Chapter 1 : I Had Forgotten...
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She looked away from his eyes and towards the mess that used to be the Great Hall. The house tables were no longer there, and in their place were rows and rows of bodies. She shuddered as her gaze fell on them. She knew she should be glad she made it through the battle, but the feeling of gratituted never came.
Four Years Later
She sat against the mountain of pillows, her eyes wide and her mind aware that she had only gotten three hours of sleep. Ron groaned in the space beside her, fully asleep. She sighed, irritated at him but knowing she had no right.
She closed her eyes, but quickly snapped them open. Images of all the people that fell during the war stared back at her with dead eyes and she could not take it anymore. She had already tried talking about it with both friends and proffesionals, but nothing seemed to work. All the fallen from the war seemed to haunt her no matter what.
She wondered if maybe it was because she was unhappy... But she knew she had no reason to be unhappy. She was healthy, had a good job and she had Ron.
Ron she thought bitterly. He knew she hadn't been able to sleep since the war, but it seemed as if he just didn't care. Every night he would smile while saying 'good night, Hermione' as if mocking her. But I still have Harry and Ginny and... Her mind went blank after naming her two closest friends and she stared off into space as if waiting for it to continue the list for her.
I need to get out she thought desperately after sitting still for a whole minute. One minute might not sound like much, but for her it seemed infinite. Quickly dressing, she left. She had considered leaving a note on her pillow for Ron to find in case he woke during her leave, but quickly tossed the idea out. Why would he wake up tonight of all nights?
Taking deep even breathes of the cold November night, Hermione felt free. Free of all the dead eyes that haunted her sleep. Free of an uncaring boyfriend. Free of the title of war hero and all that came with it. For the moment she was simply Hermione Jane Granger, insomniac.
Smiling lightly at the term she added on to her name, she began walking to the nearest aparation point. Five minutes later she found herself standing outside a twenty four hour pub in Knockturn Alley. I shouldn't be here... she thought to herself. I should be at home with Ron waiting for the alarm to ring and a new day to begin.
As soon as the thought crossed her mind her chest began to tighten. Images of herself back at her flat sufficated her, and that was all it took to get her to pull on the brass handle and let herself in.
"Hello," he felt warm breath brush past the shell of his ear. Instead of feeling pleasure he felt disgust.
"Not intrested," he said removing her hand from his shoulder. She woman looked at him offended, anger burning in her blue eyes.
"I am not a whore," she declared. He eyed her quickly before chuckling slightly. She had on a light green skirt that almost didn't cover her rear end and a too small halter top. And she's honestly offended I confused her for a whore? he thought to himself.
The woman caught the chuckle and crossed her arms over her stomach in defiance before walking away from the blonde man. He couldn't help but chuckle again at her reaction. He knew he didn't have to come here and deal with these sort of people. He could drink himself to death back at the Manor if he wished, but he honestly enjoyed the sound of people around him.
Day in and day out, no sound ever escaped the Malfoy Manor. He was the only one living there now except for the staff of house elves and the butler Aaron, and they had perfected how to move within the Manor without a sound. On his way to the bar he looked at many small houses and found himself feeling jealous.
He envied the people within the homes. He imagined them full of people. Full of happy families. He used to have a happy family. He was the only son and so was spoiled by both his mother and father. Many believed Lucius to be a harsh man. In truth he was a bit harsh, but never to the point of beating him or anything of that mannor. He expected his son to be the best at whatever it was that he did and felt disappointed when that wasn't the case.
Then he came... Voldemort changed everything. Draco found himself fearing for his life and his family. He understood that his father did what he had to do to keep them alive. Draco did what he had to do to keep his mother alive as well.
He gulped down the last drops of firewhiskey in his glass when he heard the door opening. It was odd for someone to be coming in at this hour. Most of the people in the bar had shown up a bit before midnight. He knew Knockturn Alley was not a place people would be wondering around at four in the morning, so he couldn't help but be curious as to who would be coming in at the moment.
Her eyes took a few moment to adjust to the dim lighting in the bar before she proceeded to a stool near the bar. "Butterbeer, please," she whispered to the bartender as if to not disturbe the people around her.
"Granger." The word was out of his lips before he realized it. She turned to look at him, her eyes wide. His facial expression mirriored hers. He was shocked to see her coming in to the bar. He was shocked to see her, period.
His mind went back to the last time he saw her at the end of the war across the Great Hall. She had changed, but not much. Her hair had already calmed down since their third year, so he was not surprised to see that. Her face, however, seemed... Empty.
"Malfoy," she breathed out. She could not believe her awful luck. Out of all the bars and pubs in London, she had to end up in the same one as Draco Malfoy. She began to get up when he waved his hand in a sort of 'forget it' motion.
