"Shall I tell you the story of Judas Iscariot?"
Draco stood still, knowing that if he was silent like this he could hear her voice, clear and crystal as though she was beside him.
Then he caught himself and cursed his wayward thoughts.
There was nothing he could do now. Pathetic wishes would not bring him anywhere, and besides, wasn't he the one who left her to her–
Fuck this, no, not again.
For a moment, the curious feeling of guilt that engulfed him enraged him further, because he had nothing to feel guilty for. Nothing, nothing, nothing.
"An eye for an eye, luv," he said. "You of all people should understand that."
"Shall I tell you the story of the ugly duckling? Once a mother duck had many eggs on her nest. One by one the eggs hatched, and all of them were perfect ducklings, until the last one came out of his shell. 'How ugly,' the mother duck thought, and so did the others that saw him. Time passed and the ugly duckling grew, but still he was despised for being so hideous. One day, he decided to run away, to a place where no one could hurt him and call him ugly. Weeks passed, and he was by himself, when a group of swans passed by him. They were all so lovely, a contrast to what he was. He thought of hiding, but too late; they had already spotted him. 'Oh, how beautiful you are!' one of the swans exclaimed. The ugly duckling could not believe it at first. 'But I am so ugly.' 'No, you are the fairest swan we have ever seen.' 'But I'm not a–' Then he chanced upon a reflection of himself in the water, and saw that indeed, he was a swan, and no longer ugly. He had changed, and no one would ever call him ugly again."
"You came," he said softly, as she appeared in the room they shared.
"You called," she replied simply.
Draco immediately stood when he spotted her face; she was tired and it worried him. "Are you all right, luv?"
Hermione smiled weakly. "I'm just..." Then she looked at him through hooded eyes and shook her head. "It's nothing."
Draco guided her towards the bed. "Then lie down and sleep."
She gratefully squeezed his hands.
"I have something for you, though, to help you rest better," he said, and went to the kitchen. A minute later, he came out with a steaming cup of tea.
"Thank you," she said, pushing herself up until she was sitting. Hermione took the cup from him and greedily sipped. "This is wonderful. Just what I needed."
"Well." Draco modestly shrugged. "I am great at this kind of things."
She chuckled. "Humble, too. I do wonder, though." Hermione looked up at him and said, "Are you acting like this because you want something from me?"
For a moment, he was taken aback. Recovering quickly, he dragged a finger down her smooth cheek and said, in mock seriousness, "I always want something from you. But not now. You're tired. Get some rest."
"Mmm. Maybe tomorrow, then. You know..." She adjusted her pillow and said, "Harry's been asking me where I was when I'm not with them. I told him, short of sticking his he-knows-what-he-knows-where, that what I do with my time is my business."
"Then why don't you tell them you're with me?"
Her eyes rounded. "Are you mad? If I do that, they'll know where I'm hiding you. They'll catch you and put you in Azkaban and--" She shook her head. "I can't do that. I know you're good, Malfoy. I know it."
Draco smirked. "Perhaps 'good' is too much a term to describe me."
"Maybe," Hermione acquiesced with a smile. "Maybe." And soon her eyes were closed and she was asleep.
He sat on the chair beside the bed, and for a few minutes Draco watched her. She looked sweet and vulnerable, so much different from the know-it-all he thought her to be. He tucked an errant hair away from her face, then bent to kiss her lips. He felt them move slightly beneath his, and he pulled away.
She was susceptible now. She would give all the information he wanted, without the memory of doing so in the morning.
Draco gripped the handles of the chair, unable to ask the first question. Ask her! Fuck it, get this over with!
He opened his mouth, and nothing came out.
This was supposed to be easy. It was easy before, with the likes of Abbott and Bones. He could do it without a second thought. He could do it without his fucking conscience bothering him. But now...
He could do this. He would do this.
"Tell me the location of the order," he said, and how he abhorred the shaking of his voice as he did. "Tell me where Potter is right now."
She rolled to one side and murmured her answers.
Draco took off, armed with the information she gave him. But still he was bothered, and for a moment he thought of telling the others that he never got anything out of her this time.
But if he did, his mother...
Fuck. Granger was supposed to be just another source. Another subject that, when the right time came, would be disposed of.
