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After Dawn by Kriztal
Chapter 6 : The Dilemma
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 24


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Chapter Six: The Dilemma

Hermione woke up being confused but not knowing why. She turned on her back and stared at the ceiling trying to remember which had been her last thoughts before going to sleep, and although she couldn’t remember their exact contents, they caused a strange churn in the pit of her stomach. Then her conversation with Ginny came back with full force making her recall why she felt so confused and upset: apparently she had a thing for Malfoy and she might not be alone in that department.  And also, there was that nice dinner the three of them had had.

She knew it was going to be uncomfortable to have Draco and Ginny sitting at the same table, but nothing could’ve prepared her for last night.

As soon as they ended their enlightening conversation about Malfoy, Hermione began preparing dinner as Ginny took on herself to set the table. They avoided any ferret related subjects and stuck to talking about the last developments in the outside world, the one Hermione had shut herself from during the past eight months. It was strange for Hermione to listen how the world had carried out without her and Ron in it; it made her feel so minuscule and irrelevant.

Draco came down to dinner and sat down angrily without even looking at Ginny. He didn’t speak much during the supper; he just thanked Hermione for the food and stared at his plate. Meanwhile, Ginny kept shooting glances at both of them as if expecting something to happen  any moment. Hermione knew Ginny was trying to catch her staring at Draco or vice versa, so she tried to act as if nothing unusual was taking place at her dinner table, as if having Ginny and Draco over for dinner was completely normal. She thought everything was going just fine until Ginny opened her mouth.

“So, Malfoy, have you enjoyed Hermione’s company? She can be a really warm hostess when she wants to,” Ginny asked with a mischievous grin.

“I can’t complain. Hermione has been very kind to me by letting me stay here while things calm down. But I’m nevertheless looking forward to get back to my place, there’s nothing like home,” he replied dryly.

“Oh, but this will be your home for a while,” she said looking at him. “That is until things settle down as you said. After the mess you caused by bringing down the Death Eater's headquarters and pissing them off as you did, I guess you will be staying here for quite a long time,” she stated matter-of-factly.

“Just tell me something, Weasley, why are you here?” he asked, cutting her off before she continued, and ignoring her last comment. “Is there a purpose for your visit, or are you here just to annoy me, because my life wasn't bad enough without you in it?”

And Hermione actually thought dinner was actually going to uneventful!

“Well if you must know, Hermione here…” Ginny began.

“Ok both of you, please. We are having dinner, there’s no need to…” Hermione demanded before Ginny could tell Draco why was she there; she didn’t want him to know she had called for reinforcements.

“You are right Granger, I’m sorry,” Draco responded. “I didn’t mean to ruin the evening. But I’ve seem to have lost my appetite and I think is best for me to retire now. Thanks for the lovely dinner. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He stood up and nodded towards Ginny’s direction. “Weasley…” he murmured before finally retiring.

When Ginny was sure she was out of Malfoy’s hearing range she exclaimed “Oh Merlin!”

“ ‘Oh Merlin’ what? ” Hermione repeated.

“That was not the Draco Malfoy I know. The Draco Malfoy I’ve always known would be still sitting there sneering and arguing with me. He would’ve already insulted me twice, reminding to me why his personal matters don’t concern me, and how my intelligence and skill are not enough to even start to comprehend what’s going on with him.” She sighed before continuing. “Not that it would be true, mind you. But he didn’t argue or fight back. Instead he excused himself, thanked you for a lovely dinner and retired.”

Ginny suddenly stopped and looked at her friend for an answer; but before giving Hermione the chance to explain she added “what have you done to him? He’s not acting as his usual self, Hermione!”

“He’s changed Ginny, that’s all… he’s going through a rough time.”

“No, Hermione. Don’t make up lame excuses for him. Didn’t you notice he only stopped arguing because you asked him to? And that he excused himself only to you? He has changed, indeed, but only when you are concerned!”

“That’s ridiculous Ginny, he excused himself to us both and…”

“You aren’t going to talk me out of this one ‘Mione. There’s something up with you two, I can sense it. There’s this weird vibration in the air when you two are together.  I can tell just by the way he looks at you. Hermione, Draco Malfoy fancies you, and very much.”

“Ginny, please. Ron died eight months ago, I’m not ready to be with someone right now,” Hermione groaned.

The red head interrupted her friend. “Who said anything about you having a relationship with Malfoy? I just said he fancies you and all of a sudden you are thinking of the r word… you can’t deny you fancy him as well, it’s so obvious.”

