"Move on move on
It's like the clock is pacing
The break of dawn and our hearts are racing..."
- Azure Ray's "New Resolution
A flash of green light and it was over. Hermione Granger, his girlfriend, was alive. Lucius Malfoy, his father, was dead.
The next two days passed in a blur for Draco. He elected to stay at Malfoy Manor, where he further decided to stay in the darkness of his bedroom, a pathetic bundle of upset boy hidden by his blankets. He had visitors: his mother was in and out, Snape came to say goodbye, and Hermione poked her head in for a moment that was so fraught with awkwardness that Draco was almost glad to see her go.
In the dark solitude of his bedroom, Draco forgot what a monster his father had truly been. He forgot about everything Lucius had put him through all year. He forgot everything, until he was just a boy without a father.
The funeral was held four days after the event, and was not exactly the sort of glory-filled affair that Lucius Malfoy had probably desired. Narcissa had not invited any Death Eaters; in truth, Narcissa had not invited anyone.
Pansy Parkinson showed up just as it started, immaculate as always in black robes. Draco supposed she must have talked to his mother at some point; as far as he was concerned, one minute she wasn't there, and the next, her hand was sliding into his, applying light pressure. Draco didn't spare her a glance, watching instead as the dirt hit his father's coffin, hiding it forever from sight.
Lucius Malfoy, 1954 – 1998, read his tombstone. Beloved husband and father..
Afterwards, Pansy led him away from the scene, loping idly across the grounds of Malfoy Manor.
"Hermione apologizes for your loss," she told him, after they'd gone over a ridge and could no longer see the family cemetery. "She also said she's sorry for being unable to attend the funeral."
Draco nodded in acknowledgement of her words. Never in a million years had he expected Hermione to show. In her shoes, he would only have come to dance on Lucius' grave, which Draco wouldn't have appreciated, despite everything.
Pansy also told him that his mother had been to see McGonagall, according to her sources. It was rumoured but not confirmed by Hermione that Lucius and Zabini had been involved in an elaborate plot to kidnap and murder a member of the Golden Trio, although, according to Pansy, Zabini's memory of that night was said to be addled—Pansy, with a wry smile, suspected spell work. Draco and Narcissa had been unaware of the plot, it was said, and were beyond surprised when Snape, back on the lamb, had shown up and done the older Malfoy in. Mother and son had then assisted, supposedly, in helping get Granger free. Zabini was on his way to Azkaban, although neither Pansy nor Draco put much stock in the prison's security.
Mrs. Parkinson, continued Pansy, had ordered that all attempts to woo Zabini come to an immediate halt. It had been pointed out repeatedly that Draco was suddenly a lot richer and not exactly an outcast any longer, if Pansy caught her mother's meaning.
Pansy, being absurdly smitten with Seamus, had said, "Yes, ma'am" and thought no way in hell.
"You're going to come back, aren't you, Draco?" Pansy asked, stopping walking to face him. "You can come back with me tonight."
And Draco Malfoy, despite everything, knew that was exactly what he was going to do. He had a year to finish, exams to take, and a girlfriend he missed.
Life, as it was, had to go on.
The first day back was rocky. Everyone was looking, which he'd been expecting, and the Prophet had gotten a hold of the story, which was also not much of a surprise. He made it through the day in a self-imposed blur, not thinking, and not acting. Hermione, whom he'd hoped would be waiting for him upon his return, was nowhere to be found. This led Draco to believe that she was angry with him, and that his grief over his father's death had alienated her, and made her doubt his loyalty. McGonagall had smiled at him when he'd passed her in the corridor; the whole world felt off its axis.
He skipped supper in favour of sulking in his rooms. Sulking was a Malfoy trait at which Draco had never failed. In true dramatic fashion, he extinguished all the lights in his rooms and sat alone on his couch, thinking that he was without a girlfriend and without a father.
Everything, obviously, was coming up roses.
There was a knock on his door at quarter past seven, which Draco ignored, thinking it was Pansy. After a second, though, someone gave the password and then there was Hermione, standing in the entrance looking uncomfortable and out of sorts.
