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Return After The War by fromtheashes248
Chapter 6 : Collisions
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 32

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A/N: I am soooo sorry that this took so long to get to you. It was originally rejected and, for those of you who have had chapters rejected, you know it has to back through the queue, so it took awhile. Anyway, here it is, chapter six! Are you excited? I am, but for entirely different reasons. Obviously, I know what happens (I wrote it, after all), but I’m very excited for everyone else to read it. Now, some of you may be wondering why Dumbledore calls Hermione “Miss Granger” when he calls Draco by his first name. It’s just habit, and Hermione doesn’t mind; in fact, I think she prefers it that way. I hope you all enjoy what happens in this chapter, I know I enjoyed writing it. I think that’s all you need to know right now… Please, don’t forget to review!!! And as always, enjoy!

Chapter 6: Collisions 

A mixture of surprise, confusion, understanding, and (if he wasn’t mistaken) a bit of curiosity were all etched clearly on Hermione’s face. Draco hadn’t been planning on asking her to stay, but the moment she said she was leaving, fear had gripped him and he knew he couldn’t face this news (whatever it was) alone. It was terrifying to admit that he needed her, or that he needed anyone at all for that matter, but he knew that she was the one person that he could trust completely. And in his entire life, the only person that had ever truly scared him was his father.

Hermione, for her part, was quite shocked that Draco wanted her there. But obviously, this was hard for him; she wouldn’t want to be alone either. His hands were clenched around the armrests of his chair, knuckles white from the pressure. She placed her hand gently over his and rubbed her thumb over his knuckles in a comforting way as Dumbledore placed himself back behind his desk. Draco’s tension eased almost instantly at her touch. He entwined his fingers with hers, silently thanking her for her unquestioning support. Hermione gave his hand a reassuring squeeze and turned to face the Headmaster with patient eyes.

Dumbledore watched the entire exchange with hidden amusement. This may be a rather solemn occasion, but he was nevertheless pleased to see that things between to the two previous enemies were moving along swiftly. And he was very pleased that Draco’s attachment to Hermione seemed to be more emotional than physical at the moment; the boy had certainly grown. “Well,” he began, “as I was just telling you, Draco, before Miss Granger arrived, we can do this one of two ways. I can read your father’s will in the way it was legally written, or I can simply tell you what it says without going through all the legal whatnot.”

“I would prefer it if you just told me what it says, sir; I probably wouldn’t understand much of what you were talking about it you read it word for word.” Draco’s voice was toneless and hollow.

“Of course. As I am sure you know, your father’s assets were rather extensive. He had holdings in quite a few very successful businesses, not to mention his family’s –”

“Please, sir. I’m well aware of Lucius’ business ventures; he made a point of making sure I was well informed on how to follow in his footsteps. If you could please just tell me what he left me, if anything.”

“That’s just it, my boy. He left you everything.”

To say he was shocked could not aptly describe what Draco was feeling upon hearing this. “What? But… how? Knowing Lucius, he wrote me out of his will the second my mother and I left.”

“And so he did. But he only ever took your name out, Draco. And because he never took the time to specify any other person to inherit, when he died, everything went to his closest living heir… you.”

“Excuse me,” Hermione broke in. “I’m sorry, but Draco killed his father. Should he legally be allowed to inherit? Sorry,” she added, sending Draco an apologetic glance.

“No, that’s a good point, sir. After what happened, shouldn’t Lucius’ estate be given to the closest living heir that wasn’t responsible for his death?”

“Well, that is the normal course of things, yes, simply because most wizards and witches specify in their wills that if they are murdered, their attacker cannot inherit. However, Lucius did no such thing. The rest of your family are Death Eaters, or were at least sympathetic with Voldemort’s cause, so your father had nothing to fear from them since he was so well protected. And I highly doubt he saw you as a threat, Draco; surely he believed he would dispose of you before you could kill him. Not to mention the fact that during the final battle, your father fired the first spell between the two of you, so it could very easily be argued that his death was a result of self-defense on your part.”

Draco sat back silently for a few moments, absorbing what the Headmaster had said. It was true that Lucius had fired the first spell, but even if he hadn’t Draco would have sought him out to fight. After Lucius had found and killed Draco’s mother, there had been a fire in him burning for revenge and justice. Well, he had certainly gotten it. And now this will… had he truly inherited everything? The thought was mind-boggling. After a few minutes of contemplation during which Dumbledore and Hermione waited patiently, he said, “Sir, could you perhaps be a little more descriptive of what you mean when you say I inherited everything?”

