Summary: Both were drowning in their loss and despair. Two floundering souls—clinging on to whatever shred of sanity they still retained. After the war, Draco and Hermione find they just can't cope anymore. Who cares about blood loyalty, when death surrounds them all? Epilogue/DH-compliant. Oneshot. DHr.
Well, here it is. My first Dramione. Tentatively set to be around eight thousand words. Well, obviously, since it's me, it ended up being several thousand more. Sigh. My Dramione plot bunny is far too hyperactive. I really should restrict his sugar intake. Ooh… he doesn't like that. He's pouting at me. Lol.
Anyway, as it says in the summary, this 'shot IS both epilogue and DH-compliant. I know many of you are probably thinking, how, by Dumbledore's shiny half-moon spectacles, can this be both canon-compliant AND a Dramione?? Well… like this. :)
As you may ascertain, should you begin to read, this fic commences right at the end of Deathly Hallows, before the epilogue.
"I've had enough trouble for one lifetime."
Truer words Hermione Granger had never heard.
With that utterance, it was as if the reality of their situation had finally sunk in, and Hermione slumped against the nearest person—who happened to be Ron. All of the burdens that had lain on her shoulders—the ones she had pushed aside in the fight—were coming for her. She could feel them rising in her heart, pounding through her like the weight of a thousand cantering horses.
Ron's face was like stone, and Hermione could see his own troubles creeping up inside him, filling his eyes with grief. Oh, gods above… Hermione thought. Fred…
She reached up and embraced him, giving him strength that she didn't have. He stood, cold and unmoving as a statue, lost in his mourning. His eyes were distant and unfocused; not seeing the room before him but rather they were lost in the past, seeing again events that had already occurred. Hermione's arms locked around him tighter, as if attempting to shield him from his own memories. She felt her own eyes start to blur as her own grief spilt from her eyes in tiny, clear droplets. Hermione's breathing was shaky, and her body shuddered as she uselessly clung onto Ron. She felt his arms clasp her, yet they were almost mechanical in their movements, as she could see his eyes were still focused outside the room.
Hermione saw Harry just looking on with despair, unable to do anything to help, but yet stumbling forward like a blind man, and nearly falling onto his two embracing friends. His hand found Hermione's and clasped it firmly, just as Hermione's found Ron's and did the same.
And there they stood, the so-called Golden Trio, holding on to each other for dear life as the events of the past year washed over them like a tsunami, and they struggled futilely to keep above the surface.
They stood for what seemed like hours.
Hermione couldn't deal with it anymore. She forced herself to dry her tears, and, swallowing harshly, she drove the emotions and memories to the back of her mind. Hermione had always been good at compartmentalising things. She had needed it during studying, during exams, and she had needed it more than ever for the whole of last year. Hermione begged her tired, drained mind and heart to do it again, just this one time. Just one more time…
She let go of Ron and Harry, feeling the lingering warmth of Ron's hand and hers, so long had it clung on tightly, and her fingers were numb. She turned, her wild hair in a bigger mess than she cared to think of, her eyes weary and her clothes in tatters, scorched and ripped during the fight. Harry caught her eye and just nodded, clasping Ron in a brotherly hug as he lamented the loss of his brother. Harry's green eyes were sparkling with tears too as he thought of all the people he had lost, all the people who had died… for him, for his battle.
Hermione turned away, opening the heavy, wooden door of the headmaster's study, and stumbling out, along the corridor. She didn't know—nor did she care—where she was going anymore, but her feet were following a path in a perfunctory fashion, and she hoped it was to a bed.
Hermione walked along Hogwarts' corridors, which were dark and gloomy; seeming haunted—though not just in the usual 'Peeves' type of way. These ghosts would never fade, or depart, or make themselves known in any visible way. But they were there, laughing at Hermione as she remembered flashes of what had occurred within these walls. Hermione blinked, seeing in the brief second of darkness behind her lids, a flash of the brightest green. She opened them again, shuddering.
Hermione seemed to drift, a lifeless imitation of her former self that would have confidently strode along these corridors of learning. Yet now they were just corridors of death. She passed the Great Hall, noting the bodies that lay across its floors, some with weeping families, some with no one. Not yet. Hermione's eyes stung as tears threatened to surface again.
Lupin, Tonks, Dobby, Moody… everyone… Fred… all dead.
Some stupid, irrational part of Hermione's mind briefly thought, 'Dead Fred'. That rhymes.
Hermione knew those stupid kind of passing thoughts could only be contained in her head and she scolded herself. And yet, as she thought about it, she let out a brief bout of stress-induced hysterical laughter that soon collapsed into useless sobs as she thought Fred would probably laugh at that.
Hermione continued to waft listlessly, until she noticed a figure, hunched up by the side of the previously deserted corridor. She briefly recognised the flash of green that was the Slytherin robe, and instinctively her hand flew to her right hand pocket, where her wand lay. She relaxed slightly as she saw the figure was shaking slightly. She took in the head of blond hair, and felt a flash of familiar malice run through her, an instinctive reaction. Malfoy.
Draco just sat. It seemed to be all he could do. His parents had disappeared. His father had been apprehended by the Aurors, that much he knew. Lucius Malfoy would be carted off to Azkaban for certain, given a life sentence or the more probable punishment: the Dementors' Kiss. Good, thought Draco bitterly. He deserves it.
How foolish his father had been.
Draco did not have the strength to think about him anymore—it sent chills through him at the thought of what his father had done. He didn't know what had become of his mother, though he could only assume that after that brief embrace, she had run to save her own skin. Draco couldn't really blame her for that. He supposed that was what he should do as well, but he didn't have the strength to move. All he wanted to do was shut down, to just stop for a second. To stop thinking like he had been for the past few years. It was over. The Dark Lord was gone, defeated by Harry-Boy-Who-Bloody-Lived-To-Piss-Draco-Off-Potter.
Draco heard muted footsteps, but he didn't care to lift his head. Some part of him thought it would be an Auror, come to cart him off to Azkaban alongside his father. He didn't care. He didn't want to care. He couldn't feel anything anymore anyway besides despair and hopelessness. There would be no difference if he was taken to prison so the newly-captured Dementors could suck every last drop of happiness out of him. There was nothing left for them to take.
Draco heard the footsteps grow closer until finally they stopped in front of him. He hadn't even realised that he had been shaking with unshed tears. He looked up a fraction, and saw small, female feet. He looked up a little more until he saw the Muggle clothing. Once he saw the brown hair, he knew. Granger.
Her hair was wild and larger than usual, all out of place and he could spy a small, brown twig nestled within it. She looked run absolutely ragged; her eyes were the eyes of someone who had seen too much, too soon. Much like his own.
Draco tried to speak confidently, injecting the usual Malfoy venom, but he scowled as his voice failed him, sounding husky and weak, "What do you want, Granger? Come to gloat?"
Granger just looked at him, her eyes and demeanour evidently lacking the fiery spark that would have immediately caused a sharp, witty retort to fall instantly from her tongue. Draco suddenly found that he missed it, but he quickly shook those thoughts off. What did he need the verbal sparring of a worthless Mudblood for, anyway?
And yet, some part of him felt that was precisely what he needed.
Draco felt Granger's eyes regarding him, almost with detachment. Then she stretched out a hand.
Draco just looked at it with extreme confusion, before his brain quickly registered what it was and what it was meant to do. On pure instinct, Draco put his hand in hers, and felt himself being pulled upright. He suddenly realised what he was doing and jerked his hand out of hers.
"I don't need your help, Mudblood," he spat fiercely, though again, his voice could not seem to muster up the usual amount of venom or hatred that it was usually imbued with.
He saw Granger regard him with pity in her eyes, and that seemed to send a spurt of annoyance through him. He didn't need her pity. He didn't need anyone's pity.
Though some part of him—a very tiny part, mind—felt slightly ashamed. He had to admit it, though he really didn't want to—she had saved his life. She, and the Weasel, and Golden Boy Potter had saved him from the Fiend-Fyre. They hadn't needed to, they could have just escaped and left him to burn; but they hadn't. They had swooped down and done what Gryffindors did, they had saved the day.
Draco knew that if the roles had been reversed, he would have fled to save his own skin in a heartbeat. Without much thought at all, really. He would have left them all to die.
That was why he was a Slytherin, after all.
Slytherin. Draco thought with distaste. The universal excuse.
Maybe he was just evil. Maybe leaving them to die was just what he would do because he was himself. Because he was Draco Malfoy.
Draco didn't like the thought of that one bit.