"Hello," he said, without moving. Perhaps he owed her an apology, but the words died on his tongue. Sniffing, he looked down at his lap and pathetically wished she'd leave. There was wallowing to be done, after all.
However, this was Hermione Granger, who did not have a history of doing what Draco wanted. Chewing at her lip, she waffled for a moment, and then joined him on the couch, sitting an appropriate and cold, in Draco's opinion, distance away. He stole a glance at her from the corner of his eye, taking in her horrible hair and dowdy appearance, and had to swallow hard. He really had missed her.
"Hello," she returned.
There was a very awkward moment after that. Draco had never done awkward well, and so he set up ignoring her, which he did passably. He was about to be dumped, he knew, and he just wished she'd get it over with. He was not going to apologize. He just wasn't. A son was allowed to grieve his father. Paranoia and insecurity wrapped around him like a well-worn blanket, and they were familiar emotions. They were things he knew.
Cold fingers touched his hand, and didn't stop touching until he'd opened his palm and let her entwine them with his. This was unexpected, but then Gryffindors were abnormally softhearted fools. Maybe she was trying to brace him for the bad news. He sighed long and withering.
Hermione took a deep breath. This was it. He turned his face away.
"Are you cross with me?" she rushed, sounding all sorts of anxiety-ridden.
Okay, not what he'd been expecting. Shooting her a confused look, he said, "Excuse me?"
"Cross with me," she repeated, sounding cross with him. "Over… over everything. I truly am sorry, Draco. I never wanted your father to die. Well, I did, but not specifically because he was your father." She trailed off with a huff.
Draco was momentarily too surprised to answer. And then, laughing a little at how ridiculous they were, he caught her in a hug, and then didn't let go.
"You silly girl, I thought you were cross with me," he admonished, pressing a kiss into her curls.
"What? No! I knew you'd feel bad. Of course you'd feel bad. I'm not made of stone, Draco."
Draco was not really used to talking about his feelings, but he forced himself to say, "I still feel bad. I'm going to feel bad for a while. And not just because he's dead, but because of everything he did before that. It's strange. I never really knew him at all."
Hermione nodded, tickling his chin with her hair. "It's entirely his loss, Draco. Not knowing you, I mean."
That warmed him on the inside, which was a strange and unusual feeling. Not very Slytherin. "Thanks, Hermione."
He squeezed her again, and she didn't move away. Instead, she sighed and cuddled a little closer.
"I knew Zabini wasn't you," she said abruptly. "Granted, it took me just a little too long to figure it out. He kept saying these ridiculous things, which I just know you actually do think. All this rot about what Malfoys do and don't do. Honestly, it was like going around with your stereotype. I know it's not really the done thing, but good job with the Cruciatus Curse." She offered him a tentative smile. We're good, it said.
"You kicked my father in the balls," he said, somewhat incredulously.
But it was too soon to talk about it, and Hermione said nothing past that, sensing perhaps that he wasn't ready to discuss his father's final moments. Idly, Draco began to stroke her shoulder, feeling a completely unacceptable and unmanly urge to blather on about how upset he was. To unload on someone who claimed to like him and, therefore, had to listen.
"What now?" she murmured, letting her hand fall to rest on his thigh. "I mean, school is out soon, and then what?"
Are you going to go with Potty and the Weasel he wanted to ask, but he bit his tongue, even as cold fingers tickled at his heart. Instead, he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do after Hogwarts. Go to the Manor for a while, figure things out. You'll just have to booty call me there, Hermione. Err… if you're okay going there."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not booty calling you. You can booty call me."
He tickled her side, and she giggled, elbowing at him.
"Oh, get off!" she exclaimed, rising. "I'm going to work on homework. You're nothing but bad news."
She pointed her finger at him in an absolutely swotty manner, winked, and then headed for the door. Draco watched her go, feeling equal amounts of right and wrong—feeling, in truth, quite uncertain about his place in her world now that all was said and done, despite her assurances.
Pansy Parkinson was almost at the classroom when hands grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her into a dark alcove, hidden from view. She panicked on the inside—after her year, who could blame her—but then she saw Seamus' face, smiling in the darkness.
"Is it true what they're saying about Zabini?" he asked, just a touch breathlessly.
Pansy didn't really know what they were saying about Zabini in Gryffindor, so she just told the truth.
