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Bad News

Chapter Text

Prologue

Draco was pissed, in every sense of the word, as he stumbled along the edge of the camp. In the darkness he could barely make out how much syrupy brown liquid the bottle he clutched still contained, but its satisfying slosh was promising. All he needed was to get far enough away from the sounds of the party, then he would drink the rest and smoke until the comfort of darkness overtook him.
Stumbling drunkenly into the side of a tent, Draco cursed, then burst into absurd, joyless laughter.
“Fuck,” he said again, louder this time as he imagined the word echoing between the many temporary accommodations doting the field behind him. Suddenly a memory from his distant childhood flooded his mind. He’d gone camping once with his nanny, staying up late sharing silly stories and sweets. Even though they pitched their tent on the manor grounds, he’d felt so free, so happy, the only time he could remember those emotions existing at that house. His nanny had died shortly thereafter.
“Poor, poor little Draco!” he shouted into the darkness, howling with laughter. He tried to kick the next tent he ran into but missed, falling on his ass instead. He took a swig from the bottle rather than standing. “Poor little Draco without a friend in the world,” he said a little quieter and with a little less humor. “With a father who…” but he didn’t finish this thought, choosing to finish the bottle instead. He’d hoped to make it further from camp before passing out, but now that he was on the ground he couldn’t imagine getting back up. At least the joyful sounds of the fete were distant enough to no longer be as grating.
“Victory!” he shouted, lifting the empty bottle in the air, toasting the stars. But even as a joke , it sounded pathetic. Some victory indeed. What had been lost? Oh, let’s see: everything. Every fucking thing. Not that he didn’t deserve every bit of it. Even if he had ended up joining the “winning” side just in time. He lifted the bottle to his mouth again, and groaned when he found it dry.
“Bastard!” it took Draco several moments to realize the exclamation hadn’t come from his own lips. He wagged his head around to see who was approaching, but couldn’t make anyone out without light. Oh, his wand, he had a wand, he remembered and patted clumsily at his pants to find the little bugger. “Draco!” he stopped searching abruptly, stopped moving entirely at the sound. There was only one person in this camp who ever called him by his first name.
“Fuck, Draco! I know you are here somewhere!” The voice was getting closer, her voice; he recognized it clearly now. Draco was too stunned to move and too drunk to think of an exit strategy. Fuck, not her. Please let it be anyone but her, he prayed to his ancestors, to Salazar Slytherin, Fuck he prayed to Dumbledore that it wouldn’t be-
“It’s me, Hermione!” As if he didn’t already know that. He could feel the panic rising as her footsteps came within earshot of where he sat on the grass. Fuck. His hands shook as he fumbled for a cigarette which he lit without thinking about the attention it would draw.
“There you are,” she said much softer. “I have been calling for you.” He didn’t respond or turn to look in her direction, just took a deep puff. “Are you ok? I heard you shouting earlier.” she asked as she walked around to his front. In the light of her wand, he could see worry on her face. It made him sick.

//////////////
Despite everything, the past year, the past few days, how much of a bastard he’d been to her growing up, how he’d clearly been ignoring her calls the last few minutes, Hermione felt her stomach flip with delight at seeing him. It did that whenever she was near him now, doubly so if he sought her out himself. The feeling had been confusing at first because Hermione thought she had already been in love. She and Ron were on a break after he’d abandoned the Horcrux search, but she’d always assumed they’d end up together. But being with Ron had never felt like how she felt about Draco. In the months since he’d joined the resistance, Draco’s mere presence came to mean the difference between a sour day and the best one.
Even when he was smoking in the dirt on the edge of camp, he was so beautiful it hurt. Looking into his frowning face, Hermione forgot what she’d come to say.
“Why aren’t you at the fete?” He waved a hand clutching the neck of a bottle generically behind him.
Oh right, she remembered now what she’d planned to say. Hermione swallowed, gathering her Gryffindor courage but losing it quickly.
“I left.” He met her eyes in the ensuing silence. Just as she thought to herself how perfect the silver of them was, he burst out laughing. She joined, though she’d already forgotten what she’d said to earn her the glorious sound.
“Yes, Granger, I can see that. Why would you leave a party in your honor?” His words were slurred, and Hermione realized he must be drunk. She wondered if he drank the entire bottle by himself but didn’t comment. Draco never reacted well to people pointing out his increased alcohol consumption, and in the frenzy of the war people hardly noticed. She had though; she noticed everything about him.
He was staring at her, eyebrows raised in amusement. Hermione could feel her cheeks redden as she realized he was waiting on an overdue response. She looked down at her hands.
“It’s not in my honor, it’s in everyone’s,” she corrected shyly. “Yours too.”
He snorted, singing his cigarette out on the ground. “Yes, the day Harry Potter throws a party in my honor is the day Bellatrix-” he snapped his mouth shut and darted his eyes to hers. Hermione hated that she could feel herself cringing. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
She felt weak. How could a simple name affect her so? She finally understood the apprehension people felt around Voldemort’s name.
“You didn’t mean-”
“No, I mean about that day too.” She couldn’t meet his eyes, afraid she would cry if she did. She never allowed herself that weakness but felt an overwhelming urge to do so then. Her emotions were so much more when he was around. A light touch on her chin finally made her look up at him. Hermione was stunned into silence; he’d never touched her like this. Her heart felt like it would leap out of her chest. He wiped a treacherous tear away when it escaped down her cheek. An apology was forming on his lips when Hermione interjected with her own confession.
“I came to find you.” She watched his throat bob as he swallowed at the words. His beautiful neck. Draco dropped the hand that had been cupping her face, and she instantly felt the loss.

