Chapter 15 : No Regrets
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Chapter fifteen: No Regrets
She knew this forest but couldn’t recognize it. The surroundings were so familiar yet, if someone had asked her where she was, she wouldn’t have been able to respond. She felt at peace here, the sunbeams filtered by the trees gave a joyful ambiance to the forest as a nearby stream added a comforting sensation to the place.
She didn’t know what exactly she was doing there either, but she somehow knew she was supposed to be there. She was expected.
She sat on a rock by a stream, removed her shoes and sank her feet in the water. She began splashing around with her legs as pure joy invaded her; she was a child again, all worries vanished completely. Without any apparent reason she began laughing and couldn’t stop, it was laughter of pure happiness. She never wanted to leave this place.
Minutes went by as she kept on splashing and laughing, lost in the ecstasy. Suddenly, she felt him coming, she knew it was him. It was as if she had forgotten for a moment the whole purpose of her visit but now she remembered; he was the reason for her being there. She had been expecting him.
He sat by her side without saying a word. She experienced the kind of serenity she only felt being with him. She didn’t look at him but she extended her right hand for him to hold.
They held hands silently for what seemed hours, days, without looking at each other. It wasn’t necessary.
“So,” he finally began.
“Yeah,” she answered in a whisper.
“Are you sure?” He asked.
“Not really, and yes at the same time. It’s complicated or different, I wouldn’t know,”
They fell silent once more. Hermione held his hand tighter; she didn’t want to let go although he was no longer hers. He had not been for a while now.
“I trust you.”
“You better.” For the first time she turned and looked straight into his eyes; he looked back into hers and finally smiled, she smiled back. He was so handsome.
“You never cease to amaze me,”
“You have this talent of seeing through people, understanding them like no one does,”
“Now, you’re exaggerating,” her gaze went back to the flow of the stream; she was trying to hide her blushing visage.
“You know I’m right,” he responded reassuringly, “it’s one of the many things I love about you,”
She didn’t reply. Silence fell again as both stared straight ahead, still holding hands. Hermione began splashing water around her once more.
She was expecting him to be angry, at least annoyed. But he sounded completely nonchalant. His voice was calmed she even felt a hint of approval or amusement in his tone. Go figure.
“I have to admit, I never saw it coming,”
“Yeah, nobody did.”
“But,” she sighed, “It somehow feels right.”
“Still, you ought to be careful,”
She looked at him quizzically not understanding what he meant. Was he upset about this, after all?
“It won’t be easy,” he explained avoiding her gaze and staring at the stream. “It is not an easy path the one you both have chosen, things – and maybe bad things, depends how you look at it- that you would’ve never imagined will come your way,”
She was frightened now. What was he trying to warn her against? Did he know things she didn’t? Could he see into her future? Was there something he wasn’t telling her?
“Don’t worry,” he replied trying to comfort her, “If you both stick together it’ll turn out just fine. Trust your instincts and trust your heart, they will be right. A time will come when you will be challenged, tested. Don’t always be so rational Hermione,”
“Should I be scared?”
He finally turned to her and gave her a reassuring smile. “No. Just try to remember what I’m telling you. Whenever you start doubting your choices don’t listen to what reason and logic advice, listen to your heart instead. You have already made the right choice, never forget that,”
He squeezed her hand before finally letting go. She reacted looking back at him, searching for his eyes. She was frightened and disappointed, although she had known all along this moment would eventually come. They were not to be together anymore, that life had come and gone.
He stood up, she wanted to do the same but he made a gesture indicating that it was alright for her to stay where she was.
“Will I see you again?” She asked now sobbing.
“Whenever you want to,” he simply answered.
He started to leave, he was already walking back into the forest when Hermione finally found her voice and yelled, “Ron, no matter what happens or how my life turns out to be, I’ll always, always love you.”
He turned back, strode back to her with the widest smile ever and held her in his arms as he whispered softly in her ear “I have never doubted it, not for one second.”
