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Grazed Knees by Padfoot_Prongs
Chapter 7 : vii.
 
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vii.

The final word in the final sentence you ever uttered to me was love

Ginny finally cornered Hermione as they were leaving the party, and she held tightly onto her friend’s arm, steering her away from everyone else and down the hallway.

“I’ll only ask once,” she said, staring straight at Hermione, “Is he worth losing everything?”

Hermione blinked.  She didn’t even think twice before nodding.  Ginny reciprocated the movement before releasing her.

“I don’t want to know.  I don’t even want to hear anything, okay?  I just wanted to make sure you had a clear head.  Are you going to him now?”

“I am,” she answered, and Ginny just frowned.

“Be careful, Hermione.  This is a very dangerous game you’re playing.”

Hermione nodded again.  She understood where Ginny was coming from, and she wasn’t about to jeopardize Harry or the secrets she knew.

“Ginny,” she started very calmly, “We have an agreement.  He doesn’t ask about the boys, and I don’t ask about Voldemort.  Neither of us want to know, and neither of us want to tell.  I promise.  He’s safe.”

“Okay.  I’ll see you tomorrow before we leave.”

And Ginny left, worry coursing through her.  Nothing told her this was a good idea.

--

“Five minutes later, when she reentered the drawing room in triumph, no one paid her any attention, and everything was exactly the same—tired, miserable adults sipping tea and smoking in silence.  In her excitement she had not considered who it was she should give the letter to; a trick of her imagination had everyone reading it at once.*”

“No!” Hermione gasped, pulling on his ear.

Draco winced but looked up at her anyway.

“Yes,” he responded, smirking devilishly.

“That’s horrible.  Keep going.”

He laughed softly before continuing, “She decided Leon should have it.  She crossed the room toward her brother, but when she arrived in front of the three men she changed her mind and put the folded sheet of paper into the hands of the policeman with a face of granite.  If he had an expression, it did not change as he took the letter nor when he read it, which he did at great speed, almost at a glance.  His eyes met hers, then shifted to take in Cecilia who was facing away.  With the slightest movement of his wrist he indicated that the other policeman should take the letter.*”

“The horrible little bitch,” she grumbled, and Draco laughed louder, leaning into Hermione’s arm affectionately.

They’d decidedly switched positions tonight after constant grumbles about his arm becoming sore from staying up for so long, and so Draco was leaning against Hermione, though she didn’t mind this change for it gave her a chance to play with his hair, to fascinate herself with the ever-soft texture of the white blonde locks, and she knew he loved the way her fingers trailed through and tugged down the curve of his skull before tickling the nape of his neck.  He frequently smiled when she did this, and she loved watching him show his happiness.

“Shall I continue?”

“Of course, of course,” she murmured, giving his ear another little tug.

He hated that, though he also liked it in an affectionate way.  She liked to fiddle with his ears sometimes, to touch the dip behind them and to rub his lobe in between her thumb and forefinger.  She loved everything, the curve of his shoulders, the dips of his neck, the softness of his skin, the—

“You aren’t listening again,” he sighed, interrupting her thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” she said sheepishly and quietly, “You just distract me.”

“We’re never going to get through this chapter.”

“How much longer is it?”

He thumbed through the pages, “Six and a half pages.  Think you can concentrate for that long.”

“I suppose.”

He just laughed before going on, and, this time, she leaned her head against the couch, closed her eyes, and let the timbre of his voice, his soothing tone, the delicate words dance through her, let herself swim in everything that was fast becoming her favorite book.

-- 

January fifth.
1997.

Draco took in a long breath before slowly sitting across from Pansy.  She smiled pleasantly at him; she’d been getting better at leaving him alone, and so, he returned the smile, just a small, fleeting expression, but it made her happy, and that was all that mattered.  He just had to keep up appearances.

The train ride passed uneventfully for the most part.  The only excitement he encountered was when he stood for a walk, in desperate need to stretch his sore limbs.  He’d undergone severe “training” as his fellow Death Eaters called it and “torture” as his mother grumbled.  He could barely walk, but he needed to; he’d be cemented to his seat if he remained there any longer.

He kept a leisurely pace, and he focused on contorting his features so that he looked lucid and indifferent, though he found it difficult before long when he heard a familiar voice.

“Guys, I just need some air.  I’m gonna go for a little walk, okay?”

And he watched her walk right out of the compartment, brown curls tossing around her shoulders as she looked to her left and to her right.  She barely paused, but she caught his eye, and she walked away briskly at first, slowing when she’d gone far enough from the compartment.  He slipped by unnoticed by Harry and Ron, and he followed her at a safe distance, waiting until she ducked inside another compartment.  He took his time, stopping once or twice to look out the windows before finally entering, and she ambushed him, throwing her arms around his neck and pulling him close.

He tensed, agony pulsing through him as she squeezed him.  He couldn’t respond, he couldn’t even pat her back.  His arms were limp by his sides, and his heart pounded in his chest.

“Draco, what’s wrong?” she whispered, pulling away and quickly tugging down the shade.

She silenced the room and locked the door before turning her worried gaze to him.  He motioned to the seat, and she quickly sat down.  He took the one opposite her, wincing.

“You’re hurt,” she acknowledged, and he nodded, trying to slow his breathing.

