Summary: Something about his current behavior doesn't sit well with her. In the name of public health, Hermione has a responsibility to investigate.
Song suggestion- "Sola" by Nina Cobham
A huge freaking thank you to Starryar. She literally whipped this thing into shape and I seriously am so grateful for her kindness and dedication to some random girl who messaged her.
Fires Burn and So Do I
Hermione, while clearly a child genius, was not the sort of woman who regularly boasted about it. Her record spoke loudly enough for itself for anyone who dared to walk past her stone statue in the Ministry's atrium. Clever charm work if she did say so herself and she did. Figuring out puzzles, finding clues and generally being the Sherlock Holmes of her generation was par for the course. It was what she'd always been useful for.
So when she started noticing some incremental changes in Draco Malfoy's behavior, she put a note on her mental peg board to come back to it should the need arise. She'd been caught unawares once and that would not ever happen again- not where he was concerned. Besides, Hermione still caught shite from Harry about 6th year on a regular basis. She had let Harry and Ron down that year. Her purpose as their friend was bastardized in some sick fashion which allowed Malfoy to kill the last vestiges of their childhood on that fateful night. Green pointed light, half moon spectacles, and long, curling beards still peppered her dreams.
On the first day of their eighth year, Hermione noticed Draco staring intently as the little first years skittered across the new Great Hall to be sorted. He did not out right smile or frown as the little ones were placed which was not unordinary anyway. No one was particularly animated tonight. Even Peeves circled the halls in listless ghostly trails, his stink bombs were mildly odious at best and even his evil cackle sounded rather more like a hack cough.
The new Great Hall was smaller than the previous one had been although no less grand. In some ways it was almost too opulent. Every metre or so, the goblin-made glass chandeliers hung heavily upon jeweled chains. The long benches, that had been hell-on-the-knees yet so much a part of Hogwarts that it was a set piece, had been replaced with heavy chairs lined with velvet fabric. On the backs of the chairs, were small gold plates designating which family had donated said chairs. Hermione knew it was a way for neutral or outright dishonorable families to begin buying their way back into public favorability.
The welcome dinner was somber but tense as if the very air was still exploding with the screams of the dying. The number of students in the great hall had been reduced, but the energy was more overwhelming than it had been any year prior.
No, his silent staring was not why Malfoy stood out to her- the fact that he bothered to pay attention at all was what struck her as odd. For seven years (well seven presumably, as she'd missed the last year whilst being on the run) Malfoy had held court at his section of the Slytherin table. In the past, she reckoned he hadn't heard a single name being called after his initial first year sorting nor any year afterward as he was often loudly ribbing some poor Hufflepuff or spooking first years with tripping hexes at the welcome dinners.
What also drew Hermione's attention to Malfoy was his pale finger lightly tapping on the table to a tune that only he knew. It would suddenly stop when a new name was called and only resume once the student was sorted. Tap, tap, tap, pause, tap, tap, pause. The tapping was coupled with his hawk-like eyes which followed the Sorting Hat's mouth. That was what told her where his attention truly laid. Hermione felt something shift in the logical side of her brain as she quietly observed Malfoy. It was at that moment that she became keenly aware of how much had been lost in the last few years- she couldn't even count on Malfoy to be the same. No one paid attention to her as she huffed quietly and went back to wriggling on her too firm wing back chair.
She awoke that night when the moon was at its highest point; she was sure she could hear his fingers tapping in her dreams. Hermione held her covers to her chest feeling manic as it was the first time in almost a year that her dreams weren't haunted by Bellatrix cutting her down into something small and miniscule. Hermione hated Malfoy at that moment for making her feel safe for the night, knowing it was only a temporary reprieve.
It was the week before students were set to leave for winter when her mental note came screeching back into her mind's forefront. Malfoy had been cleaning up after the winter balll, as was his duty as the school's defunct janitor (another demeaning caveat of his probation), when McGonagall had caught Hermione's hand at the end of the dance. McGonagall begged Hermione to ensure that Malfoy would finish his task without harassment. Many of the disillusioned youth roaming the halls felt giddy upon approaching a real life Death Eater and some of their "banter" turned bitter leaving Malfoy burping up a variety of nasty, little creatures. Hermione nodded with a strained smile that McGonagall pretended not to see.