Not if I can help it.
The thought made him pause, and caused a bitter laugh to escape from his lips.
Being with Hermione made him hate himself for earning her trust and abusing her as he had done.
But not her.
"Shall I tell you the story of the boy who cried wolf? Once there was a lazy boy who was tasked to watch over several sheep. 'If you ever spot a wolf, call us and we'll come to aid you,' they told him. Being naturally mischievous, he thought of amusing himself. 'Wolf, wolf!' he cried. And the men came running, bearing axes and swords. But they saw no wolf; only the laughing boy. Enraged, they said, 'Don't ever do that again!' and they left. A few hours passed. 'Wolf, wolf!' cried the boy again. And the men came rushing towards him. Again, there was no wolf. They shook their heads and left. Then, when the sun was about to set, the boy started to head for home, when he spotted a huge shadow lurking in the depths. Then he spotted two hungry eyes. 'Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!' he cried terribly afraid. But no longer was he heeded by the men. 'He is jesting again,' they thought. And soon, all the sheep were devoured by the hungry wolf, while the boy watched in terror."
The manor doors flew open and in stepped a group of Death Eaters, headed by an enraged Bellatrix Lestrange.
"You!" Her finger shook as it settled in front of Draco's face. "Useless information is what you've fed us. 'The Order resides in an abandoned house at Diagon Alley,' you say. What lies! What absolute lies!"
Draco glanced at his mother, before responding, "I have given you what the Mudblood told me," he stated clearly. "Dear Aunt Bella. If there's anything useless, perhaps you should consider the potion you've provided me."
For a moment, the woman could not utter a sound. "Such grave insolence," she muttered, voice shaking. "How dare you!"
"But quite possible, don't you agree?" asked Narcissa, smiling fondly at her son.
Bellatrix threw a dark look at her sister. "What I think is also possible is that your son is lying to us," she said, raising her chin and glaring at Draco. Then her expression changed and she smiled at him. "Fallen in love with your subject, have you my boy? Is that why you don't want us to kill her friends?"
Draco looked at her through hooded eyes. "Believe what you want, I don't care. I am doing my orders, something that can't be said about you. I wonder though... how many members of the Order have you killed today, dear aunt?"
Bellatrix nearly drew her wand out, but with great effort she regained her composure and said, "Mind your mouth, boy, or I shall shut it for you." She deposited herself in front of Narcissa. "My dear, how can you stomach such a vile task given to your son? Imagine, him cavorting with a Mudblood. How do you sleep at night?"
Draco gritted his teeth and looked away.
Narcissa gave the faintest of shrugs. "I do not doubt the Dark Lord, or his methods. I am proud that he deemed my son worthy of the task, as much as Lucius is." She reached for Draco's hand and squeezed. "The Dark Lord knows my son's potential very well."
"Even if it meant taking away your freedom to ensure his success?"
Narcissa said nothing, a gracious smile fixed on her face.
"I thought so." Bellatrix snorted. "This task is, to me, a waste of valuable time. What I don't understand is that, given the fact that Draco is already in contact with this woman, why can't we just grab her and dangle her in front of the Potter boy? That way, he will come to us." Bellatrix gritted her teeth. "And the Dark Lord can finally do away with him, with all of them."
"How crude of you, Bella," Narcissa murmured softly, the very picture of sobriety and cool elegance. "I'm sure we can have more use for the girl than that."
Bellatrix stood. "Use. Ha! For a Mudblood ?" She nearly shook with revulsion. "Crude though my plan be, it is still effective. I shall give you only a few days more, boy." She shook her fingers in front of Draco again. "A few days and no more than that. If your information is still useless then I will proceed with my 'crude' plans." Bellatrix waited several terse seconds for Narcissa to stop her, but when the latter didn't she sent a triumphant smile at Draco. "I guess I'll have my pleasure soon, then."
"Perhaps," Draco told her. "We'll never know for now, dear Aunt Bella. Perhaps I will kill her before you do."
Bellatrix approached him slowly, laid a heavy hand on his shoulder and brutally squeezed. "I pray you will, nephew. For your mother's sake." To the other Death Eaters she ordered, "Lock her up and don't let her go until I tell you to."
