Life Debt

Coming Undone

~Hermione~

Moments after Dobby left, I was regretting my decision. What if he got hurt? What if Malfoy refused? I had to keep myself from thinking like that, so I got up and decided to help Molly in the kitchen. She was making an early dinner, and I could use the idle chit-chat. My peace of mind didn't last long, though. We weren't even halfway through cooking dinner, when Ron came bursting into the room.

"They're attacking Diagon Alley!" My heart fell to the pit of my stomach. We had to fight back. I had to fight back. Encountering Malfoy was inevitable now, and if Dobby had gotten the message to him in time, I would most likely get a hint of his decision. Molly and I dropped what we were doing, and, in a mob, everyone left the house, Apparating as soon as we could into Diagon Alley.

~Draco~

We'd been here for a little under half an hour. Screams of the innocent rent the air, fires burning in some of the shops. People were in a panic, the desired effect, of course. Ministry Aurors were trying to keep us at bay, failing miserably. I wasn't even sure I was in control of my own movement. Nothing registered except the fact that the Order hadn't shown up yet. The Order would have responded by now, wouldn't they? Did this mean I would avoid an encounter with Granger?

Not likely. Less than a moment after the thought crossed my mind, witches and wizards were Apparating into the Alley, more and more spells, curses, and hexes being shot in our direction. A few Death Eaters went on the defensive, myself included. I couldn't tell who was involved and who wasn't. The only figures I could distinguish, on our side, were my father and Aunt Bella. Everything was a blur of black, spells, and flames.

Somewhere in the throng of combatants, I could hear Potter's voice, shouting orders, along with a few of the other Order members I knew would probably be in charge. The smoke from the fires kept me from making out any of their faces. Soon, it was thick enough to choke me, and I had to devote some magic to clearing the smoke around me. I regretted it the moment the air cleared.

~Hermione~

Smoke was beginning to choke the air, making wordless spells a must if I wanted to be able to breathe. Suddenly, it began to clear, and I could only assume that someone was having just as much trouble seeing as I was. However, the eyes that met mine didn't show any relief with the cleared air. Tempest gray, as smoky as the air had been moments ago, met my eyes. I nearly stopped moving, simply to watch him, but someone else had also stumbled upon the Slytherin.

Ron was preparing to hurl a spell at him, and my body went into auto pilot. I couldn't let whatever spell he was about to shoot actually reach Malfoy. Even if I'd wanted to let him attack, something else inside me would have stopped him, not that I would ever admit that aloud. Taking advantage of my abilities at wordless casting, I disarmed Ron, while protecting him from another curse in an other direction. I feigned a duck to catch his wand.

"Thanks 'Mione! Damn Ferret…" I felt a yank of guilt at my heart. As we stood, I stole a glance around the area. He was gone. Did this mean we were even? Somehow, I wasn't so sure. Once Ron had his wand back, we parted ways again.

It was a war zone, rivaling anything one could have seen in the trenches of the bloodiest muggle wars. Explosions went off on either side of me, storefront glass shattering, objects flying everywhere when a curse didn't hit its mark. A few shards hit my cheek, and I felt a sense of déjà vu at the feel of blood trickling down my face. I didn't dare wipe at my face, for fear of lodging the shards deeper. Left and right, I stupefied Death Eaters. Through the smoke, I could see Aurors dispatching the fallen enemies.

The stream of hooded cloaks never seemed to end, however. It would only be a matter of time before we were completely outnumbered. We needed to retreat. Soon.

Someone shot in my general direction, but it zipped past me and hit a storefront, surprisingly one that had still been intact. I heard someone mutter a swear, and immediately I was thrown against the ground by an unseen force. Off in the distance, I thought I could hear Ron's, or maybe Harry's, voice call out my name. I was buried under a pile of rubble, wood from the storefront and shattered glass weighing me down, along with a warmer, softer weight as well.

"C'mon Ron! We need to keep fighting!" His voice floated through the rubble. Did they think I was dead? It hurt that they wouldn't look for me, but I understood. After all, this was war. Good of the majority was more important than an individual life. My head was spinning, and I groaned. I realized my upper body held none of the weight that kept me down. It was all on my legs. Even in the darkness, I could see the broken material of the storefront float above me.

I couldn't help but reach up to the seemingly empty air. Velvety cloth grazed my fingers, and I felt around for the opening. Despite the darkness, his eyes shone as bright as they had in the moonlight the last time he'd saved me. Pulling the cloak back some more, I saw blood trickling down from where he'd been hit. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Trickles of his blood seeped from behind his head, tainting his usual pristine locks, and slid along his cheek, falling onto mine.

~Draco~

My eyes were transfixed to hers, but I wasn't really seeing them. All I could focus on was the sensation of my blood sliding down my face, towards her own bloodied one. Our blood mixed, and once my drops touched her glass-cut face, I couldn't distinguish the difference between hers and mine.

"We're the same…" The fact that I had saved her, again, completely escaped me for the time being. All I could see was the fact that the prejudice causing this war had no substantial evidence. She was a muggleborn, I was a pureblood. Yet, in that moment, you couldn't tell the difference. I couldn't tell the difference. In the darkness caused by the debris, all I could see was the glistening of our blood, how it mingled, and how it was exactly the same.

