Word Count: 4548
Disclaimer: Not mine; never will be.
Step out the door and it feels like rain
That's the sound on your window pane
Take to the streets but you can't ignore
That's the sound you're waiting for
Draco hates the rain. Absolutely loathes it. The noise, the smell, the damned water – every last bit of it really. There isn't a single bloody moment he actually enjoys even in the slightest. Nothing good ever comes from the rain. He announces this every time. That way they can remember, and not get any sodding ideas that would involve him leaving the shelter of the indoors. Being in the rain is for the poor and the uncivilized. And Draco is neither nor will he ever be.
It's been three years – three bloody years since he's last seen her.
He hears about her, of course; here and there he catches a bit of gossip, a whiff of her latest stories. And then there's the papers; she can't even take a bloody breath without the Daily Prophet having a field day. But then again she is Hermione Granger, the Golden Trio's bloody Golden Girl, so really it shouldn't surprise him. Everyone wants to know what she's doing. Even him.
It's been three years – three Merlin damned years – since he's last seen her, really seen her. So when she appears on his doorstep, he's pretty damn sure he's dreaming, because there's no way, absolutely no fucking way, it could actually be her.
Except it is.
She gives him a soft smile but doesn't say anything, probably waiting for him to invite her in. He has half a mind not to, to slam the door in her face and walk away, to pretend that it never happened. Because it's been three years of nothing – not a single floo, letter, sign – and she can't just do that. She can't just march back in as if nothing's happened. As if it hasn't been three bloody years.
And just as he's about to do that (really, he is), she shivers. It's only then that he notices that it's pouring outside and that she's soaking. Dripping from (her ever bushy) head to the toes, she almost resembles some sort of vile wet rodent.
Sighing, he steps aside and allows her in. "Merlin Granger, haven't you ever heard of a shielding charm?"
She grins at him. "I like the rain."
"Is it raining?" Her eyes brightened at the sound and she moved from her spot on the couch to the nearest window. "It is. Summer showers are my absolute favourite, you know. I loved playing outside in them when I was a child." And she didn't say it, but he saw the idea formulating in her eyes.
"No," he groaned before she had the chance. "Absolutely not."
"We are not going out there."
"It's rain. Water. Really, Draco. You'll get a bit wet. That's it."
"Absolutely not. It's uncivilized. Only the poor and the barbaric entertain themselves that way. And we are neither, Hermione. So just come back here." He had plenty of other ideas on how they could keep themselves entertained.
She stared at him for a moment and then out the window again, her lips pursed. Finally, she sighed and mumbled, "fine."
Then rather than sitting back beside him, she grinned and plopped herself on his lap. He cocked a brow at her and opened his mouth, but she stopped him with her own. It was a short kiss, but full of hunger. But then she pulled back with a smirk on her lips and stepped back away from the sofa. She pulled her cardigan off and tossed it beside him, and his own smug grin formed. But she didn't come back to the couch. No, of course she didn't. Instead, she walked away and opened the door.
"And just what do you think you're doing? We are not going out there."
"Oh, I'm aware that we aren't," she explained, pulling her (ever-bushy) into a messy bun, "but I certainly am," she laughed before she slipped out the door.
He refused to follow her and it was a full twenty minutes before she returned to the flat, soaked to the bone. He glared at her, "Merlin, Granger. There are shielding charms for a reason."
"And that would have defeated the purpose, Malfoy," she rolled her eyes. "Although I am a bit chilly now. I suppose a hot shower will help with that, though," she said, a mischievous grin tugging at her lips as she turned towards the hallway. "It's a shame that you despise water so; I could use the company," she winked before laughing and turning into the hall.
Oh, he thinks jumping from his spot and chasing after her, he can make an exception this time.
And it is quite some time before he complains about the rain again.
"Right," Draco mumbles, turning away.
An awkward silence falls over them.
"Would you like some tea?"
His head snaps back to her. "You are aware that this is my flat, right?" he asks, brow cocked.
She blushes. "Right. Sorry. Old habits die hard, I suppose."
