Rating: mild M
Genre: drama, romance, introspection
Author's notes: written for thedeathlyhallowed at tumblr. This fits after HBP, in an alternate version of events that happened later. Set during the war, where Draco had changed sides.
Disclaimer: nothing belongs to me, especially if it reminds you of characters you can find in Harry Potter book series.
Summary: Hermione is trying go teach Draco the Patronus spell. It's not working out.
She remembered how they brought him in, burning with fewer and barely holding onto the threads of life. It was a curse, nothing like she'd seen before. She built him anew, like you build a house that was halfway burned, and you're only able to mend what's left of it. He was nothing like a house. She felt like she couldn't see what she was doing, how much was missing, and how much was left to rebuild.
He didn't like her and she didn't like him. It was always like that, and this situation couldn't turn years of dislike around. She knew him. She knew what he was like, and she knew what he hated.
What he hated had saved his life.
There was a mark her hands have left behind – the meals she made for him, the magic she used to help him get better, times when she helped him sit up or undress when he didn't have the strength to do it himself. She ignored the resentment in his eyes; she knew he hated feeling broken and helpless, and she never spoke of it.
(If it were her, she suspected she would feel the same way).
But there was a mark, like an invisible spider web around him, stretching but not breaking. He resented the way it lasted, and yet, he found a comfort knowing it was there.
It was a bond.
"It's a useless spell," he said, and his face looked like he tasted something sour. She felt her temper flaring, because he was stubborn and uncooperative. He found the shortest paths to her anger. Sometimes as they fought she thought he was feeding on her strength.
"You need it to defend yourself," she said, holding onto shreds of good reason she had left, losing the arguments why he should know it.
"Do you see any Dementors here?" he replied, gesturing with his hand around them. "We are bloody locked away and useless. Besides, none of you trust me anyway."
The air around them was humid and sticky, as summer was catching on after dull and cold spring. They had to move from one safe house to other, exchanging one narrow space for the other. Every breath and step was too loud. He knew this. He was smart, she always knew that about him, and she saw how everyone looked at him. If she saw it then he did as well, and she was wondering why did they even save him.
"That's not the point! Besides, you never know -"
"Damn it, Granger," something in his eyes flashed empty and painful when he left the room.
She wanted him to fight, but not against himself. With him, they would have more chance, she thought. Beneath her thoughts were fears; that her burnt house would crack and the spider web wouldn't be able to hold it together.
He had nothing to do (and neither did she), so he could as well try. They exhausted barbs and insults which were growing weaker as summer heat caught on. There were hours more to wait.
"Again," his voice was a whiny child that called for nothing bigger than mother's attention. He must have been impossible, one of those boys who never listened and went on doing things they were told not to. She wondered if he was loved. It melted her irritation and she fought the heat with sheer will.
She schooled her voice, steady as knowledge and power. Frustration crumbled under her fingertips.
"Expecto Patronum," just as Harry taught her, and it seemed ages ago. The silvery otter pranced around them. He looked at it with longing in his eyes.
"Come on." She nudged him gently. There were cracks in that wall built between them. He hesitated, didn't move, he just looked at the mist of light left after the otter disappeared.
It was so hard. He was making it hard.
She hated it. She wondered if he still hated her.
"The incantation must be spoken clearly. With conviction," she let Harry's voice fill her mind, reaching for echoes of his smile, searching for Ron's freckles in her memory. Twins and their jokes and the flash of Ginny's hair. "You must concentrate," she said.
"Merlin, Granger. Who knew?" he said. His wand seemed too heavy in his hold. "Stop lecturing me," he added quietly.
He was whimsical, stubborn and determined, and she was certain he wanted to learn it. She knew he was powerful. Something was missing. A brick in her burnt wall. He would do everything right, and pale silver light spiraled around his arm, as if it lacked will or might.
"You're doing it wrong," she said, wondering why teaching it seemed so easy when Harry did it. Was he better at building? She thought about it at night, when she couldn't sleep, documenting her attempts to teach a spell she could perform; carefully comparing her attempts to the events when she first learned it. Everything seemed to fit, everything was wrong.
Was everything she knew wrong? Was this war ever going to end?
Would she ever see her friends again?
It hit her suddenly, like a realization that a flower she planted months ago had grown.
It was there in front of her – in his bent back, in bitter remarks he shot down with few words before he left the room, and others said he shouldn't be trusted. It was in the way he never mentioned his parents, and the fact he struggled to fight her.
The spell required happiness – a happy memory, a happy thought; happy something.
