The last time I truly remember crying, sobbing even, was years ago. I think it was when Ron deserted us in the forest during the War. I remember sobbing into my pillow, and then segueing into silence.
I cried for three days. I sobbed, wailed, and broke things, for three days. I didn't eat, I could barely keep down a cup of tea. I didn't get out of bed. I didn't get out of my dressing robe. I didn't feel guilty for any of it.
He had left behind a plain, white, v-neck undershirt, and I slept with it stuffed under my pillow. I held it to my nose, and inhaled while sobbing until it was damp. I had never been so irrational in my entire life.
"Why are we here? Hermione's not going to like this." I heard them long before I saw them. I knew it was only a matter of time before they showed up.
"Shut up Ron. What if she's sick?"
"Ginny, I think Ron's right. If there's something going on with Hermione, she'll tell us when she's…dammit, why must you be so violent?" I knew Ginny was smacking them from their curses alone. I would have laughed, but I was too busy screaming into my pillow.
"Hermione?" I squeezed my eyes shut, and hoped for a random piece of magic to whisk her away. "She's here, but…" I heard Ginny creak open my bedroom door, and knew she was drowning in judgment. "She's a mess. Her room is a mess. What on earth…"
"Ginny, go set the kettle on. Ron, make yourself useful, and rustle up something to eat. I'll handle this." After all these years, Ginny finally learned not to argue with Harry about certain matters.
I felt my bed sink in at the corner. I let Harry roll me over, but I couldn't stop the horrible sound emanating from my mouth. I was shaking, my teeth were chattering, and there was this awful noise.
"Shhh, it's alright. Tell me what happened." Harry patted my back, and rocked me from side to side and finally, I was only hiccupping.
"He left. I…I…sent him away. I…I couldn't do it, I t-told you and I…I did wh-what I said." I sniffled, and Harry offered me his handkerchief, which I used until it was a soppy, disgusting mess.
"Yes, I can see you're absolutely over the moon about it."
"C'mon, Harry. It was stupid. It never could have been anything more than it was. He…he…he's getting married." And then, I was crying again. "C-can you imagine me openly d-dating Draco Malfoy?" I laughed and cried at the same time. I was sure I looked absolutely mad. I felt mad as well.
"Except he's not...getting married I mean." I pretended I hadn't heard him, and continued on.
"C-can you imagine how…furious Ron would be? And Molly? Oh my gods, Molly would never forgive me. He was a…Death Eater and…"
"And so what? Did you really break up with him because you were afraid of how everyone else would react?" Harry pushed me off his chest, and forced my chin up.
"He's not even nice. He's rude. He's spoiled. He thinks the world revolves around him. He has absolutely no interest in anything remotely related to Muggles and…"
"And you're in love with him." I hate Harry Potter. I mean, I really hate him. If my wand had been in reach, there would have been pieces of Harry James Potter all over my flat. I'd also be in Azkaban, but it would totally be worth it.
"I hate you."
"Oh please, I've been hated by Voldemort. A tiny little Muggle-born witch is nothing compared to that." For good measure, I blew my nose into his shirt. "Thanks?"
Eventually I got out of bed. I also managed to shower and dress. I allowed Harry to tell Ginny, and even Ron. Even if they didn't understand, they wouldn't desert me over it, and I should have known better.
There were days I wanted to go to him. I wanted to apologise for not listening. I wanted to apologise for jumping to conclusions. It seemed Narcissa was particularly manipulative, no surprise there really. However, she contacted her very good friend, evil little Rita Skeeter, and concocted the entire story of Draco Malfoy's engagement to Astoria Greengrass. I knew I should have squished her when I had the chance.
From what I heard later, Narcissa truly believed Draco would bend her to wishes once it became public. Silly witch doesn't even know her son doesn't bend to anyone. I mean, think about it. Draco Malfoy betrayed Voldemort by not identifying us at the Manor that day. There is no way he's going to marry some perfect little witch of mummy's choosing.
I did take his advice. I accepted that position at Malfoy Industries. The Ministry feigned their sadness at my resignation, but secretly, I think they were just as pleased as I was.
Lucius attempted to show me off like I was a new toy, but it was better than sitting in some dank little office without windows. I didn't know my way around yet, but at least I knew where my office was. I actually had an office. I also had a Personal Assistant, which is completely different from a Secretary apparently.
It was sadistically satisfying to order around Pansy Parkinson, but I didn't see that lasting long. She didn't just grate on my nerves, she was absolutely inept. She spent more time inspecting the paint on her fingernails, than answering my correspondence. She wasn't rude, but she wasn't exactly friendly either. I supposed she resented my position, but it's not like she was qualified for much of anything.
"Pansy, why do you work?" Pansy studied my outfit carefully before answering.
"Here or in general?"
"In general." I honestly was curious. I thought all Purebloods had an endless supply of galleons, but perhaps I had been wrong.
"Because I don't wish to marry the wizard my father has chosen. He's threatened to cut me off, and I'd rather not be homeless." I had to respect her honesty. I also had to respect her backbone.
