A/n: Huge thank you to the wonderful Maeghan (occupymalfoysbed on tumblr) for betaing!
Song rec for this chapter: Tall Heights - Growing
Dark Water and Dying Eyebrights
Chapter 12: The Daylight
Apparently he had fallen asleep. Draco could recall quite vividly Granger and him talking about the dismal state of the community library. He remembered glancing at the clock and registering that it was almost two o'clock in the morning. Beyond that, his memory was rather hazy and fleeting, only recalling flickering moments of chatting with Granger, barely shadows of memories.
Lifting his head, his eyes went straight to her asleep on his sofa with her wild hair spread out around her on the cushion like sunbeams. She was tucked underneath one of the throws that usually adorned the backs of his sofas, and he realised that one was also covering him. Instinctively, he knew she had draped the throw over him, and he didn't know whether to roll his eyes or grin at her gesture.
Carefully and silently, he sat up in his armchair and arched his back to ease the ache in his spine. Some tenacious embers were still whispering in the fire and there was the slightest hint of gold seeping into the navy sky, signalling the imminence of sunrise. He shifted his eyes to the clock and saw it was almost eight o'clock. He tried not to chuckle when Granger made an unusual sound in her sleep, something between a snore and a hum, but despite the sound being of her own making, it seemed to rouse her from her slumber. Blinking a few times and gracelessly shifting her position on the couch — and very nearly tumbling to the floor in the process— she looked around with confused eyes before they settled on him.
"Morning," he said, his morning voice throaty and gruff.
"Good morning," returned Granger, as she sat up. "You haven't been up for hours creepily watching me sleep, have you?"
Draco grinned. "No, I just woke up, too. I'm guessing I fell asleep and you tucked me in."
Her smile was sleepy but radiant. "That makes me sound creepy."
"You drifted off around three o'clock," she explained. "I thought you might get cold after the fire went out." She paused and looked down at her lap. "Thank you for last night. I had a nice time."
Draco snorted and shrugged his shoulders. "We didn't really do anything, Granger."
"I know, but staying up all night, chatting about nothing...I liked it."
"Okay," he replied, adjusting his posture with unease. "I guess...I've had worse conversations."
He expected offence to steal her features, but all he saw was sincere, half-suppressed amusement. Tittering softly, she lifted her hands to comb away some of the tangles that had nested in her hair overnight and, once again, that seemingly innocuous gesture held Draco's attention. Despite the fact she'd only seemed to agitate her waves and curls into more of a mess, she then stretched her arms above her head and arched her back like a content cat. He wanted to kiss her again.
"Do something with me today," blurted out Draco.
Granger's face blanched with surprise, but a smile quickly graced her features. "I'm presuming that's a request rather than a demand. You're not very good at asking for things, are you? Typical spoilt rich kid."
Draco cocked an eyebrow at her teasing tone. "Is that a yes or no, Granger?"
"I guess it depends what you're asking. Do you mean a date?"
He balked. "You make it sound so naff. I just meant we could do...something."
"Well I must say," she said, her eyes glinting with mirth. "You have a certain knack for specificity."
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Perhaps a little."
His eyes dropped to her mouth again, watching the way it curved with delight. "Do you want to then, Granger?" he asked.
"Okay," she replied. "We could go to the pub for a couple of drinks."
"Whatever you want."
"I've only been to three of the pubs here, so you could show me one of the others."
Draco snorted and shook his head. "I haven't been to any of the pubs, Granger."
Her eyes widened with surprise. "You're joking."
"No. When I told you I like to keep people at arm's length, I wasn't exaggerating."
"I know, but you've lived here for what? Six years? And you've never been to any of the pubs?"
"Not once," he said crisply. "So, I'll leave the destination to you. Preferably not somewhere packed and loud, Granger."
Granger tilted her head to the side, studying him for a few seconds as she tossed the throw off her and returned it to the back of the couch. Apparently she had removed her thick yellow jumper before she fell asleep and she was clad in a white, oversized t-shirt that had been underneath. The bottom seam had gathered slightly, exposing a hint of her midriff, and Draco chewed his tongue to distract himself. Fuck, he really wanted to kiss her again.
