Four firewhiskies after convincing myself that I wouldn’t go, I pulled on a jacket, put out the fire and prepared to Disapparate to Devon. I couldn’t care less what those Weasleys would think when I appeared at their broken down home. I just wanted to see her. I needed to. For the past three months, I had been contemplating just turning up there and taking her away from him, rescuing her from a life she didn’t really want.
Today was the day I told Hermione Granger that I loved her.
And it was true. I had never felt this way about anyone before in my entire life. For months, I had been ill, love-sick. I hadn’t looked after myself, barely ate, I was growing facial hair and was even crying. Well - once. I cried about a month after our meeting at the Ministry of Magic after breaking down in the middle of my room. I had tried to convince myself that I didn’t care about her and that I could live without her. But I was wrong. I was so wrong. Ever since Hermione came into my life as something important, I changed. Ever since that first time we conversed after the Battle in the Great Hall, something happened. I released my inhibitions and didn’t care about our past, I forgot that I was supposed to be rude to her because we were so different. And that first time I kissed her, that drunken kiss, I realised that our differences didn’t mean a damn thing. I was a pureblood and she was a muggleborn, but who cared? We were both human, both alive and that was all that mattered in the long run. In hindsight, I think we were made for each other in some way, that there was always this plan for us to be together. My heart ached for her, literally. When I went to bed at night, she would be my last thought and then the first person or thing I think of as soon as my eyes open would be her. And I’m not just saying that to emphasise my feelings for her - it’s all true. My chest would hurt and feel like it was about to combust just at the thought of her. I hadn’t bothered to look for a job, move on with my life or get another girlfriend because the only one I wanted was her. And it hurt me because she knew that and still forced me away, still she resisted while I slowly died.
The clock on the wall read ten-thirteen pm. And that was the last thing I saw before I Disapparated into the cool, windy breeze. Ahead of me, I could see lights blazing though the many windows of the house. And all around me people were Apparating with gifts, wearing party outfits with their hair all done. I must have looked a state compared to them all. I was wearing a blue faded jeans, a black shirt and jacket (which I hadn’t washed in weeks) with black shoes on my tired feet. I hadn’t slept properly in weeks and it showed on my face.
Breathing in the air, I crept closer to the house, keeping my head down in case any old Hogwarts students recognised me. They seemed to be everywhere; I spotted Dean Thomas on the field chatting to Luna Lovegood and I was sure I recognised a few unimportant Hufflepuffs by the entrance. One of them was Finch-Fletchley - I think his first name was Jordan or something.
Hands in my pockets, my gaze suddenly went over to the window where a beautiful sight showed itself to me. Hermione had come over to the window with a large serving tray piled with glasses of alcohol. And she was smiling as she placed it carefully onto the side. Her skin was positively glowing as she pushed her hair out of her face, the thick brown curls falling down her back. She was wearing a strapless black dress (I saw her legs as she approached the window), light makeup and small sparkling earrings. In short, she looked heaven-sent. Even as she helped herself to a quick drink while no one was looking, she did it with grace. Turning around, she began chatting to someone behind her, then she laughed, giving me that smile I loved but never really appreciated before this moment. I never really took note of how her teeth overlapped the way they did and how much of them showed when her pink lips curved upwards. With that, came the smile in her eyes. They would just glow even when there was no light in the room to catch them.
That someone she was talking to happened to be Weasley and instantly, my stomach turned as she kissed him enthusiastically. Somehow, my hands were fists and my teeth were clenched angrily. I hated when he touched her, or was anywhere near her because she looked happy. I only wanted her to be happy with me and it made by blood boil with anger as I stood in the shadows watching them hold each other.
As I approached the door, Weasley’s sister came out in a blue dress saying something about security measures and with that, she began casting spells over the yard as the important guests had already arrived. I slipped through the crowd to the right with my head down as the people all moved forwards into the house. I stayed just inside the magical barrier she was creating but away from the house and the people heading inside.
The Weasley girl was making her way in through the wind when she caught my eye. I thought that I was well hidden, but evidently not. She looked as though she wasn’t sure at first, but then she stomped over to me, holding out her wand.
“Hey hey hey hey, don’t point that at me,” I told her as she came away from the house.
“I’ll do whatever I like, Malfoy,” she replied, still pointing it at my face. “What the hell are you doing here?!”
“I think you know that,” I said quietly.
“Don’t play games with me, Malfoy,” she ordered. “I will not have you ruin Ron’s day!”
