A/N: It's two o'clock in the morning and I have a huge European History test tomorrow that I haven't studied for yet, but I am extraordinarily proud of this particular fic and I can't wait to post it. After this I'm going to sleep, I swear, and I am tired, so please excuse any grammatical errors (and there probably are some, considering that this was written almost entirely in the middle of the night). Anyway, welcome to Butter and Salt! This is a Draco/Hermione one-shot, and I should start by saying this: there is a character-death in this. You don't witness the death; it's already occured and this is the aftermath. If you don't like fics that include character-death or angst, I'd turn around, because there is a fair amount of angst in this as well. For those of you still around...this is one of the longest one-shots I think I've ever written. It was inspired a lot by the song Jenny Was a Friend of Mine by the Killers, and particularly influenced by this music video (just take out the spaces: http : // .com/watch?v=8W6o0cF9Qng). There are elements of that music video included in the story but the bulk of the storyline, especially towards the later parts, is the spawn of my imagination. So, that said, enjoy and leave me a review if you have any questions/comments/concerns!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, nor did I create the music video mentioned above.
Butter and Salt
For some inane reason, he thought that the steaming mug of tea clasped tightly in his hands should have been coffee. Of course, he didn't even like coffee, but tea didn't seem to fit the stereotype. Witnesses being questioned in police stations were always given crappy coffee by the good cops, shortly before the bad cop slapped it right out of their hands. And of course, he was in an interrogation room in the Ministry of Magic rather than a police station, but the basic principle was the same.
He had seen too many movies. That was the only explanation for why, sitting in an interrogation room, waiting for the appearance of the good cop or bad cop, whichever showed up first, he could only draw correlations between his surroundings and those found in cliché cop movies.
There were a lot of people who would be surprised to find out he even knew what a movie was, much less that he had watched enough of them to pick up on the stereotypes and clichés belonging to the muggle world.
That was her influence, all the way. He'd protested the muggle technology the first time she sat him down on her couch, putting the movie in, turning the lights down low, and snuggling up next to him on the couch, a bowl of popcorn in her lap. But after that first time he had devoured the movies. Sitting in the dark with her pressed against him, devouring handfuls of salty, buttery deliciousness that he could later taste upon her lips, watching intricate storylines play out on a little black box in front of him…he had been addicted. To the movies and to her.
He closed his eyes, grimacing.
She was dead.
And he was sitting in an interrogation room, sipping tea and thinking in circles about movies, trying to avoid the mere thought of never seeing her again.
The world that had been his only a few hours before was slipping farther and farther out of his grip.
The door creaked and he opened his eyes.
He stared at the woman who took a seat across from him. "You are not who I expected."
Nymphadora Tonks scowled. Her hair was bright red, an angry, violent color; her eyes were a sharp, piercing blue that cut through him. "And who, exactly, did you expect, Malfoy?"
He held her gaze. He could feel the anger radiating off of her, barely controlled, but he could summon only apathy in response. "I kind of assumed Potter or Weasley would smash their way in here."
"Sorry to disappoint." She spat at him. "Harry and Ron are giving their statements."
Mentally he translated the word statements into whatever they can say to cast me in a guilty light.
"Are you ready to talk, Malfoy?" She pulled a clear vial out of robes and placed it on the table. He recoiled at the sight of it, shrinking back a little, but trying to hold his composure together.
"Should have slipped it into my tea, Tonks. I'm not consenting to Veritaserum."
"You're a criminal, Malfoy. Eventually you will have to drink it, whether or not you want to."
He looked down, staring into the dark tea. "I'm not a criminal." He said, his voice soft.
"Oh really?" Her voice was white-hot with anger. "You don't call murder a crime?"
His hands tightened around the mug, his knuckles turning white. He kept his lips locked together and didn't lift his gaze; when she got no response from him she continued on.
"You murdered her. So why? Couldn't get past that fact that she got promoted above you? Someone of dirty blood, promoted above a pureblood like you? Still holding onto those old prejudices of yours, and you finally decided you couldn't take it?"
"I didn't murder anyone." His voice was even, tightly controlled.
"Or was it something else?" She continued on, seeming to ignore him. "Maybe she uncovered one of your dirty secrets when she was investigating something else. Maybe she saw something involving you. Maybe she figured something out and you decided to kill her to keep her from talking."
