disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Emily, for Christmas.
notes: barfs.

title: that girl, she's got battlescars
summary: Your heart is a stone buried underneath your clothes. — Draco/Hermione.

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"This is the worst idea ever."

"Shut it, I didn't ask you to come with me. I could have done this on my own perfectly well, thank you very much."

"Potter told me to look after you."

"What, after all this time, you're finally going to listen to reason? Shite timing—Malfoy, don't touch that, that's dangerous!"

He squawked, whipped his hand back; the girl gave him a bored once over, hand coming up to cover her mouth to keep herself from laughing at him rather unkindly.

"Too bad," she said. "It almost ate your face."

He rubbed at an invisible mark on his skin, eyed the acid green liquid on the desk with evident apprehension. It bubbled sluggishly (which, perhaps, could be construed as alarming: there was no visible source of heat), but did absolutely nothing else.

"What do you keep in here, Granger?"

She ignored him entirely but to sigh loudly in his general direction. "Would have been an improvement. Hush up, and stand in the corner. You're distracting me."

"Why, Granger, I had no idea! You could have just said you wanted me, there're much faster ways to go about getting my trousers off," he leered at her.

"You lower the IQ of the entire street, Malfoy," Hermione said dryly. "Look at the wall. Don't talk to me."

"We're on a street?"

Hermione gave him a look that seethed I know eight different severing charms, and I will sever something important if you don't shut your mouth. The sentiment was, ostensibly, not appreciated—Draco took half-step back, lip curling up into one of those horrible sneers that Hermione so wished to smack off his face. But apparently it was enough to shut him up, and let her get back to work.

They didn't have much time.

There was no telling when the Muggles would be back. Hermione felt a bit grim, mouth a thin white line across her face. She'd had to cut three trip wires to get in here, had to watch the place, had to perform a complex bit of magic that would set the cameras to record on a loop until they left, but it would only be good if no one else trampled in and ruined all her work.

Muggle technology was the worst pain in the arse.

Also Malfoy, but he was a totally different O. W. L.

They were very far away from home. The thing about a War was that you stopped having a home, and sixteen felt like sixty—but Hermione Granger was neither of those things. She was eighteen and so tired she had great dark bags beneath her eyes, purple-black like bruises, and she had Draco Malfoy of all people on her tail. This could go nowhere good.

Wandless magic is a life-saver, Hermione thought viciously, her fingers skating over the yellowing pages. They smelled old, like vanilla and leather. Once Hermione had loved nothing more than that smell, but that had been a very long time ago, and she'd grown up past needing her books to tell her how to live her life.

When you spent your days trying to keep the people you loved alive, it was something of a necessity to go with your gut.

"Malfoy," she murmured, "can you reach that blue phial on the top shelf?"

"I thought you told me to face the wall and not talk," he replied, smarmy, and Hermione had to count to twelve to stop herself from turning around and cursing him into oblivion. He would so deserve it, but he was a good agent no matter how personally distasteful she found him.

And he was very tall, so that helped, too.

"I told you do to exactly what I needed you to do. I need that phial."

He sighed theatrically (Hermione rolled her eyes and thought oh, you poor, poor princess, forced to do actual work), and moved across the room. His footsteps were silent, and for that she was thankful—there was no telling what was sentient in this place. Frankly, the Muggles coming back were the least of her worries.

Quite suddenly he was in her space, pale and lean and washed out in the dim light. His black cloak looked grey, and for all she knew, it might have been. She could smell woodsmoke and some kind of aftershave, and it was not at all unpleasant. He loomed in her space, radiating heat and exhaustion. The War had been hard on all of them.

And now that the Muggles had found out about magic, well. Clothing was far less important than staying alive.

Voldemort might have been dead, but the real battle had only just begun.

"We should build a castle," she said, one day.

"You are mental," said Draco, shaking his head. He shot a look at Harry and Ron, who both nodded fervently but stopped automatically when Hermione raised her eyes to glare at the three of them.

