Full Summary: After an unfortunate bar fight, Hermione Granger accidentally invites Draco Malfoy to crash on her couch indefinitely, but at least she's got his wand. She's struggling to hang onto her sanity and pleasant disposition, despite those nasty thoughts that keep popping into her head, but he's already given up on his.
Meanwhile, the rest of the wizarding world is investigating his mysterious disappearance, he's inventing his own whole new reality from the comfort of Hermione's bed (not that she wants him there), the gravity's broken in the kitchen, Harry and Ginny won't stop trying to get her back together with Ron, Ron's sleeping with Lavender, Hermione wants to lay him out, Astoria Greengrass is mourning her not-so-dead fiancé, and everyone's so buried in lies that they might as well just forget about the whole concept of truth.
Chapter 1: Forensics
Was it really possible for hair dryers to shoot ions at your head? If so, did they really do anything?
Moreover, what kind of ions were they? Would any old sort do, or were they only ions of a certain element, say carbon? Hermione Granger was pretty sure that there were some ions she'd be willing to shoot at her head and others that she'd rather not. She kept using her ceramic ionic hairdryer anyway, but that didn't stop her from being skeptical about it. She didn't believe in unspecified "ions," she didn't believe that herbal supplements really did anything, she didn't believe in God, and she didn't believe that people could change. She didn't do things unless she had a logical reason. For example, that night, she was drying her hair because she was going on a date.
It was her first date since Ron Weasley, a full six months after they'd broken up. His first date had been a long time ago, and if she cared at all, it was only because she felt it was highly disrespectful to begin sleeping with other women less than a month after their breakup.
She should have known it would be like that, and she was angry with herself, but not as angry as she was with him. She was having cruel fantasies that surprised her late at night: Ron getting hit by a bus, or maybe Ron vomiting slugs for a whole month. There were many, but none resulted in her ex-boyfriend's death. He just got hurt because karma wasn't on his side, except she didn't believe in karma, either.
She had one more fantasy, and it was her favorite, but she was doing her best not to think about it, because it just wasn't something that Hermione Granger should be imagining. Since karma didn't exist, she wanted to take matters into her own hands and punch Ron right in the mouth. She wanted to see that shocked look on his face when he realised how horrible he'd been to her, taking her for granted and using her for her compassion because he couldn't take care of himself. Horrible enough to make the pristine Hermione Granger raise a hand in anger against another human being, something she hadn't done since her third year. Draco Malfoy had it coming, and now, so did Ron. She wasn't all that successful in keeping herself from thinking about it, though. The image just kept flashing into her brain.
Hermione Granger, like an action movie heroine, drawing back her fist so gracefully. Ron's jaw dropping in slow motion as he realised what she was about to do just seconds too late. Her knuckles would crash into his teeth as a victorious howl tore out of her mouth. It would hurt her hand, but it would hurt his face more. She'd see that bright-red line of movie blood running elegantly down his chin, and he'd fall to his knees. And then he'd apologize.
Looking back at her hair dryer, she tried to get her mind back on ions – she'd already promised herself that she wasn't going to think about Ron tonight. She had a date with a perfectly nice, intelligent, reasonably attractive man she'd met at the Ministry. His name was Nigel, and he was twenty-six – three years older than Hermione – but she had always felt that she'd get along better with an older man. Men her age just didn't seem to have their heads on straight. Most importantly, this man was safe. He was mature, responsible, and not drowning in the world's worst inferiority complex. That would be impossible: you see, anyone except Ron could only get so far as the world's second-worst inferiority complex.
Once her hair was finished, Hermione turned her music up a little louder, because she could hear a fight breaking out in the street below her flat. That tended to happen when someone lived above a pub in Muggle London. The weeknights weren't so bad, but every weekend, somebody had to take things outside. Hermione liked to enjoy herself at bars and clubs occasionally, just like any other woman her age, but she didn't have to get smashed to have a good time. Even with her radio on full blast, though, she could still hear the commotion outside – this one sounded a lot worse than usual. She looked out her bedroom window, where she had a view of the alley behind the bar, and apparently some poor guy had pissed off the wrong people. It was four against one, with a very lean, almost lanky man getting pounded mercilessly by a group of shorter but much more muscular young men.
