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Chapter 21 : Chapter Twenty
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The next morning was a mind tearing blur. Hermione had woken up in a completely temperamental state, having had one of the most stressful nights of her life. She woke up alone, in her own room, feeling uneasy and strange. To Hermione, her room felt like a strangers’ bedroom. Having spent the past week with Draco, she had forgotten how it felt to wake up alone, or without hearing the shower in the bathroom. Absentmindedly, her arm reached out to the right, only to feel the space of an empty bed. Normally, when she was the first to wake, she would wake up to Draco sleeping close behind her. Close enough to feel his breath against her neck. Mornings with Draco weren’t exactly the epitome of her perfect morning, but it was enough to make her happy for the rest of the day. It was a feeling that led Hermione to believe that she had simply grown attached to him. She had grown to accept the little things about him that absolutely drove her insane, that they no longer registered in her mind as annoying. She realized they had fallen into a routine that circulated around each other. They were both a large part of each others’ lives, making it insanely difficult to just forget.
The sun streaming in through the cracks of her curtains caused a feeling of nostalgia to hit Hermione. She suddenly wished she was beside Draco- her morning simply felt wrong without him.
Hermione turned to her right, mumbling to herself in her sleep once she heard their alarm clock go off. She pulled the sheets tighter around her, and crushed her head deeper into the soft pillows. Half awake, she sighed softly once her body recognized the familiar feeling of comfort, and smiled to herself. 'Now if only that bloody alarm clock would just shut up.' she thought to herself. About five minutes later, Hermione gave up in finding sleep, and took her wand from the bedside table, charming the alarm clock off. Her eyes fluttered open, and she found herself faced with Draco, who was still sleeping soundly beside her. Adjusting her sleepy eyes, she stared at him. Slowly, she took him in, her eyes trailing across the contours of the right side of his face. His blonde hair fell across his forehead, tousled slightly through sleep. He was shirtless, the only comfortable way for him to sleep. Her eyes ran over the muscle on his arms, and she noticed how pale his skin was. Hermione lifted her left hand, and carefully placed it beside Draco's, comparing their skin difference. She was tan, and he was like a white sheet compared to her.
She let her arm fall against his, her hands resting on his forearms. Her thumb traced along his veins, lingering on a faded scar that ran from his shoulder, down to his elbow. Hermione lifted her gaze from his scar, and back to his face. He was snoring softly, something that always bothered her about men. However, as she continued staring at his face, his snoring drowned out in her mind. His hand twitched against her arm, and her eyes returned down to his arm, immediately finding the scar. Her fingers continued to run along his scar, as if continuing the motion would eventually make it go away. Again, she moved her eyes back to his face, and noticed the frown that creased his forehead. She couldn't help but smile, realizing that he was dreaming. A muffled moan came from his lips, while he suddenly reached forward and draped his arm across Hermione's waist, causing her to laugh softly.
"You can stop pretending, I know you're not sleeping anymore." She whispered, her face now centimeters away from his. Draco's eyes didn't open like she had expected. Instead, he brought his face closer to hers, their noses touching. Hermione smiled again, and he let out a breath. "Draco," Hermione cooed playfully, and his arm wound tighter around her, pulling her body closer to his. "You're not very good at pretending." she continued, unable to wipe the smile off her face. "You're going to be late for work." Another frown came onto his face, but left quickly when Hermione began tracing small circles on his shoulder. "Your mum's going to come in here if you don't get up soon."
He groaned, and opened his eyes. "I forgot about my mother." he told her truthfully. "I don't want to go to work. I want to stay in bed."
Hermione laughed quietly. "You sound like a child, Draco." She commented, her fingers now tracing his collarbone absentmindedly. "You have to go to work today, or else your father will be angry."
"No." he pouted, closing his eyes. "He can get on without me. I'm going to stay home today."
She laughed again. "You didn't go to work for the last two days," She reminded him. "You at least have to go to work today." Absentmindedly, her fingers moved lightly along his collar bone, and up his neck, moving up and down.
Draco opened his eyes and immediately found Hermione looking directly at him. "What are your plans for today?" he asked, reaching up, and stopping Hermione's hand from moving further down his neck. "Granger, stop that. You're driving me insane." he mumbled, forcing Hermione to smirk triumphantly. "If I go to work, I suggest you leave as well."
"Maybe I’ll go to the Burrow, and visit the Weasleys. I haven't seen Ted in a long while." Hermione answered, their voices in hushed whispers. Once his hand slipped away from hers and back down to the waist, she continued her ministrations, lightly moving her hand across his skin. "And Ginny wanted to speak to me as well." He nodded in response, but didn't seem to comprehend anything Hermione said to him. Draco continued looking at her, his eyes moving down her cheek and to her lips."We should really get out of bed before your mum comes in here again."
Reluctantly, Draco nodded, and unwrapped his arm from Hermione. Hermione was the first to roll out of bed. She pushed the sheets off her body, and sat up, lingering on top of the sheets. The sun had already risen, its rays coming in through the window, shining on Hermione. She slowly turned around to face him, noticing that he hadn't moved. "C'mon, get up!"
Draco stared at her - it was difficult not to. The sun emphasized the brownness of her hair and the softness of her skin. He had never seen anyone look so beautiful right when they woke up. "Your hair is brown." he found himself saying, as he continued to stare at her.
Hermione laughed. "It's always been brown. Now c'mon!" she exclaimed standing up. "Fine, I'll shower first. You better be out of bed by the time I’m done."
Humming softly to herself, she stood by the foot of the made bed, with her hair wrapped in a towel, and a thin robe covering her body. She threw a white, high waist skirt, with blue patterns on the bed before she walked back to the dresser, pondering over a top. She pulled a plain white v-neck shirt from a small pile, and threw it on top of the skirt.
