They were standing in the middle of an alley. Two ex-
Death Eaters lay stunned on the ground.
“Does it look like I am?”
Her happiness vanished and was quickly replaced with irritation.
“Not now but you will be if you continue to annoy me.”
“Then how will you know how I kept running away from you all for all these years?”
“You’ll never change will you?”
“And ruin the chance to see you all hot and bothered? Never.”
He was just misunderstood. That was the excuse she told herself when she first met him so long ago in her 1st Year at Hogwarts. He was probably just misunderstood, a bully outside, but a really sweet guy on the inside.
They called her naïve. They told her she needed to learn to differentiate between people who could be good, and people who could be good but won’t ever be. They told her he was one of the latter types of people and honestly, for a while she realised they were right.
That was until she saw him crying. Until she saw how fragile he really was, how vulnerable he was from the real world. Then, things were different. She couldn’t help him at the time; he was in too deep.
But when the war was over, she gave him a chance. She gave him more than just a chance. But it was wrong for her to go so far, so she stopped.
Then she found out he was dead.
Now she found him again, alive, and she didn’t know what to do.
“Oi! Granger, you just stepped on my boots,” he snarled at her when they stepped through the threshold of her flat. “They’re dragon skin, you know,” he boasted. “Father had them imported especially for me, from Hungary.”
She rolled her eyes. “There are worse things in the world then having a small smudge on your boots, Malfoy.”
“Like having a smudge like you in my life,” he muttered as he licked his finger and tried to wipe off the dirt from his boots.
“What was that?” She raised her eyebrows and placed her hands on her hips.
“That’s more like it. You should show me more respect for saving your arse back there. And were you crying? You’re eyes are still puffy.”
“I wasn’t crying!” he yelled defensively. “You ruined my boots!”
He stomped off into another room, and shut the door in her face.
He just needed time. She told herself that over and over again. But it was hard to remind herself that. He was so irritating. Everything he said annoyed her to no end.
And he was so ungrateful!
Saving him from those half-minded ex-Death Eaters didn’t cause a dent in his aloofness. The way he acted was as if she was supposed to save him. In a way, she was…but she hadn’t needed to! He was already announced dead to the world so in reality it wouldn’t matter if he did die. She wouldn’t really be blamed for it.
But of course she couldn’t let him die.
Sometimes she hated being one of the good-guys.
She hated herself even more for her feelings, feelings that were supposed to be gone and over a long time ago.
When she saw him alive, she wanted to pounce on him, smother him with relieved kisses. But he just had to open his arrogant mouth and remind her why she ended it in the first place.
Still, he was right. She did want to know why he pretended to be dead for the past 3 years. It honestly made no sense.
Especially since he left her to pretend he was dead.
“That’s my room you locked me out of, Malfoy.”
She folded her arms across her chest and waited until he opened the door.
“You could’ve told me you were changing.” She looked away from his bare chest.
“And ruin the chance to see you blush? I think not.”
“Will you quit with this flirting and tell me why you aren’t dead?”
“You want me gone that bad?”
“Just answer the question.” She walked inside and sat down on her bed. “Well?”
“I just needed a break.”
He looked at her. She knew he wanted to say “a break from you” but he didn’t. It was understood. She felt guilt swirl in the depths of her stomach.
“Is it my fault everyone assumed I died?”
She was slightly shocked. “Why didn’t you stop this misconception?”
She wanted dearly to scream at him for making her think he was dead. She was reduced to a living corpse when she found out he wasn’t ever coming back. Her heart…it broke into a million pieces. She forgot how to smile. Her life changed. Everything went on a complete spin and then stopped, froze over, and died.
“And ruin all the wonderful things said about me in the Daily Prophet? Honestly, that Rita Skeeter writes gloriously.”
Hermione cringed at the memory. Malfoy’s death was all over the papers. He was made a war-hero even though he really did nothing. Well she supposed he did act slightly braver than usual, by not ratting them out, but the papers glorified him to a sickening extent.
His disappearance at first wasn’t made into a big deal, but when two years passed and Narcissa Malfoy even didn’t know about her son’s whereabouts, everyone assumed the worst.
Two and a half years later, Luna Lovegood had found Draco’s hair beside a ogre she was cooing over and The Quibbler proclaimed him tragically dead - and eaten. There was speculation and doubts at first, but word spread and eventually everyone assumed it was the truth. After all, The Quibbler was endorsed by Harry Potter. Even though most news didn’t make sense, this news didn’t feel as farfetched as the other news that circulated.
