"Draco, where's my lighter?" Hermione asked, digging through a bowl of odd junk on the coffee table. Draco leaned to the side as the see around her, where rested the glorious invention that was the television.
"How should I know? You know I don't smoke. Horrible for you. I wish you'd quit," he said, taking a slug from his can of Optera Ale. Hermione sighed in vexation and moved out of his line of vision to continue on what seemed to be a fruitless search for her handheld sparker. Draco had a certain fascination with his chosen ale and would drink on the upside of three cans a day. Though Optera was truly one of the weakest beers made with magic folk as their target group of consumers, it was significantly higher than most manufactured in the muggle world and Hermione did not appreciate his steady intake. Telling him such never did any good; he was completely insufferable. Stop smoking and I'll stop drinking, was his argument each and every time and the logic behind it infuriated her.
"Well, will you get off your arse and help me look?" she asked him, somewhat exasperatedly. Draco rolled his eyes dramatically, grumbling something incoherent, and refused to do so much as drop his feet from their roost on the table in front of his recliner. Hermione growled in frustration and pushed harshly at his head, stomping out of the room to search another. Draco took another sip of his beer and flicked the channel.
By the time Hermione had made a rapid search through the little kitchen and moved on to their bedroom, her hands were shaking so badly that she feared she wouldn't be able to light her smoke even if she did find her lighter. A little matchbox soon found a higher place in her heart and, upon locating the little wonder inside her bedside table, Hermione made no hesitation to strike a stick along the sandpaper side and ignite its sulfur tip. She managed to light her cigarette and took a long drag while shaking out the flame and saving her fingers from burn.
Draco appeared in the doorway, holding his shadow of a beer can and wrinkling his nose at the smell in the air.
"I see you've found it?" he asked, displeased, but Hermione shook her head and dropped the match into her water glass. Draco gave a nod of understanding as he watched Hermione stand from the bed and approach him, smoke billowing from her nose like fire from a dragon. She kissed his cheek as she passed, starting again toward the living room.
"I wish you wouldn't walk around with your pants undone, Drake. What if someone were to see?"
"Who's going to see? We live on the twelfth floor and no one visits us but your... friends. I hardly think with them in the house you should need worry about me embarrassing you," he said in defense, but set down his beer can and did as requested, tucking his shirt into his slacks before buttoning and zipping with notable difficulty. Hermione rolled her eyes, but made no comment on his stale insults. "Anyway," Draco continued, coming behind her as she stamped out her cigarette in the tray on the counter. "There used to be a time when you'd never dream of asking me to tie up my trousers." Hermione felt his arms come around her from behind and two familiar palms pressed themselves against her thin waist. She said nothing until Draco began to mark little kisses against her neck and allowed her to smell the alcohol lingering in the air near his mouth. She sighed.
"Draco... not now," she said, stepping away from him and leaving the kitchen for favor of the coat rack, where she slipped on an overcoat and came back in search of keys. Draco watched her with slightly narrowed eyes.
"Why not?" he asked, ignoring for a moment her preparation to leave. "You always say that; not now, not now. Well, when? Why not now?" Hermione sighed.
"Drake... I'm just not in the mood, all right?"
"You're never in the mood. Not since you started your campaign for popularity by becoming a 'social smoker'. Hell, if I'd known it would cause this many problems, I'd never have allowed it."
"Who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?" she demanded, glaring heatedly.
"Evidently someone more qualified than yourself," he retorted smugly and Hermione fumed. With a growl of frustrated rage, she grabbed her key ring from the bowl by the sink and walked quickly past him, heading for the door. Draco followed for a few steps, still believing to have authority in the conversation. "Where are you going?" he demanded.
"Go to hell," Hermione called over her shoulder and Draco stopped in his tracks, glaring coolly at her back.
"Oh, I would have long ago... but living with you is hell enough," he said slyly and Hermione stopped short, slowly turning toward him.
"That bad, am I?" she asked softly, all anger dissolved from her voice. In response, Draco gave a guilty frown. She looked up, eyes troubled and glazed with moisture. "I try, you know. I try so hard... to keep you happy, to keep us going..." Hermione sighed. "It doesn't ever seem to work; it's never enough, I'm always inadequate. Perhaps I should stop trying, hm? Go ahead, Draco. Go ahead and leave me if you hate this so much... hate me so much."
