A/n: Just a little one-shot for Vivian (pink-martini). it's an idea I've wanted to try for a while, so yeah, hope it's alright! My song recs for this are Mumford and Sons - Ghosts that We Knew, Red - Already Over (and Already Over Part. 2 could also work.), and Placebo - Sleeping with Ghosts. Hope they're okay!
Folding his arms across his chest, Draco rested his weight against the doorframe, one slim, blond eyebrow arched, and his mouth slightly bent with amusement. He watched her in silence; watched as her body shook and shivered, her hands tightly gripping the rim of the toilet as she coughed, gagged, sputtered, and heaved. The hot, acidic smell of vomit was subtle enough to bear, but the scent of her sweat overpowered it anyway, and her hair was clinging to forehead and the nape of her neck. Dragging her damp curls away from her face, she stopped retching, and her low groan echoed around the porcelain.
"Good morning," he said, sarcastically pleasant. "You look well."
Hermione flinched, swallowed hard, and craned her neck to shoot him an angry look. "Fuck you, Draco."
"I believe that fucking me was what led to your current situation," he grinned. "But if you fancy a quickie-
His expression softened. When she used his surname with that tone, he knew it was a warning, a warning that she wasn't in the mood for banter or his snarky humour. He left his spot by the door and neared her, crouching down at her side to place his hand against her back and massage the space between her shoulder blades.
"You alright?" he asked, frowning when she tried to angle her face away from him. "Don't do that, Granger, this is hardly the first time I've seen you throw up."
"I know, but I look like crap, and I don't want you to remember this dribbling face for a week."
"I have plenty of images of you in my head I can remember you by," he said. "Many of which are of you naked by the way. It's called my wank bank."
She chuckled softly as she flushed the toilet, a grateful smile on her lips. "Thank you for making me laugh."
"Do you want anything? Tea? Water?"
"No, I think that's the end of it," she said, reaching down to pat the barely-there swell of her stomach. "He must be a boy if he's giving me this must trouble already."
He smirked, helping her to her feet. "What time are you leaving?"
"In about an hour. I'm all packed-
"Of course you are-
"I just need to have a shower, and double-check I have all my documents. Oh, and I need to send that owl to Ginny, but I guess I could-
"Breathe, Granger," he interrupted, squeezing her upper-arms. "Have a shower, I'll send the owl, and I'll make some breakfast."
She smiled again and leaned forward on her tiptoes to press a kiss against his lips, but he pulled back before she could catch them. "Wha-
"Your breath stinks of sick."
He tapped his thumb against his mug, frowning as she rummaged through her charmed bag to check for the eighth time that she had everything she needed with a piece of toast between her teeth. She gave up on that and dropped it back onto her plate, mumbling quietly as she ticked away everything on her mental checklist, and he was staring at her, just as he always did before she readied herself to leave.
"Stop looking at me like that," she said, breaking his trance. "I'm only going for a week. I've been away for a fortnight before, and you didn't pout this much."
"I'm not pouting," he frowned. "And you weren't pregnant then."
She sighed and made her way towards him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I'm barely over three months gone. The baby is about the size of a peach-
"I'm not happy about it-
"You're never happy when I need to go overseas-
"Well, I am twice as pissed off than I usually I am," he said. "Why couldn't Potter just ask Weasley to go?"
"Would you trust Ron to handle financial negotiations with the Turkish Ministry?"
He clenched his jaw. "I wouldn't trust Weasley to peel a banana."
"It's only a week," she assured him, stroking the top of his spine with her fingertips. "It probably won't even be that long. If it goes well, I'll be back in a few days. Anyway, it's not like I'm going on my own, Neville's with me."
"Is that supposed to be comforting? Longbottom is possibly the only person Weasley could beat in the race to peel the banana."
"Oh, hush," she scolded half-heartedly, pulling away from him to glance at the clock. "Right, I need to go."
He exhaled, following her to the fireplace with a heavy frown. Adjusting her work robes and bag, she spun around to hug him tight, and he snaked one arm around her waist, as he always did, burying his nose into her hair and planting a kiss by her ear.
"Don't forget to feed Crooks," she said. "And let him sleep on the bed if he wants."
He scoffed. "I'll think about it."
She lifted her head off his shoulder and trailed her lips along his jawbone until she found his ready mouth, and she kissed him hard, swooping her tongue across his lower lip and then latching it between her teeth. Sucking on her mouth as she raked her nails through his hair, he exhaled into the kiss and groaned when she pulled away.
"I love you," she purred, pecking him between syllables.
He didn't echo the words back to her. He never did. Never had. But she knew.
"I need to go," she whispered, and he reluctantly removed his arms from her body. "I'll see you in a week, okay?"
He nodded, pressing his palm flat against her tense stomach before she could fully turn away. "Bye, Peach," he mumbled, giving Hermione's throat a final kiss before she grabbed a handful of Floo Powder.
She smiled at him as the green flames roared around her, engulfing her, and then she was gone.
"Is there a reason I'm here? Or does misery really just enjoy company?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "You're here because I would appreciate your advice on all of this."
He tried not to roll his eyes again as his mother scrutinised the room critically, eyeing the half-painted walls, the questionable skeleton of a crib, and the pile of boxes in the corner with distaste. She straightened up in her seat, her brow furrowed and her mouth tight when she dragged her eyes back to him and exhaled a bored sigh.
"What exactly do you mean by advice?"
"Well, seeing as you had a child yourself," he said. "And that's me by the way-
"I figured you might know a little about how to decorate a room for a baby."
"I do," said Narcissa, checking her nails. "But you said Hermione wanted to have some Muggle...things, and that is hardly my expertise."
" Mother, if you could try not to cringe every time you say 'Muggle'-
"I don't cringe-
"Yes, you do," he shot back, his voice harsher than before. "And I might put up with it when you say things around Hermione because she's used to you, but when the baby comes-
"Oh, honestly, Draco," she frowned. "You know I'm excited about my first grandchild, I would never-
"Yes, well, you ensure you don't."
He turned his back on her and returned to rummaging in the box Hermione's mother had given them a couple of weeks ago, removing an odd item, some sort of hooking device. He toyed with it, trying to understand its purpose when he heard his mother leave her seat and come to stand at his side.
