To say Hermione was speechless would have been the understatement of the century.
It was as if words had suddenly lost all of their meaning.
She wondered how she had possibly gone through life thinking that there was always a word to be found for describing every situation, every person, every feeling. Words seemed so ridiculous now, because there was nothing she could say that could describe what she felt about what Draco had just said.
But there was something Hermione knew that applied to situations like these – an inner truth of sorts. Hermione knew that when words failed… there were actions.
There was absolutely nothing she could say, but there was certainly something she could do. And so she did the only thing that made sense.
She slowly lifted her head and turned to him. Draco stared at her, transfixed. It had been a very long moment of silence since his confession, and he had been waiting for her reply with bated breath.
But it seemed that he would never receive one. At least, not in the form of the verbose commentary Hermione Granger was so famous for. Instead, her eyes met his and he watched, entranced, as her gaze fell slowly to his lips.
Draco’s breath caught in his throat as he watched her lean towards him. He didn’t dare assist in bridging the distance between them. He didn’t dare even move. He thought she would change her mind, that she would think better of it before her lips even touched his. But he was wrong.
Her hand came up to gently place itself on his cheek as she softly pressed her lips against his. It was a sweet, tender kiss that absolutely took his breath away. He leaned into her, returning the pressure, his hand anchoring itself in her hair.
After a few wonderful moments of ecstasy, she pulled away. Though the kiss had ended much too soon for his liking, Draco was pleased to find that her lips lingered. He swallowed nervously, weighing his options, and hesitantly leaned back in to kiss her again. She received him.
He cherished every second, memorizing the way she tasted and every curve of her soft lips. Draco knew all too well what could very well happen after they separated. This kiss had no happy ending, and there was a good chance that it would never be repeated. After her sense returned to her, she would realize what she had done. She would be horrified and disgusted with herself, and it was likely that she would never speak to him again out of shame. So he clung to every tiny fragment of time that ticked by, in the hopes that he would be able to look back and remember the one single moment he felt alive… before the time came that he wouldn’t be.
It had never occurred to him that Hermione was enjoying the kiss as much as he was. All he knew was that it was the best he had felt in a long time, and as such he was convinced it wouldn’t last.
And much to his utter disappointment, she finally did pull away. She looked at him for a few moments with glazed eyes, then pursed her lips and looked down at the ground. He could practically see the thoughts buzzing around her head, and he couldn’t help smiling in amusement. Her tendency to overthink everything had suddenly become so endearing to him. He marveled at the way he saw her now. It was as if a thick veil had been obstructing his vision for years, and now it had been lifted and he suddenly saw Hermione Granger for everything she was. Everything she really was.
He wanted to know what she was thinking. She was an absolutely mystery, and it both thrilled and frustrated him.
A heavy silence had descended upon them as he watched her. Hermione sighed, disturbed by her loss for words, and turned to him.
“I just kissed you,” she stated bluntly.
“Yes. I’m aware,” Draco tried not to laugh, but her comment was so obvious that it slipped from his lips.
Her eyebrows knit together and she glared at him. “Is this funny to you?”
“No. You’re funny to me.”
She huffed a little but didn't fire back a mean retort.
“What does this mean?” she whispered.
“You tell me,” he replied, gazing at her evenly.
“What? Why? Why is it my responsibility to figure this out?”
“Because you kissed me.”
Hermione inhaled a sharp breath, as it hadn’t been true until he’d said it out loud. She remained silent, but Draco wouldn’t have it.
“Hermione? Hermione, look at me.”
She looked up at him with a pained expression on her face, dreading the inevitable question about to spill from his lips.
Draco was looking at her curiously, clearly more than ready to get some answers. “Why on earth did you just kiss me?” he asked incredulously.
Swallowing nervously, she opened her mouth to provide the only answer that came to mind. “Because you’re right. I do… I do give a damn about you.”
“And that made you want to kiss me?” he asked curiously, his heart feeling lighter than it ever had before.
“Does it really not matter to you anymore?” she whispered suddenly, staring at the ground and refusing to look at him.
“Does what not matter to me?”
“Me. Who I am. My blood. Can you honestly tell me that you’ve let it all go? That 17 years of hatred just disappeared in an instant?”
Draco paused, thinking over his answer carefully. And after a moment, he had crafted a reply that he knew would leave her without a doubt in her mind about the way he felt.
“Hermione, tell me… In science, when a theory is concretely disproved, do the researchers normally deny these findings? Do they continue to retest it, refusing to believe that their theory wasn’t factual? Would you keep believing in something that was proved to be wrong before your very eyes? Tell me. Would you?”
She started. Hermione couldn’t believe it. Draco Malfoy had just given her a thoughtful, logical, and completely undeniable answer to her burning question. He was absolutely right. She wouldn’t believe it anymore. Not if it had been concretely disproved. But did his brilliant metaphor truly apply to their situation?
“No, I wouldn’t. But tell me, then… What was this concrete evidence that disproved your theory of me?”
Hermione wouldn’t go down without a fight. She would challenge him until she was absolutely certain of his intentions.
Draco was silent for a very long moment, and she almost thought she had bested him. But then his soft answer reached her ears.
“It was your face.”
“My… face?” She couldn’t have been more puzzled. What did he mean?
