Title: True Myths & Mythological Truths
Word Count: 4,744
Warnings: the occasional bad word
Summary: At Hogwarts over winter hols eighth year, Hermione and Draco have some special magical creatures to take care of. When there’s an accident involving Draco (of course), it leads to some interesting revelations…and more.
A/N: To me, the holidays are a time when we’re more open to reconciliation and redemption, two themes that play a major part in Harry Potter. It’s incredibly hard to seek, earn, and to grant either, so in the spirit of the season, I wish you all generous, courageous hearts. I hope you enjoy this little bit of Dramione. <3
Snow crunched under Hermione’s feet as she strode towards the Forbidden Forest with Draco Malfoy in tacitly agreed upon silence. Fat, white flakes fell from an ominously steely sky, catching on her lashes and blurring her vision. The wind was picking up, sharp and smelling of the forest’s evergreens.
It was the day before Christmas of her “eighth year” at Hogwarts, meant to make up for the previous one spent locating and destroying Horcruxes with Harry and Ron. Meant to make up for the war, for the time robbed from countless other students, and for the mockery of learning the Death Eaters had made while in charge.
Which is to say all students were welcome to repeat the year before, including her silent walking companion. A fresh start, a freshly rebuilt school.
Although not everyone had come back. Harry and Ron, made Aurors by the new Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, had both declined returning, preferring to jump right into their job training (against Hermione’s rather insistent—and, she thought, quite prudent—advice). The two had seen her off at Platform 9 ¾, giving her tight hugs and smart remarks about not getting too excited for NEWTS.
Sitting on the train with Ginny and Luna later, she was surprised to feel relief rather than despondence.
crunch crunch crunch
Beside her, gloved hands in fur-lined pockets, Malfoy managed a stiff version of his usual cocky gait, dragonhide boots squeaking slightly in the hard layer of old snow and the fresh layer accumulating atop. Hood pulled low, an inestimably soft-looking scarf wound several times about his neck, chin tucked under, all Hermione could see of his face was a bit of sharp nose and a few wisps of white-blonde hair.
“Do you think it’ll storm?” The wind nearly carried her voice away.
“I think it is storming, Granger,” came the reply clearly, Malfoy having done her the courtesy of temporarily lowering his scarf.
Hermione glanced around, rubbing at her eyes to clear her lashes of snowflakes. It did seem the snow had become rather…clumpy, and the wind had certainly picked up since they’d left the castle.
“Let’s hurry, then, before this gets worse,” she advised, tugging her knit cap down more firmly and quickening her pace.
Malfoy responded—likely something sarcastic from the sound of it, and him being Malfoy and all—but he’d failed to uncover his mouth, and she was already a few strides ahead.
In the near distance, she could just make out a small enclosure bordering the forest and a few dark shapes moving placidly in the white. The scene looked like a shaken snow globe, except it was as if she and Malfoy were inside as well, two figures caught up in the strangely convex space created by the opaque sky and the snow’s obscuring swirl and sweep. She smiled at the thought and turned suddenly, nearly colliding with Malfoy, who’d been much closer than she’d realized.
“Oof! Sorry, Draco!” she said into his chest, bits of wool from his coat sticking to her lip balm, nose smarting from the button that had smashed into it.
“I’m all for abandoning this task straight away, Granger, but I thought you were Hagrid’s last ‘helper’ here now Potter and Weasley are out seeking glory elsewhere.”
Hermione took a step back and looked up into what she could see of Malfoy’s already re-covered face. In response to his quizzically arched brow, she resumed smiling and rolled her eyes as if they shared a joke, then proceeded to grab his arm, slipping her hand round the inside of his elbow and pulling him along.
“I was going to remark how this is like being inside a snow globe, but I suppose you don’t know what one is,” she shouted to him over the increasingly antagonistic wind as they finally reached the enclosure.
Inside, five reindeer from the previous week’s Care of Magical Creatures class ranged about, nosing the ground or lying upon it, large brown eyes nonplussed, jawing away endlessly at some vegetation. Their great antlers, L-shaped, branched at the top like fat, splayed hands.
“Right, so one of us needs to Vanish their droppings while the other replenishes their food supply.”
