To all my reviewers so far, THANK YOU! For finding this story, for reading it and reviewing it. You make me happier than I could ever express. I know it takes effort to write reviews over the 20 characters, so I really do appreciate your time!
To Dream, To Sleep, To Wake, To Soar
The celebrations thereafter seemed to go by in warped phases of time. At times, it was a blur and Hermione had no idea where an hour went. At times it dragged into the slow motion effects of Hollywood productions. It didn’t help that Ginny kept throwing her knowing glances and half smiles.
“Ok, out with it, what’s amusing you?”
“You tell me Hermione. Why exactly were you and Draco outside alone for ages, walking by the lake in the moonlight? What is going on Mione, you could cut the tension between you two with a knife! Come on, spill.”
“Nothing is going on Ginny, don’t be daft! We were out talking, as friends are sometimes known to do. And the tension you sense is not sexual, it’s frustration. That man knows how to get on my last nerves. I’d spent 10 minutes alone in his overly sarcastic company and was paying the price of such foolhardiness.”
“Are you quite sure?”
Hermione threw her hands up in the air. “Earth to Ginny! Me muggleborn, he Malfoy. Me S.P.E.W. founder, he elf-torturer. Me book worm, he quidditch star. I intelligent, he lamentably dim-witted. I halfway decent, he abominable jerk. No equation. At all. Ever. See?”
Ginny sighed, “Okay, never mind then. See that dream boat there? That’s Brigit’s cousin. He’s an expert on Gaelic studies and offers consultations to various countries’ ministries on Gaelic magic, mythology and history. Currently, he’s working on a project with Gringotts, though he keeps the details hush-hush, according to Brigit. Come, let me introduce you.”
Even if Hermione could have refused this blatant attempt to hook her up with the handsome brunette, she couldn’t pass the opportunity to chat about Celtic folklore and history. She found the subject fascinating. But then, this was Hermione Granger and we are hard-pressed to find a subject that did not fascinate her chronically curious mind.
Brian did not disappoint Hermione’s expectations. They conversed for a while on various topics, ranging from Celtic rituals, spells, potions and music to the policies of the Irish and British Departments of History and Culture. Hermione didn’t notice the grey eyes aiming daggers at her back.
Tidying up had never seemed to grate on Hermione’s nerves before. She found herself all in a flutter. She both desired and dreaded what was to come next.
Hermione Granger, MS Iron-balls at the ministry, MS Indefatigable at work, MS Incisive in her opinion column and MS Irrefutable in her arguments in wizengamot hearings was MS Insecure about Draco. Of not being interesting enough. She knew that if he got bored of her in the first week, as he did with most of his flames, there would be little left in her to salvage. She would, almost without doubt, lose her sanity, if only for a short while.
It was no secret that Draco liked the physical aspects of relationships. He seemed to like it almost as much as he liked food. More perhaps, if one went by his reputation. Draco himself had a physique that could put muggle models to shame… Hermione had covertly observed, the few times he changed out of his quidditch clothes in front of her. Back at Grimmauld place, he had been recuperating from a near-fatal injury but even then, Hermione had to control her baser instincts when she helped change his bandages every day, that memorable week. For practical purposes, he’d gone without a shirt for the duration. A permanent blush had graced her face and neck, much to his amusement. When he slept, Hermione had to almost tie her hands behind herself to deny the traitorous impulse of feeling his sculpted chest and chiselled arms.
One morning, she’d found herself lying in his small bed, with her arm around his narrow waist. She had apparently sleepwalked over from the chair next to his bed. Waking up to temptingly close, mocking, mercury eyes, looking down at her in amusement, she’d snapped to reality, jumped off the bed and walked out the door without a backward glance. Amazingly, Draco hadn’t teased her about it. He had aberrantly let it go, further cementing their truce. The foundations of a strong camaraderie had borne roots that week. However, Hermione didn’t sleep in his room again. She figured he’d recuperated plenty.
Over the years, Hermione schooled her mind into submission so she didn’t fancy herself in love with him anymore. She reckoned she felt deep affection for him, as she did for all her friends. Her lust for him was just… well, just her recognizing and appreciating a beautiful piece of art. She liked to see it, would like to take it home and hang it on her wall, but it didn’t mean that she could like no other painting in her life thereafter.
