Another year, another Valentine's Day fic exchange story ;o) The link to the exchange is in my profile; there are many, many uber-lovely DM/HG fics there awaiting your persual and reviewage! Hey, I made a new word. Reviewage. Anyway, this little ficlet will contain two chapters and a short epilogue, posted, most of you probably know the drill by now, weekly until complete. Happy reading! Wait, actually it's kind of angsty reading. Oh well, you know what I mean…
Valentine for: loveistoxic
Disclaimer: neither the characters nor the setting belong to me. My eternal gratitude to Ms. Rowling for so graciously allowing me to borrow, torture and pervert them! ;o)
Warnings: sexuality, language, general angst
Notes: I have to thank Alex, my beautiful, brilliant, beta! (I like alliteration. So sue me.)
Word Count: approximately 7,700
Summary: He dove in after her – but why?
The request I was given to fulfill was as follows:
Would you prefer an art or fic valentine? Fic please
Describe your ideal valentine in as few words as possible: Something darkish and angsty, preferably an NC-17 rating but R is fine too. Something believable and in character for both Draco and Hermione
Dealbreakers (absolute no-no's): No Harry/Ginny, minimal Ron, (haha sorry I love them all, just not when Draco/Hermione is concerned.) No fluff please!
So without further ado, here's the story!
He dove in after her.
It would haunt her for years; her waking thoughts and dreams alike. Night after night she'd bolt upright, gasping in one deep, frantic breath after another, remembering the shock of that freezing water closing over her head, so cold it hit her like a physical blow, knocking the air from her lungs.
Nearly knocking the life from her body.
But no – he dove in after her. And she had not one iota of doubt that in so doing, he had saved her life.
He dove in after her.
It was mid-February. It was the final battle against Voldemort. It was on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And it had already been dragging on for over two full days without pause.
Hermione Granger, like most of the combatants on either side, had been fighting for over two full days without pause.
She was absolutely ragged with exhaustion.
That was how she'd become separated from her companions, and it was how the cunning McNair managed to finally catch her off-guard and get the best of her.
She was literally swaying with fatigue as she picked her way over and around the dozens of bodies that littered the edge of the Hogwarts lake; her head was swimming. She hardly knew what hit her – it was all over in seconds. He had her wand Accio'd out of her hand before she fully grasped what was happening, and in the next second had rapped out a quick, perfunctory Incarcerous as well, pinning her arms to her sides with ropes which sprung instantaneously from the tip of his wand.
Then, before she even managed to gather her wits about her enough to scream, he Silencio'd her as well. Effectively disarmed, bound and gagged, she had no hope of striking back, either physically or magically. She was well and truly fucked.
A wave of dull horror washed over her as he casually snapped her wand in two and tossed aside the pieces, advancing on her with his own wand trained on her chest. She'd had no illusions about the fact that she might not leave the battlefield alive – she was an innately practical girl, after all – she'd reconciled herself to the possibility of death.
But Merlin, not like this, not so… so… alone. She glanced around frantically, but could see nothing moving anywhere around her except for her soon-to-be murderer. The battlefield was shrouded in a dense, low, swirling mist – the byproduct of Voldemort's contingent of Dementors. It obscured everything except for her very immediate surroundings, and muffled all sound. The gentle lapping of the lake against the small outcropping upon which she stood, the crunch of McNair's footfalls on the gravelly, icy ground and her own harsh, frightened breathing were the only sounds she could hear.
Until he spoke.
"Well well, Harry Potter's Golden Girl," he sneered viciously, pausing to spit on the frozen ground at her feet, "what shall I do with you? Our lord has instructed us not to trouble with prisoners, and you're hardly worth dulling my blade, or wasting the effort of an Unforgivable curse." He spat again. "Filthy little bitch. So let's just think a moment, shall we?"
She knew that he was pondering the most painful and horrific deaths his warped and evil mind could conceive of – and this was confirmed a moment later when he grinned maliciously. He shifted his eyes from hers to the freezing waters of the lake behind her, then back again.
