Revised disclaimer: The book that's quoted is C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet. I do not claim any ownership to it, though I do highly recommend it.
AN: I hope you guys like this final section. A lot happens in it but there was just no good place to break it without making the final chapter super short. So instead you get a super long final chapter. Enjoy!
Fearless in the Dark
The castle was oddly full at Christmas, most parents wanting their children to stay within the safety of its walls. Draco wasn't sure if he preferred this. Given his blindness and his mother's continued distance there was no way he'd be going home. Having the freedom to walk down the corridors and not having to worry that anyone would see him if he stumbled would have been nice. But with the Gryffindors all staying around he didn't have any time to get lonely. If he ever had even the smallest chance of becoming bored one of them would inevitably turn up at his door asking how to prank so-and-so or inviting him down to Hagrid's or up to the common room.
It was annoying as hell and more fun than he thought he'd ever had.
Still, on Christmas morning he wasn't expecting much. Sure, he was Gryffindor House's new secret weapon, but he wasn't their friend, not someone they'd give presents to. There would be something from his mother, of course, just enough to remind him that she cared but not enough to remind Voldemort that she did.
Draco crawled forward on the bed, feeling for his trunk, atop which his present would be resting. What he felt was not one small present, but several presents, piled high. He frowned in confusion and pulled the first one to him. It was soft and awkwardly shaped. He knew before he even pulled the paper away that it was clothing. A knit sweater, far more cheaply made than anything else he owned, but warm and oddly comforting to hold. He slipped it on over the old quidditch jersey he wore to bed and was instantly warmer.
His next present was a pack of chocolate frogs, followed by something large and heavy that he got up to open. He had thought at first that beneath the paper was a box in which would be his present, but it didn't feel quite right for that. It was long and rectangular and made of something not quite like metal but there was no latch he could find. It was smooth in some places, while in others the material had been reduced to a stiff mesh. Attached to the top was a long, slim piece of metal, almost like a wand, that he could pull up and angle in nearly any direction. Also on the top was inset something that felt a bit like glass, but again wasn't quite. Above this there were buttons, five of them. Curiosity getting the better of him and he pressed the long, center one. There was a faint crackling noise coming from the box and Draco wondered if he had better take cover.
"The last drops of the thundershower had barely ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut-tree into the middle of the road. A violent yellow sunset was…"
Draco gaped. He knew those words, had read them more than a dozen times. This box was reading to him from one of his favorite novels. He slid his fingers reverently over it, feeling the vibrations from the sound as his palms touched the mesh bits on the front. He should open his other presents, he'd felt at least two more, but couldn't quite bring himself to stop listening. Instead, he turned the box so the side from which the sound came was facing his desk, and curled himself up on the floor, back to the drawers, to listen.
He eventually found his mother's gift, a pan of fudge straight from the Manor kitchens, as well as several cardboard box with small rectangular things in them. He really wasn't sure what they were. They each had two holes in the middle and he could feel some sort of tape on the bottoms and he honestly had no idea what use they served.
He let the heavy box continue reading, mostly because he wasn't quite sure how to make it stop but also because it was simply nice.
Granger came round just after the clock struck eight and giggled when she saw him. He decided there was probably a Gryffindor lion or something equally horrendous on the sweater but was too comfy to take it off.
"So you like it?" she asked.
"You got me the box?" he asked and he heard a click just as the reading stopped. The bed shifted beneath him as she sat.
"I had to ask Ron's dad to help me. It's a boom box, a muggle device for playing music, so he had to get all the changes approved by the Ministry. I got you some music, I really wasn't sure what you'd like that was available on muggle tapes so I had the boys buy some. I think they were just glad they didn't have to think of something to get you themselves. And there are books too, ones I saw on your shelf. I figured starting with this one would be a good idea since your copy was pretty worn."
He nodded. "It's great."
"Really?" she asked. She sounded ecstatic but he could hear the small bit of worry.
"I don't lie on Christmas."
She laughed. "I'm sure. Hurry up and put on your shoes. It's time for the feast and everyone in Gryffindor is going down in their pajamas."
