Chapter 9 : Almost Perfect
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Desire and Demise
A soft whispering sound awoke Hermione from her slumber. It took the girl several moments to adjust to the darkness pressing in on her from all sides. But when her eyes were able to decipher her surroundings, the first things that came into sight were Draco’s sparkling, blue gray eyes staring back at her. He was smiling with the most genuine smile she had ever seen grace his lips, and she couldn’t help but reflect that very smile upon her own. As he held her tightly in his arms, Hermione could feel his warmth seeping through her skin and into her veins.
“I should go,” he whispered, although he didn’t move an inch. He didn’t seem to want to move. And Hermione didn’t want him to either.
“Please don’t go yet,” Hermione said, nuzzling her head up against his chest.
“As much as I’d love to lie here forever, it’s almost sunrise,” he informed her, pointing a finger lazily towards the window. The sun had begun to peek out above the horizon.
Hermione groaned in disappointment. She didn’t want this wonderful night to end. But it had to. If there was never an end, there could be no new beginnings – and that was exactly what she wanted. A new beginning with Draco. Her heart fluttered at the thought.
Draco’s warm lips pressed against her forehead as his arms uncoiled themselves from around Hermione’s small frame. Draco made to get up, but, in desperation, Hermione’s hand flung out and caught hold of his sweater, pulling him close to her, where she wanted him to stay forever. He gave in for one short moment, allowing Hermione to pull him down on top of her once more. They shared one last intimate kiss.
“Meet me by the Lake at nine o’clock,” he whispered to her, a small smile still lingering on his lips as he stood to leave.
“Of course,” Hermione replied, not bothering to get herself off of the couch. It was still warm where Draco had been lying seconds before, and she wanted nothing more than to lie there, taking in that very warmth until it left the fabric forever.
Her eyes followed Draco out of the room. Hollowness carved out her insides as he crawled out the portrait hole, vanishing from sight. He was gone, but his scent still lingered in the air.
Sleep threatened to claim the girl as she lay there, unmoving. Her eyes fluttered closed, and her thoughts returned to the previous night.
They had spent an hour – one blissful, heavenly hour – awake together, in each others’ arms. On and off kissing was accompanied by long stretches of time in which the two of them merely laid there, staring into the fire, speaking to each other in a way they had never done before. Secrets were spilled, souls were exposed, and feelings were not ignored. Although Draco hadn’t been able to keep his hands from exploring the portion of Hermione’s body ordinarily covered by clothing, the girl had kept him from crossing too far over the line in regards to intimate territory. After all, they had spent six years hating each other. The transition from hate to love would take more than a couple months. Even though their feelings for each other may resemble love – which hers most certainly did – they could not allow this to take the forefront in their relationship. Hermione would not allow it. Both Gryffindor and Slytherin had fallen asleep at the end of the hour, still in each others’ arms. Their sleep had been a glorious curtain, ending a night that neither was likely to forget. But now it was morning… the beginning of a new day, one in which Hermione felt like a different person walking around in the same shoes.
Before sleep descended upon the girl, she moved into a sitting position. She lingered there for nearly a minute, listening to the chirping of the morning birds, before standing up and walking up the stairs towards her dorm. She needed a shower and a change of clothes before breakfast.
Nearly an hour later, Hermione was strolling down the corridor beside Ron. The pair of friends was on their way to the Great Hall for a bite to eat. The castle had woken up, and the sounds of life were echoing through the walls. Cheerful laughter and animated voices successfully shook the last remnants of sleep from Hermione’s previously foggy mind. Lack of sleep had never suited the girl, but it seemed nothing could ruin her mood today. She was all smiles.
“What do you think the House Elves have made us this morning?” Hermione asked excitedly, practically bouncing up and down.
“The same things they always make us. You know… bacon, eggs, toast,” Ron replied, yawning. “Are you feeling alright, Hermione? You’ve never been this excited about breakfast before.”
Hermione giggled in a very girly fashion. “It’s a new day, Ron,” was her response.
They entered the Great Hall and found a seat near Neville and Ginny, who were engaged in a discussion about the final match for the Quidditch Cup. Ginny seemed nervous as she spoke about the size of the Beaters on the Slytherin team. Neville was attempting to calm her by reminding her of what a wonderful job she had done in the match the previous night.
“Whatever you say, Hermione,” Ron replied. He shrugged and began piling food onto his plate, his eyes burning with a hunger that would never be satiated.
Hermione grabbed a piece of toast, and began to butter it delicately with her knife. She chanced a quick glance towards the Slytherin table. Almost immediately, her eyes met Draco’s, and she felt her face flush. How long had he been looking at her? It was flattering, but also risky. Draco Malfoy would not be staring at Hermione Granger longingly. At least not the Draco Malfoy that everyone thought they knew.
“Are you sure you’re okay Hermione?” Ron persisted, a piece of bacon hanging from his fork.
“I already told you, I’m fine,” Hermione replied, avoiding Ron’s eyes.
“You looked flushed. Are you sick?” Ron asked, reaching out to feel Hermione’s forehead.