And just like that, against his will, he sees it all – the time when all they had were the stupid conversations she insisted on having, the pointless banter, the long nights; the time when all they had were the cups of tea she insisted on making, the tender whispers, the long nights. The time when it may not have been her flat, but it might as well have been.
"Alright," he slowly nods.
One word – two syllables, seven sodding letters – but her faces lights up a little when he says it and he immediately regrets it. Because they're past this stage in their, well, whatever the bloody hell you would call this. Because their lives have moved on and he's past the stage where he's supposed to want to make her happy. Because it's been three damned years and he's supposed to have moved on from it.
Draco shakes the thought from his head when she brings him his tea. Dark with a cube and a half of sugar on the saucer beside it. It's exactly how he had taken his tea three years ago – how he's taken it ever since his childhood. He raises a brow at her, wondering why in Merlin's name she still remembers that.
She frowns over her own tea. "Do you prefer honey now? I saw a bottle in the cupboard, but I just assumed..."
He shakes his head and drops the sugar into his cup. She's always been a creature of memorization, so it shouldn't surprise him that she would still remember something like that, no matter how minute. She smiles softly and takes another sip of her own tea.
She's always had this strange obsession with tea. He had always imagined her as a coffee person, what with all the maddening hours and late nights she puts into her work. So he had been surprised on their first date when she told him she had always been a tea person. It's a little odd, honestly. Draco drinks his fair share of tea – he has a cup to start every morning properly – but coffee has always been his preference. In fact, the only ones he suspects who still prefer tea so much are the elderly witches. But then again, she's never exactly been normal, now has she?
Another silence falls over them. It isn't as tense as the previous one, but neither is it as comfortable as the ones they shared in the past. It's as if there's a Merlin damned hippogriff in the room and neither one of them wants to acknowledge the bloody thing because they're too wrapped up in the bloody past. And finally enough is enough.
"How are you?" she asks.
"Why are you here?" he replies instead.
She winces at his question, but sighs. "You never were one for small talk, were you?" He isn't amused. "I wanted to see you," she admits.
That surprises him, but he refuses to let it show. "Why today? It's been three years. You never seemed so interested in seeing me then. What makes now so damn special?"
She grows quiet again and fiddles with her cup so that she doesn't have to look at him. And it's enough to drive him up the bloody wall. What makes her think she can do this to him? Today – now – of all damned times? And it's just as he's opening his mouth to say so to her that she looks up at him with this look in her eyes and he freezes.
"Ron proposed to me this morning."
It shouldn't affect him at all – not in the slightest – because honestly, it's about damn time. It's been three years since they ended, since she and Weasel got together. It's actually odd that it took him this bloody long, honestly. So it shouldn't affect in the least bit. But still... Still, Draco feels something and he hates it.
"Get to the point." His voice is harsher than he intends, and he sort of regrets it, but not enough to take it back. Because there has to be more her story than that. Because there's absolutely no reason as to why she would come here just to tell him that.
If his words affect her, she doesn't show it. She does, however, look back down at her cup. "We were in the lounge and everyone was there. And I was glad when he did – I had been expecting him to for some time now, honestly – and I wanted to say yes. I was going to say yes. But... but then I looked up and I saw my tea set and suddenly I couldn't do it. I couldn't tell him yes. I couldn't marry him. I can't marry him."
A million thoughts race through his head at once, but only one manages to make its way to his mouth. "Tea set?" he asks, because it can't possibly be what he thinks it is.
She blushes ever so slightly and a smile tugs at her lips. "Yes, the little blue one. I still have it, you know. I couldn't bear to put it away."
He knows exactly the set she means: it had been one of his first Christmas present to her, after all.
They had only just begun to see one another (no one, not even his family, not even Potter or Weasel had even known) and she had told him that she didn't want to bother with presents. But then, whilst he was shopping for his mother's present, he had seen it: a small sapphire blue set with silver flowers traced throughout it. He bought it immediately, without a second thought. So what if they had agreed on no presents? It wasn't as if he ever cared about the bloody rules.
