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Hermione looked around the room, which was arranged like an old fashioned study with a dark leather sofa, roaring fireplace, and tall bookshelves. "What were you picturing when you opened the door?" She asked Draco.

“I dunno, I just figured since you and I were always reading the same books, we might like somewhere to read them.” Draco said, with a shrug.

Of course the shrug reminded Hermione that she was still being carried, something she wasn’t used to at all. She hadn’t ever really had a boyfriend, and being on the tall side meant that her guy friends didn’t pick her up and joke around with her the way some boys did. She had even passed up Harry height wise back in year 6, and she was just about as tall as Ron. Draco though, was quite a bit taller than her, and didn’t seem to have any trouble carrying her. 

“That was nice of you,” she said, turning to face him.

“Thanks.” Draco said, sucking in his breath; her face was just inches from his, he could smell her shampoo. Get a grip Malfoy, put her down. He chastised himself, as he set Hermione carefully on the sofa. 

“Thanks,” She said, blushing a bit.

“Don’t mention it,” Draco said, suddenly wishing he had asked the room to give him more than just the one couch so he could but some space between himself and Hermione. Instead he sat on the opposite end and tried to distract himself with a new subject. “So what drove you to drink, Granger?”

Hermione growled at him. “Nothing ‘Drove me to Drink’ Malfoy, we went to the Hogs Head and Aberforth gave us a shot on the house. It would have been rude to refuse.”

“We being?” Draco pressed.

“Hmm? Oh, um, Ginny, Luna, Neville, and I… and then we met Harry and Ron when we got there.” Hermione explained.

“Two Aurors and a bunch of students at the Hogs Head?” Draco laughed, “Old Aberforth must have been thrilled.” 

“He pretends to dislike us, but he’s part of the Order of the Phoenix, so he doesn’t really mind.” Hermione explained. “That’s why he gave us the drinks, as a thanks.”

“Aberforth?! Hog’s Head Aberforth, is a member of the Order?” Draco looked dumbstruck. “No wonder we could never shut down Potter Watch, our people had half their meetings in the Hogs Head. Merlin, who could have picked that one?” 

“What do you mean, of course Aberforth is in the Order.” Hermione laughed. “His brother started the whole thing.”

“What?” Draco was confused. “Who’s his brother?

“Dumbledore.” Hermione said, with a shrug.

“Aberforth Dumbledore.” Draco laughed. “Well, we never stood a chance, did we?”

“No you didn’t.” Hermione said, “But not because of Aberforth. Well, a little because of Aberforth.”

Draco watched Hermione for a moment, appraising her. She had alcohol on her breath, but it wasn’t just because she’d felt like drinking. A fellow solider had bought her a drink. 

“What?” Hermione asked.

“Nothing, I just… you read about things like that, soldiers buying each other drinks, and you expect it to be some old man at the end of a bar telling war stories.” Draco said sadly, “Instead it’s a teenage girl with ringlets who can’t hold her liquor.”

“I can hold my liquor.” Hermione rolled her eyes.

“You clearly can’t!” Draco teased. “One drink does not an alcoholic make!”

“Well I had two drinks!” Hermione argued. “Neville bought us a second round!”

“Longbottom?” Draco looked flabbergasted.

“Yes, he said that soon enough we’d all be back in DADA class, bored out of our minds waiting for you lot to catch up, so we might as well enjoy ourselves.” Hermione explained, leaving out the bit about them teasing her for having a crush on Draco.

“Yeah, how does Longbottom know how to do a Patronus Charm?” Draco questioned.

Hermione grinned. “Well you know that club you helped Umbridge break up in Fifth Year?”

Draco nodded. “Yes, you lot were all helping Dumbledore undermine Umbridge.” 

“Not even close.” Hermione giggled. “It was a secret Defense class. Harry taught us.”

“Seriously?” Draco laughed out loud. “Boy did my father underestimate you lot.”

“Well, Umbridge wasn’t letting us use defensive spells.” Hermione explained. “What did she expect, Riddle had just come back.” 

Draco pondered that for a minute. “Why do you call him Riddle?”

“Who, Tom?” Hermione clarified, “Well, that’s his name. Tom Riddle.”

“No one else calls him that.” Draco pointed out. “Everyone calls him the Dark Lord, or You-Know-Who, or Voldemort.”

“Well, once you know where he came from, and what his real name is… it seems rather absurd to call him anything else.” Hermione pointed out. “Although you can tell a lot about a person by what they called him.”

“How do you mean?” Draco asked.

“Well, you for example.” Hermione pointed out.

“Me?” Draco asked, nervously.

“Sure.” Hermione continued. “You call him the Dark Lord. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you refer to him otherwise. Which is logical, because you were raised in a pureblood household, your parents are Death Eaters, you’re a Death Eater.”

Draco looked uncomfortable, but Hermione continued. “People from the Order, they called him Voldemort. They obviously wouldn’t call him the Dark Lord, because they were fighting against him. And of course, there were all the people caught in the middle, and just trying to stay alive, they called him You-Know-Who. The Death Eaters didn’t call him that because they revered him, the Order didn’t call him that out of pride.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you call him Riddle.” Draco pointed out.