"I don't think you're well suited to this position, but I think we can work something out. Step into my office, why don't you?" I had seen the way she, and everyone else I'd encountered, looked at me. It was obvious they spent the bulk of their salary on their wardrobe, and I had never been inclined.
"Look, I know I'm an absolute shit assistant, but I need this. I've turned down offers from the Malfoys, the Notts, and this last one is enough to make me wish I'd been born a boy. I hate begging, and I'm shit at that as well, but I'll give it a try if you like." Pansy seemed sincere and that's all I needed.
"Have you ever considered…being a Personal Shopper?"
"I don't even know what that is. Do you mean shop for a living? Sweet Salazar, if I could get paid for that, I'd be bloody rich." Pansy laughed, and while her pug nose was not an attractive feature, her laughter was divine.
"That's exactly what I mean. I've noticed I've been garnering more than a few strange looks, and I can only assume it's due to my wardrobe."
"You've got that right. You're a mess. Your hair gets worse every week. You've such dark circles under your eyes, I wonder if you ever sleep, and you don't even try to cover them. You barely eat a thing, and tweed is so last century. As Head of Research and Development, you need to showcase a proper persona, and you definitely haven't got it. It's no wonder Mr. Malfoy hasn't given you the tour. He can't rightly show you off as you are. No offense, but you're an embarrassment. I mean, you're Muggle-born, so you can't begin to understand the pressure of being a Pureblood, but you're playing with them now. You've got to be better than they are, in every way, and normally you are, but that's not what they see when they look at you." I wanted to be offended, but she wasn't wrong. Ugh. Well, at least I wasn't going to have to shop.
"Yes, you've made your point. I'm going to assume they have an entire wardrobe for every season?" Pansy's head bobbed eagerly, her black hair swinging forward. "Alright, we'll have a trial run. I have no idea how much a Personal Shopper makes, but we'll come up with something agreeable. I'm going to assume a passable winter wardrobe is no more than a thousand galleons…"
"You're hilarious. You're working for Lucius Malfoy. From the rumours around the office, Draco will be returning soon, and that means a ball. Look, I know you're frugal, therefore, I know you've got galleons stored away. I'm not being greedy, I'm being honest. A passable gown would cost a thousand galleons, and you'll need more than one. There's Yule, New Years, Spring, Summer, Draco's Birthday, Harvest, and then we're back to Yule again. You'll need at the very least six gowns, a few formal dresses, and daily wear outfits as well. I would suggest at least two high end gowns, and the rest in the median range…" Pansy continued to prattle, but it was mind boggling how long she could go on about the fashions in Milan.
"Alright. You win. I will give you a note to my Gringott's account. I'll make it an open-ended note, not to exceed a quarter million galleons. Whatever your pay is at Malfoy Industries, I'll double it, as long as I don't have to listen to a diatribe concerning the latest fashions ever again."
"Done!" Pansy leapt to her feet, and instead of shaking my hand, she hugged me.
I hadn't flinched once upon hearing his name. I was healing. It had only been two months thereabouts, but it was something. I patted Pansy's back, and released her, sitting down in the most comfortable desk chair I'd ever sat upon.
"He's doing terribly, you know." Pansy sat across from me, and began chatting, like we were friends, or some such nonsense.
"He who?" I lazily picked at my lunch, suddenly a salad was completely unappealing. I settled for sipping some tea blend Lucius insisted was the finest in the land.
"Draco. I was surprised you ended things with him. Not many witches would have, but you've always had more self-respect than most. He was forced to vacate his flat. Apparently he set it on fire in a fit of rage."
"I-I don't know what you're talking about." I suddenly felt feverish, and nauseous all at the same time.
"Yes you do. We all knew. Well, I mean Draco's friends. He doesn't have many, but he's got me, and Blaise, sometimes Theo, when he's not being all emotional about things. He didn't speak about it often, but once in awhile he'd say 'Granger says' or 'when I saw Granger'. It didn't take us long to piece it all together. He never denied it. Personally, I think the reason everything stayed a secret was because of your lot. We never cared. He seemed happy and hell, Draco hadn't been happy his entire life." I couldn't hear her anymore, because I was throwing up in the bin. "Well that's overly dramatic don't you think?"
Perhaps it was a bit dramatic, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. My skin was absolutely on fire. I swear I hadn't bathed in scalding water, but I felt like I had. My vision was blurred, and I couldn't do anything beyond wretch into the bin.
I don't know what happened, but I was flying. I was sweltering, and being frozen to death. I must have been tortured. There was no other explanation. I was poisoned, and tortured for my captor's amusement. They were taking turns sitting on my chest, and slapping my cheeks, and then I was hallucinating.
"Why did you bring her here?!" Oh, he was angry. I didn't like it when he was angry.
"Did you want me to just bring her to her dismal little flat, and leave her there?" Pansy was shouting, and it was the worst sound I'd ever heard in my entire life.
"She's got Potter and his bint!"
