He’d hurt her. He knew he had. Yet he couldn’t go back and change it now, couldn’t bring himself to show the love that pounded insistently against the barricade with which he held it so firmly. He couldn’t have her – it would be cruel. He’d taken it too far and now he needed to seize control of himself and end it for the good of both of them.
The thought of Lord Voldemort hurting her was impossible to elude. Then there was Emstilla, and his father, the agreement, the allegiance, and everything else that seemed determined to stand between them.
No matter how hard he tried to drown the love, he could not. He came to the conclusion at last: it’s always in the back of your mind; when everything is dark, still something shines.
He had to find her, before it was too late, before she hated him for what he had done. Most importantly, he had to explain to her his situation.
It was a few mornings later when he brought himself to tell her. She was in the library, and he ushered her outside, but not without noticing the flicker of dread that crossed her face. She stood up wearily, following him out onto the castle grounds, where a small distance away some Ravenclaws were practising for the Quidditch match that was to take place against Hufflepuff just a few weeks from now.
Nervousness gnawed at his stomach, so much so that he had missed breakfast this morning. It was a Saturday, and the clock was creeping towards afternoon. The thought of food sickened him. He led Hermione onto the turf, where he sat down almost at once on the archaic bench dedicated to the memory of Cedric Diggory who had died a year or so ago. Great, thought Draco as he leant back against it, he dies defending his honour and his belief for good, and all he gets in return is a stupid bench. Nonetheless, it served a perfect sitting place, facing the Great Lake where the giant squid oozed and skimmed the surface lazily in the light of the winter sun. The trees overhung it, still damp from the torrent of rain that had soaked the spindly twigs that now dripped water onto their heads, cold and shocking.
Draco shifted slightly, and when he turned to look at Hermione, he saw that she was already crying.
“I know what you’re going to say,” she told him sharply, her voice caressed with hurt and fear. “You’re going to say you don’t want me anymore, you don’t love me . . . I’ve seen the way you look at me nowadays, and it’s with dread, as if you must face something you venerable.” She turned towards him, tears streaming her cheeks, and his heart melted as if someone had stabbed him. “You don’t have to pretend anymore Draco, it’s ok. You don’t even have to tell me. I already know.”
He reached forward and touched her hand. She drew back. “No, Hermione, no!” He pleaded desperately. “That’s not it at all! I love you, and I always will, it’s just whenever I look at you, I feel guilty.”
Her relief turned to puzzlement, and she looked up at him, her brows drawn together in confusion. “Guilty? Why would you feel guilty?”
The wind rose up cold around them, driving into their skin, and Draco stared fixedly at the lake as if determined not to give anything away in his eyes. “I’ve done something . . . really wrong.”
“What is it?” She enquired, leaning forward and turning his face towards her. She kissed his lips gently, feeling the warmth there and the prolific love she had convinced herself she’d lost. “Whatever it is, we can sort it out together.”
“No Hermione, it’s not just wrong. It’s bad . . . really bad.” Anguish crossed her face when he said this. He forced himself to continue. “I haven’t told you some important things about me that you really ought to know.”
She didn’t look at him. The grass beneath them quivered in the cold, and above the rain-clouds moved over them, dull and grey and oppressing. From a distance came the cries of the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain, shouting out instructions and insults to team-mates who were failing miserably in their practice. At last, after what seemed like hours, but was in fact only a matter of minutes, she spoke.
“What have you done?”
The bitterness in her voice almost swayed his resolve, and he was tempted to take her up in his arms and kiss her, to bury his face in the soft vanilla-scent of her hair tell her it was nothing, that their biggest problem was the love that threatened to swallow everything else important to them. But he didn’t. For once, he found strength from somewhere deep inside him, and mustered it up to announce his crimes. It wasn’t every day a Malfoy was truthful, but he supposed when he was with Hermione, he wasn’t a Malfoy at all. He was just himself.
“Do you . . . do you promise not to be angry with me?”
“Just tell me.”
“Ok, but first I need to know – Herm, you can’t interrupt, alright? You have to let me explain. I have to make you understand.”