"Draco used an Unforgivable on him," she announced, wrapping her arms around Seamus' shoulders. "His mother covered it up though, Seamus, so hush hush." Teasingly, she pressed her finger into his lips, leaning into him.
"Good," was Seamus' harsh reply. "I would have loved to see the look on that bugger's face. Good on Malfoy. Perhaps I could grow to like the sod after all."
Pansy was struck by a vision of Seamus and Draco sitting around discussing Quidditch, and felt her heart soar. In a perfect world, it just might go down that way; then, Pansy was feeling strangely optimistic, and rather like a perfect world could be hers after all. The feeling frightened her—wasn't there some Muggle saying about all good things coming to an end, or nothing gold could stay, or something sentimental like that—but she stomped down those negative feelings, determined to enjoy herself for once.
"What am I going to do now that I have you all to myself?" Seamus asked, leaning so that their noises touched. "You have nowhere and no one to run off to."
"Well, I do have class," pointed out Pansy, although she ruined it all by tipping her chin so that their lips bumped, innocently and accidentally, of course. "Also, Mother has informed me to return to pursuing Malfoy."
"That tosser! And just when I felt like I might warm to him." Seamus laughed. "Thank God I can finally see the end of this year!"
Pansy grabbed onto his tie and pulled him closer, if that was even possible. "Are we going to get married right off?"
"Couldn't wait another minute, love," he affirmed. "Lest Malfoy sweep in and carry you off into the sunset."
Pansy rolled her eyes, and then whispered conspiringly, "He's dating Hermione Granger, you know."
Seamus' eyes almost bugged right out of his face. Giggling, she caught his cheeks and kissed him, deciding then and there that it could stand in for their first kiss; certainly, it was their first kiss without anything hanging over their heads.
Exhaling against her lips, Seamus tugged her further into the alcove, shifting so that, in the unlikely event of someone happening upon them, only his back would be visible at first glance. Eagerly, she helped him push aside her robes so that he could undo the buttons of her blouse. She wanted to promise him that she had never enjoyed this with Zabini, never once; wanted to tell him that he was still the only one she'd ever been with. Only Seamus was making contented noises against her chest, and she was wishing for more privacy to do things properly, wishing for—
"Do you want to do it right here?" she asked, gauging that they were mostly hidden. And, after all, she had a reputation to preserve. Teasingly, she tugged his tie, yanking him further back into the alcove. "I am the Slytherin slut, you know."
Seamus made a shocked noise before laughing throatily. "Pansy Parkinson," he murmured, "I really do love you."
That was all she needed to hear.
Draco saw them in the corridor on the way to Arithmancy, bogged down by a gaggle of Gryffindors, returning the conquering heroes. Had he known what his best mate was up to at that very moment, he might have been happy that this was all he saw. Still his heart clogged up his throat and momentarily stopped beating. Instinct made him want to go for his wand—a welcome home hex was forming on his tongue—but instead he ducked back, hidden by the crowd and what he assumed was a safe distance.
In truth, he wasn't surprised to see them at all. The news of Hermione's abduction had spread through the Wizarding World like wildfire; in truth, he was surprised they hadn't made it here sooner. He remembered feverishly wanting them to show up, remembered wanting to pawn off responsibility, but now all he wanted was for them to disappear.
It would be the end, he knew. Hermione hadn't breathed a word of after, of what she would do when all of this was over, but Draco knew it would be big and glorious, because Draco knew Hermione. He supposed he hadn't asked because he hadn't wanted to know, but now they were here, and exams were two weeks from today; he knew they would sweep her off into the sunset, knew too that that was right.
Still, it didn't stop him from feeling saddened. He watched Potter clap Longbottom on the back, watched Weasley make eyes at that insipid Brown girl. It looked funny, just the two of them. They were a trio, and they needed their third.
As for Draco… He hugged his bag to his chest, and huffed out a sigh, feeling lost and uncertain about everything. Pansy was going to go off with Finnigan, the Dark Lord would be after Draco's head, the Golden Boys did not need or want him, and school was out soon. He had no father. He had no guidance. He had no ultimate goals. Soon, no matter what Hermione claimed, he would have no girlfriend.