“In short, Draco, you are now owner of and responsible for all of Lucius’ investments and stocks, not to mention his personal fortune and his two vaults at Gringotts’. Add to that your mother’s estate and I assure you, Draco, that money will never be an issue for you. And of course, you have Malfoy Manor.”

“Well, I’ll be tearing that down the first chance I get,” Draco said immediately.

“Do not be so hasty, my boy. Whatever memories might be in that house for you, it has been in your family for centuries. This could be your chance to change it, Draco.”

Draco took a moment to ponder the Headmaster’s words. He didn’t know what to do. That house represented everything that was wrong and twisted in his childhood, but at the same time, it was also where he had the happiest memories of his mother. “I’ll have to think about it, sir,” he finally said quietly.

Hermione gave his hand another supportive squeeze. He turned to her and smiled appreciatively; her look clearly said that she was there for him, whatever he might need. But however much Hermione was helping him, he needed to go somewhere and really think about all this. Dumbledore seemed to know this somehow.

“I need to give you the keys, Draco, and then you may go.”

“Right,” he said. He let go of Hermione’s hand for the first time and stood to take the bag Dumbledore held out to him. It seemed too small and plain for all that it held inside it.

“Now, you understand that by accepting these keys you are accepting all of Lucius Malfoy’s possessions and moneys, and the responsibilities therein?”

“Yes, sir, I do.” Draco took the bag and weighed it in his hand absentmindedly; it was heavier than it looked.

“Well, then, Draco, Miss Granger, you may go.”

Both of them said, “Thank you, sir,” and left. As they walked back toward their dorm, an odd silence hung between; neither of them knew what to say. Both were lost in thought. “Forgiveness,” Hermione mumbled to Sarah when they arrived at her portrait.

Once they were inside, Draco sat down heavily on the couch, still silent, the bag of keys in his hand. He was starting to worry her. She went into her room to grab some clothes (light jeans and a dark blue sweater) before heading into the bathroom to shower. When she came out, he was still sitting on the couch staring into the fire; it looked like he hadn’t moved at all.

“Are you hungry?” she asked tentatively, twisting her fingers together. He shook his head no. “Well, I think I’ll head over to Gryffindor tower to see everyone.” She had a feeling that he wanted to be alone. “I’ll see you later, then.”

“I’m gonna keep it,” he said quietly.

“Keep what?”

“The house. Malfoy Manor, I’m going to keep it. My mother… she would want me to keep it, to change it like Dumbledore said… But I have to clean it out, throw out all of his… things. Tomorrow,” he said resolutely, “I’ll start tomorrow.”

“Okay. I’ll go with you.”

“Granger, you don’t have to –”

“I know I don’t… but you don’t have to do everything alone, you know.”

“Yeah… thanks.”

“No problem. I’ll see you later.”

Draco watched her walk out with a small smile on his face, appreciating the way her hips swayed. He turned around to face the fire again, shaking his head. He was starting to get seriously tangled up in her, and the thing of it was, he was really starting to like it.

Hermione woke up Draco earlier than he would have liked the next morning, but she didn’t see why they should waste any time doing any thing other than what they had to do. By all accounts, Malfoy Manor was a very large place and it would take quite a while to clean out everything that Draco wanted. Not in the mood to cook, and staunchly refusing to allow Dobby to come cook for them, she dragged Draco down to the Great Hall for breakfast.

“I still don’t see why we couldn’t ask Dobby to cook for us. He probably would have enjoyed it,” Draco said grumpily as he scooped scrambled eggs onto his plate. He wasn’t looking forward to the day ahead, for obvious reasons. Add that to the fact that Hermione had rudely awakened him from a very pleasurable dream that had involved the both of naked (and then he hadn’t been able to grab hold of her and make that situation real), and he understandably wasn’t in the best of moods.

“There’s no reason to make him serve us! Especially when there’s a perfectly good breakfast down here!” She fully blamed Draco for her less-than-cheery attitude this morning. When she had woken him, his eyes had been blurry and lust-filled, and the urge to crawl into bed with him had been nearly overwhelming; it didn’t help that he had been without a shirt. “Good morning,” she said more calmly when Harry, Ron, and Ginny arrived in front of where they were sitting at the Gryffindor table.