"Hermione..." Draco began in protest, but she continued as if he hadn't uttered a syllable.
"You're still an attractive man; I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding a younger, prettier substitute for me," Hermione said, turning to start down the apartment hallway. Draco struggled for words and settled on an exasperated sigh.
"Where are you going?" he repeated, this time nearly pleading for an answer. Hermione paused for a moment, as if trying to decide whether or not to give in to his wishes.
"To ask Harry and Ron if they've seen my lighter," she answered with a sigh and Draco gave a random grunt of understanding. Hermione waited until she heard his chair click into a reclined position and the familiar crack as the television restarted before frowning and closing the door behind her.
Hermione appeared out of thin air in front of a tall chain-link fence and walked along its perimeter until she came to an opening. She crossed her arms against he cold and buried her nose in the collar of her jacket, preferring the sent of cigarettes over the putrid smell of decomposing material waste.
Wary of the massive piles of dirt and trash which dotted the landscape, Hermione stuck persistently to the beaten dirt path, following the broken cars which lined its edges until she reached her destination. Just meters down the makeshift driveway stood a little mailbox bearing the surnames "Weasley and Potter" in painted letters on its side. Hermione attempted to hold her breath as she hurried toward it, breaking quickly through the invisible barrier which lay just beyond.
She felt a draft, like a warm gust of wind, and when the feeling passed, a large edifice greeted her eyes. Hermione took a deep breath, gratefully taking in gulps of the air which was charmed against the offending odor of the trash fields. The building, in truth, was a brainchild conceived in the minds of her two best friends in a time of dire need. It was a fairly large structure, made in part of a large, discarded recreational vehicle and accented with various pieces of various items found in the yard. Harry and Ron worked on it continuously, expanding and adding new dimensions.
After Hogwarts, the three students so famous for being together had moved on and went their separate ways. Hermione pursued her budding romance with Draco Malfoy (introduced through a mutual friend and forced on a series of blind dates) while attending classes focused on literature and aspiring --and ultimately failing-- to be an award winning author. Harry moved on to pursue his calling as an auror, fighting a depression while combating the stress of his intense physical training, and Ron married upperclassman Penelope Clearwater the summer after graduation. Penelope, he discovered later, was mourning the emotional loss of Percy and merely looking for a replacement by wedding his brother. When she realized Ron's aspirations of doing absolutely nothing of substance with his life (as per his usual attitude toward living) and planned to support her and their children by taking whatever job came his way, she packed her suitcase and left in the middle of the night, leaving only a note to tell Ron that their unborn child (whom he had not yet known was in exist) would be immediately terminated.
Depressed and in mourning, Ron turned to Harry and each played the roll of -rock- for their lifetime friend, using combined strengths and expelling weaknesses. Harry, after a seemingly endless battle to master every task and become a certified auror, had gone, amongst all those who loved him, to take an aptitude test and receive his permanent license. After three hours of exponential testing without so much as a quirk of lips from an instructor to suggest that he had done well, Harry felt a happiness he hadn't known since his early teens. He had scored a perfect 489 on the written exam, out preformed Mad Eye Moody on the practical, made a ministry record for least perspiration during testing, and was told that he would be the best man the force could ever have hoped for. With head held high and feet nearly missing the ground, Harry strode into one last testing room, with a cheerful nurse who called him 'sugar-bee' for a physical health examination. Ten minutes later, Harry descended the steps which led from the second level of the Ministry of Magic office and into a waiting room crowded with excited friends baring gifts of congratulations. He walked slowly, head bowed and eyes red, for he had failed the eye exam.
After Harry's mishap, both he and Ron were left jobless, by no means ambitious, and with no desire to part again. After a few years of working two full time jobs apiece, they together managed to save enough money to purchase an already licensed rural dump and claim it as their home. They now resided, --jobless with exception of their garbage collecting-- paid by the government, in a little makeshift trailer that was charmed to be invisible at the junkyard's epicenter.
