Hermione loved this tree. After her friends, the teachers, and the carefree days of a schoolgirl, this tree was what she would miss the most. She could vividly remember each of the countless times she sat at the base of the willow tree or rowed one of the tiny boats into its lagoon. Sometimes alone, but more often accompanied, Hermione always took a book, whether or not she planned to read. Her eyes trailed up the long sweeping branches to the top of the tree, then down the thick trunk, just hidden behind the veil of leaves. A soft wind blew, brushing the dainty hair to the side just long enough for her to catch a glimpse of a marking on the trunk. Hermione smiled, remembering. She knew that mark well, and she knew just what it said:
~HG + DM~
It seems our day keeps
falling on a leap year
Though it could not be read from such a distance, Hermione knew. She knew every sliver of wood that stood from the smooth grain of the letters. She could close her eyes and feel the words beneath her fingers; written in a tight script, so small it would take close examination for a stranger to decipher.
She practiced this on a warm morning in June, while she sat on a mossy log and listened to the current of the lake; Hermione lifted a hand toward the tree and closed her eyes, remembering each and every loving stroke he'd taken while pretending to tread her fingers over the course surface. Hermione stayed this way for a moment too long to consciously calculate, and it wasn't until something real brushed against her fingers that she thrown from her daydream.
Something firm and smooth encased her hand, covering all but her fingers and spreading a warmth through her forearm. Hermione slowly opened her eyes, not alarmed in the least. Her cheerful brown orbs focused on the smiling face of the boy she'd just been remembering, and a smile crossed her lips.
"Hey," he said, as if it was the most rudimentary action. Hermione grinned, squeezing the hand she held in her own as he sat down.
"What are you doing here?" she asked, her tone reprimanding, but cheerful, amusement dancing in her eyes. She leaned close. "Someone might see you." The pale boy laughed, mimicking her move and leaning close enough to brush her nose with his own.
"I don't care," he said, still smiling, and Hermione studied his face.
He laughed. A deep, hearty laugh that shot warm chills down her spine.
"Of course. Do you forget, Hermione, that you were the one who wanted to hide?" he asked. "I only agreed." Her smile suddenly turning sad, Hermione shifted her eyes to the log beneath them, unusually interested in the intricate moss patterns. The boy laughed again, placing a thin finger below her chin and lifting it slightly. Hermione turned her eyes back to his face. "Don't look at me that way. What's done is done, we can't change it now. The train is leaving in half an hour; let’s not spend these last few minutes thinking of what could have been, hm?" Hermione sighed.
"How can you sound so cheerful? We're about to leave everything behind; this place is my life... and I'll never see it again. I'll never see... you, again," she said, keeping her fingers tightly weaved in his and bringing her free hand to gently brush along the freshly shaven skin of his cheek.
"Don't say things like that. Think positively; I'll see you at the beginning of next term."
"Draco, we graduated yesterday. There is no next term," she said tiredly, shoulders dropping a bit, but Draco still grinned. He leaned close again, whispering for a reason beyond them both.
"I know that," he said slowly, pointing to himself. "And you know that..." He pointed to her, and then his head. "But our minds... they don't have to know that." Hermione smiled.
"Perhaps that's good enough for you, but my mind has been trained against self-trickery. And I suppose it's not healthy to live in the past."
Draco was silent for a moment and then straightened, inhaling sharply.
"You know what? You're right. We should be dwelling in the future, not the past. Where are you off to, post August?" he asked, changing the subject, and Hermione smiled.
"I was accepted to
"Oh," he said quietly, then paused before pulling his hand from hers and turning away. Hermione frowned.
"Why does everything you do have to be approved by Seth? Seth, Seth, Seth... it's always about him, isn't it?"
"Draco, please, don't get upset..."
"Isn't it, Hermione? When was the last time you did something because you wanted to, and not because it would benefit your boyfriend?" he asked her harshly and she remained silent, lightly biting her lip. Draco stubbornly kept his eyes away for as long as possible, but his expression softened as he turned them back. "Aw, no, I'm sorry..." he said gently, pulling her into his arms. Hermione gladly accepted the embrace, knowing she wouldn't have a chance for many more.
"Draco, why do you always get like this whenever I mention Seth? He's done nothing but attempt to be your friend, what have you against him?" she asked and Draco sighed.
"You and I both know the answer to that question, Hermione," he said, holding her head to his chest and softly running his fingers over her hair. Hermione exhaled in a sigh.
"I know, but I want you to tell me."
"I love you, Hermione, you know that," he whispered softly, and Hermione smiled in spite of herself.
"Love is like a role that we play."
