Chapter 14 : Chapter 14 ~ The Courage to Melt a Shield
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JKR is the best and my inspiration
Chapter 14 ~ The Courage to Melt a Shield
Saturday morning came all too soon for Draco, he had stayed up staring at his ceiling for a long time last night contemplating how he was going to tell Hermione about his feelings. For some reason his body decided sleep wasn’t necessary for his big day, because as his eyes opened he noticed it was still very dark out. He groaned and covered his head with a pillow hoping he could fall back asleep. After 20 more minutes of trying to go unconscious, he gave up and flipped over to stare at the pictures beside his bed. Blaise had given him so much crap when he’d seen it, but Draco didn’t care. These pictures were something he would treasure for the rest of his life and they also helped remind him of how amazing this past Christmas had been. Hermione had no idea just how good every second had been for him.
He rolled over again and this time there was significant light on the horizon through the window by his bed. Finally taking a glance at the clock he saw it was just a few minutes before 8am. He still had over an hour until he was meeting Hermione out front. Draco decided he’d occupy some of this eternity by taking a long, hot shower. He spent half an hour standing in the scalding water and it felt good. However, the water did nothing to stop him from thinking about her. He leaned against the side of the shower, running a hand through his hair, and thought about the moments she had been in his arms. It had been perfect.
Suddenly he felt cold even though the water was scorching. How could she ever feel the same way about him? He may be helping her, but wouldn’t he always be a reminder of the bad times? Had she truly forgiven him? Draco slammed his hand against the wall of tile and felt his palm stinging. He couldn’t let himself have doubt, not today of all days. He stepped out, dried himself and went into the common room. No one else was up except for him and Seren and she was sprawled out on the green rug laying at the foot of the fireplace. When he entered the room, she looked up at him and blinked, then laid her head back down and stretched her legs before pulling her front paws in to cover her face. Draco couldn’t help smiling.
“Are you trying to be irresistible?” He said to her as he sat down on the floor next to her.
She opened her eyes and gazed at him with one of her intense stares. After a moment of her looking into his soul, she stood up and rubbed up against him while purring. He shifted so that he was sitting cross-legged, leaning against one of the armchairs and once she had walked around him a few times, Seren climbed into his lap and made herself comfortable. Draco absentmindedly stroked her head and ears as he gazed into the flames next to him. His cat made life so simple and clear sometimes. She forced him to live and stay in the moment for a time and it was refreshing. Draco was so lost in his moment with Seren that he didn’t notice Astoria come down the stairs and observe him.
Draco jerked a little and Seren jumped off his lap.
“Bloody hell, you could have announced yourself better.”
“I’ve been standing here, within eyesight of you for 5 minutes Draco.”
He had no retort.
“What were you thinking about?” She asked him as she grabbed the tip of Seren’s tail when she passed by.
“Uh, guess I just got lost in the flames.”
She stayed silent but a wrinkle appeared between her eyes. At this moment, Draco remembered his mother telling him a long time ago, when he was introduced to the Greengrass’s, that Astoria was a girl he should get to know. He had been told that it was a girl like Astoria that he should marry to continue the good name of Malfoy. Draco’s father had pushed the issue many times with him about duty and marriage, but Draco fought him the whole way. His mother on the other hand, only dropped an occasional hint mixed with her comment about her wanting him to be happy. Now that his mother was in the state she’d been tortured to, he knew that her wanting him to find happiness was because she hadn’t had the happy marriage she’d hoped for.
As he looked at Astoria now, he saw his best friends girl. She was witty and much smarter than she appeared, but Draco wasn’t interested in someone like her. Of course, he never thought he’d be head over heels for Hermione, but he was and he was sure that if his mother could see him, she’d be pleased that he was happy. Draco brought his focus back to the common room and noticed that it was busier now. People were bustling about, meeting friends to get ready for Hogsmeade. Excitement flared up inside him, but was quickly replaced with panic. Astoria must have sensed his discomfort,
“You’re going with her today aren’t you?”
“Yeah…” He said, letting out a breath.
“Just be yourself. That’s what she likes and the person she wants to be around.”
