Chapter 5 : The Highest Tower
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I was so fed up with everything. I was loathing everyone so much that I was even beginning to loathe myself. I hated that I was always caught in awful situations and was revolted to be around my friends and peers. It was exhausting. Harry had continued to badger me to talk to him, but I continued to be my stubborn self. I just didn’t feel comfortable discussing my feelings about Malfoy with someone who had feelings for me. It wouldn’t be right.
Instead, I mostly kept to myself except during classes and mealtimes and was pretty happy about it. I decided that I needed time away from everyone, and it was doing me well. I was so sick of drama and I felt like a magnet for it recently. It was the sixth night in a row I had headed to the dormitories early from dinner all by myself.
As I walked, the only sound I could hear were my footsteps echoing off of the walls in the dimly lit corridors. My sense of calmness slowly drained from me as I felt someone else’s presence in the corridor. The echoing footsteps seemed to have doubled as they reverberated off the stone surrounding me. I got that awful feeling that someone was watching me, but I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating or not. I began to walk faster, and the fat lady was fast approaching as I neared the entrance to the common rooms. I was just about to whisper the password to the large painting when I felt someone grasp my hand and pull me to the side. I was dragged and spun around so that my back was pressed against the stone wall.
I tried to scream, but his hands were already covering my mouth before a sound could escape from it, just like he had done to me before. He really did have fast reflexes.
“It’s just me,” Draco whispered to me, and I made eye contact with him for the first time in over a week. I could feel his metallic eyes immediately penetrating mine. As I made eye contact with him, he looked overwhelmed and relieved. All of the sensations I had been trying to forget were trickling back into my memory, so I tore my eyes away from him and looked down to the ground. He had no idea just how stubborn I could be.
“You scared me half to death,” I mumbled angrily, keeping my head down, “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” I said through clenched teeth.
“Wait,” he said vehemently as I tried to push my way around him, but he was too strong for me; he pressed my shoulders against the wall to keep me in front of him. I sighed loudly and crossed my arms, looking off in the distance to my left. I could feel my heart beating in my ears as my stomach flopped around in my abdomen.
“Merlin, Granger, would you stop doing that?” he exclaimed breathlessly, pushing me back against the wall. He sounded infuriated and frustrated. It was nice to know he was experiencing some of those feelings as well, and that it wasn’t just me.
“Doing what?” I asked simply, still refusing to look at him. It was as if the tables had turned now, and I finally had the opportunity to make him crazy. I wanted to smirk, surprised at how much my ignoring of him had bothered him. That had to mean something, right?
“You’ve been trying not to look at me,” Draco said firmly, I could feel his closeness as my back pressed against the cool wall, his breath hitting my face. Even though it was the second time he had cornered me by surprise, I felt that I was putting up a pretty good fight this time.
“And why would that bother you? It’s what you told me to do,” I exaggerated matter-of-factly. It was his fault, after all. After a few moments of silence, he grasped my chin and pulled my face up until it was mere inches from his. For moments, we just looked at each other, my lips pouting from his firm grip on my face.
“I know it’s what I told you to do,” he whispered forcefully.
“Then why the hell are you acting all frustrated about it? You were so mean about it last week. So I was just listening to you. And then a few days ago you treated me terribly, so excuse me if I don’t want to talk someone who would do something like that. What do you want from me?”
“I want you to look at me.” he said feebly. I shook my head.
“Why would I want to do that? It won’t be long before you treat me like dirt again. You are good at that, after all.” I said harshly. We were silent for a few moments.
“Because I see how you react when you look at me,” he said quietly, ignoring my attempts at being a bitch, “it makes you weak.”
I grasped firmly onto his arm and pulled his hand off of my face. “Don’t you dare tell me what I feel,” I responded angrily, “and I told you before, I am not weak.”
“Yes you are,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was doing this just to provoke me. I tried to push him away again.
