Hermione can still remember with vivid intensity how their meeting had started.
She recalled being tucked safely away from prying eyes in the Astronomy tower, face red with tearful eyes as her cold fingers stiffly gripped her dress. She'd been so elated during the Yule Ball festivities. Krum had displayed many gentlemanly mannerisms her friends lacked. Hermione found it absolutely refreshing having someone look at her with more than just friendliness.
Leave it to Ron to ruin it all, she bitterly thought.
It was supposed to be different. It was supposed to be filled with laughter, maybe a bit of mischief with her friends. Instead, both acted like little first years and left her alone to wallow in conflicting emotions. Was it truly wrong of her to give in to adolescent desires? The constant rush of adrenaline coursing through her veins was draining and left the girl exhausted both mentally and physically. There was so much expected of them and Hermione knew that the days would only grow heavier with it.
So what if she indulged? She didn't do it often enough.
So caught up in her thoughts she'd failed to realize someone entering her current sanctuary until the figure stepped on the wrong floorboard, causing a creek to end her silent musings. She'd been so angry seeing him there in all his damned air of superiority. Her once glossed lips now pulled into a deep frown, brows furrowed as she mentally prepared for his impending insult. Damned be her watery eyes. She would not allow him the satisfaction of seeing her so hurt. It was too personal—too real. Hermione was logical. She did not let her emotions have the best of her on most days and despite the events that unfolded that night, she most certainly would not allow herself to humiliate her person in front of the likes of Draco Malfoy.
Moments passed between them and the longer silence stretched, the more aggravated she grew. He simply watched her, silver eyes silently assessing, hands nestled safely in the pockets of his expensive trousers. His lips were pressed together, almost pursed as though he was attempting to say something but suddenly failed translate thoughts into words.
It was absolutely intolerable.
She sneered, lips curled in anger at his uncharacteristic stance. She would have no more of his games. With a step forward, she gripped her dress tighter, knuckles white from the pressure of keeping herself together, ignoring the fact that her cheeks were probably stained with tears or that the comforting coolness she'd felt from the night's air suddenly turned into an unsavory heat that bubbled under her skin, crackling in her ears.
"Out with it, Malfoy! We both know there's a snide remark on the tip of that tongue of yours. I've better things to do with my time than waste anymore with the likes of you. Come for another slap? Is that it?"
He smirked then, eyes narrowing slightly at her. He looked so at ease standing there. And really, how else could he look? An heir to a substantial title that involved people throwing themselves at him, ready to serve at his beck-and-call, of course he hadn't the slightest care.
The incorrigible prat. She'd never disliked him more than that night.
The young wizard raised an elegant eyebrow as she crossed her slender arms over her chest in a defensive manner. Unconsciously hoping the stance alone would shield her from his cruel words.
Why she hadn't stormed off yet was beyond him. He was rather peeved by the fact that someone was seeking refuge where he went to gather himself when he was at his wits end. True, though the festivities had started well enough, with an invitation into Pansy's knickers even, Draco could find no peace. His father, having just flooed him moments after making his way into the common room managed to cause an unwanted agony to stir within.
Bloody family duties.
Maybe it was the firewhiskey he'd been drinking throughout the ball; maybe it was the fact that in this current moment, his future was looking rather grim. Whatever the case, Draco later in his life realized just why he'd acted so…amicably towards the Gryffindor Princess that night.
"Ron is an idiot, but I dare say, you are far more in the lead for the title if he's the reason you've gone and turned yourself in a weeping mess, Granger." There was no underlying sarcasm to his words, no malice. The statement was simple and managed to render the young witch silent.
Without letting her fathom a reply he'd turned his back on her and left her alone in the Astronomy Tower with a look of confusion drawn intricately on her features.
They didn't run into each other again until the night Cedric died.