Draco walked out of the steaming shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. His wet hair was a mess on top of his head, and there was still a slight layer of water on his body. He glanced at Hermione who was hunched over the bottom drawer of the dresser, rummaging through her belongings. Upon noticing Draco walk by, she lifted her eyes for a moment, and couldn't help but stare at him. A smirk immediately found its way onto Draco's face. "Like what you see, Hermione?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
In any other circumstances, she would have yelled at him for being an arrogant, pompous bastard. But surprisingly, she had gotten used to his arrogant remarks, and simply laughed them off without giving them a second thought. A small laugh escaped Hermione's lips, and she moved her eyes back into the drawer, continuing to rummage through several pairs of socks. Draco walked over to his own dresser and quickly chose a pair of jeans, and a black long sleeve shirt. "What are you looking for?" he asked, walking past her and dropping his clothes on the bed. He heard Hermione mumble something from the floor, but he couldn't hear her. "What?" he asked, chuckling slightly, catching the irritable tone of her voice.
"Black stockings." She answered shortly, and she continued rummaging through the drawer.
Draco rolled his eyes and walked over, picking up something thin and black from the corner of the drawer. "Are you looking for these?' he asked, holding it up closer to her face.
Her eyes brightened and she took the stockings from his hands. "Yes!" she exclaimed, and shut the drawer loudly. A comfortable silence fell upon them as they got dressed. Every now and then, Hermione would glance at Draco, noticing how easy it was for them to do this. As she pulled her stockings over her knees, she smiled softly to herself, thinking about their mornings for the rest of their marriage. "Pass me my watch, please?" she asked from his side of the bed. She took his watch from beside the lampshade, and turned to him just as he held out her watch for her to take. They exchanged watches, and slowly clasped them onto their wrists. "Don't forget those lists of food your mum was asking you to buy." she reminded him as she pulled her boots onto her feet.
"And you've got to come back early to make dinner." he said, pulling his jacket from the small closet by the door. "Or mum will throw a fit."
She nodded, and they both exited the bedroom, making their way to the kitchen. Slightly teasing each other, they both made themselves coffee. As Hermione found herself pouring the wrong flavor of coffee cream in her mug, she abruptly reached forward and switched cups with Draco. "I accidentally put that hazel nut thing in there." she explained, taking a sip of Draco's already made coffee.
"No wonder I couldn't find it." he shook his head and taking a sip of his coffee. "I thought I was going to have you use that vanilla thing you put in your ruddy coffee. This is good by the way." Draco commented, holding up the mug in his hands. "When are you going to leave?" He walked over to the table, looking for the Daily Prophet, and frowned when all he found was mail. "Hermione, where's the-" he turned around to find the Prophet already in Hermione's hands. Chuckling, Draco leaned against the edge of the table and drank more of his coffee. He examined Hermione, watching as she read the front page news. Her hair fell over her face, one side tucked behind her ear. She opened the prophet wider, and her eyes scanned the rest of the news. Without tearing her eyes from the page, she reached to the side and pulled her coffee from the counter, and brought it to her lips. "Don't you miss Hogwarts?" she asked suddenly, looking up at him with a smile.
"Yes," he nodded, smiling back at her.
"I should get going." she told him, folding up the Prophet and handing it to Draco. She grabbed her bag from the table and finished her coffee, placing it in the sink. "Have fun. I should be back around six." she gave him a small smile, and without thinking, she gave him a peck on the cheek, and quickly strode out of the kitchen.
It only took a week for them to grow accustomed to each other. Waking up next to Draco immediately became a permanent part of her morning, and it was a strange feeling - waking up alone. To get dressed without steam crawling out of the bathroom as Draco showered, to find her watch in their bedroom without his help was weird to think about. For Hermione, it would even be difficult to get through the day without his idiotic, arrogant, pompous and sarcastic remarks. The more time she spent with him, the more she found his arrogance hilarious, instead of annoying. Hermione shut her eyes tightly, and wondered what things will be like when they weren't together anymore. What Hermione failed to realize however, was how much it would hurt when Draco was no longer by her side. For a few moments, she laid on her bed, staring at the white ceiling, thinking about how difficult things were getting for Draco and her. She groaned, and rolled to her side, wanting to disappear into her bed for the rest of the day. Hermione pulled her thick blankets over her head and closed her eyes, hoping to find more sleep.
“Granger,” Hermione’s eyes flew open, upon hearing her name. She pulled the covers off of her slowly, and sat up in a sitting position to face Draco. He strode into her room and sat down on the side of her bed. “I’m going to ask you one last time – what happened last night?” his tone took Hermione off guard. It almost sounded threatening. “And tell me the truth.” he added shortly after.
She sighed once she saw the Daily Prophet folded up in his hands. “I guess you saw the Prophet, huh?” she whispered, unable to find her voice. “I think you can read everything there.” Hermione told him, pointing a finger towards the prophet.
Draco released the prophet, leaving it by Hermione’s feet. He propped up his elbows on his knees, and dropped his head in his hands. “Hermione, tell me what happened.” He requested, his voice turning softer, more pleading. “I’d rather hear what you have to say, rather than the Prophet.”
“What’s the point, Draco?” she asked, playing with the ends of her hair. “Why does what I say matter? You read the Prophet, you know what happened. And so does the rest of the wizarding world.”
From in front of her, Draco examined her guilt stricken face. It was obvious that she wanted all of this to go away just as much as he did. There was no question that she regretted ever leaving his side last night, even though it wasn’t her fault. Her big brown eyes spoke the truth, and it took all the willpower Draco was able to muster, in order to prevent himself from reaching out and comforting Hermione as best as he could. He wanted to reach forward, and grab her hand to tell her that everything would be okay. He wanted to wrap his arms around her, and hold her to make every obstacle they faced, disappear. “Hermione,” He began. “Tell me what happened.”
Hermione took a breath, and looked up at him with wide eyes. “I spoke to Miranda and Wesley that night.” She began, choosing her words, careful not to anger Draco. “Wesley knows about the fake marriage, however I’m not sure if he told Miranda. A reporter was following us, hiding somewhere, and I didn’t realize it. But he eventually found me when no one else did, and he figured it all out – he pieced it all together into what is now the front page of the Daily Prophet.”