“Why would you do that?” he asked, almost harshly. The tenderness of his apology was gone with the warmth of his hand. She missed them both desperately. The last few moments notwithstanding, Draco was rarely sentimental with her. She hoped she hadn’t ruined the moment.
“Because I don’t want to be at a party where you aren’t. I looked for you the whole time, even though I knew you wouldn’t be there. But it was so boring without you.” She watched his jaw clench as she rambled, too afraid to look at his face. She knew she was babbling, but the speech she’d prepared had flown from her head the moment she’d looked into his eyes. “Everything is boring without you, Draco. You are the most brave, intelligent, talented wizard in the world.” She sucked in a deep breath. “I think you have feelings for me too, so I came to say that I love-”

“What?” he interrupted. The inertia of the word contrasted pointedly with the subdued insecurity of her confession. “You think you love me?” The question was loud and followed by a harsh laugh. Hermione felt like she’d been slapped. She fell out of her crouch onto her behind with the weight of what was happening, the cruelty that was overtaking his face. “Why the fuck do you think I want to hear that from you?”
“But you’ve been so different” she defended weakly. “I thought maybe-”
“Because I said sorry for what happened? The torture?” his voice broke slightly at the last word, but he barreled along before she could even register the emotion behind it. “Yeah, I’m sorry Granger. I’m fucking sorry you’re delusional.”
“Why are you calling me Granger again?” She felt some of her inner courage rising to the surface. Finally. “You’ve called me Hermione for weeks. What’s gotten into you? Why are you being so cruel?”
His renewed laughter reminded her, briefly, of his father, now locked away in Azkaban. The likeness between the two, which she hadn’t considered in months, unnerved her enormously.
“You’re fucking pathetic; you know that Granger? Snape told me when I joined this side that if I wasn’t nicer to everyone, I’d be thrown out. If you think I’ve been your friend, then it’s only because I was trying to save my skin, like always.”
Oh fuck. Hermione realized she’d completely misread his recent behavior toward her. The jokes, lingering gazes, seeking her out at meals, it had all been a selfish act. She choked on the crashing realization of her own foolishness.
“Well, the war is over now,” he continued, smirking. “I can finally be myself again. I guess that’s the victory I should be celebrating!”
The world was blurring before her; thankfully the hostility on Draco’s face was as well. She had to get out, had to fucking escape. Oh god, oh god. She pushed herself to her feet. The panic and hurt within her clouded her senses so that she hardly registered the hand that shot out to steady her when she nearly stumbled over. It dropped quickly, regardless, like it had been scalded by the feel of her skin.
She made it a few steps away before much of the hurt within her turned to anger. Hermione wielded back.
“Fuck you Malfoy! Seriously, you are a terrible person-”
“Really? I always thought I was the most, what was it? Brave, intelligent-”
“I can’t believe you!” She shrieked and stormed off, leaving him before he could humiliate her even further. His malicious laughter followed her all the way back to the party.

Chapter Text

The Dinner Party

The clinking of champagne glasses jolted Hermione from her thoughts. She instantly pasted a grin on her face and shoved her own glass into the mix.

“To love,” she toasted.

“To love,” the group echoed with contented laughter. Hermione didn’t try to mimic the sound, hoping her all-teeth smile was sufficient.

Harry and Ginny kissed across the table. She could feel Ron’s hand on her shoulder, trying to follow their show of affection. But she tilted the glass back up to her mouth, pretending to be distracted with the drink rather than avoiding her boyfriend. Soon-to-be fiance, a voice in the back of her head that reminded her strangely of Lockhart nagged, but she shook it off.

It was sweet, really. The whole business-the anniversary, the trip, the dinner- was all lovely. Hermione wasn’t quite sure why she felt that she’d rather be defending Kreacher in House Elf Rights court than be at this table, but she suppressed the feeling. She should want to be here, anyway, supporting her two closest friends on their fourth wedding anniversary, should want to be with her loving boyfriend who was edging at more. Hermione had begun to feel his eagerness constantly: in the middle of this overpriced restaurant, at home after making love. Sometimes she thought he was more interested in getting married than he was in her or at least that was her excuse when the idea of him popping the question made her nauseous.

God, she needed a cigarette.

