dedication: to emily. you're a doll, and ily. happy birthday!
notes: i still hate how Deathly Hallows went, and am thus ignoring it entirely. i have also always wanted to write something like this, & i think i failed. uh. oops?
notes2: "If there's a dead relative waiting for me at the end of this, I would not be surprised—it's like we're going to heaven!" —Rick Mercer
title: the tomorrow verdict
summary: Two wars for two people, twelve months in the making. Draco/Hermione.
It was late autumn, and it was cold.
London was awful, that time of year. The clouds hung low to the ground, almost mist, promising dirty snow and accidents. And it was cold—it was that biting cold that was impossible to escape, the kind that seeps into bones, dead-winter cold. That kind of cold.
It was October when Draco Malfoy took shelter with the Order of the Phoenix, a year and a half into the war.
Nineteen-year-old Hermione Granger was sitting in the highest window of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, staring out at the dreary sky, when they brought him in. She thought he was bleeding.
But his hair was unmistakeable. Unmistakeable and perfect and utterly immaculate.
Of course he'd keep his hair immaculate.
Hermione snorted. "Prat."
She pulled her knees up to her chest, and pressed her back up against the window frame. The infuriated roar of a teenage boy rose up through the house. Ron, then. Harry would be coldly disapproving, but he'd never need to yell, to get his point across.
Hermione had no sympathy.
She took a breath, and pressed her face against her knees.
Malfoy would be nearby. Hermione Granger would be in close proximity to a Malfoy, in the midst of a war.
Hermione didn't really care, either way, because the thing about war was that no one won. There is no winning, in a war. There is only lasting. The only thing that mattered was out-lasting your opponent.
Hermione was determined to last.
Draco Malfoy wasn't going to change that.
Granger sat between Potter and Weaselbee.
Her eyes were narrowed, brown and muddy, and he knew, he knew that her fingers were clenched into fists, in her lap. He could tell—her lips were pressed into a thin line, thinning every second.
Perhaps she trusted him least, of them all.
He didn't really blame her.
"Look, Malfoy. You're a git, but we need your help," said the Weasel. It pleased Draco that the words looked like they caused physical pain.
There was a disgusted twist to Granger's mouth. "I can't believe this. I really, really can't," she muttered. Her jaw was clenched.
Draco felt smug.
Potter's eyes were green and tired behind his glasses.
"Malfoy," was all he said.
Blond hair fell into Draco's eyes. A moment passed between the two boys, a dark look, something that both disliked. It was that mutual understanding between two people that, regardless of relationship, spoke of the death of something safe. It wasn't friendship—grudging respect, maybe, but not friendship.
"Fine, Potter," Draco drawled.
"Good," said Potter, and stood up—Weaselbee stood up, as well. It seemed liked forever, and they loomed. Draco thought they were constipated, but said nothing.
Granger sat in front of him. Her head was down, her bushy curls in her face. She was muttering under her breath, "I can't believe you two, I can't. Why now?"
Potter and Weaselbee both leaned down, touched her shoulder, pressed their lips against the top of her head, muttered into her ear.
And then they were gone.
A slamming door echoed through the house, the sound of the beginning and the end and maybe the apocalypse.
Granger looked bitter. "There is no god."
—december pt i; hermione
Deep winter, iced weather, frost-bite cold. Harry and Ron had been gone for a month.
Hermione stood in the back garden of Grimmauld Place, wearing the ugliest sweater she owned—it was Harry's, actually, not that that made any difference, because they might as well have been siblings—and shivering like a leaf in the wind. There was a scarf—Ron's—wrapped around her neck.
"Happy Christmas, boys," she murmured. "I hope you're alright."
She stood there, in the middle of the dead, snow-covered garden, and told the air everything that she wanted to tell her two boys.
"Malfoy's not so bad, did you know? He makes me scream sometimes, and I want to throttle the prat when that happens, but—but he's the only one around all the time. It's… a little lonely."
She smiled a little. Her nose was bright red in the cold. "Ginny and the others've shown up, a couple of time. Seamus and Dean, too—Seamus looked awful. They come and they go. No one stays. There're always people around but… no one stays for very long."
Hermione sighed, and looked at the sky. It was grey and empty, dreary clouds running for miles overhead.
It looked like they would never end.
"I miss you," said Hermione. "I miss you, a lot. Ron, I hope you're not eating everything. Harry… Please don't die. Please, please, don't die. We—the world needs you."
