a/n: This is my Valentine's Day one-shot, and also a present for the lovely Regan (saarabii on tumblr) for helping me out with a few things for Iso! Hope you enjoy! My song suggestions for this are Jeremy Messersmith - 'A Boy, a Girl, and a Graveyard', Coldplay - 'Fix You', and Will Young - 'Silent Valentine' (acoustic version).
Death is the end of one story and the beginning of another.
- Phillip Moeller
February 14th, 1999
Hermione readjusted her scarf and slid her hands into her pockets, wishing she'd thought to bring a pair of gloves.
The frost-laced grass crunched beneath her feet as she strayed from the path, meandering around the gravestones and memorials lined up in uneven patterns, many worn by weather and age, and some brand new. It was close to eleven and the night was at its darkest, but there were various lamps illuminating the trails, some near-death and flickering, and some seeming to flicker as moths danced around them like sycamore seeds. Peeking out from over the brow of a slight hill, she could make out the naked branches of an elm tree, stretching up to the stars like pleading arms, and she began to feel the emotion swell in her throat.
This part of the graveyard was secluded and lonely, with the majority of the graves here centuries old, but it had somehow felt appropriate at the time. Now, Hermione wondered if Tonks would've perhaps preferred to be laid to rest surrounded by others, as she'd always enjoyed the company of friends. But then the grave-dwellers weren't friends. They were strangers. And Hermione knew that as long as she'd been close to Remus, she wouldn't have really cared. She'd have said something like, 'I'm dead anyway what do I care where you put me? It's not like I'm going to know.' So Tonks and Remus had been buried side by side beneath the friendly sway of the elm tree, in this vast graveyard, not far from Ted Tonks, Sirius Black, and Severus Snape.
Hermione swallowed hard as she came over the crest of the hill, almost tripping over the roots of an oak tree sat near the top, and she grabbed its trunk to catch her balance. Lifting her head, her eyes sought out the grave she'd come here to visit, but it was obstructed by a figure. A man. Her heart-rate accelerated to an almost painful speed, vibrating around her ribcage like a wind-up toy, and her fist tightened around her wand in her pocket. The war had taught her nothing if to always remain vigilant.
She wondered if she had perhaps told Harry or Ron that she was coming here tonight, but she knew she hadn't. She had diligently assured that the boys wouldn't know about her midnight trip to the graveyard, knowing they would want to come, and she had wanted to do this alone. That was why she had come so late; to have the luxury of solitude and privacy, but evidently someone had decided to ruin that.
The figure was tall, lean, and definitely male. His head was bowed, but just when it began to dawn on Hermione that she recognised his silhouette, he lifted his head, and the glow of the moon bounced off his infamous white-blond hair.
Her jaw slackened as a torrent of emotions flooded her all at once; shock, outrage, confusion, disgust. She couldn't see his face from where she was, but she knew it was Draco Malfoy. She thought back to the last time she'd seen him, some five months ago when the Malfoys had been on trial. Harry had spoken in their defence and she had gone along for support while Ron had refused, insisting that Draco and his parents 'deserved to rot in Azkaban for what they had done.' Hermione had sided with Harry, listening to how Narcissa had saved his life, and how Draco had been threatened, but she hadn't found it easy. It had been difficult to resist considering all the awful things the Malfoys had done leading up to the war, and she had struggled to regard Draco with anything less than disappointment and disdain for his behaviour in Hogwarts. He might not be guilty, but he was still a cruel and prejudiced prat.
It was an involuntary reaction, but his presence here reignited all the aversion she'd felt towards him when they'd been growing up. She couldn't help but feel like this was some cruel joke; that he'd come to mock the memory of those who had fallen, and she clenched her fists as she left the shadow of the oak tree and headed towards him with long and agitated strides.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she demanded when she was a few feet away, watching his shoulders jerk with surprise.
He slowly twisted around to face her, his posture stiff and defensive, but when she caught sight of his face, she couldn't stop her eyes from widening. He looked so different, like a tormented boy trapped within the shell of a proud man; his features sullen and tight as he bit down on his back teeth. The way he studied her was neither abrasive nor cold; his stare was simply blank and yet somehow intense, like he'd forgotten how she looked and was reassessing her with no intention of caring.
He sighed, and the icy air turned it white. "Granger," he greeted quietly, his tone stoic.
"I asked what the hell you were doing here!"
"I heard you," he said. "I would think it's fairly obvious why I'm here. The same reason as you."
She scoffed. "I doubt that very much. I am here to pay my respects-
"So am I-
"Don't you dare!" she interrupted, stepping closer to him. "You have a sick sense of humour-
"Granger," he frowned. "I am not here to be difficult."
"You shouldn't be here at all!" she yelled furiously, and she felt tears slip down her cheeks. She wasn't sure if they were tears of frustration or grief, but all tears burn the same. "You have no right to be here!"
His eyebrows knitted together. "Who are you to decide who-
"I was her friend!" she cut him off, her voice slightly shaking with emotion. " You have no reason to be here! You didn't even know her when she was alive!"
"Perhaps that gives me more reason to be here," he countered.