Hermione couldn't think with all the whispers and frantic students that seemed to be all around her. Harry had been whisked away and Ron was lost in the crowd—to frazzled by the night's events to make haste. She'd been sitting within the silence of the library before she realized she couldn't breathe. She'd gripped the fabric on her chest and blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. Her brows furrowed in anger when she failed to stop her lips from quivering. She felt like she was going mad.
The Dark Lord had come back and in the wake of his arrival, a boy died. A boy.
Suddenly feeling queasy she sprang from her seat and hastily made her way through the hysteria of crowds that infiltrated the halls. She'd kept her head low, avoiding any passing glances. The young witch needed to get away.
Her breathing came in ragged huffs as she made her way to the Astronomy Tower. She hadn't been there since her last peculiar encounter with Malfoy. After that night she'd catch him looking over at her with those damn eyes of his. Hermione did her best to ignore him most days but it was bloody difficult since he wasn't being too much of a git anymore, and that thought alone was disconcerting.
She stopped then, seizing all movements as she silently watched Draco heaving, his pale fingers gripping the stone ledge of the window. His eyes were wide with terror, chest constricting as his erratic breathing continued. He desperately tried to attain some sort of control but his father's voice kept ringing in his head, his words practically carving into his skull.
"You have no choice in the matter, boy. When the time comes you will take the Mark and you will bow to our Lord."
Draco wanted nothing more than to spit in the face of the man he was forced to call father. Had it not been for his beloved mother's eyes pleading him to accept without quarrel, he would've stormed off, inheritance be damned. He'd seen the way his father's cruelty had become more prominent over the years and wanted no part of it.
As the rise of Death Eaters continued, Draco noted that his father almost seemed to relish in the way he made people bleed, the way he took the life of those who did not abide by the rules.
It was deplorable. And Draco found himself to be at a crossroads of sorts. Torn by the yearning to make his own mindful decisions and a duty to protect his mother from any harm that could come if he were to abandon her. Of course he had the same prejudices towards blood like his father. Yet he wasn't as devoted to the cause as to kill anyone for it. Muttering a few snide insults was enough for him.
He paused, brows furrowed at a strange sound behind him. With a glare already masking his face he turned to see Hermione standing a few feet from him. It was almost comical how the roles were reversed from their first run in, he silently mused. Her chest rose rapidly like his and for some strange reason he wondered why her eyes were filled a strange lightness directed at him.
Though really he supposed it was obvious. A Malfoy was always in control and seeing one so…out of balance was a bit unsettling, he guessed.
He straightened himself, his glare never faltering. His chiseled chin rose to show her that she would not embarrass him. If she dared comment on his ragged appearance he would simply point out all her inferior qualities.
Hermione watched him with careful eyes. She'd bit her lip and held her breath for a long moment before letting it slip past her abused flesh. Clearing her throat she took a tentative step towards him, noting how his frown seemed to deepen at the action. "I…I didn't mean to interrupt. I simply need a place to think. There's far too much chaos going on down there and—,"
"I don't recall asking for explanations, Granger. And I don't care what your reasoning is. If you're wondering, yes, you absolutely are intruding."
"Don't be so fickle," Hermione huffed, nearing her adversary. "You may own plenty things, Malfoy, but this tower is not one of them. And if I feel at ease here I will not allow your pretentious ways to stand between me and a semblance of sanity. If you find yourself disgusted by the notion of sharing silence with a mudblood then by all means, you know the way out, unless you prefer another round of hexes your way?"
With that she made her way towards the steps and sat there, arms crossed just like his. He frowned and noted the tension in her shoulders. Despite himself, he had to admit she was right to a small degree. He didn't want to go downstairs yet and see the excited murmurs of his house's comrades over the arrival of the Dark Lord.
How was it that he always found himself at the end of her threats when they were alone?
So with a deep breath, which was followed by an elegant grunt, he went to sit beside her, making sure there was ample distance between them as they sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Draco noted later how peaceful it felt and how his father's voice had dispersed from the depths of his mind, having been replaced instead by the steady sound of her breathing.