“No, Ginny, you misunderstood,” Hermione rushed. “I just said that in case you came up with the relationship idea! I was merely stopping you before you continued with your silly thoughts!”

“Who do you think you are kidding ‘Mione? We both know you have fallen for ferret boy. There’s no point in arguing about that because the only person you are really trying to lie is to yourself. Look, I don’t like Malfoy, I think there are better men out there who you can hook up with, but if you choose him, I will support you…”

“Ginny, please what are you impl-”

“Don’t interrupt me ‘Mione.I’m not implying anything, I’m actually making myself very clear here.  It has been eight months, I know, but here you have the chance of getting your life back on track. To live again! Besides is not as if you were going to marry him, you can take advantage of this opportunity just to taste the perks of being Malfoy’s girl!”

“What do you mean, Malfoy’s girl? I don’t belong to anyone!”

“Oh come on! You are not that naïve, ‘Mione. Everybody knows Malfoy is great in bed; I have to admit that even I have wondered what it would be like to spend just one night enjoying Malfoy’s company. Merlin knows you could use a good shag!”

“Ginny!”

“Oh, come on ‘Mione, no need to be blushing. As if you wouldn’t like to have a piece of that. Just tell me, honestly, if you haven’t at least wondered in these past few weeks what it would be like, you know, to enjoy Malfoy’s company. It would be good for you. When was the last time you had any-”

But Hermione cut her off before Ginny even got the chance to utter the words. “Ginny just stop! We are not discussing my sex life! Ok?”

“Don’t be a prude, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Women have needs as well as men do. You must be getting a bit fed up of flying solo, don’t you?”

Hermione cut her off once more. “Sure, but that doesn’t mean I want to tell the whole world about my sexual needs. That belongs to me private life, thank you. And if you must know, I’m not sure I’m ready to be with someone else yet, Ron was my first… my only… you know. I haven’t been with anyone else.”

“Really? I always thought that thing you had with Tony Goldstein went to the next level, if you know what I mean,” Ginny said, quite surprised by this new discovery.

“Oh no,” Hermione answered. “I started going out with Tony just to make Ron jealous so that he would get around asking me out. That was at the beginning, anyways, it was just like that time in our sixth year when I invited Cormac McLaggen for Slughorn’s Christmas party… But then, weeks went by and I realised I really felt something for Tony, so don’t get me wrong. I did care for him. He was very sweet and we shared lots of things in common, I really enjoyed the time I spent with him.

"We almost did it twice but I always knew, deep inside me, Ron was the love of my life and that I should save myself for him. I wasn’t really conscious of that for a while, at first I thought I was just postponing it for the right moment, and when I realized that moment would never come, I broke up with Anthony. The second time with Tony was very hard for me to resist. He did know his way around a woman’s body,” she finally said, blushing.

“And you didn’t want to discuss your sex life…” Ginny laughed, amused by her friend’s sudden boldness.

“I don’t. That was just to explain to you how important Ron was in my life and that I’m not ready to move on.”

“Hermione Granger, please. No one can ever take away from you all the things you shared with Ron or who he was in your life. No one. But you’ve got to carry on with your life; you have the right to do so. And the sooner the better.”

And with those last words Ginny got up and walked out of the room and went to sleep without even wishing Hermione good night.

Hermione had managed to ignore the conversation she had had with Ginny while she was trying to fall asleep, but she wasn’t so successful the next morning; hence her uncomfortable state when she woke up. She just lay on her bed thinking about everything Ginny had told her and admitting to herself that her friend was right; but she still felt guilty for even thinking about having a new relationship only eight months after her fiancé’s death. No matter the kind of relationship, no matter if it was just a shag like Ginny called it. To make things even worse, she was thinking about it with Draco Malfoy, the man Ron hated second after Snape.

She got up, deciding that a warm shower would slow her thoughts down, and for a moment she actually believed she had been successful. That is, until she remembered the last words Ginny had spat at her before going to bed. Hermione couldn’t help to think that Ginny had no right to tell her to move on, Ginny was with Harry she hadn’t gone through what Hermione had lived the past few months. Sure, Ron was her brother but he wasn’t the man that she was supposed to spend the rest of her life with; he was not the man she had fantasized would be the best father that their children could have. He was not the man she was in love with. How dare Ginny tell her she should get past something like that and start a new relationship with someone else?

