REVISION 1.0 (original submission): January 8, 2011
REVISION 2.0 (changed submission): July 11, 2011
STORY DETAILS: A Draco Malfoy x Hermione Granger story. Story is novel compliant up until the day of the Final Battle of Hogwarts (May 2, 1998). From that day onward, it's an Alternate Universe (and characters are a little OCC [out of character] as a result of the plot). THIS IS A ROMANTIC/DRAMA/ANGST/MYSTERY STORY.
TIMELINE: December, 1998 (no end date given, as that's a spoiler)
CHARACTERS FEATURED (alphabetical order, last name): The Bloody Baron, Albus Dumbledore, Hermione Granger, The Grey Lady (Helena Ravenclaw), Ruebus Hagrid, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy, Scorpius Malfoy, Theodore Nott, Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Arthur Weasley, Ginny Weasley, Molly Weasley, Ron Weasley, Rose Weasley, Blaise Zabini
SUMMARY: Having both been killed in the Final Battle of Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger remained behind as ghosts, not crossing over. Trapped at the school, never able to leave the boundaries of the walls surrounding the castle and its property, it was inevitable that they would run into each other again… Perhaps it's true that one's salvation comes from a single amazing act of grace.
RATING: M+ (NC-17 – including explicit consensual sex, oral sex, masturbation, profanity, discussion of death).
IMAGES FOR FIC: You can see images I picked to represent the characters in this fic here (remember to remove all spaces from the URL to get it to load properly): http:/ / s905 . photobucket . com / albums / ac260 / RZZMG / Amazing%20Grace.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Tuesday, December 1st, 1998
The first time Hermione Granger talked to Draco Malfoy after the war ended was December the first that same year.
For seven months after Voldemort's defeat - and consequently, both of their deaths - Slytherin's former Prince staunchly avoided her, going out of his way to disappear through walls or float upwards and away to keep from crossing her path. She knew from rumour via The Bloody Baron that Malfoy spent the majority of his time skulking around the dungeons specifically so he could dodge her, and for some odd reason, being so prominently and purposefully shunned irritated her.
Now, however, both of them were good and caught, and there would be no chance for a clever sidestep and escape, thanks to the castle's rather annoying habit of enchanting Viscum album to randomly pop-up, magically preventing couples - even spiritual ones, apparently - from moving in any solid direction again until they kissed under the obnoxiously parasitic weed.
"Who in the bloody hell invented such a wanked-out tradition anyway?" Malfoy snarked. His attention was directed up at the sprig of mistletoe creeping downwards towards them - a white-berry harbinger of doom.
Hermione sighed. Being dead hadn't changed him a bit, had it? He was still a git.
"Professor Vindictus Viridian did," she rather primly informed him, smoothing her Muggle jumper down in the front. "In 1735, when he decided to retire from teaching, he wrote that he wanted to leave an enduring legacy behind – something aside from his portrait and his dislike of the student body, that is to say. It's all explained in Hogwarts, A History, if you'd ever bothered to read it." Crossing her arms, she stared up at him with resignation. "Now, can we just get on with the kissing thing so we can part ways? I don't fancy standing here for the next century."
Her unwitting companion's testy gaze zeroed in on her. "Really, and why is that? It's not as if we're going anywhere else - ever."
Rolling her eyes at such melodramatic foolishness, she took a deep breath and slowly let it out to calm her rising irritation - which was a rather funny idiosyncrasy, as technically she didn't need to breathe anymore. However, the residual memory of the life she'd only recently abandoned was hard to shake.
"Look, Malfoy, I get it that you're probably bitter about what happened-"
"And you're not?" he asked, rudely cutting her off. "So simple for you then, is it – being dead?" Leaning back on his heels and crossing his arms, he sneered down at her in that imperious way he'd perfected over the years. "Yes, I suppose it would be, seeing as how stiff you were while breathing. Probably didn't shag once before snuffing it, I'll bet."
Infuriated beyond the capacity for rational dialogue by such impolite commentary on her lack of a romantic life, she hauled back and punched the rotten snake in the shoulder – hard. His rather prissy "Ow!" and girly flinch in response was quite satisfying, in her opinion. He'd had that and more coming to him for a long time.
"Hey, ghosts can touch each other!" he squawked in surprise.
Hermione tsk'd at his ignorance. "Haven't you paid attention to the specters around this place? Didn't you notice how they could hold hands and dance together, and how The Bloody Baron could grab Peeves by the ear? You've only lived here for practically most of every year for the last seven. Didn't any of that sink in at all during that time?" Shaking her head, she huffed with some small measure of condescension. "Honestly, to think you'd once been Number Two in the class…" Straightening her Muggle sweater by pulling the hem down, she impatiently waved at him to lean closer. "Now, kiss me so we can get past all this nonsense and move on with our lives."
