Chapter 1 : One of One
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Summary: He feels lonely when she leaves him, and the emotion only creates a little niche he settles into. In there, it is only darkness and nothing else, nothing happy -- nothing that he desires. Not like the way he wanted her, for example.
Word Count: 3,100+
Beta: Cklls is awesome, so you can thank her for how well this reads. :) And before her, Michelle and Sam.
Notes: Ain't No Sunshine, the song, is in no way mine. Bill Withers is the proud owner of that one! Also. This is a rewritten version of the one I wrote back in 2009…which now that I've written it, holy. 4 years ago. Anyway, new and improved version! Hope you all like.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.
It's not warm when she's away.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.
And she's always gone too long anytime she goes away.
Draco didn't know how she accomplished it. He really didn't. It was not often that he'd ever been left feeling like this: bereft without a certain person's company, distracted without the assurance that he'd be seeing her later. The reality of the situation only worsened when he realized how often his mood shifted the moment she left him, how irritable he got when he wouldn't be seeing her for days, when sometimes it only took hours for the effect of her absence to grab a strong, clenched, unrelenting hold.
He didn't name the emotion for fear of it really, truly, settling into his system, becoming absolutely real. He'd been able to shield off other emotions -- the pure love for his mum until recently, the hatred all through his growing years for his father. But this…this…
All he felt was lonely when she picked up her fallen, crumpled clothes, padded her way through the door, and disappeared for an innumerable amount of days, weeks.
But surely…surely he hadn't developed a…a full-blown attachment to her…
He'd known his desire for her long ago and had stopped denying it to himself only after the Final Battle. It was futile to continue denying it when, for the first tragic part of his life, he'd had to numb his emotions, his goals, his very real thoughts with the overwhelming presence of his father. To hide his desire would be betrayal to his decision of switching sides. And somewhere, deep down, he told himself to do what he could against his father's rules, to get back at him the only way he could from such a far distance.
One of his first misdemeanors had been to allow the attraction with Granger to intensify, happen, and then continue with a subdued plan of not getting too involved in times of war.
But war had been the reason, he knew, that had cracked and disintegrated their tentative camaraderie, that had thrown them head-first into their forbidden affair. Draco had thrived off the awakening their companionship created, easily getting himself addicted to their refreshing trysts in the dark - dark - times that had engulfed them all. When they were together -- now, then, whenever -- legs entangled and hearts pounding frantically, he always felt that same feeling of freedom. Of being able to do what he wanted, when he wanted, without the thoroughly impossible and destructive constraints his horrible father had given him long, long before.
She was his conductor of light, of having choices, a chance.
He always convinced himself that's why he kept going back, but against his better judgment he realized -- when he honestly knew better but allowed his old, evil, stoic heart let his real feelings shine through -- that that really wasn't the only reason. The way he felt in those moments couldn't be anything other than real, special, too important for his well-being that he couldn't just simply write it off as routine.
Draco once decided it to be physics, how well they fit together.
They were compatible, he'd noticed, once he'd had the time to really think about what he was doing with her. They offset each other well, and once he'd gotten over the arrogant opinion about her with which his father had tried to brainwash him, he figured it was just enough to create the perfect balance.
But that hadn't come so easily at first -- that simple understanding.
Draco rarely liked to ponder how their relationship had fully developed into what it was now, particularly how right nasty he had been at Hogwarts. He even knew how bad he'd been the moment he'd joined the Order…how else was he supposed to retain the only part of his life that hadn't been thrown up in the air and tossed around, his sacred personality?
And with that personality came a surprising guilt.
After a year with the Order, it had settled in quite nicely within his conscience. Against his better judgment, he'd apologized one evening, when yet again the famous trio had thrown his downright abhorrent behaviour in his face. Potter and Weasley he could have handled -- but the disappointment and hurt in Granger's eyes had finally brought him to his breaking point. If anything, Granger had defended him through and through since he'd turned, without any solid evidence as to why, and perhaps he just couldn't handle seeing the disappointment after her unrelenting hope. He'd sought her out days later, thinking he'd feel much better about himself once he'd said he was sorry for all his previous wrongdoings.
But, unfortunately, it had not.
In retrospect, he should have seen that as a red flag -- that she was different somehow. He never felt in debt to people, especially after going the extra thousand miles to apologize.
To make up for the guilt that, to this day, kept nagging him, he was civil to her like he was with no one else. He solely blamed this on the guilt he felt and avoided blaming it on how he felt about her, because it certainly couldn't be from a lowly attraction, a common feeling with all females. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. When it didn't… Well, the frown he sported could be seen and felt from rooms away, because surely it wasn't conceivable that he, heir of the Malfoy name, might…like her.