Hermione stepped out of the shower and looked at her reflection in the mirror; she stared at her naked body and admired her soft curves and her tender skin. She turned around and looked at her bottom, the one Ron was so proud of; she then put one of her legs onto the washbasin and caressed it from her ankle to her tight. She looked at her reflection once more thinking how young she was and how, at the same time, old she was getting. She sighed, wondering if another man would ever really notice her. She always considered herself pretty; she had fixed her teeth problems years ago and her hair, though wild, now fell in soft curls that added a vivid look to her features. But she didn’t think of herself as a beautiful woman, not like Ginny who had always had a visible effect on men. What if this was her last chance, what if Draco Malfoy was going to be the last man that ever looked at her?

She chuckled, thinking how ridiculous an idea it was to have who once was the most desired boy in Hogwarts fancying her. There were astounding witches out there, it was simply impossible that he would choose her over them. Besides, they had always hated each other, and that hadn’t changed. He was just being civil towards her since he was living at her house. It was a mere arrangement so they could go on with this scarcely bearable life. And, she couldn’t forget she was a Muggle-born, and although Malfoy didn’t call her Mudblood any more, it didn’t mean he had changed all of a sudden. He still preferred pure-bloods, she did not doubt.

She wrapped herself in a towel as she entered her room. Dressing herself, she remembered how Ginny said Draco had changed towards her and that he looked at her differently. She had to admit he had changed. He helped her around the house, he was even nice to her and, what was more important, he had opened up to her because he said he trusted her. Yes, he had changed, but maybe he didn’t fancy her as she would like to think, maybe they were just becoming friends.

Holding that thought, she went downstairs to get the breakfast ready. She walked into the kitchen completely unaware that someone already sat in the kitchen table dinking a cup of tea. Ginny looked at her friend, amazed at Hermione's distractedness and observed her every move. Hermione felt a piercing look in the back of her head and turned around wondering who it was and saw her freckled friend staring wonderingly at her.

“Good morning, Ginny, I see you’ve already taken care of your breakfast,” said Hermione.

“Oh yes, I hope it doesn’t bother you. I didn’t want to wake you up or anything…”

“Of course not, make yourself at home.”

“I was just preparing to leave. Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Leaving so soon? Why?”

“Because, obviously, you don’t need me here. Besides, Malfoy hates the idea of having me around and you are not going to get anywhere with the little mystery in his head while I’m here.”

“But I like having you around. I miss you, Ginny,” Hermione pleaded.

“I miss you too, ‘Mione, but no one said I won’t come back. A girl has to know when and where she’s needed, though, and trust me, this is not it,” she replied smiling. “Take care of yourself ‘Mione and write to me ok? I may be leaving but I still want to know everything that happens around here!”

“Ginny, thank you for coming all the way up here. I promise I will write to you as soon as something happens.”

They said goodbye to each other after a long session of hugs and “take cares” and finally Hermione stood by the door, watching as her friend rode away in the Knight Bus.

**

Draco woke up in a bad mood. He decided he didn’t want to go downstairs because the cause of his annoyance would probably be there meddling into matters that didn’t concern her. He stood up from the bed and looked around, trying to find something to do while the breakfast time passed. He would go to the kitchen later and find something to eat without anybody trying to meddle in his life.

He then saw the thing Hermione had talked about, the television. He wondered if he could make it work. Although he would’ve never admitted it, he was very curious about this Muggle invention. He kneeled down in front of the black box and examined each one of the buttons at the bottom of the glassy thing in which the moving images appeared. He took a deep breath and pushed the POWER button.

The voice of a woman filled the room as Draco fell down startled by the sudden noise. He looked at the woman who had just appeared and listened carefully to what she was saying. The woman was talking about changing a room or something like that; she was apparently going to change the decorations in someone’s room and was asking what colour was more suitable for the room in question.

“Green,” answered Draco to what he thought was an obvious question.

Then he remembered Hermione telling him this was a one way communication channel and he realised the woman in the box hadn’t heard his answer. This became more evident when the blond muggle decided to paint the room yellow.

“Yellow?” he wondered aloud. What an awful colour, Muggles don’t know the first thing about room decorating that was for sure.

He stayed there for the next twenty minutes watching how the woman changed the previous room into a very nice one indeed, despite her colour choice. He was very interested in the Muggle techniques for painting and wondered if he could combine the Muggle taste and the Wizarding techniques to redecorate his flat. But his train of thought was interrupted by another surprise on the television’s part. Suddenly a green VOULME sign appeared in the bottom of the screen and the noise in the room started to go oddly down.

“Don’t you think the volume is quite high?” asked an amused voice behind him.

