He can't leave the room. Her room. And it's all the Order's fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something's going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not. "There," she spat. "Now your Blood's filthy too!" DM/HG. PostHBP.


8. Touch

Hermione hadn't managed a blink of sleep.

Ginny had become inconsolable fairly quickly, and Hermione had simply rocked her back and forth, stroking her hair until the redhead had become too exhausted to remain conscious. She knew Molly comforted her daughter in a similar fashion, and she'd spent the majority of the night thinking about her own parents and how much she missed them. Her weary brain had then naturally dragged her to thoughts of Harry and Ron, and finally, Malfoy.

In her defence, it was impossible not to think of her cold houseguest when he was always there, but he'd been a little easier on her strained thoughts as of late. Despite his arrogance, prejudices, and the rest of the complicated recipe of flaws, Malfoy was certainly more bearable than he'd been before. She'd even found herself – accidentally, of course – leaving for the library later than usual so she could spend more time in his presence. It was all for studious purposes of course; McGonagall had asked her to keep an eye on him, and she found it somewhat fascinating to witness all the subtle changes.

Plus, it felt good to have a consistent male presence again, even it was forced, and said male was a prat.

Still, watching him adapt to his surroundings, and to her, was so intriguing, and she had secretly challenged herself to influence him as best she could. Hermione was almost certain that if, and that was a massive if, she could break his prejudices, then he wouldn't be so bad to live with.

Then again, probably not. Her Gryffindor optimism could be a pain in the backside at times, but she'd try anyway; if only to erase the word Mudblood from his vocabulary.

Her lack of sleep was clearly starting to muddle with her head, and a glimpse at the clock told her it was already half six in the morning. She checked that Ginny was completely out before she carefully moved her to the side, reaching out with the hem of her sleeve to brush away some dreamy tears from the younger witch's face. Hermione silently headed to her friend's desk and scribbled a quick note, apologising for leaving and explaining that she needed some rest.

With a parting sad look at the pretty redhead, she crept quietly away from her former living space and wandered down the lonely corridors back to her dorm. It was only a short distance, but her steps were slow and thoughtful as she noted, yet again, just how dead Hogwarts seemed. Yes, the halls were still bleak with the winter morning, and it was too early for anyone to be up on a Saturday, but she had always adored Hogwarts for feeling so alive and warm. Now, every brick looked darker and every room was colder, and the entire Castle had a similar atmosphere to that of a graveyard.

It was a haunting comparison...One that constantly reminded her of how dismal everything was. It would be the 1st of November on Monday, another month since Dumbledore's death. Half a year, and it still made her heart shrink.

With a troubled sigh, she mumbled her password to the pride of lions, but the door didn't open all the way. She frowned and pushed against it, feeling resistance from the other side. She slipped in sideways and instantly tripped on something; something fleshy that sent her tumbling to the floor with a shocked gasp. With a frustrated breath, she chucked her hair out of her face and glanced over her shoulder, her eyes going wide when she noticed what, or who, had caused the obstruction.

"Oh God," she whispered, pivoting on her knees and crawling over to him. "Malfoy? Draco!"

He looked dead. It was as simple as that.

His skin had turned a ghostly shade of grey and his lips were a chilling blue smudge across his face. With his eyes sealed, and his expression a foreboding semblance of peace, Hermione felt intense alarm and dread clog her throat. With jittery movements and panic-clumsy hands, she fumbled with his wrist, grimacing when she noticed his palm was a swollen mess of blood and scorched flesh.

The loud and violent thuds pounding in her ribcage calmed when she felt Draco's steady pulse against her fingertips. She released a shaky breath and relished the feeling of his heartbeats for a second, allowing her terror to subside. It only took another glimpse at his mangled hand and his position by the door for her to deduce what had happened.

He'd tried to escape.

Malfoy, you bloody idiot...

Kneeling at his side, she forced herself to gather her wits; surprised when she realised her cheeks were damp. She'd cried? Well...panic could that to people, and she could think about it later after she'd kicked the shit out of him for being so stupid.

"Wingardium leviosa," Hermione said quietly as she got to her feet and withdrew her wand, manoeuvring the unconscious wizard to one of the sofas.

She crouched next to him with her wand lingering over his chest, ready to wake him, but she hesitated.