Draco owled it off on Christmas Eve without a note or any indication that it was him. But of course Hermione, being the bloody know-it-all that she was, figured it out. She showed up at his flat on Boxer Day, covered in sloshy rain-snow, with her arms crossed and gave him more than an earful. Merlin's beard, did she go on and on. It was almost enough to make him feel sorry for Potty and Weasel (but only almost; they were still Potter and Weasley after all).
And then, just when he was sure he couldn't take it any longer, she stopped. "Thank you," she breathed brushing her lips against his. "I love it." She looked up at him with a smile so bright, so loving that it took his breath away.
It wasn't until that day that Draco realised how hard he was falling for the bushy haired witch.
He puts his cup of tea down and pushes it as far away from him as he can. "Why are you telling me this?" he asks, because there has to be more to it than this. Because there's no reason she needed to come all the way here to tell him. He would have heard about it in the papers soon enough, so what in Merlin's name would possess her tell him this?
She doesn't answer him at first and Draco doesn't think the silence has ever been so bloody maddening. Who does she think she is? It's been three bloody years since his heart was torn in half – she has absolutely no right to show up at his door and not give him any damn answers.
Finally she puts her cup down. Her fingers linger on the china for a moment before she looks at him. When she does, her eyes are so soft, so hurt, so confused that Draco has absolutely no idea what to do. She speaks, fortunately, before he has to.
"Did you know that, in all this time, I have never been able to understand us, Draco? It's the one of the two things in all these years I never understood. We never made sense. Logically, we were the two worst people to even be friends, much less anything more. But, somehow, we worked. It was foolish, wild, maddening even, but... but I don't think I had ever been happier."
Draco's silent for a moment, unsure of how to respond. And he hates it. He hates not having control over the situation – not knowing what to say, how to act, what to do. It makes him feel foolish, absolutely daft, and Malfoys never allow themselves to be such. But then again, she has always been able to make a fool out of him.
He picks up his cup again and takes another sip. Even without looking at her, he can feel her eyes on him, waiting for his response. He waits a moment, determined to torture her as she has done to him, before continuing. But when he speaks, his eyes lock with hers.
"You said it's one of the two things you never understood. What's the other?"
"How I let you go."
It was raining when she came to see him. He hadn't been expecting her; they hadn't made plans to see one another. In fact, she had told him she wouldn't see him, because she had made plans to spend time with Potter and the Weasel family. She rarely invited him to come along to those, just as he rarely asked her to the galas he attended with his parents. They were two different worlds.
She was, of course, soaked when he opened the door. "Merlin, Granger. Why don't you ever learn?" he shook his head. She didn't laugh, didn't smile; she didn't even move into the flat and it frightened him. "Hermione?"
It took her a moment to look up at him and when she did, he wanted nothing more than for her to take it back; to look back down again and avoid his eyes. He wanted to slam the door, run off to his bedroom, and to pretend the whole thing hadn't happened. He was a coward after all, and she knew it; she couldn't blame him if he did. Because he wanted nothing more than to avoid what he knew was coming next.
"Draco," she said her voice so soft, so tired, so broken that he didn't have to hear her to know what came next. "I think we need to talk."
Only he couldn't run. Not this time. No matter how much he wanted to.
"I didn't go anywhere. You did."
"I think... I think I knew that. Because I think we might have actually worked. As mad as that sounds, I think we could have lasted. And that terrified me, Draco."
It's more than he thinks he can take, because it's almost as if she is taunting him; flaunting their past, forcing him to consider what-could-have-been. But that isn't her. She has too much Gryffindor in her to purposely do that to him, so there must be more. There has to be more. Only she isn't telling him.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asks again. "Why now?"
"No, Granger!" he snaps. He's done with her aversions; either she tells him or she gets the fuck out. "Why bother telling me this at all? Why today? Why tonight?"
"You know why," she mumbles, toying with her cup.
"Obviously I don't, so tell damn it, tell me! I'm getting married tomorrow, so why, for Merlin's sake, are you here?"