“What did Wesley and Miranda say to you?” he questioned quietly. “Hermione, tell me what they said.” Draco pushed, after a few moments of silence passed.
“They didn’t tell me anything important.” Hermione replied in a whisper. “Wesley told me to leave you. He told me he knew the truth, and told me to leave you.” As her eyes followed the movement she spotted, she saw Draco’s knuckles squeezed together tightly, turning white. "I guess a reporter followed us there and heard everything, which would explain why they now know that this whole thing is fake."
“And Miranda?” he asked, his body tensing. “What did she say to you?”
She shrugged. “She told me to be careful, because things are going to get worse.” Her stomach twisted into knots upon remembering the truth of Miranda’s words. Draco shut his eyes tightly, and clasped his hands together. “Draco,” Hermione whispered. “Will they never go away?” she asked, staring at him. “Will this never go away? Is it going to be like this for the next few years? Are we going to have to deal with reporters following us around, every day?”
The pain Draco felt upon hearing her words, surprised him greatly. A few months ago, he would’ve laughed at the thought of finding it difficult to let go of Hermione. He would’ve laughed if someone were to say that he would be lost without her by his side. He didn’t think much of it then, however, now, it was difficult to think of his life without her. “It will get better.” He replied, staring down at the carpeted floor. “I promise, it will.” As he looked at her, he sensed doubt and regret. He knew she’s been having second thoughts, and the time he would have to let her go was nearing. But how could he ever let her go, if she became the source of his happiness?
“But until then?” she asked, shifting his legs beneath her blanket. “What will happen?”
“We’re going to have to deal with it.” Draco answered. “What are you thinking about, Hermione?” he asked her.
Hermione’s eyes shifted towards him, and she watched as he clenched his hands together tightly. “Draco, your father and mother will be furious.” She said. “You’re already walking on a rather thin line at work, and now this comes out?”
He shrugged. “I could care less about who takes over after my father takes leave.”
“But your father wa-”
Draco interrupted her before she could finish her sentence. “I don’t care about what my father wants.” He snapped angrily. “They’ve never given a second thought to the things I want. If they did, then they wouldn’t be forcing his bloody company into my hands.”
“What do you want?” She questioned. “What are you planning on doing with your life? Continue working in your father’s company in the very position you’re in now?”
“I want to make my own decisions.” Draco replied quickly. He stood up, and grabbed the Daily Prophet from her bed. “I don’t want to live my life with someone else telling me what to do, every single bloody day of my life.” He threw the Daily Prophet in the disposal bin beside Hermione’s bedside table. “I don’t want you reading the Prophet.” He said, with his back to her. “It won’t do you any good. It fell into the wrong hands a couple of years ago, anyway.” Draco left quietly, closing her door behind him.
He walked into the kitchen, and straight into the cupboard, pulling out a bottle of fire whiskey. “Well Draco, who knew things, would all come to this?” Draco turned around at the sound of the voice, and narrowed his eyes once he saw Wesley Carrow sitting by the dining room table. “Morning, Draco.” He greeted pleasantly.
“What are you doing here?” he snapped, downing half the bottle in one sip. “Get out.” Draco ordered. He noticed Wesley sitting on the chair, unmoving. “Carrow, are you bloody deaf? I said get the fuck out.”
Wesley sighed and shifted his gaze away from Draco. “Draco, I came here to ask a favor of you.” He said, folding his hands on the table. “And I’d like you to agree to it.”
Draco scoffed irritably. “What the fuck makes you think that I will ever agree to a favor you ask of me?” his retort was vicious, and full of malice. “Don’t make me say this again, Carrow. Get the fuck out of my apartment.” The bottle of whiskey was empty by the time he finished his sentence. No matter how much it burned his throat, Draco needed more of it. He had the strangest urge to get piss drunk, just to forget the world. “Get out!”
However, Wesley sat on the chair, staring up at Draco calmly. “I want you to let Hermione go.” He continued. “I want you to stop this nonsense, and let her go. She doesn’t deserve this Draco, she deserves better than you do.” Draco didn’t reply. “Let her go. She’ll lose herself if she stays in your family. You know as well as I do that this is not good for her.”
“Get out, Carrow.” Draco fumed, obviously uninterested with his proposal.
“Let her go.” Wesley repeated. “Let her go. You know very well that she wants to be free.”
Draco pulled another bottle of fire whiskey from the cupboard. He cooled it with his wand and uncapped the bottle, taking a long sip. “You don’t know what she wants.” He growled.
“Oh and you do?” his tone caused Draco to squeeze his hand tightly, causing his knuckles to turn white. “You don’t know anything about her,” he continued. “Now go, before I throw you out myself.”
Wesley finally stood up, and began making his way to the door. “She won’t be going anywhere.” Draco informed him. “She’ll be staying right here with me – I will assure you of that.”
Wes scoffed. “You’re seriously going to sit here and keep her prisoner until you’re done screwing with her?” he snapped, his tone turning angry. “What if she wants to leave? Will you let her go then?”
“But I don’t.” Draco and Wesley both turned to the hallway, finding Hermione standing before them, her hands folded in front of her chest. “Wesley, I appreciate the fact that you care, but I think it’s best that you leave.” She said softly. “Now.” Her eyes bore into his, and she hoped he was able to see the apologetic gleam in her eyes.
Before Wesley began to walk to the front door, he turned to Draco. "Remember what I told you, Draco." he said softly, almost inaudible. He turned to Hermione, giving her one last look before he continued walking down the hallway and out of their flat.
