AN: This is the final chapter. I hope you've all enjoyed the story and that the ending is as satisfying to you as it is to me.
Molly has made all her favorites for breakfast and no one will hear her apologies. She caught Ginny in the hall early in the day, after she'd healed her arm. The two hugged and cried and swore they were still friends. Hermione doesn't quite believe it.
Ginny can forgive. She never really saw what Hermione became and she, more than anyone, knows what it is to be used by Voldemort. But Hermione remembers wanting to kill her, to make her scream and weep and beg. She remembers hating her with everything she had and now cannot seem to look her in the eye at the table.
Hermione is filled in on all the best stories she missed. She forces a smile when they talk about battles she remembers from the other side and it becomes brittle when the twins mention "that mad Death Eater who's giving Bellatrix a run for her money."
She keeps one eye on the door but knows she won't see white-blonde hair.
With all the talk breakfast bleeds into lunch and it's solidly the afternoon when Remus comes to collect her for more debriefing. The twins whine that they want to hear all the Death Eater stories but at their mother's stern look both go quiet. It's almost worse than just telling them, Hermione thinks.
Days go by and soon she's told Remus nearly everything. They've gained valuable information, as everyone keeps saying. They always cut short there since no one will say whether or not it was worth it. She's not sure she wants to know which they'd choose.
Once or twice her talks with Remus veer into uncomfortable territory and he pats her hand and tells her it's okay, she doesn't have to talk about it until she's ready. He knows, she's sure, about her and Draco. Neither of them mention him directly but Remus always seems to know who she means when she says "we" in her recounting.
The day after she can think of nothing more to tell Remus - nothing more she can tell him - she has nothing to do. She's come to depend on the routine of going to him so that she's kept busy.
She balances the twins' books - their business is still doing well despite the war - and plays a dull game of wizarding chess with Ginny but cannot keep her mind from wandering back to long days in the Manor. She wants work to do but Remus insists she rest her mind. Clearly he's confusing her with someone else. That, or he still doesn't trust her.
She decides to read when nothing else will keep her interest and heads up to her room. She sees Tonks ahead of her on the stairs, carrying a tray of food and is instantly curious. Molly won't let anyone take meals outside the kitchen without very good reason.
Hermione sneaks along behind the older woman, knowing that spying is not something she should be doing when everyone's still worried she's in the enemy's pocket. When Tonks stops at the third door in a hallway, Hermione ducks quickly into the second, lest she be seen. She sees her mistake instantly.
Buckbeak narrows his eyes at her, his wings opening as far as they can in the small room. Her heart racing, Hermione bows. After several tense moments, Buckbeak does the same. Hermione lets out a sigh of relief and strokes the beast's neck on her way to the wall. She presses her ear to a crack that was no doubt caused by Buckbeak's tantrums.
"Do you ever even move?" Tonks asks. "Every day I bring you a tray and you're still sitting in that exact spot."
"I like this spot," Draco says, his voice closer than Tonks'. Hermione's breath hitches. "It's finally comfortable."
A few minutes pass where Hermione can't hear anything at all and then, "She's doing better."
"I didn't ask," Draco says.
"But you were dying to," Tonks sing-songs. "Really, she's doing a lot better. Thank you."
"I didn't do it for you," he snaps. Hermione hears the door open before he adds, "I was just tired of having her around the Manor."
"If you're going to lie to yourself," Tonks says, "at least try to be convincing."
It doesn't take much to alter the wards on Draco's door so that she is among those allowed in and out. Once done, it takes her a full day to decide to go in.
He's got a room much like hers. Bed, dresser, bookshelf, desk. He's sitting in the middle of the bed, legs crossed, a book open in his lap. He looks up when the door opens and starts. He's halfway to his feet when he seems to reconsider and settles on the edge of the bed.
"No need for manners now that I'm a mudblood again?" she asks, shutting the door behind her.
"You were always a mudblood," he says without scorn. "If you curse me I'd prefer to fall on the bed."
"I didn't come here to curse you," she says quickly.
"Just like you didn't go into the dungeons to kill the Weasley girl."
"Ginny," Hermione breathes, wishing he was wrong. "Her name is Ginny."
"I don't exactly care."
"Why?" she asks. "Why did you do it?"
He sneers derisively. "I told you. I needed to get back in his good graces."
