Title: A Thousand Words (ch 30) - Words Run Dry
Word Count: 3373
The rumours flew. Much to Draco’s chagrin, astonishment, and inward pleasure, when he arrived at work the next day, the first fragments of conversation that reached his ears were about how Hermione Granger had broken off her engagement with Ron Weasley. Normally such a trivial occurrance would not be a subject of concern within the Ministry, but because Hermione and Ron, having fought alongside Harry Potter, were both esteemed and renowned Aurors, their private lives were consequently under far more scrutiny than the ordinary Ministry worker’s. Furthermore, it was a well-recognised fact that the two of them had been together since their Hogwarts days, so the announcement of a breakup had been most unexpected.
Draco didn’t have much time to reflect upon this surprising news, for as he made his way down the Atrium, he couldn’t help but feel his skin prickle. Was it just his imagination, or were an unusually high number of passers by staring at him with expressions of distrust? His blood ran cold. Could they possibly know about…?
His question was answered when he squeezed into one of the crowded lifts. As it began descending, he happened to overhear a whispered exchange between two middle-aged witches.
‘I heard she fell in love with someone else,’ the one standing behind Draco was muttering to her companion.
‘Wasn’t it Draco Malfoy?’ her friend whispered back excitedly.
‘Was it really?’
‘Well, you know, Viola – she’s the lovely young lady who works in the Werewolf Capture Unit – says Miss Granger came in just the other day and requested permission for her and Mr Malfoy to take over Madam Malkin’s murder case…’
‘Hmm…well, we mustn’t jump to conclusions, but I do agree that’s quite suspicious. I say, Draco Malfoy! And especially with the high opinion Mr Potter has of him!’
‘Oh yes, but Viola says they despised each other back during their school days. Imagine that!’
‘You oughtn't be surprised to hear that…Draco Malfoy was once a Death Eater, you know…it’s no wonder he’s involved in this…’
‘But why would Miss Granger go for trouble like him? Really, Mr Weasley is so much better…’
‘Hush, Daphne, he’s right in front of us…’
Throughout the course of this conversation, Draco had been growing steadily more irritated. Now, he turned around and, with every ounce of composure he could muster, said coldly, ‘Yes, and he would appreciate it if old bats like you two would stop gossiping about matters that don’t concern them.’
‘Well!’ said the one named Daphne, sniffing in a highly affronted manner.
‘Come now, Daphne, we get off at this floor…’ Daphne’s friend grabbed her wrist and tugged her away, but not before shooting Draco a look of intense dislike over her shoulder.
Draco rolled his eyes. What did he care if two empty-headed bints like them thought poorly of him? Still, his insides squirmed uncomfortably. If everyone else also believed that he had been the one to break up the happy couple’s relationship, the disapproval of the two secretaries would be the least of his worries…
Sure enough, when Draco stepped into the Hit Wizard Headquarters, all conversation immediately ceased. Several pairs of eyes darted over to him before quickly looking back down. Draco sighed. If that was the way it was going to be…
Ignoring the reaction his arrival had elicited, Draco crossed the room. It was times like this that he was grateful for the assistance Harry had lended him a year ago in obtaining his own private office. He reached the door labelled ‘Draco Malfoy’, pulled it open, and stepped in.
Draco shrugged off his cloak and tossed it carelessly onto his chair with one hand as he shut the door behind him with the other. A neat pile of letters lay on his desk. Draco couldn’t help but smirk. As annoying and incompetent Kay was, he had to admit that she was a great help when it came to trivial tasks. He had also seen a great improvement in her abilities as a Hit Witch; just the other day, when she and a group of others had gone to deal with a vampire siting, the resulting report had stated that she’d been the one to find and subdue the target. Of course, Draco attributed this particular achievement of Kay’s to his influence and guidance.
Sitting down, Draco sifted through the post. The only remotely interesting letter he had received came from Pansy Parkinson, who was currently a prisoner in Azkaban and was scheduled to be released in three months. Draco skimmed it without any real interest before tossing it aside. He cared very little about Pansy’s laments and proclamations of love. Just because she had gone to Azkaban for protecting his whereabouts when she was questioned during the war didn’t mean he owed her anything.