She never intervened with the fights downstairs, but this one was horrifying. The slender man was on the ground, and he looked like he may have been unconscious, but it wasn't over. Three of the attackers had stepped back to watch, but the fourth was still on top of his opponent. Streams of blood ran into the gutter, and Hermione knew she had to do something immediately. She closed the blinds and poked her wand through them inconspicuously, aiming for the man still fighting, and Confounded him. She drew her wand back quickly and hid behind the wall next to her window, only daring to look back outside after a few minutes. The Muggle she'd Confounded was stumbling off down the street, and his friends were trying to hold him up, casting a few confused looks back at the man on the pavement – who wasn't moving. Hermione watched the group reach the end of the block and turn, and then she ran downstairs and out the back door of the building.
When she stepped outside, she realised that for once, she hadn't planned this very carefully. She was wearing a slinky black dress with impractical shoes, and she had her wand in a secret pocket of her dress but couldn't risk using it outside in Muggle London. The man was a Muggle anyway, though, so she'd just check his vitals and then call an ambulance. The rest of the pub-goers seemed to have ambled back inside now that the fight was over, so the alley was deserted.
She hurried over to the man on the ground and crouched down next to him. His hair was matted with blood, and his face was completely obscured with the beginnings of bruising, swelling, and bleeding. It didn't look like it did in the movies, though, and it didn't look like it did in the War. The thing about blood was that in Hermione's experience, it was always accompanied by other circumstances. It was either on her or someone she cared about deeply, and either way she had to block out the sight and do something about it immediately. This was a stranger, and it was like a filter had been lifted over her eyes. She could see the slimy red liquid as an entity within itself, and she reached out her hand to touch the man's cheek. On her fingers it was brown-red and filmy, and she lifted her hand to her face and caught the smell, and suddenly she thought she was going to be sick.
She hauled herself onto her feet and stumbled back a few metres, holding her hand as far away from her body as she could. Finally, the nausea passed, and she wiped her fingers off on the cement as she crouched back down near the stranger. She took a few calming breaths and reached the same hand out to feel for a pulse, which was still relatively strong. She began to search the man's pockets for some form of identification, but there wasn't any. There was something else, though.
She felt the end of a small, wooden stick poking out of the man's trouser pocket and recognized it instantly. So the man was a wizard. She couldn't fathom why he'd gotten into a bar fight with a bunch of Muggles, and she was especially confused about why he hadn't used his wand to defend himself. Sure, it would've been a headache for the Ministry if he'd performed magic on them, but it had clearly been a life-or-death situation. Now, Hermione would have to figure out some way to get him to St. Mungo's, preferably without using her wand. She leaned back on her heels and began to think.
"They gone?" asked a weak voice from below her, and she looked down to see that the man had opened his eyes.
"Yes, they're gone," she said, patting the man's shoulder. "Do you know where you are?"
The man turned his head and spat out a mouthful of blood. "Duke of York Street," he said, and she was both relieved and surprised to note that he was coherent.
"Yes, good, that's right. What is your name?"
"Andrew Jones." He spat out more blood, but there was a lot less this time. She crouched down lower, right next to his shoulder.
"Why didn't you use your wand?" she whispered. His head whipped around to look her in the face. He gave a loud cry of pain at the sudden motion, and then he gave an even louder cry of surprise, and then he began to try and scoot himself away from her across the pavement. All the while he was still yelling and carrying on in a hoarse voice.
"Oh, fuck, no, fuck! Not you! Fuck!" He tried to reach his hand into his wand pocket, and she dove to stop him.
"Andrew, no! You're way too weak to do that right now – you could kill yourself!" She managed to wrestle his wand out of his hand and pocket it next to her own, which wasn't overly difficult due to his weakened state. His eyes grew angry, and he looked at her like she was the scum of the Earth, and suddenly something registered in the back of her mind. She knew this man. She lifted up a corner of his shirt to wipe at his face, and he didn't try to stop her. She only needed to wipe off the area around his eyes before she figured out who it was and yanked her hand away.
He spat out more blood and looked at her contemptuously. "Hi, Granger," he said. "Going to finish me off?"
She stood up and crossed her arms across her chest. "I don't have time," she informed him. How utterly arrogant of him, to think that she still cared enough to go to Azkaban for his murder. "Maybe someone else will," she added. Then, she turned around and walked back to up her flat, keeping his wand just in case.
Well, walking back to the flat wasn't as smooth a process as the previous sentence may have implied. Hermione dragged her feet, weighed down with guilt. She'd just walked away from a dying man. It didn't matter who it was – that was just simply the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, Malfoy got himself into this situation, and he deserved it, and he hadn't asked for her help. He might not even need it. Yes, there was no obligation for Hermione to assist him. She'd just finish getting ready so she wouldn't be late to her date. When she arrived back in her bedroom, she peeked out the window again, and Malfoy was in the exact same spot on the ground. He placed a hand to his forehead and made a halfhearted attempt at getting up, but it was unsuccessful, and he laid his head back down on the pavement, presumably to wait for death. But Hermione didn't care.