Malfoy worked quietly as he cleaned up the party's dirty dregs while Hermione tried to hold on to her ebbing civility with all her might. She watched his long, strong arms shovel broken bottles and empty cups that were left stranded about the floor with such a resigned grace that had her shaking with indignation. How dare he look penitent and contrite whilst cleaning up other people's garbage! How dare he? Her skin burned angrily as she furiously tried to ignore her bubbling feelings. She took in deep breaths before turning her back on him, determined not to let him get the best of her.
She stood stiff as an iron rod for hours as the sounds of his grunts and sighs dumped into her mind like unexpected packages, until finally, she could take no more. Exhausted and ready to go to her room, Hermione used her wand to help him clean up some sticky gunk that had coated a part of the dance floor. It was going to take a lifetime for him to finish tidying up the hall like a muggle.
Almost comically, Malfoy turned from his mop bucket back to the trashed floor to find it was now spotless. He felt a mixture of unabashed pleasure and confusion before he swung his head up to Hermione's perch on the wooden railing separating the dance area from the rest of the room. Realization dawned on him that his savior was none other than the Head Girl. He stared at her for a borrowed moment before his lips up turned softly in the facsimile of a smile. It was not a full invitation into his feelings but the key promising treasures within if one was bold enough to turn the lock. Not noticing that Hermione was gripping the railing so tight that her knuckles were as white as snow, he opened his mouth to say something that looked to be the beginnings of a "thank you"when Hermione swung off before he could speak.
Hermione found the sight of this new Malfoy so incongruous to her reality that she quit the room at once. She swept down the vacant hallways as if she was Snape's brooding daughter- complete with the late professor's trademark dark cloud running to catch up with her. How dare he smile at her? How dare he look content cleaning up other people's trash? A small voice asked her if sulking was a good use of her mental landscape and she decided that it very much was. When Hermione had settled into bed, she continued to plant hateful seeds as she drifted off to sleep. While she slept, soft smiles morphed into evil smirks, kind thanks turned into cackling laughter, soft ice blue eyes turned red with manic madness and mop handles became a 12 and ¾'s dragon heartstring wand.
It occurred to her during the weeks following winter holidays that Malfoy was even more scarce than ever before. He'd spent the duration of the term dashing around corners, hiding in broom closets and generally deciding to shrink himself so small as to be invisible to the naked eye. That was not entirely unusual behavior considering his standing as a 'disgraced monarch marching about with no clothes'. Hermione found his fall from grace to be both jarring and deserving. But not seeing him at all left stomach queasy with unwanted sympathy. That was unacceptable.
Now that the memory of Malfoy's soft smile stamped about her mind like a baby buffalo, she decided his days of avoiding the world had come to an end. No one who shredded her carefully built character arc deserved to sneak past justice. Hermione decided she would get to the bottom of his behavior and make him stop hiding behind curtains if she had any say in it.
When the details of her concerns were made public in conversation to a timid Neville, she understood that her version of law and order may have been difficult to translate. Neville nodded along kindly to her torrent of increasingly implausible explanations for Malfoy's behavior, even when Hermione began to pace back and forth about the cold common room. Occasionally she would slap Neville's hand away from her bumble tea pudding as he attempted to stealthily commandeer her dessert.
"Neville, what are your thoughts on this ludacris behavior?" Hermione spun around to face her friend, who at present, was licking the inside of her empty pudding bowl. His eyes slipped up from blissful clouds of pudding to her flushed face and red tipped ears. He blanched at the side of her but tried very hard to hide it. He was unsuccessful.
"I don't know Hermione. You seem awfully spun up so perhaps there's something I'm not seeing?"
The intensity of her withering stare made his cheeks redden. Her fingers dug into her itching "Mudblood" scar while Neville leaned inattentively back into the tired couch cushions. "Is that all you have to say?"
"I'm not sure you want to hear this, but perhaps he was attempting to be kind. You did save him hours of manual scrubbing."
"Kindness? That's your appraisal." Her voice shrieked to mask the pain she felt zipping up and down her arm.
"Well, yes." Neville sat the empty bowl down and started on her untouched beverage. If he had been looking at her, he would have seen the pained expression knitted on her face. If he'd analyzed her wobbling tone, he would have slung an arm about her or called for one of the girls to comfort her. He only saw her sweating beverage waiting to be sipped.
Hermione criss crossed her arms about her body, squeezing herself strongly before allowing her hands to go at her sides in a McGonagall style manner."I am relieving you of your duties as my protege, Watson."
Neville stopped his fingers mid-air when he felt the full weight of her blazing eyes on his person, for the second time in as many minutes. He'd attempted to surreptitiously edge her butterbeer over to his side of the table, missing her helpless stance from only moments ago.
