The battlefield is a madhouse.
He's unable to distinguish friend from foe and it's not entirely because he doesn't know which side he's fighting on.
He's lost sight of his parents long ago and he's glad for it. Not seeing what his parents are doing, or who they're cursing, means he doesn't have to stop them. It's a coward's way out, but he's taking it anyway.
He hasn't seen Granger since that day in the manor, but he knows she's around here somewhere. He has a sick feeling in his gut that he thinks is worry, but he's not completely sure. Or maybe he is sure but doesn't want to admit to it.
It's stupid. He's saved her before. He even went to far to help her two best prats escape, or not get in their way while they were escaping, at least. It's only natural to worry that his hard work, that actually endangered his life, was not for nothing.
It doesn't mean he actually cares about her. It doesn't mean anything. She doesn't mean anything.
He ducks the red light of a curse sent his way and runs for cover. 'Battlefield,' he reminds himself. 'Not a good time to sort out my feelings.'
He shakes his head to clear it of all thoughts and steps out of his shelter, still crouched low, only to barrel head-first into someone's stomach. They both fall to the ground, but he quickly points his wand at the other person, only to find their wand already pointed at him in return.
Longbottom. He winces. Not good. He can't curse Longbottom, he's one of her friends. But he's not going to let Longbottom curse him without defending himself either. He almost groans when he realizes he's pretty much fucked.
It's his own bloody fault. He should have sorted this out ages ago. What kind of idiot steps onto a battlefield not certain which side to fight on?
"Malfoy!" Longbottom yells surprised.
"Longbottom," he drawls. Here it comes. He's about to get cursed for every insult and hex he ever sent Longbottom's way. He can't even blame the bloke really. He deserves it.
Longbottom opens his mouth but instead of a curse he says something that has him reeling in shock.
"Hermione told me to look out for you, and that you're on our side. She'll be glad to know you're alright, she's been worried."
He doesn't say anything because, in all honesty, all rational thoughts have fled.
Longbottom gives him a confused glance. "Well don't just stand there. Let's get the bloody hell out of here before one of these bastards curses us."
He nods dazedly and follows a boy who considers him, someone who has tormented him throughout six years of school, on his side just because Hermione Granger said so.
'Bloody Gryffindors. Honestly, what is wrong with this lot?'
"I need to find Granger."
Longbottom nodded grimly. "Yeah, good luck with that, Mate. She's with Ron and Harry, that's all I know. Well that, and the fact that the reason we're fighting is to buy them time. They're doing something that'll give us a chance to defeat him once and for all. Without it we're pretty much buggered."
He instantly feels a wave of anger rush him. They are doing something to ensure their victory. something that is in all likelihood very dangerous. Why does she always have to put her life on the line?
He was going to find her, put a body-bind curse on her and move her somewhere he could protect her from everyone that would harm her, including herself.
He conveniently forgets that she can probably hex his balls off if she is so inclined, and is not in need of his protection, or that of anyone else.
He is very good at ignoring things that don't suit him.
Longbottom pulls him out of the way of a curse before promptly returning fire and he can't help but marvel a the absurdity of the situation. Longbottom, Neville Longbottom, saving him and defending him from a curse.
It's all her fault, he's sure of it. Things seemed to make sense before she came along.
"Let's go, Malfoy. We're needed inside the castle. We're planning on chucking down a couple of mandrake roots on these bastards' heads."
He watches Longbottom run into the castle fully expecting him to follow, and shakes his head slowly in disbelief. He takes a deep breath before following him, wondering if he should have just told Greyback about the stupid Gryffindor bint hiding behind the tapestry. He is certain somehow that things would have been simpler if he had.
He doesn't find her. He catches glimpses of her on the battlefield, and he hears things which at least lets him know she's alive. He tries to stick with Longbottom during the battle, but things are insane, and he loses him somewhere around the astronomy tower when he looks down and sees her running around with Potter and his red-headed ape and immediately runs down to find her.
To his utter frustration and expectations she's gone by the time he reaches the courtyard.
He saves his cousin and her half-breed husband from that creepy prick Dolohov not completely sure he does it for the sake of his family, or to pay the bastard back for cursing her in the Ministry of Magic. In the end it hardly matters. Dolohov is dead and it will please her to hear he was the one who saved her beloved professor Lupin and his wife. He can use that to make her...he's not really sure what he wants from her.
When he finally finds her, she's holding onto Potter as if he's about to die - which could very well be true - crying her eyes out. He watches from a distance, not close enough to hear what is said, but still able to see everything, like Potter leaving the castle on his own, and Weasley holding her tightly against his body.
