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Bad News

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Prologue

Draco was pissed, in every sense of the word, as he stumbled along the edge of the camp. In the darkness he could barely make out how much syrupy brown liquid the bottle he clutched still contained, but its satisfying slosh was promising. All he needed was to get far enough away from the sounds of the party, then he would drink the rest and smoke until the comfort of darkness overtook him.
Stumbling drunkenly into the side of a tent, Draco cursed, then burst into absurd, joyless laughter.
“Fuck,” he said again, louder this time as he imagined the word echoing between the many temporary accommodations doting the field behind him. Suddenly a memory from his distant childhood flooded his mind. He’d gone camping once with his nanny, staying up late sharing silly stories and sweets. Even though they pitched their tent on the manor grounds, he’d felt so free, so happy, the only time he could remember those emotions existing at that house. His nanny had died shortly thereafter.
“Poor, poor little Draco!” he shouted into the darkness, howling with laughter. He tried to kick the next tent he ran into but missed, falling on his ass instead. He took a swig from the bottle rather than standing. “Poor little Draco without a friend in the world,” he said a little quieter and with a little less humor. “With a father who…” but he didn’t finish this thought, choosing to finish the bottle instead. He’d hoped to make it further from camp before passing out, but now that he was on the ground he couldn’t imagine getting back up. At least the joyful sounds of the fete were distant enough to no longer be as grating.
“Victory!” he shouted, lifting the empty bottle in the air, toasting the stars. But even as a joke , it sounded pathetic. Some victory indeed. What had been lost? Oh, let’s see: everything. Every fucking thing. Not that he didn’t deserve every bit of it. Even if he had ended up joining the “winning” side just in time. He lifted the bottle to his mouth again, and groaned when he found it dry.
“Bastard!” it took Draco several moments to realize the exclamation hadn’t come from his own lips. He wagged his head around to see who was approaching, but couldn’t make anyone out without light. Oh, his wand, he had a wand, he remembered and patted clumsily at his pants to find the little bugger. “Draco!” he stopped searching abruptly, stopped moving entirely at the sound. There was only one person in this camp who ever called him by his first name.
“Fuck, Draco! I know you are here somewhere!” The voice was getting closer, her voice; he recognized it clearly now. Draco was too stunned to move and too drunk to think of an exit strategy. Fuck, not her. Please let it be anyone but her, he prayed to his ancestors, to Salazar Slytherin, Fuck he prayed to Dumbledore that it wouldn’t be-
“It’s me, Hermione!” As if he didn’t already know that. He could feel the panic rising as her footsteps came within earshot of where he sat on the grass. Fuck. His hands shook as he fumbled for a cigarette which he lit without thinking about the attention it would draw.
“There you are,” she said much softer. “I have been calling for you.” He didn’t respond or turn to look in her direction, just took a deep puff. “Are you ok? I heard you shouting earlier.” she asked as she walked around to his front. In the light of her wand, he could see worry on her face. It made him sick.