“So you continued to feign your death just so that I-- people would love you?”
He just needed some affection. She told herself this 4 years ago, repeatedly. It was the only excuse she had that brought her to him time and time again.
He never really had people except his parents, his two mindless cronies, and his shallow girlfriend liking him. Maybe he just needed a true friend. One who liked him for who he was.
But it was hard to like him for who he was. He was obnoxious and arrogant. He was smart, but his intelligence was eclipsed by his haughtiness.
There was really nothing likable about him.
Well okay, he was good looking.
But that was all. And it didn’t matter because his personality was so unappealing.
Still, she became that friend, those years ago. She still held on to that idea –the idea that he was misunderstood– that she had made in her childhood.
They met in the elevator at the Ministry when she went to give an interview or her job at the Department of Law Enforcement. She wanted to ignore him, but he obviously couldn’t resist making a sarcastic comment. She didn’t remember what he said then, but she just remembered rolling her eyes and rushing out the doors, her fists clenched. She just wanted to get through to the interview and get the job. Nothing and no one was going to ruin her composure.
He met her again on the way back. He didn’t speak to her. Just gave her a polite, curt nod of acknowledgement.
She looked at him closely. She had read various articles in the paper about the ordeals the Malfoy family had gone through after the defeat of Lord Voldemort. The Malfoys were given a tough time and Draco Malfoy in particular seemed to be getting more than just some negative feedback in the papers. There were dark circles under his eyes. His jaw was tight. His eyes were hesitant.
He was just misunderstood.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him abruptly.
He seemed taken aback. “Interview,” he replied after a moment.
She nodded her head and took a deep breath and waited until she reached the lobby. “See you around,” she called out over her shoulder when she walked away.
They met in the elevator numerous times afterwards they both got their jobs. The circles under his eyes began to fade. His voice no longer had that tinge of malice. He didn’t mock her.
One day, he even smiled at her.
Maybe she was right. Maybe he just needed a friend.
She asked him out for coffee. Coffee became lunch in a few days.
He was still arrogant, but it wasn’t imposing. He ceased to remind her that their bloodlines weren’t similar. He was smart and attentive when he desired. It did help that he was attractive.
Once, he even laughed at her pathetic joke.
When Ron was away for the weekend, she was bored and took Draco’s offer for dinner.
They became friends without knowing it or even wanting it.
He looked happy. His mocking just became light teasing which she grew fond of. Sometimes, though, he would get under her skin and she would hate it. She would stop talking to him, but then she would forget the next day when he would come into her office with a cup of her favorite warm tea and a smirk adorning his face.
She realised she liked his smirk. She liked his confidence even though it aggravated her. His personality would normally be something she would hate but she grew accustomed to it. She became immune to the demeaning comments he told her of her friends. In fact, she wouldn’t ever admit it, but sometimes she would inwardly agree with his witty (and mean) observations.
One day, she even let him kiss her.
His kisses were passionate. There was an edge to it. It was forbidden yet delicious. She knew she shouldn’t, especially since she was already with Ron but she couldn’t resist.
They became lovers without knowing it.
But they sure as hell wanted it.
She grew addicted to him, to his smirks, and his sly remarks. She began lying to Ron to meet Draco. It was sneaky, wrong, but it felt so good.
But there would always be a bitter taste in her mouth afterwards. Guilt would churn her stomach.
One day, she ended it.
She didn’t quite find out why because she ended all communication with him. However, she knew deep down it was because she ended the relationship and she felt tortured at the thought.
And when the rumors of his death spread quickly over the country, she was left in shambles.
Now she was preparing dinner for him, pretending nothing ever happened, trying to take things in her stride.
But inside, her mind was screaming.
“I don’t believe you.”
Malfoy shrugged his shoulders. “Actually, I was just travelling various countries for the past 3 years. I didn’t tell mother because honestly I needed a break from…” his voice lowered to a pained whisper. “Well, you know what…”
Hermione looked down at her place, feeling guilty.
“I didn’t hear the news about my own death until I finally came back a week ago. I’m surprised that I didn’t. It seemed to be such big news here in England.”
“And your hair? The ogre?”
“Don’t tell me you believed that Quibbler rubbish.”
