Chapter 10 : Smile for Me
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It had been the first night he’d spent with a woman, a friend, somebody who bloody cared for him in a long time, since when Anaya had been with him. The tension in his shoulder was easy to ignore as the happy thoughts of being so close to Hermione drifted into his conscious, and his lips twisted up in a minimalist smile. He’d fallen asleep with the picture of Hermione sleeping as the backdrop to his dreams, a picture of comfort and warmth. He felt his lips involuntarily lift upwards in another miniscule smile. The warmth pulled him so away from his cold world.
Finally opening his eyes, he turned onto his side to maybe wake Granger up so they could see what they could do to work on the case today. What he saw before him delved a stopper into his heart for a split second: she wasn’t there.
Telling himself not to panic, he grabbed his wand from where he’d put it on her bedside table and jumped off the bed, running down the stairs like lightning and not stopping until he saw a figure sitting in the desk chair in the living room.
He didn’t even try to control his emotions as he let out a deep sigh of relief, his feet walking him over to where she sat statuesque with a mask of misery on her face. The only things moving on her face were the trails of tears making their descent down her cheeks, eyes blinking and unwavering in their gaze. Draco followed it.
He had used a Vanishing Spell on Weasley’s blood stain on the carpet yesterday while Hermione had been changing in the bathroom, making sure he had collected some residue for a sample before performing the spell. Even without the visible trace of Weasley’s confrontation or whatever had occurred with Cavalian, Hermione’s eyes still tracked the spot, as if by a magnetic force. Draco watched, his own breathing shallow, as her eyes blinked, a fresh onslaught of hot tears falling down her face.
He felt horrible, wretched in every vein and organ in his body. She was feeling so much pain and sadness and it tore Draco out of his own form to see her like that; it hurt him that he couldn’t do anything to help her ease her misery; it killed him that her emotion was for a man other than himself.
Her skin shone pale and translucent in the morning light skimming through the curtains; for a moment Draco studied her face, wondering how he had somehow grown to feel for a girl whom he had bullied so indefinitely in school. He knew that he had been a fool back then, but even so – he couldn’t explain how he had fallen for Granger so quickly and recklessly. It wasn’t like him. He was a closed book, with his pages ever being read once in his life before by a woman who had written all over them, written in them a bad ending to his too-good-to-be-true new start of his life. Another moment passed as Draco Malfoy’s eyes closed and he tried to banish away the heavy thoughts burdening his mind, trying to bring a catharsis of emotions to his soul. He knew that with Granger it was hard to do that, hard not to feel, but he always tried. Old habits died hard.
A voice broke the clear silence in the air, cutting across the sunlit rays floating about in the living room. “Why Ron?” Hermione spoke to the air in front of her, not even looking at Draco. Another tear swam into the corner of her mouth, lips tilting downwards again. “Why him?”
It took all of Draco to just stand where he was, keeping his arms flat at his sides and not around the quivering brunette swimming in her tears. “You know why. Cavalian focuses on people who feel vulnerable and hurt, which was exactly what Weasley was feeling.”
Hermione looked as if every word Draco spoke had walked right past her ears. “Why Ron?” She repeated.
Before Draco had a chance to open his mouth to explain again to Hermione, she spoke again, her tone harsh and anguished. “Because of me, that’s why, Draco. Because I made Ronald hurt, and Bennett finds complacence in his pain! Because of me, I good as pushed Ronald into the hands of Bennett for him to take over his soul.” The last of Hermione’s words quivered in the air. “Because of me, Ronald is…he’s…” Whatever Ronald Weasley was was lost to the wistful air, Hermione’s soft curls once again shading her face in a curtain, a curtain hiding her pain.
And Draco knew what Ronald Weasley was. He was another victim of Bennett’s cruel, sadistic games. Another game where Bennett lived inside his victim’s soul, making him or her vile, loathsome, revengeful. Another game where he brainwashed his victim into believing that he was doing them a favor by seeking out revenge for them, for delivering the comeuppance to those who had caused them that misery.
