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"You don't need to do this." Draco said for the fifth time since they had left the castle.

"Yes, Draco, I do." Hermione insisted, her voice firm. "I want my memories back, even if they're horrible, and this is the only way I can think of to do that."

Draco sighed. "Fine, but I just want you to know that I don't agree with this at all, and I'm taking you there under protest."

"And what does that look like?" Hermione asked, curiously.

"It'll be the same," Draco huffed, "I just thought you should know."

"Consider me warned." Hermione said, trying to hide her grin.

"You Gryffindors are impossible." Draco mumbled. "Did it ever occur to you that sometimes bravery is just stupidity in fancier robes?"

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." Hermione replied.

"What book is that from?" Draco asked, after a pause.

"It's not from a book." Hermione grinned. "It was something that an American folk singer said once.

Draco looked at her like she was mad.

"What, he's not wrong!" Hermione pointed out.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” Draco responded, absently.

"That's C. S. Lewis." Hermione smiled, "I love his books. He actually said one of my favorite quotes ever, though it's not in one of his books."

"And what was that?" Draco asked, as he reached out to push open the Hogwarts gates.

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Hermione said, following Draco through the gates.

Surprisingly, Draco chuckled. "You never stood a chance did you?"

"A chance at what?" Hermione asked.

"At being in any house other than Gryffindor." Being out of view of the castle, Draco held out his arm for Hermione to take. "You realize, now you are one of those stories."

Hermione shuffled her toe in the dirt, but took Draco's arm. "Maybe a subplot."

"No, you're going to do great things still Hermione Granger." Draco laughed. "I would not at all be surprised to find myself being bossed through a crisis by you in the future. You'll probably end up as Minister for Magic."

"Well, if that does happen, you have to at least pretend to like it." Hermione laughed.

"I promise to do that." Draco grinned. "Are you ready?"

Hermione steeled herself, set her jaw, and nodded.

"Ok Little Dragon." Draco said sadly, and they disappeared with a pop.

They landed at the front door, a place Draco had specifically chosen because he figured Hermione had never seen it.

"Where are we?" Hermione asked, confirming his suspicions.

"The Vestibule." Draco said, not letting go of her arm.

"Fancy." Hermione said, sounding nervous.

"It's an old house." Draco chuckled. "Filled with every pretentious architectural option you could think of."

"Why don't I remember this?" Hermione asked.

"Probably because no one can come through the front door without a Malfoy." Draco explained, darkly. "The other times you were here, you would have been brought in other ways."

He lifted his wand to the door to unlock it, but Hermione grabbed his arm.

"Wait!" She cried. "If it's a Dark spell, let me do it!"

"It's not Little Dragon, I never reset those curses… after the last time. Just a simple unlocking charm." Draco flicked his wrist in the familiar motion for the spell. "Although that hardly seems necessary, as there is a old Blood Ward protecting the front door."

"A Blood Ward?" Hermione asked, having not heard the term.

"Yes." Draco said, opening the door and allowing Hermione to step into the entry hall. "Never discussed in polite company, but the gist of it is that your blood must be tuned to the wards to be allowed access unaccompanied."

"Why have I never read anything about that?" Hermione rambled, and Draco knew she was distracting herself.

"Because it's not written anywhere. The wards are passed down through generations. I couldn't even tell you who did the original enchantment." Draco explained.

"Oh." Came Hermione's quiet response.

"Come on, let's get this over with." Draco said, heading for the grand staircase.

Hermione said nothing, but allowed herself to be led across the echoing hall. They were nearly to the stairs, when she caught site of a room she recognized, the drawing room. All at once her memories came flooding back.

I'm going to have a conversation with this one, girl to girl. Unbidden, Bellatrix’s voice popped into her head. Hermione shivered, and turned towards the drawing room.

"You don't need to go in there Hermione." Draco said.

"Yes I do," Hermione insisted. "For my own sanity."

Draco looked down at the girl he loved, and once again was struck by the bravery she exhibited. They had just been discussing it, and yet--when she was faced with moments like this--a deeper part of Hermione seemed to take over. The solider she was underneath the school robes shone through, and when she looked like that, it wasn't hard to imagine her taking on the Dark Lord.

Draco said nothing, but turned and led her into the drawing room.

Hermione crossed the threshold, looking around, her wand in hand. Removed of its terrifying former occupants, and with the dark furniture swathed in dust sheets, she couldn't remember just what about the room itself gave her nightmares. She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding with a laugh.

Draco looked at her like she'd lost her mind. "Did you just laugh?"

