Written for Dmhgfixexchange 2006: Celebrate the Season with Draco and Hermione (for Sage).
things you want your fic to include:
1. Two or three years after Hogwarts 2. Something badly timed 3.
Three things you do not want your fic to include: 1. Overly sappy Draco. 2. Deatheaters 3. Rape/Abuse
Anything specific that you do not want to write: Rape
~The Eyes of the Forest~
If the trees could talk, they would speak in my voice.
I suppose you would call me a forest spirit, although I am known by a variety of names: Skogsra, djinn, Nalujak, nymph; depending on what language you speak and where the sun rises and sets for you.
I am older than the seasons, though for practical purposes – you can read that as mischievous purposes - I am sixteen years old.
It would be all the more difficult, you'd have to admit, to lure a hapless, strapping young man off the beaten forest path without the aid of a pair of firm, high breasts and a set of buttocks to match. Over these many years I have had only one complaint and the gentleman in question had a greater fondness for the face and form of his fellow hunting partners, then for the nymph that tried to lead him astray.
I can be the very definition of ethereal or I can be as solid and as imposing as an ancient monolith. My form depends on the impression I seek to give. Though, for the sake of entertainment, nothing beats corporeality. I find it tends to lend better results.
The general consensus, among most cultures anyway, is that my kind is not to be implicitly trusted. We are revered, respected and in some places, worshiped. We are the symbol and sign of a healthy forest.
My sisters and I call the ancient forest that borders Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, home. The forest has always been a healthy and abundant place, so much so that it fairly pulses with life and magic. I am fortunate to have such a habitat. My kind has prospered here for many millennia.
It was on a particularly cold, Yule's eve, in the hour when the moon is at its highest point over the trees, that I was disturbed from my rest by a person venturing into my clearing.
You have to understand that my domain is in the very heart of the forest and it is not every day that a mortal ventures so deep. An angry blizzard is lashing through the trees and wiser creatures with no magic of their own to shelter them from the storm, have hidden away in crannies or burrows. Or Hagrid's hut.
A boy stands in the clearing - not all boy, perhaps a season or two into manhood, if that. He is as young as spring and just as beautiful. His head is covered by a dark, thick, cloak of black, but beneath I know that his hair is log fire reflected off silver, and his skin carries a fine, pearlescent sheen no matter how often he is kissed by the sun.
As for his eyes, I cannot yet tell. But I will soon be able to.
Creeping down from the higher branches of my favourite oak, I sigh my intentions into the wind. She answers, and immediately latches on to his cloak, whipping the heavy material about him and pulling his hood away from his head. As he raises his arm to shield his face from the cold sting of the wind, I catch a glimpse of eyes the colour of a glacier at twilight.
He remains impassive against the weather, almost stubborn in the face of it. I take pity on this beautiful, mysterious young man, and calm the wind to a light whisper. The riddle of his presence in such inhospitable weather is simultaneously solved and deepened.
Humans give away so much of themselves in their simplest actions.
This lad is waiting.
Luckily for him, his lady appears not too long after he arrives, walking hurriedly through the trees and clutching her own cloak tightly around her. Wrapped as she is in layers of insulating clothing, she is still slender, though apparently made of sterner stuff. It's a testament to her fortitude and sense of balance that she hasn't been blown off her feet on her way to meet him.
They greet each other tentatively, coolly, though I can nearly feel both their hearts hammering at a frantic pace and smell the scent of suppressed desire.
Ah, theirs is a troubled love.
I confess that I'm immediately intrigued.
I am not myself immune to love and have suffered through its cruelties and ecstasies over the years, but this pair is unusual. They give the term 'star crossed' new meaning, and believe me; I've heard plenty of interpretations of that very phrase from the overly superstitious Centaurs that roam these parts. Now that Firenze, fine specimen of male-hood he may be, but he's far too fatalistic for his own good.
The trouble that plagues these two children (forgive me, I like to think of most mortals of marriageable age, as children), is war.
They both carry the invisible scars on their souls. His injuries mend quicker, however. I can tell that about him. His resilience has surprised even him, I think.
War is a terrible thing. I have seen too much of it for my liking, waged by mortals and mages against their own kind, and once, against each other. Humans have such a staggering capacity for violence. War has not touched my forest in twenty three years, but for creatures like me, time is not what it is, but how we feel it. And for me it feels like only yesterday when men in masks wandered this forest, spreading their brand of evil like an insidious, infectious disease.