He reached one gloved hand into the pocket of his coat and Hermione hastily withdrew her wand, pointing it at him with a trembling grip. He hesitated for a moment, his absent gaze shifting between her eyes and his wand, and then he slowly pulled out a single black rose. Bending down, he placed it on Tonks' grave, and Hermione watched him with complete bewilderment as he mumbled something incoherent before he rose back to his full height. Studying her with that distant look again, he peeled off his gloves and tossed them to her, and Hermione instinctively caught them with her free hand. She glanced down at them but quickly lifted her suspicious eyes back to him, searching his impassive face for an explanation.
"Your hands are practically blue," he told her, and then he turned and left.
Staring at his back until he disappeared out of sight, all the animosity that she'd felt towards him seemed to melt away, and an odd emotion that felt very much like guilt stole its place in her chest. The sudden shift in her temperament was so jarring that she almost called out to Malfoy, but she caught herself, questioning whether the way she had attacked him had been too ruthless, or completely justified considering their history. What had thrown her the most was Draco's reluctance to shout back at her. During their time in Hogwarts, he had always been so keen to indulge in a fiery argument with his quick wit and harsh comebacks, like it was all a sport, but thinking back on their altercation, it was like he'd done everything to avoid a quarrel with her.
Shaking her head and remembering why she was here, she turned to back Tonks' grave, and the tears began to tumble like rain. Crouching down to kneel beside the gravestone, she could taste the salt at the corners of her mouth, and she released a shuddering breath. All the flowers that had blanketed both Tonks' and Remus' graves since their funeral had wilted away or been consumed by the February frost. The only indication of mourning now was Draco's lone rose, and for a moment she thought about moving it, still unsure how she felt about his odd behaviour.
But she let it be.
"I miss you," she whispered to the headstone, lifting her wand to conjure a viola and snowdrop wreath. "Happy birthday."
February 14th, 2000
Hermione rested her weight against the oak tree and sighed. At least she'd remembered to wear gloves this time.
Malfoy was here again, and she could make out the shape of a rose dangling from his fingers.
In the past year, her mind had drifted back to their confrontation many times, and she'd wondered if he would return again today, and why he'd visited Tonks' grave in the first place. She had even tried to imagine what she might say to him, never quite reaching a conclusion about what would be appropriate, and perhaps that was why she wasn't particularly shocked by his presence, but a strange knot of nerves settled in her stomach as she approached him. When she was a few steps away, he glanced at her over his shoulder with an indifferent look, like he'd been expecting her, and she absently noted that his features were still lifeless, and his eyes still vacant.
"You're here again," she mumbled, chastising herself for stating the obvious. "I mean, I wasn't sure you would-
"Are you going to start shouting again?" he cut her off, but there was no venom in his voice. "Because I'll be leaving in a minute-
"No, no, it's okay," she said quickly. "I...uh...I want to apologise for the way I spoke to you last year. It was unnecessary, and I was upset, and...yes, I'm sorry."
She was surprised to find she actually meant the apology, and judging by the way Draco's eyebrows rose high on his forehead, he was surprised too. Nibbling her lower lip and feeling a little foolish as he continued to stare at her in silence, she almost wished she had repeated her previous actions and simply shouted at him until he'd fled.
"You know," he muttered finally. "Most people would say I was the one who owed you an apology."
"You don't strike me as an apologetic person."
His eyes became animated for a brief moment, and he almost grinned. "I'm not."
"Well, neither am I usually," she went on, awkwardly shifting her weight. "But I had no right to tell you to leave-
"So you have no objection to me being here?"
She took a moment to consider his question, deciding that this was easily one of the most bizarre moments she could recall in her life. And that was saying something. A loud part of her brain was screaming at her to ask him to leave again, but, as was often the case, her curiosity was so much louder, and she realised she was deeply intrigued about his reasons for being here. She was also curious about his behaviour, which she determined could almost be considered civil, and against her better judgement, she shrugged her shoulders.
"It's a free country," she said after the long pause. "You can do what you want."
He nodded and returned his empty stare to Tonks' grave, and the two of them remained like that for a while, neither speaking or even moving as the cold wind thrashed around them. The silence was far from comfortable, and the urge to break it made Hermione's tongue itch, but it was Draco who spoke first.
"Tell me something about her," he requested suddenly, keeping his eyes on the headstone.
"What do you-
"Just tell me something about her," he said again. "Anything."
Hermione's brow wrinkled as she spoke. "Well, she was an Auror, and she was an amazing dueller. She was so brave-
"No, not like that," he stopped her. "The big things are what make people heroes, not humans. Tell me something small."
She went quiet again, rubbing her lips together with thought. "Well...she liked Muggle music, like the Beatles-
"Smaller," he interrupted, flicking his eyes to her expectantly. "How did she take her tea?"
Hermione blinked at him in bewilderment. "She didn't like tea. She only drank coffee; black with one sugar."
"She...um...she hated jam, so she only had butter on her toast, but she preferred teacakes."
He cocked his head like he was storing the information and twirled the rose between his fingers. "Something else."
"She loved brown sauce," she continued distantly. "She used to put it on everything. Even things like steak and pasta..." her voice hitched, and she clenched her eyes shut when they started to ache with inevitable tears. "God, I miss her."