When the school year started up again it began like clockwork. Without any indication of their meetings outside of the tower, Hermione and Draco would find themselves seated next to one another under the window of their shared haven.
She dared not question his reasoning for being so insufferable outside of this realm and he in turn did not insult her as he did when she was with her friends. It was a though they'd come to a silent agreement of discretion. Occasionally they would discuss unnerving projects that their professors assigned. Draco would grumble about a test he should've beat Hermione in and she would only snort in response, too sure of her own intellectual abilities to even explain how wrong he was for thinking it.
The night of her birthday she sat with her Gryffindor scarf wrapped tightly around her. She'd been boring holes into the floor when Draco arrived. As customary, he stood before her, those silver eyes regarding her for a long, pregnant pause. The witch in turn raised an eyebrow in question before he pulled out a small cream-colored box and shoved it unceremoniously into her hands.
He did not look at her directly as he made himself comfortable beside her radiating warmth. Staring ahead, he could make out from the corner of his eye how she'd looked at him peculiarly. He masked the way his heart seemed to pound a bit harder than what was usual, and he chose to ignore how pretty she looked when she was at a loss for words.
Hermione opened the box with tentative fingers, smiling to herself when a small cake sprang up, lit candles and all. With elegant chocolate script it simply read, 'Happy Birthday.' Placing the box on her thighs she hummed out in amusement as he blatantly chose to ignore her.
How curious, she thought.
"Thank you," she simply spoke, her voice only a soft whisper that danced around his ears. It was enough to ward off the cold and he rather liked the idea of her reserving this tone for him alone.
He nodded his response, breath catching in his throat when she carefully placed a head on his shoulder. The riot of curls that were usually the butt of all his jokes looked attractive sprawled out on his black robes. He fought the urge to lift one up and see if the lock was as soft as they looked.
Instead, they watched the flicker of the candles that never seemed to go out, and later that night he dreamt of her, of cakes and candles and her pretty chestnut hair.
Hermione grew worried as she found herself alone most nights in the tower. Draco hadn't shown up nor did he meet her gaze when she would pass him by in the halls. He seemed to be a shell of the boy she'd grown to know. When the young witch saw him in the Hogwarts Express on their way back to school, she noticed how dull his eyes had looked then. It was only until he'd happen to gaze upon her that a spark of recognition danced in those silver molten eyes she'd missed during summer nights.
He was quick to turn away then and now as Hermione sat alone for the tenth day in a row, she wondered with a heavy heart if their days of silent peace were over. And this notion confused the girl, unsure as to why the thought caused an ache to grow in the pit of her stomach. They weren't even friends and Hermione knew that when the time came and the war began, he would choose the wrong side—the side that she would fight against.
She stopped breathing as platinum blonde locks came into view. Draco stopped a few feet away from the girl and she had to dig her nails into her palms to make sure she wasn't dreaming—that he was here, looking as relieved as she felt to see him.
He displayed a haunted expression with creased lines on his forehead indicating how stressed and tired he was. Draco wanted to say something but he found that the words would not come. He wanted to tell her that they had to leave together because somehow in the course of their secret meetings she'd managed to burrow her way under his skin and take refuge in his heart.
"I didn't think you'd be coming back." Hermione broke the aching silence, eyes downcast to her feet. Draco shut his own at the sound of her voice. He took deep breathes before reopening them and taking a determined step towards her.
He would not fight it any longer. The past summer proved to be just as agonizing as he'd imagined it would be, and Draco found whatever light he'd had was dwindling. His life was taking a turn for the absolute worst. He needed to hold onto something that made him feel.
No longer wishing to dally around, Draco took hold of her wrist, noting how easily his long fingers could loop around it as he pulled her to him. She went with no protests and when they collided he'd buried his face into her hair, holding her so close in a vain effort to join them so that he never had to live another day in her absence.