She turned and glared at him, a hardness in her eyes, but nodded. “Fine. Now go ahead. Tell me.”
He drew a breath. This wasn’t going to be easy. It was almost impossible to put into words that held positive connotations. This is your own fault, he snarled at himself. At least face up to what you’ve done like a man, not like a coward.
“Since I was a child, I’ve been . . .” He forced the words out, knowing he was choking on the hatefulness of them, “betrothed.”
She stared at him, stunned. He hastened on for fear that she would break her promise not to interrupt. He had to explain, had to make her understand . . .
“But I don’t love her,” he tried desperately. “It’s just . . . an agreement my parents made. They expect me to marry her.”
Another silence. They were both still for a long while, the wind engulfing them now and exposing them from the cruelties of the world. Vulnerable and aware of each others grievances, they swallowed the bitterness of love that ached so much.
“What’s her name?” Asked Hermione at last.
“I asked you a question.”
He swallowed at the callousness of her voice. “Emstilla Natal Karkaroff.”
“Karkaroff,” she nodded. “I should have known. I should have known something like this would happen!” She stood up suddenly, her anger bursting from her like the explosion of a powerful spell. She turned to glare down at him. “It’s a fine time to inform me about it, Draco Malfoy. Thank you for your kindness!” Sarcasm took over her. She turned to leave. He grabbed her arm and shook her hard. She turned to stare at him in shock.
“You promised you’d hear me out!”
“I have. And there’s nothing more I have to say to you.” Her wrath had gone beyond tears.
“There’s more,” he admitted regretfully, sinking back onto the bench seat. “And it’s worse.”
“What could possibly be worse?” She screamed incredulously. She wanted to hit him, sat there so solemnly, telling her everything they had gone through together had been a lie. The illusion of him had been just that – a hallucination. Nothing more. She had fallen for a dream, had given her heart away to something that could never exist. Despair washed over her, hitting her with the impact of a wave.
He buried his face into his hands and spoke through them, not being capable to bear the look on her face when he told her the next news. “I’m – I’m a Death Eater, and next week, the Dark Lord is expecting me to bring him Potter, so he can kill him.”
A silence shook the air. Hermione’s heart plummeted down further and she gasped at him, eyes wide, disbelief alive on her face. He stood up and looked down at her. She avoided his gaze, stared straight through him. A Death Eater? How much more was there he hadn’t told her? And was he planning to take Harry to the Dark Lord, just so he could keep his own life free from fear and death? Suddenly she hated him, and with a scream of anger, despair and hopelessness, she ran at him, hitting him with her hands as hard as she could. He stood and allowed her to do it, watching the coursing sheets of tears as if they were the rain thundering down on him itself. Then she stopped, and crumpled down to the floor with shaking sobs. He caught her as she went down, and she sank into his arms. He pulled her body into his, and held her closely, trying to soothe her. His own tears were brimming in his eyes now, but he refused to let the run. He decided to be strong, for both of them.
“Herm, I’m sorry,” he told her truthfully. She didn’t seem to hear his words, just went on crying. He smoothed her hair with his hands; pulled her closer, felt her tears soak the shoulder of his robes. “I can put it right.”
“How?” She looked up at him, glare accusing through the sea of tears. He could tell that beneath the anger he had hurt her, hurt her so badly he feared she would hate him for it forever.
“I don’t know,” he confessed. “I have no idea . . . I just . . .” He brushed the tears from her face with gentle fingers. “I used to obsess over living, now I only obsess over you.” He drew a breath and attempted to kiss her. She didn’t kiss him back, but didn’t turn away either. “I hope I love you all my life.”
Hermione nodded and looked down, holding his hand and pulling back his sleeve. She over-turned it to see the Dark Mark encrusted like a foul blemish on his wrist. She shook her head. “We were condemned from the start.”
“No, I promise you, we weren’t – when I fell in love with you, that night at the Halloween Ball, I wasn’t a Death Eater. It was only just before Christmas, when my father made me . . .” He shook his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well you have to talk about it, Draco,” she snapped, and he looked up, surprised by the poison of her words. “Now you’ve got us both mixed up in all this rubbish, at least have the decency to explain to me why. Tell me everything.”
