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The Binding

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Credit: Thank you so much to the wonderful and talented Nikitajobson for this absolutely stunning image for The Binding!

 

A guttural scream pierced the night air, stirring the creatures in the forest outside Malfoy Manor. Narcissa Malfoy was panting and desperately gripping the hand of her sister, Andromeda; her knuckles were white and her face glistened with a sheen of exertion.

“I can see the head!” Andromeda encouraged as she propped up Narcissa’s leg. “One more push!”

Mustering the last of her strength, Narcissa released a shaky breath and gave one final push.

“He’s here!” Andromeda cried out in wonder, her eyes blurred with tears. “Cissy, he’s here.”

It had been nearly two years since Andromeda’s reunion with Narcissa. When she was disowned for marrying Edward, she thought she would never see her sisters again. It was not until Narcissa miscarried her first baby that the two reconnected, sharing in the pain of their losses.

Andromeda made quick work of cleaning off the newborn, carefully swaddling him and placing him gently in his mother’s loving arms. The small infant was crying and, to the relief of both witches, his lungs were strong and healthy. After so many losses, Narcissa was finally holding a live child in her arms.

“Oh Dromeda, he’s perfect,” her breath hitched as she gazed down into his grey eyes, stroking his chubby cheek with the back of her finger.

Nodding quickly, Andromeda brushed away her happy tears, “He is lucky to have you as a mother.”

“Draco.” Narcissa whispered, her voice thick. “We’ve decided on Draco.”

Stroking Narcissa’s hair affectionately, Andromeda gave her a watery smile. “I see you’re following the old Black tradition of constellation names.”

Eyes shining in the dimly lit room, Narcissa took her sister’s hand. “Of course, he is a Black, after all. Family is everything.”

With a gentle squeeze, Narcissa clutched Draco protectively against her chest. “Speaking of family, there is another reason that I have asked you here tonight.”

Shifting in place, Narcissa let out a soft groan of discomfort as she opened the nightstand next to the bed. Her shaky hand retrieved a tome wrapped in cloth as she balanced Draco in the crook of her arm. The blanket was worn, the gold stitching faded from time but still visible.

Andromeda’s eyes widened in recognition as she instinctively took a step back, “Cissa—” her breath caught in her throat, “I thought that book was destroyed.”

“Nonsense.” With a dismissive wave, Narcissa explained, “I simply glamoured another book before mother threw it into the Fiendfyre. I could not take the chance, not with everything at stake.”

“But—”

Interjecting, Narcissa raised her chin defiantly. “It is his birthright as a Black. I need you to do this with me. You know that it must be cast with another Black.” Their eyes met as she begged. “Please.”

A shuddered breath escaped Andromeda's chest and her pulse raced under her skin. “Cissy...you know the potential consequences of this type of magic.”

“Of course. I know what it did to Bella, but that will not happen to him. Draco will find her.” She declared confidently, focusing her attention on the infant in her arms, suckling on her breast. “He has to find her.”

“We cannot tell Lucius.” Narcissa murmured.

They went to work quickly, spreading out the faded blanket which was adorned with golden runes. A candle was placed between each rune along the edges of the worn cloth.

There was a rune for each earthly element and left to right the runes read:

Binding.

Unity.

Harmony.

Desire.

Destiny.

Soul.

With a final, tender glance, Narcissa laid Draco in the center of the blanket.

Nox .” The room was enveloped with the black of night.

A flick of Andromeda’s wand lit the candles surrounding the babe in quick succession as Narcissa prepared the umbilical cord from the afterbirth. Accepting the cord from Narcissa, Andromeda wound it gently around Draco’s small hand, binding it.

The Black sisters made fearful eye contact before Narcissa nodded once to Andromeda, signaling for her to begin.

With a steadying breath, the pair of witches clasped hands over Draco. Murmuring softly, they repeated from the open book below them. All at once, the air stilled, the hairs on their arms and necks raised. As their incantation continued, the flames from the candles grew taller, causing shadows to dance around the room; Draco fussed as each rune lit up and a bright glow encircled him.

The final words were spoken as the candles extinguished, the glow fading into the dark.

A gasp of relief broke the silence.

“She is alive.” Narcissa’s eyes welled with tears. “He has a match and she has already been born.”

Across the country, in a Muggle suburb of London, a baby girl lay blissfully unaware in her crib. A soft golden glow surrounded her for just a moment before waning. On the inside of her wrist, a pink mark appeared; it was nearly imperceptible, the rune symbol for binding.

Back in Wiltshire, Narcissa’s voice broke with emotion, “It is done. Now, he just has to find her.”

 

Chapter Text

11 years later

The train jostled the students as they watched the countryside pass by the window. Draco Malfoy was on the Hogwarts Express for the first time. Surrounded by his childhood mates, Blaise Zabini, Theo Nott, Vincent Crabbe, and Gregory Goyle, he felt his nerves calm as he feigned confidence.

A gluttonous pile of candy from the trolley was stacked between the seats as they swapped rumours and tales about their new school.

“Do you really think we have to fight a dragon during sorting?” Goyle’s pudgy eyes darted around the compartment nervously, a ring of chocolate staining his mouth.

With a roll of his eyes, Blaise bit into a licorice wand. “Don’t be thick, you know that old coot Dumbledore just uses the singing hat.”

“Well, I heard—” Crabbe was cut off by the sound of the carriage door opening.

A pile of bushy curls popped through the door, inspecting the boys inside.

“Have you seen a toad?” The girl tucked her head low to the ground as if the toad in question was hiding below their seats. “Neville’s lost his familiar already,” she informed them as she watched expectantly, waiting for a reply.

Draco studied the intrusion; she was rather short with a petite frame that drowned beneath her wild curls. Even though they were hours from arriving at the castle, she was already wearing her Hogwarts uniform. 

When her curious brown eyes skimmed the compartment and landed on his, Draco’s mouth went dry. His stomach lurched into his throat as his heart hammered against his ribs. Blinking in shock, he opened his mouth to speak. When no words came out, Theo interjected.

“We haven’t seen a toad, but if we do then we will let you know,” Theo assured her with a half grin. “Or Neville.”

With a curt nod, she smiled at Theo; Draco’s stomach gave another flip before she turned on her heel and left the compartment.

Draco’s eyes were fixed to the spot the girl had stood moments before, his mouth still open. Snapping it shut, he swallowed.

They had not even spoken and his reaction to her presence left him terrified and breathless. Somewhere in his mind, he noted that he did not even know her name.

Blaise cocked his head and eyed Draco curiously. Draco shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his mind racing with possibilities. It seemed as though his mates were completely unaffected by the interaction, which meant it was only Draco who had felt it. Somehow, the realisation made him feel worse.

“I’m just saying, if you lose your fight to the dragon, the hat puts you in Hufflepuff!” Theo bluffed, holding back a laugh as he watched the horror in his mates’ eyes at the prospect.

Draco’s eyes drifted back to the closed carriage door, his mind completely preoccupied with the mystery girl.

The Hogwarts Express came to a stop at their destination and the students piled out of the train onto the platform below. Draco watched the trail of students, scanning the group for a poof of brown curls among them. At the tail end of the crowd, he finally spotted her; she was walking with two boys, her arms flailing as she gesticulated with enthusiasm.

“…in Hogwarts: A History ,” he read on her lips.  

A flash of jealousy stabbed at his chest and his eyes narrowed, internally sizing up the blokes. One had the distinct red hair of a Weasley—their families had feuded since before Draco’s grandparents were born. The other had jet-black hair and bright green eyes; the wind blew his fringe up, exposing a red scar.

Harry Potter , Draco identified with surprise; the mystery girl had become mates with a Weasley and Harry Potter before they even stepped foot off the train.

For some reason, this fact made his stomach turn in an uncomfortable manner; he could not quite place the feeling, but it was discomforting. Perhaps he could offer friendship to Harry Potter in order to get closer to the witch—there was no way he would try to befriend a Weasley.


“GRYFFINDOR!” the hat bellowed as the girl, Hermione Granger, hopped out from under it and started in the direction of her new house with a proud grin. Draco’s shoulders slumped forward slightly in disappointment. 

Slytherin was his family legacy as a Malfoy and Black; he had known his future Hogwarts House before he could talk. When she had sat down on the stool, he had let himself hope that the hat would declare Slytherin. Moments later, Harry Potter and the Weasley soon joined her at the Gryffindor table, taking a place on either side of her.

“You okay?” Blaise waved his hand in front of Draco’s face, interrupting his thoughts.

“I...what?” He shook the thoughts from his head. “I’m fine. Why?”

Blaise raised his brows skeptically. “I don’t know, Draco, just saying you seem a little murder-y today.”

Sneering in confusion, Draco faltered, following Blaise’s line of sight. He had not even realised he was currently clutching his supper knife tightly in his fist. Dropping it with a clatter, he turned away from the Gryffindor table and refocused on the front of the Great Hall, where Dumbledore was starting the welcome speech.

The nerves from his first day must be causing this reaction, Draco reasoned silently. Over the years, he had been exposed to witches his age that were in his parents’ social circle. In fact, his mother had pushed the daughters of her Pureblood friends on him at every given opportunity. It was most likely the excitement and freedom to interact with new peers that was making him feel this way.

After all, it was only the first day of school, and he was confident that within the week he would not even spare her a passing thought.


Draco was mistaken.

All through their first year, he continued to notice her. He found a table in the library near her favourite section and would sneak peeks over his book as she spent hours studying alone. Her face would scrunch up when reading their Transfiguration textbook and he could not help but affectionately stare at the small crinkles in her nose. The wild mane of curls would fall in front of her eyes, causing her to tie it up into a loose bun on the top of her head. It was the only time Draco saw her looking like that, and he liked to imagine it was for him.

Following Halloween, she began disappearing from the library and spending even more time with Harry Potter and the Weasley. He found he did not like that. 

By the end of the first year, the two prats she spent so much time with had nearly gotten her killed at least twice. He liked that even less.

A gravitational pull surrounded Hermione Granger and he was powerless to escape. Every day passed and the urge to be near her grew. He started watching for her in their shared lectures, during meals, and scanning the halls for her telltale hair between classes. Even worse, she seemed completely unaware of his growing fascination with her and was utterly impervious to his presence.

Unfortunately for Draco, his interest did not go unnoticed by his best mates. During their second year, Blaise and Theo sat facing the Gryffindor table for the entire week, forcing Draco to sit facing the Ravenclaw table. The two mates laughed mercilessly at Draco’s flustered expression as he struggled to explain why he wanted a seat facing the Gryffindor table and that, no, there was no particular reason why, but it was his seat and he wanted it back. Immediately.

His growing frustration was palpable when it came to Hermione Granger and the blokes in her life. Much to his dismay, she was constantly surrounded by males.

It stirred something wicked in him when he saw her hugging them, kissing their cheeks, grasping their arms; it made him want to break the body parts of every male she touched.

Draco struggled to reconcile his emotions, but they were only exacerbated by his rampant hormones. He kept lashing out, taunting and teasing her, wanting to raise any kind of reaction out of her, wanting to see her look at him because he was always looking at her.

One day, these feelings exploded during an argument about which team had the pitch for Quidditch practice. She had stuck up for the Weasley and insinuated that Draco bought his way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team. He saw red. Feeling like a man possessed, he spat vitriol at them and called her a Mudblood, wanting to hurt her like she had hurt him every single day with her apathy.

When he saw the tears build up in her eyes, he felt a wave of nausea hit him. It was so bad, in fact, that Theo spent over an hour trying to convince him to go to the Hospital Wing. Draco had refused and instead spent his night curled in the fetal position, feeling ill and indisposed.

Perhaps Weasley’s spell had not completely failed , Draco considered as he dry heaved, his already empty stomach still protesting.

It was much of the same for the rest of second year. After the ‘Mudblood’ incident, he switched sides of the table during meals, much to the confusion of Blaise and Theo who had shared a look of concern. 

Then she was Petrified.

For nearly two months, Draco dealt with daily night terrors of snakes and stone. He woke up in a pool of sweat, shaking and breathing as if he had been running. In the middle of the night, he found himself walking the long path from the dungeons to the Hospital Wing. His legs brought him there, as if drawn to her. 

For weeks, he spent each night sitting outside the locked door and curling into himself, not understanding why he had to be there but knowing that it was the only place he felt whole. 

The day she awoke, he could have sworn he felt it. 

Draco watched with a longing gaze as Hermione reunited with her best mates, her face lit up with life and happiness. He wanted to bottle up her smile and keep it for a rainy day. During her grand reunion, she did not even look at him. After spending months worrying and fighting his emotions, she did not even think to look at him. 

He resolved to forget all about that swotty Hermione Granger.


Though Draco had felt it much earlier, the first time Hermione felt the Pull was third year; it corresponded with the first time she had ever touched him. Granted, she was hitting him in the face at the time, but it was the first physical contact they had shared.

The action triggered a slight twinge in her navel, and it was so subtle that she almost missed it. When she hit him, it had been satisfying to feel her hand collide with his face, revenge for his taunts about Buckbeak. Before he could retaliate, she ducked behind Hagrid’s Hut, waiting for him to leave.

Almost instantly, she felt the world was short on air. She gasped, clutching her stomach and trying to inhale frantically. Bending over at the waist, she balanced her upper body on her knees as the world moved around her.

There was a pang in her chest before everything went dark.

Hermione woke up on the dirt path a full hour later, dirty and disoriented. Dusting off her robes, she made her way up to the castle and back to her dorm. It was several years before she made the connection that hurting Draco had hurt her too.

After that day, Hermione could not help herself; she was drawn to Malfoy like a moth to a flame. At first, she could rationalise that it was because she felt guilty about the slap. But eventually it became obvious that she was noticing him simply because he was there and she could not stop.

Guilt would not cause her to notice how soft his hair looked now that he’d stopped slicking it back or make her want to run her hands through it. It would not trigger thoughts on how nice he looked when he smiled at his mates, or what it would feel like to see that smile directed at her. It would not make her heart pound and cheeks flush during class when her mind drifted to him.

It was possible she had caught some magical malaise that induced daydreams about prats. Or perhaps she could ask Luna if there was a wickenspurgles infestation that overtook her sensibilities. She would consider almost anything before she would believe she fancied Malfoy.

The rest of third year was relatively uneventful compared to her first two years with Harry Potter. They had a werewolf for a professor, they were stalked by an escaped Azkaban prisoner, they used a time-turner, and they rescued Sirius Black and Buckbeak. It was their first year without a Voldemort appearance, which was a nice change of pace for the trio.

Hermione was confident spending the summer holiday at home with her parents would clear her mind of Draco Malfoy, and she would finally get to read the backlog of books she had on her bedside table. It would be a full mental restart after a challenging year of extra classes.

As she stepped onto the Hogwarts Express with Harry and Ron at the end of the year, she was subconsciously watching for a head of platinum blond hair. Hermione hoped that she would be able to forget all about that arrogant, annoying, adorable Draco Malfoy. 

Just then, Draco passed by her carriage with Theo and Blaise, his mouth curved into a bright smile as he talked with his mates. As if able to feel her gaze, Draco’s eyes caught on her and his smile widened at her before he disappeared from view.

The sound of blood rushing through her veins filled her ears as butterflies furiously flapped their wings in her stomach. Shifting in her carriage seat, she leaned her head back with a silent groan, her mind consumed with thoughts of that smile.

 

Chapter Text

The last Triwizard Tournament had been held in 1792 and though the revival was unexpected, it was nonetheless happily embraced by the students of Hogwarts. The corridors were ablaze with rumour and speculation around the tournament challenges and the students from neighbouring schools. 

Draco was not even slightly surprised when Harry Potter’s name came out of the Goblet of Fire. Three years of watching the improbable happen to the bloke had dampened any sense of normalcy. His only regret had been not taking bets in the Slytherin commons when he had the chance.

“Mate, I’m in love,” Blaise sighed dramatically, holding his hand over his heart, eyeing a group of Beauxbaton students that passed by the Slytherin trio.

Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Draco asked, “I thought you were in love with that other Beauxbaton girl, what was her name? Marie? Sophie?”

“That was Emilie and that was yesterday. Today, my heart belongs only to Michéle.” Blaise’s eyes trailed to the backsides of the departing group.

“Yeah, mate, I’m sure it’s your heart. ” Draco coughed out a laugh, looking at Theo with a smirk.

Theo smacked Blaise upside the head, “Oi, stop ogling, you’re driving us mad. You do realise the girls talk, right? They definitely know you’re flirting with all of them.”

Grumbling unintelligibly under his breath, Blaise pouted, crossing his arms in front of him.

“Speaking of love, rumour has it that we are hosting a Ball with all the schools this winter. Best brush up on your dancing and break out your nicest dress robes if you want any hope of escorting one of those Beauxbaton girls.”

Blaise’s eyes lit up. “That’s brilliant! Girls love dances. I can finally put all those years of formal dance training to good use when I win over Michéle… or maybe even Juliette.” Looking between his friends, he gave them an impish grin. “Think I can get away with bringing more than one date?”

“Seriously, mate, I know we’re teenagers and you’re basically a raging pile of hormones, but we really need to talk about your delivery.” Theo patted Blaise’s back condescendingly.

“A ball?” Draco prompted, two steps behind in the conversation.

“Yes, keep up. I think I’ll go stag.” Theo declared thoughtfully, adjusting his tie with a grin, “Keep my options open.”

Draco’s mind flitted through a list of girls in their year. While it was true he was noticing the opposite sex more than ever before, he still had next to no experience with actual dates. The forced interactions with the daughters of his mother’s Pureblood society friends did not count.

There was always Daphne Greengrass—his father and her father were associates and had not-so-subtly hinted at their potential for a union on more than one occasion. Draco considered her for a moment, imagining her straight blonde hair styled up with her Pureblood aristocratic dress robes. 

No, he did not want to spend his night dancing stiffly with her, following Pureblood customs and rituals for formal courtship. He vowed to start paying more attention to his female peers, lest every viable date be taken before he could decide. Though he supposed he could always go stag with Theo as backup.

“…with daisies, what do you think?” Blaise’s question disrupted Draco’s inner monologue.

“Of course,” Draco agreed vehemently, to what he did not know.

Blaise seemed satisfied as they turned the corner into their classroom. The usual chairs and tables were gone; the classroom was empty except for a large phonograph which sat ominously facing the students.

Professor McGonagall strolled to the front of the classroom as students whispered conspiratorially to each other.

The hair on his arms raised as he put the pieces together. The empty room, the phonograph, the rumours of the Ball. He looked to Theo nervously, gesturing to the phonograph with his chin. Theo’s eyes widened in realisation.

“Students, I would like to address the rumours that have been circulating around Hogwarts this week. Following the tradition of the Triwizard Tournament, and to show unity between our schools, I can officially confirm that we have decided to host a Yule Ball.” 

The whispering around the room elevated in delight, an excited squeal made Draco cringe.

Professor McGonagall peered through her spectacles at the classroom of students. “It has come to our attention that Beauxbatons Academy and the Durmstrang Institute have prepared their students in traditional dancing prior to coming to Hogwarts. After many discussions with the faculty, we have decided that in lieu of Transfiguration today, I will instead instruct you in a French waltz. It would not do to embarrass Hogwarts by having students tripping over their own feet.”

The room grew eerily silent as the students nervously stared at McGonagall. Draco’s eyes moved of their own accord and he found himself scanning the room of potential dance partners, his eyes skimming past a certain brunette he refused to think about.

“Now, pair up,” McGonagall directed the students.

No one moved.

“Oh, come on, children! I said to pair up.”

There were apprehensive glances around the room but still no students stepped forward.

With an impatient flourish of her wand, McGonagall separated students into dancing partners.

A feeling prickled down Draco’s body as he felt McGonagall’s spell begin to drag him across the room. Frowning in annoyance, he conceded that it would be nice to not have to pick his own dancing partner. His annoyance was quickly replaced with panic as he realised the spell was directing him straight to Hermione Granger. 

At the same moment, Hermione seemed to recognise that they were sliding together, and her mouth dropped open to protest. She  looked to Harry frantically, but he was currently being pulled into Eloise Midgen. Harry gave Hermione an apologetic half shrug before greeting Eloise.

“I will hear none of it!” Professor McGonagall raised her hands over the students’ loud objections. “The purpose of this tournament is for interschool unity. We will not have something as frivolous as house rivalries ruining that.”

Draco finally did what he had been avoiding for months—he looked directly into Hermione’s eyes. A flutter passed through his chest and he caught himself staring at her, counting the freckles that kissed her cheeks.

McGonagall cleared her throat and with a wave of her wand, the room filled with music.

His Pureblood training kicked in; for the first time he was grateful for those lessons, and he extended a hand to her. Draco saw a flash of shock pass over her face as she accepted his hand and he guided his other hand to the small of her back. Guilt itched at the back of his mind at her surprise; it was obvious that she’d expected he would refuse to dance with her.

It was only a dance, he lied to himself. He was not choosing this—he had to hold her. Draco swallowed his anxiety as he pulled her chest up to his into the starting position.

Draco was completely unprepared for this moment. Up until this point, they had never interacted for more than a few minutes, even neutrally. Fighting the urge to pull her closer, he marveled at how soft and small her hand was in his. His skin tingled from her touch, his body hyper aware of each brush of her chest against his as they followed the steps carefully. 

Inhaling slightly, his legs felt weak; she smelled like honey and flowers. He wondered how she would taste.

Ripping his attention away from Hermione, he watched the next set of instructions from McGonagall, refusing to let go of her as he watched. This would probably be his only opportunity to hold her, and he selfishly wanted to take advantage of their time together. 

Turning back to his partner, he grasped her waist with both hands, lifting her easily into a twirl. As he set her down gently, she leaned towards him and pressed her palms against his chest, balancing herself. 

Cocking his head slightly in confusion, he studied her reactions. Hermione’s eyes were not meeting his and Draco’s gaze fell onto her pink cheeks. With confident ease, he led her through the steps; due to his training and lifetime of galas, he was well practiced in dancing. Draco had danced hundreds of waltzes before, but never had he had a partner who moved so fluidly with him.

It was as though they moved as one.

Standing this close to Hermione and holding her intimately was greatly impairing his judgement. He let himself daydream during the repetition of steps. His wandering mind imagined they were at the ball together, wearing well-cut dress robes and a long gown, perhaps in emerald green, that would complement her features well.

Slytherin green, he thought suddenly, holding back a smile; she would look lovely in Slytherin green.

The rest of the room felt like ambient noise, blurring in the background as he stared deeply into her eyes; they moved in sync to the music, stormy grey clashing against chocolate brown. A curl fell over her eyes, and he desperately wanted to tuck it behind her ear.

Before he knew it, the music stopped. Class had ended and students began trickling out. 

Hermione was looking at Draco oddly for several moments. He forgot to breathe under her stare. In the back of his mind, he wondered why she was watching him with that expression before realising that he was still holding her possessively against him, his hands claiming her waist and hand. As if her touch burned, he dropped his hands to his sides. 

“I...thanks,” he mumbled, struggling for words as he turned and practically sprinted from the classroom, leaving behind a flustered and flushed Hermione Granger.

Groaning silently, he mentally berated himself for thanking her for the dance. He knew from his training that he should have bowed or kissed her hand—the thought burned his lips.

The farther away from her he moved, the more he panicked. Running a nervous hand through his hair, he began to focus on the repercussions of his traitorous thoughts. If his father knew a single thought that had passed through Draco’s mind in the past hour while he had Hermione in his arms, he would be disowned and disgraced.

Regardless, the feeling imprinted on his memory; she had felt so comfortable in his arms, as if they had been there a hundred times before. 

As if she belonged there.

Draco shivered at the thought.

Glancing around the hallway, Draco’s heart was in his throat. He needed to squash this obsession before it grew. There was no way that he could even let himself consider Hermione Granger. The sound of Pansy Parkinson laughing loudly broke into his thoughts. 

Pansy.

Pansy would be a perfect date. She was a Pureblood Slytherin, exactly the type of girl he should be interested in dating. Certainly not a fiery Gryffindor with untamable curls and pink lips that begged to be kissed. Absolutely not.

“Pansy,” he called over to her, attracting her attention. “Do you have a minute?”

She gave a quick look to her friends before breaking away and approaching him with a practised smile. “Of course, anything for you, Draco.” Her eyelashes fluttered flirtatiously. 

“I noticed you dancing in the class,” he lied, his mind flashing back to Hermione, “and you are a beautiful dancer. I would love to be your partner. May I escort you to the Yule Ball?” He pushed the words out quickly before he could change his mind.

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Of course! I mean, yes!” She squealed, clutching a textbook to her chest. “I would love to go to the Yule Ball with you. I’m purchasing my dress this weekend with my mother. I’ll let you know what colour I’m wearing to match my flowers.”

Nodding noncommittally, Draco grew annoyed by the revelation that he would have to buy her flowers.

Turning back to the other Slytherin girls, Pansy and her friends began to chatter enthusiastically about the upcoming Ball. Draco tuned out their voices, irritated by the loud sounds.

“So.”

Draco turned toward the low voice. “Parkinson, eh?” Theo crossed his arms and studied Draco, unimpressed.

“Yes,” Draco sniffed pompously. “She’s a perfectly reasonable choice.”

“Ah yes, how romantic. Nothing says true love like a ‘reasonable’ choice.” Theo raised his eyebrows at Draco sarcastically.

“Sod off, who else would I ask?” Draco stared ahead, not wanting to play into Theo’s game.

“Oh, I don’t know, you and Hermione looked pretty comfortable in there just now. I don’t think I saw you take your eyes off her once,” he mused. “And don’t get me started on Hermione.” Draco glared at his best mate and started to stomp away as he heard, “She sure looked like a witch who wanted to be kissed.”


Hermione inspected herself in a full-length mirror while her dormmates flurried around her. After a full bottle of Sleekeazy’s hair potion and several taming spells Pavarti had taught her, Hermione’s hair was curled, tucked, and pinned into an elegant updo. At Ginny’s insistence, she had purchased a flowy periwinkle-blue gown that showed off her curves and swayed gently as she moved.

It was the first time that she felt truly beautiful.

The girls chattered about their dates and dresses, about who was going with whom and the latest house gossip.

“So, are you going to kiss him tonight?” Parvati’s eyes danced deviously towards Hermione.

“I…I haven’t given it much thought,” Hermione replied honestly, suddenly nervous that a kiss was expected after the dance.

“I’ve never…I mean I haven’t yet…” Hermione trailed off quietly.

“Oh, Hermione!” the room clamored loudly.

“I mean, I’ve read about it,” she offered feebly.

“You can’t read about kissing, it’s something you have to feel ,” Lavender insisted, applying her lipstick carefully.

“And it’s not like in your books. Well, I’m not sure what kind of books you’ve been reading but those love stories make up all sorts of stuff,” Parvati assured her matter-of-factly.

Padma nodded seriously at her sister’s words. “It’s not fireworks and magic, mostly it’s just soft lips. Sometimes wet lips.” She scrunched her nose in distaste.

Hermione’s nerves grew more with each comment; she was not even sure she wanted to be kissed tonight. She had been asked to the ball by Viktor Krum, a student from Durmstrang and a champion in the Triwizard Tournament. Letting out a shaky breath, she smoothed her dress down.

Bidding her dormmates goodbye, Hermione made her way down to the Great Hall, which had been transfigured into a ballroom for the night. As she descended the staircase, she suddenly became aware of eyes on her from all around the hall. Whispers and gasps filled the air around her as a few students openly gawked at her transformation.

It caught her off guard how much she enjoyed being viewed as a beautiful witch and not just Harry Potter’s walking textbook.

She felt a tug in her stomach as her eyes found his across the ballroom. Draco looked impossibly handsome in his dress robes, tailored to fit him perfectly. Her heart sank as she looked his date over. Pansy was stunning; her usually stick-straight hair was impeccably curled and pinned up and she was adorned in luxurious silver silk which hugged her body. A delicate pattern of snowflakes was magicked to her dress and shimmered as she moved.

Hermione pushed down the jealousy that stirred in her chest when she noticed his hand resting on Pansy’s waist, remembering how good it felt to have on her waist as they danced. When she looked back at his eyes, he was still watching her and she glared before breaking eye contact. There was a gentle tap on her shoulder, pulling her attention away. 

“Viktor!” she exclaimed happily, making a show of accepting his arm as he led her into the ballroom. 

On principle, she refused to look over at the scowling blond across the hall. Even though she could feel his eyes burning her skin as he watched her. Even though she really wanted to look back at him. Even though the jealousy was ripping her apart inside.

Viktor took her hand in his and artfully moved her across the dance floor. He was tall and broad, and he looked dashing in his red Bulgarian suit. As they danced, she could not help but compare the experience to dancing with Draco during their lesson. 

Where Draco was smooth and gentle, Viktor was hard and assertive. Viktor picked Hermione up and twirled her, but instead of that breathless flutter she felt with Draco, she just felt dizzy from the spin. Before she could stop herself, her eyes drifted over to Draco and Pansy who were dancing within her line of sight.

Draco caught her gaze and she saw something in his expression that she could not identify. A look of discomfort and annoyance filled his eyes as he moved through the steps of the waltz. When Viktor pulled her closer, Draco’s eyes tightened and a feeling of guilt washed over her.

But she didn’t let herself think about it. She was determined to have a good time.

The music shifted into a more upbeat dance and Hermione shared an excited grin with Viktor. The pair danced through the night and Hermione relished the compliments she received from her peers and from Viktor. Even Harry had called her beautiful, though Ron mostly glowered.

“Herminnony,” Viktor butchered her name with his thick accent. “Shall I escort you back?” he offered politely.

“That would be lovely,” Hermione accepted with a graceful smile and they walked through the corridors toward Gryffindor Tower together. She briefly wondered how many variations of her name Viktor would come up with when attempting the pronunciation. 

Just outside the portrait, Viktor stopped and turned towards her.

“Hermonine, I had a vonderful time with you tonight.” He stepped closer with intent. Before she could blink, he was kissing her; his lips were soft yet firm as they moved against hers. 

Padma was right—it felt mostly like lips. Thankfully, not wet lips in this case. The kiss left her feeling giddy with happiness; it had been a nearly perfect night. She spun through the portrait entrance to the Gryffindor Tower, holding her cheeks as she grinned wildly.

Inside the Gryffindor Common Room, Ron sat scowling on the sofa, still in his dress robes.

“Why do you look so happy?” he grumbled; his arms folded defensively as he slouched inward.

“I had a nice night dancing with my date, Ronald. Why are you upset?” she shot back, visibly agitated by his attitude.

“I’m only upset because you went to the Ball with Krum! I can see why you didn’t tell us that he was your date. He’s a Durmstrang. You’re fraternizing with the enemy.” Ron’s voice raised in frustration, throwing his arms out in anger.

“How dare you! I just wanted a single night to myself, is that too much to ask for?” she fumed, storming back out of the Common Room before she hexed his bollocks off.

After having her first kiss, she should be walking on air. Instead she was walking aimlessly through the corridors of Hogwarts, fighting back tears.


As soon as Hermione had left the ballroom with Krum, Draco had refused to dance again. In his lifetime, he had spent hundreds of hours dancing at his mother’s innumerable events and charming the witches with whom he danced. After dancing with Hermione, it was like he’d forgotten what it was like to dance with anyone else. 

It did not feel right; Pansy felt too stiff, too balanced and well-practiced, not at all like Hermione who followed his lead without hesitation, moulding her body to his on instinct. 

Where Pansy felt cold and forced, Hermione felt as natural as breathing. 

After the girl in the periwinkle dress disappeared from the Ball, Draco led Pansy to a nearby table that was filled with her friends to chat. He slouched down in the seat, ignoring the mental chastisement in his mother’s voice for his ungentlemanly attitude. 

“Your witch sure looks nice tonight,” Theo commented casually, his voice low as he leaned over Draco’s shoulder.

With a dismissive roll of his eyes, Draco corrected, “Pansy is not my witch.”

“Wasn’t talking about her,” Theo practically sang over his shoulder as he walked away smugly.

The music shifted into a popular song and Pansy’s mates jumped up to dance, making their way to the dance floor.

“Draco,” Pansy said, turning her attention towards him, pawing and kissing at his neck. “Let’s dance.”

Swatting her away, he growled under his breath. He had severely underestimated how painful it would feel to watch Hermione spend the night in another man’s arms, dancing their dance together. She had gazed at Krum with her beautiful brown eyes, laughing in delight as he spun her.

Even worse, they had left the ball early. Draco’s mind wandered to dark places as he thought of the pair finding an abandoned corridor, of Krum’s hands drifting down her waist and kissing her neck. The thought of his witch encouraging Krum filled Draco’s throat with the taste of bile— not his witch, he mentally corrected himself.

He stood up abruptly, almost throwing Pansy off him.

“I’ll be right back,” he nearly snarled before stalking out of the hall.

Several minutes later, he returned to the room, looking significantly more relaxed. His hair was slightly ruffled and his face tinged pink from exertion.

“Ready to go?” He held out a hand, less of a question and more of a statement.

Pansy took hold of his arm as they left the Ball. He tried to direct her attention elsewhere as they passed a group gathering outside a nearby classroom. 

“Blimey! Someone is having a hell of a night.”

“Jacob, did you break the desks?”

“It was like that when I found it!” 

Knowing her proclivity for gossip, Draco distracted Pansy as they quickly passed the classroom. He felt another twist in his stomach as he recalled his stint of accidental magic splintering the row of desks in half not even ten minutes ago. 

This obsession with Granger was going to be the death of him.

“And then I told Sophia that she is not a winter with that skin tone. Honestly, how someone can get to be our age with zero understanding of fashion is beyond me!” Pansy cackled. “She would be better off in a burlap sack, not that you could tell the difference between that and her gown tonight.”

Draco politely nodded along, not following the one-sided conversation; he increased his walking speed, trying to get back to the dungeons to say goodnight to Pansy.

Around the corner, Draco heard a familiar sniffle echo down the corridor. The last time he heard that noise was in second year and he had spent the entire night vomiting—he had not forgotten that sound.

“Pansy,” Draco turned to his date, “I forgot something I borrowed from Theo back in the Great Hall. I’ll meet you in the Common Room soon?” 

“Of course, Draco. I’ll be waiting.” She winked before merging into another group of Slytherins who were walking to the dungeons.

Slipping around the corner, Draco spotted a female figure walking slowly down the empty corridor. His lungs seized, thinking back to his vision of her and Krum earlier in the night. A rush of anger came over him and he clenched his jaw and fists at the thought. 

“Granger.” Draco lightly caught her arm and she whirled around to meet him, her eyes shining with tears.

“What did he do?” The question came out more panicked than he had intended.

Lifting her chin with his thumb, he inspected her from head to toe, looking for any injuries or signs of a struggle.

Frowning, Hermione took a distrustful step back, retracting her chin from his touch. Protectively covering her chest with her arms, her voice cracked, “Who?”

Draco faltered, eyeing the trails of tears running down her cheeks. “Krum, what did he do?” he rasped as he failed to mask his emotions.

He had hated himself for making her cry during their second year, but he found that watching her cry because of someone else felt worse; in that moment, he would do anything to see her smile again.

With a brief shake of her head, Hermione’s eyes fell to the floor. “It wasn’t Viktor.”

A surge of anger and protectiveness swept over him, his breathing growing shorter and shallower with the confirmation that someone had hurt her.

“Will you please tell me what happened?” His eyes searched hers as he tried to suppress a new wave of worry that was bubbling up inside his chest.

“Why do you care? Here to make fun of the pathetic, crying Muggleborn?” she snapped, her lower lip quivering. “Going to go back to Pansy and laugh at me?”

“No.” His voice grew low, something in his chest urged him to comfort her. “I was…worried.”

Another tear escaped as a myriad of emotions passed over her face. “Why?”

Hesitating, a thousand thoughts flashed through his mind, trying to decide how to explain his worry when he did not even understand it.

“I don’t know why,” he replied honestly, the truth lifting a weight off his chest, “but I wanted to be here if you need me.”

“If I need you,” she echoed softly with a tilt of her head, processing his words.

Her eyes flicked back down the corridor where a group of students were gathering after the Ball. Without a second thought, he offered her his hand, the same as the start of their dance. 

After several moments of contemplation, Hermione placed her hand in his and let him lead her over to the windowsill. Draco could hear his heart beating in his chest as he continued to hold her hand, prompting her to continue.

“It was Ron…” she explained, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. “He was being a prat tonight.”

Relief flooded over him at her words. “You’re going to have to be more specific, Granger.” His features softened. “I’m pretty sure that ‘prat’ is his default setting.”

Hermione’s eyes fixed on their joined hands, as if silently wondering why he had not let go.

“He told me I was betraying the school by going to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum.” She let out a bitter scoff. “I believe his exact words were that I was ‘fraternizing with the enemy’.”

Draco’s brows raised. “I wasn’t aware he knew words with so many syllables.”

Fighting back a smile, Hermione tossed him a look. “He has his moments.”

“You do realise that he was lashing out because he’s jealous, right?”

Rolling her eyes, Hermione shook her head in disbelief. “He wasn’t jealous , he was just being spiteful that I had a nice night. Ron has a habit of ruining moments for me.”

His pulse quickened as he considered his next words carefully. “He was jealous, beyond jealous. He saw you tonight, with your pinned-up curls and that gown that looks like it was made for you. He hated dancing with another witch because she wasn’t you, and it felt even worse to see you happily in the arms of another bloke because he wanted you for himself.”

Hermione’s hand tightened in his, her eyes wide in shock as she recognized his true meaning.

Thinking back to Theo’s teasing after their dance in Transfiguration, Draco’s eyes drifted down to her parted lips. In that moment, he agreed, she sure looked like a witch who wanted to be kissed.

Draco’s lips brushed against hers so softly that she ached beneath him. Hermione’s only coherent thought was that Padma was wrong.

So wrong.

It did feel like fireworks and magic.

Chapter Text

“…you help me research it after class?”

Hermione blinked twice before nodding. “Of course I can help, Harry.”

His words had been ambient noise in the background of her mind; her attention was fixated across the hall at the Slytherin table.

“Ha-ha-ha, oh, Draco, you’re so smart and funny! I just love listening to you talk about yourself!” Hermione imagined Pansy saying, desperately flirting with him in her shrill voice.

Aggressively stabbing a potato on her plate, she watched Pansy hang off Draco’s arm. She started playing with his hair, running her fingers through it slowly as he talked to her. The longer the interaction continued without Draco moving away, the tenser Hermione grew.

It had been three weeks and four days since the Yule Ball, not that Hermione was counting. He had taken her breath away with that kiss and then disappeared like a ghost—in fact, she saw Nearly Headless Nick more frequently than she saw Draco.

Leaning in closer with her expertly painted lips, Pansy was whispering in Draco’s ear; the ringing in Hermione’s head increased as her grip on her drinking glass tightened—a loud crack echoed through the Great Hall as hundreds of drinking glasses shattered across the Slytherin table, covering the area with broken glass. 

With a shriek, Pansy jumped away from the table as the students erupted at the scene.

Hermione froze, her heart pounding loudly in her ears.

“What was that?!” Harry exclaimed, looking around the table, “Looks like a first year hasn’t quite figured out how to control their magic yet.” 

After a few quick, shallow breaths, Hermione braved a look over at Draco. He was calming a frantic Pansy and half of the Slytherins were out of their seats. One Slytherin, however, was sitting completely still; Theodore Nott was watching her with a peculiar level of interest.

“Harry, I don’t mean to run, but I really have to get started on my Charms essay,” she fibbed as she stood up from the table, her legs unsteady beneath her.

“The one that’s due next month?” Harry chortled. “Classic Hermione.”

Smiling weakly at him, she hurried out of the Great Hall behind a group of babbling third years, gossiping about who had been the cause of the glass shattering.

Hermione slowed her pace, trying to appear less frenzied, but she was becoming genuinely concerned. That was the third incident this week. These days, her magic was more volatile than ever; she had not had so many bouts of accidental magic since she was a child. 

In two years, she would be of age; it should be nearly effortless to control her magic but instead her emotions were driving all types of magical reactions, increasing in intensity as the months dragged on.


Draco brushed shards of glass off his robes as the house elves cleaned up the shattered mess around them.

“Honestly, if any Slytherin did this to another house, we would be in so much trouble,” Pansy ranted, picking pieces of glass out of her hair. “But a Slytherin would’ve thought of a much better prank than breaking some glass.”

He nodded noncommittally and left as she continued to talk with Blaise. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but Draco was deeply regretting taking Pansy to the Yule Ball. Ever since the ball, she fancied herself in love, hanging off him and following him around. Even though it used to be his favourite place to relax, Draco was now avoiding the Slytherin Common Room because the damn witch never seemed to leave it.

After he kissed Hermione, he completely panicked. He could not have picked a more complicated witch to fancy; his parents would send him daily howlers if they knew he had kissed a Muggleborn. 

Draco thought about that kiss every day since, longing to pull her behind a tapestry on the way to class for a repeat, to play with her curls and watch her face flush, knowing her reaction was for him. He groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. That particular fantasy replayed in his mind each night as he tried to go to sleep.

Pansy had seemed a convenient cover since they had attended the Yule Ball together, but she was slowly driving him mad. After the first day, he completely lost confidence that he could even tolerate her, let alone pretend to date her for the rest of the year.

The eruption of glass had been his saving grace; he could not say with certainty that he had not caused the scene. Pansy had been in his ear, begging him to go somewhere more private, and he was getting more frustrated each second and then— crack —glasses broke all down his table.

Last month, when he had a headache, his magic tripped a group of first years outside Charms who were singing rambunctiously. He felt like a bloody 6-year-o ld, angry when his mother sent him to bed without dessert and triggering accidental magic to set the bedcovers on fire. It could be worse, he considered. At least he had not set the group of first years on fire.


People seemed to think that, because he was the “Chosen One”, Harry Potter paid little attention to other people and was mostly self-absorbed. He always believed that his closest mates knew better, but apparently not, considering Hermione seemed oblivious to the fact that Harry knew exactly what was going on between her and Draco Malfoy. 

She must think that he was ignorant of the years of longing looks she gave Malfoy, of that time in third year she had been daydreaming and accidentally called Harry ‘Malfoy’, or how she had turned beet red in front of the entire class when McGonagall had paired the two for dancing last month.

“Hey, Hermione,” Harry greeted cheerfully, snagging a seat next to her at the Gryffindor table. Mumbling something in return, she assaulted her food with a fork as she glared at the Slytherin table.

Harry stared at her curiously. “So, I’ve decided to seduce Crabbe.”

Nodding dully, she shoved a mangled potato into her mouth.

“It’s just, I’ve been thinking, and it’s not fair that one man be so attractive, you know? After years of longing for him, I’ve decided to finally make a move. Scratch the itch so to say. I was thinking perhaps doing the Erumpent mating dance for him, as that is the sexiest of all dances. Will you help me research it after class?”

She blinked at his question before nodding seriously. “Of course I can help, Harry.”

Stifling a laugh behind his hand, he began to fill his plate with pudding.

The look on her face was one that Harry was far too familiar with, and someone was about to experience the wrath of an infuriated Hermione. It was terrifying to be on the receiving end of that look, but luckily for Harry, that honour was bestowed upon a certain pair at the Slytherin table.

Spontaneously, all the glasses on the Slytherin table burst into pieces, littering the ground; Harry jumped in his seat at the noise, flicking his eyes over to Hermione.

“What was that?!” He feigned shock. “Looks like a first year hasn’t quite figured out how to control their magic yet,” he covered, mainly for the benefit of those overhearing their conversation. 

It was obvious to anyone watching that Hermione blew up the glasses in a jealous rage, but Harry was not about to point it out.

After a moment of silence, Hermione spoke, “Harry, I don’t mean to run, but I really have to get started on my Charms essay.” She stood up, excusing herself from the table.

“The one that’s due next month?” Harry smirked inwardly at her blatant lie. “Classic Hermione.” He smiled innocently as she strolled out of the hall.

Harry collected his bag and started down the corridor when a low voice caught his attention.

“Is it just me or are all of their interactions just their own odd form of foreplay?” Theo asked rhetorically, watching Hermione disappear around the corner.

“Honestly, a deaf, blind, and dull Blast-Ended Skrewt could notice the sexual tension between those two.” Harry rolled his eyes, adjusting the strap of his bag against his chest.

“I don’t know about you, but it’s been four years of this and I’m not willing to spend another three years listening to them whinge, pine, and blow more shite up.” Theo quirked a brow.

“What are you proposing?” Harry asked with a glint of mischief in his eyes.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe something to help them speed this up and force them to actually talk? For the sake of innocent glassware everywhere.”

“Yeah—” the corner of Harry’s mouth perked up “—for the glassware.” He shoved a hand in his pocket, smiling at Theo.


After the kiss, Draco spent most of his time fighting the growing urge he had to be around her. Somehow, he felt better just being in the same room as her, though it did nothing to relieve his desires to kiss her again. In an effort to reduce their interactions, he slipped in and out of their shared classes before the start and just as they ended. 

His heart was at war with his mind, trying to reconcile his feelings for Hermione—the ones he never should have had. 

It should feel wrong .

With his avoidance strategy, Draco successfully evaded talking with her for nearly a month after the Ball. This plan quickly fell apart the moment he was assigned a partner in Defense Against the Dark Arts. As the scrap of paper with his partner’s name fell on his desk, his stomach dropped.

Hermione Granger .

He would have to duel Hermione; even worse, they would be alone in the DADA classroom together.

Alone.

Having seen her perform in class, Draco knew that she was a talented duelist; they were both at the top of their class and it was logical that they would be paired together. Draco just wished he had been assigned someone else—anyone else. 

With his magic less stable every day and his history of losing his mind around her, he was apprehensive to mix the two. It seemed like a recipe for disaster.


Draco checked the time and took a deep breath, stepping into the classroom. He spotted Hermione, who was sitting with her back to the door. She was scrawling quickly in her notebook, most likely documenting details for their assignment. Clearing his throat uncomfortably, he tried to get her attention.

“Ready to duel?” she asked when she finally looked up at him,her face void of emotion.

The return of her apathy gutted him, even if he deserved it after weeks of hiding from her in his cowardice. In a twisted way, he was comforted by the fact that she seemed as distraught from their distance as Draco felt. It seemed that no matter what he did, or how much he separated himself from her, he could not get her—or her lips—out of his mind.

With a quick nod, he followed her to the cleared space across the room—a modified dueling arena for this assignment.

“One formal duel using the techniques from our latest lesson,” Hermione recited the instructions from class. “No spells that can cause permanent damage, winner is declared when the other is disarmed.”

“I know the rules, Granger,” he muttered to himself, stopping on the red X that Professor Moody had left.

From across the classroom, they bowed before taking a dueling stance, one foot in front of the other.

Her eyes lit up with fire as she waved her wand. “ Rictusempra !”

Protego !” Draco set a simple shield, her spell bouncing right off. “ Locomotor Mortis !”

With a grin, she dodged his spell, spinning wildly and tossing another back at him.

They continued with this dance for nearly ten minutes, casting and deflecting the spells in a high speed match.

Stupefy !” He could not stop the smile from spreading across his face as he watched her expertly take advantage of his change in footing with her next spell; her passion for magic left him spellbound.

Expelliarmus !” Hermione cried out, catching his wand as it flew across the empty classroom into her hand. Her chest was heaving from the exertion of their duel.

Grinning triumphantly, she tucked her own wand back into her pocket. His expression morphed into panic as his eye caught on a figure in the doorway, their wand raised at Hermione.

“Grang—” he started in warning.

Instinctively she turned, still grasping Draco’s wand, and pointed it at the entrance.

PROTEGO!

Confringo !” Greg Goyle shouted, just a millisecond after her, his blasting curse bouncing weakly off her shield.

There was a beat of silence and then the room began to shake as Goyle and everything surrounding him was thrown back violently from the sheer power of her shield.

The magic of Draco’s wand was coursing up her arm and flowing through her body. Glaring at the heap of Goyle across the room, she started toward him to tell him off. With three long strides, Draco was standing between her and Goyle.

Draco’s face contorted into pure rage as he stormed up to Goyle.

“What the fuck were you thinking!” he screamed at Goyle who was laying pitifully on the ground, clutching his head, “A blasting curse?! You could have fucking killed her!” Draco’s hands were shaking as he towered over his friend.

Goyle, who had obviously heard the commotion from their duel and incorrectly assumed Draco was actually fighting with Hermione and needed backup, was alarmed to realise his mistake.

“Draco!” Hermione gently placed a hand on his arm, diverting his attention back to her. “Stop, he’s not going to hurt me.”

His expression softened as he recognised fear in her eyes. “Do you know what that could’ve done to you?” His voice broke, adrenaline still coursing through his veins. “I didn’t even have my wand. What if that curse had hit you?”

“My wand…” He paused, looking down at her hand incredulously. “You used my wand?”

Distracted by Goyle’s injuries, Hermione had nearly forgotten. On impulse, she had used the wand in her hand at the time—Draco’s wand—which not only responded to her but overpowered her shielding spell, making it destructive. No wand had ever responded to her like that, not even her own wand.

She turned back to Goyle who was still laying on the cold floor beneath them.

“We were practicing for class, it wasn’t real,” she explained, her voice firm. “But I know you were just trying to protect your friend, so I won’t turn you in for trying to curse me with my back turned.” 

Offering him a hand, which he eyed dubiously, she helped hoist him up to a standing position while Draco fumed behind her.

“If you do it again,” she warned, “I swear on my magic that I’ll do much worse to you than hit you with a shielding spell.”

Draco inspected Goyle’s face, which was already blooming with a bruise; he was otherwise unharmed. His pride, however, was another story. Draco rested a hand on Goyle’s shoulder, and his voice lowered dangerously, “Greg, we have been mates for years. That’s the only reason you’re still able to walk right now. Get out of here before I change my mind.”

Goyle nodded furiously and hurried out of the classroom, his shoes squeaking as he retreated.

They were alone again.

Hermione spoke first. “Your wand…why did it respond to me? It didn’t fight me, if anything it feels like—” she swallowed uneasily “—mine. It feels like mine.”

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It’s almost as if my wand has allegiance to both of us.”

The room settled in silence at his words.

“Draco,” Hermione hesitated before handing him her wand, “try mine.”

His heart skipped a beat. Intentionally sharing wands was incredibly intimate.

Holding hers, he inspected the vinewood pattern and tested the weight in his hand. He tried a few basic spells, swishing the wand carefully.

Lumos .” The room flooded with light, Hermione squinted and threw her arm over her face as a shield.

Nox .” The light from her wand turned off.

Wingardium leviosa .” The book flew up and smacked the high ceiling of the room.

They shared a nervous look.

“What does this mean?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. “How can our wands react so strongly to each other?”

He thought back to years of feeling drawn to her, the compulsion to be near her, the protectiveness he felt for her.

“This sounds ridiculous,” he chided himself, trying to muster courage to continue, “but I have a theory.”

Draco paused and Hermione gestured for him to proceed.

With a steadying breath, he asked, “Does it feel different when you’re around me, compared to being around other people?” Shifting in place, he felt oddly vulnerable. “I suppose I mean to ask, how do you feel around me?”

Cocking her head, she studied him silently for a moment before responding. “It feels like I can’t stay away,” she replied honestly. “I can tell where you are in the room before I see you and I feel this pull towards you. And when you kissed me, it felt like the first time I held my wand. It was...magic.” Her cheeks flushed at her admittance.

Draco’s breath caught in his throat at her confession. “Shite, I thought I was the only one.”

Her stomach flipped, tugging towards him.

There it was again, that Pull, trying to bring them together. Hermione chewed the inside of her cheek as she tried to decipher what the Pull wanted them to do. 

“Maybe…” She held her hand up in the air, he looked at it and back at her. He tentatively raised his hand to hers, pressing their palms together.

Nothing happened.

“This was a dumb idea, I just thought perhaps—” Hermione began to pull her hand back when Draco reached for her wrist to stop her. Golden sparks appeared between his hand and her wrist, causing them both to jump back. 

Gasping, he reached forward again. This time, there were no sparks and he held her wrist gently.

Up to that point, the Pull they felt to each other was nothing more than a small tug. At this touch, the Pull felt more like a push; she was lightheaded at the sensation, like the feeling of a Portkey or the force of gravity during a fall, demanding they come together.

Stunned into silence, she could not find the words to explain the feeling in her chest.

“I think our magic is drawing us to each other,” he murmured under his breath.

“I didn’t know magic could do that,” she marveled, meeting his eye.

“Me either,” he admitted. “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know.” It panicked Hermione to not know; she had spent her entire existence in the magical world trying to learn everything she could and now her life felt like a mystery to unravel.

Her eyes caught on the clock. “I didn’t notice the time.” She hurried over to her supplies, packing the rest away into her bag. “I have to meet Dumbledore in his office. He needs something for the task tomorrow. Meet me on the seventh floor by the tapestry tomorrow night,” she instructed, swinging her book bag over her shoulder. “We’ll figure this out together.”

Pausing mid-stride, she stopped in front of him. “Oh, and Draco?” She raised to the tip of her toes, placing a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for stepping in with Goyle tonight, that was rather sweet of you. I know you two are friends.”

Draco’s cheek heated under her kiss and he longed to capture her lips with his. “No mate of mine would ever…” Hurt my witch, he finished the thought silently. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Granger.”


“So, what do you think the odds are that they’ve gone and killed each other?” Theo asked casually, inspecting his fingernails.

Harry paused, calculating in his head, “I’d say it’s about 60/40 right now whether they’re snogging or cursing each other.”

Theo shook his head fondly. “Oh, young love. How did you get Moody to pair them in the dueling assignment?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Harry gave Theo a sly smirk. “Let’s just say he owes me a few favours.”

“Mr. Potter—” Theo’s eyes flashed dangerously “—you really are full of surprises.”

“Oh, Mr. Nott, you have no idea.”

 

Chapter Text

When he woke up the next morning, Draco knew that something was wrong. He could just feel it, or rather the problem was that he could not feel it. When he was in the castle, he could always feel that tug towards Hermione. Now that he could identify and name the feeling, the ‘Pull’ as Hermione called it, he was more in tune to it. 

This morning, it felt off.

There was a gap in the Gryffindor table during breakfast, her usual spot empty. Every time he looked over at the vacant seat, his dread grew. He wondered if she was ill. It would be impossible to get into Gryffindor Tower to check on her; no Gryffindors would trust his motives and Harry was busy with the latest task.

“Mate, you need to calm down—stop shaking your leg—you’re making me anxious just watching you,” Theo said seriously.

Draco groaned in frustration, laying his head down on the table.

“Something is wrong, I just know it. She was there and now she’s gone. And I get that I sound mental but you’re my best mate and I’ve got to tell someone before my head explodes,” Draco spewed out like word vomit.

Theo rested a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Blimey, you’ve got it bad.” He shook his head. “One morning without your witch and you’ve already lost it. She’s probably just helping Harry prepare for his task, you know he’s always procrastinating.”

“She’s not my—” Letting out another groan, he lifted his head and dropped it back on the table with a thud .

“Eat up,” Theo ordered, pushing a bowl of porridge in front of Draco. “Everyone is going to watch the second task today. Come with me, that should take your mind off Hermione.”

Lifting the spoon slowly and plopping it back into the bowl, Draco nodded begrudgingly. It was probably nothing, and the tournament would be a nice distraction; he needed to think about something other than Hermione, the lack of Pull this morning, and their meeting tonight.

After breakfast, Draco and Theo joined a group of Hogwarts and Durmstrang students walking down to the second task. “…was showing off the egg to us last week,” Ernie Macmillan bragged to the crowd as they continued down the path. “And Cedric believes that they are taking something important from each champion and hiding it in the Black Lake!”

Draco and Theo made tense eye-contact at Ernie’s words, already feeling uneasy about this entire day. No matter how he tried to clear his mind, he could not shake the ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach. 

When they reached the end of the path with the final stragglers, Draco and Theo saw towering stands for the audience. At the base of the platform, the four Triwizard champions were standing together in swimming suits. Draco skimmed his eyes across the crowd, looking for Hermione.

“Theo,” Draco said tersely, “doesn’t Fleur have a little sister?”

“Yeah, Gabrielle, she’s just a kid but they let her come to the tasks since her sister is the Beauxbaton champion,” Theo supplied before asking, “Why?”

“Because, Weasley isn’t here.”

“Draco, I didn’t know you and Weasley were so close,” Theo mused, giving him a teasing look.

With a huff of annoyance, Draco pulled Theo further back behind the stands and away from the eyes of the crowd.

“No, you don’t get it. Weasley is gone, when has he ever missed a chance to cheer on Potter? And Fleur’s little sister is gone, and Hermi—Granger is gone. I told you something was wrong.” 

Draco ran his hands through his hair anxiously as he paced, growing louder as he ranted, “Damn it, Theo, I told you! They didn’t take something from the champions, they took someone .”

“You’re trying to tell me that Hermione Granger is at the bottom of the Black Lake?” Theo asked incredulously, looking at Draco like he was mental.

In the distance a loud horn sounded, followed by splashing.

“I have to go get her.” Draco grew more hysterical as the seconds passed. “Oh fuck, Theo, I have to go get her!”

“Wait, Draco, stop. We are teenagers! It’s not possible that she’s in any real danger. Dumbledore would never harm students for a game ,” Theo futilely tried to reason with him.

Facing the stands, Draco’s voice grew higher. “You don’t know that! They ended this tournament before for being too dangerous; how is she breathing? She could be drowning! I’m going to get her.”

Theo stepped in front of Draco, waving a hand in front of his face to gain his attention. “You can’t just run wildly into the middle of a tournament challenge and interfere because you’re worried. You’re not even prepared to swim; do you know how many deadly creatures are in the Black Lake?”

“DEADLY CREATURES—oh Merlin, what if they eat her?!” he gesticulated wildly, his eyes filled with terror.

“Oh, mate, I’m so sorry,” Theo shook his head sympathetically. “ Stupefy .”

Theo hooked his arms under Draco’s armpits, catching him just as he collapsed.

Rennervate .”


Draco squinted, blinking rapidly, his eyes adjusting to the light of the room. Slowly, he recognised he was in his bedroom in the dungeons. A familiar tug pulled at his stomach and he breathed a sigh of relief. A guilty looking Theo was sitting next to him on the edge of the bed.

“Please don’t kill me. She’s okay, Draco. Krum saved her from the lake for his task. I couldn’t let you go after her! I tried to tell you she was never in any actual danger, but you were in such a frenzy you wouldn’t listen to anything I was saying,” Theo rambled, jumping up and backing away from Draco with his hands up. “I brought you back through the secret entrance to the dungeons down by the lake so no one would see us.”

Reveling in the feeling of the return of the Pull, Draco could not focus on his conversation with Theo; all he could think about was his date with Hermione on the seventh floor.

“We are talking about this later,” Draco promised, glaring at Theo. “But thanks.” 

He heard the sound of Theo exhaling as he rushed out of the room.

After arriving at the main tapestry on the seventh floor early, Draco found himself fidgeting nervously in the corridor, waiting on Hermione. Moments later, she rounded the corner and almost bumped into him mid-stride. 

His eyes drank her in from head to toe, a feeling of complete relief sweeping over him. After an entire day of worry, he could see that she was safe; he let out the breath he did not realize he had been holding.

With purposeful strides, he closed the gap between them, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her up against him. He cradled the back of her head, lacing his fingers into her curls and gently tilting her head back.

“Draco

He tasted the sound of his name on her lips, refusing to come up for air as he kissed her desperately. As she returned his kiss, his soul came alive, knowing she was safe and back in his arms. Hermione’s hands looped around his neck as she pulled him closer and deepened the kiss. A small sigh escaped her lips and the sound lit a flame under his skin.

After several moments, Draco pulled away, tucking her head against his chest and pressing his nose against her hair, inhaling deeply. 

Honey and flowers.

Home.


Hermione was breathless, this kiss was so different from the one they had shared the night of the Yule Ball. Where the first kiss had been soft and tender, this kiss felt fierce and possessive. Nothing compared to the feeling she had when he held her, like she was safe and never wanted to let go.

“I was so worried when I woke up this morning and couldn’t feel the connection to you,” he confided, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “I never thought I’d get the chance to do that again.”

“Well, you have my permission to do that whenever you’d like.” She smiled shyly, her cheeks burning from his affection. “And I’m sorry that you were worried,” she apologized.“Dumbledore didn’t warn us ahead of time otherwise I would have let you know. They didn’t want us to compromise the task by providing information to the champions.”

Draco messed with his hair, a habit he found himself doing with increasing frequency.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared. Merlin, I wish I understood what was happening to us.” He let out a heavy sigh. “I feel like I’m going mental.”

Hermione took his hand in hers and gave it a comforting squeeze. “I’m ready to find some answers, are you?” 

“I’m ready to try. Why did you want to meet in this corridor?”

Tossing him a cheeky wink, Hermione walked back and forth three times in front of the empty wall next to them, thinking they needed somewhere private to talk. 

A door appeared.

“The Come and Go Room.” His eyes lit up with recognition. “I’ve heard about this place in rumours.”

She wrinkled her nose. “The Room of Requirement,” she corrected.

“Oh potato, potah-to.” He loftily waved a hand as he trailed behind her into the room.

The Room of Requirement had essentially created a neutral Common Room complete with plush sofas and a roaring fireplace. Sitting on the sofa, the pair faced each other. Hermione retrieved a piece of parchment and quill, and spoke aloud as she wrote.

“Okay, things we know. One, our magic is drawing us together. Two, we can use each other’s wands. Three, there were actual sparks when you touched me.” She frowned at the list. “That’s not much to go on, honestly.”

“Well, let’s start with the sparks,” Draco suggested. “Does it happen every time?”

Giving a slight shrug, Hermione offered up her wrist to Draco, waiting expectantly for him to take it. Hesitating, he took her wrist in his hand.

The pair waited impatiently, staring at her wrist, but nothing happened.

“Wait, wasn’t it your other arm last time?” Draco asked, reaching instead for her right wrist.

Tilting her hand to inspect it, his thumb pressed against the pink mark on the inside of her wrist.

The Pull reacted violently, giving him complete sensory overload, as if the sparks were in his stomach this time. He instantly dropped her hand.

“What is that ?” He gestured to the pink blotch on the small of her wrist.

Her breath caught in her throat. “My mum told me it was a birthmark, that I have always had it. I’ve never given it much thought, to be honest.”

An odd look crossed Draco’s face as he peered closer at the mark.

“Mind if I borrow your quill?” Referencing her wrist, he traced the symbol onto Hermione’s parchment.

Holding up the parchment, Draco studied it for a moment before inhaling sharply. He slowly rotated the parchment, turning the symbol upside down.

“Pinky!” he called out, a pop rang out and a small house-elf appeared, wearing a formal 3-piece suit.

“Yes, master Malfoy?” Pinky asked, awaiting instructions.

“In the smaller library in the Manor, there is a book with this symbol on the cover—” he held up the drawing for Pinky “—please bring it to me.”

“Yes, master Malfoy.” Pinky was gone with a crack.

Hermione gaped at him. “You have your own personal house-elf coming to take orders from you at school?! Is that even allowed?”

“Elf magic works differently against the wards, so they can Apparate here.” He shrugged as Pinky returned. “That will be all, Pinky, thank you.” The elf disappeared once more.

The book in question was now sitting ominously on the table in front of them.

“Do you recognize that symbol, Granger?” Draco asked her quietly.

“I…I suppose it looks familiar? A bit like my birthmark. What’s going on?”

He swallowed hard, looking pained. “It’s an ancient rune, one we haven’t covered in class. The rune for ‘binding’.”

“Binding? You’re saying my birthmark is not a birthmark, it’s a brand ? Like I’m cattle ?” Hermione’s voice elevated with each word as she held her wrist to her chest protectively.

“I can’t say it’s a brand. I don’t know why you have it. But I remembered this from our family library; my mother had it on display a few summers ago. It might have answers.” 

He handed her the tattered tome.

Opening to the first page, Hermione’s hands were shaking with nerves. “It’s a journal,” she announced, analyzing it, “and it’s obviously been preserved with magic, but it’s still decaying, so it must be thousands of years old.” She paused, frowning. “Your mother was born a Black, right?”

Draco nodded in confirmation as Hermione continued, “Then it’s a personal journal from one of your ancestors, Ari Black, née Burke.”

With a brush of her wand, she murmured a quick translation spell on it, watching as the written script converted. Shifting closer to him on the sofa, their thighs now comfortably touching, they each held one side of the book as they read in tandem.

It began as most journals do, highlighting minute details about Ari’s day-to-day life, social calls and local gossip. Then she began to document her interactions with a particular man, Pictor Black, with increasing regularity. She wrote of a deep attraction to him that was more forceful than she had ever felt before. There were entries solely about stolen glances between the two and a gleeful retelling of the time she saw Pictor out with a woman he had been courting and how the woman’s hair had mysteriously caught fire.

Draco and Hermione shared a look; this story seemed oddly familiar.

Ari wrote of her formal courtship with Pictor, managed by her parents, and of their secret moments away from her chaperone’s watchful eye. One night, her entry was frantic, the usually deliberate script messy as if written quickly. During a late-night rendezvous with Pictor, they had walked along the old bridge by her family estate. A panel broke and she had fallen into the water below, with so many layers of petticoats on, she was dragged down with the current.

Pictor jumped in after her, like a gentleman, and saved her. In the process, however, he had touched her bare ankle. Specifically, he had touched the spot of her birthmark.

She wrote of the panic and exhilaration they felt at that touch. That their magic called to each other and they decided to listen. Ari excitedly wrote that Pictor had proposed marriage that night, dripping wet and shivering from the cold. The next morning, Pictor presented a formal engagement to her father, who negotiated the dowry before accepting.

After the engagement was recognized, they were able to spend more time together. As time went on, she began documenting sporadic moments of unintentional magic. A fire here, a broken tree there, but it finally escalated on the day Ari’s brother jumped out to scare her in their barn. Her fear had thrown him backwards and broken his arm. She was petrified that their magic was becoming uncontrollable.

With encouragement from Ari, Pictor consulted the most gifted Seer of their time, called Nostradamus, who procured two gold rings—goblin-made and enchanted to stabilize their binding—for them.

Ari’s terror at the prospect of her magic unraveling was palpable in her writing. Hermione could sympathize; she had felt a similar reaction after the Great Hall incident.

After describing the instant relief that came from wearing their rings and not having to worry about unbridled magic, Ari started speaking again of her everyday life in her entries, with a whole section dedicated to their wedding. It was not until the second to last page of the journal that anything else caught their attention.

Ari had given birth to a baby boy, named Leo, when Pictor’s mother confided in her the story of his birth. Ari made vague references to what Hermione could only call ‘the Black family curse’. His mother confessed that the family line had been cursed by a dark wizard many generations before her. The curse would befall one witch or wizard who carried the Black bloodline per generation.

His mother had acted in desperation to save her child from that fate. She used a binding ritual designed to anchor her child’s magic to another, chosen by the child’s magic, so that together they would neutralize the curse. According to her mother, finding his pair was the only way to prevent the Black family madness if he were the cursed Black of his generation.

Ari grappled with the fact that they had been destined to each other by the binding and she mourned her loss of choice. Candidly, she shared that she eventually learned that it was not how they came to be together but how they built a life together now that mattered most. She trusted in their magic which called to each other.

The last page held details of Leo’s birth and Ari’s wishes for his life.

Closing the tome, Hermione was apprehensive to see Draco’s reaction. Her mind raced with the new information; all at once, everything made sense from the first day on the train until that last kiss. The Pull, her unexplained feelings of jealousy and longing, the complete feeling of comfort in his embrace—it was all because they were connected, bound to each other.

He spoke first, breaking the silence. “I’m sorry.” His eyes met hers, looking back and forth between them, searching for something. 

Hermione was taken aback. “I don’t understand, why are you apologizing?”

“It’s my fault we’re in this mess, my blood, remember? I mean, fuck.” He ran his hands down his face, squeezing his eyes shut. “You realise what this means, right?”

Her heart pounded wildly in her chest. “It means that we are bound together, like your ancestors Ari and Pictor.” She stopped before amending, “Our magic is bound together.”

Draco blanched. “I suppose this explains how we can use each other’s wands so easily.”

“And the Pull,” she added.

“And the sparks.”

Even with years of experience in the magical world, Hermione was still amazed at the complexity of magic. Their magical cores were joined because of a family blood curse and an ancient ritual.

His family .

The walls of the massive room seemed to close in on Hermione, and she tucked her head between her knees as she inhaled through her nose and out of her mouth. His family would never accept their connection, never accept her . Their earliest interactions had been negative from his ingrained prejudice against Muggleborns—he had even called her a Mudblood.

Her shoulders dipped as she felt herself shrinking in her seat; even if he returned her feelings and kissed her like she was his lifeline, it did not change his family.

“Granger...” His hand rested tentatively on her back for a beat before he began to draw slow, soothing circles. “Are you okay?” 

“Are you disappointed that it’s me?” Hermione asked, holding her head between her hands. “I mean, I know that you kissed me but I’m still a Muggleborn. I know your family’s stance on people like me.”

Draco leaned back, exhaling a deep breath. “My family,” he muttered under his breath with disdain.

“I was raised my entire life to believe that Muggles were next to animals. That Muggleborns didn’t belong in the wizarding world and that their upbringing prevented them from contributing positively to wizarding society. That they would just dirty the bloodlines and destroy our culture.” He looked away while speaking, the words tasting bitter on his tongue.

“And then I met you.” He looked at her. “Did you know, that day on the train when you asked after Longbottom’s toad was the first real interaction that I ever had with a Muggleborn?”

Hermione shook her head, unable to imagine going her first eleven years of life completely separated from Muggles and Muggle culture.

Draco continued, “It was the first time I met a Muggleborn and you were nice. You were helping. You looked and acted like nothing I had expected.” 

He smiled softly and the sight melted her heart. “I didn’t realise it then but it was the start of everything. You changed… everything for me. You defied all that I had ever been taught about Muggles and Muggleborns. You etched away every single thing that I believed, one by one, in each moment we’ve spent together.”

“Granger, you beat me every lesson, in every class, no matter how much I studied. I had always been told that my pure blood was superior—that my magic was superior. You changed everything.”

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he grimaced. “Challenging a core belief is fucking terrifying. It tore me apart for years . I wanted nothing more than for my parents to be right because I didn’t want to think about what would happen if they were wrong.”

“I would be lying if I said that I didn’t still struggle some days. It has taken years to unlearn what I blindly accepted for the first decade of my life. I mean, I didn’t ask Pansy to the Yule Ball for her glowing personality. I want to make my parents proud and I know part of that comes with the expectation of dating and marrying a Pureblood girl.” He took her hand in his, lacing his fingers with hers.

“But if making them proud means giving you up, then it’s not worth it.” He asserted confidently. “This morning, when I couldn’t feel the connection to you, I completely lost it; I think Theo almost sent me off to St. Mungo’s. It made me realise that I never want to feel that again. Our magic chose each other, and I think we should trust that.” His thumb brushed over her hand. “Honestly, I thought you felt the Pull and saw the sparks and that you ran away because it was with me.”

“I’m not perfect. I’m not even close. But, Hermione, I’m trying. I hope that’s enough for you.”

Her eyes welled and a single tear escaped, sliding down her cheek and onto the floor. Since she had uprooted her entire life when she received her Hogwarts letter, Hermione knew how discombobulating it could feel when the world changed overnight. 

For her, the fundamental shift into the magical world had been the answer she had been looking for her entire life. It seemed infinitely more difficult to imagine unlearning generations of prejudice.

He was trying for her.

“It’s enough for me,” she assured him, brushing her hand gently through his hair, the way she had wanted to for so long; it felt soft and smooth as he leaned into the touch. 

A warm feeling of happiness settled in her chest.

He felt like home.

“I want you to know I’m not going to run. I am a Gryffindor, you know.” She chuckled at his scrunched face. “We are famously loyal and stubborn, so you’re pretty much stuck with me at this point.”

Draco dropped a kiss on her forehead in response. “I can’t stop touching you,” he admitted softly.

Holding back a coy smile, her skin rippled with tingles from his kiss. “I feel the same. I can’t believe how familiar you feel.”

“As if we have always been like this,” he finished her thought.

Hermione paused, digesting all the information that they had discovered that evening. 

“So, the rings?” she prompted. “Ari and Pictor had rings made.”

“You think we should try to find the rings?”

“Well, it’s reasonable to assume that your family must have the rings available in their ancestral vaults if they kept this tome. We should start with the rings to stabilize our magic while we figure out what this means for us,” Hermione proposed, sounding more confident than she felt. “In any case, it would be nice not to break any more dinner glasses.” 

She looked away guiltily.

Draco barked out an incredulous laugh. “That was you?! Merlin, Pansy about had a hippogriff over that…Pansy…” his eyes widened in recognition as Hermione flushed pink.

“Granger...” His eyes lit up with mirth. “Was someone jealous ?”

“Shut up and get the rings.” She folded her arms haughtily.

Draco smirked.

“Pinky!” he called out, and the elf appeared again. “I need you to get something else from the Manor.”


Narcissa Malfoy perched delicately at the edge of her seat in the family study. A book floated in front of her, the pages turning with a flick of her finger as she sipped her tea. There was a crack in the room as Pinky appeared in front of her.

Smiling slyly, she directed her attention away from the book, placing a single finger on the ornately carved box on the desk in front of her. She slid it over to Pinky who nodded once and Disapparated back to Hogwarts, rings in hand.

Chapter Text

Narcissa Malfoy had not always been an impenetrable façade of calm and elegance. As a child, she was fierce and rambunctious; she was the youngest of three sisters and, as such, demanded that her voice be heard. Her parents had enrolled her in etiquette classes by the time she could walk. 

Madame Beaumont, her instructor, was the first person to introduce Narcissa to the art of influence by subtle means rather than brashly trying to control a situation with force. The lessons from Madame Beaumont had become the guidebook to her life.

Nothing in Madame Beaumont’s lessons had prepared Narcissa for Hermione Granger.

From the first moment she laid eyes on Draco, Narcissa knew that she would use the binding ritual on him. He was so small and innocent, completely dependent on her for his every need. For nine months they had lived and breathed as one; having him in the outside world had petrified her beyond words. 

The day she brought him to King’s Cross Station for his first year at Hogwarts filled her with excitement and dread. Throughout childhood, he had met nearly every daughter of their social circle with no discernible reaction. Narcissa had never seen a proper binding match in her lifetime but she had been confident that she would know the other half of his pair when the time came.

At Hogwarts, Draco would be exposed to almost all of the eligible witches his age in Great Britain. If Draco’s match was not at Hogwarts, Narcissa had prepared several connections with other wizarding schools. After several weeks into his first year, Narcissa received a letter from Draco.

Dearest Mother,

You and father will be pleased to know that I have been sorted into the family house. I will strive to embody the traits of Slytherin during my time here. School has gone well, I received top marks on my latest exams, second in our year only to one other. Her name is Hermione Granger and I am confident I will beat her in the next round of exams. She is best mates with Harry Potter and a Weasley so she can’t be that bright. Professor Snape has been kind enough to take me under his wing. As head of Slytherin House, he has quite a bit of influence. I am excited to come home for winter holiday; I have attached a list of gifts I want. Give Father my regards.

Your son,

Draco

The letter she received from him towards the end of the year was the first to give her pause.

Dearest Mother,

Thank you for the gift of chocolates, it was nice to receive a package from home. I cannot wait to come back to the Manor for summer holiday, this school is proving itself impossible! Slytherin was in the lead to win the House Cup and that know-it-all Hermione Granger and her mates ruined it all. They are always getting into trouble with no repercussions, and it’s not fair! Just because she’s a Gryffindor doesn’t mean she can break the rules and call it bravery. Father is right, Dumbledore is going mental in his old age. Please have Pinky make those chocolate scones I love for my homecoming.

Your son,

Draco

Hermione Granger — this was the second time Draco had mentioned that name. Narcissa would ask her contact to find out more information about the girl. Granger… she pondered the surname, perhaps she is related to the Dagworth-Grangers.


It had been years since Narcissa felt panic like this; she certainly had not felt this way since before Draco was born. Collecting herself, she studied the parchment in front of her.

Name: Hermione Jean Granger

Birthday: 19 September 1979

Father: William Lee Granger

Mother: Jean Marie Granger

Blood Status: Muggleborn

The words blurred on the page as she reread that word again, black spots forming in her peripheral.

Muggleborn

Narcissa fainted.

After she came to, she had Teeney—her personal house elf—fix her tea and bring her smelling salts. When she had cast the binding ritual on her only son, she had incorrectly assumed that his magic would bind to another Pureblood’s magic. After all, from all the accounts she had read, the binding ritual was instigated by someone with Black blood but the binding itself relied on Draco’s magic. 

Somehow, for some reason, his magic had picked her and her magic had accepted his in return.

This went against everything they had raised him to believe. It was against everything Narcissa and Lucius were raised to believe. Draco’s magic was formed as a union of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and the House of Malfoy. It was unfathomable that such pure magic would find its match in a Muggleborn, not even a half-blood! Narcissa took several short breaths before forcing herself to relax.

She decided she would not pursue anything until she had actual confirmation that Hermione Granger was really his match. Silently chiding herself for reacting so early, she reasoned that they were only children. Perhaps she was someone of no consequence and this was just a childhood rivalry that he would outgrow in time.

Narcissa meticulously collected his letters over the years, easily identifying a recurring theme.

She’s doing it again, Mother! She said Father bought my way onto the Slytherin Quidditch team! She doesn’t think I’m good enough to make it on my own.’

‘Granger and the moronic Gryffindors seem to think I’m the Heir of Slytherin, not that it wouldn’t be impressive to add that to my long list of titles.’

‘I have been horribly disfigured by that vicious beast because of Hagrid, and the worst part is she took the beast’s side! I want it gone. Please talk to Father for me.’

At this point, mother’s intuition was overkill. Narcissa could see the binding working on her son in his growing infatuation with Hermione Granger.

Thirteen years ago, Narcissa had sworn she would do anything, give up anything, to save her only child. 

Would she have foregone the binding if she knew that the end result would be Hermione Granger? Narcissa spent weeks agonizing over this question, and the honest answer was that she did not know.

She thought of her sister, her confidante, who had been disowned from their family for marrying a Muggleborn. The thought of subjecting her son to the same treatment made her nauseated. Their social circle would never accept Hermione Granger; this match was setting Draco up for a life that Narcissa could no longer envision.

No, she had finally decided, nothing would be worth losing her son. She thought back to his first wobbly steps across the nursery floor, him sneaking into her bed during stormy nights or after a nightmare, that time he crashed his toy broom and broke his arm, when she and Lucius brought him to his first Quidditch match and seeing his eyes light up in delight. 

Draco was growing into a man that she was proud to have raised and she would rather watch him create a life with a Muggleborn than watch him descend into madness and lose himself in the curse.

Because of Andromeda, Narcissa knew what it was like to mourn the loss of someone still alive; she would not do the same to her son.

Peering nervously around the corner, Narcissa took a deep breath, straightened her spine, and ventured out confidently onto the streets of Muggle London. A passerby was talking into his hand, pressed up against his face. The walkways were crowded with foot traffic, and Narcissa stood frozen in place as she watched the chaos flow around her.

What peculiar clothes , she mused, taking note of the blue trousers worn by women, men, and children passing by. Self-consciously smoothing the hem of the violet Muggle dress she had borrowed from Andromeda, she continued her path. 

Narcissa did not think to convert any money into Muggle currency for this outing; in fact, she was not aware of what was even used for modern Muggle currency. Becoming wary of the crowd, most likely commuting at this time of day, Narcissa looked for somewhere to go.

A large building caught her eye — a free art museum. Summoning her confidence, she walked up the tall stairs into the gallery. Similar to wizarding galleries, the walls were lined with paintings and framed art. Dissimilar to wizarding galleries, the paintings were still. 

Narcissa paused in front of a panel painting which depicted a god, goddess, and baby satyrs. She read the plaque next to the painting; it was from 1485, created by an Italian renaissance painter.

It was slightly jarring to see the painting unmoving, but the more Narcissa watched it, the more she found herself appreciating the simplicity of the image. Behind her, an infant began to cry. She turned towards the noise, finding a young mother frantically trying to quiet her child.

The woman was sitting on the bench which faced the painting Narcissa had been viewing. She had her baby swaddled in a blanket, she was bouncing and shushing her child.  Not mollified by the movements, the baby in question became more agitated, crying louder.

“I am so sorry,” the poor woman apologized to Narcissa, looking frazzled and overwhelmed. “It’s the first time I’ve taken him out in public since he was born. I feel like I’m going stir-crazy in my flat and now he’s just crying. I don’t know why I thought I could do this alone.” Voice breaking, she blinked rapidly as she continued to rock in place.

Narcissa watched her carefully, the way she lovingly stroked her son’s head reminded Narcissa of herself and Draco. 

When Draco was a newborn, Narcissa had insisted on caring for him by herself. Lucius was appalled that she snubbed the help of their house-elves but Narcissa was adamant that she knew how to care for her baby better than anyone else would.

“You are a good mother,” Narcissa told her, joining her on the bench. “These early years are so difficult. You think you will never make it through the day, but then one by one, each day comes and goes. Before you know it, he will be grown in the blink of an eye and you will be wondering where the time went.”

The woman smiled softly at Narcissa. “Thank you, my mother lives in America and she’s so far away. Sometimes I feel lost without her. I just want to do what’s right for him. I’m petrified to make mistakes.”

“I remember that feeling well. May I?” Narcissa asked, extending her hands towards the sobbing baby boy.

“Oh, please, I’ll try anything!” The young woman placed her son in Narcissa’s arms.

Rotating the baby onto his stomach, Narcissa balanced his tummy on her forearm, cupping his head with her hand. With careful practice, she rocked him and rubbed circles into his back. The fussing slowed until it was merely small whimpers. After several minutes, he closed his eyes, enjoying the swaying motion.

His mother’s eyes filled with tears at the silence, her hand over her mouth. “Oh my god, how did you know to do that?”

Narcissa smiled kindly. “My son used to have the same problem. He would fuss and cry all night long. I finally figured out this hold when he was a few months old — after my third night in a row of no sleep.”

“You are an absolute angel, thank you.” She hugged Narcissa, who stiffened at the show of affection before patting her on the back.

“Do not doubt yourself,” Narcissa told her, handing back her baby. “You are his mother and you know what is best for him. He is lucky to have you.”

Together, in that moment, they were no longer a Muggle and a witch, but two mothers trying to do right by their sons.

Back at the Manor, Narcissa wondered how long it would take for Draco to recognise what was happening to him, if he even realised anything was amiss. After years of stories, Narcissa was quite keen to meet the brilliant, top-of-her-class, trouble-finding, best mate of Harry Potter, the Muggleborn witch who had enraptured her son.


Each year, Narcissa looked for Hermione Granger at King’s Cross, hoping to catch a glimpse of her with no success. Finally, the summer before Draco’s fourth year, Narcissa finally met the girl.

Though she was not particularly a fan of Quidditch, Narcissa did attend the occasional game as Draco loved the sport. When Lucius surprised Draco with Top Box seats for the Quidditch World Cup, gifted by the minister after a donation to St. Mungo’s, she knew she would attend just to see her son’s excitement. They sent Teeney ahead of time to save their seats.

By the time they arrived, the arena was packed with a roaring crowd. The box was full except for their seats, which were being guarded by Teeney.

She noticed Draco’s reaction to Hermione before she recognised the girl. Narcissa watched her son glare at the two boys standing close to her, crossing his arms defensively. Trying to observe them indirectly, she wondered if Draco noticed the immediate changes in his body language around her, as if he were hyper-aware of her presence.

As the crowd began to ramp up in energy and noise, Narcissa saw the two boys next to Hermione Granger trying to jump over the balcony with their arms outstretched. The Bulgarian National Team had brought Veelas for mascots, and Narcissa suppressed a laugh. Their dance was enticing the men and women in the stands to flock to them unless they were not attracted to the female form or their hearts were already taken by another.

At that thought, Narcissa looked up sharply, realising that Draco was still sitting in his seat, unfazed by the Veela. Even if he was completely unaware, at least a small part of Draco was already taken with Hermione Granger.

The girl in question was presently reprimanding the two boys for losing control around the Veela. It was obvious from the way she held herself that Hermione was a tenacious witch, self-assured with a dash of that ferocity that Narcissa herself had in her youth. 

As Madame Beaumont had done for Narcissa, so Narcissa could do for Hermione.

Narcissa smiled, secretly eyeing her future daughter-in-law. As far as Muggleborns went, Narcissa was starting to like this one.

 

Chapter Text

Draco snapped the wooden box shut, holding two gold rings in his hand.

“Pictor’s mother cast the binding on her son. Do you think it was my mother who did this to us?” Draco swallowed hard, fidgeting with the rings.

“I don’t know, the journal never said it had to be the mother but it could’ve been her. Did you know about the Black curse?”

He shook his head. “No, but that’s not uncommon. Sacred Twenty-Eight families value their pure blood above almost anything else. These are people who hide away squibs and burn them off the family tree. They would never willingly admit to having a blood curse tainting the line. It doesn’t surprise me that the journal is so old; I can’t imagine anyone actually documenting a curse anymore.”

“How can a blood curse stay in a family so long?” Hermione asked. “Isn’t that something a curse breaker could fix?”

“A bloodline curse can’t be broken with a curse breaker because the original incantation usually involves loads of dark magic and more than a few human sacrifices, including that of the caster,” Draco explained. “Rumour has it the Greengrasses have a wicked blood curse on their line dated back several generations but no one speaks of it outside of whispered rumours.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows in surprise. Pureblood culture seemed so foreign to her.