Hermione's fingers dug into the blades of his shoulders, clinging to him as desperately as she could. It felt wrong—his silence, his sudden display of affection. Not wrong in the sense that they were on different sides of this impending war, but wrong in the sense that he was saying goodbye. And so she looked up into his eyes and reached to press her lips against his, hoping to rid him of any dark thoughts that seemed to be taking hold of his anatomy.
He was lost when their lips met. His fingers tangled themselves into her locks, angling her neck so that he could deepen the kiss he'd dreamt of before now. They moved rhythmically against one another, like waves crashing violently across the sands in hopes of reaching the moon. That was how he ached for her, how he wanted her—always reaching and never truly attaining.
His tongue grazed the edge of her lower lip, begging entrance into her mouth so he could taste her sweet nectar and she allowed him to, fingers gripping his shirt fiercely. She felt a wave of pleasure take over her as one of his hands cupped her cheek, his thumb caressing her skin softly, tenderly while his other traced the arching curve of her black.
When their lungs began to ache, and their heads grew dizzy from the lack of oxygen he broke the kiss, foreheads pressed against one another, eyes closed as they continued to feel the euphoria of being in each other's arms at last after so much yearning.
"Hermione," he breathed out.
The sound of her name falling from his swollen lips brought her back from her daze and instantly her brows furrowed in worry. He'd never said her name and a pang of sadness pressed against her heart when she heard how sorrowful and full of longing it sounded. She wanted to erase the tone from his voice. She wanted to make sure that whenever he spoke her name it was filled with lightness.
Merlin help her, they were falling on dangerous grounds but she couldn't fathom pretending that whatever this was between them that'd manifested was wrong.
"Draco," she rasped out against his lips when he pressed them against hers once more.
He didn't hesitate to break away for a moment; just a moment so that he could swiftly lift her in his arms, those silver eyes that were bursting with fire staring down into the very depths of her soul. He placed her gently on the floor and she did not mind it whatsoever. Her breathing was erratic, chest rising rapidly as she felt desire begin to pool between her legs.
Draco kneeled, nestled between her long, elegant limbs as his warm fingers slid up the sides of them, up to her thighs until they rested on the indents of her hip bones.
Blonde locks covered his eyes as he leaned down to kiss her again, already feeling withdrawals of her lips. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him flush against her and he groaned into the kiss as her creamy legs wrapped gingerly around his waist. Again he rested his forehead on hers; eyes clenched shut as he struggled to maintain his composure.
He lifted his head above hers and frowned as realization dawned on him. He could not allow himself to go through with this. He couldn't take her here, especially now that things were vastly falling apart outside the walls of the Astronomy Tower. "I can't do this to you, I won't taint you with my—,"
She instantly shook her head in disagreement, fingers gripping him once more. He was slipping back into the dark junction of his mind. She was losing him. "Don't you dare, Draco, don't you dare tell me that. Please," she whispered then, so softly that it sounded pained and the tone alone made Draco groan into her neck.
Hermione was torn, whatever they felt was not supposed to feel so heavy and muddled. She wished things didn't have to be so black and white. Whatever it was she felt for this person, she knew it was right. She knew she would never regret it. Somehow he'd shown her vulnerability in the silence of their encounters and so had she. The young woman knew his soul and despite what he flaunted at the world she knew, felt that he was good.
She noted the change in his eyes, that lightness returned and her chest swelled again with hope. Nervous fingers reached for his cheeks and she gently pulled him down to her again, lips searching for his. Hermione had to help him lose himself in this so that he couldn't retreat from her again—not again.
Please, please, she silently prayed, eyes closed while his tongue dipped out to trace patterns on the skin of her neck. The pads of his fingers mapped every crevice on her skin just before he touched her delicate folds.
That night he'd made her his. He placed his claim on her, buried into the swell of her womanhood and found home. And she in turn scorched her touch onto him. Draco knew then that he could not let her go. He would not live in this world willingly if it meant letting her walk this life without him.