"I go blind before all the best things," he said, but smiled as he did.
"Oh, it's for the best, trust me. You're wearing a Weasley sweater."
The sweater earned Draco a fair amount of ribbing from the Gryffindors. It was a grey that was probably supposed to be silver, Granger said, adding that the color choice was probably because Harry had been getting a green one for years and Mrs. Weasley was nothing if not a traditionalist when it came to presents.
After everyone finished eating there was a long discussion about where to adjourn to. Draco had assumed they'd all go to Gryffindor Tower but apparently they wanted friends from other Houses to join them in their celebrations. In the end they agreed to go to "the Room."
"You're going to have to explain this one to me," Draco said as he allowed himself to be led up the stairs. He was too full and too full of holiday cheer to bother pretending he didn't appreciate the help finding his way around disappearing steps and moving staircases.
"The Room of Requirement," Thomas said, "one of the Founders' better inventions."
"It can be anything you need it to be," Potter said. "If you're hungry, it'll give you a feast; if you're tired, it'll give you a bed; if you need to use the loo, it'll give you a room full of chamber pots."
"Dumbledore, I'll bet," someone whose voice Draco only vaguely recognized said. He didn't remember the voice from breakfast and almost tripped when he turned in surprise. Several hands reached out to grab him, but no one said anything. He was righted and that was that.
"Fred! George!" Ron and Ginny yelled and there was a great deal of talking and not a lot of explaining while everyone questioned the return of the infamous Weasley twins.
Finally, one of them, Draco had no idea which, said, "Mum said she was making a sweater for a Malfoy, didn't believe her though."
"He really friendly?" asked the other one.
The answering chorus of voices was enough to warm Draco's heart. Apparently, he was a Gryffindor now. It wasn't nearly as horrifying a thought as it should have been.
"Good to have you!" one of the twins said, putting an arm around Draco's shoulders.
"You'll fit in fine!" the other said, doing the same on Draco's other side. Immediately Draco was lifted between them and found himself being carried up the stairs.
"We've always wished for someone more dastardly."
"And now here you are!"
"Is it true you came up with that squid prank?"
"We'll have to show you some of our old unused plans, see if you can't work them in during your last couple years."
"It'd be a shame if they went to waste."
The Room of Requirement was wonderful. Because the whole thing was magical, Draco could see it. Not well, but it was better than the usual nothing. The walls were a dull grey to him and even though he could almost make out people milling about, their edges were fuzzy and unless they stayed very still they'd disappear into the background. In the end, he simply closed his eyes and enjoyed his Butterbeer.
About the third hour of celebrating, Longbottom asked if Draco had liked his present and Draco admitted he hadn't tried any of the music the Gryffindor boys had picked out for him. The twins immediately insisted on hearing this muggle music and Granger and a twin disappeared for several minutes, running to his room to retrieve everything. About half an hour later they discovered a song named "Macarena" and when Finnigan told them there was a dance, insisted on learning it.
Draco was never happier to be blind than the moment the twins realized they couldn't force him to perform it as they were every single student who had the bad luck to come close enough to be grabbed.
They played the song a total of twelve times before Ginny snapped that she'd blow Draco's present up if they didn't play something else.
All in all everything was going fine until the moment Ernie Macmillan took exception to Draco joining in their celebration. He had been talking about it for a while before his voice finally drowned out all other conversation.
"…last year! And now just because he's blind we have to play nice?"
"Ernie," Potter said quietly. Even though the two boys were across the room from one another, Potter could be heard clearly in the silence.
"He's got a point," a voice Draco didn't recognize at all said.
"The things we did here," Macmillan went on, "what right does he have to any of that?"
"And what did you do here?" Draco asked before Potter could defend him. It was one thing to be friendly with Gryffindors, it was quite another to let them fight his battles. And really, it was a stupid club. There was no reason for Macmillan to be getting so worked up over it. "Do you honestly think whatever it was that you could do it any better than me?"
