Hermione leaned sideways against the headboard of Draco's bed in a pink tank top and flowered pajama bottoms with a glass of red wine in her hand while Draco mirrored her position on the other side with their heads near one another, a glass of wine in his own hand. With the dinner with the Weasleys over, they retreated there to relax and talk.
"Wow... that was strange," Draco commented. It felt like we were a married couple or something."
"Yeah, it was kind of strange. But it went well," Hermione added. "I was a bit worried at first, but everyone really loosened up. This is all going to become normal."
"Normal? What about any of this is 'normal'? There is no normal," Draco stated simply. "Comfortable though. I hope it becomes more comfortable."
'Comfortable...' Hermione thought to herself. She felt comfortable. As she slouched against the headboard and looked over at Draco she felt very comfortable, almost like she was in a funny far off dream.
"Draco... Does it ever feel surreal to you?" She asked casually.
"Yeah," Draco replied. "All of it. But what exactly were you referring to?"
Hermione smiled, "All of it. Everything." Hermione paused to find the words to describe what she meant better. "I mean... everything. I look at us and think how strange it is, but how natural it is. I look back at the lives we lived before, back at our lives as children and at school and it feels like I'm looking back as an outsider, like I never actually lived it. We went through the war and it feels like it was all a strange dream."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Draco replied. "I look back and think... I know those people, but it's more like characters of a book. It's like I know exactly who they were, inside and out, but they couldn't possibly have been us."
"Exactly," Hermione said pensively. "And now, I feel like I've known you forever, my whole life. I know who you always were as much as I knew myself, but that wasn't us."
"I guess because it feels like we really started life over. Like we were reincarnated, but fully know who we were in our past lives. Those lives are still deep and fresh in us, bettering who we are, but we're completely different people at the same time. Does that sound right, or just silly? I could have just had too much wine..." Draco said in sober amusement.
"It's not silly at all actually. It sounds like it should be silly, but again, everything's just surreal," Hermione said, taking another sip of her wine. "Who we are now seems like the most natural and comfortable thing in the world, but it's surreal too because I look at it and wonder how. Then I don't feel like I need to wonder because I just accept it as it is, natural and comfortable."
"I often wonder why you would be with me because I still look back at who I was," Draco admitted.
"Don't," said Hermione. "It's like I said. I look at your life like it wasn't real either."
"Hermione..." Draco said after a pause. "When you look at me, what do you see?"
"I see you," she replied with a warm smile. "I see you like you are. It's almost unnatural the way I can see into you. I don't see who you were, if that's what you're asking. Because you were never really that boy. Does that make sense?"
"Yeah... And I can't tell you what that means to me," Draco said with a soft distant smile. Hermione couldn't help but to appreciate that smile. It was the smile that he still hid defensively from the rest of the world, so it felt like that smile belonged to her. Her Draco.
"What about me? What do you see when you look at me?" Hermione asked curiously.
"I see you too. You were never who I really thought you were. I look back and it's like I can see it all clearly now for what it was. I was so full of prejudice and anger and pride that I told myself and believed that you were fake and cruel and wrong, everything about you. But I can see now the scared and vulnerable girl you were, but still confident and full of pride that you had every right to. But you're not her now either. She was a girl that I can proudly look back on now... a character of a book that you can't help but love, but you've never been her. You're you," Draco said, looking up into her warm brown eyes at his last words. "You're lost, but you've never been so... found. You're like you finally found all the wisdom you were looking for, a deeper understanding of the world. You feel like...mine."
Hermione blushed lightly and looked down into her wine glass. His words caused her great warmth inside. "But none of this makes any sense to the rest of the world. When Harry and Ron were trying to talk me out of moving in with you, I knew them. I knew them completely like I've always known them. But they looked at me like they never knew me, like they could not understand me. It's not as though they ever really understood me," she added with a chuckle. "But it's different still. It's like they could spend their whole lives trying, and they'd never understand. They might, even probably, come to truly accept us together without trying, but they'll never understand what happened to us."
"No one will," Draco said solemnly, taking another sip of his wine. "Well, we will."
After a long but comfortable pause, Hermione spoke again, "Draco, I've made a decision." Draco looked up at her, neither nervous or excited, just ready to listen. "I've decided that it's time to go retrieve my parents. Well, not like tomorrow, but maybe a month from now. I miss them. I need them to remember me. Things have changed so much that I'm afraid if I don't bring them back soon, they'll never know me at all."
