Back with Part 2! Huge thanks for those of you reading and I hope you enjoy the conclusion. Just wanted to offer a warning for a bittersweet ending.
Thanks as always to LightofEvolution, In Dreams, and Mcal.
In the beginning, she's absent. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
The Granger that Draco knew is, to put it lightly, worse for wear. The first week, she hardly speaks, and Draco tries to stay away. Only one elf knows that she exists, and that creature takes her on as his charge.
After ten days, Pipsy tracks Draco down in the gardens, wringing his hands, eyes darting as though to find spies in their midst.
"Young Miss says she will not eat, Master Draco. Miss threw her breakfast plate over the balcony."
Sighing, pinching his nose, Draco agrees to visit her, soothing Pipsy with words of encouragement. "You've done quite well with her considering. I'll take it from here. I'll call you later for another tray."
The elf nods and pops away like he's running from battle. Draco walks into his own.
"Get out," she yells, though it's muffled by the pillow in which she's buried her face.
At the sound of her name, she sits up, and he sees that her eyes are shiny, cheeks tracked. "Where have you been?"
He looks at her with a completely puzzled expression, approaching cautiously as though she might bite, rabid and afraid. "You wouldn't speak. I thought you would prefer to be left alone."
"I can't live the rest of my life alone in this room," she counters, eyes still wide. "You might as well have left me in your crypt to die."
Draco doesn't know what to do, so he pretends she's another witch, abandoning all he once known about Hermione Granger. The brave and brilliant girl of his youth is hidden under layers of trauma. It occurs to him that he would very much like to peel it all away and find who she used to be.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, careful not to sit too close, Draco reaches for her hand and holds on, refusing to release her when she tries to pull away. "You're safe here, Granger. I didn't want you to feel… I don't know. I was trying not to be overbearing. But I'll visit more. Every morning, if you like. We can have breakfast together."
She's still nervous, bordering on terrified, but she quips lightly, "Sounds quite domestic."
Draco allows a grin. "Quite. If it helps, I can make fun of your hair and charm paper birds at you. You can pretend we're in the Great Hall and call me a prat. Just like old times."
She chuckles, and it's watery, but it's there. "Just like old times," she repeats, wistful, but not for the memories he offers. After a long time, her hand still held tight in his, she mentions, "I read all your books."
With a glance where her eyes have lead, Draco finds the small bookcase he had installed for his guest. At least fifty books line the shelves. Obviously, the manor library houses far more, but he's stunned by how quickly she made it through.
"All of them?"
Granger shrugs, finally extracting her hand. "Well, I'd already been through nearly half." She points to the third shelf. "That series on Dragon husbandry? I borrowed that from Charlie Weasley in sixth year. Some of the potions theory tomes as well."
Staring at her a moment, she's more like her old self than he could have hoped. The change was instantaneous, the moment they started to discuss books, her eyes finding the brightness he once associated with her gaze. It's a relief he hadn't realized he wanted. "I'll bring you more," he promises. "Anything you would prefer?"
She considers that, taking it incredibly seriously as far as he can tell. Finally she answers with, "I liked your first selection. Can you choose for me?"
It seems like a grand responsibility: choosing literature for the most intelligent witch in Britain. He preens a little, in spite of himself, in spite of his guilt. Draco smiles at her. "With pleasure. I already have some ideas." The smile she offers him in turn could shame the sun.
Things are different after that, and Draco never misses a breakfast in her company. Dinner he often must give to his mother, lunch must sometimes be taken at the office, but every morning belongs to them. He sees her as more and greater and better than he'd known, thinking what a desperate crime it would be to mess with her mind, to take away any part of who she is.
The world continues outside the Manor walls, but they never speak of it. Potter is sighted, but Draco doesn't tell her. Perhaps it will only make her sad?
Worse yet, perhaps she will want to leave, weighing the dangers with Potter and Weasley against the safety of Draco and the Manor, and finding Draco lacking.
He protects her obsessively, warding his rooms and attending to her as a bride. What he feels for her grows into something terrifying and glorious. What she feels for him, he can only assume to be lesser, to be obligatory, born of gratitude.