And so he did, and as late morning turned to afternoon and the day grew colder, she sat there, listening, hanging on to his every word, horror increasing on her face with every passing moment. When he had finished, she sat in silence for a while, unsure what to say.
“Well, at least you’ve told me now, even if it was somewhat later than you should have done.”
He nodded fervently. “Yes, and surely that proves my love for you? I’ve told no one else.”
“Well, you’ll have to,” she said firmly, not looking at him. “We’ll have to tell Harry.”
He stood up in a sudden rage. “Why?”
“Why?” She shouted disbelivingly. “Because he’s involved now too, Draco – because Harry’s the one who’s wanted by Voldemort.” He flinched at the name, and she scowled. “It’s his right to know, and you don’t have any decision in the matter. Now come on.”
He stood up and followed her with dread, her quick pace and confirmation that she did not wish to speak to him, see him, for him even to touch her. He sighed out heavily. How could he had allowed any of this to happen?
Most frightening of all was Hermione’s reaction, and his jealously that Harry Potter was equally as important to her as him.
* * *
“YOU DID WHAT?” Harry exploded when they had told him, in great detail, of all that had befallen Draco and the plan that involved him and Lord Voldemort. If Draco had thought Hermione had been angry, then Harry’s anger was a storm. His emerald eyes flashed liked lightening themselves and his voice was like a roar of thunder. His face flushed with anger as he stood up and began to pace the room. Draco and Hermione sat trying to make themselves as small as possible in the two armchairs in front of the fire inside the Gryffindor Common Room.
“Draco’s not to blame, Harry,” Hermione assured him timidly. His anger had obviously scared her too, for she did not look at him when she spoke. Draco wondered if she were ashamed of him, and decided it was true. After all, wasn’t it he who had betrayed her trust and become a servant of the Dark Lord? Not to mention the whole business with Emstilla. He was glad she had chosen not to mention that to Potter, but decided it was not for his benefit, but her own. She was angry and betrayed at the very thought of it, and informing Harry would only push the hurt further. “His father is the one who pushed him into it. Be thankful he told us, even if it was a little . . . late notice.”
“Thankful?” Harry raucously snarled, looking at Draco as if he were something rancid. “Why should I be thankful? Hermione – look at what he’s done! He’s a Death Eater, for God’s sake! I mean, can’t you see the truth of what he really is, or are you still so stupidly in love your blind to it?”
“This isn’t going to help you, Harry,” she told him quietly. “We need to discuss a way of solving this.”
“Well excuse me for being worried,” he growled icily. “I just can’t believe he’d do a thing like this! Or rather – I can. It’s just what I expected of, in your own words, Hermione – “A foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach”.”
Draco snarled and made to stand up, but Hermione set a hand on his knee and he stopped. This was what she wanted. He’d done enough damage already without defying her further.
“Harry, this isn’t going to help anyone,” Hermione repeated calmly. She stood up and crossed the room to stand beside him, touching his arm gently so that he spun round to confront her gaze with a snarl. “We have a week. A whole week to decide how to get round this. Now it’s not a long time, but it’s better than nothing, so we shouldn’t waste a single minute of it. Draco,” she turned to look at him with no affection in her eyes, “what exactly did the Dark Lord say to you?”
In the heat of their rage, he felt powerless, weak and vulnerable. “He said that in two weeks time, on the next full moon, I was to bring him Potter, so that he could finish this whole prophecy thing and move on to the last battle. That was a week ago, which means there’s only a week left . . .”
The silence was deafening. Draco looked anywhere but at them – the fire, the window, at last settling on the floor. At last Potter cleared his throat and marched over, wrenching back the sleeve of his robe and staring coldly at the mark, offering no clue as to what he was thinking.
“Well,” he said sarcastically. “Thanks for telling us, Malfoy.”
“I told you as soon as I could –”
“What, a week later?” He shook his head with disgust. “You really are a coward.”
