Playing with Fire

Chapter 50: Brave. Smart. Survivor.

Song: All for us - labrinth

She was frozen on the spot and numb from head to toe. She felt tears trickling down her cheeks but no noise escaped her lips. Ron.

The room seemed to be spinning around her. Even after Draco ripped the newspaper from her hands, Hermione was still shaking. Her fingers trembled softly, her eyes still focused in that same direction.

She felt a cold hand on her shoulder and she yanked away from his grip and out of her trance. “Hermione-“, Draco tried but she cut him off.

“Don’t”, she responded simply, voice stern, as she continued to kneel on the study floor.

“Hermione listen to-“, he tried once more but that was when Hermione snapped.

“DON’T. Don’t you EVER call me Hermione again. Don’t ever SPEAK to me again. How could you?“, she cried hysterically at him. Draco didn’t move a muscle, didn’t respond. His expression was unreadable.

Hermione scrambled to her feet and shoved him as hard as she could, causing him to stumble back a few steps, his fists clenching and a look of anger growing in his eyes. Her face turned red when she remembered what had just been happening, and that she wasn’t wearing pants. She quickly grabbed her leggings from the floor and yanked them up her legs as quickly as she could.

“Are you listening to me? Are you even CAPABLE of that?“, she gasped for air, torn between tears, hatred, and despair. Once again Draco was silent. His jaw ticked momentarily, the veins in his arms popping out slightly, but he showed no other acknowledgement for Hermione’s words.

Hermione grabbed the paper again and shoved the photo in his face, forcing him to look at the damage he had done. “Do you even see yourself? You...you...you killed him...“, she kept repeating these last words over and over as if truly absorbing them for the first time. You killed him. You killed him. You killed him.

I thought Ron was dead. He wasn’t. But now he is. I am alone.

She was appalled that she had let her guard down this way, forgetting herself in the home of Death Eaters. Just because they ate, breathed, and slept like normal people didn’t mean they were good, or even decent.

Hermione had been staring out into space, deep in thought, but she slowly raised her gaze to meet Draco’s. Cold as ice, grey as steel, and full to the brim with apathy. He slightly tilted his chin downwards to give the final confirmation that it was true.

“I suppose the same tender touch can just as easily turn vicious and take lives. I just never...“, she hesitated, swallowing heavily as fear replaced mourning and agony.

“Who even are you...?“, she whispered now, bumps covering her skin as time seemed to freeze for a moment. The only sound was their disjointed breathing - each for very different reasons. She was absolutely afraid of him now, knowing what he was capable of.

Automatically, Hermione’s feet began to move backwards towards the door. When he took one step towards her, she turned and sprinted to her room as quickly as she could, slamming and locking the door behind her. She knew if he truly wanted to get in, he could, but considering she didn’t have a wand, it was the best she could do. It gave her peace of mind at the least.

It was at that moment that her body gave out, taking the load of all her emotions. She collapsed to the floor, wailing loudly and hyperventilating. Ron had been alive, and he was all she had left. He had been alive this entire time, and she had no idea. Had he been searching for her? Did he know she was alive and where she was? Is that how he got caught?

Her stomach lurched and she sprinted to the bathroom, leaning over the toilet just in time to empty her stomach painfully. Acid burned her throat and tears continued to sting her eyes for what felt like days.

She didn’t move. Couldn’t. The sun rose and set. She remained there. The floor had been cold at first, but she grew used to it. She stared at the ceiling, eyes becoming dry once she was sure she had cried out any spare water her body could offer. She was dizzy and dehydrated.

She wished she’d just die, and was disappointed when she woke up in her bed.

Her skin was pale and her head spun painfully. There were a few potions she recognized on her bedside table - a hydration elixir, nutrition restorative, and a sleeping draught. Hermione was in a set of pajamas, which she was certain she hadn’t put on herself. She didn’t have the strength or the motivation to. The curtains were drawn and the room was dark, only a sliver of light peeking through.

Hermione almost fell out of bed when she noticed a shadow standing in the corner move slightly. Her hand flew to her chest as she caught her breath, seeing the light catch on his white blonde hair. Draco. She was relieved until she remembered. She opened her mouth but he held up a hand to stop her.

“Don’t speak yet, I need you to listen to me”, Draco said calmly, still moving towards her, making her pulse race.

He stood at the end of her bed, pausing, “Don’t be afraid of me”, he begged before taking a few cautious steps closer. His voice sounded...vulnerable. Broken almost.

Her eyes were stuck on his dark figure as he moved to her side. She pulled the sheets higher up, feeling uncomfortable and unsure rather than afraid now.

“That wasn’t...it wasn’t Weaselbee alright?“, he said while looking deeply into her eyes.

Hermione’s pupils blew wide, her heart filling with hope, but she didn’t trust him anymore. Why would he lie? Maybe so I don’t try to kill myself - she chuckled, knowing it wasn’t fitting for the situation, but still not believing his words.

“You have no reason to believe me, I know, but it’s true”, Draco said, pausing for her response and quickly adding, “you can speak now”.