Hermione didn't know why she had stretched out her hand to help Malfoy. He just looked so tired, so helpless, so… like her. They had both seen the horrors of war, and for a second, Hermione had forgotten herself. She had forgotten houses and riches, status and sides. She had forgotten blood. All she had seen was a boy before her, who needed a hand. So she had given it to him. It wasn't until his hand flinched away from hers, that all the aforementioned things came rushing back to her detached mind and she remembered that this was Malfoy, who both loathed and despised her and everyone like her. Muggle-born. Gryffindor.
But she could no longer return that same hatred, and as he spat that once-hurtful and cruel insult, 'Mudblood', at her, she found she didn't hate him, didn't feel that small pang of annoyance and hurt as she used to. She saw only the same war-stricken face that plagued all the countenances she had glanced upon since Voldemort's defeat—and she pitied him.
Hermione was brought from these thoughts by Malfoy's quiet voice. "Come to send me off to Azkaban, then, Granger?"
She sensed a small amount of resignation and defeat in his manner, coupled with the weariness that she knew was evident in her own tone as she replied, "Malfoy, what are you talking about?"
He looked at her sharply, his stone-grey eyes narrowing with a question in them. Hermione didn't wait for him to ask it. "You didn't do anything, Malfoy. Well," she said at his disbelieving glance, "Nothing to warrant Azkaban at any rate."
"Granger," Malfoy said with exasperation, "It's quite simple. You won. I've done things—I've caused deaths, Granger. Or have we forgotten precious headmaster Dumbledore so quickly?"
Hermione winced at the mention of Dumbledore before muttering, "That was planned, Malfoy. There were forces at work there… you don't know, you have no idea. The bottom line is that Professor Dumbledore planned to die; whether by your hand or not."
Before Malfoy could process that information, Hermione picked up on another part of his statement—"You won."
"Oh, and we won, Malfoy," Hermione said, stressing the 'we', her voice filled with exasperation and weariness. "This was your battle too. In the end, you were always on our side. You never wanted Voldemort to win this war. And he didn't. You were brainwashed, simple as that. No one blames you for that," she said, simply, in no mood for head-games, or prejudices. As per usual, Hermione said whatever came to her mind, yet usually she would have thought it out—and probably held her tongue in this situation. But Hermione felt like things had changed. She wasn't quite sure what, or how, but she knew something definitely had. And suddenly, she just didn't care about how she sounded anymore. She was tired, and all she wanted was to fall into her bed and sleep.
Hermione brushed past Malfoy softly, yawning quietly. Suddenly, she felt a soft, yet insistent pull on her arm. Hermione turned, to see a pair of steel-grey eyes gazing into her own, confused emotions running through them.
She had never seen Draco Malfoy look more vulnerable than in that moment.
And in a second, the familiar sneer and guarded expression was back, though Hermione could easily tell it was nothing more than a mask, that with a single blow would fall and crumble. It seemed that through this ordeal, all trickery and masks had been stripped bare and revealed for what they truly were; and Hermione knew, in her sleep-deprived mind, that all the insults, all the sneering, all the hexing, all the bravado that so made up Draco Malfoy was nothing more than that. A mask of fake emotions, hiding who he really was.
Malfoy opened his mouth, and then closed it, suddenly unsure.
Hermione didn't know why she did it. She touched Malfoy's arm softly, her eyes piteous. Suddenly she felt so old, and so much more mature than the frightened and conflicted child before her. "Go to bed, Draco. I think we've all had enough for one day."
Malfoy stood, mouth agape. It was the first time he had ever heard Granger call him by anything other than a bad word, or his surname. He just watched, his mind whirling, as she turned and walked away tiredly, fatigue heavily evident in every step.
He stared after her, his mind unable to process anything. His mind kept flashing back to all that had occurred that night, and he felt suddenly sick. He leant against the stone wall for support, his head in his hands, which he noticed were shaking.
Hermione made her way back to Gryffindor Tower, her feet automatically following a path she had taken day in, day out for the past six years. She climbed up the stairs to her bed, and lay there wearily, her body and mind exhausted, her tumultuous emotions drained. Memories kept replaying in her mind, over and over again, but she tried to push them to the side. She was not strong enough to handle them yet. She couldn't face them—not now.
And yet, through all that had happened, one memory kept rising above all others. Malfoy's drawn face, vulnerable and lost. And when, by Merlin's grey and shiny beard, had he become Draco? Hermione sighed. Since she had lost her mind! Obviously.
But why did she keep seeing that face; so forlorn and hopeless?
In the Slytherin dormitory, Draco sighed. Through all that had happened, the only face in his mind was Granger's, looking at him with pity in her sad, brown eyes. He had overlooked, for the moment, his father and mother. He just remembered her hand, outstretched, to meet his. To help him. Yet again. He heard her voice… Draco …
Not even his friends called him Draco. No, not friends, Draco thought bitterly. Followers.
And yet, she had uttered that word that no one else had.
In both minds, one thought broke through all else.
Why do I even care? ~oOo~
Hermione rolled over and groaned as the sunlight, once a welcoming start to the day, fell onto her eyelids, making her see a faint orange light on the other side of her lids that she couldn't avoid. She scrunched her eyes up tighter, and pulled her arm up to cover her eyes and block out the light. But it was no use. Hermione sighed. She was awake.
She opened her eyes and looked up. The dormitory was deserted, the other beds perfectly made; they had not been slept in. Hermione climbed slowly out of the bed she had collapsed on, feeling heavy and tired; though the fatigue was mental, not physical. Out of habit, Hermione sharply lifted the duvet and let it flutter back down onto the bed, smoothing out the creases. Her hands reached for the rumpled pillow, fluffing it and putting it back at the head of the bed.
Hermione turned, and yawned. She caught sight of herself in the small, dulled mirror hanging on one side of the wall. She was still wearing the clothes she wore yesterday, all torn and disgusting. Hermione wrinkled her nose in distaste. She peeled off the worn clothes once she was inside the bathroom, and entered the magically-powered shower.
Hermione reached over to the shelf on top of the sink where she had placed her wand and muttered, "Fountadus.". It started a soft flow of water from the shower head and Hermione gladly stood under it, feeling the hot water on her aching muscles. She washed and scrubbed and soaked the blood and grime from her body, and yet still she didn't feel completely clean, like there was horrid, bruising stains under her skin that she just couldn't scrub away, no matter how hard she tried.
Hermione grabbed one of the large, fluffy towels from the side and wrapped it around herself, feeling slightly better. She just stood in the bathroom, looking in the mirror while the rivulets of water on her skin soaked into the towel of their own accord. Hermione didn't know how long she stood there, just looking at her reflection without really seeing herself, but she knew it must have been quite a while, since her body was completely dry by the time her mind refocused on the room.
Sighing heavily, Hermione grabbed a brush from the shelf, and pulled sharply through the mass of tangles on her head. The brush stuck, entwining itself in her hair. Hermione pulled, then felt a sharp jolt of pain and hissed. She let go and looked forlornly at the brush stuck in her hair before grabbing her wand, feeling irritated.
"Diffindo," she growled. The brush dropped to the ground with a muted thump, taking with it a medium-sized lump of brown hair. Hermione couldn't seem to muster up the appropriate amount of emotion to care. Her feelings were more practical. She couldn't go outside the dormitory looking the state that she did. People would worry, and people… Hermione thought; People have enough on their plate right now. More than enough.
So with an objective eye, Hermione looked around the communal bathroom for something to help. She opened the cupboard, but apart from the usual lotions and potions, the only thing in the cupboard were two black chopsticks. Hermione frowned. Who would put chopsticks into a bathroom cupboard? She pulled them out. They looked decorative, anyway, covered with intricate designs of pink lotus flowers. Hermione's mind suddenly supplied her with a blurry memory of Parvati receiving her birthday presents, and among them were these. She had given the entire dormitory a tutorial on what they were and how to use them, as the other witches had been completely stumped. Hermione had been studiously completing her Potions homework at the time, but brief glances over had allowed her to remember that they were indeed, some sort of hair accessory.
Hermione reached up and haphazardly twisted her tug-filled hair around in a loose bun. Then, almost comically, she jabbed the bun with the chopstick. She did the same with the other one, but the second her hand dropped, the hairstyle fell limp.
A few more attempts, and Hermione felt she had succeeded in making herself presentable at any rate. She searched forgotten trunks that lay at the end of beds, until she found a set of Gryffindor robes. They were slightly large for her small frame, but they were not unbearably bulky. Hermione made her way down to the common room and found that it was just as deserted as the rest of the Gryffindor house rooms. It smelt musty, and was strangely dark, until Hermione noticed the boarded-up windows, slightly singed and splintered from Dark Magic curses. Hermione went over to it, and pulled it with a loud crack from the window, letting in the light of day, illuminating the common room in the pallid orangey glow.