She laughed darkly. “Sure you won’t. Do you have any idea what this would do to our family? I knew it! I knew you’d turn up! I told Hermione -”
“She knew I’d come?”
Weasley folded her arms and shook her head angrily. “She’s sitting in there now hoping that you don’t show your face. Do you get a thrill from this? Ruining her life?”
“Of course not.”
“Then why are you here?” She beginning to look really upset, rather than angry and I looked down at her feeling a tiny bit bad.
“I - I just want her to know how I feel.”
“And how do you feel?” she pried.
“I’m not telling you.”
“How do you feel, Malfoy?” My heart felt tight. I couldn’t breathe. “Spit it out.”
“I love her. I love Hermione, okay? I wanted her to hear it first but seeing as you wanted to know … And before you ask, I’m not pretending or faking or doing this just to get at Potter and Weasley. I love her. I don’t know why because I absolutely detested her all the way through school, but now … I don’t know, Weasley. I don’t know what to do anymore.”
She frowned at me. It was a frown, but it was a sympathetic one. “Please go,” Weasley whispered.
“Wait, please …”
“Go, Malfoy. Don’t make this any harder for her than it already is.” She turned away from me and ran lightly into the house against the breeze, red hair flying around her face.
For a moment, I considered leaving like she said, but there was a burning emotion inside of me making me not want to go until I had my say. I had to talk to her.
I waited for over an hour while the party went on, pacing the muddy grass trying to figure out what I would say:
“Hermione … I know we haven’t know each other long … oh, you idiot, we’ve known each other since we were eleven … okay … Hermione, I’ve known you for years, but only in the past few months have I noticed how beautiful you are … No, that won’t do … Hermione, you mean everything to me. You are the best thing that’s happened to me and I would spend the rest of my life with you if I could, if you wanted me to. Erm … and that’s because I love you.” I smiled. “Got it.”
The party was in full swing when I reached the open door. Just beyond the grounds, I could see reporters and photographers lined beyond the barrier and the flashbulbs of cameras. I quickly slipped inside to bright disco lights, wall to wall crammed with people drinking, laughing and dancing to up-tempo music. Hermione was nowhere in sight, but I noticed the Weasley girl sitting on Potter’s lap in the kitchen.
Blending in with the crowd, I moved into the living room. I was bumped into by a few people but I ignored them and carried on through.
I turned around to see my old friend Blaise standing with a firewhisky in hand, looking exactly as I remembered him, as if nothing could ever trouble him.
“Blaise,” I acknowledged. “Long time no see.”
We shook hands briefly and he smiled up at me.
I wasn’t as happy. I was happy to see him, but not to see him here. “What are you doing here?” I asked him curiously.
“Me? What are you doing here?” he shot back. I said nothing and waited for his answer. Shrugging, he said, “No one holds grudges any more. They asked me to come out of good faith. So I came. There are more Slytherins here than I would have thought. And somehow I never thought that you would have gotten an invitation,” he guessed correctly.
“So what if I didn’t? Seems like they’re inviting everyone anyway.”
“Yeah,” Blaise said. “Saw Pansy earlier.”
“Pansy? Surprised she’d even turn up.”
“Apparently, she wanted to see if you came,” Blaise said after sipping his drink.
“Well I better get out of here then,” I replied with a laugh.
“Stay,” Blaise suggested. “It’s been ages. You haven’t written to me for a while.”
“Writing letters to each other like little girls? I don’t think so.”
Blaise chuckled and patted my back. “You haven’t changed one bit.”
“How have you been?” I asked moving back against the wall to hide my face in the shadows. “What have you been up to?”
“Not much. Looking for work in Law Enforcement.”
“Law? Didn’t know that was your thing.”
“Neither did I until the Ministry starting coming round my house asking my mum why all of her husbands mysteriously died around her.”
“We’ve been wondering the same thing for years, haven’t we?”
“Yep. She isn’t telling anyone anything. Keeping her mouth shut.” He laughed and I laughed with him, knowing that Mrs Zabini seemed capable of murder. Her looks could kill anyway.
“Got a girlfriend?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Yeah. Her name’s Amethyst.”
“Didn’t you bring her?” I asked.
Blaise pointed across the room to a tall, long-legged black girl in a short black dress, dancing in killer heels.
“You aim high,” I told him. The girl was very pretty.
“What about you?”
I was expecting this question, but I had no idea how to answer it, so I decided to lie and tell the truth.
“I met someone. Really soon after the Battle at Hogwarts.”
Blaise stared at me curiously. “Is it serious?” he asked as though he could read my thoughts.
