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Memory 4 –

Not many things were constant in Draco Malfoy’s life these days. He forever felt as if he were a man on a ledge, as if he were on a great precipice, about to fall down one side or the other. He didn’t know what to expect after he left Hogwarts. That thought alone scared the shite out of him.

He liked to know what was expected of him. As of now, he knew that when he woke up each day he would eat breakfast, work for hours to help restore his former school, and then attend classes in the afternoon with the children of other Death Eaters. Even though the classes were useless, at least he had come to rely on the constancy of them. The classes taught them that pureblood prejudice was wrong, that everyone, whether they were Muggle-born, half blood, or pureblood, deserved their magic, and that hatred of another based on the purity of their blood was nothing more than simple hatred for the sake of hatred.

Hell, he already knew all of that. He didn’t need to take classes to tell him that, but at least taking classes every day meant that he had a PLACE TO GO every day.

Yes, he had a few things that were unvarying…wake up, work, attend stupid classes, and eat three meals a day. But beyond those things, nothing seemed real or stable or obtainable. What about his future? What was he to do when the work here was done, and he was able to leave?

He didn’t want to think about the future. The future was as painful as the past. He only wanted to think about the here and now, the present, the things he could touch, see, feel, and taste in the moment.

Lately, the rain was a constant. It seemed to be never-ending, and it kept everyone inside their tents, or inside the inhabited parts of the school. It also kept everyone from working, which was fine by Draco. He was tired of working, even if it was one of the few things that were consistent. He had been working, almost nonstop, for two months now, and he was ready for a reprieve. The problem was that the school was almost rebuilt and ready for a new school year, and that meant that Draco’s life would be left in limbo, and he would once again have to worry about his future.

But for now, the only thing he had to worry about was the rain.

Granger was a constant as well, but for the last few days Draco had not seen or heard from her. She wasn’t in the dining hall, which was mostly rebuilt and was where they were now eating their daily meals. She wasn’t in the large tent where everyone gathered at night. He walked by her tent several times the last few days, in the rain, and he didn’t hear her voice, and when the flap was open, he didn’t see her inside.

He couldn’t ask anyone where she was, or what had happened to her, for that would seem odd. It wasn’t as if they were friends. It wasn’t as if he had a vested interest in her (yet he did). Therefore, he played it cool, went about his business, but inside he waited and worried.

On the third day of rain, and the fourth day of no Granger, Draco decided to take a walk. His bunk mates thought him mad, for the rain was coming down in sheets, but since there was no threat from thunder or lightning, Draco didn’t mind a little water. Perhaps the rain would wash away his sin, and cleanse his soul. Or perhaps it would only make him wet. One never knew about these things.

He walked far away from the school grounds, away from the encampment, over a hill, toward the Black Lake. When he was on top of the hill he saw her. He hadn’t expected to see her; however, he had hoped to see her. He didn’t know whether to go down and join her, or leave her alone. Surely, she had come here to be by herself. She wanted privacy. She wanted solitude. He would respect that.

Nevertheless, he found his legs taking him toward her, down the hill, toward the lake.

Hermione knew she was no longer alone. She heard him walking behind her. To be frank, she felt him before she heard him. She had hoped that he would find her. She felt intense relief to know that she was not alone. She was tired of being alone. She hung her head, placed the tear-soaked, and now rain-soaked, letter back into the pocket of her jacket, and stared out toward the rippling water.

The rain was slacking off, so it was a slight drizzle, but even so, he could tell that she had been crying. Her face was only slightly wet from the rain, and even less from her tears, but her eyes were red, and he saw the way she quickly placed a hand up to her cheek to wipe away the remnants of tears. “Where have you been for the last few days?” he asked as he sat down on the small piece of wet ground beside her.

Looking at his long legs, instead of up into his eyes, she wondered something: what did he really want? What did she want in return?

She answered, “I went to the Burrow, to see Ron and Harry.”