“I suppose, I call him Riddle because Harry calls him Riddle.” Hermione explained. “When your entire existence revolves around one other person, you tend to talk about them rather a lot. I’ve spent most of my life helping Harry defeat Riddle, one way or another. A year in a tent on the run with nothing else to do but discuss how to beat him, I guess I just picked up Harry’s habit.”

Hermione, then rather inexplicably, laughed out loud.

“What?” Draco asked, confused.

“Well, it’s probably what kept us alive for so long.” Hermione laughed. “We didn’t know about the jinx on his name. We just… never said it.”

“So how’d the snatchers catch you lot then?” Draco asked. “I thought they said that you tripped the jinx.”

“Oh, that was later.” Hermione said. “Harry said it, he was trying to prove a point.”

“Potter being stubborn is what got you snatched?” Draco smirked.

“Well, it actually was a good thing in the end.” Hermione said softly.

“You getting snatched, and brought to my house was a good thing?” Draco said, looking incredulous. 

“Well, yes.” Hermione said. “I don’t really know how much I should tell you about that though. It… doesn’t dovetail with the public story.”

“The public story?!” Draco all but screamed. “Hermione, you have to give me something. I’m sitting over here, wracked with guilt over the fact that I stood by and watched you get tortured. And then you say that it was a good thing, but you won’t tell me why?!”

Hermione just watched Draco, appraising him. His cheeks were flushed, and his hair was out of place from running his hands through it. He looked like a mad man.

“Hermione!” Draco begged. “Please! Your screams haunt my memory. I promise I won’t tell anyone. I don’t have anyone to tell!” 

“Will you make an unbreakable vow?” Hermione asked.

This stopped Draco short, “It’s that important?”

“Yes.” Hermione said. “It’s Dark Magic, forgotten dark magic, that needs to stay forgotten.”

“Hermione, if it’s Dark Magic, I’ve probably already done it myself.” Draco said sadly.

“Not this you haven’t.” Hermione said darkly. “I need to know that you won’t try it. That you won’t tell anyone about it. Ever.”

“Ok then,” Draco said, putting out his hand. “Unbreakable Vow it is.”

“Ok,” Hermione took a deep breath. “Can we do this without a third person?” 

Draco smirked. “Haven’t you made and unbreakable vow before?”

“No.” Hermione shook her head.

“There’s a variation.” Draco said, striding over to the bookshelf. “This room claims to provide everything we need.” After a brief search, he selected a book and brought it back to Hermione. “It should detail it there.”

“Do you know how to do it?” Hermione asked.

“Yes.” Draco said, “But it’s a borderline dark spell. I can’t do it, you’ll have to do the incantation if you want me to make the vow.”

“Ok, tell me what to do.” Hermione said.

“No.” Draco said, pointing at the book. “I want you to read it. I’m not teaching you any dark magic, you have to decide for yourself if that’s something you want to do.”

“But if you want to hear the story?” Hermione said, feeling uncomfortable.

“Hermione, every dark spell takes a part of your soul away.” Draco said. “It takes a part of the light and replaces it with darkness. And then, eventually, you will crave the darkness like an addict.”

“You sound like you know what that feels like.” Hermione said softly. 

“Which is why I won’t do the spell.” Draco said simply. “I can’t do the spell, and not because of my probation.”

“You crave the darkness?” Hermione asked, sadly. “All the time?”

“All the time.” Draco said, his eyes getting dark and scary. “You see, my father never gave me a choice. He never explained to me that I was walking down a one way road; never told me that each spell he taught me would pull me closer to the darkness. Which is why you have to decide for yourself if you want to do that spell. I won’t take the light away from you.”

Hermione swallowed, nervously, and opened the book. She didn’t break eye contact with Draco, however, and noticed that his eyes were still dark, and his fists were clenched.

She snapped the book shut. “I can’t tell you then, Draco.”

“I understand.” Draco said, “I don’t want to force you to do a spell you’re not comfortable with.”

“No, Draco, it’s not that.” Hermione said, shaking her head. “I just, I don’t think you should know about this. This magic, it’s… evil.”

“You’re probably right.” Draco said, pressing his hands to his temples. “Give me something else to think about.”

“What were you thinking about when you were working on the Patronus yesterday?” Hermione asked.

Draco sat up straight and glared at Hermione, “What makes you ask that?”

“Well, you wanted me to change the subject,” Hermione said, “I figured the opposite of Dark Magic is the Patronus charm.”

“Uh huh.” Draco said skeptically.

“Plus, whatever it was made you run out of class like there was a banshee chasing you.” Hermione grinned.

“Nope.” Draco said. “New question.”

“Oh, now I’m really curious!” Hermione said. “Have you ever tried to do that charm before?”

“No, it’s not exactly in the Death Eater repertoire.” Draco said, looking away.

“Well I can help you with it.” Hermione said, sitting up on her knees on the couch. “I helped Harry teach all the DA. If I can teach Seamus to do a charm without blowing up the room, I can teach you!” 