She opened her eyes and stared at the empty ceiling. It took her a couple of seconds to realise she was wrapped in Draco’s arms, their legs entwined in a knot. She didn’t want to move a millimetre; she felt at home there, it was pure bliss. She was surprised to find out she was not feeling miserable, not like the last time she had seen him in her dreams. Still, wet tears where falling down her face. It was always so hard to see him go; like losing a piece of her heart every time he left her.
“Why are you crying?”
She hadn’t realised he was awake as well. His eyes remained closed.
“It doesn’t matter,” she replied.
“It does to me,” he answered holding her tighter.
She began to move, trying to get out from the bed. It was so embarrassing to wake up crying all the time whenever he was around.
“Don’t,” he pleaded, “If you do, you’ll never come back,”
Draco knew that once he left Hermione by herself she would regret this, their night together. Deep down he also knew that if he had the chance to think about all of this twice, he would regret it as well.
Draco held her even tighter, almost scared to let her go. He wouldn't bring up the crying subject again unless she wanted to tell him, he understood she needed space. The mere fact of her staying wrapped in his arms was indication enough that her tears had nothing to do with him.
Hermione remained still. She felt protected in his embrace, she could stay in his arms for the rest of her life and it would be alright. The wave of emotions created by her vision or Ron began to disappear replaced by a comforting feeling. As she calmed down and settled her mind, her left hand which stood motionless over Draco’s chest, began drawing circles with the index finger absentmindedly.
She didn´t quite understand what was happening and it was so tiresome to analyse it, nevertheless her relentless mind forced her to think about all this. To think about last night. She closed her eyes and the image of Draco under her flashed before her eyelids. The wanton way he stared at her mouth, the way his hands felt on the small of her back, his scent under her tongue. Then he had stopped her, he had told her that he didn't want to go through with it. And now they were there, half-naked in each others' arms and she wanted to jump on him and away from him at the same time.
She needed space, a shower would be ideal. She needed to think.
“Draco, we have to get going, you know we can’t stay here for too long. Besides, we better leave soon if we want to reach Edinburgh before sundown,” . That was a good excuse, she thought. Besides, it was absolutely true.
He liked when she called him 'Draco', he would rather have her using his first name all the time from now on. He wanted to tell her this, but like with many things he had wanted to say to her, he kept it to himself.
“Yes, we better leave,” he finally let go of her in a defeated sigh.
An hour later they were checking out of the hotel. Breakfast had passed silently, both of them submerged in their own thoughts.
Most of the morning went by in silence. They talked only when necessary, most of the time when Hermione needed Draco to check the map and make sure they had taken the right turn or how near was the next town; they were running low on petrol.
Although they had left Stretford a little before nine o’clock, they were able to arrive to Carlisle at noon, as planned. After driving around for a while, they were able to find a nice cosy Italian restaurant on Lonsdale Street were they hoped to be the only customers. Although they barely spoke, during lunch they accidentally-on-purpose touched each other on several occasions. Draco's fingers had lingered longer than needed when passing Hermione the salt, lightly brushing her palm. For her part, Hermione placed her hand over his when trying to get his attention as he focused on the menu.
As soon as Draco sipped the last of his tea, Hermione asked for the tab and paid in record time. Draco gave her an amused look that Hermione discarded mumbling something about how they couldn't afford to lose another minute now that they had managed to catch up with the initial schedule.
Finally, when they were walking back to the car, Draco spoke.
“I wish I knew how to drive,”
Hermione looked at him questioningly but smiling, just a little bit.
“You are tired,” he explained. “If I knew how to drive a Muggle car we could switch places and you could sleep a little bit.”
“I don’t mind, really,” she said as she drove out of the parkway, “I rather like driving, it is not really hard or anything,”
“Evidently your neck is aching Granger, you’ve been massaging it when you think I’m not looking,”
She laughed, he wasn’t expecting that reaction.
“It is not because of the driving,” she replied embarrassed. “I must confess that although I loved spending the night in your arms, my neck spent it in a very weird, unhealthy angle, and now the ache is killing me,”
They had not discussed what had happened the night before probably because none of them knew what to say about it. It was more an emotional thing that a rational thing, and when that is the case, it is very hard to put in words whatever the situation means. However, without realising it, Hermione had walked right into that untouchable subject, and now there was no way out of it. They were going to talk about last night.
