Hermione Granger cried silently as she sifted through box after box of meaningless trinkets and old junk in her living room. Everything reminded her of him... even things which had no significant connection. A feather quill, for instance, was twisted into memories of Hogwarts... then proceeded to memories of graduation and... that first year of collage. She'd met him then, torn from a broken relationship, and he'd helped her through her sadness. As friendships tend to do, it turned into something more... and in what seemed like a whirlwind of classes and tests, he completed his degree, and she hers, a year after. Life after that was history. They'd stayed in
They'd met her very first day as a freshman, roaming through the halls with a mile-high stack of books and an upside-down campus map. Gavin had stood unnoticed by the door to the library, where she had just exited, smirking as he watched her gaze about the grounds with an adorable expression of confusion on her face. As Hermione held her feather quill, which was broken in three places and missing a good bit of its down, she remembered the very dialogue that was spoken.
"Have we misplaced our tour group?" he asked, lifting a cinnamon eyebrow, and Hermione spun toward him.
"Excuse me?" she asked, undeniably uncomfortable. Although it was unspoken, she, at the time, felt too emotionally unstable to even be within ten feet of a male, excluding of course, Harry and Ron. Last week had marked the five-month anniversary of her breakup... if you could call it that. Her first love, first lover, and first real male friend outside of 'the wonder trio' had left her... although the circumstances assured a greater pain had he not. But, to her heart, that didn't matter. Minus the spite, leaving her out of obligation was just as bad as leaving out of choice; it still stung... and he was still gone.
"You look lost," Gavin explained as he walked toward her and, gentlemanly, lifted her of the burden of books. Hermione gave him a nervous smile in appreciation. "You're a freshman, aren't you?" She blushed slightly.
"Is it that obvious?" The strawberry-blonde boy before her gave a hearty chuckle.
"No, of course not. I'm just observant." He stuck out his hand. "Gavin Ayers, upperclassman. Sophomore, to be specific." Now free of her heap of literature, Hermione was able to place a hand in his. A gloved hand, she thanked the lord, as it would have been quite embarrassing, had he needed to wipe it off before again taking hold of the books.
"Hermione Granger, underclassman. Clearly freshman. Pleasure," she exchanged, but he gave a sharp tilt with his head, smile never leaving his face.
"All mine," he insisted. "So, where might you be heading... Hermione?" The name rolled off his tongue like the honey of his eyes. Hermione fretfully tugged at the corners of her beanie, hoping the bush of her hair didn't look too out of place.
"Actually," she said softly. "I was looking for the Cafeteria." He gave a jovial 'ha'.
"As was I. Coincidence? I think not. Please, allow me to escort you." Hermione regarded him with a curious eye.
"Alright... but only because I'll never find it otherwise." Gavin's smile grew. "Why, may I ask," she continued, "are you going to the mess hall at..." she glanced at the clock on the north tower. "Half past three?" He grinned.
"I could ask the same of you." Hermione, again, turned her reddened face toward the ground.
"I couldn't find it in time for breakfast and am admittedly quite hungry. Your turn."
"I prefer to do all my homework in one sitting, with no interruptions. This meaning, if I plan on finishing before dawn, I need to take an early supper. It's quite nice, though; there's usually no one. At least today I'll have company?" he asked, a debonair smile so knee-weakening Hermione had no choice but to agree.
"I suppose you will."
Their friendship had grown to a point which rivaled that between Hermione and her Gryffindor sidekicks in a very short period of time. By Christmastime they were inseparable, and Spring Break an official item. Although there were ups and downs, the road remained very smooth... it was like a match made in heaven... except for one tiny problem.
Gavin was not the only man in Hermione's heart.
Although he had left her, her first lover would stay with her forever. Gavin learned quickly to read her like a book, and frequently questioned her about that one little thing he always knew was wrong. Being brought up in an honest home, Hermione could not lie to the man she loved. Yes, she did love Gavin... but not with all her heart. A large portion of her body and soul also belonged to that platinum blonde boy she'd fallen so deeply in love with. Hermione told Gavin all about her lover, and he admitted that it wasn't something he approved of, but he could understand her feelings. Of course, as he was a muggle, Gavin couldn't understand everything she'd told him, but he was always very gentle and understanding.