“Listen very closely to me, Malfoy. I don’t want to discuss this right now. I’ll tell you what: we can discuss this tomorrow night at your detention,” I spat at him, still trying to maintain enough distance from him so that I could remain focused.
“Why would I see you there?”
“Because I have to go. Warnock is making me go. He gave you detention because he heard what you called me,” I responded to him angrily.
“Oh,” he said quietly, allowing the silence to surround us.
I couldn’t take the closeness; it was overwhelming me and destroying my thought process. I tried to slide away from him and considered making a run for it, but he put his hands on the wall on opposite sides of me and kept me from going. I glared at him and rolled my eyes, trying to look uninterested and feeling fed up with his games.
“Granger, listen-” he started quietly.
“NO!” I yelled in his face, and he raised his eyebrows as I cut him off. “Earlier this week was…awful,” I said, my voice shaking, “how dare you call me those things in front of everyone! You can’t even treat me with decency and respect in front of others. You are horrible and mean and cruel and soulless and I want you to stay away from me!” I rambled on lividly.
Listen, please,” he responded calmly.
“No,” I said, and at that moment, I just wanted some room to breathe. I decided to give him a piece of my mind and punch him in the gut. Not hard, just enough for me to get away from him. His instincts made him move far away from me as I wound up my arm, but I still managed to make contact with his muscled torso. As soon as he moved away, I tried to make a run for it.
There was no way for me to have enough time to reach the fat lady, give the password and run inside; he would have grabbed me in no time. Instead I decided to dash down the hall he had dragged me into, and I immediately heard him sprint after me.
“Hermione, please!” he called after me. My name. My first name. I came to a dead stop just at the sound of it escaping from his lips. I turned to face him, and he had already slowed his pace and was making his way towards me. I immediately put my hand up to signal him to stop.
“What makes you so deserving of...how many chances has it been now?” I asked, crossing my arms across my chest. “You aren’t deserving. And then you just keep running into me and ruining my life and expecting me to just wait around for you so you can figure out how you feel. And you try to tell me how I feel about us. Who the hell do you think you are, Malfoy?” I questioned, trying to sound as firm as possible, but my heart was still fluttering from him saying my first name.
“I’m not just telling you what you feel,” he whispered, taking a step towards me. He came so close that I could feel his breath tickling my face as he spoke, “I am telling you what I feel, too,” he said slowly, and my eyes darted across his face in surprise, my heart racing. He was staring at me warily, as if he was nervous about what I would say back to him. I raised my eyebrows at him, not sure if I should believe what he was telling me.
“What makes you so sure that’s how I feel?” I asked stubbornly. He almost smiled at me as if wanting to explain how simple it was to figure out, but it was a nervous and cautious crooked smile. His expression became extremely serious.
“I’ll show you,” he said determinedly.
Since I wasn’t pinned to a wall this time, he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close so I couldn’t get away from him. I could feel my wall going down, my shield fading, and my heartbeat accelerating as he moved his face closer to mine. Not once did he take his eyes off of me.
“I am sure that is how you feel because every time you’re close to me...” he started calmly as my bottom lip started quivering. He inched closer to me, his lips so close to mine that I felt the need to move forward and touch mine to his, “...you do that,” he finished.
The only things I could hear in the hall were our heated breaths as we nearly kissed. I knew what he was referring to; my excited breath, my flushed cheeks, my racing heartbeat, my longing expression. I had to admit, I made it pretty obvious. He was so close to me that if I moved one inch, we would be kissing again, and that wasn’t helping me to concentrate, either.
I looked away from him and allowed my eyes to graze over his sculpted chest, and I soon allowed my hands to glide across the smoothness of his silky robes along with my eyes. I could feel him watching me as I did so, for once not worried about his reaction. I fought the desire to trace the line of his sharp jawbone with my fingers, but opted out in fear of what another move could amount to. I flattened my palms against his chest and began to push him away so I could have some room to breathe.
“I don’t believe you, you know,” I stated as he inched away from me, allowing me to form sentences again.