“So, Granger—” Draco selected the smaller of the two bands and offered it to her “—you are the first woman to whom I have presented jewellery.”

“Oh, I’m honoured,” she quipped, taking the band from him. She started with her thumb and tried it on each finger, but it was too large, sliding right off. When she tried her ring finger, the band shrunk and adjusted to size.

Inspecting the thin gold band, she felt a sense of relief; it was dainty and exactly her usual style. If any of her friends asked why she was wearing jewellery that looked like a wedding band, she could shrug it off fairly easily as a gift from her mum. Flexing his hand, Draco stared at his own band glinting in the glow from the fireplace.

“Do you feel any different?” she asked, rolling her shoulders experimentally.

“Yeah, it actually feels quite pleasant.” Draco focused on the new sensation — where he had felt the Pull before, he could now feel their combined magic pulsing.“I’ve felt so off-kilter lately. It’s like I’ve suddenly regained my balance. I don’t feel like I’ll break any desks right now,” he joked sheepishly.

“That was you?” A laugh bubbled up from her chest and she shook her head in amusement.. “God, aren’t we a pair! These rings must be powerful to be able to stabilize magic; I wonder what the potential implications are for underage children and if we could—”

“I don’t think they stabilize magic, per se,” Draco interjected. “I think they harness our bond.”

“They act as a conduit for our bond, allowing us to directly connect with each other which, in turn, stabilizes our magic,” she finished, following his thought process.

“We haven’t really talked about how you feel about the bond.” Draco fidgeted in his seat. “Are you…I mean do you…” He fumbled over what to say next before looking at her helplessly.

Hermione shifted closer to him, taking his hand in hers, their rings clacking together.

“It’s terrifying,” she exhaled, “and exciting. Honestly, more than anything, it’s just an utter relief to put words to what I have felt for years. I’m not about to say I’m in love or anything, but if it had to be anyone, I’m glad it’s you.”

“I think it’s always been you, Granger,” he said softly.

Her heart skipped a beat.

“When you say stuff like that, I get nervous. How much of this is you and how much is it the bond making you feel this way?” she questioned, twisting her band around her finger apprehensively.

He seemed confused by her question. “Hermione,” he started, rolling her given name across his tongue as if he was savouring it. “How could this be anything but me? You are my perfect match. Out of everyone in the world, my magic picked you .”

“And mine picked you.” 

Before her mind could catch up with her body, Hermione was falling into Draco. Her lips pressed against his, hungrily capturing them. When he deepened the kiss, his tongue teasing against the seam of her lips, she felt a flutter in her chest. Parting her lips, she stroked her tongue against his experimentally, trying to learn what he liked from his reactions as they kissed.

Hermione whimpered, her hand tugging his hair softly, pulling Draco closer to her. Gripping her waist, his body pressed up against hers, trying to close the gap between them. His soft lips moved down, placing a single kiss on her neck, and she arched into him, shivering from the touch.

“Granger—” he pulled back suddenly “—we should stop.” His hands tightened on her waist, as if his body disagreed with his words.

Leaning her head back on the sofa, she groaned, “You’re right. Why do you have to be right?”

“If it makes you feel any better, I hate myself,” he offered as she swatted him playfully.

“To be honest, I don’t have much experience with this kind of thing—” she gestured between them “—or any experience really. Does it always feel like this?”

“No, Granger.” He cupped her cheek and brushed his thumb across her lower lip. “It’s never like this.”


Draco was tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep. Throwing his hands over his head in frustration, he lamented his actions earlier in the day. Eleven-year-old Draco would never forgive him for putting a stop to the snogging. Even now, he was angry at himself.

Tap tap.

A noise caught his attention, followed by a low knock at his door. Pushing the covers off, he wondered who would visit at this hour. Theo had stopped by on occasion but his knock was loud and distinct. Opening the door, he popped his head out into the empty corridor, looking around curiously.

A shadowed figure stood behind him in his room, and his heart rate jumped in shock.

“Granger!” Draco gaped at the figure, rubbing his blurry eyes, thinking he was dreaming the scene before him. Hermione Granger was standing in his room, nervously clutching an Invisibility Cloak. She was wearing a thin-strapped tank top, striped cotton shorts, and fuzzy slippers—obviously her Muggle pyjamas.

Hermione suddenly looked self-conscious under his stare. She shuffled in place.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted, closing her eyes in embarrassment. “I just thought that maybe you were having trouble sleeping too. This was a bad idea, I should go.”

“Granger,” Draco called as he made his way back to the bed, capturing her attention.

Pulling back the bedcovers on the opposite side of the bed, Draco climbed in and gestured for her to join him. With a shy smile, Hermione slid under the covers, sinking into the bed. She sighed deeply — his silk bedding felt like heaven.

“I couldn’t sleep either,” he assured her, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her back towards him. Her whole body moulded against him. Through her sleepy thoughts, she realised how well they fit together, like they were made to be one. 

In the dark room, her eyes slowed their blinks until she fell into a deep sleep.


When she woke, her whole body was cocooned in warmth. 

Hermione nuzzled closer to the comfortable heat. A large hand wrapped around her torso, just under the curve of her breast. Sleepily arching her back, she let out a low groan of contentment. Draco felt divine.

Draco.

She opened her eyes.

Her movement had woken Draco, who seemed to be coming out of a tired daze as well.

“Hi, sleepy,” she whispered, rotating her body to face him.

He smiled widely, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Good morning, Granger,” he whispered back.

Hermione’s stomach filled with flutters as she studied him. First thing in the morning, his hair was messy and his grey eyes slowly blinked with exhaustion. She found herself staring as he stretched but kept his arm wrapped around her. 

Morning Draco was her favourite Draco yet.   

“Draco,” Hermione started, languidly tracing a finger along his arm and shoulder. “What do you want to do after Hogwarts?”

“I haven’t given it much thought yet,” he admitted. “The plan has always been to go into the family business, I suppose.”

“What’s the family business?”

“Being outrageously rich and devastatingly handsome.” He smirked as she rolled her eyes in response. “Taking over the family business means my life will consist of attending boring investment meetings, hosting society events, and watching the interest in the Malfoy Gringotts vault grow.”

She frowned. “But what do you want to do?”

“Perhaps research, I do love research. I suppose in another life I could have lived happily as potioneer, in development or trying to improve existing processes. Or possibly take a master apprenticeship.”

Hermione sat straight up, eyes alight with excitement. “Draco, you would make a wonderful potioneer! You’ve always excelled in class and Snape loves you. Well, actually, he tolerates you more than anyone else and that’s the closest I’ve ever seen him to affection. I’m sure he would put in a reference for you for an apprenticeship.”

Draco gently pushed her shoulder back down until she tucked herself under his arm again.

“It feels nonsensical to even discuss. It’s not as if it’s ever been a choice. I don’t know anyone who has grown up with my familial obligations and was able to choose their spouse or career. I don’t think about what I would want because pursuing a want is a privilege I will never have.” He ran his fingers slowly through her hair, agitating the curls.

“That’s so sad,” she replied, her voice small.

“That, my dear Granger, is the life of a Pureblood heir,” he stated without emotion, removing his hand from her hair.

They laid in comfortable silence for several minutes before she picked his hand up and placed it back on her head, scrunching his fingers for him. With a chuckle that rumbled against her cheek, he took the hint and massaged her scalp with his fingertips. Hermione rolled her head back and forth practically purring.

Through a smile he asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re like a cat?”

Hermione sat up abruptly, throwing his hand off her head. “What did Harry tell you?” she demanded.

Draco’s eyes widened craftily. “Harry told me everything,” he blatantly lied in an attempt to get more information.

She glowered at him, poking a finger into his chest. “I’ll have you know that was one time in second year, Madam Pomfrey fixed it, and no, I’m not going to talk about it.”

“Okay, I’m going to save that one for later, because we are definitely going to talk about that, but as much as I hate to say it, we have class in an hour,” Draco pointed out, glancing at the time.

“I really should sneak out before your whole Common Room is awake and someone catches me,” she commented, making no move to leave the bed.

“Or we could just live here and have Pinky bring us endless food and books,” he proposed nonchalantly.

Hermione laughed. “You’re much too high maintenance for that.”  She begrudgingly separated their limbs before climbing out of the soft bed. “I’ll see you in class.” 

“Oh, Granger, the room next to us is Theo’s. He’s always up early, so try to be quiet when you are walking by his door,” Draco warned. “Theo would never leave you alone if he knew you spent the night here.”

She winked before pulling on the Invisibility Cloak, slipping silently out his door. Hermione took two steps into the hallway before sputtering to a stop, having almost collided with someone else.

With a gasp, her mouth fell open in shock. “Harry?!” She pulled the Invisibility Cloak down to expose her head.

Jumping nervously, Harry caught himself and feigned indifference. “Oh. Good morning, Hermione.”

Recoiling, she repeated, “ Good morning, Hermione? We run into each other in the Slytherin dungeons and that is how you greet me?”

Eying the door behind her, his lips spread in a self-satisfied grin. “Is that Malfoy’s room?”

Brows raised, she retorted, “Are we going to gloss over the fact that you’re sneaking out of Theo’s room before dawn?”

“It’s not sneaking , I’ll have you know that we were working on a project together and had to be up early to finish it,” he declared.

Hermione scrunched her nose. “We are in all the same classes and we don’t have any projects this week. The only upcoming work is in Charms and Theo isn’t even in our class. Also, your shirt buttons are misaligned.” 

Harry blinked. “Don’t tell Ron? Please?”

Looking to Draco’s door and back to Harry, Hermione pulled the cloak back to make room for another body.

She nodded in agreement. “Don’t tell Ron.”


The next night, Draco was sitting in his bed trying to read a book. ‘Trying’ was the operative word, because with every noise he heard outside the room, his eyes jumped up to the door. For the past ten minutes, he had been trying to read the same paragraph; he could not focus on the words, wondering if Hermione was going to come again tonight.

Just when he was about to give up and go to sleep, he heard a soft tapping on his door. His face spread into a wide smile, but he made himself wait two beats before hopping out of bed and swinging the door open. There was a swish of air around him paired with the sound of footsteps. Closing the door again, he reached out into the space in front of him, grasping at air.

There was a kiss on his right cheek, he spun to the right; he felt a kiss on his left cheek, spinning to the left he heard a voice sing out, “Over here!”

Whipping around, he hooked an arm around the space in front of him, picking up a giggling Hermione and swinging her around. The cloak slid down around her and she became visible.

“How’d you know it was me?” she teased, draping the cloak over his wardrobe.

“I’d know you anywhere, Granger.” He took her hand as she walked backwards, guiding him back into bed with her.


Sneaking into Draco’s room after hours became a nightly ritual for Hermione. Each night, she would go into her dormitory, bid her dormmates goodnight, and close the curtains to her four-poster bed. After their breathing slowed, she would slip out under the Invisibility Cloak.

The more time she spent with Draco, the more difficult it became to sleep alone. There was something comforting about the other’s presence each night; though they often stayed up too late talking, Hermione usually felt more awake after a late night with Draco than a full night’s sleep by herself.

Currently, Hermione was sitting criss-cross on Draco’s bed as they shared a large tray of breakfast food procured by Pinky.

“I still can’t believe you Slytherins get private dorms.” Hermione threw a piece of toast at him.

“We literally live in a dungeon, just give us this,” he laughed, grabbing a handful of blueberries and tossing them onto her.

Gasping in mock outrage, she shook the berries out of her hair before picking up her fruit cup and hurling pieces at him. Playfully tackling her to the bed, he knocked the tray of food across the sheets and floor as she laughed hysterically.

“Dra…Drac…DRACO!” she wheezed, clutching her torso with laughter as his hands skimmed over her sides, pinning her to the bed beneath him.

Relenting, Draco dropped a quick kiss on her lips. Hermione’s cheeks were flushed pink, her chest rising and falling with heavy breaths.

“You realise you have to clean this up now.” She propped herself up on her elbows, pointedly staring at the breakfast that was now smashed into the duvet.

With a cocky smirk, he retorted, “You realise I have a house-elf, right?”

Hermione gaped at him. “Draco Malfoy! You will not—”

“Pinky!” Draco called. “Please clean up this mess.”

Pinky appeared with a pop and began to levitate the food.

“No,” Hermione interjected forcefully. “Pinky, stop, don’t enable him. We can clean it up.”

Pinky faltered, the food pausing in mid-air.

Looking cautiously between Hermione and Draco, he finally agreed, “Yes, Miss Hermione.” Pinky bowed to her and the food lowered back down.

“Did he just accept an instruction from me?” Hermione asked, her voice raised in panic.

“Granger,” Draco said, still staring at Pinky, “I think it’s about time we paid a visit to my mother.”

Chapter Text

“How exactly do you know about this passageway again?” Draco asked as Hermione led him through the One-Eyed-Witch Passage out of Hogwarts.

Hermione waved a hand nonchalantly. “Harry, he has this map, it’s a long story.” She climbed out of the passage and into the cellar of Honeydukes.

“Should we get sweets while we’re here?” she asked, eyeing the sugar quills with interest.

“Let’s purchase some on the way back. There’s a fireplace nearby connected to the Floo Network that can get us to the Manor.” Draco led her out of the sweets shop and into the streets of Hogsmeade.

Wrapping the hood of her cloak around her head, she tried to avoid the attention of nearby shoppers. She and Draco both had distinct features that could break their cover and, if caught, they would have to craft excuses for why they had snuck out of school. Looping around the corner, they paused in front of a set of public fireplaces.

Draco let Hermione go in first into the rightmost fireplace. “We have wards up to prevent unwanted visitors at the Manor but since you’re coming with me, you’ll be able to pass through,” he explained under his breath.

“Malfoy Manor.” Draco tossed a pinch of Floo Powder and the pair disappeared with a puff of green smoke.


Dusting off her robes, Hermione stepped into what looked like a sitting room. The reception room was as big as the dormitory she shared with four other Gryffindors. It had a large storage area for cloaks and outerwear, two cream loveseats, a pair of bergère chairs, and a small round table holding a vase of pink camellias in full bloom.

Taking her hand in his, he gave an encouraging smile. “Ready?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied honestly. “Even if she was the one who cast the binding ritual on you, there’s no way she intended you to bind to a Muggleborn.” Fear gripped at her heart. “Honour killings aren’t a thing in Pureblood culture, right?”

“She can’t hurt you without hurting me,” Draco replied. “She would never harm you.”

With a big push, he opened the large wooden door into a brightly lit, immaculate hallway. The floors were made of a rich mahogany, decorative art and portraits lined the walls. Her mouth fell open and stayed open while she looked around, taking in the artful décor of each meticulously curated room they passed.

“Oh my god, Draco,” Hermione marveled. “I knew your family was rich, but I kind of assumed it was mostly for show. I always thought it was an empty threat, you know, the whole ‘my father will hear about this’ spiel.” She mimicked his pattern of speech from their younger years.

The corner of his lips curved into a smirk. “The Manor was a gift from William the Conqueror to Armand Malfoy in 1066.” He gave his best tour-guide impression as they rounded a corner, stating, “On your right is an original Moreau with a refurbished frame. If you’ll look to your left, you’ll see my hag of a great aunt tormenting the world from beyond the grave.”

Hermione stifled a laugh as the portrait in question shrieked in offense.

“She can move directly into the portrait in my father’s study. When I was a child, she used to spy on me and tattle to Father whenever I misbehaved,” Draco clarified, “which was practically never—I was an angel.”

The clicking of heels bounced down the hall towards the pair.

“He most certainly was no angel, Miss Granger. Do not let him fool you.” Narcissa Malfoy walked up to Hermione, surprising her with a light kiss on both cheeks. “Welcome to our home. Please, follow me, Teeney is preparing tea as we speak.”

Hermione’s mouth was still open as Narcissa turned, leading them down yet another hallway.

Draco gently leaned over, closing her mouth by pushing a finger against the bottom of her jaw. “See, that wasn’t so bad. The tea won’t be poisoned,” he assured her in a whisper. “At least I’m mostly convinced it won’t be.”

Mostly convinced?!” Hermione mouthed back silently, her eyes wide in horror.

There were three teacups on the table next to a sugar bowl and jug of milk. In the middle of the table, a three-tier stand stuffed with finger sandwiches and scones, jars of butter, honey, and three types of jam was on display.

“Do not worry, Miss Granger, the Malfoys stopped poisoning back in the sixteenth century; it gets much too messy,” Narcissa assured her with a coy look.

Hermione’s cheeks pinkened in embarrassment. “Please, call me Hermione.”

“Mother,” Draco spoke to Narcissa for the first time since arriving. “I assume you know why we are here.”

Narcissa’s eyes flickered down to the ring on Draco’s hand. “Yes, I do believe I owe you two some answers.”

Making her way to the far end of the room, Narcissa selected a framed image from the table near the window. It was a moving photograph of three girls holding each other and giggling with delight. Narcissa placed her hand affectionately over the girl on the far left; she had midnight black curly hair and eyes so dark they almost looked black. Her countenance looked soft, youthful, and kind; she looked carefree.

“This is Bella—” Narcissa handed the picture to Hermione “—my sister.”

Taking the frame, Hermione inspected the girls.

“She has not been Bella for quite some time. It was not until she was sixteen that we started recognising the signs of the blood curse in her. It was as if her very soul was being corrupted from the inside out.”

Tea magically filled the cups as Narcissa took a seat at the head of the small table. Narcissa stirred a single spoonful of sugar into her tea, placing her spoon down before continuing.

“Bella had such a kind soul before… She was the best of us all. She was the sister who picked wildflowers and sang along with the birds, who cried when our cat broke his leg, who would braid our hair and sneak us sweets. When I had trouble sleeping, she would stay up with me for hours and read me stories until I fell asleep. I wish I had known then how little time we had left with her as Bella.”

Draco took Hermione’s hand under the table, squeezing it lightly.

Narcissa looked mournfully at the picture. “Once the first symptom appeared, it was less than a year before she devolved into complete mania; she spent days arguing with people who were not there and had horrific nightmares. We would come home and she would be in her room screaming, pulling out her hair, and ripping the skin off her arms with her fingernails. She told me it felt as if her blood was sick.”

“One day, we found her scavenging the family archives for answers and she discovered the journal that Pinky brought you. She recognised the blood curse manifesting in herself, and she tried to bind her magic to Rodolphus to counteract it, but her magic rejected him in a horrific and painful display. We think the failed binding was the catalyst because she came apart so quickly after that.” Narcissa repressed a shudder at the memory.

“From that moment on, she was nothing like my sweet Bella — she was cold and calculating Bellatrix. We caught her torturing animals in the yard and draining their blood, convinced that bathing in it would heal her. We tried so many things, but nothing ever helped ease her torment. During an episode in which she was unusually irate, she disappeared. We searched her room the next day and she had left without a word of goodbye.” 

Narcissa sighed. “We did not see Bellatrix for years after that. By that time, she had joined the Dark Lord. She was seduced into his following because he called to her poisoned soul, her broken magic, and he promised to make her whole again.”

Hermione spoke up, “Mrs. Malfoy, why did you bind Draco as an infant if he could have done the binding ritual as an adult?”

“Please, call me Narcissa,” she insisted. “We are practically family, after all.”

Draco inhaled part of his tea in surprise, coughing loudly.

Narcissa glared at Draco as he gasped for air. “I saw what a broken binding did to Bella, but I could not sit by and just hope that Draco could find a better match himself. If I let Draco live his life unbound like Bella, he would have been able to choose his pair but then it was possible he might never have found you, never have found anyone whose magic was compatible enough to bind with his. The magic of an infant is more pliable.”

After a pause, Narcissa elaborated. “By binding him as an infant, your magic had the chance to grow together, to intertwine in a way that is not possible as an adult. Your magic pulls together because it knows the other as well as it knows itself. You have been connected for as long as you have shared this earth.”

“As your magic grew, you influenced the other’s magic, as well. You must have noticed the signs over the years. The binding does more than just anchor his magic to your healthy magic to counteract the curse. It joins you at your very essence; in each other, you will find something you could never find alone or with another.” She took a delicate sip of tea.

“Pinky listened when Hermione gave him a command, is that because of how our magic is joined?” Draco asked, sharing a look with Hermione.

Narcissa nodded. “Yes, the magic of a house-elf is bound to the magic of a family. Magic which now includes Hermione’s, due to the bond.”

“Is the binding dark magic?” Hermione asked quietly, afraid of the answer.

“It is not dark magic, but it is perhaps a bit grey,” she admitted. “Lucius and I… We struggled to stay pregnant. When I finally had Draco in my arms, I knew I would do anything to spare him the fate of my family’s curse. He was my one and only. What mother could sit idly by, knowing the odds?”

Hermione listened silently, taking in Narcissa’s words. She knew her own mum would do anything for her. Perhaps she would have done the same in Narcissa’s position.

“Not that I’m complaining, but Mother, why are you so okay right now? I thought you would be horrified and distraught that…” Draco hesitated, searching for the right words.

“That I’m Muggleborn,” Hermione supplied.

“Yes, that.” Narcissa pursed her lips into a thin line. “I struggled with it for years, candidly speaking. Above all, I want my son sane and happy. The only way he can have both is with you. I would not have picked you for my son, but by all accounts, I can see why his magic selected you.”

“Wait, you struggled for years ? When did you figure out his bond was with me?” Hermione asked, nonplussed.

“Oh, I figured that out years ago.” Narcissa waved a hand impatiently. “It was never a question. Frankly, his infatuation with you was embarrassingly obvious. My son wrote about you in every letter home from Hogwarts.”

Patches of pink tinged his pale cheeks as he looked at his mother with an expression of betrayal. “No, Mother, not every letter.”

Narcissa raised a single brow, taking another sip of tea.

Draco turned to Hermione. “It wasn’t every letter.”

With a quick, condescending pat of his hand, Hermione assured him, “I’m sure it wasn’t, dear.”

“I kept all the letters, if you are curious,” Narcissa offered.

“Please, no.” Draco hid his face in his hands.

“Please, yes!” Hermione exclaimed in delight.

“I also have a book of baby pictures and quite a few childhood stories prepared, if you are interested.”

“Narcissa,” Hermione replied, buttering a scone. “I could not possibly be more interested.”

 “This is the worst day of my life,” Draco groaned into his hands.

Of all the ways Hermione had considered the day would go, sitting with a beaming Narcissa and pouting Draco in the Manor parlour and sipping tea was not on the list.

“…and this is the time we caught Draco in the kitchens, at midnight, trying to make himself chocolate biscuits and terrorizing the poor house-elves.” Narcissa fondly smoothed the picture and turned it towards Hermione. A young Draco was sitting on the countertop of an exceptionally large kitchen, pouting at the camera and then at the floor, covered in flour and chocolate.

“Pinky wouldn’t give me any sweets,” Draco grumbled to himself, his arms folded over his chest.

“This one is my favorite. It is from a gala we hosted when he was four years old. We had put him to bed hours before, but he sneaked out and ran into the ballroom. Imagine my horror when I realised he had left his trousers in his room! Lucius paid handsomely for this picture so it would not make the gossip columns.” Narcissa chuckled at the memory, Hermione peering over her shoulder to watch the bare legs of four-year-old Draco running free through a room of horrified and amused guests.

“Why couldn’t you have just disowned me? Why this, Mother, why this?” Draco’s head was in his hands again.

“Oh, hush now, I have waited years for this moment.” Narcissa smiled slyly at Hermione. “I almost forgot, let me tell you about the time I found Draco in my wardrobe wearing my pearls and heels.” 

Draco’s gasp of horror filled the room.


After a full tier of food was consumed and the tea ran cold, Hermione and Draco realised they should return to school before their absence was noticed.

“There is another matter I need to speak with you about,” Narcissa said somberly. “Though I have recently evolved in my opinions of Muggleborns, you are well aware that is not the case for many of those in our inner circle.”

Draco and Hermione nodded, her meaning sinking in.

“You mean Father.” Draco’s brow furrowed in annoyance.

“Among others, but yes, your father would not approve. I remember what it is like to be young and in love,” Narcissa brushed over the word as Draco and Hermione blushed furiously, “but I am sorry to have to ask that you do not share the terms of your relationship with others.”

“What? You’re asking us to sneak around together and lie to everyone?” Draco’s voice raised in anger.

“Draco, you must realise that being bound to you makes her a target for those who hold less than desirable opinions about Muggleborns. You honestly think that you can just waltz into school, hand-in-hand, and not face repercussions of more radicalised Pureblood families? She would be in danger constantly. There is no way you could protect her every second of every day for the next three years.” Narcissa’s voice took on a tone of finality.

“She’s right.” Hermione swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. “It’s not just my life in danger, either. I can’t imagine you would exactly be welcomed in Slytherin with open arms after publicly claiming me as your...” her voice trailed off.

“I never wished this for you.” Narcissa’s eyes fell to her hands. “For what it is worth, I am glad that he has you, Hermione.”

The pair left the Manor in silence, absorbing the details from their visit.

Passing through Honeydukes and descending into the cellar passageway, Draco broke the silence.

“I don’t want to hide this, Granger,” he said bitterly.

“I don’t either, but your mother is right. Do you remember Goyle trying to curse me during our school assignment? He’s in the class , Draco, and his first instinct was still that we were legitimately fighting. It’s easier for people to believe that we are at odds than to accept we are working together. It will keep us safe to let people think that is still true,” Hermione reasoned.

 Draco clenched his jaw, tucking his hands in his pockets.

“Don’t be upset.” Hermione stopped mid-step, wrapping her hand around his arm. “That doesn’t change anything between us. Whatever this is, I still want it. I still want you.”

He looked her up and down, taking a step towards her as she took a step back. “You want me, Granger?” he asked, his voice suddenly low and husky as he took another step forward.

“I…” she was cut off by the feel of his lips on hers, soft and demanding.

Draco closed the space between them with a final step, holding her between him and the passage wall. He parted her thighs with his leg, pressing up against her. Whimpering into his mouth at the contact, she found herself rolling her hips towards him. His hand slowly moved up to her waist, her skin burning at the contact.

“Because I want you—all of you.” He cupped her cheek and placed a kiss on her forehead. “And I want everyone to know that you’re mine.”

Her breath hitched, caught in her throat by the word.

Mine.

“Let’s get back to school, Granger.” He turned back to their path, the rocks of the passageway crunching under his shoes.

Hermione was still bracing herself against the wall, her legs weak and her waist still heated from his touch. Pressing the back of her hands against her heated cheeks, she tried to will them to return to a normal colour.

Three more years.

She had no idea how she was supposed to spend three more years of school pretending that she was not falling in love with Draco Malfoy.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The next day, Ron was having a lie-in and uncharacteristically skipped breakfast. It was the first time Hermione and Harry had been alone together since the run-in in the Slytherin dungeons.

“So,” Hermione started, stirring berries into her morning porridge. “You and Theo.”

“So,” Harry mimicked. “You and Draco.”

“When did this happen?”

With a noncommittal shrug, he smirked. “It’s been some time.”

“Since the Yule Ball?”

“Before the Yule Ball.”

“Since before this year?”

Dramatic as ever, Harry sighed. “Yes, Hermione, since before this year. We started an informal club to commiserate after you and Malfoy were so painfully obvious in your pining. We called it the ‘complain of classmates knowingly’ club since we knew you two fancied each other, and we wanted to complain.”

“The entire foundation of your relationship with Theo came about from complaining about Draco and me?” Hermione balked.

“Yes, it turns out we are quite good at it. Among other things,” he added, taking a bite of toast.

“Wait—the name of your club is cock ?”

“Not cock,” he corrected. “It’s C.O.C.K.,”

Hermione moved her breakfast plate aside, laying her forehead on the table in defeat; it was seven in the morning and she was already ready to give up on the day.


“I’ve been doing a bit of light reading.” Hermione pulled off the Invisibility Cloak as she stepped further into Draco’s room. “And I need to borrow your ring.”

Draco fiddled with the band on his finger out of habit. He had not taken it off at all and he was not keen to see how his magic would behave without it. 

Sensing his hesitation, she gave a small smile. “You can keep it on, but I need your hand.” 

She reached out expectantly, holding his hand still.

Pulling out her wand, Hermione began, explaining as she muttered incantations.

“I was looking ahead—we are only a few years away from NEWTs after all—and I found this in the Charms section. It’s called a Protean Charm. If my theory is correct, I can use it on our rings for us to communicate with each other. When you send me a message, my ring will heat up and your message will appear.. I’ve already set mine up, and now yours is ready.” Hermione stepped back, testing it out.

“Woah, that feels weird,” Draco commented, looking down at the band which was warm to the touch.

The words Hi love were now inscribed into his band. The message faded.

Draco gave her a wicked grin. “You have to teach me how to do that!”

Moments later, Hermione’s band warmed with his first message to her.

Cute arse . She smacked his arm lightly in faux offense.

His band warmed with her reply; I know.

Laughing, he said, “This is going to be fun.”

“I haven’t told anyone about the bond. Harry assumes we just fancy each other, but I think he’s the only one,” Hermione said, thinking through a list of people she interacted with frequently. “Though I do think Ginny suspects there’s something going on with me. She’s pretty intuitive and asked me why I’ve been so happy lately.”

A smug smirk spread across his cheeks. “And just why have you been so happy lately, Granger?”

Hermione rolled her eyes in response. “Have you told anyone?”

“No, not about the bond. Theo definitely knows we are seeing each other, and Blaise has teased me about you for years so who knows what he has picked up on recently.”

“Theodore Nott is in the Sacred Twenty-Eight, isn’t he?” Hermione asked warily.

“His father is like my father, but I trust Theo with my life. He isn’t his father, and he doesn’t believe in blood purity ideals. Theo’s been trying to get me to talk to you for years, and he’s my best mate, so I know for a fact he won’t tell anyone about us,” Draco said with confidence.

“Well, that makes this easy then. I think it’s okay if our closest friends know we are together, but we shouldn’t tell them about the bond just yet. It’ll be difficult to meet in the castle without others seeing us, which means we might have to stick to meeting in your dorm for a while,” Hermione reasoned.

“Oh no,” Draco feigned disappointment. “I suppose if there’s no other way but to have a beautiful witch alone with me in my room every night, I’ll make the sacrifice.”

Hermione shook her head in amusement. “I really should cast a Notice-Me-Not Charm on the rings.” She faltered, looking down at the band. “That way our classmates don’t wonder why we are sharing a matching set of rings.”

“It's going to be okay,” he assured her, taking her hand in his. “In a few years, we can tell anyone you like, or we don’t have to tell anyone at all. We can do whatever you want. Just say the word and we can run away together, buy an island or something.”

“Only one island? I suppose I can downsize,” Hermione teased. “If you toss in a library, we’ll talk.”

“Deal.” He kissed her hand to seal it. “One island and one library coming right up.”


Hermione walked into Potions with Harry and Ron the next day, noticing Draco and Theo sitting together on the other side of the room. The two were having what appeared to be a serious discussion, Theo’s head leaned in close to Draco’s as he talked. Draco looked tense, his shoulders tight, and he was chewing on the inside of his cheek. Theo looked up at Hermione, his eyes unreadable, and turned back to Draco.

“There they are!” Pansy giggled as she thrust a magazine into Hermione’s hands. “You might find something to interest you in there, Granger!”

Hermione frowned, looking down at the publication, Witch Weekly.

Harry Potter’s Secret Heartache

Next to the article title was a picture of Harry, Hermione, and Krum, taken after the second task when Viktor pulled Hermione from the Black Lake and Harry greeted her—they had cropped Ron out.

Hermione tried to focus on the lesson, but she was infuriated by the details of the article. Rita Skeeter was accusing her of chasing after rich and famous boys, of using love potions on Harry and Viktor, and greatly exaggerating Viktor’s affections for her. 

She eyed Draco from across the room; he was staring straight ahead, his jaw clenched in annoyance.


“Did he really ask you to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer holiday?” Draco questioned her as soon as she stepped into his room that night.

“Hello to you, too.” Hermione folded the Invisibility Cloak and placed it on the trunk at the foot of his bed.

Waiting for her to reply, Draco folded his arms over his chest..

“Yes, okay, after he pulled me from the Black Lake and got rid of the shark head, he asked me to visit. I told him I appreciated the offer but that I already had plans,” Hermione disclosed with a casual shrug.

He looked annoyed with her confirmation.

“Why did the article upset you so much? Everything Rita Skeeter writes is rubbish,” Hermione asked, displeased with his demeanour.

“I just don’t like finding out that another bloke asked my girlfriend to visit him at home during the summer holidays from a gossip magazine,” Draco huffed.

“Your girlfriend ?” Hermione teased.

My girlfriend,” he repeated before pausing. “You are my girlfriend, right?” He suddenly sounded nervous, running his hand through his hair.

Hermione gnawed on her lip, her nerves showing. “We don’t have to just because of the bond...I mean, if you don’t want to, I understand.”

His eyes widened and he stepped closer. “No—I mean, yes—I mean, Merlin, this is difficult. No, we don’t have to because of the bond, but yes I want to.” He paused before clarifying, “Date you, that is.”

“You aren’t worried you’ll want out? Want someone else?” The questions sprang free before she realised she did not want the answers.

“I don’t want anyone else,” he replied, his voice deepening.

A wide smile bloomed across her cheeks. “In that case, yes, anything for my boyfriend.” Shifting onto the tips of her toes, she kissed his lips.

“So, do you?” He pulled away, looking uneasy.

“Do I what?”

“Have plans over the summer holiday?”

“I was just going to go home, I suppose.” Hermione shrugged her shoulders.

“Come home with me,” he said, wrapping his arms around her waist. “Come spend the summer with me at the Manor.”

Raising her eyebrows skeptically, she asked, “What about your father? I highly doubt he would be open to hosting a Muggleborn in his home for an entire summer.”

“I’ll write to Mother; we will figure it out. Say you’ll come with me, even if it’s only for a week. I can’t stand the thought of spending the entire summer without you.” He tucked a loose curl behind her ear.

Hermione nodded, thinking back to the endless hallways and large rooms of the Manor. “If you can spare the room, I’ll come.”

“We might have to rearrange a little to find the space, but we will make do. We only have thirty-three guest rooms so it might be tight,” Draco quipped.

“And a library?”

“Two libraries,” Draco amended, making her eyes light up.

“I’ll be there,” she said. “For the libraries, of course.” 


That night, Pinky delivered a tray of tea and bite-sized cakes and disappeared with a pop.

“Draco, why does Pinky have such nice clothes?” Hermione asked, staring at the corner Pinky had been standing. “The other house-elves I’ve seen have had various wardrobes, but Dobby came from your family and he wore a pillowcase.”

“Well, Dobby was a Malfoy house-elf. When the magic of two families comes together in the union of marriage, they bring their households together. Dobby came from my father’s family, Teeney and Pinky came from my mother’s family.”

He continued, “House-elves clothe themselves using items they find around a house, like a pillowcase. My mother provided fabric to her elves to make clothes for their children. She always said that house-elves are extensions of the family name and it would reflect badly on us to have them in rags when they are the first creatures a person sees in the Manor.”

“So, Dobby?” she prompted between bites.

“Yeah…Dobby. I’m not making excuses for him, but believe it or not, compared to my grandparents, my father is generous and quite lenient. My grandparents believed any creature, sentient or not, wasn’t worth their time, attention, or basic decency. Dobby had less than a pillowcase with them, literal filthy rags. It doesn’t justify his treatment—my father can be a real arse—but he’s better than his parents were.”

“You’re telling me that no one regulates the treatment of house-elves? It’s just up to the discretion of the family to decide whether they’re treated humanely or not?” Hermione’s voice raised in indignation.

“If there’s legislation around their treatment, this would be the first I’m hearing of it,” Draco admitted.

Abruptly, Hermione stood. “We have to do something about this! What about those poor house-elves that are being mistreated?”

“What, you want to storm the Ministry? Demand equal rights for elves? We are students. No one would take us seriously if we even got in the door,” Draco argued, standing up next to her.

“No, not the Ministry. Well, not yet anyway,” she amended, “though that is a future career prospect I’d never considered before.” She picked up her quill. “I’ll think of something.”

Hermione paused, deep in thought, “If house-elves transfer households after marriage, how do you get more house-elves? I’ve never seen a young house-elf before.”

Draco scoffed, “Merlin, Granger, did no one ever give you the nymphs and the hippogriffs talk?”

Her cheeks pinkened. “Of course I had that talk.”

Suddenly, her mind filled with thoughts of house-elf love trysts between rival households. How do they decide which house the baby elf lives in? What does a pregnant house-elf even look like? How are there no inbreeding issues if they are all born in the same families?

Draco stared at her expectantly.

“Stop! I know how,” she said, her face growing redder.

“Do you though?” He smirked.

She did not.


Draco awoke to the bed shifting around and reached his arm over to snuggle Hermione, but found her side of the bed empty. Disoriented from sleep, he sat up.

“Haaaappy birthday to you,” Hermione sang from across the room.

He turned towards the sound, grinning.

“Haaaappy birthday to yooou, happy birthday, dear Draco, happy birthday to you!” She was standing several feet from the bed, still in her pyjamas, holding a double layer chocolate cake with lit candles on top.

“Make a wish!” She beamed, thrusting the cake in front of him.

Pausing to think for a moment, he closed his eyes and then extinguished the candles with a sweeping blow.

“It’s not much, but I had to get you something,” she said, setting down the cake and handing him a long, wrapped package.

Draco ripped off the paper, unveiling a gold stirring rod used in potion making. He inspected it closer, reading the engraving.

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul

“I know you probably already have one, but I just saw this in the store and it made me think of you and I engraved it with this quote because I want you to know that I don’t think it’s nonsensical to have dreams. I want you to know that your happiness is worth pursuing and that you can make choices for your life in pursuit of that happiness.” Hermione fumbled over her words as she explained the meaning behind her gift.

“I absolutely love it.” Draco leaned in to kiss her, touched. “Thank you.”

“Happy birthday, Draco.” Hermione smiled brightly, slicing into the cake and handing him a large piece. “Next year will be your best year yet.”

“How did you know to get chocolate?” He stared at the cake, eagerly accepting the plate from her.

“I’ve never met someone more obsessed with all things chocolate, so I made a triple chocolate cake, with chocolate frosting, and chocolate chips.” She smiled proudly, digging a fork into her slice.

Draco moaned as he savoured his bite. “I could eat this all day. This is the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth.” He paused. “Don’t tell Pinky I said that.”

"Your secret is safe with me," she laughed.


Later that week, Hermione and Draco sat together on his bed, books stacked around them as they worked on their latest Potions essay.

“Think they’d ever go on a double date with us?” she hummed thoughtfully, biting the tip of her quill.

“Who?”

“Harry and Theo,” she said slowly.

“What about Harry and Theo?” Draco asked, puzzled.

“Honestly, Theo’s your best mate, and you don’t know about him and Harry?” Hermione questioned, glossing over the fact that she had only learned about them recently.

“Don’t know what?”

“They have this thing together, called cock —” she began.

Draco raised his two hands in front of him, cutting her off, “Merlin, Granger! I’m a bloke—I know what cock is. Please don’t say anything more about my best mate’s cock. I don’t want to know.”

She rolled her eyes, turning back to her parchment.


“Harry, are you ready for the final task?” Hermione asked as they stepped around a group of students loitering in the corridor. “It’s only a few weeks away.”

“About as ready as I can be,” he answered honestly. “Luckily I’m really bad at dying so I see this tournament ending in my favour.” 

Pursing her lips into a tight line, she chastised, “That’s not funny, Harry.”

“Never been worse at anything in my life,” he quipped.

“We really should practice while you can. Professor McGonagall gave me permission for us to use the Transfiguration classroom during lunchtime. I have a list of spells that might come in handy in the maze.”

Adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose, Harry gave a begrudging nod. “Oh, Hermione. What would I do without you?” He paused for effect. “I’d probably spend less time in the library.”

Ruffling his already messy hair, she grinned. “That would be a travesty. Enough complaining, let’s get to work!”

Every lunch for the next month Hermione, Harry, and Ron practiced spells in preparation for the final task. Between lunches, Harry was practicing hexes at every available moment, assuring Hermione that he was prepared for anything that might come up in the maze.


“Okay, great! Now loop it around, good! Just do that about a thousand more times and we will have a hat!” Hermione encouraged.

“Honestly, Granger, this looks terrible. No self-respecting house-elf would ever wear this hat.” Draco pouted, setting down his knitting needles.

She huffed in annoyance. “When it is the difference between a lifetime of enslavement and freedom, they’ll wear the damn hat.”

“And spew , why didn’t you choose a name that sounds less like vomiting?” Draco continued, still pouting.

“It’s not spew ,” she corrected, “it’s S.P.E.W.”

Draco rolled his eyes. “You sound like Theo and cock .”

Hermione stared at him, unamused.

He paused before picking the needles back up, “Okay but let the record show, I think this is a terrible idea and I’m only doing this because you’re cute.”

“Counsel has noted it in the record, now keep knitting.”

Grumbling to himself, his needles began to click together again.


It was the night before the final task and Hermione was beyond exhausted. Between final exams and worrying about Harry, she was running on fumes. She and Ron had been up all hours preparing Harry for the final task. Most nights, she just crawled silently into Draco’s bed, snuggling up against him and falling fast asleep.

The sound of a drawer closing woke her up that morning.

Draco gently brushed her hair from her face. “Good morning, sleepy.”

She mumbled incoherently into the pillow.

“I received a letter from mother about the summer,” he said, waving it in front of her expectantly.

Hermione shot up in bed, reaching for the parchment and skimming the letter.

“Your father is really going to be away for the first half of summer?” 

“A bunch of his old associates have started reaching back out to him, and they’re planning some sort of meeting this summer and he said it will take weeks to coordinate. Not sure what it is but it’s something important which means we won’t have to worry about him showing up at the Manor.”

Elated, she asked, “This is really happening?”

“This is really happening,” he confirmed. “Mother even changed the wards on the Manor so you can Floo directly into the receiving room without me.”

“A summer at Malfoy Manor,” she mused. “Have you checked to see if pigs are flying?”

“What an odd thing to say. Of course pigs can fly,” Draco answered, laughing.


A devastated wail echoed through the stands, breaking apart the chatter of students and music from the band. Draco was frantically processing the scene in front of him. Harry Potter had tumbled out of the maze and then collapsed onto the ground, bloody and covered in dirt; he was clutching the Triwizard cup in one hand and the unmoving body of Cedric Diggory in the other.

Theo’s legs moved faster than his mind, jumping out of his seat at the sight of Harry’s blood dripping down his forearm. Grabbing his robes, Draco caught Theo and pulled him back before he could descend the stands.

“He’s okay,” Draco muttered reassuringly, trying to comfort Theo. “He’s just a little beat up but he’s okay.”

Theo did not look convinced, his frantic eyes fixed on Harry.

Across the field, Harry slumped over, his face in his hands. The spectators nearby jumped back with reaction, the ripple of Harry’s words spread through the stands.

“What did he say?!” Tracey Davis’ voice raised in panic. “Did he just say he’s back? You-Know-Who?”

Blood rushed in Draco’s ears, muffling the hysterical sounds of the crowd; he looked from the lifeless eyes of Cedric to the blood pooling out of Harry’s wound to Dumbledore’s ashen face.

“He’s back.”

Draco’s legs almost buckled beneath him and he leaned on Theo for support, feeling the colour drain from his face. Quickly searching the crowd, his eyes landed on Hermione; she was clutching her ring protectively against her chest, her eyes wide with terror.

Everything was about to change.

 

Chapter Text

June-July

Year 5

“Oh, Draco, I knew it was going to be huge, but wow…it’s even bigger than the rumours. This is almost too much for me to handle all at once!” Hermione’s eyes were wide as saucers as her hands skimmed the massive bookcases that lined Malfoy Manor’s larger library.

Draco reflexively snorted at her blatant double-entendres.

The library at Malfoy Manor was severely underutilized and Draco could think of no one who would put it to better use than Hermione. They had thousands of tomes, both academic and personal, spanning across millennia. In the personal Malfoy collection, they had information that was not accessible at Hogwarts—even in the Restricted Section.

As she perused the library, caressing the books, his heart beat a little faster. They deserved each other, this library and Hermione Granger.

“Need to get a room, Granger?” He laughed as she slowly lowered the book she had been subtly sniffing.

She raised her chin haughtily. “I can’t help myself; have you seen this library?!”

“Yes.” He smirked. “I did grow up here, you know.”

“Grew up in a library, did you?” she quipped.

“Why else would your magic have picked me?” he teased, sliding a hand around to rest on her waist.

 “Prat,” she muttered under her breath, still smiling.

“What was that?” he asked, tilting an ear towards her.

“Nothing, love,” she sang over her shoulder as she slipped away from him, disappearing behind another set of shelves.

From that moment on, it was a tale of kindred spirits, that of Hermione and the Manor library. Whenever Draco was searching for her, he always started in the library. More often than not, he found her sitting in her favorite oversized chair—the one by the window with a view over the gardens—surrounded by piles of books, her curls pulled into a messy bun. He always observed her for several moments before making his presence known. This scene was his favorite, a wild Hermione in her natural habitat.


“Does your mother know that I’m staying in your room?” Hermione asked. “I was under the impression that most Pureblood families followed a strict courtship protocol that included separate living spaces.”

“Oh, that.” Draco waved a hand, dismissing the concern. “I made up a guest room for you down the hall—a respectable distance from my room. Every morning, I go in and mess up the bed covers a bit to look like you slept there.”

Hermione frowned. “Surely that’s not fooling anybody?”

“Rule number one of Pureblood society—the appearance of following Pureblood etiquette is equally if not more important than actually following etiquette,” Draco recited with a smirk.

“I have so much to learn,” she lamented. “I wish there was a Pureblood culture course at Hogwarts. Can you imagine how helpful it would be for Muggleborn students?”

“Granger, you do realise that Pureblood families keep the rules unwritten so that the knowledge stays only with other Purebloods?”

“That makes no sense,” she argued. “If the whole premise of Purebloods hating Muggleborns is based on the idea that Muggleborns will destroy wizarding culture, why keep them ignorant of the customs? The Muggleborns are in a no-win situation.”

“That’s exactly the point,” Draco replied. “They don’t want Muggleborns to win.”

“What’s rule number two of Pureblood society?”

“The honour of the family name supersedes the happiness of any individual family member. It’s a nice little rule to remind you that your wants and needs mean nothing as long as you do what your family expects of you.” Draco’s tone grew bitter.

“To be honest, I’m not seeing any culture worth preserving so far.” 

“That’s why you, my love, are exactly what they fear.” He smiled, kissing her on the temple.


One week into her stay at the Manor, Hermione stomped into his room with a look of frustration.

“Okay, if we are going to make this relationship work, I need to know you’ll be on my side,” Hermione began seriously.

Draco shot upright in his chair at her tone, nodding intently. “What happened?” 

His mind raced, did his father come home early? Did his mother offend her?

“It’s the peacocks, Draco.”

He blinked, confused. “The peacocks?”

“Yes, the peacocks! I think they have it out for me. That one with the white tail hissed at me last week, and yesterday, when I was outside reading, he pecked at my book and ripped the page!” She huffed and crossed her arms. “It was a first edition !” 

“I can buy you another first edition,” he pointed out, which only seemed to irritate Hermione more.

“It’s about the book, but it’s not about the book. It’s the principle of the matter.”

“You want to know if I’ll side with you in your conflict against Charles, the peacock,” he said, sounding amused.

“If you’ll just put in a good word—” 

Draco interrupted with a wave of his hand. “Yes, yes, I will be your ambassador to the peacocks.”

“Thank you.” She kissed him quickly on the cheek before returning to her book, placated.

The thought came to him so easily that he almost missed it. 

Merlin, I love her.


Hermione and Draco were on a tour of the grounds when they heard a shriek come from the ballroom. They followed the sound, rushing over to an obviously distressed Narcissa.

“Mother, what is it?” Draco asked, looking around for the source of her panic.

“There is a wild animal loose in the Manor!” She clutched her pearls, literally and figuratively.

Hermione reached for her wand defensively, scanning the room. A fluff of orange darted behind a serving table. She narrowed her eyes. “Crookshanks!”

“What is a crooks-hanks?” Narcissa asked, seemingly to herself.

Draco raised his hand to his face in exasperation. “Granger’s pet demon.”

“He’s a cat!” Hermione corrected, obviously offended at the misclassification of her familiar.

She scooped him up into her arms, affectionately petting his head. “And he’s just saying hello.”

Narcissa looked down her nose at the cat, which was currently purring. “Very well. Please keep it in your quarters and far away from me.” She turned on her heel and walked out of the ballroom, her head held high.


Draco’s favorite nights were the ones they spent in the library together, where they could just be two teenagers enjoying their time together; they were precious, those moments when they did not have to worry about family, friends, school, or the impending fear of Voldemort.

“No, no, no, you’re doing it all wrong.” Hermione moved Draco out of the way. “It was a valiant effort but honestly it’s not even close without the cloak. May I?” she asked, snatching Draco’s cloak from the nearby rack.

She popped behind a bookcase.

“I can teach you how to bottle fame,” she drawled in a low monotone, popping the t’s, “brew glory,” Hermione dramatically swished the cape behind her, “even…” she paused for theatrical effect, “stopper death.”

“You know he’s my godfather, right?” Draco wiped tears of mirth from his eyes.

She gave a melodramatic bow and wave of her hand at the end of her performance while he clapped.

“I knew there was a reason you were his favorite student,” she goaded Draco, who proceeded to make a face at her as she swished the cloak around her once more.


“You’re going to have to explain this plot to me again. You’re telling me that that witch, who is also part octopus, gives a Merperson legs but only in exchange for her voice? And the former mermaid only gets it back if she kisses the guy? What kind of spell does that? Where’s her wand? These Merpeople look weird—their hair is all wrong, and why are they wearing shells? They’re not even speaking Mermish.” Draco waved a hand at the portable telly that Hermione had brought with her to the Manor, picking up another handful of popcorn.

“Muggles don’t know about Merpeople. This is a children’s story,” Hermione explained. “They think mermaids are fiction.”

Draco scoffed, “Well okay , but if you think I’m going to sit back and watch this grossly inaccurate depiction of Merculture more than a dozen times, you are sorely mistaken. Now quit talking, you’re interrupting the show.”

That night, as the shower ran in the en suite to Draco’s room, Hermione swore she could hear the faint humming of ‘Under the Sea’ bouncing off the bathroom walls.

They had the balcony doors open, the cool night air filling the room. The sound of wild creatures in the night came from the nearby forest. Hermione leaned against the arm of the sofa, her legs slung over Draco’s lap and his arms resting comfortably on her knees.

“So, Granger, about that cat story from second year—” Draco began.

Hermione threw a pillow at his face. “Still no.”


The next morning, Narcissa was outside pruning her rose bushes—maintaining the flower garden was her favorite pastime. She found it therapeutic; at least, it had been therapeutic until that orange menace started following her around. It began innocently enough, with the cat occasionally basking in the sunlight next to her but quickly evolved into following Narcissa around from bush to bush. Today, she was not in the mood.

“Shoo.” Narcissa waved her hands at the cat, who stared at her with indifference, licking its paw.

She frowned and the expression felt unbecoming. “Don’t you have somewhere better to be?”

Crookshanks blinked at her.

“Well?” Narcissa put her hands on her hips, waiting.

“Look at me,” she chastised herself. “Talking to a cat as if it understands me.”

Crookshanks tilted his head, as if agreeing with her.

He stalked towards her slowly, rubbing up against her leg. She stepped away from the feline in discontent, turning back to the Manor and giving up on her rose bushes for the day.


The summer heat unbearable, Draco cast yet another cooling charm over them on the patio. Hermione had insisted on having breakfast in the gardens today. ‘ Charles and I came to an understanding,’ she had said, though Draco was afraid to know what constituted their ‘understanding’. 

He made a mental note to have Pinky check on Charles this afternoon.

The house-elf delivered a tray of iced lemonades with lemon wedges for the couple just as Draco was tucking a freshly-plucked camellia flower into Hermione’s braid.

Hermione peered over his shoulder as Draco sketched the flower onto a sheet of parchment, “That’s quite good,” she commented. “I never saw you drawing at Hogwarts.”

He shrugged. “I’ve always loved to draw, but I’m so busy at school that I usually only sketch when I’m home. Or I sketch when I have a particularly captivating subject,” he said, flipping back a few pages to a drawing of Hermione.

She took the sketchbook from him, admiring the picture. The Hermione in his drawing was enchanting. She had wild curls, some falling in front of her face, freckles smattered across her nose and cheeks, her chocolate brown eyes shone with affection at the viewer. Is this how Draco sees me? Her breath hitched.

“Are you okay?” Draco asked nervously.

When Hermione realised her eyes had filled with tears, she looked up from the picture to Draco.

“I love you.” The words just fell out of her mouth, like she had said them a hundred times before.

“Oh, Granger.” He placed a hand on each side of her face, wiping away her tears with his thumbs. “You are my everything .” He kissed her adoringly as she leaned into his embrace. “And I love you.” 


“Hermione,” Draco called over to her as he walked in the library, carrying a tray of biscuits and afternoon tea.

She did not look up from her book. “He started it. I finished it. I won’t apologize.”

“What? Who?” 

“Is this not about Charles?” she asked, innocently looking up at him through her eyelashes.

“What did you do to Charles?” Draco sighed wearily.

“Nothing, love, nothing at all.” 

“I’ll go out to the gardens today and talk with him,” he offered.

“We are beyond that. His word means nothing to me now,” she replied airily, turning a page, ending the conversation.

Narcissa carefully set down the half-complete paperwork for her latest charity auction when she heard the telltale sound of paws on the ground behind her. Pausing, she looked down at the cat that had settled at her feet.

Stepping out of the room, she returned several moments later with a saucer of milk, which she indifferently placed on the floor next to her. She smiled to herself as Crookshanks lapped up the milk. 

Leaning down, she gave him a single pet on the head.


The next Sunday morning, Hermione was fanning herself, trying to cool down in the sweltering summer heat.

“Fancy going for a swim?” Hermione asked boldly.

Draco looked at her in confusion. “Where do you want to swim?”

She stared blankly at him. “You have a full-size lake on the estate. Where else would we swim?”

“You want to go swimming in the lake ?” he repeated, uncertain.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “You’re telling me you grew up here and never went swimming in this gorgeous lake?”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, Granger, I grew up in a Manor. Not a barn.” Draco scoffed and then cocked a smile. “My lovely little Gryffindor, why do you insist on always acting on whatever mad idea comes into your mind?”

“If there’s even a slight chance at getting something that will make you happy, risk it. Life’s too short, and happiness is too rare,” Hermione quoted, reaching into her luggage, pulling out clothes, and slipping into the en suite.

The door opened and Hermione walked out, carrying a towel. Draco’s eyes drifted down her body slowly, taking in what she was wearing; he ripped his eyes away from her chest, spinning around quickly away from Hermione.

“What are you wearing?!” he asked, still averting his eyes, his face bright red.

She laughed. “It’s a Muggle swimming costume. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before in your dorm. You can look, Draco. A bikini never killed anyone.”

“That’s what you think,” he mumbled under his breath as he took in the sight of her, swallowing hard. “Thank Merlin for Muggles.”

Trudging down the perfectly manicured lawn, Hermione led Draco down to the lake which bordered the forest. The lake was surrounded by grass and the water was clear with blue tint at the shallowest part, rocks littering the bottom.                

“I still can’t believe you’ve talked me into this.” Draco slipped his shirt and shoes off, wearing just his swimming trunks. Hermione unwrapped her towel, adding it to the pile of Draco’s clothes.

She threw her arms in the air and squealed in delight as she sprinted into the shallow end of the lake, the water splashing around her as her feet broke the surface. Hermione waded until the water was up to her torso.

Turning to Draco, she called out, “The water is positively divine! Come join me!”

Biting back a smile, Draco dipped a toe into the water. It did feel refreshingly cool against his hot skin. Taking a full step into the lake, he sighed at the feeling of relief from the heat. Finally, he took a full step back before sprinting full speed into the water, jumping in next to Hermione.

She giggled, splashing him with the water. “I can’t believe it took you fifteen years to swim in this lake. Aren’t you lucky you have me to rectify this travesty?”

He swept her up with one hand around her waist and another under her knees.

“I am, Granger.” He spun her around. “Lucky to have you,” he clarified with a kiss to her nose, which she promptly squished up in amusement.

After they had dried off and eaten lunch, Draco sat next to Hermione at the dining room table. She was penning a short letter to Harry while Draco read the Daily Prophet, finding nothing but the usual Ministry propaganda about the Dark Lord. Draco folded the newspaper, setting it down on the table.

“It’s nice that Rita Skeeter stopped printing those gossip articles about you,” Draco commented casually.

“Hmm.” Hermione hummed in agreement. “Funny how many problems can be solved by trapping someone in a jar.”

“What?” Draco asked, bewildered.

“What?” Hermione repeated.


“Draco,” Hermione called into their shared room, her head sticking out of the bathroom doorway.“Have you seen my pink slippers?”

“Nope, sorry, love. Not sure where they went.” Draco told her as she pouted in disappointment and disappeared back into the bathroom.

He wiggled his toes below the covers, his feet enveloped in soft pink fuzzy warmth, smiling craftily to himself.


“Mother has invited us for afternoon tea; she said she has something to discuss with us.” Draco looked at Hermione carefully.

“That sounds foreboding,” Hermione said, braiding her hair in front of the en suite mirror. “Do you know what she wants to talk about?”

“She didn’t say, but I suspect it has to do with my father. I find it rather... suspicious that he reconnects with many of his old Death Eater associates just before Potter witnessed the Dark Lord’s return and then is absent for the entire month after.” Draco frowned.

“We’ve talked about this. If Harry says Voldemort has returned, then he has returned,” Hermione insisted. “Just because Fudge is willfully ignorant doesn’t make it any less true.”

“I know, Granger.” Draco wrapped his arms around her torso from behind, lazily kissing her neck. “Are you ready for tea?”

Hermione leaned into the touch, exhaling softly. “Not if you keep kissing me like that.”

Draco smirked against the soft skin of her neck, sensually continuing his attentions.


Narcissa had tea set for three in the smallest of the tea rooms. She gracefully poured a serving into each teacup, stirring a spoonful of sugar into her own cup before beginning.

“Our fears have come to fruition. With the Dark Lord’s return, he is calling upon the houses that pledged loyalty to him over a decade ago.” Narcissa paused, gathering herself. “He has called upon the house of Malfoy.”

“No. No, Mother, we can’t,”  Draco interrupted, his eyes wide in alarm, “How can you support him knowing what we know now?”

“Do not be a fool, it does not become you,” she chastised Draco. “When you pledge loyalty to the Dark Lord, it is a life sentence. There is no escape. When he calls, we answer.”

“So, we are going to follow that monster? You realise he would kill Hermione, and probably me, if he had any idea about us? You don’t have to do this, Mother,” Draco insisted, his voice raised with panic.

“Do you know what happened to those who left the Dark Lord’s cause during the first war?” Narcissa asked, a thin brow raised. “There was hardly anything left of them when he was done. Those were the lucky ones because at least they were able to die to escape his torture.”

“But—” Draco tried to interrupt, but his mother silenced him with a look.

“What is your plan if you successfully leave? You will be ostracized by both sides, branded a traitor to your cause if you even manage to survive leaving. You think Albus Dumbledore’s side would believe that we had a change of heart? No. We would be distrusted, having already abandoned our alliance once before. We would be without any protection from either side. That simply will not do. We will do as Malfoys have always done; we will be pragmatic, we will persevere, and we will survive,” Narcissa said firmly.

“What are you saying, Mother?” he asked, his voice deadly quiet.

Narcissa pursed her lips. “Your father has written to me. They are using the Minister’s denial of the Dark Lord’s return in their favour, to have the element of surprise. I have no intimate knowledge, but I have heard rumours of upcoming plans from those in our circle.”

Narcissa turned to Hermione. “After the events of this week, I am afraid that I can no longer guarantee your safety here at the Manor. Do you have anywhere to go? Somewhere safe?”

A hundred thoughts raced through Hermione’s mind. “My parents are on a holiday for the next month, but I can go to a safe house. There’s a safe house that Ron told me about at the end of last year. Harry is staying with his uncle right now, but the Weasleys should be there for the summer. I can write to Mrs. Weasley and see if there is room for me.”

Narcissa nodded curtly, taking Hermione’s hand in hers. “Your safety is paramount to us, and when I say we will do what is best for the family, I want you to know that you are part of this family now. I am sorry to send you away, but you must understand that it is the only option. I will leave you two to discuss this further.” She dismissed herself from the table, her heels clicking against the marble floors, and closed the door quietly behind her.


“Do not look at me like that,” Narcissa sighed in defeat, looking into the sad amber eyes of Crookshanks. “I do not want this, but it is the only option. You are not safe here.” 

As Narcissa knelt down next to the cat, he promptly rolled onto his back with his paws in the air.

“You will always be welcome in my home,” she murmured, stroking the soft fur of his stomach as he purred beneath her hand.


“No,” Hermione said stubbornly. “Absolutely not! We were supposed to have the summer. We were supposed to have more time.”

Draco searched her eyes. “Granger, if it’s true that the Death Eaters are rallying to the Dark Lord, then it’s only a matter of time before they start up the old ways again.”

“The old ways?” she questioned.

“Cleansing the world of impure blood, hunting Mu…Muggleborns.” Draco grimaced at the words. “Mother is right; the last place you should be right now is next to me.”

“You want me to leave,” she accused.

“I want you to be safe ,” he corrected, interlacing his fingers with hers.

“It’s not forever. In a few weeks, we will be back at school; I bet if you asked, Harry would let you borrow his Invisibility Cloak every night again and you can stay with me in the dungeons,” he assured her, brushing the hair from her eyes.

“We think he might be able to see inside Harry’s head,” Hermione whispered, her eyes brimmed with tears.

“What? Who?” Draco asked.

“Voldemort. We think he can see into Harry’s head, into his thoughts and memories. It happened last year. It’s not safe for Harry to know about us anymore. I have to lie to him, too.” Her voice grew panicked as she processed the severity of their situation out loud. “I can’t let him know the truth about us. What if Voldemort sees it? He will kill you, he will kill your family!” Her shoulders deflated. “Even if I couldn’t tell anyone about us, it was okay because at least I had Harry, and now I have no one.”

“You have me.” He took her into his arms. “You’ll always have me,” he muttered again and again, holding her together as she fell apart beneath him.

She whispered pitifully into his chest, “I’ll write Mrs. Weasley tonight.”

 

Chapter Text

July

Year 5

Hermione,

You are so welcome to join us for the remainder of the summer. Hestia Jones will meet you at The Leaky Cauldron this Saturday at noon to bring you to our location. We will explain everything when you arrive.

Safe travels,

Molly

 

Hermione reread the letter, folding it along the crease and tucking it back into her pocket.

One more day. She had one day left at Malfoy Manor before she spent the rest of her summer with the Weasleys at the safe house.

She tapped her fingernails on the desk impatiently. A hand reached around her and rested on top of her hand, settling it.

“How are you doing?” Draco asked, his voice laced with concern.

A heavy sigh escaped her lips. “I wish we had more time.”

“Me too, but I did get something in the post yesterday. Something I think might cheer you up.”

Her hopeful eyes met his. “What was it?”

He hesitated, his hands behind his back. “It’s supposed to be for your birthday, but I think you might like it now. Close your eyes.”

Hermione obeyed, a brush of tingles drifting down her spine as she felt him sweep her hair to one side and clasp a chain around her neck.

“Open your eyes,” he directed, and she could hear the smile in his voice.

Opening her eyes, she looked down at her chest. Resting against her skin was a beautiful gold locket, round with an antique floral etching that bordered the pendant. She held the locket in the palm of her hand, admiring the details.

“Oh, Draco, I love it!” she exclaimed. 

It even matched her band and she smiled at the thought.

“There’s something inside. I had it charmed so it will only open to your touch or mine. I hope you don’t mind that I already filled one of the spots with a picture.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and tilted his head with a curve of his lips. “I figured you could fill one side and I could fill the other.”

Hermione carefully pried open the locket, inspecting the inside. On one side, there was a moving picture — one they had taken weeks ago. In the picture, she smiled at the camera and Draco leaned in, kissing her on the cheek; she turned to him in surprise, looking up at him, and he cupped her cheek and kissed her lips gently. 

She watched the picture repeat again, biting her lip.

Hermione’s eyes watered as she fought back the feeling building in her chest.“It’s perfect.” She pulled him closer, bringing her lips to his and sinking into the kiss, trying to memorise the sensation before it was too late.


That night, Draco stepped into the formal dining room, pausing curiously at the lack of dishware and food on the table.

“I had Pinky help me out with supper,” Hermione explained, guiding him out of the Manor.“Tonight, we are dining under the stars.” 

She grinned, throwing her arms out and spinning as she gestured all around her.  

“First, we swim in the lake,. Now, we are eating supper on the ground. My father would be appalled,” he mused, following her down the stone path. They walked into the grove of trees where there was a candle-lit picnic prepared for them.

“Yes, I’m sure if he knew about our relationship, his biggest concern would be the picnic,” she joked.

There was a large checkered blanket splayed out on the grass, a wicker basket sitting atop it. Inside the basket there were sandwiches, sliced fruit, and glass jars of chocolate mousse. The blanket was surrounded by lit candles floating in the air around them, courtesy of Pinky’s magic.

“It’s our last night, and honestly I don’t know the next time I’ll be back at the Manor. I just wanted to make it memorable,” she confessed, kneeling on the blanket and distributing their supper.

“You are nothing if not memorable.” Draco smiled. “I don’t think there’s an area of the Manor I don’t look at and see you now.”

“I already told you I was sorry about breaking that antique vase…” she muttered guiltily. “I didn’t realise ‘ Reparo ’ doesn’t work well on vintage…”

Draco laughed. “I wasn’t talking about the vase, though it was honestly hideous, and you did the Manor a favour. I mean it when I say this summer has been memorable. I see you everywhere here. I see you in the gardens with a camellia flower in your hair, in the library in that oversized chair, in the lake splashing me, taking tea in the tearoom with honey and a quarter lemon, and chasing Pinky with a knitted hat in the conservatory.”

“He’s still really mad about that hat incident.” Hermione frowned, recalling Pinky’s week of silent treatment.

“He’ll get over it, but stop trying to free elves that don’t want to be freed,” Draco advised. “I do have an idea for dinner entertainment though. Pinky!”

Pinky appeared, bowing to Draco and glaring at Hermione.

“Pinky, will you please bring us the brass telescope from father’s study?”

Pinky came back several moments later and handed the telescope to Draco before disappearing.

“See? He hates me,” she groaned. “I suppose I can just be pleased that he feels safe enough expressing his opinion with me without fear of retribution.”

“Granger, please stop. Look here.” He angled the telescope to point to the sky through an opening in the treetops and directed her to the eyepiece.

Hermione complied, gazing into the telescope at the night sky.

“See that constellation? The curve around the Little Dipper? That’s my namesake.”

“Wow,” Hermione marveled, “that’s even more pretentious than being named after a Shakespeare play.” 

“Well I like your name,” Draco declared. “Even if I don’t use it much. It’s not my fault that ‘Granger’ just has a nice ring to it.”

“Have I mentioned recently that I love you? Because I do.” Hermione turned around, straddling his lap with her fingers laced behind his neck.

The corner of his mouth raised in a slight smirk. “I do recall you mentioning it, yes, but I’d love to hear it again.”

“I love you.” She leaned in, kissing his cheek. “I love you.” She kissed his forehead. “I love you—” He pulled her down against him, his lips against hers. She shifted in his lap, pressing as much of her body against him as possible, her heart beating loudly in her chest.

As her core slotted against him, she inhaled sharply, feeling him hard against her; Draco’s eyes clenched shut in embarrassment as he tried to pull away.

“Don’t you want this?” she asked quietly. “Don’t you want me?”

“Yes, Granger. There’s never been a moment when I haven’t wanted this. I just didn’t want to push you.”

“I want this,” she whispered, hooking her legs around his waist and rolling her hips against him once more, heat coursing down her spine as she felt him straining against her.

When he opened his eyes, she noticed that his pupils were blown out. He exhaled sharply at her words, his hands gripping her hips before slowly moving up under her shirt. Watching her reactions, his fingertips teased her, dancing along her lower back. Goosebumps formed across her skin at his touch. 

Lightheaded and breathless, she craved him. Over the past few months, they had continuously built up to the moment, but Draco pulled away every time.

Hermione learned back, breaking the kiss, and he dropped his hands immediately. His eyes searched hers nervously. “Everything okay?” he asked, his voice low.

Without breaking eye contact, she grasped the hem of her blouse, pulling it up and over her head. His eyes flashed as his gaze roamed over her, travelling down to her bare chest and back up to her eyes. Swallowing hard, he rested his hand just above her waist. Hermione impatiently arched her chest towards him in encouragement. Watching her eyes, his hand moved to gently cup and squeeze her breast, palming her exposed skin softly.

Her breath shuddered, and he leaned down to capture her nipple in his mouth, grazing it with his teeth. Hermione whimpered softly, leaning into his touch and grinding herself against him desperately. Draco gasped at the rocking of her hips, his eyes dark with desire. 

Deftly unbuttoning his shirt, he threw it on the ground next to hers. As she ran her hands up his chest, she marveled at how soft and hot his skin felt under her. 

Everything with Draco was as natural as breathing, like they were meant for this moment.

Hermione felt heat pool in her abdomen as she pinned him down, trailing kisses across his neck, nipping softly along his pulse. A low groan rumbled from his chest and his hands tightened their hold on her hips.

“Draco…” Hermione swallowed, struggling to form a sentence. He flipped them, ending up on top of her, his hips between her thighs. He pressed his hard length against her core and she whimpered involuntarily, her mind dizzy with want.

“Yes, Granger?” he asked, his breath hot against her skin and his bare chest pressed against hers.

“I want you,” she whispered. “I don’t want to keep waiting. I’m on the potion...”

Dropping his head, he kissed her neck, then her clavicle, down to her breasts and to her stomach. Her lungs seized when he unbuttoned the top of her Muggle jeans, the teeth of the zipper slowly parting. With a raise of her hips, he pulled them down her legs and off her, leaving her exposed with one scrap of fabric between them. Draco crawled up slowly between her parted thighs. She was aching for him.

They had moments in the Slytherin dorm where Draco had experimented, pleasing her with his fingers, but knowing that he would not stop this time lit a fire inside her.

His mouth was back on her neck, swirling his tongue against her flushed skin as she arched against him. Draco’s hand slowly inched down her torso to her leg, gently propping her knee up. Savouring the taste of her, he kissed her lips, passion intermixed with tenderness.

Moaning, her hips rotated at the anticipation of his touch. Gently thumbing the band of her lace knickers, he slipped a hand beneath them. Her hand curled against his chest at his touch, her knickers soaked with desire. Draco audibly groaned as he touched her core.

“You have no idea what you do to me, do you?” he asked quietly. 

Hermione whimpered and pressed herself against his hand. He stroked her slit with torturously slow strokes, her body shivering under his touch as he devoured the soft moans escaping from her lips.

Draco circled a finger around her entrance, parting her lips before pressing a single digit into her, pausing as her body adjusted to him. Her eyes fluttered shut, relishing in the familiar feeling.

“Look at me, love,” he directed softly.

She opened her eyes, focusing on the feeling of Draco’s gaze as she shifted her hips impatiently. His finger slid in and out of her slowly, teasing her.

“Pl-please,” she begged as he continued, increasing his pace. 

Adding a second finger, she gasped at the pinch, a delicious feeling of stretching, throwing her head back with her lips parted as she rocked her hips against his hand. Draco licked his lips, unable to tear his eyes away from her.

“You are so beautiful,” he murmured as her body tensed in waves, continuing his pace, sucking her nipple into a hardened peak as she came apart beneath him.

“You are wearing entirely too many clothes,” she complained, tugging at his trousers, sliding them and his trunks off in one motion. Her eyes wandered down his chest to his hips down to his—and her cheeks flushed, her eyes shooting back up to his face.

“Is this okay?” His voice rasped and she nodded, coyly slipping her knickers down her legs, “You’ll tell me if it hurts?”

Nodding, she reassured him with a kiss.

His eyes traced her body, memorizing each curve; his lips parted as he admired her wearing nothing but his locket and ring. Draco was on top of her once more, this time skin to skin. Pressing his chest against her, she sighed into the feeling of their bodies touching without the barrier of clothing.

Deepening the kiss, he gently nudged her thighs apart. His body trembled above hers.

“Is this okay?” he asked again, his voice strained.

“Yes, Draco, please.” Hermione shifted her hips against him in anticipation as he lined himself against her entrance.

He pushed forward slowly, gasping at the sensation of her. Pausing, he waited for her to adjust to him before continuing to enter her.

Her face contorted in pain and he stopped immediately. “Is this—”

“I’m okay.” She kissed his worries away. “I’m okay, love.”

Kissing her, he pulled out slightly before sliding all the way into her, shuddering a breath as he pressed his forehead to hers.

She felt the Pull, the sparks,the air crackling around them as their magic danced together.

“Hermione,” he whispered like a prayer, gently pulling out of her and pushing back in. “I love you.”

She whimpered, pain mixed with pleasure, her toes curling. “And I love you.”

He moved slowly for several minutes as she adjusted to the feeling of him, making her groan in impatience.

“Draco, it's okay, please move faster,” she moaned.

His breath caught in his throat as he increased his pace, peppering kisses on her chest, shoulder, and neck.

That delicious tension began building inside her again, threatening to snap; she met his thrusts, kissing him furiously. Draco’s thumb swirled around her swollen clit, pushing her over the edge; the tension snapped and she came undone, her body clenching against him in waves as she trembled beneath him. His head tossed back as his chest rose and fell, gasping for breath; his hips rocked frantically against her, his hands gripping her hips as he groaned, pouring into her. 

In an instant, the world stopped.

Draco placed one hand on either side of her face, kissing her over and over again. Stroking her hair out of her face, he stared into her chocolate brown eyes. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair was wild and messy, her lips swollen from his kisses.

He shook his head, looking at her with reverence, “As far as memorable goes, love, I could never forget how beautiful you look right now.”


When Hermione woke up in Draco’s suite the next morning, she refused to get out of bed because getting out of bed meant acknowledging that it was time to leave.

As a result, the pair had breakfast on trays in bed and spent the morning in each other’s arms, reminiscing about the past year together.

“I still don’t understand why you just had to go to the Yule Ball with that brute.” Draco pouted.

“Viktor was a perfect gentleman,” Hermione scoffed. “And need I remind you that you went with Pansy Parkinson, kissed me , and then proceeded to ignore me for weeks .”

“In my defense, I was young and an idiot.” He shrugged.

“That was literally seven months ago,” she said, deadpan.

“…and I’m literally still young and an idiot.” He shrugged again.

Hermione shook her head in amusement. “Hey now, don’t talk about my boyfriend like that. I’ll have you know, he’s quite brilliant.”

“He’s probably just trying to keep up with his brilliant witch.” 

Leaning in, he kissed the tip of her nose.

Her smile faded. “I don’t want to go today.”

“I know, love.” 


Stepping into the receiving room together, Hermione was trying to muster the ability to say goodbye. She tucked her head against his chest and his arms wrapped around her, making her feel small.

“Granger,” he said softly, stroking her hair. “I’ll see you in a few weeks at school, okay?”

Hermione nodded into his chest, stepping back and giving him one final kiss.

“I’ll message you when I arrive.” She gestured to his band and he smiled softly.

She stepped into the fireplace, the handful of Floo Powder sifting through her fingers.

“The Leaky Cauldron,” she declared, watching Draco’s form fade away behind the green flame.

When she landed in London, Hermione coughed into the crook of her elbow — she had inhaled part of the smoke. Stepping through the fireplace, she brushed off her robes and looked around. With a glance at the time, she realised that she still had about ten minutes before Hestia would arrive. 

Making her way up to the bar, Hermione ordered a Butterbeer to pass the time and settle her nerves.

As she waited, she sipped her drink in solitude. The warmth trickled down into her chest. The next year felt so uncertain; she knew with Voldemort’s return that dark days were ahead of them. She had read books and saw images of the first war; the stories had given her nightmares for weeks — mangled bodies of murdered Muggles, children turned into werewolves, Aurors tortured into insanity. Shaking her head, she took another long sip. Her summer with the Malfoys had felt like a respite from the world and she mourned the days they’d lost.

“Miss Granger.” A woman cleared her throat, clearly all business.

Hermione turned towards the voice, finding a petite woman with straight, black shoulder-length hair standing next to her.

“I presume you are Ms. Jones?” Hermione asked, placing a coin on the counter for her drink and standing up to face the woman.

“That I am. Molly sent me.” She handed Hermione a slip of paper that read ‘ The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London ’, “Memorize that, please.” 

The woman proffered Hermione an arm, and after a moment Hermione graciously took it.

Feeling the familiar pull of Side-Along Apparition, she stumbled before regaining her balance.

“Welcome to Grimmauld Place, Miss Granger. Home to the Order of the Phoenix.”


Draco exhaled heavily, leaning back into his chair in the empty room. He heard a tap of a cane against the open door.

“Father,” he acknowledged coldly.

“I have been away for weeks and this is how my heir greets me?” Lucius sneered at Draco’s disrespect.

“Yes, Father, you have been away for weeks. Would you like to tell me what you and your Death Eater mates have been up to?” Draco stood up abruptly, head to head with Lucius.

“Perhaps in my absence you have forgotten yourself,” Lucius reprimanded, his nose turned up. “I do hope you are not under the illusion that your opinion is relevant in family matters. You are still a child.”

Draco stared back defiantly. “I’m not a child, Father.”

Lucius gestured for Draco to sit back down. “You wish to be treated like an adult? Then let us talk like men.”

Draco eyed him distrustfully before sitting down, his arms crossed in front of him.

“I recall what it is like to be your age. You think you know everything, that you are invincible. You know nothing . You were an infant during the first war, so you have no idea what this family went through to survive. I have spoken with your mother and I am appalled to hear of your desire to defect,” Lucius scoffed. “It is a child’s dream.” 

He held up a hand to silence Draco, halting his interruption.

“Your mother and I were not even of age when the Dark Lord first rose to power. We were enticed by promises of power and prestige, reigning over the new world with him. We too, thought we knew everything and that we were invincible. We aligned ourselves with his cause and carried out many unspeakable deeds in his name. When he had the… mishap with the Potter boy, we barely escaped Azkaban. There are many Ministry officials today whose coffers are filled with Malfoy gold in exchange for their silence. Others were not so lucky and, as you know, your Aunt Bellatrix has been in Azkaban for fifteen years now.”

He paused, looking down at his cane before continuing, “You cannot understand what I did in the service of the Dark Lord all those years ago. There is no absolution for me, there is no other side. Now that he is back, we must pick up the mantle.”

Lucius slowly rolled up the sleeve of his robes, revealing his Dark Mark. “When I took this mark, I believed in everything the Dark Lord was offering. Even if you do not believe in it, I cannot emphasise this enough, there is no future for our family outside of the Dark Lord. We have committed to his cause — a lifelong commitment — and to leave is to leave this life.”

Lucius ignored Draco’s flinch. “Seeing him in the flesh again after ten years…” Lucius pulled his sleeve down sharply. “I know that you do not want us aligned with the Dark Lord, but at the end of the day, you are our child and we will keep you safe. I will make whatever sacrifices are necessary for our survival. This is my duty to our family.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you knew,” Draco murmured under his breath.

“Knew what?” Lucius demanded.

About Hermione, about the bond, that she is family too, the words caught in his throat.

“Nothing. You wouldn’t understand.” Draco stood up abruptly and walked out, slamming the door behind him.

 

Draco followed the familiar path up the stairs to his room, pushing his bedroom door open and pacing in his room. His head was pounding and he felt utterly frustrated at the lack of progress in the conversation with his father. Falling backwards onto the bed, his arms splayed out around him. Something hard poked at his back, so he rolled over, looking under the bed covers.

There was a bottle of perfume and a note in her handwriting.

for when you miss me

Draco uncapped the perfume, spraying it once onto the pillow next to him. Inhaling the scent, his anxiety calmed. Hermione. He closed his eyes, hoping he would be able to sleep tonight in an empty bed, much too large for just one person.


Hermione stepped into the entryway of Grimmauld Place, remembering to send Draco a message to his band.  

Safely here.

She paused, waiting for a reply. After several moments, her band warmed with his message.  

Miss you already.

Smiling at her ring, she was startled by a loud clatter around the corner from her. She looked over to Hestia, who had a look of concern on her face.

“The others are upstairs, Miss Granger. They will fill you in, but for now, I have to investigate what that ruckus is about.” Hestia disappeared through the door in front of them and Hermione saw a glimpse of a kitchen full of adults.

Frowning, she looked around the receiving room before stepping forward to listen at the kitchen door.

“Where was Mundungus?!” an unfamiliar female voice asked furiously. “He was supposed to be watching Harry!”

“Oh, who knows! He probably went to buy another black-market trinket,” another voice growled.

“I’m going to write to Harry, let him know that Dumbledore is working on it with the Ministry and not to surrender his wand or leave the house.” Hermione recognised that voice as Mr. Weasley.

“I’ll go send this—” the door swung open, nearly smashing into Hermione, and Mrs. Weasley stepped through.

“Oh! Oh, Hermione, welcome, I didn’t notice you’d arrived. Ginny and Ron are upstairs. I know they are excited to see you.” She bustled by, stepping around Hermione and holding a sealed letter.

“What’s happened to Harry?” she asked uneasily, eyeing the letter in Molly’s hand.

“Nothing that Dumbledore isn’t going to correct,” Molly assured her. “It will all be resolved soon. Now go upstairs to see the others. I’m fixing supper and it will be ready soon.”

“Enough waiting!” a deep voice exclaimed behind Molly. Hermione peered around her and saw Mad-Eye Moody addressing the room. “We can’t just leave him to sit unguarded in that Muggle house when Dementors have already attacked him once. We are going to get him.”

Hermione gasped involuntarily, her stomach dropping. “Dementors attacked Harry?”

Molly rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Harry’s okay, Hermione. Please go upstairs. We will explain everything later.”

Hermione contemplated arguing, but without being able to Apparate or legally use magic outside of school, she was completely at the mercy of the adults at Grimmauld Place; she would have to settle for eavesdropping. “Thank you, Mrs. Weasley.”

For the first time since arriving, Hermione really studied the room around her. The house was obviously old, cluttered with portraits and antiques, and badly needed more lighting. She wandered to the staircase, inspecting the intricate carvings on the handrail. It looked as though it was a lavish house at its bones, but had not been properly cared for in the past generation. 

It had a family crest carved into various woodwork around the room, like Malfoy Manor, but she did not recognize the crest.

“’Mione!” Ron called down the stairs. “I thought I heard your voice.” He hurried down to embrace her.

“Ron! It’s so nice to see you!” She held him tight, not wanting to let go. She had missed him this past month.

Finally stepping back from the hug, she gesticulated. “Where are we?”

“It’s the Black family house. Sirius inherited it from his parents and gave it to Dumbledore for the Order,” Ron explained.

“The Order?” She crinkled her forehead.

“The Order of the Phoenix,” Ron supplied. “Let’s grab a cuppa and I’ll fill you in on everything you’ve missed this summer when you were home with your family.”

Her family. 

Hermione wilted slightly, following Ron into the dining room.


Later that night Hermione had trouble sleeping, she was not used to sleeping alone anymore. She wandered the empty floor, taking in the remnants of the Black family that once lived there. Pausing down the hall, she looked up at the Black family tapestry, which traced the Black family back to the Middle Ages.

The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

She scanned down the tree for familiar names; Pictor and Ari were listed up towards the top around the 1500s, she saw Sirius and Andromeda—both blasted off the tree. Hermione placed her hand gently on Narcissa’s name, still fully intact next to Bellatrix.

Briefly, she wondered if Sirius knew about the Black blood curse. If Narcissa had learned from Bellatrix and a journal, she assumed it was not common knowledge in the family. 

What generation was the last one to know about the curse and lie by omission to their children?

Hermione continued down the tree and gently traced the letters D-R-A-C-O M-A-L-F-O-Y with her finger. She sent another message to his ring, hoping he was not with his father when he received it.

I miss you.

Waiting for a response, she twisted the ring on her finger in habit.

A low groan rumbled from the next room. “Oooh poor old Kreacher,” the hoarse voice rasped. “If only my Mistress knew, oh the shame of blood traitors and Mudblood scum in her house, touching her treasures.”

Hermione pressed herself against the wall, peering around the corner. There was a hunchbacked house-elf, dragging its feet slowly across the ground and muttering incoherently.

“Excuse me,” Hermione said tentatively, trying to get its attention. “Are you Sirius’ house-elf? I’m Hermione Granger.”

The elf stopped dead in its tracks, staring up at Hermione.

“A Mudblood …but…how did such filth…” the creature rambled unintelligibly under its breath. “A Mudblood has no place in the noble house of Black.”

Hermione straightened her back, offended at the slur. “I am a guest of Sirius Black. I am welcome in this house.”

The house-elf turned its head up towards her. “The Mudblood is in the noble house of Black.”

Hermione faltered, “As I told you, I am a guest here.”

“The Mudblood is in the noble house of Black,” the elf repeated yet again.

The meaning of his words sunk in; Hermione’s heart pounded in her ears. Teeny and Pinky came from Narcissa’s family, from the house of Black; they took commands from her, they knew about the bond .

“You cannot tell anyone,” Hermione whispered frantically, kneeling down to his height. “You know Narcissa and Bellatrix, right? They would be very upset with you if you told anyone about me.”

