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Chapter 6: Proving It
IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU BEGIN THIS CHAPTER!!!:
Since I'm on winter break, I have taken the time to go back and edit this entire story. I made some major cuts and polished up Draco's characterization. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please go back and reread - I truly believe the story has improved from my edits. Special thanks to Sara_Sj for pointing out that I wasn't doing true justice to Draco's character. I now feel much more confident in his characterization and the story in general. Thanks for the advice, Sara!
I take every review I get into consideration, and I truly value every single one of your opinions. Thank you for your support - it means the world to me and keeps me going.
* * * *
She wasn’t in class. Draco stood outside the dungeon where their only class together, Advanced Potions, was held, looking at her empty seat in dismay.
Hermione Granger honestly wasn’t in class. She was always in class. Always.
There was a time Draco remembered her getting the stomach flu, and still showing up to class. She had to leave the room to heave every so often, but still, she stayed – much to the entire class’ displeasure. She sat in the back, took ten pages of notes, all the while leaving to puke her guts out every 7 minutes or so.
But today, she wasn’t in class. This was bad. Something was wrong.
He held his injured arm to his side, his mind racing. Someone was bound to come along and see the cuts and bruises on his face, and notice his arm. He had to hurry and find her. She would know how to heal him.
Draco wracked his brain, trying to figure out where she could be. Her normal places were much too obvious – if she was skipping class, Potter and Weasley were most likely trying to track her down as well.
And then it came to him. That morning at the Astronomy Tower – she was headed there before she even knew his plan. Maybe that was her secret place. Maybe that was where he could find her.
He was running before he could even blink. He took any back corridors he could, praying that no one would see him and stop him to ask what had happened. He couldn’t afford to waste any time. He had to find her and tell her his plan, before he talked himself out of it.
It seemed like he was running for miles before he finally reached the staircase up to the tower. The pain from his arm was now unbearable, but he knew that help was just a few moments away. He took the stairs two at a time, desperate to make it to the top.
He had to see her face. He had to know that one person, just one person, cared even the smallest, most insignificant bit about him. He prayed, with every fiber of his being, that she would be there. He prayed that she would be there, unconsciously waiting for him to show up.
The door was finally in front of him. He reached for it with his good arm, took a deep breath, and pushed it open.
His heart sank. The tower was empty.
“Bloody hell!” he yelled, kicking the door and collapsing onto the stairs, grimacing as pain shot through his arm.
A frightened gasp sounded nearby and he snapped his head up to see Hermione appear in the middle of the tower. “D-Draco!” she breathed, looking scared stiff. He watched as a piece of cloth slipped off of her shoulders and onto the ground. Potter’s Invisibility Cloak.
“Help,” was all he managed to say through gritted teeth, clutching his arm. It felt like the entire limb was on fire, and it was only getting worse.
Hermione immediately bent down beside him, examining his arm. “It’s… It’s broken in two places. Draco, how did this happen? Who did this to you?”
“Who do you think, Granger?” he whispered. Sweat was starting to bead on his forehead, and he suddenly felt very, very weak; his body was beginning to feel the effects of his frantic run here.
“This is going to hurt, but I need to lay your arm straight out,” she murmured, reaching for his arm. Draco braced himself, and she began to move his arm tentatively.
Before he could stop himself, he uttered a deep, guttural cry of pain and Hermione winced, pausing for a second to allow him to regain his composure.
“Just move it,” he breathed, too weak to even speak loud enough for her to hear. She understood, however, and gently eased his arm into a straight position across her lap while he bit his lips together to prevent himself from screaming again.
When it was finally situated, she sighed and looked him in the eyes. “This isn’t going to feel good. In fact, it’s going to feel worse than when it was broken. The pain will only last for a few seconds; that’s all it takes for the bones to set. Do you trust me?”
He nodded, looking up at her in desperation. Of course I trust you. You’re going to save my life. You, and only you.
She quickly muttered a spell and Draco screamed in pain as the spell permeated his skin. It felt like every single one of his bones were twisting in the opposite direction of where they were supposed to; the pain was so agonizing that bile rose in his throat.
But as soon as the pain had begun, it was over, and his arm was no longer on fire. Unfortunately, the relief didn’t last long. Draco’s vision began to blur and a ringing was sounding in his ears; suddenly, he could feel himself falling backwards, down the stairs.
His heart sunk as he fell back farther and farther; it was too late to stop it. But right before everything went black, he saw Hermione’s blurred figure reach for him and felt a pair of small arms wrap themselves around his waist.
* * * *
“Draco? Draco, you need to wake up. Draco!”
His eyes opened to Hermione’s slightly annoyed face. Her hands were on his shoulders and she was roughly shaking him in an attempt to wake him up.
Nothing hurt anymore. He was perfectly fine. She’d fixed him, like he knew she would.
“Thank you,” were the first words out of his mouth before he even had time to think. He watched as Hermione’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“Wha- You’re… welcome,” she replied, looking a bit confused. Usually she really had to dig into him to get a proper thank you. But this time… he just said it.
Draco sat up, staring at her intently. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze, but he didn’t look away.
