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Hanging On

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Prologue

In the spring of Hermione Granger’s fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she and Draco Malfoy strike up an unusual acquaintanceship.  One evening finds them both in the Astronomy tower.  At first, Hermione believes she is alone but Malfoy reveals himself soon after and surprises the curly haired brunette by being pleasant.  At first, Hermione is suspicious.  However, the blonde Slytherin chats pleasantly with the young Gryffindor for ten minutes; keeping to neutral subjects like school, constellations and the weather, never once does he ridicule her or her friends.

In fifth year, Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger are awarded prefect badges. Occasionally the mismatched duo is paired for night patrol.  Again, Hermione is surprised that the pointy faced blonde kept his snide remarks about her heritage, her hair and even her friends to himself during these encounters.  Sure, when he is with his friends and she with hers, he puts on a show, but Hermione notices that he rarely says anything to or about her anymore.  His focus is almost always on Harry, Ron or some other Gryffindor. Malfoy may have been on the Inquisitorial Squad but from what she observes, he doesn’t relish the job of spying and tattling on his classmates like Pansy Parkinson or Goyle.  Once, she even catches him sneering at Umbridge and when the twins pull off their final prank, she glimpses the first genuine smile upon his face.

In sixth year, Malfoy really changes and it is not just that he has shot up half a foot and towering over her. It is that he never, ever smiles; not even among his friends.  He declines the Slytherin Quidditch captaincy and withdraws from the team altogether.  He remains a prefect but rarely speaks in a social way with Hermione, even when they were paired together. He is not mean with her; rather he was introspective - brooding. Hermione never pushes him to talk, though she desperately wants to break his silence.  He is suspected of being involved in the incident that sent Katie Bell to St. Mungos and then Ron’s poisoning…

It all comes to a head in the second floor girl’s lavatory and Malfoy ends up at the wrong end of Harry Potter’s wand. Snape is able to heal Malfoy but after that he was rarely seen in class.  He returns his prefect badge and becomes a virtual ghost within the school's social order. Hermione feels slightly bereft.

At the beginning of June, Hermione stumbles upon the white haired Slytherin in the Astronomy tower. He is alone and straddling the ledge. Her gasp causes him to turn in her direction.

“Don’t worry your pretty head there Granger,” he says as he brought his left leg back over the wall.  Standing, he walked towards her. “I’m not suicidal, at least…not tonight,” he says with a note of sarcasm tinged with sadness.  He keeps walking towards her and then, just as he passes her he says to her in a firm and direct voice, “I want you to know that I do not hate you. I do not hate Muggles or Muggle-borns. If you remember nothing else of me, remember that much.”

 

From father to son, the blood runs thin
Ooh, see faces frozen still against the wind

The seam is split, the coal face cracked
The lines are long, there's no going back
Through hands of steel and heart of stone
Our labour day has come and gone

 

April 1998

With a small pop, two people appear on a slight rise that looks out towards the west.  They turn and the older woman says, “You’re meeting at Lonely Cottage in Dingle, Ireland.” Slowly a small cottage appears in front of them. “I am the secret keeper.  This cottage has been in the Tonks’ family for years. Only the three of us know it is here.  I’ll leave you to your business.”  There is another small popping sound and Andromeda Tonks disappears.

The door to the small dark cottage opens and he’s there, looking at her.  He is dressed all in black, his hair covered by a hood. If it is at all possible, he appears gaunter than he did three weeks’ ago, when she, Ron and Harry escaped from his Manor. His face is like an elongated moon hovering in the door’s frame.

“Well,” he drawls, “Come in, we’ve not all night.”

Later that same evening she collapses in the shower.  The water is hot but it takes a long time for the shaking to stop.  When the tremors subside, the destructive self-talk begins. She berates herself for being so naïve and trusting. For two hours she was alone in the company of a Death Eater and not once, NOT ONCE, did she even finger her wand. Anything could have happened.  She was a fool to go waltzing into that cottage without at least palming her wand. The worst of it is how scared she is for him. He has volunteered to spy, for them…for her.  She is overwhelmed with the feeling that his life is now in her hands.  She is grateful for his help and yet pissed that he’s made her feel responsible for his safety. She is also confused, angry, and frightened; frightened for herself and for him. 

 

May 1998

“The pendent told me to be here at ten in the morning.  I’ve been waiting hours for you!  Where have you been?”  She eyes him and cannot help but notice he is covered in blood. His white blonde locks contain flecks of red, his face too.  “What has happened to you?”

“I don’t have time to explain it to you. The Order will give you the details when you return. I have to return to the manor before I’m missed.”  He’s breathless and can barely put his sentences together. “There will be a raid tonight in Surrey,” he continues, “Potter’s old neighbourhood. The Dark Lord found out that there are magical folk placed in around his relatives’ home.  My understanding is they were placed there by the order to keep an eye on him, - on them…The Muggles?"  Hermione nods her head in agreement and understanding but he is ignoring her, too focused on getting his message to her. "It is a retaliation strike. Have the people moved Granger, or there will be marks in the sky.”  And then he is gone.