As sweat glistened on their skins from their exuberant love making, he remained on top of her, fingers ghosting over her hips as they remained joined. His lips pressed against her ear and he whispered how much he loved her, how lost he was when not in her vicinity. Hermione choked back a sob, her tired arms wrapping around his frame because she knew, she knew down to the marrow of her bones that their love was doomed.
The last time they'd met in the Astronomy Tower Hermione had been filled with fury and betrayal. She paced the area, fingers gripping her wand. Her clothes were torn and blood stained her sleeve, the word mudblood hiding just under the cloth. The Golden Trio had arrived a while ago, waiting for the war to begin. With the fall of Dumbledore chaos ensued.
Hermione could only see Draco's pained expression when she closed her eyes. She could make out through the haze of the pain she'd been feeling laying on his floor as he watched helplessly how his crazed aunt tortured her. He'd helped them escape to some degree, shoving their wands into Harry's hands as they prepared to disapparate from the grotesque scene of it all. She'd noticed how he'd strained himself to reach for her, softly muttering protection spells for her as she left.
It was the only thing he could do lest he give them away. None of it would've happened if he hadn't been such a coward, if he'd chosen to go with her like she'd asked—begged.
She stopped her movements at the sound of familiar footsteps approaching her. Her eyes grew cold as she turned to meet Draco's gaze. His own flickered over to her wand for a moment's pause and he wondered if she were going to use it on him. He wouldn't stop her if she tried.
Hermione didn't hesitate, without question she bolted right up to him and slapped him across the face. The sound resonated in their sanctuary and she took small satisfaction from that. His neck twisted from the impact and he stayed in that position for a moment before looking back at her.
"You're a bloody coward, Malfoy," she hissed. He glared at her, gripping her wrist before she could repeat her actions. His fingers dug into her skin and he scowled. "Back to Malfoy, is it? So quick to forget how I made you mine in this very spot?"
The cold tone of his last name wounded him, and Hermione knew in the back of her mind just how wrong it sounded. It felt like vinegar on her tongue and she wanted to take it back but her damned pride would not allow her to. Silence set between the two and carefully Draco let go of her wrist. Instantly she missed the feel of his skin on hers.
With a shaky breath he ran his fingers through his tousled was so wrong. It felt like they'd been thrust into a nightmare and no matter how close Hermione seemed she always managed to slip from his fingers.
"You forgot about me first," she breathed. "You left me alone to live up to your family's cruel expectations. You used me, Draco. You—,"
"No," the wizard didn't let her finish. He pressed his lips against hers, thumbs brushing away the tears that slipped from the corner of her eyes. She sobbed into the kiss and tangled her fingers into his robes just as her wand dropped to the floor.
It hurt so much to be near him. War was upon them and Hermione could not shake the dread of what that meant for the two of them. She should've been angry. She should've pushed him away but Godric, she loved him so much that no matter what the witch tried she could not rid her body of him.
He pressed her into him, arms wrapped so tightly around her tired frame that she felt herself wanting to disappear under his skin where she'd be safe, where she would be with him, always.
"Don't you ever say that, Hermione, do you understand?" He pushed her a few inches away, his eyes searching for an answer in hers. Draco's heart clenched at the sight of her tears. He frowned and took a shuddering breath in a vain attempt to rid himself of the stiffness his throat felt.
"Why didn't you come with me, Draco? I know it kills you to have gone through with the things you have. I could've…I could've protected you." Despite the grim atmosphere Draco smiled, pressing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Hermione, I ache when I'm apart from you. I want nothing more than to take you away from this and go somewhere where they can't ever hurt you…but," his voice grew hoarse as a mental image of his mother floated around his mind's eye. He took a deep, trembling breath and pressed on.
"I can't leave my mother. She won't survive if I leave her alone. I owe her that much," he breathed.
