I seemed to become aware of my surroundings long before I opened my eyes the next morning. The house was completely silent, except for the person sleeping in front of me. Slowly, I recognized Draco’s soft rhythmic breathing as he slept. In fact, I could feel it; each exhale sent warm puffs of air over the top of my head, and my arm moved in unison as his ribcage rose and fell beneath my hand. I became aware of our closeness; Draco and I were facing each other, and I was nestled closely beneath his neck, warm and unbelievably comfortable. When Draco’s breath began to stagger, I slowly opened my eyes.
I was too close to him to be able to focus on anything; all I could see was the foggy grey of his t-shirt, so I cuddled up closer to him carefully as to let him wake up without disturbing him. He sighed loudly and slid his arm around to my back and pulled me even closer to him as he tilted his head down to look at me. I met his eyes and smiled widely. He kissed me on the forehead.
“Morning,” he croaked quietly before repositioning his head on the pillow, yawning and still waking up.
“Good morning,” I whispered back to him happily. I stretched my legs until my toes were pointing towards the foot of the bed. As I let my body relax, I was sure there was no way I could be somewhere more euphoric than where I was lying, and I was pretty sure that I had no desire to ever get up. I let my eyes flutter shut again as we slowly woke up from a well-needed rest.
“How did you sleep?” he asked me, his voice still groggy and husky from sleep.
“Amazingly,” I sighed.
“Me too,” he said quietly, and then we fell silent.
All of a sudden, the silence of the house was broken with a cry. The cry of my brother, Collin. My eyes shot open and I instantly felt a panicked lump rising in my throat as I pried myself out of Draco’s firm grip. I could hear the springs of my parent’s mattress creaking as they got out of bed.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I whispered hastily, grabbing whatever I possibly could in order to cover myself. I remembered that nagging feeling I had had about falling asleep in Draco’s bed just before nodding off the night before.
“What?” Draco whispered with furrowed eyebrows and the slightest of smiles making shape on his face. I knew he was perfectly aware of why I was acting in such haste. When he came to a seated position on the bed I saw that his hair was sticking up in all directions, and yet couldn’t help but admit to myself that it looked pretty amazing just like that.
I bent over to grab an extra blanket that had fallen off of the bed during the night and wrapped it around myself quickly. “Come off it, Draco. You honestly don’t know what I am freaking out about?” I said breathlessly in frustration.
“Of course I know,” he whispered with a crooked smile as he ran his fingers through his attractive mess of hair. “I personally like it though,” he admitted with a laugh.
I nearly stamped my foot at him in anger. “Like what?” I asked him, moving towards the side of the bed furthest from the bedroom door, just in case I had to dive behind it if my mum or dad opened it.
“When you get all…angry like this. I’ve always liked it. It’s kind of hot,” he responded, his crooked smile becoming a full-blown grin. My mouth hung open in shock as my cheeks flared.
“Will you shut up?” I demanded in a hushed but frustrated tone. He continued to grin at me. I knew that he was doing it on purpose now. He bit his lip, as if trying to fight his smile as I listened carefully to what was going on down the hall and alternatively half-hid behind the bed and jumped up again. He started to laugh this time. I continued to look at him in shock, positive that I had never seen him so lighthearted and happy before.
“Merlin, I don’t understand what could possibly be funny. Do you want my parents to kill me? Because if they find me in here they will. I promise you that,” I said, wrapping the blanket tighter around my body so I could hide my nightdress beneath it.
My head shot up as I heard the bedroom door down the hall open. My mum was whispering to Collin as he cooed in her arms. A few moments later, I heard the shower turn on in my parent’s bathroom, and realized that my father was beginning his normal morning routine. Draco saw my face and immediately stood up, though maintaining absolute cool. He ran his fingers through his hair a few times and addressed me with a kiss.
“Listen, you crazy girl that I am madly in love with, I am going to go downstairs and offer to help with breakfast or something. You go back into your room and change. Then come down. All right?”
I nodded gratefully as he pecked me on the lips and slid past me towards the door. He gave me one last look before shutting it quietly behind him. I waited until I heard him go down the steps before quickly crossing the hall and entering my room. I breathed a sigh of relief, and immediately realized the mayhem inside me room that was a result of my search for the dress that I was currently wearing. I changed into my usual bedtime outfit- a pair of checkered pants and an old Chudley Cannons t-shirt that Ron had given me for Christmas one year- and walked up to the mirror. I inspected my morning mess of hair then quickly smoothed it and pulled it into a high ponytail.
Satisfied, I walked to the bathroom, washed up, and then made my way to the kitchen, where I could already smell the beginnings of breakfast. I planned on quickly greeting Draco and the rest of my family in the room, but as soon as I began to hear the conversation echoing down the halls from the kitchen, I came to a dead stop at the top of the stairs.