 

September 1998

Tomorrow she turns nineteen and he knows she has plans to spend time with her friends and the Weasley family.  But today she is meeting him at The Lonely Cottage on the pretence that he has information to give her. He is determined to make it special. With a little help from Andromeda, he’s cooked a spaghetti dinner complete with a red wine from the Manor’s cellars. Pudding is a chocolate cake with a ganache filling. It took him hours to get everything right. She will arrive soon.  He is nervous.

 

December 1998

Sometime during the past two weeks she decorated the cottage for Yule, complete with a tree.  Beneath the tree is a present.  The tag reads, “To Malfoy, have a happy Christmas. Affectionately yours, Granger.”

 

The present looked lonely until he placed another box beside it.  The card reads, “To Hermione, May your Christmas be full of good cheer.  With love, Draco.”

 

And you leave me holding on
In Red Hill Town, see lights go down, I'm

Hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
I'm still waiting
I'm hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to

 

April 1999

“What’s the champagne for?” She looks at him quizzically.

“I thought we should mark our one year anniversary and toast to my continued survival,” he says uncharacteristically cheerful.

“Both valid reasons to celebrate, Malfoy,” she says, winking at him.

 

June 1999

There’s a small pop, she looks up from her seat to see Malfoy appear inside The Lonely Cottage. She notices that he looks agitated. Without preamble he blurts, “I can’t stay Hermione.  You need to get word to the shopkeepers in Hogsmeade. There will be a raid the day after tomorrow, perhaps even sooner.  They’ll be looking for Muggle-born fugitives.”

Hermione’s eyes grow large with shock. “The day after tomorrow?”

“Yes,” he says, not bothering to sit down or move from where he landed.

“Will you be part of the raid?”

“No.”

“Are you in danger?”

“Why, are you worried for me?”  Finally, the concern breaks from his face and he gives her one of his very rare smiles.

She bashfully smiles back, “Of course I’m worried for you.”

Impossibly, his grin broadens, “Well, that’s rather sweet of you Bookworm.” The smile disappears with his next statement. “I have to go now before I’m missed.”

“If I don’t see you before Saturday Malfoy, have a Happy Birthday," she blurts out in rush, a blush creeping up her neck.

With a crack he’s gone before he’s able to acknowledge her wish.

 

The glass is cut, the bottle run dry
Our love runs cold in the caverns of the night
We're wounded by fear, injured in doubt
I can lose myself - you, I can't live without

Yeah, you keep me holding on
In Red Hill Town, see the lights go down on

 

 

August 1999

He’s been waiting for hours.  She should have arrived at noon and it is now going on three in the afternoon.  She is never late. Just when he’s all but given up on her, he hears the familiar sound of Apparition.  She’s breathless; her chestnut tresses coming loose from her braid.  Her face is tracked with dirt and her shirt is ripped along one side. She smells of Dark Magic.  She ignores him even as he rises from the sofa to reach for her. She rushes for the lavatory and shuts the door. He can hear her retch from the other side. He stands there with his right hand on the door, just waiting. He knows she’ll come out when she’s ready and she’ll talk about where she’s been and what she’s done – what she’s seen.  He’ll listen.  He’ll hold her hand, wipe her tears and then they’ll go back to their separate sides until the next time.

 

 

New Year’s Eve 1999

“Do you know what Muggles do when it turns midnight?”  The two of them sit on the cottage's porch, wrapped in cloaks, just looking at the stars.

“No. What do Muggles do my little Bookworm?”  He turns his gaze from the sky to look at her.

Bashfully, she turns her head to look him straight in the eye and says, “They snog their significant other at the stroke of the new year.” 

“Interesting," he says, left eyebrow rising, his lips lifting at the corners. "Perhaps you could teach me this tradition?”

 

 

March 2000

She’s already at the cottage when he arrives.  He collapses into her arms his shoulders shaking.  This is the most unguarded she has ever seen him.  Even in their rare moments of intimacy, he only briefly lets her see his true heart and soul.  But now she knows he’s all but broken. They say nothing. She holds him and rubs his back comforting him like the orphaned child he has become.

When he regains his self-control he is able to explain that The Dark Lord is desperate, his plans sloppy. He’s losing his mind. He’s insane.

She tells him that the end is close. The Order and Harry are ready to end Voldemort’s existence any day now.  She tells him that it’s time for him to come out of the cold.  With the death of his mother and his father’s demise the year before, there isn’t anything to hold him back from crossing over to The Light.

He tells her his work is not yet done. That he’ll remain in the cold until Harry has done his job and vanquished The Dark Lord, for good.

They spend the night at The Lonely Cottage but when Hermione wakes the next morning; the sheets beside her are cold as stone.

