His blood hummed with anxiety as his feet wandered in convoluted loops through the living room. His palms bore the crescent indentations from his nails as he squeezed his hands into fists. A low ringing filled his ears and his eyes were wide, manic pools of molten silver as he muttered lowly to himself.
Harry watched his former nemesis pace through his best friend’s flat. He’d never expected to find…this. He knew of Hermione’s fascination with the former Slytherin, though it’d taken him awhile to understand.
They were actually quite similar, despite their years of antagonistic behavior. Besides, he’d do absolutely anything to keep Hermione with him, even if it meant fraternizing with a former Death Eater.
I shouldn’t be here. Draco sighed as he paced restlessly into Hermione’s kitchen, chewing his thumbnail nervously and randomly opening cabinets before carefully shutting them again.
“Potter, are you sure I need to stay?”
Harry rolled his eyes and slouched listlessly toward the counter, nearly slipping sideways off the barstool he’d perched on. “Malfoy, you don’t need to stay. Between George and I, we’re more than capable of keeping her alive for a little while longer. I just thought…well, you seemed-” He paused and ran a hand down his tired face. “-nevermind. I’ll tell her you said goodbye.”
Draco waffled indecisively as the minutes ticked by, his eyes darting from the man in front of him to the duo slumped against the wall of the foyer.She-she’d better off without me. I mean, she’s got her friends now…
Besides, what could she possibly want with a former Death Eater like me?
Fortifying himself against the sadness he knew he’d see in Hermione’s soft brown eyes as he passed, he tucked his hands into his pockets and edged mutely down the hall, still unsure what to do. Only-he wasn’t met with accusation and betrayal.
They were there on the floor, slumped together and entwined so tightly that he couldn’t quite tell where she ended and he began. George’s hand held her hip bruisingly and his other hand seemed to be tangled wildly in her hair. Her head fit perfectly in the hollow of his throat as her hands fisted in the front of his extremely wrinkled shirt, the cuts on her arm unglamored and staining the fabric.
Draco paused, his heart aching unfamiliarly. They looked…perfect. Perfectly broken, but perfect nonetheless. I can never have that, can I? The thought saddened him and he suddenly found the flat stifling. The walls pulsed threateningly as his vision narrowed, solely focused on the heartbreaking scene before him. He gasped in a breath and darted for the door, uncaring that the loud slam would probably disturb the distraught couple inside.
He’d thought…but what exactly had he thought? That because Granger invited him home and let him touch her naked back and hold her while she had some sort of breakdown that he was suddenly someone important? Even Potter had pointed out her less than virtuous lifestyle, so it’s not as if he was anything special. Why was he even entertaining the thought? It was never something he’d wanted before, so why should it be something he wanted now?
Unthinking, he tripped down the steep steps and stumbled out the front door. The sharp cries from the passersby on Charing Cross Road helped focus him enough to make his way to the alley beside the building. He needed to get away. He needed to get far away from her.
Without a second thought, he twisted into thin air with a quiet pop.
x . x . x . x . x
“Draco? What-darling, what have I told you about coming home like…this? Honestly, Ducky, I thought you had more sense.”
The young man was genuinely puzzled by his mother’s exasperated expression until he glanced down at himself. Oh. He still wore the pajamas Hermione seemed to have on hand, immediately somewhat disgusted at the thought of them belonging to someone else.
He sucked in a ragged breath as he tried to calm his still racing heart. “I apologize, Mother. I was in a hurry and…I’ll just-go change.”
He padded quietly through the halls of Malfoy Manor, studiously ignoring the pointed glares and disdainful muttering of the portraits on the walls. They’d never liked him and the feeling was quite mutual.
He made it to his bedroom before his mind truly caught up with the last few hours and he sighed heavily as he let himself inside. A shower was definitely top priority. Maybe the hot water would do what he couldn’t seem to and exorcise the entire conversation with Potter out of his head.
“The first time?!”
Harry nodded grimly, his mouth set into a hard line as he contemplated his next words. “Yes. She owled me this morning, ya know? She didn’t say it, but she was gonna try again-” Draco gulped audibly as his mind to the razor in her hand. His stomach dropped as he realized how badly he’d misjudged what could have been a truly horrific scene to wake up to. “-and I guess you somehow stopped her. But this would’ve been the fifth attempt.”