Now that she had the opportunity to actually take this art home, she was… excited and nervous. Would it suit the wall colours? Or would it clash horribly with her existing décor?
“What are you mumbling about Hermes? Clash with the décor? Are you finally getting new curtains?” Ginny looked at her bemused while casting a spell to dry the dishes that Hermione has been rinsing.
Hermione looked at her shocked, she’d mumbled the last part out loud, as she was prone to do when stressed. “Nah, art for the walls. I like a painting but it may clash with my wall colour. I’m wondering if it’s worth the price.”
Before Ginny could ask further about the lies that Hermione felt just a little guilty about weaving, Draco walked up to them to Hermione’s relief and trepidation.
“If you have disinfected the dishes enough, I believe your husband is looking for you, Potter. He’s got a sleeping James and Liliana to carry home.”
Ginny said a quick spell and the clean dishes flew away to their cabinets, wished them goodnight and found her way quickly to her family. Hermione started to put away the other things that she saw out of place but Draco smirked and made her pause. “Quit stalling Granger. The many Weasely wives are perfectly able to clear up the rest with a few simple spells. We’re leaving now.”
Hermione caught her breath at his possessive tone. She wiped her hands and looked at him, square into his gorgeous now-almost-charcoal eyes. “You’re sure you are up to this?”
In response, in a swift move, he grabbed her so she fell flush against him. She could not fail to notice his body’s reaction to her closeness. She blushed red and jerked away; looking around to make sure no one had seen them. She noticed it excited her.
“Granger, let’s go, or I’m not responsible for what’s to follow. I would ravage you on the kitchen table, right now, if there weren’t a million Weasely eyes scattered around. Besides, I’d like something a little slower for our first time. I’ve wanted you long enough. Tonight I plan to enjoy you.”
Draco let that sink in before continuing, “I’m giving you a head start, to take care of whatever you need to. I’ll meet you in your bedroom in 15 minutes. You won’t be leaving it till the morning, Comprenez amante?”
Hermione blushed again; she seemed to be doing a lot of that tonight. She felt shy. She tingled with anticipation but felt incredibly shy. Like her, he’d thought ahead and figured they should leave at separate times to arouse minimum suspicion, she was grateful for the head start. She said her adieus.
Once home, Hermione rushed to get ready. She ran to her closet to take out a black chiffon chemise that Ginny had bought her as a birthday gift last year, “Hopefully you’ll put it to good use!” She’d used it during many ‘Unmentionable fantasies of Draco Malfoy’ as she called them, and figured now could be considered ‘good use’. She rushed to her bathroom, ensuring she locked it behind her in case she ran out of time and he got impatient. She quickly brushed her teeth, vanished body hair with a depilatory charm and changed into the gossamer chemise. She cast a Scourgify to cast off any BO and checked herself in the mirror. Hermione was in excellent shape, if a little on the skinny side. She dabbed a drop of perfume behind her ear and on her thong and braved herself to go out.
Hermione opened the bathroom door to find that the bedroom’s lamps were off. Instead, Draco had transfigured and lit over a dozen candles all over the room. Her breath caught at how good he looked; his skin glowed in the warm light, his hair shone golden and his eyes… the intensity there held her captive. He had been looking at her with naked fascination. His gaze travelled down her body slowly, in a way that made her squirm. After they had journeyed all the way down her long legs, they made a returned all the way back to her eyes.
She understood the command and request, and walked over to his side of the bed as Draco looked at her with lazy, lightening struck eyes.
That night Hermione saw her dreams as if come to life.
“Draco.” Hermione sighed his name. “Please?”
“Pas de chance, rien à faire. We have a long way to go… You’re so soft Hermione. So incredibly beautiful. How did it take us so long to get here? We should have done this years ago.”
Hermione jerked her head up in surprise; her eyes suddenly wide open as she stared at him.
Draco looked up at her, an amused smirk playing on his lips. “What? Like you didn’t know there was this unexplored lust between us.”