"I tried that. Potter is apparently out on assignment, and his witch is at the Weasley hovel. I couldn't get there! I sent a bloody owl, and the Weasley Potter is ailing as well, so I brought Granger here. I'm going home! I don't do well with vomit." Pansy was stomping her feet, and while I couldn't see her, I could definitely hear her.
"Why not St. Mungo's? I mean, they have Potions for this sort of thing and…" He paused, and there was a loud groaning, but I think that was me.
"There's nothing they could do. She doesn't take well to Potions, never has. You've been shagging her for years, Draco. You should know her better than this. Figure it out." I heard a door slam, but it seemed like it just kept slamming, and shaking my head.
I was definitely going to be sick, but I couldn't open my eyes. Everything felt so heavy. My arms refused to work, and my legs were nothing more than dead weights. I was gagging, and then I was spinning.
"Fantastic. Oh, hey Granger. I haven't seen you in months, would you like a vomit on my sofa?" I was hallucinating.
He wasn't here. He wasn't holding me, and applying Cooling Charms to my hot skin. He wasn't kissing my brow, and tucking me into the softest bed known to man. He wasn't. He wasn't.
"Hmm, Potter's seen fit to answer my owl. Imagine that. It seems you need an infusion of ginger and honey, perhaps later we'll see if you're fit for broth."
He was never this nice. He wasn't nice. He didn't care about me, but in my dreams, anything was possible. I clung to them, sighing into the warmth at my back, hoping it would never end.
"It's been five days! I've managed to get a bit of broth into her, but there's got to be something."
I didn't like the way he sounded. It was desperation at its finest, and Draco Malfoy was never desperate for anything.
Sometimes, it felt like I was nothing more than a rag doll. My head flopping about on my shoulders while someone shouted at me. There were other moments when there were soft croons in my ears, while a cool cloth was wiped down my hot, sweaty body.
Hard fingers were prodding me, and I didn't like it, not one bit. I groaned, putting forth a valiant effort to escape, but I barely managed to move my fingers. The heavy warmth covering me was removed, and I struggled to open my eyes, but my lids refused to cooperate.
"Mr. Malfoy, it is impossible for me properly assess the patient with your constant hovering." It was a scratchy sort of voice, clearly exasperated with the man who wasn't there.
"She's cold." He argued and the other man, a Healer if I had to guess, sighed with irritation.
"Ms. Granger is simply overcome with influenza. It has slowly been making the rounds, but when you take into account her…"
"No." I'd finally managed to speak. It hurt and my throat was raw, but I'd done it just the same. "You can't. He'll take it from me. He won't let me keep it."
"Granger?" Maybe I wasn't hallucinating. Maybe I wasn't dreaming. Maybe he really was there.
"Please. It's all I've got left. I love him and it's all I've got left." I shivered, and the warmth was back, firmly in place.
An unfamiliar finger forced open my eyelid, staring down at me, and I turned my head away from the intrusion. The Healer looked concerned, but also kind. His gray hair tickled my nose, and I flinched away from him.
"No one is taking anything from you, Ms. Granger."
"What is she going on about? Is she going to open her eyes? You've got to do something."
"It's best to let it run its course. Make sure she imbibes plenty of fluids. If she hasn't improved in the next day or two, I'll come round. Let's step into the other room."
My eyes opened of their own accord sometime during the night. I was suffocating beneath all the blankets. I shifted, and realised there was a warm body pressed into my back. I swallowed hard and turned.
He was behind me. In all the years I'd been sleeping with Draco Malfoy, I'd never actually slept beside him. He'd tucked me in, and watched me until I fell asleep, but he's always left. It was simply his way.
"Hmpf, you move too much." He grumbled into my hair, and held me tighter.
I held my breath, waiting until his breathing had deepened, and turned to face him. I touched his soft cheek, and nestled into his chest. I didn't want to get up anymore. I wanted to stay right in the safety of his arms.
"Were you ever going to tell me, I wonder. Did you know before…no, I'd wager not. I need you to open your eyes, Granger. I can't discuss this with you like this. I know you didn't open your gift. If you had, I expect we'd be in a completely different scenario."
I swallowed, and I was almost giddy with the thought my body was doing what I wished it to do. My eyelashes fluttered, and after a few moments, I managed to squint. He was sitting by the bedside and Merlin, he looked awful. I touched his hand, and he nearly leapt to the ceiling.
"Water." I rasped, and he was there. He eased me into a sitting position with more pillows than I'd ever seen. I sipped from a crystal goblet, of course, heaven forbid Draco Malfoy used something so common as paper or even plastic.
It was easy to fall back into the pillows, but my body ached from the lack of movement over the…well I don't know how many days. He was silent. He watched me. I watched him. It was ridiculously uncomfortable. The rapid knock on what I assumed was his front door broke the silence, and I was grateful.
He frowned, and I realised how completely out of sorts he looked. He wasn't in his perfectly pressed dress slacks with equally perfect button down shirts. He looked mangled, honestly. His hair was, dare I say, stringy, and he was wearing actual lounge pants. I didn't even know he owned lounge pants.