Before he could talk himself out of it, he left the armchair with a sudden, smooth movement, moved to the couch, and leaned over her. He paused a moment to check for any signs of trepidation, but she simply smiled up at him and pinched her lower lip with her teeth before she cupped his face and kissed him like she'd also been thinking about it all morning. She leaned back, sinking into the cushions and pulling him closer, and she felt like bliss beneath him. Her fingernails scraped back his hair and grazed the veins in his throat as his hands gripped her waist, digging into that spot of exposed skin he had seen moments before. When they pulled away, her cheeks were hot, her breath was heavy, and she was pushing her chest into his. Lifting his hand to coil one of her loose curls around his finger, he smirked down at her with lowered eyelids.
"Or you could just stay here," whispered Draco, his voice husky.
"I need a shower."
"I have a shower."
"Hm," hummed Granger, breathy and quiet. "Too soon."
"I know," he said, lifting himself up and sitting back on his haunches. "I was only half joking."
She sat up and rubbed her slightly swollen lips together. "Let's see how you do after a few...I was going to say dates, but we've established that word isn't in your vernacular. Why don't you come to my house around six o'clock?"
"Okay. You're not expecting some dull, overcompensating romantic gesture, are you? Like me arriving with a bouquet of cheap flowers or a horse and carriage."
She scoffed and laughed a little. "No, just nice and casual."
"Casual," he repeated as she reached for her yellow jumper and pulled it over her head. "That suits me fine."
After tugging on her boots, she leaned forward to peck his lips like it was already second nature to her, and then she stood up, heading for the door. "I'll see you later," she said over her shoulder, and then she was gone.
In the sobering silence of her absence, Draco's brow wrinkled with thought. It was easy to allow himself to be distracted when they were kissing, or even simply talking. She felt like a different person from the Granger from his childhood because, in many ways, she was a different person. And her forgotten past also meant he could detach himself from that distant, spiteful teenage version of himself. When they were together, he felt like they were cut off from the rest of the world, like figurines wandering in a snow globe.
But when she was gone, it all came back to him. The uncertainty, the guilt, and the burning reminder that this would probably all come crashing down around him like a hailstorm. As if to punctuate his misgivings, he heard Aetos flutter into the kitchen and knew he would be carrying his monthly reminder to send a check-in card to the Ministry. Sucking in a heavy, resentful breath, he frowned at where Granger had slept before he headed to the kitchen, wishing she had stayed a little longer to chase away reality.
With his hands buried deep in the pockets of his black coat, Draco frowned at the ground as he slowly walked to Granger's cottage. Although it was barely six o'clock in the evening, the sun had long vanished, but the sky was clear and the moon was full and bright, making the fresh frost glitter and sparkle like tiny diamonds. Despite his best efforts to ignore it, that knot of trepidation coiled around his stomach only seemed to tighten as he neared her home, but he wasn't sure why. Was it because of the layers of dishonesty and complexity that inevitably came with the situation? Or was it because he actually liked Granger? Both of the options were burdened with complicated and convoluted questions.
As the cottage emerged from the darkness, a delicate wisp of smoke leaking out of the chimney, his heart pounded a little heavier, thumping in his ears. He couldn't remember the last time he had felt nervous, but before he could even knock on her door, Granger opened it and greeted him with a stunning smile that seemed to settle his racing heartbeat.
"Bit eager, Granger?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.
"I'm just surprised you actually came," she said playfully. "I was half expecting you to change your mind."
A smirk pulled at his mouth. "Proving you wrong is vaguely satisfying."
"I wouldn't get used to it."
Draco's chuckle was brief but impossible to stifle and, again, his heartbeat seemed to slow a little more. "We'll see about that, Granger."
"Let's go then," she said, and they began to walk toward town. "I thought The Mermaid Pub might be best. You said you wanted somewhere quiet. I've been a few times and it's always been rather quiet or empty."
