Numb Without You (Draco Malfoy)

03

Hermione Granger is considered a lot of things. She is a know-it-all. She is the brightest witch of her age. She is tenacious, hard-working, caring, and thoughtful. The one thing Hermione Granger cannot be described as is concise and to-the-point. It took her three excruciatingly long hours to explain to Draco and me what took us both five minutes to understand.

Draco was to perform his own round of wizarding community service, still to be determined, and I was to be his sponsor throughout the year to check up on him and make sure he was staying on track. The rest was up to the two of us to work together as best we could. Hermione had plenty of her own suggestions of things we could do, such as me teaching Draco how to ride the Tube like a proper muggle, much to Draco’s chagrin.

I kind of liked the power this whole set up gave me. I was the deciding factor on if Draco Malfoy could be welcomed back into wizarding society. Me. I could reject him at the end of the year, simply out of spite, and no one could say otherwise. Of course, Hermione might object, but I could work on wearing her down if necessary.

Hermione asked to speak to Draco alone for a while leaving me to eat breakfast by myself while they sat off in a corner of The Leaky Cauldron together talking very intently. Every once in a while they would glance in my direction, so I knew I kept coming up in conversation quite a bit.

Eventually the two of them came back my table to regroup. Draco sat down across from me, and Hermione remained standing while she put on her jacket. It was clear that she was abandoning me to be alone with Malfoy. “I think that’s everything then!” She exclaimed. She looked back down at her muggle watch and frowned, “I do have another appointment, but I’ll be checking in on you later, Rory, to see how things are going. Take care you two. I’m so glad you are doing this, Draco. It really means a lot to us working at the Ministry to give our little program some much needed legitimacy.”

“Always a pleasure, Granger.” Draco droned sarcastically, his voice aggressively deadpan. His eyes left my face for only a second to glare at the girl who had been selflessly helping him for the past few hours. She didn’t seem to notice, or at least she didn’t let on that she did. For Draco, there was clearly still some animosity left over from our school days that absolutely would not dissipate. He reminded me so much of myself when Hermione first latched on to me, but the girl was relentless in wearing me down until we became genuine friends. I couldn’t imagine Draco and Hermione as friends in the same way. That seemed impossible because every single thing the girl said or did annoyed Draco to his very core.

Hermione shot me one last fleeting smile before she hurried out into the streets of London. Draco and I sat in silence while I ate the rest of my breakfast. I took my time only to test and see if Draco would grow impatient with me, but he never once wavered. When I finished my meal, I shoved the plate off to the side for the staff to pick up, and I looked at Draco, finally taking in his very angular features.

He returned my gaze and leaned back in his chair lazily as he absentmindedly traced with his fingers where someone had carved their name into the wooden table. I noticed he was still wearing the same ring on his hand that he had worn since he was thirteen years old. It gleamed as the light reflected off of it. So much had changed about him, yet so much had stayed the same. I knew the same could be said about me as well.

“I assume you want to know why I’m doing all of this?” He asked me sort of expectantly. He seemed intent on explaining himself. He never did like people making their own assumptions about him.

“Go on then.” I scowled and waved my hand in the air flippantly, “I would have thought the deal your parents made with the ministry that kept all three of you out of Azkaban with the rest of us would have excluded you from the rehabilitation program they created as well.”

“Well as luck would have it, nowhere will hire me until I do this stupid thing.” Draco sounded frustrated and a little embarrassed as he frowned. His hand was now clenched in a fist and his pale knuckles were now a glowing white as he tried to channel his anger.

“You want to work?” I asked him with genuine surprise. That really intrigued me. Draco had never had anything but contempt for any form of labor as long as I had known him, and oftentimes mocked the working class. “But your family got to keep all your money. You’re set for so many lifetimes that your inheritance is going to outlive us all.” Jealousy coated my words. I missed not having to worry about expenses and bills and simply having enough money to keep food on the table. I used to take so much for granted, and everyone was right: ignorance is bliss.

“What’s your point?” Draco sneered at me. He seemed insulted by my insinuation that he was still rather lazy, “it’s a bit boring sitting on your arse day after day. I’d like to have some sort of purpose if I can help it.”

I shook my head and tried to explain myself to him in a way that wouldn’t come off totally condescending like my last statement did, “it just surprises me, is all. Aidan loves doing absolutely nothing all day.” I thought about my boyfriend and the fact that he was likely sitting on the couch right this very moment instead of doing anything productive.

“Hastings?” Draco spat with disgust and his face flushed pink as he remembered our former classmate with animosity, “you still hang out with that git?”

I raised a brow and remained completely unfazed by his sudden outburst at the sound of Aidan’s name. It was a common occurrence when anyone brought up the Hastings name for them to be angry. The Hastings family had burned a lot of bridges, “I suppose you still hang out with Zabini and that lot.”

“What do you mean by that?” Draco asked with a frown, but he denied nothing.

“I mean all of your bloody rich friends that had it so easy.” I rolled my eyes. “Zabini... Parkinson... I bet you hang around with Pucey and Flint too.”

“You were one of those rich friends too, Aurora, lest you forget.” Draco said pointedly, “and you think I had it so easy? The Dark Lord wanted me to kill Dumbledore for fucks sake. That wasn’t easy! It nearly killed me.” Draco hissed in barely a whisper. His eyes darted around the nearly empty pub to make sure no one was listening, as if this wasn’t all very public knowledge to all wizards by this point what Draco had been tasked to do. It was also public knowledge that he couldn’t go through with it, thanks to none other than Harry Potter himself who bore witness and told everyone what really happened that night on the astronomy tower.