“Actually,” Ron said beside her. She finally succumbed and looked his way. “I have an announcement to make.” He eyed her, grinning. Harry and Ginny leaned forward eagerly, and Hermione felt oddly betrayed by them. The feeling was ridiculous, of course, she hadn’t mentioned her thoughts about marriage to either, but surely they’d noticed her hesitancy? She swallowed and looked back at Ron, feeling fear rising in her. Please, Ron, she thought. Please please don’t do this now.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I’ve decided to…” his tone, which had taken the air of a game show host stalling the announcement of a winner, was beyond irritating. She looked to her other two friends to check that they felt the same. They did not. They both watched him in eager anticipation. “Run for Wizengamot!”

“What?” Hermione barely registered Harry and Ginny’s excited gasps over her own shock. It was a relief that he hadn’t proposed just then, to be sure, but politics? She’d never heard Ron express interest in policy and politics ever, even in laws regarding his own profession as an auror. She was the barrister for fuck’s sake! When had he ever, ever even shown a comprehension of…

She recognized somehow in the middle of her silent fuming that the table had turned to her, awaiting a reaction. Anger would not do, so Hermione put on her best fake smile. She loved Ron, she loved Ron, she loved Ron. She really did. He was nice to her, cared for her. The four of them made a perfect group. She was lucky to have him. Even if she didn’t think he’d make the most attentive politician, she wanted to see him happy above all else.

She looked him in the twinkling eye, and said honestly, “I’m excited for you Ron. I think that’s a lovely idea, really.” In response to her words, Ron sagged with an unexpected relief.

“You think so? You aren’t angry I didn’t say anything before?” He chewed on his lip in worry. Hermione shook her head, feeling generous because she was at least a little angry.

“Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of Harry and Ginny.” She smiled earnestly at the following ‘aww’ from Ginny and pat on the arm from Harry. Ron looked like she’d just said the exact right thing, and he couldn’t be more thrilled.

“Now, we’ll have to get started right away on the campaign. The election is in just a few months…” He continued laying out his plans, but Hermione quickly lost interest. She poked the salad on her plate with a fork. It was good she’d ordered something so healthy, Hermione thought with a bitterness she knew was unfair, a politician's wife must always be camera ready. The tuxedo-clad waiter came around to fill their glasses again. Well, Hermione was the only one who’d finished, and she smiled gratefully at him as he came replenished hers.

This place was something. She usually ate takeout at her desk or on the floor surrounded by case files and trial preparations. A change in the upscale direction wasn’t the worst way to spend an evening. Maybe it was a States thing, but the expensive muggle restaurants in New York already proved during their first evenings to be just as good as the priciest ones in wizarding London.

“Any suggestions, Hermione?” Harry asked across the table. She looked up into the attentive eyes of her closest friends. She had no idea what they were talking about, not a clue.

“Um-” but she was saved by a loud crash on the other side of the hall. Their eyes were all instantly drawn to the commotion.

Someone had fallen from their chair and brought down a plate in the process. She could just make out a black-coated body sprawled on the ground through the tables between them. The crowd fell silent at the sight, ensuring the body’s groan echoed across the room.

“Drunken bastard,” Hermione mumbled to herself, a bit of envy slipping in. After a moment, she realized she’d said it much louder than intended. An old woman at the table in front of them, clutched her pearls and frowned. Hermione gave the woman a simpering smile, barely containing a rude glare that made the woman gasp. Only clenched fists kept Hermione from shrugging off Ron’s warning hand on her shoulder.

When a worried waiter rushed over to the man, still tossed on the floor, the crowd slowly began to resume their conversations. She could hear Harry doing the same, but she was too amused watching the scene play out before her to listen. The paper-thin waiter flitted about the body anxiously, periodically sticking a hand out halfway to help the man, but never fully committing to the service. The plate, having caused the disrupting noise in its shattering descent, lay broken on the wood floor, contents scattered about. The man was rolling around like an insect, struggling to get off the ground, groaning every few seconds in wasted effort and completely ignoring his cowardly servant. Watching the little theater made her laugh, really laugh, for the first time in a while. She couldn’t help but be jealous of the daring it took to give oneself fully to such drama in a crowded restaurant. A silly urge to meet this man, to shake his hand and thank him for his service, filled her.

////////////////////////////////////

Draco was only about 30% aware of what was happening. He was on the ground, that he knew- or was he in bed? That was also possible. He tried to force his mind to search through recent memory to discover if he’d made it back to the hotel yet. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite manage to surpass the haze covering everything that wasn’t the present.

There was a scrawny boy flitting in and out of his vision, performing a sort of nervous jig. It made him smile. Draco tried to clap along to the jester’s performance but found he couldn’t hear the music.

His head was swimming from a mixed high, the strongest pull of which he recognized to be alcohol. Groaning at the feeling- alcohol was such a crude high- Draco needed something better. With a sudden urgency, he felt around his coat for an improvement. The rest of the Quaaludes he’d bought this morning in Central Park should be in his front pocket along with a notable roll of fifties, but when he patted the place, he found only the money. Fuck! Had he taken them already? He needed to get up and look around the room, maybe he’d stashed them in his suitcase after dinner.

