Chapter 8 : Us
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Scorpius prowled up and down the side alley, looking left and right as if in search of something, or someone. The bitter cold hardly touched him, so eager was he to finally get to the point where something happened. On the corner, he could make out the sign of The Leaky Cauldron swaying from side to side in the persistent wind, and he sighed again, checking his watch.
Finally, he saw her. As usual, it was the dark red hair he witnessed first; then came the flushed cheeks - the chin hidden from view by the enourmous white and fluffy scarf - and finally the eyes. He smiled at her, almost weak at the knees. Her mouth was not visible, so he did not know if she smiled back, but she approached him with a light spring in her step.
'Rose, hello,' he said breathlessly, as she reached him. She pulled down her scarf and smiled a little uncomfortably, her hands tucked into the pockets of her green coat.
'Hi,' she smiled. 'Thank you for your owl.'
He returned her smile. It seemed so surreal for them to be on friendly terms. She looked around herself.
His stomach clenched.
'She should be here soon,' he answered awkwardly. A few moments passed in silence as Rose looked behind her and pulled her scarf up again. Her next words sounded muffled.
'Any idea what you want to buy?'
'Not really. That's why I asked you.'
'And Lily,' she reminded him. He nodded. Rose suddenly let out a hand and waved; Lily was standing on the opposite side of the road, near the Leaky Cauldron, looking very pretty in a light brown coat, her auburn hair dancing merrily behind her in contrast to Rose's, which was restrained by the hood of her jumper. Lily beckoned them forward and Scorpius crossed the road with Rose in silence until they reached her.
'Hello Rose, I'm so glad you decided to come with us,' Lily smiled, the dimples in the cheek adding to the overall impression of her sweet temper. Rose nodded.
The morning passed peacefully. It was not exactly as Scorpius had planned it; he had written a note to Rose on impulse, still in ecstasy over the smiles they had exchanged on the platform, inviting her to come shopping with him. When she had answered, she had said she was looking forward to seeing him and Lily, which had left him little choice but to invite Lily as well. The only few awkward moments they felt were when, while perusing an antique shop for an old Snitch Draco had had his eyes on, Lily slipped her gloved hand into Scorpius'. Scorpius was not sure whether Rose had noticed or not, but in any case, there was little he could do to reverse it. They had a Butterbeer in the Leaky Cauldron before Lily said goodbye to them; she was late for a shopping trip with her mother on the other end of Oxford Street, and was in no doubt that Rose would Apparate as soon as she left.
That, however, was not the case.
Scorpius followed Rose down the little way to the same side alley where no one would see them Apparate. Surprisingly, it was Rose who struck up conversation.
'Lily's getting a dress, you know,' she said. 'For the wedding. That's why she had to leave.'
'Oh,' Scorpius answered, not sure how to respond. 'Yeah, well, she better find one quickly... it's the day after tomorrow.'
Rose nodded. Silence threatened to engulf them again. They had crossed the street and were now entering the alley. Rose looked up to say something, and then it happened; she laid her foot on a part of the pavement covered in ice and slipped, her arms thrashing about to find some support; Scorpius, in a flash, grabbed hold of her arms and held her upwards, so she was pressed on to his chest, and he dragged her away from the ice. They stared at each other for a moment, breathless, Scorpius still holding Rose with a tight grip. Her eyes were round and wide and her hands found their way up to his shoulders. Suddenly, to Scorpius' utter bemusement, she laughed.
He had never heard her laugh before; it was rare enough to spot a smile on her face. It was a sweet sound and it resounded across the alley and made him laugh, too. They just stood there, the two of them, laughing, over something only both knew had happened. As the laughter died, Rose's face lit up even more and she smiled, relaxed. Merlin, she was beautiful.
'I think it's safe to let go now,' she said quietly, her hands pushing his shoulders lightly, as if trying to step away. Scorpius smiled wider, confident, certain that she would not run this time.
