I loved every minute of being with Harry and Ron. I loved the way we joked with each other. I loved the way they treated me. I loved the way I felt so at ease with them. But most of all, I loved the way we could be together and not have to worry about everybody judging me. Our relationship was whole, and I knew that being with them was completely because of true friendship and love for one another. There was really nothing better.
Our relationships with one another had really strengthened over the past few weeks, and it felt so good to be back in that place with them. I felt that Harry was feeling less emotionally connected to me as more than a friend, and I felt that Ron was beginning to forgive me for not getting back together with him. It was so nice that we were finally moving on.
There was this certain pang of guilt that I had whenever I felt Draco’s presence as he entered a room. When I heard his voice it was even worse. I had walked away from him that night and I really was trying my best to not look back. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t looked at him since that night in Warnock’s office. I refused to allow him to try to sway me, if he would even try to if we ever made eye contact. But I didn’t want him to look at me at all. I was so afraid of how I would feel, what I would think, or what I would be compelled to do. There was something about his eyes. It was way too easy to get lost in them.
He didn’t seem very interested in getting me back, either. Not that I ever truly was his to begin with. That was the thing that bothered me the most. I had never had him, but something was eating away at my insides, I had constant thoughts of what could have been. A part of me wanted to stay away, and a part of me wanted to run towards him and beg him to try again. It’s one of the reasons why I was so afraid to make eye contact with him. I wasn’t sure what I would do.
Harry and Ron watched me carefully the next couple of days; I think it was out of fear that I would disappear from them again. I hated that I had instilled those thoughts in them, but I couldn’t blame them for thinking those things, either. Merlin, my mind was already wandering.
“What are you thinking about?” Harry asked me quietly in the midst of our lesson. I turned towards him slowly, not realizing how much I had drifted from paying attention to the conversation at hand.
“Er- nothing of importance,” I responded quickly, as he raised his eyebrows at me. “Really,” I said, trying to give him an assuring of a smile as possible. I held it until I became assured that he was no longer trying to read my mind.
We turned back Professor Raglow almost simultaneously, the class droning on more than usual. She was nothing like Warnock; Raglow’s introductions at the beginning of the year had been brief, monotone and boring. She had thick eyebrows and long chocolate brown hair that went all the way down her back; she braided it almost every day. Her eyes were so dark that from far away, they looked black. There was something about her that I found very off-putting; it may have been her striking appearance, but there was definitely something about the manner in which she composed herself that left me a little spooked. Ever since that first day, her classes left me almost bored to death, and that barely ever happened with me, especially with Defense Against the Dark Arts. My concentration was especially shot after Draco had dramatically left that night. My mind drifted again.
I missed the depth silvery-grey eyes; when I looked at them, I felt like I was gazing at a pool of melted silver. I missed his powerful presence. I missed how his strong hands could feel so soft and comforting at the same time. I missed what it felt like to kiss him. No matter how hard I tried not to think about him, it was all I could really focus on. The bottom line was that I missed him more than I had previously thought I would.
“…Hermione!” Harry said to me curtly; he had clearly been trying to attain my attention for a few moments now.
“What?” I answered quickly, blinking heavily. Harry and Ron both stared at me silently.
“Class is over,” Ron stated flatly, his voice trailing off. I sat up quickly and started gathering my things.
“Sorry, I wasn’t…paying attention,” I muttered.
“Yeah I know,” Harry sighed as we turned in unison to leave.
“What is it that has got you so caught up right now?” Ron asked me curiously. As if he would even want to hear my answer. Harry didn’t look very curious. Somehow, he seemed to know.
“I’m just stressed, I guess. Maybe a little tired,” I said. It wasn’t completely true, but it wasn’t a complete lie, either.
We talked on the way to study hall. The conversation was relaxed, and it was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel that Harry and Ron were mildly harassing me. Someone’s conversation suddenly interrupted us.
“Did you see Malfoy’s face in there?” an unrecognizable voice whispered frantically from behind me.
I immediately flushed, but I didn’t dare turn around or make any rash movements. I immediately hoped that Harry or Ron had been too distracted to hear them, but I could feel Harry’s eyes on me. They were burning into my face, clearly trying to read my expression. My heart was pounding, and I tried my best to listen closer as they continued to mumble within the bustle of the heavy crowd of students.
“Yeah! I couldn’t believe it! He looked like something attacked him,” another girl whispered. I could feel my body tingling all over with fright and worry.
“I know, he wasn’t around for a few days! I didn’t see him in the common rooms, or anything,” the other commented. So, they were clearly from Slytherin. I was praying frantically for them to stay behind me as their conversation continued on.