“Look, I appreciate the offer Hermione, but I just don’t see myself being able to do that charm.” Draco said, shaking his head. “I got enough of shield variation that I think I can pass the N.E.W.T., let’s not get overly optimistic.”

Hermione was too excited at the thought of helping Draco, she pressed on,“I think you’re just not applying yourself, if you tried…”

“No Hermione.” Draco cut in coldly. “No Patronus charm.”

“Oh, ok.” Hermione said, realizing she’d been sitting up on her knees in excitement, she leaned back into the sofa, rubbing her swolen ankle. 

“Look, I’m sorry.” Draco said, “I’m just not capable of doing that charm.”

Hermione nodded.

“New subject?” Draco asked.

“Why do you only use my name when you’re all serious?” Hermione asked.

“I use your name all the time.” Draco said. 

“No, you call me Granger. Or… other things.” Hermione pointed out. “Or, lately you’ve been giving me ridiculous nicknames. But you never just call me Hermione.” 

“What nicknames?” Draco said, grinning. “You mean Your Royal Highness, the Princess of Light?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Yes, like that.”

“I… don’t actually know.” Draco said, tilting his head to the side in thought. “But I like ‘Your Highness’, so I’m sticking with it.”

Hermione growled at Draco and picked up a throw pillow from the sofa and hurled it at him. 

“Your Highness, you do not want to start a pillow fight with me!” Draco said, grabbing the pillow and aiming it back at Hermione. 

“Oh really?” Hermione challenged. “I don’t think the Prince of Darkness has a lot of spare time for pillow fighting. I’d imagine my technique is vastly superior!” 

“What, does the Princess spend a lot of time having pillow fights?” Draco teased. “Not a lot of time for that last year, so is it a new development? Are there an excess of Pillow Fights in Gryffindor Tower? Jumping from bed to bed in your underwear?”

“Good lord, no.” Hermione laughed. “You can’t jump on the beds in Gryffindor, they all have canopies.”

“I don’t hear you denying the rest of that statement!” Draco said, tossing the pillow at Hermione, who caught it and blushed.

“You are going down!” Hermione said, and with a flick of her wand, sent all the pillows repeatedly flying at Draco. 

“Alright, Uncle… uncle!!!” Draco said laughing, and trying to dodge pillows.

“You concede to my vastly superior pillow fighting skills?” Hermione demanded.

“I concede fair lady!” Draco said, running away from the sofa.

“Ha ha!” Hermione said, cancelling the charm. “I’m the champion!” 

“Of course, your majesty!” Draco said, bowing, “I submit to the superiority of the Princess of Light.”

“Oh honestly Draco,” Hermione growled. “That is not my name.”

“I’m forever indebted to the Prophet for coming up with it though!” Draco said, flopping back on the couch.

“Yes, heaven forbid they just let me live my life.” Hermione grumbled.

“Come on,” Draco said gently, “You had to know your shenanigans were going to get some attention.”

“For Harry maybe.” Hermione scoffed. “I didn’t have that much to do with it.”

“Look, I may not know the whole story, but I know that’s not true.” Draco insisted. “You can’t walk away from saving the world without a little attention.”

“I think that’s half the reason I came back to Hogwarts this year.” Hermione admitted. “They offered me any job I wanted in the ministry. But I don’t want to be an Auror, I’m tired of fighting, and running for my life.”

“Instead you’re bored out of your mind in Defense class.” Draco pointed out. “Why don’t you take McGonagall up on her offer to the returning Seventh years and test out?”

“And then what?” Hermione asked. “Have another free period? Take Divination?”

“Hey, Divination isn’t so bad without Harry’s death to predict.” Draco laughed.

Hermione laughed half-heartedly. “I don’t know if I even want to stay in the Wizarding World after school.” 

“What do you mean?” Draco asked.

“I mean, maybe I don’t need magic.” Hermione said sadly. “Maybe I’ll go to a muggle university, and get a non-magical job where no one knows me.”

“Hermione, you’re the brightest witch of the age!” Draco exclaimed, panicking slightly at the thought of never seeing her again. “You can’t just turn your back on all that!” 

“That’s the thing though,” Hermione said, looking determined. “I’m muggleborn. It wouldn’t even be that hard.”

“Hermione!” Draco exclaimed. “We need you!”

“No one needs me.” Hermione said. “I kept Harry alive, that was my job, and now it’s done. He’s an auror, and I’m a bored seventh year.”

“I need you!” Draco said, sounding desperate. “Humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”

Hermione smiled sadly. “Invisible Man.”

Draco nodded, trying to quell the panic bubbling up inside; he knew he couldn’t have her, but his desire was thoroughly clouding his judgement.  

“Change will come as surely as the seasons and twice as quick, we make our peace with it as best we can.” Hermione said.

“Little Women.” Draco whispered. 

Hermione nodded, noticing that in this exchange, Draco had moved impossibly close to her on the sofa. She took a deep breath, and the smell of his cologne enveloped her senses. 

"Oh, what the hell." Draco whispered, before quoting, "We might as well know what we want." And with that, he placed both hands on Hermione's face and kissed her.

Authors Note:
The books quoted in this chapter are The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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