Now there was nothing for him to do. For the past year, his life had revolved around the missions he’d been assigned to and the task of perfecting the Wolfsbane II Potion. At the moment, those missions were on temporary hold due to his involvement in the Malkin case and the Wolfsbane II Potion was done. Or at least he thought so. In truth, even after spending the previous night finishing it, he wasn’t entirely convinced of its effectiveness. It had to be tested…but on what? He had no time; he and Hermione were to set out to track Noah Lawley down the next day, and they needed the potion.
I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope it works, Draco thought sullenly.
Unwillingly, Draco’s mind now wandered to Hermione. He couldn’t help but wonder if the rumours were true. Had she really broken up with Ron? A tiny spark of hope lit up inside him, only to be extinguished when he realised how much more likely it was that it had been Ron who broke off the engagement and not the other way around. After he had left Hermione in the hall, he’d seen Ron approach her then walk away.
An immense feeling of satisfaction settled in Draco’s gut as he considered the level of his involvement in their relationship troubles. He had known all along that Ron wouldn’t be able to handle Hermione’s friendship with the person he hated the most. Had it then gotten to the point where, after seeing Hermione begging for Draco to forgive her, Ron could no longer stand the burden of pretending to accept Hermione’s opinion of Draco?
I did her a favour, Draco thought viciously. I relieved her of that miserable dunce.
But had he really done her a favour? His mind flashed back to the afternoon before. The hurt in her eyes when he had refused to take off his mask…he couldn’t forget it. The image of her standing in the rain with tears running down her cheeks would be burned into his mind for the rest of his life.
Why had he done it? Even now he didn’t understand. He’d had her standing there before him, all but on her knees and begging for his trust. The chance to steal her away and make her his forever had been presented to him on a platter, yet he had turned it down.
He had to do something. If he kept running away forever, he’d never have her. He had to let her know now, when all ties between her and Ron were on the verge of snapping. Now was the time to tell her everything.
Spurred on by this thought, Draco fumbled around in one of his drawers for parchment. He found some and placed it on his desktop. Taking the quill sitting in his ink bottle, he pulled the parchment towards him and began to write.
Before I say anything else, please allow me to apologise. Since I left you in the park, I’ve been torturing myself replaying our meeting over and over again in my head, remembering everything I said without taking your feelings into consideration. Everything I did yesterday…I’m so sorry for all of it. Most of all, I’m sorry for not finding the courage to reveal myself. I was selfish to think I could keep taking from you without ever giving back. But I’ve realised that now, and it’s time I explained everything to you.
Before the interdepartmental challenge, I had lost all hope of ever finding someone who might understand me. Growing up, I never knew who I was or who I was meant to become. I wandered around, following orders from my superiors and giving them to my inferiors. In doing so, I developed a single goal: to become the Dark Lord’s most valued follower. That goal became my reason for existing, and I devoted my life to fulfilling it. I never stopped to love anyone or anything. But of course, I’ve told you most of this already.
The purpose of this letter is not to explain my background in further depth to you. With this letter, I intend to finally divulge the only two secrets that remain to be disclosed: my feelings and my true name.
I love you, Hermione. I’ve loved you ever since the day we met in the lift after a year of not seeing each other. Perhaps I loved you even before that, when we were still enemies at Hogwarts and later in the war. Perhaps I’ve hated and loved you simultaneously all my life.
But before I delve deeper into that, let me explain the situation to you. Since that chance encounter in the lift, I’ve watched you. At first I did it unconsciously whenever we ran into each other. I thought it was a nuisance that we kept meeting up when I least expected it, but slowly, that began to fade away. I started wanting to spend time with you, because when I was with you, my defences dissolved away and I felt at ease. And the more you persisted in trusting me despite my questionable past, the more I fell for you. You refused to give up on me, and that above all meant the world to me.
That was the real me, the one I knew you could never grow to love. That’s why I relied on Shadow – he allowed me to get close to you and peer into the parts of your heart you opened up to no one else. You trusted Shadow more than you trusted me. But I hurt and betrayed you as Shadow, and I’ll always regret it for as long as I live.
