Disclaimer: This is a non-profit derivative work based on the world and characters of J. K. Rowling.
Characters: Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Others
Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance, Smut
Main Pairing: Draco/Hermione
Story Warnings: Dubious Consent, Epilogue? What Epilogue?, Psychological Trauma, Smut
Overall Rating: NC-17
Summary: Nine years after Voldemort's defeat, Hermione decides to take a holiday from her life to work out who she is and what she wants to do with herself. She soon gets the feeling that Draco Malfoy might be the key to her salvation, but Draco seems to be consumed by a need to keep secrets that are destroying him and does not want her interfering. Armed with a determination to save someone who doesn't want to be saved, she sets out to see how he might fit into the oddly shaped puzzle that is her life.
Credit: Thank you to dollfaced, namelessamelie and mazvn for the comprehensive beta and filigree1 for the Britpick. Extra thank you to dollfaced for the banner.
Chapter Length: 7,179
Draco felt a prickling on his skin and looked up to see a pair of wide brown eyes looking at him almost accusingly before suddenly they rolled back in their owner's head and Hermione Granger collapsed.
At first he didn't react, he just stared, but then Carys followed his gaze and with a shriek, she ran to the unconscious form and knelt. "What happened?" she demanded of him whilst she carefully felt Granger's forehead.
"How should I know?" he retorted, shoving his hands in his pockets because they somehow didn't seem to want to unclench. He had a hard time relaxing around Granger as it was, and to have this happen was... annoying. "I just looked at her and she passed out. It doesn't happen all that often, you know." He hadn't even known she'd be here. He did his best to avoid her at all times, sometimes simply resorting to sit around in his office or his private rooms. Of course she would be there to ruin it on the one night he was finally looking for some diversion again. Why wouldn't she be? It would all be too easy if she weren't.
"It couldn't be the drink," Carys muttered. "I'm certain I only brought her one and she didn't even finish it."
"Maybe she'd had a head start?" Draco suggested. Yeah, swotty goody-goody Hermione Granger hitting the drink. That was bloody likely. But then again... they all had their demons, didn't they?
Carys shook her head, dismissing the idea as well. "No, not this one. She was sober and not looking to drink. Just looking to not be completely alone as she read her book, I suspect. That's why I brought the drink to her, so she wouldn't need to work through the crowd."
Draco's jaw clenched right along with his fists, and he looked away from the witches on the floor, scowling at a few goggling patrons. Everyone was looking to not be alone. Big fucking deal. "Well, something has to be done," was what he said out loud. Rather state the obvious than have Carys become cross with him for his lack of compassion. He wasn't in the mood to have Carys become cross with him tonight.
"You're right." Carys carefully stroked Granger's cheek and then got up, wiping her hands on her robes. "She's the new teacher, isn't she? We could bring her to a room here, but I think she'll be more comfortable in her own bed, and there's a nurse right handy up there. Someone will have to bring her back to the castle."
Now there was a plan. Get the bushy-haired ghost away from there so other people--himself, in particular--could resume their evening. "Who?" he blithely asked.
"You, that's who!"
"Me?" There was no way in hell! He couldn't stand even looking at Granger, and now Carys would have him carry her back to Hogwarts? "I'm not a Healer," he objected, "and I had other plans for tonight." As Carys very well knew since she rather was his plans.
She gave him one of those looks that he tended to associate with females. "Consider those plans cancelled."
He tamped down the urge to groan. "You're really not very good at bribing me to do this."
She rested her hands on her hips and glared at him. "And I'd be more of a mind to reward you if you weren't being such a git about it!"
Granger moved her head to the side and softly moaned. If he were lucky, she would come to and be fine, and they could all forget this nonsense. She'd probably merely forgotten to eat or some such other vain female idiocy.
Yeah, because Granger was the type for that. What was he even thinking? She was far too practical to pass out from hunger.
Carys frowned. "Who's Marilyn?"
Draco blinked and then stared at her. "You heard her say something?"
"Please. I take orders from drunks in this ruckus all the time. So, who's Marilyn?"