She hadn't intended to say it out loud but there it was, sitting in the air between them, practically begging him to mock or judge, and she instantly felt vulnerable and ridiculous. She angled her face away from Draco, waiting until the wind had plucked away the licks of her tears before she turned back to him, ready to challenge whatever taunt had been eagerly tickling the tip of his tongue. But when she opened her eyes, she found that Draco was actually looking at her, almost fixated on her like he was trying to memorise each inch of her expression and scar it onto his brain, and she shivered under the intensity of it.
"Why are you here, Malfoy?" she asked bluntly, not really expecting a response but feeling the need to say something. She probably should've learned by now that it was futile to try and predict anything that Draco Malfoy would do.
"I have no siblings and she was my only cousin," he said evenly, but there was a peculiar undertone to his voice that was captivating, and Hermione held her breath. "It was the same for her; no siblings and I was her only cousin."
"I don't understand."
"I would think you would understand perfectly, having no siblings yourself," he disputed. "Unless you have cousins who you share a good relationship with?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't have any cousins."
"Then I'm sure you do understand," he muttered. "It's probably why you and Potter are so close. My point is, I think she and I would've had a very different relationship had we been brought up under different circumstances."
Hermione stared at him, open-mouthed and wide-eyed like he'd spoken in a language she didn't understand, and in a way, he had. "Why did you tell me that?" she asked. "In fact, why are you being...civil to me at all?"
When his eyes shifted to her this time, his body followed, and he tapped his forefinger against one of the rose's thorns. "You and I have more in common than them," he said, nodding his head towards the graves. "We bleed and breathe the same, and perhaps that's all that matters in the end. Before we join them."
"Okay," she mumbled uncertainly. "Is that a cryptic and morose way of telling me that you don't believe those blood prejudices anymore? That you've learned your lesson?"
"Something like that," he said, and his lips tilted into half a smirk. "If you of all people are calling me cryptic, Granger, I'm wondering if I should be concerned."
Hermione almost smiled, but she caught it. That would simply be too surreal. "Is that why you really come here?" she asked, her tone harsher than intended. "You know, you won't find redemption in a graveyard, Malfoy."
His half-smirk disappeared and he straightened his spine. "I'm not looking for redemption, Granger. I'm just looking for a respite."
With that, he dropped the black rose on Tonks' grave, pivoted on his heel, and walked away in much the same way as last year. And again, Hermione was left speechless, her eyes tracking him until he was out of sight, and that peculiar sense of guilt was clogging her stomach once more. Gathering her thoughts, she turned back to Tonks' grave, kneeling down and straightening Draco's rose into a more deliberate position.
"Your cousin's very confusing," she sighed.
With a tear sliding down her cheek, she leaned forward and reached out to trace her fingers across the letters of the epitaph.
In Loving Memory of Nymphadora 'Tonks' Lupin
February 14th, 1973 - May 2nd, 1998
Daughter, Mother, Wife, and Friend
Bella Detesta Matribus
February 14th, 2001
Winter had come late this year, and there was still a slight dusting of snow sprinkled around the graveyard's grounds, decorating the headstones like frosting.
Hermione and Draco had been standing in silence for approximately ten minutes when she glanced down and noticed that the hand he was holding the black rose in was bare. Slipping her hand into her coat's pocket, she pulled out the pair of gloves he had lent her at their first meeting.
"Here," she said, offering them to him. "Your hands look cold."
He arched an eyebrow before he reached to take them, their fingers briefly grazing in the exchange, and Hermione flinched at the contact. He was so cold he was hot, and her skin felt momentarily scalded by his touch.
"And it only took you two years to return these," he muttered, his gaze drifting to Tonks' grave before he spoke again. "Better late than never though."
Hermione felt another silence creeping up on them, as she rushed to hinder it. "Can I ask you something?"
Draco's head snapped in her direction, scrutinising her with subtle bemusement before he slowly nodded his head. "Go ahead."
"Why do you come here today?"
"The same reasons as you, I presume," he shrugged. "It's her birthday, but I imagine most people visit the day she died. There are hardly many people who would choose to spend Valentine's Day in a graveyard, and I prefer to be alone."
"But you're not alone," she pointed out. "I'm here too."
His lips twitched. "Perhaps I don't mind your presence so much," he said quietly, but Hermione barely had a moment to consider his confession before he was speaking again. "How exactly does Weasley feel about you spending Valentine's evening here?"
"Um...well, he...um," she stuttered clumsily, still rather affected by his previous remark. "He doesn't know I come here actually."
"He doesn't? Do you knock him out with a Stupefy or something?"
She couldn't stop the short laugh that escaped her. "No, I was never a fan of Valentine's Day anyway. If you love someone enough, then one day shouldn't be such a big deal and an excuse to express it. I just tell Ron I'm working."
"Why don't you tell him you come here?" asked Draco.
"Because I know he would want to come," she explained. "And it's like you said; I prefer to this alone."
"Except you're not alone."
She smiled half-heartedly at him and shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps I don't mind your presence so much either."
The silence that engulfed them this time was almost comfortable, and Hermione took the time to notice Draco looked a lot healthier than the last time she'd seen him. While his skin was still as pale as porcelain, he looked somehow fresh, and where his eyes had once been dead, there was now a glint of life, like he was actually absorbing the sights and sounds of his surroundings. Like he could actually see her. The hints and changes were faint but they were there, and for some reason, finding them appeased her.
"Tell me something about her," said Draco.
"Her favourite colour was purple."
