Disclaimer: Harry Potter, his fellow characters, nor his world belong to me. There are various lines in this fic that are directly copied from Harry Potter and the Half Blood prince, they were necessary to the plot of this story, and I claim no owner-ship to them. Anything you haven't seen before, in print, with a cover and big shiny letters, bound to a piece of paper that says "by J.K. Rowling" was my idea. The rest was all Ms. Rowling. Also, "Here's to the Night" (the lyrics used in this) belong exclusively to the briliant Eve 6, and assumably their record company, whose name I don't recall.
If you haven't heard the song "Here's to the Night" by eve 6, listen to it. Its amazingly awesome. I particularly suggest listening to it for the portion of this fic labled "February". But your choice :)
Now… onto the story:
The Tears You Knew You'd Cry
They were following him, although he doubted that they knew he'd noticed.
It was flattering really, but also potentially problematic, which is why, as he retightened the clasp on his cloak, he leaned across the counter and hissed, in as perfect an imitation of his father as he could manage, "If anyone asks what I was doing in here you say nothing. Understood?"
"Of course, Young-Master Malfoy," the oily faced man across from him returned: snide, but still, as expected, somewhat sycophantic.
He didn't acknowledge him with a response, instead turning in a sharp manner, quick, but to the effect that he was still the one in control, and made his way back toward the dark crooked door through whence he came. The echo of his heels followed him through the shop, but they were left in it, closed in by the slamming of the door as it shut behind him.
As he walked past, he glanced briefly at the place Potter and his friends were hiding. The two boys didn't notice, their gazes were still fixed on the shop door, probably attempting to figure out how to muck up the courage to enter it; but Granger did. He caught her gaze but didn't hold it. The look only lasted for a fraction of a second before he jerked his head straight. It was still enough time for him to notice that her eyes looked blue in the sunlight, and she looked good without her school robes…
'Or,' he told himself, 'maybe it's just the black-eye working for her'.
Not that he ever believed it.
So denied, so I lied,
Are you the now or never kind?
"Malfoy, we can't keep doing this… this won't end well, we both know it. So, please, just stop. Please."
She was looking at him, like she had the first time he kissed her, afraid. Her eyes were wide with that fear, and he knew it wasn't fear of him, but of herself. He knew, because he was afraid too, not of the part of him that was sadistically amused by her confusion, but of the part of him that was just as confused, for the exact same reason.
He didn't smirk at her in response, which is what he knew she expected, he didn't smile, he just looked at her, as hard as he could. He was trying to convey his answer to her, hoping that she would understand what he couldn't manage to put into words: That he knew, that he didn't care, that he was terrified, that he needed it, this, whatever this was.
He leaned down again, and kissed her, softly and dauntingly, but somehow, he was sure she felt the fear in it too. It was so much different from the first time he'd kissed her, and maybe it was that difference that made her kiss him back.
He didn't know why she did it, he didn't care why, he appreciated the pressure of her lips none-the-less; the way they parted ever so slightly. He was sure, subconsciously, that more than anything the, perhaps imaginary, sensation of her long eyelashes brushing almost tenderly against his cheek is what made him groan, just a bit.
Almost as quickly as she had responded, she pushed him away; an action that he felt was becoming all too familiar. When he opened his eyes, she was staring directly at him, but she looked away as quickly as she could, staring at some unknown book on the shelf behind him.
He still didn't say anything, he couldn't, but he wanted to, he wanted to scream at her. He wanted to tell her as colorfully as he possibly could, that he didn't want this, but he needed it, and for some reason, what ever this thing he needed was, she had it, she was the only one who could give it to him. But he feared that if he opened his mouth at that second, he'd scream and then the tears of frustration would come, and he hated them.
"Listen, Malfoy, I, you… we…" She stopped, closed her mouth, and looked downward. If he didn't have the horribly tight feeling of his heart being stuffed into a little glass box, one that if broken, would make him bleed to death, but if left, would cause the pain of constriction to grow exponentially, then he would probably have laughed. She, apparently, couldn't put into words her thoughts either, and if Granger couldn't talk, then he knew whatever the figurative lead around them was, must be heavier than even he realized.
Suddenly, she looked back up, parted her lips slightly, and he could tell she had just taken in a great deal of air, because her small, supple chest rose quickly.
"Malfoy, you keep kissing me…" He nodded. "… and I keep wanting you to..." He felt his right eyebrow rise; this wasn't going in the direction he had expected. "… I shouldn't, I know that. I'm so tired though, so even though I'd ordinarily analyze this, to the point of obsession, and do everything I could to figure out all the reasons why, but, I can't handle it emotionally, not right now. I really should care about why you're doing this, because for all I know this could just be some stupid Slytherin bet, but I don't. I have more suspicions and observations to support them then I can count and they're so subjective that I know they couldn't be trusted, and for the first time in my life I'm more afraid of being right than being wrong, so I won't question this, whatever it is. It's bad for us both, but maybe, only temporarily, it's beneficial too, so… okay. I won't push you away anymore." She looked back down again, and he realized, she was still afraid, but for a different reason now: She was afraid he would laugh in her face and tell her it was just "some stupid Slytherin bet". He almost smiled.
"Thank you, Granger, I'm not sure why, but thank you." Again, her head shot back up, but he didn't give her a chance to catch his eye before bending back down to kiss her again.
In a day and a day love,
I'm gonna be gone for good again.
"Oh, Harry… not that again…"
His head shot up. His eyes were dry and they hurt, and just picturing how red they must be miraculously produced empathy-reaction tears, for which he was immensely grateful. His body was soar and his muscles protested moving despite the fact that his current head-on-table position was the cause for his discomfort.
However hearing her voice in that semi-agitated semi-fond high-pitched tone, with the little rolling noise vibrating out from the back of her throat, saying Potter's name like that… something in that got his attention far too thoroughly for him to remain where he was and take the chance at not hearing the rest of their conversation.
"Come on, why not?" demanded Potter, sounding entirely frustrated.
"Look," he heard her sigh an all too familiar I-know-so-much-more-then-you-you-silly-little-child tone, "Secrecy Sensors detect jinxes, curses, and concealment charms, don't they? They're used to find Dark Magic and Dark objects." His interest peeked very quickly for a multitude of reasons. He very quietly stood up and began creeping closer to where their voices were coming from, which sounded to be just at the other end of his row of bookshelves, a few rows back. "
They'd have picked up a powerful curse, like the one on that necklace,"—he cringed, the reminder of his pathetic failure ringing in his head— "within seconds. But something that's just been put in the wrong bottle wouldn't register—and anyway, love potions aren't Dark or dangerous—"
"Easy for you to say," Potter interrupted. Draco fought the urge to snort. He agreed completely. Love potions were dangerous and horrible things when put in the fickle hands of ambitious, lustful, or competitive, teenage girls. Although the thought of seeing Potter under the effects of a love potion promised to be so amusing that he half-hoped who ever was after him—probably the Weasley girl—would succeed.
"—so," Granger continued, "it would be down to Filch to realize it wasn't a cough potion, and he's not a very good wizard, I doubt he can tell one potion from—"
She stopped suddenly and he realized they must have heard him as he continued to sneak closer. He froze instinctually, not even breathing and acutely aware of how loud the blood pounding through his head had become in the seconds since she'd stopped talking.
Luckily for him Madam Pince was slinking down the row of books between their table and the other side of the one he was currently hiding behind.
"The library is now closed," she told them, but he didn't stay to listen to more. He was just sneaking around to the other side to leave through the north door when he could hear her yelling something about desecrating books, and hoped it was at Potter.
As he quickly walked back to his dorms what she'd said about Filch not recognizing potions ran through his mind, back and forth, just waiting for him to grab it.
'What she doesn't know can't hurt her,' he told himself nonchalantly, 'and even if it does, it's not like I really care...'
One Week Later
The pushed at his lips and pulled at his tongue and ran her fingers through his hair enthusiastically, and with all the guilt-ridden need that was usually present, but something about her seemed off today.
He pulled his fingers out of her hair and caught her face with one hand, the other next to her head keeping her locked between him and the bookcase behind her.
"What's wrong," he whispered, sounding slightly agitated but more curious and even concerned than demanding, which he knew would set her temper off immediately.
Her eyes fluttered open, looking directly into his, then down again. She was breathing hard, her lips parted and her breath brushing his chin in unison with the falling of her supple little chest. He let his eyes rest on the reflection of a little gold necklace of some sort, a muggle trinket, as the light moved up and down the chain.
"Did you give Katie Bell that necklace?" She whispered. His eyes flashed up the same second hers did; his in alarm, hers in reaction to his. She was all eye-contact and seriousness, looking for the answer she thought was true, but neither expected nor wanted to hear.
"No," he said. He said it perfectly, all the right inflections in his voice. A little surprised by the question, a little hurt, but not defensive enough to be suspicious.
"Oh Draco," she sighed, in apology and something resembling relief. She fell into him, her arms wrapping around his torso, her head falling on her chest, causing his face to fall helplessly into her hair. She didn't seem to notice that she'd called him by his first name. But he'd noticed. It had been happening more and more often. It was both alerting and disarming at once, but regardless not entirely unwelcome. He really didn't yet know what to make of it but she seemed entirely unaware of the effect it had on him.
Before he knew it the weight of her head was leaving his color bone and she was looking up at him with a soft smile and something that he could only describe as trust, although he really didn't know where it came from. He smiled back.
Her eyes fluttered shut and her head began to fall; she was clearly intending to hug him again. He bent his head down and caught her lips before they could fall against his shoulder in a way that he now realized his body had memorized.
Her eyelashes shutting seemed to blow wind onto his face and her arms wrapped around his neck, and his fists in her hair, and his pelvis pressed against hers and her teeth dragging against his bottom lip. It felt so good.
But it also felt tainted.
…Not just because she was a mudblood, or because she was holding a torch for Weasley, which he knew was the reason their affair tore her apart every time they saw each other. No, it was a different kind of ruin that marred her warm, almost-trusting, and very genuine, kisses. It was something hiding inside of Draco himself that he neither cared nor dared to consciously identify.
He slowly pulled his eyes open and his head away from hers, far enough that he could look into her eyes, but close enough that their foreheads almost touched. He waited for her eyes to fully roll up and meet his.
"I didn't hurt her," he lied. Just like that. It was said flawlessly. It came naturally. It was easy.
But it left a bitter taste in his mouth, none-the-less.
Are you willing to be had?
Are you cool with just tonight?
For months all the time he was not spending on the cabinet with her: Hidden behind dusty bookshelves full of ancient volumes, or in particularly deserted alcoves where it was not likely anyone would happen upon them, although never in the Room of Requirement because she always refused that for reasons she would not specify, but otherwise anywhere else he could find where that whiny little ghost, Myrtle, couldn't eavesdropping on all of their conversations.
Of course it hadn't instantly become an "all the time" thing. At first it had been relatively random: whenever they happened to find themselves in a situation where they could easily be alone without anyone thinking much of it. However as they began to learn each other's habits, as his attention was more and more often drawn to her and where she was going, how often she went there, when she was alone, etc, their meetings gradually became longer and more frequent. He became more dependent.
And they weren't just snogging sessions, sometimes they just talked, although never about a few unspoken forbidden subjects: heritage, for example, and whether muggles fully qualified as "people" and not just protowizard species: one step above apes and monkeys in the evolutionary chain, but still nowhere near their magic-able counter parts in intelligence or worth. Although sometimes, when they were both in rather good moods she talked about her family, and he found her tales of them to be rather funny, although at times hard to understand due to the mass amount of muggle lingo that they included. However he'd managed to successfully gather that she had little sisters, and her parents had a horrible marriage (but she never complained about it), and she was somewhat disappointed that she couldn't have a car at Hogwarts because apparently she loved driving them; she'd tried to compare this to the way he felt about riding brooms, but had brought Potter into it and that had killed any understanding and empathy that was forming at her separation from her car, (which she told him was, predictably, red).
However it had been a week or so since last he'd spoken to her and the silly things they talked about when he momentarily stepped out of this world and into hers were rather far from his mind at the moment.
He was just walking out of potions, which had once been his favorite class but had, in the last few months, been reduced to his most hated. He blamed Potter. He was also inhumanly tired and he must have looked it because she kept shooting him worried glances; luckily her moronic weasel confused them for glares of pure loathing and perfect Potter was too busy staring off into space to even notice Slughorn, who was standing in front of him praising how he was so much like his mother. He would have been annoyed about it if he'd had the energy.
'She's probably going to be taking care of whatever's bothering Potter tonight,' Draco found himself thinking as he looked indifferently at the faster moving forms of the golden trio, her arm wrapped lovingly around Potter's. He felt a familiar unwelcome simmering in his stomach, one he had become used to when seeing her with either of her boys, it was a feeling he could best identify as jealously.
He wasn't supposed to be jealous of Potter and the weasel. She might have been their Hermione but she was his Granger, and typical to his only-child status he was not much good at sharing.
Of course really she wasn't even that anymore. He knew it was odd, and he constantly reprimanded himself for it, but she wasn't 'Granger' anymore and yet he couldn't bring himself to call her 'Hermione' either. There was something too taboo about calling her by her first name. To call her by her first name would be spoken acknowledgement of the fact that she was no longer just whatever she was in their unnamed relationship. She would be an equal.
He shook his head, as if he could shake that train of thought out of his head. Glancing back up he caught her look fleetingly back at him and casually slide her hand over Potter's back. She curled the same hand into a fist and put up her middle and index fingers. He felt himself smirk in recognition: their usual study common it was.
As quickly as it had come, the smirk left his face and she turned back to Potter, as if it had never happened. Goyle was grunting something on his left, Crabbed laughed in response, and somewhere in his mind it registered that he was supposed to too. He didn't know what had been said, although he could guess it was something vulgar and dull witted, and he didn't bother to muster up the small amount of energy a forced laugh would require.
Draco glanced down at his watch, although he knew what time it was. He figured he could get away with skipping charms today; it had been a while since he'd last skipped the class. Glancing around suspiciously to make sure all of their classmates were well ahead of them he said, "We're going to work on the project instead of going to Charms, come on."
He could feel both of the lumpy boys on either side of him shudder in disgust as he pulled out two identical vials of what could be mistaken for greenish mud. Ignoring their unspoken protest he turned down a dank corridor, tapped a thick short statue and all three boys disappeared beneath the floor.
He carefully but shakily entered one of the comfortable study commons distributed throughout the school; places he doubted Potter and his Weasel even knew existed.
His hands were shaking, cold to the touch; sweat, or maybe tears, were dripping from the sharp edge of his jaw line. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes tired, she didn't even try to open her mouth, she was too tired to talk. She stood up off her couch and walked over to him, quickly, but gracefully. She wrapped her arms around his torso, under his arms, pulling their bodies as close together as possible. His larger frame was wrapped around hers, trembling, as he attempted to make no noise what so ever.
They stayed like that until his tears stopped; he hated himself for them, more than he usually hated himself anyway, which, the past few months, was quite a lot. She looked at him with solace, but didn't smile; there was nothing to smile about. Slowly he pulled himself back a bit, away from her. She lifted her right arm up to his face, traced his jaw line with her warm, steady fingers, and kissed him gently. She repeated the motion, once more, twice, slowly making her kisses harder, more coxing.
Not stopping her bittersweet kisses she let her hands slide down his arms, delicately took his hands, and led him over to one of the couches. She sat down and pulled him down with her, never stopping her warm kisses.
He felt the absence of her lips on his and opened his eyes. She sat next to him, her legs folded so she could sit on the couch and look at him simultaneously. Her glazed, red eyes looked up at him, curious, afraid, and imploring. He knew what was coming.
"Draco, tell me… what are you doing? I know it has something to do with Voldemort. I've tried to keep Harry away from you, make it seem like your odd behavior is nothing, but, I need to know… Tell me, please."
His head dropped, he looked away from her; he couldn't keep looking at her, her eyes, so distraught and hurt, made angry tears come again, because he wasn't betraying the school, or his classmates, or anyone else, only her.
"Draco, I promise, I'm not going to tell anyone, I won't break your trust, I–" His head shot up.
"Don't you get it Hermione?! There wasn't supposed to be any trust! No emotional attachment, just the physical, it was supposed to be enough! Why isn't that enough? I–" He stopped, he'd said her name, her eyes widened slightly, and he knew she'd noticed too.