She paused, drew a breath of ice-cold air. "I need you. So… come home soon, alright? I love you both. I do. I do."
She didn't say anything else; she didn't need to.
(A dark, hidden part of her thought that if she did, she'd crumple. She would cry and cry, and there would be nothing left. Hermione Granger wouldn't exist anymore, and she just—couldn't have that. She couldn't.)
Hermione went back inside. Closed the door behind her.
That was the day that Malfoy's girls showed up.
—december, pt. ii; hermione
Pansy Parkinson stood in the open door, wearing shabby robes and carrying a shabbier handbag. Her hair was still dark, but unkempt, hacked at roughly with a knife, the dark hair shagging across the equally-dark eyes. Daphne Greengrass stood behind her, sky blue eyes too wide in her gaunt face, dried blood splattered on her formerly unlined skin.
They looked like hell.
Then again, she probably didn't look all that much better. Hermione just stared at them. "Why are you here?"
Pansy just looked tired. "Because there's nowhere else, Granger. The world is falling to pieces, and there's nowhere else."
It was eight days to Christmas.
Hermione tilted her head. Safe house, Grimmauld Place was still a safe house, and regardless of what anyone said, regardless of how creepy it was, it was—something. Safe. Unplottable. Hermione thought of dead secret Keepers, and wondered if she ought to renew the Charm.
They must have seen Harry.
"Come in, then," she said.
Like it was simple.
Even though it really wasn't.
Pansy and Daphne, clutching each other's hands, slipped inside. Hermione nearly slammed the door shut behind them. Hermione pressed her back against it, slid to the ground, and took deep, shuddering breaths. Pansy and Daphne did the same.
The three girls lay in a heap of limbs on the floor, shaking together, because there was nothing else to do.
—december, pt. iii; draco
Draco looked down into the eyes of one of his oldest friends. She was sitting in the nook of the window. There were dark bags under her eyes.
"Hello, Draco," said Pansy. There was a noticeable lack of mischievousness from her.
Draco didn't even ask.
He sat down next to her, because she was familiar, because she was alive, because she was there. It wasn't even because she was Pansy—it she had been Blaise, Draco would have had the same reaction.
But she was Pansy, and she sat in the window and looked sad.
She was right.
The world was falling to pieces.
Winter wore on, and Draco Malfoy wanted to die.
It had become almost routine.
People passed through Grimmauld Place like ghosts. Wisps of news reached Hermione, some slow and happy—Harry and Ron are still alive, they're coming to fetch you, maybe—and some that made her shake for hours afterwards—they found Percy's body today, Hermione. There was nothing they could do—with tears coursing down her cheeks.
Pansy and Daphne sat at the grimy kitchen table, and brought a little laughter to the house. They acted as a barrier, between the real world and the inside of Grimmauld Place, between the Aurors and the Order of the Phoenix, but most importantly, between Malfoy and Hermione.
But when they weren't around, Hermione was left to her thoughts and Malfoy, which were never a good combination in any way, shape, or form. She drank a cup of terrible instant coffee, cold and tasting like ash.
There was an old Daily Prophet sitting on the table. The headlines said nothing—hush, hush, hush it all up, the general populous must be kept ignorant—and Hermione pushed it away from herself, disgusted.
They ought to have known that it wasn't the way to go.
But no one listened.
And so Hermione said nothing.
She shivered, wrapped in one of Molly's thick knit blankets, slippered feet trembling. Was this what she had been reduced to, this shaking, shuddering, weak little girl?
Someone sat down across from her, and Hermione raised her head. Malfoy sat there.
"Granger," said Malfoy.
"Malfoy," replied Hermione.
All was quiet.
Pansy and Daphne were nowhere to be found.
"Tell me something, Granger," Malfoy said.
"Tell you something," and she almost snorted. "Rubbish. What could I tell you that you don't already know? You don't listen to me. You don't listen to anyone."
Malfoy just looked bored, but curious. "Do you believe we are all innately good?"
"How can you even ask me that? Really?"
Like that explained everything.
Hermione hated that he was right. The coffee mug sat in front of her, still cold, still tasting like ash.
If there was one good thing about winter, it was the way it slowed war.
It was the only good thing.
Hermione opened and closed her mouth several times before she said anything.
"Malfoy… I have seen—done—things that no good person would… ever… do, in good conscience. No, I don't believe that. I don't believe that at all."