Draco was just nodding, because he didn’t trust his voice, when Blaise came flying down the stairs.
“Oh… why… are… you… here…?” He sputtered between gulps of air as he attempted to finger-comb his hair.
Draco and Astoria just stared at Blaise. Blaise went wide-eyed and then tapped his watch. Draco’s snapped his head to look at the clock on the mantel and noticed it was 9:35. He scrambled to his feet and pushed people out of the way to race out the door. He knocked more people over as he managed to squeeze through the portrait hole, desperately hoping Hermione was there. They had agreed on meeting around 9:20… Once outside the tower, he frantically looked around and was beginning to feel like he was the worst person ever when he spotted her tucked in a corner out of the crowd. He raced over to her,
“I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean to be late Hermione.”
“It’s ok, I’ve only been waiting about 10 minutes.”
She was looking at him with a soft smile, which made him unable to think. Now that he knew she was there and not mad, he took in her appearance. She was wearing an emerald sweater, that fit her perfectly, with a pair of jeans and a black and silver scarf. Her wavy hair was down and the hint of pink in her cheeks was… she was beautiful. At that instant, she could have asked him to do anything for her and he would have done it. He wanted her so bad. Then he remembered what he was set on doing today and his stomach did summersaults.
As Hermione opened her eyes, she wondered what Ginny and Harry had thought of their Christmas gifts… or if they had even opened them. It had been months since then, but there had been no word. Harry only said an occasional comment to her and Ginny was still ignoring her. Ron was just as rude as ever. He seemed to find it funny that she had been dumped and reminded her that it meant she was worthless and a traitor. The trauma of the war had changed him so much – losing his brother and everything their Trio had gone through during the war. Luckily today, she would be spending the day with Draco and could do it without hiding because everyone knew they were friends. She picked out a nice emerald sweater and grabbed her cloak before walking out of the tower to meet Draco. Hermione felt bad that she was a few minutes later than the time they had agreed on, but when she stood by a corner wall, she didn’t see him around.
About 10 minutes had gone by and Hermione was beginning to wonder if he had forgotten. But no sooner had she begun to worry and contemplate leaving alone, the portrait opened and Draco came flying out of it. She smiled. He breathlessly apologized but she told him it was fine. Together they started down towards the Great Hall for a quick breakfast and then onto Hogsmeade. Half way to the hall, Blaise and Astoria caught up with them and the four talked about what they wanted to do before splitting up. Thankfully Valentine’s day had passed, so there was no awkwardness. Today’s trip however did fall on St. Patrick’s day, which was another reason Hermione had opted for her green top. Draco, Blaise and Astoria were each wearing a house item that was green and Astoria had a green hair clip pulling back her side bangs.
Once they finished a quick bite to eat, they managed to get outside the front doors. Entering the village they noticed Leprechauns were along the main street and the whole village seemed to be having a mini festival. Hermione smiled. It was so nice to see the village repaired, both physically and in atmosphere. They all laughed at the antics of people in the square, some of who were already a bit drunk. The four of them visited Zonko’s and Honeydukes before agreeing to meet in the Three Broomsticks later and splitting ways. Hermione caught Blaise giving Draco a strange look, but this happened often between them so she paid it no mind.
“Where to?” She heard Draco ask from beside her.
She gave him a pleading, yet apologetic look and he sighed and gestured with his arm to lead the way. Hermione was headed to her favorite Hogsmeade bookstore and she knew Draco was going along with it. She smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder for a second. As soon as she did it she recoiled slightly. He had stiffened and Hermione hoped she hadn’t pushed too far. He didn’t say anything and continued to walk along, so she desperately hoped he thought it was a harmless gesture. Once they reached the bookstore, Hermione left Draco to wander on his own. She eagerly ran her fingers over the shelves full of titles and picked out a couple that struck her interest. Satisfied with her purchase, they left. The moment they stepped out of the building, however, there was a stampede of people and leprechauns running in some kind of race or contest. Draco had pushed her back against the building behind them and was leaning very close.