I nodded. “I really really like her, but … she’s with someone else, so …”
“I’m sorry, mate,” Blaise said.
“I’m okay with it,” I lied.
“No, you’re not. Listen, if you want to talk -”
“I think I should go,” I muttered, looking at the door.
“If you want to talk,” he impressed on me, “I’ll be in the Leaky Cauldron next week at five. And we don’t even have to mention your failing love life.”
Reluctantly, I nodded. As I did so, I noticed that the Weasley girl saw me. Potter was all over her so she couldn’t make a big deal of my appearance. To the right of me, I saw Pansy spot me and shuffle her way through the crowd in her black top and gold shorts.
“I think I’ll be off, then,” I muttered to Blaise.
He saw Pansy coming. “See you later.”
“Draco. Draco!” I heard her call, but in trying to avoid my name being heard, I slid away only to notice Hermione leave Weasley beside the fireplace eating a slice of cake to go up the stairs.
This was my chance. So clearly, the only option was to follow her.
The staircase shook and creaked as I went up the narrow space. Ahead of me, she shut a door and instantly I opened it, went inside what seemed to be the bathroom and closed the door behind me.
“Ron, I said I -”
Her face was in complete shock as she saw me. She didn’t scream, cry, smile or do anything. She just looked at me as though she could not believe it was me.
Closing her eyes, she turned away from me, leant on the sink and breathed.
Thinking fast, I prepared to recite the speech I had devised outside. “Hermione, you mean everything to -”
“What the hell are you doing here, Draco?” she whispered, upset.
“I’ve come to tell you something. Listen to me. Hermione, you mean everything -”
Glancing at me through the mirror, she said, “This is Ron’s party! What made you think that you could just walk in here unannounced?”
“I needed to see you!”
“You have absolutely no right to come to my home like this.” She turned and looked at me menacingly, her jaw set. Then she held her hand to her head. “Ron might see you!”
“I don’t care about -”
“You need to leave - now!” She tried to get to the door behind me without touching me, as if she would like the feel of my skin against hers.
“I’m not going anywhere.” I grasped her wrist and she looked down at my hand as if in a panic.
She closed her eyes and a tear dripped from her eye.
“Don’t cry,” I whispered.
Dragging her arm away, she said, “What else do you expect me to do? I never wanted to see you again and now you’re here - at Ronald’s party no less, when you weren’t invited.”
“Parkinson’s here. You invited her.”
“No, we didn’t. And I will take pleasure in making her leave once I get out of here.” She looked around the small bathroom as if searching for an escape route.
“What about Blaise?”
“He helped Ginny fight during the Battle at one point. We wanted to show him we had no hard feelings and that we all wanted to get along.”
“And not me?” I asked.
“Why would Ron want you here after what the Prophet was saying?”
“You mean after you cheated on him.”
“I can’t do this,” she muttered as she ran her fingers through her hair.
“It’s not my problem that you can’t handle the truth.”
She stared at me, angry. “I admit it: I cheated on Ron and it was wrong. Why else do you think I want nothing more to do with you? You remind me of what a horrible person I am. I love Ron and I’m going to spend the rest of life with him. I don’t need you here. I don’t want you here. I never want to see you again.”
I kept my teeth pressed together so that I did not release any emotion. Seething on the inside, I was torn between hurt and anger.
“Go,” she said.
“You don’t mean what you said,” I told her. “I know you don’t. You have feelings for me. That’s why you don’t want to see me. To make it easier for you, so that you can forget.”
Shaking her head, she whispered,” No …”
“I want you to leave with me,” I told her honestly.
“Are you out of your mind?!” she yelled.
“Just go, Draco. Now! I don’t have time for this any more.”
“Well, make time!” I retorted. “You got yourself into this.”
“And I wished I didn’t. You’ve done nothing but complicate my life. And I’m sorry, but your journey here was wasted. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I can give you a better life, Hermione,” I said, almost begging. “I can give you somewhere nice to live, an engagement ring, a -”
“Life is not about riches, Draco. When will you realise that? I love Ron no matter what he can or can’t give me. Flaunting your money about doesn’t work with me!”
“I can give you happiness,” I tried instead. “A child, the child you always wanted, with me.”
She looked away from me and out of the tiny window. This time, tears were pelting down her face at full speed, the little mascara that she was wearing smudging down her cheeks. Hermione wiped her eyes with her hands, but they wouldn’t stop.
I held her shoulders firmly. “Tell me you don’t love me.”
