I remember the Summer after fifth year quite well. That was the summer I came home to my father in a blind rage over a photo that had ended up in The Daily Prophet of me. With one Hermione Granger. Kissing. Through all of the pain all I could think of was her. That one kiss had been worth it.
"Love hurts Draco," he has sneered. "No Mudblood is worth that kind of pain."
My friends would never understand. They didn't see him as I did. He was loving, and kind. The hateful, ice cold facade he wore was all for show. He could never be the uncaring man his father had raised him to be. At least not when he was with me. When he was with me he was happy...alive. He smiled and shared all of his silly plans to buy a car, and live in a quaint muggle neighborhood, and have cookouts with the neighbors, and use eklecticity like it was free.
I treasured that photo from The Prophet, but in seeing it I wondered just how much Draco had suffered for it.
"Draco," I breathed when I opened the door. Draco was a mess, and I KNEW my parents were behind me staring in horror at the young man standing at the door, covered in blood and gasping for breath.
"'Mione," he breathed, "can I-"
I immediately stood aside and helped him in the house.
"Draco, what-" I began, but I didn't need an answer. I saw the corner of the Prophet clipping sticking out of his pocket and I knew.
"Hermione, who is this, and what has happened?" demanded Mr. Granger.
"Daddy, this is Draco. We go to school together. Draco, did your father do this to you?"
Draco smiled the best he could, which wasn't much considering how swollen his face was.
"No. He has men to do his dirty work for him. He could never sully his hands so."
"Draco. I think we need to get you to hospital, you could have some internal bleeding," Hermione's father pushed.
"I can't. He'll have someone...a lot of someones waiting. I tore through the wards and ran. I can't go back," said Draco looking down.
"We can take you to St. Thomas' Urgent Care. It's a muggle facility, and we can send word to Headmaster Dumbledore from there. He won't let your father do this Draco. This isn't right."
Draco laughed and then winced. "My father is invincible Hermione. No one can touch him. Everyone can be bought, and our Vaults are stuffed with gold."
"I won't let him hurt you. This is wrong! It was a stupid picture. It could have meant anything!" I screamed.
Draco smiled. "No. It couldn't. I don't just kiss random girls, and I don't let the papers have anything I don't want them too. I wanted them to see me kiss you. I wanted them to know that it was real. You are my witch 'Mione, and I am your wizard, for as long as you'll have me."
With Draco I was free. Until I returned to school and had to pretend that I abhored the very ground he walked on. That was the absolute worst. I wanted to be a normal couple like Ginny and Dean, or Ron and Lavender. I wanted to hold hands and kiss, and go together on Hogsmeade weekends. Instead I was stuck stealing glances and leaving notes in odd places and using our Prefects badges to sneak quick meetings after curfew.
"I don't want to do this any more Draco. I'm not ashamed. I'm not afraid. I can protect you from my friends. And I'll stand up for myself against your friends. I don't care what anybody thinks anymore. I love you, and no one will change that. You took on your father for me Draco, the least I can do is stand up to our classmates."
"'Mione, a war is coming. This...you and I...it isn't safe! Don't ever think that I'm ashamed of you. I'm trying to protect you. I love you, and I would die without you."
"I can't do this Draco! I need you beside me. Not hiding in the shadows waiting for me!"
"What do you want me to do Hermione? Walk up to Potter and say 'hey mate, no hard feelings but I'm really into your friend here, and what say you we just forget the last 5 years, eh?'. I'm not safe, love. My family isn't safe. I can't protect you. Harry can. Please hang on for just a while longer. I promise it will all be over soon and then we can be together like we want to be. This war, the secrecy, it's just a phase, and we'll get through it, together, ok?"
Time didn't get easier. It got harder. And all we had was that one photo from the summer before sixth year. You kept it folded up in the pocket of your silly torn up muggle jeans, and I kept it in the locket you bought me before we left for home on Yule Break of sixth year. I didn't see you again after that. That following term I saw Draco Malfoy, heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy. Son of a Death Eater. Voldemort's newest recruit. Slytherin Prince. No where in your being was Draco Malfoy, the man I loved. You were cold, unreachable. There was no love in you and we slowly drifted apart until I was back to hating you. You made me hate you Draco. You made me turn away. Harry was there to pick up the pieces, so what did you expect?
