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“So, you’re telling me that Potter wasn’t faking it.” Draco asked, stunned. “He was actually dead?”

“Well, no when Hagrid was carrying him out of the forest he was alive. He was alive when your mother told Voldemort he was dead.” Hermione explained. “He was dead for a moment, although he said time was inconsistent, because he had a long conversation with Dumbledore. Then he chose to come back. If he hadn’t, his soul would have gone On, and he would have remained dead.”

“Good god.” Draco whispered. “And Dumbledore knew he would have to die, all along?”

“Well, yes.” Hermione said. “Once he figured out that Harry was a Horcrux. Which he really hates talking about, by the way, so I wouldn’t mention it.”

“And when you said that Riddle transferred some of his power to Harry, that’s what you meant.” Draco said, connecting the dots.

Hermione nodded, yawning. "Anyway, that's why Riddle got so unstable, especially towards the end. Dumbledore, all of us really, were slowly killing him over the last 2 years of the war."

“You destroyed one of the Horcruxes?” Draco asked, appraising Hermione.

"Yeah. Hufflepuff's cup. I stabbed it with a Basilisk fang." She nodded, looking exhausted. “Draco, if you’re feeling ok, I’m going to stop the charm.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry.” Draco said, crossing over and taking Hermione in his arms. “You’ve been holding that Patronus for nearly an hour, you must be exhausted.”

Hermione set down her wand, relieved not to be pouring all her energy into the charm. She wasn’t going to admit it, but she was starting to feel lightheaded from the effort.

Draco lowered her gently down onto the pillow, brushing her hair back from her face. “You’ve used entirely too much energy. I shouldn’t have let you do that.”

“Mmmm, but I got Sweet Draco back.” She said, with a smirk.

“I do feel better.” Draco admitted. “Thank you for that. I don’t deserve you.”

“Don’t start that again.” Hermione muttered, as she started to fall asleep.

“Alright.” Draco chuckled. “Get some rest.”

“Don’t go!” Hermione said, clutching his shirt. “Don’t disappear again.”

“I’ll be here when you wake up.” Draco said. “I promise.”

He watched as Hermione gave in to her exhaustion, and drifted off to sleep. Then he gathered his courage, and went downstairs to find Harry.

Draco found him in the sitting room, his auror texts spread out on the coffee table, a fire in the hearth.

“Potter.” He said, breaking the silence as he came into the room.

“Malfoy.” Harry answered, gesturing to the chair opposite. “You look better.”

“I feel better.” Draco admitted, sagging into the old wingback chair. “Thank you. For letting me stay here, I mean.”

“No problem.” Harry said, setting down his book. “I like the idea of having someone here consistently with her anyway. And you’ve already proven you’ll go above and beyond to protect her.”

Draco nodded. “I take it, you know.”

“Well, I’m a pretty observant person.” Harry said with a smirk. “It is my job.”

“And yet, you haven’t killed me.” Draco said, “Should I watch my back?”

Harry chuckled. “I made it through the war without killing anyone, so I don’t see a reason to start now. Don’t give me a reason to, yeah?”

Draco nodded. “‘The whole world is divided for me into two parts: one is she, and there is all happiness, hope, light; the other is where she is not, and there is dejection and darkness…’ I’m selfish. I need her.”

“That’s from War and Peace.” Harry said.

“Yes, you’ve read it?” Draco asked, surprised.

Harry nodded. “Hermione gave it to me, when I was in hospital… after. I was having trouble coping. She thought it might help, and it actually did.”

“She told me.” Draco said, “About last year.”

“Did she?” Harry said, harshly.

“She made me promise not to say anything.” Draco reassured him, “Even made me make an Unbreakable Vow. She wanted me to understand what she went through last year.”

“Leave it to Hermione to keep everything in order.” Harry sighed.

There was an awkward silence, which Draco eventually broke. “I haven’t been in this house since I was a kid.”

“You’ve been here before?” Harry asked, surprised.

“Sure, my mother was a Black.” Draco said. “We used to come at holidays, things like that.”

“I always forget that your mother was Sirius’ cousin.” Harry laughed.

“They were definitely different.” Draco agreed. “You know, you and I are probably related too.”

“How do you figure?” Harry asked, skeptically.

“Well, the Potters are a pure blood family. All pure bloods are distantly related.” Draco said with a shrug. “I know there was a Black marriage to a Potter a few generations back, so we’re likely cousins, a few times removed.”