They make such a beautiful couple, my wayward lovers. A perfect mismatched set. One dark, the other light. One sunshine and autumn, the other thunderstorms and rainy days.
I can sense the dire urgency of their meeting. They are taking enormous risks, though I am not sure which of the two lovers these risks apply to. I still the weather further, for their benefit. I want to hear them speak.
The boy begins, though I almost wish he hadn't. The things he says to her are cutting and cruel, but not needlessly so.
His terrible, unkind words have a very specific purpose, at least by his reasoning. Though perhaps 'reasoning' is not a word that should be applied in their case, when you consider that reason is often the first casualty of love.
I have seen this scene play itself out countless times. Many other lovers have passed through this forest. Many have left changed.
He means to drive her away, to take back all that he has shown and given of himself. He throws at her words like 'impossible', 'difficult', 'mistake' and 'wrong', along with a few more ah, contemporary profanities that I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing.
But his lady has the wisdom of years not yet lived, and stands with and watches him with dark, unwavering eyes and says nothing as she measures his true intent.
She can't tell, she can't see the torrent of loss and pain and sadness that streams from him like poisonous, black smoke. I sense a tangled, complex history between these two. I know all young love can seem so at times, but reading their story is like reading the palm of a deity – a tad complicated. It doesn't help that the boy is a bit more self-assured than is healthy in someone so young.
Great events have unfolded in their world and continue to do so. Both are major players in events to come. I have no true skill in divination, but I find that my age and experience can be a great deal more accurate in predicting the future, than any Centaur astrology.
My, my. Such vitriol from our young man! He is fast running out of options to drive his lady away and it is also obvious that she is not easily cowered.
I move in closer, eager to taste the air around them. The highs and lows of mortal living have such a bittersweet quality. I soak it up like a sponge.
It may be that I forget myself in my eagerness, because the boy pauses his tirade and looks up at the trees, at me. It's not all mortals that can sense my presence, but I can see that this one, this boy with the bright hair and eyes, has old blood running through his veins.
A thousand years ago, his ancestors might have summoned me from the trees.
I could make my presence known, of course, but that would send the pair into a thrall that would take days to wear off.
No. They are much more interesting as they are, and I yearn to see how this exchange will play out.
Soon, he is done. He has achieved his aim. She is broken, or at least she is giving him that impression. Her motives are harder to sense, for some reason. She sinks to the ground and puts her face into her hands. Her shoulders are heaving.
Call to him, I want to cry out. It is more than pride which is keeping her from asking him to stay. It is also more than pride that is keeping him from going to her.
He will go and she will let him. Why? Oddly, it is what they both think is best.
Something is amiss.
But then, the boy falters. He has walked some distance away from his lady, but he has come to a dead stop with his back to her. His glove-clad hands ball into fists as he stares at the ground and breathes.
Go to her! Tell her your truth!
He does, eventually, and I almost cheer my approval. When he reaches her, he slowly kneels down beside her in the snow and raises his arm to touch her hair. The sleeve of his cloak shifts and it is then that I see the tail end of the Mark that is gloves only partially obscure.
The forest knows the mark. I hiss in my distaste, and this time they both look up sharply into the trees. Him, with suspicion, her with cold dread and expectation.
Yes. Something is definitely amiss.
It is the nature of my kind to interfere with the goings on of mankind. We are not made to be passive by-standers. And so I allow the snow to fall more heavily around the pair, quickly shutting them in, bringing them inevitably together.
In a moment of weakness, the girl reaches for him and thankfully, he lets her.
Good boy. Now kiss her.
The mood in the air shifts. He catches her face with both hands, looking at her with an expression that screams of a short lifetime of regrets. Their kiss is a sight to behold. It is a kiss of profound apology and confirmation. For all the heartfelt emotion going into it, it's far from tender. I conclude that nothing about their courtship or its aftermath could ever be described as tender. His leather-gloved fingers dig into the pale skin of her cheek. He catches her chin and forces her face up for his rough kiss. He is holding on to her like he's afraid she will take his earlier suggestion after all and leave him.
They are frantic, urgent, and so charmingly oblivious to the fact that I've sheltered them from the elements and am keeping the deadly cold at bay.
I bring winter to a complete pause around them.
They are caught inside a mirage, a cocoon in space, sheltered from the wind and the snow. Smiling at the very pleasant turn of events, I blow them a congratulatory kiss, and the pair is accordingly buffered backwards toward a broad tree as if pushed.
I laugh with delight. Lovers are so much fun.