How someone like Granger, the brightest witch Hogwarts has seen in a generation and the brains behind the most famous trio of the modern Wizarding world, could be reduced to the absolute shell of who she had been astounded him. He stepped into the shower and winced as he adjusted the temperature of the water until he was sure it could scald away the memories and his annoyance of Potter’s refusal to tell him more. He wanted to know, but wanted to forget everything about the last day. He wanted to deny the feelings welling unfamiliarly inside him as he burned with the need to know everything about her.
“I don’t understand.”
“What is there to understand?” Harry glared at him as Draco tried to puzzle out what he’d just been told. “She’s tried to kill herself multiple times. George found her twice and I found her twice and you were here for the last one.”
“So, in the four and a half years since the war, she’d tried to off herself five bloody times?!”
“Yes. Must I repeat myself again?”
Draco shot to his feet and began pacing the length of the small patio. Harry just watched mutely, his hands clasped together as he leaned forward to brace his elbows on his knees.
“Tell me. Everything.”
Bloody Potter and his bloody fucking loyalty! Ask her, he said. It’s her choice to tell you, he said. Bloody fucking hell! Draco knew it’d be practically impossible to get Hermione to open up, if he ever even saw her again. She’d never been what he’d call an open book, despite her bookish tendencies.
The thought made him ache. He squeezed his eyes shut as he let the steamy water sluice over his head. The tile slid under his fingertips as he leaned forward, his heart stuttering violently as visions of Hermione flashed through his mind. The possibilities were endless. Each vision flashed quicker than the last, more graphic and horrible than the last.
His vision suddenly blurred and narrowed as he sank to his knees, his joints colliding against the tile with a painful crack. He panted frantically and he vaguely recognized the moans echoing through the bathroom as his own. His stomach heaved as his mind fogged over, the lack of oxygen robbing him of the clarity he so desperately craved. Minutes felt like hours as he sat hunched over in the shower, but it was only the soft touch at his back that brought him out of his misery.
Draco couldn’t even bring himself to care about his nudity as he lifted his eyes to his mother where she stood at the entrance of the shower. A harsh sob broke it’s way out of his mouth and he staggered to his feet as he threw himself at her. She staggered under his weight as his arms wound around her small frame, his head bowed low as he wept against her shoulder.
“Draco! What in Merlin’s name is the matter?” Narcissa wrapped her arms around her son, uncaring that her expensive robes were being ruined.
“She can’t die!” The words repeated themselves over and over until he wasn’t sure if he was screaming them or if they were merely running through his mind on a constant loop.
Draco trembled violently as he felt himself pulled from the shower. A towel appeared out of nowhere and draped itself around him, but he refused to let go of his mother. He just…couldn’t.
x . x . x . x . x
“Guys, you need to eat.”
Hermione’s head lifted slowly and George blinked owlishly at Harry. “Wha?”
“Food. You guys need it. It’s mid-afternoon and I got some take away when I went to check in with Pansy. Get up. Now.”
A few moments later, the trio emerged from the darkened hallway, squinting in the suddenly bright light of the kitchen. Take out boxes littered the surface and Hermione glared at her best friend while George sank onto a barstool beside her.
“I don’t nee-” George’s sharp elbow to her ribs and pointed glare elicited a squeak of protest. “I mean, thank you oh illustrious best friend of mine! It’s so very thoughtful of you to barge into my flat and try to force feed me!”
Harry glanced up from his box of what looked to be Kung Pao chicken. “You’re about seven hours late on the lecture for us barging in, love. Eat.”
Never being one for blindly following orders, Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and humphed dramatically, though she did drop to a stool directly opposite the dark haired man. Her dainty features were twisted with anger as she watched her two best friends eat. George glanced between Harry and Hermione, the tension rising with each passing second as she refused to cooperate.
“Please, ‘Mione? You need to eat something.”
“I am a grown woman and I’m perfectly capable of feeding myself. I’ve been doing it for almost 22 years now, thanks.”
The loud clatter of cutlery caught her attention as Harry jumped from his stool. She sucked in a startled gasp as he rounded the kitchen island and took hold of her shoulders. There’d be bruises she knew, but the pain helped her focus as he shook her lightly. “But you haven’t! You’ve been trying to slowly fucking kill yourself for the last four years!”
