“Here you go Malfoy,” Hermione put on a smile as she tossed his new wooden cane onto his bed.

He glanced up from his propped up position on his fluffy four poster bed and lowered his eyes immediately. “You needn’t look so pleased that I’ll be using a stick to get around for the rest of my life.”

She decided it was best not to tell him that eventually he wouldn’t be using the ‘stick’ at all. In fact, he wouldn’t be able to move without causing himself intense pain. “We all use a stick to get around,” she replied instead, waving her wand about.

He shrunk back, “Watch where you point that thing Granger!”

She’d been spending most of her time at Malfoy Manor for the past three weeks and everyday was as much a struggle as the last. No matter how much you hate the person lying on the bed, you can’t help but pity them. Hermione had almost forgotten the real reason she was assigned to his case; she’d barely done any snooping around the mansion. When it came time to report to her boss what would she say? Granted, her boss was Harry, but still. She valued professionalism.

In the last week she’d done a bit of exploring and hadn’t found a thing. She constantly reminded herself that was a good thing but somehow she felt like it was her job to find something, anything, that would condemn the Malfoys. If she did find anything though, what would she do? Get the Malfoys kicked out of their own home when their son was dying and fast?

Life had become complicated and complications had always frazzled Hermione’s nerves. Even Malfoy had started to notice.

“What’s been with you lately Granger? You try to give me the wrong sort of potion that even I know is only good for getting rid of a cold…you keep looking at me like,” he paused, “like you don’t hate me.” He rubbed his hands together as if cold. “What’s with that?”

Hermione simply replied, “Don’t worry Malfoy. I still hate you…I’m just a bit distracted.”

“Well,” he said, “it must be something big if it’s distracting you from hating me.”

“It is,” she said and then thought, it’s you dying that’s distracting me.

That night there was a big storm, and, after Flooing Ron who told her it was too dangerous for her to Apparate that night, reluctantly settled down to wait it out. Obviously, the Malfoys were less than happy about their new guest and so she’d had to go about transfiguring things into blankets and cushions all the while Draco sniggering at her behind her back.

“I wouldn’t laugh Malfoy,” she said pointedly. “This is probably the first time you’ve had a guest in years.”

He looked away and out the window. She’d apparently hurt his feelings, or at least, a Malfoy’s version of feelings. Immediately she regretted saying what she had.

“Look,” she began slowly wondering what she could possibly say to him. “I didn’t mean it.”

“This is pretty much the best day of my life,” he remarked sarcastically. “I get my new cane, and I get insulted by a Mudblood.”

“I wish you’d stop calling me that,” Hermione snapped.

“Right. I thought you were a ‘Mudblood and proud of it,’” he mocked.

“Not when you say it,” she said quietly before she could stop herself.

He paused, surprised. Hermione was just as surprised. What had made her say that? Of course she knew, but why would she let him know? “What?” he asked sharply.

“I don’t know,” she said hurriedly and went back to making her bed.

“I’ll stop calling you that if you’ll tell me what you meant,” he called.

That made Hermione stop. It’d be nice not having to hear that word every day she came in to work. No matter how many times she heard it used, the initial feelings she’d felt that day Malfoy had called her one came flooding back always.

“Alright,” she agreed. “I don’t like it when you call me a Mudblood because it just reminds me of how you thought I was perfect and yet so disgusting all at once and,” the words were coming fast now, “I always wonder what it would have been like if I weren’t a Mudblood in the first place.”

He whistled. “Alright then,” he shook his head. There was several moments of silence. “And the awkwardness ensues,” he commented.

“Are you happy?” she asked, unsettled by his reaction.

He grimaced, “Not exactly. Are you?”

“What do you mean?”

“With Weasleby.”

Hermione didn’t hesitate, “Of course I am. Why would you ask?”

“If you always wondered if I’d have liked you more had you not been of the filthy blood you are…you can’t be completely satisfied,” he replied shrugging.

Hermione spluttered, “At least I have someone!”

“At least I never settled,” he said in a slightly softer tone.

A moment’s pause.

“And the awkwardness begins again,” he said, rolling over.

The lightning crashed and the thunder shook the house. It was clear neither of them would be getting much sleep that night. Hermione thrashed about it her homemade bed thinking about all that had been said. It was so unsettling that she doubted she could have fallen asleep in silence. She argued with herself repeatedly. Of course she loved Ron…more than anything! But if she wanted to be honest with herself, she knew she’d always wondered what it would’ve been like had she not been a Muggleborn.

“Merlin Granger!” Draco shouted over another thunder roll. “Go to sleep already!”

“I’m too scared you’ll murder me in my sleep,” she replied from the floor.

There was a pause and then, “We all know I’m an awful murderer Granger.” She knew he was referring to the time when he’d tried to kill Dumbledore and had failed miserably.

“Look,” he said shifting about to face her. “You can sleep here, and I’ll go sleep…somewhere else.” Hermione studied his face. There had to be some hidden motive behind this sudden gesture of kindness. Maybe…he was too uncomfortable to be sleeping the same room with her.

“Alright,” she shrugged. He got up and pulled the covers off grabbing his new cane as he went.

“Handy, this,” he rolled his eyes and he got used to the feel of the wood in his hand. He took a few childlike steps across the room and into the hall. Hermione got up from her perch and laid down in his now unmade bed.

Nice of him, she thought, as she finally slipped off to sleep without realizing that Malfoy was still standing in the doorway watching her. He sighed, and continued on his way down the dark hallway.

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