Hermione approached the humble residence and knocked softly on the tin door which, once upon a time, had been someone's roofing.
"Hello?" she called softly, opening the door and stepping inside. "Harry, Ron?"
"Over here, Hermione," called Ron from his spot on a car seat that was masquerading as a couch. He lay sprawled over it, head propped on a crooked arm as he watched the small black and white television that sat in the corner of the room, unplugged and powered by magic. She rolled her eyes and pushed his legs off the bench to allow her a place to be seated.
"What is it with men and television?" she asked rhetorically and Ron shrugged a shoulder as he sat upright. "Honestly... if you had a beer can and your pants undone, I'd think you my husband." Ron waggled his eyebrows.
"I wouldn't entirely mind that," he said suggestively and Hermione pushed him away, rolling her eyes in disgust. Ron smirked and moved back into his own space. "I told you Malfoy would be a bad idea, didn't I? All the way back in school, I did."
"Only because you were mad at him for cursing your shoes to sound like a puff every time you took a step," Hermione countered, smirking amusedly at the memory. "He was immature, but so were you." She paused. "So are you. Both of you."
"So, why don't you leave him and come stay with me?" he suggested playfully and watched as Hermione's countenance fell drastically. She dropped her eyes to the floor, which was covered like a patchwork quilt with various pieces of car interior. "What?" Ron asked, sounding concerned and curious. Could it be true? He wondered. Has she really left him?
"We had a fight this morning," Hermione said softly, dropping her head into her hands in misery. "I don't know, Ron. Your dream just might come true." Ron showed her a crooked smile and draped his arm over her shoulders.
"Oy, come on," Ron persuaded. "You and Draco always manage to patch things up; you're good for each other, Mione. I know you are, because no one could go through the things you go through and live together despite it. He'll cool off, he always does." Hermione shook her head.
"I said some horrible things," she said softly, then shook her head, shaking the thought away. "Where's Harry?" Ron shrugged.
"Out wandering. He says he's scouring, but I doubt he is. Should be back soon, I'd imagine."
"Sooner than you'd think," said a new voice from just outside the door, which opened a moment later to reveal a pale-faced and tired-looking Harry Potter. He was holding a large package under his arm as he climbed into the trailer, leaving it to rest on the eating table that was situated in the center of the kitchen and constructed of loose metal legs and a cracked wooden top.
"Hello, Harry," Hermione said, trying to smile as convincingly as possible. Harry turned toward her as if he hadn't expected a third presence, thinking in favor that Ron was having an open-ended conversation with himself.
"Hey, Hermione. Did you have another fight with Draco?" he asked, lifting a raven eyebrow and crossing his arms as he stood in the center of the room. A skylight, constructed of a hole in the ceiling covered by a magically fused microwave door, shown the midmorning sun on his being, making him look almost as if he were glowing. Hermione wondered fleetingly if perhaps he had died while scouring and was now visiting them in the afterlife; reading minds and looking ominous.
"How did you know?"
"The only time you ever come here is when you're fighting," he said and Hermione looked surprised, recounting her visits to be sure. Her shoulders fell as she validated his statement and she turned to apologize, but Harry was no longer granting her attention. "Ron, this place is a dump," he called in mild indignation and Ron looked completely taken aback.
"Well... yes, Harry. It is. I thought you'd known," he said honestly, believing his friend to have gone completely mad. Harry dramatically rolled his eyes.
"Ron, I know it's a dump out there, but you don't have to make it look like one in here. I'm embarrassed for Hermione; coming here to talk and being entertained within a legion of superfluous filth..."
"Harry," Hermione said, scolding him. "Please, don't you two fight on me too," she pleaded, but Ron shook his head.
"Nah, it's nothing; don't worry about us, Hermione. Harry's just pissed off because his girlfriend dumped him, so I'm the one to take the blunt force. Happens all the time; you get a bit used to it," he said and Hermione frowned, turning back to Harry. He turned away.