Liking her would explain his constant acceptance of being nice to her, even allowing her to continue to see him at his most vulnerable.
But he didn't. He couldn't.
He'd long ago accepted the fact he could never have a functional relationship with how horribly he'd been brought up by his parents, how scarred his morals, his feelings, his decisions on such matter were.
She would be appalled, he knew. Criticize how the usually stoic Draco Malfoy could have let himself come so close to a relationship they had clearly agreed would go nowhere. A distraction, they'd said, and that was it.
She would leave him upon principle. For good.
The simple thought of such a travesty was too hard to imagine, let alone if it actually became a reality. Even if it was hard enough knowing that she had next to no feelings for him, after all they had been through.
But, he had to remind himself over and over, he didn't like her that much anyway.
Wonder this time where she's gone,
Wonder if she's gone to stay.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.
And this house just ain't no home anytime she goes away.
"I can't tomorrow night," she was saying, her voice carrying through the Floo network.
"Why not?" he heard himself ask, voice smooth and aloof. Good. It wouldn't do well for her to recognize the…not infatuation he had for her.
"My mother's birthday is tomorrow. She expects me to be there." The moment of silence after her small exhalation of breath is filled with unsaid explanations. Granger had to be there for her mom because she hadn't been there for five years during the war. She had to be there for her birthday, because every year on this day, Granger had cried herself to sleep, hoping to Merlin that her mother would make it through to another year, then another, until the Godforsaken war was over.
"How about the night after next?" she breathed out, letting a frown skate off her features to show a small smile. "I'm free then."
"I won't be." It was harsh -- harsher than he thought it would come out -- but it was already said and conveyed in his tone, and he couldn't back out of something his brain had thought was the right thing to do seconds before. To elaborate on this good idea, he said, "I have a date, actually." And he tried to sound like he was boasting yet not, but he knew he sounded more bored about it than anything. Which he would be, if the date were real.
"Okay," she said slowly, her teeth slowly biting her lip. She looked like a seductress right then, in that exact pose, and he had to suppress the urge to just ask if now was a better alternative than their later plans. Restraint, Draco. Restraint. "Is this a serious date?" she continued.
And it wasn't as if she genuinely wanted to know, but it had always been a rule from the very start -- if ever there was a relationship either wanted to pursue, one would say so, and their agreement would be over.
His heart beat uncomfortably hard in his chest from her query, and he moved his hands to the fabric of his legs to wipe away the perspiration. "I'm not sure yet," he muttered, looking toward his lap and then up to his mantle -- his white and bare mantle. He hated living alone. "I've only met her twice."
"Well, does this mean we'll meet the day after or not?" She appeared impatient, and he wondered if it was because she actually was or just wishful thinking on his part.
"Wednesday." And it was four days from then, but he'd have to deal with the separation. So would she.
"Could we do it any sooner? I'm leaving for Germany that day, and I don't think I'll have enough time."
"Yeah. I'm going for three weeks. I thought I had mentioned it."
"No," he said quickly, because she sure as hell did not, and he could feel his chest tightening at the thought of her leaving, however short a trip it was. "Three weeks?"
"Yup," she echoed, almost sadly. "It's for work, you know."
The last time they had been apart for three weeks, he'd dragged her into a bedroom, mindful of both his injuries and hers, and hand't let her leave for three days. Of course, they had been in the crux of the war and hadn't much time to see each other previous to that day, but he couldn't imagine the separation going so well for his sanity.
Maybe he really did need her around more permanently.
"I'm free Tuesday night. Will that be all right?"
"That would be perfect." And she was happy again, which suddenly brought a small, reminiscent smile to his face. "I'll see you then."
The moment her face disappeared behind ash and embers, he was left in silence with a heavy chest. He sighed, shaking his head. He needed to do something about his problem, if he ever admitted fully to having one. Bringing to light his feelings was out of the question. And so was ceasing their rendezvous.
For one of only a few times in his life, he didn't know what to do.
And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.
"Don't go," he muttered, so close to being silent, unnoticeable.
But she was too intuitive. "I have to."
"You don't. It's work that you can do months from now, or a year from now." And though work mattered a lot to her, he hoped he mattered more. Just this once… When in his bed, in his house, his emotions were never put on hold, and this was the first time one of their trysts had landed them here. He didn't know what he was thinking when she'd said to get them out of there, get them out of the Ministry hallway now. Only that, perhaps, he wanted to show her a side of him he'd never allowed before, to maybe commemorate how long they'd kept this going, to possibly…possibly show her, in not as many words, that she mattered to him in a way no one else had.
