Chapter 9 : For Each Other
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Draco and I made a mutual decision after the time we had spent together in the library. We decided that no matter what, we would be together. It made me swell with happiness and it made me want to cry in fear all at once. We would face everything that was trying to split us apart: the judgmental people at Hogwarts, Draco’s situation, Harry and Ron. I somehow knew that it was the only way we would survive. No matter how afraid I was, I knew that it would be worth it in the end. I simply could not pretend anymore. And it had to start with Harry and Ron. Making them understand was going to be a battle.
Draco and I decided that upon leaving the library, we would become public. No more hiding among the bookshelves, no more lying. I knew that I was going to have to mentally prepare myself for the sufferable day ahead of me.
“Draco, I am so nervous about this,” I said, despite my attempts at being strong for him. I knew how unstable he was already. He reached over and grabbed my hands.
“It is going to be all right. I know that some people will probably be judgmental and gossip. But Hermione, that’s because it’s all they have to do with their lives. It’s a big step to take and I want to know that you are with me one hundred percent,” he said, bringing my hands to his lips and kissing them softly.
I took a deep breath. “I am,” I sighed, “I am behind you, Draco. One hundred percent.
“Good,” he said, grinning at me in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Okay, let’s go,” I said finally. He grasped my face in his hands and gave me a soft, comforting kiss on the lips before leaving. I smiled as he drew his face away from mine and came into focus.
Without another word, he slipped the book into his cloak, took my hand in his, and pulled me out of the depths of the aisle. The light immediately became brighter, being out in the open. I immediately became nervous at the mere sound of people’s voices. I just needed to get out of the library. That first step was going to be hard, but after that, there was no turning back, and it would only get easier. I sent a reassuring smile his way and then began walking beside him.
“None of this matters, Hermione. None of them matter. Remember that,” he whispered in my ear, and I nodded in response.
And then we were walking, bookshelf after bookshelf passing us as the subtle noise grew louder. My face flushed and my heart raced. Just thinking about what people would say or do made me want to scream and run in the opposite direction. I had always hated being gossiped about, and I now felt that I was making people deliberately talk about me. But I had to do it for him. It was something we had to do for each other.
A few girls, searching for books within one of the aisles, spotted us walking by. I could feel their eyes on us as we passed, and I knew they had made their way to the end of the aisle in order to check and make sure that their eyes weren’t lying to them. Their cloaks were embellished with vibrant green tones- a telltale sign that they were Slytherin. It wasn’t often that you saw scarlet and green mix.
“Malfoy….with Granger?” I heard one of them scoff to another, and further whispers ensued, but dulled as we walked out of ear shot.
His grip tightened reassuringly around mine as we reached the opening into the large room of the library. I took a deep breath and made myself appear cool, calm and confident. With no such luck, however, could I stop my insides from churning.
As we walked, I could feel people staring. I wanted to pull onto Draco’s hand and increase my speed until I was sprinting out of there. I felt exposed, and tried not to look at the people who were making comments about us.
“Look, look over there!”
“Draco…and Granger? I thought he hated her…”
“I thought she hated him…”
“You have got to be kidding me!”
I tried to block out the rest of the sounds. Any conversation that had been going on prior to us making our entrance had changed to the topic of Draco and I, and any silent studiers had subjected themselves to staring. I felt as if they were burning holes in my back. There was just no way this was going to go over well.
I looked up at Draco, who flashed a confident smile at me, and I felt relieved to see how well he was handling it. His confidence was making me feel better already. Just to add to the drama already unfolding, he let go of my hand and slid his own up my back until he could tuck it around my shoulder and pull me close. In automatic response, I wrapped my hand around his waist. I could feel our chemistry begin as a low hum, and then reverberate off the walls as I found a spring in my step. All of the whispers became background noise. As we reached the exit to the corridors, Draco planted a soft kiss on my forehead. And then we were gone.
“That was exhilarating,” I said, as soon as the doors closed behind us, a smile spreading across my face.
“We certainly stirred up a few people, didn’t we?” he asked gently with a smile.
“Yes,” I said, feeling the warmth from his body as we clutched each other. I had never felt so happy with him. He had chosen me, and he had even chosen to flaunt it. It made me feel so special…so loved.
