Prompt Set: 100.3
Prompt: 54) Strain
Word Count: 3,593
Summary: Love was not an emotion he understood very well.
Warnings: Implies sex.
Love was not an emotion he understood very well. For most of his life it had been a very abstract concept. He had heard about it many times over the years but had never experienced it for himself. True his mother loved him very much, but that wasn’t the kind of love that confused him. The kind of love he didn’t understand was the kind between a man and a woman.
He had been told many things by many different people, all of which seemed to believe they were the leading authority on the subject. Some told him that when you found love it smacked you right in the face. Others said it snuck up on you, that you could know someone for years and then all of a sudden find yourself falling for them. It could take your breath away, could knock you off your feet with the sudden desire to be with that person, with lust and need. Of course he had never experienced what love was, he had only heard of it.
Lust he understood. He understood it very well, and how could he not? What normal and healthy young man didn’t know what lust felt like? And he knew, of course, the best way to relieve that was through intense sexual contact. And while he had also heard love could increase sexual enjoyment he found that sexual release could be just as easily received through contact with others. Sex, he knew, wasn’t always about love. It was about feeling release, about a moment of pleasure. Whether or not the person you slept with was someone with whom you had a deep romantic connect or just someone to pass the time with the release was still there, and the release was really what he craved. Love, he decided, was a matter that didn’t have importance in his life.
Nearly a year after graduating from Hogwarts Draco Malfoy found himself unable to comprehend life without the confines of the building. There he had been given a certain air of authority- in part due to his lineage. But outside the walls he found that there were very few people who cared what he had been back at Hogwarts. Out there he was just another pureblood son, another Death Eater that had lost his place to belong with the fall of the Dark Lord. And he couldn’t blame their reasoning- after all, he was all of those things. And yet his sudden loss of power rather annoyed him. He had enjoyed having some kind of authority, enjoyed being looked up to and feared and adored all at once. Without that he felt like he had lost something, a piece of himself.
Lifting the teacup in front of him to his mouth he surveyed the area around him. Upon his mother’s request he had taken a ‘vacation’. Though a vacation from what he wasn’t sure. It wasn’t as though he had school or a job to run away from. Perhaps she had meant a vacation from reality, from their world. Or perhaps she had merely wanted him out of the family home for a while. Whatever the case was he was sure he didn’t care- the vacation was rather pointless but not an unwelcome change.
He turned his head ever so slowly, moving in a calculated way he had only recently perfected. Now an official adult it was time he trained himself to be more regal, more worthy of the status of pureblood. His movements would be certain, practiced. He would be as perfect as he could. That was his plan. And yet he still very nearly choked on his tea, then very quickly lowered the cup back to the table to stop himself from spilling it.
Hermione Granger gazed upon him, eyes clear and innocent and surprised. As surprised as he himself felt on the inside. She looked, well, decent he supposed. Never would he have called Hermione Granger an attractive girl, but he conceded she could have looked worse although she was dressed far too professionally –more like a middle-aged woman as opposed to someone her age. But the crisp pleats of her skirt and her neatly ironed blouse suited her.
He acknowledged her presence with the slightest inclination of her head. “Granger.”
“I haven’t seen you in a while. Since-“
“Yes, since school.” He knew very well that wasn’t what she had been about to say but he wasn’t entirely sure he cared either way.
“May I?” She motioned to the chair across from him, eyes never leaving his face. She was merely being polite, he knew. If she wanted to sit she would do it no matter what he said.
“If you wish.”
She slid into the seat, tucking her skirt securely beneath her and crossed her legs under the table. She was the epitome of composed and mature and a part of him wondered if she worked on this as much as he worked on looking regal. Resting one elbow on the table she placed her chin into her palm, propping her head up as she gazed at him, a slow smile spreading across her face. “Who would have though the day would come when you and I were sitting at the same table?”
“A lot has changed, hasn’t it?”
“Not all that much, actually.” It was a half truth. A lot of things had changed, including how he interacted with others. With the fall of Voldermort the idea of being openly cruel to muggle borns had become a large taboo and to violate said taboo was often something that led to you paying a terrible price. So, taking that into consideration he had decided it was more prudent to follow the new social regulations rather than create more problems for himself than those that were already there. After all, while he may not have been the smartest man in the world he did have common sense. And common sense states that you try to make your life easier, not more difficult.
“I think it has. You look good.” She was being kind. He actually looked rather a wreck in his own mind. His hair had begun to grow much longer than he was accustomed to and he had become less than inclined to assure it looked nice by pushing it back and slicking it down. It hung limply around his face, pale shadows making his skin look even paler.
“So are you.” True he was replying to her kindness with a contrite attempt at his own kindness but in truth she did look rather nice in her business attire and the front of her hair clipped back and away from her face. She looked mature, confident. How amazing was it that he had once been so concerned with his appearance and she wasn’t and now the opposite seemed to be true?
“You remind me of a poet?”