The elf shifted from side to side, appearing more lucid than before. “Mistress Cissa? Mistress Cissa was nice to Kreacher,” he grumbled, “nice to Kreacher.” He rubbed his thin arms, barely clothed by a threadbare pillowcase.

“Kreacher, look at me,” Hermione insisted, looking into his eyes. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone about me.” She swallowed down her rising guilt. “Mistress Cissa would be badly hurt if you tell.”

She did not think the bond extended to having the ability to command Kreacher so she had to try to reason with him. From Draco’s explanation of house-elf magic, the magic of an elf transfers with the family magic during unions of marriage. Though Kreacher was a Black family house-elf, Narcissa and Sirius were only cousins; he might be able to sense the magic of her bond with Draco, but he belonged only to Sirius.

Kreacher faltered, considering her words, “Oh, what my Mistress would say?” he moaned under his breath. “The Mudblood’s stolen magic…my Mistress would be so disappointed in the Noble House of Black…oh how Mistress loved Mistress Cissa…” Kreacher stumbled away. “Mistress would never forgive Kreacher if Mistress Cissa was harmed…”

Hermione let out the breath she had been holding, hoping that was confirmation that he would keep quiet about the bond. Balling up her fists, she pressed them against her forehead and shut her eyes in frustration. She had not thought to consider that her connection to this house, to this family, could potentially betray the bond.

With slow, deep breaths, she tried to relax. It was only four weeks until the next school year. Four weeks left in the house of Black.

 

Chapter Text

August

Year 5

 

“MUDBLOOD! SCUM! FREAKS DEFOULING THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS!”

“Good morning, Walburga.” Hermione pulled her lips tight, casually strolling past the portrait of Sirius’ mother who was now even more irate since she  had been addressed by a Mudblood.

“FILTH! CREATURES OF THE DIRT!”

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out,” she muttered sarcastically under her breath.

Hermione continued her path past the eerily mounted heads of previous family house-elves and down the hallway past Buckbeak’s room. She had not realised how bored she would feel after being in the house after a few days. Once the novelty wore off, she found herself looking for ways to pass the time. Having already read and reread her fourth-year textbooks as a refresher for the upcoming year, even she could not justify reading them a third time.

In the house itself, there was practically nothing to do; the Order members did not trust them with information due to their age, the house itself was cluttered and filthy, feeding Buckbeak dead rats made her queasy, and Hermione could only play so many games of Exploding Snap with George—or was it Fred?—before losing her mind. Plus, she was half convinced the twins cheated by using their wands now that they were of age.

 

With two more weeks stuck inside Grimmauld Place, Hermione began spending her days exploring the many rooms of the Black ancestral home. Initially, she had stayed in the common areas for fear that the house could have anti-Muggleborn booby-traps or blood wards set to injure intruders, but eventually boredom won out and she began exploring more of the questionable rooms of the home.

It looked as though several estates of dark witches and wizards had been consolidated into the single home, artifacts and belongings overflowing in storage.

On day one of exploration, she tried on a worn pair of shoes that made her tap dance uncontrollably and set those aside — they could come in handy when living with Fred and George. She found a monocle that was enchanted to see through clothes—she tossed that aside in disgust. For several hours, she sifted through piles of robes that were once the height of fashion but would be considered horridly antiquated now.

On day two, she sorted through tomes so old that the binding was barely holding the pages together. She was particularly interested in finding obscure books from the personal collection until a book on Hellenistic astronomy shocked her hand when she tried to open the front cover, leaving a small burn on her pinky. After that, she set aside the books for the day.

On day four, under a stack of old magazines next to a large dust-covered trunk, Hermione found her greatest treasure yet. It was an antique bookstand, bronze in color and quite heavy. It emitted a magical aura, which piqued her interest. On the bookstand, there was a small pocket-sized book, the pages curiously blank.

Removing it from the stand, she retrieved her Charms textbook and set it on the stand in place of the pocketbook. After several moments, the schoolbook pages fluttered, turning as if being scanned. The book closed itself, still once more. She frowned, inspecting the textbook, identifying no discernible changes.

She flipped open the pocketbook; it had not changed either.

“I wonder if it’s using a charm?” she murmured under her breath. Words appeared on the blank page of the pocketbook.

A charm alters an object’s qualities and abilities; it is the catalyst for changing the function of an object. For example, making a coat rack dance.

Hermione dropped the pocketbook in shock. Scrambling to pick it back up, she saw that the pages were once again blank. Jumping up from her seated position, she took a stack of books from nearby, placing them on the stand one by one, watching the pages turn.

Opening one of the books to a random page, she referenced the content of the book before asking with a half-grin, “What is a spell to shatter glass?”

Watching the pocketbook, black words began to form across the page.

Finestra

Spell Type: Charm

Wand Movement: Flick

Light: Blue

Effect: Shatters glass

Additional Details from the Author: The incantation is pronounced fi-ness-tra. This spell generates little sound by the caster, ideal for discretion.

Hermione’s mouth fell open; she had just found a single source to archive all the information she ever wanted to have in her pocket. Her mind raced with the possible implications of this type of magic. Did it have limitations on the amount of content she could store? What if she tried to add the entirety of the Hogwarts library? How long did it retain information for?

Hermione wanted to keep it, to test it out. Sirius clearly had no idea about this artifact — based on the amount of dust on its surface,it had obviously been up in the attic for decades. Would he even notice if it was gone? She carefully placed the set on the ground next to her, pondering her next move. Surely Sirius would not miss it.

On day six Hermione met her .

Hermione was wading through the back half of the attic, her wand lit up to find her way. There were heirlooms stacked into piles which had collected a thick layer of dust over time.

“My ring…you have the ring,” a melodic voice cut through the darkness.

Hermione jumped in place, searching for the source of the sound.

“Down here,” the voice called as Hermione tiptoed through the narrow makeshift path that she had cleared in front of her.

She reached a large portrait, tucked away at the edge of the room next to ornate candle holders. The portrait was obviously ancient; there were chips of paint missing from the frame. A young woman sat posed in a red velvet chair with gold trim, a bowl of fruit and decanter of wine sat next to her.

“How do you know about this ring?” Hermione asked nervously, looking over her shoulder to make sure she was not being overheard.

“Why, that is my ring.” The portrait smiled demurely, “My husband had the set made for us.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open in shock. “ You’re Ari Black?

“You found my journal,” Ari deducted, “as did the last girl, but I never saw her with the ring.”

“The last girl?” Hermione questioned, taking a step back in surprise. “Did she have black hair? Thick black curly hair and dark eyes?”

“Yes, her eyes were black; black and so very sad. She came to me in frantic haste. She found my journal in the family archive and requested my assistance in the binding ritual as I had performed it once before on my Leo,” Ari explained.

“Bella…” Hermione said softly, her breath escaped her chest.

“I directed her to the casting blanket and tome, but I fear I was too late, for she hid my portrait up here decades ago and did not return. Do you know what happened to her?”

Hermione hesitated. “The binding didn’t take.”

Ari nodded sadly. “I feared as much. It is a difficult undertaking, binding the magic of an adult…and you—you are wearing my band. Are you bound to one of my progeny?”

“Yes. When we were babies. Though we aren’t telling anyone about the bond, it’s…complicated.”

“I understand. It is difficult to explain how the bond feels to those without it. Are you pleased with him as your pair?” Ari asked quietly.

Hermione smiled. “Yes, I am.”

“Then no one else matters, my dear. I wish you and your beloved a lifetime of love and happiness,” Ari said, clasping her hands together in front of her.

Hermione chewed on her lip, surveying the mess around her. “Ari, how would you like to get out of this attic?”


Later that night, there was a commotion downstairs. Hermione peaked over the balcony, spotting a head of jet-black hair coming through the doorway.

“HARRY!” she exclaimed, running down the stairs two at a time and taking him in her arms.

He did not hug her back.

She pulled back, scanning him head to toe to make sure he was whole. “Dementors, Harry?!”

He shrugged. “By far the least boring day of my summer,” he turned, acknowledging Ron coldly.

“Speaking of my summer, where were you two? I wrote to you, daily, and you sent me practically nothing in return.” Harry was livid. “I spent my entire summer dying for news.”

“Harry, I’m so sorry,” Hermione apologised profusely. “Dumbledore had us swear not to disclose any information to you in case it was intercepted. We couldn’t risk compromising the Order. I’m sorry the letters were so sparse. We missed you so much. There’s so much I wanted to write to you.”

“Mate, we didn’t have a choice, the whole place is under a Fidelius Charm,” Ron insisted, “and practically as many enchantments as Gringotts. Now that you’re here, we can tell you everything. Well, everything we know, which isn’t much. Mum thinks we’re too young to be in the Order. I’m so glad you’re here.”

Harry’s countenance softened. “I really missed you,” Harry admitted as Hermione and Ron pulled him into a three-way hug. 

The trio was reunited once more.


After supper, Hermione was helping Mr. and Mrs. Weasley clean up the kitchen.

“Hermione”—Sirius walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder—“where is my vile hag of a mother and who is that delightful woman you replaced her with?”

Hermione finished scrubbing her plate, placing it in the sink before turning around to face Sirius. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said innocently, wiping her hands on a towel.

“We’ve been trying to remove her portrait for a month! How did you do it?” Sirius marveled, amused.

“I think whoever did it must have removed it by separating the paint under the portrait, rather than the portrait itself.” Hermione shrugged. “Just pure speculation, of course.”

Hermione had found a separation charm in her new pocketbook that had the portrait down in minutes, much to the dismay of Walburga. Offending Walburga was a popular pastime in the Black house, and Hermione found she was exceptional at it.

“You brilliant witch! Well, wherever Walburga is, I hope she’s rotting in hell.” Sirius chuckled dryly.

Hermione smiled, turning back to the dishes. “Somewhere like that.”

From two floors up, behind the closed attic door, under the loose floorboards, covered in a pile of dirty old robes, a muffled voice screeched, “ Stains of dishonour, filthy half-breeds, blood traitors! Get me out of this attic!”

“Well, if there’s anything I can do to repay you, let me know,” Sirius offered. “I still can’t believe that I won’t have to hear my mother shriek about what a disappointment I am and how I should have been like Regulus every time I walk down the hallway.”

“Actually, there is one thing…” Hermione quirked a smile, thinking back to her summer at Malfoy Manor. “Do you have any spare fabric around the house? I have an idea for Kreacher.”

“I think I can find something in the piles here. What did you have in mind?”


Early the next morning, Harry left to attend his Ministry trial for underage magic. Hermione could not sit still; the prospect of Harry losing his wand and his place at Hogwarts was terrifying. After pacing the room yet again, she decided to go speak with Ari.

Ari was slumbering in her portrait when she approached her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Hermione apologized.

“Oh, Hermione, it is quite alright. After many years of solitude, I have found the house to be quite lively and it has overwhelmed my senses.”

Hermione grimaced, lively was not the word she would have used to describe Grimmauld Place.

“I actually charmed my ring, Draco’s too, with a Notice-Me-Not Charm, but you saw it. Do you think all portraits can see my ring or is it just you?” Hermione asked, absentmindedly twisting the ring on her finger.

Ari contemplated her question. “I do not know. It was my ring so perhaps I am attuned to it. In fact, I was looking for it when I first saw you. To be honest, time moves differently for me. I had thought for a moment that you were Bella coming back for me.”

“Why didn’t you leave your portrait?” Hermione asked, confused. “I’ve seen Hogwarts portraits move from frame to frame. You could have gone for help when you were first moved.”

“I do not know why, but I cannot leave my frame anymore,” she confessed. “I suspect it was something Bella did when she hid me away in the attic all those years ago. She seemed determined not to let anyone find out about her and the blood curse. With how insistent she was, I was surprised she did not burn my portrait. Perhaps she kept me around in case she needed more assistance.” 

Hermione thought back to Draco’s statement—most Purebloods would never admit to a curse on their family line. It would make sense for Bellatrix to hide  any connection between the Black family curse and herself.

\Ari sat forward on the edge of her chair, the corner of her mouth curving up. “Tell me about your bond pair.” Hermione looked over her shoulder, checking to see if  anyone was around.  Turning back to Ari, she smiled widely, her eyes crinkling. “Let me start at the beginning. I first met him on the train ride to Hogwarts, though I didn’t know about the bond until several years after that. He said he knew right away, but I don’t know if I believe that...”

The pair talked until Harry and Mr. Weasley came back from the hearing, cleared of all charges. That night, the entire house celebrated with a feast of Mrs. Weasley’s cooking.

Ari became Hermione’s sole confidant; the pair spent hours whispering quietly each night after everyone in the house was asleep. Hermione shared how confused she’d been about Draco for years, her fears for their future, how his father would disapprove, and all her conflicting emotions about hiding this part of her life from her friends. 

Ari shared her own experiences with Pictor and Leo, and how the bond had shaped her life. Though Ari was only a portrait, Hermione looked forward to each conversation, grateful to finally share this information with someone who could understand.


After searching through piles of rubbish and antiques for Hermione’s request, Sirius gained motivation to clean up Grimmauld Place. He enlisted the help of the Order, plus the younger Weasleys, Harry, and Hermione, to sort through the piles of relics. Hermione did not mind; it was better than the time they sprayed for doxies.

She knew her way around the house from her days of exploration and offered to start in the most cluttered room first. It only took an hour before she was completely disheveled, covered in dust and sweat from cleaning. 

Having stepped out of the room to breathe fresh air, she heard a shrill scream erupt down the hall. Hermione followed the sound of gut-wrenching sobs into the drawing room where Harry was with Mrs. Weasley, standing over the body of Bill Weasley. Hermione jolted as if shocked and pulled out her wand, prepared to fight.

R-r-riddikulus !” Mrs. Weasley sobbed as the body morphed into Mr. Weasley, covered in blood.

Her heart pounded wildly as her eyes widened in recognition; it was not Bill, it was a Boggart, like they had seen in third year in Professor Lupin’s class.

“Mrs. Weasley, just get out of here!” Harry called, but she was hysterical, collapsed into a pile on the floor.

Hermione stepped forward with her wand raised. The Boggart began to shift, and she saw the Dark Mark and a flash of platinum blond hair. The breath left Hermione’s lungs, the room feeling like it was spinning around her. She forgot to speak, just held her wand out in front of her, unmoving.

Riddikulus !” She heard Remus Lupin call out firmly from the doorway, the Boggart turned into a moon before vanishing into a puff of smoke.

Remus quickly walked over to Mrs. Weasley, comforting her as she sobbed into his shoulder.

Before she could react, Harry was pulling Hermione out of the drawing room and into an empty room across the hall. Her whole body was shaking, her breath coming out in short pants as she hyperventilated.

“Breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Good. It’s alright, Hermione. It was just a Boggart,” Harry murmured, wrapping his arms around her tightly.

She broke down for the first time since leaving Malfoy Manor, covering her mouth with her hand, her eyes filling with tears.

“This isn’t about the Boggart, is it?” he asked, searching her tear-filled eyes. Her lip quivered as she shook her head.

“Is this about Malfoy?” he asked, stroking her hair.

Hermione hiccupped, mumbling unintelligibly into his shoulder. Nodding, her tears wet his shirt. She was crying for Draco, not because of Draco. 

She cried for the lies she told her friends, for the life Draco would give up to be with her, for the empty bed she struggled to sleep in. She cried for it all.

“Is it over between you?” Harry enquired.

Yes , she thought bitterly, so much of what they had is over now that she had to lie to Harry.

“Yes.” Her voice hoarse. “It’s over. It’s been over since I arrived at Grimmauld Place.”

“I’ll kill him,” Harry muttered. “Whatever he did, he’s a prat for hurting you.”

He continued to hold her, his hand stroking up and down her back.“Do you want to talk about it?” 

She shook her head. “I just want to have you here with me.”

Harry chuckled. “You have me, you’ll always have me.”

A sob caught in her throat at his words, wishing that she was not alone, wishing that Harry understood what he was promising, and desperately wishing that it was true.


The final week at Grimmauld Place was rather uneventful, spent cleaning and combing through old Daily Prophets with Harry. They were filled with Ministry propaganda denying Voldemort’s return and slandering Dumbledore. Those articles were the most difficult to read, incensing Harry with blatant lies.

Her happiest moment at Grimmauld Place was when she saw Kreacher stumble by, standing less hunchbacked than usual, wearing a nicer version of a hand sewn pillowcase made from sturdy and clean fabric. On the upper corner of the outfit was the Black family crest. 

Sirius had stayed true to his promise and provided fabric for Kreacher to make himself better clothes. Hermione had taken the idea from Draco’s description of Narcissa’s family elves. It was no knitted hat—she was not allowed to free Kreacher as he knew too many Order secrets—but it was something. It was logical that he used a pillowcase pattern to fit what was comfortable after all these years.

Maybe this summer at Grimmauld Place had not been all bad; between Ari’s portrait, Kreacher, and the bookstand, it felt almost meant to be.

Before Hermione knew it, the day had come to return to school.

Having separated from Harry on the train ride, Hermione and Ron made their way to the Prefects’ carriage. Ron was going on about the features of the broom he got as a reward for making Prefect and how he had clipped his Chudley Cannons insignia to it. Hermione politely nodded along to his story, not knowing or caring much about Quidditch. They slid open the carriage door, coming face to face with the two new Slytherin Prefects, Pansy Parkinson and Draco Malfoy.

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat when she saw him. She fought back a smile. That Prefect title is going to look good on a potioneering apprenticeship application , she thought proudly.

Her eyes drifted over to the other Slytherin Prefect, frowning at Pansy. Why was it always Pansy?

Sneering at Ron and Hermione, Pansy said, “Looks like they scraped the bottom of the barrel for the Gryffindor Prefects this year.”

Ron scrunched up his face and opened his mouth to reply but Hermione cut him off, taking him by the arm. “Ronald, stop. We’re Prefects now; she’s not worth it.”

Hermione saw Draco’s eyes lingering on her hand which was still holding Ron’s arm. She dropped it. The two made tentative eye contact; Hermione swallowed and looked away. It had been over a month since they had last seen each other. 

It was physically painful for her to see him and act like he was nothing to her.

The door opened again and they were joined by Anthony Goldstein, Padma Patil, Ernie Macmillan, and Hannah Abbott. They all found their seats in the carriage, making small talk and chattering about their new Prefect status and duties. Fidgeting with her locket, Hermione tried to discreetly eavesdrop on Draco and Pansy’s conversation.

“I’m not the least bit surprised we were both selected,” Pansy boasted. “We are obviously the best in our year. Quite the power couple, if I do say so myself.” She winked at Draco. “It’ll be fun having all that alone time to patrol together.”

Draco caught Hermione’s eyes before she quickly looked down at the carriage floor, jealousy bubbling up in her stomach at Pansy’s words. 

Her boyfriend, Slytherin Prefect with Pansy Parkinson. 

Lovely.

Hermione was feeling confident she could go the whole year without breaking more glass in a jealous rage, though she did have a charm for it this time, she mused to herself. She would not use the pocketbook for her petty jealousy. Pansy leaned closer to Draco and Hermione’s hand tightened its grip on her bag. 

Probably.


Draco centered himself in the front of the room. “Here is your common room for the next seven years. This is a shared space, so be courteous of others while you are in this room. It is available to you at all hours, even past curfew.”

“If you look out the windows you will see that we are partially under the Black Lake, which causes the green glow in this room. You may be able to see the giant squid,” Draco added with a smile as the students began to talk excitedly amongst themselves at the prospect.

“Pay attention,” Pansy called out to the group of babbling first years, silencing them. “The password for the common room changes every fortnight, and you can find it posted on the noticeboard two days in advance. If you find yourself locked out without the password, you will be stuck waiting in the dungeon corridor until a fellow Slytherin can assist you.”

She continued sternly, “Under absolutely no circumstance are you allowed to share the password or bring students from other houses into the Slytherin common room. There has not been a single outsider in the Slytherin common room for more than seven centuries—do not be the student who breaks that tradition.”

Draco bit back a laugh. It was a bit late for that one, he thought, smirking to himself.

“Tomorrow, we will continue your orientation with a tour of Hogwarts; for now, we will direct you to your private dormitories where you will find your trunks have been delivered by the house-elves.” Pansy raised her voice. “Girls, follow me; boys, follow Draco.”

Draco gestured for the male students to follow him to the empty rooms to the left of the common room. Referencing the papers from Professor Snape, he divided the group into subgroups and directed them to their assigned rooms.

At the end of the night, Draco was knackered. He rubbed his temples in frustration, the first years had so many requests for the new Prefects. Asking for directions, a hundred questions about classes, already homesick students wanting to send letters about their sorting results—it was constant.

Draco was already dressed for bed when he heard a faint knock at his door. He hopped out of the bed in surprise; Hermione must have found a way to sneak the Invisibility Cloak in. Not bothering to put on a shirt, he swung the door open to greet his girlfriend.

“Oh! Draco...” Pansy’s greedy eyes trailed down his bare chest as she tried to let herself into his room. Draco stepped in front of her, blocking her in the doorway.

He sighed in exasperation. “What do you want now, Pansy? Does one of the first years need help again?”

“No, they are all in their rooms.” She reached out a hand to him. “It’s been such a long first day. I thought you might want to have a nightcap and talk about our Prefect duties together for the year.”

Draco frowned, moving away from her hand. “We can talk about Prefect duties during the weekly Prefect meetings.”

Pansy’s face fell. “Drakey, what happened to us? Is there someone else? Who is she?”

His head throbbed in annoyance. “There doesn’t have to be someone else, Pansy.”

“Well, obviously something changed. One moment we were dating and then I don’t hear from you for months and now you do nothing but push me away,” she argued. “You’re always busy and no one ever knows where you are. Who is she?”

Draco’s stomach flipped nervously. “There is no one else,” he replied, his voice growing harsher. “Can’t a bloke just change his mind? Ever think it might be because of you?”

“I’ve known you since we learned how to walk. You think I can’t tell there’s someone else? I’ll figure it out. You can’t hide her forever.” Pansy’s face flushed in embarrassment as her eyes welled with tears. “And you know, you’re the one who pursued me . You asked me to the Yule ball and now you’re acting like I’m some pathetic girl following you around. You could do a lot worse than me, Draco Malfoy.”

Pansy turned on her heel, storming away from Draco who was still standing in his doorway. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head against the door frame in frustration, guilt settling in his chest. 

Damn that Gryffindor conscience rubbing off on him

He would have to apologize to Pansy tomorrow. Turning back into his room, he closed the door, disheartened at the complete lack of Hermione Granger in his bed.


Draco did not sleep well that night. Between the empty bed and the incident with Pansy, his mind was difficult to settle. The next morning, he packed up his books, preparing for his first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson of the year.

He knew that Hermione was in the room before he walked through the doorway; his eyes found her at the front of the class, dead center. Navigating across the room to Blaise, who was seated several rows away from Hermione, he took a seat.

He kept thinking back to his conversation with Pansy. He would have to be careful not to give any indication that he was friendly with Hermione—especially now that Pansy was suspicious that he was seeing someone.

Defense Against the Dark Arts was exactly what Draco had expected, Ministry indoctrination from that toadlike woman with useless textbooks. Of course, his witch had to start an argument with the new Professor. He fought back a smile, he expected nothing less from his fiery Gryffindor.

“There’s nothing written up there about using defensive spells,” Hermione pointed out.

Internally, he found himself nodding in agreement, though outwardly he scowled with his housemates.

Next thing he knew, the rest of the Gryffindors chimed in to agree with her. 

Typical Gryffindors , he shook his head at the thought, no self-preservation in the whole lot . With how the conversation progressed, he was surprised when Harry Potter was the only one to receive detention by the end of class.

Draco eyed her from across the room, sending Hermione a quick message to her band.

See you tonight?

He watched as she glanced down at her ring and his heated up with her reply.

R.O.R. after curfew?

Room of Requirement. He thought about her message for a moment and then smirked, sending back a correction of the name, the Come and Go Room.

C.A.G.R.* yes

With a smirk, he checked for her reaction; she shook her head in amusement at his message before turning back to the lesson.


Impatient, Draco arrived a full half hour early for their meeting and found Hermione already there waiting. She whirled around, scanning the corridor for any person or ghost, and threw herself into his arms.

He inhaled part of her hair in their embrace. He had missed her. When she tried to step back, he kept holding on to her, unwilling to let go yet.

“Let’s go inside before someone sees us. I have so much to tell you,” she said excitedly, closing her eyes and pacing in front of the empty wall. A door appeared.

Settling into the large sofa, Draco picked Hermione up and placed her on his lap, wrapping his arms around her waist and leaning his head against her shoulder.

“It’s been so long,” he complained. “I never want to go that long without seeing you again.”

She wiggled in his lap and his hands steadied her hips, causing her to sit still.

Hermione stroked his cheek. “It’s been so long,” she repeated. “And I’ve missed my wizard.”

Your wizard ”—Draco’s voice grew low, a shiver running his spine at her possessive phrasing—“missed you.” His hands rested on her thighs, just below her skirt. Impatiently, she shifted in his lap again.

Draco’s stomach growled loudly, causing Hermione to let out a laugh. “Did someone forget to eat today?”

His cheeks grew pink and his thumb rubbed a circle on her thigh. “I’m so hungry. I shouldn’t have skipped supper, but those damn first years are so needy. They’ve been taking up all my time. Don’t worry, I’ll call Pinky to bring some food.”

“You know, not everyone has personal house elves bringing them food,” Hermione chastised. “Most students have to work for their extra food.”

“Then what do you propose?”

The corner of her mouth raised slyly. “Get your Prefect badge, just in case we need to be ‘on patrol’ for an alibi.”

“Alright, Granger, show me how the peasants get food after curfew,” he laughed as she stuck her tongue out at him.

“Where are you bringing me?” Draco hissed at Hermione as they crept down another dark corridor.

“You’ve gone to this school for nearly five years, your house common room is less than a three-minute walk from here, and you still don’t recognise where we are?” She shook her head in amazement.

Draco shrugged sheepishly.

Rolling her eyes in amusement, Hermione gestured to the stack of barrels to their right. “That is the entrance to the Hufflepuff common room.” “Are we stealing food from the Hufflepuffs?” he asked, obviously entertained at the idea.

Instead of replying, Hermione walked silently up to a still-life portrait of a bowl of fruit. She turned to Draco, watching his reaction as she reached out and tickled the pear.

He looked baffled as a doorway appeared and Hermione held out her hand. “Welcome to the Hogwarts kitchens.”

Five minutes later, they both stumbled out with armfuls of treats. 

“I can’t believe those ‘puffs have been holding out on us!” Draco said in offense as he shoved a chocolate muffin into his mouth.

“First off, rude; second off, you’re a Prefect . You need to resolve this weird prejudice that you have against Hufflepuffs,” she reprimanded.

Draco wrinkled his forehead in offense. “Excuse you, that is a loaded term. I’ll have you know some of my very best mates are Hufflepuffs.”

Hermione stared. “Name a single Hufflepuff.”

“Penelope Clearwater.”

“Not a Hufflepuff.”

“Susan Lovegood.”

“That is half-Hufflepuff, half-Ravenclaw.”

“Brian Cuddlemore.”

“You’re joking, right? There’s no way that you’re serious. That’s not even a real name,” Hermione insisted, her brow furrowing.

“Badger McBadgerface.” Draco smirked.

“I’m starting to grow concerned that you’re actually serious. You do know Hufflepuffs, right? We’ve shared classes with them for nearly five years, so the fact that you’re struggling to provide a single name is alarming.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” he argued. “I could have mates who are practically Hufflepuffs. You’re in Gryffindor, but the more I learn about you, the more I see your inner Slytherin.”

“Ah yes, I’m sure Slytherin would have just loved a token Muggleborn in their house.”

“You’re an honourary Slytherin at heart.” Draco shifted his snacks into one arm, wrapping the other around her waist.

“Of course I have an inner Slytherin, just as I know you have an inner Gryffindor. Why else would your magic have picked me?” She winked flirtatiously, skipping ahead. “Come along, Draco!”

Excuse you , I have no inner Gryffindor,” he mumbled under his breath as he followed behind her. “I’m a Malfoy and a Black , that’s generations of pure unadulterated Slytherin . Just because I snuck you into the Slytherin dorms and helped you knit house-elf hats and learned how to braid your hair this summer…and I skipped a meal to help some first years…and stood up to my father for you…”

Draco stopped dead in his tracks, dropping a muffin in the process, “Shite, I might have some Gryffindor in me after all.”

Hermione just laughed.

Chapter Text

September

Year 5

“How was the rest of your summer?” Hermione asked impatiently as she unwrapped another treat from the kitchens. “Tell me everything from the moment I left!”

“Well, my father came home, so I’m glad you left when you did. He basically told me the same hogwash as my mother about us ‘protecting the family’ by staying within the Dark Lord’s ranks,” Draco said, frustrated. “He acts like he’s making the right choice when he’s just making the coward’s choice. Lucky for me, the Manor is big enough that I mostly avoided him outside of meals. The Death Eaters are definitely up to something, though. We had all sorts of shady visitors stopping by the Manor to speak with my father.”

Hermione’s brow creased. “I wish we knew what they were planning. Harry’s scar has been hurting since the end of the tournament. It makes me uneasy that we have no idea what they’re planning, especially since the Ministry is insisting on sticking their head in the sand on Voldemort’s return.” After a beat of thought, she added, “If you hear anything else, will you let me know? I can try to find a way to warn Harry.”

Draco nodded, taking in her words. “I will if I hear anything, but father’s not exactly been forthcoming about his plans lately.”

“He sure was proud of me making Prefect,” Draco added bitterly. “Funny how all I ever wanted was his approval, and when I finally have it, I’ve found I don’t like the sort of man he is.”

Her expression softened, reaching out to play with his hair softly as he talked.

“Well, I’m proud of you making Prefect. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw you in the Prefect’s carriage on the first day,” she said with a wide smile.

“Yeah, it would be great if I had a different Prefect partner though,” Draco mumbled, picking at the seam on the arm of the sofa.

“I noticed you were paired with Pansy,” she added nonchalantly, as if it had not been all she could focus on during her first day of school.

He looked up at her, “She’s suspicious. She thinks I’m hiding a secret girlfriend which isn’t off base since I am.”

Hermione gasped in faux shock. “How salacious! I can’t believe you have two secret girlfriends. Who is she?”

“Granger…” he said, his voice serious. “I’ve known Pansy all my life. She’s a huge gossip. If she even gets a hint that we are together then it’ll be all over the school before you can say ‘dance like a hippogriff’.”

“Well, let’s just make you a fake secret girlfriend then so she doesn’t find out about your real secret girlfriend,” Hermione proposed with a sly smile.

“How exactly are we going to accomplish that?” he asked. “I am not going to fake date one of your friends, like Weasley, if that’s where this is going. I’m not into redheads.”

“Ronald wouldn’t date you anyway.” She waved a hand dismissively as Draco sputtered next to her. “I have a better idea. Just leave it up to me.”

“Stop. You know I meant the girl Weasley.” He rolled his eyes. “Also, before I forget, I picked you up a little something at Honeydukes.” He smiled, rummaging through his bag and retrieving a box of sugar quills.

Hermione’s eyes lit up in excitement. “Yes! I’ve been dying for some sugar quills, I completely forgot to buy them with everything that was going on this summer. Thank you!”

She opened the front pouch of her bag, retrieving a single gold Galleon and handing it to Draco.

He blinked, staring at the coin in the palm of his hand. “You do realise I could spend a thousand Galleons and my parents wouldn’t even notice?” He tried to hand her the Galleon, but she folded her arms in front of her.

“It’s the principle of the matter. I owe you for the sugar quills, ergo you take the Galleon,” she stated, refusing to take the coin back.

Draco’s forehead crinkled in annoyance as he held out the Galleon to no avail. “Take the coin, Granger.”

She shook her head defiantly and he glared at her in indignation.

“Can we talk about this new ‘High Inquisitor of Hogwarts’?” Hermione asked, redirecting the conversation as he huffed, still holding the coin.

“You mean Professor Dumbridge?” Draco asked sarcastically. He thought for a moment. “Slumbridge?”

“Her name literally means ‘sorrows’ and ‘annoyance’,” Hermione grumbled.

“Glumbridge, then. I wonder what her parents were thinking, giving their kid a name like that,” Draco wondered out loud. A second later, he smirked.“Umbitch. Dolores Umbitch.”

“Toadlorus Umbitch,” Hermione supplied.

“…that’s very good, I like that.” Draco nodded his head in approval.

Hermione snorted.

“Anyway, it’s absolute poppycock,” Draco asserted. “How can the Ministry have so much influence over Hogwarts? They’ve changed the entire function of the class and it's essentially useless now. What kind of defence class gives absolutely no practise in defending yourself?”

“Exactly! That’s what I’ve been telling Harry. How are we supposed to prepare and learn how to fight when we have a professor like her?” Hermione muttered in annoyance.

“You can’t. There’s only so much you can learn from a textbook without a real teacher. We are shite out of luck,” Draco fumed. “The only way we would learn anything of value is if we could replace her with someone who knows what they’re doing.”

“Draco, that’s it! Who do you know that has the most experience fighting against Voldemort?” Hermione asked excitedly.

“…is this a trick question? Because I’m pretty sure you mean Potter, but the answer is obviously Dumbledore.”

She lightly whacked his shoulder. “Yes, Harry. We should get Harry to teach us!”

Draco sat up, an idea coming to him. “Why don’t you meet here? If this room can create anything you need then it can easily make a dueling arena.”

“I have to go start planning! I’m meeting with Harry and Ron first thing tomorrow—they’re going to love this idea!” Hermione jumped up, pacing in excitement.

She faltered, looking over at Draco somberly. “I wish you could come with me; this was your idea, too.”

“That’s okay, Granger, I wouldn’t want to show up Potter in his own class anyway,” he joked, though she could tell it was forced. “It’d be awfully embarrassing for him. ‘The Boy Who Lived’ defeated the Dark Lord at age one but lost a duel to Draco Malfoy.” He thought for a moment. “Actually, I take it back. I quite like that.”


Hermione cast a quick Disillusionment Charm on herself as she left the Room of Requirement that night, shaking off the eerily feeling of an egg being cracked on her head. She had become skilled at walking quietly, avoiding any patrolling Prefects or wandering ghosts. Mid-stride, she felt her cloak swing oddly against her thigh. She stopped, reaching into her pocket and pulled out the gold Galleon she had given Draco earlier. She scoffed, shaking her head in amusement at his antics. She spent the rest of the trip back to Gryffindor Tower brainstorming ways to return his coin. 

But first, she had to stop by the owlery.


Draco yawned into the crook of his elbow, still exhausted from his late night. He sat down next to Theo and Blaise at the Slytherin table for breakfast, scooping a heap of scrambled eggs onto his plate. They were discussing who had been selected for each house’s Quidditch team and debating the strengths and weaknesses of the teams..

“Definitely not, everyone knows Ravenclaw’s strength is their strategy, Hufflepuff’s strength is their Keepers, Gryffindor’s strength is their Chasers, and Slytherin’s strength is everything ,” Blaise asserted between bites.

“That’s not always true, especially when you account for wildcard Seekers,” Theo argued. “The snitch is worth so many points that if you have a good enough Seeker they can carry your team even without having a strong set of Beaters or Keepers.”

“But seekers get fouled so easily, you can’t rely on them carrying the team,” Blaise contended.

The sound of wings flapping filled the Great Hall as owls delivered post to their recipients. A bright pink envelope landed in front of Draco; his name was doodled on the front in swirly script with a heart over the ‘i’ in his middle name. He frowned at the letter, inspecting it.

“Who is that from?” he heard one of the girls down the table ask in a nosy manner.

Draco ignored the question as he ripped open the letter which was written in the same whimsical handwriting.

Mon cher Draco,

How I miss you. I had the most delightful weekend with you this summer in France. Maman and papa were enchanted by your disposition and would like to invite you back soon. Our elves have been preparing your favourites ever since you left and have quite perfected chocolate shortbread as you have shown us. My heart feels empty without you by my side; I look forward to our reunion. I wish you the best on your first week back at Hogwarts.

Mille baisers,

Adeline

Draco was about halfway through the letter when it was suddenly ripped from his hands from behind him; he turned, Millicent Bulstrode and Pansy were scanning the letter with open mouths.

“Draco Malfoy! You lied to me!” Pansy whacked him over the head with the envelope. “You told me you weren’t seeing anyone. Who is Adeline ?!”

“You caught me, Pansy,” Draco said dryly, reaching for the paper. “Give me back my letter.”

Theo eyed Draco curiously, but did not say anything. Blaise simply looked happy to have someone else be the focus of female wrath.

Pansy huffed in annoyance, dropping the letter onto the ground and stomping away. Draco leaned over, picking up the letter. He glanced over at Hermione at the Gryffindor table, who was smugly smiling into her rasher of bacon. Draco thought back to her promise; he supposed this was one way of ‘taking care of it’.


The next Friday, Draco exhaled deeply, running his hand through his wind-swept hair. He pulled off his gloves, tucking them into the pocket of his Quidditch uniform. He had just completed his first practice for the Slytherin Quidditch team and he was exhausted; practice had run late and it was well past curfew before they finally stopped playing. They were lucky that Umbridge had been in Slytherin; she had a soft spot for the house and would hopefully overlook their late practice.

He trailed in behind the rest of the team on the path to the dungeons. He felt his ring burn and glanced down to see a message.

Behind you

Circling around, Draco saw a hint of brunette hair peeking through the classroom doorway . He eyed the rest of the team, making sure no one was paying attention to him. He slipped into the classroom. The door closed behind him and suddenly a body was pressed up against him.

Pinning him against the door, Hermione wove her fingers into his hair and pulled his head down to her. His lips felt hot and pulsed with his heartbeat as she slowly worked her tongue into his mouth, teasing. As she captured his lower lip between her teeth, Draco inhaled sharply as a shiver raced down his spine.

“What happened to keeping a low profile?” Draco asked, his voice low and husky.

“Pansy’s been taken care of. Plus, this wasn’t exactly planned. I was heading back from the library,” she said, guiding him backwards into a chair. “And I happened upon you.” She straddled him, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“And I didn’t know you would be in your Quidditch uniform , ” she murmured, her hands trailing down his chest to the bulge growing in his leather Quidditch trousers.

He sucked a breath in through his teeth. “You don’t even like Quidditch.” His eyes hooded as he watched her tongue dart out to lick her  lips.

“I think I’m officially a fan.” She flushed as her hands reached for the zipper on his trousers and he tilted his hips up towards her.

There was the squeak of a shoe in the corner of the room and Hermione dove off Draco’s lap, stumbling several steps before regaining her balance. She tried to look inconspicuous, straightening her shirt anxiously.

“Who’s there?!” she called, looking to the end of the room.

A timid looking first-year Hufflepuff peeked out from around the back corner. She had short strawberry-blonde hair and wide green eyes.

“I didn’t see anything, I swear.” The girl flailed her arms wildly, avoiding eye contact with Hermione and Draco.

Hermione swallowed, her eyes wide. “ Of course you didn’t see anything because nothing was happening. After all, we are Prefects…out patrolling.” She flinched at her lame alibi.

The Hufflepuff cocked her head to the side. “That’s a terrible excuse, you must know that, right? You’re in an abandoned classroom and not even wearing your Prefect badges. This one isn’t even in robes. He’s in a Quidditch uniform.”

Hermione flushed a deep red, looking to Draco for help. Draco’s gaze shifted from Hermione to the Hufflepuff. “What’s your name?”

“Amelia Williams,” she offered.

“Amelia…you do know you’re breaking curfew by being out right now?” Hermione said sternly, her hands on her hips.

Amelia’s mouth curved into the ghost of a smirk. “Well, if you weren’t here, then neither was I.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open and Draco coughed out a laugh.

“I’ll see myself out before another pair of Prefects come in for…patrolling.” Amelia shrugged innocently, skipping out of the classroom.

“Amelia Williams,” Draco said triumphantly. “I told you I could name a Hufflepuff.”

“Not funny, Draco.” Hermione pulled her hands across her face, flustered. “You do realise somewhere in the castle now there is a first year who knows about us?”

“Any chance you can stick her in a jar, too?” Draco teased as the pair stared at the corner where Amelia had been standing.


Draco walked the path to the dungeons, visibly frustrated. It had been over a week since Hermione had been able to sneak away now that she had limited access to the Invisibility Cloak. The one night they managed to get time together was ruined by that Hufflepuff. Plus, he did not mind being jumped randomly in the halls. I should wear this uniform more often , he mused, thinking of the look in Hermione’s eyes tonight. Adjusting himself, he groaned.Why did they have to be interrupted?

Draco descended the stone steps that led to the Slytherin Common Room, “Conquer,” he muttered as the stone wall shifted and the passageway revealed itself.

“...and did you see the look on his face? Potter’s absolutely pathetic and finally everyone knows it,” a male voice mocked.

Draco frowned, surveying the room. There were a dozen students ranging in years sitting on the black leather sofas and carved chairs that filled the space in front of the large mantle.

“Yeah,” a sixth-year bloke added, “I overheard his fellow Gryffindors don’t even believe him. Think he’s making it all up for attention and that old Dumbledore’s off his rocker.”

They turned as Draco entered the common room; he noticed Theo sitting at one end of the larger sofa, his arms crossed defensively and his jaw clenched in anger.

“Oh, Draco, we were just talking about how satisfying it is to watch the fall of the Gryffindor golden boy. Care to join us?” Marcus Flint called to him, baring his disfigured smile.

“Unlike you, I actually worked hard at practice tonight.” Draco gestured to his uniform as Marcus rolled his eyes. “And I don’t have time to stay up gossiping like little schoolgirls about Harry Potter. If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder why you were so obsessed with him.” He raised his eyebrows at Marcus who grunted in denial.

Draco looped around the back of the seating area, clapping Theo on the shoulder who tensed from his touch. “Theo, mate, I still have to return your Potions textbook.”

Theo looked up at Draco, confused, and then realisation dawned on his face. “I’ll come get it in a moment, thanks.”

Draco nodded once and walked back to his dorm. He showered and dressed for bed, waiting for Theo to stop by his room.

There was a knock at the door; Draco opened it and stepped aside for Theo to enter.

“You looked like you were going to hex someone.” Draco watched Theo carefully. “You know you don’t have to sit out there while they bash your boyfriend.”

“He’s not my…we don’t have labels.” Theo shoved his hands in his pockets. “And I couldn’t exactly get up and leave as soon as they started talking about him. It looks suspicious.”

“Want me to call Pinky? I can have him bring us some Pad Thai?” Draco offered.

“What’s that?” Theo scrunched his face in confusion.

“Granger introduced it to me over the summer. You’ll love it. One day I’ll show you the delicacy that is Muggle takeout,” Draco raved enthusiastically.

“Who are you?” Theo mused. “And what have you done with my best mate?”

“Much has happened, young Theo. I left for the summer a boy and came back a man.”

Theo’s eyes shot open wide. “ Draco Lucius Malfoy , are you seriously telling me that you deflowered the Gryffindor princess this summer?”

“Ew, don’t use the word deflowered.” Draco grimaced, shaking his head. “In fact, erase it from your vocabulary so no one else has to suffer through that.”

“Shut up and go get that pads-Thai. I want to hear everything!” Theo pulled up a chair.

“It’s Pad Thai,” Draco grumbled. “Pinky!”

Twenty minutes later they were shoveling Pad Thai into their mouths while Draco recounted his summer.

“...then she had to leave early because Father came home from the latest resurgence gathering.” Draco stabbed a noodle with his chopstick, still working on the mechanics of eating with sticks.

“What a cockblock. It could’ve been worse, though. My father spent the summer ranting about how the old ways are coming back, how he can’t wait to torture filthy Mudbloods and how he’s counting down the days until the Dark Lord ‘ Avadas that fucking Harry Potter’ once and for all.” Theo pursed his lips, looking down at his meal, suddenly not hungry anymore.

“Look at us, two blokes in love with people our fathers can’t stand,” Draco quipped, lightly elbowing Theo who looked up quickly at him.

“Love? You told her that you love her?” he questioned, his voice quiet.

“I was going to wait but then I couldn’t stop telling her. I mean, she’s impossible but she’s also devastatingly clever and the kind of beautiful you just can’t look away from. She’s cunning like us but also ridiculously loyal. Not to mention, she packs a wicked punch.” Draco smiled to himself.

“Merlin, you have it bad,” Theo marveled. “I never thought I’d see the day. Then again, you’ve been in love with her for years. I just never thought you’d actually figure it out.”

Draco narrowed his eyes at Theo. “Thanks for the support, mate.”

“Anytime. Have I told you about C.O.C.K.?”

Draco threw a noodle at him.


The next morning, Draco sat down for breakfast at his usual spot at the Slytherin table. He turned to his left, inspecting the blokes who had been ridiculing Potter last night. Today, they were both sporting freshly bruised black eyes and busted lips. Draco turned to his right where Theo was shifting food around on his plate with his fork and humming to himself.

“Theo,” he started, eyeing his best mate.

“Hmm?” Theo hummed in response.

“What did you get up to after leaving my room last night?” Draco asked warily.

The corners of Theo’s mouth perked up. “Just went to bed.”

Draco looked at the pair who were avidly avoiding eye contact and then back to Theo. “Sure you did. And just what do you think happened to those two?”

“Huh? Oh, them, yeah they fell,” Theo stated casually.

“Both of them? Into what?” Draco asked.

“My fists.”

“Theo,” Draco warned.

“And maybe my foot.”


Over at the Gryffindor table, Hermione was carefully scanning through the crowd of Hufflepuffs, looking for Amelia. When she spotted Amelia leaving her table, Hermione hopped up from her seat and followed her out of the Great Hall.

“I won’t tell anyone,” a light voice called out from behind her, Hermione turned and found Amelia sitting in the windowsill outside the Great Hall. “Though it’s not because you’re particularly intimidating.” 

Hermione looked around her; traffic in the corridor was sparse with only a few students walking through it.

“Amelia, why were you in the classroom after curfew to begin with?” Hermione asked, walking up to the first year.

Amelia looked down at her hands. “A couple Slytherin second years were making fun of me after supper. They kept taunting me and jinxing my shoelaces to tie together.” Her voice became small. “I don’t know any real spells yet, so I just keep running from them. You two came into the classroom before I could sneak out and there was only one exit.”

Hermione’s features softened and she dropped her hands to her sides, joining Amelia on the ledge. She remembered the loneliness of that first month of school, when even Harry and Ron had joined in on teasing her.

“Why haven’t you told anybody? You could report them. They shouldn’t be harassing you like that.”

Amelia’s face flushed. “Everyone knows that’s the best way to make mates, by ratting out other students to professors.”

Hermione contemplated her words. “Well, you should know how to defend yourself at the very least. I have a few hours available after lunch today if you want to learn. Not that I’m condoning this,” she clarified, “but if you insist on continuing without school intervention then perhaps once they see you will fight back, they will stop bullying you.”

Amelia looked pleased. “Oh yes! I would love that. How about half past noon? In the same classroom as last night?”

Hermione’s cheeks tinted pink as she pulled her bag over her shoulder. “Same classroom as last night,” she confirmed.


Later that night, Hermione’s band burned.

C.A.G.R.?

She frowned, looking at the letters. She had spent several hours teaching Amelia jinxes for her arsenal and had given up valuable study time, falling behind. Excluding schoolwork for other classes, she still had twelve inches to write for her Arithmancy essay.

Quickly sending back a message, she watched the letters disappear to Draco, Tomorrow?

After several moments, her ring burned again.

Tomorrow.

His disappointment in his reply was palpable. How she wished she could have had a time-turner this year. So far, fifth year was making her third-year schedule look like a cake walk.


Draco was waiting for her the next night when she arrived at the tapestry on the seventh floor. His face widened in a grin and he proudly gestured to the doorway; he had conjured the room himself this time.

“After you.” He opened the door for Hermione and she stepped through. The room looked the same as usual, with the addition of a single wooden chair that looked identical to the classroom seat.

He shrugged. “If you were interested in picking up where we left off.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “But you’re wearing normal robes.”

Draco swore under his breath. “It was all the uniform? I never knew; it must be like me with your Muggle trousers.”

“You like my jeans?” Hermione smirked.

“Oh, Granger, you have opened my mind to so many things, but your arse in those jeans is my favourite of all.” He stalked closer to her, tangling his hands in her curls as he kissed her.

“Also, Umbridge gave Harry detention,” Hermione added. “Which means I might be able to borrow the cloak for a few nights this month without him missing it.”

Draco’s grin widened, his cheeks flushing with glee. “That’s the best news I’ve heard all year.”

“Well, not for Harry. He has detention,” Hermione pointed out, squealing as Draco picked her up and swung her around.

“Speaking of Potter, how’s the secret student dueling club going?” Draco asked curiously.

“Well, like I told you before, our first meeting was at the Hog’s Head and we have met twice since then. The coordination became a bit much and we needed some way to communicate the meetings without Umbridge finding out. I actually based it off my idea for our rings and bewitched Galleons to send meeting information between members.”

“That’s brilliant—you’re brilliant!” Draco exclaimed with pride.

“I wish you could be in Dumbledore’s Army with us,” Hermione lamented. “You are such a talented duelist—we could really use you as another teacher. It’s growing every week; in our last meeting we had twenty-five students! Twenty-five!”

“They have the brightest witch of their age, the wonder Boy Who Lived, and…whatever Weasley is. The club is well equipped with capable teachers. Well, except for Wealsey. Seriously, I saw the bloke make himself vomit up slugs. I wouldn’t trust him to teach anyone.”

“That’s not a fair example! His wand was broken from crashing a flying car into the Whomping Willow after they missed the train and—okay, I’m hearing it now—but Ron’s not really teaching anyway. It’s mostly Harry and sometimes me.” She paused for a moment, then added, “I met with Amelia yesterday. Some of your kind have been bullying her.”

My kind? ” Draco scoffed in offense. “Now who is holding onto house rivalries?”

“I taught her a few jinxes to help her the next time they harass her.”

“You taught a first year how to jinx other students? Prefect of the year,” he replied sarcastically, but with obvious approval.

“I just figure it wouldn’t hurt to repay her for her silence, and now hopefully she will stop hiding in abandoned classrooms. In case there’s another night of Quidditch practices…” Hermione’s voice drifted off suggestively.

Draco nodded. “Fantastic idea, really inspired.”

Hermione laughed, biting her lip as she watched him.

Draco checked the clock, as he had been every few minutes since she arrived.

“Also, I already gave you your gift early, but as it’s officially midnight…” Draco’s mouth curved into a smile as he retrieved a large red velvet cake that was sitting on a table in the corner of the room. He murmured a quick spell and lit her candles. He carried it over to her, placing it on the table in front of her.

Hermione’s face bloomed into a wide smile. “I know just what to wish for.” She blew out each candle.

“Happy birthday, love. May this year be your best year yet.” He pulled her into his lap, kissing her so thoroughly she melted into him.


For someone who was overall uninterested in Quidditch, Hermione found herself excited to attend the first match of the season. It was Gryffindor vs Slytherin, her best mates playing against her boyfriend. She was wearing her Gryffindor scarf but also wearing her Slytherin green knickers. 

Smirking to herself at her secret, she wondered if Draco would have time after the game to meet her. After seeing him in his uniform, Hermione was quite interested in breaking the latest proclamation, Educational Decree Number Thirty-One, BOYS AND GIRLS ARE NOT PERMITTED TO BE WITHIN 8 INCHES OF EACH OTHER.

From the stands, she watched as the teams flew out onto the field. Draco pulled out his gloves, slipping his hand into one and then pausing before pulling out a single gold Galleon from the glove. She stifled a laugh at the look of outrage on his face as he glared into the Gryffindor stands and tucked the Galleon into his Quidditch uniform’s pocket.


“I know you think Divination is a load of rubbish, but you should’ve seen how Umbridge treated Trelawney during class today.” Harry’s mouth contorted into a frown.

“Is she still making you fill out those dream diaries?” Hermione asked, selecting a roast beef sandwich and scooping potatoes from the tray in front of her seat.

“Yes, The Dream Oracle is the focus of the year,” Harry added.

“It was bloody awful, ‘Mione. Umbridge asked Trelawney for a prediction and she choked,” Ron said as he shoveled food into his mouth.

“The Inner Eye does not see on command,” Harry quoted in a whimsical high-pitch voice.

Hermione bit down into her sandwich, her tooth hitting something solid. She recoiled, absolutely revolted, opening the top bun to find a gold Galleon sitting on top of the beef. Eyes narrowing, she glared in silent fury at the Slytherin table where her boyfriend was happily chatting away with his mates.

Picking the coin from her meal, she discreetly wiped it down with her napkin and slipped it into her bag. 

Bugger.

Harry reached for a slice of bread and his sleeve shifted up his arm. In scarred purple-red lettering were the words ‘I must not tell lies.’

With a gasp, Hermione reached for Harry’s hand, and he immediately retracted it back into his lap.

“Harry!” she exclaimed as he looked around quickly. “What happened?”

“Not here, Hermione. It’s from my detention,” he muttered under his breath.

“WHAT?!” She felt her blood boil at his words.

“Can we talk later?” he pleaded, trying not to attract the attention of students around them.

Her face heated in anger. “Fine. But let me get you something to help ease the pain and make sure it doesn’t scar, okay?”

“A scar. Surely wouldn’t want one of those,” he joked half-heartedly, his face falling at her unamused expression.

Harry nodded silently, returning to his meal. Hermione decided to reference her pocketbook tonight—she had a medical textbook that might have information on what would be best to heal his wound.

Following supper, Hermione scanned the latest Educational Decree mounted on the main stone wall, number twenty-four; she scoffed internally at the misleading name. There was nothing ‘educational’ about these decrees. They were about power and control.

ALL STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS, SOCIETIES, TEAMS, GROUPS, AND CLUBS ARE HENCEFORTH DISBANDED. ANY STUDENT IN NONCOMPLIANCE WILL BE EXPELLED

She stared at the phrasing. If Umbridge thought she could prevent the D.A. from meeting, she was delusional. If anything, she was providing more evidence that the D.A. was necessary. With such a blatant overreach of power from the Ministry, it was imperative that the students of Hogwarts had formal training to defend against those who would cause them harm. Dark wizards, she thought, or even the Ministry itself.

It was bad enough that Umbridge was interfering with classes, passing outrageous Educational Decrees, but seeing the words carved into Harry’s skin tonight made Hermione see red. After healing Harry, she would have to consult her pocketbook and see if there was anything in there for Umbridge.


The door to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom was wide open, which was great news for Crookshanks who was presently on a mission. In his chubby fluffy cheeks, he held a single gold Galleon, which he was to deliver into the shoe of the boy in the far back row. Weaving through the desks, Crookshanks paused, sitting quietly until the loud lady in pink turned her back to the room. He began moving again.

“Hem-hem.” Professor Umbridge cleared her throat, directing the students’ attention towards her. “Today we will begin preparations for your Ordinary Wizarding Level examinations.” Umbridge paused her writing on the board, hiccupping and holding her chest.

Clearing her throat loudly, she continued, “Ri—Part one is the written exam which—riii….which—riiiiibit.” Umbridge’s eyes squinted as if trying to decipher what just came out of her mouth.

“Students! Order! I will have order in my classroom!” Umbridge squawked over the sound of laughter. “I will—riiiibbbbiiiiiiittt.” She gasped, holding a hand over her mouth in panic.

Her voice grew deadly quiet. “Which one of you nasty little children did this? I will— gasp— personally see to it that they—riibbbbit detention and riibit.” Umbridge covered her throat with her hands, running to the doorway.

A certain lion-like cat, who was in the process of sneaking out of the classroom, happened upon the path Umbridge was using to escape. The shock of him brushing up against her legs made her jolt up, her eyes wide in absolute horror. 

She clenched her thighs together and gasped. The look on her face was one of disgust and terror as she ran out of the classroom, tucking her robes tightly around herself. The classroom doubled down in hysterical laughter.

“Did she just…?” Draco asked incredulously, staring at the fading form of Professor Umbridge, unblinking. He glanced over at Hermione who was sitting innocently in her chair, pretending to read their textbook as the class devolved into chaos around her. 

“Someone obviously has it out for Umbridge,” Theo noted. “Did you see that last bit? It looked almost as though someone jinxed her body to react like a toad.”

“The ribbitting? I mean that was more frog, but I suppose you’re right.” Draco stifled a laugh.

“No, not that part. The part where she tripped on that cat.” Theo stared at Draco in an obvious fashion.

“So?” Draco asked, not following.

“Have you never had a toad?” Theo asked before adding with a smirk. “Toads wet themselves when they’re surprised.”

Blaise cackled at the realisation that their professor just peed herself during class.

Draco’s mouth fell open. Umbridge was going to be out for blood, and from the rumours of her detentions, it would be literal blood.

As he stood up, prepared to leave with his mates, he noticed a hard item tucked between his shoe and his sock. Lifting his foot, he inspected it and saw a glint of gold barely pushed tucked into the top of his shoe. Draco choked back a laugh, pulling out the Galleon. 

His witch was more Slytherin than she would ever admit, and how he loved her for it.

Chapter Text

November-December

Year 5

 

“Ugh, stuck with Malfoy? Tough break, ‘Mione,” Ron sighed. “Looks like I’m with Padma this week. Want me to trade you so you don’t have to deal with the ferret?”

Hermione stared at the Prefect patrol list, posted just as she and Ron left the latest meeting. Her eyes were still resting on the last line.

Hermione Granger (Gryffindor) & Draco Malfoy (Slytherin) Saturday Night Patrol

“I appreciate the offer, Ronald, but you shouldn’t let the Slytherins bother you so much. I’m sure if any issues arise, I can handle them myself,” Hermione replied, tearing her eyes away from the list.

“I know you could put him in his place, just hope he’s not too much of a prat,” Ron muttered. “Ready to go back to the tower?”

Hermione nodded in confirmation, lost in her own thoughts.

She would patrol with her boyfriend this weekend. Hermione fought back a smile; they had a legitimate reason to spend the entire night together out in the open. Technically, patrol only took a couple hours, but they had no set time frame for Prefect patrols and could easily use that as an excuse for the entire night. She felt almost giddy at the prospect. 

Only two more days.


“Doesn’t this feel like a massive waste of time? Do Prefects actually find anything during these patrols?” Draco asked as they looped around another corridor.

“Usually just catching students snogging, giving directions to first years, sometimes taking away points for breaking curfew.” Hermione shrugged casually. “It’s a Saturday night so get ready for a long night of catching students snogging.”

Patrol was not turning out to be the refuge that Hermione had hoped it would be. The halls were still filled with students and they couldn’t exactly look like they were enjoying themselves; the couple had an image of contempt to maintain. As a result, they were stuck sharing nothing but bland small talk on the off chance they were overheard by a passing classmate.

“Snogging, you say?” Draco asked. “And just where do these delinquent students go to snog?”

Hermione caught onto his meaning, looking indifferent as a group of Ravenclaws passed. “The next spot to patrol is the third floor. There’s a large tapestry with a hidden room that we should inspect…to ensure students are following school rules.”

“Yes, yes, Educational Decree Thirty-One,” Draco murmured with a suggestive smirk.

She waved her wand and a ruler slid down. “Eight inches.” She wiggled her eyebrows and laughed.

A pair of nearby Hufflepuffs looked at them curiously and the smile dropped from Hermione’s face.

“Hurry up, Malfoy,” she demanded, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

“You’re insufferable. Just my luck that of all the Prefects I get stuck with you.” He sneered for extra effect, stalking past the Hufflepuffs who had turned back to their conversation.

They quickly walked to the third floor for their ‘inspection.’

Hermione ceremoniously pulled back the tapestry, hearing a girl call out, “The room is already taken!”

“Hear that, Malfoy?” Hermione called loudly as he snickered behind his hand. “The room is taken, suppose we should take a detour of our Prefect rounds and see who is in the room.”

She heard swearing and shuffling around before two red faced sixth years stumbled out, their clothes slightly askew. They practically sprinted away, obviously hoping to avoid losing points and dignity.

“After you.” Draco gestured in front of him.

“Such a gentleman.” Hermione winked, walking into the tapestry room.

The hidden room was no larger than a Quidditch shed and just as cluttered. It must be a storage space; she assumed a snog closet was not the intentional design.

“Hey, Granger, look what they left behind.” Draco smirked, holding up a bag of instant darkness powder from the Zonko’s joke shop.

“That is technically against school rules,” Hermione thought aloud. “It would only be right of us as Prefects to confiscate it.”

“I like the way you think, Granger.” He smiled mischievously. “Bet we could find some use for this with that old toad.”

Draco placed his hands on her waist, pulling her up against him as her breath left her chest. He gently placed his thumb under her chin, tilting it up towards him. Leaning down slowly, Draco kissed her, savouring the feeling of her plump lips beneath his. Hermione groaned softly; his hand rested on her waist, he thumbed the hem of her skirt, sliding his hand underneath to palm her bare skin.

They heard a rustling noise from outside. “The tapestry is usually clear this time of night,” Pansy’s voice drifted into the room.

Hermione mouthed ‘ Pansy?!’ to Draco, frantically trying to think up an excuse for why they were hiding in a notorious snogging spot instead of completing their rounds.

“Excuse me, you’re a Prefect, right?” a small voice asked, and the tapestry stopped moving.

“Yes, of course I am,” Pansy said. “Why?”

“I saw some third-year Gryffindors in front of the Great Hall trying to enchant the hourglasses to add extra gems and get Gryffindor house more points, something about wanting to humiliate Slytherin house,” the voice added.

“What!” Pansy shrieked. “Absolutely not, if those Gryffindors think they can get away with…” Her voice trailed off with her footsteps.

The tapestry swung open, standing in the doorway was a smug looking Amelia Williams with her arms crossed in front of her body.

“Honestly, you two really need to get better at this if you expect to keep it a secret,” she admonished them as Hermione’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “I’m astounded you haven’t been caught yet.”

“But I—but we—" Hermione stumbled over her words as she faced the petite silhouette of the first year.

Amelia held up a hand to stop her, “You’re lucky I saw you two sneaking into the tapestry and covered for you tonight.”

“But we really are patrolling this time!” Hermione insisted, pointing to the Prefect badge clipped to her robe for extra measure.

Amelia’s eyebrows raised in disbelief, “Of course you are, lots to patrol in the snogging tapestry. And you”—she looked at Draco, shaking her head—“I expected more from a Slytherin! This is typical Gryffindor recklessness.”

Draco looked quickly between Hermione and Amelia, completely flustered, “You can’t—I don’t—”

“I better not catch you two again,” Amelia warned. “And I’m taking this because I’m running low.” Plucking the bag of instant darkness from the ground, she closed the tapestry behind her.

“What in the bloody hell is up with the Hufflepuffs this year?” Draco wondered aloud, turning back to Hermione in bewilderment.

“I don’t know, but she’s right, we need to get better at this—imagine if Pansy really found us?” Hermione shuddered in a visceral reaction.

“I doubt she would’ve believed the patrolling excuse, either. It would’ve made more sense to peek into the room and leave if we really were checking the area… Now that I think about it, we should leave before anyone else stops by. Shall we finish our rounds?” Draco asked, extending an arm to her.

“We shall,” she replied with a smile, taking his arm.

They walked up to the tapestry before she dropped his arm and raised her voice as they stepped through. “You were wrong —there were no students in there—I told you so!”

“Whatever, Granger.” He rolled his eyes dramatically. “Let’s just get the rest of this patrol over with so I don’t have to be with you any longer than necessary.”

“With pleasure.” She turned up her nose, walking away from him.

“Hey, not so fast!” he mumbled under his breath, jogging to catch up to her as she hid a smile.

The pair trailed through each level, pausing to stage a fake argument in front of some fourth year Slytherins on the second floor—really committing to the part. When they arrived at the end of their patrol in the dungeons, they did a quick sweep through the classrooms.

Draco paused, reaching out an arm to stop Hermione mid-stride. He made a face and pointed at the potions classroom to the right of them, she nodded, and they listened in at the door.

“Very good, Mr. Potter,” they heard through the door. “I give you an O for Outstanding.”

They shared a look, that was not Snape’s voice… In fact, it sounded familiar. Was that Theo ?

Draco cracked open the door, took a single glance, stumbled backwards and quickly shut it.

“No, nope , absolutely not.” His eyes were wide, and he was frantically shaking his head. Grabbing Hermione by the shoulders, he turned her around.

“What was that?” Hermione demanded, looking back over her shoulder as he dragged her away.

“No, we will never speak of this moment again. In fact, Obliviate me. I beg you.” Draco pleaded, walking away more quickly now.

“Draco…” She struggled to keep up with his frantic pace. “What, are they breaking Educational Decree Thirty-One?” she joked weakly. “I suppose being two boys they’re technically not…”

“You don’t get it, Granger,” Draco whispered in a tortured voice. “There are some things you can never unsee.”


Hermione was sitting in the library at a table, sketching notes onto her parchment. She was documenting her latest ideas for Harry’s curriculum in the D.A. She was incredibly proud of the progress her peers were making in their lessons. Harry was a natural at teaching; they could not have selected a better leader.

Confringo

Deprimo

Oppugno

Relashio

Incarcerous

She tapped her quill on the list, brainstorming other spells that they could cover in upcoming sessions. She wondered if she could incorporate some new spells from her Black pocketbook…

“Excuse me?” A male voice caught her attention.

Hermione turned around in her chair, facing a timid looking first-year Hufflepuff.

“You’re Hermione Granger, right?” he asked, fiddling with his hands in front of him.

Hermione tilted her head, looking at him curiously. “Yes?”

“Professor McGonagall was looking for you down by the knight statue. Thought you’d want to know.” He turned around and walked out quickly, leaving behind a baffled Hermione.

That was odd , she thought to herself.

Hermione packed up her parchment and schoolwork, leaving the library in search of Professor McGonagall. She wandered down the corridor to the armoured knight, finding nothing but an empty corner. Frowning, she inspected the area; McGonagall was nowhere to be seen.

A glint of gold caught her eye and she whirled around quickly; her hair smacked against her face from the movement.

“No…” she murmured under her breath. “He didn’t.” Her groan of frustration echoed through the empty corridor.

Tucked in the hand of the knight was a shiny gold Galleon.


It was difficult to have Prefect meetings and nearly every class with Draco but still have to wait until the weekend to actually talk to him. They had a recurring date night every Friday in the Room of Requirement, and it was Hermione’s favourite day of the week. Harry and Ron thought she spent every Friday in the library preparing for the next week of classes and, lucky for her, they never came to check her alibi.

Hermione and Draco found many ways to keep themselves entertained in the magical room. They had game nights where they played wizarding or Muggle board games, reading dates where they shared favourite books, nights where all they did was cuddle in the silence, and everything between. It was their safe space together.

That Friday, they were working on essays for Transfiguration.

“What was the fifth variable in Transfiguration?” Hermione muttered under her breath, biting at her quill. “Weight, viciousness, wand power, concentration and…”

Draco set down his book and looked at her, “I had an interesting conversation today.”

“Hmm?” She looked up. “And?”

“And I’m wondering why Umbridge asked the Slytherin Prefects to figure out who filled her office with toads wearing pink dresses?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Someone filled her office with toads?”

“Oh, come off it, I know it was you,” Draco insisted. “She’s furious.”

“Could’ve been anyone.” She shrugged, pausing to write down a thought in her essay.

“Granger.”

She turned towards him impatiently. “I’m offended you think it was me, utterly baffled, in fact. I’ll have you know I’m a Prefect . That kind of debauchery is completely out of my character.”

“The toads keep screaming ‘ORDER’ and hopping around the room, peeing everywhere.”

“You sure someone didn’t just fill her office with mirrors?” Hermione asked, finally setting aside the parchment she was working on. “I can see how that might confuse her.”

“She’s going to kill you if she figures out that this was you.”

“I’d like to see her try. Won’t end well for her.” She gave a small shrug, obviously undeterred.

Draco stared. “You’re bloody terrifying sometimes, you know that, right?”

“Oh, my love, you don’t know the half of it.” She smiled demurely, pulling his head down into her lap and running her fingers through his hair.

“You think you can just distract me with… Well that’s actually quite nice.” He tilted his head into her touch as she massaged his scalp. “Oh… do continue.”

Hermione smirked as she dragged her fingers lightly through his hair, kissing him once on the head. Draco was more like her cat than he would ever admit. 

When in doubt, play with his hair.


Umbridge had grown increasingly rabid against the students with each passing week. Due to Hermione alone, several new Educational Decrees were added to the wall. It was only mid-November and a third of the massive stone wall was already covered in decrees.

Educational Decree Number Forty-One was added after Harry’s outburst in class, All Students are Hereby Banned from Discussing the Upsetting Events of Last Year

Educational Decree Number Seventy-Five was added after the Crookshanks incident, All Pets Must be Confined to Common Rooms and Dormitories, All Owls Must be Confined to the Owlery

Educational Decree Number Forty-Eight was added after she overheard a student complaining about her detention methods and another student ‘ribbitted’ at her in the crowded corridor following the ‘DADA toad incident’, All Complaints about Hogwarts or its Staff are to be Made in Writing to the High Inquisitor

The list went on and on; Umbridge now had supreme authority over all punishments and privileges, overreaching that authority whenever possible. In the past month, she imposed restrictions on the usage of the library and common rooms and prohibited Zonko’s and Weasley joke products. There were not many decrees she could add at this point. It was contemptible and unnerving to see her slowly take control over all aspects of Hogwarts.

It was growing increasingly difficult for Hermione to find time to meet with Draco. Between classes, Prefect duties, the D.A. meetings, and homework she felt like she was constantly running around the castle. Her Prefect status helped her move freely around the castle for Friday dates to a point, but Umbridge was taking away what little power the Prefects had and transferring it to herself.

Students in Dumbledore’s Army were still meeting biweekly to learn defense from Harry. Hermione spent her Fridays with Draco, Saturdays on homework, and Sundays preparing new material for upcoming lessons. Some days these blurred and she brainstormed lesson ideas with Draco, practicing with him in their Room of Requirement arena. 

This week, the D.A. focused on a binding spell that Hermione had referenced from her list of dueling spells, Incarcerous .

Harry stood in front of the Room of Requirement, designed to look like a dueling arena today.

“Listen up, everyone. This week we are going to try a challenge. This spell is a conjuring spell, and it’s a branch of Transfiguration. Technically, this is N.E.W.T. level spell work, so by no means do we expect you to accomplish this on your first try, or even your twentieth,” Harry announced, gaining the attention of the D.A. members.

Harry continued, “I have seen this spell used in combat and it can be the difference between life and death. It is a great defensive spell to neutralize your attacker without permanently harming them, along with other spells we have already covered like Stupefy and Petrificus Totalus .”

“The incantation is ‘ Incarcerous ’ and it conjures thick ropes that bind your enemy, rendering them immobile and unable to use their wand. The movement is a simple point. Please face your partners and repeat after me. ‘In-KAR-ser-us’.” Harry directed with a nod.

The D.A. members, totaling nearly 30 these days, practiced late into the evening with little success.

“Excellent work, really, you are doing great,” Harry encouraged as he walked between the students.

“Here, Luna try holding your wand steady when you gesture to a point,” Harry directed, watching as Luna repeated his actions and a small thin rope fell out of the tip of her wand.

“That was absolutely fantastic! You’ll have it in no time!” Harry grinned at her, moving on to Neville.

Katie Bell turned to Hermione, who had managed to wrap a single rope around Ron’s calf. “I overheard Umbridge asking students about any illicit societies meeting in secret,” she shared nervously.

“You don’t think she knows about Dumbledore’s Army, does she?” Lavender Brown asked.

“Of course not,” Hermione readily dismissed the thought. “If Umbridge had any idea what was going on, she would have interfered weeks ago. We have the charmed Galleons as means of communication and there is no way to trace us in the Room of Requirement.”

Katie and Lavender shared a look before Katie spoke. “I don’t know, Hermione. She was pulling students into her office during class. You heard about her black quill. Who is to say she isn’t using veritaserum during her questioning?”

“She’s not authorized to do that…right? Surely the Ministry wouldn’t allow…” Hermione stopped, considering Umbridge’s current level of authority at Hogwarts. “Well, either way, if someone tells Umbridge, we will know.”

She thought about the jinx she’d added to the parchment everyone signed at the start of the year. If anyone told about Dumbledore’s Army, they would have ‘SNEAK’ on their forehead in boils.

“Let’s not worry until there is something to worry about. Would you like to try Incarcerous again?” Hermione asked, distracting the girls and turning back to Ron.

“I would not,” Ron mumbled, not quite sure how he ended up with Hermione for a partner; he had not successfully cast the spell yet and by the minute was feeling more like a live dummy for Hermione’s practice than a partner.

Incarcerous !” she called out with a firm point of her wand.

Ron fell to the floor, bound by her conjured ropes.


“Great job with the new spell today, Luna.” Hermione smiled encouragingly as the class dispersed. “You were one of the first students to successfully bind your partner today!”

Luna tilted her head towards Hermione, a soft smile dancing on her lips. “Yes, though I do believe you were the first to accomplish that feat. Not that I’m much surprised, given your background in magical binding.”

The smile slowly faded from Hermione’s lips. “What do you mean, Luna?”

Luna shrugged and in her melodic voice asked, “Just that you have experience, do you not?”

Hermione’s pulse quickened. “I have not tried that spell before today, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Curious, I thought I spotted Blibbering Humdingers around you and Draco Malfoy, but perhaps I am mistaken,” she added whimsically, spinning around as she danced through the doorway of the Room of Requirement into the corridor.

Hermione stood in place, unable to move. For the first time, Hermione began to wonder if there was more to Luna “Looney” Lovegood than nonsensical theories and odd clothes. 


The following weekend, Hermione was able to sneak away to meet with Draco.

“I thought it would blow over eventually, but thanks to your constant letters, everyone keeps asking me about my French girlfriend.” Draco gave her the side-eye in annoyance.

“You’re welcome.” She shrugged. “Pansy was suspicious and now you have a cover story.”

“Yeah, but now I have to come up with all these details about her on the spot, which is difficult since she doesn’t exist.”

Hermione scoffed in faux offense. “I developed a thorough backstory to Adeline, thank you very much.”

“What’s her last name?” he inquired skeptically.

“I didn’t get that far yet.”

“Well, you didn’t tell me your plan, so now everyone thinks she’s the pureblood cousin of a Beauxbaton girl I met during the tournament last year and we spent the summer together in a torrid love affair,” Draco said.

“My story was that you met when she was brutally attacked by a manticore outside the Eiffel Tower during your family vacation to Paris,” Hermione began.

“What?”

“She was running from it when you heroically swept her away on your broom, flying her to safety. Obviously, you couldn’t have used a spell as the manticore’s skin repels all known charms.”

“Granger.”

“It ate her brother—tragic of course, but what can you do—and you saved her just in the nick of time.”

“Hermione.”

“As manticores are capable of human speech, when you flew her away, he screamed, ‘you and your sexy broom skills bested me this time, Draco Malfoy!’ and then—”

“Hermione!” Draco interrupted. “That is the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard. Literally no one would believe that.”

She huffed. “I didn’t even get to the part about the scorpion tail, but fine . The Beauxbaton story works too, I suppose .” She paused before adding, “Adeline is also very attractive in my origin story, if you were curious.”

“Obviously,” Draco smirked. “I do have great taste in witches, if I do say so myself.”

“Now there’s something we can agree on,” Hermione teased.


“So, what exactly do your mates think you’re doing when you’re with me?” Draco asked as he lazily played with her hair while they snuggled on the sofa later that night.

“The library. They think I practically live there. In fact, I actually was in the library before I came here, and I almost couldn’t leave on time because Ron wouldn’t go away. He wanted help on his Astronomy analysis.”

“Really? How’d you get rid of him?” he questioned.

Hermione smiled slyly. “I asked him to help me knit some hats for S.P.E.W. and he couldn’t leave quickly enough.”

“Can you blame him? Knitting’s hard work and the elves don’t even take the time to admire your efforts. They just scream and run away,” Draco mumbled. “It’s a thankless job.”

“I’m starting to feel like S.P.E.W. isn’t making the impact I was hoping it would. I haven’t been able to free a single house-elf and I think I traumatized Pinky this past summer,” Hermione admitted.

“Well, why don’t you try calling Pinky and apologize?” Draco asked, cocking an eyebrow at her.

She frowned. “I don’t know. I’ve never summoned him before—it feels weird. Does he even have to respond to me?”

“He listened before, though I know you consciously didn’t ask him for anything this summer. I guess I don’t know if he has to obey like he does with the rest of the family. Just try it and see if he comes,” he insisted. “If Pinky comes when you call, you’re always free to call him, even if I’m not with you.”

“Okay…” She paused. “Pinky?”

Pinky appeared with a pop, his hands over his ears and his eyes squeezed shut. “PINKY IS NOT TAKING THE HAT FROM MISS HERMIONE!” he yelled, shaking his head back and forth as if the refusal was hurting him.

“Pinky!” Hermione called, exasperated. “I promise I won’t make you take a hat. Please calm down.”

Pinky opened his eyes, looking nervously between Draco and Hermione. “Pinky does not have to take the hideous hat?”

“I am sorry I tried to free you. I will never ever try to give you a hat again, or any clothes for that matter,” Hermione conceded in defeat, “You are a good house-elf and if you are well-treated and happy in your position, then who am I to argue?”

Pinky’s face lit up, he hugged Hermione’s leg. “Pinky thanks Miss Hermione! Pinky will be the best elf for Miss!”

Hermione gave a small smile, patting Pinky on the head as he stepped back and straightened his uniform. “What did Miss Hermione need from Pinky?”

“Nothing, Pinky. I just wanted to apologize. You can go back to the Manor now.”

Pinky smiled and nodded before disappearing with a crack.

“Feel better?” Draco asked, smoothing down her stubborn hair.

“Better and worse. Also, I lied to Harry and Ron again,” she confessed.

“What about?”

“I told them I was going skiing with my parents over the holiday break.” Hermione turned to him with a coy smile. “I’m not going skiing with my parents over the holiday break.”

“Oh? And what are you doing for your holiday break?” he asked, his interest piqued.

“I thought I might be able to stay at school with you, if you want, that is.” 

“Oh, Granger, I don’t know what it is, but I’m suddenly feeling quite festive,” Draco informed her with a growing smile. “I’ll owl my mother in the morning to let her know I won’t be home for Christmas—there’s no way I’m missing a whole week of just you.”


December came and went in the blink of an eye, between classes, end of term exams, D.A. meetings, and trying to make Umbridge as miserable as she made everyone else, Hermione was beyond busy. She was counting down the days until the winter holiday where she would stay at Hogwarts with Draco.

The following morning Hermione, Ron, and Harry were attending a Hogsmeade trip; Hermione was using the day to finish up her Christmas shopping.

“How many gifts do you still have to buy?” Hermione asked, mentally ticking through the remaining items on her own list.

“Um…well, all of them,” Ron admitted, “but I’m going to Honeydukes later today and stock up on sweets for everyone. Ginny wants an Ever-Bashing Boomerang from Zonko’s to get the twins back for filling her room with caroling mice last year.”

“My mum and dad want non-magical gifts, so I already mailed them knitted scarves, books, and framed pictures from our last holiday in the Muggle post. That just leaves you two, and I can’t very well shop for your gifts with you next to me,” she reasoned. “Mind if we split up and meet at Scrivenshaft’s at half ten?”

“Sure, Hermione,” Harry nodded, distracted by the latest display in the window of Dervish and Banges.

Hermione’s first stop was Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop where she picked up two journals for Harry and Ron’s Christmas gifts, selecting matching quills and ink pots to go along with the journals.

Next, she went to Honeydukes and purchased a container of fudge and a box of chocoballs for Draco. She selected a variety of toffees for Pinky from the shelf. Hopefully Pinky would accept a Christmas gift from her this year without suspicion that she hid knitwear in the wrapping.

She had finished her shopping early and wandered into the nearby bookstore to look around before meeting back up with Harry and Ron. Hermione stopped in her tracks when she realised Draco, Theo, and Blaise were standing up at the register.

“Is this gift for ‘Adeline’?” Theo teased Draco with a smirk.

“What kind of girl wants a book for Christmas? I think you’re making a mistake, mate,” Blaise said. “It’s like when your girl says she doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day but then you show up with nothing and she’s mad at you. Get her jewelry, not a book.”

“Yes, this is for Adeline. And Blaise, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing would make her happier than a good book. I’ll have you know I special ordered this book months ago, so I can’t change it now,” Draco replied.

“She sounds like a swot. I still can’t believe you had a girlfriend for months and didn’t even tell your best mates!” Blaise exclaimed. “I’ve told you every detail about all of my girlfriends.”

“Too many details, in fact. I wish you had told me fewer.” Draco raised his eyebrows at Blaise.

“We barely know anything about her. Is she coming to visit for the holidays? When can we meet her?” Blaise asked, packing his purchases into his own bag.

“Yeah, Draco, when can we meet her?” Theo enquired cheekily. “I’m dying to see the witch who has captivated our elusive Draco.”  

Draco mumbled unintelligibly, looking over to Hermione in the doorway, startled to see her.

Hermione opened her mouth and then closed it. Theo and Blaise followed Draco’s eyes to the doorway, and she turned out of the store, walking as quickly as she could without looking too conspicuous.

She mentally scolded herself for leaving so abruptly. It had been obvious that she left directly after seeing the trio. Hopefully Blaise, or nearby shoppers, were oblivious to the exchange. Groaning internally, Hermione resolved to wait at Scrivenshaft’s until Harry and Ron finished shopping. Unable to resist, she smiled to herself, wondering what Draco was picking up for her at the bookstore.


That Friday, Draco conjured the Come-and-Go Room and waited inside for Hermione. He kept checking the clock; she was later than she had ever been before. It made him nervous. Finally, Draco heard the sound of a sniffle and saw her walking into the room and shutting the door behind her.

The breath was punched out of his chest at the sight.

“Hermione?” Draco jumped out of his seat in alarm, his legs moving faster than his brain as he rushed over to her. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? What happened? Are you hurt?” he asked in a rapid fire.

Her face was deathly pale, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. “Arthur Weasley was attacked last night.”

“Is he okay?” Draco sighed, feeling guilty for his relief. He pulled her into his arms, squeezing her tightly into a comforting hug.

“He’s at St. Mungos. They said he’s stable, but the family is still worried. I need to be there for them. Dumbledore arranged for me to take the Knight Bus late tomorrow night to go join the Weasleys and Harry.” Her voice grew small against his chest.

“You’re already leaving?” Draco sounded dejected; his shoulders slumped forward in disappointment.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t want to leave; I never want to leave.” 

“It’s alright, love. I suppose that just means you have to stay the night with me and then tomorrow morning will be fake Christmas.” He gave her a small smile, thumbing away the tear that escaped down her cheek.

“I love fake Christmas,” she stated with a watery smile.


“Draaaaco, time to wake up! It’s fake Christmas!” Hermione tackled Draco, who until that moment had been slumbering peacefully in his bed.

“What the hell?” he mumbled, throwing his arm over his face and turning back towards his pillow.

“Wake up!”

“Granger, it’ll still be fake Christmas in an hour when I’ve had sufficient beauty rest,” he grumbled into the pillow, his voice muffled.

“You’re beautiful enough. In fact, if anything, I’m doing the world a favour—you’re making the rest of us look bad. Now wake up! Let’s open presents!” she sang the last word of her sentence, pulling the covers off Draco.

“Seriously, where do you get all this energy first thing in the morning?” he complained.

“Cocaine,” she quipped.

“What? What’s a cocaine?”

“It’s—it’s a Muggle thing. Honestly, you’ve just got to trust me on this one. It was very funny,” she assured him. “Let’s go to the Room of Requirement, I have a surprise for you.”

“Is the surprise more sleep?”

She turned to him, glaring daggers.

He ran both hands over his face and through his hair. “I’m up, I’m up.”


Draco stepped cautiously into the Come-and-Go Room, or as Hermione incorrectly called it, the Room of Requirement. Every time they had used it before, it had either been set up as a general common room area or a dueling arena for the D.A. lesson preparations. 

Today, it looked like a small living room—small compared to Malfoy Manor. Perhaps it was sizable by regular standards. It was decked out with Christmas decorations, complete with three stockings above the fireplace and a massive fir tree adorned with ornaments in the corner of the room.

The floor was made of dark wood. A large grey sofa and two matching sitting chairs on either side were positioned in front of a wide coffee table. The walls were lined with bookcases, filled with titles Draco did not recognize; there was a chest stuffed with soft blankets and pillows behind the sofa. Set upon the mantle there were still pictures of a family, two adults and a young brunette girl with frizzy hair and a big smile. He smiled, recalling that same poof of brunette curls in his train carriage on that first day to Hogwarts.

Draco’s heart stilled in his chest and he turned to Hermione. “Granger…where are we?”

She smiled widely. “I set up my home, my childhood Christmas. I wanted to show you what my house looked like since I was able to see the Manor this summer. We have all the fixings for a Granger Christmas. We have eggnog, sugar cookies, Christmas carols, and I wanted to play ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for you but tellies don’t work at Hogwarts, so we will just have to forego it this year.”

He picked up the picture frame, looking at the smiling couple behind Hermione.

“I’ve never seen a picture of your parents before,” he thought aloud. “What are they like?”

Hermione smiled. “They are the best parents I could’ve ever asked for and I had an amazing childhood. They’re dentists—Muggle teeth healers—and they’re the reason I love to read. Some of my earliest memories are of them cuddling up to me at the end of the night and reading a bedtime story.”

Draco watched her as she spoke, her smile infectious.