Draco turned around and found himself staring at a very nice set of legs that went on forever. He followed them and found a very nicely shaped body and finally Hermione’s face, obviously blushing after his evident inspection of her features. He blushed himself and stood up clearing his throat hoping to distract her from catching him staring at her in such a lascivious way.

“Eh… sorry… did I wake you up?” he asked looking at her.

“No, I was downstairs sending Ginny off when I heard voices,” she answered pointing at the telly. “So you’re interested on room design?”

“Weasley girl left?” he inquired, ignoring Hermione's question.

“Yes,” Hermione stated simply. “That’s not a very good show, I don’t like most of the designs they end up with.”

“I was just trying to learn how to work that telly thing.”

“Let me show you,” Hermione answered. She was quite excited, she would have never imagined, not even in her wildest dreams, that Draco Malfoy would’ve been really interested on a Muggle device.

She spent the next thirty minutes teaching Draco how the remote control worked and explaining to him the concept of ‘channels’. She was not at all surprised to find Draco very interested on the sports channels; Wizard or Muggle, he was still a man.

“I think I like this Muggle thing,” said Draco half an hour later. “It can be quite entertaining.”

“Yes it can, just don’t spend all your day watching television though, is not good for you,” Hermione answered half laughing. “By the way, I came up here not only to turn the volume down but also to tell you the breakfast is ready. I’m afraid it must be cold by now.”

“I’ll eat it cold, I’m starving,” Draco replied merrily.

They spend the rest of the morning talking about Muggle devices like the microwave (which Draco discovered that same day, after Hermione re-heated his breakfast) and all the things Muggles could do without using magic. Hermione had a nice time explaining the basic things of the Muggle world, such as the internet, which Draco found almost too good to be true. They laughed when Hermione told him about those Wizards in the Quidditch World Cup who were dressed like women and of Mr. Weasley’s obsession with plugs. It was the best morning they both had in months.

Lunch time came along and they began discussing Hermione’s childhood. She told him all about her Muggle friends while she prepared lunch with Draco’s help. They had a nice lunch as well. Hermione made Draco laugh like he hadn’t done in years when she told him about the school play she was in when she was eight, in which she coincidentally played a witch. She was so nervous about her performance that she accidentally did magic when she sent one of her classmates flying across the stage. Everyone was astounded to see how good of a Witch she turned out to be and how advanced were the special effects of the village’s little primary school.

"Yep, and that was when I realized that there was something wrong with me, that I wasn't a normal kid" Hermione finally said.

"Wow, I had never thought about it before. How it must be for a muggle-born child to discover, one day just like that, that he is a wizard. Witch, in your case. I always knew what I was and it never struck me as bizare" Draco replied surprised by this sudden insight.

"Yes. Sometimes I just thought I was going mad because I could make things move when I was upset. Really weird stuff kept happening around me. But all those phenomena made it very easy to take in all at the end, when I received my letter. I was so happy! I remember the first thing I did was go to Diagonn Alley and buy 'Hogwarts, a History' the first Wizarding book I set my eyes on"

" A very Hermione-ish way to face the unknown" laughed Draco.

When lunch was done and while Draco cleaned up the dishes, Hermione went upstairs and fetched Draco’s wand.

“This is yours,” she said giving him his wand wrapped in a piece of silk.

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to have it back until it was time for me to leave?” Draco asked, baffled.

“I trust you, and I feel that by keeping it, I’m holding you here against your will,” she responded.

“Thanks Granger, this means a lot to me.”

He wanted to hold her in his arms, but he decided against it. Instead he gave her hand a soft squeeze and let go as fast as he could. She felt shivers down her spine at his contact but hid it by sending him a wide smile.

“We have already lost half of the day!” she suddenly shrieked.

“Yes, you’re right, have you thought about what I asked you to help me with?” Draco asked softly.

“Of course I have. I have several books I want us to check, we might find something there which might help. I also ordered some more, I hope to be receiving them sometime this week”

“You haven’t changed a bit, have you? Books?” he laughed.

“Look, you asked for my help, so unless you have a better idea, we should do as I say. We can’t ask someone about the matter because you said you didn’t trust anyone besides me and I don’t have any more resources to help you,” she responded in a hurt tone.

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I think books are a great idea,” he answered quickly not wanting to spoil the nice time they were having.

They spent the rest of the day researching without success. Hermione was very disappointed with her books, she had hoped they would find something in “The mind: The Wizard’s last boundary” or “Cursed brains, revised edition.” But there seemed to be nothing written on locked information or anything similar to it. It was almost midnight when they decided to finally call it a night and give it another shot the next day.

