A/n: Hello readers! Here's my entry into "DramioneLove Spring 2013!" The fest is over so now I can post it here. From my knowledge there's nothing about "prizes" or anything, so this is just written for fun :) I hope you enjoy. Thank you very much to my beta lozipozivanillabean!
Original Prompt: It's May, and the first anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. As a gesture of good will, the Malfoy family have opened up Malfoy Manor and allowed the celebration ball to be held there. The trio go, it's expected after all, but they're not happy about the location. Hermione, in particular, struggles with dancing on the same floor she was tortured. She is comforted by an unlikely source: Draco Malfoy, who has something to say after all this time.
Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" is the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. This work of fiction was created entirely for fun, not for profit, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Timeline: One year after the Battle of Hogwarts.
Warnings: Angst, and lots of it.
Through Grey Eyes
She was as stiff as a rod when Lucius Malfoy greeted her, the man as cold as ever. Although if one looked closely he seemed to be trying slightly harder than usual to be pleasant. Hermione kept her distance from the three Malfoy's lining the entrance way to greet guests, the two elder ones making an attempt to be cordial, whilst Draco ignored anything that moved. She shouldn't have expected anything less.
It had been exactly a year since the fall of Voldemort. Since then Britain had been rejoicing in being free, trying and sentencing any and all the Death Eater's that they could. Some lucky individuals, like the Malfoy's, had escaped imprisonment, but that didn't make up for their faults in the public eye. Realistically, people still despised them.
It took a lot of effort to rebuild London after all the destruction, and Hermione spent her summer alongside Harry and Ron amongst other friends volunteering to help in the reconstruction. The Malfoy's chipped in generous amounts of money, which although was great, did not make up for their treachery. Hermione wasn't stupid enough to forget the past, and despite the fact that they were trying to amend bonds they had broken during the war. People did not so easily trust them as they traded freedom for power.
The dressed-up entranceway at Malfoy Manor seemed fake- an ivory rug adoring the very first bit of floor, with splashes of inspected colour, the décor just inside the doorway seemed too perfect, with a sign indicating the way to the ballroom. Everything had been set up just so, as though to give the impression that something human lived there. But Hermione knew what hid beneath the perfectly sculpted forms of the Malfoy's; devils. Although they might be physically appealing, nothing but grime hid beneath the surface. In her opinion, they had lowered themselves beneath the dirt under her shoes. They were a completely different type of monster from Voldemort.
Wandering into the god-forsaken place, she did her very best to ignore where she was. If she wasn't Hermione Granger, if she wasn't Harry Potter's best friend, if she wasn't the best-known muggle-born in Britain, if she wasn't part of the Golden Trio, she wouldn't be here right now. She would be in her cozy studio apartment, ignoring this entire event. But she was expected to be there tonight to celebrate the victory of a war as well as the remembrance of a dark time, all because of who she was. And unfortunately, the person she was didn't like being there. She had never wanted to cross the threshold of Malfoy Manor again.
But fate seemed to have different plans for her, and she was currently very upset about it. She would give anything to get out of that place at the moment. Moving closer to Ron as she walked, the trio wandered towards a table on the left, hoping that the night would finish as soon as possible.
They took their seats accordingly, with Hermione seating herself beside her longtime friend Luna Lovegood, another person who begrudgingly came to the remembrance ball. Ginny promptly refused to come, proving to be a truly stubborn witch, but nothing any of her friends- or boyfriend-could say, would force her to go. She might be the sister of one Golden Trio member and the girlfriend of the wizard who saved Britain, but she was set in her ways, even more so than Ron. Nothing could drag Ginny Weasley out of her house to visit the abode of the Malfoy's. Nothing.
Harry was a bit peeved about the entire situation.
"The air is thick in here," Luna said, leaning over to speak to Hermione. The brunette only nodded, twiddling her fingers in her lap. She was tense all over, staring at the clock across from her, already attempting to figure out how long she needed to stay before running out. She wanted nothing more than to leave, for she could already feel her legs shaking slightly beneath the table.
This was the room, the very room that Bellatrix had tortured her in. The rugs had changed, and tables littered the open space, but she had stared at these walls and ceiling long enough during her torture as that she would recognize this room anywhere. This was a room she would never be able to forget.