'I'm not so sure,' he answered, and then he did it; he didn't even need to muster any courage; he simply leaned forward, pulled her in the small distance and pressed his lips on hers. She did not struggle, she did not even move, but he felt her eyelashes bat against his cheeks and knew she had closed her eyes.
It was a short kiss, and he pulled away, not wanting to scare her, as she was so easily scared. Her eyes opened and her expression was utterly unreadable - but she was not smiling, as Scorpius was.
Before he had time to register it happening, she slapped him.
Simply slapped him, right across the cheek. He let go of her completely and touched his cheek gingerly, looking at her in angry wonder. She had put both her hands over her mouth.
'Oh my God, I'm so sorry, Scorpius,' she mouthed, reaching forward to touch his cheek. 'I didn't mean to.' He took a step backwards.
'You're freaking insane, Rose,' he exclaimed angrily. This spurred her on into a furious rebound.
'Well, you deserved it!' she spat. 'Kissing me when you're with Lily! What the hell is wrong with you? I smile at you once and you're ready to cheat on my cousin! You're just like -'
'My father?' Scorpius finished her sentence for her, and she hesitated, finally looking a little abashed. 'I'm proud to be just like him! As far as I'm concerned, he would never cheat on anyone unless he truly loved the person he -'
Scorpius stopped immediately, biting his tongue, furious at himself. He did not want Rose to think he was in love with her. He did not even want to think it himself. She was impossible. And infuriating. She seemed to have caught the gist, however, and shook her head in frustration. She opened her mouth several times, as if trying to find something to say; then she closed it, turned around, and vanished into thin air. Scorpius felt like kicking something, even throwing the wedding gift he had purchased at someone, but mimicked Rose instead, wondering how many times he could make things go wrong before - if ever - they went right.
Rose landed in the middle of the living room, throwing her hood down and hanging her coat angrily on the coatrack in the entrance hall. The house seemed oddly empty, though she knew it could not be the case; searching the house, she reached the dining room. Her stomach immediately clenched as the scene before her unfolded itself. Her mother and father were sitting in front of Hugo, mugs of tea in front of them, and a pack of tissues casually there, too. Rose wished she had not entered the room, wished she had gone upstairs; but her parents had seen her. Hermione reached out a hand.
'Rose, come here, darling.'
Unwillingly, Rose walked over to the round, scrubbed table and sat down in the empty chair next to the extremely sulky-looking Hugo. Hermione reached for another mug and laid it in front of her, pouring tea into it. Rose's eyes fell on her father, who was looking more defeated than she had ever seen him. She knew what was coming, had known it for years, but still hoped against hope that it was not going to.
'Darling, we've just been telling Hugo -' Hermione sighed, gathering herself together. Rose laid back in her chair, determined not to make this task any easier for her. As far as Rose was concerned, this was her mother's fault. 'Your father and I have decided... We...' She shook her head again, cast a glance in the direction of Ron, who licked his lips nervously, and tried once more. 'It's time for us to step our different ways.'
Hugo shuffled in his chair, lifting his mug and taking a sip of the tea. Rose crossed her arms, her expression murderous; Hermione frowned.
'Darling, please don't look at me that way, this isn't easy.'
'Why should I make it easier?' Rose muttered angrily. 'It's not as if I have a say in this. You didn't ask me whether I was all right with you getting a divorce, did you?'
'We thought it over, we did.' Hermione wanted to yell that it was because of the children that she had withstood this miserable marriage for so long, but knew she could not. 'And this is the best for everyone, you have to believe me.'
'Believe you. And what about Dad?' Ron raised his head slowly. 'I haven't heard him say a word. Does he want this? Or are you leaving him?'
Ron opened his mouth to say something, but Hermione answered immediately, a spark of anger in her eye now.
'I would never leave your father, Rose,' she breathed, 'you should know me better than that.'
'Oh, but you did consider it once, didn't you?' Rose murmured in an even lower voice. She wondered if this rage she felt not only came from the announcement of their divorce, but also from the effect of Scorpius' kiss, still burning desirously on her lips, tantalizing her, telling her she was a fool for rejecting him. Hermione's expression was outraged.
