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Chapter 2: The Blackest of Hearts
A few hours had passed since the incident.
Hermione had sat down and had a very stern talk with Harry about using spells he was not familiar with, and Ginny, Ron, herself and Harry had all gathered around the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace to burn the book.
Malfoy wouldn’t leave her mind. She kept remembering the little instances of his behavior that had left her puzzled... his soft “Thank you,” his hand reaching out to touch hers, and the way he hadn’t seemed to mind, being so near to her.
He had cried in front of her. And she had held him like a child while he did. She wondered if he would increase his insults to her, now that she had seen him so vulnerable. She frowned at the thought, knowing that it could very well happen.
And to make matters worse, McGonagall’s words wouldn’t leave her mind, either.
“Forgive me if I’m stepping out of bounds... but I’m sure Mr. Malfoy would appreciate it if you would be there in the Hospital Wing... In case he wants to give you a proper thank you.”
What constituted a “proper” thank-you? And what made Professor McGonagall think that he would ever thank her?
But he did thank me... That’s the amazing part.
Hermione sighed, leaning against the plush pillows of the couch in the Common Room. Her book fell to the floor with a loud thud, and she didn’t even bother to pick it up.
Maybe she should go see him. Just to make sure he was really okay, and that the spell she had done was sufficient to repair the damage. And it might be a good idea to test the water... To see how he would treat her after the fact.
Hermione hopped off of the couch, climbed out of the portrait hole, and began the walk to the Hospital Wing. Her mind wouldn’t turn off. Draco Malfoy was now more dangerous than ever. No doubt Voldemort gave him a job to do... or even multiple jobs.
She shuddered. This was dangerous. But now that she had saved Draco’s life, did that change anything between them? Hermione doubted it, but she had this strange feeling in her stomach... A strange feeling that Draco had a lot more to say to her before they were interrupted.
Before she knew it, the Hospital Wing doors were before her. She hesitated for a moment, wondering if this was a good idea, and carefully weighing every single possibility before deciding that it was stupid to try to predict what would happen. She had walked all the way here, after all, so with a deep breath she headed inside.
He was lying in the bed farthest from her. Hermione’s heart caught in her throat at the sight of him. He was staring at the ceiling, with a look on his face that pretty much said he didn’t care if he lived or died. And honestly... he looked like he was dead.
She softly cleared her throat. He looked over and jolted a bit in surprise. “You again? What are you doing here?”
Hermione stayed where she was, suddenly unable to move. “I... I just wanted to make sure you were still all right.”
Draco leaned back against the pillows. “I’m all right, I suppose. Madam Pomfrey gave me a potion to give me my strength back, and she said the spell you did pretty much healed up everything. I have to take it easy for a few days, though.”
“Oh. Okay, good.” Hermione looked down at the floor awkwardly, scuffing the stone with her shoe.
“Was there something else, Granger?” Draco asked, sounding tired.
“No. I mean, yes,” Hermione fumbled her words, unsure of what to say.
“I can barely hear you. Just come over here. I’m not going to bite you,” Draco said flatly. She obeyed and came over to sit on the cot next to his.
He looked over at her expectantly. “Well? Spit it out, Granger.”
Hermione sighed and turned to him. “I heard you crying in the bathroom before Harry showed up.”
Draco’s lips tightened. “Oh. That.”
Hermione clasped her hands together and placed them in her lap, looking down at the floor. “I know it’s none of my business.”
“No. It’s not,” Draco replied firmly.
Hermione bit her lip, thinking she should just leave... until she saw the expression on Draco’s face. He looked about ready to burst, like a ticking time bomb was living in his chest, threatening to explode at any moment. He wanted to talk, but not necessarily to her. She decided to try her luck anyway, figuring she had nothing to lose.
“Not exactly the life you wanted for yourself?” she asked tentatively.
He closed his eyes. “Who the hell would ever want this kind of life, Granger? Who the hell would want to deal with this kind of darkness, this kind of evil? I may be in Slytherin, but that doesn’t mean I want to kill people, even without consequence.”
He shut his mouth, realizing he had said too much. Hermione nodded and looked around the room absently.
“Did you really think I wouldn’t have helped you?” she asked softly, turning back to him. He shrugged, sitting up a little bit and not looking at her.
“There was really no reason for you to want to help me. I’ve never been nice to you, and things would be a lot easier for you and your Potter if I were out of the way.”
“That doesn’t mean that I’d just sit and let you die,” she said quietly. He nodded slowly, staring intently at a stain on the wall across the room.
