Only If For A Night

Setting: au!post-Hogwarts

Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the world of Harry Potter, and I commend J. for her brilliant idea!

Rating: Mature

Pairing: Draco/Hermione

Warnings: Character Death.

Notes: inspired by Florence & The Machine's song "Only If For A Night"

Chapter 1

She wasn't sure what brought her there. Maybe it was the bitter cold that surrounded her now as the snow swirled down and collected in blankets around the headstones. Maybe it was the fact that Ron hardly spoke to her these days, especially after...

The war had changed them all, and losing his brother had taken its toll on Ron. So Hermione gave him space, kept her distance until he could recover.

Only she was starting to fear he never would.

Harry had his own problems, as did the rest of the Order. The school had been destroyed, and most of the Death Eaters killed in the process, not to mention Lord Voldemort himself. But Hermione couldn't help feeling like not all of the fatalities were truly at fault for what they'd done.

She knelt down in front of the headstone and reached up with a gentle hand to trace the letters of the name.

Draco Lucius Malfoy.

To say he had ever been her friend would be a complete lie, but towards the end Hermione had pitied him. This pity was born out of the realization that the other wizard had been given no choice in his destiny. It was either become a Death Eater or die. Some would argue this meant he did have a choice, but Hermione would argue that anyone who said such a thing had never had their life threatened before with an ultimatum. It was easy to imagine what one would do in such a situation, but when it came down to it, you never knew for sure until you experienced it.

"What are you doing here?"

The voice that snapped at her was the last she'd expected to hear, and Hermione fell back on the snow in shock, landing on her hands as she looked at the ghost. There he was in all of his Malfoy glory. The paleness of death suited him, and his eyes were still a startling blue. All in all, the only real difference in his appearance was the fact that the world shined through him visibly. She could see the graveyard he stood in front of through his translucent figure. She could also very clearly see the scowl on his face.

It was not an unfamiliar sight.

"I had a dream last night that you were-"

"Were what, Granger? Dead? Because that's not a dream in case you didn't notice!" he practically growled.

She stood up carefully, brushing the snow off of her pants, and walked towards him. The ghost took a step back-almost as if he were afraid-but kept glaring at her. She had, after all, simply stood by and watched her friends kill him. This was Draco's point of view, the murky memories of the last few moments of his life that were overwhelmed with pain and regret and then nothingness until he woke up here and now, with her there. Out of everyone there it had to be the mudblood whore, didn't it? Couldn't have been that cute little redhead Potter was fucking these days, or hell even someone daft like Seamus would have done, but no it had to be Granger.

Even in his death, she haunted him.

"Yes," Hermione told him quietly. "I see you die," she whispered. For a moment her eyes took on a clouded appearance, as if she were lost in some memory he could never share. Only it was a memory he had taken part in, because every night when Hermione Granger closed her eyes she saw his death again. And again and again and again.

"So sorry to trouble your sleep," Draco muttered bitterly.

"It's more than that," Hermione assured him, looking regretfully towards him. "Draco, I'm sorry. What they did to you, what I let them do-"

"It's done," he snapped, cutting her off there. "You know I knew war changed people, but I never thought it would change you, Granger. Everyone else, sure, but not you. You were supposed to be the only bloody one of us who was strong enough to stay who they were through everything, and even you…" He took a breath, more out of habit than anything. "Do you realize that you're the last person I saw before I died?"

He couldn't tell her how he had only just awoken to existence here as a ghost because of her presence. He couldn't tell her that. It would give her too much power over him, and she already made him hate everything he was.

"Yes," Hermione answered again, and there were tears forming in her eyes now.

"No!" Draco yelled, glaring at her. "No, you don't get to fucking cry about this, Granger! Not after everything!" But his raised voice only caused her tears to fall down her face, and he reached out with a ghost hand, the tip of his index finger touching one of the tears. He couldn't feel it. He couldn't feel anything.

So he snatched his hand away violently as if she'd bitten him, holding it in a fist at his side. "You don't get to fucking cry about this," he repeated darkly.

"I tried to tell them," Hermione insisted quietly. "I tried to convince them that you weren't…all bad."

"Well good job with that," Draco snapped. "Your best work yet, Granger. They shoved my own fucking wand through my heart!" he yelled, pointing at the bleeding wound that appeared on his ghost form where he'd been stabbed. "Like a gods damned vampire, Granger! When exactly did they stop seeing me as a person? First year? Second? Or maybe it was after that?"

