A/N: So, new chapter. Sorry it's been so long since I updated. You know, more reviews might encourage me to update faster in the future. Just a thought ;) Anyway, hope you enjoy this chapter since it took forever.
Draco was warm. So very very warm. And comfortable, now that he thought about it. There was an intoxicating scent surrounding him, and he basked in it. He realized that something or, rather, someone was lying in his arms. He need not open his eyes. He knew who she was. She was a frequent star in his dreams. He assumed this was a dream, for she would never knowingly allow him to hold her like this. The only time he had held her was that night, and she was definitely clueless as to what was going on. He could feel every crevice of her body against him. He could hear her deep breaths. He could feel them as they fanned out across his chest and her heartbeat against his own. So, his eyes remained shut, wanting to keep himself in this glorious dream as long as possible. He hoped, briefly, that this would stay a dream and not become a nightmare as it so often did.
There was a faint whirring noise somewhere to his left, as if a fire was raging beside him. Somehow knowing that a fireplace was next to him, he recognized the sound as someone arriving by floo. He tensed, waiting for the inevitable start of his nightmare. Someone, most likely Bellatrix or his father, who had become more usual as of late, would rip the sleeping angel from his arms and proceed to torture her while he was forced to watch.
He waited. And waited. But nothing moved. He heard the fireplace whirl again as another arrived. He heard a soft, feminine gasp. Silence, then…
"Well, now I know why she wanted to stay here so badly," he heard the female whisper slyly. He knew that voice. Where was it he had heard it? She almost sounded like-
"Ginny, what the bloody hell is going on?"
Potter? What the bloody hell was going on, indeed? Why was he dreaming of Potter and the Weaslette?
"Harry, keep your voice down. You'll wake them."
"Good! I'd love to hear Malfoy explain this. What in the name of Merlin did he do to her?"
What? He didn't do anything to Hermione. She fell asleep on him-wait. She fell asleep on him, last night in the common room. They had too much eggnog and they passed out on the couch, but not before he kissed her. Dear Merlin, he kissed her! This wasn't a dream. Holy-
"Harry, shh. He didn't do anything, and you know it. I told you they were friends now. Although, this looks a little more than friendly, I'll admit."
His eyes wrenched open as he took in the scene in front of him. Hermione was sprawled across him, clinging to him in a manner that indeed looked more than friendly. His arms were wrapped tightly around her small frame. She truly looked like an angel, her eyes closed and searching the heavens as she dreamed. He looked up, and saw his own living nightmare.
Potter and the redhead were standing above him. His childhood enemy was glaring down at him, a look of shock and curiosity plastered on his face. At least Draco saw no hatred. Ginny (she had just defended him, so he should at least use her name) was staring down in amusement, a small smirk on her lips.
Draco, reluctantly, shook the goddess in his arms. "Hermione, I think you should wake up now," he muttered to her, his voice still groggy with sleep.
"Mmm, no. Go back to sleep," she mumbled as she buried her face into his chest. She squirmed slightly and his breath caught in his throat as she rubbed against him. This was certainly not helping the situation.
"Hermione, you really need to wake up," he bit out, his voice a little higher. He heard Ginny giggle and Hermione stiffened at the noise.
"By all means, don't let us disturb you," Ginny said, her amusement now evident. Though Draco was grateful that she was, for whatever reason, not lashing out at him, he was annoyed that she found humor in his embarrassment.
Hermione shot up at the sound of her friend's voice, nearly falling off the couch in the process. Draco caught her around the waist to steady her. She quickly pulled away and stood facing her friends.
"Harry, Ginny…um. What are you doing here?" she blabbered nervously. Draco rose to stand behind her at a careful distance.
"Well, we merely wanted to visit our lonely friend on Christmas. Although, it appears you aren't that lonely after all," Ginny smirked. Hermione blushed red as she stammered to find words.
"This isn't what you think," Draco spoke for her. "We had a bit of eggnog last night and just fell asleep on the couch. That's all, I assure you."
Potter merely raised an eyebrow, but still made no move to speak. It made Draco nervous, like any sudden movement would trigger the beast to erupt.
Ginny laughed sardonically. "Oh, of course. Hermione?"
