She hates me
. That knife twisted in his heart. He sat in his usual spot at the table, facing the window of his cell, staring blankly outside at the autumn day. His morose thoughts were not new; his loss of what might have been a daily companion in this lonely existence. The whirling thoughts a mass of confusion that would continue indefinitely in his seemingly endless days of hell.
He was suddenly angry, mad at the circumstances, mad at the man who held him captive but mad mainly at his own inability to do something about it. With a growl of frustration, he picked up a discarded tea cup and threw it with heated force at the window. It shattered against an invisible barrier before it actually reached the window itself. The pieces fell to the wooden floor with soft crystal sounds and the anger left as swiftly as it had come. He put his head in his hands, his long fingers running across his scalp, pulling at his fine pale hair. Hopelessness swept over him.
Heavy footsteps were heard outside his door.
“Oi!” a coarse voice made its way through the heavy wood. “Shut it in there! Do I got to tell me master that you’s in need of remindin’ of yer place?” A vicious slap on the door. “Do I?”
The man in the room didn’t answer, didn’t even move. He knew from previous experience that it would make things worse. There was a pause outside and then a mumbled “sodding git” before footsteps moved away.
It had been days, weeks, months of this. He was slowly going insane and he didn’t know if he even wanted to try stopping it from happening anymore. A beautiful face formed in his mind’s eye: heart-shaped, huge caramel eyes and soft pink lips. Yes, she
was the reason—is the reason—he continued to hang on. Because if there was any chance of getting out of this unbearable situation, any way he could come out of this alive, she would be the one who he’d go to first. No matter what she may think of him, no matter where she may be now, he just had to know she was safe, that she still existed in this world where everything had turned upside down.
When he’d first met her, all those years after Hogwarts, he’d been taken aback by his attraction to this woman who he had thought of during his entire childhood as a thorn in his side with her know-it-all ways and her solid belief in goodness in the world. He hadn’t really thought of her after Hogwarts and now here she was, casually setting up house in his mind after a chance encounter in her book shop. Her prim outfit and polite manner hadn’t fooled him. He’d felt that zing, that electricity between them.
But he’d tried to forget her because she wasn’t really his type and she was part of that trio who he had never really been on good terms with. He had thrown himself into his work, visited friends, gone out to events, but none of that had worked. She was always at the fringe of his thoughts. He would be standing there and suddenly catch the scent of cinnamon-vanilla and look around, expecting to see her. He would wake up in the middle of the night, hot and aching, almost tasting her, feeling the ghost sensations of her touch on his body.
Then one day he had gone back to her, quite on impulse, but unable to stand this disturbing longing another moment. He knew that if he were to let himself think about it anymore, he’d never do anything about it. He’d stepped through the door to her bookshop and was instantly arrested by the sight of her sitting at the counter, her russet-colored hair loosely framing her face. Her eyes, when she’d glanced up, held a mysterious fire that he’d wanted to consume him. The air had been sucked out of him and he moved slowly to where she sat. The apprehension he felt in asking her out to tea was so great that when she accepted, he couldn’t stop the relief from showing on his face.
Over tea, he became enchanted with her. She was still smart and smart-mouthed. Now that he was finally taking the time to get to know her without his previous prejudice against Muggleborns or his childhood jealousy of Potter, he was able to see that the slightly awkward girl he had known had grown into a woman who was sure of herself. She was also sure of what she wanted, after having decided to become a bookseller after not being able to stand being in the public eye after the Great War. He also found that the simplest actions she did, like tuck her hair behind her ears or chew absently on her bottom lip, caught his eyes, fascinated him, made him lose his trail of thoughts. It was startling and a bit embarrassing.
The next night, they went to dinner together and he felt something warm take root in his heart. It wasn’t until after dinner, when she had left him at her doorstep, alone and thrumming with unfulfilled anticipation, that he had seen, in a blinding epiphany, that he had fallen unexpectedly in love with her and that he didn’t want to end the night without at least giving her some idea of it.