He shrugged. The familiarity of the name was really uncomfortable but it couldn't be the Marilyn he remembered. Granger didn't remember anything that had happened between them years ago, least of all the small part Marilyn Shaw had played; he was one hundred percent sure of that. He'd watched for signs that she might remember something every time he'd been forced to be around her these past few weeks, but she was... blank. There was nothing there. He couldn't quite decide if that relieved or agitated him. On the one hand, he was so very tired of keeping so many secrets and making sure that others kept them as well, but on the other hand, she could never remember. At this point, the knowledge could do nothing but destroy. Her mind could shatter from having to adapt to such a large shift of her reality, and his world would narrow quite a bit until it only contained the inside of the walls of Azkaban. It could never be worth it.
When Carys kept staring expectantly at him, he dismissed his own fears as paranoia and merely said, "I don't know. Maybe a friend of hers?"
"Her girlfriend, maybe?" Carys knelt again. "We do have to get her off this cold floor whether you like it or not, Draco."
He wrinkled his nose. "Don't be absurd."
Carys shot him another look. "It's absurd to get her off the floor?"
"No, the other bit. I, uh, knew her ex-fiancé. Talk about being a git. Sometimes I've had my doubts whether he had the intelligence to qualify for the title of human being, but he was male."
"And ex could be the operative word here. People change and they discover who they are." She carefully felt Granger's forehead. "Sometimes, they aren't who you think they are, at all. Sometimes, they even surprise themselves." Carys had completely ignored Draco's digs at Ronald Weasley, which made them far less satisfying. But then, she didn't know the wizard, so why had Draco even bothered? Old habits died hard, it seemed.
"Right. You have anything you want to tell me, then?" It was more of a distraction than a legitimate question. She was projecting far too much of herself onto this boring little miss that Granger had become, and seeming far too interested in what she saw. Carys was a rather... giving... person and not one to accept any limitations society might want to impose upon her. He liked that about her. It meant that when he wasn't in the mood for a girlfriend, she had at least one other lover to entertain her. Everybody won. The only problem was the way she was looking at Granger. He really didn't want to share his girlfriend with his... well, ex-girlfriend, he supposed. Talk about awkward. For him.
"Oh, I believe you know everything you need to know about me," Carys sharply said, "but what you seem not to know is that if you don't get this witch home before she gets pneumonia from lying on my floor, you can forget about me being available for your pleasure for a good long while!"
"I'd actually already worked that out," he muttered and then sighed.
He just really, really didn't like being around Granger. He had been prepared for the unpleasantness when he'd learned she was coming to Hogwarts. He'd actually been almost surprised at how, the first time he'd seen her, he'd felt absolutely nothing but the predictable resentment that she couldn't stay out of his life. But he feared that if pushed too far tonight, he might actually explode. Or vomit. It was a feeling he could have lived without, but unfortunately it wasn't anything new. Already before Granger had decided to upset his life, Draco had been straining against his own mental limits quite often. Now, her very presence in the same bloody castle as him seemed to drain him to a degree where those limits were always staring him in the face.
It had been a long time since he'd seen her before she'd moved here. A long time. After the war, he had opted not to redo his seventh year because she had been redoing hers. After that, when she'd got a job at the Ministry, he'd opted to avoid any and all functions she might possibly go to, and he'd completely avoided the building itself. Merlin, even that one time he'd been in trouble with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures for some minor offence, he'd doled out considerable bribes simply to keep her off the case.
He simply hadn't been able to keep her from coming here. He'd actually tried as hard as he could without revealing himself. He'd had her superiors offering her promotions, and he'd had a few other job offers that she should have found interesting thrown at her--his family still had some influence, after all--but she'd stayed determined. Then, when it had been clear that she was decided, he'd swallowed his bitter disappointment at once again having had his life turned over by her, and had offered the Headmistress his own resignation. She had refused to accept it. After a heated debate about whether or not he could break his contract before it ran out--she had much stricter contracts drawn than Dumbledore had had in his day--she'd finally resorted to blackmail to keep him in his position until at least the end of this year. If he left, she'd said, then she would write a book based on the memories of his part in the war that they had wrangled from him in exchange for allowing him to work at Hogwarts. A damn book. Where was the confidentiality in that? They'd only been given access to those memories in order to definitively prove that he wasn't evil and wouldn't abuse his position. It hadn't even been something he'd wanted to do. It had been either doing that and come live and work here as part of his recovery plan, or stand before the Wizengamot and face full public scandal and censure.