“What do you mean?” he asked me quietly.
“That you feel the same way,” I responded, pouting my lips at him and furrowing my eyebrows, “you’re probably just doing it to mess with my head.”
I folded my arms across my chest as he contemplated my statement. Without a word, he took one of my hands in his and brought it over the upper-left of his chest, right over his heart. It was racing; beating so quickly that I could feel it pounding against my hand with every pulse. I didn’t even know what to say to him as he watched me carefully.
I looked at my hand on his chest in wonder, at a loss for words and somehow believing him. Despite everything we had been through, we felt the same way. It was bizarre and strange, but it somehow all made sense. All those times that he had refused to show me feeling were erased from my mind as he opened up and let me in. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever witnessed.
“So you do have a heart!” I exclaimed quietly and sarcastically. He released his worried look and let out a genuine smile. I smiled back despite myself. His muscles were firm against my palms and I longed to have him hold me so I could press me ear against him and hear his glorious racing heartbeat, because I was the one making it race in the first place.
“Very funny,” he responded simply to my sarcasm. I could hear footsteps now, and I knew that we had to separate before someone saw us together.
“I have to go...” I said quietly, trying to get away from him. He used his grasp around my waist for his advantage to pull me down the corridor- in the opposite direction that I wanted to go in.
“Granger, I really want to talk to you,” he said. I raised my eyebrows and countered his movement by pulling back towards the fat lady.
“I would really appreciate it if you didn’t call me that. I have a first name, you know,” I responded stubbornly. I didn’t want him to go back to calling me by my last name again.
“Force of habit,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. I glared at him again, but I dropped the subject instead of ruining the moment.
“What do you want to talk about? Why you can’t figure out what you want from me?”
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he responded, shrugging his shoulders again.
My brain was screaming at me to stop. “Malfoy, I don’t have time for this. Where are we going to go? There are students and professors everywhere,” I said, my eyes glancing down the hallway I had come from. I knew that people were returning from dinner now and that if I were caught with Draco, not many would be very pleased.
“I know a place,” he said with force, pulling at my hand until I was walking at the same pace as him. I couldn’t believe I was with him again. He was being civil, which was really more than I could ask for. I had no idea why were getting along, but it felt good. Maybe being out in public was not the place for us because he was too busy hiding his feelings to watch out for mine.
There was something about the way he looked at me that made my heart race; he looked cautious but longing. I gave him the smallest of smiles. After a few moments of walking and looking at each other, he started to run. I ran next to him, and I was shocked that he still held onto my hand as we ran through the corridors. We had started our trip early enough so that we managed to escape from any interested eyes. Draco led me down a series of corridors I had yet to go down. Panting, he let go of my hand and I followed him up a flight of steps.
He used Alohamora to unlock a locked door at the top of the flight. I could smell the cool autumn air as he opened the door, and the last of the daylight trickled through the doorway as he walked through it. We were standing at the very top of one of Hogwarts towers; the view was spectacular from our height. The sun was setting on the horizon and the crickets were beginning to come out and became a louder orchestra with each passing minute.
“This isn’t the Astronomy tower,” I observed quietly, and he shook his head.
“No, that ones over there,” he said, pointing to our left, “this one is better, though. It is best at night,” he explained. I nodded my head, and we exchanged a few moments of silence.
“What did you want to talk to me about? You know, I am busy and I would have liked to get some work done before I go to bed,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Granger, you are relentless, aren’t you?”
I shrugged my shoulders vehemently. “Do you really expect anything more? I don’t trust you. Did you want me to just leap into your arms and ride off into the sunset or something?” I asked sarcastically, and he immediately scoffed at me.
“It would never happen like that,” he said forcefully, “it is much more complicated than you think.
“Do you think I am stupid or something?” I said, wide-eyed, “I know this is one of the most complicated and impossible relationships that has existed. There is a reason why we have ignored each other for all of these years.”