Hermione rolled her eyes, as if I need permission. “Even if you’re telling the truth and that wasn’t Ron, he still might be dead. I thought he was before anyway”, she said in a dry, uninterested voice. She didn’t have any emotion left in her, not really. She was drained.

Draco’s jaw tensed slightly and she narrowed her eyes in suspicion. “What do you know, Draco?“, she said in a calm but demanding voice.

“He’s alive”, Draco said tensely.

“How do you know?“, Hermione asked him, still unsure.

“I can’t tell you that”, he said, turning away from her. For fucks sake.

Hermione grabbed his hand before he could step away, feeling that same familiar electricity jolt through her body. She felt sickened that even after everything she knew about Draco, he still affected her this way.

“I’m telling you the truth - Hermione please - I have no reason to lie”, she flinched at his words but didn’t comment on it. Her name sounded so foreign coming from his lips.

“Why did you let me believe you did kill him then?“, she pushed further.

“Why were you so quick to assume I really did? You and I both know Skeeter’s words are as worthwhile as a metal wand”, he responded in a disappointed tone.

Neither moved or spoke. It was an impasse, but their hands remained together, almost forgotten entirely. As if it was completely natural.

Hermione hesitated another moment before breaking the silence, “But...you really did”, she gulped, ”kill all those people?”

Draco’s eyes looked sorrowful, but not regretful, and it made Hermione uneasy.

“No one’s hands can stay clean when you work for the devil”, he said darkly before turning and leaving Hermione alone in the room.

~~~

Time passed quickly leading up to Halloween. Once Hermione had fully recovered - which didn’t take long thanks to magical solutions for muggle problems - she went back to ‘training’ and having dinner every night with the Malfoy men.

The entire affair was extremely uncomfortable after what had happened. Hermione was short for time, and though she wasn’t afraid of Draco - just as he requested - she was still afraid of Voldemort and always would be. So she got to work.

She didn’t feel comfortable with going back to her previous strategy for the time-being. Instead, she resorted to snooping around the library throughout the day and slipping into Draco’s office if he was ever away from the manor, which was more frequent these days.

They didn’t interact until dinner each night, they barely spoke if at all, and never made eye contact or touched. Before she knew it, it was October 31st and she was no closer to finding any answers than she had been before.

Hermione could hear the noise from outside her room as the elves prepared the Manor for tonight’s ball. She was too anxious to leave her room at all, and played the record player in hopes of easing it. All she could do was count down the hours until it was 9pm.

At 6pm, a knock came at her door. She didn’t move, but Draco came in, taking her silence as approval to enter.

She was standing at her window, looking out across the backyard, and barely turned over her shoulder to glance in his direction.

“You haven’t showered today have you?“, he asked uncomfortably. Ummm...

“No...why are you asking?“, she responded, turning to face him fully.

“No one can know we allow you that privilege”, he responded as if it was quite obvious. She scoffed at this. Of course. What a privilege it is to shower.

Draco continued, “In fact, the messier you can appear, the better.” He pulled his wand out and proceeded to cast multiple glamour charms on Hermione.

She walked to stand in front of the mirror, gasping at her appearance. Her clothes hung off of her, she was a good 20 pounds lighter and appeared well underfed. Hermione’s cheekbones sunk in and there were now large, dark circles under her eyes. There were even a few bruises and cuts across her skin.

“Now”, he paused, “you’re really not going to like this part.” Draco looked nervous, and it made Hermione unbearably anxious for what was to come.

Draco waved his wand and a pair of clothes appeared on her bed. She examined the clothes, allowing her eyes to focus and recognition to come before she stumbled back in shock, a sharp cry escaping her. They were Harry’s.

The clothes from the Battle of Hogwarts. The clothes her best friend died in. They were still coated in dried blood which Hermione had no doubt belonged to Harry. She felt lightheaded, but Draco caught her as her feet gave out, just before she could hit the floor.

He pulled her into his arms, holding her up and comforting her trembling frame. “Hermione...“, Draco hesitated, “I know this is hard. I know. But you can do this.”

Hermione could barely register what he was saying, she was in shock. How can they expect me to wear that? The fact that they even kept it? These people are sadistic. Oh God Harry. Oh God. Oh God.

Silent sobs came from her quivering chest. Draco gently took her face in one hand, lifting her chin to look into his pale blue eyes. “The Dark Lord’s request. He had them. But listen to me, you’re brave Hermione. You’re incredibly smart. You are a survivor. You can make it through one night. You will. I know you can.”

Hermione’s tears slowed and she sniffled softly, nodding at Draco’s words. She needed this affection and comfort far too much to reject it. She couldn’t get it anywhere else, and it helped much more than she expected it to.

“I know you can”, he whispered softly into her ear again as he pulled her into his arms. “Trust me, Hermione”, he said. So she did.

He left her alone to get dressed. She stared at the clothes for two hours before putting them on. They wreaked of dried blood, which made her nauseous, and even then -

They still smelled like Harry.

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