a/n: Thanks to the people on tumblr who responded to my request for song ideas! I listened to Sanders Bohlke - The Weight of Us, Aqualung - I Fall, and (not my choice, but a favour to a friend, and the lyrics are good for this chapter…) D-side - Real World.
Chapter 27: Truth.
Draco gawped at Luna Lovegood like she had just predicted the day he would die. The seemingly innocent blonde flicked her eyes from Blaise over to him, and she had a slight bend to her smile that suddenly seemed deliberate and intuitive, as though she had purged his mind and kept all his secrets for leverage. And then she blinked and turned her back to them, idly washing her hands in the sink and humming under her breath like the ditzy girl he'd always assumed she was.
He moved his baffled stare to Blaise, who was now wearing a subtle smirk and the telling look of a man who had answers. Draco frowned and risked a glance at Theo, expecting to see a similar expression of cocky recognition, but he looked just as confused as Draco felt.
"What are you on about, Lovegood?" Theo asked over his shoulder.
"Nothing," she replied breezily.
Theo arched a dark eyebrow. "Looks like she's having one of her funny turns again," he mumbled, and his head jolted forward when Blaise dealt him a firm smack to the base of his skull. "OW! What the hell-
"Mind your mouth," his friend warned quietly. "You're such a gobby prick-
"You need to gain a sense of humour, sunshine-
"I swear on Salazar's grave, Theo-
"I was going to start some of the washing," Luna announced, and again, Draco observed the clenched muscles in Blaise's face relax. "Would one of you mind helping me? I could do with an extra set of hands."
"Sorry, Lovegood," Theo shrugged, nodding his head at Draco. "We're in the middle of something-
"Theo, go and give Luna a hand," Blaise interrupted. "I want to talk to Malfoy alone."
"What? Why the hell should you-
"Because you're getting on my nerves and you might as well do something useful," he grumbled, tilting his head and catching Luna's eyes for a brief moment with an almost apologetic twitch of his lips. "I'm serious, Theo. Give me an hour and then you can hassle Malfoy all you like-
"Theo, stop bitching like a first year Hufflepuff," he warned. "Either go and help Luna, or I'll have 'Dromeda confiscate your wand again."
Theo fired Blaise an irate glare and growled, smacking his palms down on the table and brusquely leaving his seat with a piercing screech of his chair and a muttered list of profanities under his breath. "One hour," he bit out, making his way towards the door. "And remind me to spit in your food later for being such a wanker. Come on, Lovegood."
"Why would you remind him to spit in your food?" Luna asked as she made to follow him. "Seems like a silly thing to say."
"He says a lot of shit," Blaise mumbled, reaching out to brush his fingers against her forearm before she slipped past. "If he behaves like a tosser; Petrify him, lock him in a cupboard or something, and I'll deal with it afterwards."
"Okay," she nodded with smiling eyes, and Draco almost choked on the air when she lifted a hand to gently touch Blaise's cheek. "You look a little stressed. Have some of that herbal tea I bought you."
"Maybe later," he agreed, his eyes lingering on Luna's back as she retreated out of the room. With the closing click of the door, his features quickly morphed back into a stern frown, and he met Draco with a cautionary stare. "Wipe that look off your face, Malfoy-
"You and Lovegood?" he blurted incredulously. "What the fuck was that?"
"It's none of your business unless I decide otherwise-
"Shut it," he snapped. "I'm not prepared to discuss the details of my relationship with Luna with you just yet-
"And if you knew I was in Hogwarts, then why ask me?"
"To see if you would tell the truth," Blaise said calmly, the words slow and deliberate. "Would you have told the truth?"
"Why should I?" he retorted. "You're not being honest with me-
"I have been nothing but honest with you, Malfoy. I told you we had defected-
"Yes, but you haven't explained why," he interrupted. "You haven't explained how you all got here. And what the hell is Lovegood doing here if this is a safe-house for people who have defected?"
Blaise rubbed his lips together with thought and released a long breath. "Luna's here because she and her father have been helping 'Dromeda to keep us hidden."