The two glowered at each other and even Hermione didn’t dare to say anything. Harry scowled and sat back down, Hermione following his example. The fire spat and crackled mockingly in the hearth and the emptiness of the common room exposed them. They needed a plan, but what sort of great scheming plot could avoid Lord Voldemort himself? They would all end up dead. Personally, he thought it was only wise for Potter to sacrifice himself for all of them, and was about to say so when Harry looked up in surprise.
“That’s it! We can do this!” He turned to look at Granger with wide vivid eyes. “Hermione, I need to face Lord Voldemort anyway, right?”
Hermione nodded slowly. “Right . . .”
“And the Order . . . the Order said that it would support me whatever happens –”
“ – of course they will,” Hermione interrupted. “They’re sole ambition is to rid the world of evil . . . Harry, you know you only have to say the word and they’ll come running.”
“Exactly,” Harry said firmly with a smirk.
“Potter, what exactly are you getting at here?” Draco asked with somewhat confusion, frowning, his eyes spitting sparks of hate.
“Malfoy will take me to the Dark Lord in one week’s time, on the full moon, as promised.” A horror caught them, leaving the other two staring at him in shock. But Potter hadn’t finished. “But, what Voldemort doesn’t know, is that all this is a plan. I expect your dear Dark Lord will have all his Death Eaters with him?”
“So the Order can lay in wait. When Voldemort thinks he’s got me – they can come out from their hiding places in the Forbidden Forest, and combat the Death Eaters. That leaves me to kill Voldemort without any disturbances. One on one. The last stand.” He glanced at Hermione. “That’s what the Prophecy says . . . I’m the only one who can kill him.”
“Harry, no,” Hermione pleaded.
“Hermione, this has to happen. It’s now or later, and frankly I’d like to get it all over and done with now, when I’m one step ahead.” His gaze shifted to Draco. “We’ll have to trust you on this, Malfoy. I only hope you love Hermione enough to do this . . . to change sides.”
“But . . . what about my father?” Draco stuttered, almost lost for words. “I can’t allow him to die.”
Harry shrugged. “That’s your problem. You got us all into this mess in the first place, therefore it’s your job to sort it out.” He stepped up close, his face inches from his nemesis. Draco could feel the heat of Potter’s breath against his skin, hot and scorching, angry and dangerous. The sensation of Potter’s green eyes burning into his sent him off-balance, but he met the stare with a steely determination. “Don’t mess us about on this one, Malfoy, because if you do, then I swear my vengeance will come swiftly. Got it?”
Draco swallowed but refused to allow any emotion to creep into his voice. “Right. Clear as glass.” He didn’t drop the glare.
Finally, Harry looked away, bristled slightly, and turned to smile awkwardly at Hermione. “I’m going to get some sleep. We’ll talk more about this in the morning.”
She nodded and they both stood in silence as Harry disappeared up the set of stairs leading to the Gryffindor male dormitories. Finally Hermione turned to him, her face a picture of worry and wrath.
“I still can’t believe you’ve done this.”
He avoided her gaze. “Yeah, well, I can’t turn back time now, unless you happen to have a time-turner on you.”
She smiled slightly, the cold anger melted a little by the sunny light of that one movement. “We destroyed them all at the Ministry last year, I remember telling you.” She stepped up to him, her hand caressing the side of his face. “Do you think everything will be ok?”
He shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know, but I know I’ll do my best to put this right. And then, when it’s all finished, we can start again. Together. I won’t let any one break us apart, not even this betrothal thing.” He flushed pink slightly as she frowned that he’d approached the subject again. He leant forward and kissed her gently, trying to give her reassurance. “We’ll be together again, I promise. Nothing can separate us now.”
The windows shook against the sudden uprising of the wind and she buried her face into his shoulder, not wanting this moment to ever end.
(Ok people, so I know Hermione really didn't say that line - "foul loathesome evil little cocroach" in the books, only in the film, but I just had to add it in. Forgive me?
Please read and review - and a great thanks to all my faithful reviewers who never falter to respond and reveal their opinions. I love you all! We haven't got long to go with this story now, just about three more chapters, and then I can get down to validating my other fics which have so patiently been waiting for ages!! Hope I didn't disappoint . . . wow, we find ourselves drawing towards the end after such a long time. Stay with me people, please!! Thanks, Dracana. xx)
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