New story! I own nothing!
It was difficult to take a deep breath. With the labored rise and fall of her chest, Hermione Granger played back the events from just moments ago. Along with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, they searched the Room of Hidden Things for one of the final horcruxes that would help to bring about the demise of Lord Voldemort, the scourge of the wizarding world. It was soon after Harry spotted Ravenclaw's diadem when Draco Malfoy and his goons decided to launch their own attack on the Golden Trio.
It was an ill-cast Fiendfyre curse performed by Crabbe that had them fleeing the Room of Requirement for the sweet, clean oxygen the hallway provided. Slowly, as her breathing regained a normal speed, Hermione opened her eyes to survey the damage. The wall in front of her was charred black from the smoke and fire, and part of her wondered if the magically hidden room would ever appear again. To her left, Harry and Ron were slumped against a wall struggling to catch their breath. A murderous look crossed Ron's face, his skin color matching that of his fiery red hair. Hermione turned to her right to see what Ron glared at, and saw Draco Malfoy slumped over the lifeless body of his friend, Crabbe.
With a short glance back to her friends, Hermione stood slowly on shaking legs and moved closer to Malfoy. She listened as he sobbed softly, not bothering to look at anyone but his friend. Placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, Hermione bent down beside him. "Draco?" she said quietly.
The blonde turned his head to the witch beside him. The sneer he had worn for seven years was gone. Dark circles formed underneath his pale, bloodshot gray eyes. Sweat beaded on his brow, causing locks of hair to stick to his alabaster skin. "I'm sorry," he whispered. Though whether the apology was for her or his deceased friend, Hermione wasn't sure.
"We have to get out of here," Hermione said, keeping her hand on his back. Draco had yet to shrug away from her touch or insult her for deigning to run her mudblood hands over his skin. He shook his head, clutching Crabbe's robes tighter in his hands. "We have to before we get attacked again. We'll come back for him. I promise."
"Hermione, someone's coming," Ron hissed, pressing himself against the wall so he would be out of sight. She looked back at her friend and nodded. Hurried footsteps approached their quiet corner, and when Hermione looked back at Draco he had resumed his mourning position.
"Draco, please," she whispered, taking hold his shoulders to force him to face her. "We have to go."
Tiredly, Draco shook his head. "They're Death Eaters, they won't kill me. And if they do, I deserve it. You and your friends should get out of here. Good luck, Granger."
"Yeah, you too." With one final worried glance back at the suffering boy, Hermione and her friends took off in the opposite direction. A small alcove provided temporary protection as the trio fought to catch their breath. They listened quietly for any approaching fighters, but silence loomed.
It was Ron's harsh whisper that was heard in the quiet. "What the bloody hell was that all about, Hermione?" Feigning innocence, she quietly asked to what he was referring. Ron's face darkened as he stared down his best friend. "Malfoy nearly got us all killed, and you decide to comfort him?"
"Crabbe almost got us killed," Hermione corrected him.
"Malfoy wasn't exactly an innocent party in the attack," Harry pointed out.
Hermione sighed. "He just lost his best friend. I would hope someone would comfort me at a time like that, even if it is the enemy." She didn't afford either of the boys the chance to reply before slipping out of their hiding place. They separated as Harry exited the castle, making his way to the Forbidden Forest at Voldemort's request. The fighting had ceased, at least for the time being.
The Great Hall, the once loud, jovial space, was now set up with a triage center and more bodies lined up in rows that anyone would have cared for. Friends and loved ones were mourned, the wounded were treated, and Hermione waited with bated breath to learn the fate of her best friend.
"Harry Potter is dead," came the great snake-like hiss of the Dark Lord. A great swarm of people fled the Great Hall, pushing past one another to be the first one to catch a glimpse of the Boy Who Hadn't Lived. Hermione stood numbly by the large wooden doors, fearful that the declaration was true. A hand grazing her arm jolted her from her frozen state.
She turned her head slightly around and caught Malfoy smiling sadly at her.
"It'll be fine. Go," he assured her, giving her a small nudge forward. With a nod she started toward the front steps of the magnificent castle. Another hand, a different one, pulled her towards the front of the crowd. There before them all stood Hagrid, his giant form towering over the proud Death Eaters around him. In his arms lay a lifeless Harry Potter. It never registered in her mind who held her, but Hermione sought the comfort of those arms as she cried for the loss of her best friend.
A gasp rose up a minute later. "Mione, look," she heard Neville Longbottom say as he tugged on her dirty and torn shirt sleeve. She slowly lifted her weary head, seeing that she was held by Ron for the first time, and then looked in the direction in which Neville pointed.
Harry was gone.
A swell of hope arose in Hermione's heart; Harry might still be alive. Minutes later the battle began again with renewed vigor. The fighting was fierce and brutal. All around, both the good and bad fell as they were struck by curses. Then the shouting stopped and all was quiet. Every pair of eyes focused on the two sole figures in the middle of the battle. Harry Potter and Voldemort stood with wands raised, pointed at one another. Flashes of brilliant light erupted from each man's wand as they each shouted a curse.
Harry sunk to the stone flooring, exhausted and relieved that the battle had finally ended. Classmates, teachers, friends, and loved ones cheered and congratulated Harry as he sat in a daze, hearing little of what was said. Soon after the celebratory mood faded, a somber one took its place as the wounded were tended to and the deceased laid out for identification. As the Weasleys stood beside a wounded Fred, Hermione took the opportunity to slip out for fresh air. She kept her sights trained straight ahead as there were only so many fallen comrades she could bear to face.
