a/n: If I may recommend some songs again please? Keane - Atlantic (especially the end of the song) and Angus and Julia Stone - The Devil's Tears (This song, for me, is the ultimate Dramione song. The lyrics, the tone…it's just perfect).
Chapter 33: Marks
Tap, tap, tap.
Draco tried to cling to sleep and nestled his face a little deeper into the pillow of velvet-soft curls under his cheek. He was warm and comfortable, trying to return to a dream he didn't remember, and he tightened his grip on Granger.
Tap, tap, tap.
"Sod off," he grumbled tiredly.
But then he remembered that they weren't back in Hogwarts in Granger's dorm, despite the familiarity of having her in his arms again. All the mayhem of yesterday came back to him like a bolt of lightening, jolting him awake and sending a pounding headache to the back of his brain. He propped himself up and immediately checked Granger, watching her for a moment as her chest expanded with deep, sleepy breaths. She looked as she would on any other morning; peaceful and well, save the yellow remains of a few bruises, and her still pallid complexion.
Tap, tap, tap.
He shot a frustrated look at the door and decided to ignore it. It couldn't have been before six in the morning judging by the dim, blue light in the room, which meant he'd barely managed two hours sleep. He was exhausted and furious that someone would dare to disturb him after he and Granger and barely been reunited, especially when it was probably bloody Weasley coming back for round two.
"Draco," Tonks' hushed voice filtered through the door. "Draco, are you awake? I'm coming in-
"No, don't," he groused. "What the hell do you want?"
"Just open the bloody door."
"Do it, or I'm coming in."
His lip curled with irritation as he carefully untangled his legs from Granger's and left the bed with some colourful profanities on the tip of his tongue. He grabbed his wand and crossed the room, pulling the door open just a crack and narrowing a glare at his cousin through the small gap.
"You'd better have a good reason for-
"How's she doing?" asked Tonks. "Is she awake?"
"Then you should come and get some breakfast."
"What are you on about?" he frowned. "It's what, six in the morning?"
"Half six actually," she corrected. "The others will be waking soon, and I thought it would be best for you to get some food now. Harry and Ron will want to see her, and I won't be able to delay them for long if you want to have some privacy with her."
Draco scrutinised her warily and considered her suggestion, a little thrown by her offer to help. "I'm not hungry."
"When was the last time you ate?"
"You need to have some food," she pressed. "Wouldn't you rather get it now when everyone is still in bed? Come on, and then you can stay in here with her, and I will do what I can to make sure you can have some more time alone."
"For Salazar's sake," he growled, glancing at Granger over his shoulder before he left the room. "Fine, let's go then."
"Not really a morning person, are you?"
"Not when my girlfriend's unconscious and I have bloody cousin who won't piss off, no," he said stiffly, noticing her amused grin as they headed downstairs. "What?"
"You called Hermione your girlfriend."
"What are you, fucking twelve?"
"It was simply an observation-
"A pointless one," he grumbled. "Do you honestly think I would be here if I just considered her a casual acquaintance? Bloody moron."
"And lose the mood or you're not having any bacon with your full English."
Draco rolled his eyes as they entered the kitchen and dining area; the room that had been so hectic and frenzied just yesterday now completely clean and organised. No overturned furniture, no scattered ornaments, and no blood stains. He swore he could still smell it though, the panic and the gore, and his eyes studied that table Granger had been on as his stomach twitched with discomfort.
"Do we have to eat in here?"
"Where else would we eat?" asked Tonks, shrugging her shoulders.
"The sitting room?"
"Dobby's body is in the sitting room," she told him. "This room has been Scourgified multiple times. I assure you it's clean."
Draco hesitantly sat himself at the table as Tonks began to recite a few incantations for the breakfast to make itself, and he jerked in his seat when he felt something brush up against his calf. Looking down, he met with a pair of wide, orange eyes, and then there was a tatty mass of ginger fur hopping onto his lap.
"I'd wondered where he'd gotten to," said Tonks. "That's Hermione's cat, Cr-
"Crookshanks," he finished for her, lifting an eyebrow when Granger's pet nuzzled his nose against his hand. "Yes, I know. Merlin forbid she pick an attractive cat."
"Clever thing, though," she remarked, pausing to give him a knowing look. "Good judge of character."
Hermione bolted upright in bed with a gasp that might have been a scream if her throat hadn't felt like sandpaper.
Her head was fuzzy and her muscles tired, but her defensive instincts were immediate as she fumbled around for her wand or her bag, alarmed when she could find neither. Her wild eyes scanned the room, and while she thought she might recognise it, she couldn't figure out why and she was wary to relax, knowing how easily someone could have altered the space with a few shrewd spells.