He knows she was with Weasley before her life ended. He assumes her heart will always belong to him, as is the natural conclusion of ill-fated love affairs. No one will ever live up to the freedom they shared together, to the devotion of lovers tied by common strife.
Still, he basks in her, delighting in her smiles and the small touches that seem natural after a while.
On one occasion, perhaps four months since she has arrived, Granger is crying when he comes to her late at night. Draco has just returned from work, only to find her shivering under a thin sheet, sobbing quietly.
Sitting beside her, he lays a hand on her shoulder. "Granger."
"What life am I living, Draco? Is this all there will ever be? You should have left me to die." She sobs, and his heart clenches in his chest. Unsure what else he can offer, Draco toes off his shoes and lays down beside her. He stays above the bed clothes, chaste and respectful, but lays an arm across her body, reaching for her hand. She grips it and holds it to her mouth, pressing her lips to his skin and soaking up the comfort he is trying to give. They fall asleep that way, bodies pressed together.
When the sun streams through her window, Draco removes himself, allowing her the solitude to make the night into anything she wants. To address or ignore at her leisure. It's the only power she has, and he gives it to her with his absence.
It hurts when she chooses to disregard, to ignore their night. That is possibly the day he knows he can't have her, and also the day he admits she's the only thing he wants.
"I wish they knew I was alive, at least. I hate how much they must worry."
Draco looks at her across their breakfast table, noting the melancholy expression on her face as she gazes out the large windows of her suite. He doesn't respond, and she turns to face him, possibly wondering if he's paying attention.
He is, of course. He thinks of little else but Hermione most days. "I think sometimes, if it wasn't for me, Harry might not have fought so hard." She offers a sad smile. This time, she waits for his reply.
"I doubt Potter needed more reason than his own sense of justice to lead a charge. It's just his nature."
"Maybe," she allows, but it doesn't sound like she believes it. She looks back out the window, eyes glazed, unseeing. "Still, I wonder if he's still fighting now. Both of them, actually. If they just moved on without me."
Draco squeezes his eyes closed, regret holding him back and pushing him forward all at once. "They haven't," he finally says, and her eyes, beautiful, endless brown eyes, snap back his direction.
"They're still fighting," he continues. "Weasley and Potter. They've managed to turn public opinion slightly. Shacklebolt is reducing sentences in regards to aiding Muggleborns."
Her eyes dart around, processing. "That's a good step," she says, and Draco can only look away. The Solution might not be sustainable after all. Ten years from now, this might all be nothing but a failed social experiment. For now, though, she's in danger if she leaves, but he can see her already imagining the freedom beyond his walls. "Of course, nothing will happen anytime soon," she comments, picking up her fork to spear a bit of egg.
He watches her eat for a moment, noting the dainty quality of her bites, her thoughtful expression.
"Would you like to visit the gardens today?" he asks.
She seems wary as she considers. "Isn't that dangerous? I could be seen."
Shaking his head, he assures her it's safe. "My parents are away all week, and the wards will not let anyone through without my permission. Come on, Granger." He smiles, rising to his feet, and offers his hand. "You're entirely too pale. Sun will do you good."
Almost surprisingly, she takes the comment as good-natured as it was intended and accepts his hand, laying her palm across it.
They walk, and he takes a chance when her hand brushes his, gently taking her fingers in his own. She looks at him in question only a moment before threading them together. They continue that way, innocently entwined, admiring the gardens and stables, until Pipsy comes to fetch them for lunch.
"This was really nice," she says, and Draco preens.
"Shall we walk again tomorrow?" He holds his breath as she considers.
After barely a moment, she nods in agreement. "Please. Could we spend more time by the pond?"
Anything, he thinks. Anything she asks. He tucks a curl behind her ear, allowing his fingertips to brush her cheek. "Whatever you'd like, Granger." Her skin blushes rose, but she doesn't look away for a long time.
It has taken him awhile, maybe months, probably only weeks, but Draco knows that he is in love with her.
It is autumn when he kisses her. Leaves swirling around their feet, and he is overwhelmed. She's laughing, eyes bright, hair kissed by the sun, and he envelopes her in his arms, pressing his lips to hers with something like reverence.