And now he actually quite liked it here, which was of course why the fates had thrown Granger at him.
Fortunately, there was one part of his memories even they didn't have access to. He'd been able to remain vague about a lot of what had come before the actual war and had thereby preserved his biggest secret and heaviest burden even as they plied him with potions and poked around in his mind. That part was making him angry and nauseated whenever he thought about it, even though any other emotions tied to it had been long since buried and all but forgotten. It was the part where he had been secretly seeing Hermione Granger for months, only to ultimately abuse her trust and violate her mind to make her forget about their time together. He'd done it in the name of keeping her safe, but to be honest, he'd always been glad he'd done it. And once he'd come to his senses, he'd never had any inclination to reverse it.
He merely didn't want to have to be near her. And he felt that he'd come to understand exactly why that was: he still very much feared being revealed and he hated her. He hated her for forcing that secret on him. He hated her for not allowing him to be as blissfully unaware as she was. He hated her for all the times over the years where he had been paralysed with fear that this time they would find him out. He hated her for not marrying her beloved Ron Weasley after the war and being bloody happy. He hated her for coming here and disturbing his peace.
It wasn't rational. If put on the spot, he didn't think he could explain coherently exactly why he resented her so much for these things. Perhaps it was because of the time she represented; a time he himself would have loved to be allowed to forget in its entirety. A time filled with nothing but gut-wrenching fear and desperation. A time where every day he'd died a little inside, whilst desperately trying to figure out what kind of atrocities he'd have to perform in order to save his parents. In order to save himself. In order to save her. He hadn't done very well saving her. She'd still had to endure all kinds of hardships, some of which he'd even had to witness. But she'd had her Potter and her Weasley, and ultimately she was alive, so he'd always chosen to count it as a victory. He had so preciously few of those.
He didn't honestly mind continuing to protect them both from her finding out the truth for the rest of his life, but why did she have to be here?
"Look, she's coming to!" Carys said, interrupting Draco's train of thoughts.
He looked down on the petite witch that he was wasting all of this anger on, as she slowly began stirring. It was really quite ridiculous that she should do such a number on his self-control by merely existing, so he resolved to try not to let her get to him. What was in the past was in the past, right? She didn't even remember, so holding her responsible was really rather pointless. Hating her was merely a waste of energy. Maybe if he told himself all of this often enough, eventually that burning need to yell at her, strangle her, forcibly remove her from his life so he could feel at ease again, would disappear.
"Are you all right?" Carys was asking Granger, as Granger was struggling to sit up.
"I... think so," Granger said, rubbing her head, freeing more hair from that loose bun she had tried to tame it with, making it into an even more disastrous mess.
Carys carefully helped Granger to her feet, whilst Draco merely stood by, silently watching. He didn't have the most helpful nature to begin with, and Granger had already used up her quota a long time ago. In fact, she'd pretty much used up everyone else's quota as well.
"What happened?" Carys asked, carefully dusting off Granger's robes. To her credit, she didn't even seem to try and cop a feel. But then again, for someone as advanced in her sexual tastes and habits as Carys, she was rather nurturing even towards complete strangers. That was a rarity in Draco's experience, and one of the reasons why Carys intrigued him. He'd quite possibly found the only truly good woman, who could deal with his general lack of commitment.
"I don't know," Granger muttered. "I saw... " She turned towards Draco and stopped as she noticed him, apparently remembering what she saw. "Him... " she confirmed, loosely pointing at him. "And then... then I felt odd, and I suppose I fainted." She frowned at Carys. "Hey, you remind me of someone."
"Marilyn?" Carys guessed, making Draco curse inwardly. If the whole Marilyn thing and Granger passing out was connected, then it was definitely not a good sign that both the Marilyn of their school days and Carys were pretty, busty, straight-forward blondes, and that it had happened whilst he had been speaking to Carys. What were the odds of such a coincidence, anyway? He didn't even have a type; his current lover could have had any kind of look. Except that he seemed to have an aversion to bookish types with wild hair, of course, but that was beside the point.
"Who?" Granger asked, looking genuinely puzzled.
For a second Carys looked stumped, but then she simply smiled and stroked Granger's cheek once more. "Never mind, pet. But you'd best go and see your nurse up at the castle. You know, make sure you're taken care of if you're ill or pregnant."
