.::Chapter 12 – Choices::.
Ron had a strange look on his face as he glanced at Hermione, almost a look of malice that surprised Hermione. They had just apparated from the street corner to this strange place that Hermione recognized but could not quite place – until she saw something scribbled in the corner of the wall of the dusty bedroom.
Her handwriting. Despite, minuscule, and barely legible, but her handwriting nonetheless.
She was at the Malfoy home.
"What-" Hermione began, but her eyes widened in shock before she could finish the sentence. How could she be so pathetically stupid? She had fallen straight into Draco's trap, just like he knew she would from the moment she stepped out of the house, so bold and determined. It was a battle she could not win because Draco would never let himself loose.
"Malfoy," she said in a resigned voice, not even trying to run toward the door. There was nobody in the world worth running away to anymore. Harry hated her, and now she believed him. Ron was dead, and the redhead standing in front of her was Draco disguised.
As if on cue, Ron's hair slowly changed into a sleek, blonde hair and his face slowly transformed into a leaner, more pointed shape. Hermione's heart stopped as the last detail changed – the icy blue eyes.
"Miss me, Granger?" he said with a smirk on his face, the transformation finally completely. "You must have been. It was extremely simple, even laughably so, you bring you back here. Potter didn't believe you as easily as you thought, did he?"
Hermione took in a deep, sad breath, looking at Draco through pitying eyes. "I've been remembering things," she said, not even reaching for her wand. "About you and me."
Draco's eyes flashed. "Nothing happened between you and me," he said automatically. "You're delusional, Mudblood. The only reason I would so much as touch you is to hurt Potter," he spat, almost defensively.
"Maybe now," said Hermione, her heart positively aching. "But before, Draco. I've had dreams. It's all coming back now, the reason why we both erased each others memories. If Voldemort had found out, he would have killed you, and if Ron would have found out…it would have broken his heart. But you saved me, Draco, and I won't forget that, even though you've done everything you can think of to hurt me. You saved me once before, and you saved me from Zabini as well."
Draco gave a disgusted sneer, but it sounded half-hearted to Hermione.
"Don't you remember?" she pleaded.
The battle raged around the Ron and Hermione, spells and hexes flying dangerously close. For now, they were sheltered near the castle, but it was only a matter of time before the Death Eaters found their hiding place and they would be forced to duel once again. Hermione's heart beat furiously in her chest, and she suspected Ron's did as well, but he hid it marvelously, a determinedly brave look plastered on his face, his wand held tightly in front of him.
Suddenly, a red ray of light hit the wall above Hermione's head, and a masked Death Eater drew closer. Ron sprinted forward, engaging in a furiously battle with the figure, and Hermione drew forward, ready to fight as well, before she noticed a flash of sleek blonde hair. Draco.
She flew forward after him into the Forbidden forest, noticing how empty it was compared the rest of the Hogwarts grounds. Suddenly, without warning, a creature hit her, knocking her to the ground. Letting out a strangled cry as her wand flew from her hands, her back hit the ground with a crunch. She looked up to see the form of a werewolf above her – Greyback, she knew – ready to pounce, his yellow teeth gleaming and a hungry snarl coming from his lips. He dove for her neck, and she felt his greedy breath at her neck, knowing she was going to die.
"Avada Kedavra!" came a familiar voice, and immediately the figure above her rolled limply off of her. She scrambled up, grabbing her wand and leveling it at the Death Eater, then lowering it quickly as she recognized the person.
"Draco!" she cried out in utter amazement. Draco held his wand out limply, looking confused with what he had just done.
Hermione walked closer to Draco, her eyes full of gratitude. "You saved me?" she said, almost as if it was a question instead of a statement.
"You're not a Death Eater, Draco," said Hermione determinedly. "You're not one of them. Why not join our side? You could…"
Draco strode forward, grabbing Hermione by her shoulders roughly. "You still don't understand, do you? I can't turn back now, it's far too late." His eyes were dark and determined, but swam with tears. "They'll kill me. I've already failed the Dark Lord once. I cannot fail him again."
"You're a good person, Draco," said Hermione softly, "and you can't change that." She shivered. Draco was still holding her shoulders, but his grip had loosened.
"I'm not a good person, Hermione," said Draco as he leaned down suddenly, capturing her lips with his softly, passionately.
Hermione felt her knees grow strangely weak, and her mind felt pleasantly blank as she returned the kiss, too shocked to realized what she was doing. It was strange and beautiful. They were so close, so peaceful, in the midst of the battle, they were not enemies, but lovers.
Suddenly Draco pulled away, a horrified look on his face. Hermione's thoughts cleared, and she pressed a hand her face, shocked for what she had just done. What would Ron think of her now? She had kissed the enemy, and not just the enemy, but Draco Malfoy.
"We have to…get rid of this," said Draco suddenly, pulling out his wand. "He'll kill me if he finds out!" he said in a panicked voice, pointing his wand at Hermione.
"What?" said Hermione, her emotions running wild. "You can 'get rid of this'!" she said, now angry. "It happened."
"But we can erase the memories," said Draco quickly, looking around him to make sure no more Death Eaters were approaching. "We have to. We weren't meant for each other, Granger," he said cruelly, making tears appear in Hermione's eyes.
"But we were!" said Hermione, the pain apparent in her voice.
Draco hated what he was about to say, but he knew it was the only way to convince Hermione to erase the memory of their kiss in her head. If the Dark Lord would find out, they would both die. "I would never love a filthy Mudblood," he said in a disgusted voice, not even looking at Hermione.