When he saw Hermione's pursed lips and power pose he shrugged before allowing his fingers to continue their descent for her mug. Neville then gave her a proud, thief's smirk whist boldly downing her drink. When he was finished, he swiped a calloused hand across his satisfied lips. "That's fair."
3 months later
Hermione, as any brilliant detective would, followed Malfoy back to his private corridor after dinner one evening. She had been racing after some 3rd year Hufflepuffs, who thought shucking snap dragons at the girls' toilet was an appropriate after dinner activity, when they'd managed to lose her near one of the shifting staircases. When she nearly turned back after giving up on the chase was when she witnessed a truly stunning, yet puzzling scene unfold in front of her eyes.
She saw Malfoy pluck a frightened second year off the rapidly shifting staircase before depositing the open mouthed youth on the correct stair. Malfoy then proceeded to scold the boy for being an unobservant idiot. With wobbly lips and tear stained cheeks, the boy threw his arms about Malfoy's hips, as he was still adorably small, and yelled that Draco was "a decent bloke...well for Death Eater scum". Malfoy merely shrugged with only a light frown before pushing the boy's forehead off of his stomach and physically turning the boy towards the appropriate path like a wind up toy. As soon as the child was out of sight, Malfoy ran his hands over his now rumpled shirt with a self deprecating chuckle before he jumped from one staircase to another that was two metres over. Malfoy landed in an expert crouch after swinging his body in a perfect downward parabola before sprinting down the stairs taking them two at a time.
Stealthily, Hermione had hid behind a tattered tapestry to witness the small exchange with a growing concern. Something was definitely wrong with Malfoy. She had already completed her NEWTS before Christmas and had decided to use her remaining time at Hogwarts as a much needed gap year before starting her career at the Ministry so she had no where she actually had to be. Now was as good a time as any to get Intel on Malfoy. Completely abandoning all thoughts about the mischievous Hufflepuffs, she hurried after the lanky blonde after pulling her cloak from her bag.
Harry had happily given her his invisibility cloak when prompted one day over the summer holiday at Grimmauld place, so happy to know his spirit of mischief would live on through his toughest convert. She'd pretended that she'd use it for all manner of silliness when they both knew she'd only use it to sneak into the library. How proud he'd be if he knew now!
Hermione had been informed in passing by McGonagall that for his own protection, Malfoy had been given a space on the opposite side of the castle that hadn't been used in 40 years. This broken wing was cobbled and rough to the touch and Hermione knew this must have been the original building before modernity had had its way. Even the magic in this part of the school felt older, much like a fine aged vinegar: spicy yet silky on the way down.
Malfoy appeared to be completely unaware of her presence and Hermione grinned impishly, fully aware that no one could see her. Suddenly Malfoy took a sharp turn, but not in an alarming way, more in a practiced kind of way. They'd reached his suite. Malfoy, for the first time in months, finally scowled as he stared at the splintering wood door as though what was on the other side was both physically disgusting and inevitable. Hermione felt silly and crestfallen at the sight of his pinched expression. Perhaps he had been toying with her all year- he was still a miserable bloke who hadn't actually changed at all.
Hermione turned to go when she heard him speak. "I won't allow this. Go back to your room."
Hermione screamed internally. What could she possibly say to explain following him? Oh Gods.
"It's my turn." Responded Malfoy's voice. What? Hermione turned back again to witness two identical Malfoys arguing with one another at the opening of the door. Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. Two Malfoys? The Malfoy she had followed was wearing a black button down with his fine hair curling slightly at the ends, while eaning against the door, was a Malfoy dressed in a crisp white tee shirt with slicked back hair.
"No, when the term ends. That's tomorrow," the Black Shirted Malfoy protested.
"It's 12 in the morning. Tomorrow is today," said a smirking White Shirted Malfoy.
With a growl of frustration, the Black Shirted Malfoy continued to stand his ground, "If you start up now, they'll know. And they won't stand for this."
"No trouble now. I need to make preparations. Move aside," cackled the Malfoy in the white shirt.
"Term doesn't end until the end of the school day," thundered Black Shirt while pushing his counterpart back into the room with as much deadly force as he could muster. The White Shirt Malfoy fell and hit his head on the stone floor and Hermione's Head Girl persona came charging out. She dropped the cloak and whipped her wand out at Black Shirt Malfoy.
"Stop this instant!" At the sound of her voice, Black Shirt Malfoy froze in the open doorway while White Shirt straightened up with a grin.