"Right, then what about you and the others?"
Another thoughtful pause. "Theo and I came here a few weeks after you went missing. Davis and Bulstrode had already been here a couple of weeks, and Bletchley came a few days after Theo and I-
"Yes, but how-
"Dumbledore approached me in sixth year when he saw me putting my fist through a window," he continued, smirking when Draco's eyebrows shot up. "Come on, Malfoy. Did you honestly think you were the only Slytherin Dumbledore was keeping an eye on? The world doesn't revolve around you, you know-
"What the fuck?" Draco scowled, clenching his fists until his knuckles clicked. "That doesn't make any sense. Last year you-
"Are you going to shut your gob and let me explain, or not?" Blaise snapped, waiting until Draco sat back in his seat before he resumed. "I didn't listen to Dumbledore straight away but…," he hesitated and cleared his throat. "But when I saw how fucked up you were after taking the Mark, I knew I didn't want to end up like you-
"So he asked me to keep an eye on you," he revealed in a measured tone. "He knew what you'd been told to do, and he'd hoped you would back out of your…mission, but he knew you were determined. That's why he left a couple of signs; hoping you would defect before it was too late-
"Signs?" Draco repeated. "What signs?"
"Who do you think asked Myrtle to talk to you in the toilets?" he remarked flippantly. "Did you think it was a coincidence that the Muggle-born ghost just always happened to be around? And why do you think Snape was always there to bail you out of trouble?"
"You're serious?" Draco breathed in shock, but he quickly veiled it with a snarl. "And I guess Theo was spying on me for Dumbledore too?"
"No," he replied, shaking his head. "After you took the Mark, all the Death Eaters started volunteering their kids too to boost numbers for You-Know-Who's army, and Theo's father jumped right on the bandwagon. When I found Theo having a breakdown in his room, I told him to see Dumbledore, but it took a lot of convincing-
"Hang on a minute," Draco mumbled absently. "You said you came here after I disappeared, but Dumbledore was dead-
"I was getting to that," Blaise cut him off. "A few days after you vanished, my village bike of a mother made Theo's dad husband number eight-
"What? You and Theo are step-brothers?"
"Technically, yes," Blaise nodded, rolling his heavy brown eyes. "But we reckon with my mother's track record as a seven-time widow, it won't last long. Anyway, Theo's father is a huge prick and elected both Theo and I to take the Mark. We did a runner and Dumbledore must have told McGonagall that he'd spoken to us because the Knight Bus took us to some house in Essex, and she was waiting for us. She brought us to 'Dromeda, and we've been here since."
"Bloody hell," he murmured. "But it's just you five? What about Crabbe and Goyle, or Pansy?"
"Crabbe and Goyle are doing the only thing they're good at; following orders," Blaise remarked with a hint of disgust. "They're probably bent over a desk right now and spreading their cheeks. As for Parkinson, the last I heard she had opted herself for the Mark and was helping her dear old Daddy with rounding up Muggle-borns."
Draco felt a surge of disappointment. His former classmates and lover had always been weak-willed - hell, that was what had initially made them such useful allies - but he was suddenly aware of how much the dynamics and circumstances had changed since he'd been in Hogwarts. "Bugger me," he whispered. "Pansy took the Mark?"
"Are you honestly that surprised?"
"No," he admitted after a moment, dropping his face into his hands and massaging his throbbing temple.. "This is all just…fucked up."
"You wanted the truth, so there it is," Blaise reminded him, leaning forward in his chair with intrigue. "So, now it's your turn to be honest."
"You already know I was at Hogwarts," Draco sighed, his voice muffled against his palms. "What else could you possibly want to know?"
"How about what you were doing with Hermione Granger on Christmas day by the Black Lake," he countered, his lips tilting into a very Slytherin smirk, and Draco's head snapped up so quick his neck cracked. "Oh yes. Luna mentioned that as well."