The front doors of the Hogwarts castle were open, allowing a light breeze to pass through the entryway. Hermione closed her eyes and sighed, breathing in the air. Her feet carried her down the steps, along the front walk, and directed her towards the Black Lake. The lights from the castle never reached as far as the lake, and Hermione wandered in blackness until she could see the lapping waves of the water. She sunk down beside a large tree and closed her eyes. In the silence, Hermione could hear the rustling and crunching of grass underfoot.
Without opening her eyes, Hermione said, "Hi, Draco."
The blonde chuckled quietly as he sat down beside her. "What are you doing out here?" he asked, shifting closer.
"Trying to forget," Hermione replied, leaning her head against his shoulder. "Although, I'm not sure that will ever be possible."
Draco nodded in agreement. At such a young age, they had already seen too many horrors; too much death and destruction to ever lead normal lives again.
"What's going to happen now?" he wondered, staring out into the night. When he felt the vacancy of the head that previously rested on his shoulder, he looked down. "I mean, not just with us. I wonder what's going to happen to our world, my parents, my friends, your friends."
"I don't know," she whispered. Standing, Hermione moved closer to the water's edge. It was a welcome distraction watching the movement of the tide. She didn't want to think at the moment. It hurt too much and wore her out. Turning back, Hermione looked at Draco still seated beneath the oak tree. His head fell forward as blonde hair draped across his forehead, obscuring his face from view. His long arms rested on his bent knees.
Hermione moved back and knelt in front of him, resting a hand on his right forearm. It was with that one little touch that Draco looked up. His left hand moved to cover the hand that held his arm. "I don't want to lose you."
"You won't," she assured him.
Draco shook his head and pulled away. "I could. I was a Death Eater. That could earn me a very long stay in Azkaban. It took us long enough to stop hating each other, and it could all be over tomorrow."
Hermione thought back to the day in their sixth year when everything changed between them. She had been in the library late at night. Sleep deprivation was starting to sink in as she poured over her books and wrote her essays. She thought the strange noises coming from the stacks were just her imagination until she wandered over to find Draco Malfoy broken down. When he looked up, terror ghosted past his aristocratic features. Not once did he call her a mudblood or tell her to sod off. His tears dried and sobs turned to hiccups, and the whole time they sat there she talked. She told him about her classes, even the ones he had with her. She complained about Harry's new found proclivity for potions. She even let it slip that Cormac McClaggen's flirting tactics terrified her.
He never spoke of the task he'd been given by the Dark Lord. Hermione wasn't the type to accuse him of joining the dark side, and that assuaged his nerves. He was willing to listen to whatever drivel she spouted off. They met in the library every night for weeks after that first time. Most nights they did their schoolwork together, comparing answers and sharing class notes. Some nights they talked, and even once she coaxed a smile out of the Slytherin.
During the year she spent on the run, Hermione missed those late night sessions. Often she thought about him as sleep claimed her tired mind. She wondered how Draco fared living under the same roof with Voldemort. She wondered if he was safe, if he'd been forced to commit the unspeakable acts she knew he didn't want to commit. Often she wondered if they would ever see each other again.
When they did meet again, after she, Harry, and Ron were captured by snatchers and taken to Malfoy Manor, Hermione had momentarily breathed a sigh of relief that Draco was fine. His gray eyes were filled with worry and pleaded with her to keep quiet. He refused to identify them as the Golden Trio. They were separated after that. Harry and Ron were led to the dungeons beneath the grand mansion, and Hermione remained with the wand of Bellatrix Lestrange trained on her shaking form. She was interrogated and tortured, but refused to break. In one of the rare moments of lucidity, their eyes connected. Steely gray eyes watered before Draco could no longer bear to watch. Minutes later she was gone from that terrible scene and awoke at Shell Cottage.
It wasn't until the meeting in the Room of Requirement that Hermione saw Draco again. He was thinner, looked more tired than the last time they had met, and a frightened look was etched into his fine facial features. It took all her will to hate the scared boy in front of her as he sneered and sent curses flying at her friends.
"What are you thinking about?"
Hermione snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the whispered question. Looking up she smiled softly and shook her head. "It's nothing," she replied. Silence lapsed as the pair stared out at the lake. Draco moved back to lean against the tree, and pulled Hermione closer to his side. His arm wound around her shoulders before he looked down at her. Her eyes closed as she inhaled the night air and leaned into him. Draco felt the unfamiliar twitch of a smile on his lips. The smile fell as Hermione pulled away. "We should go back. Someone's bound to miss us."
She stood, brushing grass and dirt from her already ruined jeans. Draco followed, and reached out a hand to stop her. "Wait, just before we go back," he started, moving closer to her. His free hand brushed her cheek, tracing over a cut that marred her soft skin. She looked up hesitantly, nervous about what he may do. Closing his eyes, Draco lowered his head until he felt his lips brush gently over her own. The kiss was soft and sweet, it didn't last long at all. "Just in case I never get the chance to do that in the future," he added, caressing her cheek with his thumb.
"Everything will work out for the best," she assured him. Slowly, they pulled away, and Draco allowed Hermione a two minute head start. He watched as she ascended the stairs, and knew that things would never be the same again.