She cornered him with this knowledge. In the anger game they played she was rarely the one inciting him. It didn't scare her to see him furious. She was more worried that he would crumble. In the evening she apologized, thinking of the way her feet felt as she walked through halls of the school. She could still imagine it clearly, every passageway and room. Every bit and detail was filled with sadness and longing. Her bones ached from the running and hiding, and she felt tired, like someone too young who'd gotten too old so suddenly. She was scared.
Yet, she could find happiness even in that dreadful longing that weighed on her.
Draco was quiet that evening. This house had a low wall surrounding it, hiding them from the prying eyes on the other side. They sat on the ground, with backs against red bricks as the evening grew quiet and innocently blue around them.
"I wonder where Mother is," he said, looking at his hands. She wondered if the lines on his palms held memories he wanted to remember, and then told herself that she was presumptuous and just as arrogant as she accused him to be. Did she truly know him, or that he never laughed as a child? She assumed, she built theories and tested them against reality, she thought she knew what to expect of him. She put him in a box, showed him onto a shelf between the facts of knowledge; her own web of safety.
But did she ever listen to him? The insult trade, the game of anger was predictable and safe, and in its futility to bring forth something new, it was thoroughly useless.
The color of the leaves was fading when she realized she was losing options. She had to teach him – it was a challenge she put in front of herself, like a wall to climb, with no footing, no hold. No leverage. It would be a proof, she thought, to them, to him. A Patronus was a spell of Light. She feared he would always remain in the dark. It was his choice, and she feared that he would cling to the well known paths and ways of his life, like you cling to a worn bathrobe or smell of mother's embrace early in the morning.
But how could she expect him to risk a narrow, unknown path, if she was sitting in her garden of facts and figures and things she read in books? She didn't exactly put her own beliefs at risk, just like she never tired a cheescake.
Because cheese should be salty, not sweet.
It had to be something nice, she thought. Something that wasn't an ongoing argument, even though he did take joy in winning.
(Only when she let him).
It had to be something different, something given. She knew that he didn't like kindness, he didn't know what to do with it, and it used to make him feel embarrassed and too big.
She didn't really have anything, nothing he would want, or take. Nothing. Except for this.
He didn't expect her fingers to curl into the fabric of his shirt. He didn't expect to feel her lips on his. He was so still for a moment that her determination almost fled, leaving her like a fish on a dry sand. What if this was the last thing he'd agree to?
(But it wasn't – and she knew that, even if she didn't think about it, except in those moments right before the sleep claimed her. She knew there was more to those barbs that have long lost their sting, or the way their almost touches tingled down her arm. She knew. There had to be more, because they could bear to be with each other in silence; because he sought her out when he could have been alone. Because she was happy that he did.)
He moved – his arms sliding up along hers, threading carefully into her hair, and she shivered, never thinking that he could do something so gentle. Then his mouth moved against hers like an invitation, and opened like the earth beneath her feet.
She was falling, oh, she was falling down.
The light of the moon was pale and her naked skin was chilly. It was nearly a year since they brought him with a fever.
"I know you can do it," she said softly. He laughed. She thought how she never heard him laugh before. She thought how someone said that you never adapt as quickly, as you do in the times of war. Maybe it was the truth, maybe it was possible that people left behind everything they didn't truly need.
"Granger," his body was pale under the faint light. "Did you shag me so I would do a spell for you?"
The words didn't carry any bite, not for awhile now. She laughed, deciding he was trying to hide the fact that he was content and relaxed.
"No, I did it because I wanted to," she said.
He didn't protest when she handed him the wand that was nearer to her hand. His or hers, it didn't matter. He saved her using her wand already, he saved many of them, and she didn't bother hiding that her feelings had changed. If someone thought it was inappropriate, she didn't want to care.
He moved his hand whispering the incantation and the silvery light surged forward, enveloping them for a moment, before it became a bird - like creature. Hermione stared at it in wonder, watching as it changed its shape, finally finding its form.
For a moment both were speechless.
"That was sort of unexpected," he said. A silvery peacock was spreading his feathers, radiating his warm light around them. Draco sat up, rubbed the back of his head, wondering what this was saying about him. Perhaps he imagined it as a dragon? Nevertheless, a smile of pride was tugging at his lips.
To her it was, quite possibly, the most brilliant thing she ever saw.
"I think it's fitting," she said. It reminded her of the boy who foolishly walked in front of a hippogriff. Part of her wanted him to be as confident as he was then - smarter, yes, but with that same bounce in his step.
Oh how she wanted them all to be as they were back in those days.
Relief filled her gradually, and instead of her house, the fear was starting to crumble away.
"I think it's beautiful," she finally said.