Macmillan chuckled. "Fine. You think you're worthy of being one of us? A duel. That's what we did, you Death Eater scum, we learned to fight your kind."
"Ernie!" Granger gasped.
"You know he can't fight," Weasley muttered and if Draco didn't know any better he'd say the boy was trying to spare his feelings.
This time Draco chuckled. "I am more than capable of holding my own against a Hufflepuff. Sight or no."
Things happened quickly after that. The twins fully believed his absurd declaration, that or they just wanted to see him knocked on his ass. They made quick work of the other students, telling them all to get back, form the usual rows. Apparently, they really had done this sort of thing a lot since everyone knew exactly where to go.
"Here you go," Fred or George said, taking Draco by the shoulders and turning him. "You're facing Macmillan straight on. Try not to die or we'll have to put 'Killed by a Hufflepuff' on your tombstone and I think you might be kicked out of the Malfoy plot for that sort of thing."
"He is not doing this!" Granger snapped, coming up to them. She'd been yelling at the other twin for the last two minutes.
"I'll be fine," Draco said and the Weasley took that as his cue to leave.
"You will not be fine! You can't see! How will you know when to put up a shield or even where to aim? You could hit someone who isn't a complete idiot!"
"I'll be fine," he said again, more quietly.
She grabbed the front of his sweater. "You nearly died three months ago. Do you really want to end up in the infirmary again?"
"Because it's Christmas," he said, "I'll tell you a secret." He leaned forward and was pleasantly surprised when his aim was true and he felt her curls against his right cheek. "I can see all magic, not just my own," he whispered.
She pulled back in shock and he said, "Aim me at him."
She was too surprised by his admission to argue any longer and pushed his left shoulder slightly.
"Good luck," she managed.
"Don't need it," he said cockily.
Macmillan began with a lazy stupefy, which Draco blocked with equal boredom. The fool followed that up with a body-bind hex, a jelly-legs curse, and, after he became utterly frustrated at being held off so easily by a blind man, a string of spells that were far too dangerous for a friendly Christmas duel. Draco blocked them all and, only when Macmillan shouted a slur about Narcissa, did Draco let out a stupefy so forceful it broke through the boy's shield.
There was utter silence for several moments until the twins broke out in whoops of joy and Draco was lifted on a pair of shoulders and carried around the room amid thunderous applause.
It took a while to explain, especially since Granger had only just been let in on his new ability. The twins still weren't fully convinced that his blindness wasn't all an act when he excused himself an hour later. He planned on asking Potter to help him downstairs but Granger offered herself before he could. He carried his boom box, Granger his music, and together they walked in silence.
Once in his room Granger began straightening up the mess he'd left behind that morning while he placed his boom box on his bedside table.
"You're lucky this fudge got hidden underneath all this wrapping paper," she said, "otherwise I don't think I could have stopped George from taking it. Who gave it to you?"
"And the chocolate frogs?"
He shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed. "No idea. There's probably a note somewhere."
Granger searched through the papers, crumpling them all together until, "Pansy." There was an odd sort of strangled quality to her voice when she said the name. "Have you seen her since…?"
"No. But she's one of my oldest friends. She's avoiding me now because she knows I wouldn't want pity and because I've been spending a shameful amount of time with you and your idiot friends."
She sat down beside him and patted the hand resting on his knee. "You really need to stop calling them that."
"Because they're your idiot friends too."
He fought to keep from smiling.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she asked quietly. "About the magic?"
"I wanted to study it myself, I guess. It only really set in the last couple weeks."
"Well, I'm glad anyway." Her fingers wrapped around his hand and he spent a minute simply enjoying the feel of her hand on his.
"I'm sorry I didn't get you a present," he said finally.
She was sitting so close that her hair brushed against him when she shook her head. "You didn't need to."
"I should have," he insisted.
"You'll make it up to me," she said and sounded sure. He turned his hand over, wrapping his fingers around her hand now and rubbing his thumb over the back. He could feel the calluses on her fingers from all the writing she did, as well as one near the edge of her palm from her wand work.