Draco Malfoy sat back, and studied Hermione through cool grey eyes. His gaze burned on her skin, and Hermione quietly marvelled in the back of her mind. Winter's chill was gone, and all she could comprehend was the feeling of his eyes on her skin.
She paused, and then tapped a finger to chapped lips. "I could ask you the same, you know. What do you believe?"
Malfoy shook his head, slowly. "I don't believe in anything, Granger."
"There's nothing to believe in."
They sat in silence for a long time, and Hermione smiled at him for the first time. It was not a happy smile, but it was a smile.
He was right.
And that made it all the worse.
February was the worst month, Draco thought. It was all thunderstorms and black clouds overhead, all shining green snakes over dark Muggle houses, all murder in the dark.
February was the month when Potter and Weaselbee came back.
That, on its own, made Draco ill.
Granger practically threw herself on them, and the Golden Trio was complete, once again.
They were moved to another safe house the next day.
Draco went with them.
"You're bleeding," said Granger.
It was black in the safe house. The household was asleep.
Draco stood next to Granger, at the sink in the kitchen. It was the only room lit, a single light bulb swinging from a string over the wooden table at the center of the room. The two former classmates stood together, and looked out the window into the darkness.
Soft, breathless murmurs from upstairs—Hermione thought she could hear Ron and Pansy and Daphne breathing as one, thought she could hear Ginny pressing Harry against the wall, thought she could hear Dean and Seamus, thought there was the th-thud of headboard against the wall—wind gusting against the misted windows.
She shook her head to herself. She didn't—couldn't—wouldn't—blame them.
Draco flinched away from the soft, wet rag that was in Granger's hand. Her brown-like-mud eyes flashed annoyance. She grabbed his chin, and she forced him to look at her.
"Malfoy," she said, "would you stop moving so that I can clean you up, please? You have blood on your nose, git."
Draco growled, but allowed Granger to wipe the blood away.
"You're lucky you're not dead," she told him, quietly, as she smeared the blood away. Lukewarm water dripped down his cheek.
Draco shrugged and winced as she wiped at a particularly nasty cut across his eyebrow. "Better me than Potter. Being dead, that is."
"That's going to scar," replied Granger, completely ignoring him.
Draco shrugged a second time. Granger rolled her eyes, dropped the rag on the counter-top, and flicked the side of his head.
"That hurt, you daft bint!" Draco yelped.
"Quiet," Granger hissed through clenched teeth. "You'll wake the lot of them up!"
They both stood still for a frantic minute, listening intently. Draco didn't particularly care—none of the other inhabitants of the house were sleeping, not really, but—
But Granger was a bloody crazy woman, and she was likely to drown him, or batter him over the head with one of her infernal books, if angered. Draco was prone to sneering, but, really, he might have been a bit scared of her.
Granger stood perfectly still, listening for another tense sixty seconds.
The scrape of a bed-leg again the floor from upstairs. The quiet exhalation of a murmured moan. Silence.
A sigh escaped the girl. "Oh, they didn't wake up, thank Merlin."
"I'm still bleeding, Granger," Draco reminded her.
"Oh, right, sorry!" said Granger, her hand flying to her mouth. She snatched at the blood-stained rag, still sitting on the countertop, and dipped it into the clear sink-water. She wrung it, for a moment.
The water turned translucent pink.
Blood, it was always blood. Draco turned his eyes away. Let Granger deal with the gash on his forehead; he wouldn't have to meet her gaze.
Granger reached up. Dabbed at the gash.
She was gentle. It still hurt.
Draco winced, pain shooting behind his eyelids. Granger's hair was in his nose, the wild brown curls frizzing and escaping the tight French braid she'd scraped the untameable mass back in, and that didn't help.
Draco shifted just a little; Granger was between him and the sink. She was frowning at the slash on his forehead. "This is deep, Malfoy. What happened?"
Draco just shook his head.
He didn't tell her about the child no older then fifteen wearing a Death Eater's mask, his eyes wide and lifeless, laying dead on the floor of an ex-safe house; or about Potter shaking and shaking on the ground; or even about Weasley, pulling a fourteen-year-old girl with a snake-and-skull tattoo on her left forearm out of a rubbled house.
He didn't tell her anything, because she was Granger, and she was screwed up enough as she was.
April showers bring May flowers, thought Hermione, as rain pounded the windows of the safe house.