“No! If not for Draco fucking Malfoy, we would’ve walked in to find you lying in a pool of your own fucking blood this morning! You hardly eat, you hardly sleep, and you go weeks without showering! Do not tell me that you’re doing fine on your own!” She gasped as Harry threw himself at her, his arms wrapping around her body as his head found it’s place in the hollow of her throat. Sobs wracked him as he pulled her close and though she fought to breathe in his tight embrace, she couldn’t bring herself to try to push him away.
It took longer than she could ever remember for Harry to gather himself. She just sat, stroking his messy black hair as he wept openly, berating herself once again for all she’d put him and George through. It was only when he finally pulled back that she managed to speak over the lump that had formed in her throat.
“And you can’t see why, Harry? Look at what I’m doing to you, to George! There’s nothing-there’s nothing I can do anymore to fix things. I’m done.” His wide green eyes met George’s terrified blue as she glanced between the two of them. “Maybe this is all I’ve ever been meant to do. I helped you defeat Voldemort. There were so many times I should’ve died during the war and maybe things would’ve been better if I had. But now…now all I bring you is misery. You deserve to be happy.” She turned toward the red head and grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together gently. “You lost your family because of me. How can I ever forgive myself for that?”
“‘Mione, there’s nothing to forgive! Don’t you understand that?” George pulled her into his lap, tugging Harry along with her. “There was never a choice. And I need you-we need you-to be here with us. We love you! Can’t you see that?”
She leaned against him silently and Harry sighed. Another day, another fight, another realization that he may very well lose his best friend. Before he realized what he’d done, he was ripping himself away as he stumbled back down the hall. His frantic footsteps up the stairs ended once he reached her office, presumably to step into her floo.
x . x . x . x . x
“Come now, Ducky. Tell me what-or who-this is about.”
Draco glanced up at his mother from his cocoon of blankets and her heart squeezed painfully in her chest. He hadn’t looked so small and fragile since he was five and broke his arm falling off his broom. She had the urge to cross the small space between the bed and her chair so she could cuddle him. She kept her seat though, knowing he wouldn’t appreciate the memory once he’d regained his composure.
“You told me to get art.”
Well, that was not quite the elucidation Narcissa expected and she waited patiently for him to go on.
“I went to that gallery near my new flat-which by the way I had no idea you and Lucius donated to Muggle businesses! Jo Rowling told me to tell you she hadn’t had a moment to pen a thank you letter yet.” His eyebrow rose and his mother stared back levely, refusing to speak. He huffed out a sigh and Narcissa smiled indulgently. “But the art…it…it was brilliant! But it was obviously done by someone with an intimate knowledge of the Wizarding World and I thought I’d gone round the bend! But…I knew her! The artist I mean.”
He paused in his diatribe to watch his mother. She sipped her tea daintily as she waited for him to go on.
“Do you remember Hermione Granger?”
Her eyes widened at the name. “Wasn’t she the young witch who Bella…” He nodded before she’d finished, unwilling to let his mind wander to that time. “Yes, I remember her. Brilliant young lady. Wasn’t she the top of your class in Hogwarts?”
Draco nodded and braced himself for the wash of humiliation to overtake him as it normally did. Yet, it didn’t. There were no feelings of inadequacy or desire to see her fail just to lift his own self esteem. All he felt was sorrow for the shell of herself that she’d become.
“It was her. She was the artist.”
“Oh? And how did your reunion go? I imagine it must’ve come as a shock for both of you.”
He snorted inelegantly as he remembered her reaction. “I’d say. She tossed me in a closet.”
A sharp flash of steel entered his mother’s eyes as her posture went rigid. “Excuse me?”
He scrambled to finish his tale of their night together before his mother showed up at Hermione’s flat in a rage. “No!! She thought-well, I’m not quite sure what she thought exactly, but she was terrified at first. Once the gallery closed though, she dragged me to get waffles.” He licked his lips at the memory. “Really, Mother, Wonky should learn to make them! They’re quite delicious!”
A perfectly manicured eyebrow rose once again as Narcissa set her teacup down gently. “She locked you in a closet, then took you for some sort of midnight Muggle snack?”
