Use This Moment
Half an hour before, Hermione could have faithfully promised that she would never have anything to do with Draco Malfoy if her very life depended on it.
Now that it did, she felt her resolve waver slightly.
"Are you coming?"
"This isn't a hard decision, Granger. Come with me now, or die."
Hermione stayed quiet, because despite the words of the blond, she felt that this was the hardest decision she had ever had the misfortune to have to make.
"Beans or peas?"
"Why can't I have both?" Malfoy complained.
"Because there are two of us, so we share what food we have." Hermione hissed, all the contempt she felt for the boy sat in front of her boiling just behind her eyes.
"Actually, there's only really one person here that counts for anything, so he should get most of the food." He replied.
"No. There are two people here. We share the food."
"Malfoy, this isn't the right way." Hermione said, peering along the alley they were on.
"Yes it is."
"No it's not."
"Yes it is."
"And how would you know any different, Granger?" He interrupted loudly. "Do you have a map? No. Do you know where we are? No. Are you aware that we are currently walking through the Darkest wizarding city in the world? Probably not, or you may quieten down a little."
Hermione shrank against the nearest wall. "Tell me you're joking."
Malfoy blinked a few times. "I'm joking."
"Oh my God. Oh my God. Ohmygodohmygodmohmygod." She slid slowly down the wall and hit the floor, where she drew her legs up to her chest and began to cry.
Malfoy looked annoyed. "Now what?"
Hermione stared up at him, her eyes moist and clouded. " 'Now what'? Malfoy, you've taken me into a place that's crawling with Death Eaters, I'm miles away from anyone that might care about me, and I know that if we're found, you won't do a thing to save me." She received a blank look. "I'm scared."
"You think I wouldn't try to save you if we were attacked." It wasn't a question; it was a statement.
Hermione sniffed. "Well you wouldn't, would you?"
"How low is your opinion of me?" He sounded angry, wounded, almost. "I know I'm not the easiest person to get along with, but I have some sense of decency, you know. And no, I'm not Saint effing Potter, but I am, clearly contrasting to you opinion, willing to look after you."
Hermione was quiet as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "Oh." She said, somewhat forlornly.
"Granger, what is your problem?"
Hermione's mouth opened and closed a few times. "My problem? You're asking me what my problem is?"
"It would appear so."
"Well that just cinches it." Malfoy didn't say anything. "You! You're my problem! You're always around, making me miserable, mocking me-"
"Only because I have to be, believe me." Malfoy replied.
"But you don't have to be so incessantly unpleasant! There is no logical explanation for your hostility towards me. I've gone through it over and over again-"
"Well that's what you do with your time, I always wondered."
"And we'd hate for Granger to not understand something, wouldn't we?"
"I just think it might be nice for you to be… nicer."
"Oh, I give up."
"Have you ever had sex?"
Hermione choked on her sandwich. "What?"
"Have you ever had sex?" Malfoy repeated.
"I'm, er, not entirely sure I understand the question."
One corner of his mouth twitched upwards. "Come on, Granger, answer."
"No, it's too personal. Next question."
"No way. We agreed, all questions answered and none about the past, and that's not about the past-"
"It so is!"
"-have an obligation to answer it."
Hermione smiled, and was silent for a few minutes. She glanced up to find Malfoy's eyes on hers. "No."
He raised an eyebrow. "Clearly Potter and Weasley never saw what was right in front of them." Hermione blushed.
"My question. Do you believe in what Voldemort is fighting for?"
"Sometimes I think that people with magical heritage deserve their magic than Muggleborns… but then I look at you, and I realise that Tom has completely the wrong idea. And I have never agreed with the way he does things. I'm more a Martin Luther-King person myself."
"Martin Luther-King? But… he was trying to abolish prejudice."
"Yes, he was."
"Say it, Granger." Malfoy growled. "Say it out loud. Tell me what you really think of me."
"But… I would have seen you as more of a Malcom X person myself."
Malfoy smiled. "Thank you."
"Don't be a prat just because you know I'm right."
"I do not 'know' you're right, and I am not being a 'prat'. You're the one calling me names after I pointed out a major flaw in your plan." Malfoy replied.
"It's not a plan, it's a way to get us out of here!"
"It's a plan, Granger, and it's a bad one at that."
Hermione yelled out in frustration. "You're such an arrogant baby when somebody else is better than you at something!"
Malfoy looked at her over the top of his three day old newspaper. "Please don't tell me you just said I was afraid of being inferior to people."
"That's exactly what you are! Afraid of inferiority!"
He sat up. "Granger, look at yourself. You have this need to be fantastic at everything, you refuse to even consider any ideas that I come up with, and yet here you are, accusing me of being scared of not being the best."
Hermione fell silent for a minute. And then another.
She didn't speak again for an hour.
"…and then the owl said to the hippogriff, 'so this is what it feels like to be splinched!'" Hermione finished her speech and looked hopefully over at her blond companion.
He exhaled slowly. "That wasn't funny, Granger."
"I know, but you hadn't said anything in a while, and I felt the need to interrupt the silence."