He's not exactly sure if he pays more attention to Potter leaving to meet his enemy to end this war, or Weasley having his hands all over something he just now realizes, he considers his.
Instead of watching how Weasley holds her or bashing his head in after ripping him off her, he walks away. He doesn't go far, just far enough where he won't have to witness that rather nauseating display.
He walks towards the great hall where all the other students and teachers are gathered. Where all the dead were laid for their loved ones to claim. He wonders who he'll find there.
He ignores the stares directed towards him and slowly searches for a familiar face. Anything to turn his mind away from the crying witch dancing all over his thoughts. A feeling, like being hit in the gut by a bludger, when he sees the bodies. So many dead.
He turns when he hears crying and actually hisses in shock at seeing the Weasley family crowded around a body on the floor.
It's stupid really, that it completely throws him. Somehow he just never really expected that the Weasleys would lose someone in this war. It's completely illogical, because statistically speaking, they stood the largest chance at losing someone considering how many of them there are, but he naïvely hadn't even thought about one of them dying. He rips his eyes from the body on the floor when the Golden Trio's red-headed ape comes to join his family, embracing his mother with tears running down his face.
It's unfortunate but it has nothing to do with him, he has a witch to confront. He leaves the great hall with one last look to the mourning family.
It doesn't take very much effort to find her, and he's relieved that she's alone when he does.
He watches her for a moment before approaching. She looks as if she's expecting the worst to happen. She seems lost, he thinks, defeated, and he quickly smothers the urge to walk over to her and pull her into his arms. He wants to show her that she's not alone and even tough the world seems to be buggered and they'll probably be dead in the next hour or so, whatever will come, he won't let her face it alone.
But he doesn't because he's a Malfoy and Malfoys don't do that. So he resists the urge, which isn't very difficult to begin with because he's pretty sure this is the first time he's ever had that particular feeling.
He slowly walks over to her until he's standing right behind her. He knows that she's heard him, but she doesn't turn around right away. She rights her shoulders, the same shoulders that were hunched down only seconds earlier as if she was carrying the weight of the world on them, and turns around with an encouraging smile that he can immediately identify as fake.
The smile freezes on her face when she sees him, and he quickly understands that the smile wasn't meant for him,but for one of her idiot friends, probably Weasley. He's undoubtedly the only one stupid enough not to see through it.
"Draco," she whispers sounding shocked.
He blinks for moment, wondering if he's ever heard her say his name before. He doesn't think she's ever called him anything but Malfoy, or perhaps occasionally, prat or git. He finds that he rather likes it.
"Hermione," he greets, taking his cue from her. The name sounds foreign on his tongue. He doesn't think he's ever called her that before, not even in his mind.
"You're- I-I I didn't think I'd see you before..." she tries to smile but it turns into a grimace.
"Neither did I," he says quietly.
It's so strange. Ever since he last saw her fleeing the manor he wanted to find her, to see her, to touch her even, but now that she's standing before him he doesn't know what to do.
"Are you alright?" he asks uncertainly, and almost winces at the idiocy of the question.
"Um, well, yes. No. I don't know."
Her distress is easy for him to see, it would've been easy even if he hadn't known her as well as he does. He's watched her closely over the years, trying to see what others saw in her, trying to see if his parents were right - he never stopped watching even after he found his answers. He doesn't really understand why, only that it was impossible for him to look away. He suspects the unsettling feeling in his stomach is an indication he understands now, why he can't seem to let go of her.
He stays silent just waiting for her to let everything out all at once in one big rant so that she can calm herself and think rationally. He knows her well and understands what she needs.
"I'm frightened," she starts, nearly out of breath with panic, "Because Harry's out there trying to execute one of his hare-brained schemes of which I'm fairly certain won't work. Either way he's going to die."
She pales as if the thought only just now solidified in her mind. "Oh Merlin, Harry's going to die. We lost. Harry's going to die and I'm not sure if I'm relieved that I'm not by his side, sharing the same fate, or angry that he won't let me and Ron walk this path with him, like we walked everywhere else he did."
As soon as her fears leave her mouth she deflates. He tries to ignore the happy feeling bubbling inside of him because she came to him with her worries, but it's hopeless really. All he can think of is that she didn't go to Weasley or Longbottom, or anyone else, she came to him.
He can't bugger this up. He needs to show her that trusting him is a good choice. That he'll be there for her, that he'll be whatever it is she needs.
The corner of his lip curls up into a wry half-smile. "I don't know what Potter thinks he can accomplish by going out there alone, but I don't think he could have done it if he knew you'd be dying with him. I reckon you're one of the reasons he walked out there to begin with, it probably gave him the courage he needed to know that he's doing what he has to, to keep you safe."