Feeling dangerously close to wallowing in self-pity once again, Draco turned his back on the crowd before he could see Hermione's long overdue reunion. Without so much as a peep, he slipped into the classroom and headed to his seat.
That evening, Hermione wasn't in the Great Hall, and neither was most of the Gryffindor table. Draco was annoyed, both at Potter and Weasley's appearance and at the fact that Hermione had gone strangely mum. Not so much of a peep had he heard from her about her mates' return, and it chafed at his feelings, not that he would ever admit it.
From her seat beside him, Pansy whispered, "Trouble in paradise?"
He thought of everything working out for her, and childishly chose to ignore how much she'd gone through to get there. "Oh sod off, Pansy. There's nothing worse than a smugly happy woman. I find I have very little patience for you at this point in time."
She batted her eyes at him, smirking. Then, she leaned close and lowered her voice so that no one could hear her outside of him.
Placing a hand on his arm, she whispered, "We're doing it after school lets out, at a Muggle church in Dublin. Mother will suspect that I've run off, of course, but she'll never expect that I'd lower myself enough to get married with the Muggles."
"And who could blame her," commented Draco, stabbing at his meat.
"Oh, shut up, Malfoy," she hissed, before continuing, voice still low and secretive. It said much for how very Slytherin they all were that whispered conversations could go unnoticed. "His mother is going to set it all up. We'll be staying in Muggle Dublin until the day of the wedding. No magic, no nothing. No way of tracing us. I'm only telling you so that you're prepared, you see. I will owl you the morning of the wedding with the location and the time, but you won't hear from me until that very moment. I would like very much for you to come. Seamus is bringing Dean Thomas, and… I don't know… you're rather more in my camp, aren't you?"
Before Draco could comment either way, Pansy looked down and muttered in a rush, "You may bring her as well, although I truly detest sharing you."
At that, Draco broke out into a full-blown smile, elbowing Pansy in a chummy manner. "Did you tell Seamus what your mother said? Do you want to snog right here? Get him all riled up?"
She whacked him hard on the arm at that, but after a moment, she joined his laughter. Once she'd calmed, she whispered, "There really isn't trouble in paradise, Draco. I ran into your precious little girlfriend in the corridor, and she couldn't find you. Gave me this."
Smiling saucily, she shoved a folded piece of parchment onto his lap, out of sight from the others. Draco didn't want to read it in front of her, but after a moment, curiosity got the better of him. Glowering at her for good measure, he unfolded the parchment and saw Hermione's hasty scrawl.
I'm sure you know of Ron and Harry's arrival, and I'm also sure you think I'm keeping secrets. I honestly didn't know until this morning, and now you've disappeared. I'm going to visit with them and the rest of Gryffindor at supper, but I'll see you tonight," it read.
To the point, his Hermione, but he did feel a little better known that she hadn't forgotten about him completely. He wondered what she and her lame little friends would get up to at supper, and couldn't think of a single thing exciting—outside, that was, of plotting his murder. With a twinge of panic, he wondered what Hermione would tell those two. Perhaps it was best to pack his bags now.
Rather than hang around waiting for Hermione to be free or to force his company on Pansy, Draco escaped that night to somewhere that was both a place of nightmares and great personal realizations for him: he went up as high as he could in the Astronomy Tower, relishing in the chill of the night air against his cheeks. Feeling out of sorts and just all around miserable, he sat down and stared off into the abyss, pondering the events that had happened between that fateful night and now. He suspected that Dumbledore might have been amused, if not out and out proud. One could never tell with that crazy old coot, Draco decided, rather fondly. Still, every second of it had been impossibly hard, right from the moment Draco had stared down his wand and couldn't act.
A noise behind him near the stairs alerted Draco to the fact that he was not alone. Before he could turn properly to assess who his intruder was, an all too familiar voice said, "I thought you'd come here eventually now that everything's in order. Rather morbid of you, though."
An old dislike, tempered but not erased with the passing of time, set Draco's teeth on edge. Deciding not to grace this intruder with even so much as a glance, he spit out, "Well, if it isn't Harry Potter, conquering hero."