"I didn't kill her."
"What was it Malfoy? Maybe you wanted her and she rejected you. Maybe that's what it was. She rejected you and you couldn't live with that kind of insult. A filthy mudblood like her rejecting you? So you snapped, killed her. Or maybe you'd been planning this all along, ever since she showed you up in school. Maybe—."
I didn't kill her!" He screamed, bursting out of his chair. With a sweep of his hand he swept the mug off the table; it crashed against the wall, shattering into pieces of white ceramic, staining the floor brown. He stood, breathing heavily, shaking, his palms pressed against the table's surface, barely keeping his balance.
Tonks glared up at him, not even flinching in the face of his rage. "Better watch those violent outbursts, Malfoy." She hissed.
He sank back down into his chair, burying his head in his hands, running his fingers through his hair.
"I didn't kill her."
"Ron Weasley saw you last night. Arguing with her. He was too far away to make out the words, but he could hear the yelling. She yelled at you and turned away, turned to leave. You grabbed her. Violently, Ron says. And you've already proved you can't control yourself when you get angry. You grabbed her and pulled her around. You forced yourself on her, while she tried to get away. And you only stopped when you saw Ron coming your way. At which point you disappeared. And then, five hours later, she turns up dead. And we find you in her apartment. So what's your explanation for that, Malfoy? Where's your alibi?"
He set his jaw, staring at her.
"No explanation?" She tilted her head. "Can't you even come up with a convincing lie?"
"I didn't kill her." He said. "But you want me to be guilty, so nothing I say really matters. You want me to be guilty, because it's easier that way. It's easier to blame me than to think that someone else is really at fault." He leaned forward. "But I didn't kill her."
Her hair, impossibly, went even brighter red. "You smug son-of-a-bitch!" She shouted, standing, slapping her hands against the table. "Don't sit there and spout that bullshit when you know what you did!"
He closed his eyes. "I didn't kill her." He said, one more time.
She slapped him hard across the face, snapping his head to the side. As his cheek blossomed bright pink she stormed out the door, letting it slam behind him.
He let his head fall to the table, the slam resounding in his mind like a gunshot.
The silence fell.
And everything, everything, was silent.
Suddenly, desperately, he wished that he could hear her voice one more time.
Eventually the door opened again.
He stared, his expression perfectly blank, as an equally expressionless Harry Potter stepped across the threshold, closing the door quietly behind him.
"How'd you manage to talk them into letting you come in here?"
For a moment there was a flash of fierce anger through the man's green eyes, before they faded to blankness again. "You killed my best friend." He said, in a tone as perfectly neutral as if he were talking about the weather. "I'm entitled to face you so long as I don't touch you."
"And even if you did no one would really penalize you, because you're Harry Potter and I'm the person who killed Hermione Granger."
"Was that a confession?"
"A statement of the facts of perception. It doesn't matter what I did or didn't do, because everyone thinks I'm guilty. I know how the world works, Potter."
Potter took a seat across from him. He held a vanilla folder in his hands and gently placed it on the table, his hands folded across it. "Why did you do it?"
"Then what happened?"
"You're the Auror, Potter. Instead of interrogating me you could be finding her killer. But you're wasting your time on me."
"If you're innocent just take the Veritaserum and prove it."
He turned his gaze away, focusing on the wall. "I'm not putting myself in the position of having my every secret pulled out of me against my will."
Potter made a sudden movement, flipping the folder out, extracting the photographs inside, and tossing them on the table in front of Draco. He saw what the photographs contained and closed his eyes.
"Can't bear to look at your handiwork?" Potter's voice was heavy with bitterness and carefully controlled anger; he forced his eyes open and met the other man's gaze. Then, with trembling fingers, he pulled the photographs closer and forced himself to look.
Hermione's broken, lifeless eyes stared up at him from a face frozen in terror. Her body was sprawled carelessly, like a ragdoll abandoned by its owner. Her skin was pale; her arms showed bruises that resembled finger marks.
Faintly he wondered if those bruises were his doing.
He closed his eyes and pushed the photographs away, unable to look anymore.
"How does it feel, Malfoy, to look at her and know you did that?" Potter's voice was soft and poisonous, deadly like a viper waiting to strike.
