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Sectumsempra by magicinthemoonlight29
Chapter 1: What Should Have Been an Ordinary Day
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Note: This story doesn't follow the way things play out in the book; be aware that it is of my own unique construction. The few things that are canon are out of order, and that is what I intended. And as always, everything else besides the plot belongs to J.K. Rowling's brilliant mind.
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Hermione walked down the hallway briskly, ripping the clip from her hair and letting her tresses fall upon her shoulders. She had had enough of that awful party, and was ready to get away from that dreadful piece of filth she had brought as her date. Honestly, could he not leave her alone for a single minute? And seeing him, standing under the mistletoe, his eyes twinkling with that piggish grin on his face... Simply disgusting.
She walked faster, hoping to put as much distance between them as possible. The last thing she wanted was for him to find her.
It was when she was just passing by the girl’s bathroom in the western corridor that she heard the noise. Pausing her frantic walking, she leaned in to listen.
Merlin, someone in there was crying. She carefully scaled the wall and peered around the corner, the shadows of the entrance keeping her mostly out of sight. A tall, slender wizard was leaned over the sink. His knuckles turned white as they squeezed the marble and another strangled sob escaped from his mouth. He looked up into the mirror and when Hermione got a proper view of his reflection, her eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Draco Malfoy stared into the glass, his eyes red and his face contorted as he continued to let out great sobs that shook his shoulders roughly. Hermione stepped back into the hallway, leaning against the wall to sort out her thoughts.
She hadn’t wanted to believe it, but it looked like Harry was right. Draco was a Death Eater. That could be the only explanation. She may not like Draco, but she did understand a few things about him. He wouldn’t be crying unless it was about something serious.... Like a matter of life or death.
For Merlin’s sake, he was still only a boy! Why were they already shouldering him with this kind of responsibility? The last thing they needed was Malfoy working to kill them, too.
More sobs met her ears and she peered back into the bathroom. He had ripped off his tie, and was now repeatedly punching the sink.
Even after all that Draco had put her through, Hermione couldn’t help feeling a sliver of sympathy for him. After all, if he had been born to different parents, it’s very possible he could have turned out differently. The belief that Muggleborns were inferior to Purebloods had certainly not started with him. He had grown up with such a belief, and taken it as truth.
But that was really no excuse, she argued. He could have chosen to believe something different. He was just too damn impressionable, and for that, she deeply pitied him.
Hermione sighed and looked at the stone ground, trying to figure out if she should attempt talking to him when she heard a noise. She looked back to see Draco staring in the mirror in horror, before twisting around. She followed his gaze and was shocked to find Harry, standing in the bathroom and glaring at Draco.
Hermione was glued to the spot as she watched the scene unfold. Draco, instinctively drawing his wand, fired a spell at Harry, which missed him by mere inches. Harry recovered quickly, flicking a jinx back at Draco, which he blocked before running to the other side of the bathroom stalls. Harry followed at lightning speed, firing spell after spell.
Hermione, now sensible enough to spring into action, ran into the bathroom to attempt to stop the fighting. However, looking around, she found that she was alone. Puzzled, she stopped in the middle of a puddle of water and listened.
Hermione whipped around to see green light illuminate a hallway she hadn’t noticed before. Her stomach jolted as she heard a body hit the ground.
Before she even realized her feet were moving she was flying down the corridor, her heart pumping fearfully loud in her ears. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached the end of the hall and came to a horrified halt as she took in the scene before her.
Harry was staring with wide eyes at the floor, his wand slowly lowering to his side. Hermione followed his gaze and her hand flew up to her mouth as she saw Draco. He was lying in a large puddle of water, twitching in agony as blood from multiple wounds all over his body seeped through the fabric of his clothes.
Hermione ran to him instantly, frantically trying to think of a counter-curse but being hopelessly unaware of what the spell was that had caused the damage.
“Harry!” she shrieked, whirling on him. “Where did you find this spell?”
“I... I found it in the book. His book,” he whispered, his face growing paler as Draco began to moan. Hermione turned back to Draco and met his eyes. They were begging for help, for mercy, for relief. Frightened tears spilled down her face as she ripped off his shirt, attempting to get a better look at the wounds forming.
“Harry, stop standing there like a bloody idiot and go find some help!” she screamed, not even bothering to turn around to face him.
She heard him running down the hallway and out of the bathroom, but no relief came to Hermione. This was bad. By the time Harry found someone, it could be too late.
She examined the wounds forming on his chest. It seemed with every few seconds they grew deeper. Her heart was beating fast as she wracked her brain for a spell. There had to be a healing spell that would work... She tried five basic spells, but they did nothing. Blood was starting to slip out of Draco’s mouth, and tears were pouring from his terrified eyes. A pale white hand latched onto her arm as he cried and convulsed in pain.
“I’m sorry! I don’t know how to fix this!” she whispered hysterically. The blood from his mouth was nearly choking him. Hermione pulled him to her, holding him gently like a small child, tipping his head down to allow the blood to pour out without restricting his air. He coughed and moaned and cried as the blood continued to spill to the floor. Hermione could barely breathe witnessing him in so much pain.
Suddenly, a spell came to her mind. “Vulnera Sanetur,” she whispered, and practically cried in relief as she saw the blood stop spilling from his mouth. She whispered it again, and watched as the wounds on his chest knit themselves together. Repeating it one last time, nearly all traces of the gashes were gone.
Hermione released her tight hold on Draco and fell back onto her hands in relief, but he remained where he was, leaning against her. He didn’t move to stand, and he continued to softly sob. His eyes were shut tight and he gently let his hand fall from Hermione’s arm.
She tentatively reached out a hand to place on his shoulder. “You’re okay. The spell worked,” she murmured softly. He shook his head and kept crying.
“Why couldn’t you just let me die?” Draco’s comment was barely audible, but Hermione was close enough to him that she heard it.
“Because I don’t believe in letting someone die when you have the chance to save them.”
Draco’s sobs quieted at her remark, and Hermione’s eyes widened in surprise as he moved his hand slightly so that it was touching hers. She was relieved when his breathing began returning to normal, but then she began thinking. Why wasn’t he moving away from her? She knew he was weak, but that probably wouldn’t be an issue for him if he really wanted to get away.
“I can’t believe that you, out of all people, end up being the one who saves my life. What the hell is wrong with you, Granger,” he muttered.
And there was the infamous Malfoy rancor, back for yet another round.
Hermione’s lips pursed and she was opening her mouth to fire back a nasty comment, but paused when she heard two soft words leave Draco’s lips.
“... Thank you.”
“Oh, Miss Granger!” Hermione turned around to see Professor McGonagall hurrying towards her, Harry close behind. At the sound of another voice, Draco tried to get up from Hermione’s lap, but was too weak and ended up falling back down. McGonagall leaned down onto the watery floor to examine Draco.
“Mr. Malfoy, are you all right?” McGonagall asked in concern, examining his bloody shirt with wide eyes.
“Why don’t you ask Potter? He’s the one that tried to KILL me,” Draco said icily, his blue eyes glaring at Harry.
McGonagall’s lips pursed and she nodded. “I will deal with disciplining Mr. Potter later. You’re very lucky that Miss Granger was here to help you. Now, let’s get you to the Hospital Wing.”
Draco grimaced in pain as Hermione gently helped him up to a sitting position. “I don’t think he’ll be able to walk,” she murmured to Professor McGonagall.
“Don’t tell her what I can and can’t do, Mudblood,” Draco hissed through gritted teeth. Hermione glared at him and McGonagall’s eyes flashed with anger.
“Mr. Malfoy, injuries or not, such language is NEVER tolerated here at Hogwarts, especially to the student responsible for saving your life. I suggest you apologize,” she said sternly.
He murmured a lame, “Sorry, Granger.” Hermione nodded curtly and got up, trying to keep the hurt from intruding upon her angry expression.
“Like I said, I think he’s too weak to walk. Could you find someone to help him?” Hermione requested a bit too politely, trying to hide how truly bothered she was by Draco's spiteful comment. McGonagall nodded.
“Of course. Mr. Potter, I’ll have you come with me. We can have a little talk about your punishment on the way.” Harry sighed miserably and followed the Professor out of the room.
Hermione and Draco were alone again. She turned to leave but a soft “Wait,” stopped her.
“What?” she asked, whirling around to face him, her arms crossed across her chest, “Want to call me a Mudblood one last time before I leave?”
He looked to the floor and shook his head. “Just... don’t go yet. Wait until they come back,” Draco murmured, looking up at her tentatively.
She glared into his icy blue eyes, but she did recognize a genuine need for her to stay. She sighed and plopped back onto the floor.
“You may want to try being grateful to me for saving you, even when people are around,” she murmured, still upset by his earlier comment. Draco sighed.
“Yeah, okay Granger. I’ll give that a try,” he said sarcastically. Hermione rolled her eyes but didn't bother to fire back a retort.
“Harry didn’t understand what that spell was. I hope you know that,” she said after a long silence, turning to look at Draco. He nodded.
“Potter isn’t exactly someone I'd imagine using Dark Magic like that,” he replied. Hermione nodded in agreement, pulling her knees up to her chest.
“Are you feeling okay? Did the spell work well enough?” she asked, unable to stand the awkward silence.
“I think so. I just... All my strength is gone. I really just want to stand up, my legs feel numb.”
Hermione pursed her lips for a moment in thought, then stood up and extended a hand to Draco.
His eyes turned up to look at her and her heart stopped for a second as she viewed the expression in his eyes. Surprise. And... Could that possibly be the tiniest bit of appreciation?
He slowly but surely extended a slender white hand and grasped hers. She put her free arm around his back and with a great deal of effort helped him stand. He wobbled against her, but somehow found his balance. They locked gazes, holding one another, not sure what to do next.
Draco was opening his mouth to say something before McGonagall came back in with Professor Winters. Harry was gone.
“Professor Winters will help you up to the Hospital Wing, Mr. Malfoy.” The burly professor gently took Draco from Hermione’s hold and lifted him into his arms. Draco hung like a rag doll, too weak to even lift his head. McGonagall put a hand on Professor Winters’ back and walked alongside him until she reached the end of the hallway. Waiting for the Professor and Draco to be out of ear-shot, she turned back to face Hermione.
“Miss Granger... That was a very noble thing for you to do.”
“He needed help. It didn’t matter who he was, or what side he was on. I wasn't about to let him die.”
McGonagall smiled and nodded. “Yes, of course.” She paused before she continued, “Miss Granger?”
Hermione looked up and blinked a few times at the odd expression the Professor wore on her face.
“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.”
Smiling, she nodded to Hermione before stepping out of view. The sound of her footsteps soon faded completely, leaving Hermione alone with her thoughts. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she gazed at the bloody water slowly beginning to slip down a nearby drain.
“Professor... What exactly do you mean?” she asked the empty room, staring down at her reflection in the water.
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A/N Author's Note: This story was inspired by Tom Felton's brilliant portrayal of this scene in the movie.
Please share your thoughts, I love reviews!
Chapter 2: The Blackest of Hearts
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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.
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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!!
Chapter 3: Still Beating
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Ahead was a long, black hallway filled with fog.
It wasn’t the kind of fog you would find in a funhouse. It was the thick kind of fog, the kind that made you feel as if you were choking with every breath you took.
A cloaked and hooded figure waited at the end, holding a wand that glowed red. Hermione walked slowly but purposefully, almost as if she was trying to prevent her feet from walking but they went on without her anyway.
She reached the figure and its hood suddenly dropped to its shoulders. Hermione gasped in surprise as she locked eyes with Draco Malfoy. His face was covered with sweat and crusted, bloody wounds, and grimy tears were running down his face.
