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Chapter 16 : Wounds
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He had not been able to look his mother in the eyes when he had told her of her husband's death. Lucius may not have been a good husband or father, or even a good man, but Draco knew that Narcissa had loved him once, in her own way. He had seen pictures and heard stories of their younger years; Lucius had doted on Narcissa, charming her with jewelry and flowers and books, and Narcissa fell for him hard before the Dark Lord's first rise to power drew him in. Their marriage had been arranged, but it had not always been loveless, and Draco suspected that his mother was finally allowing herself to grieve, not for the cold man who had died that morning but for the man she had loved once upon a time. He knew that he could offer her no comfort and that she would be a walking corpse for days at least, going on with her routine but without the normal light in her eyes and smile ready on her lips.
Losing his mother for a time was to be expected - he knew it would happen, had prepared himself for it - but he had not meant to lose Hermione so quickly. He had hoped to continue their friendship for a time before he would inevitably have to withdraw from her and take up his father's duties among the Dark Lord's followers. It was selfish, he knew, but he needed her now, needed her soft smiles and bright eyes and witty banter to bring him back to himself. That was it! He needed to see her, to apologize, to ensure that he had not alienated her forever.
With that goal in mind, he rose from his bed and strode through the hallways to her room. He expected to find her still awake, reading, perhaps the same tome she had held in her hands earlier. However, his light knock received no answer, and the door slid open silently to reveal her sleeping form, hair splayed around her and book set carefully on the night stand beside the bed. Somewhat disappointed but unwilling to wake her, the man clicked the door back shut, pale fingers lingering on the knob in the moonlight for a few moments longer, before returning to his chambers.
The closing of the door jolted her out of her light sleep. Curious, she fit her feet into a pair of slippers and opened the door to peer out. A tall silhouette, accented occasionally by the shine of silvery hair in the moonlight, was walking away down the hall. Without hesitation, she took off after the figure that she knew so well. Her hand reached out, touching his left shoulder to get his attention. At the contact, he tensed, and she heard him hiss under his breath. "Draco, what's wrong?"
"Lumos." The tip of his wand burst into light as he turned to face her. Wordlessly, he handed her his wand and began to unbutton his shirt. Confused, she merely stood there and waited. With careful hands, he slid the shirt off enough to reveal bandages covering his shoulder.
She released a quiet gasp, and, looking from the wrap to his eyes, she whispered, "May I?"
He nodded. Her fingers ghosted to the edge of the bandage, unwrapping it slowly and with great care but he still flinched as the final layer lifted off to reveal an angry red gash that no longer bled but threatened to break again at the slightest provocation. From the pursing of her lips, he knew that she was trying not to bombard him with questions, waiting for him to speak first as she gently re-wrapped the wound. "Fleur Delacour. She got my legs too, though not nearly as bad," he finally offered as she came to face him squarely again. "She really isn't much of a fairy princess."
She forced herself to laugh lightly at his joke, but something in his posture told her that his physical wounds were not the whole story. "I suppose I'm not allowed to ask much about the mission, am I?"
He shook his head slowly. "No, I can't tell you. The Dark Lord forbid discussion of missions around you when you first came. We couldn't have you somehow managing to communicate the details back to Saint Potter and his crew." What should have been a hard jab seemed half-hearted, his voice monotone and his shoulders slightly slumped.
"Voldemort didn't forbid you from having some tea, though, did he?"
Confused, he returned his gaze to hers, finding her lips curled into a small smirk. "He did not," he answered with his unspoken question lifting his voice on the end.
She lightly took hold of his wrist, her fingers wrapping with just enough pressure to direct his steps back to her room. Once the door closed softly under his touch and they had seated themselves side by side on the bed, Hermione called for Tituba.
"What can Tituba do for Miss... and Master Draco?"
"We would like some tea, please, Tituba. Chamomile, I think." She turned to Draco, and he nodded in agreement.
Two snaps and barely a minute later Tituba returned with a steaming tea kettle, two cups, two tea bags, cream, sugar, and small lemon slices balanced on a tray.
"Lemon?" Draco quirked his eyebrows at the brunette next to him.
A slight blush colored her cheeks, but she replied confidently, "My mother is American, and as a girl, her mother would give her tea with honey and lemon when she was sick. She passed the habit onto me. I've never much cared for cream in my tea anyways. I guess I'm not quite properly British."
They shared a chuckle, and Draco remembered the easy days from only a week ago - though it seemed a lifetime - when he spent most of his time with her, helping her recover and vowing to bring the light back to her eyes. He could see a seed of that light now.
But as he reminisced, he also recalled the reason for their parting, and he stared stonily down at his tea, trying to find words that would not come.
"Draco?" her soft voice interrupted his thoughts.
Avoiding her question, he chose to ask one of his own instead. "When did I become 'Draco'?"
He saw the surprise flash through her eyes and realized that she might not have registered the change herself. However, she shifted to face him better, looked straight into his eyes, and said, "I suppose when you started calling me 'Hermione.'"
Silver battled gold as their gazes remained locked for several seconds more, each challenging the other to admit the real reason for the change. Finally, he broke the intense silence but held the stare. "Well, don't get too used to it... Granger." Nearly identical smirks bloomed across their faces, and both knew that reverting would never be quite as easy as it sounded.
Their staring contest came to an abrupt end as a yawn overcame Hermione. "I think it's past your bedtime," he teased.
"Oh shush, you." She tried to retort by sticking her tongue out, but the gesture quickly transitioned into another yawn.
"Goodnight, Hermione." He stood, vanished their cups and the tray with his wand, and walked to the door.
A quick smile in her direction, and the door eased shut again. Draco breathed a sigh of relief against the closed door before standing tall and sauntering down the cold hall. He had her back and without having to open his real wound to her!
On the other side of the door, the young woman had swung her legs back under the sheets, extinguished the lamp light, and closed her eyes. But her mind reeled, going back over their conversation. He had cleverly avoided ever telling her what was really upsetting him, what had driven him to her room late at night. What could have him so shaken that she could see it in his normally impenetrable eyes? What had happened on that mission? What had he seen? Or what had he done? Her heart ached for whatever his pain was while she wanted to scream at him for being so enigmatic.
A/N: Too much cheese? Oh well. Draco was supposed to tell Hermione about his father but he just wouldn't cooperate. Silly prideful boy. But at least it's another chapter with lots of words! Yay!
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