In my darkest hour, she found me. Tears streaming down my eyes, sweat sticking my shirt to my chest, my arms trying to hold my weight as I leant against the porcelain rim of the sink.
“Hello?” Her voice came loud and for some unknown reason, I did not even try to hide. I did not care if my reputation, my credibility went out of the window. I just wanted it to stop.
The pain. I knew it was coming. To Voldemort, death was obsolete, old news. Murder was more his style and his wand was moving further in my direction the longer I decided not to act.
Suddenly finding the energy to move, I swept into an empty toilet cubicle and shut the door behind me, determined to stay unknown.
“Go away,” I called through my tears. I wanted to live out the remainder of my existence alone and undisturbed. He would come soon, seeing as that rickety old vanishing cabinet was still in pieces and I had not done a thing to get rid of Dumbledore.
“I’m not here to hassle you. I just wondered if you were alright. I heard you from the other side of the corridor.” She was close now, just beyond the door. Just one thin layer of dead wood between us.
Tears again. They just would not stop. At this rate, I would be soaked through and through. And what was I supposed to say? That I’m fine? That would be an outright lie and she would hear it. Granger would know it.
“What’s happened?” she whispered as I felt her face lean against the outside of the door. “I’m a prefect. I can help.”
I laughed, although, it sounded a bit like a sniffle through the cascade of tears dripping from my eyes. “No one can help me.” I was a prefect too and that wouldn't help me. There she was, using her status to try to get to me. But that was what I did...my blood status was the foundation of my reputation at Hogwarts, now look where it has gotten me...
“You never know,” she said. “Some people find light in the darkest places.” Which fortune cookie did she get that rubbish from?
“Yeah, well, dark places tend to be just that. Darkness. Light can’t exist within it. It’s just consumed, constricted,” I muttered bluntly.
She sighed. “Tears won’t help, you know. It’s always best to talk to someone. A problem shared…”
“Is just put on two shoulders instead of one,” I finished gloomily.
“No,” she said, her voice trailing away. “A problem shared is a problem shared. Even if it isn’t solved, you’ve got a shoulder to lean on should the pressure become too much.”
"Still doesn't solve my problem though, does it?" For this question she had no answer. "Just go. I'll be fine."
"You wouldn't be crying if you were fine, but I'll respect your wishes and leave you alone."
"Thank you." Oh, if she knew who I was...hell, I didn't know who I was because I could not explain why I was being so nice to her. Well, I guess anonymity has its perks.
The next evening, I came back to the bathroom. I do not know why, maybe I was hoping to speak to her again. It was sort of comforting, especially because she did not have a clue who I was, so she was being neutral, fair. Something I would never expect from Granger.
And sure not to disappoint, I heard her enter the bathroom at the same time that she did last night. "Are you here?" she asked.
"I'm here," I muttered.
"Why are you still upset?" she asked me sympathetically.
“There’s no point in me explaining,” I told her. I was sitting on the lid of a toilet seat, staring at the coat hook on the back of the door. She was in the cubicle beside me and I could just make out her small ankles in the darkness.
She shuffled her feet and asked, “Why not?”
I wiped more tears onto the back of my hand and clenched my fist. “It wouldn’t make a difference. I’ve never amounted to anything in my entire life.”
“Surely, you -”
“I never knew it until recently. Only when my time is running out. I’ve spent my whole life satisfying my own selfish needs, trying to be better than everybody else and living up to this expectation. When it all comes down to it, I haven’t done a thing in my life except learnt a few spells and…” What else was there?
She was silent for a while and finally said, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
I nodded at first, but noticed that she could not see me. “Yes.”
“What does she think about…your situation?”
“I don’t even like her. She doesn’t know. But that’s the thing! I’ve got more chance of telling you than her. I can’t stand her. I don’t know why I bother.” Pansy was the bane of my problems at Hogwarts, why would I tell her what was on my mind when she would only tell me to take my mind off it by snogging her senseless - which was not something I relished in doing.