"You know," she said slowly. "I am extremely proud of you, and I know I haven't always been...pleasant towards Hermione-
He snorted. "Understatement-
"But I am actually rather fond of her, and I am genuinely happy that you two are starting a family."
He watched her out of the corner of his eye, hunting for any indication of insincerity, but he found none. "Good," he said simply. "And for what it's worth, we are keeping some the Malfoy traditions. Well, it's a Black tradition actually, but we agreed the baby's name would be related to astronomy."
"You did?" She seemed happy with that.
"Yes, that was actually Granger's suggestion."
Narcissa smiled. "Does she still want to do that Muggle tradition? Waiting until the baby is born to find out the sex?"
"Yes," he nodded. "And well done for not cringing."
"Then cream," she said. "You should paint the room cream. It's a nice neutral colour that isn't gender specific. And then, of course, green furnishings. I might have no problem with the baby being a Half-blood, but if the baby's not sorted into Slytherin, there will be hell to pay."
Draco grinned. "Of course."
"And that thing you're holding is a child safety lock. It stops children from opening cupboards and things like that. See, I have been doing my research."
"Fair play," he muttered, mildly impressed. "Are you going to stay and help me paint the room? I want to get it done before she gets back, make it a surprise."
"Yes, I'll give you a hand," she agreed. "When is she due home?"
"Well, five days at the latest, but she said she might be back before then."
"I'm surprised you were okay with it, considering she's pregnant."
He sighed and rolled his shoulders. "I wasn't okay with it, but it's only for a few days. She'll be back before I know it."
Five days later.
Draco blinked one, twice, and a third time, glaring at Potter with wide eyes and a loosened jaw.
"What the fuck did you just say?"
Harry sighed and adjusted his glasses. "They're uh...they're missing. They were meant to travel from Antalya to Ankara. They should've arrived in Ankara two days ago, but...but they never showed up."
Words refused to form for some stretched out seconds, but when they did his voice was low and dark. "Where the hell is she?"
"We don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" he spat. "Where THE FUCK is she, Potter?"
"We don't know," said Harry again, slower this time. "But we...um...we think they have been captured by political vigilantes for ransom or bargaining-
Draco went cold all over. "Captured?"
"We underestimated how much attention Hermione and Neville's visit would receive. We just assumed they would be in and out of Turkey in a matter of days without anyone being aware of it. But it was highly publicised. I guess I forget sometimes how...known we are-
"Get to the fucking point!"
"The Turkish Ministry are investigating." Harry grimaced between words. "They...um...they warned us beforehand that they've been having trouble with some anti-Muggle groups-
"We didn't think it would be a concern. Hermione was aware of all this, and she still wanted to go-
"You sent my pregnant fiancée to a country with anti-Muggle activists?" he growled, hands clenched into trembling fists. "You sent my famous, Muggle-born fiancée there?"
"A lot of countries are still having issues with blood supremacists-
"WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?" he screamed, jumping out of his seat. "YOU STUPID, FUCKING IDIOT!"
"Malfoy, just calm down. We're sending Aurors over to assist, and we're doing everything we can-
"Get the hell out of my house!" he ordered. "Get the FUCK out now!"
Harry massaged the bridge of nose before he got to his feet. "You know," he muttered, his voice shaky with distress. "This isn't easy for me either. She's my best friend-
Draco cleared the distance between them in one fast stride, backing Harry up against the wall and clamping his hand around his old rival's throat. They were both trembling, Harry with fright and Draco with the sheer rage pumping around his veins and blood, and he brought his face close to Harry's, digging his fingers into his neck until he felt him choke.
"Don't you dare try to compare," hissed Draco, dangerously quiet. "Hermione is my fiancée. My pregnant. Muggle-born. Fiancée. And you did this. This is your fault. Hermione is missing because of you." He paused, and the next words that left him came out strained. "Do you even know if she's alive?"
Draco very nearly doubled over. The physical pain that had come with that notion was crippling, devastating, and now he felt nauseous. Potter's throat was spasming beneath his fingers, but he didn't relax his grip, didn't care. He honestly thought himself capable of killing Potter at that point.
"She...she's m-missing," stuttered Harry. "W-we don't know any-anything yet. But we hope-
"Hope?" he sneered. "You fucking hope? Hope what? Hope that everything will just be alright? Hope that Hermione will just walk through the front door?"
His clenched teeth stifled the furious roar that rattled his chest and ribs as he tossed Potter to the side, like a flimsy ragdoll. He was contemplating driving his foot into Potter's side, but there were tears slipping past the rims of his spectacles that made him falter; not because Potter's tears stirred any sort of empathy, but because he wondered if he should be crying, wondered if he should feel grief. All he felt was anger. Just raw and consuming rage.
"I'm worried about her too," mumbled Harry, awkwardly getting to his feet. "I am...terrified. I love her. She's like my sister-
"This is your fault! It always is! What is it about you, Potter, that everyone you touch ends up fucking-
"Don't say it! Don't!" he shouted desperately. "Sh-she might not be...we don't know. Malfoy, I am sorry-
"Don't come near me," he said, harsh and threatening. "I swear to Merlin, if you come within reaching distance of me, I will kill you. I really will-
"I am so sorry, and I am doing everything I can-
"Hermione and my baby," he muttered, more to himself before he was glaring at Potter again. "Missing, because of you."
"Get out of my house," he breathed out. He turned and braced his hands against the table, clutching it and trying to steady himself. He could feel it; all the restraint and control seeping out of him, like sweat, and he couldn't quite breathe. "I mean it, Potter. Get out now, before I-
"LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!"
He shut his eyes, gripping the table's edge so he wouldn't grip Potter's throat again, so tight that he was certain one of his fingernails split. His heartbeat was thundering in his ears, banging against his eardrums, but he heard Potter moving, shuffling out of the room, and then finally the sound of the front door shutting.
All of the anger was bubbling in his blood, spitting like boiling water, and every inch of him felt hot, itchy, and violent. It was all just heating up, building towards an outburst, an eruption of fury, and he started with the table.