Still, I can’t say it enough: I love you. You’re everything to me, Hermione, and I’m not lying when I say that. You’re the reason why I love, why I hate, why I laugh, why I cry…why I feel anything at all. I had nothing before you, and I’ll have nothing after you leave. Even if you don’t trust me anymore, at least believe my feelings for you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to repair all the damage I’ve dealt to our relationship, but understand that even if you can’t find it in your heart to love me in return, I’ll never give up on you.
And now for the second secret. Have you realised who I am yet? If not, I’ll keep it from you no longer.
Draco folded the parchment over twice, tucked it into an envelope, and carefully wrote ‘Hermione Granger’ on the front. However, the moment he finished writing her name, he dropped his quill and pushed the letter away from him as if it were something repulsive. There was no way he could send such a letter to Hermione. He almost laughed at the absurdity of the idea. What had he been thinking?
She was what he had been thinking. She was the one who had reduced him to grovelling for forgiveness. Still, he’d withstand all sorts of humiliation for her. If she would only love him back, he’d do anything. He would never hurt her or lie to her again. That was for sure. He’d be there for her forever, either as Draco or Shadow, whichever one she preferred…he would change himself permanently upon receiving the word from her.
But she still loved her worthless, wretched fiance. Ron Weasley – the one who did absolutely nothing for her. She stood by him no matter how many times he made her cry or tossed her aside like an accessory. Why?
‘Goddamnit,’ he growled, seizing a cracked paperweight from the open drawer and hurling it at the wall on the other side of the office. The sound of the glass shattering helped relieve some of his frustration, though not very much of it.
And then, as suddenly as it had struck him, Draco’s rage passed. He fell back against the back of his chair, completely spent. What was wrong with him? Was he destined to stay locked in this cycle forever? Always having to bear the weight of his past and present mistakes without the aid of a beacon of light on the horizon…it was a terrible way to live. No potion could save him from that kind of pain; thus, in those years spent in the heart of the forest, he had finally resigned himself to such a life.
But Hermione had given him the chance to escape it. She had reached a hand out to him…and he had passed her by.
Draco looked down at the letter with disgust. He would burn it. Perhaps destroying the evidence would at least smother some of the feelings gripping him. Picking his wand up, Draco muttered, ‘Incen–’
Draco looked up sharply. Kay had opened the door a crack and poked her head in.
‘What is it?’ he asked, putting his wand back down on the desktop and turning around in his seat.
‘Mr Shacklebolt wants to see you about something.’
‘Can’t it wait a while?’ asked Draco irritably.
Kay blinked. ‘He said it’s about the Malkin murder,’ she offered timidly.
Draco sighed. ‘Fine,’ he said, standing up and tucking his wand into his pocket. ‘By the way, Jamison, send that pile of post sitting on the left side of my desk by owl tomorrow. I won’t be here, so I can’t do it myself.’
‘I will, sir!’ said Kay eagerly. ‘Good luck on your chase tomorrow!’
Draco nodded and walked past her. What does Shacklebolt want? he thought grumpily as he looked around for the Head. I thought I already made it clear that I’m not under his command while I’m working on this case…
‘Malfoy, over here.’
Kingsley was standing with the Head of the Aurors, Gawain Robards, but upon seeing Draco, he left his companion and made his way over to where Draco stood.
‘What is it?’ said Draco, stopping in his tracks.
‘How’s the werewolf situation coming along?’
Draco raised an eyebrow warily. ‘Is that all you wanted to ask me?’
‘Yes and no,’ Kingsley answered seriously. ‘I also wanted to warn you before you leave tomorrow.’
‘Warn me against what?’
Kingsley crossed his arms. ‘Against acting rashly. You might act like a bigshot when it comes to manipulating your old mates, Malfoy, but Greyback has got –’
‘I don’t,’ Draco interrupted angrily. ‘I don’t think I’m a bigshot. I know what I’m doing, though. You don’t need to treat me like an eager trainee going on his first mission.’