“I know, but you still don’t understand. It’s more than just that,” he explained.
“You’re right. I don’t understand. But Merlin, Draco, you have to give me a hint as to what is going on here. How are we ever going to work out if you can’t even give me a straight answer about anything?” I said, taking a step towards him. He didn’t say anything to me, but he looked confused and frustrated. I fought the desire calm him by wrapping my arms around him, to stroke his stone-like cheeks and run my fingers through his platinum blonde hair.
“I am going to be chosen for something. Something very important to my family. Defying it would lead me straight to my death, and flirting with the enemy will only get me there that much faster.”
I absorbed what he said to me before continuing. “What are you chosen for?” I asked softly.
“I can’t tell you,” he responded icily, exaggerating every syllable. I sighed slowly at him.
“I am not your foe. My best friend is your rival and opponent. Not me,” I responded truthfully.
“But you are so closely tied to him,” he said. I watched him as he pulled a book out of a pocket in his cloak. It was Romeo and Juliet; the book he had stolen from the library last week. We were silent as he began to look through the pages again. I interrupted his search.
“So you are saying if I wasn’t friends with Harry, that this wouldn’t be a problem?” I asked rhetorically.
“Maybe,” he said to me as he ran his fingers through his hair. His face was somber, “But you are, so it is.”
I sighed loudly, “Well I can’t change that or anything. I would never, ever leave his side,” I said firmly, just in case he was assuming that I would. He immediately turned his back to me.
“Not surprising, considering he is in love with you,” he mumbled under his breath. There was the slightest harshness in his tone. My breath caught and I looked up at him in shock.
“What?” I whispered. I knew already, but I didn’t know that Draco had figured it out, too. I walked around him so I was facing him.
“Oh, like it isn’t obvious, you bookworm!” Draco said resentfully. His words hurt me.
“I know,” I said quietly, my voice reduced to a squeak, “but it doesn’t change anything.” He was unconvinced.
“I would think otherwise. If your best friend of seven years is suddenly pining after you, I would argue it would change things quite a lot,” he said, his eyes searching my face. I sensed something from him. He was angry, but he seemed jealous. The realization dawned on me. Draco was jealous of Harry, and I was amused. I smiled at him.
“What could possibly be humorous, mudblood?” he said defensively. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I knew he was sorry by the apologetic look on his face, but it was too late. I was already pacing in the opposite direction towards the door. I could immediately feel the tears stinging the back of my eyes and prying at my lids, but I subdued them and calmed down. Before reaching the stairs, he caught up to me and ran in front of me.
“Get out of my way, Malfoy.”
“No, please, I am sorry I called you that!”
“No you aren’t. No matter how many times you apologize, things never change. I am done!”
He didn’t respond, he only watched my as I huffed in front of him in anger. When he didn’t respond, I continued.
“You are jealous! That’s what’s amusing, you bastard! Harry tells me he will always stand by me and he defends me and protects me and loves me. He shows me unconditional love that I fear you will never be capable of feeling or showing! You can’t even be respectful to me during classes? And you are trying to figure out if you have feelings for me or not?” I exclaimed with wide eyes.
“No, Malfoy,” I cut him off, sighing despite myself, “you are jealous. And it doesn’t change anything because of where I am right at this moment. Nothing has changed because I don’t love him back in the same way, even though he is probably one of the best people for me,” I looked up at him with a worried expression, my stature cautious and reserved. He moved closer to me with quiet steps. I stared at him weakly. “But look where I am right now. I’m with you.”
My eyes were watery, but I managed to keep my tears from escaping. He watched me without speaking, simply absorbing my words as my chest heaved and my fists clenched. He looked like a male model in front of me, the wind blowing his hair glamorously in all different directions. My hair was simply obstructing my view.
“I’m sorry for calling you that,” he told me quietly after a minute. I shook my head at him angrily. He took a step towards me, placing his hands on my arms.