Hermione’s eyes had focused on Draco while he was passing the moments by in his reverie. Coming out of it, he noticed her attention on him, predicting her question before the words even left her humble pink lips: “Why Ron?”
Withholding a sigh from escaping his lips, Draco just walked forward to Hermione with slow steps. She looked up with a lost expression on her face as he gently took her hands in his. A dry smile moved the corners of Draco’s lips up in a slight tilt. It was funny how harsh irony sometimes was. “Because, Granger, sometimes it’s love that hurts us the most.” He gave a gentle pull on Hermione’s arms until she was standing before him, at which he embraced her into a tight hold. She gripped him desperately with her hands on his back, feeling that Draco was the only person who could hold her up when she felt so much like letting everything go and falling into a desolate abyss where nobody could save her. She felt him move his lips by her ear, his soft whisper breathing a breath of warmth on her cold skin: “Get ready to go.”
Before she could collect her bearings, the familiar feeling of being pressed upon by tangibly heavy air wrapped around herself, her lungs being pushed against with fleeting meetings of suffocation as she and Draco whirled around in the suddenly compacted and swirling surroundings. Her mind for a moment became blissfully blank as she realized that Draco was taking her somewhere in a Side-Along-Apparition. She didn’t know where he was taking her, but in that moment of peaceful blankness, she didn’t care. She felt safe in the mold of his strong arms.
The whirling died down and Hermione felt their feet land uniformly on flat ground. She opened her eyes into a haze of semi-darkness, blinking rapidly to adjust. She had to blink again as surrounding candles suddenly lit ablaze at Draco’s muttering lips above her. She reluctantly pulled out of his embrace, moving her gaze around her to take in her surroundings. As she did, a foreboding chill ran down her arms to the very tips of her fingers. She needn’t have opened her eyes to figure out where she was – she could have felt where she was had she resisted her curiosity for a few more seconds.
She was at Malfoy Manor.
The ornate, stone-paved hallways with candles adorning the walls every few meters, their ominous glow causing disquiet in the hearts of strangers; the chill emanating from the moving portraits of haughty and condescending Malfoy ancestors; the disheartening isolation one felt in the vast, lonely openness of each and every grand room – Hermione could remember the Manor well, however abrupt her forced visit had been. It had changed her life.
She shivered. The temperature here was a lot cooler than the warm rays that had swam throughout her house’s interior. She turned to look at Draco, who was voicelessly muttering incantations as his eyes moved from the left and right of where they stood, his wand following his gaze. Without breaking his litany of silent words, he grasped Hermione by her forefinger and middle finger and lightly tugged on them to follow his brisk pace out of the hallway they were in.
Hermione watched Draco’s gaze as it moved every which way, almost in a way that was frantic, his lips muttering quickly in symphony with the flicks his wand swished. They quickly passed through several dim, candle-lit rooms, each one gradually getting closer to room temperature than the last, until they reached a subdued room with a four-seated dining table of dark, varnished wood and an ache of grandeur. The room was more moderate-sized than the other rooms, with a solid velvet red paint covering the walls, a single diamond-crystal chandelier suspended in midair above the table. A lone vase of white chrysanthemums sat in the center of the table and Hermione for a moment was involuntarily reminded of home.
Draco finished muttering incantations with one last flick at the ceiling with his wand. He started to turn around to find where he had left Hermione when something on the table caught his eye. Hermione watched wordlessly as Draco sauntered over towards the vase of chrysanthemums and gathered one of the flowers in his palm; as Hermione focused her gaze more clearly, she saw that it was wilted, its petals soft and wrinkled. Draco closed his fist over the flower; Hermione blinked, and saw that the flower had vanished. Finally noticing the quiet brunette at the corner of the table, he spoke quietly at her perplexed expression. “Sometimes it’s easier to not hold on to things that are dead. Sometimes forgetting the past is the best way to move on with life.”
