Characters, setting and the likes are not mine, unfortunately. Title and lyrics from Joshua Radin's Today.
I sat beside you and became myself, today
You are the one I've been waiting for today
They had not changed a single detail in the large manor for years, yet the feeling he received once inside its walls could not have been more different if it had been built a new. He didn't doubt for one second that it was the absence of his father that made the portraits come alive with chatter and laughter, while the marble floors seemed to shine twice as bright. The Manor felt more alive than ever, just like the royal blue eyes of his mother.
With his slender finger tracing the outline of the statue in the hallway, he watched his mother reach over the dining table showing Tipsy just how she preferred it to be set for this evening. She straightened up and surveyed the room, her posture as rank and proud as it had always been, but the stiffness and the air of arrogance had evaporated. She was still his mother, but she had become the woman he always knew she could be. The death of his father had buried the cold, emotionless, formal woman who found smiling a rather disgusting crime and brought forth a proud, kind woman full of life. He had always known she was in there, the caring and giving mother alongside the enthusiastic and empathetic woman, but he had not foreseen just how much she had to give to her surroundings.
It was purely for her he did this rather tiring ritual. If it wasn't for his wish to keep her this content and dynamic, he would never agree to her countless set ups. He tore his eyes from her gesturing and met his own reflection in the tall decorative mirror placed on the opposite side of the hallway. His left hand rose to straighten the collar of his forest green dress robes. The fine silk felt cool against his fingertips, the thin fabric falling dramatically around his shape. He rose his chin, gazing at his regal appearance under slightly lowered eye lids. Might as well dress the part.
"It looks marvelous, mother," he proclaimed as he walked through the glass doors he had pulled open.
"I am quite pleased with the arrangements," she replied, a content smile flickering across her lips. "Do you think she will appreciate it?"
"You are the one who invited the girl," he reminded her, walking around his mother's figure. "I do not know if her taste is as exquisite as your own."
His mother rolled her eyes dramatically.
"Would I ever pick someone with less than exquisite taste to introduce to my son?"
He released a smirk at that, having been through this process enough times to recognise the type of women his mother would bring along to their weekly dinners.
"Even you are capable of surprises," he retorted, brushing his hand against the fabric on his arms even though it was quite flawless.
"Don't be cheeky."
He just smiled at her and when her small chuckle resonated through the room, his heart swelled with contentment. It had always been his number one priority to keep his mother happy, even if it meant dining with the densest specimen of the female race from time to time. As she went back to work, he retreated from the overpowering dining room, finding his parlor as blissfully empty as the rest of the house.
He only spent a few hours at the Manor every week, but he had made this room his own and large quantities of the time he spent in the large house was in this very room. Truth be told, he had picked it because of the view. It was a very un-Malfoyish thing to do, but as he stood in the flooding daylight from the window he could not regret it. The garden outside looked as ravishing as it always did; century old trees towering majestically over wonderfully kept lawns.
She would have loved the garden.
His fingers ran carelessly through his silvery blonde locks as a shuddering breath escaped from his parted lips. The image of her had chased forbidden feelings out of their secure hiding place, leaving him with his eyes closed, trying to focus on the task ahead. Another dreadful dinner with a woman of pure lineage, perfect manners, flawless features and no mind of her own. In other words... another dinner with someone else than her.
It was all for his mother. Everything was for her. He owed it to her, after all they had gone through when his father had been in Azkaban, and even worse...when he hadn't been in Azkaban. She was the only one he had left, and after all he had gone through to keep them both safe, he couldn't turn on her now. He could not go against her will and find a woman whom she did not approve of, and he would continue to go on these ridiculous dinner set-ups as long as it pleased her.
He remained standing by the window, contemplating what life would be like if things were different, but at the same time accepting that they were not. That's how she found him when she entered, her hair pulled back in an elegant twirl and magnificent magenta dress robes complementing her pale complexion and almost white-blonde locks. Her small hand fell to rest on his shoulder as she studied his stony expression, his silver orbs closed off to the world.
"She is a very kind and intelligent girl, if I may say so. I thoroughly enjoy her company, and I believe you will too," she said quietly, turning her gaze towards the garden.