Potter made a noise of irritation, but surprised Draco by moving to sit beside him. Time—and stress, Draco reckoned—had not been kind to Harry. He looked, at the very least, twenty-one. Repressing a passing urge to flick him right on that stupid scar, Draco crossed his arms and proceeded to ignore his once nemesis.
For about ten seconds. "Although," he mused, "I'm not really sure what you've conquered."
There was silence then, creeping over both boys and making Draco feel tense and on edge. He just knew Potter was thinking of the most biting thing to say, and he had to ready himself to say something back. Seconds yawned into minutes, and it took a great deal of self control not to throw something stupid out there just for the point of speaking.
"I won't apologize for your father," Potter said at last, tone tight. "I am not in the least bit sad that he's dead."
He would have flinched had that come from anyone else; instead, Draco felt his lip quirk up. "That's good because I feel exactly the same way about yours."
Potter, Draco noticed through surreptitious glances from the corner of his eye, did not flinch either. He merely shook his head a little at Draco's remark and made a strange huffing sound—always long suffering, Potter. With some disgust, Draco wondered if they were growing used to each other and their respective insults. Troubling thought.
"It's been lovely to see you," said Draco, at the exact same moment Potter said, "Hermione told me everything."
At that, Draco did flinch. Turning in on himself slightly, he abandoned all covert attempts at glaring at Potter, looking instead out over the night sky. It felt very strange to have the secret out—telling Pansy had been hard enough. He'd gotten used to a world in which he and Hermione needed no one outside of one another—how disconcerting to have that change.
Only of course it would change. Potter and Weasley, despite how he felt about them, were after all her best mates. It would have been more inexcusable in the long run, he supposed, if she had chosen to tell them nothing. That didn't excuse the fact that Potter knowing what his father really was—what he himself really was, and what he had done—any more pleasant.
If Potter decided to hex him, he supposed that on some level he deserved it.
Not really knowing where to start, Draco muttered, "Well then. Best to get it over with, eh? Hit me with your best shot, Potter. I won't fight you."
Had Draco bothered to look at Potter, he would have seen his blink of confusion. Then, he was shaking his head, but Draco didn't see that either. A moment passed, a beat of time, and then Potter said, "You think I came up here to hex you? You really are daft, Malfoy."
Draco did look at him then, and saw an oddly resolved look settle on the other boy's features. He didn't look angry, not really, or at least not at Draco; instead, he looked resigned and weary.
"It's my fault," murmured Potter, looking away.
And that was just so friggin' Boy Who Lived that Draco had to snort. "Oh yes, Potty, do take the blame for this as well. Not everything that goes wrong ever has something to do with you, you know. You've always been like this too. It's very tiresome, and I have much better things to do with my time than sit here and say sweet comforting little nothings to you."
An eye roll was all he got for his comment, but Potter had always been persistent. "They were trying to get to me, Malfoy. How does that make it not my fault?"
Only Harry bloody Potter was not going to take the blame away from Draco Malfoy. Sneering, he pointed out, "You idiot, it was my father and then it was me."
The corner of Potter's mouth turned up in begrudging acknowledgement. "Yes, Malfoy, it was you. I ought to hex you into next year for how much worse you made it for her initially, but then…" He trailed off, looking puzzled, before plunging forward with that reckless Gryffindor relentlessness. "But then I'm not sure she would have been able to do it without you either. She was here all alone and—"
"She was not alone," he snapped. "Just because Pans and I don't rank very highly on your list of Acceptable People doesn't mean—"
"—you did what Ron and I couldn't. So. Thank you, I guess."
That rather took the wind right out of Draco's indignant little sails. It wasn't very manly to titter with nerves, nor was it a very Malfoy trait to even have nerves, so Draco tried his damnedest to turn it into a gruff sort of cough.
"You're… uhh… welcome," he stammered, hating himself more than a little. Draco Malfoy didn't stammer. Sweeping recoveries were in order. "So, what's this then? You're giving me your blessing to date one of you sainted three?"
"I guess so." A sigh. "Although you might want to consider avoiding Ron for a few weeks."
Harry Potter didn't sound happy, which cheered Draco up immensely. He'd also decided to use that moment to make his exit, which made Draco even happier.