They were hosting an anniversary ball on the same floor where people were tortured and killed, where Bellatrix carved a sinister word into her arm and flecks of her blood fell down on the floor. She imagined that beneath those elaborate rugs, one could find the telltale stains of the fallen, of the people who died here.
Her hands tightened on the table edge. She wasn't quite sure she could make it through the night here. Beside her Luna seemed to pick up on her discomfort, and patted her hand as Harry and Ron chatted animatedly at her side.
"It'll get better once the Minister's speech is over and the dancing and eating begins. I'll stay by your side and you can completely forget where you are."
She highly doubted that, considering that she had been acutely aware of her position since entering. But Luna was trying to be helpful, whereas Ron and Harry were avoiding speaking to her. She knew, despite all the time that had passed, that they still blamed themselves for the torture she received during their visit to the Manor. Guilt clouded their features even before they arrived at the Manor, and since receiving their invitations for the rather unorthodox location, both had been uncomfortable around her. It brought back bad memories for everyone.
Ginny hadn't been here, and yet she still refused to come. It sickened Hermione how self-centered that girl could be sometimes.
It took almost another forty minutes for the expected guests to arrive, some looking more comfortable in the space than others, though everyone seemed cautious. No one was one-hundred percent comfortable around the likes of the Malfoy's, not anymore.
The Minister came in to deliver his supposedly- touching speech, and the Malfoy's followed in behind him, surprisingly taking up a table away from the center of the room, and closer to one of the far back walls. Hermione realized that this table had been reserved for the whole night. Didn't the hosts usually make themselves noticeable? Or had the shame of their decisions weighed them down and caused this decision, convincing them that it was better to sit in the background?
She doubted that.
"It is with grief," the Minister began, taking his place in the center of that horrible floor, "That we are gathered here tonight for this event. Although it symbolizes a moment of conquest for the wizarding community, it also brings up times of grief. Not one of us passed through the war without feeling the anguish of death, of losing someone we cared deeply for."
Hermione saw Ron stiffen, and she reached up to squeeze his shoulder. The topic of George was a touchy one, and she knew from experience that he did not like to remember the pain caused by the war. Harry was much the same, but from the seat she had taken, she was unable to offer a hand of comfort without disturbing the Minister's important speech.
"Let us take a moment of silence in remembrance of those who gave their lives to defeat the evil wizard Voldemort."
Everyone bowed their heads in respect, and she dropped her hand from Ron's shoulder, preferring to cradle it in her lap. She found herself staring down at that wretched floor, and slammed her eyes shut, willing the fear to go away. She couldn't help feeling apprehensive about the room, not after everything that had happened. But despite herself, she didn't feel any better looking at the inside of her eyelids. Turning in her chair away from the center of the room, she faced out away from the table and raised her head slightly, opening her eyes so she could easily stare at the wall.
But the wall didn't catch her attention. Raising her head a bit more, she stared at the unexpected spectacle at the back of the room. There stood three tall blonde figures, out of their chairs, standing with bowed heads as their eyes looked down at the floor, just like everyone else in the room. Whether they were out of their chairs in respect or mockery, she didn't know.
It was so quiet that one could hear a pin drop.
"May they rest in peace," the Minister said, drawing everyone from their trances. Heads rose up, some eyes now misty from memories. But all Hermione could focus on were the three blondes, who quickly took a seat the moment the Minister began speaking, as though they didn't want anyone to know that they had stood in regards to the fallen. And she continued to stare on at the Malfoy's, perplexed by the situation.
The youngest Malfoy looked up once seated, intending to try and look interested in the conversation again, even though he wanted nothing more than to hide in his room away from this mess. He couldn't believe his mother had volunteered the family for this rubbish, much less that his father went along with the idea, not once complaining. As if the idea wasn't ridiculous enough, the whole of Britain would think they were posers, fakes. No matter what they did, no one wanted to believe they had turned over a new leaf. Sometimes Draco didn't believe it at all.
Looking up, he intended to stare at the wall across from him, which would hopefully block the Minister's depressing speech from his mind. He did not expect to see Granger staring back at him, large perplexed eyes looking at him beneath high arched eyebrows.
He speculated that she witnessed the trio standing, honoring the fallen in a way that no one else did. He doubted she understood the reasoning; much less why they did it, but he didn't really care. The girl was known to wonder about far too many things.
He titled his head as she continued to stare at him, wondering why she found him so interesting. Was the spectacle truly that interesting to the young former-Gryffindor girl? He didn't know.