"I didn't kill her." His voice was rough; he was losing the battle with his composure.
Suddenly two hands grasped his shirt and hauled him upwards, out of the chair. His eyes popped open and Potter slammed him into the wall, holding him there, pinning him with one hand around his throat.
"Stop it." Potter's eyes were feverish, glossy and with the wild rage of a caged animal. "Stop fucking lying, Malfoy."
He couldn't even bring himself to fight back. He couldn't summon enough energy.
"I'm not." He said.
Potter pulled him away from the wall and slammed him back again; the back of his head hit the wall and he saw stars for a moment, gasping for breath.
"I can tell you this a thousand times, Potter." He forced out, trying to regain his breath. "And it won't make any difference. I didn't do it. I didn't kill her. But she's still dead."
The moment his lips formed the words she's still dead the reality crashed down upon him like a tidal wave, breaking through the fog that had wrapped itself around him.
"Oh god." He whispered. "She's dead."
And suddenly the battle with his composure was completely lost.
Potter's hands released him and he slid down the wall, crumpling down and folding in on himself. He held his head, drawing his knees close to his body. "She's dead." He could feel the tears in his eyes; he sucked in a raspy, choking breath. "She's dead." He choked out, trying to hold back the sob but failing. "She's dead, she's dead, she's dead."
He was crying. Crying in front of his childhood rival, full broken-hearted sobs, gasping for breath, choking on sobs, and still sputtering out the words that destroyed his world. She's dead, she's dead, she's dead.
Potter backed away from him. "Malfoy?"
Eventually the storm wore itself out and he regained control of himself. He didn't move from his position against the wall, just stayed there, not crying, not speaking, just staring blankly into the space in front of him.
"Malfoy?" Potter ventured again.
There was no use in trying to fight anymore. No use in trying to hide.
She was dead.
"I didn't kill her." He said, speaking the words that had become rote through numb lips. It was his voice, but he felt like he was a million miles away. This couldn't be his life. This couldn't be happening.
"I loved her."
Potter sat down.
He closed his eyes. "We'd been going out for two years. We were living together. Well, kind of. She kept her apartment, but she spent most nights in mine. She was going to get rid of her apartment completely and move in."
"I don't believe you."
He heard the words, but they seemed so far away.
"The argument Weasley saw last night; we were arguing about you. She wanted to stop keeping it a secret and tell everyone. I wanted to keep it a secret. It just blew up, a stupid argument. And then Weasley saw and he was coming over so I left. I was mad, but not really. I just wasn't ready to tell everyone yet. I thought that she would show up later, but she never did. I got worried and I wanted to apologize, so I went to her apartment this morning. Where the Aurors showed up and hauled me in here."
"I don't believe you. She wouldn't…not with you."
"I loved her." He said, helplessly. He lifted his gaze, meeting Potter's. "Do you know what it's like to realize the last words you ever said to the person you loved were stupid, angry words about something that really meant nothing?"
He closed his eyes.
"You're lying, Malfoy. You murdered her and you're just trying to invent this story to make us think you're just another victim. You don't know what love is, you son of a bitch."
"You lost your best friend, Potter." He said, without opening his eyes. "I lost the person I loved most in the world."
He opened his eyes, staring up at Potter. "I didn't kill her."
Potter stood, his entire body tense, his hands clenched into fists. "You are going to rot in jail, you bastard. I'll make sure of it."
The door slammed behind him.
He didn't move, didn't even flinch.
She was dead.
And he was broken.
"You're an idiot."
The fact that he was dreaming had registered in his mind when he found himself standing at the edge of the Black Lake, Hogwarts soaring into the sky in the background. But the fact was driven home sharply and painfully when her voice cut through him.
She stood there, beneath the tree on the edge of the lake. Her hair tumbled wildly down her shoulders, a mess of curls that he wanted to bury his fingers in. She wore her favorite red sweater, the one that he had always teasingly called her Gryffindor sweater. He could see a slim silver chain around her neck; he could picture what hung on the end of it without seeing it. Her lips were pursed and her arms were folded across her chest as she stared him down.
"And you're dead." He whispered.
She moved towards him. Part of him wanted to recoil, part of him wanted to grab her and never let go. "Doesn't stop you from being an idiot. You're even more moronic when I'm not around."