"Sounds fine. As I said to you before, I would have been more than happy just having a couple of drinks at my house or yours."
Granger cocked her head and eyed him dubiously. "Are you embarrassed to be seen with me?"
He scoffed and shook his head. "On the contrary, Granger. You're simply the only person I want to see."
Apparently, she was rather flattered by his response, and even in the dim light, he could see a subtle blush steal her cheeks. All those loud misgivings he'd felt before were now quiet and dormant, barely a murmur at the back of his mind. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, thinking back to how Lovegood had suggested that without his blood prejudices, he would have seen Granger as the charming woman she was. And she truly was charming.
"You are far too scornful of the people who live here," she chided. "They've been nothing but lovely to me. Perhaps a little nosy, but well-intentioned and kind. I think you just never gave them a chance because you don't like people very much."
Draco shrugged. "I like my privacy and people have a habit of being disappointing."
"Not all people. And sometimes even the ones who disappoint you in the beginning can turn out okay in the end."
He turned his head to regard her. "Was that directed at me?"
"Evidently," she said, smiling back at him. "Everyone deserves a chance. Sometimes two."
Draco's mouth twitched, but he struggled to utter a sarcastic retort. That was the thing about Granger; one word from her could knock him off his rhythm in a way that was somehow both daunting and edifying. For the rest or their walk to The Mermaid Pub, they chatted more about the island and its eclectic locals, and Draco was relieved she didn't ask about their school days. Not only did it mean he didn't have to worry about saying something contradictory to what Potter had told her, but it also meant he could continue pretending that those dark days, when he would have more likely spat at Granger rather than kissed her, were nothing more than a distant shadow.
The Mermaid Pub was one of those old establishments that was trapped in a long-forgotten decade, but was all the more charming for that reason. The wooden-panelled walls, wooden furniture, and wooden ceiling beams were all speckled with wormwood holes and the lighting was dim yet warm. In the corner stood a plastic Christmas tree, haphazardly smothered in tinsel and mismatched baubles, and blinking fairy lights with several broken bulbs were coiled around the beams. As Granger had assured him, it was quiet, with only about twenty people inside, some of whom Draco recognised.
Ross Day, the postman who wore shorts even in the winter, was sat at a table with his wife, Melinda, who worked at the garage. Louise and Sharon Chambers, two elderly sisters who owned one of the biggest hotels on the island, were sat at another table, both nursing glasses of sherry. Seated at the bar were Carl Matthews, Otis Watson, and Rachel West, three of the island's small fire-fighting crew. The rest of the customers were familiar faces whose names Draco could not recall, but the majority lifted their heads to smile and greet Granger, some waving amiably at her like she was already a valued member of their community. A few cast intrigued and confused looks in his direction, evidently wondering what St Mary's new darling was doing in the company of the aloof, conceited recluse. Truth be told, he didn't blame them.
"I'll get the first round," announced Granger. "Why don't you grab that table by the window? I'm guessing you'd like a drink?"
Draco nodded absently, still feeling several pairs of eyes studying him with interest. Walking over to the table Granger had gestured to, he did his best to ignore their prying stares, instead focussing his attention on Granger as she went to the bar. He almost grinned as he watched her; she practically glowed as she chatted with the barman and the fire-fighters. Even at a distance, he was captivated by the pretty creasing of her nose and the subtle dents of dimples in her cheeks when she smiled. It all looked so easy to her; chatting and mingling cordially with the locals. He wondered if she'd been like this before her memory had been erased, or if the war had affected her— made her quieter and more cautious of the world.
There was no way he could know. He hadn't seen her in person since the Battle of Hogwarts, and the few Prophet articles he'd read in the year before he moved to the Isles of Scilly had mainly focused on her career path in the Ministry. She was very much the Granger he remembered: academic, stubborn, passionate, but had she remained that way after the war? Which version of Granger had he kissed? And how far removed was this Granger from the one who existed before Potter's clumsy mistake?