Hermione’s breath caught. His face was close to hers and her stomach had a thousand butterflies panicking. She imagined him closing the space and kissing her, but then tried to banish the thought before she did something rash. After looking away and then back at Draco, she noticed that he seemed to be struggling with something as he locked eyes on her and as soon as the street was clear he stepped away from her. Draco turned around and she heard him take a breath. Hemione watched and when he turned back around he seemed composed, but his eyes had an intensity to them.
“Can I take you somewhere?” He asked her quietly.
Hermione was a little nervous and had no idea where this might lead, but seeing the inner struggle on his features, she nodded. He walked in silence and took her up a path she had never been on before that lead up a little hill that looked out over the main street square of the village. The festival was in full swing and people were having a good time; laughter and smiles filled the space. Draco finally stopped and Hermione just about collided with him. He turned to look at her,
“I need to tell you something… I’m not exactly sure if I should, but I can’t just sit back anymore.”
He went silent. Hermione waited and began to feel nervous. Finally he spoke again,
“I came back this year to prove to people I’d changed and I wanted to personally make some amends, especially to you. What I did not count on was being thrown into detention with you. I also never thought you would actually forgive me, much less become my friend. It has meant so much to me, but I can’t keep up this charade … Hermione, I don’t want things to change and I don’t want to lose you, but...”
Hermione’s heart had begun to beat very fast and suddenly everything around her seemed to freeze and stand still. She was finding it hard to breathe and was on edge for his next words. Time seemed to take longer and it felt like hours before she heard him say,
“Hermione… I’ve fallen in love with you.”
Her heart stopped and she froze.
What had he just said? Her mind kept hoping he would say it again, but instead he appeared anxious. He looked at her and she noticed that same intensity in his eyes. As the silence continued and hung in the air like a thick mist, he began to shut himself behind his barriers. Hermione could see it on his face and his body stature drooped. She tried to force out words,
“What?” came her whisper.
His eyes met hers again and she could feel tears in her own. How long had he felt this way? How long had he been hiding this and acting as just a friend to her? This time more than just one word came out,
“Draco… how long?”
Somehow she’d found her voice, but it still came out as a whisper. He didn’t relax, but sighed,
“I don’t remember exactly, but I knew at Christmas that what I suspected I felt was true.”
“But you didn’t say anything.” She said to him in confusion.
“Because I didn’t want to push you. You needed a friend and someone to help you heal and I told myself I’d be that person. That’s why I started sending those notes… and then you found someone else.”
Hermione stared at him.
“That’s been you sending notes? This whole time? Even back when we were fighting and started detention together?”
“Yes, I wanted you to know that you weren’t alone and that someone out there cared.”
She flung herself at him. Hermione felt him catch her in his arms and as he held her he kissed the top of her head. Not only did she feel safe, but her stomach flipped around. After a moment, Draco pulled away from her and pulled her chin up so that she was looking into his eyes.
“I didn’t tell you because I thought you would never feel anything close to what I did and I promised you that I would always be here for you. I didn’t want you to lose someone else.”
A tear leaked out and started running down her face, only to be stopped by Draco’s thumb brushing it away. The intense look was so strong in his eyes that she forgot the world around her. She was pretty sure she wanted him to kiss her. Did he actually love her?
“Hermione, have I been too forward?”
She shook her head since her brain could not formulate words.
“If you feel similar… just say my name.” He whispered.
Hermione felt panicked and excited all at once. Could this really be happening to her right now? Draco Malfoy, he past enemy, was in love with her… and even scarier, she felt the same. Somehow, words formed on her lips again and her voice, barely audible, came out,
The last thing she saw and remembered was a smile appearing on his face, and then he pulled her closer and kissed her.
Draco couldn’t believe it. He was kissing Hermione Granger and she was ok with it. As his lips met hers his body felt like it was on fire, but one that didn’t hurt. The first kiss he pulled her in for had been short, but then both of them and leaned in and kissed each deeper. After what felt like an eternity, they broke apart and he heard her take a breath. Draco ran a hand through his hair as he took a step back. He looked at her and was in complete disbelief. Then a jolt of worry ran through him as she turned away,
“I’m sorry, did I just ruin everything?” He said as his heart sank.