"Get out of here!" bellowed Black Shirt with rage contorting his features into something hot and welted. Hermione stepped back ,uncertain, but did not lower her wand. She shook her head stubbornly.
"What is going on h-" Hermione did not finish as Black Shirt stalked towards her with uncontrolled violence. The rippling muscles hidden by his shirt sleeves bulged as he took one angry step after another towards her. He waved his hand decisively as though to throw a hex. Before Hermione could react, the candle wall sconces lighting the hallways went out as though a victorious wind had snuffed them out with one blow. The three students were blanketed in darkness save for the soft light emanating from White Shirt Malfoy's open door. Despite or perhaps because of the darkness, Black Shirt Malfoy continued stalking towards her with even more fury.
"I said get out!" He spat as he neared her person with sure footsteps. Hermione's heart thumped hard against her ribcage as Black Shirt Malfoy's hot breath washed over her cheeks. Her mind sprinted back to a similar sensation when Bellatrix had screamed hotly into her face and Hermione turned her head about to find an escape route. Her eyes found White Shirt Malfoy as he looked on with horror. With a split second to decide, Hermione side stepped Black Shirt Malfoy and slid into the open doorway.
The door closed with a click behind her and Hermione warded the room with the first spell she could think of. The force of Black Shirt Malfoy's growls and pounding fists against the opposite side of the door shook the frame with such force that she feared it would splinter. Panting hard, Hermione threw up a silencing spell to mask the sounds.
"What is going on?" Hermione cried as she turned to find White Shirt Malfoy seated on a common room couch with his fingers running circles at his temples.
"Granger. I thought I smelled broken quills and ink earlier. Following others is generally frowned upon you realize? Not that I'm complaining as you saved my neck."
"What is going on?" she repeated as she tentatively took a seat on the other edge of the couch. She felt at ease with this Malfoy as he was the snarky bloke she remembered.
"None of your concern that I can see. Why don't you run along little lion?"
"You will clarify this situation!"
"Stalking and trespassing does make me feel particularly open to sharing my personal affairs." he said with a curled up lip. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, this was a Malfoy she could deal with.
"I'm Hermione Granger, Head Girl. Either explain it to me or I will summon a professor."
"Please just leave." His hands lay innocuously in his lap. His head was turned up to meet hers with soft, light blue eyes that looked like a clear, English morning after a long rain. He would not hurt her, she knew this deep within her like a tattoo pricking her skin.
"We both know that isn't a reality we can expect to foresee." Malfoy swept a hand in her general direction as if to fight off the force of her words before dropping his fingers into his fine hair in lackluster defeat. He didn't bother to fight her and she felt acquiescence in the very air; she moved quickly to sit even closer beside him. She couldn't be sure but it looked like his lips had upturned slightly as if to ward off a triumphant giggle.
"Polyjuice or miscast spell?" She asked at the same time as he began to speak.
"Did you ward the door with a strong seal? We'll need it if you want to survive his wrath."
"Melodramatic behavior doesn't suit you, Malfoy or whomever you are."
"Oh really? I'm sure you rushed in here because you felt safe out in that hallway." She didn't miss that he did not respond to her original question.
"Fine, let me seal it properly once more." She huffed before completing the proper wand work again. Malfoy seemed less on edge at this and asked her if she wanted some Earl Grey while walking to his kitchenette.
"At this late hour? Surely, Chamomile is the best choice."
"You're an enraging little bint." He gave a slight smirk which took the sting out of his words.
"Coming from you? I'll take that as a compliment."
The conversation died as Malfoy pulled open the cupboard doors before finding a tea kettle and cups. He pulled them down with care before filling the kettle and placing it on the burner to warm. While the water came to a boil, he pulled the loose tea canister down from the same shelf, scooping the loose tea out before packing it into tea colanders. Hermione watched him perform those domestic tasks with silent fascination. The way he prepared their drinks with subtle care and diligence was so unlike the pampered child she'd grown up with, or the shredded soul shrieking about like a haunted house in 6th year. This was as unburdened and self possessed as she'd ever seen him. Up close, it was mesmerizing, much like watching a unicorn peacefully drink from cool waters.
"As fascinating as the back of my head undoubtedly is, speak your piece, Granger."
Malfoy did not immediately respond to her query. He took his time as he poured the hot tea into both cups before pulling some milk from the small fridge and mixing it into their drinks. He held each cup in the palm of his hands, despite their angry steaming. He placed one in front of her on the coffee table but allowed his to remain in his open hand. Hermione reached for her cup but immediately pulled her scalded hand to her chest.
