Slytherin try to take him out and he spent most of his time in somewhat forced isolation. It was no wonder he felt rather maudlin as he made his way through the snow.

The last missive he'd received from his father had cheered him up slightly. Given him something to think about other than his own circumstances at any rate. "It has come to my attention that there are plans for Granger," it had read in Lucius Malfoy's severe hand, "and I hope the Dark Lord will have forgiven you enough to make you of use. Do not disappoint me. I will send news as I hear it." Blasted letter had self ignited so quickly that it had singed the tips of his fingers.

The dreams had started that night, horrible dreams about Dumbledore that left him sick and shaken in the morning, but he did his best to ignore them. Jitters was all. Afraid of failure, of a second failure. Draco Malfoy simply didn't do second failures and he was quite certain that neither his father nor Voldemort would tolerate one either. He couldn't bear to let them down again.

That said he absurdly hoped they wouldn't require much of him. He thought he had already proven his absolute lack of stomach when it came to murder (or at least murder at his own hands) and wasn't sure he was feeling up to much of anything past a few creative hexes.

Sighing, he pushed himself onwards. The trees were thinning and soon he would be out of the bloody forest. Idly he wondered who would carry out the plan against Granger; wondered too exactly what the plan entailed. Would she even be around to take her NEWTs? Did he care? He thought not, although maybe he would miss heckling her about her horrid hair and abominable breeding. He had always preferred a good intellectual hammering as opposed to out and out physical violence. Anything brutish could land a good punch but it took brains to fight with words and he thought he might miss that too. Although it might be a worthy sacrifice to see Potty and the Weasel running home from Merlin knew where to-

A gurgle from his immediate left banished any thoughts of cackling while dancing on the Mudblood's grave. Jumping, Draco gripped his wand and tried to peer through the darkness. Suddenly the trees seemed threatening, casting all sorts of moving shadows over the snow. He knew what sorts of things lived here and he didn't even want to imagine the kind that gurgled. It was becoming perfectly clear that he was about to be eaten and without even getting an opportunity to prove himself to his father. He swallowed.

So did whatever was near him, before loudly and harshly hiccupping. Draco heard the unmistakable sound of something trying to claw its way off of the ground; heard its failure too as the snow crunched around its falling body. He remained perfectly still, a motionless form against a black backdrop of trees, and waited. It was obvious that whatever it was was injured. If he waited, perhaps it would not sense him and he could make a break for it, Aurors be damned.

The thing was gurgling in earnest now, breaking the silence of the forest with uneven heaving gulps of air. Despite himself, curiosity made him lean forward just enough to get the barest of glimpses of it… not that it did him much good. All he could make out was a black back as it attempted again and again to crawl and a faint light glinting off something hanging from its… cloak?

Merlin help him, it was a person and an obviously female person at that too, if its size was any indication. Indecision stayed his step as panic told him it was most likely a heartbroken fourth year come to sob away her miseries in the privacy of one of the most dangerous places she could. Who was he to judge? Moreover, who was he to stop her? Perhaps some people preferred death to heartbreak. If that was the case, it was entirely within his bounds to leave her. If that wasn't the case, she could be dangerous and he should leave then too. If she was hurt already…

"What in the bloody hell are you doing?" he snapped, aiming his wand at her for good measure, "Show yourself."

The figure stopped her dubious progress, tilting her head around at a crazy angle to take a look at him. He could not make out her face in the shadows but apparently she saw something about him that she did not like. Renewing the force of her sobs, she stopped crawling and began to desperately dig through the snow around her. Not wanting to move any closer, he tried to see what she could be looking for but all he could make out was whatever was catching the sodding light. Staring at her as intently as he was, it occurred to him that her head looked too large for her body. Swallowing something that might have been fear, he took a fraction of a step in her direction.

Draco Malfoy noticed three things all at once. Firstly, her head was not big at all, merely crowned by a messy array of curls springing this way and that and sporting an alarming amount of twigs and various other forest related things. Secondly, he realized that what he was seeing off the light of the moon was the Head Girl badge, knocked askew so badly that it was barely still attached to the front of her robes. Thirdly, he noticed that the snow she was digging through was not white at all but stained crimson as was the snow around where she had obviously been lying before.

Good Lord, he had obviously stumbled across Voldemort's plan for Granger.