"Ginny sent us another box of soap," he said offhandedly, hoping to shift the conversation away from his personal life. Ginny, the only one of the little group to make anything of consequence of herself, owned a company specializing in the manufacture of novelty items, such as self-pasting toothbrushes and sugar flavored spoons guaranteed never to melt in tea. She had a net worth which exceeded Molly and Arthur by at least three times and was pompous of it. She pretended that Ron had never existed, paying him no credit except to intermittently send a case of hot-lathering soaps and an occasional holiday card.
"Harry?" Hermione prodded gently, frowning as he ignored her. "What happened?"
"Maybe I don't want to talk about it," he said sharply, moving toward the kitchen and cleaning up a mess which had earlier been made by Ron while cooking some sort of egg dish.
"He probably asked her to bed him," the redhead added with a smirk and a snicker. "She slap you, Harry?" There was a clink of dishes as Harry stopped bustling and set them down in nervous rage. He turned to Ron, eyes ablaze, and the teasing smirk disappeared from his face.
"Do you really want to know what happened?" he asked and Hermione hesitated; the question seemed addressed to her, but Harry's eyes were still boring into Ron. "She asked me to take her back to my place. My place; can you imagine? Bringing her here?" Harry paused, turning around to pace while shoving his fingers violently into his hair. "I told her I couldn't, and she asked me why. I didn't know what to say... 'because you might pass out from the stench'? I told her because I had a flatmate, and we wouldn't have any privacy. She took it to mean I was ashamed of her. And yes, Ron, to answer your question, she did slap me." There was a placid silence, --timed by the ticking of the wall clock-- and pulsing in the ears of the three trash yard occupants. Hermione broke it hesitantly.
"Perhaps I should go..." she started, standing from the couch. Harry looked surprised, all anger vented, and took a few rapid breaths.
"No, Hermione. Don't go; stay. Stay and have some tea," he said flatly, as if begging for the request to be denied. Hermione smiled politely, running a hand maternally over Ron's hair as he sat in stunned silence.
"That's all right, Harry. I really should get back to Draco; lord knows what he'll do if he gets drunk," she said, kissing him on the cheek as she made her way past him. "I'll come by again soon, I promise."
"Don't bother; I won't be here."
"What?" Ron exclaimed, standing so quickly that Hermione jumped. "You can't leave me, Harry! I can't run this place without you!"
"You're ruining my life, Ron," Harry snapped and instantly regretted it. Ron fell hesitantly back onto the couch, staring blankly at the floor.
"Ruining your life?" he repeated weakly, and Harry sighed.
"Look, Ron, I'm sorry... but it's the truth. I never wanted to live like this. I hate it here. It's embarrassing, it's... disgraceful. I try not to bask too much in fame, but I am Harry Potter. I won't have trouble finding real work. I don't need this. I don't need you. You're my best mate, Ron, but honestly. I don't want this."
Hermione thought to clear her throat and say a final goodbye, but decided against it and backed quietly through the door. She made her way out of the enchanted bubble quickly and winced as the stench of the dump again met her senses. She desperately needed a cigarette.
"If only there was a spell mild enough to light a smoke without incinerating it... damn magic. So bloody unreliable."
"Draco?" Hermione called hesitantly into her apartment when she arrived, hours after leaving. She had stopped at a gas station to buy an inexpensive disposable lighter and another box of Fortshire Blues, mentholated before commissioning her feet to walk aimlessly through the village streets, window shopping and wondering what it would be like to sell a novel and receive such reception that she could afford Armani heels --could finally honeymoon in Paris like she'd always wanted to.
Once so depressed that only trashy romance could brighten her, Hermione made a two hour stop at the library to blaze through Sharp Shooter --a western which had no mention of dueling or guns. When the last man had found his love and together they had rode on a horse into the sunset, Hermione made her way straight back to her apartment, hoping to patch up with Draco and open her door for him by means of compensation.
"Drake? Baby?" she tried again, eyebrows now knitted in slight confusion. It was a Saturday; he had nowhere to be. "I'm home," she said, dropping her keys on the counter and hanging her coat on the hooks by the door.
She faltered; Draco's familiar leather overcoat was missing from his given hook and his shoes were not placed neatly below it. Immediately, Hermione's heart dropped. Her words repeated themselves in her mind. Go ahead, Draco. Go ahead and leave...