She'd needed to get of her room, and the kitchen felt less claustrophobic with its essential supply of coffee and biscuits, so she'd left Crookshanks snoozing on her bed and opted for the solitude that echoed off the tiles.
Hermione was hunched over the dining table, scanning the sentences with exhausted eyes and searching for something useful amongst the hectic mess of witness accounts and Auror statements from the First Wizarding War. Shacklebolt had managed to recover some old Ministry documents and restricted texts before Voldemort's infiltration, but endless hours of pouring over pages had proved futile thus far, and a volatile mixture of insomnia and heartache was making her fidgety and impatient. She was staring intently at the file between her elbows when a tear slipped past her lashes and kissed the parchment.
"Merlin, not again," she sighed to no one, lifting her fingers to rub her eyes until the friction started to agitate. "This is ridiculous."
The tears never really stopped; only subsided, and Hermione had learned three things in the last few days.
Firstly, it was better to tolerate the damaging effects of sleep-deprivation than to confront the nightmare she'd had on her first night alone; an exact replay of her final moments with Draco, except when she'd pulled away from their one-sided kiss, there'd been blood crawling down his chin, and she'd woken up screaming, retching and convinced she could taste iron against her tongue.
Secondly, the line between dedication and obsession is precariously thin. She had almost become dependent on her determination to help the Order, and a little voice in her head warned that if she put down the books, it would all become too real, and she might not handle it as well as everyone expected her to. She surrounded herself with her work, coating the walls in her borrowed room with notes she had scribbled, and only pausing to eat, nap or practice some defensive spells with Moody or Lupin. The world around her was blurred and muffled, and that was how she needed it right now. Distraction would keep her grounded; keep her sane.
And lastly, sometimes it was irrelevant how hard she focussed on her tasks. Random flashbacks - be them blissful memories or disturbing ones - penetrated her concentration without regard almost hourly, always leaving her dizzy and trembling ever so slightly. The moment would pass, she would berate herself for allowing her attention to waver, and then she would get on with life, dreading the next one. They seemed to harass her most in the shower, sometimes so vivid that the steam seemed to whisper with Draco's voice, but she had taken to having the water ice cold so her senses were on edge and she would be alert enough to snap out of it.
For the most part, she had managed to keep her composure, but every now and then, an inconvenient tear would splash against her books, like now, but she would hide it before anyone would notice.
Vulnerability was not her colour.
"Hermione," Tonks' warm voice made her start. "Please don't tell me you've been up all night."
"No," she lied automatically, stealing a glance at the clock. It was almost eight, and she wondered where the last four hours had gone. She hadn't even noticed the morning birds or the faint glow of the sun. "I just woke up early."
"If you say so," Tonks mumbled, obviously unconvinced as she slumped into the opposite chair with a little difficulty. "I think the baby has actually figured out a way to squeeze my bladder."
Hermione cracked a smile, but it was strained. "Do you want me to make you some breakfast or something?"
"No, I'll wait until Remus wakes up," she said. "Any luck with those files from the Ministry?"
"Nothing really, but I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. Just some clue about the Horcruxes, I guess."
"I'll give you a hand after we've had some food," she offered, and then she fixed the younger witch with a reassuring look. "He'll be okay, you know."
Hermione felt her heartbeats hesitate, and her stomach did a nervous flip. "What?" she asked in a croaky voice. "Who will be okay?"
"Whoever it is you're missing," Tonks said as though it was obvious. "I'm guessing it's the boy you mentioned when I visited you before Christmas?"
"I'm fine, Tonks," Hermione mumbled, dropping her eyes back to the book. "I just miss Harry and Ron-
"You've barely talked sine you've been here, and I recognise that look of girl missing her-
"I'm really fine," she interrupted quickly. Almost frantically. "I just…I need to concentrate on this right now, and I can't-
"If you want to talk about him, you can talk to me," Tonks pushed, frowning when Hermione shook her head. "You know, you need to have a break every now and then or you'll drive yourself mad-
"Tonks, please," she tried. "Don't."