He actually growled at her. "Kiss you? Have you been sniffing around Sprout's weed garden, Granger? These lips don't touch the inferior. Besides, don't you mean so we can both move on with our deaths? We aren't, technically, living anymore – or hadn't you noticed?"
She sighed louder, her patience with his flippant attitude at an end. "Whatever." Grabbing the lapels of his black jacket, she hauled him forward, stood up on her tiptoes and placed a potent smooch on his lips.
The look on his ferret face as she pulled away was priceless – incredulity mixed with terror, blended and whipped-up nicely with a healthy dose of riled anger. His lips, however… now, they'd conveyed something completely different about the encounter: they'd been warm and pliant, almost welcoming of her attention, as they'd softened up there at the end. And they'd been flavored a bit like a rather intoxicating blend of spiced tea.
In short, the kiss had been wonderful, despite its brief existence.
Wasn't that just the oddest thing? She'd been under the impression that even being able to touch each other, ghosts would continue to feel nothing truly... stirring... from the experience. At least, that was the state she'd lingered in since the moment she'd 'awoken' to find herself a shade, and how both The Bloody Baron and The Grey Lady had each described the afterlife to her when they'd individually discussed it with her. Further, from her own brief experimentations on the issue in the months since she'd accepted her new, ghostly existence, she knew spirits couldn't taste or smell anything either. The only senses that seemed to remain wholly unaffected by one's spiritual state were sight and hearing.
And yet, she'd felt Malfoy's kiss!
No, that couldn't be! It had to have been a mistake, that's all. Perhaps she'd simply projected her longing to actually feel something onto the experience, and thus imagined the impression of temperature, texture, and odor? Or maybe it had just been a fluke - some sort of weird electrical discharge in the air that affected them coincidentally to create a false impression of having briefly reacquired all five senses? Or maybe she was again just tricking her own mind into believing she was still living. After all, Sir Nicholas had warned her that in some instances, it took decades for the truth of a ghost's reality to sink in.
There was a simple way to determine the truth, of course, but it would require her to willingly press her and Malfoy's mouths together.
Eww. Gross. Forget it.
Glancing up at the wizard before her - when had he gotten so tall? - she noted that he remained as frozen as she by the situation. Queerly, in fact, he didn't react at all as she'd assumed he would; he didn't seem in the least bit inclined to curse her, or push her off, or to immediately run and rinse his mouth out. Instead, he simply stood there, looking down at her with assessing, narrowed eyes.
Maybe he'd felt it, too?
The idea of trying the kiss again just to make sure was a reckless, nagging voice in the vaults of her spectral mind, but her higher brain backed the bus up straight away for a harsh dose of reality: the excuse of the mistletoe compelling them wouldn't fly any longer as a believable subterfuge to hide her personal curiosity in this case, as the pesky verdure was charmed to disappear as soon as the prerequisite kiss was done.
She made a cursory check of their magically-compelled status with a roll of her eyes upward, and found her supposition to be correct: the weed was gone.
Therefore, if she attempted to kiss Malfoy again, she'd be wide open for his harsh censure…
Wait! Perhaps she was going about this all wrong. This wasn't personal, really; it was an experiment. The kissing would only be an effort of research. After all, the mark of a good, objective scientist was to attempt to recreate a scenario to prove a hypothesis, and that would be the extent of what she was doing here, right? Mating her mouth to Draco's once more would have absolutely nothing to do with wanting to reconstruct that pleasant feeling she'd just experienced, and everything to do with conducting a fair, investigative endeavor.
Pulling again at his lapels, tugging him back down, she took full advantage of his momentary delay in action - silence could be considered consent, after all! - and kissed him a second time.
This was… well, it was actually quite nice. Comparable to the experience of sipping hot, honeyed tea on a really cold winter's morn. Or similar to that rapturous happiness that only chocolate truffles melting on her tongue had ever been able to bring her. It rated right up there, she had to admit, as one of the best surprises she'd ever been given, closely approaching the wonder of her getting her first Hogwarts' acceptance letter, or receiving her first "Outstanding" in Snape's Potions class, or even that time she'd captured Rita Skeeter in her Animagus form under the glass.
In a phrase, she was beguiled.