“Your face when you were trying to save me from the curse. There wasn’t a tinge of hatred… or disgust… or doubt in your expression. You were hell-bent on saving me. It truly didn’t matter to you who I was or what I had done in the past. You were… scared for me, and it didn’t once occur to you that you could just let me die and be rid of my cruelty and mistreatment of you once and for all. In that moment, I knew I was wrong. In that moment, I knew I’d been wrong about you from the very start.”
“And now that you know you were wrong… you’re okay with… with kissing me?” Hermione sputtered, obviously shaken up by his answer but trying not to show it.
He smiled at her. “To be fair, this time you kissed me first. But yes. I’m okay with kissing you.”
Hermione let out a small breath of surprise and looked away from him. He could see her ears turning pink and he grinned, laughing to himself.
It was unbelievable to him how much he’d been missing when he hated her.
“Are you going to sit with your back to me like that all night?” he asked jokingly, gently tapping her on the shoulder.
She turned back, staring at him with confused eyes. “Draco… We can’t do this. This is wrong. This is too crazy, and we have both clearly gone insane. I think we should just stop now, while we’re ahead.”
“Okay,” he said simply, reaching out to run his hand through her hair. Her eyes widened at his touch and he saw a promising spark in the pools of chocolate brown that had become so familiar to him.
It wasn’t true. She was lying; she didn’t want to stop. The spark in her eyes gave her away.
So he did the only thing he could think of – he called her bluff. He leaned in until his lips were mere inches from hers and captured her gaze in a sensual sapphire stare he was rather proud of.
“Just tell me if you want me to stop,” he whispered, continuing to run his hand through her wavy hair. His lips came closer to hers each second; yet she said nothing.
A small moan escaped from her lips as he softly pecked her on the lips and pulled away. She looked up at him with a curious expression, surprised and maybe even a little upset that he had stopped.
“I… I didn’t tell you to stop,” she said softly.
“No, you didn’t. Which means that your little ‘let’s stop now while we’re ahead’ speech was a lie.” He smiled cockily at her, pushing the hair he had mussed back behind her ear.
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” she whispered. A hard sense of urgency had crept into her voice and he took notice.
“You don’t want to know what I’m thinking. It’s all too… dark to speak out loud.”
“I mean what you’re thinking at this exact moment. What are you thinking while you’re rather intensely gazing at my lips?” she asked, her eyes glinting. He grinned, knowing that she was completely right. He couldn’t take his eyes off her perfect, all-too-enticing mouth.
“I’m thinking of how much I want to kiss them again,” he admitted honestly. After a short pause, he returned the question. “What are you thinking of?”
She laughed a little and looked to the ceiling. “I’m thinking of third year, when I slapped you in the face.”
He groaned, remembering the stinging pain of the hit and the humiliation all too well. “Oh, Merlin, that was awful! Why would you be thinking of that?”
Hermione’s expression was a bit troubled. She wasn’t looking at him. “I’m just… Trying to reconcile that Draco Malfoy with the one that’s sitting here with me.”
“Do you believe that people can change, Hermione?”
“Yes. But only to a point.”
Draco sighed, knowing the hopelessness that lay in trying to convincing her that he wasn’t that monster anymore. “I want you to know that I… I don’t expect you to ever completely trust me. But you have to admit that it would be pretty impossible to say I haven’t changed after what’s happened in this hallway tonight,” he pointed out, trying to catch her gaze.
“You don’t regret this? At all?” she asked, still refusing to look at him.
“No. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed this time with you. It’s been nice spending time with a human being that is actually capable of paying attention to me.”
Hermione’s hardened expression softened and she reached out to place his hand in hers, holding it delicately as if it might shatter into a million pieces. He smiled and lifted her hand to his lips to gently kiss it. Butterflies exploded in her stomach at the princely gesture. She wondered if she was dreaming again.
She suddenly remembered why she had come here in the first place.
“Draco… We still haven’t figured out these dreams,” she murmured, worry beginning to create terrible knots in her stomach. He saw the concern on her face and his grip on her hand tightened.
“Hermione… Whoever it is that’s behind these dreams, I don’t think they have malevolent intentions. If anything, they’re trying to show us that we may have misjudged each other. They might even be trying to bring us together."
Hermione pondered this for a moment, trying to make deeper sense of it. “You’re right. They seem to be pointing towards the fact that you and I joining forces could help defeat Voldemort… and could even save your life.”
“Funny thing is, I can’t really imagine anyone who would care enough about my life to put that much time and effort into trying to save it,” Draco replied grimly, yawning and standing up to stretch.
And then it hit her. She marveled at her own stupidity. How could she have possibly missed such an obvious answer? The puzzle had already been completed before her very eyes – She just hadn’t been looking at it right.
He turned at her serious tone and wrinkled his brow in confusion at the look on her face. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
Hermione looked down at the ground, feeling no single doubt in her mind about her answer.
I’m so sorry it took me so long to get this chapter out to you, I completely lost inspiration and got buried in a rather large pile of… well, life.
I know this chapter is pretty short, but I’m hoping it will tide you guys over until the next one. The chapters sadly won’t be coming as regularly due to me being back at school, but as always, I’ll do my best!
Thank you for reading, and as always, please review if you’d like to see more! They keep me going!