Life Debt

Destruction and a Promise

~Hermione~

Never in my life had I been more enraged. My heart constricted, emotional pain manifesting itself. I clutched my wand tightly, surprising myself when it didn't snap. More Death Eaters had begun to spill into the yard, apparently thinking they could overtake me alone. They would regret it.

I didn't bother with words, barely bothered with looking where I was shooting. I simply honed in on a mask and fired, hex after hex, curse after curse. I didn't kill, not again, but bodies fell, more than I had taken out up to that point. I waved my wand to the left, throwing at least four Death Eaters against the wall of the house. A few crashed through windows. I didn't care. They would suffer tenfold for what happened to Draco.

A fire had begun in the house, smoke rising in the night air, clouding the moon. The fire provided more than enough light, however. Another wave of my wand, another host of bodies was removed from my path. I pointed my wand at the fire, casting a wordless Aguamenti. The jet of water erupted from my wand, drenching wherever the fire had begun to overtake the house.

I could hear screaming from within, so I rushed to the source. Had the children not been completely evacuated? Panic rose within me, and I stormed into the house, dodging spells and dispatching Death Eaters as if it were second nature to me. At the other side of the house, in the front yard, or what was left of it and the front of the house, Ginny stood, the most bloodcurdling scream erupting from her. She watched, motionless, as a Death Eater took an unconscious Harry. I was too far away to send an Avada, and Ron seemed to have frozen as well, at the sight of our friend falling to the Death Eaters.

Luna arrived at the scene at the same time as me, and was quicker to act than my other two friends. She began to shoot spells, slowing the advance of the Death Eater towards the street. If he left the grounds of the house, Harry was as good as gone. I ran towards him, silently thanking Luna for providing assistance. Behind me, I could feel more Death Eaters, and I saw the spells as they were shot towards me.

"Don't just stand there, Ron! HELP US!" My voice seemed to snap him out of whatever trance he'd been in. He turned to help cover me and Luna, as well as trying to help Ginny. I had finally covered enough distance between the Death Eater and myself, who had been retreating, walking backwards and shooting at us, with Harry slung over his shoulder. I was under ten feet away from him, when I fired. I couldn't allow myself even the slightest room for error. Avada Kedavra! I hadn't even said it aloud.

Everything seemed to slow down, then. With my first kill, everything had happened in nanoseconds, my concern for Draco overriding my senses. Now, I simply watched as the green jet of light shot through the air, hitting the Death Eater in the stomach, dangerously close to, but missing, Harry's arm. Thrown back, the Death Eater, who I now recognized as Fenrir Greyback, fell, dropping Harry in the process, and landing a few feet short of the gateway. I ran to Harry, turning to protect him from the oncoming mass of Death Eaters.

I was seeing red, and it had nothing to do with the stunners that the others were sending towards the enemy. Another horizontal wave of my wand, and a wordless Sectumsempra overtook a decent number of our attackers. Because I spread the spell so thin, none of them were fatally injured, but well enough that they began to disperse. They fell, some even going so low as to try to crawl away. I waved my wand a second time, sending the Death Eaters out past the backyard with the force I used. They were outside the grounds of the house. They Disapparated, leaving a sudden silence behind. All the able bodied Death Eaters left also retreated, not that there were many left to begin with.

I fell back onto my backside, right beside Harry. My wand rolled a little ways away from me. The red in my vision seemed to dissipate. Everything finally sunk in for me. I killed two people. Death Eaters, yes, but people.

"Hermione…what…?" Ron's voice caused my head to snap up, my eyes immediately darting to his. To think, he was the short circuited one. Shock was clear on his face, even a slight bit of horror at what I'd done, at the sight of blood on my robes.

I looked over at Ginny, who bore a similar expression to her brother's. The others inside the house began to flow into the yard. Everyone stared at me. I had gone catatonic, completely unresponsive. After looking at Ginny, all I could do was stare at the ground, barely able to move at all. My hands were shaking.

Lupin and Tonks rushed towards me, the former picking up my wand. No one else seemed able to move. Tonks placed a hand on my shoulder, trying to wake me from my trance. Once again, Luna seemed immune to what was going on.