"Draco, you are not a monster!" she argued.

"Well they slaughtered me like one," he reminded her grimly. "The one fucking time I buckle and go to you and the Wonder Twins for help, and I'm killed without the chance to explain myself."

"I tried to tell them why you were there, Draco," Hermione insisted.

His expression changed, the anger melting away for a moment to reveal something else, something completely foreign to his mannerisms entirely. Vulnerability. Hermione had seen it only twice in her life-once at Malfoy Manor where she thought she was going to be killed, and again when he'd come to her with the surprising news that he didn't want this life anymore. He was a Death Eater in name only, and he needed her help, and gods please don't turn him away because he had no where else to go!

And she had seen his arm, the way he'd burned the mark away the best he could. But the black lines of that sadistic snake lingered in hints here or there, a testament that he could never truly forget what he was.

So Hermione had taken him inside, had cleaned and wrapped his arm with gauze-no magic, he'd told her. He didn't want any more of it-and she'd gone to get Ron and Harry. Harry had stared coldly from the doorway, refusing to walk into the room where Malfoy was, but Ron…

Ron had stepped forward, and Malfoy had held a hand up, offering his own wand to the other wizard. Ron had stared at it for the longest time before taking it. She should have stepped in then, Hermione realized that now, but looking back it had just appeared as if Ron was listening to Draco trying to explain, trying to apologize.

But Ron hadn't heard a word of it.

He'd taken a step forward and slammed that wand straight through Draco's heart, muttering some kind of torturous spell under his breath so that the Malfoy felt pain as he died, so that he lingered longer than a wound straight through the heart should have allowed him to. He'd died slowly and in agony, Hermione rushing down to his side.

She would never forget the feeling of his pureblood on her hands, that warmth and uncomfortable strength behind it fading as he laid there in agony. To his credit, Draco hadn't cried out. The tears had fallen from his eyes, sure, but he had kept silent.

And Harry…she'd looked to Harry for help, but her friend simply stood there watching. Hermione hadn't realized it up until that moment, but Voldemort had defeated Harry in a way, had taken what was left of his merciful personality and left a hollow shell of the man he'd once been.

So she had looked back at Malfoy, who had tried to tell her something before he died. He hadn't managed to speak.

"What was it you were saying?" Hermione asked him now in a near whisper.

The ghost looked startled by her question. "What do you mean?" Draco snapped.

"When you were…dying," Hermione said, "what was it you were trying to tell me?"

He was silent for a moment, then walked over to stand in front of his own headstone. The snow covering the grave made it difficult to tell how recently he'd been buried, but she and he both knew it had only been a week. How far down had they tossed his rotting body? Was his flesh gone by now, or hadn't the maggots gotten there yet? He could only imagine what condition his body was in. It would disappear and turn to dust, and soon there would be nothing left of him aside from whispered stories and dark rumors.

"I was asking you for help," he finally admitted, keeping his gaze on the headstone instead of glancing at her. He didn't want to see the tears on her face. She had no right to them. "I figured if anyone could save me, it was you, but you just...you just sat there, letting me bleed on you."

"I'm not god, Draco," she whispered.

"No," he agreed instantly. "But you are one hell of a witch." He glanced down at his arm now, a ghost arm that held no hint of the Dark Mark his physical body had refused to be rid of completely. In death he was free.

"Maybe I could-"

"No," Draco replied, cutting her off before she went down that road. "Leave it, Granger. Please. You couldn't convince your friends-the two people who trust you the most-that there's any good left in me. I'd rather stay as I am, stuck somewhere between worlds with no worries but your appearance at my graveside."

"There has to be another way," she argued quietly, moving to stand in front of him now, blocking his view of the headstone.

"Another way for what?" Draco asked her, scoffing. "I'm dead, and dead I will remain, but thanks to you-for whatever reason-I linger." Her expression changed to confusion, then understanding. Oh fuck it, she'd figured it out, so why not finally tell her? He hadn't just randomly shown up when she arrived at his graveside, there was a bloody reason for it.

"That's right, Granger. Your hands over my heart as it bled out, your eyes focused on mine as my vision began to fade, all of this along with the fact that you are the only person to believe I genuinely wanted no more part in Voldemort's foolishness, it connected us. It's old magic, the oldest kind, and thanks to you now I'm fucking stuck here."