"Her favourite flavour of Bertie Bott's Beans was marshmallow."
Hermione hesitated and met his eyes. "I think she would be happy that you are visiting her like this."
His brow lowered sceptically, but he didn't respond. They both returned to mutely staring at Tonks' headstone, and Hermione swallowed down the knot of emotion in her throat. The tears that slipped past her lashes were different to last year's, and she hastily wiped them away with her sleeve, but it was a futile effort to keep them secret.
"Why are you crying?" asked Draco.
She inhaled to steady her voice. "Because I'm not crying because I miss her, and I feel guilty for that."
He frowned and seemed to take a moment to consider her confession. "Time's a tool for adaptation and acceptance," he said distantly, like he wasn't speaking to her at all. "You shouldn't feel guilty for getting on with it. You're not designed to be consumed by mourning. You're a fighter, Granger. You know that."
His words were almost physical, like she could actually feel the weight of them washing over her with a warmth that was somehow soothing. Releasing a breath that she hadn't realised she'd been keeping, she stared at him and studied his sombre expression for any indications of deceit or trickery, and found none.
"You're so different," she whispered, clearing her throat when Draco shot her an uncertain glance. "I mean you...you've changed a lot, and I mean that as a compliment."
"You haven't changed much."
"Is that a good a thing?"
"It wasn't intended to be a negative comment," he told her, averting his eyes. "So...I suppose that would also be considered a compliment."
She smiled. "Then thank you."
He bowed his head with acknowledgement and then began his usual black rose routine, bending down to place it on Tonks' grave. Rising back to stand, he lingered for a moment, regarding Hermione with that frustrating unreadable look of his.
"See you next year," he said simply, and then he left.
Waiting until the sounds of his snow-crisp footsteps had faded, Hermione gazed thoughtfully at Tonks' headstone, and her smile stretched a little further up her cheeks. "He's not so bad, is he?"
February 14th, 2002
From beneath her low lashes, Hermione examined Draco's face; the sunken hollows of his cheeks and the blue-grey bags clinging to his eyes. He was pale, but not in that alluring china-doll way, and she couldn't tell if he'd lost weight or if his face looked so gaunt because he was clenching hard on his jaw , and probably had been for weeks. She'd read all the articles in the newspapers of course, and had expected some level of a physical change in his appearance, but he actually looked better than she'd expected, and that was somehow even more disturbing.
They hadn't spoken a word since she'd joined his side at Tonks' grave, which was hardly unusual given their past meetings here, but tonight the silence was claustrophobic, and Hermione was desperate to break it.
"It's warmer this year," she mumbled. "Don't you think?"
"You want to discuss the weather?" he asked, his tone almost scolding. "How British of you, Granger."
She pursed her lips. "I was just trying to-
"You needn't tip-toe around the topic," he said. "I find it fucking irritating when people do that."
"Okay then," she sighed, nervously shifting her weight. "I heard about your father, and I'm sorry-
"You have no reason to be," he cut her off. "You hated him, and that hatred was justified."
Frowning, she turned her body towards him. "Regardless of how I felt about your father, I did think of you when I heard the news, and I really am sorry for your loss."
He lifted his head and narrowed his eyes at her, searching her for any hint of insincerity. Apparently satisfied, he nodded his head, and his features softened a little. "I am fine, Granger. It was months ago, and it wasn't like it was unexpected. He'd been ill for a while."
"I know, but the press were...not very nice-
"It was expected," he muttered. "Speaking of news, I heard about you and Weasley."
Her eyes widened a fraction. "Yes...well-
"I'm not sorry."
"E-excuse me?" she stuttered.
"I'm not sorry that you and Weasley broke up," he said flippantly. "It was only a matter of time before commonsense caught up with you. Weasley needs a mother, not a lover, and you are far too independent and ambitious to play that role."
Hermione's mouth hung open as she tried to gather her thoughts. "Excuse me, Draco, but you don't know me well enough to make those assumptions."
"Don't I?" he challenged. "I have known you as long as Potter and Weasley. Perhaps not as intimately, but to say I don't know you is incorrect."
"Unless there's another reason you broke up with Weasley?"
"We just grew apart," she said defensively. "We were in different places-
"You had goals which didn't fit in with his," he interrupted knowingly. "Which really just confirms my point about your ambition. You needn't get so defensive, Granger, it was inevitable that you two wouldn't work."
She folded her arms across her chest. "Since when are you so bloody observant and knowledgeable about relationships?"
"I'm not," he said, pausing to smirk. "I just know a mismatch when I see one-
"I'll have you know that our relationship was a good one when we were together."
"Good?" he echoed. "Isn't that a synonym for tedious when talking about relationships?"
Her face scrunched up with frustration. "You know, you are bloody-
"I don't see why you are so offended," he interrupted again. "I am actually offering you a compliment by discussing your ambition. I've heard about the work you've been doing at the Ministry. Very impressive."
"Oh," she murmured, momentarily frazzled by him. Again. "Well, thank you, but I still don't agree with what you're saying about mine and Ron's relationship. Nor do I feel particularly comfortable talking about it with you. No offence."
He shrugged his shoulders. "None taken. Would you prefer we dropped the subject?"
"Suites me fine. I hardly find Weasley an invigorating topic for discussion."