Hermione stared at her hand, noting the itchy, hot stab of irritation she felt emanating from it. A small, wooden splinter was embedded in her palm. Hermione waved her wand in a small arc, and Vanished it. She tucked her wand back into her robes, but kept it close to hand. She sighed heavily, resting her hand on the knob of the heavy oak door that led out of the Gryffindor common room, into the corridors. Hermione was reluctant to open it. She felt somewhat safe in the common room, surrounded by all the things she had come to know and live with for the last seven years of her life. Things that were undeniably Gryffindor; the red and gold, intricately woven lion tapestry on the wall; the soft crackle of the fire; the squishy red sofas she had often lain on, studied on. She had sat there when Harry had told them that Snape—Hermione mentally snorted, Snape! When had they ever been so blind?—was after the Philosopher's Stone, when she had plotted the Polyjuice Potion in second year, when she, Harry and Ron had realised that Umbridge could only spell trouble… and many other times besides. Gryffindor Tower felt safe to her… and the outside? Not so safe and welcoming anymore.
But Hermione knew that sooner or later, she would have to brave the outside world. Hermione had come to realise—especially in the last year or so—why she had been placed in Gryffindor, rather than Ravenclaw—where a lot of people thought she should have been placed. She had always chosen sooner… rather than later, to brave horrors that she could avoid. Hermione grasped the brass doorknob firmly—and pulled it open.
Draco awoke with a start. Sweat sheened his pale forehead, giving him a sickly appearance. His usually slicked-back blond hair was wild with tossing and turning during the night, and his greyish-blue eyes were frantic with remembered trauma. His breathing came hard and fast; Draco raised a shaking hand to his chest to try and calm himself. He closed his eyes and groaned.
Nightmares had plagued his sleep since last year, but they had gotten worse. Every single night he saw the flashes of green, of red, of curses that could not be undone. He saw the Dark Mark, high in the sky, heard the screams of tortured Muggles, and the pitiful weeping of their families as they knew they were drawing nearer to their final breath. Every single second of his unconsciousness he relived these horrors. They marched alongside him, become a part of him; and they would never truly leave him. Maybe he deserved that.
Draco rose from the bed. Usually, Hogwarts rules dictated that the dormitories be kept at least moderately tidy by the students, and that the students did things like make their beds after they rose, but Draco had never bothered with that—house-cleaning, that's for the bloody servants—and he certainly wasn't about to start now.
He took a quick shower, avoiding looking at himself, even as he felt the stinging of the thin, puckered, scarlet lines of cuts and scars along his arms and on his torso. He didn't want to look, didn't want to see the disgusting, writhing black tattoo on his arm. It had faded slightly, but not enough for Draco. He didn't want to see it. He wanted to be rid of it. Not solely because it was a mark of evil—though that alone would be enough for most people—but primarily because it was a constant reminder that he, a Malfoy no less, had bowed in servitude to another.
Draco dressed quickly, in a fresh set of untainted Slytherin robes, quickly covering the scars and the Mark on his arm, not bothering to slick back his hair. It was untidy and ruffled, a pallid and pale blond rather than its usual bright platinum—a result of the stress of the last few months. Draco prodded his cheek, seeing the hollow and gaunt appearance his face had taken on. He was thinner, the bones more prominent beneath the ashen skin, giving his face and chest a more sharp and angular form. Draco looked more closely at his neck and noticed a thin white line running from the tip of his jaw to the hollow of his chest. Draco grimaced. He remembered how that particular scar had been inflicted.
He winced at the remembered pain. His father had struck him, but Draco had answered back. Bloody stupid thing to do, really. It had been after Draco had failed to kill Dumbledore. So Lucius had taken his wand and…
Draco closed his eyes, shaking away those memories that would only lead to pain and a humiliating emotional breakdown. Even alone, Draco would not be vulnerable. He refused to be. There was no room for vulnerability when you were a Malfoy—and a Slytherin. A Death Eater. Even a Malfoy who was somehow developing a conscience. Draco shook his head and almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. A conscience.
He was a Malfoy. A Slytherin. A Death Eater.
Three of the evilest things a person could be. All in one—and he thought that somehow he had a licence to be good. He had absolutely no right to be developing a conscience now.
Those words kept circling in his mind, spitting at him, each one piercing him with a icy dagger. Malfoy. Slytherin. Death Eater.
Draco stepped up to the door that would lead out of the Slytherin dormitory.
Malfoy. Slytherin. Death Eater.
He turned the knob, feeling the black oak creak beneath his touch.
Malfoy. Slytherin. Death Eater.
He shook his head. Not anymore.
But even as he stepped outside into the despair and death that awaited him, a little voice in his heart sneered at him.
Hermione drifted through the corridors in search of Ron and Harry. The only two people who knew—who could understand—exactly what she was going through, how she was feeling. Because she knew they would be feeling it too. Through the events of the past year especially, though through all six years of school as well, they had been the only ones who knew. The only ones who had seen her through everything—the immaturity of childhood, the awkwardness of puberty, who had observed the vulnerable side of her as well as the brave side. They knew her, inside and out—they were the only ones who did.
Or so she thought.
Hermione let her mind drift back to the events of last night, seeing them once again but through the slightly blurry haze of fatigue. She saw once again, Draco Malfoy—vulnerable. Exposed. Hermione let out a small smile of disbelief at the inversion of it all. She never thought she would be able to place 'Malfoy' and 'vulnerable' in the same sentence. In relation to each other.
That was when she realised. Draco Malfoy had been her classmate for just as long as Harry and Ron. Not that the fact put him on the same footing as Harry and Ron, not even remotely close, but… he had been there. Hermione snorted in a very unladylike fashion. Not that he ever noticed her other than to call her names, of course. Filthy Mudblood et cetera, et cetera….
Also, while she, Harry and Ron had been gallivanting around Britain looking for Horcruxes, Malfoy had been going through goodness knew what kind of brainwashing—and knowing his family, maybe even torture, just like she had. Hermione shook her head. It didn't excuse anything he did. Or did it? Suddenly, Hermione didn't know what to think. Her underlying prejudice against everything Slytherin was forefront in her mind. If she forgot that… if for just a second, she forgot that he was a Malfoy or a Slytherin, and just imagined him as a teenager, put under this enormous pressure… would she think the same of him?
The thing that scared Hermione was that the answer to that question was most certainly and undeniably; no, she wouldn't.
Hermione's heart chilled at that thought. Forgive Draco Malfoy? Forgive Malfoy, who had set out to murder Professor Dumbledore? Certainly not. It was unacceptable, both to her, and to any one of her peers.
And yet—the rational part of Hermione's mind whispered the one word that crushed her resolve. Maybe…
Hermione sighed heavily, playing with a strand of curly brown hair that had fallen from the restriction of the chopsticks as she walked, briskly now, down the corridor. In her haste and distraction, she soon realised that she had arrived at the large doors that led into the Great Hall. As Hermione looked at them, she felt a small sense of alienation. The great, stately doors that had at first been intimidating and exciting in her first year, to warm and inviting in the years that followed, had suddenly become cold and distant, almost shrinking away from her as if to warn her of the horrors that no doubt lay behind. She touched the large, metal handle. It was cold, almost icy.
Hermione drew in a deep breath and pushed. The doors creaked loudly in protest, and Hermione suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious as she walked into the massive room alone. A few people, some that Hermione recognised, were loosely drifting around the room, red-eyed and in mourning, between the opaque white marble coffins that replaced the shroud-wrapped stretchers that had lay there only last night. Shiny gold plaques atop the coffins each proclaimed who rested beneath the heavy marble lid. Hermione deliberately glanced away from them, not wanting to be reminded of all those who had fallen. That could wait until…
Suddenly, Hermione spotted the familiar shade of red hair that she had come to know and love all those years. The Weasleys' were gathered around a single white coffin, and Hermione could guess whose body lay within it. Ron's eyes met hers, coated with a sheen of tears. She ran over to him, sudden overwhelmed with a sudden urge to protect. Ron had always been so light, so carefree and immature. She hated to see him burdened with the weight of the world, hated with a fiery passion the mature and jaded glint that now tainted his gaze. Hermione threw her arms around his neck, pulling him to her, more a motherly embrace than a romantic one. Right now, that was the furthest thing from her mind. At that moment in time, Ron needed a friend, not romantic complications and the baring all of emotions that were too complex to deal with right now.