Her fawn-like eyes slowly drifted up to his face, and she realised she'd never had an opportunity to see him like this. This close. He looked so normal then, like he was simply sleeping. There was no trace of the anger and turmoil that always seemed to stain his features; no hint of how fractured his life was. He appeared relaxed, and she was completely transfixed by him. She reached out a curious hand to brush aside his snowy-blond fringe, and her fingertips moved on their own from that point; sweeping across his brow and up his cheekbone with probing barely-there strokes.

Something wedged in her chest as she studied him further, and she found herself thinking it was such a shame. He was handsome and smart, but his upbringing had ruined him, and it was so sad...Such a waste...

Some of the colour returned to his face as she grazed his skin, and she couldn't help herself as she brushed her thumb against his lower lip. He was...warmer than she'd expected...

She snatched her hand away and gave it a horrified glare. This was what insomnia did to her; messed with her brain and encouraged to do stupid and inappropriate things. Shaking her head and privately scolding herself, she placed her wand back against his chest and prepared for Malfoy's inevitable temper when he woke up and found her leaning over him.


Draco sprang up with a loud gasp, his eyes snapping open into wide and stormy pools, and his chest heaving with urgent sputters. He didn't even notice the witch as his side as he stared straight ahead, blinking wildly and trying to regain his composure.

"Malfoy!" Hermione shouted his name, placing her hand across his arm. "Draco, calm down. It's alright."

His frantic stare shot over to her, and she could have sighed when she saw him relax and his breathing slowed to a regular rate. She was about to speak again when he quickly reached out with his injured hand, and she managed to resist the urge to flinch away in surprise. It happened too quick to understand, but his sticky palm was suddenly against her cheek, intimately slicking her skin with his blood. Her lips parted in shock as she tried to comprehend the gesture, and he was trembling so badly that the tremors vibrated against her face.

And then, as if nothing had happened, his hand dropped, and he was simply staring at her with a blank expression. Snapping out of yet another trance, Hermione examined his shivering body nervously, listening to his chattering teeth as the shudders became increasingly worse.

"Malfoy," she breathed as calmly as she could. "Your body needs to recover, okay?" He didn't even attempt to answer over the rhythmic claps of his teeth, just continuing to watch her with completely empty eyes. "I'm going to get you some Dreamless Sleep Potion, alright? I'll be back in a second."

She rushed to her bedroom without waiting for a response and flung open the chest at the base of her bed to rummage as fast as she could for a vial of purple liquid. With the required potion in her fist, she grabbed a blanket from her bed and raced back to him, finding his body quaking at an alarming rate. She dropped the blanket and stumbled back to his side, desperately tugging away the cork and bringing the vial to his lips.

"D-Draco," she murmured over her anxiety. "Can you keep still so I can give you this?"

No answer. Just more shaking...

Pausing for only a second, her free hand went to his face again, cupping his cheek and using her thumb to pry apart his lips. "It's okay," she muttered distantly, oblivious to how tender she was being. She ignored the pain as she shoved her thumb between his vibrating teeth so she could pour the potion down his throat.

When the small glass was empty, she tossed it over her shoulder and settled her palm over his lips, absently rubbing her fingertips across his face as she waited for him to swallow. No less than twenty seconds later and he went completely limp, though he was still shivering slightly. She pulled the blanket over him and ensured he was substantially covered before she collapsed back on her haunches with a relieved sigh.

Dear Merlin, she'd been petrified...petrified for him...But she'd done all she could.

Stealing a glance just to ensure that he was sleeping soundlessly, she rose to her uneasy feet and literally felt the exhaustion smother her like a freezing wave. Dragging her protesting limbs towards the bathroom, she hunched over the sink and tried to gather her thoughts, but a glance at her reflection made her breath hitch.

There it was. His crimson handprint; bold and oddly beautiful across her cheek like some territorial mark that still felt blissfully warm. She stared at it for a long minute before she flicked on the tap and rinsed his blood away with a strange flutter in her chest. With a final glance at her reflection, she trudged into her room and began to discard her clothes. She hurriedly changed into a t-shirt and her pyjama bottoms, tucking her wand into a pocket at her thigh.

She could have cried over how comfortable her bed looked. So, Godric knew why she decided to grab another one of her blankets and head back into the sitting room.

Settling herself down and hugging her body under the covers, her heavy-lidded gaze focussed solely on the slumbering wizard across the coffee table on the opposite sofa. Again, he looked so different, but she had a feeling it had nothing to with his calmed features this time.

This would change things, but she had no idea how.