So she had loved to spend the night in his arms, Draco thought. That was a good thing indeed; it somehow meant she wasn’t having any regrets. Or at least, not too many.
She loved to spend the night in his arms! How could Hermione be so careless? She was always the big mouthed one. Merlin, if only she thought twice whatever came into her mind when around Draco. He had this unnatural power of overriding all her precautions and having her speak her mind bluntly, blurting out whatever she thought at the moment. It was irritating.
“You know,” he finally spoke breaking the uncomfortable silence growing between them, “we can try a different position tonight, one that won’t put you in rough angles,”
Hermione did not miss the innuendo, but chose to ignore it. Things were already awkward without throwing in sex, thank you.
He cut her off, “I know you want to talk about it Granger, just let it out and we can discuss it,”
She wasn’t expecting that.
“Ok,” she began, “It’s just that I don’t know what exactly it is that I should say,”
He had to ask the question, the one that had been nagging him all morning, “Do you regret it?”
“No,” she simply replied. She briefly looked at him trying to reassure him, she was being truthful.
“But it is still you and me,”
“Well of course,”
“Malfoy, you know what I mean,”
“Yeah, I do.” He smirked, “I do know what you mean.”
Hermione did not want to deepen the conversation. This was all they needed to say to each other. At least for now. Of course, there was the matter of what were they getting their selves into? Where was this going? Was there really any chance that this –whatever this was- would work? But Hermione didn’t want to talk about any of that. She wanted to spend all the time she could with this one-of-a-kind Wizard that had crossed her path, and deep down she just hoped things were going to work out. Somehow.
“Where is Draco?” He asked once more, trying to remain calm.
“I told you, I don’t know. The Order has moved him elsewhere.”
“You were not very surreptitious about getting into his flat, were you? Now they know you’re after him, they have placed him somewhere secret.”
“And you wouldn’t know,” Lucius sneered sarcastically.
“No, I don’t know,”
“I don’t quite believe you,” Lucius accused, “If you keep this up, we might have to break our deal,”
“Fine, don’t believe me. I don’t care, not anymore.”
Lucius Malfoy saw he was losing leverage in this situation. He had to take back the control.
“You will regret it. You can’t draw back now that you are so close,”
“I’m not an idiot Malfoy, I have helped you enough and still you haven’t delivered. I now know you never will,”
“All in its due time, don’t be so impatient. I promised you will get what you wanted, didn’t I? I always keep my promises; I’m a man of my word.”
“We’ll see about that,”
“If you keep this up, maybe you won’t,”
“I told you, I have no clue where your son is. You know I’m speaking the truth, as if I wouldn’t have noticed you’ve been using Legilimens on me to check it,”
Malfoy’s face paled a little, if that was even possible.
“I need to know where Draco is, and you will get that information for me,”
“That was not part of our deal. I’m already taking too many risks as it is. This is as far as I go,”
“Maybe I can sweeten the deal, make it more appealing?”
Lucius knew he was gaining back the control he had seemed to lose a while ago.
“And how would that be?”
Lucius Malfoy smiled, really smiled, for the first time in days. Things would be going as expected after all.
They arrived to Edinburgh at 6:30 P.M. as scheduled, which considering that they had evaded the motorway all the way and taken only secondary roads was quite the accomplishment. Ginny had booked them a nice, small boutique hotel; this time, under a common Muggle name. As they entered the room Hermione was astounded to see that Ginny had booked them one of the most luxurious rooms in the hotel; a four poster canopied bed sat in the middle of the ornate space, a full Jacuzzi spa bath completed the grandeur of the room. It was the perfect place for a romantic getaway.
“Something tells me Weasley knew a little bit more that she was letting on,” Draco said amused by Hermione’s gobsmacked expression.
