I groaned slightly as my sandpaper eyelids slid open. I lay in my bed for a few moments, waiting for my groggy mind to clear enough for me to think properly. Or at the very least function like a normal human being. I sat up slowly, wincing as a sharp dizzying pain shot through my pounding head. I reached up slowly and gingerly touched my forehead. God I had one hell of a headache.
I stretched my arms slightly before swinging out of bed. I stopped once I felt the dull ache running through my body. Glancing down I saw a pattern of dark purple lines crossing over my arms. I gasped slightly as I recognised them as bruises. I pulled up my plum tank top and saw similar lines crossing my stomach and ribs.
I remembered then. The café. The Death Eater. The bonds. The Dream.
My head spun and I felt the blood pounding madly against my forehead. My vision turned red. My legs turned to jelly.
“Draco...” I moaned out his name, my eyes rolling to the back of my head. I collapsed on the floor as my world throbbed red.
I woke up a moment later, still lying sprawled on the floor. My head was giving me hell, and now my stomach was too.
“Oh god.” I gasped as I tried to stand up on my jelly legs. Holding my hand firmly over my mouth I stumbled into the bathroom and threw myself at the toilet.
I sat back a moment later, flushing away my vomit and wiping my mouth on the back of my hand. I pressed my back against the wall and rested the back of my head against it, closing my eyes. I forced myself to take deep, calming breaths. I inhaled deeply through my nose, feeling my rib change swell and expand, before I exhaled through my mouth and allowed my muscles to relax.
I stayed that way for several minutes before I finally felt my heartbeat slow to a normal level and my headache subside to a dull throb. I opened my eyes, happy to see that the world had returned to a normal colour. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them before leaning my forehead on my knees.
I was too tired to think, so I just sat there with my mind comfortably blank.
I didn’t react straight away to the noise. It seemed to vibrate through my mind for a moment, echoing against the walls as unrecognisable syllables before coming together to form the word, the voice. I slowly pulled my forehead up from my knees and turned my head to see Draco standing in the doorway.
He stood still for a moment, his eyes wide as they roamed my face and then the rest of my body, pausing at the bruises on my arms. His gaze darkened.
He took a step into the bathroom and sank to the floor beside me, reaching out a tentative hand to trace the pattern of my bruises. Before I could react he’d pushed my legs down and my top up. I glanced down to see his palm pressed against the bare skin of my stomach, which was also crossed with dark lines of purple. He abruptly yanked his hand away in disgust and looked away from me.
“Jesus Hermione. I’m so sorry.” His face sank slowly into his hands as he shook his head back and forth. “So, so sorry.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just watched him, my eyes wide. He seemed so….so…..
I slowly reached out my hand to touch his shoulder and then stopped. My arm hung in the empty air as I thought about it. Could I touch him? Did I have the right? I remembered the night before, how he’d held me so close. Was it right to touch him right now?
My arm dropped limply to my side.
“It’s okay, it wasn’t your fault.” I whispered, my eyes trailing down to my still exposed stomach. I slowly touched one bruise with my index finger, pressing down slightly until I sucked in air through my teeth in a low hiss. Tender.
I glanced back at Draco to see he was staring at my stomach with such clear pain and regret in his eyes that I felt my heart squeeze. I didn’t hesitate this time; I reached over and squeezed his hand. I felt him squeeze back before he looked into my eyes.
“I should have protected you; it’s what I’m here for. I should never have suggested leaving the tent. I should have –“
I reached forward and pressed my fingers against his lips. His eyes bore into mine and I stared right back, sure that my own eyes looked strong and sure.
“You did protect me. You threw yourself in front of a curse for me, Draco you saved my life! It doesn’t matter about what you should have done, what matters is what you did. Thank you, for saving my life.” I smiled at him before pulling my hand away from his lips slowly. He caught it in his swiftly and held it against his cheek. I pushed back the urge to gasp at how good his warm skin felt against mine and instead focused on his eyes.
They were deep, swirling clouds of the most beautiful grey. I felt lost as I was pulled deep into their depths and for a moment, just a mere second, Draco let me in. I saw the pain, the anguish, the fear. I saw the pent up anger and the swirling storm of emotions that was all trapped inside of him. I gasped and heard myself murmur:
He blinked at it was gone. It was like a flicked switch that made everything almost normal again.
But things weren’t normal, and I wasn’t going to forget what I saw.
“Are you okay?” He asked softly, “Apart from the obvious bruising, I mean why are you in here?”