She rolled her eyes. "You know, Ron is a good-
"I do have one final question about it though," he said quickly. "And then we can talk about something else, as long as it's not my father."
Hermione absently wondered if curiosity would kill her or Crookshanks first. "Go ahead."
"Do you think you and Weasley will get back together?"
She definitely hadn't been expecting that, and she was certain her expression told him so. "Um, no," she confessed hesitantly. "Our romantic relationship is over for good, and as sad as that is, I can't help but feel a little...well-
"Relieved," he finished for her.
The implication that he felt the same about Lucius' death hung between them like their misty breaths, and Hermione simply nodded with understanding, sensing that it was a matter better left unsaid. The silence that followed was neither comfortable nor abrasive; it was simply there until it wasn't, like them and everything else.
"Tell me something about her," requested Draco predictably, tilting his head towards the gravestone. "Actually, I remember you mentioned something about the music she liked, and you mentioned a group? The Bugs, or something?"
"The Bugs?" she gasped. "The Bugs?"
"Isn't that what you-
"The Beatles, Draco, they were called The Beatles."
He cocked his head and gave her a dull look. "Close enough."
"It is most certainly not," she argued stubbornly. "The Beatles were a revolutionary band that completely changed Muggle music-
"In case you failed to notice, Granger," he said slowly. "I was hardly raised to have an interest in Muggle culture."
She frowned. "Okay, point made. Anyway, Tonks loved them. I guess her Dad must've introduced her to them. Her favourite song was 'I Want to Hold your Hand.'"
"Sounds like a frivolous ballad of some sort."
"It's not. Actually, wait, I think I might..." she trailed off and reached to rummage in her bag, removing a small object. "Yes, here we are."
Draco eyed the unfamiliar item suspiciously. "What the fuck is that?"
"It's a portable Muggle device for playing music," she explained, withdrawing her wand. "I have the song on here. If I just cast a quick charm, then it should play-
"Granger, is this really necessary?"
"Oh hush, it's a travesty you haven't heard their music before," she told him, grinning triumphantly when the opening riff started to play. "See, hardly a ballad, is it?"
He didn't respond, and she didn't see the cynical expression she suspected had stolen his face as she bobbed her head along to the familiar beat. Later on, when she was alone in bed, she would question when she had started to feel comfortable in Draco's presence; comfortable enough that she lost herself in the music, and began to sing along with the lyrics.
"I want to hold your hand. And when I touch you I feel happy insi..." Her voice faded out when she noticed Draco was watching her with blatant amusement, a smirk on his lips that was almost a smile. She felt a blush warm her cheeks as she cleared her throat and turned off the music, dropping her eyes to hide her embarrassment. "Yes, well...you get the idea."
"Why did you stop?" he asked, smirk still in place. "That was quite a little show-
"Oh, shut up. Anyway, that was her favourite song-
"You seemed rather fond of it yourself," he quipped.
She pursed her lips. "You are so infuriating."
"You are charming."
The moment the words left him, his features hardened back into a stoic mask, while Hermione gasped, and her mouth fell from its hinges in shock. She blinked and studied him curiously, scanning his face for any hint of discomfort or jest, but he just stood there as nonchalant as ever, and she wondered if he'd even said it.
" I'm sorry," she said. "What did you just say?"
"Nothing important," he replied firmly, extending his arm out to drop the black rose on Tonks' grave.
He turned back to Hermione, his eyes as soft as she'd ever seen them, and she held her breath waiting for him to speak. She could see his hands fidgeting at his sides, his fists clenching and unclenching like he wasn't sure what to do with them, and for a moment she thought he might reach out and touch her. But then his indifferent facade returned, and she knew the moment had passed.
"Good night, Granger," he said, and he began to walk away.
"Good night, Draco."
February 14th, 2003
He was late.
She always came to the graveyard for eleven at night, and he'd always been there before she'd arrived. Always. It was what she'd come to expect, so when his silhouette hadn't been lingering by Tonks' grave tonight, she'd instantly felt unsettled. Her chest had turned cold with concern, wondering if something had happened to Draco, and then she'd felt troubled, thinking that perhaps he had simply grown tired of mourning the dead.
The worst thing was she felt like they had some unfinished business from last Valentine's Day, and it had been playing on her mind for the last twelve months, popping into her head at impromptu and inappropriate times. She had even contemplated trying to contact him but had always talked herself out of it. As odd and macabre as it sounded, the graveyard had somehow become their secret sanctuary, and she questioned whether she would breaking some kind of unwritten contract between them if she asked to meet outside of this place.
She started when she heard footsteps behind her, but relief swept through her when she saw Draco making his way towards her, his shoulders slumped and his hand tucked into his pockets. She found herself greeting him with a warm smile as he stopped at her side.
"I wasn't sure you were going to come."
"I was delayed," he told her. "Issues with work."
"I see," she said quietly.
He arched a curious eyebrow at her. "What's wrong, Granger? Would you have missed me if I hadn't turned up?"
"I was...disappointed when you weren't here," she confessed, blushing when his eyes widened a little. "Well...it's lonely here, and I quite...like meeting here with you."
His expression remained subtly stunned as he regarded her. "Are you saying you enjoy my company?"
"I guess I am," she nodded shyly. "I was puzzled when you weren't here. You're always here before me."