“You don’t love me,” she forced out. “So -”
“I’m not talking about me. Tell me you don’t love me.”
Her eyes possessed an intense fear and I knew what it meant. She was just afraid to admit what we both already knew. She was afraid because it meant that everything she was doing with her life was wrong. Marrying Weasley was wrong because she didn’t love him as much as she loved me. She loved him as her best friend, but loved me because she wanted us to spend the rest of our lives together as a couple.
“Tell me!” I said louder.
Her mouth opened, but as soon as it did, the door behind me opened and there was Potter in the doorway, face turned from jovial to angry.
“Let go of her!” he shouted at me.
I let go, not realising how tight I held her; her skin was turning pink under the pressure. Potter held Hermione with one arm. All he must have seen was me looking angry, holding onto her while she cried and cowered. Great.
Potter took his wand out and pointed it at me. “Are you alright, Hermione?” She nodded and looked nervously between us. “He didn’t hurt you?”
“No …” she whispered, but Potter wasn’t having any of it.
He stepped forward and said, “What are you doing here?”
“I love a party,” I said to him.
He was so gullible. Potter instantly grabbed me and began hauling me out of the room and down the stairs. I said and did nothing while Hermione tumbled down behind us muttering things about Weasley, saying she didn’t want him to see me, that he shouldn’t have to deal with me at his party. He managed to get me through the crowd without many people noticing. Weasley’s sister did, as I expected, her sharp eye missing nothing.
Potter walked me around the back of the house where the faraway photographers could not see. The wind blew hard against us all.
Hermione stood well back while Weasley’s sister and Potter stood opposite me.
“Why are you still here?” Weasley yelled, folding her arms.
“You knew he was here?” Potter and Hermione yelled at Weasley.
She held herself firm and said, “I saw him earlier and I told him to leave.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Potter said and I knew Hermione was thinking the same thing.
“Because I didn’t want all of this to happen. Ron can’t find out he was here. I don’t want him to be upset today.”
“What I don’t understand is why he’s here at all,” Potter said inquisitively.
“To make trouble,” Weasley said, saving my neck. “Why else?”
“Pansy Parkinson’s here,” Hermione said quietly.
“I’ll get rid of her,” Weasley said as she marched back into the house.
“Why are you still here?” Potter asked me. “Would have expected you to Disapparate a long time ago.”
“We don’t have time for questions,” Hermione said quietly behind him. “Just go, Malfoy.”
Wow. She hadn’t called me Malfoy for months, years. Just that one word hurt, because it seemed as though she was the Hermione I used to call Granger, the girl that used to hate me.
“You heard her,” Potter said sternly.
I turned away from them and gazed onto the large field of darkness before me, just breathing. I was not about to lose my temper now. I’d had enough. I would simply leave, leave Hermione and never turn back …
“Ron …” Hermione said.
I turned back to the scene to find the three of them staring at me; Potter was still angry, Weasley was stuck between anger and confusion while Hermione looked as though she was about to throw up.
“Ron, go back inside,” Hermione tried.
“What is he doing here?” he questioned.
“He was just leaving,” Potter said.
Ron paused. “Well, I don’t see him Disapparating.”
“Maybe I want to stay,” I said on impulse. It almost shocked me how normal it was for me to irritate Weasley.
His wand was out in the next second as if that would scare me.
“Put your wand down, Weasley, I’m leaving.” I could see Hermione deflate behind him, but he still didn’t waver.
“I’m sick of you, Malfoy,” Weasley went on. “I thought we made peace at school and now -”
“Well, we didn’t,” I shot back. “In truth, I can’t stand you, Weasley! You think since you saved the Wizarding world that we should all bow down to you. I understand why people kiss Potter’s arse, but you? Weasley, you did nothing for us all besides tagalong with him on this ‘mission’ or whatever. You’re nothing!”
“As opposed to you, Slytherin scum of the earth -!”
“And you’re a real Gryffindor, are you?” I said, striding towards him. Potter stood his ground but took his wand out and Hermione ran towards us. I stood before Weasley while he looked at me menacingly. I watched him with a sneer on my face, “You see, Weasley, you -”
His fist collided harshly against my face and I staggered backwards. The punch was so forceful that I flew backwards onto the grass. I sat up and was ready to beat the hell out of him when Potter held me back and Hermione began screaming at me and at Weasley for fighting. But I wasn’t fighting yet. I’d show them fighting.
“ … right now! Come inside!” Hermione said to Potter and Weasley as I stood up and took my wand out.
