Of clockwork and mirrors

The idea of spitting into Draco Malfoy's face is certainly there. Dark and at the forefront of her mind, she can almost consider throwing Draco down, down, lower then he ever was before. Although he must be pretty low to ask Hermione Granger for help. Because she'd wiped her hands of him, and of that life, and now she mustn't need to look back. Draco Malfoy, in all honesty, is a bitch.

Even now, drenched in drying blood, he looks beautiful. The street lamps blanket him in shadows.

She really does want to spit in his face.

But she has to be the better woman. She's told herself that's what she'd do- if the memories became too much at one point and he came back- yes, be the better woman- and help him.

He's the only reminder of her past life.

. (consider this- then).

She doesn't tell Harry and Ron about the encounter with Malfoy last night- she keeps it to herself, knowing full well Draco will catch on that she hasn't told. Or Ron and Harry would've been on him already.

Potions class is pure hell- with Harry and Ron shooting Malfoy dirty looks and Malfoy grinning smugly, Snape being is usual self and Hermione missing a good night's sleep. She'd tossed and turned, and then listened to the sound of Malfoy breathing. At some point she does believe she hears moans.

Their- her- first official duty as Head Girl, Professor McGonagall tells her later in the silence of her office, is to help and assist this year's Yule ball. She and the boy will help decorate, and make sure no one- ah- what was that Muggle saying- poisons the punch. And of course Hermione Granger is up to it.

She accepts with a smile, gathers another armful of paper and quills, and goes back to her dorm.

Draco is there, standing at the entrance of the painting, which is glaring quite pointedly at him. Hermione smiles at it, and moves past him.

"Hey, Granger." He makes a move towards her, and she sidesteps him and climbs into the dorm, into her room.

"Granger. I was talking."

"Is there a fly in here?"

Malfoy's face twitches, just for a moment, and she dumps the scrolls on the bed. She says, "Go away."

He answers, "No."

"Something's buzzing." Do you have nothing else to do?

"I have to go meet Harry." She switches tactics, from ignoring him to grasping at excuses. He doesn't buy it- his eyes narrow and then widen, and he starts to smirk at her, hands thrust deep into his pockets. He saunters closer.

No, she doesn't, but she won't stay here in this room with him, especially when his own room is just on the other side. And when' he seems to be dead set on irritating her.

"Potter can wait." Mudblood. What he hasn't said lurks in the air, sour and repulsive.

Said quickly- eager to escape the situation- "I'm leaving."

When she moves around him, he grasps her shoulder. Stuck. Now she's stuck.

. (considering-now).

"Why?" she says. Draco's bleeding heavily, and he's growing paler. "Just answer my questions."

"I can't answer you if I'm dead."

She glances around the alley- garbage overflowing the dumpster, a cat lurking deeper in the shadows. Night is falling quickly.

She makes the choice, right then.

"Come on," she says to him- ignores his smile, and leaves the alley. Her apartment isn't that far from here- a block in the right direction, and then they're there. Not a word is said that short walk, and should Draco have tried to make conversation her resolve would've cracked into a million tiny pieces. Because truth be told, how is he supposed to make conversation?

"So how is everyone?"

"Dead."

Effectively killing the threat of speaking.

Opens the door to her apartment. Leads him inside. Says, "Sit at the kitchen table. I'll be back in a second." Don't take anything. Don't touch anything. Don't look.

Not literally a second- she changes out of her tattered clothes and into a T-shirt and sweat-pants, brushes back her hair, looks into the mirror and tells herself that this is what she's wanted. Answers, answers, the chance to make him feel so damn guilty- and then. Then she can move on, maybe get married. Move past this little rut that he's created and breathe. She snags the first-aid kit and takes a deep, deep, deep breath.

When she comes back out she sees Draco slumped against the table, eyes shut and breathing heavily. A noise of surprise escapes her and she runs to him. Examining the gash in his arm almost makes her want to retch. It's long and deep, and at the end, by his elbow, she can catch a glimpse of something white.

Okay. Okay- first- first you clean it. Her hands fumble for the alcohol and swab the gash with it, breathing through her mouth and trying to look as little as possible. She's forgotten how little tolerance she has for blood- the very fact she stayed with Draco in the alley for so long with the smell of blood permeating the air around him mystifies her. She knows at least three people who would do this to him- herself included- and the other possible two are his father and Voldemort. And maybe- maybe his girlfriend- but Hermione hadn't heard from her in roughly two or three years. Fled, she had, and if Hermione had been smarter she would've ran with her.