Hermione batted his hand away and took a bite of her toast. Ron merely rolled his eyes and continued to devour the tower of food on his plate, which was rapidly diminishing.
“How long do you think practice will run today, Ron?” Ginny suddenly asked. Her question was just the distraction Hermione needed to pull herself together.
“Probably an hour or so. Why, have you got a date or something?” Ron asked, always the over-protective brother.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Ginny replied, unfazed.
“Don’t tell me you’re still with that Michael Corner.”
“That was ages ago, Ron. Honestly,” Ginny stated plainly before taking a sip of her pumpkin juice.
“Because I’m supposed to keep track of all the blokes you date,” Ron mumbled.
“What was that?” Ginny asked, shooting her brother a quizzical look.
“I said that you won’t be allowed to leave practice early. So if it lasts all day, you’ll have to inform whatever-his-name-is that you won’t be able to make it to your date,” Ron answered.
Ginny let out an agitated sigh and returned to her breakfast. Neville shot her an apologetic look.
“How did she become so popular?” he asked no one in particular, a hint of jealousy in his voice.
“What time is it?” Hermione asked, ignoring his musings.
“It’s, err, eight-thirty,” he answered.
Searching the Slytherin table up and down, Hermione could not see Draco. Had he already gone to the Lake? Excitement bubbled up deep within her, and she set down her half eaten piece of toast.
“Gotta run,” she said, preparing herself to leave.
“What – Where are you going?” Ron asked, confused.
“Library,” she quickly lied before setting off towards the Entrance Hall.
“It’s Saturday morning, Hermione,” he called after her. “Your homework’s feelings won’t be hurt if you wait until later to work on it.”
But Hermione hadn’t heard him. She’d already slipped into the Entrance Hall, and, instead of turning towards the marble staircase in the direction of her beloved Library, pushed open the large oak doors and stepped out into the glorious morning sun.
A warm wind blew through Hermione’s hair. Closing her eyes for a second or two, Hermione spun around, her arms spread out in glee. The bright blue sky, dappled with perfectly white, fluffy clouds, seemed to reflect her exceptional mood. Spring was in full bloom, bringing not only new life, but new opportunities. The war seemed to be such a distant worry that Hermione had almost forgotten about it altogether. She knew this feeling wouldn’t last long, however, so she was planning on enjoying it for as long as possible.
When she reached the lake, Draco was there waiting for her. He was leaning against a tree, staring off into the towering hills in the distance. She couldn’t restrain herself – she all but ran over to him and wrapped him in a tight embrace. At first, Draco did not respond. The sudden appearance of Hermione had shocked him. But in time, he too wrapped his arms around Hermione, and whispered a quick ‘hello’ into her ear.
“How are you?” Hermione asked as they broke their embrace.
“Perfect, now that you’re here,” he responded, a sad smile painted across his face.
“What’s the matter?” Hermione asked, taking his hand in hers and leading him towards the lake.
“It’s my mother again,” Draco informed her as they sat down upon the bank, Hermione leaning against his shoulder. “She’s written me asking if I’ll come back home to keep her company. I think she’s trying to guilt me into coming back home, saying I’m all she has left.”
“She is your mother, Draco,” Hermione scolded, curling his hair around her fingers.
Draco frowned. “She’s been writing to Barton almost everyday, asking him how I am and if he thinks I know enough to quit school now.”
“Barton?” Hermione asked, confused.
“Professor Thorne,” he explained in a casual tone.
Hermione’s jaw hung open. Was Draco befriending the Death Eaters? “You’re on first name basis with your fellow Death Eaters, are you?” Hermione questioned, recoiling from Draco.
“Of course I’m not, Hermione. And Barton isn’t a Death Eater, if that’s what you’re insinuating. He and my mother are good friends. He’s something of a second father to me,” Draco replied, slightly hurt. “You know I despise being a Death Eater. It wasn’t the choice I would’ve made had the decision been left up to me.”
“Oh,” Hermione managed to say. “I’m sorry.”
Draco said nothing for a minute. Had she gotten him angry with her? She sincerely hoped he wasn’t too offended; she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if they regressed to enemies after only one day.
A hand lifted her chin up so that she was staring into those icy eyes she had grown to love. No sign of anger was floating around in those gray pools, and Hermione could not have been more relieved.
Draco said nothing. He merely leaned in, closing the gap between the two of them, and kissed her. It began as a soft, innocent kiss, but soon became passionate. Hermione allowed him to slide his hand up the back of her sweater as the kissing progressed. The cold skin of his hand against the warm skin of her back made her muscles tense, and she pulled away.
“What’s the matter?” he asked, slightly flustered.
“Your hands are cold,” Hermione replied playfully, taking his hands in her own and rubbing them tenderly.
He watched her work for a while, an expression of gratitude claiming his features.
“I’m afraid, Hermione,” he said finally.
“I am too,” Hermione responded, lying back against his chest. “Everyone is.”
“No, I mean I’m afraid for you. For your safety,” he said, resting his chin upon the top of her head.
“I’m fine, Draco. Really. Hogwarts is one of the safest -”
“You don’t understand,” he interrupted. “Voldemort gave me a task. When He gives you a task, you can’t exactly refuse and come away in one piece.”