"As I said, I had issues with work. The Ministry have been trying to buy exclusivity for my supplies of potions ingredients, and they decided to-
"You're not going to mock me for confessing that I enjoy your company?" she asked suddenly.
"Why would I?" he replied. "We established a couple of years ago that I didn't mind your presence, and you didn't mind mine."
"There's quite a difference between enjoying someone's presence and being indifferent to it."
His features changed slightly, like he was drinking her in. "Yes, there certainly is."
She nibbled her lower lip anxiously. "Can ask you something?" she questioned, waiting until he nodded. "What do you usually do before I come here?"
"I wait for you."
That caught her off guard, but she was smiling again before she could help it, warmth gathering in her chest as she studied him almost affectionately. He stared back at her with an unreadable gaze, but when she thought it dropped to her lips, her pulse accelerated slightly, and her throat became dry.
"Tell me something about you," said Draco.
Hermione faltered and glanced at Tonks' grave. "Don't you mean her?"
"No, you. Tell me something about you."
She thought about protesting or changing the subject but decided to see where this would go. "My favourite colour-
"Is blue," he finished. "I know that."
"Of course," he said with a shrug. "We've already discussed that we've known each other for years. Over a decade, in fact. I know your favourite colour is blue."
"But how?" she asked. "I've never-
"You wore blue to the Yule Ball, the only piece of jewellery I've ever seen you wear more than once is a blue bracelet, you always have blue gloves," he listed casually. "It's just common sense really. You probably know my favourite colour too."
Hermione hesitated to study him carefully. "You usually wear black and grey, but your favourite colour is green. You scarf is green and there are emeralds in your ring. However, I feel I should point out that it's fairly obvious and stereotypical; Slytherin colours."
He shrugged. "But you still know it. Tell me something about you I don't know."
She thought hard, tossing ideas around in her head and rejecting them when she thought them to be too obvious or insignificant. All the time, Draco watched her expectantly, his fringe falling into his eyes as he bowed his head, and Hermione realised he was rather close to her.
"I'm frightened of the dark," she admitted finally. "I have been ever since I was a kid. If I'm alone in bed, I need to leave a lamp on."
He seemed to consider her words for a second, nodding like her answer was satisfactory. "I'm the opposite," he said. "I find it difficult to sleep with any light in the room. Tell me something else."
She was quicker this time. "I have a rather unhealthy addiction to tea," she told him. "I have about four cups a day."
"Again, I am the opposite. I can't stand tea," he replied with a faint grin. "Something else."
She lowered her eyes and braced herself for her next confession. "I still have nightmares about the war."
His grin disappeared. "Then we have that in common."
"You have them too?"
"I imagine many of the people who were involved do," he sighed. "But yes, I do. Sometimes about you."
"Within the last few years, yes. I'm assuming it's because our relationship has become somewhat...amicable recently," he explained in a low tone. "I have nightmares about what Bellatrix did to you in the Manor."
She flinched as the memories invaded her head, like a loud thunder storm rattling around the caverns of her skull. "Draco-
"I should've interfered-
"I understand why you didn't," she assured him sincerely. "You couldn't. I have never blamed you for what happened."
His lips twitched and his jaw tightened. "Then there's something else we don't have in common."
There was remorse in Draco's eyes and the downturned bend of his mouth, and Hermione was captivated by the authenticity of it. She couldn't recall ever seeing him like this in all the years she'd known him; deflated and exposed in a way she imagined only his mother had seen, and it stirred something within her. She would probably never know why the urge to kiss his cheek had struck her so suddenly. Even when Harry and Ron were feeling down, she would usually offer them hugs, but rarely a peck on the cheek, but there she was, leaning forward to plant her mouth on Draco's skin like it was the most natural thing in the world.
But her movements must've caught his attention, and he was twisting to face her, causing her puckered lips to land at the corner of his. Hermione realised her mistake too late, letting the kiss linger next to the faint dent of his shallow dimple as the moment caught up with her, but then she pulled back and sucked in a harsh breath.
Their faces were so close, maybe an inch or so between them, and Hermione warily peered up at him through the veil of her lashes. She'd expected him to look disgusted or offended, but his features were relaxed, his eyes hooded but watching her intensely, measuring her. They dropped down to her slightly parted lips, and she thought he was going to kiss her. She waited; one, two, three seconds, but then the moment caught up with her, and she quickly stepped away from him, back into the cold wind.
"I...I'm sorry," she stuttered, tucking a loose lock of her hair behind her ear. "That was...probably inappropriate of me."
Draco dampened his lips with a slow dab of his tongue before he spoke. "Inappropriate because of where we are, or because it's me?"
"Um, a bit of both, I guess."
He nodded his head once and took a step towards her, and she could feel his hot breath on her face. "Why would you think it was inappropriate because it's me?"
"I don't know," she said quietly. "I shouldn't have assumed you would be comfortable with that...gesture-
"It wasn't exactly a kiss," she argued half-heartedly. "It was more of a peck really."
"Semantics," he mumbled, dipping his head slightly closer to hers. "And for the record, leave it up to me to decide what I'm comfortable with."
Hermione inhaled sharply when he tilted his head lower, her pulse thumping in her ears as her heartbeat soared, and her body freezing up as she waiting for...something. But he simply mirrored her earlier actions, placing his mouth at the corner of hers with a lingering kiss. No. A peck. She closed her eyes and sighed away the breath she'd been holding and angled her face, but just when she felt the softness of his lips against hers, he pulled back.