Struggling to get off his back, he quoted to himself in amusement, ‘Draco Malfoy awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect.”

The jester, whom Draco had contentedly concluded to be a hallucination, was joined by another, much less jumpy-looking companion. Finally Draco heaved himself, or perhaps was pulled, up and came face-to-face with a gilded room, crowded with dinner guests.

Reality dawned on him slowly. Ohhh, he hadn’t left the restaurant yet. The slip-up made him laugh. Happens to the best of us, he thought.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the burly man, who looked to be security, implored. Draco righted himself with ceremony and overconfidence, though he was jeering on the inside.

“Why yes, I think that would be best. Bien sûr, as they say across the channel.” He winked at the man, giving him the biggest dose of british sincerity he could muster without revealing the pretense of the action. But the man did not smile. Oh so he was a serious one; how disappointing. Serious people were so predictable. Draco considered giving him a pill to ease the tension pulling at his face but then remembered the emptiness of his stash. Fuck!

“How much will it be Jeeves?” he pulled a roll of hundreds from his back pocket and began flipping through them, smiling at his own preparation. When purchasing narcotics off the street, children, his thoughts filling strangely with the silly voice of Gilderoy Lockhart, always keep your bills in separate pockets to dissuade potential stab-and-grab-ers.

“Um,” the skinny man squirmed into his vision once again. “It will be about $250, but we’d really rather you leave than-”

“Nonsense,” he said much too loudly, hoping to get a reaction out of the worm-like man. His gasp and nervous glance around the room were worth it. With a flourish, Draco pulled out four crip bills and handed them over. “This should be plenty to cover the damage.” He would have liked to say more, perhaps even apologize, but the need was coming back stronger than before. Pills weren’t going to suffice this time.

Once Draco made the decision to buy the drug he really wanted, his insides leaped with relief. He’d stayed away since arriving in New York the night before, but he didn’t think he could make it much longer, didn’t want to even try. If he was already going to have to go out and get pills, he might as well do the night justice. Anyway, being able to adapt to new situations was important when traveling- staying flexible was key.

Draco hardly felt the cold air hit his face but did enjoy a sense of release at exiting the building. The restaurant’s reputation had drawn him there, insofar as Draco had plopped himself into a taxi and asked the cabbie to take him to the most expensive dinner ‘this fucking island’ had to offer, but the feel of it had been unsettling. It took leaving for him to understand why: the restaurant was somewhere his father would have loved. Perhaps Lucius had even gone there during his years of exile. The thought nauseated Draco.

“Malfoy?” an uncertain voice called from behind, stopping him in his tracks. His mind emptied completely. The moment was incomprehensible. It couldn’t be, could it? To his own surprise, Draco turned to the voice and sucked in a breath at the sight.

Hermione fucking Granger- or was it Weasel?- stood shivering on the sidewalk just outside the restaurant. He could do nothing but gape. She looked different, grown and put together in ways he knew he was not, but also throat-tighteningly familiar.

“It’s you,” she said, uneasy tone not matching the smile on her face. Draco gulped and only managed to nod after several seconds too many. She took a few steps closer, and he was nearly overcome with the urge to hide his face, knowing the evidence of who he’d become would be unmistakable. But even if he wasn’t a Gryffindor, he was still no coward.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, grasping for some of the hostility he knew she’d be expecting. It didn’t quite work, and she approached until only a meter or so separated them.

“Harry and Ginny’s anniversary,” she supplied almost impatiently. “Are you alright? You took a pretty hard tumble in there.”

He huffed sarcastically, “you know me, always a flair for drama.” He frowned at her responding grin, thinking the comment wasn’t quite funny enough for the look. Then he made the foolish mistake of looking into her eyes. Only a moment of him sinking into their depths passed before she rushed to him.

“Jesus, Malfoy!” Her hands gripped his face, but the touch was clinical rather than tender. “Fuck, I knew you were drunk, but-” He tried to pull his face away, but she held steady, inspecting. “What are you on?”

Draco snorted but felt a trickle of shame make its way down his spine. It was a new feeling, and not one he liked at all. “How much time do you have?” Her hands dropped abruptly, and he felt the chill of the wind across his cheeks.

“We have to get you to a healer, right away!” Her gaze darted to the line of cabs on the street behind them.

Should he laugh? Be angry? Tell her to fuck off? Draco had never been in this situation. “Absolutely, Granger,” he said with artificial cheer. “I was just headed there now. Thanks for the concern.” With this he turned to the closest yellow car and began to open the door.

“Would you like me to come with you?” Her tentative question surprised him so much he turned back for a moment. Did she really think he was going to a healer? Wasn’t she a barrister? Couldn’t she see through his lie? Not that he cared.

He put a galliant hand over his heart. “I can manage.” Then he swept into the cab.