Malfoy sipped his cuppa with refined manners as though nothing much was the matter. She looked at him with parted lips but he only smirked slightly at her. He pulled out his wand with speed that defied several laws of the natural order and cast a quick charm on her tea, cooling it instantly. The spell left a soft, clean smell in the air that dissipated cordially without any lingering unpleasantness.
Blown away by his powerfully restrained skill, Hermione swallowed slightly before gently shaking her head to remove any lasting ferret appreciation that could cloud her judgement.
"You asked me about a miscast spell or some other nefarious plot?" Malfoy quirked an eyebrow at her with unfiltered humor that she felt was very much at her expense. Hermione shifted uncomfortably on the couch cushion feeling like his gaze was looking straight through her.
When Hermione looked up into his cool eyes, she was reminded of a phrase: "still waters run deep". As she continued to stare, she saw that his eyes were shallow pools that if stepped in, would latch onto her ankles while dragging her down into depths unknown. His eyes, she would swear it to her grave, rippled as though something… some creature just below the surface of his eyes was ready to emerge as it read her startled thoughts.
"What are you?" she was not entirely sure she'd said anything aloud.
"Granger." He responded with a wolf's grin as he dabbed his mouth with an embroidered handkerchief produced from nothingness.
His calm and collected persona rattled her. Malfoy continued to drink his scorching drink without any discomfort and his lack of sneers and jeers had her skin crawling. She started to feel off-kilter and less sure of herself. Perhaps something truly more sinister was afoot and she'd locked herself in with this-this-… thing.
Hermione immediately stood, disturbing the items on the coffee table. She slammed her cup down and dove to the warded room door. Her hands shook as she stuttered a series of unlocking spells. Once done, she grabbed the handle to freedom just as Malfoy's elegant fingers splayed against the door, keeping it firmly shut. She felt his unnaturally cool breath on the back of her ear, his lips grazing over her earlobe.
"Curiosity. I knew it would lure you in."
Hermione shivered as his icy breath circled her ear before slipping into her ear canal, cold air burning her from the inside. She felt his hands on her arms rubbing up and down her skin, leaving goosebumps in his wake. Soon, his hands had run all the way down to the scarred skin on the inside of her arm. He stopped his soothing movements as his hand covered the dirty slur.
"Granger," he whispered again into her ear. "What she did to you... What she awoke in me… I-" The young wizard did not get to finish his confession as the un-warded door slammed open pushing Hermione and Malfoy into a heap on the floor.
Hermione looked up at her savior with glittering, shimmering eyes. It was the other Malfoy. The one she'd locked out before. His face was a mirror reflecting her own fear. He reached out, fast as lightning, grabbing her ankle and dragging her out the door before dropping her foot to swivel back to the open door. He slammed the door shut, holding the door knob closed with straining muscles while Hermione got to her feet.
"Ward it now." He said through clenched teeth. Hermione could hear the other Malfoy struggling to open the door from the other side. Hermione shook her head and began waving her hands in front of her as though to push the decision away.
"I don't have a wand. Do it. Now." He growled. Afraid of having to face the creature inside again, she promptly complied.
Once done, Malfoy (as she had decided to call him to differentiate the two), slid down the warded door curling in on himself as he did so. Hermione still found herself breathing hard hoping to calm her beating heart. The two of them existed in silence for long moments before Malfoy cleared his throat getting her attention. Her face, she knew, was burning with shame. He had to rescue her from her own stupidity. Hermione still didn't know what was going on in this part of the castle, but the tendrils of truly old magic was tickling the air between them leaving the atmosphere charged and thick.
"Malfoy," she started as she placed one foot in front of the other to get closer to him. She reached out a hand to touch his shoulder but he jumped up and away from her. The blonde shook his head before scratching at his scalp helplessly.
"I knew you couldn't leave well enough alone. No matter how I tried to show you that I'd changed. I could feel you judging me from across the room all bloody year. Waiting for me to be the same coward I was in that room with you and her."
His accusation had caught Hermione off-guard to the point that her usually confident way of speech faltered. "I wasn't... that wasn't what-"
His hands left his scalp and were tentatively moving towards her arm as Hermione spoke. His trembling fingers stopped in mid air as if weighing the consequences of continuing on to touch her. His fingers receded back into his sides; the risk was not worth it. Hermione held her breath as her peripheral vision caught the movement. When he dropped his hands, a heavy sigh tumbled out of his downturned mouth.