She is stiff in his hold at the start. Then, she melts, and he knows it is nothing short of a miracle when she kisses him back. Her small hands find their way into the fine strands of his hair at his neck. He shivers as her fingertips brush his skin.
It feels like a beginning, a promise of days and years to come, and he moves his mouth with hers, relieved and grateful.
Tomorrow, reality will crash into the paradise he has pretended to create.
Meet me. WWW
Draco stares at the missive, hardly noticing as an awkward tawny owl flies ataxically away. Weasley. Waiting to meet him at a boarded up joke shop. For what purposes, Draco can only imagine, a sense of dread sinking into his gut.
As Percy Weasley had predicted, most of the notable family had supported Shacklebolt's Solution. Molly had been the first to concede. Overprotective and a little paranoid, she had agreed that Muggleborns could only cause damage, through no fault of their own, of course. '
"They hardly even know better," she had said one afternoon, accepting tea from his mother. "Poor things. That Granger girl only caused my poor Ronald trouble and heartbreak. Harry too."
Arthur had followed, loyal as a hound, and soon all of the siblings had decided that, while the plan had regrettable elements, it was for the best.
All, except for Ron Weasley. Say what you will about the prat, but he was a loyal sod. Whether that compulsion was for dedication to Harry or love of Hermione, Draco couldn't say, but regardless, the family had splintered once more, replacing the once ousted Percy for his younger brother.
He doesn't tell Hermione when he leaves. He simply shrugs his thin shoulders into his best robes, and makes his way to a shop that was once full of life and happiness, and is now a stark reminder of the cost of war. George Weasley refuses to sell the property, but nor can he seem to face returning to the dream his lost twin helped him build.
In the late afternoon of a quiet Sunday, the street is sparsely populated, and Draco makes his way to the garish purple storefront, largely unbothered.
Upon inspection, the door is slightly ajar, and Draco takes that as an invitation inside.
There. Standing in the corner near the back entrance, is a cloaked figure with scruffy red hair peeking from beneath a hood. He knows the voice; knows the lanky figure.
Draco feels his blood go to ice, but he makes no outward appearance of his distress.
"Dead. It was all over the papers. Though I'm sure periodicals are hard to come by in your circumstances."
The wizard pushes his hood back if only to level Draco with a look, ice blue eyes staring intently into his own. "She's not. Harry and I, we have a system. All of us did. As long as this shows blue, she's alive." He holds out his hand, palm up, where a small stone is pulsing a brilliant blue. Weasley closes his hand back around it, and continues. "It took some time to find out who went to Italy, but we know it was Lucius. Where is she, Malfoy?" His voice has turned hard, but there's a tremor beneath. Pain. Draco recognizes it, because it has lanced him as well.
He's going to take her away. Draco isn't sure he can breathe. He wants to deny it, of course. There is no way to be sure his father brought her back. She could be anywhere.
But he sees the desperation in those cold, blue eyes, and he remembers Hermione sobbing, wishing for death if her life could only be the purgatory in which she lives. Resigned and resolved, Draco answers, "She's safe. I'm keeping her safe. Better than I can say for you and Potter," he throws in, enjoying the moment of self-righteous assuredness. Unfortunately, it's short lived.
"She would be safe if it wasn't for the likes of you and your father. Do something right for once in your fucking life, Malfoy, and let her go."
It goes on like that for some time, Draco refusing to release her and all his pragmatic reasons why, Weasley arguing for her happiness and safety. Finally, the other man breaks a little and drops into an old wooden chair, dust rising into the air as he does and glinting in the shafts of light, filtering through the windows.
"Please. Merlin, what else could you possibly want. You won, alright? Maybe not the Death Eaters, but you have everything." He looks back at Draco with old eyes, worn and tired. "She lost her whole family during the war, and then suddenly I lost mine. She was my home and I was hers. Please, let her go. Let her come home."
With everything he has, Draco doesn't show the moment he breaks apart. His resolve is a wave crashed against the rocky shores of this man's grief. He blinks slowly once, then says low, cold and hard, "Come to the Manor tonight. Midnight, and only you-"
"So your father can throw me in Azkaban? Like I'd trust you-"
"I'll release her to you," he interrupts in turn, not appreciating the distrust when Draco is giving the man something more valuable than all the gold in Gringotts. "But the wards will only let you in and the two of you out, so you come alone if you want he freed, Weasley. She'll be waiting for you."