“Take me to the nearest dodgy part of town,” he told the man behind the wheel who grunted in incomprehension. Draco sighed impatiently and said “take me up to the Heights or South Bronx.” When the man asked for a more specific address, Draco groaned and said, much louder, “Smack! Take me to the nearest place I can sco-” Just then the door beside him flung open and for the second time that night he found himself gaping at Hermione Granger.

“You lied!” She accused with more anger than he thought was warranted. Why the fuck should she care? The need was growing more potent within him every damn minute he was wasting here.

“Not really. I think you’d find a good dose to be thoroughly healing,” he managed a smirk, but she didn’t seem to notice what he’d said. Disappointing. Serious people were so disappointing.

“Fucking muggle drugs, Malfoy? What the hell are you thinking?” Ok this really pissed him off. He in no way deserved or asked for this treatment. Who was she to storm back into his life and police his night? She had no idea about him, what he’d been through. She should just go back inside, sit with her pathetic group of golden friends, reliving their wartime heroism, or whatever they did together, over and over until they died.

It took him several moments to understand that the hurt look on her face meant he’d expressed all of that out loud. He felt half a pang of regret before his need for a hit occupied the entirety of his consciousness. In the silence between them, he tried to think of a specific street in case his cabbie made any more trouble. His concentration was broken in the most unexpected way.

“I’m coming with you.”

Chapter Text

The Pageant in Needle Park

 

“Absolutely not!”

It was mad, she knew.

“No fucking way!”

But she couldn’t let him go out there alone in this state. He’d get killed, she told herself.

“Just go back inside, Granger. Leave me alone.”

Yes, that’s right. He’d get stabbed by some muggle drug addict and be unable to heal himself. She’d have to sit with the guilt for the rest of her life. It was unconscionable. Without responding to his appeals, she stepped to the front window. Draco tried to shut the door as soon as she moved, but Hermione held it firmly open. The weakness of his attempts to pull it closed strengthened her resolve.

“Hello, sir,” she spoke to the bewildered driver. “I’ll give you one hundred dollars if you wait with him here while I get my jacket.” The man looked uncertain then glanced back at his groaning passenger. A moment later, Hermione realized the man wasn’t asking permission but seeing if Draco would counter the offer.

“I’ll give you double whatever she offered!” came a shouted bid from the back. But the barrister in her wouldn’t be dissuaded so easily. Peering deeper into the man’s face, she lowered her voice as if she were divulging top-secret information.

“Please, sir, this man is highly unstable.” The driver grimaced at her words, reevaluating the situation. She ignored Draco as he threw himself back against the seat and murmured something that sounded like ‘fucking bitch.’ “I warn against being alone with him unless a trained professional,” indicating magnanimously to herself, “is present.”

The man nervously eyed Draco, who was glaring at Hermione, before nodding with solemnity.

“I’ll only be a minute- please keep him here,” she scanned the sullen man- boy, she thought, he was acting more like a boy than a man- in the backseat, trying to glue him there with her gaze.

Worry over what she would say to her friends didn’t hit until she nearly reached the table. After Hermione realized the man on the ground was Draco, she’d quickly excused herself, presumably to the restroom. No one else had recognized him, and she certainly hadn’t enlightened them. Even so, she found it hard to imagine them letting her flee- she gasped at the word- disappear, she corrected, into the night without a solid excuse. Lying wasn’t her strong suit, and she did feel guilty for dashing out, but what was to be done? She prepared herself for the act.

“I’m sorry about this,” she said, approaching the table. Three heads jerked up in surprise at the words, and Hermione understood they’d hardly noticed her absence. The insight filled her with an emotion somewhere between hurt and relief. “But, I’ve completely forgotten that an old friend of my parents asked me to drop by this evening, and I really must run to her.”

A chorus of lamenting noises washed over her. “Are you sure you can’t go another day?” Harry asked kindly.

“No, I’m afraid not. She’s going on holiday soon and can’t spare the time outside of tonight.” Harry nodded in polite accord. Ron stood and started to put on his coat. Her eyes widened in shock.

“What are you doing?” She cried, wincing at the panic saturating the question. They were going to see right through her.

Ron looked at her with a loving, borderline condescending, grin. “Of course I’m coming with you ‘Mione.” The pet name, which she hated, sharpened something within her. Sometimes it was ok- at home, when they were alone- but he said it all the time. He’d even called her that during a trial in which he’d been called to testify while she’d been apprenticing in lower-crimes court. Everyone in the room found it adorable: two members of the golden trio falling in love, how wonderful. But it made her feel weak, like a child parading in adult clothes.

“No really,” she ground out, anger nearly erupting. “It’s quite alright. Besides, she isn’t comfortable around strangers.” Ron reluctantly sat. “Look,” she checked her watch for emphasis. “I really must get going. I’ll see you back at the hotel, yeah?” Grabbing her coat, Hermione dashed out before allowing a response.

