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The Serpent’s Son, Part Two


Hold the light given unto you
Find the love to unfold
In this broken world we choose
Shine by Vienna Teng



The rain made Draco feel wretched. His black silk shirt was already clinging to his skin, and his hair was flat against his cheeks and neck, showing just how easy it was to make anyone look like a wet rat. Draco wiped his mouth and eyes with the back of his hand, trembling from the cold.

He tried not to be angry.

Hermione had sneaked out without anyone realising it, disappearing like a ghost from their strategy meeting, the first one she had participated since Lucius had restored her mind.

It had been only three weeks, but it felt longer. She was still struggling.

There were only a few places where she would go, and he knew all of them. He would find her. And as though guessing how violently frustrated he was, she came in sight. She was crouching by the lake, holding a huge black umbrella, staring into the darkness. She looked like a small, miserable mushroom.

"Hermione." His voice was low and raw, trying to reach a note that would tell her that she shouldn't be afraid of him. He wasn't able to convince himself, though. He wanted to strangle her for scaring them all.

She didn't turn to face him nor did she stand up, but her words were clear and strong. "You should've stayed. I'm... fine."

He let out a sigh of relief as he walked slowly towards her. Everything was all right. "I didn't want to. I don't like to be in the same room with him... with Father," he said, stopping a few feet away from her, glancing at her, hugging himself for warmth.

"I know. You could've stayed anyway."

Why should he? He didn't know anything about how to seal the Dark Mark, and he couldn't even be helpful with the Book of Dreams.

Besides, Draco didn't want any of that. He wanted this.

"You'll catch a cold," Hermione said from under her umbrella.

He gave her a small smile, slightly pleased by her concern. "I'll manage."

It took her a long while to say anything after that, and he didn't try to make empty conversation just to break the silence. He knew her, the way she moved. It was easier to let her lead.

Draco didn't care that his teeth were clattering, or that his fingers had started to feel numb long before he had found Hermione. He wasn't even wearing his robes, the cold sneaking beneath his thin shirt and trousers. At least Hermione had been wise enough to take her cloak with her.

"Do you..." Hermione paused, pulling at the grass with her free hand. "Can we win?"

He remembered the time when Harry had used that very same tone, right there in that very same spot, asking if Hermione would survive. He hadn't quite reassured Harry then. There was definitely something wrong with these people, these Gryffindors, asking him all these strange questions he had no answers for.

"Of course," he finally said, his voice carrying a hint of cheerful sarcasm. "Don't you know that Good always conquers Evil, and the Prince always gets the Princess?"

Hermione looked up, her eyes glinting. "What about the Wizard?" she asked. "Does he always get the Witch?"

"Always."

She lowered her gaze quickly, but it didn't stop him from catching her expression. She had smiled, and there had been something playful in her eyes. Like before. He hadn't seen that in a long while.

"Draco?"

"Hmm?"

She stood, her hair escaping from behind her ears. She wiped it aside with nervous, lingering fingers . "Come under here," she said, lifting her umbrella a bit. "You'll get sick and then Harry will kill you. He needs you."

It was true, Draco knew. He had started helping Harry with the meetings of Dumbledore's Army, and it hadn't taken him long to realise that Harry really didn't have any people skills. The boy had nearly got himself killed when he had suggested that the Slytherins should practise dueling with the Hufflepuffs. Gregory had laughed, thinking that it was a joke. At that point, Blaise had decided that it would be wise to stun Theodor before he blew up. It hadn't been pretty after that. At least they had managed to get some real training then, fighting each other like crazed manticores.

It must have come as a surprise to some people that Draco was the people person and Harry the dumb muscle. Draco liked the arrangement.

But it wasn't Harry whose needs were Draco's concern now. He wanted to ask if she needed him as well. She was offering him her shelter, though. Maybe that meant something.

He took the umbrella from her hand and moved to stand close to her. She was so small, tiny even. She hadn't been outside much after Lucius' miracle cure. It had all been very gradual and slow, and Draco hated it. He wanted her to stop being fragile. It would make everything easier for all of them. The war was already there, the armies fighting each other. Soon, Hogwarts would be the next battle ground. Dumbledore had sent the younger children home, only sixth and seventh years were staying, their efforts crucial in the fight against madness and terror.