“You can do the droppings, Granger,” Malfoy smirked, keeping his scarf down longer than it took to get the words out so as not to lessen the full effect of his snark.
Hermione shrugged. “Fine. Here’s the special growth potion Professor Sprout gave Hagrid for the reindeer moss. Just a drop here and there should do.” She handed the phial she’d dug from her coat pocket to Malfoy, who nodded before eying the reindeer warily. Sighing, she touched his arm. “There’s nothing to worry about, Draco. Remember what Hagrid said: don’t be too aggressive, or it’ll make them skittish. And then, well…” she trailed off, unsure if he was even listening, or if the wind howling through nearby trees was simply too loud, the layers of wool he wore too thick for him to have felt her touch.
Had he been listening, or able to hear—whichever—Hermione would only be stating what Malfoy already knew, that making the reindeer skittish was a Bad Thing. Bad because Hagrid had chosen them for a very specific reason: they could fly.
Of course, Hermione had learned first year that there was a species of reindeer that could, and that, due to a wizarding mishap involving one Freebert Nortluge, Muggles had come to tell the story of Santa and his flying, sleigh-pulling reindeer. The story, which Hagrid related with great relish (and several inaccuracies regarding the Santa Claus myth that Hermione was quick to correct), involved Nortluge’s efforts to harness several (eight, to be exact) flying reindeer for obscure purposes—some said he had an irrational fear of Apparition, others that he had plans for some sort of children’s “ride,” still others that he was simply barking. Naturally, Nortluge was a portly man with a great white beard who’d been dressed in scarlet robes the Christmas Eve of his fateful “test drive.” The reindeer had not taken kindly to the harness, and Nortluge had been thrown around quite violently in his open air carriage until he’d gone sailing across the night sky, forced to Apparate mid-freefall. Too many Muggles had seen the incident to be Obliviated, and once the Ministry learned how they had run with the story, they’d simply shrugged the whole affair off.
Hogwarts staff had put a shimmery magical barrier in place over the enclosure to prevent the reindeer from flying off, though they generally stayed on the ground unless frightened or migrating. One could see the danger, however, in getting caught in a relatively small space with the animals should they startle.
Fearless and a natural with such creatures as always, Hagrid had, for once, wisely ranged the students round the outside of the enclosure while, inside, he coaxed the reindeer to flight, the antlered beasts circling the pen a few times before landing gracefully to munch on more moss. Hermione had been charmed and beamed encouragingly at Hagrid, clapping along with the others, happy tears unexpectedly welling in her eyes. She could have sworn she even saw Malfoy applauding, albeit half-heartedly, and thought what a long way he’d come since third year and the incident with Buckbeak.
Clearly five years hadn’t been long enough to make him forget entirely, however much Malfoy had caused his own (and Hagrid’s and Buckbeak’s) pain last time.
Snow gathered on the hood of his dark coat as they continued to stand there, and Hermione shifted her weight from one numb foot to the other. She could barely feel her face it was so cold, and she had to squint against the snow lashing her eyes and skin.
“Draco, let’s just get this done so we can go back and warm up. I’m freezing, and it’s Christmas Eve!”
“I know!” he shouted, gesturing dramatically with gloved hands, a few more strands of blonde hair escaping the confines of his hood. “I thought you were enjoying this a moment ago! Because of the…globe thing. Anyway, I was trying to be a gentleman. You know, ‘after you,’ and all, but never mind!” And with that, he yanked open the gate and stalked over to the nearest expanse of rocky, mossy ground, keeping tightly to the edge of the enclosure.
Hermione gaped, snow flying into her mouth, as her gaze darted to the reindeer. Although they’d noticed Malfoy’s presence—one having gotten to its feet and joined the others in somewhat of a huddle—they didn’t seem especially nervous. Closing her mouth and releasing the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, she cautiously entered the enclosure and shut the gate behind her, withdrawing her wand slowly and keeping an eye on both the reindeer and Malfoy as she got rid of the animals’ droppings. In such a reduced space, it wouldn’t do for them to live in their own filth, even for the scant few weeks they were to be kept here before Hagrid returned from his Christmas visit with Grawp.