Looking elsewhere, he decided not to think about her. It would trouble him too much to think about Granger today, when she was standing on the very ground his aunt had nearly killed her. He certainly didn't think he could face her and explain the experience, not after all of those years. He'd sooner throw himself from his bedroom window.
The last thing he wanted to do was discuss feelings with Britain's favorite princess.
"I can't," she whispered, pleading with Ron's eyes as he gently grasped her hand. Her other was firmly grasped around the top of the chair, holding her in place. She could feel her legs trembling, and did not want to get up under any circumstances.
"You can't just sit here all night either," he replied, glancing around. "The reporters are here, trying to catch a story. They keep peering through the windows, and are bound to make a big deal out of it if you of all people don't get up. They'll post a major story all about your dread and angst over this place or something, and that's really the last thing you want."
She cringed, glancing towards the window where people were indeed crowded. Despite the wards, people kept getting in. She suspected that the Malfoy's weren't too big on keeping people off their property that night, not with so many unusual guests prowling around. They would probably just kick everyone out when the festivities were over. Reluctantly, she got up and wandered with Ron onto the dance floor.
Some people really seemed to be throwing their pains to the wind and were trying to enjoy themselves that night, especially considering how lavish a place the Manor was, with endless amounts of food appearing all the time. Although the concept wasn't pleasant, a lot of people seemed to be trying to remember the fallen in a happy way. Hermione was thus far unable to manage that herself.
Ron wrapped his arms around her, but it was a weak and whimpish hold. She knew he didn't have any compassion for her, not since his brother died and his mother went insane. He wasn't very loving anymore; just there, another lifeless body wandering around Britain as though he were a zombie. She hated that he had slipped so far, but was unable like everyone else to pull him from the depression. It broke her heart.
They danced for two songs before Seamus cut in and gave Ron a rest, allowing him to slouch back to his table and put his head down, hiding from the world. Harry couldn't be seen from her current position, though that wasn't unexpected. Even after a year, people were giddy at the prospect of meeting him in the flesh, and he was probably being attacked by admirers of all kinds at the moment. She hoped he would survive another fan-crazed onslaught, but at least this time it would be contained to those invited to this event.
"He's not getting any better, is he?" Seamus asked as they twirled around the dance floor, holding her a bit tighter. She was grateful for the strength, needing someone to hold her up as she fought with her emotions.
"He hasn't changed in months," she muttered, keeping her eyes trained on his chest instead of his face. "I'm worried about him."
"We all are," the man replied, though he seemed preoccupied by something else. "Are you sure you don't want to sit down? You're shaking like a leaf."
"Just memories," she muttered, keeping her eyes trained down. He hugged her a bit closer, resting his head on top of hers.
"You really shouldn't be here Hermione, not after everything."
"It's expected," she said, squaring her shoulders, though she refused to raise her eyes. "I'm simply waiting until a suitable amount of time has passed before I bolt out of here."
"And how much longer is that?"
She shrugged, lifting her eyes only to glance at the clock. "Perhaps an hour."
Seamus cringed. "Then I wish you luck. You should sit down though; I'm not going to support you forever you know. Go and sit with Ron, maybe the two of you can waste some time together. Maybe you can brighten his mood."
She looked up, giving him a forced smile. "Maybe."
That was a lie. No one brightened Ron's mood, not anymore. He was too upset, too downtrodden, and in serious need of help. Hermione and Ginny planned to find him some the following week, for they had put it off long enough. Quickly bidding Seamus goodbye, they parted ways, and she hurried over to the beverage table, taking a shot before she had time to think about it. Perhaps if her judgment was a bit impaired, she would forget how afraid she was.
"I didn't think you drank," said someone behind her, and she spun around to slam her drink down on the table. Malfoy stood not two feet from her, eyeing her suspiciously. "Seems too improper for your snobbish ways."
Hermione scoffed, a bit insulted by his insinuation. "I can drink whenever I please Malfoy- if you've already forgotten- I am of legal age now."
"And it was probably never a thought beforehand," he commented, crossing his arms. "Is there a particular reason you're drinking tonight, or are you simply looking for an excuse to not be around Finnegan?"
