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She woke, her head pounding. Her vision blurry. Hermione Granger sighed, sitting up in her bed. Being Head Girl had its perks, such as a private room and bathroom. She didn’t regret returning for her eighth year, nor her part in the downfall of Voldemort.

No, her regrets seemed both much more insignificant, yet far more important.

Brushing her hair back from her face, she groaned lightly and crawled out of bed. Out of her pit. Her room was a mess. Clothes everywhere. She had instructed the house elves to not venture into her room, and for good reason. Ignoring all that, she ventured into her bathroom to assess the damage.

During the day, when in public, Hermione was prim, proper, and organised. She wore her uniform correctly, handed in her work on time, and was the role model for a diligent student.

That girl was a stark contrast to the one facing her in the mirror. Bleary, puffy eyes stared back at her from another night in tears. Her hair was a mess. She felt, honestly, like crap.

Stepping away from the mirror, she quickly got into the shower, not wanting to be late for breakfast or her first lesson.

She hissed. The water stung. Her left forearm burned with pain from her latest relapse. It seemed to be all she had. That, and the men.

Hermione thought back to a few months ago. She and Ron had gone their separate ways. Even now, he and Harry were at Auror training. Of the Golden Trio, she alone had returned to school.

Naturally, word had spread. She was made out to be a nasty woman who had broken poor Ron Weasley’s heart. She shouldn’t have been surprised, given the toxic nature of that blasted Skeeter woman. Nor should she have been surprised about the reactions of her classmates, especially considering how often they had turned on Harry over the years.

 It brought everything back. All of it. She grimaced, remembering certain events from over the years.

She was young. In her second or third year. The owls arrived at breakfast. She was excited. Maybe he had written to her. For a while now, Hermione had been receiving letters from a mysterious stranger. For months, they wrote back and forth. She kept it hidden, in case the boys teased her.

Opening the latest letter, she frowned. He had been getting more demanding as of late.

‘Send me a picture of you with no top on. I’ll love you forever.’

Hermione bit her lip, then scribbled a reply. No, she wouldn’t.

A few days later, her secret admirer wrote again.

‘It’s no wonder people at school hate you and think you’re a prude… do it or you’ll never hear from me again.’

So, she did. All she wanted was to feel wanted and special. She knew her schoolmates didn’t like her for her studiousness and perfectionist attitude.

How was she to know that, just a few years later, she would be cursed by that person in the Department of Mysteries?

It was only later, after a fair amount of research in both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds that she realised the truth. She had been lied to and groomed by a paedophile. Yes, that is what Antonin Dolohov was. A paedophile.

The realisation made her feel sick to her stomach. No, he hadn’t physically touched her. But he had still coerced a vulnerable young girl into doing something that children should not be partaking in.

The stinging brought Hermione out of her thoughts. She reached down, unwinding the bandage that covered her left arm, and watching as the dried blood started to wash away from her skin.

When she found out that he had died at the Battle of Hogwarts, she felt mixed feelings. A thrill that that man was gone from this world, and a darker, intense anger that she hadn’t been the one to end him herself.

She found herself unable to cope with her feelings, so turned to two outlets: sex and self-harm.

As Head Girl, she could leave the castle outside of her lessons. And she did. Often making her way down to muggle villages and bars, meeting men, just to feel wanted for a few short hours. She let them fuck her and use her for her body, and she used them so she could feel like she mattered. Like she was desirable and worth a damn.

Then, the guilt would set in, and the realisation that it was all meaningless, so she would sit in her room, throw up a silencing charm, and sob, while drawing a blade across her arm repeatedly until the guilt went away.

No one noticed. They were either too caught up in their own trauma after the war, or saw her as the woman who broke Ron’s heart and, therefore, not someone to pay attention to.

She was alone.

In the next room, Draco Malfoy looked up as he felt the silencing spell fade. He shook his head. Something was up with Granger. He didn’t know what, but intended to find out.

That woman was the reason he wasn’t sitting in a cell. Her and her do-gooder brigade had vouched for him, and for his mother.

Lucius Malfoy had finally shown his true colours in the end.

When Voldemort realised that Narcissa Malfoy had lied to him, he tried to end her. To boil her blood from the inside until she was gasping for air… until she would gasp no more.

He didn’t get the chance to exact his revenge. As he shot off his spell, he heard a shout across the courtyard,

“Cissa!”

The spell hit… but not his intended target. Following this, Voldemort himself was vanquished by the boy he tried so hard to kill. Harry Potter was victorious.

Lucius Malfoy had not been an inherently good man but, no matter what side of the war a person was on, no one could say that he didn’t love his family.

Narcissa’s heart-breaking screams rang across the courtyard as Lucius succumbed to the curse.

He had saved Narcissa. Never before had Draco wanted to be more like his father.

That brought him to the present. Hermione Granger had spoken up for the boy who had watched her torture. She was the one that volunteered to sit with him, even when he sneered and complained.

He wanted to do something back.

Later that day, he got his chance.

Hermione sat in the courtyard, looking out at the scenery. The castle had been rebuilt but, if she closed her eyes, she could still see flashes of the battle that took place.

“What you waiting for Granger? Another life to ruin?”

She cringed. Seamus and his band of merry morons. Just what she needed.

“You should have died instead. She loved Ron. Really loved him. You never deserved him.”

Hermione looked up, seeing the angry face of Parvati. They were all horrified by the nature of Lavender’s death, but Hermione could not believe even that was being used against her. Nor that her former housemates could be so cruel.

Hermione turned to leave, trying to stay silent and not cry.

Parvati’s hand shot out, grabbing her arm. Hermione hissed in pain; her wounds still fairly fresh.

Everything she had worked to keep secret…. Gone.

Parvati laughed, “Wow… never thought you were that pathetic Granger.”