Harry looked like he’d drunk sour milk. “I guess I forget that the Potters are a pureblood line.”

“Well, the Potters are like the Weasleys… not concerned with Blood Status.” Draco explained. “My parents would have called your family blood traitors. Especially since you’re a half blood.”

“Your parents?” Harry asked, “Not you?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Draco said. “This is the first time I’ve been allowed to examine my beliefs for myself. Falling for a Muggle Born who is more powerful than any Pure Blood I’ve met, kinda shakes up preconceived ideas.”

“Yeah, it would do.” Harry said thoughtfully. “And Hermione is probably the most powerful Witch I’ve ever heard of.”

“Well, you’re not exactly struggling in that department yourself Potter.” Draco pointed out.

“Malfoy, was that a compliment?” Harry asked, agog.

“No.” Draco said, putting on his ‘arrogant prat mask’. “I don’t give compliments.”

Harry chuckled. “My mistake.”

Draco smirked. “Can I ask you a favour?”

“Hmmm, that depends.” Harry said.

“It’s for Hermione.” Draco insisted.

“Oh, sure… for her, anything.” Harry said seriously.

“I’m not a fool, I know what she and I have can’t last.” Draco said sadly, “People won’t accept it, and I don’t want her to live her life in the shadows because she is with a Death Eater. When this ends, however it ends, will you take care of her?”

Harry looked shocked. “Well, of course all I can say is yes, Malfoy.”

“Thank you.” Draco said, looking relieved. “She’s going to need someone to turn to, someone who knows about us. You and Ginny, I know you’ll protect her. She tends to put everyone else ahead of herself.”

“She does do that.” Harry agreed, and then put his hand out, “You’re a surprising person Malfoy. I’m glad she has you, for however long it lasts.”

Draco shook Harry’s hand, and stood up. “I better get back upstairs, I promised I’d be there if she woke up.”

“I’ll have Kreacher bring you something to eat.” Harry said.

“Thanks.” Draco said, nodding to Harry.

"Malfoy?" Harry called, as Draco left the room.

Draco turned back to Harry at the door.

"This doesn't mean that I like you." Harry said with a smirk.

"I wouldn't have it any other way Potter." Draco chuckled. "I don't like you either."

"Alright then." Harry said, turning back to his homework.

Hermione’s recovery was slower than she anticipated, and whenever she tried to do anything more than lay in bed and read, she found herself exhausted.

After a week of pouring through Dark Magic books, and occasionally sending her Patronus to perk Draco up, Hermione was frustrated.

“I just don’t understand why I’m so exhausted all the time!” Hermione complained to Healer Murphy on one of her visits.

“Hermione, you had a six inch gash in your side. Not to mention the fact that you haven’t made much progress on your memory loss.” Healer Murphy explained. “Your body is trying to send you a message. You aren’t ready to be up and running around. Why don’t you try a hot bath?”

“Well that would at least be a change of pace.” Hermione muttered.

“No change in my instructions.” Healer Murphy said. “You may have one hour per day to get out of bed. No stairs, no strenuous activity.”

Hermione nodded. If she was honest with herself, getting up and walking around took so much out of her that she really only got up to use the loo or shower.

"In another week I'd like to have you start back with your Legilimency therapy." Healer Murphy said, packing up her kit. "I want to get your memory sorted out."

"Okay." Hermione said quietly. She wasn't thrilled at the prospect of someone picking through her mind, particularly a stranger.

"I'll see you tomorrow." Healer Murphy said, heading out the door.

As she left, Draco came in. "What did she say today?"

"More of the same." Hermione said, fussing with her blankets.

"You look awfully stressed for a routine exam." Draco pointed out, taking Hermione's hand. "What happened?"

"She wants me to carry on with the Legilimency next week." Hermione said softly. "I hate those treatments."

"Hermione, they might help you." Draco reasoned.

"Yeah, but I feel like the healer who does it is just picking through my brain looking for more interesting things." Hermione explained. "I spend so much effort hiding the details from last year that we don't make any progress."

"Yes, I can see how that would be a problem." Draco said, looking thoughtful. "And you can't exactly mention the issue to your Healer."

"Precisely." Hermione nodded. "It's just frustrating, Occlumency is exhausting."

"Well, how are you approaching Occlumency?" Draco asked, seriously. "You said Harry taught you, but did you do it all the time, or just when you thought he was digging around in your mind?"

