Harry sat in his office brooding over the events of the past week. Hermione was a mess. Once she had remembered her parents’ tragic deaths, she’d almost given up completely. Everything had come back to her with vicious clarity. Every gruesome image of the scene assaulted her mind, and she hadn’t stopped crying until finally she’d collapsed under the strain of the sorrow. He carried her to the armchair by the window, and held her until her weeping calmed, and sleep claimed her. The whole time, he couldn’t stop thinking ‘Where the hell is Ron?’
Since then, she had not come out of her room. In fact, she had barely left the safety of that same armchair, opting rather to stare out the window in silent vigil. She was mourning their loss all over again. He knew it was unavoidable. She was entitled to the bad memories as well as the good, but it broke his heart to see her like that. There was nothing he could do to stop it, or ease it.
Suddenly the door burst open, and Ron stormed into the room enraged waving a piece of parchment.
“What the bloody hell is this, Harry?” He shook the paper in Harry’s face from across the desk. “I thought you were my best mate?”
Harry stared at him, his ire growing at Ron’s unbelievably selfish, prat like behaviour. He was in no mood for one of Ron’s childish tirades over proverbial spilt milk. Who did this git think he was marching in here, and screaming at him when he’d been mysteriously absent during Hermione’s entire breakdown?
Unable to conceal his own rage, Harry stood, leaned forward on his knuckles, and forced out through gritted teeth. “Where the bloody hell have you been?”
“Never you mind where I’ve been. What the hell do you think you were up to?”
Harry was very close to losing his temper with Ron. “What in Merlin’s name are you talking about?” He growled.
Ron shoved the parchment at Harry from across the desk.
“I’m not stupid, Harry.”
“That is definitely debatable, Ron.” Harry bit back.
“Just read!” Ron snapped.
Grudgingly, Harry sat back down, and began to read aloud from the proffered page while Ron paced the room seething.
“The Lady Really Is A Tramp. By Rita Skeeter.” Harry looked up from the page at Ron in confusion.
“Keep going. It gets better.”
Harry looked back down, and continued on. “Well, it seems Ms. Granger wants to have her cake, and eat it too. She’s not just happy sharing a bed with one Draco Malfoy, but also feels the need to be back in Harry Potter’s arms as well. No wonder these two men have hated one another for so long. This hussy has been playing them against each other since their school days.”
He silently scanned the rest of the article, all of it containing the same derogatory comments as the intro until he came to two pictures at the bottom. One of him holding Hermione as she cried. He recognized the moment in the picture straight away. The second photo was of Hermione sitting on a bed above the covers holding an obviously distraught Draco. In all likelihood, she was comforting him while he was fighting a bout of exceptional pain.
His breathing was rising dangerously, and he could feel the rage start to bubble within him. Rita was going to pay for this. He would make her regret the day she’d ever heard his name. It was one thing when she muddied his name, but Hermione was definitely out of bounds.
Harry looked back up into Ron’s red and raging face.
Trying to hold onto his last vestiges of calm, Harry questioned. “Don’t tell me The Prophet has already published this tripe.”
“Oh, they have, but the Ministry ripped it off the shelves the second it was spotted. The Prophet is in some serious trouble for being in St. Mungo’s without permission, and Skeeter may be sacked for it.”
Something odd occurred to Harry. He was angry, and he could understand Ron’s violent reaction, but why would the Ministry go to such lengths to protect Hermione, Draco, and him? He clenched his jaw, and forced himself to calm down.
“Not that the idea of Rita getting fired is totally unwelcome, but I seriously doubt The Prophet’s going to get rid of their star reporter even when threatened by the Ministry. And for that matter, why would the Ministry care if Rita, and by extension, The Prophet slammed Hermione, Draco, and me? They’ve never cared in the past.”
Harry eyed Ron closely to guage his response. Here, Ron withdrew from his angry stance, and became awkward, and nervous. He began to pace again with an altogether different energy.
“I don’t know mate. Maybe they still want to keep the whole Draco and Hermione thing under wraps,” he supplied lamely.
Harry continued to watch him. Ron had never been very good at lying.
“Ron, what’s going on?”