"Can I-" It wasn't like him to ask permission and though he didn't finish or wait for an answer, it was a sign of how self-conscious he was that he began at all. "Hermione," he said, tasting the name. "Close your eyes."
"Okay," she said after only a moment's pause.
He slid his hand out from under hers, ran it along her wrist, over the sleeve of her own Weasley sweater. He felt her shudder as his fingers brushed past her elbow and swallowed a lump in his throat. He paused at the collar of the sweater, giving both of them the opportunity to back out. Finally he crossed the barrier and she stilled instantly when his fingers touched her skin. He skimmed over the column of her neck, bringing his right hand up to cup her chin with both hands.
He wished he could see her, now that he knew her, really take her in the way he never had before. This would have to do.
His thumbs brushed her cheeks and he moved his hands up to lay them flat against her face. He felt the gentle curve of her eyes, the soft bow of her lips. Her nose was small and he ran one middle finger up along it to her forehead while his left hand moved to the side, under her ear and into the soft curls of her hair. His left hand pushed a few locks behind her ear before dropping to her shoulder. He pulled her to him, pressing a gentle kiss against her mouth. She returned it, one of her hands sliding to his thigh and he opened his mouth in shock. She paused and he worried he'd ruined everything, but then her mouth opened and she slid her tongue past his lips. There was a bit of a wrestling match and he bent back, wrapping his arm around her shoulders to pull her with him.
She stopped, her hands coming to his chest to push him away and he instantly let go.
"Mom said never to kiss a boy when you can see a bed," she said, breathless.
"What if he can't see the bed?"
She pushed him lightly but her fingers dug into the fabric, keeping him close. "I should go. I should really go."
He didn't answer, she'd be a fool not to know what he thought about that.
She leaned into him for just a moment before standing and moving away from the bed. "I was right," she said proudly at the door.
"You did make it up to me."
Draco was sleeping soundly, dreaming of running his hands over a warm body and through a thick head of hair that tickled his nose when he bent in to breathe in her scent.
It was really a shame to interrupt such a good dream, and early enough that it was still just barely Christmas too.
The explosion was enough to shake every window in the castle. Draco sat up immediately and waited, listening for whatever would come next. It came almost slowly, the stones falling from the high towers. When they hit, the ground shook and Draco ran for his dresser, grabbing the first clothes his hands found and pulling them on. Whatever was happening it was bad. He'd be the last informed, he knew. Professors first, then students. One blind boy in a room all by himself wouldn't be high on anyone's list.
He was quite surprised then, when a small pop sounded.
"Mister Draco!" Peech squeaked as her small, strong arms wrapped around his knees.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, trying not to lose his balance since he only had one shoe on. She pulled away and pushed him onto the bed so that she could put his other shoe on for him.
"Headmaster Dumbledore made sure that Peech knew it was her duty to keep an eye on Mister Draco! And I is knowing that when the Death Eaters attacked, Peech would have to tell you so that you would not be frightened and try to leave- Where is you going?" she demanded, sounding like an irate mother.
"I-" He really didn't know. If the party was still going on - and with the Weasley twins there he didn't imagine it would end before dawn - then they'd all be fighting by now. Who would he tell who didn't already know? Who could he help?
"You will stay here," Peech said firmly.
Draco stepped away from the door and sat on his chest, nodding.
She laid a hand on his arm. "I will be back," she said and was gone.
Draco didn't know what was wrong with him. He wasn't the fighting kind. He didn't run headfirst into danger like some bloody Gryffindor. But he almost had. He'd wanted to know that his friends were all right, that Granger was all right. What was wrong with him? So he'd gotten a few Christmas presents. So he'd kissed the girl. That did not mean he was going to be an idiot and get himself killed. He was blind. He'd only beaten Macmillan because the boy was an overconfident fool. There was no way he stood a chance against anyone as strong as a Death Eater.
And why should he? Wasn't he on their side?
No, he was on his side. He was a Malfoy, a survivor. Survivors were smart. Survivors stayed in their nice, safe rooms that none of the attackers even knew existed. Survivors most certainly did not run out to track down and check on people who'd hexed them senseless barely six months before.
