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The Sound of Her Wings

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The Sound of Her Wings

It was an odd sensation, viewing his own body. It was made odder still by the sight of his... murderer — might as well call a spade, a spade — panicking over his unintentional death. Draco scoffed, judging by the guard's reaction, one would think that this kind of thing didn't happen often in a place like Azkaban which was as far away from the truth as could possibly be. Still, he supposed he could give the man the benefit of the doubt and assume this was his first cock up. It was depressing how often he'd hear people get cut off in mid-scream. It hardly took a genius to figure out what happened.

It was easy to get carried away after all. The more time a guard spent around an inmate, the easier it was for them to stop seeing the one behind the bars as human till eventually you're nothing more than a punching bag, an ant a child could drown and nobody would ever blink an eye.

Draco got attention, like it or not. He had the distinctive hair, the pale skin that could only be borne from generations of aristocracy, none of them ever having to spend more than ten minutes under the sun for a stroll, let alone to perform hard labour. The name drew the hyenas, the mark sealed his fate.

Initially, he had thought — hoped — that it would stop, that they would get their fill, get bored and move on to the next victim in line. Perhaps that's what would have happened, but lady luck had never particularly favoured him and he found it useless to dwell on what could have been. Somewhere along the line, he'd become a favourite pastime.

If hard pressed, he could pinpoint the very reason why it became so. Her constant visits, her kind words and gestures painted a target on his back, doomed him. He should hate her for that, and for a brief while, he did. Hated her even more so than when she was just a mudblood, lowest of the low, to him. He knew what she saw him as: a project to undertake, like her little spew campaign back in Hogwarts, no better than a house elf. Oh how the mighty have fallen. If she gave him ugly knitted hats too, he thought he may very well snap and do something truly deserving of a life sentence at Azkaban.

When she had first appeared in front of him, swooping in like some sort of self-righteous saint, he'd bristled. He was sure that she had come to gloat, to give in to her vindictive nature. He had heard about Marietta Edgecombe, seen the results of it, he wouldn't put it past her. She wasn't really kind to him then, and he, predictably, responded the same. The look of fury that came over her as he acted all prattish towards her was ambrosia. He savoured it; the only power he had left to him.

When she stormed away in a huff, he was glad to see her go. He still had some modicum of pride. That was the end of that then, he'd thought smugly, like the foolish brat that he was. He would never admit to himself that some small part of him had been disappointed that she had given up so easily.

But then, there she was again, in front of him, the next day. He felt something swell in him, respect perhaps, towards this bushy haired terror that somehow made sure that his life, or what's left of that pitiful thing, still revolved around her. He had stopped denying long ago that he held some sort of sick fascination towards her, this infuriating, supposedly inferior mudblood who easily surpassed him in all their shared subjects. Her tenacity, her unexpected wit with which they'd traded barbed insults only served to further fuel his need to constantly torment her. Seeing her, standing there, pre-emptively glaring him down, was the start of it, as they say.

It turned out she had plans. Plans to get him out. He'd listen to her, fascinated by the way her arms moved around animatedly, punctuating her speech — not that he'd heard a word of it, no need to torture himself further — and he'd believed. Not in that she'd get him out, he wasn't that deluded, but that she was genuine in her attempts to help him. Pet project or not, he was severely wanting for compassion and she was the lighthouse in this storm that was his existence, his beacon in the constricting darkness.

So they continued on like they were: convicted inmate and impassioned defender. It was inevitable that they'd cross a line one day.

He'd overheard the guards muttering something about 'war heroine' and 'fucking death eater' and realising the reason to their dogged determination in regards to him, he'd turned cold. For the next few days after that, he'd been abrupt and dismissive with her. He could see the hurt, maybe even a glimmer of betrayal in her eyes as he turned his head away from her. Fucking Gryffindors, he'd sneered, always wearing their bleeding hearts on their sleeves. It's a wonder they managed to survive out there in the world.

She persisted though and finally, having seemingly grown fed up with his ways, practically pounced him. He, being the wretched creature that he was, couldn't keep himself away from the warmth of her morning sun. He vowed then that he'd never turn himself away from her willingly again. She'd had to leave him first or they'd have to kill him to keep him away from her.