He flipped it and all its contents, heard three picture frames and Hermione's favourite vase shatter. He grabbed the next closest thing, a chest of drawers, and hurled them half-way across the room, watching several of Hermione's books rain down to the floor with heavy thuds. Then it was a shelf, ripped it away from the wall with all its ornaments. And then the mirror. He picked up a chair and launched it at the antique mirror Hermione had bought when they'd first moved in, watched the glass crack and then explode, shards shimmering to the floor like snow.
He could've gone on for hours, just tearing the room apart, maybe the whole house, but his knees suddenly went weak, and it felt like his legs snapped. He collapsed to the floor, managing to shuffle back so he was assisted by the wall, but he landed hard anyway, breathing wildly, shaking, eyes darting frantically around. Fuck, it felt like his chest was going to cave in, like his lungs had shrunk, and there was sweat dribbling down the side of his face, his upper lip, and his neck.
He dropped his head back against the wall, staring at a framed picture on the floor of Hermione, Potter, and Weasley. It wasn't broken, and the need to break it to match everything else in the room was all he could focus on, but an abrupt noise caught him off guard.
It was a cat's meow , and when he glanced down, Hermione's pet was crawling into his lap, mewing loudly in distress. For the first time in his life, he didn't shoo away Crookshanks. He let the cat settle as his breathing returned to normal, and he absently began to pet the cat until it purred, half-asleep.
Where all that burning anger had been was now nothing. Just hollowness. Numbness. It was like his body was shutting down, and the exhaustion was so overwhelming that his eyelids began to droop.
He fought it though, staring past the chaotic sitting room, down the hall at the window, light spilling in. And as he began to blink, trying to stay awake, he saw a silhouette set against the light. Every time he reopened his eyes it seemed more definite, like it was moving closer, and it was Hermione. Definitely Hermione.
He would've known her silhouette in a room made of shadows.
But his brain was sluggish, tired, and he was too close to sleep to make sense of it. The silhouette was almost by his feet the last time his eyes opened.
Dreaming. Had to be a dream.
Draco, wake up.
He didn't want to. He could feel Crookshanks in his lap, and beside him was a small pile of smashed glass, both cruel reminders of what Potter had told him. Both cruel reminders that she was missing, so it couldn't be her voice.
"Draco, the door."
He cracked open his eyes, and there she was. Standing in the corner, just watching him, her head tilted with concern, and he couldn't move, just kept staring in complete bewilderment.
Bang, bang, bang!
The noise completely threw him, startled him, and he closed his eyes, shaking his head. He opened them again quickly, looking back to the corner where she'd been, but there was nothing there. Absolutely nothing.
He rubbed his face, finding it damp, sweat dripping down his temple and glossing his upper lip. He felt so queasy, and as he removed Crookshanks from his lap to get to his feet, he stumbled, almost fell back down to the floor. Resting his weight against the wall, he managed to pull himself up, and he dragged down six heavy breaths to try and steady his dizzy head.
Bang, bang, bang!
He winced. He felt hungover or infected with flu, and the noise had rattled around in his skull, intensifying his already throbbing headache. Moving towards the front door in a dazed state, he tugged it open, and then all he saw light.
The sun hit his eyes, and then came all the camera bulbs; dozens of them, just shooting off in a constant attack of painful flashes, but the voices were so much louder.
"WHAT'S GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW?"
"MR. MALFOY, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR MISSING FINACEE?"
"WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE RUMOURS THAT THE KIDNAPPERS HAVE DEMANDED A RANSOM?"
"CAN YOU CONFIRM THE RUMOURS THAT HERMIONE GRANGER IS PREGNANT?"
He slammed the door shut and sank back down the floor, covering his ears with his hands to try and block out the racket. It was so fucking loud. It was like their voices were in his skull, echoing and screaming, and he gritted his teeth, trying to shove them away.
"Fucking arseholes," he hissed under his breath.
"They're just doing their job, Draco, don't take it personally."
He gasped and his head shot up. It had been her. He knew her voice better than he knew his own, and his eyes darted around, searching for nothing or something. The nausea from before practically smacked into his stomach, and he bolted, managed to make it to bathroom before he was heaving up bile, burning his throat. His fringe was in his eyes as they began to water, and he began to shake, suddenly feeling unbearably cold as he coughed up the last of it.
It took a great deal of willpower to stand up, and he made his way to the sink, twisting the tap. He hunched over and cupped the water, half-heartedly washing his face and trying to cool his hot cheeks. Gripping the porcelain, he glanced up at the mirror, and decided he would've probably recoiled from his reflection if he wasn't so numb. He was so pale he was grey, his eyes bloodshot, and his lips chapped. Had it honestly only been yesterday Potter had told him? He looked like he'd been confronted with the news over a week ago; looked like he'd been stabbed and been left to bleed to death for days. He turned away, staring at his white knuckles.
"It will be alright," she said. "You need to eat something, Draco."
His head snapped up again, and she was there, within the frame of the mirror, her worried eyes meeting the wide stare of his reflection. He spun around so quickly that he lost his balance, and his body went falling down, smacking against the tile floor with a harsh slap. He groaned but made no attempt to get up, searching their bathroom for anything that might indicate she'd been here. But there was nothing, again, and he reasoned it must've been a trick of the condensation.
He woke up shivering, wondering if he'd slept another day away or if he'd only slept for a couple of hours, and then decided he didn't care. Time has funny way of becoming distorted and insignificant when you're willing it to move backwards.
He struggled to his feet, grunting with the effort, and without really acknowledging it he headed for the bedroom. Their bedroom. He flicked on the light and frowned at the unmade bed. She always scolded him for that, and he took advantage when she went away, refusing out of principle to organise the sheets and pillows. Now he had the overwhelming urge to make their bed look presentable.
With trembling hands, he tucked the corners in and straightened out the blankets, adjusting the pillows. He stood back and studied it, unsatisfied, so he did it again, and again, and again, and each time he just became more and more frustrated because it didn't look like it should. It didn't look like the bed she had made. After his eighth attempt, he growled and grabbed the covers, throwing them to the side, then the pillows, then the sheets, again just feeling the compulsion to destroy, to make mess.