She looks up to him, eyes large and frightened. "He's Potter, Granger, stop your fretting, if anyone can do this with even a remote chance of getting out of it alive, it would be him."
A grateful smile plays around her lips while her eyes stay locked on his. "You're right, of course."
He smirks smugly. "Of course I am."
He's not sure what he's doing because he can't honestly say he's ever comforted someone before in his life, but it seems to be working so he decides not to think about it too much. She's smiling, which means he hasn't fucked up yet, everything is right in the world and all that sentimental rot.
"You didn't fight with them," she says suddenly, startling him. "Does that mean you made your choice?"
His eyes leave hers to stare off into the distance. He doesn't want to look at her while they're talking about him. He didn't mind when he wasn't the topic of discussion, but he knows that she's dangerous to him. He's seen her do it before, look into his eyes and see things he doesn't want her to see or understand, things he doesn't even understand himself, things he isn't ready to face.
"I think I made my choice when I didn't tell my aunt about the silly mudblood hiding behind the tapestry."
He sees her wince from the corner of his eyes and knows his use of the word mudblood hurt her, but he doesn't care. He used it deliberately to prove to himself that he could hurt her without wanting to hold her and beg her forgiveness like a fool. Whatever he has done, whatever he will do, he's still a Malfoy. He won't let his actions be determined by their effect on her, he can't let that happen.
He's a fool, he knows this. One minute he's trying everything in his power to make her smile, the next he insults her just to show himself that he still can.
She takes a deep breath and steps closer to him. "I'm happy I got to see you before the end, at least."
His eyes snap back to hers and he knows she can see the surprise in them. Why doesn't she yell at him for calling her a mudblood, why is she acting like he never said anything? He tries to ignore the turmoil in his stomach that surfaced when he decided to deliberately hurt her.
"I never got to thank you- you know f-for saving my life. Both times."
He just looks at her, not exactly sure what to say to that, and almost absent-mindedly notices that he's feeling even worse now.
"I didn't do anything. Both times."
She shrugs carelessly but the tension in her shoulders betray her. "That was sort of the point."
"Right," he nods, not really sure what to say.
He startles when a warm hand suddenly envelopes his, and can't help but stare at their intertwined hand. He's pretty sure he should stop her from touching him, stop her before this casual touch of hers breaks his restraints and he allows himself to do to her what he really wants to do, what he just finally admitted to himself he wants to do, which is kiss her senseless and tell her exactly what she means to him.
He wants to kiss her.
The thought hits him like a sledgehammer.
He wants her, he's always wanted her. It's why he helped her so many times without her even knowing about it, even before the tapestry. It's why he can't let anyone hurt her, why not knowing what she's doing, if she's even alive, drives him mad.
He wants her, and unfortunately for her, whatever he wants, he gets.
"Why didn't you? Tell, I mean. I know I was half-mad from the Cruciatus, but I remember seeing you standing behind your aunt with your wand pointed at her back, I remember you wanting to help me, going against everything, even your family to do so. Why, Draco?"
He just looks at her, face stoically blank while his thoughts race one mile a minute.
He wants her, so he will have her, she has no say in this matter.
Unfortunately, he also wants her to be happy. He'll have to think of a plan worthy of only the best minds in Slytherin to accomplish both his goals.
"I wanted you safe."
He doesn't know what else to say. He isn't someone who openly shows what he feels, like she does. He's too afraid he'll be denied what he really longs for, too afraid she'll deny him.
He almost rolls his eyes. This woman was going to drive him mad with her incessant questions. He takes a step forward until his front brushes hers, his hand still tightly intertwined with hers.
"Do you honestly need to ask, Hermione?"
His heart beats like a drum in his chest when she looks up at him, eyes impossibly wide as if he just told her the most unbelievable thing. Her breathing grows irregular and he can feel her brush against his chest every time she inhales.
She says nothing, but he knows. He knows and he's so unbelievably happy it's almost sickening.
He lifts up his free hand an reaches for her cheek, brushing it lightly. He notices it when she stops breathing as if she doesn't remember how, as if his touch makes her forget.
His mouth curls up into an honest, pleased smile, and she remembers that she needs to breathe when she sucks in a deep breath in shock.
He knows now that she's not unaffected by him. He knows. There's no turning back anymore, she's his, he'll make it so.
He bows his head and is pleased when she tilts her head backwards a little, to accommodate him. He slowly moves closer wanting it so badly. He took a big risk by letting her know what he feels for her, but the risk turned out to be worth it. He knows it's too soon, he doesn't want to scare her away but he's willing to take another chance and hope for the best.