"Just one question, and I'll drop the subject," Tonks insisted. "If you answer honestly, I promise I won't mention him again."
Huffing out a frustrated sigh and combing her hair away from her face, Hermione hesitantly tipped her head in agreement. "Fine. One question, but that's it."
"Okay," she said gently, taking her time. "Does he love you back?"
And Hermione closed her eyes so Tonks wouldn't see her torment. The tears were back and burning the backs of her lids, but she'd be damned if she let one slide down her cheek.
"I honestly have no idea."
"Granger," Draco echoed her name before he could help it, because it just didn't sound right coming from Blaise's mouth. A sudden headache pounded behind his eyes and he clenched them shut, forgetting to keep his expression trained with indifference.
"Then I guessed right," his companion remarked smugly. "You were fucking her."
The thud of Draco's fist against the table sent a glass tumbling to the floor, and Blaise warily shifted in his seat. "Don't talk about her like that," Draco hissed between his bared teeth. "I'm warning you, Zabini."
Blaise had the decency to look slight taken aback. "So, it was more than fucking," he mumbled, ignoring Draco's incensed glare. "You like her-
"Zabini, I swear to Merlin-
"Calm down, Malfoy," he said. "There's no reason to get so defensive. Luna had her suspicions. Hell, I owe her five Galleons now-
"Bollocks," he scoffed. "Since when is Loony Lovegood observant?"
"You'd be surprised," Blaise replied with a subtle grin. "So are you going to tell me what happened between you and Granger? Or would you prefer I jump to conclusions?"
"I'd prefer you minded your own sodding business," Draco spat, his body beginning to vibrate as he became more infuriated. "It has nothing to do with you."
"Malfoy," he breathed impatiently. "I am trying to do you a favour. If your views on Muggle-borns have changed because of Granger, like I reckon they have, then I might be able to trust you, and that would make your situation a lot easier."
Draco narrowed his eyes into suspicious slits. "And how exactly do you feel about Muggle-borns now, Blaise? You hated them just as much as I did-
"No I didn't," he argued quickly. "Did you ever hear me use the word, 'Mudblood?' And the only step-dad who didn't treat me like shit was a half-blood with a Muggle mother. I met her back and fifth year and she was nice as hell-
"But you called people blood traitors and-
"It's all semantics," he said flippantly. "I just repeated what you lot did. I didn't even know what Mudblood meant until you said it to Granger in second year." Blaise paused to watch Draco cringe at that comment. "Which brings us back to the very interesting present; you and Granger."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?" he snarled quietly, tapping his finger against the table with frustration.
"Maybe a little bit," Blaise smirked. "Irony tastes good in the morning-
"Fuck you, Zabini. It's not a joke-
"Well, if you would stop being so bloody secretive, perhaps I might take it more seriously-
"No, you wouldn't!" Draco barked loudly, sucking in a sharp breath. "You just…You wouldn't fucking get it, Blaise!"
"Oh really?" he challenged. "In case you missed it, I am romantically involved with Luna bloody Lovegood. You know, the girl we tortured in Hogwarts, and a loyal supporter of the Order. If there's anyone who's going to understand, it's me, Draco, so you might as well just-
"YES! FINE!" he yelled, springing up from his chair and pacing a few steps away so he wouldn't have to look at Blaise. "Whatever the hell is going on between you and Lovegood, Granger and I are in the same boat! Wait, fuck that! We WERE in the same boat! But now I'm here and I don't know where the hell she is, and I don't know WHAT THE FUCK TO DO!"
He froze where he stood, forcing tension into his limbs to stop them shaking, and trying to steady his heaving chest. The heat of his temper was simmering under his skin, and he shook his head, feeling that same destructive sense of helplessness from the night Hermione had left. He could feel Blaise's eyes studying him, but he refused to meet them, transfixed on a crack in the wall and not trusting himself to move.
"She was the only thing made sense," he murmured before he could think, doubting Blaise would even hear him. "And now she's gone, there is…nothing. Nothing that makes sense." He glanced at his silent companion and knew that he'd heard every word. "Go on then, Zabini. Say what whatever you're going to say."