Panting and sweating again, he collapsed to the floor, beside the stripped bed, eyes clenched shut.
"Honestly, I know you hate making the bed, but this is a bit much."
He was sat up in a second, and his eyes locked onto her. And she was there. She actually was. Standing in the darkest corner of the bedroom, looking so real, so perfect, and he couldn't move. He refused to look away, tried his hardest not to blink, feeling like she might disappear again if he did.
Her mouth bent into a sad smile, and that was when he lost it.
He panicked, his breaths leaving him in quick, alarmed blasts, and his muscles tensing up so tight, they felt like stone.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck," he spat, shaking his head. "Fuck, no, I can't. I can't-
"Draco," she said. Yes, definitely her voice. "It's okay-
"How the hell is it okay?" he shouted. "If you're here than means she's dead! If you're here-
"I'm not a ghost. Look at me, I'm not. And you know I wouldn't have chosen that option."
His lips smacked shut, and he stared at her, thinking of the ghosts he'd seen, how they'd been silver, translucent. She looked real, all colourful and beautiful, and he was so confused that he just gaped for some long seconds, trying to understand.
"You're not Hermione," he said with confidence, instinctively resisting hope. "The reporters outside...and Potter-
"No, I'm not me. Not really."
He swallowed hard. "Then I have gone completely fucking insane."
"No," she sighed. "You're not mad. A lot of people do this."
"See people they miss. Remember, I told you that Harry used to see Sirius and Dumbledore sometimes, and George used to see Fred-
"What the hell is wrong with me?" he mumbled to himself, and he began hitting his head with the flat of his palm. "Get out of my head! Get out, get out, get out!"
A thick silence followed, and she was gone when he looked back to the corner.
The ache of an empty stomach woke him this time, and when his lids fluttered open, she was there again, in the same corner. He barked out a short, hopeless laugh that could almost be considered a whine, and then he fisted his hair in his hands, tugging until his scalp stung.
"I've completely lost it."
"You're not insane, Draco," she said reassuringly. "You're not."
"Insane people see and hear things that aren't there," he replied coldly. "I am clearly fucking insane-
"And insane people definitely talk to hallucinations, like I am right now."
He looked at her properly then, realising how...accurate she looked. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, some strands falling loose around her face, like she'd just left bed. She was wearing that jumper she loved, the one she called her 'lazy jumper', a baggy, moth-bitten thing, red and two sizes too large for her. And then her Sunday jeans, also tattered, sporting a large slash above her right knee, and her feet were clad in a pair of his socks, because she always said his were warmer.
She looked stunning; fresh and natural on those languid days when neither of them had work, and they'd pass the hours, content with nothing but each other's company.
His stomach grumbled again.
"You need to eat something, Draco."
"You're not here," he whispered, looking down at his lap. "This is unhealthy. If I ignore you, you'll just go away."
"I'm here because your mind is telling you that you need me," she said warmly. "As a comfort-
"A comfort?" he hissed. "Do I look fucking comforted? Do I? I've gone mad, it's as simple as that!"
"You're not mad."
"All evidence indicates the opposite."
Bang, bang, bang!
"That sodding door!" he roared, dropping his head into his hands. "Why the hell can't they just leave me alone?"
"Draco?" called a voice from outside. Blaise's voice. "Draco, you in there?"
"For Merlin's sake," he mumbled, looking back to her in the corner. He blinked, and suddenly she was closer, barely a foot away, and it made him jump. "Shitting hell."
"How many times have I told you to mind your language?" she asked.
He was about to say that she'd only started berating him when she'd found out she was pregnant, and that now he didn't know if he'd ever see his baby, or her, and that it didn't fucking matter. Because sometimes people just need to swear, sometimes the anger behind a harsh word is such a release, and that he felt like all he could do was swear and swear until it was all he knew. He was about to say that, but another set of hard knocks against the door cut him off.
Bang, bang, bang!
"Draco, I know you're in there!"
"You should answer him," said Hermione. "He'll just keep knocking until you do, or end up kicking the door in."
"I don't want to see him," he told her, as if it was actually her. "I don't want to see anyone."
"Just let him know you're alright. He's probably just concerned-
"I don't need people to be fucking concerned-
She said it in that tone, and it struck him completely speechless. It was so familiar, so her. It shocked him into action, and he was moving before he could make sense of it. She'd disappeared again when he lifted his head, but as he made his way along the hallway and down the stairs, he could feel that cold, unsettling sensation scratching at his spine, like he was being followed, but he refused to glance behind him and check.
Bang, bang, bang!
"Draco, let me in!"
"What the hell do you want, Blaise?" he called when he was near the door.
"I just want to check how you are."
"I'm fine. Piss off."
There was a long pause. "Draco, mate, just let me in. People are worried about you-
"You've spoken to me, I am clearly fine," he spat through clenched teeth. "Piss. Off."
"Draco," said Hermione from somewhere behind him, but he didn't turn to look. "Let him in."
"Draco, let me in or I'll break down the sodding door!"
He heard Hermione laugh softly by his ear and mumble, "I told you so," and he shut his eyes, desperately trying to keep his head in line, but clearly it was futile if he was imagining things so vividly. His mind had obviously decided to fall in on itself.
"Draco!" Blaise shouted, shattering his trance. "I'm giving you ten seconds before I-
"Are you alone?" he asked. "Are there any reporters?"
"I got rid of them all. It's just me."
With a long sigh, he unlocked the door and opened it a crack, glaring hard at Blaise and squinting against the sunlight. "Satisfied I'm alive? Or would you like to check my pulse?"
Blaise shifted his weight nervously. "Can I come in?"
"I just want-
"I said no, Blaise."
"Draco, you look like death," he rushed out, his voice urgent and anxious. "I just want to make sure you've eaten...or something. I know you're a stubborn twat, but just let me help you this once. You're my best mate-
"I can't," said Draco, bowing his head so his fringe veiled his eyes. "I can't right now. I just can't...handle someone being in our home that isn't her, and I know that sounds fucking weird but I...can't explain it."