She didn't make a move to respond, she just waited. Because she knew what he was going to say… she had, for a long time… She'd known in October, even though he didn't, not until now… that's why she didn't stop him.
Afraid he'd find something in her eyes that hadn't been there before he refused to raise his gaze. He opened his mouth to speak again, hoping that his voice did not sound as harsh as it had a second before, but he didn't know what he was going to say.
Before he could stop himself he blurted out: "Why couldn't you be a pureblood? Why couldn't I be a mudblood? Why couldn't we be the same?"
The suggestion that he be a mudblood…
His eyes frantically shot back up, feeling as though they'd roll out of their sockets from the ferocity of the movement. Before he could find some way to take back what he'd said though, she smiled, it was the most beautifully melancholy expression he'd ever seen on her face, and he stopped short of breath.
"Draco, don't you get it, we are the same. We don't come from the same backgrounds, but if that mattered, if it really mattered, than don't you think it would be Pansy, or Mandy Blockhurst, or any of the other 'pureblood' girls in this school having this conversation with you?" He knew this was going somewhere, so he didn't say anything although she paused, never stopping in her beseeching look of empathy.
"We grew up differently, with different morals, values, ethics, in different cultures, we've both been exposed to things the other will never understand, we've had different experiences… but, none of that matters, because innately we are the same.
"Our different pasts cause us to act and react differently, to automatically come to different conclusions, to be more or less anything, but I think, that when you take away all of that, if we had been raised together, at the same time, by the same people, under the same conditions, we'd be just alike. I can see shreds of me, of my personality, not my persona, but my personality, in you and by the same token I see parts of you in me. I think it's those innate similarities, and our different ways of molding them that make us need this. Because, even though it terrifies me, I need this as much as you do.
"And I know what this is, but I think–"
"You've thought too much about this," he interrupted and didn't give her a chance to speak again; he simply bent his head downward and kissed her, with a fierceness neither of them had expected. He just wanted to kiss her silent, because he knew she was right, he knew everything she was saying, and would say, would be completely one hundred percent correct, but he didn't want her to say anymore out loud.
She pulled back slightly, and for a second he thought she was going to break away. But instead she ran her hands up his chest, and he could feel her frustration, their frustration, and she pulled him down again, pressing her lower stomach up into his, hips perfectly matched, fitting like puzzle pieces until he didn't know where her body ended and his began.
He pushed his hands under her shirt, up her slim lean torso, frantic and anxious, even though he'd repeated the motion more times than he could count. She pulled back again, caught his eye and tore at the sides of his shirt, with enough intensity to pop the buttons. She made a motion to roll over and he automatically grabbed her waist and flipped, so she was straddling his waist.
Her full weight was on top of him; he could feel heat, the kind of heat he should have run away from, but was addicted to.
"Why are you always right?" He gasped from an inch below her swollen pink lips, his nose touching hers. He waited for her to answer, but not really expecting her too, allowing his hands to roam rhythmically up and down the side of her body, taking in every inch of soft skin and gentle curve.
Her eyes fluttered downward, "Because, I don't want to be…"
He blinked, that had not been the answer he expected.
Her weight shifted, her forearm now rested against his chest, elevating her, ever so slightly. She buried her left hand in his hair, and he loved the way it felt. He leaned back in, to kiss her again, but she looked back and smiled. "… 'Tis a gift and a curse." And he saw the horribly perfidious tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. She collapsed back into him, burying her wet face in the crook of his neck. He looked up at the ornate ceiling, sighed, and held onto her sob ridden body as she silently cried.
Here's a toast to all those who hear me all too well…
Slughorn's Christmas party was all Pansy wanted to talk about: She wanted to know why Draco wasn't going; in fact, she wanted to know why he wasn't in the "Slug Club" at all (To which he always responded, "I just don't have time Pansy, not with the project and all").
When it became clear that Draco was a lost cause she started in on Blaise: She tried to hint to him that, although she had planned on doing something (for she was never specific about what it was and its vague descriptions often changed), since he probably wouldn't manage to find a date, being naturally disposed to moodiness and all, she, altruistically, would go with him so he wouldn't be embarrassed to go without a date. Blaise hadn't even bothered to respond to her latest attempt at bringing it up, instead he just made a little sniffing noise, opened his copy of The Magic of Numbers, the Advanced Learner's Guide to Arithmancy, and made a point of reading it with the utmost intensity.
After a few moments of silence, during which Pansy became increasingly antsier, she finally started, in an obviously intentional tone of imitated boredom, "Well, I don't know why you're being so nervous about the whole thing, it's not like it really matters."
"Who are you talking to?" Vincent asked, genuinely confused. Of course this was not due to any lack of intelligence on Vincent's part, if Draco hadn't so often been on the receiving end of this sort of pseudo-reverse psychology from Pansy he would have been totally lost too.
Jamison, a little fourth year boy who had taken to following them around at the beginning of term, had a confused look on his face as well. Jamison had a crush on Pansy, and it was easy for anyone to see. Draco, during the few moments he actually spared to notice it, decidedly felt quite bad for the boy: it was obvious the Pansy only lead him on to feed her own ego (not in a particularly malevolent way of course, just in the way that girl's whom haven't yet realized boys have feelings too, do).
"Well," answered Pansy, "both of them really. It's so obvious that Draco wants to go but can't because of more–" her voice dropped in a confidential, but exaggerated, manner; Jamison leaned in as far as he could but was blocked at Greg's shoulder. "–Pressing matters," she finally hissed, "to attend to. And–" she sat back up and her voice resumed to normal, "Blaise is so shy about it. You know–" This time she turned and looked directly at Blaise, whom still had his head bowed over his book, the margin of which he was scribbling in idly, "if you didn't let yourself worry about it all the stress would go away. Honestly, I know from personal experience: mind over matter."
Blaise didn't make any move to respond and the only sign that he'd heard her at all was a little twitch under his left eye. A moment of unsure silence ensued, which Pansy's almost-cheerful demeanor suggested she either was not aware or relishing in.
"Pas'," Draco started blandly, standing up with his books cradled half-heartedly in his left arm, "that's really good advice… on life in general actually… I'm going to go try some of that."
Two Days Later
Two days later found Draco wondering up past Slughorn's office, where the party was currently in motion. It was a bit of a detour from the Room of Requirement, but at least this way, if anyone caught him later, he could say that he'd come up from Slughorn's party and hopefully someone would be able to place him at the scene; so far he'd seen a few Ravenclaws a year younger than he and a seventh year Hufflepuff boy who seemed to have lost his wand, but they were a little ways off from the party: He dared not get any closer to the actual entrance for fear of a teacher seeing him.
If anyone did bother him after he reached the seventh floor, he'd just say he got lost; it wouldn't be so unbelievable a story, as Slughorn was a new professor and his office was not in the location of the previous Potion's Master's (Snape had refused to vacate it) nor was it where all their former Defense Against the Dark Arts professors had kept shop.
Really though, he admitted to himself, he just wanted to see what was going on, masochistic creature that he was.
Although he only lingered for a few seconds twenty feet or so outside the doorway, there was a sort of festive warmth that seemed to pour out of it. It made his stomach sick, in a superficial, envy-induced way, and he quickly continued walking down the hall toward the stairs.
Just as he was rounding the bend into the stairwell a familiar voice and a familiar strained, but polite, tone greeted his ears. As if on instinct, he stopped just around the corner, out of view.
"No, I've had a lovely time Cormac, but I'm quite tired, all this dancing has worn me out, so I'm just going to go back to my room and get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
Cormac… Cormac… who was that? He could swear he'd heard the name before, but the face wasn't popping into his head.
"Come on Hermione, it's still pretty early, only eleven."
'Screw what he looks like,' he thought a bit viciously, 'I don't like him just from his voice.'
"Yes, usually, but I still have to pack tomorrow morning before the train leaves."
She'd told him she was staying over Christmas holidays. Had she changed her mind and not told him? Had she just outright lied to him?
"You told me you were staying here for Christmas," the slightly gruff but whiny sounding boy responded.
"Oh, and I'd planned on it, but my parents owled me last minute saying that I had to come home because we're going to go stay with my cousins and aunt and uncle at a ski resort, in cabins, in Norway, and they'd already paid for my ticket and it was non-refundable."
He couldn't tell whether she was lying or telling the truth, she sounded so honest and sincere.
"Oh, guess that's too bad then." The boy now sounded sulky and dejected.
Draco dared a peak around the corner. Hermione's back was to him, and she looked stunning, just from the back. Her dress was long and red and her hair was up in some curly sort of half-bun, half-ponytail style. It had defined curls, unlike the frizzled half-straight half-wavy mess it usually was. And it was shinning, like a pretty object one wants to touch as a child but can't because it's kept on a shelf too high for one's little self to reach.
He zoned in on it, his eyes automatically following it when it began to bob up and down in a sympathetic nod. "Well, good night than," Hermione said, and began to turn around.
Draco quickly dived back behind the corner, but didn't leave.
"Wait," Cormac said.
Draco could just picture his over sized mouth forming the word, his overly-exaggerated brow line furrowing, his dark eyes mentally devouring Hermione's body. 'Hermione doesn't even like dark eyes.' He found himself remembering in a spiteful, but comforting way, 'She told me so a month ago when I said something about Victor Krum.'
There was a little shuffle of feet, Hermione's and Cormac's, and Draco looked around the corner again.
His lips tightened into a little line instantly and some invisible weight seemed to push his eyebrows down.
That greasy-haired troll was kissing her. And she was letting him. And while it registered, somewhere in the back of his logical, objective mind, that Hermione didn't seem to be enjoying it or responding in any way, she was still allowing him to kiss her.
A moment later—although if felt like some agonizing eternity during which he couldn't move or speak or think—they broke apart. And Draco, as if he were a part of some machine responding to their actions, turned as fast as he could to find another way up to the Room of Requirement.
He blamed the disgusting picture of Hermione and it kissing, a picture which he was sure would for months be burned into the back of his mind, on his being caught, a floor up and a moment away from his destination, by Filch and his battered cat.
"Partum canalis," he mumbled, flicking his wand nonchalantly in a motion that vaguely resembled a check-mark. A slightly too-pale canary fluttered out of it and quickly joined its four fellows perched on the bookshelf behind him. They were chirping noisily, but it didn't bother him too much, and he was in a generous mood, so he decided to let their short lives continue until Madam Pince stalked over demanding their destruction (which she undoubtedly would do).
A few minutes later Madam Pince had still not appeared and his canaries, which had been created on the excuse of practicing for a charms exam, had begun to sing in unison, but in different pitches; like those peasants that wondered around in groups at Christmas time singing cheesy carols.
He had just picked out the pattern in their serenade when quick, harsh footsteps sent them fluttering. The footsteps stopped a foot or so away from where he sat, followed by the thud of many heavy books being unceremoniously dropped on the table next to his own. This, naturally, only caused the canaries, which by now had formed a sort of circular flight-pattern, to increase the volume of their screeching.
"Eck! Are all men so stupid and oblivious and… AND INFURIATING?" He didn't bother to turn around and look at her; instead he continued to watch his birds flicker around in panic and agitation.
"Nice to see you too," he replied, a bit more caustically than intended.
"I hope he realizes that snogging every spare second of the day does not make him seem in the least bit grown up, nor does it signify any type of serious relationship! He's being completely juvenile! It's so—"
"I completely agree. The best thing for you to do would be to sever all ties with Won-Won." She made a little 'huffing' noise in response and bit the inside of her bottom lip.
"You know," she started, her eyes blazing, "just because you don't like him…" She trailed off, the fire in her eyes dampening. She looked put out, and genuinely baffled by her lack of a witty response.
He supposed it was rather low of him to take advantage of her easy opening, but did so anyway; she'd managed to turn his good mood sour in a matter of seconds. All's fair in love and war, after all.
"Look," he began, not without an edge of annoyance in his voice, "you're just being territorial over him and it's coming out to sound like jealousy, luckily I know better. You didn't think you'd be the only girl in his life forever, did you? I mean, he's still your puppy, don't worry, but—"
"Shut up Malfoy!" She yelled, standing up with so much force that her chair knocked into the shelf behind it and sent a few books over the edge.
She snatched her bag back off the table, glaring hatefully at him as she did so. His canaries screeched louder and she pointed her wand at them, yelled the counter-charm, and spun around, marching down the aisle, and presumably out of the library, leaving a thick, vindictive air behind her.
A moment later he stood up and kicked his chair.
When he returned three days later, she was sitting there, looking miffed, but ashamed and slightly nervous, and attempting to disguise such emotions with indifferent superiority.
He smirked and sat down across from her.
Here's to the nights we felt alive
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry
Here's to goodbye
She was hot and tight and he was hard and he could feel her nails digging into his back and the sweat on hers and his face was buried in her neck and he knew he was as close to heaven as he'd ever get.
"Harder, faster…" She gasped; he could hear traces of tears in her voice, the tears he had kissed away only moments before. Her body bent and jerked beneath him as if she could barely keep control over it. Her hands slid down his back and even though he'd been sure every nerve in his body was focused on the friction between them, he could feel her nails digging and he knew the marks would still be red in the morning.
"God Hermione…" He whispered, longingly and all too knowingly lonely.
She was underneath him and her hair was sprawled across his robe on their library table. He loved the way she looked, so feral, so uncomposed, so unlike the prissy proper girls he grew up with, so alive and full of emotion.
Her legs were wrapped around his waist, her pelvis knocking in to his. He grabbed her ass with one hand, letting the forearm of his other support him. He pulled her into him the sound of wet flesh smacking into wet flesh and her soft gasping and moaning and his low unintelligible mumbles filling the otherwise empty library.
She followed his movements and brought both of her hands up to pull him further into her. She threw her head back her pace increasing exponentially and frantically. "God, yes… Draco! Aagh!" He pushed his mouth on top of hers, shoving his tongue into her mouth roughly, as if to choke her with it, and she responded with the same ferocity.
He felt the walls of her pussy clench around his cock, pumping it, squeezing, and he knew she had come, and that was all it took for him to pour into her, hard and heavy.
Never stopping his assault on her lips, he let himself gently collapse onto her. He felt her hands slide up over his arms and shoulders burying themselves roughly in his sweat covered hair.
Their bodies were slick with sweat, their own, each other's, it didn't matter, she shown in the dim light of the surrounding torches, and they slid against each other and he felt almost whole… almost like he deserved to be.
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon
Put your name on the line along with place and time
He tapped lightly on the door that led out of the room of requirement. A second later he heard a response in the form of two distinctive knocks. He made a little face of distaste and let go of the latch. It was odd, but, although the thought of staying in the room made his limbs ache with boredness, he found himself not really wanting to join the rest of the world either.
He let his forehead rest against the old smooth wood, flat between gaps in the door's ornate carvings. Slowly he allowed his whole body to slide forward, molding into the door. He was hot, and although the coolness felt good against the front of his body, it just forced him to acknowledge exactly how warm he was. He breathed in and out slowly, fascinated by the beating of his heart, its motion vibrating slowly through the door. He closed his eyes.
A moment later the soft, comforting din of his heart became the intrusive thuds of someone's fingers demandingly pounding on the door. The throbbing in the back of his neck grew, pounding its way up to his brain. What an interesting microcosm effect, he thought sourly, pushing himself back up and off of the door, although this only seemed to make him dizzier.
He opened the door quickly, impatiently, and with much more force than he had intended. Before he'd managed his intended "What do you want!" a warm hand pushed against his chest and he found himself stumbling back inside, far less gracefully than he cared to acknowledge.
"Honestly, you're lucky I got this corridor tonight… Anyone else would have given your watch dog's detention, and then what would you have done?"
"Gods Pansy… Go away… I'm trying to work." He hoped he sounded annoyed enough; he really didn't want her snooping around more than she already was.
She attempted to push herself further into the room, but a bit of adrenaline managed to kick his racked body back into gear and he moved in front of her, blocking both her entrance and view. He found his mind lingering on the memories of the elusive bragging he'd done the first few weeks of school. He was so fed up with Pansy's innocent concern and curiosity that he was ready to steal a time turner, go back to the beginning of the school year and cut out his own vocal cords.