"Ron," she said with her gentle, spaced-out voice, "take Ginny to the stronghold. She needs to rest. Fred, George, please take Harry as well." Ron and the twins did as she said, taking Harry from behind me and leading Ginny away.

"Luna's right, everyone. We should all head to the stronghold. It's the only safe place left." Lupin's voice floated through the silence. All the youngest members left as we were told. The older members, Arthur and Molly Weasley among them, stayed behind to help clean up the mess, one that I had considerably contributed to. Tonks gingerly lifted me to my feet.

"Hermione, are you ok?" Tonks' voice was in one ear, out the other. Luna was at my other side, patting my hair. I couldn't respond. My lips wouldn't move. Was this what it felt like to be catatonic? Was this what Voldemort felt like after his first kills? Doubtful.

"Hermione…you did what was necessary. If it hadn't been for you, the war would have been as good as lost." Luna's dreamy voice seemed to have more of an effect on me than Tonks'. "We almost lost Harry. You saved him. You saved countless lives tonight." Finally, I could respond.

"I took two…" My voice was hardly a whisper. "I took two lives…" I was finally able to look up, as well, into Tonks' eyes, which had suddenly gone silver, as if she knew what I wanted to see. Those eyes comforted me, bringing what was left of my mind back together. Lupin handed her my wand.

"What…? Why?" I looked down at my soiled robes, and everyone followed my gaze. A few people gasped, apparently not having noticed it before.

"D-Draco…" A part of me was frustrated at my lack of elaborate responses.

"You killed him?" Tonks took a step back, eyes wide, still silver. Her shocked tone knocked me from my stupor.

"No. He showed up, intercepted a Sectumsempra for me, and I lost it, completely. I killed that Death Eater…he's in the backyard." Suddenly, another thought dawned on me, "Dobby took Draco to the stronghold! The others don't know…they'll hurt him!" He had yet to explain his betrayal, and why he gave our location away, but one thing was certain. I loved him, and he had said and shown as much in return. Traitor or not, I wouldn't let anyone touch him. I tried to run, but some of the shock hadn't worn off, causing me to stumble. Luna and Tonks helped me up. The rest of the Order stayed behind as they led me to the stronghold.

I hardly paid any attention to my surroundings as we went deeper into the recesses of the Black Family house. A part of me felt remorse for the damage that had been done, and I vowed in that moment to help rebuild the house, since it was the only home Harry had left.

When we finally reached the portal, and Luna went in first. Tonks led me in after her. We emerged in the fireplace of a large parlor. This room was more extensively furnished than the ones in the house. The floor was fully carpeted, a deep green color. It figures, since most of the Blacks, like the Malfoys, had been Slytherins. Most of the décor was similar to the main house's as well. Everything was dark, mostly thrown in shadow. Behind us, the fireplace ignited to life, throwing light onto the room. There was no one here, but I could hear commotion coming from somewhere in the house, shouts and arguing.

Luna had already disappeared out the door of the parlor. I hesitated in moving, merely a second, when I caught sight of the portraits lined up to the right. Similar to the tapestry of the Black Family tree, the wall showed all the recently deceased descendants of the family. Narcissa smiled down at me, nodding for me to go. However, I was stock still at the portrait beside her. Bellatrix Lestrange. She looked down at me in disdain.

"Filthy Mudblood." The words didn't hurt, not the way they did when Draco used to say them.

"Dear cousin, shut the bloody hell up, for Merlin's sake." I jumped at the familiar voice. Beside her portrait was Sirius. My eyes widened in surprise.

"Hermione, dear, I do believe you're needed upstairs." The old me had been showing, I knew it, and it seemed Narcissa had caught on to my piqued curiosity. She was right, though. This could wait.

I followed Tonks as she led me down the hall outside the parlor. There were more portraits lining the walls, but no one I recognized. I managed to catch glimpses into other rooms. Most of them were similar to the parlor. One of them was the kitchen. Finally, I saw a few people clogging a door way. Tonks and I made our way through the crowd.