Hermione set the quill aside and shifted uncomfortably on the floor of her
"There was nothing we could do, Mrs. Ayers. I'm sorry."
Those were the doctor's exact words. He was sorry... how could he possibly have known what it felt like to have the person you loved most torn away from you before you could even say goodbye? And for a second time?
Hermione wiped the tears from her cheeks as she continued her sorting. She was moving back to
Presently, she was sorting. What to go and what to stay. She certainly wasn't about to ship a boatload of worthless junk to
Placing another item she didn't even remember owning in the bag for the Salvation Army, Hermione turned back to her large cardboard box. And stopped breathing. With a shaky hand, Hermione lifted from its confines a tattered white teddy bear. The limbs hung limply to all sides, and bright blue eyes stared up at her.
"Hank..." she whispered, before instinctually holding the bear to her heart and sobbing quietly as she rocked it. Hank had absolutely nothing to do with Gavin. No... these new tears were shed for another lost love... one gone so many years ago.
Hank, a simple, inexpensive teddy bear, was given to Hermione on her very first date with Draco Malfoy. Although they'd been enemies for a major portion of their existence, joined classes, co-projects, and Prefect duties had them spending a lot more time together than originally planned. Hermione had found herself falling in love... or at least like... with him near the middle of her fifth year, although she would never admit it to anyone. It wasn't until she discovered that Draco did not want to join the other Malfoys and fight with Voldemort that she really allowed herself to love him. As these feelings were new and powerful, Hermione acted upon them. She made the first move, and asked him out. In reality, this was done only to reassure her that he felt nothing for her, and her petty love was a waste of time. Draco, however, had surprisingly agreed. The relationship between them had blossomed ten times faster than the future relationship with Gavin would. After no more than two years of dating, Hermione would have given anything to spend the rest of her life with him. But, Fate had other plans. She remembered the night perfectly...
"Hermione," called a muffled voice from outside her bedroom door, followed by a knock. "Can I come in?" Hermione, immediately recognizing the voice, fled to the door immediately. She was head girl in her seventh year, and Draco was a prefect. The prefects and heads all shared a joint common room, with doors along the walls leading to their respective bedrooms. The head boy and girl, who were of course, Harry and Hermione, were given their own private bedrooms, while the prefects slept according to gender. As the majority was female, Draco was forced to share his room with only one person... a fifth year he'd never met until asked to bunk up. Hermione smoothed her pajamas and patted her hair before opening the door with a grin. It dropped, however, at the look on Draco's face. He was smiling, but it was forced... and gave Hermione an unbelievable feeling of dread.
"Draco, what's wrong?" she asked softly and he sighed before placing his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her back into the room. It wasn't until the door was closed behind them that Draco spoke again.
"I need to talk to you," he admitted, visibly hurt by the horrified look on Hermione's face. She stepped out of his embrace and backed up, sitting on her bed as if because she hadn't the energy to stand.
"You're breaking up with me..." she accused, already feeling the tears rise up her throat. Surprisingly, however, Draco shook his head and sat down beside her.
"No, of course not," he assured, placing one hand on her back and lifting her chin with the other. "Never." Although admittedly relived, Hermione wasn't sure she wanted to know the dreadful news he'd come to tell her. If he didn't want to end their relationship... she could only imagine.
"What, then?" Draco sighed and stood up again, beginning to pace. Hermione watched with a worried frown and backed into a lounging position, back against the headboard.
After a good minute and a half of silence, she decided she might as well attempt to be of assistance. "Is it good or bad?" Draco stopped walking for long enough to confirm her suspicions.
"Definitely not good." Hermione's eyes followed him as Draco rounded her bed and began pacing on the other side.
"Is someone sick, or hurt?" she asked, praying with all her heart that it wasn't him. Draco ran a hand through his hair and started back toward the bed.