“Oh, fuck off, Malfoy.” I guffawed in his face causing him to seize up with anger and annoyance towards me that was so reminiscent of our youth, “Your Mum got you out of doing that too just like everything else difficult in your life. You-” I gasped as a sharp pain in my arm suddenly flared up and winced as the confidence drained out of me quickly. The mark had been hurting more intensely and a lot more frequently lately. I could tell that I wasn’t the only one affected by its burning as I watched Draco’s expression change from one of anger to empathy.

“You feel it, too?” Draco said softly as he rubbed at his forearm over his shirt. I nodded in confirmation. “I dunno what’s been happening lately.” He frowned at me, but his grey eyes looked filled with worry.

“Some idiot is having a bloody laugh up in Azkaban.” I rolled my eyes, “They know all of our marks are still connected despite Voldemort being dead.” Draco still cringed at the sound of his name. He was probably one of those who still worried that he could come back one day. He had come back from the dead once before. Personally, I was still afraid of my father more than I ever feared Voldemort. Antonin Dolohov was still alive, after all. “Just try not to think about it. I don’t.” I told Draco.

“Yeah, and all of that not thinking about it is clearly working out well for you.” Draco smirked and let his hand graze my forearm. My facade had never fooled him in all the years I had known him. He was the only one who could see right through me. Even now, after years apart from one another, he probably still knew me better than I ever even knew myself. I hated that about him.

His touch sent a different type of feeling jolt through my body that had be jump to my feet. I stood up from the table and put some mush needed distance between us both, “Alright, Malfoy. It’s been great playing catch up, but I have had enough for one day. I’ll see you when I start getting paid for all of this.”

“Hold on a minute, Dolohov.” Draco said as he scrambled to his feet to follow me. I was quick, but his legs were longer than mine so he caught up to me easily. He cut me off, and blocked my path to the exit. “You don’t even know how to contact me. We haven’t exchanged information.”

“I know where Malfoy Manor is in case you’ve forgotten. I think I’ll manage on my own just fine.” I assured him as I thought back to all the time I used to spend there. It wasn’t all bad memories, just the latter years when we were working as Death Eaters. I had tried to block most of those memories out, but they haunted my dreams. I still saw our old muggle studies professor’s lifeless eyes whenever I closed my own.

Thinking quickly, I disapparated to avoid him grabbing hold of me and reappeared right in front of the Weasley shop that was beginning to fill up with customers for the day. I felt kind of queasy all of a sudden. It had been so long since I had apparated anywhere by myself that it took a lot out of me. For the first time ever, I wandered inside to see if there was anything they sold that would help me feel better. Admittedly, the store itself did the trick. They must have had some sort of peace and prosperity enchantment in place that made people more likely to purchase items. I wouldn’t put it past George to think up something like that.

“I don’t believe my eyes. After all these years of trying to convince her, she finally walks inside our store of her own volition!” George mused from behind the counter just as he had finished talking to a customer who was eagerly adopting a blue Pygmy puff.

I looked over my shoulder to see if he was talking about someone else because surely it couldn’t be that big of a deal that I was standing here right now. George chuckled and hopped over the counter to come and greet me, “No, Rory. Make no mistake, I was definitely talking about you.”

Despite George’s innate charm and charisma, he still seemed so out of place without Fred around. I suppose that is why Ron stepped in and tried to fill his late brother’s shoes by working at the shop. “What can I do for you?” His eyes glimmered excitedly at the possibility of showing off one of his many wares. “You look like the type who needs a new self-writing quill.”

I wrinkled my nose at the suggestion and shook my head no, “Do I look like Rita Skeeter to you?”

George tilted his head to the side and his eyes scanned me up and down, “Not so much in this light, no. Let’s put a blonde wig on you and re-evaluate.”

I gagged at the suggestion, “Absolutely not. I am not a fan of blonde hair.”

“Do you mean you are not a fan being blonde yourself, or you are not a fan of blondes in general?” George raised a brow and I knew exactly what he was insinuating. He wanted to know about how meeting up with Malfoy went.

“Both.” I answered flatly with absolutely no inflection in my tone. George’s smile fell when he couldn’t read my expression. I smirked proudly. I had become an expert at hiding my emotions from a very young age and made myself practically unreadable... well, to anyone who was not Draco Malfoy, that is.

“Oi! George! We’ve talked about this. Flirting with customers is not a good way to make a sale!” Ron walked down the stairs in a huff pointing a fanged frisbee at George accusingly, but he stopped and his mouth gaped open when he saw me standing behind his brother’s tall frame. “Merlin! Never mind that then. It’s just Rory.” He tossed the frisbee on the counter and joined the two of us in conversation.

“Just Rory?” I scowled at him and crossed my arms over my chest defensively, “That’s what you think of me after the past year, Weasley? I thought we were friends.”

“If I thought any more of you, Hermione might get mad at me.” Ron shrugged, and George’s shoulders shook as he held in his laughter. It was true, Ron only had eyes for Hermione, and we were all quite happy with that arrangement.

“So you can’t even just assume that someone might want to flirt with me?” I frowned, “I’m quite attractive, I’ll have you know.”

“I wasn’t flirting with Rory anyway.” George grinned at me, “if I was flirting she would definitely know it. I was merely trying to get information out of her, and also possibly sell a few overstocked items in the process.”

“Information about what?” Ron asked. He was not very astute when it came to these things. You would think since he had been dating Hermione Granger for so long now that some of her quick wit and intellect would rub off on him.

George laughed at my expense as he opened his mouth to say the name that was on everyone’s lips today, “Malfoy.”

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