Opening her eyes, over Ron's shoulder, she saw Harry's solemn face, green eyes sparkling from recently shed tears. He caught her eye, and held her gaze. She saw the underlying current of despair running through them. But she couldn't help him. She couldn't help any of them—not really. She couldn't even help herself. She felt like she was hanging off the edge of a cliff, just clinging on by her fingertips, but the wind was surging, pulling her away from safety and out into a tornado of emotions she wasn't ready to face.
And there was nobody to catch her.
Behind Harry, just lurking around the stone pillars, was someone she recognised, though he was half-covered in shadow. He was leaning nonchalantly against a stone pillar, turned so she could only see his side, his arms crossed lazily across his torso. His steely eyes were staring up into the illusion of the sky above. It was cloudy, and the sun was pallid; almost grey. Hermione didn't know if that was the enchantment reflecting the atmosphere inside the Hall, or if the sky really was horrible and gloomy. Malfoy was surveying the clouds, with a look on his face that Hermione didn't care to analyse. She couldn't deal with other people's feelings right now. She needed to sort out her own—and yet she didn't know where to start.
A few minutes later, after Ron had shuffled off at his mother's plea—she could barely keep herself from uncontrollable hysteria—Harry and Hermione were left alone, standing at Fred's coffin. Hermione could barely believe he was gone. He had been so…alive. Hermione had memories of he and George from only days ago, making light of the whole situation—she had wondered in amazement at how they could joke about the darkest time in wizarding history, but somehow they had managed it. Hermione saw George embracing his mother at the other end of the Hall, a lost look in his eyes. She couldn't even begin to imagine how he must feel. It was always Fred and George. Fred and George. You didn't get one without the other.
Beside her, Harry wordlessly held out his hand. Hermione took it. His skin was warm, comforting—his touch reassuring, like that of a brother. But still it didn't quell the rising misery within her.
Hermione didn't know how long they stood there, but it must have been a while, because the next time she looked up, the sun was high in the sky—the pallid light a little stronger and much brighter. She opened her mouth to speak, but her lips were dry and she had to clear her throat, before whispering, "What time does it start?"
She didn't want to say 'the funeral'. It made it too real. Harry apparently shared the sentiment, because he replied with an equally vague phrasing, though both knew what the other was speaking of.
"It starts at seven o'clock. At twilight."
Hermione nodded. It was fitting, she supposed. It was the twilight of these people's lives, just before the beginning of night. When their loved ones would say goodbye to them for the final time, before twilight became the hours of darkness, and the finality of death truly sunk in.
She sighed, a slightly ragged sound, before her hand slowly dropped from Harry's, the warmth of their clasped hands still imprinted on hers. She turned, and walked away from the Hall that had always held so much life, and yet now contained only sorrow and loss.
Draco surveyed the ceiling, the illusion above. It appeared that even the sky was in mourning. He saw the blood traitors—the Weasleys', he corrected himself—congregated around one of the uniform white coffins. One of their own. He saw the mother, the one who had killed his aunt, her eyes red-rimmed and tired with fresh and old tears. He felt a sharp pang of confusion. She looked so sad, so despairing. He couldn't help feeling slightly envious of her dead son. He, at least, had a mother who had loved him and cared for him. Draco could practically see himself, lying in one of those generic ivory coffins, could imagine his own parents grieving for him. His father would be tall, proud, not even glancing at the tomb that held his only son. Draco wondered if his mother would have even shed a tear. She was so cold, so frigid, and she had been for as long as he could remember. A picture of his mother grieving did not suit her at all, in fact even the idea was positively ludicrous to Draco's mind.
He heard the creaking of the door, the light footsteps clicking against the ground, and he watched as she approached, keeping his eyes fixed on the ceiling—but he saw her in his peripheral vision. Granger. Her hair was twisted up in an unusual style, with some kind of wooden sticks protruding from the thick mess of uneven brown curls. He saw her embrace the Weasel, before the red-haired clan all left, leaving only her and Potter. He turned his vision fully to them, but neither noticed. They were too lost in their own thoughts.
Draco sighed, and slipped away out of a side door, silent as the grave.
Granger, Draco thought. He had been unable to get the thought of her out of his mind. It still sent him reeling that she had offered him her hand—a symbolic truce—and that she had called him by his name. Not as a sneer, not as a gloat… just as a human being.
His father had raised him to believe that there was a hierarchy; Purebloods at the top and Mudbloods… well, they were even lower than the bottom. Draco scoffed at that. Like that mattered now. Like that had mattered… when the Death Eaters had marched through Hogwarts. It didn't matter—Purebloods, Half-bloods, Mudbloods… all were killed in their onslaught. And all red. All their blood was red. It ran thick, fast and glaringly crimson, as if staring Draco down, daring him to challenge its worthiness. He hadn't… he couldn't.
Because it was all the same.
When it had really mattered—it was all the same. They hadn't stopped to ask if your blood was clean. Was it clean when it was lining the formerly spotless floors of Hogwarts? Who knew…it was just red. Just sickeningly, disgustingly red.
Draco had been worrying his thoughts so much that he walked straight into something soft, knocking it to the ground. He looked down instantly, hand shooting to his pocket, but it dropped as he concluded there was no threat. There was just Granger… there was just… Hermione.
She looked up at him, slightly watery-eyed and obviously shell-shocked, like a rabbit caught in headlights. Draco was so taken aback by the sheer defencelessness in her eyes, that he didn't sneer and bark out—as he usually would—some kind of sharp and derision-filled remark. He just… reached out a hand.
Hermione wandered aimlessly, just trying to fill up the time until the funeral at twilight, not wanting to think, not wanting to be. She wished she could just fall into a deep and dreamless sleep until then, one where pain and dejection didn't surround her, didn't plague her every step. Hermione felt like she was weighted down with sorrow, all of it surrounding her, choking her. She tried to take in one, large calming breath, but she couldn't do it without her body quivering, a soft tremor deep within her that she couldn't control.
She placed a shaking hand to her forehead, attempting in vain to calm herself. Her feet followed a path of their own making, and Hermione didn't care where they were leading her. She turned a corner, and jumped slightly as she felt something thump against her body, hard enough to knock her to the ground. She looked up, expecting that she had merely walked into a wall, or a suit of armour. Instead she looked into the eyes of Draco Malfoy.
Hermione didn't have enough time to adjust, and she just stared helplessly at him, not even making a move to try and lift herself from the ground. Instinctively, she braced herself mentally for the assault of insults that were no doubt about to be hurled her way, but the expected offensive did not materialise. Instead, she looked up to see a single hand stretched out towards her. Not in a manner as if to strike her… but merely to help her.
Hermione took it.
Draco pulled on her hand. Hermione weighed less than he had anticipated and it resulted in him nearly pulling her on top of him, her head brushing against his shoulder before the momentum drew her back again, stopping the contact. She looked up into his eyes and he wondered; when had she become Hermione?
Within a moment, he had the answer. When his world had fallen to pieces around him. When everything he thought he knew was crashing down around his ears. When they had saved him from the raging flames. That was when Mudblood had become Granger, and Granger had become Hermione.
They were equal.
She felt his despair, his conflicted and confused emotions, the unbidden sorrow that choked both their throats and they didn't know quite what to do about it. Without a sound, they searched each other's eyes, finding nothing that they didn't already feel deep inside them. Their hands were still entwined, as if they were passing the distress between them, seeing if the other could figure it out, could find a way out of the tangled maze of conflicting feelings, of all the betrayal and uncertainty they both suffered.
But neither of them knew. Neither of them could riddle it out and find the solution to the pain.
Almost with reluctance, they dropped each other's hands. Hermione felt the searing heat on her skin, like with Harry's hand, but hotter. Sharper. And yet somehow, far more comforting than any other touch had been. She frowned slightly. That was just… strange. And impossible. And very, very confusing. Draco Malfoy was the very last person she should be feeling comforted by. And yet… she felt more relaxed than she had in the past few weeks.
That would be temporary. Hermione looked towards the window, seeing the darker quality of the sky. It would soon be twilight, the blue hour. And it would be a blue hour indeed.
Come twilight… she would have to face the hurt, the uncertainty, the desolation—every thought and emotion she wanted desperately to avoid.
They both would.
Draco turned, and walked away without a word. Hermione followed his fading footsteps with her eyes until he rounded the corner, completely disappearing from view.
Well, thought Hermione, slightly shell-shocked. That was…different.