"Well, it's not quite what I'd built it up to be in my head." She shivered. "It feels... off. But not in the way I was expecting."

Draco knew what she was talking about, the room had an otherworldly feel about it. So many people had been killed there, it wasn't surprising.

"Come on, I want to get this over with." Draco said, a bit snappishly.

"There's a lot of cursed things in here," Hermione said softly. "Aren't there?"

"Yes, the whole house is practically a curse." Draco admitted.

"Are you okay?" Hermione asked.

"Am... am I okay?" Draco asked incredulously. "Am I okay? We're standing in the room you were tortured in, the room that gives you nightmares every day, and you want to know if I'm okay?"

"Yes." Hermione said, curiously.

"Mother of Merlin." Draco swore, "You're not brave, you're insane."

Hermione quirked her head to the side. "No, I just know how Dark Magic effects you."

Draco rolled his eyes, and pulled Hermione from the room. As they approached the stairs again, she cast her Patronus.

"Thanks." Draco said, with a bit of a sigh. "If I ever come back here, I'll have to hire a fair few curse breakers to clear it out first."

"Bill could probably handle that for you," Hermione said.

"Maybe I'll just burn the place to the ground." Draco said thoughtfully, releasing Hermione's arm and placing a hand on her back as he followed her up the stairs.

"I'm not going to fall Draco, you don't need to hover behind me." Hermione said.

Draco chuckled. "Sorry Little Dragon, but some habits cannot be unlearned."

"Unlearned?" Hermione asked, curiously.

"A Gentleman follows a Lady up the stairs, so as to catch her if she falls." Draco recited. "A rule admittedly from an era where Ladies couldn't really hold up their own gowns."

"Old habits die hard, I guess." Hermione said, as they reached the landing and Draco once again offered her his arm. "You've just never been this formal with me before."

"Well, you've never really interacted with me in public." Draco explained, sounding sad. "We don't walk places together, we always meet up. I'm actually like this most of the time."

"Is that why you were so fussed about not being able to carry my books?" Hermione questioned, putting two and two together.

"Of course," Draco said simply. "It's not like I want to disrespect you like that, it's just... how things are."

"Draco, you're not disrespecting me." Hermione insisted.

"A lifetime of etiquette training would disagree." Draco sighed.

"Well, I would argue that intent is 9/10ths of any law." Hermione said, looking cautiously around as they may their way up another flight of stairs, Draco once again following behind her. "This looks familiar."

"Yes, my room is in the west wing, and we're nearly there." Draco said softly.

"Am I meant to stay away from the West Wing?" Hermione giggle manically.

"What?" Draco asked confused.

"Nothing, something from a muggle movie." Hermione said, "The antagonist locks a girl up in his castle and tells her to stay away from the west wing. Except in the end, he's actually a good guy who has been living under a curse that he's trying to hide from her."

"Sounds... relatable." Draco muttered.

"It's a cartoon." Hermione said. "We can watch it sometime."

Draco had no idea what she was talking about, so he turned her to face his door. "Ready?"

He watched once again as Hermione the Bookworm was replaced with Hermione the Solider, and she nodded.

"Ok." Draco said, reaching for the doors, he pushed them open.

Hermione took a deep breath, let go of Draco's arm, and stepped into the room.


---

It had been cleaned up, probably by Draco's elf, because there was no sign of a struggle of any kind having taken place in the room.

Hermione marched over to the bed, and put her hand on the sheets, knowing that it would spark a memory.

She was right, and the events of her kidnapping came rushing back, and she dropped to her knees on the floor.

"Hermione!" Draco cried, hurrying to her side. He was about to lift her up and carry her out of the manor, when she put a hand up.

"Give me a moment please." She said. "I'm trying to sort through it, and I have a hell of a headache."

She started looking around, as if trying to place the memories. "It was Rabastan." Hermione said, matter-of-factly. "He was the one who was torturing me."

"Yes, that was my guess." Draco said sadly.

"What gave it away?" Hermione asked, rubbing her temple.

"He sent a ransom note," Draco explained. "It was his usual style."

"Oh god!" Hermione gasped. "Draco, he had an elf... he threatened to torture her if I didn't do what he said. She was so scared!"

"Well, she'll be free now." Draco pointed out. "When you go to Azkaban, you lose ownership of your elves. It's meant to stop people from using them to escape."

Hermione let out a sigh of relief. "I wonder where she is now?"

"Probably Hogwarts." Draco explained. "That's where most freed elves end up."

"Maybe I can find her." Hermione said thoughtfully.