Hermione woke first to the sounds of wandering students outside her dorm.

She checked the clock to find it was almost midday, meaning she had miraculously managed five hours sleep; one of her longest rests in ages. It also meant that Malfoy would be waking soon if she'd measured out the potion correctly, and her sleepy stare drifted over to him.

The whole incident seemed like a weathered whisper across her memory, somewhere between reality and a forgotten dream. She could have been watching him for minutes or hours when signs of life began to slowly influence his body; just little twitches and a rousing sigh before his eyes opened with a flutter of blinks.

She half-wished he didn't notice her, because she knew it would lead to one of the most awkward moments of her life. Just as she was contemplating closing her eyes and pretending to be asleep, he cocked his head, and their eyes locked.

She'd expected nothing but rage and embarrassment, but she saw only irritation and a hint of shame swirling in his rain-cloud eyes. The silence seemed to spark between them as the eye contact refused to shatter, and Hermione's voice found her before she could turn it away.

"How do you feel?"

He looked away then, and she honestly didn't expect him to answer. "Like shit," he muttered, his voice a little hoarse.

The witch observed him intently as he pulled himself into a sitting position with some difficulty and a reluctant grimace, keeping his injured hand under the blanket. He bent his knees and clenched his eyes shut, bowing his head and massaging his temple with lean fingers. She chewed her bottom lip and silently scolded herself for leaving her couch, gathering the blanket about her shoulders as she neared him.

What the hell are you doing...?

She could have sat on the floor next to his sofa. It would have certainly been a more rational idea than nervously settling herself on the couch by his feet. If he had screamed at her then, she wouldn't have blamed him, because she had no idea why either. But Draco barely moved. This was one of the most bizarre situations she could ever remember getting herself into, and considering the last six years of her life, that was saying something.

"What were you thinking?" she blurted before she could douse the urge, frowning when he still didn't lift his head. "Do you have any idea how dangerous the wards are? You could have died, Malfoy-

"You didn't come back," he interrupted with a low mumble.

What the-

"What?" Hermione breathed, trying to study every detail of his face to gain a clue. "What do you-

"You didn't come back," he repeated, finally glancing at her from under his eyelashes. "Last night."

"I...I don't understand-

"Nobody else knows I'm here." he hushed her, his words strained and quiet. "If something happens to you then I am royally fucked-

"McGonagall knows your here," Hermione pointed out. Her voice was soft and patient, as though she was comforting him, and Draco was too confused to be disgusted by it. Despite his best attempts to ignore it, there was something about Granger's proximity that steadied the remains of his tempestuous soul, and for the moment, he didn't want her to leave. Not yet.

How could he have forgotten McGonagall? It was all that ancient cow's fault he was imprisoned here in the first place.

"And if something happened to her?" he questioned harshly. "I would just rot away in here until some fucking third year noticed the smell?"

"Draco," she gasped, flinching at his bitter words. "If anything happened to McGonagall, the wards would stop working and you would be able to leave."

He blinked.

Hell, he'd never even thought of that, and now he felt like bloody fool for his dramatic escape attempt. He snapped his glare away from her and despised himself for getting into such a state. If he thought that Potter wandering into the bathroom last year had been the most degrading thing that could happen to him, he'd been wrong.


But she was different to Potter. That immortal prick had been nosing around and trying to interfere, as he always bloody did, whereas she looked genuinely concerned for him. The very thought should have repulsed him, and his fingers itched with the instinct to shove her as far away as possible, but he didn't. Instead, he scrutinised her heart-shaped face for any indications of trickery or deception, but the witch practically glowed with sincerity.

"Why would you help me?" he asked her, narrowing his eyes into suspicious slits.

"Because you needed it," Hermione shrugged, as though it was nothing. "The wards are strong and dangerous, and you could have-

"You hate me," he hissed, perhaps more to himself than to her. "We loathe each other, Granger. Why the fuck would you-

"I don't...I don't think I really...hate you," she stuttered shyly, and Draco clamped his mouth shut with an audible snap. "Hate's a strong word. I would never wish anything fatal on you-

"Wouldn't you?" he growled cynically.

"No, I wouldn't," she affirmed with that familiar determination of hers. "And I would hope you wouldn't wish it on me."

Draco snorted, but she would be deaf not to notice the lack of conviction there. A memory of the Quidditch World Cup invaded his mind, and he recalled himself warning Potter to get her away from the chaos. It had been a random impulse that he had questioned relentlessly for weeks afterwards, but there was no escaping that he'd considered her safety, and he still had no idea why.