Draco felt like he was holding a card house, waiting for the moment when everything would fall apart. It was frustrating. They had Hermione back, but she was still just a shadow of her former self.

"Have you ever thought what would have happened if Peter Pettigrew hadn't betrayed Harry's parents?" Hermione spoke with a wistful voice, sounding distant but pleasant. "Would all this be Voldemort's now? Or could the first Order have won? Why do we have to be the ones to solve this old mess?"

"Hermione," Draco said, amused, "you tend to forget that I've been your friend for less than four months. I don't think about past things. I'm barely able to think about the present with all that's happened."

Again, she glanced at him, something resembling a smile tugging at her lips. "I do forget," she said, sounding a bit surprised. "You seem so permanent in my life now."

In a way, Draco could see why Hermione would ask such questions. Why she would be frustrated about history following them and demanding them to take care of things that were left behind by others. It shouldn't have been their fight at all. But it was possible that every generation felt the same way.

"I'm tired, too," he finally admitted. "I don't want any of this. None of us want this." He paused, breathing quietly, thinking. It wasn't easy to put things into words. "But that's never the way it goes. We get the kind of cards we get, and we'd better learn to play with them. Perhaps learn to cheat a bit as well. That's life."

Hermione hugged herself tightly, clearly pondering his words. "Have you tried to contact your mother?" she said quietly, leaning to his side a little.

"No." It was the word that ended all conversation. He didn't want to talk about his mother. He still missed her letters, gifts, words. She was gone now, somewhere beyond salvation.

Hermione leaned a bit closer still, placing her hand in the crook of his arm. "I think you should." The words were hushed now, holding too much emotion.

It was always she who managed to either balance him or push him over the edge. She was all the extremities of his life. She was everything, affecting him in ways that had never been possible before. It was hard to be that close to her and not react, her strawberry smell all over him, tingling his senses. He wanted to reach out and touch her jaw, that beautiful line, the soft skin. He wanted to, but didn't. Couldn't.

"Please don't push it." He had learned to say things aloud before they would spiral out of control. He was learning to be a normal person, someone who didn't have other people inside their head and didn't snap every time something annoying happened. He was trying. She seemed to notice that.

Hermione shrugged, a gesture of indifference, yet it seemed to say: "I understand."

Draco sighed. She was right, though. He should try to contact his mother. There was a possibility that she would come to her senses if she heard that her husband was all right and that her son was doing just fine. It didn't matter that the Manor was gone. It shouldn't matter. The flames didn't eat her sanity.

"Would you like to walk a bit?" She sounded almost breathless when she spoke. Did he still have that effect on her?

"Why not."

Out of habit, they found their way back to the castle, but Hermione didn't seem to want to go inside yet so they continued to walk further until they reached the old graveyard. The gravestones were covered with moss, the carvings almost unreadable.

"Are they all old staff members?" Hermione asked, sliding her had against one of the stones.

Draco shrugged. "I guess so."

She was quiet for a moment as though contemplating her next words, and then she shifted slightly, watching him directly. "Are you afraid to die, Draco?"

The question made him want to laugh. It was so ridiculous, coming from Hermione. She wasn't this kind of a person. She wasn't this scared little girl. She was a fighter. Yet, the answer was very simple, and she seemed to need it. "No. I'm afraid to live."

"Why?" Her eyes were wide, questioning.

"Hermione... listen. All I do is suffer. All I know is... this." He pulled his sleeve up, showing his mangled skin, the dark mark that wasn't really real. "I've never really experienced anything until this year with you. I've been a shell, a ghost. I've never had these... feelings. You changed me and however cliché that might sound, it's true. You transformed me. And I've only lived like this for a few months, and during those months, I've only been hurt. At the moment, I have no idea how to live."

"But... but... Draco, you seem like you can handle anything. You're helping Harry with the DA. You're a part of the War Room circle. You've helped me more than it's possible. If that's not good living, I don't know what is." She paused, hanging her head. "I've felt so weak beside you."

