a/n: Hello. I know, I should be working on DGITB (yes, I'm so lazy I have devised an acronym)… but this idea has been in my mind for too long, and if I don't write it now it's gonna drive me freaking inSANE. Don't worry though, it's only going to be two or three chapters, so I promise not to get behind on updates for my other story!

summary: His arms encase her, pressing her half-bare back against his warm abdomen, and she tries not to think of his cold and unfeeling legs touching her own. DMHG.

x.x.x

Ersatz Affection

x.x.x

Tangled limbs, skin slick with sweat. Warm mouths and moist breath. Dirtied and twisted sheets.

He caresses her hair, wild and sticky but perfect nonetheless. Love is perfect, is it not? And in her he has discovered it, that four-letter word for perfection. He never imagined himself capable of such. He envisioned himself years from now, an old and wrinkled man on his deathbed, as bitter and forgotten as the sludge at the bottom of an already drunk cup of coffee. Bitter and alone and unloved.

Funny how he was totally and completely wrong about himself. Because now, he is not alone, not bitter and forgotten and unloved. He has this woman, this woman in his bed and in his arms. She loves him, he is sure. He can see it in the blush that paints her cheeks when he kisses her small, freckled nose. He can feel it in her fingers when she grabs him by the arm, or holds his hand, or gently combs his hair. He bathes in her love when he ventures into her warm, brown eyes.

Those eyes have fluttered shut, her breathing evened into the deep and soft hum of unconsciousness, and he knows that she is asleep.

"I love you," he murmurs into her deaf ear.

Draco Malfoy has found love.

x.x.x

She is an orderly, logical woman. Anal-retentive, some might even say. As such, she never could have anticipated this—this love thing. So chaotic, love is. So disordered and frenzied and completely irrational. Defying sense and logic. Refusing to be condensed into an Arithmancy problem.

She never thought about it much. She looked down on it, even, and on those foolish enough to fall prey to such consuming and nonsensical emotions. Until now.

Because now she has it. It's right here, in the warmth of his enveloping arms.

She is an orderly woman, yes. So very logical. But she has decided, now, that messy can be wonderful. That rational may not always best. That some things are just too spectacular to make any sense.

"I love you."

Aroused from her light sleep, she suspects that he hadn't intended for her to hear. But she does, and is thrilled.

Hermione Granger has found love.

x.x.x

He returns home, one night, many months later. Months after the courting and the kneeling and the exchanging of rings, but he loves her just the same.

He will always love her just the same.

x.x.x

Ama in Veritate.

"It's a curse," he explains, as if she doesn't already know. As if she hadn't graduated at the top of their class just five years ago.

"I know, dear," she reminds him needlessly. "Who cast it?"

"Dunno," he replies casually. "Some rogue Death Eater. Obviously didn't know much about my wonderful married life." Draco grins, but she ignores him.

"I thought all the Death Eaters were gone."

"I'm still around, eh?"

"You know what I mean." She glares and he surrenders.

"I know, sorry. And apparently they're not."

She purses her lips but does not respond.

"The guys were going to take me to St. Mungo's, you know, just for the standard procedures, to put the curse on the records and all, but I refused. 'No thanks,' I told them. 'I've got my own personal Healer at home.'" He smiles.

"Oh, honestly!" she scoffs. "Your own personal Healer, indeed. I ought to let the damned curse run its course just to teach you a lesson."

She won't, though. Resistance is futile when he widens his smoky grey eyes like that, biting his lower lip, silently but fervently pleading forgiveness.

"Oh, you know I'm just kidding."

She kisses him deeply, lovingly.

Most call it the True Love Curse.

x.x.x

It's the weekend, and his wife is at the hospital on an emergency call.

He drops a dish. It hits the hardwood floor with a piercing clang, shattering into a dozen fragments of rough-edged porcelain.

Draco looks down at the offending hand, astonished. Never before have his limbs failed him. He curls and uncurls his fingers into a fist, slowly, as if to make sure that he is still the one in control.

But it's no big deal, really. A simple reparo and the dish is as good as new, all evidence of his moment of clumsiness effectively erased.

Not important enough to merit further consideration.

x.x.x

She is in the living room, curled up on the couch, reading, when she hears the sharp "Goddamn!" from the other room.

"Draco?" she asks. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," he calls.

But she knows better.

"What is it?" She enters the kitchen to find him standing at the counter, clutching a jar of peanut butter. "What in the world?"