"What are you talking about? We need to move!" My hushed voice refused to respond, my entire body still in shock. "Malfoy, snap out of it!" Her voice was laced with panic, frantic. Her eyes looked up at me pleadingly, and that seemed to be all it took for me to wake up. I had to recover from my momentary lapse. Draping the cloak back over myself, covering her as well, I made a large enough opening to roll from the mountain of debris, allowing it to hide us from view, the store at our backs. I pulled away from her, the cover of darkness, debris, and smoke enough to keep us hidden without need of the cloak.

"You owe me again, Granger." I wasn't quite sure why I did it again, or why I winked at her when I said this. I needed to save face, needed to make this work to my advantage. I smirked, trying to put up my Malfoy arrogance.

"Does this mean you're taking me up on my offer?" Her voice was loaded with skepticism. Eyebrow arched, she met my gaze. I ignored her question.

"I won't always be around to save your sorry hide. Take better care of yourself." Almost immediately, I rejoined the fray, unwilling to meet whatever look my response provoked in her. I didn't want to see the look on her face at the way I limped, or how much pain was evident from our fall.

It was impossible to tell who was winning anymore. It was clear all innocents, the surviving ones anyway, had been evacuated by now. All that was left was Order members and Death Eaters. I made my way through the crowds, surprised even at my own ability to dodge spells in my condition. I had to mutter a few healing spells to keep myself going. A roar of pure fury erupted from some distance away, followed by aimless jets of green light. Voldemort was pissed.

"YOU WILL ALL PAY FOR THIS!" Even in a roar, the last sound was a hiss. What could have happened to set him off this badly? He came into view, shooting Avada's everywhere, mainly towards the Order's side. It didn't seem to matter who got in his way or not. I managed to dodge a few, but I was nearly completely opposite him, many of the curses coming in my direction.

~Hermione~

I watched as he left the alcove of destruction he'd saved me from. A word of warning was all he left me with. He refused to answer my question. It seemed like a long time before I was able to stand again, jolted out of my shock by Voldemort's roaring voice. It caused a chill of fear to run through me, the pit of my stomach twisting into knots. It was the worst feeling in the world. Something terrible was going to happen.

I scrambled back to my feet, launching myself back into the crowd, pushing through to the front. Flashes of green erupted everywhere, and, no matter how much people ran, they still dropped like flies. Harry hadn't given the order yet, so I did.

"RETREAT! APPARATE OUT OF HERE. NOW!" Everyone around me finally seemed to realize they were witches and wizards, opting to Apparate instead of run. I refused to leave until I made sure everyone who could leave had. What I saw before leaving, though, broke my heart a thousand times over.

Harry, Ron, and I were the last to leave. They still hadn't seen me, and I made sure they didn't, unwilling to let them get distracted. Everyone had managed to carry a body away, and I realized we hadn't lost as many as I'd anticipated. What broke my heart, however, was the next flash of green.

It was a stray shot, seemingly the last before Voldemort realized there were no Order members in sight left to shoot at. It made straight for Malfoy. I made no move to help him. I couldn't. Someone else beat me to it. In a long streak of silver and black, a slim body intercepted the curse, flinging itself in front of Malfoy's taller one. She went limp, as a strangled cry left Malfoy's throat. Even from my hiding spot, I recognized the beautiful, blonde mane that cascaded to the ground. Her face came into view as Malfoy collapsed, holding her close. Narcissa Malfoy.

He was like a child, sobbing over his mother's form, shoulders shaking. Something in me yearned to go to him, comfort him in any way I could. He no longer seemed like the cruel teenaged boy that tortured me in school, or even the confused man I had caught glimpses of recently. No, now he was a small boy, a child weeping for the death of his mum. Again my heart ached at the sight, knowing I'd react in much the same way if I had been him.

Other Death Eaters didn't even spare him a glance. Voldemort himself merely turned away. I caught a glimpse of Malfoy Sr., looking once at his son and now late wife. For a moment I thought I saw something human in his eyes. I thought he would go to his son, mourn for his wife. The moment passed, allowing a new level of disgust for the man form within me. He followed his master.

"I expect you back at Hogwarts within the hour, young Malfoy." It was colder than anything I had ever heard come out of Tom Riddle's mouth. Everyone left, leaving the lost little boy Malfoy had become behind to mourn his mother. I don't know what came over me, but, as soon as the coast was clear, I ventured out, closing the distance between us.

He hadn't moved from his spot on the ground, didn't even look up when his back tensed at my presence. I reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder, but he didn't even flinch, or shrug it away as I'd expect him to. This leads me to my next action, kneeling down next to him. His gaze never leaves his mother's face. She's radiant, even in death. I could see where Malfoy had gotten his exceptional looks, his aristocratic air. Narcissa radiated grace, despite her limp form in her son's arms.

"Malfoy…" His jaw clenched as soon as I said his name, his eyes flashing dangerously. I tried for a softer voice, opting to change what I called him, "Draco…" He visibly relaxed, the little boy disposition seeping back into his features. "The offer is still open. Always will be. I can promise you that. Please, think it over…"

And with that, I left him. I couldn't bear to see his sorrow, his suffering, any longer. Malfoys weren't meant to cry, but I could clearly see the tears streaming down his face, having started as soon as I'd uttered his first name. No, Malfoy wouldn't cry. The arrogant, teenaged boy would not, perhaps not even the confused man. But this, this new Malfoy, Draco, was completely capable of tears.

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