"You were right, you know. I am a coward. Rocking back and forth in this old part of the castle...I could feel myself splitting apart... feel the castle cutting right down the middle of my soul. Watching you watching me all damn day long… pulling you away from her in my dreams...carving my own aunt like she did you. I couldn't hold myself together anymore."
Malfoy did not look at her but at his shiny black shoes. She looked down at his feet as well, seeing her own reflection in the patent leather. Her hair was about her face as though wrapping itself in the comfort of her scalp, her eyes were dark and her skin was red and puffy. She blinked and her eyes were staring at the stone floor because Malfoy had moved away. Hermione heard rather than saw his shoes tapping urgently against the ground as a means of escape.
As soon as his footsteps had quieted, Hermione felt uneasy. She could feel the old, vine ripened magic pulsating from the very stone under, above and around her as the castle whispered to her. She knew the door to the Two Malfoys' room was warded and properly sealed but she still felt the wood shake and splinter under her hand. She imagined that he, Draco, was on the other side with his hand in the same spot as hers on the opposite side. She pulled her hand away as if the wood singed her skin. Hermione ran to follow the other Malfoy that had left her behind.
It wasn't hard to find Malfoy as he went to the place that sad, frustrated people often went: the bench facing the Black Lake. Malfoy sat there with his arms draped over either side of the bench looking up at the North Star. His skin seemed to shimmer like water boiling away in a kettle-much too hot to touch. That was the Malfoy she could reconcile with. Even during their younger years whilst everyone else classified him as cold, arctic even, Hermione had only ever seen simmering rage waiting to boil over. He was so different from Draco stuck in that room with his frozen fingers that tickled up the skin like ice dissolving on the tongue. Malfoy was fire and Draco was cold burning sensuality ready to freeze her whole. When she shivered now, she couldn't be sure what caused it: flames or sheets of ice.
When she meekly sat on the other side of the bench, he did not turn toward her but sighed deeply, folding his arms about himself like a depressed pretzel. "He and I decided when we finally split apart that order was the only way to get through this. I managed to trick a house elf into changing the password to something only I know."
"What does that matter?"
"The password isn't to keep others out but to keep him in. He knows that's the worst part of me..of us. That given the chance he'd burn everything to the ground."
"I find it hard to believe that he willingly agreed to be locked inside out of innate kindness." She shivered as she remembered his ice cold lips almost touching her skin. Hermione shivered again although her body was heating up from within. She didn't know why.
"It's a shaky agreement. He'll be free to do as he pleases once term is over. The password protection will drop and he'll be free to wreak havoc as he wishes until he's gotten what he really wants."
"What does he want?"
"You're too smart to ask such a stupid question." He was sitting on the other side of the bench with his hands held tightly together, palms pressed firmly together. She put her hand atop his and was surprised to find that his skin was burning to the touch. He finally looked at her with his ice encased eyes- frozen over, unreachable pools. Her breath hitched in sick recognition. Two halves of the same whole.
She pushed her fingers between his two kissing palms pushing them apart. She pulled his right hand into her left and entwined their fingers together. His warm breath fanned her face in surprise. She resolutely nodded at him answering his silent question.
"Fine. What can we do to end this?"
"End him. Now." Hermione was trembling at his gruff response. She'd known what it was like to be incomplete, to have a part of her carved out permanently. Her lips formed a thin, resolute line.
"No, I'm going to put you back together again."
"Whole?" he breathed out as though it were a prayer.
"Yes," she said as she pulled his other hand over to her "Mudblood" scar to cover it with his large hand.
Malfoy and Hermione had raced to the Restricted Section of the still unfinished library. Only the first few stacks had been completely de-cursed so Madame Pince had partitioned the majority of the library off with only some students and faculty given permission to rummage around in that area. Hermione was the first to beg and plead with Madam Pince to be given access, but was declined every time. That was, until McGonagall overruled Pince to allow it.
Grateful for the favoritism the headmistress had no shame in showing towards her, she and Malfoy were furiously searching for some clue to help them in their quest. It was past four AM before their weary fingers flipped to a page that could help them. Hermione was still listlessly searching and reading when Malfoy nudged her in the ribs, pointing to a spell that would not completely solve their problem, but would serve as a temporary solution until something more definite could be found.
"Matrimonium Noctis," she read aloud, "an ancient, banned marriage ritual binding two souls into one body, usually used by older or dying wizards to tether themselves to a younger, more healthy person in order to continue living and thereby taking over their bride's faculties." She looked up at him in disgust and confusion.