He mouthed the word help, but no sounds came out. He grabbed onto her arms and seemed to be screaming at her, but she couldn’t hear a word.
Suddenly, his face turned black and it started to melt away, seeming to have turned into tar. He reached out a hand to Hermione and she tried to grab a hold of him, but soon his entire body had melted away and he was nothing more than black tar in her hands. She fell to the ground, holding her hands in front of her in horror.
Seeing something beside her move, she tore her gaze away from her black hands to find the tar on the floor slowly dissolving away into nothing.
And beneath the tar, bathed in an ethereal light, lay a perfect, red heart... still beating.
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Hermione bolted up out of bed, sucking in a huge gulp of air. Panting, she looked frantically around the dimly-lit dormitory, trying to ascertain where she was and what the hell had just happened to her. Once her breathing returned to normal, her abnormally-intelligent thought process recovered and began whirring.
Merlin... That dream was awful. He just... melted away. And he was calling for help, but I couldn’t hear him. Does that mean that he’s asking me for help, and I’m ignoring him? Or does it mean that he’s incapable of calling for help, although he’s trying? And his heart... His heart was still beating. What the hell does all of this mean?
Suddenly wide awake, Hermione climbed out of bed and ran to her trunk, pulling on clothes. She didn’t know where she was going, but she felt like something was pulling her somewhere. She ran hurriedly down the stairs, allowing whatever it was that needed her somewhere specific to guide her.
Looking out the picture windows on the wall of the Common Room, she realized that it was nearly dusk. It was a perfect time to roam the castle; if a teacher questioned her, she would explain that she had awoken early to study in the library.
Feeling confident in her excuse, Hermione slipped out of the portrait hole and into the dim hallway. The torches were half-lit, flickering faintly on the stone walls of the castle. Her footsteps echoed eerily as she walked through the dimness, trying to figure out where her internal compass was pointing.
It wasn’t long before she had reached the bottom of the staircase that led up to the Astronomy Tower. It had always been one of her favorite places to spend time, just staring out at the beautiful grounds and smelling the freshness of the air. Deciding that she wouldn’t mind some cool air to clear her head, Hermione began the ascent up the stairs.
Ready to welcome the soft light of dusk, she opened the door... and stopped short.
A figure was poised on the tower balcony, arms outstretched, ready to jump.
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. She was paralyzed. If she said something, or even made a noise, what if they jumped? But if she didn’t say anything, they would jump anyway!
As she stood stock-still in uncertainty, tiny rays of orange light began filtering into the tower, illuminating the figure. Hermione’s eyes widened as she caught sight of a familiar blonde head.
“D-Draco!” she yelled, running to him. He flinched and nearly fell off the edge, but was somehow able to steady himself by grabbing onto one of the pillars.
“Merlin, Granger, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” he hissed, turning around to glare at her.
“I could ask you the same thing! Draco, don’t do this! I know it seems like the easiest way, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll die right away. And think of your mother, and your father...”
“Oh please, Granger, save it. I’m not going to fling myself off the Astronomy Tower,” he scoffed, hopping down onto the stone ground.
“Draco, you were standing on a wall with your arms outstretched above a 200-foot drop! What else could you have possibly been doing?” Hermione asked in frustration, pulling him roughly away from the wall as if afraid he would execute a reckless move the moment she looked away.
“It’s none of your business what I was doing, Granger,” he retorted, looking away from her at the misty sky.
“That day in the bathroom, you asked me why I didn’t just let you die. You wanted to die, didn’t you? And now you were taking matters into your own hands. I’m not a fool, Draco.”
“Of course you’re not a fool!” he shouted, whipping around to face her. “You’re little Hermione Granger, brilliant at everything you do. You can do no wrong. Everyone worships you.” He strolled up to her, his lip curling in disgust as he continued, “You have a perfect life. You don’t get assignments to kill people every day. You don’t live in constant fear of Lord Voldemort changing his mind about your usefulness and suddenly cursing you or even killing you.”
“HOW DARE YOU BELITTE MY PROBLEMS SO YOU CAN WALLOW IN YOUR OWN SELF-PITY!” Hermione shrieked, pushing him roughly in the chest. She had had enough. “I certainly live in fear every day. I live in fear that Harry, Ron, or any of my other friends will die. I live in fear every day that I’ll die in a duel with a Death Eater, and I’ll never see my parents again. I live in fear every day that Harry won’t be able to stop him and he’ll take over our world. I understand a lot about fear, Draco. Arguably more so than you. So don’t go around pretending that you have it the worst. You don’t.”
Draco was silent, surprised at her sudden outburst. He didn’t think her capable of such rage. She continued to glare at him, resisting the urge to punch the shock right off his face. “Think what you wish, Granger,” he finally replied curtly, turning to walk out the door, “I would give anything to be you.” His last comment was soft, so soft that Hermione barely even heard it. She was about to reply to this strange confession until he added, “Minus the filthy blood, of course.”
Hermione’s mouth twisted in anger as he slipped through the door. She wanted to scream at him until her voice went hoarse. This was the second time she had saved his life! And instead of thanking her like any decent human being would, what does he do? He opens that filthy mouth of his and insults her blood, over and over again until she felt as if she might explode from all of the rage building inside of her.
She hated him. She hated him with every fiber of her being, with every drop of blood in her veins.
But even though she hated him, and never wanted to think about him ever again... That stupid dream wouldn’t leave her mind.
When she thought of Draco Malfoy’s heart, she thought of a black, shriveled-up organ that didn’t understand empathy, sympathy, gratitude, or forgiveness. But her dream had showed her a red heart beating inside of his chest... A real heart. A human heart. A heart that could be broken, just like everyone else’s.
And she had watched as he had died. She had watched as he melted away, leaving behind only his heart.
She didn’t want this. She wanted things to be simple and clear-cut like they used to be when it came to Draco Malfoy. Hermione wanted to be able to hate him and condemn him as an inhumane monster without wondering about his heart’s capacity for good.
But, unfortunately for her, those days were very much over.
* * * *
That night, Hermione had another dream. Except this time... It was worse.
She was standing in a graveyard that seemed to stretch for miles. The thick, choking fog was back... but something was different this time.
As she walked, she noticed with a sinking feeling that her feet were sticking to the ground a little bit more each time she took a step. She looked down to see why, but the fog was too thick to even see the ground. She slipped out her wand from her robes pocket and whispered a spell. The fog dissipated at her command, revealing the grass beneath her feet.
The grass wasn’t green. It was red. There was blood everywhere. She looked around in horror to see that every single headstone was covered in blood. Covered.
Before she could even think, she heard a piercing scream come from the sky. She looked up and saw a black shape suspended above the graveyard. It was Draco, floating in midair, his arms outstretched. Blood poured from gashes all over his body, and Hermione watched in utter horror as the gashes became deeper and deeper, the screams getting louder and louder with each second...
She was running before she even knew what she was doing. She had to get to him before...
Too late. His body dropped to the stone below with a sickening thud. There he lay, broken and bloody on the ground, completely still. Hermione knew before she reached him that he was dead.
The scene started growing black on the edges, but not before Hermione looked back up at the sky and saw it.
A familiar red heart suspended in the air... still beating.
* * * *
A/N Author's Note: For previous readers, I completely revised the main scene for this chapter - I think it makes more sense this way. New readers, pease tell me your thoughts!
Chapter 4: If He Fails
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Hermione’s eyes snapped open, her heart beating loudly in her ears.
These dreams... Were they going to happen every night? Two nightmares in a row was definitely not the best omen.
She leaned her head back onto the pillows, feeling utterly exhausted. No matter how long she slept, waking from these nightmares always made her feel as if she hadn’t had a good night’s rest in days.
Deciding that she probably wouldn’t be getting back to sleep, she rolled out of bed and winced as her feet touched onto the cold ground. It was Monday, so classes were resuming. For once, she wasn’t all that excited as she packed up her book bag. The weekend had been far too... eventful.
She took an abnormally long time getting ready, so much so that some of her dormitory mates had actually arisen before she had made it down to the Common Room. Hermione’s head was foggy, and she knew that making it through classes would be a struggle.
Finally ready, she grabbed her heavy book bag and headed down the stairs, every step feeling heavier. She was so tired she could barely see, but she knew that she would get through the day like she had gotten through every day before.
However, it seemed that fate wouldn’t be letting Hermione have her usual quiet morning studying in the library before class. Because as she slipped out of the portrait hole, who should be waiting for her other than a very uncomfortable-looking Draco Malfoy.
* * * *
Hermione stumbled at the sight of him, barely catching herself. Her books, however, were not so lucky, and went flying out of her bag all over the floor.
He rolled his eyes and bent down to help her pick them up. She kept her eyes on the ground, slightly embarrassed at her tumble. He said nothing as he handed her the fallen books, and she hurriedly stuffed them into her bag, wishing to pretend that they had been there the whole time.
Once her books were settled back into their rightful places, the two stood staring at each other, until Draco finally broke the tension. “Look, I just wanted to come by and say that I... I shouldn’t have acted the way I did yesterday. And thank you, again, for... Well, for what you did.”
Hermione cocked an eyebrow at him. “Are you actually admitting that you were indeed attempting suicide?” she asked pointedly.
He sighed in frustration, shoving his hands into his pocket. “Yes,” he whispered harshly, “Yes, I admit it. I was contemplating the idea of suicide. Are you happy now?
“If standing on a ledge ready to jump is what you call contemplating suicide, then you and I must have very different definitions of the term ‘contemplation,’” she replied coolly.
“You shouldn’t even give a damn about my life or my choices. Don’t you realize how much easier things would be for you if I were dead?” Draco snarled in a low voice, looking around to make sure no one was walking by.
Hermione’s eyes narrowed at his comment. “That kind of thinking is exactly why you will never understand goodness, or humanity. That kind of thinking is what keeps you in the darkness. I have studying to do. Goodbye, Malfoy,” she added particular emphasis to the end of her sentence, knowing that he would notice her purposeful neglect to use his first name. His eyes twitched a little at the venom in her voice, but he didn’t say anything more.
She spun on her heel, walking away from him as quickly as possible. It didn’t matter much to her that he had thanked her; he probably hadn’t even meant it. Her head buzzed with his various insults to her, along with insults she wished she had the indecency to fire back.
The farther she walked away, the more upset Hermione became. Things would be different if she knew that she could walk away from Draco Malfoy and move on with her life, but it seemed that the dreams plaguing her slumber wouldn’t allow it. There was something pulling them together. Something bigger, something greater than Hermione had ever experienced.
She felt it in her skin, and in her bones. It was nearly to the point of suffocating her. Yet she couldn’t name it, or even begin to understand it.
But there was one thing she knew for sure: Whatever it was, it wasn’t going anywhere.
And then, as if to reinforce this point, a slender hand suddenly reached out to touch her arm and stop her from walking any farther. She turned around slowly, although she didn’t even need to look. She knew who it was.
He had a puzzled expression, almost as if he didn’t understand why he had suddenly reached out to her. They both watched in silence as his hand fell back to his side.
“If I ask you something, will you answer me honestly?” he asked softly, holding her gaze. She nodded, unable to break the eye contact. He was silent for a moment, furrowing his brows as he tried to sort out his words. And then he opened his mouth to deliver nine little words.
“Why do you care about what happens to me?”
Hermione’s stomach lurched at the question. She knew that she had just scolded him for not understanding that she did indeed care about his life, but now that he asked her why, she realized that she didn’t really know why herself. Absent of an answer, she tore her eyes away from him, picking a not-so-interesting spot on the wall nearby to focus on.
Draco waited patiently for her to reply. After a few minutes of utter silence, she finally spoke.
“Before I answer your question… Will you answer something?”