"Don't worry," he smirked at her. "I wont bother you. I like to believe I've matured since our days in school."
"That smirk is obviously still there, though," she mused out loud. Taking a sip of her butterbeer, she watched at he shook his head, a small smile on his lips. So small, in fact, she actually thought she had imagined it. "What are you doing here?" she asked randomly.
"I'm not sure," he answered back, his gaze on his empty cup. "But if I had to guess I would say probably the same thing you are."
"Why are you here?" she asked instead, not wanting to get into a mind game with him this late at night. Or this early in the morning depending how you want to look at things.
"Because I want to escape?" She stared at him, not sure if he was answering for himself or for them both. He turned to look at her. "Am I correct?"
"You have nothing to escape from," she scoffed at him. She knew the ministry had cleared him of all charges with the excuse that he was under age when the mark was given to him. They also stated that it was all but forced on him. Lucius was not so lucky and died in Askaban two years ago. Narcissa died a few months later leaving everything to their only son, Draco Malfoy. What could he be trying to honestly escape.
"What about you?" he snapped back. "I heard you're engaged to Weasley. Needed to escape the constant flow of love? The praise that come with being a war hero?" he asked sarcastically.
"You don't understand," she said weakly. The way he said it made her sound shallow and selfish. She didn't like it, the way he simplified everything so much.
"I do," he sighed. "I understand more than you'd think." She turned to him again, but he was looking away from her. He motioned for the bartender to fill up his cup again. "And one for the lady," he smirked. Hermione couldn't help but laugh. He looked at her and quickly moved down the four stools that seperated them. "Tell me, Granger, what keeps you awake at night?"
The smile that had graced her lips moments before began to fade as she stared into his gray eyes. She didn't know why or how, but her mouth began to move. "I don't think I should have survived the war."
There it is she thought to herselft. Finally out in the open. She had already admitter this to herself, but never outloud. She found it ironic that the one person to hear it would be Draco Malfoy. He stared at her, shocked. "Why?"
"So many good people died fighting. Most of them had families and husbands or wives... Sons and daughters... Tonks and Lupin didn't even get to see Teddy turn a year old. I didn't have much to loose. Both my parents got killed." She sighed, not knowing why it was so easy to let the words flow with him. "I shouldn't be telling you this. Harry and Ron have been trying so hard-"
"But that's the problem," he cut her off. "Sometimes what you need is a stranger, an enemy, not a friend. To tell them that would probably kill them." Hermione felt ashamed for her thoughts. She knew Harry and Ron would have been devestated if she would have died, but she couldn't bring herself to think differently.
"You have matured a great deal, Malfoy," she smiled at him. He smirked at her, not really knowing what to say or if it was even a compliment. "What about you?" she asked.
"I don't like the silence of the Manor," he stated as if it was that simple. Hermione immideatly knew he would not open up today and decided that she would not push. Turns out she didn't have to. "The house elves and butlet move about silently so it seems empty all the time and too much time and space alone can be bad for a person," he chuckled to himself. "I don't think I should have survive the war either," he whispered to her. "Funny how things work out, eh?"
She watched as he drank the whiskey in his cup in one gulp and decided 'what the hell?' before throwing back her glass as well.
She froze at the sound of her name coming from the bed. Damn it she thought. "Yeah, Ron?" she answered back. She knew that if he got too close before she had a chance to get to the bathroom and wash her mouth he would be able to smell the whiskey on her breath.
"What are you doing?" he questioned, his voice full of sleep. She felt anger and relief at the fact that he hadn't noticed she wasn't wearing her pajamas or that she had her coat on.
"Just going to the kitchen to get a glass of water," she lied smoothly. She watched as he nodded slowly before laying back down and going back to sleep almost instantly.
As she removed her layers of clothing she realized she did infact feel sleepy, but it didn't come with the fear of seeing dead eyes. Her mind went directly to Malfoy and she wondered if he ever saw dead eyes staring back at him...
What would Harry and Ron say if they knew where I had been all night? Who I had been with all night? Quicly deciding she just didn't care she slipped under the cover and fell into a dreamless sleep.
"Are you just getting in, Master?" Aaron asked as Draco closed the Manor door behind him.
"I am," he responded. Aaron noticed right away that Draco had been drinking tonight, but from the way his clothes hung on his body he had been alone. "I had a long and intresting talk with an old school enemy," Draco laughed quietly to himself as the word left his tounge.
Aaron watched his Master closely, not really understanding. Draco did not talk with women. If he was in the mood, he'd have them; if not, he would brush them off. "What sort of talk?" he questioned, taking Draco's coat from him.