"There was a time when you loved me too," he said, closing his eyes and savoring the feeling of holding her.
"Draco, you're contradicting yourself. I suggest we take your given advice, and not spend our time in the past. We would have never worked, and no one would accept us... we both know it's better this way."
"Fuck that; fuck everything I said. I'm tired of pretending that I'm okay with this, Hermione. I don't want to lose you. I don't want to get off that train at the station and watch you walk away on the arm of someone else. I need you," he said, expertly keeping his voice from cracking. "I'm not ashamed to admit that anymore." Hermione sat up, pulling her head from his chest, and Draco suddenly felt incomplete.
"It's too late for that now, Draco. I'm with Seth now, and no matter what you say, I can't leave him. He needs me too."
Any small shard of hope that still remained in Draco was quickly trampled and burned before his very eyes.
"So... I've lost you," he said, coming to terms with reality and looking blankly at his lap. Hermione quickly shook her head.
"No, of course not, Draco. I'm not marrying him, honestly. And even if I do, we'll always be friends. I'll always be there for you when you need me- just an owl away. I hope I can say the same for you," she said and Draco automatically turned to her.
"Always; don't you ever think for a second that you don't mean something to me," he said with such seriousness, it made Hermione smile.
"I'm glad. Exactly how far will my owl have to fly?" she asked, lifting an eyebrow, and Draco smiled sheepishly.
"Just across the river," he admitted and Hermione's eyebrows regained equal altitude.
"You mean?" she questioned and he nodded. "
"Unless you're too busy with your tyrant," he reminded and she frowned.
"Must you always ruin a perfectly contenting moment?"
Draco held up his hands in defense.
"I didn't ruin the moment, Seth did," he said and Hermione glared playfully, slapping his arm.
"I have half a mind to throw you in the lake, Malfoy," she threatened and Draco winced.
"Ah, it burns," he hissed, pressing a hand to his heart and Hermione laughed. She looked at her watch.
"Oh, we should go; the train leaves in five minutes and I daresay it'll take at least that long to climb the hill."
Draco sighed, nodding, and Hermione moved to get up, but he pulled her back. She didn't ask why; Hermione simply looked into his eyes, her mind pondering the reason her feet refused to cooperate. Suddenly, so quickly it might not have happened, Draco leaned forward and placed the tiniest of tender kisses on her lips.
"To what could have been," he said, and waited for her to say something. Hermione stared for a moment, lips parted, then she mimicked his move, but paused right at contact to trap Draco in a long, passionate kiss. They broke apart slowly.
"To what could have been," she agreed, breathless.
"Hermione! Hermione, where in bloody blazes are you?" called a voice in the distance, which Hermione acknowledged with a smile, and Draco a glare.
"Seth," they said in unison, Hermione happily, but Draco with an air of loathing.
"I should go," she said and he nodded dumbly, reluctantly letting go of her hands. "Write me?"
"Everyday,” Draco promised and Hermione laughed as she stood.
"Not everyday; that might look a tad suspicious," she warned, picking up her bag and swinging it over her shoulder.
"Again," Draco said. "I don't care." Hermione smiled and reached out to lightly brush her fingers though his hair.
"I'll miss you," she said, then dashed off to meet the olive skinned boy at the top of the hill. Draco watched as she walked away, leaving him alone in their spot. That had never once happened before; they would always leave together, regardless of the situation. This is all Seth's fault, Draco cursed, clenching his hands into meaningful fists. Damn Seth. Damn him to hell.
Hours later, Draco sat secluded in his compartment, unbothered by the chatter of the three Slytherin surrounding him. They were still his friends, after all these years, and though Vince had gained a slight amount of intellect and was half worthy of conversation, Greg had lost a good fifty pounds and earned a fifth of it back in muscle, and Pansy had recently conceived the next Goyle, Draco still despised their company as much as he had when they'd met years and years ago. They were never really his friends; they could never be worthy of his secrets. He didn't trust a hair on any of their heads.
During the sullen train ride, Draco kept his eyes fixed on the window, imagining Hermione's smiling face in the clouds. No matter how much he tried to keep his fantasies straight, that dreadful image of a raven haired, olive skinned, blunt nosed prefect always waltzed in and swept his love off her feet, carrying her away from his caring gaze.
Hermione didn't love Seth. He knew, although she may not. She wasn't searching for love; she was searching for happiness, and to her, that meant a man. She was 'in love', so she called herself happy, no matter how ludicrous the idea was to the clear-headed mind of Draco Malfoy. He couldn’t understand why she didn’t see that it wasn't Seth that made her happy and that she wasn't happy with Seth, or that she deserved so much better.