He told me about the night on the Astronomy Tower and my heart was broken. You were lost forever to me then. I could never love someone who was almost a murderer, no matter the reason. Harry said that you had to, and I begged you tell me why, but you just sneered at me and told me you wouldn't expect a 'filthy mudblood' to understand. I burned the photo and the locket that night, and ejected you forever from my heart.
I didn't want to hurt you. I will admit that I meant to, because I had to keep you safe. The Dark Lord had already threatened my parents, what more could I do? If my father had died well, that would have been a huge relief to me, but I could never sacrifice my mother. She didn't choose the role life gave her. She was a pure blood. It was her job to be a good and dutiful wife no matter what path her husband chose. My father was a coward and refused to protect my mother so I had to step in instead. It took everything in me to keep my mother and I alive, and seeing that I had pushed you to the safety of Potter. I pushed even harder to keep you there, and it killed me inside. I needed you Hermione, more than you know. I needed your smile, and your intelligence, and your warmth. I needed someone to confess my sins to, and to share my plans with, and someone to help me keep a level head when it all went wrong. I needed someone to go to when I had no where else to turn.
My heart bled when you spat your hatred at me. I let you punch me just so I could feel. The rejection I got from you was a pain worse that Voldemort could ever have created. It was the pain of my heart being ripped from my body while I was still very much alive. But I couldn't show you my hurt. You would fight for me I know, and you would no longer have been safe. You may have burned all memories of me, but I still kept my memories of you, and every night before I went to bed I would pull out the photo of us back in fifth year, and imagine that once again, sometime soon, our lives would be that way again.
The war ended and Harry had you and your Mother declared innocent, and you didn't even have the decency to thank him. Or to say 'hi' to me. The hatred I felt for you would easily have been forgiven. I remembered the promise you had made to me. "It will all be over soon and then we can be together like we want to be." I waited, but I guess that meant nothing to you. Harry held me for hours that night once the realization had hit that you weren't coming back.
I came to find you after the trial and found you in the arms of Potter. How was I to compare to that? Savior of the wizarding world and decorated war hero. It was only natural that you chose him over me, a disgraced death eater with no money and no prospects. I turned around and left you then. I drank myself into a right rage and destroyed everything within reach for a week. I told you we would be together when it was all over, but I realize that after everything I had done to you, it had been beyond foolish of me to expect that you would wait. With the realization that I had lost you to a far better man, I burned the photo and tried to move on with my life.
"Hermione?" I couldn't believe it was you.
"D-Draco?" you laughed. "What are you doing here?"
You were so beautiful. Your hair had streaks of gold through it and had been straightened into a high pony tail. The sundress you wore left very little to the imagination and in the 5 years we had been away from eachother you had filled out in places I could never have imagined.
"I live here, now. Moved here a few years ago actually, to be closer to my job."
"You? Draco Malfoy? In a muggle neighborhood?"
"Complete with a fancy car and electricity," I smiled.
You laughed, and my heart broke in two.
"What do you do now, Draco?"
"I'm a Physicians Assistant, actually. I work at St. Daniels, in the Pediatric Ward. Yourself?"
You smiled at that. "I'm a writer. I do investigative research and report my findings in journals and papers and such."
"Sounds like old Hermione. So what brings you here?"
"House hunting, I suppose. Grimmauld is getting a bit stuffy what with all the people living there. Figured it was time to venture out on my own."
"What? Potter not joining you?" I asked, a bit sharply.
"Why would he?" Confusion was etched upon your face. "He's got Ginny and Jamie. I am moving to give them space."
"So you two aren't...I mean you're not-"
"What? Together? O- You thought? Gods no! Harry is like a brother to me! Where ever did you get that idea?"
"I saw you together, after the trials. I just thought-"
"Is that why you left? Why you didn't come back?"
"Come home Hermione. I miss you."