The witch buried her face into his chest, muffling her sobs as he whispered tender words to soothe her. She looked up at him through tearful eyes, knees shaking. "Draco…they'll kill you!"
The notion of him dying weighed heavy on his heart. He brushed away dark locks of curls that covered a part of her face, nodding grimly before he swallowed back bile that threatened to rise from his throat. "Yes, I'm fully aware of that. Hermione, know that I won't kill anyone out there. I'll stun them, but I will not take anyone's life. Surely you must know I wouldn't."
Her breath was shaky, letting out a mournful cry knowing very well that he wouldn't. "I won't be able to focus knowing you're out there. I—,"
Smiling ruefully, Draco silenced her with a finger pressed into her lips. He stepped away and bent down to take hold of the forgotten wand. His free hand disappeared within his dark robes before he pulled out his own, pressing them together soon after. The wizard looked at her for a moment before concentrating back on their wands. Softly he muttered out an incantation that Hermione could only make out bits of. It sounded like French, soft and determined. Soon their wands were lost in a pink light only to reappear later looking exactly the same.
"Take your wand, Hermione. Tell me what you feel."
He watched her wrap her fingers around the object. Her brows were furrowed in that studious concentration he'd grown fond of. She frowned then, tilting her head before looking up at him.
"It feels heavier and—," Draco placed her free hand on his chest, just above his heart and waited for her to continue. Chocolate eyes grew wide with realization. "I can feel your heartbeat through my wand."
"That's correct." Unable to resist himself, he bent down slightly, his lips seeking her own as he kissed her lightly.
"Draco, how is this possible?"
"It's an old spell my great-great-grandfather conjured up. When the Malfoy men marry, they marry their counterparts' wands as well—so to speak. The spell works to bring them together even when they're apart. Hermione, as long as you can feel my heartbeat rest easy knowing I'm alive. It feels heavier because our magic is now mingled within our wands."
"It's a union of magic between two people," she began, her voice laced with curiosity.
"Two people who love each other," he finished.
It was in that moment that the pain she'd felt in her anatomy intensified. Her chest suddenly felt constricted and a wave of nausea overtook her senses. She couldn't bear to part ways with him. Hermione wanted to be selfish. She wanted him to stay and fight on her side.
The sky began to light up with spells and Draco knew their time together was up. Looking away from the scenery he gazed down at her, his eyes growing misty through unshed tears. Hermione let hers fall freely. She squeezed her fingers around his robes, her head shaking vigorously in denial. The woman choked back a pained sob as he placed his own hands around hers, gently pulling her grip away.
"Be safe. When this is over, no matter what happens, I'll find you; I will come back to you." Be it in this life or the next, he silently finished.
He wasn't afraid anymore. He would go out there and face his reality. He would fight to protect his mother and assure her safety. Draco would do whatever it took to keep his mother and the woman he wanted to be with safe. If that meant sacrificing his own life, so be it. He would not be like his father. He would openly love the woman before him and would cherish his mother.
Before Hermione could protest he kissed her again with such love and fervor in hopes that she could feel how much of her was carved into his bones, how much it pained him to leave her. When it grew harder to breath they broke the kiss and Hermione placed her hand on his cheek, smiling up at him with quivering lips. His brave little Gryffindor.
"Draco, I love you so much. I need you to know that, please know that," her voice was a silent whisper.
A loud bang sounded off in the distance and Draco took a step back. Without another second to spare he disapparated. Hermione could feel his frantic heartbeat even after he was gone and she gripped her wand tighter.
Bloodied and weak, Hermione clutched the banister that separated her from falling. Dust from the rubble caused by the war danced in the air, appearing like a thick blanket of fog. It was quiet now, now that the war was over, now that the Dark Lord had fallen, taking so many lives with him.
Ron pursed his lips absentmindedly while he watched the girl in silence. He wanted to know when it happened, when she'd fallen in love with the ferret. That much was obvious when during the battle she'd screamed, falling to her knees. Ron had been so scared. For a terrible and frightful breath he feared the worst. Expecting pools of blood, he was surprised at being met with grief.