Seconds after Draco had once again creased his brow and pondered matters in which he had little say; there was a knock at the compartment door. He didn't even bother to look up.
His three companions exchanged looks, then Vince, who was seated between Draco and the door, stood to answer it, allowing Pansy, who was sitting across from him, not to put in the effort to stand up. She was due in a month, and frankly, looked as if she'd be having a minimum of five or six babies. It wasn't until Draco heard that angelic voice from his dreams that he paid any attention to anything but his interrupted hallucinations.
"Oh; Crabbe, hi. Would Malfoy happen to be riding with you?" said the voice of goddess, personified.
"Pray tell, exactly your business with Malfoy, Granger? I don't recall that he is expecting-" Vincent began to articulate a response, but Draco cut him off.
"Hermione," he said, standing up and moving toward the door so suddenly that Vincent jumped out of the way. Hermione gave Draco a strange look, glancing sideways at the equally surprised passengers. He wouldn't so much as acknowledge them.
"Erm, I have a note for you, Malfoy. From McGonagall," she said, but lifted an eyebrow, suggesting it hadn't been written or read by the teacher at all.
"Oh," Draco said, slowly reaching to take the note from her offering hand.
"Fallen as low as a messenger pigeon now, have you, Granger?" Pansy interrupted, sneering up at the brunette in the doorway. Hermione sighed, but Draco continued to stare at her as though his 'friend' had never spoken.
"Must you insist on being so juvenile, Parkinson? We are officially adults now, what say we put our bickering aside? It's really getting nobody anywhere," Hermione said, curiously eyeing Draco, who kept his eyes glued to her face as if he believed she would disappear and never return to his gaze.
"For once," chimed Vince. "I have to agree with Granger. Shut your hole, Pansy." Hermione smiled at Vince, who visibly blushed, and turned back to Draco.
"Well, I suppose I shall leave you now, Slytherin. Good day, Malfoy. Parkinson, Goyle... Crabbe," she bid cheerfully. Pansy sneered and Greg numbly lifted his arm over her shoulders. Vince, however, was much more pleasant.
"Bye Granger," he said and Hermione gave a nod, then started from the compartment.
"Yeah... bye..." Draco whispered just before the door closed behind her.
He slowly sat down in his seat, staring blankly at the envelope in his hands, which proudly bore 'Mr. Malfoy' in what anyone close to her would recognize as Hermione's neat script.
"Why did you call her by her first name?" Pansy spat, knocking her knees together and placing a hand on her midsection. She looked to Draco with venomous eyes. He shook himself, snapping out of his funk, and shrugged.
"Departing courtesies," he said un-amusedly, and Vince nodded.
"You could do with a bit of courtesy yourself, Pansy. Honestly, a messenger pigeon? If you were going to insult her, you could have at least done a better job," he said, and Pansy scoffed, mouth wide. They launched into a bicker, which Draco quickly tuned out, instead opening the note he'd received.
I trust you weren't careless enough to open this on the train, am I correct?
I miss you already. Since we will be living quite close, which I am most relieved by, I thought it appropriate to give you my exact address. I do hope you trust me with yours in your first letter, be it tomorrow or ten years from today. I know you will disapprove of what I am about to say, but please, for me, don't do anything drastic.
Seth and I will be sharing a one-bedroom dorm, on the singles side of the building. I know what you're thinking, and believe me, it's unnecessary. We will have separate beds, no worries.
Building C, Apartment D5
Feel free to visit or write to me anytime you need to. As I said before, I am always here for you. I know you don't exactly have a lot of other shoulders to cry on, but I wish you luck in finding better friends at
Please, remember that that kiss was for what could have been and not what could be. I don't mean to sound cold, I'm sorry.
Draco, smiling throughout the letter, even as his eyes brushed over Seth's name, frowned at the very last line.
The letter itself was enough to keep him happy, even through news such as a shared dorm. Hermione was much too intelligent to get herself into a fix she couldn't get out of. But that last line had practically broken his heart.
She had thrown him overboard and withdrawn the life preserver. She insinuated that there was absolutely no chance whatsoever that they could be together.
"Hermione, are you all right, love?" Seth Dunne asked his girlfriend of nine months whom sat on her creaky double bed, sipping tea and staring into space. Hermione jumped slightly as if she hadn't known he was there.
"What? Oh, yes, I'm fine," she insisted, but her voice trailed off and her eyes fixed themselves on a small coffee stain on the ancient dorm room carpet. Seth set himself harshly on the bed, causing Hermione almost to spill her tea. "Lord, Seth, warn me when you're going to do that, hm?" she suggested, placing the cup on the bedside table and checking her shirt for spills.