My eyes followed him to the bedroom door, and the moment he passed through it, I breathed. I hadn't even noticed I was holding my breath. I hoped whoever was at the door was quiet. I hadn't the slightest bit of desire to eavesdrop. In fact, I really just needed to use the loo.
I struggled to toss back the blankets, and it was even more difficult to swing my feet to the floor. I could hear raised voices from the other room, but I tuned them out and attempted to stand. I wavered on my feet, and my stomach lurched. I managed to take one step, and then another, grasping the bureau against the wall to maintain an upright position.
"Draco! What do you mean you're not coming?!" I cringed, my stomach rolling with my slow movements, and I swallowed the bile lodged in my throat.
I was interfering. I was in the way. I shouldn't be here. I didn't know why I was here, but I wanted to leave. I knew I couldn't, not yet, but that didn't change the way I felt about it.
"Company? What do you mean you have company? In your bedroom no less? Why aren't they in the guest room?!" I could hear the rapid pounding of feet, and expected the door to fly open, and to be hexed by an angry witch.
"Important to you…what does even mean? No one is more important to you than yourself. Oh I see, she is. Well, who is she? It doesn't matter? No, I'm going in there."
I had made it to the door nearest the window, and valiantly hoped it was the washroom. I struggled with the door handle. My knees were shaking, and I knew I wasn't going to make it. The bedroom door burst open, and I couldn't even turn my head to see the furious witch. My legs gave out, and I crumpled like a rag doll.
"Draco, she's quite unwell. You could have told me she was ill."
"Granger? Dammit, what are you doing you stupid little witch." He was angry with me, well, that wasn't anything new.
I hung my head, and mumbled about the loo. I stiffened in anticipation of harsh hands setting me on my feet, but that's not what happened at all. Draco Malfoy lifted me into his arms with the utmost care, and set me near the toilet.
"I can manage." I almost certain I was going to lose the meager contents of my stomach, and I didn't really want an audience.
"Yes, you've done a marvelous job thus far." Oh sarcasm, yes that was constructive. I took that opportunity to vomit on his bare feet. Served him right, and the squeal of disgust from the witch was an absolute perk.
He set me on the toilet, and I yanked up my nightgown. It felt divine, but I'd never seen it before. I really needed to relieve my bladder, but that brunette witch was just staring at us. Her large dark eyes just flitted from me to him, and I couldn't hold on much longer.
He had walked over to the shower, and turned on the taps. I supposed it made sense he would bathe. Merlin knows he needed it. I suspect I didn't smell much better, but even so, as a Pureblood you'd think he'd take better care of himself.
"I do hope you're planning on washing her as well. Sorry to say, you both reek something horrid."
"Tori, would you fetch those ginger drops from the nightstand. Afterwards you can find your way out." Of course, that was when my bladder gave out. I stifled a moan, instead opting for a sigh, and Astoria Greengrass literally ran from the washroom. "That was most uncouth, Granger."
He pulled the nightgown over my head, and I was sitting naked on the toilet. Talk about humiliating. I gasped, but it didn't deter him in the least. He wedged an arm behind my back, and forced me to stand.
"Ginger drops, water crackers, peppermint tea, from the looks of it, you'd think she was…Draco!" Astoria dropped the assortment of goodies in her hands, and cast him a particularly scathing look. "Does your father know?"
"Is that why she's important to you?" Astoria knelt to gather the discarded items, averting her eyes from my nudity.
I remained silent. It was better that way. It seemed the ruse was up. He knew. Lucius knew, and now Astoria Greengrass was aware as well. My secret was no longer my secret.
I hadn't intended for that to happen. I hadn't known when I'd ended things with him. I hadn't even suspected for weeks afterwards. It was Ginny who had suggested it, and I nearly slapped her for the thought.
"I think you're pregnant. You look awful and you keep turning your nose up at everything. What the hell have you been eating?" I held up a bag of crisps, and ignored her. "Crisps, yes that's healthy. You should take a test."
"Shut up, Ginny. I'm not…that." I couldn't even say the word. If I couldn't say the word, I definitely couldn't have a child.
"When was your last monthly?" She tapped her foot, and crinkled her nose at state of my office. My entire thought process revolved around appeasing her, and proving her wrong. I silently counted on my fingers, and everything went tit's up from there.
"No." He set me on the edge of the large tub with vomit sticking to his toes.
"You're going to have to do better than that." I could hear Astoria tapping her toes, but I was more interested in the hot water lightly steaming my face.
"Look Tori, I'm not interested in arguing with you. I'm not interested in explaining myself to you. I'm not interested in discussing my feelings, and I'm bloody well not going to tell you things I've never told her. Suffice it to say, she's important to me, and she has been for a long time now. Would you get the fuck out now?"
I didn't want to hear anymore. I didn't trust myself. I didn't trust anything anymore, so I slid into the tub. I knew standing under the pulsating water was absolutely out of the question, but I could sit.