Before he can see a reaction, not sure if he can bear to answer gratitude with anything short of violence, he turns and Apparates straight from the old shop and back to the Manor gates. He stands there, staring, until Pipsy pops into the space near his feet.
Draco looks down, barely acknowledging.
"Miss Granger is asking after Master. She is hoping he will join for dinner."
With a nod, Draco enters the house to see Hermione for the last time.
The walk to his private quarters is a thoughtful one. Will he tell her that she will finally be free? Or does he wait until the end, enjoying one final night with her? Ultimately, he makes no choice and resigns himself to letting the evening evolve naturally, whatever may come.
She looks up and must see the sorrow behind his eyes. Standing to greet him, she asks, "Has something happened? Oh, Gods…" Her hands fly to cover his mouth. "Has Harry…?"
"No," he answers quickly, shaking his head. "It's nothing." It's everything, but in that moment, he can't say the words. "Apologies if I made you wait." And he flashes her a smile, praying that it reaches his eyes. She regards him warily, but retakes her seat.
Draco forces himself to speak during dinner, to laugh when her quips prompt it and to grin at her openly. They enjoy light fair, salad and a brothy soup, only to indulge in a heavy toffee pudding at the end. Her eyes alight, she makes tiny moans around her spoon, smiling shyly at her own indulgence.
He will miss her terribly, the knowledge crashing down upon him. She might be Ron Weasley's home, but she is Draco's entire world. He realizes just how much she has become the sun that he orbits, never straying far. Before today and his ruinous meeting with Weasley, when was the last time he went anywhere outside his office? His dinners with his parents have waned as he chooses to take more meals in his rooms. To the outside world, he likely appears to be within view of being a recluse. What will he do when she is gone?
Standing, he circles the small table and pulls her to her feet. Large, dark eyes blink at him, and he presses his lips to hers.
She kisses him back, this time without hesitation. Arms wrap his waist, and his own explore her back, her arms, coming to rest at her jaw to tilt her lips into his.
A soft sweep of her tongue against his, and Draco allows himself to take everything before setting her free, to answer back with so much of himself that she will never doubt why he let her go. She will realize when she is free that she left Draco Malfoy behind in wreckage, buried under his many regrets.
When the embrace could escalate, when she runs her fingertips down his chest, Draco pulls back and rests his forehead against hers, breathing shallow and desperate. He's already taken too much. The rest isn't for him to have. "I have a surprise for you later, but it has to wait. Maybe we can read for awhile? I like when you read aloud."
She preens a little, cheeks blushing.
Draco settles onto a small sofa in her sitting area while Hermione selects a book from the shelf he has only recently refilled. Eyes lowered and a demure smile on her face, she returns to him and sits close, settling into the crook of his arm where it lays around the back rest. She looks at him for assurance, and he smiles down at her while draping his hand onto her shoulder.
She reads, and it's fitting. An adventure story of a young witch who runs away from home to battle an evil wizard alongside her lover. It could be about her, but it's not about them. Draco has no place in a hero's tale.
At well past eleven, he stops her with his hand on the page. "It's time, Granger."
She looks up with a smile only to let it fade as she searches his face. "Is it a good surprise?"
"The best I can give you," he answers, removing his arm and standing. He offers his hand, and she takes it, but there is trepidation on her face. It hurts to know it is likely born of fear as anything else. He hopes she trusts him more than that.
At the edge of the Manor gates, far away from his parents' potential gaze, he tells her what he has done.
"I found a way through the wards, but you have to go with someone across the barrier. One in and only the two of you out. It will only work with a single magical signature." He pauses and looks her over, memorizing her face. "I found a way to set you free. Weasley is coming to rescue you," he says, the words like shards of glass in his mouth.
"Ron?" She's confused, scrunching her face and breath coming fast.
Draco nods, tucking a curl behind her ear. "He's been looking for you. Tracked me down and begged for your release. He didn't understand that I wasn't trying to keep you trapped; I only wanted you to be safe." His voice is a whisper, the soft whistle of northern wind carrying the words away across the Manor grounds.