“Come here,” he said to me, taking his free hand and reaching over to my face so I would turn my neck towards him. As we walked, arms slung around each other, Draco planted a soft kiss on my lips. I closed my eyes as we kissed, walking blindly down the corridor. I didn’t need to look because I didn’t care. It was the effect Draco had on me; I didn’t need to watch were I was going because no mater if we fell, tripped or walked into a wall, I knew that Draco would be there to catch me and kiss me and love me. I grinned at him as we parted, and suddenly I realized an important part of our relationship that I hadn’t factored in yet. My smile faded quickly, and Draco responded with similar facial expressions.
“What is it, Hermione?”
“Whatever happened to you and Pansy?” I asked, worried about the answer.
He looked relieved. “Hermione, I broke up with her over a week ago. Almost the second I got back from spending that time on the tower with you.”
“The first time…or the second time?” I asked, the awful memories leaving an ache in the back of my throat.
“The second time. I was so miserable over the fact that I was leaving the next day with my father and that I had turned you against me again. I couldn’t even look at Pansy because she reminded me of the time that I had spent with you. When I was with her, she made me think about how I wasn’t with you. I couldn’t stand it,” he admitted this to me with a variety of faces; he looked bitter and upset at first, but then smiled fondly about our memories in the tower that first night.
“Well, I had no idea…” I said, trailing off.
“That’s because you wouldn’t even look in my direction for all that time.” I was surprised when I watched him and noticed that he looked bitter about it.
“Merlin, Draco, that’s because you broke my heart!” I defended myself.
“I know, I know. And I feel awful. I hope that you are okay now. And I am sorry again, you know that-“
“Draco,” I said, cutting him off, “don’t apologize to me again, okay? I’m okay, I promise. I am just happy to be with you,” I pressed my side closer to his and rubbed my hand along his side where my arm had been resting.
He just smiled, accepting what I had told him. We continued to walk down the corridor, and I pondered the task that was now facing me: having Ron and Harry accept the fact that Draco and I were an item. I gulped hard at the thought. I could picture what their faces would look like as I broke the news. It made my stomach feel like it was flipping.
“Would you be willing to do something for me?” I asked, swallowing my slight nausea hard after pausing for a few moments.
He squeezed me closer. “Anything for you,” he said.
“Well the thing is, my relationships with Harry and Ron kind of just got back to normal. I don’t want to screw them up again. So I think the first thing we should do with our spare time is go and find them to set things right. I can’t lie to them. And after the library incident, I want to be sure they hear the full story from me first,” I explained, inhaling deeply after.
“Do they know anything about us?” Draco asked me.
“Yeah, they both know that we had a short streak, but the last thing they heard was that I was all done and that it hadn’t worked out between us. Ron freaked out because of that, and immediately thought that I was willing to get back together with him.”
He pondered this. “Well, at that point, you thought we were over…why didn’t you? I am simply curious,” he added as an explanation to his question.
“Well, I couldn’t go back to him after I had been with you. I was happy before you…distracted me…but nothing more than that,” I said, adding a smile at the last part of my sentence. “It just seemed that I wasn’t feeling the right things when I was with him.”
“What did you want to feel?” he asked, turning to me quietly.
I looked at him, trying to come up with a good answer. He watched me intently. “I don’t know…what you are supposed to feel when you are with someone you are in love with, I guess.”
“Passion?” he asked me, giving me a crooked smile. We continued to walk, and now we had a sense of direction; we were heading to the Gryffindor common rooms.
“Yes, perhaps,” I responded with a grin on my face. I lifted my head to meet his lips, and he pressed his own to mine with the fervor I was so intoxicated by.
As we parted, I turned to face the fat lady, who was eyeing us suspiciously. I took a deep breath, trying to ignore her, and then we let go of each other in unison. I turned to face him. “ Okay, I’m going to go in and check if they are there. They usually are…probably playing Wizard’s Chess or something. I don’t know if we should-”
Draco cut me off. “Hermione. You are going to be fine. We are going to be fine, okay?” he asked me, placing his hands on my shoulders. He pulled me close and gave me a quick, but firm hug. We held each other, and he gave me soft kisses on the lips as he reassured me that we would be fine. “I know this is hard for you, but you have to stay strong. They need to see how much this matters to you. And if they really care, I know they will accept it,”
“Eventually,” I said dramatically, blowing my bangs out of my face.