"I'm sure I will," he replied noncommittally.
He happened to enjoy their company more often than not. It wasn't that they were unpleasant or unbearably ignorant. They were often quite intelligent and sweet women, but what they were was rarely a problem. It was more what they weren't. He couldn't force himself to feel anything, no matter how perfect their golden blonde hair was, how unbelievably rich their pureblood parents were, how soft their skin was when he kissed their hand in greeting or how much they tried to catch his gaze during dinner. It used to be all that mattered to him once upon a time. Now he could barely give them a second thought, even if he knew they would run up the stairs to his old bedroom if he as much as snapped his fingers.
Two weeks ago he had endured dinner with his mother and Jenny Mayford. The Mayfords had always been in contact with the Malfoys, and he had known Jenny since the day she was born. The fact that he could actually remember the day she was born, since she was 5 years younger than him, unnerved him slightly. After all, he was turning 23 and she had barely reached 18. She had always been charming, a firework of a girl who everyone adored, perhaps particularly the men. And he couldn't blame them. She was a beauty, but more importantly.. she was real and individual, but she was like his sister; his very charming and witty little sister. When he hugged her goodbye he could tell by her caring smile that she knew how he felt, and he knew that she had never expected otherwise.
The list went on, even if none of them held as special a place as Jenny. Some were quite pleasant and interesting dining companions, while others were horrendously boring and reminiscent of Pansy. But no matter how sweetly they smiled at him, he would merely kiss their hand goodbye and turn without a second look. Some time ago they would have been everything he wished for, but not anymore. Not after she penetrated his mind so thoroughly, refusing to loosen her hold.
A squeeze from his mother's hand awoke him from thought and he turned carefully towards her, forcing a smile onto his lips.
"I think I heard the bell," his mother announced, looking towards the dining room. "She has arrived, and quite on time too."
He knew Tipsy was taking care of their guest's arrival, and he followed his mother's slim figure into the large dining room decorated in gold and deep purple for the occasion.
"Be nice," his mother warned as she opened the glassdoors.
Be nice? Since when did his mother need to tell him to behave? He was always the epitome of manners whenever she hosted these encounters, and he felt slightly offended by her chastising. A feeling of perplexity rose as he watched his mother stand straight by the open glass doors, her lips pulled in an abnormally smug smile. Something was not right.
The moment Tipsy arrived in front of them announcing the guest, he knew why his mother had so uncharacteristically told him to be nice. Because there she stood, nervously clutching a small, pearly white purse. She was biting her rosy red lips as her eyes searched him out immediately. He knew his jaw had dropped several inches, but he could not care.
"So very pleased to see you, Hermione," his mother greeted with a wide smile holding out her perfectly manicured hand.
"Delighted to be here, Mrs. Malfoy," she replied in a hushed voice, her simple, black cocktail dress moving gently against her thighs as she leaned in to take the outstretched hand.
"Narcissa," the female Malfoy insisted as she put a gentle hand on Hermione's back guiding her further into the room.
All he could see was her perfect vision moving towards him, a gentle smile making its way to her face as their eyes met. Seeing her after all this time was like having the breath punched out of him, and he found himself heaving for air as the two women closed in.
"Granger," he croaked, giving an awkward cough when he heard how pitiful it sounded.
"Malfoy," she greeted in return, amusement making her eyes twinkle oddly.
"Draco," his mother chastised after a moment of silence, and she frantically gestured towards Hermione.
Of course... he had completely forgotten the bloody manners he was supposed to uphold. He actually found it quite awkward to be so formal around her. They never had been formal, not as enemies, nor as allies. Nevertheless, he had duties to perform in the presence of his mother. He took a step forward and took her small hand in his. His eyebrow quirked questioningly when she jerked slightly, and as he lowered his head towards her hand his eyes remained locked with hers. When his lips made contact with the warm flesh of her hand he saw her blush, and he tried to suppress the leap his heart had decided to make in the heat of the moment. He immediately straightened up and let go of her hand, looking towards the set table.
"Welcome to the Manor," he said, in a slightly automatic tone. "My mother and I are delighted to have you for dinner."
Instead of replying she set her stern eyes in him, her eyebrows shooting up towards her hairline.