Draco had to go. He had to run—far and fast, away from Hogwarts. Away from the rest of the world. Maybe if he ran fast enough, he could outrun himself. He was so confused… everything about him, even the foundations of emotions and thoughts that held the rest of him together were being questioned. He didn't hate Hermione. He didn't hate Mudbloods, like he should. Like his family had taught him to—upholding the Malfoy name, their traditions, the fundamental alliances and prejudices that a Malfoy inherited from their parents.
Draco stopped abruptly once he was outside the castle, breathing in the less stale air. He thought he would feel less trapped, less constricted—but he was wrong. Because it was his own thoughts that enveloped him like a murky fog, slowly drifting down his throat and choking him from the inside.
He felt a strange sensation on his cheeks. They were wet. He looked up in slight bewilderment. Why were they wet? It was dark and cloudy—but it wasn't raining.
Then he realised that he was the cause of the moisture. It was hot and salty, stinging his eyes… his tears. Draco slowly lifted two pale fingers up to his cold cheek and wiped them away, staring at the glistening water on his fingers in surprise. He could count on one hand the amount of times he had cried in his life.
As soon as he wiped them away, they were replaced by more. His vision was becoming misty, and all he wanted to do was sink to the ground and never rise. He looked around the grounds, seeing again the curses and hexes flying to and fro…
He remembered the witches and wizards who had no choice in the matter. They had sank to the ground, never to rise again.
Malfoy had felt sick to his stomach as he saw their eyes, staring blankly into the green and navy streaked, Dark Mark-ridden sky, glazed over with the grey sheen of death. Dead eyes.
In Draco's mind there was nothing so eerie and unnerving. He had heard the expression plenty of times—Mostly to describe Dumbledore, he thought wryly—in books and various other places; with a twinkle in their eye.
Draco had always scoffed at the sheer poetry of it. No one really had a twinkle in their eye. And what was a twinkle anyway?
That was what he had thought. Until he saw their eyes that night—cold and lifeless. Their light, their twinkle had disappeared from the world forever, leaving only useless, empty shells in their place.
And it had chilled Draco to his very core.
It was time.
Hermione smoothed down the coal black funeral robes she had been given by a very solemn and tired-looking Professor McGonagall. She felt strangely numb and detached, considering what she was about to do. Hermione's mind rationalised that she was probably shielding herself without even thinking about it, a phenomena that, in Muggle Studies, she had learned was not magical at all, but rather psychological—a way for her mind to protect itself from memories and thoughts that were just too painful to remember.
Hermione revelled in the artificial bliss while she could—she knew it would not last for long.
She looked in the mirror, staring into the world-wearied, fatigued eyes that she no longer recognised as her own anymore. Her face was pale, though obviously in an unhealthy way, and gaunt. She decided to leave the chopsticks in her hair, just tidying them up a bit. Hermione didn't have the strength or the desire to change her hairstyle. She breathed in, trying to keep her composure. She turned—and was met with the sight of the two sombre, black-garbed forms that were Harry and Ron. She gasped and jumped slightly, and the Head Girl in her emerged for a second—Boys aren't allowed in the girls' dormitory!—before she opened her mouth to ask a more practical question, though the indifference of her tone scared even her.
"How did you get in here? I thought the stairs were enchanted."
Harry answered, as Ron looked barely able to stand, let alone speak, though his voice was quiet and grave, as though he were telling Hermione terrible news.
"Since the castle's been heavily attacked, most of its enchantments are down. The families of the pupils are even able to Apparate here, and will be able to, until the teachers put all the wards back up."
"Oh." The word seemed forced and unnecessary, and the room was silent.
The atmosphere was tense, hovering over a knife-edge, and Hermione didn't like it. These were the two people with whom she was most familiar, with whom she had faced terrifying, often life-threatening danger since she was only eleven years old. So why, by Merlin's grey and bushy beard, did she suddenly feel so cut-off and alienated from them?
Ron's voice cut through the silence that crept around them like a malignant being with a life of its own. "It's time. I thought—we thought… well we just didn't want you to be alone."
Hermione felt tears rise at Ron's quiet declaration. He stretched out his hand, and Hermione took it, as she felt Harry's hand clutching her other arm as together they turned to face the gloom.
Row after row of white tombs were borne up the small aisle in-between the lines of seats from which howling sobs originated. They pierced Hermione's ears like a sharp needle being jabbed roughly into her ear, and she flinched. Professor McGonagall had been charged with the task of reading out the names of the dead as they were placed at the head of the Hall, next to the makeshift dais. Choking sobs were heard from different parts of the Hall as each name was read out. Hermione added her own to the keening calls as she heard;
"Remus Lupin." McGonagall's voice wavered on his name and her own eyes were slightly damp, though she kept her equanimity and pushed on.
Harry's hand was tight in hers, his knuckles white, and his shoulders trembling slightly, though Hermione could only discern it because of her close proximity to him.
"Nym—Tonks Lupin." Hermione could not contain her sobs and they split from her, a fountain of pain and sadness. It was so… unfair. And baby Teddy—oh, poor Teddy…
He would be left all alone. A darkness crept over Harry's eyes as he seemed to be contemplating the same thing. Hermione suddenly felt a burst of pride for Harry, and it brought the ghost of a smile to her lips. Harry would take care of him. He would never allow Teddy to suffer the same hardships as he had—and Hermione felt better for realising it, though nothing could now completely dampen the pain this day brought her.
She had waited… and now it would be denied no longer. Hermione had no words to describe the overwhelming sadness that coursed through her, overshadowing all bursts of fractured pain from the previous hours, and she allowed herself to fully bear the weight of these heavy and excruciating emotions. She felt the anger—the hatred towards Voldemort and all who followed him, for causing so much destruction, she felt the searing pain at all the losses—everyone's, not just her own, the sheer desolation as she realised she would never see any of these people again—never hear their laugh, never see their faces again except in photographs. Their time to imprint memories within her had ended. She would create no more reminiscences with these people any longer.
And the weight of that realisation crushed her. It no longer merely threatened the gates of her heart, a thousand fold, harmlessly hissing at its icy defences. Instead it broke them down, charging ahead with howling cries, surrounding her heart and squeezing.
She let out a cry, putting her hands to her head, covering her face, trying to stop the pain, and yet it kept coming, a tidal wave of tears bursting forth from her. They soaked her completely, running down her cheeks and chest, until eventually the wells of her eyes ran dry, leaving their faint imprints on her cheeks, sticky and warm. She stared at the opposite wall of the Hall, unblinking.
What happened next frightened Hermione more than the pain.
She felt nothing.
Draco watched, dark-eyed, from outside. He sat on a small ledge that was fixed onto the side of the Great Hall, and glanced in the side window. He had found the ledge in his fifth year, and it had served him well whenever he needed to think. Or whenever he needed to feel like he was near reality—but didn't want to be placed in the throng. The window was slightly open, and at dinner the voices of the cajoling students laughing and chattering with their inane conversation reached his ears. It had comforted him in some way.
But the sounds radiating from the Great Hall this night were anything but comforting. They were the exhausted, yet utterly grief-wrought cries of families who had received the worst letter they were ever likely to get. News that their loved ones had perished.
Draco sighed heavily, resting his head against the cold, damp stone.
He heard a cry, rising above the others as the closest to him. He looked up, detecting the shrill notes of near-hysteria. It was Hermione.
Draco suddenly felt a streak of solace run through him at the sound. He was upset… because she was upset. He wanted to… comfort her. Draco shuddered. He had felt nothing for the last couple of hours, after he had broken down. It had scared him slightly. He always felt something, whether it was fear, or distaste, or pride, or just a simple feeling of being.
But he had felt absolutely nothing. If someone had come along and Avada Kedabra'd him right there, he doubted that he would have noticed.
Except… it had been peaceful. Feeling nothing meant he wasn't anxious, or nervous, or pain-stricken. It had been almost … alleviating. But very, very dangerous. He could be tempted to try and slip into that state of nothing more often, if he wasn't a Malfoy that was. Malfoys did not commit suicide. It just wasn't done. Far too distasteful. Draco might be casting off most of his former prejudices, but his pride still remained. He wouldn't do it. He doubted that he could, no matter the peace it might bring him. He wouldn't give everyone the satisfaction. He knew there were a lot of people who still hated him—and though obviously his pride prevented him telling them… he didn't blame them one bit.
He heard a name, carried on the wind from the Hall in the permanently stern tone of McGonagall, though even her severity seemed only a mask, concealing her grief. "Severus Snape."