"Let me check your hand," Granger's voice stole him back to the current predicament. "It looked pretty bad this morning-

"It's fine-

"No, it's not," she cut him off with a stern glare, extending her hand. "Look, I'll just Petrify you if you insist on being difficult. Wouldn't you rather we just got this over with?"

Draco scowled at her and clicked his tongue. "You will not tell a soul about this, Granger."

"I couldn't even if I wanted to, Malfoy," she reminded him. "Everything that happens in this room remains between us."

Something about the brunette's comment made his throat run dry, and he gulped down a scratchy swallow as he reluctantly revealed his hand. As he settled it in her cupped palm, he grimaced when he realised it was a lot worse than he'd expected. There was a deep gash slicing across the centre, clotted with half-dry blood and still oozing in some areas. His skin was folded back like grotesque petals, and little red lines branched away from the large cut and spread across the rest of his hand like roots; stretching up his fingers and wrist.

Draco could feel residual magic crackling under his flesh, and the weeping scold burned like torture. His smoky eyes shifted to Granger, half expecting to find her choking on the fumes of vomit, but she was simply nibbling her lip. Her hazels were calculating the damage, and he watched the clogs of her brain churn with too much attention. He noted that they were, once again, effectively holding hands, the smell of blood lingering between them, just like the first time on his bed after the bathroom incident.

"This will take a couple of minutes," she murmured, pulling out her wand and beginning the work on his wound. "Does it hurt?"

"No," he lied through gritted teeth, eyeing the golden glow at her wand's tip. "Just hurry up, Granger."

She dampened her lips with a flick of her tongue as she healed the mess, starting at his fingertips and working her way down to the gaping slash. Ignoring the searing sensations sparking in his nerves, he focussed instead on her gentle touches and found them the perfect distraction. They sat in a silence that oddly bordered on comfortable, and he was too lost in the soothing exercise to do anything when she tugged up his sleeve.

Granger's harsh breath broke his trance, and his head snapped down to find her amber eyes round and shocked. He wanted to melt away at that moment; disintegrate into nothing. He followed her stare down to his arm, knowing full well what had shaken her. His Dark Mark.

No, no, no...

He didn't want her to see it...It just didn't feel right. She was too pure for it, as if just looking at the ugly scar would somehow taint her. Salazar strike him down, he didn't want that; he didn't want her anywhere near it. He tried to snatch his arm away, but her grip on him tightened, holding it in place.

Hermione studied the hideous brand intently, realising she'd never been this close to the Dark Mark before. She had read countless texts about Voldemort and his trademark spells; particularly the Morsmordre and the inky emblem that Death Eaters bore, but there was something off with the mark on Malfoy's flesh. The skin surrounding the skull and snake was still raised and red with irritation, but Dumbledore had been dead almost six moths, which meant the swelling should have gone down by now. Unless...

"Wait," she whispered absently as she leaned a little closer, oblivious that her breath ghosted across his forearm and caused him to shiver. Draco observed her warily as a rather striking flash of understanding danced in her eyes, and he held his breath as she parted her lips. "You weren't willing."

He actually coughed in bewilderment. "What?"

"You weren't willing," she repeated, lifting her chin to give him a long look. "Not completely, anyway."

"What the fuck are you-

"Your body rejected it because you didn't want it," she explained, gesturing to the inflamed skin around the tattoo-like symbol. "This would have calmed by now if you had been completely obedient."

Draco had no idea how he was supposed to respond to that, because the infuriating witch was, yet again, right. He'd had too many reservations to count during the ceremony, and he'd regretted that fateful night with aching pores ever since. He'd been far too influenced by a reckless urge to avenge his father's imprisonment, but the moment he'd stepped into Borgin and Burkes, he'd sealed the painful transaction that had left him with this disgusting scar. And what had come from it? Nothing but haunting nights, breaking down in the Prefects bathroom, and his six-month hell of hiding.

He knew all this; had long accepted that it was a fatal mistake which had led to the most degrading and awful moments of his life, but he didn't want her to know that.