Gasping, he took a few awkward stumbles backwards although he did keep his wand leveled rather unsteadily at her head. Fear raced through him, fear and a sick sort of certainty that made his stomach churn so violently he was nearly certain he was going to be ill. It was obvious she had been hurt although how badly he could not ascertain. He was momentarily puzzled as to why she was still alive- as to what purpose that could be for- unless they planned on leaving her to bleed to death in the Forbidden Forest. Or unless they were leaving her for scavengers. He cast a wary look around at the trees, trying his damnedest not to panic.

Granger, for her part, seemed completely beyond merely panicking. She was clawing through the snow so desperately that Draco almost felt inclined to look away. And that wasn't even to mention the awful keening sound she was making. She was refusing to look at him for longer than a couple of seconds at a time, just long enough to catch a glimpse of his face and nothing more. Those brief glances seemed to be spurring on her desperation and he thought rather stupidly that he was only about the least dangerous thing to happen to her all night.

Or at least thus far. He had absolutely no idea as to what to do. She was alive, hurt but definitely alive. Should he leave her? Should he go to her? A brief headache was forming behind his eyes and he blinked to avoid it. If she hadn't been killed, what exactly was their plan? And what had been done to her? It seemed to him that a swift Avada Kedavra might have done the trick so if she was still among the breathing there had to be a reason for it, if only he could concentrate enough to see the bigger picture.

"Do you mind?" he asked her blandly, "I can't think over that horrible noise you're making."

She looked at him then, eyes blazing and wild, and tried for the first time to actually stand. She made it to her knees while he hovered by uncertainly and it looked like she might actually make it all of the way. Shakily, she shot out a hand to steady herself on the trunk of the tree nearest to her and it was then that he saw her actual injury. Blood had completely soaked the sleeve of her robe and had been smeared all over her hand by her recent activities. He couldn't see exactly what had been done to her wrist but as he watched three crimson droplets rolled from her skin and plummeted to the pristinely white snow below. She watched him watching her, taking in heaving gulps of air as she did so, and attempted to push up off her knees. There was a perilous second where she wavered unsteadily and then she was back down on the ground, crying and trying to cover her face with her bloody arm.

It was then that he knew beyond a doubt that he actually was going to be sick. It was a little known fact about Draco Malfoy but he could absolutely not abide the sight of blood. The coffee he had drank before his midnight excursion lurched alarmingly in his stomach and he had to turn away from her, grasping his wand as he dry heaved over the bushes. Stars danced before his eyes and he had to take in a few gulps of air himself before he felt good enough to look at her again.

So they had slit her wrist then. It seemed rather… uncivilized to his way of thinking, slicing her up and just leaving her to drain out dirty blood all over the place. Careless too since if she ever managed to calm herself down a good shout or two was probably all it would take to summon an Auror to her side. The only possible explanation was that they hadn't wanted her dead after all.

"How badly hurt are you?" he demanded, taking a step in her direction. Granger picked up again with that awful keening and scooted backwards, away from him. Relentless now, he took another step towards her.

Perhaps it wasn't his place to puzzle it out, especially here in the Forbidden Forest when he could do it much safer in his room later on. Perhaps they had wanted her to be found. So.

Mind made up, he reached her side quickly, trying all the while not to look at her hand. He was trying to ignore also a rather nauseating sense of relief at not having to leave her out for the beasts and the monsters, if only because he hadn't had a chance to use any of his creative hexes yet and he could hardly hex a corpse. Also he hadn't even been given the hint of a chance to prove himself to his father and he'd be damned if the Mudblood would deny him that.

"Granger," Draco snapped, barely managing to dodge her bloody wrist as she tried her hardest to smash his face in with it. She was kicking out wildly at him and he winced as her foot found purchase against his kneecap. "Sit still, would you, you silly bint! I'm trying to ascertain the damage. No, don't punch at me like that!"

"Don't touch me!" she cried, kicking a mountain of snow in his direction as she scurried backwards. He noticed absently that she was clutching at the front of her robes. "Do not touch me. Do not!"

"Merlin, I can't imagine why I'd want to," Draco murmured, falling backwards to avoid her flailing limbs. "Bloody hell! Stay still! I'm not going to hurt you."

To prove this, he pocketed his wand and held his hands up in surrender. Granger, still huffing, stopped trying to unman him with her feet, pulling her knees to her chest instead. She watched him warily over their tops and this close up he realized that her left cheekbone was bruising. Her lip was split as well and a tiny stream of blood had made its way down her chin. He tried not to look at it. Tried not to look at her at all, even though he was about to have to.