The girl in question glanced up to the redhead, her face still bright red. Draco began to wonder if it would ever return to its normal color. She squeaked in response.
"How about you and I go upstairs so you can, er, change…" Ginny trailed off as she looked Hermione up and down. Draco did as well and noticed she was still in her day clothes from yesterday. Draco's heart fell into his stomach. Alone….with Potter…who surely wanted nothing more than to kill him slowly and torturously? He gulped.
"Right!" the brunette yelped before all but running up to her room, oblivious to her blonde companion's plight. Ginny followed, but not before giving Draco a knowing smile.
The wall was suddenly highly interesting, or at least Draco made it seem that way with the way he glared at it. He was determined to look at every possible surface other than Potter's face, which he was sure held a look of disgust.
"The wall isn't going to help you, Malfoy."
"I wasn't exactly expecting it to, Potter," Draco replied. He may call him Harry for Hermione's sake, but no matter how friendly he would always be Potter. Potter's eyes widened when he realized there was no malice in his voice. Instead, there was embarrassed acknowledgment.
"Hermione's told me in her letters that you've been civil this year. Friendly even," Potter continued, his face becoming suspicious. Here it goes, Draco thought glumly. Let the inquisition begin.
"Yes, I suppose I have been. She has…recently, been the same." Extremely recently. As in over the past few weeks. Still, that was more than he ever deserved, he knew.
"What are you playing at?" Potter asked, his voice surprisingly more curious than venomous. Draco glanced up, not even realizing he had looked away, and gave him a hard glare.
"Absolutely nothing. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but I'm actually quite sincere when I say that I hold no animosity for Her-Granger, yourself, or the Weaslette. Weasel on the other hand, I would love to crush into the ground, but not for the reasons you think. I know I've been a complete ass in the past and you have no valid reason to believe me. I hope you would, though. I…I'm sorry. For everything I have ever done to you and to her. I truly am. I was an idiot and a coward."
Silence followed his admission. He never lets his steel gray eyes stray from Potter's blazing green ones, his practically begging the other's for forgiveness or, at the very least, acceptance.
"I'm most likely going against my better judgment here, but I believe you," Potter said, brusquely thrusting his hand forward. Draco grasped it, stuck in a state of wondering bewilderment as they shook hands. He couldn't keep in the smile of gratitude at his old childhood enemy's generosity. "This doesn't mean I like you. But seeing as you seem to get on well with Ginny and Hermione, I suppose I could be friendly as well. Speaking of Hermione…what exactly was going on when we got here?"
Draco flushed. "Nothing," he blurted. Potter raised an eyebrow again, and Draco was surprised to see a smirk similar to Ginny's taunting one appear on his lips.
"It didn't look like nothing."
Draco merely flushed darker. Damnit! This was Potter. He shouldn't be acting like some shy little first year.
"Come on, Malfoy. I saw the way you were looking at her. Same way I look at Ginny. You might be able to hide it from her, but you can't from me. And you certainly can't from Ginny. All she's been talking about since she got to the Burrow was about how you were so in love-"
"What?" Draco responded, dumbfounded. Love? Sure, he had strong feelings for the girl, but was love a bit strong. Actually, the more he thought about it, maybe he did- No! Couldn't be. Could it?
"It's kind of obvious," Potter grinned.
"I don't-but she-it's just….it's not like that. She and I are just- why are you bloody laughing, Potter?"
"The great Draco Malfoy, Prince of Slytherin reduced to a bumbling mess over a muggleborn girl. It's priceless, really," Potter answered, a genuine smile gracing his lips. Draco just couldn't understand it. Why was Potter taking this so lightly.
"Why aren't you angry? Shouldn't you be trying to defend her honor or something?"
"Look, I'm going to say this and I'm going to say it once. After Ron, I was afraid that Hermione would go into a fit of depression. The ass nearly broke her, or so I thought. But then she starts sending me these letters, and almost every one of them has something about you. And after a few weeks, she didn't seem upset, she seemed…happy almost. You kept her from going insane. No matter what you've done in the past, I am grateful to you for being there when Ginny or I couldn't."
It was almost too much for him. He had spent weeks, months even, feeling as though he had no effect on her whatsoever. How long had he been pining and praying for her to feel even a fraction of what he felt. But now, it seemed she was. In some small way, she thought about him. She cared about him. The thought made his heart soar.