"I wondered how they'd gotten you to change into that gown." Draco said softly. "It's usually something like that."

"Yeah, I was refusing to do anything he said until he called the elf." Hermione nodded. "I didn't know where I was at the time."

"You figured it out while you were here?" Draco asked curiously.

Hermione nodded. "Rabastan... I broke his nose. He went to clean up, and left me tied to the bed. But he didn't tie my feet... oh Draco! I'm so sorry, I broke part of your bed!"

"Little Dragon, that is the least of my concerns." Draco laughed, hugging Hermione to him.

"When I got free of the bed, my hands were still tied, so I started looking around for something to cut the rope off with. I found one of your sweaters, with a name tape in it." Hermione explained.

"That explains what you were doing in the Conservatory with the pruning shears." Draco muttered, "Do you remember how you ended up down there?"

"I found some stairs." Hermione said. "Not the way we came in though."

"Those would be the servants stairs." Draco nodded. "Back in my great-grandfathers day, it was fashionable to have employed servants as well as elves."

"That was my guess." Hermione nodded. "I found the shears and tried to get the ropes off my wrists when the Devil's Snare got me."

"That's where I found you." Draco confirmed. "I'm impressed you made it that far on your own."

"So after that, you took me to St. Mungos?" Hermione asked, clarifying.

"Yes, you had passed out... probably from blood loss." Draco explained, looking haunted.

Hermione nodded. "I think I remember everything, but I want to go over it in the pensive."

"Well, lets get you back, so that Madame Pomfrey can look you over." Draco said, leading her back out of his room.

"Your room." Hermione said, "It doesn't seem like you at all."

"My mother decorated it." Draco chuckled. "I had very little say in the matter. Although it did choose the color.”

"I thought so." They had reached the stairs, and Hermione expected Draco to follow her again, but instead he stepped in front of her, raising his hand up to his shoulder so she could hold it.

"More etiquette?" Hermione asked, hiding a grin.

"A Gentleman precedes his lady when traveling downstairs, so he can catch her if she falls." Draco recited.

"How much time did you spend learning etiquette?" Hermione asked, as they reached the entry hall once again. "Between that and dancing, you sure spent a lot of time in lessons as a child, didn't you?"

"You have no idea." Draco chuckled. "My mother was very particular about it."

“Well, let’s get back to Hogwarts and get this over with.” Hermione said.

“I still don’t know how you convinced Healer Murphy to wait in the Hospital wing, rather than coming with you.” Draco said, after they apparated back to the gates.

“I told her I’d feel too claustrophobic with a lot of people watching.” Hermione explained. “Besides, I think she trusts you more than she trusts me.”

“Well, I do seem to take better care of your health than you do.” Draco said with a grin.

“Yeah, yeah.” Hermione rolled her eyes. “Once she clears me, no more coddling me.”

“Of course not Your Highness.” Draco teased.

Hermione just sighed. “You know, we never did discuss what we would do over the break if I’m able to leave.”

“Well, let’s not put the carriage ahead of the Thestral.” Draco said, as he released Hermione’s hand. “You go up to the Hospital Wing, I’ll meet you up there in a few minutes.”

Hermione nodded. She would have preferred Draco to just come with her, particularly as there were so few students still at school, with it being the first day of the Easter break. But she was used to Draco’s overprotecting nature, and just went along with it.

When she reached the Hospital wing, she found McGonagall waiting with Healer Murphy and Madame Pomfrey. All at once, the weight of what she had just been through came crashing over her, and she started hyperventilating.

Madame Pomfrey hurried over and took charge of the situation, giving Hermione a calming draught, and hurried her over to a bed.

Healer Murphy quickly checked her over with a few spells, and then asked, “So I take it the experiment was a success?”

Hermione nodded, watching the door for Draco. It was at that moment that she realized just how much she had been relying on him in the days since her kidnapping.

“Are you missing any gaps that you’re aware of in your memory?” Healer Murphy continued with her examination.

"Not that I can tell." Hermione said, taking a deep breath. "Although I would like to go through the memories in a pensive to be sure everything makes sense."

"That's a good idea, for a later time." Healer Murphy said with a smile. "For now, I want you to stay here in the hospital wing until your blood pressure comes down a bit. This was a lot for you to process."

"I'd really rather go somewhere else." Hermione pressed. "Anywhere else."

"Not a chance." Came Draco's voice from behind the curtain.

"Come in Mr. Malfoy." Healer Murphy sighed. "She listens to you."

"She does no such thing." Draco chuckled, setting a book down on the table, and sitting on the edge of the bed.