Relief washed over Draco as he watched Hermione stare after Wesley. He took a step forward, wanting to take her into his arms and hold her as long as he possibly could. He wanted to thank her for staying with him, after everything they've been through. But he couldn't. His eyes were fixed on Hermione, watching her pour herself a cup of warm coffee. Draco had seen her do this several times, that he could perfectly predict what she was about to do next. She reached for the sugar on the counter, taking two spoonfuls and dropping it in the mug, followed by the crème she had extracted from the refrigerator. She stirred the coffee longer than he had expected, and he knew she was pondering deeply. Her eyes were glued on the counter top, her head slightly bent to the right. Without pulling her out of her thoughts, Draco pulled his wand from his back pocket and pointed it to the mug in her hands.
Hermione shook herself from her thoughts, and turned to look at him with a confused look on his face. "I thought you might like it hot." Draco explained, pocketing his wand. He watched as she gave him a small, grateful smile before she walked out of the kitchen, and into the sitting room. Normally, Draco would've followed her in, settle beside her, and do anything he could to make her feel better. As he watched her leave, he knew there was something wrong, and this time - he wouldn't be able to fix it.
The Daily Prophet practically glowed with potential, sitting on top of Miranda's desk. She stared at the front page, drowning with delightfulness as she sat back and admired her handiwork. She didn't expect the article to become this impressive. She had undeniably underestimated the reporter she hired, and it was by far, the best idea she's had in weeks. A knock on her door broke her from her thoughts. She looked out the window, and noticed the rain pouring harshly against the pavement. "Who is it?" she called, walking towards the door. "Wesley." A drenched Wesley Carrow was standing in her doorway, looking extremely livid. He glared at her, holding a damp, folded Daily Prophet in his right hand. "What are you doing here?" she questioned, keeping the door shut a reasonable amount.
Wesley pushed the door opened, forcing Miranda to stumble back slightly. "What do you think you're bloody playing at?" he snapped, throwing the Prophet at her, causing some rain water to splash on her face. "I specifically told you last night, Miranda. Leave Hermione out of whatever the hell you were plotting!" he bellowed, pushing his wet hair out of his face. "What the hell is the matter with you, don't you even think at all?"
She peeled the Prophet opened, and her eyes landed on the picture on the front page. A smirk formed on her face as she read the headlines, followed by the article. "Well, she got what she asked for." Miranda said with a smirk still plastered on her face. "And if you don't remember Carrow, I told you last night that if Granger is inflicted in any way, it will be your fault - not mine." she pointed to the third paragraph. "You see there?" she asked shoving the Prophet to his chest, and walking around him. "You're the one that told her you knew that this whole thing is fake. I honestly knew nothing about it. Well, I had a feeling there was something behind their sudden engagement, but I only supposed it was Grangers doing. And now the entire wizarding community knows." she laughed menacingly. "I even told you that I would give those reporters something for their front page. So in the end, Carrow- you're the one that spilled the beans. You're the one that made this plan of mine work ten times better than I expected." Miranda smirked, and took a sip of her coffee, before sitting down on the couch, crossing her legs. "You're the one that brought the pain on the girl you love." the word 'love' rolled off her tongue sweetly, almost tauntingly, as she thought of Wesley's obvious feelings for Hermione.
"Yes but this-" he began, throwing the paper on the coffee table. "Is going too far. Do you realize that Draco will never, ever get his company off his father's hands now? The board would never ever give up the company to him if this is all they see." Wesley cried, bending down to meet her gaze. His black cloak was still dripping wet from the pouring rain. "Did you even stop for a moment to think that your father will take over the company, and all the shareholders that are involved? It will leave the Malfoys' with absolutely nothing."
Completely unfazed by this bit of information, Miranda took the Prophet, and threw it in the disposal bin. "I thought you wanted them apart." she said, glaring at Wesley. "You wanted Granger all to yourself and you will. I promise you Carrow, you will have her by the end of this week." she took another sip of her coffee. "Draco will have no other choice but to break it off with Granger, and do all he can to regain the company back to his name, which brings us back to the part where Draco comes crawling back to me." Miranda smirked at her plan, thinking about the several different ways she could force Draco to beg for her to take him back. "It won't come easy for him, but I’ll eventually let him come back to me."
He scoffed. "You don't think he's already figured out what you've done?" He stood up, and began pacing in front of her. "Draco's not daft, Miranda. I'm sure Hermione would've told him by now what happened, and he'll figure it all out." Wesley told her. "I've already gone there, and he has no intention of letting Hermione go, even if she wanted to. They're bound by a contract - don't you remember? A magical contract, which has rules - and it won't be broken unless Draco agrees to let Hermione go."
"Believe me, Carrow." Miranda snapped. "Granger will be wanting her old life back. Don't you see it in her eyes? The bloody wretch is afraid, and she knows it. She's going to want to go back to her old friends, and back into the arms of Weasley. Trust me; she will want to give this up."
Wesley stared at her incredulously. He thought many things of this woman; however, he never thought she would jeopardize the Malfoys hold on their own company. "At what cost?" he asked her. "How much further are you planning to go, just to get Draco back? You've already gone far enough to leave Draco and his family with absolutely nothing. What more can you possibly do?" He found his words dripping with disdain once he realized how selfish Miranda was being. "And," he continued before Miranda could say any more. "Just because Hermione will want to give it all up, doesn't mean he will too."
"For the sake of his family, he will let her go." she answered nonchalantly, looking away from Wesley. "He won't have another choice but to let her go."
"I don't understand, Miranda." Wesley said, turning to her and crossing his arms. "If you were going to want Draco back this badly, then why did you screw it up with him before? You cheated on him! With me of all people." Nostalgia kicked in, and he felt guilty for all his wrong doings back in their seventh year at Hogwarts. "I gave you the choice, and you wanted it. You didn't even bother hiding it from Pansy, or Blaise. This is your own fault - yet you're acting as though someone just snatched Draco from you. You're the one that left him, remember?"
Anger bubbled inside her, and she stood up, glaring at Wesley. "She did snatch Draco away from me." she snapped. "Why should a girl like her end up marrying a man like Draco? What has she ever done to deserve someone as good as Draco?"