But all those plaguing questions seemed to dissipate like mist as she walked over to him with a striking smile, a tumbler of whiskey in one hand and a glass of mulled wine in the other. "Is whiskey okay?" she asked. "Sorry, I should have asked."
"Whiskey's fine," he replied.
"Good. I got you a posh one, rich boy."
He huffed out a short laugh. "Mulled wine doesn't seem like your drink."
"I might not be. I just thought I'd give it a try. And it's Christmassy."
A low groan rumbled through Draco's throat. "Bloody Christmas."
"Oh, don't tell me you're one of those miserable, Scrooge people," she said. "You don't like Christmas?"
"No. It's just a lot of bright lights and tacky music and unnecessary gift-giving."
"Don't you visit family and friends?"
"No, I just stay at home and ignore it," he replied, shrugging.
Granger leaned forward, evidently confused. "Do you decorate your home?"
"What for? It's only me living there."
She rubbed her lips together tentatively. "Well, I was going to ask if you'd like to come to my house this week and help me put up my Christmas decorations."
He grinned at the slightly nervous hitch to her tone. "Of course I'll give you a hand, Granger. Just don't expect me to dance to shit Christmas music and scoff mince pies."
"You don't like mince pies?" she asked, as if the prospect horrified her.
"They're not too bad," he acquiesced. "Are you staying here for Christmas?"
"No, I'm spending it with Luna."
"Not Potter and Weasley?"
Granger's face creased up with bemusement. "Weasley?"
Draco's stomach sunk to his ankles and his eyes widened a fraction. He could feel the blood rushing to his face, pumping loudly in his ears, but he quickly corrected himself and cleared his throat. "It was just a nickname I had for Williams in school. He does look a bit like a weasel."
"Oh, okay," she replied, apparently satisfied with that explanation. "I think they're visiting at some point during the day, but I'll be at Luna's house."
Draco took a slow sip of whiskey, stealing the moment to calm his pacing heart. Merlin, he needed to be more careful. He absently wondered how Lovegood was going to provide the facade of a Muggle Christmas, but he was sure Potter and the others had constructed some complex operation months ago.
"Are you spending New Year with Lewis, too?" he asked.
"No, I'm flying back the day after Boxing Day," she explained, smiling coyly. "And then on New Year's Day, I'm doing the New Year Dip."
Draco's eyebrows furrowed. "You're not talking about when all the local morons go swimming in the sea?"
She chuckled a little and nodded her head. "I certainly am."
"You are bloody mental, Granger. Which idiot talked you into that death wish?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Of course."
"Do you want to do it, too?"
"Not a sodding chance."
Granger pursed her lips and lowered her lashes. "Would you come anyway? You could hold a towel and...you know, dry me off afterward."
Draco caught the subtle but definite shift in her tone and the pink stain on her cheeks and his mouth twitched up into a smirk. "You mean warm you up?"
"Something like that."
"I don't have any other plans that day," he said.
He wished he could kiss her, but he had never been one for displays of affection or lust with an audience nearby. A silence comfortably settled between them as they both sipped their drinks, but this silence felt lively and volatile, like how the air crackles during a thunderstorm. But then Granger was narrowing her eyes, studying him like a puzzle that had vexed her for months, and that static that had fizzled in the room evaporated.
Granger chewed her lip. "Can I ask you something?"
"I've lived here a few months now, and I've noticed that most people move to these small islands for one of two reasons: either to start a new life or to run away from their past." She paused and looked at him steadily. "Which one are you?"
He knew the answer, but he still hesitated before he replied, "Probably the latter."
She nodded and looked down at the table. "Which one do you think I am? Or was?"
Draco tapped his chin thoughtfully before he furtively stretched out his hand and grazed his fingers across her knuckles. "I don't know," he said. "But I'm...I'm glad you landed here."
A/n: Hello lovelies! Sorry this has taken me so long, I really struggle with writing the fluffier moments and it takes e a bit longer to map out chapters…Thank you if you're sticking with me! And if you're reading my other fic I just started!
I'm mixed on this chapter but hopefully it's okay…Let me know what you think.
Read and review and all that jazz