Hermione nodded silently, not knowing what to say. Her knees felt light and her shoulders heavy, her face hot even in the slightly lower-than-normal room temperature. She was suddenly plagued with an irrational urge to just lie on the cool stone of the floor, letting it cool away her sickly temperature.
“You look sick, Granger. Come on and sit down here,” he gestured to a seat at his end of the table. Hermione noticed the flat expression on Draco’s face, his voice matching in tone, and frowned. It was hard for her to keep up with Draco’s emotions. Sometimes he was really caring and tender towards her feelings; other times, he’d be closed without an explanation. He was like a pendulum in his manifestation of emotions, and though Hermione knew that she couldn’t ask for it, sometimes she just wished that he’d stay on the polar end that cared for her. Even in the misery that was the disappearance of Ron within Bennett’s clutches, she still found comfort in Draco, even if sometimes he’d be on the opposite side of the pendulum she’d want him on. And it wasn’t just comfort that she found in him, but rather something more: guilt plagued her conscience whenever she thought of this, but Hermione had found that she’d began to like Draco. And it was a scary thought. Especially when she knew that Draco would never feel that way towards her. He never showed any interest in her at all, and that made her feel that her prediction was a sure thing.
A wistful expression painted Hermione’s face as Draco watched her, waiting for her to sit down. She stood stock still, looking lost, put out. “Granger…” He said softly. She looked up. “Sit down, please?”
The lost look faded away from her face, but she still looked hesitant. Suddenly Draco had an idea. He pointedly rolled his eyes and jut out his bottom lip. “If you would so please, Dear Miss Hermione Granger, will you do your poor servant as I the honor of sitting down on this splendid chestnut wooden chair?” He waddled over in a butler-like walk around his end of the table and pulled out the chair with a bow, finally earning a laugh from Hermione and her feet walking over.
“Thank you, Draco.” She smiled at him, a little light finally flickering behind her eyes. He pushed her chair in closer towards the table once she had sat in it and was thankful that he was behind her so she couldn’t see the smile that had erupted onto his lips. He couldn’t help smiling whenever she smiled.
Moving into her line of vision, Draco made another deep bow. “I’ll be right back, Madame.” He stretched out his words in a drawl, earning himself another laugh from Hermione and another smile he tried to hide from his lips. He exited the room into another room holding the stairway down to the kitchen, his mind still afloat with the tinkle of Hermione’s laugh ringing in his ears.
It had been ten minutes since Draco had disappeared off into the adjacent room and Hermione’s skin had become accustomed to the almost-room temperature air. Still, she rubbed her arms as her eyes looked around her. There was only one framed image on the wall, and it was a painting of three blonde-haired aristocrats looking solemn and superior in their expensive-looking clothes with their velvet green or black high collars. It was the Malfoy family. Hermione supposed it had been painted a few years ago because she remembered that Draco had looked like that when he was around a 6th year at Hogwarts. She studied his face from where he sat in the middle of the canvas, sitting tall between the figures of his haughty-looking parents. She remembered the expression he wore well and knew that she was probably right in her estimate of his age – he looked tired, a fearful line creasing subtly in his brow, no matter how commanding he tried to pose for the painter.
Looking away from the grand painting, Hermione suddenly sighed. It had been a quarter of an hour since Draco had left her alone in the empty dining room. She didn’t even know why she was there at Malfoy Manor. She knew Draco enough by now to know that he wasn’t playing some sick, cruel joke on her, but why were they there? She knew that there had to be some explanation, but for some reason her mind couldn’t think rationally. It was stuck on the same two things that had been running persistently through her waking mind for the past couple of days without stop: Ronald and Draco. Ronald, for the guilt, the love, the misery she felt about him; Draco, for the comfort, the attraction of, and the feeling of safety he brought to her.
She sighed again. Why did life always have to be so complicated?
