Chapter 13: Strangers In The Night
"We need to talk" Hermione stated heatedly as she climbed through the portrait hole.
"I think I've been made to talk enough for today don't you Granger?" he said resentfully.
"No actually I don't, I'm not agreeing with what Harry did, he completely abused the position you were in but you completely humiliated me Malfoy!" she crossed her arms and blocked his path.
"You felt humiliated, you?" Draco said incredulously "I was forced to take Veritas Serum and had my feelings and secrets paraded in front of an audience of people who hate me!" he exclaimed.
"Ok, you win" Hermione sighed, surprising him.
"I what? Are you feeling ok Granger?" he asked, genuinely concerned that she had conceded.
"I'm tired Malfoy, I'm really damn tired. All I want is to have a few months of civility. I want to work together so we both get our NEWTS, everyone has a good time and we manage to somehow enjoy our last days of being students. After seven years of opposition, why is it so hard for you to grant me and the rest of Hogwarts a few months of peace?" Hermione begged tiredly.
"You don't get it, Granger!" Draco growled.
"Well then enlighten me Malfoy because I'm sick of your attitude! At least when you were mean to me it made sense! Now you're boiling hot one minute and freezing cold the next and it's driving me insane" she huffed.
"IT'S MY FAULT!" He yelled, grabbing her and forcing her to look him in the eye.
"THE WAR, THAT DISGUSTING SCAR, YOUR NIGHTMARES, ALL OF IT! YOU SHOULDN'T WANT TO WORK WITH ME, YOU SHOULDN'T EVEN WANT TO LOOK AT ME!" Draco screamed at a shocked Hermione. Was Draco Malfoy finally showing his feelings?
"FRED WEASLEY DIED BECAUSE, OF ME, HE WAS A BETTER MAN THAN I EVER WAS, AND HE DIED BECAUSE I FIXED THAT DAMN CABINET. LUPIN AND MY COUSIN, WHOM I NEVER EVEN GOT TO KNOW BECAUSE DEAR OLD DAD SAID SO…THEIR KID'S AN ORPHAN JUST LIKE POTTER, BECAUSE OF ME. I RUINED EVERYTHING, IF IT WASN'T FOR ME, YOU AND WEASLEY WOULD BE MARRIED AND LIVING HAPPILY EVER AFTER BY NOW AND YOU WOULDN'T HAVE THAT GODDAMN LOOK IN YOUR EYES LIKE YOU'RE LIVING IN A FUCKING GRAVEYARD.
SO DON'T YOU DARE BE NICE TO ME GRANGER" he finished tearfully "because I can't take it, not from you. If I had just refused and let him kill me, we would all be better off. This slip of freedom is a farce, and everyone knows it".
Hermione instinctively wanted to throw her arms around the hysterical young man in front of her, but she knew this was a turning point for him and that she had to operate cautiously. He had turned his back on her, evidently ashamed of his outburst, but he hadn't left the common room yet. He was a Slytherin she decided and they weren't exactly known for being touchy-feely. If she wanted to get through to him then she would have to use cold, hard, reasoning.
"How do you like your tea Malfoy?" she asked.
He gave her a strange look "I don't drink tea Granger" he muttered exhaustedly.
"Hot chocolate then" Hermione decided and busied herself with the kettle while she thought about how to respond. Draco watched her work the muggle appliances in a state of tired confusion.
"Firstly, the war wasn't your fault" she began, "It started a generation before you were born, and Voldemort came back in our fourth year without any help from you. If you hadn't agreed to the mission, he would have used Nott or one of your housemates to do his dirty work and it would have all kicked off anyway. So, to put it bluntly Draco, check your ego, because this was a hell of a lot bigger than just you". Hermione waved a hot chocolate over to where he sat silently, staring at the coffee table.
"Secondly, Bellatrix and Bellatrix alone is to blame for this scar"
"But I didn't stop..." he began.
"Again Draco, check your ego, you couldn't have stopped her, and I wouldn't have wanted you to risk your life trying. Nephew or not we both know she wouldn't have hesitated to kill you. Plus, if I'm not mistaken, you not only allowed Harry to disarm you without resistance, you also tried not to identify him to begin with. Both of those acts took a lot of courage considering who you were surrounded by."
"Third, yes it's true that I mostly have nightmares about your aunt and they are a mental response to the physical trauma that she and she alone caused.
"I loved Fred," she held up a hand to tell him not to bother arguing, "I loved Fred, I loved Remus Lupin and I especially loved your cousin Tonks, she was like a big sister to me at headquarters. They were brave, honest and wonderful people." Draco looked away from her despairingly "and they would have died with or without you. Your wand didn't kill anyone Draco, you had the chance with Dumbledore, but you proved that night you weren't a killer. You were a scared teenager who was set up to fail out of revenge and because Voldemort knew you were cleverer than your housemates. God knows Crabbe or Goyle wouldn't have had the brains to mend the connection between the cabinets. If he hadn't used you Draco, he would have found another way.