A pop resounds and Draco squeezes his eyes shut, knowing the sound of apparition. He opens then swiftly when a second sound splits the night air.
There, standing together and gaping at Granger, are Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter.
It only takes a moment for Draco to register what the man has done and to explode in his panic. "I said alone! The wards, you stupid fuck! Only two of you can leave. And now that you've crossed, the house will know it's been breached, and Potter's magical signature is being tracked."
The pair are staring at Hermione, but she has not moved from Draco's side. Ron is staring back in horror, understanding as the pieces fall into place. It was never a plot to capture or kill them after all, and Hermione truly is here, safe and ready to leave. The wizard has figured out that he's completely fucked this up. Glancing down at Granger, Draco knows she's figured it out as well.
"Mione…" The man sounds broken and regretful and all sorts of mournful things. But even if Draco was inclined to stick his neck out further, the damage is irreparable.
"The wards won't allow all three of you through now. They registered two in, so it can only be two out, and likely there will be Aurors here in moments."
"Well… well… can you blame me?" Ron blusters back, eyes darting between all assembled. "How was I supposed to trust you? I had no way to know this wasn't a trick to murder me!"
"And the consequence of that sheer stupidity, after I risked quite a lot to help her, is you can't take her with you," Draco shoots back.
"Ron, what's going on?" Potter pipes up, slightly demanding. "I thought Malfoy was giving us Hermione back."
"I was," Draco bites out, cutting off the weak protests about to spew from Weasley. "But as I told him," he jabs a finger at the redhead, "the wards will know now. It was supposed to be him alone, taking her body back through. Ward security will lock down, and no way will it allow all three of you through."
The pair of wizards look stricken.
"Can't you…" Potter looks lost, beseeching. "Can't you do something? Help us out here?"
"I did, you prick! I brought Granger here. I hid her for months. I met with Weasley, even though I had every right to be as wary of meeting with him alone as he had to meet with me. I all but secured her freedom, and your pet Weasel fucked it!"
Draco is seething. Regardless that he never wanted to let her go, he promised her. He told her she would be free, and now she is standing, looking numb, realizing her fate.
You should have left me to die in your crypt, repeats in his head. She is bound forever to his purgatory now. Her forgiveness was a gift, and what are the chances he can earn it twice?
"I'll stay," Weasley nearly shouts back. "Two in, two out. Keep me here and let 'Mione go with Harry."
Draco doesn't care for that idea at all. Nevermind that the wards might not even let different signatures back through, the idea of keeping Weasley here, stuck in his personal suites as the only safe place in the Manor, is very unappealing.
"You can't!" Both Granger and Potter have answered, then stare at each other in question.
"It's just... " Granger explains first, looking at them both with sad eyes. "You can't sacrifice yourself for me. I couldn't live with that."
"And Ginny," Harry says. "I can't tell her I lost you too. She'll never forgive either of us."
Draco understands without explanation. It's long been said the youngest Weasley, while publically standing with her family, is rumoured to still carry a torch for Harry Potter. It seems she might be more complicit in the rebellion than the public knows.
Draco looks back at Granger, full of regret. He will be good to her, he knows. He has kept her safe this long. If she stays, if she can find her way not to hate him for his failure, he will give her the world if he can. Though, it is hard to fit the world inside one small room. Tears are welling in her eyes. Perhaps she can read his thoughts.
Suddenly, she is flinging herself at the two wizards, sobbing into their shoulders.
Draco looks away, resolute. He listens to her choke through her tears that she misses them, loves them. Draco's heart is squeezed bloody, a vice threatening to crust it within his chest.
He doesn't look up until he feels her approach his side once again. She looks at him with an open expression. "I know you've risked so much already, but will you let me stay?"
Draco looks back at Potter and Weasley, trying not to let his relief show. The former savior of the wizarding world looks forlorn, staring at Draco with hope. His friend, however, cannot meet Draco's eyes. His fists are balled at the side, and his face mottled red in anger, likely directed at himself.
"Take care of her, please," Potter says. Draco nods once but waves them away, back toward the wards.
"You have to go, and I need to get her inside. She's safest in our rooms.
