Chapter 23 : Chapter 23
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For what felt like an eternity, Hermione held on to Draco, inhaling his scent and relishing every second of him being there. He held her back just as tightly and Hermione knew he really was back; her Draco was back. She could have quite happily stayed there forever but soon remembered that they were having this rather intimate moment in the middle of Professor McGonagall's office. Hermione looked up at the headmistress and gave her a small apologetic smile, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"Sorry, Professor..." she mumbled.
"Quite alright, Miss Granger." McGonagall replied kindly. "I daresay you two have some catching up to do. You are most welcome to stay here for as long as required. I have to meet with Mr Filch anyway, something about Peeves no doubt..." She shook her head in exasperation and headed out of the office, conjuring a large, squashy, red sofa with a flick of her wand before closing the door behind her.
Draco gestured wordlessly to the new piece of furniture, indicating that Hermione should sit and then joined her.
"Hermione..." They both spoke at once and then smiled at each other. Hermione nodded at Draco, allowing him to speak first.
"Thanks..." He paused. "I'm not even sure where to begin, Hermione. I'm just so sorry, about everything."
Hermione tried to interrupt at this point, to tell him he had nothing to be sorry for, but he held his hand up to stop her. "Don't. Don't tell me it wasn't my fault. It was, or at least part of it. I should have seen this coming, weeks, even months ago. You see, Pansy has been pestering me all year; more than usual, I mean. It started after Father died and I didn't go to his funeral. She went, and has apparently spent a lot of time with Mother since, over the school holidays, and they've been writing to each other all year. She's been telling me for a long time about how depressed mother is and how it would make her so happy if she and I were together, since it's what my Father always wanted. Of course I've been telling her where she could stick those ideas...Anyway, after you and I started going out, Pansy became a lot more intense, knocking on my door late at night, begging to come in, constantly telling me I belong with her so that we could carry on the pureblood line. Then, when that didn't work, she wrote to my Mother and told her about us. I got one letter after that telling me how disappointing I was and how my Father would be turning in his grave at the idea of me with a...well, you can guess what she said. I didn't reply and that's the last I heard of her, until she came to visit me in St Mungo's yesterday. It seems after she wrote me that letter, she wrote one to Pansy, telling her to do anything she could to break you and I up, and to make sure I realised that Pansy was the one I should be with. Obviously we both know what happened then. Pansy came knocking on my door the morning of the Valentine's Hogsmeade trip. I was so fed up of her by this time that I opened the door to tell her to leave me alone and that's when she hit me with it; the imperius curse. She told me that I had to end things with you, to pretend it was all a bet and that I was with her. Every cell in my body was screaming in protest but l couldn't stop myself, I couldn't stop saying the words that vile girl put in my mouth, couldn't scream when I saw the expression on your beautiful face..." Draco had to pause his story at that point, he was shaking with anger.
Taking a deep breath, he continued. "Mother was a mess at the hospital, crying and apologising, she didn't think Pansy would take her words so literally as to do something illegal and put me at risk. I told her in no uncertain terms that as long as you wanted me, I would be with you and if she wanted me in her life then she needed to accept that. She was pretty shocked but I think she'll come to terms with it, said she wants to meet you...that is...if you still want to be with me..."
Hermione simply stared at Draco. He had given her so much information to process. The things he hadn't told her about his Mother and...Pansy. Even thinking her name made Hermione feel sick.
When she didn't respond, Draco spoke again. "Look, I know it's a lot to take in. I know I should have told you about Pansy and Mother and I will regret not doing so forever, trust me. I am so sorry Hermione, sorry for keeping secrets and most of all, I'm sorry that I wasn't strong enough to fight off Pansy's curse. I know that it's my fault, I should have been able to fight it and let you know how much I love you, because..."
Hermione cut him off at this point, finally finding her voice. "Stop. That's what you're sorry for? You think it's your fault that you were under the imperius curse? Draco, you silly fool! Of course it wasn't your fault! Yes, you should have told me what was going on with your mum and Pansy but I understand why you didn't, and honestly, I don't care. A month ago, I would have been angry, but right now I am so glad that you're safe and that you still love me after everything. And I'm sorry that I didn't realise something was wrong. I just accepted it, that you didn't love me and it had all been a cruel joke. I didn't even question it..." Her voice trailed off and tears formed in her eyes.
Draco took her into his arms and they lay there for a while. A silent understanding passed between them during that moment, in which they both knew that things were going to be alright, that their relationship had not been damaged beyond repair.
It was Hermione who finally broke the silence between them.
"I really am sorry that I didn't figure it out for myself you know. There were a couple of times when I was confused by the way you were acting, like in potions, when we were doing poison antidotes...you gave me this look..."
"I remember," Draco replied, "that was the first time I saw you after Pansy had me break up with you. You looked so lost, so sad. I was trying so hard to fight the curse, there was a moment when we made eye contact and I felt like I had done it, but it didn't last long." He looked pensive for a second and added, "I hope Slughorn let's me do that work again, Parkinson could have dragged my grade down to a T!" He grinned at Hermione and she couldn't help but smile back. She smiled so widely, for the fist time in weeks, it felt as though a huge weight was being lifted. It wasn't until this point that she realised just how unhappy she had been. She closed the gap between her and Draco and kissed him. He responded with such a passion Hermione had never felt before. They were both putting everything they had into the kiss: the relief, the heartbreak, the joy and the pain.
It was several minutes before the broke apart again, ready to leave the office, hand-in-hand as they should be.
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