I heard heated words, and the slam of a door, but then there was silence. I preferred the silence. My mind and body had been so busy struggling to the surface during my convalescence, silence was hard to come by.
"Scoot up, would you?" I frowned, but listened, shifting until my head was drenched. I heard the slap of large feet hitting the porcelain and then, there were those arms again.
"What are you doing?" It was easier to talk to him, if I didn't have to look at him. I could feel him though. I could feel those hard muscles in my back, feel those arms wrapped tightly around my waist.
"Shut up. You're going to stand here, and let the water work the kinks out of your muscles. Then, I'm going to wash that disaster you call hair, before I get to the rest of your body. I'm hoping the water will wash the remnants of your sick off my feet, and afterwards, I'm going to dry you with my favourite fluffy towels, and set you to bed. You're not going to argue with me when I bring you a cup of broth and you'll damn well finish it. I suspect you'll fall asleep, and wake in the middle of the night and then, then I will finally say my peace."
I didn't have a retort. It all sounded delightful, and terrifying at the same time. He was making me nervous. I didn't like feeling nervous. I prided myself on being the sort of witch, the sort of woman that was always sure. He ruined it. He ruined everything. He ruined me.
I felt his fingers on my head, and I could smell my favourite rosemary lemon shampoo. He scrubbed my scalp with both hands, and even massaged the tight muscles in my neck. I sighed, but it really was more like a moan, and he paused.
"You talk in your sleep, Granger." I squeezed my eyes shut while he rinsed the suds from my hair. I didn't know what to say to that. I didn't know if I did or if I didn't. I always slept alone.
"I hope I didn't say anything too awful. Wouldn't want to offend my caretaker." I leaned back a little while he spread entirely too much conditioner into my hair, but I wasn't about to complain.
"You said you loved me." I couldn't argue with him. I didn't know if I had said or if I hadn't, but I'd never known him to lie. It was quite possible I had muttered it in my delirium, but there was nothing I could do about it now.
"I'm…sorry?" It was as good an answer as any, but not for him.
He shook me, but not overly hard. I wavered on my feet, and he was there again, holding me upright. He had an easy enough time lowering me to the bottom of the tub, and then the water was flowing, filling it. He sat behind me, and pulled me into his arms.
It was…intimate. I mean, my hair was sopping wet, and slathered in conditioner. My lips were dry, cracked, and a little sore. I was absolutely positive my breath was atrocious, but it didn't matter to him it seemed. I was too tired, and too weak to do anything other than submit.
I watched him lather a washing cloth just beneath my breasts in fascination. Draco Malfoy was meticulous in everything he did. While it was probably an every day occurrence for him, it was new for me, and I always did love to learn. Especially where he was concerned.
He scrubbed my arms with the washing cloth soaked in some sort of oatmeal lavender, and it felt heavenly. He pushed me forward, and diligently scrubbed my back until I was almost moaning in contentment. He harrumphed while attempting to pile my hair on my head, and forced me back onto his shoulder.
"Don't. Apologise." He dipped the cloth into the hot water, and lovingly washed my chest. He dallied over my breasts, but I wouldn't have expected anything less.
"What do you want from me?" I was near to tears, and his hands roving over my skin were driving me mad.
"You would know if you had opened your fucking gift, Granger." I wanted to push off his bent, bony knees, and create a bit of distance between us, but he refused to yield. I wasn't strong enough, in mind or body, and I eventually gave up and sagged against him.
"I didn't want to open it. I couldn't very well move passed everything, if I clung to the bits and pieces you left in your wake." It wasn't a well rehearsed, practiced for hours in front of my mirror speech, but it got the job done.
"If you had opened it, you wouldn't have to move passed anything at all, you stubborn witch. Come on, let's get you to bed."
He was treating me like a child. He literally dried my entire body, while I simply stood there. He pulled another delightful nightie from his bureau, and forced it over my head, despite my sputters to the contrary. It was yellow, a daisy sort of yellow, and just as soft as the blue one.
He led me to the bed, and I sat on the edge, taking in my surroundings for the first time. It was a spacious bedroom, but it lacked a personal flair. The walls were glaringly white, and that wasn't his style at all. He adored splashes of colour, and I didn't understand why he would live here.
Draco Malfoy combed out my hair. He was so gentle, I barely noticed he was hard at work. My own mother had never been so gentle, and my heart clenched. I hated loving him. I thought, with the passing of time, I'd be alright. Maybe I wouldn't necessarily move on, but I'd be able to see him on a crowded street, and not feel as if my heart was being ripped through my nostrils.
"Where are we?"
"My house." I rolled my eyes at that, I mean honestly.
"This isn't your flat."
"I burned it down. It was an accident. I was…angry." Pansy had told me that much, for some reason, I thought perhaps he would be a bit more forthcoming. I spied my wand on the side table, and picked it up, quickly utilizing a Mouth-Cleansing Charm, and sighed.