Hermione’s ears turned pink. She didn’t want to tell him how she didn’t believe the Quibbler but the news of his death held a deeper meaning. To her, it just made things so final. It was then that she realised he was never coming back.
A dozen thoughts had flashed into her mind. She remembered what he told her. He said he couldn’t live without her. When she ended the relationship, he was angry, but above his anger was grief and pain. He told her that he was leaving her for good since that was what she wanted.
For days, she would wake up panting and drenched with sweat wondering heatedly if he was okay. She would stop herself from visiting him or calling him but one day, she just couldn’t control herself and Apparated to his flat. However, he had kept his word and was gone.
She felt her heart rupture that night.
What if he did kill himself? What if he really did get eaten by ogres? He could’ve been alive, in her arms…but now he was gone and no one knew where he was.
There was no one to blame but herself.
That was what hurt her so much. The fact she didn’t know what to think, what to believe. The fact she didn’t know where he was or if he was okay.
His mother was worried sick about him and Hermione grew weary with the guilt of being responsible for the woman’s sorrow.
“You should’ve told your mother.”
“I…” he hesitated, then drew a long breath, “…wasn’t in the right state of mind to speak to anyone.”
His response made Hermione wonder where he exactly was and the extent of his pain. Their breakup couldn’t have had such a powerful, destructive impact on him, could it?
They ate dinner for the rest of the period in silence.
“Thanks for the dinner, Granger. I should be going home now.”
He stood up from the table and headed to the closet to grab his cloak.
He stopped and turned to stare at her. His grey eyes were wide and hopefulpl. “Yes?”
She fidgeted and looked down at the floor.
“Your parents left a few months ago,” she mumbled. “They moved but I don’t remember where. Your house is under lockdown by the Ministry until all the Dark Artifacts are checked until the house deemed suitable for living.”
Draco’s face fell. That wasn’t what he expected her to say. “I wonder where I’m going to go now,” he whispered.
Hermione hesitated before reluctantly saying her next words.
“You can stay here for the night until you get a place to stay tomorrow.”
She cringed at her own words.
“That’s an interesting offer, Granger.”
She watched a smile creep into the corners of his lips.
He just needed a place to stay. She told herself this over and over again as she tidied up the bed she configured from her sofa in her one bedroom flat. There was nothing more in it. He would sleep here and leave tomorrow and things would go back to normal.
She would console her heart, knowing that he was alive, but there would be nothing more to it.
She didn’t have any visitors at her flat for a long time. Harry would come briefly but he was too busy with Ginny to be around her much. Ron just ignored her existence.
Frankly, as much as she liked the solitude, there was something…someone missing in her life.
Not that she would ever admit it anyone. In fact, she wouldn’t repeat those blasphemous words to herself again either.
“I’m not sleeping on that.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You should learn to be grateful for what you have.”
“I don’t think it’s fair that you take that wonderful bed down the hall over there and I sleep on this poor excuse of a bed. After all I’ve been through? A lousy break-up that made no sense whatsoever, a fake death, and almost being killed by ex-Death Eaters. Honestly, Granger, have some mercy.”
He said this jokingly, but the truth of each of his words pierced her. She took a deep breath and tried to ignore her guilty conscience.
“Yeah…you’re still sleeping here. Good night, Malfoy.”
“But what? You’re not sleeping in my bed. Where am I going to sleep if you sleep in my bed?”
“Then we could share your bed.”
“But we shared a bed many times before.”
He was just joking. She told herself this, but she knew it wasn’t true.
She didn’t want to be reminded of this. She tried forgetting. Heck, she was even successful at forgetting!
Or rather, tucking everything away in a neat little box in her mind and pretending the box didn’t exist.
Why did he have to come back to her life? She was grateful he was alive, but why did she of all people have to find him? Fate was playing a very evil trick on her.
She remembered what they had together. She remembered how happy she was with him despite the fact his personality annoyed her. She grew to be fond of his humour and cunning remarks. Pretty soon, what they shared wasn’t just friendship.
The way he made her feel was like nothing she ever felt before. The first time he kissed her, she felt as if she were finally whole. The way his hands felt on her body, the way he spoke to her, his passion, everything about him just made her sigh in delight.
But she was dating Ron at the time and the guilt of cheating on him was enough to suffocate her.