“They met when they took a university literature class together. They were studying Shakespeare—which, as you know, is where they found my name—and kept arguing their opinions back and forth during the lesson. Apparently, it got so bad that the professor just gave up and sat down at her desk while they continued. My mum’s best friend said the tension was palpable—they were married less than a year later.”

“I want to meet them,” he declared, setting the picture back down. “They sound wonderful.”

Hermione looked up at him in surprise. “You want to go to Muggle London with me and meet my parents?”

Draco nodded. “I really would. That wouldn’t be a problem, right? It should be safe for them to know about us because they’re Muggles.”

She paused, considering his point. “You’re absolutely right… Yes, I really would love that! I’ll write to them after I see the Weasleys and see if we can arrange a visit.”

“Parents usually love me,” he added with a cocky smile.

“I have no doubt about that. Draco Malfoy, officially introduced to my parents as my boyfriend, sitting in their home in Muggle London. Honestly, I can’t wait to see this.”


Hermione unwrapped the carefully folded gold wrapping on her Christmas present from Draco.

She gasped, “You didn’t! AH! You did!” She clutched the book to her chest. “You bought me my own copy?!”

Draco grinned. “You were so upset about Charles damaging the Manor version that I thought you’d like a first edition of your own—stored in a peacock-free environment.”

Hermione dove into his lap, kissing his cheeks in excitement. They turned pink under her attention.

“I can’t believe I own my own first edition of Hogwarts: A History. Oh my god, Draco, this must have cost a fortune. There’s no way I can take it!”

He held out both his hands in front of her. “If there’s anyone in this world who can appreciate this book like it deserves, it’s you.”

She faltered. “Now I feel really guilty that I only got you chocolate.”

“Then you, my love, severely underestimate how much I love chocolate.”

 

Several eggnogs later, Hermione had fallen asleep on the sofa for an afternoon nap, snoring softly into the throw pillow. Draco transfigured his cloak into a blanket for her, cocooning her body. He loved seeing her like this; she looked so peaceful while she slept. Selfishly, he wished she would stay the rest of holiday break instead of leaving to visit the Weasleys.

“Psst,” Draco hissed, trying to get Crookshanks’ attention without waking her.

Crookshanks rolled lazily onto his back, flicking a paw into the air. Draco reached into his bag and turned back to Crookshanks.

“Happy fake Christmas,” he whispered, tossing a fake bird stuffed with catnip to the cat. “Mother says she misses you and to remember your promise to take care of our Hermione.”

Crookshanks purred in response, swatting at the toy in delight. Draco smiled, looking at Hermione with a warm feeling blooming in his chest as the music lulled in the background—he loved fake Christmas.

Chapter Text

January-February

Year 5

 

After her Christmas with the Weasleys, Hermione was physically rested but emotionally exhausted. As an only child, she often became overwhelmed after staying with the large Weasley clan for extended periods of time.

"How was St. Mungo’s?" Draco inquired, sensing Hermione's quiet distress.

Draco gestured for her to sit, pulled off her shoes, and started to rub her feet, hoping it was a comforting motion.

"You don't have to—I take it back—keep going. Oh, that feels really nice," Hermione groaned in appreciation at the foot rub.

"I had never been to St. Mungo’s before this visit. I had heard it mentioned before but I suppose I never thought much about it until Mr. Weasley was there." She sighed. "I wasn't sure what to expect but it was worse than I thought it would be… It was sort of like a Muggle hospital, but the maladies were much worse, mental and physical. The Healers were kind and the hospital did decorate for Christmas, which was quite nice for the patients and families who had to be there over the holidays."

"My grandfather had dragon pox and was at St. Mungo’s nearly a month. I remember visiting him when I was a boy, but I don't remember much about the hospital anymore. I do remember the Healers gave me sweets when we visited. My grandfather ended up passing from complications of the illness," Draco offered with a sympathetic look. "How's Mr. Weasley's recovery going?"

"He's obsessed with Muggles—have I mentioned that before? Anyway, he let a Healer try Muggle stitches on him basically sewing the wounds shut—and Mrs. Weasley had a complete fit. After they resolved that, they said he was able to go home, but Draco, he had lost so much blood. Honestly, he's lucky to be alive after Nagini bit him so deeply, if it weren't for Harry…" she trailed off in thought.

"What about Harry?" Draco questioned, pressing his thumb firmly into her arch.

"Harry actually dreamt the attack. That's how they knew about it in the first place—he said he saw it like he was the snake biting Mr. Weasley." Hermione looked at him with fear in her eyes. "It was pure luck that McGonagall and Dumbledore took Harry seriously and sent a portrait to check on Mr. Weasley."

"Merlin! That's fucking terrifying." Draco sucked in a gasp and his hands stopped in shock. "So, it's true then? He and the Dark Lord are really sharing thoughts? Is it getting more frequent?"

Hermione nodded with a solemn expression. "Snape's supposed to be teaching him Occlumency so he can block it out better, but from what I've read, it's really complicated magic."

"My mother is a skilled Occlumens. Though hers is more of a natural-born talent. Said it came from her Black-Rosier blood,” Draco mentioned. “I hope Snape is able to teach Harry, but the Dark Lord is one of the most skilled Legilimens of our age. I'm not sure Harry will be able to do anything but perhaps slow him down."

"I was worried about that, but I'm still encouraging him to take his lessons seriously. He has a history of defying the odds and anything is better than nothing," She hesitated before continuing. "We also saw Lockhart, he snuck out of the spell damage ward. He hasn't changed a bit." She smiled despite herself. "Though he doesn't really remember who he is anymore, he still insisted on giving us his autographs."

"Did you take the autograph? If I recall correctly from our second year, someone had a bit of a crush on him," Draco teased.

She glared at him. "Excuse you. That was a long time ago. I made many questionable choices back then. I have since grown into a mature woman with decent taste in men."

"Hey…" he frowned, still holding her foot. “Didn't you like me back then, too?"

Hermione waved her hand, dismissing him. "You know what you were like."

She looked to her foot expectantly as he continued rubbing.

"There's something else," she added quietly. "We saw Neville Longbottom's parents there."

Draco's heart fell into his stomach; he knew where this was going.

"Did you know?" she asked. "What Bellatrix did to them?"

He fidgeted uncomfortably under her stare. "My mother pulled me aside and told me about it before we started first year, in case Longbottom ever brought them up. I had always known that she was in Azkaban, but my parents were vague about why. I know that my mother is ashamed of her sister, even though she still loves her. Or at least, she loves who Bellatrix was."

"I don't care who she was," Hermione contended, her voice shook with emotion. "I care about who she is now. She's a monster. Do you realise how much effort the Cruciatus Curse takes out of a person to cast? I can't imagine having enough hate and anger to torture someone into insanity."

Hermione's voice broke, "Oh, and poor Neville, he looked destroyed when he was talking with his mum. I saw pictures of his parents last summer at the safe house and I barely recognised them in St. Mungo’s. They were shells of their former selves. And his mum—his mum kept giving him gum wrappers like they were gifts. It just broke my heart."

"I hope you know that Bellatrix is no family of mine," Draco emphasised, his tone absolute. "That crazy bitch can rot in Azkaban for the rest of her life for what she's done, and it still will never be enough for what she deserves."


It was the first day of the new term, and a swarm of owls delivering post flew through the Great Hall. The Daily Prophet landed in front of Hermione. Dread spread through her body as she reached out a shaky hand, the front cover images flashing before her eyes. She felt the color drain from her face.

"Hermione? What is it?" Ron asked, concerned by her reaction.

She turned the cover of the newspaper to Ron and Harry, unable to vocalize it.

MASS BREAKOUT FROM AZKABAN

MINISTRY FEARS BLACK IS "RALLYING POINT"

FOR OLD DEATH EATERS

Below the title were ten images of the escaped Death Eaters. Hermione's eyes trained on Bellatrix's picture. Her hair was greasy and unmaintained, and her eyes looked crazed. She jeered at the camera, baring her teeth and snarling as she clawed at her own face, laughing maniacally. Hermione pushed away her meal, her stomach turning—she was no longer hungry.

She read and reread the caption under Bellatrix's picture.

' Bellatrix Lestrange, convicted of the torture and permanent incapacitation of Frank and Alice Longbottom.'

On instinct, she looked over to Draco and met his eyes. She could see they were filled with worry. Few students took The Daily Prophet and, as a result, the Great Hall was filled with regular happy conversation. They were completely oblivious to the chaos that had been unleashed back into the wizarding world overnight.

Hermione was unable to tear her eyes from Draco's as they watched each other from across the hall. She wondered if Bellatrix would try to reach out to the Malfoys now that she was out of prison. Where would she hide? Was she back with Voldemort?

"This explains why Voldemort was so happy last night," Harry muttered with disgust, tossing his toast back onto his plate.

Hermione’s attention turned to Harry. "You've been feeling more of his emotions?" she asked, her voice laced with concern.

"I have my first Occlumency lesson tonight," Harry replied. "I'm meeting with Snape after supper."

She frowned, watching his expression. "You didn't answer my question, Harry…"

"I'm working on it, Hermione," Harry said, disgruntled, effectively ending the conversation.

Hermione shared a look with Ron as they finished breakfast in uncomfortable silence.


Draco's band burned from across the Great Hall at the Slytherin table. He looked down in concern, reading Hermione's message.

R.O.R.? Please

He made eye contact with her across the hall, nodding once before gathering his bag.

Minutes later, Draco stood impatiently in the Room of Requirement, waiting for Hermione to join him. The door creaked open, and without a word, Draco took Hermione into his arms. She clung to him, hooking her arms under his armpits and tucking her head into the crook of his neck.

Hermione spoke, her voice muffled against his chest.

"You're going to have to repeat that," Draco said as he leaned back, brushing her hair out of her face.

"Do you think she will reach out to your family?" she asked, her voice small.

"I doubt it. According to my mother, she's had minimal contact with the family since she left my grandparents' house. She's been in Azkaban for nearly fifteen years and my parents have never visited her.” Draco grimaced. “I don't even know anything about her, to be honest, outside of the stories I've heard and pictures my mother has shown me. It's not as if I have any memories of her. Bellatrix has been in Azkaban since I was a baby." 

"I don't like this, Draco. These are the most vicious and fanatical Death Eaters from the first war. Now that they're free, who knows what they will do? My parents are Muggles—they're completely defenceless against someone like her. Didn't they attack Muggle cities? In the first war?" she asked, panicked.

"Hey, love. It's okay, nothing has happened yet. They're still trying to keep a low profile since the wizarding world is actively denying the Dark Lord's return. They wouldn't just attack a Muggle suburb out of nowhere. Plus, there are so few of them right now, they wouldn't risk losing anyone," he tried to reassure her.

Unconvinced, she added, "There are so few of them right now, but their numbers just grew by ten last night."

Unfortunately, Draco did not know how to placate her in her anxieties and he felt helpless. Though he would never admit it out loud, it was reasonable to fear for her parents' long-term safety. She was the Muggleborn best mate of Harry Potter—the epitome of everything the Death Eaters despised.

"Can we talk about something else?" she asked. "I'm so worried about my parents and about Harry and Ron, I just want to think about something else right now."

"Of course, we can talk about anything you'd like.” He thought for a moment before saying, “In other news, Blaise keeps asking for pictures of my 'super beautiful makes-Veelas-envious French girlfriend' Adeline and I don't know what to tell him. What kind of bloke doesn't have a single picture of his girlfriend who he supposedly spent an entire summer with?"

"Eek. I could always get you pictures, but then again, maybe this has gone on long enough." Hermione conceded, fiddling with her locket. "Either way, it won't do to have Blaise asking questions. I'll figure something out."

"What are you going to do?" Draco asked, looking nervous.

"Best let me just take care of it. Your reaction will be more authentic if you don't know what's coming," she assured him.

"I don't like the sounds of that," Draco stated with suspicion. "What are you scheming?"

"Don't you worry a hair on your pretty little head. It'll all be resolved soon," Hermione declared with a confident smile.


The ominous sound of owls echoed through the Great Hall. Draco looked up nervously, wondering what Hermione had planned. A standard barn owl flew directly to Draco, carrying a bright red envelope.

"No. She didn't. She wouldn't." Draco's eyes widened in panic. "No, no, no!"

Blaise and Theo burst into laughter, as Blaise exclaimed, "Oh, mate, Adeline sent you a Howler?! You messed up bad. What did you do?"

"What do I do with it?! Can I throw it out?" Draco asked, frantic. The red envelope floated into the air, hovering just in front of him. Splitting open as a loud voice erupted from it.

Hermione had obviously used a voice altering spell to create this Howler as it did not sound like her at all. It also had a completely ridiculous over-the-top French accent.

"DRACO LUCIUS MALFOY 'OW DARE YOU! I DO NOT GET DUMPED! I'LL 'AVE YOU KNOW ZAT I AM DESCENDED FROM FRENCH NOBILITY! MY PAPA IS A DUKE! YOU CANNOT BREAK MY 'EART AND TOSS ME ASIDE!" Draco laid his head down on the table in horror, unable to watch as the Howler continued.

"YOU VERE ZE BEST AND MOST GENEROUS LOVER ZAT I EVER 'AD! I VILL NEVER FORGET ZE LONG NIGHTS VE SPENT TOGEZER! I VILL ALVAYS LOVE YOU AND I VILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR RUINING ALL ZE OZER MEN FOR ME!" The Howler burst into flames in front of him.

The entire Slytherin table was silent, staring at Draco in shock with the exception of his best mates. Blaise was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes and Theo was doubled over, gasping for air between laughs.

Without saying a word, Draco stood up and walked away from the table with as much dignity as he could muster. The sound of his own footsteps echoed in his ears as he quickly walked past the Gryffindor table where a few students jeered at him, mimicking the words of the Howler. He resisted the growing urge to glare at Hermione as he passed by.

He sent her a single message to her band, Seriously?


That week Draco was on rotation to patrol with Ernie Macmillan, the fifth year Hufflepuff Prefect. Draco had known Ernie before Hogwarts; he was a fellow pureblood from the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Though Draco had always known of him as Ernest before school, he had picked up the nickname Ernie during their first year—Draco thought it suited him nicely.

The pair walked mostly in silence, occasionally discussing their shared classes or Quidditch. They rounded a corner towards the end of their shift when there was a commotion down by the Hufflepuff common room.

"Stop! Give it back!" a voice demanded in anger.

There was taunting laughter followed by an assertive, " Tarantallegra !"

The sound of scuffs and steps filled the corridor.

"What did you do to us?! Stop it!"

Ernie and Draco shared a look before sprinting to the source of the sound.

Standing two corridors away from the common room entrance was Amelia Williams, standing a meter away from two wildly dancing Slytherins. They were flailing about, their feet moving uncontrollably while their arms swung around trying to fight the jinx.

Amelia turned to the approaching Prefects with tear-filled eyes. She looked carefully at Draco and then back to Ernie. Her cheeks were flushed pink with embarrassment.

"What's going on here?" Ernie demanded. " Finite incantatem ." The Slytherin boys stopped dancing abruptly.

"She attacked us!" One of the boys pointed to Amelia who was scowling at him.

"Self-defense," she clarified. "They've been harassing me all school year! They just stole my essay that I've spent the better part of the month working on. Go on, check his bag." She nodded to the satchel which had been dropped mid-dance.

Ernie opened the bag, pulling out parchment with Amelia's name and handwriting on the top for first-year History of Magic homework. Ernie turned and showed it to Draco who felt rage boil beneath his skin.

"Fifteen points from Slytherin, each," Draco asserted, trying to keep his emotions in check. "For bullying and lying to Prefects."

The two Slytherin boys interjected in outrage at losing points.

"But what about her?" one of them asked. "She jinxed us!"

"Yes, I almost forgot." Draco turned to Amelia who was looking nervously between the Prefects. "Twenty points," Draco began, and the Slytherin boys jeered at Amelia's dismayed expression. “To Hufflepuff for an exceptionally executed jinx. The wand movement is particularly difficult for that spell and you were able to use it on two people, no less; that is advanced spellwork for your year."

The boys sputtered in shock; even Ernie looked startled but if he took issue with the ruling, he did not say anything.

A smile crept up on Amelia's face as she took her assignment back from Ernie.

"Now all of you, get back to your common rooms. It's nearing curfew." Draco ushered them away with a wave of his hand.

"Draco Malfoy," Ernie ruminated, "never thought I'd see the day when you'd take points from your own house and award some to a Muggleborn Hufflepuff."

Draco shrugged in nonchalance. "We are Prefects now, have to be impartial," he said as he considered all the ways he could abuse his Prefect status to make the little prats' lives miserable.


" What the hell, Hermione ?!" Draco asked incredulously as she stepped through the doorway in the Room of Requirement.

"Hi love," Hermione greeted him cheerfully.

"You just had to send me a Howler? Really? You couldn't think of any other reasonable course of action other than a screeching Howler during my breakfast?"

"I wanted to make sure that word of your breakup spread efficiently and accurately; a Howler did the job well," she reasoned.

"And the accent?"

"I had to sell it! It would be odd for your French girlfriend to have an English accent." She shrugged.

Draco put his hands on his hips. "Well I hope you're happy. People are calling me the Slytherin Sex God after that stunt you pulled."

Hermione stifled a laugh at the unsexy gesture. Slytherin Sex God, indeed.

"I'm failing to see the negatives for you. Why is it a problem for people to believe you're 'a generous lover'?" She smirked.

"Maybe because I've been propositioned half a dozen times since breakfast alone," he informed her, raising his eyebrows. "Sexually propositioned."

"Oh." Hermione sat quietly for a moment, looking uneasy. "Who?"

"I'm not telling you that," Draco stated.

"I'm not going to hurt them," she assured him, but the look in her eye gave him pause, "Who. Propositioned. You?"

"I obviously turned them all down," he promised. "Just in case you had any doubts."

"Hmm." She hummed noncommittally.

"Every time, no matter what, I'd always choose you. I hope you know that."

She looked at him from the corner of her eye.

"I've just been redirecting them to Blaise, because you see, I've found I'm already quite smitten with a witch," he added.

She bit her lip, watching him. "Quite smitten?"

"Quite smitten," he confirmed.

"The Gryffindor sex goddess to your Slytherin sex god?" she prompted with a smirk.

He laughed. "Merlin, help me. Yes."

"Speaking of, next week is our first real Valentine's Day together," Hermione commented, gauging his reaction.

"Is it? I don't usually keep track of that sort of thing." He shrugged nonchalantly. "Are you the type to want to celebrate it?"

She frowned. "Aren't you?"

"I mean, it's just a made-up holiday," he insisted.

"Oh, yes, I forgot, unlike all the other holidays which are naturally occurring," she mocked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

Draco turned to her and she stared back at him. Somehow it became a staring contest, where both refused to blink first.

After several moments, Draco's eyes twitched shut. "Fine. But I want chocolate," he grumbled.

"Deal."


The next morning Hermione saw a new Educational Decree added to the wall. Educational Decree Number Eighty-One, RED HOWLERS ARE FORBIDDEN ON THE PREMISES.  

Hermione grinned as she passed by.

It had been worth it.


"So, what are you getting Hermione for Valentine's Day?" Theo asked Draco as the pair walked to class together.

"Oh, Theo." Draco shook his head in disappointment. "Not you too? I didn't peg you for the romantic."

"It's not me. It's those bloody Gryffindors! They're just so soft with this kind of thing," Theo mumbled.

"That's why we love them, isn't it?" Draco gave him a knowing look. "Why do you care what I'm getting Hermione?"

"I figure whatever you get Hermione, I can get Harry," Theo reasoned.

"Hey! Why don't you think of your own gift?" Draco chided, giving him a look of disapproval.

"If you're making me lie to my…to Harry about dating his best mate, the least you can do is let me recycle your gift ideas," Theo complained. "On that note, it's getting more difficult to lie to him, you know. He's weirdly perceptive. He suspects that I'm hiding something from him. I mean, he's not wrong."

Draco felt guilt twist in his stomach for having put his best mate in that position. "Fine. You can borrow my gift idea. I can't guarantee he will like it though. How do you think he’d feel about you and Quidditch pants?"


"What are the five signs of a werewolf?" Umbridge quizzed the class as she twirled her wand between her hands.

Hermione's arm shot up, eager to share the answer. Umbridge looked right past Hermione.

"Ms. Abbott," she called.

Hannah recited the signs as Umbridge wrote them down on the board and turned back to face the class.

"Very good, Hannah. It is important for you to be able to recognize the signs of these filthy half-breeds. My werewolf legislative work with the Ministry is helping protect you and your families," she stated proudly.

There was a small cracking noise from Hermione's desk; she had been gripping her quill tightly as Umbridge spoke and it had snapped in half from the pressure.

The classroom watched in silent terror as the words behind Umbridge morphed on the board. She continued their lecture, oblivious to the changes in her list.

Toads are usually nocturnal

A group of toads is called a knot

Toads are cold-blooded amphibians

There are around 230 known species of toads in the world

Toads are found on all continents except Antarctica

Their natural habitat is teaching Ministry-regulated defence classes

Umbridge looked curiously at the students' expressions, their gazes fixed on the board behind her. She turned; her face twitched as she tried to maintain her composure. An angry red flush rose up her neck as she stared down the faces of her petrified students.

"Who. Did. This?" she spat out as the twitches in her pudgy cheeks grew stronger with each word.

"So help me Merlin, if no one admits to this, then I will go around this classroom and test every single wand to see who jinxed my board!" Umbridge threatened.

True to her word, the rest of the class was wasted as Umbridge went row by row, testing each wand with a wave and a quick " Priori incantatem ."

Draco tensed as Umbridge picked up Hermione's wand and waved it. " Priori incantatem ."

Umbridge looked to Hermione. "A feather-light charm?"

"For my bag," Hermione offered with a polite smile. "I have many books."

"Hmm." Umbridge moved to test Ron Weasley's wand, the final check for the class. 

In the end, Umbridge decided the board must have been jinxed before class by someone not in their year. Draco exhaled a sigh of relief, trying not to stare at Hermione who looked just a little too innocent at that moment.


For Valentine's Day, Hermione felt she had outdone herself in the sneaky long-distance secret girlfriend department. She sliced up her omelet carefully, watching Draco from her peripheral. Owls were dropping off flowers, boxes of chocolates, and Valentines' cards to students all over the Great Hall. There were excited squeals and happy hugs as gifts were delivered.

A small, discreet package landed in front of Draco; Hermione knew he could tell it was from her. He pulled off the strings, starting to unwrap the paper when he stopped abruptly and began folding it back up quickly. Hermione bit back a laugh at his flushed cheeks and flustered demeanor. He pushed the package into his bag before tucking it under his arm and heading out of the Great Hall immediately.

She doubted Draco was expecting to unwrap a package of her Slytherin green knickers during his breakfast—a preview for their date tonight. Hermione ate another piece of her orange, smirking quietly to herself, crossing her legs to avoid the breeze beneath her skirt.

"Are you sure you don't want to tag along with us tonight, 'Mione?" Ron asked sympathetically, directing her attention back to the Gryffindor table.

"Oh, I'm sure, I'll find some way to occupy my time. I hope you have a lovely date with Lavender." She smiled stirring her food around on her plate.

Ron turned to Harry, shook his head sadly and mumbled under his breath, "Poor girl, probably going to spend the night with her cat."

Hermione resisted the urge to correct Ron, though he would never believe her even if she tried.

That night, Hermione waited quietly in the corridor outside the Slytherin Common Room, Disillusioned. She waited impatiently for a student to trigger the entrance; she wrapped her arms firmly around her torso, the corridor was chilly, and she was wearing fewer layers than usual.

Finally, a pair of Slytherin seventh years who looked quite tipsy stumbled up to the stone wall and sang out, "Puuuuure blood," before dissolving into laughter as the entryway opened. Hermione scowled as she slipped in behind them.

The Slytherin Common Room was more crowded than usual, with couples paired off around the room. There were drinks, blatant flirting, and more than a few couples snogging. Raising her eyebrows as she looked around the room, she decided they certainly did things differently in Slytherin House than in Gryffindor House.

Walking on the balls of her feet, she attempted to muffle her steps as best she could. Nevertheless, the students looked too distracted to notice her even if she had walked loudly. Hermione slipped down the corridor to Draco's room, peeking around before knocking gently. She waited, butthere was no answer. Crinkling her forehead, she knocked again. Finally, she just pushed the door open, letting herself into his room.

Her mouth fell open in shock; Draco was laying on his bed, his head propped up by his arm and he was wearing his Slytherin Quidditch uniform with the shirt undone. There were flower petals thrown around the bed.

Hermione tripped over her feet and her cheeks heated.

At the sound of her stumble, Draco smirked at the air in front of him. "Hello, Granger."

Removing the Disillusionment Charm, she set her wand on his desk.

Draco's eyes grew dark and his breath came as a slight gasp while he scanned down her body, she was wearing her school uniform but with some slight alterations. Her skirt was much too short for regulation code, he had her knickers, and she was wearing the Slytherin green tie that she had snagged from his room during their last visit.

"Fuck me," Draco murmured under his breath.

Her lips quirked into a smirk. "Yeah, that's the idea."


The next morning, Draco snuck a look at Hermione's parchment which was covered in bits of information for future D.A. lessons.

"Granger, are my eyes charmed or do I see a Patronus on the curriculum for your defence club?"

"A corporeal Patronus," Hermione corrected with excitement. “Most witches and wizards can only manage an incorporeal Patronuses, but we are going to spend weeks teaching it and I am confident we can manage it."

"You're really going to teach fifth year Gryffindors how to cast a corporeal Patronus in a week?" he questioned in disbelief.

"Not until April—we are building up to it right now. It's a complicated spell and they need a better foundation before we try to teach them how to conjure it. Also, the D.A. is not only fifth years, and we have students from three of the four houses." She added, "The first lessons were rather simple, the Incarcerous spell, a Stunning Spell, the Reductor Curse, but we are really pushing with the Patronus Charm. Last summer Harry was attacked by a Dementor and he would have been given the kiss if he hadn't been able to cast his Patronus."

"A Dementor, outside Azkaban?! Seriously, how is that bloke still alive? He hasn't gone a year without something trying to kill him." Draco shook his head in amazement.

"He says he's just really bad at dying." Hermione shrugged.

"I'll say. And you know how to cast a Patronus?" he asked, impressed.

Hermione smiled before closing her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she brandished her wand. " Expecto Patronum !"

A silvery otter shot out of the tip of her wand, spinning around her and Draco. He watched in amazement as it darted all over the room.

"You realise how difficult that spell is, right? You're so nonchalant about it, I feel like you don't understand the gravity of what you've accomplished. There are full-fledged witches and wizards who can't do what you just did." Draco stared in admiration.

"Would you like to learn?" she asked with a clever smile.

"Absolutely. I can think of no better teacher." He reached for his wand.

"Oh, I don't know, I can always go check if Ronald is available," she quipped.

"Not funny, Granger." He narrowed his eyes at her.

"Oh, I'm kind of funny."


"So, explain to me again why we are doing this?" Theo grumbled in annoyance as they snuck out of their rooms after curfew.

"Because, I need an alibi if we get caught. You felt ill and needed an escort to the hospital wing and I'm your house Prefect."

"Not that part," Theo corrected. "Why are we targeting two second-years?"

Draco glared. "Because they fucked with the wrong Hufflepuff."

Theo blinked. "I don't even know who you are anymore."

Chapter Text

March

Year 5

 

“Um, mate, why is there a Galleon stuck to the side of your cauldron?” Theo asked, staring at Draco.

Draco groaned as he smacked his hand against his forehead in exasperation.

Finite incantatem ,” he muttered, catching the Galleon as the sticking charm was nullified.

“I’ll take it if it’s bothering you that much,” Theo quipped in amusement. “I knew you were loaded, but I’ve never seen money-sticks-to-you level of rich before. What are you, a Niffler?”

Draco lowered his voice so as to not be overheard. “It’s nothing, just Granger being Granger. It’s maddening. She’s trying to pay me back and I told her I don’t need her money, but she won’t take the damn coin! This has been going on for months.”

Theo smirked, his eyes lingering on her table. “I like her.”

“You’d better. Speaking of, I’m meeting her parents this weekend,” Draco commented.

Theo dropped his stirring rod, startled. “What?! Have you lost your mind? You’re going to sneak out of school to go to Muggle London to meet your girlfriend’s Muggle parents?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I did not see that coming. Have you ever even had a full conversation with a Muggle before?”

“…No, but if they’re anything like Hermione, I feel like it won’t be that bad,” Draco said, dropping his carefully measured portion of chizpurfle fang into his cauldron before looking at Theo anxiously. “Right?”

“Hell if I know, but whatever you do—do not fuck it up. A nice girl like Hermione will care what her parents think of you,” Theo warned.

“You think I don’t know that? She talks about them all the time. She couldn’t think more highly of them; I’m hoping that Muggle parents are enough like pureblood parents that I can just up the Malfoy charm and hope for the best.” Draco brushed a bit of hair from his eyes as he bent over his textbook.

“After this, all that’s left is to introduce her to old Lucius,” Theo joked.

The pair fell silent as Seamus Finnigan walked past their station, headed to fetch more ingredients.

Draco lowered his voice until it was barely audible as he turned to Theo. “You know what my father thinks about witches like her. If it were up to me, she’d never have to meet him. Whatever I do, I’m going to avoid that introduction as long as possible. I don’t know what he would do to her and I’m not above committing patricide if he hurts her.”

Theo made a face and turned back to his pile of ingredients. “Somehow I don’t doubt that.”


The organized effort it took to get to the Grangers’ house without appearing together was extremely taxing on Hermione and Draco. They could not take the Floo out of Hogwarts as the Foo Network was being monitored by Umbridge and the Ministry. As a result, Draco took the Knight Bus from Hogwarts under the guise of visiting his family—being a well-connected Slytherin had its perks—and Hermione took the secret passage to Hogsmeade, Flooed to the Leaky Cauldron, and then took a taxi through Muggle London to her parents’ suburb.

Hermione staggered the times so she would arrive via taxi a few minutes before Draco would step off the Knight Bus. She hid behind the cluster of tall bushes next to her parents’ house as the Knight Bus dropped Draco off and sped away.

“Well, don’t you look nice?” Hermione looked Draco up and down in admiration as she walked up to greet him.

He was wearing Muggle clothes that Hermione had picked out for him the week before. It was a flattering ensemble, a light grey jumper over a blue button up—which accented his grey eyes nicely—and navy blue trousers. Hermione had paired her outfit to his, wearing a simple cream dress with a pale blue floral pattern. It cinched at her waist and landed just below her knees.

“Do I? I feel positively green. Did anyone even teach that guy on the Knight Bus how to drive or did they just toss him the keys and say good luck?” Draco grumbled, making a face of discomfort.

“What are those?” Hermione asked, staring at what looked like a wildly expensive bouquet of flowers in his hand.

“Flowers? Don’t tell me you’ve never seen flowers,” he teased. “I’m clearly failing as a boyfriend if you don’t recognise them.”

“Obviously I know what they are, but why did you bring flowers with you tonight?”

Draco stared as if she grew a second head. “Granger, I can’t very well go to my girlfriend’s parents’ house without bringing a gift. It goes against the gentl—”

“—eman’s code, blah blah blah, I know. Well, let me just tell you my mother is going to absolutely love you for those,” Hermione finished his sentence with a sly smile.

He wiggled his shoulders a bit, as if shaking off his nerves. He was repeating Theo’s words in his head like a mantra, ‘do not fuck it up’.

“It’s going to be fine; they’re going to love you just as much as I do. Also, please try not to talk too much about magic. Especially the bond. I haven’t told them anything about that. As far as they know, you’re just my regular boyfriend and not my magically-bound soulmate. They might freak out a bit if they knew that part.”

Draco gave her a small smirk. “Soulmate, eh?”

“Oh, shut it, you know what you are,” she admonished. “My parents will be okay with some conversation about magic as I’ve explained quite a bit over the years, but they still aren’t too familiar with it. Try talking about common interests.”

Draco scoffed. “Obviously, Granger. I already knew that; I was planning to talk about…Muggle things with them.”

“You think you know enough about ‘Muggle things’ to talk with them?” she asked, raising her eyebrows curiously.

“Yeah, I know Muggle things ,” he insisted. “I’m insulted that you think I don’t.”

“Okay, I’m excited to hear all about them. Now, I’m freezing so let’s go inside. Ready?”

Hermione gave him a comforting smile and rang the doorbell to the house. Several moments later, the door swung wide open and her father and mother rushed out to pull her into a hug. They looked just like the still picture that Draco had seen in the Room of Requirement, with the addition of a few extra gray hairs and hints of smile lines around their eyes.

Jean Granger looked just like an older version of her daughter. She was short with kind brown eyes; her hair was darker than Hermione’s hair but equally as curly. William Granger had sandy blond hair with a slight wave to it, was clean shaven, and had striking hazel eyes hidden behind spectacles. He looked amused when taking in Draco’s appearance.

While Hermione hugged her mother, Draco offered a hand to her father, shaking it in greeting.

“Mum, dad, this is my boyfriend—Draco Malfoy,” Hermione introduced with a proud grin.

Draco waited until Hermione released her mother from a hug before stepping forward.

He took her mother’s hand in his and bowed down, kissing it politely. “Enchanté. It is an absolute delight to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Granger. Thank you for having me in your home; I have heard wonderful stories about you and cannot wait to learn more about the couple who raised such a lovely daughter.”

“For the hostess.” He presented the bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Granger who, instead of responding to Draco, promptly turned to Hermione with a hand to her chest and a look of delight. “ Oh my god .”

Hermione looked at her knowingly. “I know .”

“And he?”

“Yes.”

Wow .”

“Right?”

“But you?”

Exactly .”

“I can’t.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Yes…”

“Mum!”

 

(A/N—For anyone who is interested in the full dialogue from Hermione and her mother it roughly translates as follows

Oh my god he is charming —did he really just do that?”

“I know, and yes—he did.”

“And he is just like this? All the time?”

“Yes. He’s just like this. All the time.

Wow, where did he come from?”

“Right? I never stood a chance.”

“But you know it’s obvious from the way he looks at you that he adores you.”

Exactly. It’s that look that just kills me.”

“I can’t handle this, when did you grow up and become a woman?”

“Isn’t it fast though?”

“Yes…but some people just find love young. Just look at you two—my future grandbabies are going to be positively adorable.”

“Mum!”)

 

Draco looked between mother and daughter, his eyes flicking back and forth as if watching a high-speed tennis match; he tried to decipher their unspoken communication as they shared an entire conversation in single phrases and shared looks.

Hermione’s father placed a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “Don’t even bother, sixteen years of this and I still have no idea half the time. Come on in—no use waiting outside in the cold.”

The Granger home looked exactly as Hermione had designed the Come-and-Go Room, minus the Christmas decorations. It was tastefully decorated, filled with books, and without a speck of dust. The entire house felt warm, inviting, and comforting from the moment he stepped through the door. He looked around, wondering what it would be like to grow up in a house like this one.

“Welcome to our home, Draco. We are excited to meet you after hearing so much about you from Hermione. Is this your first time in Hampstead?” Mrs. Granger asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I have not had the pleasure until today. Truth be told, I had a rather conservative upbringing. I have not spent much time outside of wizarding cities, but I’m looking forward to changing that.” Draco turned to Hermione with a smile.

“Interesting way you phrased that.” Mr. Granger looked between the pair. “And how do your parents feel about you dating our daughter considering your ‘conservative upbringing’?”

Draco hesitated and Hermione cut him off. “Daddy. Stop. I already told you his mother is lovely—I think you would love her, actually— and his father is still working on it. No need to grill Draco; he can’t exactly control the opinions of his parents.”

“Well, you can’t blame a father for asking. He’s your first real boyfriend and I want to make sure you’ll be treated with the respect you deserve. Especially after those stories you told us from your first years at Hogwarts. It’s appalling that you had to deal with those kids calling you names for having us as parents,” Mr. Granger asserted.

Draco winced, knowing full well that some of the stories Hermione had shared would have been about him; he was hoping she had not mentioned him by name.

“It’s okay. I’m glad you asked so I have the opportunity to explain my family. My mother has had a recent change of heart in the past few years, due in part to your daughter. My father… He still retains many old ideals, antiquated beliefs that my mother and I have since rejected. I want you to know that no matter what he believes, I will always advocate for Hermione and defend her whenever possible,” Draco promised, meeting Mr. Granger's eyes confidently. “It would have been easy to follow in the path of my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents and so on, but that was not the path for me.” He looked to Hermione who watched him with wide eyes. “Because that path would not have led me to Hermione.”

Mr. Granger nodded in agreement, satisfied. “A fine answer. True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.”

“Gandhi,” Hermione offered to Draco. “It was a Muggle named Gandhi who said that.”

“Merlin, it’s like there’s three of you here.” Draco bit back a laugh as he looked between Hermione and her parents.

’Merlin’ ? Oh, aren’t you adorable?” Mrs. Granger mused. “Though I’ve always personally liked Morgana better.”

“Morgana le Fay? She’s my ancestor actually,” Draco mentioned. “Mother has her old ring in the family vault—thinks it’s cursed, though.”

Mrs. Granger let out an incredulous laugh. “Oh my god, you’re serious, aren’t you? Wow. Hermione failed to mention your extensive family history. Speaking of, what do your parents do for work?”

“My mother maintains the…family home with help of the… servants and manages charity foundations. My father mostly invests in companies with his associates,” Draco replied vaguely.

Mr. and Mrs. Granger shared a look. “That’s a polite way of saying you come from old money.”

Draco floundered slightly. “But I have my own aspirations outside of my family, I’d like to be a…” He looked to Hermione helplessly. “What’s the Muggle version of a potioneer?”

“A chemist, of sorts. Research and development for a type of pharmaceuticals, for wizard healing,” Hermione explained to her parents. “It’s an esteemed position in the wizarding world, you have to have the equivalent of a PhD to pursue it professionally.”

“That sounds like an admirable career path, Draco. William and I pursued a specialty of healing teeth. I’m sure Hermione must have mentioned that to you before. We can relate to the desire to learn and help others. Now, I know you’ve come a long way and I bet you’re famished; I’ve prepared supper and it’s in the dining room.” Mrs. Granger indicated for them to follow her to the next room where place settings and sides were already on the table.

There was a beat of silence as Mrs. Granger left the room to get the main course from the kitchen. Draco looked to Hermione who nodded at him in encouragement.

Draco turned very seriously to her father. “So, Mr. Granger, I can’t help but notice how similar you and your daughter are with your interests. Do you also like cocaine?”

Hermione choked on her drink.

Draco’s expression turned to alarm as he looked between Hermione’s frantic coughs and the mirth on her father’s face. “What? You said cocaine is a Muggle thing!”

“It’s an illicit drug, Draco! It’s a Muggle drug!” she wheezed out between gasps for air.

“You took drugs?!” Draco exclaimed, his voice unusually high as a nervous reflex.

Hermione’s mother walked into the room with a large covered dish just in time to hear Draco, she gasped in false shock. “Hermione Jean! You’re doing drugs and you didn’t bring enough to share with the hosts? We raised you better than this, young lady.”

“Oh my god.” Hermione put her face in her hands.

Draco looked frantically around the room in horror. “No—no! Not cocaine—I meant to ask, do you like Pad-Thai? What about jean trousers?” He turned hopelessly to Mrs. Granger. “The Little Mermaid?”

Theo’s voice came back to his head—he was fucking it up.

Hermione’s parents dissolved into laughter as her mother looked at Draco affectionately. “Draco, dear, you are welcome over anytime. You are by far the most interesting house guest we have had in quite a while. For the record, yes, we love all of those—well, except the cocaine. Though the 70s were a wild time…”

“Mum!” Hermione closed her eyes. “You’re making this so much worse.”

Draco’s cheeks and neck flushed in embarrassment as Hermione patted his leg and whispered, “It’s okay, love. That was a great Muggle conversation.”

“We are so sorry, Draco. We didn’t mean to laugh,” Mr. Granger interjected.

Draco took a deep breath and tried to will himself back to a normal color as he looked across the table to her parents.

“I am so out of my depth here.” He ran a hand over his face in weariness. He swallowed. “I think it’s obvious that I’m not familiar with many of your customs or really anything with Muggle culture, but I would like to learn if you have patience. I can’t promise I won’t do or say something ignorant. In fact, I can absolutely guarantee it’ll happen again, but I…” He looked over at Hermione. “I really love your daughter and I’m trying my best to do right by her. I know I’m probably not who you’d imagined her dating but—”

“Son,” Mr. Granger cut Draco off. “You seem like a nice young man and we can see that you genuinely care about our daughter. As parents, that’s all we can ask for in a partner for her. You can relax. You’re doing much better than I did when I met Jean’s parents for the first time; I actually spilled a cup of scalding hot tea on her mother—I was mortified.”

Draco’s mouth fell open as he looked to Mrs. Granger, who laughed and nodded in confirmation. “Yes he did. In fact, she had a burn in her lap for weeks after that incident. Don’t forget our first Christmas where I set your parents’ oven on fire.”

Mr. Granger made a face. “That one was bad. That was when Jean was pregnant with this one over here”—he gestured towards Hermione—“and woke up at midnight craving sweets. Naturally, she thought she should make some sugar cookies, but fell back asleep after putting them in the oven.”

“Hey, no one warns you how exhausting the first trimester is,” Mrs. Granger argued in self-defense. “I was knackered 24/7. If you’ve forgotten—I made an entire human from scratch!”

“So, as long as you don’t burn us or the house down, I’d say you’re doing just fine,” Mr. Granger assured Draco.

“Enough of that. Now, who wants supper?” Mrs. Granger asked, removing the lid to her covered dish.

Hermione suddenly erupted into laughter, tears building in her eyes as she clutched her stomach.

“Um…Hermione?” her father asked, visibly confused. “What’s so funny?”

“It’s…it’s…oh my god, Draco,” Hermione choked out the words before cackling. “She made Toad in a Hole!”

Draco barked out a laugh of surprise, before covering his mouth with his hand and clearing his throat. “Please, excuse me.”

“It’s not you, Grang—Hermione has this thing about toads this year,” Draco explained over the sound of Hermione’s guffawing. 

Hermione looked at him with tears of laughter in her eyes and he struggled to keep it together. 

“This is a lovely meal choice. May I?” Draco asked, taking the dish from a baffled Mrs. Granger and setting it down in the center of the table.

 

During supper, Draco felt a twinge of envy hit him as he watched the way her parents interacted. Her father would tease her mother, who would swat playfully at him and tease back. When her father cleared the dishes from the table, her mother leaned over and gave him a kiss as thanks.

Draco thought of all the moments he had with his witch and it was as if all the pieces suddenly fit together. It made sense that she acted the way she did, having had this as her example. It made him feel uneasy as he thought of the cold, large rooms of the manor he grew up in, with expensive art and nothing sentimental on the walls outside of ancestral portraits. The formal meals with house elves serving dishes in order of household plates. Of his parents who loved him but showed little physical affection. What had she thought of his family? Of him? Would he ever be able to provide this kind of life for her?

“…like when she was a child.” Mrs. Granger shook her head affectionately at Hermione who looked to the ceiling and shook her head.

“Speaking of, Mrs. Granger,” Draco interjected with an innocent look. “If it’s not too much hassle, I would love to hear all about Hermione from her pre-Hogwarts years.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed at Draco in suspicion.

“Oh! I would love to show you her baby book. Hermione being an only child, I did go a bit overboard scrapbooking—though you probably know all about that from your own mother.” Mrs. Granger left the room and came back with a large photo album.

“You sure you want to see these, Draco? I can’t see how they would be interesting,” Hermione stated in an accusatory tone, through gritted teeth.

He smiled maliciously at Hermione. “I think you’ll find that I could not possibly be more interested.”


“Here’s Hermione when she was in primary school.” Mrs. Granger smiled fondly at the still image, pointing to Hermione who looked around six and was sitting in a corner surrounded by picture books. “She’s always loved to read,” she added. “In fact, whenever she was in trouble as a child, we used to take away her books as punishment!”

Draco raised his eyebrows, looking at Hermione. “Tell me more about Hermione getting into trouble. I can’t even imagine that. She’s just such an angel at school; she’s never one to get into pranks or any trouble,” he said, his voice sweet like honey.

“That’s our Hermione, the Prefect,” Mr. Granger chuckled as Hermione glared at Draco from out of her parents’ line of sight.

“You know, Draco’s a Prefect too,” Hermione offered.

Mr. Granger turned to Draco. “Is he now? That’s wonderful, good for you,” he said with approval. “Are you in the same house as Hermione at school?”

Draco’s eyes flicked nervously to Hermione. “No, sir, I’m in a different house than Hermione.”

“Is that common? Dating between houses?” he asked.

“It happens.” Draco’s voice felt higher than normal.

“Which house are you in? Is it the one with the nice kids and the badger? What did you say it was, Hermione, a Bufflepuff?”

Draco felt his eye twitch.

“No, Mum, you’re thinking about Hufflepuff. He’s not in Hufflepuff, though sometimes I wonder.” She smirked as she watched Draco.

“I’m in Slytherin House,” he mentioned.

Hermione’s parents paused before her mother broke the silence. “Isn’t that the one with the kids you told us about?”

Clearing her throat, Hermione said, “Every house has them, it’s not just Slytherins. Plus, I haven’t had issues in years. I feel like we are sidetracked. Aren’t we supposed to be sharing embarrassing pictures from my childhood right about now?”

Mrs. Granger turned her attention back to the scrapbook and flipped the page to an image of Hermione surrounded by a group of kids, frowning and flipping the page to the next set of images. Draco looked curiously at Hermione who was looking down at the floor. Who were the kids in that picture?

“Oh, William, remember this? This was her first-time skiing with us! Look at her in her little purple skis,” Mrs. Granger cooed, looking at the picture of a young Hermione with her parents on either side of her, all grinning at the camera.

“Do you ski often?” Draco asked. “I’ve never been.”

Mrs. Granger exclaimed, “How have you never been skiing?! Oh, we usually go every winter—well, excluding this year. We should bring you with us! Shouldn’t we, Hermione? I’m sure your parents—” A look of discomfort flashed over her face. “Perhaps one year you’ll be able to join us. William is an excellent teacher.” 

They flipped through dozens of pictures of Hermione at all ages and, in almost every single picture, her parents smiling next to her. Draco had only a few pictures with his parents; most were just pictures of him alone. For a moment, he was overwhelmed with a feeling he could not define. It was a mixture of happiness, belonging and envy.

He looked around the room, nursing his cuppa from Mrs. Granger as they fawned over memories of their daughter, and he realised this was what he wanted. How had he ever thought Muggles were beneath Purebloods? This family was pure love, something he had never seen from a Pureblood family.

“I hope you left room for dessert. I made Hermione’s favourite,” Mrs. Granger said with delight as she disappeared into the kitchen.

“I’ll go help with the dishes, see you kids in a minute.” Mr. Granger trailed behind her.

“Granger,” Draco began. “What was with that picture of those kids?”

Hermione looked for a moment as if she was considering how to answer the question.

“They were my best mates before Hogwarts,” she answered, her eyes unfocusing over his shoulder.

“Oh. I suppose I never thought much about your life before Hogwarts.” His brow furrowed. “Do you still talk with them?”

“No.”

He watched her expression carefully, waiting for her to elaborate.

“We all grew up on this block—they were my neighbors growing up and we spent every day together from diapers until primary school. That is, until my magic kicked in.” She looked solemn. “You remember what it was like having uncontrolled magic as a kid? Imagine that but not understanding what was happening to you. They were my closest friends and then one day they weren’t my anything. It was devastating to see them playing without me. Then when they saw me, they would run away like they were afraid of me. Like I was a freak.”

Draco’s stomach fell at her words; he had never considered what it would be like, feel like, to have magic and not know when the signs came. He had always assumed that anyone would be ecstatic to find out they were magical. He had not considered the loss that could come from magic. He reached for her hand, grasping it in his as he listened.

“Anyway, when I got my Hogwarts letter, I was so excited. I could not believe my luck—I wasn’t a freak, I was magical! I picked up my books and I read everything I could to integrate myself into the wizarding world where I could finally be normal. Then…” she faltered; her eyes grew misty.

“Then you had to deal with people like me,” he supplied.

She turned to him. “Like you used to be,” she amended. “But yes. It turns out I was a freak in both worlds. That’s when I learned it was not the world I was in, Muggle or wizarding, it was just me.”

“Hermione…” Draco squeezed her hand. “Look at me.”

Hermione looked up, blinking away her tears.

“In no world are you a freak. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. I know that part of your suffering was caused by me and I hate myself for it.”

“You were just saying what others were thinking. Not Muggle enough for the Muggle world, not witch enough for the wizarding world,” Hermione stated bitterly.

“Merlin, I can’t believe you had to go through all that. Is that what happens to all Muggleborns?”

She shrugged. “It’s pretty much the same story underneath the details—finding out you have magic when your parents have no clue that magic really exists is scary for any kid. Eleven is so young—too young to enter an unknown world with so little guidance. That’s why I keep telling you there should be a way for Muggleborns to learn about wizarding culture. You felt lost talking with my parents tonight, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” Draco conceded. “They used so many words I had never heard of. It felt a bit like a new language to be honest. It didn’t feel great when I tried to relate to them and they laughed at me, that’s for sure.”

“Imagine that, but you’re only eleven, you have no idea of even fundamentals in the new world that you’re thrown into without your family and you’re expected to just pick it up alongside peers who have grown up in that world their entire life. Imagine people laughing at you for asking questions that they think are ridiculous because they’ve known the answer for as long as they could talk.”

Draco exhaled deeply. “I can’t. I can’t even imagine,” he said. “When did you—"

The door to the dining room opened back up, and her parents returned carrying a cake stand.

“Who wants cake?” Mr. Granger smiled widely.


Wow , Mrs. Granger, I cannot believe that you made something this delicious without magic,” Draco marveled as he finished his serving of dessert. “What did you say this is called again?”

“Mocha chocolate icebox cake.” Mrs. Granger smiled, cutting Draco another slice. “It’s my gran’s recipe, and please, I think we know each other well enough that you can call me Jean.”

“Well Jean, it tastes like magic.” Draco nodded seriously, accepting another serving. “And I should know.”

“Draco has quite the sweet tooth, he loves anything and everything chocolate,” Hermione added thoughtfully as she took another bite of her slice.

Mrs. Granger beamed under the praise. “I’ll keep that in mind for next time.”

Draco fought back a smile at the thought, next time, they wanted him back for a next time. He thought back to Theo’s words smugly, he did not fuck it up.

“Sweet tooth? And you’re dating the daughter of dentists?” Mr. Granger drawled in a teasing fashion. “Bad form, Draco, bad form.”


“I’ve missed you so much,” Hermione lamented as she hugged her parents. “I wish we could stay longer.”

“Well, you’re welcome back any time. If it wasn’t obvious, we absolutely adored having you, Draco.” Hermione’s mother pulled him into an all-encompassing hug. Draco stiffened before returning the embrace—even his own parents did not hug him. He found that he could get used to receiving so many hugs.

“It was great to meet you, Draco. Be good to Hermione,” her father chuckled, hugging him as well. This time, Draco did not stiffen before hugging back.

“For the road.” Mrs. Granger handed Draco a glass container filled with leftover cake. “Come back soon!”

Hermione looked to the street where her taxi was waiting as her parents closed the door behind them. They stood alone on the porch in silence.

“I think that went rather well—"

His words were cut off by Hermione’s lips as she threw her arms around his neck; he held on to his container of cake with one hand and put the other around her waist to steady himself.

Hermione kissed him enthusiastically. “I cannot believe how well that went. They loved you! You made my mum blush . My dad hugged you.”

“I know.” Draco gave a slight smirk. “I was there. Can we please talk about what a complete joke ‘Muggle Studies’ was as a course? I feel like that did absolutely nothing to prepare me for tonight. Also, not that I’m complaining about this kiss, but I don’t think they’ll continue to love me if they catch me snogging their daughter in front of their house. What is it you always say…rain check?”

“Rain check.” Hermione grinned, rubbing part of her lipstick off his lip with her thumb.

The taxi honked impatiently from the road and Hermione looked back to Draco. “That’s me, I’ll see you back at school?”

Draco leaned in for one more quick kiss. “See you back at school.”

He watched as the taxi departed before pulling out his wand, the Knight Bus appeared to pick him up. Draco took one last look at the Granger home before boarding.


“You were so close last week, I even saw vapors; you just need a bit more practice,” Hermione urged Draco with an encouraging smile.

“This is bloody frustrating,” Draco complained. “I’m not going to get it. We have been doing this for weeks and the best I’ve been able to conjure is a little blotch of silver.”

“You’re overthinking it. You need to think less and focus more on feeling. Come here.” Hermione beckoned with a wave of her hand.

She placed her hands on his shoulders and faced him. “Close your eyes,” she instructed. “Take a deep slow inhale…and exhale. Good. Try a different memory this time. Bring yourself back into your happiest moment—relive the emotions, remember the smells, the tastes, the feelings.”

Draco’s eyes squeezed shut, he leaned into the feel of Hermione’s hands on him, inhaling her perfume; he felt a stirring in his chest as he focused on his memory, as vivid as the day it happened. “ Expecto Patronum !”

Silver vapor poured out of the tip of his wand, billowing around them and slowly taking shape.

“Draco…” Hermione’s voice thickened with emotion. She swallowed. “ Expecto Patronum ,” she whispered as her Patronus took shape, soaring out of the tip of her wand.

He wrapped his arms around her torso from behind, resting his chin on her shoulder and kissing her neck gently. She placed her hands on his arms, holding him. The two stood together in silence, watching as a pair of silvery otters danced around the room together.

Chapter Text

March-April

Year 5

 

Draco dipped a quill into the inkpot next to him, scratching out the previous line from his parchment. He was only halfway done and already sick of writing his essay for Charms. It was the last assignment due in the course before he had to begin studying for his upcoming O.W.L.s.

Suddenly, a newspaper was thrust into his peripheral, completely derailing his train of thought. He looked up at the source of the intrusion with a glare. Luna Lovegood stood in front of his table, wearing a bright purple jumper, navy blue skirt, striped purple leggings, and earrings shaped like plums.

He leaned back in his chair, baffled. Luna was obviously offering the newspaper to him. Though Hermione had told him stories about Luna, he could not remember a single time when he ever spoke to her directly; to say he was surprised to see her in front of him was an understatement.

“Yes?” he asked, unsure of how to interact with her.

“You may be interested in page eight,” Luna added with a knowing smile, her voice light and airy. “I think it’s all rather romantic, though I’m not the least bit surprised. She said I was mistaken, but I knew I saw them.”

She?

Draco inspected the newspaper in his hands. It was the March edition of a magazine called The Quibbler . He had heard of this publication from his father; according to him, it was nothing but rubbish and conspiracy theories.

On the front page in large bold letters it read:

HARRY POTTER SPEAKS OUT AT LAST: THE TRUTH ABOUT HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED AND THE NIGHT I SAW HIM RETURN

Neither Hermione or Theo had mentioned that Harry was going to sit down for an interview with the newspaper. Draco made a mental note to ask her about it later.

Glancing up at Luna, who nodded encouragingly, Draco flipped through the pages until he found page eight.

Blibbering Humdingers and You

What You Need to Know About Soulmate Bonds

Draco froze, rereading the title before looking at Luna, “Why do you think I care about…”—he looked back at the newspaper—“Blibbering Humdingers?”

Luna tilted her head curiously, her light voice declaring, “I saw them, of course, in the Great Hall. Around you and Hermione Granger. Like I said, it’s all rather romantic; I haven’t seen them in person before you two—Daddy was quite excited when I told him. That was his inspiration for the article.”

He sucked in a breath at her words. “Me? And that annoying swot?” he tried to sneer. “You really are loony, aren’t you?”

She studied him, undeterred by his words. “Curious, she pretended to be confused, as well. You don’t have to worry. I won’t tell anyone, but you should really get them under control unless you want others to find out. It’s rather obvious when you have the right tools.” She shrugged, lowering a pair of square blue and green lensed glasses onto her nose and adjusting them.

Draco watched as she danced away from his table, humming quietly to herself. His heart pounded nervously in his chest as he looked back down at the article, skimming the contents.

Throughout the history of wizardkind, there have been legends and myths around the bond of two souls, more commonly known as soulmates.

Thousands of years ago, Greek witches and wizards believed that magical beings were born with four arms, four legs, one head with two faces, and one core source of magic. These beings were then split into two by ancient powers who feared their combined magical ability. The halves were condemned to spend the rest of their lives in search of the other. When reunited, they create a force of unimaginable power. Blibbering Humdingers flock to these halves when they are reunited, feasting on their combined energy.

“She immediately felt like home to me, as if we had known each other for years. It felt like we belonged to each other.” –Barwick Thontan

Draco closed the paper, eyeing around the library to ensure that he and Luna had not been overheard. He promptly packed away his quill, ink, and parchment, deciding to go to the Come-and-Go Room for his meeting with Hermione early.

Along his path, he passed the stone wall which held nearly a hundred Educational Decrees; Filch was presently nailing a new posting onto the wall.

Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.

Draco made a face, quickly folding his copy and shoving it into his bag as he hurried to the seventh floor.


“So, The Quibbler .” Draco looked to Hermione seriously as she entered the room.

“Hello to you, too,” she mused, dropping her bag onto the floor next to the door.

Her face lit up. “You saw the article? I wasn’t sure at first but I’m glad Harry did it—even though Umbridge was furious . The bad news is that he has another week of detention from it, and he’s banned from future Hogsmeade trips. That hag.” Hermione scowled. “Either way, you wouldn’t believe the number of letters he received this morning from readers. I think he swayed some minds with it! One reader even said they canceled their Daily Prophet subscription after reading his interview.”

“Did you happen to read page eight?” he inquired, raising an eyebrow.

“Page eight?” Hermione’s brow creased. “No, I only read Harry’s interview. I don’t believe I’m the target audience for the usual content of The Quibbler.

“You might want to read page eight.” Draco unfolded the newspaper and handed it to Hermione, watching as she scanned the contents.

“Blibbering Humdingers?” She let out a small gasp of recognition. “Luna told me about these after the D.A. a few months back, said she saw them around us. I thought she was on her usual ramblings, but after reading this, I feel like there is more to it than that…soulmate bonds? Do you think she knows?”

Draco sighed. “I think she might, or at least knows a part of it. It’s pure luck that no one takes her seriously because of rubbish like this.” He gestured to the paper. “She gave it to me in the library, said she saw them flying around us and that it’s ‘quite romantic’.”

Hermione nervously chewed her lip. “I’ll talk with her, set the record straight.”

“Are you going to tell her about the Black family bond?” he asked. “She said in the library that she wouldn’t tell anyone about our…Blibbering Humdingers.” He shook his head at the absurdity of this conversation.

“I mean… I might, is that alright? It might be nice to have someone to talk with…and like you said, no one really takes her seriously so even if she did tell, I can’t see anyone believing her,” Hermione reasoned.

Draco smirked. “Yeah, not sure many people would believe that one-third of the Golden Trio is magically soulbonded to me.”

She rolled her eyes. “That name is really ridiculous. I should have kept Rita in the jar for an extra week for that one. Don’t worry about this, I’ll talk with Luna.”

“I would say this has been an odd year for us, but honestly, I don’t think I know what normal is anymore,” he joked.

“Speaking of oddities, how much do you know about the Department of Mysteries?” Hermione asked.

“Why do you always have to do this?” 

Hermione looked offended, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Do what?”

“Ask questions that stress me out.”

She glowered at him, waiting for him to answer her original question.

“Well,” Draco began thoughtfully. “The people who work in it are called Unspeakables, and the department has the word ‘mysteries’ in the title, so no, I don’t know much about it. Why do you ask?”

Hermione huffed. “I was hoping for a bit more than that. I couldn’t find any information in the school library.”

Draco smirked. “Well, my family is well-connected within the Ministry. I don’t know much, but I might still know more than most. My father told me that department operates independently from the others. There was a Minister for Magic in the 1800s who tried to shut down the department and the Unspeakables just ignored him because they didn’t answer to him.”

“Wow,” Hermione marveled. “I can’t imagine what kind of work they must have that they can supersede direct orders from the Minister. Do you have any idea about what they have in there?” 

“I don’t have any details; that’s highly classified—even more classified than money can buy. I just know that the department includes sub-departments for love, space, thought, time, and death. The naming is incredibly vague for a reason, and I have no idea about specifics. Do I even want to know why you’re asking questions about a Ministry department known for holding the biggest secrets of the wizarding world?”

Hermione sighed, fidgeting uncomfortably in place under his stare.

“Granger, don’t tell me you’re going to go and do something stupid with Harry again, are you?” Draco crinkled his forehead in concern.

“Of course not, but Harry’s been having more dreams,” she mumbled. “He’s been seeing the Department of Mysteries.”

Draco sucked in a breath. “Then you should be asking him and not me. If he’s seen the inside of that place, even in a dream, then he’s probably one of a hundred people alive who knows what the department holds. Are these memories from the Dark Lord?”

She nodded, still thinking aloud. “After Arthur Weasley was saved, Voldemort has to know that he and Harry are connected—right? I can’t imagine that a student could figure out their connection without Voldemort at least having suspicions that Harry can see his memories.”

“Oh, he knows,” he confirmed. “He has to know. You can’t command an army of thousands without having at least a bit of wit. From the stories my parents have told me, their connection should terrify Harry if he knows what’s good for him. How are his Occlumency lessons going with Snape?”

“Ehh,” Hermione groaned. “Not well. Harry and Snape don’t get along to begin with because of some sort of childhood rivalry between Snape and Harry’s father, James.”

“Wow.” Draco raised his eyebrows. “Remind me never to get on Snape’s bad side. That’s a long time to hold a grudge.”

“It’s been nearly two decades—I’d say that’s an understatement.”


Though Hermione was a firm believer that Divination was a ridiculous class with no merit, she still felt awful when Harry recounted the story of Umbridge and Trelawney to her while they sat in the Gryffindor Common Room later that week.

“It was pitiful, Hermione, just awful. Trelawney was sobbing—barely able to speak and she was begging to stay. She said Hogwarts is her home and that Umbridge could not sack her. Then Umbridge mocked her for not being able to foresee that coming.” Harry rubbed a hand over his weary face.

Hermione’s face fell in sympathy for Trelawney and the way she’d been treated by Umbridge. “How could that toad do that? I know she has been reaching for more authority at Hogwarts, but even she can’t just unilaterally decide to fire a professor… Can she?”

“She can! Umbridge said the Minister countersigned the order for Trelawney’s dismissal, effective immediately. None of the professors are safe anymore with Umbridge here,” Harry emphasized, a shudder passing through him.

Harry paused. “Thank god Professor McGonagall was there to intercept her. Umbridge apparently didn’t have the authority to ban Trelawney from the grounds, just to sack her from her post. McGonagall brought Dumbledore with her and he said the ability to house or ban from the castle resides with the Headmaster.”

She felt slightly smug listening to Harry; at least Dumbledore could still supersede Umbridge’s authority, if only on a technicality. She wished he could get her to leave Hogwarts completely.

“Who do you think will replace Trelawney? I hope it’s not another Ministry-appointed professor. The last thing we need is another one of those,” Hermione added.

“Well, Dumbledore came with a replacement; he must have known that Trelawney was going to be sacked. Would’ve been nice for him to give her a heads up, though. Either way, do you remember Firenze?” Harry questioned, a glint of mischief in his eye.

“The centaur? From the Forbidden Forest?”

Harry nodded. “That very one. He’s the new Divination professor.”

Hermione’s face lit up with mirth. “Dumbledore appointed a half-human creature as the new Divination professor? Not that Firenze isn’t qualified, but I’m sure Dumbledore had to have known how furious Firenze will make Umbridge when he filled the post. She regularly calls anything not fully human a ‘filthy half-breed’ or a ‘savage animal’ in Defence Against the Dark Arts. I can’t imagine what’s going through her head right now.”

“What a shame that you won’t be there to see it, betcha wish you hadn’t dropped the course now,” Harry teased.

Hermione shrugged. “Still a made-up class.” 


The D.A. was on their third straight week of learning how to cast a Patronus. Hermione offered to help assist Harry in the lesson; she was feeling confident in her abilities after teaching Draco the previous month.

Cho Chang was the first in the D.A. outside of Harry and Hermione to successfully cast a corporeal Patronus. Her Patronus came in the form of a delicate silver swan which swam gently in the air throughout the practicing students.

“Oh, Neville, you’re trying too hard. You need to take a quick breather and then try again,” Hermione encouraged. “Sometimes taking a break can be just what you need to come back with a fresh mind.”

Neville’s shoulders slumped; he had been trying unsuccessfully for the past hour to cast smoke, vapor, anything really.

“I think I’ve got it! I think—oh…” Lavender’s voice called out, suddenly disappointed. “Never mind, I thought I saw something there for a moment.”

“You should try—” Hermione was cut off by a frantic set of burns on her ring, over and over again.

Run

Umbridge

Coming

She gasped, looking over to Harry who was mid-instruction to Seamus Finnigan.

“Harry!” she yelled, not quite sure how to explain why she was so panicked.

His green eyes met hers from across the hall. A crack rang out in the room as Dobby appeared, running over to Harry as quickly as his legs could manage.

“Harry Potter! Harry Potter! She is coming!” he squeaked, his whole body trembling. “Dobby has to warn Harry Potter!”

Harry’s eyes widened in shock and the class around him began to exclaim in fear.

“Who? Umbridge?!” Harry asked anxiously. “Dobby, is it Umbridge? Does she know about us?”

“Yes!” Dobby confirmed, hitting his head with his small fists.

“Harry! We have to go!” Hermione ran up to him, grabbing his arm and tugging. “NOW!”

“Everybody! Run!” Harry bellowed as the students began to sprint to the door of the Room of Requirement and out into the corridor.

Hermione quickly processed their surroundings. They were close enough to run to the Owlery or the library which would provide a better alibi than wandering the corridors aimlessly.

“Come on, Harry!” Hermione called as they slipped through the doorway and into the corridor.

Harry turned back. “Wait, I have to make sure everyone is out before she gets here.” He slipped out of Hermione’s eyesight.

Hermione darted back around the corner to retrieve Harry but stopped dead in her tracks at the sound of a high pitch clearing of a throat. She hid behind a nearby statue, taking quiet shallow breaths and trying not to make any noise. Hermione saw a flash of pink. 

Umbridge had found Harry.

“Stand up, Potter!” Umbridge demanded gleefully. “You won’t get away this time. I know exactly what you’ve been up to! Time to go to the Headmaster’s office. I have someone waiting for you.”

Their footsteps retreated down the corridor in the direction of Dumbledore’s office. Hermione’s heart pounded in her chest, and she tried to control her heavy breathing from the combination of exertion and panic. How had Umbridge found out about Dumbledore’s Army? Did someone betray them?

She looked down to her ring; was Draco nearby? He had been able to warn them, but it was too late for Harry. She hoped Dumbledore would be able to help him; according to the Ministry Decree, their actions  would result in expulsion. Hermione could think of no worse outcome than to be expelled from Hogwarts. Especially now, with Harry’s connection to Voldemort. Having his wand snapped would be a death sentence.

After the footsteps retreated, Hermione sprinted down to the Owlery, hoping to find other members of Dumbledore’s Army. She passed several students on her way, but no one she recognised from their meeting tonight. Finally, she reached the Owlery, her nose wrinkling at the smell of droppings.

“Ron!” Hermione called as spotted him in the corner of the room, feeding a treat to his owl, Pigwidgeon.

“Ron, she caught Harry,” Hermione stated breathlessly.

Ron’s eyes grew wide. “Bloody hell, what do you think she’s going to do to him?”

“I don’t know, but I think they’re with Dumbledore. Let’s get back before she finds us too.”

Together, Ron and Hermione made their way back to Gryffindor Tower. They waited impatiently in the common room, watching the portrait entrance for Harry’s return.

Finally, nearly an hour after he had been caught, Harry stumbled through the opening, looking stunned. Hermione and Ron jumped up from their seats, making their way over to Harry.

“Harry, what happened?” Ron asked. “Everyone else in the D.A. was able to get away, but we couldn’t find you. Hermione said she saw Umbridge take you to Dumbledore’s office.”

Harry collapsed onto the common room sofa, as if his knees had given out beneath him; he looked seconds from tears.

“Dumbledore…” Harry mumbled. “Dumbledore’s gone. The Minister was in his office, and they blamed him for our group. It was because of us that he was sacked. They tried to bring him to Azkaban for conspiring to overturn the Ministry!” He dropped his head between his knees as guilt washed over him. “Dumbledore’s Army. We were fools to name it that.”

“What?! They arrested Dumbledore?” Hermione’s voice raised in alarm.

Harry lifted his head slightly. “They tried to arrest Dumbledore. He and Fawkes burst into a flash of fire and he was gone. Fudge and Umbridge were beyond furious. McGonagall let me leave once they decided it was all Dumbledore’s doing.”

Hermione sat in shocked silence.

“How did they even know where we were?” Ron wondered, his face and neck red with anger. “Does this mean McGonagall is the new headmistress?”

“I doubt they would trust McGonagall after tonight.”

“It was Marietta,” Harry spat bitterly. “Marietta Edgecombe sold us out to Umbridge.”

Hermione gasped. “I knew we shouldn’t have trusted her! Her mother works for the Ministry, but Cho insisted she should join. She told me that Marietta could be trusted.”

“At least she can never hide what sort of person she is, considering she has a rather nice set of boils on her face,” Harry said. “Nice jinx, by the way.”

“Please, ‘Mione, tell me it’s permanent,” Ron pled.

She nodded curtly. “It’s as good as permanent considering I’m not sharing the counter-curse. After what she did to Dumbledore, she deserves worse,” Hermione asserted.

Hermione was so overwhelmed with the outcome of the night she did not even notice her ring burning rapidly.

You okay?

Granger?

Hermione?


Educational Decree Number Twenty-Eight, Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore as Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Draco eyed the latest decree uneasily. He had heard the rumours; they were all over school. Dumbledore had disappeared with Fawkes the phoenix just as the Minister and two Aurors were attempting to arrest him for planning to overthrow the Ministry.

He had heard Pansy bragging about joining Umbridge for the search party to catch members of an illegal club and sprung into action. Draco had sent Hermione messages to her band and then ran up to the seventh floor to try and cover for her if needed. By the time he arrived, the Come-and-Go Room was empty and Harry was halfway to the headmaster’s office with Umbridge. He never heard back from Hermione which left him restless all night.

At breakfast the next morning, everyone was talking about what had happened the night before.

“All I’m saying is that we best stay on her good side,” Pansy said matter-of-factly. “Now that she is the head of the school, she will finally fix everything that decrepit Dumbledore has been mismanaging for years.”

“Head of the school?” Daphne Greengrass scoffed. “I heard that Dumbledore’s office locked itself and won’t let her in. She may be head of Hogwarts in name, but she is obviously being rejected by the castle itself.”

Pansy glared at Daphne. “I wouldn’t let her hear you say that, if I were you. I’d hate for anything…unfortunate to happen to you by disrespecting our new Headmistress.”

“Is that a threat?” Daphne reached for her wand, her fingers holding it tightly against her thigh.

“It’s more of a promise. She’s forming an Inquisitorial Squad made up of a select group of students. I know because she’s invited me to join,” Pansy replied, her nose in the air.

“How about we all just calm down and move along?” Theo suggested in exasperation. “This is way too much drama this early in the morning and it’s about time for class anyway.”

Theo looked to Draco who nodded curtly. “I forgot my essay back in my room, I have to grab it before the lecture begins.”

Draco’s eyes wandered back over to the Gryffindor table, looking for Hermione. She was not in her usual seat at breakfast, but he had not heard anything about her being caught with Harry. Hopefully she was with him right now.


When Hermione saw Draco, she was immediately overcome with guilt. She had been so immersed with Harry that she had neglected to thank Draco for his warning. He looked exhausted and had bags under his eyes. Hermione guessed he had not been sleeping well.

“Where have you been?” Draco rushed over to Hermione.

I’m so sorry , ever since the whole thing with Dumbledore, Harry has been an absolute wreck. Ron and I have been with him in Gryffindor Tower. He’s blaming himself because we named the club after Dumbledore. He thinks it’s his fault that Dumbledore is gone and that Umbridge has taken over. Plus, he can’t go anywhere without people hounding him for details,” Hermione explained.

“Thank you so much for your warning. We were able to get everyone out and away from Umbridge. Harry was the only exception, and at least he wasn’t expelled for it. Without you, I don’t know if we would have reacted as quickly. How did you know she was coming?”

Draco looked relieved that she had not been purposefully ignoring him.

“I overheard Pansy bragging about the raid. I was so worried the message wouldn’t get to you in time. You realise that Umbridge would have made an example out of you, right?” Draco pointed out.

Hermione nodded solemnly. “I think the only reason Harry was able to leave was because Dumbledore took the blame. I still can’t believe that Dumbledore just accepted responsibility for the club in order to save Harry. Now he’s in hiding, Godric knows where. I’m just grateful you overheard Pansy—and that she’s such a loud gossip.”

Draco made a face. “Speaking of Pansy, she told me Umbridge is starting an Inquisitorial Squad made up of students. Sort of like her own little network of spies running around the castle, ratting on other students and following her orders.”

Hermione’s eyes lit up with excitement. “Draco, that’s perfect!”

He stared. “That’s…not the reaction I was expecting.”

She looked at him. “You have to join! She’s going to give all her information to members of the squad. It’s the perfect way to get firsthand information about her plans and raids!”

His face settled into a sour expression. “I’d really rather not. It sounds like only the worst parts of being a Prefect. Plus, I think I’d rather fight the giant squid than have to spend more time with Umbridge.”

“I understand.” Hermione’s face fell in disappointment. “I know she’s a terror even if she likes you.”

“I mean”— he paused, contemplating silently— “it wouldn’t be the worst , I suppose. It would basically be my regular Prefect duties…”

Hermione squealed in delight, throwing her arms around his neck. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will take everything you’re able to tell me back to Harry. With any luck, we will get that toad out of Hogwarts before the month is up.”

He hid a smile. “Yeah, yeah, this is obviously all for Potter’s benefit.”

Hermione teased flirtatiously. “Obviously. Don’t think I haven’t seen the chemistry between you, perhaps even a Blibbering Humdinger or two.”


Draco adjusted the new pin on his robes, a shiny silver ‘I’ for the Inquisitorial Squad, feeling uncomfortable. He briefly wondered how Hermione always managed to pull him into her antics. Hopefully he would be able to provide meaningful information to her, otherwise he would be suffering for nothing under the reign of Umbridge—which was feeling more like a dictatorship lately.

He was assigned to patrol, similar to Prefect patrol but without a partner. He was not always fond of his assigned partner for Prefect rounds, but at least he had someone to talk with to pass the time. It was significantly more boring to wander the halls by himself than it was with another student.

The sound of giggling came echoing down the corridor. Draco sighed, mentally preparing himself to break up more teenage snogging. It was by far his least favourite part of patrol and simultaneously the most common part of patrol.

Draco fought back the urge to gasp in outrage—it was Amelia and one of the Slytherin boys who had been bothering her the week prior. His eyes drifted down, they were holding hands and leaning in close as they whispered.

Before he could think twice, Draco was stomping up to the pair, his eyes narrowed in disbelief as he took in the scene before him. They looked up to him in surprise.

“Excuse you! Just what do you think you are doing, young lady?” he asked, cringing inwardly at how much he reminded himself of his father in that moment.

Amelia turned to the confused and slightly frightened Slytherin boy. “It’s okay, Tomas, I’ve got this. I’ll find you later?”

Tomas looked to Draco and back to Amelia before nodding.  He narrowed his eyes in suspicion at Draco as he left the corridor.

“Oh my god, you’re worse than my dad,” Amelia complained, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“That boy is no good,” Draco asserted, pointing at the empty space where Tomas had been. “He just made you cry last week !”

Amelia huffed. “I think you saw it firsthand that I can handle myself if he gets out of line. He’s since apologised for last week, and the month before that. Tomas has never had a girlfriend before and said he was apparently just trying to get my attention—albeit in a moronic way.”

He scoffed. “What type of bloke is rude to a girl to get her attention? You deserve better than that.”

She raised her eyebrows at him. “I don’t know, Draco ,” she replied, stressing his name. “I’ve heard many stories of you and Hermione when you two were my age. From my recollection, you weren’t exactly the nicest to your girlfriend.”

Draco grumbled. “That was different…”

“Hmm. I’m sure it was. Do you know how Tomas and I started talking?” she asked dryly. “Every morning after breakfast, he sits in the same windowsill by the Great Hall to read. It just so happened that someone placed a sticking charm on it this week. Would you happen to know anything about that?”

He looked away. “I’m a Prefect and on the Inquisitorial Squad now. I can neither confirm nor deny my involvement.”

“You’re saying it wasn’t you who stuck him to the windowsill and charmed a bucket to drop honey and catnip on him just as Mrs. Norris was doing her rounds with Filch?”

“I can neither—”

“—confirm nor deny, got it.” She let a small smile creep onto her face. “Either way, thank you. I helped clean him up, scratches at all, and we got to talking. Turns out we have quite a bit in common.”

He shrugged, mumbling, “Kid was being a prat. I hope he made it up to you. And he better not hurt you again—there are worse things that could happen to him than being attacked by a cat.”

“He has apologised many times, though I have to admit the catnip idea was brilliant. I may have to use that someday. It’s nice that you stuck up for me. I won’t forget that.” Amelia smiled, giving him a friendly kiss on the cheek. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go find my boyfriend. He’s quite jumpy around Prefects these days—I wonder why.”

Draco shuddered at the word boyfriend ; kids these days grew up so quickly.


Hermione had cancelled their previously scheduled date night for some unknown reason. She had sent Draco two messages to his ring.

Busy tonight

Sorry

Draco had not heard of anything big happening with the Gryffindor trio and hoped that meant she was staying out of trouble. After her line of questioning about the Department of Mysteries, his mind raced whenever she was off with Harry and Ron. He impatiently waited for the weekend to meet with her.

“How was your week?” Draco asked, trying to seem disinterested.

“It was fine, I had class, some homework, Harry had a few more dreams, and we met Hagrid’s giant brother in the forest. Oh, I had a new set of quills delivered from Scrivenshaft's via owl.” She glossed over the list.

“I think I went momentarily deaf; would you like to repeat that? You met a giant?” Draco asked, aghast. “ Hagrid has a giant for a brother, and he lives in the Forbidden Forest?”

“Stop, don’t be so judgmental. He’s quite shy, actually, and even though he’s a giant, he was really gentle when he picked me up.”

“I can just tell being with you is going to age me so quickly,” Draco muttered, pulling a hand through his hair. “I have so many questions, but can I start by asking why you let him pick you up?”

She waved a hand dismissively. “It wasn’t intentional. He didn’t know any better. Don’t worry, he put me down as soon as I asked; plus, he’s not exactly the first large creature I’ve encountered. In first year, there was this troll… Ugh he was the worst. I would take Grawp any day. At least I could reason with him.”

“What. The hell. Hermione.”

She sniffed haughtily. “I’ll have you know I live a full and exciting life outside of my relationship with you.”


A plain barn owl swooped down in front of Hermione, waving its leg at her. She untied the envelope, spearing a sausage onto her fork and offering it to the owl who accepted it with a happy hoot before flying away.

Hermione looked at the envelope, perplexed; it was labeled like it had been sent by her parents, but the handwriting was completely different. The handwriting did look familiar, it looked almost like—she paused that thought, realising the envelope had a hard piece of metal in it. She glowered over at the Slytherin table; why was her boyfriend so impossibly stubborn?

Ripping the envelope, she withdrew the coin, slipping it back into her pocket.

“What’d ya get?” Ron asked, his mouth stuffed with pie.

“A Galleon mailed by my parents,” she said through clenched teeth. “I must have forgotten it at home during my last visit.”

Ron grumbled, “Wish my mum would just randomly send me money.”

“Are we going to form any study groups this year?” Harry asked, looking worried as he glanced over his schedule, “Surely even Umbridge can’t prevent us from congregating in the library at the same time to study for a class. Astronomy is going to be the death of me with that star chart.”

Ron agreed eagerly. “These are the only tests that matter. O.W.L.s are coming up and if we want to be Aurors, we have to make sure to do well so we qualify for the right classes next year.”

You two want to be Aurors, not me,” Hermione corrected. “But yes, we should make study groups. In fact, Professor Babbling specifically recommended them during class last month.”

“If Umbridge gets her knickers in a twist, we can tell her that we have permission from Babbling,” Harry muttered.

“Can we not talk about Umbridge’s knickers?” Ron asked, making a face of disgust.

“I can create an itinerary and schedule tonight!” Hermione added.

“Well, I’m not sure I want you creating the schedule or we’ll be doing nothing but studying. I’m surprised that Madam Pince isn’t charging you rent based on how much time you spend in the library on the weekends!” Ron chortled at his own joke.

Hermione cleared her throat, thinking back to her days and nights with Draco where she was most certainly not studying. “Yep, you know me…always in the library.”


As she was leaving the library after the first session of their O.W.L. study group, Hermione heard a faint hissing sound nearby.

She paused before announcing, “I’ll be there shortly. I forgot that there was a book I needed to pick up for Ancient Runes.”

Breaking from the rest of the group, Hermione found her way to a rarely used corner of the library where a smirking Draco Malfoy was waiting for her.

“Hi, love,” he murmured, pulling her into a kiss.

“Draco, what are you doing here?” she asked, looking around anxiously.

“Just wanted to give you this,” he announced, pulling out a basket from behind him.

She smiled widely, looking down in his hand. “And what is that?”

“It’s a ‘ my girlfriend gets immersed in studying and I probably won’t see her for weeks ’ bag of study treats. Sugar quills, chocolate fudge—I may have taken a bite or two from it—extra parchment, and enchanted ear plugs to cancel out noise, along with some other goodies.”

Hermione took the basket gratefully. “You are the best boyfriend ever. But I really need to go. What if someone catches us? You have to admit that we have a really bad track record with this kind of thing.”

“It’ll be fine. No one uses this part of the library anyway.” He frowned.

“That’s not true,” she corrected. “I’ve seen—”

“I think it’s back here. McGonagall said we would be awarded house points if we finished the chapter before class,” a high voice announced, two rows away.

Hermione looked to Draco, whispering, “Told you so!”

As the footsteps grew closer, she panicked, waving her wand and muttering, “ Finestra .”

The wall at the end of the library was suddenly littered with pieces of falling glass; she could hear the sound of confusion near the shattered window.

Draco turned to Hermione, looking incredulous. “Are you kidding me? We talked about this!”

“I had to find a way to distract them!”

“You said no more broken glass.”

She corrected, “I said I would try not to break any more glass. No one is bleeding.” She paused as she listened to the increasing chaos. “I think.”

He glared.

“Hey, I went a lot longer than last year! Don’t be mad at me.f I really did try,” she said quietly, her lower lip protruding.

“Do or do not, there is no try,” Draco said matter-of-factly, giving her a knowing look.

She gasped, pulling a hand to her chest in shock. “Did…did you just quote Star Wars to me?”

Draco suddenly looked self-conscious. “That depends, did I quote it correctly?”

“Yes, you did. I’m just wondering where you heard about Star Wars considering we never watched it together.”

“Well I…I’ve been doing research,” he grumbled, his cheeks turning pink against his pale skin. “Just a bit about Muggle culture since the visit with your parents.”

She looked confused. “Research?”

“Yeah…for next time.”

Hermione’s face broke into a wide smile. “My mum loves Star Wars , especially Han Solo. I think you’ll be ready—for next time.”

He smiled proudly. “Good. Now let’s get out of here before my witch goes crazy and breaks the rest of the glass in the castle.”

“That’s an exaggeration! It’s only happened twice. Also, you’re welcome, because it worked in our favour this time,” she pointed out.

“Great, kid, don’t get cocky,” he teased.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I take it back. I’m already sick of the Star Wars quotes.”

Draco smirked. “I love you.”

She scrunched her nose in delight. “I know.”

 

Chapter Text

May-June

Year 5

 

As Hermione left her second to last exam, she felt a wave of relief crash over her. Part of her could not help but obsessively wonder what score she would receive in the examination, but there was something comforting in the fact that it was complete and she had no more control over the outcome. Having spent months preparing and the past couple weeks studying, Hermione felt confident that she had done well during the written and practical exams so far. She only had one O.W.L. left and she was not nervous. It was for History of Magic which was one of her best classes.

Hermione unfolded the message she had received from Draco in her study basket, quickly rereading it with a smile.

You’re brilliant, you’re amazing, you’re going to receive an O in every O.W.L.

Please don’t study too hard, make sure to take breaks and eat. I’ll send Pinky after you if I have to—and stop rolling your eyes at this message. It was written with love.

PS- Sorry I ate some of the fudge.

She folded the paper, slipped it into her pocket, and turned towards the empty doorway before her with a quill in her hand. Hermione took a deep breath and exhaled determinedly; she was ready to take her final exam of fifth year.


Draco fiddled with his quill from the back of the Great Hall, staring at the massive hourglass behind Professor Marchbanks.

“I can’t believe they saved History of Magic for last,” Blaise grumbled. “They scheduled the most boring exam for after lunch—they’re just asking us to fall asleep.”

Theo made a face. “I’m just glad for this to be over. I’m sick of studying. What do you even do with the information you learn from History of Magic?”

“Quiet down! Examinations will begin shortly,” Professor Marchbanks declared, his voice echoing through the Great Hall as he amplified his words.