"Why were you angry?" I reclined upon the pillows, and he tucked the heavy white blankets around me, only allowing my arms and face to remain free.
He sighed, and finger combed his damp hair off his face, while avoiding my eyes. He walked across the bedroom, opened the closet, and pulled out another pair of lounge pants. It was strange to see him so casual, but I liked it.
I knew eventually I would have to leave. I would have to go home to my empty little flat. I would have to go back to my job, if I still had one. I couldn't stay here forever. I couldn't be Draco Malfoy's little Side Witch any longer.
"You left me." He crossed his feet at the ankles, and crossed his arms. "You left me and I knew you meant it. You weren't going to come back, and…I didn't like…the way it made me feel."
I was shocked. I was positive my mouth was gaped open in utter and complete disbelief. Draco Malfoy actually had discernible feelings…toward me. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"I didn't know…you never said…I mean." I paused, with a sigh, and folded my hands in my lap. "How did I even get here? Why am still here?" I watched the way he walked across the room, and my traitorous heart was more than willing to beat for him.
"Pansy brought you on my father's orders. Potter was on assignment, but he sent me owls. His wretchedly loud wife was completely indisposed, and the only other option was the Weasel." I didn't need him to go on. If I had been left in Ron's care, I'd probably be drowning in my own sick. "You never said either, Granger."
"I know. I know I didn't. I didn't know how ,and I didn't want you to…" I didn't want him to do what I did. I didn't want him to leave me. Gods, I was such a hypocrite. "I left because it hurt too much to stay. There were so many things I wanted to say, and I couldn't. I couldn't do it. I didn't open the gift, because I didn't want to come rushing back. I wanted to…be more. I wanted to…"
"Enough." He was right…sadly. I was rambling. I was working myself into a tizzy.
He climbed into his own bed, and didn't waste a moment when it came to embracing me. He let me lean on him, and ignored my sniffles against his chest. I shivered, and he drew the coverlet over me again, pausing with his hand on my hip.
I felt him hold his breath, and with feather light fingers, he caressed my abdomen. I held my breath as well. His thumb brushed over my navel, and then he stilled.
"And what of this? How were you planning on escaping me…with this?" Well, he had me there. I was going to have to tell him the truth, and he wasn't going to like it. Not one bit.
"I wasn't…I wasn't going to keep it." I whispered.
You would have thought I was Voldemort incarnate with the ferocity of his snarl. His fingers dug into my jaw, forcing my head back. He growled, literally growled like a beast, and his forehead smacked into mine hard enough to make me wince.
"Y-you hate me…that much?" I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear the way his grey eyes glistened. I couldn't bear the way his voice cracked. I couldn't bear his vulnerability, and I shook my head.
"No. Gods, no. I couldn't even if I wanted to, even if I tried. Luna convinced me, strange as that may sound. She convinced me for all the very same reasons I convinced myself otherwise."
"Tell me." It was my turn, to care for him. I drew his head down to my breast, and ran my fingers through his hair, just the way he liked.
"It was after. I didn't know…when I made you leave. It was after the Daily Prophet announcing your impending proposal to…"
"Don't. It wasn't…you wouldn't listen."
"I know. I know I wasn't listening. I know I should have. I know I should have asked you instead of just assuming, but…"
"I don't care anymore, just tell me." He sighed, but he didn't just sigh. Draco Malfoy sidled into my side, and cuddled with me.
"The Malfoy hair is a dominant feature, as are the eyes. Did you know that? I expect you did. Most of the first-born children are boys. There hasn't been a girl in nearly 200 years. It was easy to deduce I'd probably bear a son, with your eyes, and your hair. Everyone would know he was yours. He'd probably be spoiled, and arrogant because those genes are dominant as well. I was afraid…I'm still afraid." He grasped my hand, drawing it from his head to his lips, and kissed my palm.
"You thought I'd be ashamed. You thought I was marrying some mindless little swot, when that wasn't the case at all."
He ducked under the coverlet, and I gasped because he was drawing my nightgown up to my hips. He pushed, and shoved until it was nearly under my bust, and then he crawled between my legs. I was feeling better, much better, but I didn't think having sex with him would solve our issues.
His hands were on my thighs, prodding them until they opened of their own accord. It seemed my body no longer belonged to me, it was his. I felt his thumbs skim over the lacy cream panties, avoiding the rapidly dampening spot, in favour of kissing the soft skin beneath my navel.
"Granger, there's a baby in there." The wonder in his silken voice was almost enough to drive me to tears. "Little bits of you, little bits of me, are in there right now. That's our baby. We're having a baby, Granger."
"Oh stop it. You don't get to take this from me with your little feminist ideals, and I'm having a baby, not you, sort of nonsense. I don't care what you say, that's my baby in there, so you can't leave me, Granger. You can't, not now." I lifted the covers to see his teeth nipping at my knickers. He smiled at me. Draco Malfoy smiled, like an incorrigible imp, and continued to work my knickers off with his teeth.