"Don't tell me what I can and cannot do, Hermione," he said, suiting her with a slightly narrowed glare. Hermione felt a tingle creep up her neck. He was in one of those moods again; the ones where nothing she did was right, everything she said was stupid, and an opinion was something that could get her a split lip. Cautiously, Hermione backed up a bit on the bed.
"I'm sorry Seth, I didn't mean to..."
"Of course you didn't, you never mean to do anything, do you, Princess?"
Hermione cringed. It sickened her how he could make such a simple and legendary term of endearment a phrase that she would fear for eternity. She didn't bother to speak, knowing it would only get her reprimanded.
"Tell me what's wrong," Seth demanded.
"It's nothing, I'm just worried about the thesis I have due in three days. I haven't put as much work into it as I would have hoped to..."
"Don't lie to me, Princess; you've been working nonstop on that paper for a month. I've barely seen you," he said, standing to leer over her. Hermione cowered away from him, fearing the wrath of his hands.
"Tell me the truth, Princess, or I'll force you."
"Honestly, it's just my paper, I..."
In seconds, Seth had extracted his wand. He cast a powerful silencing charm on their dorm, then pointed it toward Hermione.
"Tell me, Princess."
She was silent.
"Very well," Seth said, exasperated, and cast a truth spell. A scream erupted from deep in her throat as Hermione felt her heart being ripped out and placed in his palm.
"Seth, you're hurting me," she gasped, clutching the bed sheets tightly in her hands.
"Tell me; what's wrong?"
"You're hurting me, that's what's fucking wrong!" Hermione screamed; it wasn't a lie and so sufficed.
"Don't you dare use that tone of voice with me," Seth growled, repeating the spell and rousing another scream from his girlfriend. "Now tell me, Princess, what was bothering you before I asked?" he said with a sick sweetness that had Hermione wanting to spit in his face.
"I-I'm worried about D-Draco... he hasn't w-written since Monday."
The words were forced out before Hermione could stop them, but once they were said, she was glad. The pain was instantly eased, and she fell back on the bed, breathing heavily.
"What?" Seth growled, eyes piercing her. Hermione would have shuddered, had she the energy. She swallowed; there was no use in denying it now; he already knew.
"He promised to write me everyday, and he hasn't since Monday... sometimes he'll miss a day here and there, but it's been almost an entire week. I'm worried that something might have happened to him," she gasped weakly, and Seth flung himself at her, straddling her hips as if she were apt to try and get away. All Hermione wanted was sleep.
"I don't want you writing to, speaking with, or seeing him anymore, Princess. You are mine; I don't want you soiled by unworthy hands. Be damned with Malfoy, he deserved it if something happened."
"How can you say that?" Hermione gasped. "He was your best friend; your only friend until he introduced us." Seth promptly slapped her across the face.
"Don't talk back to me, Princess... you know what naughty little royalties get, don't you?"
"Oh, no... please Seth, don't..." she pleaded, whimpering. Seth slapped her again.
"What did I just say? You deserve it now, Princess."
Hermione closed her eyes tightly, too weak to put up much of a fight. Seth promptly ripped off her clothes and unzipped his pants; forcefully and painfully taking advantage of her, despite her pleads and whimpers.
When he was finished, Hermione lay unconscious in her bed, passed out from exhaustion, a trickle of red soiling the sheets between her legs.
Seth smiled at her, pulling the sheets to her chin and brushing the mass of hair covering her face behind her ear before kissing her forehead softly.
"Goodnight, Princess," he whispered, then took the delicate teacup from the bedside table, bringing it carefully into the tiny kitchen.
Hermione woke hours later. It had been early morning when Seth had questioned her wellbeing and she had slept through all her classes. When her eyes finally fluttered open, awakening from a nightmare born from reality, it was pitch dark. Hermione could hear the gentle snores of her boyfriend in the bed a few feet away, and she had to hold back her tears. He'd done it again, he'd hurt her, again; she had to get away. Away from him, away from his torture, away from everything. Sadly, she had nowhere to go.
A tap on the window reminded Hermione that she and Seth were not alone on the planet. She moved quickly to stop the sound, as so it would not wake her despot. She hadn't bothered to cover herself first; priorities primarily, always. As she drew back the curtains, the very familiar face of
Quickly and quietly, Hermione opened the window and let
I am forever sorry that I haven't written in so long. I've wanted to, so much, but
I apologize for the late arrival of this letter. I've had it written all day, but it was only when
Hermione closed her eyes and pressed the letter to her chest.