“Oh,” he mustered as a response. He pulled on a long, wet blade of grass, letting it slip back and forth between his fingers. Finally, he said, “Why are you here, and they aren’t?” It was a question that had been begging to be asked since the beginning.

“They didn’t want to come,” she answered, almost sharply. “I did. I loved this school. When I heard that it needed to be rebuilt, and also that they were going to help rehabilitate the children of Death Eaters here, I knew I wanted to help in some way. Also, I needed change. I was tired of the same old things in my life. I wanted to make a difference, do something important in my life. Also, you see, I want to go to University and study Magical Law, and coming here this summer will count as taking my NEWTS.”

“Oh,” he responded once again. She was supplying more information than he needed, but less than he wanted. He felt she was glossing over things. She was delivering an answer that seemed well rehearsed, well planned, and practiced. She shivered and he noticed, so he removed his jacket and placed it promptly around her shoulders, even though she already wore a jacket.

She flinched slightly when his hands touched her shoulders, and she shivered more when his fingertips grazed her neck as he removed her hair from the collar, to place it on the outside of the lightweight coat. She could not think of a suitable thing to say as his hands slipped away from her shoulders, although a simple thank you would have sufficed. She looked up at the sky and said, “The rain’s stopped.”

“Yes, nothing’s constant anymore,” he replied in return.

She placed her cheek on her bent knees, turned her head to look at him and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Just that you said you wanted a change, and I like when things are constant. I hate change. It’s been raining for days, so I found it comforting,” he explained, suddenly discomfited by his choice of words. He turned his face away from hers to hide his embarrassment.

“Yes, and I like change,” she said beside him. He turned back to look at her. He decided that she was very pretty. He had never really noticed before, but she was. She was pretty and unaffected and no matter what, she hadn’t changed. She was the same as when he had first met her years ago, and he found comfort in that.

He asked, “Why do you like change?”

“It’s challenging.” She laughed. He liked the sound of her laughter. It was warm and sweet and it caused something inside of him to stir. “Oh, that sounds very stupid,” she offered with a smile. “I don’t know what I mean, but I know I just don’t like everything to be so planned out and the same.”

“Do you miss your friends?” he asked. He reached between his legs and pulled on the wet grass again. He pulled a blade out of the ground and let it drift from his hand, where it landed on her leg.

She brushed it off and said, “Yes. Ron wanted to marry me, did you know?”

He wanted to gag. Certain he was making a disgusted face; he turned away slightly and coughed to hide his discomfort. Asking, “Do you love him?” he then turned back to her to await her answer.

“I did, I mean…” she looked the other way, her knees drawn back up to her chin, her hair long and loose and wet and dark. He wondered what it would feel like against his cheek, his chest. When his hands touched it earlier, to remove it from the collar of his jacket, he nearly went mad from want. Forgetting that she had yet to answer, he was shocked when on a sigh she continued, “I love him as a friend, but that’s not a good enough reason to marry someone.”

He agreed, “No, no it’s not.”

She pulled the letter out of her pocket. She shoved it at him and with a painful expression she said, “I received this letter a few days ago. It’s the reason I went to visit him. I broke his heart. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive me. I went to see him, to try to smooth things over, mend our friendship, but there doesn’t seem to be any hope.”

Draco perused the private letter, which appeared to be from Weasley, for a few moments, and then handed it back to her. “Do you have a broken heart?”

“Perhaps a bruised one, but not broken,” she began with a smile; “after all, I’m strong. I’ll get over it. I have a wonderful future to look forward to, but it saddens me to know that I ruined the future that he had planned.” She fell silent, embarrassed or perhaps she merely had nothing more to say. Draco continued to sit, unchanged, silently beside her.

She had her future mapped out nicely, even if she thought that she didn’t. He found that thought amusing. She liked change, yet her future seemed secure. He liked steadiness, yet his was in the dark. Straightening one knee, he plucked another blade of grass, then another, and then threw them in the air and laughed aloud.