"Were you comfortable with that?" he asked.
Her cheeks felt unbelievably hot, but then he was leaning in again, and the blood rushed to her head when she realised he was going to kiss her. Her mouth fell open and there was blast of his breath against her tongue, but then reality was smacking her across the face, and she hastily stumbled away from him. Breathing heavily and staring at the ground, she willed the ground to swallow her up, and then wondered if that was too dark when there were people in the ground all around her, beneath her feet. She forced herself to look at him, but it made little difference; his pristine mask of nonchalance was back in place.
"I'll take that as a no then," said Draco calmly, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a rose, but the petals were a vibrant red instead of the customary black, and he held it out, practically pushing it into her hand when she hesitated to take it. "Happy Valentine's Day, Granger."
The hairs at the nape of Hermione's neck bristled as he brushed past her, bumping their shoulders slightly and leaving her completely speechless. She waited until his footsteps were out of earshot before she moved, feeling slightly dazed as she lifted up the rose to admire its beauty. Carefully stroking the crimson petals with the tips of her fingers, she flinched when she pricked her thumb on a thorn, and she felt very alone.
February 14th, 2004
It had snowed again this year, and as Hermione entered the graveyard and walked along the familiar path, she felt a heavy knot of nerves begin to swell in her stomach.
Their bizarre meeting last year had practically haunted her for the last twelve months, and she'd relentlessly scolded herself for misplacing her priorities. She'd reminded herself repeatedly in the past year that visiting Tonks was her main concern, and had told herself that she would try to forget what had happened with Draco. Or rather, what hadn't happened with him.
She'd done her best to eclipse the memory, but despite her best efforts to pretend she wasn't affected, it was difficult for her to ignore that there had been an unquestionable spark between them; a burning intrigue and connection that made little sense but had been too stark and striking to ignore. The urge to contact him before today had pestered her relentlessly, but she'd resisted, reasoning that being so fixated on a kiss that had never happened was far from healthy or logical. Nevertheless, she couldn't shift the anxiety, unable to determine if she was anticipating seeing Draco, or dreading it.
She frowned when she spotted him leaning against the oak tree, his ghostly breaths hanging in the air as she approached with that knot nerves practically ready to burst now. He lifted his head slightly to greet her, his expression staying the same except for a slight twitch of his jaw.
"Why aren't you by Tonks?" asked Hermione
"I didn't come to see her," he said. "I came to see you."
Her heart shot up into her throat but she clung to her rationality and looked past him at the elm tree. "Well...well then you shouldn't be here at all. I am here to pay my respects to my friend-
"You sound like you did the first time we met here," he grumbled, rolling his eyes. "I thought we'd moved on from all that-
"Draco, I'm not here to entertain whatever game you're playing."
"I don't have a game, Granger. Just some unfinished business."
She swallowed hard. "If you wanted to...discuss something, why didn't you contact me?"
"The same reason you didn't contact me. I've been deliberating whether or not our last meeting was a one-off moment of misjudgement or...or a catalyst." He paused and rubbed his lips together. "And as twisted and fucked up as it is, meeting here is somehow apt for us. "
"That's not a legitimate reason."
He shrugged and stepped away from the oak tree. "Perhaps not, but it makes sense, doesn't it?"
"You are such a prat," she scolded. She made to walk past him, but he blocked her path. "Get the hell out of my way, Draco."
"What's your problem?"
"Don't you dare-
"No, come on, Granger," he pressed persistently. "You clearly have something to say-
"I have a few things I would like to say-
"Well, go on then!" he goaded. "Let it rip, Granger! Why are you so pissed off when-
"Because you just walked off last year after...after what happened!" she yelled angrily. "You made me feel like a bloody idiot!"
"What, and I felt brilliant when you recoiled away from me, like I was poison?" he challenged, taking another step towards her. "You weren't exactly encouraging, so forgive me if I didn't feel like hanging around-
"And you decided it would be a good idea to just show up here?"
"Well, as I said, this somehow seems fitting for us, and why break the routine?" he said. "Plus, judging by your reaction, I doubt you'd have been welcoming if I'd just turned up at your office or your home, and I can tell by your face that you know I'm right."
She pursed her lips stubbornly. "You don't know me well enough to-
"Oh, for fuck's sake, Granger!" he blurted with a frustrated tone. "I do know you. Haven't you figured that out by now? I knew that you would feel guilty for coming here to see me, like you were betraying Tonks or something-
"I am here to see Tonks, not you-
"I know that you're ridiculously stubborn, and intentionally difficult," he went on. "And Merlin fucking forbid that you be proven wrong about anything, or the Ministry would fall-
"I know that you're intelligent, and witty, and loyal," he said, his tone a little softer. "And I know that I respect you."
Hermione inhaled sharply, very aware of how close he was to her as the cold mists of his breaths mingled with hers.
"I know I'm attracted to you," he said confidently, smirking when her eyes widened with surprised and a blush tinged her cheeks. "And I know you're attracted to me."
She choked on nothing. "Well, how presumptuous of you-
"Is it really so presumptuous when I'm right?" he challenged. "You're not exactly challenging it. You were the one who kissed me first last year-
"It was just a bloody peck on the cheek!"