“Morning,” said Harry and Ginny. Ron said nothing; it annoyed him that Hermione and Draco had chosen to sit next to one another rather than across from each other.

“Hermione,” Ginny said after she had served herself, “I didn’t understand a thing that McGonagall was talking about when she brought up Restoring Spells. Could help me with my paper today?” Ginny sent her a winning smile.

“Is it due tomorrow?” Hermione asked.

“No, it’s not due until next week, but as I’m having trouble, I figured I had better give myself as much time as possible.”

“Oh, good. I can’t today, Gin. Maybe tomorrow after class?”

“That’s fine, thanks.”

“What have you got today?” asked Ron.

“Draco and I have some, er… business to attend to,” she answered without meeting his eyes.

“What sort of business?” Harry wondered in an absentminded sort of way. He was trying to decide what to eat, but it was very difficult to make any sort of decision at the moment. Ginny had, somehow, wound up sitting between him and Ron, and it was very hard to think when her alluringly familiar scent was surrounding him.

“Oh, well… it’s, er… well, we, um –”

“It’s alright, Hermione, you can tell them,” Draco interjected, staring at his plate.

“Tell us what?” Ron sounded worried. There can’t be anything going on between them. Can there?

“Yesterday, Dumbledore told us what was in Lucius Malfoy’s will. Draco has been left everything, including Malfoy Manor. We’re going there to clean it out today.” Draco appreciated Hermione’s simplicity in telling them, but hearing her say it aloud only made the fact that they were heading there all the more real.

Harry took one look at Draco’s miserable face and made a quick decision. “We’re coming, too.”

“What?” Draco and Ron said at the same time. Draco’s head came up swiftly; he was sure he had heard Harry wrong. Ginny only nodded her head and kicked her brother under the table, agreeing with Harry completely; she too had looked into Draco’s eyes and seen the pain he was trying to hide.

“We’re not letting you do this alone, mate.”

“But –”

“Besides,” Ginny added, “it will get done quicker with all of us rather than if it was just you and Hermione, won’t it?”

Ron had only just realized that if they didn’t go along, Hermione and Draco would be all alone in that big house. Undoubtedly there were quite a lot of bedrooms, which meant a lot of available beds. Not that anything could ever possibly happen, he assured himself. But just to be sure, he said, “Yeah, we’ll help.” Hermione beamed at all of them; her smile was the only assurance Ron needed to know he had made the right decision.

“You don’t have to –” Draco began, but Harry cut him off.

“Yes, we do. Friends don’t let friends handle family issues alone,” he said with a smile.

“Oh, right. How could I have missed that?” Draco answered sarcastically with a smirk. “Thank you,” he added with sincerity. “I, ah, left the keys upstairs; I’ll be right back.” He stood up and walked quickly out of the Hall, needing distance.

Hermione knew full well that Draco had the keys in his pocket, but decided not to say anything, understanding why he needed to leave for a bit. Turning to her friends, she said, “You have no idea how much it means to him that you’re coming to help.”

“Do you think we should get Neville and Luna as well?” Ginny asked.

“No,” Hermione said. “I don’t think Draco would be comfortable with them.”

“Yeah,” added Harry with a grin. “Besides, they look a little busy at the moment, don’t they?” He gestured toward the Ravenclaw table where Neville and Luna had chosen to sit that day. As usual, they were practically shagging each other in the middle of breakfast; other students were giving them a wide berth.

“Why were you there?” Ron suddenly burst out.

“What?” Hermione said, completely lost.

“You said that Dumbledore told you both about Malfoy’s will. Why were you there?”

“Oh, look, Draco’s back! Are you all ready to go, then?” she said, grasping at Draco’s reappearance desperately to save herself from having to answer Ron’s question. She knew that they would find out eventually what had happened in the library, but she didn’t want to get into it yet, and she didn’t see how she could explain being present for the reading of Lucius’ will without it coming out.

Harry only raised his brows and stood. He puzzled at her Hermione’s lack of answer as they walked out of the castle towards Hogsmeade. Something’s going on between them, he thought. But what is it? Once they passed the Three Broomsticks, Draco gave them the exact address and they Apparated to Malfoy Manor with a series of pops. Ginny, of course, had to Side-Along Apparate with Ron. 