“What do you mean? Nothing’s going on.” Ron’s voice shot up a full octave. Harry raised his eyebrows at his defensive tone, but decided to let it drop for now.
“I should be asking you that though? Why were you holding her like that? And why was she in bed with Malfoy?” Ron spat.
“You great prat,” Harry yelled, “if you’d been around more instead of gallivanting about doing Merlin knows what, you might know why. Hell, it might have been you holding her.”
“Why? What happened?” Ron asked growing concerned.
“Ron, I think you should sit down.”
“I don’t want to sit.”
Ron took in Harry’s withering stare, and chose to take the seat across from him.
Harry took his time sitting back down. He knew Ron wasn’t going to take this well, especially considering he wasn’t the one who was there for Hermione.
Finally, with a toneless calm, he said, “Hermione remembered her parents’ death.”
Something akin to fear, and shock flitted across Ron’s eyes, and his mouth dropped open.
“She remembered finding them. She remembered seeing how they died. She remembered everything, Ron.”
He just stared at Harry for what felt like an age. Finally gathering himself, he blinked a couple times, and looked around the room.
“And… And, I wasn’t there?”
“No, you weren’t.” Harry supplied.
“And you were?” Ron questioned.
“Yes, I was.”
“Damn it,” he whispered to himself.
Either elbow perched on the armrests of his chair, Ron looked down at his clasped hands, and swallowed the lump forming in his throat.
“Is she alright?” Ron asked meekly.
“No Ron, I would say she’s not alright?” Harry said coolly.
Ron only nodded bowing his head further forward.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me. I was just about to apparate over there to visit her. I’m sure seeing you would help a great deal if you don’t have any other plans.”
The tips of Ron’s ears turned a deep pink, and a small frown began to etch itself onto his freckled face.
“Sure mate. When your ready.” He mumbled.
Nervously, she ventured out of her room. It had been one of the roughest weeks of her life, and she still felt extremely shaken. She hadn’t seen Draco the entire time, but assumed she was being given space to recover. If that was his choice, or the hospital’s, she didn’t know.
She made her way slowly down the hall toward his door but before entering, took a deep breath and steeled herself. She felt a pit of guilt forming in her stomach. The last time she’d seen him, Draco had been in a bad place, and there was a good chance he’d grown worse. Would he think she had abandoned him? Would someone have explained to him what had happened to her? She swallowed down the bile rising in her throat, and pushed the door open.
There on the bed with a movable table between them sat Draco, and Ginny concentrating intensely on a game of Wizard’s Chess. At the sound of the door opening, their eyes shifted to her, and both gave her impossibly wide smiles.
Draco quickly jumped off the bed, and bounded toward her. Throwing his arms around her, spinning her about, and nearly squeezing the life out her, he said, “There’s my girl! I have missed you like crazy.”
He finally put her down, and she looked up at him dazed.
“Well, aren’t we feeling better,” she managed breathlessly.
“Yes, we are,” he beamed. “Mind you, we still don’t like what we’re remembering, but those memories have no bearing on who we are today.”
She put her hand to her head, and tried to regain her sense of balance after his boisterous greeting.
“Can we cease and desist with the use of the royal ‘we’? It’s making my head spin a bit.”
“Of course, Moppet. I have so much to tell you. I admit some of it’s good, and a lot of it’s bad, but I still want you to know.”
He paused a moment, and a cloud of uncertainty passed over his face.
“I also want to know what you could have remembered that would have you holed up in your room for an entire week. It must have been truly horrible.”
They both glanced over to Ginny who was toying with the game pieces that had already been taken trying to ignore their conversation.
She looked up at their pointed silence, and smiled awkwardly.
“Well, I should be continuing on my rounds,” she said sliding off the bed.
“Besides, I’m getting tired of being beaten by you. You know Draco, you should really play Ron one of these days. You might actually give him a real challenge.”
He smiled, and laughed. “Tell him, anytime. I’ll take him down.”
Ginny’s smile faltered momentarily, but she regained herself.
“If you need me, I’ll just be out here in the hall.”
And with that, she gave them one last apprehensive look, and then left the room. Once they were alone, Hermione walked over, and plopped herself in the armchair by the window. Draco climbed back onto his bed, and studied her intently.