Turning away again, she selected a drink that was nonalcoholic. "I've been dancing for a while Malfoy, and I've grown tired, so I decided to stop. End of story. It has nothing to do with Seamus." She remained turned away from him, staring at the distant wall. She still shook a bit, and didn't want to turn around so he could see the fear and discomfort in her eyes. No, she wouldn't brighten his day with her true feelings about being here.
"You didn't really answer the question Granger. I asked if there's a reason why you're drinking, not simply if it was because of Finnegan."
"I answered your question."
"You evaded it."
"Is there something you would like from me Malfoy?" she asked, turning around again. She made her back rod straight, hoping to avoid seeming uncomfortable. This was her former enemy for Merlin's sake, and she couldn't get cold knees around him. After all, he should know exactly why she was avoiding things, given how her last experience here went. Was he trying to see if it was something else, or was the boy playing dumb?
"I wanted to talk," he said evenly, catching her off-guard. "There's something we need to discuss."
"There's nothing you and I have to discuss." She turned away, but his next words stopped her.
"It's about the last time you visited," he said slowly, glancing away as she spun back. Watching his body language, she thought that he actually looked uncomfortable, and that was the last thing she expected to see from him tonight. Bored and annoyed maybe, but not uncomfortable. "There's something… I just want to talk to you, okay?"
Hermione was floored. Her friends certainly knew how uncomfortable she was with being there, but Malfoy? Why was he bringing it up of all things? "I…"
"I know you probably don't want to discuss it," he said, picking up his own alcoholic beverage from the table, "But I want to. As strange and as uncomfortable as it is, I've seen that scene many times in my nightmares of the war and need to get it out of my mind. I just want to talk about it, no snide remarks or snarky words. Nothing crude, or evil, or anything. I just want to talk Granger; I want to move on from that moment."
She wanted to move on as well, or course she did. But talking to the man who stood by while she was being tortured really didn't seem like it would do the trick. The hurt that was in his eyes moments ago was cloaked now, hidden by the trained man, accustomed to hiding his real emotions. He downed the drink in his hand in one gulp, tossing the glass carelessly behind the table where it broke. With all the noise in the room, no one even noticed. He grabbed another and cradled it in his hand.
She didn't know if she wanted so speak to him, not really. They had a history, a bad one, and she didn't want to dig at it now, at what should be a remembrance ball for the fallen and for victory. This was a time to be happy, even when so many people still experienced grief. If she started talking about something like that, then she would most definitely not be happy. Old memories would resurface and she wasn't sure it was something she could handle.
"It won't help me," she whispered, stepping away from the table and the blonde. Over the noise, he could barely hear her. "It's only going to make the memory worse by talking to you about it. It's hard enough to stand on this floor, to be in this place, and act as though nothing is wrong so that the interviewers outside don't notice something amiss. I can't Malfoy, I won't. I won't talk about it with you."
He nodded, seemingly having expected this. Looking irritated, he turned away, facing towards the crowd instead of her. "I knew you'd say no Granger, I really did. The idea only surfaced when I noticed you watching my family earlier. I never had an intention of bringing it up before this night. Go back to the party, and try not to cry on the floor."
He left her then, turning away from the situation with a sweep of his hand and he disappeared through the crowd. People were trying to be energized at this point, attempting to liven up the place and not make it so dreary. Reaching for one more drink, Hermione gulped it down before returning to the floor, hoping to find her friends. Yet even as she walked away, Malfoy's words echoed in the depths of her mind.
I want to. As strange and as uncomfortable as it is, I've seen that scene many times in my nightmares of the war and need to get it out of my mind. I just want to talk about it, no snide remarks or snarky words. Nothing crude, or evil, or anything. I just want to talk Granger; I want to move on from that moment.
Part of her wanted to believe him, really. She wanted to think that the war could honestly change a person for the better, and not into a posed, faux one like the Malfoy's were currently pretending to be. Finding Ron, she noticed that he was with his date Lavender and detoured elsewhere. Harry was being attacked by fans as usual, and she quickly found herself a lonesome seat away from the dance floor, near another table full of drinks.
Well, if nothing else, maybe she could drink her pains away for the night.
Two hours later Hermione decided to go against her prior decision, watching from her lonesome seat as the blonde disappeared out through one of the exits, towards the bathrooms. She hadn't had anything more to drink since her first two, so that her judgment wouldn't be impaired, but nevertheless she could not believe what she was doing as she got up out of her chair and hurried across the room, following him.