He could hear screaming now, distant and terrified. The faintest scent of smoke was in the air. The castle was under siege.
"Dammit," he said, standing, "I really need to stop hanging around the Gryffindors."
Mist flowed from his wand, showing him the way. He'd given up speaking the spell and his will alone was tumultuous enough to give rise to small storm clouds. He didn't care. He hurried up the stairs, knowing only that it had been a long climb to the Room of Requirement.
He started hearing fighting at the fifth floor, but passed it by when he didn't recognize any of the voices. On the sixth floor he heard adult voices that he knew didn't belong to professors - at least not current professors. Moody and Lupin were calling out spells and orders to students Draco had been partying with earlier. They were at the other end of the corridor. Closer to him were Death Eaters. He could hear his aunt cackling.
This was a very, very bad idea, he thought as he watched the spell fire. No one had noticed him yet. He could feel dust in the air and when he reached out felt rubble blocking him from view. That was something, he supposed. Now he just had to get his legs to move so he could run back down to his room and hide like a good little blind boy. This temporary insanity was liable to get him killed.
Someone screamed. He honestly didn't know who but some damned borrowed Gryffindor instinct overtook him and he jumped out, bringing his wand up and leveling it in the direction of the Death Eaters. Two stupefies, aimed straight at gathering magic, were enough to bring the two of them down.
"Draco!" Bellatrix was scandalized.
Of course he'd missed her. Only the worst of all of them. There were at least two more standing but they ignored him, leaving him to her. Perfect.
"I will assume," she said, her voice moving around him, "that you attacked your own because you were unable to see who they were."
Draco didn't answer, really not wanting to.
"Still," she said, "such foolishness must be punished."
There was absolutely no question what the next word out of Bellatrix Lestrange's mouth would be.
"Expelliarmus!" Draco cried. Bellatrix blocked it easily and slashed at him. He put up a shield but was slammed back into a wall much as Macmillan had been earlier. Distantly, Draco felt some remorse.
"Draco," Bellatrix said slowly, advancing on him. "You are making very bad choices tonight. Your brain must have been addled when you took that fall months ago. We'll have to fix that."
"Crucio!" Bellatrix cackled just as someone to Draco's right thundered, "Stupefy!"
The curse hit Draco for one excruciating second before the second spell threw Bellatrix' aim off and her curse flew upward. Draco had barely a moment to breathe normally and thank his lucky stars for whoever had saved him before he heard a deep crack and the wall and part of the ceiling fell down upon him.
Draco recognized the infirmary by the smell. There was nothing at all for his nose to sniff out aside from the heavy, overpowering scent of medicinal potions. Somewhere to his left Dumbledore was speaking quietly but closer on his right there was a persistent sniffling.
He opened his eyes and found that he was still blind as before.
"Look who's finally up," a groggy sounding Potter muttered from Draco's left. So that was who Dumbledore was talking to.
"Don't tell me I have the privilege of joining the Harry Potter in his annual end-of-year trip to the infirmary."
"You both gave us quite the scare, Mister Malfoy," Dumbledore said.
A great sob welled up on Draco's right and someone fell against him, clutching his arm and crying into his blanket. "I is so happy Master Draco is alive!" Peech wailed.
Soft footsteps sounded and when Dumbledore next spoke he seemed to be sitting between Harry and Draco's beds. "When Peech heard you had been injured she would not allow herself to be removed from your side."
"Thank you, Peech," Draco said quietly, wishing the others weren't so close they could hear. She sniffed in response. "I'm assuming we won?"
"Most spectacularly," Dumbledore said. "Apparently the Death Eaters were counting on some support from your fellow Slytherins - or at least were not counting on any resistance from that quarter. Your housemates seem to be having changes of heart about Voldemort due in part to your recent friendship with Mister Potter."
Potter must have seen the horrified expression on Draco's face and took some pity on him, explaining, "Fred and George say that, from what they could gather from Crabbe and Goyle, the Slytherins actually think you're corrupting us, not the other way around."