Sometimes friends do things apart, she told herself to assuage the feeling that she’d just dropped a bomb and was fleeing in retreat. Sometimes people are fine spending time alone, or in drug dens, she added, though that one didn’t quite fit her argument, and it isn’t a big deal.

Hermione was surprised at the way her heart stumbled at seeing the car, and Draco, incredibly still waiting outside. The feeling wasn’t entirely relief either. She was really doing this. She was really about to chase a petulant drug addict across the city while he got his next fix. The actions felt unfathomable when paired with the rest of her life, but the spirit of them was somehow welcoming. Anything was better than being at that dinner table.

Draco sat in the far seat, looking firmly out the window, not acknowledging her when she opened the door and slid in.

“You should fasten your seatbelt,” she warned as the car pulled into traffic. He merely lifted a middle finger in her direction without turning. “Always so childish,” Hermione sighed. After several minutes, the silence became concerning. She looked over to see Draco, face pressed into the window, shaking. His body was tightly strung, folded in on itself. The hand closest to her gripped his knee with white knuckles. He looked to be in a great deal of pain.

“Malfoy?” She asked carefully. “Are you alright?”

“No!” His voice shattered the quiet. “Merlin, I’m not fucking alright! Why did you have to keep me so long? Don’t touch me!” Her hand stopped in mid-air on its way to his shoulder. She hadn’t even realized she’d been doing it. Hermione watched his hand spread over his thigh then snap into a fist several times. His other leg was bouncing up and down with worrying speed.

“Is there something I can do? A spell or-”

“Just leave me alone!” The shout was silencing. Despite his previous applications, she was taken aback by the severity of this new anger. Their cabbie looked at Draco in worry and more than a little distinguishable fear.

“Don’t worry,” she tried to assure the man, though uncertainty remained in his gaze as it flicked to her in the mirror. “Everything’s under control-everything’s fine.”

“Merlin Granger!” Malfoy’s shout came as a surprise once again. “‘Everything’s fine,’ really? Isn’t ‘everything’ a little too much to assure, even for you? Don’t want to create an accidental impression of happiness, would we? God, you are predictable!” He was thudding his head against the window by the end of the outburst.

He was in pain, she told herself. It was making him cruel; he didn’t mean it. But then he was always cruel, wasn’t he? Her mind leaped to that night all those years ago, quickly surpassing the mental barriers that usually protected the memory from her consciousness. Thinking back on it made her feel foolish for being here. She’d left a party once again to follow an ungrateful, vicious boy who clearly did not want her there. They passed under an overground train platform, and Hermione noticed their surroundings for the first time since leaving the restaurant. The area was abruptly much dodgier than anywhere she’d previously been in the city.

This was ridiculous. What was she doing? Leaving seemed the only logical option, simply apparating away, but of course she’d have to wait until they left the taxi. By that time he’d already be in danger, Hermione reasoned. She might as well stay and see the night through, even if he didn’t want her there. Besides, it was too early to go back to the hotel without blowing her cover.

The taxi pulled to a sudden stop, almost in the middle of the now deserted road. It was dark around them, but ahead about half a block, several men loitered under a singular street light.

“I’m not going any further,” the driver insisted. “Those men can get you what you need.” His eyes were darting around outside, clearly expecting danger to materialize at any moment. Draco dug around his coat for money and quickly handed the man a stack of bills, not bothering to count. Before saying another word, he vaulted out of the taxi and hurried down the street without pause. She pulled out the promised bribe from her small purse, put it carefully on the driver’s armrest, and slowly got out of the car.

This was almost definitely a mistake.

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Fucking hell. Draco’s vision blurred as a thick bead of sweat dripped into one of his eyes. The night was freezing, but he was drenched. The effort of putting one foot in front of the other nearly broke him.

He would have been fine if she hadn’t made him wait. That car ride was excruciating, and it was all her fault. Fuck! He never should have turned around when he heard her voice. He should never have come to New York. Ok, the trip hadn’t exactly been optional but still. He should have at least gotten the heroin before dinner.

“What you want?” The deep voice shook him into awareness. He’d made it into the lamplight without realizing.

“Smack,” he replied without hesitation, but the raggedly dressed gentleman seemed to have reservations of his own.

“You a cop?”

“No, no I’m an Englishman.” He said, wiping feverishly at the sweat on his forehead. This already felt like it was taking forever. “Smack! Please.”

“Shit, you either jonesin’ or worried I’m gonna stab your ass.” This caught Draco’s attention. He jerked his eyes to the man’s face.

“Are you?”

“Haven’t decided. Depends how much you got on you.” A glint in the man’s dangerous smile drew his eye: a single silver tooth stood alone on the bottom row. Draco grimaced. He had a lot of money on him. And no wand. The other men closing in acquired new peril. Merlin the world really didn’t want him to get high tonight- well, higher than he already was.

“Move away, all of you,” came a strong feminine voice from behind. No, no, no, he thought, not this now. The men laughed at whatever defensive stance the she’d taken. Of course, they didn’t know she presented a much greater danger than all of them combined. But he was currently more concerned with the great danger she presented to his ability to get high.