“Yes, but one step at a time, okay?” he assured me, helping me out by sweeping his fingers across my forehead to remove the bangs from my face.
“I’ll be waiting right around the corner on that bench. There will be more privacy over there,” he explained, and I nodded my head at him.
“Okay,” I said, and he gave me one last quick kiss. When we separated he smiled at me, staring into my eyes.
“I love you,” he said. I tucked some hair behind his ear, playing with the tufts of silky, white-blond strands. I cherished the moment and absorbed the wonderful things he was saying to me all while looking deeply into his eyes. I couldn’t think of a time where I had been happier.
“I love you, too,” I whispered, smiling at him softly. He gave me a toothless grin, and then nibbled on his own lip. I never recalled a time where I had seen Draco be happier, either.
“Go, Hermione,” he said, easing me towards the door. We didn’t say another word to each other. I mumbled the password to the fat lady and disappeared behind the wall leading to the common rooms.
I emerged in the lighted common room, the crackling fire throwing sparks at the stone chimney as I passed. Harry and Ron were right where I thought they would be: playing a game of Wizard’s Chess. Ron was, of course, beating Harry. I could tell by the look on both of their faces. As I approached them, I tried my best to appear calm, cool and collected.
“Hello boys,” I said with a smile as I took a seat beside them. They both looked up at me.
“Hey Hermione, are you feeling better now?” Harry asked me. He looked suspicious again. I didn’t blame him, after all. I had thought about how to approach the two of them. I could either let them know about Malfoy ahead of time and risk them refusing to go outside, or I could just lead them out there and, well, see what happened. It wasn’t the best way, but I wasn’t sure how compliant they would be with me.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Better now, I guess,” I tried with a smile.
“Did something happen?” Harry asked in subtle wonderment, raising his eyebrows at me. Ron seemed to be only half listening; he was extremely invested in the game at the moment. I could tell by the way his dark brows pulled together in deep thought.
“Well…yes,” I admitted after pausing for a few moments.
“And what is that?” Ron asked suddenly. He had been listening after all.
“Well, it is best explained outside in the corridor. But you promise me that you will not turn around until we talk about it.”
Suspicious gazes ensued. I stood up, remembering to relax. I stood up straight and tilted my head in the direction of the door, ushering them to follow. They stood up and followed closely behind me. I wondered if they had any idea what was coming. They weren’t stupid, that was for sure, but they also didn’t know very much about what had happened between Draco and I, either. This was really it.
I walked out to the corridor, and I slowed down to allow them to walk beside me. I was tired of having them in the dark, and I knew that they weren’t going to go easily.
“Hermione, can you just tell us where we are going, please?” Harry asked me. I took a deep breath.
“You will find out in just a few seconds, just please-” I tried to say calmly, but Harry had had enough. We were just feet from rounding the corner when he pulled on my arm and yanked me back to face him. His eyes were burning with anger.
“No. I won’t. I’m sick of you running of and lying to us and acting distant. Merlin, Hermione! We are your best friends! Why can’t you just be honest for once?”
“I am trying to be-” I started defensively, but Harry cut me off again. Ron folded his shoulders across his chest and looked at me angrily.
“No, you aren’t! You are doing it to us again! This bizarre running off- I am so tired of it!” Harry said, raising his voice at me. It echoed down the hall, and I was sure that Draco had heard him. I wondered if he would appear or wait for us. I also wondered what would be better for the situation at hand. Harry’s eyes were wide with some sort of emotion that I couldn’t pinpoint. I was trying to be honest. I was attempting to put everything out in the open and clear the air, and he was actually trying to stop me from doing so. I stared at him, and suddenly it hit me. There was realization in his eyes. He had figured it out.
“Harry, do you remember when you said you would always be there for me no matter what?”
He didn’t respond to me. He just looked at me with a combination of intense feelings. I needed to have him accept what I was doing, and I knew that he wasn’t on that path anymore.
Very calmly, I addressed him again, but this time I was quiet. “I know why you won’t trust me. Why you won’t let me lead you just a few feet more.”