Wesley laughed loudly. "And you think you do." he continued laughing. "You made him suffer for years when you left, and you think that you deserve him? Hermione's got a good heart, and that's a lot more than what you've got. Maybe that's why Draco loves her and not you."
Through impulse, Miranda drew her arm back and slapped Wesley right across the face. Her cheeks had grown red, and her breaths were heavy. "Get out." she ordered, seething. Wesley needn't be told twice. With one last glare at Miranda, he quickly walked out of her flat, and back into the pouring rain. As she watched Wesley's cloak disappear as the door shut behind him, she immediately fell to the floor, her elbow colliding the soft cushion of the couch. Tears immediate sprung from her eyes, and a sob escaped her throat. "I'm not heartless." she said loudly, as if she was trying to convince herself. "I have a right to fight for what I want." she continued. "I deserve Draco. I always deserved Draco." Tears continued to stream down her face, dropping into her open palms. Her cries filled her flat, matching the steady drops of the rain, sliding down her window.
Ron Weasley stood outside a large white door, and gulped loudly, nervous of what was to come. After reading the Daily Prophet earlier that morning, he grew worried as to how Hermione was holding up. He knew she was incredibly strong and independent, but what he wondered, was how much more she could take she would break. He lifted his large fist, and softly knocked on the door. He silently hoped that Draco wasn't home - not wanting to have to deal with any questions that might come from him. As he waited for the door to open, he shook the rain from his hair and his jacket, feeling idiotic for not thinking about bringing an umbrella when it was pissing rain outside. After not seeing Hermione for a while, he wasn't sure what to do when he decided to visit her for the very first time. He was caught in between buying her some sweets or a couple of flowers in the streets. He decided to stop by a small coffee shop, purchasing two cups of decaf coffee, and two slices of chocolate cake.
After waiting for a few more moments, no one came to answer to door. He decided to just let himself in, and he pulled out his wand and muttered "Alohamora,", and the lock clicked open. He slowly opened the door, and poked his head inside. "Hermione?" It was completely silent in the flat. Ron stepped inside, and shook off the water one more time, before he continued deeper into the apartment. "Hermione?" he called again, this time louder. He looked to the right, and let out a sigh of relief once he saw Hermione sound asleep on the sofa. He walked over and set the food on the coffee table, before he shrugged off his jacket, and set it on the coat by the corner. Walking towards Hermione, he smiled slightly once he saw a book opened up on her stomach, and her reading glasses slightly askew on the bridge of her nose. He reached forward and took the book from her body, closing it, and placing it by the coffee he brought over. Next, he carefully tried to pull the glasses from her face, when she suddenly woke up with a jerk.
"Ron?" she mumbled tiredly, sitting up immediately. "What are you doing here?" she asked, confused as she pulled the glasses from her face, and wiped the sleep out of her eyes. "Oh dear, it's raining." She muttered, looking towards the window. "What are you doing here?" Hermione asked again.
Ron gave her a small smile, and sat down by her feet. "I saw the paper this morning, and I decided to come by and see how you were doing." he said nervously. "I missed you the last time you visited at the Burrow, so I haven't seen you in a while." He glanced at the coffee on the table. "I brought you some coffee!" he said brightly. "I figured I needed something sweet to cheer you up."
Hermione smiled, and took the coffee from Ron's extended hands. "Thank you, Ron." she smiled, taking a small sip. It tasted bitter- much too bitter for her liking. "I really appreciate you coming over." She continued, and placed a hand on his.
"I brought you some chocolate cake as well." he said, pulling out a clear plastic container, with a slice of chocolate cake inside. "Err, you like chocolate, right?" She laughed and nodded, taking another sip of the coffee.
She suddenly remembered the white chocolate Draco had brought over for her the last time it rained. It tasted heavenly, along with the cheesecake. Smiling to herself, a strange feeling of happiness spread through her body upon the thought of Draco's perfect choice. In all honesty, she didn't like chocolate as much as she used to - it simply gave her headaches when she ate something that was too full of chocolate. She was getting tired of coffee as well - the bitterness of the drink tasting worse and worse in her mouth.
“To tell you the truth, Hermione- I half expected this place to be swarmed with photographers.” He said, looking around their flat, carefully examining it.
Hermione chuckled lightly. “They don’t know where we live- thank goodness for that.” She replied. “Draco put charms around this place before he left, just in case they figured it out.”
They fell into an awkward silence. Hermione slowly drank the coffee Ron gave her, and he continued raking his eyes around the flat. Once his eyes rested on hers, his expression changed. "Is there anything wrong?" Ron asked, staring at her.
Hermione quickly looked up and shook her head. "No, everything's fine." she gave him a small smile, and looked down at her hands. "How's Gin and Harry?"
"They're alright. They're pretty worried about you though." he said. "Gin was furious when she saw the paper. She owled Pansy right away, and well - I didn't really bother to pay much attention to her after that. I sort of learned to stay out of Ginny's way when she's ticked off." Hermione let out a small laugh, remembering the times they all spent together in the Burrow, when Ron would purposely do something that would get Ginny raging mad. "So how are you holding up?" he asked, looking around their flat. "Malfoy treating you alright?"
She nodded, without any sign of hesitation. "Draco's been great." Hermione told him.
Ron sighed, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. "You know, I never really liked the thought of you together. I still don't really trust that git."
Hermione found herself rolling her eyes at their old never-ending rivalry. "Yes, I know. You threw a fit when I told you the news. But you know Ron, Draco really takes care of me." she whispered, suddenly realizing that he wasn't home. "Even though I don't know where he is right now," she frowned. "He treats me well."
"So that's it, huh?" he asked, leaning back against the couch, and draping his arm over the back. "You're really going to marry him? No second thoughts at all?"