"A talk that leaves you thinking about what you're trying to hide," he whispered. Draco's eyes suddently looked sober and aware, but his body looked tired and ready to collapse. "Made me wonder what she's trying to hide."
Aaron watched his master, confusion written on his face. Draco caught sight of the old man and smiled. "Don't worry about me, Aaron. I'll be fine in the morning."
"It is morning, Draco," Aaron corrected him. Draco looked shocked for a moment before stating, "Then I'll be fine in the afternoon."
I shouldn't be here she thought to herself. Once again she was standing in front of the bar in Knockturn Alley, the brass handle glaring at her. She knew Harry and Ron would be furious beyond furious. She knew there was always a chance that Malfoy was just too drunk yesterday to remember ever having the converstation and he might just begin insulting her the moment she walked through that door.
But then again there was also a chance that he was there and he did remember. There was a chance that he might be able to provide another dreamless night. The knob felt cold and dead in her hands as she pulled it.
Her eyes again took a few moments to adjust to the dim light before she looked for his blonde hair. He raised his drink towards her from his spot on the bar. "I honestly thought yesterday was just a one time thing for you, Granger," he smirked, handing her a glass full of the amber liquid.
She took a drink from it, enjoying the burning sensation before responding. "It was. I never go out when I can't sleep. Usually just sit in bed waiting for the alarm to ring."
"Waiting for it to tell you a new day has begun and you have to go through the motions of living for another day?" he asked. She stared at him, her mouth slightly open. "I told you I understand."
"Makes me wonder how much you understand." She knew he was never an average teenager so it lead her to believe he was not an average man. "I remember that day in the great hall," she said suddently.
"Everyone remembers that day in the hall, Granger," he scoffed at her. He knew what she was refering to, but decided to play ignorant until she actually mentioned it.
"Yeah," she sighed. "But that's not what I meant, Malfoy. I saw you on my way to Dumbledore's office. You were sitting with your parents." She takes a sip of her drink, waiting for him to acknowledge what she said.
"I remember," he nodded. "You, Potter, and Weasley were on your way out."
She nodds. "I remember your face that day more than any other time before." He smirked asking, "even more than that time you hit me?"
She could feel her lips turning up at the corners at the memory. He took the smile as a good sign, not wanting to discuss their last encounter. He knew the war was a sore subject for her (as it was for many others, including himself), and wanted to stay as far away from it as possible.
"I'm not sure," she continued smiling. "That was a pretty big day for me." She continued to recall times when she had wanted to hit him, but didn't. He was surprised at how low the number of times was. "You were honestly not that bad sometimes. Mostly because we had just gotten used to you over the years and it didn't really affect us."
"Ouch," he laughed. "Are you saying that my insults had no affect what so ever?" She shook her head, a smirk forming on her lips. "Is that a smirk?" he exclaimed.
Her lips tightened in an attempt to hide it, but she knew it was too late. He had already seen it. "It was not a smirk, Malfoy," she claimed. "It was a smile full of arrogance."
"Now you're saying I'm arrogant?" he asked, laughter laced into his voice. When she nodded, her eyes not as dull as the previous night, he knew he was in a safe zone. She would not bring up the war tonight; he would make sure of it. He let her speak about her forbidden thoughts yesterday, but he didn't want to see a Hermione so raw and exposed simply because he still didn't know how to fix it.
Hermione laughed, suddently realizing what he had done. He had purposely lead the conversation away from the war. She understood that sometimes that subject was too much to talk about. She decided to go along with it, respecting his unspoken wish. She said what she needed to say outloud yesterday already.
Tonights too amusing to ruin she thought to herself as she watched Draco speak with his hands.
"They're here!" exclaimed Ginny from the window. Harry rushed to the door, ready to open it. Ron and Hermione ran in, absolutely covered with snow. This was something the four had perfected ages ago to avoid standing outside in the snow or rain.
"Hello," Ron grinned at his best friend and sister. "Where is he?" Ginny turned around to pick something up from a small crib in the living room. The little boy was absolutely perfect. Hermione could help but smile at Harry.
He went over, hugging her tightly to himself. "Congratulations," she said, squeezing his arm slightly. He smiled, then motioned for her to follow him. Walking into the kitchen he began to speak.
"How are you doing?" he asked. Hermione knew he was asking about more than her health. She knew she couldn't tell him she was fine due to numerous conversations with their old school enemy.
"I'm fine," she nodded at him. "Just trying to keep the house clean, and the ministry is great. Been sleeping." He grinned at the last two words as if she just declared she was becoming the minister of magic.
