Part 7.

The seventh time Draco Malfoy touched Hermione Granger occurred exactly two months, nine days, twelve hours, and thirty eight minutes after Voldemort fell. The losses on both sides were high, and those who lived celebrated while grieving. Hermione Granger's grief went deep - so deep that she never thought she would escape it. Harry was still in the hospital, healing and sleeping, while his grief tore him to pieces. With the fighting done, he was unsure of where his place in the wizarding world was anymore. He needed time and love, both of which he was receiving from those who knew him best.

Ron had yet to stray far from Harry's side. While the three of them were best friends, it was Ron who was closest to Harry now. Ron, who Harry turned to in the night, while guilt and grief wore him down and made him question every action and word he had uttered over the last nine years since starting out at Hogwarts. Ron, who reassured the Boy who Triumphed. The boy he simply called Harry. And in that isolated bubble of grief, Hermione let herself fade into the background. Because while Harry and Ron lived, it was the other names that had shattered her heart.

Seamus Finnegan. Hannah Abbott. Alicia Spinnet. Alastor 'Mad eye' Moody. Severus Snape. Minerva McGonagall. Dean Thomas. Colin Creevey. Viktor Krum. All dead. And Hermione bore each death as a personal wound, a gash that bled and bled and bled. Each person had meant something to her - meant more to her than just a name in the papers. The deaths were hard enough to bear - the list was continuous. Worse, were those who were missing.

Katie Bell was missing - presumed dead. Marcus Flint was missing - presumed dead. Fred Weasley was missing - presumed dead. Padma Patil was missing - presumed dead. Oliver Wood was missing - presumed dead. Luna Lovegood was missing - presumed dead. Neville Longbottom was missing - presumed dead. And Draco Malfoy was missing - presumed dead. Missing - no trace of. No bodies. Only the broken fragments of wands that had been found on the battle field after the final blow to Voldemort's reign of terror.

Hermione lay in the bed she had shared with Draco for the last six months, and squeezed the pillow tightly as she desperately tried to muffle the sounds of her tears. The scent of him was fading from the linen, and she breathed in as deeply as she could. She could hear the faint sounds of Molly and Tonks talking with Remus. They were worried about her - she knew that. Even so, with the war over, she couldn't bring herself to care. She'd given everything she had within her and then some, and she had nothing left to give. She had her grief, and it was hers alone.

She wondered briefly as she lay in the dark, if she was losing her mind as Draco had so long ago. She could still hear his voice, whispering in her mind and murmuring into the curve of her throat. Could still recall what it felt like to be crushed under him, over him, around him as his eyes bore into hers while he caused her body to shatter time and time again with his. Could still see the way his eyes crinkled with amusement, as she blushed and stammered the morning after their first night together, after Harry had told Draco he'd better take care of her, or he'd introduce him to a completely new level of pain.

The vague pain in her stomach reminded her that she hadn't eaten in a few days, that she hadn't really left her bed for that length of time, either. Dragging herself slowly out of bed, she let her hand trail along the wall for support as she made her way slowly into the bathroom. Her head felt full of cotton wool, and wobbly on her shoulders, and she pressed her fingers against her temple in a vain attempt to stop her world spinning as she reached for the taps to turn the water on.

Climbing carefully into the tub, Hermione sat down as steaming water trickled down over lank hair and slumped shoulders. Bleary eyes were drawn to the slight indentation in the wall near the sink, and a tired smile crossed her face in memory of how that indentation had happened. Just because she and Draco had become lovers didn't mean that it was all sunshine and roses. They still fought, they still snarled, and she still threw things at him when she became lost for words in fury.

That particular indentation in the wall had occurred after a blistering fight, and she had stormed away from him. However, Draco being Draco, he had followed her, and the fight had continued into the bathroom, where she had gone toe-to-toe with him. Toe-to-toe, until he had grabbed her shoulders and slammed her against the wall. Anger and frustration at each other had resulted in torn clothes, and his hands pressing hers above her head in a show of strength and domination, his breath ragged in her ear as his anger manifested in a scorching round of sex.

Forced up onto the tips of her toes, his eyes had burned into hers. His mouth had been hard against hers, and his fingers had dug into her hips after he'd let her hands go and had abruptly spun her around and pushed her back against the wall. With his hands on her hips, he had broken down her walls the only way he knew how. Domination, softened by the moist, open mouthed kisses he had trailed along her throat and spine, and the calloused hands that slipped around her hips to cradle the soft skin of her tummy as he relaxed the speed of his hips, and turned fury into languid movements.

When she had finally shaken and then broken under those slow movements, he had pulled out of her, and led her to their room, where he continued to break down her walls. Not with words - not in that moment. It was in lacing their fingers together as she lay under him, her chest pressed his, and him laying over her. The way he would stop moving completely and kiss her, as if he had all the time in the world, even as he throbbed solidly within her.

The way he had gathered her close and struggled to his knees, putting them face to face. Sweat beaded on their skin, and caused strands of hair to stick to flushed skin as he shifted under her so that she wrapped her legs around his back. Sitting between his spread legs, he lifted and lowered her slowly, his lower lip caught between his teeth, and his eyes mere slits through which she caught flashes of silver. The muscles in his shoulders bunching under her hands, he'd stretched up to kiss her, lips trembling against hers as he lost himself within her.