“Leave Granger-I have it under control,” he barked without turning. The men roared in amusement, but Draco didn’t care. He just needed a fucking hit.

“Not from where I’m standing,” came her response.

“You need a little girl to defend you?” A man asked, smirking as he stalked closer.

“I’d be willing to make a trade,” another said. “All the dope in my jacket for an hour alone with that little beaut-”

“Wait!” a new voice came from down the street. “Wait! Don’t stab him!” Relief, though not one close to what he was looking for, flooded Draco. A savior at last.

“Lucky!” He greeted the little man who came running to them. He wore a tattered newsboy cap, a bright red silken vest, trousers that cut off at his mid-calf, and pink cowboy boots. The camp of it was familiar and strangely comforting. What a fantastic development!

“Aw man, you know Lucky? Why didn’t you say something?” The group threw a few insincere apologies and dispersed.

“Lucky, thank God,” he breathed. “Can you help me out?”

His friend, or something approximating that, did a bony little dance of joy. “Of course, of course, Danny. Follow me.” With a hoot, he dashed down the street.

“Go home, Granger,” Draco shouted over his shoulder before chasing after the man. But he didn’t mind when he heard her footsteps following behind: the moment was too full of promise. It was happening, it was happening.

Lucky knocked on the door of a particularly battered building. The windows were covered in cardboard and tape; trash piled on the sidewalk beside them, but Draco couldn’t care less, feeling elated when the door cracked open.

“What do you want?” a terse voice asked from inside.

“My little English friend,” Lucky laughed, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “Is having trouble sleeping.”

The silence nearly killed him. Then, blissfully, came a harsh: “How much does he have?” Draco thrust his money in Lucky’s hand who passed it through the crack.

When Lucky finally handed him the little packets, after taking a few for himself, of course, Draco felt he could cry. But there was still one little detail to sort.

“Lucky, could I impose myself for a hit?” A distracted grunt of assent solved everything. He turned to follow the man and ran right into Hermione.

“Fuck!” He’d forgotten she was there.

“Shouldn’t we just apparate to your hotel, Malfoy?” She stood nervously eyeing the retreating figure of Lucky.

“No!” he protested in desperation. “No apparating!”

She sighed incredulously. “Why ever not? This has been an excruciatingly long night for both of us. Can’t you do this at the hotel, or wherever you’re staying?”

“My mother-” he began to explain, but something slowly dawned in his need-addled mind. “Is that what this is, Granger? A come on?” He ignored her shocked denial. “You think if you help me all night, I’ll finally fuck you?” He laughed. “Not going to happen: I wouldn’t touch you with the 10 foot stick up your ass.”

“Are you kidding me?” He’d only seen her this hurt and angry once before. Something within him may have cracked at the sight, at the memory, but the feeling was almost undetectable in the sea of withdrawal. He pushed passed her and began to run after his only hope for peace that night. He didn’t realize until they reached the entrance of the shack where Lucky lived that she’d followed him.

“That’s not why I’m here, and you know it, Malfoy!” she shouted furiously. But he didn’t have the capacity to care quite yet and burst through the door after Lucky. Draco had been here before and managed to run into the bathroom without guidance. A single, flickering bulb hung from the ceiling, but it was enough.

Finally.

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Hermione couldn’t remember a time she’d been so angry. She clenched her fists in anger as she paced the tattered floor. She’d come all the way across the city, left her friends, and her Boyfriend, whom she loved Very much, to make sure that he was okay. And he had the fucking nerve to through that Kindness back in her face like that. Despicable. Vile. Loathsome. Disgusting creature. Disgusting just like this house where she now found herself alone. Everything was chipped and dirty. The wallpaper, if it could even still be called that, was more peeled that it was intact. She had to stand because the couch looked like it had been fished out of a swamp. Where was Draco? She wanted to leave immediately. She would go without him, but she wasn’t finished giving him a piece of her mind.

Several minutes passed, and Hermione began to wonder if Draco was alright. Not that she cared, she told herself. But of course, that wasn’t entirely true. She was pissed, to be sure, but still didn’t want him to fucking die. God, what she wouldn’t give for a cigarette.

Just when she thought about going to find him, Draco slowly walked into the room.

“Finally,” she threw her hands up in anger. “What the hell took so long?”

He looked startled at her voice. “Hermione?” he asked slowly, in a daze. She sighed deeply at the unexpected change in events. He was smiling vaguely at her, or perhaps the wall behind her: his eyes weren’t focused enough to tell. “How-how long have you been there?”

“This entire time, Malfoy,” she responded in frustration. It was time to get out of here whether he came along or not.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said in lazy recognition. “That’s,” he laughed a little, “that’s right. You bribed the cabbie.” Well, at least he remembered something.

“Come one Malfoy; it’s time to get you home.” She walked over and took hold of his arm. Christ, she’d never felt like more of a saint. Truly, she should win some humanitarian award for this.