‘This is different from the romps I’ve sent you on in the past,’ Kingsley growled, jabbing a finger at Draco’s chest. ‘Greyback has something up his sleeve, and whatever it is, it’s going the way he wants it to right now. He’s a far bigger threat to you than you may think, especially since you’re bringing Hermione Granger along…’
‘I didn’t ask for her to come with me,’ Draco mumbled.
‘Then it’s a damn good thing she made the decision to tag along anyway,’ said Kingsley sharply. ‘I trust her brains to keep your temper in check.’
‘Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?’ said Draco loudly, ignoring the urge to argue Kingsley’s words. Disagreeing with the Head was never a good idea.
Kingsley glared at Draco. ‘Yes. Make sure you take care of her.’
Draco bristled. Of course he would take care of her. What the hell was Kingsley trying to imply? That he would let Hermione get hurt while he was in charge of her?
‘I mean it, Malfoy,’ said Kingsley, his severe tone and expression confirming his words. ‘That’s a direct order from Potter, and I fully support it. Hermione is a good friend of mine, and if anything happens to her because of you…’
‘Weren’t you the one who was just saying she’d be the one to protect me?’ Draco retorted, refusing to be beaten. ‘Keep your hair on, Shacklebolt. I’d rather not be the one taking responsibility for her dead body, anyway.’
Kingsley stared at Draco calculatingly. At last, he said, ‘The werewolf chase wasn’t all I was referring to.’
Before Draco could say anything in reply to this eccentric statement, Kingsley uncrossed his arms and returned to where Robards stood waiting for him. The two of them immediately resumed their previous conversation as they left the Hit Wizard Headquarters together.
Annoyed now, Draco gave the two Heads a minute’s lead before following them out of the office. As he strolled down the main corridor, he tried to concentrate on making plans for the following day’s venture. He would have to bring the potion, of course, regardless of whether or not it was ingestable. But would it be any use? Even if they found the werewolf, it was possible – no, likely – that he had no intention of returning to their side, for Greyback would have certainly poisoned his mind with false ideas concerning the evil of men by now.
So immersed in these concerns was Draco that he almost didn’t look up in time to see Harry and Hermione walk by. He did, however, and stopped almost instantly in his tracks upon seeing them.
Harry appeared to be consoling Hermione about something, for he was gesturing indignantly with one hand while patting her shoulder soothingly with the other. As they passed by, oblivious to Draco’s presence, Harry fell back slightly, allowing Draco a clear view of Hermione’s face.
She was crying. Even though she was trying to hide it with her hands, her tear-streaked cheeks betrayed her. Stunned, Draco reached out a hand and stepped forward, hoping he might catch her attention, but before he could utter a word, Harry looked backwards and saw him.
For a split second, Harry’s expression darkened, but then he shook his head slightly at Draco, a silent warning to stay away. Draco withdrew his hand immediately. Of course – he was most likely part of the reason why Hermione was upset in the first place.
Draco clenched his teeth as he watched Hermione and Harry walk away. It was torturous, being so close to her, yet so far away at the same time. Watching from the sidelines, powerless to do anything…that was how it always ended up.
He exhaled, trying desperately to control his resentment. Now is not the time to be jealous of Potter, he reminded himself. Tomorrow…you’ll have the chance to be alone with her tomorrow…
Back in Draco’s office, Kay was humming cheerfully to herself as she busily straightened the last of the items on her boss’s desk.
He’s really not as bad as everyone says he is, she mused as she picked up a letter addressed to someone named Hermione Granger and glanced at it briefly before placing it on top of the pile of outgoing post. A bit surly, I suppose, but really, I’d be the same if I had gone through all the terrible things that happened to him during the war…
Kay stood back to admire her work. Wouldn’t Mr Malfoy be pleased when he saw how she had organised his things so neatly for him! Satisfied by this thought, Kay turned and left the office, making a mental note to send the post first thing in the morning as she closed the door quietly behind her.
Next chapter: Hermione and Draco set off into the Wyrd Woods, hoping to find the answer to the mystery of Madam Malkin's murder. What they find lying in store for them, however, is more than anything either of them could ever have expected.
P.S. - Excuse my language, but holy shit. I just discovered the most amazing Harry/Draco fic (actually, THE most amazing fic period).