He grinned, nodded, and took another step forward, erasing those final few inches between them. "That's what I meant by unfinished business."
She barely had a moment to catch her breath before he lowered his head, his mouth fall onto hers so effortlessly and more gently than she could ever have imagined him being. His lips were a little chapped and so were hers, creating this rather rough friction between the kiss that tingled like fragile static. When one of his hands reached up to slightly tilt her chin and the other found its way into her curls, she let go of her control and leant into his body heat, lifting her own hands to slowly feather her fingertips up his cheeks and jawline.
She sighed into his mouth when he licked the inside of her lips, stroking his tongue over hers , and that gesture fired her up. She tugged the back of his neck and forced him closer, feeling him gather a fistful of her hair as the kiss heated up, and all those questions she'd been asking herself in the last year about what it would've been like to actually kiss him spurred her on, encouraging her to test how he felt and tasted. She moaned when his teeth locked around her bottom lip and dragged it out, giving it a deliberate suck before he was kissing her hard again.
Draco pulled back and trailed his lips down her cheek, kissing that sensitive stretch of skin by her ear and throat. Hermione even cocked her head so he could access more of her neck, but when her lids fluttered open and she saw the elm tree, she froze.
"Wait, stop," she said, pushing him back. "What the hell are we doing?"
He frowned down at her, and she tried not to pay attention when he rubbed his lips together. "I believe that was called kissing, Granger."
"Draco, I'm serious. How can you even know that we are compatible like that, based on a few meetings in a graveyard over a span of five years?"
He gave her dull look. "Are you forgetting the several years before that?"
"In which we hated each other," she pointed out. "Why are you so sure that this will work?"
"Why are you so sure it won't?" he fired back. "And I'm not, I'm just suggesting we explore it. I believe that's what most people who are attracted to each other do before they make any sort of commitment. I know it sounds weird, but fuck it, let's go mental."
Folding her arms across her chest, she tried to stifle her smile. "You always have an answer for everything, don't you?"
"And you always have questions," he said, absently toying with a stray lock of her hair between his fingers. "So, yes or no?"
"What exactly are you asking?"
"That we see if we can actually communicate outside of a graveyard. Spend the night with me."
She scoffed and stepped back. "Excuse me, Draco Malfoy, but I am not that kind of girl-
"Not like that," he interrupted, regarding her with a very amused smirk. "Honestly, Granger, I didn't know you had such a dirty mind-
"There's a cafe in Soho that's open until late," he explained. "We have about an hour left before Valentine's Day is over, so give it an hour and we'll see what happens."
Hermione shifted her weight nervously and glanced in the direction of Tonks' grave. "But what about her?"
"She'll still be here, Granger," he replied. "You can visit any day of the year, but today I'm asking you to be with me."
He held out his hand for her to take, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she could hear Tonks singing 'I Want to Hold your Hand', and she reached out to tangle her fingers with his.
And then they walked away.
Hand in hand.
February 14th, 2065
Humming a faithful Beatles song under her breath, Hermione removed the rose from her pocket.
She wasn't sure if it was unbearably cold this year, or if age had simply made her more aware of it. The snow felt like it had buried into her bones and was wrapped around her stiff joints. A harsh gust of wind grabbed her hat from her head, and her short, grey hairs went wild around her face. Watching her hat roll down the hill, she sighed when she realised she would've chased after it many years ago, but age had inevitably stolen her energy and agility.
Shivering as the cold air now harassed her exposed ears, she turned back to the grave and stretched out her arm to trace her wrinkled and trembling finger across the headstone's epitaph, tears falling down her cheeks, too many to count.
"I miss you so much," she said to no one. "The kids do too, and the grandkids. They wanted to come with me but...I just wanted it to be us. Like old times."
She sniffed and cleared her throat.
"Um...I went with Lyra yesterday to Diagon Alley, and we bought some of the books Thuban will need in September," she rambled absently. "I think he wants to be in Slytherin like his cousins...Oh, and Caelum's doing great with the business. He's so much like you, it scares me sometimes."
She twisted the stem of the rose in her hand and didn't flinch when she pricked herself. Glancing down at the black petals, she felt her knees weaken.
"There's no one here to answer my questions anymore," she said in a broken voice, swallowing down a sob. "The kids try to help, but it's not working. I am...I am lost."
Pulling in a breath to steady herself, she dropped the rose on the grave and placed her hands over her heart.
"I don't think I've got long, you know," she murmured. "I'm tired all the time. It's like I can feel my heart slowing down, but it's felt like that since you left to be honest. But I think...I think I'm fading, and I can't tell the kids this, but I'm not scared. I just...I want to see you again."
She reached up to brush away her tears with her gloved hand. They were his gloves.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Draco," she said. "Save me the seat next to yours."
a/n: Hey guys! Hope this was okay! (sorry about the rather depressing ending!) For those who didn't see my post on tumblr on facebook, I'm going to be quite late with updating Iso. I have A LOT of uni working coming up and I'm just swamped, but I'll post the new chapter asap!
Bella Detesta Matribus (Tonks' epitaph)is a Horace quote and basically translates to "Wars are the dread of mothers."
Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked it! Regan, thank you again for helping me with Iso and this a small token of my gratitude! Sorry if it's crap, and Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!