“So, about that bad time of yours,” he said finally, worry lacing his voice.
“I think I may need a while with this one. Not that I won’t tell you soon, but it was a really hard memory to deal with,” she responded.
He nodded, and looked down to his hands. Fearing the answer he might get, Draco took a moment to gather the courage for his next question.
“Did it involve me?” He finally asked holding his breath.
“No. No, it didn’t. It was about my family,” she reassured him.
He released the breath in a long exhale, and said, “Good. I’m about done with all the bad blood that was supposed to run between us.”
She smiled up at him. “Me too.”
“Have I mentioned yet how much I missed you?” He said quietly.
She laughed lightly, and said, “I think you have, but I won’t get tired of hearing it.”
“So, care for a game, and a chat.”
She rolled her eyes, but smiled warmly.
“Fine, fine…” she said standing, and taking Ginny’s old place on the bed. “But I’m not very good, so take it easy on me.”
They sat in silence organizing their pieces for a time. When she was done, she looked across the board at him, and marveled at his marked improvement.
“So, tell me. What’s happened to you this week?” She asked.
At this, Draco grinned, and said. “It’s a bit of a long story.”
“I’ve got the time.” She smirked.
As they made their way down the hall, Ron and Harry found Lavender and Ginny in a heated discussion in front of Draco’s room.
“Hello, ladies.” Harry called.
At the sound of his voice, both women jumped.
“Oh, hello Harry, Ron. Good to see you.” Ginny supplied distractedly.
Lavender became very focused on reviewing the charts in her arms.
Growing suspicious, Harry asked. “Did we interrupt something?”
“No, no… We were simply having a progress meeting about a patient.” Lavender responded still not raising her eyes to meet theirs.
“Anyone we know?” Ron asked trying to make the question seem light.
Ginny huffed slightly, and shot him a nasty look. “Ron, you know we can’t answer that.”
“Well then, let me put it this way. How are Hermione, and Draco doing?”
Here, Lavender brought her eyes up, and joined the conversation fully.
“Draco has made some drastic improvements over the last several days. We’ve been able to determine the proper balance of ingredients in the main potion of the treatment. It’s made all the difference.”
Her eyes slid over to meet Ginny’s, and a look passed between them. Ginny visibly calmed at the silent communication, and Harry felt it odd these two unlikely women had become friends.
Before he could get much further with this train of thought, Ginny broke in with, “And Hermione’s finally come out. She’s in there now with him. I’m guessing their doing some catching up.”
Suddenly a shrill scream, and a crash erupted from the room shattering their conversation. The four stood frozen in shock for a brief moment. Ron gathered his wits first, and made for the door followed closely by the other three.
Once inside, they found Hermione standing near a corner staring wide-eyed at Draco’s huddled form on the ground clutching his head.
“What happened?” Harry was finally able to manage.
Still in shock, Hermione pulled her eyes from Draco to meet Harry’s concerned gaze.
“I don’t know exactly. We were playing chess. He’d just finished telling me about his week. I was relating my own discoveries when he…”
Her sentence fell off there, and she looked back down at Draco who was now hugging his knees, and rocking.
“Hey Lav, he looks much better.” Ron tried to joke.
“Shut up, you prat!” Ginny spat.
Lavender knelt down, and threw her arm around Draco’s shoulder.
“Draco,” she called softly. “Draco what happened? Did you remember something?”
His eyes shot up to meet hers, and he held her in a terrified stare. Abruptly he stood, and backed himself into the corner fixing his eyes on Hermione. He began to shake his head, and tears rolled unheeded down his face.
“I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…” he began to sob.
Hermione took a step toward him, but he held out his hand to stop her.
“Stay away from me... Don’t come near me… Please…”
Everyone stood unmoving uncertain what to do, and what was the cause of this.
“Draco, what is it?” Hermione questioned quietly.
“I can’t… I don’t want to…” He swallowed down the emotion, and steeled himself for what he was about to reveal.
“I… I was there,” he uttered.
“Where?” Hermione asked still not understanding.
“There… with them… when they… died,” he finally pushed out.