"Drake!" she called, now nearly frantic, and hurried into the living room. The television was off and the clicker rested innocently on the arm of Draco's favorite chair, next to the small table where he kept his can of beer. The coaster, embossed with a permanent ring, was devoid of aluminum and looked somewhat out of place.
Hermione turned the sharp corner into the kitchen and opened the icebox, searching recklessly for any sign of a can of Optera. The crisper drawer saved especially for brew-housing purposes was completely empty, without so much as a crumpled can or tab to suggest that any alcohol had ever resided there. Hermione felt her heart sink and closed the refrigerator, resting her forehead against it.
Go to hell...
Living with you is hell enough...
"He's left me," Hermione whispered to herself. "Finally, all my bitching really did it. He listened." Weighted with grief, she forced herself to make the trip down the hall to the bedroom. The bathroom door was wide open, and it was obvious that it was not in use. Any smidgen of hope Hermione might have had at finding the situation a complete misunderstanding was squelched the moment she stepped into the bedroom.
Sighing into the cold and empty room, Hermione made her way slowly to the closet and opened the door in search of her nightdress and robe. The first article to catch her eye, however, was an empty garment bag tossed haphazardly on the floor. She was forced to fight tears as she lifted it carefully and placed it back on the hook; Draco's best suit had once occupied the space within the bag. He took pride in his appearance while wearing it, but only bothered with it on trips into the city or special occasions.
You're still an attractive man... you'll have no trouble finding a substitute...
"He's whoring," she said to herself, almost bitterly. "Seven years of marriage and he's whoring." In a trance-like state, Hermione lost all notion of dressing for bed and made her way sadly back into the living room. She curled herself in Draco's chair and pressed her face in to the soft corduroy.
It was this way that Harry found her, not fifteen minutes later, sitting silently as if she were asleep. He apparated into her kitchen and Hermione's head snapped up in alarm at the crack.
"Draco?" she called softly, hesitant to believe her ears. She leaned over the side of her chair as to get a good view of the kitchen doorway, and held bated breath as she heard slow footsteps on the linoleum. Her heart skipped a beat when her raven-haired best friend stepped around the corner, smiling guiltily with shoulders slouched. Hermione's tense body relaxed in defeat, falling sideways into the back of the chair. "Oh. Hey, Harry." Harry gave a slight chuckle.
"Sorry to disappoint you, Mione," he said, stepping further into the room. Hermione shook her head and pressed her face again into the soft, cottony fabric of her armchair. She sighed.
"What can I do you for, Harry?" she asked softly, a sadness apparent in her voice. Harry mimicked her previous move and shook his head.
"Absolutely nothing. I wanted to apologize for this afternoon," he said, turning his face suddenly to the floor in embarrassment. "We... hell, I completely ignored you. And I'm sorry you had to witness that fight. It wasn't a pretty one." Hermione, recalling their previous rendezvous and pushing thoughts of Draco slightly to the side for a moment, straightened with interest.
"How're things?" she asked, voice still hushed and poignant. Harry frowned at her.
"All right, now. Ron agreed, quite reluctantly as a matter of fact, that it was time to leave our makeshift abode and move on to something more; different. He's going to live at the burrow for a while and I promised I'd help him find something by means of a job," he explained, almost as if ashamed at himself. Hermione nodded softly along with his speech.
"And you?" she asked, watching with pleasure as Harry's lips turned upward.
"I don't know about me. I went to apologize to Elicyn, my girlfriend, and she threw herself at me before I could even get a word in and said she'd overreacted and wanted to break-off our break-up."
"I'm happy for you, Harry," Hermione said with a defined nod. Harry lifted a shoulder in a shrug.
"I admit I'm slightly conflicted," he said and she lifted an eyebrow, motioning for him to continue.
"And why is that?"
"After the I'm sorry-s and Let's not fight-s were over, she asked me about my house again. I didn't want to lose her, Mione. Not after all that. I lied; I'm not proud of it. I told her I'd been evicted from my flat and had to stay with some friends, sleeping on a living room couch, that sort of thing..."
"She believed you?" Hermione asked skeptically and Harry smirked.
