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It had been too long. Why was it that after such a length of time everything that happened between two people seemed to fade into the background as the power of seeing them again washed all the hurt away in an instant? All the fighting and the argument-he’d been tired of it, tired of her the last time he walked away from her, and yet there she stood before him dripping wet with rain and looking more ragged than he’d ever imagined she could. Even if it wasn't right he found that he wanted her again.
In that state she looked almost innocent again, and the exotic cut of her dark blue eyes melted him for a moment. “Why are you here?” Instinct had softened the tone of his cruel voice, a voice that even now reminded him of his father. He cleared his throat and looked away from her. “You’re not welcome here.”
“I know,” she whispered. Draco watched as her lower lip quivered from the cold, her bottom teeth clenching into the top as she spoke the second word. She squinted for a moment, and then she brought a clenched fist upward and held it out to him, palm down. “I wanted to give this back to you.”
“What?” he sneered so easily, but the greatest part of him wanted to take her by that hand and pull her into his arms. He wanted to warm her, as she obviously shook with the chills of her own defiance and stupidity, and sadly he was reminded at how bad she’d always been when it came to taking care of herself. “What is it?”
“Open your hand,” she urged.
He thought for a moment that the flicker of a defiant smile flashed on her lips. Draco didn’t trust her; in fact he liked to tell himself that it was because of her that he refused to trust anyone, but deep down he knew it had nothing to do with her at all. He hadn’t ever trusted her, and for that he blamed his parents. They’d raised him to be cold, unyielding, impersonal, and those very things had been what drove the wedge between he and Pansy in the first place. “What?” he repeated. “What is it?”
“Just open your hand, Draco.” The edge on her voice spoke of the same headstrong insolence she’d always possessed.
Draco couldn’t defy her, no matter how much he longed to, and so he slowly extended his hand and opened his palm just under her fist. Pansy’s fingers deftly opened, and as they did, a warm drop of metal fell heavily into his palm. It was warm because she’d been clenching it in her fingers for so long it had taken on the heat of her body-temperature. He drew his hand inward and looked down at what she’d given him.
In his hand was a ring; he had given it to her long ago with the promise that one day they would marry. It had been a feeble, school boy’s promise, and now that he held it again in his hand, it was hard for him not to remember the circumstances under which he’d given it to her. It had been Christmas holiday, sixth year, and they had been there at Malfoy Manor alone. Both of his parents had gone off to attend some gallant soirée, and Draco had given her that gift early in hopes of inspiring her to give him a little Christmas gift in return. . .
“Oh, Draco,” she gasped. “It’s lovely. Wherever did you get it?”
“It was my mother’s,” he explained. “She gave it to me last year, said I’d know what to do with it when the time was right.”
“It’s beautiful,” she couldn’t take her eyes off of the glistening silver ring that shone against the black velvet inside the box. The diamonds and emeralds within had caught in the romantic aura of candlelight, which also glimmered in her eyes. “I . . . I don’t know what to say.”
“Thank you?” He suggested.
Pansy smiled at first, and then a nervous laugh escaped her. “Thank you,” she half-whispered. “Thank you, Draco.” She’d leaned forward then and kissed him on the cheek, and like the clever young man he’d always been, Draco had turned his face into her kiss, and quickly lifted his hand to the back of her neck to pull her closer. The soft tickle of her hair against the back of his hand sent shivers through him as she parted her lips instinctively to accept his kiss.
They had been practicing for this moment for almost two years. Impeccable planning would not be foiled, tonight would be the night. He had decided. He deftly swept her closer, his forearm pressing gently into the small of her back, and she giggled his name softly.
“Want to go upstairs?” He asked her.
“We really shouldn’t,” she whispered. She’d leaned back just enough to look into his serious, silver eyes. “What about your Mum and Dad?”
“They’ll be gone for hours.”
Still skeptical, she shook her head, “But what if they come home?”
“They won’t,” reached across the slight space between them and tucked a lock of her chestnut hair behind her ear. “Trust me.”
This piece of advice had flared to life even more doubt in her, he could see it in the way her mouth twitched with curious uncertainty, “I don’t know.”
“What’s there to not know?” He asked, leaning close to tease her mouth with his own again. “You know I want you, only you.”
“I know,” she lowered her lids heavily. “What if. . .”
“No what ifs, Pansy,” he sighed. “Either you want to, or you don’t.”
“I do, but. . .”
“No buts,” he insisted. He reached between them and took her hand. “Come on,” and just like that he had led her to the staircase, up the spiraling steps and to the threshold of his bedroom. He hadn’t noticed before how strange and quiet the Manor sounded, as though they were being watched. His hand felt warm and damp, and Pansy’s felt a little cold inside it. He thought she was trembling a little, perhaps with the knowledge of what awaited them on the other side of the door, and as he reached forward to open it he realized that his own hand shook just a little.
This was stupid. He was practically a man now, wasn’t he? In three months he would be of Wizarding age, an adult in their society, and Pansy herself would follow a few weeks later. How was what they were about to do any different than what they had already done hundreds of times in the close confines of the copse of trees behind Malfoy Manor, or the cozy shadow of Slytherin Common? In the heat of the moment he had been to every base with her but home, so why was going all the way such a big deal?