Hermione said nothing. She knew he was right.
“If I don’t bring you to Him, He’ll find some other way to get to you… and He’ll kill me,” Draco said sadly.
“I just don’t understand. What does V-Voldemort want with me?” Hermione asked.
“I don’t know,” Draco admitted. “All I know is neither of us are safe.”
Tears welled up in Hermione’s eyes. “This isn’t fair,” she whispered, clinging to Draco as though he were the only thing keeping her anchored to the earth.
“I’ll fend those Death Eaters off as long as I can,” Draco responded. “But they’ll come. I don’t know when, but they’ll come for you.”
“I won’t let them ruin my life, Draco,” Hermione responded, her voice shaking. “How can you just wait around for them to kill you?”
After a pause, Draco said, “You’re right. Why should we wait around for the inevitable? Let’s just leave. We could go into hiding. No one would have to know.”
“No, I’m serious,” he continued. “We could move to another country if we have to… wherever we’d be safe.”
“Draco, listen to me. I care about you, I do. But I’m not ready to leave my entire life behind,” she explained, hoping he would understand.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. It was dumb of me to suggest it,” he replied coldly.
“I already told you, I want to take this slowly. We’ve spent so much time as enemies; it’s going to take some work to keep this relationship together. We’re just so different,” Hermione told him, listening to his heart beating beneath his rib cage.
“Running away together wouldn’t be considered ‘taking it slow’?” he asked.
Hermione sat up as quickly as if she’d been stung. But instead of scolding him, as she had been intending to do, she broke into a fit of giggles. Draco’s expression told her quite plainly that his question had been nothing more than a ruse. She still wasn’t used to the ‘ice cold’ Draco Malfoy cracking jokes.
“Oh, why were we so stubborn?” Hermione asked when her laughing had ceased. “If we’d only admitted to having feelings for each other instead of fighting... we could’ve had so much more time together.”
“Don’t talk like that, Hermione. You’re really being a downer, you know that?” Draco responded, brushing his hand up against her cheek.
“I can’t help it,” Hermione said, placing her palm against Draco’s hand lovingly, holding it against her cheek.
As the sun burned brightly in the heavens, as the earth rotated on its axis, as the flowers bloomed and the trees budded, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy held tightly to each other, willing the seconds to cease ticking so that they would have an eternity together. There was no way to know what would happen tomorrow, or the next week. All they knew was that they were here, together, for now. And that would have to be enough.
Draco leaned back in the cool grass, his head rested upon his folded arms, staring up at the clouds moving overhead. Hermione followed suit, laying her head against his chest, her entire body tingling with delight. She felt so entirely safe when she was with Draco, and nothing could possibly replace that.
“Let’s make the most of the time we have,” Draco said, running a hand along Hermione’s thigh.
“What exactly did you have in mind?” Hermione asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Do you have to ask?” he replied, smirking.
“You’re hopeless,” Hermione said, laughing and hitting his shoulder playfully.
Her laughter was suffocated when Draco’s lips crashed against her own. She let out a squeak of surprise, but gave in without a fight. Draco’s hands were soon on her hips, pulling her closer as their legs intertwined. Her hands shot up to his hair, as they always did. That familiar feeling of pleasure ran through her body like lightening as his tongue caressed her own. She was lifted from her body, merely a spirit floating about across the cool earth. Draco was the only occupant of her thoughts. He was the single thought flashing through her brain, until…
“The Library, huh? Did you get lost on the way?”
The voice cut through her thoughts so abruptly, she thought her heart would stop from the shock. Her breathing was labored as she broke apart from Draco, searching frantically for the source of that wounded voice. When her eyes came to rest upon the familiar freckled face, infused with sorrow, an icy numbness washed away all the feeling from her body. She wanted to say something, anything, but couldn’t.
Ron threw up his arms – as though asking God why this was happening to him – while Hermione fought to untangle her legs from Draco’s. She tried standing up, but only managed to trip over herself. When she had successfully maneuvered herself into a standing position and readjusted her shirt so that it was covering her exposed midriff, Ron had already set off towards the castle.
“Ron, wait!” she called after him, running towards his receding figure.
“Give me one good reason,” he spat back at her, not even bothering to turn around. “You abandon me at breakfast to go and have a snog with Malfoy? If it had been any else, I may have forgiven you, but Malfoy? Are you out of your mind?”
“You have no right to tell me who I can and cannot snog, Ronald,” Hermione responded once she had caught up with him.
“You’re gallivanting about with the enemy,” he responded, as cold as ever.
A loud ‘crack’ sounded as Hermione slapped Ron across the face. His jaw dropped, and he brought a hand up to his now red cheek.
“You are an ignorant child, Ronald Weasley,” she growled before spinning around and walking back towards the lake and Draco, leaving Ron alone and confused in the middle of the lawn.
What an end to an almost perfect morning.
Author’s Note: This chapter wasn’t in the original. I’d continued on with the plot in my original version, instead of developing Hermione’s and Draco’s feelings. I totally love their pairing and I wanted to expound a bit more.
So, let me know what you think. Was it worth it sticking in this chapter? (:
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