Chapter Fifteen

Almost Dark

Hermione awoke to silken sheets kissing her skin. A warm fired crackled nearby, cascading warmth across her face. The room was dark, but she recognized it all the same. It was Malfoy's room. The wooden doorway sat open just slightly, and from out in the hallway, she could hear a faint rustling.

Rubbing her eyes delicately, she stretched out her arms and released a massive yawn. She felt fantastic. Better then she had felt in years. It wasn't until her memory began to return, that the panic set in. Letting out a quiet yelp, Hermione slipped out from under the sheets and put her bare feet onto the cold floor. The rustling outside of the doorway was getting louder.

Then the blonde head of Malfoy came into view. Hermione watched him carefully, the memory of how he had saved her life now fresh in her mind. He looked as if he was struggling with something. As she continued to watch, she realized that he was dragging a large mass down the corridor.

It was the body of his father.

"Malfoy! What are you doing?" Hermione found the words escaping her lips faster then she could process them.

Draco stopped what he was doing, and the body flopped to the floor with a heavy thud. His face was covered with perspiration and his brow was folded. He looked mortified. And those eyes, glowing a murky green and radiating the bedroom floor with their light. They were so ominous. Hermione found herself wondering what they meant. She wondered how he had saved her life.

He forced the faintest of smiles in her direction.

He didn't just save your life, Hermione. He healed you... without the use of his wand.

Hermione took a nervous step forwards, opening her mouth to speak. Her words were caught in her chest, however, and her mouth fell closed once again. She cleared her throat hoarsely.

"Malfoy, why not just levitate the body out?"

Draco dropped the corpse of his father once again, reaching up and wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his robes. Hermione watched as the face of the most feared head-hunter in the wizarding world, went from angry to exhausted. His eyebrows fell downwards and he lips uncurled.

There was a pause in which he swayed momentarily on the spot, before collapsing all together.

"Malfoy!" Hermione screeched, leaping through the doorway and kneeling beside him. His eyes, which had rolled back in his head only seconds before, were now staring up at her as she took his head into her lap. Hermione could feel him shaking. She could only imagine what must be going through his head at this moment.

His father was dead by his wand.

His own father...

She shuddered at the thought.

Draco seemed to swallow roughly, choking slightly before speaking.

"I placed too many protective spells on the house." His voice was quiet and faint. "The moment my father fell. The Dark Lord can sense these things. I didn't have a choice. You were too weak to move anywhere. The spells I placed on the house, they prevent anyone from using magic, including the caster. At least, that's until I have the energy to throw up some better ones."

Malfoy groaned angrily, forcing himself upwards onto his elbows. Hermione moved back, enough for him to have his space. He let out another groan.

"Malfoy, I wanted to thank you." Hermione forced the words from her lips. She found it difficult, apologizing to one of the people who had caused all of the grief and suffering so many had endured. "If you hadn't been there, well... I would be dead, wouldn't I?"

Malfoy let out a snort, forcing himself to his feet just as quickly as he had fallen. He brushed himself off briskly before once more taking hold of his father's cold dead shoulders. Hermione could see his struggle.

He was so weak.

She moved forward and took hold of the mans feet, removing some of his burden.

"Granger, I saved you because you are the only hope left for bringing back Harry Potter." He hissed, not looking at her as he spoke. "Without you, I can't hope to resurrect him, and without him, I can't hope to destroy the Dark Lord once and for all."

Thump. Hermione released Lucius's legs at those words. Draco stopped what he was doing also, watching her with a slight intrigue.

"What is it, Granger?" The words seemed to escape his lips like daggers.

"Do you really think that bringing someone, anyone, back from the dead is a good idea?" She asked, hands now placed firmly onto her hips. "I have given this a great deal of thought. Even if your mother found a spell to go along side that potion recipe, messing with affairs of the 'Dearly Departed' is never something that is advised by anyone-"

"Well seeing as the Dark Lord can only die at the hands of Harry Potter, I don't really see much of a choice." Draco flared, stepping in front of her with a sweep of robes. Hermione found herself taking a nervous step backwards, feeling the stone wall behind her. "Unless of course, you have got a better idea, Granger?"

There was a long pause. A pause in which the only sounds were of the two breathing. Hermione could feel his breath on her face. His eyes seemed to eat into her soul. She could see the pain in them. She took a deep breath, before she spoke once more.

"Are you alright?"

Malfoy stepped away from her almost as quickly as he had come. It was as if the sheer thought of the compassion from another human being was equivalent to a blast in the chest. Hermione watched his every move, doing her best to keep still.