"Y-you can't just…shag me into submission, Malfoy!" I shoved the quilt off his head, and my eyes nearly popped from my head. It was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen and where Draco Malfoy was concerned, trust me, I'd seen plenty.
"Oh my little Gryffindor. I'm not going to shag you, Princess."
I nearly died. I was going to die. He was going to kill me. Has anyone ever died from an overdose of pleasure? I was certain I was going to be the first.
It had been so long since he had touched me. It had been so long since I had felt him between my legs. I was a shameless hussy, and I didn't care. I don't know how he did it, but I swear it was less than a minute later, and I was fit to explode. The man has talent, and I never wanted him to use it with anyone else.
"Oh God, oh yes." My hands were fists in his hair, and I couldn't get enough. He was the sort of man that never had to rely on his fingers. His tongue was absolutely magical.
"Hermione? Are you alright?" Harry Potter poked his head into Draco Malfoy's bedroom, with Ron hot on his heels.
"GET OUT HARRY!" He laughed, Malfoy did, a perfect little vibration, and I was done. "Yes, yes yes, yes, oh dear God, please."
"Uhm, I think she's alright, Harry. I feel a bit ill actually." I didn't care how Ron felt. I doubt Harry did either. Someone should really teach him to knock.
"I want you, Granger." The pretty yellow nightie was sticking to my chest, and I didn't care. I was flat on my back, staring up at the most beautiful man I've ever seen.
"I'm right here." I grunted in annoyance. I mean, I was spread beneath him, what more did he want, an engraved invitation?
"No." He shook his head, his pale blonde hair flopping across his forehead, "I want you. I should have…told you before. I should have made it perfectly clear, but I'm really not good at that sort of thing. Come on, we need to retrieve your gift. You're not going to put me off any longer." I frowned heavily, and watched him climb from the bed, and dress.
"You're not…you're not going to shag me?" I couldn't believe it. It had been months, and he wasn't going to shag me into oblivion.
"Granger, I'm not going to risk skewering our child." He rolled his eyes at me, at me!
"That's…not how that works, Malfoy." He was ignoring me, and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.
He tossed me a plum dress, and I wondered where he was retrieving all these women's clothes, but he shut the closet before I could take a peak. It fit perfectly, no surprise there, and it was just my style as well. It wasn't too revealing, and the empire waist was perfect, considering my stomach still wasn't up to snuff.
"Close your eyes." I stamped my foot angrily. I was tired of these games. "Hermione, please close your eyes." Bollocks. He'd never said my name before, I couldn't very well argue with him, now could I?
I sighed, but closed my eyes. I felt him behind me, and then there was something cool covering my eyes. I felt him tie it securely behind my head, and then he was leading me forward. I heard the crackle of a fire, and whispering voices, which set me on edge.
"Dr-Draco?" I was scared. I'd never much cared for the dark. I never much cared for whispering voices in unfamiliar surroundings either.
I didn't know how many people were actually in the room, but I assumed Harry and Ron hadn't left. It only made sense if Ginny was there as well, but other than that? My lungs felt constricted in a ridiculous bout of anxiety, but he was there.
He wrapped his arms around me from behind, and his bony chin rested on my equally bony shoulder. He moved my hair to the other side, and squeezed me just a bit. His fingers were trembling, which frightened me.
"Do you love me?" He spoke directly into my ear, and I knew those words were for me, and me alone. My hands stroked along his forearms, and I nodded.
"Yes." He kissed my cheek, and I knew my answer pleased him.
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes." It didn't make sense to trust him, but I did. I couldn't explain it. I was a lost cause as far as purging Draco Malfoy out of life was concerned.
"Good." He untied the makeshift blindfold, and I blinked rapidly, adjusting to the influx of light.
Harry and Ron stood nearest the hearth, shuffling their feet. Ginny and Luna were off to the side, eyeing a tantalizing platter of delicacies. I wasn't surprised to see them, but then I didn't quite understand why they were here. Blaise Zabini was smirking into a crystal tumbler, the ice clinking against the side as he sipped an amber liquid, I could only assume was firewhiskey. Pansy elbowed Theo Nott, who rolled his eyes, a grimace painted on his thin lips.
"Is that…my dad, speaking with…your father? Malfoy, Draco, what's going on?" My eyes nearly bulged out of my head, and I blinked more than a few times, willing the apparition to dissipate.
My curly haired father, with his ridiculous bushy mustache, was engaging aristocratic Lucius Malfoy, in conversation, in the corner. He was smiling, and gesturing toward his watch, while Lucius nodded, withdrawing his timepiece from the pocket of his robes. Narcissa looked completely out of place, and that I could understand. My mother was silently judging her, and the feeling was intensely mutual.
"Potter, did you bring it?" Harry shoved up his spectacles, and withdrew my gift box from the pocket of his jeans.