“He looked so sad before he left, too…and so sad and alone! And then he came back and looked like he took a couple of bludgers to the head!” the other girl added.
I winced. All I wanted to do was look at him and see if he was all right. I wanted to run right to him and hug him and tell him that it was going to be okay. My heart was aching and I didn’t even know how I would go about fixing it. I wanted to get away, I wanted to breathe. I felt like I was suffocating.
I couldn’t hear the girls anymore, so I assumed that they had turned down another corridor. I thought about the conversation that I was missing out on, wishing that I could have been a fly on the wall.
“Hermione…are you okay?” Ron said. I didn’t realize that I was nearly gasping for air.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said quickly, waving my hand in the air. I was not okay. I wanted to cry, and I wanted to know what had happened to him.
I was feeling drawn in again. It was like a surge of energy was coursing through my body, and his story about being chosen for something was repeating in my head. I didn't know what my exact logic was for finally deciding to go and look for him, but it had something to do with the fact that I was rationalizing our last encounter. Maybe it wasn't his fault. Maybe he really wanted me, too.
“It doesn’t look like it,” Harry mumbled. I needed to get away. In that moment, all I wanted to do was be by myself. I felt like I had to hide my true feelings around Ron and Harry when it came to the subject of Draco. I wanted to be away from their judgmental eyes.
“I need to go….to the bathroom,” I muttered, still out of breath.
Before either of them got the chance to say anything, I was gone. Study hall could wait. I walked quickly, trying by best not to make eye contact with anyone. I tried to conceal my worry and fright as best as I could as I darted into the girls lavatory. It was pretty much empty, and I went right for the bathroom sink.
I splashed cold water onto my face, feeling it cool the heat that had been there for so long. I looked up to meet my reflection in the mirror, trying to compose my thoughts. I thought about how unhappy I was that Draco and I hadn’t seen each other. I thought about how mean he had been to me and then how nice he could be to me when I was lucky enough to see that side of him. I thought about how much I missed him. Even if I could just know how he was or saw that he was okay, I would be happier. I thought that even though we couldn’t really be together, he would still see that I cared about him. That had to mean something, right?
I had to find him. I had to see him. Even if it was only for two seconds. I just needed to have some insight as to what happened to him. I took a deep breath and went out the door, sliding quickly past people. I didn’t know where to begin my search, so I just started walking. I thought of places that I could potentially find him. I walked past the Slytherin entrance into the common rooms and dormitories, but couldn’t find him. I walked past the hospital wing, but never walked in. I found myself wandering and following some sort of internal hunch.
I found myself in the library, walking past shelf after shelf of books. I weaved through the maze of texts until I reached a familiar hiding spot from just a few weeks prior. The same place where Draco had first approached me, I almost smiled just thinking about how he had let that Shakespeare book drop to the floor and slowly cornered me against the wooden shelf. I turned into the small aisle formed between the two long bookshelves. I froze as soon as I saw a slender, muscular figure at the end of the aisle. It was him, I knew it was. My heart rate soared as I made slow steps towards him. Draco was leaned against the left bookshelf, reading Romeo and Juliet intently. The shadows casted over his face prevented me from seeing the apparent bruises covering his skin.
I was only a few feet away from him when he suddenly looked up. He his face underwent a variety of expressions. He looked disturbed and then shocked. I immediately saw what the Slytherin girls had been talking about. The pain was all over his face, and there were dark splotches everywhere, and one particularly large welt on his left cheek. I winced as soon as he tilted his head up and allowed the light to hit his face. As he allowed me to see what had previously been hidden, I searched his face with furrowed brows.
I could barely form words. All I could hear was our breathing and this very distant sound of muffled voices in the distant common area of the library. We seemed like a world away as I moved closer to him.
He didn’t move a muscle since he had looked up at me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I was afraid of him, mostly because I was afraid of what had caused him to get so beaten up. His words about being chosen for something pulsed through my brain. I frowned at him and cocked my head to the side, moving slowly and cautiously into the aisle.
We stared at each other silently for a few moments. I found myself raising my hand slowly towards his face. He didn’t flinch, and I watched him carefully just to be sure he wasn’t backing away from me. He stayed perfectly still as I moved closer to his face, watching my outstretched hand as it came closer to him. I touched my fingertips gently to his cheeks, barely touching him. He scrunched up his face in response to my touch, and I pulled back slowly, my lips pursed into a tight line.
I stared at him with wide eyes as I let my hands slide carefully down his neck, exploring the welts and bruises that continued down to his broad shoulders. I moved his robes and gasped as he lowered is book down to let me stretch the fabric and expose more injured skin.