//////////////
Despite everything, the past year, the past few days, how much of a bastard he’d been to her growing up, how he’d clearly been ignoring her calls the last few minutes, Hermione felt her stomach flip with delight at seeing him. It did that whenever she was near him now, doubly so if he sought her out himself. The feeling had been confusing at first because Hermione thought she had already been in love. She and Ron were on a break after he’d abandoned the Horcrux search, but she’d always assumed they’d end up together. But being with Ron had never felt like how she felt about Draco. In the months since he’d joined the resistance, Draco’s mere presence came to mean the difference between a sour day and the best one.
Even when he was smoking in the dirt on the edge of camp, he was so beautiful it hurt. Looking into his frowning face, Hermione forgot what she’d come to say.
“Why aren’t you at the fete?” He waved a hand clutching the neck of a bottle generically behind him.
Oh right, she remembered now what she’d planned to say. Hermione swallowed, gathering her Gryffindor courage but losing it quickly.
“I left.” He met her eyes in the ensuing silence. Just as she thought to herself how perfect the silver of them was, he burst out laughing. She joined, though she’d already forgotten what she’d said to earn her the glorious sound.
“Yes, Granger, I can see that. Why would you leave a party in your honor?” His words were slurred, and Hermione realized he must be drunk. She wondered if he drank the entire bottle by himself but didn’t comment. Draco never reacted well to people pointing out his increased alcohol consumption, and in the frenzy of the war people hardly noticed. She had though; she noticed everything about him.
He was staring at her, eyebrows raised in amusement. Hermione could feel her cheeks redden as she realized he was waiting on an overdue response. She looked down at her hands.
“It’s not in my honor, it’s in everyone’s,” she corrected shyly. “Yours too.”
He snorted, singing his cigarette out on the ground. “Yes, the day Harry Potter throws a party in my honor is the day Bellatrix-” he snapped his mouth shut and darted his eyes to hers. Hermione hated that she could feel herself cringing. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
She felt weak. How could a simple name affect her so? She finally understood the apprehension people felt around Voldemort’s name.
“You didn’t mean-”
“No, I mean about that day too.” She couldn’t meet his eyes, afraid she would cry if she did. She never allowed herself that weakness but felt an overwhelming urge to do so then. Her emotions were so much more when he was around. A light touch on her chin finally made her look up at him. Hermione was stunned into silence; he’d never touched her like this. Her heart felt like it would leap out of her chest. He wiped a treacherous tear away when it escaped down her cheek. An apology was forming on his lips when Hermione interjected with her own confession.
“I came to find you.” She watched his throat bob as he swallowed at the words. His beautiful neck. Draco dropped the hand that had been cupping her face, and she instantly felt the loss.

“Why would you do that?” he asked, almost harshly. The tenderness of his apology was gone with the warmth of his hand. She missed them both desperately. The last few moments notwithstanding, Draco was rarely sentimental with her. She hoped she hadn’t ruined the moment.
“Because I don’t want to be at a party where you aren’t. I looked for you the whole time, even though I knew you wouldn’t be there. But it was so boring without you.” She watched his jaw clench as she rambled, too afraid to look at his face. She knew she was babbling, but the speech she’d prepared had flown from her head the moment she’d looked into his eyes. “Everything is boring without you, Draco. You are the most brave, intelligent, talented wizard in the world.” She sucked in a deep breath. “I think you have feelings for me too, so I came to say that I love-”

“What?” he interrupted. The inertia of the word contrasted pointedly with the subdued insecurity of her confession. “You think you love me?” The question was loud and followed by a harsh laugh. Hermione felt like she’d been slapped. She fell out of her crouch onto her behind with the weight of what was happening, the cruelty that was overtaking his face. “Why the fuck do you think I want to hear that from you?”
“But you’ve been so different” she defended weakly. “I thought maybe-”
“Because I said sorry for what happened? The torture?” his voice broke slightly at the last word, but he barreled along before she could even register the emotion behind it. “Yeah, I’m sorry Granger. I’m fucking sorry you’re delusional.”
“Why are you calling me Granger again?” She felt some of her inner courage rising to the surface. Finally. “You’ve called me Hermione for weeks. What’s gotten into you? Why are you being so cruel?”
His renewed laughter reminded her, briefly, of his father, now locked away in Azkaban. The likeness between the two, which she hadn’t considered in months, unnerved her enormously.
“You’re fucking pathetic; you know that Granger? Snape told me when I joined this side that if I wasn’t nicer to everyone, I’d be thrown out. If you think I’ve been your friend, then it’s only because I was trying to save my skin, like always.”
Oh fuck. Hermione realized she’d completely misread his recent behavior toward her. The jokes, lingering gazes, seeking her out at meals, it had all been a selfish act. She choked on the crashing realization of her own foolishness.
“Well, the war is over now,” he continued, smirking. “I can finally be myself again. I guess that’s the victory I should be celebrating!”
The world was blurring before her; thankfully the hostility on Draco’s face was as well. She had to get out, had to fucking escape. Oh god, oh god. She pushed herself to her feet. The panic and hurt within her clouded her senses so that she hardly registered the hand that shot out to steady her when she nearly stumbled over. It dropped quickly, regardless, like it had been scalded by the feel of her skin.
She made it a few steps away before much of the hurt within her turned to anger. Hermione wielded back.
“Fuck you Malfoy! Seriously, you are a terrible person-”
“Really? I always thought I was the most, what was it? Brave, intelligent-”
“I can’t believe you!” She shrieked and stormed off, leaving him before he could humiliate her even further. His malicious laughter followed her all the way back to the party.