"Blaise said I did it all wrong. What do I know of it? He said I can't just give you a gift box, and wait for you to open it. The girl Weasel over there said it had to be all pomp and circumstance, and I instantly hated that idea, and not because of her red hair. I didn't ask Potter or his Sidekick, because I didn't want too. Lovegood said I'd neglected to say the things I should have said ages ago, so I needed to prove to you I actually meant it. What on earth is wrong with the world when Lovegood is the voice of reason?" Harry shoved the box at me, anxious to return to his vantage point.
I didn't open it. I was much too busy processing the fact Draco Malfoy gathered the people that meant the most to both of us in one room, and there wasn't a hint of bloodshed. He was saying words, words that actually meant something to him. He spoke to my friends. He…
I finally looked around the great room of his house. The walls were splashed with charcoal grey. The sofa was a deep plum, and the plush throw rugs were white. In every direction, the wainscoting was lined with bookshelves, overflowing with books. My picture sat on the mantle, and I don't even know when it was taken. This wasn't just his house. This was his home.
"You're stalling, Malfoy, and I'm famished." Theo grunted, and Pansy was elbowing him again. I definitely didn't envy his ribs.
"Look, Granger. Ugh, I suck at this."
"You'd think after five years of this bullshit, he'd be able to articulate himself." Blaise chortled happily, avoiding Pansy's raised hand with a slide to the right.
"What's in the booox?!" Harry and Ron took it upon themselves to catcall loudly, laughing at their stupid little joke. They really needed to stop spending their evenings watching violent Muggle films.
"Hermione." Draco had opened my pretty little gift box while I was busy scowling at Harry and Ron.
I studied the open lid first, confused. It was engraved with a single word. 'Please?' My hands began to shake, and I felt every eye in the room focused on me, on us. Gods, we had become an us.
I was afraid it was all a dream. I was going to wake, and it was going to be ripped away. I would definitely be worse for the wear, but I had to touch it, just once.
"I don't…want anyone else. I never did. I didn't know how to tell you, without driving you away. It seems my silence did exactly what I didn't wish to happen." He plucked the ring from the box, from my fingers, and held it aloft. It was a simple platinum band, thin, but tasteful. It was also completely encrusted with emeralds and diamonds.
"Are you…doing this because…"
"No. Think about it woman. This box, this exact box, has been sitting on your bureau since you're birthday." He was right. He wasn't doing this because I left him. He wasn't doing this because of the baby. He was always planning to do this, and I left, forced him away before he could. "I would have preferred to do this alone, but grand gestures and all that…"
"Hermione…" Ron was whining, big surprise there, "just say yes already, I'm starving."
"You want me to marry you?" Draco groaned, and spun me so quickly, I was surprised my stomach didn't rebel.
"Hermione Granger, you are the most infuriating witch I've ever met. You're stubborn beyond all measure. You've always got to be right, even when you're wrong, it doesn't matter. You tossed out my favourite tea. You rearranged my furniture. You plagued my every waking moment, and dammit, I can't live without you. I mean, I could, but I don't want too." He stared over my head, and I couldn't see what or whom he was glaring at, but he was most definitely glaring. "Hermione and I are expecting. I'm sure most of you lot knew that already, but I wanted you to hear it from me. I bought this house three years ago. I couldn't tell her, I didn't know how to tell her…how much she means to me, and I almost lost her."
"Yeah yeah, you love her, she loves you, let's eat!" Ron pushed through Harry, and his sister, and headed directly for the platters overflowing with my favourites.
"He's right you know, and I hate admitting that, even to you." Draco cupped my face in his hands, nervous in my silence.
"Kiss me." His grey eyes grew large, and I thought he would balk, but he didn't.
He kissed me like he'd never kissed me before. It was soft and frenzied, and everything all at once. I had often wondered why he had never kissed me before my birthday, but now I knew. I could feel his love in the tilt of his head, in the stroke of his fingers against my cheeks, in the way he breathed and even in the way he tasted my lips. He hadn't been ready for me to know and well, I could understand that.
While he was busy memorising me, he managed to slide that beautiful ring onto my finger. I didn't need the words. I had always needed the actions, and there were none better than these.
"I suppose you're quite pleased with yourself." Narcissa Malfoy scoffed, daintily sipping her tea, and nibbling the corner of a lemon scone.
"Of course I am my dear. It was absolutely diabolical, yet necessary. He would have let her slip through his fingers." Lucius smiled, pleased to see his son laughing amongst an eclectic gathering of witches and wizards.
"Probably, but making the girl ill, Lucius? That's quite common, even for you. I expected something much grander."
"No matter. It worked, and she's well on her way to providing the next generation of Malfoys. They'll be brilliant and cunning."
"Let's hope they don't inherit her hair." Narcissa feigned a shiver, ignoring the outrage on Ginny Potter's freckled face.
"Quite the cynic, my love." Lucius pecked his wife's cheek, and winked. "She really is the brightest witch of her age."
"Yes, yes she is, and it only makes one wonder…how long do you think it will take her to discover what you've done?" Narcissa tittered quietly into her tea. Lucius swallowed hard, startling grey eyes widened significantly as his lips parted.