Draco stared at her, unable to speak. She couldn't be serious. There was nothing special about him. He was doing all that just to distract himself from thinking. He had almost lost Hermione. He had almost lost himself. Everything was in ruins. It was impossible for all of them to survive the war. It just wasn't their school anymore. It wasn't their childhood. It was just a grown-up world where nothing felt solid anymore.

He had no words for her.

As they walked back towards the castle, Draco thought about the past weeks, thought about Hermione and her unyielding will to push through her demons, back to the life she knew, back to the people she loved. Amadeus had said that they had Draco to thank for her quick recovery. He had kept her connected to her true self, sharing his strength when she most needed it. In a way, he had saved her even though it was Lucius Malfoy who had returned her ability to exist in the world.

"Would you like to practise wandless?" she asked, looking awfully sweet all of a sudden.

The professors hadn't allowed her to return to normal classes yet, but she had their permission to practise wandless magic with Draco. She had been reading like crazy, trying to catch up with everyone. The NEWTs were approaching, and she still didn't remember everything. The only thing that kept her mind at ease was the Colour of Magick. She enjoyed those practise sessions, and she was good. It didn't matter that she had been gone for months. For some reason, she was now stronger than ever.

Draco nodded, smiling. Hermione was actually better than him. At some point of his life, he might have hated that. Now, he merely felt eager to see her beating him again, pushing him to the edge and beyond, challenging. She didn't seem fragile then.

They arrived to the room that was reserved for the seventh-years only; anyone younger couldn't enter. Amadeus, the house-elf, was now helping Harry with the Ancient Magick classes, and this was their practise room for it. It was theirs at all times.

The room was almost full, everyone working on their wandless spells, trying to rule the Colour of Magick, to bend it to their will. It didn't matter that it was dark outside, that all the other students were getting ready for bed. The attack against the school had made them realise that they weren't safe anywhere.

The best way to survive was to know how.

Hermione set her umbrella against the wall, removed her cloak, and tied her hair with a blue ribbon. Then she took her wand out, drying Draco's cloths and hair. "Don't get sick, okay?" she said, that sweet expression still on her face. Her school robes were almost dry, but her shoes were muddy, leaving dirt all over the floor. She removed them, too, standing there, her red socks brilliant against the grey floor.

Draco smothered a grin, taking off his shoes and then beckoning her to follow him to the middle of the room. It was void of furniture, only seven torches lighting the room. Shadow and light played with them as they circled one another, waiting, trying to predict what the other would do.

Their way of learning to use the Colour of Magick differed from others. They used the magic against one another, fighting, carefully planning attacks, pushing the other further, demanding a quick response. Hermione hadn't known any wandless spells before they started training, but Draco had. Now the tables had turned. She was ruthless, quick-witted and creative. He had to follow her lead, every time.

Her expression still betrayed her, though. He knew when she was going to strike. He was able to avoid her stunning spell and send a quick fireball at her, but she easily stopped it with water. He had to shield himself now, because her eyes were cold and determined, her stance low. She would send something nasty at him. Even with his shield up, he couldn't stop the blow. It was as though a hammer had just struck him square in the stomach, sending him flying through the air. He landed hard on the floor, back aching, but he didn't have any time to lie there. Otherwise she would win, too fast, too easy.

Draco rolled further away from her, gathering his strength, trying to breathe. She had knocked him down. What was that spell? He tried to think, tried to remember spells, but nothing came to his mind. He tried the Jelly-Leg curse, but she just wiped it away, approaching quickly, almost running. But this time, everything was somehow different; she was different. He would win. She was letting anger control her, and that was never good. He stopped in his tracks, staring, letting his wickedness show on his face. He could break her defenses.

Without a warning, he launched himself at her, twisting her around in one quick motion and pulling her against his chest, whispering in her ear: "Petrificus Totalus." She went rigid in his arms, but the sheer fury in her eyes almost scared him stiff, too. Hermione didn't like losing. She had been a sore loser before, but now, she strived to win. Always.

He could feel her pushing against the binding magic. She was trying to break it. "Stop that. You know we're not that far yet." He breathed against her neck and hair, chest rising and lowering fast. "Will you behave if I let you go?"