Looking for all the world like he was sucking on lemons, Potter added, "I assume all this means you're on the outs with Voldemort. If you decide to get involved with us, we'll have a place for you."
Aww. Draco sent Potter his sweetest most heartfelt smile, before dissolving into a healthy round of snickers. Trying not to bat his eyes to the point of over kill, he said, "See, Potty, we'll be best mates in no time!"
Potter could barely contain his shudder; Draco felt rather gleeful. Still smiling sweetly, he called, "Do tell Hermione I'm retiring to my rooms, won't you?"
"Ugh," said Potter. "I might have to hex you after all."
"You can try," Draco said, leaning back on his elbows. "You can always try."
When Draco returned to his rooms, oddly buoyed by his conversation with Potter, Hermione was lounging on the couch reading—surprise, surprise—a textbook. She was still clad in her uniform; Draco followed the line of her stocking up her calve as millions of wimpy butterflies exploded in his stomach. He was feeling sentimental and high on adrenaline; he had faced down Harry Potter and lived.
"I'm going to change my password," he announced, stalking in her direction. "Now that it's not a matter of life and death each time you visit, a bloke might enjoy a bit of privacy now and then."
Hermione wrinkled her nose and leaned up enough to catch his tie between her fingers. Giving it a good tug, she giggled when Draco gamely gave in, half landing on top of her. The butterflies in his stomach flew lower and ceased to be quite so wimpy. Dropping his head, he landed a few open mouthed kisses on her neck and blouse covered chest, relieved beyond belief not to have to worry about impending doom for once. Despite her rather weak attempts at wiggling away, he managed to get her situated on his lap.
"Oh, cut it out!" she said, but she said it with a laugh, even as she turned her face so that his kisses only caught her cheek. Shrugging mentally, Draco made do.
"I've had a really awful week," he pointed out, past the point of caring when it sounded ridiculously whiny. Hoping he wasn't about to startle her, he got his hands up under her skirt and onto her arse. With effort, he moved her up and forward, nuzzling his face into her breasts. As he had yet to be told to bugger off, he decided things were looking up.
Hermione made a disconcerted noise—Draco, in response, eased his grip on her hips—but then she rocked forward, sighing agreeably. Draco tried and failed not to move, choking out a rather strangled noise and grabbing a handful of fabric near her back. She laughed again, soft and throaty, and he felt the coolness of her hands on his neck, on his cheeks. Those hands snaked down in between their bodies, tugging at his shirt and at his buttons.
"This alright?" he made himself ask, even though now she was the aggressor.
She pulled back to gaze at him; he gazed right back. There was something different about her, something lighter and freer. She'd been to hell and back, and she'd survived. There was a strange resolve to the set of her mouth; she was not fixed, not really because it couldn't be as easy as that, but she was fighting. She was rallying, and it was what Draco had always found appealing in her.
Perhaps Potty and the Weasel were good for her or the healing process or something, although it was hard to believe they could be good for anything. Perhaps she'd needed them to remind her of her strength, of her purpose. Flashes of the old Hermione Granger lit up her gaze, and it was only about the sexiest thing Draco had seen ever.
Or it was until she'd divested him of his shirt, and started in on her own buttons. Blushing bright red, she undid her shirt so that he could steal glances of her bra, green in colour incidentally, before she pressed her chest to his with a contented sigh.
"Yes," she said, sounding both surprised and surprisingly breathless. "Just hold me like this, Malfoy."
And Draco, content on what was enough for her and for him right now, snuck his hands up under her shirt to press his palms to her back and sealed his lips to hers, glorifying in the movements of her hips, and in this second chance that they'd been given.
Sometime later, with Hermione still sprawled across his lap but once again occupied with his textbook, Draco felt inclined to say, "A bit of warning might have been nice before sending me to the dogs."
Hermione's eyebrow went up. "What, Draco? Can't handle a little Harry? I kept Ron away for the time being, although he's not exactly angry with you per say."
Draco thought of things to say, such as I was born to handle Harry or sure Ron's attempts to do me in would have been a poor showing… get it?, but said instead, "He offered me a position on your side. That's good for a bloody lark, isn't it? Draco Malfoy, fighting the good fight?"