'I say, mudblood, fancy a swim?"
He flicked his wand at her and she staggered – glancing down in alarm that was rapidly approaching panic, she saw that two small but incredibly heavy weights had just attached themselves to her wrists. She guessed they each weighed thirty pounds minimum – there were two more at her ankles. The four of them together at least doubled her weight.
"Who knows?" McNair said conversationally, as she raised dark, despairing eyes back to his face, "perhaps your little friends will survive long enough to find the pieces of your wand. Perhaps, not immediately seeing your body, it will occur to them to search the lake. Perhaps what they find there will be what breaks your precious Potter for once and all. You could help our cause yet, little girl."
He took a step backward. "And now, mudblood, you've wasted enough of my valuable time. Good bye."
And, not bothering to invoke magic this time, he simply kicked her squarely in the stomach with all the strength he could muster.
The pain was incredible – made all the more so by the fact that the bottoms of McNair's heavy boots were cleated, to help their wearer gain better purchase in the ice and snow. And then she was falling backward, as he'd intended, and then she hit the water – water so cold it seemed to burn her with an icy fire – and then she was sinking.
Away from light – away from hope – away from life.
She hit the bottom quickly – the lake was shallow here, no more than twelve or fifteen feet deep. Hardly deeper than her parents' swimming pool at home, in which she had frolicked and played nearly from infancy - but most certainly deep enough to kill when one was bound and weighted down. Oh, yes.
She stared up as long as she could at the air, at the sky above her. She saw McNair's dark, hunched shape leaning over the water, peering down; she couldn't tell whether he could make her out in the murky water or not. Then he turned and disappeared.
It was a ripping, clawing, tearing sort of cold, the water down here – and her lungs were on fire. She had only seconds left. She remembered what McNair had said about her wand, about the possibility of Harry and Ron finding her here.
Don't let them find me here, she thought frantically; don't let me be what breaks them. Please God, don't let them break at all. Let them fight, and let them win, and let them remember me, but don't let them find me like this, not ever, not like this. And then, with the light above her fading, her desperation succumbing to resignation, the screaming cold in her limbs reducing to a dull, aching numbness, she gave herself up completely and began to pray.
Our… our Father… who art… art in… in…
Her first childhood prayer – that's what she returned to now. But she couldn't remember the words. Her mind was shutting down. Her eyes began to roll back.
And then he dove in after her.
She felt, more than saw, the disturbance in the shallow water when he plunged in. With an immense act of will she forced her eyes back into focus for just a few more seconds, and saw a blurred shape swimming toward her with brisk, purposeful strokes. His wand, lit against the watery gloom, was clamped in his teeth.
Reaching her, he grabbed her by the shoulders, took his wand in hand and shouted something that, garbled as it sounded underwater, must have been Finite Incantatum, because McNair's restraints and weights instantly disappeared. She tried to narrow her eyes and figure out who this was – all she could seem to make out was hair the color of… of snow?... but it was no good. Her focus was gone and her consciousness was following it. The agony in her lungs was unendurable. Even as he wrapped an arm firmly around her body, holding her against him, and kicked powerfully off from the lake bed, rocketing them both upward, her body, unable to hold out any longer, gave a desperate, involuntary heave – pulling for air and finding only water.
She was practically convulsing as they broke the surface – he nearly lost his grip on her. "Damn it, Granger, you silly bint," she thought she heard him growl, "you couldn't have held out for one more bloody second!?" Then he was making for the shore, dragging her with him.
Stumbling, he pulled her from the water and they crashed together to the small, pebbly, half-frozen beach. Without any conscious awareness of it, she was holding onto him for dear life, arms wrapped tightly about him and hands fisted, white-knuckled, in the sodden fabric of his shirt. He fell on his back, already starting to shiver, with a grunted "umph" – she landed atop him, draped across his chest and coughing so hard now that she was practically retching.