The reindeer shuffled and parted into two groups as she approached their end of the enclosure. “Hello, ladies. Remember me?” she said in as calming yet audible a voice as possible given the weather. Hagrid had brought all females since the males would have shed their antlers by now, not to mention the latter tended to be more aggressive. They blinked at her and moved off, a trio toward the center, and the pair along the far side. She glanced over at Malfoy, who was methodically making his way towards her as he went about his task, the dark charcoal of his coat the only way she could spot him in the near-blizzard conditions. Returning to her own job, she spent the next few minutes hunched over with her wand, Vanishing every trace of semi-frozen reindeer scat until satisfied she’d fully cleaned the area.
Straightening, she brought her hand to her back to rub the sore and cold-stiff muscles and searched out Malfoy once again. While preoccupied with her work, she’d ended up on the opposite side of the enclosure; she could barely make him out amongst the rather hulking shapes of the reindeer, which had apparently re-clustered. Anxious, Hermione followed the enclosure’s border with deliberation, the snow seemingly coming from above, below, and sideways as if an angry child were shaking the metaphorical snow globe and wouldn’t stop.
As she fought the wind to edge closer, she could see that Malfoy had backed up against the wooden fence, beyond a large patch of moss. At that moment, a gust of wind so strong it nearly blew Hermione off her feet wrenched the hood from Malfoy’s head, his brilliant platinum hair glowing like some strange beacon in the midst of the storm. Scarf waving wildly around his neck, he reached up in an attempt to secure it and the hood, arms flailing.
But it was too late. Hermione watched in horror as the nearest reindeer that’d moved in to graze on some moss reared back and took to the air, a hind leg striking Malfoy just above the knee as it turned to flee. The others followed suit, leaping skyward as a unit while Malfoy crumpled to the ground, clutching his lower thigh.
“Draco!” Hermione reached his side just as the reindeer connected with the magical barrier overhead, causing ripples of energy to spread out all along its invisible dome. Raising her wand, she cast a shielding charm before crouching to wrap an arm beneath both of Malfoy’s.
“Brace your weight on the other leg!” she yelled into his ear. Still hissing in pain, he looked up worriedly at the now circling reindeer. “Shielding charm!” she shouted, keeping her wand aloft and tugging at his ribcage in urgency. Never taking his eyes from above, he nodded, tightening his grip on her neck and holding onto the fence behind as he stood with her help.
“Hagrid’s!” She knew she wouldn’t be able to heal him out in this storm, and certainly not with the reindeer panicking overhead; they needed calming, too, and she didn’t even know how badly Malfoy was injured. He let her guide him across the enclosure to its gate as the reindeer repeatedly flew into the barrier (“Not the smartest of creatures,” Hagrid had said). Waving her wand to shut the gate, she hoped eventually the beasts would settle on their own.
Heading away from the forest, she and Malfoy moved as quickly as they could given his limp and the blizzard raging around them. She gripped his waist, praying fervently that he didn’t slip or they’d both go down like a broken lift. Remarkably, he hadn’t said a word nor uttered a sound, not one whimper, whine, or complaint. Hermione was contemplating some sort of medal.
She nearly sobbed with joy when, after glancing up for the 50th time, Hagrid’s hut finally came into view mere meters ahead. She fished the key out from her coat pocket and unlocked the door, the wind blowing it back forcefully on its hinges. They stumbled up the steps, and Hermione deposited Malfoy in Hagrid’s oversize chair before putting her whole body into shutting the door again.
They took a moment to catch their breath, Hermione sagging against the door, Malfoy panting in the chair, as they stared at one another in disbelief.
“Bloody flying reindeer,” Malfoy managed. “If Muggle children only knew how dangerous they were.”
Hermione burst out laughing, sputtering at first and then full-on, barking belly laughs when Malfoy glowered.
“I’m serious, Granger! You and I survived a war, yet those things nearly killed us!” He touched his leg gingerly and scowled.
“They didn’t nearly kill us, Draco,” she chided, stepping away from the door and removing her soaked hat, gloves, and coat.