"We'd have to do some re-working of the incantation but I think this could work."
"This spell preys on a weaker willed or less magically skilled host so that a parasitic old man can take over her body. From all accounts, you and him are equally matched. How can you be sure you'd be the one in control?"
"Because the light always wins out in the end. That's what you taught me." Malfoy looked at her with something resembling pride. Hermione stapled a smile onto her face and nodded strongly while ignoring Bellatrix's screams cackling in the back of her mind.
The Gryffindor and Slytherin duo parted just before sunrise. Hermione stumbled over to her perfectly made bed and collapsed atop it not bothering to peel back the sheets. Soon, dark dreams encapsulated her mind. Hermione was back in that dank, blood bloated room with Bellatrix as her only companion.
She could hear her own cries as she felt the cursed knife slashing into her arm. The blood dripping from her wound smelled stale and spoiled and she held back a gag knowing choking on her own vomit would kill her. Just as Bellatrix began working on the "D" in her little spelling game, the knife exploded into small shards of shrapnel that did not reach her skin. At that same moment, Bellatrix's cackles turned to thick, clopping gurgles. Hermione looked up to see Malfoy - no, Draco- using a steak knife to wrench open the mad witch's throat with a gleeful giggle. Bellatrix's hands fluttered about her neck before dropping to her knees and howling like a dying dog.
Malfoy's booted foot kicked his aunt's body out of his way as though she were no more important than a mangled tree root. He came over to Hermione with a determined glint before gathering her up and apparating into what she assumed was his bedroom. He laid her gently down and put his finger up to his mouth in a shushing motion when she began to speak. He whispered soft spells about her body, healing her completely before magicing away her clothes and wiping off her sweaty, bloodied body with a warm towel. He then rocked her to sleep. His body was cool against her fevered skin.
Hermione awoke with Draco's body flushed against her spine, kissing her back muscles until he finally left sharp nips on the back of her neck. "He and I are the same person to a degree. He's a wet fop and won't do what I can. I'm not afraid to have you."
"No one owns me," she whispered as she reached behind her to run her fingers through his hair. The gel in his hair has frozen in the refrigerated room. Her fingers burned as she stroked through the cold strands but her hands refused to numb. The more she thought of it, her body was still warm even as light snow began to fall from the ceiling. She has an inkling of clarity and she knows something is unnatural about this moment and this place. Hermione struggles to remember how she'd arrived here. Her body flinches as his chocolate dipped voice licks at her skin again.
"From the moment I saw the snatchers bring you in with your hair frizzing with indignation, I knew you were mine. Watching my aunt rip you apart split me in two. I'd never wanted to possess something so completely. I'd never felt so helpless to take you away. I tried. I really did to block you out, but your blood ran warm in a long, thin trail that pooled at my boots. I crouched down and licked a droplet, taking you in. I've been pulling myself apart ever since. Hoping to find the right way to have you."
"You've gone mad," she stammered as her heart strummed in her chest. She is sure now that she's still asleep; why else would she not push him away now? What reason could she have for feeling so walled off from consequence? From censure?
"Your blood," he began as his mouth finally reached the juncture between her shoulder and neck, "It tasted like cherries. It wasn't muddy at all. Its been on my tongue ever since. He still tastes it too, whenever he looks at you."
"Stop," her voice rattled as she spoke.
He's at her chin now leaving cool tracks in his wake, "I will if that's what you really want." Hermione does not respond. Her hands find themselves woven into the fabric of his dark denim jeans. She did not loosen her grip.
Hermione could feel Draco's mouth thaw into a smile before continuing his slow, sinister torture. His lips were now against her earlobe again, pulling her lobe into his frozen mouth. Hermione twitched under his fingers as they crawled down her arm to cover her scar again. "Let me out," Draco's voice slithered into her mind- caressing her infinite places.
Hermione's eyes snapped open and she was once again in her bedroom. She wiped the sleep from her eyes before yanking at her earlobe that somehow held the feeling of Malfoy's cool lips even though he wasn't there. . She pulled her school robes around her, unsure if she was doing it to ward off the shadow of the trail his cold fingers left or to keep the sensation of him on her body trapped inside her.
Hermione and Malfoy agreed to meet in his part of the castle after lunch. They both knew it would be odd for the Head Girl to not be in attendance at the farewell luncheon that McGonagall and Slughorn had been planning since the beginning of the month. The two of them sat stiffly in their still too rigid wing back chairs barely making eye contact with anyone. She jumped slightly when Ginny whispered something naughty about Michael Corner's arse in Hermione's ear. The sensation of Ginny's breath felt completely wrong - It was too warm with butterbeer- not cool like she wanted it to be.