Dean looked over and rolled his eyes, “Dramatic Hermione, off again with the theatrics. Go deeper next time, yeah?”

He high fived Seamus, who looked her square in the face “Go kill yourself Granger.”

Hermione’s heart hammered in her chest. Other than the breakup with Ron, she didn’t know what she had done to deserve this. Wrenching her arm from Parvati’s grip, she turned, running back to her room.

Unbeknownst to her, Draco had witnessed the whole thing. His eyes narrowed and he turned, walking back to the Head common room, finally able to put two and two together.

Hermione wiped her mouth, her stomach still churning. Her lunch now swirling down the drain of her toilet.

A knock at her bedroom door startled her. Only one other student could access her room.

Sighing, she stood, walking to the door, “Yes, Malfoy?”

His eyes widened as he took in what he saw.

Granger herself was red-eyed, no doubt from crying. It looked like there was vomit on her school shirt. Not to mention her room looked like it had been ransacked.

“I heard… are you… there’s sick on your…” he stammered out, entirely unprepared for seeing her so unkempt.

She looked down, groaned, and scourgified her shirt, “Sorry. Can I help you?”

Draco coughed, clearing his throat, “I heard what happened in the courtyard. I’m sorry you’re going through this. May I come in?”

Hermione blinked a couple of times, then laughed. Him? Sorry. “Sure, why not. What’s the worst you could do?”

She was done. Truly done. Let him destroy her possessions, or mock her. She would just deal with it later, like she always did.

Hermione looked up in shock as he started casting spell after spell.

Cleaned clothes.

Folded clothes.

Put away.

Dusting.

Removal of rubbish.

She frowned. Who was he? This was certainly not the Draco Malfoy she remembered.

“Thank you, Malfoy, but you didn’t need to do that. My room was fine.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it, Granger. You’re not fine. You rarely leave your room except for classes. You cover your arms. And I know you’ve been going to muggle bars.”

She looked up sharply. He knew? Why hadn’t he reported her to McGonagall or another teacher?

“Give me your arm.” He demanded.

Stunned, she held her arm out, and waited for the jokes, the ridicule, or just the general condescending remarks that were so… so… so Malfoy.

He took a look, gently turning her arm left and right, before standing up and disappearing into her bathroom.

She frowned, utterly confused.

Moments later, he returned with a bowl of water, a flannel, and some essence of dittany.

“Hold still, okay?” His voice was gentle, unlike that she had ever heard before.

Hermione watched, stunned, as the Draco Malfoy gently cleaned her arm, before applying the dittany to heal as much as possible.

“Th… thank you Draco.” Her voice was merely a whisper.  

He shook his head, “It’s disgusting what they’re doing. Making you out to be…. Well you’re not. But it’s got to stop, Granger. You could hurt yourself. And those muggle men…”

She bit her lip. He definitely knew. She felt the tears start to build up in her eyes, “You… you don’t understand… it’s all I… all I have. Everyone thinks I… I hurt Ron, but I didn’t. And my… parents are still… they don’t remember me… and all I’m good for is a fucking quick SHAG!”

She couldn’t hold it back any more, bursting into tears like a frightened child.

His arms wrapped around her, holding her tight, while he murmured words of comfort and apologies for his behaviour as a child.

Oddly, it helped. It mattered. She found herself feeling safe in his arms. Until, of course, he spoke next.

“I… I killed him.”

Hermione looked up, confused as to what he was talking about.

Draco sat on the bed next to her, his hands clenched and knuckles white.

“At the final battle. I killed him. He was obsessed with you. He kept saying he wanted to kill you and then…. Do other things. A few days before the battle he was bragging about having some pictures of you,” Draco paused, remembering how that man had spoken of a mudblood whore, “So I waited. What happened in my home…. You didn’t deserve that. You were so brave. But what he did… you were a child. We were all children.”

Draco’s voice dropped to a whisper, “I didn’t want him to touch you. I wanted to protect you. I cast Sectumsempra and watched him bleed out. I don’t regret it. I feel no guilt. Am I a bad man?”

Hermione shook her head, still crying silent tears, “No… you…. Thank you, Draco. He… I never told anyone. Not ever. Even after he cursed me in fifth year. I was ashamed, scared of what people would think.”

Draco smiled a little, “My father saw, and he realised why I did it. He told me he was proud of me. Of course, that’s before he…”

Draco trailed off.

Hermione reached over to clasp his hand, “Your father died a hero.”

She never thought she would ever say that in reference to Lucius Malfoy.

Draco shrugged, “Maybe. Mum struggles. A lot. She’s lonely.”

She bit her lip, “Maybe… we could go see her sometime?”

He smiled, “Yeah… she’d like that. She has a lot of respect for you Hermi- Granger.”

“Call me Hermione.”

“Okay… but no more muggle bars, and no more hurting yourself.”

She grimaced, “I’ll try.”

He nodded, content with that answer for the time being. “You’re mine Granger. Even if not officially, I’ve decided I have to protect you. Call it part of my penance, or something.”

That brought a smile onto her face, “Can… can it be officially?”

He kissed her forehead, “Yes, of course.”

Naturally, all of Hogwarts began to talk when Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger were seen holding hands at breakfast the next day. He became her rock. He got her through her feelings.

Things changed at Hogwarts once again when word finally reached Ron Weasley about the situation at school. His Weasley temper got the better of him, but thankfully he had matured enough to direct it the right way. He and Harry showed up one lunchtime about three weeks later.

Seamus and Dean spent four days in the hospital wing following his visit.

Hermione received a very strongly worded lecture from her friends about sharing her problems with them.

The rest of the school learned that, in fact, the breakup was mutual and the two were still friends.

And finally, finally, after eight years, Draco Malfoy shook hands with one Harry Potter.