Hermione felt a choking lump of emotion rise up through her throat, threatening to manifest itself in floods of tears. Breathing in deeply, she tried to calm herself. There was no point, she told herself, in lying in bed crying alone. She had got herself into the mess that she was in now, and crying wasn’t going to sort it out.
But despite all her efforts, a single, salty tear rolled down her cheek and splashed onto her pillow. How had she managed to get herself so confused? It had always been so black and white: Gryffindor was good, Slytherin was bad. And now kisses, and a pair of smokey eyes had left her living in a grey nightmare.
Every time she was with Harry and Ron she was thinking of Draco and the way his every touch made her thrill. Every time she was enjoying a stolen moment with Draco she was thinking of her best friends and how she was betraying them. She knew Draco’s intolerable anger meant that he didn’t want her around the boys and she wanted to please him. But how could she turn away her two best friends when all they wanted was to be her friend? There was no happy medium, no way of pleasing both, no sanctuary, just a constant, hopeless confusion.
Angrily wiping away the renegade tear, she turned over and determinedly told herself to go to sleep. It took another hour before she fell into a frustrated sleep where she spun between Draco’s coolly passionate embraces and the warmth of a familiar, friendly love.
Draco had lain awake in bed as well, wondering how he had lost so much control. How had he gone from the predator, keen to hurt Hermione and her friends, to his current position? He had never needed companionship before, he had gone from one girl to another and then back to his solitary bed with no problem. But now, all he could think was that his bed would be infinitely better if he had Hermione in it with him. Not just to enjoy her body, but to hold her, to feel her soft breath against his cheek, to watch her sleep. Every single daydream he had of her involved a perfect world where there were no other interruptions, no other people to take her attention and affection away from him, just the two of them.
Draco had been brought up in a society where to want something was to reach out and take it. Not to do so meant that you ran the risk of losing it. And so, with a logic born of a selfish upbringing and an ingrained superiority complex, he lay in bed thinking up worlds where Hermione was his and his alone. Where he had once dreamed of dropping her and leaving her with nothing, now he dreamed of a world where he would hold her and give her himself.
Hermione sat at the breakfast table the next morning, pushing a spoon through her porridge, unable to quite make the leap from picking up the porridge to putting it in her mouth and chewing it. Ron and Harry were already discussing Quidditch, and she wondered how such a boring game could hold quite so much fascination for them.
‘’Hey Hermione! Do you want to come and watch us practise?’’
Do I want to stand around in the cold and watch you throw a ball to each other in mid air, Hermione asked silently. No, not really. But they both looked so enthusiastic that somehow she found it in herself to dredge up a weak smile. ‘’I’ll be there.’’
That night, she watched as they tossed the Quaffle to each other and thought that on one level she probably did envy them their grace in the air, and the casual way that they held onto their brooms as they sped through the air. Then she remembered that it was far more sensible to have one’s feet on the ground. Smiling wearily, she clapped as they looked at her for approval. ‘’Are you done now?’’
They shouted something unintelligible back and then their brooms were zooming away into the advancing dusk. Deciding that they probably wouldn’t miss her, she left the stands, drifting across the grounds. For a brief moment, she felt remarkably content. She had given her two best friends an evening of her time, and it had appeased the constant nagging guilt.
Just as she stepped through the main doors, she was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu as Draco pushed past her. She watched the grim set of his mouth and the cold glare in his eyes and felt a ripple of lust run through her. Glancing around, she spoke to his retreating back. ‘’Hey.’’
The soft sound was enough to turn him around but the anger didn’t leave his face. ‘’Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you!’’
‘’I’ve been with Harry and Ron,’’ Hermione answered, wondering why he was so angry.
‘’How can you say that so calmly?’’ Hermione looked closer at him and saw some kind of betrayal mixed in with the anger. ‘’How can you spend time with the two people I hate most in this entire school and pretend it’s nothing?’’
‘’I’m not pretending it’s nothing.’’ Hermione stepped closer to him. ‘’Draco, they’re my friends, they have been since we were eleven and they will be until I die. Nothing can change that.’’
He opened his mouth but she raised a finger to his lips and continued. ‘’That’s not to say you aren’t just as important to me as they are. I didn’t realise you were looking for me.’’ She willed her voice to stay calm and soft, to soothe the beast in Draco’s chest.
He swallowed and she watched a little of the anger recede from his eyes, leaving only a look of betrayal that was somehow worse to look at. ‘’Don’t you understand?’’
‘’Understand what?’’ She held her small palm against his cheek, and he covered it with his own hand, pressing it to his skin.
But before he could answer, the noise of tired Quidditch players carried through the night air. He turned his head in frustration. ‘’Meet me at midnight, the usual place.’’
Without another word, just a single yearning glance, they separated; Hermione dashing to her common room, Draco melting sinuously away into the depths of the dungeons.
Hermione fidgeted her way through the next two hours, once again the victim of crushing guilt. Where she was meant to find the balance between making her friends happy and making Draco happy?
After what seemed like centuries, she padded her way along the corridors and slid into the Room of Requirements. Draco was already standing in there, and she could see by the look on his face that he hadn’t forgotten what he had been saying earlier.
‘’Hi.’’ Her voice sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet room.
‘’Hi.’’ He stepped forward and without further preamble kissed her. She melted into his arms, her head tipping back as his lips pressed firmly against her yielding ones. His tongue flicked across her lips as she opened her mouth and tasted him. Contentment spread across her. This was what made the permanent guilt worthwhile. When she forgot who she was and became part of him.
Without warning he broke the kiss and looked firmly down at her. ‘’There.’’
‘’There what?’’ She frowned at him.