“I felt faint, but I’m okay now.” I smiled at him reassuringly before I pressed my palms on the floor and pushed myself up. I swayed slightly and Draco caught me and steadied me, his arms brushing my bare stomach and sending tendrils of electricity through me. My breath caught. I stared at him. He stared at me.
“Steady.” He murmured as he gently pulled my top down and slowly led me to the kitchen where there were two bowls of cereal waiting for us. Draco set me down on a chair in the dining room before walking over with our breakfast. He set my bowl in front of me and I glanced down at it for a minute, as if unsure what to do.
“Eat.” He instructed, so I picked up my spoon and shoved some cereal into my mouth. My god was I hungry! I soon found myself shovelling it down, feeling better and stronger with every mouthful. Malfoy was talking his time, watching me between quietly eating small mouthfuls.
Once we were both finished he picked up our bowls and dumped them in the sink before returning to sit beside me.
“I’ve apparated us away from France, the Death Eaters won’t find us now.” He said the words almost casually, as if we were going on holiday instead of running for our lives.
I swallowed. “Where are we now?”
“Iceland!” I instantly brightened; I’d ALWAYS wanted to go to Iceland! I remembered my father showing me pictures from when he’d gone in his university years, gaping at the beautiful landforms, glaciers and geothermal pools.
“Yeah, is that okay? I figured it was far away with loads of uninhabited areas…” He trailed off, looking at me sheepishly.
“It’s great! Can I go see? Wait! Have you put wards up?” Sensible now, don’t go rushing out like a lunatic four year old. Oh but what if there’s snow!
“Oh yeah, I copied the wards you put around the other one I think it should be okay but you can check if you want. But before you go out you might want to put something warmer on, it’s a little chilly.” He grinned at me as I leapt up excitedly and rushed off to change clothes.
I returned a few moments later wearing a pair of scruffy jeans, a T-shirt, my really thick wool sweater jumper thing, multiple socks, willies, a scarf and some gloves. Bring it on snow.
Draco smirked at me.
“Go enough layers there?” He stood in jeans, Timberland boots, thick gloves and a grey wool sweater which really made his eyes pop. I forced myself to stop staring at him and instead nodded like an idiot.
“OKAY LETS GO!” I rushed out of the tent, dragging him along with me.
“Note to self, snow makes Hermione act like a four year old.” Draco smirked at me before we stepped out into a white world.
My breath caught in my throat and I froze. It was so beautiful. All around me was a sparkling sea of smooth white snow which stretched in all directions, glistening in the sun like billions crushed diamonds. We were in a valley with huge white, rocky mountains stretching up on ether sides steeply. I gazed up at them, feeling humbled by their pure size and might, their peaks touching the heavens. I turned to my left and gasped in wonder at the long, twisting frozen river that was meandering along the flat valley floor. The silvery ice was glinting like a huge crystal serpent twisting through mountains. I twirled around, staring at the gorgeous white landscape which twisted off out of my line of vision, seeming to continue forever.
“So, what do you think?” I heard snow crunch as Draco moved to step beside me, his breath sending a plume of foggy air in front of him. I grinned at him, throwing my arms around his neck and hugging him tight.
“Oh Draco this is amazing! It’s so beautiful!” I was already feeling better, as if all of my troubles were left behind in France. Up here, with the beautiful white, pure snow and clear, crisp air there was no worries, no pain, no Death Eaters. I felt Draco’s chest rumble as he chuckled deeply.
“I’m glad you like it,” His arms came around me and squeezed me gently. I pulled back, smiling at him and feeling happier than I had in a while.
“Come on!” I laughed, grabbing his hand and tugging him with me as I rushed forwards, kicking up snow.
“Where are we going?” His voice was light and joined in my laughter.
“Does it matter?” I spun around to face him, throwing my arms out and laughing up at the bright blue sky above me. “Let’s go!”
I ran off towards one of the nearest mountains and we proceeded to spend the rest of the day walking through the valley, exploring the mountainous range whilst laughing and talking about mindless things.
And it was probably one of the best days of my life.
Draco stared at Hermione. They were lounging on a flat rock they’d found by a cluster of geothermal pools (which Hermione had gone nuts over), Hermione lying flat on her back staring up at the sky and Draco lying on his side, propped up on his elbow, watching her.