 

 

July 2000

He tells her that the Giants are being recruited and that the Werewolves are being courted. The manor is like a fortress now and it is almost impossible for him to leave except when he is asked to procure potion ingredients. The Dark Lord is beyond paranoid. He’s executing his closest lieutenants for the smallest infractions. 

He warns that this could be their last meeting for a very long time.

 

 

September 2000

She Apparates to The Lonely Cottage knowing he will not be there. It has been months since their last meeting. She misses him and is worried for his safety. The Order receives news regarding the demise of high ranking Death Eaters but the deaths of low level soldiers like Draco are rarely reported or mentioned.  The unknown is driving her to distraction. 

Then she sees it. On the mantel lays an envelope and in his wonderfully elegant script is written, “Hermione.”

Today is the nineteenth.  She all but forgot that today she is twenty-one.  She feels so much older.

Inside the card there is no birthday greeting, only the date it was written (15 September, 2000) and the final verses from a song by her favourite Muggle band. 

 

I'm hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
I'm still waiting
Hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
Hold on to

We'll scorch the earth, set fire to the sky
We stoop so low to reach so high
A link is lost, the chain undone
We wait all day for night to come
And it comes like a hunter child

I'm hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
I'm still waiting
I'm hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to

Love slowly stripped away
Love has seen its better day

Hanging on
The lights go out on Red Hill
The lights go down on Red Hill
The lights go down on Red Hill Town
The lights go down on Red Hill

The message is clear and the most wonderful birthday present. 

 

 

October 31, 2000

It ends for Harry Potter much like it began, nineteen years earlier.  He and Voldemort are face to face in the courtyard of the Malfoy estate.  Nagini lies dead at the Dark Lords feet, done in by Neville Longbottom.  Taking advantage of the snake-like-man’s shock at his familiar’s demise, Harry flicks his wrist disarming and then destroying the much reduced Tom Riddle with a simple Expulso.

The Order, Ministry Aurors and the remaining members of the D.A., detain and arrest the remaining Death Eaters, including Draco Malfoy.

Hermione Granger and Andromeda Tonks hold themselves back. They took a Wizard’s Oath not to reveal who their inside man was and without his permission they are unable to clear his name and it seems that he wants it to remain this way.

Hermione can do very little as Draco was arrested, her oath keeping her tongue tied. She could and did testify that Draco Malfoy refused to identify her, Harry and Ron when they were apprehended by Snatchers and brought to Malfoy Manor in March of 1999.  She tries to make it very clear that without his bluffing they would not have had the time to make their escape.

In the end he is sentenced to three years incarceration for his part in Dumbledore’s death, Katie Bell’s poisoning, Ron Weasley’s poisoning and the Invasion of Hogwarts.  The fact that he was under duress and underage had some bearing on the outcome. No one could prove that he ever killed or participated willingly in Death Eater activity after the events of June 1998.

 

I'm hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
I'm still waiting
Hanging on
You're all that's left to hold on to
Hold on to

 

 

May 2003

He fingers the pendant’s charm.  For twenty-eight months he’s thought about it; his link to her. The charm is just a piece of silver fashioned into an oval.  The front facing side is engraved with the Malfoy crest.  On the reverse it reads, “Psalm 22, verse 14. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.”

He reaches back into the envelope that has held his personal possessions safe during his confinement, pulling out his wand and money pouch.  He pockets the pouch and the wand, but the pendant he proceeds to put around his neck.  Years ago he swore he would never remove this particular piece of jewellery. He foreswore that promise. Today, he renews it. He will go to his grave before it is ever removed again.

He remembers the pendant’s fraternal twin.  Rather than an oval, it is a charm fashioned to look like a scroll of parchment laid out for reading. On it is engraved, “Psalm 23, verse 4. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  It hangs on a chain that is a match to his and he cannot wait to see the long lovely neck of the woman who wears the silver jewellery piece.

 

~HGDM~

 

 

He never wrote.  She had begun to give up hope.

Then today, a mild day in May, her pendent grew hot and she was beckoned to The Lonely Cottage.

He was outside watching the clouds as they moved quickly across the cerulean sky.  He was waiting for her, not at all confident that she would answer his call.

When she appeared, his face broke into that smile; a rare one that showed his straight white teeth and the dimples, startling because they appeared so rarely on his face.

She was angry but he knew his twenty-eight month silence would be forgiven.

“When were you released?” She asked; her tone stern.

“Two days ago.  I had appointments and paperwork to look after before I could come here.”

“I see.”

 

“Don’t be angry with me Hermione, I didn’t want to be a burden to you.  I didn’t want you to wait for me.”

“It really doesn’t matter what you wanted, I waited for you anyway.  I was hanging on for you.”

He sighs. “Are we Ok?”

“No…But we will be someday.”

The Lonely Cottage isn’t so lonely anymore.