"Not exactly." At this, Hermione was entirely confused. Instead of contemplating his words, however, she simply listened for more. Draco sighed and sat back down, positioned the same as she was, but on the opposite side of the bed. "Look..." he started. "There're some things I've neglected to tell you, in regard to my family." Hermione, although undeniably surprised, said nothing. Draco turned his body toward her. "First of all... I haven't told them I don't plan on becoming a deatheater," he admitted, and she looked entirely shocked.
"Wait... just listen. I still don't want to... I didn't tell them because they'd probably have killed me... or framed me for murder... something like that. I was planning on just not showing up for my initiation... but now I can't do that either."
"Why...?" Hermione asked, a bit timidly.
"Because of you. Before, there would have been no danger to anyone but myself... but now... I love you, Hermione. I can't let you get hurt."
"I wouldn't, Draco. They'd never know." He gave a slight chuckle.
"Oh yes they would. They might know now, really. The only chance of keeping you undeniably safe, is if I leave. I can't stay here... at Hogwarts. It's like standing in quicksand." Hermione's eyes darted from the bed covers to his face in panic.
"Well... I'll go with you." Draco smiled, but shook his head.
"That would defeat the whole purpose of leaving, love. If I were to take you with me, it would double my chances of being found out... which would ultimately lead to capture and probably death. If I go and leave you, as much as I don't want to, you'll be safe, even if I'm captured. You'll have to feign a breakup... tell everyone I've turned to the dark side." Hermione shook her head, feeling her eyes go cloudy.
"No..." she pleaded. "Draco, please..." Frowning, he pulled her into his arms, rocking back and forth to comfort her.
"Hermione... I love you... it's the only way. I want you happy and safe... you can't be if you're with me," he said, but she still didn't seem to agree.
"I can't be happy without you... please don't leave me." Draco shook his head.
"You'll find someone else, Hermione, I promise you..." She shook her head and choked out a "No..."
Draco stayed with Hermione that night and once she'd calmed down, they made love. For the first, second, and final time. Although Draco wanted above all to express his true feelings for her... he also wanted to get her tired. She needed to be asleep for what he had to do next. And, as she rested against his naked chest and took shallow breaths, Draco sighed.
"I love you," he whispered, not really expecting her to even hear, but Hermione responded.
"I wish I could record that and hear it over and over again," she said sleepily, and Draco placed a kiss on her forehead before allowing her to drift off.
When Hermione awoke the next morning, her only companion was Hank. With unbelievable wanting, she desperately wished last night had been a dream, for the soul purpose of ensuring Draco would be in his room. After quickly getting dressed, she flew out her door and straight for the prefect boys dormitory. Of course, the stairway wouldn't allow her up, so she did the next best thing; woke Harry. He'd gone up immediately, looking quite nervous at the terrified expression on his best friend's face, and come back down with a frown.
"He's not there," he admitted, and Hermione let out a croak of heartache.
"Are you sure?" Harry nodded.
"His things are gone and Jeremy says he never came to bed last night... Hermione, what's going on?" Harry asked and watched helplessly as she sunk to the floor, face in her hands. She wanted to tell him everything... every word Draco had said. But, something stopped her... and she recited the lie she'd been asked to tell. She told Harry that he'd broken up with her and joined the dark side... and was off to receive his dark mark and make a hundred deatheater babies with some Slytherin whore. It hurt to tell the lies, but knowing they'd protect him was all that mattered to her.
Hermione pulled the bear away from her chest and sniffled as she smoothed his fur. She had seen neither hide nor hair of Draco since that night... nor heard a word from him. For all she knew, he was dead... most probably. The thought itself cut deep, and Hermione squeezed the only reminder of what she had lost. Strangely, she felt something hard inside the bear... a feeling she certainly hadn't expected from a cuddly stuffed animal. Turning Hank over, she discovered that he held within him a zippered pocket. Curious above all, Hermione unzipped the tiny nook and reached inside. An even bigger surprise greeted her; a cassette tape. It was entirely odd... she'd never known about the compartment, Draco wouldn't own a tape... and Gavin had never had the pleasure of meeting Hank.