“I- yes,” was all Hermione could muster. Ginny was definitely something. This had been a bold move from her part, how on Earth had she known this would be the perfect room for them? They could have rowed during the trip and be on non-speaking terms, or they could’ve just remained friends and be feeling so awkward right now... but no, the little Weasley somehow knew that by the end of the road trip they would be more than friends, and this filled Hermione with a sentiment of hope and relief which she didn’t know she was needing.
“I think that this Jacuzzi is just what the mediwitch prescribed,” said Draco as he showed Hermione the washroom area. “Why don’t you go and get yourself comfortable and I’ll run you a bath,”
Hermione was too tired to argue, besides, a bath was exactly what she needed.
Draco prepared everything for the bath and he even enjoyed playing with the Muggle spa Dead Sea salts and a mango bath gel. Nothing compared to the Prefect’s bathroom at Hogwarts, though.
“Your bath is ready, Madam,” He said fifteen minutes later as he entered the room. Hermione was finishing unpacking her suitcase and arranging everything in the left side of the closet leaving enough space for Draco to arrange his belongings. Hermione thought that since they were going to spend a couple of weeks in the hotel in the same room, defined closet areas were needed.
Draco took her hand gently and directed her towards the bathroom.
“Let me finish the unpacking, you just relax in the hot water and try to forget everything,”
She didn’t reply, she just gave him a small smile of gratitude. She waited for him to leave the bathroom before getting undressed. She got in the tub enjoying the warm water and inwardly thanking Draco for being such a marvellous and thoughtful person. He had asked her to forget about everything, and although she tried she could not forget that morning’s dream. Normally when she woke up in the morning, she could clearly remember her dreams to the last detail, however as the first minutes of the day went by she started losing bits of the dream, until finally she could only remember a blur of images with no sense whatsoever. However, that was not the case when she had those vivid dreams about Ron. She remembered them as any other real memory with him, in some cases even better.
He had warned her about future perils, about doubting herself and her choices, about the path she would take if she chose Draco. It made her wonder if she could spare herself and Draco from that impending danger if she just turned away from all of this right now and go back to being friends. But she couldn’t. It was too late now to turn back. She needed Draco as she needed air, there was a feeling in the base of her stomach that she hadn’t ever felt before and that made her gravitate around him. And even though it was a little bit selfish on her part, she decided to hold on to him for as long as she could; he was everything to her now. Besides, things had a chance of turning out just fine according to her dream. This notion had become her lifesaver, had it not been for that dream she would've never admitted to Draco she did not regret their night together. She would not have given into this and she would be probably half way back to London right now.
She smiled to herself. How on Merlin’s beard had she ended up in this mess?
On the other side of the room, Draco was admiring Hermione’s tidiness. In fifteen minutes she had organised her clothes in a perfect array of colours and separated the trousers from the shirts and pulls. She had even classified her underwear by fabrics and he was delighted and a little turned on to realise most of it was fine lingerie. He loved women in lace and he had never suspected Hermione Granger to be this sexy.
He then turned to his suitcase and as he started to unpack, a dreadful feeling filled his body head to toe. Flows of encountered thoughts and ideas filled his already confused mind. He had feared this, he had known the moment he would be left alone this would happen.
Yes, he wanted Hermione. But, for how long? He didn’t know. Was this a permanent thing? It felt like it, at least he had not felt this for any other woman in his life. He was rapidly becoming addicted to her, to her scent, to her voice and her touch. He wanted to be near her all the time. It burnt inside; she burnt inside him.
However, this wasn’t love.
Or was it?
Draco wasn’t sure. The only person he had ever loved was his mother. But he wasn’t stupid; he knew that love for his mother would never feel the same as anybody else's. He couldn’t use it as a base for comparison.
How could he know if he was in love?
He was being stupid. This was stupid! Frustrated, he threw a shirt rather violently on the bed. How could he be in love with her? He barely knew her.
But he had never felt such peace, such tranquillity being with any another person –his mother included.
Draco started pacing subconsciously around the bed, holding the pair of blue trousers he had fetched previously from his suitcase in his left hand.
He wanted her. Was this just some strong sexual attraction?