"What the hell would you know?" he challenged with a condescending sneer, ripping his arm away from her and covering the brand back up with his sleeve. "Let me guess; one of your precious books, Granger? You should know better than to trust everything you read-

"I know it wasn't your choice, Malfoy," she argued in a calm tone that only infuriated him further. "And I didn't have to see your Mark to figure it out-

"Spare me your philosophical bullshit, Granger," he spat, but he couldn't stop his features twisting into a pained grimace as a sudden bout of nausea hit him.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked quickly, reaching out. "Here, let me-

"Just leave me be!" he snarled, attempting to rise from the couch, but the fuzziness in his head wouldn't allow it. "For fuck's sake-

"It's the magic," she sighed, shuffling a little closer to him across the cushions. Maybe too close. "Let me finish healing you-

"I don't think so-

"I won't touch the Mark," she offered with a meek shrug. "I swear, I won't even mention it. As I said, what happens here remains between us."

Had it not been for the biting prickles still swimming beneath his skin, a wonderful insult would be tumbling out of his mouth by now Instead, he cautiously surrendered his arm to her again, careful to keep his features hard so she wouldn't allow herself to believe he was at all comfortable with it. Her fingers were on him again; lulling little caresses that seemed to linger across his fine hairs like static. True to her word, she kept her reaction indifferent as she pushed his sleeve back up, careful to keep her wand and eyes away from the black stain.

The lip-chewing witch was doing everything she could to ignore the Dark Mark, but she would swear she could feel it glowering at her; judging her Muggle heritage and her loyalty to the Phoenix. She half-sealed her eyes and took a deep breath, catching a breeze of Malfoy's scent. It was different now, no longer cider-sweet from his apple diet, but masculine and refined. There was a hint of that new book smell she'd always found appealing, and a dash of her minty soap, that merged perfectly with his earthy, male spice. It was nice...

"Okay," Hermione mumbled somewhat breathlessly, lowering her wand and releasing his arm. "I think that's it."

"Good," he breathed, finding his arm suddenly felt rather cold without her touch.

"How do you feel?" she asked, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "Any dizziness or-

"No," he lied bitterly, steeling himself with the meagre scraps of his dignity to leave the couch. He put everything he had into making his movements as fluid as possible, and was almost safely inside his room when Granger's voice stalled him. Merlin forbid she leave him in peace.

"Malfoy," she called him, a nervous scratch to her voice. "Can I...Can I ask you something before you go?"

He cursed his curiosity to the other side and back as he leaned his shoulder against the wall and shot her a fierce glare. "Make it quick, Granger."

"Well," she murmured with obvious reservations. "Do you remember when you first came here and you asked how I felt about you? And I said-

"You had a rant about how much you despised me," he finished impatiently, rolling his eyes. "Yes, so?"

"But I...I said just now that I didn't hate you," Hermione continued, fidgeting anxiously. "That hate was a strong word-

"Bloody hell," he growled through connected teeth. "This pointless memory exercise better have a point. Get on with it, Granger!"

"How do you feel about me now?" she asked in a staccato rush, unable to look at him. "I you still hate me?"

His eyes were a stormy mix of agitation and confusion that made her feel just that little bit more idiotic. The question seemed to ring in his ears and stir memories of his obsession with her showers, and the almost civil talks that they'd accidentally stumbled into as of late. Did he hate her? Yes, just not in the same way. He hated her now for confusing him and screwing with his predefined perceptions of her. He hated her because she had somehow become borderline tolerable, but he hated her most because she made him think; made him question himself.

"Do I hate you?" he repeated with a flawless patronising snarl. "More and more each day."

He didn't wait to witness her reaction and barged his way into his room, just managing to reach his bed before he collapsed with still-struggling muscles. He brought his hand up to his eyes and inspected it, one again acknowledging that Granger had done a decent job with fixing a wound. His skin was unblemished ivory again; but he would swear he could still feel an unnatural buzz across his wrist and palm.

It wasn't like the crawling sting from McGonagall's wards, but more...more like the pleasant remains of Granger's soothing fingers...

It was a ridiculous and dangerous notion, and he balled his fists and slammed them into the mattres with a revolted grunt.

He'd been wrong; this was what he loathed most about her. She was polluting him like a blissful virus, infecting him inch by inch; sense by sense. He went through the motions in his head, listing her invasion of his senses. First it had been her smell, closely followed by her shower sounds. And then his eyes had come to acknowledge that she wasn't the ugly Muggle-spawn she was supposed to be. And now, he could feel her; her touch across his skin and her essence still waltzing in his veins from the day on the bathroom floor.

That was four; smell, sound, sight and touch. What was the fifth?

Oh yes. Taste.

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