Oh, God, that was such a lie. She was freaking out. She hadn't seen Malfoy since the War, but she knew his story. She knew how he'd been coerced into doing what he'd done, and she knew what his mother did for Harry, and whether she thought he was a prick or not, he didn't deserve to die alone in an alley behind a pub. She turned away from the window, and then she looked back. There was nothing for it: she'd have to go and help him. This time, she changed into flat shoes and threw a jacket over her shoulders, and then she marched back outside to stand over Malfoy's prone form.
"Oh, come on, Granger. Make up your mind," he said.
"I have. I've decided that I will place one Floo call on your behalf. Who should I call to come collect you?" she asked. She had no desire to accompany Malfoy to St. Mungo's, so hopefully someone else would come to pick him up discreetly and take care of him.
He thought for a moment. "Call Astoria Greengrass. Tell her I got in another fight. She'll tell you that's the last straw, and she never wants to see me again. Tell her I don't give a shit, and she can find some other rich bloke to marry."
"Excuse me? You're bleeding to death in Muggle London, and you want me to break up with your girlfriend for you? Don't you want someone to bring you to hospital?" In the context of the situation, it was ironic that she was the one sounding hysterical.
"Not really, no. I'd be fine if you'd just give me back my wand. I bet I can still catch those wankers."
"You're not going to do that."
She was already out here, and she'd already made the decision not to let him die, so she'd have to take matters into her own hands. Nigel would understand that it was a life-or-death situation if she had to postpone their date. She bent forward to help him up, and he resisted, but eventually she managed to get his arm around her shoulders and drag him inside the building. Once in the stairwell, she surveyed the damage and cast a few minor healing spells so he could make it up to her flat. After he was feeling better, he was even more reluctant to come with her, and she had to hold him at wandpoint just to get him up the stairs.
"Nice flat," he said. "Really prime location." She rolled her eyes; sarcasm was not necessary.
"Stand still," she ordered, and then she used her wand to clean the rest of the blood off him. "Now lay down on the couch." To her surprise, he complied quietly, and she was able to heal the wounds on the back of his head and his face. She decided to leave the bruises on his arms and presumably his chest, because she didn't want to take off his shirt and also he deserved it.
"Thanks, Granger. I'm going to go finish this," he said, making to head out the door.
She lifted her wand and cast a leg-locker curse on him, and he fell rigidly to the floor in her entryway.
Just then, the doorbell rang. She moved around Malfoy's body and opened the door a crack.
"Hi, are you ready?" Nigel asked. Then, he noticed the blood on her jacket and her hands and in her hair, and his eyes went wide with panic. "What happened to you?"
"Oh, it's not mine," she said. "Look, I think we're going to have to do this another time. Something's come up." He looked hurt and more than a little bit confused.
"Erm, all right. I guess it must be really important." He was trying to peek around her into the flat, but she knew he couldn't see Malfoy from his angle.
"It is. Sorry!"
"So, I'll owl you to reschedule, then," he said.
"Sure. I have to go deal with this," she said shortly before closing the door in his face. She'd sort of been looking forward to this date, so the relief she felt at sending Nigel away came as a surprise. All she had to do was see his face, and she began to feel restless and bored. He really wasn't a very interesting bloke, which was probably good for her at this point, but she had to admit she'd wanted something a little more exciting. She looked back down at Malfoy, who was scowling up at her ceiling.
"You didn't have to break off your date on account of me, Granger. You healed me, so why don't you just let me go?" he asked, and it was a good question.
"You were going to go after those Muggles and get yourself killed."
"What's it to you?"
"Your death would be on my head," she said. "I don't want to go the rest of my life knowing that you died because I didn't help you."
"That makes sense. It's not like anybody gives a shit if I'm alive. When I die, there will be a modest crowd at my funeral, and half of them will feel guilty and the other half will be disappointed because they wanted something from me and never got it," he said. She could tell he was still drunk, so she levitated him back over to her couch, electing not to respond.
"Stay here tonight and sleep it off. When you're sober, I'll release the curse and you can go home."
He didn't respond, and she watched him for a second before going back to her room. She carefully stripped off her blood-stained clothing and cleaned it as best she could, and then she went to take a shower. As the blood ran in pink streaks out of her hair, she tried to figure out what on earth she was going to do with Malfoy in the morning.