Sighing, Hermione shrugged and leaned back against the square pillows. "Of course I'm having second thoughts, but they're not about Draco." she found herself saying. "I just don't know if I’m ready to give up my life just yet." Hermione told him. As she looked up to face Ron, she suddenly saw everything that she was missing. She saw the laughter he used to bring out in her, and the petty arguments they used to have. She saw Harry and Ginny in his eyes, the couple sitting before them, laughing and talking about the future- just as they always did. She saw her ambition to become an auror, a dream that she was forced to momentarily give up, due to the difficulties she had to face. Days by the lake in the Burrow, where the four of them sat under the large oak tree, completely absorbed in each other's company, haunted Hermione's mind. She saw Ron's big blue eyes, beckoning her to return to the Burrow, and never leave the life she had there. "There's so much that I'm giving up."
Ron chuckled, as if he knew what she was going to say. "Hermione, that's the deal with getting married." he said. "Even if it's not Malfoy you're marrying- there will always be something that you would have to give up. But in your case, you can restart your life again in a year or two."
"And live my life in chaos for the next few years?" she whispered, afraid to speak of her fears. She tore her eyes away from Ron, afraid to see any more reasons why she should leave Draco and run away- run back to Ron. "With reporters following us everywhere and the pressure of having to become the perfect wife for Draco. We can't do this, we can't do that - we have to keep appearances, we have to go to this party, we have to go to this Gala, there's just so much that I can't keep up with!" Hermione dropped her head against the pillow, and came face to face with the ceiling. "I wasn't made for this lifestyle, Ron." she continued softly. "I wasn't made to play a Malfoy. Malfoy's are perfect, well educated, clean-cut and pure. There's no way that I can be any of that. I'm Hermione Granger."
In response, Ron nodded. "That's right. You're Hermione Granger." he looked forward, and looked straight out the window. "You're the girl that never gives up or runs away. You're the girl that has no fears, because you know to face them and move on. You're the Hermione Granger. The smartest witch I know. Any Malfoy should be damn lucky to have you as a wife." Hermione smiled. "Look, I'm not going to convince you to stay here, because well - I don't really trust Malfoy. I'm not going to convince you to leave him either, because then Ginny will kill me, and Harry will have absolutely no say in the matter because he's afraid of her. But what I am going to tell you is that you always knew what you want. It seems like Malfoy's brought out the worst in you - and yet, he makes you happier than I've ever seen you." A slight hint of sadness could be heard in his voice, and it was enough to tear open Hermione's heart. "You always did whatever you wanted, and what you knew was right. You should continue acting upon it, not following behind Malfoy's decision. But Hermione, I don't want you thinking that you're in this situation without a choice. You always have a choice. You can choose to leave him, or you can stay." he spoke as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
"Since when did you get so smart, Ron?" Hermione laughed.
He sighed. "Honestly, I have no clue. I'd want nothing more than for you to leave the git- but like I said, Ginny will kill me if I manage to convince you to do that. She rather temperamental at the moment, and I really don’t want to have to deal with her anger right now."
Hermione laughed again, but her laughed ceased as she heard the front door open, and shut loudly. Both Ron and Hermione turned to see Draco standing by the door, shrugging off his coat as he examined the scene before him. "Hi." she greeted, smiling softly at him.
"Malfoy." Ron said from the couch. Slowly comprehending the awkwardness of the situation, Ron stood up and grabbed his coat off the rack. "Well, this is my cue to leave. Come by the Burrow again soon, okay? We're always there." He walked forward, and enveloped Hermione into a tight hug, kissing the top of her head. "I'll see you around." he began walking to the door. "Malfoy." and with that, he left.
Draco slowly hung his wet coat on the rack, and sat down on the couch beside Hermione, slightly confused as to why Ron Weasley was in his house. "Why was he here?" he questioned, frowning, his mind replaying the kiss he gave her.
"In attempt to cheer me up." she answered, absentmindedly sitting up, and moving closer to Draco on the couch. "He brought over some cake and coffee." she pointed to the chocolate cake on the coffee table. "It was rather sweet. But honestly, I’m getting a bit tired of coffee." Hermione admitted quietly, looking up at Draco.
He laughed, and placed a brown paper bag in front of Hermione, followed by a plastic cup filled with a thick, pink, liquid. "I had a feeling you'd want something else other than coffee." he said. "I had this the other day, and it's really good. It's a strawberry milkshake. And I got you some more cheesecake." Hermione beamed as she peeked through the opening of the paper bag. "I thought you might like something sweet, you looked pretty down this morning." Draco explained to her quietly.
"Where did you go?" Hermione asked, pulling the cheesecake from the bag, followed by a plastic fork she fished out from the bottom. "I fell asleep, and then when I woke up, you were gone."
He nodded. "I accidentally agreed to an interview with the Daily Prophet scheduled for tomorrow." Draco admitted. "Well, it wasn't an accident, but it was before anything had gotten out in the paper. I went over to try and cancel the interview, but they wouldn't have it. They're too interested in us now." He finished, looking rather angry. "They'll be coming here tomorrow at noon."
In the midst of chewing, Hermione stopped and stared at him. "What are we going to do?" she questioned softly. "They know everything about it now, so what do we tell them tomorrow?"
"The truth- it's all we can say." he answered. "It will be futile to continue lying like this. Especially since Wesley let contract slip." She nodded, and Draco wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and drew her closer to him. "Just tell the truth tomorrow Hermione - I would hate to ask you to continue lying." he whispered. "I know you hate lying, and you're pretty bad at it too."
Hermione playfully smacked Draco's stomach. "Hey, I'll have you know that I’m an amazing liar." she retorted with a 'humph', settling closer into him. They fell into a comfortable silence, as Hermione continued eating the dessert Draco had bought for her. Laying her head on his shoulder, her body impulsively molded against him, and her body immediately became attuned to his. Their heartbeats grew into synch along with their movements. For the first time in a few days, Hermione felt at home. After she placed the plastic container back on the table, she leaned back against him and breathed in his musky scent. Sighing with content, she pushed her head further into his neck. "Things can only get better, right?" she whispered, her lips practically grazing across his skin. She felt Draco nod, his arm tightening around her. He pulled her legs over, and draped them over his, making her more comfortable beside him.