Draco heard a few gasps and cries of outrage at the name. Of course, Draco thought. My weakness made Severus a figure of hate.
He spent a minute just sitting, looking up into the sky, silently grieving for him. Snape had always been so much better than him. A better Death Eater, a better Slytherin… a better person. He had done the right thing in the end. Draco hadn't. He had been too cowardly to do the right thing, whatever that was.
Slowly, after the teary speeches and choking prayers, the funeral came to an end. The weeping families consoled each other, mothers embraced mothers and sisters embraced sisters, each knowing what their counterparts were going through. Fathers clasped in manly clinches, stony-eyed and shaken as they looked on at their wives' inconsolable anguish for their children's lives, unable to do anything to comfort them.
Draco clambered down from the window, placing his hands flat on the stone and jumping down to a lower ledge, then sliding in through the window. He landed in the Room of Requirement, his sanctuary for the past two years.
It was a mock-up of his own bedroom in the Malfoy Manor. His large, four-poster bed was neat and tidy; the small fireplace was crackling with comforting heat, and the rug on the ground leant some colour to the décor. He sat on the end of the bed, staring into the gently hissing flames, losing himself in the bright orange glow that flitted back and forth across his vision.
Hermione almost fell into a state of catatonia as she listened to the words of solace, condolences and grief that were all blurring into one big noise around her. She couldn't distinguish one from another, the pattern of noise was too faint and indistinct. She was unaware of her voice, mechanically giving out statements of sympathy, though she found she could no longer empathise. The feelings were gone, she had used them up. She remembered them faintly, the faded spark of remembered pain, but now it had disappeared. Hermione remembered rising, her eyes blank, and slipping away out of the door, leaving the hall of loss and tragedy behind her.
She was no longer repressing her grief… she simply had none. She could no longer summon those feelings to her mind. They had overwhelmed her completely, and now she felt numb, like she had been put on ice.
She walked past statues and suits of armour, completely detached from everything.
Am I going insane?
Hermione was slightly comforted when she did not receive an answer from her own mind, though it made her feel lonely, and even more empty inside. Some part of her wanted the company that schizophrenia would no doubt bring her. Some part of her wanted to able to let go completely, and not hold herself together, because the attempt was killing her. Hermione felt lost, a lone ship straying from the rest of the fleet. There was no point to anything anymore. She walked without purpose, and suddenly wondered why she was walking.
Hermione stopped abruptly. The second she stopped walking, her body gave up, and she slumped to the ground, the wall hard against her back. She looked up and briefly registered the corridor in which the door to the Room of Requirement was located.
Then Hermione stopped thinking.
Draco lifted his limbs from the bed, feeling heavy and weighted down by everything around him. He almost staggered towards the door, rubbing his forehead with his hand, like he did when he was stressed. He thought he would try and head back to the Slytherin common room, hopefully without being spotted. He didn't want to deal with anyone's snide remarks or hateful glares tonight. He felt too … exposed, to even attempt to defend himself from any such attacks. Slytherins were cowards, Draco knew it was true. When they were weak, they ran away to lick their wounds and returned to fight another day.
Draco opened the door, and headed out to the corridor. When he noticed a figure in his peripheral vision, he jumped back, hiding himself in the doorway, on instinct alone. After a second, he looked out, and saw that the figure was not walking, but hunched up on the ground, staring at the opposite wall with a dangerously absent look on her face. A face that Draco recognised. It was Hermione.
Draco felt his brow furrow as he took in the scene. He had expected her to be crying or something, but she wasn't. She was just… staring. Draco recognised the blissful state of nothingness that he himself had fallen into earlier. He knew the feeling—not wanting to deal with anything, being completely hollow inside.
Before the war, Draco would have just left her. Possibly sneered. Quite probably hurled some derisive comments her way.
But now he couldn't. He didn't know what he was feeling anymore and he was just tired. Tired and confused.
And so he walked over to her, and crouched down, until his eyes were level with hers. She didn't even recognise his presence. Her eyes were unfocused, seeing nothing. Gently, with more care than he usually would have applied, he pulled her to her feet. She complied, a limp rag-doll in his arms, before slumping against him. He picked her up, carrying her. He was surprised at the weight of her small frame. She was so tiny… malnourished, no doubt. He sighed and thought of the phrase that would create his study-cum-bedroom. He opened the door and carried her through, placing her in a sitting position on one of the small leather sofas in his room, beside the warmth of the fire. He sat beside her, just looking at her as she stared into nothingness.
Minutes passed, and still she had not stirred, or shown any signs that she knew she had been moved. Draco didn't know what to do. He settled for quietly speaking her name. "Hermione."
It felt strange on his tongue, foreign, but he wondered why he had not spoken it before. He realised that she did in fact have quite a nice name. It definitely made up for her surname, which Draco thought he would always view with a certain amount of contempt and scorn for the amount of times he had spat upon it in the earlier years of school.
She didn't react. He spoke a bit louder, though still quiet in the large room. "Hermione."
When she still didn't show any sign that she had heard him, he reached out hesitantly and touched her on the shoulder, repeating her name. He shook her a little more, saying, "Come on, Hermione. Are you okay?"
That phrase; are you okay? To a normal person, that would seem commonplace. The usual, normal thing to do when you were unsure of someone's health—ask if they were alright. But Draco had never done it. It had never occurred to him before to ask, but now that he had, Draco found that he really did care about the answer to that question, and worry started to rise within him as he realised Hermione had barely even blinked.
He rose from the sofa, his pale hand still resting on her slender shoulder, and knelt down in front of her, staring into her face. He reached up and tilted her face to look at his. "Hermione? Answer me." Then he added a word he very rarely used. "Please."
He felt a small stab of annoyance as he thought of how many breakthroughs he was making here, and she didn't appear to care or even notice. But that was soon suppressed as he realised that she really hadn't reacted, and he began to fear that there was something seriously wrong with her.
He didn't know what to do.
That was a hard thing for him to acknowledge… but he really had no idea. He wanted to help her… but he didn't even know what was wrong. He recognised the blankness that he himself had felt, but he didn't know how to shock her out of it. If she had been a bloke he would have just hit her, but he couldn't bring himself to even attempt it. She was just so small… he felt like even a brisk shake might break her. She really was quite attractive, Draco thought. If you looked past the fact that as a pre-adolescent she had owned the largest beaver teeth known to man, and her hair was almost large enough to hide a small country in, she had grown up and filled out quite a bit. She had large, cherry-red lips and a pale complexion, coupled with the soft curves that she had acquired over the years, all making her a rather attractive woman.
Draco didn't know how it happened. One minute he was thinking about her, surveying the differences with an objective eye, and the next his face was close to hers, his lips almost touching her own.
He tried to persuade himself that he did it solely for her sake, that it would be enough of a shock that she would snap out of whatever catatonic state she had fallen into, but he couldn't quite convince himself that it was the only reason.
He pressed his lips to hers, feeling the soft skin under his, slightly warm and velvet-like. He didn't know about Hermione, but he certainly received the shock of his life. He forgot about the future, about everything else except the quiet crackle coming from the fireplace and the softness of the lips under his, the fire in his veins burning hot and fast as a strong sensation of pure lust flared up in him, drowning all other emotion for the moment.
As much as he enjoyed the feeling—it made him forget—he would never go on unless she wanted him to. And so Draco retreated, pulling away from the warmth and feeling the cold chill of his own panic and sadness creep back up inside him. He looked into her eyes, half-expecting that she wouldn't even have noticed.
He certainly didn't expect her to be completely focused on him, confusion and nervousness running through her brown eyes.
Hermione didn't know how much time had passed. She thought about nothing, and yet she seemed to be happy. Or perhaps peaceful was the word. Either way, she had no intention of letting it end. She forgot about death, and pain, and the last couple of years. Hermione remembered something she had been taught during Muggle Studies, about Muggle religion. There was a religion called Buddhism, and they believed that if, for even one second, a person accomplished a single perfect moment, without earthly ties, worries or thoughts, they would achieve enlightenment and peace that not a human on Earth could even begin to comprehend.
She didn't know about enlightenment, peace or perfect happiness, but by Morgana's sorcery, it felt good to just forget.
She felt free, and loose, not at all keeping her shape… but some rational part of her mind kept whispering that she shouldn't forget, she should keep holding on, keep herself together…
There was a voice that seemed to agree, that kept calling her name, but she ignored it—though it was becoming harder and harder to.