“What happened?” she finally asked, trying to dispel the silence that had descended upon them.
“With what?” Draco asked, although he knew exactly what she was talking about. She gave him a look.
“Don’t play games with me, Draco. Just tell me what happened.”
Draco took a deep breath. He trusted her. He didn’t know why, but something deep inside told him that he could trust her. “He...” Draco swallowed, his throat becoming dry at the mere memory of it all. “He threatened me.”
“What did he say?” Hermione asked. He looked down at the ground, trying to figure out the right words to possibly convey just “what he said.” When he looked up again, he saw Hermione gazing at him, her eyes filled to the brim with concern. He didn’t know why, but it made him indescribably sad.
“H-He…” His voice was shaking uncontrollably at the memory, and his eyes began to sting. He stopped talking and turned away from her, embarrassed.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Hermione said quietly from behind him.
He blinked a few times, trying to clear his head of the memory. He refused to allow it to affect him this way. He would not be weak.
“Draco?” Hermione asked hesitantly after a few moments of silence. “Are you all right now?”
He laughed softly. “Yes, Hermione, I’m perfectly fine after Lord Voldemort threatened my life.”
She laughed a little too, unable to help herself. “Right. Sorry.”
The two remained quiet for a few more moments before Draco spoke. “Granger, can I ask you something?”
“If you turn around, yes,” her nearby voice replied.
He turned around slowly to face her, hoping that his eyes wouldn’t give his nervousness away. What if she didn’t believe him?
“Do you think that Harry can defeat him?” His question unintentionally came out as a whisper. No matter where he was, he always felt like Voldemort could hear him.
Hermione’s eyebrows shot up at the question. “Why would you ask me that?” Her voice was controlled, but there was an edge to it. She thought he was deceiving her.
“I’m asking you because I want to know your honest opinion.”
“Why should I trust you? You’re not on our side. For all I know, you could be his spy.” Her words struck him like venom, and he watched in silence as she got up to leave. But he wasn’t finished with her. Before she reached the door, he stood up and came behind her to gently grab her arm.
“If I had been given the choice, do you really think I would have chosen the side I’m on?” he asked softly. She froze at his words – her back to him, his hand still on her arm.
“Before, I would have said yes,” she replied quietly.
“… No. I know you wouldn’t have chosen this.”
“So we understand each other.”
She wrenched her arm away from his hand, turning around to face him. “Yes, we understand each other. But I don’t see how knowing whether or not I think Harry can defeat Voldemort will be useful to you.”
“Why won’t you just answer the question? Do you not think he can do it?”
“Of course I think he can do it! I KNOW he can do it! I believe it with everything I have, everything I am!” Her enraged shout echoed off the walls of the tower, and in turn caused a flock of birds in a tree nearby to burst into the sky in fright.
There was a long, heavy pause as Hermione glared at him. After a few seconds, Draco nodded. “I believe he can, too. But with a little help.”
There were a million questions on her face as she stared at him with wide eyes and mouth agape. “Wh-What do you mean by that?”
He looked out at the perfect blue sky, wondering where to begin. “I know things you don’t, Granger. I know some of Voldemort’s secrets. And I can find out a lot more.”
“I don’t understand.”
Draco sighed, looking at her pointedly. “I can help you figure out how to defeat him.”
For once in her life, Hermione was left speechless. Her mouth gaped emptily, searching for the proper words to respond.
“Wh-Why would you help us?” she was finally able to ask.
“I wouldn’t be helping you. You would be helping me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Hermione, Voldemort is going to kill me one month from today.”
Hermione’s eyes widened and she exhaled a short breath, taking in what he said. He could feel a grim presence descend upon both of them, like the ugly truth was poisoning the very air they were breathing.
“Why is he going to kill you?” she whispered, as if she was afraid to hear the answer.
“Because I won’t have killed Albus Dumbledore like he wanted,” Draco answered bluntly.
Hermione looked like she was going to be sick. She turned around and grasped the railing of the tower, looking out at the Grounds while she processed the information she had just received.
“That was your task. To kill Dumbledore,” she whispered in horror.
“And if Harry defeats Voldemort before the month is up, your life will be spared.”
“And to make sure that happens, you’re going to bring us information.”
Hermione shook her head in disbelief and turned around to look at him intently. “What does this mean, Draco? Whose side are you on?”
“I’m asking to be on your side, Hermione.”
“Why should I trust you? How do I know this isn’t some game that he put you up to? The second we trust you, the second we let you in, you could stab us in the back and show Voldemort the way to killing Harry. After all that’s happened, after all you’ve done, how can you possibly prove to me that you can be trusted?”
Draco looked up at the ceiling of the tower, breathing in deeply. He knew how he could prove it to her. He knew exactly how.
“I’ll prove it to you. But you have to stand still.”
“Just do what I say.” He slowly moved towards her, reaching out to touch her face. She stepped back.
“I told you to stand still,” he said, reaching out to grab her arm and hold her in place.
“Draco, what are you doing?” she asked, her voice reflecting her alarm.
He gently pushed her hair away from her face. “Proving it to you.”
And with that, he leaned in to place one small, gentle kiss on her lips.