"She really wrote about me in her letters?"
"Almost every day," Potter admitted awkwardly. "I don't even think she realized it half the time. She was always one to just say whatever was on her mind. She would mention that you were fighting, or that you had been friendly, or told a joke. Even when you were frustrating her I think you were helping her."
Draco couldn't stop the ear-to-ear grin that spread across his face. He felt as if his insides would burst with excitement. She cared about him, she felt something for him, even if it was miniscule. But that was enough for him. He was determined now. He would have her. After all, he was a Malfoy, and Malfoys always got what they wanted. And Merlin did he want her!
"Stop grinning like that," Potter groaned. "This is already weird enough. Look, when Ginny and I aren't here you can do whatever you want-" (Draco's thoughts swam with the possibilities of that statement) "-but you can't act like that around us and you absolutely cannot hurt her. You do, and I'll see to it myself you die. Got it?"
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Draco replied sincerely. The two shared an awkward, albeit understanding, glance before they heard footsteps on the stairs.
"I hope you boys haven't been trying to hex each other to bits," Ginny said as she bounded to Potter's side.
"As a matter of fact, Malfoy and I have come to an understanding…sort of." Ginny's eyes widened considerably at Potter's confession.
"Is that so?"
"Yes. He…he's actually not all that bad," Potter responded grudgingly.
"I told you so," the ginger mocked with a wide smile. "See, you should always-"
"I know, I should always listen to you."
As Draco lay in his bed later that afternoon, he pondered. Hermione and the Wizarding World's favorite couple had gone to Hogsmeade. Despite Hermione's pleading with him to go, he had politely refused. He felt as if she should have some time alone with her friends. Plus, he really needed to ponder.
Did he love her? Was that even possible for someone like him? All he had ever known was a lifetime of hate. Could he even know what love was? The only person he ever felt love for was his mother, but that was completely different than what he felt for Hermione.
She made him feel…alive. Good. When he was with her, everything he had done in the past wasn't forgotten, but rather forgiven. She was calm, and gentle, and loving. She gave him hope when he thought there was none. He smiled when she smiled. He wouldn't even know why she was happy, he was just glad she was. She was…incredibly gorgeous. There was no point in denying the fact that every time she walked in a room his breath caught in his throat. He didn't know how he never noticed it before. Then again, he was stupid before. All he ever thought about was himself.
He realized suddenly that now, rarely would a thought pass through his head that did not in some way pertain to her. She was in his every waking, and to be honest sleeping, thought. He knew he would do anything for her. He would do anything to see that smile, to never see her cry again. He would die if it would protect her. So, he was obsessed. Utterly obsessed with her. But did that obsession equal love?
What did he know about love? From what he had always heard, it was strong affection, personal attachment. Check. It was passionate emotion towards another person. Check. It was the selfless need to put that someone before yourself in every way. That was definitely a check. So, he did love her. He bolted up in his bed as the realization hit him like a ton of bricks.
Of course he loved her. How could he not? How could anyone not? She was perfect. Why had he even been thinking about this? Loving her should never have been a question. Now that he had opened his mind to the idea, he saw that he had loved her for a very long time, probably since he first saw her on the train.
Now, more than ever before, he was determined to have her. She would be his. He laid back down, a big smile on his face.
Oh how he wished she would call him by his name. All in good time.
"Will you please come out here? I don't know why you're acting so anti-social all of a sudden," she huffed. He turned his head to where she stood in his doorway to see she was pouting. He restrained himself from going over to kiss those full, pouty lips.
"I'm sure you and your friends will have a lot more fun without me," he replied sincerely. Just because they were nice didn't mean they felt comfortable around him, and he didn't blame them.
"Oh, just stop it. They're willing to give you a chance. You should give them one!"
There was that fire in her eyes. He wondered if she knew it made her absolutely irresistible.
"I am giving them a chance. I just figured they would be more comfortable without a former Death Eater in the room," he mumbled grudgingly. Her eyes widened somewhat. He could tell he had just made her uncomfortable, which was exactly what he'd been trying to avoid.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"No, I understand why you did. Look, I'm not saying all is forgotten. But it is forgiven. They don't care about that. I don't. You have to stop thinking about that. It's just going to drive you crazy. Please, come down to the common room. It's Christmas for Merlin sake! You're my friend and I really want you to be there. Come have fun. Don't lock yourself away again."