Hermione felt her heart explode with joy. “I didn’t! If I had, we would have done this years ago.”
“I’m glad we finally saw sense. Now, shh… I need to focus.” Smoky eyes burst into flames and Draco focused on her, like she had never been focused on before.
Later, replete, they lay spent. He soothed her, holding her head against his chest. Hermione heard his heartbeat as she felt her own slow down. (Proof that he has one, she thought inanely to herself and grinned.) He brought his hand up to her face and played with her hair, tucking them behind her ear. Neither said a word. There wasn’t any energy left to talk.
He hugged her close, pulled the covers over them, cast a wordless charm to extinguish the candles and they both fell into a sleep deep, serene and content.
Hermione would have liked to say that she slept the most tranquil sleep that night, the clandestine romantic in her really would have. She would have expected to wake up to a perfect morning with an effervescent smile and spirit. But she hadn’t accounted for herself.
Hermione was not used to sleeping with anyone else in the room. Never before had she fallen asleep with a man in bed. The last she had even shared a room had been a good 7 yrs ago- with Ginny at Grimmauld Place. Her nights had been unerringly restive there. Every time she’d heard a creak she’d jumped out of bed, wand in hand, afraid someone else had been injured, or worse, that Death Eaters had somehow found their way in. Hermione was jittery like that.
Then there had been the year of hunting for horcruxes with Harry, Ron and Draco. Laying of exhausted heads in tents and caves with constant vigilance was not conducive to restful sleep. There had been many nights when the two keeping guard had hurriedly woken the others, and they’d escaped discovery or capture just in time.
As a result of her past, if in the middle of the night Hermione Granger heard unfamiliar noises, Hermione Granger woke up. So now, during her unsuspecting slumber when she felt an unfamiliar arm snake around her waist, she bolted out of bed, faster than the speed of thought, without even completely waking up first. And she analyzed it with pride, though a tad tired of her subconscious by now. The first few times Hermione sat up in bed, jarred awake by Draco’s presence, he awoke too, looking around groggily. She hushed him to sleep and dozed off herself in a few minutes. When she violently thrashed his hand away and bolted out of bed, he opened one disgusted eye, harrumphed and turned around, presenting a disgruntled back. That was when she realized backs could be disgruntled.
Waiting for the adrenaline rush to pass, she turned on her night lamp to read, hoping to lull her overactive mind. He got out of bed, heavy-eyed and expressionless, grabbed his clothes and apparated away!
Still too content from the events before and too tired to adequately summon any offence, Hermione’s logical side wondered how the hell she’d managed to sleep next to him in the hospital. Maybe she had been too emotionally exhausted, or maybe her mind hadn’t considered that catnap ‘sleeping’. How was this different from that night at the hospital? She fell asleep pondering over the different stimuli or lack there of in the two environments and the inconsistencies of her subconscious. Thankfully she didn’t wake up again till much later that morning.
Knock knock. Tap tap taptaptap. Knock. Knock.
“What in Merlin’s name!” Hermione jumped out of bed once more, surprised at the knocking on her bedroom door. It was a very short list, the people allowed to apparate inside her apartment/ town house, one that didn’t even include all of the Weaselys. It took her sluggish senses a few seconds to put it together.
“Give me a minute!”
She hastily put on a robe, tied her hair up in a messy bun and with a flick of her wand removed the reminders of last night from the bed, which now lay neatly made. She schooled her features and opened her bedroom door to the aroma of coffee, cinnamon rolls and a recently bathed Draco.
“Morning sunshine, did you sleep well?” He said this with mirth shining out of heart-stopping gorgeous eyes. Up close, in the morning light, his eyes revealed themselves to be an electric web of distinct white, gold and blue flecks. Sun and sky.
Had he not woken her looking this gorgeous and had he not brought breakfast, she may have been miffed with him for leaving the way he had last night, whatever the provocation. But he did and he had, so she smiled. “Good morning Draco. Yup, I slept so well in fact, that I hadn’t realized you’d woken up and showered already. You must be super quiet. I usually wake up with the smallest sounds.”
Draco looked stumped for a second, and then picked up a surprised Hermione, threw her on the bed, jumped right on top and started tickling her.
