"Honesty is about the scars. It's about the blemishes." -James Altucher
“It’s too bloody hot for this,” Draco mumbled to himself, wanting desperately to roll up his sleeves. He figured since it was November that it would be cold enough for a sweater, but it seems he was wrong. Too bad he forgot to put on a glamour before classes. There was no way to do it now because McGonagall would rip him a new one if he even thought of taking his eyes away from her demonstration.
The war was over and he decided – well, his mother did - that he would finish his last year at Hogwarts in order to take his N.E.W.T.s. and graduate properly. It would also help people accept that the Malfoys were assimilating to the new culture after the circumstances that graced them a pardon. This assimilation, however, would not benefit if he decided to gallivant around the school showing off his fading mark so he just sighed and tried to pay attention.
“Now, I would like a foot of parchment on the importance of human transfiguration. You can include animagi but do not write solely on that subject. If you do, it will not be counted. You are dismissed.”
Draco put his notes away and grabbed his bag, heading for the door when he heard the voice of the last person besides bloody Voldemort that he wanted to talk to. He continued down the corridor, hoping that the nagging voice would go away.
“Malfoy! I need to talk to you.”
“What is it, Granger?” Draco looked down at the witch whose hair was slowly falling out of the disastrous mess she called a bun. Her face was flushed from hurrying after him and the redness made him notice the freckles that dotted her cheeks and how deep of a brown her eyes were.
Dammit Draco! Get it together! It’s bloody Granger after all.
For the past two months of school, he and Granger had been paired up for their potions lessons. If it weren’t for the annoying know-it-all who had finally fallen into step next to him, he would be top of their class, but he wasn’t and he hated it. But this hatred did not stop the other feelings he had for her from cropping up. It hadn’t stopped them in their earlier years so he didn’t expect now to be any different. His mind wandered back to two months ago during their first library meeting as a potions pairing.
He walked into the entrance of the library and immediately spotted Granger. She may have grown up, but she had never grown into her hair. Her back was facing him and he shook his head at the stack of books he saw sitting next to her.
“Granger. Always with the fucking books.”
He rolled his eyes and started moving closer when he noticed her shoulders jerking rapidly. If he hadn’t watched her study before, he would’ve thought that it was just the way her body moved as her finger scanned over the words or a result of her leg bouncing beneath the table. But he had watched her before, that wasn’t the way her body moved and she didn’t bounce her legs. She was crying.
“Bloody hell. I can’t do this,” he whispered to himself.
To warn her that he was approaching, he made his steps louder. She immediately sat up straighter and wiped at her eyes.
“You’re late,” she said and he could hear the strangled sob in her voice.
“A wizard is never late, Granger. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”
“As much as I love Tolkien, Malfoy, we have work to do.”
He was pleased to hear her voice was more confident. He pulled out the chair sitting across from her. “Fine. Let’s get this over with. I have other things to do.”
“Yeah. Of course,” she mumbled shooting daggers at him for a second and then rolling her eyes. “Look, Malfoy, I don’t want to work with you just as much as you don’t want to work with me. Let’s just shut up and get things done.”
“On the contrary, Granger. I don’t mind this arrangement at all.”
She looked at him confused for a minute and then looked back down at her book.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You can leave if you want to,” she sniffled, taking a deep breath and then mumbling something that Draco described as the catalyst. “Most everyone does these days.”
Hermione’s voice pulled him from his thoughts. “It’s about our potions essay. How much have you finished of your part? I would like to look at it.”
“Oh. Trying to cheat, Granger?”
“Because I would definitely need to cheat from the number two.” He saw her roll her eyes and wanted to smack the smirk off her smug face. He wasn’t blind and saw that she wanted to do the same to him. “I want to make sure we didn’t repeat ourselves too many times. It would look sloppy and uncoordinated. “
Draco stopped for a minute, reached into his bag and pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment. He handed it to her slowly, hoping that this plan would work. When she reached out to grab it with her left hand, he saw that her sleeve was riding up, but to his dismay he couldn’t see what was hidden under it. He started walking away and heard her turn around to walk the other direction, but not before catching the, “Thanks, Draco,” that she sighed and even though she had been frequenting his first name, it still sent a shiver down his back.
Throughout the entirety of Muggle Studies, Draco kept thinking of Hermione’s arm. The feeling in the pit of his stomach told him over and over that he should know what she was hiding, but his memories didn’t agree. Another feeling in his gut told him that he knew exactly why he couldn’t remember.
During his time as a Death Eater, his mother sought the need to often oblivate some of his memories because she was afraid of him using dreamless sleeping potions. It was rumored that using large amounts could result in hallucinations much like those experienced during extreme insomnia and she couldn’t bear to see him like that, so she turned to memory charms instead for erasing and altering his mind. He still had trouble sleeping, afraid that when he woke up he would have no idea who he was.
