THIS IS A REPOST.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or any affiliated characters, and make no profit, in any form, from this fic.
He'd been avoiding her for months. Not that it should matter, not that it should make any single iota of difference, but somehow . . . . Whenever he even so much as passed her in a corridor, he couldn't help feeling a weight press on him, growing heavier at each step he took without acknowledging her presence in some way.
As though somehow his attitude toward her could ever be important.
Draco stopped midstride, his shoulders hunching as a tremor wracked him. Turning to look out the window, he pressed his palms against the cold stone of the sill. The contrast of the chill in his hands to the wash of heat dancing over his skin only served to highlight the pain battering against the top of his forehead, rather than ease it, as he'd hoped.
The restlessness, the pain, the fever, even the odd tingling of pin-pricks at his scalp and along his jaw . . . . He'd felt all these things before—in the months since the War—but individually, not all at once like this.
Blinking his exhausted eyes open, he stared out at the Dark Forest. A sense of quiet stole over him as his gaze touched upon moonlight dappling the shadowed canopy and slicing through the branches here and there in delicate splashes of muted silver.
Odd how the sight of that forest he hated so much had such a calming effect on him.
His lips pulled back from his teeth in a sneer. He'd loathed that place from the very first moment he'd set foot there. Like it was yesterday, he could recall that awful bloody detention, wandering the darkened woods with Potter, and the oaf of a groundskeeper, and Grang—
The pain and the heat tore through him again and he turned from the window, pressing his back to the wall. He slid to the floor, tearing at the buttons of his black nightshirt.
What a mess he probably looked right now, he thought, as he peeled off the shirt and tossed it aside. He'd only been trying to make his way to the school hospital, and yet here he was, on his knees, sweating buckets, probably wild-eyed and disheveled from the discomfort.
Every time he thought of her, something like this happened. Maybe the rumors were true.
The whispers had floated every now and again, ever since that Delacour girl had come to their school during their fourth year, causing everyone and their brother to research Veela. The Classic Malfoy Appearance, they said, coupled with the air that they were better than everyone—the notion made so much sense. And of course, how could his constant crankiness be an indication of anything other than being some creature who couldn't find its mate?
That last one was a contribution from Pansy and Blaise putting their heads together. He'd nearly wrung both their necks for it.
Ridiculous he'd thought it all.
Until he realized there was one girl from the start who'd been on his mind, all the time, regardless of reason. One girl whose attention he'd always been trying to gain, whose focus he'd constantly tried to have centered on himself.
Who he'd even acted to protect a few times, despite how flimsy and overlooked those attempts were.
He laughed as he shook his head. So was that it, then? His thoughts had drifted around the idea, but he'd never actually allowed the words to surface, before.
Was it that he really did have Veela blood, and Granger—of all the girls in the Wizarding world—was his mate? He ignored another stab of pain. Was this what happened when one avoided the very possibility of such a thing?
Ridiculous, he thought again. Granger would sooner gouge out her own eyes with her wand than let him lay a finger on her.
The pain tore through him once more, so sharp this time his vision blurred and he collapsed to the floor.
Hermione sat up, grumpy at the intrusion. She'd been dreaming some peaceful forest scene—peaceful and a little blush-inducing, if only she could remember the person who'd been with her.
Until Crookshanks had seen fit to smack her awake. She frowned at the beast, supposing in hindsight that she should be relieved he'd not had his claws out for that decidedly rude wake-up call.
The ginger Kneazel-cat hopped down from the bed and trotted to the door.
He looked back at his witch, flicking his tail impatiently.
Her eyebrows drew upward as she met the feline's displeased red-brown gaze. "Oh, okay, then," she whispered, giving her head a shake and grabbing her wand as she climbed out of bed to follow.
She grumped and fussed inwardly as she trailed her familiar through the castle. She'd barely remembered to shove her feet into her slippers, and her dressing gown lay forgotten atop her trunk, leaving her to shuffle along behind the cat in her barely knee-length nightdress.
Bloody hell, she normally didn't even wear these stupid things—far too girly for her tastes, and serving no real function—but Mum had insisted that she should have a few pretty things after all she'd been through last year.