He closed his eyes. "Stop trying to pick a fight, 'Mione."
"Stop being a stubborn arse and take the Veritaserum." She retorted.
He opened his eyes. "No."
Her lips quirked a tiny bit. "See? Idiot."
"I'm not taking it."
"So you'd rather let them build a case based on circumstantial evidence and their strong bias against you than take a potion and show them that you're innocent? You'd rather rot in jail for something you didn't do than lower your pride enough to prove your own innocence?" She took another step towards him, stopping an arm's length away, just out of his personal space. "You're going to sit in Azkaban while my real killer gets away, unless you take the Veritaserum."
"I don't care." He said, his voice bleak. "Hermione, don't you get it? You're dead. I don't care if I rot in jail. I don't care about anything."
"But I do." She said, taking another step forwards. She was so close now. He could see the little details that he had memorized: the scattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, the little birth-mark on the side of her neck, the lone freckle on the back of her hand. "Yes, I'm dead. But if you go to jail for me I am going to be very irritated, Draco Malfoy. I don't want to see you spend the rest of your life in a cell."
"I told Potter." He said. "About us."
"I know." Another step. He could feel the heat of her body radiating off of her. "Now just take the Veritaserum. There's nothing else to hide, Draco. You just have to prove that it's the truth."
"And then what?" He whispered. "Then I'm innocent and I'm free and you're still gone. How do you expect me to go back to the apartment and look into the closet and see all of your clothes there? How do you expect me to sleep in my own bed when the sheets smell like apple and cinnamon, like your hair? How can I do that? I'd rather never have to go back there again."
"Didn't take you for a coward, Malfoy." She said, and he jerked. "We built something together. A life. Letting them use you as a scapegoat is just running away. I expect you to fight for that life we made. No, I won't be there, but it's still your life. If you turn your back on that, you turn your back on me."
Her hand touched his cheek lightly, her fingertips sliding over his skin. He gave up trying to stay aloof and reached out, one hand curling around her waist and pulling her flush against him, the other going around her shoulders. He buried his head in the crook of her neck, breathing in the scent of cinnamon and apples, fresh and warm.
"I know." She whispered in his ear, her arms around him. "But Draco, you have to fight. You can't just give up."
"I'm sorry." He whispered, lifting his head and resting his forehead against hers.
"That the last thing I ever said to you was something I didn't really mean."
Her lips quirked upwards. "Oh, you mean: 'Here comes your Weasel boyfriend. Since you're so eager to tell him every little detail of your life with him, why don't you just pledge your undying love to him right now?'"
He winced. "I didn't mean—."
She pressed a finger to his lips. "Hush. I know. It was an argument. We both said things we didn't mean. And since we're both so witty and intelligent I'm sure that some of the insults flying were particularly vicious."
Despite himself his lips curled upwards. "I do happen to recall you saying something along the lines of 'When you're done playing 'mine is bigger than yours' with Harry, why don't you let me know?'."
She laughed a little. "Oh, we're good."
His lips turned downward again and the laughter died. He held her tighter, as though she would disappear in a puff of smoke. "I didn't get to say goodbye." He said, the words heavy.
She tilted her head upwards, her lips hovering over his.
"Say goodbye to me now." She said, in that arch tone he knew so well, the one that led to one inevitable conclusion.
He pressed his lips against hers, tasting butter and salt. As he followed her to the ground, the wind caressing over them, he held her more tightly than ever before.
It was only a dream, but it was a dream of the reality he had possessed.
It was only a dream, but he would hold on to it and to her for as long as he possibly could.
Her eyes were dark and he fell into them, drowning.
"I love you."
When the morning guard made his first patrol at seven o'clock in the morning he found Draco Malfoy sitting upright on the hard cot, looking wide awake. He paused, looking in at the man suspected—and who was he kidding? Guilty—of murdering Hermione Granger.
Draco's gray eyes flickered up, seeming to snap him out of a kind of a trance. "Can you get me one of the Aurors? Potter, preferably—actually, no. Not Potter. Tonks or Kingsley. But maybe I should talk to Potter…." He was rambling, his thoughts just pouring of his mouth. He noticed the guard staring at him and shook his head. "Just…an Auror, please?"