Weasley turned his back on me as he held his hurt hand and Potter gave me one last pitying look as I held my wand out.
Was that it? They weren’t even going to make me go?
The three of them were nearly in the house when I decided that I wasn’t going to be walked away from. I was going to hurt Weasley. I was going to hurt him because I hated his guts. He was going to be with Hermione and I wasn’t and that killed me.
I went around to the front of the house to where the photographers far away could see us if they tried. Using my wand, I sent a spell at Hermione. She fell down sideways out of the way and as Weasley turned around, I shot the Stunning Charm at him. It clipped his shoulder and as soon as he realised what was going on - because it all happened so fast - he pulled his wand out and ran after me as I sped around the back of the house.
“Ron!” Potter yelled as he began running towards us.
“Ron, no!” Hermione ran behind us.
Without thinking, I thought about the Crucio Curse and somehow, Weasley felt the full wrath of it as I sent it over my shoulder. He fell to the ground. I put my wand down as I watched him catch his breath. I wasn’t this evil person. I couldn’t let my anger drive me to do this to a person - especially to a person Hermione loves.
“Malfoy, what the hell have you done?!” She raged at me as she fell to the ground to stroke Weasley’s face.
“I - I -”
Potter looked as though he could have killed me, but chose to look after his friend first. Without looking at me, he said, “Go now. I don’t ever want to see you around here again.”
I looked at Hermione and she didn’t look back. Instead she asked Weasley if he was okay and he muttered that he was fine.
Potter apparated the three of them back into the house while I stood where I was wondering what I had done. She would never want me back now. And so I stood in the same place until I had the energy to Disapparate to the nearest pub.
A week had passed since I had officially ruined my chances with Hermione. After going out on a drinking binge, I had stayed in my bed for the whole week feeling sorry for myself. I only got up because I remembered that Blaise had invited me to meet up for a drink and a bit of fresh air would do me some good.
I slipped on a pair of shoes and pulled on a jacket after tousling my dirty hair. My head was still pounding, but somehow I still managed to make it to the Leaky Cauldron. I walked out of Diagon Alley and into the dim pub. There wasn’t many people around and I instantly noticed Blaise sitting in the corner with a butterbeer in his hand and another on the table.
“You made it then?” he asked.
“Couldn’t you have gotten me anything stronger?” I said as I sipped on the drink.
Blaise laughed. “You know where the bar is.” He looked at me slowly. “How have you been?”
“Yes, I look like shit,” I said with a half-smile. “But things haven’t been going well for me this week.”
“You don’t know the half of it. I’ve ruined my life. The best thing I had is with someone else. After what I did, she’ll never want to speak to me again, Blaise.”
“Do you think you’ll find someone else?”
“I don’t want anyone else.” I sighed and finished the rest of the drink. “How was the party?” I asked bitterly.
“What par -? Oh, at the Burrow … it was okay. I left about half an hour after you did. Pansy got thrown out by Ginny. That was a laugh.”
I nodded, but I really didn’t care. My stomach flipped just at the thought of that night.
“Of course, everyone’s talking about it now …” Blaise carried on.
“Are they? Do people know about when Weasley and I -”
“You and him what?” Blaise asked, frowning.
“Nothing,” I muttered back trying to forget our encounter.
“No, tell me,” he said, all of a sudden eager.
“It’s nothing,” I said. “Everything’s sorted now.”
“Didn’t you hear what happened?” Blaise asked.
“What are you talking about?” I said staring at him.
“Weasley was killed.” Suddenly my heartbeat ran fast in my chest. “Granger found his body the next morning - the morning after the party.”
“What …?” Oh no … Hermione …
“Where have you been? Haven’t you read the papers? It’s everywhere.”
“I haven’t left my house for a week! What happened?”
“No one knows, mate. But, everyone’s just in shock. I sent the Weasleys some flowers, but I doubt that will -”
The door to the pub opened and three official looking wizards came in with their wands up. They looked familiar and then it hit me - I was about to be arrested for the murder of Ronald Weasley.
They came over to me. They asked me my name. I confirmed it. They took my wand. Blaise shouted something. They told him to be quiet. They took me by the arm. The people in the pub stared at me. I saw the flash of a camera bulb. I squinted my eyes. My hands were secured behind my back. Blaise told me not to tell them anything, said he would help me. They read out my charges - something about torture … a-and murder. I swallowed hard in my throat as they walked me out into Diagon Alley and prepared to Disapparate.
And all the while I knew I had brought this on myself.
I wasn’t a murderer, but I sure as hell looked like one.