Perhaps he said it on purpose just to see the widening of Weasley's eyes.
Your home, my world.
Grabbing ahold of his friend, Potter spins in place, one last look at Hermione, and Apparates them away.
In his suite, Draco can hardly look at his charge, feeling guilt for his failure, elation at the outcome, and guilt for that as well.
"I'm so sorry," he says, remembering her embracing her friends, sobbing that she loves them. She starts to say something, but he just mutters another apology and closes himself into his private room.
Lucius is unamused by what is eventually dubbed a failure of the wards. Of course Potter was not lurking around the Malfoy stables in the dead of night. Why on earth would anyone believe as much?
Draco keeps his head down for days, giving renewed attention to Malfoy Industries and the workings of the Manor. He begins to take breakfast with Hermione once again, but it has become quiet and somber, him leaving for his office as soon as she lays her napkin by her plate. This morning she had seemed as if she wanted to say more, venturing into conversation simply by saying his name when he had started to rise. He had stopped, granting her his attention.
"It's not so terrible," she had said, "being here. Thank you for keeping me safe." Her words of gratitude had hurt more than he could say. His fantasies of earning her love and trust had mocked him as he nodded at her.
"Anything I can give you, Granger, it's yours. I'm sorry it wasn't enough this time." She had reached for him, face crumpling with something that tasted bitter like pity, and he had swiftly left the room.
His father, meanwhile, has seemed quite pleased with Draco's performance and choices. Over dinner, Lucius praises him in the backhanded way that is his specialty.
"I'm glad you've shown yourself to be responsible for the family's dealings, Draco. I had found your attention lacking of late."
"Apologies, just a bit of autumn melancholy these past weeks. I'm feeling much more engaged now."
Clapping his son on the shoulder, Lucius makes his way from the Malfoy dining room, leaving Narcissa staring openly at her son.
He starts to excuse himself, rising and bending his head politely, when she stops him with a word.
He pauses in question, tilting his chin in invitation for her to proceed.
"It is interesting that the servants crypt has been disturbed, but no new signatures were taken to the earth. And then this business with the wards...I fear the Manor might have some security issues to rectify."
His breath is trapped in his lungs, and he feels his knees struggle to hold his weight. After a long pause, mother and son looking deep behind their eyes, she lifts her cup and takes a sip of tea, dropping her gaze.
"Given the state of the wards, ridiculous outdated things, I am having them reset on Friday to ensure our safety. Perhaps you would like to personally oversee the warding in your rooms? I know how private a young man can be. Wouldn't want your father interrupting if you've a lady to entertain," she muses.
Narcissa continues to sip, looking down at her cup then studying the china before her, tracing one manicured nail down the long silver line of her resting spoon.
Clearing his throat, Draco agrees. "I'll be certain to be available that day, Mother."
"Excellent. One less thing for me to concern myself." She looks back up, a sparkle in her eye, and bids him a good evening. "Have a lovely night, darling. Thank you for joining me for dinner. I assume, of course, you will have other arrangements for breakfast?" She smiles into her cup and takes another long sip.
Draco turns and makes his way to his rooms, walking swiftly and flinging the door open once he reaches Hermione's suite.
She's standing by the balcony doors, moonlight kissing her bare shoulders.
This isn't the life he might have chosen for her, and maybe one day it will be different, but this is the one he has to give.
Striding across the room, he takes her face in his hands and looks at studies her eyes, hoping to find forgiveness.
"I'm sorry," he says. It feels like all he's said for the past days. "I wanted to find a way to let you go, but I couldn't. More than that, I didn't want to. I want you to stay, and I'm sorry for that,too."
And then he kisses her, hard and insistent, proving the sincerity of his adoration better than he is capable with words. He pulls back just enough to say that he loves her. "More than I have a right to," he adds, kissing the side of her mouth. "More than you should let me," he laments, laying his mouth against her cheek. "I'll keep you safe. Forever, if I have to. Or I'll find a way to change the laws. I'll run for Minister or bribe the Wizengamot. No one will ever touch you. No one will ever make you forget."
He looks at her, waiting for rejection even as he has found his resolve. Even if she can never want him, if her heart always returns to Weasley, he will fight for her, earn her, if she will allow it.