Grey shades dimmed his bedroom, and instinct had him reach for his wand to illuminate the interior, but Pansy stayed his hand. “Don’t,” she whispered. Her voice had quivered slightly with that one word, and as he turned to her in the near dark, searching for her mouth with his own, he could feel again how she trembled against him.
“Are you scared?” He asked.
He felt her swallow, “No,” she lied.
“Good,” he rested his hands on her shoulders. “I won’t hurt you.”
“You promise?” she whispered.
“I promise.” He drew her close again, and tasted the sweetness of her mouth. She was fond of lip gloss, and often when they kissed he liked to play a guessing game with himself, what flavor lip gloss was she wearing. He wasn’t sure why, but the very idea of trying to guess the sweet taste of her lips had calmed his own nervousness just a little. It was raspberry, he decided, tracing her lower lip with the tip of his tongue before drawing her mouth back into his. Yes, it was raspberry, with just a hint of mint, and for the rest of his life that would seem a strange, but wonderful combination on the rare occasion he tasted them together.
While he went on kissing her his hands moved slowly toward the buttons of her blouse. From time to time she would raise her hand to tangle her fingers into his to stop him from going through them too quickly. She was obviously trying to either make the moment last longer, or keep it from happening, and for Draco it was a thrilling struggle—a game of yes, no, and maybe that he came closer and closer to winning with every button. At last he finally managed to undo the last one and he slid the sleeves of her shirt down over her arms. He slowly backed her into the bed, never taking his eyes off of hers so that he nearly stumbled from not paying attention to where he was going. With a slight push she laid down before him awkwardly and looked up at him with large, blue eyes. He was surprised at how frightened she appeared in the strange, grey tones of fading, late afternoon. Even more surprising to him was how terrified he felt himself to be finally going through with it.
She reached for his hands and twined their fingers together to keep him from reaching for the zipper at the side of her skirt just a few moments longer, “Draco?”
He fumbled against her hand for a moment. “What is it?” His throat ached to speak. He’d been on such a roll before she stopped him.
“Do you love me?”
What kind of question was that? He could feel it darkening the mood with implications he wasn’t prepared to deal with. He’d already said he loved her a hundred times in the past. At that moment all he had on his mind was getting through and getting it over with. Why did she have to bring up love right at that moment. . . of all times? A frustrated breath escaped him. Of course he cared about her. . . obviously he did, or he wouldn’t have given her that ring in the first place, right? They’d been saying it to each other for more than a year. I love you—before parting ways to go to classes. I love you—before separating into their dormitories at night. I love you—when he slipped his hand into the warm fabric of her shirt to feel her skin with anxious fingers.
“What are you on about, Pansy, don’t be stupid about this,” he had centered himself on his knees before her in the bed and looked down at her curiously. Her cheeks were flushed red with anxiety and apprehension, and whenever he touched her skin, he noticed now how warm she felt. Why did she have to bring love up now of all times?
“I just want to know, Draco. Just say it if you do. Do you love me?”
“Of course I care about you,” he reached in to touch her reddened cheek. Her complexion, most especially her face was pale as ash in that lighting, save for the splotched red of her nervousness. He’d do anything to make her happy right then, just so long as they finally went through with this. At last he’d have something to tell his friends about. At last he’d live up to all the rumors that circulated about him.
“But do you love me?”
“Yeah,” he nodded slowly. “Yeah, Pansy, I love you.”
“Good,” she squeezed his hand again. “Because I love you too.”
“Good,” he smiled and nodded once. He descended downward to drink of her kiss again, and this time she drew him closer, resting a comfortable hand on the back of his neck.
It was a strange sensation being so close to her. He took notice of all the strangest things, like the sweet smell of her hair, the petal soft feel of her skin against his, but more than anything was the taste of her mouth, raspberry and mint, lingering against his kiss. He would never forget that even if what followed would live on in his memory as an embarrassment. It had been a strange tangling of two awkward bodies in grey twilight, an uncomfortable exposition that would change the way she looked at him forever. . . At least he thought then that it had changed her, because it had certainly changed the way he looked at her. He didn’t know anymore, maybe he’d been wrong to think her different after that, maybe he’d been the one who had ruined everything.
Draco found that he felt exposed in front of her then, a glint of emotion scarring his face for the moment as he realized inwardly that it had been his fault they’d fallen apart over time.
He swallowed, and looked up at her face. “What is this?”
“It belongs in your family,” she said. “I thought you might want to give it to someone else. Someone that mattered more to you than I did.” She stood there rebellious, and while she should have appeared disheveled and rain-soaked, the lack of emotion with which she spoke seemed to liberate her even more. Shouldn’t she be begging him to take her back? Didn’t she even care about him anymore?
“I see,” he nodded once. Suddenly there was so much he wanted to say to her. Did she ever think about that first time they had been together? Was that how she judged him in her mind? Is that why she hated him? He had opened his mouth to speak, not sure what he planned to say, but before any words could come from him, she had disapparated from the premises, leaving him speechless and with the dull ache of memory in his heart.
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