Draco lay awake, staring up at the ceiling. His thoughts used to keep him awake like this after the war, seven years previously. Every time he went to sleep he was brought back to that night. He could see Hermione lying on the floor of his living room, he could see the fear in her large brown eyes, he could see her looking weak and powerless and afraid. He could hear her screams which echoed throughout the Manor and pierced his chest like cold knife, he could hear his Aunt Bellatrix shouting ‘Crucio!’ at the top of her voice, he could hear her call Hermione a filthy Mudblood. He could feel the revulsion in the pit of his stomach, he could feel the dread that Hermione might not make it though the torture, he could feel the relief when Potter and Weasley finally arrived to save her.
But tonight something different disturbed his sleep. He sat up in bed, running his fingers through his hair, and looked down at the old copy of The Daily Prophet which lay on the floor. A few rays of sunlight crept in through the window, illuminating the newspaper so Draco could read the headline that had kept him awake; Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger to Marry This Weekend.
He hadn’t read the rest of the article, he didn’t have the heart. He couldn’t even look at the picture next to it. Seeing Hermione smiling at the camera and occasionally looking up at Weasley with an expression that looked a lot like love made his heart sink.
‘I remember when she used to look at me like that.’ he thought to himself.
Draco missed Hermione painfully. He had never moved on from their brief love affair six year ago, and he assumed that she had done. But at the same time he hoped that she hadn’t moved on, that she still needed him, still longed for him, still loved him. He hoped that being apart was hurting her, because it was slowly killing him. After leaving 12 Grimmauld Place, he felt empty and alone, more alone than he had ever felt before. He was lost without Hermione. During the night he would find himself sobbing onto his pillow, and then he would immediately scold himself for being so pathetic.
‘Pull yourself together, Draco!’ he would tell himself. ‘Stop acting like such a Hufflepuff!’
He was heartbroken when he found out Hermione was getting married. He felt so stupid, because she was doing exactly what he had told her to. She was moving on, living the life she deserved, a life that didn’t include him. He was amazed that his heart was so shattered and yet he could still love Hermione with all the little pieces. He missed the sound of her voice, the feel of her kiss, the smell of her jasmine scented hair, and the warmth of her skin against his. He wanted to hold her, kiss her, make love to her, and just be with her. Every cell in his body screamed out for her. But it was pointless because he had lost her; he had let her go.
Daylight now shone through the window and coated the room in light. He was just about to lie back down in his bed and attempt to get some sleep when there was a gentle knock on the door. A tall, beautiful woman with white-blond hair and light blue eyes entered the room wearing an emerald green dressing gown. Draco greeted his mother, trying to sound as normal as possible, but Narcissa could see that he was unhappy. As she sat at the edge of the bed next to her son, she looked down at the old newspaper on the floor, before looking back at Draco.
“The wedding is today.” she said quietly.
Draco didn’t respond.
Seeing him like this broke Narcissa’s heart. All she wanted was for him to be happy, but she couldn’t remember the last time he truly was. She admired his bravery at telling her that he was in love with a Muggle-born. He had expected her to disapprove, but she was actually very understanding. She liked that he had become his own man rather than a clone of his father and had never been so proud of him. She hated seeing Draco so full of despair, and she has to help him.
“Draco, my little prince,” she said softly. Usually he argued when she called him that, but he felt like being mothered. “You have to go to her.”
Draco looked up at his mother in shock. He knew that she tolerated his love for Hermione, but this outburst was surprising. Narcissa continued regardless.
“I just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I have, darling. I want you to be happy.”
“What do you mean ‘mistakes’?” asked Draco.
Narcissa was weary as to whether she should carry on. What she was about to say she had never told anyone before, but she had to speak.
“I don’t want you to give up hope just yet.” she said. “Go to the wedding and see if she has truly moved on.”
“But of course she has, Mother.” said Draco. “She’s marrying someone else-“
“That doesn’t mean anything. When I married your father I didn’t love him. I went through with it because that was what was expected of me. We were just keeping the magical blood pure. I’ve regretted it ever since. The only good thing that came out of it was you.”
She took hold of his hand and gave it a squeeze. Draco always knew that his parents’ marriage was arranged; Slytherins rarely marry for love. But he had no idea that his mother had regretted it so much. He stayed silent and allowed her to continue.