Blaise stayed still for a moment, his expression impassive, before he slowly nodded his head with something between satisfaction and approval. "Welcome to 'The Enlightened,'" he said evenly. "Sit back down, Draco. We're going to have a coffee, and you look like you could do with something to eat."
"That's it?" he questioned sceptically.
"I've heard what I needed to hear," Blaise shrugged. "If you want to tell me more, you can, but I just wanted to be certain that your being here is justified and safe."
Draco cocked a brow and hesitantly retook his seat. "Will you tell the others?"
"That you're in love with Granger? No-
"I never said I was in love with her," he retorted hastily. "I never used that bloody word-
"So you don't love her?"
"I…" he started uncertainly, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "I am not even going to dignify that with a response. What would you say if I asked if you loved Lovegood?"
"I would say I do," Blaise answered without a flinch, and Draco's jaw sagged with disbelief. "So what?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Malfoy, in case you haven't noticed we're in the middle of a war," he said with a slight flicker of dread. "We could all die tomorrow, and Luna deserves to know she isn't just some shag-buddy to pass the time. Aside from that, I don't give a flying fuck what anyone thinks, and that includes you. So, if you didn't tell Granger how you really felt, then more fool you, because I hate to break it to you, Malfoy, but you might never see her again."
And although it didn't show on his face, Blaise's words stabbed at Draco's chest like splinters, and he felt sick to his stomach as a crushing wave of regret stuck him. "I will see her again," he disputed, but the doubt was so obvious in his voice. "I will."
Blaise exhaled and regarded Draco with half-lidded eyes. "For your sake, I hope you're right."
Four days before Valentine's Day and her eighth day away from Draco, and Hermione was back in the bedroom with her pile of books and her shadow for company. A gruelling three-hour session on defensive spells with May-eye had left her sore and fatigued, but the day had just drifted into tomorrow, and midnight had become her favourite time to work. Everyone went to bed, and she was left undisturbed for at least eight hours, save the moments when Crookshanks would crawl into her lap for a little attention. She could also think about Draco and not feel too guilty about it, or worry that Lupin and Tonks might notice a stray tear or the quivering of her bottom lip.
She found herself daydreaming of ice-skating and window-seats, and she was just about to collect her things and head down to the kitchen for her caffeine fix when she heard a faint tapping against the window pane. When she saw the moonlight reflect off snowy white feathers, she shot out of her chair and scrambled over to the window, desperately fumbling with the latch. Hedwig dropped a letter into Hermione's hands and swiftly departed before the witch could even blink. She tore open the envelope with frantic fingers and read the ten roughly scribbled words in Harry's handwriting once, twice, and three times just to ensure she hadn't missed anything.
The Angel in the Circus. The time you were born.
And she knew exactly where she had to go.
a/n: I know this is probably the shortest chapter I've done, and I'm really sorry, but exams are coming up and and blah blah blah real life shit getting in the way of my Dramione fantasies…Real life is such a tosser…Hope it was okay, and again, I know the chapters with them apart are less interesting, but bear with me…I promise an interesting reunion.
I want to wish my fic-wife Riri Whitlock HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I adore you, and I wish I could do an awesome manip to express my love, but photoshop hates me…Speaking of, some more lovely people have done some FanArt (all links are on my profile page) so thank you so much Lizzy, Erika, Robbi and Allie for taking the time. They're bloody gorgeous! Hugs and wine!
Also, my friend waterflower20 is involved with the Live Journal community stop_sids, and they are currently hosting an auction with the main goal to raise money for SIDS research. You can bid for fics, videos, even food! Check it out and don't hesitate to bid. You are really going to help.
I think that's everything I needed to say. Huge thanks to everyone who reviews and talks to me on facebook and tumblr. You are all so lovely, and I have made some wonderful friends who I hope to meet someday! Rambling…Read and Review, and again, sorry about the shortness. The next one will be a lot longer to make up for it!