"Give me your wrist. Let's have a look."

"N-no," was the reply and then she was crying all over again, "Please. Please, Malfoy, no-"

"Merlin, Granger, when have I ever listened to you?"

That said, he jerked forward and caught her arm in his hands. It was slippery wet and the feeling of it caused the bile to revisit his throat. He swallowed hard and waited for the shower of blows he was sure would come from her other arm but when he gathered up enough nerve to actually look at her she was staring eerily at a spot over his shoulder, silent tears coursing down her cheeks. There was something in her eyes he did not like, something far away and distant, but he forced himself to ignore it and look down at the hand he held in his.

Later on he would think nothing could have prepared him for the shock of what he saw. He was expecting a clean slash across her veins but he knew as soon as he touched her that it was the longevity of her lying there that had reddened the snow. Her actual injury was more on her forearm, not deep enough across her veins to end her life, and there was nothing clean about it. What he saw was a mass of ruined skin; what he saw was a poorly carved Dark Mark.

This time Draco could not stop the bile. Without dropping her wrist, he leaned away from her and gagged up his coffee into the snow her blood had stained. When he looked up again she was watching him and their eyes met. For the briefest of moments, it was though all of the years at Hogwarts fell away; as if nothing in their past had ever existed. She had been hurt in an unthinkable way and for a second he felt almost as scared as she. He knew he should throw some cutting quip into her face but all he could feel under his fingers was mutilated flesh; all he could see was her terrified eyes, tear bright and shifty as they tried to maintain contact.

Absurdly, he thought of how she had welcomed him back to Hogwarts with so much silent poise. She had been forced to, he knew that, but she hadn't mentioned a thing about the previous year as she had shown him to his private rooms. "They're close to mine," she had said, clipped but still polite, "If you do anything wrong, Malfoy, I'll know."

He dropped her wrist.

"Don't worry," he told her, strangely as much for his sake as for her own, "It's not very deep. Let that old bat Pomfrey take a look at it and I'm certain it won't even scar."

"It will," she replied, voice clogged with grief, "It will. He said it will. He said I'll always remember who did it. Every time I see it I can think of how he smiled when he- when he-"

A giant sob tore through her and she covered her face with her hands, rocking back and forth.

"He's wrong. You know how it is with Dark Wizards. Think they know everything."

Draco didn't know why he was saying it. Told himself it was all merely so that he could get her inside to finish her off later, in a much more public and self-glorifying fashion. Dying alone because she lacked the strength to haul herself to her feet and make a break for it wreaked of weakness and anybody who knew Hermione Granger at all knew she wasn't weak. She deserved to go down in blazing glory just as much as he deserved to prove himself.

Moving quickly, he caught hold of her wrist again. She gave a cry of protest and mumbled something he didn't quite catch but which sounded suspiciously like, "Please, I don't want to be touched anymore." Without letting go of her wrist, he yanked at her knees with his spare hand until they were flat against the snow, intending to rip off a piece of her cloak to wrap her cut in. The motion panicked her and it was only because she was so frazzled that the heel of her shoe missed his jaw and if she was crying before it had nothing on the awful sounds she was making now. It was only because Draco noticed something else that he did not use even the tiniest bit of force to restrain her.

"Your cloak," he began, uncharacteristically at a loss for words, "and your robes. They're... torn. McGonagall is going to have your head, Granger, being Head Girl and all. How did you manage to-"

No. No. No.

The stars were back in his vision and this time it took more than a couple of blinks to make them go away. At the very least he was completely and utterly beyond nausea. Shocked though, so much so that he fell out of his squatting position and landed in the snow beside her.

Her robes were indeed ripped, torn past her thigh. Buttons on her bodice were missing and leaning as she was he could see the light yellow material of her bra, made dirty in her struggles. Draco felt distinctly uncomfortable noticing it and looked away so quickly that he thought he might feel a crick in his neck later. He was vaguely aware of shaking his head back and forth in denial; his hand shook when he raised it to yank the remains of her bodice back together. Her hand replaced his and her sobs were beyond sound now.

"Granger?" he asked, needing confirmation.