“I remember you, you know…from the station,” my mother was saying. The two were alone in the kitchen, speaking over the noise of sizzling bacon that was frying on the stove. I immediately started to speed my pace in order to stop the conversation, but then I doubled back and decided that I wanted to hear what the two had to say to one another. Plus, no matter what I did, my mum would say whatever she wanted to say to Draco. It was just the way she was.
Positive that I was not visible to the two people in the kitchen, I sat down slowly on the top step and held my breath to be sure that I could hear every word.
“Er- yes, I know,” Draco responded, clearly uncomfortable. I wanted to run down and stop the conversation before it went on any further, but I seemed to be paralyzed where I was seated.
“I also remember the horrible things Hermione said you had done to her and her friends over the years,” my mum continued nonchalantly, as if she was simply stating the obvious and there was no way around it.
“I…I can explain,” Draco started weakly. I never heard him sound so embarrassed before.
My mum paused before continuing. I could picture the look on her face; she was speculating Draco with narrow eyes as he tried to find the words, and then when he couldn’t respond to her, her suspicions were confirmed.
“We both know you can’t Draco. I know why you did all of those things. Because that is who you are,” she responded with determination in her voice. Even though she was nearly verbally harassing him, I couldn’t seem to move because I wanted to see how he would defend himself. More importantly, I wanted to see how he would defend us as our relationship went under fire.
There was a long silence before Draco worked up a valuable enough response. “Mrs. Granger, I understand why you are mad and that you don’t trust me,” he started.
“I don’t,” she reassured him. My heart ached for Draco; I could only imagine what he was feeling at that moment.
“Well, er, I just want to make sure you understand that what Hermione told you…that was who I was. But it isn’t who I am today.”
My mum didn’t respond, and I knew that she was waiting for him to continue.
“I swear that it isn’t. I’m different now.”
My mum sighed heavily. “You’re telling me that since I first saw you in September, you have become completely different?” she almost laughed in response to his claim. I was becoming slightly angry about the way she was behaving, but I knew that ever since she realized who Draco was, she had been waiting eagerly to question him.
“Yes.” Draco responded simply, but with feeling.
“How is that possible?” she shot back at him.
“What?” my mum answered in confusion, though I could tell that she was weakening slightly.
Draco took a sudden, deep breath in. I could tell he knew that he had said just the right thing. “Hermione. She’s how it’s possible. I changed because of her,” he said, and I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was regaining confidence in his argument against my mum. My mum failed to respond, and I knew that this time it was because she didn’t know what to say back to him. “She’s everything to me. Can’t you see that?” he added with force. I could feel my entire face flush with both embarrassment and affection.
There was a long, excruciating silence that followed his question. I began to tap my foot anxiously on the step beneath my foot, waiting impatiently for someone to speak up.
“You really love her, don’t you?” my mum asked gently all of a sudden, as if she could tell simply by the way Draco was looking at her. I raised my eyebrows in disbelief of what I was hearing.
“More than you can imagine,” Draco responded, and I could hear the relief in his voice.
“I don’t need to imagine,” she said, turning to a pan on the stove and stirring something frying in it. “I can see it all over your face.”
This time, Draco didn’t seem to have any words, so after another painfully long silence, my mother continued.
“I can see the way you look at her…the way the two of you look at each other. I reckon she’s never loved anyone as much as she’s loved you. I saw her with that red haired boy in the beginning of the year. They were like friends compared to what I see between you two. She must have really found something special,” my mum said, and I could tell by her tone that she was smiling now.
“I think it is the other way around, actually,” Draco responded quietly, and I couldn’t help but smile as I continued to listen to the conversation.
“Hermione? What are you doing hiding up here?” my dad said, all of a sudden emerging from behind me. I was so preoccupied with the kitchen conversation that I hadn’t even heard the shower turn off.
“I’m, er-,” I said, but I didn’t know how to explain myself other than by saying that I had been eavesdropping. I stood up to face my dad, and to my surprise, he was grinning at me.
“Your mum was just harassing your boyfriend, wasn’t she?” he asked me.
I smiled at him. “Yes, she was,” I responded, and somehow I felt like I was floating just above the ground. My mind was swirling with the wonderful comments the semi-hostile conversation had blossomed into.
“I knew she was going to do that,” he said, shaking his head slightly, “but I reckon it turned out all right?” he asked me, raising his eyebrows.
“Er- yes…how did you know?” I asked him curiously.
“Because I know she knows how much he loves you. She was just testing him,” he responded with a wink. I felt my cheeks flush again. “Let’s go help get breakfast ready, I’m starved,” he said, nodding his head in the direction of the hallway below us.