She tried to think back, remembering the Manor and that first blast of the Cruciatus Curse in Bellatrix's screeching voice, but that was all she could recall. It was all very misty and fractured after that…just a lot of screaming. So then where was she?
She placed her hand flat against the mattress, finding it warm. Merlin knew how, but she just knew someone had laid beside her in the bed, and it made her unbearably nervous.
"Harry?" she called, her voice low and rough, unrecognisable. "Ron?"
She hadn't really expected a response, but she'd hoped for one. The pain registered then and she thought she might vomit; the aftershocks of Bellatrix's merciless torture making her body throb in time with her heartbeats. Everywhere was tender and sore, but her arm in particular stung like a fresh burn, and she eyed the red and damp bandage with uncertainty. For a second, she considered removing the dressing, but decided that it was probably wise to resist until she knew where she was and exactly who had applied it.
She ran her hand up and down the mattress and tested the remains of body heat against her fingertips. Whoever had shared this bed with her hadn't long left. She scanned the room again, searching for anything suspicious or any indication of another person, but the contents were minimal; the bed, a dresser, and a wardrobe.
She debated with herself for a minute whether leaving the room was the best idea but, as always, curiosity gave her a firm shove towards a decision, even if it was the wrong one. Shedding the covers, she winced as she shifted her body to the edge of the bed and planted her feet on the floor, but the moment she rested her weight on them she went tumbling down. She groaned as the impact sent a sharp wave of pain around her already aching body, and she tried to stand, but it was futile.
Her legs were unstable and weak, almost numb, and she instantly hated the predicament she was in. She didn't do fragile or helpless, and the idea of being unable to get to her feet frustrated her, especially when she already felt vulnerable in this disconcerting situation. She thought about crawling to the door but knew it wasn't a safe idea, so she put all her strength in her arms and tried to pull herself back up on the bed.
"No, finish your food, Draco," said Tonks. "And stop shovelling it down like that or you'll choke."
He glowered at his cousin. "I'm sorry, I must've missed the announcement about you being my minder."
"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, you know."
"Whoever said that was just pissed off that he couldn't do it properly," he replied, pushing away his plate and leaving his chair. "Right, I'm done."
"Maybe you should take Crookshanks up with you," she suggested before he could leave. "Hermione must've missed him, and he's been pining for her-
"Not yet. I don't want there to be any distractions when she wakes up if she's going to have trouble as it is, and that cat's a bloody attention-seeking thing-
"Have trouble?" repeated Tonks with a frown. "What do you mean?"
He slanted his eyes away from her. "It doesn't matter-
"No, wait a moment. What are you anxious about? Are her injuries not healing-
"Look, I'm not thick," he cut in. "I know what the Cruciatus Curse can do to people's minds."
Tonks' lips pursed with understanding. "You're worried she won't remember you," she mumbled, watching Draco as he flexed his fists with anxiety. "You needn't be concerned with that. The victim will usually have been subjected to days of the Curse before it has any effect on their memory or-
"You're underestimating Bellatrix's power-
"I'm not, Draco-
"Yes, you are!" he shouted. "I don't know what it is with you sodding people, but not everything will turn out all fucking brilliant with a side order of rainbows and stardust!"
"I was just trying to-
"Sometimes, things are just shit, and that is the end of it! Your ability to be optimistic about everything would almost be impressive if it wasn't laughable!"
Tonks frowned. "You're mocking me for having hope?"
"No, I pity you for relying on it."
"You pity me for hoping that my father didn't die in vain, and that my son will grow up in free world?" she said with a terse tone. "I don't rely on hope, Draco, it just helps to get me through the day sometimes, and it will help us win this war."
"Well, that's your deluded opinion-
"And I don't believe you would be here if you didn't have the smallest dose of hope that Hermione will remember you, and that you might have a life after this, with her-
"Enough," he breathed through his gritted teeth. "You keep your word and make sure Potter and Weasley stay out of my way."
He left the kitchen without waiting for a response, walking with an agitated gait and swallowing hard to shift the uncomfortable heat under his collar. Tonks' words about a life after the war had left him anxious as he'd purposely avoided considering his future if Voldemort was defeated. The issue of his parents and their inevitable disapproval of Granger meant he would need to make more choices that would ultimately alter his life dramatically, if they all made it out alive.
It hardly seemed worth mapping out his future when there were so many cracks in the present.