"Nothing," he repeats. "It's just a bitch to open, that's all." He puts the peanut butter in the cabinet.

Hermione takes it back out, twisting off the lid with ease.

"There you are," she says and smiles. "You could have just used magic, you know."

He looks briefly stunned before responding. "Thanks, love," he says and kisses her on the forehead. "I'll keep that in mind next time."

x.x.x

Draco takes a knife and spreads the peanut butter onto a piece of white bread. Next, he grabs a banana from the counter and slices it into thin disks, placing them neatly atop the peanut-buttered bread. He sets one final piece of bread on top of the mess and puts the sandwich on a plate.

It is Hermione's favorite snack while reading, and he glares accusingly at the hands—so fickle, they're becoming—that nearly prevented him from making it.

x.x.x

He falls down the stairs one morning. Left leg, right leg, left leg, just like always. Only, all of a sudden, left leg buckles underneath him and he is sent tumbling down the wooden steps, face first, arms flailing and grasping at the air. He lands with an undignified thud.

Quickly he rights himself, back on his feet, smoothing down his clothes and combing through his tussled hair with his fingers.

He wipes his face on his sleeve, soaking the cloth with a red, sticky substance.

His nose is bleeding.

x.x.x

From the kitchen, she hears the sickening thud of a body and a floor colliding, and rushes to the origin of the sound.

At the foot of the stairs she finds him, clothes smooth, hair combed, face clean and impeccable as always. None of the disarray, it seems, that such a thud might typically entail.

"You're all right?" she questions.

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"I heard something. Did you fall?"

He raises a sleek eyebrow. "Have I ever fallen?"

No. No, he has not.

x.x.x

His hands fiddle with the tiny buttons. In vain, of course. His fingers are weak and shaky, like those of an old woman with arthritis. An elderly homemaker, with warped hands and an abandoned, forever unfinished needlepoint, perched on the top, dusty shelf of the linen closet.

He has work that morning, and he can't button his damned shirt.

Hermione is still asleep, thank God.

He grips his wand tightly and mutters a buttoning spell.

x.x.x

She watches him from the bed, watches him as he stands in front of the mirror in the early morning light. Watches him as he waves his wand and buttons his shirt.

He has never been one to use magic for simple tasks like dressing.

Odd, perhaps, but she pushes the thought to the back of her mind.

Nothing worth dwelling over.

x.x.x

"I love you," he says. "You know that, right?"

She glances quizzically into those grey eyes of his. "Of course. Of course I know. I love you, too."

"Good." He smiles and she tries not to melt. She does love him, feels the same about him now as she felt about him on their wedding day, as she felt that first night they made love.

He bends down and kisses her softly.

She melts.

x.x.x

The night is dreary, and she listens to the pitter-patter of raindrops splattering across the roof, crashing to their deaths. She sighs and rolls over.

The sex isn't good. Not anymore. It's all right, she supposes, but not like it used to be. Not like when there was passion. Something's wrong with Draco now—he's too tired for passion.

Too tired for much at all.

"Let's just sleep, love," he says. "I'm exhausted."

"Are they overworking you at the Ministry?" she asks, concerned.

"No, it's not that." he responds. "I'm just… tired."

So she lets it slide. Working too hard, as always. Unwilling to admit it, as always. She'll just slip an energy-boosting potion in his orange juice the next morning.

x.x.x

He has been having inklings, lately. Tiny wisps of suspicion snaking through the back of his mind. But suspicion, he has decided, means nothing. It is the smoke of paranoia, irrational fear, nothing more.

And, really, what good does suspicion do? Having suspected can't make him feel any better if—when—his suspicion becomes reality. It will only make him feel worse before it does.

So he puts away the suspicion, fans out the smoke.

He is fine. She is fine. They are fine.

x.x.x

She is a smart witch, Hermione Granger. She has been called the smartest witch of the century.

Yet, somehow, there are so many simple connections she cannot make. Wrong. There are so many simple connections she will not make, refuses to make. Because if she studies too closely, makes too many connections, she may discover something she'd rather have not.

She may discover a hideous tear, an awful patch of ripped canvas, in the lovely portrait of her—their—life.

And she'd really rather not.

x.x.x

They are sitting at the table, sipping coffee and exchanging sections of the Daily Prophet.

He checks his watch. "Time to catch the bad guys," he jests, craning his neck across the remnants of their breakfast and pecking her on the cheek. "I'll see you at lunch?"