Granger burst out laughing but quickly checked herself. "I'm sorry," she said with a small grimace. "Fairly certain I'm not pregnant, though."
Carys gave Granger a friendly smile. "You never know. The spells and potions can fail. Sometimes the brewer is just not good enough, or you cast the spell too eagerly or--"
"I think she meant she hasn't engaged in any baby-making activities," Draco offered, somewhat amused that the thought didn't even seem to occur to Carys--especially after Carys's theory that Granger might like witches now.
His amusement rose as Carys immediately looked embarrassed and confused and just uttered a small, "Ah."
And it certainly didn't detract from it that Granger seemed to rediscover his presence and went completely red. Yet he was hardly surprised that she didn't know how to have any fun. She had never known. Well, except for that one very brief moment in time where she had actually loosened up a little. Too bad she hadn't developed those skills better. For her own sake. Maybe then she could've held on to her fiancé and not come bother Draco in his nice little bubble up here.
"In any case," Carys said, her slight embarrassment gone, "Draco here will walk you safely back."
"Wait, Draco Malfoy?" Granger asked, as if it weren't glaringly obvious who Carys had meant. "You positive that he isn't planning to drown me in a ditch or something?"
He ignored her. "Will you be awake if I make it back?" he asked Carys, really more interested in whether or not he would be getting some long-needed release tonight than whether Granger would be passing out again.
Carys held up her hand for him to wait whilst she frowned at Granger. "Drown you in a ditch? Why would he do that?"
Apart from all the obvious reasons?
"Last I checked, he hated anyone that wasn't a pure-blood," Granger said, eyeing him suspiciously, a calculating quality to her look that gave Draco pause. No, she wouldn't be telling his girlfriend these things simply to gauge where he stood on blood matters these days, would she? "Especially me, because I wasn't as he thought a Muggle-born should be." Her eyes flickered between Carys and Draco to measure their reactions. Apparently, she would. And she couldn't even be subtle about it, either.
Carys's frown deepened. "I'm half-blood, for the record, not that it's anyone's business. And how should you be?"
"You have to forgive Granger," Draco cut in before Granger could talk his girlfriend into breaking it off with him, leaving him without any fun in the foreseeable future. "She's still living in the nineties where I was a schoolboy, taking my father's teachings to heart. If I don't particularly care for her, it has nothing to do with her blood status." The last was said with a warning glance in her direction.
"Hmh." Carys watched Granger thoughtfully for a few seconds. "Well, I suppose it's quite a lot to ask you to trust him, but maybe you can trust me? I trust him not to kill you. At least not tonight."
Draco smirked at that. But he was rapidly getting sick of this conversation. "Come on, Granger," he irritably said, moving towards the door. "If I'm going to kill you, I promise you it'll be when I'm not the most likely suspect. I'd probably murder you in your bed. Or, better yet, poison your tea!"
"Be nice!" Carys called.
Draco made a dismissive hand wave at her and Granger reluctantly followed him. But seeing as he'd never got Carys to respond to whether she would be up later or not, there was really no point in him going back. Damn it! He could have used the stress relief. What he got instead was the privilege of having to babysit his least favourite person in the world.
He really was cursed.
"So... that's your girlfriend, then?" Granger asked, breaking what Draco had felt was a very agreeable silence. Especially when combined with the fact that Granger was walking at least nine feet off to the side of him. He could almost imagine she wasn't there as long as she didn't speak.
No matter how he tried to look at it, there wasn't any way he could make himself feel comfortable talking to her. All it would take was the tiniest slip, and he risked her over-active brains would connect some dots other people didn't see and she'd know. It brought him out in a cold sweat just to think about it.
Still, she'd asked a question and, so, he'd better reply. "Yeah... " he muttered.
"Oh, good," she said, her voice slightly muffled from the cloak she had wrapped tightly around herself. "I thought... well, for a second I thought that she might... never mind."
Draco glanced at her, at first slightly confused and annoyed that she didn't just make her point, but then something clicked and he slowly smirked. Wouldn't this be something for the prissy, sheltered school madam to take in. "Oh, she might."
Granger's eyes widened and then narrowed. "You're just lying to make me feel uncomfortable. It's not working. She's very pretty, isn't she? I'd be flattered."