He hadn’t planned on going any further than saying or indicating something, out of respect for her—it had only been one date for Merlin’s sake—but then she’d opened the door and abruptly what had been warm became hot, what had been want became need and he suddenly had to touch her or die. Their bodies came together with almost a frantic passion, his lips finding, pressing against hers, her tongue seeking and finding entry between his lips.
They were through the door and up against it before he gained enough control to make sure she wanted the same thing as him. He could feel himself about to go off like a boy having his first go. Her whispered yes
had led to her bed where her small eager hands had pushed his jacket off, gotten under his shirt and to the zipper of his pants before he had lain her on her soft mattress. He had never felt the sense of wonder and fire that he felt with her. There was more than just their bodies involved and while he wasn’t sure if she was fully aware of it, he was and he was never going to let her go.
He never did end up telling her he loved her that night, afraid to lay himself open for rejection when they had just begun. He wanted to build something between them first. He thought that all those times of badgering and pushing her in their formative years might have stuck to her and built some hidden nest of resentment to him. Though, if he looked at it objectively, in his more confident moments, she never acted as if this resentment was there. But still he hesitated.
Then one day some weeks after their relationship started, he went to get lunch by himself, unable to see Hermione during the workday so that their connection wasn’t exposed to discriminating eyes. He went to a small café in Diagon Alley only to find the object of his affections sitting in a cozy corner with a dark-haired bloke whose back was facing the door. Her face was animated as she leaned forward talking to this man and, from what he could see with his gradually increasing red-hazed vision of anger, she was holding onto the git’s hand.
She glanced up at the sound of the door closing and her eyes widened in surprise and, in his escalating rage, he saw guilt. Not knowing what exactly she was seeing in his silver eyes and not wanting to stay a moment longer in that blasted shop, he turned sharply on his heel, wrenching the door open and stepped back out into the sun.
He walked swiftly to the main alleyway, brushing aside the other witches and wizards making their way through the street, intent on getting away from her.
“Draco!” her voice cried out. What the hell was she doing? Still supremely pissed off but feeling an instinctual sense of needing to protect their secret, he turned and grabbed the small woman’s wrist as she came up behind him. He muttered a concealment charm as he pulled her down a side alley and into a shadowed doorway, not easily seen from the street.
He looked down at her with a hooded gaze, working to keep his broiling emotions from showing in his eyes. He wasn’t able to keep them out of his voice. “What were you doing with him? Is this what you do when you’re not with me? You see other guys?” In the back of his mind, a much calmer and collected part of him noted that Draco was losing his cool over something that probably was nothing, taking into account that this was Hermione
he was talking to, but still he was unable to stop his unreasonable anger.
She stared at him disbelievingly, hurt evident in her eyes. “Draco,” she said softly, putting her hand on his arm, taking encouragement from the fact that he didn’t shrug her off. “Draco, that was Harry. Harry Potter. My best friend. Who I see as my brother.”
She was looking at him with such sincerity in her eyes that Draco started to feel a bit like an ass. He took a deep breath and pulled her closer to him, resting his chin on top of her hair. “I’m sorry. I just saw you with this other guy, laughing and touching him and I…lost it. I’ve never done that before but,” he brought his head down so that his mouth touched her ear, “I love you. You’re the only one I’ve ever felt this way for before. You bring light and happiness into my life that I didn’t even realize was missing and I just can’t share you.”
She moved her head so that her eyes were looking up into his, her mouth a breath away from his. “What?” she whispered, her eyes shining with wonder.
His mouth formed a small smirk. “You heard me, Granger.”
An inner light flared in her brown eyes as she brought her arms around his neck, pulling his head down to hers so that she could kiss him, whispering breathlessly between kisses, her own love for him.
Unfortunately for the loving couple, a dark shadow passing through the alley went unnoticed. But their words and declarations did not escape this malevolent figure, whose mind turned and twisted, looking for ways to use this to his advantage.
There would be moments he’d look at her, when she was laughing or when she was sleeping next to him, her dark curls spread over the pillow, and he’d know that this, this feeling inside, this love they shared, would last beyond this lifetime. Even if they were never to marry on paper, she was his
, his mate for life.