She blamed Draco for her infidelity towards Ron. She ended their illicit relationship with an onslaught of curse-words and blame and worst of all she told him she wished he never came into her life. She was happy before, why did he ruin whatever she had?
When the news of his death came, she was devastated. Not because she believed he was dead, but because his disappearance scared her and the possibility of his death just shook her to her bones.
It was as if a part of her died when he left. She didn’t admit it to herself before, but every day she missed him and wished back those hurtful words she told him. The guilt she felt tore at her insides. Still, breaking up with him was okay to her. However, she couldn’t imagine her existence without knowing he was there somewhere, too.
Ron did nothing to console her. In fact, he didn’t understand why she was so shattered until she told him how she betrayed him. He hadn’t spoken to her since.
It was then that she realised she didn’t really love Ron.
Her life was in a total mess by then. If she weren’t the analytical Hermione, she would’ve gave up on life long ago. But she convinced herself that there were more important things in life, picked herself up, and tried to move on.
She was doing a good job at pretending to be alive.
But now Malfoy was back. He was in her house. She thought he would be angry with her but he didn’t show it even if he was. But there was pain underlining his words that made her insides churn in guilt. She didn’t know how much longer it would take before her mask was removed and she was reduced to a crying, blubbering, guilt-ridden mess.
“That was a long time ago,” she told him stiffly.
“You’re not with Weasley anymore.”
She didn’t ask him how he knew. “That changes nothing.”
“It doesn’t?” He drew closer to her. “I know you didn’t want me to come back, but I couldn’t help it. You have no idea what I’ve been through without you,” he told her gravely.
She took a deep breath. An onslaught of memories caught up with her. “And I thought you were dead,” she whispered.
He grabbed her shoulders and forced her to look into his eyes. “I’m here now. I’m alive.”
“What if you were dead?” she cried. “It would be my fault.” She shuddered. Her voice was cracking. She was losing her resolve. Her careful mask was slipping.
He wrapped his arms around her and she rested her cheek against his chest. She shed no tears but she sighed deeply and surrendered herself into his arms. “I’m sorry,” she told him.
He shushed her and held her tightly in his arms. She was shocked at how understanding he was. She imagined him getting angry or at least acting haughty. She thought he would say something to make her feel lowly and guilty.
But he just bent down to kiss her lips softly.
And she kissed him back, her lips moving urgently against his. His fingers held the nape of her neck and kneaded her skin softly. His other hand gripped her waist, bringing her closer. Her heart was thumping wildly.
He was alive. He was here. He was everywhere with her. And this time she wasn’t going to let him go anywhere.
The soft, sweet kiss morphed into something harsher, more demanding. Her fingers clutched at his soft blond hair, pulling his face closer to hers.
She was sorry she ended whatever she had with him. It felt like the right thing at the time. Whenever she kissed Draco, she would die of guilt afterwards because she was hurting Ron but when she was with Ron, the guilt didn’t go away. It only intensified.
Somewhere, she always belonged to Draco and ending their relationship verbally wasn’t ever going to change that. The last few years that he was gone made her heart yearn for him and she felt guilty for ever leaving him, for hurting him. She understood by then that Ron wasn’t the perfect man for her, Draco was. When he was gone, she realised how alone she felt. She realised how dead things became.
His touch made her whole body feel so alive.
She felt the sofa-bed hit the back of her leg and she was pulling him down on it with her. His weight crushed her body, but it felt wonderful. He held her tightly, strongly. His kiss was fierce now and full of anger and pain and she pulled onto his blond hair with equal passion.
His lips stopped the assault on hers suddenly and he pulled back.
“I will not sleep on this bed.”
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh.
“If I take you to my room will you forgive me?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
”Perhaps. It depends.”
She got up, smirking at him, and tugged onto the collar of his shirt, pulling him into her room.
He just needed to be with her. She told herself as she kissed his strong jaw and snuggled into his naked, warm arms.
No. That was a lie. She needed to be with him just as much as he did.
Four years ago, she gave him a chance. A chance to become a better person. It was a chance that he deserved.
Now, he was giving her a second chance, one that she wasn’t sure she really deserved. But she took it without question.
She was grateful that he wasn’t dead, even though she never really believed his death deep down. She was glad she was the one who found him.
Maybe fate wasn’t playing an evil trick on her, but really giving her an unexpected and wonderful gift.
He was here, in her arms, and she never felt more alive in her life.