"What did you bring me?" Hermione asked, leaning back and trying to reach beyond Draco to the book he'd brought along.

"Something I ordered a while ago." Draco said. "I just didn't want to give it to you until you had more to work with."

He passed the book to Hermione, who eagerly scanned the title. “Neuropsychology of Memory.Neuropsychological studies of patients during the 1960s and 1970s attempted to locate the source of memory loss at the encoding, consolidation, or retrieval stages of memory’.”

“It’s a textbook.” Draco shrugged. “I thought you might appreciate it.”

“It’s fantastic Draco!” Hermione said, skimming the chapters. “I can’t wait to read it!”

“Ok, the Neuro-analysis can wait until I’m done with your checkup.” Healer Murphy signed, pulling the book from Hermione’s hands.

“But that explains…” Hermione complained before Healer Murphy cut her off by putting a tongue depressor in her mouth.

“It explains the physical mechanics of the human brain, something that I would prefer you didn’t delve into until we are certain that your own is functioning at one-hundred percent.”

Draco chuckled Hermione glared at him.

“How did you feel as your memories came back?” Healer Murphy asked, checking Hermione’s pupils.

“I had an instant headache.” Hermione admitted, toying with the edge of the blanket. “Like someone split my head in two. And then I felt dizzy for a bit.”

“You didn’t tell me that!” Draco cried, reaching for Hermione’s hand. “For heavens sake, I let you walk back up the hill!”

“Well, it didn’t last very long.” Hermione explained. “And I knew if I said anything, you would have pulled me out of there before I was ready.”

Draco threw his hands in the air a stormed across the room to the window, muttering about Gryffindors under his breath.

“That’s quite normal,” Healer Murphy explained, as she checked Hermione’s reflexes. “Well Miss Granger, I would like Madame Pomfrey to keep an eye on you for a few hours, make sure all your vitals stay strong. But barring any unforeseen complications I think you’re ready to be signed off. Ordinarily I’d recommend routine visits to a mind healer, but considering the circumstances I’d say a monthly checkup with myself would be the best course of action for the time being. If Poppy clears you after lunch, you’re free to carry on normally.”

“Finally!” Hermione grinned. “This means I can actually duel in class!”

Healer Murphy chuckled, “So it would seem. But remember our discussion about the Cruciatis Curse.”

Hermione’s face darkened. “I remember.”

“Don’t dwell on it.” Healer Murphy said. “And if you change your mind about studying Healing, you know where to find me.”

Hermione nodded. “Thanks.”

Madame Pomfrey walked Healer Murphy to the floo, and Draco returned to Hermione’s side. “Looks like you’re free.”

“Thank Merlin!” Hermione sighed. “I was getting so tired of being watched like a science experiment.”

Draco quirked an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. “Do you still want to leave Hogwarts for the Easter break?”

“I’d love to get out of here, but I can’t think of anywhere we could go together. My parents would smother us, and I’m not ready to revisit the Manor.” Hermione said thoughtfully. “I suppose we could just stay here, and spend our time in our Library. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing my parents for a short time.”

“Well...” Draco said, hesitating slightly. “If you’re up for it, we could go to one of the other Malfoy properties, spend a few days there, and then you could spend a few days with your parents after.”

“What do you mean, like a holiday home.” Hermione asked curiously.

“More or less.” Draco shrugged.

“Where?” Hermione asked.

“Um, there’s a few you could pick from.” Draco blushed. “Paris, Rome, Barcelona. Although the one I have in mind is actually my mother’s. It was part of her dowry.”

“You weren’t kidding when you said you’d never be able to spend all the money in your vaults were you.” Hermione asked, and then cocked her head to one side. “People still have dowries?”

Draco grinned, “In my world they do. That was the only thing I was disappointed about when I broke off my betrothal to Daphne... her dowry included a Puddlemere Quidditch box.”

“Hmmm, rethinking your choices there Malfoy?” Hermione teased.

“Not on your life Granger!” He said, squeezing her hand.

“So where is this house of your mother’s?” Hermione asked.

“Australia.” Draco shrugged. “It’s a small house, but it’s part of a wizarding resort island. There’s swimming pools, tennis courts, restaurants and such. But it’s not very large, and not usually very crowded.”

“That sounds lovely.” Hermione sighed.

“Then that’s what we’ll do.” Draco smiled, kissing Hermione softly. “You enjoy that book until Pomfrey lets you loose, I’m going to go sort everything out.”