Her ponderings were interrupted by the familiar scent of delicious foods entering the room. She looked to her left to see half a dozen plates floating into the room, a winking Draco Malfoy walking behind them with his wand directing their descent onto the table. “Lunch is served, Madame,” he drawled again, taking the seat across from her.
Draco smiled as she laughed again at his drawl, but furrowed his eyebrows as her own did the same and her gaze spread out around the room, looking for something. “Looking for something, Madame?”
Draco followed her gaze and found nothing that could have been missing from the picture. He looked left, right, up, down. An idea came to him, and he flicked his wand at his shirt, a bowtie materializing at his neck. “There, Madame, this picture is now perfection.” His silliness earned him another laugh from Hermione complemented by an eye-roll, and he had to bite his cheek to not smile so wide.
Hermione shook her head, her laughter fading. “No, it’s just…where are the house-elves?”
“I don’t have any.”
Her eyes grew round, in a way that was so comical that Draco had to laugh a little. “Really?”
“Yeah. We set them all free after the war. I make all of my food myself.” He grinned wide, knowing that he had impressed her. He suddenly felt a great sense of pride at how he had made her laugh so much already.
Hermione’s eyebrows rose. She was clearly impressed, and Draco basked in the moment. “That’s great, Draco…” Her voice trailed off as she suddenly looked at him, serious. “So…why are we here at your house, at…at Malfoy Manor?” Draco noticed her voice stumble at his household name, and he wanted to reach across the table to hold her hand.
He didn’t, though. He didn’t want to ruin the moment with rejection.
“It’s safer for us. Malfoy Manor is very highly-protected and has almost as much enchantments as the Quidditch Word Cup had. I know it’s…it’s not your favorite place, but it’s a lot more protected than your flat is right now. The enchantments I had casted over your flat are measly compared to what the Manor holds.”
Hermione nodded, silent. She seemed to think this over for a moment and looked like she was reassuring herself something. Upon looking up and seeing Draco’s gaze on her, she flashed him a little smile, picking up her fork and beginning to eat. Draco followed suit.
After a few moments of comfortable chewing and silence, Draco broke the quiet. “You up to more researching today, eh, Granger?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Yes, Draco, but I’ll have you know that I do have a name, you know.”
Draco smirked. “Yeah, I know. It’s Granger.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “You really are impossible, you know that?”
“I do, Granger. I know that the world relies on me to survive and if there were no me, there would be no world. I am the world. Therefore, I am impossible.” He grinned at Hermione, who answered with a playful groan.
“You made no sense at all. And do you ever think about anybody other than yourself?”
It was as if Draco couldn’t control his emotions anymore. He flashed Hermione another grin before he could rein it back. “I do, actually.” And try as hard as he did to stop them, his eyes disobediently rose up to meet Hermione’s. He forced himself to look down after a second, finally regaining control of his face, but not before catching the blush that had washed over Hermione’s own visage.
A light tension filled the air, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable one. The cool air of the family dining room seemed to rise a little in temperature as they sat there eating their foods, little smiles crept onto the corners of their lips, their eyes averted down.
“This is the family dining room.” Draco told Hermione, breaking the silence after a few moments. He didn’t know why he was doing this, why he was telling her this. Suddenly he felt like a little school boy trying to impress a girl, except that he’d never done that back at Hogwarts. He’d been spoiled, foolishly believing that any and every girl he wanted was his. But now, here he was, sitting across from Granger, trying to impress her. Draco honestly didn’t know what was going through his head. But at the same time, he did.
“Oh.” A confused expression fluttered on Hermione’s face. Why did he tell me that? “Yeah. I see the painting.”
“Only my family ever ate here.” If Draco could curse his lips shut, he would have shouted the incantation immediately. After all he had worked for keeping his emotions curtailed, what was he doing? He was acting like a little boy with a crush.
Hermione’s eyes grew wide. “Oh.” What the ancestral Malfoys would’ve said if they knew that a muggle-born was gracing their pureblood-inherited table. Hermione guessed that they wouldn’t have been too happy. Even with that thought, however, Hermione still blushed. He thought her worthy to grace the table.