"Draco, I'm worried about you! You're always working on it, you almost never eat meals with us anymore, and you always come back to the dorms after midnight! We never see you! Why won't you let any of us help you? I mean, I know Blaise is a complete ass about it, but we could still help you! I just --"
Her words stopped being comprehendible after that, they just became a great throbbing in his ears that grew exponentially with each syllable. The room was suddenly far too hot, much warmer than it had been a few seconds before, it was getting smaller too, and he needed to get out.
"What are you --" He grabbed her arm, or wrist, or hand, he didn't care, and pulled her out of the room with him, grabbing his wand and mumbling the concealment spells while she gaped at him.
"Draco, are you okay?"
He stuffed his wand back into his sleeve and found his eyes transfixed on the stone floor beneath him: it looked unusually comfortable. He let his feet slide him backward until he was up against the wall behind him. His body slid down its length comfortably, the cold sinking in through his sweat covered shirt (after all, he'd long ago pulled off his robes).
He felt himself drifting quickly into some sort of other world… It wasn't really sleep, but it was something equally inviting. Hands tugging on his arm pulled him out of it, they were comparatively cold, and he began to wonder just how much of a fever he'd gotten.
He wished she'd stop talking.
"Draco, do you need to go see Madam Pomfrey?" Eck, not that austere woman; she'd never liked him.
A minute went by and he began to hear something other than the distant pitch of Pansy's voice colliding with his ears. They were footsteps. At first, he'd thought, or perhaps only hoped, that Pansy had finally left him alone. However, the hands on his arm, although he'd half-heartedly attempted to shrug them off, and the same concerned nothings that she was frantically mumbling, remained. 'So,' he realized 'It could not possibly be her leaving me in my peace and coldness!'
The footsteps gradually grew louder and louder, and thus closer and closer, and with them Pansy's attention seemed to waiver. There were four clicks, they're must have been two people.
When they were no more than ten feet away she stood up, and took her lukewarm hands away from him, confronting who ever had intruded upon his bonding with the cold stone hall.
"What're you guys doing?"
Ah, so it was salvation and condemnation that had come to him at once.
"None of your business Weasley!" Pansy hissed, he could visualize her dark eyes glittering in the torchlight, and in his mind they morphed into spiraling dark brown balls, making him sick and dizzy.
"Why are you here anyway?" His unintentional torturess continued, "You two had the first three floors of the east wing tonight, this is the north wing."
"We traded with those two Hufflepuff fifth years. Why're you here?"
"I—We, traded with them too."
"Oh, that's probably why they looked confused when we started heading up here. They probably thought we were trading them for the dungeons. Anyway, doesn't matter, we're here, so you too go back down to your lot, and we'll stay here."
"You can't tell me what to do Weasley, besides we were here first!"
The lighter of the two sets of feet began moving again, closer too him, and even though the throbbing in his head grew, he felt better the closer she got. The bickering of the other pair disappeared with her footsteps, and he was immensely grateful for the lack of noise.
"Malfoy, what's wrong? Are you ill?" She asked him, as she crouched down beside him and gently touched his hand; oh, how different hers were from Pansy's! All his previous feelings of claustrophobia left him as her proximity lessened; more irony.
"I've got a little cold, I'll be fine."
Of course, he realized a second later that responding to her with anything less then mock-politeness or curtness was a slip up. But responding to her casually, especially when he had not responded to Pansy at all, was a huge mistake; one that the latter was not willing to tolerate.
"He's fine Granger! I was just about to take him back to our dorms!" God, she said it as if they shared one, possessive twat, not that he could talk.
"Are you sure he shouldn't --"
He felt her hands begin to leave him, brushing gently the way she made them when they passed in the halls and she shot him little glances.
Before he could stop himself his hand jutted out and grabbed her wrist. He felt his hand just pulling her in, not so much with strength but with the weight of his whole arm. He felt the hand he was not holding captive land on his thigh, and realized that he'd caused her to loose her balance. He could still feel energy reverberating off of her, it seemed to be calling to him, and he wanted to get closer… He always wanted to get closer.
"Sorry…" He mumbled, closing his eyes and focusing on the nice soft feeling of her, as he fell into her chest and her arms wrapped around him and the pounding in his head died with his stream of consciousness.
Wanna stay, not to go,
I wanna ditch the logical
"Out with both of you! I'll have Ms. Granger stay, but the two of you can leave!"
"But Madam, he's my housemate; I should stay and help him back to the dorm when he wakes up!"
"Well, perhaps you should have thought of that before you carried on bickering like the little children you are. Now out!"
'Shrill and bossy.'
There was a huffing noise, he could visualize clenched fists and then Pansy's familiar walk echoed around the room getting softer and softer with distance. He heard the door open and then slam behind her. He was a little hurt that she didn't put up more of a fight on his behalf, but that was just the attention craving egotist in him, really, he was glad for her absence.
"Hermione, are you going to be okay, you don't have to stay you know?"
"Its fine Ron, Professor Vector wanted someone to give him the homework he missed anyway, and you know how important studies are… In fact, you should probably work on that potions essay for Slughorn, you haven't finished it yet, have you? And its due in two days--"
'Annoying, but welcome.'
"Alright, for the love of all things Hermione, give it a rest!"
'I've met lumps of potatoes with a divided I.Q. more impressive than yours,' He thought, squeezing his eyes as tightly shut as possible, quite offended by the light emanating from the other boy's wand.
"I will now that I know you'll be faithfully and diligently working on it." He could hear the smile in her voice.
"Yeah, yeah… Just don't stay here too late." His concern was sickening, the effect canceled out only by the hope that Weaselbee would actually be leaving now.
"Oh, and Ron, don't tell Harry why I stayed… I mean, just because of how paranoid he's been lately, I don't want him coming down here and starting a fight or anything…"
'Smart move Granger, make the Weasel suspicious.'
"Yeah, I know, I'll just tell him you're in the library."
'He didn't sound suspicious at all…' He thought, wondering if he really could chalk it up to Weasley's natural lack of intelligence or if he was just used to lying for Hermione.
"Thanks Ron." All soft and warm and smiley; he hated it.
Heavier, sloppier footsteps began to follow the same path as the last set he'd heard, although he was grateful they did not come with the same sharp click of heals that their predecessor had. The doorknob began to turn but made a little clicking noise like it was rusty; maybe Pansy had damaged it in her temperament. A soft, commoner's curse was mumbled and he could hear the doorknob being jerked about. After a moment of this obnoxious noise, he heard the offending creature cooperate and swing open, Weasley awkwardly move himself through it, and the door click shut behind him.
He waited a minute to see what Hermione would do thinking that she was alone and he was asleep.
For a moment he heard nothing, then the scratching of a chair to his left, intentionally quiet footsteps moving away, then moving back toward him, then the curtains around his bed being drawn shut. A cold hand was placed on his arm and he jumped a bit at the unexpected contact, but she did not immediately retract and he was hopeful that she had not noticed the reaction at all.
A few more moments passed with her gaze simply lingering on him, her fingers brushing up and down his arm, and he was ready to interrupt whatever she was thinking when he heard her begin to whisper:
"You know, I really do care about you. I really wish you'd just let me help you. But I get the feeling happy endings weren't made for you and me… and I'm not supposed to want there to be."
He could hear the beginnings of tears in her voice. Not sobbing tears, the kind that just come and run down your cheeks and you barely notice them.
"You're like a ghost that's haunting me, but the thing is, I feel like I don't have the right to be haunted by you. What is our relationship? Its not clearly defined and a part of me, the teenage girl in me, can see this as some tragically-romantic twisted fairytale, but the pragmatic adult just wants everything to be simple and happy. But I wouldn't be happy with that. Sometimes I don't know what I want, but I know I always want you to be with me and be happy and safe and I want to feel like I have the right to be haunted by you and I want to not be afraid to tell everyone that I'm yours to haunt. Isn't that a weird way of saying I'm not willing to let you go? Because I can't?"
She was getting louder and more passionate and more confused and he wanted to reach up and touch her but was afraid it would break this confessionary spell she seemed to be under.
"I love you Draco, but I'm not helping you, I'm not doing what I know would be best. I should tell Dumbledore, but I'm not, and I still don't' know why. There's just something in me that knows this is the way it's supposed to be: Tragic and messy and maybe we'll die as a result, I don't know. I'm so selfish because I know what to do but I'm not and I can't even explain to myself why. I'm sorry Draco. I want to save you, but you won't save yourself."
'No Hermione,' He thought, "You're not selfish. I am, I dragged you into this. It's my fault. I'm sorry, but I'd still do it again. I'm sorry.'
Her fingertips crawled softly up the side of his face, tentative but still possessive.
"That's not an excuse though… I just feel like, I'm not worthy of loving you, because how could I be a good lover without first being a good friend, and I'm not a good friend. But I don't think that's what you consciously wanted from me, but somewhere inside of you and inside of me, we both know that's what you needed, and I can't even give that to you properly. Not when I'm keeping all of this to my self. I'm just running in circles and I'm starting to think maybe I'm really standing still and the circles are running around me, mocking me, making me think I'm moving, when I can't even do that. I'm sorry. And you know… you probably don't need this right now."
Her hand moved up to his hair line, brushed a few strands back, just hard enough for him to feel the tug at the roots; he loved the way it felt and he wanted so badly to open his eyes, to see her, to touch her… but something kept him from doing so.
Her chair squeaked again and he could tell she was getting up. He could feel her moving closer, her body heat radiating off of her, and in a second her warm breath on his lips. She pressed up against his lips lightly; hers were so warm and soft that it made his feel cold. He could barely stop himself from kissing her back.
At first he was afraid she was kissing him goodbye, but her lips moved a few inches to hover above his ear and she whispered "I'll be back later, I promise. I'll leave the Arithmancy homework with Madam Pomfrey."
Suddenly the warmth of her was gone, the familiar all business pace of her clicking heels was back, a third opening and closing of the door, and the vulnerable girl that had sat next to him a moment before was as much a ghost as she had accused him of being.
Here's a toast to all those who hear me all too well
Here's to the nights we felt alive
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry
She was bouncing, she was glowing, she was elated, and she practically skipped right by him, shooting him a full blown grin. He was too startled by her good mood to smile back, but the sight of Weasley walking dejectedly behind her was enough, to lighten his own mood.
Potter, who didn't seem to have noticed him, was in front of him, walking up to Hermione, his arms automatically opening as she threw hers around him in a hug. 'That's right,' he remembered 'they'd just had their apparition test… Weaselbee must have failed.'
He threw a side ways glance back at Potter and Hermione. He felt his lip curling into a sneer but realized it was out of jealousy for Potter. He could hug Hermione whenever he wanted to, so freely, without anything to worry about.
Crabbe and Goyle walked slowly toward him, from the same direction Hermione and Weasley had come; they looked as depressed as the dumbest member of Dumbledore's trio.
He glanced back at Hermione and Potter, who was getting a detailed and animated account of the test interrupted only by a few depressed mumblings from Weaselbee and corresponding sympathetic glances from Hermione. He starred at the scene before him in a daze vaguely wondering, not for the first time, but for a very different reason, why he couldn't have had a different life, more like Potter or even Weasley.
Wondering if he could have had a different life, and if he himself screwed it up.
Without looking away from them he turned down a corridor on his right, not really caring where it went, just so long as it was away from them.
For the first time in a week he attended dinner. Pansy had something to do with it, she was the one who really talked him into it, but it didn't have a thing to do with her reasons (silly things like how he was getting too skinny, and how 'everyone' was worried about him). He couldn't get the picture of Hermione and Potter out of his head. He had lately been drawn to their interactions like a masochistic moth to a flame. He just watched them, wondering what it would have been like if he could have been with them, laughing and having fun, and being comfortable, and feeling… warm, like they looked.
He was jealous of Potter hugging her, but he was jealous of Weasley slapping hands with Potter, or patting his back, and he realized that in a different life he could have had Weasley's place:
He met both Hermione and Potter first. He was a pureblood just like Weasley, but in every other respect he was better: he was richer, smarter, and more talented, he was better looking, more articulate, more charismatic, but for some reason Weasley got the life he could have had. All he could do was sit there and watch the three of them, dwelling on 'what ifs', not bothering to tell himself not to.
He ate only what Pansy put on his plate and didn't taste any of it. After dinner that night he told her he needed to go to the library for a Divination project. He had a feeling that he'd interrupted her in the middle of a sentence, and knew he was being rude because he didn't wait for her to respond before turning around and making his way back toward the library.
He thought he heard her say "But you don't have Divination," as he left. Any other day he would have smacked himself for the mistake, but she didn't follow him, so it didn't matter.
An hour later he was sitting in the library at their table, in the same position he had been when he arrived forty-five minutes ago. The torches that lined the bookshelves were beginning to die and he knew it would be closing time soon. Even if he was allowed special library privileges, being a prefect, Madam Pince would still look for a reason to kick him out. Seeing as he wasn't studying, it wouldn't be hard for her to find one.
He sighed and half-heartedly scanned the shelves to his right. He found his eyes lingering for longer than a second on a frayed, mustard-colored book, and decided he might as well flip through it. The words on the spine were too faded for him to read entirely, but according to the title page it was called Protective Potions. 'How ironic,' he thought, the overwhelming feeling of sarcasm seeping from his pores.
He squinted at the table of contents. The writing was small, intricate, old-fashioned, and thus very hard to decipher. How old is this thing? He wondered, flipping back a few pages, to where the date of publication should be printed.
It took him a moment, but eventually he spotted the inscription 'original work completed 1787. Edition published 1863, intellectual property of Mr. Julius Putnicks and Mr. Peter Janus.' 'Wonder if they were a pair of dolls…' he mused.
He flipped back to the table of contents, became bored in a matter of seconds, and began flipping through the pages at random. The title of each chapter was printed quite largely, albeit with no less detail, at the top of each left page, and soon this became a much more suited table of contents for him.
The first few chapters seemed to be concerned with only matters of material worth. Not that he stopped to read any of them, but titles like 'Business,' 'Land,' 'Intellectual Works,' and 'Valuables and Currency,' gave him that vague impression. The next part of the book had to do with mid-wives' and healer's business: 'Conception,' 'Infants, Born and Unborn' 'Childbirth' 'Against Childhood Sicknesses,' ect, ect.
"Undesirable Behavior," he muttered out loud, remembering that that was how his paternal grandmother had described her daughter's behavior immediately after the birth of his cousin, Tiberius; he'd been eight or nine at the time.
He found part three more interesting, but not enough to bother reading in detail. These chapters were for protection against unintelligent, but dangerous creatures, creatures with human intelligence, or who were half human, like centaurs and werewolves, also against various poisonous plants, natural disasters, freezing temperatures. 'Dedicated to surviving the forbidden forest,' he thought, rolling his eyes and continuing onward.
Part four captured his interest far more effectively. "Blades, human made poisons, dark magic, mind control…" He mumbled, tempted to read the some of the latter chapters especially, but deciding instead to see what else the book had to offer first. Without ever realizing it he found himself thinking that it seemed to be the kind of book Hermione would of called, 'The Wal-Mart of Potions' (not that he was entirely sure what this reference meant, it was just how she referred to every book that covered a broad range of categories within a certain subject).
Part five was 'protection for' as opposed to against. "Protection for guilds, for secrets, for and against blood-relatives, for loved ones…" His heart rate increased ever so slightly. He closed the book entirely and set it back on its shelf.
His mother's face appeared in his mind, but hers had appeared first
He sat at the table for a moment longer, staring blankly at the row of books in front of him. He vaguely registered Madam Pince making her way up and down the aisles, looking for stragglers. The light of the fire continued to grow dimmer and dimmer, shadows began to stretch. His eyes unconsciously focused in on what appeared to be a dot of ink left on the wood of a shelf. He didn't really see it though, in fact, he was fairly sure he was looking through it more than anything.
Without looking away from his point of focus he quickly stood up, grabbed the book, and tucked it under his arm.
When he got back to his dorm he tossed it on his bed, let the curtains down, pulled of his shirt half-heartedly, and spent at least a half an hour staring at its back cover by candlelight. It took him three days of starring at random intervals before he was willing to open it again.
Mid-May, Three Weeks Later
"You just, I just… I can't tell you, okay." He ran his hands through his now untidy blond hair for what he was sure was the millionth time since the start of their argument.