I followed him down to the kitchen, slightly embarrassed that I had heard the conversation that had taken place moments before my dad and I walked in. My mum and I exchanged the usual morning hugs and kisses, and acted as if she hadn’t just slightly harassed my boyfriend. I looked at Draco carefully, and he surprisingly looked perfectly content. I made sure to convey the message to him that I had heard the entire conversation. He made no obvious response from the look on my face. Instead he gave me a slight smile, wished me good morning, and then turned to place the fried eggs onto four separate plates next to the bacon my mum had cooked.
I watched him with wide eyes as he carried on nonchalantly. I was frustrated to have missed out on the last part of their conversation due to my father’s interruption of my nosiness. As Draco finished setting the plates, I slid them off of the counter and placed them onto our small dining table. As I walked by, I saw Collin resting happily in a bassinet next to the table; I bid him good morning with a smile.
I tried to get some response out of Draco when we all sat down to eat breakfast, but he was being impossibly difficult. I nudged his foot multiple times as he sat across from me while giving him a questioning expression. He sat there, conversing with my parents happily and chewing on his breakfast in a perfect mood and as lighthearted as I had ever seen him before. Every once in a while he would give me a toothless grin in between chews, and I sat there, grinding the bacon in between my teeth and raising my eyebrows at him and smiling back despite myself. I wasn’t sure why he was acting the way he was, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.
When breakfast was finished and the four of us cleaned up, my parents ushered us to go get ready for the day. As I made my way up the steps, I looked behind to see if Draco was following me, but he was no where to be found. I arched my neck and saw him lingering in the kitchen with my mother, talking about something I found no interest in. Frustrated and confused, I trudged up the stairs and walked into my bedroom, shutting the door behind me quickly.
I leaned back and fell onto my bed, looking up at the ceiling as I considered what could possibly me making Draco so bloody content all of a sudden. He did seem to be in a good mood that morning. Maybe it was just an extreme case of waking up on the right side of the bed. The lighthearted side of Draco was shocking, and I had to admit, completely contagious. There was no way he usually smiled as much as he did just this morning.
When I heard the door of my room open, I propped myself up with my forearms and saw Draco walking towards me. Unsurprisingly, he had that same smile plastered across his face.
“Hi, what are you-?” I started, but he had already grabbed my hands and pulled me up so that I was standing face-to-face with him. He silenced me with a quick, but ravenous kiss. I swallowed hard and gaped at him. “Draco...what happened to you?” I asked him quietly.
He shrugged, as if he didn’t know himself. “I just…thank you,” he responded.
“For what? I didn’t do anything!” I exclaimed as he wrapped his arm around my waist. I kept my hands on his chest so I could maintain enough of a distance to be able to decipher the look on his face.
“I love that you brought me here, I love your parents…I love you,” he said, drifting off, and seemed to be struggling with his explanation.
I raised my eyebrows again, watching him as he continued to look at me. “You’re so…happy,” I said, still taken aback by his behavior. “Why the sudden change of heart?”
“Your mum and I talked before you came down this morning, and I just started defending our relationship…and I realized how much our relationship matters to me, and I think that your mum realizes it, too.”
“Well that’s good!” I said, exasperated by his actions; he was so incredibly happy. I couldn’t help but feel happy as well.
“It’s like I just woke up…after a really long, unsatisfying sleep,” he continued to explain, his eyes darting all around my face. I couldn’t respond, my mouth hung open as his face showed a mixture of relief and cheerfulness. “I am so happy here. It is so different from my house and my family…this is like breath of fresh air. And to be here with you just adds to it. Your family approves of me, too. I don’t think I have ever seen someone like your mum be that approving of me.” I continued to let him speak, nodding my head at him, unable to find words as he rambled on about his realization. “I just…can’t imagine being more in love with someone,” he said seriously, staring deep into my eyes.
“Me neither,” I responded, cocking my head to the side, my smile fading as my heart beat magnified.
“I wish I could stay like this forever,” he whispered to me, his lips only centimeters from mine. I couldn’t respond because he had already begun to kiss me, his fingertips pressing lightly against my face as he pulled me as close to him as humanly possible.
When he pulled away, I couldn’t help but hive him a gaping smile, unable to contain how much his happiness was rubbing off on to me. “What happened to you?” I asked him excitedly.
He laughed, but then his face became serious. “I fell in love.” He said it as if he was stating the obvious, and that I should have known already what was causing him to act the way he was.
Draco and I looked at each other in silence in the moments after. Even though his behavior was completely out of sorts and almost hard to believe, I couldn’t help but understand why he was acting the way he was. I couldn’t even imagine what his home was like, with two parents who were Death Eaters. There was a reason why he felt like he had to mean and tough. For him to change so much, just from his experiences with my family and me, well, that had to mean he was encountering things he never had encountered before in his life. And it was clear that one of those things was unconditional love.
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