“I never wanted to be with Lucius,” she said. “I wanted to be with… someone else.” She trailed off, feeling embarrassed.
“Who?” Draco asked, looking at her encouragingly.
Narcissa hesitated, but decided to go on.
“His name was Taddeus Austen. He was a Half Blood, in Ravenclaw. We met on the train in our first year and we managed to stay best friends even when we were sorted into different houses. I thought that when he found out who I was and my family’s reputation that he wouldn’t want anything to do with me. But he saw passed all of that, he saw me. We had to hide our friendship, and eventually out love. There would have been disapproval on both sides. By my fifth year I was already betrothed to Lucius, whom my parents had decided would be a perfect pureblooded match for me. I really loved Tad, more than anything, and I hated that I had to break his heart. But I knew I would be disowned, or worse, if my family found out that I was in love with someone who had Muggle blood in their veins. So, at the end of our final year, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, convinced that we were doing the right thing. A few years later my sister, your Aunt Andromeda, was disgraced from the family after she married a Muggle-born. I was sure then that my decision was the right one. But I didn’t like being with Lucius, and I missed Tad terribly. I regretted marrying for convenience instead of for love. And it wasn’t until you were born that I actually felt some kind of happiness. Losing Tad was so difficult, and I don’t want that to happen to you too. I know you love Hermione and I want you to at least try and be with her. I don’t want you to just give up and become as lonely as me. I want you to be happy, sweetheart.”
Narcissa could tell that Draco was lost for words, so she simply kissed him on the cheek and left the room, allowing him to think on his own.
Draco’s mind was swimming with the information he had just received. That’s why she was so understanding of his relationship with Hermione, because she had been in a similar situation. His mother gave up on true love out of fear. She did what she was supposed to do rather than what she wanted. And what about his Aunt Andromeda? No one ever spoke of her until the war, where she was seen as the part of the family tree that had to be ‘pruned’. She was seen as even more of an embarrassment when her daughter married a werewolf. During the war she suffered the terrible loses of her husband, daughter and son-in-law. When he was staying at 12 Grimmauld Place he found out about Andromeda’s grandchild and Harry Potter’s godson, Teddy Lupin. Draco was sickened to think that it was the violent ignorance of the Dark Lord, the Death Eaters and his family that caused his second cousin to be orphaned. He could see why his mother believed that ending things with Taddeus Austen was the best decision; by breaking his heart she probably saved his life. But there were no lives at stake now.
He swung his legs over the edge of his bed, knocking over an empty bottle of Firewhiskey in the process, and picked up a small hardback book from his bedside table. It was the copy of Romeo and Juliet that Hermione had given him, and reading it reminded him of her. He opened the book and read the inside cover; Property of Hermione Jean Granger. Underneath it, in slightly darker ink it said and Draco Abraxus Malfoy. Their names looked good together, he thought to himself, as he admired Hermione’s neat handwriting and contemplated what he was going to do.
His mother’s confession notwithstanding, Draco still thought it was pointless going to the wedding. It was obvious that Hermione had moved on. But he still grimaced at the thought of it. He had spent six years brooding over their relationship, reliving every night they had spent together in his dreams, and wondering what she was doing at that moment and whether she was thinking about him too. For just over two months Hermione and Ron hated each other to the point of loathing. She had vented her anger at Ron to Draco, calling him ‘childish’, ‘unreasonable’ and a few other words that Draco had been surprised to hear her say. And yet now they were getting married. It just didn’t make sense. It crossed Draco’s mind that maybe he hadn’t meant as much to Hermione as she had meant to him, since she had managed to rekindle her rocky relationship with Ron and was now – as he had unfortunately predicted – about to be wed.
Rage swarmed throughout Draco’s body as he though that in a matter of hours she was going to become Mrs. Hermione Weasley. If he hadn’t cared for the book he was holding so much he probably would have thrown it across the room. Instead, he set it down on the bed beside him as he stood up. He wasn’t going to let it happen. Hermione had been the one who had cried and begged him to stay when he said he was leaving Grimmauld Place. She had said it herself that she didn’t want to end up with Ron. Maybe his mother was right. Was she really marrying Ron because it was the easiest option? Draco had to know, he was determined to find out the truth. He strode over to his wardrobe, ignoring the dent next to it where he had punched the wall after first seeing the newspaper article, and started looking for robes to wear. He had a wedding to go to.