He was struck by how well she knew him. Locking himself away in guilt was a common thing for him indeed, but he didn't think she knew why. He always had an excuse for those days. Homework, illness, etc. But she knew.
"Well, how can I say no to that," he finally said with a weary grin. And there it was, what he had waited four months for.
She smiled. Brightly, and full of warmth. It stretched across her face from ear to ear. There was no judgment, no hatred, no annoyance. Only joy and care. And it was for him. She was smiling so happily for him. Unconsciously, he raised his hand to her cheek to trace the lines her smile had created. It faltered slightly, and her eyes took on a curious look.
"What are you doing?"
"I love it when you smile like that," he replied honestly, looking directly into her caramel eyes. Her smile came back full force.
"Well, I guess you're going to have to keep me happy," she laughed. Her voice was carefree and playful. He loved it.
"That I will."
The evening passed flawlessly. Draco was surprised by how well he actually got on with Potter when he gave him a chance. They weren't exactly pals, but they had found middle ground in conversation: Quidditch. As long as they stayed on the subject, they might as well have been best mates. Ginny and Hermione spent the night talking by the fire. Every now and then when Draco would tune into their conversation, he would hear bits and pieces about the Weasel. He was pleasantly surprised to see Hermione take everything so lightly. She just laughed and rolled her eyes when the redhead told her that the Brown girl had been invited to the Burrow for the holidays. It seemed she truly was over him. He grinned at the fact.
Just before it was time for supper, Potter and Ginny took their leave so they could make it in time for the Weasley family dinner.
"Won't you please come," Ginny pleaded one last time with Hermione as they stood by the fire place.
"No, I won't. I appreciate the offer, Ginny, but I'm perfectly happy here." With me, Draco thought.
"Oh, alright," she pouted. Suddenly, Draco felt himself being pulled aside. He looked over and saw Potter.
"As much as I hate to say it – and I really do since I don't fully trust you yet – you're actually good for her. I came here expecting to have to comfort her because of Ron. But she's perfectly fine. She's completely forgotten about him. And that's because of you. So…thanks I guess."
Draco nodded solemnly, shocked by Potter's thanks. It was more than he could have hoped for. Then, Potter's face changed from awkward to serious.
"But if I find out you hurt her in any way, intentionally or not, I'll make sure you're never able to reproduce."
Draco laughed. "There's the Potter I know so well. I wouldn't dream of it, I assure you. She's…well, let's just say you were right about what you said yesterday."
Potters eyes grew wide at his admission, and he shifted awkwardly. "Right, well, civil acquaintances?" Draco took his proffered hand.
"Wouldn't have it any other way."
Then they were gone, and Draco and Hermione were alone once again.
"What were you talking to Harry about? Earlier when he was about to leave, I mean."
He turned to look at the brunette beauty. Even after nearly four months of living with her, the fierceness of her gaze struck him. He glanced away quickly, putting back the book he had been considering and grabbing another. It had been a couple of hours since the famous couple had left, and he had to fight himself away from her every second. She was like an intoxicating drug he was addicted to.
"Well, we've decided to be….not friends exactly, but acquaintances. He's actually not that bad," he responded, repeating Potter's earlier words.
"Good," she said with a smug smile as she plopped onto the couch. Draco landed beside her. In a bold move, he picked up her feet to lay them in his lap. If he was surprised by his boldness, he was even more surprised that she allowed it. Pushing his luck, he went a step further and started rubbing her feet and calves. She merely sighed while she laid back and stretched across the couch, tired from the day's tense atmosphere. He grinned. This was so comfortable, so right.
"Do you think…" He trailed off, not knowing how to continue exactly. The words were there, but how could he ask? How could he ask even more?
"No, what is it?" she insisted, sitting up slightly.
"Well, do you think we ever could be…friends? Would that be possible for someone like me?" His eyes begged her for affirmation, but in his heart he knew he shouldn't receive it. She looked at him sadly and moved to cup his cheek in her hand. A pleasant fire erupted within him. Strange, he always associated her with fire and warmth, something he had never known with anyone else. It was as if she gave him life.