"Better than that; she forced me to move in with her. Said she wouldn't have me bumming couches," he said exuberantly, obviously pleased with the turn of events. She pursed her lips, shaking her head slightly.
"I don't know, Harry. You shouldn't be dishonest, especially not to a significant other. Especially not when you're only dating," she lectured and frowned, turning her eyes to the arm of the couch. "It's quite common to say things you'll regret." Harry, now frowning at Hermione's lack of excitement, lifted an eyebrow at her.
"You all right, there?" he asked, taking a step forward. "What happened?" At the pity in his voice and innocence of his question, Hermione couldn't stop the tears the welled behind her eyes. Harry's own orbs widened as he saw the droplets begin to wet her face. "Mione?"
"He left me, Harry. Draco left me," she sobbed, dropping her head onto the arm of the chair. Harry, to say the least, looked completely shocked.
"...what?" he asked, voice hushed in amazement. "W... when? What happened? Mione-"
"Nothing that hasn't happened before," Hermione said, sniffling and breathing in the slightly musty scent of the chair. Something in the back of her head reminded her that she'd need to set a new elutriation charm upon the living room furniture. "We had a fight this morning; I told you. We said some things. I said some things. When I came home this evening, he was gone. He only took what he could carry; his coat and shoes, wore his favorite suit. Made sure not to leave the half-case of Optera in the icebox."
"Hermione," Harry said, taking a step forward and approaching both Hermione and the situation carefully. "Are you sure? Couldn't he have just... gone somewhere and forgotten to tell you?"
"No, Harry," she assured, shaking her head. "If you had been there... if you had heard how cold I was, I... I don't blame him. I'm lucky he stayed with me this long." Harry's eyebrows knotted in concern and he stooped slightly to be closer to her, placing a hand on her back. Hermione tensed.
"Draco loves you, Hermione. He'll be back; I'd bet my life on it," he said, speaking softly, and she recoiled.
"Please Harry. I'd just like to be alone for a while," she pleaded, burying herself more deeply into the chair. Harry hesitated, but ultimately sighed and gave a nod.
"All right," he said, bending to place a kiss atop her head. "We can't leave the dump for a few days; if you need me, you'll find me there, I promise." Hermione gave a weak nod, closing her eyes.
"Thank you, Harry," she said and he smiled, rubbing his hand down the length of her back and again to the spot between her shoulders.
"I love you, Mione. Feel better."
Hermione had not the chance to answer, as Harry quickly stood away and disapparated with a bone chilling crack. Hermione tucked her arms below her and cuddled into the crook of the chair for warmth, allowing the weight of her discoveries to sink into her and trigger an emotional tidal wave which soon began to drip down her face. She removed her wedding rings and held them tightly in her hand, kissing her fist as she would a child's head.
Soon exhausted and housed in a body yearning for salvation, Hermione allowed her tears to take her into a restive and dreamless sleep. Sometime in the night, her uneasy rest was replaced with a furtive one and she woke only when the dusk had been traded for dawn and the cycle of days began anew.
Hermione opened her eyes just in time to see a brown post owl deliver the morning's copy of The Daily Prophet to her window-latched flowerbox. She sat up, blinking and stretching as if it were any other morning, and shuddered at the cold when the black fleece blanket which covered her was pushed inadvertently to the floor. After quickly plucking the throw from the carpet and wrapping it tightly around her, Hermione crossed her eyebrows to ponder its placement. She was sure she had not retrieved the covering in her distraught state before sleeping and did not recall ever making the trip to the bedroom closet for it in the night. If she had, she was sure, she would have continued her rest in bed, and not where she had dropped in the evening.
Deciding instinctively to inspect said bedroom closet for any clue as to who had thought of her, Hermione prepared herself to leave her cocoon of warmth.
Perhaps it was Harry, she thought, trying her best to rationalize. Or even Ron; I'm sure by now he knows everything. Probably came back to check on me, the brilliant idiots. Or maybe...