Hermione pressed her palm to the window, and thought about handprints and dirty clothes, and boys with dead eyes, and the tattered pages of a library ripped to shreds across the floor. She thought about the charred remains of a Muggle house, and the little girl standing outside of it who suddeny didn't have parents. That little girl was all alone.
Maybe they were all alone.
Hacking coughs from somewhere above her shook through the house. It sounded like someone dying. Hermione knew that the coughing would stop around midnight. It always did.
She stood at the window, fingers against the glass. She looked at the eddies in it, and thought of the end of innocence. The scraps on her knees—from the last mission, and she'd slid on her knees down gravel, and it had hurt—were finally beginning to heal over. They would scar; would be nothing but more physical memories littered across her body.
It would have been simple to heal the scraps by magic. But no one had the time or the magic to spare. Every last spare drop of power was being poured into the war effort. Everyone was pouring their life's-blood into the war effort.
Sometimes, when she was standing on the newest battlefield and picking her way through the dead, Hermione forgot about what she was fighting for. She knew about peace and equality, knew it rationally. But when she looked at the bodies of the dead, piled up and ready to be burnt, all she could think was that she wanted to vomit.
Hermione moved away from the window, and rushed to the loo, stomach rolling.
Thinking about dead people always did this to her.
The loo stayed dark.
Hermione leaned her forehead against the cool porcelain, after emptying her stomach of the little she'd put in it that day. She took a steadying gulp of air, and then another, and then another.
She felt like she was drowning.
"Drink this, Granger, you'll feel better," said a voice in her ear, and there was a cup shoved in her hand.
Hermione down it all in one go.
It was possibly the most disgusting thing she'd ever tasted. "What is that? That's awful!"
"Mrs. Weasley sent it up," the voice said. "Said you looked a bit peeky at supper, and that this would set you right."
"You wanker," she muttered, incensed. "You ought to have warned me!"
Dra—Malfoy let a hushed bark of laughter. The silenced sound felt odd, stretched and breaking, and Hermione wondered if this was really absolutely hopeless.
"That would have been counter-productive, Granger."
"Of course my pain is amusing to you, Malfoy," said Hermione. Her voice was somewhere between a giggle and a sob. Hermione thought that it was very un-Hermione, but did nothing to try to right it.
Malfoy said nothing.
Hermione closed her eyes. She said "Do you think we're going to live through this?"
Like they were friends.
"You? You're Granger. You live through the worst."
"Oh? What about you, then?" asked Hermione.
His lack of response was deeply disturbing to Hermione.
Hermione reached between them. Her hand, still shaking with the aftermath of emptying her body, found his. There, in the dark of a dingy bathroom in a safe house in Wiltshire, Hermione Granger first held Draco Malfoy's hand.
He didn't move away, and that told her more than she needed to know.
May was worse then February.
And that was saying something, as far as Draco was concerned.
She smiled at him. Granger, that is. She smiled. At him. A lot.
The first time it happened, it had caught him off guard; he hadn't been expecting it, hadn't been expecting the slight upwards quirk of her lips to bend and stretch upwards across her face, until she was grinning at him. She'd looked a little maniacal, to be sure, especially with that wild thing growing in place of her hair, but…
But Merlin be damned, he almost caught himself smiling back.
Three safe houses were cracked, that month.
Twenty-one people died.
But Granger smiled, and Draco couldn't help thinking that perhaps they had a chance, after all.
—june pt. i; draco
June consisted of scare tactics and endless hours of hunkering down in the middle of nowhere with Potter and Weaselbee.
June consisted of rain, more rain, and even more rain.
June was even worse then February and May combined, because Draco hardly saw Granger at all.
It irked him.
Not that he would ever tell anyone.
—june pt. ii; hermione
The first time she kissed him, it was June.
It was hard and fierce and fast. She was pressed against the refrigerator. Her hair was everywhere, chestnut curls corkscrewing every which way.
They had been screaming at each other for the better part of an hour. It was just after he and Harry and Ron had managed to return unscathed from yet another patrol—Hermione didn't even know where they'd gone.
But she'd been worried—worried out of her mind, and she couldn't—wouldn't—rationalize it.
It scared her too much to think about one of them not coming back.
And when it came to Draco, it had always made more sense to scream at him.
It also always made her feel better.