Draco's eyes focused on Blaise's wand, held tightly in his hand like he was contemplating using it, and Draco prepared himself, half-expecting Blaise to force himself into the house. But his grip relaxed, and when Draco lifted his eyes, he found Blaise's expression torn and sullen, his mouth open in a silent sigh.
"Alright," said Blaise. "If and when you're ready, you know where I am." He turned to leave, but he hesitated, meeting Draco's eyes. "Draco, I am so sorry."
Draco tried to recall a time when he and his closest companion had ever spoken like this; so serious and open, like a pair of bloody Hufflepuffs. They both struggled to discuss anything remotely profound, and the closest thing they had probably ever had to a deep conversation had been when Lucius had died two years after the war, and Blaise had placed a hand on his shoulder, telling him to 'man the fuck up'. So Draco simply nodded, feeling neither calmed nor disgusted by Blaise's attempt at reassurance, simply indifferent and numb. He was about to shut the door, but Crookshanks scampered past him, settling by Blaise's feet.
"Take him with you. I can't look after anything right now, and he just reminds me of..."
"I'll look after him."
"And tell the others I want to be left alone, especially my mother," he instructed brusquely, and then he slammed the door shut, trapping himself back inside, blocking out the sun.
He made it halfway down the hall before his knees crumbled, and he fell, crashing down into the doorframe of the sitting room, bashing his shoulder into the wall as he went. With a stifled groan, he propped himself up, staring into the domestic warzone he'd created after Potter had left, passively studying the upturned table and chairs, the scattered photographs, and all the broken pieces in between.
"Really, Draco," said Hermione, and he didn't jump this time. "I know we discussed redecorating, but this is a bit extreme."
He felt sick again, and he retched a few times, but there seemed to be nothing left in his stomach to choke on. She was lingering in a corner again, about five feet away from him, but her jumper had changed. Now she was wearing that yellow one with the massive, red H knitted into the front, the one Weasley's mother had given her for Christmas three years ago, and he'd relentlessly mocked her for wearing it.
"Draco," she frowned. "Just talk to me. It will help."
"How will talking to a hallucination help?"
"It couldn't hurt to try."
He shook his head and bent forward, resting his brow against his knees and folding his arms around his head, trying to shut himself off from her. Or her ghost. Or whatever the hell it was. Even with his eyes shut and his ears blocked, he could feel her watching. Staring. Breathing.
He estimated that he'd been sat in this position for somewhere between one and ten hours.
His spine felt stiff and his limbs were tingling with pins and needles, and as he slowly raised his head, his neck cracked. She was still there, waiting expectantly with that same sad smile, and an odd sense of submission washed over him.
"Do you remember when we first met?" he asked. "After the war, I mean. In Muggle London."
"Yes," she nodded. "You bumped into me in Covent Garden. You made me drop all my books."
He might've grinned if he'd had the energy. "I never told you, but I did that on purpose. Pissing you off was always fun."
"I also did it because I wanted to speak to you," he confessed. "I'd seen you earlier in the day by Marble Arch and I...just wanted to talk to you. I've no idea why. When I asked to buy you a coffee to make up for my 'accident', I thought you were going to slap me again."
She laughed. "And then you spilled the coffee on my favourite book."
"Yeah, that actually was an accident." He sucked down a long breath and looked at the floor. "You were wearing that dress. The one with the birds on it."
He looked back to her, and she was wearing the dress; a classy, blue sundress with white swallows, and he swallowed hard. "Yes, that one," he mumbled. "I never told you this either, but I thought you looked beautiful."
Her face softened, but she didn't respond, and in the silence Draco realised something that made his chest ache.
"Have I ever even told you you're beautiful?" he asked reluctantly. "I know I called you fit, and sexy, and shit like that, but did I ever once call you beautiful?"
Her face creased up with uncertainty, and the vision of her almost seemed to flicker, like a faulty memory in a Pensieve. "I...I only know what you know. I'm a reflection of your own memories and how you perceive me-
"I didn't, did I? I know I didn't."
"Draco, I knew-
"How could you have known if I never said it?" he growled. "Not fucking once! And you are! Fucking look at you! I thought it everyday, but I never said it!"
She did it again, moved too fast for his eyes to make sense of it, and she was crouching at his side in a heartbeat. He didn't dare try to reach out for her. The thought terrified him, and the image of his fingers passing through her, like steam, would be too much, but feeling her skin beneath his fingertips would be so much worse. So much worse.
"Draco," sighed Hermione. "You can't do this to yourself. It's self-destructive. It's...dangerous."
The sob that ripped its way out of his throat felt like a knife, slicing up the inside of his windpipe, and he choked up another, and another, until it was all he could do. He hadn't cried since that lonely day in the toilets in Sixth Year, not even when his father had died, and it was almost like his body couldn't handle the unfamiliar act. It all just fell out of him in messy and pathetic howls of despair, his whole body shaking and clenched. He hid face in his hands, not even willing to have a hallucination witness his breakdown, and he snivelled and sobbed it all out into his palms, like a little, lost child.
"I-I don't know what to do," he stuttered. "I just don't-
"Shh, it's okay," she soothed. "Sleep, Draco."
He nodded absently, licking at the tears at the corners of his mouth before he shut his eyes, ready to face whatever demons were waiting in his dreams, because it could never be worse than the reality he was in right now.
When Draco woke up she was still there, kneeling at his side, watching him, and he was neither surprised nor alarmed by it this time. Pulling himself up, he headed upstairs to the en suite in their bedroom and inspected himself in the mirror; the bloodshot eyes, the stubble glittering across his jawline, the damp cheeks, the dry lips, and he didn't care that he barely recognised his pitiable reflection. He rubbed his salty eyes roughly with the heels of his hands, disgusted at himself.
"Don't do that," said Hermione from behind him. "If you can watch me being sick, I can watch you cry."
Flicking on the tap, he palmed the water and splashed it on his face. "How long do you intend to haunt me?"
"I don't know," she mumbled. "I guess...I am here for as long as you need me."
"I will never not need you."
The desperation in his voice ran through his bones in waves, and when he looked up, she was in the mirror, all sympathy and concern. He didn't know where it came from, but a sudden and intense surge of rage travelled from his gut to his fist, and he swung it at the mirror, the glass slicing into his knuckles before it shattered, and the shards poured into the basin like hailstones.