"I think it's a good idea," said Draco. "But don't be afraid. Your parents are different. Your parents will accept you no matter who you were or who you are. They love you unconditionally, you said so yourself."
"Yeah... but I know they'll be angry with me." Hermione looked wounded at the thought. "I've never disappointed them before, but I never let them see everything either. Now I'm going to reveal it and they're going to be hurt and wonder about just who I was... am. I never told them of all the beasts and wizards I've faced. They thought the worst I had to deal with was prejudice of being muggle-born. They knew that there was a dangerous dark wizard out there, but they never knew just how serious it was. They didn't know about the war. I just went home and turned my wand on them... I never turned my wand on them, ever. Then I changed their memories so that they never knew I existed and sent them to another country while I went off to fight in a war they never knew existed."
"They may not understand at first, but they will. You did it out of love and protection. The death eaters would have killed them," Draco said seriously. "They tried to find them when you were imprisoned. You saved their lives and possibly your own by doing that. I know it was hard, and it will be hard, but it will be okay."
Hermione just nodded in response.
"Will you tell them?" Draco asked. "About your capture?"
"Eventually..." Hermione answered, swirling the wine in her glass and breathing it in. "But no time soon." Hermione took a sip of wine and let it warm her from inside. "Draco... Would you come with me?"
"Of course," Draco said with a warm encouraging smile.
"When..." Draco started to ask a question but stopped. Hermione waited for him to continue, but when he just took a sip of wine, she saw that he had changed his mind.
"Please, what were you going to ask?" She cocked her head to the side to try and meet his eyes.
"When they come back... will you move back in with them?" Draco asked. Hermione could feel the pain when he asked but couldn't help but feel lighter inside herself.
"I was hoping you'd want me to stay," Hermione replied as she knew this was what he felt. "Nothing, not even my parents' return, will change who I am or my desire to be with you. Face it, you're stuck with me."
Draco chuckled softly. Another comfortable silence followed, both occasionally sipping on their wine as they sat deep in thought.
"Hermione?" Draco said in a barely audible voice.
"Yeah?" She asked.
"I've been thinking about my parents too…" said Draco, running his finger over the rim of his glass. Hermione watched him silently, giving him the time he needed to continue. "Just as it's time to bring your parents home… I think it's finally time that I let mine go." Draco paused deep in thought, an ache in his chest. "I think that it's time for me to say goodbye."
"You want to go visit their graves?" Hermione asked softly.
"Yeah," he replied. "I know that they weren't good people… I'm not even sure that they loved me. Well… maybe my mother did. But they did want what they thought was best for me. They tried hard for me. They never hesitated to give me what I wanted. They pushed me to be the best and taught me what it was to have pride and honor. They taught me respect. And even in all their faults, I learned from them; I learned who I wanted to be. And though in the end my father disowned me… I'm still his son and he's still my father."
Hermione just nodded in response.
"I need to let them go so that I can really put it behind me, so that I can really move on."
"Do you want me to come with you?" Hermione asked.
"You wouldn't mind?" Draco asked seriously.
"They're your parents, Draco, part of you no matter who you are or where you go. They're part of you. And I'm here for you. If you want me there then I'll be there," Hermione said, gently brushing a few strands of his silky blonde hair from his eyes.
"I do," Draco answered quietly.
"Tomorrow?" Hermione said with a small smile. Draco smiled in return and nodded, silence falling around them again.
"What was it like?" Hermione asked tentatively. "…in Azkaban?"
"One of the most horrible experiences of my life," Draco said, looking down and away from her. At her silence, he continued. "I know that's really saying something because of all I've been through, but the only thing that ever felt worse was when I couldn't stop them from torturing you… or when I thought they were going to kill you."
"Tell me," Hermione requested quietly. "What did they do to you?"
"They didn't do anything to me. It was me," Draco said. "I was fine accepting that I would be there at first. But then I just couldn't stop thinking of you. If I had never really known you when I went in there, I would have been miserable then too. I would be wondering what life could have been like if I had made better choices, but I was used to feeling miserable and alone then. But knowing you… I knew what I could have had if I had made better choices."
"But you did make better choices. That's why you're not there anymore," Hermione reminded.