He hauls her up against the tree, not stopping his wild kiss for even a second. She has her eyes closed, a frown of adorable concentration on her brow as her hands run underneath his cloak, running over his shoulders, his hair, his back.
The heat coming off these two would probably melt packed snow at ten paces.
The man pulls of her gloves, followed by his own, and tosses them to the ground. Pinning her up against the tree, he reaches between them and after a moment of adjustment, she wraps her legs around him, opening her eyes wide with a look of pleasurable shock as he moves into her.
They keep their eyes locked on each other the whole time. The act is so incredibly intimate that for a moment, I almost look away to allow them their privacy.
Not that I do, of course. I am Nature's voyeur. They have entered the forest at their own accord and I will watch because it is what I do. My own heart (I use this word metaphorically) is swelling for them, filled to bursting with the rightness of it all. I'm a creature of passion and vitality, and it is scenes like this that sustain me.
I'm also a hopeless romantic, much to the chagrin of my sisters.
All is not well, however. I feel it like a phantom itch. Something is still amiss.
The girl is sad. That must be it. So sad that it hangs in the air like a pall over the passionate proceedings. I wonder at this.
Something is very wrong.
They have sunk to the ground now, my star-crossed lovers. The girl is still wrapped around him like clinging ivy, their bodies discreetly hidden beneath the man's cloak. He holds her as he catches his breath, whispering words that any woman in love would thrill to hear.
But the girl is still so sad.
Their cocoon holds. I make certain of this as he rises first and then pulls her up to her feet. The care he takes in putting her clothes and hair to rights is in complete contrast to their earlier actions. At last, he pulls her hood over her mussed hair and then frowns in amazement at the fact that their immediate surroundings are for lack of a better word – humid.
So as to not ruin their moment with too many rational questions (humans and their questions!), I summon back winter and the snow once again falls.
It is at this precise instant that I sense the presence of men. Many men, in fact, and a young woman among them. There are thirteen in all. It is a bad luck number, which I dislike.
The snow falls harder, mimicking my displeasure. In four breaths, it is a blizzard.
By the time my lovers have recovered from their tryst, the strangers appear just inside the borders of my domain. Their target is clear. Suddenly everything is very clear.
I don't think there is an aspect of the human condition that I haven't witnessed firsthand over these many millennia.
Funny how betrayal still manages to surprise me.
They appeared inside the clearing. Thirteen people dressed in identical grey and navy robes, 'popping' into being in a tight circle just inside the tree-fringed perimeter. They are silent, well-trained and there for one, specific purpose.
Three years of living on the run had prepared Draco for all kinds of unpleasant situations. He didn't need to see the blatant malice on the faces of the strangers to know that the trouble he had been running from had finally found him.
Draco reacted immediately. He brandished his wand and shoved Hermione behind him, such that she was sandwiched between his back and a tree. He could feel the warmth of her body, even through their numerous layers of clothing. Or then again it might have just been the aftermath of their encounter.
They could have been Death Eaters. It could have been bounty hunters or freelancers, who were apparently all the rage among scared villagers at the moment. It could even have been drunk, lost, Yuletide revelers from Hogsmeade.
But it was Harry Potter who stepped into the clearing, his wand flaring bright white to advertise his identity, his expression calm. The falling snow stood out in marked contrast in his black hair.
"Come quietly, Malfoy. We've set up an Anti-Apparition boundary. Try to leave and you'll be splinched. Or worse."
The other Aurors looked ready to leap. It was obvious what everyone was anticipating – that Draco would use Hermione as a hostage or a shield. They had prepared for this very eventuality and were almost eager for it to happen.
"Finally did something right, then, Potter?" Draco called out, needing to shout over the angry wind. "And not a soul had to pay for it this time?"
The insinuation of past tragedies was blatant, as was the sarcasm.
"That's the general idea, yes," Harry replied unflinchingly. His green eyes looked over Draco's shoulder, where Hermione still stood, her brown eyes wide and frantic. "You have my best friend there, Malfoy. You know why we're here. Hand your wand over to Hermione and then release her. I don't need to tell you how ugly this can get if you don't cooperate."
Draco gave him a long, hard look, snow catching in his eyelashes. "Actually, I don't think it gets any uglier then betrayal..." Behind him, he could feel that Hermione had stated to shake.
There was a small moment of tense, non-activity, before Draco did as Harry requested. Hermione remained unmoving and un-responsive and it was Draco who had to place his wand in her hands, close her icy fingers over the shaft, and with a final parting look, give her a nudge towards her team.