Looking up from her textbook, Hermione smiled and touched his cheek with the backs of her fingers. "You've got to do something, Draco. You're excellent with potions. It's hard to think you wouldn't make a stellar addition. You might even be the next best thing. After me of course."
He snorted at that, toying at her hair idly. He didn't mean to consider it, really he didn't, but the novelty of an official switch in sides appealed to him. Wouldn't it be sticking it to the Dark Lord, wouldn't it be sticking it to his father, wouldn't it be—
"Might make Mum proud," he murmured.
And it might make up for everything, but he didn't say that part aloud.
"And Pansy," added Hermione, her smile so full of faith in him that it flayed at his resolve. Then, abruptly, she wrinkled her nose. "What do you think of all that? Your mum and Snape?"
"Hmph," said Draco, with a shudder. Although, he reasoned, somewhere deep inside he wasn't really that put off. Surely his mother deserved a second chance at happiness, at freedom. If they all survived the war, that was.
Hermione wasn't done. "Maybe they'll have a baby, and you can have a brother with long black greasy hair. Wouldn't that be just the thing?"
"Ten points from Gryffindor," he laughed, despite himself, "for insulting the Malfoy spare."
Belatedly, he realized that this non-existant baby wouldn't be the spare, not really, or would he? Thinking of money and family legacy, Draco made a mental note to research inheritance and lines of succession. Papers would have to be drawn. Troubled, Draco decided to ask Hermione.
But her face had gone serious. "It doesn't matter to me," she said, "if you choose to fight, although I think that you will. Just so you know."
Pushing aside silly thoughts of heirs and spares, Draco pretended to be pleased, leaning forward again to kiss her. However, deep down inside, he wasn't sure at all that it didn't matter a great deal to him, whether or not he chose a side officially. Could he do it, he wondered, could he honestly cast off his childhood that much?
Then, as her lips danced across his, he realized something artlessly simple: somewhere along the way, somewhere along the twisted dark roads this year had led him down, hadn't he already?
From his designated spot by his owner's thigh, Crookshanks was lulled by the rumbling of the train, and of the familiar sounds of it coming to a stop. With the lazy leisure of a cat, he observed the two people in the compartment with him.
The boy, who was Irish, had talked most of the trip, filling Hermione Granger in on a matter of utmost importance. It didn't escape the cat's notice that the boy was nervous—his smile had a hysterical glint to it, and he kept wiping his palms on his trousers. Being more in tune with Hermione's emotions, the cat was also aware of her excitement, which was currently overriding the hint of her own nervousness.
Being a cat, Crookshanks was not really aware of the most important fact: this was a train full of children, most of whom were headed towards a war just heating up. All Crookshanks knew was Hermione's pleasure, evident in the warm way she kept stroking his fur, and the Irish boy's heavily projected anticipation.
Something was happening. Something was changing. It kept Crookshanks from being lulled to sleep completely.
Then, the door to the compartment opened, and two more people entered the cramped space.
The first, Crookshanks knew and even liked. This boy was Draco Malfoy, and the smile he sent Crookshanks' girl was one of readiness, one of acceptance. This boy, always so nervous, was not nervous now.
The second was another girl, who most certainly was nervous and rather reckless too. She had dark hair and a prettily composed face, although both of these features were almost completely obscured by her giant hood. The Irish boy stopped his babbling then to smile at the girl. The girl smiled back.
The boy, Draco Malfoy, ruffled the cat's fur as the train came to a complete stop.
Outside the compartment, people stirred. Both his owner and the Irish boy rose, Hermione scooping the cat into her arms. Crookshanks snuggled in and watched as the Irish boy opened the door of the compartment, as he extended his hand to the girl in the hood. The girl's posture was proud, and Crookshanks watched as they stepped out of the compartment, hand in hand and determined. Over Hermione's shoulder, the cat watched Draco Malfoy place a hand to her back, and then they were moving too.
Two Gryffindors and two Slytherins did the unthinkable as Crookshanks watched.
They exited the train together.
Author's Note: I may include an epilogue, but am currently undecided. Thank you so much for your continued support and most of all patience! The reviews for this baby have pretty much made my life, so thank you so much for taking the time to let me know what you thought!