Draco folded his arms, eyes challenging. In his years as a guard the man had never seen the kind of firm conviction in a prisoner's eyes as he found in Draco Malfoy's gaze.
"Just get them. And tell them to bring the Veritaserum."
He found himself in the interrogation room again, staring at the door and waiting for it to open, drumming his fingers across the table top. One of his legs was bouncing up and down as if it had a mind of its own but he couldn't stop it and didn't even try.
"'Mione," he whispered, "you'd better be right about this."
He could almost hear her voice whisper in his ear "Of course I'm right. I'm me," and he almost smiled.
The door opened.
Tonks and Potter shuffled in. Tonks's hair was a darker shade of red, more like maroon than the violent color from the day before. Potter's hair stuck out in every direction, even worse than normal, and there were dark circles under his eyes. They looked less like Aurors and more like deranged maniacs escaped from Azkaban.
Potter placed a glass of water on the table and pulled the clear vial out of his pocket. He added a drop and a half of the truth serum to the water and then pushed the glass across the table.
Draco wrapped one hand around it, pulling it closer to him. He stared into the clear substance and then looked up again.
"Do you have the antidote?"
Tonks held up a vial of faintly blue liquid, placing a second glass of water on the table, and Draco nodded.
"Ready to confess, Malfoy?" Potter said, sitting across from him, but his voice wasn't as powerfully angry as it had been before. Now it was more tired, as though the world had been placed on his shoulders during the twelve hours since their last encounter.
"No." He said. "I told you the truth yesterday, Potter. This is just proof."
"We'll see," Tonks said, her voice still stingingly cold.
He ignored her, staring a Potter closely, his eyes narrowed. The dark-haired man met his gaze. "Drink, Malfoy, and let's get this over with."
"You believe me. You believe what I told you yesterday."
He obliged, closing his eyes and chugging the glass of water. The potion's affects took effect almost immediately; he sank against the back of the chair, no longer in real control of his body. His eyes opened and he looked across the table at the two Aurors.
"Let's cut straight to the chase," Tonks said. "Did you murder Hermione Granger?"
He felt as though he were a million miles away, as though he were completely disconnected from his body. "No," he heard his voice say.
Potter slumped down, looking as though there were a crushing weight just pressing down upon him. Tonks's hair turned black and the sure conviction left her expression. "Did you hurt her?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"We fought the night she died. I said things I didn't mean."
"What were you arguing about?"
"She wanted to bring our relationship out in the open. I disagreed."
"We were together. A couple."
"How long was this going on?"
"What happened during the argument?"
"Weasley saw us fighting and started to come towards us. I left. I went back to my apartment."
"Did you see Hermione after that? Hear anything from her?"
"Why were you in her apartment?"
"I got worried. I went to check on her and apologize."
"Did you love her?"
That question, spoken in a soft voice, was from Harry. He'd remained silent throughout the course of the questioning. Draco's eyes shot towards him before he answered.
Tonks placed two drops of the antidote in the second glass of water and pushed it across to him. He drank it, his mouth dry. Then he stared at the two Aurors.
"You're free to go, Malfoy." Tonks said in a dull voice. "We've got work to do." She stood, pushing her chair back and turning for the door.
Potter didn't move. "Malfoy." He said, his voice still quiet. "Do you know anything else? Do you have any idea of who…?" Tonks looked at him and then, quietly, left, closing the door behind her.
He looked down at the table, running a hand over the smooth surface. "You're not going to believe me, Potter. And this isn't something that I can prove by taking another swig of Veritaserum. It's just…a guess. An educated guess based on evidence from a very reputable source."
He looked up, meeting the other man's eyes. Harry Potter was his greatest rival and had been from the age of eleven. But they had both loved the same person—albeit in different ways—and their worlds were both torn apart by her death. Her murder. There was kinship there, but he wasn't sure how far that would go.
"As crazy as it sounds…Hermione."
"Who did it?"
At some point the dream had changed, the landscape shifting and transforming so that they were no longer on the banks of the Black Lake but lounging on their bed. Hermione traced a hand along his chest, her other hand propping her head up. He caught her hand, gripping it tightly and staring at her. He had a feeling that there wasn't much time left and he needed to have answers.