He knew it had been too soon, he just hadn’t been able to wait any longer. Especially not after being so close to her in that street as he’d pushed her out of the way. He was just about to speak again when she turned around with a small smile and look of shock.
“No Draco, you didn’t ruin anything. I just never thought anyone could care for me like you do. Someone who has seen me at my weakest and knows my dark secrets.”
How could she have thought no one would care for her?
“Hermione, you are the strongest person I know. You are living and excelling after everything you’ve been through. Many people would have given in to the hate or despair. But you forgave me, someone who was horrible to you. I have admired you for years, but especially this one. I have wanted for a long time to be the one who makes you smile, like you have a few times and the night we danced.”
He saw her smile at the memory.
“Blaise has known hasn’t he?” She asked him.
This time she laughed and he realized it must have been how he’d replied. Blaise had been able to see it from the beginning, even before he had realized it himself. He focused his attention back on Hermione and watched as she stepped closer and slipped her hand into his. He smiled and brought her hand to his mouth, kissing the smooth skin on the back. He heard her breath catch and he fought the urge to pull her into a kiss again. He would be gentle and slow, no matter how enticing she was to him. So instead, he pulled her into another hug and just held her. He kissed her forehead and then looked out over the landscape. Everything looked brighter and more vibrant to him right now and he never wanted this moment to end.
However, after a few minutes, he felt Hermione shiver in his arms and realized how long they had been out in the cold. He continued to hold her hand as they walked back down the path. Draco guided her as she walked next to him with her head resting against his shoulder. He couldn’t remember a time that he had been happier, except for maybe when he’d spent Christmas with Hermione. They still had a couple hours left in the village and he didn’t care who saw them hand in hand. Together they slipped into the Three Brooksticks and squeezed their way through the crowd. As they sat down at the empty table that was most accessible to them, Draco noticed it was the one they had taken the pictures at. Hermione must have recognized it too because she smiled at him.
After getting butterbeers, they both sat and talked. Nothing had changed between them except that Draco noticed she was more relaxed. He wondered how long she had been feeling something for him. He had never thought it truly possible, it had only been a wishful dream of his. Watching Hermione sip at her beverage, Draco realized how far they’d come and how lucky he was. She was an amazing individual and now she was with him, sort of. They’d figure out exactly what they were later. A little while before everyone had to trudge back up to the castle, Blaise found them and one look told him what he wanted to know. He “whooped” and slapped Draco on the back and then smiled at Hermione, who blushed.
“Finally!” Blaise exclaimed as he sat down at their table. “Hermione, you know this guy has been in love with you for a long time?”
Draco rolled his eyes and glared at his best friend, but her heard her voice,
“I know. I can see it now that I think back…”
Draco’s heart soared and it was all he could do to manage not grinning like an idiot. Astoria was talking to Hermione and asking what he was sure were “girl questions.” Meanwhile. Blaise was attempting to converse with him, but Draco was lost in his own world while admiring Hermione across from him. There was a pain in his arm and he finally was pulled out of his daze by Blaise punching him.
“Oi lover boy… It’s time to head back, so come down from the clouds.”
Draco pushed Blaise out of his chair and then went over by Hermione. As she was putting on her cloak, he leaned his and kissed her cheek. Blushing slightly, she smiled at him. When Draco looked up he saw a few people staring besides Blaise who was pretending to gag and Astoria who was beaming. The four began the long walk back to the castle, but instead of walking with Hermione like he wanted, Astoria pulled Hermione ahead and linked arms with her, pointedly looking at Draco.
Even though the girls were a few feet ahead of them and had their heads together talking, people around them had begun to whisper about what had apparently been seen in the pub. Draco hoped nothing besides whispers would come out of this. It’s not like him and Hermione spending time together was a big surprise. They’d been seen doing homework together and Draco had been a pretty regular guest at the Gryffindor table for months now. He was more concerned with what Potter’s and Weasley’s reactions were going to be. But those thoughts were washed from his mind as his girl looked over her shoulder and gave him the smile she reserved for him.