"Yeah, but I couldn't think that then. I just couldn't help thinking of you. I know I told you to move on, and I really wanted you to. I wanted you to be happy. I wanted you to go get your parents, get a job, and even find someone to love you if that's what would make you happy. But at the same time it ripped my heart out to think that you might forget all about me. I pictured another man in your life, holding you, kissing you, loving you and no matter how much I wanted it for you, it killed me to think of. To think of someone else looking at you the way I do. I made myself think of you just so I would never forget. You hair, your eyes, I even wondered if our children might get your freckles. But then I thought of you with him… I could have survived seven years in there, but not the thought of you hurting or you forgetting me." Draco looked down at his wine glass despondently, a heavy ache in his chest.
"I would never have forgotten you," Hermione said, making him look her in the eye again. "I told you that I would try to move on, but I already knew that I couldn't. My life just wouldn't be right without you. And it's funny to me how you could picture me with someone else when the very idea seems so inconceivable to me. I'm only half a person without you. How could I offer half a person to someone else?"
"Damn it, what's wrong with me?" Draco snapped suddenly, rubbing his face in frustration. "I've always kept to myself. I feel so out in the open, vulnerable, putting myself out there like this, placing everything I am in another's hands."
"Not just anyone's though… mine," Hermione said softly. "And if you know me like you say you do then you already know that I'd never hurt you. I'll never let you fall."
He gave her a small smile, but there were still traces of sadness and frustration. "I know that. I really do. There's just this little tiny piece of who I was still inside me telling me that I'm stupid to expose myself like this, make myself so susceptible. But the better part of me just laughs at it. I know you won't hurt me. I know I can trust you. I never knew it was possible to be so close to another person, but you're the best companion a person could ever hope for. And it's actually quite liberating to be able to fully be myself, someone I never even knew I was," Draco admitted, a light blush on his pale cheeks.
"You're the greatest companion I've ever known too. And liberating is exactly the word I was looking for. We're liberated. When we were saved from the cellar, we were somehow liberated in more than one way," Hermione thought aloud.
"No," said Draco. "We liberated each other. Even in the cellar you helped me to find who I really was."
Before the silence could fully return, Hermione smiled and interrupted his thoughts. "So… What did they look like?" she asked with a sly grin. "…our kids?"
Draco glared at her playfully. "Oh, you think you're so funny, do you?" He shook his head, blushing furiously. "Well… it's probably about time we get to bed." Draco sat up and placed his empty wine glass on the table next to his bed. Hermione sat up also, finished the last sip of her red wine, and placed her glass on her own bedside stand.
"Couldn't find a way to get out of that question but to suggest bed?" Hermione asked playfully.
"You enjoy teasing me too much," Draco said, poking her side to make her squirm.
"It's true," admitted Hermione. "But it's still cowardly to say you want to go to bed to escape me."
"I don't want to escape you," said Draco, grabbing her around the waist.
Hermione smiled. "Good, but we should probably get to sleep."
Draco chuckled. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Tolerate me." Hermione stood and smiled warmly down at Draco. "Well, goodnight."
Hermione was already walking toward the door when Draco stopped her. "Wait… come here," he asked quietly. Hermione returned to the side of the bed and Draco crawled across to her, kneeling high on the side of the bed, his face level with hers. Draco brushed her hair back, letting her long curls slide through his fingers before he leaned close and kissed her slowly and intimately. "Goodnight."
Hermione's cheeks were flushed as she walked to the door again.
"Wait…" Draco looked frustrated and uncertain as he looked up at the girl staring at him from his doorway. "If… if you ever wanted to sleep in here… you know… well, I…" Draco looked too nervous and frustrated to finish his sentence and Hermione slowly walked back toward the bed.
"You don't have to be afraid to ask me," Hermione said gently. "You should never be afraid to ask or tell me anything. I thought you would have understood that by now. Especially after tonight's very strange conversations."
"Old habits die hard, I guess," Draco said. "Hermione, would you like to sleep here with me?"
"Very much," Hermione said with a shy smile. Draco returned her smile and moved back to his side of the bed as Hermione pulled back the covers and slid into bed next to him. With a swish of his empty hand, Draco outed the candles. With a great sigh she pulled her pillow close to him, allowing him to wrap his arm around her waist. Both of them closed their eyes and allowed themselves to slip into their thoughts.
