She shouldn’t have even seen him.
It was supposed to be a routine visit to Azkaban; volunteer medical checkups, good practice for a trainee Healer. Hermione and three others were being led to the medical clinic when a hallway with an unmarked door at the end of it caught her eye.
Something about the marred door called to Hermione; a sense that she wasn’t supposed to have noticed it, that it was intended to be overlooked, and that feeling made her all the more determined to know what if hid.
She fell behind the rest of the volunteers and backtracked. Finding the door just barely ajar, she peeked inside. The air that hit her face was freezing, and the passageway beyond the door pitch black. She pulled the door open wider, trying to see in, and found… Malfoy.
Draco Malfoy was standing alone in a barred cell, hidden within the icy darkness of the prison. Barely clothed. Covered in roping scars that had clearly been left to heal themselves.
A sense of dread twisted through her gut as she took in what was before her.
After the war, Malfoy had been put on trial and sentenced to two years in Azkaban. One for each year spent in Voldemort’s service.
There had been complaints and protests that the sentence was too lenient, not enough time for a Death Eater. After all, all others marked were sentenced to be Kissed by Dementors, Malfoy deserved more than two years.
The sentence was upheld. He’d been a minor, he’d taken the mark under duress, two years was therefore adequate; Malfoy went to Azkaban along with all the unmarked supporters of Voldemort.
It had barely been six months.
Hermione stood staring at him aghast.
She’d believed that Azkaban was better now. There’d been reform efforts. Short-term inmates were treated differently, no longer kept in solitary confinement. They weren’t supposed to be exposed to Dementors any longer, but the icy despair that radiated from further down the passage could only be from one thing.
Even long-term prisoners weren’t supposed to be left huddled, freezing, starved.
He didn’t even seem to recognize her. His head turned slowly, more towards the light than towards her, and cold winter light reflected in the flat grey of his eyes. Her chest tightened as she realised that he might have been Kissed.
She stepped closer, slipping through the doorway. Trying to get a reaction. Trying to tell if there was even any Malfoy left.
It was like finding the broken shell of a creature that used to be alive. That she’d seen alive.
“Draco?” she tried as she reached the bars.
He blinked at his name and his eyes focused, sending a flood of relief through her. His head just barely tilted as his eyes narrowed. He looked at her. Just the barest spark of life still there.
“Granger.” The air was so cold, she watched the breath from her name ghost out of his lips like smoke.
She kept staring, speechless and wide-eyed with horror.
“I —“ she faltered.
She what? What was she supposed to say? Sorry?
She looked him up and down again, taking in the scars running across his face, one sliced so close it was a wonder he hadn’t lost his eye, then travelling down and looking on in horror at the myriad of deeper scars littering his torso.
“I’m going to get you out,” she said, the words escaping before she even processed them. No pausing to think about whether it was even possible.
She just said it, like a promise.
His eyes seemed to flicker for a split second longer before going flat and he stepped back, until he was nearly hidden by the shadows. “No, you won’t,” he said in that same deadened voice as before.
She opened her mouth to reply but before she could, there were heavy footsteps and a looming shadow swallowed the light of the doorway behind her. She turned to find an Azkaban guard, wand drawn.
“This area is for prison personnel only,” said the guard, looking visibly annoyed at finding her there.
She squared her shoulders, unmoving. “Why is he in here?”
The guard glanced towards the shadows Malfoy had now fully vanished into and gave a derisive snort. “Not too popular here, that one. Lots of prisoners blame him and his mum for losing the war. Daddy doesn’t respond too much since he was Kissed. Pretty boy there was more fun.”
Hermione looked back aghast as the guard pushed her towards the door.
“Gotta keep him in solitary for his safety.” The guard herded her out of the room, slamming the door shut. Leaving Malfoy in darkness.
Hermione’s throat tightened. “And the scars?”
The guard gave a cruel smile as he walked her to the room where the rest of the healer trainees were. “Well, you know, new rules say short-term prisoners stay together. Had to try to follow them. We didn’t know how much they wouldn’t like him.”
“Yes. It’s quite obvious how much you care about all the new rules,” she said as she stepped away from the guard and over to the nearest prisoner waiting.
She barely remembered the prisoners or maladies she treated that day. Her mind was busy with other things.
She had to get Malfoy out of Azkaban. Even if he was Malfoy, even if under all the abuse he was still the same cruel bully she’d gone to school with, he couldn’t be left in Azkaban. Not under those conditions.
It was a matter of conscience, simple as that.
She went, enraged, straight to Kingsley only to be slapped with endless red tape. She submitted form after form, and every type of abuse complaint possible against Azkaban and the DMLE to no avail until she harassed Harry into meddling. Then, begrudgingly, it was agreed that Malfoy could, hypothetically, have his sentence commuted given that being kept in Azkaban endangered him.
House arrest. But not in his house.