Draco finally got a reign on the expressions flashing upon his visage and the words flying out of his mouth and closed his face off, just after contenting himself with a smirk. He didn’t say a word until after lunch was over as did his partner. After clearing away the remains and china off the table with a swish of his wand, he offered his earlier inquiry he’d asked at the start of the meal: “You ready for more researching?”
Hermione nodded gratefully. She was glad to get away from the thoughts of embarrassment – and somehow flattery – that she’d felt during the remainder of the meal. And with that, she followed Draco’s “Let’s go” and his lead out of the dining room that had previously only served the Pureblood Malfoy family.
The afternoon sun grew tired as the hours passed by in the eastern Malfoy library, its sunlight shrinking in rays as its companion, the moon, slowly started its ascent and glow. Draco summoned on the lights from where he sat with Hermione at another one of the Malfoy’s pristine tables, lazily flicking his wand at the candles without moving his eyes from the page of his book. They had sat there for hours reading through the dozens of books concerning Dark magic housed in the Malfoy’s grand library, stopping excitedly and announcing their discoveries whenever they found out something that would be pertinent to the case and rescue of Ron. They had deduced that Cavalian would be visiting again soon, running high on the adrenaline rush he’d gotten from sensing that Draco and Hermione were on to him. If Draco were to be honest, he was a little freaked out – powerful the enchantments surrounding Malfoy Manor might be, he didn’t know how long it would take Cavalian to find it and force his entry. It was difficult measuring the lengths Cavalian would go to reach his means, but Draco knew that the antagonist would do anything to fulfill his goal.
“Find anything yet?”
Hermione looked over at Draco at his murmured question, flicking a page of her book dully. It was frustrating going for such long stretches of time without finding out any imperative information that would help them find Ronald. She was getting a little anxious. “Not much, unless you count ‘Psychotic witches or wizards have a tendency to fall through on their plans, though they most often don’t make plans at all in the first place, merely acting on the whim of their impulse. Whether they do or do not follow through on their plans, they are very dangerous creatures.’” Hermione shrugged after reading the excerpt. She didn’t think that it would count and thought that the information was rather pointless.
“We already know that psychopaths are dangerous, Granger.”
She sighed wearily. “I know.” She looked glumly over at the book in front of him. “Have you found anything out yet?”
Draco started shaking his head, his eyes still perusing the page in front of him. The information here was something he had already found in a few of the other books he’d read. “No, I -.” Abruptly pausing in his response, his eyes rushed through the paragraph that had suddenly caught his attention:
Once a creature is afflicted with a Dark witch or wizard in possession of their soul, there are limited choices that one can make to alleviate the creature from the witch or wizard in control. The most obvious remedy is the extinction of both the victim and the facilitator – by destroying the subject that houses the Dark forces, one is thus destroying the thing that nourishes the victim with life, the soul possessor. The only other way to free the subject of being possessed of their soul is for them to overcome whatever the task that had set them in such a condition in the first place. It is inherently the weakness of the subjects’ soul that allows them possession to the Dark forces, and a strength that allows them freedom; in essence, they are only as free as the control they have over themselves.
Draco sat silent for a moment, the words before him becoming a blur in his mind. They basically had to kill Weasley or have him be strong enough to wrangle his soul away from Bennett in order to defeat Bennett. But how? Draco’s brow furrowed in frustration. He didn’t notice that he’d dropped his voice mid-sentence until Hermione’s voice broke the suddenly still air.
“Draco? Er, are you alright?”
Draco turned to look at the confused brunette, a mask of concern manifesting her features. “Yeah. I’m fine. I’m fine.” He felt his hands get clammy as his mind raced with the new onslaught of information he’d just learned.
Hermione didn’t look thoroughly convinced but dropped the subject. Draco knew what he was doing, so she’d let him be in charge. “So, did you find anything?”