“Whoa,” said Ron as they all stood looking up at the huge Manor. Hermione could only agree; the place was huge, not to mention darkly beautiful. An intricately detailed black wrought-iron gate stretched high above their heads. Draco took out the key and opened the gate. An ominous creaking followed them up the walk to the house as the gate closed and locked itself again. The walk was paved with dark stones of different shapes and sizes. The house itself was built of dark, weathered stones that seemed centuries old, and probably were. From what Hermione could see, at least a hundred windows were winking in the morning sunlight.

“The inside isn’t too bad,” Draco said nervously when they reached the front door. “Lucius mostly left the decorating up to my mother and obviously he couldn't have any Dark objects sitting out if important Ministry members came by; there’re only a few rooms that we need to clear out.”

“Which rooms?” Ginny asked quietly.

“His study, the attic, his personal library… and the dungeons.”

“You have dungeons?” Ron asked incredulously.

“Most old Wizarding houses have dungeons, Ron,” Hermione cut in. “I read about it in Wizarding Architecture of Great Britain.”

“Of course you did,” he mumbled.

Draco still hadn’t opened the door, and he seemed reluctant to do so. Hermione placed her hand it his and gave it a squeeze. Ron noticed this and scowled. Draco took a deep breath, placed the key in the lock, and with a quiet click the door opened. They walked into a large, darkened foyer; with a flick of his wand, Draco turned the gas lamps on.

Hermione stared in awe, her hand still entwined with Draco’s. It was dark, certainly, but beautiful. Dark wood, dark walls, gorgeous antiques. To her left and right there were rooms that she only had a chance to glimpse into; Draco was walking purposely towards the stairs, pulling her with him. The rest followed them up. Up and up they walked until they reached what Hermione guessed was the attic door.

“I figure we could start at the top and work our way down.” The longer he could put off going down to the dungeons, the better. “Get ready,” Draco warned them. “It isn’t so pretty from here.” He opened the creaking door and they were hit with a blast of stale, foul air. He led them cautiously up the narrow stairway into a dimly lit room that reeked of Dark magic. Everywhere they looked were objects in honor of the Dark Arts.

“It’s worse than Grimmauld Place,” Ginny muttered.

“So, what goes?” Harry asked after a moment.

“Everything,” Draco answered with bitterness in his voice. “Every goddamn piece in here goes. Be careful what you touch.”

“Oh, I’ve taken care of that,” Hermione threw in, pulling out a pair of dragon-hide gloves for each of them. Everyone turned to look at her. “I just remembered when we were trying to clean out Grimmauld Place, and, you know, I figured we could use them.”

She handed them out and they started to work silently. It was dreary work, but interesting at the same time, Harry thought, since a lot of what they were throwing out was reminiscent of what they had found in Grimmauld Place. Luckily, however, it seemed Lucius had not felt the need for Permanent Sticking Charms on the walls and they were able to remove the grotesque scenes of torture that hung there; they looked like the very same pictures Severus Snape had hung in his classroom when he had been Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.

When they finished the attic a few hours later, it was completely bare. There was no furniture left at all, since Draco had even insisted that they remove all the little tables that had been in use. They moved on to Lucius’ study. Outside the door, Draco’s insides turned to ice for a brief moment, remembering. The attic hadn’t been that hard; memories of that room were scarce because he had been allowed in there so rarely. But he had been tortured in this room, not only in a physical sense, but psychologically and emotionally as well. He wondered whether he would be able to cross the threshold, but then Hermione’s hand was on his arm and her voice was whispering reassuringly in his ear. He didn’t hear what she said, but the ice disappeared and he was suddenly able to walk through the door. Why she was such a calming presence he didn’t know, but he did know that he would never have been able to get through this without her.

Harry, Ron, and Ginny weren’t oblivious to the connection that had appeared suddenly between Hermione and Draco. Harry and Ginny, though slightly confused as to why, had no problem with it, but Ron felt very differently. It was extremely worrying that Hermione was so close to their former enemy. But how to deal with it? He puzzled over it while they cleaned out Lucius’ study in the same steady, silent fashion with which they had dealt with the attic.

Hermione was never too far from where Draco was, worrying over him the way she did with Harry and Ron. Draco kept stealing glances at her unconsciously as if to reassure himself that she was still there, as though he couldn’t believe she would choose to be there. No one had ever stood beside him the way she and her friends were, not even Pansy.