At the moment, all Draco could think to do was to return to Granger's side and savour her company when she woke up. If she remembered him, and that if was his sole priority right now. The others could wait at the back of his skull. He climbed the stairs and went back the bedroom, expecting to find Hermione where he'd left her, and having every intention of joining her under the covers until she roused.
He pushed open the door, took a few strides into the room, and the first thing he saw was a flash of those familiar auburn curls whipping to the side, and then he was staring at those wide, brown eyes that he'd missed, and they stared straight back at him. He froze where he stood with his breath trapped in his throat, no more than four feet away from her, and they simply looked at each other in silence for the longest minute of his life.
She was half-on-half-off the bed, awkwardly resting her weight on her arms and upper body, craning her head over her shoulder to see him. Her lips were parted with surprise and her features were completely still in a stunned expression, and he searched every inch of her for any hint of recognition, but all she did was hold his gaze like she was challenging him to disappear.
But then she blinked, and the small gesture seemed to make the clocks tick again.
He wasn't sure if the strength in her arms gave or is she'd tried to hurl herself towards him, but she swivelled her body around, and a protective instinct pulled him towards her to break her fall. She knocked his balance and they sank to the floor, her movements clumsy with desperation as she practically clawed at him, clambering up his chest until her arms were latched around his neck and her body was tight against his. She clutched him like it had been years and not months; her fingernails digging into his shoulder-blades almost painfully, not that he cared.
He snaked an arm around her waist and his other hand grabbed her hair, moving it to her other shoulder so he could rest his mouth just below her ear and feel her heartbeat against his lips. Not a kiss, just contact; skin touching skin.
She was holding him so tight she trembled, embracing him with everything she had, and her breath was in his hair, leaving her in shallow, little gasps. And they just sat there on the floor in a tangled bundle of limbs; locked around each other, simply inhaling and exhaling.
"You remember me."
He hadn't meant to say it aloud, and if he hadn't been so close to her ear, she'd have never heard it.
"Impossible to forget," she mumbled back. "You are…carved into me."
He clenched his eyes shut. Her voice sounded so different; scratchy and coarse, but it was a relief to hear it nonetheless. She felt so warm and so real, like she might dissolve into him, and he completely lost himself. Never had he felt so broken down and exposed, but he was too absorbed by her to pay it any heed.
How long had it even been? Two months? It felt so much longer, but then sleepless nights drag on with no reflection of time. And their parting back at Hogwarts had been so rushed and destructive, and then yesterday when he had just powerlessly watched her bleed…fuck, it had all been so intense, but now everything was calm and…it was easier to breathe again.
Hermione couldn't suppress the need to simply touch him, scraping her fingernails across the grooves of his back, the nape of his neck, and grazing his hairline. His scent was how it had always been; musky and wonderful, and she buried her face into the sway of his shoulder until it was all she could smell. Her heart was hammering in her chest so fast and heavy with excitement, shock, awe, and her chest was swelling just to keep the emotions contained. Feathering a few chaste kisses against his skin, she closed her eyes and felt some inevitable tears slip down her cheeks.
Draco pushed her back so their noses were inches apart, and she was momentarily stuck breathless by how close he was. She could see him properly now, all of him; the tell-tale lines and shadows of insomnia cresting his eyes, and the permanent frown on his lips. He broke the eye contact to track the slow path of one of her tears, and she felt him loosen his grip as his brow wrinkled with worry.
"Did I hurt you?"
"No, no, no, of course not," she assured him quickly. "I'm just…I'm just happy to see you. Wasn't sure I would again, to be honest." She'd choked a little with that last part, but she covered it well and brushed her thumb along the ridge of his cheekbone. "I missed you."
He wondered how she could do that; wear her heart, and mind, and soul on her sleeve with such ease. There were hundreds of things he wanted to say, but he knew he wouldn't, and not because he thought confessing them would make him weak in her eyes, but because actions had more gravity where he was concerned.
So he leaned in and kissed her.
Not hard and not particularly soft, just firm enough that she could feel something from him that was sincere and strong enough to communicate how it felt to have her here. There were no fiery undertones to the gesture, no intentions borrowed by lust. It was just a simple, pure kiss.
His hand cupped her face so his fingers were entwined with her curls, and her sigh tingled his chin before he pressed his lips to hers. He pulled away and then kissed her again, and then again, and again, pushing more pressure each time. He pinched at her mouth with small tugs and nips, until their parted and damp lips were simply touching, and their elevated breaths were clashing between them.
Hermione dropped her forehead against his and made a small sound of contentment, and they just stayed like that for a few minutes with Draco rubbing the pad of his thumb in absent circles against her cheek. But it all ended too soon.