Hermione frowned before getting up and going to open the window.  She then pushed on his shoulders lightly, forcing him to lie down, and he did gratefully, closing his eyes and taking one of her hands.

“What did they do to you?”

“I don’t even want to tell you,” he whispered, his voice frail, “Everything hurts, though.”

He pushed himself up on one elbow, though, when he felt something wet hit his hand.  She hurriedly turned away, wiping her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, going to sit again, “You don’t have to talk about it.  I’m just glad you’re here, that you’re alive.”

“I’m surprised I am,” he laughed humorlessly, a short, hollow laugh.

They spent a few minutes in silence before Draco pulled himself up, “Let’s not talk about it, okay?”

When she nodded, he continued, reaching into his jacket, “I brought something for you.”

She instantly smiled and switched seats, going instead to sit next to him as he pulled out Atonement.

“We’re on part two now,” he murmured, taking one of her hands and giving it a soft squeeze.

“Can we start?” she asked eagerly, and he just smiled, nodding.

“There’s no chapters left, only parts.  Do you want to go by breaks?”

When she nodded, Draco waved his hand at the corner of the seat, and she instantly slid over.  He lay in her arms, his tense and hurt muscles relaxing as she sighed and squeezed his shoulders just a little.

“There were horrors enough, but it was the unexpected detail that threw him afterward would not let him go.*”

And so they began.

-- 

February fourteenth.
1997.

January came and went much as the months previous to it had, though with a few more interruptions.  Draco and Hermione found their nights together in the library more precious as they were forced into a disruptive separation outside of their haven.  Harry was becoming more and more involved with Dumbledore, and Hermione was becoming increasingly worried about him.

Along with that, they’d begun their apparition lessons every Saturday, which left the couple weary at night.  Draco was spending more and more time away, too, to which Hermione was saddened by but accepted.  He began missing class and she rarely saw him at meals or in the halls anymore.  He promised, though, and continually held up his promise, that he would not miss a Friday or Saturday night with her in the library.  Madame Pince had long since given up collecting them, and she’d entrusted Hermione with a key to the library to lock up at night.

When asked, Madame Pince shrugged, leaned over her counter, and sighed, “I understand.  I was very much like you in my younger years, Miss Granger, very studious and determined, and then I met a boy, someone I wasn’t supposed to love, and he changed my world.  And, if there’s anyone in the world I trust with books, it’s you.”

Hermione hadn’t dared press the subject.  And so, since then, she and Draco had left the library late at night, always taking care on their way back to not get caught.  She was grateful, though, that Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday.

“Hello, my dove,” Draco greeted as he slid alongside her.

They met like this frequently on their way into the library, and she smiled as he touched her hand with his, lacing them up until they reached the doors where they parted, Hermione going in first, Draco entering ten minutes later.  They spaced out their times, differentiating them, and they switched who went in first, though both were quite sure some had caught on to their constant presence here.  Thankfully, no one said a word either way.

“We’ll be done with this before the end of March,” Draco noted, sitting on their couch and opening up to his dog-eared page.

“I almost don’t want to finish it,” Hermione said with a smile, sitting next to him.

He began reading while they sat side-by-side, and Hermione braided her hair, smiling when she finished, tied it off, and he extended an arm around her shoulders.  They spent most of their night discussing books they were reading, books they’d still been suggesting one another.

“I feel like I’m going to blow right through that section what with you and all your love of books,” he laughed as she came back, having retrieved a new one.

“Oh, please, you love reading them.”

“I do,” he promised, nodding, “What’s this one?”

Animal Farm by George Orwell.  It’s really fantastic.  Though you won’t understand the symbolism in it, it’s still a good read.”

“And I won’t understand it because?”

“It’s about Muggle events.”

“Ah, yes, that would be why.  I have one for you, too.”

He extracted Little Women by Louisa Alcott, and Hermione gleefully snatched it from his hands.

“I love this book!” she exclaimed excitedly, “Oh, it’s so wonderful.  I can’t wait to reread it.”

He just laughed, shaking his head, “You’ve read every book, haven’t you?”

“Not some!”

He nodded, remembering one of the very few occasions he’d actually managed to pick a book she hadn’t read.  He’d been immensely proud with himself until she handed him a book he also hadn’t read, and then he sighed, glared at her, and rolled his eyes.  Of course.

When the earliest hours of the morning were finally striking them, Hermione was nearly asleep in Draco’s arms, and he was stroking her hair and back slowly, dozing himself.  His eyes remained on her, however, and, as the clock chimed one o’clock, she stirred, snuggling deeper into him, and he let his head tip back, tears touching his eyes.  It was in his darkest moments, even with this beauty so close and so real, that he knew he was living a dream, that he would be cut off from all that he loved and strived for far too soon.  He knew that day was coming, and he held Hermione tighter, wishing he could close his eyes and that day would be far, far away.

--

Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.  Lyrics from Make This Go On Forever belong to Snow Patrol.

*These lines are the respective property of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement.

So I wanted to post this yesterday (cos it was my birfday!), but this is close enough (considering it’s only about one in the morning).  Also, I may start spreading out updates a little bit.  Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning you.  I just have a lot to this story, and I don’t want it to be over too, too quickly.  So, maybe, like, five days in between updates?  Would that be horrible?  Let me know!


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