He stopped pacing and started to fold the trousers to accommodate them in the wardrobe.
No. That much he knew. It wasn't like it had been with Pansy all those years ago when the only thing he wanted was a good shag. It wasn't like it had been with that Rumanian girl, Ileana, whom he had met two years before during the Dezmir mission. He had spent three whole days locked in a cabin with her as he conveniently waited for the surrounding hostile situation to calm down. And it certainly wasn't like it had been with the sexy Éloise who he had met during his undercover mission in Toulouse. Ah, Éloise! Those legs, those lips, that voice... she had been too close of killing him out of over exercising (you could call it that way). Merlin she was kinky, sexy and wild! But it had not been more than a good shag, a great shag -the best one so far. The relationship, if it anything, had not lasted more than two months. But that was all: good sex and sometimes nice conversations. He never kept in touch with either of those women: to Pansy he was dead, Ileana thought he was a successful banker from London who was stuck in an unhappy marriage and Éloise didn't even bother.
He unfolded the trousers and started pacing again.
Hermione was a completely different matter. Of course he wanted her; he was dying to throw her on that bed and have her one, two, three times. He wanted to smell her all over, taste her, feel her and listen to the effects of his administrations on her. But he wanted more, and that was the maddening, wonderful, confusing part.
Frustrated, he threw the trousers on the bed creating a pile of clothes besides the black shirt. He started pacing once more.
He was interested in her thoughts; he actually wanted to know what she had to say as if he valued her opinion.
Not as if, he did value her opinion.
Shit, what was happening to him? When did Draco Malfoy started caring for what another person thought of him? When did Draco Malfoy started caring for what another person thought. Period?
He sat down again, now holding a grey shirt he intended to fold and properly range in his side of the wardrobe, ignoring the pile of clothes increasingly growing on the bed.
She had a nice laugh, Hermione. He had noticed it last night at the bar. When she was relaxed and less restrained, her laughs were sincere. Her laughs made him smile and he wasn't used to smiling much. He realised at that precise moment, that he smiled much more being around her. If he were to measure his happiness by the amount of smiles during a certain period of time, these past few weeks were definitely the happiest of his life.
What was this Witch doing to him? All of a sudden he cared about her, he wanted to know her take on things, she made him smile and he felt all warm inside whenever he though of her. And it didn’t stop there; it wasn’t only the fuzzy feelings in the pit of his stomach: it was also the reactions she caused on his southern regions, her mere touch was enough fuel for his wantonness making him desire her like he had never desired anyone in his entire life. With the scary side effect of him actually calling it ‘making love’ in his head whenever he thought of having his way with the very much naked Hermione Granger just meters away.
His mother had once told him that love was indescribable and without reason, which explained why she chose to stay by her husband’s side. She had hoped that Draco would sometime in his life be lucky enough to understand and experience this by himself, although with a better suited object of his affections.
Maybe this was it. This might be the enchantment her mother had told him about and which he could never make himself believe in: love. The only way to figure it out was to let things evolve by themselves and hope for the fairytale ending he had been promised by his mother’s dreams. He reluctantly admitted defeat; he could not control this situation and loosing control for the first time in his life, scared him to his bones.
He went back to what he could control for the time being: unpacking. He was rapidly discouraged by the mess of clothes scattered all over the bed as he realised his suitcase was empty.
“How are you feeling?”
She looked up at him and her smile widened. For a second she felt embarrassed as she realised she was naked under the thick coat of foam, but then she also felt a rush of excitement as the sensuality of the situation dawned on her.
“Much better. This was just what I needed,” she replied trying to sound cool and relaxed.
He sat by her and extended his hand caressing the tip of her fingers that loosely laid on the rim of the tub.
“Your fingers are getting prunny,” he teased.
“I like them when they get like that. It’s so weird, and everything I touch feels so different.”
She started playing with the soap bubbles, blowing them at Draco. He didn’t notice she was procrastinating, she was gaining time as she made her mind.
“I need to tell you something,” she said, suddenly changing her tone to a serious one and for the first time that day looking him straight in the eye.