He nodded slowly, looking at her with a slightly guarded expression.
“If you fail, is he going to kill you?”
The question was soft. It wasn’t threatening. It was hardly above a whisper. But the second the words left Hermione’s mouth, it was as if she had taken a gun and pointed it at Draco’s chest. His face drained of all color and his eyes widened in horror.
“H-How did you—”
“I didn’t. I… I don’t,” was Hermione’s intelligent reply. Draco wasn’t convinced, and latched his hand onto her arm.
“Tell me what you know,” he snarled through gritted teeth, but Hermione didn’t buy it. His eyes gave him away. They were filling rapidly with fear and panic, and a certain kind of desperation… Almost as if he wanted her to guess, just so he didn’t have to bear the secret anymore.
“I know nothing. I just… I could see that something was wrong before Harry hit you with the spell. I put it together… that you were given something to do. Something bad.”
Draco let go of her arm and walked away from her, running his hand through his hair in agitation as he contemplated what he was going to say next. When he finally looked back at her, his eyes were devoid of any emotion.
“Come for a walk with me, Granger,” he said, motioning for her to follow him. She stayed glued to the spot, staring at him in suspicion.
“I… I have class,” she lied.
She didn’t fool him. “You don’t have class for hours,” he replied flatly.
They stood staring at each other for a few moments, neither one willing to bridge the distance between them. Finally, Draco came up to Hermione and grabbed her arm, pulling her down a hallway that would take them to the nearest stairwell.
“Draco, let go of me,” Hermione pleaded, trying to wrench her arm from his grasp. He ignored her, and his grip did not lessen, which gave her no choice but to allow him to pull her down the staircase.
After plenty of pushing and pulling, Draco succeeded in dragging Hermione outside onto the grounds. Her arms immediately wrapped themselves around her body when the frigid winter air touched her skin. Draco removed his jacket with a bored expression and threw it at her before walking ahead of her towards some nearby trees.
“Keep up, Granger,” he yelled back at her as she begrudgingly slipped his jacket on. She hated to admit it, but it smelled rather good.
“Why are we out here?” she asked in frustration, refusing to move until she got some answers. Draco turned around and walked back to her, a very annoyed expression on his face.
“Do you ever stop asking questions?” he snarled once he reached her. Hermione set her mouth in a stubborn line, glaring at him.
“Maybe I wouldn’t ask so many questions if you answered me once in while!” she shouted back. He opened his mouth to reply, but seemed to think better of it and instead pursed his lips in frustration. Then he sighed, looking around at the snow banks with a pained expression on his face.
“Sometimes, Granger, I really don’t understand you,” Draco said, turning back around to look at her pointedly. She shifted uncomfortably beneath his gaze.
“What do you mean?” she asked, averting her eyes.
“What you asked me earlier… If I failed, was Voldemort going to kill me… You already knew the answer, didn’t you?” His voice was cold and controlled, as if he was resisting screaming at her.
Hermione pursed her lips, pulling his jacket tighter around herself. She didn’t want to tell him about the dreams. But here they were again, together. It couldn’t just be coincidence. There was something larger at work here.
“We… Harry, Ron and I, I mean… We have information about Voldemort. We don’t have much, but we understand how he works. I knew when I saw your reaction in the bathroom that you were now an official member of his army. And I figured he would have given you a job to do. That’s it. That’s all.”
“But why did you ask me whether or not he’d kill me if I failed? Why would you care about that?” he asked, his voice rising in frustration. He was now inches away from Hermione’s face, and her heart was beating rapidly in her chest.
“Fine! You really want the truth? I… I’ve seen you die, Draco! Ever since the day Harry hit you with that curse, I’ve been having these… these dreams at night. And in every single one, you’ve died. The way you die is always so… graphic, so grotesque. No one deserves to die that way. I don’t know what the dreams mean, or if they could even come true, but I do know that I’m scared… I’m scared for you.”
Hermione let out a long breath of air as the last few words fell from her mouth. She hated herself for telling him. And when she looked up to see his expression, her self-hate intensified.
She had never seen one boy look so shocked in her entire life. Draco’s face was so pale, she half-expected him to fade away into the white background. He turned away from her, unable to look at her.
Hermione’s stomach twisted as he fell to the ground, putting his head in his hands. He didn’t make a sound. He didn’t move. She wondered if he was even breathing.
“Draco?” she reached out a hand to touch his shoulder. He moved away.
“Please, just… leave me alone,” he said quietly.
Hermione sighed and knelt down beside him in the snow. “Draco… Just because I had dreams about you dying doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
“It’s not that. Those dreams could mean anything,” he said, looking down at the snow.
“Then what is it?” Hermione asked, her brow furrowing in confusion as she tried to catch his eye.
Draco sighed and finally looked up at her. “If things go the way I think they’re going to go, I have less than a month to live. My father doesn’t care. My mother won’t allow herself to consider the possibility of Voldemort killing me. But you… You have some dreams about me dying, and you tell me that you’re scared for me. You, Hermione Granger, the girl I’ve tortured for six years. After all I’ve put you through, you end up being the only one that even remotely cares about what happens to me. And knowing that, I’m not upset that I’m going to die. Because I deserve it.”
And with that, he got up and walked away, leaving Hermione out in the cold… still wearing his jacket.
* * *
Draco walked through the snow, praying she wouldn’t follow him.
He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know what he was feeling. He didn’t know how any of this had happened.
All he knew was that he was a despicable human being.
He hated himself. He really hated himself.
Since the day he was born, he had been taught to hate certain people. He had been taught to hate witches or wizards that were born to Muggle parents, and the witches and wizards that associated with them.
But suddenly, it didn’t make any sense. Suddenly, it seemed like the most ridiculous thing in the world. Why? Because it was ridiculous. It made no sense whatsoever, and he was a bloody idiot for believing any of it.
Hermione Granger had showed him kindness, when all he had done was make her miserable. She had saved his life twice. She had visited him in the hospital to make sure he was all right. She had been genuinely worried for his safety.
He deserved to die. He deserved to die for allowing someone else to plan his entire life for him. He deserved to die for allowing someone else to mold his beliefs, for allowing someone else to instruct him how to treat people. He deserved to die for the way he had treated people like her.
If he wasn’t such a coward, he would go back and tell her that he was sorry for everything he had done to her. But unfortunately… he was a coward. He was the biggest coward of them all.
He stopped and turned his face to the sky. “I’m sorry,” he breathed. He closed his eyes and felt the winter breeze kiss his face – almost as if it was forgiving him. And for just one moment, he felt at peace.
But he knew it couldn’t last. He turned around to continue walking – until he felt something touch his arm. Draco turned around and stiffened as two arms wrapped around him and enveloped him in a soft embrace.
He had never been hugged before. Not by his mother, not by his father.
But as Hermione Granger held him, his arms hesitantly wrapped around her… and he returned her embrace.
Chapter 5: The Key
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Hermione didn’t really understand why she had done it. It was almost as if she could hear his thoughts, screaming for mercy in the cramped quarters of his racing mind. The thoughts of self-loathing, the thoughts of anger, the thoughts of shame.
It was like she felt every single one of them.
So without thinking, she had reached for him… and he let her.
After a few moments, he did pull away, as she expected him to. And after a few more moments, he cleared his throat and walked in the opposite direction like nothing had happened.
But the important thing was… he had held her back. He had accepted her embrace. And for a single second in the time-space continuum, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy had been connected.
It was gone now, however – destined to become a distant memory that would eventually wither away into nothing. He would shove it to the back of his mind and pretend that he had made it up. And he would be determined to repeat that lie every day until it became truth to him.
But it wouldn’t matter. Hermione knew as well as Draco that this wasn’t over.
It had scarcely begun.
* * * *
“Hermione, are you all right?”
Hermione jumped slightly in bewilderment at Ron’s voice. She looked up to find him staring at her in concern. Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion and he nodded his head to the parchment in her hands to answer her quizzical look. There was a large puddle of ink on her Ancient Runes essay from the quill she had been holding above the paper for at least five minutes.
“Oh. I’m… I’m fine. I just didn’t sleep well last night,” she explained as she whipped out her wand to evaporate the stain.
Ron didn’t look convinced. “Are you sure that’s all there is?”
Hermione paused. She really felt like she needed to talk to someone. But she wasn’t sure that it should be Ron.
“I… I just…” her words broke off and she sighed, looking down at her sad, unfinished essay. “Ron… Have you ever felt like you were… being called to do something?”
He furrowed his eyebrows and looked into the fire, thinking about her question. “I guess I don’t really understand what you mean,” he replied, looking up at her.
“Like… Something… Fate, or destiny, or something else… Was telling you that you needed to do something.”
“Needed to do something… Like what?”
“I don’t know… Do a certain task, maybe? Or… help someone?”
Ron pursed his lips, thinking about the question. “I don’t think so. Not in that sense, anyway. I mean, I’ve always felt that ever since I met Harry I was meant to fight alongside him against You-Know-Who. But I’ve never felt anything telling me to do something specific.”
Hermione sighed in defeat, beginning to collect her things. “Of course not. I’m sorry. It was a stupid question.”
“No it wasn’t, Hermione. What’s—”
“Nothing. It’s nothing, I promise,” Hermione interrupted, gathering her things in her arms and heading out of the portrait hole. Ron watched her go, his brow still furrowed in concern.
Something was wrong.
* * * *
Hermione had no direction. There was no magnetic pull guiding her. She walked aimlessly around the castle, looking for somewhere to go. Her head was foggy, and her Charms class occurring in less than fifteen minutes was of absolutely no matter to her.
All she wanted to do was sit down and rationalize. She wanted to draw charts. She wanted to sketch figures and calculate numbers and construct a pro-con list. She didn’t know what else to do. How was she supposed to figure this out on her own?
If Draco Malfoy was going to be killed, and she had the chance to save him… She should, shouldn’t she? He was a human being, after all. And no matter what, even in the midst of a war, Hermione still valued human life. But this human life was fighting on the wrong side. The dark side. This human life could end the life of someone she loved.
Another dead end. There was no clear answer. At the end of the day, it all came down to a bitter, heart-wrenching choice.
Would Hermione Granger choose to save a Death Eater’s life?
* * * *
Draco’s Dark Mark was writhing. Ducking behind a corner, he pulled up his sleeve and looked down at it in horror. He knew, by some strange and foreign intuition, that it was only he who was being summoned. In the middle of the school day. He was being summoned by the Dark Lord in the middle of the school day.
His feet started running before his mind caught up. He couldn’t waste a single precious second. Lord Voldemort did not appreciate being kept waiting.
He practically threw himself against the wall that held the Room of Requirement. Luckily, sensing his urgency, it yielded to his forceful shoulder heave in less than a second.
The black Disappearing Cabinet loomed ominously above him, seeming to grow taller and taller as he approached. He breathed in quickly through his nose before reaching out his hand.
He hated this feeling… this feeling of dread. He hated the sweat on his palms, the knots in his stomach, and the voice in his head whispering over and over again “He could kill you today if he wanted.”
Draco took a deep breath as he opened the cabinet door. He saw the familiar inside of Borgin & Burke’s, and began to wonder just who was waiting for him when Bellatrix’s grinning face popped around the corner of a black coffin.
“Hello, Drakey,” she purred, walking up to the cabinet and reaching for his hand. He flinched away from her and her eyes narrowed to slits.
“Just take me to him,” he hissed, pushing past Bellatrix towards the exit. She frowned at him for a moment, but smiled in amusement as she watched his hands shake trying to open the door.
She walked up behind him and leaned in close. “You have no right to be rude to me,” she whispered in his ear, “I’m his favorite.”