She looked at him, her expression changing subtly. "I can't tell you."
She shrugged. "It's against the rules."
He didn't bother to examine that statement. The feeling that everything was about to vanish was stronger now and he had to hurry.
"Then give me clues."
She held his gaze. "The person who did it, they weren't trying to hurt me. Not really. I wasn't the real target. You were." She tilted her head. "They've always had trouble controlling their anger and it just…got away from them. They were trying to hurt you in the worst possible way, because they think you stole something from them. I was the easiest way to hurt you." She almost smiled, but it was a smile that barely hid the anger and betrayal. "The funniest thing is, they weren't really trying to hurt me at all."
"They were trying to save me."
"I don't believe you." Potter said in a tightly controlled voice. He was standing, fists clenched at his side, looking as if he were about to lash out. Draco prepared himself for the fist flying at his face, sure that the situation would end with him on the floor nursing a bloody nose. Potter looked angry enough to kill, and Draco was almost afraid.
"I could be wrong." He said carefully. "But think about it, Potter. It fits. Someone who hates me, someone who loved her, someone who, if they lost control, could go that far. It fits."
He stood, bracing himself on the table.
"Just…just think about it. Just consider it. Look into it. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and whoever the person is their still out there. But if I'm right…." He broke off.
"I'd walk away, Malfoy." Potter said, barely holding himself together.
He nodded. "I will." He walked for the door and paused on the threshold. He turned half-way, hesitating. "Potter?"
The other man jerked his head up, meeting his gaze. His eyes were hot and angry, and Draco could see the man who had vanquished the Dark Lord.
"In the dream she asked me to tell you something."
Potter didn't move.
"She wanted me to tell you that you have always been her best friend and that nothing will ever change that."
He still didn't move. He stood there, like a statue of a man who had been holding the world on his shoulder and suddenly dropped it, like a statue of someone who had just seen everything destroyed.
Draco turned away.
The door closed.
It smelled like cinnamon and apples.
He clutched the pillow closer to him, hugging it to his chest and breathing in, inhaling the scent as if it were oxygen and he were a drowning man who had finally struggled his way to the surface.
He was going to cry.
He'd been crying off and on since he'd walked through the door. He hadn't noticed it until she was gone, but she was everywhere in the apartment. It was his apartment, technically, but she had immersed so much of herself in it that it seemed like it belonged to her. There were paintings on the wall that they had picked out together. There were photographs in pretty frames, pictures of them together, laughing and smiling, blissfully happy. Her shampoo was right next to his in the shower; in the medicine cabinet there was a shelf of his things and a shelf of her belongings. Half of the bedroom closet was his clothes; half were hers. There was a pair of her shoes tossed under one of the chairs in the dining room.
And the living room…there was a black bookshelf pressed against the wall, filled with books—his and hers—and stacked with DVDs. The television was in the middle of the room. Sitting on the kitchen counter was a bowl that still held butter residue and a few popcorn kernels.
These were details that he hadn't noticed. He'd become so accustomed to having her around that he had never noticed how flawlessly she had fit herself into his life.
But she was gone.
He expected her to walk through the door and toss her keys on the counter, her hair falling out of a messy ponytail in curly wisps that trailed across her face. He expected her to curl up on the couch with a book in her hands. He expected to hear the sound of popcorn popping and smell the buttery scent.
He expected the world to be the same, when it was irrevocably changed.
He ran his hand over the spines of her favorite books. He rolled a popcorn kernel around in his hand. He curled up on her side of the bed, the sheets wet with tears.
He sat on the couch, clutching her pillow and trying to hold back the sobs.
She was gone.
His fingers tightened on the pillow.
"We built something together. A life." He heard her voice echoing in his mind.
"But it's not the same without you." He said to the silent, empty air. "We built a life together. But without you it's just…empty."
There was a knock on the door.
For a moment he stared at the heavy wooden door, his eyes dull. He contemplated just letting whoever it was think he wasn't home. He didn't want anyone to see him the way he was, with his hair in a state of disarray and his skin pale and his eyes red.
He summoned the strength to walk to the door and open it.
A Harry Potter who looked as though he had been dragged through the pits of hell leaned limply against the frame of the door, looking as though he could barely hold himself up and certainly as though he didn't have the strength to move an inch farther. Potter looked at him with equally red, bloodshot eyes.
