A Little Piece of Sincerity
By: Provocative Envy
He'd heard her. He'd heard that magnificently heartbreaking declaration, spoken too late and with too much finality. She'd sobbed out her love, turning it into a farewell rather than a thing of beauty; sentiment was not his strong suit, but even he had been able to detect her regret and disappointment. She'd given up and proven herself a hypocrite.
She'd accused him of being unwilling to fight for her, unwilling to make the big, romantic gestures she craved. But she, the supposed victim in their history, the one who'd been unjustly tormented and put on a brave face when all she wanted to do was cry; she, not he, had been the one to falter.
To let her resolve crumble into nothingness. She'd been torn between a lifetime of fire, of enthusiasm, of unpredictability, of pure, unadulterated captivation; and a lifetime of comfort. She hadn't made her choice.
So he'd made it for her.
Hermione felt as if she was standing before a precipice whose edge was looming closer and closer; she had to decide whether to jump into that chasm or run back to the relative safety that she had momentarily escaped. The abyss that confronted her was vast and deep and totally unknown: she had no idea what awaited her at the bottom, but logic told her it was certain suicide.
Her entire life up until then had been dominated by common sense. She'd been sensible rather than emotional, prudent rather than reckless. There was no such thing as impulsiveness for her, nothing close to impetuosity. She was neat and organized and was a firm believer in being careful and never letting her deeply rooted vulnerability get the best of her.
Looking into the achingly familiar emerald eyes of her best friend, she had recognized the first stirrings of rebellion.
Caution and acquiescence had brought her nothing but anguish where Draco Malfoy was concerned. She hadn't trusted herself, but had put every ounce of her faith in the rationale that he was doing nothing but joyously deluding her, tempting her with faulty apologies and ploys of sincerity. Her paranoia at the harm he'd inflicted on her in the past had blinded her to so much that she was astonished she could possess so much intelligence, so much knowledge, but be so incredibly stupid in regards to the only thing that really mattered.
All those books she'd devoured, all those pointless facts and droll essays she'd memorized, and they all came to nothing. She had thought that she valued wisdom above all else, that she wouldn't be one of those flighty females who let themselves be consumed by a mere emotion. But she was naïve when it came to love, was almost afraid to test its strength: she had no idea that if what she was so convinced was real was actually a fabrication of her own conscience.
She no longer wanted to know everything. She had next to no desire to be the smartest witch of her generation. Her ambitions all paled in comparison to the kiss that had haunted her dreams with its trenchant absolution and its unforgiving passion.
She had made the biggest mistake of her life when she'd chosen Harry and his affability over Draco and his feverous implications. She'd thought at the time that she could have both, that she could juggle her friendship and her romance just like she'd juggled having nine classes in a single day.
But she'd realized after Draco's outburst that she couldn't have that. She had to make a sacrifice, like he had; she had to pick one or the other, like he had.
How ironic, she mused, that she was looking to him for guidance. That she was preparing herself to emanate his actions, his decisions, when she had, for so long, called him the bane of her existence.
For she'd already reached the verdict involving that monstrous hollow whose pits were cloaked in mystery: she was a jumper. Her only reservation lay in the niggling worry that no one would be able to save her from the fall.
As soon as he saw her approaching his table, a look of determination pasted across her face, his heart dropped.
If she prostrated herself before him, begging and pleading for compassion, he wouldn't be able to deny her. But he knew he had to: she clearly valued her friends more than him, and would resent him for the rest of her life if he tore her away from them.
"Draco," she began, abruptly stopping when he cut her off with a glare.
"I don't want to hear it," he intoned harshly, glancing around to make sure no one had seen them conversing.
"But you need to know-"
"Shouldn't you be worried about other things than my feelings, Granger?" he interrupted loudly. "Such as, oh, I don't know, maybe being seen talking to me by the stalkers you refer to as companions? After all, I think we both know that-"
"Stop it!" she shrieked, holding her hands over her ears and effectively drawing the attention of every other student in the library. "Stop it, stop it, stop it!"
He stared at her, temporarily shocked.
"Do you think I don't know that I was wrong to do what I did yesterday? Do you think I haven't been wishing I still had a time-turner so I could go back and change it? But I don't, and you refuse to listen, so I'm going to make you listen," she said angrily, shoving his shoulders back so he was seated in a chair.
She didn't even notice that an audience had gathered in the library, Harry and Ron and Ginny all standing next to a bookshelf, watching her.
"I've always been known as the brightest witch in our year. The know-it-all. The one who doesn't break rules and frowns on swearing. I didn't want to believe that anything I felt for you was real, didn't want to believe you for fear I'd fall in love and say things I couldn't ever take back. You didn't make sense, and I couldn't stand for it."
She paused, imploring him to understand.
"But once it starts, you can't stop it. There's no way to reverse something you couldn't help in the first place. I wanted to so badly, I wanted to forget all about you and try and remember who I was and who you were," she whispered, unaware of the ripple of agitation in the crowd of onlookers.
"But I couldn't. And now…now, I don't want to."
A smile broke through, and she knelt before him, taking his hands and pleading with her eyes for forgiveness.
He didn't let his expression change, didn't let a glimmer of sentimentality show through the mask he'd put up as soon as she'd started to talk. He was hearing everything he'd never wanted, everything he had thought would encompass a nightmare rather than a brilliant dream.
This was the scene he had, for so long, thought would be his final revenge: she, presenting herself at his mercy; he, prolonging her agony by feigning indecision.
Slowly, he rose to stand and took her with him.
"Draco?" she asked nervously, clutching his fingers with hopeful desperation.
"I just have to know one thing," he replied softly, a ghost of a smirk gracing his lips.
"What? What is it?"
"Are you willing to give it all up?" He breathed the inquiry into her ear, holding her close.
"Draco. I love you," she responded simply, her head tilted back as she met his piercing gaze.
Ignoring the gasps of outrage coming from their spectators, he lowered his mouth for a kiss.
That was answer enough.