"I liked that mirror," said Hermione.
"So did I."
"You're bleeding, Draco."
He slowly turned to face her, clenching his fist so the blood spilled down his fingers a bit quicker. "How do I know you're not bleeding somewhere?"
She frowned and chewed her lip, and that gesture held his attention. She was always chewing her lip. Always. And again he was floored by how accurate this hallucination was. Shaking his head, he moved past her, trying his hardest not to stare at her as he walked back into their bedroom, dripping blood on their carpet as he went. He sank into a chair, still unable to bring himself to go near their bed, and he analyzed his damaged hand passively. Two deep gashes, one dissecting his knuckles and the other running down the line of his thumb, and then fifteen or so smaller cuts decorating everywhere else.
"I remember hating you because of this...stuff," he mumbled, watching a drop of blood slide down his finger. "And then I remember when I didn't hate you anymore, when you were on the floor in Malfoy Manor, and Bellatrix had her wand against your chest-
"We said we'd never talk about that again-
"Well, you're not really you, are you?" he shouted. "So I can talk about what the fuck I like!"
She sighed and tucked her hair behind her. "Okay, I'm listening."
He rubbed the blood between his thumb and index finger, his eyes fixed on it. "I have literally experienced the entire spectrum of emotions with you," he said quietly. "Hatred, disgust, regret, intrigue, lust..."
"Love," she finished.
He bowed his head. "I never told you that either, did I?"
"Draco, I knew-
"Stop fucking saying that!" he snapped. "Loving you was the only thing that saved me from being a complete lost cause and I didn't even do it properly! I never told you anything! Never!"
He blinked, and again she was suddenly close, sat on the floor in front him with crossed legs, now wearing another one of her battered, aged jumpers, blue this time. He looked at her eyes, really looked at them, hunting for the smallest hint of something amiss, but they were hers; wide and brown, always bright and expressive, ready for him to read. A glint of light made him squint and his eyes dropped to her engagement ring, a simple diamond in a simple band because he'd known she'd never wear anything too flashy, and he couldn't for the life of him recall if she — or rather the image of her — had been wearing it the entire time.
"Do you know when I first knew I loved you?" he murmured, swallowing. "I think we'd been together about...ten months? I don't know, you were always the one that kept track of dates and shit, but it was when-
"My father died."
He nodded once. "And you cried for three days, almost non-stop. And I thought you were still... stunning with snot and tears all over your face, greasy hair, and just...raw. You looked like shit, you didn't speak, and you just wouldn't stop crying, but I just wanted to be with you more." He paused, and when he lifted his head, there were pretty, little tears tucked between her eyelashes. "I knew I loved you then."
She smiled shyly, and again, Draco wondered what would happen if he were to touch her, maybe cup her cheek, or wind one of her curls around his finger.
"It was the first time I realised you weren't...perfect," he went on. "Before then, you'd been typical Granger: organised, grounded, too clever for your own good, and then suddenly you were Hermione. You were fragile and lost, and this is going to sound fucked up, but I wanted to watch you fall apart so I knew you were...real." He barked out a short, dry laugh. "I guess there's a certain irony now, eh? Talking about wanting you to be real when you're just a figment of my desperate imagination."
"Draco," she sighed. "Try to have some hope-
"People like me don't hope-
"Well..just try to be optimistic-
"You still don't get it, do you?" he muttered, shaking his head. "Without you I am...bad. I'm just bad."
Hermione frowned. "Draco, you are not a bad person-
"I am not a good person!" he yelled. "You made me decent! You made it bearable!"
"Made what bearable?"
"Everything! Life! Existing, whatever you want to call it!" He clenched his teeth and lowered his voice. "You made the guilt the dissipate. You just...filled whatever hole was inside of me after that fucking war! Hell, before the war!"
He was breathing heavily, almost panting, trembling, and a cold sheen of sweat was tickling his forehead and upper lip. Taking a few deep breaths and ignoring the taste of vomit at the back of his tongue, he tried to collect himself, but all he could feel were the shivers running down his spine, and the chill in the air wrapped around him like a coffin made of ice. Hermione seemed to blur for a second, but he thought maybe the room had too. Maybe he had sweat in his eyes, or tears, or maybe he was too exhausted to focus, or maybe he was imagining the whole sodding house now. He had no idea what to think, and he began to hyperventilate.
"Draco, breathe," she said soothingly, and it calmed him quickly. "It will be alright-
"With every second you're not here, I can feel it all seeping back into me; the guilt, the hate, the...the darkness, all of it," he whispered, still catching his breath. "I don't like me without you."
"You don't understand. If It'd been the other way around, you'd have people you trust to turn to, to keep you balanced. Potter, the Weasleys, Lovegood, you have them all-
"You have Blaise, and your mother-
"No, no, it's not the same. You're the only person I am...completely me with," he said dejectedly. "It's like...it's like you have all these pillows to catch you when you fall. You're my only pillow. You're the only one I'd trust to catch me." His eyes started to burn, so he clenched them shut, bowing his head and hunching his shoulders. "I just fucking miss you."
"I miss you too," she murmured, and when he looked up she was crying. "Please stop talking like I'm already dead. Please, just try-
"What would happen if I tried to touch you?"
She chewed her lip nervously. "I don't know."
He knew before he lifted his hand that it was a decision he would regret, but he reached out for her anyway, stretching out his arm slowly and trying to still his shaking fingers. Carefully placing his fingertips against her cheek, at first he felt nothing, but then he could feel a slight pressure. It was barely there but he concentrated on it, and then it felt like cold static, buzzing against his fingers, until finally, it turned warm and soft; his skin against hers, and it felt so real, so real that he could feel the damp whisper of her tears, and his breath caught in his throat.
"Shit," he choked. "Have I really gone this mad?"
"We're all as mad as we need to be to get through the day," she said, placing her hand over his, and he could feel that too.
"I can't decide if this makes it worse, being able to feel you," he mumbled, yet as he said it, he tugged her closer, hastily pulling her into his lap.