I am not saying that you made the right choices, your behavior was deplorable at times, but bad behavior doesn't make a bad person and if you spend your life shouldering the blame for every single one of the Death Eaters or Voldemort's actions, then what was the point in surviving?"
Draco continued to stare at the floor silently until another voice behind them made them both jump.
"I hate to say it but she's right Malfoy, Hermione is pretty much always right" Harry was standing at the Portrait hole with a guilty looking Ginny who apologized for their intrusion. He gazed at Malfoy curiously as though he'd never met the man before. "I apologize for earlier Malfoy, I'm still not too happy about all of this, but I lost control and it was unfair of me to ask personal questions" Harry offered a sincere hand to Draco this time and pulled him to his feet.
"And no one blames you for Fred," Ginny said quietly. "I miss him every day but Hermione's right, he would have fought the Death Eaters somewhere else if they hadn't gotten into Hogwarts. He died sticking it to the ministry and that was exactly the way he would have wanted to go" Ginny smiled a watery smile.
"Even if you're right about the war, I was a bad person long before that" Draco shook his head miserably.
"Yeah, you were a right git," Ginny agreed, laughing "but we've all done a lot of growing up since then"
"I don't know why but I feel like I should be offended by that statement." Harry laughed "My Dad and Sirius would never forgive me for growing up" he pulled a face.
"Harry, you're fighting for the Ministry and getting married, I think it's a bit late to worry about that" Hermione rolled her eyes.
Draco looked up at the three figures surrounding him. He had wondered what a friendship like theirs must be like for years. He had never had a genuine friend who didn't just hang around him because of wealth or parentage. He remembered their first day at Hogwarts when he had wanted to impress and befriend the great Harry Potter and he had had his assertions thrown back in his face. It was the first time anyone had rejected or challenged his beliefs and the notion that to be a Malfoy was to be better than others. He wondered what would have happened if he had paused to think about that seven years ago, instead of acting jealous and spiteful because had Potter got everything he had wanted.
"Well now that that's over and done with, I came to say goodbye and to say that Mrs. Weasley said she will be owling you both about wedding plans," Harry said breezily.
"Oh, don't you think for a second you are getting out of planning this wedding with me, Harry, I'm not marrying my mother!" Ginny warned him, and Draco laughed as Potter's eyes widened.
"But Gin, I have Auror stuff and um stuff" he protested, backing away and climbing clumsily through the portrait hole.
"Harry James Potter!" Ginny chased after him.
"Potter's going to have his hands full with her" Draco muttered, and Hermione burst out laughing. She caught herself when she realized he had made a joke and gazed at the emotionally exhausted boy at her feet.
"Malfoy, how did you put it again? Oh yeah, you look in dire need of Fire Whisky" she proclaimed, conjuring two shot glasses and summoning the bottle Ginny had left in her room on their first night.
She hesitated "It's only Odgen's I'm afraid, not like your expensive stuff…"
"Granger, just pour the glass, I would drink mud if you told me it would help me forget today" he raised his glass to her ironically "To your good health and continuing bossiness I suppose" he drawled.
She pursed her lips "To you being a free man…and still a git" she clinked her glass against his.
"Dracooo" Hermione hiccupped an hour later after they had drained the bottle of Odgen's dry.
Malfoy raised an eyebrow at her. He was thoroughly enjoying drunk Granger and was more than slightly tipsy himself.
"Let's play 20 questions" Hermione suggested wildly.
"I dunno how" Draco staggered to the sofa and flopped down heavily, his own head was starting to feel a little fuzzy.
"I can theach you"!" Hermione slurred. "We thake it in turns to ask each other questions and the other one has to answer honestly.
"Sounds boring", Draco yawned
"S'not! Please, Malfoy?" Hermione flopped down next to him and he caught a glimpse of her face in the firelight. She was adorably innocent even when she was pissed off her rocker he thought to himself.
"I can ask anything at all?" he raised an eyebrow at her.
"S'long as I know the answer" Hermione slurred and leaned into him slightly.
Draco pondered this for a moment and decided he should start mildly and work his way up to more interesting questions.
"What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you at Hogwarts," Draco asked her.
Hermione dropped her face in her hands "When I turned myself into a cat with the Polyjuice potion" she mumbled.
"You know how to brew Polyjuice?" Draco took a moment to appraise her, impressed and slightly annoyed by her potions aptitude. He had always thought it was the one subject in which he was better than her.
"Brewed it in the second year to get into your common room" she giggled.
"Second year?" Draco stared at her incredulously, "hang on, you were in the Slytherin common room?"
"No" she frowned, her eyebrows creasing together, "I was busy being a cat" Hermione tried to explain, "but Harry and Ron were, you let them in"
"I would not!" Draco protested haughtily.
"You did" she laughed again "they looked like Crabbe and Goyle"
"Those crafty gits!" he exclaimed, "why?"
"They thought you were the heir of Slytherin," she told him breezily, enjoying the look of horror that this elicited.
"But if they were Crabbe and Goyle then why were you a cat?" he asked, confused.