“Stop… stop… I give up.” Hermione laughed out.
Draco stopped his teasing to pull back and stare into her mahogany eyes. He brought forth his lips to graze them softly against hers.
Gently tucking her willful hair behind her ears he spoke softly but with authority, “No regrets Granger, I don’t want you to psychoanalyze this to oblivion.”
“No, no regrets Malfoy.”
“Good. In that case, can we please go get some fuel? I’m famished. Had the elves throw together a hamper, as I don’t know my way about your kitchen.”
“That, and you can’t cook to save your life.”
“Yes, that too.”
Hermione grinned and got out of bed. She was glad the morning after hadn’t been too awkward and they’d just fallen into their repartee. She went to freshen up. When she came out, she imagined Draco had headed down, but found him browsing in her study, picking out random titles from her fledgling library.
“So what does Draco Malfoy normally eat for breakfast? Little virgins?”
“Nah, that’s strictly dinner. I start with lighter fare. Come along then, or I will be forced to eat you, again.”
Draco looked amused at her flushed cheeks as they headed down. Hermione was surprised to see the array of delectable breakfast pastries, scones and breads set nicely on a beautiful china 3-tier platter. Steaming coffee (charmed to stay warm, no doubt) sat next to a plate of fruit, a jug of pumpkin juice, a bowl of fresh butter and yet another plate with a variety of cheeses.
“Umm Draco, is this how you eat breakfast everyday?”
“Yes, why? Don’t you?”
Hermione looked askance at him, his eyebrow delicately raised in question and then realized he’d just avenged the restful sleep quip. “Ha ha.”
He grinned back at her then and her heart fluttered again. She was touched that he’d gone through the trouble to carry all this over.
They both sat down to eat, and Hermione figured she’d just get the conversation over with. “I’m sorry about last night. I guess I’m not used to letting my guard down when I sleep.” She didn’t have to reveal that he had been the first body to sleep in her bed. That was need-to-know only.
He looked over while buttering his multi-grain toast, “Don’t worry. I didn’t exactly help, leaving like that. I’ve just had some physically demanding days with little sleep and desperately needed the shut-eye. I realized the possible repercussions of the faux pas when I woke up. So got this hamper together as an inducement and hoped you hadn’t set up wards against me already.”
Hermione smiled softly at him. “I have no expectations from this arrangement Draco. You come and go as you please. Frankly I’m pleasantly surprised to see you.”
“Surprised? Why?” He looked at her with curiosity, his eyes belying his attempt to piece her reaction together.
“Malfoy, you’re breaking your own principles by being here. You know, the can’t see ‘em the day- after rule? The one you told me you uphold with all women? God forbid I get any ideas!”
Draco relaxed again into a lazy stance and smirked, “You quite well know you’re not all women. Stop fishing for compliments.”
“I’m just a little surprised with the speed of things I guess. You have to concede it’s been rather fast. I’m also rather curious about something. What did you mean yesterday, when you said we should have done this years ago?”
Draco finally showed signs of lack of sleep, as he answered tiredly, “Granger, I told you last night, had I thought I could get away with it, I would have coaxed you into bed years ago. I didn’t because you aren’t the casual-fling type and I cannot guarantee a forever after. I didn’t know how long we would last and I didn’t want to compromise on our camaraderie. I certainly didn’t want the entire Potter and Weasely clan hunting me down if things went unfriendly. Now it’s different. I get to have you with a valid, consensual, mutually fulfilling raison d'être. And we get to not have a messy break up. We also do not have the pressure of announcing it to the tabloids and our insane acquaintances. It bodes well.”
This was a good reminder to Hermione to take things at face value and not confuse the situation. This was not love, it was convenient baby-making protocol.
“Talking of break-ups Draco, I want you to know you have the option to leave at any time, before or after the baby. I will never ask you to stay. So you’re right, it won’t be messy.”
He looked at her with carefully concealed expressions. “I appreciate that. I, however, cannot afford you that liberty. When you get pregnant, please consider yourself Malfoy property. I will be in the know of what you are eating, when you are sleeping, whom you are meeting, how many hours you are working… you get the general idea. You telling me voluntarily will be nice, if we lack your cooperation, you may notice wizards shadowing you, so you know not to mind them.”