The sight that greeted us was Dobby, standing in front of an unconscious Draco lying on a bed. Ron had his wand pointed straight at him. Luna was trying to calm him, but Ron wouldn't listen.

"That bastard is the reason Harry was almost captured!" I did my best to reign in my anger. He had every reason to want him dead. I had to remind myself of that fact. Regardless, I went to stand beside Dobby.

"Miss Hermione charged Dobby with Master Draco's safekeeping! Dobby will not fail Miss Hermione!" He had his hands up, ready to defend Draco.

"It's alright, Dobby. I'll take it from here." I lowered his hands, placing myself in between them. "Ron, listen to me. He's the reason I was able to save Harry, understand? The blood on my robes is Draco's. He took a Sectumsempra for me. He nearly died to save me. If it weren't for him, I never would have been able to get Harry from Greyback."

"He betrayed us Hermione! He nearly got everyone killed." He looked at me as if we were strangers. I sighed.

"I know," I looked to the ground, not wanting to keep eye contact, knowing that his eyes held nothing but contempt. "But he saved me, Ron. I owe him." He finally lowered his hand, the look on his face unchanged. Luna led him away, simultaneously making the crowd disperse. I dismissed Dobby.

"Will you be alright, Hermione?" By now I had turned around to look at Draco, lying completely unconscious on the bed. The only sign that he retained life was the miniscule rise and fall of his chest. His torso was wrapped in bandages, courtesy of Dobby. I sat beside him on the bed, taking his limp hand in mine.

"I'm fine. I'll take care of him." I still had plenty of questions about the stronghold, but they could wait until I spoke to Draco. My questions for him were more pressing. I knew what I wanted to believe, but the nagging in my mind wouldn't rest until I knew the truth.

Tonks walked out, finally leaving me alone. I placed his cold hand in my lap, both my hands encasing it. "Please be ok."

~Draco~

When I awoke, it was to nothing but pain. All I could remember was seeing the Death Eater point his wand at Hermione. I didn't even care what curse he was shooting. And then I was in her arms, telling her I loved her. Had I been hallucinating from the pain, or had she responded in kind?

I felt my hand encased in the grip of two smaller hands, and I could hear the soft whimpers of crying. I squinted my eyes open to see Hermione beside me. Her teardrops fell on our joined hands. I couldn't see her face, so she couldn't see that I'd woken up. I squeezed one of her hands. At the sound of a sharp intake of breath, I knew she'd felt my hand. She turned to look at me, her eyes clean of tears, though I could still see them on her cheeks. She smiled at me, but it didn't reach her eyes. Whatever she felt for me, it wasn't enough to fight her instinct.

"You're ok." My throat was dry, making my voice into a harsh whisper. I tried to sit up, using my free hand to push myself up against the headboard. I groaned at the pain, wincing.

"You're not." She turned to face me more fully, her leg closest to me bent so her other rested over it. One of her hands left mine to rest on my shoulder. "Don't try to move. You lost a lot of blood." Despite her holding my hand, and the way she gently touched my bare shoulder, I could feel the distance between us. She was still suspicious. I didn't blame her.

"Just a scratch. I'm fine." I looked away from her, no idea how to broach the subject of my betrayal. My voice betrayed the weakness I felt, and how helpless I really was.

"Draco…" I looked back towards her, but she wasn't looking at me anymore. She stared out the window. It was still dark out, or had I been out for a day? There was no way to tell, not without asking her. I suddenly found myself without a voice. "Why?"

That single word held so much. Why did I betray the Order? Why did I betray her? Why did I save her? She looked at me again, and the same questions were reflected in her eyes. The deep breath I took shot pain through my entire being, but I managed to answer her.

"They found out. At the ambush at Hogwarts, I was knocked unconscious, soon after you were. When I awoke, I was in a cell. Zabini, the bastard, forced Veritaserum down my throat while I was midway to consciousness, and I was questioned. They found out about us. He…" I looked away again, another deep breath, another wince. I squeezed her hand again. "He threatened to do horrid things to you, Hermione. Zabini would've…I was forced into the Unbreakable Vow. I couldn't tell you, or he would capture you, give you to…" Thoughts of what Zabini would have done to her coursed through me.