“I…” Draco slowly raised his gaze to meet the brunette’s, visually tracing every line and light and shadow on her face before answering. What was he to do? If he told Granger the methods that were the choices they had to use to defeat Bennett, she would break down. She would stop breathing in the face of losing her best friend and lover. Draco rested his gaze on Hermione’s probing brown eyes. No. He couldn’t tell her. “Nothing, Granger. Nothing.”
Hermione nodded, though her eyebrows were pushed together as she knelt back down over her book, her elbow resting on the table. Draco didn’t tear his eyes away from her reading figure for several moments, feeling his insides being torn up by guilt and fear.
He was coming.
It was a knowledge that was shared by both Hermione and Draco, though a knowledge that they shared unspoken. The first clue had been the loud, sudden noises coming from outside of the Manor – deep, dull thuds against the invisible boundaries the enchantments held over the residence. Draco knew that it was Cavalian trying to penetrate the magical fence to get to them while Hermione knew what would come next: the nightmares. She was scared to face the prospect of going to sleep again, to face the nightmares that would besiege her once her eyelids fell softly over her eyes, wishing for a night of peace, only to find one filled with fear and misery. As the overhanging clock on the library wall rang 3 o’ clock, however, her lids struggling ferociously to stay open and battle against her tide of exhaustion, she knew that she couldn’t hide anymore. She was too sleepy to do any more research and the outside noises distracted her from focusing anyways. Draco’s sudden reticence since she’d asked him if he’d found anything a few hours ago only increased her feelings of dull anxiety, and she was almost too sleepy to follow him up to the guest bedroom she would sleep in. He led the way silently, his own mind abuzz with daunting thoughts.
The colors of the bedroom blurred past Hermione’s eyes as she stumbled across it towards the bed waiting for her in the middle. Draco followed her quietly, his shoes barely brushing the silver-gray and green rugs on the floor as Hermione collapsed onto the bed’s black satin sheets, her eyes almost shut before her head had hit the pillows. A smile found its way onto his lips at the scene before him, but disappeared quickly as the guilt ravaged it away. He seemed to walk with a hunch on his back as he went towards the rocking chair across from Hermione’s bed, the mountain of remorse so strong on his shoulders.
The room whispered silent nothings into his ear as he sat there, gripping the arms of the chair, his gaze glazed over Hermione’s sleeping form. He had never wanted for this to happen. He had never wanted to get his feelings involved. When he had first started out in the beginning of his Auror training, his path to redemption of past errors, he had known that the work of an Auror was one where lives were on the line. He had known from the very beginning that he might sometime witness losses of individuals because of the evils he was chasing. He had prepared himself for it, had prepared himself to be the one to come to unsuspecting families and say, “I’m sorry, but we couldn’t save him in time.” But he’d thought it wouldn’t hurt so much, that he was closed off in his emotions enough that it wouldn’t halt him in his redemption and tasks, that he wouldn’t fail when the hearts of others did.
But he’d been wrong. It did hurt. It hurt a lot. His chest ached as if his heart was too heavy from all of the despair that had settled in it. What was he to do? Weasley’s life was possibly inches away from death and he was fighting a battle that he didn’t know if he could win. It was true that he had loathed Weasley out of pure prejudice and stupidity back at Hogwarts, but he’d been insolent and stupid. He had been a child with his rubbish values instilled in him since birth, and had been taught to hate anybody who didn’t agree with his beliefs. But he’d never wanted Weasley to die. Never.
It was Hermione Granger’s scared whimpers rustling the air that tore Draco out of his trance of regret and remorse. He quickly hurried to her side, kneeling down on the floor and putting his hand on her face to check her temperature. She was very warm.
“Granger,” he said, gently shaking her shoulders. When she didn’t wake up, her unconscious cries becoming louder, he rose his voice a little. “Granger, wake up!”
Finally she woke, teardrops huddled in the outer corners of her eyes as she sat up. Draco sat on the bed and reached out to wipe away the tears, ceasing their chance to fall. “You alright?”