“Maybe to spare her feelings?”
“She hasn’t got any. All that she cares about is marrying into my family for the money.”
“And you’re going to let her?” she asked, appalled.
“I’m not going to live long enough to get married. May as well keep her happy.”
Her sharp intake of breath was enough to startle me. Her feet were frozen still and there was no more noise until -
There we were, two pitiful people in toilet cubicles, crying.
“Why are you…?” I sniffed.
“How can…y-you say that? How can you talk about your life as if it's nothing?” I heard a thud and she grunted. She must have realised that there were no tissues in a disused bathroom. I made that mistake three weeks ago.
“Here.” I pushed my hands into my pocket and held a tissue out just above the floor.
Her small hand grasped mine at first and all I could do was stare at it. When she pulled on the tissue, I had a momentary lapse and did not let go until she laughed weakly and asked for it.
She blew her nose. “No one knows when they’re going to -”
“I do. And don’t cry over me. You’ve got no reason to.”
“Why don’t I call a teacher?”
“I don’t need a teacher,” I moaned. “I’m dealing with it.”
“It doesn’t seem like it.”
“Nothing ever seems as it is. And that’s when things creep up on you. Unexpected things that we have no control over.”
“Tell me what’s going on.”
“You don’t know who I am.”
“And why is that important?” she asked. “You can stay anonymous if you like. I can see that’s what you want.”
“I want to live.”
She just didn’t get it. No matter how much I hate her, hate all of her friends, I’d rather spend the rest of my life in their company than die within a few months.
“You can. Surely...you can prevent it.”
“I could,” I whispered. “But, I won’t.”
“Why? What is it that you’re afraid of?”
She could have asked what I had to do, but instead she finally understood. I could easily break the law and use an Unforgivable, but I didn’t want to.
Pushing my hand through my hair, I whispered, “If I do this, I’ll be in a place I don’t want to be. My whole life will be a waste. So what’s better? Dying now not being worth anything or living life wishing I was dead?”
I wasn’t crying anymore. My voice was clear as day, loud and echoing in the empty spaces around us and very recognisable.
“Malfoy?” she asked.
I did not say a thing or move a muscle. My heart raced.
Her door opened and I saw her feet stop in front of my door. “Is that you?” she asked in awe. Maybe she thought this was funny. A guy like me having a weakness, crying my eyes out to my enemy. But she wasn’t my enemy like she thought. Potter was. It just so happened that she was his best friend.
“So what if it is?” I asked quietly with my hands on my face.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why would I? You would have run for the hills. You would have told everyone what you’d heard.”
“I promise I won’t.”
“And why should I believe you?” I said, almost giving in.
“Open the door,” she commanded. “Come on.”
Trying to suppress my rapid heartbeat, I got to my feet and unlocked the door to see Granger in her dressing gown and looking like crap. Her eyes were red, but she was smiling at me. Apprehensively, her hand touched my arm, then my shoulder. Soon she held me tight. I think this was what they called a hug.
“Pansy wants to marry you?” she asked.
“That’s what she said.”
“And you don’t want to marry her.”
“Who would? She’s annoying. My mother wants me to, but like I said, it’s all irrelevant.”
She pulled away, suddenly realising that she was hugging me, Draco Malfoy.
“Is it him?” Her eyes was watering uncontrollably now.
“Stop it, Granger. Stop acting like you care. You got it right. From day one, you and Potter and Weasley got it all right. I am a death eater,” I yanked on my shirt, holding my left arm in her face. She leaned back, frightened. “Go on, run.” The tears made their millionth appearance on my pale face. “You were right. I’ve been told to do something for him. Something so horrible, I don’t even want to think about it. But, I have a choice. I’m not going to do it, Granger. I’m not going to satisfy people like you who have put me down as nothing other than an evil person. I’m human, Granger. I have feelings. But that doesn’t matter. I’m going to let him kill me, hopefully my mother will get away before he gets her.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but I didn’t want to hear her pathetic excuses. “I know it’s selfish, but what am I supposed to do. Break the law, go to Azkaban or on the run and live life as a fugitive and as a supporter of Voldemort?”