"No!" she snaps and jumps a little at her own voice. She swallows and quietly asks, "Why did you bring me back here?"
He stares at her for a long moment before scooting back onto the bed. He resumes his place, just as he was when she came in. "Get out," he says calmly. "Before someone comes in and thinks we're plotting."
She doesn't question how he knows she's not supposed to be there. She leaves without another word.
Hermione wakes up one morning with Crookshanks lying on her pillow. She doesn't know how he got through the closed door and doesn't care. He lets her hug him too tight and cry into his fur. He doesn't leave her side for two days and even then it's only because he's leaving her in capable hands.
Harry and Ron return. They burst into her room and there's hugging and crying and she doesn't think she's ever been so happy to see them. She pulls Harry down beside her on the bed and Ron leans against one of the bedposts, taking in the sight of her.
"We didn't know," he says. "We were sure they'd-" His voice breaks and he looks away.
Harry takes her hand on the covers and squeezes it. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," Hermione assures him quickly. "I'm sorry."
"You didn't do anything wrong," Harry begins.
"You were in that hole for months!" Ron rages. He comes over to take her free hand, her left. "I can't imagine what they must have done…."
He holds her hand tightly between his and bends his head over it. She think he might kiss it. She's glad he doesn't. It's suddenly hit her that no one told them. It probably wasn't deliberate, leaving the task to her. Everyone must have either been too uncomfortable or hoped someone else had or would.
She carefully pulls her hand away from his body, twisting it so that her forearm is up. Ron lets her but doesn't release his hold.
"It wasn't what you think," she says. "It was at first but …"
Harry rubs her back comfortingly. "You don't have to tell us."
She nods. "I do. I really do." She reaches for the cuff of her long sleeve with shaking fingers. The weather's been warm but she won't wear anything else. She's not sure if that's to spare everyone else the sight of it, or just herself. Her fingers twist around the cuff and she knows she's putting this off. "He made me forget - everything. So that - so that I'd help him."
Ron's hand squeezes hers and the pressure abruptly disappears when she pulls the sleeve down.
"No." It's barely a puff of air coming from Harry but it breaks her heart. She lets her arm fall to her lap and keeps her eyes on the ugly tattoo. She can't look at them.
Ron makes a noise that might be a curse then goes stumbling into the hall. The bathroom door slams open and they hear him. It lasts for several minutes and Harry reaches across Hermione to pull her sleeve down as Ron's footsteps come back down the hall.
She waits until Ron slumps in her desk chair before speaking. She explains everything as best she can without crying or running to the bathroom herself. When she's done they forgive her and she can't take it anymore.
"I was going to kill Ginny," she says and both of them go even paler. "I was. I would have if Dr- Mal-" She screws her eyes shut. She doesn't even know how to talk about him anymore. "If he hadn't stopped me."
"You didn't know," Harry says.
"You thought we'd hurt you. It's - understandable," Ron says weakly.
But she knows it's really not.
She can't sleep. Crookshanks tries his best to comfort her but her mind just won't stop. She keeps remembering battles when she almost killed her friends and the haunted looks in her two best friends' eyes whenever they see her.
She tells herself she's just going to wander the halls until she can't keep her eyes open any longer but is unsurprised when her feet take her to Draco's door.
She walks right in and climbs atop the bed.
"Wha- what's-" he says groggily.
"Shut up," she says quietly because anything else will be a sob. "Just shut up."
She lays on her side, her back to his front with the blankets between them. He's half propped up on an elbow and she knows he's debating with himself. He doesn't have many options though and eventually settles. His arm wraps around her waist and he pulls her tight against him. She cries into his pillow.
Harry and Ron join Remus in his take-a-break mentality. Hermione thinks she might scream. It's just like being holed up at the Manor but worse because now she knows why everyone's giving her strange looks. She actually misses working for Voldemort, sad as that is; at least then she had something to do. And the being distracted bits weren't bad either, she remembers with a blush she's not sure she wants.
She's left with little to do except wander the old house and that is more a punishment than anything else.
"Why are we even keeping him around?" one of the twins asks. Hermione freezes just beyond the kitchen door.
"Because he's been useful," Remus says calmly.
"No," Ron says coldly, "Hermione's been useful. That bastard is the reason she had to go through hell."