She shook her head staring at him incredulously, her hazel eyes shining in the soft light of surrounding torches. He watched her inhale slowly, and he knew she was trying not to yell.
"I know it has something to do with Voldemort! He and your father are forcing you to do whatever it is. Just tell me, I can help you." Her eyes were pleading with him and he wanted so badly to tell her exactly what he was doing and how he was doing it, and he wanted to tell her why, although he had a feeling she already knew that.
And he wanted to grab her pale arms, strong in their own right, but so weak under his hands, which could so easily encircle them. They were ever-so-lightly covered in sweat, both his and hers, the light bouncing off of them, making them look vibrant against her white tank top. Her school uniform had long ago been discarded and her long wavy hair was tossed haphazardly to one side of her head.
He closed his mouth and looked down. "You wouldn't understand, it's not that simple."
He waited a moment but she didn't say anything. He looked back up, expecting to see her boiling with anger, or crying, or, or something… but she was smiling. Full out grinning, she looked as though she was trying not to laugh even.
"What?" He asked, covering up his shock with annoyance.
"You know, I think I should feel insulted, you don't expect me to understand something because it isn't simple. I'm wounded Draco, really." She told him with special emphasis on the word 'because'.
Her smile was not wide, and stretching to the corners of her face, like those of the blonde models he saw in magazines. But it showed off the top row of her still slightly too big, but white and strait teeth, and it stretched her already high cheekbones even higher and accentuated her heart-shaped face, and made her glow almost as much as she did when she cried. He wished he saw it more.
He gave her a bit of a smile back, half-hearted but still more genuine then he could ever remember showing anyone. "You're making a joke out of this?"
"Not really, but I don't mind finding a bit of humor in irony." Her smile softened, but it did not loose its kindness.
All the repeated threats and promises and bribing and blackmailing and lying and cheating and everything else he had done or had had done to him, and the frustration and stress caused by it had stretched his chest inhumanely tight and put small beginnings of hated tears in his eyes. And involuntarily he felt his cheeks lift with the corners of his mouth, he felt like there should have been tears falling, but there weren't and so he let out a small laugh. He wasn't crying and should be glad, but it just increased the void inside of him, waiting for her to fill it.
"Granger…" He didn't know what he was going to say, he didn't want to talk but felt he should. He just stared at her for a moment. She pushed her hair to the other side of her head, as if quickly attempting to smooth it, but really he knew she did it because she liked it being wild around her. She scooted forward on her knees, almost crawling.
He closed his eyes. He was sitting with his back and head resting up against a wall, one arm resting lazily on his left knee, the other flat against his forehead, frozen in the motion of pushing his hair off his face. He assumed he looked as tired as he was emotionally worn.
He could feel the heat of her kneeling knees up against his sock clad feet. He opened his eyes lazily, she was a head above him up on her knees like that, and she looked like a fallen angel, her messy wavy hair falling and reflecting off the torch light, her eyes glistening with her own unshed tears: His own personal fallen angel, come to join him in hell and make his continuous damnation bearable.
But she could not save him.
He smiled wryly at her, wondering vaguely why he could not seem to stop smiling in some manner. Her knees buckled under her and she collapsed into him. She was not sobbing though, just clinging to him, her face buried in his neck. His arms wove his way over hers, which were wrapped securely around his torso, and came to rest loosely on her back.
At first he thought she was trying to reassure herself of something, maybe that he was really there, he didn't really know. But after a moment it donned on him, she was reassuring him that she was there and that she wasn't going to leave him. His eyes widened and his arms tightened around her, he bent his head bringing it to rest on top of hers, his whole body craning around her smaller frame, again.
He didn't know how long they stayed like that, but it was long enough for him to begin to drift off; too tired, emotionally, mentally and physically for him to bother worrying about, or contemplating, the time. He was sure he was becoming temporarily apathetic from the exhaustion, and the last thing he remembered thinking was that he'd be better off if he could create for himself a sort of bubble that upon entrance all emotions would check themselves at the door, and he would no longer be burdened by them.
The next thing he knew his arms were moving and falling to his sides as she slipped from underneath them. His hands automatically formed into desperate fists hoping to catch her shirt, but her tank top was made of thin tight fitting material, and left nothing to grab.
He shook his head and his eyes jerked open. Her finger tips brushed a few dried tears on his cheeks, which he hadn't even known had fallen. She smiled sadly and he felt his lips twitch upward in response, but they fell back into place and he found himself just staring at her again.
She was sitting on her calves, so she was almost eyelevel with his slouching form. Her expression did not change as she let her hand fall away from his face. She looked like an autumn angel, alive, and healthy, and fertile, and warm, and so wonderfully beautiful and free.
Her lips parted and he knew what she would say before she could even begin to form the words. And he knew he was going to tell her, because he had to tell someone at least some of the truth.
"He'll kill my mother." He could hardly believe it was his own voice that uttered the words, they sounded so indifferent, so cold, not vicious or fond, or with any emotion what-so-ever; it was an accepted truth for him, he'd long ago become used to the fact.
Her eyes fell, but her smile did not falter. "I know," she whispered, so quietly he almost didn't hear her.
He let out a frustrated but muffled scream, rough and gurgled and impatient. He rocked forward and found himself mirroring her on his knees. He grabbed her shoulders, not roughly, but irrationally panicked.
"I have to do it though, my father can't so it's my responsibility, I have to act as head of the family while he's… away… and besides I have to regain our family's honor, I can't allow our name to be tarnished… and it's for Him. I just – " She gently pressed her fingers up against his lips, her eyes fluttering upward again. She looked as though she was going to say something, something long and complex and horribly correct.
"You know… I could come up with all kinds of words to analyze and logiticise everything, and I could tell you exactly what I think, but you already know, and I could tell you what to do, but how can I tell you what to do when I'm in the exact same position as you?"
His eyebrows furrowed. "What do you mean?"
She didn't respond. She stared at him all glowing passionate eyes, like water, like deep, guarded water.
His eyes widened.
"God…" he mumbled and fell forward, his arms wrapped around her small waist, his head resting on her stomach. She slowly laid backward, her hands tangling in his hair. It only took a few moments for the steady up and down motion of her stomach to lull him into a desperately needed state of semi-comfortable sleep.
'I wouldn't wish this feeling on my worst enemy, not even the Weaselbee…'
Here's to goodbye
Tomorrow's gonna come too soon
Late May, 2 Weeks Later
All my time is froze in motion
Can't I stay an hour or two or more?
"Draco, lets go to Hogsmead tomorrow," She said, matter-of-factly, as they sat next to each other, backs leaning uncomfortably on the bookshelves behind them. His feet were propped on the bookshelf facing them, her right ankle crossed over his left, and her right knee tucked into her chest.
He turned his head to look at her, she kept staring strait ahead. "We can't just go wondering around Hogsmead tomorrow, half the school will be there."
"I know," she responded, "but it isn't unusual for us to not go to Hogsmead weekends. You can just tell your friends that you have to work on your 'project' and I'll tell Harry and Ron that I'm studying. They'll believe me."
She had a laid-back, almost dreamy expression on her face, just starring off at the books in front of her, like there was nothing there at all.
"What," he smirked, "do you skip fun weekends to study often?"
"Well," she responded, the corner of her mouth jumping upward, "this year I've spent them mostly with you. But, when I was younger I used to skip them all the time to study or just do whatever."
She lifted her leg off of his, uncurled her other and stretched into the air, rolling her ankles around in a very cat-like manner. Instead of replacing them in their previous position as he'd anticipated, she leaned forward and brought both knees to her chest, sticking her arms around them and cracking her knuckles, as he'd long ago found out she was in the habit of doing.
He wasn't really sure what to make of her calm warm demeanor. Not that he'd never seen her calm before, but it was always in a nonchalant kind of way, almost apathetic. Not this sort of angelic, motherly calm. She was… contentedly resigned? Expecting him to say no, but not mad?
"I mean," she began again, "the weather has been so nice lately and it just seems like a shame to waste it cooped up in here. And we can't really be on the grounds during the day because someone would see us. But in Hogsmead, just for a day, we could. Everyone's always so excited and busy on Hogsmead weekends; they wouldn't pay us much attention, certainly not enough to see through some minor glamour spells. And," she added, tilting her head back at an angle that allowed her to look at him, "I've really been wanting an excuse to try this hair color switching spell."
He looked away from her and let his head fall on the dusty books behind him. It wouldn't be true to say he thought about it for a moment: There was no dialogue running through his head, no argument for it one way or another, no conscious thought at all.
"Well," He grinned, "if you really think you can pull of my hair color, than why not?"
She made a little squealing noise in delight and flipped around, throwing her arms around him. His hands linked together behind her automatically, coming to rest on her shoulder-blades, as her head, in consequence to their somewhat unusual, but oddly comfortable position, came to rest on his stomach.
"Thank you Draco." She said, grinning up at him. She was stunning, and it made him think, not for the first time, of what it would be like, if they could be this way everyday, out in the open, with no pressure. And he though, just for a day, not even a day, only half a day really, he could pretend that he didn't have to worry about killing one of the most powerful wizards in the world, that his life, and his parents lives, weren't on the line, and that everything was as simple as it had been when he had been eleven or even thirteen, only this time with Hermione in his life too. Just for half a day.
He looked at her, smiling softly, although, he knew, with an element of sadness as well. "Don't thank me, I want to too."
Don't let me let you go
Friday, 2 Days Later
Merlin, he felt awful. He couldn't stop himself from shaking. He felt like he was going to throw up, again. And, he was furious with himself: What had he been thinking? Wasting all the time on that potion? If he never got the cabinet fixed he'd never have a reason to give it to her anyway. And even if he did, his plan wouldn't work unless Dumbledore left, and who knew if he'd do that again. Really, his whole plan was so up to chance. The necklace had failed, the mead had failed. And he was lying to himself to say he couldn't have done better. His life was hanging in the balance; his mother's life was hanging in the balance.
He looked up into the mirror and saw how pale he was, the grey circles under his eyes, the numb tears already pouring down his cheeks, like a reflex. He felt as though a snitch had lodged itself in his throat, not stopping him from breathing, but making the experience very painful. And all just from a conversation, a floo conversation at that.
A little "swooshing" noise from behind him caught his ears and his blood shot eyes, looking almost blue as a result, swiveled automatically to the transparent, annoyed, form that appeared in the mirror.
"What do you want you whiny little ghost?" He bit out harshly. Far more harshly than necessary, but he was feeling very bitter right now, and didn't give a damn whether or not he hurt some little ghost-girl's feelings.
"Well," she began, sounding rather affronted, "you're in my bathroom crying –"
"I am NOT crying!" He shouted in response.
She flew back into one of the cubicles and peaked out from behind the door. "Yes you are, and you're really –"
"Myrtle?" He asked, turning around a bit to look at her, but not, for fear of his knees giving out, letting his hands leave the sides of the dirty, once-white sink.
She didn't say anything, just sent him a funny look.
"That's your name, right? I heard it from a friend of mine, she thinks rather highly of you." The little ghost-girl didn't react at all, which, he thought, was odd because he'd always heard she was rather dramatic.
Finally, suspicious but unable to contain the type of morbid curiosity typical to a twelve-year-old girl, she asked, "You mean Hermione Granger, the girl you're sneaking around with?"
"Yes." He stood up and stared at her through the mirror. He knew what kind of an effect that stare of his, his father's stare, had on people, and he didn't have any reason to believe she'd be any different. "I know you've…" he felt the need to choose his words very carefully, very slowly, exactly the opposite of how he was feeling, "seen us together. I need for you to not tell anyone, including the other ghosts about it."
"Okay," she finally replied, a bit meekly, looking down and fiddling with her little wisps of hands.
He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Thank you," he breathed, more than said, and turned back to the ceramic basin, not looking in the mirror as he let his eyes shut and his body crane over it.
After an agonizing moment of successfully holding in the choking-sobs, tearing every muscle in his body apart, one finally escaped, brining a bit of bile up with it.
"Don't," Myrtle crooned, sounding closer than she had before, "Don't… tell me what's wrong… I can help you…"
"No one can help me," he responded, sounding more panicked than he rightly should have: where was his forced composure of only a moment ago? Was this a nervous break down? "I can't do it," he confessed, "I can't… It won't work… and unless I do it soon… he says he'll kill me…" He didn't even want to mention his mother; he didn't think he could bear to say it out loud.
She didn't respond and he flung his head up, unsuccessfully attempting to evade another sob-induced shudder. First his eyes met his own in the mirror, slightly demented by the cracks in the glass, but, not a second later, they shot directly to where a wide, green, glasses-covered pair stared, from somewhere behind, at him.
Acting on instinct he spun around, flung his wand in front of him and, silently, put up a moderate shield. Without really thinking about it he threw the first curse that popped into his head at the boy ten feet ahead of him. Of course, probably due to his still shaking hands, it missed by inches, and Draco barely had enough time to re-strengthen his shield before Potter's curse hit him.
"No! No! Stop it!" Myrtle yelled. Her voice pounded through his ears like, ironically, a battle cry and sent a rush of adrenaline down his body, into his arms. 'Praemium!' He thought, and, not a second later, a loud bang issued from the trash bin behind Potter, only missing him by two inches.
The toilet behind him exploded, assumably from a spell intended for him. Myrtle screamed again, water was rushing everywhere and Potter slipped. Not stopping to think, he began to yell "Cruci–" but did not get the chance to finish before a sharp cry off "SECTUMSEMPRA!" rang through the air.
Sharp, skin-splitting pain ran up and down his body as he fell backward, as though invisible blades had forced him back. He saw red run down his chest, his stomach, onto the floor, his hands. He felt heavy liquid on his face, blinked, and it invaded his eyes the reactionary involuntary scream caught in his throat. All he could do was run his shaking hands over the gashes in his chest, his fingers going numb as he realized they were touching under his skin.
"No – I didn't –" Potter stuttered. His voice was far away and irrelevant now, although somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that Potter was sitting right next to him, his right knee only an inch from Draco's own.
Myrtle screamed something else. He only heard the word "murder" mixed in somewhere and found himself wondering, with amazing detachment, 'Am I going to die?'
There was a crashing sound on the other side of the room, and Draco wondered if Potter had hit something or cursed something, but a great black swooping figure appeared over him a second later, pushed Potter away from him, and a wand, in a large masculine hand, obscured the sight of his own blood covered hands, still resting on his open skin.
Snape pushed his hands aside, with uncharacteristic gentleness. His shirt and robes disappeared. Under-breath incantations began, so slurred and constant they seemed like a hymn, and warm energy sent his nerves in his face tingling. It seemed to be that the gashes running from his forehead to his bottom left cheek were being sewn back together. The wet, sticky mask that coated his face disappeared and the metallic scent, which a second ago had been strong enough to make him gag, now, by relativity, seemed much less potent.
He glanced down at his chest and stomach as the same feeling arose in them. Snape's hands moved as carefully as those of an artist. It almost seemed as if he was coloring in his torso, putting it back the way it should be, restoring it after Potter had damaged it.
Contact was being made with his rib-cage, causing his body to slip a bit to the side. Snape's hand wound its way around to his back, his armpit, in consequence, coming to rest on his teacher's shoulder. There was a great tug and he realized, from an outside perspective almost, that Snape was trying to pull him up.
He felt his left shoulder blade pop out of place as he pushed against the wall behind him, his legs clumsy for some reason and not being in the least bit helpful. At least half his weight was on Snape and his legs still felt like lead. He couldn't do more than slide them forward in an awkward shuffle.
Something was being said to him, by Snape of course, something about the hospital wing, something about scaring, but he didn't really hear it. When he felt Snape's body jerk though, when he heard his tone change, sharp and furious, his ears zoned in on them. "And you, Potter … You wait here for me," he said, and Draco realized that for a few moments he'd forgotten all about Potter.
Snape dragged him out of the bathroom somehow. As soon as they were outside he summoned a stretcher, although Draco didn't realize it until he noticed that he was staring at a moving ceiling. A few moments passed with far away noises, interrupted by a high-pitched, genuinely startled, "Oh my god! Draco!"
He assumed, but maybe only hoped, it was Hermione. He almost said her name, but long blonde hair flicked briefly over him before its owner was shoved away by Snape and he knew it had been Pansy, not Hermione. After that his eyes fell shut, everything was dark, everything was quiet, and, best of all, he didn't dream.