“And for what happened in Potions. I am really sorry about that, too,” he apologized. I glared at him and didn’t say anything, unsure if he was genuine or not. He tucked a curl behind my ear and left his hand on my cheek.
“I don’t know Draco,” I said skeptically and hurt, “I don’t know what to believe. You change on me too quickly. I don’t know if I can handle it or not.”
“I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry,” he continued to beg me as he held his hands on my arms, his wonderful eyes searching for the response he wanted from me.
“Let go of me,” I said stubbornly, moving away so his hands fell to his sides, taking a few steps back. His shoulders sunk as I did so, knowing that I wasn’t going to give in so easy. He walked to my side cautiously and didn’t say a word. For a little while, we stared out at the sunset.
“Why are you so jealous of Harry?” I asked patiently without looking at him. He didn’t answer for a few minutes, but when he sighed heavily, I knew he was about ready to tell me.
“Because I know that he is better for you. Even Weasel. They both want you, though they haven’t really started openly arguing about it yet. But it is going to start, especially if they see us together,” He started. I was so surprised by his honest and true observations that he was making.
“Go on,” I said.
“Harry’s the good guy. The protector. The prodigy. I don’t have those qualities,” he responded gravely.
“You could if you wanted to.”
“No, I couldn’t. I told you already. I don’t have a choice about who I want to be or what I want.”
“I wish you did,” I mumbled.
“Yeah, well, I can’t choose.”
“I bet you haven’t even tried,” I said quietly, walking away from him.
“I would consider this trying a little bit. Right now, I want you.”
I closed my eyes and tried not to smile as the words came out of his mouth. It was wonderful hearing him say nice things. It was comforting to know that he was capable of doing such. “I suppose,” I said, as half-heartedly as I could manage.
“I don’t know if this is going to work out, but I promise you, I am trying to go after something for the first time in my life that I know will make me better. And I am sorry for being such a huge jackass sometimes, but you have to understand that I have to live up to certain... expectations. I am not supposed to get along with you, to want you.”
“Well, me neither, but you don’t see me calling you awful names in front of your friends,” I stated harshly.
He raised his eyebrows. “I said I was sorry.”
“Well I accept for now but who knows when you are going to turn on me again? Put on that act that you actually hate me so you won’t make your friends suspicious. But when you are with me you act all longingly over me and you just want me to put up with that?”
“I told you. I am trying,” he said simply. I sighed. I saw him fumbling through his cloak out of the corner of my eye, and I saw him pulled the Romeo and Juliet book out again.
I glared at him, “I had that first, you know, and you took it. I don’t think that was very fair of you. You should learn some manners,” I said. He looked at me blankly and I sighed, taking a step away from him and turning towards the edge of the tower. I watched the sunset for a few moments and inhaled the fresh air as the pink light warmed my face. I could hear him walking towards me again, and then he started reciting lines to me.
I turned around to face him, and he was so close that I jumped a little. “That is really cheesy,” I said, recovering quickly with a smile as he tucked the book back into his cloak. I was trying to be as difficult as possible for as long as possible. Hopefully he couldn’t tell that I was absolutely smitten. I measured his words in my head and contemplated what he could mean by them. I didn’t know love was even in his vocabulary. I turned around again so I could face the sunset. I closed my eyes and was breathing deeply and absorbing the diminishing light before it was gone. Very rarely was I able to watch the sunset in such a manner as I was in that moment.
“It’s true,” he mumbled under his breath. My whole body began to tingle. He walked so he was right beside me, both of us looking out at the mix of colors in the sky. He found my hand and took it in his, holding it as we stood in silence. I looked down at our hands embracing, wondering momentarily if I was dreaming. I wondered if it was humanly possible. My heart ached, but I couldn’t tell if it was aching from how much he hurt me or if it was aching from how much I wanted him. I could feel his eyes on me.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked calmly, searching his face for a true answer.