With supervision. But not with a relative or anyone with potential Death Eater sympathies.
Considering that all the purebloods and half-bloods in the UK were related in some way, there really was only one option.
“I’ll take him,” she said in a flat voice. “I assume that no one thinks I harbour any Death Eater sympathies.”
Apparently, they hadn’t expected her to be quite that serious about it.
She’d expected he’d be thinner and in an even worse condition after an additional two months.
She just hadn’t expected him to be that thin.
She stood staring at Malfoy, who was standing blank-faced and emaciated across the room from her, trying not to let her horror show on her face as she realised that her complaints had reached Azkaban, but not in the way she’d intended them to.
She had to swallow several times before speaking.
“Did you forget to feed him?” she finally said, trying to control her shaking rage at the thought that they’d starved him further.
The Warden just sneered at her. “Azkaban isn’t a charity.”
Her chest tightened. She wanted to snap back, but considering how many times her judgement had been questioned during the last two months, she didn’t want to deal with the potential ramifications of punching the Azkaban Warden in the face. Not when she was so close.
She forced a smile. “I’ve signed everything. Can I take him?”
The Warden nodded and pulled out a ring that held dozens of rune disks, flipping through them, checking the runes carved onto the surfaces, and until he pulled one off the ring.
“He’s all yours.” He dropped the disk in her hand. “Don’t worry, he can’t touch it. When he gives you trouble, just squeeze it, and he won’t anymore.”
The Warden laughed and, for the first time since he’d been shuffled in and left standing across the room, Malfoy flinched.
Hermione’s throat tightened as she slipped the disk carefully into her pocket. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”
She walked slowly towards Malfoy. His grey eyes were flat. He was, at least, more clothed than he’d been the last time she saw him. He had a shirt, although it was so stiff with grime, she doubted it was actually functional.
“Ma–” she caught herself. “Draco, I’m back. I told you I’d get you out. I’m going to be taking you to my home.”
Nothing this time. He didn’t even move as they apparated, reappearing in the entry of her flat.
Without the cold, stale prison air to stifle it, the smell hit. The overwhelming stench of layers of filth and neglect filled the warm air of Hermione’s small flat and she cast a quick charm to clear the air and opened a nearby window.
It wasn’t his fault. They barely let him wash.
She’d reviewed the standard of care for Azkaban after she’d visited last time. Once a month, prisoners were stripped down and sprayed. She suspected he hadn’t been washed again since the last time she’d seen him.
As much as she wanted to bathe him, she knew he needed food far more.
She led him into the kitchen and handed him a bowl of soup that she’d made specifically because it was simple, not too flavourful, and gentle on malnourished stomachs. Malfoy ate it mechanically without saying a word.
She stood near the sink, watching him worriedly and casting the occasional charm to keep the air fresh. Azkaban didn’t allow dementors free reign anymore, but Malfoy showed visible and severe signs of over-exposure. The cell she’d seen him in had been frigid. If Malfoy had been the primary food source for—however many dementors were still in Azkaban, it explained why he was so non-responsive.
When the bowl was empty, Malfoy just stopped and sat unmoving.
“How about a bath now?” she asked softly, careful not to startle him.
It was only a few steps down the hallway to the bathroom. She led him in, turned on the taps, laid out washcloths and towels and clothes she’d picked up the day before during her mad rush to prepare for his arrival.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” she said, slipping out of the bathroom and giving a quick sigh at the guilty flood of relief she experienced upon having a moment alone. Her heart kept pounding anxiously and she pressed her palms against her chest in a futile attempt to slow it.
It was fine. It was fine. Everything was going fine.
She forced herself to close her eyes and draw a slow, steadying breath.
She hadn’t had time to fully prepare herself for the reality of having Malfoy move in. She’d been so focused on trying to get extra bedding and men’s clothes, reading up about what kind of mental and physical state he might be in, researching about the effects caused by dementors. She’d barely had a minute to stop and think through her own sense of upheaval that would be caused by having Malfoy live with her.
With her. In her home.
She did sound mad.
Currently traumatized, barely functioning Malfoy who quite possibly wasn’t even aware that he’d been taken out of Azkaban.
In the future, potentially…
Malfoy’s sneering face as he spat ‘Mudblood’ flashed before her eyes.
She winced and shook her head, releasing a slow breath.
What she was doing was right. Even if Malfoy was still the same exact person he had been, he didn’t deserve what had been done to him in Azkaban. It was inhumane and someone had to do it. She’d find a way to cope with it, assuming that coping became necessary.
She gave a long sigh and checked her watch. The water in the bathtub was still running but there wasn’t another sound. She cracked the door open.
“Malfoy? Are you—” she tried to shield her eyes but still peek in enough to see if he had gotten in the tub.
He was standing exactly where she’d left him. Prison rags still on. The tub was nearly overflowing.