"Of course." She smiles and rises from her seat, taking the dishes to the sink.

She notices that he is still seated at the table.

"Draco? Aren't you going now?"

"Yes. Yes, I'm going. Right now."

Only he's not going. He remains, sitting, where he is.

"Draco," she repeats. "What are you doing?"

"Going to work," he responds, stubborn as always.

Two minutes pass in silence as she rinses out the coffee cups, easing her frazzled nerves with the hot, soapy water.

"Hermione, love?" His body is stoic, collected and still as always. His eyes are large, pleading, confused and frightened.

"Yes?" She drops the mug and it hits the metal basin with a sharp clang.

"I can't get up."

x.x.x

Her colleagues can't determine the root of the sudden collapse of her husband's legs.

"Have you noticed anything different?" they ask. "Any prior signs of increased weakness?"

"No," she responds. "Nothing."

Yes. The sex isn't good and he can't open the peanut-butter jar.

"Has he been cursed recently, by any chance? Obviously, anything serious or life-threatening would have already been in our records, but…"

"No."

Yes. But she can't say it. Saying it would be accepting it.

Saying it would be throwing away their love.

x.x.x

The Healers give him a wheelchair. Just temporary, of course. Just while they conduct some tests. Until the results are in, though, he'll have to get used to life as a cripple.

He knows. He knows that there aren't any fucking tests to conduct. He knows that they just say that to "ease the transition." Whatever the hell that means, anyway.

x.x.x

The Ministry gives him a leave of absence. Temporary, of course. "Just 'til you're back on your feet!" the fucking Minister of Magic jokes, chuckling. Shitbag. Draco suppresses the urge to strangle him.

Only it's not a leave of absence. Not "just 'til he's back on his feet.'" He'll never be back on his feet and he's never going back to work and he knows it. He bloody knows it.

Paraplegic Aurors, it seems, aren't of much use.

x.x.x

Completely mysterious affliction. No known cause and no known cure—that's what he heard them tell Hermione.

All the nerves in his legs—dead. As if he is dying not as a whole, but in pieces. His legs were just the first to go, the first of his many appendages to give up on him. Perhaps next will come his arms. And who knows, maybe after that it'll be his wife.

She is at the hospital, working late, and he is sitting here, on the couch, useless legs folded awkwardly in front of him.

Dead weight.

He's skimming through one of her Healing books—the brief section on the True Love Curse, to be more specific.

"Kiss," it reads. "True love," it reads. "Your life, Draco, is a lie," it reads. "A lie."

A valuable lesson he's learned from his wife: books are good. Books are honest. Books will never lie to him. Especially not about the flimsy foundations upon which he has built his life.

If he wants more lies, he is forced to feed them to himself.

x.x.x

She arrives home and finds him asleep on the couch, legs twisted at unnatural angles and looking quite cumbersome.

There is a book lying on the ottoman next to him, and she picks it up and flips absently through. The page on the True Love Curse has been dog-eared.

He knows. Draco knows.

She realizes that he has probably known all along, just as she has. Known in the dark and murky depths of his mind, as she has in hers, what has been happening.

But she is loath to acknowledge that awareness. She refuses to bring it to the forefront of her consciousness, to accept it as a fact.

Because Hermione will never, never give up on their love. Not until her—his—last damn breath.

He stirs in his sleep, and one of his legs slips from the couch. It hits the floor with a disgusting thud. Much like the thud he made after falling down the stairs so long ago.

What? What's she thinking? She must be missing some marbles—her husband would never do a graceless thing like that. Her husband would never fall down the stairs.

The thud of his leg hitting the floor is a completely new sound to her.

x.x.x

She is in bed next to him, nearly asleep, when she feels his warm breath on her ear.

"I love you," he whispers, and she experiences a vague sense of deja vu.

"I love you, too," she whispers back. "I love you so much."

His arms encase her, pressing her half-bare back against his warm abdomen, and she tries not to think of his cold and unfeeling legs touching her own.

x.x.x

a/n: What did ya think? Soon we'll be finding out about what the heck's really going on with Draco, plus more about this True Love Curse thing. The story is only going to be two or three chapters, anyways. Oh, and anything that seems like it doesn't make sense or is unexplained will probably also come together next chapter.

Now, REVIEW. Pur-lease.

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p.s. If any of you are also reading Don't Go in the Basement, it should be updated very soon! Within a day or so. Promise. (smiley face here)

I LOVE YOU readers and super especially reviewers.