Instead of dwelling on why he couldn’t remember, he decided that he was going to ask her, plain and simple. He would have to do it tonight at the library. Tomorrow they turned in their big potions project (which, coincidentally, was researching the dreamless sleeping draught) and after that it was improbable that they would stay close. She was still, “the brains of the Golden Trio,” and he was still, “the youngest Death Eater,” even if he was pardoned.
While thinking of the library, he let his thoughts wander again to their first meeting.
The words hit him harder than the Hogwarts Express would if he were to stand in front of it. “What did you say, Granger?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Her voice dripped with anger.
“Hermione,” he sighed, her name melting like chocolate on his lips, “you can’t just say shit like that and then not explain yourself.” Draco reached for her hand but she pulled it back, her chestnut eyes piercing his steel ones.
“I was being stupid. I shouldn’t have said anything in the first place, Draco,” she snapped.
Draco never knew that his name could sound so foreign to his ears. He drew his hand back immediately as though he touched fire and that’s exactly how he felt. Here was this girl who had helped win a war, who saw death and life and hatred and love in their tangled mess at such a young age. A woman who exhibited nothing but strength at all moments, and she was hurt. “If there is anything I’ve learned here in the past years is that you are never stupid, Granger, but fine.”
“You’re a prick.”
“Tell me something I don’t already know. Actually, on second thought, don’t since I’m sure you can come up with something.” Draco shrugged nonchalantly and looked back at her with a knowing smirk. She held his eyes for a minute before she lost her composure and tried suppressing a grin and then a snort of laughter. At this, the corners of Draco’s mouth began to turn upward.
She truly was beautiful when she laughed.
Since that laugh they started working with each other contentedly. They fought, oh how they fought, but they always got over it before their arrangement was ruined. They never mentioned anything too far away from the weather and potions and sometimes jokes at each other’s expense. There were lines that weren’t crossed and scars were usually at the top of that list. Scars and marks.
He, and the rest of wizarding London, found out that Ron had ended things with Hermione and that’s why she was crying that day. One day he was sending her a howler explaining that they should, “explore other options,” and the next he was seen with Susan Bones in a fancy restaurant in Diagon Alley.
“Maybe him and his family are ginger elitists,” Draco said to Hermione one afternoon as they did research outside by the lake. The sip of water she took right before this statement came out of her nose and after five minutes of nonstop laughter, both she and Draco had tears welling up in their eyes. “An army of little red headed, Hufflepuff weasels. Oh gosh, that’s scarier than Dementors and I would know.” That made Hermione laugh harder and that was the moment he knew he loved her.
“What’s so funny, Draco?” Blaise Zabini asked him with a knowing smirk.
“Leave the man alone, Zucchini. Let him think about his girl in peace.”
“I swear to Salazar, Nott, if you call me Zucchini one more time, I will murder you in your sleep.”
“My girl? She’s not my girl. I don’t even know what girl you’re talking about,” Draco choked out, blanching at the idea that his friends knew. “Of course they know,” he thought, “they’re Slytherins.”
“She’s not my girl he says,” Theo mimicked.
“You know bloody well who we’re talking about,” Blaise murmured.
“Today is the last day of our little research projects so use this time as you need. The supply closet is open to anyone who needs it.” Slughorn clapped his hands together and smiled at his class. “I love researching dangerous potions, don’t you?” He laughed and then held up his hands to stop his students from starting. “Just a reminder that from tomorrow until holiday, we will be helping brew potions for the infirmary.” With this he turned towards his desk to mark some 2nd year essays.
“So, Granger, how was my essay? Up to your standards?” Draco teased a bit harsher than he intended. His friends put him in a rotten mood and now he just wanted the day to be over with. He was also anxious about tonight. The question kept nagging him and he just needed an answer.
“It was fine but we still need to meet in the library tonight,” Hermione clipped.
“Someone’s got their knickers in a twist.”
“Don’t, for one minute, think that you had any effect whatsoever on my knickers,” she hissed and turned to walk away.
He stood there, confused, and grabbed her wrist before she could stalk off. “What the hell is your problem?”
“Maybe it was your stupid friends and their stupid songs! I swear if I hear one more person spell ‘snogging’ incorrectly to fit a bloody rhyme, I’ll hex them.” She looked up at him fiercely but knew he hadn’t heard her. He was too busy looking at her arm. “Draco.” Hermione’s voice wavered. “Draco let go of me.”
Draco couldn’t hear her. He could only feel the deep scratch at the base of her wrist. “What are you hiding Hermione? What’s under that sleeve of yours?” He looked up at her gasp. “Why does she look hurt?” Before he really knew what was happening, her free hand connected with his face and he was stumbling back, letting go of her in the process. “What the hell, Granger!”