"That's something at least," Draco murmured, thinking about Fred and George and Crabbe and Goyle and the mess that must have been.
"I have been informed that you have recently discovered a new skill, Mister Malfoy, is this correct?" Dumbledore asked.
"Looks that way," Draco said.
"You will be careful," Dumbledore said. "The magics which come to us naturally are usually the easiest to master - and the most dangerous."
Draco nodded solemnly, more because he knew it was what the old man wanted than because he agreed. "Of course, sir."
"Good. Very good. Glad to have you with us," he added. He stood and padded quietly around the bed. "Come along, Peech. The boys need their rest."
Peech pulled herself away from Draco's side and shuffled woefully out the door behind Dumbledore.
Potter waited all of three seconds to say, "If you hurt Hermione, I and every Weasley on the planet will kill you."
"Where exactly is this coming from, Potter?"
"Don't lie to me. She was more concerned about you than me-"
"I am blind. I naturally evoke sympathy now."
"-and no less than three times did she start and then stop saying things that I'm sure from the way she blushed and looked at your unconscious body, would mean the end of the twins' bet on whether or not the two of you are dating."
Draco lost track of the sentence quickly after the part about Granger looking at his unconscious body but he came back just in time to hear Potter add, "So break her heart and die."
"We are not together," Draco felt the need to point out.
Potter rolled over as loudly as possible, presumably away from Draco, and muttered, "Like that matters."
Visitors began arriving in the next hour. First were Lupin and a woman whose voice Draco recognized. She had cast the spell that saved him from Bellatrix.
"Didn't expect to see you out there, cuz," she said.
"I can see you," was the only response he could come up with. Her features were fuzzy, but she was most definitely there. She pulled back in surprise.
"She's a metamorphmagus," Potter paused his conversation with Lupin to explain.
"Ah," he sighed. "My half-blood cousin."
"That's me," she said cheekily. "That was pretty impressive, running into the fight like that. Didn't think you had it in you." She slapped him on the shoulder and he tried not to take offense. "Now that You-Know-Who knows you're a traitor, you're always welcome to stay at my parents' or even with the Order! The Weasleys'd love it if you came and-"
"We need to be going," Lupin said quietly. "Moody, remember?"
"Oh, right. Top secret mission. Gotta get it done fast, then we can finally rest." There was a slapping sound and the two left.
"Did my cousin just slap Lupin on the ass?" Draco asked.
"'Fraid so," Potter said. "If I knew how it happened I'd tell you but-"
"Please don't," Draco said quickly. A member of his family - black sheep or no - and Lupin. Could anything be more horrifying?
Luckily the Gryffindors showed up soon after to distract him. Crookshanks immediately leapt up onto Draco's bed and curled up atop his feet.
"You're an idiot, you know that?" Granger demanded, smacking him in the shoulder. "You could have been killed!"
Draco turned his head towards Potter. "This is what you call concern?"
"We'd love to say it's a Hermione thing," one of the twins said. "But really it's just a Gryffindor girl thing."
"They love you and they make sure you know it," the other added.
"Usually with scars."
"Shut up, both of you," Ginny Weasley snapped, then more quietly, "How are you two doing?"
"Fine," Draco and Potter said at the same time.
"Aside from the being blind thing," Draco added, earning him another, lighter smack from Granger. This time he took the opportunity to grab her hand and lace his fingers with hers. "You," he said, "are a terrible influence on me and now you're physically attacking me? I do not see this relationship going well."
"I am not a bad influence! And we are not in a relationship."
"I turned my back on generations of pureblood values after one very short-lived make-out session-"
"Dammit!" one of the twins muttered while the other laughed triumphantly and Draco heard coins changing hands.
"Who would've thought I'd be dating a bad girl Gryffindor."
Granger gasped in outrage but Draco cut off her reply by pulling her down to him for a quick kiss that shocked her into silence.
"I don't care if the Slytherins do want him back," one of the twins said, "we're keeping him."