“Use it to teach History of Magic,” Blaise whispered, answering Theo’s question with a smirk.

Marchbanks waved his wand. “You may begin.”

The blank parchment in front of Draco filled with words, and he scanned through the questions. His stomach settled when he realised that he knew all the answers for the first page. Half of the questions he had heard Hermione talk about during their study dates. In fact, he distinctly remembered Hermione mumbling about number three in her sleep last month.

He dipped his quill in the ink pot on his desk before scribbling his first answer.

The International Confederation of Wizards was founded by Pierre Bonaccord in the 1600s. He was the first appointed Supreme Mugwump and famous for his stance on Troll rights. The warlocks of Liechtenstien had a long history of conflict with the Troll communities adjacent to their city and did not support Bonaccord’s platform.

Draco paused before continuing, thinking back to Hermione’s story about how she, Ron, and Harry fought a troll in their first year. A small smile pulled at his lips at the thought of Hermione in their first year, with her frizzy hair and big attitude. That first day on the train when she stormed into his life. He blinked, checking the hourglass; he needed to focus—he dipped his quill again.

When he was about halfway through with his exam, there was the sound of a grunt and the scraping of a chair on the stone floor; Draco tore his eyes away from the parchment in front of him and looked to the commotion behind him.

Harry Potter had fallen out of his exam chair, clutching his head and groaning. Draco immediately looked to Theo, whose face had drained of all colour.

Theo was halfway out of his seat before anyone else could react, rushing past several desks and kneeling on the hard floor next to Harry, whispering inaudibly to him. Harry held his own head with both hands.

Suddenly, Professor Tofty appeared next to Harry and Theo. The old wizard dismissed Theo with a pat on the back as he swept Harry out of the Great Hall. The students erupted in chatter as Theo slowly walked back to his seat, looking shaken.

“Told you they were just asking someone to fall asleep,” Blaise chuckled. “Never schedule an exam after lunch.”

Theo snarled, “He wasn’t asleep —"

“Silence!” Professor Marchbanks exclaimed, “You must stay in your seat without talking. If you do not complete your examination during the allotted time period, you will be forced to retake the exam or risk failure of the course!”

The students quieted down, looking nervously between each other—no one was interested in retaking this class.

Draco tried to turn his attention back to his parchment but his mind kept wandering. Harry had been holding his head—or was it his scar? Draco’s stomach flipped anxiously; he hoped it was unrelated to Hermione’s stories about Harry’s mental connection to the Dark Lord.


“And that is time,” Professor Marchbanks announced, referencing the giant hourglass before him.

With a quick wave of his wand, the parchment flew out of Hermione’s hands and into a neat pile at the front of the Great Hall. She looked nervously at Harry’s empty desk, wondering what had caused his outburst.

Professor Tofty had returned after escorting Harry out of the Great Hall and had quietly assured Hermione and Ron that Harry was simply feeling ill from the stress of examinations. She was skeptical that exams were the reason that Harry had collapsed. They had spent the entire morning and lunch together with nothing out of the ordinary. It seemed unlikely he would suddenly fall ill so quickly.

She strode into the corridor, looking around for Ron as she overheard bits and pieces of conversations.

“…hospital wing…”

“—scar!”

“—heard he collapsed—”

Harry Potter .”

Increasing her pace, she pushed through the clusters of students who were discussing the recently completed exams and Harry’s disruption in the Great Hall. Ron found her at the exact moment she noticed him.

“Hermione!” Ron jogged up to her. “I don’t believe for a minute what old Tofty said about Harry.”

“Neither do I, it just doesn’t make sense—have you seen him yet?” she questioned, looking around the busy hall.

“Ron! Hermione!” Harry called, sprinting through the crowd, bumping into shoulders and nearly knocking over an unsuspecting third year.

Hermione rushed forward first. “Harry! What happened? Are you actually ill? Do you need to see Madam Pomfrey?”

“No—I actually came from the Hospital Wing. Come with me.” He gestured and led them along the corridor to an open classroom.

Shutting the door behind him, he turned to Ron and Hermione. “I had another vision. Voldemort has Sirius in the Department of Mysteries. I saw it.”

Hermione felt the walls of the classroom close in on her as she inhaled sharply. “What?” she asked, trying to process his words.

“He’s going to kill him.” Harry’s face was grave as he continued. “We have to go save him.”


“What is with you two today?” Blaise complained loudly. “We just finished exams! You should be excited! Why do you look like someone spit in your morning tea?”

Theo shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away.

“It’s been a long week, Blaise. I think we are just going to go back to the dungeons to relax. Don’t let us stop you from having a good time, though. I heard there’s an end of year party going on in the Slytherin Common Room tonight.” Draco added, “You should go have fun.”

“I’m not going without my best mates; I need some wingmen!”

“I don’t think we would make good wingmen tonight,” Draco muttered, placing a hand on Blaise’s shoulder. “We will make it up to you, I promise.”

Blaise frowned. “You’re serious?”

Looking to Theo whose face was stone cold, Blaise raised his eyebrows. “Okay, but you owe me one!”

As he walked backwards away from the pair, Blaise called out, “I’m cashing in on that next year, one party owed to Blaise Zabini.”

“What do you think is going on?” Draco asked Theo worriedly, lowering his voice.

“I couldn’t make out much, but when I went to Harry, he said ‘my scar’ and ‘Voldemort’.” Theo hesitated. “Did Hermione tell you about his visions?”

“She did,” he confirmed. “Do you think it happened again?”

“I’ve been with him, during some of those moments when he’s seeing the Department of Mysteries,” Theo sighed. “It looked exactly the same; he had that look in his eye but he was more panicked than usual. I don’t know what he saw.”

“Let me see if Granger responds.”

Draco sent Hermione a message to her band, then a second, third, fifth. When he received no response, he turned to Theo.

Draco hesitated. “I don’t know how to tell you this, mate, but do you remember the second Triwizard task? How I could tell that Granger was far away because of our binding?”

Theo eyed Draco uneasily. “Yes…”

“I think they’ve left the castle.”

 

Theo and Draco decided to camp out in Theo’s room in the dungeons until Harry and Hermione returned. They commiserated over their shared anxiety.

“Do we go to dinner?” Draco asked, eyeing the time.

“Do you have an appetite?” Theo retorted.

“No.”

“Me either.”

Several tense moments passed. “This was much easier last time,” Theo bemoaned. “We barely had to wait an hour while they were in the second task last year. It’s been, what, four hours now?”

“Four hours and we have no idea where they went. At least they were supervised for the tournament. Where do you think they’re at?”

“I’m not sure. But if they left the castle immediately after our exam then it must be somewhere important, right?” Theo speculated.

“Merlin, if they went and decided to—"

There was a rapid knocking on the door to Theo’s room. He looked to Draco who shrugged in confusion. “Expecting company?”

Theo swung open the door and found Blaise standing there with a giant grin.

“I brought firewhisky!” Blaise declared, holding out a large bottle of Ogden’s Finest.

Theo looked down at the bottle, took it from Blaise, and proceeded to shut the door in his face.

Draco could faintly hear Blaise’s protests from behind the closed door.

“Can’t you Stupefy me again?” Draco pleaded. “I barely had to wait through it last time because I was unconscious.”

Theo was opening the bottle of Ogden’s and paused, glaring at Draco who quickly shut up. He poured two large glasses, handing one to Draco silently.

“Why couldn’t we have taken to some nice Slytherins who wouldn’t put us through this shite?” Draco asked, raising a trembling glass to his lips.

Theo looked down as he took a large swig, grimacing at the taste. “I wonder that every day.”

Draco suddenly bent over, feeling as though his chest was on fire. He dropped the glass and it shattered on the hard dungeon floor.

“What the hell, Draco?” Theo muttered, cleaning up the spill and casting a quick Reparo on the broken glass.

“Something’s wrong,” he wheezed out, using his hands to balance his weight onto his knees.

“Not this again.” Theo tilted his head back in frustration. “Obviously, she’s gone. We know they’re both gone.”

“No,” Draco argued. “It’s different; after we got our rings, I could always feel her. It’s just faint when she’s far away—but right now it feels weak, like it’s damaged. Do you think she’s hurt?”

Theo swore under his breath. “I don’t know. There’s no telling what they’d do, but you must admit they have a penchant for danger. Damn Gryffindors.”

Several glasses of whisky later, Theo and Draco were anything but subdued. In fact, the alcohol was fueling their anxiety.

“I’m just saying, what if we just go find them? You know? Go find them and bring their arses back to the castle?” Draco proposed, his drink sloshing as he gesticulated with the glass in his hand. “We should put trackers on them one of these days.That way when they do shite like this we can at least find them.”

Yes, ” Theo agreed enthusiastically. “They need Slytherins to break this habit of almost dying every year. Who ever thought to put all the kids with zero self-preservation in the same house? That’s j-just”—he hiccupped—“just asking for trouble.”

“Merlin knows how they’ve survived this far—did Harry ever tell you about the troll?” Draco asked, his words slurring slightly.

Theo stared, his eyes lidded. “No, he didn’t. I couldn’t be less surprised, though.”

“They—” Draco paused, either he was drunker than he thought, or his band just burned.

We’re safe

So sorry

H&H

Closing his eyes, Draco fell back against the back of the chair. “Granger just sent me a message. Said they’re safe. Said sorry.”

Theo sucked a breath in through his teeth.“What a way to spend a night. Should we take some Pepper-Up Potion and try to get some sleep before our wayward Gryffindors return?”

Draco let out a dry laugh. “Yeah. Sleep. Sure. I’m going to wait in the Room of Req—the Come-and-Go Room for her.”

“Cheers, mate.” Theo raised his glass to Draco, draining the rest of his whisky.


Draco was unable to calm down enough to sleep. Instead, he laid on the sofa in the Come-and-Go-room and waited for Hermione to show up. He jumped at every noise, looking to the door every few minutes.

Finally, just after dawn, the door creaked open. Draco’s legs moved quicker than his consciousness; he was on his way to the door before it was completely open.

“Granger,” he breathed out, relief overwhelming his senses.

She looked at him with wide eyes. His gaze caught on a sliver of irritated skin visible on her chest.

Draco’s hand reached up to touch it, his eyes met hers. “What is this?” His voice was deadly quiet.

“I’m okay. I’ve been healed and I’m completely healthy, it’s okay.” She touched the healing wound.

“Hermione.” Draco’s eyes did not move from the spot, now covered by her hand.

He lifted her hand away, carefully pulling aside her blouse to reveal a deep purple red mark across her chest. He stumbled back, the wind knocked out of him.

“Hermione,” he repeated, his eyes shining as he looked at her, the vein in his jaw protruded.

“It doesn’t even hurt anymore, and it’s going to go away. It won’t scar,” she assured him.

“Are you kidding me? I don’t care about a scar,” he whispered. “ What happened last night ?”

“Dolohov—a curse—the Department of Mysteries,” she mumbled the fragments, unwilling to look him in the eye.

He knew it the moment he felt their bond weaken; she had been hurt—she had been cursed . She could have died. He sucked in a shaky breath.

“After the exam, Harry and I tricked Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest where the centaurs took her away. Then Harry, Luna, Neville, Ginny, Ron, and I went to the Department of Mysteries last night. The vision he had during History of Magic was a false memory—a trap set by Voldemort.”

The cadence of his breathing increased with every word.

“You broke into the Ministry ? Not just that—the Department of Mysteries?! What would ever possess you to do something so utterly moronic?” he questioned, his eyes ablaze. “I don’t know whether to be relieved that you didn’t die or furious you were there to begin with! Do you know what the past day has been like for me? Theo and I have been an absolute mess! We spent the entire night wondering if you two were dead or alive!”

Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I understand that you were worried, I do, but I don’t appreciate your tone. I had to go, I had to be there for Harry. We had backup—”

“—Fucking Longbottom and Lovegood is not backup! It’s a suicide mission,” he spat.

She blinked quickly as her eyes filled with tears. “But I had—” her voice broke.

Draco faltered; his arms fell to his sides. He took a deep breath, the air expanding his lungs.

“I know, I know, you and that Gryffindor loyalty I’ll never understand.” He looked to the ground. “I’ve never been so fucking terrified in my entire life.”

Her lip quivered.

“Granger.” He wrapped his arms around her. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

She nodded into his shoulder.

“Did you miss the part where I told you the centaurs took Umbridge in the Forbidden Forest?” she mumbled. “I’m pretty proud of that part. It was a really satisfying end to the year.”

He kissed her curls, resting his chin on the top of her head. “Just stop talking for a moment and let me hold you, okay? I just really need this right now.”

They embraced in silence for several minutes; the only audible sounds were their breathing and the crackle of the fireplace. 

Finally, Draco led her over to the sofa where they sat down. He pulled her legs across his lap, his hands resting on her thighs.

He sighed, his eyes closed. “I’m ready. Tell me the whole story. What happened?”

Hermione picked at her nails nervously as she retold the story of her night. “Well, remember how we talked about the Department of Mysteries and Harry’s visions? The rooms were always empty until his last vision. He saw his godfather, Sirius Black, being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. I told him it had to have been a trap, but he didn’t listen to me. I tried to get him to listen to me.”

“It was obviously a trap,” he grumbled, his hand tightening on her leg.

“He tried to Floo call Sirius from Umbridge’s office and she caught us.”

“She thought we were trying to call Dumbledore and then she tried to use Veritaserum and the Cruciatus Curse on Harry.”

“Fucking Umbridge.”

“I lied and told her we had a secret weapon in the Forbidden Forest, which is how we lured her out there. The centaurs did the rest of the work. Honestly, I have no idea where she is right now. We rode thestrals to the Ministry and broke into the Department of Mysteries. I can finally tell you what’s in there,” she added uncomfortably. “Though we mostly spent our time in the Hall of Prophecy. That’s where we found the Death Eaters.”

Draco held his breath as she continued. His chest felt heavy at the words, Death Eaters.

“Your aunt was there,” her voice cracked. “She—” Hermione swallowed. “She murdered Sirius Black.”

He slowly rubbed circles into her leg as she spoke, his eyes crinkling at the corners in concern.

She hesitated. “Your father was there, too. I saw him. I could recognize his voice and hair behind the mask.”

Draco inhaled sharply, feeling as though he was hit in the gut. She just confirmed his suspicions that his father was actively taking orders from the Dark Lord. His father could have killed Hermione. He felt a rage boil under his skin at the thought, the feeling second only to his desire to protectively take Hermione in his arms and never let her leave his sight again.

“There’s something else,” she whispered, her voice almost inaudible. “When everyone was battling in the Hall of Prophecy, I found an old prophecy, tucked near the back. It felt like it called to me. I didn’t know how or why but I was drawn to it. The prophecy was marked for the fifth of June.”

His breath caught in his throat. “My birthday?”

“The exact night of your birth—1980,” she added quietly.

“What did it say?” Draco asked uneasily, not convinced that he wanted to know the answer.

She closed her eyes as she recited the eerie words that haunted her thoughts. “ A bond forged of blood and desperation will forever change hearts and minds—the final blow at the last hour to the one who has never known love, twice befallen by the love of a mother.

Draco felt the air leave his lungs all at once.

Hermione opened her eyes, they were filled with fear. “It was unmarked, unidentified, but I think it’s about us.”

“The final blow at the last hour to the one who has never known love,” Draco repeated, mulling over the words. “What do you think that means?”

“I have no idea,” she admitted. “The one who has never known love ? That could mean so many forms of love. Does it mean romantic love? Familial love? Brotherly love? How could our bond be a final blow to anything?”

After a pause, she turned to him. “Draco, your father was there. He saw me holding the prophecy. I dropped it and ran; it was glass and the fall destroyed it, but he saw me and the date of the plaque.”

“You and glass,” Draco quipped.

Hermione sighed. “Love, he saw that the prophecy was for your birthday. I think we have kept this secret long enough.”

He turned away from her; his throat bobbed as he swallowed.

“Draco,” Hermione started.

“No.” He shook his head quickly. “Absolutely not.”

“We have to tell him.”

Draco felt the rushing sound of his blood echoing in his ears at her words and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.

She gently caressed his cheek with her thumb. “We can’t hide it forever. Love, it’s time.”

He covered her hand with his, closing his eyes; he paused for several moments before nodding.

“You said Umbridge is gone, right?”

“Yes,” Hermione confirmed.

“Her office is empty? The one with a fireplace connected to the Floo Network?”

“Yes.” The corner of Hermione’s mouth perked up. “Astute observation, my love. Shall we?”

 

“Malfoy Manor.” Draco wrapped one arm protectively around Hermione as he threw the Floo Powder down; green flame enveloped the couple as they disappeared from the fireplace in Umbridge’s office.

Narcissa’s heels clicked on the wooden floor as she quickly approached the receiving room. The familial blood wards triggered upon Draco’s arrival. If Narcissa could sense Draco, so could Lucius, and she had an inkling that Draco was not alone.

She opened the door to the receiving room just as Draco and Hermione were patting off soot that stuck to their clothes from the trip. She let out a breath of relief that she found the pair before her husband.

“Draco, Hermione, what are you doing here?” Narcissa asked sharply, looking over her shoulder. “Your father is home.”

“Hermione told me about the Department of Mysteries, Mother,” Draco said, his tone accusatory. “She told me about Father.”

Narcissa looked to Hermione remorsefully. “I am so sorry about that. They should be ashamed, attacking children like that—no matter what the mission was from the Dark Lord.”

“We need to tell Father,” Draco asserted. “What if this happens again? What if Father…” He looked to Hermione and back to Narcissa. “What if he doesn’t know about the bond and he hurts her? I would never forgive him.”

Narcissa waited a beat, weighing the options in her head.

A low voice drawled from behind Narcissa, stepping into view. “Would somebody like to explain to me exactly what is going on in my home?”

Lucius Malfoy looked at Draco who stepped protectively in front of Hermione, one arm reaching behind him to hold her and the other grasping his wand defensively. Lucius tilted his head as he surveyed his son and Hermione with a scathing look.

His eyes focused on the hand that Hermione had placed on Draco’s arm and his mouth tightened into a straight line. “Narcissa. A word?”

Narcissa looked to Draco and Hermione, giving them a small nod. “Take her into the parlour. We will join you shortly.”


“What the hell is going on, Narcissa? Why is she in our home?” Lucius paused. “Even better question, why do you not look surprised that our son is touching the Mudblood ?” he spat, his tone seething vitriol.

“I knew this day would come but I had hoped it would be under more ideal circumstances,” Narcissa admitted. “Will you please sit?”

“Absolutely not. You will tell me what is going on before I curse it out of our son myself.”

Narcissa sighed deeply. “Very well, you deserve to know. After all, you are one of the few people who knew Bella before…who truly knows what happened to her.”

Lucius’ entire body tensed, his eyes narrowed. “Narcissa. You didn’t.”

She straightened her posture. “I did. Andromeda and I did,” she amended. “The night he was born.”

“You’re telling me that you took our heir, our only child, and cast the binding on him without telling me?!” His voice rose uncharacteristically in outrage as he began to pace. “You lied to me! Of all the idiotic, bullheaded things you could have done… the girl...” Lucius stopped abruptly. “It is the girl?”

Narcissa looked away, unwilling to make eye contact.

Lucius slammed his cane down in frustration. “ How ? How is it her ? How do you know?”

“Lucius, there is no doubt in my mind. It is her. It has always been her.”

“But she is a Mud—”

“Muggleborn,” Narcissa interjected. “Yes. I am aware.”

He bristled at the correction. “You have put me in a terrible position, I hope you know that. I will write to Yaxley, and he will have this little problem resolved by morning.”

“Resolved? What do you intend to do?” she asked, alarmed at his suddenly calm demeanor.

“He will dispose of the girl; it is of little matter. That school is a death trap waiting to happen. Yaxley is skilled at creating ‘accidents’ and no one will be the wiser. She will simply be the victim of a tragic accident while celebrating the end of the school year. Then Draco can go on to marry a pureblood wife of our choosing and he will continue the family line as was always the plan.”

“No, Lucius, absolutely not!” Narcissa contended. “You cannot do that to him. He will never forgive you.” She paused. “He loves the girl. I have seen it myself.”

Love ? We have no room for love ; you do realise we are at war? She is not only the opposing side—she is the best friend of Harry fucking Potter and quite possibly the most famous Mudblood at Hogwarts because of it . ” He threw his cane down in anger. “I am trying to save us. I can still fix this before it is too late.”

“It is already too late,” Narcissa murmured. “They are connected as I have never seen before. They have become one. Lucius, you cannot hurt her without destroying any relationship you have with your son.”

Lucius finally sat down, closing his eyes. “Narcissa, how could you have let it get this far? How could you let them entertain the idea that they could be anything ? You and I know they can never be and to pretend otherwise is a fool’s dream.” Lucius’ voice filled with wrath. “You have ruined his life.”

“How dare you?” Her voice shook with rage. “ I have saved his life.

“You realise his connection to her is diametrically opposed to everything we believe in? Everything we have ever known? Against our entire mission with the Dark Lord? The position you have put me in is impossible. How am I supposed to carry out his will knowing that my own wife and son are off cavorting with Mudbloods? That my own wife and son are Blood Traitors? ” He spat the words.

A slap cut through the air. Narcissa stood with her hand out as Lucius’ cheek grew red from impact.

“I would rather be a Blood Traitor than continue down this path you have brought us on.” Her voice dripped with disdain. “If you cannot move past this, then you will lose us both.”

Several moments passed.

He finally broke the silence. “I have been in talks with the Greengrass family for Draco’s marriage after Hogwarts. I fully intend to bring this courtship to fruition. Though it is not ideal, given the circumstances, I feel I could be moved to look past it. Draco would not be the first Lord Malfoy to have a mistress on the side while still doing his duty to provide pureblood heirs,” Lucius conceded. “Though precautions would have to be taken to ensure he does not sire filthy bastards with the Mudblood.”

“I am going to let this momentary lapse of sanity go because I know that you are in shock, but you must never mention that asinine idea to our son. Or to Hermione, for that matter,” she said coolly.

He inhaled sharply at Narcissa’s words as his lips contorted in revulsion. “ Hermione? Since when do we address Mudbloods as equals?”

“Lucius…If it were not for her blood, I truly believe you would come to like her,” Narcissa argued. “She is top of her class, brilliant actually, despite her upbringing.”

Lucius scoffed in disbelief. “Do not try to sway me when you know what this has done to us. I cannot believe you lied to me for years . I will never forgive you—or Draco—for keeping this from me. I do not care what she has accomplished. She could be the fucking Minister for Magic and she would still be the absolute worst thing to ever happen to this family.”

Narcissa watched him silently as he fumed.

He stood up decisively. “He is not yet of age. We still have time. We can change his mind; he is still impressionable.”

Narcissa bluffed, “He has expressed to me that he would rather give up the family name and inheritance than agree to marry another. He will not leave her, certainly not for the Greengrass girl.”

He closed his eyes in irritation, mulling over the concept of disowning his only heir. “Oh, Cissa. There are many things I have done that I am not proud of, but at least they were all done for the good of the family. What good is it all if there is no family anymore?” Lucius turned to her seriously. “How will we ever survive this?”

She reached for his hand, gently stroking his sore cheek. “We are Malfoys. We always survive. We will survive this as Malfoys always have, as a family.”


Draco paced the parlour for the hundredth time since his parents left. Hermione hesitantly reached for his arm.

“It’s going to be okay,” she mumbled into his chest, feeling the rapid pounding of his heart against her cheek.

“You know what? Fuck him,” Draco growled, his voice low. “I know what he’s saying to my mother right now. I saw the look of disgust in his eyes when he looked at you.”

He tapped his hand anxiously against his thigh as he shifted his weight from foot to foot.

“If he asks me to pick, him or you, you know that I would pick you, right?” Draco muttered.

Hermione tightened her arms around him. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. He’s still your father.”

The doorknob to the room clicked as it twisted open, the door creaking softly.

She stepped away from Draco, but he wrapped his arm back around her waist, tugging her against him. Hermione felt his fingers tighten against her hip possessively as he watched the doorway.

Narcissa Malfoy stepped through, looking as if she had aged several years since they saw her in the receiving room.

“Pinky is bringing tea, if you would like to stay.” Narcissa gestured politely to the table. “Your father will not be joining us.”

Hermione chewed the inside of her cheek. “Did you tell him?”

Narcissa flicked her eyes to Hermione. “Yes. He is not speaking to me at the moment, but we have been through worse.”

“I want to talk with him,” Draco insisted. “I need him to understand.”

“Oh, Draco,” Narcissa tutted softly. “My sweet son. I know you mean well, but your father needs time to process. He is not ready to talk with you. You must understand, I have known about Hermione for years and you have—in a way—always known. Your father has known less than twenty minutes. He needs time.”

“His entire worldview just shifted,” Hermione agreed, feeling woozy at the thought. “Was he furious?”

Narcissa pursed her lips. “He will take time. You two were correct. After recent events he should know the full picture. I do believe this complicates family matters significantly. Were you aware that he was in the midst of a marriage contract for you?”

Hermione felt Draco’s body harden as he tensed against her. “No,” he said, his voice strained. “I was unaware of any pre-marital discussions.”

His hand dug into her side and she shifted uncomfortably in place. She suddenly felt lightheaded; his father was arranging Draco’s marriage ? Ever since she found out about the bond, about his feelings, she had never even considered a future where they did not end up together.

All at once, she realised how completely naive she had been—a child, really. Between their secret meetings, playing house last summer, and dinner with her parents, somewhere along the line she had forgotten that this was his past, present, and future. He was a Pureblood of noble birth, of titles and fortune.

Sacred Twenty-Eight.

His entire existence up to this point had been preparation for a future that Hermione did not fit into. She was the triangle piece to the square hole of his life. He was destined to graduate Hogwarts, to marry a beautiful and refined Pureblood wife, to have Pureblood babies that he would raise in their society; he would take over the family business and eventually become Lord of Malfoy Manor. He and his Pureblood wife would host galas and charity auctions together, Sunday tea with their families.

Where was there room for Hermione? Where did she fit in their plan? There was no room for her advocacy, her aspirations to work at the Ministry, for her Muggle parents or her love of reading and quiet Sundays by the lake. 

There was no room in his future for her.

She felt the room spin around her as Narcissa and Draco talked, their words becoming ambient noise that blurred together as she blinked slowly, trying to balance herself.

Narcissa’s voice called out as Hermione felt herself tipping backwards. Draco guided her to the small sitting chair next to them. She placed her head between her knees as she gasped for air.

“Hermione?!” Draco’s voice sounded panicked and broke through the buzzing in her ears.

“I’m okay,” she declared. “I just need a moment to breathe, I’m okay—I promise.”

She felt her stomach turn, she was going to be sick.

Out of her peripheral, Hermione saw Draco and his mother share a worried look.

He said something to his mother. His words were fuzzy in her mind.

“…panic attack…cursed…”

She pinpointed the words, squeezing her eyes shut as she shook her head.

Hermione felt the pressure of Draco’s arm wrapping around her shoulder, the other under her knees as he carried her back to the receiving room.

“I’m going to take you home,” he murmured softly. She tucked her head against his chest, her lip shivering at his words.

That was impossible, of course, to bring her home when she was in his arms. 

She was already there.


It was the last day of school, and Hermione and Draco had designated a time to meet before the train arrived to bring students home for the summer.

“I wish I could go to the Manor with you again this year,” she lamented. “I bet Charles is getting cocky in my absence.”

Draco fought back a smile. “Can’t have a peacock getting cocky. I’ll keep him in his place, just for you. We can handle a summer apart, knowing that we will be back together next year.”

Hermione’s eyes began to sting as they filled with tears, she looked up at Draco. “I’m going to miss you.”

He wrapped his arms around her fully.

“I got you a surprise.” She gave him a watery smile as she reached into her bag. “I found a way to enchant these notebooks. That way we can have full conversations instead of just a few words on our bands.”

Draco grinned, his eyes lighting up with pride. “Have I ever told you that you’re brilliant? I should tell you that more often.”

“When you write in it, the words will disappear from your side once I open it on my end. Then you will know when I’ve read your letters and I will know when you’ve read mine,” she explained. “It’s like being a quill pal but without owls having to transport the letters back and forth.”

“I’ll write in it every day,” he promised with a kiss to her forehead. “But you, my love, have to go. We are going to be late for the train otherwise.”

Hermione’s shoulders slumped forward. “I know, you’re right. One more kiss before I go?”

“Of course, and a thousand kisses when you’re back,” he promised softly, his lips brushing against hers.


Hermione finished packing the last of her trunk before looking around her empty dorm. Another year had come and gone so quickly. Next year they would be sixth years and taking N.E.W.T. level courses, and she would turn seventeen. She would be a legal adult—no more trace—and she could apparate freely outside of Hogwarts.

She wondered if Draco had found the Galleon that she had slipped into the back pocket of his trousers during their goodbye kiss yet. She was going to win this Galleon war.

“’Mione, you ready?” Ron asked, checking the time.

He and Harry stood up from the common room sofa as she made her way down the stairs from the girls’ dorm with her trunk.

“Ready.” She nodded with a smile.

 

The night Hermione arrived home, she cracked open her notebook. It was blank. She wrote a couple quick sentences.

Hi love!

I’m excited to have this notebook to talk with you this summer. I wish I could come back to the Manor and we could spend the summer together again. I miss our days in the garden and our nights in the library. Hopefully Pinky makes those chocolate scones for your homecoming, my mouth is watering just thinking about them! I love you and I miss you already. I hope you’re still able to have a great summer, I can’t wait to hear all about it. Tell your mother I say hello!

Love,

H

Before falling asleep, she sent Draco a message to his band with a sad smile, miss you.

She woke up in the morning and opened the notebook with anticipation. It quickly faded, her note from the night before was still on the page. Draco must not have had time to read it on his side, she reasoned, planning to check it again after an outing with her parents.

 

Hermione tapped her quill impatiently, opening the notebook once more. She was three weeks into summer, and she had nothing. No messages in her notebook from Draco; her messages to him spanned several pages now but were still unread. He had not opened his notebook even once. She glanced down at her ring accusingly; it had not burned since before school ended. She had sent him nearly a dozen messages over the weeks.

You okay? she sent his band. I’m worried about you

She waited several minutes before sending, talk to me?

Hermione sent him another plea, the last message she would send him that summer.

Please 

Silence.

Chapter Text

September-October

Year 6

Hermione's summer had been rather ordinary. She spent the first month with her parents and then stayed with the Weasleys and Harry. She still brought her notebook with her to the Burrow in case she received word from Draco, but there had been nothing but silence.

Then there were the nightmares. She had been plagued by night terrors of darkness filled with the sound of Draco crying out in pain. Hermione shivered, the hair on her arms raising at the thought. Her mind had been playing sinister tricks on her all summer.

Fidgeting in her seat on the carriage, she was unable to sit still. She glanced out the window, watching the students pass by. Her eyes were searching for a certain blond Prefect that should be joining her carriage.

"Someone's eager to get back to school," Ron joked, mistaking Hermione's nerves for excitement. "I never would've guessed. How many times have you read the textbooks for this year?"

She smiled with a small shrug. "Only once. You know me, always ready for class."

Harry peeped his head into the carriage, holding two envelopes in his hand.

"No need to be in the Prefects' carriage today, Hermione," Harry stated, his voice smug."This year you and I have the Slug Club."

Hermione stood up from her seat, looking at Harry with curiosity. "The Slug Club? "

"Snape is taking over Defence Against the Dark Arts this year, so Professor Slughorn is taking over Potions. I met him this summer with Dumbledore," Harry informed her matter-of-factly. "And we both have exclusive invitations to his compartment for an introduction."

"Well, I'll still be here in the Prefects' carriage if anyone needs me," Ron mumbled, slouching in his seat. "I wouldn't want to go anyway. He sounds like a tosser."

Pausing, she turned to Ron with an apologetic look. "See you at the welcome feast?"

"Yep," Ron sighed, reaching into his bag and pulling out a semi-squished sandwich that his mother had packed for the journey. "Have fun with 'the Slug Club'."

Hermione slid the carriage door shut firmly behind her.

"Basically, this means Slughorn sees potential in us," Harry explained, his voice low as they walked down the train. "According to Dumbledore, Slughorn is known for handpicking students who go on to do outstanding work in various fields. It's his own way of creating connections with powerful people—before they have any influence. Once they establish their careers, he reaps a variety of rewards. Honestly, I'm not sure if we should be flattered or insulted."

"Curious, I wonder who else he selected for the club?" she wondered aloud, running her mind through a list of students. "I suppose there isn't much of a gamble on you considering you've been famous for over a decade already. He's a bit late to the game on that one."

Harry made a face. "Dumbledore practically used me as live bait to lure him back to Hogwarts this past summer. I suspect that I'm the reason Slughorn's coming out of retirement in the first place."

"If anyone else said that, it would sound egotistical, but from you it sounds perfectly reasonable," Hermione teased.

He shrugged.

With each step she took towards Slughorn's carriage, Hermione's anxieties and excitement increased. Draco was a Prefect and a high performer in Potions; surely he would be waiting in the carriage already. It would be difficult for her to sit next to him for the entirety of the train ride and not talk to him.

The door opened with a squeak and Hermione felt disappointment trickle through her as she looked around the carriage. No Draco. Perhaps he would join later? She put on a friendly smile as an older wizard approached them with a wide grin.

"Harry Potter! Lovely to see you again, and this must be Hermione Granger! I have heard many wonderful things about you," Professor Slughorn added with a flourish. "Miss Granger, 'the Brightest Witch of her Age'."

Hermione's cheeks heated under his attention; she really did hate that title.

"Well, I have drinks on the table, as well as a pheasant dinner if you are hungry. Oh! You must know Miss Weasley here." He gestured to a baffled looking Ginny, who was nursing a drink. "I found her casting the most marvelous Bat-Bogey Hex near the front of the train on my way in!"

Harry choked back a laugh, quickly covering it with a cough.

"Ah! Melinda Bobbin!" Slughorn turned to face the newest arrival. "I was at your family's apothecary just last month. I could not believe how they have expanded the chain into France! I was wondering…" his voice trailed off as Hermione and Harry found a seat next to Ginny.

Hermione made a face at Harry, who shrugged. They settled in for the rest of the train ride.


Once they arrived in the Great Hall, Hermione eagerly scanned the Slytherin table, her eye catching on Draco. Her heart dropped. His shoulders were slumped forward, and he was staring quietly at the wood of the table in front of him. Dark shadows were painted under his eyes and he looked as if he had not slept since leaving school. Inspecting him closer, she could see his band still encircling his ring finger.

Hermione stilled as she watched him carefully, trying to make eye contact. His eyes never left the table as he slowly dragged a single digit across the groove in the wood, picking at it with his nail. Blaise leaned over and whispered something in his ear. Draco nodded slightly without looking up.

"Merlin, I've missed these feasts—don't tell my mum," Ron instructed as he piled his plate high with chicken legs and chips.

Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, sighing in satisfaction as he bit into the pastry.

Hermione found she had no appetite; she looked down at her filled plate and felt nothing but nausea.

"Blimey, look at the Slytherin table. They sure are quiet today," Ron mentioned as he bit into a chicken leg. "Malfoy looks bloody awful, though not any worse than I'd expect given what he's been up to lately."

Glaring at Ron, she asked,. "What do you mean ‘up to lately’? What are you implying?"

"I don't know, Hermione, I just have a bad feeling about him. I don't trust him after what Harry told me." Ron shrugged.

Hermione looked at Harry, her voice dripping with accusation. "What is he talking about?"

Harry grimaced; it was obvious that he had intentionally kept this information from Hermione.

"I saw him at Borgin and Burkes when we were picking up school supplies. You know what type of clientele they serve there, all the dark artifacts they have in the shop. He had something reserved at the front. It was the way Borgin was reacting to him that made me suspicious; he gave Malfoy the same level of respect as his father. I think he might be following in his Lucius’ footsteps," Harry speculated, keeping his voice low.

"No!" The word was out of Hermione's mouth before she could stop herself and she tried to calm the panic in her tone. "That could never happen! He's just a student. Why would they want a student? It's not possible—He would never."

Harry eyed her with sympathy, likely because he knew her history with Draco. However, they could not speak freely about it in front of Ron.

"How would you know that? I wouldn't put it past him, the prat," Ron muttered in anger.

"I know you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, Hermione, but—" Harry insisted before she interjected.

"I don't want to talk about it right now. This isn't the place. Either way, I don't believe it; it's not true. He is too young," Hermione stated firmly, her mind racing. She pushed her plate away, a lump forming in her throat. There was no way she could eat now.

Even though she did not believe Draco was involved with Voldemort, she found herself asking why he was at Borgin and Burkes. What had he reserved? She would have to find out first thing Friday. Hermione was positive there would be a reasonable explanation for everything.

 

After registering for classes with Professor McGonagall, Hermione found herself rushing back to Gryffindor Tower. Though she was ecstatic about her upcoming set of classes—she had received all Outstandings and one Exceeds Expectations in her O.W.L.s last year—she was more excited to catch up with Draco.

Harry's suspicion of Draco was also making her uneasy, especially when coupled with the fact that she had not heard from Draco once during the entire summer. Hermione was both curious and nervous to hear about his summer with his parents at the Manor.

She greeted her dormmates before pulling the curtain of her four-poster shut for privacy. She hoped that she would be able to sneak out of her bed undetected, but she was so excited to finally see Draco that, if caught, she was sure that she could come up with an excuse to leave. She was still a Prefect, after all.

She sent his band a message.

R.O.R.?

Several moments later, she sat down on her bed as she waited impatiently. She thought back to his constant corrections last year, how he insisted on calling the Room of Requirement the Come-and-Go Room.

C.A.G.R.? she amended with the ghost of a smile.

Ten minutes passed with no response. He had his ring on during the welcoming feast. Unless the enchantment had worn off, he should be receiving her messages right now.

The only remaining explanation was that he was ignoring them.

Ignoring her.

Hermione's stomach flipped. All along, she had been concerned that his ring and notebook had been taken away while he was at the Manor, but it was quickly becoming apparent that he’d had access the entire time.

Her band felt cold and hard against her skin. What had happened? They were in such a good place at the end of last year. ' And a thousand kisses when you're back ', he had promised before leaving.

She laid down on her bed in the quiet, fully clothed, staring up at the ceiling overhead. For once, Hermione wished she could quiet her brain; she closed her eyes, pacing her breathing as she silently wished for sleep.


On the first day of classes, Hermione arrived even earlier than usual, hoping to catch Draco before the lesson began. Once she had him face to face, he would talk to her. It would be impossible to avoid her when they shared so many classes. The pair had studied together for exams last year so he had to have done well on his O.W.L.s. Honestly, she would not be surprised if he had done equally as well as she had in all subjects.

Draco was probably just hesitant from the summer with his father. She could only imagine the type of venom Lucius Malfoy had spewed at his son after their visit to the Manor. Recalling the look in Lucius' eyes when he saw Draco standing in front of her protectively gave Hermione chills.

It would make sense that Draco was being more cautious this school year than in previous years; she would simply have to assure him that it was safe to see her. They would be extra vigilant about meeting in secret.

The students piled in one by one, filling in the seats around her. With each arrival that was not Draco, her frustration grew. Finally, with less than a minute until the class began, Draco and Theo entered the room and snagged the final two seats in the back row.

Hermione could not help herself; she turned and blatantly stared at the pair of Slytherins. Up close, Draco looked even more exhausted than he had during the welcoming feast. His hair was uncharacteristically messy, his tie askew as if he had not looked in the mirror this morning, and he was even paler than usual with a greyish tinge to his cheeks. Thumbing through the pages of their textbook absentmindedly, his eyes were fixated on a single spot, unmoving.

After a moment, she caught Theo's gaze. Theo gave Hermione a pitiful look and shook his head once. A sigh of disappointment escaped her lips as she turned back to the front of the room. No use trying to talk before class; she would have to catch him as he left when there were fewer witnesses nearby.

As class finished up, she glanced over her shoulder. Draco and Theo were sharing a look as they packed up their parchment and books. Why did it seem that Draco was looking anywhere but at her? Her stomach turned uncomfortably.

" Psst, Hermione." Harry waved a hand in front of her face as she turned back towards him. "McGonagall told us that Slughorn allows Exceeds Expectations for N.E.W.T.-level Potions. That means Ron and I are going to take Potions with you this year after all!"

Hermione's face lit up at the news. "I'm thrilled for you! You'll be able to pursue the Auror program now!"

Ron and Harry both grinned ear-to-ear.

"We just might get you to join us," Harry teased.

She shook her head. "Best of luck with that."

"I still can't believe that we get to take Potions without Snape," Ron marveled. "I heard Slughorn used to be head of Slytherin before he retired. Hopefully he doesn't favour them."

Hermione shrugged in a non-committal fashion. "He seemed rather friendly to students of all houses on the train, like he’s more of an opportunist than anything. I can't see him giving preferential treatment based solely on house affiliation."

Pulling her attention away from Ron, she looked back at the newly empty seats behind her. Her heart sank in her chest. She had missed her opportunity. 

He was gone.


The following day, Hermione sat with Harry behind Draco and Theo in double Potions; the class was preparing the Draught of Living Death and competing for Slughorn's coveted Felix Felicis.

"You have to slice the sopophorous bean, not crush it," Hermione corrected Harry as she focused on chopping her own beans into even slices.

Harry shrugged as he referenced his tattered copy of Advanced Potion-Making , crushing his beans with the side of his blade and releasing the juice into his cauldron.

Hermione's eyes drifted over to the table in front of her. The pair of Slytherins were both bent over their cauldrons, meticulously following the instructions from their books. Draco held a single bean with his left hand, the blade with his right; he trembled as he moved to cut the bean and he stopped—trying unsuccessfully to steady himself. 

Without looking up from his station, Theo pushed his pile of neatly sliced beans in front of Draco, taking Draco's uncut beans and working on them next. Draco added the juice from Theo's sliced beans to his cauldron with a quick nod of gratitude, the visible tremors subsiding as he stirred the potion seven times anti-clockwise.

Hermione could not help but notice that Draco was using his old stirring rod and not the gold one that she had given him for his birthday last year.

Turning back to Harry, she mentally counted the beans in front of him. "Harry, you have too many. The book says twelve beans, not thirteen."

"Hermione, I'm just following my textbook."

Letting out a groan of annoyance, Hermione observed her cauldron. The result of her diligent work was a murky brown potion—not even close to the ideal shade of pale lilac that Harry had achieved.

Harry won the Felix Felicis.

She should have been more annoyed that he defied the instructions and somehow created a perfect potion, but Hermione barely noticed; instead, she watched Draco's shaky hands as he packed up his workstation. A series of twitches ran through his fingers, the tips curling as he clenched his hands into fists.

"Time for lunch?" Harry asked quietly, looking at her with pity.

It was obvious that he had noticed her longing expression directed towards Draco.

"Sure," she mumbled in embarrassment, the strap of her bag settling over her chest. "Let's go."

Mustering all her remaining willpower, she did not look back as they exited the classroom.


As tempting as it was to send Draco more messages, Hermione refrained as he had yet to respond to anything from the summer or her messages on the first day. She half considered sending him another Howler, this time without the faux accent, just to show him how upset she was with him. Honestly, how long did it take to write a single message?

She decided to spend her night in the library for once, rather than just using it as an excuse. Not that she had anywhere else to go. Hermione flipped through her textbook pages, finding herself unable to focus. There was the sound of a faint cough nearby and she looked up curiously; not many people spent their Friday nights in a library this early into the school year.

Theo Nott was sitting alone at a large table at the edge of the room, surrounded by several open books. Indignation rose in her chest as she watched him reference a page, and then turn back to a separate book, rotating between the two. Theo and Draco were best mates. If Draco wouldn’t speak to her, maybe Theo could provide some clarity.

Strolling with purpose to Theo Nott's library table, she dared to pull out the chair next to him and sit in the vacant seat.

Theo looked up. "Just what do you think you're doing, Hermione?" He closed his books with a sequence of thuds.

"Theo, what's going on? He won't talk to me, he won't look at me, I haven't had a single word since before the summer." Hermione internally cringed at how pathetic she sounded.

Theo stood up, packing away his many tomes into his bag. "I'm sorry. I am truly sorry, but I can't say anything. I've given my word. It's just not up to me to have this conversation."

"Well, who is it up to then? Certainly not him if he won't even talk to me!" Her voice raised in resentment as Theo shook his head, retreating without another word.

A few stray students looked at her with curiosity.

"Oh, sod off," she snarled at them, turning on her heel as she exited the library. A fire burned in her chest.


It was a Friday, their old date night. Not only was it a Friday, but it was her birthday. September 19th. She was officially seventeen, an adult. There was no more trace on her; she could legally use magic and Apparate outside of Hogwarts.

Draco and Hermione had spent their last birthdays together, and she had never considered that he would not be there for her seventeenth. She knew that no matter what was going on between them that he would show up. He would be there for her when she needed him.

"Happy birthday, dear Hermione!" Harry and Ron sang in unison.

She shook her head fondly, smiling as they sang off-key and with great enthusiasm.

"Bet you thought we forgot." Harry winked, handing her a wrapped present. "But luckily for us, we have two journals with calendars in them from last Christmas."

The gift had clearly been wrapped by Ron; the wrapping had the classic lumps and bumps with excessive amounts of tape that came from a Ronald Weasley gift.

She beamed, tearing off the wrapping. "You two didn't have to get me anything!"

It was a box full of raspberry sugar quills—her favourite flavour, a container of bath salts, and a bottle of scented body lotion that changed colours and scents with each season.

"I love it!" she exclaimed, pulling them into a group hug. "It's perfect. I've just run out of sugar quills."

Her heart twisted; her last sugar quills were from the study basket that Draco had given her at the end of fifth year.

"Are you absolutely sure that you don't want to do anything for your birthday tonight? We can always raid the kitchens and see if they have any cake." Ron wiggled his eyebrows. "It's been forever since we last tickled the pear together."

Harry made a face, mumbling, "That's what she said."

She hesitated. "I'm sure, I just want a quiet night in with a good book. When you get to be my age, you'll understand," she joked weakly.

Following her conversation with Harry and Ron, Hermione made her way to the seventh floor and to the wall that housed the Room of Requirement. It was the first time that she had been back since the previous year. She thought back to the many Fridays that she spent with Draco in the room, the days of training with Dumbledore's Army. There were countless memories here.

Pacing in the hall, the door appeared, and she stepped inside impatiently. Scanning the room, Hermione felt her heart fall into her stomach. He was not here. She walked over to the large sofa and sat down. The room was eerily quiet except for the sound of the fireplace crackling.

She unclasped her bag, pulling out a book to read while she waited. Thumbing the title, Little Women , she smiled nostalgically, remembering when she and her mother read it together for the first time. She cracked the book open to her marked page, continuing to read where she had left off.

Nearly an hour later, Hermione checked the clock; there was still no sign of Draco. For the first time, she began to doubt that he would visit. It was her birthday. He was her boyfriend. Draco knew how important this day was for her, he had to show…right?

After she read the final page of her book, she closed it with a soft thud. Her chest felt like it was filled with concrete. Hermione looked back to the door wistfully, trying to will it to open with Draco behind it, but even the Room of Requirement had limits on its magic. With a look to the clock, Hermione realised it was now past midnight.

It was no longer her birthday.

She sat in the silence for several beats, white noise filling her ears as she tucked her novel back into her bag.

There was no use waiting. If he had not shown up by now, he was not coming.

Pulling herself off of the large sofa and picking up her bag, Hermione felt her heart crack. She had wasted her entire birthday night sitting alone in the Room of Requirement, naively believing Draco would spend it with her. Her eyes were stinging with tears. She slowly walked to the door; her blurry vision obscured the room before her as she began to exit in defeat.

Hermione passed by the table at the back of the room, completely oblivious to the mocha chocolate icebox cake that sat waiting for her with a single unlit candle in the center.

"Happy birthday, Hermione," she muttered bitterly to herself. "This year will be your best year yet."

 

She had tried to be patient, she had tried to be strong, and she found that could be neither anymore. Tears burned at Hermione's eyes as she tried to hold herself together long enough to reach the privacy of her four-poster bed. Attempting to steady her breathing, she hoped to return it to a normal cadence before her dormmates noticed her distress.

Hermione crept into the already dark dormitory, pulling the curtains around her bed for privacy. Curling into a ball, her hands covered her face as she wept. Silent sobs wracked her body, shaking the mattress beneath her. This was not how she had expected to spend her birthday.

The curtain on her bed pulled back and she held her breath as she squinted her swollen eyes into the darkness. She saw the outline of a body pulling the curtain shut, the mattress dipped with a sudden addition in weight. An arm swung around her waist, holding her tightly.

"It's okay, Hermione. It's going to be okay," the voice murmured softly.

"Lavender?" Hermione's voice cracked into the air around them.

Lavender ran a hand through Hermione's hair, trying to comfort her. "It's just me; it's okay, Hermione. I remember the pain of my first love," she whispered.

"Oh, no, I didn't—I mean, I don't—"

"Save your excuses," Lavender insisted. "You may be able to fool those oblivious boys of yours, but you can't fool me. You're not as sneaky as you think, slipping out of the dorm all the time. Don't worry, I promise not to tell anyone. I know the pain of a broken heart when I see it. I just want you to know you're not alone."

A muffled sob threatened to leave Hermione's chest, burning her from the inside out. She gave up trying to argue; at that moment, she needed nothing more than to be held. Leaning back against Lavender, she closed her eyes. Hermione focused on the feeling of Lavender rubbing soft circles into her back and humming.

"Thank you," she whispered into the night air.


One month into school and Hermione was miserable. Draco stepped into every class at the last moment and snuck out just as they ended. He skipped almost every meal in the Great Hall and the ones he attended, he would always leave with Blaise and Theo directly after finishing his food.

He had not looked at her once the entire school year; she knew because she was watching him almost constantly—she physically could not help herself. Draco's eyes looked anywhere but at her, completely unrecognizable to the eyes she had spent the previous year staring into. They were corpse-like and unfeeling, as if he were emotionless. She doubted he was sleeping.

Hermione was growing more despondent by the day. He was all she could think about and it seemed like he did not give her a second thought. How could he not even bother to look at her?

Eyeing the Prefect patrol list for the week, Hermione stopped in her tracks.

Ronald Weasley (Gryffindor) & Draco Malfoy (Slytherin), Friday Night Patrol

Her heart pounded against her ribcage.

Should she even try?

She took a breath. "Ron, would you be able to swap me patrols this Friday?" Hermione asked, her voice higher than usual, trying to act disinterested in his response.

Ron made a face. "You sure, 'Mione? I'm assigned with Malfoy this week, and he's not exactly the easiest patrol partner. Plus, if Harry's theory is correct and he's a—"

"I'm sure." She shrugged, cutting him off from finishing his sentence. "I just need to use the Astronomy Tower during the night I was assigned and hoped you could swap me."

He looked at her skeptically. "What do you have for Astronomy?"

She paused, trying to think of an excuse. "Venus. Venus is in a really great spot on Sunday and I wouldn't want to miss the chance for a higher score on my star chart."

"I wouldn't dare stand between you and your grades," Ron chuckled. "Hopefully he won't be too much of a git to you."

Hermione nodded, lost in her thoughts. She would be spending her first Friday of the school year with Draco. They would have several hours together for patrol and he would have to give her some answers.


As Hermione approached the corridor where Prefects met for patrol, she saw a shadow in the distance. It was shorter than her, with soft curves. It was clearly not Draco.

Her mouth went dry.

Stumbling over her own feet, she caught herself at the last second, almost falling onto the stone floor.

"What are you doing here?" Hermione blurted out before thinking.

Pansy scowled, crossing her arms. "What are you talking about? We have Prefect patrol tonight."

"No," Hermione argued. "I have Prefect patrol with Malfoy tonight."

"Yeah." Pansy rolled her eyes. "He traded with me. When he found out that you swapped patrol with Weasley, he couldn't trade it away fast enough. Owes me a big favour for this one, if you know what I mean."

Pansy continued talking but Hermione could not hear her—white noise filled her ears. Draco knew she was going to be his partner and he purposefully traded away his spot. After weeks of lying to herself, Hermione finally conceded defeat.

The Pull settled into her chest like a dull ache, consistent and throbbing. She did not know how to tell it to stop yearning for Draco, how to tell it that he could talk to her but did not want to talk to her, that he did not want her.


Hermione felt as if she was losing her mind. She could understand why he was limited in communication during the summer while home with his father, but this was ridiculous. There was no one monitoring him at school. They had plenty of ways to sneak around without professors or students catching them.

What was his long-term plan? To just ice her out until she went away and never spoke to him again? What would even happen to their bond if they decided not to be together? Would she be forever connected to him, but unable to be with him? 

She could not imagine wanting anyone else.

He unilaterally decided to end their relationship and did not have the decency to tell her to her face. This was a thousand times worse than break-up by owl. After stewing, she decided that she would make him face the repercussions of his actions. Hermione was going to force him to talk to her after class by catching him off guard and approaching him directly.

After Potions, she turned in her vials and walked out of the classroom with several minutes left in the class, much to the confusion of Professor Slughorn. Luckily, she was in the Slug Club and he was lenient with his club members. He waved her off quickly.

Hermione waited outside the classroom door, her arms crossed, counting down the minutes until the class would end. Finally, Slughorn dismissed the rest of the students. Her heart pounded in her ears as her classmates walked out, giving her an odd look for standing in front of the doorway.

In the back of the dispersing class, the Slytherins walked out in a group. Theo nudged Draco and gestured towards Hermione with a jut of his chin. Draco's eyes finally caught hers; she held her breath. His eyes looked cold and detached as he looked through her, turning back to Theo. Her cheeks flushed in anger as she stood her ground.

Draco fixed his eyes on the ground as he walked past, and she impulsively reached out a hand and grabbed his arm roughly. "Dr—Malfoy."

He looked up at her, a flicker of pain passed behind his eyes as he flinched, retracting as if her touch had burned her.

"UGH!" Pansy shrieked, grabbing Draco's other arm and pulling him away, "I can't believe that she touched you. You'd better burn those robes."

Hermione's mouth opened, a retort dying on her lips as she watched Draco walk away. Her mind went blank as she forgot anything she had planned. She hadn’t known what to expect, but she had not expected that. Their forms blurred away with her tears.

It was really over.

Something in her snapped, weeks of sorrow and confusion replaced with frustration and anger. It filled her chest until she saw red. She absolutely refused to spend any more of her time following him around like a lost puppy, begging for scraps of attention.


It was a Saturday and their first Hogsmeade trip of the year; Hermione pulled on her tightest jeans , her favourite green blouse, and finished by braiding her hair. She faltered for a moment, realising that this was the outfit she wore the first day Draco told her he loved her. She looked in the mirror, straightening her locket.

Hermione was sick and tired of spending her days pining after Draco. This morning, she had resolved to stop moping around and to enjoy her day with Harry. They would go for ice cream, out to the shops, and she would buy at least two new books. She was determined to have a good day. Just before the carriages began departing for Hogsmeade, she met Harry at the front of the school.

"You look happy today," Harry commented with a smile. "Do you have a hot date?"

She laughed freely, taking his arm in hers. "Why yes, in fact, I do; you might have heard of him—he's handsome, famous, the youngest Hogwarts seeker in a century—I think you'd quite like him."

Harry grinned. "He sounds like a tosser."

Opening the door to their carriage, Harry helped her as she stepped inside. Hermione caught a glimpse of Blaise and Theo just as Harry shut their carriage door. It took all her self-control to look away from the window and not watch for Draco.

They had the carriage to themselves. Hermione looked over at Harry who was distractedly staring out the window at Theo.

"I haven't heard much from you two lately," she started, hoping she sounded casual. "How have you been?"

Harry waited a moment, then two before responding. "We're fine," he said unconvincingly. "I mean, if you ignore the fact that his father is a Death Eater who wants me dead and that Theo thinks we should break up because he wants to 'protect me' from his family."

Hermione reached over and took his hand in hers.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, stroking his hand with her thumb as she listened.

"And he's been my happiest moment through all of this, you know? I've lost so many people in my life; I can't stand to lose him, too. I get it, he thinks that I will be safer without him, but I don't know how to make him understand that I've never been safe. Even before I was born, there was the prophecy and I've been in danger ever since. Theo thinks that he is helping me, but all he's doing is breaking my heart." Harry sighed deeply, as if he carried a great weight on his shoulders. "Listen to me, I sound ridiculous."

"You love him." She smiled.

Harry's striking green eyes shone as he gave her a curious look. "Of course I do."

"Have you told him?"

"After two years, he doesn't even want to label us. He's practically allergic to the words." Harry chuckled dryly. "You really think he's going to be okay with me saying 'love' when he won't even say 'boyfriend'?"

Hermione nodded; she did think he would like to know.

"I don't even know if I can consider this a break-up when we weren't even 'official', but it sure feels like we are heading to a break-up." Harry chewed the inside of his cheek anxiously. "He's a bit freaked out after last year, finding out his…whatever we are, is sharing memories with Voldemort when his father is a Death Eater is apparently prime breakup material."

"Oh, Harry," Hermione murmured, she could relate to Theo's fear. That was the entire reason she had lied to Harry about her relationship with Draco—to protect him.

"Enough about me and my sad love life. Let me live vicariously through you. How are you doing? I know it's been a year since you and Malfoy broke up, but you haven't even looked at another bloke since then. Should we find you a real date this weekend instead of that tosser Harry Potter?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"I'm not interested in anyone else. I'm perfectly content being alone." The lie twisted in her chest.

"Well at least you're taking the news alright." Harry added, "I thought you would've been more upset."

"The news?"

"Draco and Pansy," Harry clarified as Hermione's pulse quickened. "Apparently she spent the summer with him at Malfoy Manor; it sounds like they're pretty serious. She wouldn't stop talking about it in Defence Against the Dark Arts."

Hermione inhaled sharply, feeling as if the air was sucked out of the carriage and she was gasping for one final breath.

"Oh yes, that, of course, I heard about them." She feigned nonchalance, her heart pounding in her ears.

Hermione thought back to Draco's words the year before. 'I don't want Pansy', 'every time, no matter what, I'd always choose you. I hope you know that.'

"They deserve each other," Harry grumbled in annoyance.

She swallowed hard, nodding slowly as she fought back the tears that pricked at her eyes. "They sure do."

 

Chapter Text

November-December

Year 6

 

Hermione’s eyes centered on the flash of gold under Pansy’s sleeve as her quill moved across her parchment during Charms. The bracelet dangled off Pansy’s dainty wrist, moving back and forth as it brushed against the desk. She tried not to fixate on it, but the longer class went on, the more she found herself wondering about the bracelet.

How long had Pansy had that bracelet? Hermione tried to remember if she had seen her wear it before this year.

If it was new, was it from Draco? It looked expensive.

Did they really spend the summer together at the Manor?

Hermione’s anxiety increased at the thought. She imagined them in the library together, on the patio sipping Pinky’s lemonade, laughing, touching… She pushed the image out of her mind.

Pansy was a known gossip; Hermione would not put it past her to stretch the truth. The Draco that Hermione fell in love with would never leave her for Pansy.

Then again, the Draco that Hermione fell in love with would never have iced her out for months.

Today, she was thankful for the ring to help stabilize her magic. Otherwise, she could not guarantee that Pansy’s hair would not be on fire right now —h owever satisfying that would be to watch. Hermione pulled her eyes away from the bracelet and tried to focus on the lecture.


After her conversation with Harry on their way to Hogsmeade, she was beginning to feel like the Gryffindor curmudgeon; she could not seem to shake her bad mood. A few months ago, she never would have given the gossip a second thought, and now it was all she could think about. After the seed of doubt had been planted in her mind, she did not know what to believe. When Hermione woke the next day, she decided that she was done moping around. She had a life to live and she would not waste it pining after Draco Malfoy. After spending months solely going between her dorm, class, and the library, she decided that enough was enough; she would go outside her comfort zone and learn to say yes to new experiences. She deserved to be happy.

Step one was to leave the library, step two was… Well, she was not quite sure about step two yet.

Hermione paused, pondering the question, what was step two?

“I love a lassie, a bonnie bonnie lassie, she’s as pure as a lily in the dell.” A melody echoed down the empty corridor. “She’s as sweet as the heather, the bonnie bloomin’ heather.”

After a beat, she realised that she recognised the ethereal voice.

Luna Lovegood skipped into view, wearing all shades of orange from head to toe with a butterbeer cork necklace around her neck. In her hand was a long stick, the end of which was covered with bright blue and purple feathers.

“Luna?” Hermione called, attracting Luna’s attention. “What are you doing?”

“Why, I’m singing of course,” Luna replied, her eyes scanning the floor.

“I can hear that, it sounds lovely. Mind if I ask why you are singing?”

“I was just taking a break, actually.” Luna rested for a moment. “I’m on the hunt to capture a Sprategus. There was frozen dew on the grounds this morning; it is the perfect time to catch a Sprategus as it prepares for hibernation. Would you like to join me?”

What in the world was a Sprategus ?

At the moment, Hermione was regretting her earlier commitment to stepping outside her comfort zone. Though, her alternative was another night alone in the library or listening to Ron and Harry talk about the Gryffindor Quidditch team strategy for hours in the Common Room.

 “Luna, I have to be honest, I have absolutely nothing better to do. Let’s catch us a Spragus!”

“Sprategus,” Luna corrected politely, offering Hermione a net from her pocket.

“Am I doing this correctly?” Hermione asked, feeling skeptical as she laid on the stone floor, her head tilted backwards with the net in front of her face.

“Yes,” Luna answered on her back with her legs propped against the wall. “But you have to warble. A Sprategus will never be lured out of hiding unless they hear you warble, especially this close to hibernation. It’s their primary form of communication to signal that predators are gone and that it is safe to roll again.”

“…Warble?” Hermione repeated in confusion. “Roll?”

Luna turned her tongue in her mouth, making a warbling sound as she swept the long stick with a set of feathers across the ground in a figure eight pattern.

“Hermione? Luna?” Harry’s confused voice pulled her out of her thoughts. “What…what are you two doing?”

Hermione turned her head; Harry was standing upside down in front of them.

Or Hermione was upside down.

“What does it look like, Harry? Hunting for Sprateguses.” Hermione paused, looking to Luna. “Sprategi?”

“Sprategi.” Luna confirmed, her blonde hair splayed out on the ground.

The blue and purple feathers smacked against the stone floor as Luna warbled loudly.

Harry blinked. “I don’t know why I even asked. What’s a Sprategus?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “ Come on , Harry, we have been in the magical world for nearly six years now. How do you not even know what a Sprategus is?”

She swept the net across the floor as she stood up, pulling Luna up with her. “Let’s go, Luna, we might have better luck down the corridor. The floor is smoother and easier to roll across.”

“I—But you— What? ” Harry sputtered, watching the pair of witches link arms and turn out of sight.


After an unsuccessful afternoon of hunting for Sprategi, Hermione made her way back to the Gryffindor Common Room. She found that she quite enjoyed spending time with Luna, though she did not always find the use of their time productive. It was nice to talk with someone who knew about her bond with Draco.

“Hermione,” a pair of voices sang her name behind her in the corridor, she fought the smile that bloomed across her cheeks.

“We are kidnapping you for the night,” Harry informed her, with his hands behind his back.

“No arguing against it—this is happening.” Ron nodded, mirroring Harry’s stance.

She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “What are you two up to?”

Harry and Ron shared a look.

“We kind of noticed that you’ve been not feeling yourself lately,” Ron explained.

“—And we, as your best mates, need to do better,” Harry added. “I know we’ve been really busy with the whole Quidditch thing lately and you might be feeling a little neglected…”

“So.” Ron thrust a book under her nose.

“You thought I was neglected so you bought me a new book? Is this because of the Sprategi?”

Ron looked to Harry who shrugged noncommittally.

“I don’t know what that is. But this is no ordinary book. It’s the one in that series that you told us about, about the vampire colony in Africa. It came out last week.” Ron passed it into her hands. “I hope you didn’t already have it.”

“I didn’t have the chance to purchase it yet. Godric, I’ve been waiting for nearly a year for this book!” Hermione felt a rush of affection for her boys; it was sweet of them to worry about her. “I can’t believe you remembered and purchased it for me.”

“Not just the book. We also have a night planned of exploding snap, ice cream, sweets, and—if you feel like risking death—we can always swim in the Black Lake.” Harry grinned, showcasing the pile of goodies he was hiding.

Hermione gasped with delight. “You even got the mocha flavoured ice cream! I’ve never seen that at Hogwarts before. Where did you find this?”

Harry and Ron answered at the same time, their voices overlapped.

“We stole it from Snape.”

“We bought it from Seamus.”

She raised her brows, unconvinced. “What really happened?”

“We may or may not have most certainly bribed Dobby to make it in the Hogwarts kitchens.”

“What could you possibly bribe a house-elf with?” she wondered aloud.

“Dobby is a very complex being. Did you know he collects antique spoons?” Harry informed her.

Hermione looked from Harry to Ron who nodded in confirmation.

Ron tossed an arm around Hermione; she wrapped her hand around his waist and tucked her head closer to him. Being held by Harry and Ron always felt like second nature to her.

“Thank you, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you—” Hermione paused.

There was a gut-wrenching tug at her stomach and she nearly felt breathless. Draco and Theo were walking past, the pair looking pale and shaken. Draco’s gaze seemed to latch on to where Ron’s arm was around Hermione and her hand on his waist.

She caught a glint of gold in the light, coming from his palm. Hermione forgot to breathe for a moment.

He was playing with their Galleon, rolling it between his fingers as he rubbed the ridged edge.

As if sensing her thoughts, he slipped it back into his pocket, leaving Hermione to wonder if it was ever in his hand in the first place.

Her chest weighed down with guilt.

Hermione was annoyed at her own reaction, but she refused to step away from Ron on principle. There was no reason to feel guilty. She had long accepted that Draco had chosen to leave her. If he cared even the slightest, he would have offered at least an explanation. Instead, he ignored her when she needed him most. Hermione found herself pushing up closer against Ron, smiling up at him to spite Draco.

Just like that, the two Slytherins were gone.

“So, I take it this means that you’re ready to lose to me in Exploding Snap again?” Hermione asked, a sly smile spread across her lips.

“Not on your life! You know that you cheated last time. I’ve been playing this since I was a baby! There’s no way you could beat me this consistently without cheating,” Ron grumbled, the tips of his ears pink.

Harry chuckled. “I don’t think you’re doing this ‘cheering her up’ thing correctly.”

Hermione interjected, “No, this is exactly what I need.” She reached for Harry’s hand. “A day with my best mates… A baby would have terrible reflexes for Exploding Snap; also, it explodes. Honestly, what were your parents thinking?”

“I was the sixth kid.” He shrugged. “I think they were just happy to keep me alive by that point.”

“Huh.”

“To the Common Room?” Harry gestured towards the portrait of the Fat Lady.

“To the Common Room!” Ron called out like a rallying cry.


“What do you think we should do?” Harry whispered, looking mischievously at Dean Thomas who was peacefully slumbering on the Common Room sofa. “Should we let him sleep…or…?” He left the question open.

“I have an idea,” Hermione muttered, a small smile on her face. “Harmless, really. Should make for a good show.”

“Hermione Jean Granger, are you joining in on a prank?!” Ron gasped in faux shock. “You’re not going to steal his homework or charm his textbooks, are you?”

She rolled her eyes. If Ron only knew what she had been up to last year with Umbridge… 

“I’ll be right back.”

Hermione returned several minutes later, holding a pair of old shoes.

Ron frowned. “It’s not much of a prank as much as it’s a bad fashion choice. Makes my old dress robes look in style.”

“Let’s not go that far,” Harry quipped.

“Just help me put them on,” she insisted.

They slowly pried Dean’s shoes off his feet; he grumbled and rolled to his side but did not wake up. Hermione slipped them on his feet, whispering a quick charm to replicate the look of his usual shoes.

“What do we do now?” Harry asked, glancing at Hermione.

“Now, we wait.”

 

Hermione pushed another spoonful of mocha ice cream into her waiting mouth. She pursed her lips together, relishing in the cold as it spread across her tongue.

“This was the best idea ever; exactly what I needed to feel better. Thank you so much,” she said with appreciation, noticing a pair on the table and tapping the card with her wand.

“Nice play.” Harry marked a point on her board.

The score was now fifteen to three, with Hermione in the lead. The cards shuffled around the table.

“I almost had that one,” Ron grumbled, hovering his wand over the cards as another pair appeared.

Hermione smacked the card with her wand. Ron attempted to do the same, a fraction of a second behind her.

“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed as the pile of cards exploded in a dramatic show.

The sound seemed to have stirred Dean. He yawned from the sofa, stretching his arms out at his sides.

Ron eyed him curiously, looking back at Hermione.

It began the moment Dean’s feet hit the floor. He stood in place, his hips jutted to the side, then to the other side, then they rotated around in place.

Harry let out a snort, the trio’s attention was solely focused on Dean.

“What the...?” Dean mumbled, he looked around in bewilderment as his arms flung into the air of their own accord.

He swayed into a circle, swishing his hips suggestively, his feet following a silent rhythm.

Harry and Ron doubled over in laughter as Dean continued to dance. Harry looked to her with tears of mirth in his eyes. “Did you know they would do this?!”

She held back a laugh. “Last time it was tap dancing. I had no idea that the style of dance changed each time you wear the shoes. I found these at the old Black house the summer before fifth year.”

“I think he needs a partner,” Hermione suggested, watching with amusement as Dean completed one half of a pair dance routine.

“And some music,” Harry added with a wave of his wand.

The room filled with lively music, the beat thumping in sync with Dean.

“I don’t know what you did,” Dean called over to the trio, “but I think I’m into it.” He enthusiastically moved his hips. “Anyone want to join me?”

Harry, Hermione, and Ron burst into laughter.

“Ron?” Hermione sniggered.

He shook his head. “I learned my lesson last time I tried to dance; I think Padma still has bruises on her feet from the Yule Ball.”

“Go ahead, Hermione,” Harry encouraged with a wave of his hand. “Dean looks pitiful dancing by himself.”

“Hey! I take offense to that,” Dean objected as he led an imaginary partner across the floor.

Say yes to new experiences , she reminded herself.

Hermione looked to Dean who stuck out a hand to her. Dean took her hand in his and pulled her up to him, lowering her into a dip and curving her back up to him. She giggled as he twirled her.

“What are we even doing?” Dean asked, his lips twitching in amusement as he completed a set of intricate steps, leading her into another spin.

“Salsa,” she laughed, throwing her head back and rolling her neck with the beat.

“Are we really?” He grinned. “These shoes are amazing. I’ve never danced salsa before, never danced much of anything to be honest. Except fourth year, but this is way better than that French waltz.”

She faltered, missing a step before quickly recovering. Her mind flashed to periwinkle blue, a dark corridor, soft lips. Magic.

“Yes.” She put on a wide smile that did not quite reach her eyes. “Much better than fourth year.”

 

Following Dean’s dancing performance, which received thunderous applause from the trio, Hermione and Ron were the only two left on the sofa as Dean and Harry fell into a comfortable conversation about the previous Quidditch match.

Ron’s gaze followed Lavender as she walked through the Gryffindor Common Room and up to the girls’ dormitory.

Hermione held back a smile as she watched him. “So…Lavender?”

He looked to her with wide eyes, as if he believed that she was suddenly a Legilimens and could read his mind. “No—What? Lavender who?”

“Did you really just ask Lavender who ?” She laughed. “Wow, you are a worse liar than Harry. She’s not seeing anyone, you know. I think she fancies you.”

Ron swallowed, eyeing where Lavender had been moments before. “You think so?”

“I mean, I’m no expert but I do live with her. Girls talk.”

He exhaled in disbelief. “Wow.”

Hermione smoothed his messy hair down. “You should try talking to her sometime. She’s rather nice when you get to know her.”

Ron gave her a lopsided smile. “Thanks, ‘Mione.”


If there was one thing that Hermione Granger was bad at, it was leaving a question unanswered. At this point, she could not tell if she was obsessing over Draco simply because she missed him, or  because his silence was a giant mystery that she had yet to solve.

She had briefly considered sneaking down to the Slytherin Common Room and going to his room, but Harry was obsessively watching him on the Marauder’s Map to prove his wild Death Eater theory. Hermione also thought she could reach out to Narcissa, but that was risky, especially if they had any of Lucius’ Death Eater acquaintances visiting. Finally, she decided she would try calling Pinky in the privacy of the Room of Requirement.

Pacing in front of the stone wall, she waited for the door to appear before walking inside. She faltered for a moment, staring blankly at their Common Room. She was in it alone again.

“Pinky?” she called out hesitantly, unsure if he would respond.

Pinky appeared with a pop. He looked tired.

“Miss Hermione called for Pinky?” he asked, wringing his hands nervously as he watched her.

“Pinky!” she exclaimed, pulling him into a hug. “How are you doing? It’s been ages.”

The elf hesitated before returning Hermione’s hug. “Miss Hermione is doing well?”

Hermione hesitated. “Well enough. Pinky, I’m going mad here. I’m just trying to get some answers. Do you know what’s going on with Draco? He won’t talk with me and it’s been months. Is he okay?”

Pinky looked uncomfortable at her line of questioning. “Pinky is not permitted to tell Miss Hermione. Pinky will be in trouble.”

She chewed on her lip anxiously. “Please, Pinky,” she begged. “He looks miserable. Is he ill? Do you know why he won’t talk to me?”

Struggling for a moment, Pinky quickly mumbled under his breath, “The bad people will hurt Master Malfoy again.”

“What? Who? Pinky, who will hurt him?” Hermione demanded as Pinky’s face contorted into panic.

He gasped. “Pinky has said too much!”

The elf moved to hit himself on the head in punishment; Hermione caught his arms and pulled him into another hug. “I’m so sorry, Pinky. Please don’t hurt yourself. I won’t ask anything else of you.”

Pinky’s large eyes filled with tears. “Pinky is very sorry. Goodbye, Miss Hermione.” He disappeared with a crack.

Hermione fell back onto the sofa, feeling completely hopeless.

Her heart thumped loudly in her chest. Bad people in the Manor. Bad people hurting Draco. She thought about his pale skin and haunted eyes.

What had happened this summer? Did it have anything to do with Pansy?

She made her way back to the Gryffindor Common Room, dragging her feet in fatigue. Laying on her bed she opened her locket, watching the picture move over and over again until she fell asleep, clutching the pendent between her fingers.


Hermione was exhausted from the weekend. It had been the biggest match of the Quidditch season and Gryffindor won due to Ron’s talent—though he had been under the false impression that Harry had given him a dose of Felix Felicis. Much to Lavender’s excitement, Ron had kissed her at the end of the night. Hermione heard every detail of the kiss later that night before bed. Though she was happy for her friends, it was difficult to watch their relationship growing while hers was stagnant.

It was heartwarming to see all of Gryffindor House come together to celebrate the big win. Even if Hermione was not particularly interested in Quidditch, she did love to support her friends and the atmosphere of excitement brightened her mood. That is, until she missed out on hours of sleep and had to try to focus the next day. She hid in a quiet corner of the library, attempting to make progress on her latest Charms assignment.

“Hermione Granger!”

Hermione turned her head, spying Amelia Williams walking towards her table in the library.

“How’s my favourite Hufflepuff?” Hermione asked with a smile. It had been a while since she last saw Amelia.

“Don’t ‘how’s my favourite Hufflepuff’ me, acting like everything is normal,” Amelia replied in annoyance, her hands on her hips. “What is going on with you two this year?”

Hermione played ignorant. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, something obviously happened because the two of you look positively wretched—”

Hermione scoffed.

“—and I haven’t found you snogging in an abandoned corridor once.”

“Would you like to?” Hermione asked with her eyebrows raised curiously.

“Obviously not, ew, it’s like seeing your parents snog.” Amelia made a face. “But the question still stands. What happened?”

“You’ll have to ask Draco,” she answered, her tone icy. “He’s the one ignoring me. I’ve been trying to talk to him since last summer.”

Amelia frowned. “He’s been ignoring you since summer?”

“Yes.”

“It’s nearing Christmas,” Amelia stated.

“I’m aware.”

Amelia studied her for a moment before sighing deeply.

“Well, the last thing you need to be doing is sitting around moping. You’re not doing yourself any favours by waiting around for him. You need to get out there. Go on a date! There are so many cute boys in your year,” Amelia asserted, sitting in the empty chair next to Hermione.

“No, I couldn’t,” Hermione disputed. “Because…Well, because…” 

She struggled to find the words.

“Because you’d rather pine for the rest of the school year, hoping he will get over himself and stop being a prat?” Amelia supplied.

Hermione stared blankly at Amelia before exhaling; first Harry, now Amelia. Maybe she really should try just one date? If anything, it might help her to forget her troubles for a night.

She thought about her heart to heart with Harry the other day. Even Harry had invited Luna as his date to the upcoming party, though Hermione suspected that had more to do with making Theo jealous than anything else.

“I was invited to the Slug Club Christmas party; it seems most students are bringing a plus one. I hadn’t considered it, but…perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to invite a date?” Hermione thought aloud.

“Yes! Exactly, that’s a perfect idea. What about him?” Amelia jerked her head in the direction of the table behind them.

“Cormac McLaggen?” Hermione paused, thinking to herself. “I mean, he’s in Gryffindor one year above me and he’s nice enough, I suppose. I haven’t talked with him much, but he’s already in the Slug Club. I’m not sure he would want to go with me.”

“You never know unless you ask! Go now!” Amelia practically shoved Hermione out of her seat.

Hermione glared at Amelia before straightening herself and walking over to his table with what she hoped looked like confidence.

“Hi, Cormac.” She gave him a friendly smile.

She relaxed her face, suddenly nervous that she was showing too many teeth. How in the world did people flirt?

Cormac looked up at Hermione curiously. “Hey, Hermione, how are you?”

“Good, good, thanks for asking.”

There was a beat of silence. Cormac raised his eyebrows, waiting for her to continue.

“I was just wondering... Do you have a date to Slughorn’s party yet?” she asked so quickly that the phrases blurred together into one long word.

“I don’t, not yet anyway.” He flashed a charming smile. “Is this your way of asking me to be your escort? Because if so, I’d love to bring a pretty witch like you to the party.”

Hermione watched his mouth, lost in thought about how her parents would appreciate his perfect teeth. She realised she was staring, and she felt her cheeks turn pink under his gaze. “Yes, actually, I would like that very much if you’re available.”

“It’s a date.” He reached out and kissed her hand, making her face heat.

“See you then,” she replied, walking back to her table where Amelia was watching her smugly.

“Blush any harder?” she asked with a smirk.

“Oh, hush, I did what you asked. I hope you’re happy with yourself.”

“I am,” Amelia said, looking quite pleased. “You have no idea.”


“Hey!” Amelia chased after Draco in the hallway, trying to keep up with his long strides. “Earth to Draco Malfoy!”

“What do you want?” he snipped, not bothering to look over to her.

She snapped her fingers in front of his face until he turned to glare at her.

Amelia held her stance. “I don’t know what you’re doing this year, and I don’t know what you have going on, but you need to get it together because if you don’t then you’re going to lose her forever.”

“Just what do you know?” Draco matched her insolent glare with a sneer.

“I know that when a pretty witch like her is treated like rubbish by her boyfriend, she tends to move on and find someone who will treat her better. She’s not going to sit around until you figure yourself out. You and I both know that,” Amelia stated matter-of-factly. “Speaking of her moving on, I overheard the most interesting conversation today about the Slug Club party next weekend.”

Draco looked at her, dumbfounded.

She added, “Then I just saw a devastatingly handsome Gryffindor flirting with her in the library. He kissed her hand and she was blushing . It was extremely romantic; you know how she looks when she’s all flushed pink. He’s escorting her to the party next weekend. I’m just saying, if he’s kissing her in public, who knows what’s going to happen between them once they’re alone?”

When he didn’t answer, she continued her speculation, obviously trying to incite jealousy, “They even share a Common Room. I bet it would be all too easy for her to sneak into his room late at night. I’ve heard stories of the Gryffindor boys and how they can bypass the rules for romance .”

Draco clenched his jaw, the vein in his neck protruding. “You came and found me just to share your fabricated stories and manipulate me into going back to Herm—Gran—back to her, didn’t you? I know your strategy.”

“It’s sad that you think so because all of that was true. I’ll even take Veritaserum if you have any. But if you really think that I’m making this up, then why don’t you look around Slughorn’s office Friday night? Just a warning, though, you might not like what you see,” she replied smugly, leaving Draco seething in the corridor.

“Those two are so exhausting sometimes,” Amelia murmured to herself as she walked to the owlery. “What would they do without me?”


Hermione tugged at the hem of the violet dress that Ginny selected for her; it was adorned with lace and felt much too short for the occasion. She pulled out a pair of nude heels, second guessing every part of her outfit as she put them on. Was this too dressy? It was a date, but did she want it to be that kind of a date?

Cormac was nice and all, but Hermione would not have asked him to the Christmas party if Amelia hadn’t pressured her.

Groaning internally, she wondered for the hundredth time that hour why she was going on a date with Cormac McLaggen. She was not exactly the casual dating type. Outside of her date with Viktor for the Yule Ball, she had never been on a public date before. All her moments with Draco had been secluded, just the two of them.

God, she really needed to read a book on flirting techniques. How many teeth do you show when you smile?

She paused in front of the mirror, her eyes catching on her locket; she had not taken it off since Draco gave it to her over a year ago. It felt disingenuous to wear on a date with someone else, though. Somberly, she watched herself, observing her eyes that she had glamoured to hide the residual redness from tears.

Taking a deep breath for strength, she unclasped the necklace and placed it gently in her nightstand. She shut the drawer; without the locket, her neck felt cold and bare. Pangs of guilt engulfed her as she walked to meet her date.

 

The party itself was no different than a regular Slug Club meeting; the only additions were formal clothes and dates. Professor Slughorn even invited some of his famous contacts to meet the students. It made Hermione wonder if she would receive a call from Slughorn in a decade to attend a meeting like this, to be paraded around like a show pony for her future accomplishments. She was not fond of the idea.

“Are you ready to leave?” she asked Cormac, trying to keep her tone polite as she interrupted his conversation with Blaise Zabini on the merits of the current Seeker of the Falmouth Falcons.

Cormac took Hermione’s hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “Of course. Let’s continue this discussion another time, Blaise.”

Blaise eyed their connected hands with a smirk. “Noted. See you two lovebirds later.”

Hermione blushed. This was not how she had expected the night to progress; this was supposed to be a one-time date to distract her, not a declaration of a new relationship. Perhaps she had been too forward with her invitation to Cormac.

As they left Slughorn’s festively decorated office, Cormac pulled her off to the side of the corridor, standing in front of the door to an abandoned classroom.

“That dress looks absolutely stunning on you. Did I mention that tonight?” he asked suavely, his gaze lingering on her dress before returning to her eyes.

She shook her head, her heart pounding in her chest. “You hadn’t mentioned it, no.”

“Well, that was definitely a mistake. I won’t be making two of those tonight.” Cormac winked, watching her carefully.

He looked like Viktor had just moments before her very first kiss. Or like Draco. More guilt twisted in her stomach at the thought of him.

Cormac stepped even closer, his hand gently grazing her hip as he looked down to her mouth and closed his eyes. Hermione’s lips parted in surprise as he kissed her, taking advantage of her shock and pushing his tongue into her mouth, brushing it against hers. His lips slanted against her mouth as the grip on her hip tightened slightly.

His touch made her heart ache for Draco, the feeling of ‘just lips.’ Her mind must have been playing tricks on her; Hermione could have sworn she felt the Pull like Draco was nearby.

Cormac pulled back, brushing his hair from his eyes with a charming smile. “Wow, Hermione, your lips are just as soft as they look,” he murmured.

She opened her mouth to reply, the words stuck in her throat. She did not even know what she had planned to say in response.

Should she thank him while showing an appropriate number of teeth?

“I’ll be your escort any time—just say the word. You were a lovely date, in fact, the loveliest there.” He reached for her hand, kissing her knuckles lightly.

“Now, as much as I would love to walk you back to Gryffindor Tower, I have an Astronomy assignment from Professor Sinistra to fill out a star chart over winter break”—he looked at his watch—“and I’m already late for my time slot. I’d love to continue this some other time…”

She nodded numbly, figuring she would come up with an excuse to avoid a second date.

“Of course, Cormac. Thank you for a lovely night.”

“Goodnight, Hermione.” He flashed a pearly white smile, heading to the staircase which led to the Astronomy Tower.

Hermione exhaled sharply, holding a hand up to her lips. Had she really just kissed Cormac? Amelia was wrong. This had not helped her move on from Draco; all tonight had done was make her miss him even more.

The wound of his abandonment felt fresh in her heart.

She took a few steps before pausing; there was the sound of movement in the classroom next to her.

Suddenly, a pair of hands pulled Hermione into the classroom, the motion tipping her off balance and making her stumble. One of her heels snapped on impact against the stone floor.

She turned to face a devastated looking Draco Malfoy and reflexively clutched her stomach, suddenly feeling faint.

His hands were pulling at his hair, his eyes red and brimming with unshed tears. Voice shaking with emotion, he said, “Seriously, Granger? McLaggen ? What the fuck ?!”

Chapter Text

December

Year 6

 

Hermione was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me?” she said, less like a question and more like an incredulous statement.

She felt her blood boil beneath her skin.

“You haven’t talked to me for MONTHS—not only that, you’ve actively ignored and avoided every attempt I have made to contact you—and you think you have the right to any aspect of my life?!” Her voice was raising each word until she was practically screaming at him. “Yes, McLaggen! Why do you even care who I kiss? It’s not as if you’re my boyfriend,” she spat out, months of anger and frustration rushing out of her all at once.