“I guess not,” Draco finally murmured, turning around to punch at his pillow to mold it to his liking. He settled back onto it and looked up at the ceiling again.
“What’s it like, Granger?” he asked suddenly.
“What’s what like, Malfoy?” she asked.
“Being free. Not having to answer to anyone. Being able to plan your own life.”
Hermione scoffed in disbelief. “You really think I’m free? None of us are free, Malfoy. We’re all going into a battle, and we all have to fight. Just because my side doesn’t control me like a puppet doesn’t mean I’m free. My best friend has to kill the most dangerous wizard in our world. There’s not a single moment that goes by that I don’t think about what could happen... to all of us.”
“You don’t have to help Potter,” Draco replied curtly, just as Hermione predicted he would.
“You may not understand friendship, Malfoy, but I do. There is no way I would ever walk away from Harry. He needs help, whether he wants to admit it or not. I would never abandon him.”
“Do you love him?” Draco’s question was completely out of the blue and took Hermione by surprise.
“L-Love him? Harry? What could have ever given you that idea?” she sputtered.
“Nah. You fancy Weasley, I bet,” Draco smirked, now looking over and directing his full attention to Hermione.
Her mouth gaped emptily as she tried to think of a proper retort, but he just laughed at her.
“Calm down, Granger. I’m only teasing.”
She glared at him through narrowed eyes. “And what about you? Pansy Parkinson? Great choice. She’s so attractive, after all.”
She giggled a little at her own joke, but he shook his head. “Pansy just passes the time. She doesn’t mean anything to me.” Then, much to Hermione’s surprise, he began to laugh too. “Merlin, Granger, am I seriously discussing girls with you?”
Hermione laughed a little, but closed her mouth suddenly at the outburst. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to keep the smile off her face, which ended up making Draco laugh even more.
It was a strange experience, laughing with him. Hermione didn’t really know what to think, but she didn’t mind it. She didn’t mind it all. It felt good to be acting like two human beings, versus the two enemies they usually played together.
But unfortunately, soon their laughter quieted, and they were again left to wallow in the awkwardness and tension.
After a few moments of heavy silence, Hermione got up to leave, but turned around to say one last thing before she did.
“Draco... I know it feels like you have no say in your life. But you do have a say in who you are and the way you treat people. And you always will.”
She turned on her heels and was getting ready to push open the double doors when she heard him say, “Granger.”
Turning around, she saw that he was standing up. He had a very hesitant expression on his face, but the words came out anyway.
“Thank you,” he said gruffly, clearing his throat, “For today, I mean. I... I owe you.”
Hermione looked at him carefully, seeing that he was entirely serious. And looking at him, she realized that there were parts of Draco Malfoy that she still understood very little about. This part was one of them. The part that was actually capable of being grateful. The part that could look beyond his hate of her blood and properly thank her. The part that could maybe, just maybe, be classified as part of a real, caring human being. She hadn’t even known it existed until this moment.
“You don’t owe me anything. But you’re welcome.”
Hermione slowly opened the doors and shut them behind her, leaning against them as they closed. She had never imagined it was possible. But it seemed that even the blackest of hearts had the potential to be kind, if only for a second.
“I owe you.”
Something was different. Something was happening. She could feel it. Somehow, her being in the right place at the right time to save Draco Malfoy’s life had set something in motion. But she didn’t know what, and she wondered if she would ever know for sure.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, Draco Malfoy had gotten up out of his bed. He strode over to the door purposefully, reached his hand out...
“I know it feels like you have no say in your life. But you do have a say in who you are and the way you treat people. And you always will.”
And sighed before he let it fall limply back to his side and returned to his bed.
Hermione began to walk away from the doors, but she found her feet slowing down. She thought about going back in. She thought about attempting to talk with him more. She thought about trying to get him to see that he did have choices. She thought about trying to help him fix his life.
But they were just thoughts, thoughts never destined to become actions. Instead, she turned on her heel and retreated down the staircase.
She didn’t look back.
* * * *
A/N Author's Note: Hello everyone! So this story has gotten some pretty phenomenal reviews for only being up for a short time! Thank you so much, I'm ecstatic you all seem to like it so much!
I know the torture that is waiting for another chapter of a story, so I decided I'd post this to tide you all over. I really hope it satisfies you!
Chapter 3 is my favorite chapter so far. I'll have to wait a little on posting it though, because I want to get ahead so I don't run out of chapters to give you. :)
Stay beautiful, and please review.
Beautiful banner by (sol) at TDA is currently in the works!!