By the time everyone got back and the Headmistress got the crowd settled down, he was starving. He kicked himself slightly for not making sure Hermione ate more today, but they had both been a little… sidetracked with the events of the day. Fortunately, she served herself a hearty plateful and seemed to be in good appetite. He noticed during their meal just how intently Potter was watching them and wondered what news he’d heard so far. He would be by her side as much as possible and hoped that when she wasn’t with him she would be alright. After dinner, Draco walked with her and a leisurely pace and she laced her fingers with his. They didn’t talk much and as they approached their separate doors he gently cupped her face and kissed her.
Hermione walked through the Gryffindor in a daze and slightly out of breath. Draco’s good night kiss was replaying in her mind, along with the events of the whole day. She couldn’t believe that she was with Draco and that he felt this way about her. Of course, there was no doubt it was true because of the whole school year of evidence to support it, but it was still such a surprise. It had also never occurred to her that she’d be this happy with someone or have someone at all. Her thoughts however were interrupted by a face she always hoped to avoid.
Ron was standing in front of her and fuming. She was also very aware that he smelled of Firewhiskey. Hermione’s stomach tightened, this couldn’t be a good combination.
“How could you Hermione?” He stormed at her. “You were friends with that scum, but now you just had to go and be with him?”
Hermione looked around and saw that out of all the 6th and 7th years, no one else was in the common room. She was alone. The person who stood before her was torn to pieces by the war in a very different way than she was and seemed to be angry at anyone who he thought had been a cause of some part of his pain during the war. Hermione knew that Ron blamed her for not doing more and then “abandoning” them. Ron also had always hated Draco and she knew that Ron put a huge amount of blame on him. There was no way for her to talk him out of those ideas either.
Ron staggered towards her and grabbed her arm roughly,
“WHY? You have the blood of muggles and that git hates it. Death Eaters consider your blood dirty, yet you want to be around him? Are Harry and I not good enough for you? Is that why you left and then chose him over us?”
“Ron, that’s not true…”
He gripped her arm wrist. It hurt.
“You’re as bad as them!” He said with venom as he raised his voice. “You could have been so much more helpful in the war, but instead all you did was read and study. You could have saved people.”
More helpful? She had held their group together and saved both Harry and Ron on multiple occasions. Hermione tried to contain her tears, but between his words and the grip on her arm, she couldn’t hide them.
“Ron that’s not true. I did my best!” She whimpered.
“LIER!!!” He shouted as he pushed her backwards, yet still held her wrist.
“Ron… what are you doing?”
Hermione looked around to see Harry with Ginny behind him. His face was switching from shock, to realization and them to anger.
“LET GO OF HER RON!” Harry bellowed and rushed forward.
Hermione stayed pressed up against the wall and watched as Harry forced Ron’s hand off her and pushed him away.
“HOW DARE YOU LAY A FINGER ON HER! Get out.”
“Harry, she’s with Malfoy! He was part of Fred’s death! How can you let this happen?”
“Ron, you’re hurting Hermione. She’s our friend and saved us! You need to get control because you’ve lost it! GET OUT.”
Ron looked as though he wanted to say more, but seeing Harry’s face and then the tears on Ginny’s, he turned and stormed up to the boys dormitory. Hermione closed her eyes and could feel her body shaking as tears fell down her face. Her thoughts were a blur, but she was vaguely aware that a person was standing in front of her.
“Hermione.” Harry said to her softly.
She opened her eyes. Harry had moved directly in front of her and to her surprise Ginny was standing next to him and crying.
“What happened to make Ron go berserk?”
Hermione almost laughed. They had no idea this had happened before. She rubbed her arm and Harry pulled up her sleeve and then cursed.
“I don’t know what’s happened to him. Hermione were you’re bruises in the past from him?”
She nodded, surprised that Harry had noticed.
“He’s been angry with me and hurt me.”
“Hermione I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he was this bad off.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know Harry…”
He looked at her sadly, but it was Ginny who spoke,
“Hermione, I’m so sorry. I thought Ron was upset because he still liked you and you chose to be friends with Malfoy over us. To think I comforted him…”
“Hermione please tell us, everything.” Harry begged.