She was back on dry ground, in the light, the air – but still water filled her lungs.
"Granger. Granger." He was sitting up now, prying her hands from his clothes, pushing her off of him. She curled into a little ball on her side, the lake water lapping at her ankles, and coughed so hard she saw bursts of light before her eyes.
"Goddamn it, Granger, you want to bring everyone in a quarter-mile radius down on us? Quietus!" Nothing happened. And then – "Aw, fuck. Fuck me. My wand!"
Hermione dragged her head around long enough to catch a glimpse of her rescuer's wand which was, much like her own at the moment, snapped into a pair of miserable, dejected, thoroughly useless pieces. How had that happened? It had been fine in the water. The damage must have come during their rather… bumpy landing on the shore.
"I broke my wand for you," he said slowly, in a voice suffused with horror, through teeth that were beginning to chatter. "I broke… my fucking… wand for you. Now what are we supposed to do?"
It was then that she recognized first the voice – and then, her eyes widening with shock, the face – and the unmistakable hair – as well.
But this couldn't be. There was just no way. Was she imagining things, hallucinating? She had not just been pulled from a watery grave by –
"M-muh-Mal-foy?" she managed, between hacking coughs and through teeth that were, like his, now chattering violently. She pushed herself up onto her knees, keeping one hand braced against the ground, the other arm wrapped around herself, pressed to her middle. "Wh-hut are you – ?"
He sent her a pale, sidelong glare, glanced back down at the pieces of wand in his hand, and then, with a snarl of furious disgust, hurled them into the water. He raised a hand to his face, pushing his sopping, near-colorless hair back out of his eyes. There was absolutely no mistaking, through appearance, voice, or mannerisms, who he was.
The last time she'd seen him had been nearly a year ago, and in his Hogwarts uniform. But she knew who Draco Malfoy was. What she couldn't wrap her mind around was what he'd just done.
He was the enemy. There was no mistaking that, either. Even if it hadn't been common knowledge that he'd thrown in his lot with the Death Eaters, there was the very immediate fact that he was attired as one right now – in the black garb of the enemy and with – she could make out just the tip of it peeking from beneath his left sleeve – the Dark Mark on his arm.
But McNair had said the Death Eaters weren't interested in prisoners. So what in the hell was he playing at?
She was wandless – but so was he. They were both soaking wet and half-frozen. She figured the playing field had evened out rather nicely. As well as could be hoped for, at any rate. She cast about on the ground for something she could use as a weapon, but there was nothing likely nearby.
Shit. What did he want with her anyway?
He was following her with his eyes; she saw him realize exactly what it was that she was doing. His eyes narrowed. "Oh for Christ's sake, Granger," he ground out through teeth that were clenched against the cold, "you don't think I went through all that just to kill you now? Are you bloody stupid?"
Well, that stung. If there was one thing Hermione Granger was not accustomed to being called, it was 'bloody stupid'. She opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, too, but all that came from that was another debilitating round of coughing – this one worse than any that had come before.
"Granger." She heard his voice as if from very far away now. "Granger, shit!"
And then he was beside her; his arms, surprisingly strong considering his somewhat slight, if sinewy, build, wrapping around her – finding her midsection, just below her ribs – and then squeezing hard; helping her to force a great wave of water up and out.
"That's it, Granger, get it all out. You'll have called attention to this place; we need to be moving on."
Finally it seemed like she was gaining some purchase over her breathing again. She retched up another wave of lakewater – then another still. Merlin, how had she even taken that much in? And he held her steady through it all.
His arms around her reminded her of Harry's – they had the same build, the two of them. It was why they'd always been so evenly matched, both as Quidditch Seekers and as duelists. Perhaps it was this familiar, comforting sensation, along with her physical and mental distress at the moment, and the freezing, biting cold, which allowed her to sink back against him once the heaving had subsided, her head clunking gently against his collarbone, her eyes falling shut with exhaustion.