To her utter astonishment – and probably his – Malfoy actually relaxed and hesitantly, he began kissing her back. His hands moved to rest quite naturally on her hips, allowing her the opportunity to slide her hands up his chest to twine around his neck and to relax as well…
…and that's when the experience skyrocketed past any other feeling of euphoria she'd previously encountered.
The kiss quickly evolved from tentative, explorative tastings, into something hot, wanton and wholly delicious. Their mouths practically ate each other up, their tongues entwining, pulling apart, only to seek out the other again and again as Hermione got the crash course in how to French kiss, never having done it before. Around a moan, Draco pulled her into him and shoved one hand into her hair, fisting through her curls to cradle her head, while his free hand secured her waist. "Tastes so good," he murmured in between pulls of their lips.
"Mmmm," she agreed around his gentle biting of her bottom lip.
It was a strange sensation to once again feel her heart pounding in her chest after being so still for so long, and to have all of her senses instantly and powerfully respond to an outside stimulus, heightened to degrees she'd never even realized were possible. And yet, at the same time, Hermione knew that none of those living, biologic responses were in actuality real for someone like her, a non-living entity. Logically, she understood that she had no blood to pump, no nerves to arouse, and no solid mass to house the miracle of awareness of the natural world, and that meant that these inciting phenomena were but a lingering remembrance of her former existence.
Still, in that moment, she felt more alive than she ever had. This "awakening" of her senses was a potent aphrodisiac, deviously enthralling, and she slipped and fell into the feelings, entirely forgetting her predicament for the time being. Her whole world narrowed down to Draco and this, and nothing else mattered anymore.
It was several minutes before either of them had the mind to consider the voices about them whispering in hushed tones and giggling, and it wasn't until Hermione actually heard her name spoken aloud that she pulled away from her partner with a start, staring up at him in dawning horror.
Holy catamoli, she'd just kissed Draco Malfoy, and liked it! No, more than liked it – she'd loved it and had never wanted it to stop. Panicked, she tried to convince her horrified brain that she must be coming down with some kind of spectral flu and was feverish. Yes, that was the only logical explanation…
To be fair, Slytherin's former top dog seemed as equally shaken and appalled by his behavior, and it was almost in consensus that the two of them realized how ridiculous the entire situation was and jumped away from the other – quite literally – the mistletoe curse unquestionably broken by their rather intense snogging session.
A nearby pack of Gryffindor girls she'd recognized as fourth years – who had known her in life, surely - giggled again, and Hermione turned her sternest glare on them, hands on hips, and rather crossly addressed them. "Don't you have classes to go to, you ninnies? Shoo!"
As the group turned away, laughing, it was with dismay that she recognized Luna standing nearby, having been witness to the whole incident. "Hello, Hermione Granger." Her friend waved at her and smiled in that faraway, quixotic manner she delighted in presenting to the world.
"Hello, Luna," Hermione replied with a resigned sigh, completely ignoring Malfoy, assuming he'd buggered off as soon as her back was turned anyway. She floated over to her friend, who was back at school this year, along with Ginny, to begin her seventh year. Their classes were shared with those members of the previous year's Senior Class who had opted to accept McGonagall's invitation to repeat their final year over at no expense so they could properly sit their N.E.W.T.s. The eighth-years included most of her fellow Gryffindors - minus Harry, who went into the Auror apprenticeship program, and Ron, who was helping George run his store in lieu of Fred - a handful of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, and two Slytherins: Blaise Zabini and Theodore Nott.
"That was quite a kiss you shared with Draco Malfoy just now," the blonde remarked. "But, I suppose it's no real surprise. He is quite handsome, isn't he? And it's clear that the Red-String of Fate has always connected you two. Anyone could see it when you were alive, and it's still there now that you're dead."
Hermione nibbled her bottom lip, feeling the warmth of her blood and the pounding of her heart beginning to recede, returning her to a state of unfeeling, and tried to ignore how its loss bothered her. "I only kissed him to get out from under the mistletoe. It seems the spell affects spiritual manifestations as well as the living."
Luna looked at her with those odd, too-blue, soul-searing eyes. "Why shouldn't it? Ghosts, poltergeists and angels are just a different form of life, but you're all just as real as me."
It took Hermione a moment to process that… and another second or two of struggling with herself not to correct the girl and to let that comment pass. This was, after all, Luna the Eccentric. "How are your studies coming along?" she quickly changed topics, and floated alongside her friend all the way to the Ravenclaw Tower, before they parted ways.