I finally found the words, asking, “Draco…what happened to you?” with a weak voice.
He placed his hand onto my chin and brought my eyes to his.
“Listen to me Hermione, it isn’t safe for you to be around me.”
“Draco. I don’t want you hiding from me anymore. Don’t lie to me. Just tell me the truth,” I said, my voice pleading.
“I haven’t been lying to you,” he responded to me quietly. I could see the exhaustion all over his face.
“Well, then I at least have the right to know how this happened to you. I haven’t seen you in weeks. Please tell me how this happened to you,” I said, brushing my fingers across his chest. He winced in response.
“Are there bruises all over your body, too?” I asked him in shock. Just a few hours ago, I was determined to be as far away from him as possible, and all it took was for me to think he was in danger for me to come running back to him.
“In a few places…” he said quietly, trailing off. He looked so tired and weak. I could barely stand it. I looked down at his chest, just imagining how badly he was aching beneath the heavy robes. We were silent for another minute or so. He suddenly let out a crooked smile. I raised my brows, wondering how he could possibly be smiling.
“What?” I asked quietly. He continued to smile half-heartedly at me. Through all of the bruises and injuries, his complexion still seemed to glow.
“I missed you,” he admitted in a low tone. My body tingled at the words. I almost smiled, so happy that he could even say something like that to me. I knew that he had been thinking about me too, and I was happy that I had made the effort to go and find him.
My face suddenly became serious, “I missed you, too.”
I avoided eye contact with him as I brushed my fingers against the collar of his shirt.
He placed is slender fingers on my chin and pulled my face up so I would look at him.
His eyes burned into mine.
He suddenly began to inch towards me cautiously. I instantly knew what he was doing, this was the lead in for him to kiss me. My mind was racing and I blushed in excitement. His eyes were on my lips, and I parted my own in a subconscious response. He wanted me, and it felt so good. At the same time, my mind was screaming at me for being distracted, warning me to find out what I had come here for. He moved slowly towards me, and I could feel him pulling me in, but I pulled away from him instead.
“Draco…” I said, warningly. He looked surprised at my rejection of his silent request, and took a step back at the same time. I was surprised that I was able to fight him off.
“What is it?” he asked quietly.
“I’m sorry, Draco. I can’t,” I responded, and he only looked at me in silence.
“I thought you wanted…” he trailed off, disappointed.
I cocked my head to the side, giving him the most bittersweet of smiles as I raised my hand up to the center of his chest and played with one of the buttons of his shirt.
“I just don’t think…it’s too soon after…” I started, trying to find the right words.
He nodded slowly at me in realization that I was referring to that night on the tower. I wanted to kiss him so badly; I was nearly jumping out of my shoes, but at the moment, his safety was more important to me. Not to mention the words he had said to me on the tower were still swirling in my mind, and I had yet to forget how much they wounded me. Somehow, I still couldn’t deny my feelings for him. I swallowed and attempted to speak to him yet again.
“This is a really big step for us,” I started. He watched me intently, lifting his hands up to his chest until they were wrapped snugly around my fingers, preventing me from fumbling with his buttons any longer. “I think that we need to take this a lot slower than we did before,” I finished, my voice soft. Draco held on to these words, allowing them to sink in. He looked down and brushed my knuckles softly with the pad of his thumb, letting a humorless laugh escape from his lips. I watched him as he did so, though I tried to look indifferent. I was still so hurt by him, after all.
He slid down the bookshelf so he was sitting on the floor, his back supported by the unit. I followed him down until we were seated side by side on the rug. He inhaled deeply, and my heart raced. I knew I was finally finding out the truth.
“I know you are upset with me,” he started, “and I’m sorry that I hurt you. But you have to understand why I did it.”
“Because it’s for the best,” he sighed.
“Draco,” I said in a frustrated tone, determined to hear the full truth. "I think you and I both can agree that at the very least, I deserve the truth. After everything that has happened. Please, at least just give me that.” When I saw the conviction on his face, my heart began to race. There was no turning back now.
He sighed again, “I didn’t want to put you in danger anymore, even though you knowing all of this might be putting you even more in danger,” he explained to me.
“I won’t say anything to anyone, I never would-.”
“I know, Hermione. I trust you. It’s more than just that,” he said. When he did not continue, I was unsure of how to keep pushing him towards the entire truth. I took a different angle instead.
“How did you get those bruises?” I asked gently, hoping that he would open up to me. He sucked in a deep breath.
“A few weeks ago, I was taken out of school by my father. Just a few days after my detention. He somehow convinced McGonagall that it was important enough to let me go. I didn't think much of it because I never thought he would be able to convince her. Somehow he did...and I wasn’t about to disobey my father. I had to go with him.”