Not as though it mattered. Hogwarts wasn't the same, anymore, anyway.
Dumbledore and Snape dead, Harry and Ron not returning—catching Ron with Hannah at the party to celebrate winning the War. Ginny was with her, still, and they shared both their dorm, and many classes, but still it wasn't the same.
Hermione's frown deepened as she followed Crookshanks down the staircase, across a platform, and down another set of stairs. Were they heading to the main floor? Why?
The oddest part was how very much she noticed that Draco Malfoy wouldn't even look at her. She always thought she'd be relieved the day he stopped bothering her, but now . . . . Something in his avoidance of her made everything else that was wrong with their eighth year sharper and more painful.
That was stupid, she knew. Yes, sometimes it felt like it'd been the four of them sharing in what'd happened at Malfoy Manor during the War. She remembered so clearly how he'd looked at her, his father and Bellatrix screaming at him to confirm who she was.
But he'd refused. Just as he'd refused to identify Harry.
Ron and Harry never acknowledged that if not for Draco's attack of conscience, they might never have survived long enough for Dobby's rescue.
She laughed quietly and shook her head. It didn't matter what he did, she supposed, as none of it erased what an awful person he had always been to them, did it?
Her shoulders drooped as her steps stilled a moment. If that was so, then why did it sting that he wouldn't even glance in her direction?
Crookshanks made an irritated snuffling sound, drawing Hermione's attention back to the moment. Blinking rapidly a few times, she nodded.
"Right, sorry," she whispered, falling into step behind him, once more.
As they were about to round the next bend in the corridor, Crookshanks halted. Hermione halted behind him, wand at the ready.
The cat looked up, waiting for her to meet his gaze before he turned his head and sniffed in the direction where the walls curved.
Body drooping a bit, she shook her head. "Fierce companion you are," she said as she stepped around him and continued further down the passageway.
As she rounded the bend in the corridor, she froze. Further along, there it was, what Crookshanks had been leading her to.
Her breath caught in her throat, and her wand arm fell limp at her side. Soft, hazy moonlight streamed through the window, casting an ethereal glow on the thing before her.
It looked like a man, but . . . .
The creature struggled up to sit on his knees, visibly catching his breath as he brought trembling fingers up to touch the dark, gleaming horns curving artfully from the top of his head. Long, silver-gold hair spilled around his shoulders and down his back. Lean, pale muscles in his arms and abdomen twitched as he jerked his hands from the horns, as though they burned his fingertips.
Hermione's heart clenched painfully in her chest. He was absolutely beautiful . . . . But he seemed scared, too. Frightened of . . . himself, how odd.
She didn't know if she should go, or stay. Perhaps this was some apparition the castle residents didn't know about. Or he was something that had stumbled in from the Forest and needed aid?
She couldn't leave him here, then! But . . . what if he was wild and attacked her? Only . . . as she looked closer—leaning forward, she hadn't budged a step, yet—she noticed the bundled up black shirt nearby, a match for the nightclothes bottoms he still wore.
Okay, perhaps a student afflicted by a curse, then? Nodding to herself, she understood the best course of action would be to fetch Madame Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall. Even if he was gone by the time they returned, they would know to be on the lookout for such a creature roaming the castle grounds.
Yet, rather than leaving, she found herself walking toward him. Hermione, you idiot, he could be dangerous. Even as she thought these words, she drew closer to him.
Draco gave a start at the sound of footsteps approaching and squeezed shut his eyes. He was hallucinating, he knew, already. He didn't have horns sticking out of his head, his hair hadn't grown to his waist in a matter of moments, he couldn't hear sounds from the Forest echoing in his ears as though he stood out there, among the trees.
Her fingers itched to touch the horns, almost as though to see if they were real as she finally reached him. Lowering to her knees before him, she set down her wand, curling her hands into fists as a reminder to keep them to herself.
Hermione's heart hammered against her ribcage, but oddly, she felt her cheeks grow warm and the skin on her lips tingle as she watched him shake his head, his long hair trailing down, obscuring his features. She tipped her head this way and that, trying to get a good look at his face.