Hermione was cradling her wand, tears burning her eyes through the grime she'd collected from running around a destroyed school. Ron kept his shakes to a minimum, roughly pulling her up knowing how vulnerable their position had been in that moment in time. He'd shouted at her, hoping to break whatever stupor she'd placed herself in.
Feeling Ron's fingers digging into her arm, she flinched, realization dawning on her. That's when she'd said something peculiar to her friend.
"I need to find Draco, Ron! I need to make sure he's okay. I can't feel it,"
She'd been sobbing, looking frantically around and losing focus. There'd been so many bodies on the ground already, and various groups of witches and wizards from both sides buzzed around them in their fight for survival. Ron had never seen her so frazzled. It was unsettling.
Now as the dust settled, and the body count grew, Ron took careful steps to stand beside the quiet girl in hopes to confront her. She'd insisted she come to the Astronomy Tower alone and Ron insisted he go with her. The wizard wondered now, as he stood beside her, looking out into the grey scenery if this was where she'd disappeared to through the years at night.
"Hermione, what did you mean back there…what did you mean when you said you couldn't feel it?" He looked at her now, head angled to the side in a display of curiosity. With critical eyes he watched her shift and grip her wand so tightly that her knuckles grew white from the pressure.
The young witch in question breathed out slowly, the gesture only stirring pain within her throat. Through the battle she'd managed to bury the truth under. She wasn't ready to admit the aching reality of his state. But Ron stood expectantly beside her now and she had no choice but to let the misery seize her bones.
"Draco's heartbeat, I can't feel it through my wand anymore."
"Why would you need to?" He frowned, failing to ask how it was even possible that they were talking about a Malfoy or that she was heartbroken for that matter.
It was a daunting realization, he thought, realizing that after all this time Ron did not know Hermione's heart. And he wondered if that was a personal subject she reserved for her beloved.
"I don't understand, Hermione. When did you and that git—,"
Her sudden smile stunned him silent; it was puzzling and stirred his curiosity more. "It doesn't matter when it happened, Ronald. It only matters that it did." She shook her head, the smile faltering as her vision blurred with tears. She glanced down at the wand in her hand, hating how light it felt now. She choked back a sob and gasped out before admitting the truth.
"He's dead, Ronald. He's—,"
A sharp pain sprang in her body, it roared to life and Hermione had to steady herself. The room began to shift and spin. Nausea bloomed in the wake of this sudden outburst. Her eyes shot open and shifted to Ron who only stood before her motionless and unassuming. Instead of reaching for her he spoke and when he did it was not his voice.
"Wake up, my love. Please, please, please," Ron repeated the words like a mantra in the voice of another, eyes void of his youthful expression. Hermione gripped her head, screaming out in pain as the ground began to drop below her. Her vision grew foggy just before she was met with an endless, black abyss.
Light, she felt like air, weightless and transparent. She was so tired and this new emptiness seemed to put her at ease. The woman would've stayed in the place of darkness if it hadn't been for the voice that called to her, pleaded until she had no choice but to follow it. The nearer she went the louder it grew, louder and louder until her eyes opened and there above her she saw silver.
Draco moaned out in relief, his shaky hands gripping her face despite the protests of the small audience behind him. Her eyes scanned the area and she noticed Ron and Harry watching silently from the background. They looked battered and bruised with hell radiating off their faces.
She looked up into those silver eyes she'd known. Relief flooded through her and though she tried to lift a hand to touch his face she winced, the simple task too great to accomplish. Draco shook his head to impede her from moving any further and instead pressed his quivering lips to her forehead. The touch felt warm and it spread through her body. The more awake she grew the more she realized how her body ached in pain.
"You came back to me," she croaked out and Draco let out a breathless laugh, his fingers gently tracing her swollen jaw. "You came back to me. I thought I'd lost you. Didn't I specifically tell you to stay safe? What good are you to me dead?"