“Where did you go?”
“I don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me. But he got me involved in some sort of training involving a different type of magic. And it was such difficult material, and really painful. I wasn’t very good at it…so that’s why I look so awful.”
I wasn’t really following, so instead, I asked him a question. “What were you talking about...when you said you had been chosen for something? Did it have to do with that?”
“I’m getting there,” he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer to him. I leaned against his body cautiously, worried that I would hurt him, but when he tightened his grip around me, I felt more confident resting against him.
“I was chosen for something against my will…something that I don’t have any control over,” he said as I stared at him intently. He took a deep breath.
“You’re your own person, Draco. What could possibly keep you from being anything else?” He seemed to be getting frustrated, as if the answer was clear as day. I tried to remain calm as he debated how to word it.
“I’ve been chosen to join my father…in the world of the Dark Arts,” he said bitterly.
He watched as my eyes widened in shock. I saw him, filled with complete sorrow and hopelessness. I opened my mouth, trying to find words, but my head was such a jumble of thoughts and questions that I didn’t know what to do with myself. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t want to believe what he was telling me. Sure, Draco had a history of violence and hatred, but following Voldemort? I couldn’t even imagine him doing so. Of course, the cruel Draco would be quite the candidate, but the Draco I got to see was far from one.
“Draco, how could you-?”
“I don’t have a choice. By the time I finish school at Hogwarts, I am going to be a Death Eater,” he choked on the last few words. I knew it wasn’t him, no matter how mean he had been to me in the past. Draco a Death Eater? It just couldn’t be true.
I sat up at his statement. I didn’t want to understand. I didn’t want to even imagine him walking around in one of those awful masks, taking orders from Lord Voldemort and committing forbidden curses and horrible crimes. His face was more pained and contorted than I had ever seen it before.
I suddenly became afraid of him. I was unsure of his stability or what he was capable of, it just seemed like his entire world was crumbling around him.
“Why, Draco? That isn’t you, I know it isn’t!” I said despite my fear. I knew that I couldn’t do anything to help him besides comfort him. What would I say, how could we be together when what he was becoming was an enemy of the entire wizarding world? I thought of Harry and Ron, and what they would think if they knew. They would think I was a traitor; turning against them to support the very being Harry had been fighting all his life. He was rising up as we spoke, ready to attack, and I was flirting with someone who I was now afraid to trust with Harry’s life. I didn’t know why those thoughts were entering my head, but I was more afraid of him now than I had ever been in my life.
“I don’t have a choice,” he said bitterly, “I am going to lose everything. My friends, my dignity…you.”
I gulped, trying to find the words. “You wouldn’t…Harry…”
“Hermione, I would never do anything to hurt Harry, not for Voldemort,” he said to me. I tried to believe him, but I couldn’t understand how he could defy someone like Voldemort. He would die.
I blushed, unable to help myself. All this time I thought that he was never mine to begin with; he had felt a certain connection with me the whole time. I waited a few minutes in order to let all of it sink in. We were quiet for what felt like an eternity, and I was determined to help him in some way. It was clear that Draco felt completely out of control of his life. As I realized this, my fear and worry was overpowered by determination. In a sudden change of heart, I realized that all that mattered to me in the world was to make sure that Draco understood what he could and could not control. I had to help him, at the very least.
“Draco,” I started, trying to get his attention. He didn’t move a muscle, or acknowledge that I had just addressed him.
“Draco, look at me,” I repeated quietly.
“Hermione, it’s hopeless. I know that you are trying to think of some way to help me. There is no way for me to get out of this. I am what I am. I am going to be a monster.”
I carefully turned his face to mine. “Listen to me. I understand that there are things you can’t control in life. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot stay away,” I started.
“You don’t -“ he began to respond stubbornly, but I cut him off.
“Yes I do, Draco. No matter how hard I fight, no matter how much you hurt me and make me angry, we somehow manage to feel something for one another. Even when I promise myself I will never talk to you again, we always seem to cross paths again. That’s the thing. I do get it. I can’t control how I feel about you. I know it’s not on the same level as your situation, but I do understand the feeling,”
He looked at me solemnly, but I could tell that he was going to stop claiming that I didn’t get it.
“And Draco, there is no way that you can simply just give up and say that you will lose everything. Because there are things in life that you can control. You just have to try. You have to fight for the things that you want and hold close. Please, just don’t give up on those things,” I said out of fear of what would become of us, and if he did lose everything, what would become of him.
“I don’t want to lose everything,” he said calmly in defense.