She said nothing but it did not matter. He could see the evidence of what had occurred high on the inside of her upper thigh. For a moment, his whole entire existence focused sharply on that bit of blood. He could hear his own rushing in his ears and no.

This time, he did not even pretend his reaction wasn't for Granger simply because she was Granger. He could admit in the private recesses of his soul that she was the smartest witch he had ever met, even possibly smarter than him, and she did not deserve to be treated in such… She did not deserve to be degraded so fully. There was no intelligence here and there was nothing clean about it. A caveman could have committed such atrocities to her person. What he was looking at was brutal and violent in the simplest of ways, a basic and horrible domination of her, and he did not- could not, ever- tolerate rape. He was fairly quaking with indignation if not outright anger on her behalf.

"Who did this?" he asked, shocked despite himself at how furious he sounded.

She tried to slam her legs shut and he let her. Dropped her wrist so that she could fumble with the front of her robes in order to cover herself. She was shaking her head rapidly and worrying at her lip, succeeding only in breaking the scab that had already formed there.

"I don't know," she pleaded, meeting his gaze out of desperation, "I don't know. I didn't see him. I can't remember. He wore a mask. I couldn't point him out. Please, Malfoy. Please!" And she looked away.

Draco knew a liar when he saw one. He was more than convinced that she knew exactly who had done this to her but he couldn't exactly fault her her silence. In her shoes, he was about the last person he'd tell too. Figuring that out was for later, for those horrible hours when he planned on trying to guess at what sort of big picture they could have had for raping her and dumping her in a bush. He was all for her removal from that picture but not like this. Not without a wand. Not without a fighting chance. And speaking of which-

"Where's your wand, Granger? What in the bloody hell were you doing out here without it? What in the bloody hell are you doing out here period?"

She ignored his questions, looking hysterically about herself instead. Her bottom lip was quivering so violently that he was afraid she was going to set it back to bleeding. In fact, she was shaking all over.

"You dropped it?" he guessed, "You did, didn't you? Well done."

Granger spit out, "He threw it" so defiantly that he thought for a moment that her hysteria had ended. A brief second where she sounded like herself but then her teeth were chattering and she was sinking back down to the ground. He shot a hesitant look at her arm.

Pushing a hand through his hair, he sighed. "You need to get inside. That arm needs to be healed. You-you should be… looked at. Can you walk?"

She shrugged dismally, seeming content to lay down in the snow and stay there. The fight was completely and utterly gone from her and he didn't think he had ever seen her like that before. For whatever reason, he didn't like it.

Shrugging out of his own cloak, Draco shoved it in her direction and gasped when the night air bit at him sharply. When she didn't make a move to take it he put it on for her and made sure to do it up extra tightly underneath her chin. It was too big for her and he was reminded oddly of Snape but at least she was covered. Moving slowly so as not to startle her, he looped an arm under her legs and another around her back. She was not as heavy as he thought she'd be. Had no trouble standing at all, even with her added weight.

"There you go," he told her, adjusting his hold, "We've just got to make sure the coast is clear. I know of a door we can get in. Don't fuss, my wand is in my cloak pocket and you're wearing my bloody cloak, aren't you, Granger? Of course you are. No, steady on. Don't roll your eyes back like that. It's not so bad, not really. Your arm'll heal. It's just that you've been out here for a long time, haven't you? Gone and lost yourself quite a bit of blood if the snow is any indication."

As he babbled, he continued on towards the tree line. Granger's head bobbed around a bit before lulling back against his shoulder. She was shaking so violently that he was having trouble maintaining his grip. Sighing, Draco clutched at her awkwardly and tried to take a good look about himself. As far as he could tell, the coast was more or less clear. Some extra security. Hesitantly, he stepped out of the forest.

"Absolutely silly of you to bleed that much." Whispering now as he walked. "It's poorly done, don't you know. Merlin, I wish Hogwarts wasn't so far away. We're going to get caught and I don't think this looks very good. Perhaps Potty will get to see me at a successful trial after all, hmm? Granger? Are you paying attention? Granger? Granger! Oh there you are. That's a good girl. You're such a nuisance!"

A soft exhalation against his cheek silenced him. Her hair was tickling at his nose and his ears. He longed for an extra hand to brush it away.


He made sure his tone was deceptively light. "What could you possibly want? Going to chastise me for bumping you all over the place while I walk? Not my fault the grounds are in such disrepair. Talk to your friend Hagrid, how about. Fat lot of good he's doing on the upkeep. Might have a word with him myself now that you've mentioned it."