Make sure it's clean- she rubs a little harder, cleaning the area around it and making sure there's not more blood on his skin. Draco's breathing is getting more labored, but he's stopped bleeding. Oh- she must've applied pressure. And then- wrap the wound. Wrapthewound, Wrapthewound. Everything starts to blur together in her mind, fast and insistent. Get him fixed.

She shuffles through the kit for bandages, then starts to cover up the awful wound. And when it's done, he should rest, but how is she going to lug him to the couch?

After a couple of minutes debating, she finally decides to try to wake him up. She crouches down, at face level to him. "Draco," she says. "Draco, wake up. You can't sleep here." Yes, she thinks irritably, that is my kitchen table.

Draco's eyes flutter open and he stares at Hermione. Her mind is effectively wiped of all thought when he pulls himself up and kisses her- straight on the lips.

. (consider this-then).

"I hear we're helping with the Yule ball."

"I hear that too."

Draco stares at her for a few seconds. "You've got a date?"

She lifts her shoulder and drops them back down. "Yes." No.

Draco studies her a bit more. "Potter?" he guesses. "Weasley?"

"How about none of your business?" And this time, when she moves to leave, he lets her go.

She flees to the library- no, Hermione doesn't flee- and sits down and ponders his questions. Asking her if she's got a date? What's that supposed to imply? Stupid Slytherin. She sits there, hidden among the books, when she hears people come in. Of all people it's him- and Crabbe.

"Who're you taking to the Yule Ball?" Crabbe asks.

"Who else?" he answers smoothly.

. (considering-now).

Hermione simply stands there, limp and unfocused. Her mind is assaulted with memories- especially that scene in the library. And she stands and she waits, her heart pounding furiously in her chest. For all the wrong reasons- maybe now he'll tell me, maybe now he'll tell me-and he's the same. She can feel his muscles, hard under his shirt and skin. He smells like forest, and blood. And something. She can't name it.

She had thought that maybe, finally, his father had broken him. Smashed the little soul inside.

She knows Draco well enough for it to be a possibility.

When he pulls away, she's shivering. "Sleep on the couch," she chokes out, and escapes to the finality of her bedroom. She brushes her teeth furiously. Doesn't look at herself in the mirror. The lamp is lit and she slips between the covers, still shivering. Sleep doesn't come along for ages. Finally she creeps out to check on Draco.

He's lying on the couch, eyes wide open and bright in the moonlight. As she watches, he turns over abruptly and shuts his eyes. Unable to sleep.

She goes back into her own bedroom and cries.

.(in the morning).

She's made bacon and eggs and toast and coffee and also set out a bowl of cereal and milk. She's up long before Draco is, and when he shuffles into the kitchen she barely looks up from the frying pan. "Bathroom's down the hall to your left," she instructs him icily. He nods, eyes still swollen with sleep, and trudges down into the hallway. She listens to the sound of him moving around and sighs.

She won't ask him about last night. Maybe he was sick. Only then would he dare… so she tells herself.

She lies to herself for essentially thirty minutes, by the time Draco comes back out of the shower, dripping wet and in the T-shirt and pants she's left out for him. His hair is plastered to his forehead.

She sets out breakfast for him and sits on the other end of the table, far away from him as possible.

"Okay," she says without preamble. "Answers."

Draco doesn't miss a beat and launches right into it.

"I told you, I wasn't ready. Not in any way. And I come home and you're there already, throwing up into the bathroom. You looked so sick, and I…"

"No, " she interrupts. "You didn't do this for me."

There's a silence so epic Hermione feels she can drown in it.

"No," he says after a moment. "I didn't."

Silence agan.

"And it was while you were sleeping. So heavily. And I thought, there's no better time to do it now. So I did."

You killed him.

Her thoughts are practically broadcast across the table.

"And her."

"Voldemort told me to."

Scream. She wants to. Scream at him, accuse him, grab her vase and smash it over his head. But she does nothing. Gets up, goes into her room and locks the door.

A/N: Review! Review! Reviews are like kisses and hugs and fun happy go-go time!