Hermione couldn't even remember what they'd been screaming about; he had her backed up against the icebox, and she'd felt overwhelmed. Hermione had a vague idea that the fight had had to do with the fact that he was a pompous arsehole who refused to listen to reason, but she wasn't quite sure.
He'd called her an unlovable shrew, and—
Hermione had snapped.
"Malfoy," she had hissed through her teeth. "You are impossible. Impossible!"
Draco sneered down at her, all silver-blonde hair and grey eyes and it was infuriating and Hermione was seeing red and—
And the kiss was hard and fierce and fast.
It was a clash of teeth and lips, snarling, biting, violent, and, oh Merlin.
That was the first time Hermione Granger stopped thinking.
It wouldn't be the last, but it was the first.
And that meant something.
It was three days before Potter's birthday.
He watched her trace a body on newspaper, running her fingers over the still picture. It was a Muggle newspaper, with a Muggle heading—TWELVE DEAD IN GAS EXPLOSION—and Muggle connotations.
Draco didn't know why Granger looked so sad.
Laughter spilled out of the Burrow's kitchen; Daphne and Pansy and the Weaselette and Mrs. Weasley were in there, creating enough food to feed a small army (which, now that Draco thought about it, was probably a good thing, as much of the surviving Order would be showing up to celebrate Potter's early birthday).
The Boy Who Lived had lived through another year.
It was a cause for hope in a grim world.
Draco sat across from said Boy Who Lived, shuffled cards, and quietly drank his health. Potter nodded, and Granger sat between them, hands tucked in her lap. She was grinning, all teeth. There was a strange look in her eye, wild and a little desperate, and Draco didn't know whether he was terrified or turned on.
It was probably a little of both.
(The last time Draco had seen Hermione Granger with that look in her eye, he'd been thirteen, and she'd just punched him in the face.
It was surprisingly attractive.)
"Potter, this is the stupidest idea you've had yet. I commend you."
That was what Draco said.
"It's happening, Malfoy."
That was what Harry said.
Hermione couldn't believe she was agreeing with Draco on this one, but she was. Completely. Completely.
Harry might have been The Boy Who Lived, but he was not The Boy Who Lived Because He Was A Master Strategist.
And now, stranded in the rubble of an apartment building, hiding away as the rest of the world shattered, Hermione rested against a slab of concrete, shoulder touching Draco's.
It was so hot.
Hermione could feel sweat dripping down her back, slow and uncomfortable.
"I feel like I can't breathe," Hermione whispered with her head down.
Her breathing was shallow, her heart pounding like a drum in a too-thin chest. Her mouth felt like eons of years, layers and layers of dust. Water, she wanted water. Or oxygen, fresh oxygen, air to inhale that hadn't already been inhaled a thousand times.
Draco brushed her wild curls away from her neck.
Shivers rippled through Hermione, gooseflesh raising on her skin.
And suddenly she couldn't breathe for another reason entirely.
"Draco," she murmured. This is not the place or the time or—
He kissed her, and it was slow and sad and tired, and Hermione didn't think, anymore.
Granger was looking out the window. London bustled below them—the sun was out. It was warm out, the final drippings of summer beginning to die away.
"We'd be getting on the train, right 'bout now," she said in that way of hers that always made Draco wish that things were simpler.
But they never were.
Draco touched a tentative hand to her wrist. For a moment, he thought he could feel her blood (it always came back to blood) pounding through her veins. For a moment, he thought he could feel her soul.
And then it was gone.
Draco's fingers lingered at Granger's wrist, anyway.
"You've got to stop that," Hermione told Draco Malfoy, with a smile on her lips.
They sat in the highest window of Grimmauld Place. Hermione held a cup of tea in her hands. The porcelain of the mug was warm against her fingers.
"Stop what, Granger?" Draco drawled.
Her still called her Granger.
It ought have been annoying.
But it somehow wasn't.
He was smirking.
Hermione sighed, exhaling loudly through her nostrils. Draco snickered. Hermione was tempted to push him front of a tram. She looked at him a moment, before scrunching up her face and wrinkling her nose.
"That! That thing you do!"
Draco looked amused. "Be precise, Granger."
"You make me—" she broke off, and shrugged. "We're going to last, Draco. We will. We'll last to tomorrow. We have to."
The war wouldn't end.
But they would last.
They would last.
notes3: this bitch is finally finished. i hope you like it, emily!
notes4: please do not Favourite without leaving a review. i take it as a personal insult, & i'd much prefer to hear from you! :)