"He has been at least as useful as she has. He knows more about how the Dark Lord thinks than we ever could have imagined. He's sat in on dozens of meetings. And he has a fantastic memory. He can recite whole conversations, recreate the layouts of homes and hideouts he's only been in once with near perfect accuracy. He's been invaluable."
"He's also a bit of a liability," Arthur says quietly and Hermione hears Molly begin to tut. "No, no," Arthur goes on quickly, "hear me out. The Death Eaters are desperate to get him back. Snape's assured them that Hermione's got her memory back so she's useless to them, but Draco's not. The attacks have been coming quicker than ever since we took that boy in."
"We should 'ave left him," Hagrid mutters sadly, "le' him go back instead o' takin' him captive."
"We couldn't have done that," Remus sighs.
"Why not?" Ron demands.
Tonks answers. "It was part of the deal. He wanted to be sure she was all right."
"Why would he care?" Harry asks quietly.
Hermione doesn't wait to hear the answer. She spins on her heel and races back to her room where Crookshanks is waiting.
She spends all her nights with Draco. He waits up for her and doesn't say a word when she lays down atop the covers. Crookshanks follows her sometimes and Draco always gives him an affectionate scratch before they drift off to sleep.
"Why did you do it?" she asks one night, deciding it's been long enough that she can try again to get him to talk.
"It was a good deal. I have all the time I want to read now."
"Don't joke. Why did you really?"
She thinks she feels him kiss her hair but isn't sure.
"You hate me," he says quietly.
"I really don't." She rolls over to face him. He's even paler in the dim light. "I want to. Sometimes. It'd be easier to be who I was before."
"So do it," he says quietly. "For once in your life do the easy thing."
"I don't think I want to."
His expression is pained. "I'm a Death Eater!" he hisses.
"So am I." It's the first time she's said it aloud. The world doesn't shatter. The stars don't fall from the sky. It's a fact. A sad fact of war but a fact all the same.
"You're confused," he says, rolling onto his back. "You're grasping at straws. Give yourself time. In a few months you'll remember why you hate me."
She props herself up beside him so that she can look down at his face. "I remember why I hated you now. The difference is that I also remember why I loved you."
A muscle in his cheek spasms and he meets her gaze coldly. "You were Obliviated then. You didn't know what you were doing."
"I knew exactly what I was doing."
"You didn't know who you were doing it with then!" he yells, sitting up and backing into the pillows with an angry huff.
Hermione rises as well and sits back on her heels, watching him carefully. "I know-"
"Don't tell me what you know! You don't know a damn thing anymore! You're broken and you're so eager to piece yourself back together that you don't care if you fuck it up by putting everything together wrong. In a few months you'll have to break yourself apart again just to fix the mess you're making now and I'd rather not be broken along with you, thanks."
She breathes deeply. "I know who you are," she says. "I know what you've done - what you've done to me. I also know what you've done for me. You helped them save me. You didn't have to. It wasn't hurting you to have me there."
He scoffs quietly and looks towards the window. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
She opens her mouth to go on but he sends her a quelling look.
"You don't come here to talk, you come here to sleep. If you want to change the arrangement the answer is a definitive no. Either shut up or leave." His tone is icy and she feels a chill beneath her long sleeves.
She marches into Remus' office after breakfast the next morning. She's had all night to think about this and she's sure what she's doing is right.
"Let him out," she says.
Remus' smile at seeing her drops and he waits for her explanation.
"Draco," she says, "I want you to let him out. You said he's been useful to you and he hasn't made any attempts to escape - unless you're keeping them from me."
"I'm not sure I understand," Remus says slowly. He gestures to a chair but she ignores it.
"You're keeping him locked up in that room when all he's done since bringing me back is help us. He should at least be allowed to move around the house. I'm not saying give him back his wand but at least give him some freedoms."
Remus takes a moment to form his response and she hopes that's a good sign. He starts and stops several times before finally asking, "What brought this on?"
"It doesn't matter," she says quickly and doesn't miss his curious look. "I just think he's a better person than you're giving him credit for, than any of us ever gave him credit for."
"I agree," Remus says so readily that it gives her pause.
"Yes. Very much, in fact. Which is why Mr. Malfoy has been free to move about this house since the day you got your memory back."