In one swift sweep, all the air had effectively been sucked out of the room. A yawning, horrible silence stretched on before them all as Hermione stood staring at Draco with no apparent emotion on her face. The four others in turn stole glances at her only to take in her blank, vacant expression.
“Why were you there?” Hermione finally eked out.
“I… I…” was all he could manage.
“WHY WERE YOU THERE?” She screamed. The fury had now taken her over.
“I was with a group of…”
Hermione started nodding viciously, and began to pace.
“And what did you do while you were there?” She forced out through a shaking voice.
“I… I laughed, and tortured them…” His chest began to convulse as wracking sobs tore through him. “And I… I watched them die.”
Hermione stood stock still starring holes through him. The look of utter contempt, and rage marring her face paralyzed the others from action.
“Did you kill them?” She whispered in a deadly calm.
His convulsions had eased, and he was now hunched over slightly. “No…” He muttered. “But I didn’t stop it… Hermione.” He attempted a small step toward her.
She pointed her finger fiercely at him. “Don’t you… ever, ever… It’s over. If you ever come near me again, I’ll…”
In a flash, she tore from the room leaving a gaping silence.
“Oh my God, what have I done?” Draco cried as his knees buckled, and his hands slapped the cold, hard tiles. Down on all fours, he placed his head on the floor, and wept harder than he ever had in his life.
Ron took an angry step forward. Suddenly, Draco let out an ear-splitting scream, and began to convulse, and vomit.
“He’s going into shock.” Ginny called out as she moved forward.
Joined by Lavender, the two women tried to ease him up but could not get him out of the locked position.
Ron, and Harry stood frozen.
“Can one of you help us, please? We have to get him off the floor.” Lavender pleaded.
Harry turned to Ron, and said quietly, “You go check on Hermione. I’ll stay here, and help.”
“Why don’t I stay?” Ron asked eyeing the scene before him.
Staring at Ron’s profile, Harry said, “Because I don’t trust you.”
Ron’s eyes whipped quickly over to meet Harry’s.
“I would never do anything.” Ron said slightly shocked at what Harry was implying.
Unflinching, Harry responded. “I’m not so sure of that anymore.”
Unable to hold his leveled stare, Ron pulled his eyes away, and nodded. Without a word, he turned, and walked out of the room.
“Harry?” Came Ginny’s strained voice.
Harry snapped back to the present, and moved to the floor to help them. Awkwardly, the three lifted a tense, and trembling Draco into his bed.
“We need a stabilizer.” Ginny stated as she moved quickly from the room.
Once they had him relatively calm, Harry looked across from him to Lavender. She was still making small comforting motions of adjusting the blankets, and brushing the bangs from Draco’s forehead. Quiet tears had pooled in her eyes, and were now sliding effortless down her face.
“Lavender,” Harry called softly, “go get a drink of water, or something.”
Almost like a child, she looked to him with wide, pain filled eyes, and nodded.
Harry was now completely alone with Draco. He’d always held a dark belief that Draco was somehow involved in the Great Muggle Attacks. He never thought he’d see the day though when he’d wish with all his might that he wasn’t.
Draco’s eyes opened slightly, and he made a small motion to look around the room.
“Where is everyone?” Draco rasped out.
“Ron’s gone to check on Hermione, Ginny went to get you some pain relief, and Lavender needed…”
Draco held up his hand silencing Harry.
“She needed to get away from me,” he smirked mirthlessly. “Harry, I know I have no right to ask this of you, but I need a favour.”
Harry backed away slightly uncertain if he really liked the sounds of that.
“Don’t worry. It’s nothing that will hurt anyone,” he reassured. “I need you to take care of Hermione, and keep her away from me. I know she hates me now, but I can’t have her forgiving me, and coming back.”
He rolled his head away briefly to push back a surge of emotion, and collect himself.
Returning his gaze to Harry, he said, “I’ve caused her so much pain. Lord knows how much more there is in store. Please Harry, keep her away. She needs to heal, and she can’t do that with me around.”
After a time, Harry nodded, and placed his hand on Draco’s shoulder in comfort. For his part, Draco sighed, and allowed his eyes to roll shut.