It was tragic then, that this had to happen just as he was beginning to be convinced that she could actually pull this bullshite off. They were finally getting somewhere, she had told him, her eyes alight with a fire. Her complaints were piling up — he could see her fixing a steely glare at the bruises peppering his skin — they couldn't feasibly continue to ignore her anymore. Not especially when she'd twisted Rita Skeeter's arm and had her publish a scathing article about the conditions of the prison. She'd even got Looney, Luna, Lovegood to put out an investigative piece in that weird little magazine of hers. Said publication's popularity had risen thanks to the Lovegood patriarch's contributions, albeit brief, in the war.

Her heroine status was finally being put to good use, she'd said. He wasn't sure if she had meant her own or Lovegood's but either way, he was feeling something he'd scarcely felt before: gratitude. There was quiet adoration too, solely reserved for this wonderful, brilliant woman.

He should have known better than to make such binding vows.

"You seem familiar," he said, finally acknowledging for the first time the presence of this silent woman lurking around ever since he was made aware of his... condition.

She smiled, and he felt love, subdued but unmistakably love, the kind he felt for his mother or an elder sister, if he had one, grow in response to her.

"I've met you before," she confirmed. "When you were born."

She didn't look much older than him. Under any other circumstances, he would have pronounced her mad then proceed to get as far away as possible from what was clearly an escapee from the Janus Thickey ward in St. Mungo's. These were extraordinary times however, and some innate knowledge in him slipped into place then he knew.

"You're..." He started. She nodded encouragingly. "Death." She awarded him with another one of her smiles and he felt a burden lift from his shoulders.

There was a commotion from inside the room and they both turned in time to see the guard rushing out now, no doubt having failed at his pathetic attempts at resuscitation, racing to call his colleagues. He stared at the man's vanishing back, amused. It wasn't as if he was going anywhere.

Draco caught Death's eye, noting the same amused glint in her eyes and chuckled.

"What do you think they're going to do?" she asked. He didn't believe she didn't know this. If this was her attempt at small talk, then she wasn't very good at it. What did one talk about when one's an omnipresent being? He'd never thought he'd be asking himself this question. He shrugged, offering her a small, helpless smile.

He knew how they worked. They'd used the magic of well, magic, to make him appear whole again, to erase this dirty little incident. Then they'd fabricate some lie or another, all in the name of preserving their virtuous little records. They shouldn't have bothered. His mother had perished alongside his father in the final battle; it wasn't like there was anyone to mourn him except...

It's funny, he thought, how he had been reminiscing all this while about their time together and it hadn't occurred to him that there was someone who would care, someone who gave a shit if he lived or died. He felt an uncharacteristic pain needle at his heart.

"Herm-" he stopped himself. "Granger," he amended. He felt unworthy of saying her name. Ashamed. Like he'd taint her just by pushing her given name past his filthy lips. He noticed, out of the corner of his eye, Death tilting her head, an unspoken question in her little gesture.

"It would have been nice to have a little more time," he said.

"So I've been told," she said, not unkindly.

"It's just... There are things I should have said. To her." He wrung his hands, thinking of her, of her inevitable distress, of the despair that would obscure the light in her eyes.

"There will always be things that you should have done," she said. Draco supposed she'd know that. He wondered, morbidly, how many times she'd had this exact same conversation.

"I should have called her by her name," he said, voice distant. "I was afraid she'd leave if I did. Coward that I am."

"You aren't." Death said simply. He looked at her; she held his gaze. He looked away.

"Hermione," he said.

"Hermione," he said again — louder, clearer, with more conviction than he had ever mustered before in his life. His fears seemed so trivial now.

He lapsed into silence. He distinctly felt Death place her hand on his shoulder. She might have squeezed it but he was too distracted by his thoughts to notice if she did.

"Do you think she...?" He trailed off, unsure of what prompted him to ask Death about something so absurd.

Whatever she thought of his incomplete question, she answered it anyway.

"She does."

He smiled softly. That was enough.

"What now?" he asked.

"You can choose to stay, if you want," she said. Funnily enough, the moment she brought it up, he had known it wouldn't have been an option for him. He shook his head, no.

"Then it's time you find out what comes next," she said, holding out a slender, pale hand.

"Do you know?" He asked, leaving her hand hanging in the air between them, knowing instinctively that she wouldn't take offence. He no longer felt afraid but he had quite missed what it was like to be merely curious instead.

She waggled her fingers, grin spreading wide now. "Find out," she said.

Draco laughed, the foreign sound exhaling out of him, feeling lighter than he had in years. He reached forward and grabbed her hand, stepping over his cooling body in the process. She gave him a reassuring squeeze and he returned it.

With a rustling sound of her wings, they were gone.