Hermione gasped at that, “You are mental, you know that?” she said this as she cleared away the plates and started to clean up.
“I’m honest. Well, not always, but I want to do you the honor. I cannot give this relationship the social credence it deserves. As of now, I cannot own to it without it posing some degree of danger to you or me. However, you are very much a part of my life now. I want you to know that.”
Hermione thought of what he’d said. He’d mentioned danger. She wondered what quarters he meant that from, but he looked slightly uncomfortable in his skin, like he’d revealed too much of himself already. She realized it was all still new for Draco, they’d had a longer emotion-laden dialogue than in their 8 years of friendship. And he’d ended it by saying she was a part of his life now. That had a good ring to it.
She had to ask him one last thing though. “Your mother, how do you think she will react?”
He looked more open now, his body relaxing, “She’ll be fine, thrilled with the prospect of a grandchild I assume, with the hints she tosses my way ever so often. Will your parents be receptive to you having a child out of wedlock though? I don’t know about muggles, but it’s almost unheard of in the wizarding world. Undoubtedly why the idea appeals even more to the non-conformist in me.”
“They wont be thrilled, but like your mother, my parents will eventually be happy for me.”
“Good. And we’ll take on the others later. Talking of mothers, I have plans to meet mine for lunch in an hour or two. Don’t know how I’ll eat so soon though. Do you have any plans for today?”
“I usually visit W.I.C.H first Sunday of the month.” War Inflicted Child Heroes was the war-orphans charity that was Hermione’s brainchild. She hadn’t wanted any child to term themselves ‘orphan’, she wanted them to chose more unique identities than that. And she wanted the children to blame the war, not the warring factions for their afflictions.
“Harry is meeting me there today. He visits them a couple of times a month too, usually on a weekend I’m not visiting. Today we thought we’d go together, since it’s the 1st day of the year. He couldn’t meet them at Christmas, so wants to get them some gifts now. You could join us later, if you like. The children adore it when you play quidditch with them. You put on a spectacular show, so I daresay you’re more entertaining for them than Harry, who usually focuses on teaching them to play fairly.”
“I would Granger, but I really did promise to meet mother for lunch. That’s our New Year’s tradition, more or less. However, I hesitate to leave you alone to dissect everything and second-guess yourself. Leaving you in Potter’s company scarcely seems better. ”
“I’ll be fine, I promise. Won’t run away, wont put up wards barring your entry. We have a plan, rest assured I intend to stick to it.”
He squeezed her hand affectionately and bent forward to kiss her forehead. “Good girl. When do you get back?” Draco looked at her while stirring the cream and sugar into his 2nd mug of coffee.
“I usually spend a couple of hours. I’ll probably be there 1 to 4 or so.”
“So I’ll pick you up at 6 for dinner.” Draco said this in a tone that was quite matter of fact. That made her happy. They’d made love, the heavenly variety; he’d gone away to let them both sleep better and come back in the morning, laden with the most amazing breakfast. He wanted to meet her again tonight. She could live like this. Happily.
Over coffee, they made tentative plans, though Draco refused to give her specifics. He just said it was somewhere he’d always wanted to take her and told her to dress warm.
At around 11, he got ready to leave and kissed her deeply, which in turn delayed his trip by half an hour. Where last night had been slow and sensual, the morning had brought hurried disrobing, instant clearing of the kitchen counter, laughter and spontaneity. His skin shone like marble in the morning sun and she reveled in the tenderness she observed in his eyes. Periwinkle in rain. She understood for the first time how one could drown.
At about quarter to 12, with their clothes back on and him preparing for his departure, he hugged her, rested his forehead against hers and grazed her lips with his. She couldn’t help but smile. He grinned back and saluted a goodbye as he flooed over to the manor from her living room.
Hermione hugged herself, happy, tickled and excited. She reckoned this was what girls meant by “walking on air”. It certainly didn’t feel like her feet touched the ground this morning. So this was why ‘cloud 9’ was such a popular destination. It certainly had its charms.
Every review is a gift.