When it came time to start removing the furniture, the three men were the ones to do it. They carried out every small piece individually, but the desk took all three of them to carry out. Though they were all aware that it could have been done with magic, Draco wanted to do it by hand. It was much more satisfying to purge the house with his own hands, alongside some of the people that his father had hated the most.

They carried it down out into the backyard where Draco planned to have it all picked up later in the week. They re-entered the house through the back door that led right into the vast kitchen. Draco leaned up against the marble counter (Slytherin green with silvery-gray veining).

“Why don’t we all take a break?” Harry suggested when he saw how drained Draco looked. “Is there any food in this place?”

“Ah, there should be. The pantry and kitchen have a charm that fills them with food every week and replaces whatever’s gone bad.”

“Wicked,” said Ron. “I’m starving.”

“When aren’t you starving, Weasley?” Draco said with a smirk.

“It’s pretty much a twenty-four hour thing, actually,” he replied. “I’ll go get the girls.” He disappeared into the hall.

Harry turned toward Draco with a concerned air. No one understood family dysfunction better than Harry. “How are you holding up?”

“Honestly, I’d like nothing better than to burn this bloody place to the ground.” Harry only nodded with understanding “But I know my mother wouldn’t want that. And if for no other reason than that I know it would piss Lucius off, I’m gonna change this place into something worth living in.”

“Sounds like a good plan. How are you planning on managing that?”

“I have no idea.” They were both laughing when Hermione, Ginny, and Ron walked in. Hermione was vastly relieved to see a smile on Draco’s face, the first of the day. “Help yourselves,” he said to the room at large.

As the other three began rummaging through the cabinets, Hermione walked over to where Draco was still leaning against the counter. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly, her hand rubbing his arm. His skin was vibrating where she touched it.

“Yeah. Hermione…” he trailed off, not knowing how to express his gratitude.

“I know,” she said with a soft smile. “Come on, you need to eat.”

They had a simple but satisfying lunch of sandwiches and potato chips that Ron found in one of the cabinets. It was odd, but Draco had never felt more at home in his own kitchen. He listened to Hermione joking with Harry, and Ginny giving Ron a hard time for stealing her chips. He was drawn into a conversation with Harry and Ron about the Tutshill Tornados chances that year. Hermione was meanwhile trying to explain the theory of Restoring Spells to Ginny, who seemed completely dumbfounded. Hermione turned her head and sent Draco a small, slightly exasperated smile before returning her attention to Ginny. Something shifted and settled in his heart. He didn’t know what it was, but it felt right.

Before long it was time to return to their gloomy task. After finishing up the study, they headed down to Lucius’ private library. Draco didn’t know how many hours his father had forced him to sit in this room reading passages from various books dedicated to the Dark Arts. He thought there might even be a few books about the correct way to go about torturing and killing Muggles.

Luckily, the room wasn’t very large and it took them under two hours to rid the place of every Dark book it contained, which was basically every single book there. Hermione had thought it would pain her to send books off to their inevitable destruction, even though they were filled with evil and disgusting ideas and purposes, but this wasn’t the case. In fact, she felt only relief and joy as they carried the book filled boxes into the back yard. A library, she felt, should be a safe place for learning, not something to be feared.

All too soon for Draco it was time to head down to the dungeons. And he really, really didn’t want to go down there. He had many horrible memories of the dungeons, the worst of all occurring Christmas of sixth year.

He remembered getting off the train at Kings’ Cross and wondering why no one was there. He hadn’t really expected his father to be there, but his mother had never before been absent when he came home for break. Pansy’s father offered to help Draco Apparate home (using Side-Along Apparition, of course) and he accepted. When he had arrived home he had initially thought no one was there; perhaps his parents were out shopping? But no, his mother’s warmest cloak was hanging by the door as always, and she never went out during winter without it.

A horrible thought struck him, and he ran down into the dungeons, telling himself what a good laugh he would have when he saw it was empty. But the laughter never came. Instead of an empty cell, he found his mother lying barely conscious, more badly beaten than he had ever seen her, whimpering pitifully in the back of her throat. One of her eyes was swollen shut, and her robes were bloody and torn. Magically unlocking the cell, he kneeled carefully next to her. “Mum?” He shook her gently, trying to bring her around. “Mum, wake up, we have to leave.”