"No, Draco. Never an inconvenience," she whispered, letting tears of longing blur the beautiful words on her cherished letter.
"Hermione? Are you all right in there?"
Hermione gasped, standing quickly and exiting the bathroom.
"Yes, Seth, I'm fine," she assured, and he grumbled, rolling over in his sheets. Hermione waited until she was fairly sure he was asleep, then quickly crept to her bureau, where a tattered shoebox resided, hidden beneath a mountain of sweatshirts. She knew Seth went through her underwear drawer, but was sure he had no interest in heavy outerwear. Slowly, Hermione lifted the drawer and pulled it out, but a telltale creek gave her away.
"Princess? What are you doing?"
Hermione froze as she heard Seth's bedsprings creak. She hoped and prayed he hadn't decided to rise.
"I'm all right Seth, just a bit cold; thought I'd get some warmer clothes," she called back, but a nervous shake in her voice drew him closer.
"No need for that; I'll warm you up..."
Indeed, Seth had departed from his bed, coming toward her. Quickly, Hermione shoved the letter in the box with all the others, closed the lid and hid it quickly.
"Hermione, what are you hiding?" Seth asked suspiciously, coming toward her, not at all fazed by her exposed skin. Hermione swallowed.
"N-Nothing, just getting a sweater, as I said," she insisted, but he narrowed his eyes and pushed her out of the way, reopening the drawer and shifting the garments. Hermione held her breath, hoping that, against all odds, he would not notice her treasure trove.
Seth lifted the lid off of the shoebox and plunged his hand into the many letters that lay below. He extracted one, and started to read, mouth moving as he formed the words in his mind.
"Love Draco? Hermione, what exactly have you been doing at these luncheons? A little desert back in the dorm, hm? Strawberries and whip cream, maybe?" he accused and Hermione gasped.
"No, of course not, Seth. He doesn't mean it when he says things like that; it's a courtesy..."
"Don't patronize me!" Seth hissed, then carefully ripped the letter in half. Hermione felt her heart split with it.
"No, please, don't!" she pleaded, pulling the box from the drawer and holding it to her bosom like a child. Seth glared, turning away and moving back toward his bed. For a moment, Hermione allowed herself to believe that she had finally won, but found that she was sorely mistaken. Seth appeared in front of Hermione once more, holding in his hand a most deadly weapon, pointed directly at her. She braced herself for a most certain pain, but he simply said, "Accio." The box and letters loosened themselves from her embrace and came to whom they were called, though Hermione reached out with all in her.
"No! Please, Seth, anything but that!" she pleaded, dropping to her hands and knees. Seth regarded her with a sneer as he dropped the box on the floor, scattering the letters across the rug. "Oh, thank you!" Hermione squealed, moving toward them, but Seth was quicker. He said one simple Latin word and all the precious letters burst into flames. Hermione let out a scream of utmost pain and Seth pulled her to her feet and pushed her back into bed, away from the smoldering ashes.
"I should punish you for what you've done, Princess," he said in an eerily calm voice and Hermione whimpered, tears unleashed and falling freely down her face. "But I won't..." She sighed slightly, but it was all too premature. "I believe your secret lover will receive enough punishment for the both of you, my dear. Get some rest, you've much work to make up tomorrow," Seth ordered, sounding almost as if he cared, and stepped out the few remaining flames before returning to his own bed. Hermione lay shivering and torn, awake for hours.
Draco, she repeated inside her head. He's going to hurt Draco. No way in the seven circles of hell am I going to let him lay a finger...
"Hermione," Seth said warningly. "Where are you going?"
Hermione, clean and dressed, stood in front of the doorway, holding in one hand a large bag, and her laptop computer case in the other. A bit suspicious, she would agree, but nothing too difficult to handle.
"I have a lot to make up from yesterday, Seth; I'm going to the library," she said with such confidence that he believed her.
"What's with the bag?"
Hermione looked down at the duffle in her hand and casually shrugged.
"The laundromat is right next door; I figured that I might as well clean my good dress for my presentation on Monday," she said and he nodded.
"You wouldn't happen to be heading off to a secret lunch date, would you?"
Hermione laughed, quite convincingly, and shook her head.
"Of course not, Seth. You don't want me to see Draco anymore, so I won't. You know what's best for me. Besides, I don't have time for lunch; much too much work."
Seth paused a moment, looking her up and down, but Hermione kept her confidence.
"All right… when will you be back?" he asked and she shrugged.
"I'm not sure; before dinner," Hermione said, leaning forward to kiss his lips, and Seth allowed her.