Hermione sighed shakily. Should she tell them everything? Maybe it was time, she had nothing to lose. So she nodded to them and they sat down by the fire. She launched into an explanation of the result of restoring her parents memories. She explained how she felt after the war, and how the reactions from her parents broke her and then when she came back to Hogwarts she felt out of place. Once she had detention with Malfoy things changed. She told them about the notes that Draco had sent her and how they had talked about their unique but similar experiences with the war and family. Hermione also told them everything Ron had said and done to her. By the time she finished, Ginny was crying again and the moment Hermione stopped speaking, Ginny flung herself at Hermione. Harry just looked sad.
“You never told us anything.” He said quietly.
“I didn’t know how. You had a chance at being happy and I was anything but that.” Hermione said to him.
There was a pause, then Ginny spoke,
“So what about Malfoy? You think he’s a good person and you’re with him now? Or is that just a rumor around school?”
“No, it’s true. It happened today.”
“Can I talk to him?” Ginny asked.
Hermione felt a release at letting everything out in the open. She hadn’t held back or been gentle with how she had felt. She knew that she’d hurt them, but it was the truth. The three of them just sat in silence for a while and then Hermione got up to go to bed. She was at the foot of the stairs when she heard Harry’s voice,
“I’m glad you’ve found some happiness Hermione, even if its not with us.”
A little warmth touched her heart. She climbed the rest of the stairs and as she lay down she thought about the day. Everything had been broken for so long now she wasn’t sure if the piece to their friendship would fit back together, but at least there were no more secrets.
The sunlight streamed onto her face and Hermione rolled over in order to not blind herself as she opened her eyes. Her head was pounding and her arm was sore. Yesterday had seemed like an entire week crammed into one tiny day. Placing her feet on the cold floor, she quickly grabbed her things and went to the bathroom to wash up. On her way back to drop off pajama’s, she noticed Ginny sitting up on her bed holding something in her hand and crying. Once Hermione was by her bed she could see what Ginny was holding. It was the hair clip Hermione had given her for Christmas along with the book on hair styles. Uncertainty filled Hermione. Should she go over and say something or continue about her day without a word?
Still deciding what to do, Ginny looked up at her.
“I’ve thought about you every day. I always wondered what happened to make you disappear from our lives and it stung to see you so happy with the Slytherin’s. But now I know why. Somehow, they helped you more than we could.”
Hermione sank onto her bed and looked at her hands.
“I won’t get in the way nor do I expect you to just let us back into your life like we were years ago… but I would like to meet Malfoy. Be introduced to the person you know.”
Taking a chance, Hermione answered,
“If I bring you with me, please don’t tell anyone about it. We have a secret spot and I don’t want to lose it.”
Ginny nodded and hurriedly changed. Once she was done, she nodded. Hermione checked that no one was watching and then led the way to the door leading up to the community room. She hoped Draco wouldn’t be mad at her for bringing Ginny here, but it was the safest place to have them meet. As she and Ginny both emerged from the archway with the Lion above it, Seren bounded over towards them only to stop at the sight of Ginny. She gazed at them and cocked her head to the side.
“Draco?” Hermione said, looking up towards their cove up top.
I’m up here lo – oh.” He stopped speaking as he looked over the edge and saw who was with her.
She watched him stand up and then cautiously make his way down the stairway. Taking a step towards him, she leaned up and whispered,
“I told Ginny and Harry everything. They walked in on another Ron incident.”
He quickly looked at her, eyes full of worry. Then he noticed her forearm and she could see his rage forming.
“So what does she want?” He said quietly.
Hermione could tell he was controlling the anger he felt.
“She wanted to talk to you.”
He did his best to keep calm and listen to what Hermione was telling him, but his fury at Weasley was about to bubble over. He had assaulted Hermione again and Draco felt sick that he hadn’t been able to do anything about it.
“She wanted to talk to you.” Hermione’s voice said from far off.