'Don't you dare, Rose,' she said in a dangerously quiet voice. Hugo was looking confused and Ron had put his head in his hands. Both of the women had stood up.
'God, you're so hypocritical. You bring us in for tea and brownies and think that everything will be fine and that we'll accept your little concocted explanation that will change our lives. You do know that he's getting married? Or do you intend to be his mistress even then -'
Her words were cut short, for she had been given a taste of her own medicine; Hermione's hand had flung itself across her cheek, and as Rose faced the pain, tears prickling in her eyes, she managed to make out her mother, standing proud and not looking nearly half as regretful as she had thought she would; her father, half standing, in doubt as to what to do; and Hugo, still that confused expression on his face. Before any could say a word, Rose tore out the dining room and ran up into her bedroom. After a moment's hesitation, Hugo went after her.
'Hermione -' Ron began. Hermione faced him, her expression more enraged than he had ever seen it.
'She deserved it,' Hermione answered, though he noticed the note of doubt in her voice, 'it's none of her business. Blaming me... accusing me of breaking this up on purpose. How could she. Doesn't she know how hard today was for us?'
Ron sighed, avoiding confrontations as usual, Hermione thought bitterly. He began collecting the mugs and placing them in the kitchen sink; Hermione sank into her chair again, tears pouring down her cheeks. She had slapped one of her babies. She may have deserved it, but Hermione knew - she knew - that something in their relationship must have broken, and whether or not it could be repaired remained to be seen.
The alarm clock rang with stinging precision as Draco silently folded the collar of his shirt over his very stiff tie. In the end, he had had no need for the wake-up call; his own remote sense of awareness had woken him up at dawn, and he had been unable to go back to sleep. Now, at eight in the morning, he was up and about, freshly shaven and pondering the day ahead of him. He had never been sure how to consider weddings. His very first had been a small affair, only himself, Henrietta and her parents as their witnesses - neither Lucius nor Narcissa had been invited. Such was not the case today.
Always the traditional bride, Asteria had insisted on Draco not seeing her before the ceremony, so she had slept at her sister's house. He wondered how long she had been sleeping, whether she was awake or whether she would cram in another half hour before getting into the bath. Though that really would be highly surprising. Asteria had never been a very heavy sleeper. She was the one to drag Draco out of bed and push him out the door, into shops and museums and restaurants. Asteria liked going places, doing things. She was not a very passive person. She did not seem to feel her existence unless she was taking action.
It had been different with Hermione. Though always slightly restless, Draco knew she would never have minded spending all day in bed. Had things been different, he would be the first one to wake up, to watch her and marvel at her rare serenity, to brush the bushy curls off her face until she would finally open her eyes, smile and convince him to go back to sleep.
Draco shook his head. He felt ashamed. He should not be thinking of another woman on the day of his wedding.
It was an enormous step he was taking, and yet it was only today he had ever really thought about it. His marriage with Henrietta had always been so complicated, such a fight, how could he even consider doing it again?
Perhaps because things with Asteria were so easy. But then they were not challenging, and it was the challenge Draco adored.
Hermione was a challenge. One had to struggle with oneself to be with Hermione. But then, Draco had always been convinced that the struggle was entirely worth it. How could he know if Asteria was worth it when there was no struggle?
A soft knock on the door pulled him away from his thoughts, and a blonde young man stepped on the threshold.
‘Just wanted to make sure you were up,’ Scorpius explained. Draco looked almost wistfully at his younger self.
‘Close the door, son,’ he said. Scorpius obeyed and walked towards his father, who laid his hands on his son’s shoulders. ‘I’m glad you’re here today.’
‘So am I,’ Scorpius smiled. ‘This is a good thing for you, Dad.’
Draco did not answer immediately. His hands wandered over to Scorpius’ tie and he flattened it against his son’s chest so the folds of the jacket covered it. It was a beautiful pair of black dress robes with a red tie to match the rose in the buttonhole.