"You better be," he warned and turned angrily back into the dorm.
Hermione walked directly through the door, down the stairs, across the entry hall, and straight into the taxi she had already called.
"As you wish," he said and speedily honored her request. Hermione, meanwhile, reflected.
Sometimes Seth was so gullible it was out of character. He hadn't even checked her bag for dirty clothes, for which she was lucky, as they were all clean and pressed. Hermione couldn't believe she was running away from him. She loved him, didn't she? But the memories of the night before, and the many other nights prior, brought tears to her eyes. Her letters; her precious letters, each one of them, destroyed. She could have murdered him for that alone, let be the rape and abuse. Hermione could only hope that Draco would understand; he would never have done anything like this to her, and as much as she told herself that Seth didn't mean it, she couldn't help but to be apathetic. It didn't matter if he intended it, the truth remained that he had done it. Draco never would have come close to laying more than a gentle finger on her and Hermione was very well aware.
As the cab crossed the long bridge between college campuses, Hermione felt an easement settle upon her. She was thankful it was Saturday and Draco wouldn’t have class; she needed him immediately.
"Here we are miss, that'll be..." but Hermione didn't stop for idle chitchat; she shoved a fifty note in the man's face and muttered, "Keep the change." Before leaping out of the car, pulling her bags with her, and walking into the main lobby. A short, bone thin, big chested witch sat at the desk with a pin on her blouse introducing her as Wednesday. Hermione approached with a smile, but Wednesday frowned as she looked up.
"Are you all right, Miss?" she asked in a high and quite annoying voice, noticing the battered appearance of Hermione's face. Seth really is quite careless sometimes, she thought. What if I had gone to the library? Someone would surely have reported me.
"Oh, yes, I'm quite all right... had a bit of a row with my boyfriends ex."
Wednesday nodded in sympathy.
"That's a rough cut," she said, with each word sounding more childlike. "Can I help you?"
"Could you tell me the location of building 4553, please? I'm here to visit a friend, and they've conveniently forgotten to give me directions," she asked as sweetly as possible, frowning as Wednesday bit her lip.
"Technically I'm not supposed to let anyone not enrolled past the gates, but you look like you could use a friend, so I'll make an exception," she finally granted and Hermione grinned. For once, Seth had come in handy. "Here's a map of the grounds."
"Oh, thank you so much," Hermione praised, then sped out the lobby doors.
-x- -x- -x-
Hermione stood outside apartment 1257 with her map in one hand and bags in the other. She took a deep breath and lifted a fist toward the peeling red door, hoping against all hope that Draco would be home. After a brief bit of confidence building, she knocked three times.
"Coming!" called a voice from within, and Hermione sighed in relief, listening as the shuffle of feet came increasingly closer to the door. Finally, it opened, and Hermione tried to smile as best she could. Draco's face went from impassive, to ecstatic, to devastated in rapid succession as he recognized her, then noticed her tearstained and beaten face. Frozen in shock, he said nothing.
"Hey," Hermione whispered, looking away as she felt her lip quiver and fresh tears come closer. Draco opened his mouth, but again, nothing came forth. Instead, he gave up on talking and stepped forward, wrapping her tight in his arms. Hermione opened her floodgate, sobbing into his shoulder and holding him for all he was worth.
"Shh," Draco managed, rocking her and stroking her hair. "Don't cry, Hermione... please don't cry..." he whispered, but she didn't take heed, simply sobbing, unable to speak.
"Hey! Do you mind? Some of us actually want to pass into next term!" called a voice from down the hall, followed by the loud slam of the door. Draco glared in the direction and took the bags from Hermione's hand.
"Come on," he said softly, pulling her into his apartment and closing the door before dropping her stuff and leading her toward the couch. He let her cry for a while, gently rubbing her back, a look of concern deeply etched into his face. "What happened?" he softly asked after she'd calmed down and Hermione pulled back slightly, keeping her head down.
"Seth..." she breathed, and Draco's eyes narrowed at the thought of such a bastard with her; it was beyond his comprehension that a person could treat something so wonderful so terribly. Draco gently wiped a tear from her cheek, softening his features for her benefit.
"Tell me," he pleaded in whisper, pressing his lips to her forehead. Hermione shook her head.
"He found my box of your letters. He destroyed them, Draco; every single one- gone. Except..." she said softly, pulling out a crumpled piece of parchment that looked as if it had been opened a hundred times. It was the first letter he'd ever written, stating that although he knew she didn't want him to, he was going to tell her exactly how he felt about her. Draco watched as she held the letter lovingly to her chest, and he brushed the hair across her forehead. "I kept it in a safer place..." Hermione paused a moment, then looked up. "He's mad, Draco. He thinks I'm having an affair... I fear for you... I'm here to warn you..." she shook her head. "I don't even want to think of what he could do to you." Draco shook his head, pulling her back into his arms.