She hesitates for a moment, but when she looks up at him, her eyes are so soft, so gentle, so loving that he forgets how to breathe. "Because I don't want you to marry her."
"Hear me out first," she asks, and he's too bloody shocked to do anything but. "All my life, I did what I was meant to. I followed the rules; I did everything by the book. Except when it came to you," she smiles softly, fondly. "We broke all the rules, everything that was meant to be, and as short of a time as it was, it felt right. You made me happier than anything else I ever did, anyone else I ever knew, and I loved you for it. But… well, you know how I am when it comes to breaking the rules.
"I thought I had a responsibility, that I was meant to take care of everyone else and that it was selfish of me to stay when it made everyone else so upset. So I gave us up. I let go of what made me happy, because I thought I needed to take care of everyone else. I left, Draco, because I thought it was too selfish of me to stay with you. And I thought it would be alright, that I would move on and learn to be happy, because everyone else was. But I wasn't Draco; I haven't been happy in three years.
"So when Ron proposed to me, I couldn't do it. I realised that I couldn't keep lying to myself. I don't want the life he does; I don't want him. And maybe it's finally time that I think about myself, about what makes me happy. And, and I think it's time that you do the same."
He stares at her for a moment, digesting her words. "What makes you think I'm not happy?" he asks.
"Because, like it or not, Draco, I know you. Your parents have controlled your life ever since you were a child. Even when we were together, they pressured Astoria onto you. I was the first thing you didn't let them control. And then, the moment we were over, they arranged your engagement. They took control of your life again," she takes a deep breath. "I think that I might still be in love with you, Draco, but I'm not here to win you back. I'm here, because I realised that I made the biggest mistake when I let everyone else control my life and I don't want to see you do the same. I know I'm the last person who has any right to ask this of you, Draco, but I am begging you," she looks up at him with such affection, such worry, such plead that he wants nothing more than to tear his eyes away, but he's too mesmerized to move. "Don't marry Astoria in the morning."
And for the slightest of moments, the answer dances on the tip of his tongue, and he hates her for it. Because it's been three bloody years since she walked out of his life and he hates how she can still look at him like, still make him feel like this, still have this control over him. Because it isn't fair! She left him and she shouldn't still have this power over him! She shouldn't be able to just walk in and turn his entire life upside-down like this.
But most of all, he hates her because he knows her and he knows she isn't doing this to torture him. Because, even after three years of nothing, he still knows her and he knows that she really only is looking out for him. Because even after all these years, she still loves him and he thinks that he may still love her. And he hates how much that scares him. He wants to hate her for it, but he can't. Because Hermione has always held a special place for him and he thinks that she may always.
She takes another sip of her tea, and, for the first time since she brought the set out, Draco notices the design. The cups dark green with a silver snake traced along the edges; it's not a fantastically magnificent design; it's fairly simple and almost easy, but it's his favourite. And suddenly, he has to know. It's completely unrelated to her last words, but he thinks he's done more than his share of playing fair thus far.
"Why did you choose this set?"
"I have at least half a dozen sets, so why did you pick these cups?" He picks up his own cup for emphasis.
Her brows fur slightly and he can tell that she's upset that he hasn't answered her yet. A smirk tugs at the edges of his mouth; good, let her be the frustrated one this time. Merlin knows that, between the two of them, he's the one that has spent the evening confused. It's her turn.
Still, she answers his question, slowly and almost cautiously. "They reminded me of you."
"Was that it?"
And that settles everything for him.
"Astoria gave me this set," he explains. "For the same reason you said: because it reminded her of me. She actually hates tea. She can't even drink it light with sugar; she only takes it with a vast amount of honey. And even then she forces it down. But we have a cup everyday together, because she knows I've gotten accustomed to it after all these years. Every bloody day."
"I don't understand, Draco."
"No, I won't not marry her," he continues before she can interrupt, because he knows she will. "I can't not marry her."
"You can't keep doing what your family tells you, Draco," she cries. "You can't let them control your life with this arranged married."
"That's the thing, Hermione," he tells her. "It wasn't an arranged marriage. My parents didn't tell me to propose to her; I chose to. I love her."