"I don't need your prepared lines, Draco," she told him firmly. "Just you will do."
Against his will, the corner of his mouth pulled upwards and he heard his mother chuckle brightly.
"Alright, I had no idea you were coming," he said, giving his mother a scolding look as he admitted this.
Hermione just grinned. "Well, that was after all the plan."
It quickly became apparent that his mother had chosen to ignore his questioning outburst thoroughly. She had put her small hand on Hermione's back, steering her gently towards the set table. He gave in and followed, his eyes locked on the two women.
"We are just about ready for dinner," she told their guest. "Please take a seat."
The scene was familiar to him. The table was magnificently set, the smell of an exquisite meal hung in the air, his mother was seated across from him with a female guest by her side. It was the image he had been subjected to for weeks on end, yet it felt different today. Today he was staring straight into the pair of soft, honey-coloured eyes that had haunted him for a year. Today the smile appearing on the face before him warmed him to the very roots of his soul. Today he could feel his heart beating in his chest, painfully aware of his own body and mind. Today mattered.
He was fleetingly aware of Tipsy and two other house elves serving the meal. The delicious fragrant of it reached him, but his mind was elsewhere. He was busy watching her giving Tipsy a smile before picking the right fork delicately off the table. It rested neatly in the nook between her thumb and forefinger, caressing her creamy skin as she lowered it onto her plate. He couldn't tear his eyes away as she brought it back up and leaned in just an inch. Her lips closed around it before it slipped out again, and her eyes fell shut as she hummed her approval.
He had claimed those lips only once. Only once, and the taste of them still lingered on him. When he lay in bed at night the tip of his tongue would dart out to feel the imprint of the forbidden affection. It was so bittersweet. His words, her words, the realisation that it had ended before it begun and then the kiss; the moment of pure bliss followed by a harsh fall into reality's merciless chill. I understand, she had said, I really do. She had understood him, understood his need to put family first no matter how much he had to sacrifice. I don't want to, but I need to do this. I need to put family first, for once. And she had nodded, reached out to run her finger across his cheek. She had let him go, and he loved her all the more for it. And then that kiss... that kiss that was everything. Their first, their last, their closure.
How he had found the strength to leave was a mystery he often revisited, but he never found an answer. Perhaps it was the thought of his mother, maybe it was the wish to keep them both safe or maybe it was the hope that somehow, just somehow the kiss wouldn't be their last after all.
"Draco, please do eat."
He looked away from the point he had fixed his eyes upon while lost in thought and turned towards his mother. A soft smile rested on her face, and she nudged towards Hermione who was eating with vigor, savoring every last bite. His lips pulled reluctantly into an amused smile, and he forced himself to join in on the meal. He noticed how his mother would turn to Hermione and ask encouraging questions, often leaving Hermione in a long explanation, her eyes bright with enthusiasm. He was enthralled by her, the way she seemed to pull people in, to make them devour her every word in hunger.
What surprised him was that his mother seemed to be of the same opinion. She seemed equally absorbed in Hermione's words, her eyes locked on the girl's figure as she gestured wildly with her fork in hand. She was different than their usual companions, that was for sure. He felt a certain perplexity at this thought. Because she was truly different from their normal companions, and he could not understand why his mother had invited her. She couldn't possibly know, could she?
"How have you been?" she suddenly asked, a curl whipping across her face as she turned towards him abruptly.
He nearly jerked at the unexpected question, having been completely content with merely observing the two women interact. Putting his fork down, he swallowed and glanced around in uncertainty.
"Well, I have been running the Malfoy family businesses," he told her, silently adding as expected of me bitterly in his own mind. "It takes a lot of my time, but mother and I meet at least once a week to make sure I don't fall out of the social scene completely."
She nodded, doing that thing she always did. That thing where she would plant her large, consuming eyes of hers on you, looking as if your words was what made her able to take another breath.
"Other than that, I am afraid my life is rather boring," he said, allowing a familiar smirk to flicker across his face. "No missions, dangerous cover-operations or stake outs."
She smiled widely at that, shaking her head slowly. "The crazy part is that we miss it, isn't it?"
