Chapter 4 : Returning Home
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Draco strained a muscle in his leg as he sprinted down the corridor. After scaring Hermione like that, he felt it was his responsibility to make it up to her. He couldn’t stand seeing her pale, rounded face in distress like that. Her beautiful face.
As he approached the safe where Hermione’s wand was kept, all reason escaped him and he shook it like mad, forgetting his magic. Luckily, a little shake was all it needed, and he was finally able to retrieve Hermione’s wand. He Apparated to straight outside her prison door and burst in through the open doorway, only to see that Snape had already beaten him.
From the look of it, Snape had Apparated outside her door and somehow rolled in. He had managed to prop himself up and was pointing his wand straight at Hermione. Terror was etched all over her face, but a hint of anger and defiance was clear as well, as she looked on at Snape.
"Stupify!" cried Draco. Snape had just begun to turn his wand on Malfoy, but before his deformed body could make it around, Draco had taken care of him.
Without thinking, Hermione ran up to Malfoy and threw her arms around him. "Draco! I was afraid. So, so afraid that he would really kill me this time."
Neither Draco nor Hermione felt like exchanging words at the moment. Both had waited for this moment. They spent the precious seconds of the embrace soaking up the wonderful feeling.
Malfoy held Hermione’s wand out to her. "Here’s your wand."
Hermione grabbed it without saying anything. She knew the risk that it had been for Draco to retrieve the wand. If Snape had caught him, that would have been it. Hermione almost laughed as she compared the Malfoy she went to school with, and the Malfoy standing in front of her. If someone had told her all those years ago, that Malfoy was going to risk his life to save her, she would have laughed in their face. Hermione could feel tears forming in her eyes, both happy and sad.
Malfoy held Hermione’s shoulders and slowly drew her closer to him. Both knew what came next. Their breathing was somehow harsher and lighter at the same time.
They closed the distance by leaning in slowly; Draco and Hermione had a tentative air to each other at the moment. When their lips met, it was a sweet tender kiss. They both savored this kiss, as new loves usually do.
When Hermione and Draco parted, Draco’s face was transformed. The sallow pale face had gained light, Draco’s face had a happy sheen to it; on the contrary, Hermione’s was worried and slightly upset.
"That was amazing," whispered Draco.
Hermione said nothing.
"Hermione, what’s the matter?" asked Draco. He saw the cautiousness on her face and became become slightly upset. He had thought that she had wanted the kiss.
"Nothing, I suppose. But. . ." Hermione trailed off.
"Wait, Hermione. You may think this unbelievable, or stupid but – I think that I might love you." Malfoy looked at Hermione’s impassive face. "Honestly, you – the one I had called horrible names and made fun of. You are the last one that I would have thought to fall in love with."
Hermione gave a small, nervous laugh. "I thought the same about you."
"What do you mean, thought?" questioned Draco.
"I thought I might have loved you as well. I’ve been in this place for God knows how long, and I wouldn’t have survived it without you. Not mentally, and not physically. I think I was scared, and I may have mistaken that gratitude for love. I’m sorry."
"Hermione, please. I love you, and I know you love me too. We can escape; leave Snape here to die. We can go away and live together," Draco pleaded. His eyes seemed to plead with Hermione as well.
Malfoy is begging for me? I’ve never seen him beg for a single thing before in his life, and now he’s begging me to be with him? wondered Hermione. It was all too awkward and uncomfortable for her to take in.
"I’m - I’m sorry Draco; I don’t love you," managed Hermione. "I don’t love you, but I love Ron, and I think you know that. I don’t think you love me the way you think you do either. But if you like me at all, please, just take me back to the people who miss me." Tears were shining in Hermione’s eyes as she comprehended that she would finally see the ones she loved again.
Draco took a deep breath and led Hermione from her room. After almost a month, Hermione would finally leave the horrid place that she had been forced to live in.
"Draco, I’m truly so sorry," breathed Hermione.
Draco gave her a smile, and it was genuine. He hugged Hermione quickly before grasping her hand and Apparating to the place where Potter, and the two Weasleys were.
Hermione and Draco arrived outside the gates of the Potter mansion. Draco said goodbye and turned, preparing to Disapparate. He knew that he would go home; he had to be there when Snape awoke. Snape could not be allowed to go free.
"Wait," Hermione called. "Please, I’d be so happy if you’d come and visit once in a while. And I think the others will be far more tolerant of you when they hear what you’ve done for me."
Once again, Draco put on a smile. "You know what? I think I will."
Hermione threw her arms and Draco and squeezed him tight.
"See you soon," said Draco, before Disapparating.
"Ron! Harry, Ginny! I’m back " bellowed Hermione. She ran past the gates and nearly blew a hole in the oak front door with her wand. "I’m home!"
Ron peered around the corner with unnaturally wide eyes. "Bloody hell! Harry, Ginny, come quickly; Hermione’s back!"
Before Ron could even start towards Hermione, Harry and Ginny sped out of a nearby door and nearly tackled Hermione to the ground.
"What happened? Hermione we were worried sick." Ron, Ginny and Harry crowded around Hermione as she began to answer Ginny’s question.
She told of Snape’s kidnapping, her dreadful prison room and her lost wand. Hermione told them about the poisoned food, and her new friend, Draco. She explained to them about his changed person, why he was different, and the proof she had.
Hermione almost didn’t tell her friends of their goodbye, but she felt that they had to know. It was only fair that they, especially Ron, got the whole story. "So, we kissed. Draco told me that he loved me, and I told him that I thought I had loved him."
Ron’s face was hurt. More hurt that Hermione, Harry or Ginny had ever seen. His face showed the look of someone whose world had just come crashing down around them. Again.
"But," Hermione continued. "I really didn’t. My mind was just muddled from all that had been going on. I told Draco that I didn’t love him, because I loved someone else. I loved Ron."
Without warning, Ron leapt up and kissed Hermione. And Hermione felt the love. She felt a powerful kind of longing, one that she would surely die without. As Ron pressed closer to Hermione, she wondered how she had ever lived without this before.
When they finally ceased the kiss, both Hermione and Ron pulled away with smiles and pure love on their face.
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