Draco stiffened, but he chose not to retort. Instead, he held open the door for Bellatrix, begrudgingly motioning her outside. She smiled, exposing her crooked teeth, and skipped past him into the street.
He followed her to a dark, deserted alley. She grabbed his hand and he closed his eyes as he felt himself spinning. He opened them but was greeted by the same darkness. Blinking in confusion, he strained to adjust his vision to his surroundings.
No such adjustment came. His heart started beating loudly in his chest, and his mind began to race. This was his every nightmare come true. There was no light, no sound. He could be anywhere - lurking in the shadows, contemplating the opportune moment to strike like a poisonous snake. His life could be cut short at any second, if Voldemort so chose.
“Draco, how nice of you to join me.”
The voice was quiet and calm, but Draco jumped in fright regardless. There was so much power, so much evil in just a simple whisper. Dread gnawing at his stomach, he turned around slowly to see a pair of red eyes glinting in the darkness.
“Y-You called me, my Lord. Of course I came,” Draco replied respectfully, trying unsuccessfully to control his shaking voice.
“Why are you afraid, my dear boy?”
His voice was coming from a different location. Draco’s chest went cold.
“I-I’m not afraid. Your presence… Your presence overwhelms me, my Lord.”
An amused laugh sounded from nearby. It was a laugh so full of malice, so full of pure unadulterated evil, that it chilled Draco to his very bones.
“You flatter me, Draco.”
The voice was coming from right beside him. Draco braced himself.
“You’re not going to die today, my dear boy. There’s no need to be so stiff.”
Draco squeezed his eyes shut as he felt two cold hands place themselves on his shoulders.
“Relax, my boy. We’re just here to talk. How is your assignment progressing?”
Draco’s mind raced. Say what he wants to hear. Please him. Be the loyal follower he wants you to be. Give him logical reasons for why you haven’t succeeded yet.
“He’s never alone. And that damn Potter and his band of misfits are always getting in my way,” Draco snarled, trying to disguise his panic as frustration. Hermione’s face appeared in his mind, and though he tried to dispel the image, it remained.
“Don’t make excuses. The only thing in your way is your… incapability,” the last word was whispered in his ear. Draco shivered. Even his breath reeked of darkness.
“What do you wish me to do, my Lord?” He hated how his voice shook. He hated how weak he was. So, so weak.
He heard Voldemort move again somewhere in the darkness. “Draco, I believe in you. You have such promise. So I’ll go easy on you, and give you one last chance to complete the task I have assigned you. You have one month. If Albus Dumbledore is still alive by that time…” he paused for a moment, and Draco braced himself to hear the worst.
It was suddenly quiet. Too quiet.
His heart thudded loudly in his ears as he strained to listen for any noise, any indication of where he was lurking. And suddenly, quicker than he could even process, his face was against the wall and he was crying out as his right arm exploded with pain. Voldemort twisted Draco’s arm in his grip, and leaned in to whisper the final words in his ear:
“You won’t be.”
There was the tiniest whisper of wind, and Draco was released from the vice-like grip, falling roughly to the floor. His arm was broken. He screamed in pain as he tried to move his injured arm from beneath him.
He was wishing for her to be here. He didn’t want to admit it, but he wanted her here. He wanted Hermione Granger to find him here, in this strange dark place, and fix his arm. He wanted her to hold him like she did before, and tell him that he was going to be all right.
But she wasn’t here, and he wasn’t going to be all right.
He was all alone, with only one month to live. Even though he wanted to believe he could do it, Draco Malfoy knew that he couldn’t kill Albus Dumbledore. Voldemort knew it, too. This was all a sick game, simply prolonging the time until his death sentence so that every day left to live was in agony as he waited for the clock to run out.
He closed his eyes and lay on the cold stone floor, wishing that some sort of poison would enter his system and just end his life. Things would be so much easier that way.
He thought of her again. If he did die, would she care? Would she care like she said she would? Was she worried about him right now, wondering where he was?
No. He couldn’t bring himself to believe it.
She was just another pretender. She was probably just using him for information, pretending to feel sorry for him in the hopes that he would divulge some big secret about....
Draco’s eyes shot open.
If he relayed information about Voldemort to Hermione, she would bring it to Harry. And with that information in his hands, Harry Potter could very well defeat the most powerful Dark Lord in the Wizarding World.
And if Harry defeated him, Draco would be free.
She was the answer.
A sudden surge of energy burst through his body, and he pulled himself up, ignoring the blinding pain from his injured arm. He Apparated back to the cabinet at Borgin & Burkes, and stepped through to see the familiar Room of Requirement.
He wasn’t dead yet. He still had hope.
Hermione Granger could be the key to saving his life.
* * * *
A/N Author's Note: I hope you all liked the chapter in spite of the lack of anything romantic occurring between our two favorite characters - the next one will have a lot more Hermione/Draco time, I promise.
Love you all - stay in school, because college is so worth it!
Chapter 6: Proving It
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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.
Chapter 7: Origin
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Hermione wrenched away from Draco the second his lips touched hers. She looked at him in absolute shock, trying to find the words, any words, to convey what she was feeling.
“What the bloody hell was that?” she finally sputtered.
“I kissed you, Granger.”
“Why would you do such a thing? What does that prove, besides the fact that you’ve finally gone off the deep end?” she screamed hysterically, moving away from him as if afraid he'd go for round two.
“Hermione, I was trying to prove to you that I’m not who you think I am. Not anymore.”
“Just because you kiss me doesn’t mean you’ve changed.”
“Then tell me, Granger - Would the Draco Malfoy you’ve assembled in your head over the years ever kiss you? Would he ever even touch you?”
“No, he wouldn’t.”
“So what does that tell you?”
She set her mouth in a determined line, still unswayed. “It tells me that Voldemort sent you to try to get inside my head. This is your real task. To get in my head, and get the information we have so he can stop us from destroying him. No matter what you say, Draco, I won’t believe you’ve changed. I will never trust you.”
Hermione began to walk away, and Draco knew that this was his last chance to convince her.
“He’s worried, you know.”
She stopped, though she desperately wanted to keep walking.
“About what?” she asked icily.
“He’s worried that Harry’s going to find the rest of his Horcruxes. He never planned for him to find out about them. They were his last hope. He knows that he’s in danger. He’s scared, Hermione.”
She turned around, her eyes wide. “He told you… about the Horcruxes?”
“He only told my father and Snape. They’re the only ones he trusts. I overheard them speaking of it together late at night. I know where some of them are, and I could probably figure out the rest with some help.”
“You’re… You’re actually serious?”
“I’ve been telling you that from the very beginning, Hermione.”
“But… Draco, if he finds out that you did anything to help us, he’ll kill you.”
Draco sighed, looking out at the forest in the distance. “Granger, here’s how I see it. Even if he finds out eventually and kills me, it won’t be before I bring you information. And because you’ll have that information, Potter will hopefully be able to end him once and for all. That would at least make my death worth it. As long as he is finally destroyed... for good.”
Hermione looked at him for a moment, stunned silent. His eyes looked so tired, as if he had given up on living a long time ago. He was willing to sacrifice himself to defeat Voldemort. He was willing to help them, even if it meant his death. He was on their side.
Draco Malfoy was on their side.
She suddenly wished that Harry and Ron were here to hear this. They would never believe her. She could put the memory of this talk into a Pensieve to show them, and they still wouldn’t believe her.
“Harry and Ron aren’t going to be easy to sway. I hope you know that. It’s going to take a lot for them to believe you.”
“I’m aware. I’ll take care of it.” He began to walk away, his heart feeling a little lighter than before. Even if he died in the effort, he trusted Hermione. He even trusted Potter and Weasley. He knew they could do it. With the right help, it would be simple.
They could defeat him.
He had just opened the door when she shouted his name. He turned back around to see her with an open mouth and a confused look on her face, as if she wanted to say something but couldn’t find the right words.
“I… I just want you to know that… That if something happens, or something goes wrong, I would… I would do my best to save you.”
They stared at each other, letting her sentence hang heavily in the air.
After a few moments of nearly suffocating silence, Draco spoke. Out of his mouth came five simple words.
But though they were simple, they were five words Hermione would never forget, so long as she lived.
“Weasley is a lucky man.”
* * * *
He was here.
Voldemort walked slowly across the stone ground, and Hermione watched as Harry gripped his wand tighter. This was it. It all ended here.
They walked towards each other, and Hermione's stomach filled with cold dread.
But then she realized that something had changed. She looked around in confusion, trying to pinpoint what had shifted. The air was heavier. Something was about to happen. Something terrible.
And suddenly, everyone began moving. It was as if someone had seized a remote and pressed fast-forward. Everything blurred together, and Hermione watched in horror as Harry and Voldemort both lifted their wands to begin the battle. Before she could even blink, Harry’s wand was shot out of his hand.
Harry didn’t have his wand.
She watched as it rolled across the stone. She tried to reach for it, but her feet were nailed to the spot. She tried to scream, but nothing came out.
Everything had slowed now, and she watched as a sickening smile spread across Voldemort’s face. He raised his wand, ready to deliver the final, crushing blow.
It was over. It was all over. Harry didn’t stand a chance. Hermione closed her eyes, not wanting to see what was about to happen. She couldn’t bear it.
A voice sounded from nearby, and her eyes flew open to see someone running towards Harry’s fallen wand. A pale hand scooped it from the ground and threw it to Harry, who caught it in less than a second. Wasting no time, he pointed his wand at his opponent and screamed “AVADA KEDAVRA!”
Voldemort, completely caught off guard, was hit squarely in the chest. Everyone watched in shock as his body flew high over the crowd, landing on a pile of stone. The corpse slowly came apart like ash and flew into the wind, leaving behind absolutely no trace of the once powerful Dark Lord.
It was dead silent as everyone turned to the person who had just saved Harry Potter’s life.
Draco Malfoy looked around at the crowd, unsure of what to do. Harry’s eyes were wide and his wand slipped from his hands, landing with a crash much too loud for its weight.
Unable to bear the silence, Draco turned to Hermione, as if hoping she would say something to him.
She said nothing. Her feet suddenly able to move, she walked towards him. He looked at her with fear, almost as if she was going to strike him. Almost as if he had done something wrong.
The crowd was fading away, leaving only Hermione and Draco in the battlefield. Tears ran down her face as she reached for him, pulling him into her arms and holding him.
“I knew you were good,” she whispered. “I knew it.”
He wrapped his arms tightly around her and let out a shaky breath.
“Because of you,” he whispered, “Only you.”
* * * *
Hermione's opened her eyes slowly, almost expecting to see the misty battlefield before her.
It was all so real. She could still feel his arms around her, and she could still hear his shaky breathing.
This dream was different. It felt less like a dream, and more like a memory. She had never had a dream so vivid and tangible. Never.
She snatched a piece of parchment from her bedside table and began hurriedly recording every detail of the dream. It felt so important, so urgent, as if she must remember every piece of it. After she had finished, she went on to write out the details of the other dreams. Maybe she could look at them objectively once they were written down. Maybe they would finally make some sense.
But much to her frustration, the meanings were just as abstract to her on paper as they were in her head.
It was time to talk to someone about this. Hermione had tried to talk to Ron, but he just hadn’t understood. She would go to Harry. Harry understood the importance of the goings-on of the mind. Maybe he could help her.
She pulled on some clothes and brushed through her knotted mess of hair, her mind racing. These dreams wouldn’t stop. They wouldn’t stop until she did something about them.
As she ran down the stairs to the Common Room, she prayed that Harry would be easy to find. It felt as if the entire world was sitting upon her shoulders, and she needed to unload some of the weight before she collapsed. Before she went absolutely mad from all of the unanswered questions.
She looked up and her gaze met a familiar pair of emerald eyes. Relief washed over her as she sat onto the couch beside Harry, putting her hands in his.