"Parkinson, I promise I won't hurt him, now will you please let me in so I can give him the Ancient Runes homework?"
"I really don't see why you need to right now Granger; shouldn't you be in Hogsmead with your vile friends? Incase you hadn't heard your boyfriend tore poor Draco to shreds, so I really don't think he's in much of a condition to do Ancient Runes homework anyway. Besides he can get it from Blaise later."
"Zabini isn't in the class, didn't you know? Malfoy is the only Slytherin in our year taking it; otherwise Professor Sinistra wouldn't have asked me to get it to him. But since I'm in the class and being a prefect–"
"Oh stuff it." Pansy replied, not maliciously, more in the way of a child who's given up about getting her way and now is going to sulk about it.
"Nice to know you don't let being away at school kill your manners," Hermione replied sarcastically. Draco could picture Pansy's face heating up and turning red in embarrassment, as had occurred by his sharp tongue on many an evening in previous years.
"Pansy," he said in a low, scratchy voice, as though he were just waking up and still terribly weak, "I'll be fine, but I do need the homework, so just let her give it to me –"
"And," he cut her off, "go to dinner. If they have them, will you save me some of those biscuits I like? The infirmary food is very bland."
"Okay, I'll see you after dinner," she told him, her hair falling in his face as she bent down and pecked him on the cheek.
A year ago he would have smirked in a stupid self-important way. Six months ago he would have been eagerly awaiting Hermione's jealous expression. Draco Malfoy, the no-real-worries-even-though-I-didn't-know-it teenager, would have, most simply put, love the attention and all of its ramifications. However, Draco Malfoy, who was unwillingly wise enough to know, but whose ego would not allow for him to admit, that he was not a man, who felt so tired and jaded on all he'd been through the last year, didn't care one way or the other that Pansy had kissed him on the cheek. Not even when Hermione's eyes darkened and her cheek twitched.
"Good morning," he said, somewhat sarcastically, for he assumed it wasn't anywhere near morning. He looked straight at her, for some reason he couldn't even begin to identify, he was in a bit of a fighting mood.
"Actually, it's almost dinner time; people will be back from Hogsmead soon." Her reply sounded guarded, almost suspicious. He'd expected, or perhaps only wanted, her to come running at him, throw her arms around his broken body, cry hysterically and vow to never speak to Potter or Weasley again. Although, in all fairness, he knew he was pushing it with the last one.
"Yeah," he responded, looking down a bit, over come by some heavy feeling that had entered the room as soon as Pansy left, "sorry about that. I really wanted to go, but Potter managed to get me pretty good… I suppose," he continued, knowing it was not true but hoping it would engender a warmer reaction, "you're a bit mad at me, about missing it and all…"
"Oh Malfoy," she began, smiling in a fashion that would have been bemusedly if not for the seriousness still in her eyes. She walked over to his bed quickly and set down whatever books she was carrying on the table next to him. "I'm not mad at you. I was so shocked when I found out. And of course I found out from Harry, so I had to act completely unaffected."
"Was that hard?" He didn't smirk, it was a genuine question.
Her smile dropped. "Yes."
"So you didn't go to Hogsmead today?"
"No, how could I? I was actually in here a lot of the day, under the guise of helping Madam Pomfrey with preparing anti-allergy potions."
"Potter and the Weasel weren't suspicious?"
"Well, Ron and Ginny had quidditch practice, and Harry was in detention. You'll," she add, rolling her eyes but continuing to fiddle with his hands, "be elated to know that Harry has detention every Saturday, all day, for the rest of the term."
He looked away, "I suppose Snape gave him the punishment…" He sounded bitter, and he felt bitter, and he knew she didn't know why he'd be bitter, and vaguely hoped, somewhere in the back of his mind, that she would know it didn't have anything to do with her.
"Yes, he did, and so far as I'm concerned he deserves it!" Draco looked back up at her, his right eyebrow raised. "Not only for what he did to you," she continued, "but for keeping that stupid book in the first place."
"What stupid book?" He asked, curious about any book that would illicit such a vehement hatred out of Hermione Granger.
"Oh," she huffed, looking away from him at some invisible point over his head that must have offended her terribly, "just this old potions book that he's been using all year. It used to be someone else's; some student's who donated it to the school. It's got all kinds of potion tips and spells and what-not scribbled in it. I could tell that whoever it used to belong to was a bit of a dodgy character, and," she paused, looking back down at him very pointedly, "I was right, wasn't I?" She inhaled quickly and refocused on the wall behind him, "But no, Harry liked being top in potions and couldn't bother listening to me when I told him to chuck it! Because, lord knows, my advise is only good for Harry and Ron when one of them can't figure out how to transfigure something, or even better, what terribly obvious thing they've done to offend some girl! And you know the worst part of it? He still won't admit that I'm ri—"
"Hermione, you're hurting my hands," and she instantly snapped out of her world, and let go of his hands, wide-eyed and apologetic looking.
"Oh, I'm sorry Draco, I guess I was just venting a bit…"
"It's fine, it's the most interesting conversation I've had all day."
"Yes, well, you've been unconscious all day so that isn't saying much."
"I don't see why you need to drag that into it."
"You know Draco," she grabbed his hands again, her eyes regained their previous seriousness, but lost none of their passion, "Harry really is sorry for what he did. If he'd known what that spell did he wouldn't have done it."
"How nice of him," he pulled his hands, and eyes, away from hers, hoping she'd take the hint and not attempt to continue to redeem Potter.
"Sorry Malfoy, but I've already worn all the fight out of me for today so don't think you're gonna start something by sulking."
"That's a quick change from thirty seconds ago."
"Well that,"—She suddenly looked so defeated, but tense as if her body hadn't yet recovered from an unnatural rush of adrenaline—"that was just pent up energy from being so… scared…"and just like that she lay her head on his stomach, recaptured his hands, somehow causing them to land on her shoulders, and wound her arms around his middle, obviously being careful not to touch anywhere she thought he may have been cut.
She didn't say anything else, and so he didn't either.
Instead he began stroking her hair, running his fingers through it for a few minutes, and then just letting his hands rest, hair still threaded through his finger, one on top of her head, the other at the nape of her neck. It was a little damp, and smelled like her shampoo and he figured she must have taken a shower that morning and had her hair up until an hour or so ago, as he knew she was in the habit of doing, which would be why it retained both it's moisture and smell so strongly. He took a deep breath, her head and back rising with his stomach, her arms taking the opportunity to shift even tighter around him, her finger-tips pulling on the back of his shirt in a constricting, but somehow, as a result, comfortable, permanent way.
He exhaled and watched the sun shining through the window. It hurt his pale eyes to look directly into it, but for a moment, he couldn't help himself, no matter how much it hurt, he had to stare into it.
However, perhaps in less time than he realized, he looked away, natural, self-preserving instincts winning out against the impulsive aesthetic sense that over took him. For a moment, as his eyes readjusted, the whole room was dark, even if only by comparison.
Here's a toast to all those who hear me all too well…
He'd finally finished it.
Naturally, he'd been elated at first, but that had been hours ago, and his initial joy had worn off. Not to say that he wasn't still happy, but it was a bitter, begrudge sort of happy.
He was curious to see how well it would work. He was relieved that now his mother would be safe. His family's authority and honor and worth would not be mocked again. He was proud that he would be the one to give the Dark Lord what even his most powerful, experienced generals had not been able to. What not even Snape, in all his years at Hogwarts, had ever been able to give him. But he felt no warm, deep, genuine happiness rise up, ever so involuntarily, from the back of his chest as there should have been—only relief, only resignation, only the slightest bit of bitter hope.
Of course, he had to curse and obliviatethe odd smelling woman with the large glasses and beads and sherry bottles after she'd somehow wandered in on him. However, after that nothing much had happened; he'd had the barmaid from The Three Broomsticks floo his aunt Bellatrix an hour ago, but he had yet to hear back from her.
He kept fiddling with the little vial in his hands. It was a crystal vial, small and elegant and two-hundred years old. It wasn't the sort of vial you just put any potion in, but new vials were all made of glass, and many old, un-updated potions (for reasons Snape had explained to them but which he'd been to busy fooling around to pay attention to) would not tolerate glass. Glass vials melted, caused pressure building reactions, or simply turned the potion inert, and ergo useless. Of course his book had not specified whether it was safe to use glass vials, after all it was over a hundred years old, however he felt the need to play it safe and owled his mother for one of her good crystal vials, which she supplied no questions asked, probably assuming it was for his accursed project.
The dark red liquid shimmered, the little bit of light reflecting off of the vial was like a beacon in the very dim room, calling to him. "Tutela ex Cruor," he mumbled, his tongue rolling against the roof of his mouth, the syllables passing through his lips, just their sound holding a deep ancient power over him.
He didn't know what to do with it, or what to make of it's strange effects on him. The book had warned that the potion itself, even unconsumed by the intended, would do funny things to whoever's blood it shared. It hadn't been much of a problem brewing it until the very last day when he had to leave it alone and let it cool and settle. For some reason he'd wanted so badly to pour it all over himself, all over the ground, everywhere and just lie in it, completely powerless and entranced by it. He couldn't explain it, despite the reasons given by the book.
He glanced out the window, which had appeared as soon as he realized he may need a window, incase his aunt decided to respond by owl. However, there was no silhouette of an owl against the moon, no sign of anything out of place at all. It unnerved him.
He spent the next few minutes with his back against the cabinet, his bum sore, and his right hand cold and dry in his lap, his left sweaty and warm clasping the potion, which his eyes couldn't leave no matter how much his mind argued against it. However without any warning an, at first unnoticeable, and then welcome, heat began to spread from his left pocket. So entranced as he was with the potion he didn't consciously notice it until his leg twitched angrily in response and he was forced to realize how hot his communication coin had become.
He very carefully set down Tutela ex Cruor and pulled out the hot gold coin, cursing under his breath as it burnt his hand. He let it fall on the ground, slipped his wand out of his sleeve, whispered "Tepesco," and watched the steamed caused by his cooling charm rise off of the coin. It looked mystical even to him in the dark, in the moon light, in his exhaustion.
When he picked it up again, the words "Dumbledore is in Hogsmead, having a drink at the Hogshead" scrolled in circles around the coin, twisting into and out of its center; his glowing salvation and doom all at once.
The words instantly disappeared. He traced his wand through the air: "Tell my aunt" his movements blazed, leaving a trail of light in their place as the swirled onto the coin, and disappeared, letting him know that they'd been successfully transmitted.
He dropped the coin back into his pocket, picked up the vial of Tutela ex Cruor but did not look at it. His heart was racing as was his mind, but not in any understandable way, it was as if his subconcious was doing all the processing for him, and he had yet to feel the sting of reality. For however long he was still blessedly numb.
Without thinking he jumped up quickly and spun around, making a grab for his cloak, which he'd lazily thrown on the floor. His soar shoulder blades popped in his haste, and his hands got caught in his sleeves; his upper arms feeling unnatural and strained as he wiggled his hand free.
He was impatient waiting for the door leading out of the room of requirement to appear. When it finally did his first inclination was to race out of it, but some natural sense, be it of self-preservation or simply sneakiness, stopped him.
He knocked three times and almost instantly two knocks were returned.
He threw the door open, told Greg and Vincent, who looked like two third-year Hufflepuff boys, to go back to the common room as soon as the potion wore off, and did not look back at them as he took off for the stairs.
When he reached the staircase he heard unfamiliar, young voices: lower years undoubtedly. 'Don't attract attention Draco,' he thought, 'don't screw it up at the last minute.'
He blinked, and let go of all the tension in his face, allowing his muscles to drop, relax, and then quickly sharpen into a look of alert, but unconcerned, superiority. His father's face appeared in his mind's eye and he liked to think that he looked like a younger version of him: proud, dominating, not at all the nervous, excited, half-numb half-terrified, teenager that he was.
And, he found as he walked, making sure to keep his breathing slow and impartial, some pride swelled afresh in his chest, and he felt like the vision he had of his father, superior.
Everyone who doubted him, everyone who believed in him, even he himself in all his times of doubt, would see that Draco Malfoy was the Harry Potter to the Dark Lord's Dumbledore. Draco Malfoy was worth something. This would prove what had always been true: the Malfoy's were superior to all of the other pureblood families, to everyone. Draco Malfoy would be the greatest of them all, not the family's last hope and ultimate embarrassment as he knew many in the Dark Lord's service were hoping for. He'd be the champion, and they would devote their sycophantic-selves to finding a way into his good graces, because he would be the Dark Lord's golden boy.
And that was the scenario he clung to, because he had to, to get him through tonight.
"Monsieur Malfoy, you are in a bit of a hurry for zee evening, no?"
He stopped and spun around instantly, as if her voice had lassoed him and his body was now at the mercy of her rope. His eyes felt dry because they were wide open and he hadn't said anything, hadn't blinked, was gaping and shocked and must, consequently seem so suspicious.
"Monsieur Malfoy, are you not vell?" And just like that, as her first sentence had ruined his façade of calmness and normalcy, her second had sent his entire body back into an expression, a posture that fit like a familiar old skin: passive, slightly haughty expression, relaxed muscles, hips forward, long fingers resting in his robe pockets.
"No, I'm fine Professor, I was just looking for Hermione Granger, I borrowed her notes from Monday's class and I know she wanted them back promptly." It was a good excuse, and he was looking for her, and Professor Sinistra was not a head of house, she hadn't even attended Hogwarts when she had been at school, she'd gone to school in France, and consequently, she hadn't ever really experienced the true strength of the Slytherin-Gryffindor hatred. She didn't take it seriously. She wouldn't think anything of him looking for Hermione.
"Ah, I'd recommend you try zee dungeons, she vas headed in zat direction vith a friend. I also advise coming to zee rest of classes for zis term, you have missed too many alveady."
His eye twitched. "I know Professor and I'm very sorry, I hadn't meant to miss Monday's class, however there wasn't much I could do about being unexpectedly attacked by a fellow student."
"Yes," she said dismissively, waving her hand behind her as she walked away, "vell hopefully it vill not happen again."
"Of course Madam," he replied curtly, waiting for her to stroll around the corner before continuing downstairs to the dungeons.
His shoes clicked against the uneven stone of the floor, echoing effectively despite the many tapestries and portraits that lined, and ergo should have insulated, the halls. They glowed warm but felt cold, as if the castle sensed he was about to betray it.
"Young man you shouldn't run in the corridors!" chided a portrait of a woman playing some muggle game with dogs and wooden hammers. He ignored her but quickly recomposed himself before opening the door leading to the dungeon corridor.
Hermione's back was to him. She was walking very slowly and quietly toward Snape's office with a girl a few inches shorter than her, with long blonde hair, who he recognized as being Loony-Luna Lovegood.
"Granger!" He said, not loud enough to cause any attention, or for Snape to hear through his office walls and noise blocking charms.
Here's to the nights we felt alive
She spun around instantly, mirroring, he noticed, the way he himself had reacted to being caught off-guard by Professor Sinistra up on the staircase landing. He didn't smile, although under any other circumstances he would have found her jumpy, wide-eyed reaction quite amusing.
"Professor Sinistra wanted me to pass on some information about the next class." He continued, walking toward her at a leisurely pace. Regardless of how he was feeling, they had an audience, and it was much easier to ignore feelings when an outside party was watching.
"Right," she responded curtly, snapping out of her shock and briskly strolling toward him, making a motion for her friend to stay behind.
He waited for her to reach him before saying anything else, preferring to simply watch her make her way toward him, intentionally looking irritated and impatient, but really thinking about how she looked so different than, and yet, somehow, the same, as she had when they'd been little children and life had been simple, and she didn't mean anything more to him then someone to glare at and hate because he was supposed to, and because she was better in school.
"What's going on?" she whispered, not a foot away from him. He looked pointedly to the left and she very casually took a step to her right. He dipped his hand in his pocket and felt around until his fingers brushed the warm little vial, all sharp little edges and intricate stopper. He slowly removed it, glancing back at her friend, who was staring at the ceiling as if it were the most fascinating thing she'd ever seen.
"I need you to promise me that if anything happens tonight, or tomorrow, or any other time, that you'll drink this first thing." Her eyes grew wide and panicked, her breath caught, but she let it out and regained her composure flawlessly, silently, and with as much grace as any pureblood matriarch he'd ever met.