“You can…hand yourself in…to Professor Dumbledore.”
I smiled through the tears. Voldemort would love that, wouldn’t he? Me, running off to the very person I was supposed to be eliminating. What a joke!
She held my hand and it was so warm I closed my eyes. Spending my nights cooped up in this cold bathroom was not healthy for me.
“What do I have to do to change your mind Malfoy? You can’t let him get the better of you.”
“He has! I’m already dead.”
“I am, Granger.” I leaned past her and walked to the door. “There’s nothing you or anyone else can do.”
Her hand clamped around my fingers again and pulled me towards her. I blinked stupidly until her lips touched mine, slightly but securely. Lasting less than a second to her, but lasting a lifetime for me. Who would have thought that Hermione Granger would be the one to bring me back to reality?
I did not and could not do it. As a result, he killed my parents and I was on the brink of suicide again. The only difference was that the Vanishing Cabinet was nearly done and the series of events for tonight had already been set in motion.
I was on my way out of the Room of Requirement when Granger ran to me from the direction of her common room.
“What are you doing?” She asked, panic strung through her voice.
“It’s over. I didn’t do what he wanted and now my parents are dead. What else am I supposed to do? I’m already dead.”
I repeated my statement from a week ago and she stamped her foot down and grunted.
“Don’t do it,” she ordered.
“And how are you going to stop me?” There was nothing she could do but still, this time I was prepared, waiting for another kiss, another plummet back to earth and sanity, but instead came footsteps and the appearance of Potter and Weasley.
“You told them?” I said, hurt. I was fighting hard to keep those tears locked away.
“I had to,” she pleaded, her face set.
“No, you didn’t. You lot had your fun? Laughing about me in your common room?”
“No, we haven’t,” Potter said.
“As much as we’d love to,“ Weasley uttered, “we haven’t. Dumbledore’s waiting for you.”
“What have you done?” I shouted at her. “You have no idea what you’ve done!”
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I began. “They’re -”
They’re coming, I had wanted to say. But she had already pointed her wand at me, sending me smashing onto the ground.
All along, I thought we had an understanding. For goodness sake, she had kissed me! Never in a million years would I have thought that would have happened. Her soft lips merging with my unhealed soul. Broken and fragmented, she had temporarily soothed me. But now, it had torn right back down the middle, especially as I sat in Dumbledore’s office watching her holding hands with Weasley. I knew she could feel my anger. But I didn’t care. I told them all my plan, my mission, my aversions to it and my final decision.
I managed to tell them just in time as the battle began, swarms of death eaters descended upon the castle, wands at the ready as students and teachers were woken up and aurors apparated to our side.
I was ecstatic with the news that Weasley had not made it. But my glee suddenly crouched away when Granger came looking for a shoulder to cry on. No way was that shoulder going to be mine.
"Malfoy..." she said, crying.
"What?" She walked towards me. "Do you expect me to comfort you...like you comforted me?"
"Yes," she said angrily. "Yes! I didn't have to help you!"
"You didn't have to betray me!"
"You told them all, after I trusted you to keep my secret." I left Dumbledore's office with her following me to avoid the curious glares of the portraits on the walls.
"What did you think would happen? You knew who I was when you told me."
"I certainly didn't expect you to kiss me."
She fell silent at this and wiped her eyes. "Neither did I," she whispered.
"So what? Thought you'd lure me in when I was insecure to satisfy your twisted mind? Thought you'd get one over on your longest enemy?"
"No...I thought it'd help."
"Well, you thought wrong, Granger. You've totally messed me up. I'm so confused, even more so than before and you're to blame."