He was taken by surprise. Quite frankly, he had thought he was the only one unstable enough to actually miss the time of war.
"Miss the cold nights hiding out in forgotten caves, the raging battles with adrenaline pumping through you and the feeling of fearing for your life at any given moment? We must indeed be insane."
She inclined her head and gave a short laugh. "When we have been used to fearing for our lives almost every minute of the day, a normal life seems pretty mundane."
"It's difficult to part from that mindset of constant awareness," he agreed. "And I suppose I also miss the feeling of making a difference, and being united against a common cause. There's a certain feel of loyalty that nothing but being on the same side in a fatal conflict can conjure."
At this, she merely watched him for a few seconds before reaching for her goblet. She carefully took a sip, and then turned to him again.
"You didn't have to leave, you know."
He rose his eyebrow questioningly, waiting for an explanation.
"You didn't have to alienate yourself from the Order even if the war is over. There's still loyalty, even if Voldemort isn't threatening our lives anymore."
He couldn't quite meet her piercing eyes, knowing she was one of the few who could look right through him if he wasn't careful.
"I believe we have already discussed this," he said softly, not particularly wanting to bring it up.
"And I still understand," she replied, raising her chin slightly as her gaze never wavered from his face. "But I still wish it could be different."
A sharp pain stung harshly in his lungs after his hasty intake of breath. The sudden flicker of pain in her eyes had taken him by surprise, and he was reminded of his biggest weakness once more; he couldn't stand to see her in pain. It had killed him to see her wounded from battle, or crying after a fight with Potter or Weasley. And it killed him to see a fraction of the pain he caused her now.
Unfortunately, his own pain was clearly visible on his face, something his mother could not help but notice.
"Draco," she said quietly, making him avert his gaze from Hermione. "I have been inviting you to these dinners because I have been wanting to cheer you up."
He found this immensely ironic, since he came to them only to keep her cheered up.
"It soon dawned on me, however, that it did not work at all. And it puzzled me, because female company used to be the only sure way to make you feel better."
Wonderful. She made him sound like some female-obsessed pig.
"And it was just recently that I understood what the problem was," she told him, a slight smile appearing as she watched his confused expression. "It wasn't that you didn't enjoy the female companion, it was just that it wasn't the right female."
He gulped. "How on earth did you reach that conclusion?"
"Did you expect your own mother to never find the picture hidden in the drawer of your desk? You know my true passion is snooping around."
This made him smile sheepishly while her laughter rang out into the large room. He hadn't really thought his mother was cheeky enough to go through his desk, but he was evidently quite mistaken.
Hermione looked confused through all of this. "What picture?"
"I thought you were supposed to be the brains of the operation," he remarked with a smirk, leaning back in his chair somewhat awkwardly.
His mother shot him a stern look, before reaching out to take Hermione's hand in hers. Hermione looked down on their entwined hands in a state of shock that quite mirrored his own.
"Your picture, love," she replied softly, giving her hand a slight squeeze. "And while my son has undoubtedly tried to shield me from what he presumed would be yet another burden on my shoulders, I want to say to the both of you that I think you are a remarkable woman. And I would never stand in the way of my son's happiness, nor do I see any need to stand in the way of anything between you and my son."
He couldn't even blink. His brain could not get a single muscle to move. In a single second, his entire world had turned around completely. He had gone from sacrificing love for family, to getting the blessing of the very family he had thought would cut him off. Her large eyes told him she was equally rattled, their awed expression was fixed on his mother, and he suddenly noticed her lower lip giving a hardly noticeable tremble.
Narcissa gave her hand a final, reassuring squeeze before rising slowly from her chair. Her plate immediately vanished into thin air, and she stepped away from the large table now only occupied by the two people who pretended to be so much less than they really were. In her wake an eerie silence reigned, both of the two too stunned to speak. Hermione finally rose her head to meet his gaze, and he was immediately surprised by the emotions she could not hide from running across her face. He stared back, suddenly scared of what the new circumstances meant... and frightened by the force of his own feelings.