"She was interested in you," Draco bluntly said. "Flirting, even. If there were no objections from anyone involved, she'd get together with you in a heartbeat."
Granger's eyes widened again and her step faltered. "What... you mean like a threesome?"
"Not with me, no." He adamantly shook his head. He never wanted to touch Hermione Granger again. Ever. The very thought was enough to almost bring that suffocating feeling he sometimes had of complete and utter hopeless fear and panic to the front again, so he ruthlessly killed the thought and concentrated on his breathing as he continued, "Other than that, you'd have to ask her how she'd want you." Now there was a mental image he probably shouldn't delve into either, although it at least didn't bring out the panic.
"And you're ok with that?" Granger incredulously asked.
"Not at all," Draco said, not seeing any reason to withhold the truth on this one. "And you should take that personally, since I usually am."
That should have shut Granger up but naturally it didn't. "So, generally, you're fine with your girlfriend openly wanting someone else in front of you?"
That was sort of personal, wasn't it? "I would thank you not to impose your ideas of how a relationship should work on me," he very stiffly said. Monogamy wasn't everybody's ideal, but trust someone like Granger not to understand that.
"I'm not imposing," she objected. "I'm just... curious. I thought I read a few years back that you had become engaged to some rich witch, and if I had thought about it, I would have assumed that you would have married her and had children by now. Instead you're here, teaching, and have this unusual arrangement with some barmaid at the--"
He swiftly got in her path, cutting up her speech in the process as she warily looked up at him. Good. She should be wary of him. Tonight, he wasn't above hurting her, making her suffer. Making her pay. "It's none of your business," he coldly said.
Her eyes softened a little bit. "I know we aren't friends," she quietly said. "But we should at least make an effort to get along. Maybe if we got to know each other a little better, eliminating the views we had of each other as kids... "
Draco felt a tic just below his right eye, as the headache and the nausea began setting in. She was looking up at him with those damn big, brown eyes of hers again, and all he wanted to do was introduce pain to her world.
A brief flash entered his mind, a memory he'd almost managed to suppress. Those eyes, filled with tears, begging him to let her remember. Begging him not to erase what they'd had.
So what? She'd known pain, but only for a minute. He'd suffered the repercussions much longer than that. The endless fear that if he had even one unguarded moment, the Dark Lord would look into his mind, and he'd see everything. Even after the war had ended and that monster was dead, he hadn't been able to relax. All it took was eye contact with one wrong person, one drop of Veritaserum, one slip of the tongue... She'd never know any of the lengths he'd gone to in order to protect her, even after they'd both moved on, and he hated her for it.
"She cheated on me," he heard himself tonelessly say. "My fiancée. We had no arrangements allowing for sexual relationships with other people, so the trust was broken. I wasn't going to marry her after that."
New memories flooded his mind. Memories of tears, shouting, accusations. He'd done his best, and it still hadn't been good enough. He'd been broken since the war, his fiancée had said, sobbing. Unable to truly care, let alone love, she'd claimed. It hadn't been true. He'd loved her. He'd wanted to make a family with her. He had done everything he possibly could to show her his devotion and how he'd been looking forward to sharing his life with her. And she'd said he treated her as if she was some animal he would like to breed. She had accused him of caring more about her pedigree than about her person. Then she'd said he wouldn't be able to love a child either, that he would warp it into a cold, unfeeling beast like himself. That he would make a terrible father and she was only marrying him because her parents were forcing her to go through with it.
So he'd ended the farce and made sure her parents didn't punish her by painting himself as even more of a beast than she'd accused him of being. He simply hadn't cared what people thought of him any longer. So he'd slept around, fallen down drunk in public places, and had even experimented with some highly illegal potions and powders, ending up in some very discreet facilities at his parents' expense, and then ultimately here. Taking care of other people's children, ironically. Last he'd heard, his ex-fiancée was living with her lover somewhere on the Mainland. Possibly they were married now. There might even be children that weren't cold, unfeeling beasts.