She was half-gone in a swoon. Given another moment or two, she might have slipped fully into unconsciousness. But Draco had other ideas.
He gave her a single, sharp shake. "Snap the hell out of it, Granger; we've got to move." As if to punctuate his words, a shout sounded somewhere off to their left, only to be answered by another, much closer-sounding exclamation vaguely behind and to their right. Draco swore under his breath. The low-lying mist was fatally deceptive; some sounds were magnified; others reduced. The shouts could be coming from a hundred feet away, or only ten. One thing was for sure; her friends were his enemies and vice versa. So the two of them, huddled together like this, would more than likely encounter serious trouble no matter who it was that found them.
He staggered to his feet, shaking so hard now with the cold that he was nearly as debilitated as she. Nevertheless, he managed to haul her up after him.
"C'mon. We've got to get back up the embankment. I left something up there we'll be wanting."
He helped her to hook one arm around his neck, wrapped his own arm tightly around her waist, and half-dragged, half-carried her along with him as he started to walk.
They reached Draco's invisibility cloak – for such was the item he'd been referring to – only just in time. It lay where he had shed it just before diving into the lake, but no sooner had he started to crouch down to retrieve it than the shouts came again – and this time they sounded close indeed. More than that, a dark shape actually began to materialize out of the mist, alarmingly nearby.
Draco instantly threw himself flat on the ground, yanking Hermione down with him and clamping a hand over her mouth to muffle any startled sound she might make – but she managed to stay silent except for the chattering of her teeth. In a flash he had them both covered in the cloak, drawing it quickly over them with his free hand. The hand that was covering the lower half of her face remained, and moreover, he now proceeded to shove a finger into her mouth, wedging it between her teeth.
"To stop your teeth from rattling," he hissed in her ear when she stiffened against him, gathering herself to resist. "Now lie still!"
Really, in her state, that wasn't hard to do. Her whole body was shaking, but he was holding her so hard against him that it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. She let her eyes fall shut. She could hear footsteps crunching nearer; feel Draco's arms tightening, involuntarily it seemed, still further. Despite the clear and present danger, though, she was slipping away again… it might have almost been comfortable… if she hadn't been so bone-chillingly, deep-down cold…
It seemed like no more than a heartbeat's worth of time had passed before he was dragging her to her feet again – but she realized, in bewilderment, that it must have been longer, because there was no sign of whoever it was whose footfalls had been approaching only, it seemed, a second ago. Confirming this sensation of lost time, he was snarling in her ear, "don't you black out on me again, Granger, goddamn it, don't you fucking do it. I don't want to leave your arse behind, but I don't wanna die, either; are you bloody well hearing me?"
He seemed to expect an answer to this, so she managed to force out a small "um-hm."
"Now," he muttered, more to himself than to her, it seemed, "we have to get indoors somehow before we both freeze solid. But where, where?"
"Hag-g-grid's?" she suggested.
He gave his head a single, curt shake as he covered them both in the cloak again (if only invisibility cloaks generated just a little bit more warmth…)
"No good. Burnt down. Saw it."
Saw it, or DID it? She still had no idea what he was playing at, but he was the enemy, damn it, and she'd do well to remember it. Merlin, why was he doing this?
But in an immediate sense, a survival sense, a better question was, where could the two of them, defenseless and debilitated with cold as they were, hole up for a while, away from the combatants of either side, out of the icy February wind, and just warm up a bit? Because she didn't have the strength to break from him right now. And she wasn't entirely sure she had the heart for it, either. She sensed that she was practically the only thing holding him up at the moment, just as he was the only thing supporting her. Enemy or not, he was in very real danger of freezing to death out here, and all because he'd jumped into the lake to save her. So she couldn't just abandon him, even given the opportunity. She simply couldn't.
"Um… Q-Quidditch equip-p-ment shed?"
He paused for a moment, clearly giving this some thought. Then; "Right. N-not bad, Granger. Not bad at all. Les'go."