It seemed to be getting louder, more insistent, until she felt a warm sensation on her lips. It was quite nice, she found herself thinking, what is that? She wanted to open her eyes to find out, but she found her eyes were already open, she just wasn't looking with them. Slowly, her eyes refocused, and her sight became less hazy. It took a while for her to register that the warm thing touching her lips were in fact another pair of lips.
She couldn't quite regain the use of her faculties in enough time to ask who it was, or to do anything about it, when the warmth retreated. A little part of Hermione's mind protested at that, until she saw whose lips had just kissed her.
Hermione couldn't believe it. If there was a list of people who were least likely to kiss her, Draco Malfoy's name would be at the top. In bold. Bold capitals. And underlined. Several times.
She could only stare in shock and confusion. What in the name of Merlin was going on?
Then Hermione realised that Draco was looking at her, not with scorn or derision, or even confusion, but with something in his eyes that she found she could not identify. All she knew was that when his lips touched hers, she had felt something. She needed to feel something again. She wasn't in that peaceful state of nothingness, she was just drifting, numb and unfeeling. And it hurt. Not physically, not even mentally… it was just a kind of dull aching that seemed like it was hovering on the edge of her skin.
She fell forwards slightly, and Draco's hands instinctively reached up, catching her shoulders. Hermione was slightly taken aback to find that Draco could fit the whole of her shoulder in one of his hands. She must have been eating a lot less than she thought she had.
It was as if when she fell forward and Draco caught her, Hermione realised that she was in fact desperate to feel something… anything. She leant forward and captured Draco's lips with her own, crushing them to her in a fierce embrace that trailed fire on her skin. She forgot everything that Draco had ever done to her in the past, everything he had ever said or implied, because it was just her, and him, and the desire that swept both of them up within its scorching embrace. And suddenly Hermione was preoccupied with other matters, ones that demanded her immediate attention.
Draco's arms felt so wonderful around her, and his kisses trailed down her neck as she fumbled her way to the front of his robes, unbuttoning them swiftly until they dropped to the floor in a silky pile, leaving his pale chest bare, with only his undergarments left on. Hermione spied the scars covering his muscular form and though she felt a pang of pity, she didn't stop their passionate kisses that stemmed from a wild, primal need for contact. Her fingers followed the trail left by the scarlet ridges, tracing them up and down his chest and neck. She felt him tremble slightly under her touch, and she hesitated.
Draco felt her slight faltering, and paused in his frantic kisses, searching her eyes for something. He saw her pause, and look at the scars that covered him. Draco suddenly felt slightly embarrassed at them. He was sure she thought him hideous. Instead, he was shocked when she placed her lips to his, so gently he barely felt their presence and whispered, "I'm so sorry."
Her lips moved to his jaw, to the thin red line that ran down it, and she followed its path to his shoulder, before wrapping her arms around him. He did the only thing he could—reciprocate the action.
Hermione whispered into his neck, sounding slightly sleepy. "I didn't realise it was that bad."
Draco didn't know what to make of that. Did she mean that she didn't realise the scars were that bad? Or that she didn't realise kissing him was that bad? Or even that she didn't realise what he had gone through was that bad?
Draco mentally sighed. It was always so clear in stories. The hero always knew exactly what the heroine meant. But this wasn't a story in some book. And he was no hero.
Her fingers trailed lazily down his back, as if she didn't quite realise what she was doing. She raised her head from his shoulder and looked into his eyes. He saw in them the numbness and fragility that was no doubt reflected in his own. She touched his cheek, and he could see desire and acceptance on her face. He pulled her to him and trapped her lips in his own.
He lifted her up—she was a feather in his arms—and turned, placing her gently on his bed. She caught his arm, pulling him on top of her.
Minutes passed for them in a whirlwind of passion, forsaking all other thoughts and emotions, just concentrating on the sensation of bare skin against skin, the warmth turning their blood to liquid fire in their veins. At the threshold from which there would be no return, Draco paused. He looked at her, and she just nodded. He suddenly wondered if she was a virgin. As he looked at her face, slightly frightened and yet excited, he had his answer. Of course she was. Someone so pure and fresh… there was no doubt.
Gritting his teeth, Draco tried to be as gentle as he could. Then he was floating in ecstasy, and everything else just fell away.
As he thrust into her, breaking her through; he was also, ironically, healing her. Hermione felt the sharp, sweet pain and the overwhelming pleasure that followed. She had never felt anything like it, and somehow the feelings crept up inside her, surrounding her dampened mind and filling her senses like an electric jolt. It was the first time she had truly felt anything for months apart from the constant worry and pain.
Draco moved above her expertly, roughly kissing her shoulder as her fingers ran nimbly along his back, feeling the bones of his spine. She bit into his shoulder and he cried out, lost in lust and feeling. His forehead was sheened with sweat as he moved inside her, emitting quiet moans from Hermione.
He held on to her for dear life as together they fell, cascading over the edge and into the abyss, crying out in sheer desperation and passion. She was his anchor, the only thing keeping him grounded at that moment, stopping him from just giving up everything and letting go. His fingers clasped her arms tightly as her face cradled into his neck, just lying there, breathing heavily.
Hermione clung to Draco, her legs wrapped around him, her arms around his neck, every part of their bodies entwined. She lay there, breathing…just breathing.
Breathe in…breathe out…
There were no other sounds, and in that moment, Hermione felt truly saved. Draco had saved her, and she didn't even know how. At that moment, even if Ronald Weasley himself had burst through the door, Hermione could not let Draco go. Her arms would not obey her, her brain would not obey her and she didn't even want to try and make them. She felt calm, and at peace, for the first time in years, as her limbs became blissfully heavy. Her face was next to his, their noses touching as Hermione's heavy lids drooped and she fell into sleep in Draco's arms.
In that moment, Hermione Granger loved Draco Malfoy.
Draco awoke, his eyes fluttering open and he muttered slightly. Then he remembered last night, and saw Hermione's face, right next to his, her breath gently caressing his face as she lay sleeping. A smile rose, unbidden, to his lips. He realised he had awoken peacefully. He had not been shaken awake by some awful nightmare. In fact, he couldn't remember even dreaming at all, for the first time since the fateful night of Dumbledore's death.
He just lay, with Hermione in his arms, not moving. He just lived in the moment, because he knew it wouldn't last for very long.
A few minutes passed, and the dawn's light grew brighter, until it filled the room, illuminating everything, and touched Hermione's eyes. They quivered, before opening, and her unreadable brown eyes found his.
Draco just looked at her, unsure what her reaction would be. She looked slightly hesitant, as if she too was waiting for some kind of harsh remark. Draco decided to make the first move. He didn't know why, since, if she shot him down and just laughed or something, he would be completely humiliated, but for some reason, he trusted her.
He didn't say it unkindly, or by contrast, gently, it was just a tentative first statement with no inflections or specific tones. But it brought a slight relieved smile to Hermione's lips, and she replied, though the relief was obvious in her voice.
"Good morning, Draco."
Once that was out of the way, both Draco and Hermione felt the atmosphere relax slightly, and Hermione smiled. It was infectious, and Draco felt his own lips rise in reply.
What happened next was slightly unexpected. Hermione leant forward, pressing her lips to his for a short yet sweet kiss, before she wrapped the duvet around herself and rose, gathering her robes and slipping them over her slender frame. Draco sat up and put on his undergarments, leaving his chest bare.
He looked over at her face, which was now furrowed in deep sadness. He got up, and touched her arm as his eyes questioned her. She gave him a placating smile, before she spoke. "I'm sorry. I have to go. But… thank you."
She was looking at him in earnest. "You—you saved me. When I was going to break… I—thank you." Hermione seemed to be almost crying, her words were broken and stuttered. "I'm saying this all wrong."
Draco shook his head. "Trust me… I know exactly what you mean."
He knew it too. He knew this couldn't last. It had been one of the important defining moments of both of their lives, but reality was waiting for both of them just outside the door. There was no way it could work. Besides, Hermione couldn't do that to Ron. Or Harry. Or any of them really. They all still thought of Draco Malfoy as their enemy—and in truth, he was. Except for this one night, the night when they had saved each other from damning despair.
It was a night neither of them would ever forget. But it wasn't forever. Passion like that couldn't last… sooner or later it would burn up and explode, leaving nothing. They both got exactly what they needed from the other one, and certainly now they each had a very different view of each other.
But reality was catching up fast.
Draco held Hermione's arms as she turned to the door. "Thank you," he whispered, his voice husky and low. Hermione's eyes glistened as she nodded. Then she was gone.
And they both felt … at last, normal, and peaceful.