She'd been right about him in some ways, though. Monogamy was not for him. Marriage was not for him. Children he actually had to care about were not for him. How could he have any of that? He'd lied, cheated, stolen, manipulated and used spells and potions that no decent person should even know in order to keep his secret. The ironic thing was that what he'd worked so hard to keep hidden was now meaningless in itself. So what if he'd had sex with some girl when he'd been sixteen? Who cared about a few poor choices, really? He'd been a child forced to fight in his father's war. But now, because of everything he'd done to protect that secret, he had no choice but to continue protecting it. Forever.
Everybody knew that there was something he wasn't telling them. Everyone. It had become such a large part of who he was that it was now impossible for him to imagine a life where he didn't jealously guard and protect memories that now felt like they were from another lifetime. What witch could possibly want to build a life with him and still accept that he would never confide in her? That he would never confide in anyone, not even his Healers? His parents had been dogging him to give another of their very eligible witches a try now that they considered him as cured as he could be, but what was the point? He refused to marry purely out of some sense of duty to his family name. He did not feel that sense of duty. He hadn't felt it since his father's dedication to keeping the wizarding world pure and untainted had ruined Draco's life.
Two years with the intense stress of constant death threats would ruin anyone's life, but everything both Granger and his father had forced on him were the gifts that simply kept on giving.
"I'm sorry," Granger offered. He knew she was referring to the loss of his fiancée, but the timing was impeccable and only angered him further.
"I don't care," he coldly replied.
"You know, it's odd," Granger said, frowning slightly and seemingly ignoring his dismissal. "I have this... feeling... "
Draco's lips curled into a mocking leer. "I'm sorry. It's not reciprocated."
She scoffed at him. "Don't be stupid. No, it's a feeling that I... that I know you better than anyone thinks. It's quite silly, and I have no idea where it comes from, but it started just now before I fainted and... I don't actually dislike you... exactly." Her frown deepened. "Although I do feel some rather irrational anger towards you. Do you have any idea what that could mean?"
Her words only slowly sunk in as his brain refused to accept their meaning, but when they did it was as if an ice-cold hand grabbed hold of his chest and wouldn't let go, wouldn't let him breathe.
His nightmares were coming true.
"Are you all right?" The words seemed to come from far away.
Focus. It could be nothing. And even if it's something, it can still be fixed.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Draco's own voice seemed hollow. "I suppose I'm tired." He resumed walking without bothering to check if she was going to follow. They were almost there. Now how to get her to accept the potion that would make sure she wouldn't remember anything important? He'd always felt a little insane for keeping an extra phial of this particular liquid around for the past decade, but now he was very glad. The annual ritual of re-brewing it suddenly didn't seem so stupid, since brewing it on the spot would have taken too long. He needed to make certain that she didn't begin to remember. Tonight.
"Ow, my head hurts," she suddenly whinged, burying one hand in her hair to cup where the pain was coming from.
"Headache?" he quickly said. "I have potions for that in my quarters. Come along, and I'll give them to you."
He knew he had overdone it even before he caught Granger's suspicious look. She knew he wanted her as far from his personal space as humanly possible, so of course this would make her cautious. "Why?" she asked.
He merely shrugged, trying hard to seem unaffected in spite of feeling positively clammy. "I was just being polite. And I thought you wanted us to be friends."
Granger snorted without much force behind it.
"Forget it," he said. "Enjoy your headache." He would have to find another way to get her to drink it. He couldn't conceal it in her usual beverages, because she needed to drink it all at once, so whatever he came up with had to be good.
Granger stumbled and then drew her cloak even tighter around herself. Were her teeth clattering?
"You're clearly not well," he said by way of observation. She shouldn't be freezing and stumbling--it wasn't really that cold and the moon was bright. Something was wrong. Could her memories really trigger like this? God, he hoped not.
"I realise that, thank you!" she bit back. "I think I may have a fever. Maybe that's why my head is so... confused."
Draco swallowed, but the motion hurt, because his mouth had gone completely dry. Think, man, think!
"You know what?" Granger murmured, her voice slightly slurred. "I actually do want a potion. I'm... a bit off. Your quarters are on the sixth floor same as my new one, right? A little closer than the hospital wing." She sniggered. "Madam Vera is pretty, maybe you can talk her into rewarding you for helping a soul in need."