Hermione was completely insane, she knew it. Why was she hurrying to follow the prat to the loo, when she could wait for him to come back, or simply ignore him all together? She couldn't get his words out of her head, and they had echoed there for the last two hours, nestling their way into the very foundation of her brain. And now, despite herself, she was hurrying after him, determined to speak with him.
Curiosity was eating at her, finally besting her. He wanted to say something about that night, he had some sort of regret, and damn it all, she wanted to know just what that regret was. Although it might hurt to speak about it, and it might trouble her and even scare her to talk to Malfoy about such a sensitive topic, she could no longer hold back her anxiety at what he would say. When it happened, when she lay there being tormented, there was no venom in his eyes, or his parent's. And she wanted to know what really passed through his mind that day.
Heels were a stupid choice, and she wished she had opted for flatter footwear. Oh well, he didn't seem to be moving very quickly, and by the time she got out of the main room he was already halfway down a hallway that was clearly blocked off, though she supposed that didn't really matter to him.
"Malfoy!" She didn't want to be too loud and draw attention, just loud enough that he would hear her. Thankfully, she was loud enough on the first try and he glanced over his shoulder, stopping all together when he noticed who had called his name. Turning back, he spoke as he drew closer.
"Granger?" He stopped just in front of her, signaling that she shouldn't walk through. "The hallway won't let you pass unless I invite you through; we have to keep guests from wandering around our home somehow. Is there something you wanted?"
"I want to talk to you," she said, surprised that she still had so much of her wits about her. "About, you know."
He nodded, picking up on what she meant instantly. "Very well. We can go upstairs to one of the sitting rooms, away from where the reporters can see. There's a spell to keep them on the ground level."
"Will they see us going that way?"
"Doubtful." He extended a hand and waited for her to grab it. "Well, what are you waiting for?"
"What do you mean?"
"I have to invite you through Granger. Grab my hand so you can pass." Understanding what he meant quickly enough, she reached forward and gripped his hand. And became unsettled by the mere action. This was so foreign for them that it almost didn't feel real, and he literally had to pull her past the barrier as she got lost in the odd sensation, half wondering if he would try to break her hand.
"Don't be so uptight," he said, watching her now. "I didn't ask to speak with you so I could be a jerk. My only intention is to set things straight Granger, honestly."
Hermione nodded, pulling her hand from his. He turned and wandered away, with her following in his wake. She stared at her hand, perplexed by the entire situation.
He touched her, and he didn't throw out any comments about blood impurity, getting dirty, or how filthy she was. He offered his hand to her; she did not have to ask. One year ago, he wouldn't even look her in the eye, much less touch her willingly. It was strange to think that the blonde, the bane of her existence and longtime enemy, could actually revert into something else entirely. Silently, she followed behind him, still thinking things over in her mind to the point where she didn't know if she was thinking at all anymore. Maybe she was thinking too much.
"There, we can even leave the door open," he said, stepping into a room, one which he held open for her. Hermione stepped beside him, surprised at the gesture. The room was large and lavishly decorated, as expected. Taking a seat in the nearest chair, she watched him leave the door half open before he sat opposite her.
"Like I said Granger, you don't have to be uptight."
"Do you expect anything less?" she questioned, crossing her arms. "Since you want to discuss the last time we saw each other face to face, let's go off of that. You didn't give me much to trust Malfoy, and my impression of you from earlier on doesn't reinforce my confidence in you. I do have my wand, and I won't hesitate to stun you if you do something stupid."
"Like I already told you, I have no intention of doing something rash. I just want to set the record straight."
"What is there to set? You did nothing while your aunt tortured me on the floor, scarred me, and let me bleed. I already know what the record is."
Draco's eyes narrowed and he leaned back in his chair, lifting an eyebrow at her with ease. "If you know what the record is, why are you here? Why did you decide to seek me out if you think you already understand the situation clearly?"
"Because I understand what happened," she snapped, "But I don't understand what went on with you. That was the first time in my life I saw anything but steel behind your eyes. Cold, unfeeling, steel. There was something there that day within you, some sort of regret that must've existed for your eyes to betray any emotion. I don't know if the same thing happened with your parents or not, and frankly I don't care. What I'm focused on is whether you felt anything at all while I was being tormented, and more why you did nothing during that time. So you either enjoyed seeing me suffer, or you regretted it. And based off your eyes that day, I'm supposing it leans towards regret."