"Do you need help?"
Her whispered voice set loose a tension Draco hadn't realized he'd been holding. He tipped his face up, breathing deep, even as he shook his head, once more.
Rather than speaking out of relief, all he could think to say was, "Granger, what are you doing here?"
At the first true glimpse of his features, Hermione had sworn she was imagining that it could be Draco Malfoy in front of her. But that voice . . . .
"Draco?" she asked, unable to help herself as she leaned forward and cupped his cheeks with her hands.
Her touch jolted him and he opened his eyes, meeting her confused gaze. She hadn't realized who he was at first? That couldn't be possible, unless . . . .
Unless something really had happened to him.
"Do you see them?"
Hermione blinked as she processed the question. The glittering silver-grey of his eyes was making it tough to think, as was the bit of golden scruff lining his chin and jaw that kept tickling the edges of her palms.
Biting her lip to keep from laughing at the absurdity of the question—and to distract from the feeling of wanting to simply lean closer and closer to him—she tore her gaze from his and looked to the horns gracing the top of his head.
Good Lord, what was wrong with her? She needed to focus, and this was Draco bloody Malfoy!
"You mean your horns?"
His shoulders drooped and he slumped forward just a bit. "I'm not hallucinating, then." He was trying desperately to ignore the sudden urge to pull her against him.
To ignore the image playing through his mind of pressing her to the floor and tearing off her nightdress. Wincing, he shook his head.
"Do they hurt?"
"No," he said, but something in her asking—in her feeling concerntoward him—tugged at him. "My head did hurt, until they . . . broke free, I guess."
Without thinking, Hermione let go of his face to grasp one of his hands in hers. "C'mon, we should get you to the hospital."
She stood up and took a step, but he didn't move. Frowning, she pulled at his hand, as though she believed he simply hadn't noticed her movements.
He met her gaze, a frown playing at the corners of his mouth. "I don't want to go. Please, don't make me."
With a frown of her own, she sat back down in front of him. "What'd you mean, you don't want to go?"
Draco rolled his eyes toward the top of his head and gave a side-to-side nod. "If you looked like this, would you really want people to see you?"
Oh, dear . . . . Of all things to feel in this moment, Draco Malfoy was embarrassed? Again, Hermione had to force down a laugh. This was clearly troubling him, and she didn't want to make him feel worse. She thought she might also be finding more humor in this than there actually was.
For heaven's sake, what had gotten into her tonight?
"Well, you shouldn't be worried about that, you look . . . you actually look . . . kind of . . . ." Hermione shook her head, clearing her throat uncomfortably. She dropped her gaze from his, hoping the moonlight illuminating the corridor washed away the blush she felt in her cheeks.
Draco's eyebrows shot up at the implication of what she wasn't saying.
"And, besides, I'm relatively certain you weren't a satyr when you went to bed a few hours ago, now were you?"
Glittering silver eyes widening, he unconsciously tightened his fingers around hers. "Is that what I look like?" He turned in a swift motion, unaware of Hermione swatting away a lock of his hair that had swung around, nearly slapping her in the face.
"What? What is it?"
He breathed out a sigh of relief as he turned toward her again. "No goat legs, thank God. But, um . . . it seems I've got a tail."
She couldn't help her snicker this time, only aided by the way he flicked said tail behind him, at last drawing her attention to the appendage. "Maybe that's only your Greek brethren, then. Maybe British Isles satyrs only get the fancy headgear and, um . . . rear-attachment."
Draco actually laughed at that, and the sound was oddly musical to Hermione's ears.
Again clearing her throat, she pulled at his hand. "We really should get you to the hospital, Draco."
"Look, I'm sure it'll go away by morning."
Hermione shifted to sit cross-legged, staring at him as though he'd sprouted a second head along with the horns. "Where'd you get a daft idea like that?"
"I had a dream the other night." Draco bit his lip as he shook his head, he hadn't made the connection until now, because he'd lacked context. "I was out in the Dark Forest, and I saw my reflection in some water. This was how I looked—I think, I mean, other than the horns and the ungodly amount of hair sprouting from my head, I've no idea—but when morning came, I was myself, again."