"I was supposed to be Millicent Bulstrode, but the hair I plucked from her robes turned out to belong to a cat"
Draco honestly tried not to laugh as he imagined what Hermione must have looked like in feline form. He thought about how she would look with fur all over her face and a bushy tail coming out of her…well, let's just say it was a very amusing image.
"My turn" she scowled playfully as he chortled next to her. "The other night when you were talking about that thing you wanted, what was it?" she asked boldly.
"A girl," he told her hesitantly, purposely avoiding her eyes. Hermione raised her eyebrows.
"I thought Malfoy's could have any girl they wanted" she peered at him tipsily.
"Well I guess we all have to strike out once" he evaded.
"First crush Granger?" he asked her before she could press him further "and don't tell me it was Weasley because that would be dreadfully boring" he groaned.
"I may have taken a liking to Seamus in the first year" she admitted reluctantly.
"Seamus Finnegan?" Draco laughed "but isn't he gay?"
"Completely!" Hermione giggled "But I was eleven and he had an accent" she blushed.
"Accents huh" he raised an eyebrow at her.
"Well what are you attracted too then?" she said crossing her arms defensively.
"Is that your question?" he asked warily.
"sure, why not," Hermione said, genuinely curious.
Draco sighed "Intelligence definitely and able to hold a spirited debate, competitive but honorably so, someone who knows who they are and isn't afraid to be themselves, and they have to be loyal to me and only me, I can't stand girls that cheat or sleep around" he summarised.
There was a brief silence as they both thought about the fact that Hermione was well known for all these traits. "Uh, your turn" she recovered.
"Favourite Slytherin?" he questioned with a wink, trying to steer the game back into a more humorous territory.
"I suppose it would have to be you" she grimaced "but don't let it go to your head. I only like you for your brains"
"My brains?" Draco pressed, visibly surprised at the compliment.
"You didn't make Head Boy for nothing Draco, when you're not being all nasty and broody you're pretty much the only person I can have an intelligent argument with" she admitted, "the only thing Harry and Ron ever argued passionately about was Quidditch".
"You enjoyed our arguments?" Draco choked out.
"The academic ones" she clarified narrowing her eyes "and I told you not to let it go to your head, if it gets any bigger you won't fit through the portrait hole." She laughed, and Draco enjoyed the way her lips parted as she did so.
"Granger" he muttered softly, leaning towards her slightly "what's electricity?"
Hermione froze "why would you ask that?" she stared at him, shifting away from him on the sofa so that there was more of a space between them.
"No reason" Draco lied "I heard it was a muggle thing and I was curious"
Hermione swallowed slowly "Well it wasn't your turn" she evaded hastily, "this has been fun Draco, but I think I need to get to bed now"
"Granger, leave your door open from now on," he told her suddenly, unsure where the impulse had come from.
"W…what?" she asked shakily
"You know, for the nightmares," he said hurriedly.
"Oh right, yeah, the nightmares" she repeated, swaying slightly as she entered her chamber, leaving the door ever so slightly ajar….
Draco stared at the gap she had left, an invitation? He wondered tipsily, suddenly unsure whether he wanted Hermione to have a nightmare tonight or not. He backed away from her door, abruptly aware that he was in danger of crossing a boundary that he couldn't undo. He went swiftly to his own room and paused with his handle on the door and then kicked off a single shoe and used it to wedge the latch open.
just in case...he told himself.
Hermione wrestled frantically trying to break through the hoard of people as Hagrid stumbled towards them and dropped to his knees. She heard Ginny's screech of horror as she realized who lay in his arms. HARRY POTTER IS DEAD the high-pitched voice screamed to her repeatedly.
"Granger, wake up" Draco shook her whimpering body.
"Harry?" she gasped, sitting up and looking around the dark room wildly. Draco tried not to be disappointed that she had dreamed of Potter.
"It was just a dream Granger," Draco said awkwardly, one hand already on the door.
"Draco?" she realized looking around in confusion and rubbing her eyes. "What time is It? She asked yawning"
"Around 3 am" he shrugged "go back to sleep Granger"
"Why aren't you sleeping?" she demanded, getting out of bed. "Tell me that you haven't been forcing yourself to stay awake to check on me Draco" she commanded looking at his sunken eyes and putting two and two together.
"S'least I could do, it's my fau…" he started again.
"Hogwash! I thought we'd gone over this Malfoy!" she said furiously.
"I don't sleep anymore anyway" he admitted "too many memories".
Hermione hesitated when she noticed his tone was laced with sadness. She thought back to his confession in Slughorn's office and to the day before when he had told her to feel his heartbeat. Was his idea really that crazy? She wondered. They were both single adults after all…and no one would have to know. It was a far better alternative than becoming addicted to sleeping potions. They had already shared a bed once, so what was one more night? She reasoned.
"You can sleep tonight," she said softly, taking his hand and pulling him towards her in the darkness. Draco almost stumbled in surprise as he realized what she was suggesting. "Sleep Draco" she mumbled wrapping his arm over hers. Draco felt the tension in his body ease as he lay beside her. "thank you..Hermione," she heard him slur sleepily before he was overtaken by soft gentle snores.