Draco nodded, amused at the way his mother looked torn between disgust and intrigue. “Then we played in the fountain at Leicester Square before we went to her flat-”
“If this spins into some sort of debauched tale, please leave out the details and bring us to what had you sobbing in the shower.”
“No! It’s not…I mean, we didn’t…she’s-broken.” Draco raised his eyes to his mother. As grey eyes met blue, Narcissa nearly gasped as pain lanced through her at the agony she saw. “We talked and she’s got these tattoos and then I fell asleep, but then I woke up and…and I found her…”
He paused to take a breath, embarrassment flooding through him. He’d never spoken with his mother about a girl, much less a girl he used to hate and now harbored some sort of odd feelings for.
White blonde hair fell into his eyes as he stared at his lap, willing the words to the surface. “She had a razor and she…she owled Potter. If I hadn’t been there, she would’ve…”
Narcissa abandoned the fear of Draco’s reaction and rose from her chair to settle herself beside him on the bed. Her lean arms wrapped around his blanket covered body as tears began to slip down his cheeks.
“I understand, Ducky. It’ll be alright.” Draco sobbed quietly as his mother held him, his head shaking back and forth.
“No, you don’t understand. This wasn’t the first time!”
Once the room was silent again, Narcissa pulled back and held Draco by his shoulders. “I’m still not entirely sure that I understand. You used to loathe that girl. Why, all of a sudden, are you so concerned with what happens to her?”
“I-” He sniffed slightly and wiped furiously at the salty tear tracks staining his cheeks. “Have you ever been hit by a feeling so hard and you have no idea why?” His mother nodded. “That’s how I feel. When I saw her last night it was like my mind just stopped. Then I was furious as I sat in that blasted closet. But then…” He shook his head and sighed. “It was like fire. Like the emptiness in her eyes was trying to burn my soul. Merlin, I fucking sound like a pansy.”
Narcissa held back a chuckle as she contemplated her son’s words. “Draco, contrary to what your father beat into you, feelings are not a weakness. You’ve been fascinated with this girl since the day you met her on the train to Hogwarts.”
At Draco’s grumbled ‘Have not!’, she let out a tinkling laugh. “Yes you have. Whatever feelings you have for Miss Granger are strong, so let yourself feel them. The fact that this upsets you so much should be your first clue. You had the second highest grades in your class after all.”
“Thank you, mother.” Draco’s sarcastic tone belied the small smile lifting the corner of his lips.
“Well. Now that that’s settled, get up and get going.” He gazed blankly up at his mother and she smiled softly. “You obviously need her just as much as she needs you. So what are you doing here with me? Shouldn’t you be with her?”
x . x . x . x . x
The door swung inward before his fist connected with the wood and he glanced cautiously around the red tinted foyer.
Harry’s head appeared on the stairs as Draco stepped into the flat. “Shhhhhh!”
A blond eyebrow shot up at the admonishment. As Harry gestured wildly, Draco crept toward the stairs. “What are you doing?”
“Are you here?” Harry huffed at his counterpart’s incredulous glare. “I mean, are you here? Are you sticking around?”
The blond scratched his ear nervously as his eyes dropped to the floor. “Uh, yeah. I can’t…I need to help her.”
Harry continued down the steps and grabbed his arm, much to Draco’s surprise. Without a word, the dark haired man tugged him toward the stairs. They ascended silently once Draco shook off Harry’s arm, only stopping when they came to Hermione’s closed office door.
“I figured, well hoped really, that you’d be back. They’re downstairs asleep on the sofa.” Harry twisted the knob and swung the door inward as he strode toward the fireplace. Draco stopped him with a harsh grip on the shoulder and a raised eyebrow. “I need to pop over to the shop.. Please don’t go snooping. Please don’t pull out the pensieve from her bottom desk drawer. And, for the love of Merlin, please don’t watch the memories it contains. Bye.”
Draco gaped at the dark haired man as he grabbed a pinch of powder from the pot near the fireplace. The flames flared green as Harry tossed it in and prepared to leave.
“Wait, Potter! I don’t understand! You said it was her decision if she wanted to tell me.”
Harry paused momentarily, half in and half out of the fireplace. “That was before. It’s different now.”
Then he was gone. And Draco was more confused than ever.