He couldn’t stop staring at her; she was so god damn beautiful it made his heart hurt. The second they’d stepped out into the snow she seemed to change. The pain he’d noticed hidden deep in her brown eyes seemed to melt away as she gazed around her in wonder. Her eyes shined with happiness while her rose petal lips parted in a heart stopping smile. She literally took his breath away.
I mean sure, he’d been attracted to her before but not like this. Before she was pretty, but her eyes were constantly clouded with pain and regret. I’m not even sure she realised how sad she looked sometimes, staring off into the fire as she remembered scenes from the war. It broke his heart to see her like that, the poor innocent angel forced to walk through the horrors of earth.
He remembered that night at the manor, watching her convulse on the floor covered in her own blood and tears. In that moment, when their eyes met as she lay panting and sweating on the cold ground, Draco had realised that he didn’t hate her as he’d once thought. In fact, he’d felt strangely protective towards her which was torture since he couldn’t. For the first time in his life he was ashamed to be a Malfoy, he was ashamed to be a part of something so cruel and disgusting. It was then that he’d sworn to change; he’d sworn to never ever let anyone hurt Hermione like that again.
From that moment on he’d be there for her, no matter what.
He’d visited her at her home a few times, while she was sleeping, just to make sure she was safe. He’d seen her with Ron a few times and felt a sharp pang of jealousy as he watched Ron wrap his arms around her while she slept. Draco wanted to be there for her, he wanted to be with her.
And now he was. He got to protect her, he got to hold her and comfort her, and he got to pull her close. He had everything he’d wanted; he had her trust and friendship. She no longer looked at him with ice and hatred in her gaze or mistrust and doubt. Turning her head to look at him now her eyes were clear of all those things, she looked happy.
But he still wanted more…..
Recently it had gotten worse, the touch of her skin against his was almost too much, it was driving him insane. Watching her lips curve up in a smile he had to physically hold himself back from kissing her all over her smooth, flawless face. What must it feel like to kiss those lips? To taste her…..
But she was with Ron, and he didn’t deserve her. Deep down he knew that.
Oh but he wanted her so badly!
Why do I have to be a fucking Malfoy? He thought bitterly as his eyes travelled from her smooth, soft brown hair to her rose lips.
Would things have been different? Would it be he, and not that stupid Weasel, that got to claim her heart? Who would he have been if he wasn’t a Malfoy?
“You’re off in la-la-land.” Hermione’s twinkling laugh broke through his internal monologue and he snapped back to the present where her eyes were sparkling with humour.
He smirked back at her. “Oh my god did you actually say la-la-land?”
She giggled at our little joke and propped herself up on her elbows, tilting her head back and closing her eyes for a moment. Draco’s eyes travelled down her body and he once again felt a rush of lust for her. Oh boy did he want her.
YOU DON’T DESERVE HER! He internally smacked himself and turned away from her, taking deep breaths in an attempt to maintain control. Think of the bruises, they’re YOUR fault.
Guilt washed through him as he remembered her lying there, shaking and sobbing as she was bound by those vicious ropes which left ugly purple marks over her beautiful skin. He tightened his fists and felt a surge of anger. Damn that Victor! Damn him to fucking hell!
“We should go for a swim tomorrow.” Draco turned back to peer at her. She was smiling at him confidently, motioning towards the steaming pools. “It would be fun!”
It would be too tempting.
“I think I’m going to write to Harry.” He murmured, shrugging as he did so in an attempt to appear nonchalant. Did he want to lounge in a steamy pool with her? Hell yes! Could he allow himself to do this? Hell. No.
Hermione instantly sobered. “You can write to him? How?”
“Magic.” Draco smirked at her, his poker face firmly intact.
“Can I write one to him?” She asked timidly. He frowned, considering. She stared at him pleadingly, and his resolve instantly broke.
“I don’t see why not, we’ll just tell them not to write back and cover our tracks.” Draco smiled at her brightened expression. She suddenly threw herself at him, burying her face in his chest and hugging him tight. He froze, not daring to breath.
“Thank you!” She gushed and he smiled, bringing his arms up to squeeze her tight against him. He lowered his face to her hair and inhaled it’s fresh scent of raspberries.
This, he thought, is what heaven must be like.
After a few moments Draco forced himself to move away from her and help her up. He muttered that they should be heading back and Hermione agreed. The two of them wondered back leisurely, their footsteps leaving a light trail in the thick sparkling snow.
(A/N - I don't own Timberland or any other brand that I may have mentioned in this chapter, all rights belong to their original owners.)