Exhaustion claimed me somewhere in the middle of the night, but some part of me remained aware of my surroundings, of the passage of time. When I woke up, I knew I still had some hours left before sunrise. The sight of Draco sleeping soundly beside me was something I didn't think I'd ever experience. Looking at him, I couldn't help the way the panic started to settle in my chest, clawing its way up. He was going to leave again - I knew it was only a matter of time.
Maybe that's why I decided I'd be the one to leave this time.
Some part of me wanted to stay - begged me to give it a shot - but my fear and sense of self-preservation were quickly overriding that desire. When I sat up, I realized his arm was draped across me, shifting to my lap when I moved. My whole body froze, and I held my breath waiting for him to stir. Other than a tightening of his grip, his body shifting just slightly closer, he didn't react. Is this what it had been like when he'd left me in my bed? Anger and guilt mingled with my fear, but I didn't let that stop me. As carefully as I could, I moved his arm off me until I could slide out of the bed.
Malfoy manor was cold - even colder now that I was naked - and now that I stood in the center of his room, I hesitated yet again. I'd never been in his bedroom before, in all the time we'd worked together. The only room in the upper floors I'd been allowed to see was his private study. Earlier in the night, for obvious reasons, I hadn't taken the time to really see the room. It wasn't like I'd imagined it. Somehow I always pictured his room to be all sharp lines and edges - furnished with pieces one could only describe as modern. Instead, all the furniture in the room was older, welcoming, and gave an aura of comfort I didn't expect to find in what I used to think of as a snake's den. It almost reminded me of Gryffindor Tower. I found myself taking in every detail, wandering over to his dresser, where pictures of what seemed like happier times in his family life lined the surface. The Draco I remembered from our first years at Hogwarts, perhaps even younger, smiled up at the camera, laughing at something while is mother hugs him from behind.
Again, my resolve wavered. I turned away from the images and began to gather my clothes, which had somehow managed to tangle themselves with his. I couldn't even find my wand, and I wasn't in the right state of mind to perform wandless magic. I finally found my shirt, pulling it from under his pants. When I slipped it on, I realized there was a piece of paper on the floor, likely having fallen out of his pants. The small piece of paper was folder several times over, and my curiosity got the best of me. Careful to make as little noise as possible, I unfolded what felt like newspaper parchment. It was a picture from the press release on his exoneration - more specifically, it was a picture of us, standing outside the Wizengamot's room right after the trial, answering questions. Despite the victory, Draco's lips hardly twitched in a smirk, while I smiled and answered everything on his behalf. Every now and then, his eyes wandered to me.
"Thought you'd give me a taste of my own medicine?" There was no humor in his voice. I jumped at the sound of it, twirling around and hiding my hands behind my back. "Please give that back - it's the only picture I have of us."
The paper was suddenly very heavy in my hands. Any words I might have thought to say were getting struck in my throat, and I was losing my resolve to leave with every second that ticked by. I was afraid going near the bed would break me again, but I did anyway, handing him the picture. "Draco-"
"I understand. I know you can't trust me." He looked at it, a genuine smile lighting his face. "It's funny - I think that's the first time I saw you that happy, at least around me."
"I was happy." There wasn't anything else I could think of to say. "Like I said - I thought we had a shot."
Did I still think so? Maybe. That unspoken thought hovered between us, and I wondered if he knew what I was thinking. I still stood by what I said - I wouldn't - couldn't - sit around waiting for him to make a decision.
"I meant what I said, Hermione. I'm not leaving - don't think I could if I wanted to. Please give me a chance to prove that to you." He might not have been on his knees, but Draco Malfoy was begging me - practically groveling by his standards.
"That's quite the change of heart over a few hours…" Despite my reluctance, I couldn't help the hope that slowly started to replace the panic.
Draco stood and placed the picture on his night stand before taking one of my hands in both of his. "I think I always knew I couldn't stay away. If I could, I never would have showed up at your apartment that night, and I would have left before you got here tonight. Something told me you'd show up, and I stayed, hoping you would."
"What if I hadn't?" He wouldn't look at me, his eyes focused on our hands instead. I watched him - I'd never seen so much expression in his face. A flurry of emotions passed, too many for me to count or even name, but one stood out above the rest. Hopelessness.
"I don't know." Would he have shown up at my apartment? Would I have let him in? His hands squeezed mine briefly, before he finally made eye contact and spoke again, "I'm sorry, Hermione. I never meant to hurt you."
"Is it ridiculous to forgive you?" The question was as much rhetorical as it was directed at him.
"Probably." Again, a brief smile. "But I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to you if I have to."
The implication behind his words weren't lost on me, and I couldn't deny the pleasant, nervous fluttering overtaking my stomach. A momentary awkwardness settled around us, in which I felt like I was back in Hogwarts, waiting to be asked to the Yule Ball.
"So what now?" I looked over at where my pants were lying at the foot of the bed. Just a moment ago I'd been ready to grab them and run.
"I won't stop you if you still want to leave, but would you join me for breakfast later?" Such a normal request.
"In public? Where people would see?" I raised an eyebrow, unable to help the small smile and my slowly rising spirits.
"I could call Rita Skeeter first thing tomorrow." A cheeky smile accompanied his response. His arms made their way around me, pulling me into a warm embrace unlike the others. It didn't have the urgency or panic I was accustomed to feeling from him. The only word that came to mind was love - though I didn't dare say it out loud.
"If you agree to keep that horrid woman out of this, I'll stay until morning." I pulled back, examining his face. Another smile - the edges of his face were beginning to soften again.
"Deal." He brushed my lips with his before pulling me back into bed. Tucked against him, I let his warmth lull me back into sleep.
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