And in that moment, caught in those silver eyes, Hermione gave to him what she'd never given to anyone before - her heart. Even with the final confrontation looming, they had spent the remainder of the night touching and taking from one another. Wrenching groans from hoarse throats, and tasting the flavour of love discovered admidst a time of blood and death. And as dawn broke across the sky, they had faced Voldemort and his followers. And Hermione had not seen Draco since a stream of magic had separated them.

The sound of the bathroom door opening caused her to lift her eyes slowly, and fresh tears to spill as Ron's face contorted with grief at the sight of her. And when he moved into the bathroom, and Harry limped through the door after him, Hermione Jean Granger finally broke. In an echo from so long ago, Harry climbed fully clothed into the tub, and gathered her close as she sobbed out fear and grief and the bitterest of anguish. And when she felt strong hands begin to wash her hair, she knew that Ron had joined them in the bath too.

Safe in the arms of the boys she had loved for so long, Hermione stopped fighting and simply let go. Tears continued to spill from blank eyes, as sure hands wrung the shampoo from her hair, and then moved to wash her skin. In the deepest recess of her mind, Hermione knew that she should be blushing and crossing her arms, but it was Harry and Ron - they had known her, since she had been a child, and breasts hadn't been the reason why they had become friends.

Washed clean, she was lifted from the tub and dried. Her hair was brushed and pulled into a messy ponytail as Ron muttered that he wasn't a hairdresser, and how the hell did she manage her hair everyday? She was dressed and held close on Harry's lap, as Ron lifted spoonful after spoonful of soup to her lips as Hermione stared beyond him, her movements mechanical as she ate.

She could hear Harry murmuring in her ear, but the words simply didn't register. The night turned to day turned to night turned to day, and Harry and Ron watched over her. Watched as she lay silently, her eyes vacant, and her heart breaking as she stared into a world they couldn't see. And when a newly married Marcus and Katie Flint stumbled into the house, they carried tales with them of being flung violently across the world after a newly formed Port-key spell had exploded amidst them. They'd woken up in Central Australia - wandless and with no money or means to get home.

Neville arrived three days later from China, telling the same tale. And slowly, slowly, the missing began to arrive. Luna and Padma arrived a week later, both sick from having been dumped in the French Alps in the middle of a snow storm. Padma didn't know what made her angrier - being dumped in the snow, or breaking each and every one of her nails getting out of there. And when Oliver arrived from Africa, he arrived with a healthy respect for lions and not being eaten.

And when Fred Weasley arrived from North Korea, a shadow slipped up the stairs as tears and celebrations flowed in the kitchen below. Hermione Jean Granger woke slowly, to the feeling of a calloused fingertip stroking the skin between her eyebrows. Blank eyes stared at the shadowy form who lay beside her, and she blinked slowly as a calloused hand cupped her jaw and chapped lips pressed against her own.

"Granger... Hermione…"

Hermione continued to blink slowly as her eyes travelled over tousled blond hair, and tired silver eyes. Over the newly healed scar that ran from temple to jaw. And she simply closed her eyes as she bent her head. Lost between dreams and reality, she did as she did every night, and rested her head against the chest of the phantom who shared her bed. Felt his arms close around her, and wished with everything she had that he would still be there when she woke in the morning, that today was the day she didn't wake alone.

Those same arms tightened as they always did, as she muffled her tears and tried to regain her footing. They tightened as she whispered how scared she was, how lost she was. Scarred hands smoothed her hair back as she confessed her fear and her love in the dark. Her fear for her sanity, and her love for a man she didn't know lived. Hands that soothed, arms that tightened, and lips that scattered warm kisses across hers as she wept. A low voice that whispered reassurance in her ear.

When dawn broke, when Hermione opened her eyes, she felt them fill as Draco stared back at her from where he lay beside her. Arms still locked around her, heart beating solidly under her ear, and the taste of love answered and grief lessened on his lips when he lifted up onto his elbow and bent his head to kiss her. And when Harry and Ron pushed open her door, they found her crying as Draco held her, his hands tangled in her hair, as she shook within his arms.

Ron simply slumped against he door, as Harry leaned against him, relief washing over them as they watched Draco rub his cheek over Hermione's as she gradually stopped crying and fell silent in healing sleep. Looking up, locking eyes with the men who had been his enemies as a boy, but were his family as a man, Draco sneered once, and glared at Ron.

"What the fuck did you do to her hair, Weasley? It's going to take me a lifetime to untangle it."

"A lifetime?" Harry asked quietly, and Draco shrugged.

"Who else is going to keep her in line?" he asked, and Harry blinked slowly as understanding washed over him.

"I, personally, couldn't think of anyone better for it," he murmured, and Harry saw the small smile that crossed Draco's face.

"Me either - but I'm not going to be the one who tells Molly."

Ron blinked, and then snorted as Draco smirked, before quiet laughter broke out. Moving into the room with Ron, Harry smiled as he shut the door to maintain privacy. And as he shut the door, he shut the door on his past. On Draco's past. And moved into the future they had all fought for. Together.