“I’m trying to address my feelings- our feelings- instead of running away from them for once,” he returned, his eyes soft. “I wish I knew what was going on, but I really don’t. One thing I do know is that it made me crazy when I was away from you this week, and I don’t know why.”
“Me too,” I responded. We just looked at each other silently, and I spent those moments watching the colors of the sky dancing across the canvas of Draco’s smooth, white face. I looked back out to the sunset after my cheeks became too heated by his stare. He leaned close to my ear.
“I can’t stop thinking about us kissing,” he whispered to me. I closed my eyes and smiled to myself. I really liked this different side of Draco. It was different than anything I had ever experienced with him. But I was so afraid that the second I got used to this side of him, it would be gone.
“So have you finally decided?” I asked him cautiously after a few silent moments.
“What your feelings are,” I said.
He paused for a few moments, and then said, “Yes.”
“And, I want you. I want to spend time with you. Every time I try to run, I just get pulled right back in. I can’t stay away from you. I want you by my side all the time and it is bloody frustrating that I know that cannot be the case, especially because of what I am going to have to do soon. And it is even worse because two people who are better candidates, who can be there all the time, are both in love with you and I hate them for it.” I gaped at him as he confessed and rambled on.
“I know what a risk it is for us to be together but somehow, I want to take it. Because I want you. I am trying. I am choosing you. I’m choosing you despite everything I was born to believe and follow. Isn’t that enough?” he finished, and I was so overcome with emotion that I felt my lip bottom quivering. His eyes were wide and his face showed desire.
I turned to look at him again, my face solemn. “Please don’t hurt me,” I whispered weakly back to him. He looked at me with a pained expression as he used his free hand to hold the side of my face. I wanted an answer, some sort of acknowledgment or reassurance, but I didn’t get anything from him.
It was happening again; that weakness that was swelling inside my core. He let go of my hand and grasped my face with both hands, pulling me close. I was immobile as he brushed his lips back and forth against mine before giving me small, quick kisses on and around my mouth. It felt absolutely amazing. I closed my eyes and didn’t kiss back out of fear that he would pull away from me. My arms were at my sides and my body was rigid. Then, there were no kisses at all.
“Don’t stop,” I whispered without thinking. He rubbed my cheeks with his fingertips. I opened my eyes to find him leaning back and looking at me with furrowed eyebrows.
A crooked smile broke out on his face as he realized what I was doing, “You can move this time, Hermione,” he said. I grinned at him just at the sound of my name coming out of his mouth again. Not mudblood, not Granger, just Hermione.
“Okay,” I whispered back, biting my lip as he came closer to me again. This time when our lips touched, I didn’t hold back. Our affection escalated and I kissed him back passionately. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed my body against his as he tangled his fingers in my curls. My hands glided up and down his back slowly as his explored my body; going down my neck and across my collarbones, then under my arms and across my back.
Being with Draco was like setting off our own sparks, I felt tingles where he had touched me, and my lips were begging for more. He sucked on my bottom lip, kissed me fully, and then traced a line all the way down my neck. I gasped in pleasure, my heart racing as he leaned his forehead against mine and looked into my eyes.
“Did you make up your mind?” he asked quietly, relaying the question back to me. He placed a soft kiss on my lips.
I held his face in my hands, trying not to smile. “I can’t decide yet, I think I need a little more time to-” I started at him jokingly, but was cut off by our mutual desire to kiss again.
In a world where so much was wrong, and there was so much bad blood between the two of us, the last thing I would ever expect was for me and Draco to be where we were in that moment. There was some kind of indescribable charge between us that was more powerful than ever. I knew we shouldn’t have been together. I knew that Harry and Ron would be wondering where I was. I knew that my mum would be furious. I knew that us being together could lead to us being torn apart. But for just a few moments where it felt like it was just Draco and I in this world together, I pushed all of those thoughts out of my head. Instead, I focused on how right it felt to be embracing and kissing each other on the highest tower as the sun fell out of the sky.
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