"I want to know what he's done to you," he said, twisting her words. Hermione took a stuttered breath as he held her closer.
"No you don't..." she whispered truthfully, closing her eyes and burying her head in his chest. They stayed that way peacefully, neither speaking nor moving until Hermione lifted her head from his chest and looked around. "I didn't interrupt anything, did I?" she asked, noticing a half eaten sandwich on a paper plate, just meters away on the floor. Draco laughed, kissing her forehead.
"Never,” he promised and Hermione smiled up at him. Draco frowned, then, bringing a hand to touch the distinguishable markings on her face. "He did this to you." It was a statement, not a question, and Hermione dropped both her smile and her gaze. "After he found the letters?" Draco asked, feeling involuntarily guilty. Hermione shook her head.
"Before," she whispered, and Draco looked confused.
"Sometimes I step out of line. I deserve it."
Draco held her face in his hand, carefully as not to harm her further, and turned her up to look at him.
"You don't deserve anything like this, Hermione. Don't let him make you believe that," he said as another tear fell down her face.
"Why are you so good to me?" she asked in whisper and Draco smiled slightly, kissing the tear away.
"I love you, Hermione," he said. Hermione squeezed her eyes shut.
"Why? How can you love something so... foul and dirty? So undeserving?" Hermione asked, pulling away and putting her head in her hands. Draco immediately pulled her back.
"You're not, you're nothing like that. You're beautiful, Hermione... and pure, and good. You deserve the world; don't let anyone tell you differently," he said and Hermione sobbed.
"He doesn't want me to see you anymore," she said softly, clinging to his shirt, and Draco continued to comfort her.
"I'm here now," he said. "I want to help you, Hermione. Tell me what you want me to do; I'll do anything." Hermione looked up, into eyes full of concern.
"Kiss me," she pleaded, and Draco didn't need to be told twice. He quickly descended his lips upon hers, catching Hermione in a kiss as passionate as their last. "Draco... do you love me?" she asked in whisper as they broke apart and he held her close.
"Hermione, I will always love you," he said with deep honesty and Hermione swallowed, looking almost nervous.
"Show me. Make love to me."
Draco was taken aback; her request was entire unexpected.
She slid off the couch and onto the floor, pulling him with her.
"Please, Draco. He only loves me when he's hurting me," Hermione whispered and Draco could not deny her. If she needed him to help her forget Seth, he would do anything. Slowly and gently, he began to mark gentle kisses near her lips. "Thank you..." she whispered as she started unbuttoning his shirt.
Draco said nothing. He worked slowly, taking nearly half an hour just to rid her of her clothing. Hermione didn't mind in the least. She felt calm and carefree; his gentle touch worked miracles and throughout the entire process, there was no pain.
Just over an hour after they had started, Draco was ready and positioned over her, supported by his hands. Hermione opened her legs as far as she could, closing her eyes as she waited. Waited for pain, for pleasure; for feeling.
Penetration, however, was delayed. Draco kissed her neck softly, calming her as best he could. He knew she was scared and he, himself, needed to comfort her.
"Are you sure?" he asked again, and she nodded, though the tears slid down her face. "I love you, Hermione." To his surprise, she answered.
"I love you too, Draco."
And he entered her, ever so slowly and gently. Hermione arched her back, holding in all that she was feeling. Draco paused, looking worried.
"Are you all right?" he asked, gently scattering kisses over her face. Hermione, holding her breath, nodded for him to continue. Just as gently, Draco pushed a little farther in. Hermione, unable to contain it any longer, let out a strangled cry, which Draco, alarmed, noticed contained far too much pain. He quickly pulled out, and Hermione gradually relaxed. She was shaking, and he held her. "Hermione..."
"W-Why did you stop?" she asked, breathless, and Draco kissed her softly.
"I'm hurting you, aren't I?" he asked as though he knew the answer and was ashamed. Hermione quickly shook her head, but Draco knew she was lying. "That's not true," he stated, and she let out her breath in a choking sob. "Seth raped you, didn't he?" Hermione didn't answer; she simply looked away. "When?" She sniffled.
"Over and over... so many times," she said and Draco's face deepened in worry. He kissed her again in an attempt to sooth her quaking.
"Hermione, when was the last time?" he asked, but was only responded with whimpering. “Hermione,” Draco repeated more firmly, but in such a way as to portray urgency without spawning fear. Hermione shuddered, but forced herself to answer.