Hermione nodded slowly, her face still crumpled up in anguish and fear. “Sorry, I’m sorry…I had a nightmare, Draco, I’m just scared that we won’t make it, that Ron won’t make it…”
A dagger struck Draco in the heart, but not because of any Dark magic. From guilt.
“…and I feel like it’s my fault, Draco, I do…I do…”
“It’s not, Granger. Trust me, it’s not.”
“Do you think we could save Ronald in time, Draco?”
It was difficult enough for Draco to look up and meet Hermione’s eyes, but too difficult to tell the truth. “I think…I think…I, Granger, it’s just…I don’t know.”
Hermione’s eyes grew in alarm, flashing in the dim light of the moon. Draco thought lumos in his head and a candle ignited itself across from them on the wall, but he felt worse when he saw the full extent of Hermione’s worry. “What do you mean, Draco?”
“Draco, tell me, please” Hermione’s voice turned pleading. “I need to know. We can’t lose Ronald.”
He couldn’t. How could he break the news to her that in order to destroy Cavalian, Ron might be lost as well? The dilemma bit at Draco’s tongue. He knew he had to save the Wizarding community, but he didn’t know if he could save everybody. How could he tell her that? She would break down and cry. “I…”
“Please, Draco. I need to know,” she whispered.
Suddenly Draco couldn’t hide it anymore. “Do you remember when I was talking to you in the library and suddenly I couldn’t speak anymore?”
Hermione nodded, her lips already trembling with dread at Draco’s anticipated bad news.
“I read…I read something about when witches and wizards possess others, there’s only two ways to destroy the possessor. Because the person in possession of their victim’s soul tethers them to life, they have a control over the life or death of the victim. One way to destroy the possessor is to…is to present the victim with death also because if the victim dies, so does the facilitator.” He had tried to hurry his last words, as if that would lessen the pain, but to no avail. A loud gasp had burst from Hermione’s dry lips as another barricade of tears ran down her face. “No, Granger, wait, don’t cry. There’s another way. We still have a chance. Listen, if we can get Weasley to overcome his vulnerability, we can oust Bennett from his soul and save him!”
“But how is that possible?” The tears were running swiftly down Hermione’s face now, like her eyes were a storm cloud and her tears the rain, her speech become warped from her shaking voice. “You know how R-Ronald is! He doesn’t let things go! Whenever he feels something, he feels it for a long time, he’s stubborn, he doesn’t forget!”
A resonating thud from the protective enchantments outside echoed in the dark night, the candlelight flickering as if by the impact. Draco felt the fear in his heart expand. He’s near. He’s coming. Soon.
He grabbed Hermione’s hand, holding onto it tightly. She hadn’t seemed to hear the thud, her cries overtaking her whole being. Draco was scared for Weasley’s life, he really was, but seeing Hermione cry so much for his life felt like holes being drilled into his heart, and it hurt. But he’d known what he had gotten himself into. “Hermione, please.” He squeezed her hand, his voice low. She looked up at him, hastily wiping away her tears, her hiccups dying down. “Please, don’t cry. I – I know it hurts,” Draco swallowed, his voice stuck in his throat, “but don’t cry. Please, Hermione.”
“But I can’t take it…Why does everything bad always have to h-happen? Why can’t the people in my life just be h-happy?”
“I don’t know, Hermione. But please don’t cry, it’s not safe. You’re being vulnerable right now, and we know that he’s coming. You can’t let yourself let your guard down like this, you can’t be vulnerable.”
“But it’s so hard…” she whispered.
As it felt like he did whenever he stayed around Hermione too much, Draco threw away his inhibitions. He edged closer to Hermione to reassure her in a hug, wrapping his arms around her trembling back. She felt warm. Her head nestled where his heart was beating, her tears wetting his shirt. But he didn’t care. Her warmth brought him solace, if even just for a moment. “Don’t be vulnerable, Granger. Please don’t.” I can’t have him steal you, too.