"So you dreamed about this?"
Her incredulous tone made him scowl. "Oh, be fair, Granger. Until literally just now, I had no reason to think that dream was caused by anything more than a spot of spoiled pumpkin juice, or something."
"Okay, ignoring that you still don't know what caused this, or if it will return—what if you aren't yourself again by morning?" She propped her free hand on her hip. She couldn't be certain why she was still holding his hand—or why he was letting her—she only knew she didn't really want to let go, just yet.
"Then I'll go."
Nodding, she reached over, pulling his wadded up nightshirt close and setting her wand atop it. Then, resting her elbow on her knee, she dropped her chin against her palm.
And she was absolutely not thinking that Draco Malfoy was actually sort of dashing with facial hair. No, she hadn't for a second there wondered what that golden scruff would feel like scraping against her skin.
Draco had thought she would leave—he refused to acknowledge that he didn't actually want her to go—and was surprised to find her simply sitting there, watching him expectantly, instead. "What're you doing?"
His brows creeping up his forehead, he darted his gaze about. "For what?"
Hermione shrugged. "Sunrise." She felt a triumphant thrill zip through her as he cringed—dirty liar, he had no intention of going to the hospital in the morning! "I'm going to make certain you go if you're still all . . . ." She let her sentence end right there, aware that the word she'd been about to use was also an American idiom with a totally different meaning.
Draco might not get it, but she did, and she was having enough trouble keeping her wits about her tonight.
"If you're not back to normal," she said, shaking her head and trying to play it off as though she'd merely lost her train of thought.
Swallowing hard, Draco nodded. Suddenly, the air around them felt thick and awkward. He hadn't expected that she would stay. He'd actually been hoping to scamper off into the Forest and never be heard from again if this wasn't gone by morning.
But now, as he brought his gaze back to her, he found her staring at him. He was utterly ignoring the way the moonlight cast the thinnest slip of a shadow beneath her bottom lip, and how her brown eyes were tilted at the corners, almost feline-like. Or how long her lashes looked, framing those eyes.
He'd noticed all these things about her before, but now? Now he had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep his mind from wandering off about this. Under all that wild brown hair, Granger was actually rather—Stop that!
"Um . . . ." Hermione didn't know quite what she was thinking, only that her curiosity had gotten the better of her.
When she paused uncertainly, Draco couldn't help the suspicious half-grin that curved his mouth. "What?"
She chewed on her bottom lip a moment, a giddy bloom of warmth flickering in the pit of her stomach. "Can I touch them?"
Again, he laughed, and again Hermione had to repress the most pleasant shudder at the sound. What was this? Was there something in the air she wasn't aware of? Was it some affect this strange form of his had on her?
"Absolutely." Hermione was only aware of the way the words sounded after they'd fallen from her mouth as she said, "C'mon! How often is it a girl gets to play with a satyr's horns?"
She folded her lips inward and her eyebrows drew up as his shoulders shook in a silent chuckle.
"Well, when you put it that way, sure," he said, amusement lacing his tone.
Feigning a frown, she shook her hand free of his and leaned closer. She reached up, delicately trailing her fingertips down from the top, over the ridged curves.
Draco couldn't help himself as he asked, a nervous tremor in his voice. "What do they feel like?"
Hermione smiled, a sense rippling through her that this was oddly familiar, somehow. "Smooth, like polished bone."
"I have to ask. Do they look awful?"
"No," she said, shaking her head as her fingers slid to the bottom, where the ends met his hairline and disappeared. "They're actually sort of elegant."
He felt her fingers trailing down through his hair and lifted his gaze, meeting her eyes. The whole time she'd been so close just now he'd kept his attention fixed on the floor beside her.
"Elegant," he echoed, strangely aware of her face so near to his.
She nodded, wondering why she couldn't take her hands from him. "You're sort of beautiful like this," she whispered finally, unable to keep the words in.
Draco had seen Hermione Granger's eyes up close many times over the years they'd known one another. Only now, as he leaned nearer, as he felt her breath ghosting warm over his lips, did he wonder where those flecks of rich, forest green around her pupils had come from.