She settled into the space between his legs, her body curved into the shape of his, her head bent into the crook of his neck, and he rested his chin against her head, like he had countless times. And he knew it wasn't real — he really did — but he was too lost in it to remain logical. The heat of her in his arms was just too blissful.
"I'm tired," he said into her hair. "Stay here while I sleep. Be here in the morning."
She didn't respond so he shut his eyes, forcing himself to fall asleep as quickly as possible lest she dissolve in his arms. The last thought that passed through his mind before he drifted off was the painful realisation that he couldn't feel her heartbeat.
He groaned, blinking away the heavy weight of sleep in his eyes, and the first thing that registered was that his arms were empty, and Granger was gone. The disappointment barely had a second to sink into his bones before he could hear someone calling his name.
"Draco, where are you?"
It was his mother, but he ignored her calls, agitatedly scanning the room. "Granger, where are you?" he asked to the empty space. "Granger?"
"Draco, are you up there?"
Later on, he would probably realise how ridiculous it was, but the blame he placed on his mother for Granger's absence was instant, almost instinctive. After all, Granger had still spoken to him when Blaise had visited, so why should she disappear now? The relationship between Hermione and his mother had always been tense, and in the distorted and troubled mess of his mind, he concluded that the reason he'd woken alone was entirely his mother's fault. As the thumps of footsteps began to travel up the stairs, a hot and formidable wave of anger swelled in his chest, and he jumped to his feet just as his mother appeared in the doorframe.
"Oh, there you are," she said, her tone anxious as she studied him. "Draco, you look awful-
"What the fuck are you doing here?" he cut her off. "Didn't Blaise tell you I said I wanted to be left alone?"
Narcissa blinked, evidently perturbed by his harsh response. "Well, yes, but I needed to check you were okay-
"Get out of my house. Now."
"Draco, I just want to help-
"I bet you're fucking loving this, aren't you?" he snarled bitterly. "This was what you wanted, right? For Granger to be gone."
"Draco, I would have never wished any harm on her!" she gasped, her features horrified and hurt. "Look, I understand that you're upset-
"Okay, calm down, perhaps that was a bit of an understatement-
"I want you out of my house," he repeated, the words slow and crisp. "Leave now, before I-
"Draco, I'm worried about you! You're my son!" she pleaded. "Your living room is smashed to pieces, you look sick, you haven't spoken to anyone-
"I don't want to fucking speak to anyone!"
"And your hand is bleeding," she said quietly, her eyes glancing over to the shattered mirror in the en suite. "Draco, you need to let me help you-
"I don't fucking need you!" he yelled. "I don't want your help! I don't want your concern! I don't want ANYTHING from you! Don't you get it? This is my punishment for what you and that bastard father of mine raised me to be!"
"Draco, stop that!"
"No! This is karma taking her time with destroying me for what I was years ago! And you and that wanker made me that fucked up kid! You made me this shitty little twat who could nothing but hate, and then I FINALLY found peace! I found Granger, and we were going to have a baby, and now she's been ripped out of my hands, they've been ripped away, and you think this isn't punishment for the person I was?"
His voice had hitched somewhere in the middle of his rant, and the last of it had been a broken noise more than anything else, like a dog's whine. A small part of his already bruised heart ached when he realised his mother was crying, watching him with a wide and injured stare that forced his eyes to the floor, but his stubbornness pushed aside any sense of regret he might've felt.
"That's not fair, Draco," she said, wiping away her tears. "We might not have been perfect parents but we loved you-
He scoffed. "That doesn't change what we were-
"This isn't some sick plot against you, it's just...a horrible incident that's happened-
"Oh, is that all it is?" he spat. "Tell me, mother, how should I be coping with this? I am an almost parent! Do you have any idea how fucking...cruel that is? To know that I could have had a son or daughter? And Granger... she was it for me! Do you get that? She was the only one that ever was or ever could be."
"Draco, I know that," said Narcissa, the softest he'd ever heard her speak. "I understand-
"How the fuck could you possibly understand?" he challenged, rubbing his face, and his cheeks were wet. "How could you even begin to fathom what this feels like? I am...sixteen again: alone."
"You're not alone. If you would just let us help-
"Nothing you people could do or say would help-
"And she might not even be...gone," she tried. "There's still hope that she-
"Get. Out. Of. My. House," he demanded coldly. "I mean it, mother. And don't you dare mention hope to me when you and Lucius sucked out any hope that I might've had years ago."
"Draco, at least let me help you clean up, or make you some food-
"Mother, if you don't go now, I will remove you myself."
The threat wasn't hollow, and they both knew it. With a crestfallen sigh, Narcissa slowly turned and went back the way she came, and Draco glared hard at her back until she disappeared, waiting until he heard the front door shut behind her before collapsed to his knees and buries his face in his palms.
"You shouldn't have spoken to your mother like that."
He flinched at Hermione's voice but didn't lift his head. "Everything I said was true."
"Everything you said was misplaced anger. You can't keep pushing people away like this, Draco. It's not healthy."
"But imaging my missing fiancée is fine, is it?" he shot back. "That's completely fucking normal."
He rose to stand and brushed past her, trying not to notice that she was now wearing one of his t-shirt and a pair of his boxers, and he absently wondered if his clothes still smelled like her. He'd intended to head downstairs and cast some Wards that would block anyone from invading his home, but he paused outside the spare bedroom, the room that was half converted into a nursery, the room where their baby would have slept. His legs felt detached from the rest of him as he pushed open the door and entered the cluttered space, and all he could do was stare at the fragile cot.
"I think we were going to have a boy."
Her voice startled him this time, and when he spun around the ghost of her was heavily pregnant, and she was rubbing her swollen belly with a thoughtful smile on her face, and he felt sick. He began hyperventilate again, his breaths leaving him in short and shallow puffs, and the room began to spin, twirling around his head until the dizziness made him retch. Avoiding looking at Hermione, he ran from the room, knocking in the wall on his unsteady legs as he raced back into the bedroom.
"Draco, what are you doing?"