“Oh thank Merlin you’re here, Harry.” She realized that she truly hadn’t talked to Harry in days, and his presence now was so comforting that she almost felt as if she’d burst into tears.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Harry asked, sitting up in concern and gently squeezing her hands. “Your hands are like ice.”
She gently slipped them from his grasp, nodding her head slowly as she kneeled before the fireplace and held her hands to the flames to warm them.
“I have to tell you something. I’m afraid that a lot has happened since we last talked. I… I should have told you about it all from the very beginning.”
“I thought you were avoiding me, to be honest,” he murmured, sitting down next to her beside the fire.
It broke her heart to hear the hurt in his voice; mostly because what he said was true. She had been avoiding him. She’d been going to bed extremely early and getting up extremely early, to lessen the chances of bumping into him in the Common Room. The few classes they had together, she had pretended to be thoroughly engrossed in her notes and hadn’t spoken a word to either him or Ron.
Hermione had spent more time with Draco Malfoy in one day than she had with her friends in a week. That knowledge shamed her, and for a moment she could barely speak.
“I’m so sorry, Harry. You’re so right, I was avoiding you. I just… Some things happened, and I didn’t know how to handle them. I didn’t even know how to talk to you about them. It was wrong of me to ignore you, I’m so sorry.”
Tears were welling up in her eyes and she wiped at them hastily. Harry’s expression softened and he put his arm around her, trying to catch her gaze.
“It’s all right, Hermione. Maybe if you tell me what happened, I’ll understand why you couldn’t tell me before.”
“Harry… I’ve been talking with Malfoy.”
His arm unwound itself from her shoulders and he stared at her in shock. “What? Hermione, are you serious?”
“I’m completely serious, Harry. But before you say anything else, I have to tell you… I’ve been having these strange dreams.”
With a deep breath, Hermione launched into a detailed description of each of her dreams, beginning with the various grotesque visions of Draco’s death that had been plaguing her for the past few nights. Harry’s eyes did not leave her face as she talked. She told him about their meetings together, and how she had found Draco about to jump off the Astronomy Tower. She decided not to tell him about the dream she had just had, or anything about her and Draco’s most recent meeting – not yet, anyway. There would be a time and place to tell him, and now and here wasn’t right. She could feel it.
As she finished, Harry exhaled a long breath, staring at the fire with an emotionless expression.
“Hermione… Something about these dreams isn’t sitting well with me.”
“Of course not, Harry, they’re horrible!”
“No, it’s not that… I’m worried about their origin.”
“Their origin?” Hermione stopped short. She had never even begun to think about where the dreams could be coming from. She had been far too concerned with the why and the what - why she was having them and what they could possibly mean. She had never even considered how she was having them.
“Yes, their origin. Hermione, do you remember last year, when Voldemort was able to get into my mind?”
“Of course I do.”
“Do you remember… How he was able to send me visions? How he could basically plant anything in my mind that he wanted?”
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat.
“Hermione… I think someone has gotten into your mind. I think someone is sending you these dreams.”
* * * *
A/N Author's Note:
Hello my lovelies! First of all, just wanted to say BWAHAHA CLIFFHANGER.
But second of all, I want to give a HUGE thank-you to all of the wonderful reviewers whose messages have kept a smile on my face for the past few days. The amount of support for this story is overwhelming, and I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to continue writing!
I love all of you, and thanks again!
Chapter 8: A Failed Interrogation
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Hermione stared into the orange flames, allowing Harry’s words to sink in. A cold feeling crept into her chest as it hit her. Suddenly, it all made sense. These dreams were too structured, too organized to be real dreams. They had been constructed by someone else, someone who had managed to break past the barriers of her mind to put them there.
She felt as if she was going to pass out from the shock of the realization. Harry saw her begin to sway and he caught her in his arms, holding her tightly.
“It’s okay, Hermione. I’m here. We’ll figure this out together.”
She wanted to tell Harry that she was scared. She wanted to tell him that he had enough to worry about. She wanted to tell him thank you. But all she could do was lay against him, watch the fire, and attempt to come to terms with the fact that her mind was no longer just her own.
* * * *
“Merlin, Harry. You really think someone got into her head?”
Hermione’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Ron’s voice. She sat up in confusion. She was on the couch of the Common Room, and Harry and Ron were sitting on the ground in front of it, looking at her in concern.
“How are you feeling?” Harry asked quickly, realizing it was a little bit awkward that he and Ron had been talking about her less than a foot away from where she slept.
“I think you can take a guess,” she murmured, leaning forward and running her fingers through her mussed hair.
Harry and Ron looked at the floor, unsure of what to say or do. After a few moments of heavy silence, Hermione couldn’t hold it together anymore. Before she could stop them, tears were running down her face and a strangled sob was spilling from her mouth.
Ron climbed up onto the couch next to her and pulled her into his arms, placing his chin on her head and rocking her back and forth. Hermione buried her face into his chest, not even pausing to be surprised at such a rare display of affection.
Harry got up and began pacing the room.
“There has to be some way we can figure out who’s doing this to her,” he muttered. Ron’s eyes followed his agitated pacing as he gently stroked Hermione’s hair. She had quieted now, but she didn’t move from him.
Harry probably thought that she wasn’t moving because she wanted Ron to continue holding her. And though she had been waiting a very long time for Ron Weasley to finally do something even remotely affectionate to her, she realized that wasn’t the reason she was relishing this moment.
To be completely honest, she was reminded of her dream. She thought of holding Draco Malfoy, the unlikely hero, in her arms. She thought of how he had told her that he was good because of her.
And even though she realized it was highly possible that someone had constructed that dream for her to see, there was still a part of her that wanted to believe in its potential to be truth.
Then it hit her. What if Draco was putting these visions into her head? What if he wanted her sympathy? What if he wanted to trick her into thinking he was good when he was really still working for the dark side? What if this was all some intricate plan to get closer to Harry, and he had been fooling her this entire time?
Hermione bolted up from the couch, which startled Ron and caused him to nearly fall onto the floor.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Harry stopped pacing and joined Ron in looking at her with equal parts confusion and concern.
“I… I need to take a walk,” Hermione sputtered. She saw Harry and Ron both open their mouths to offer to go with, so she was forced to add “Alone.”
They still looked worried, but they didn’t stop her as she hastily stepped through the portrait hole and into the dim hallway.
She couldn’t handle this anymore. She couldn’t handle the doubt. She had to know the truth.
And she knew how she was going to get it.
The entrance to the Slytherin Common Room looked just as intimidating as she expected it to look at this time of night. Finding an alcove in the wall, she slipped comfortably inside it and slowly pulled out the Invisibility Cloak from under her jacket. Harry had let her borrow it about a week ago when she wanted to go to the library late at night, and she had been avoiding returning it. Lately, it had come especially in handy.
Hermione draped it over herself and settled back against the stone. She would wait as long as she had to.
A few stray Slytherins walked by, but other than that, the hallway remained empty. After about an hour had passed, she began losing hope. She was about to get up and go back to the Common Room when she heard footsteps.
Draco Malfoy turned the corridor and began walking down the hallway towards her. He was alone.
She was going to slip off the cloak and reveal herself, but something stopped her. To be more accurate, he stopped her.
He was doing the usual Draco Malfoy swagger with his hands in his pockets, but there was no cocky grin. No self-assured expression. In their stead were hollow eyes and an expression that Hermione supposed matched the lifelessness he felt inside.
Her heart ached as she watched him. She couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to be so alone. A mother in denial, a father that expected too much, and a Dark Lord waiting in the dark to strike... It was just too awful to even think about.
Until this point, she had always wondered these things about Harry. How it must feel to have no parents, what it must be like to have such a heavy weight on his shoulders. But she was beginning to realize that Draco and Harry had a lot more in common than she thought. The difference was that Draco had no one to help him through it. Harry had friends. Harry had Dumbledore. Harry had people supporting him. But Draco… Draco was all alone.
She watched as his walking slowed and he stopped in the middle of the hallway, bending his head down. He didn’t want to go inside. Hermione understood. All that waited inside were a bunch of egotistical, privileged elitists that knew nothing of real life. That knew nothing of who he was or the gravity of what he was dealing with.
Hermione stood up slowly, and before she knew what she was doing, she was reaching out and grabbing his hand. He jumped at her touch and turned around to see the cloak slip off of her.
His eyes were glassy. He had been crying.
“G-Granger?” he looked down at her hand holding his. “What are you doing here?”
Neither of them let go. It was if both of them had forgotten how. Draco raised his gaze from their hands to look at her.
Hermione fumbled for words to explain herself.
“I… I just… I needed to talk to you.”
“So you didn’t come all this way just to hold my hand?” he asked.
Hermione grabbed her hand back.
“N-No!” she sputtered, her cheeks glowing bright red. Draco grinned.
“Calm down, Granger, I’m only kidding.”
She huffed in annoyance and began pacing, running her fingers through her hair. He watched her with an amused expression.
“Hermione?” he asked, trying to catch her gaze.
She stopped pacing and looked at him.
“I want proof,” Hermione blurted.
“Proof of what?” he asked, his eyebrows slanting in confusion.
“Proof that I’m not some pawn in one of your twisted games!” she screamed, throwing him up against the wall and putting her wand up to his chin menacingly.
“Granger, have you gone mad?!” Draco asked, twisting his face away from her threatening wand.
“Are you putting things into my head?” she asked, her voice shaking with hysteria.
“ARE YOU PUTTING THINGS INTO MY HEAD?” She was now beyond hysterics and Draco had had enough. He pushed her wand aside and slapped a hand over her mouth.
“Granger, people can hear us,” he hissed through gritted teeth, taking her roughly by the wrist and pulling her around the corner.
Once they were a safe distance from the Common Room entrance, he stopped and turned to her.
“Let go of me,” she snarled, wrenching her wrist from him.
“Tell me what that was about,” he demanded.
She looked up at the ceiling, wondering why she had even bothered to come. Her plan was to interrogate him. But when it came down to it, there was no way she could be sure that she trusted him. She either did, or she didn’t.
She turned to him, deciding that she might as well tell him. What did she have to lose?
“Do you remember how I told you that I had dreams about you dying?”
“Yeah, I do. What about them?”
“Draco, I’ve been having them every night since you were hit with Sectumsempra. Without fail. And now, they’ve gone beyond you dying. Last night, I had a dream that you… You helped Harry defeat Voldemort.”
He was silent, so she decided to continue.
“I thought that you might have been somehow… putting them into my head. Harry told me that he thinks someone has gotten into my mind. He thinks someone is sending them to me.”
Draco still didn’t say anything. Hermione looked at him nervously, trying to see if she could pick up any hints that he was feeling guilty.
After an uncomfortable moment of silence, he finally spoke.
“Hermione… I’m definitely not the one who’s sending these dreams to you.”
“Can you prove it to me?” she asked, looking at him carefully.
He got up and after a few moments of collecting his thoughts, he turned to her. Her eyebrows went up in surprise at the panicked expression on his face.
“Draco, what is it?” she asked, standing up slowly in caution.
He raised his eyes to look at her.
“Hermione… I’ve been having strange dreams every night, too.”
Her heart was beating faster and faster as the pieces began to fall together in her mind.
"What are they about?" she asked breathlessly, already knowing the answer.
He shook his head in disbelief.
"They've all been about... you."
* * * *
A/N Author's Note:
I was hoping to have this chapter posted earlier today, but it turned out to be a bit hard to write. However, I figured it out, and the plot is moving along again just fine!
I'm trying to get as much of this story done as possible while I have free time, so please keep checking back.