"Last night," she said in dead whisper and Draco paled.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, sounding as if he had been betrayed. Hermione took a stuttered breath.
"Because I don't care. I still need this, Draco... please," she whispered, but Draco shook his head.
"I can't hurt you, Hermione. I can't do this; not now," he said, and moved to ease her of his weight, but Hermione held him close.
"Don't leave me..."
-x- -x- -x-
When Hermione woke, she gasped. Not only was she not in her dorm, but there was someone holding her back close to a muscular chest.
"Hermione?" a soft voice asked, followed by a kiss to the back of her head. Hermione let herself relax as she recognized Draco’s voice; for a moment, she smiled, snuggling into him. Then, she remembered everything.
"Oh god," Hermione whispered, eyes popping open. She was eye level to the floor, and could just barely see out the bathroom window. It was already dark. She gasped again, tensing, this time waking Draco fully.
"What? What's wrong?" he asked, propping himself on his elbow. Hermione rolled toward him.
"I can't stay here," she said, composure regained, and Draco raised an eyebrow.
"What? Hermione, I'm not letting you go back to him," he said, sounding determined, and Hermione closed her eyes.
"If I don't go back, he'll find me. He's probably already looking; it's dark- I said I'd be home before dinner. When he finds that I'm not in the library, this will be his first place to check," she explained, nervously shifting her eyes to every window and door. Draco lifted an eyebrow.
"He knows where I live?"
"Of course not, but he’ll find out. He could charm the receptionist in the main building..." she insinuated, beginning again to tremble. Draco smiled.
"No he won't,” he assured. “This is a magic friendly school, Hermione. Wednesday is protected against things like that." Hermione looked a little relieved, but still unsure.
"It doesn't matter; he'll knock on every door if he has to. I have to go back, Draco; I can't leave him."
"Yes you damn well can, and I'll personally make it a point that you do," Draco contradicted, eyebrows tightening in remembrance of Seth’s misdeeds. Hermione shook her head.
"You don't understand. Seth isn't a bad person, Draco. He does love me, I know he does; he just has a hard time showing it sometimes..."
"You can't believe that, Hermione. If he loved you, he couldn't hurt you."
"I just don't know..."
Hermione was cut off by a loud, piercing alarm. She immediately covered her ears, and Draco scrambled to get up. Hermione curled into a ball, naked on the floor. "Draco?" she called. "What is that?" Draco didn't answer right away. He found his wand and sent a spell Hermione couldn't hear at the door. The sirens stopped immediately.
"Dark Arts alarm. The sirens don't stop until you protect the door. Are you all right?" he asked, unfolding the blanket on the top of the settee and draping it over her. Hermione sat up, back against the couch, and pulled her legs to her chest.
"It's Seth, Draco; I know it is," she said and Draco sat beside her, pulling her into his chest.
"I hope so," he said, and Hermione looked up, surprised. "If it is," he said. "The minister will send officials, and he'll be taken to the holding cell at the ministry office. We can file a complaint against him for you, get a restraining order and he'll be gone forever."
"Do you think that will work?" she asked. Draco nodded. "I don't know if I can do that, Draco. What if he tries something?"
"I'm here for you now, Hermione. I'll never leave your side again, I promise you. I'll... transfer over Christmas, you'll see; I won't let anyone hurt you again, Hermione. I wish you had told me about this sooner," he said and Hermione shook her head.
"No, Draco, I won't let you do that. You wanted so much to go to school here; I can't take that away from you," she stated. Draco began to contradict her, but Hermione cut him off. "There's only one solution." He raised an eyebrow. "I'll transfer," she said and Draco grinned, trapping her lips in a welcomed kiss. It wasn't until the dean knocked loudly on the door, signaling that the perpetrator had been caught, that they broke apart.
"Why didn't you tell me you weren't happy?" Draco asked, pressing his lips to her forehead and holding her close.
"I convinced myself otherwise. And I didn't want to be a bother," she admitted and Draco shook his head.
Hermione sighed blissfully.
"I never thought a leap year could fall in December."
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter or:
I guess it's luck, but it's the same. Hard luck you've been trying to tame.
Maybe it's love but it's like you said, "Love is like a role that we play."
But I believe in you so much, I could die for the words that you say
But I believe in you so much, I could die from the words that you say
You're chasing the ghost of a good thing, haunting yourself as the real thing
It's getting away from you again, while you're chasing ghosts
Just bend the pieces till they fit, like they were made for it, but they weren't meant for this
The Ghost of a Good Thing by Dashboard Confessional