"Go," he told her, gruffly. "Go to them."
Harry did not waste any time in darting forward and pulling Hermione towards him.
"Good timing, huh?" he asked her. "We're actually early."
"Bad timing," Hermione whispered back, her eyes downcast, but Harry did not hear her over the wild weather. It was almost like the forest was determined to literally blow out the intruders.
"You did well," he added, as he quickly pocketed Draco's wand. He gave her a once over to make sure that she wasn't harmed and then proceeded to bark instructions to the other Aurors. He liked it when ambushes went well, and by all accounts, this one had gone swimmingly.
The smallest of the gathered Aurors stepped forward, lowering her light gray hood. The various flares lit by the men to illuminate their work made the girl's red hair seem to blaze. It was Ginny, and she was wearing an expression of profound sympathy. She guided Hermione forward by the arm, and took hold of the older girl's hands.
"Where are your gloves?"" Ginny asked, rubbing warmth back into her friend's fingers.
Mutely, Hermione pointed to where Draco was now kneeling in the snow, hands crossed behind his head, staring calmly at the ground as the men shouted at him to stay where he was, to not move, to throw down any other weapons he had. One of the Aurors cuffed him in the side of the head and he over he went. It looked like Seamus.
"Oh, look away, love," said Ginny, gently pulling Hermione's head into her shoulder. "You know you did what you had to do. Don't think on it for a second longer."
But there was a lot to think about. Draco Malfoy was wizarding Europe's second most wanted man, on the run for three years, with nothing to link him to any one place or person. He proved to be as elusive as smoke, much too protective of his hide to ever let himself get caught. With both his parents dead and the Malfoy estate in ruins, he had nothing to return to. No loyalties other than to the Master his father had indentured him to from birth.
No Achilles' heel. No weakness
That was, until Harry had decided to give him one.
Perhaps it was the fact that Harry himself had had something of a neglected childhood, that he was able to correctly guess what would tempt Malfoy out into the open. After all, if Harry would gladly give up anything for Ginny, perhaps Malfoy could be similarly brought to heel by the love of a good woman.
And they really didn't come much finer than Hermione Granger.
In many respects, the two men were not so different. It was a terrible, lonesome burden to have the fate of one's beliefs resting squarely on one's shoulders. Draco Malfoy was made to be as vulnerable to love as the rest of them.
Ron was charged with the task of hauling Draco to his feet, taking extra care to manhandle his prisoner as much as possible as he placed a binding spell on Draco's wrists. Blood from Draco's split lip dripped into the ground. It looked black in the darkness. "Try anything and you're dead," Ron hissed. He had lost as much as any other victim of the war, not the least of which was Hermione.
Draco grunted at the rough handling, but did not resist.
Ginny approached her team leader. "Was it worth it, then?" she asked Harry. There was more coolness to her voice than he would have preferred.
Harry was adamant. He was rarely anything else lately. "Absolutely."
Ron was violently shoving Draco towards the stationary Portkey just beyond the trees, which would transport the entire unit plus prisoner, directly to Azkaban.
As Draco was led past Hermione, he came to a halt.
Remarkably, his hands were free. The usually infallible binding spell seemed to have spontaneously ceased functioning. Draco did not dwell on this unusual development and instead took what brief opportunity he had to reach a hand out towards his wife.
Ron didn't notice any of this. In fact, he was staring rather oddly into the trees, as if caught in a trance. His wand fell to the ground from his slack grip, the still-burning flare melting the snow where it touched it.
Harry, however, sprung into action. He had already pulled out his wand, a binding spell poised on his lips.
"Wait!" Ginny's hand rested on Harry's forearm, butterfly light, but it had the persuasive force of a locomotive. "Please, Harry. Give them a moment."
Hermione was staring up at Draco, her young face ravaged by grief and tears.
"This is war," she said. It was her explanation, her reasoning, her plea, her modus oprendi.
Her betrayed husband caught her tear with his thumb and gave her a soft kiss in return.
"This is love," he replied, softly, spelling out his forgiveness.
the memories I left throw the light
That helps to guide you through
We trickle down to our goodbyes
But a part of me will stay with youWhat we've spoken over time
Never broken or compromised
Chapter End Notes:
Powderfinger's 'Whatever Makes You Happy' is from the album, Odyssey Number Five, Polygram International.
'Time is not what it is, but how it is felt' – Zadie Smith, 'On Beauty', Hamish Hamilton, 2005.