Her eyes quickly flicked down toward the vial; however her hands didn't make any motion to take it.
"Tell me what's going to happen Draco." Her tone was serious and cold. He rarely heard her speak in such a manner, perhaps only to Umbridge last year.
Perhaps out of habit, perhaps out of emotional self-preservation, perhaps simply because he was immature and couldn't help but react in such a befitting manner, he mimicked her tone, her expression, her body posture, straightening his back, lifting his chin, trying to seem intimidating although he thought himself rather ridiculous for it. "I can't tell you. Look, you always knew something was going on, don't act surprised. I—"
"I'm not," she cut him off.
"Look," he leaned back in and dropped his voice even further, "just promise me you'll take it."
"What is it?" She asked, trying to sound indifferent and stern, but her natural curiosity swam through her façade, her eyes lighting up, her voice becoming higher… He knew she didn't notice, but he always did.
"It's a potion to protect you from anyone that shares my blood. At least to within 1/32nd. It lasts for 12 hours and it's very potent."
"To protect me? Voldemort isn't going to attack the school is he?"
"Of course not." He told her, completely honest. There was no doubt in his mind that the Dark Lord himself wouldn't come, in fact, he doubted even his aunt would come.
She was looking at him skeptically, but not without the desire to believe him.
"You just have to trust me." He told her, although it sounded ridiculous even to him.
"What is it?" She repeated, shifting closer to him, now carefully glancing back and forth between him and the little vial, as if she could somehow add the two together and come up with a logical sum.
"Tutela ex Cruor."
"I've never heard of it…" She whispered, looking slightly annoyed, but more awed.
"It's centuries old, of course I knew about growing up in my family—" She quirked an eyebrow, "It's not illegal," he stated quickly. "Listen, I've tested it, it works amazingly, but I don't have time to argue right now. Please just tell me you'll take it."
She stared at him, her eyes darkening in understanding. Soft but very definitive shadows lined her face and her hair glowed in the torch light, and her hands, long and strong in their own right but somehow looking so fragile as they slowly moved upward to reach his. Her fingers curled around the vial, wrapping it protectively against her palm, and her other hand, her left hand, caught his. He looked straight into her eyes and an upset, guilty, angry, indescribably painful, but horribly bearable, pulse shot through his stomach, through his arms, and straight to his heart.
"This is it, isn't it?" She whispered her head somehow now only inches from his. The way she stared at him, the way her hand was wrapped over his, the way he could feel her breath on his neck, was so intimate… not for the first time, it scared him.
"I don't know." He answered, not able to drop her gaze.
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry
"I hope someday, if you can, you'll change your mind and join us. But even if you never do, no matter what you do, or I do, no matter how you look back on this, and no matter what happens, no matter how much we change, no matter what directions out lives take us, please promise me you'll remember that this year, even though I tried not to, I loved you. I still love you. And there will always be a part of my heart only for you, a part of me that keeps loving you."
"I—" He wanted to fall forward, into her, wrap her in his arms, let hers whined around his body, let her save him, let himself loose himself in her. But her friend was watching, and so he only stared at her.
"I—" He began again, but she, vial still clasped in her fist, jumped to her tiptoes and threw her little five-foot-six body against him. Her arms wound around his neck, her pelvis pressed against his, her chest, her stomach, fitting against his body like a magnate. Her lips found his instantly, with learned accuracy, with need, with sorrow, with a taste of bitter-sweetness, and with the love that she had just so thoroughly proclaimed.
And just for a second he didn't care about her friend watching, or his aunt, or his cabinet, or his mission. He pressed his lips to hers with just as much passion; bit the inside of her bottom lip ever so lightly. His arms, which he'd wrapped around her waist without even realizing it, held her to him, so tightly that even when she pulled her lips away from his, her face couldn't get more then a few inches away from his own.
Why did she have to say that. He knew, he always knew, somewhere, and he always needed her to say it. But why at the last minute, when it could completely ruin his composure? When it could cause him to just stop and freeze and do nothing at all? When it could make him have the same conversation in his head that he had night after night since the Christmas—the "what if" conversation? Why'd she have to say it when he felt like he had to say something back but didn't know what?
And all of a sudden some nerve impulse sent a signal to his brain because he realized that, again, he was looking down at wide eyes, scared eyes, passionate eyes, desperate, but somehow resigned, eyes. And he still didn't know what to say, but the truth came pouring out, far more easily than it should have.
"I only know enough about love to know that I don't really know what it is. But you make me feel something I've never felt before, and if that is love, then it's horrible and wonderful, and I'm not sure I ever want to feel it again. Right now though, I'm glad. I'm glad I met you, and I'm glad you loved me because I'm sure I've loved you too. I'm sorry I didn't deserve your love, but thank you. Thank you for letting me feel this way."
Her eyes watered, she closed them, pressed her lips to his one more time, and broke away before he could respond. She jumped out of his arms, backing away toward her friend, trembling fist clenching the vial, other hand wiping her eyes. Biting her bottom lip, she half-whispered, half squeaked the two syllables that sent up familiar, icy walls around his heart, sent him back to the Draco Malfoy he always was, always was supposed to be:
He nodded, turned, and walked away without saying a word. He didn't trust himself to speak.
Two Hours Later
"Good evening, Draco."
He was breathing frantically and he knew it. He glanced around the room, seeing no one else, but still paranoid, especially after he spotted not one, but two broomsticks.
"Who else is here?" He asked, trying to sound much calmer and much more in-control than he felt.
"A question I might ask you. Or are you acting alone?" Dumbledore responded in a calm, cheerful, mildly curious, and to Draco's ears, condescending, tone.
His eyes instantly left the broomstick and refocused on the old man, not really believing that he could be as incapable as he appeared. "No," he began a feeling a bitter excitement rising in his stomach, "I've got backup. There are Death Eaters here," and, just for spite he couldn't logically justify, he added, "in your school, tonight."
"Well, well," Dumbledore acclaimed quirking an eyebrow, "very good indeed. You found a way to let them in, did you?"
"Yeah," he gasped, feeling ridiculous for it, "right under your nose and you never realized!"
"Ingenious," the old man wheezed, his back slipping against the stone wall behind him. "Yet…" he opened his eyes, looking as though it cost him a great bit of will to do so, "forgive me… where are they now? You seem unsupported."
"They met some of your guards. They're having a fight down below. They won't be long… I came on ahead. I—" He couldn't say it out loud, for what it really was, not with Dumbledore himself looking at him in the same calm, resigned way that she had only hours before. "—I've got a job to do."
"Well, then, you must get on and do it, my dear boy." He closed his eyes again, the light shimmering off of them disappearing behind their lids, leaving only his half-moon spectacles to twinkle toward him, suddenly becoming lifeless as a doll whose eye sockets had been filled with glass.
He didn't say anything. Here was Dumbledore, the, alleged, greatest wizard of the century, calmly offering his life up to he, sixteen year old, half-hearted Death Eater, confused, scared, pride and fear driven Draco Malfoy. And all he could do was stare at him, unable to even breathe in the silence that grew deeper and realer with ever second that he let pass.
"Draco," he began again, opening his eyes. His eyes were fierce now, stern, but not threatening. They were the lightest of blue eyes anyone could have imagined and at the same time they were so dark. They were the eyes of a powerful man. Not a desperate man, not a man that feared for his life. They were the eyes of a man who was a leader, who had honor. A man who Draco, despite his desire not to, in that moment, both feared and respected more than the Dark Lord himself, more than his father.
"Draco," he repeated, "you are not a killer."
And the way he said it was so thoroughly a statement, so sure and precise that he could not help but blurt out, stupidly and immaturely, "How do you know?"
Dumbledore's expression did not obviously change, but he felt as though Dumbledore must be fighting the urge to roll his eyes. Because, regardless of what he said, Dumbledore could see through him, and could see that what he said was true.
However, his tongue and jaw, running on fright and pride and childishness continued, "You don't know what I'm capable of! You don't know what I've done!" And he hoped, although doubted, that he was right.
"Oh yes I do," said Dumbledore in a tone that suggested he was a little annoyed by a young grandchild's antics. "You almost killed Katie Bell and Ronald Weasley. You have been trying, with increasing desperation, to kill me all year." His eyes softened slightly as he spoke, "Forgive me, Draco, but they have been feeble attempts… So feeble, to be honest, that I wonder whether your heart has been really in it."
"It had been in it!" He yelled vindictively, his last string of composure dissolving along with any hope for his envisioned, triumphant, eternally justified glory. "I've been working on it all year, and tonight—"
There was a shout from somewhere below, and, automatically, he stopped and listened.
"Somebody is putting up a good fight," Dumbledore commented. "But," he looked pointedly back at Draco, "you were saying… yes, you have managed to introduce Death Eaters into my school, which, I admit, I though impossible... How did you do it?"
He heard him of course, but just as weeks before with Snape in the lavatory after Potter attacked him, it was a distant sort of recognition. His real attention was focused on the noises coming from below, his whole body rigid and alert.
"Perhaps," Dumbledore continued as if to coax him out of his immobility, "you ought to get on with the job alone. What if your backup has been thwarted by my guard? As you have perhaps realized, there are members of the Order of the Phoenix here tonight too. And after all, you don't really need help… I have no wand at the moment… I cannot defend myself."
He couldn't do anything but stare at him. This was neither the reaction he'd expected or wanted. He was tired; he'd been up for two days almost. His muscles were weak. It hurt to move his body. His hands were shaking under the stress, under his fatigue. His eyes were wide and dry, but at the same time he was ready to break down crying at any second. And Dumbledore was smiling at him as if he were a particularly typical but amusing child.
"I see," he said, as if he'd finally decided that Draco was not going to do more than gape at him. "You are afraid to act until they join you."
"I'm not afraid!" He snarled, feeling his last bit of patience and energy ooze from his body. "It's you who should be scared!" Although it was he, Draco, who felt himself slipping back away from Dumbledore, up against the wall, hoping it would somehow support him, even if only physically.
"But why? I don't think you will kill me, Draco. Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe… So tell me, while we wait for your friends… how did you smuggle them in here? It seems to have taken you a long tie to work out how to do it."
He felt nauseous and had to choke back a bit of bile that had risen in his throat. Breathing hard and hating himself and the situation for everything not going so gloriously has he'd partially tricked himself into believing it would be, he thrust his wand toward Dumbledore, unable to keep it in the least bit steady, but hoping beyond hope that it had some effect. He took another deep breath, although it felt rather as if he were a thirsty man gulping down water. "I had to mend that broken Vanishing Cabinet that no one's used for years," he began, as if telling the story would somehow help him, "The one Montague got lost in last year."
"Aaaah," the old man signed, although even Draco could hear a groan behind it, coupled with another slow closing and opening of his eyes. "That was clever… There is a pair, I take it?"
"In Borgin and Burkes, and they make a kind of passage between them" he answered his chest lightening ever so slightly, feeling as though he'd finally done something right, as though someone was finally recognizing him for it. "Montague told me that when he was stuck in the Hogwarts one, he was trapped in limbo but sometimes he could hear what was going on at school, and sometimes what was going on in the shop, as if the cabinet was traveling between them, but he couldn't make anyone hear him…In the end, he managed to apparate out, even though he'd never passed his test. He nearly died doing it."
His heart was beating faster but in a good way now, and he could feel the muscles in his cheeks involuntarily lifting into a fatigued, desperate, almost insane, sort of smile, "Everyone thought it was a really good story, but I was the only one who realized what it meant — even Borgin didn't know — I was the one who realized there could be a way into Hogwarts through the cabinets if I fixed the broken one." As he finished, gasping for breathe he hadn't realized he needed, his smile widened into an even more deranged grin. He felt like laughing and crying simultaneously. This was what all of his hard work had been for: to stand in a tower dead on his feet despite the adrenaline pumping through his veins and tell his quirky headmaster about what he'd been doing behind his back all year.
"Very good," Dumbledore mumbled in response. "So the Death Eaters were able to pass from Borgin and Burkes into the school to help you… A clever plan, a very clever plan.. and, as you say, right under my nose."
"Yeah," He breathed, the words sounding too good to be true, but words that he needed to cling to none the less. Again the comforting feeling of success and something to be proud of swelled in his chest, and, wishing it to stay as long as possible, he, looking at Dumbledore but not really seeing him, sighed, "Yeah, it was!"
"But there were times weren't there," the old man's voice broke through the sound of his beating heart, his exhausted breathe, his all too short reverie, "when you were not sure you would succeed in mending the cabinet? And you resorted to crude and badly judged measures such as sending me a cursed necklace that was bound to reach the wrong hands… poisoning mead there was only the slightest chance I might drink…"
"Yeah, well, you still didn't realize who was behind that stuff, did you?" He sneered, annoyed and defensive immediately, as if he'd been somehow tricked.
Dumbledore slipped, and he found himself mirroring the old man's movements, falling backward against his will, only barely catching himself on the wall behind him with the hand that was not extended in front of him, holding his wand like a life line bound to let him down.
"As a matter of fact, I did. I was sure it was you." That had not been the answer he wanted, or expected. Nothing about Dumbledore was what he expected. Certainly he should have interrogated Draco and turned him in to the ministry if he knew what was going on; expel him at the least.
"Why didn't you stop me, then?"
"I tried, Draco." He breathed, sounding disappointed in both of them. "Professor Snape has been keeping watch over you on my orders—"
"He hasn't been doing your orders," he gasped incredulously, "he promised my mother—"
"Of course that is what he would tell you, Draco, but—"
"He's a double agent, you stupid old man," he half laughed, half cried, "He isn't working for you, you just think he is!"
"We must agree to differ on that, Draco. It so happens that I trust Professor Snape—"
"Well, you're losing your grip, then! He's been offering me plenty of help—wanting all the glory for himself—wanting a bit of the action—'what are you doing?' 'Did you do the necklace, that was stupid, it could have blown everything—' But I haven't told him what I've been doing in the Room of Requirement, he's going to wake up tomorrow and it'll all be over and he won't be the Dark Lord's favorite anymore, he'll be nothing compared to me, nothing!" He sobbed, and cackled, bending his head in toward his chest, and throwing it out, back against the wall erratically, ready to throw up and crumple, but inexplicably over taken by this hysteria.
"Very gratifying," He heard the old man responded, seemingly unaffected by Draco's inane behavior. "We all like appreciation for our own hard work, of course. But you must have had an accomplice, all the same… someone in Hogsmeade, someone who was able to slip Katie the—the—aaaah…" His head slipped back and he closed his eyes, again becoming the lifeless, wax figure in the moonlight. "…of course… Rosmerta. How long has she been under the Imperius Curse?"
"Got there at last, have you?" He laughed, suddenly feeling as though this was a great joke and he the prankster. However another loud yell issued from below, louder even then the last, and on instinct the deranged joy, boiling up from the pit of his stomach, left him, to be replaced by a rooted sense of desperation.
"So poor Rosmerta was forced to lurk in her own bathroom and pass that necklace to any Hogwarts student who entered the room unaccompanied?" Dumbledore continued, in a manner so completely unaffected that Draco found himself envying the weakened old man before him. "And the poisoned mead… well, naturally, Rosmerta was able to poison it for you before she sent the bottle to Slughorn, believing that it was to be my Christmas present… yes, very neat… very neat… Poor Mr. Filch would not, of course, think to check a bottle of Rosmerta's." He lifted his head a bit, eyebrows furrowing in curiosity, "Tell me, how have you been communicating with Rosmerta? I thought we had all methods of communication in and out of the school monitored."
"Enchanted coins, I had one and she had the other and I could send her messages—"
"Isn't that the secret method of communication the group that called themselves Dumbledore's Army used last year?"
"Yeah, I got the idea from them," he said, unable to bite back a bitter laugh at the irony, "I got the idea of poisoning the mead from the Mudblood Granger as well, I heard her talking in the library about Filch not recognizing potions." It was so easy to say that. It was so easy to just slip back. That was what she was, a mudblood. The pretend world he had with her throughout the last eight months was gone now.
"Please do not use that offensive word in front of me."
A pulse shot through his body, jerking an harsh, it came out as a sort of snort. "You care about me saying 'mudblood' when I'm about to kill you?"