Malfoy struggled to do the same, practically strangling himself with his scarf after tugging off his gloves. She bent to help him and was surprised when he didn’t bat her hand away. She unwound the scarf and unbuttoned his coat, pulling it off his arms as he leaned forward, and tossed the lot over her own garments where they lay on the bed.
“Nearly killed me, anyway,” he continued as she used her wand to light a fire in the grate. “Could have hit me in the head, you know. I’d have been dead instantly. Brain damaged, at the very least.”
“I suppose you’re right,” she admitted, kneeling before him to get a look at his leg. “Who knew your hair would incite them?” she added mock-thoughtfully and grinned.
“Ha-bloody-ha,” he grumbled. “I have the worst luck with magical creatures.”
“Luck? You’re sticking to your revisionist history, then?” she asked as she carefully rolled up his wool trousers. Thankfully, they were loose enough to get above his knee.
Malfoy said nothing, and Hermione had to look up from his bruised, swollen leg to see him staring at his hands in his lap. She sighed. It was a miracle she’d been able to tease and banter with him for this long without there being an uncomfortable silence or insults.
Actually, the uncomfortable silence thing was new. As in, new this school year. And the insults had been weak or half-hearted at best. She supposed being tortured in his home might have taken the thrill out of verbal taunts.
And, judging by the size of the bruise and the amount of swelling, he was likely still in a lot of pain. As he thawed, it was only going to get worse.
“Ancient history,” she said, breaking the silence. He looked up, but instead of smug satisfaction, he seemed confused. Conflicted.
Puzzled, she went on. “Anyway, Buckbeak is alive and well. Harry and I used a time-turner and rescued him before he was executed.” She left out the part where she’d watched herself slap him and then gone on to help spring Sirius Black.
“Oh,” Malfoy exhaled sharply as she probed the bruise. “That’s good.”
“It is?” She felt around his kneecap then straightened his leg slowly.
Malfoy shrugged and stared back down at his hands.
“Well, I think it’s just a bad contusion. There aren’t any spells that would really help, and we haven’t got any pain potions with us. Best thing would be to pack some snow on it.”
“No!” Malfoy shrank back in the gigantic chair and shielded his lower thigh with his hands. “I’m just getting warm, and we are not opening that door again until the storm is over.” As if emphasizing his point, the windows rattled alarmingly.
“All right, but it’s really going to hurt. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She got to her feet and went to put the kettle on. Searching for two mugs she spotted a bottle of firewhiskey.
“Here,” she said, handing it to Malfoy. “This should help with the pain.”
He smirked. “I should say so.”
She rolled her eyes and resumed the search for tea things, listening to the slosh of liquid as Malfoy drank. There were quite a few sloshes by the time she had everything ready.
“Hey, go easy on that. I don’t fancy a drunken Malfoy.”
“Fancy a sober one, then?” he grinned. “And you never know. You might prefer a drunken Malfoy,” he added contemplatively.
Oh bother. What had she been thinking?
He took another swig from the bottle and settled it between his legs, humming contentedly. “And,” he suddenly raised a finger dramatically, “drunk will make…things…easier,” he finished, each word more quiet and drawn out than the last.
Hermione offered him a steaming mug of tea, but he waved it away. “What are you—Draco?” She paused, waiting for him to look up at her. When he didn’t, she sat beside him in the huge chair, which was practically a loveseat, and set her mug down on the floor by her feet. A thought struck her. “Why did you volunteer to help me with the reindeer?”
Malfoy’s fingers curled around the neck of the whiskey bottle. He shrugged, still staring into his lap. “Extra credit.”
Making eye contact at last, he raised a brow. “Language, Granger,” he half-smiled, but she could see the anxiety written all over his face and in his still-defensive posture.
“Hagrid’s not giving me extra credit, and he wouldn’t be unfair about such things. So tell me why really.”
He sighed, glancing at the fire as it popped. “Right,” he began, raising the bottle to his lips. Hermione put her hand on his wrist before he could drink any.
“I think you’ve had enough,” she said, not unkindly.
His fingernails scraped against the glass. “Just this last sip. Please?”
Hermione was fairly certain she’d never heard Malfoy utter that word before in her life, and he did look rather earnest, in an astonishingly less-than-pathetic sort of way. She removed her hand.