"Yes, I think so," she whispered. She leaned closer, as did he. He could feel her warm breath across his lips. He could taste it. Just a little closer and-
"What in the bloody hell is this?"
Draco jumped up swiftly, drawing his wand to fend off the intruder. Upon a single glance, however, he realized the intruder was the Weasel himself. Brilliant. I'll never get her to kiss me at the rate this is going.
"Ronald, what are you doing here?"
She wasn't embarrassed like he would've expected. Instead, she was furious, absolutely seething. He didn't think he had ever been more turned on. Her eyes flamed, her cheeks were flushed, and she was huffing quick breaths as she screamed at the fool.
"What am I doing here? I came to see you! Harry and Ginny were talking nonsense about you and Malfoy, so I came to prove it wasn't true. But now I see you're shacked up with the bloody prat!"
"What would it matter to you? You have no say in who I choose to be with. You gave that up, remember. You tossed me aside like the huge arse that you are. You're off having tons of fun with that filthy whore!"
Did she just call someone a whore? Hermione? Wait, she didn't deny that they were together. Obviously they weren't. But maybe she wasn't so opposed to the idea after all. Hey! That weasel had just called him a prat. Draco felt annoyance rising within him, but he didn't act. In truth, he was far more amused by Hermione's reactions than he was annoyed. As long as Weasley didn't cross the line, Draco was content to sit back and watch the dainty brunette attack.
"The only whore I see is you!" She gasped sharply, tears quickly filling her eyes. That's it, Weasley definitely just crossed the line.
Weasley fell backward, his jaw aching with the pain from Draco's carefully delivered punch. "Don't you dare call her that you pathetic imbecile."
The Weasel hopped up and rammed his fist into Draco's stomach. They fell to the ground, exchanging blows.
"I'll call her whatever I feel like, Ferret."
"You're just angry because you realized you threw away the perfect girl and she's seen what an idiot you are. How you ever got her in the first place, I'll never know. You clearly don't deserve her," Draco hissed.
"Boys! Stop this now!"
They ignored her and continued. Suddenly, they were frozen. Draco saw Hermione's wand raised in his peripheral. They were pushed away from each other before they were released from the body-bind she had put them under. Silence went across the room as they glared at each other. Finally, Weasley dropped his gaze. He looked up at Hermione, his eyes shining with regret.
"I'm sorry, Hermione. I really shouldn't have said that." Did he really think that would work? He was an idiot.
"I don't care. I'm sick of your apologies Ronald. Maybe you one day you'll learn to hold your tongue and you won't have to make as many," she spat at him, her eyes still aflame.
Weasley's face grew bitter. "Fine." His gaze shifted back to Draco. "As for you, maybe you're right. But do you honestly think that you deserve her. You've only made her life miserable for the past six years. You've only insulted her and tormented her to the point of tears. You've only sat back and watched her be tortured and nearly murdered right in front of you. You are the last person who could ever deserve her."
With this said, he walked back to the fireplace through which he had arrived. A green flash, and he was gone.
Draco was left with the reality of what he had said. Every word of it was true, and that was what hurt the most. Everything he had been trying to ignore so he could be with her, and there it was. He hated Weasley. He hated him for being such a jerk to Hermione. He hated him for having things Draco had never even dreamed of. He hated him for being right. But most of all, Draco hated himself.
"Hey." Her voice was soft, timid. He felt her fingers trying to pull his face upward so she could see his eyes. He couldn't let her. He pushed her away and stalked toward his room. He made it through the doorway before he heard her voice again.
"Hey!" she said with force this time. He turned to see she had followed him.
"Hermione, please just leave," he muttered through gritted teeth. She needed to be away from him.
"No," she shot defiantly. "I will not. What's wrong with you? Was it something I said?" Her voice now held worry. His face grew angrily perplexed as he looked at her.
"What? No, of course not. You didn't say anything wrong."
"Well, surely you're not listening to what Ron said," she responded dismissively. He gave a short, humorless laugh.
"Why? You know he's an idiot, you said so yo-"
"Because he's right! Don't you see that!" he yelled forcefully, his voice harsh. Her eyes were wide, and she looked frightened. Good, he thought. Maybe now she'll learn that she's better off without you.