She slowly opened her eyes and focused them on Draco blearily. “Draco, you’re home,” she sighed hoarsely. Despite how badly she was hurt, her only emotion in that moment was happiness at seeing her son. But then she suddenly remembered what had happened and where she was. Fear shadowed her face. “Draco, you have to get out of here. Your father was in a terrible temper this morning, and if he knows you’ve been down –”

“I don’t care, Mum. We’re getting out of here.”

“But your father –”

“We’re leaving. We should have left years ago. Do you know where he put your wand?”

“It should be in the drawing room where I left it.” Her voice was weary and defeated.

“Okay, we’ll grab it on the way. Can you stand? Here, let me help you.” He began to lift his mother from the floor, but froze as a cold voice issued from behind him. He placed his mother safely behind him, and turned to face his father. A statue-like figure of pale arrogance stood before him with eyes like chips of ice.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk, Draco. Haven’t I told you that you are never to come down here when your mother is being taught a lesson? Obedience is a virtue, one it seems you still have not learned. Cru –”


The spells ricocheted off each other in mid-air. Both men stood with wands still raised, momentarily stunned. Never, in over sixteen years of beatings (or what Lucius preferred to call ‘lessons’), had Draco ever raised his wand to his father. Lucius recovered first.

“You dare to raise your wand to me, boy?” He laughed cruelly. “You are a fool –”

Petrificus Totalus!” Draco bellowed before his father could move. Lucius’ body went rigid and fell to the floor with a resounding thud. Draco walked over to where his father was now laying, wand still in hand, glaring up at his son with utter hatred. He stomped on Lucius’ wand, snapping it in two and kicking away the broken piece. “You talk too much, Father.”

He walked away, back to his mother’s side. She was sitting on the cold stone floor of her cell, terrified. He helped her up and together they left the house. Within a year she would be dead, killed by her own husband, because her son had asked her to leave with him.

Draco forced his mind back to the present harshly. The only way he was going to get through this was to blank his mind completely. They stood behind him at the top of the stairs that led down to the dungeons, waiting for his go-ahead. When none came, Hermione stepped forward. She didn’t have to know what happened to comprehend that it was exceptionally more difficult for Draco to enter the dungeon; she could guess well enough for herself what sort of memories the place might hold for him.

“Draco, we don’t have to do this today,” she said calmly. He turned to face her and the desperate pain in his eyes broke her heart. She raised her hand to his cheek and could feel the slight trembling of his body the instance her fingers touched his flesh. Draco closed his eyes briefly and breathed in her scent: vanilla and lavender today, calming, soothing, as was she.

He wasn’t worthy of her. She had spent the entire day surrounded by the evidence of the evil with which he was raised, and still she stood by him, understanding without needing to be told.

Ron watched all this with a dull sense of shock and fear. What is with this connection between them? She should be connected like that with me, not Draco sodding Malfoy. But then as soon as it began it ended, and Ron was almost able to convince himself that he had imagined the whole thing… almost.

Draco opened his eyes and Hermione dropped her hand back to her side. “No, I do have to do this today. Otherwise, it’s like he’s won.” He spoke so only she could hear.

“Okay, then let’s go, together.” She took his hand and led him down. It looked like a dungeon should. Dark and dank, wet looking walls, the heavy smell of decay and despair; there were five cells in total and all of them thickly barred. The idea that people had actually been kept inside those cells, against their will, was revolting.

In theory, it was simple work, much easier to clean than the previous rooms had been. They simply had to clear out moldy straw, broken gas lamps, the odd stool that sat in the corner, and the occasion rodent skeleton. In reality, however, it was far more difficult. Draco wasn’t the only one of them that could hear the echoing cries of prisoners from centuries past. But as far as he knew, the only occupants of these cells in the last quarter century had been he and his mother.

Hermione suggested they do away with the bars that closed every cell and Draco felt that he had never heard a more brilliant idea. So, using magic, they each took a cell and began to remove the bars attached to it. Draco made a point of claiming the cell that had held his mother for the last time.

The task of removing those bars eased the heavy burden on his heart, one that he had barely been aware of until it lifted. It was almost as if he was liberating his past, and was finally giving his mother’s memory some peace. These cells would never again hold helpless victims or frightened souls. And never again would his father be able to hurt either of them, or anyone that Draco loved.

He stood for a moment staring at the inside of the cell, now nothing but bare stone walls and floor, knowing with total confidence for the first time that he had done the right thing. In the months to come he was going to turn Malfoy Manor into what his mother had always wanted but had never truly gotten: a home.