Draco stepped out of the doorway and Potter stumbled past him, sinking onto the couch and burying his head in his hands. Draco sat in the armchair that Hermione had insisted they buy and stared at the man.
Potter shook. His entire body was trembling and his hands clutched his head, his short nails digging into his scalp.
"I didn't know where else to go." He finally said, without looking up.
Draco didn't say anything.
"I couldn't go home, not now. And I don't really have many close friends, not ones that I could go to for this. Actually, I had two." He looked up. "But one is dead and the other one is the person who killed her." His voice cracked and he gasped for breath, choking back a sob. "How can I go home and look into my girlfriend's eyes and tell her that her brother murdered our best friend? How can I go tell the people who took me into their home and treated me like a son that their real son is a murderer?" Tears slid down his face, uncontrollable.
"I thought you didn't believe me." Draco finally managed to say. He knew that it wasn't the right thing to say, but he didn't have the answers that Potter needed.
"I didn't." Potter said. "Not at first." He sucked in a breath. "But…you were right. It did fit. The last part especially. He was trying to save me." His fist clenched. "That's what he said when he was trying to explain himself. 'I was trying to save her'. I asked him flat out if he did it. And I could see it in his eyes. I didn't need Veritaserum or Legillmency. There was guilt right in his eyes. And he tried to explain it."
Draco's fist clenched. "And his explanation was?" He ground out.
"He found out about you. And he didn't like it. He was still convinced that he and Hermione would end up together eventually. He was just waiting for her to come around. And then he found out about you…he was convinced you were brainwashing her or had her under a spell. He saw you arguing and after you left he confronted Hermione. She got mad at him and he grabbed her. He wanted to talk to her, convince her that she didn't really love you. But she told him that she loved you and she was going to marry you." He looked away. "He saw her necklace. And he snapped. Ripped it off of her neck and then…."
The statement didn't need any further continuation. The only thing that followed that 'then' was death. Draco closed his eyes, his fists clenching tighter. His fingernails left bloody furrows in the skin of his palm.
With a shaking hand Potter reached into his pocket and held out something bright and shining. Draco took the necklace and let the diamond ring on the other end hang, glittering in the light.
"He tried to tell me that he was sorry. That it was for the best, because at least she wasn't with you anymore." Draco's eyes flickered up; Potter grimaced. "I broke his nose." He said. "I wanted to break his neck but Tonks and Kingsley stopped me. Took my wand away too, before I could Crucio him. And I wanted to. God, I wanted to." Potter buried his head again. "What do I do, Malfoy? One of my best friends is dead and the other one is responsible. What do I do?"
Draco clasped the silver chain around his neck, tucking the ring beneath his shirt and not caring how feminine it might have looked on him. He could feel the ring against his skin and it felt almost like Hermione was there.
"Go home to your girlfriend, Potter. And be glad that you still have her."
Potter stared at him and then nodded, rising from the couch. He started for the door and then paused. "Malfoy? What are you going to do?"
Draco looked around the room, picking out all of the signs of her presence in his life. 'I expect you to fight for that life we made.' He looked at Potter. "We had this life together. Something extraordinary, something that you don't just let go of." He gripped the ring through his shirt. "I'm going to keep living that life."
Potter looked at him for a long moment and then nodded. "Bye, Malfoy." The door closed heavily behind him and Draco looked around his empty living room.
'I expect you to fight for that life we made.'
He dumped the bag of scalding hot popcorn into the bowl and turned the lights down low. Putting the DVD into the player he hit the button on the remote and settled onto the couch, her pillow beside him. Romeo and Juliet, he thought, as the movie started to play, her favorite. The smell of apple and cinnamon surrounded him and the taste on his lips was butter and salt.
Closing his eyes, he could pretend she was still there.
A/N 2: So? What did you think? In the original planning of this my murderer was actually meant to be Lucius, but upon writing it I thought that having Ron serve as the villian worked better in the end. And I think this is the first time I've ever actually killed Hermione in a fic. Normally I kill Fred or Draco, depending on what I'm writing, but this was definitely a change. However, if you've read any of my other one-shots, you will notice several of my reocurring themes, such as my penchant for secret relationships and especially secret engagements.