"Shall I tell you the story of the bamboo? Once there was a tall and beautiful bamboo standing proudly in a park. The gardener who owned him came up to him and said, 'My friend, I need you.' 'Then sir, use me as you wish.' 'But I have to split you in half for me to use you.' The bamboo was horrified, but then he bowed his head. 'Do as you wish,' he said softly. 'My friend, I will also cut off your branches and leaves.' 'Please, spare me my beauty! Anything but that,' the bamboo cried. 'But I cannot use you if I don't,' said the gardener. Once more, the bamboo said, 'Do as you wish.' 'My dear bamboo, I also need to take your heart and insides. If I don't, I will have no use of you.' The bamboo bent all the way to the ground and said, 'Sir, do as you wish.' So the gardener cut down the bamboo, removed the leaves and branches, split him in half and removed the insides. He then used him to bring water from springs to parched lands. It was then, when the bamboo had died, that he had been a great blessing to the others."
Draco was hastily summoned late one night. He rolled out of bed, kissed Hermione on the cheek, and left.
He was bothered, because there was something Pansy wasn't telling him when he received her summon. It was rare for the girl to be quiet, and at the moment she made contact she couldn't quite look at him in the eye.
"Go to your house, Draco. Right this instant. There's something... I... just go, now."
And when he arrived, he knew.
The impeccable manor was in shambles, with overturned furniture and bloodstained walls. A fierce battle had ensued earlier that day, when the Order attacked the house without preamble. The entire left wing had burned down, with only embers as its remnants. The right wing was filled with bodies of both ally and enemy.
At one corner, he spotted a Weasley. Good . The other, he saw a Nott. He didn't care. For too long he was told of the possibility of death; this was after all a bloody war , and–
He stopped cold at the sight of one body sprawled in the master's bedroom.
His mother, bound, gagged...
And Draco saw no more.
"Shall I tell you the story of Judas Iscariot? Once there was a prophet who had twelve disciples with him. They went anywhere with him, and preached His good news. This prophet made many enemies all around, because His teachings were contrary to what they themselves taught. They came up with a plan to finally get rid of him, so they approached one of the disciples and offered him thirty pieces of silver to betray his master. Taken by temptation, Judas did betray him, with a kiss on his cheek. After this, the master was killed in front of many. Then Judas, overcome with guilt, hanged himself. To this day, they said that in hell's core resides this disciple, for no greater sin was there than to betray another being."
Draco silently sat on the chair beside the bed. He waited for her to come back, because he wanted to see her. He needed to see her.
A sound alerted him to her presence, but he didn't move.
"Draco..." she said softly, coming to stand beside him. Hermione placed a hand over his arm. "Draco, I'm sorry."
Of course she knew what had happened. But he had to maintain his cover, and it was a struggle. "What happened?"
And she told him.
Dully, he asked, "Were you there?"
She bid her time in answering. "Yes," she carefully, finally said.
He swallowed the lump in his throat. "How did... did my mother die quickly?"
Hermione glanced away. "Ron said she did."
Lies! They took their time in killing her!
At that, he looked at her, saw guilt burning bright in her eyes. "You're safe," Draco muttered. He placed one hand on her cheek. "You're here. That's what's important."
Hermione smiled at him, her lips trembling.
Draco stood, his wand still pointed at her. He yanked his arm off her hold. "Sorry? Will that bring back my mother?" Draco placed his hands on her neck. Knowing she could still hear him, he murmured, "I could have forgiven you if you weren't there. I could've forgiven you if you'd saved my mother. But no, you let her die. You let your friends kill her. For that... every one of you will pay. Starting with you." He squeezed her neck. "We have grand plans for you, luv. Such grand plans." He heard popping sounds from behind him, and knew that the other Death Eaters had arrived. Draco was about to leave her to his dear Aunt Bella, when a thought crossed his mind.
"How did your story go, Granger? The one with the betrayer? Ah, yes. Judas betrayed the prophet with a kiss on the cheek."
And he gave her one.
"Shall I tell you the story of Judas Iscariot?"
There it was, her voice clear and crystal as the wind.
"But I already know the story, luv," Draco murmured. "I've lived it."
And he left the cemetery.
- end -