“I thought we were done being each other’s enemies.” And she grabbed her bag and left.
Despite the scene in potions, Draco found Hermione sitting at their usual table in the library. She looked relatively calm and he thanked any and all deities that were listening to his pleas. “Hi,” he said, sliding into his chair.
“Draco. Um. Hello. Let’s get started.”
“I wanted to apologize for earlier. I didn’t mean for you to get upset.”
“It’s nothing. Let’s drop it.”
“Hermione,” he sighed. He tried catching her eye but she avoided his gaze like the plague. “It isn’t nothing. I know that now. But I really am curious. Why do you wear a glamour on your arm? You know why I wear mine. Just tell me. What’s that annoying phrase? Sharing is caring or some rubbish like that?”
“Like you don’t already know you complete arse! What, are you dying to see it again? Is that what this friendship has been to you? Some sick way to get me to trust you and then—“
“I can assure you,” he said, talking over her, his anger rising up into his throat, “that I have no idea what you’re talking about. See what again?”
She laughed but not the good kind. Not the kind that made her nose crinkle and her eyes light up. Not the kind that made his heart stutter. It was bitter and cold and it made his heart break. “You’re such a prick, Malfoy. Why don’t you ask your dear old auntie what it is? Oh wait.” She sighed heavily. “You know, I thought we were closer than this. How could you—“
“Oblivated, remember, Granger?!” He was seething. The mention of his late aunt had him on fire. He hated that woman and Hermione knew so. “I get now that I’m supposed to remember whatever it is you’re hiding, but I don’t okay? I’m so damned sorry.” He stood up, knocking his chair to the floor watching her face flood with remembrance.
“It’s ironic that Slughorn assigned us this potion. I could give a full report on the adverse side effects.”
“Oh, really?” Hermione mumbled. She was lost in research, scribbling notes down on a piece of parchment.
“Yeah. The hallucinations are as bad as the research says.” Draco saw her head snap up, eyes curious and worried. “During the war I,” he stopped. This was uncharted territory. They had never discussed the war before and he wasn’t sure why he was bringing it up now. “Well, it’s hard to sleep with a monster living under your bed.” He hated how vulnerable he sounded but found no pity in this wonderful witch’s eyes. Just understanding. “My mum decided the altering my memories was better.”
Hermione looked shocked and she tried saying something but no words were coming out. She looked a bit like a codfish, Draco thought. “So your mother? She just, took away the memories?” Draco nodded.
“She mostly altered them. I still remember the war but there are some things that just aren’t as clear as others.”
“Hmm,” was all that Hermione had said.
“She took it away. And all this time I thought it was just because you were being polite. An ‘I won’t mention yours if you don’t mention mine’ thing if you will.”
Draco’s eyes followed Hermione as she walked around the table to stand in front of him. She was so close and he could smell her shampoo. Strawberries and something earthy.
"Are you sure?"
He heard her whisper, “Finite,” and the sound of her sleeve being pushed up. He was scared to look but he did anyway. An angry red scar, or rather scars, met his stare. M-U-D-B-L-O-O-D and with the red angry scar came one of the most horrible memories he could ever imagine.
“I’m going to ask you again! Where did you get this sword? Where?” His aunt.
“We found it – we found it – PLEASE!” Hermione screamed again. Draco was cowering in a corner watching Hermione, his Hermione, be tortured.
“You are lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, tell the truth!”
Another terrible scream.
Draco could faintly hear Weasley scream her name.
“What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!”
Draco watched Crucio after crucio. Watched Hermione’s body writhe under his demented aunt. He wanted to stop it.
“What else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!”
Hermione’s screams echoed off the walls.
“How did you get into my vault? Did that dirty little goblin in the cellar help you?”
“We only met him tonight!” Hermione sobbed. “We’ve never been inside your vault. . . . It isn’t the real sword! It’s a copy, just a copy.”
His hope was futile. He knew his aunt wouldn’t believe her.
“A copy?” screeched Bellatrix. “Oh, a likely story!”
“But we can find out easily!” came his father’s voice. “Draco, fetch the goblin, he can tell us whether the sword is real or not!”
Draco turned to go to the cellar but not before seeing his aunt straddle Hermione’s tortured body and start carving that wretched word into her arm.
Draco looked down into those eyes; eyes that had once looked to him for help. “Hermione,” he whispered, closing his eyes.
“It’s okay, Draco. I forgive you. I forgave you. A long time ago.”
“Hermione.” He felt her brush his fringe out of his eyes and rest her hand on his cheek. He heard her whisper over and over, “It’s okay. She’s gone. It’s okay.” He smelled her, strawberries, earth, books, and spearmint. He opened his eyes and he saw her, not defeated, but victorious, smiling cautiously and in that moment he knew he had to taste her. He moved slowly, but soon his lips covered hers and she was glorious. Blemishes and all.