And remember, reviews keep me going! If I don't get enough, I may just have to stop writing! ;)
Also, if you ever want to talk to me more directly, you can check out my page on the forums! I check it regularly, so if you ever want to ask me how the next chapter is going or just want to tell me your thoughts, please feel free to drop me a line! I love talking to all of you!
Hope you're all having a wonderful new year,
Chapter 9: Saved
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The first dream had started out simply enough.
He was walking along the Black Lake on a beautiful summer’s day. The water was a striking sapphire blue from the clear sky. The wind was blowing, birds were chirping, and not a thing was on his mind.
Draco closed his eyes to inhale the wonderful scent of the air, but when he opened them again… The happy picture was gone. No more clear sky. No more sapphire water. No more birds chirping. And in their wake… Chaos.
The sky had filled with menacing grey clouds, and the lake water had turned as black as tar. The air was filled with the sound of thunder and… screams! Draco looked around to see millions of figures in black robes swarming the Grounds, firing spells. He tore his gaze from them to see their targets, and his heart dropped as he realized that the Death Eaters were aiming at an enormous crowd that was steadily pouring from the main doors of Hogwarts. Students, teachers… Each fell, one by one, until the ground was littered with corpses.
He tried to shout, but no sound came out. He couldn’t even so much as move from where he stood. All he could do was watch the horror and carnage unfold before him.
But then he felt it. Something was behind him. Draco turned around in dread to see the black water of the lake rising up before him, assuming the shape of Lord Voldemort. He opened his mouth to deliver a silent scream as the dreadful illusion reached out a black hand to grab him. Before he could even blink, he was being pulled under.
The thick water filled his lungs in less than a second. He struggled to swim to the surface, but he sank faster the harder he tried. Finally, he gave up struggling, and the last thing he saw were a pair of red eyes glinting in the water before everything went black.
But it seemed fate didn’t want him dead just yet. Suddenly, he felt himself being yanked to the surface, and then he could feel fresh air on his face. He sputtered and coughed as he was pulled to shore, and he managed to open one curious eye to see the blurry outline of his rescuer collapse to the ground nearby.
Draco lay there coughing up water for some time, until he finally had the energy to open his eyes and solve the mystery of just who had saved him.
Sitting next to him, soaking wet, was a girl with all-too-familiar wavy brown hair.
He had woken up in a cold sweat with his heart beating loudly in his ears. But Draco hadn’t given the dream a second thought. He had shoved it to the back of his mind, figuring that it was just a result of Hermione’s role in saving him from Potter’s spell.
The next dream, however, was a bit harder to forget.
He was walking along a dimly-lit path in the Forbidden Forest. It was night, and the moon was nearly eclipsed by grey clouds. He was all alone, and it was dead silent.
It was too silent. His skin grew cold as he waited. For what, he didn’t know.
He was on the ground before he could even blink. Then the pain came. His entire body was on fire, and all he could do was scream.
The Cruciatus Curse. There was no mistaking it. And he knew who was delivering it. Any time pain was involved, he knew who it was.
The pain was steadily getting worse. His back was arching so much from the agony that he felt as if his spine may break in half. Somewhere far back in his mind, he wondered if it was possible for bones to explode.
But then, in the midst of the blinding anguish, he felt something soft touch his cheek. And just like magic, all of the pain disappeared.
He inhaled a shaky breath as the relieving coolness of the night air washed over his skin. When he finally opened his eyes, what he saw shocked him.
Hermione Granger stood near him, looking out at the forest. She turned her head back, and his jaw dropped in horror as he saw that her face was covered in dried blood. Multiple wounds were all over her face, and her lip was split and bleeding profusely. Her hair was in tangles and her clothes were ripped and stained.
“He did it,” she whispered.
He sat up, unable to take his eyes off her wounded face. “What?”
“He did it. Harry killed him. He’s gone.”
Hermione bent down before him and looked into his eyes. “Of course. You can’t see it. Here,” and she briefly touched his eyelids.
Once she removed her hands from his face and he opened his eyes, he fell back in astonishment.
Everything looked brighter. It was like he had been seeing in black and white until this very moment. The Forbidden Forest was completely illuminated by the sun, which was shining brilliantly up in the sky. And even though he couldn’t see it for himself, he knew Voldemort was gone. He also knew that Harry Potter was somewhere close by, very much alive.
But then his stunned gaze fell on Hermione, and all other thoughts flew from his mind.
In any other dream, it would have been cheesy. In any other dream, he would have scoffed at what he saw. But this dream was different.
Hermione was wearing a long white dress, like the kind you’d see in perfume commercials. Her hair fell softly around her shoulders, and her skin looked like the purest, most exquisite porcelain.
And for a moment, Draco Malfoy forgot how to breathe… because he had never seen anything more beautiful.
Hermione smiled at him. “Now you’re seeing things for what they are. This is what the world looks like, outside of the darkness that holds you prisoner.”
He wanted nothing more than to touch her. He wanted to touch her beautiful face and convince himself that she was real. But when he reached for her… she disappeared.
Draco had opened his eyes to see one hand outstretched, still reaching for her. He had never felt so disappointed.
That is, until the final dream.
It was the most realistic of them all… which made it the most frightening.
He was in his family’s manor.
“DRACO? WHERE ARE YOU?”
His father’s voice boomed through the house, and chilled Draco to the bones.
He was angry. And Draco knew all too well what happened when his father was angry.
The door burst open and Lucius stepped through it, a wild look in his eyes.
“STOP COWERING AND COME AND FACE ME LIKE A MAN!” he shouted, brandishing his wand. Before Draco could even think of a spell, he was hitting the wall from a curse thrown viciously at him by his own father.
He fell to the ground with a sickening thud and gasped as his right side exploded in pain.
“You little coward!” Lucius hissed through clenched teeth, grabbing a vase from nearby and throwing it with all of his strength. Draco flinched as the vase hit him full-force on the side of the head. He saw blood dripping on the floor and felt the explosion of pain in his skull. But instead of fighting back, he simply closed his eyes and prayed to just disappear.
He felt something grasp his hand, and suddenly he was twisting through the air. When he opened his eyes, he was in a dingy alleyway… with Hermione Granger.
“You’ve really gotten yourself into quite a mess,” she murmured as she carefully examined his wounds.
He was so relieved. She was here. His father couldn’t hurt him anymore. He was safe.
She began healing his wounds and he sighed in relief as the pain began to ebb. “Thank you,” he whispered softly as she gently dabbed away some leftover blood on his face with her jacket sleeve.
Hermione paused, looking down at him with a suddenly very serious expression.
“I can’t keep doing this for you, Draco.”
He mustered enough energy to sit up and looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Her mouth was set in a grim line as she slipped her wand back into her pocket.
“I can’t keep helping you until you choose.”
“Which side you’re on.”
The moment the words left her mouth, the alley grew dark and she Disapparated. He tried to reach for her, but then recoiled as he saw who had taken her place.
Voldemort was rising out of the stone ground, smiling devilishly at him.
Draco’s mouth opened and he screamed at the top of his lungs.
He had woken up actually screaming, and his dormitory mates had rushed to his bedside to ensure that he was all right. He had assured them that he was fine, but it was the biggest lie that he had ever told.
He wasn’t all right. Draco Malfoy was many things, but he wasn’t all right. Not in the least.
Every dream pointed to her. But would she do it? In the end, would she really choose to save him?
His flashback of dreams was interrupted by Hermione’s concerned voice. He turned to her and looked at her in surprise, as if he had forgotten she was even there.
“I asked you to tell me what happened in your dreams,” she said slowly, thinking that he hadn’t understood or even heard her question.
Draco looked down at his hands, wondering how he could possibly dilute the incredibly detailed dreams into a few simple statements.
When it came down to it… They were about him being saved by her. They were about her being some sort of light in the darkness. And they were all telling him that he needed her if he wanted to survive.
“To be honest, Hermione… My dreams were all about you... saving my life.”
Her eyebrows went up and she nodded in deep thought, staring at the ground.
“What were yours about?” he asked, admittedly curious about her answer.
Hermione looked at her feet and tried to think. Until this point, the meanings of her dreams had been eluding her, with the exception of the last one. The last one was obviously trying to show her that Draco had the capacity for good in his heart.
His heart. Suddenly, it all made sense. The previous dreams had showed Draco dying and leaving behind a glowing, red heart that still beat. It was symbolism, in its most beautiful form! It meant that underneath his exterior was a true human heart that had capacity for love and good just like anyone else’s. That part she had understood, but now she saw the significance of his heart still beating after his death. That signified that his time wasn’t up yet. His heart still beat. That meant that he still had time to be saved. And because he was good, he was completely worthy of saving.
Hermione wondered how she hadn’t understood it before.
“My dreams were about your heart,” she admitted honestly.
“My heart?” he asked, a slightly amused expression spreading across his face.
“Yes, your heart. And its capacity to be good.”
“So, your dreams were telling you that I’m a good person?”
“In a way, yes,” she answered, looking up at him to see how he reacted. “That’s why I thought that you may have been the one who was sending them to me. But now that I think about it, they were far too creative.”
Draco put a hand to his chest as if offended. “Oh, I see, I’m not creative enough to be the architect of these dreams?”
“No, definitely not.” Hermione laughed at the fake expression of hurt that crossed his face.
“Well, I suppose you’re right. Mine were rather original as well,” he replied, staring at his shoes thoughtfully.
They both fell silent, remembering the serious and very real issue at hand.
“Do you have any idea who could be behind this?” Hermione whispered, as if afraid whoever it was could somehow hear her.
“No bloody clue,” Draco sighed, leaning his head back against the wall.
There was another extended moment of silence. Somehow, silence between them was becoming less and less uncomfortable. It was if they were both so skilled at immersing themselves in deep thought that they hardly noticed no words were being spoken. It was beautiful, somehow, how the silence could just exist between them with absolutely no uneasiness.
But soon, Hermione surfaced from her thoughts and out of her lips came a single question.
“Why did you kiss me? I don’t really believe that you were just trying to prove to me that you had changed. The old Draco Malfoy could have kissed me on a bet. So why did you do it?”
Draco turned to her in surprise. He hadn’t expected this from her. He was used to her questioning his motives, but this felt like more than that. It felt like she was asking much more than just one question.
Why had he done it? He had asked himself that same question many times after it had happened. And after a long period of self-reflection, he thought he maybe knew why.
“To be honest, Granger… I wanted to know what it was like to kiss a girl that actually gave a damn about me. Because so far, you’ve been the only one.”
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat as a line from her latest dream floated through her mind.
“Because of you…
* * * *
A/N Author's Note:
You know what? I think I have seriously lost my mind. IT IS SEVEN IN THE MORNING HERE. I STAYED UP UNTIL SEVEN IN THE MORNING WRITING THIS CHAPTER. MY FATHER HAS BEEN UP FOR TWO HOURS ALREADY, AND I HAVE YET TO SLEEP.
Yes, this is my life.
This chapter was hard. It was really hard. I rewrote it so many times. My brain is just fried. But I wanted so badly to post it for you wonderful people!!!
I really, really, really hope you enjoy it.
May I reiterate... IT'S SEVEN IN THE MORNING. I HAVE NOT SLEPT.
So you had better review... because I'm losing sleep for you guys.
Your favorite insanity victim,
Chapter 10: When Words Fail
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To say Hermione was speechless would have been the understatement of the century.
It was as if words had suddenly lost all of their meaning.
She wondered how she had possibly gone through life thinking that there was always a word to be found for describing every situation, every person, every feeling. Words seemed so ridiculous now, because there was nothing she could say that could describe what she felt about what Draco had just said.
But there was something Hermione knew that applied to situations like these – an inner truth of sorts. Hermione knew that when words failed… there were actions.