Draco seemed thrown by her statement, and studied her a long time before speaking again. "You watched me a lot that day, didn't you?" She nodded curtly. "Why?"
"Because, out of the people standing in that room, if someone was going to help me, if someone planned to save me, then it was going to be you. I didn't know at the time if your aunt was going to kill me or not, if I was going to make it out alive or if something worse was coming my way once Bellatrix had finished, I simply didn't know. You're the only person in that room that I knew for certain didn't like to watch a person die, and I only knew that because you were unable to kill Dumbledore. I thought maybe if I could catch your eye, maybe if you focused on the expressions on my face for long enough you might step up and help me, and stop being a coward."
She shook her head. "But you proved me wrong. You sat back and let her torture me, and you probably would've let anything else happen as well had Dobby and my friends not appeared to save me. I thought maybe you'd find it in you to help me, but it was a silly idea. I was wrong."
Her cheeks felt wet, and she knew she was crying, getting all torn up on the inside from remembering that dark time. One hand moved to cover the mark, attempting to block it out of her reality for a moment, but it didn't work. She knew it was there, and it felt more real than ever as she discussed it with her former classmate, the relative of the madwoman who carved it into her skin.
"I didn't have much of a choice back then," he said at length, glancing down. "You bring up Dumbledore, and you're right, I didn't have the balls to kill him, and I could never kill anyone else either. Snape killed him on my behalf to spare my life. When you were brought here to Malfoy Manor, I was at my wits end. When you fail a task, no matter how high and mighty you are, you fall from grace in the Dark Lord's eyes. My father was already a screw-up, finding tasks for me that I simply couldn't manage, and we were both taking the blame for things, suffering curses and punishments because we did not meet the standards expected for us. When the lot of you were brought here, I thought it was over. Believe it or not Granger, but it did favor my family a bit that your side won. In the end, we were not the favorites any longer."
"But you didn't help us win," she spat. "You stayed on your side and fell further and further out of his favor. You could've helped me that day, but you didn't. How many other people did you let die because you wouldn't speak up?"
There it was; the golden question. He bowed his head, staring at the floor, his hands moving to clasp together. For many moments he did not move from that position, and merely stared at the floor. Hermione shifted in her seat uncomfortably, wondering what concealed box of emotions she had accidently opened.
"The first time I saw someone die Granger was in third year, when my father and a few other Death Eater's brought home a muggleborn man for fun. They brought me down to watch, saying that I needed to see what I would be doing someday. They tortured him for hours, dragging death beyond anything humane. I watched them torture and kill this person, this unknown man, while I sat in a cover, unable to move or react because my father might lash out at me if I embarrassed him in front of his friends. Have you ever just sat back and watched someone die? I was thirteen years old at the time Granger, home for Christmas break. When it was over I cleaned the blood up."
She sat silently; her hands gripping her knees as she listened to him speak. His voice sounded weighted, as though he had been carrying this burden too long. She shook her head, unable to muster up something to say as the image he created for her danced across her mind. It sounded horrifying.
"I've been watching people die since I was thirteen years old. My father used to convince me that anyone less than a Pureblood is like a bug, in need of extermination. And he saw people that way, as something to kill without a second thought. When Bella got out of jail and came to stay with us, she filled his head with vulgar thoughts. It was Bella who could extract information from people the fastest, because she had no mercy for cries or pleas. They would do it down in the dungeons mostly, where people's voices echoed off the walls."
"Overtime I think my father began to taste the blood in his mouth, see what he had done to people. One night while we were home, one of the Death Eater's was downing a potion or two, high on way too many things, and he mistook my mother for an intruder and nearly killed her. That was the breaking point for my father, when he had to deal with all the pain he had been dealing on others. It took months to nurse my mother back to health, and even now she suffers occasionally from the pain. It was around that time that my father stopped participating in interrogations. That was in fifth year."
He stopped talking for a moment, using the pause to stand so he could wander to the window, keeping his distance to avoid being seen. "You asked me how many people have died because I didn't speak up. Do you want the number of people that I watched die, or the ones I've heard screaming inside my home? I can only count one of those numbers on my hands."
Hermione looked away from his silhouette, the clouds cloaking his form in a dark cover. "Why did you take it? Why did you sit back and watch them die?"
