A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 34: Minute by Minute:

Sitting in the passenger side of Draco’s car, and watching the scenery pass by, Hermione made a decision. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it felt right. Now she just had to tell Draco.

She looked over at the man beside her, just a quick glance. She really loved him so much. She was sorry for any pain she had caused him, and she knew her decision might cause him additional pain, and for that, she was already sorry. She looked back out the window. The sun was shining through the bitter cold day, and even though the sky was spitting random flurries, it was truly a beautiful day outside. Christmas was coming. It was only twelve days away, and she wanted to have a happy one this year. Everyone deserved a Happy Christmas.

Every so often, a car would whiz by them, so she watched the cars as well as the hills and fields that lay beyond the road, which were crisp and white. For some reason, all of this gave her peace and courage, and she wasn’t sure why. Unlike most people, who thought winter was a time of death and dying, she thought it was a time of rebirth. Well, she never thought that before, but she thought it now. She turned back to look at Draco again. He sensed her stare this time, turned to look at her, smiled, and removed his left hand from the steering wheel to grasp her right hand. He gave it a squeeze. It felt right and natural, being in love with him. That didn’t mean that her decision was wrong, though.

“I’ve made a decision,” she finally said.

“Regarding what?” he asked, glancing sideways at her again.

“I want to go home,” she simply stated.

“That’s where we’re going,” he answered, somewhat confused.

She removed her hand from his and said, “Not your home, my home.”

He was truly bewildered by that statement. “Hermione, your home is gone.” He knew that she knew that, so why did he have to remind her? He felt stupid just saying the words, because he knew she hadn’t forgotten that it was blown to bits, unless she meant something else. His heart caved in his chest, and then leapt down to his feet. He swallowed hard and waited for the deluge that he knew was coming. He shut his eyes for the briefest of moments, willed himself to stay calm, pulled over to the shoulder of the road, turned off the car, looked at her again, and said, “What do you mean?”

“I want to go back to my mother’s house to live. My house. My home. I’m done running away. Since we just left there, I don’t have to go back tonight. It’ll take me a day or two to get my things together at your place, and then make that place livable again, but I want to be there by Christmas.”

He wouldn’t look at her. He looked out the front window and said one word. “NO!”

She knew he wouldn’t be happy. She didn’t want to argue with him, so instead of saying, yes, she asked, “Why not?”

He clenched the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles turned red. He still couldn’t look at her. He continued to look out the front window and said, “It’s not safe.” That was all he could outwardly say, but his internal dialogue went more like this: ‘You can’t leave me again, because I won’t survive.’

She reached for his arm, placed her hand on top of it, but he removed it from her grasp as if she burnt him. She recoiled her hand, put both of her hands in her lap, and said, “It’ll be fine. You and Harry can put up protection wards and charms.”

“No,” he repeated.

“I think it’s time,” she leveled.

“NO!” He opened the car door, and when he got out, he slammed it so hard that the little black sports car rocked back and forth on the side of the road. He paced back and forth by the car. She got out and walked around toward him.

“Draco, I’m an adult, and I can look after myself. All this means is that I will live in one place and you’ll live in another, but nothing else has to change, it's not as if I'm leaving you.”

“NO!” he shouted as loudly as he could. He really wished he could be more articulate at this stage of the game, but he couldn’t. He could barely see straight, let alone speak. He started down the embankment, toward an open field. The snow had just started falling again. He kicked at an overturned rock, and kept walking, afraid if he turned back now, he would say things he didn’t want to say…reveal things he was afraid to reveal. How could she think about leaving him again? Didn’t she love him at all? When he came to a circle of trees, he turned around, because he knew she was following him. He rushed up to her, grabbed her by her arms, and said, “You are the most selfish person I’ve ever met! You never consider other people’s feelings and wishes!”

Her mouth flew open to protest, but before she could utter a word, he continued. “What about me, Hermione? I really don’t think I can survive if you leave me again! I was an empty shell of a person before I fell in love with you, and then I was empty again after you left me. For three years, I felt nothing! I was less than a person! That’s how I truly felt, like I was less than nothing.” He turned from her and leaned against the tree. He finally showed her his vulnerability, and he was mortified. He had worked hard all these years to hide that side of him, yet here it revealed itself to her, and he was ashamed.

She reached over to touch him, but brought her hand back to her side. She wrapped her arms around her to shield her from the cold winter wind, and from his harsh words, which made her sadder than anyone could ever know, especially since his unhappiness was partially her fault. “Draco,” she said his name, but then couldn’t say anything else.

She could barely hear his response, because he spoke so softly, and in a graveled-voice whisper. Without facing her he said, “Bully for you for healing, Granger. I only wish the rest of us were so lucky. I wish I could heal so easily. Where’s my epiphany? Where are my answers? Maybe I’ll never have one of those life changing experiences, and maybe you really don’t care, but it’s not fair that I was here for you, to help you heal, and then you leave me all alone, and leave my open heart to fester and die without you around to put a plaster on it.”

He took several steps away, and still not facing her he said, “How pathetic is that? I’m trying to make you feel guilty, hoping that guilt will make you stay with me. I’m no better than Theo was. I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay with me out of obligation or guilt.” He finally turned around, she was still by the tree, and he was a small distance away. “I won’t say that I’ll die without you, because I won’t, but bloody hell, Granger, it sure as hell will feel that way. If you leave me, I think I might die inside.” He reached in his coat pocket and threw his keys at her. “Drive the Porsche home, won’t you.” She caught the keys. “I need to go somewhere.”

She looked at the keys in her hand and said, “I’m not leaving you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said.

This time she did reach for him. She took his hand, and he let her. She said, “Tell me what you’re really thinking, Draco. Tell me why you think I’m leaving you.”

He kept her hand in his, the fingertips of his free hand brushed down her cheek. It was cold, wind burnt, and red. He pulled her to him so slowly; it was almost like a choreographed dance move. He placed both arms around her and with her cheek on his chest, and her arms around his waist, and his arms around her arms, he said, “When can I have my happiness? I live day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by bloody second, just waiting for the next day, the next hour, the next minute, and the next second. I wake up, work, eat, breath, go to bed, and then wait for it to all start again.”

“I never have anything to look forward to, but more of the same emptiness. I thought now that you were back in my life; I could look forward to happiness instead of emptiness. It’s my right to be loved, isn’t it? I want happiness, too. I feel like I’m balancing on a blade of a sword, waiting to fall off one side or the other, but instead of falling off, at the moment, I feel like I’ve being sliced in two.” He pushed her away from him and said, “Never mind me. I’m being pathetic and self-centered. You go have your peace of mind, and your happiness. You deserve it, too. Don’t worry about me. I’ve survived worse.”

She shook her head and repeated for the third time, “I’m not leaving you.”

“Yes, you really are, in fact, I think you’re already gone.” He took out his wand and apparated away.

She turned to walk back up the embankment feeling empty and hollow inside. She started over to the driver’s side, but she saw something wet, black and slick sliding down the embankment, from under the car. She got down on her hands and knees and placed her hand under the car, to touch the substance. She brought it up to her nose and smelled. She had no clue what it might be. She walked up to the road, and turned her head left to look at where they had just come, and then she turned her head right and saw a big hill that they had yet to drive down, and she knew in that moment that something wasn’t right. She took her wand and sent out her patronus to Harry. Then she sat on the hood to wait.

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