True to his word, he swallowed only a sip before handing her the bottle, which she set on the floor next to her no-doubt cold tea.
“The truth is, Granger, I’ve been trying to find an opportunity—or, well, to take advantage of an opportunity—to, uh,” he unclenched his hands, the ones he’d been studying so fervently as if they were going to show up on their NEWTS, and gripped his knees, hissing at the renewed pain this caused his injured leg.
Hermione flinched sympathetically and shook her head. This was nonsense. What in bleeding hell was he going on about? Impulsively, she took both his hands in hers before he could do any more damage.
Malfoy looked as if she’d Confunded him, brows furrowed, mouth gaping. His lips were wet and shiny, probably with residual firewhiskey. His hands were soft and warm, fingers long and wrapping over the fleshy parts of her palms and her wrists.
“Now,” she said in her best no-nonsense voice, the one Ron and Harry knew so well, “are you going to tell me, or do I have to slap you again?” She grinned wryly to let him know she was joking, but from his nervous look, she wasn’t sure he understood.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted, wincing as if anticipating a blow.
“It’s okay, just stop putting it off.”
“No, er,” he broke off, looking at their joined hands. “That’s what I’ve been wanting to say. I’m sorry.”
Hermione blinked. Here was another word she’d never heard Malfoy utter before. Pink stained his sharp cheekbones, but she couldn’t tell if it was heat from the fire or an actual blush. She felt his thumbs sweep the inside of her wrists. “That’s—um, sorry for what, exactly?”
He met her eyes again and took in a breath. “For what I called you second year, and pretty much every other year, to your face or behind your back. And for the things I’ve done: Buckbeak—even if he’s all right—hexes, jinxes, the Inquisitorial Squad…”
Something was rising in Hermione’s chest, but she didn’t know what it was. Some thick bubble of feeling that made it hard to breathe, that pressed its way up her throat and stuck there. She swallowed, and suddenly her eyes were as blurry as they’d been out in the blizzard.
Oh. She was crying.
She slid her hands out from under his and stood, turning her back to him, as tears streamed down her face and a sob threatened to break from her throat. She pressed her fingers to her lips to stifle any sound.
“Granger? Are you—”
Hermione swallowed once. Twice. Three times. “I’m fine.” And that warble in her voice wasn’t detectable. At all.
She wiped her eyes and spun around. Malfoy looked about as horrified as he had first year when they’d had to enter the Forbidden Forest for detention.
He ran a hand through his fine blonde hair, tugging at the ends. “Fuck, Granger, I’m—”
“No, no, it’s okay. I’ve been doing this lately.” She plopped back down into the chair with him, sniffling. “Crying randomly. Well, not randomly, just…at times and things I don’t anticipate?” She shook her head in befuddlement while Malfoy used his wand to Summon a handkerchief from his coat pocket. She accepted it gratefully and blew her nose, thinking how splotchy and runny she must look on top of the tragically wind-blown hair and chapped lips. She Summoned her vanilla lip balm from her own coat and dabbed some on, sighing as she sank back into the squishy chair.
“It’s pretty much always out of joy, though, so I’m not concerned.” She smiled at him.
He tilted his head, hair falling into his eyes, and looked at her curiously. After a beat, he leaned across her, chest brushing her knees, and retrieved the whiskey bottle. “I think you should have some of this,” he said, as if worried about her sanity.
“Why not?” she giggled, grabbing the bottle and taking a large swig. The liquor burned its way down her throat, and she coughed. “I forgot,” she gasped, “I hate whiskey.” Malfoy reached for the bottle, but she was already downing another shot’s worth.
He chuckled. “Obviously.”
Hermione relinquished the whiskey and glanced out the windows; it had gotten dark. The fire crackled pleasantly while outside, the storm raged on.
“Hey!” She flung her arm out and smacked Malfoy in the chest harder than she’d meant. He grunted, but stifled a smirk. “Sorry,” she snickered, but left her hand there. “Is this why you’ve been sitting at my table in the library?” She tapped his sternum with her knuckles every few words for emphasis. “Because I must say, the library isn’t exactly the place for reconciliation.”