The blinding rage eased within her, and Draco could feel her surrender even though her body couldn't move to show it in anyway. They were so close, minds almost melting, thoughts mingling. He ended the spell, and for the shortest moment, she leaned back, head resting against his shoulder. Then she pulled away, silently demanding him to let go, and he did, his movements slow and careful.

"That was... nice," she said, not looking at him. "I lost."

"You did."

She still didn't turn to face him. "Why?" It was a shallow breath, almost not a word at all.

Draco tried to read the way she held her head, the tired lines of her shoulders, the way she kept picking at the sleeve of her robes. What did she need? "You always pause when the rhythm changes. When I stopped, you still expected me to run. You weren't ready."

Hermione shifted nervously, uncomfortable and annoyed. Draco continued to talk, his eyes glued to the small figure in front of him. "I tricked you. It was a cloak; you saw me move slower than I actually did. You thought you had time for a counter-strike."

"Well..." she began, but then didn't finish.

"Would you like to practise other spells? Levitation? Transfiguration?"

"No!" she said harshly, and then with a softer tone added, "I'm tired, Draco. Just... let it be."

She moved gracefully across the room, ignoring the stares she received from the fellow students. They missed her, but didn't quite know how to respond to her. She was still a bit reserved although she appreciated their concern. Four months was a long time to be gone from a society as small as Hogwarts.

The Slytherins greeted Draco as he walked by, but he only nodded to them absentmindedly, his eyes following Hermione. She was unpredictable, demanding constant vigilance from her friends. She was rarely left alone, and today was Draco's watch day.

Hermione sat down on a bench by the door and reached for her shoes, her movements somehow slow and thoughtful. She stayed bent like that for awhile, drawing circles on the floor with a forefinger, her chin resting against her right knee. Draco sat next to her, not too close but not too far either. They had learned her limits over the past few weeks. She wanted closeness more than anything, but she couldn't accept it easily.

"Is the meeting ever going to end?" she asked, lifting her gaze. "I want to see Ron again."

There were times when she didn't let Ron out of her sight, when she wanted to hold on to his hand, keep him close so she could be sure that he was still alive. She sometimes woke up screaming, not calming down until Ron came to the Hospital Wing and assured her that everything was all right.

It frustrated Draco even though he tried very hard not to be so petty. Maybe he didn’t matter that much after all. Maybe something had died before it could even begin. He didn’t want to know; he didn’t want to ask..

“Dumbledore said that they’re close to cracking the riddle,” he finally commented. “I guess Amadeus managed to find something through the tests he’s been running. I don’t know. I don’t really care.”

Hermione watched him closely. “He’s been teaching me, you know.”

“What?” He thought he knew everything that concerned Hermione. Apparently he was wrong. It felt like a slap to his face.

She bowed her head, still drawing circles on the floor. “Meditation, concentration, all that. It’s what saved him so he thinks it might save me.”

“Oh.” That was good. Why did it feel so horrible then?

“He’s actually a nice person. I didn’t know. I thought… I judged him unfairly.” She was speaking quietly, more to herself than to him. “Did you know that Grindelwald was a friend of his father? All those years ago, when they were young, when Dumbledore was young… I can’t even imagine him being young.” Her eyes were full of mirth as she glanced at Draco. “He’s been telling stories to me, and I’m not entirely sure which ones to believe. I think he’s lying just to cover how crazy he’s been.”

“What did he tell you?” Draco asked despite himself.

“That they’re con artists, that they use Muggles for their own advantage, that they have people in the government as well… It’s just not very believable. But I take bits and pieces and try to form a complete puzzle.”

“I believe almost anything about him. Really. He’s insane.”

Hermione shook her head. “Not anymore. Something changed when they visited his homeland. I think he went through some kind of a ritual, something he didn’t do when his father died, when he became the clan leader. It put him together. Somehow. I think.”

“I just don’t understand why he changed his mind about helping us. Why should he help us?” Draco said, so he wouldn't think about Hermione not telling him that Amadeus was teaching her.

“Same reason why you’re helping us. Nothing’s carved in stone. You can choose whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s that simple.” She smiled, her expression almost coy when she turned to look at him. “Can we go somewhere private?” she then asked, her words soft and quiet.