Hermione shot up, attempting to wash all thoughts of her husband from her mind; if Draco wasn't thinking of her, she had no business thinking of him. The moment she stood, however, something small and metallic slipped from the arm of the chair and clattered to the floor. Curious and irritated by the mere thought of knocking something over and leaving it to collect dust, Hermione secured her makeshift shawl and pressed her cheek to the carpet, eyes searching the bit of flooring beneath the tea table for any foreign object. When she caught sight of something rectangular and reflective, it was only second nature for her to reach a clammy hand to draw it toward her.
Hermione lifted herself from the cold floor before inspecting the item in her hand. It was a lighter she had never seen before; small and silver with a plain, uncomplicated design. Nothing compared to mine, she thought bitterly, recalling once again that she still knew nothing of the whereabouts of her fire starter. With a small sigh, Hermione flipped open the lid of the little module and attempted to start a flame, which was easily done, to determine whether or not the item was worth its room and board. It lit so brilliantly, in fact, that it caught her attention. She closed it once more, turning it over in her hand, and noticed for the first time that an inscription had been pressed into the metal.
Only for incense,
Hermione heard herself gasp before she registered the action in her mind. Slack-jawed, she clasped the little treasure tightly in her hand and started on a fast paced trek to her bedroom. As hoped and hesitantly anticipated, Draco was asleep in their bed, wearing a t-shirt so old and frail it would do it well to be recycled, and tangled in the cotton sheets while sprawled over the entire length and width of the mattress. Feeling a well of emotion in her chest that was not at all unfamiliar, Hermione dropped her little black blanket and hurried to the bedside, depositing her precious new lighter on the night table. She crawled in carefully and latched herself to his back, absorbing his warmth as she shivered against him.
Draco, woken easily after years of pranks and rendezvous in Slytherin, stirred slightly, bringing a hand to cover Hermione's --which was resting near his navel-- and rubbing warmth into it. Upon realization that he had regained consciousness despite her attempts to prevent it --though she knew them to be futile before doing so-- Hermione hugged him tighter to her.
"I'm sorry, Drake," she said, voice wrenched with such remorse that Draco was alarmed and turned himself to view her, grey eyes calculating.
"What?" he asked, placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Hermione?" She shook her head, no longer able to speak, and pressed her lips again to his in a searing and yearning kiss. "Wow," Draco breathed when they parted. "We haven't done that in a while." Hermione choked on a laugh, then frowned, searching his eyes with her own. Draco soon mimicked her, concerned. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry," she repeated, voice near a whisper. "For everything. I said, I did... everything." Draco sat up, pulling her with him, and Hermione rested her head on his shoulder and allowed him to embrace her.
"It was my fault too," he said awkwardly, surprised by her emotional state. In normality, their fights would pass without a second thought and never be mentioned again, unless in a subsequent fight in which doing so could improve one's chances of victory. "Don't cry, baby." Hermione tried desperately to squelch her tears and was rapidly successful while wrapped in his comforting arms. Soon, she merely existed there with him, silent but to breathe. "I got you a present," he said in hope of breaking the heavy silence and cheering her. "Did you see? I left it there for you." A smile lit Hermione's face and she nodded, reaching behind her to retrieve the little box of fire.
"I love it, Draco," she said, looking up at him with drying tears on her cheeks. "Thank you."
"You only get to keep it on one condition," he teased, smirking, and Hermione's eyebrows drew toward one another as she tightened her grip on the lighter and held it to her chest.
"You've got to quit. I mean it this time, Hermione. I'm quitting too. I threw away that whole case of Optera in the icebox," he said sternly and she looked up at him, hesitating only slightly before giving a nod.
"Okay," she agreed and felt a warmth course over her as Draco's lips grew into a smile. He leaned slightly forward and Hermione met him halfway, rushing into a kiss which took him off guard. She linked her arms around his neck, moving to sit on his lap, and Draco let his hands travel down her sides and under her shirt, pressing his thumbs against her curves. He exhaled with a hitch as they broke apart.
"Don't tease me," he pleaded, laboring to keep his breath steady, and Hermione ground her hips against his. Draco hissed, digging his fingertips into her soft skin. She kissed a short line from his chin to his lips and shifted forward again as she caught him in a suggestive kiss. Caution thrown to the wind, Draco returned the kiss with equal strength and rolled her onto the bed, continuing what had been started upright.