It was several wordless moments later that he saw them. They gathered behind her eyelids before spilling gently onto her skin, each of them running silently down her flushed cheeks. The sight of them made him snap out of his motionless slumber, and before he had the time to question his own judgement he was by her side, holding out his hand towards her small figure. When her hand was gently placed in his own he nearly sighed, but he bit his lip and pulled her smoothly out of the chair.
They remained silent as she let him guide her through the winding hallways of the Manor. His well-known and her timid steps echoed together off the walls as he grasped her hand tighter, perhaps without even noticing. He couldn't ignore the feel of her skin under his, her fingers entwined with his own. It was so overwhelming, but at the same time not enough. It was more of her than he had experienced in a long time, but it was not as much as he suddenly needed desperately. He suspected he could be drowning in her and still not have enough.
She didn't question their journey or destination. All she did was follow his lead, the silvery substances still caressing her face, though slower and calmer than earlier. There was nothing about her that exuded sadness, he noticed. Instead, she appeared calm, in a serene sort of way. He couldn't help but let a small smile sneak onto his lips.
The garden had never looked quite as perfect as it did the moment he lead her onto the meticulously mowed lawns. It had always lacked one thing... her. Now the garden was nothing short of perfection. In fact, you could probably take away the garden, leave only her and it would still be equally perfect.
He was still frighteningly aware of her hand in his, still clutching onto each other for dear life. It was something about holding her hand like that. It was such an everyday thing, but for them it was revolutionary, world-altering, even. He kept his eyes locked on them as he moved backwards, further into the maze of tremendous magical trees.
Even as he focused on her hand, he could feel her eyes resting on him, and he looked up to meet a soft smile drawn by the lips that could so easily make him go crazy. The thought alone made him reach in and steal a taste from them, savouring the sweet taste still so fresh in his mind. He didn't linger on her lips long. Instead, he pulled away, opening his eyes to see her standing with her eyes still closed and her blissful smile still intact.
Before he could admire the image any further, she snaked her free arm around his neck and pressed him closer. She claimed his lips in a hungry kiss, more urgent and desperate than anything they had ever shared. He couldn't think about anything else than what he held in his arms, his blood racing through his body at what felt like unearthly speed. It was unexplainable to him that she could do this with a simple kiss, with her lips pressed closely against his and her body steadily arching closer.
When she pulled away he instantly missed her, wondering how the bloody hell he ever lasted a year without this magnificent witch. The thought of letting her leave this moment for him not to see her for another year was ridiculous, and how it had ever made sense he could not know.
He was distracted from his admiration by her gentle fingers running through his hair.
"It's longer," she commented with a crooked smile.
The words hung oddly in the air between them, breaking the silence that had reigned for Merlin only knew how long. He just nodded in reply, inwardly shivering at her soft touch.
"I've been working with your mother for the past couple of weeks," she revealed, inclining her head slightly to the side. "She has been involved in one our charity events. I work with the organization for war survivors."
He nodded distantly, enjoying the caress of her breath as she spoke.
"She invited me here with the plan of surprising you. She hinted, and I assumed, that it was because she didn't want you to lose contact with the Order," she said, ending the sentence with a short chuckle. "I guess she played me too."
"She likes to meddle," he said, rolling his eyes, but keeping his affectionate smile. "I have to admit this is the only time I have been pleased she did."
He hugged her tightly to him, making her head come to rest on his shoulders. As she let out a content sigh, her breath tickled his neck, sending strings of pleasure through his every limb.
"I guess I'm going to have to cancel my date tonight," she commented, a smile visible in her tone.
"Your date?" he retorted, leaning back to look at her.
"Ginny set me up on a blind date," she said, sighing heavily, telling him this wasn't the first time her friend had set her up. "Going out for drinks... with what Ginny considers a catch. They're all Harry clones, for God's sake."
He gave a snort of laughter, his chest vibrating under her touch.
"Well, you're mine today."
"And tomorrow," she said, her voice muffled against his shirt.
"And the next day?"
"And the next day..."
Perfect shadows lie behind us
And this is the day I make you mine
A/N 2: Hope you enjoyed another little piece of D/Hr (can we ever get enough of it? I dare say we won't!). Please review if you found something you liked (or didn't like, for that matter). Also, you should check out Joshua Radin's music. His songs are a massive inspiration for me. :)