"Draco…?" Hermione asked, afraid that he'd already fallen asleep.
"Yes?" he asked, opening his eyes and looking very much awake.
"Where are we going from here?" Hermione asked solemnly.
"What do you mean?" asked Draco.
"Well, our relationship I mean. It's sort of… backward," Hermione said softly.
Draco looked at her quizzically, not understanding what she meant.
"I mean… Most couples start out with a mild attraction emotionally and physically. It depends greatly on fleeting emotions and physical intimacy of kissing and holding hands and such. It's sort of light and fluffy feeling," Hermione started.
"Fluffy?" Draco asked with a lopsided smile.
"Don't laugh," Hermione said with a sheepish smile. "And yes, fluffy. And then, if they're lucky, if they're compatible, then they start getting to know each other on a deeper level. They begin to trust each other and know each other better. But us… We started with unconditional, unimaginable trust and very quickly came to find the deepest and innermost workings of our hearts and minds. We've shared secrets and feelings with each other that we'd never even consider sharing with another. And I am very attracted to you and when we kiss and when we touch there's definitely a spark. But we're different. It's kind of…" Hermione searched hard for a word to describe what she was feeling but was finding it extremely difficult. Draco sat watching her, hoping for a way to understand what she was thinking. "…formal."
"Formal?" Draco asked.
"Well… yes. I mean, to kiss you is always very passionate. But our physical affections are never casual. When we touch or kiss we're always very conscious of it. You sounded so nervous just to ask me to come sleep here with you. To kiss you and touch you is the most amazing feeling, but when we kiss it feels almost… apologetic," Hermione explained.
Draco took a second to think on what she said. She was right, but why? "Well… for me, I guess I'm just afraid to hurt you. I know how fragile you are right now and the last thing I want to do is hurt you or frighten you."
"And I you," Hermione answered. "But you won't break me. I want to be close to you."
"You are and you will be," Draco said. "This is still very new and we are much closer than most couples ever could be. I guess we are working kind of backward, but we're still growing with each other. I love you, and if you're sure of us, then no more apologies."
Hermione smiled and placed a light peck on his lips. "I love you too… Draco, Where do you see us going? The future of us?"
"I don't know," Draco said seriously, apprehensive about following this topic.
"You… you mentioned that you imagined children," Hermione said hesitantly. "D-do you see us becoming that serious?"
"I think our relationship already is serious," Draco replied. He took a little more time to ponder the question before continuing slowly, "I think that… that marriage and children between us are possible. I might even say that the idea is something I think I would like… But I have to admit that I'm afraid that if we dream too far ahead, we might lose sight of who we are now… Does that make any sense?"
"I think so," said Hermione considering his words carefully.
"I just... We're still discovering who we are again, discovering who we are together. I'm just afraid to plan for something that we're not ready for yet," Draco said hesitantly.
Hermione smiled bashfully and laughed. "I'm not proposing, Draco. I'm not trying to plan for the future. You just mentioned children and I wondered what you where thinking, if it was really something you thought about, or just a funny little thought that bounced into your head? Our relationship is sudden enough; we don't need to force ahead."
Draco chuckled also.
"I scared you, didn't I?" Hermione laughed harder. "I swear, I was just wondering what you were thinking."
"What I think," Draco said seriously. "…is that you are the most amazing person I've ever met. And I know it is sudden and we have no plans for the future beyond you taking your N.E.W.T.'s, but I can't imagine that there could ever be a single day in my life that I wouldn't want to spend with you. I hope I didn't sound harsh or hurt your feelings. I just want to take things-"
"One step at a time," Hermione finished his thought in unison with him.
"I agree," Hermione said as she smiled warmly. "Enjoy each day and savor each moment."
"Absolutely," Draco agreed, lightly brushing her cheek with his thumb. "I love you… I really do."
"I love you, too, Draco," Hermione said, turning into his hand and kissing his palm.
Draco leaned in and placed a light kiss upon her lips. "Goodnight, Hermione."
Well... that's all she wrote. I know it might have been a strange ending, but I love pillow talk. It's so sweet.
I really, really hope you liked this story and it's predecessor. I had so much fun writing it.
Please, please, please review. I really poured myself into this one. All I ask is your opinion.
Please review. ^^