Yes! She had willingly placed herself in a position where he had a fairly good chance of getting her to drink the potion that would once again suppress her memories, hopefully this time for good, and make his nightmare go away. "I'd get quite the beating if I attempted that," he absent-mindedly said. Vera was a very good friend of his, at least sometimes he thought so, but she wasn't about to suffer any man trying to get into her knickers.
"I thought you were just doing whatever or whoever you wanted. Oh, how you disappoint me." Granger sighed. "You were lying about that, weren't you?"
Draco had a hard time figuring out what was doing the talking just now. Was it the few sips of butterbeer she'd had, the resurfacing memories, the fever that may or may not be there, or simply an overly tired Granger? "I wasn't lying," he replied to her accusation, without bothering to correct her misunderstanding of who would do the beating. It was none of her business that he didn't sleep around even if he could, and that Carys preferred multiple relationships. After a few years of testing exactly how addicted to sex he was, Draco had finally figured that as long as it came in a somewhat steady supply, he didn't need overly much of it. Carys served his needs well enough on her own. He didn't need anyone else. She, on the other hand, was getting everything he couldn't give her from someone else. It was the perfect relationship for someone like him.
"I suppose she was flirting with me," Granger said.
"Yes. It appears she's in the market for someone new. Or maybe she simply likes fainting brunettes."
Granger shook her head and muttered, "Wow."
"Never mind her, Granger," Draco said. "You won't be testing your curiosity on her in the near future, since she wouldn't be with anyone I disapprove of."
"I wasn't going to--"
He snorted. He actually didn't believe she had been considering it, but this might prove just the thing to distract her from remembering anything.
Granger scowled. "And what's with all the disapproval?" she asked.
Draco sighed for effect. "I simply don't like you." At least that much was true. "And does my approval even matter if you weren't considering it?"
She blushed a little bit. "No, of course not," she muttered. "But it does make me wonder..."
"Why do you feel the need to constantly tell me you don't like me?"
He found himself becoming unsettled. "I--what? I don't feel a need--"
"Then why have you already told me, what, three or four times tonight?"
"Maybe because I really don't?"
She snorted at him. "Right. If I didn't know any better, Malfoy, I'd almost think you were scared of me."
Well, shit. She really was far too observant. "Don't be ridiculous..." he muttered, unwilling to argue the point. Arguments tended to bring out truths. He couldn't afford that. He couldn't afford any of this.
She shivered again and looked so miserable that Draco almost considered offering her his cloak. If he did, he could use it later to score points with Carys. He didn't like Granger touching his things, though.
"Why are you teaching?" Granger asked, sounding almost drowsy.
"Didn't we have this conversation before?" And why was she being so damn chatty?
"I simply don't understand. You never struck me as the nurturing kind."
"I hate to say it, Granger, but neither did you."
"I'm not. I'm hiding."
Draco did a double-take. That was a little too honest for his comfort. "Aren't there better places to hide? Personally, I'd hide on a tropical island somewhere... "
She made a little grunt that he supposed was meant to be another snort. "No, you wouldn't. You'd hide here as well."
"Look who thinks she knows things," Draco muttered.
"I do know things. You're hiding."
Draco's heart skipped a beat and his throat was constricting as he once again had to battle the growing panic. Why wouldn't she stop analysing him? "From whom?" he asked as carelessly as he could.
"I don't know... " Granger screwed up her face, apparently giving this matter great thought. "Maybe your ex-fiancée?"
He relaxed somewhat. "No, that would be you doing that." Good one! Only, he didn't feel quite as triumphant as he normally would. He didn't want her to know about his life; he didn't want her to care.
"Right. Well, I'm sure that with your winning personality there are several people that would fit the bill," she drily stated.
"Why, thank you!"
His only reply to that was a disgruntled sound, and they walked the rest of the way in blessed silence.
Granger was still firmly clutching her cloak closed as she entered Draco's office and upon closer--not too close, mind you--inspection, Draco realised that her teeth were clattering.
He wasn't sure what to do.
First, however, he pushed the hidden door to his private rooms open and fetched her a blanket. He didn't need for her to die from pneumonia in a way that made him culpable.
But then what?