The gesture was subtle, but she was not a daft girl, and he'd wiped the look of astonishment off her face with a few specially placed kisses. At the same time, he hoped she didn't notice, more so than how much he wanted to finally come clean. Much more so. To save face.
And Malfoys never failed at doing that.
"I can't afford to miss this," she said quietly after a few breaths of silence, almost hesitantly, and he latched onto that moment with all he could. Even for just a fraction of a second, she'd considered missing her work assignment for him, and he couldn't simply let the opportunity pass. He moved to press a kiss to her neck, her collarbone, lingering long enough to feel the jump in heartbeat he'd provoked, the rise of goosebumps along her smooth skin. She shivered, pressing up and into him, and Draco shifted marginally away to prolong his reaction to her.
He couldn't negotiate with a hard-on, he knew. Especially not with her.
"I can't…stay…" she mumbled, a complete afterthought.
Maybe he had just as much leverage over her body as she did him.
To put to test his theory…
"Yes," he whispered, trailing his lips back up, up, to the corner of her mouth, finally, to place the sweetest kiss upon her lips he could muster.
She had been holding onto both his arms as he hovered above her, but the moment he sealed what must have been her desire, Granger trailed them both around his shoulders and linked her hands behind his neck, effectively bringing him closer.
Too close to negotiate anymore.
Screw it all to hell, though.
He kissed her slowly, gradually bringing out the fire in her that he so wanted. One hand cradled her head, the other pushed under her back for support, and they both fell into the bed with a laugh when his arm gave out moments later. Her chuckle alone was reason enough to be infatuated with her…which he wasn't, obviously. But he pulled up, blasting those thoughts away when in the presence of her, and peered down at her with a small smirk on his face. She was smiling up at him, that beautiful smile he rarely saw, and he knew immediately that he was too far gone already to even have a hope of getting out of this so-called arrangement with her.
In the silence, the tenderness of the moment that seemed so, so important just then, he could study her. Mind you, she was doing the same, but he couldn't give a rat's arse at the moment. Normally, he'd be shielding his eyes as much as he could, never letting her see into the depths, lest she even come close to finding out…
He didn't know what was different about this, right here, but he felt like they were at a crux of a moment, of finally…
Of finally, maybe, coming to terms with what they'd started, what they weren't going to be ending any time soon, and how they…felt…about it.
He wasn't so sure if he was willing to be truthful about all of this, but if he just got to see that smile of hers every day, then…well, in his opinion, his sacrifices would be justified.
But, of course, he had to take into account how unrealistic her reciprocating those feelings would be.
She'd laid down the ground rules, reminded him nearly every time they saw each other what they could and couldn't do, and they hadn't dallied from the guidelines except for a few circumstantial scenarios, when they hadn't the heart to care past helping one another out in the very gloomy times war had pushed upon them.
Granger wouldn't be caught going against her own word.
And to back up his already realistic worries, she spoke.
"I really do have to go, Malfoy."
With the words that show him how right he was.
But she was still looking up at him, that smile still playing at her lips, and her eyes were alight with…hope?
Hope for what?
Draco was never an obtuse being, and he could just as easily read anyone's face the same as no one could read his. There was something in her expression that he just couldn't ignore this time…
Going out on a limb, a proverbial jump off the cliff, he whispered, "I don't want you to go."
It was the first time he'd ever admitted anything at all regarding his true feelings towards her. Sure, he'd said he wanted her, she'd said the same, but that desire is not even close to his heart the way this was, for many a reason. He didn't even care if she just stayed to do paperwork, just as long as she was here. Safe with him.
Draco had a thought that, perhaps, the war had conditioned him to want her close, especially when battles were going on and he felt far more at ease when he knew she was in the same house, or having a go with him. He didn't think he could ever let go of that worry, even knowing Voldemort was gone and the Final Battle was over.
"I don't want to leave," she said quietly, bringing back Draco's full attention.
He'd been so consumed with thoughts of doubt, thoughts of her, he hadn't seen the full range of her reaction, but this…
This was more than he could have ever asked for.
He shifted slightly, bringing the hand that had been supporting her up to cup her face, sliding the other slowly around the back of her head, cradling her. "Then stay."
She smiled up at him, and not even the world or all the money in it could keep him from uncharacteristically grinning at her in return.
Hey, I ought to leave the young thing alone,
But ain't no sunshine when she's gone, only darkness every day.
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone,
And this house just ain't no home anytime she goes away.