She hiccupped near his ear and he realized that she was crying again, softly now.

"Malfoy," Granger whispered, a strange urgency driving her words, "Malfoy, you don't feel like him. I-I thought you might. It's getting dark, isn't it?"

Draco tried not to feel unsettled by her words but he was feeling so unsettled in general that it was impossible not to add to it. Shivering, he hugged her closer and picked up his pace.

"Not getting any darker, Granger. Lighter if anything. Keep your eyes open. Try looking around. I can't do everything for you, now can I. What would your friends say? If you pass out, I'm going to hex you."

"Have your wand," was the shaky reply.

Draco told her, "I'm going to count my steps out loud and you are going to listen, understand? When we get inside, I'm going to ask you how many there were and if you get it wrong, I'm going to get my wand back and then hex you."

He felt her nod. Looking forlornly at how far they had to go, he said, "One… two… three…" and kept walking.

Even though he would never be sure quite how he did it without being caught with a battered Golden Girl in his arms, Draco managed to get himself and Hermione back into the school without incident. Once the door had closed behind them, he put her down on her feet and held onto her arm while she swayed uncertainly beside him.

"You need to get to Madam Pomfrey," he told her, tightening his grip on her arm when she careened rather violently towards the wall, "She'll fix up your arm and have… have a look to make sure you aren't hurt anywhere else."

Hermione gazed at him, stubborn despite the fact that she could hardly stand. The strength in her voice when she did speak astonished him.

"No. I'm not going to Madam Pomfrey's. I'm going to go up to my room and have a bath. I'm not telling anyone about this."

"What!" he hissed, not even bothering to disguise his surprise, "You can't be serious, Granger. You're off your bird. You need a blood replenishing potion. You can hardly stand. How on earth are you even going to make it back to your room? Don't be absurd. Besides, don't you think you should report-"

She whirled in his grasp to face him, whirled so fast that her urgent movements were belied by the fact that she had to catch onto his shoulder with her bad arm to maintain her balance. He caught sight of steadfast resolve in her gaze and began to prepare himself for a real go at it.

"Don't you think for one second I care about what happens to you for any other reason than the fact that I'm involved now. I should just leave you here to bleed, Granger, especially if you're going to be so damned stupid about it."

"No," she said and she attempted to shake him too, "Listen to me, Malfoy. If I tell- if you tell- Harry and Ron will find out. I'm nearly certain that's what he wanted to happen, for them to rush home or otherwise he would have killed me. What they're doing is far more important than what's happened to me. I won't have them distracted. If you so much as think of telling, I'll kill you. You might not have the stones to cast the Killing Curse but I do."

"Should have cast it earlier then, shouldn't you? And what about your arm? If you don't heal it, it's going to scar. Not that I care, mind. Walk around with that on you for the rest of your life if you want."

"You can heal it," Hermione replied. It was obvious her brief show of defiance had taken more out of her than she could have afforded to lose. She swayed dangerously before him and had to change the angle of the murderous grip she had on his shoulder. He winced as her fingertips dug into his arms.

"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Draco all but shouted. He looked up and down the corridor, hoping perversely that they would be discovered right that second, but there was nothing but faintly glowing torches and the usual sounds such a large castle was wont to make. "This supposed security system is a joke."

"Wards. They're using different wards. Not enough Aurors."

"Still managed to get at you, didn't they?"

With a sigh, he bent over to lift her and she went willingly, colliding against his chest with a soft "mmph." Awkwardly, he proceeded down the hall and up a few flights of stairs, cursing the distance to the Head Girl rooms the whole entire way. His rooms were first and he reached them without incident. He considered going inside there for a moment, only to realize it wasn't exactly feasible as her rooms were a scant few doors down.

His headache was back and definitely full fledged now. It pounded behind his eyes with such insistence that he could scarcely see and his arms felt like jelly under her weight. Swaying a little himself, he managed to make it to her door and then into her sitting room after she had given the password. He made quick work of depositing her rather unceremoniously onto the couch. She sunk down into the burgundy fabric and watched him silently.

"You won't tell, will you?"

Draco looked around her rooms, districted and disturbed. They were in perfect order and, other than a textbook lying on the coffee table, looked hardly lived in at all. Her blasted cat was nowhere in sight and he wasted a good moment searching for it with his gaze. When he looked back at her, she was slumped against the cushions, playing idly with the sleeve of his cloak. Bleeding on it most likely.