As soon as Slughorn began his long, winding speech about whatever personal tale he thought was appropriate for the occasion, Hermione slipped out of her seat and snuck towards the open hall doors. She ran down the shifting staircases that led to Malfoy's part of the building with him suddenly following behind her. Hermione spared a glance at her watch realizing they only had two and half more hours to enact their plan before school ended for the year.
She must have slowed because Malfoy surpassed her before stopping to grab her hand. His body was still as hot as ever but she grasped him tightly, afraid to let go. Soon they were in front of the Two Malfoy's bedroom door. Hermione breathed in a calming breath before completing her part of the initial plan. She un-warded the door, pushed it open and pulled her wand on Draco who stood propped up against the door frame in a stunning tailored suit.
His hands were in his pant pockets, his hair slicked back and a wolfish grin teasing his lips. His eyes were thawed, crystalline pools that looked very much like they would consume her if given the chance. He pulled one hand out his pocket, drawing a silver pocket watch out with it. He snapped it open with perfectly manicured fingers and read its time before looking up at them with unruffled air.
"Got my message this morning?"
Hermione coughed in surprise. She tried to read his body to determine if he was bluffing but he gave her a thin smile before pulling his bottom lip between his teeth. She gasped, putting her fingers to her own lips.
"That was you?" Hermione trembled. Malfoy looked uncomfortable as he watched the two of them. His eyes volleyed back and forth between the other two in fright.
"I've been with you for months. I've visited you in your nightmares, ramping up your suspicions about my counterpart here. I knew the curiosity would eat at you."
"Come on Granger," Malfoy screeched as he saw her march closer and closer to Draco, "Stun him so we can get this done."
Hermione snapped out of her incredulous daze and quickly stunned Draco before throwing out a cushioning charm to keep him from banging his head. Malfoy shot her a dirty look before pushing into the room with her trailing behind. They levitated the body into the bedroom that Hermione remembered from her dreams. She went over the plan once again with Malfoy before allowing him to lay on the floor by his darker self.
"Remember you have to be the stronger one," she called out although she wasn't sure who she was actually addressing. Hermione began to recite the hastily reworked incantation to bring the two halves back together. Soon, she found herself forcing her magic into the spell as she felt elemental pushback from the old magic that was gathered in the room. The push and pull of her magic against the ancient magic left her sweating and overheated, wishing for a cool, soothing drink to quench her fiery body, but she continued to fight it.
Something snapped in her war with the old magic and she felt something shift aside allowing her passage. Hermione surged onward, yelling her incantation with such fire that she was sure Malfoy was supplying her with his own magical essence. Soon the two separate sides began mending and stitching themselves back into one piece, finally whole. As one entity, Draco Lucius Malfoy seemed more substantive than either Malfoy or Draco ever had. She hadn't noticed until now how slight both halves had been until they were finally together again.
She knelt by Draco Malfoy's side; the crisp suit worn by Draco now on the final body was still perfectly pristine as though painted on to his skin. His eyes opened and he propped himself up quickly but not as quickly as either of his parts would have done had they been there. Seeing him alive and in one piece was too much for her. She was filled with such frustration at this whole awful scenario, that she reached out and slapped him.
"You're an enraging little lion," he said with narrowed eyes. They are sharper than before like jagged ice piercing into her.
"Yes, you've mentioned that before," she responded, unrepentant.
"Regardless, how do you feel?" Hermione scowled at the neediness scratching at her voice. She was afraid to ask him her true question: "Who was he?"
"I'm perfectly fine, my lion. A new man." He pulled himself up into a self indulgent stretch. As he did so, every vertebrae snapped and cracked reminding her of a basilisk shedding old, useless skin. He then stretched his jaw muscles as if they had previously been unused. She waited with growing anxiety blooming in her chest causing her to worry her bottom lip. When he noticed her movements, he stopped his stretching. He slithered over to her with a cool smile and raised fingers. Draco gently removed her lower lip from between her teeth with his thumb. He did not stop to look at her with silent permission as he cupped the back of her head pulling her body against his and then took her lip between his own teeth, entrapping her mouth... her body with his glacial kiss.
"Oh...Oh Gods," she thought as she relinquished her body to his wintry caress. "At least...at least... ice numbs the itchiness on my scarred arm."
Somewhere, in the newer, more impotent part of the castle, the final bell rang signalling the end of term.