"Did you mean what you said this morning?" he began, feeling slightly flustered by the closeness of her lips to his skin. "You're not going to leave?"
She frowned against his neck, her forehead creasing slightly. “Do you want me to?” Hermione asked, confused. As always, her fingers made their way to the back of his hand, slowly tracing over the patterns on his skin, as if she was trying to memorize it. She appreciated the coarseness, finding the way it felt against her fingers, interesting.
“No for course not,” Draco answered immediately, his eyes moving to his hand in hers. “But I can’t think of anyone who would willingly stay for this.” He brought her body closer to hers. “You can’t blame me for wondering why you’re willing to stay for this.” Draco finished with a whisper.
“I don’t want to leave you, Draco.” Hermione said after a short moment of silence. “As much as I would want to run away from all this,” she realized the impact of her words. She realized that this was the big decision she was so hesitant to make. What scared her most was how easily she said no to the only chance she had to turn away. “I don’t want to leave you. Believe it or not, I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to you or me.” Draco studied her carefully as she pondered to herself for a moment. Hermione bit her bottom lip and looked down at her hands. “I mean, who’s going to find my socks for me when I can’t find them in the morning? Who else am I going to trade my coffee with when I realize that I put the wrong coffee crème in? No one else in this world is going to come home and bring me strawberry milkshake with a slice of cheesecake on a rainy day." He could almost see a pout playing on her lips. "Believe it or not, you're the only one that knows what I like, and when I like it." she admitted, her tone playful. "If I end up with anyone else, they will be coming home to bring me a slice of chocolate cake and some more bitter coffee."
Staring down at her, he felt happy. As her words sunk into his mind, he found himself smiling, as his right hand found the side of her cheek, he carefully pushed her face up in order to meet his. Before he knew what he was doing, he kissed her.
It wasn't like their last few kisses. There wasn't any sign of lust or the simple feeling of want. There was something so much more than that, that Draco just couldn’t find the words to explain. There was the sense of security, and the feeling of passion growing in between them. With each second that passed by, he pulled her as close to him as possible, knowing that he will never want to let her go. She responded with similar sensuality, indulging herself in the feeling of their lips pressed together. For a long moment, Draco regretted the lack of appreciation he showed towards Hermione. He wanted to prove that he could be so much more than what he was, and all he needed was her by his side. There was no doubt that he had fallen for her- it was a simple fact that he had chosen to push aside ever since their first week together as a 'couple'. However, now - as they kissed passionately on their couch, in their flat, Draco couldn't push the thought out of his mind anymore. He couldn't sit beside her, and continue to pretend that they were simply part of a lie. Because in fact, their situation that was once a lie, soon turned to the truth.
Unable to pull herself back down to reality, Hermione clung onto the only thing she knew was real. Her hands pulled Draco's face closer to hers, and her arm twisted around his neck, refusing to let him go. In her mind, she knew that this was wrong. There was just so many things wrong with kissing what she knew was a lie. But she couldn't stop. His scent intoxicated her, drawing her closer and closer to him; so close, that she couldn't find her way back anymore. Once their lips met softly, there was no denying the familiar feeling of desire that ran through Hermione's body. She desired him, in the most nonsexual way possible. While time progressed in agonizing bliss, she could not help but believe that this was the only thing she knew. Draco's lips were the only thing that kept her feet planted on the ground, yet to her, his lips were a part of something unreal. How could she be standing in a dream and in reality at the same time? But as she caught herself sighing, she noticed the familiarity between their bodies, moving in synch as if they both knew exactly what the other needed. Would it be like this forever? Could their bodies and minds stay so adapted to each other for the next couple of years, or will they finally break from the dream they're in, and allow Hermione to walk back into the life she once knew?
He practically groaned with agony as he slowly pulled them apart. He needed more of her; he needed her closer to him. He watched as Hermione's eyes fluttered open, capturing his attention yet again. "Hermione," he croaked, his voice hoarse and ragged. Draco closed his eyes tightly, and leaned his forehead against Hermione's. "I don't think I can live without you." he whispered, his eyes still shut. "I can't - it's too difficult to imagine my life without this, without us."
Despite her heart screaming in agreement, she stared at him with wide eyes. Slowly, she untangled her body from his, and crawled backwards to the edge of the couch. "What?" she whispered, completely betraying her heart, and listening to the logical reasoning in her mind.
Slowly, his eyes opened, and immediately found hers like a magnet. "I- the day you leave," he began, breathing roughly and unevenly. "The day you leave, I won't be able to bear it. I need you, Hermione. I honestly need you. I never thought it would come to this, I didn't expect t-" before he was able to finish his sentence, she kissed him again. Launching herself from the other end of the couch, her hands immediately found their place in his hair, and her lips automatically found his. His hands gripped her hips tightly, pulling her on top of him as he leaned back against the cushions.
In her mind, she knew this was wrong. She knew how deep they had both gotten, and she knew better than to give into temptation and make them both fall any deeper. But as she sat before him, listening into his heart, the rhythmic pulses pounding into her brain, she couldn't help herself. Every bone in her body forced her forward, and she felt her heart jolt out of her chest upon the immediate contact of their bodies. All she could hear was the rain falling loudly outside, banging against the Earth, and Draco's heartbeat, pulsing against her chest, begging to let him in. To her surprise, she let him- and they both fell deeper than they ever had before.
The rain hadn't stopped falling ever since this afternoon. Fortunately, Miranda's tears have ceased, and she was now sitting in her study, facing the window, a desk separating her and the clear glass. She wasn't sure how long she sat by her desk, staring out the window, but she did notice that darkness slowly began to creep through London. Wesley's words were a smack across the face, and she still felt the sting of pain he had left her with. Moving her eyes at her reflection in the small mirror propped up on her table in front of several candles, she stared at herself. Her mascara stained her cheeks, running from her eyes along with her tears. Her lips were plump and swollen from her sobbing, and her hair had been abused by the clutches of her hands. She looked like a downright mess, and Miranda never looked like a mess.