She immediately stood from her work, Hank draped over one arm and the little black cassette in hand. The mystery was soon solved, as Hermione placed the tape within a player, which had thankfully not been packed yet, and pressed the play button. Her hands covered her mouth instantly.
"Hey Hermione... it's me. You wouldn't believe how complicated this muggle thing is... Anyway... drop me an owl whenever you find this; I left it with Hank to insure its safety. I have something very important to tell you. Until then, I love you." There was a pause then, and Hermione let herself breathe. It was Draco. There was no denying it. She reached a shaky hand toward the player, planning on ejecting the tape, but soon discovered it wasn't finished. "I love you." He said again, causing her hand to freeze. This was then followed by another "I love you." And another, and another, each spoken with passion and honesty, yet in different tones, as if he were practicing to use the words for the first time. Hermione was frozen in her spot. She didn't move until the tape stopped itself, right in the middle of maybe the hundredth phrase.
For the first time since that night, Hermione found herself pondering the inner mechanics of Draco. He had loved her, she knew it... but this tape was the reminder she needed. And then, something occurred to her... what if he were still waiting for that letter? It was highly unlikely... but love does crazy things to a person. Hermione knew she'd never have allowed herself to be with Gavin if Draco hadn't specifically said he wanted her to find someone else. She belonged to him... Hermione loved Gavin, but they both knew she wasn't his. His wife, his friend... but not his property. In a daze, Hermione pressed the rewind button on her player, and stood still as it spun. When the tape clicked to a stop, she ejected it and turned around, heading directly for the door. The tears on her face had dried, but the emotion was still churning.
Hermione Granger-Ayers left her apartment with nothing but a cassette tape, wearing flip-flops with her cleaning clothes, not even thinking of the dust bunnies in her hair. She had one thing on her mind. Draco. Gavin was dead... she loved him, but he was gone. There was a chance Draco was still out there... and if there was anything she needed at that moment, it was his comfort. Even if he had moved on... found a wife and made some Draco Jr.s... it wasn't against the rules to hug an old friend and comfort them in a time of need.
Not entirely clear-minded, Hermione got into her car and popped in her tape, pushing play. She listened to the message before starting the car, letting the 'I love you's be the strength she needed to get her to Arlen, the closest wizarding community she'd heard of. The only sounds in her world were the quiet hum of her car, the dry thunder outside, although the day was sunny, and the constant 'I love you'. It was all she needed.
Hermione parked her car outside the Arlen Owl Post, ignoring the strange looks from passersby. Evidently, a car wasn't something one might often see in Arlen. Hermione frantically searched her confines for something to write on, plucking a pen from the glove compartment. Parchment was something she hadn't thought to bring, and was forced to settle for a receipt for a candy bar and a bottle of pop.
I know it's been a long time, but I've only just found the tape you made for me. I don't really know what to say... I'd like to tell you that I still love you, but I fear I may be too late. I really can't be sure you'll ever even read this note... I've not heard of you since the day you left... I only hope my words are not sent in vain.
She folded the paper, scrawled Draco Malfoy on the front, and hustled into the post office. The first owl she found was perfect for the job, and she told him the name, then watched as he sped off through the glassless windows. It was only then that the weight of the situation fell upon her, and she found herself leaning on a wall for support. Now, after five months of agony, four years of friendship, and three of marital bliss, Hermione was beginning a search for her first love.
Something was growing in her heart... a desperate urge to know where he was, to be assured he was happy... but her search would have to continue in
Hermione had been jumpy ever since her arrival in
Hermione sat in the window seat of her childhood room, sipping a cup of tea and staring out the window at the rain. She could hear her parents talking about her just down the hall... they seemed to think she was far too depressed. They didn't know the half of it.