‘’Now I’ll be able to think again.’’ There was a raw tone in her voice that made her desperate to soothe him. He released her and ran his fingers back through his soft hair, trying to regain his laconic cool. ‘’Don’t you see what you’re doing to me? I can’t think straight, I can’t sleep, I can’t bear to focus on anything other than you!’’
‘’And you think I don’t feel the same?’’ Hermione reached up and pulled at his face so he was looking at her. ‘’Everything reminds me of you, every minute of every day.’’
‘’So why are you going around with other people?’’ He stared fiercely at her.
‘’You mean, why am I going around with my friends? I don’t know Draco, why on earth would I want to hang out with my friends?’’ She stared at him, wondering what he was talking about, but knowing in her heart that it was the acerbic jealousy that she had seen in his temperament before, leading him into a path of corrosive greed and possessiveness.
‘’You don’t understand! You don’t belong to them! You’re mine!’’ He looked at her, unable to express himself anymore clearly. How was he meant to describe the flood of emotion that rushed through him every time he looked at her beautiful, quizzical face? How was he meant to make her see that they were meant for each other and each other alone? Desperation leant his voice a harsh wildness that he hated. He wanted his old, detached outlook on life that meant he would have been able to eloquently bring her to his side.
She looked at him coldly. ‘’I can’t think of words to tell you everything that’s wrong with that statement. Or I can, but fortunately for you I’m far too much of a lady to voice them.’’
‘’I do not belong to anyone! I am my own person, and you do not have the right to tell me who I’m going to spend my time with! You think I’m not shrivelled up inside with guilt as it is? I want to spend all my time with you, just being with you, but I have friends Draco! They love me, I love them, they need me, I need them and I’m not shutting them out for you, no matter how much I might want to at times!’’ She breathed deeply, trying to calm herself.
‘’You love them?’’ His voice went icily cold. ‘’I think I know precisely what this is about.’’
‘’Oh really? Because you’ve been hitting gold with everything else you’ve said tonight.’’
‘’It’s you and your precious relationship with Weasley. Can’t bear to let it go, despite the fact you’ve got something a million times better, can you?’’
‘’Does your ego ever get a rest? Or is it permanently boosting you up sky high? Grow up, for Merlin’s sake! Ron and I are friends. Yes, I had feelings for him but they went out of the window when I began what we have!’’
‘’And what precisely do we have?’’ He sneered down at her.
‘’Well, you seem to think you have a contract of ownership! I personally thought we had a relationship where both parties were equal, but I can see that you clearly don’t want that!’’ They were shouting now, tears streaming down Hermione’s face. ‘’What the hell do you want from me? I can’t and I won't give up my friends!’’
‘’Because they’re my friends! I haven’t asked you to give anything up for me! I’m just giving and giving and giving and all I’m getting back is you thinking that you own me!’’
‘’How else am I meant to make sure that I can stay with you for the rest of my life?’’ Draco stepped over to her in one quick bound and took her in his arms, kissing the tears off her upturned face. ‘’Hermione, I can’t be without you.’’
She heard the sincerity in his voice and felt a crack open in her heart. ‘’You’re not going to be without me, but you can’t keep me entirely to yourself.’’ She was whispering to him, willing him to see sense, to see things from her point of her view, to ease her path through the maze of treachery and tears that she had chosen.
‘’I can’t share you. I can’t bear to have everyone else looking at you and thinking that they could have even one little part of you.’’ His face was fierce and he was still kissing her, her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks, her mouth. ‘’Just stay with me. I’ll make you happier than anyone else ever could.’’
‘’But it would be entirely on your terms Draco. You’re never going to change. The only difference between the situation that we’re in now and the way we were before is that now you’re using every sinful, evil charm that you have to try and suck me in rather than to shut me out. I can’t give up my life for someone who won't change even one little thing for me.’’
‘’I’ll change anything but just be mine, stay with me.’’ He heard the begging in his voice and hated himself for it.
‘’I’ll change anything but don’t ask me to give up my life for you.’’ She heard the begging in her voice and willed him to listen.
He couldn’t answer and just bent to kiss her. Their lips joined and her tears joined with his. Neither of them had anymore answers and as she felt his skin brush against hers, Hermione felt the crack in her heart become a ravine that only Draco would ever be able to fill. And as she clutched him and lost herself in a tearful oblivion, she fancied she knew that he would never be able to move away from his sinful personality enough to heal her.
When it was over, she lay with her head on his chest while he slept, quietly sobbing into the early hours of the morning.
Draco woke the next morning and found that she had slipped away into the dark while he slept, leaving only a trail of salt from the tears that she had cried onto his chest. He sat, his face in his hands, for hours, knowing that the only thing joining them now was a broken heart, stinging from all the tears that they would cry.
And as night fell again, he picked up the ribbon from her hair that she had forgotten to pick up, and coiled it around his hand. Smelling it, he could still smell the perfume of her hair. Sliding it into his pocket, he decided to keep it as a reminder of how his pride, his envy, his wrath, his gluttony, his sloth, his lust and his greed had cost him the one pure thing in his life.
Dashing away the final tears, he left the room, his heart an empty stage with the spotlight turned off.
AN: Don’t hate me! I’ve spent so much time on this chapter, trying to get it perfect, and I tried a happy fluffy ending and it wasn’t right at all. Having said that, I’m going to write a sequel, for those of you who love happy endings, which will be set in the future. Okey dokey, hopefully I won’t be loathed for forever! I would love to know what you’ve thought of this story, especially everyone who’s put the story on alert/favourites and then not reviewed! Thanks so much to every single person who has reviewed, and please do look at my other stories (you can get to them by clicking on my author name). Also, I have a ''Meet the Author'' page, where I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, general chit-chat, or ideas for a new story. Love to you all…Petitesorciere xxx
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