Just being with her, talking to her has kept his mind off the fact that they're standing in the middle of a war zone, but he hasn't forgotten. If he doesn't kiss her now then when? Their future doesn't look very bright, he has to take every moments he has with her.
He doesn't recognize the voice beyond the fact that it's female, but he vows he'll make them pay for interrupting nonetheless.
Her eyes lose the dazed almost glassy look she was wearing before.
'Back to reality.'
"Ginny?" she asks as she takes a deliberate step back. She'll never know how much it costs him to not pull her back to him, pull her back to where she belongs.
Her eyes meet his and even though she doesn't say a word he reads everything he needs to know from her expression.
'Later?' her eyes beg.
He gives in because he doesn't have the heart to tell her that there won't be a later.
He forces himself to nod, giving her permission to leave his side, to leave him. He watches as she walks away, and with every step she takes away from him, the air seems to disappear, leaving him unable to breathe.
He turns around with only one thought, outside, he needs to be outside, he needs to breathe.
He walks outside to find Longbottom limping around, dusting off something he picked up from the ground. He feels happy to see that Longbottom made it. He wouldn't go as far as call the bloke his friend, but they had saved each others lives numerous times over the course of the battle. They weren't friends, but they weren't enemies either.
His happiness is short-lived when he sees Voldemort and his Death-eaters walking towards Hogwarts in the distance.
He knows what's coming but can't help but wish they had more time.
He doesn't look for her when he hears everyone coming outside. His eyes stay focused on Voldemort.
He hates him.
He hates him, he wants him to die and his parents are standing behind him laughing, agreeing with his words.
He thinks he might hate them too.
With one sentence he destroyed every ounce of hope he had. Harry Potter is dead.
Harry Potter is dead and with him dies every chance he had to be with her. His cunning mind is thinking up scenarios, wondering what the best course of action would be.
He'll have to join that snake bastard. If he has any chance of saving her, he needs to do something worthy of receiving a boon, something terrible enough to capture Voldemort's eye. Perhaps then he can ask for her.
He could make up some rubbish story about wanting to have revenge on her for every time she beat him in school, wanting to show her her place. He'll have to lie his bloody arse off, but he'll do it if it means keeping her safe.
He can vaguely hear Voldemort yelling something about it being 'the time to declare yourself' and he knows whatever it is he is going to do, it has to be done soon. Time is running out.
He has to make sure she survives this battle. She'll hate him for it of course, but at least they'll be alive. They'd try to escape to the other side of the world later, after he secured their safety.
He realizes that he has to speak up. If he's going to have any chance of saving her, now is the time to do it.
"Draco," someone hisses, pulling him out of his jumbled thoughts. "Draco!"
His father. His eyes focus on his harried appearance, on the hand outstretched to him. "Draco," he hisses again, almost bouncing on his feet with impatience.
He can feel her eyes on him. He swallows, knowing that he's about to hurt her, but he hopes she'll understand when he explains.
"Draco," this time it's his mother who calls.
"Come," she says softly, almost comfortingly, when he looks at her. He slightly shakes his head to clear his thoughts and turns his head to the side to sneak a quick look at Hermione.
She's not watching him anymore, and has her back turned to him. He knows it's deliberate. He swallows loudly and takes a step forwards. The relief on his mother and father's faces is obvious, but he doesn't pay them any mind. Instead he watches how her back stiffens and he knows she's watching his parents' reactions to determine what's happening behind her, she always was a clever girl.
Her back starts shaking with what he knows are repressed sobs and without really thinking about what he is doing, without thinking bout the danger it brings, he forgets about all the plans he made. He forgets about his mother and father, his crazy aunt dancing around on a rock like the maniac she is, and even the snake lord that's going to kill him very painfully. He only thinks of her.
He veers to the right and softly pushes one of the red-headed people aside so he can take his place beside Hermione. She stiffens when she feels his hand on her lower back and hears the shocked murmurs around her.
"Draco!" his father hisses. "What do you think you're doing? Come here!"
She looks up at him, eyes wide with fear, knowing he just sentenced himself to die alongside her, tears slowly falling from her eyes. But she's happy, so happy. Because he's made his choice, publicly declared it even, and it is to stand with her. Even in the face of certain death.
It makes him proud. That she's so deliriously happy only because he chose her over everything else. It makes him feel like he's worth something, if she feels this happy about having him by her side.
"I'm doing what Voldemort told us to do, Father..." he says, slowly moving his arm around Hermione's side, pulling her closer to his body.
The first time he stayed silent. The second time he tried. But the third time...the third time...
"...I'm declaring myself."
A/N: It's done.
I hope you'll let me know what you think?
If you see any mistakes, please do me the kindness of letting me know. I didn't have a beta for this story.