As she watched, a semi-familiar owl came bounding right into her window, vision impaired from the storm. With a slight gasp, Hermione set her cup on the floor and swiftly opened the window. The little owl rolled in and got to his feet, flipping water from its feathers. After shielding her face from its shower, Hermione took the note from the being's foot. The script was runny and the paper soaked... but it was obvious what it was. Her note to Draco, unread... returned to sender. With one quiet sob, Hermione tore out of her room, teacup forgotten. She blindly made her way past her parents, who had stopped speaking the moment she left her room, and changed their conversation to 'Hermione? Where are you going?' and 'Whatever is the matter, love?'. Hermione didn't even hear them. There was only one place she could think to go. The one outlet which had always given her answers when she needed them. The library.
Hermione, without even donning a slicker, trudged her vans across the watery ground, on her way to the car she'd had shipped over. Without a thought, as if someone else were controlling her, Hermione sped toward Diagon Alley to the tune of various 'I love you's. She'd played the tape so much in the last few days it had started to skip slightly in certain areas. Hermione barely noticed.
"Excuse me," Hermione said to the librarian, who looked up with a smile, but was surprised to see that she was soaking wet and wearing very light clothing. "Do you have a Daily Prophet Encyclopedia?" The old woman gave a slight smile and nodded before standing from her chair and silently leading Hermione to a section quite far back in the library. She pulled a thick book from the shelf and handed it to Hermione, who thanked her politely.
When the Librarian had returned to her desk, Hermione set the tomb on a nearby table and lifted the lid. The first documented Daily Prophet was dated
For nearly an hour, Hermione scanned through grosses of dates, pages, and articles before she found anything of substance. Of course, there was an article here and there about Voldemort... Lucius Malfoy's evident saintly hood, and even a small birth announcement from Narcissa Malfoy. Evidently, without Draco, they needed to again reproduce. Hermione found herself feeling slightly sorry for the woman. Narcissa had to have been in her early to mid forties... and having a child out of obligation at that age must have been miserable. Hermione had promised herself that if she hadn't had a baby by thirty-five, she simply wouldn't.
Then, a paper dated nearly two years after Draco's disappearance showcased her worst fear. In bold black letters at the top of the page,
"DRACO MALFOY FOUND DEAD OUTSIDE HACKNEY- CAUSE UNKNOWN"
In seconds, tears blurred the words, her auburn head fell into her folded arms, and she sobbed.
Hermione returned to her home nearly three hours after leaving with nothing to show for herself except a broken heart and a tearstained face. Her parents had come to her aid immediately, but she ignored them and went straight back to her room. They didn't bother her again.
It was nearly a week after that before Hermione would come downstairs. Her mother always brought her food, but she rarely ate much of it. It seemed she had no one... Draco and Gavin were both dead... Harry off fighting someone somewhere... Ron married and moved to the other side of the world, without so much as a note... it seemed like anyone she got close to was pulled away from her.
Hermione was broken from her bath of self-pity by the doorbell. At first, she ignored it, but the person persisted. Either her parents were being very rude, or they had left. With no other choice apparent, Hermione left the wallowing tub of her bed and made her way slowly down the stairs, knowing she looked like hell but frankly not caring in the slightest. She opened the door with a sigh, and looked up.
Hermione's immediate reaction was to stop breathing.
"D...Draco?" she whispered, and the tall blonde man gave her a guilty smile. "D... er..." she stumbled incoherently before her eyes rolled back and she fainted. Having expected this, the blonde caught her easily and savored the feeling of again holding her in his arms.
When Hermione woke from her deep slumber, she didn't recognize a single aspect of her surroundings. She sat up with a gasp, looking around and trying to remember what had happened. It wasn't until someone spoke that she had any recollection of the previous events whatsoever.
"Oh good, you're awake." Hermione spun to her left, looking over the back of the couch, and gasped again, as if she'd seen a ghost. Sitting in a chair just feet away, was Draco Malfoy. He stood immediately and started toward her, but Hermione jumped up and began backing away. Looking confused, Draco stopped.
"What do you want from me?" she demanded. He looked surprised.
"Who are you?" At this, Draco gave a disbelieving laugh.