When her trembles had subsided, Draco pulled out of the embrace, holding Hermione a little ways away. He found her eyes searching his, though for what he was not sure. “You okay?” He attempted a smile at her.
She nodded. “Better.”
“Good.” He squeezed Hermione’s hand, bringing the tiniest of smiles to her lips. Her eyes persisted in searching his, raging Draco’s curiosity. What could she be looking for? Draco had no clue. “Go to sleep, okay, Granger?”
She nodded, her eyes still probing his, not letting go of Draco’s hand. Draco felt his heart skip a beat.
“Well, uh…Goodnight then.” Draco had meant to get off of the bed to climb back into his rocking chair, but before he knew it, he found his lips pressed against Hermione’s forehead in an act of tender affection. His eyes widened at what his subconscious had made him do, pulling away immediately. Hermione was staring at him in shock. “Granger, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I even did that, I didn’t even mean to –.”
In the midst of his stuttered apologies, Draco suddenly found himself face-to-face with Hermione, the latter being the one who had brought them closer. She squeezed his cold hand in her burning one, feeling the cool temperature of his skin bring her comfort and security. She knew that he didn’t like her, didn’t want her, that nobody would probably ever want her besides the one man whom she had once loved but couldn’t have, but in that moment, she didn’t care. Draco made her feel so taken care of, something she hadn’t felt in a long time. She felt Draco’s hitched breath on her face, its cool taste brushing her lips. She moved her face closer to his own. His eyes widened.
“Hermione…” he breathed.
“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” she whispered, “I just feel so alone right now.”
He nodded, obliging with his lips gently pressing against hers. She savored the feeling of his closeness, his security, the feeling of being wanted he brought, though in reality she knew that he couldn’t possibly want her. Placing her hand against the cool skin on his face, she let his lips gently massage her own, wishing that she didn’t have to let go and face the reality that she and Draco were not real, that the reality that was real was the one that hurt so painfully that sometimes she felt numb.
Draco pulled away after a couple of more moments, bringing his hand up to touch his own lips as if not believing what he had just done. Hermione watched him tensely, waiting to see if he would run away, if he would think that she was sick and twisted and never wanted to see her again. Instead, his eyes just widened in wonder at his fingertips and a small smile laced up the corners of his lips. A wash of warmth spread through Hermione’s veins then, as did a tide of exhaustion.
“Thank you, Draco.” She offered a small smile to him, trying to ignore the biting feeling in her mind that she would eventually have to face the consequences of her action later. But the moment had been nice, and she would live on it for as long as she could.
Draco just kept the crooked half-smile on his visage, his eyebrows raised up. “Er, yes. Goodnight, Granger.”
Without being asked to, he shifted over to the right side of the bed. Hermione turned to face him, her eyes half-closed and her drifting consciousness dissipating away her insecurities that she knew would come back to her later. A small smile splayed out on her lips as she tried to keep Draco from disappearing from sight behind her closed eyes. Draco interestedly watched her for a few minutes as she struggled to stay awake with the little smile embracing her lips, and soon, she was asleep.
A sudden wave of exhaustion too hit Draco before he had a chance to fully analyze what had just happened between him and Granger. He quickly flicked his wand at the candle and extinguished the light, letting his head settle into the soft pillow under it, an uncharacteristic grin creeping lazily over his face as his eyes fluttered close. As his consciousness ebbed away from him, his hand reached across the bed and somehow found Hermione’s, holding tightly as the night enveloped him in sleep.
All things Harry Potter as seen in the HP books/movies belong to JKR.
Hey everybody! First off, I'd like to thank everybody who has read thus far, reviewed, and/or favorited! I really appreciate it! Second off, sorry this chapter's a bit long. Weird how writer's block leads to lengthy chapters somehow. Third, thanks to my little sis for the candy - it made me jumpstart to finish the chapter.
Please review and let me know what you think! Thank you all!!
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