"Hermione," he continued, his voice softening somewhat. "Everything his said was right. It's everything that's been haunting me since I got here. It's everything I've tortured myself over." His voice was sad, yet resigned. She opened her mouth, but he kept speaking.
"I can never forgive myself for what I've done to you. I've tried so hard to be good enough for you, but I can't. Not after what I've done."
He dropped his face to the ground. She would realize he was right. She had to. She was Hermione Granger. Above all else, she was logical.
Fingertips grazed the skin of his chin, pulling it up as they had moments before. He looked into those warm eyes and saw they were brimming with fresh tears. He hated himself even more for upsetting her.
"You are not bad," she said slowly, enunciating every word firmly. He pushed her away and made a disgusted noise. Swiftly, so swift she almost didn't catch the movement, he raised the sleeve of his of his left arm to reveal the faded Dark Mark.
"I think this proves you incorrect for once. Do you see this? No matter what I do this will always show me just how bad I really am."
Anger flooded her features as she raised the same sleeve, revealing her own scars. He turned away, tears filling his own eyes. He didn't need to see it. The vision had been burned into his memory forever.
"You're not the only one who is marked. Do you see this? Because I want you to take a long, hard look at it. Go on, look at it!" she insisted when he still refused to turn his head. Reluctantly, he glanced back at the scars. The hateful word was raised against her skin in faint pink marks, forever imprinting that horrible night onto her otherwise flawless body. He chanced a glance at her face and saw tears streaming freely now. He moved to her quickly, wiping them away gently before pulling her into his arms.
"Do you think that's who I am?" she choked out. He held her back in his arms to see her face. He was appalled.
"What! How could you say that?"
"Just answer the question!" she pleaded desperately.
"No, of course not." He had not thought that for quite some time now.
"Then why should your mark say anything about who you are?"
He gaped, frozen in place. How could he possibly respond to that? Of course his mark said something about him. Hers didn't because she had never acted that way, but he had. He had followed orders like a scared little boy. He had hurt people, people like her.
"This word…it may be what I am, but it isn't who I am. That mark on your arm, it is what you are. You are a Death Eater, you've done horrible things. But that's not who you are. I know who you are, and that person is good and kind and-"
"And a coward!"
He sighed deeply. "I'm a bloody coward. I never wanted any of it, but I was too scared to stop it. I was too scared to stop them from torturing people I knew. I was too scared to save you. I just watched you, Hermione. You have no idea how that sight has haunted me. I'm a coward."
"No, you're not," she whispered defiantly and he stared at her in wonder.
"But Hermione, the things I've done-"
"Don't matter. All that matters is that you know they were wrong. And I think the fact that you stood up for what was right, even though it was belatedly, took a great amount of courage. You may have done awful things in the past, but what matters is who you are now. You've chosen to be good, and you truly are. I was the last person who would ever think that you could be a good man. But Draco, you are."
He stared at her with wide eyes. He had never loved her more than in that moment. He had done absolutely nothing to deserve her, but here she was, and he was never letting her go again.
"Say it again," he murmured pleadingly, desperately almost.
"You're a good man," she began but he cut her off.
"No, not that. My name."
She stared in confusion before realization struck her. "Draco," she whispered reverently, almost even, dare he think it, lovingly.
He really couldn't be held responsible for his actions. He was already in an emotional state as it was. Not to mention the fact he was in bloody love with the girl. It was just the final straw that broke the camel's back. He was not to blame.
In a single instant, his lips had attached themselves to hers, pressed against them firmly as he gripped her tightly in his arms. Her gasp of shock quickly turned into a moan as she began to kiss him back. She opened her mouth slightly and he immediately deepened the kiss. Their lips worked furiously against the others as they battled for dominance. When she finally broke away, only because she desperately needed air, his lips stayed attached to her neck, cherishing every bit of exposed skin. In between his kisses, he heard her murmuring his name softly. Suddenly, he pulled back to look her in the eyes.
Her eyes were wide and vulnerable, fearing what he would say. As if he could ever hurt her, especially now.
"You have no idea how long I have wanted to do that," he breathed. Her face lit up in a glorious blush before a shy smile illuminated her face.