"What?" Hermione asks quietly.
Remus smiles, she's sure at the shocked expression on her face. "And, also, we never took his wand."
"But I saw it!" she says and jumps up to open the drawer Remus kept hers in when she first returned. "It was right here." Sure enough, Draco's wand is exactly where she last saw it.
"That," Remus says sadly, "is Sirius' wand. It was part of our original deal with Mr. Malfoy that he be allowed to keep his, though he was kept in a room warded against all magic during his first few days here."
"Then why has he been locked up in that room this whole time? And why is the door warded?"
Remus really does smile now. "The room," he says slowly, "is warded against you. Or I imagine it was, is more likely. Might as well take the spells down now, no point in wasting magic when you've broken through."
"Why would I be-" Hermione cuts off, shaking her head. She holds up her hands as if to physically stop her thoughts from spinning out of control. "What was the original deal?" she asks.
"Rather basic really," Remus says. "He and Snape brought us Ginny and yourself, and in exchange the Order assures that all possible will be done to pardon the Malfoys at the end of the war. At first I thought we'd only be able to get Draco off - and that just barely - but he's been invaluable to us. We wouldn't be doing nearly as well as we are without him, we'd certainly have more casualties at any rate."
"So why hasn't he left his room? And how did you even approach him with this, anyway? Did Snape do it for you?"
Remus looks down at his desk, not really seeing the papers piled there. "I think," he says slowly, "these are questions you should put to Mr. Malfoy."
He holds up a hand. "Had it ever crossed his mind that you might not go straight back to hating him the moment your memory was restored, I believe he would have made me promise not to answer these questions." He nods towards the door. "If that is all?"
"Why?" she asks, slamming the door behind her.
Draco only gives her a moment's consideration before returning to his book. "As I said last night, you come here to sleep."
"Why did you help me? Why won't you leave this room when you're free to? And why did you approach the Order?"
The last one is what really gets his attention. She's not sure when exactly on the walk up here she figured it out but she's certain it's true. The look on his face is all the confirmation she needs.
He transforms it into a sneer. "Why would I ever-"
"Don't lie to me, Draco. This was your idea, bringing me here. Snape saw me every week for months, he could have brought me back if the Order really had a plan. And they did!" She's just realizing this, putting things together as she talks and smiling because she knows she's going to win this fight. "When Remus figured out who I was he let it go on. They had to be weighing me against Snape's intelligence and decided to just keep hoping I'd eventually question the potion and refuse to take it. But then you came in and decided that wasn't good enough. I deserve to know why."
Draco watches her sadly. She just begins thinking he might refuse to answer when he sets his book aside and crosses the room to her.
"One more," he breathes just before reaching her and she's not sure what he means.
He kisses her. She's missed this more than she can believe. She lifts her arms to wrap around his neck but he steps away and they drop in shock.
"I love you," he says quietly. "I know that's not fair and I know you didn't really love me but that's why I had to do it. I knew that if I kept you like that you - the real you - would never forgive me and I couldn't ignore that. I stay here because I know I'll only remind you of what happened, of that person who wasn't really you."
He seems to deflate now that he's spoken and moves back to sit weakly on the bed. He stares at the floorboards.
She knows if she doesn't speak soon he'll kick her out again so she begins, even though she hasn't quite finished organizing her thoughts. "Last night I said I loved you before. Back then I loved you because you were all I had."
His head snaps to the side like she's struck him.
"But now I have my friends all around me and all I can think about is you up here in this room. And you're hiding because of me!"
His eyes close and he hisses his words out as if he's in pain. "Tell me what to do. Tell me what to do to make you happy, to make this right, and I'll do it."
She crosses the room in two quick strides and turns his head up to meet hers. She kisses him slowly, chastely, and leans her forehead against his when she's done.
"Let me love you," she begs.
He blinks up at her in shock. She watches his grey eyes for any sign of an answer. He reaches up and his hands dig into her hair, holding her to him for another kiss.
It doesn't make everything better. She knows her friends will not approve. She knows she'll still have nightmares and days when she hates herself more than she can bear. She knows Draco will still think that she's just using him to fix herself and that she'll break them both in a few short months. She doesn't know if he'll be right. But she does know that, no matter what, this is good. If she can take just one good thing from all that's happened, she knows she'll heal.