"Because if I spoke up it would be the end of my life. Voldemort was using me still by then, to get into the school and for little, unimportant missions. My parents were pushed to the sidelines, my mother completely useless to his cause once the Death Eater tortured her. I was the force keeping them alive, no matter how meager I was. If I let myself die, then they would die too. If I spoke out against someone, we would all perish. We were not in a position to have opinions. And then you came along."
"And then I came along," she echoed, slowly turning her vision back to his form. "And what about me?"
"I've known perhaps three of the people that I've watched die," he said, turning from the window so he could begin pacing slowly around the room. "You would've been number four. It's much harder to detach yourself from reality when it's someone you actually know Granger. If you've never met that person before, never spoken, then there are no emotional ties. I didn't kill Dumbledore because no matter how much I hated him, he believed in me. And he even believed in me right up until his last moments. No matter the relationship I had with you, you were still someone that I did know outside that situation, and that makes it harder. I may not have cared for you particularly at the time, nor had any honest feelings for you, but I knew you. We have a history, we have a past. Watching someone you know die is like erasing that history making it appear as though it never existed."
"And you didn't want our history to disappear?" she asked, sounding confused.
He pursed his lips, faced away from her at that point. "I didn't think I could stand watching a person I know die. I've watched so many people die Granger, and my aunt really wanted to stick it to you. She was so sure you were Potter's friend, that you knew something that I'm sure she would've torn you to pieces searching for her answer. I'm not exaggerating, I've seen it happen."
"But she didn't," Hermione reminded.
"I didn't know that," he countered. "Not then. I may have hated you at the time Granger, but I didn't want to see you die. I was tired of watching people die."
She stood, but remained by her seat. "Is that why you were looking at me with those eyes? Not because it was personally me, but because you didn't want to see another person die."
"I didn't think you deserved it," he said quietly, running a hand over his face. "By that time, I didn't honestly have a loyalty to Voldemort. You fought for something you believed in, and I might've detested you, but I respected you for that at least. It's more than I ever did. But then, I didn't think that many of the people who died deserved it. Bellatrix certainly did."
She moved forward, walking up behind him so that she could rest a hand on his arm, and he tensed at the movement. "So you do have a heart under that cold exterior."
He snorted, thankful for the tension breaker. The topic was so serious, so unpleasant; he didn't really know how to tolerate it. It was building inside the room, seemingly suffocating them both a bit more with every new sentence. Thank Merlin she was able to break the thick air and cool them both off, dropping the tension of the room.
"I don't like death," he said plainly, "It's terrifying in a way, knowing that someday your life just ends. I didn't want to concern myself with how quickly it could be over, but back in third year I started witnessing it firsthand. It's terrifying, and it certainly strips you of your innocence. You don't have very much left once you clean someone's blood off the walls and floor."
Hermione nodded, trying to understand him. She dropped her hand, noticing that he was calmer now. So he had looked so concerned and wanted to talk about this, because he didn't think she deserved what happened to her all those years ago, and he didn't like death. Reaching out again, she grabbed his hand and pulled it towards her. He glanced at her, curious.
She placed his palm over the scar, closing it around the word. "For the past year I've been under the impression that you believed this scar belonged there just as much as she did. I could never be certain about the look in your eyes until this moment, but I'm glad I know the truth behind them now. Thank you, for telling me the truth."
Draco met her eyes, studying her again. "You don't have to take this as me becoming a better person or anything Granger, it happened a long time ago. I simply wanted you to understand what I was feeling that day. When I saw the fear in your eyes earlier, I thought you had a right to know."
She smiled softly. "Thank you for telling me. It helps the memories a bit, I suppose, knowing that not every person in that room wanted me to suffer. It's a comfort, even if it's a small one."
"I know it doesn't make up for what happened, but I wanted you to know what I was really thinking that day. It doesn't mean much at this point, but I'm not a monster."
Smiling, she reached up and did something brazen, and gave the blonde a hug. He stiffed at first before giving into the feeling, rubbing her back softly. After the talk, it simply felt like the right thing to do. It was probably unorthodox to hug ones enemy, but he didn't quite seem like an enemy now.
"You're not made of stone Malfoy," she muttered, holding onto him. "You've simply never had enough compassion given to you, so you don't know how to let raw, happy emotions in."
Draco gripped her tighter, staring down at the girl in his arms. After a year and a half of guilt, it was good to know that he was able to receive forgiveness for what he did.