‘You’ve got quite good at doing your ties. It almost makes me sad,’ Draco said, smiling. Scorpius grinned. There was a small, moving pause for a few moments, until son and father broke from each other and Scorpius pulled the newspaper from under his arm.
‘I’m looking forward to you meeting Lily properly,’ he said, turning the paper in his hands.
‘Yes, last time I saw her, the Potters did rather monopolize her,’ Draco grinned, recalling the Hogwarts Express meeting. ‘I’m glad you finally got what you wanted – or rather who you wanted. It’s not easy seeing another man with the woman you love.’
‘I’m sure you never had that problem, Dad,’ Scorpius said quietly, a little too quietly for Draco's taste.
To avoid the indirect question, Draco reached for the Daily Prophet and opened it. There was nothing appropriate to talk about on the front page, nor on the second, and as the silence pressed on, Draco looked in the gossip column in his desperation.
‘Dad, are you all right?’
Draco must have gone white as paper, for Scorpius’ hold on his arm was firm and his voice sounded concerned. Draco was hardly aware of it. His eyes perused the lines hurriedly, but it was impossible to make sense of them; he had to go further back, to the beginning.
It is true of even the greatest divorce attorneys of this century that marriage is perhaps not always meant to be. Such is the case – an appropriate legal term in view of the main characters of this story – of Hermione Granger-Weasley, world-famous revolutionary, friend of Harry Potter, and head of the House Elves Rights Movement. Married to Ronald Weasley since her early twenties, reports of their fragile marriage heading to an end were not confirmed until yesterday afternoon, where the soon-to-be Miss Granger’s press secretary ascertained that a divorce was on the horizon. While Miss Granger refused to comment during her remarkably early arrival at the Ministry, sightings of a strained and harassed-looking Mr Weasley seemed to confirm that the ideal couple have finally ceased to be ideal. Reasons behind their not-so-sudden break-up were not disclosed, the grounds of the divorce being cited as ‘irreconcilable differences’. It is not yet known whether Mr Weasley and Miss Granger will battle in court for custody of their two children, Rose, 17, and Hugo, 14.
'Have you read this?' Draco gasped, as he thrust the paper at Scorpius' chest. Scorpius frowned and read the column, his expression growing increasingly concerned.
Hermione was getting a divorce.
He could not believe it, could not understand this twist of fate; why now, why today? Why did she have to end her commitment the day he was entering his? He hated it, he hated feeling the sense of doubt intensify by one thousand as he wondered what to do. Did she need him? Was she all right? Had she done it on purpose so he would cancel his wedding?
'Wow,' he heard Scorpius say. 'Hugo and Rose must be in a bit of a rough patch.'
The children... Yes, she had children. She had wanted a divorce despite them. The very obstacles that had laid in their way. And she was free of them now. But him! How could he ever be free, especially on a day like this?
'I have to see her,' Draco choked out, fiddling with his cufflinks as he searched for his jacket. 'I have to go.'
'Dad!' Scorpius exclaimed. 'Dad, you can't. It's your wedding. You're getting married in six hours! What about Asteria? Dad, you love her.'
Draco's eyes met Scorpius'. He wanted to tell him the truth, but how could he when he did not want to acknowledge it himself? How could he possibly say it out loud, that he loved Hermione five thousand times more than he had ever or would ever love Asteria? He leaned forward and put a hand around his son's head.
'Scorpius,' he whispered, 'if you had a chance... If you loved someone... Someone you had always wanted, but never had... wouldn't you go?'
Draco shook his head: how could his son possibly understand? But Scorpius had closed his eyes and leaned his head forward in a moment's decision.
'Merlin, Dad,' he murmured. He lifted his head up again. 'Go, then.'
Draco kissed his son on the forehead, a sudden feeling of great rush and certitude invading him as he pulled on his coat and Apparated.