Dashing through wall after wall until, at last, he came to the Entrance Courtyard, Draco ran as far and as fast as he could away from the scene of the crime, as if the hounds of Hell were hot on his heels. He continued along the domed archway until he reached the top of the stairs leading down to the boat docks, and only then paused, looking out over the Black Lake below. Snow covered everything across the horizon, with the only color coming from the dark blue, moving waters and the green of the pines that dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see.
What on Phoebos and Deimos had he been thinking kissing the likes of Hermione Granger - not just once, but twice? Utter madness! He hadn't liked her enough to even consider the possibility of letting their mouths meet when they'd been alive. Hell, even dead, he couldn't stand the bushy-haired, know-it-all - "Professor Vindictus Viridian did… blah, blah, blah…" - so what had compelled him to touch her, much less lock lips with her?
Oh, that's right, that obnoxious mistletoe.
Right, so it wasn't really his fault at all! He'd just been trying to break the spell so he could get away from her. That was all there'd been to it!
The tactile memory of her soft, warm, incredibly delicious mouth enticed his thoughts again. The residual essence of spearmint and ice tingled his lips, made him unconsciously lick them, bringing his awareness to the fact that he could, in fact, taste something.
For seven months, he'd been unaware of heat or cold, of scent or flavor. There had been no impression of actual touch or taste or smell, only of sight and hearing. Even the façade of sleep he maintained, just to keep in the habits of the living, so he didn't lose his mind, had been difficult to accomplish. Thank Salazar's beard The Grey Lady had taken pity on him and given up the secret of pulling clouds out of the sky above the castle and bringing them down to wherever he sought his rest (she'd also explained how to use them to fashion new clothing, should he wish to change his garments, despite not really needing to, for the dead did not stink with sweat, and neither did their clothing). Yet, under the fervently grasping hands of Gryffindor's Princess, there had been a stirring of every sense, an explosion of color, sound, taste, feeling, and scent. He'd been aware of Granger, and of all the things about them, both living and dead, in a manner he'd never known before.
Considering how that could be possible, he rubbed his fingertips lightly over his buzzing lips, still alive from their earlier contact.
It had been an amazing kiss. Closing his eyes, he visualized those moments again in detail: she'd been so shocked by her actions, and yet so bold in chucking that fear aside, going with the moment. She'd taken him, dragging a response from him that blew his mind. He'd never wanted anyone so much, even when he'd been sporting skin.
Shaking his head, he spit, realizing who he'd just been daydreaming about. Gah! Now he'd need to sanitize his oral cavity and his brain! Wasn't there some kind of ectoplasmic mouthwash he could procure somewhere?
"Hey, mate," Zabini called out, coming up behind him, Nott skimming along at his side. "It's all around school – you kissing Granger. So, spill."
The man had gone through a radical change in the last year. From the Mudblood-hating, darkly-temperamental, brooding soul he'd been, Zabini had morphed into the laid back-type, less concerned about Slytherin politics and scheming. His mum had pulled him out of England in the spring to avoid the war, and being in Italy, sunning on the beach, surrounding by all of those hot-blooded Mediterranean witches had vastly changed his outlook on life.
Nott had remained much the same, though – unassuming, rather quiet - only now he was frequently to be found in Blaise's company, as the two of them often came to call on Draco, who had all the juicy gossip on the girls in school, because of his uncanny ability to snoop and not be seen.
Draco snorted. "Mistletoe," he explained, hoping to make the entire matter disappear.
"Yeah?" Zabini asked, wiping snow from the top of the low-set wall so he could park his arse upon it. "Works on ghosts, too, then?"
"Apparently," Draco dryly replied. "Fucking Viridian."
Rolling his eyes, as if it were the most obviously thing in the world, Draco tsk'd. "Professor Vindictus Viridian. He's the bloke who invented the stuff back in the 1700's. Left it around the castle as a parting 'fuck you,' only everyone thinks it's funny." He smirked arrogantly. "Haven't you read Hogwarts, A History yet?"
"No, and technically, neither have you. Granger told you that, I'll bet," Nott rather perceptively stated, adjusting his glasses over his nose, staring at Draco with amusement.
"Was that before or after you snogged each other senseless?" Blaise poked at the open wound with a shark-like grin. "'Cause the way I heard it, you were on each other like a Ravenclaw on a riddle, bro."
Draco didn't bother replying, his mind taken back once again to that moment when the kiss had changed into something hot and reckless… "I felt it."
"Felt what?" Theo inquired.
Sighing, Draco ran a phantom hand through his hair. "The kiss."
"That good, huh?" Zabini asked, seeming sincere in his curiosity.