In her entire life, she never had to beg for anything. Her requests were immediately fulfilled with a simple snap of her fingers. She had servants waiting on her hand and foot, and no one dared to deny her of anything she wanted. It was an understatement to say that she had the world at her hands. She had more than the world - she had power and magic. Even as a child, Miranda never broke down. She had absolutely no reason to. Draco brought her down to experience all the heartache in the world, and she hated him for it. 'Who the hell could ever resist me? The Ministers daughter?' No man ever said no to her before, no man, except Draco.
Anger rifled through her body once more- anger towards Wesley, to Draco, and most of all, Granger. Why should a plain woman like her take the place in Draco's life that she has always wanted? 'Why should the honor of being a Malfoy wife come so easy to Hermione bloody Granger, and not to me? Why does she deserve it, why does she get to marry Draco, when I’ve spent the majority of my life loving him? When all I’ve ever done is love him, why the bloody hell does Granger get to come in and make him fall for her. She's a wretch, a stupid, cold and heartless wretch. She doesn't belong in our world; she was a mudblood after all.' A slight feeling of guilt broke through her thoughts as she thought about her father’s words. All wizards and witches were equal, there was no pure and there was no dirty. There were just wizards, and that was all. 'Granger is dirty. She doesn't deserve to be here. She stole Draco from me. She took him right from my hands, and she dares to call him hers? No. There's no way in hell I’m going to let that happen. Draco is mine. He was always mine. He will always be mine, and there's no way I'm going to let a stupid, silly little mudblood wretch. She's a no good, deceitful whore. Draco is mine.'
Without thoroughly thinking her actions through, Miranda jumped up and ran to the fire place, throwing a handful of floo powder in she shouted, "Malfoy Manor!" and disappeared as bright, green flames surrounded her.
Narcissa Malfoy spent her night in their sitting room, perched up on the sofa by the fire with a novel opened on her lap. Excusing herself from their bedroom, Narcissa was grateful that her husband didn't ask questions as to why she wasn't planning on going to bed this late at night. Despite the book in her lap, Narcissa's attention was fixed on the fire while her mind wandered off to her sons' personal life. She worried deeply about Draco, and what might become of him, along with her family when these scandals settle down.
Watching her husband calmly react to the paper earlier that day, scared her. She knew Lucius was disappointed in Draco. There was no doubt that her husband was extremely disappointed in his own son. She studied his face carefully that morning, hoping to find something in his expression that he chose not to share with her.
She regretted, more than anything, allowing Draco to marry Hermione Granger. If he had only listened to her when they arranged his marriage with Astoria Greengrass, none of this would've happened- and his public image wouldn't be tethered. To Narcissa's dismay, there was nothing she could do to change Draco's mind. She could see that his mind was set on Hermione, and it would take more than a simple threat to pry him off of her.
Her vision was suddenly disrupted by green flames tearing through the fire, eventually engulfing it as a whole. Miranda Caldwell stepped out and immediately faced Narcissa with a grim expression on her face. Narcissa noticed the diluted black streaks that stained her face. Her eyes were puffy, and her makeup smeared greatly. "Miranda, what's going on?" Narcissa asked, closing her book and setting it on the table. "Is anything the matter?"
Miranda took a break, and closed her eyes. Before she could change her mind, she quickly said. "Make Granger leave."
Narcissa blinked. "What are you talking about, child?" she questioned, standing up and stepping closer to Miranda.
"Mrs. Malfoy, this is the only way to make this all go away." Miranda said, praying in her mind that she would get her way this time. "Make Granger leave. Send her to the other side of the world and make her stay there. Draco will have time to fix up the mess he made, and I’ll be sure to help him and my father as well. He agrees with my proposal. Make her leave for good. Send her to another country- and I assure you, this situation will fix itself, and you will no longer have anything to worry about."
A/N: hey guys. This chapter should clear up any of the confusion you guys had in the previous chapter. I didn't write the article on the daily prophet, but it did explain what happened. any questions, don't be afraid to ask! i do answer them. my computer's still down so i'm currently doing my best to write whenever i can. i lost the outline for contours, so i just completely improvised while writing this. i believe this chapter was supposed to be VERY different.
so what do you guys think? are you feeling sorry for Miranda yet, and is Wesley starting to seem just a tad bit nicer? are you really hating on miranda right now? cause i know i would. you think she was getting a little bit of sense into her head, and then BAM!
and what about hermione and draco? they're finally accepting their feelings for each other! well not hermione - she's still got a bit to go. :P what do you think is going to happen between them? ;)
if you search 'coffee' in this chapter, you'll probably find it like 40 times -__-
leave a review and tell me what you guys think! i'd love to hear it.
P.S. since i don't have my computer, i lost my mailing list- so it will have to be MIA for now! sorry guys.
EDIT 8.6.10- I officially finished the plot to Contours! it's different from the original one, but i think this one works out better :) . It goes up to 26 chapters. I tried to shortten it a little, but in the end i decided against it. I know I said it would come to an end soon, but i couldn't decide how to break the chapters. so i'll go the slow way xD
the next chapter is DONE. it should be up by the end of this week!
here's a litle preview!
"Let's get married, as soon as possible."
She grinned. "You're mental."
"I'm completely serious!" he exclaimed. "If you're serious on leaving, then let me marry you first."
Hermione pondered over this for a moment. "Are you taking a piss?" she asked, suddenly feeling guilty for her vulgar language. "Are you serious?" she habitually corrected herself.
His face told her more than she needed to know. "I'm completely serious," Draco said. "We're getting married anyway." he reminded her. "We might as well just do it now."
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