Draco just nodded and wondered what the redhead could possible want to talk about. She was the sister of the redhead he wanted to kill at the moment. He watched as Hermione scooped up Seren and walked past him up the stairs to their spot. Meanwhile, Ginny Weasley was standing at the foot of the staircase looking extremely uneasy. Draco descended three more steps and then stopped, crossing his arms. He waited.
The girl in front of him fidgeted and then with great effort stuck out her hand,
“I know you know who I am, but to officially introduce myself… I’m Ginny Weasley.”
Draco wanted to laugh, but decided against it. He hesitantly reached his own hand out and grasped hers in a handshake. Both let go quickly and silence hung over them again. Draco knew that if this was going to get anywhere he needed to speak up,
“You wanted to talk to me?”
“I wanted to meet you as the person Hermione knows now. I don’t know her very well apparently, and that means I don’t know you. She told Harry and I everything last night and I felt more sad than angry. But then again, she had you and for that I am grateful to you. I turned my back on her when I shouldn’t have and I don’t know if I can forgive myself for that, but I’m glad someone was there for her.”
Draco relaxed slightly.
“I wanted to make amends and it happened to go much further.”
“Perhaps, but it makes me wonder about you.” She said.
Her gaze made Draco feel uncomfortable and he wondered where she was going with this.
“Harry told me what you did for everyone that day in your manor. You saved my boyfriend and my brother and Hermione. Seeing how you look at her now, I can’t image what you go through…”
“What do you mean?” Draco said, still feeling uncomfortable.
“Nightmares… I’m betting you dream of Hermione and what happened to her. That’s why you wanted to make amends to her.”
He just stared at her. How the hell did she know?
“How long have you cared about her?”
Ginny Weasley’s question seemed to hang in the air in front of him and reverberate off the insides of his head.
“My feelings were complicated for a long time, going back to right after she escaped the manor, but I realized that I cared for her more than just a friend when I spent Christmas with her.”
Draco cursed under his breath. She hadn’t known about that detail… He decided he didn’t care. He had been there. He had made her safe and happy. He was her man now.
“Yeah, I spent Christmas with Hermione.”
More stifling silence followed his statement and confession. They just stood there staring at each other. There were tears in the redhead’s eyes and the static tension was so heavy Draco was sure he could have written his name midair with his wand.
“Just take care of her… ok? She needs you more than Harry or I now. As much as it hurts, if its what she needs then I’ll let her go. Just please, keep her safe.”
And before Draco could say another word, the redhead rushed down the staircase and back into the Gryffindor dormitory. Before he even turned around, he knew Hermione was standing behind him,
“Draco, what am I supposed to do?” Her heard her whisper.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve hurt them a lot, but I seriously doubt that us, Blaise, Astoria, Ginny and Harry are going to all hang out and get along…”
Draco had no answers for her. He was thinking about the plea from the Weasley girl. She had practically begged him to take care of Hermione. Draco was going to protect her anyways, but the desperation in Ginny Weasely’s voice made him realize that she had probably been thinking about losing someone else. The part of him that wanted the best for Hermione was suddenly feeling pressure. In the long run, was he really the best for her? Or should he push her back in the direction of her former friends? The knotted feeling in his stomach was back. He didn’t want to give her up, not now that she was doing better and he had gained her love.
A soft touch of a hand on his forearm pulled him from his thoughts. Draco looked at the girl in front of him and he saw two things; the most beautiful girl both inside and out but his eyes were also drawn to the scar on her neck and wrist. The memories of her being tortured in his father’s manor collided together behind his eyes and he heard her screaming over and over in his head. He shook his head violently and tried to focus on Hermione’s eyes. A wrinkle was forming on her forehead and he realized he still hadn’t said anything. But looking-into those chocolate eyes, he couldn’t form words.
“Draco, are you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
He almost smiled at the choice of her words, but was too distracted. Instead of attempting to speak, he grasped both of her hands in his and kiss the tops of them. Hermione smiled and let go of his hands to pull him in for a hug. Draco felt the warmth from her body and wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. She sighed. He wanted this moment with her to last.
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