"Really?" he asked shocked. "For how long?" Hermione mentally counted back the days to the first time she spoke with Malfoy, knowing she started sleeping when they began speaking.
"Almost three weeks," she finally answered. Harry beamed at her. She knew he wouldn't be beaming if he knew how it all began. She smiled back at him, expecting to feel guilty. She wasn't surprised when she felt nothing.
She played with the baby, she conversed with them, ate dinner but it was as if her body and mind were simply doing what was expected of her. She just wasn't really there. Harry eyed her strangely, asking questions with his eyes Hermione pretended not to notice.
It wasn't as if her mind was full of thoughts or something of that nature. No, she simply didn't want to be there. Is that bad? she asked herself. My friends love me and wanted to share this moment with me, am I being selfish?
"No," Draco answered the next time they met. They did not meet every night. Mostly every other night. It was something that just sort of came to be, not like they spoke of it and decided when to meet. He would show up and if she did as well, then good. If one showed but not the other, then they would leave after one drink. It was as simple as that.
"No?" she questioned confused. After a second or so she realized who she was talking and came to the conclusion that they probably had different definition of the word 'selfish'.
He noticed the slight changes on her face and knew exactly what she was think and frankly, he felt insulted suddently needing to explain his answer more. "I don't think you were being selfish simply because you didn't want to be there. You can't control what you feel, Granger. It's about time you stopped trying to. Besides, I'm sure you smiled and played your part." He finished off his drink, waiting. When she said nothing he asked, "right?" She nodded, not sure what he was trying to get at. "Then they can't really complain, now can they?"
She rolled her eyes at his so called 'explaination'. She understood what he was saying, but the problem was he didn't understand her point. "It's not about them," she tried again.
"I agree," he nodded, taking a drink from her glass since his was already empty. "I simply can't understand why you're the one feeling selfish when clear they should be the ones feeling that way." She gave him a confused look and that's all it took to get him to explain it more. "Here you are, selfless enough to sacrafice your time in a place you don't want to be simply to make your friends happy. They are the ones being selfish in my opinion."
She stared at him amused, a small smile at the corner of her lips. "You have an odd way of looking at things, Draco Malfoy." He smirked, mostly at the use of his full given name than anything else. She smiled back at him, but frowned as she slapped away his hand from her drink. "Mine," she stated with authority
Rolling his eyes at her, he pulled away his hand with a dramatic gesture of his wrist. "Holidays are coming up, Granger," he said off handed. "Planning on being selfless again?"
"Most likely," she sighed into her glass. It wasn't that she didn't enjoy spending time with her friends or anything. She was grateful to always have them around and that they were such a big part of her life, but sometimes she felt sufficated. They all thought she was happy. That she had gotten over the war and she was finally sleeping throught the night with no more nightmares. They were all blind, except for Harry and even he didn't know much. She was tired of pretending.
"Blow them off," he shrugged. The bartender walked by and Draco considered waving him down for another drink, but decided he had had enough for tonight. He didn't want to get wasted while with Hermione.
"And go where? Everyone I know will be there." She knew the Weasley's had had a hard time getting over Fred's death, specially around the holidays. But for the past couple of years things seemed to finally be getting back to normal. It didn't matter that everyone was living apart and had a family of their own, they all still went to the Burrow for Christmas.
"You know me and I wont be there." He didn't know why, but he felt the need to offer her a way out of another night with the people she called friends. She just looked to miserable talking about her visit to the Potter's... "You could spend Christmas with me."
"And do what?" she questioned, taking the last gulp of her drink. He gestured towards it as it made it's way back down to the bar. "Drink?" she laughed. "We do that all the time. Not that I'm complaining, since we have some pretty good discussions."
"True, but that's not all we do," he argued back. "We drink soda sometimes... And tea that one time..." Hermione laughed at his expression as he tried to remember 'that one time'. "We'll go all out!" he exclaimed suddently.
She laughed at him, but said nothing. Five minutes later as they were exiting the bar, neither had brought it up again.
A/N: So let me get this out of the way... I OWN NOTHING YOU RECOGNIZE!!!!!!!!!
There! =] So this was suppose to be a one shot, but it was too long to put up as one chapter so now I guess it's going to have to be two. It's already done and everything. I just need to type it and post it.
Also a note about my other stories. 24 is also done. I have it all finished inside my school binder. Again, I just need to type it up and post. Guilty Pleasures is half way done (please remember that this one is not a one shot so is obviously longer so cut me some slack, yeah?). I should be posting up more regularly now.
Thanks for reading and hope you review!
P.S. Sorry for any errors in there. I tried to fix them all, but I probably missed some. Feel free to point them out so I can fix them.