But Draco did plan on making this dream an actuality. He knew his parents would not approve and could even disown him but he didn’t care. He wanted to be with her all the time and share life’s experiences, have children with her, watch time work its own magic on her features. His only hesitation was how her own friends would react, knowing that their Golden Girl was marrying the Dark Prince. He knew Hermione put value into their friendship and he didn’t want to do something that would bring her pain.
Looking back on it now, he thought maybe he should have somehow set his life up to avert the disastrous consequences that ended up coming about. But how was he to know that someone would find out about his love for Hermione and think to use that against the powerful Malfoy family? The Dark Lord had been dead for years and the last Death Eaters collected up by Potter and the other Aurors in the short time following the Last Battle.
And so, in their naivety, with some innocence regained which had been lost when they were so young, Draco and Hermione soaked in their adoration for each other. And when he proposed and she accepted, the warmth he felt seemed to heal part of his tattered soul. So swept up in the moment, so filled with a sense of invincibility that only the youth and those desperately in love had, Draco went to his parents’ home to slay the dragons for his lady only to be met by someone he least expected.
“Ah, young Draco. So good to see you here, just as I was getting reacquainted with your parents, my close friends.” This was said in pleasant tone, though the expression that went with it was anything but. The dark wizard gestured for Draco to join Narcissa and Lucius on the elegant couch of the sitting room, his wand trained on them to ensure no sudden moves.
Draco felt cold. This wizard had been with the Dark Lord, Voldemort, when he was residing at the Malfoy Manor. Even as a boy entrenched in his family’s traditions of darkness, he could sense that there was something particularly off about this fellow, something not quite sane. Maybe it was the whispered threats or the harsh and sudden blows that came at the least expected times from the shadows, but Draco had harbored a fear against this man. It was a fear that at times eclipsed even his fear of Voldemort, who had never touched him.
He did not know what the man was doing here now but just seeing Dolohov in his childhood home made him feel as if he was again that helpless young man, that if he were to say anything against him or the master he had served would mean instant pain for him and his family.
Draco moved mechanically, slowly, to where his parents sat. His eyes stayed on the large figure standing in the middle of the room. As he sat, Dolohov said something that caused Draco’s blood to freeze and his heart to almost close down.
“A shame you couldn’t bring your beautiful Mudblood, Draco. What was her name again?” Dolohov tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Oh right-o. Hermione. Potter’s close friend and, dare I say, erstwhile lover?”
Draco’s eyes burned and his muscles clenched, a gut reaction to the man’s taunts before his swift thoughts coalesced into a crystal-clear realization that this man somehow knew of Hermione and that Draco’s first duty was to protect her. He forced himself to relax and stare curiously at the man, as if what he had just said didn’t cut him to the quick. Unfortunately, the only person he had ever lost his famed cool demeanor over was the one woman who Dolohov picked out. And it showed.
“Tsk, tsk, Draco,” Dolohov moved his wand in a lecturing manner. “Don’t think I don’t know about her. I’ve seen the two of you together.”
“What? Oh, that. I was just playing around with her. She’d decided to ‘walk on the wild side’ for a night and I obliged her. I’m surprised you read anything more into it.” Draco strove for his previous sardonic demeanor that had gotten him through his school years and the first years of rebuilding after the War. He crossed his ankle over his knee and leaned back into the couch, assuming as much of a bored appearance as he could with a steady wand pointed at him.
Dolohov gave him a knowing half-smile. “Let’s hope that that’s all it was, Draco Malfoy. Because I think she would come quite in handy with what I have in mind for the three of you.”
With that vague threat in the air, Draco swore to himself that he would keep Hermione safe, even if it meant denying any connection, every moment spent together, every whisper of devotion, any heated touch. Even if it mean denying the woman who was his own heart.
Author’s Note: It actually took me an era to move on this story. I’d like to know what you thought of this beginning. And if you would be so good as to check out the first piece “The Longest Walk of Her Life” and review, I’d so deeply appreciate it!
Edited: 6 April 2012, fixing grammar and spelling errors.