The next few days were some of the best Draco had ever experienced at Hogwarts. It was as though the dark cloud that had been following him around for years had suddenly passed on. When Hermione, Harry, Ginny, and Ron had helped him clear out Malfoy Manor, it had occurred to him that they were real friends (yes, even Weasley to a certain extent), something he had never experienced before (except maybe with Pansy, but he still wasn’t able to think about her without getting outrageously pissed off), and he was letting himself enjoy it.

Meanwhile, Hermione was nearing internal combustion. It was pure torture being around Draco so often and not being able to touch him the way she wanted to. And there were moments when she knew he wanted her just as badly. The way he would back away from her suddenly sometimes, as though just realizing he was seconds away from grabbing her. The way he would look at her when he didn’t think she was watching, eyes full of… she didn’t really know what it was, but it felt dangerous and wonderful. The way he would let his fingers trail over the back her hand, leaving her skin tingling and her body throbbing with wanting more.

There were times that she truly believed he was just playing with her; every time he smirked she wanted to throw him against the nearest wall. And if he didn’t make a move soon, she was going to pull a Luna and jump him.

One night in mid-October, she was sitting on the couch in the Heads’ Common room, brushing up on the effects of Polyjuice Potion. This was, of course, unnecessary, since she had used it so frequently in the past year; she was well aware what it felt like to transform into someone else, and she was also aware of how it felt when the transformation went wrong. She had been half-cat for part of her second year, after all. But it was very hard to concentrate when Draco was on the other side of the room, bent low over one of the tables and scribbling out an essay.

He had removed his outer robe and tie, and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt. He kept running his hands through his hair, and, God, she could picture so perfectly running her fingers through it. She knew it was ridiculous, but the way the muscles in his forearm rippled slightly as he wrote, the way his brow furrowed every so often – it was driving her mad.

As her frustration reached its peak, she became suddenly angry. She was unconsciously glaring at him, waiting for him to glance in her direction; she was going to give him an earful. It was just plain wrong what he was doing, sitting over there, looking sexy as hell and making her wait. But he seemed completely absorbed in whatever it was that he was writing and didn’t notice her stare.

Without even thinking, Hermione slammed her Potions book on the table in front of her and watched with satisfaction as Draco nearly flipped his chair over in shock. “Jesus, Granger, what the hell was that for?”

“It was an expression of frustration,” she said, standing up.

“Frustration with what?” he asked, totally bewildered. He noticed that she was angry, though he couldn’t possibly fathom why. It occurred to him how good she looked when she was pissed off. Not to mention that she was wearing some of her Muggle pajamas, a little red T-shirt that was snug around her breasts and long, loose pants that hugged her hips; a very pleasing sight indeed.

“What are you waiting for? Are you just slow, or stupid, or both?” She put her hands on her hips and took a few menacing steps towards him.

“Hermione, what the bloody hell are you on about?” He stood up as well because, for one, he was tired of looking up at her, and for another, something was telling him he wanted to be on his feet.

“Why is it,” she ground out, moving closer, “that every time you start touching me, you stop yourself? Why is it that every time you almost kiss me, you back away from it?” She was inches from him now, her face unbearably close to his.

He was completely taken aback. Where did this come from? He couldn’t think with her this close. Her scent cunningly wrapped itself around him, vanilla and honey, sweet nectar that he was suddenly dying to sample. But he could only stutter out, “No I don’t.” Great comeback, Draco.

“Yes you do. Every single time. Like on my birthday –”

“Hold on, that’s diff–” he began, but she continued as though she hadn’t heard him.

“– I told you flat out that I wanted you, but did you do anything? No, you bloody well didn’t!”

He grabbed her arms and pulled her against him roughly, trapping her arms between them, and in his anger didn’t see the flash of victory in her eyes. “I’m not going to apologize for that. You were drunk and in a vulnerable position. You should be thanking me for not taking advantage when it would have been very easy to do so.”

“Do I look drunk or vulnerable to you now?”

“No,” he said slowly, gentling his grip on her. “No, that you don’t.”

“Then what’s stopping you this time?” she asked, her voice husky. She ran her hands up his chest slowly, loving the way his smoky eyes darkened at her touch.

Everything was suddenly clear; he resisted the urge to smirk. “I’m giving you one chance, Granger. Yes or no?”