"Yes, I do. But as for being about to kill me, Draco, you have had several long minutes now, we are quite alone, I am more defenseless than you can have dreamed of finding me, and still you have not acted…"
He bit his tongue and glared, completely incapable of saying anything in response.
"Now, about tonight," Dumbledore went one, "I am a little puzzled about how it happened… You knew that I had left the school?" His brow furrowed and he opened his eyes, rolling them slowly toward Draco again, as if he were half dead already. "But of course," he breathed, "Rosmerta saw me leaving, she tipped you off using your ingenious coins, I'm sure."
"That's right," He sighed, "But she said you were just going for a drink, you'd be back…"
"Well, I certainly did have a drink… and I came back… after a fashion," Dumbledore explained, staring off at the wall a few feet away from him as if the memory had been from eons ago, not a few hours. "So," he continued, rotating his head back around against the wall, "you decided to spring a trap from me?"
"We decided to put the Dark Mark over the tower and get you to hurry up here, to see who'd been killed." He proclaimed, the muscles in his arms tightening as though he were about to punch something in triumph. "And it worked!"
"Well… yes and no…" The old man said lazily. "But am I to take it, then, that nobody has been murdered?"
"Someone's dead, one of your people…" His voice sounded far too high all of a sudden, and he felt very silly and weak for it but it was all he could do to stop himself from choking over his own words. "I don't know who, it was dark… I," he breathed, "stepped over the body… I was supposed to be waiting up here when you got back, only your Phoenix lot got in the way…"
"Yes, they do that." Dumbledore told him pleasantly, a fond smile gracing his tired, waxen features.
He jumped, literally, at least a foot off the floor and spun around as very fresh, and much louder series of bangs and shouts issued from below. They sound as though they could only be a floor or two below. He had to do it soon, he knew he had to do it now, but now all he could hear and feel was the blood pumping through his body, as if it were pushing him apart from the inside out, stretching him just to see how far, how hard it could push before he exploded.
"There is little time, one way or another," Dumbledore's calm voice invaded, "So let us discuss your options, Draco."
"My options!" He shouted, spinning around and almost falling, his whole body shaking, one arm holding his body up against the wall, the other thrust before him erratically pointing his wand at the old man before him. "I'm stander here with a wand — I'm about to kill you — "
"My dear boy," responded Dumbledore his voice hardening, "let us have no more pretense about that. If you were going to kill me, you would have done it when you first disarmed me, you would not have stopped for this pleasant chat about ways and means." And there his eyes were again, coming back to life; strong, and stern, and fully aware of the situation, fully in control.
"I haven't got any options!" He cried frantically, now beyond hating himself for any show of weakness. "I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!"
"I appreciate the difficult of your position," the old man responded, his voice again softening, but his eyes loosing none of their seriousness. "Why else do you think I have not confronted you before now? Because I knew that you would have been murdered if Lord Voldemort realized that I suspected you."
He twitched despite himself. And for some reason he found this claim of Dumbledore's, while thoroughly correct, to hold a certain level of arrogance in it. He could not really explain it. He could not find evidence in his words, but the feeling that Dumbledore just thought so highly of himself, or maybe, a more honest, less afraid part of his mind admitted, he just didn't think so highly of Draco, swam around in his mind for a moment, a little bit of distraction from the much more serious conversation Dumbledore was insisting they have.
"I did not dare speak to you of the mission with which I knew you had been entrusted, in case he used Legilimency against you, but now at last we can speak plainly to each other…" He smiled ever so slightly, not quite looking at Draco, but the feeling that the smile was intended for him was still present. "No harm has been done, you have hurt nobody, though," his smile disappeared and his voice dropped but the kindness in his eyes, which Draco did not want to have noticed in the first place, remained, "you are very lucky that your unintentional victims survived…"
He was holding his breath now, he couldn't let it out now matter how much his body urged him to. He had to be like a statue, as if he could become part of the stone wall behind him, and just do nothing, feel nothing, be nothing.
"I can help you, Draco." And he said it with such beseeching sincerity, such kindness, such affection and honestly, as though he had benevolent, genuine, one-of-a-kind grandfatherly feelings set aside only for he, Draco. It was something out of someone else's life. Everything good in his life was something that couldn't really belong to him.
"No you can't," He almost cried, barely able to keep his wand up. "Nobody can. He told me to do it or he'll kill me. I've got no choice." And it wasn't just him, it was his mother, but he couldn't say it. Somehow he was less of a failure if the only consequences were his death. But for his mother to be killed to, that would make him not only a failure, but somehow, some sort of a monster, and how could he explain that to this weak old man offering him the same salvation that she told him he could have but never took.
"He can not kill you if you are already dead." Dumbledore explained matter-of-factly. "Come over to the right side, Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempt to kill me—forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it."—There it was again, that casual reminder that he was week. That he was nothing compared to Dumbledore. That the Dark Lord did not expect him to succeed, that he did not seem to have the same faith in Draco has Dumbledore had in Potter— "Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother—it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban.. When the time comes, we can protect him too. Come over to the right side, Draco… you are not a killer…"
"But I got this far, didn't I? They thought I'd die in the attempt, but I'm here.. and you're in my power… I'm the one with the wand… You're at my mercy…" And even as he said it, to his own ears, it sounded like a very real question. The statement of what could be a fact, but a fact he would not be able to defend unless someone else, anyone else, assured him that it was, in fact, correct.
"No, Draco, it is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now."
He didn't know what to say. He knew, although he didn't want to admit it, that Dumbledore was right. And again all the familiar visions and scenarios of different outcomes, of the other possibilities, the other potential realties ran through his head:
What if he took Dumbledore up on his offer? He could just see himself dropping his wand and running to the old man and helping him up and both of them getting on the brooms and flying away to his mother while Dumbledore somehow sent a message to his Phoenix lot telling them that he'd be back in a bit and to get rid of the Death Eaters still in the castle.
And of course, what if he'd taken Hermione up on, more or less, the same offer, when she'd given it to him months ago? Would he even be here? Would he have even finished his cabinet? Would they really have not turned him over to the ministry? Would his mother and he really have been safe? But what would they have expected in return? For him to play a spy like they Dumbledore though Snape was doing for him?
Yes. And that was partly why he never did. He was dead either way. At least this way his mother would be relatively safe. Better to be the mother of a failure than the mother of a traitor so-far as the Dark Lord was concerned.
But still, something about Dumbledore was convincing him, even where Hermione had not been able to, that he really could protect them. That he would. And, as if making the decision for him, his wand hand began to lower, ever so slightly and slowly, as if it were rather rusty.
And then, suddenly, footsteps were thundering up the stairs, the door was slammed open, and Draco found himself being pushed aside but the four bodies that invaded his circular little room of judgment and atonement.
"Dumbledore cornered!" Amycus giggled. "Dumbledore wandless, Dumbledore alone!" he continued, grinning at Alecto. Abruptly he swung around, wobbly and chaotic as a broken, pivoting-ballerina jewelry box. His stubby little hands reached out and grabbed Draco's arms, shaking him back and forth in enthusiasm; he cackled maniacally, "Well done, Draco, well done!" and nearly lost what was left of his balance in the process. He could only stare at the little straw haired man in front of him.
"Good evening, Amycus."
His eyes snapped back to Dumbledore, who, despite his courteous tone, had no kindness in his eyes as he looked at Amycus.
"And you've brought Alecto too. …Charming…" the old man sighed, his eyes moving slowly from Amycus to Alecto.
Alecto, who Draco had always rather disliked, and not just because she reminded him of a little, glasses-wearing straw-haired pumpkin, angrily replied, her voice screechy and tone childish, "Think your little jokes'll help you on your deathbed then?"
"Jokes? No, no, these are manners." Dumbledore responded airily, looking away from the siblings and back to him as if he were putting up with the intruding Death Eaters simply for Draco's appeasement. Draco almost smiled.
"Do it." He froze.
The scratchy, gruff words vibrated slowly down his ears, echoing threateningly. He didn't need to look to know who spoke them. In fact, he didn't want to look. He didn't like Greyback. Nor did his parents, although his father was always cordial. The only person in his family who seemed to was Aunt Bellatrix, and that was only because Greyback was as devoted to the Dark Lord's cause as she was. Honestly, Draco was terrified to be around him. Magic or not Greyback was imposing just by sheer size, but there was something animalistic and fearless about; he didn't fear death, he didn't fear anything. He was a wildcard in Draco's opinion, and the only thing Draco knew for sure about him was that the first time he'd met him, two years ago, Greyback and eyed his throat far too lustfully for him to feel as anything but another potential victim.
"Is that you, Fenrir?"
"That's right," the werewolf rasped. Chills ran up and down Draco's spine. "Pleased to see me, Dumbledore?"
It was happening again. He was so entirely shocked? Scared? Afraid? That he wasn't moving. He wasn't breathing. He was acutely aware of every muscle in his body, but he couldn't feel anything outside his body. His optic nerves burning behind his eyes but he couldn't see anything as more then one dark blur, varying shades of blue and grey and wand light. And he couldn't hear anything that was being said, only the pounding of blood through his ears. Something in him knew that there was a conversation going on around him, but he couldn't force himself to understand or even hear what was being said no matter how hard he tried.
Pictures flashed in his head, as if he were the one about to die, not Dumbledore. Memories from when he had been a tiny child:
When he was three and one day his mother had taken him on some sort of picnic in the gardens, he could just remember the house elves laying a peach colored blanket on the grass, and his mother putting him securely in her lap and then pulling out her wand to charm the corners of the blanket to not fly up. He remembered wanting to grab at it, but by then he was old enough to know better, so he waited until she put it down. This was very uncharacteristic of his mother, of any responsible witch really, and he couldn't remember why she did, but she did, and he grabbed it and was waving it around. He'd only been holding it for ten seconds or so when pink energy burst forth from it and hit a tree about ten feet away from them. He was so alarmed that he dropped it and started crying, but his mother told him to hush and look at the tree, and he did eventually, he supposed, because he remembered seeing the tree progressively turn pink and begin dancing around, not enough to fully uproot itself, but enough to highly amuse him. His mother laughed too, and it was one of his favorite memories because she didn't laugh like that anymore. Not since the Dark Lord returned.
"No, I cannot say that I am."
And he remembered being seven when something he heard someone say while he was out shopping with his mother and paternal aunt gave him his first awareness that not everyone had the same ideas and opinions as his father.
"But you know how much I like kids, Dumbledore."
And he saw in his mind so perfectly the hideous dress that Pansy wore for her tenth birthday party. Of course, in retrospect, he knew that it wasn't her choice of dress, although if he recalled correctly she liked it just fine then. She was the youngest child, and the only girl, in a family of five children. And her mother thoroughly enjoyed having a daughter and over feminizing her. But at that time he didn't think about any of that, just how stupid and girly she looked. It was an awful mixture of lavender and rose pink and it had lace and puffy sleeves and a puffy skirt, and was made entirely out of silk. He knew, because he was forced to dance with her. It was the first time he could really remember meeting her.
"Am I to take it that you are attacking even without the full moon now? This is most unusual… You have developed a taste for human flesh that cannot be satisfied once a month?"
He remembered, almost a year later, standing in the robe shop in Diagon Alley, and Potter coming in, all messy hair, and broken glasses, and over sized clothes. He didn't know it was him then. He didn't really care. He was just excited about going to Hogwarts and wanted to make friends with as many wizard kids as possible, and something about Potter, even though he didn't know who he was, made him want to talk to him and be friends with him. Now, looking back, he couldn't believe he'd ever felt that way about Potter. But the memory created a pang in his chest none-the-less, one that he didn't want, but at the same time, for some reason, knew was important.
"That's right. Shocks you that, does it, Dumbledore? Frightens you?"
And he remembered meeting Hermione on the train, before they had been sorted. He remembered thinking she was pretty, even with her big teeth. He remembered liking her hair, just because it looked soft, and so different from his mother's, and Pansy's, and Daphne Greengrass', who had that time had been Pansy's best friend and was also blond, although a more dirty shade then the other's.
And, just like he'd done with Potter in the shop, he started talking to her. He made fun of someone who was standing a few feet away from them, a boy a few years above them, who had turned his hand blue accidentally. She had smiled and laughed with him. And agreed that he was being rather stupid, and explained to Draco that she knew how to fix it and what she thought he did wrong. And she, looking a little shy and intimidated, but determined none-the-less, walked right up to him and turned his hand back to normal. They both had a laugh about it.
He tried to introduce her to Vince and Greg, but that somehow made things fall silent and awkward, because all they could manage, being rather people-shy in general, but incredibly girl-shy, was mumble a few "hi"s in response. After standing there with all three of them looking at him awkwardly, he finally asked her what her last name was, because she had only introduced herself by her first name. She answered "Granger," and not recognizing it at all, he asked what her parents did. He didn't know what dentists were, but he knew that it meant her parents were muggles.
He remembered feeling stupid; like she'd somehow tricked him, by being so smart and by looking kind of pretty, and by getting him to laugh with her. He didn't even say anything to her, he just stared at her, and Vince said something about that meaning they were muggles, and he turned around and walked away, dragging them with him. If he had to pinpoint the most unsettling, up rooting experience of that year, that would be it: Meeting a mudblood who was smart, and pretty, and who he had liked before he knew what she was.
In retrospect, he still didn't know what to think, although right now, he was starting to wish he could go back, and tell his younger self that it didn't matter that she was a mudblood, he'd regret it forever if he didn't become friends with her, and with Potter. Because right now, that's how he felt. He regretted everything.
"Well, I cannot pretend it does not disgust me a little, and, yes, I am a little shocked that Draco here invited you, of all people, into the school where his friends live…"
"I didn't!" He breathed. He blinked. He looked around a bit, but not at Greyback. He almost didn't realize that he'd spoken. He didn't know he knew what he was speaking about. But Dumbledore saying his name must have jerked him out of his mind and back into reality, because all of a sudden he could feel, hear and see everything far more vibrantly then he wanted to. As if his senses were making up for the lost few moments. And his mouth kept moving, as if it realized, what he consciously couldn't process, that he had to apologize to Dumbledore for letting Greyback in. Dumbledore had to know that whatever Draco Malfoy was, he was not someone who would want to let a deranged animal like Greyback loose on anyone. "I didn't know he was going to come—"
"I wouldn't want to miss a trip to Hogwarts, Dumbledore," Greyback interrupted him, completely ignoring that he'd said anything at all. "Not when there are throats to be ripped out… Delicious, delicious… I could do you for afters, Dumbledore."
"No." Flantagio's voice, low, grounded, solid and steady, so different from Greyback's, rang through the air, straight into Draco's ears, like a line he could hold onto that would show him exactly where to go. "We've got orders. Draco's got to do it. Now, Draco, and quickly."
He looked from Flantagio and back to Dumbledore. He wanted to listen to Flantagio. He liked Flantagio; he was the sort of man one could look up to. He was a man's man. He was tough, and solid, and solitary. Admirable because he had traits Draco himself did not, and handled them in such a way as to make one that didn't have them want them. He had no weaknesses, and even if he did, he didn't let anyone, so far as Draco could see, get close enough to him to find out.
But Dumbledore was staring back at him. The look of sadness and understanding on his face that dove straight into his heart. He looked so brittle and weak. He looked a step up from broken, physically. But there was a fire in him that, only moments before, had slowly been warming Draco. Now though, it was another reminder of another life. And he wanted to be angry at it, but the feeling for Dumbledore wasn't in him anymore. Even if it had been he knew he wouldn't be able to do that. Not to someone who had just offered him salvation. Not to someone who, even still, he could tell, was not judging him. Dumbledore was right. Killing was not easy. He liked to think that it would be, but now that he was actually faced with it he knew he couldn't.
"He's not long for this world anyway, if you ask me!" Amycus cackled beside him. Draco glanced down at the much shorter man in something between horror and disgust. He did not feel threatened by him. But he couldn't believe he was here. He couldn't believe his aunt had sent him, or Alecto, or Greyback. He had expected the elite, or at least people with class. Not a couple of clowns and a nearly rabid animal.
He turned away from Draco, and back to Dumbledore, but didn't move any closer to him. "Look at him—" he nudged his sister. "—what's happened to you, then, Dumby?"
"Oh, weaker resistance, slower reflexes, Amycus. Old age, in short… One day, perhaps, it will happen to you… if you are lucky."