“A poet.” She motioned to his black attire as though that explained everything but it didn’t really come as a surprise to her when it didn’t. She had grown accustomed to people in the wizarding world not understanding her when she made references such as that. It happened to Harry as well. “It wasn’t an insult, I promise. It suits you.”
“I suppose it does.” Monochrome was easy to maintain. Everything always matched and there was never any worry about trying to figure out which color was best to wear that day. It suited him just fine.
“Here on vacation, Malfoy?”
“How very nice for you.”
“I’m sorry, am I disturbing something?”
“Not at all.” He lifted his teacup to his mouth again. No, she wasn’t disturbing anything he just wasn’t in the mood to make small talk- especially not with her.
“Well…I have somewhere I really should be, but…we should talk again while we’re both here.” She rose from her seat then, a small but pleasant smile on her face. “That sound alright?”
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
And take it as a yes she did because nearly every day for the next week she came and sat with him at that little café. They talked very tensely at first, neither of them completely comfortable with a sudden tentative friendship. But it didn’t take much time for them to become more relaxed with the idea of polite and friendly conversation between the two of them. It happened to quickly that is seemed completely natural- as though they had been doing this for quite some time. Somehow it seemed as though they had been friendly- but not friends- since they had first met all those years ago in Hogwarts.
They talked about families and childhood memories. She told him about a rather unfortunate incident when she was ten years old and she fell from a swing set and fractured her wrist. She explained how healing bones wasn’t as simple in the muggle world as it was in the wizarding world and she had been forced to simply wait for the wrist to heal on its own without the lovely help of magic. He told her about being a small child in Malfoy manor and having hidden from his father in a closet after leaving a mess in the library and having several boxes fall on top of him. He has sat there, hurt and upset for half an hour before his mother found him and dug him out, tending to his wounds and reminding him that it was best for him to merely clean up after himself rather than to hide and risk injury.
For both of them it felt rather strange to be sharing these things with each other. Only two years before they would have sooner hexed each other into oblivion than to even share one intimate detail about their lives with each other. But the war had changed things. For everyone. And now it was clear that in the world they lived in that sometimes the people you least expected to find a bond with were the very people that you found yourself unable to imagine not being able to talk to.
He had even begun to show her, what she assumed to be, the closest thing to being a gentleman he was capable of. He would walk her back to her hotel after they finished talking. He would walk beside her, long limbs moving with grace and care. She would watch him with the barely containable urge to reach up and move his hair back from his face. It had become pleasantly comfortable to be around him like this. There was no longer the need to hide oneself, no longer a need to be completely on guard. Sure there remained certain things they didn’t speak about but that was true with all personal relationships. For once she felt at home merely speaking to him. It was both a pleasant and startling experience.
Half way through the second week some kind of a discomfort had settled in. She wasn’t sure what caused it but she was positive she wasn’t the only one who was feeling it. True, they had met and spoke like they had every day before and it was also true that he walked her back to her hotel like he had been doing. But that day was different: outside the rain had begun to come down like it was hurricane season and she hadn’t had the heart to allow him to walk back to where he was staying in the rain. Though they had never been the best of friends she was certainly not going to be rude to him. So she had invited him up to her room until the rain passed. She wasn’t sure exactly why she had offered other than trying to be nice, and she sure as hell wasn’t expecting him to accept her invitation. But to her surprise he had accepted.
They had fallen into an awkward silence as soon as he entered her hotel room. She sat in the chair the hotel had provided, legs crossed, sitting close enough to the edge that she could jump up if the need be. He stood by the window, gazing out at the rain, a dim and hazy light casting shadows across his face. The shoulders of his shirt were damp, sticking to his skin like it was painted on but he barely seemed to notice.
She had been waiting since they got there for him to speak, but he didn’t say a single word. Instead he stood there in utter silence, watching the rain fall. She wasn’t sure why but she wanted him to speak. Was it possible she had somehow said something to insult him earlier and that was why he was refusing to speak to her? Or maybe something had happened that he hadn’t mentioned and now he was reflecting on it. Either way the silence was beginning to get to her. It wasn’t like him to be this silent. She would have even welcomed his old insults if it got him talking to her again. “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all.” His voice wasn’t all that convincing, but she took his words at face value. If he said nothing was wrong than maybe there wasn’t anything wrong, right? Why would he lie to her about that?
“Are you sure? You’re being very quiet.”
“Am I? I hadn’t noticed.” It was a lie though. He was fully aware that he was being rather quiet. But he wasn’t sure if him being quiet mattered and he was positive that he didn’t want to discuss the matter. All he had to do was wait for the rain to be done and then he would go back to his own hotel room and the awkwardness would end.
“Yes, you have. You always are aware of how things are. You always know when you’re quiet; always seem to know what to say.”
“If you say so.”
She sighed, frustration growing inside of her. His silence was becoming more annoying than anything. She wanted to know what was going on, was desperate to know. She felt like a child who had just walked into a room where their parents were discussing something they didn’t want the child to hear and suddenly clammed up. It made her feel like a small child again.