“What’s so funny?” she asked.

“You are,” he answered. “We are. This is.”

“Really?” she asked, with a smile, not a frown. He lifted the hand that had been playing with the wet grass and he let the index finger of that hand slide nervously down her face, from temple to chin. The smile left her face and she trembled, not from cold this time, but from something else.

“Yes, really,” he answered as he withdrew his hand. “You’re such an optimist. You have your life all mapped out before you, all planned so perfectly, without any detours or bumps in the road, and here I sit, with a ‘Dead End’ sign on my path, blocking my way, and well, excuse me, but that thought made me laugh for some odd reason, and I don’t know why.”

“You could go on to University after your time here is served. You could get a job somewhere. I mean, don’t you have any idea what you’re going to do after you leave here?” she asked.

He laughed. “No clue. Men of my station don’t usually plan their lives. Their lives were generally planned for them. I had my money to fall back on; my blood status to rely upon, and my future was always secure because of both of those things. I still have both of those, but now they don’t mean as much.”

“Ah yes,” she said with a smile, “your future used to be all about hating, torturing and hurting mudbloods, with millions of galleons sticking out of your pockets. It was quite an exciting future for you, too bad it was taken away.”

He glared at her through narrow eyes, unsure if she was joking, but her smile did not vanish, so he knew she was. He smiled as well and said, “Don’t forget about maiming mudbloods. I used to love the maiming part. And I may still do something along those lines when I leave here. Surely there’s some sort of career where I could still hurt, maim and torture mudbloods and yet show the world I’m rehabilitated.”

She stood up, removed his jacket from her shoulders, and dropping it directly on his head she said, “You, Malfoy, are wicked, and a cynic, and I doubt you will ever be fully rehabilitated.”

He removed the jacket from his head, stood up, and draping it over his arm, said, “Can you picture me working for the Ministry someday? I could work for the Department of Muggle Affairs.”

They both laughed.

“Do you ever feel guilty for the things you did?” she finally asked.

The smile left his face. “All the time,” he answered quite honestly. “Do you, Hermione?”

“You know, I think that’s the first time in our lives that you've called me Hermione,” she relayed, “and to answer your question, I have nothing in which to feel guilty for, Draco Malfoy. Nothing at all.”

She turned to walk away and she heard him whisper, “Liar.”

She stalked back to him and said, “Excuse me?”

“You feel guilty for breaking Weasley’s heart,” he said matter of fact.

A breath caught in her throat. She wanted to strike Draco Malfoy right now, because he was convenient, close, and mostly because he was right. He seemed to understand her. She nodded, stepped closer, and placed her forehead against his chest.

He was in a predicament. He wanted to throw his arms around her, tell her it would be alright, comfort her, yet he also wanted to lift her into his arms, throw her onto the rain-soaked earth, and sink into her...place his mouth on hers, his body on top of hers, and ravish her very soul.

While he was trying to decide the course of his future - to ravish her or be a gentleman, she decided it for him. She placed her arms around his waist, gave him a brief hug, and then lifted her face to his and said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I hate admitting that. Maybe I don't like change after all.” Then she rose upon her toes and she kissed him, right on the lips.

The kiss was brief, but extraordinary. It was springtime and summertime and Christmas and Easter all wrapped up together. It was every happy moment, every cherished memory, and every subtle nuance that made her who she was, and made him want her for who she was.

Her arms went from around his waist to around his neck, and he let his slip around her waist. She pressed her lips firmer to his, moved her head slightly to the side, and with the new angle of her head, her lips moved slightly over his and he moaned and lifted her closer.

Then, almost before it began, it ended.

And just like that, the rain began again, harder than before, and she took his hand and together they ran hand-in-hand back toward the school, his future a bit more secure, hers a bit more vulnerable, but both feeling better for it, because now they were together.

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