Hermione felt herself come undone, she wanted to hurt him so badly , as badly as he had hurt her, “How dare you? You have no right! I can snog ,” she snarled, “and sleep with anyone I want to, and there’s nothing you can say about it.”

He flinched.

“You didn’t.” His voice trembled. “Y-You’re just saying that.”

She tilted her chin up at him, trying and failing to steady herself on her broken heel. “Even if I did, it’d be none of your business. I’ve learned a lot about myself these past few months.” Her eyes narrowed. “I. Don’t. Need. You.”

Draco deflated before her eyes.

“I know,” he muttered.

“I deserve better than you.” Her hands balled into fists at her side, her chest heaving at every word.

“I know. You do.”

Her lips shook. “Why won’t you fight back?!” She looked up at him, angry tears filling her eyes, “Fight back!”

He gently caught her hands in his. “I won’t fight you, love.”

She winced at the word.

His gaze flickered down to her chest and back up to her eyes. “Where’s your locket?”

Even though it was childish, she refused to answer him.

“Granger, where is your locket?” he asked again, practically inaudible.

“Where is your girlfriend ?” she challenged back, her voice shaking as she ripped her hands out of his grasp.

Rubbing his forehead with his hand, his jaw clenched and unclenched. “What are you talking about?”

“I heard all about you and Pansy this summer at the Manor.” Her face contorted in disgust. “Is that why you were too busy to talk to me? Too busy to answer a single message to dump me properly? To let me know that you moved on?”

Spitting out each syllable, she continued, “Too busy fucking Pansy? What did you have her in our—in your bed? In the garden? In the forest by the lake? Is that where you bring all your witches?”

Draco recoiled at her words. “Have you gone completely mental?!” He laughed almost maniacally. “You think that I, what, spent my summer romancing witches and laying out by the lake? As if I wasn’t torn apart every second I was at home? Like I can even breathe without you? Fuck. I’ve been drowning since the moment I stepped off the train.”

Hermione faltered, her anger dissipated into confusion. “What happened last summer?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Then make me understand! You wouldn’t talk to me, how am I supposed to know anything?”

“You are supposed to know me , Granger.” Swearing under his breath, he ran his hand through his hair in frustration. A piece of fringe fell over his eyes from the gesture; she fought the urge to reach for it.

Her chest clenched.

I’m not with Pansy . How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t want Pansy? Her father is a Death Eater. He came to the Manor this summer to work with my father and brought Pansy along. She came back to school and told everyone she spent the summer at the Manor. She let them make assumptions because she thrives on the attention,” he explained, looking over Hermione’s shoulder as he spoke, his eyes fixated on a single stone on the wall.

“The Manor was swarming with Death Eaters the entire summer. Did you think that I wanted to ignore you? That it didn’t break my fucking heart every minute of every day that I couldn’t talk to the one person who—” He stopped himself. “You are all I wanted every second of every day from the moment I left you.”

Hermione thought back to Pinky’s words ‘the bad people will hurt Master Malfoy again’.

Again .

As she began to comprehend what had happened, the breath was pulled out of her lungs.

His voice broke. “I slept with that journal under my pillow every night, knowing that you must’ve been filling it with messages that I’d never get to read. Knowing that you had to have been confused and hurt and knowing that I was the cause of your pain, that I hurt you in the way I always swore I never would.” His hands were shaking as he brushed away a fallen tear on his cheek with the palm of his hand. “I hate myself for what I did to you. Every day in class, every meal, every moment of every day. The look…the look in your eyes broke me in a way that I will never forgive myself for. I can’t believe that you thought I just moved on, like I ever had a choice.”

A tear rolled down Hermione’s cheek, then another. “You broke my heart,” she mumbled. “I thought…you didn’t want me anymore.”

She watched as something in Draco’s eyes shattered.

Stepping closer, Draco looked at her seriously. “I would never—could never—fuck, you just don’t get it, do you? You are the only one who matters . The only reason I’m doing any of this.” He blinked back tears.

“Doing what?” Her voice was small.

“Granger, I can’t—” His breath hitched. “I didn’t want to tell you. I didn’t want to see the way that you looked at me when you knew. I could’ve survived knowing that you were safe and happy, even if it was away from me.”

Observing him carefully, she waited for him to continue.

In raw frustration, he clenched his hands into fists and pushed them against his closed eyes. “I can’t do anything right; I couldn’t even stay away from you.”

“You don’t have to stay away from me, I’m not fragile—I can hold my own, whatever is going on,” she insisted. “You don’t get to make the choice for me. I get to decide for myself, and I can handle it.”

“It’s not that I didn’t think you could handle it. It’s the opposite. I knew that you would do what you always do with that ridiculous Gryffindor bravery. You would try to help me. I can’t—I didn’t want to drag you into this, Granger.” He closed his eyes. “I’ve fucked everything up by coming here tonight.”

The shaking hands, the tremors, the lifeless eyes and shadows of exhaustion. The night terrors, his screams—had they all been real? It was overwhelmingly obvious that Draco had gone through hell over the summer, that he had been more alone than Hermione these past few months.

She had been so consumed with breaking the silence that she had not stopped to think about the purpose the silence had served.

His heart was cracking in front of her. Hermione’s fingers itched to touch him, anywhere, everywhere. Swallowing hard, her breath separated her lips as she exhaled a small sigh. 

His eyes opened, he stilled.

“I’d almost forgotten what they looked like,” he murmured to himself, brushing his thumb lightly across her freckles.

“Draco…”

He shivered from the way she said his name, his eyes drifting down to her parted lips.

He needed this.

She needed this.

“You were right…I…I didn’t—I couldn’t.” She could barely get out the words. “It’s only been the one kiss. It’s always been you.”

The look in Draco’s eyes left her breathless.

Feeling her willpower snap like a tightly wound string inside her chest, she reached for him at the same time he moved towards her, meeting in the middle. Her arms tangled around his neck as he lifted her in his hold, her legs wrapping around his waist. As he clung to her, he peppered kisses from her flushed cheeks to her forehead, pausing briefly to indulge in her swollen lips before moving down the soft skin of her neck.

He claimed her with each intoxicating touch of his lips.

“You owe me an explanation, Draco Malfoy,” she demanded, her skin burning under his touch, unable to stop herself from arching into him. “Don’t think this means I forgive you; you have a long way to go before I could forgive you. You hurt me—you really hurt me.”

“I’ll explain everything,” he promised, his voice thick with emotion. “I’ll answer any question, I’ll tell you anything you want to know. I’ll explain every second that I was away.”

He pulled back, his eyes brimming with tears that threatened to spill over. Holding her face between his hands, he begged, “Say you’re still mine, Hermione. Say I didn’t fuck us up beyond repair, please. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“I’m yours,” she breathed out, molding herself against him.

His body was deliciously pliant against hers and she was unable to tell where one ended and the other began.

“You’re still mine,” he murmured into her like a prayer, as if willing it to be true. “I’m still yours.”

Her voice trembled as she offered him her wrist, a tear running down her cheek and landing with a splash on her binding rune. “Since the moment you took your first breath until the moment I take my last, I’m yours.”

Closing his eyes, he inhaled a shaky breath. He pushed his lips against hers, their tears blending on their cheeks.

She murmured against his lips, “Don’t you ever leave me again, Draco Malfoy.”

“Never,” he promised, punctuating it with a kiss. “I won’t—I’m yours forever, Hermione Granger.” 

Slipping a finger under the lace neckline of her dress, he pulled it down her shoulder. He pressed his lips against her neck, trailing heated kisses down to her clavicle. She closed her eyes; a shiver ran down her spine from his touch. As her chest heaved, the fabric of her dress pulled tight against her breasts.

Heat flashed through her body, settling low in her torso.

Draco moved to her other shoulder, continuing to lavish attention on her, sucking and nipping at her flushed skin. Demanding and possessive, his mouth traveled lower, leaving a path of love bites down her neck and chest.

She leaned into him, her hand drifting to his waist and boldly tugging his trousers down his hips. He sucked his breath through his teeth.

Face flushed from tears, she whispered, “I can’t go another minute without you.”

Her words seemed to break what little resolve he had left. He backed her up against the nearby desk, and she leaned against it. Hermione fumbled with his trousers, unzipping them and pulling them down as quickly as her hands could manage. His eyes darkened as he watched her hungrily, ablaze with fire and tears.

When he was bared to her, she felt him hard and heavy against her stomach. His fingers reached under her dress and she heard the sound of ripping fabric, her lace knickers falling to the floor. Draco’s hands cupped her bare backside, making her curl her toes and lean into his touch. 

The chill of the air was quickly replaced by the heat of Draco’s body as he pushed his hips against her. He grabbed the hem of her skirt and pulled it up, bunching her dress around her waist. As his hands brushed against her stomach, she shivered, goosebumps forming from his touch.

I’m so sorry ,” he whispered fervently, kissing her so hard she felt as if her lips would bruise. “Granger, I’m so sorry.”

Hermione returned his kiss, demanding his lips and tongue; they wrestled for dominance, gasping for air between kisses.

Desperate to feel closer to him, she parted her thighs and wrapped her leg around his waist, whimpering as she tried to grind against him. He let out a low growl, his thumbs pressing into her hips with an unrelenting force. Hermione tilted her hips, pushing his head against her core as she began lowering herself onto him. 

“Don’t ever leave me again,” she begged, her hands frantically touching every spot of bare flesh in front of her.

Her hands slipped under his shirt and she gasped, rocking her hips towards him.

“You shouldn’t—I don’t…deserve you…I don’t…” He pushed upwards with raw desire, filling her body with his all at once. “Deserve…” he mumbled incoherently as he devoured her chest and neck, sucking and biting at her skin.

Hermione moaned from the pressure and the satisfying pain of being stretched all at once. She shifted and opened her hips wider, trying to get as close to him as possible. As she dragged her nails across his back, she dug them into his shoulders. He pushed into her quickly, pulled out slowly, and pumped back inside deeper. Draco moaned, from pleasure or pain or perhaps a mix of the two.

“I’m so sorry,” he murmured under his breath as his breath hitched, his throat bobbed. “I’ll never leave you again. I’m yours, Hermione.”

Hermione pulled his head towards her, their foreheads touching and eyes connecting, unblinking as he thrust into her at a frantic pace. A low groan rumbled in his chest, vibrating against her. He continued his rhythm, pushing into her with a snap of his hips and dragging himself out gradually. Lowering a hand, Draco circles into her swollen bundle of nerves.

The room filled with the sound of heavy breathing, of their flesh joining and whispered promises. She felt her legs shaking beneath her, meeting each thrust with a curve of her hips. His fingers dug into her thighs, gripping her as if she would disappear at any moment. The pressure inside her belly built with each movement, his cock pushing deeper into her as she trembled beneath him. Her eyes watered, overcome with emotion as she clung to him, holding him against her and breathing in the smell of his cologne.

This time felt different than the others; it was primal as they claimed each other with each movement.

Her hips seized and her chest arched into him, her thighs spasming around his hips. She was impossibly tight as she rippled and clenched around him, whimpering his name against his skin. As she came undone, his hips quickened their pace. He shuddered with his release, his eyelids fluttering shut, and then he stilled. Draco leaned against her, the weight of his body pressing her into the desk. Stroking her cheek softly with his hand, still locked inside her, he kissed her gently, worshipping her lips with such pure adoration that she felt dizzy.

He looked deep into her eyes and promised, “I’m yours.”

Time seemed to freeze as they clung to each other. Their tears dried as they closed their eyes, pressing their foreheads against each other. Just breathing, existing in the moment.

Together.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself.” Hermione broke the silence, suppressing a smile. “Because I think my knickers are no more than a scrap of fabric now.”

Draco smiled and the sight took her breath away. It had been nearly six months since she had seen him smile.

“Sorry about that,” he apologised, repairing her knickers and heel with a quick wave of his wand. “I promise that wasn’t my intention when I pulled you into here tonight.” He paused. “Honestly, none of this was my intention. I just saw you kissing him , and my brain stopped working.”

Hermione and Draco straightened their clothing.

“Did you silence the room?” Hermione asked suddenly, eyeing the door.

Draco blanched. “I didn’t. I wasn’t thinking. I—”

“The Come-and-Go Room?” she asked, her voice cracking slightly.

He caught her meaning, nodding. “Yeah, the Room of Requirement.”

Her heart flipped.

He looked faint. “I’ll leave now, and you follow in five minutes? In case anyone is nearby?”

She squeezed his hand once in confirmation. He hesitated before giving her a quick kiss on the forehead, and then he was gone.

Hermione stood in the silence of the classroom, trying to process what just happened. A quiet voice in the back of her mind wondered if he would show up this time.


It took Hermione nearly twenty minutes to conjure up the courage to open the door to the Room of Requirement. If she opened the door and he was not inside, she did not know what she would do.

That was a lie. She knew she would fall apart.

Hermione stood outside the wall, staring at the rough patterns in the stone and remembering her previous visits to the room. A multitude of emotions were passing through her—anger, confusion, grief, embarrassment, longing, love—and she was trying to process how she should feel at this moment.

In the end, she decided that she wanted to listen if he was willing to talk.

If he was there.

She pushed the door open.

Draco was standing directly on the other side; so close, in fact, that Hermione nearly hit him with the door as it opened. She observed him in the light of the room. He had more colour to his cheeks than she had seen in months. His eyes were stained red and glassy, as if he had been crying between the classroom and now. He looked beyond fatigued and worn-down.

“I thought you weren’t coming,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t have blamed you.”

Her lip quivered. She had thought that she ran out of tears weeks ago.

“I just…needed a moment to collect my thoughts. You must remember it’s been months, Draco. I just…” She sighed, feeling a weight on her chest. “Can we talk?”

“Yes,” he answered quickly. “I promised that I would tell you anything you want to know.”

She made her way over to the large plush sofa of their Common Room, remembering the hours she spent reading on her birthday, waiting for him.

“Let’s start from the beginning.”

Nodding, his eyes drifted to the floor. “The beginning.” 

There was a beat of silence and he looked at Hermione, shrinking into himself. She had never seen him look so vulnerable before.

He cleared his throat. “You and I sat here, on this sofa, and we said goodbye for the summer. I took the train home and Mother was waiting for me at the station. Father stayed home. Mother warned me that we had…guests at the Manor for the summer, that our home was the largest of the Dark Lord’s followers and that she would section them off to one wing of the Manor so I would not have to interact with them more than necessary.”

Looking away, he continued his story. “Remember when you asked if Bellatrix would come to the family following her escape from Azkaban and I said I didn’t think she would? I was wrong. She was there, along with about a dozen other Death Eaters. Somehow the Manor was offered up as a central hub for their activities. Mother and Father were really displeased by it.”

“First thing when I walked in the door, before Pinky even took my trunk, the… guests came to greet me.” He shivered at the memory. “Bellatrix said she was proud of the man I had grown up to be, a spitting image of my father or some bullshite like that. She said she wanted to make sure I was on the right side of the war. I hadn’t known it, since she had been in prison my entire life, but she’s apparently quite the accomplished Legilimens.”

Hermione fearfully sucked in a breath; she could see where this was going.

“It felt like she took a hot poker to my head. She was trying to pry into my mind. Granger.” He looked at her seriously. “You are always on my mind. She nearly saw you. She—” His breath caught. “She almost found out about us. I could feel you on the cusp of my memory.”

The hair on her neck rose at the thought.

“Do you remember how I told you that my mother was a natural born Occlumens because of her Black-Rosier bloodline? Apparently, I have just enough of that in me that I was able to push her out by instinct that first time. It scared the shite out of me, that I was almost the reason that you—” He took a deep breath. “I knew that if they were going to be at the Manor indefinitely, it was only a matter of time. I knew that I had to work on Occlumency to keep you safe.”

Hermione found herself moving closer to him on the sofa, drawn to him. As he spoke, she watched his emotions flash across his face in sequence. Regret, terror, anger, frustration, sorrow.

“Mother gave me lessons, every day, and we worked together to build up a wall in my mind against anyone who would try to infiltrate my memories to get to you. She told me that Bellatrix kept mentioning that the Dark Lord had big plans for our family.” He chuckled dryly. “And that he would be at the Manor before we knew it, and what an honour that would be. Mother and I were terrified.”

Draco looked at her, his eyes full of deep sorrow. “I had to put you away. My memories of you, thoughts of you, my entire heart, all of it. I had to find a way to put you in a box and seal it shut. That was why I couldn’t handle opening that journal you gave me because I knew it would be filled with you and I had to keep you away to keep you safe. I couldn’t—” 

He blinked away the tears as they formed.

“I spent the entire summer in my bedroom, away from everyone. I studied and practiced Occlumency with my mother. Pinky brought me food each meal. I was isolated and counting down the days until I was back at school with you. Every night, I used your perfume. I kept it on my pillow and in my dreams, I saw you.” He lifted his hand to her cheek, brushing it so softly that Hermione could barely feel it. “And every night in my dreams, you were there to tell me that I was doing the right thing.”

Hermione’s cheeks were wet again. When had she started crying?

“I had so many night terrors of them harming you,” his tortured voice whispered. “I’ve barely slept since I left school. It’s always the same—you are on the ground, crying out in pain, covered in blood and sobbing for me to help you. In every nightmare, no matter what I did, or what I said, it was never enough. In every nightmare, you died because of me with my name on your lips.”

Her heart skipped at his words, she had the nightmares too.

He exhaled a shaky breath. “It was about two weeks into the summer before they came to me and told me that I was”—he laughed bitterly as he spat out the word—“ chosen by the Dark Lord to fulfil a task.”

Until spots flooded her vision, Hermione had not even realised she was holding her breath. She gasped for air. Harry’s theory about Draco being a Death Eater resurfaced full force. Suddenly, it did not seem as ridiculous as it had that morning.

“Do you want me to stop?” he asked, looking concerned as she held her head in her hands.

He reached out his hand and paused mid-air, like he was unsure if he was allowed to touch her anymore.

She took his hand and held it in hers. “No, I’m alright, please continue.”

“I told them to go to hell. I just couldn’t do it—not with you—I couldn’t live with myself. That’s when dearest Aunt Bellatrix decided to start having nightly ‘lessons’ with me. Said my parents had raised me to be weak. Said that it was her duty to save the family name by teaching me the right path. By lessons she meant ranting about how wonderful the Dark Lord is to have granted me this ‘opportunity’ and how thrilled I should be that he considered me worthy.”

He exhaled, his eyes drifting towards the floor. She squeezed his hand in encouragement. “After a week of lessons, she realised that I wasn’t going to change my mind. She started using the Cruciatus on me nightly, saying that I would thank her one day for helping me make the right choice. As if there was ever really a choice.”

Hermione’s hand held his so tightly that he winced. “Oh my god, love.” She barely got the words out. “I’m so sorry.”

Her night terrors.

His screams.

“I don’t think my mother knew what Bellatrix was doing, but my father had to have known. He is in over his fucking head right now with the Dark Lord. He’s a coward. He saw the aftereffects of her ‘lessons’ and did nothing. When you’re under Crucio consistently, you start to lose control because of the damage done to your nerves. It took months before my hands would stop shaking. Theo has some home remedies that he uses to self-treat when his father has too many drinks. He’s been helping me recover.”

Hand covering her mouth in horror, she watched him with tears in her eyes.

He waited for several beats in silence, searching for the words to say.

“They want me to kill Dumbledore.”

Hermione froze, the words replaying in her mind on a loop, her mind stuttered. “They—You—How?”

“There’s a Vanishing Cabinet at Hogwarts that has a partner in Borgin and Burkes. They want me to fix the one that’s here so they can bypass the Anti-Apparation wards and sneak Death Eaters into the school for the night of the murder. Then the plan is to escape back to the Manor.”

All at once, the pieces clicked into place. He was at Borgin and Burkes over the summer. The shadows under his eyes. He avoided her because his family was in danger, because she was in danger. Her night terrors were real. She heard his screams. Draco spent the summer tortured and terrified, trying to learn Occlumency to protect her.

With the silence, he was trying to protect her.

She tried to hold back the sob that was building in her chest. Bile rose in her throat.

“Did you—I mean, did they—” She glanced at his left forearm and back to his face. “I wouldn’t—"

“They tried.”

She swallowed, blood rushing in her ears.           

“What happened?”

“My mother happened.” He fidgeted in his seat. “She had Teeney bring Father divorce papers with his morning tea. Told him it was the Mark or her. His pride or his family.”

Hermione felt a swell of satisfaction that Narcissa had finally stood up for her son against monsters.

“Father caved. My parents convinced the Dark Lord that I would make a better spy.” He cringed at the word. “That is, if I was not marked until I was of age. That way my cover would not be blown at school by simply checking my arm.”

She felt guilty that relief flooded through her at the words. That he had not taken the Mark.

Yet.

The word itched at her brain.

“I knew in that moment there was nothing I could do to help you. Nothing I could do to protect you except stay the hell away from you for good. I even fucked that up.” He closed his eyes. “I just can’t stay away from you. It was destroying me from the inside out.”

Then don’t stay away, she wanted to beg, feeling another piece of her heart crack.

“I tried to use Occlumency to separate parts of myself when I was around you. To seal you back into that box. To push that part of me down so I didn’t have to feel it. But seeing the look you gave me that day outside Potions was worse than any Crucio I endured. It broke my soul that I did that to you. I went back to my room and I couldn’t leave for days. Theo’s the one who forced me out of bed, made me bathe, made me eat.”

“I can’t believe what you’ve been going through all this time. You should have told me.” Hermione’s eyes traced his face. “I still don’t understand why you couldn’t at least give me a warning or why you didn’t just break up with me.” She ran her hand through his hair; it felt comforting and familiar. “Instead I just spent months wondering what happened, completely shut out.”

He squeezed his eyes shut, leaning into her touch. “I knew that I would break the moment I spoke to you. The moment I looked into those beautiful brown eyes, I knew I would fall apart.”

Her fingers massaged his scalp as he hummed softly from the feeling.

“Is there anything I could have told you that would have made you accept this?” he asked bitterly. “I couldn’t lie and say that I stopped loving you. That would have destroyed whatever good there is left in me.” He looked down at his hands. “If there’s any good left in me.”

Hermione’s heart ached at his words.

He continued, “I couldn’t tell you anything about what was happening to me. If I told you about my summer or the task, you would have tried to fix it—tried to fix me. I’m fucking broken , Hermione. There is no fixing this. I swore Theo and Pinky to secrecy. I knew that if anyone tried to tell you any of this, the first thing you would have done is run headfirst into the danger for me. I’ve already done too much; I couldn’t drag you into this too.” He let out a humourless laugh. “Obviously, I fucked that up or I wouldn’t be here with you right now.”

She stayed quiet, still running her fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp.

“It’s not your fault, it’s in your soul, it’s in your nature. You are so fucking good . It just kills me sometimes. It’s everything that I love about you and I knew—I just knew that if you stayed with me, I would be the death of you. I could live a thousand lifetimes alone if I just knew that you were happy and safe. It was a coward’s way out, but I thought that if you hated me, it would make it easier for you to move on.”

“I could never move on.” Hermione’s voice caught in her throat. “You were wrong about that. You should have told me right away. I would never have blamed you for being forced into this task. It’s not your fault, Draco.”

He looked at her with wild eyes. “You can’t be serious. This entire thing is my fault. It’s my shitty blood with the blood curse. It’s my mother with her binding. It’s my father with his Dark Mark. Without me, you would have a life; without me, you would be happy. You deserve love and happiness and safety and everything good that this world has to offer. You were right when you said you deserve better than me.”

“I didn’t mean that! I was just frustrated by the way you ignored me for all these months,” she admitted. “I was lashing out in anger. I’m not going to leave you to deal with this by yourself. We can figure a way out of this, together.”

“If anything happens to you—”

Hermione cut him off. “If anything happens to me, then you will know that it was my choice. You do not get to decide for me. No matter what, I refuse to live with regrets. Life’s too short and happiness is too rare. I understand your fear, but you can’t control what I do or hide me away from danger. I’m here whether you like it or not.”

He sighed from deep in his chest. “I knew you would be like this. This is exactly what I was afraid of. Damn Gryffindors.”

“Famously loyal and stubborn,” she quipped. “You can’t say I didn’t warn you. You knew what you were signing up for with me.”

Draco stroked her cheeks softly with his thumb, tucking his fingers into her hair. “I missed you more than you could ever imagine.”

“I missed you.” Her heart ached at the word. “All of me missed you. My heart, my body, my magic, my soul.”

He kissed her so softly that she found herself following his lips back as he pulled away.

Hermione rotated, now with her back against Draco’s chest, his arms wrapped protectively around her torso.

“I never had a chance, Granger. It’s always been you.”

She was not sure how much time passed as they sat there in the silence of their Common Room, holding each other.

“I missed this,” he mumbled into her wild hair, tilting forward to kiss her cheek from behind. “Being able to hold you.”

She felt him smile against her cheek.

After all these months, he still felt like home.

She raised a hand, trying to flatten her messy curls which had only grown more unruly from their earlier activities.

Draco shifted away from her; his fingers ran gently through her hair as he separated it into sections. Hermione’s heart caught in her chest. He murmured a quick spell and began to braid her hair, weaving the curls together the way Hermione had taught him during their summer at the Manor.

Once finished, Draco conjured a mirror, placing it in her hand.

“I still remember how to braid those curls of yours.” He paused as she inspected herself in the mirror. “I never forgot, not for a moment.”

Suddenly, it felt like he was not talking about the braid.

Her hand drifted up to her cheeks. She was crying. Had she ever stopped?

She turned her head, examining his work. There were clusters of small white flowers braided into her hair. Hermione turned around to face Draco, her eyes wide.

“Forget-me-nots.” His eyes darted between hers. “I am so sorry, Hermione. I am so sorry for everything.”

“I love you.” She held his face with her hands. “Draco, you need to forgive yourself. I forgive you.”

He closed his tortured eyes, and a stray tear ran down his cheek.


When Hermione opened her eyes the next morning, she briefly wondered if the night before had been a dream. She carefully inspected herself in the compact mirror on her nightstand, finding a trail of love bites down her neck and on her breasts. Hermione shivered in delight; his kisses had claimed her, each leaving a mark. Glamouring them with her wand, she wondered if she had left any on him. She hoped that she had.

She had been so emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of her night that she had not changed out of her outfit from the Christmas party. Her hair was still braided, though most of the flowers had long fallen out. Hermione shimmied out of the dress. As it hit the floor, she heard a slight thud. She paused, picking up the pile of fabric and examining it thoroughly. A gold Galleon was sewn into the skirt of her dress.

Hermione blinked, a laugh of surprise and relief bubbling out of her lips. She held the Galleon to her chest tightly. She had not dreamed the night before.

She closed the clasp on her locket and the pendant fell to her chest, the metal warming against her skin.

The Draco she fell in love with was back.

 

 

Chapter Text

December-January

Year 6

 

Hermione squinted, trying to peer through the gaps in the fingers which covered her eyes.

“Stop trying to peek. I can feel you trying to peek.”

She fluttered her eyelashes against the hands, feeling a warm chuckle behind her.

“If you would just let me see, I could walk by myself,” she huffed impatiently. “There is really no need for the theatrics.”

Draco scoffed. “I am a Malfoy. We live for theatrics.”

A noise rustled to her left.

She paused.

“…You better not be swishing your cloak right now, because that’s a signature Snape move from which you will never sexually recover.”

She heard the smirk in his voice. “That’s not a cloak.”

“Then what’s swishing?”

Light flooded her view and she squinted as her eyes adjusted.

Not swishing, she mentally corrected herself. Fluttering.

A swarm of white doves flew overhead. Her eyes drifted to Draco. “What is this?”

He grinned widely, throwing his hands out in front of him. “This is a Malfoy Christmas.”

As she took in the design of the Room of Requirement, Hermione held back a gasp. Draco had insisted on arriving a half hour before her today and now she knew why.

She hardly recognised the large living space from her summer at the Manor under the ornate Christmas décor. In the center of the room, there was a massive black fireplace with a red and green crackling fire. Garlands were strung above the mantle, interwoven with white Christmas roses.

Hermione’s feet moved of their own accord towards the floating village to the right of the mantle. There were over a dozen miniature homes complete with trees, villagers, owls, and fake snow. It was enchanted—the villagers were walking around, the owls flying past, the snow scattering on the buildings below.

The Room of Requirement had three massive fir trees, one in each remaining corner of the room. In each tree, white silk ribbons, red berries, and fluttering doves rested on the branches. Snow floated from the ceiling, disappearing just before it touched her skin. Two life-size nutcrackers stood on each side of the doorway. Candles lined the room, mingling with the snow.

Above her, mistletoe grew.

Hermione was awestruck; she turned back to Draco with an open mouth. “You’re telling me this was your Christmas?”

“Every year.” He nodded proudly, admiring the room. “Though the decorations varied. My happiest memories from childhood are around Christmas—it’s my favourite holiday. The house-elves used to spend weeks planning and organizing to make it perfect.”

She playfully smacked his arm. “I can’t believe you let me go on about Granger family Christmas last year when you had this for your holidays!”

Chuckling, he replied, “I did enjoy the eggnog and sugar cookies. I had never seen a Muggle Christmas before, so it was delightful. I’d gladly recreate fake Christmas with you. One year, we can start our own Christmas traditions.”

Hermione’s heart swelled at the thought. Their own family Christmas. She wondered what their holidays would look like, what the traditions they would create over the years. A week ago, she had expected to spend the holidays without Draco. It felt surreal to be discussing their future again, as if nothing had changed.

But so much had changed.

“I love this village,” Hermione murmured, bending down to inspect a tiny villager, who turned and waved to her. She smiled and waved back.

The air in the room shifted.

Draco’s tone was low and heavy. “The village is the best part of Christmas. Each December, Mother and I would select a new building to add to the collection. It was our annual tradition, just the two of us.” He watched the villager with sorrow. “I wonder if she went without me this year.”

“What did your mother say when you wrote home and told her that you were staying at school over the holiday?” Hermione asked. “Was she upset?”

He pulled his eyes away from the village and back to her. “She wrote that she understood, given the circumstances at the Manor. I know that she is disappointed I won’t be home for the holidays. It wasn’t so much what she wrote but how she wrote it.” His voice was laced with guilt. “I could practically read the tears in her letter. It might be good to send Pinky a message or two for her later today. I woke up this morning to a pile of presents taller than my bed.” He grimaced. “She tends to guilt-shop.”

“Having seen your room, I can only imagine,” Hermione laughed. “You had an entire spare room dedicated to toys!”

A small, reminiscent smile grew on his lips. “It was worse than just a spare room. Once, when I was a child, she forgot to bring me back a present from their trip to Germany and she felt so remorseful that she built a mini-Quidditch stadium in the open lot by the greenhouse. There was even a set of stands; she sat in the audience and watched me play a game of one-man Quidditch for a whole week.”

“That sounds exactly like your mother. I’m so sorry you’re spending the day without her. She must really miss you today.”

He let out a dry laugh. “It’s not exactly your fault.” His voice took on an artificially cheerful tone. “Anyway, enough with the sad stories. It’s Christmas. I hope you’re hungry; I took the liberty of recreating a Malfoy Christmas meal.”

Though the table could easily seat twenty, only two sets of china were arranged at the center. There was a turkey, dozens of sides ranging from roast potatoes to stuffing, a dish of cranberry sauce, and several puddings. It was an overwhelming amount of food for two people, even excluding the pile of chocolate desserts available at the end of the table.

“How many people are at the Manor for the holidays?!” Hermione exclaimed, eyeing the stacks of food. “This is enough food to feed an army!”

“It’s only us and the house elves.” Draco shrugged. “Father always insisted on this particular meal, said it wasn’t Christmas without a Christmas feast. It’s a tradition his parents used to have when he was growing up.”

She stared, wondering what she was missing. Did they have a hundred hidden house elves? How could anyone eat all this food?

His mouth perked into a smile as he read her thoughts. “I know it’s excessive. This may come as a bit of a shock to you, but Father can lean towards the dramatics occasionally.”

“Occasionally?” Hermione mumbled under her breath; her mouth was watering at the smells wafting by them.


“I can’t move,” Hermione threw her arms above her head dramatically as she laid on the hardwood, her curls splayed around her face. “I think I live here now. You’re officially dating a floor person.”

Draco clutched his stomach on the rug next to her. “Honestly, I shouldn’t have challenged you to an eating contest.”

“Obviously.”

“It was foolish of me.”

“You know that I’m competitive. You did this to yourself.”

“Yes, but to be fair, I had no idea what I was up against.”

“You’ve never been to a meal at the Burrow,” she said matter-of-factly. “Mrs. Weasley will fill your plate thrice over and insist on dessert. I told you I would win.”

“You did.”

“You didn’t listen.”

“I know.”

“And here we are.”

“Yes. Floor people.”

Draco’s eyes focused on the snowflakes falling from the ceiling. He leaned over, taking Hermione’s hand before laying back down.

“Draco?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for showing me your family Christmas.”

He hummed, turning his attention back to the snow.

“I hope we can see our families together in person next year,” she mused quietly.

Draco’s stomach clenched anxiously at the thought. “Yes. Next year.”

He really hoped there would be a next year.

He squeezed her hand tighter. “Speaking of...” He raised his wand. “ Accio gift!

“How is that speaking of?” Hermione asked in amusement.

Groaning, he sat up. Draco took her hands in his and pulled her up in one movement.

“How dare you. You’re tearing me away from my new homeland,” she grumbled.

Draco let his smirk do all the talking while listening to her food-drunken ramblings. 

“I told you I’m a floor dweller now. You have to accept me for who I am, lest I expose you as a flooraphobe. The damage to your reputation would be irreparable, complete social-pariahdom. We are a protected class.”

“Just open the gift, Granger.” Draco gave her a quick kiss to her temple, placing a small package in her lap.

She tore off the wrapping to reveal a small red velvet box.

Hermione stilled, looking up at him. “What is this, Draco?”

Draco frowned, “Your gift? What did you think it—” His eyes widened in realisation. “It’s not—I mean not that I wouldn’t—but we’re just—I would definitely —”

She cut him off with a nervous laugh. “It’s okay, love, I wasn’t expecting anything like that. I just hope you didn’t go all out for Christmas.”

With slightly shaky hands, Hermione opened the box. Inside was a sparkling black and dark purple stone encased in gold with a small loop at the top. She looked up at Draco with a large grin. “More jewelry?”

He shrugged sheepishly, “I saw it and knew it was already yours. It’s a pendant—a charm—it connects into the chain for your locket. The center is hematite and amethyst.”

Love and protection. She thought with a small smile, wondering if he even knew the meaning behind the gemstones.

“It’s perfect. I really love it and it looks like we went along the same idea for gifts,” she mentioned casually, her lips curling up slyly. “Great minds think alike.”

“Hermione Granger, are you also trying to seduce me with jewelry?” Draco teased. “Because, if so, I don’t have to even open this present to tell you that it’s working. Consider me seduced.”

She rolled her eyes, amused as she mockingly rephrased his earlier command. “Just open the gift, Malfoy.”

His eyes narrowed as his brows raised suggestively. “Oh, back to calling me Malfoy, are you? Try it again and see what happens, Granger.”

“Malfoy,” she emphasized, grinning widely. She squealed as he playfully tackled her back to the ground.

He paused to brush her hair from her eyes before smirking slightly. She chewed on her lower lip, watching a myriad of emotions cross over his face. Her heart flipped in anticipation.

Draco tugged her lip from her teeth, his thumb lightly tracing the fullness. Hermione held her breath as he lowered himself, his lips brushing against hers.

Hermione nudged her present between them with a mischievous smile. “You still have a present to open, Malfoy .”

“Yes, I do, Hermione .” He pronounced her name mockingly. “I hope your gift of seduction meets my impossibly high standards.”

He ripped the careful wrapping from his gift, pulling out a leather band. Draco looked to her curiously. “I hadn’t actually anticipated jewelry. I thought you were teasing me.”

“It’s a leather band,” Hermione corrected, wrapping her arms around her knees as she watched him.

Draco inspected it, turning it around in his hands. It was two thin leather straps intertwined to meet at a thick gold capsule in the center.

“I love it.” He slipped it on his wrist. “I’ve never had anything like it. All the other blokes at the Slytherin table will be envious of me,” he declared, twisting the bracelet in place.

A bit of guilt tugged at her stomach as she watched his excitement over her gift, knowing that he did not fully understand that it had more purpose than aesthetics.

She just hoped he would never have to use it.

“Happy Christmas, my love,” he murmured, capturing her lips with his.

She entwined her arms around his neck, pulling him against her. “Happy Christmas.”


Draco stood at the edge of the room, the closest possible position to the door without standing in the doorway. His arms were crossed, his muscles tensed, his face stoic.

He swallowed, feeling strained as he observed Hermione surveying the room before them. It was filled with thousands of stacks as far as the eye could see. Each stack was filled with miscellaneous items, magical and non-magical alike.

“The Room of Hidden Things,” he supplied, not meeting her gaze.

He watched as she wandered from pile to pile, inspecting items old and new. From the corner of his eye, he could see the Vanishing Cabinet. His pulse raced beneath his skin as adrenaline pumped through his veins. The longer Hermione was in this room, the warier he grew. His head was screaming to get her out of here, to bring her somewhere safe—somewhere away from him.

Hermione turned, her gaze catching on the cabinet. She looked to Draco for confirmation; he sighed deeply in acknowledgement. Analyzing the design, she slowly walked around it.

The cabinet was tall, made of ancient-looking wood. The structure formed sharp angles with a border on its head and base. At the bottom was a space open for additional storage. Two identical half-moons displayed on opposite sides of the doors, facing each other. Excluding the perceived age, it appeared to be a traditional stand-alone cabinet.

“I can’t believe it’s been here all along. In our place,” she murmured under her breath, dragging a hand across the wooden door.

Draco’s voice caught in his throat. “No.”

She looked up in surprise at his interjection.

“This is the Room of Requirement, but it’s not our place. It’s a warped version of our place. I shouldn’t have brought you here.” He ran a hand across his ragged face. “This was a terrible idea. You should go. Please,” he begged.

“Stop it,” she instructed, her hands resting on her hips. “What’s a terrible idea is leaving you to handle this alone. You’re not alone, not anymore. Also, I’d like to remind you that you don’t get to tell me what to do.”

“I wasn’t—” He sighed, massaging his temples. “Hermione, I just—"

“I want to be here,” she insisted, standing her ground. “I’m not leaving.”

Draco frowned. “I’m ruining everything. Our place is supposed to be a safe space, an escape. I’m defiling it. I’m using it for all the wrong reasons.” He looked up to the ceiling, pausing. “Our memories should be happy here. I can’t—"

“Wanting to save your family is not using it for all the wrong reasons,” Hermione interrupted. “Wanting to save me is not the wrong reason.”

“You are my family. I would do anything for you,” he admitted quietly, raising her hand to his lips.

“I know.”

The small hand of a broken clock filled the air.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

“How did the Death Eaters even know about the Vanishing Cabinet?” Hermione asked, carefully opening the creaky door and peering inside.

The interior appeared to be a plain cabinet. She traced a fingertip through the layer of dust that had settled at the bottom.

“Graham Montague.” Draco rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

“Montague?” she wondered aloud. “He was on the Inquisitorial Squad with you, wasn’t he?”

He nodded. “Yes, the Weasley twins shoved him into the cabinet at the end of last year during one of his patrols for the squad. Umbridge was furious with the twins for all their practical jokes. She suspected they were providing illegal pranks to younger students and asked Montague to tail them. I don’t blame them for pushing him into the cabinet; he was being a right foul git. Cocky bastard.”

He chuckled a bit at the memory. “Anyway, when he was stuck in the cabinet, he realised that he could hear two sets of sounds from within it. He heard noise from this room, but also noise from Borgin and Burkes. He recognised Borgin’s voice. He told his father about it over the summer while he was recovering from his botched Apparition from trying to escape the cabinet. The Montagues identified that the cabinets were two halves of a pair; they leveraged that knowledge to try and raise their standing in the Death Eater ranks. His father mentioned the cabinet and its potential use during one of their meetings at the Manor. The Dark Lord was apparently quite pleased with his observations.”

“I don’t understand; if he’s the one who proposed the idea, then why didn’t they give the task to Montague instead?” Hermione chewed the inside of her cheek nervously. “Why you?”

“My father failed in his mission in the Department of Mysteries last year. Even though he escaped after following you to our prophecy, some of the other Death Eaters were not as lucky.” He let out a bitter laugh. “I suppose this is a bit of punishment for the family. To be honest, we are probably only still alive because of my parents’ actions in the first war, the current occupation at the Manor, and Bellatrix’s unwavering fanatical support of the Dark Lord.”

Hermione felt the air leave the room; she had not realised how quickly Voldemort’s loyalties could shift. It made sense in retrospect; his only true loyalty was to himself. She had been under the impression that the Malfoy family was in high standing within the Death Eater ranks. At the very least, she thought they would be protected. She was wrong.

“When the Dark Lord calls, we answer,” he quoted dryly. “I obviously wasn’t involved in the original meeting. Auntie Bellatrix had the honour to tell me about my new-found glory after I had already been designated as the sacrifice. This was after weeks of her ‘lessons’ and, fuck, I didn’t have it in me to fight anymore.”

Hermione tried to swallow the lump forming in her throat. “And your parents didn’t try to change Voldemort’s mind? They helped you avoid the Mark.”

“The Mark was merely a delay, and it had not been decided by the Dark Lord yet, which gave them bargaining power. If he had decided before discussing it with my parents, I would be Marked right now. No one argues with the Dark Lord’s instructions—it’s insolence like that which gets you killed as an example to others.”

She shivered at the thought.

Draco posed the question, “How do you think he’s managed to keep so many people in line even when he’s been dead over a decade? Fear. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of the Dark Lord’s followers died by his hand than from fighting the other side.” 

“What did your parents say when they found out?”

He crossed his arms, “Mother cried. Father told me ‘it must be done’. I told my father that I would never forgive him. I said that he can never again claim to do this shite for the good of the family because none of this is good for our family. It’s only good for him. I called him pathetic and weak.”

She gasped. “You said that to him?”

“I could die if I fail, I could die if I succeed. Either way, I lose,” he said quietly. “Once I realised I didn’t have you anymore, I stopped caring about much of anything.”

Silence reclaimed the room, and his previous words echoed in her mind. “Theo’s the one who forced me out of bed, made me bathe, made me eat.”

She could never thank Theo enough for caring for Draco over the past few months.

“After that meeting, my parents brought me to Knockturn Alley so I could visit Borgin and instruct him to keep the Vanishing Cabinet on the store floor. We had to make sure that it was available whenever I fixed its partner. Wouldn’t do to have someone purchase the other half.”

“Harry saw you this summer, at Borgin and Burkes,” she mentioned. “He’s been suspicious this entire year because of something he overheard you telling Borgin.”

He stilled. “I…hadn’t realised he was there.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Were…were you there too?”

Hermione shook her head. “I was with Ron and the rest of the Weasleys. I didn’t see you.”

“Didn’t see me…on Death Eater business. I really hate this.” Draco closed his eyes, feeling nauseated. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

He bent over, holding his knees with his hands, breathing in through his nose and out of his mouth.

She rushed over to him, rubbing slow circles into his back as he regained control of his breathing.

“I don’t know what to do, Hermione,” he mumbled pitifully. “These people are beasts. You don’t want to know the things I saw and heard over the summer. What they would do to you if they knew about us. It’s fucking horrifying.”

She cringed at the thought, remembering the stories from the first war. They would not only torture Hermione, but Draco as well, for having his Pureblood magic mingling with hers. He would be considered ‘tainted’.

“Would you ever agree to talk to Dumbledore with me?” Hermione asked, continuing to comfort him with the gentle movements. “All the students will be away for the holidays for at least another week. We can go to his office first thing on Monday morning.”

He barked out a laugh. “That’s going to go over splendidly. You’re proposing that we just show up at his office and tell him that I’ve been tasked to murder him? I’ll be expelled with my wand snapped clean in half before I even finish retelling the story.”

“Not you,” Hermione corrected. “Us. We will tell Dumbledore together. Draco, I know Dumbledore. He will understand if we explain. You’re only a student; he won’t blame you for something out of your control. We can figure a way out of this together. He’s brilliant and he will know how to help us. I have full confidence that he will have a solution.”

“I know that you like to believe the best of people, love, but—”

“Do you trust me?” she asked.

He looked at her seriously. “That’s not fair.”

She waited, raising a single brow.

Draco huffed in defeat. “You know that I do.”

“Then trust me on this, let’s go to Dumbledore. Together.”

He took her hand in his, both turning back to face the cabinet.

Several beats passed as he considered her words.

“I haven’t made progress on the cabinet in weeks, and to be honest, I’m not sure I even want to succeed. If there’s another way to get out of this predicament, then we can try it. Let’s go to Dumbledore,” he conceded. “I trust you.”


Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes drifted down to Hermione and Draco’s hands, clasped together as they stood before him in the Headmaster’s large office. He tilted his head ever so slightly, his lip twitching as if amused.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore began, “Miss Granger. I heard that you two were staying over the winter holiday. What a pleasant surprise it is to see the pair of you in my office together .”

Hermione looked over to Draco whose face was hardened. The grip on her hand tightened, making her fingers tingle, quickly losing circulation.

“Headmaster,” Hermione began, with a nervous look between Dumbledore and Draco. “May we sit down?”

“Of course. Help yourselves to some dragon claws, if you feel so inclined.” He gestured to the bowl of sweets on his desk.

The uneasy pair took the seats in front of Dumbledore.

“So, we—”

“I just—”

Their voices overlapped before stopping abruptly.

“You go—”

“How about—"

Dumbledore looked at the couple over the edge of his half spectacles, his grey brows raised slightly.

“Miss Granger, perhaps you would like to elaborate on your reason for today’s visit?” he prompted, holding one of his hands in the other. “You appear rather distressed.”

“I feel rather distressed,” she admitted softly. “We have something to tell you and I believe it is critical that you know before it is too late. It’s about Voldemort.”

She felt Draco shift in the seat next to her, fidgeting uncomfortably at the name.

“Is this about Mr. Malfoy’s mission?” Dumbledore asked, turning to Draco.

Draco’s eyes widened; his face losing all colour.

“You know about his task?” Hermione asked in bewilderment, her mouth falling open.

Dumbledore placed his hand on the desk gently, her eyes catching on his blackened finger.

“I have known for several months, yes.” He pushed the bowl of sweets closer to Hermione. “Please, if you will.”

Hermione’s stomach turned, but she took a dragon claw anyway, sucking on it lightly.

“You will find there is not much of significance that goes on within the walls of Hogwarts that does not make its way back to the Headmaster’s office.” Dumbledore glanced to the portraits on the wall and back to the pair. “And you are here to…warn me?”

She was at a loss for words; of all the ways she had imagined this conversation would go, in no scenario had she considered that Dumbledore already knew about Draco’s dilemma.

“I just thought…” she trailed off, her shoulders slumping.

“I must say, I pride myself on my observations and even I did not anticipate Mr. Malfoy confiding in you, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore mused, leaning back in his chair. “Even considering your relationship.”

“We’re…He—well we…” Hermione’s voice trailed off, looking to Draco helplessly.

Words tumbled through her mind; she was having difficulty forming proper sentences through the shock.

He finally broke his silence, a flood of words falling out of his mouth.

“We are closer than that, Headmaster. It’s…more than a relationship .” His eyes focused on the bowl of sweets in front of him. “My mother performed a magical binding on us, sir. A Black family ritual, because of my Black blood. There was a curse. We had no idea until a few years ago—it was completely against her will—the blame is all on me. Hermione is only here because of me.” Draco grew increasingly animated. “She’s innocent in all of this, it’s my fault.”

She scrunched her nose. “It’s not your fault —”

Draco cut her off, pleading, “If you’re going to expel me and snap my wand, please don’t punish her too. She didn’t know about any of this until I dragged her into it. She deserves to stay at Hogwarts. She’s going to change the bloody world. She’s your brightest student and if you expel her the—”

“Draco!”

Dumbledore raised a hand slightly to silence Hermione’s protest and Draco’s rambling. “I am not going to expel you, Mr. Malfoy, and certainly not you, Miss Granger. I have to say that I am taken aback that Narcissa performed a core binding, though in retrospect I had not considered the phrasing to be literal.” He paused, taking a moment to think. “A bond of blood.”

The phrasing of what? The question was on the tip of Hermione’s tongue as he continued.

“I don’t believe I’ve heard of a successful binding in over a hundred years. That is extremely volatile magic your mother harnessed.” Dumbledore cleared his throat softly. “However inevitable.”

The pair remained tense, stiffly in their chairs.

“Inevitable?” The word stuck to her lips.

“Are you aware of Mr. Potter’s prophecy?” Dumbledore questioned, looking to Hermione.

She blinked at his transition.

“He told me about it, yes,” she confessed/ “About him and Voldemort. That neither can live while the other survives.”

“Yes, there is more to the prophecy, but that is at the heart of it.”

Hermione straightened her back in her chair, taking a breath. She had to tell Dumbledore, to make sure he had all the facts about their situation.

“There was another prophecy,” Hermione added hesitantly. “I heard it that night in the Department of Mysteries when I was in the Hall of Prophecy with Harry. It was about the two of us… At least, I believe that it was about us; it mentioned a bond.”

She was confused by Dumbledore’s lack of reaction as Draco, gaze fixed on the ground, repeated the prophecy. A bond forged of blood and desperation will forever change hearts and minds—the final blow at the last hour to the one who has never known love, twice befallen by the love of a mother.”

Suddenly, Dumbledore’s words rang back to her.

A bond of blood.

Her mouth ran dry. What did he know?

“Have you heard of sister prophecies?” Dumbledore prompted, unwrapping a candy and popping it into his mouth.

 As her stomach lurched nervously, she shook her head. “I dropped Divination during third year,” she mumbled. “We hadn’t covered that yet.”

“It is not taught in the core subject material,” Dumbledore mentioned, his eyes drifting over her shoulder for a moment. “It is a rather…extraordinary circumstance. As you know, the future is ever-changing. A single moment is riddled with options, and each decision we make cascades into another set of choices and reactions,” Dumbledore explained seriously.

Draco and Hermione shared a look.

Dumbledore continued. “Divination is incredibly complex and volatile for even the most seasoned Seers; this is because the very nature of time is unstable. Prophecies are unique in the fact that they foretell a future that can be changed by the very knowledge of a prophecy.”

Hermione nodded slowly, processing his words. It was common practice to keep prophecies hidden from the subjects. Even knowing about a prophecy could trigger events that cause it to occur or prevent it from happening at all.

“The Seer who made Harry’s prophecy had just one other prophecy. Marked for the fifth of June.”

“1980,” Hermione finished, her chest deflating in realisation. “You already knew.”

Draco froze in her peripheral.

“A sister prophecy is the catalyst for a timeline that would not exist otherwise; the prophecies are joined, one and the same. Without one, the other cannot exist. The path simply is not there.”

She heard Draco swallow.

“You are saying that without our prophecy that Harry’s prophesied future will never even exist? The Dark Lord would most likely win the war?” Draco asked, barely audible.

“It is impossible to predict the future without a measure of uncertainty, but this is what I believe it means, Mr. Malfoy.”

Fawkes cried out in the corner of the room, ruffling his feathers.

“I don’t understand.” Hermione’s brow furrowed as a flood of questions came out. “If our prophecy impacts Harry, then what do we have to do? The binding already happened. Is this about the end? The final blow at the last hour? How do we know what that means? What if we don’t know what to do and we miss the moment?”

“The events are already transpiring, Miss Granger; a chain reaction of which we are already in the middle.”

His words felt cryptic and her head pounded with the possibilities. 

Their bond, their prophecy, their future.

Harry.

“Harry doesn’t know,” Hermione whispered. “About the binding, I mean. We haven’t told him.”

Dumbledore nodded. “I believe that is best. Less potential for…complications.”

Complications .

Her heart skipped a beat.

“You are just children. It is an unfortunate circumstance, to say the least. But you have been pulled into something much bigger than just the two of you. Something that has been in motion since before your conception. It is admirable that you sit before me, attempting to prevent the future. Sadly, I must inform you that it is inevitable.”

“Inevitable?” Hermione gasped as the word took on new meaning. “Sir, you can’t possibly mean what I think you mean.”

Dumbledore turned to Draco. “Have you been studying Occlumency?” 

Draco looked as if his thoughts were elsewhere. “I—yes. I have, since the summer. My mother has been teaching me.”

“Good,” Dumbledore asserted. “If I recall correctly, Narcissa has quite the natural gift for Occlumency. I will arrange for you to continue your studies with Professor Snape; he can build upon your lessons while you are here at school. I cannot express how important it is that you are able to close off your mind during this next year. You know far too much for your own safety and the safety of Miss Granger.”

“Headmaster,” Hermione interjected. “You cannot truly mean the only way forward is to…to murder you.” The words fumbled on her lips.

His eyes twinkled at her.“Miss Granger, I am already dying. I would say under a year, speaking generously.” He gestured briefly with his hand; the blackened area surrounded by strands of grey—as if it was spreading.

The room closed in on her, her eyes fixed on his hand.

“As I have already explained to Severus, there are worse ways to pass. He is prepared, if need be.”

A lump formed in her throat. “You have been in this together? You and Professor Snape? How does he know?”

“My mother had him take a vow this summer,” Draco muttered, grinding his jaw. “An Unbreakable Vow to protect me and help me with my task.”

Confusion filling her gut, Hermione looked at Draco. He continued to stare ahead, away from her.

He had not mentioned an Unbreakable Vow.

“Did she mention your bond with Miss Granger to Severus?” he asked.

Draco hesitated. “Not that I know of, but maybe. She tends to take matters into her own hands.”

“I’ll speak with Severus. Perhaps she told him. Either way, I find it appropriate that he is made aware, given the circumstances of his vow.” Dumbledore nodded to Draco, his blue eyes piercing. “As for your task, the arrangements have already been made, Mr. Malfoy. You will not be alone in your ordeal. Lean on Severus in the upcoming months. I will arrange all that you need for your Occlumency.”

He turned to Hermione. “Miss Granger, do not look so distraught for I have made my peace. I will happily go, knowing what is to come.”

“What is to come?” Her voice was nearly inaudible.                                                                                            

Dumbledore smiled kindly at Hermione’s tear-filled eyes. “The end.”


The statue of the Griffin twisted shut.

They stood in the empty corridor.

“Will you teach me Occlumency?” she asked numbly, her lips curled downward.

“I can try. I have only used Legilimency a few times in practice.” He shuffled in place. “What happens now?” 

She blinked, unmoving.

A tear tumbled down her cheek.

He pulled her into his arms, wrapping them tightly around her as her tears wet his sleeve.

“Now, we have a cabinet to fix.”

 

Chapter Text

January

Year 6

 

Hermione tapped her quill against her cheek before chewing the tip lightly as she pondered the assignment on her desk. She felt the hair on the back of her neck rise, paired with the uncanny feeling of being watched. Peeking out of the corner of her eye, she caught Draco three seats away, staring at her lips.

The corner of her mouth perked up. It brought her immeasurable joy to see him acting like himself again. If only for a moment. She tried not to take these moments for granted, not knowing how many they had left together.

Her ring heated.

You

She watched the text change before her eyes.

Me

Hermione hid a smile behind her fist.

Broom closet?

She fought the urge to hold her hand against her chest in faux shock as she replied.

Yes

Following class, Hermione slipped into the broom cupboard adjacent to their classroom. A rush of exhilaration passed over her at his boldness. She sat down on the table that lined the back wall, swinging her feet impatiently as she waited.

Ten minutes came and went, and she nearly got up to leave.The door flew open suddenly and Draco took rapid steps towards her, a glint in his eye.

“Draco Malfoy, how scandalous of you! Whatever shall I—” Hermione’s teasing protestation was interrupted by Draco’s lips capturing hers greedily.

“I can’t believe”—he kissed her again—“that I went”—he closed his eyes, leaning into her—“so long without these lips.”

Hermione squeaked as he hooked an arm around her waist, pulling her down off the table and into a spin. She wrapped her arms around his neck, slipping her fingers into his hair.

“Just what was the inspiration for this little rendezvous?” she asked with delight. “You know I’m going to see you tomorrow for our first Occlumency lesson.”

“Oh, nothing much, I just spent an entire class watching my witch with her quill between her—”

The door to the broom closet opened, flooding the room with light. Draco instinctively stepped in front of Hermione.

“Oh my god. Finally !” the voice exclaimed in triumph.

Hermione hid her face in her hands, blushing furiously.

“How did you know we were here?” Hermione’s voice was distorted behind her hands.

“I have class next door; I saw loverboy here sneaking into the broom closet and I just had to make sure he wasn’t seeing another witch.” Amelia shrugged. “I know an appropriate hex or two that could put him out of commission for a while thanks to a certain someone.” She winked at Hermione.

Draco glared in offense. “Excuse you, young lady—"

Amelia continued haughtily, “ And just for your information, because the two of you think you’re so sneaky, I had to squash some rumours floating around the Hufflepuff Common Room about a certain set of noises heard echoing down the halls outside Slughorn’s Christmas party.” She raised her brows matter-of-factly. “Anything you’d like to let me know about?”

Hermione’s face morphed into one of horror as she turned to Draco accusingly. “I told you we should’ve silenced the room!”

“Wasn’t my first concern at the moment,” Draco grumbled under his breath. “If you do recall, I was a bit preoccupied.”

“Don’t you worry, I did damage control. Though they do think there’s a new moaning ghost flying around the school along with Myrtle.” Amelia snorted. “I called her ‘Whimpering Wendy’ which was a real hit with the third years.”

Hermione’s flush spread to her neck. Draco tried to cover his laugh with a cough.

“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this development. The two of you have been utterly ridiculous this year; I’m glad you finally listened to me,” Amelia announced, crossing her arms in front of herself.

“Listen to you?” Draco looked to Hermione in puzzlement and back to Amelia. “I don’t understand. When did we listen to you?”

Amelia rolled her eyes. “Men, am I right?” she asked Hermione who looked equally confused. “Gods, you two are oblivious. You’d better name your children after me for all the trouble you’ve caused. Sometimes, I think I’m the one who adopted you .” 

Amelia turned and stomped out of the broom cupboard.

In the dark once more, Hermione sputtered.

“Does she just go around patrolling the broom cupboards and empty classrooms looking for us?” Draco asked, staring at the closed door.

“Honestly, no idea. I swear she has a sixth sense for this kind of thing.”

“Also, when did we adopt Amelia?”

Hermione tilted her head back and forth as she pondered. “I think it was during the bullies to be honest. She almost called you ‘dad’ at the end of last year when she was complaining about how you handled the Tomas thing.”

“She’s still too young to date,” he grumbled under his breath. “All the boys are wankers at that age.”

She chuckled. “Think if you told her to go to her room that she’d listen to you?”

“When has she ever listened to me?” Draco sighed, exasperated. “Kids.”

“Oh, our little Hufflepuff.”

“Going to be quite confusing around the home if we do name kids after her,” Draco started, raising his brows jokingly at Hermione.

“You mean how will we distinguish her from little Amelia and little Amelio?” she quipped, laughing into his shoulder.

“Merlin, those better not be the names you pick for our future children.” He looked completely appalled. “They would look ridiculous embroidered on a serviette.”

“Oh, the serviettes,” she lamented., “Obviously the first consideration when naming a child. However shall we survive without properly embroidered serviettes?”

Draco put on his best aristocratic voice. “This is the type of thing that separates us from the peasants.” He tried not to smile. “Thousands of years of utterly useless traditions.”

“Are we doomed to follow all the Malfoy traditions?” she mused.

“Mother won’t be happy about it, but we can forge our own path. I mean, for example, it's a tradition for Malfoys to have just one child each. But for you, I’ll have as many as you want—as long as that number is no more than three.”

“Amelia, Amelio.” Hermione paused thoughtfully. “And Hermione Jr.”

“Tragic if we have two boys and a girl,” Draco replied.

“Hermione Jr. will have to learn to live with his name.” She let out a snort and covered her face in embarrassment, his eyes widening in mirth.

He gently moved her hand, placing a kiss on the tip of her nose.

“Hermione Jr. will have a lot to live up to with that name.”

“Assuming my reputation is still intact by then. That means that you, sir, will have to stop dragging my unsuspecting innocent self into abandoned broom cupboards. You are tarnishing my name; I am a lady,” Hermione quipped. “If we keep this up, the ghosts will believe the castle is infiltrated with intruders.”

Draco sighed a considerable exhale. “I suppose there are enough moaning ghosts in the castle already. I just heard the most salacious rumour about a new ghost named Whimpering Wendy. I suppose this means that I’ll never drag you into an abandoned closet again. The best of days are behind us.”

She gasped.

“Hey.” Her eyes tightened. “You’d better continue to pull me into closets and assault my virtue.”

“I must think of Hermione Jr. and his future struggles.” Draco shrugged in mock defeat.

When he strolled towards the door, Hermione pulled him back by his arm.

“Draco Malfoy,” she grumbled, anchoring herself in place. She tipped forward as he kept walking.

“If you want me to consider your delicate sensibilities, Hermione Granger...” Draco swept her into another kiss. “Perhaps you should stop sucking on that quill in class,” he murmured under his breath.

“Noted.” She smiled mischievously. “Suck more quills. I’ll mark it in my daily planner.”

Shaking his head in amusement, Draco teased, “My devious witch, what am I going to do with you?”

“If you’ve got twenty minutes to kill, I have a few ideas.” She shot him a flirty wink.

His brows disappeared beneath his bangs. “Twenty minutes?!”

Quickly casting a Silencing and Locking Charm on the room, he said, “Fuck History of Magic, I would like to hear more about these ideas of yours.”

A smirk danced across her lips.


“Are you sure you still want to do this?” Draco asked, his brow crinkling in concern.

Hermione groaned, rolling her eyes to the ceiling in annoyance. “Yes. Which is the same answer I gave you a dozen times between our first conversation and now. You agreed to teach me Occlumency, but you keep putting it off.”

“It’s just...” He tugged lightly on his hair, searching for the words. “It’s invasive. I’m going to be probing into your mind and you don’t have any defenses for it yet. It’s like seeing you naked—”

“—which you’ve seen a hundred times—” she interrupted.

“—but a thousand times more intimate than that,” he finished, “I just don’t want to hurt you. I’ve only tried Legilimency a handful of times. At least I was able to learn Occlumency from my mother who made it as painless as possible. I wish she could come and teach you.”

She moved closer to him, stroking his cheek gently with her thumb. “You won’t hurt me, I trust you.”

He closed his eyes briefly before opening them and standing up with purpose.

“Let’s start with your first lesson, I suppose. If you absolutely insist.”

“I absolutely do.”

“As you know, Occlumency is an obscure branch of magic, not typically taught or practiced in modern society. Partially because it’s so difficult to master. The name originates from Latin, occludere meaning ‘ to shut up ’ and mens for ‘ mind ’.”

“Wow, even covering the Latin meaning?” Hermione asked, impressed. “I had no idea you knew Latin.”

He waved a hand in the air nonchalantly. “My old governess taught me before Hogwarts. I retained a bit.”

Draco paced in front of the sofa, his hands tucked behind his back as he walked. “There is a wide spectrum of Legilimens, some natural born and others taught. The best Legilimens in the world can perform Legilimency wandlessly and nonverbally; the worst must have eye contact, a wand, and a verbal incantation. As I’ve mentioned before, the Dark Lord is one of the most skilled Legilimens of our time.”

She chewed on her lip, staring as he walked back and forth in front of her.

“Occlumency is the best form of defense against a magical penetration of your mind, and it has existed for as long as Legilimency. When practiced correctly, it can prevent a Legilimens from accessing thoughts or feelings. A truly skilled Occlumens can redirect the Legilimens’ ministrations while leaving them unaware that they are being manipulated.”

Hermione looked Draco up and down, her cheeks flushing pink. “God, I think I’m into this whole teaching thing.”

Draco raised his brows in shock.

“Teach me more, Professor Malfoy.” Batting her eyelashes, her gaze scanned his body.

He swallowed hard, his throat bobbing. “Holy shit.”

Keep going, she mouthed.

Pausing, he attempted to regain his train of thought, “Say I am the Legilimens, trying to locate the whereabouts of Crookshanks. You don’t want me to know where he is because I’m trying to shave off his fur.”

Hermione gasped. “How dare you! His fur is majestic.”

Draco fought back a smile. “Instead of preventing me from entering your mind, you can redirect me to memories of Crookshanks, perhaps pushing forward older memories of confusion or a time when you lost him and did not know where he went. That will, essentially, trick me into believing that you have no idea where Crookshanks is located, even if you do know.”

She hummed thoughtfully. “What would happen if I just attempted to block out the mental attack completely? Rather than redirect.”

“Well, you can try that, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you had years to study Occlumency. If the Legilimens discovers that you have the ability to block them out, they are more likely to double down on their attack—which can be excruciatingly painful—either in an attempt to break your walls down, or out of malice that you dared to resist them. By redirecting, you can feign ignorance on Occlumency. If executed correctly, they should have no idea that you are influencing their perception of your mind.”

“Alright,” she announced, holding her arms out wide. “I’m ready to fight off an attack. Enter me.”

Draco laughed. “Hold on a minute, Granger. You’re five steps ahead.”

She exhaled, her patience fading.

“Let me start out by showing you how it feels to have someone enter your mind, okay? After you get used to the feeling, then we can start on your defense. I’ll start out with something gentle.”

He knelt in front of her, cupping her cheek with one hand as he raised his wand.

“Ready?”

Hermione nodded, watching him carefully.

He lifted his wand and whispered, “ Legilimens.

She immediately tilted backwards, her shoulders hitting against the back of the sofa. The sensation of Draco entering her mind was indescribable. It was akin to a long stretch after waking up from a dead sleep, feeling the muscles flex and extend. He moved through her so gently that it was almost a caress.

The memories shuffled around in her mind, rising and breaking through the surface.

Hermione looked down at the street. Chalk boxes were drawn in sequence as she hopped from one to the next, singing softly under her breath. Her eyes drifted up to the street sign down the road, 1 st Avenue; it was the road she grew up on, the summer her gran came to visit.

It was astounding; she was reliving it so vividly as Draco trailed through her mind, shifting another memory forward.

She wrapped her arms around herself anxiously, peering around the dorm room. Hermione’s small frame shifted as she unpacked her trunk, pretending to be busy. It was her first day at Hogwarts in an entirely new world.

The first day had been full of excitement and wonder but now that it was the first night, she was suddenly frightened, having never slept away from home before. She felt her heart pounding, her palms sweating as she hoped she would make friends with her dormmates.

“I’m Lavender Brown,” a loud voice announced. Hermione turned to see a young Lavender Brown smiling widely at her. “What’s your name?”

Tugging at the corner of the memory, it flipped, she was staring at a pile of dirt, leaning against the stone next to her. Hermione heaved, her abdomen muscles contracting as her vision blurred. It was Hagrid’s hut; she recognised the moment from third year—she had just punched Draco.

Hermione’s heart raced; she did not want Draco to see this memory, she did not want him to see any of the bad memories—

That thought triggered a sequence of flashes, pulling up every moment she had wanted to hide, the control over her mind dissipating as her panic grew.

Draco’s hand rested on Pansy’s waist, Hermione watching as he lifted her up into the air into a spin at the Yule Ball. The jealousy that fueled her in that moment. The feel of Viktor’s hand in hers.

Her panic and worry when she realised the journal had not been opened by Draco that summer, the sleepless nights begging to the silence that he was safe. The nightmares. His screams echoed in her mind.

—Hermione clutched her head with her hands, willing it to stop—

She was curled into a ball in her four-poster bed, the night of her birthday; she sobbed as Lavender held her, wondering when Draco had stopped loving her.

The memory skipped.

“Draco and Pansy. They deserve each other.” Harry’s voice drifted into her head. They were in the carriage on the way to Hogsmeade. 

Hermione felt horror as her broken words came out, “They sure do.”

It panned over to the look in Draco’s eyes when he pulled back from her touch outside of Potions, the memory blurred by her tears and the devastated ache in her heart.

Cormac leaning in—

“No!” Hermione felt herself call out and she was suddenly back in the Room of Requirement, heaving for breath.

She felt winded from the mental exertion.

Draco’s face was pale, hard, unreadable.

“We should stop for today—I…I need to go,” he mumbled, pulling himself up to his feet and turning away from Hermione. His walk staggered, as if he just suffered a physical blow.

“Draco!” She jumped up from the sofa, blinking away the tears that gathered in her eyes as she followed his steps.

He continued towards the door, his head hanging, tilted downwards.

“Draco Malfoy, stop!”

Still facing away from her, he stopped moving.

She stepped in front of him, pulling his chin up until his eyes met hers.

“Do it again.”

“No, Granger, I’m not—”

“Do it again.”

Hermione raised his hand until his wand was pressed up against her temple.

The quiver of her lips was nearly imperceptible as she commanded, “Do it again.”

Draco closed his eyes and sighed heavily, he opened them once more.

Legilimens.

Like a dam breaking, a flood of memories swept through Hermione’s mind.

She watched his smile to his mates, wondering what it would feel like for him to smile like that at her.

The first time he smiled, truly smiled at her, and she melted at the sight. She wanted to know how it tasted.

Breathless from that first kiss, fireworks and magic.

A series of golden sparks dancing through the air, the feeling of the grass and blanket under her and Draco’s naked body above her. The curl of her toes. His lips against hers, reverently adoring her.

She snuck a peek at him from over her book in the Malfoy library, watching as his hair fell into his eyes as he read, the sun streaming into the room.

Just after he woke, that sleepy grin and lazy good morning kiss, the feeling of him pulling her against him.

That moment he finished his first knitted hat, completely lopsided, trying to hide the pride at the accomplishment.

“You are my everything . And I love you.”

Draco pulled out of her mind, his grey eyes clouded with tears.

She pulled him into her arms, looping them around his waist and squeezing tightly. His arms wrapped around her body, holding her firmly in place.

“I’m so sorry.” His voice rumbled in his chest; the vibrations moved through her.

“I’m sorry you saw that; I hadn’t meant for you to.”

“I’m sorry you went through that because of me.”

“I understand why, and I told you I forgive you. Are you ready to keep going?”

“I don’t want to hurt—”

“We have to keep going, Draco,” Hermione insisted. “There is too much at stake here to stop because of a few sad memories.”

She took his hands in hers and guided him back to the sofa. “Teach me about an attack. How do I hide away the memories and redirect the Legilimens?”

“You have to first prepare your mind. In a real-life scenario, you don’t usually have time for this but, if practiced consistently, then you can get into the frame of mind quickly enough. This part requires deep concentration; you will have to start meditating daily for maintenance.”

Hermione nodded along, following his words.

“Close your eyes and take a deep breath,” he instructed, waiting for her to listen. “Picture something that you can shut and lock tight in your mind. It can be anything. I used a trunk, but you can use a book, a room, a wand box or—”

“What about my locket?” she interrupted, fiddling with the chain between her fingers.

His grey eyes rested on her pendant with the latest addition of her stone set from Christmas. He swallowed. “Your locket will do.”

“Pick a memory, any memory.”

“Okay, I have one,” she whispered, trying to relax her body, her eyes still closed.

“Take that memory and wrap a ribbon around it, weaving around it until nothing is visible anymore.”

Her breaths came in slow and shallow as the ribbon twirled in her mind, winding around and through until all she could see was silk.

“Imagine your locket opening. Place the memory inside the locket and snap it shut. Feel the air vibrate with the force of its closure. Know that it is locked in place; there is no way to open it and retrieve the memory.”

In her mind, she shook and rattled the locket. It did not budge, it was firmly shut.

“What now?” she asked quietly, trying to maintain her concentration.

She felt the sofa shift with added weight as Draco sat down next to her. Hermione opened her eyes and stared into his.

“I’m going to try to get that memory now, okay? Are you ready?”

“I’m ready.”

“I’ll be gentle,” he promised.

“Just like Voldemort would be,” she snarked.

His wand raised. “ Legilimens.

It felt almost familiar this time as he drifted in and out of the crevices of her mind. He was taking care to be gentle; Hermione knew from her research that it could be excruciating under the right circumstances.

When Draco reached her locket, she felt him pause before probing against it. She felt a surge of pride as the locket remained unmoved.

The pressure compounded in her mind, squeezing like a balloon on the cusp of popping.

“Good, you’re doing great, love.”

The word felt distant as she focused on her locket, reinforcing it mentally. The metal was thick, impenetrable, strong. She continued her breathing, in and out, staring into Draco’s eyes.

He added additional pressure, the tightening causing a dull throb as she struggled to maintain control. She felt it slipping like sand through her fingers.

She flinched.

Suddenly, the locket snapped open, her memory fell out and spun around and around as the ribbon unwound. Draco pulled out of her mind.

“That was fantastic!” Draco encouraged as Hermione slumped down in defeat.

“You broke into my memory with hardly any effort at all,” she lamented. “That was terrible.”

“That was your first try,” he corrected. “Now we have to practice.”


Draco could not stand still; his body was filled with nerves and excitement. Checking the clock, he saw it was nearly eight and realised Hermione should be finished with her work in the library. It was the perfect time to surprise her, so he sent her a quick message to her ring.

The journal

The night after their first Occlumency lesson, he had finally mustered up the courage to open the journal—with a little help from Theo’s firewhisky. He sat on his bed and drank as he read her progression of letters—from excitement, to hope, to confusion, to panic, to despair.

Then he started planning; he wrote her pages of letters, replying to each message she had sent over the summer. It had taken hours and given him several hand cramps, and in the end, he felt sick to his stomach with guilt.

After the letters, Draco took his monthly allowance and wrote to Twilfitt and Tattings with specific instructions.

The package arrived this morning.

His journal was opened on the ground next to him, and he watched as his messages disappeared one by one as Hermione read them.

Finally, the last message disappeared. He knew she had read it.

I’m waiting for you in the Room of Requirement.

 

A sliver of light appeared as Hermione opened the door to meet Draco. His messages in the journal had nearly brought her to tears, something that was easy to do lately.

This year had been stained with tears for them.

Before reading his messages, Hermione had returned to her dorm. Her journal had remained in her nightstand, untouched for months. Her heart fluttered as she watched the pages fill with his writing, something she had longed to see for so many nights.

His last message had been cryptic, but she was excited to see what he was up to in the Room of Requirement. From his letters, he had seemed like he was in a sentimental mood. Romantic Draco had usurped sleepy Draco as her favourite Draco.

The door to the Room of Requirement appeared in the stone wall before her. She pushed her body weight against it before stopping dead in her tracks, staring around the room in awe.

The space was completely transformed. It had been expanded into a large ballroom, decorated like winter. Icicles dangled from the ceiling, the ballroom was lined with fir trees adorned with white ornaments, and garlands draped around the room.

She had seen this moment before.

Draco cleared his throat; Hermione’s wide eyes met his hopeful ones. He was wearing black and white dress robes with a white rose on his lapel. In his arms, he held a full-length emerald green evening gown.

He fidgeted in place nervously.

Stopping just in front of her, he searched for the words, “I saw your memory from the Yule Ball, and I haven’t been able to get this out of my head. That night for you…and for me, it changed everything.”

“Our first kiss,” she reminisced.

Draco nodded. “Even before the kiss, this is what I had imagined back in fourth year. I imagined the night with you. I—I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to dance with you again after our lesson with McGonagall.” Pausing, he looked around the room. “I was just thinking that with everything going on…with the next few months…I wanted to give you this memory the only way that I can.”

Hermione drank in the sight of the room, committing every detail to memory. This would be her favourite one yet.

His voice caught in his throat. “I meant it when I said you deserve better than me. It’s just my luck that I have the most stubborn witch in existence. I want to be the type of man that deserves your love.” He stepped closer. “I’m trying. I hope that’s enough for you.”

Remembering the first moment he said those words to her in their fourth year, she closed her eyes.

Right here, in their place.

“It’s enough for me.” Hermione’s heart swelled in her chest and she covered it with her hand, feeling it beat under her fingertips.

With a coy smile, she inspected the dress. “I’m assuming you aren’t having a change of costume?”

He looked at the gown and back up at Hermione. “I know it’s not what you wore at the ball, but I always thought that you look lovely in green.”

She raised her brows conspiratorially. “Is someone trying to get me into Slytherin green?”

Draco shrugged. “I can change the colour if you don’t like it.”

“Draco Malfoy, are you trying to claim me?”

Laughing, he said, “Just the opposite. I thought it was rather obvious by now that I’m completely yours.”

“Well, it’s no Gryffindor red, but I think I can make an exception for the occasion,” she teased, taking the dress from his hands.

He turned around as she slipped out of her uniform and into the gown. It was the most expensive piece of clothing that Hermione had ever held in her hands. It was stunning; the lace top had a scalloped neckline that fell off the shoulder with an open back and the flowy material of the skirt draped off her curves like it was designed for her.

“Where did you find this dress?” Hermione marveled as she walked back to Draco, brushing the fabric with her fingertips.

“I found a place; they had some things,” he mumbled, his cheeks dusted with colouring. “Do you like it?”

“You can turn around,” she laughed. “It’s nothing you haven’t seen before anyway.”

Hermione stepped into his view; he sucked in a breath of surprise, stilling as he looked at her from head to toe.

“You look…” The words died on his lips.

She smiled before prompting, “I look…?”

“Perfect,” he finished seriously. “Absolutely perfect.”

“Certainly not perfect. I don’t even have my hair potions like I did for the ball.” She chewed her lower lip. “I was just at the library. My hair is probably a complete mess. I hadn’t realised I would need to dress up tonight.”

“You don’t need hair potions.” He tucked his hand behind her neck. “I love you just like that, wild curls and all. You’re perfect.”

She eyed him skeptically.

“My Hermione.” He brushed a thumb across her lips.

“My Draco,” she replied, sneaking a kiss.

“May I have this dance?” he asked, bowing as he extended a hand to her.

Placing her hand in his, she felt his other hand rest on the small of her exposed back. His warm touch sent tingles across her skin as he rested it against her.

As the music faded from her mind, Hermione’s body pressed against his. She felt him with every rise and fall of his chest. All that she could focus on was the feeling of Draco in her arms, the sway of their steps as they moved as one.

She lost herself in the melody, in the feeling of Draco in her arms.

He swept her low into a dip, pausing at the lowest point. Hermione’s face was illuminated by the flickering firelight; she saw a reflection of the flames in his grey eyes.

Pulling her back up, he pressed his temple against hers as they moved across the Common Room floor. She heard a shaky breath from above her and pulled back in concern.

“Draco?”

His eyes glimmered with tears.

“Love?” Hermione stopped mid-step, taking his face between her hands. “Are you okay? I’m not that terrible of a dancer, am I?” she joked.

Closing his eyes, he placed his hands over hers. “I was just thinking of another life where we could have been us without all this.” He opened his eyes, looking into hers. “I just hope that in another life you would still choose me.”

His words shattered her heart.

She tucked herself against his chest, feeling the gentle pounding of his heartbeat against her cheek.

“In any life, I would want you. In any version of us, I would love you. In any reality, I would choose you,” she promised, her voice soft.

Chapter Text

February

Year 6

 

Severus Snape was a man of few words, and even fewer discernable emotions. Draco had known his godfather his entire life and never saw more than a glimpse behind his well-practiced façade.

Until the moment Draco told him about Hermione.

“It will be the end of both of you.” He heard his godfather’s jaw click and saw a glimmer in his eyes before they snapped shut. “Narcissa did not tell me about the ritual before I made the vow. When Dumbledore informed me that you needed Occlumency, I had not realised to what extent.”

Snape paused in the silence for several moments before turning to meet Draco’s eye.

“For you and Miss Granger, Occlumency is a matter of life and death. Not only death, but an excruciating death. She will be tortured, mangled, used, and there is no telling what will happen to you, Draco. You will be an example; they will hold your bloodied head up to the crowd as warning for what they can expect from consorting with Mudbloods.”

Draco cringed at the word.

Snape’s head cocked ever so slightly.

“Mudblood,” Snape repeated, his signature tone took on a sharp edge. “Do you have a problem with the word, Draco?” 

“I—Professor, I—”

“If you cannot control your reaction to a simple word, we might as well stop before we begin. No need to waste my time.”

Draco squared his shoulders. “I can control my reactions, Professor, I promise.”

Carefully studying him, Snape said, “Your home is the central location for the Dark Lord. He will be there constantly. You will never have a moment of peace. You will have first-hand accounts of despicable acts against your fellow wizard; there will be blood and carnage far worse than a pitiful word.” Snape’s monotone flushed Draco with a chill, the intonation seeped into his bones.

“I understand.”

Snape’s eyes bore into him. “Do you? They will never trust that you are a true follower of the ways if you shy away from their language. Your objective is to avoid raising any red flags. As of right now, they believe that you share their views. You must provide no room for doubt.”

“Surely they would never—”

“Do you believe that I enjoy standing by while the Dark Lord tortures and slaughters? That I take pleasure in degrading someone by their blood status?”

Draco felt himself hesitate before answering. “No, sir.”

“In times of war, you put yourself aside. You do what you must to survive. To reveal your true feelings is to compromise yourself and Miss Granger. Do you want to see harm come to her?”

“No, sir.”

“Then say the word, Draco.”

A beat of silence passed and a ringing filled Draco’s ears.

“M-mudblood,” Draco rasped; it tasted vile on his tongue.

“Again.”

“Mudblood.”

“What is Miss Granger?”

Draco pushed down the bile in his throat. “A Mudblood.”

“Very good, you might survive yet. Let’s begin.”

 

“Draco!” Snape’s drawling voice reprimanded. “You must focus. A second of weakness is all that it takes for him to infiltrate your mind.”

Draco shook his head, as if coming back into the moment. “Sorry, Professor.”

“Again.” Snape raised his wand. “ Legillimens .”

It was his fifth session of Occlumency lessons with Snape. Each lesson built on the previous, and Snape was constantly bringing Draco to the edge of breaking, pushing just a bit more each time.

Every weekend, Draco left the cold office with a throbbing headache and a pit in his stomach.

The amount of effort that it took to resist Snape’s attacks weakened him physically as well as mentally. He could feel the consequences in himself, a slower pace when walking, difficulty focusing in classes, his gaunt skin glaring back at him in the mirror. Despite Hermione’s voiced concerns, Draco insisted on continuing the lessons.

It was a matter of life and death.

Snape was more ruthless than his mother had been, and he found that he preferred having a teacher who was a step removed emotionally. He needed the practice. The Dark Lord would not take pity on Draco the way his mother had. Dumbledore had arranged for the lessons shortly following the winter holiday and Draco had yet to miss a meeting.

Draco drifted back into himself, focusing on his trunk which was filled to the brim with Hermione. He latched it securely shut, watching as the seam sealed the perimeter, creating a layer of protection against intruders.

Snape began to press harder against his defenses as Draco threw meaningless memories at him. Lessons, homework notes, Quidditch practices — he pushed it all towards Snape with ease.

It took a considerable amount of effort to refrain from flinching as Snape traversed through the passages of his mind, probing, searching for memories of Hermione, the bond, his true feelings.

“Very good,” Snape muttered under his breath. “You’ve been practicing.”

He felt pride swell in his chest. After months of studying and constant effort, he finally felt like he was making progress.

“Yes, just as you told me, I’ve been—”

As Snape dove back into his head without warning, a burst of air escaped Draco’s nostrils.

Snape flew through his mind in a fury, pushing past each memory Draco threw at him. When the speed increased, Draco faltered for just a moment and—

He felt the trunk shatter, and a burst of pain bloomed in his head.

As a cry of agony slipped through his lips, his fingernails dug into the palms of his hands painfully.

“Never let your guard down,” Snape chastised as he pushed back his robes in frustration. “It is the very moment you believe you have succeeded, that you have failed. You let your guard down and became sloppy. I expected more of you, Draco.”

Draco hung his head in disappointment, his ears still ringing in pain. He could barely open his eyes; the light burned his corneas as blood rushed through his ears.

Snape tutted softly. “Leave. You are in no state to continue tonight. I will see you again next Sunday. Come prepared. Remember, I am being kind. The Dark Lord does not give breaks.”

Feeling unsteady, Draco let out a breath and wavered slightly as he took a step.

His chest sunk like a stone through water. He was still too weak in his Occlumency.

He failed her.

Again.


“I saw Luna carrying piles of red decorations with Neville.” Harry’s lip twitched up in amusement. “They said you three are throwing an event in the Ravenclaw commons?”

Hermione’s nose scrunched up in response. “ They’re hosting a Singles’ Day party and I was informed that I am attending,” she corrected. “I don’t even like parties. I tried to talk Ron into going with me, but he’s spending the day with Lav-Lav.”

And I’m not single, she added silently.

“Well, if it’s any consolation, Luna was not holding any vegetables.” He snorted. “Or Wigginturn.”

“I—What is Wigginturn?” She could not stop herself from asking.

“It’s like a lemon but carved and stuffed with mint. I swear she said it was because of the fae or maybe Saturn—you’ll have to ask Luna. You know that everything she does is ridiculous. To be honest, I don’t think she was fully speaking English.”

“Hmm. What about you? Are you and Theo doing anything tonight to celebrate the day of love?” Hermione asked, her footsteps echoing through the empty corridor as they walked.

“No…” Harry’s eyes creased at the edges. “I don’t know what’s going on, but he’s been lying to me." His face twisted uncomfortably. “You know that drop in your stomach when someone tells you something that doesn’t sit right? Well, I'm feeling like that, a lot recently.”

Hermione felt her chest deflate at his words; she knew of several secrets that Theo was holding for her and Draco. 