“Yes,” she said without hesitation, but before the word was fully out of her mouth, Draco’s lips were on hers and all attempts at rational thought were abandoned. It was like an electric current had just passed through her body. Her hands ran up the sides of his neck and found their way into his hair. He scraped his teeth over her bottom lip and she shivered at the rough pleasure it brought her, moaning in the back of her throat.

Draco tangled his hands in her hair and brought her as close to him as he could as he backed her into a wall. If he had known anything about electricity, he would have said that holding her was like holding a live wire. She tasted like ambrosia, a drug he was willing to spend the rest of his life addicted to. All the things he had imagined doing to her flew from his head and he could only think more. He needed to touch her, everywhere. “Are you overly fond of this shirt?” he said against her mouth.

“No,” she responded breathlessly, momentarily confused.

“Good.” He grabbed it by the neckline and ripped it down the center as though it was no more than parchment. He captured her shocked gasp with his mouth on hers. His hands traveled the bare skin of her back and deftly unclasped her bra. His hands were everywhere, touching her, driving her wild. Eventually his mouth left hers and skimmed its way down her neck to her chest. Her breath was coming out in sexy little shudders. She could feel him smirking against her collarbone and decided to take a more active role.

Hermione’s nimble fingers quickly unbuttoned his shirt. She traced her fingers along the skin of his stomach and felt him tremble at her touch. She pulled his shirt off completely and ran her nails down his back.

Draco’s mouth came back to hers with urgency. Their lips and tongues met in a glorious collision that left them both quaking. The remains of Hermione’s shirt disappeared shortly and she began to push him toward her bedroom, which was closest. In the back of her mind, she was shocked at her actions; never had she moved this fast before, but at the same time, this felt a long time in coming.

He opened the door clumsily and pulled them both through. She backed him toward her bed until the backs of his legs hit the edge. He fell backwards, pulling her with him. She landed splayed out on top of him with a breathy giggle.

He rolled over her, careful not to put his full weight on top of her. Draco took a moment to just look down at her. She had never been more beautiful. Honey-colored hair tangled from his fingers, lips swollen, heart racing, light chocolate eyes full of lust and laughter. The feel of her skin against his was like a small miracle. He lowered his forehead to hers and closed his eyes, realizing how important this moment was. “Hermione…” he breathed.

“Draco?” Why was he suddenly stopping? A thought struck her. Maybe he thinks… “It’s okay, it’s not my first time,” she whispered.

“Nor mine,” he said quietly with a small smirk. How could he put into words what he was feeling? He looked into her eyes. “But… I feel like…”

“Me too,” she whispered, her voice barely audible. What was happening was so much bigger than she had thought it would be. He brought his hand to her cheek; she turned her head and kissed his palm. The air felt thick and time seemed to have slowed. His touch was gentler, her fingers trembled, but there was still so much heat. Everywhere he touched her, little fires ignited on her skin. The passion between them was no small thing.

Their remaining clothes seemed to melt away. Draco ran his hands down her body as though trying to memorize every curve and texture. His lips tasted the sweet skin of her shoulder; she was intoxicating.

He blazed a trail of soft kisses down her stomach; his mouth was capable of the most amazing things. They rolled over the covers, completely lost in one another. Hermione wound up on top and took full advantage. She kissed her way down his chest and stomach and her nails scraped down his sides.

He couldn’t take it anymore. Draco rolled them both so he was over her. Covering her mouth with his, he took her, and it felt eternal, like finally, finally, coming home.

A/N: Well, there it is. Yeah… I don’t know what else to say. Did you like it? Please tell me in a review! I hope everyone feels that they came together, so to speak, in the right way. You might be wondering why they had never even kissed before this, and the reason is simply that I knew once they touched for the first time, they wouldn’t be able to stop until… well, you read it, you know what happened. And this chapter is called ‘Collisions’ not only because of Draco and Hermione’s scene at the end, but also because Draco spends the beginning parts of the chapter colliding with horrible memories of Malfoy Manor. Just thought I should specify in case anyone was at all confused. I had some trouble writing this chapter because I wanted the scene at Malfoy Manor and the final scene to be perfect. But I must say that the reviewers helped me get through it, really. I would feel terribly frustrated, so I would go check my story and someone would say something that just made me all the more determined to finish it right. Please review!!! It brings me joy, and that little box is lonely. Thank you!

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