"No," he said on a sigh, "I'm not going to tell. What good would that do me? Everybody I know would think I should have left you there. Maybe I should have. I-I don't know."

Hermione blinked back tears and nodded her head. Fished through his pockets for his wand. Holding it out to him, she said, "Why didn't you?"

Ahh, the one million galleon question.

"Enough with the questions," he snapped uncomfortably, "Let's have a look at your wrist again."

She lifted it off of her lap and he moved to squat in front of her. In the light of her room, it was deeper than he had originally thought but was definitely more of a bleeder than a mortal wound. It hadn't been done with magic, he surmised. A blade of some kind, perhaps. It was not a clean representation at all, uglier somehow and twisted. It took more willpower than he knew he had not to gag.

Hesitant to begin, Draco offered, "I'm not very good at healing spells. I'm going to do that nasty bruise on your face first. Start small."

When she did nothing but shrug, he touched the tip of his wand to her cheekbone and murmured the spell. Again on her lip and then there was nothing left but her wrist.

"Did he use magic on it?"

Hermione shook her head softly. "No. He used a knife. The Muggle way for a dirty Mudblood." And she laughed hollowly.

Draco echoed it, grimacing inside at how fake it sounded. "Suppose that's fitting. Wouldn't do to use magic. Merlin. At least it'll be easier to heal this way."

Hermione watched his fingers dance along the outsides of her wound and knew he was inexplicably nervous. For all that it counted, the fraction of her brain not focusing on getting through the next couple of hours was more than confused by his behavior. Too tired to cry, she let out a wet huff and allowed her head to slump down onto her shoulders.

"He did use magic at first," she whispered, staring now at the blond head bobbing over her arm, "He came up behind me and used the Stupefying Charm on me. That's… that's when he did that to my arm and got rid of my wand. I guess he must have used some sort of silencing spell as well because when he reversed the other I couldn't speak… I couldn't and he was… he was on me before I knew what was what and… and-"

"No one saw him." A statement, not a question. "No one saw the red flash? No one saw you leave?"

She shook her head. "No one. No one saw anything and there wasn't anyone there to stop… to stop him when he… when he began."

Sensing tears, Draco glanced up from her arm. She wasn't crying very hard but she had somehow summoned the strength to release a few silent ones. He watched them course down her dirty cheek and squeezed her arm lightly.

"Well then. Best to be healing this quick." A pause. "I know another. One for… for that. In case anything… Well, in case you're pregnant. Or in case he wasn't clean. I assume he didn't use anything?"

"No. No, I don't think so. I… don't know."

"You don't know?" Glanced up again and she was still doing that half crying thing she seemed to be perfecting. "How on earth can't you know?"

"He didn't cast a spell," she mumbled and he thought he caught a hiccup that might have been the beginning of actual sobs, "And… I didn't see anything. I didn't look. Please, I don't want to talk about it. Malfoy, please don't make me. I can't, I can't, I can't. Don't make me tell you."

He nodded at her and passed up the opportunity to mock her for begging him. Touched his wand to her wrist instead and said the spell in a voice that most certainly wasn't shaking. He had to do it twice more before the wound closed and even then it was still pink. Sighing, he aimed his wand then at her person in general and added, "Purus."

A moment before he added, "That's the one. See, you've got to flick your wand just like so."

"God," she murmured, slumping forward, "I wish that could have made it all go away."

"Yes well. It can't," was his rather harsh reply. Pushing himself to his feet, he surveyed her rooms with a critical eye and only stopped his perusal when he found the door that obviously led to the bathroom. "You'll want to have a bath. I'm going to stay here while you're in there. I'll be beyond brassed off at you if you pass out in there and drown after making me haul your sorry arse all the way in from the Forbidden Forest."

"Yes. Thank you." She stood up, steadying herself on the couch, and managed to make it to the bathroom with a few wobbly steps. Throwing a look over her shoulder, she went inside and shut the door softly behind her.

He waited for a few seconds until he heard the water running; then he plopped down on the seat that she had recently vacated. The fabric was still warm from where she had sat and he noticed absently that she'd bled a little bit onto the arm. He shied away from it, leaned his head back until it fell against soft material, and shut his eyes.