Draco had never been unluckier; as he had intended, he Apparated in front of the official Ministry entrance, only to find out that there were about a dozen photographers and journalists camped out all around. The instant he appeared, the cameras started flashing and dozens of questions were shouted out towards him:
'Mr Malfoy, what are you doing here?'
'Has your wedding been cancelled?'
'Mr Malfoy, where is Miss Greengrass?'
Hardly able to see amidst the crowd and the blitzes, he dashed into the Ministry entrance and fled the questions, feeling more stupid by the minute. Obviously the press were hounding Hermione in this time, why had he not thought of it before? He rushed through the Ministry workers and into an empty elevator, hardly aware of where he was until he reached the correct floor. He felt ridiculously conspicuous, and it did not help that everyone was staring at him either; the Malfoy-Greengrass wedding had roused a lot of attention lately. Dashing down the corridor, he bolted into Hermione's office without even knocking.
The blinds were shut and the office drowned in darkness, but Draco spotted Hermione instantly, one hand on her forehead, the other holding a glass of wine.
'Yes, Erminia, what is it?'
'I'm not Erminia.'
Hermione's head darted up, and for a split second he thought he managed to see a ghost of a smile on her face. He stood there, out of breath and panting, his eyes alight as he devoured the sight of her. She laid the glass down on the nearest table, stood up and returned his gaze with the same intensity. Words were not needed. They had never been needed.
And then they had taken equally large steps and thrown each other into their arms, hands on backs, chins on shoulders, breathless at this contact that both had missed and desired for so long. Their heads pulled back and their eyes managed to meet for only one second before they were lip to lip, drowning in embraces, touches and heavy breaths. The kiss was merciless in gratification or satisfaction - neither could get enough. It had been dreamt of for so long, desired for countless years, that even the unparalleled ecstasy of this moment hardly qualified in sufficiency. Hermione pulled down his jacket and he unbuttoned the top of her shirt, his skin seemingly on fire. They pulled back for a moment in imitation of their first kiss, but unlike that one, Draco did not allow Hermione a moment to think in horror, but lurched himself at her for more as he ran his fingers through her hair, not caring about the whimpers of joy both were expressing as they discovered each other anew.
They ceased for another moment, and Draco let his hands run down to the small of her back, laying his head in that soft space between her shoulder and her chin. She leaned forwards against his lips as he brushed them over her neck, then put her hands on either side of his head and lifted it, meeting his eyes.
'This is all I've wanted,' she breathed heavily.
She was basked in her own vulnerability in those very words, and an overwhelming need to make her feel wanted, needed and safe made him kiss her more softly, more gently, before pulling away once more and running his hand across her cheek.
'God... This never goes away for me. I breathe it, I eat it, I drink it. I can't sleep. This - this, you and me, us - it drives me. I've tried. I've tried so hard. I can't catch up with anything unless this is here. I'm so tired of trying to catch up, Hermione.'
She kissed the corner of his lips, his eyelids and finally his mouth again. He felt her chest rising against his as she breathed.
'How could we ever believe it would go away,' she whispered. 'Stupid. All that time we wasted... Because of me...'
'Don't,' he whispered, cheek to cheek, 'don't go that place. Stay here. Stay here with me.'
'And then what?' she murmured.
'And then you'll be with me,' he continued firmly.
He pulled her closer to him, if such a feat was possible, as if to convince her of the truth of his words; the contact was exhilarating, and for a few ecstatic moments, Draco was able to forget that a choice was waiting, that a wedding was planned just hours from now, and that Asteria was his fiancee.
I have just a few things I want to mention! First of all, a HUGE thanks to Sammy23 for nominating 'A New Life' as Best Romance at the Dobby Awards - it is truly appreciated.
Second - I know lots of you have been aching for a Dramione moment, which is why I included the last part... thus making the chapter far longer than I wanted. I hope this first Dramione kiss does not disappoint anyone, although there are plenty more to come :)
Third - I have managed to respond to your reviews for this story, and I'll soon start working on those for 'A New Life' - thanks so much for your patience!
Another huge thanks for your continued attention and support!
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