“No, no apparating,” he repeated the ridiculous demand, though his conviction felt lacking as he fumbled with the words and swayed like a young tree in the wind.

“Fine.” Hermione couldn’t believe she was acquiescing. “But I am using magic to call a taxi, and you can’t stop me.”

Only a minute later, they were climbing into the back of a yellow cab.

“Where are you staying?” She asked.

“The-the Pierre,” he mumbled, eyes closed. Jesus, it was easy to forget how wealthy he was when she’d just pulled him out of a heroin den. The taxi took off, and they rode in silence for several blocks.

Eventually, his head, which was firmly leaned against the back of the seat, lulled in her direction. The grin on his face when she looked over was unsettling, and for a moment she had to remind herself that it was only the drugs that made him smile at her in such a way.

“What are you thinking?” he asked. Hermione wasn’t even vaguely familiar with narcotics, but his abrupt mood shift was extremely unexpected.

“I was thinking how much of a nightmare these last few hours have been.”

“Aww, don’t say that. I’ve been having fun.” His grin widened. The look was a little too much to handle, so she turned back and changed the subject.

“You never told me why you were in New York.”

“Oh, it’s very sad,” he said, sounding anything but. “Dear Daddy met his end, and I’m here to collect the corpse.”

“Lucius is dead?” Hermione was shocked. She hadn’t heard anything about the man since he’d been released from Azkaban and given exile instead for telling the names of Death Eaters. No one knew where he’d gone.

Draco hummed in affirmation. Hermione didn’t know what to say: the man had been terrible but he was still his father.

“I-I’m sorry,” she gave in after a while.

Draco snorted. “Don’t be; he was a monster.” Then, thoughtfully, “I wish he’d never been born.”

“But then you wouldn’t be here,” she pointed out.

“One mustn't be too egotistical about these things.” When her eyes darted to his face, he was smirking. The words were serious, but something about his look made her laugh. It felt good to do so, especially when he joined a beat later.

“You’re impossible,” she grinned at him. Despite herself, Hermione felt herself grow giddy at the way he was looking at her. Now that he was no longer angry and convulsing, the conversation was turning quite pleasant. Drugs, she reminded herself sternly. It was only because of the drugs.

“Oh,” he interrupted her thoughts. “Let me pay you back for the cab.” He began digging around the pockets of his long, black coat.

“No, you paid for the taxi,” she told him.

“The bribe, or whatever. How much was it?”

“He wouldn’t take it,” she lied. “Just wanted us to get out.” He eyed her suspiciously, but made a small consenting sound.

“Here we are,” the cabbie announced as they pulled to a stop in front of a tall building. Hermione looked around and was shocked once again by the change in surroundings. All around were nice cars and well-dressed tourists. A man in a Hotel Pierre uniform opened the door.

“Mr. Malfoy, welcome back.” Draco glanced up for a moment, frowning, then pushed himself onto his feet, wobbling ungracefully as he stood. Hermione remained seated, unsure of how to proceed. She should be getting back soon, Ron was bound to be worried. But in the light of the awning, Draco looked far less passably sober than he had during the dark car ride. What if he needed help getting to his room? He decided for her.

“You coming?” he asked, leaning back into the cab to pay their driver. Without thinking further about it, she nodded and slid out behind him.

It was probably for the best, she reasoned, given that she nearly had to drag Draco across the lobby. He careened about, got distracted by the fountain, and almost tripped over a dozen things including his own feet. At some point he started singing a song under his breath that was still going by the time they entered his suite.

The rooms were magnificent- large and well decorated- but also clearly occupied by an affluent drug addict. To her own surprise, even after everything she’d seen and learned that evening, Hermione found herself stunned by the loose pills scattered on the coffee table, the wads of cash thrown about and thin line of white powder on the counter that she didn’t let herself process, not to mention the multiple half-finished bottles of liquor and cigarettes strewn on practically every surface. It was a disaster. This man was a disaster.

And it was breathtakingly painful to witness.

She tried to deposit him on the couch, but he groaned and resisted, clinging his arm around her shoulder tighter.

“No don’t put me to bed in the middle of my chorus!” He pulled away and stumbled about for a few steps. The song didn’t make sense: he wasn’t saying real words, but Hermione supposed a drugged mind made its own words. She let him finish whatever fantasy he was engaged in at the moment, watching in part amusement and part horror as he danced about. But when he nearly fell into an expensive looking vase, she knew she had to intervene.

“Come on, Draco, time for bed.”

“Draco!” He shouted with glee, and any diversion she felt instantly drained away. She hadn’t meant to call him that. Even though she doubted he’d remember it when he woke, she would.

Like the flip of a switch, Hermione desperately wanted to be home. Ron would be beside himself by how late it was. God, how did she let this go on for so long? She was panting by the time they got to the bed where she basically had to push him down for him to let go. He groaned into the sheets but lay still.

Before Hermione let her mind wander a millimeter from the task at hand, she apparated to her hotel.