He was absolutely out of his mind, that much was certain. Now that any imminent danger was over and she was away from him with all of her injuries, he couldn't quite believe what he was doing. Told himself rather firmly it was because the Dark Lord obviously hadn't wanted her dead and tried to believe that everything was still going according to plan… whatever that plan could have been.

Granger didn't want her little friends to know, that much was obvious. He wasn't certain how he felt about that. Simple decency made him want to let McGonagall know that her star pupil had been hurt in an unthinkable way but he forced himself not to think like that at all. He did not agree with the methods, that much was true, but he couldn't make a full decision until he knew what the plan for Granger was. Had they been counting on her running to Potty and the Weasel? Was it all merely a trap to bring them back to Hogwarts? Or was there something he wasn't seeing?

Merlin help him but he should have left her in the woods. His palms felt damp and he rubbed them restlessly against his trousers; noticed for the first time that they were wet from the snow. But he did not hold with rape and if they had wanted her to simply die there then why hadn't they finished her off? And who had done it? It was obvious that Granger knew but had no plans of telling him.

Tomorrow morning he would sneak back to the woods and leave a missive for his father. He would simply tell him what had transpired and how Granger was reacting. Lucius Malfoy would no less rejoice in the news of her emotional stress and was definitely the right person to advise him on what to do now. He only hoped he hadn't bollixed it up already.

Lifting his head, he hollered at the door, "Granger? You aren't drowning in there, are you? I really don't want to have to come in."

Another sob from the other side of the door and that was answer enough for Draco.

Standing up, he began to prowl about her rooms, looking for anything that might strengthen her up a bit. He didn't have time to make a blood replenishing potion and he was too tired himself to go steal one. Asking Pomfrey was out of the question. It was good that Granger trusted him a little and there was no need to change her mind until his father told him what to do. Food would have to do the trick.

He found two Muggle chocolate bars in the drawer of her desk and an apple in her bag. Frowning at the selection, he rummaged deeper and found some sort of cardboard container that read "Milk" on the label. Cracking it open revealed that it wasn't sour but it was definitely warm. Shrugging, he put it beside the food and moved to the bathroom door.

"Been quite awhile now, you know. You're going to get all pruny on your toes and no one likes that. Time to get out."


"Granger? Damn you, listen to me! Get out of the bath. You're going to faint."

Nothing, not even the smallest sound of water rippling.

"Bloody hell, you annoying bint! Answer me at once or I'm coming in." He waited, counting patiently to fifteen. When he still received no word, he tried the door handle and nudged it open a little. "Better cover up your girly bits, Granger. I don't want to see them."

He gave her a second to do just that and then in he went. He found her sitting in the tub, knees drawn up to her chest, with a wash cloth gripped indecisively in her hand. All he could see over the rim of the tub were the tops of her knees and her shoulders but they were scrubbed red to the point of being almost raw. She was sobbing again, harder now than she had even in the woods, and Draco was at a complete loss as to what to do.

He gawked at her for a moment before offering up, "Granger? Is everything… err… alright?"

Hermione started violently and whipped around to face him. He smashed his eyes shut, awkward and uncomfortable, and said, "I'm not looking. Just answer the question."

"Get out!" A shriek thickened by tears. "Get the fuck out of my bathroom, Malfoy! Get out and don't look!"

She launched the wash cloth at him then and, eyes shut, he wasn't even aware of it until it smashed into his chest. Swearing, he stepped backwards to avoid the tide of water she shot at him next and added a hand over his eyes for good measure. Good thing he did too because not even a second later he was smacked right on that hand with the soap. She continued thusly for a few minutes- continued, he suspected, until there was nothing left to throw at him- before dissolving again into tears.

"I can't get him off of me," she moaned, "I can feel him. I can smell him. God, he's everywhere. I'll never get it off. I've scrubbed and scrubbed and it's like he's still touching me."

Afraid to move away from the relative safety of the door, Draco said as soothingly as possible, "He's not, Granger. He's gone. It's just you and I here and if I was going to hurt you, I think I would have done it already. You need to get out of the tub now. Although you packed a pretty good punch with the soap there, you've lost too much blood to linger. Come on now. Get up."

Hermione didn't move. "I don't want to yet. I can't. I'm not clean."

"Don't be ridiculous," he said, risking a step forwards, "You've scrubbed yourself raw. I saw your knees. I bet your legs are worse. Just come out now and eat something and if you don't feel better you can go back in. Stay in here all night for all I care."