There was absolutely nothing she could say, but there was certainly something she could do. And so she did the only thing that made sense.
She slowly lifted her head and turned to him. Draco stared at her, transfixed. It had been a very long moment of silence since his confession, and he had been waiting for her reply with bated breath.
But it seemed that he would never receive one. At least, not in the form of the verbose commentary Hermione Granger was so famous for. Instead, her eyes met his and he watched, entranced, as her gaze fell slowly to his lips.
Draco’s breath caught in his throat as he watched her lean towards him. He didn’t dare assist in bridging the distance between them. He didn’t dare even move. He thought she would change her mind, that she would think better of it before her lips even touched his. But he was wrong.
Her hand came up to gently place itself on his cheek as she softly pressed her lips against his. It was a sweet, tender kiss that absolutely took his breath away. He leaned into her, returning the pressure, his hand anchoring itself in her hair.
After a few wonderful moments of ecstasy, she pulled away. Though the kiss had ended much too soon for his liking, Draco was pleased to find that her lips lingered. He swallowed nervously, weighing his options, and hesitantly leaned back in to kiss her again. She received him.
He cherished every second, memorizing the way she tasted and every curve of her soft lips. Draco knew all too well what could very well happen after they separated. This kiss had no happy ending, and there was a good chance that it would never be repeated. After her sense returned to her, she would realize what she had done. She would be horrified and disgusted with herself, and it was likely that she would never speak to him again out of shame. So he clung to every tiny fragment of time that ticked by, in the hopes that he would be able to look back and remember the one single moment he felt alive… before the time came that he wouldn’t be.
It had never occurred to him that Hermione was enjoying the kiss as much as he was. All he knew was that it was the best he had felt in a long time, and as such he was convinced it wouldn’t last.
And much to his utter disappointment, she finally did pull away. She looked at him for a few moments with glazed eyes, then pursed her lips and looked down at the ground. He could practically see the thoughts buzzing around her head, and he couldn’t help smiling in amusement. Her tendency to overthink everything had suddenly become so endearing to him. He marveled at the way he saw her now. It was as if a thick veil had been obstructing his vision for years, and now it had been lifted and he suddenly saw Hermione Granger for everything she was. Everything she really was.
He wanted to know what she was thinking. She was an absolutely mystery, and it both thrilled and frustrated him.
A heavy silence had descended upon them as he watched her. Hermione sighed, disturbed by her loss for words, and turned to him.
“I just kissed you,” she stated bluntly.
“Yes. I’m aware,” Draco tried not to laugh, but her comment was so obvious that it slipped from his lips.
Her eyebrows knit together and she glared at him. “Is this funny to you?”
“No. You’re funny to me.”
She huffed a little but didn't fire back a mean retort.
“What does this mean?” she whispered.
“You tell me,” he replied, gazing at her evenly.
“What? Why? Why is it my responsibility to figure this out?”
“Because you kissed me.”
Hermione inhaled a sharp breath, as it hadn’t been true until he’d said it out loud. She remained silent, but Draco wouldn’t have it.
“Hermione? Hermione, look at me.”
She looked up at him with a pained expression on her face, dreading the inevitable question about to spill from his lips.
Draco was looking at her curiously, clearly more than ready to get some answers. “Why on earth did you just kiss me?” he asked incredulously.
Swallowing nervously, she opened her mouth to provide the only answer that came to mind. “Because you’re right. I do… I do give a damn about you.”
“And that made you want to kiss me?” he asked curiously, his heart feeling lighter than it ever had before.
“Does it really not matter to you anymore?” she whispered suddenly, staring at the ground and refusing to look at him.
“Does what not matter to me?”
“Me. Who I am. My blood. Can you honestly tell me that you’ve let it all go? That 17 years of hatred just disappeared in an instant?”
Draco paused, thinking over his answer carefully. And after a moment, he had crafted a reply that he knew would leave her without a doubt in her mind about the way he felt.
“Hermione, tell me… In science, when a theory is concretely disproved, do the researchers normally deny these findings? Do they continue to retest it, refusing to believe that their theory wasn’t factual? Would you keep believing in something that was proved to be wrong before your very eyes? Tell me. Would you?”
She started. Hermione couldn’t believe it. Draco Malfoy had just given her a thoughtful, logical, and completely undeniable answer to her burning question. He was absolutely right. She wouldn’t believe it anymore. Not if it had been concretely disproved. But did his brilliant metaphor truly apply to their situation?
“No, I wouldn’t. But tell me, then… What was this concrete evidence that disproved your theory of me?”
Hermione wouldn’t go down without a fight. She would challenge him until she was absolutely certain of his intentions.
Draco was silent for a very long moment, and she almost thought she had bested him. But then his soft answer reached her ears.
“It was your face.”
“My… face?” She couldn’t have been more puzzled. What did he mean?
“Your face when you were trying to save me from the curse. There wasn’t a tinge of hatred… or disgust… or doubt in your expression. You were hell-bent on saving me. It truly didn’t matter to you who I was or what I had done in the past. You were… scared for me, and it didn’t once occur to you that you could just let me die and be rid of my cruelty and mistreatment of you once and for all. In that moment, I knew I was wrong. In that moment, I knew I’d been wrong about you from the very start.”
“And now that you know you were wrong… you’re okay with… with kissing me?” Hermione sputtered, obviously shaken up by his answer but trying not to show it.
He smiled at her. “To be fair, this time you kissed me first. But yes. I’m okay with kissing you.”
Hermione let out a small breath of surprise and looked away from him. He could see her ears turning pink and he grinned, laughing to himself.
It was unbelievable to him how much he’d been missing when he hated her.
“Are you going to sit with your back to me like that all night?” he asked jokingly, gently tapping her on the shoulder.
She turned back, staring at him with confused eyes. “Draco… We can’t do this. This is wrong. This is too crazy, and we have both clearly gone insane. I think we should just stop now, while we’re ahead.”
“Okay,” he said simply, reaching out to run his hand through her hair. Her eyes widened at his touch and he saw a promising spark in the pools of chocolate brown that had become so familiar to him.
It wasn’t true. She was lying; she didn’t want to stop. The spark in her eyes gave her away.
So he did the only thing he could think of – he called her bluff. He leaned in until his lips were mere inches from hers and captured her gaze in a sensual sapphire stare he was rather proud of.
“Just tell me if you want me to stop,” he whispered, continuing to run his hand through her wavy hair. His lips came closer to hers each second; yet she said nothing.
A small moan escaped from her lips as he softly pecked her on the lips and pulled away. She looked up at him with a curious expression, surprised and maybe even a little upset that he had stopped.
“I… I didn’t tell you to stop,” she said softly.
“No, you didn’t. Which means that your little ‘let’s stop now while we’re ahead’ speech was a lie.” He smiled cockily at her, pushing the hair he had mussed back behind her ear.
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” she whispered. A hard sense of urgency had crept into her voice and he took notice.
“You don’t want to know what I’m thinking. It’s all too… dark to speak out loud.”
“I mean what you’re thinking at this exact moment. What are you thinking while you’re rather intensely gazing at my lips?” she asked, her eyes glinting. He grinned, knowing that she was completely right. He couldn’t take his eyes off her perfect, all-too-enticing mouth.
“I’m thinking of how much I want to kiss them again,” he admitted honestly. After a short pause, he returned the question. “What are you thinking of?”
She laughed a little and looked to the ceiling. “I’m thinking of third year, when I slapped you in the face.”
He groaned, remembering the stinging pain of the hit and the humiliation all too well. “Oh, Merlin, that was awful! Why would you be thinking of that?”
Hermione’s expression was a bit troubled. She wasn’t looking at him. “I’m just… Trying to reconcile that Draco Malfoy with the one that’s sitting here with me.”
“Do you believe that people can change, Hermione?”
“Yes. But only to a point.”
Draco sighed, knowing the hopelessness that lay in trying to convincing her that he wasn’t that monster anymore. “I want you to know that I… I don’t expect you to ever completely trust me. But you have to admit that it would be pretty impossible to say I haven’t changed after what’s happened in this hallway tonight,” he pointed out, trying to catch her gaze.
“You don’t regret this? At all?” she asked, still refusing to look at him.
“No. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed this time with you. It’s been nice spending time with a human being that is actually capable of paying attention to me.”
Hermione’s hardened expression softened and she reached out to place his hand in hers, holding it delicately as if it might shatter into a million pieces. He smiled and lifted her hand to his lips to gently kiss it. Butterflies exploded in her stomach at the princely gesture. She wondered if she was dreaming again.
She suddenly remembered why she had come here in the first place.
“Draco… We still haven’t figured out these dreams,” she murmured, worry beginning to create terrible knots in her stomach. He saw the concern on her face and his grip on her hand tightened.
“Hermione… Whoever it is that’s behind these dreams, I don’t think they have malevolent intentions. If anything, they’re trying to show us that we may have misjudged each other. They might even be trying to bring us together."
Hermione pondered this for a moment, trying to make deeper sense of it. “You’re right. They seem to be pointing towards the fact that you and I joining forces could help defeat Voldemort… and could even save your life.”
“Funny thing is, I can’t really imagine anyone who would care enough about my life to put that much time and effort into trying to save it,” Draco replied grimly, yawning and standing up to stretch.
And then it hit her. She marveled at her own stupidity. How could she have possibly missed such an obvious answer? The puzzle had already been completed before her very eyes – She just hadn’t been looking at it right.
He turned at her serious tone and wrinkled his brow in confusion at the look on her face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Hermione looked down at the ground, feeling no single doubt in her mind about her answer.
“I know who’s sending us the dreams.”
* * * *
A/N Author’s Note: Hello lovelies, I’m finally back!
I’m so sorry it took me so long to get this chapter out to you, I completely lost inspiration and got buried in a rather large pile of… well, life.
I know this chapter is pretty short, but I’m hoping it will tide you guys over until the next one. The chapters sadly won’t be coming as regularly due to me being back at school, but as always, I’ll do my best!
Thank you for reading, and as always, please review if you’d like to see more! They keep me going!
Chapter 11: A House of Darkness
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It was a strange experience for Hermione to be dressed in all black. Her Hogwarts robes were black, of course, but she couldn’t recall a time where she had been decked in black head-to-toe like she was now. Even at the only funeral she had ever attended, that of a distant great aunt, she had worn a purple blouse.
Black was an uncomfortable color for Hermione. It didn’t suit her – largely because it reminded her so much of the dark powers that she, Ron, and Harry were constantly threatened by.
Draco took a moment to take her in as she tied the silky black cloak around her neck. He knew she was uncomfortable, but to him she had never looked more alluring. He loved the color black. It was him personified – his darkness, in heart and soul, woven into cloth. To see her wearing it made him feel connected to her, as if she was in the darkness with him. As if she was there to make him feel less alone.
“Does it look all right?” she asked tentatively, tugging at the ebony dress uncomfortably.
“It looks more than all right,” he replied, smiling as he carefully arranged the cloak on her shoulders.
Draco had used the Vanishing Cabinet to go to Diagon Alley to purchase the black clothing for her. When they Disapparated back to Hogwarts he had run an errand to the Owlery to give her time to change, and had returned to find her looking like the girl he thought would only ever exist in his dreams. He could stare at her all day and never tire of it.
He had chosen a simple but elegant black dress, fitted around the midsection with a flowing skirt. The bust was adorned with beading. He adored the way it clung to her curves and practically had to resist the urge to rip it off of her. She was wearing his best cloak, one of expensive silk that he usually only reserved for dates or special occasions.
“Here, I’ll help you with this,” he said, reaching down to grab the black netting veil she was examining rather cluelessly from her hand.
She bit her lip nervously as he gingerly arranged the veil over her eyes.