Given some of her symptoms, he was genuinely terrified to turn her over to Madam Vera. If they realised Granger's memories had been tampered with and they restored them... then everything would be for nothing. He didn't want to go to Azkaban, and she didn't need to remember that her first time had been with him on some desk in this castle, and that he'd threatened her to keep quiet afterwards. She didn't need to remember that whilst he'd been planning the invasion of the castle and ultimately Dumbledore's death, they'd been having an affair and she'd naïvely fallen for him. She really didn't need to remember that he'd betrayed and rejected her in the most final of ways, wiping her memories clean of everything they'd had, leaving tiny little cracks in her mind that could so easily crumble into gaping holes if tampered with again.
If he kept it a secret, then not only could he remain free, but she stood a better chance of one day being happy. Even disregarding the threat to her sanity, she wouldn't be torn up and broken inside from remembering exactly how horrible the war had been. Remembering that she'd been in love with someone who'd refused to change his ways, and who had less than a year later silently looked on as his aunt had tortured her. What did it matter how it had felt to him that he'd had to remain passive or give everything away? It didn't. His actions spoke louder than words.
If she remembered the betrayal, it would damage her. Like it had damaged him. So many things had damaged him, but realising exactly how much he could allow a loved one to go through without ever doing anything about it out of fear... that was the source of most of his self-loathing, even to this day.
"You're so quiet," she forced out through her clattering teeth. "Hoping I'll freeze to death if you wait long enough?"
He quirked an eyebrow. "I gave you a blanket, didn't I? I was considering whether I have to wake up Madam Vera, or whether I can fix this myself."
"You can heal?" She'd wrapped the blanket tightly around herself, but looked as if she was immersed in ice rather than wrapped in a thick cloak and a blanket. "I don't think a headache potion will be enough."
"Not exactly," he admitted. "But I do have some other potions that I think might work."
She immediately looked wary. "No, I don't want your potions! Get me Vera, please."
"I won't poison you, Granger," Draco said with a weary sigh. "Not in my own office after at least a dozen people saw me take you from the Three Broomsticks."
"I just... suddenly have this feeling that potions from you are a bad thing, so I'll pass."
He almost choked on the chills going through him at that statement. "One potion," he insisted. "If it doesn't work, I'll get you Madam Vera immediately. I promise."
She looked extremely wary, but reluctantly nodded and he went to get the potion. He didn't even really know why he had it. It must be some kind of masochistic urge that prompted him to continuously make it. Years ago when the war had ended and he'd realised he could never give Granger the antidote, even if he'd wanted to, he'd begun brewing the original memory-erasing potion once a year, suspiciously close to the time where he'd first given it to her, but true to his promise he'd never drunk it himself. Each time he used the memories she'd forced him to keep--and he'd kept all of them, they were safely under lock and key, every single one--to brew it.
He'd found that the first time had been the hardest. He'd still wanted her then, and going through the memories to add what to remove had been agony. The second time had only been a little better. The third time, he'd almost felt normal before he'd had to relive it. The fourth time, he'd idly wondered if she was happy now, with Weasley. Every single time since then, he'd barely thought about it. It had become a ritual. A thing to soothe his anxieties about her some day remembering.
Now it had been made for the tenth time since she'd drunk it, and he would give it to her again. Somehow, it felt like he'd been waiting for it all these years.
"Here," he said, walking up to her with the phial. "You need to drink up. It doesn't taste like much, but you should immediately feel the effects."
She slowly reached out to accept it. "Um, could I get a glass of water with this?" she quietly asked.
He didn't see any reason to object, so he went back to his private quarters for a glass, and when he returned, Granger had a scrunched up face and an empty phial. He gave her the glass, and she drank it as if truly thirsty.
"I thought you said it didn't taste like much?" she finally said, gagging a little.
He shrugged, ridiculously happy and relieved that she'd taken the potion. "I obviously meant it didn't taste very good."
"Right." She scowled at him.
Some of her colour was returning, and her teeth seemed to have stopped clattering. Good. It didn't look like they were going to need Madam Vera after all.
"Are you feeling any better?" he asked.
"A bit. I probably just need a good night's sleep now, and then I'll be fine."
Draco figured that was probably true. "Speaking of sleep, aren't you tired?" He searched her face for any evidence of fatigue.
As if on cue, she yawned. "You're right. I am. Best be going, then."
She got to her feet a bit unsteadily, but then she straightened her back and walked right out of there.
Yes, he thought. Everything is going to be all right now.