She felt as if she was attempting to approach a caged animal. His jaw and fists clenched:

"I'm fine Granger, I can take care of myself. I always have. What's all this about then?"

Suddenly, there was a faint hiss. It traveled through the passage, right into Hermione's very core. She felt her own muscles tensing, as she continued to stare at Draco. Her stalker was back. That same creature that had been after her in the library.

The air was beginning to grow cold, and all went dark. The only source of light now was that of Draco's eyes. Hermione turned on a heel, glancing around this way and that. She could see nothing but eternal blackness. Then she felt Malfoy's hand on her arm, squeezing it almost too tightly. Then his breath was once more falling down her neck, as he whispered:

"There is a cloaked figure, not five feet in front of where we are standing. I can see it. It is looking right at you, Granger. What is it?"

Hermione felt her throat tighten, and her entire body begin to grow hot.

"It's after me." She replied, not daring to move a muscle. "It has always been after me. Since I went against the Dark Lord. I have tried for years to understand what it is. The only conclusion I can come to is that it's a curse placed on me. A haunting curse, no more. But, now that I know you can see it also, I am not so sure anymore."

Malfoy let out a soft hiss of his own, his eyes not moving from the figure he could see in the blackness. Hermione, trusting his judgment, followed his lead as he pulled her behind his back. She grabbed hold of his arms tightly, pressing her face to his shoulders as he took a step forwards. There was another hiss from the creature, and a loud crashing. Then silence.

There was a long moment, when once again the only sounds were those of their breathing, and then the light returned. Hermione found herself letting out an exasperated sigh of relief. She had not realized, that her face was still pressed against Malfoy's robes. He turned to look at her, a wave of confusion rushing over his pale features. The torchlight seemed to dance across his cheekbones, his smooth complexion so close to her own face. Neither seemed to notice that they were in each others arms.

"It seems that we both have our demons to face." Draco whispered, his eyes flooding over Hermione's features. She could see the swells beginning to form in the bottoms of his eyes, and that's when she found herself overcome with pity.

Just what did it mean to be a Malfoy?

How much had he truly seen... felt... heard?

What was going through his head day after day?

Her hand seemed to lift itself at that moment. It made its way up his chest, and rested against his cheek. She was utterly astounded when he didn't pull away from her. His eyes only continued to stare, long and hard towards her. Then a single, long tear rolled its way from his left eye, and past his lips, though he still didn't blink. She could tell he was struggling not to break down.

Hermione moved her face slightly closer to his. She was unsure what was inspiring her to do so, but she did it all the same. His hot breath was falling over her lips, as she now stood on her toes to be level with his face. Her arms were now firmly around his shoulders, and her nose was but a centimeter from his own.

Still, he did not pull away.

The hot breath which continued to escape his lips sent shivers through her very core. No thoughts went through her head but what was happening this very moment.

No "What the hell are you doing?"'s

Or "What the bloody hell are you thinking?"'s

No thoughts other then, how badly she longed to kiss him. Perhaps it was the fact that she had been surrounded by so much darkness as of late. Perhaps it was his valiant rescue. Hermione did not know. All she knew was that at that moment, there was nothing standing between her kissing the lips of her nemesis but a single small distance. A distance which was finally closed.

His body seemed to tense against her own, as their lips touched. She could feel the tickle of his eyelashes and damp from the tear he had let fall. The areas where his skin touched hers seemed to pulse with vibrations, sending signals all the way down through her toes. They barely moved now, the kiss slow and gentle. Hermione found herself forgetting all about everything going on in the outside world. She forgot about Harry and Voldemort.

Draco let out a deep breath against her face, pulling away seconds after, staring straight into her eyes as his hands made their way down towards her hips, grabbing hold tightly.

That was that. The second the weight had been placed on Hermione's hips, she became panicked.

Memories began flashing back into her mind in a sudden wave. Memories of the dark cell she had called home for so many years. Memories of being grabbed at and poked and brutally tortured. She then realized that, people don't just recover from a trauma such as that.

She let out a faint gasp, yanking herself loose from Malfoy's arms. He stood there, watching her with a new found curiosity. She could not explain, she only looked towards the floor. It was then also, that, she found herself angered with the fact that she had taken advantage of his one weak moment. He seemed to process the same thought, because he immediately cleared his throat and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.

Hermione felt her body convulsing at the thoughts of her dark past. She felt like screaming out loud at the top of her lungs, and flailing through the air at invisible enemies.

How would she ever become whole again?