“And why is that?” Harry scoffed at me. He was surprised at my sudden reaction to him. Ron took a step back. He wasn’t vocal very often.
“Because, Harry. You know,” I responded. It should have been enough for him.
“What do I know?”
“Oh stop it Harry! You know who is just around the corner waiting for us. You know where I went today after Raglow’s class! Quit acting like you are so in the dark!”
“Bloody hell…” Ron mumbled to himself, looking extremely uncomfortable.
“I’m not acting like I am in the dark!”
“Harry! I am trying to clear the air here and you are actually trying to stop me!” I said, my eyes widening as he scrunched up his face in fury. I knew that everything he was holding back was now coming out.
“No, I’m not! Why would I want to stop you?” he shot back.
“Yes, you are! I know that I made mistakes this year and I am trying to fix them right now. If you were my friend you would allow us to all talk and reason with him! But you won’t do it!” I shot back at him. We were fully yelling now. I knew it wasn’t a good time for Draco to interject, and I somehow knew that he didn’t think it was a good time, either.
“Wait, who is “him”?” Ron asked, but I was too riled up to answer him. Harry ignored him as well, only focusing on the first full out argument we had ever had with one another. Harry paused before speaking to me again, but he was huffing with anger.
“I am not going to sit idly by anymore and let you be with him!” he yelled finally, taking a step closer to me. He was angry, but there were traces of pleading in his voice as well. His features were pulled tightly in frustration, and yet his eyes were wide. I remained firm, and I wasn’t going to back down now.
“Oh yeah, Harry? And why is that?!”
“Because he isn’t good for you!”
“I think I can take care of myself, thank you!” I annunciated every word, just being sure that I was clear. I put my hands on my hips forcefully.
“Clearly you can’t!” he responded. Not once did he look away from me.
“Harry, I know you are looking out for me and are trying to take care of me but you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do!”
“And why is that?”
“Because you aren’t my father! And you are NOT my BOYFRIEND!” I fired at him. His eyes widened at me; he was shocked at my sudden forced yell.
“Why the hell would you-?” he said, but I cut him off before he could finish. I took a step closer to him, so close, that he could bring his lips to mine with just a short extension of his neck. He looked down at my lips. He looked like he was surrendering the fight. His shield was going down, and pouring out was a cascade of sadness.
“Because I know, Harry. You don’t want to take another step closer to him because you are in love with me.”
“What the hell, Hermione-?” Ron interceded after watching our exchange for several minutes now. Harry took a step away from me as if he had been slapped in the face.
“How could you even…?” Harry couldn’t continue, he just seemed to lose his voice.
“It sounds selfish but it’s true! And don’t you dare deny it, Harry!”
“Harry…?” Ron turned to him accusingly. It was an issue I probably shouldn’t have brought up, but it just needed to be all out in the open. I wasn’t ready to discuss it with them, though. Harry looked like he was cornered.
“All right, I think that’s enough for now,” Draco said coolly, rounding the corner and appearing only feet from our argument. His hands were in his pockets and his temperament was calm.
“Bloody hell…” Ron exclaimed with wide eyes. His ears became red and his eyebrows furrowed in anger. Despite this, Draco glided to my side and laced my hand into his.
Now that Ron seemed to have been enlightened in the last thirty seconds of drama, he found his voice, and it was angry. “So you are back, I see? So you are the stupid prat who has been causing all of these problems between the three of us!”
“Ron!” I said harshly, but he didn’t even look over at me. He just continued to flare up in anger. My eyes darted from Ron to Harry to Draco. Ron looked infuriated, Harry looked exhausted and sad, and Draco was completely relaxed as Ron whipped a line of curses at him.
“Who the hell do you think you are, anyways? Why can’t you just leave us alone?”
“That’s not very nice…” Draco said in a condescending manner. I didn’t like his tone very much. I knew that it was how he acted when he got defensive, but it wasn’t helping the situation at all.
“Fuck you, Malfoy,” Ron said harshly.
Draco scoffed, “Right back at-”
“Draco. You’re not exactly helping. Just let me handle this, okay?” I said, unable to hide my immense irritation. It was the side of Draco that came out naturally when he was around Harry and Ron. I wasn’t too fond of it.
“Hermione, what could you possible be thinking? What is going on?” Ron asked me with curiosity and anger.