Harry looked down at Draco’s now pale face. He couldn’t get over how much had changed in the matter of a few months. That he was now standing here questioning his best friend’s intentions, and that he had grown to care about his old enemy so much.
When he came into her room, Ron found himself plunged into darkness save only for the moonlight casting its glow from the open window.
He could hear her laboured breathing, but could not immediately place where she was in the room.
“Hermione?” He called out softly.
The breathing stopped short replaced by utter silence.
“Love, it’s me. Ron. Please, come out.”
There was no response for a good thirty seconds. Then suddenly, her voice cut through the deafening quiet.
“Go away, Ron. I want to be alone.”
He slowly began to make his way through the shadowed room looking for any sign of movement.
“We both know I’m not going anywhere, so you might as well come out.”
“Are you sure? I mean you seem quite busy lately. Wouldn’t want to pull you away from anything pressing.” Her shaking voice sounded so fragile.
He cursed himself, and everything else that brought this upon her. He wanted to protect her from this pain, not be the cause of it.
He licked his lips quickly, and paused where he stood thinking of how he should proceed.
“Hermione, I’m not leaving. If you don’t want me to talk, fine, I won’t talk. If you don’t want me near, that’s fine too. I’ll sit over here by the loo, but I’m not going anywhere.”
He waited for some kind of response from her for a few excruciating seconds. Suddenly, he saw her darkened form stand in the corner, and come forward.
She glared at him through the darkness with so much anger he stepped back a little. He wouldn’t, however, tear his eyes away from hers.
“Are you happy now?” She asked in a harsh whisper.
He had no idea what she meant, so he shook his head slightly in confusion.
“Are you happy? You were right. He’s a monster.” She said desperately trying to keep the tremor from her voice.
He took a step forward, but her voice stopped him cold.
“Don’t you dare come any closer!” She threatened.
They regarded each other in cold silence. After a moment, she looked out the window at nothing.
“He tortured them, Ron. He saw them suffer, and he enjoyed it. He watched them die, and did nothing. Why would he do that? What kind of person takes pleasure from death?”
She shifted her gaze back to him begging for some kind of answer. Ron couldn’t give one when he didn’t understand it himself.
Without warning, she launched herself at him throwing her arms around his neck, and pressing her lips viciously against his.
He grabbed her arms and pulled himself free, unlatching his lips from hers at the same time.
“What are you doing?” He gasped.
“I need to feel joy, Ron. I need to know pleasure exists. If I don’t, I’ll drown.” She said moving forward, and placing her hands on his face.
“Please,” she begged, “help me remember something happy from my past.”
“Hermione, you don’t know what you’re saying.” He said trying to move away from her.
As she moved closer wrapping her arms around him and tentatively pressing her lips against his, the tears flowed freely down her face.
“Please,” she whispered against his lips before capturing them more fully with her own.
“Hermione,” he moaned as he pulled away. Her soft lips were fogging his brain. “There’s something I have to tell you,” he tried to interject.
She placed her fingers gently on his mouth to silence him, and then after a moment’s consideration, replaced them with her lips. She immediately ventured to deepen the kiss causing him to whimper slightly.
It took him a minute, but he finally responded. In one smooth motion, he bent his knees, encircled her waist, and gathered her closer to him pressing the full length of her body against his own before straightening up again. His right hand moved up to bury itself deeply into her mess of brown curls, while both of hers could not help but take handfuls of his fiery mane.
Without breaking their contact, they moved slowly back until they bumped into the bed. He then gently lifted her up, lowered her onto the soft mattress, and draped only half of himself over her as to not crush her.
In all the times he’d fantasized about the moment they finally came together again, he always thought it would be infused with unbridled, raw passion.
Granted, her touch was electric, and always would be to him, but this quiet lovemaking was a sweet comfort to them both. There was no rush of fumbling hands, or frenzied removal of clothes. He brushed away her tears, and gently kissed her eyes. His reassuring touch calmed her, and his soothing caresses drove her to her edge. Her muted sighs, and whimpers warmly filled the gaping void that had been a part of him for so long, and fed the slow burning build of energy flowing between them. Finally in the height of their pleasure, they reached their climax in a wordless, earth-shattering communion.