"I never meant to hurt you, Malfoy."
"So you made me think you liked me...just because you could," I whispered.
"Because you deserved it, Malfoy. You've been through so much on your own -"
"Seemed like it was better that way. Being alone..."
"Listen to me, Malfoy. You showed me your vulnerable side, that you're more than just a bully. You-Know-Who used you like you were nothing and now your parents are gone -"
"They're dead, Granger. You can say it. They're dead and it's all my fault."
"You did what you had to do. All of these casualties are not your fault."
"So you don't blame me for Weasley dying?"
She looked down at her shoes. "Of course not. He died to help us all."
"But the death eaters wouldn't have been here if it wasn't for me, Granger." A tear came to my eye and I slid down the wall and put my head in my hands.
"I do not regret kissing you, Draco Malfoy." I stared at her and the weird thing was that she stared back.
"Really?" She nodded and grabbed my hand tight. "You do realise this is me you're talking to?"
"Yes, Draco. You chose to trust me like I chose to kiss you."
"While you were with Weasley?"
"It was hardly an affair. Besides, you needed me more than he did."
"So I suppose you'd kiss any guy that needed your help like I did."
She sighed. "I suppose I would have."
"Even Longbottom?" I whispered.
"Yes, even Neville." She chuckled and more tears fell down onto her rosy cheeks. She sniffled. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for telling. But it was what needed to happen. I would not have wanted you to become a fugitive and you wouldn't have either. You deserve a life."
I blinked slowly. She was right. I deserved to move on from all of this. I had told Professor Dumbledore everything. Things were going to be better.
"So where do we go from here, Granger?"
"Us?" She asked. It was surprising that I didn't flinch or think it absurd for her to couple us together like that. I nodded. "I'd like to hear from you again, Draco, but…I won't be coming back to Hogwarts next year."
"Why not?" There was no doubt that I was disappointed.
"I have to help Harry." I knew what she meant. She was going to be on some dangerous mission, facing Voldemort. "I don't know if we'll survive, but..."
I closed my eyes. "I understand. I'll be here when you get back, Granger."
She smiled and wrapped her arms around me softly while I stared out of the window on the opposite wall. I had used her as a safety base. I trusted her. I even imagined that we could be friends or even more. I often asked myself if I deserved a good person like her. Others like Pansy were perfectly suited for me. The same bloodline. The same amount of fortune and respect and social upbringing. Girls like Pansy were made for me. Obvious matches. But Granger? What if she had not told them? We would have been closer. The possibilities were endless. We could have been friends, lovers, spouses. But that all went once she did the one thing she had promised me she would not do.
If I had stopped in that bathroom a few weeks ago and told her that I wanted her, would we be here today? Would she be begging for forgiveness and moping about Weasley? It was a lie, I didn’t deserve Granger and she didn’t deserve me. Yet we were two pieces of a jigsaw that were never meant to fit, but were pressed so hard together that we were complete even though mismatched.
"Draco..." Granger looked up at me.
"Yes?" I whispered.
And then she did it again. She kissed my lips so softly, I barely felt it physically. However, my soul burned with passion and my stomach flipped in anxiety. Oh, if anyone saw this...it was completely unreal...unfathomable...but so good...
That day, we walked apart after sharing a final kiss in the small confines of the empty corridor, me heading to a lonely life with the girl I deserved, Pansy, while leaving behind my match. I had told her that I would be here when she returned, a complete lie, just to comfort her. There would be no way that we could ever be. No one would accept us and certainly not Potter. I wasn't sure whether I accepted us myself.
But sure enough, Pansy was waiting for me when I parted from Granger. She was in the common room, crying about the battle, and me, being the fool, let her weep in my arms.
I deserved to love, but chose to move on and remember that not everything is black and white. Not everything is as it seems. Granger proved that when she kissed me, and I proved it, by walking away from her when she needed me most, doing the same thing that she did to me.
The same thing that tore me apart.
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