Nineteen years later…
Hermione held on fast to the edges of her seat as Ron swerved the car, just narrowly avoiding a collision with an oncoming vehicle. She gritted her teeth as Ron let out a mild string of curses under his breath, and Rose and Hugo looked on with slightly frightened glances. Hermione glanced into the back seat and smiled reassuringly, mouthing, don't worry, out of Ron's view. She hadn't mentioned it to Ron, since she didn't want him to be offended, but she had cast an Invisible Shielding Charm on them all before they got into Ron's new Muggle car to get to King's Cross Station. He had just passed his driving test, but Hermione was still a bit nervous.
He looked over at her, smiling sheepishly, before concentrating on the road, his brow furrowed almost comically with the force of his concentration and Hermione narrowed her eyes, though Ron didn't see. He was clearly keeping a hold over some sort of spell… wandless magic had been a part of his training with the Ministry. Hermione tutted under her breath to appease the part of her that was obsessed with the rules, but most of her found it faintly amusing. She felt a sudden burst of warmth and love for Ron as she watched his eyes flicker to the rear view mirror, to the road, to the gear stick, looking like a Muggle child trying to complete a difficult level on a video game.
Hermione fiddled with the ring on her left ring finger. It was simple, yet beautiful. "A bit like Ron," Ginny had joked to Hermione's chastisement and Ron's embarrassment. It had belonged to one of Ron's aunts. He claimed that she had been his favourite aunt until she died, and in one of the secret moments he and Hermione had shared during their engagement, he had said that he had chosen it because Hermione reminded him of his aunt; clever, beautiful and with a sparkle in her eye.
As Ron swerved sharply to the left, Hermione's shoulder knocked against the door and she stifled an irritated tutting that she felt rising in her throat, and it distracted her from her reminiscences. As she looked up, she realised they were circulating in the car park of the train station. Ron was gripping the steering wheel tightly, flexing his fingers in annoyance as a black BMW X5 nicked his parking spot. He suddenly spotted one and veered in front of a bright red Land Rover to steal it. The man behind the Land Rover beeped his horn in profuse annoyance, but there was nothing he could do. They were in.
Hermione let out a breath she didn't realise she had been holding and turned to her two children, faces white with slight nausea. She gave them a relieved smile and said, "Well, we made it in one piece. That's something."
Hugo started laughing out loud, but quelled it to under his breath as his father shot him a look. Rose looked amused as well, and they all got out, going to the magically-enhanced boot and retrieving their trunks. Ron grabbed two trolleys and pulled out his wand to spell the trunks onto them, but looked reprimanded as Hermione glared at him. Reluctantly, he used good old elbow grease to hoist the trunks up with a loud clatter.
The wheels squeaked against the pavement as Ron wheeled it through the doors of the station.
"Where's Platform Nine and Three Quarters?" Hugo whispered to Rose.
"Through the brick wall, apparently," Rose whispered back absently, missing Hugo's panicked look.
"We have to go through a wall?!"
Hermione and Ron exchanged a grin at their son's antics.
"Where's Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny?" Rose asked, a question for the room.
Ron took a quick look and concluded that either they weren't here yet, or they had already gone through the wall to the platform. Hermione nodded and told the children they were just going to head through. This was met with mixed reactions. Hugo visibly paled, his face the picture of fear—while Rose looked excited, her cheeks slightly flushed. Hermione knelt down to her only son, who hugged her. Rose scoffed quietly and Hermione glared at her. At her glare, Rose instantly looked contrite, going over to stand by her father at a discreet distance.
Hermione looked at Hugo, who was shaking slightly and whispered, "Do you trust me, Hugh?"
Hugo nodded. "Yes, Mum."
Hermione smiled. "Do you trust your father?" To which Hugo also nodded.
"Then trust us when we say that when you run headfirst at a brick wall, you'll be absolutely fine. There's magic all around us, darling, and you are a part of it. Remember what your uncle told you."
Hugo looked pensive, then whispered, "He said, 'If you take care of magic, then magic will take care of you'."
Hermione nodded at her son and smiled. "Don't be scared."
Hugo looked slightly less pale, and flashed the tiniest of smiles at his mother. He turned, just in time to see his father and sister looking intently at his mother and he, then when they noticed he was looking at them, immediately looked away and pretended not to be watching. He grimaced slightly, but bravely turned to face the wall that led to Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
A few minutes later, the Weasley-Granger's saw the tell-tale sign of flaming red and jet-black hair and knew the Potters' were here. Albus approached Rose, who looked immensely relieved.
"Hi," Hermione heard him say, then saw Rose beam in return.
Hermione approached her husband and best friend, in time to hear their conversation.
"Parked all right, then?" Ron asked Harry. "I did. Hermione didn't believe I could pass a Muggle driving test, did you? She thought I'd have to Confund the examiner."
"No, I didn't." Hermione denied fervently—though she had. "I had complete faith in you."
She turned to say hello to Ginny, and caught the end of Ron's statement. "—let's face it, I can use a Supersensory Charm for that."
Hermione scowled. That was what the spell she had sensed in the car was. She resolved to give Ron a severe talking to later on. Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Harry looked over to find their offspring having a loud and animated conversation about the houses they would be sorted into. Hermione had to admit, she would prefer Gryffindor for her children, with Ravenclaw a definite second, but she knew she would think no differently about her children no matter what house they were sorted into.
She heard Ron joke beside her, "If you're not in Gryffindor, we'll disinherit you. But no pressure."
Hermione, seeing Rose's face whiten, scolded, "Ron!" while both Hugo and Lily, Albus' little sister and the spitting image of Ginny, laughed in earnest.
Ginny and Hermione both assured a pallid Albus and Lily, "He doesn't mean it."
She was so busy reassuring her daughter, she didn't notice Ron's nod to Harry, and only looked up when he said, with veiled disgust, "Look who it is."
Hermione looked over to see Draco Malfoy. She started a little, she hadn't seen Draco since the end of seventh year. He had gone away to study somewhere that the Malfoy name was not hissed with undisguised loathing and suspicion. Hermione spied the little boy that stood by Draco, whose hand was rested on his shoulder. He was the absolute image of young Draco, but Hermione noticed the distinct absence of hair gel, instead opting for the more natural unruly hair. Hermione looked over at Draco's wife, and vaguely recognised her, although she could only recall her first name. Astoria. She lacked the proud manner of a traditional Pureblood family, though Hermione hazily recalled that she was descended from a Pureblood family of some sort. Hermione had readied herself to feel some sort of malicious jealous towards the woman, but was surprised to find that she felt only happiness for Draco. The woman did not look stern or cold, and Draco seemed to be happy. That made Hermione feel at peace. She realised, that even though she loved and adored Ron and their children, she had always felt a little guilty, wondering if Draco was as happy as she.
It appeared that he was, and Hermione smiled, shielding it from view as Draco looked over at them, nodding once, and turned back to his family.
She heard Ron whisper, "So that's little Scorpius." He looked over at Rose. "Make sure you beat him in every test, Rosie. Thank God you inherited your mother's brains."
Hermione mentally rolled her eyes. It seemed that some rivalries would never die. "Ron, for heaven's sake. Don't try to turn them against each other before they've even started school!" Though she couldn't repress a little chuckle.
"You're right, sorry," Ron said, but whispered to Rose, "But don't get too friendly with him, though, Rosie. Grandpa Weasley would never forgive you if you married a Pureblood."
While Ron and Harry were distracted by James running over to them with news of Teddy and Victoire, Hermione found herself looking over at the Malfoys'. Draco was kneeling down in front of his son, hands on his shoulders in a gesture of comfort. Scorpius embraced his father, who hugged him fervently back, before releasing him to his mother, who stroked his hair and kissed her son's cheek. Hermione found herself smiling at this. Obviously Draco had resolved to be a better father to his son that Lucius was to him.
Hermione loved Ron unconditionally, but she would never regret the one night she had shared with Draco Malfoy.
He had undoubtedly saved her life, and her soul, from sorrowing for the rest of her days.
As Hermione turned back to Rose, waving a tearful goodbye to her on the train, she didn't see Draco Malfoy turn—seeing the emotional scene—and give a small smile, before taking his wife's hand warmly in his, and departing from the station.
He had always known Hermione Granger would make a good mother, and unquestionably she was a good wife. But she could never have been his. They had always known that. But still there was a small fragment of their hearts that would always belong to each other, so defining were the effects each had on the other one.
They may not have had a lifetime, but for at least one night alone, she was his, and he had been hers, utterly and completely.
And neither would ever forget.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my first ever Dramione, and feedback would be greatly appreciated and adored. :)