Draco shook his head. "No, you don't get it. I didn't think it was possible to feel anything anymore." He looked down at his open hand, flexed it. "I haven't felt a bloody thing since I woke up and found I was like this. Not a breeze, not the change in temperature, not water or stone or cloth. Nothing. It's the same with smell and taste. I can't eat, and I haven't smelled soap or baking bread or even badly burned potions from the first years. I can hear and I can see - that's the extent of it." His brow furrowed as he was troubled by the idea. "Being sensory deprived has been slowly driving me mad. It's only being able to talk to you two that keeps me sane, you know." He sighed, shoving his hands in his trouser pockets and slumping in on himself, embarrassed to admit these truths as they made him vulnerable. "But when Granger kissed me today, I felt it. I tasted it. I smelled her minty breath. She was warm and alive. I didn't realize how much you could miss something as simple as that." Shutting his eyes, he thought that if it were possible for him to cry, he would. He hadn't been able to do so since his change in status. "I would give anything to be able to just feel the world moving. It's only been seven months, but it seems a million years that I've been dead inside."
His companions were silent for several moments, as the ramifications really hit all three of them as to what being a ghost really meant, and what Draco was doomed to suffer as a result of his cowardice when he died, running from death, instead of letting it embrace him.
"So, did you Frenchie her good, at least?" Blaise irreverently asked, a grin crawling up his cheek. "'Cause, you know, I would've. Granger is hot, even dead."
Draco nearly face-vaulted. "Is thinking with your dick your only merit?" he accused.
Zabini shrugged. "You said it yourself: life's all about feeling. What more is there?"
Whoa, now that was a deeply profound thought. The three young wizards let it sit and soak between them as they recognized the wisdom in such simple words.
"Seriously, mate, think about it for a second," Blaise encouraged. "If you can kiss her, maybe you can shag her, too! There's a sexy bod under those clothes, I'm telling you! Just check out the curves! Hell, maybe death's not gonna be quite as bad as you thought."
Theo barked an honest laugh, adjusting his glasses again. "You know, Zabini might be onto something there, Drake - for once in his dull life. You and Granger, well, the two of you were always linked in discussion anyway, being rivals. I have to admit that I heard the speculation sixth year, when you were so secretive. People thought you were seeing each other then, and that's what had you torn up."
That did it: Hermione Granger was officially a menace to his reputation and his sanity. He made up his mind to stay away from her from then on.
TO BE CONTINUED…
END CHAPTER NOTES:
JKR's writings on ghosts and poltergeists in the novels is contradictory in many cases (i.e. they supposedly can't touch anything, and yet Peeves can throw dung bombs, fungus-covered peanuts, etc. and Moaning Myrtle can flood the bathrooms and mess around with the bogs, and Sir Nicholas could be cured of Basilisk petrification with the administration of a potion by Madam Pomfrey; they supposedly can't eat, but at Sir Nicholas' Death-Day Party, there was food that was rotten and moldy, and one ghost commented that he could almost taste it as he ate it; they supposedly cannot decide to go to eternal rest if they choose, yet there is a comment by a portrait in one of the video games that JKR approved that speaks of a ghost departing his haunting and going beyond the Veil; the Headless Hunt's group all have horses, and yet the question belies, how did they get them, since their horses would have to have consciously made the decision to not seek an afterlife along with their owners at the time of their deaths; the ghosts can appear in various garb, dressing up as the situation requires, insinuating that they change clothes – but how, and where do they get the new clothes?). Things like that make it hard to stay "in canon" as it seems that not even JKR has a solid fix on what that term means in regards to ghosts for her story. For that reason, it is "open season" for us fanfickers – meaning, we can invent anything we want within the parameters already established. I have thus taken such liberties here in this story to make the plot come together.
Viscum album = Scientific name for European mistletoe.
I did not invent Professor Vindictus Viridian. He is a canon character, made up by J.K. Rowling. I did, however, invent the fact that he is responsible for the mistletoe springs popping up all over Hogwarts. It seemed like something he would do, given his name ('Vindictus' is a Latinized version for 'vindictive') and his brief history. Canon information about him indicates that he hated the hustle and bustle around the school by students, and he wrote a book on Curses and Counter-curses.
The Red-String of Fate = A cross-cultural superstition that stipulates that a spiritual, romantic tie (in the form of a red string) ties two people together (in European culture, the tie is through the chest, at the heart's level, while in Asian culture, it is said the tie is to the left pinky finger, and in ancient South American Indian culture, the tie was believed to be the right kneecap). It is said that those who can see such strings are mystics and should be greatly revered – and feared for their mysterious abilities.