“Wait, Draco…” Hermione caught his sleeve as he went to leave. “This isn’t going to cost you anything, is it?”

“Let me have my fun Hermione!” Draco said, with a wink.

“Seriously,” Hermione said. “If it’s expensive for you I’ll just be uncomfortable because I can’t contribute.”

Draco cocked his head to the side. “Well, we own the house, so I’m just going to make sure we have a bit of food and such.”

“Ok.” Hermione acquiesced. “But I want you to come stay with me at my parents house after.”

Draco looked nervous. “You want me to come to your house?”

“Yes, I know you’ve met my parents,” Hermione said. “But I’d like you to get to know them when I’m not in hospital. Plus I want to show you where I grew up!”

“Are you sure?” Draco asked, scuffing his toe at something on the floor.

“Of course I’m sure.” Hermione, reached out for Draco’s hand. “I want you to meet my parents properly!”

“Mind if I interrupt?” Came a voice from the door.

“Hello Auror Sherman.” Hermione smiled.

“I’ve told you to call me Emily,” She laughed, appearing around the curtain. “Besides, I’m still a trainee, not a full Auror yet.”

“You’re as good as.” Hermione shrugged. “Credit where credit is due.”

“I still have trials to pass.” She smiled. “I hear it went well today?”

“Yes, I believe I remember everything.” Hermione nodded. “I’m still… sorting through most of it.”

“That’s understandable.” Emily said. “However if you have regained your memories sufficiently, we need to take a formal statement from you.”

“Really?” Draco asked, incredulous. “Now? She’s still sitting in a hospital bed.”

“No time like the present Draco.” Hermione sighed. “I’d rather get it over with, rather than have it looming over all of the Easter holiday.”

“Are you sure?” Draco asked, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I’m sure.” Hermione said, steeling her gaze. “Will you sit with me? Is that allowed?”

“It is.” Emily said, “however I need another Auror present to take your statement officially.”

“Ok…” Hermione hesitated. “Who else?”

“Well, that’s up to you.” Emily said, “Would you like someone familiar?”

“Um, I guess.” Hermione nodded.

“Oh good, I was afraid you were going to pick some stranger over me!” Came Harry’s voice.

“Hi Harry.” Hermione smirked. “Ditching class again?”

“You two have been spending too much time together.” Harry said, rolling his eyes and pointing between Draco and Hermione. “You’ve picked up his smirk.”

Harry and Emily set about collecting Hermione’s official statement. By the time she had finished, Hermione was exhausted of the questioning and both Draco and Harry looked furious. Only Emily remained calm, as she rolled up the parchment with the pertinent details.

“Thanks Hermione, I know that that was hard, but I appreciate your candor.” She said, gathering up her bag. “I’ll just pop over and hand these off to Shacklebolt.”

After she left, Hermione put up a hand to cut off both Draco and Harry. “I don’t want to discuss it any more, it’s behind me and I’d like to keep it there.”

“Well, if you’re sure ‘Mione.” Harry said uncertainly.

“I’m sure!” Hermione insisted, starting to climb out of bed. “I’m going to go get Madame Pomfrey to sign me out, and we can get going!”

“Hold it!” Draco said, blocking Hermione from standing. “I’ll get Pomfrey, you sit here until she actually releases you.”

“But Draco I feel fine!” Hermione insisted.

“Keep her there.” Draco said to Harry, heading for Madam Pomfrey’s office at the back of the hospital wing.

“Bloody interfering boyfriend.” Hermione mumbled.

Harry laughed. “Hey, someone has to get you to sit still. I’m glad Draco can do it.”

“Alright Miss Granger, let’s have a look at you.” Madame Pomfrey said, coming around the curtain. “You boys out!”

“I’ll arrange things.” Draco called, as he and Harry left the hospital wing.

“How is your head?” Madame Pomfrey asked, waving her wand over Hermione’s eyes.

“It aches a bit, but it’s getting duller.” Hermione admitted.

“If it’s not unmanageable, I’d prefer you didn’t take a potion for it today.” Madame Pomfrey said. “I’d like you to be able to tell me when it stops.”

“Can I leave with everyone on the train tomorrow?” Hermione pressed.

“Lets see how you feel after dinner.” Madame Pomfrey said. “For the time being, I’d like you to wait here for at least the next hour and see how it goes.”

Hermione sighed, and reminded herself that she was nearly free of the clutches of the hospital wing. She picked up the textbook, and settled back into the pillows of the cot.




Author's Note:

The books quoted in this chapter are A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis and Neuropsychology of Memory by Larry R. Squire.

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