She slid out of her seat, making her way over to see his face. There was absolutely no expression there whatsoever, like someone had taken an eraser to his emotions. It was unnerving. She had gotten used to him at least smirking and now he wasn’t even doing that. “Talk to me, Malfoy.”
“I thought we had decided to use first names.”
“That was before you started to shut me out. You’re refusing to talk to me. You won’t even look at me.”
Then, to prove her wrong, his gaze turned to her. Even with his face blank it was enough to stop her breath because there was some strange expression floating around in his eyes, one she couldn’t place. She had never seen that expression before, had never known him to be this unreadable. She swallowed hard, now suddenly wishing she hadn’t gotten him to look at her. “Never mind,” she said. “You can keep your secrets.”
“I’m not keeping any secrets, Granger.”
“Didn’t you just get angry at me for using your last name? Why are you using mine now?”
“Perhaps old habits are hard to break.”
“They were easy to break all the rest of the time we’ve been here. What’s changed now?”
He watched her, knowing she was completely right about him lying. But over the last week he had realized many things about her and many things about himself. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to have this new knowledge, wasn’t sure if he’d be able to actually come to terms with what he was now feeling. Emotions weren’t his strong point. And the new feelings, new ideas that were coursing through his head were beginning to make him feel like he was losing his mind. “A liar, am I?”
“Yes, a liar. Not that you haven’t lied many times before, but I assumed we had moved past the whole lying thing.”
“Perhaps we have. Perhaps not.”
“I’m not really in the mood for word games.”
“Is there honestly anything better to do while we wait for the rain to pass?”
Now that’s a loaded question, she thought, leaning back against the wall next to the window. If she didn’t know any better she would have said he was flirting with her in his own twisted way, trying to get a rise out of her in order to get there to be something sexual going on between them. But this was Draco Malfoy and even though his hatred for muggle borns seemed to be dissipating she was positive he would never hit on her. It just wasn’t like him. “You could always tell me what’s on your mind, Draco.”
He liked the way his name sounded coming out of her mouth, he realized. It was an unusual feeling to enjoy that. It made his stomach flip-flop, like there was something floating around inside of it that he couldn’t calm. “I don’t think you really want to know.”
“No, I do want to know.”
He slowly made his way towards her, eyes fixed intently on her face. “Have I told you that you looked rather lovely today?”
She blinked, rather startled. As he approached her she felt herself start to slow her breath. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, exactly, but she knew that she had to just stand there and hold her ground. Whatever Draco was about to do or say she would just stand there and listen. She wasn’t scared, she wasn’t going to back down. She was a stronger person than that. “Do I?” Thankfully her voice came out calm and even.
“Yes, you do.” And it was true. Her hair was pulled back from her face again but somehow a few strands had managed to fall out of place and were now dangling at the sides of her face. “Very lovely.” He reached up and tucked her hair behind her ears.
Her breath caught in her throat at the contact. His fingers were cool against her ear, his eyes never leaving hers. Suddenly the room felt like it was closing in on her. “Do you realize how close you’re standing to me?”
“I’m aware, yes.”
“Well…why are you standing so close?”
“Makes it easier to do this.” His hand slid down from her hair and went behind her neck. She wasn’t sure if he really hesitated or if she just imagined he did, but then his face moved towards hers and their lips met. The contact was almost tentative at first, soft and exploring. But then the pressure increased and his lips were moving against hers, firm and skilled. All of his hesitation had gone.
She felt herself sighing, kissing him back with the same intensity as he was kissing her. She reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, fingers tangling in the long strands of silvery hair. It was as soft as she thought it would be, silky and sliding through her fingers. She knew she was losing herself in this, knew she shouldn’t be but she couldn’t bring herself to care. That’s why when his tongue ran along her bottom lip she couldn’t help but open her mouth to it, accepting his want to deepen the kiss, enjoying the feeling of his mouth working against hers, enjoying how he was pressing her back against the wall of that hotel room.
Then his lips moved away from hers, leaving her breathless as he pressed his forehead against hers. His eyes were closed, as if he was trying to collect his thoughts. “Damn you, Hermione Granger.”
“What have you done to me?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“How did you work your way into my heart?”
She opened her mouth to answer him but his lips were back on hers, insistent and she couldn’t help but respond to it, arch into the touch as he ran his hands up her back, then slid them under the back of her shirt, fingers splaying against her skin.
The rest of the night was a blur, but it was the best blur that he had ever experienced in his life. He never knew the touch of skin could be so fulfilling, never realized that hearing her whimper and moan would make him feel so alive, so elated. The feeling of her fingers caressing the back of his neck was enough to make him melt against her. His life felt a lot more serene for that night.
Afterwards while he was watching her sleep he wondered if their lives would have changed or if this would be a simple onetime thing. Surprisingly he wanted this to be more than a onetime thing. He wanted her to feel the same way, hope she would.
They had been right, he decided. Those people that told him love could just sneak up on you and slap you in the face.
That’s exactly what love had done to him. And he was actually rather grateful. Not that he would ever admit that he had somehow, without warning and rather quickly fallen in love with Hermione Granger.
At least not for a while.