She let out a muffled sob that nearly broke his heart, but lifted her wand to her head and murmured the words, "oblivate!"
Draco lifted his own wand to his head to do the same thing, but at that same moment he was distracted by a scene taking place atop a high tower at Hogwarts. He could barely see as his father fell from the tower through the treetops, but let out a horrified yell, sprinting past Hermione and toward his father. He knew who had done it – Potter. And now any love he had for Hermione was completely smothered by his overpowering thoughts of revenge.
"Yes!" Draco nearly shouted. "I never was able to erase the memories," he said furiously. "And I was forced to watch as you and the disgusting Weasel fell in love, got married, and lived your life in happiness. The few years I spent in Azkaban, I sat and plotted what I would do to Potter and Weasley. Potter stole my father and Weasley stole you. And all this time," he said, running a hand through his hair, "I told myself I took you to get revenge on Potter, but it was more. I loved you, and you didn't even have the decency to love me back."
"You did this because you loved me?" said Hermione loudly. "You're a sick person, Draco. I hate you! I hate you for doing this to me!"
"No, Granger," said Draco in a low voice, drawing closer to Hermione. She backed away until her back was up against the wall, but still Draco came closer until his face was inches away from her's. "I hate you."
Then he kissed her passionately and she returned the kiss with equal fire, wrapping her arms around his neck and drawing even closer to the person she hated so much…to the person she loved.
"So you remembered all this time?" Hermione asked curiously, lying blissfully in Draco's arms and staring up at the ceiling of the Malfoy Manor. Draco nodded as an answer for her question, his gray eyes framed by his sleek blonde hair as he looked down at her. He was absolutely gorgeous, thought Hermione.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Hermione pressed on, gazing at his face with a sigh. "I would have believed you."
Draco shook his head. "You wouldn't have," he said sadly, "and I was too stubborn to try. To me, you were a mistake of the past that I had made, something I needed to erase. I was caught up in the quest for revenge, so lost and lonely…I needed you, Hermione."
Hermione felt tears spring to her eyes to hear Draco speak so passionately. This was a completely different Draco than the one she knew, a softer, kinder Draco. It was the Draco she had fallen in love with so many years ago, in the middle of a raging battle. Even though then it would never have worked, she knew know that she would never leave Draco again, nor would he leave her. The scars of what he had put her through would take a long time to heal, but she was willing to forgive and look beyond what appeared at the surface.
Draco suddenly sat up, his arms still wrapped around Hermione tenderly. "Let's go talk to Harry," he said resignedly. "He deserves to know the truth. As do you."
Harry's glasses had always done a decent job of hiding his emotions, but at the moment he knew that the glass was doing a flimsy job of holding back the look of rage in his eyes. He was outraged at the two standing at his doorstep, hand in hand. Hermione had not even bothered to hide the fact that she and Draco were together now. The sight of his arm around hers seemed to be spitting in the face of the memory of Ron's death.
"Get out," he hissed, reaching forward to slam the door. Draco's hand on the front of the door stopped him.
"Potter," he said stiffly. Harry pushed harder against Draco's arm, furious but unable to gain any ground. "I've made a mistake," Draco continued. "I've come to apologize."
"Like hell you have," Harry spat, giving the door a vicious shove.
"I'm sorry, Potter."
The words tasted foreign to Draco's lips, yet he said them anyway. The look on Harry's face was a mix of shock and revulsion, but also surprise.
"Sorry?" said Harry slowly. "Sorry?"
Hermione's screams sounded miles away as Harry launched himself at Draco, knocking the smaller boy off his feet and onto the ground. Harry's fists flew wildly, knocking the breath out of a struggling Draco.
"Sorry isn't enough, Malfoy!" shouted Harry, his glasses hanging haphazardly off his face as he slammed Draco with his fists over and over gain. "Not for what you've done. You've tortured Hermione until she turns on her own friends, killed my best mate…after I killed Voldemort, this was supposed to be over. Then you came. You can never be sorry enough."
Finally Draco pushed Harry off of him, reaching up and wiping his mouth with his hand. He noticed that blood was on his fingertips as he brought them from his mouth and a strange metallic taste was filling his mouth.
His next words shocked Harry.
Harry stood up suddenly, looked horrified at what he had done. He backed away from Malfoy, who sprang up and followed Harry.
"I've done a lot wrong, but I didn't kill Weasley. That was Zabini. He would have killed Hermione too, but I stopped him."
"So you could break her until she agreed to become your wife!"
"No! I never intended to do that…I wanted revenge, and I was wrong."
"And I didn't kill your father!"
"No!" said Draco, finally realizing that Harry was telling the truth. "What I did was wrong. You'll have to accept that I can never change that. And you'll have to accept that Hermione and I are in love."
At this declaration, Hermione stepped forward, her hand on Harry's trembling shoulder. "I'll never forget Ronald," she said sadly, tears appearing in her eyes. "He was an amazing person and I did love him. But I know I need to move on. Draco's changed. If you'll only give yourself a chance to know him…"
For a moment, Hermione could have sworn she saw a tear appear in Harry's green eyes, but at the next moment he had straightened up and held out his hand to Draco. Draco took it and shook it firmly.
At that moment, Hermione saw it occur between the two. Draco let go of years of hate, and the burden of bitterness fell off of Harry as well. For once, two sworn enemies were about to live at peace with each other. Even though history books would claim the war had ended years ago, this was the last battle that needed to be fought. A battle within the soul. And it had been won.
It had been won.