Her face is twisted in confusion, but her delicate hand reaches to trail the side of his face. "Are you alright? Has something happened?"
He shakes his head, unsure what to say. Was her fate of so little concern? Can he dare to hope that being trapped here has not weighed on her mind?
"I want to make you happy, Hermione. Here, with me. I'll give you everything."
She smiles softly, head tilting. "I have everything I need here. I have you."
Soaring higher than on any broom, Draco sweeps her up and kisses her, smothering her giggle with his lips on hers. He kisses her face, mouth and cheeks and nose, her laughing all the while until he joins her. When he sets her back down, her feet finding the earth with dainty grace, she looks at him with so much affection he thinks it might kill him.
"You're very serious today, love. Did your mother give you grief at dinner? I told her I didn't mind a winter wedding if that is what she prefers."
A world tilting, and suddenly Draco isn't laughing or smiling or moving, hardly breathing. Then, he's greedy for air, sure he might drop to his knees. No no no no…
"Draco, darling, I've just come to bid you and Miss Granger a lovely evening."
He turns slowly, Hermione's concerned gaze pinning him, his mother's cool expression chilling the blood in his veins. "Mother?"
Pure grace, chin up, she enters the room and sweeps up to him and his witch. "You didn't believe anything occurs in my household without my knowledge, did you, dragon? Miss Granger has been more than agreeable in regards to Malfoy expectations." Her gaze shifts to Hermione. "Is that not correct, dear?"
Watching the exchange, Draco sees Hermione nod in response. "Of course. Really, I understand. The preferences of the house matriarch should always be consulted in these matters. My mother may have been a squib, but she taught me that much." She chuckles, and Draco feels moisture prick at his eyes.
He steps into his mother's space, studying her, eyes desperately searching the blank expression in hers. Voice lowered, he can hardly ask for confirmation. "Mother, you didn't…"
She nods, and answers quietly, "I did. Kingsley has already cleared her papers so a marriage contract can be approved." Her eyes soften, nearly warm for a fleeting moment, as she adds, "For you, Draco. And her. You can't have a life in this room."
He doesn't even try to stop the moisture that finally cascade over his lashes. "She would rather die…" he laments, mourning Hermione's loss in her stead.
Narcissa straightens her shoulders, face going impassive once again. "Well, that's a terribly impractical outlook, isn't it?"
She turns, robes swirling around her feet, heels clicking across the stone tile. "I'll see you both at breakfast then."
Behind him, Hermione answers, "Of course! Good night, Missus Malfoy."
With one last turn, she gives the both of them a once over. "Call me Narcissa, dear. Or Mother, if you like. We are to be family, after all."
When Draco looks back to Hermione, she is smiling with silent tears falling down her cheeks. He pulls her in, clinging tight to her warmth and hating himself more than he thought possible.
"I haven't had a mother in a long time," she mumbles into his chest, so quiet he barely hears.
Draco pulls back, looking down at her. The confusion is back on her face. "That is, I can't remember her so it must have been a long time… right?"
He swallows. "I don't know," he manages in a rasp. "I'm sorry, Granger, I honestly don't know."
"Neither do I," she whispers, tears tracking her skin, puddling at the corner of her lips. He kisses them away, but they are endless.
"I've got you, Granger."
Burying her face into his chest, she nods again. Nods and nods, head shaking emphatically as she sobs and can't even explain why. "Never let me go," she begs, and he promises he won't, he can't, and he loves her as he mourns her.
Even the furies of hell are weeping.
Thank you once again for reading! Comments are appreciated but please don't kill me!
It could have been worse. Draco could have been Orpheus instead of Hades, and it would be all bitter, no sweet :)
Credit to the original myth, the last line is imagery from that story. If you have questions in regards to the original myth or, how I used it here, or... well anything really... you can find me here, on Tumblr, or in basically any Dramione FB group
One last quick note to those of you who follow me, I know I only posted short stories in 2019, but I have a longer piece in the works. To continue my commitment to fast and steady update schedules, I've not posted yet so that I might be nearly finished when it begins. Look for that sometime hopefully in the next few weeks!