He looked alarmed, but let her carry on.
“Don’t ask me how, but I know this will work.”
“By this you mean...”
“Maybe is a little too soon to-”
“No.” She cut him off before he could finish the sentence. “It is just the right moment. We do not have much time Malfoy, tomorrow we have to start planning the break in and after we will have to steal that bloody spell, then we have to run away –Merlin knows how- and then we will have to figure out what to do with whatever it is you locked into your head. And that’s just the beginning. Time is something we do not have; as a matter of fact we are already late.
“I think it is clear to both of us we want to be together. We can skip the flirting, first date and second date, flowers and waiting for calls part. We are at war and we do not have the luxury of courtship. I’d love to, believe me. But the thing is we don’t even know if we are going to survive.”
“You just said you knew we would work-” he said trying to cut her off.
“I did. What I didn’t say was for how long.”
“Stop this Granger, don’t be silly. We will survive this, and when we do I’ll take you out on a fancy dinner, I’ll send you flowers, I’ll tell you I’m going to owl you the next day when I really intend to owl you a week later. I’ll send you poems; you’ll cook for me one night. And on our third or fourth date, I’ll seduce you and make wild love to you so many times both our bones will ache, but we will be happy. And then, we can figure out what us is, and when we do we will make it work. Things will be the normal way, like normal wizards do.”
Hermione would have never imagined that under that handsome cold man, there was actually a hopelessly romantic fool. She leaned on the rim of the tub and stared into his deep grey eyes. She kissed him wildly. Before Draco could take things further she stopped and pressed her forehead to his.
“We can continue to fool ourselves believing we can have that, a normal life. But we can’t and we won’t. That’s the way it is and we both know it. However, we are here, willingly. If you want to back off, around now would the time to do it,”
She couldn’t believe she had said that. She had given him the opportunity to leave, the pit of her stomach ached with anxiety. Seconds went by in silence. He wasn’t replying, he wasn’t calling her crazy and telling her she was all he had ever wanted. A minute went by, still no answer. She felt stupid, ridiculous and empty. She pulled back wanting to leave, run away forever, she didn’t want to hear his reply anymore.
Draco stopped her as she stood up covering herself clumsily with the nearest towel. He cupped her cheek with his right hand and stared right into her eyes. He kissed her fiercely, bringing her closer with his free left hand. Hermione fought against him, punching his chest with her slippery fists and splashing water all around her with her legs. Draco was now completely wet but he didn't let go. He kept reaching for her, holding her tighter against him, kissing her fervently on the mouth, cheeks, forehead, anywhere he could plant a kiss. Suddenly, in a swift motion he lifted her from the tub and carried her bridal style towards the bed.
As he laid her down on the mattress, Hermione started to yield under his caresses and kisses. She couldn't resist the electric bolts his touches sent shivering down her spine, nor could she resist the delicious thrill of his kisses on her neck. She didn't realise it until she was halfway in the motion that she was tearing off his shirt and kissing him back hungrily. In a matter of seconds they were both naked, skin to skin, completely wet head to toe, kissing, touching, moaning.
Just before Hermione succumbed completely to the deliciousness of his body against her, with the only rational thinking her brain could manage to summon in a last minute of reason, she realised he had not answered her question.
A/N: So, it has been already 5 years since I published the first chapter of 'After Dawn'. After DH came out my story became completely AU and I must confess that I despised the Draco Malfoy Jo delivered on her last instalment. However, when I got over the disappointment of the initial shock (which took me 4 years) I decided not to abandon my story after all and have Draco as I want him to be, just for myself, in my story. So, here I am 4 years since I published chapter 14 I am finally publishing Ch. 15! If you began reading this story all those years ago, you might've noticed I rewrote the first 14 chapters before publishing this one. No worries, the plot is still the same I just improved some scenes here and there. If you are an 'old' reader, I want to thank you for sticking with After Dawn all this time; if you are a new reader, I want to thank you for reading my story. To both I am hoping you are linking it so far. Please read and review, I promise chapter 16 won't take another 4 years to be uploaded!