"What's that mean, then, what's that mean?" Amycus yelled, jumping up and down and pointing his wand at Dumbledore. His voice was scratchy, and he was giving off the impression of an agitated chicken. "Always the same, weren't yeh, Dumby, talking and doing nothing, nothing. I don't even know why the Dark Lord's bothering to kill yer! Come on, Draco, do it!"
He might as well have not heard him. He was far more concerned with the shouting from below. He couldn't make out what was being said, but it sounded like spells were being shouted.
"Now, Draco, quickly!" Flantagio yelled. But there was a certain amount of patience to his voice regardless. Draco looked at him, and tried to raise his wand higher, tried to hold it more surely, but the older man's presence and encouragement was not enough to give him the strength he needed to even think the curse.
"I'll do it," Greyback barked, moving toward Dumbledore so eagerly that it looked to Draco as though he had leaped at him.
"I said no!" Flantagio shouted at Greyback.
There was a blast of light. Draco closed his eyes on instinct. A loud banging noise came from behind him, and he looked back to see Greyback staggering back to his feet, looking ready to eat Flantagio's heart out.
"Draco," Alecto screeched, shoving her brother out of the way to stand right in front of him, "do it or stand aside so one of us—"
But then the door burst open and, spinning around, he saw great black robes sweeping in and Snape was there, looking taller than usual, more powerful, if possible. He was clutching his wand at he ready, and he looked around the room quickly, but calmly.
"We've got a problem, Snape," Amycus said, sounding shrill and excited, as though he could barely contain himself. Draco looked down at him again. His gaze was fixed on Dumbledore the way a hyena looks at a wounded kitten. It sickened and disturbed him. "The boy—" he jerked a finger back at Draco without looking at him, "doesn't seem to be able—"
"Severus…" The whisper ran through the air like a disease, one that affected everyone but who it was directed toward. Draco felt cold all of a sudden. His gaze was back on Dumbledore automatically. For the first time something in Dumbledore's eyes looked as weak as his body.
Out of the corner of his eye there was a sweeping motion, and Draco felt a hand on his chest, shoving him forcefully back. Amycus and Alecto stopped giggling and whining, and Greyback stopped growling. Even Flantagio stepped back without a word—Flantagio, who Draco had never seen intimidated by anyone.
His eyes shifted back to Snape. He could not see his face. His shoulder's were tense, but not unusually so. However, there was an anger radiating off of him that scared Draco. This sort of intensity of emotion was not one that he'd ever felt from any adult really. Adult's controlled their emotion, Snape, like his father and mother, was an epitome of control in Draco's eyes. And now he was witnessing something intimate: something so secret and deep-seeded that it should not be observed by any outside party.
The fights he'd had with Potter were nothing compared to this. This anger, and resentment and hatred was real. And only then did he realize that nothing he'd ever felt toward Potter and his group of friends was real hatred. It was child's play. This was real. This was on a level that he could barely comprehend. A level he didn't want to comprehend.
"Severus… please…" gasped, so quietly that Draco thought he may have imagined it. There was a look in the old man's shinning eyes, that suggested he knew what was about to happen. And it looked as though he was about to spill tears, looking up at Snape, his shaky hand slowly moving up toward him, as if reaching out to his savior.
But then there was a little whooshing noise. Snape's long black sleeve waved through the air, his wand with it, and the damning, unreal words "Avada Kedavra!" bombarded the room.
There was a flash of green light, but this time Draco's eyes didn't close, despite his nervous system's protest. The bang of Dumbledore's body hitting the wall behind it rang through his ears, and the unreal sight of it disappearing over the battlements, etched into the back of his head, like a puzzle that he could never figure out, one that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
Snape said something, but Draco didn't hear it. He knew he'd been grabbed by the back of his robes, and felt himself being shoved through the door and down the stairs. He knew the others were moving after them. Somehow though, his brain wasn't able to comprehend that he was still alive. Dumbledore was dead. Someone had died. Someone who, only ten minutes ago, although it seemed like years ago, he'd been talking to; someone who had been kind, and strong, and offering him salvation, ten minutes ago, was dead.
And it was his fault.
He had wanted this, all year—all year, he'd been working toward it. But now that it had happened, now that it was real, he felt like he should be dead too. There was a weight already forming on his chest, as he was pulled along through the castle by Snape, that promised to crush him. He had done a terrible thing. And only now—just like his first quidditch match as seeker in second year, just like the chance to be friends with Hermione and Potter, just like his second chance to be friends with them—only then, after it was too late, did he realize, with horrifying clarity, that he screwed up.
Suddenly a spell whizzed in front of him, and Snape yelling something at him as a result, kicked him out of his daze. He could think about it later. Right now, he had to survive. He was still alive. He had to stay alive. He didn't know for what right now, but something in him wanted to stay alive. Even if only to vomit, which was the only possible thing he wanted to do that he could do.
The smell of sweat and blood filled his nostrils. The sounds became more than just screaming, they were distinguishable as spells being shouted, spells hitting their targets, little fires burning and growing, people falling, objects falling. The blurs around him became figures recognizable as people, fighting and screaming, and throwing spells at each other. He knew which ones were Death Eaters, and which one's were students, and assumed that the rest were members of the Phoenix army, which Dumbledore had referred to.
He clutched his wand, immensely grateful that it hadn't got lost in the shuffle. They were on the grounds now. He continued to run, Snape next to him, still clutching his robes. His head swiveled to the right, and he caught the eyes of Longbottom, who appeared to have just defeated a Death Eater. They stared at each other, Draco wasn't sure which of them looked more dumbstruck, but he wanted to say something to him. He wanted to say "I'm sorry Longbottom, I'm sorry to everyone. I'm sorry I ruined Hogwarts. I'm sorry I broke the one place in the world, where we all lived in a pretend, protected world. I'm sorry I ruined it all."
However, before the thought was fully formed in his head, he was meters past where Longbottom had stood. And someone had just shot a curse at them. And Snape stopped and shoved him in the back and yelled, "Run, Draco!"
He did, and he didn't stop until he was through the gates, where he could apparate away. Something stopped him though, and not just the lack of a license.
He was hot and sweaty but the night was quickly turning his skin cold, as he stood, staring away from Hogwarts. His breath was coming out in quick, open-mouthed, angry puffs, very visible in the cold and the moonlight. It was quiet where he was now, he couldn't hear what was going on at the castle, it was so far away. Looking away from it, the night seemed calm and beautiful. It seemed as though he'd stepped out of a nightmare into another world, one that wasn't real, just a little in-between until someone followed him out of the gates and forced him back into reality.
He craned his neck and stared up at the stars. They were bright, like little blurred candles a million miles away. And he leaned further and further back until he fell down. His back hit the ground hard, and sharp rocks dug into his spine. He groaned and rolled over, onto his stomach.
He got up and found that he was again facing Hogwarts. A tower was on fire now. The Dark Mark still shown in the sky. Tiny figures ran across the grounds, fighting. But it was silent. And, if he could erase these things from the vision, he could see it, the way it was, when he'd arrived here, in his first year. He could see it the way it had been every year, before this.
… Every year before this, when everything was so less… serious? Real? When their childish ignorance (although none of them would ever have admitted it) was protected by this castle and its headmaster. When no concerns more serious than quidditch matches and transfiguration pop-quizzes and how to hide from each other the fact that they'd actually stooped so low as to buy Honeyduke's candy, existed. At least until summer, but even then, they were only half a part of the real world, because they were always going to return to Hogwarts, to their friends and enemies, who weren't really so entirely their enemies.
In retrospect, he knew that he'd look back at this train of thoughts and realize how odd it was that they occurred, as the place of his childhood, of all of their childhoods, was torn apart by his doing. As somewhere, in the castle some Death Eater was probably going after his arch-enemy, Potter, who wasn't really his arch-enemy, or maybe, more accurately, he wasn't Potter's. No matter how much hate their was between them, any of them, he realized, they'd all always be bonded by this time in their lives, when they grew up, maybe not together, but still with each other, somehow. They would have had it for another year, if he hadn't ruined it.
It was just like he'd wanted to say to Longbottom when he saw him, (God only knew how long ago, it could have been seconds, it could have been hours).
"I'M SORRY!" He screamed into the night. "I'M SORRY! I TAKE IT BACK! I TAKE ALL OF IT BACK! I'M SORRY! I'm—" But his voice had cracked, and there were cold tears running down his cheeks and he clenched his fists and fell back to the ground. A great jerking pull shook his torso, and ran up into his throat, and he fell forward entirely, catching himself only with his hands. Vomit spewed from his mouth, chunky, and sour tasting, leaving him feeling even weaker than he already did.
To hell with his grown-up-ness. To hell with his pride. To hell with all of it.
He hoped they won, Dumbledore's lot. He hoped Hermione took that potion. He hoped they didn't capture Potter. He hoped that Voldemort would keep his word and leave his mother alone. He hoped that somewhere in the future he could see how all of this was worth it. Because he'd torn his whole heart out, had been all year, and, once again, didn't realize it until it was too late.
He stared at the castle, blurred by his tears. He stared at the life he could have had.
"I'M SORRY!" He sobbed.
But then there was a shout, his name in it somewhere, and again he was being hoisted up off the ground. He was not even fully standing before someone, Snape, had apparated them both away from Hogwarts. He didn't even have the chance to recognize where he'd taken them, before his eyes shut, everything went dark, and the only thing he felt was a temporarily subdued sickness in the back of his throat, a sour taste in his mouth, and a weight on his chest.
Here's to goodbye,
Tomorrow's gone and come too soon.
Here's to the nights we felt alive,
Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry,
His door clicked shut. His mother had finally left his room. Of course, it wasn't his room, it was the attic room in Snape's muggle house that he'd been given for however long he and his mother were going to hide there. He'd feigned sleep for an hour while she sat next to his bed and then another quarter of an hour after that when all movement had ceased.
He rolled over onto his back, not really sure of what to do to pass the night hours, when a sharp, but quiet tapping noise issued from his right.
His head snapped toward his little triangular window in response, and he instantly grabbed his wand from the bedside table. Using his left arm to hoist himself into a semi-sitting position, he whispered "Lumos" and quickly, but silently glided over to the window, before the little flapping, noise making creature, which he'd decided it was safe to assume was an owl, alerted his mother or Snape to it's presence.
"Shhh…" he whispered to the owl, opening the window and letting it flutter in. With very tense neck muscles, and very careful fingers, he slowly slid the window shut again. By the time he turned around again, the owl, a gorgeous white one, which he could recall seeing before, had settled, very self-importantly, on the end-board of his bed.
"Who are you from?" He whispered, untying the little parcel that she brought (he decided it was female, just from the way it ruffled it's feathers). His first assumption upon seeing her was that she was actually meant for his mother or Snape, but, holding his wand over the carefully sealed, but overly stuffed, envelope in his hand, he could clearly make out one word, written in handwriting he hadn't seen in over a month.
Draco. It said. So inconspicuous, and easy to come across. Just his name. But seeing it in her handwriting gave it a different sort of power.
He began to tear it open, but then stopped. He wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to know what was in it. It could be a howler, yelling at him for what he'd done. Although, he realized, if she were going to send one of those she would have done it much sooner. It could have been a trap, he supposed, something that would alert the ministry or the Order of the Phoenix (he'd learned its proper name from Snape) to his location. Of course, once again, he realized, if they'd wanted to find him they'd have just put a tracker on the bird, and he was already caught.
He stared at it for a few more minutes before finishing his crude opening job. There was something very muggle about the envelope. It was made out of fine, somewhat see through paper, and smelled like sweet glue. It had sharp edges, and a generically cut mouth. And right in the center of it, she'd written his name, in a plain black pen, in her careful, but fast handwriting. He could visualize her hand moving across it, making the marks, with care and maybe some concern.
However, some silly, self-conscious part of his mind reminded him of how ridiculous he was being, and he finally decided to just pull out its contents.
It contained a stack of six or seven sheets of consisted of six or seven sheets of thick, torn-edged paper that appeared to have been carefully ripped out of a journal. He didn't recognize them, but, they were covered in her hand writing.
Upon closer inspection he noticed that they had little circled numbers in the upper left-hand corners. The first page, which was labeled fifty-four and, according to the date, had been written in early September, had a high-lighted paragraph. He shuffled through the other five pages and found that they too had various parts, either sentences or whole paragraphs, high-lighted. There was no explanatory note, but he knew that they must be pages from Hermione's journal.
'I,' he realized, 'didn't even know she kept a journal.'
He shuffled them back into order and started with the first page, only reading the high-lighted part:
"I'm shaking. It's ridiculous. I was NEVER one of those girls whom allowed the actions or affections of boys to affect her. Not like this. I don't even know how to begin to explain it."
There was no high-lighting for two pages, then on page fifty-six:
"So, anyway, he hugged me, in a desperate needy kind of way, and, at least in my opinion, we fit like puzzle pieces. I felt so… little, but at the same time strong, but like I didn't need to be, because I felt, very illogically, protected too… It's hard to describe, and it sounds so silly. I loved the way his hands locked around my waist, on the small of my back – gentle, but somehow forceful. He held me so my head was only a few inches away from his and I knew from the way he was looking at me that he was going to kiss me.
"I was really very shocked, and incapable of deciding, on the spot, whether it was a good idea or not (of course I knew logically that it was a VERY bad idea, but something in me seemed to be fighting that opinion), or what the repercussions would be. And somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that I may never talk to him, with anything more than hostility, again. I knew this could be some stupid bet. But I still wanted him to kiss me. And he did.
"It's still too new and… intimate…to really, properly, analyze. It wasn't a fire-works magical sort of thing. It was fairly innocent really. But we fit, physically, so perfectly. And being wrapped in his arms felt so good, and the way he was looking at me held so much emotion, but mystery and curiosity too; his eyes were so gorgeous."
He was totally captivated; somewhat frightened, mostly curious.
He skipped to the next high-lighted portion, on page fifty-nine:
"God, it's only been ten hours, but I want that back. I wish we were still there, at 4am, snogging against the library bookshelf. I felt somewhat empty after I left. I want nothing more than to have him back, holding me, and to kiss him, and let him have his way with me, however much I may be hurt in the end. I'm terrified that I feel this way, but I do. I really do."
The high-lighting skipped a few paragraphs and then:
"I keep telling myself I'm being silly and I shouldn't let myself feel so intensely and that I'd do best to, if not feel, at least act, indifferent. But I can still taste something lingering and metallic on my lips and just inside my mouth."
"It's as if some benevolent, but furious, lust has taken hold of my body, my heart, my mind, my senses, my everything and it is not going to let me go."
And on the last page, sixty:
"I'm stuck in a position I hate: helpless. And only able to wait for something that may never come."
He turned the page over, and there was one single sentence written on it:
"I'll be waiting, so remember me, because I can't forget you."
He flipped it back over and pushed the last page to the back so they all lay in order again. He stared down at them, with a numb mind, and something spinning out of control in his chest and stomach. He remained in that frozen state for at least two minutes, and then, he became animated all at once, quickly lifting up the little mind-boggling sheets of paper she'd sent him so that their words were again decipherable. He began reading them once again, this time in their entirety and with so much intensity that it hurt.
He did not sleep the rest of the night, but, for the first time in over a month, he felt a little bit of warmness returning inside of him.
Here's to goodbye,
Tomorrow went and came too soon.
Wow. I can't believe I finished that. I had always wanted to do a "what if Hermione was seeing Draco behind Harry and Ron's back in the books" sort of fic. But I knew I would never have the time to do a full-fledged fic, so I didn't even bother. But then I heard "Here's to the Night" by Eve 6, for the first time, ever, and part of this just popped into my head. And I became so obsessed with the song. And I'd listen to it and write this, and somehow, what was indented to be a 2000 word one-shot, turned into an almost 30,000 word… this. Anyway, it's my first Harry Potter fanfic (believe it or not), so I probably totally over did it. But, consequently, reviews would be very muchly appreciated and needed.
Happy week-long-wait 'till book 7 to you all! May you all get it before me, who will be on "vacation" which means no book until I get back :(
Oh, and check my page in a few days, I think I'm going to put a MUCH shorter "how Harry should kill Voldemort" fic out. It's been in my head for ages, but I, procrastinator that I am, haven't had the motivation to put it out until now. (motivation being book 7).