***

It was a beautiful summer’s day, she walked by the seashore humming a tune her mother used to sing to her when she was little. She was in a peaceful mood, enjoying the summer’s hot breeze in her face, the salty air around her and the feeling of the wet sand under her bare feet. She felt as if she could stay forever in that place, away from all worries and trivialities of her life, away from an ending war that didn’t let her sleep, away from her life. She kept walking and admiring the view of the quiet ocean before her, until she saw a curious thing floating several meters away from her. She started to walk faster, wondering what the thing was until she realized it was a small rowing boat. In it sat a man, gazing at the horizon. She was quite surprised by this and walked even faster. She thought she was alone in her beach and somehow she knew she had to talk to the man in the boat.

She approached him and realized she knew this man, although she wasn’t sure who he was. He turned around and looked her in the eyes, smiling, and then she recognized his red hair that shined by the sun’s light. She remembered the beautifulness of his freckles and how they made a perfect match with his brown big eyes, and then she saw a lonely tear running down his long nose.

“Ron?” she asked, hesitating.

He just nodded as his smile grew wider. He approached the edge of the boat and extended his arms towards her. She immediately jumped to hug him and tried to get into the boat with him, but he stopped her.

“I’ve missed you so much!” she whispered crying. “My life is a total mess without you. I don’t know how to live, how to carry on without you, my life is meaningless since you left me.”


He kept smiling, although his eyes reflected his inner sadness. “Hermione, you are the strongest witch I’ve ever known. I know it’s difficult but it’s time for you to move on, you have to let me go now.”

His voice was reassuring but she couldn’t help shaking her head and grabbing him even more tightly.

“I won’t let you go,” she finally said between sobs. “You left me once and I won’t let you do to this to me again. I’m coming with you, let me into the boat.”

“No,” he answered simply, “It’s not your time, you still have a long life ahead of you, a long and happy life.”

“I don’t care!” she screamed, finally releasing him and looking at him intently. “I don’t care! There is no happiness in this world, without you I will be miserable for the rest of my life! Is that what you want me to be, miserable? Now let me into that boat or I’ll climb in myself.”


“No, Hermione, it’s not up to you to choose if you can go with me. You have to stay. I just came here to say goodbye. I’m letting you go as well, the time has come.”

“I don’t want to lose you, Ron! Please, please don’t leave me here,” she yelled.

“I won’t leave you, ever. I will always be here,” he pointed at her heart. “I’ll always, always be with you, but you have to move on. Just listen to your heart and you will find happiness. I only ask of you to always remember me and to remember all the beautiful moments we shared together. Hermione, I will always have your past, but someone deserves your future.”

He kissed her forehead, hugged her once more and sat back on the boat which started to float away from the shore. Hermione stood there shocked at first and then she realized she wasn’t going to give up so easily. She started to run towards him, which became more difficult as she progressed, and the water reached her knees.

“Ron, please!” she yelled, crying. “Ron, don’t leave me, please, Ron!”

Ron just kept smiling at her while she advanced towards him. He finally looked behind him at the setting sun and smiled back reassuringly. Hermione stared at the sun too and a feeling of peacefulness invaded her. She felt liberated and happy, she knew Ron was going to be finally in peace and that somehow everything was going to be better for her from this moment on.

“Goodbye Ron…” Hermione finally said “I’ll miss you”

She woke up and noticed someone was holding her. She didn’t know why, but she felt safe in his arms and put her arms around him.

“It’s ok now,” he whispered into her ear “it was just a bad dream, it’s over now.”

She realized who the man was and pulled back, looking for the pair of silver eyes she knew she’d find. When she finally met them she saw something she had never seen before in them, kindness? Or maybe concern? Without thinking it she hugged him again as if her life depended on it. She felt him stir slightly but then he hugged back and started to stroke her hair.

“I heard you screaming Weas- his name,” he finally muttered. “So I came and found you crying on the floor…”

On the floor? Hermione looked around her and realized she was sitting on the floor, she must have fallen down during the dream.

“Were you dreaming about the night he- you know,”

Hermione shook her head but did not say a word. She didn’t want to tell him what the dream had been about, so she just stayed in his arms crying silently.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” Draco whispered. “You are awake now, nothing can harm you, I won’t let them. I’m here, I will not leave you.”

He didn’t know what had made him say that but he knew he meant every word.


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