She stares at him in shock for a moment or two. "You do?"
"Yes. Granted, you were partially right: I did only start seeing her, because of my parents, but that changed. I don't know the when or how or where or why, but it did."
And it's the truth. He had been hurt, betrayed, and frustrated when he began seeing Astoria. At the start, he had honestly wanted nothing to do with her, but she never gave up on him. She stuck with him when no one, not even Hermione, would and he loves her for it. It's something he's never confessed to anyone, not even Astoria. But, somehow, for some bloody reason he can't explain, he knows Hermione deserves to know.
"Are…" she hesitates slightly. "So you're happy?"
"Yes," he answers honestly.
Her hands toy with the tea cup for few moments and her eyes remain downcast. And, maybe for the first time in his life, Draco waits patiently. After a few moments, she glances up with him with a forced smile and slightly cloudy eyes.
"Well, then," she breathes, her voice cracking slightly, "I'm happy for you, Draco." She doesn't give him a chance to react; she puts her cup back down, takes her wand off of the table, and stands. She mumbles a quick goodbye and is out the door before he can even stand.
"Damn it," he mumbles, because the next thing he knows, he's up and after her. "Granger," he calls, but she doesn't answer him and he has to run a bit to catch up with her. "Merlin, Hermione," he hisses when he finally does, grabbing her arm so she can't take off again.
She turns to face him, but doesn't meet his gaze. "It's raining," she mumbles. "You hate the rain. You're getting wet."
"Shut up," he snaps.
He's well aware of this and he knows it's her fault. Blasted witch ran out the room before he could finish talking, so the sooner she stops and lets him finish, the sooner he can go back to his shelter and out of this damned rain. Her eyes narrow at his tone and she opens her mouth as if she's going to protest, but he puts a hand to her mouth.
"No, you had your turn. Now listen to me, because I'm not going to repeat myself: don't fuck up your life again." Her eyes widen, and he moves his hand, but doesn't give her the chance to say anything. "I'm fine, but that doesn't mean you should run back to Weasel and be miserable again. Don't ruin everything again. I'm marrying Astoria and I love her, but that doesn't mean I don't…" he trails off for a moment. He knows what he wants to say, but he can't quite summon himself to say the words. Fortunately, she seems to understand her eyes soften and she nods, and he's so bloody grateful. "Just, don't go back to what you were before. I don't want that."
The rain has picked up and they're both soaked to the bone by this point, but he doesn't say a word. She stares at him for a moment that seems to last forever, but finally she smiles. It's soft and gentle, but he thinks it's the truest smile he's seen her give him in three years. And he can't help it, he smiles softly back.
She moves before he can react and wraps her arms around him. "Thank you," she mumbles, tilting her head up and brushing her lips against his cheek. "Thank you, Draco." He doesn't say anything back, but she doesn't seem to expect him to, because she pulls back with the smile still on her lips. He nods at her, letting his words remain unspoken, before Hermione steps back and turns away.
He stands there, in the midst of the pouring rain, watching her figure retreat into the distance. And, even after she's gone and he can't see anything through the falling drops, he still stays and watches for longer than he cares to admit. Finally, he shakes his head, an annoyed but exasperated smile on his lips. And then finally, finally, he turns and goes back. Back to his flat, back to his shelter, and out of the rain. But still, the rain falls.
God love your soul and your aching bones
Take a breath, take a step, meet me down below
Everyone's the same, our fingers to our toes
We just can't get it right, but we're on the road
All Fall Down, OneRepublic
Note: This started as a spin off of In The End because I was surprised with the reaction I got to it, and so I started this fic back in October and we've had a love-hate relationship ever since. Finally, I sat down and decided that it just needed to be finished already. Because I really love the idea behind this, but Draco and Hermione are getting harder and harder for me to write. I am definitely NOT done writing DHr, but I think this might be my last fic until the movie comes out this summer. I'm so sorry guys, but I don't want to force it. I will be back though.
Please feel free to let me know about any OOC-ness or grammatical errors.