"Draco…" I cut her off.

"I-I know I was a coward. I should have died to protect the Order, but I couldn't stand the idea of not being able to protect you." I whispered the last words. Again, I couldn't look her in the eye. There was no excuse for what I'd done. "I'm glad my mother was able to warn you." I pulled my hand away from hers. How could she stand to be near me after what I'd done? I didn't deserve her forgiveness. Her response caught me off guard.

"Draco, I wasn't going to call you a coward…Dammit, look at me!" She took my hand again, and forced me to face her with the other one. "You acted on your emotions. There isn't any fault in that. Voldemort placed you in a difficult position, but it was my fault. If he hadn't had me as leverage against you, none of this would have happened…" She was looking at the bandages, at the damage I'd sustained. I sat up completely, ignoring her protests and the pain.

"Don't ever blame yourself for what happens to me, understand?" There was more anger in my voice than I had intended. I placed my free hand on her cheek. "I care about you more than myself. I could die, as long as I know you're safe. I've never felt that way about anyone. Whatever happens to me, you can't blame yourself."

"Please don't…don't say things like that. If you died…I…" The look in her eyes was the same as when I'd passed out before. I drew her towards me, encasing her in my arms.

~Hermione~

"I love you." His words were muffled in my hair. I hated that I couldn't control the tears. My arms went around his neck, and I buried my face deeper against it.

"I love you, too, Draco. I can't go through that again. I can't lose you. I just can't." Thoughts of the rage I'd gone through were overpowering, how my chest constricted at the sight of his bleeding body. No. I couldn't let that happen again. I pulled back to look at him, to implore him with my eyes. He closed the distance between us and kissed me, my eyes fluttering closed. His lips were warmer than before, as was his entire body.

I responded softly, one of my hands tracing the scar along his face. The other went up into his hair. He pulled me closer, one hand at my waist, the other caressing up and down my back. Somehow, through the pain I knew he was in, he managed to move so I could be on my back, his body beside mine, supporting himself with an arm beside me, still kissing me. His arm was draped over me, hand at my hip, thumb rubbing circles. I pulled away from the kiss, looking up into his eyes. He pressed his forehead to mine.

"Promise me you won't leave me like that, not again." We were both breathing heavily, and instead of answering me, he kissed me again.

"I promise." He spoke through his kisses, his lips brushing mine with every word. "I'll never," he placed a lingering kiss, "leave you," another one, "again." He repeated his vow, "I promise." My heart was hammering in my chest, ready to break out. I'd never felt this way before, about anyone. I moved so I would be the one holding myself up by the arm, letting him rest on his back. He kept an arm around me, his other hand at my face. I pulled away slowly, hesitating.

"You need to rest, Draco. You're still in pain." I tried to get up, but he held me to him. He brushed his knuckles along my jaw, smiling sadly.

"Stay with me." He turned on his side, pulling me closer. He kissed me on the lips again, gently, lingering.

"Sleep," I said against his lips, and he obeyed, opting to place a chaste kiss on my forehead. I returned the gesture, kissing his jaw, and placed my arm around him, my other hand tracing patterns on his chest. He shivered and pulled me closer. I closed my eyes, letting what little, fleeting peace we'd found overtake me.

~Draco~

I wondered if she could hear my erratic heartbeat, the way her closeness affected me. Having her in my arms felt unbelievably right, nearly making everything I'd done ok. Nearly. She might have forgiven me, but I couldn't forgive myself for the danger I'd placed her in, for the mistakes I'd made.

She fell asleep before I did, her even breathing helping me calm down as well. Her breath was soft and warm against my skin. I ran my hand through her hair, wanting nothing more than to stay this way. I promised her I wouldn't leave, and I intended to do everything in my power to keep that promise.

The door creaked open, and I saw Tonks look in. Remus Lupin looked in behind her. They both took in the scene before them. I didn't both moving, except to tighten my hold on Hermione, and kiss her forehead again. Lupin gave a faint smile, while Tonks displayed a Slytherin-like smirk, winking at me. I couldn't help but smirk back, letting it become a faint smile as well. She was quickly becoming my favorite relative.

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