Guilt throbbed in her chest with each heartbeat.

“Have you tried asking him?” She feigned nonchalance.

He let out a dry chuckle. “Yes,” he replied sardonically, “because everyone knows that liars always tell the truth when you ask nicely.” He wrung his hands together nervously as they continued out the door, entering the grounds.

“Liars,” she echoed softly.

The past year of lies and omissions tumbled through her head as her nausea grew.

I love Draco Malfoy.

Our magic is bound together.

Dumbledore is dying.

He will be murdered.

Snape is good.

Death Eaters are coming.

I’m helping them.

Tears built up in the corners of her eyes, drying up in the wind before they fell.

“So, no, we aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day together this year on account of his most recent lie to me.”

Hermione swallowed the lump that resided in her throat. “What lie?”

Harry flexed his jaw in annoyance. “According to Theo, he’s in detention this morning and tonight. That, however, is utter bullshit because Ron has the Prefect copy of the detention list. I saw it on his desk. No Theodore Nott anywhere on it.”

The wind whipped her hair around wildly, so she piled her curls on top of her head and secured it with a tie.

“I don’t know what to say, Harry.” She shrugged feebly, a weight compounded on her chest, “I’ve seen the way he looks at you. It’s obvious how much he loves you. I don't think he'd purposely hurt you.”

His lips pursed at her words, pain flashed past his eyes, “I appreciate the sentiment, Hermione, I do, but I can’t talk about this right now. In fact, I have to cut our walk short. I’m not good company at the moment.”

She watched helplessly, trying to think of a fix for this situation as he turned back towards the castle. 

Hermione was alone with her guilt once more.


Harry’s eyes fixed on the stone flooring as he made his way back into the castle. His feet felt heavy as he dragged them with each step.

The summer apart had been emotionally exhausting for Harry. He had been so happy to come back to Theo at the start of the term, but no matter what Harry did, Theo felt distant. Coupled with Theo’s deflection of anything related to Harry’s suspicions about Draco Malfoy's Borgin and Burkes visit, the pair had felt more at odds than anything.

He felt like he was the only one fighting for them, the only one invested, the only one with a heart that was breaking.

A familiar cough caught his attention and Harry looked up from his thoughts to see Theo walking with purpose down the nearby corridor, completely oblivious to him.

Glancing at the time, Harry realised that Theo should be in ‘detention’ right now. His pulse thrummed under his skin; he had an opportunity to find out where Theo was going.

Harry froze, his mind racing as inner turmoil filled him.

Should he follow Theo? Was that a complete breach of trust?

His entire body tensed as he slipped behind the tapestry several steps away. He peered through the gap between the tapestry and the stone, watching as Theo passed him and descended another corridor.

Gathering a deep breath, Harry lost his internal battle for control and found himself trailing Theo through the dimly lit halls.

He traced Theo’s steps, ending in front of the Hospital Wing.

They had just talked the night before and Theo had not complained of any ailment. Harry waited for several minutes, but Theo did not come back out.

Was he visiting someone?

Harry felt jealousy bubble up at the thought. Theo had been busy lately, disappearing at odd hours, providing half-arsed excuses.

There was someone else. The thought clawed at Harry’s brain; his mouth tasted sour.

Without thinking through a plan, Harry stomped into the open Hospital Wing; Madam Pomfrey was nowhere to be seen. He passed the rows of empty beds and spotted a bed at the end with the curtains pulled.

“Good, that’s good.” Theo’s low voice came from behind the curtains.

“Like this?” a male voice replied softly.

Harry saw red, heard the blood rushing in his ears as his hand ripped the curtain to the side. The squeaking of the metal hooks made him flinch.

The wind was knocked out of him as he took in the scene before him.

Theo was sitting in a chair next to the hospital bed, visiting a fifth year Ravenclaw with sandy blond hair and bright blue eyes. Harry recognised him from Hermione’s Prefect meetings; he was tall and lean. Theo was grasping his arm, unwrapping a wound as the student flexed his hand carefully.

The pair looked up at Harry in surprise and Theo’s eyes flashed dangerously, but his anger dissipated as he addressed the Ravenclaw, “I’m sorry, I’ll be right back. Just give me a minute.”

Theo abruptly pulled the curtain shut.

Thoughts swirling, Harry barely processed anything as Theo dragged him by the arm to an alcove on the opposite end of the infirmary.

“Why are you following me?” Theo fumed, his rough voice catching Harry off guard.

“I wasn’t—” He stumbled over his words. “You’ve been so off lately, I just—”

“So, you decided to follow me?” Theo scoffed in sarcastic wonder. “Wanted to track me to find out what I was up to?”

“I had to know,” Harry mumbled, nervously fisting his hair as his hands struggled to hold still.

“Know what?” Theo’s eyes tightened.

“Who.” Harry’s voice cracked. “Who is he, Theo?”

Theo rolled his eyes “I can't believe this.” Shaking his head slowly, his voice rose with every word. “You honestly think I’m cheating .”

Harry’s silence was deafening.

“You know what? Fuck you and fuck your accusations!" The words rushed from Theo’s lips, his breath catching. "That is the last thing I need to deal with right now.”

Harry instinctively reached for him, his hand missing the target as Theo took a step back. Harry's throat tightened. “Wait—Please, just talk to me—”

Theo halted mid-step, turning with the motion of Harry’s hand.

“You’re not seeing him?” Harry hated how pitiful his voice sounded. “The Ravenclaw?”

A puff of air rushed out of Theo’s lungs, his voice was gravely and low. “No. There’s never been anyone else.”

“So, you’re just avoiding me?”

“No!” Theo pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.

“Then why have you been so distant?”

His eyes squeezed shut. “Now's not the time.”

“Answer me. Why have you been pulling away from me all year?”

Theo's breath quickened. “I’m keeping secrets from you, Harry. That’s why. I know that you’ve had your suspicions and you’re right; you know me better than anyone else in this fucked up world.”

Shoulders slumping under the weight of his words, Theo turned away from Harry. “I can’t tell you and it’s killing me to keep it from you. It could ruin everything between us.”

At the confirmation of his fears, Harry felt short of breath. “How?”

“I’m being torn in half, trying to stay afloat, but I'm always seconds from drowning." The words swirled together as Theo continued, "And I have to try to hold it together; try to save you from another heartbreak. But I can't figure out a way to stop what’s coming.”

“You’re speaking in riddles.” Harry felt disoriented trying to follow his meaning. “What secret? What’s coming?”

In response, Theo lovingly fixed a piece of hair that was sticking up, his trembling fingers threaded through Harry’s locks. “You know, I was born to be a perfect pureblood piece of shite Death Eater. That has always been my destiny. Now, I’m not sure I believe in destiny anymore, but if I do, I know mine is with you.”

Harry’s voice choked. “Theo—"

“I can’t tell you anything, Harry. I need you to trust me. I know you have been burned before, but gods, I just need you to trust me. I would do anything for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I fucking love you.” Theo’s shoulders shuddered as he pushed out the words. “I love you and I couldn’t put myself first anymore even if I tried.”

Harry’s heart stopped; he forgot how to breathe.

"And I’m so sorry .” Theo’s voice broke, his eyes glimmered in the light. “Because instead of it being something beautiful, it’s distorted. Having someone like me love you is a death sentence. We were born on opposite sides of a war that we were raised to fight. We were never meant to be.”

Drawn to him, Harry’s feet moved of their own accord. He slipped his arms around Theo, gently taking hold of his robes. They stood for a moment, clinging to each other, the sound of their breathing filling the alcove.

“Lucky for you, I’m pretty good with avoiding death sentences,” Harry quipped. “Some might say it’s one of my top talents up there with plate spinning.”

“Harry…” The sound of vulnerability in Theo’s voice broke his heart.

Eyes fluttering shut, Theo burrowed himself further into Harry.

The words looped in his mind.

“Did you mean it? You love me?” Harry quickly blinked away the tears that formed at the words.

When Theo nodded against him in confirmation against him, Harry’s breath shuddered as he echoed in disbelief, “You love me.”

He felt Theo’s chest spasm against his as they became a tangle of limbs. After several moments, Theo leaned back gently, looking Harry in the eyes. The two watched each other for a beat, their eyes filled with tears. Theo’s hand moved, one finger gently pushing Harry’s slipping glasses back into place.

The space between them closed as his forehead came to rest against Harry’s. 

"You never gave me a choice. Loving you is as easy as breathing. You are as much a part of me as my magic."

Harry wished to bottle the moment and bathe in his words..

“It doesn't make sense now—why were you here? With him?” The whispered question slipped through his lips before he could stop it.

“I had to be,” Theo replied softly.

“Are you mates?”

“No.”

“Then why—”

“I’m training.”

Harry blinked at him, his mouth unable to form words.

Theo looked between Harry’s eyes, searching for something, “I’ve been training all year under Madam Pomfrey to be a Healer.”

His thumb gently traced Harry’s jawline. “I knew you wouldn’t approve but I can’t just sit off to the side and do nothing, Harry. Not when you have a proclivity for near-death experiences." The smile did not reach Theo’s eyes. "For years, I’ve watched you narrowly escape death, and nearly fall apart in the process. Every time, I watch someone else put you back together and a part of me dies. I can’t be helpless anymore. I need to be ready.”

Harry realised that if he only had a single breath left, he would use it for this moment.

Trying to find the words, he steadied himself. “Theo.” His voice thickened in his throat. “I love you, too. I loved you before I knew how to put words to the feelings.”

A single tear fell over the edge of Theo’s lids as he smiled with trembling lips.

Harry blinked and Theo was kissing him, all-consuming and unrelenting. Their tongues tangled, dancing in a slow, heavy pace. 

Before he could stop it, the smallest whimper escaped Harry.

Theo moved at the sound, his chest pressing firmly against Harry’s as he pushed forward with purpose. Harry stumbled backwards with each step, his mouth moving frantically against Theo’s. 

Harry’s back hit the cool stone wall, the rough edges digging into his shoulders. 

His hands roamed up Theo’s chest as the pair used the wall for support, gasping for breath between heated kisses that moved from mouth to jaw.

“Say it again,” Theo’s voice grated desperately against his neck.

“I love you.” Harry’s words were swallowed up as Theo’s lips claimed his once more.

Theo’s lopsided grin pressed against him. “I love you, Harry Potter.”

A shiver cascaded down Harry’s spine in response to the breath whispering across his skin.

“I love you.”

Harry would never tire of hearing those words.


“You’re going to have to explain to me again how you ended up studying in the Hospital Wing because I’m still confused.” Draco looked to Theo in bewilderment. “I thought I was hallucinating when I saw you with Madam Pomfrey.”

“I know it isn’t glamorous,” Theo sighed. “But it’s useful, okay? I need to know how to heal. After helping you earlier this year—”

Draco flinched.

“—and knowing what is to come with the Dark Lord, I need to be able to heal people when they’re hurt.” He lowered his voice. “Harry nearly dies every fucking year. If I can do anything to stop that from happening, then I will.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, you’ll make a great Healer,” Draco stated reassuringly. “Harry’s lucky to have you.”

Theo looked away, nodding once. “He’s not thrilled about my double shift today. He wanted to spend the night together. Speaking of, at the end of my morning shift, I saw your Hufflepuff in the Hospital Wing.” 

Draco sucked in a sharp breath, giving Theo his full attention. “Wait, you saw Amelia? Is she hurt?”

“No, nothing like that. She just needed some scratch cream; her arms were completely covered in them.”

“Scratches?”

“Yeah, mate. Looked like she got in a fight with a spiky bush and lost. She was really evasive when we asked what happened. I just thought you would want to know in case those damn bullies were back.”

Draco scowled. “They shouldn’t be. You don’t want to know how graphic I was with my threats, but I can’t imagine they’d want to gamble it. Plus, she’s bloody dating one of them now.”

Theo made a face. “She’s what?”

He raised a hand. “Don’t get me started, I’m not happy about it.”

“That brings me to my next question. Why is Blaise saying you’re spending Valentine’s Day together tonight?”

“Because Granger couldn’t get out of a thing with Neville and Luna, and you’re with Harry, so I’m stuck with Blaise,” he bemoaned, leaning his head back. “I have to meet him in an hour, and I don’t want to know what he has planned.”

Theo let out an amused chuckle. “Has he still not talked to her or is Blaise still trying to deny the whole Luna—"

A loud hiss caught their attention.

“Oh gods, Draco,” Theo spit out between laughs. “I think I know where the Hufflepuff got her scratches.”

An extremely outraged Crookshanks stalked by their table. He was wearing a tiny toga outfit around his body that was tied at his neck, his fluff protruding around the fabric. The miniature toga was adorned in red hearts with a little bow and arrow hooked onto the back. It wiggled back and forth as he walked.

Crookshanks growled low, sitting just in front of Draco with a menacing glare.

“Looks like you’ve got a note,” Theo supplied helpfully, gesturing to the tip of the Cupid’s arrow on Crookshanks’ back.

Slowly, Draco reached out to Crookshanks, hoping he wouldn’t receive a set of matching scratches. He unraveled the note carefully.

“So?” Theo prompted.

Draco’s jaw slackened. “Mate, this is not for your eyes. Actually, on that note, I have to go.”

Theo’s eyes opened wide. “Shite, did she send you a picture?”

Tucking the paper into his pocket, he smirked deviously. “Like I said, I have to go. I’m suddenly extremely busy before I see Blaise.”

“Lucky bastard.”


As it was a stop during the Prefect rounds, Hermione was already familiar with the Ravenclaw Common Room, though she had never been there for a social call. She trudged up to the top of the spiral staircase that led to the main common area. In front of her, there was a door with no knob or keyhole. She lifted the bronze knocker, carved into the shape of an eagle, and knocked once on the door.

The eagle shook awake. “What cannot talk but will reply when spoken to?”

Hermione took a moment to think. “An echo,” she declared confidently.

“Very good,” the eagle praised as the door opened.

Inside the Common Room, she was met with dimmed lights and loud music which assaulted her senses. The atmosphere was the antithesis of her previous experiences with the space. On earlier visits, the Common Room was nearly silent or had soft music playing. It was generally filled with students in passionate discussions or focusing on schoolwork.

Tonight, the wide, circular room looked as though a decoration shop exploded inside. It was covered from floor to ceiling in hearts and Valentine’s Day décor. The blue and bronze silks clashed with the red. Sofas and chairs were pushed aside to make an open dancing space. The marble statue of Ravenclaw watched disapprovingly.

From the description that Luna provided earlier that week, Hermione had expected to be one of a few grumbling peers attending out of polite obligation. What Hermione found, however, was completely the opposite. The room was filled with students, all lively and animated, dancing to a catchy tune—was that the Weird Sisters?

At the edge of the room, a miniature fountain that spewed a bright red drink. Hermione snagged an empty cup and filled it with the liquid.

She navigated through the crowded Common Room with her glass of punch. Taking a quick drink, she grimaced at the taste; it had not taken long for someone to spike the communal beverage. Nursing the drink, her eyes skimmed through the crowd, looking for familiar faces.

There were an abnormal number of Slytherins in the room, she noted curiously. How did Luna manage to convince so many Slytherin students to attend?

A tug at her navel caught her by surprise; she instantly looked to the entrance of the room, noticing a head of platinum blond hair joining the crowd. She put on a mask of indifference as she watched Draco and Blaise make their way over to the same fountain that she had come from. She caught Draco’s eye; he gave a nearly imperceptible shrug.

What were they doing here?

Raising her glass to her lips, she turned to watch the group of dancers, pretending to ignore Draco as he wandered over to the same corner of the room as her. She felt hyperfocused on his presence.

Draco stopped several steps away from her, facing away from her like he had not noticed her either; he pursed his lips in annoyance.

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” she muttered into her glass, taking a sip. “Change of plans?”

“Blaise dragged me here; in fact, he invited probably ninety-nine percent of the people here.”

“Why would Blaise want to come to a Singles’ Day party in the Ravenclaw commons?” She recoiled in puzzlement. Slytherins rarely attended parties of the other houses.

He sighed under his breath. “Because Blaise is in love with Luna.”

Hermione inhaled part of her drink, coughing uncontrollably. “He’s what?!”

Several students nearby glanced over at her and she gave a contrite half-smile.

Draco turned his head towards the wall. “Remember the first Potions lesson of the year? With the Amortentia?”

“Of course,” she mumbled, trying not to move her lips.

“He had zero idea what his smells came from. He spent weeks trying to figure out what he’s attracted to from the potion fumes. Said whatever it was, it was real love.” He ran a hand through his hair, trying to cover his mouth with his arm as he pulled it through. “You should’ve seen the look on his face when she walked by later that month carrying a singing cat with shoes on it. He about fell over in shock.”

“Oh my god.” Her eyes drifted over to Blaise. “I had no idea.”

“Bloke’s completely infatuated, hasn’t even looked at another witch all year. Not that he’s even talked to Luna once.”

“This is Blaise Zabini we are talking about? Not chasing every available witch?” A small scoff of skepticism left her mouth. “I can’t believe it.”

“The very one. He heard Neville talking about the party during class and invited all of Slytherin House, hoping he could catch a moment alone with Luna without sticking out. He had a mysterious package delivered this morning during breakfast.”

Hermione turned her full attention to the man in question.

Blaise had one hand in his pocket; he was leaning against the fireplace mantle as he tried unsuccessfully to pretend he was not watching Luna Lovegood dance. Luna, utterly oblivious to her admirer, was spinning around the makeshift dance floor with her arms waving through the air in no particular pattern.

The corners of Blaise’s lips curled up, his eyes following her freeform steps as her head tilted to the ceiling and lingering just a moment too long.

“Oh my god!” Hermione repeated, forgetting herself and looking to Draco in complete shock. “You’re actually serious?!”

“Hey now!” Dean Thomas announced, sidling up to Hermione. “No fighting tonight. I’ve heard wicked rumours about the two of you having rows every time you’re on Prefect duty together, and this is not the time nor the place for that. Tonight is a night for love.”

Draco sneered at Dean’s sudden appearance. “We weren’t—"

“Hello, Dean.” Hermione donned a pleasant smile, breaking off Draco’s thought before he could continue. “Are you enjoying the party?”

“I sure am, but it would appear I am short a dance partner. Any chance I could get a repeat of our last night together?” Dean grinned, turning on the charm. Without waiting for an answer, he lifted Hermione’s drink from her hand and set it on the ledge behind him.

Draco’s face warped in a mixture of emotions as he watched Hermione glance down at her empty hand and stumble over her words.

“Oh—of course, Dean. It would be fun to dance with you again.” She watched as Draco’s eyes tightened on the word ‘again’.

“I’ll bring her back to you to continue your argument later.” Dean winked at Draco, who deliberately glared at him in response.

Hermione felt his heated gaze on her as Dean led her to a gap in the crowd of dancers.

She internally groaned; this interaction was far more innocent than it sounded.

“Do you two ever get along?” Dean asked, his eyes narrowing with a shake of his head.

“You’d be surprised,” she mumbled sarcastically under her breath.

“Well, I don’t have the shoes or the talent that comes from them, but I think we can still have a great time dancing.” 

“You don’t need enchanted shoes; given the crowd, I highly doubt salsa will be the style of the night.” Her eye caught on Luna. A wicked idea passed through her mind. “Dean, I’ll be right back. Don’t start without me!”

She slipped through the students and over to Luna. Pulling the witch out of her trance, Hermione hooked their arms together and leaned in. “I’ve noticed a certain tall, dark, and handsome Slytherin without a dance partner.” She lowered her voice, barely audible above the music. “You should invite him to dance. I have a feeling that you might like him.”

Luna tipped her head to the side, humming thoughtfully. Her startling blue eyes landed on Blaise, who was making his way back over to Draco.

“I’ve promised a dance to Dean, so I have to go, but in case it has skipped your notice, Blaise hasn’t been able to keep his eyes off you all night.” Hermione nudged Luna with a cheeky wink.

“His Sunveri is exceptionally bright,” she mused, a glint of interest flashed by. “That’s a very good sign during a waning gibbous.”

Hermione stared for a beat. “Of course it is, Luna. I’m going back to Dean now, but just…consider it, okay?”

“I think I will ask him to dance,” Luna decided aloud, a smile stretched across her lips.

“Oh—and Luna?”

“Yes?”

“What’s a Wigginturn?”

“It’s a mint lemonade my dad makes in the summer.”

Hermione’s jaw slacked. “Does it…do anything?”

“It’s a beverage…it hydrates you? Surely you’re familiar with the concept.” Luna’s voice lifted in airy amusement. “Why do you ask?”

Hermione held in a laugh at Harry’s expense. “Just curious.”

The rest of Hermione’s night was spent with Dean and the other Gryffindors at the party. Seamus had too many cups of the spiked drink and vomited in a potted plant before being promptly carried back to the Gryffindor Tower by Geoffrey Hooper and Terrence Fogarty.

She had hardly seen Neville the entire night; his time was taken up by Kate Olney, who seemed genuinely interested in his Herbology ramblings. Several pairs of students were spread around the room snogging. Hermione assumed that was partially due to the free-flowing alcohol.

Overall, it had not been a terrible Valentine’s Day, though Hermione would have much preferred to spend it with Draco in their place.

Just as the party was dying down, she slipped out of the Ravenclaw Common Room.

Hermione paused at the top of the spiral staircase, catching the quickest flash of Luna’s bright red skirt from around the corner.

“It’s enchanted to repel Tacagans.” Blaise’s low voice murmured. “I read in The Quibbler that they are envious creatures that terrorize beautiful witches.”

Hermione’s eyes widened as she grinned. Blaise was finally talking to Luna. She resisted the growing urge to do a short happy jig. If what Draco said was true, then Blaise had been building up the courage for this conversation since September. It was endearing that he was confident with every witch but Luna Lovegood, who apparently intimidated and entranced him.

Unwilling to draw attention to herself and ruin their moment, she wandlessly silenced her footsteps, grateful that she had been practising wandless magic this year.

She heard a gasp of happiness come from Luna. “I’ve been meaning to procure one of these to go along with my Aginlara tracker, though this is much nicer than the one I had in mind,” she replied matter-of-factly.

“It has a gemstone inlay of the lunar phases,” Blaise added, his voice like honey. “It was made for you.”

Carefully, Hermione stepped down the opposite hallway without disrupting the pair, slipping around the corner just in time to see Blaise place a platinum hair clip into Luna’s hair. His hand brushed away the stray strands that framed her face.

Hermione barely caught the tail end of the conversation as she retreated in the direction of Gryffindor Tower.

“I like your aura, Blaise Zabini.” A whimsical voice twirled through the corridor.

“Well, Luna Lovegood, it just so happens that I like you.”

 

Chapter Text

March-April

 Year 6

 

The only sound in the room was the crackle and popping of the fire. Draco had walked into the Room of Requirement and silently made his way to the sofa. Without a word, he pulled Hermione into his lap and tucked his head into her wild curls. His arms wound tightly around her waist, as if he were afraid that she would disappear beneath him.

Leaning into his touch, she closed her eyes and memorised the way his body moulded against hers. They sunk into the sofa and each other, their breaths in sync as their chests rose and fell through the moments.

He never wanted to talk about his sessions with Professor Snape, but she could see the weariness in his body. The longer the sessions continued, the more time it took to erase the dull look from his eyes, to breathe life back into him.

It was futile to try to convince him to stop attending the Occlumency lessons. Hermione had tried instigating that conversation several times over the past month and was met with a blank look in his eyes. ‘It’s a matter of life and death’ was all he would say, like a broken record.

Long after Hermione had lost track of time, Draco broke the silence.

“Where is your head today?” A lazy finger drifted over her cheek, his knuckle brushing along her jawline.

“You’ve been in my mind dozens of times now. I was wondering what it’s like to be the one who is going through your mind,” she admitted softly before clarifying. “To be the Legilimens.”

His brows knitted as he considered her words. “Would you like to try?”

Hermione sat up in surprise, his hands settling on her hips. “It was just a thought—I don’t know what I’m doing, Draco. Didn’t you say it can feel like your head is splitting apart when dealing with an unskilled Legilimens?”

“When have you ever shied away from a challenge, Hermione Granger?”

She picked at her nails nervously, torn at his offer, “This isn’t an examination in class—it’s a real life unpracticed application of advanced magic. What if I flail through your mind like a bull in a china shop?”

“Who would put a bull—”

“It’s a turn of phrase. I mean to say, I could hurt you, right?”

“You would never,” he assured her. “I’ve practiced enough Occlumency with dear old godfather that I can handle any level of Legilimens with ease.”

Hermione thought for several moments before conceding, “If you really don’t mind…”

A smile quirked on Draco’s lips and she lifted her wand. “You can push me out if you want, right?”

“Of course I can. Whenever you’re ready, enter me,” he teased, holding his arms out.

She fought the urge to roll her eyes at his words. “It was funnier when I said it.”

His signature smirk spread across his cheeks.

Turning to face him, she straddled his hips with one thigh on either side of him. The two slotted together, his hands resting gently on her thighs.

Legilimens.

If Hermione had been disoriented by Draco entering her mind, she felt a hundred times more overwhelmed by being the Legilimens. Even with him gently guiding her through his head, she had to pause for a moment to catch her breath.

Memories flickered past her eyes, images colliding in fractured pieces, sounds, smells… The sensory overload was indescribable.

“I don’t think I’m doing this correctly,” she bemoaned, trying to maintain her concentration.

“You’re doing fine,” she heard him murmur and his thumb stroked the top of her thigh in assurance.

Hermione homed in on the edge of a memory, pulling it to the forefront of Draco’s mind.

Draco was running through the forest as fast as his small legs could move. She could not place his age but he was small, the wind rushing through his hair and drying out his eyes. He was laughing, a full-deep belly laugh, as he continued weaving through the trees.

“Draco! I can hear you laughing!” Narcissa’s light voice danced in amusement behind him. “I hope you have found a good hiding place!”

Spotting a massive oak which had cracked in half, he tucked himself up against the base, disappearing behind waist high wild grass.

Her footsteps approached, crunching on leaves and small twigs.

Draco hid a giggle behind his hand as the grass pulled back. Narcissa stood in front of him, grinning widely. “I found you!” She dove into him with tickles, he fell back and kicked his legs as he laughed.

Hermione’s chest swelled with happiness at the sweet childhood memory. It tipped and swirled, she fell out of it and into the next.

It was bewildering to orient herself in the next recollection. He was diving through the sky, whizzing between blurs on broomsticks. Nearby, a red trail shimmered just outside Hermione’s line of sight. His eyes focused only on the glittering golden snitch just out of his grasp.

She remembered watching this game, it was third year. Slytherin against Gryffindor.

Draco caught the snitch.

It was so vivid; she could almost feel the flutter of the wings against her skin as Draco’s hand reached out and swiped it from the air.

The crowd erupted in deafening cheers around her and she felt herself grinning from the exhilaration of the moment.

“Wow…” she marvelled, pulling out of his mind as gently as she could. “That felt so real.”

Draco’s expression was unreadable.

Hermione felt a flash of panic. “Did I hurt you?”

“No,” he reassured her, his voice tense. “It didn’t hurt. It was just…”

“What is it, love?”

“There was a pulse—just for a moment. I thought I felt it during our earlier lessons in your mind, but it was stronger when you were in my head.”

“A pulse?”

“Didn’t you see it?” His voice lifted uneasily.

Hermione thought back to the memory, the flash of scarlet.

“Maybe. I wasn’t looking. Can we try again?”

He hesitated before nodding.

“Me or you?” she questioned.

“Me. I’ll try to find it again. Is your mind clear?”

A nervous laugh bubbled in her chest,\. “I suppose.”

She shifted closer to him, taking his wand and placing it on the table next to them. Hermione settled her hands in his, clasping them tightly together. He looked at her curiously.

“Try it wandless,” she suggested. “It might help you focus.”

He gave an apprehensive shrug, “I imagine it can’t hurt to try.”

Draco’s chest expanded with a drag of breath. “ Legillimens.

Hermione was accustomed to the sensation; Draco moved through her mind with a comfortable familiarity.

“There,” he said faintly.

The crimson colour was back and he pulled their attention to it. It had settled in the back of her mind, looping through her memories, strung tightly. It reminded her of a strand or a piece of a web. He moved closer and it hummed softly with a magnetic pull, shimmering with magic.

“A pull,” she whispered in shock. “Draco, when we didn’t have a name for this, for the binding, we called it a Pull—the feeling that tethers our magic together.”

The strand thrummed, crackles of magic surrounding it. She felt a familiar tug in her navel, the one that had been with her for years, and it left her breathless.

He lifted out of her mind; his hands held hers so tightly they began to go numb from loss of circulation.

He looked at her incredulously. “It really was a Pull.”


She left the Room of Requirement feeling excited and nervous at their latest revelation. They had practiced for hours, going back and forth and pulling at the strand in their minds until they could find it with ease. At the end of it all, Hermione was mentally exhausted after spending her entire day using Legilimency with Draco.

The sound of frantic footsteps caught her attention and Ron appeared out of nowhere with his hands on his knees as he caught his breath.

“Hermione! Bloody hell, where have you been?” Ron’s face was filled with worry. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

“I—I was in the library,” she fell back onto her usual excuse with ease. “I was studying, what’s wrong?”

His face squeezed in uncertainty. “I checked the library and asked around everywhere. You weren’t there. I couldn’t find the map.”

“I was constantly moving through the sections, looking for different books,” she compounded on the lie. “Lots of dusty books, no one is ever in that area.”

“It’s Harry,” he said, visibly white and shaken. “He’s been hurt. He’s in the Hospital Wing.”

As she considered everything that could have happened, she felt like the world was moving in slow motion.

Her legs were carrying her down the corridor before she had fully processed his words. Her mind immediately went to the cabinet; there was no way anyone had come through yet. It was not even functional.

Could the Room of Requirement and Room of Hidden Things even exist at the same time?

She felt her heart skip a beat.

“What happened?”

He jogged next to her as she made her way towards the Hospital Wing.

“It was a bludger during the match against Ravenclaw today,” Ron explained.

Hermione felt guilty at the relief she found in his words. “But he’s going to be okay? I mean, surely it can’t be worse than the time he lost the bones in his arm because of Lockhart…”

“He’ll heal, thanks to Madam Pomfrey. Mione, I know you don’t like Quidditch, but I thought you would’ve been there to support us…” his voice trailed off.

She tried unsuccessfully to swallow the lump in her throat.

Ron’s voice grew low. “It was scary. Harry was really high in the air when he fell. Charlie fell from half the height once and he was unconscious for weeks.”

“Have you seen him yet?” she asked, her tone high and anxious.

“I just came from visiting him. Madam Pomfrey sent me away so she could change his bandages and give him another round of potions. Said he’s only allowed one visitor at a time until his condition approves. I’ve been looking for you for nearly an hour.”

“Thank you for telling me, Ronald. I’ll see you back at the Gryffindor Commons?”

He nodded numbly; she picked up her pace and ran the rest of the way to the Hospital Tower.

The closer she got to Harry, the more Hermione’s conscience screamed at her; she had spent so little time with her mates this term because of Draco and the cabinet. Ron was right — she should have been there for Harry.

As she made her way across the stone floor of the Hospital Wing, a pit of fear grew in her stomach. Quidditch was incredibly dangerous; players had died from injuries in the sport.

Only one bed was occupied and the privacy curtains were wrapped around it.

“Harry?” Hermione hissed. “Are you awake?”

A shushing noise came from behind the sheet. Frowning, she separated the fabric, peering inside the space.

Harry was laying in the bed, his arm and torso bandaged. There were empty bottles of pain potions and unidentified liquids on his bedside table. A smile bloomed on Hermione’s face. In his bed, Theo was tucked around him. His arms were splayed across Harry’s torso, carefully avoiding his bandaged areas.

With a quick look, Harry mouthed, I’m okay. He stared down at Theo who was fast asleep. Even in his sleep, he had worry lines etched into his brow.

Hermione’s chest filled with warmth at the sight. She moved her mouth silently, I’m sorry.

For everything , she added mentally.

He gave her a reassuring smile. I know. It’s okay.

She sidled up to Harry, placing a quick kiss on his cheek before giving him one last look and exiting the wing.


Hermione pushed her hair out of her face impatiently, flustered and covered in dust. “This isn’t working,” she muttered angrily.

Glaring at the green apple sitting in the Vanishing Cabinet, she considered throwing it across the room. It was in the same position that it was in nearly two hours prior when they had begun their work.

“I’m well aware, thanks,” Draco snapped in reflex, squeezing his eyes shut. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—it’s just that it’s been weeks and we have nothing to show for it.”

She felt aggravation rise under her skin. Hermione did not often struggle so completely. In fact, she could count the topics she had a hard time with on one hand. Divination, because it is bollocks , she mentally added, and flying had been her two biggest weaknesses before this year. Now she was confident in adding Vanishing Cabinet repair to that list.

After taking a deep breath to steady herself, Hermione looked to Draco. His hands were clenched into twin fists of frustration, and his face was creased with worry lines.

Recognising the signs of stress and weariness on him, her features softened. He had been working so hard lately between classes, Occlumency, the cabinet. Had he even taken any time for himself? If he had, she had not been there to see it.

“Love?” She walked over to him, gently unfolding his hands and placing them around her waist. “Let’s stop for tonight, okay? I think we have done all we can for the night.”

Draco’s chest curled inward as he pulled her into a tight embrace. “Back to our place?”

Nodding, she echoed, “Back to our place.”

After several sessions in the Room of Hidden Things, Hermione and Draco discovered that whoever was the original designer of the room could revert the room back to their common space without having to leave and come back.

Since she had arrived first today, it was up to Hermione to change the room. She closed her eyes and leaned into Draco’s chest, inhaling her most favourite scent in the world. When her eyelids fluttered open, the room was their place once more.

The Room of Requirement had been a haven for them during the past few years, and Hermione was not sure how they would have survived without it. Perhaps they would have found a replacement meeting space in a Quidditch closet or in a grove of trees by the Forbidden Forest, though Draco would have been appalled to spend an inordinate amount of time there.

“Honestly, Granger, I’m not a centaur!” She could imagine him complaining.

During nights like these, when they failed to make progress on the cabinet, the heaviness visibly wore on Draco. He was not talkative and often fell into himself, introspective of their situation. Hermione grew accustomed to spending time after their working sessions in the comfortable silence.

She pulled her books and parchment out of her bookbag, prepared to use the time on her essay for Charms. Draco eyed her curiously. “I haven’t noticed that one before.” He gestured to her pocketbook which was propped open in front of her. “What course is that for?”

“It’s not technically for a particular course,” she replied. “It’s a sort of reference tool.”

His curiosity piqued, Draco reached over her and picked up the booklet, flipping quickly through the pages. “It’s blank.”

“Not always.”

He stilled. “Granger, what kind of reference tool?”

“What is the Fidelius Charm?” Hermione asked aloud, looking expectantly at the book.

The page filled with words.

The Fidelius Charm is an advanced, multifaceted, and potent charm which is used to conceal a secret inside a single, living soul, known as the Secret Keeper. During the initial casting, it is possible to use more than one person as Secret Keeper, and once they die, everyone who learnt the information from the deceased Secret Keeper become Keepers themselves.

Disclosure of the secret must be given voluntarily; various methods of coercion such as truth serum, Legilimency, or torture have no effect on the charm.

It is most common to use the Fidelius Charm in regard to a location, which becomes invisible, intangible, unplottable, and soundproof as a result of this enchantment.

Origin unknown, the Fidelius Charm is one of the most ancient spells of written record.  

“What is this?” Draco sounded breathless. “How long have you had it?”

Hermione frowned. “It’s just a reference tool I use for my schoolwork. You ask it questions and it pulls information from the books that have been loaded on the partner. I wouldn’t get too excited; it has limitations.”

“Why haven’t you just asked, ‘How do I fix a vanishing cabinet?’” he enquired, looking down at the book.

“Draco—” Her voice caught in her throat, guilt ebbing at her for giving him false hope. “It doesn’t work like that. It can only repeat information you’ve provided in its stand, not generate new information.”

His eyes were impossibly wide as he went slack jawed, his eyes darting back and forth across the page.

“What is it?”

He turned the book towards her in response, showing her that pages had filled with information on Vanishing Cabinets.

Hermione nearly fell back in shock. “That’s…not possible, Draco. I asked it for information on Vanishing Cabinets weeks ago. I asked nearly a dozen different ways in case it misunderstood me. It only takes imprints of other books. There was no information. How…”

“Ask,” he urged her with a nod, thrusting the book back into her hands. “Try again.”

“What information do you have on Vanishing Cabinets?” Her voice sounded wobbly.

The pages remained blank.

“Vanishing Cabinet history.” Her voice rose in frustration. “Lore and mythology on Vanishing Cabinets.” She tapped it impatiently with her wand. “How do I fix a Vanishing Cabinet?”

Nothing.

Draco turned to her gravely. “Where did you get this pocketbook?”

She shrugged. “It was in the safe house, just after I left the Manor in fifth year. Sirius let me take it home because he said it was just gathering dust in his house otherwise. I brought it back with the dancing shoes I told you about.”

Running his hands over his face, he said, “Sirius Black . Merlin, Granger. You’re telling me that you took an incredibly powerful family heirloom from the ancestral House of Black that is filled with an archive of generations of knowledge and you have been using it for schoolwork .”

Hermione remained silent, staring in bewilderment at the filled pages. “It would appear so, yes. In my defense, I also used it to prank Umbridge.”

“Sometimes I forget that you know nothing about Pureblood culture,” he muttered, taking the book back into his hands. He thumbed the cover gently. “Do you remember all the conversations we have had about pureblood families and how they are notorious for keeping information in their families and passing it to their children? They have their own societal expectations, courtship traditions, the unwritten rules we talked about?”

“Yes. They are protective of sharing information from outsiders.” She swallowed hard. “If I’m an outsider, why would a Black family heirloom let me glean any information from it at all?”

“Honestly, it might be a result of our bond, considering the magical connection is akin to a marriage.”

Her stomach flipped in a delicious manner at the phrasing.

“The house-elves acknowledge you because of the bond. You are tied to me, which is similar to what happens in a wizarding marriage. In the old days, I mean, the really old days , most marriages were made completely for alliances between estates. The early magical protections were based on blood magic, not marriage bonds or shared family magic, because the relationships between husband and wife were often precarious. They were forced together as part of a treaty, not in love.”

“They didn’t want to be betrayed by giving their spouse open access to their heirlooms,” Hermione realised. “The blood magic is for one parent and their offspring, not the spouse. It’s a blood barrier to keep everyone else out.”

“Exactly. This must be ancient; this sort of thing is rarely done these days. Not that people don’t try, but goblins highly frown upon a witch or wizard locking their spouse out of the family vault with blood wards—it’s barbaric, I know,” he added quickly at her look of indignation. “My guess is that this pocketbook identifies you as a sort of spouse and responds to your generic questions because of it. Outside of that, it has generations of ancient Black family information in it that is completely unavailable to you. It only shows you the information that is unprotected. It answered to me—”

“Because of your blood,” she finished dryly. “This pocketbook has generations of dark magic and classified information probably inaccessible in any library in the world, and I’ve been using it for schoolwork.”

His eyes caught on the page. “Yes. And now we have it for the cabinet.”

With a sharp inhale, she turned her attention back to the book. “We finally made some progress.”


They had spent the first few months trying to repair the cabinet using the books available in the library, including the Restricted Section with a permission slip from Snape, but that ultimately yielded little information.

The pocketbook had more information than they could have possibly hoped to find in any schoolbook. It seemed someone in the Black family had designed Vanishing Cabinets, or that they had received the information from someone who had intimate knowledge of the process.

“Love,” Hermione caught Draco’s attention. “There’s a core!”

“A what?”

“I never questioned it, because magic, but the Vanishing Cabinet in the drawing here”—she held up the rudimentary sketch up so he could see it—“indicates that there is a wooden core that powers the cabinet in the bottom, just below the baseboard.”

“It’s not the same model or even created in the same century.” He eyed the sketch. “But it’s certainly somewhere to start. Think there’s any harm in breaking open the bottom?”

“I mean, it’s our best bet so far. It’s already broken, so disassembling it won’t hurt. It’s not like we can make it work any less.”

Turning to the cabinet, he nodded. “Let’s try it.”

Half an hour later, Hermione tapped her foot impatiently. “Any luck?”

“No,” Draco’s voice reverberated off the old wood, his torso disappeared behind the door. “Cobwebs, lots of cobwebs. I think I inhaled particles of someone’s gran down here.”

“Ew.” Hermione warped her face in disgust. “Poor gran.”

He shifted his weight, tugging against the remaining piece of the base; it gave way with a heavy groan.

“Done!”

She steered herself through the bits of wood, pushing pieces aside with her foot. “God, this cabinet has to be ancient.”

“Yeah,” Draco agreed, dusting his hands together. “Half the wood in here is petrified. The matching cabinet in Borgin and Burkes looked much healthier than this; it must have been stored in a better environment.”

Hermione swapped places with Draco—she was smaller and fit inside the cabinet more easily. He had removed the floor in an attempt to find the core that was displayed in the book. If the core was missing, there was no way they would be able to get the cabinet to work.

According to the pocketbook information, the cabinet worked using a core from the same tree from which it received its wood. If the core was gone, there would be no way that a replacement core would transmit magical energy through the wood of the cabinet. The cabinet was far too old and obscure to have documented information on the forest of its origin.

It hummed faintly, the dim sensation tingling through her as she inspected the centre. The wood of the cabinet encased the core; it was hidden just beneath the bottom panel and above the additional storage. It looked similar to a chicken egg in both size and shape.

She resisted the urge to touch it as she tilted her head around. “ Lumos. ” She tucked her wand through the slats for better visibility.

“Draco!” She waved a hand to get his attention. “I see a crack.” At the base of the core, the smallest sliver had begun to form.

“In all these months, I had never opened the base, never would’ve thought to look there,” he mumbled under his breath. “Can I see?” He fit his head in the gap above her shoulder. “That is definitely not good. It looks like the power source is…leaking—is that the word?” He looked to Hermione who shrugged. “You can feel the energy seeping out.”

“That means we need to repair the central power source. It should help the cabinet’s magic stabilise.” She balanced her wand between her teeth, pointing the shining end towards the dimly lit base.

He faltered. “Is that a simple Reparo ? How do you fix a broken core?”

Continuing her examination of the centre, she corrected him. “It’s not broken. I think you were right when you said it’s leaking.”

Hermione struggled to enunciate with her wand obstructing her mouth. “If your theory is correct, then step one is to stop the leak. Step two is to check the power supply and see if it’s retained enough energy to continue working when it isn’t hemorrhaging magic.”

“I have an idea.” She stuck her hand out behind her expectantly. “Check my expandable bag, top right shelf, in a wooden box. There’s a container of wand sealant.”

Draco shuffled through her stuff. Moments later, he placed a jar of paste in her open palm.

“I hope this works,” Draco replied skeptically/ “This stuff is designed for mending aging wands, not sealing Vanishing Cabinet cores.”

Hermione took her wand from her mouth and waved it, making a blob of sealant generously coat the core.

After sharing a quick look with Draco, she sat and waited.

“You don’t think it’s going to have a negative reaction, will it?” Draco asked, nervously eyeing the cabinet.

“I mean, wand wood and cabinet wood can’t be that different, right?” she asked, sounding more confident than she felt.

“Yeah,” Draco stated. “It isn’t smoking yet, that’s a positive.”

After several moments, the egg twitched.

“Is it—”

The core began rotating, slow and jolting at first, but it smoothed out, continuing to spin.

Hermione let out a sharp exhale. “Is it…?” Her voice trailed off.

“We’ll have to try.” He swallowed the lump in his throat. “That’s the only way we will know.”

In silence, she pulled herself out of the cabinet. One by one, she handed Draco the baseboards as he pushed the slanted pieces together like a puzzle. The bottom formed as the last piece secured in place.

The cabinet was whole once more.

“Do you have the apple?” he asked, nodding at her bag.

“I’ve brought one to every session,” she told him. “Just in case.”

“Ever the optimist.” He gave a faint smile, holding out a hand as she passed him the apple.

Hermione paced the room, her legs refusing to keep still. This was the closest they had been to having real results with the task.

Draco pulled out a charmed piece of parchment that had been given to Borgin for the purpose of testing. He tapped it once with his wand and the parchment burned a bright red. After a second, the parchment turned green.

“Borgin is ready.” His throat bobbed as he swallowed, rolling the bright green apple around between his hands.

“Are you ready?” she asked, her voice feeling small.

His eyes grew hard and she immediately regretted asking. Hermione stepped next to him, taking his hand in hers and intertwining their fingers. He gave a gentle squeeze before leaning forward and placing the apple in the centre of the base.

He closed the door.

He turned the latch, which had an interior and exterior trigger. The cabinet buzzed and hummed to life. A gasp caught in Hermione’s throat at the sound of the cabinet working.

They waited until the parchment turned red.

Draco’s hand trembled as he reached out for the handle; the click echoed loudly in their ears.

He looked to Hermione, his eyes full of trepidation. She realised that he could not force himself to check. Nodding numbly, she stepped forward and pulled on the cabinet door.

Sitting at the base of the cabinet was an apple, ripped into shreds. The juice trickled out of the cabinet and dripped onto the floor of the Room of Hidden Things.

“We could always stop here,” she quipped. “You know…bit of a nasty surprise for old Bellatrix.”

His eyes were fixed in the distance, unfocused and glazed over.

“I didn’t think we would be able to get this far.” His voice sounded flat and lifeless. “We might actually be able to fix this cabinet.”

They looked back at the remains of the apple, a sense of dread filling the air around them.

Chapter Text

May

Year 6

 

“I saw your message.” Draco hurried past Hermione into the Prefects’ bathroom. “It looked urgent. Is everything okay?”

A smile played across her lips as she locked and silenced the bathroom with a flick of her wand.

“Everything is fine,” she assured him, giving him a mischievous grin. “I asked you here because you’ve been so tense lately.” She placed her palms on his chest, slowly sliding them up around his shoulders and into his hair.

“You interrupted my thrilling game of chess with Blaise because I’ve been tense, and your solution is that I needed a bath?” His tone was amused as he quirked a brow at her.

Her eyes slyly drifted over to the filled tub. “That’s for after.”

“After what?”

Lowering her hands, her eyes connected suggestively with his as she began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Oh,” he breathed, his gaze locked on her fingers as they worked.

He reached up to touch her, but she tutted under her breath and lightly pushed his hands away. “Not yet.”

She pulled the shirt off his shoulders and dropped it onto the floor before unclasping the buckle of his trousers with a confident flick of her wrist. As he watched her attentively, he held his breath and his dark pupils obscured his normal silver irises.

Hermione gently palmed him through the fabric of his trousers, feeling his cock strain towards her touch. She resisted the urge to smile when he gave a soft groan and pushed his erection against her hand with a tilt of his hips. As she lowered the zipper and pushed his trousers down, he closed his eyes and let out a shaky exhale.

“Can I touch you?” he rasped, shuddering as she traced a single finger along the hardened shaft obscured by his pants.

“No.”

Draco let out a frustrated sound.

“This isn’t for me,” she whispered, fingering the edge of his waistband.

Her fingertips lightly brushed against his skin, trailing through the patch of hair before cupping him fully; the muscles of his abdomen clenched as his hips canted forward, urgently seeking more of her touch.

“If this was for me, I would be in you by now,” he replied, voice low and husky.

She shivered at the thought, clenching her thighs together and ignoring the pulsing at her core as she continued stroking him, teasingly slow. Her lips brushed against the base of his neck, hitting that spot that pulled a low grumble from his chest; she suckled softly at the pale skin, making sure to leave a bruise.

He stood rigid before her, jaw tight and hands clenched at his sides to prevent himself from touching her.

“Please,” he begged, his Adam's apple bobbing in his throat as he watched her through hooded eyes.

Dropping down onto her knees, Hermione tugged his boxers down, releasing his length from its confinement. Her tongue darted across the head, licking away the droplet that had formed at the tip as her small hand closed around him. He sucked in a sharp breath as she swirled her tongue around his head, enveloping him between her lips.

Over the course of their years together, Hermione had become adept at reading his non-verbal cues of pleasure. She knew exactly how to elicit the shivers and small grunts of approval. All it took was a push of the flat of her tongue to the underside of cock to make his eyelids flutter and his head fall back.

Heat pooled in her abdomen as she listened to the unintelligible sounds that left his lips, ‘You’re perfect’; ‘just like that’; ‘you feel so good’.

Though she wanted his touch, today was not about her; she wanted to make him feel and forget.

She pumped slowly along his shaft, gently twisting her hand and tracing soft circles with her thumb as her cheeks hollowed around him. His knees buckled and soft pants left his lips, his hips driving short thrusts into her mouth. 

“Gods, I love you.” 

His stare never wavered, mesmerised by the way her eyes had darkened and her lips formed a perfect ring around him.

As she continued, her cheeks heated in satisfaction, feeling him tense beneath her. The fingers of her left hand skated up his thigh to dig into his arsecheek; the guttural noise bubbling up from his throat caused her to moan around his cock when a pulse of need shot through her core.

Everything in her body felt hot and tight as she watched Draco’s carefully constructed exterior fall apart. She had heard her dormmates talk about how they hated oral sex, but Hermione never felt more powerful and alive than when she had Draco writhing under her lips, moaning softly, gripping her like a lifeline.

“Love.” His breath was jagged and coarse. “I’m close.”

Fingers tangling in her hair, he pulled her off him with a soft pop as he thrust into her hand. With a playful smile, Hermione’s tongue flicked against the head one more time, her hand tightening around him with each snap of his hips. She watched him with hunger in her gaze as his face flushed and his lips parted before he stilled, his cock pulsing in time with his heartbeat. He released his spend into her hand, and she wandlessly vanished the mess with a cheeky smile.

Draco fell to his knees, cupping her cheeks and sighing against her lips. “Thank you.” 

His mouth pressed firmly against hers, thumb stroking tenderly over her cheekbone. When he pulled Hermione into his arms, herhead came to rest against his shoulder, each leaning into the other until their breathing slowed.

Moments later, Draco’s hand drifted to her chest, gently cupping her breast through her shirt.

“Now?” His voice was gravelly and sated as he teased the pad of his thumb around her nipple, brushing over it with gentle strokes.

The ache in her core returned, having never been satisfied, and she arched against his hand almost impatiently.

“Now. Please.”

Before the words even left her lips, he was tugging at her jumper, pulling it over her head in one swift movement. His hands hurriedly worked at her blouse, dropping it to the floor with her bra following close behind.

The way his lips captured the taut peak made her whimper and she felt him smile against her skin. Goosebumps erupted across her chest and arms when his tongue flicked across her nipple and his hand palmed her other breast.

Her hips rotated against nothing, desperate for the slightest touch, and a whimper tore from her throat. Long fingers skimmed the waistband of her knickers before dipping inside to stroke her core.

After a few tender strokes, she grasped his shoulders and arched her back as his thumb began circling around her swollen bud. He pushed a second finger into her, crooking slightly as he drove into her a rhythm that had her on the brink of madness.

Hermione’s breath hitched and she tossed her head back as she ground herself against his hand, overwhelmed with how close she was already. When she felt Draco’s erection pressing against her thigh, she stilled his hand, meeting his look of confusion with determination and desire in her gaze. Confidently, she lifted her hips and shimmied out of her skirt and knickers, tossing them into the small pile of clothes nearby.

She pulled him on top of her, nearly sighing at how good it felt to have the weight of him pressed against her. As he settled himself between her thighs, his chest pressing against hers, he teasingly slid the head of his cock through her slick folds. She grunted in frustration, digging her nails into his shoulders before lifting her hips and changing the angle, causing him to slide into her.

“Oh fuck,” he gasped. One thrust was all it took for their hips to meet as he bottomed out within her, fingers gripping her thigh, hiking it higher as he slowly pulled out and pushed back in fully.

Holding him tightly against her, Hermione met him thrust for thrust, her hips grinding against him with each movement.  Reaching between them, Draco plucked and twisted at one of her nipples, pulling a moan from deep within her chest.

She felt dizzy with pleasure, approaching a cliff that she was mere moments from falling from as her slick walls pulsed and fluttered around him. The ripples of her orgasm took her by surprise, and she felt her nails scratching dark lines over the skin of his back, desperate to hold on to anything of substance as she slipped beneath the waves of pleasure.

Her name was muttered against her curls as Draco shuddered, clutching her just as desperately. His teeth bruised the skin of her shoulder as he bit down, his breath catching and his cock pulsing inside of her.

Soft kisses were pressed against her skin as she lazily traced the curve of his spine with the tips of her fingers. Save for boneless, there was no other word for what she was feeling.

“I see why you said the bath is for after.”

“Just give me a minute to regain control of my legs,” she murmured as she stared at the ceiling, a peal of laughter bubbling up from her throat. “I’m afraid if I get in now, I’ll drown.”


Hermione’s eyes squeezed shut. “Anything?”

“Shh,” Draco hushed.

She gasped as the red strand tugged in her chest, her eyes flying open to meet his.

Draco grinned proudly, cupping her cheeks with his hands and dropping a kiss on her lips. “Told you we could find it without Occlumency.”

“At least we are making progress with something,” she sighed. “It’s been weeks and the core is still too weak to transfer anything.”

“Do you want me to look in the book again?” he offered. “Maybe we missed something?”

Taking his hands in hers, she gave him a small smile. “It can’t hurt.” 

It was unlikely but she would humour him; she had read through the information so many times she could easily take an exam on it.

He handed her the pocketbook, the pages filled with dark ink.

Hermione skimmed through the familiar text, flipping from page to page to check each headline.

Cabinet Wood

Similar to wands and wand wood, Vanishing Cabinets are created from trees which are harvested for the purpose of magically conducting matter—

Singletons and Pairs

It is rare that a single tree holds enough wood to create multiple cabinets, known as a pair, due to the rampant deforestation of these magical trees. In order for  a tree to be large enough for a single harvest, it must grow for hundreds of years—

Historical Context

Due to the expensive and exclusive nature of their design, Vanishing Cabinets are generally passed down generation to generation—

She stopped on a thought, flipping the page back to the previous section. Singletons and Pairs... she had never considered this section relevant in her previous read-throughs but today it caught her eye.

In order for a tree to be large enough for a single harvest, it must grow for hundreds of years; it takes nearly a thousand years to grow a tree with the amount of wood needed for two cabinets and the magic to fill two cores.

A pair must come from the same tree in order to connect their magical signatures and create the pathway between the cabinets. The cores will communicate as they transfer matter between the pair.

In 1230 AD, Rijand Thontaw attempted to join two singleton cabinets from the same forest to share a pathway. The attempt was unsuccessful. Thontaw was mangled on the first human trial and declared deceased upon sight. His fellow researcher, Jon Wesen, indicated a weak magical signature as the reason for failure. No successful transfer has been made between two singletons.

The words jumped off the page at her, having been a footnote during their previous research, she now found herself focusing on the failed attempt at two singleton cabinets. The subject was ripped into pieces, just like their apple.

She shivered at the thought.

The leaking core, the weak magical signature.

“Draco?”

He set down his parchment, watching her intently.

“There’s a treatment that Muggles use when a heart is slow and weak; it’s called defibrillation,” Hermione explained slowly, choosing her words carefully. “It sends an electric pulse through the chest and restores the natural rhythm to the heart.”

“That is horrifying.” His jaw dropped in shock. “Between that and what your parents do to teeth, I don’t know how Muggles survive without magic.”

Closing her eyes briefly, she brought her fingertips up to her forehead. “It’s just dentistry, Draco, I told you that it’s perfectly safe—okay, not the point. What I mean to say is, what if the cabinet’s core is too weak to communicate with its partner from the leak? The magical signature is low and needs a…a boost?”

His face was unreadable. “I don’t understand. You want us to get one of those Muggle devices to use on the cabinet?”

“No, this cabinet doesn’t need electricity. It needs magic.” She handed him the pocketbook. “The cabinets are a pair, just like us. I think we need to act as the defibrillator. Together.”


Hermione ran a path into the wooden floor with her incessant pacing as she waited for Draco to send a message that he was in position.

After explaining the situation to Professor Snape, he provided Draco access to his fireplace to Floo to Borgin and Burkes. Hermione was waiting in the Room of Hidden Things next to the Vanishing Cabinet.

Her ring burned.

Ready

She made her way to the cabinet, staring intently, her hands raised, trembling in fear and nerves. They rested on the solid wood and the grain dug into her palms.

Now

Hermione took a deep breath and closed her eyes. They had never tried to find the strand of their connection so far apart before.

She exhaled slowly, her chest deflating and expanding with the next breath. Her mind searched for the red strand, following the well-worn path in her mind.

A tug.

It pulled the breath from her lungs, she felt the pulsation of magic through it, finding its way to Draco.

Tingles ran down her arms and into her hands, golden sparks thrumming against the wood from her fingertips.

She focused on the feeling, concentrating it into her hands and pushing it into the wood. One plank of the base was still removed from their original search, the core exposed and humming. Magic danced in the air around her, the core spun and crackled, blinding her with flashes of light. The door to the cabinet swung shut of its own accord.

The light stopped.

The Pull receded.

Hermione stepped back, her mind numb and her body slumped from the magical exertion.

Did it work?

There was the sound of humming and then silence.

She opened the door. Sitting on the remaining baseboards was a perfectly formed green apple. Hermione picked it up with shaking hands, inspecting the apple. It was blemish free, fully intact.

With a swallow, her heart pounded in her ears; she placed the apple back on the plank and shut the door. A tap of her wand caused the humming to return briefly.

She opened the door and looked at the empty cabinet.

It seemed mere moments later that she was still staring at the empty base of the cabinet and heard a knock at the door of the Room of Hidden Things. It had taken Draco nearly twenty minutes to make his way to Borgin and Burkes.

Had Hermione lost that time?

Her legs wobbled in unease as she made her way to the front of the room. With a quick pull, she opened the door.

Draco stood in front of her, his eyes wild and hair skewed, his breath coming in heavy pants.

In his hand was the green apple, perfectly preserved.


They had spent so much time trying to fix the cabinet that she had pushed off the thoughts about what would happen when they succeeded. It was the antithesis of her exams and schoolwork; success was failure.

It felt like a slow march towards the gallows.

Draco was not speaking and his haunted eyes tore at her heart. “Are you okay?”

A look of incredulity passed over his face. “No. I’m not okay, Hermione.”

She hesitated, failing to find the right words to say.

“I’ve tried so hard to be different, but in the end, I’m just like my father.”

“You’re not, Draco, you’re different—"

“How can you say that I am different? How am I any better than those fucking Death Eaters? Just because I don’t have a Mark doesn’t mean that I’m any better than the rest of them. Fuck, Granger, I don’t know how you can even stand to be around me anymore.” His eyes shone with tears. “I don’t like who I’ve become.”

“You haven’t changed, you’re still you—”

He choked on his own breath. “I haven’t changed? You think I haven’t changed from all of this?” His voice cut like a knife through the air. “How do you know that this isn’t just who I am? You’ve met my father. You would have abhorred my grandparents; they were even worse. What if this is me? In my blood?”

“It’s not.” Hermione’s tone grew desperate. “It’s not who you are, Draco. You are good, you are kind, you are the best man that I know and—”

A sob broke out of his chest. “I’m corrupting you.” The words burned his throat. “You can’t say that I’m good or kind when I’m basically a fucking Death Eater.”

“You’re not, you’re surviving, Dumbledore even said—”

“Oh yes.” He gave a humourless laugh. “Dumbledore. The savior we had hoped for who is just standing by while children fight his war and I fucking fall apart and take you down with me.”

“Draco—” Hermione’s voice wavered, her hands trailing from his shoulders to his forearms.

With a jolt, he pulled away as if her touch electrocuted him. She winced at his reaction. “I have to go, and Hermione—please don’t follow me, I need to think by myself.”

As he turned away from her, he forced himself not to look back, even though he heard her shaking breath behind him.

The walls of the corridor were closing in on him with each step; he increased his pace until he was sprinting, looking for refuge. The unused girls’ bathroom was in view. Without another thought, Draco headed straight for it.

Air was sparse; his lungs could not inhale it quickly enough and every breath felt like a slow leak from his chest. Tugging unsuccessfully at his tie, he desperately tried to loosen its hold on his neck. It felt like a cobra wrapped around his throat, restricting his oxygen. With shaky fingers, he was able to undo the knot, the slackened silk resting against his chest.

Stumbling into the abandoned bathroom, he found his way across the room to the sink, thinking a splash of cold water should help him regain his senses. Draco rested his weight on his forearms, barely able to feel the icy porcelain of the basin below him.

He looked into the mirror. A disheveled man with a skewed tie and untucked shirt looked back at him, dark bags embedded under his burning eyes, dry from months of unrelenting tears and stress.

Draco did not know the man who stared back.

After months of working on the cabinet, it was finally functional. A Death Eater could walk into Hogwarts tomorrow and slaughter his professors and classmates. Everything would be his fault. Not only the death of his peers, but also the guilt that would weigh on Hermione’s shoulders from her involvement.

He would forever shoulder the burden of taking the kindest soul he knew and defiling her with his task. Who was to say at the end of this, after all he had to do and who he became, that Hermione would still want him?

Because of him, she was aiding the very people who wanted nothing more than to strip her of her magic and torture or murder her. The people who considered her sub-human.

A drop of liquid fell onto his arm and the sensation prickled as it tracked down. He looked up; his eyes were blurry with tears. The sound of footsteps pulled him out of his trance. Glancing over his shoulder in the mirror, he expected to see Hermione.

Harry was standing a step away from the door, clutching his wand in his hand.

Draco’s eyes closed, his shoulders slumped in defeat. “Why are you here?”

Hermione told Draco of Harry’s theories from the summer, what he had overheard at Borgin and Burkes. For a brief moment, Draco wondered if he should confirm Harry’s suspicions. If Draco just told him what was happening, he might be able to stop it.

He shook the thought from his head; Harry had no influence. If Dumbledore could not provide real assistance, there was no way Harry could do better. If his connection with the Dark Lord was still active like Hermione said, it would put them all in danger. It would be for nothing.

The realisation weighed his chest down and his breathing felt strained.

“What’s going on?” Harry’s voice sounded uncertain.

Draco turned to face him; Harry’s expression was unreadable. He pressed his back against the sink to steady himself, his legs trembling in place.

“Oh shite.” The expletive bounced off the walls of the bathroom as Harry made his way over to Draco.

Draco flinched as Harry’s arm raised, bracing himself—for what, he did not know.

A shocked exhale of shock came out of Draco as Harry’s arm landed on his shoulder gently. “Are you okay?” 

His startling green eyes inspected Draco.

The question nearly made him laugh; he had never been less okay.

For years, Harry and Draco had danced around each other, both in love with the other’s best mate but never crossing paths in their interactions. In fact, Draco could not even remember the last time they spoke, only that it had been months, years even.

It felt as though he knew Harry, but the reality was that he did not. Everything he knew was secondhand from Theo or Hermione.

Draco looked from Harry’s hand and back to his concerned stare. “I—” He could not choke out the lie; it weighed him down like an anchor strapped to his leg. “No, I’m not okay,” Draco admitted, surprising himself, even though it was incredibly obvious from his appearance that he was distressed. Harry would not have believed him even if he had tried to lie.

Harry nodded slowly, taking in the scene. Draco had just looked at himself in the mirror and thought that he had never looked worse. The exception might be the start of the school year when he was avoiding Hermione.

“I just saw her,” Harry offered quietly, a glimmer of sympathy passing over him.

Draco’s heart hammered against his ribs; he did not have to ask Harry to clarify, the look in his eyes sharing a silent explanation. 

Harry saw Hermione leaving the Room of Hidden Things after Draco had stormed out.

She was probably crying.

The guilt he felt added to the weight on his chest.

“I don’t deserve her.” The truth tumbled out of his lips like he had been dosed with Veritaserum. “I never did.”

“I know the feeling, with Theo. He’s…” He bit the inside of his cheek. “Everything.”

“She would be so much better off without me.” It hurt to admit, a feeling of dread filling his stomach.

“That’s a matter of perspective. She still loves you, you know.” Harry’s voice softened. “It’s painfully obvious in everything she does.” He took off his glasses, wiping them on his shirt before pushing them back up his nose. “I owe you an apology, Draco. I was spying on you after this summer. I saw you shopping in Borgin and Burkes and assumed the worst.”

Draco flinched as if hit with a physical blow and his legs wobbled beneath him.

You were right. The words almost came out.

With a soft chuckle, Harry nodded, misreading Draco’s reaction, “I know, it was ridiculous of me. Theo talked me down, but Hermione, she never wavered, not for a moment. She told me that she trusted you with her life, that you were a good man.”

Good .

There was that fucking word again.

Pressure built in his chest, demanding release.

“I—” Draco’s throat tightened, he tried to find the words to say. “I still love her.” He settled on the words, truthful, painful, and heart breaking.

“I think that’s a bit obvious,” he supplied with a half-grin. “Don’t make Theo and I resurrect C.O.C.K. I’m dreadfully behind on my monthly dues. Just talk to her.”

“I…don’t know how.” Draco’s voice was thick. 

I don’t know how, how to put it into words how sorry I am; how devastated I am that she is ill-fated to be bound to me; how I will never deserve her forgiveness; how I will never be enough for her.

“Mate, none of us know what we are doing. I don’t know much, but I know Hermione. You may think you don’t deserve her, but that’s something she has to decide for herself.”

A dry laugh came out as a choked cough. “You sound like her.”

Rubbing his neck gingerly, Harry made a face. “I do, don’t I? If I ever rank expulsion as worse than death, you have my permission to smack me.”

There was a beat of silence, Draco’s blood rushed to his ears.

“Theo told me you quit your lessons with Snape.”

With a cock of his head, Harry frowned. “I did. It was a…personal disagreement.”

Occlumency was key to keeping the Dark Lord out of Harry’s head, to keeping him safe and alive.

He thought of the prophecy, that if he and Hermione fulfilled their end of the sister prophecy that Harry would be the one to vanquish the Dark Lord.

A good man would help Harry. The thought picked at Draco’s brain. A good man would deserve her, could be worthy of her forgiveness.

“Do you…” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Want me to teach you? I have studied it for years and Theo’s my best mate—my brother. I can teach you.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Occlumency?”

“No, the mating patterns of merfolk. Yes, Occlumency.”

The corner of Harry’s lips twitched up. “Glad to see you got your humour back. What are the mating patterns of merfolk?”

“Apparently it takes singing, a prince, and a talking crab,” he quipped before thinking.

Harry’s brow scrunched. “Did you just reference The Little Mermaid ? When did you—”

“My old governess showed it to me.” The lie slipped off his tongue easily. “So what do you say?”

An arm slung around Draco’s shoulder and Harry gave him a wide smile. “I say that Hermione knows how to pick a good one. Thanks, mate.”

Draco’s heart plummeted in his chest.

Good .

He swallowed the feeling in his throat. “Anytime.”

Maybe if he helped save Harry, he could finally be good .

 

Chapter Text

June

Year 6

 

Tick

Tick

Tick

Hermione’s eyes fixed on the hand of the clock as the seconds ticked by. Each moment that passed felt like a drop of sand in an hourglass.

“I’ve heard back from my father.” Draco’s voice was barely audible. “It’s any day now.”

“Do you remember our first kiss?” she asked suddenly, still staring at the clock.

The back of Draco’s hand traced her neck gently, a ripple of goosebumps forming beneath his touch.

“Our first kiss?” he mused, his voice light. “Barely.” He gave her a half grin. “It’s been a few years, after all.”

Reaching up behind him, her fingers laced into his hair. “You’re teasing me.” 

“Of course, I remember our first kiss,” he scoffed. “I could never forget that night.”

“I was so scared,” she confessed, her wide eyes meeting his.

After a beat, he replied, “Me too.”

“I didn’t think you would kiss me.”

“Me either.”

An impish grin danced across her cheeks. “You didn’t think you would kiss me?”

“Absolutely not,” he stated firmly. “I was merely a victim of your beauty and charm that night.”

“I’m glad you did.”

Stroking her hair affectionately, he placed a kiss on her temple. “Me too.”

They settled into the silence.

“After our kiss, I went right to Theo’s room.”

Her lips quirked. “What did he say?”

“He asked me how it felt.”

“To kiss me?”

“Yes.”

“And why would he ask that first?”

The faintest colouring set on his cheeks. “Theo and Blaise teased me mercilessly for years; the bond made me act out in the early days and it was a little more than obvious that I fancied you…even if I couldn’t admit it to myself. I think Theo’s exact words were ‘so how did it feel to finally kiss your witch?’”  

She could not resist asking, “What did you say?”

Draco’s stormy grey eyes drifted across her. “Magic.”

“You did not.” She playfully swatted at him. “That’s what I told you it felt like after our duel. You’re just copying my story.”

He looked at her seriously. “I swear to Merlin, that’s what I said.”

“Magic,” she murmured.

“And then I told him I’d just had my last first kiss.”

The words filled her chest, making her feel like she might burst.

“…and then I didn’t sleep for a month,” he laughed out. “I knew I would never be able to go back.”

“Back?”

“I knew I would never be the same,” he corrected himself, “And that was terrifying. It would’ve been much simpler if you had been a bad kisser.”

“Not on your life.” She angled her head down to meet his, kissing his lips. His arms wrapped around her and pulled her back against his chest, settling her between his thighs.

“My beautiful witch,” he murmured against her neck, his hot breath causing her to curl her toes in response.

Hermione found herself watching the clock again, the seconds ticking by.

“Tell me a story,” she prompted. “A happy story about a witch and a wizard who fall in love and…it all ends up okay.”

He tucked his head against her shoulder, pressing his cheek to her as he took a moment to think. 

“Once upon a time, there was a brilliant and beautiful witch. She was born to parents who wanted her and loved her more than anything else in the world. They always knew that she was special and gifted, so when a witch from Hogwarts arrived with a letter one day, they were hardly surprised.”

“What the little witch didn’t know was that over in Wiltshire, there was a young wizard reading the same letter. For his entire life, he had known that he had magic, but he always felt a Pull that he could not explain. He tried to act brave on  his first train ride to Hogwarts, even though he had never been far from home.”

Hermione smiled, snuggling herself further into him.

“When the door to his train compartment opened, he saw the little witch standing there, and he found the piece he never knew was missing. She was fearless and, even though she was smaller than him, she towered over the wizard. Everything about her left him breathless and desperate for more.”

“It took years before the git—I mean, the young wizard,” he continued as she laughed, “gathered the courage to kiss the little witch. From that moment on, he knew there would never be anyone else. She was it for him.”

Draco’s voice shifted, becoming low and soft. “They grew together; they laughed until their stomachs hurt, ate until they were rendered immobile, and loved until they thought they couldn’t possibly love any more. One day, there came a time where they would have to part. It broke the wizard’s heart to say goodbye, but he knew it would not be forever.”

“Every second of every day and night, the wizard missed his witch, but they were not alone. They had the red string of fate tying them together, joining them as one. Whenever the little witch felt sad, she could tug on the string and know that he was there with her.” 

His fingers laced between hers as he raised her hand to his lips.

“When the world was right and the pain had left, they were finally reunited. The wizard knew he would never have to say goodbye to the witch again; they were finally safe. They made a home together and filled it with love and millions of happy moments.”

She sighed against him, feeling the rumble of his voice against her back.

“They had a wedding in the spring with the ceremony in the gardens filled with camellias. No peacocks were invited—though one managed to sneak in due to unforeseen circumstances.”

Hermione closed her eyes, imagining a white dress, a suit, and the Manor gardens.

“Their love grew and grew until it couldn’t fit in just two people anymore, so it expanded into a family. They had little babies with brown hair and grey eyes, and curls that melted the wizard’s heart. The day their Hogwarts letters came was bittersweet, for the witch and wizard were proud of their children but sad to let them go out on their own into the world.”

Tears flooded her eyes and she tried to blink them away.

“Because of their sacrifices, they knew that they had left the world a better place for their children than it had been for them. Their babies grew up in a world where it was safe to learn and love. When the witch and wizard said goodbye to their children on the train platform, they knew that every sacrifice and difficult moment had been worth it because it brought them to their happily ever after.”

Turning around, she straddled his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love that story,” she replied, her voice breaking softly.

“Me too, love.” Draco pressed his forehead to hers, closing his eyes. “And just think, we’re almost to the best part.”


Tick

Tick

Tick

“Harry’s been looking into memories with Dumbledore.”

Draco stilled, watching her carefully as she took a deep breath.

“I can’t tell you much, but Voldemort’s immortal. He ripped his soul into pieces.”

The words rang in his ears; he was dumbstruck, unable to form words.

“It’s dark magic.” Her eyes shone with worry. “The darkest form. We need to destroy the pieces before he can die. I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of this year but Draco…”—she took his hand in hers—“if Harry asks me to go with him, I’m going to go.”

“Go where?” he croaked, his throat feeling like sandpaper.

“Anywhere.” She stroked the top of his hand with her thumb, trying to comfort him. “Harry needs me.”

“I need you.” The phrase felt pathetic on his lips.

Her eyelids fluttered shut. “You have me. After…” She faltered; they avoided talking about the task directly as a form of distancing themselves. “After the end of this year, you’ll be at the Manor. If he needs me, I have a bag prepared with supplies. I’m ready.”

“A bag? You’ll need more than a bag of supplies to defeat the Dark Lord.” His brow creased with worry.

Giving him a small smile, Hermione said, “I found a spell in the pocketbook. It’s not technically legal but it’s an extension charm for my bag. It’s practically the size of a room. I have packed clothes, healing potions, and plenty of supplies for us for months.”

“Months…” he echoed as it settled into his chest. “You could be gone an entire year. What if you run out of supplies? What if you have to leave quickly and you can’t take the bag?”

“We will have plenty. I have it with me all the time in case of emergency,” she assured him.

He looked to her, his eyes shining with worry. “You have Pinky, anytime you need him. Please,” Draco begged, “call him for anything. If there is anything that he can do to help you guys, just call him. He can find you anywhere. Elf magic isn’t traceable like regular magic, so the risk is practically nonexistent.”

Hermione gave him a gentle smile that did not reach her eyes. “If I need him, I’ll call him. Thank you.”

“What are we doing?” he asked helplessly, his shoulders sagging. “I’m assisting Death Eaters and you’re chasing down and destroying fragments of a dark wizard’s soul.”

“What were Dumbledore’s words?” she asked, her tone bitter. “Playing our part in something that has been in motion since before our conception.”

“I want to leave.”

The words were dangerous to speak aloud.

“Draco,” she hesitated, her throat seizing.

“I want to leave and run away with you.” His words were desperate, heartbreaking. “We can find somewhere to stay and never have to worry about this war or anyone else. I have access to my trust—we can drain the vault and run. We can be us without all of this.”

“You know that we can’t.” Tears threatened to spill over. “The prophecies—”

“Fuck the prophecies!” Voice exploding in frustration, his hands gripped his hair. “I’m sick and tired of feeling like every decision is made for me and I’m just forced to accept it. I don’t know how—”

His words caught in his throat at the look on her face.

“I’m sorry.” As she blanched, she spoke, her voice barely audible. “You have a choice. You’re not forced to accept me.”

A look of horror ghosted across his face. “No, no, Hermione, that’s not what I meant.” He scrambled frantically. “I didn’t mean you , never you. I mean the task, my parents, the Death Eaters, the Pureblood societal expectations. I didn’t mean you.”

“But the bond”—her voice cracked, thick with emotion—“it took away your choice.”

Cupping her cheeks with his palms, he searched her eyes. “I didn’t need the binding to tell me that you are my soulmate. It’s something I just feel in every part of me.” He quoted her words back softly, “In any life, I would want you. In any version of us, I would love you. In any reality, I would choose you.”

Draco pulled her into his lap, and he wrapped himself around her. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered over and over again. “I love you. I’m so sorry.”


Tick

Tick

Tick

“It’s midnight,” Hermione murmured, pinning Draco to the bed beneath her. “No more trace for you. Happy birthday, love. This year is going to be your best year yet.”

Letting out a sleepy groan, Draco hooked an arm around her waist and dropped a lazy kiss on her shoulder. “Are you my gift?”

She moved into his touch, pushing his hair out of his eyes; her hand rested on his cheek. “I must’ve forgotten my bow in Gryffindor Tower,” she teased.

“I’d take it right off,” he quipped. “No need for the frills.”

“You’re insatiable.” She pushed against him playfully.

Shifting beneath her, he grasped her hips with his hands and flipped her, nudging himself between her thighs. “I don’t know how much time we have left.”

His honesty ached in her chest.

As he kissed her, she tasted his salty tears on her lips.


Tick

Tick

Tick

That Friday, when he entered the Room of Requirement—their place—the look on his face told her everything she needed to know before he said a single word. His cheeks were ashen, and his eyes were stained red.

Without another thought, Hermione pulled him into an embrace so tight she could barely breathe.

Inevitable .

The word drifted into her mind, and she felt a rush of anger course through her. They had been forced into an impossible situation, underequipped and underprepared for the realities of the task. No matter what, she would side with Draco.

He was as much a part of her as she was of him; their bond intertwined their souls and magic as one.

There was no guarantee that anything would go as planned. In fact, with his veiled comments and vague hints, Dumbledore had shared little information with the pair.

Only three things were certain. Tonight, Death Eaters would breach Hogwarts, Dumbledore would die, and Draco would be taken back to the Manor where Voldemort was stationed.

“I wish I could go with you,” her voice cracked.

“No.” Draco clutched a hand against the back of her head protectively, his head tucked against her neck. “That’s the only good thing about this plan. That you’ll be here.” She felt him swallow. “Safe.”

“I want you to be safe,” she argued, her lips quivering as she fought back tears. “I want you to be here.”

His breath heated her skin and she nuzzled into him further. “I’ll be safe. I have my parents.” He sounded unconvinced. “I’ll have the journal—”

“No!” Hermione’s voice was panicked. “You can’t use the journal around them. We can use the rings but not the journal, if they found it—” Her breath hitched. “You would be in danger. They would know everything.”

“I won’t use it until it’s safe,” he promised, pressing a kiss to her neck. “I would never forgive myself if you were harmed.”

“I love you.” She felt small. 

The words felt small.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell you enough, but I love you. I would do anything for you.”

The seconds ticked by; her tears fell freely as she committed each sensation to memory.

“I don’t want to let go,” she admitted, her voice strained as a wave of tears shuddered through her. “I don’t want to say goodbye.”

“If anything happens—”

Hermione’s head shook quickly. “No,” she sniffled, holding a finger up to his lips. “Nothing’s going to happen.”

“But if it does,” his voice was barely a whisper. “I just want you to know that I’d do everything again, every moment of it.” His fingers tucked into her hair. “I loved every moment of it.”

She broke down, her chest racking with sobs as he held her.

“I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this without you.”

“You don’t have to do this without me.” Smiling with tear stained cheeks, he intertwined their fingers and placed a kiss to her heart. “I’m always with you.”


Tick

Tick

Tick

Hermione could not recall the walk back to Gryffindor Tower or climbing into her bed. Her legs felt so unsteady that she marvelled how she was able to walk at all. The memory was hazy in her mind, clouded by the tears that refused to fall and all she could feel was numb.

“Love, you have to leave now.” His voice was so quiet she nearly believed she imagined it. “They’ll be here soon.”

She kissed him with everything she had. All the love, frantic hope, darkest fear, and sweetest wish rushing out, uniting them one final time before he disappeared.

Their tears blended on their cheeks as the words died in her throat.

“I love you.”

And when she felt she could hold on no longer, she let go.

Hermione’s eyes unfocused as she stared blankly at the wall of her dorm room. The room was empty; somewhere in the back of her mind she considered that her dormmates must be at supper, though she had no concept of time outside of moments.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Any moment, in the Room of Hidden Things, Death Eaters would come through the cabinet.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Any moment, they would find Dumbledore patiently awaiting death in the Astronomy Tower.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Any moment, the Dark Mark would appear in the sky above Hogwarts.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Any moment, Draco would be swept from Hogwarts, back to the Manor where Voldemort would be waiting for him.

Though the room was warm with the summer air, she could not suppress the shivers that ran down her spine.

She hoped that when Draco found the Galleon she had slipped into his pocket, he would smile. The world seemed a brighter place when he smiled.

A flash of green shone from the window of her room as the Mark filled the sky. Her heartbeat flooded her eardrums as she forgot to breathe.

The pull faded in her chest, dulling her senses.

Draco had left Hogwarts.

The clock stopped.


“Did you know?” Harry’s voice was dangerously low, his eyes hidden by his fringe as his head dipped.

“Harry, I—”

“Did. You. Know?”

Theo’s eyes fluttered shut, his throat tight. “I’m so sorry.”

His shoulders wilted. “So, this was the secret. You knew. You knew, and you didn’t tell me. You didn’t warn me.”

“But—”

“I trusted Draco because of you, you know that, right? He helped me with Occlumency, and in the end, he was there too. He was with Snape when Snape—” He let out a sound resembling a laugh. “I can’t believe I trusted him.”

And you, the implication hung in the air.

“Harry, you have to understand, I couldn’t—I didn’t have a choice, I wanted to and—” Frantically, the words flooded out, desperate to explain.

Shaking his head slowly, he replied, “Theo, there’s always a choice.”

Theo’s fingertips grazed Harry’s cheek; Harry turned his head sharply away from the touch.

“Harry,” Theo croaked, his throat scratched with the words. “Please look at me.”

“I can’t. Not when you—” Faltering, Harry’s lower lip trembled. “I need time, Theo.”

“Harry—”

“I can’t.”

“I love you.” Theo’s words broke, fracturing in the night air.

Harry’s eyes grew cold. “Sometimes, love isn’t enough,” he muttered softly, pushing past Theo.

Following the echo of Harry’s footsteps, Theo heard his heart crack just before he fell apart.


Hermione stared at the doorknob to her parents’ house, her heart pounding so loudly it was all she could hear. After her last birthday, the trace was removed. With it, she was able to use magic at will, anywhere in the world. Technically, she could not use magic in front of Muggles; the standard procedure was to Obliviate the memory of magic from their mind to maintain the Statute of Secrecy.

Since she was planning on erasing her entire existence, there would be no need to Obliviate the moment from her parents’ minds.

After spending an excruciating number of weeks fretting about how to keep them safe during the upcoming war, Hermione made the impossible decision to Obliviate them. It was the only way she could ensure they would not be found and tortured for information about her and Harry’s whereabouts during their hunt for Horcruxes.

It was the worst thing she would ever have to do.

The thought of her parents forgetting her was crippling. Every moment, every memory, every bit of their lives together would be gone. Her first steps, the way she cried, the sound of her laugh, their traditions, her name… She closed her eyes, gathering the courage to turn the knob.

As an only child, Hermione spent her childhood loved and cherished by her parents. Truth be told, they may have spoiled her, allowing her to fill her room with books and anything toy her heart desired.

She reminisced on the day they received her Hogwarts letter from Professor McGonagall, the look of pride and relief in her parents’ eyes when they realised that their daughter was a witch. Years of inexplicable situations and accidental magic explained in mere seconds.

After that first visit from Professor McGonagall, her parents took Hermione out for celebratory ice cream where she tried a new flavour, mocha, which became her new favourite. She forever connected the taste to pure happiness, to celebration, and to family.

That memory would be wiped from their minds, potentially forever.

Hermione was confident in her magical abilities in the classroom, but she had no experience with long-term effects of Obliviation on the mind. It was possible they might not be able to have their memories restored and would forever forget that they had a daughter. The thought of losing them permanently caused tears to burn in her eyes, filling her stomach with nausea.

She would be without Draco, without her parents, and the pain of that paralyzed her.

With a steadying breath, she turned the doorknob.

“Oh!” her mother exclaimed from across the room, hurrying over to pull her into a warm hug. “Hermione, love, you’re home early! William, Hermione’s home!”

From over her mother’s shoulder, Hermione scanned the living room suspiciously; the wall-to-wall built-in bookcases were packed away into brown cardboard boxes, scattered around the room. The furniture was pushed up and away from its normal position, the blankets and pillows nowhere to be found.

“What’s…what’s going on?” she asked nervously, her pulse racing beneath her skin. “Why are you packing?”

“Hermione.” Her father gave her a bright smile, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. “We weren’t expecting you until next week.”

“There was a…” The words stuck in her throat. “They ended early this year, by a week. I figured I would surprise you.”

Her parents shared a look, a habit developed after decades together, their own form of silent communication.

“We would have come to pick you up if we had known.” Her mother placed her hands on her hips disapprovingly. “I know that you’re an adult now but—”

“It’s okay, Mum. I passed my Apparition exam; I didn’t have to travel by motorway.”

Jean and William Granger enveloped Hermione into a three-way hug. “I know that you had been nervous for your examination, but we never had a single doubt. We are so proud of you!” her father gushed. “You are really growing up.”

Guilt itched at her relentlessly, crawling beneath her skin, reminding her of how this would soon be gone.

“Why are you packing?” She eyed the boxes, taking note of the pair of apprehensive looks on her parents’ faces.

“We wanted to tell you earlier, but it’s all happened so quickly,” her father explained with a twist of his hands. “Your mother and I received this letter just last week. We talked about it and, after a long deliberation, we decided to take it. With you at Hogwarts during the year, there really is nothing keeping us here.”

“Take…it?” she echoed in confusion.

A letter was thrust into her hands. “It’s perfect timing, really,” her mother insisted. “I can’t believe our luck. I published a paper back in the day on dental care and techniques in rural communities and how the diets of those patients impact their recovery process and infection rate post-surgery. Apparently, the paper was archived and uncovered by this research corporation that has a generous fund.” She continued, her excitement evident. “They offered to support the research. It’s in another country. We aren’t allowed to share the location until the data has been peer reviewed and published.”