Her forehead creased in confusion, eyes averting towards her best friends as they now stood beside her bed. "I don't understand."
Harry spoke then, briefly locking eyes with Draco before his gaze settled warmly onto her. "You've been in a coma for a few days, 'Mione. During the battle someone threw a curse at Ron and you blocked it."
"No, that's not right." She frowned as she blinked several times. "You died, Draco, my wand—I felt it," she croaked.
Draco instantly cupped her cheek. His heart swelled at the memory of his own wand growing light and still. He'd been helping Harry find Nagini when it happened. Had they not been within a few feet from Snape and Voldemort he would've crumbled over from the sheer agony of it all.
"I'm afraid I haven't been completely honest with you, love." He sighed tiredly. Faintly, in the back of his mind he longed for sleep, having been deprived of it for days now. He turned to his male counterparts who nodded in return. Ron grumbled and crossed his arms while Harry offered a supportive smile.
"A while ago, Snape came to me with a proposition. He informed me of his true alliance in the war and offered me safe passage along with my mother. I had to continue to display an allegiance with the Dark Lord while simultaneously feeding information to The Order. Harry and Ron have known for some time now and I couldn't tell you because I would not allow them to put you in danger.
Please don't be cross with them. Any anger you feel should be mine alone to bear since that was a stipulation to agreeing. You've no idea how many moments arose between us where I wanted to tell you but I couldn't allow myself the luxury. I needed to keep you safe and I knew if you were aware of our arrangement you'd stubbornly choose to stay with me."
There was a long stretch of silence that floated between them. Ron shifted his weight from one leg to the other, avoiding eye contact and Harry took a sudden interest to the patterns that stained the marble floors. Draco held his breath, his eyes never faltering from Hermione's.
Harry finally cleared his throat and turned his attention to Ron. "I think we should leave them alone, mate. They have a few things to discuss." Avoiding the heated gaze of Hermione they ducked out of the room and swiftly shut the door behind them, but not before Ron muttered,
"Merlin, did you see the look she gave us?"
"How dare you? Did you think I had no right to know? You should've told me, Malfoy." She ignored the stinging pain in her neck as she turned away from her lover. Draco merely sighed, a soft glare adorning his aristocratic features. "We've discussed this before, Hermione; my name is Draco. I don't want to hear you addressing me otherwise."
She huffed in a vain attempt to be angry at the wizard, knowing it wouldn't last when his fingers felt soothing on her face. He slowly turned her to him again, smiling such a wretched smiled and she was amazed that she hadn't melted into a puddle right then and there.
"I did it to secure our future, woman. You knew my intentions concerning you when I'd made you mine last year and you most certainly knew of my intentions when I married our wands."
"I should have a say in my future, sir," she quipped back. There was no anger behind her words and Hermione knew she was being unreasonable but she had to control her emotions. She wanted to jump into his arms and kiss him until her last breath. She wanted to run his fingers through those platinum locks of his as he made love to her.
"I'm happy to note the coma did not dissipate your stubbornness," he teased. With a shake of his head he began to kneel beside her and Hermione held her breath. She watched as he reached inside his worn looking trousers and pulled out a black leather box. This thumb brushed tenderly over the object before he popped it open and met Hermione's gaze.
"I realize it will most likely be a long engagement that we share…but Hermione know that I've no desire to be apart from you any longer. I don't want to hide in the Astronomy Tower. I want to eventually marry you…if you accept me, with all my demons and all my faults for as long as you'll have me."
There was a lightness that hugged her frame at his words. She knew now that the world outside her room would be vastly different. Hate and prejudice would still linger within those who would reject the notion of equality but Hermione knew that the doomed feeling she'd associated with their relationship would change. No longer would her stomach set in dread at the thought of remaining secret.
So with a deep breath and an incandescent display of utter and irrevocable happiness, she said, "Yes."