Hermione reared back with an alarmed expression. "The boys," she said. "The boys, Harry and Ron, are they-
"They're fine," he told her, resisting the temptation to make a snide comment or roll his eyes. "Everyone is fine, they're all here-
"Everyone? There were others?"
"Lovegood, Thomas, and Ollivander," he listed. "They're all okay. Fuck, I think Lovegood is already skipping around an imaginary maypole after sniffing too much Valerian-
"You had the worst injuries, Granger," he said, his tone sombre. "Trust me, everyone else is fine."
"Good, that's good," she mumbled absently. "But then how-
"Granger, if you're going to start hounding me with questions like the Swedish Wizards' Inquisition of 1512, then we should get off the floor."
"The Swedish Wizards' Inquisition was in 1496."
He couldn't help but smirk at her correction; so typical of her, regardless of the circumstances, and the familiarity of her bookish character was instantly appeasing. "You're wrong, but we can discuss it on the bed if you really-
"Wait. I need…I can't," she stuttered clumsily, and Draco thought she looked embarrassed. "I can't feel my legs properly. The curses must've affected my nerves…perhaps Neurapraxia or something. Can you…can you help me up?"
He knew her well enough to recognise she begrudged having to ask for help, so he nodded his head and refrained from making a comment about it, and made a mental note to mention it to Tonks later. He altered his footing and picked her up, one hand under her knees and the other supporting her back as he carefully placed her on the bed, seating himself behind her and drawing her to his chest.
Again, so familiar. Almost nostalgic. All that was missing was one of her silly Muggle books and her pesky cat purring at their feet, and it would be just like it had been before. She melted into him like it was the most natural thing in their world, and his arms folded around her just like they always had done, relaxing across her abdomen while his chin settled against her shoulder.
"This feels like home," she whispered delicately, like the comment was for her benefit alone. "Draco, where are we?"
"I thought I recognised it a little. This room's quite similar to the one I stayed in when I was here." She paused. "But how come you're here?"
"Tonks brought Blaise and I from Andromeda's house."
"You've been staying with Andromeda? That's where the Portkey took you?" she asked. "That was…actually a very wise decision on McGonagall's part-
"You say wise, I say fucking mental."
"You don't get on well?" she asked, tilting her head to give him a doubtful look. "You called her 'Aunt 'Dromeda' easily enough."
Draco hesitated and licked his teeth. "It's better than it was, I guess."
"You said Tonks brought you and Blaise? As in Blaise Zabini?"
"Yes, there was a few of us staying at Andromeda's," he said. "Blaise, Theo, Bulstrode, Davis, Bletchley, and myself. Andromeda's basically running a secret safehouse for Slytherins who don't want to follow You-Know-Who, and have pissed off their parents in doing so."
"Wow," breathed Hermione, after a slight pause. "You know, I'd actually wondered what had happened to some of the people in your House. Andromeda must be very brave. I heard about Ted, and to deal with that while caring for a group of people she hardly knows…I can't imagine."
"So why did Tonks only bring you and Blaise here?"
"Well, at the risk of sounding like one of those gossiping Prat-il twins-
"That's not what we called them in the Slytherin common room," he muttered. "Anyway, Blaise came because he and Lovegood are an item of sorts."
Hermione blinked. "Luna? Luna and Blaise?"
"Apparently her father assisted Aunt 'Dromeda with the safehouse, and Lovegood visited quite often," he told her flippantly. "Often enough that she and Blaise started their little…thing."
"That's why she kept disappearing at Hogwarts," she mumbled to herself. "That's…certainly an interesting development."
"I think 'fucking bizarre' is a more appropriate description."
"Who are we to judge?" she replied quickly. "Our relationship would hardly be considered conventional by most of the people we know."
He arched an eyebrow with reluctant agreement and kissed her throat. "Any more questions?"
"Hundreds," she sighed. "I would like to ask a bit more about Blaise and Luna, and some other things, but I think I'm done for a moment."
Draco clenched his eyes shut. "I have some questions."
He felt her stiffen in his arms, and he knew she was preparing herself for it, for the inevitable discussion about his family and their involvement with her ordeal at his old home. It hung in the air between them; heavy and foreboding, and he regretted having to broach the topic, but he needed to know.
"Okay," she said warily. "What do you want to know?"
He held her a little tighter and wondered where to start. "What happened to you, Granger?"
"The Snatchers found us and took us to the Manor," she began, her tone rather distant. "They wanted to summon You-Know-Who, but we had the Sword of Gryffindor, and your aunt Bellatrix-
"Don't call her my aunt," he interrupted suddenly, his voice low and abrasive. "Go on."