"Remind me again why we waited so long for that?" Draco said as he allowed himself to teeter on the edge of sleep. Hermione kissed his bare chest from where she was rested upon it in all her naked glory, playing with the up crops of blond hair below his navel.
"Because it isn't commonly like... that," she said, shuddering at the mere memory. Draco pressed against her back with his palm, bringing her closer --if possible. "I don't know if it's ever been like that." Draco opened his eyes, more awake at the instigation of conversation. He kissed her hair.
"I love you," he whispered softly, an uncharacteristic thing, and Hermione looked up at him, slightly alarmed. He smiled warmly. "Don't look so surprised." Broken from her stupor, Hermione mimicked his smile and placed a simple kiss on his lips.
"I love you too," she said, and Draco seemed pleased with her response. With a heavy sigh, Hermione curled up against him. "Don't ever leave me again, Drake." Draco's face grew into a look of confusion.
"I never left you," he said, only partly sure, while retracing their relationship in his memory. Hermione smiled at what she assumed a romantic gesture and inadvertent apology, and kissed his chest again.
"I didn't mean it, Draco, when I told you to leave. You know how I get when I'm angry; I say things I don't mean. I wasn't even angry with you; I was frustrated about my damned lighter..."
Draco's recollection of their marriage reached its end just as Hermione attempted to explain herself, and her words fit his puzzle pieces together. His eyes narrowed and his body grew tense. Hermione noticed, tilting her head upward with innocent eyes.
"So that's what this is about. This wasn't spontaneous sex. It wasn't even make-up sex," he said, pushing her away and sitting up on the edge of the bed, fishing the floor for his shorts. Hermione, confused and disenchanted, sat up behind him, wrapping a sheet to cover herself.
"What are you talking about?"
"You only slept with me so I wouldn't be mad at you," Draco accused, pulling his trousers on and tying the string at the front. He stood and turned around to face Hermione, who looked devastated and distressed.
"What? No! Draco..." she tried to correct, but he shook his head. Draco opened the drawer of his bedside table and extracted two very familiar rings, the sight of which made Hermione gasp and look to her left hand. "I... I don't..."
"I found them on the floor in the living room. I wasn't gone an hour --buying you a gift, I might add-- and already you'd disowned me," he said, and threw them at the mattress. Hermione quickly collected the rings and nestled them in their proper place on her finger. "Damn you and your feminine connivery. I forgot all about it with the way you were treating me."
"Draco," Hermione pleaded, holding her sheet tight to her chest. "It isn't like that. I thought you'd left for good... I was devastated." Draco rolled his eyes and started toward the door.
"You expect me to believe that?" he asked, turning back just as he reached the entryway. "You thought I'd gone and realized how horrible it was without me and how much you really love me? Come on, Hermione. This isn't some fairytale."
"Draco, please; don't go," she said, reaching out to him, but Draco shook his head, looking her over as if she were the runt of a litter and a great disappointment. He turned a moment later and she called again. "Draco!"
He shut the door callously as he passed through. Letting out a breath she hadn't known to be holding, Hermione leaned against the headboard of her bed and closed her eyes, head lowered. She did not cry, nor did she run after him. Hermione knew she were fool to think Draco would ever leave; he would have no place to go and too much at stake to abandon her. He would calm down, just as he always had, and she would make dinner and serve him and start up trite conversation, and all would pass as if nothing were amiss. The fight would be noted, the sex remembered, and the words forgotten; all would return to the rudimentary, mundane norm.
"I need a smoke."
Hermione opened her bedside drawer and extracted an emergency pack of Fortshire Blues, plucking one from the set and letting it hang loosely between her lips. She seized Draco's gift from its place on the nightstand and opened the lid, bringing the butane reservoir to the cigarette's tip. Her thumb grazed the rotating flint, ready to create a brilliant flame, but Hermione paused. The inscription burned beneath her hand, like a material conscience, scolding her. She sighed in exasperation, tossing the cigarette haphazardly on the ground, and placed the little lighter beside her water glass.
A/N: I do not own Harry Potter.