“ I know you don’t,” I responded, brushing a tuft of hair out of his face.
“And what is going to happen to us? When I become this horrible thing?”
I paused. “Is there even an ‘us’?”
He didn’t answer immediately. “Do you want there to be an ‘us’?”
I pressed my lips into a thin line. Being with Draco was like playing with fire. Stupid and exhilarating at the same time. Sometimes painful. But all the while, exhilarating.
“I don’t know.”
I smiled simply to him and shrugged ambivalently. I sat up and repositioned my body, picking up the Romeo and Juliet book that had been resting openly on his lap; I was curious about the play that he seemed so interested in. I skimmed the page it was open on, absorbing the wonderfully worded text and flowing, romantic lines.
When he spoke next, his voice was quiet, though I could tell he was deep in thought. “I can’t let you walk away from me again without knowing,” he told me quietly, and I felt my cheeks flare up at his words.
“What?” I asked as calmly as I could manage.
“That even with everything I am going through, I promise that I will fight for you. I will fight for us because we still have something. Don’t you think?” he responded in a determined tone. I could see the color return back to his face as he regained a sense of his path and independence.
I looked at him, at a complete loss for words. In the midst of everything, I had no choice but to believe him. He really looked like he had undergone a change of heart. His face twitched with a smile as I watched him.
As quickly as a smile appeared on my face, it had vanished was replaced with a look of longing. I had missed the thrill I had gotten in the pit of my stomach from the way he approached situations like this. I had no words to say to him, so instead, I leaned forward and pressed my lips gently to his. I placed the book down beside us and wrapped my arm across his stomach. I could feel his breath hitting my face in an increasingly fast pace; he had clearly been shocked by my sudden action. I could feel my heart pounding as he inched closer to me, but I pulled away before I got too lost.
He brushed my hair out of my face and tucked it behind my ear. From my lobe, he traced the outline of my jaw with his fingertips. He guided his finger up my cheek and brushed them across my eyelid. He traced up my nose, down the bridge, and rested his finger right on the cupid’s bow of my lip. I began to recite some lines from Romeo and Juliet that I had just stumbled upon. Slowly, his finger began to trace the outline of my lips as I spoke.
“These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume."*
I leaned forward with every intention to kiss him, but instead we started some sort of anti-kissing frenzy. He responded to me, rubbing his nose back and forth against mine, brushing his lips across my own, and repeating until I couldn’t take it any more. He sucked on my bottom lip gently before allowing me to match up my lips with his. I could sense the intensity of his kisses as he pressed harder against me, but it was a soft intensity filled with more lust and romance that I had felt from him before. Even though the kisses were soft, they were absolutely overwhelming me, and I trembled as my heart swelled with fear, horror, and most of all, love. I pulled away from him, gasping for air.
“What is it?” he asked me quietly.
“Nothing, it just seems like you’re different than you were before,”
“I think I am, Hermione,” he said, looking down, “I’m grateful you are here for me.”
I smiled at him, resting my head against his shoulder while still looking up at him. “I’m glad to have helped,” I responded with a grin. I was so happy that he was feeling better, and I knew that at that moment, what he needed most from me was trust. So despite my worries, I held onto his hand and absorbed his presence.
We sat there for a few moments in silence, and I watched as the smile disappeared. His face became serious suddenly, as if he realized something in the few moments that had passed. I was taken aback when he made eye contact with me and I could see the fire in his eyes.
"What is it?" I asked him softly.
"You said it was too soon... I shouldn't," he answered. I knew he was right; it was too soon and the look on his face told me that he was going to say something serious. Maybe we were moving too fast, but I didn't want to stop him from saying anything to me anymore.
"Tell me," I whispered as calmly as possible, as if I could sense what was coming. He sat up and repositioned himself, interlacing his fingers with mine. He looked up at me, the welts on his face closer than ever, though I could look directly at him and still see his beauty.
“I’m in love with you, Granger,” he said to me. His voice was firm, romantic, and frightened.
I inhaled deeply as he waited intently for a response from me. My heart was racing, my mind faltering, and my body trembling. I was happier than I had ever been before, and I had also never been so afraid in my life. When a smile broke out on my face, I could see his relief. “I love you, too, Draco."
We did have violent beginnings, and I was afraid of what would become of us. I knew that this was only the beginning of a long journey of harshness. I knew there would be ups and downs. There was just no way either of us could hide from the truth any longer. As he pulled me up to his lips again, all I realized that one kiss could consume any amount of negativity we were feeling at the moment, leaving us to be consumed only by each other, and the passion we felt when we were together.
* Footnote: R&J 2.6
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