“You don’t need to be worried. I’ll be right there with you,” he assured her, pulling the hood of the cloak up over her head and tucking her hair into it.
“That’s much easier said than done,” she said, looking up at him through the veil. He swallowed hard as he gazed at her glimmering eyes behind the netting. And before he knew it, his lips were pressing against hers.
His excuse would be that the kiss was an attempt to calm her, distract her. But the truth was that she was his weak point and he couldn’t control himself. Especially when she looked the way she did.
She kissed him back, softly and sweetly. Though she felt incredibly out of place in her dark ensemble, his lips were familiar. And though it was true that they were still rather new to her, she considered them a safe place.
It would never cease to amaze Hermione how these intimate moments with him made her feel.
Kissing an enemy should feel unnatural and wrong. Kissing an enemy should come with doubts, guilt, and regret. But kissing Draco Malfoy didn’t feel like that at all.
Why? Because Hermione wasn’t kissing a Death Eater. Not really. She was kissing a boy who was scared and lost and needed her. She was kissing a boy who had rejected his past and all he had been taught to believe so he could kiss her back.
With a great amount of effort he finally pulled away. She smiled at him, flattered by the heated look in his eyes.
“I…” Draco tried to explain his actions but he knew nothing would really sound right.
She pecked him on the lips to quiet him. “Let’s go,” she whispered, holding out her hand for his. He cleared his throat in embarrassment and tenderly reached out to entwine their fingers together.
“Don’t be afraid. Everything is going to be fine. I promise. She’s not… She’s not a bad person,” he explained, hoping Hermione would somehow understand what he was trying to say.
She nodded curtly, still looking unconvinced. “Yes… I know. I’m glad you’ll be there in case something goes wrong.”
“Nothing is going to go wrong,” he promised, leading her towards the Vanishing Cabinet.
Hermione stopped, suddenly noticing the cabinet. “We’re… We’re using that?” she asked worriedly.
“I’ve tested it. Don’t worry. It will let us out in Knockturn Alley, and we can Apparate from there.”
She didn’t look convinced at all. He squeezed her hand in reassurance.
“Hermione, this was your idea.”
“I… I know. But I didn’t exactly think it through, or weigh the various options…”
“Yes you did. You always do. You wouldn’t have suggested this if you didn’t feel it necessary,” he countered. She sighed, knowing he was right.
“Okay, fine. Let’s go. But are you sure I look all right?”
“Hermione, you look exquisite. Anyone who sees you is going to think that you’re much too beautiful to be within even ten feet of me. Please stop worrying and just trust me.”
Her cheeks turned slightly pink at his comment but she nodded in agreement and followed him into the cabinet.
There was a rush of air in her ears and then they were stepping into the dimly-lit shop, still holding hands. Her grip tightened as her feet touched the dusty floor, but she kept her head down just as he had instructed her. The shopkeeper was nowhere in sight, much to Draco’s relief. He pulled Hermione closer to him, loving the feel of her womanly curves against his chest. He smiled at her as they Disapparated together from the shop.
* * * *
“Blimey, Harry. I’ve rewritten this sentence five times and it’s still awful.”
Harry looked up from his half-written essay to see Ron scribbling at his parchment in frustration. They were sitting in the Common Room together, attempting to conquer an essay about Human Transfiguration.
“I’m not having much luck either if it makes you feel better,” he sighed, putting down his quill in defeat.
Ron frowned at his scribbled parchment. “Hermione is going to cry when she reads this,” he murmured, wrinkling his nose as if the essay was actually giving off some sort of putrid odor.
Harry nodded, wondering if he should confide in Ron about what Hermione told him. He was worried about her. He hadn’t seen her all day, and he hadn’t seen her return to the Common Room last night, either. It was a Saturday, which usually meant she was studying in the library.
But she wasn’t there. Harry and Ron had searched the castle for a good hour, wondering about her whereabouts. They had made the decision to start their essays, so that when she finally came back she’d be pleased to find them actually working.
But Harry was losing the ability to concentrate. Hermione didn’t do this. She didn’t disappear like this. What if she hadn’t even come back last night? He had just assumed she’d come back late, but what if something had happened to her?
A familiar whine of panic started in his head and he turned to Ron. “Ron… What if something happened to Hermione? What if she didn’t come back last night?”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Bloody hell, Harry… You think something happened to her? Why? What do you know?” Ron suddenly looked incredibly angry, as if he was aware that his best friend was keeping something from him.
“She told me something… strange. She’s been talking to—”
Harry and Ron both jumped at the sound and turned in unison to see an owl at the window of the Common Room. Harry leapt to the window, his heart beating in his ears, praying that it was from who he thought it was.
He opened the window and gingerly removed the envelope from the owl’s beak. It screeched and flew away, leaving him behind tear open the seal and to gaze at the neat handwriting on the note inside:
I believe I’ve solved the mystery of the dreams, and I’ve gone to talk to the person that I suspect has been sending them.
I’m not alone. Please don’t worry about me. You know how careful I am.
If something does go wrong, I’ve put a spell on this letter to reveal the address of where I am should I need assistance.
I’ll be back very soon. And please… Don’t tell Ronald about all of this just yet. Let me explain it to him when I return. I’ll hopefully have more answers by then.
Ron looked at Harry expectantly, obviously waiting for an answer. Harry looked up, wondering what he should do. Why would Hermione ask him to lie to Ron? He hated doing that.
He soon decided there was a way he could tell the truth without betraying either of his friends. “Hermione has something strange going on right now, but she doesn’t want me to tell you about it just yet,” Harry explained cautiously. Ron’s expression darkened but Harry continued, “She’s gone to find out more about it, and she wants to tell you about everything in person when she returns, because she thinks she’ll have more answers. The only reason she told me about it was because something similar happened to me and she was hoping I could help.”
“Is she okay?” Ron’s voice was hard but he didn’t look angry, at least not with Harry.
“She says she is. And if something goes wrong while she’s away, she has this letter enchanted to show where she is, so we can go and help her.”
He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. He didn’t like this at all. With Voldemort on the move, he didn’t like not having Hermione with him. He didn’t like not knowing where she was. If something happened to her… No. He couldn’t even begin to imagine it. Trying to simply imagine losing her made him feel like throwing up.
He figured that Ron was having a similar experience, and when he spoke it was as if he was reading Harry’s mind: “Harry, this isn’t like Hermione. She isn’t secretive like this. And she knows how much it will drive us mad not knowing where she is.”
Harry nodded. His stomach hurt and his eyes stung from staring too long at the letter.
And then he heard it - a soft, barely audible tapping sound. He looked around in confusion, wondering if the owl had returned. He peered outside the windows of the Common Room, but there was no owl to be found. The noise continued.
Ron was looking at him curiously but said nothing. Harry cocked his head back, his brows furrowing as he strained to listen.
It was coming from upstairs.
“Hold on a second, Ron. I’ll be right back.” Harry hurried hastily up the stairs and practically flew to the window when he saw the owl waiting outside. The hinges squeaked as he opened the glass pane and gently took the letter from the its beak.
It was expensive parchment. And it had the Malfoy seal.
His heart beating in his ears, he opened it.
Hermione’s with me. She’s safe. I give you my word – and my word is something that I never go back on.
If I do, you have full permission to kill me in cold blood.
Harry stared at the letter in disbelief. So his suspicions were correct. She was with Malfoy.
A year ago, Harry would have gone into an absolutely frenzy and hunted down Draco Malfoy like a bloodthirsty lion seeking its prey.
But something about the letter in his hands stopped him. Something about the words dissuaded him from taking action. Even just looking at the sloped handwriting on the page, he felt it. Harry sensed that something in Draco Malfoy had changed.
And he knew that it had everything to do with Hermione.
* * * *
Malfoy Manor looked just like Hermione had expected it to. It was an incredibly beautiful estate, set on a meticulously cared-for lawn with magnificent gardens and a fountain. The house was a deep tan color, with sharp ebony towers and intricate wrought-iron window frames. But though it was easily the most elegant home she had ever seen, it also carried a certain sad, lonely aura that she recognized all too well.
Hermione and Draco were standing behind a threatening black fence, which was the only obstacle between them and the sloping driveway up to the house. He gently touched her arm.
“You have to salute it to get inside,” he explained, gesturing to the fence. She watched as he raised his hand up to his forehead and slipped like smoke through the fence. She blinked a few times, marveling at the fence’s unique entry enchantment.
He gestured for her to follow him, but she hesitated. “There’s not a charm that prevents… People like me entering?” Hermione asked softly, fearing the answer.
Draco’s chest ached at the expression on her face and he reached through the fence to grasp her hand. “No. And I’m right here.”
She nodded, taking a deep breath and putting the hand he wasn’t holding up in a salute. But she didn’t slip through the fence like she was supposed to. Instead, an angry, contorted face suddenly rose from the metal on the top of the fence and bellowed, “WHO GOES THERE?”
Hermione wrenched her hand out of Draco’s, jumping back in surprise. He murmured a cuss word under his breath and slipped back through the fence to confront the disturbing metal face.
“She’s with me,” he replied sternly, “Let. Her. Through.”
The face frowned and peered at Draco with empty black eyes. “She has dirty blood,” it said in a chilling, gravelly voice.
“She’s with me. If you don’t let her through, I’ll blow you to pieces,” Draco snarled, brandishing his wand.
The face pressed its mouth into a tight line and seemed to be mulling over Draco’s threat. But after a few moments, it sighed begrudgingly and disappeared, melting back into the metal. The fence gates opened slowly to allow them through.
Hermione blinked a few times, willing herself not to be upset. But then he was there, kissing her softly on the temple. “Don’t let it get to you. Please don’t let it get to you,” he whispered in her ear, “You’re the brightest witch of our age, and you’re better than this ages-old prejudice. You know it’s true, and I know it’s true.”
Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at him, his face full of such concern and earnest. She nodded but didn’t reply. He’d said it all. She tried to name the feeling that his words had given her, but couldn’t find an emotion strong enough.
If she’d been honest with herself, a four-letter word would have come to her mind.
Draco, after seeing that she wasn’t able to reply, gently linked arms with her and the two proceeded up the driveway together. Hermione’s heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest as they drew ever closer to the ornate entrance to the manor. She was about to walk into a house of darkness, and she didn’t know what awaited her – something that made her incredibly afraid. She thought about her parents, and how upset they would be if they knew she was about to enter the home of the people that absolutely despised her and where she came from. She thought about Harry and Ron and how worried they must be, and how guilty she felt for keeping this from them.
But those thoughts flew from her mind and were replaced by the hammering of her heart in her ears as they stepped up to the door. Draco’s hand tightened on her arm before he let it drop, taking a step away from her. They had talked about this. No one was to know what was happening between them. Not yet.
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat as the door gently swung open before them. They hadn’t even knocked. She fought the urge to run as a figure came into view, standing in the shadows of the entryway as if waiting for them.
“Hermione Granger,” a soft voice breathed in disbelief.
The figure stepped out of the darkness and into the sunlight brought in by the open door. Hermione swallowed nervously, steadying herself before she spoke.
“I believe you’ve been expecting me, Mrs. Malfoy?”
* * * *
A/N Author’s Note:
Hello my little bunnies!
So you all gave me three guesses as to who was behind the dreams: Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall. All very interesting guesses but none were correct! I’m glad to know that you didn’t see it coming!
Does it being Narcissa make sense to everyone? If not, you’ll get a chance to read all about it in the next chapter!
A big thanks to those that reviewed – they’ve gone down a bit in number, which is a bit sad, but I did have a long period of not updating. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle some new readers!
I’m doing my best to write any time I have free time, so keep checking back for updates. Thanks for your patience!