Malfoy looked at the hand on his chest a moment then shifted in the chair, settling deeper into it. Their shoulders touched. “Where else could I approach you for this conversation? The Great Hall would be like walking into enemy territory, you and all your Gryffindors. The only place you spend substantial time alone is the library, and you’re always there, it seems. Not that I stalk you or anything,” he added hurriedly.
“Guess you’re right,” Hermione yawned. “So why didn’t you ever pluck up the courage and talk to me?” Malfoy’s hair was still in his eyes, and she had a strong urge to brush it away. So she did.
“I’m—” he broke off as her finger gently swept the hair from his forehead and tucked it behind his ear. He cleared his throat and continued: “I’m not a bloody Gryffindor, Granger. I can’t just ‘pluck’ courage from the air.” He folded his arms across his chest and lowered his lashes, a definite blush tingeing his cheeks.
“Looks like liquid courage was the way to go,” she smiled, flicking her nail against the whiskey bottle. “Or maybe you were counting on some Christmas spirit? Wait!” She wrapped her hand around one of his wrists and squeezed. “Did you…stay here for winter hols expressly for this?”
“No!” Malfoy huffed, pulling his hand away.
“Why then?” she asked, suspicious.
“Why did you?”
She rolled her eyes at his childishness, but indulged him with a half-truth. “To study for NEWTS, of course.”
”Of course,” he mimicked. When she simply glared at him, he went on, “My parents are renovating the manor. I don’t want to go back until it’s finished.” He picked at some imaginary lint on his trousers.
“Oh.” She supposed it hadn’t exactly been pleasant for him, having Death Eaters and Voldemort himself in his home. She had her own nightmares from the place to contend with, but she never had to go back there if she didn’t want.
“I just, I want to make it better,” he murmured, looking into the fire.
“The manor?” She pressed against his side.
“The Malfoy name.”
Hermione twined her right arm with his left, and he turned back to her, firelight glinting off his hair. “You can, Draco. You are. A name isn’t a fact; it can’t mean one thing forever. Think about Regulus and Sirius Black. People are learning who they were and how they stood up to Voldemort and the prejudice they were raised with. You can do the same. You have. You’re one of the only Slytherins to return to school. That was really brave.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened. She suspected he’d never heard that word in conjunction with his name before.
“No wonder Potter and Weasley think they’re so grand. You give speeches like this to all the blokes?”
She shook her head, unruly curls brushing her cheek. “No, I don’t,” she said pointedly.
His gaze seemed to unfocus, and she inched forward imperceptibly as he reached out and pushed the hair off her shoulders and away from her face.
“You miss them, Potter and Weasley?”
“Sometimes. I needed space. I needed…” she trailed off, feeling in a trance. Malfoy’s hand had withdrawn. “There is a me without them, you know.”
They stared at one another.
The fire lit only half of Malfoy’s face. She leaned forward. To see more.
“I think you had too much firewhiskey,” he said. It was a whisper. He didn’t move back.
“You had too much firewhiskey,” she corrected.
He smiled. His breath ghosted along her skin. Her body thrummed pleasantly wherever they touched. Malfoy, she thought. Draco Malfoy.
She pressed her mouth to his, and the thrumming spread throughout her body. Warm and soft, they kissed, and when Hermione licked gently at his lips, and he met her tongue with his, warm and soft and wet, she wrapped her arm around his neck and pulled them back further still into the recesses of the chair.
When they broke apart, Malfoy leaving small, feathery kisses at the corners of her mouth, Hermione sighed and brought her legs up and across his lap, careful not to jostle his injury. He curled one arm under her waist and the other over her knees, tucking his head beneath her chin. She ran her hand through the silky platinum locks and chuckled. “To think, this is all your hair’s fault.”
“I would have apologized eventually,” he murmured against her neck sleepily.
“Perhaps an injury might have been avoided.” She closed her eyes, Malfoy’s heartbeat thumping steadily against her breast in contrast to the unpredictable gusts of wind rattling the windowpanes. “Happy Christmas, Draco.”
“You, too, Granger.” He nestled closer. “And I better not hear any bloody reindeer on the roof.”