"Well, he... it wasn't really like that." Hermione said, shaking her head. "He's good at it, and he didn't realize he was doing it at first. He'd answer my thoughts instead of my questions. Once he realized what he was doing he stopped."

"But he still taught you Occlumency?" Draco asked.

"Yeah, he... he thought it might be important, if we ever came face to face with Riddle." Hermione explained. "He tried to teach Ron too, but never had much success."

"So you don't Occlude your mind all the time?" Draco specified.

"No, should I be?" Hermione asked, worried.

"Well, that's where the term Occlumens comes from." Draco explained. "An expert Occlumens protects their mind at all times.."

"Wouldn't that be exhausting?" Hermione gasped.

"Well, you have to develop the skill." Draco chuckled. "Sometimes the alternative is worse."

"You Occlude your mind all the time?" Hermione asked, sounding skeptical.

"Sure." Draco said with a shrug. "That's Death Eater 101."

"Can you teach me how?" Hermione asked.

"Well, I can try." Draco said, sounding skeptical. "I don't know how good of a teacher I would be."

"Well how did you learn to do it?" Hermione sighed.

"Yeah... if I'm teaching you we definitely won't be doing it the way I learned." Draco laughed. "My father and my aunt have much harsher methods than I would be comfortable with using."

"Oh." Hermione said softly.

"Yeah, oh." Draco chuckled, pushing a strand of hair out of Hermione's eyes. "We'll figure something out."

"You seem much better today." Hermione pointed out. "You're actually smiling."

"I am, aren't I." Draco grinned. "It's your fault, you keep messing with my emotions, sending your Otter to chase me around."

"Be serious for two seconds Draco." Hermione said, rolling her eyes. Secretly she was happy, his moodiness had tempered greatly, and he really did seem to be doing better.

"Ok." Draco said, "Actually... I have a serious question for you."

"Ok?" Hermione looked at him skeptically.

"You said you destroyed the Horcrux with a Basilisk fang?" Draco asked.

Hermione nodded, "Yes, a Horcrux must be destroyed with Dark Magic."

"Yeah, you said that." Draco replied. "But where in the world did you get a Basilisk fang?"

Hermione laughed, "From the Chamber of Secrets."

"Wait... you've been in Slytherin's Chamber?" Draco asked, agog. "How? Where is it?"

"Under the castle." Hermione said simply.

"Wait, is it still there?" Draco sounded excited. "Can we still get in?"

"Uh, probably." Hermione shrugged. "You have to speak Parseltongue to open the chamber though."

"Oh, yeah I guess that makes sense." Draco said sadly.

"I could ask Harry what to say." Hermione laughed. "There's nothing down there but Basilisk bones and a lot of moldy water."

"Yes!" Draco hissed. "That's at the top of the Slytherin bucket list."

"It's really not that fascinating." Hermione said, rolling her eyes.

"Wait, when did you go down there?" Draco asked. "During the battle?"

Hermione nodded. "It was before we, er, bumped into you in the Room of Requirement."

"Oh, right." Draco said, remembering. His face darkened at the memory.

"New subject?" Hermione asked, touching his arm gently.

"New subject." Draco agreed.

Hermione watched him for a moment, and conjured her Patronus to sit beside him.

"Thanks 'Mione." Draco said, leaning over and kissing her forehead.

"Hey 'Mione!" Ron's voice came into the room, as he rapped on the doorframe.

"Hi Ron." Hermione said, smiling.

Draco muttered something about looking for a book in the Library, and made to leave, when Ron stopped him. "Actually, Malfoy... we need to borrow you downstairs for a few minutes."

"Oh, sure." Draco said, glancing back at Hermione. "What for?"

"Kingsley sent some parchments for you to sign." Ron shrugged.

"I'll be right back." Draco said to Hermione, who nodded. He followed Ron down the two flights of stairs to the parlor. "What's really going on?"

"We've got a few odd looking blokes sitting across the street." Ron said. "They've been there for the past two hours. Obviously they're staking the place out, we wanted to see if you recognized them."

"Well, the Death Eaters probably assume Harry lives in this area," Draco explained. "They wouldn't be able to find this place with all the protections though.”

He crossed to the window and peered out. "Steve Beeler and Patrick Hays. Low level snatchers."

"Not Death Eaters?" Harry asked.