She lunged forward and turned off the water before turning back to him. “Don’t you want a bath? I have clean clothes and then you can sleep, or whatever you want, or I can show you around, not that there’s a lot to show, the flat isn’t really very big.”
It was like Malfoy wasn’t even there. She’d brought home his body but there wasn’t anything left inside him.
Hermione stared up into the flat grey of his eyes, waiting for any reaction, but he just stood there.
She inhaled slowly. “I’m–” she wet her lips, “I’m going to take your clothes off and help you bathe.” She drew her sleeves up so they wouldn’t get wet. “If you don’t like something, you can tell me. Alright?”
She’d seen bodies before. Being a trainee Healer meant that of course, she’d seen lots of bodies, although not usually the bodies of people she knew. There were spells to strip him more efficiently, but something told her that using magic might not be the best idea, that he needed the progression and predictability of her doing things by hand. It would give him more time to respond if she did something he didn’t want.
She unbuttoned his shirt slowly, giving him time to react, wincing at the scars that were more visible in the bright light of her bathroom. She pushed his trousers down his hips without looking and then led him over to the tub. He didn’t step into it. She reached downwards, her eyes fastened intently on the ceiling, and found the back of his knee, lifting it until his foot was in the tub, then she repeated the process with the other leg and shoved him down until he was mostly hidden under the bubbles.
“Alright, there we go, we’ll get you clean and then you can go to bed, this is a lot of emotional upheaval, so I’m sure you’re tired….” She found herself rambling under her breath in a weak attempt to break the constant silence.
It wasn’t like she’d expected him to arrive conversant, but the unresponsiveness was eerie.
He flinched when she started to wash him. Not sharply, but it was as if it was his automatic response to any touch, his body tensing and contracting downward, shudders running silently through him.
She started washing his shoulders first, as gently as she could, just resting the wet washcloth on his back until the grime loosened and she could wipe it away. He winced and she tried to reassure him.
“I’m just getting you clean. I’m not going to hurt you.” Still nothing, but his flinching was at least less violent as she continued.
The more dirt she washed away, the more of his scars became visible. Long slices down his arms and criss-crossing his chest, covering his back. Cruel and intentional.
She focused on cleaning the parts of him that weren’t submerged, draining the tub with her eyes averted when the water turned brown and refilling it.
Malfoy just sat in the water, expression unresponsive. She kept trying to catch his gaze, to make eye contact and see if there was any spark there, but his eyes were flat and unfocused, she didn’t think he even knew that he was there with her.
She picked up his right hand carefully, resting his palm against hers and rubbing gently across his knuckles with the washcloth, wiping carefully between each finger until clean skin emerged.
“You have lovely hands,” she said after another long pause. “Good fingers for charmwork. I remember you were good at it in school.”
When she’d washed from his knees down to his feet, and arms and all the parts of him above water, she finally worked her way up to his neck. She felt strangely uncomfortable about touching his face.
Shoulders, arms, and knees, she could pretend belonged to just anyone, some patient at St Mungo’s, but washing his face made it unavoidably obvious that it was Malfoy. That she wasn’t at work, she was kneeling on the floor by her bathtub, in her flat, with her childhood bully.
There was a raw sense of intimacy in seeing him like this. Washing him and trying not to focus on the vulnerability that radiated from him or the defensive way he recoiled from contact. Trying not to wonder exactly why flinching was such an instinctive response for him, but also knowing anyway, because the roping scars that littered his body told her.
But beneath that raw intimacy was a twisting sense of doubt towards herself that she would be feeling any level of closeness towards a person who didn’t even seem to know that she was there.
Draco Malfoy, as she had ever known him, would not want her to see him like this. He would hate it that someone was seeing him like this. That it was her seeing him like this.
She wasn’t doing it because she thought it would make them friends. She was doing it because someone needed to and she’d been the only person who’d been willing to.
That didn’t make them friends.
She focused on the thought and kept her gaze and movement and thoughts carefully clinical.
She worked slowly up his neck, finding his prison tattoo under the dirt, runes and numbers just below his jaw. Azkaban was a brutal mark prisoners were forced to wear for life.
She wiped cautiously across his cheek, careful to keep her hand angled from below.
There was a scar that ran right across his face, starting at his jaw and running up across the bridge of his nose before slashing the other cheek. She carefully dabbed all the dirt off until he was as close to clean as she could get without scrubbing.
“There you are again, Draco Malfoy,” she said, her voice light as she ran the washcloth down the other side of his neck.
She looked up and found that he was staring at her. Seeing her. His eyes tracing slowly over her face.
There was a pause, his eyebrows furrowed, and he reached slowly towards her, water dripping from his hand until his fingers brushed against the back of her left hand where it was resting on the edge of the tub. His fingertips traced slowly over her knuckles.
“Is this real?” His voice was almost a whisper.
She hesitantly placed her right hand on his. “It’s real.”