"Don't. Silence is nice. It's quiet."
"It's just you're so…" She paused. "You."
Malfoy looked amused. "Yes, I suppose I am."
She blushed and averted her eyes. "You know what I mean."
"I'm not sure I do."
In an act of preparation, Hermione took one deep breath. "We're not doing anything here except waiting, and when you're waiting, barely anything happens, but when it does, it's never predictable. I'm not saying you are; but in a time when all that we know for certain is what we're eating for tea, your convention is so… welcome."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
Another breath. "You're something that I can always rely on. I hate things or people that refuse to comply with a routine, and you do nearly the exact same thing every day. You always brush your teeth for three minutes and twelve seconds, without even realising it; you move that strand of hair that falls in front of your eyes away from your face at least twice every seven minutes; you chew every single mouthful of your food twenty-eight times and you don't even think about it! You're like a clock that I can set my whole life to, and it makes me feel safe."
In his grey eyes there was something that had not been there before, and Hermione wasn't entirely sure she minded it. "You're telling me I'm boring?"
She laughed. "No, no, that wasn't what I was saying." Breathe. "You're a rock. A constant. A lighthouse."
"This is it, you know." Pause. "We're moving. Leaving. Going."
A long pause, and then "I know."
"Don't you care?"
An even longer pause. "Why do you ask that?"
"Because you're doing your 'I don't care about you at all' thing."
"I hadn't noticed. I apologise."
"Malfoy." Hermione said, warningly.
"Don't do this to me now. This is almost it. Then we'll be gone out of each others' lives forever."
"Save the dramatics, Granger."
Malfoy suppressed a grin at her childishness.
"Not if it's the only way to get a reaction from you." She said softly.
And then he looked at her for the first time in two days, nine hours and approximately forty-five minutes. And he looked exhausted.
"I'm sorry if I'm not being as compliant as I am expected to be, but to be honest, Granger, I can't wait to go." He paused for breath. "I don't know how long we've been here, but I know only too well that it's longer than I can cope. You're the only thing that's keeping me sane, but you're driving me crazy at the same time."
"Oh. I thought… I thought you were being deliberately obtuse."
"I should think that you probably did. That would be very… you."
Hermione smiled very slightly. "Shall we?"
"No. Not just yet. I want to use this moment."
His lips crashed into hers so unexpectedly, so completely without warning, that it was all Hermione could do not to scream in shock. And it was like nothing that she had ever felt before. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute; her insides were boiling and doing all the wrong things; and someone had shoved a spanner in the works of her brain, preventing her from thinking about anything at all except the feel of Draco's body against hers.
And it felt wonderful.
He was warm, his hands on her neck made her shiver and she could feel every single defining contour of his figure.
But something was wrong. Her face was wet, and the tears weren't hers.
"Don't. Just- please don't ask. Please."
Hermione clamped her mouth shut, and stopped herself from asking even one of the questions that were running through her mind like there was no tomorrow.
"Hermione, I…" He breathed in. "I like the way your hair bounces when you walk. I like the way that when you're smiling at something only you know is happening just one corner of your mouth moves. I like the way that you notice things that nobody else would, and then ignore what is staring you right in the face. I like that you can drive me up the wall with your flawless logic that doesn't make any sense. You make me smile when you wake up in the morning and get up on the wrong side and walk straight into the wall because you're still half asleep. More than anything, I wish you had chosen to die rather than to come with me. I wish that I hadn't come to like you like I do know. And I wish…" He paused. "And I wish that I didn't have to do this. Hermione, I am so sorry."
In one second, Hermione realised what was going to happen; the inevitable; the undeniable truth that would possess her until it was no longer a fact but reality.
Then it would be guilt, conscience, her heart beating away like a ticking clock. She nearly laughed at the irony of it all.
In one second, she saw her whole life, and she knew.
She knew that whatever happened, everything that she saw was real and would become her. She knew that she could replay her life over and over until all she wanted to do was sleep, but however she changed it, everything would lead to this one moment of reveal, of illumination, of enlightenment.
Because there was no way to deny what she knew.
It was not a choice or a decision, but a consequence that would never become any less of a certainty, because it would happen however much she tried to avoid it.
And so her heart protested not at all as she said "It's okay, really it is."
He watched her collapse, her eyes heavy with understanding and her body bent double in pain.
Then, and only then, was the time for regret.
He lay by her side and turned his head to watch all the life drain out of her, and as her heart began to fail, he felt his own start to slow, and he smiled.
She would understand that this was never his choice. This was her fault for not choosing to die at somebody else's hand.
And this was his apology.
Somewhere, someone must know that somewhere, someone had made him do it, and this had almost nothing to do with him.
He was the underdog, the victim, the sufferer.
A/N: Not really my usual 'cup of tea', but I wanted to see how this idea would look on paper. Just the one chapter though, folks, and if anyone's worried, this wasn't really about understanding, it was about their life together for however long until Draco does the unthinkable. Kind of like "Clair de Lune: A Love Story" style-wise, but I like it. As always, I want to know what everyone thinks!