"Hermione, it's me... don't you-"
"No. You can't be... Draco Malfoy died... years ago... I read it, I know... there were... pictures." At this, Draco smiled.
"Well, I suppose I'll have to grant you that. You didn't think I'd keep my name, did you?" Hermione didn't say anything, but stopped moving, leaning against the wall behind her. Draco advanced quite slowly. "I am who you think I am, love. I faked my death." Hermione exhaled slowly.
"You... you did?" He nodded slowly, and approached her. "So... Draco?" Smiling now, Draco nodded.
"I missed you." Letting out a ragged breath, as if about to cry, Hermione pushed off the wall and ran directly into his arms. Draco chuckled softly, but embraced her. There was a brief period of silence, but then he sighed. "I heard about Gavin, Hermione... I'm so sorry." Hermione gasped slightly and looked up. She made to speak, but Draco continued, placing a hand on her face. "He was a good man... he didn't deserve that."
"You... you know about..." He nodded.
"Of course. You didn't think I'd be able to totally cut myself away from you for all that time, now, did you?" Hermione was understandably confused.
"So... you were spying on me?" Draco laughed.
"I wouldn't call it that, love. More like checking up on you. I've known Gavin almost as long as you have." Hermione stepped back, out of his arms again.
"What do you mean? Did you... ASK him to stay close to me?" Draco frowned.
"No, of course not... I couldn't do anything when I was running... it wasn't until after I 'died' that I could try and find you... by then, you and Gavin were already together. I just cornered him one day and explained everything... he's sent me a letter whenever you were hurt or when something big was happening... like your wedding." Throughout this confession, Draco held a sad smile on his face. "You told him about me... why else would he have been so understanding?" Hermione held up a hand.
"Wait... so... you knew about that? And you weren't angry?" Draco laughed and captured her in his arms again.
"Of course not. All I've ever wanted is your happiness, Hermione. If you were with him, I wasn't about to break back into your life and turn everything around." Hermione clung to him.
"You should have. You should have told me, one of you... I had to live each day of my life without knowing what had happened to you, and with guilt for getting married... and then more for thinking of you while I had Gavin..." she sighed. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm sorry... I didn't think..." Hermione shook her head and sighed slightly.
"Why are you here now? What's changed?" Draco smiled softly.
"I thought, what with Gavin gone, you might need a friend." Hermione grinned into his shirt. She'd been thinking the exact same thing. There was a long, comfortable silence.
"So... you lied. You're not Draco, as Draco is dead. And so I must ask... who are you?"
"Daniel Thornton, born and raised a muggle, currently a web page designer. Although, the magic helps, as I have no idea how to work a computer." Hermione laughed softly. "This is my apartment."
"Why am I here?" she asked curiously, and Draco gave a lopsided smile.
"You fainted... and I thought your parents might misunderstand if they found you unconscious with me at your bedside. I left a note though." Hermione laughed.
"You kidnapped me and left a note? How much did you ask for?" she asked, but Draco knew she was kidding. He chuckled and placed a soft kiss on her lips.
"I could never put a price on you."
"So poetic," Hermione agreed, then pulled back slightly, tilting her head to the side. "I found your tape, you know."
"Oh really?" Draco asked, a satisfied smirk on his face. "What did you think of it?"
"I'm amazed you even made it," she said with a soft giggle, then sighed. "What was the important thing you had to tell me?" He grinned and leaned close to her ear.
"Not to believe what you read in the papers."
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter or:
Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry-- you don't know how lovely you are
I had to find you, tell you I need you, tell you I set you apart
Tell me your secrets, ask me your questions, oh, let's go back to the start
Running in circles, coming up tails, heads are a science apart
I was just guessing at numbers and figures, pulling your puzzles apart
Questions of science, science and progress, did not speak as loud as my heart
Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me, oh and I rush to the start
Running in circles, chasing tails, coming back as we are
Nobody said it was easy, it's such a shame for us to part
No one ever said it would be this hard- Oh take me back to the start
The Scientist by Coldplay