"I can't reach the towel," she told him feebly.

"I can't see the towels."

"On your left. No, that's your cloak. A little over."

His fingers brushed up against scratchy fabric and he grabbed at it eagerly. Blindly, he held it out in the direction of the tub. Water moved and then it was removed from his hand. He remained silent, listening to her huff as she scrubbed herself, and then held out his hand. Nothing happened for a moment or two and then her hand, strangely cold despite the temperature of her bath, grasped onto his. She tightened her grip as she stepped out of the tub and proceeded to cling to him as he led her out of the bathroom.

He kept his eyes shut until he crossed into the other room but still did not look at her.

"Does it bother you to have me touching you?" he asked out of some sort of perverse curiousity, pulling her in the direction of her bedroom. He waited until she was sitting on her bed and then went about finding her some pajamas. "If it does, I won't. I might have been able to levitate you in here. I don't know."

"No," she replied, taking the pajamas he offered, "it's okay. I doubt you could have levitated me anyway."

Despite her tears, she offered him a weak smile and he smiled back before going into the sitting area to fetch the food he'd found. When he re-entered her room, she had gotten under the covers and pulled them up to her chin. He smirked at how very crimson they were before handing her the apple.

"Do you think this constitutes a truce?" she asked around her first bite.

He shrugged, dimming the lights with a flick of his wand. "I'm not sure I believe in truces, Granger."

"I do, Malfoy. I believe in truces."

"Always looking for the silver lining, you Gryffindors. Sometimes there isn't one. Sometimes all there is is darkness."

She sighed and made a face so forlorn it almost frightened him. "Tonight I almost believe you."

Wiping at her eyes with the backs of her hands, she laid down and blinked at him. He hovered uncertainly by the side of her bed and debated leaving. His own eyes felt heavier than he could ever remember them feeling and he was rapidly becoming afraid of dropping where he stood.


The sound of his first name shocked him. He thought of future letters to his father and of silly little girls bleeding in the woods and felt lower than dirt but he stayed his step long enough to reply with, "What now?"

"Will… will you sit with me for a minute? Just a minute."

Bloody hell. Bloody hell. His father should never have hinted at a plan for Granger. His father should have known any plans involving Draco even remotely always backfired. "I have to tell my father," he wanted to say. Instead, he kicked off his shoes and moved to sit on the bed beside her. She inched over infinitesimally and he was much too tired to do anything other than slump rather helplessly against her headboard. He started when he felt her hand curl around his and fought against the urge to withdraw it. Rather, he fought against the lack of an urge. He was just so damned tired.

"Thank you," she whispered and fuck but anything other than that, "Thank you for not leaving me."

"I'm only fixing you up so that I can do you in later," Draco said and damn him to hell anyway but he sounded panicked.

She made a noise that might have been a laugh under any other circumstance. Nuzzled down into her pillow and fought to keep her eyes open. "You're different than he was, Draco. You don't feel like him."

"Should hope not. That… that isn't exactly my specialty."

"I know. Too uncivilized when you can tear me to shreds with words. Merlin, I wish-"

Her tears cut her off. Sighing, he tugged her hand closer and was surprised when the rest of her came with it. Awkwardly, he put his arms around her and that seemed to be enough. She clung to him for all she was worth, face smashed into his chest, and cried as though he had suddenly turned into Harry, as if he was the only friend she had in the whole entire universe. Novel concept. Silly fool, only he was hugging her back and he wasn't moving. Didn't move at all in fact until her tears had tapered off and were replaced with an evenness of breath that suggested sleep had finally claimed her. Only then did he extract himself from her grasp, leaning over to make sure the blankets covered her entirely once he was on his feet.

Feeling much older than his mere seventeen years, he put her chocolate bars on her bedside table and collected his cloak from the bathroom. There was water all over the floor and the tub was still full; he drained it and cleared away the mess with a whispered spell. He noticed blood on the sleeve of his cloak and sighed wearily.

When he was content that everything was as he had found it, he moved to the door. A quick glance down the corridor ensured the trip to his own room would be uneventful, praise whoever the hell was looking over him right now.

Clutching his cloak tightly, he took one last glance at her empty sitting room and whispered, "Don't trust me too much, Granger."

Then he was gone.

To be continued...