"Do you have any better ideas, then?" she demanded, arms crossed over her chest and ink on her nose. "Hm? I don't hear you coming up with anything, Malfoy!"

Hermione was glaring so hard that she couldn't see Ron shaking his head wildly, frantically drawing a line back and forth across his neck. But Draco and Harry could, and while the latter knew exactly what Ron was getting at, the former decided to needle the already-furious woman sitting across from him.

"Well, we could move to Australia—"

Smack.

The sound of flesh against flesh was the most satisfying thing Hermione had heard all day. Her voice was very low when she spoke. "Don't talk about Australia, Malfoy. Don't you ever, ever talk about Australia."

And then she gathered up her books and her parchment and her quills, and marched up the stairs to her room.

Ron shook his head. "Mate, you shouldn't have gone there. Hermione's touchy about Australia."

Draco looked at Harry for the explanation. Harry's shoulders slumped. "She took her parents' memories away, and when she tried to put them back, it didn't work," he said quietly. "It still upsets her."

Draco sat back, trying to process. "Is that why I had to follow that crazy bint to—?"

"Yeah, that's why," Harry said, and Ron nodded sagely.

Malfoy was quiet for a very long moment. And then:

"I'm not guilty," he said, but he pushed away from the table, stretching long legs out and unfolding himself from Grimmauld Place's uncomfortable wooden chairs. He strode towards the stairs, fists clenched, and disappeared before either Harry or Ron could say a word.

The two men looked at each other, and shared a snicker.

Draco Malfoy, not guilty?

In what world?

But that didn't stop him from heading up the stairs (past all the eerie elf heads—the Black family had some very odd traditions, and Draco for one was quite put off by them.

He knocked, for once. "Granger, I'm coming in. You'd better be decent."

"Shut up, Malfoy," she said, and pulled the thin covers of her bed further over her head. She had no desire to deal with him right now—the day had been long, and she'd hit a dead end in her research again. Ha, she thought, I ought to Obliviate the entire world, and then no one would know magic exists. Maybe that'd be better.

She heard the door open, anyway.

Hermione threw the covers back, wild-haired and wild-eyed. "Haven't you ever head of privacy, Malfoy?!"

"I'm—I'm sorry, Granger," he said.

Hermione stared. "Pardon?"

"You heard me, I'm not saying it again," Draco said, straight-faced. "I was wrong."

"And apology from Draco Malfoy," Hermione marvelled. "Has the world ended? Have you accepted that you're fraternizing with a Mudblood? Has it finally happened?"

He snorted. "You are impossible."

"So are you," she said, prim. They were quiet for a very long moment. Hermione eyed him, and then said "Oh, quit looking like I killed your owl. Come sit."

He did, sat straight-backed and uncomfortable. Hermione flopped back on her bed, hair spread out in knotty kinks across the pillow.

"I hate you, did you know that?" she asked him softly.

"Yes, I did, Granger. Thank you ever so much for the reminder," Draco said dryly. He stared at a colourless spot on the wall, and refused to move his gaze.

"You make me angry," she said.

"I know."

"You never do what I tell you to."

"Do you really expect me to?"

"Yes," she said fiercely. "Yes, I do! I expect that you respect my judgement when it's clearly less impaired than yours! Yes, I do expect you to do what I tell you, because I'm trying to keep the both of us alive! Yes, I do!"

"I wasn't the one with the impaired judgement this morning, Granger," Draco said, very quietly. "I didn't know about your parents."

Hermione curled into a very tiny ball, knees up to her chest. "I know."

There was a strange hesitance to him, then, the smarm and the smug gone from his visage. He looked down at her in all her massive misery, and lowered himself until he lay very close to her. They stared very intently at each other, eyes wide open, hearts beating too loud in the empty room.

"I can't believe this," he said, more to himself than to her.

Hermione's smile was a tiny bright thing.

"Neither can I, Malfoy," she said. "Neither can I."

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fin.