Draco’s mind went completely blank. For a moment he couldn’t even remember how to form words. He didn’t want to ask any stupid questions, didn’t want to know what she meant. He just wanted.

He stood, waiting for her to take his hand, and when she did, he led the way out of the practise room. He could feel his hands shaking a little and hoped she wouldn’t notice.

“Have I ever told you that I love the view from up here?” she asked when they reached his room, the one reserved for Slytherin Head Boys. “When I was little I imagine being a princess held captive in a tower room.” She looked sheepish when she said that. “And I was always expecting a dragon to come save me from that tower. I think I had somehow misinterpreted the fairy tales.”

Draco laughed, walking behind her, looking over her shoulder at the view from the window. The rain had stopped, but the world was still grey. He loved the view anyway.

She turned around, tilting her head a bit, looking at him. “I’m pretty sure you feel the same way, otherwise I’m going to make a massive fool out of myself, but... I don’t care.” She took hold of his arms and raised on tiptoes, leaning close. “Just… kiss me, please,” she whispered, closing her eyes.

He could feel her shaking a little, like she was afraid, too. It should have probably felt like a dream, something that wasn’t happening, but it didn’t. Everything was very clear, sharp even. He could see her, feel her, and somehow that fear didn’t feel real anymore. He moved a little, angling his head just right, touching her lips lightly.

The sharp intake of breath told him that despite of her courage she had still expected rejection. He smiled against her mouth, deepening the kiss just because he could. It felt amazing to finally have the permission to touch her, to taste her. She felt perfect against him, her small frame fitting in his arms like it had always meant to be there. He wanted to laugh at that thought because nothing about them was meant to be. She was just stubborn enough to fight through all his defenses, to change their destinies.

She curled her hands against the silk of his shirt, clinging to him, pulling him closer, her mouth feverish against his own.

Draco loved her eagerness, loved the small ways in which she showed how much she wanted this, craved for this. And somehow he knew how to make her want it even more. He grabbed the back of her neck, fingers tangling in her hair, holding her still. The perfect control it gave him made him feel dizzy and short of breath, and he could feel her lean against him for support, shivering a little.

He moved, pushing her towards the bed, and when they reached it he lifted her easily in his arms and laid her on the bed, smiling down at her. He wanted to say something, anything that would reveal how long he had wanted this, how much he actually loved to see her like that, lying on top of his bed, eyes half-open, lips quivering.

She was beautiful, and he had no words.

Moving very slowly, he crawled on top of her, his eyes never leaving hers. He rested most of his weight on his hands on either side of her shoulders, straddling her hips. She moved beneath him, arching her back, touching his face, chest, arms, her hands searching, exploring, not afraid at all. He just watched her, unwilling to move because he wanted it to last forever. This was the one thing he didn't want to lose, the one thing he didn't want to mess up. The most important thing.

He kissed her again, letting go some of the control he had over himself, letting her scent and the little desperate sounds she was making affect him. It wasn't easy. He didn't know who he would be and how he would react if he didn't hold on to the reins of his mind. But he wanted her, he wanted to love her, he wanted to show her how precious she was to him, how much he had never loved anyone else but her.

Hermione pushed her chin down, forcing their mouths to separate. Draco kissed the tip of her nose, waiting for her words.

"Draco," she whispered, "I don't mind. I love you the way you are. I love the person you were and I love the person you're now. I love that little boy, too. I don't mind."

A part of him wanted to deny it, wanted to tell her that she was wrong, but he knew it was futile. She could read his mind even before the Colour of Magick. He would always be open to her in someways, parts of him clear in view no matter how much he tried to hide them.

He leaned his forehead against hers. "I know."

Hermione grasped the back of his neck, snaking her hand under his shirt. "Then have faith in me. I can take you."

Draco tried to calm his breathing, tried to calm his frantic mind, but couldn't. She was everything. He kissed her with the desperate mix of want and love and need that he held inside him. She was it. Everything.

He held her as close as possible, loving every inch of her being, showing what he couldn't say, giving away everything that he had inside. He knew it was too much, he knew Hermione could feel it, could taste it, could see it in his eyes, and it was too much, but she could still take it.