I sighed, unable to come up with anything else to say. “Draco and I are together,” I declared. Right after Draco had displayed some of his cruel character, it wasn’t exactly the best time to drop the bomb on them, but I really had no other choice. I grasped Draco’s hand tighter, bracing myself for the response. I could feel his thumb rubbing my hand, trying to subconsciously comfort me.
“You’re WHAT?” Ron asked. His eyes were wide as he glanced between Draco and I, showing complete disbelief. Even Harry’s head shot up. He looked at me in amazed disbelief. Clearly, he thought that we were just a fling.
“You heard me. I am trying to show you both the truth about what has been going on these past few months. I don’t want to lie anymore… I’m trying to fix this-“
“Fix what? The three of us? You aren’t fixing anything! You are just making it worse! We haven’t gotten along since I suspected you were with him at the beginning of the year!”
“I am trying to fix it, Ron! And you need to accept the fact that I can choose who I want to be with!” I sighed, lowering my voice and taking a step closer to him, letting go of Draco’s hand. “Please, I know you are angry and feel betrayed by me or whatever it is that you are feeling right now. And I completely understand,” I said, and I glanced at Harry as well. “I understand why both of you are feeling that way."
Neither of them responded to me. They had looks of anger and frustration on their face. Harry’s head hung low and Ron’s arms were folded tightly across his chest.
“You can be angry at me. But please, don’t let this ruin everything. I am so sorry that you are feeling the way you do. But this is a choice that I have decided to make,” I said, pleading slightly for forgiveness from them. They didn’t seem too interested granting any to me.
Ron’s expression softened, and he approached me with eyes similar to those of a puppy. He ignored Draco’s presence and only focused on me.
“But why, Hermione? He is so…awful to all of us,” he said, looking defeated as he stood there in front of me. I searched his face, looking at the skin I had once touched, the lips I had once kissed- the boy I was with before everything changed. For a second I doubted myself. I wondered what it would be like if we were still together- if Draco and I weren’t like magnets always pulling towards each other. Things would be different.
I cocked my head to the side, looking sadly back at him. “I have been lucky enough to see a side of him that neither you nor Harry have yet to witness,” I said quietly. He exhaled deeply.
“Please don’t do this Hermione. I just don’t understand how you could even go near him…even… hold his hand. I just…” he trailed off, unable to explain his dread any further.
“Listen to me Ron. You don’t have to accept it right now. I understand if you don’t want to. But if we are all going to get along you are going to need to support me eventually. I’m sorry for doing this to you, but you have to trust me, okay? I am doing this for all of us. It will be better if everything is out in the open."
He looked at me, and I could see hurt wetness lining the rims of his eyes. It broke my heart, but he quickly toughened up and let the near-breakdown pass. Without a word, I pulled him into a tight hug, and it took him a few minutes, but he warmed up to me slightly and wrapped his arms around me. He hugged me tightly, as if he would never let me go – never let me go back to Draco. I pulled away from him gently, and walked over to Harry, who was standing feet from our discussion, looking off to the side. I walked around so I was blocking his line of vision. After a few moments, he looked down at me.
“Harry….” I said sadly as I pulled him close to me. When we embraced, I whispered in his ear. “Trust me, and please forgive me. I need you,” I said shortly before parting with him. He made no effort to respond to me, and he simply start at me with sad eyes. When I couldn’t handle it any longer, I turned away from him.
As I turned back towards Draco, I became terrified over what I had just done. I was walking away from the two boys that had been there for me from the start. And I was walking towards a future Death Eater. He smiled at me comfortingly, and somehow I knew I was doing the right thing. I had faith that someday we would get along, and that I would be able to look at my two best friends and know that they backed me up and supported me. Draco wrapped his arm around my shoulder again, and I watched him give a slow nod to Harry and Ron. Draco was harsh sometimes, but it was just his temperament sometimes. It is all Draco, Harry and Ron had ever known.
Everyone has flaws. I wondered if my flaw was that I was messing with danger, or playing with a sort of theoretical fire. Maybe it was simpler than that. Maybe my flaw was a weakness at the expression of passion and love. Or perhaps it was a longing for the incredible feelings experienced when two people are drawn together by a force that is bigger than themselves.
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