"Um, well, Harry and Ron were taken away," Hermione continued, swallowing hard. "And Bellatrix started to question me about how we got the sword, and she tortured me." She felt the muscles in his arms strengthen around her. "I…I remember her using the Cruciatus Curse on me, but I can't remember much after that. It's all a little fuzzy."
Draco sucked in a deep breath. "Were my parents there?"
"Your parents," she echoed quietly. "Uh…yes, they were there. Your father looked…quite fragile actually, like he'd been tortured."
"And my mother?"
"Your mother," she murmured, clutching at a flimsy memory. And then hit her, and she gasped. "Oh my God, your mother."
"What? Did she hurt you?"
"No, no. Merlin, I remember now. She knows."
"She knows what?" he pushed, trying to keep his patience. "What the hell are you-
"She knows about us," she told him. "Sh-she used Legilimency on me, and she saw us. She saw us together. I could feel her searching for you in my head, and I know she found my memories of you."
Draco's eyes went wider. "What did she do?"
"She…," Hermione trailed off, pausing for a moment. "She wanted to know where you were and she…offered to help me."
"What?" he asked, completely baffled by the concept. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, positive. That's a good thing, isn't it? "
His brow creased with thought. "I'm not sure," he admitted. "I think so."
They both went quiet, and Draco contemplated Hermione's significant and surprising account of his mother's actions at the Manor. In hindsight, he realised he had mentally prepared himself for the worst case scenario, practically expecting a damning version of the story, in which his parents had contributed to Granger's nightmare ordeal. He imagined he should feel relieved, perhaps grateful, but all that registered was bewilderment and uncertainty.
"You know," said Hermione, after the silence between them had lingered too long. "My mother used to say that the parents who really love their children are the most dangerous people in the world because they will kill, die, and everything in between for them. Your mother loves you, Draco. I think she was just willing to do anything to find you."
"Hm," he frowned, uncertain what he could say. "Did you tell her where I was?"
"No, I couldn't. I was too injured, I think. And then something happened, and I remember the Chandelier…but that's all I remember. How did we manage to escape?"
"I don't know."
"And you're certain everyone got out okay?"
"Yes, everyone's fine," he nodded. "Just a few bumps and scrapes. As I said, you were the worst."
"I remember how I got this now," she murmured, and Draco glanced down to see her fiddling with the bandage wrapped around her arm.
"Don't look at that, Granger."
Of course, she didn't listen to him, and he cringed as she slowly peeled away the sticky, stained dressing and stared at the horrid scar scrawled into her skin. She took in a shuddering breath. "Ugly, isn't it?"
Draco wasn't sure if she meant the mark itself or the word, 'Mudblood,' but he moved his hand and placed it over the wound, careful not to touch it lest it still be tender and sore.
"It doesn't mean anything," he whispered against her ear.
She didn't respond but reached with her free hand to tug at his other arm, pulling it forward so his Dark Mark was bared. She mimicked his actions, veiling it with her palm and tickling her fingers against his wrist with soothing strokes.
"And yours doesn't mean anything either."
They stayed still for a while, almost engraved in time, with only the rhythmic and synchronised rises and falls of their chests to indicate any life. Hermione was the first to break it, sighing and then twisting her neck so she could kiss the corner of his mouth.
"I should probably let the others know I'm alright," she said softly. "Will you help me-
"Granger, wait," he cut in, his face scrunching up as he struggled to find the words he wanted to say. "It's been months. Just…just allow some undisturbed hours before the sodding Calvary insist on suffocating you."
She made a faint sound of amusement. "Okay," she agreed. "But you do know you can have as many hours as you want, Draco? Days, months…as long as you want."
He rested his lips against her neck again, and smothered the itch in his throat to say 'years.' Partially because the response would be too sickly on his tongue, and partly because he wasn't sure they had years.
He thought about his words to Tonks earlier and realised he didn't pity her for having hope.
He envied her for it.
A/n: Hey, sorry about the wait! Family crisis and blah blah blag. Hope you liked the reunion and the chapter as a whole! Let me know what you thought, and thanks so much for the feedback so far! You people are deliriously brilliant!
I just want to thank Ashley for making a youtube trailer for Iso, and it is gorgeous! (Link is on profile page!) and also to the Dramione Team for making those lovely certificates for the Dramione awards that Iso won (Link on profile page for the photo albums if you want to see!) Again, thanks so much if you voted, you have no clue how loud I screamed. Oh, and can we all just wish Tom Felton Happy Birthday and congratulate him on his perfect face. Yes? Brilliant.
Thanks for reading and being so lovely! Read and Review!