"I'm getting out of here," he said, rummaging in the chest of drawers beside their bed. When he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, her stomach was flat again, and she was dressed in a simple t-shirt and jeans. He shook his head and went back to the drawer. "I need to get out of here. I can't fucking do this anymore-
"Going somewhere else won't leave me behind-
"It might. And at least I won't get sodding visitors-
"I can't stay here!" he shouted. "Everywhere I look, you're there! And I don't mean the hallucination, I mean our bed, our pictures, our fucking baby's room! I can't do it anymore! It's like I am suffocating in the reminder of your absence, and it is killing me!"
She chewed her lip and came to stand beside him. "Where are you planning to go?"
"Somewhere they won't find me."
"But how are they supposed to inform you if they have news?" she asked. "What if I come home and-
"You're not coming home though, are you?"
Finally finding his wand, he swallowed hard as he prepared to Apparate, doing everything he could to resist looking at her, and he would swear he could feel her breath by his ear. Pulling in a long and heavy breath, he shut his eyes, and when he opened them again he was in a room that didn't have Granger's scent lingering in the corners, or their bed mocking him with its scattered sheets, but her ghost had followed him here. He knew she was behind him before she even spoke.
"I had a feeling you would come here," said Hermione quietly.
Flicking his wand to illuminate the room, he ignored her comment and perched himself on the foot of the bed he hadn't used in years. In those hard years after the War, he'd spent the majority of his time here, avoiding London and the disapproving looks that stalked him wherever he went. The cottage just outside of Hastings hadn't been his first choice for a home, but it was isolated, and the sound of the sea had soothed those turbulent nights. He could hear it now; waves crashing like glass. He'd brought Hermione here once, shortly after the press had found out about their relationship and they'd been relentlessly harassed by reporters, but they'd returned to London after one night's peace when she'd insisted they needed to confront the press and get it over with.
And here he was again.
He rested his elbows against his knees and sighed into his hands. In a second, Hermione was kneeling in front of him, her head tilted to the side as she studied him with sad eyes.
"You must stop mourning me," she told him, reaching up to cup his face, and her skin felt colder than before. "You must try to think positive, and consider the possibility that I will come home, and that everything will be okay."
Shaking his head, he clasped his hands together to refrain from touching her. "Please just tell me where you are."
"Draco, we've been over this. I only know what you know-
"If you just tell me, I will come and get you," he went on. "I will find you, and I will save you, and I will bring you home-
"And then everything will be fine. You just need to tell me where you are so I can come and get you-
"Draco," she breathed. "I can't. You know I can't."
He gritted his teeth and scowled at her. "Then what good are you? If you can't tell me, then what good are you to me?"
"You are nothing!" he blurted, getting to his feet. "You are not her! I need her, not you! So tell me where the fuck you are!"
"I can't!" she shouted back. "I can't, there is nothing I can do except be here with you-
"Fuck off!" he snapped. "I mean it, get the fuck out of my head! Leave me alone!" He clamped his hands over his ears and clenched his eyes shut. "Get out! Get out! GET OUT!"
And he actually felt something her presence evaporate, but he opened his eyes anyway, twisting his head to scan the room, and it was only then that he noticed how empty it was, how quiet it was. Sitting back down on the bed, he barely stifled a sob, and he gathered the scratchy blanket around him like a cocoon.
"I didn't mean that," he mumbled. "I'm sorry, Hermione. Come back."
He waited expectantly, but nothing changed.
"Granger, please come back!"
So he called her name for hours, begging her ghost to return, and when his throat was raw from shouting, and his eyes sore from crying, he fell back on the bed and hammered his fist into the pillow until he was too exhausted to stay awake.
He moaned sleepily, focusing on the whisper of the sea.
Draco, wake up.
His lids fluttered, and when they slowly peeled open, she was back, sat on the bed beside him, wearing the clothes she'd been wearing the day she left. Reaching out to tuck a stray curl behind her ear, he decided she felt warmer this time, and the scent of her was so much stronger in his nostrils. He sat up, and she quickly fell into his arms, digging her nails into his back, and he wondered if they would leave marks, and then decided that was ridiculous because it wasn't really her, but he stroked his fingers up and down her spine anyway, nuzzling his nose into her soft curls.
"You came back."
She nodded and pulled back, smiling at him with tears slipping past her lashes. "Yes, I'm home. I missed you so much."
"I'm sorry I shouted at you yesterday," he mumbled. "I just-
"Yesterday? What are you talking about?"
"When I told you to leave. I didn't mean it."
Her features scrunched up with confusion for a moment, but they quickly changed to a sad expression of understanding, and she grabbed his hand, giving it a tight squeeze. "Draco, it's me."
"It's not really you though, is it?" he frowned. "But I just want to hear your voice really-
"No, Draco, look, it's me," she said. "It's me, I promise-
"No, you're gone-
"No, look at me. I swear it's me. They found Neville and I last night and we came back this morning. We've had half of London looking for you to tell you, and then I thought you might come here-
"Please don't," he said, trying to push her off his lap. "Please, this is just cruel-
"Draco, I swear to you," she insisted, her voice cracking slightly as she spoke. "It. Is. Me."
He shook his head and again tried to remove her from his lap, but as he did his fingers brushed her tense stomach and he hesitated, wondering if maybe...slowly, he moved his hand up to her chest, tentatively pressing his palm flat against it, and he tried to ignore the blood pumping in his ears.
He paused his breathing and, after what felt like minutes, the familiar vibrations of her very real heartbeat pounded against his palm.
He hastily flung his arms around her, yanking her as close as he could without crushing her, resting his mouth against her throat. As if to reassure him, her pulse hummed against his lips, and she pressed a kiss to his temple, combing her nails though his hair and whispering calming words in his ear. He tried to speak, tried to tell her that he'd missed her, that he loved her, but at all came out in sounds rather than sentences, so he pulled back and kissed her instead, so deeply that his mouth ached. When it ended, he rested his head against her chest and his hand found the barely-there baby bump again.
"It' okay," said Hermione soothingly. "We're home."
a/n: Um yeah...don't really have much to say about this! Sorry if it's crap! I kinda feel like I should point out that I have nothing against Turkey! I chose it purely because I've visited there every year since I was about eight and I know it quite well, and I speak Turkish and I was going to use some of the language initially but changed my mind. That is the only reason! Anyway, I hope it's okay! Thanks for reading!