"They never took the Mark, no." Draco said, shaking his head. "There aren't that many still loose that did."

"Present company excepted." Ron said, glaring at Draco.

"Something you want to say Weasley?" Draco asked, rolling his eyes.

"Both of you knock it off." Harry interjected. "Ron, he was pardoned. He's following the rules of his probation."

"Let him get it off his chest Potter," Draco shrugged. "He'll feel better for it. It's the elephant in the room anyway, isn't it?"

Harry just shrugged, "Your funeral."

"What were you saying Weasley?" Draco asked, pleasantly, keeping his eyes on the snatchers in the park.

"Well, it's just that you seem to have made quite an about-face here Malfoy." Ron said, crossing his arms. "I mean, the last time we saw you was when you set FeindFyre loose on us in the room of requirement."

"I believe we've interacted a few times since then." Draco laughed. "Besides, it was Crabbe that did the FeindFyre. If it had been me, it wouldn't have been out of control."

"But you see my point." Ron said. "You can understand why we don't necessarily trust you, particularly with Hermione who seems, inexplicably, to be in a relationship with you."

"I'd be disappointed in your skills as an Auror if you weren't skeptical." Draco said simply. "But I care about Hermione, and I would gladly put my life on the line for hers."

"Well... Ok." Ron said, sounding more confused than before Draco spoke.

"Here Weasley." Draco said, rolling up his sleeve. "I'll put all my cards on the table. You want to know if I'm really a Death Eater? I am."

There was a pregnant pause as both Ron and Harry stared at the Mark on Draco's arm.

"You said there weren't that many still free?" Harry asked, breaking the silence.

"No, granted I'm not positive who you already have," Draco said, "But based on my communications with Yaxley, I'd say there's five Marked men left, myself excepted."

"I can get you a list." Harry said. "If you can confirm it. How many took the mark, our intelligence doesn't have a consensus?"

"28." Draco said.

"That's it?" Ron exclaimed.

"Riddle didn't trust people." Draco shrugged. "Taking the mark was seen as sign of honor, something he bestowed upon you. He used it as a form of control, in more ways than one. Those who didn’t have the mark had to earn it.”

“And there’s no way to remove it?” Harry asked. “Or hide it?”

“Not that I’ve found.” Draco said, rolling his sleeve back down, self-consciously. “The only change since you killed him was that it stopped moving.”

“Well, I appreciate your candor.” Harry said honestly. “Obviously, none of the Death Eaters in Azkaban have been exactly forthcoming with information. I assume Dumbledore asked all of these questions of Severus, but obviously that information died with the two of them.”

Draco nodded, uncomfortably. “So… what do you want to do about them?”

“Nothing, at the moment.” Ron explained. “If we pick them up, it’ll just tip off where we are.”

“I’d feel better getting Hermione out of here.” Draco admitted. “She’d be better off back at Hogwarts, getting cared for properly.”

“I agree,” Harry said, “But do you think she could make the trip?”

“Not yet.” Draco shook his head. “She tries to hide it, but she gets exhausted just walking down the hall. She needs more time.”

“I’ll get you that list.” Harry said, and Draco disappeared back up the stairs.

“I don’t like this Harry.” Ron said, once Draco was out of earshot. “I don’t trust him, and I don’t want Hermione near him.”

“I don’t trust him either.” Harry admitted, “But he seems to have Hermione’s best interests at heart. And you know how she’d take it if we told her we didn’t want her to spend time with him.”

“But Harry, they’re together.” Ron insisted, “She shouldn't be spending time with a Death Eater!”

“And what happened the last time you tried to comment on Hermione’s love life?” Harry said, rolling his eyes. “And besides… I think she gave you a pretty solid window of opportunity after the battle, during which you were a git and never told her how you felt. So you’ve lost your shot for the time being.”

“Harry.” Ron said, sounding irritated. “He’s a Death Eater!”

“I know that.” Harry said, sounding exasperated. “But wouldn’t you rather have them here, where we can keep an eye on him? It’s much harder to have him followed at Hogwarts.”

“You’ve having him followed?” Ron asked.

“It’s Malfoy,” Harry said. “Of course I’m having him followed, as much as I can anyway.”

Authors Note:

Hey everyone! I'm soooooo sorry about the massive delay on this post! I was travelling and didn't have internet access! Thanks to all who have continued to read and review! I promise, this story is not abandoned!

The book quoted in this chapter is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy!

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