And they weren't perfect. They were broken, just mere shards of the people they could have been, but together, they were whole. In that moment, he knew that he could never love anyone else.

He found her hand, entwining their fingers, burying himself into her, all thoughts gone for now. She held her breath, eyes open and black with desire, and all he could do was kiss her.

When he could focus again he found it absolutely adorable that Hermione had fallen asleep, that she could feel so safe with him despite of everything. He stroked her hair and arm, lying on his side, watching her. She was sleeping on her stomach, a peaceful expression on her face. He wanted all that to be forever. He couldn't even imagine losing her. He would rather die than see that happening.

After what felt like half an hour, she stirred, looking at him, smiling. "Hi," she said, moving a little so she could hug him.

"I love you," he whispered against her neck and hair. "Please don't ever die." Draco hadn't meant to say it aloud, none of it, but especially the last part. It was obsessive and crazy and utterly humiliating.

Hermione laughed a little, her body shaking in his arms. "I'm Superwoman. Nothing can break me. I promise to become very old and grey and ugly. We shall see if you love me then."

Draco pulled her even closer, kissing her cheeks and nose and neck, biting her earlobe, before whispering, "I'll love you when you don't have any teeth left."

"Ewww!" She hit his chest playfully, and he rolled them over, moving to lie on top of her, kissing her.

"But really," he said, breathless again, "I don't want anyone else. Ever."

Hermione looked him in the eye, licking her lips before saying, "Are you... Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me? Is that... Are you telling... What?"

He kissed her again, sucking on her lower lip lightly, his full weight crushing her beneath him now. "Yes," he simply said, not explaining, not daring to do so.

"Really? For real?" She looked so surprised he wanted to mock her a little, but instead he bit her jaw and then kissed it gently.

"Yes."

"Are you... proposing?"

"If you say yes." He had to close his eyes because he didn't want to see the look in her eyes. Maybe she would say yes, but maybe she would just think that he was insane and they were too young and everything had just begun and... He stayed quiet. He didn't even dare to exhale.

"Draco?"

"Hmm..."

"I'm not sure if you understood it clearly, but when I said that I love you, I meant it." She touched his cheek tentatively. "Do you have any idea how easy it is to love you. You try so hard. That's enough. I want this. I don't want anything else either. I want you."

He blinked, his eyes burning. He buried his face in her neck, biting it, licking a trail from there to her ear. He wanted to say something, but didn't know what or how to say it. "I'm not a good person," he said quietly, trying not to fall apart.

"Yes, you are," she said vehemently. "You are. You chose. That's enough. You're enough."

"You sure?"

"I'm going to kick your bloody whiny arse if you don't shut up soon." She mimicked Snape's low drawl and even managed to snarl a bit like him. Draco laughed, loving her a little bit more.

"Okay. I will."

Hermione pushed at his shoulders then, trying to see his face. He let her push him off her and on his back as she moved on her side, watching him, drawing circles on his stomach. "Can I have a wedding?" she blurted out, and he could feel the happiness pump through his veins, filling him, making his heart beat faster. She wanted him.

"You can have anything," he said, catching her hand, stilling it against his stomach.

"Can I have this ring?" she asked next, showing him the magical ring circling her thumb, the one she had forgotten to return to him.

Draco smiled at her. "If you want it."

"Oh, I want it. I want you. Oh, can I tell everyone? Can I tell Harry and Ron? Can I tell my mother?" She was suddenly so excited her excitement burst through the Colour of Magick rendering him breathless and speechless. He had never made anyone so happy. "I love you. I've loved you forever. I can't even remember when I fell in love with you. Before the Guardians, I think. I saw you through the Colour of Magick. I could always see you, but you didn't want to see yourself. You... You are so dear to me." She hugged him tightly, pushing her right hand under him, wrapping her arms and legs around him. "Can I have you always? I want to keep you."

"You can keep me," he whispered, hoping that they would both survive the war, that they could have a normal life, that it would last and nothing could ever come between them. "You can keep me."



TBC...


A/N: There will be an epilogue for this story. After that it's finished. I do hope you enjoyed this chapter. To me it was very personal and I loved writing these two. The epilogue will be posted after the site accepts updates again.

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