Hermione’s head was swirling. “What?”

“All travel and relocation expenses are covered! They’re paying a substantial stipend with great benefits, and your father and I will get to work on our passions in a new practice together. We didn’t want to derail you at school, knowing your end of year exams were coming up,” she explained, “but we won’t go if you don’t want us to leave.”

Fiddling with the paper, she scanned the details. It was everything her mother had explained. Her eyes widened at the sums of pounds assigned for the project. At the bottom of the page, there was a name that caught her eye.

Etamin Research Corporation.

Her knees felt weak beneath her; Etamin was the brightest star in the constellation of Draco. As he had not warned her before leaving Hogwarts, it meant only one thing.

Narcissa Malfoy was protecting her parents.

Tears spilled over her lids, trailing down her cheeks as she took her mother in her arms, barely able to speak with gratitude.

She would not have to Obliviate her parents.

“Honey?” Her father’s worried voice came from behind her as she squeezed her mother tighter.

“I’m so happy for you,” Hermione pushed the words out, unable to process the magnitude of emotions that passed over her. “This is a perfect opportunity. You have to take it.”

“We will be in the middle of nowhere,” her mother emphasized. “There is no cellular or landline access. It will be completely off the grid for nearly a year, and we won’t have the ability to come home for the holidays.”

Relief flooded through her veins. “That’s okay,” she insisted. “We have a lifetime to spend together after this year. Like you said, I’ll be safe at school next year.”

William’s lips spread into a wide smile. “That’s our girl. We will be back in time to pick you up at the station from your last day at Hogwarts. We are so proud of you.”

“I love you.” The tears dried on her cheeks, chilling them. “I’m going to send a quick message to Harry about the good news, okay?”

Hermione had rented an owl for the day to send a message to Harry after Obliviating her parents. Instead, she used the owl for a different reason.

Scribbling quickly on a piece of parchment, she tied it to the owl’s leg, “To Narcissa Malfoy at Malfoy Manor,” she instructed. “No one else.”

The owl hooted softly; it was a regular plain barn owl and would attract no attention on its journey.

It carried an unsigned message in the parchment—in simple script, it read, Thank you .

 

Chapter Text

June-August

 

“Draco.” Hermione’s voice dripped down him like melted chocolate. “Are you even listening?”

Turning to meet the cadence of her voice, Draco found himself staring, mesmerised at the way the beams of light broke through her curls and cascaded down her skin. “Of course I’m listening, you were telling me about watching the sunset with your mum and dad the night before you left for Hogwarts.”

A small smile broke across her lips. “I’ve found I much prefer sunrises to sunsets. New beginnings instead of closing chapters.”

Draco shifted closer, resting an arm comfortably around her waist, their feet dangling out of the Astronomy Tower window.

“New beginnings.” His thumb rubbed up against the smooth metal of his band. “Is that why Spring is your favourite season?”

Tilting her head forward, she beamed. “I hadn’t realised I even told you that.”

“You didn’t.” His legs kicked out and bumped gently against the stone wall of the Tower. “Not directly, that is. You tell me all sorts of things without words.”

Her lashes fluttered and her lips curled coyly. “What am I indirectly telling you right now?”

Tapping his finger in faux contemplation, his eyes opened wide in mischievous shock. “Hermione Jean Granger, that is most inappropriate. I’ll have you know that I’m a gentleman.”

“So, you can read my mind. I was wondering when you’d learn of my dirty library fantasies.” She winked, falling into a fit of laughter as his jaw dropped.

“You—wait—what?” As her laughter built, he stumbled over his words.

“Draco—"

“The library? I can’t tell if you’re joking. I can do—we can do the library.” His head kept nodding repeatedly, unable to stop as visions danced through his head. “We can go now. I love the library.”

Crinkling her nose, she shook her head at him, a fond expression on her face. “What am I going to do with you?”

“I mean, after the library comment, I have a few proposals. Though I do suppose we should stay for the sunrise.”

Hermione hummed in agreement, leaning her head against his shoulder; she turned her gaze back to the rising sun and the changing colours of the sky, and a contented sigh escaped her lips. “The library can wait for another day, love. Right now, I’m busy looking at the most beautiful sight in the world.”

Brushing a curl away from her eyes, his fingertips lingered in her hair. He watched her eyes light up, “Me too,” he murmured, completely transfixed by her. “Me too.”

As the morning light pierced his vision, Draco’s eyes blurred with sleep; he closed them again with a groan, willing the memory to return. He was back in his room in the Manor.

Without her.

A chill swept over the room and settled deep in his chest. It hardly fazed him anymore, the unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach when dark magic seeped into the bones of the manor.

One month into summer and Draco had spent the majority of his time secluded in his room, fully Occluded. A dull sheen faded into his vision as his thoughts drifted away from him.

Schoolwork, Quidditch, friends, anything but her.

She only came to him in his dreams.

He slammed the trunk in his mind shut so quickly he barely had time to register the thought.

At first, he had taken Dreamless Sleep to escape the nightmares, but without dreams he never had the chance to see her. He would trade a hundred night terrors to relive a single memory with her in his dreams.

After succeeding in the cabinet repair but failing the Dark Lord’s task to murder Dumbledore, Draco was granted reprieve from his involvement in the day-to-day activities of the Death Eaters. Half of the Death Eaters believed Draco failed in his task and shunned him as a result, the other half considered him successful for the breach of Hogwarts and worthy of a break. In either case, Draco was not complaining; the ostracism provided exactly what he wanted.

Solitude.

The days of his summer were long and meaningless. He read until his eyes felt like sandpaper, practiced Occlumency until his head pounded, exercised until his muscles screamed in fatigue. Occasionally, he made his way around the grounds. It was uncommon but on particularly nice days, he would traverse the gardens or walk around the lake.

His eyes stuck to the window; a gentle breeze rustled the trees just outside his room. At the last moment, he snagged his book of drawing parchment, which had been gathering dust until this moment.

Perhaps he would find something worth drawing today.

With a gentle push of his door, Draco paused, listening intently for the sound of an unexpected intrusion down the long manor halls. Silence. He let out a breathless sigh of relief as he slipped out of his room and into the hallway.

Draco navigated through the manor, using the secret paths built into the manor from the original developer. William the Conqueror had been the pinnacle of paranoia, having earned his name by overthrowing his enemies. He was determined to prevent the same fate for his allies.

A strip of sunlight appeared at the end of the dark path; he stepped into the heat eagerly, yearning to feel the sun beat down on his skin.

“I see someone has decided to grace our presence today.” Narcissa peered down at Draco, her head covered with an elegant sun hat which protected her from the full force of the sun.

Passing her without pausing, he muttered unintelligibly under his breath. A gentle hand dropped onto his shoulder and he faltered, looking to his mother.

“Draco.” Her voice lowered dangerously. “I do not know what you instructed him to do but Charles has attacked three of the Dark Lord’s followers today alone. If you cannot control him, I am afraid someone may lose their patience and dispose of him.”

A scoff escaped his lips before he could stop himself. “I’m not sure if you’ve met Charles, Mother,” he spat. “But he doesn’t listen to anyone. Me included. Don’t blame me because our peacock has decided to single handedly take on the Dark Lord and defend the Wizarding World.”

He wrenched his shoulder away from her touch, noting her brief flinch from the action. 

“Maybe he’s a spy,” Draco crooned. “At least someone would be saving the family reputation.”

Narcissa’s eyes lit with fire. “You will do as you are told, Draco,” she scolded before hissing, “You cannot continue to speak so blatantly. I can practically read your resentment on your face. Go. Practice your Occlumency, before you kill us all.”

With a roll of his eyes, Draco continued down the path to the gardens, retrieving the Galleon from his pocket and flipping it in the air as he walked. Pausing in front of the camellia bush in full bloom, he plucked a flower and twirled it between his fingers absentmindedly, pushing down his memories of summer days, freshly squeezed lemonade, and braided curls as he passed the field of roaming peacocks.

He pulled a handful of fresh raspberries that he had nicked from the kitchens out of his pocket and continued his journey until he spotted a familiar sight.

“I’ve heard you’ve been making progress for her.” Draco could not help but whisper, presenting his offering of berries. “I know you’ve had your disagreements in the past, but she would be rather pleased to know that you’ve drawn blood.”

Charles extended his white feathers with a shimmer, appearing satisfied as he pecked at raspberries, the juices escaping from the fruit.

“Don’t tell Mother,” he said, smiling softly and taking a seat in the grass. Charles sat down next to him in contemplative silence.

Draco’s fingers itched, and for the first time in months, he felt the drive to draw. He flipped open the book to a blank page and began to sketch Charles. The wide strokes began to take shape as he added detail and texture to the proud peacock.

Leaning back onto the ground, Draco stared up at the cloudless sky, squinting at the intensity of the sun. The heat poured over him, causing a line of perspiration along his hairline.

A thought popped into his mind and refused to leave. He set down his sketchbook, stripped off his clothes—save for his trunks—and sprinted into the lake at full speed. The wind whipped through his hair and for a moment he felt the blood flush his cheeks and bring life back into him.

The water splashed violently around his legs as he navigated into the deepest section of the lake. As he floated on his back, the cool water enveloped him.

He lost track of time, though his hands were wrinkly if that were any indication.

“Draco!” His father’s scathing voice pulled him out of his dreamlike state. “What are you doing?!”

Draco’s hands spread across the surface of the water, dragging slowly as he bobbed. “I’m swimming, Father,” he replied lethargically, as if explaining a difficult concept to a small child, “Surely you are familiar with the action. It’s the inverse of drowning.”

Though he could not see his father’s face—he was still drifting through the water with his head up—he knew that his father was glaring at him.

“Don’t be daft, Draco, it doesn’t suit you. Would you like to explain to me why you are contaminating yourself in the murky water of the lake like a peasant?”

Her words came to him without effort as he repeated, “Life’s too short and happiness is too rare.”

Lucius departed without another word, and a smile spread across Draco’s lips as he dunked his head beneath the water, relishing the way he felt in that moment.

After a quick drying spell—Draco loved being able to use magic without the trace—he dressed and followed the secret passage back to his room, becoming a recluse once more.


Thumbing the edge of the parchment, Draco carefully inspected his latest sketch next to the fireplace.

In his opinion, it was his best work yet; he managed to capture her freckles perfectly, having memorised the pattern across her cheeks and nose. Her smile lit up the page, her eyes gazing back at him. A figure entered the doorway to his room.

“I saw the light coming from your wing. It’s past midnight. I thought perhaps you were having difficulty sleeping.” When he did not respond, Lucius prompted, “Is that her?”

Lucius closed the door behind him and made his way to Draco.

“Don’t worry, Father.” His voice was light and sarcastic. “I’ll burn it. I always do.”

With a flick of his wrist, Draco tossed the freshly sketched image into the fire, watching dully as the flames licked the parchment, consuming it.

Lucius lingered for a moment, his eyes anchored to the disintegrating sketch.

“That was…” Lucius’ voice wavered in an uncharacteristic manner. “Excellent work. You have your grandmother’s eye for art.”

He stilled, unsure of how to respond.

“Your mother is worried about you,” Lucius informed him, turning his gaze back to Draco.

Shrugging, he looked to his feet, counting the seconds before his father would leave.

“I am worried about you,” Lucius added, lowering his voice as he watched Draco’s reaction morph.

“You don’t need to worry ,” he replied with a sneer. “I won’t expose the family shame to dear Auntie Bella.”

The cane scraped against the floor as Lucius took a step forward. “Your mother”—he exhaled as if catching himself—“showed me memories of you and her. The visits to the manor. The summer she spent here.”

Draco flinched, the reminder of how quickly his life changed hit like a punch to his gut.

“If you’re expecting me to apologize—”

“—no.” Lucius cut him off with a raise of his cane. “I expect no apology. In fact, I know my initial reaction to your…situation was unkind.”

A choked laugh mangled in his throat. “ Unkind?! You slung the word ‘Mudblood’ a dozen times in a single interaction. If you had shown her even an ounce of kindness—you know what, just leave. I don’t know why you’re even here. You made it perfectly clear that you don’t care about me or my situation, ” he spat the word in disdain.

Lucius closed his eyes for a beat, and Draco noticed the dark circles of exhaustion that lined his father’s eyes.

With a slow stroll, Lucius made his way back to the doorway, faltering as he reached for the handle.

“The way you look at her...” Lucius’ voice was as quiet as the breeze outside the window. “It reminds me of when I first met your mother.”

The door clicked as it shut back into place, no sound in the room save for the crackle of the fire.


The Manor was uncommonly empty that morning, which made Draco more uneasy than relieved. It meant the Dark Lord and his followers were planning something. A downside to avoiding the Death Eater meetings was that Draco was the last to learn new information on their plans.

Trailing through the empty halls of the Manor, Draco took in the sights and sounds around him. He could smell freshly baked bread wafting from the lower kitchens, hear the birds and creatures outside the window, feel the dark magic fading from the air around him. If he closed his eyes, it would almost feel as though nothing had changed.

Catching a glimpse of dark hair through a crack in the doorway to his father’s office, he paused, listening in.

All Draco could see was the back of Snape’s head as he faced Narcissa. “I know you’re trying to help him, but Narcissa, surely he must know—”

“No.” Narcissa cut off sharply. “You cannot. You know what would happen.”

“He’s not foolish enough to—”

“You do not know him like I do. We will tell him after. When it is safe.”

The floorboard under him creaked with age. His mother and Snape turned towards the sound. Before he could be caught, he rushed back to his room through a nearby secret passage, his mind turning with questions.


“We had him! We fucking had him and you missed your shot and hit the damn owl.”

The sound of fumbling feet and growling caught Draco’s attention as he passed the dining room later that night, having made a stop in the kitchens for Pinky’s chocolate ice cream.

“How was I supposed to know that was him?! The entire sky was full of Harry Potters!”

Draco forgot to breathe.

“HE WAS WITH THE GIANT! It was fucking obvious and you missed it you arsewipe!”

“STOP YELLING AT ME! I lost a tooth because of that filthy Blood Traitor! I could have died!”

A low scoff echoed in the empty hall. “And what a loss that would’ve been, your hand would have surely missed you.”

“You son of a—”

Narcissa Malfoy appeared at the doorway, ushering Draco away from the scene. As he was pulled away, he spied a group of Death Eaters in a skirmish across the dining room, still in their masks and cloaks.

“Draco.” Instead of her usual calm demeanor, she appeared flustered and scattered. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

“Cissa! Have you told dear Draco the good news?” Bellatrix appeared at the end of the hall, her wand raised in the air as she spun around and cackled, “We killed one of them tonight.”

Draco felt the colour drain from his face, his questioning eyes meeting his mother’s. He felt a splinter in his Occlumency, the crack trailing up through his mind as he struggled to regain control.

“Yes, Draco.” Narcissa’s voice grew unnaturally tight as she feigned cheerfulness. “There was a raid tonight, to catch Harry Potter. The Dark Lord’s servants were informed that he would be transported to a safe house tonight. They did not anticipate the decoys, but at least one Blood Traitor is dead. Bellatrix, did you figure out who it was under the Polyjuice?”

Polyjuice.

Draco’s nails dug into the palm of his hand, trying to mute his reaction. He knew that Hermione would do anything to protect Harry. There was no doubt in his mind that she was one of the Potters tonight. Pain pierced up his arm as he dug his nails in further, trying not to seem too eager as he waited for his aunt to reply.

“It was that ex-Auror, Alastor Moody.” Bellatrix’s eyes glimmered with satisfaction. “He took down so many loyal followers, he deserves to rot. My only regret is that I didn’t get to play with him before he took the Avada .”

Draco felt incredibly guilty at the amount of relief he found in his aunt’s words. In the back of his mind, he assumed he would be able to tell if Hermione were killed, but that did not stop him from worrying every moment of every day.

It was nearly imperceptible, but Draco could see that his mother’s disposition brightened from the news as well.

“Big changes are coming, Draco.” Bellatrix lowered her chin, looking up at Draco with a manic grin. “The Ministry is next.”

He barely registered Bellatrix’s words as he dismissed himself and walked back to his bedroom, knowing he would receive a message from Hermione soon. She wrote to him at the same time each night, just one word to his band to update him. Draco wanted more—one word would never be enough—but they had agreed upon it to minimize risk until he was back at school.

Checking the time impatiently, Draco sat on the edge of his bed, watching his ring for any signs of life. He jumped up, pacing the room with unstable legs, feeling his anxiety mount as the clock ticked by.

Finally, his band warmed, dousing him in comfort. Savouring the four letters, he pressed the metal against his lips.

Safe


An hour earlier, Pinky had arrived in his room with a warning from his mother—his presence was required at supper that night.

The dining room had become a central location for the daily activities of the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord. As a result, Draco avoided meals and took them alone in his room whenever possible. Every few weeks, his mother insisted he attend a meal to maintain the façade.

Travelling the familiar corridor from his room to the dining room, his eyes wandered out the nearby window into the grounds. A cloaked figure was on the front lawn, shouting and stomping aggressively. Draco stopped mid-step to watch the scene unfold.

Fearlessly, a white peacock sprinted after the figure, hissing and waving its tail feathers as it chased its prey. The Death Eater attempted to kick Charles, who dodged the foot and pecked at him, making him lose his balance and fall to the ground.

Holding in a laugh, Draco continued his path to supper, ignoring the other guests and selecting a seat next to his mother just before the first course began.

The discussion quickly became background noise, fuzzy in Draco’s ears as he Occluded. His mind cleared and refilled with details of the latest Quidditch match that he had skimmed in the newspaper during breakfast.

Magically, his bowl was filled with soup, provided by Teeney who was waiting silently in the corner, her head bowed. Dragging the spoon through the bowl, he forced himself to take a bite, barely tasting it as it trailed down his throat.

Laughter filled his ears, drawing his attention away from his soup and to the supper guests at the table, who were staring at him expectantly.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered the apology, unsure of what he had missed.

“I asked if you are excited to return to school.” Bellatrix’s lips curled into a nasty smile, baring her teeth to Draco. “Now that Dumbledore is out of the way, we can finally give the students of Hogwarts a proper education.”

“Hear hear!” Yaxley raised a glass of wine, dumping the liquid into his mouth; it overflowed and spilled out the sides of his lips.

Narcissa’s shoulders pulled back nearly imperceptibly.

“I hadn’t realised the school was reopening.” Draco cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Last I had heard, McGonagall was closing for the year.”

Bellatrix’s face morphed into contempt. “That bitch is no longer in charge of Hogwarts,” she crooned. “Only the Dark Lord has the power and influence to force lasting change. He had the wisdom to make attendance mandatory this year. Now he can teach and mold young minds to his ways with the new curriculum. Those professors have been far too soft; they need the proper incentive to educate your peers as the Dark Lord sees fit.”

Draco nodded, trying to control his elation at the news that he would be able to return to school, to leave the Manor. “Yes, aunt, I am excited to continue the Dark Lord’s will at Hogwarts.”

His heart rate elevated; he tried to settle it as he took another spoonful of soup between his lips, the flavour dulled on his tongue.

“With control of the Ministry, The Daily Prophet, and Hogwarts, the Dark Lord’s reign is all but secured. We will be able to complete his will and finally rid the world of Mudbloods.” Macnair’s gaze pricked at Draco’s skin.

“Speaking of, Macnair, how has the recent hunt gone?” Dolohov questioned, a glint of malice in his eye.

Hunt.

The word carved at Draco’s insides.

“Found a pair of Mudbloods trying to escape the round up in North London, hung them by their wrists and beat them until they screamed themselves mute.” Macnair ripped off a piece of bread with his teeth, dipping it into the soup. “After we take away their wands, there really is no use fighting, but it sure makes the game more fun when there’s a challenge.”

Stomach turning, Draco pushed his bowl away from him, nauseated by the cackles and agreements around him. His hand slipped into his pocket, pressing the metal edge of the Galleon into his thumb.

“May I be dismissed?” His eyes pled silently to his mother who gave a curt nod, her eyes masked with indifference.

“Oh, Draco?” Bellatrix’s voice raised, sickly sweet. “This arrived for you.” With a tilt of her head, Teeney stepped forward, carrying a single letter on a silver platter.

Suppressing a tremble from making its way down his hands, he ripped open the letter, noting the Hogwarts seal.

A hard object rested in the envelope; he retrieved a metal badge from between the folded paper.

Head Boy

His finger traced along the hard edge, absorbing the words.

“The Dark Lord is pleased with your execution of the cabinet,” Bellatrix purred. “He would like to reward you for your loyalty.”

“Thank you,” his voice deadpanned. “It’s an honour to serve him.”

With a hard scrape of his chair, Draco’s legs carried him out into the hall outside the dining room.

They were hunting Muggleborns.

His stomach lurched, emptying its contents onto the floor.


Draco lay splayed out on his bed, his eyes tracing the intricate carvings that bordered the room.

Hours passed and his mind grew numb to the silence. After midnight but before the sun rose, he accepted that he would not be sleeping that night.

Dressing haphazardly, he snagged his wand from his bedside table. Focusing on the image of Theo’s room at Nott Manor in his mind, Draco felt the familiar squeeze and tightening of his chest that came with Apparition.

The brief sound of a pop filled his ears before he settled in his new surroundings. Mildly relieved that he had not been splinched, Draco squinted into the darkness of the room.

“Theo?” After a moment he lit his wand, making his way over to Theo’s bedside. “It’s just Draco.”

He tripped over a pile of rubbish on the floor, the glass bottles clinked together and rolled before colliding against the bed frame.

“Bloody hell, Theo,” Draco grumbled, wincing at the pain shooting up his foot. “Where are your house elves?”

The bedcovers on Theo’s bed were skewed about, his pillows thrown on the floor along with weeks of rubbish. He felt his pulse race, a sense of dread filling his stomach as his voice raised. “Theo?! Where are you?”

A mixture of a low groan and huff came from beneath him; Draco stepped back suddenly, balancing his hands on his knees as he bent low and peered in the space below the bed. Two feet were visible, one was wearing a shoe with no sock, the other a sock with no shoe.

Dragging a hand slowly down his face, Draco let out a warning. “I’m pulling you out now, mate.”

More groaning and words that were muffled by the bedding came from Theo. After setting his wand down on the nightstand, Draco wrapped his hands around Theo’s ankles and pulled; Theo’s arms flapped above his head, fighting against the movement.

“You know, Theo, the top of the bed is much more comfortable.”

“Bloody hell,” Theo grumbled, his words slurred together into one long sound. “I was sleeping.”

Draco picked up his wand and angled the light towards Theo who hissed. “What the fuck, Draco?!”

The lack of shoe ended up being the most normal part of Theo’s appearance; his hair was in disarray, he was presently wearing a white button-up—with only three buttons done, and in the wrong holes—a pair of red and gold athletic trousers, and a scuffed dress shoe.

“What the fuck?” Draco raised his brows incredulously. “You’re the one asking me , what the fuck? Have you looked in a mirror lately? What are you wearing?”

“It doesn’t smell like him anymore,” Theo’s voice came out in a pitiful rasp, his hands balled the shirt into his fists and pressed his nose against it. “I lost the last bit of him that I had left.”

Draco eyed the empty bottles littering the floor, “How much have you had to drink?”

“Fuck if I know.” His eyes glazed over, looking past Draco. “What month is it?”

“July.”

“Fuck.” Theo slow blinked, his eyes widening and narrowing experimentally. “When did that happen?”

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Draco let out a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry, mate.”

“Sorry for—” Theo’s question was cut off by a splash of water jetting out of Draco’s wand and onto his face.

Sputtering, Theo sat up abruptly, glaring at Draco as his hair dripped water droplets onto the floor. “What the fuck?!”

“See, now that’s an appropriate time to ask the question,” Draco drawled, waving his wand to dry Theo.

The cold water sobered Theo up and he tucked his head down onto his bent knees, covering his face.

“Why are you here, Draco? Just let me wallow in my misery.”

“Theo—”

“Stop. I don’t want to hear your words of encouragement and optimism right now. The love of my fucking life fucking hates me and is being hunted down by my fucking father and I can’t even get a fucking drink! LANEY!”

Laney the house-elf appeared next to Theo with a quick pop, holding a fresh bottle of firewhisky.

“Does Master—”

Yanking the bottle from Laney’s arms, Theo waved her away with a broad flop of his arm. “Go away.”

Pop

Draco’s stomach sank like a stone through water, sending ripples down his spine. “You can’t sit here in the dark, sloshed out of your mind, and—”

“—what the fuck am I supposed to do, Draco?” Theo coughed out a bitter scoff. “He’s gone.”

“Yeah, and how do you think Harry would feel if he saw you right now?”

Theo flinched at the name.

“Stop.” His lips pressed together as they trembled, his eyes squeezed shut.

“No, really, Theo. You think he’d be happy to see you in here falling apart? He’s out there fighting a war; he needs us to keep shit together back home.”

“Needs?” Theo’s hand tightened on the glass bottle. “He doesn’t need me, Draco. He’s made that perfectly clear.”

Draco joined Theo on the hardwood floor. “He does, Theo. He loves—”

With a strangled sob, Theo threw the bottle of firewhisky across the room; the glass shattered with a loud crack, a puddle of whiskey spread across the flooring, mixing with the shards.

Theo’s eyes flickered, staring off into the distance, his mind pulled into a memory.

The one-word messages that Draco received from Hermione were his lifeline, pulling him to the surface when he felt like he was drowning.

Theo was drowning with no one to save him.

“Teeney!”

The small house elf appeared next to Draco, looking wide-eyed at Theo. Giving a silent nod to Teeney, Draco turned back to Theo. “You’ll feel much better in a clean room, okay? Teeney is here to help.”

The elf made quick work of the room. With a few snaps of his fingers, the rubbish disappeared, the bed rearranged itself, and the fireplace came to life with a thriving fire.

“When did you last eat?” Draco’s voice was laced with worry.

“What day is it?”

Closing his eyes, Draco turned to the elf. “Teeney, please get us food too. Can you bring Pad Thai?”

Twenty minutes later, they were sitting on the floor with a pile of food around them. Having mastered the use of chopsticks since their last attempt at eating Pad Thai together, Draco took another bite of food. “And these slimy fucks have taken over Hogwarts and they think I’m going to be their perfect little puppet as Head Boy next year.”

“Fuckers.” Theo shook his head, taking a long swig of water. “I wanted to stay at the Manor but father told me that it’s required to return to Hogwarts by penalty of law. He’s trying to stay in the Dark Lord’s favour.”

Draco’s eyes caught on the moving image of the newspaper which Teeny neatly folded on the table in front of them.

Before Draco could reach for the paper, Theo snagged it. “You don’t want to read it.”

“What is that?” Draco stood up from his seat. “I want to see it.”

“There’s a Muggleborn Registration Commission.” Theo crumpled the newspaper into a ball. “They are requiring all Muggleborns to register and undergo interrogation on how they stole their magic from real witches and wizards. It doesn’t matter how they answer, though; they all end up in Azkaban.”

What ?”

“Yeah. It’s led by the bitch from fifth year. The toad one.”

“Fuck, Theo. What is going on?”

Theo slumped. “Mate.” He shook his head, appearing defeated. “This is only the start.”

Chapter Text

September-October

Year 7

 

Draco Malfoy had grown up surrounded by luxury. The Manor's grandness included a ballroom that dwarfed entire mansions; it boasted dozens of bedrooms, multiple libraries, kitchens, and dining spaces.

In short, Draco was difficult to impress.

However, his first day at Hogwarts, he was completely enchanted by the castle, which seemed to breathe life into the air around it, humming with magic. In comparison, the Manor seemed cold and uninviting, even with its ornate décor and thriving gardens. Though they were both made of stone, Hogwarts felt different than the Manor—Hogwarts felt alive .

It was the first memory that flashed through Draco’s mind as he entered the castle for the first day of his seventh year. An icy chill brushed down his spine at the change in the air, the space heavy with the palpable feeling of dread. The students who walked alongside Draco, Theo, and Blaise were eerily silent, marching towards the castle with solemn faces and fearful eyes.

Down the corridor, the walls were plastered with signs, reminiscent of Umbridge’s Decrees. Since he was trying not to stare, he only caught glimpses of words as they walked to the Great Hall.

Muggleborn Registration

Reward for Information on Undesirables

A History of Mudbloods and Stolen Magic

The Dark Lord’s Destiny, Divination for Believers

Draco’s stomach turned as he focused on moving one foot in front of the other. During previous years, the halls had been filled with conversation and enthusiasm, but today there was nothing except the ominous sound of footsteps and hushed whispers.

On the train ride to Hogwarts, Death Eaters had stormed the Hogwarts Express and tore apart each compartment in search of Harry. Word quickly spread through the train that the Chosen One was not coming back to Hogwarts this year, and that blanketed the students with terror. It had been difficult for Draco to regain the attention of the Prefects in the carriage for their meeting.

For the entire train ride, the Head Girl had been mysteriously absent and it was up to Draco to prepare the Prefects for first year tours and introductions. Following the meeting, he encouraged the Prefects to break protocol and go to the nearby carriages to comfort the younger students who had been shaken by their encounter with the Death Eaters.

After the interrogations on the train, the entire mood shifted, all of the usual joy disappearing. Within Hogwarts, the feeling of magic was drained, replaced with a sense of foreboding that itched at his skin.

Hogwarts felt lifeless.

Clusters of students filed into the Great Hall and there were visible gaps at each table, save Slytherin. With the decree from the Dark Lord to reopen Hogwarts, Muggleborns went into hiding with their families. It was not safe for them to return to school while it was under the control of the Death Eaters. Half-bloods were begrudgingly allowed, given that they could provide proof of their magical parentage.

Draco scraped his eyes away from the space at the Gryffindor table that he spent the first few years of Hogwarts memorising. The place that Hermione usually sat, situated between Ron and Harry, was empty. Tonight, it would finally be safe to open the journal and send her a message. Draco had survived the summer on scraps of information, and he was starving for her.

Amelia was missing from the Hufflepuff table, and he hoped that she was safe wherever she was.

Hunted

It kept flashing in his mind, dragging his memory back to the Manor and the jeers of the Death Eaters. A wave of nausea overcame him at the thought of his peers falling prey to the monsters who set up base in his home.

His hand slid back into the pocket of his cloak and he gripped the Galleon in his fist, counting the seconds until his heart rate calmed.

It was only then that he realised no one had made mention of his involvement at the end of the previous year. In fact, no one paid any attention to him at all. Not even the sparsely filled table of Gryffindors, who he expected to have the strongest reaction to his betrayal. There was only one explanation.

Harry had not told anyone that Draco was on the Astronomy Tower with Snape when Dumbledore was murdered.

The feeling that swept over him was akin to that of a dive after the snitch—his stomach dropped and his breath caught.

Inside the Great Hall, the air stilled, the motions of the room seemed to slow and blur as his stare connected with Snape’s black eyes. After the first years had been sorted, Draco was filled with a sense of discomfort.

Everything felt wrong.

The sorting ceremony, usually a joyous occasion where students were embraced and welcomed into their new houses, gave the impression of children walking to their demise. There was visible relief on the faces of first years when they were sorted into Slytherin, as if a sense of safety accompanied the house under the reign of the Dark Lord. The students who were sorted in Gryffindor had an air around them, holding their chins up as they passed the Head table, as if they were unafraid.

Foolish .

The thought left a bad taste in his mouth.

And brave , he mentally corrected himself. They could be both.

This year would be different than any other. As Head Boy, he would have additional duties outside of his standard Prefect duties. With the changing of the guards from Dumbledore to Snape, Draco was unsure of the expectations that surrounded his new post. After supper, the Prefects directed the first years to their dormitories for orientation.

Void of emotion, Snape made his way up to the podium. If Draco had not grown up accustomed to reading his lack of expression, he would have thought the new headmaster heartless. Before speaking, Snape paused, but that was the only indication that he might be affected by replacing the man he had murdered mere months ago.

The pit in Draco’s stomach grew as Headmaster Snape addressed the Great Hall, standing where Dumbledore stood on the first of September for decades. Seated on either side of Snape were the Carrow twins. As per the Dark Lord’s orders, Alecto Carrow replaced McGonagall as deputy headmistress and Amycus Carrow was appointed deputy headmaster.

Dumbledore’s usual words of enthusiasm and encouragement had been replaced by Snape’s low droning speech, exhausting the magic and energy from the room. Behind Draco, a first year began to cry, her shoulders shaking through the hiccups; his heart clenched, thinking back to Amelia in her first year, crying at the hands of the bullies.

This time, there was nothing Draco could do.

Scanning the room, he took note of the varying expressions spread across the Great Hall as students from all houses watched Snape’s address. There were several students who Draco recognised as children of Death Eaters sitting at the Slytherin table with smug expressions, as if they thought themselves immune to the trials the year would bring.

Even Blaise was not his jovial self, making no jokes or mentions of spending his summer under a pile of witches. Draco made a mental note to ask him about Luna later; he had not heard from Blaise all summer. 

The rest of the banquet passed by him like a buzzing in his ears, inconsequential and irritating.


As he opened the portrait to the Head Dorm, password ‘ Eternal Reign ’, he shuddered at the implication. The Head Boy badge hung heavy on his cloak. Even a year ago, the title would have felt like an accomplishment. Today, it felt like tighter strings in his back from a puppeteer, controlling him and moving him around as they pleased.

“Pansy.” The name dropped from his mouth as he stopped in his tracks at the sight of the raven-haired girl lounging on the Common Room sofa. “ You’re Head Girl?”

Scoffing, she inspected her perfectly manicured nails. “You don’t have to sound so surprised. You know my father has pleased the Dark Lord over the past year. Funded the project to bribe the Giant Colony in Scotland.”

Draco’s brows raised with a skeptical air.

“It’s not undeserving, Draco. I was Slytherin Prefect, you know.”

“I know.”

Looking around the room, he took in the surroundings with curiosity; he had never seen the Head Dormitory before. Though he and Pansy were both from Slytherin, the Head Common Room was designed in neutral beige and brown with no house affiliation, reminding Draco of the design of his and Hermione’s place in the Come-and-Go Room.

“Your room is up on the right, mine on the left,” Pansy informed him, her eyes holding on the pair of matching entrances on either side of the far wall. “The rooms are larger than the dungeons, and we even have windows that provide sunlight instead of the light from the lake.”

With a slow nod, he felt at a loss for words.

“It feels different, doesn’t it?” Her eyes glazed over, settling on the vase of white pansies on the table.

Before he could ask what she meant, Pansy’s expression shifted and she became focused. “I’m sorry that I missed the train ride with the Prefects but I was…indisposed. Other business. You and I have to lead the first Prefect meeting this weekend. I spoke with Sna—with the Headmaster and he informed me that we have to enforce new guidelines provided by the Dark Lord.”

“New guidelines?”

Her eyes flickered a moment before neutralizing, and she walked across the room to Draco as she spoke. “Guidelines for the students. The professors were trained last week on how to cover material in their courses. Most subjects have been stripped of content not in harmony with the Dark Lord’s ideals and have been replaced with curriculum he has approved. As Deputy Heads, the Carrows will oversee all disciplinary actions.”

A dozen stories from the summer flashed through his mind, reminding him of the horrors carried out by the siblings. They were notoriously cruel; most Death Eaters did not relish in torture, merely carrying out orders when necessary. There was no doubt in his mind that the Carrow twins enjoyed inflicting pain. Their specialty was the Cruciatus Curse, doling it out like candy at a parade. Tortured and ragged screams had echoed down the Manor halls from the Carrows, searing into Draco’s head and making their way into his nightmares.

A lightheadedness overcame him, spots dancing in his peripheral vision. He thought of Hermione sitting patiently with her notebook, waiting for him. “Do you mind if we continue this tomorrow, Pans? It’s been a long day and I could use the rest.”

Placing a gentle hand on Draco’s shoulder, Pansy gave a sympathetic nod. “I understand. Go get some rest. We can talk in the morning.”

The comforting touch nearly brought tears to his eyes; he had pulled away from his parents over the summer and his only consistent human contact during the past few months had been with his aunt, which left him on edge. Theo had all but completely withdrawn from Draco, his pain palpable as he battled against his agony over Harry.

Draco missed his witch.

Following the path to his new room, Draco’s legs felt heavy underneath him, threatening to buckle. After three months away, he could finally write to Hermione in the journal. She would know that today was the first day back to school; she would know that he would write to her tonight.

Staring blankly at the page, he dipped his quill in ink. He could not decide what to write first. There were a thousand messages that he needed to give her. After a pause, he settled on writing the one message that ached in his soul.

I miss you. He watched as his words disappeared, his fingers tapped on the wooden desk as he awaited her reply.

I miss you more than words can say…

Stifling a sob of relief, he let out the breath he had not realised he was holding. The words, though simple, were beautiful to read.

Are you safe? Are you eating enough? Do you need anything?

Yes, yes, and you. Fighting a smile, he imagined Hermione’s teasing look as she replied. But second best would be Pinky’s scones. I’m rather sick of mushrooms and fish.

He stilled, dipping his quill again as more words appeared before he could reply.

Before you panic, that was a joke. Mostly. Don’t think I didn’t miss Pinky sneaking a horde of food into my satchel last month. I had to tell Harry and Ron that I nicked the food from a nearby campsite so they weren’t suspicious. Though it was the best meal we’ve had since leaving the Burrow. Turns out three magical teenagers aren’t exactly skilled fishers.

I wish I was with you.

Is this where you try to convince me that you’re a skilled fisher?

I did catch the cutest witch I know. A small smile spread on his lips as the words faded.

That doesn’t count. You only thought you caught me, but really it was you who fell into my trap.

The curve of his lips grew into a grin as he dipped his quill into the ink, prepared to give up every second of sleep for just a moment more with her.


The first course of the day was Muggle Studies. Over the summer, his old professor of Muggle Studies—Charity Burbage—had entered the Manor for questioning and had not been seen since. His mother refused to give him details from the meetings at the Manor in an attempt to spare him, though he was not a child. He knew Professor Burbage had gasped her last breath in his home.

When Draco entered the old Muggle Studies classroom, the first thing he noticed was the high number of vacant spaces  scattered throughout the classroom—where the Muggleborn students usually sat. The second thing he noticed were the new books on every desk. Before he even reached his seat, he recognised the deep purple cover of the book; he had seen it at his grandparents’ home as a young child.

Draco’s grandparents had been raving blood purists, making his own parents appear loving and tolerant in comparison. His grandparents were well known for their schemes against Muggles and Muggleborns. His grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy, was widely believed to have been involved in the plot to force the first Muggleborn Minister for Magic out of office. Due to the Malfoy vaults and extensive connections, no conclusive evidence was found against him.

His grandmother regularly conspired with her social circle to trace lineage of several powerful families and blackmail them. If a squib or Muggle were found in the family line—and it became public knowledge—their place in society would immediately fall, never to recover.

‘No amount of gold in the world can offset proper breeding and pedigree,’ his grandmother used to say in her grating voice.

Alecto strolled into the classroom, twirling her wand in her hand. The sound of the class died down into petrified silence; the rumours about Alecto preceded her. 

“Welcome to the next stage of your education. The Dark Lord has had the inspiration and wisdom to reopen Hogwarts and clean up the disgusting lies that they were teaching you children. This course is mandatory for all years and will be the most important information that you study all year. As you know from the welcome feast, I am Alecto Carrow, the Deputy Headmistress and your new professor for Corruption of the Bloodline.

“There will be oral examinations at the start of each class. Failure to answer will result in detention. The book in front of your desk will become one of many that you will read for this course.” A nasty sneer spread across her face. “The Pure-Blood Directory was written by Cantankerous Nott in the 1930’s. It lists the Sacred Twenty-Eight families. Does anyone know what I mean by the Sacred Twenty-Eight?”

Her beady eyes scrutinised the room, waiting for a reply. When no student spoke up, she flicked her wand, raining painful sparks down on the students. A white spark landed on Draco’s bare hand, stinging with pain. An angry red burn glared against his pale skin. After his summer, he did not even react, merely watching the mark form with curiosity. Quiet sounds of indignation and pain made their way across the room.

“I’ll ask again. Does anyone know what I mean by the Sacred Twenty-Eight?”

Hannah Abbott’s hand raised, visibly hesitant. “They are the twenty-eight families whose lineage can be traced with no Muggleborns in their family tree at the time of publication.”

Alecto’s pointed teeth shone as she curled her lips at Hannah. “Very good. And you are?”

“Hannah Abbott,” she squeaked, shrinking down in her chair.

“Abbott. A Sacred Twenty-Eight family—I’m pleased. A Sacred Twenty-Eight family means they are pure . The family ancestry can be traced back without any beastly ancestors whatsoever as far as can be determined. This is extremely rare and most precious. How many of you have Sacred Twenty-Eight blood?” Alecto raised her thin brows expectantly.

Draco watched as hands raised around the room. Hannah Abbott. Millicient Bulstrode. Pansy Parkinson. He shared a glance with Theo, before they both raised their hands.

Neville Longbottom sat with his arms crossed in front of him, defiant and unyielding.

With a tilt of her head, Alecto turned her attention to Neville. “Did you forget something? Mr. Longbottom?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Neville declared, his face hardened. “Blood is all the same no matter what. Why should I care about some publication written sixty years ago by insane blood supremacists?”

The corner of Alecto’s eye twitched as she let out a low growl. Waving her wand, Neville’s head slammed down against the edge of the wood desk with a hard thud. “You’d do to watch your mouth, Longbottom. Detention. Tonight. Don’t bother bringing your quill—you won’t be writing lines.”

With the rest of the class watching her with wide eyes, Alecto continued down to the other side of the classroom. “You have been manipulated and deceived by your so-called professors. The only legitimate ruler of magic is the Wizarding Race. The beasts—or as you were taught to call them, ‘Muggles’, are below filth.”

The veins in her neck popped with her eyes as she grew more animated, spitting vitriol across the room. “They will never be worthy to hold magic and any Mudblood with magic stole it from a witch or wizard to taint the bloodlines and corrupt our world. They are like animals, brainless and foul. They have driven real witches and wizards into hiding with their vicious and savage ways.”

Draco glanced at Neville from the corner of his eye; a purple bruise was already starting to form on his head.

“Well, no more!” Alecto’s wand struck against Pansy’s desk, causing her to move back, away from the professor. “The natural order is being restored through our brilliant and powerful leader, the Dark Lord. Once reestablished, we will rule over the dirty creatures and usher in a new golden age of the Wizarding World. Your first assignment is to memorize all twenty-eight families for the next lesson. You are dismissed.”

Draco thought back to Theo’s words. This is only the start.


I can’t believe my witch is eighteen years old today. Happy birthday, love

Draco watched as the words bled into the journal and faded.

Not quite how I anticipated this birthday, though I’m expecting you to go all out for the next one. I expect a birthday crown, a judgmental look from Pinky, and at least one serenade. And don’t you worry, I’ll be home with you before your birthday.

Her words stabbed at his chest; June felt so far away.

I promise to never miss another birthday for as long as I live.

Scratching the quill against the page, he began sketching out a sequence of panels. In the first scene, he drew himself, alone and sad in bed with a thought bubble above him and an image of Hermione in the bubble. In the second panel, he drew a heroic and powerful Hermione, her hands on her hips and the Dark Lord on the ground beneath her foot. The third image made him laugh; it was him running into her arms and her carrying him away in victory as they celebrated the death of the Dark Lord.

The image disappeared and he waited for several moments for her reply.

I just had to come up with a ridiculous lie about why I’m sitting in the tent and laughing. I hope you’re proud of yourself!

He imagined her chewing on her lip, covering her mouth with her hand as she laughed at the images.

I am proud, thank you very much. If I can’t give you a proper gift, I thought a glimpse into the future would suffice. What was the excuse?

I told them I’m reading a humourous take on Egyptian Hieroglyphics. They didn’t care to ask for more detail after that.

Tell them you’re reading De Libro Sexus

…do I want to know?

Wealsey will know what it is. His parents had a thousand kids, so I guarantee they owned at least one copy.

Draco.

It’s the magical version of that Muggle book, the Kama Sutra

DRACO!

Blaise brought them both to school with him—don’t blame me for his depravity! His mother is just a bit too open minded with that sort of thing. She didn’t entice seven husbands with her glowing personality.

Oh my god.

…part of you is curious though. Isn’t it?

Shut up.

A moment later more text appeared.

But yes.

For academic purposes, of course.

Draco fell asleep with a smile on his lips that night.


“Nope. I refuse to believe it.” Hermione’s wild mane of hair shifted as she shook her head. “You’re lying.”

A smirk tugged at Draco’s lips. “I’m not, I’ve never made a snowman. It must be a Muggle tradition.”

“I firmly believe it has to be from wizards. There’s even a famous Muggle story about Frosty the Snowman. He comes to life.”

Stopping mid-stride, Draco gave her a look of incredulity. “How do Muggles know about Frostine?”

“Frostine?” she repeated blankly. “Do you mean Frosty?”

“No.” His brow furrowed. “Frostine, the Witch of Winter. She used magic to bring snow and ice to life to create an army that couldn’t be killed. Tried to take over the Wizarding World.”

Hermione frowned. “Why haven’t I ever heard this story?”

“She wasn’t exactly successful.”

“Because she forgot about fire?”

He choked on a laugh. “Yes, Granger. Because she forgot about fire.”

“And summer,” she added with a knowing look.

Snaking an arm around her waist, he pulled her closer. “Nothing gets past you, my love. She had much to overcome, being fictional and all.

Giving a slight tilt of her head, Hermione pondered, “I wonder how many Muggle legends began as children’s tales from the Wizarding World.”

The snow crunched beneath their feet as they continued walking around the grounds of Hogwarts, all but abandoned due to the cold. Hermione cast another Warming Charm over them, rubbing her hands together and breathing hot air onto them.

Tugging his scarf free, he placed it around her neck, looping it around until it was snug.

Her hands drifted up to fiddle with the soft material, a small smile dancing on her lips. “Thank you.”

“You should keep it.” He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. “It looks good on you.”

“That means I officially have your Falmouth Falcons shirt, Slytherin Quidditch jersey, scarf, and tie. In a few years, you won’t have much left to wear.”

A low sound of approval came from his chest. “I like seeing you in my clothes. Speaking of, you don’t wear the jersey nearly enough.”

“You only like it because it says ‘Malfoy’ on the back.” She grinned, nudging him with her shoulder as they walked.

“What can I say? The name looks good on you, Granger.” He winked, his chest swelling as he watched a pretty blush cover her cheeks. “Hermione Malfoy has a nice ring to it.”

“You’ll have to stop calling me Granger then,” she teased, pressing her teeth into the pillow of her lower lip.

“Never!” He spun around to face her, his hands swooping down to spread across her back as he dipped her into a kiss. “You’ll always be my Granger.”

She returned the kiss, tangling her fingers in his hair. “And you’ll always be my—"


A pounding noise on Draco’s door woke him, stirring him out of his memory. Groaning, Draco threw his pillow across the room in annoyance.

“Are you decent? I’m coming in either way,” Theo called through the closed door, entering the room.

“Why are you in my room? I told Pansy to not to give you the password to the Head Dorm.” Draco slung his arms over his head. “You ruined a perfectly good dream. You know how few of those I have these days.”

“I had an epiphany at the bottom of my bottle of whisky last night,” Theo announced.

“Why don’t you go bother Blaise?”

Theo snagged Draco’s cloak from the wardrobe. “Blaise is busy with Luna. He moved her into his room full time after she had a run in with the Carrows near Ravenclaw Tower. You were right, we need to stop moping around. Harry and Hermione need us, and we aren’t doing shit to help by feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Glaring, Draco sat up in bed. “As annoying as it is that you woke me up, it is refreshing to hear you admit that I’m right. What are you proposing?”

“We have to start planning so we are ready when they get back,” Theo insisted, picking up Draco’s pillow from the floor and tossing it back at him. “Time to get up, sunshine. We have work to do.”

Chapter Text

November

Year 7

 

Minutes blurred into days into weeks and Draco’s life felt like a never-ending loop. The increasing control the Carrows had over the professors and the modifications to the Hogwarts curriculum reminded him of fifth year and Umbridge, though even the Ministry did not rewrite entire sections of history and warp it to indoctrinate students.

Though Muggle Studies was the only course to change in name, every subject was touched by the widespread changes made by the Dark Lord at Hogwarts. Alecto Carrow taught Corruption of the Bloodline and her brother, Amycus, took over the position as Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Under Amycus, the course became more of an introduction to the dark arts rather than defence from it.

Children of families who were attempting to remain neutral were constantly bombarded with messages to join the Dark Lord or pressure from their peers to help avenge Dumbledore. The Zabinis were famous for their ability to play both sides. His mother, who had been married seven times, had a way of charming and distracting anyone who pressed her for commitment to their cause. As a result, Blaise kept his head low and tried to blend into the crowd to divert attention from himself.

However, after one month, Blaise moved Luna into the Slytherin dorms for her protection. Her father was publishing articles directly opposing the Dark Lord and the mainstream media in The Quibbler , placing a target on her back.

Luna’s presence in the Slytherin dorms was common knowledge but most students feigned ignorance and looked the other way for fear of Blaise’s retaliation. Slytherin house had been divided over the changes at Hogwarts. Some relished in the powers given to them by the Carrows, but others remained suspiciously silent in their own form of dissent.

According to Theo, it had been difficult to convince Luna to leave her friends, but she ultimately conceded when Blaise threatened to sleep on the floor outside Ravenclaw Tower every night in case she needed him. Luna had informed him that Utnals thrive on the stone floors and, if he slept on the ground, they would climb into his ears. Blaise had responded by laying on the floor, ear down, until she caved.

Outside of his work with Pansy and the house Prefects—who were all replaced over the summer with known Purebloods and the children of Death Eaters—Draco spent all his time in the library or with Blaise and Theo. After Theo’s whisky revelation, he had taken his newfound energy and funneled all his focus into research. Having spent hours and hours in the libraries and the Hospital Wing, Theo became an expert in the latest healing techniques. They used their connections with Slughorn to gain access to the Potions lab for brewing and testing their ideas.

The Carrow twins grew in power as the months dragged on, their erratic behaviours becoming commonplace.

Students who dared to reject the Dark Lord’s teachings or mouthed back in classes received severe detentions with increasingly brutal punishments. Being Head Boy, and a known favourite of the Dark Lord—the thought made him ill—Draco was able to avoid the level of scrutiny applied to his peers. It started to wear on him, the silence. He wanted to scream, to fight, to do anything that would feel like making a difference. 

Instead, he was stuck in place, unable to do anything to help the ones he loved.


“How did you survive it last summer? Voldemort living inside your home?” Harry’s voice was barely above a whisper, as if he were hesitant to ask the question.

Draco let out a dry chuckle. “It was a bit easier than having him live inside your head, I’d think.”

“Fair enough.” Harry laughed in return.

“Just one day at a time, I suppose. I spent most of my time practicing Occlumency. When you live under the same roof as the Dark Lord, even a fraction of weakness can tip him off and endanger your family.”

Nodding, Harry’s expression grew somber. “I know what you’ve done and the position you’ve put yourself in by helping me. I wanted to say thank you for the past few weeks of lessons. I thought I was a lost cause, but I really do think I’m getting better.”

“You are,” Draco assured him. “You’ve been able to redirect memories and throw me off your trail more than once. Given enough practice, you’ll be ready to take on the Dark Lord.”

“Well, you’ve been a better teacher than Snape was when he tried to teach me Occlumency last year.”

Draco’s eyes widened. “For my safety and yours, I won’t repeat that to anyone.”

With a lazy grin, Harry stretched out and glanced around the room. “The Room of Requirement was a good choice for the lessons. Did you know that we used this room for the D.A. last year?”

Holding back a laugh, Draco replied, “Yeah. I heard. It was a good idea.” It was my idea, he continued silently.

“It was, Hermione’s brilliant. I don’t know what we would’ve done without her. Sorry—I don’t know if she’s a forbidden topic.” Harry looked sheepish.

“She’s not.” Draco paused, considering the best way to phrase his thoughts. “She’s just…complicated. It’s more…timing.”

Silence stretched over the pair.

Curious green eyes met his gaze. “Do you ever feel like you’re just on the cusp of living but something is in your way? Like it’s just within your grasp but still out of reach?”

Words caught in Draco’s throat. “All the time.” He swallowed. “You don’t understand how lucky you are, having grown up with people who helped guide you to make the right choices. Some of us just have families who do their best and end up fucking you up along the way.”

“Do you believe your parents did their best?”

The question caught Draco off guard. “Yes.”

“So, you agree with them?” Harry’s head cocked.

“No.”

“I don’t understand.”

Draco’s heart throbbed in his chest. “Sometimes good people can do bad things if they think it’s for the greater good.”

“But if they do bad things, are they truly good?”

His eyes unfocused over Harry’s shoulder, looking into the flames of the fire behind him. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”


A scream of agony pulled Draco out of his thoughts as he made his way back to the Head Dorm. He had spent the afternoon and most of the night in the library, doing research for Theo, who had to return to his familial home for the next step in their plan.

“You’re a filthy Blood Traitor! Are you even a half-blood? You sure defend the animals for someone who is supposedly a half-blood. Let’s see how long you’ll hold onto your misguided beliefs. Crucio!”

Draco flinched at Amycus’ taunts followed by the sound of more sobs. The sound of skin smacking against the stone floor made its way to Draco, a sure sign of the muscles spasming in torment from the Unforgivable. Having suffered from the curse dozens of times at the hands of his aunt, Draco knew firsthand the agony that Amycus’ victim was feeling. Even hearing the phrase caused a visceral reaction, as if his body remembered the pain.

“Ready to relent? I’m feeling generous tonight. You just have to tell us the Mudbloods deserve to die and I’ll let you go.”

“FUCK YOU!” The voice sounded hoarse and mangled.

Draco’s feet stumbled as he recognized the tone.

Turning around, Draco headed towards the altercation and as he approached, more details came into view. Dean Thomas was writhing on the ground, the aftereffects of Crucio drifting through his body. Bruises bloomed across his face and arms, his lip was busted and bleeding onto the stone floor.

Draco  should have continued his path to the Head Dorm and not interfered, but instead, he had turned around. No matter how he tried, his body could not keep walking. He was sick of looking the other way; he had to do something—anything.

Bile threatened to rise in Draco’s throat.

“Amycus!” Draco tried to sound cheerful as he approached the pair. “Serendipitous timing. I was just reading a letter from my father. He mentioned how pleased the Dark Lord is with your work here at Hogwarts.”

Straightening himself, Amycus adjusted his robes and preened in place. “He did? I mean, of course he did. I’m glad Lucius is acknowledging the great strides we are making here.” With a scowl, he turned his focus to Dean. “Except for some unruly children who don’t know their place.”

Draco fought to keep his eyes up at Amycus instead of looking at Dean. “I did hear that the Dark Lord is looking to reward his best and brightest. I’ll tell my father how well you’ve done with the students so far, excellent work in your new curriculum. Aunt Bellatrix will be proud of your progress.”

A vile smile grew on Amycus’ face. “Thank you, Draco. I’ve always looked up to your father and aunt.”

“After seeing your work, just know that I look up to you as well.” Draco laid on the flattery, ignoring the incredulous scoff from Dean. “As Head Boy, it is my job to make the Headmaster and Deputy Headmaster’s lives easier. Let me know if you ever want to lighten the load. I’m sure I could learn plenty from you.”

Amycus tilted his head as he processed Draco’s words. Hoping that Amycus would stop him, Draco turned to leave.

After a beat, he cleared his throat and Draco turned back, acting oblivious to Amycus’ next words. “It has been a long night and I was supposed to be in the Headmaster’s office half an hour ago…If you’re looking for experience, would you like to finish this one up?” He gestured to Dean’s limp body on the floor.

Draco pretended to contemplate for a moment before sneering. “I suppose I could spare the time to put this Blood Traitor in his place. You’ve made a magnificent start. I’ll have to study your technique for the future.”

A hand settled on Draco’s shoulder and he suppressed a shiver. “Great work. I trust you’ll finish him off.” As Amycus’ footsteps faded, Dean scowled at Draco, one of his eyes swollen shut.

“Oh shit,” Draco muttered, inspecting Dean more thoroughly. “Oh fuck.” Running through the options in his mind, he dragged a hand through his hair anxiously.

Madam Pomfrey was under strict orders not to heal students who had injuries from punishment. Draco could not bring Dean to the Hospital Wing. If he let Dean go, Dean could be spotted by a student or professor and blow the cover that Draco had not followed orders and tortured him. Even if he was able to get away without being seen, Dean would go back to Gryffindor Tower and enrage the Gryffindors into action. If no one in Gryffindor knew how to heal him, he would suffer long term effects of the Cruciatus Curse without proper treatment.

Draco had to heal Dean himself.

“Well, get on with it,” Dean spat, hate radiating off him in waves.

“I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” Draco asked rhetorically under his breath. “Come on, we are just around the corner from the Head Dorm.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you!”

“Shit.” Draco looked over his shoulder. If anyone saw them, he would be forced to act on Amycus’ orders. “Just stop being such a Gryffindor and let me help you. I have no reason to hurt you. If I did, why would we be talking right now? Not to mention, given your state it’s not as if you have a choice. If you fight me, I will bind and levitate you, but speaking from personal experience, it makes the tremors much worse.”

Dean grunted in response, as if disagreeing with Draco’s words.

Closing his eyes in frustration, Draco asked, “What’s your alternative? Crawling several floors to Gryffindor Tower? Possibly getting caught by Alecto who will finish what her brother began?”

It appeared as if Dean was also considering his choices. He finally gave in and gave Draco a quick nod.

Draco hoisted the other boy up, taking the brunt of his body weight. Dean’s legs shook forcefully beneath him as he took the painful steps around the corner and through the Head Dorm portrait.  

Eternal Reign .”

Dean scoffed at the password, swaying in place from the pain.

“I know.” Draco let out a heavy sigh. “It’s the worst—Snape picked it. We are almost there; my room is on the right. And you have to stop grunting because if you wake Pansy, I don’t know how I’d explain this to her.”

Draco half-carried Dean across the shared common space and into his bedroom, helping him onto the bed.

Barely lucid, Dean collapsed, his body weight pulling Draco down with him. On his descent, Dean’s hand hooked through the gap on Draco’s leather bracelet, snapping it in half at the gold center and falling to the ground. Dean moaned from the impact of the fall, his eyes rolling at the back of his head in anguish.

Casting a quick spell, Draco levitated Dean onto the bed and began assessing his wounds. Luckily, Theo had begun training Draco with basic healing and diagnostic spells. Draco ran a quick scan over Dean’s body and was relieved to see that he had no broken bones.

Next, he selected a bottle of purple potion from his personal storage.

“I’m going to give you a potion. This will help with the Cruciatus Curse. I brewed it myself, a little concoction that Theo Nott and I developed together. It’s completely safe. I have taken doses of this probably a hundred times in the months after I was tortured. It will help you regain muscle control and expedite the healing of your nerves,” Draco explained, not sure if Dean was even conscious anymore.

After tipping the potion down Dean’s throat, Draco applied bruise paste to his eye and arms, as well as casting a healing charm on his lip. When the last visible injury was gone, Draco stood back to admire his work. Dean finally looked like himself again.

Draco recalled just last Valentine’s Day when Dean had pulled Hermione away from him to dance. Though Draco had been jealous watching another man take his witch away to dance, the next night in the Come-and-Go-Room with Hermione more than made up for it. The smile that lit up Hermione’s face when she looked at him from across the room as she danced had lived in his mind for weeks after the party.

When there was no more left to heal, Draco transfigured a pillow from his cloak and sat down at his desk, ready to wait for Dean to wake up.

In the morning, Draco stirred uncomfortably; his neck ached from the angle he’d slept at on his desk. Wiggling his wrist, Draco remembered that the bracelet Hermione gave him had snapped the night before. Frantically, he spotted the leather band halfway across the room. He inspected the bracelet; the gold capsule in the center had broken cleanly down the middle and was hollow inside.

Reparo.” Draco adjusted it meticulously, a feeling of comfort came over him as he secured it back on his wrist.

His eyes drifted up to the bed which was now empty.

“Fuck.”

Shaking his head, he cleaned his sheets with a wave of his wand before climbing in to try and get some sleep before the night ended. His mind drifted to the memory of the day after Valentine’s Day just as he fell asleep.


Inside their place, Draco was tangled up around Hermione. He tucked himself against her from behind, their legs snug and his chin rested on her shoulder.

“I’m sorry we didn’t end up spending Valentine’s Day together. I know you think it’s a made-up holiday—”

“—opposed to all the naturally-occurring holidays,” Draco quoted back with a grin. “It’s okay. I didn’t mind the Single’s Day Party, actually.”

“I can’t believe Blaise convinced you to go!”

He made a face. “Well, I owed him a party from last year and Slytherins always collect. At least it was a Ravenclaw party; it was nothing like a Slytherin party where the night usually ends with someone attempting murder.”

Hermione laughed. “I honestly can’t tell if you’re serious or not. If you’re serious, that’s hilarious and also really awful. The only almost deaths in Gryffindor house come from unintentional means. Dares, pranks, and whatnot.”

“That’s a polite way to say they almost kill each other with stupidity.”

Draco could practically hear her rolling her eyes as she corrected, “I think they call it bravery but sometimes the line between the two is very fine.”

She let out a light groan, stretching her body with a slow roll of her hips against Draco.

His hands skirted around her waist, holding to her like a lifeline as she continued wiggling against him.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were doing that on purpose,” Draco growled low; his hips canted into the supple skin of her arse. His hands began to roam up the curve of her sides and down to grip her waist.

“I’m just really sleepy.” She enunciated each word as she rocked her arse against his now prominent erection.

“Is that so?” Draco held back the groan that was building in his chest as she continued to tease him. He snaked his hands under her blouse from behind, trailing up to her covered breasts. Thumbing her raised peaks through the thin material, she arched into his hands.

“Is someone impatient?” his voice sang as she let out a grunt of frustration.

“Yes,” she mumbled, his hands falling away as she pulled off her blouse and bra in one movement.

Smirking to himself over the sound of her soft whimpers, Draco returned his hands and began palming and kneading her bare breasts, drinking in her soft noises and reactions. One of his hands continued as the other drifted to her leg, circling the smooth skin of her inner thigh. She shifted her weight, trying to bring his touch closer to her core.

Finally slipping his hand under her skirt, he dragged a finger slowly along her folds over the damp material. He intentionally lessened the pressure against her core, holding back a smile as she grew frustrated.

Rotating her hips so they pressed into his fingers, Hermione keened, “Why are you teasing me today?”

Draco chuckled; his chest rumbled against her back with the sound. “Sort of how you teased me last night? Dancing with those other blokes?”

“You know it didn’t mean anything.” She tilted her hips up, trying to get more friction.

Slipping his fingers beneath the fabric, he brushed the flat of his finger against her clit so lightly she moaned and followed his finger, desperate for his touch. Her breath hitched as he continued to tease her. She felt slick as she ground herself into the palm of his hand. He fought the urge to flip her over and take her right there.

Draco’s head dipped down, his lips sucking and kissing along the arch of her neck, intending to leave a claiming mark.

“I want you to remember who makes you feel like this.” His voice grew lower and possessive in her ear. He rolled her hardened nipple between his fingers, drawing a gasp from her. “Next time you’re dancing and talking to other blokes, I want you to think back to this moment, when you’re coming on my fingers, and know that you’re mine .” He snarled the last word.

Pressing two fingers into her entrance, he found she was now drenched from his attentions. Suppressing a groan at how ready she felt, his thumb rubbed against her swollen clit as he pumped into her relentlessly. Her breasts rose and fell rapidly as her breathing became erratic and shallow.

“Oh my god!” She threw her head back with a moan of relief, meeting his hand as she rode his fingers.

“Whose witch are you?” The question came from his lips, and he rutted shamelessly against her arse as she whimpered.

“Yours. Draco, I’m yours.” She bucked and rolled her head back and forth as her sounds grew. Her body tensed, her muscles spasming as she fluttered around his fingers in waves.

A feeling of pride swelled in his chest, eating up her words. Maintaining his pace, he rode her through her release, rubbing circles into her sensitive clit.

“What were you thinking about when you sent me that picture yesterday, you naughty witch?”

“You.” She gasped the word as she struggled to catch her breath, coming down from the high of her orgasm.

Pulling her up onto her hands and knees, Draco bunched her skirt around her waist and dragged her soaked knickers down to her knees, pushing her thighs apart with his hands. His cock wept with want for her, straining painfully in his trousers.

Unable to wait any longer, Draco unzipped his trousers and freed himself, sweeping the head of his cock along the length of her folds. Hermione’s back arched delectably, propping her arse up in the air. His hands cupped the soft flesh, admiring her unblemished skin.

A gasp and low moan erupted from Draco as he pressed the head of his cock into her entrance. He dipped in just a fraction before pulling back out and repeating.

“Draco.”

His name had never sounded so delicious.

The short and shallow thrusts pulled a whimper of anticipation from Hermione. Gripping her arse, he slid into her with one swift, long push, sheathing him to the hilt. He let out a low sound as he watched himself disappear into her; she felt hot and impossibly tight around him.

“You’re perfect,” he rasped the praise. “Like you were made for me.”

She responded by pushing herself backwards, impaling herself on him as she rocked on her hands and knees. He moved in long and steady strokes, growing increasingly frantic as he pounded into her. His hips slammed against the flesh of her arse with each thrust.

Her walls tightened around him, her arching back taking him deeper. Draco felt the release of tension building as she clamped down on him, the pulsing of her orgasm milking his cock. Her lips parted with a moan as she convulsed around him; the motion pushed him over the edge, his body tightening before he cried out her name, spilling into her.

Draco did not withdraw right away, instead, he kissed a path along the curve of her back to the arch of her neck, worshipping her — his hands greedily massaging at her skin which was heated and flushed under his touch.

Humming a contented sigh, Hermione quipped, “I’ll have to dance with other blokes more often.”


It was growing more difficult for Draco to sleep at night; he constantly tossed and turned, reliving the moments from each day. As time passed, the frequency of rebellions from students increased, which meant more students were showing up to class with fresh bruises and bleeding wounds. Instead of backing down in fear of punishment, it inspired more retaliation from the rebelling teenagers. Weekly detentions became rescue missions.

As Head Boy, Draco tried to intervene whenever possible, but his options were limited.

He was sure his mother would disapprove of their brazen attempts to rebel. She had emphasized the benefits of working in the shadows to Draco all through his childhood. Even though Slytherin was in his blood, he was sure his mother had something to do with it as well.

Instead of working silently and forming a strategic plan, the rebellion seemed to consist of uncoordinated acts of disobedience. Heated words were thrown out in class or during meals. Walls were dripping with painted words of dissent, such as ‘Dumbledore’s Army Still Recruiting’. The entire effort seemed to lack structure and plan. It was obvious from any outside observer that there was not a single Slytherin in the cause.

It had been nearly two weeks since he had healed Dean but there had been no change in the attitudes of the Carrows or the rebellious Gryffindors. It seemed that whatever had happened, Dean had not told anyone that that Draco had foregone the torture and healed him instead.

Just as he was starting to fall asleep, a muffled tapping sound caught his attention. Curiosity pulled him out of bed and across the Common Room to the portrait where the banging continued. It was uncommon for students to come directly to the Head Dorm but it was not unheard of, though they had never had a visitor in the middle of the night.

Draco opened the portrait from the inside, peering out into the dark corridor to investigate.

Dean Thomas was propping up a wheezing and bloody Seamus Finnigan, who looked barely conscious.

“Oh, thank god,” Dean sighed in relief, his eyes filled with panic and fear. “I was afraid you wouldn’t hear us. You’ve got to help us; Seamus is in really bad shape.”

On cue, a fresh gush of blood came from Seamus’ lips, dripping down his chin and onto the stone floor.

“Fucking hell.” Draco looked Seamus up and down, taking note of his various bruises and ripped clothing. “Come inside, quick, before someone sees you. You’d better hope Pansy doesn’t wake up from this or we are all dead.”

Nodding, Dean helped Seamus climb through the portrait into the Common Room. Draco grabbed Seamus’ other arm and helped lift him as they made their way into his room.

“Why did you come here?” Draco muttered, giving a small grunt of exertion as he helped lift Seamus onto his bed.

Dean looked down at Seamus, who appeared shell shocked. “He needs help. I can’t just let him suffer and you knew how to heal me. I thought you’d help.”

A gasping rattle came from Seamus’ chest. Draco’s eyes widened and he ran a quick diagnostic spell.

“Oh shit.” Draco brought a hand to his forehead. “Do you know where the Slytherin dorm entrance is?”

“Yes—”

“—good. The password is ‘ Purify ’. Don’t let anyone see you. Theo’s dorm is on the main level, left hand side, four doors in. Knock twice, pause, then knock once. You need to hurry . I don’t know how to heal a punctured lung. I’ll do what I can in the meantime.”

Dean’s eyes widened as his face blanched; he sprinted out of the room and Draco soon heard the portrait closing.

Exhaling a shaky breath, Draco turned back to Seamus. “What have I gotten myself into?”

Draco continued his work on Seamus while waiting for Theo and Dean to return. He was able to heal the more superficial cuts and bruises on the surface, clearing the blood from his body and clothes.

After he had finished all he could do, Theo came sprinting through the Common Room, carrying a bag under his arm, a panting Dean following shortly after.

“How’s he doing?”

“Not great,” Draco muttered, moving out of the way for Theo to examine Seamus. “I’m glad you got here so quickly because I was running out of stuff to do.”

With a wave of his wand, a bright red orb hovered over Seamus’ chest. “You were right, it’s a punctured lung. Looks like he has some broken ribs and severe bruising.” Theo looked to Dean. “What happened to him?”

“Amycus and Alecto took turns trying to see who could make him scream the loudest tonight.” Dean looked ill. “I don’t know how long they had him before I found him. His detention was hours ago. I only found him because we were supposed to meet up after his punishment and he never showed.”

Theo quickly went to work, pulling out potions and salves from his bag—which had to have an extension charm on it—and administering them to Seamus in a complicated sequence.

“How do you know how to do all of this?” Dean marveled, standing back as he watched Theo work.

His hazel eyes flicked up for a moment before going back down to Seamus. “I’ve been studying healing over the past year.”

“They don’t even have healing courses unless you pursue a secondary education.” Dean’s brow scrunched. “Where have you been studying healing?”

“Here. Home. A bit of the library. Madam Pomfrey started training me last year but mainly I’ve been doing it on my own.” Theo wiped sweat from his brow as he continued working.

“Why?”

“My family does nothing but hurt people. I want to heal them.”

Dean fell into silence, stunned by Theo’s admission.

Several minutes later, Theo stood back. “I’ve done all I can. His lung is healing. He’s going to hate me for the Skele-Gro, but ribs can’t be healed with standard spells. They surround the organs and it’s dangerous magic. Either way, it’s a small enough dose that his ribs will be back to normal in about twenty minutes.”

Theo handed several small vials to Dean. “The pink one when he wakes up. Half the purple tomorrow morning, the other half tomorrow night. The red one only if he coughs up more blood. Draco and I are brewing a new batch of the purple tomorrow and I’ll get you a fresh dose for later this week.”

Numb, Dean accepted the vials, tucking them into the robes of his cloak.

“If he has any negative changes at all or coughs up any more blood, come get me again. Okay? I’m available at all hours.” Theo finished cleaning up the empty bottles and used supplies before leaving to return to his dorm.

After Theo left, Dean settled at the edge of the bed, his eyes fixed on Seamus’ face. His hand intertwined with Seamus’ and his thumb stroked along his skin gently.

Blinking, Draco recognised the emotions that had played on Dean’s face all night. They were not the concerned feelings of a friend.

“I didn’t know,” was all Draco said.

“It’s…new.” Dean’s face tightened. “With everything that’s going on…you don’t have time to wait anymore.”

Thinking of Hermione, Draco nodded. “I know.”

Dean finally tore his gaze from Seamus. “I know you do. It’s bloody torture, knowing your relationship could be the reason your partner is in danger. I don’t know how you two did it for so long.”

The air in the room stilled.

“What?” Draco’s throat went dry, scratching like sandpaper.

Sighing, Dean pulled out a capsule shaped silver vial from his pocket and held it up to Draco. “This came out of your bracelet when it snapped the night you healed me. I pocketed it before you noticed.” His dark eyes met Draco’s. “It’s a memory from Hermione. We know about the bond. We know everything.”

Chapter Text

November-December

Year 7

 

The room seemed to spin around Draco as he stared at the small silver vial between Dean’s fingers. The capsule was so tiny that it had fit in his bracelet. He had never even thought to try to open the golden center tied together with leather. There had been no seam to indicate that it even could open.

“I—you— what?

Dean placed the vial on Draco’s bedside table, cringing in shame. “I’m sorry I nicked it. I didn’t trust you at first. I thought it might be—I didn’t know what I thought it was going to be, but I’d assumed it was incriminating evidence.”

His eyes hardened as he watched Dean. “And what was it?”

Fidgeting uncomfortably under Draco’s stare, Dean explained, “It was a memory vial from Hermione. The bracelet would only open for someone on the side of the light. She explained that you didn’t know she was making the memory collection, but it was a backup in case the light won the war and she died.”

Draco swallowed hard; his head spun, and stomach dropped at the thought. “But how—"

“—When you are questioned by the Wizengamot, they scan you for items with magical properties for safety reasons. She said she knew your bracelet would set off the trigger and they would find the vial for your trial.”

“My trial.” The words died in his throat.

“She had a lot of information in it, honestly probably a bit too much, but you know Hermione and her projects. She provided her memory of your meeting with Dumbledore and explained that you were following directions from the Order of the Phoenix to continue work in Voldemort’s circle. She shared the details of your bond and that she was equally involved in fixing the Vanishing Cabinet as you. Then she referenced the laws about age, intent, coercion, and begged the Wizengamot to let you walk away from the war with no charges.”

Before he could push down the emotions that bubbled up inside him, tears welled up in Draco’s eyes. Of course Hermione would plan for the worst; of course she would try to protect him. Turning his head away from Dean, Draco blinked away the tears before they could drop.

“Honestly, we hardly believed it,” Dean admitted, turning his attention back to Seamus.

“We? Who else knows?” Draco asked, the pounding of his heart distracting him as he tried to focus.

Dean sighed. “I took the vial to Seamus and Neville; Neville had access to the Headmaster’s office because of Professor Sprout. He works with her in the greenhouse. Once a month he delivers potion ingredients to Snape and he snuck us in to use the Pensieve. Dumbledore’s portrait explained how to use it.”

Nodding numbly, Draco sat down in his chair, feeling unsteady.

“We had considered that you created this vial with tampered memories but then we brought it up to Ginny and Luna. Luna told us that she’s known since fifth year and that you helped behind the scenes with the original Dumbledore’s Army. She told us about the last few years and what you two have gone through to try to protect Harry and the rest of us.” Dean’s voice trembled. “I can’t believe no one knew—we didn’t know, so we couldn’t thank you.”

Unable to sit still, Draco stood up and began pacing the room. “What does this mean? Does everyone know?”

“Only Neville, Seamus, and I know about the bond from the Pensieve, but we told Ginny about everything else and Luna already knew. If your worry was Voldemort finding out your secret, I want you to know that you’re safe with us.”

Stopping mid-stride, Draco turned to Dean. “I’m what?”

“You’re safe with us. You can come join us—Dumbledore’s Army,” Dean clarified. “I mean, you were practically in it two years ago and we just didn’t know.”

Seamus stirred, groaning on the bed.

“Sea, are you okay?” Dean adjusted his pillow and brushed his hair back, looking at him intently.

“I feel like I was attacked by the Giant Squid.” Seamus gave a weak smile, struggling to open his eyes.

Dean let out a laugh. “The Carrows are a lot uglier and thicker than the Giant Squid.”

“Ugh.” Seamus squinted, taking in the room around him. “We really went to see Malfoy? I thought I dreamt it.”

“Not a dream,” Dean informed him. “Theo Nott was here too, he’s the one who did most of your healing. The chap has quite a knack for it, actually. I just told Malf—” Dean paused, glancing to Draco.“I just told Draco about the message we saw from Hermione. He’s going to join the D.A.”

Draco stepped forward. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“What’s to decide?” Seamus asked, clearing his throat with a painful twist of his lips. “You picked your side years ago.”

“I know, but…” Draco hesitated, searching for the words. “I suppose I always thought she’d be here for this part.”

Dean helped Seamus sit up in the bed, pushing a pillow behind his back. “A lot has changed, mate. I don’t think any of us thought we’d be here. Are you with us?”

A beat of silence washed over Draco before he found himself nodding. “I’m with you.”

 

After Seamus and Dean left his room, Draco returned to his bed and attempted to fall asleep. Anxious thoughts crowded his mind one after another. Overnight, the number of people who knew about the bond doubled. From the start, it had always been Hermione and his mother who advocated to keep the binding a secret. Hermione’s reasoning had been to limit the number of people who knew in order to protect Draco from the Dark Lord and his followers.

Even with Harry’s advances in Occlumency training with Draco, it had not made sense to share the information with Harry in case his shields broke. Now that Harry was away from school, there was no reason not to trust a few more people with their secret. Snape was the only Death Eater in Hogwarts who was skilled enough to use Occlumency effectively and he already knew everything. If Hermione had trusted the students in Dumbledore’s Army enough to fight with them during fifth year, then he would trust them as well.

The thought of attending a D.A. meeting filled Draco with nerves and a dash of hope. It had been years since he could drop his guard and show his true intentions outside of close friends and family. Considering all that he had done, he wasn’t sure that they would even accept him.

He was officially joining Dumbledore’s Army; he imagined the squeal of happiness when Hermione found out. Wherever she was, he hoped she was proud of him. A smile spread on his lips as he turned over in bed, sleep finally pulling him under.


Two Hufflepuffs Draco did not recognize were in a heated debate just next to the stairs. He waited patiently for the stairs to align with his floor.

“I don’t believe you—it’s just a story,” the girl Hufflepuff declared with a dismissive shrug.

“I swear it on my mum! I heard her!” the boy insisted.

“Whimpering Wendy can’t be real. Why haven’t we seen her?”

“Uh, because she’s a ghost ,” the boy said with such confidence that Draco had to cover his laugh with a cough.

As the stairs connected, he followed the familiar path to the seventh floor. The moment felt eerily similar to the first meeting he had with Hermione in their fourth year after the Second Task. It had been the day they learned about their bond. From the moment he had woken up to the moment he laid eyes on her that night, he had been inconsolable and tormented by the dulled feeling of the Pull. He only found relief when she emerged from the lake and the Pull returned in full force.

Now, Hermione was off hunting fragments of the Dark Lord’s soul and Draco was back at their place, alone. As he considered all the ways this plan could backfire, his nerves began to build. Dean had assured him that the group would be warned ahead of the meeting of his arrival, hoping to extinguish potential anger and shock at his entrance.

The stone wall appeared empty. Knowing the limitations of the room, Draco was restless as he waited for the entrance to appear.

Finally, the door grew and opened, Dean gave him a hesitant smile. “You ever been here before?”

Draco gave a dry chuckle. “A few times, yes.”

“They’re ready for you.”

With a terse nod, Draco followed Dean into the Come-and-Go Room. It looked like the days of their fifth year, when Hermione would create intricate battle arenas and practice stations for dueling. A group of twenty students stood in a cluster; Draco recognised most of them from classes and some from Hermione’s stories over the years.

The room felt ominous as he entered, the skepticism and fear tangible. The occupants watched him with a mixture of curiosity, confusion, and distrust. Regret washed over Draco; he wished that he had not entertained the invitation from Dean and Seamus.

This had been a foolish idea.

Leading him up to the front of the room, Dean gave a nod to Neville who addressed the group. “As we explained earlier, Draco Malfoy is here today because he is enlisting in Dumbledore’s Army. He and Hermione have been working with Professor Dumbledore and the Order on a secret mission for years.” Neville’s voice took on a stern tone. “Draco is instilling great trust in us simply by being here today. I know we all have our pasts, but we are all working together towards one singular goal. If anyone has questions for him, you can ask it now.”

Draco felt dissected and laid bare by their open stares.

Luna stepped forward. “Welcome, Draco. I’m glad you decided to join us.”

A few students nodded agreement with Luna’s words. Draco let out a small breath of relief.

Padma Patil spoke up. “We’ve never had a Slytherin before. How do we know we can trust him?”

“Dumbledore trusted him; do you think you know better than Dumbledore?” Dean snapped.

“It’s a fair question,” Ginny Weasley argued over Dean’s grumbling. “Thank you for asking it, Padma. Neville, Luna, Dean, Seamus, and I have all seen memories and spoken with Dumbledore’s portrait for verification of his actions. Luna has been aware of his position for nearly two years now. Need I remind you, just because someone is in Slytherin doesn’t mean that they are bad.”

Draco cleared his throat and the entire room turned to him. “I know that there isn’t a great history with my house, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe in your cause—if I didn’t want to end the war.”

His words rippled through the group.

“I get that you trust him, Luna, but how do we know he wasn’t faking being good when he worked with Hermione?” Parvati Patil shared a look with her twin. “I’ve lived with her for years and she’s never mentioned him except to complain.”

Parvati’s question made Draco flinch; he had suspected as much but it still hurt to hear.

“He loves her,” Luna declared in her ethereal voice. “He could never fake that. Show them, Draco.”

The room turned to watch his reaction to her words, to see if he would deny it.

Fuck.

Closing his eyes, he counted the seconds, focusing on the heavy weight of Hermione’s Galleon in his pocket to steady him.

“Well?” Parvati prompted, sounding unconvinced.

“I don’t know—I just...” He stumbled over his words as he met the disbelieving gaze of the room.

Parvati rolled her eyes. “See? I told you. Declaring that Draco Malfoy loves Hermione Granger just might be the looniest thing you’ve ever said, Luna.”

“I just don’t know how to make you believe me.”

Luna made her way over to him and gave him a soft smile. “You can show them.”

The tears that formed pricked at his eyes and he hated himself for it. Prior to last year, he could count the number of times he had cried at school on one hand. Showing weakness in a room full of his peers who distrusted him felt like an all-time low. 

The idiotic drive to be brave must be part of his inner Gryffindor that Hermione always mentioned , he thought dryly. 

Hell, a true Slytherin would never have come to the meeting in the first place.

An idea sparked in his mind and he nodded to Luna.

Raising his wand, he closed his eyes again and thought back to Hermione, reaching inside to feel the thread that connected them. The freckles across her nose and cheeks, the smile that made its way to her eyes when she looked at him, the feeling of her, like he was finally home, the smell of flowers and fresh honey. Tugging on the strand in his chest, he nearly felt her, and it left him aching.

Expecto Patronum .” A wisp of silver smoke funneled out of his wand, taking shape.

A series of gasps and murmurs moved throughout the group as Draco’s eyes opened, watching his otter glide around the room without its mate. Relief flooded his chest; he had not been confident that he would be able to pull together a feeling happy enough to conjure the Patronus.

Parvati’s mouth gaped open at the otter. “My mum told me about that. When someone is completely in love, they can share a Patronus with their other half. It’s the purest form of love. You can’t manipulate your Patronus shape—it’s part of your soul.” She looked incredulous. “You weren’t lying.”

“I told you,” Luna mused. “And don’t get me started on their Blibbering Humdingers.”

 

“What does this mean for us? What are we doing next?” Anthony Goldstein asked, looking around the room. “He has an in with Snape and the Carrows.”

“He and Theo Nott healed Dean and me after our detentions,” Seamus offered. “They’re really skilled at healing, fixed my lung and ribs.”

“So, he’s going to join us as a healer ?” Hannah Abbott sounded unsure.

Draco bit at the inside of his cheek as the room erupted in chatter as everyone began to discuss options.

“I can do more than heal,” Draco announced with a shrug. “I know how they work—the Death Eaters, I mean. I can help you prepare to fight them.”

The noise died down.

“What have you been doing so far?” Draco asked. “After Granger left, I haven’t had any updates on progress.”

A few members shared a look and the rest remained silent.

“What?” Draco frowned. “If I’m joining the D.A., surely I can be trusted with information. Otherwise, I don’t know why I’m here.”

“Last week, Neville, Luna, and I tried to steal the Sword of Gryffindor from Snape’s office.” Ginny fiddled with her wand. “Snape caught us, and we had detention in the Forbidden Forest with Hagrid.”

Draco’s eyes clenched shut in disappointment as he raised a hand to massage the bridge of his nose. “ Why did you bring Neville?”

Ginny’s face flushed alive with annoyance. “He’s one of us. Why wouldn’t we bring Neville?”

“Neville had direct access to the Headmaster’s Office during his monthly deliveries from Professor Sprout. You just lost that privilege and showed your hand before you had the chance to use it to your advantage,” Draco explained through gritted teeth. “Please tell me that you had a plan?”

Scowling, Ginny’s ears tinted red in anger. “ Of course, we had a plan . The plan was to get into the office, find the sword of Gryffindor, and get it to Harry.”

Humming under his breath, Draco nodded. “Except you only had the means to accomplish one of those steps. You didn’t know where the sword was, and you have no way to get it to Harry.”

“Harry’s going to come back!” Ginny snarled, her temper rising. “And the sword appears to any true Gryffindor!”

“In need,” Draco corrected, his voice low. “It appears to any true Gryffindor in need . You were in want, not in need. If you were truly in need, you wouldn’t have had to try to steal it from the office in the first place. It would’ve appeared to you.”

Neville cut off Ginny before she could deliver what Draco imagined was a scathing retort—or perha